Saturday, October 25, 2014

James McWilliams telling vegans to eat insects

“At the risk of being a total bore, I have a few more thoughts to shake out on the proposition that vegans are morally obligated to eat insects. ...” —The Life and Death of Insects

[previously:
Insects As Food: Hard Fact Versus Possible Fact
Are Vegans Obligated To Eat Insects?
Starting Over]

Rucio says:
October 24, 2014 at 8:34 am

You are indeed becoming a total bore here. Everything you argue about insects has already been said about other animals to justify their mass exploitation and slaughter. Even about other humans.

And telling vegans what they are “morally obligated” to do is as offensive coming from another vegan as it is from a grass-fed beef proponent.

James says:
October 24, 2014 at 10:25 am

I’ve offered a number of arguments for why cows and crickets do not deserve the same level of moral consideration. I’m open to having those arguments proven wrong. But you need to do that. Rather than make blanket statements without substantiation, I urge you to avoid insults and make arguments.

Rucio says:
October 24, 2014 at 10:52 am

The argument is simply that cows and crickets DO deserve the same level of moral consideration. That is the vegan ethic. It is not a question of sentience or whatever other anthropocentric rationalization you want to apply.

I really don’t have a problem with anyone eating insects, although I don’t see any good coming from “farming” them. It’s just absurd to suggest that it should be a part of veganism. Your very language in this post has devolved into that of “humane meat” advocates.

(As for insult, you set yourself up for the confirmation.)

James says:
October 24, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Your logic is circular. To say that a behavior is wrong because it does not adhere to a preexisting definition (in this case, veganism) is to subsume the demand for a real argument (which you still won’t provide) under the guise of a label that may or may not best accomplish the goal that we both seek–to reduce the suffering of animals who can suffer. My argument is that veganism may not be the best approach to reducing the harm humans do to animals. My previous posts on insects have laid out why I think that is the case. Thus, in the interests of having a genuine and fruitful discussion (and possibly getting me to change my mind), you must do more than say, in essence, “veganism does not allow for eating crickets.” I really don’t care about the insult, honestly, so no worries there. But I do care about logic.

Rucio says:
October 24, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Any circularity is in your framing the question as one of “animals who can suffer”. In other words, you’ve already asserted the conclusion in the premise.

Furthermore, if, rather than arguing that veganism may not be the best approach to reducing harm to animals (other than insects), you are attempting to redefine veganism to include eating insects, then the burden is yours.

unethical_and_speciesist_vegan says:
October 24, 2014 at 7:07 pm

“It’s just absurd to suggest that it should be a part of veganism.”

Thankfully deontic vegans don’t get to decide who is and is not vegan. Many utilitarian (see vegan action and vegan outreach position on insects and honey) vegans accept the ambiguity of insects and insect products (shellack, honey, silk etc).

Moreover, many deontic vegans are not at all consistent when it come to their own avoidance of insect “suffering”: honey is verboten but shellack is “don’t ask don’t tell”.

Rucio says:
October 24, 2014 at 9:52 pm

We are all, really, merely veganish.

Rucio says:
October 24, 2014 at 10:11 pm

“Vegan” is generally understood to mean no animal flesh or products. It is not a “deontic” or utilitarian or pseudo-religious proposition, but just a simple definition. Nobody’s a perfect vegan, but if everybody’s a vegan by their own definitions, than the word means nothing.

unethical_and_speciesist_vegan says:
October 27, 2014 at 3:42 pm

“Vegan” is generally understood to mean no animal flesh or products.

Generally understood as “NO” by deontic vegans but not by many utilitarian vegans:

http://vegan.org/frequently-asked-questions/

“Again, it depends on one’s definition of vegan. Insects are animals, and so insect products, such as honey and silk, are not traditionally considered vegan. Many vegans, however, are not opposed to using insect products, because they do not believe insects are conscious of pain.”

http://www.veganoutreach.org/advocacy/definingvegan.html

“This may sound odd coming from a co-founder of Vegan Outreach, but it doesn’t matter what label anyone places on me, or what label anyone places on themselves. For example, if Peter Singer (author of Animal Liberation) were to eat a dish that contains hidden dairy when at a colleague’s house, or if Carole Morton (who runs Green Acres Farm Sanctuary and is a humane agent in a rural PA county) were to eat the eggs laid by the hens she has rescued … do I want to cut them off, shun them from our vegan club?”

Rucio says:
October 27, 2014 at 5:11 pm

That’s essentially what I already said. Many vegans fudge the line with invertebrate animals. But asserting that vegans are “morally obligated to eat insects” is a lot more offensive than asserting that they shouldn’t. As I also pointed out earlier, that’s not much different than Alan Savory asserting that we are morally obligated to eat free-range beef to save the planet. Even if his evidence were sound, we are certainly not obligated.

(Regarding evidence, James McW stacks his a bit by ignoring the tremendous land use required for animal agriculture feed. Switching to a vegan diet would reduce that land use to an eighteenth. Whereas farming insects would add a new land use, since it would obviously replace non-insect meat, not plants, in the diet.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Vermont: Vote Liberty Union!

Liberty Union Party statewide candidates —

Governor: Peter Diamondstone, Brattleboro

Secretary of State: Mary-Alice Herbert, Putney

Attorney General: Rosemarie Jackowski, Bennington

State Treasurer: Virginia Murray Ngoima, Pomfret

Liberty Union Party statewide federal candidate —

House of Representatives: Matthew Andrews, Plainfield

Liberty Union Party local candidates —

State Senate:
Aaron Diamondstone, Marlboro (Windham County)
Jerry Levy, Brattleboro (Windham County)
Ben Bosley, Colchester (Grand Isle County)

Sheriff of Orleans County: Thomas Farrow, Orleans

Assistant Judge, Windham County:
Lynn Russell, Brattleboro
Alice Landsman

Friday, October 17, 2014

Everyone Is a Worker!


From Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day? (1968)

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Sorry, your health care coverage can't actually be used.

=================================

Subject: Important Information About Your Health Coverage
Date: Fri, 6 Dec 2013
From: vthealthconnect@state.vt.us
To: [ ]@[ ].net

Dear [ ],

Hello! We are writing to let you know that you have a new notice regarding your bill for health care benefits from Vermont Health Connect. To view your notice, please click on the link below and log in to your account.

Your notice is: Premium Invoice

www.vermonthealthconnect.gov

After logging into your account, click on ‘My Account’ and select the ‘My Profile’ tab. Once there, click on ‘View Documents’ from the ‘Quick Links’ box. If you have any questions regarding this notice, please call Vermont Health Connect Customer Support toll-free at 1-855-899-9600, Monday-Friday 8am-8pm and Saturdays 8am-1pm (except holidays and holiday weekends).

Thank you,

Vermont Health Connect

=================================

Subject: Re: Important Information About Your Health Coverage
Date: Fri, 06 Dec 2013
From: [ ] <[ ]@[ ].net>
To: vthealthconnect@state.vt.us

There doesn't appear to be a way to log in. There is a "logout" button, which remains "logout" after clicking it. No "login" button or pane.

In fact, because of the consequent inability to check my account and the lack of reply by telephone [since applying on line], I just sent in a paper application today. Which I guess is now unnecessary as far as setting up an account.

I think I would like a paper notice/statement/bill.

Thanks.

=================================

Subject: RE: Important Information About Your Health Coverage
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 2013
From: AHS - VT Health Connect
To: '[ ]' <[ ]@[ ].net>

Dear [ ],

Thank you for writing.

To log in to your account, please go to https://portal.healthconnect.vermont.gov/ and click on “Start Here” found next to where you see “Are you looking for coverage for yourself or your family?” On the next page, please click either on “Login to your Account” or “Apply Now” as either will bring you to the log-in screen. Once you are logged into your account, you will be able to access your invoice using the directions in your original e-mail.

[Makes sense? Even if you have an account, you have to illogically click "Are you looking for coverage for yourself or your family?" to get to it. But perhaps that was an admission of the truth recorded here.]

As you've requested, we'll send a paper invoice to you in the mail. You can expect to receive this invoice within a week.

Please let us know if we can help you with anything else.

Kind regards,
Rebecca

Vermont Health Connect
Customer Support – 855-899-9600

Check out our website for updated information!

Links:
Vermont Health Connect: http://info.healthconnect.vermont.gov/
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/vthealthconnect

=================================

Subject: Your Vermont Health Connect Invoice
Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2013
From: Vermont Health Connect
To: [ ] <[ ]@[ ].net>

Dear [ ],

Thank you for completing your application for health insurance coverage through Vermont Health Connect. You may have received two invoices this month – one for your new (2014) Vermont Health Connect health plan, which begins January 1, 2014, and one for your former (2013) health plan, which was recently given the option of extending up to March 31, 2104.

You only need to pay the bill for the plan you wish to have effective on January 1. You do not need to pay the other bill. If you want help making the choice of which bill to pay, please call our Customer Support Center toll-free at 1-855-899-9600 and reference the code “VHC1215.” A customer service representative will then talk you through your options. Please note that our call volume is high at this time. We thank you in advance for your patience. If you applied through a Navigator, you could consult him or her as well.

Please note that you do not need to take any additional steps to cancel your former plan. Your 2013 health plan will automatically expire after you pay your premium and your 2014 plan takes effect.

We are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays.

Sincerely,

Vermont Health Connect Customer Service

=================================

Subject: Starting coverage in February
Date: Sat, 11 Jan 2014
From: [ ] <[ ]@[ ].net>
To: vthealthconnect@state.vt.us

I set up my account and selected a plan very early and received an
invoice by mail (as requested) in December. However, I had already paid
my Catamount Care premium for January, so I did not pay the premium for
the new plan.

Now I need to make sure that I will get another invoice (by mail,
please) for the new plans, to start coverage in February.

=================================

Subject: RE: Starting coverage in February
Date: Mon, 20 Jan 2014
From: AHS - VT Health Connect
To: '[ ]' <[ ]@[ ].net>

Dear [ ],

Thank you for writing. We're so sorry for the delay in replying to your email.

I've reviewed your account and see that you also called and spoke with someone about this last week. As they told you, it is fine for you to just pay your premium for February. Your account has been marked so that your policy will start in February.

Please let us know if we can help you with anything else.

Kind regards,
Rebecca

Vermont Health Connect

=================================

Subject: Important Information About Your Health Coverage
Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2014
From: vthealthconnect@state.vt.us
To: [ ]@[ ].net

Dear [ ],

Hello! We are writing to let you know that you have a new notice regarding your bill for health care benefits from Vermont Health Connect. To view your notice, please click on the link below and log in to your account.

Your notice is: Premium Invoice

www.vermonthealthconnect.gov

After logging into your account, click on ‘My Account’ and select the ‘My Profile’ tab. Once there, click on ‘View Documents’ from the ‘Quick Links’ box. If you have any questions regarding this notice, please call Vermont Health Connect Customer Support toll-free at 1-855-899-9600, Monday-Friday 8am-8pm and Saturdays 8am-1pm (except holidays and holiday weekends).

[Steps to view invoice:
• Click "Are you looking for coverage for yourself or your family?"
• Click "Log in"
• Click "My Account"
• Click "My Profile"
• Find the "Quick Links" box and Click "View Documents"
• Click the listed documents until you reveal the current invoice]

Thank you,

Vermont Health Connect

=================================

Subject: Re: Starting coverage in February
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 201
From: [ ] <[ ]@[ ].net>
To: AHS - VT Health Connect

Today I received a "Payment past due/Termination Notice" from BCBS [Blue Cross/Blue Shield]. As noted below, this is because I was assured that it was OK to ignore the January premium and that the new policy was to begin in February. This was necessary because the invoice for January coverage under Catamount Care was due (and paid) before the invoice for the new BCBS policy under VHC was available.

According to the BCBS notice, "Vermont Health Connect has reported that full payment has not been received for your health insurance."

Please resolve this.

=================================

Subject: RE: Starting coverage in February
Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2014
From: AHS - VT Health Connect
To: '[ ]' <[ ]@[ ].net>

Dear [ ],

Thank you for contacting us. We're very sorry that you received the past due notice from BCBS. I see that you have paid each of your invoices well in advance of the due dates, and as you noted, the fault is entirely ours for not yet making that change to your coverage start date. Unfortunately, we don't have that functionality to make the change once your plan is in force, but we are working on it and will correct your account as soon as we are able.

You actually have a 90 day grace period, so there is no danger of your plan being terminated as long as you keep paying your monthly premiums as you have been doing.

Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

Kind regards,
Ellen

Vermont Health Connect

=================================

And so I have been paying the monthly premium to Vermont Health Connect, ignoring the monthly "PAST DUE/NOTICE OF TERMINATION" notices from BCBS.

Secure in the knowledge that we do indeed have continuing "affordable health insurance" (which Vermont was already providing for almost everybody, effectively and without major problems: the "Catamount Care" referred to above). Secure, that is, as long as we would never need it, as it turned out.

I had an annual check-up scheduled in early October and was told by the doctor's office that a check of insurance status revealed it to be "pending". For that reason, they would not be able to submit the bill. I learned from a call to BCBS on Oct. 1 that "pending" in this case meant that I was behind in payments, because they still considered my coverage to have begun on Jan. 1 instead of Feb. 1, and therefore still expected an extra month of payment. In other words, despite the reassurance from Vermont Health Connect 8 months before that "we are working on it and will correct your account as soon as we are able", they still had not. Furthermore, the reassurance that "there is no danger of your plan being terminated as long as you keep paying your monthly premiums as you have been doing" turned out to be meaningless, since my regular doctor wouldn't risk billing to a "pending" insurance account. The person I talked with at BCBS helpfully transfered me to Vermont Health Connect, noting that she had heard that they may be "a few months" behind.

Thank goodness we have not been in any emergency situation or in urgent need of a prescription refill.

From Vermont Health Connect I now (!) learned that changing the start date required a new application because it is a "change of status". And so I was transfered to another office to handle that. The woman there, like everyone I have talked with at every step, it should be said, was very helpful and was able to use the original application to make a new one for coverage starting Feb. 1, ie 8 months earlier, to expire Dec. 31, ie in less than 3 months.

Now we were expected to have "new" insurance active in a couple of weeks, a new card in a week after that. Just in time to start to whole charade over again for coverage next year.

[Update:  Two and a half weeks later, we've received no notice about the "new" coverage, but instead a series of premium invoices (up to 4 so far), each one different from the last and none of them reflecting a resolution.]

[Update:  Four weeks later, we haven't received a new insurance card or any notice about the "new" coverage.]

We essentially had no usable insurance coverage since Feb. 1, despite regularly paying monthly premiums for it. What surprises lie in wait for us in the new cycle beginning Jan. 1, 2015, with a promised automatic renewal of coverage? Especially in April, when the IRS recalculates everybody's share of their previous year of premiums.

The faster we move to a single payer system the better! Federally, Medicare was supposed to expand in the 1960s to cover everyone, not just the elderly (but then it would have covered draft dodgers and black panthers along with "deserving" citizens like oneself). If the US government can not or will not provide that very basic service to all those who live within its borders, then the states need to go it alone. And I mean not just setting up some mash-up of federal support and state-provided health coverage, although that would be a welcome step despite the likelihood of its being as dysfunctional as the current private-public mash-up — I mean breaking away altogether from the government of Washington. Because health care is just one of its many failures, and war to gain world hegemony seems to be its only goal, squandering our common wealth as well as our lives, sacrificing them to an end that can only be catastrophic.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Breakdown of Nations

A few excerpts from The Breakdown of Nations by Leopold Kohr, first published in 1957 by Routledge & Kegan Paul ...


Compared with the barbaric exploits of the civilized, the savageries of the barbarians seem to lose all significance.

-/-/-

If wars are due to the accumulation of the critical mass of power, and the critical mass of power can accumulate only in social organisms of critical size, the problems of aggression, like those of atrocity, can clearly again be solved in only one way – through the reduction of those organisms that have outgrown the proportions of human control. As we have seen, in the case of internal social miseries, already cities may constitute such overgrown units. In the case of external miseries, only states can acquire critical size. This means that, if the world is to be relieved of some of the pressures of aggressive warfare, we can do little by trying to unite it. We [w]ould but increase the terror potential that comes from large size. What must be accomplished is the very opposite: the dismemberment of the vast united national complexes commonly called the great powers. For they alone in the contemporary world have the social size that enables them to spread the miseries we try to prevent but cannot so long as we leave untouched the power which produces them. … where there is a critically large volume of power, there is aggression, and as long as there is critical power, so long will there be aggression.

-/-/-

In vastness, everything crumbles, even the good, because, as will increasingly become evident, the world’s one and only problem is not wickedness but bigness; and not the thing that is big, whatever it may be, but bigness itself. That is why through union or unification, which enlarges bulk and size and power, nothing can be solved. On the contrary, the possibility of finding solutions recedes in the ratio at which the process of union advances.

-/-/-

The great powers are the ones which are artificial structures and which, because they are artificial, need such consuming efforts to maintain themselves. As they did not come into existence by natural development but by conquest, so they cannot maintain themselves except by conquest – the constant reconquest of their own citizens through a flow of patriotic propaganda setting in at the cradle and ending only at the grave.

-/-/-

The chief danger to the spirit of democracy in a large power stems from [the] technical impossibility of asserting itself informally. In mass states, personal influences can make themselves felt only if channeled through forms, formulas, and organizations. It is these latter rather than the individual who become increasingly the true agents and asserters of political sovereignty, so that we should speak of a group or party democracy rather than of an individualistic democracy. As a result, the individual declines, and in his place emerges the glorified average man of whom Ortega y Gasset writes that ‘he is to history what sea-level is to geography’. An individual can now have his will only to the extent that he comes close to this mystical average, and it is on the strength of his being an average, not an individual, that his desires can be satisfied. …

But who is this mystical, glorified, flattered, wooed, famous, inarticulate, faceless average man? … [H]e can only be one thing, the representative or reflex of the community, of society, of the masses. What we worship in the individualistic fiction of the average man is nothing but the god of collectivism. No wonder that we overflow with emotion when we hear of government of, for, and by the people, by which we express our adherence to the ideals of group or mass democracy, while as true democrats we should have nothing in mind but government of, for, and by the individual.

Thus, however democratic a large power may try to be, it cannot possibly be a democracy in the real (though not original) meaning and glory of the term – a governmental system serving the individual. Large powers must serve society and, as a result, all genuine ideals of democracy become reversed. their life rhythm can no longer depend on the freedom and interplay of individuals. Instead they become dependent on organizations.

-/-/-

As has already been indicated, it is not any particular economic system that seems at fault, but economic size. Whatever outgrows certain limits begins to suffer from the irrepressible problem of unmanageable proportions. When this happens to a community, its problems will not only increase faster than its growth; they will be of a new order, arising no longer from the business of living but from the business of growing. Instead of growth serving life, life must now serve growth, perverting the very purpose of existence. … [T]he more powerful a society becomes, the more of its increasing product, instead of increasing individual consumption, is devoured by the task of coping with the problems caused by the rise of its very power. The more it gains in density, the more is devoured by the process of meeting the problems caused by its increasing density. And the more it advances, the more is devoured by the problems resulting from its very advance.

-/-/-

[S]ince nothing is ultimate in this ever-changing creation, one may safely carry de Tocqueville’s predictions [‘[Russia’s and America’s] starting-points are different, and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems to be marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe’] or, rather, deductions a step or two further and state that, whatever comes, the ultimate world state will go the road of all other ultimate world states of history. After a period of dazzling vitality, it will spend itself. There will be no war to bring about its end. It will not explode. Like the ageing colossi of the stellar universe, it will gradually collapse internally, leaving as its principal contribution to posterity its fragments, the little states – until the consolidation process of big-power development starts all over again. This is not pleasant to anticipate. What is pleasant, however, is the realization that, int he intervening period between the intellectual ice ages of great-power domination, history will in all likelihood repeat itself and the world, little and free once more, will experience another of those spells of cultural greatness which characterized the small-state worlds of the Middle Ages and Ancient Greece.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The last German state has now abolished university fees

A friend writes:

I am trying to step back and care less about everything. But this is so hard to ignore. Germany is now entirely free of college fees, which is wonderful news. But sitting here in the desperate gulag called the US, one can only feel like weeping.

Here, where a college education is the most obscenely expensive necessary "luxury" in the world, the costs inflated far beyond the means of most people anywhere on the planet, Americans are told that they are worthless without a college degree, so they are forced to borrow fortunes which then ruins their futures, ironically. Some parents mortgage or sell their house, practically kill themselves with overwork and go into enormous debt to procure for their children what should be a free and basic human right. And after all that sacrifice and suffering and work and worry, there are few jobs for graduates, of course. People with huge college loans often must take the kinds of jobs that cannot possibly pay enough to repay those loans. And for people who aren't into going to college and/or like to work with their hands, the "blue-collar" jobs which used to provide a fairly secure middle-class life for millions have been stolen by fascists, shipped away to China, Pakistan, the entire third world where people are treated like slaves and paid like them too.

Then people in the NY Times sneer that those "blue-collar" types don't belong in college anyway. They sneer at community colleges. Then they sneer at anyone who took out college loans they can't repay. Then they sneer at people who didn't bother to go to college. The best jobs and most interesting opportunities are reserved for children of the privileged and hyper-connected. There is no way to live in this society any longer, unless you have an exceedingly charmed life and and/or were born into riches. Everyone else is considered to be a waste of space, and ordinary people now must fight for the small morsels of moldy crumbs eked out to them by fascist America, and after all that scrabbling for advantage, can be fired at will with no explanation required and no recourse.

But oh how this dreadful scenario enriches the lenders of college loans; probably debtor's prisons will become legal ... every single goddam thing in this vile "society" is a fucking scam, with college education at the top of the list. But what choice do people have now? To demand a free education as they have in Germany would be laughable to most Americans who feel that you must pay for everything you have. They simply aren't educated enough to understand that they ARE paying -- but instead of their taxes being used to enrich their own lives and of their fellow citizens, it's all being diverted into endless war. Part of the problem is the "their fellow citizens" part -- they don't want anyone they don't absolutely know to be "deserving" to get the same benefits they might get, so they'd rather go without. The real problem with Americans is a knee-jerk penchant for Puritanical intolerance and a love of abject cruelty; this has poisoned the entire nation.

www.independent.co.uk/student/last-german-state-abolishes-university-fees-9774555.html

Sunday, October 05, 2014

How like kingdoms without justice are to robberies

Aurelius Augustine, The City of God, Book IV, Chapter 4:

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”

Possibly related posts