St. Jude Research Hospital

Hi Hannah,

I’m writing in response to the letter I received from your high school asking for a donation for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. You know, I’m sure, Hannah, that I like to support you and Bradley in all that you do. I am very proud of both of you, even though we are not related. That’s why I want to give you an explanation as to why I cannot contribute to this project.

In 2001, Diana and I joined the animal rights movement. I was conflicted at first, wondering if I was on the wrong side, criticizing animal research. My reservations were soon dispelled when I began investigating the researchers at Ohio State. I infiltrated researcher meetings, both undercover and as a “guest” with other animal rights activists. I recall sitting in a meeting with Ohio State’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, when the chairman tried to tease us activists by saying that an easy way to “sacrifice” a small research animal was just to whack its head on the corner of one’s desk. I once heard a room full of researchers burst into laughter when they saw projected on a screen a picture of a large dead animal, probably a rhinoceros, splayed across as examination table. I learned that the researchers’ first concern seemed to be money and being well-paid, not the advancement of science. I learned that they would engage in worthless research if it was lucrative, such as Ohio State’s infamous “Cats-on-Meth” research, which my group tried to stop. We uncovered an email message from the leader of the animal research department saying that “Cats-on-Meth” must continue — despite being exposed as crude, useless, and cruel — so that it wouldn’t look like the animal rights activists had “won” on this issue. (The cats’ misery finally ended a few years later, when the funding dried up. Nothing of value came from it.) And I learned that the animal research industry is a multi-billion dollar business that protects itself from advancements such as using computer models as alternatives to animal research.

It is not easy to uncover data on the animal research at St. Jude Hospital, but I found records from 2006 and 2009 that show that in those two years, seven pigs and 593 ferrets were subjected to experiments involving unrelieved “pain and distress,” and that they were at no point given anything to relieve their suffering before dying or being “sacrificed.” (Since no records are required for the use of rodents, which are 90% of research animals, we can only guess how many of them were subjected to such treatment.)

One of the hard parts of getting older, Hannah, is learning that many things are not as they seem. St. Jude Research Hospital, with its fine reputation, is one of those disappointments in life.

For 39 years, St. Jude has sponsored the “World’s Largest Coon Hunt Benefit for St. Jude” in Decatur County, Tennessee. In what is billed as family entertainment, dogs that have been trained on live bait gang up on, catch, and viciously rip apart live raccoons. This exercise in cruelty reveals that St. Jude has no compassion for animals, and cannot be expected to have any for the unfortunate research animals they torment to keep the charity funds, i.e., research funds for researcher salaries, pouring in.

Because of animal cruelty associated with St. Jude, I’m sorry that I can’t contribute to Groveport Madison’s charity project this year, Hannah. I know you will understand. Thank you for being such a lovely and caring person.

Your old friend,



Top major animal charity

Mercy for Animals has been named a top charity for maximum effectiveness by Animal Charity Evaluators, an independent nonprofit dedicated to finding and promoting the best ways to help animals.

I favor MFA because they don’t just collect money, pay big salaries to administrators and spend millions in legal fees that yield pitifully small improvements for the animals. Instead, MFA uses the courage of its undercover investigators to document animal abuse at factory and dairy farms and releases its videos to major news outlets. This method, difficult and dangerous as it is, yields major results.

I know the founder of the organization personally, a young man who created his organization at age 15 and has since expanded its operations worldwide.

To learn more, go to

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Changing seasons

[Response to an old teammate’s email.]

Hello, old fiend. Yes, I am doing well. Psychologically, anyway, and Diana is good, except for a few pains and inconveniences. However, I have had pneumonia for 4 1/2 weeks. I shipped Rosie off to the Doggie Dude Ranch yesterday, as I can’t perform my duties as a dog dad in this condition. I have also been hampered by an injured left hand. I cut it on a broken toilet I was moving in the garage. After I cleaned up the rug (I didn’t notice the blood until I got upstairs) and secured Rosie, I drove to Urgent Care, where the guy on duty sewed ten stitches into my index and middle fingers. It’s been a week now, and they’re still a little sore.

Thanks for the spring training update. I look forward to seeing you out at the old keystone corner. Thanks for the forgotten memory, too. I advised you to buy baseball pants because I was so glad to be able to buy them after I started playing ball again. They’re much better than the old flannels. That screen saver from 2010 sounds terrific. 2010 is taking its place amidst our nostalgia. If I remember correctly, it was a good year for our Medigold team, one way or another.

I am really looking forward to reading Nancy’s book, A Redhead in Japan. It will be like spending many hours with a good friend. “Many hours” because I’ve always been a slow reader, around 250 wpm through college. After getting hired as a speed-reading teacher, I improved to 475 wpm.

That was near the average of my students’ speeds before they took my course. Ha ha! It never became an issue, though.

But one day in the cafeteria of a toney Shaker Heights, Ohio, girls’ private high school, one of my fellow teachers called me out as a fraud. I guess he was right. He didn’t even know about my slow reading speed, but he had a “sixth sense” and detected an imposter.

The accused: The traveling speed-reading teacher, a low-life easily identifiable by a catch-as-catch-can wardrobe and current residence at the Turfside Motel. Missing and broken front teeth from an auto accident, and inadequate follow-up dental care for several months, added to an unsavory image. Mr. Reading Techniques wasn’t exactly blending in with the faculty.

No one who is a fraud enjoys being detected. This can be a tense and dangerous moment for a perp. Fortunately, at that time, I didn’t really care about this insult to my character. I was just trying to get by.

So I didn’t respond, and nothing came of it.

I was not at the cutting edge of education science and philosophy in 1971 and 1972, and eventually I did move on. But I do still value my time as an educator. You know what they say: “Those who can’t, teach!”

I’ll pass on your greetings to Diana. It’s good to hear from you, Bob.

Best to Nancy,


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An open letter to some old high school pals

[Some friends from high school seem to believe a lot of inaccurate right-wing-sourced stuff that they encounter on the Internet. Or maybe they don’t believe it, and forward it just to get a rise out of yours truly. Who knows? For example, the graphically-pleasing, sarcastically-titled “Scandinavia’s Great Socialism” is the latest such agitprop to turn up in the old mailbox, prompting this thoughtful response.]

Dear Fiends,

It appears my frequent assertion that there is a Republican “Big Lie” machine operating on the Internet was pitifully naive. There is an International “Big Lie” machine.

As it turns out, “Scandinavia’s Great Socialism” might be pretty great after all, at least for most people. Let me explain:

1. The cost of gas in Denmark is not $10/gal. Before the oil market plunge, it was $6.40/gal. It is currently $1.55/gal.

2. Not only is Denmark’s tax rate not the highest in the world; it’s not even the highest in Europe. France’s, Germany’s, and Italy’s are higher.

3. The suicide rate in Denmark is 8.8 per 100,000, not 20.8. In the U.S., it’s 12.1.

4. The Danes are not destitute. Their household net worth exceeds those of Australia, Canada, France, and Germany.

5. It is not true that 11% of Danes are on anti-depressants. Ninety-three percent of Danes have never used an anti-depressant. Between 8% and 11% of Americans currently use anti-depressants.

6. It is true, however, that there is a 180% tax on cars. On the plus side, there is less traffic and air pollution.

It’s OK not to like socialism, old chums. Anyone who has done well in life doesn’t need it but ends up paying for it. Yes, I do have a concern that an aggressively socialistic tax policy could tap the bank accounts of friends and family. One hopes that if America takes a left turn, the bulk of any increased tax burden falls on the very wealthy. It may not be fair to demand more taxes from the extremely rich but, by definition, at least they can afford it.

Maybe the redistribution of wealth in the last 30 years or so has just gone too far, and we’re seeing a natural correction. The workers are rising up. For a socialist, even a democratic one, to be running competitively for president represents a pretty big canary keeling over in the capitalist coal mine.

All of which may not matter, since the government seems to have lost its ability to function. The moral precept of a loyal opposition, which got this country through thick and thin, is no longer respected by members of Congress.

But even the current deliberate descent into disfunction by obstructionists might not be as ruinous as the galloping corruption. These politicians and their cronies — these pustules on the butt of the American body politic — have destroyed our government, looted the coffers, and left Americans holding their plundered portfolios and/or empty wallets.

Still feeling the Bern,


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Pope Francis must help the animals of Spain

When the charismatic and inspirational new Pope took the name of St. Francis of Assisi in 2013, animal advocates had reason for optimism.  This friendly priest had just adopted the name of the patron saint of animals and the poor.  Surely he would teach the flock about our obligation, as stewards of the earth and of the creatures that inhabit our world, to treat animals kindly.  But three years later, the Pope who has been a wonderful advocate for the poor has done little for animals.

Though animal cruelty remains rampant throughout the world, the place where Pope Francis could do the most to end the barbarity is in the historic and beautiful country of Spain.  Every year villages in Spain hold more than 10,000 festivals, most of them religious festivals, and surprisingly for an allegedly civilized country, all the festivals involve some form of animal cruelty.

Easter is celebrated in many places in Spain by stuffing pigeons into jars and stoning them to death. Other “blood festivals” in Spain include the Pere Palo Festival in Villanueva de la Vera, in which a donkey is tortured by drunken men who beat and stab the poor beast, fire guns next to its ears, and force alcohol down its throat. The heaviest men ride the donkey until it collapses. A spokesman for the region’s tourism department says “We will not bow to pressure from animal welfare activists. This is our tradition and that will continue.”

At the Festival at San Bartoleme de Pinares, horses, donkeys, and mules are forced to jump through fire again and again, and to walk on burning coals. At a festival in San Juan, locals and tourists are given blowguns with which they fire darts into a bull until he is a bloody mess, at which point they castrate and kill him. The Lancing of the Bull is the festival at Toro de La Vega, where groups of men pierce a young bull repeatedly with spears. When the bull eventually falls, they cut off his testicles before killing him.

The mayor of the town of Cazallilia, whose citizens throw animals from the church bell tower in their own celebration, opposes the bull torture in Toro de la Vega.

“It’s very dangerous,” says Mayor Juan Balbin Garredo. “People could get hurt. Sometimes we forget about people and put too much emphasis on the animal.”

On St. Francis of Assisi day, ducks’ wings are clipped and they are thrown into the sea, where some swimmers rip them apart in a tug-or-war. Spain has its own patron saint of animals, St. Anthony. His day is celebrated with chicken-beheading competitions.

All these brutalities — including the popular competition of horsemen pulling off the heads of live geese — are visited on farm animals at blood festivals. Such beasts are not accorded much better treatment in our own factory farms. But perhaps the most shocking of Spain’s animal cruelties are those meted out to hunting dogs, known as galgos and podencos.

Many of these resemble greyhounds, though they are not closely related. They do share the temperaments of the gentle greyhounds, and strive to please their masters. The hunters breed them in frequently squalid conditions, up to two dozen per hunter, and feed them only sporadically with stale bread and restaurant waste. When hunting season arrives, the hunter selects the best, and abandons or tortures and kills the rest.

The dogs are pitted in contests in which two dogs chase a hare until one captures it. The losing dog is then a “dirty greyhound,” having “humiliated” its master, and is killed by being burned alive, injected with bleach, or hung from a tree where it “plays the piano.” Spanish hunters think it is entertaining to hang offending dogs so that only their hind legs barely touch the ground. As the dog tries to relieve the pressure of the rope, he dances as he dangles. The hunters call this dance “playing the piano.” It goes on for hours, sometimes days, until the dog is exhausted and suffocates. Sad evidence of this practice can be found at–galgo-and-podencos.html
[This link is currently leading to a “page not found” notice, and the link cannot be changed. However, if you type the link in the web address strip at the top of your screen, leaving off the first portion and beginning with www, you will arrive at the proper destination.]

At the end of hunting season, thousands of the dogs are murdered in this way. They are found in the countryside, hanging from trees, rotting. There are anti-cruelty laws in Spain, but they are rarely enforced, and when they are, they result in a small fine. There is no jail time for animal cruelty in Spain.

If the Pope is to honor St. Francis, he must do something for these animals, because he is probably the only person who can.  He must tell the people of Spain that the animals, too, are God’s creatures, deserving of mercy. Catholic Spain has a culture of animal cruelty that is pathological and which must be addressed by Pope Francis. Otherwise, his choice of St. Francis of Assisi as his namesake and inspiration will eventually be seen as an empty gesture, more cynical than inspirational, and an opportunity to lift humanity will be lost.

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The GOP’s war on animals

How our presidential aspirants feel about animal rights is a subject rarely addressed on the campaign trail.  Five of the presidential candidates, however, have voting records on the humane legislation that came before the 112th, 113th, and 114th Congresses.  The annual scorecard compiled by the Humane Society Legislative Fund tells us this about the Republican senators running for president:  They are no friends to animals.

Three of the Republican senators were members of all three Congresses.  Senator Rubio’s average score for the three Congresses was 13, Senator Paul’s 13, and Senator Graham’s 46.  Senator Bernie Sanders average score, by contrast, was 95.

Senator Cruz was around for only the 113th and 114th Congresses.  Cruz’s average score for the four years was 6.

Three of the four Republican senators score even lower than the Senate Republicans’ average of 29.  Sanders’ 95 was considerably higher than the Democrats’ average of 63.

Why are Republican senators so anti-animal compared to the Democrats?  Democrats registered 32 perfect scores of 100 and only two scores of zero on the Humane Society’s three scorecards, while Republicans managed only seven 100s while ringing up 20 zeros.

What is behind these statistics?

For companies in animal-exploitation industries, animal cruelty is just a cost of doing business.   Cruel practices are often a way to save money.  And the Republican party is, after all, the party of business, including businesses that derive their profits from exploiting animals.     How  else to explain why no Republican senator running for president cosponsored or voted for any bill to ease overcrowding for chickens in factory farms, to crack down on puppy mills, to prohibit interstate trade in monkeys sold as exotic pets, and to outlaw cruelty and torture of animals in obscene “crush” sex videos?  (Sanders co-sponsored all these bills.)

Republican Lindsey Graham was the least animal-abusive of the Republican senators in the presidential race.  He actually sponsored a bill to outlaw transport or export of horses for human consumption, and Sanders co-sponsored it. But Rubio and Cruz chose to take no position on this issue related to interstate commerce.

So relieving businesses of costs related to treating animals humanely is one explanation for the Republicans’ lack of compassion.  But why would Rubio, Paul, and Graham also vote against a 112th congressional bill that would  make it a misdemeanor to attend an illegal dog or cock fight?  (This was another bill co-sponsored by Sanders.)  Why would Paul and Cruz  support a bill to allow big game hunters to bring endangered polar bear parts back home as trophies?  (Sanders voted against it.)  Sanders sponsored a bill to end the use of chimpanzees in research and to relocate them to sanctuaries.  The Republicans took no position regarding the chimps, declining to co-sponsor the bill.

These three bills were not anti-business, so why the lack of Republican support?  One answer is the agricultural lobby.  It opposes all humane legislation for fear of the “slippery slope,” opposing even legislation written to benefit house pets.  The agricultural lobby opposes all legislation to benefit animals the way the gun lobby opposes all legislation restricting gun rights.

But the GOP candidates also come off as personally insensitive and even hostile to animals.  Marco Rubio enjoys watching the slaughter of the pigs used for his family’s pig roast every Christmas.  Ted Cruz was photographed kneeling on a friend’s tiger skin rug, joking that he might buy one for the family home.

The most egregious of congressional anti-animal operatives is the Co-Chair of Ted Cruz’s campaign, Iowa Rep. Steve King.  King’s amendment to the Farm Bill threatens to strip all protections for animals enacted by state legislatures in the last few years, including allowing chickens in battery cages enough room to stand and spread their wings, and animals in crates enough room to turn around.  It would also invalidate state and local laws enacted to regulate puppy mills, to ban the sale of cat and dog meat, and to outlaw animal-fighting events.

King’s explanation for his support for dog- and cock-fighting is that to permit humans to attend boxing matches, but to ban people from attending animal fights, is to place animals above humans.  It’s something to which he is morally opposed.  (He also opposed a law making it illegal to bring a child to a dog- or cock-fight.)

King is emblematic of the GOP’s war on animals.  The GOP’s troubling blind spot puts it at odds with most people in a nation of animal lovers.  Until it addresses its lack of compassion for animals, Republicans will not be receiving the support of America’s animal-friendly “Moral Majority.”

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Cruz on animal rights.

Ambush journalism is never pretty, but here it exposes a politician's little-known
position on an important issue:  
Exclusive Interview: Ted Cruz on Animal Rights     

In a video, Ted Cruz responds to blogger/reporter Kevin Kirchner with childish 
nonsense, demonstrating his contempt for both Kirschner and for animal rights.  His contemptuous, silly responses in the video sound placating and are calculated 
not to escalate the situation.  

Animal industry workers frequently take out their frustrations on the animals. The extracurricular brutality tolerated in slaughterhouses is seen as just a cost of doing business. 

Workers who cannot control their cruel impulses should be fired and prosecuted,  
but Cruz is content to let things continue as they are.  Agribusiness is legally  responsible for the humane treatment of food animals, but no serious effort is put forth.    

Cruz, for his part, is in Big Meat's pocket.  He's a 
menace to man and beast.

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