REFEREES

Bob Ridenour: ‘I think maybe the Libertarians would prefer to play football without referees. The Republicans would prefer that the referees stay out of the game, but then follow you home and make offsides and illegal procedure calls in your bedroom. The Democrats want the referees to focus on the game, but they think that every player should be able to gain at least two yards, and the ones who are particularly skilled or lucky enough to gain 50 shouldn’t complain if the statistician marks them down for 30 and distributes the remaining 20 to those who were tackled behind the line of scrimmage.’

IRAQ

Hugh Hunkeler: ‘One thing to think about when discussing the potential war with Iraq: It may be that being willing to go to war will make it unnecessary to do so. But being unwilling to go to war could back us into a corner where that becomes the only choice. Think about Neville Chamberlain and appeasement. The whole ‘Bush wants a war’ crowd really missed the point. I doubt that he or any of us *wants* to go to war. However, being unwilling to enforce the UN resolutions could lead to bigger conflicts later. On top of that, giving Iraq time to hide all the WMDs and evidence thereof may prove to be a mistake.’

☞ I agree with most of that. I’ve bolded the part I think needs comment. I think this war was central to Karl Rove’s political strategy all along (don’t believe me – believe his own PowerPoint presentation) and that the timing – to have the debate fall precisely into the slot between Labor Day and Election Day – was not based on the national interest. Also, that the initial unilateral approach was rightly deserving of the large crowd of (bipartisan) criticism it got.

FIRING GAY ARAB LINGUISTS

Jim McElwee: ‘Maybe some semblance of sense can come of the perverse situation wherein the Arab-language students were discharged from the military because they were gay. Let the government hire these same people as civilians, send them to the same schools to develop the same skills they were learning, and finally assign them to sensitive locations as civilian intelligence analysts – and, of course, pay them ten times the amount they were earning in the military.’

☞ This is indeed the obvious (interim) solution. President Clinton lifted the security-clearance ban on gays and lesbians, which affected not just federal employees but – far broader in its implications – employees of government subcontractors, so now IBM and hundreds of others that proudly include sexual orientation in their official nondiscrimination policies (and routinely offer domestic partnership benefits to their GLBT employees) can make some money selling the taxpayers what some young Americans who hoped to serve their country would have provided for much, much less.

Rick Rood: ‘I cannot imagine that there is one family or one single survivor of 9/11 that would care if the person who could have prevented their loss were homosexual or heterosexual.’

☞ While both Gore and Bradley called for fixing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, President Bush has said it’s OK as is. So – especially with a fundamentalist majority leader in the House who says he believes God put him on this Earth to promote ‘a more Biblical worldview’ – we are likely to have it a while longer.

ANIMAL RIGHTS

Bill Schwartz: ‘Regarding your November 14 column on the Pollan article, I’d like to suggest you take a look at an extremely elegant book on the subject, Animal Liberation by the philosopher Peter Singer. Though Singer has been viciously excoriated in the mainstream press, I think if you read his book (something most of his critics have obviously never done), you’ll see that he is actually quite rational and thoughtful. I’m a longtime vegetarian who loves every bite of food I eat. My take, in a nutshell, is that we should all be honest with ourselves about the moral compromises we make – and we all do make them. Torturing sentient animals is obviously wrong, no question. If we decide to eat meat or otherwise participate in that enterprise, we should honestly acknowledge that we’re not living up to our values, just as we do when we fail to invite homeless people to live with us (I don’t, though morally I should). Personally, I find that avoiding meat is so trivially easy that I can’t justify the moral compromise of doing anything else. I actually eat a much greater variety of food and enjoy it more than I ever did during my years of meat eating. Plus I feel far better and weigh a lot less. Other people draw a different line. In our culture, that line often stops at pets, not for any particularly good reason. But we all do draw a line.

‘What bothers me most are the intellectually dishonest apologists who actually try to morally JUSTIFY torturing animals and other obviously despicable behavior. The arguments are absurd, e.g. wild animals kill and eat each other, so why shouldn’t we? Well, wild animals sometimes kill and eat their own babies. Does that mean it’s morally OK for us to do that, too? Of course not: the whole point of morality is to help to behave better than we would if we just did what our instincts and desires tell us to, like animals.

‘P.S. I must thank you for the “Ask Less” link at upper left. As a result of reading Less’s comments there and in your column, I wound up hiring him for comprehensive financial planning. He’s been terrific, and I have benefited greatly.’

Kevin Brown: ‘I am conflicted about the idea of animal ‘rights.’ I certainly like a nice steak, and have worked on farms slaughtering animals. Not pleasant, but necessary. I guess it comes down to how much cruelty we are prepared to accept in order to save $1 per pound or whatever. And yes, when just getting enough food to live on is difficult these questions seem irrelevant. For another perspective, read Fast Food Nation if you haven’t already.’

Pete Costello: ‘The waste by-products from the meat industry are some of the more pervasive pollutants in the world – just look at the Mississippi River. We cannot afford to be so short-sighted not to realize by now that human health is inextricably bound together with the health of the planet. The environment in which we live would be much healthier if we ate less meat.’

CARROTS

Jonathan Edwards: ‘After 40 years on this Earth, I learned from a newspaper article the other day that ‘baby carrots’ aren’t immature carrots – they’re simply normal carrots chopped into small pieces and put through some sort of screen to make the ends rounded. I haven’t figured out how they shrink a normal corncob to make baby corn, but maybe the newspaper will explain it next week.’

SALMON

Jay Donnell: ‘Farmed salmon are raised in an environment that would surprise most people. (See this from Earth Times.) The farmed salmon have to be artificially colored to achieve the color of wild salmon.’

HORSE MEAT

Robert Rogers: ‘It was the Harvard College Faculty Club that served horse meat. An issue that is unrivaled in insignificance.’

☞ Not, perhaps, if you are a horse.

Tomorrow: Does Dave Need Life Insurance?

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