Greener lawns and deader birds, thanks Scotts!

My thanks to Ms. DailyDisgust for bringing my attention to this one.

Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is a friend to those who want greener lawns and more robust gardens.  Who they’re not so much a friend to: the birds for whom they knowingly sold toxin coated birdseed.

Scotts to pay $4.5M in fines from the Columbus Dispatch, Jan. 27, 2012

Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has agreed to plead guilty to charges in federal court and pay $4.5 m illion in fines in two incidents that date to 2008.


Court documents state that, from November 2005 to March 2008, Scotts distributed 73 million units of birdseed coated with insecticides called Storcide II and Actellic 5E. This was done to keep insects from eating the seeds during storage.

Storcide’s label says the pesticide is “extremely toxic to fish and toxic to birds and other wildlife.” Documents state that Scotts continued to sell the products despite warnings in the summer and fall of 2007 from a pesticide chemist and an ornithologist, both of whom worked for the company.

In 2008, the company was kind enough to refrain from further killing birds by recalling said pesticide laden bird seed.  Awesome.  The story also notes that in an unrelated incident, in 2008 the company was found by the EPA to be selling garden products with falsified EPA registration numbers.

A small silver lining is that a half million dollars of the settlement money is going to various bird related groups in Ohio, where the settlement was reached.

Part of the fine — $500,000 — will be evenly split among five groups and agencies to fund efforts to protect birds. They are Audubon Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Urban Forestry Program, Columbus Metro Parks, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Ohio Nature Conservancy.

Christie Vargo, director of the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, said Audubon Ohio will work with the Wilds in eastern Ohio and conservation groups along Lake Erie to improve migratory-bird habitats.

Bill Stanley, the Nature Conservancy’s conservation director, said his group will buy and maintain land in areas where wild birds stop or nest during migrations.

“We’re happy to try to do something beneficial for migratory birds,” Stanley said. “Ohio is a really important site for migratory birds.”


If it ain’t broke, disenfranchise thousands. Or: A mandate Republicans like

Iowa State Secretary of State Matt Shultz (Rep., of course) is keen to have Iowa follow in the footsteps of other states that have moved to require voters to provide some form of ID when voting.

Secretary of State Matt Schultz introduces new voter-ID bill, but legislative response is muted from the Des Moines Register, Jan.  26,2012

“The real point of this law is to make sure you are who you say you are when you come to vote,” he said, adding, “We’re not trying to disenfranchise or keep people from voting. We want security and integrity in our elections.”

While that sounds all well and good, of course the ulterior motive has to be the disenfranchisement of the generally poorer and less established amongst us–who of course tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.  And why must we suspect an ulterior motive?  Well, because Mr. Shultz acknowledges that we have no problem with voter fraud here in Iowa:

Schultz acknowledged that there have been no reported instances of voter fraud in Iowa, but said he believed elections were becoming closer, so that the security of each individual vote was becoming more important.

As for the goal of disenfranchising large swaths of people, we need only to look to the recent DoJ ruling striking down South Carolina’s similar requirement.

Justice Dept. rejects South Carolina voter ID law, calling it discriminatory from the Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2011

In its first decision on the laws, Justice’s Civil Rights Division said South Carolina’s statute is discriminatory because its registered minority voters are nearly 20 percent more likely than whites to lack a state-issued photo ID.

Fortunately the bill proposed by Secretary Shultz is receiving little support from the legislature, on either side of the aisle.  Of course Governor Branstad is a supporter–but fortunately that seems to mean less and less these days.

The other aspect of this that I’ve been thinking about lately is that this really seems like a mandate–which Republicans are up in arms about when it comes to health care.  Although voting is voluntary, it is a right protected by the Constitution.  Requiring ID to carry out ones Constitutionally protected duty when an ID is not otherwise required sure seems like a mandate to me.

Which is not to say that I don’t like the law because of the mandate issue.  I’m not against mandates per se.  I just think that the cost of not having it needs to be weighed by the benefit of having it.  In the case of health care, the cost of Americans not carrying health insurance is astronomical.  As for voting, the cost of not requiring photo ID is, well, as Mr. Shultz points out, there is none.

Reince Priebus, Classy Guy


Embattled Farmers

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committe, called President Obama, “our own little Captain Schettino” on FacetheNation this morning.

Bob Schieffer, clearly taken aback, responded, “What did you just say?  What did you call President Obama?”

“I called him Captain Schettino. You know, the captain that fled the ship in Italy. That’s our own president, who’s fleeing the American people and not doing his job and running around the country and campaigning,” Priebus said.

Wait till November, Reince, when the American people flee the GOP.  Meanwhile, keep it classy, and don’t show any respect for the 17 people confirmed dead so far on the Costa Concordia, just use them to take cheap shots at the president.


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Another letter to the West Branch Times

While I have been annoyed and or upset about Gregory Norfleet’s columns in the West Branch Times in the past, his column this week made me apoplectic.  Just ask Ms. DailyDisgust!  Below is his column, printed in all its convoluted and ultimately hateful glory.  Below that is the letter that I just submitted in response.

Soapbox Philosophy: A desire within, and a choice from the West Branch Times, Jan. 12, 2012

During the football season, at one of the home games, a couple people along the sidelines told me that they heard one of the high school boys — let us call him “Bill” here — shouting inappropriate comments at the opposing team.
Of all the people on that sideline who had a job to do that night, no one had more on their plate than Head Coach Butch Pedersen.

But anyone who knows Butch knows he has a deep desire to see boys and girls grow up to be responsible, mature and confident men and women. That desire trumps any football game.

Butch whipped around and called the boy out: “Bill! Show some class!”

Everyone in that immediate section fell silent. Butch locked his gaze on Bill long enough to make sure he got the message, then went back to the game.

It was one of those moments I will probably never forget: Four words with the right timing, right message and right tone. Depending on the situation, Butch knows how to deliver a kind word, or a metaphorical kick in the pants.

That memory came to mind when I saw one of the prominent Democratic leaders in this area, after the Iowa caucuses, post on Facebook an interview by journalist Chris Wallace of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

The subject of this part of the interview was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Wallace asked Santorum to comment on this quote: “The Army is not a sociological laboratory. Experimenting with Army policy, especially in a time of war, would pose a danger to efficiency, discipline and morale and would result in ultimate defeat.”

After Santorum “roughly” agreed with the point of view, Wallace revealed that it was a quote from Col. Eugene Householder, who in 1941 was arguing against racial integration in the military. Wallace was suggesting that homosexuals, like blacks, are born that way. I don’t understand how he sees these two as the same.

Butch is a great teacher and football coach, but he was not born that way. Scientists and doctors can put him through a barrage of tests and tell you his height, weight, eye color, skin color, etc., but they can’t show you anything, inside or out, that makes him a great teacher and coach.

Until he speaks or acts.

It is not Butch’s desires — not alone, that is — but the training he received, his experiences, his actions and his words that have made him what he is today.

So Santorum’s response was, essentially, that. You can’t change the color of your skin, so it is wrong to discriminate against that. But when your decisions and behavior play a significant part in your circumstances, then it is not so much a trait as it is a lifestyle, which is a collection of choices and behaviors.

The “born that way” argument suggests not only that your desires define you, but that you cannot do anything about them. However, self-preservation is a deep desire, yet there are plenty of parents who have risked their lives when a child ran into the street, or soldiers who jumped on a live grenade for their units. Desires can be overcome completely, or guided in different directions.

Santorum implied that homosexuality is one option people can choose for guiding an inward desire, but not the only one.

In Butch’s case, he became a football coach. But what would he be doing if football had never been invented, or if football was not socially acceptable?

Anyway, I did not support Santorum in the Republican caucus, but I’m taking a second look at him now.

Mr. Norfleet,

In the past I have found your editorials to be distasteful on occasion, particularly when they come to social issues.  Your piece this week is downright offensive and destructive.  You wrap your minimization of homosexuality in praise for Coach Pederson—a real stretch if you ask me.

I ask you: what harm does it do you if two people choose to love each other?

I can tell you what harm it does when you write these opinions about “choices” in your columns in this newspaper.  It helps to create an atmosphere wherein a whole class of people are made to feel alienated, isolated, marginalized, and offended within our community.  That is certainly not the type of community that I wish myself or my family to be a part of.

As for the issue of “desire” being a defining part of a person, I’d like to tell you about my wife.  I love her.  My desire for her love and her partnership in raising our daughter is one of the most important pieces of who I am as a man and as a human being.  Yes, there are other “options” I could choose, as your article suggests, but who are you or Rick Santorum to try to prioritize those for me?

I would hope that you would consider the power that you hold via your position as editor of the local paper of record before you write more articles that are an affront to the decency of the people of this community.


West Branch

This girl is a hero

But sadly her community is none too happy with her actions.

Jessica Ahlquist is a sixteen year old girl in Cranston, RI who would make Roger Williams proud.  She is an atheist, and served as the plaintiff with assistance from Freedom From Religion and the ACLU in a case that led to a federal judge ruling that a prayer posted in her school’s auditorium is unconstitutional.  WPRI Channel 12 in Providence reports that the prayer reads as follows:

Our Heavenly Father,
Grant us each day the desire to do our best,
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically,
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers,
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others,
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win,
Teach us the value of true friendship,
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.

The prayer was written in 1963 by a seventh grade student, and has hung on the wall of the auditorium ever since.  Oh yeah, and it is a violation of the establishment clause in the First Amendment.  As a social studies teacher, it warms my heart to see a young person so engaged in their community and so interested in upholding the ideals of our Constitution. Sadly, many members of the Cranston community do not see her actions in the same light.

Student Faces Town’s Wrath in Protest Against a Prayer from the New York Times, Jan. 26, 2012

In the weeks since [the judge ruled the banner to be unconstitutional], residents have crowded school board meetings to demand an appeal, Jessica has received online threats and the police have escorted her at school, and Cranston, a dense city of 80,000 just south of Providence, has throbbed with raw emotion.

My favorite quote from the story:

“I am more of a constitutionalist but find myself strangely on the other side of this,” said Donald Fox, a 1985 graduate of Cranston West.

Kind of like the Tea Party Floridians whose love of small government doesn’t extend to NASA.

The thing that is so ironic (don’t you think) is that this is all happening in Rhode Island, which was founded by the Rev. Roger Williams after he had been cast out of Massachusetts for advocating the separation of religious and civil powers.  This would be kind of like Californians denouncing gold, or Utah denouncing Mormonism.  The Smithsonian Magazine recently had a great feature on Williams:

God, Government and Roger Williams’ Big Idea from the Smithsonian Magazine, Jan. 2012

The New York Times article ends with a great quote from our young constitutional hero:

Does she empathize in any way with members of her community who want the prayer to stay?

“I’ve never been asked this before,” she said. A pause, and then: “It’s almost like making a child get a shot even though they don’t want to. It’s for their own good. I feel like they might see it as a very negative thing right now, but I’m defending their Constitution, too.”

“…I’m defending their Constitution, too.”  Brilliant.  Thank you, Jessica Ahlquist.

Umlauts in the New Yorker

The simple act of picking up and reading the New Yorker does quite fine in making me feel like an elitist snob.  The flagrant use of umlauts just serves to rub my nose it.  Thank goodness the subscription is in Ms. DailyDisgust’s name.

Nothing disgusting about this :)

A very happy birthday to Ms. DailyDisgust!  I love you.