On Motherhood and Successful Political Movements

Last week two of the most prominent anti-gun groups, the Million Mom March and the Brady Campaign/Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence announced they would merge effective October 1. The groups tried to spin the event as two large groups coming together, but the reality is that the MMM was forced to close its national office recently due to lack of funds and the organization has never come close to the grass roots level of participation it thought it would inspire.

But leaving the gun issue aside, what surprised me in news coverage of the merger was an odd comment made by MMM founder Donna Dees-Thomases who said at a press conference announcing the merger, “If we moms can push 9 pound babies through our bodies, some of them with heads as big as bowling balls,surely we can push legislation through the halls of Congress.”

I fail to see the connection between the two examples. I’ve never seen a group of men with NRA hold a press conference and say, “If we can ejaculate hundreds of million of sperm at a time, surely we can push legislation through Congress.”

It is very odd to see liberal, presumably feminist-oriented women, falling back on a standard motherhood and apple pie routine to push a political agenda.


Two leading gun control groups merge in U.S. Reuters, June 28, 2001.

Cities Who Refuse to Hire Smokers

This is very odd, but the Tampa Tribune reports that a number of cities are now refusing to hire anyone who smokes. The reasoning apparently is that smokers will cause increased costs as far as insurance premiums, health costs, etc.

At least in Florida this is legal for the moment. In 1996 the Florida Supreme Court ruled that North Miami had a right to ban the hiring of smokers.

What I don’t understand is how it could possibly be consistent for it to be legal not to hire smokers because they might impose increased health risks while at the same time making it illegal to refuse to hire people who have genetic defects which make them more prone to cancer or other life threatening — and expensive — ailments.

The obvious difference might be that one is genetic while one is a behavior which can be controlled by an individual. But if the only relevant criteria is whether or not a discriminatory practice saves money in health care expenses and lost time due to illness, then the distinction between genetic traits and bad habits doesn’t see particularly relevant.

I wonder how far cities will try to take this. Will fat people be the next to get the boot (since obese people clearly present the same problems as smokers)? Why not go even further and start excluding people who engage in dangerous or extreme sports or activities?

People Lining Up In Michigan for Concealed Weapons Applications

The Detroit News reports that thousands of people showed up to apply for concealed weapons permits on the first day of the new law going into effect. Not surprisingly, the News reports that the most active part of the state was Wayne County — which includes Detroit — where apparently people began lining up at 2 a.m. to obtain an application and more than 1,000 applications were handed out.

The real test of concealed weapons will be how it goes over in Wayne County which is a very strong Democratic base and would normally be likely to vote heavily against the law when it inevitably comes up for repeal by voters in 2002. On the other hand the entire city looks like something out of Escape from New York.

The Detroit News, for example, is located only a few blocks from the arena where the Detroit Red Wings play. The building looks like some sort of well defended compound you’d find in Beirut, with enormous brick walls topped off by several additional feet of chain link fence studded with features to prevent intruders from getting in.

If there’s any significant drop in crime in Wayne County over the next year and a half, the law might survive. Otherwise, a voting block of out-state suburbanites and Detroit voters will likely kill the law next time around (the same voting bloc was responsible for the overwhelming defeat of a school voucher proposal this election cycle).

Lets Help the Activists Burn Out More Quickly

Karen Davis, the founder and president of United Poultry Concerns, recently penned a long whine about how easily animal rights activists become burned out. There are some worthwhile lessons to be learned here.

According to Davis, “It’s easy for an animal activist to become consumed by rage and despair, to grow exhausted and burn out confronted with the horror, each and every day, of our species’ relentless assault on other species.”

Especially when you’re not getting anywhere. Davis quotes Norman Phelps of The Fund for Animals as telling her that he started campaigning against hunting in the mid-1980s thinking it would be outlawed within the decade, and here he still is fighting to get it banned. Closer to home for Davis, she notes that UPC and others managed to stop a popular pigeon shoot, but simultaneously the number of chickens killed in the United States has increased by 10 million a day since her involvement with the animal rights movement began.

Davis herself seems doubtful that the animal rights movement will achieve any real long-term success, writing, “My attitude is not ‘If I didn’t think we’d win, I’d quit,’ to which I would say, ‘Then quit.'”

Davis identifies three reasons that cause animal rights activists to give up the fight,

…the endless omnipresence of animal suffering caused by humans, public resistance to our message, and letdown by other activists. We start out full of energy, we picture victory and a crowd of protesters at every demonstration, we envision reason and compassion taking charge of people’s lives, and then reality erodes our dream.

These are all situations, of course that those of us opposed to the animal rights movement should do our best to encourage.


How does one survive dealing day after day with a cruel industry?. Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns, Summer 2001.

Activist Hypocrisy Over Eco/Animal Rights Terrorism Bill

Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Washington) recently introduced a bill that would increase the potential sentences of environmentalist and animal rights extremists who engage in acts of violence, explicitly add such acts of terror to those punishable under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and provide funding for a national clearing house for law enforcement to track animal rights extremists. Of course animal rights activists who support such acts of terrorism, like People for the Ethical Treatment of AnimalsBruce Friedrich are expressing their outrage over the bill.

Demonstrating the sharply honed thinking that can be found in most PETA campaigns, Friedrich actually told United Press International,

To compare animal rights activists to terrorists like Tim McVeigh is scare mongering. Perhaps the most disturbing part is that the federal government would collect information on suspects, which denies the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, threats, intimidation and property damage are already illegal so there is no need for it.

I’m not sure which fantasy world Friedrich is living in at the moment, but generally in order to catch crooks, police and government agencies have to collect information about suspects. And if it is absurd to compare activists to McVeigh, why was Friedrich widely reported comparing the Oklahoma City bomber to Gandhi and others for not selecting meat for his last meal? And lets not forget that Friedrich himself has written that burning down a research lab or trashing a McDonald’s is completely consistent with the philosophy of strategic nonviolence as outlined by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

In an extreme absurdity Friedrich compares this bill to McCarthyism saying, “The next thing you know they’ll be calling in artists, actors and anyone else they can think of to ask them, ‘are you now or have you ever been a vegetarian?'” But Friedrich seems to have things mixed up here, as it is the animal rights movement that has targeted its opponents for violence. You don’t see gangs of researchers running around burning down the homes of animal rights activists or targeting vegetarian business for violence.


Critics say eco-terrorism bill unwarranted. Kelly Hearn, United Press International, June 14, 2001.