Monday, October 13, 2008

"Quarter-Horses: Bred for Slaughter" and a Bit about "The Bill"

Monday, October 13, 2008
Quarter horses born for slaughter

John Holland

Holland, of Shawsville, is a freelance writer, author of three books and senior analyst for Americans Against Horse Slaughter.

In the aftermath of Black Monday, most of us felt like Baghdad citizens after "shock and awe." Stunned and disoriented, we sifted through our portfolios looking for anything salvageable.

But while lesser politicians were distracted by the proposed bailout, Rep. Bob Goodlatte was not. He knew what needed to be done and how to do it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were at stake and time was critical. H.R. 6598 had to be stopped.

Goodlatte, now in his eighth term, might never have gained the skills he now employed had he not made the pragmatic decision to ignore his original campaign promise to limit himself to six terms, or his prophetic warning of the corrosive process that befalls anyone who stays in Congress longer.

H.R. 6598, The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, had to be delayed in the Judiciary Committee before it could reach the House floor for a vote. Within hours, horse rescues around the country began posting about strange calls from unassigned telephone numbers in the bowels of the House office buildings.

The callers were asking how many horses the rescue could currently accept. If asked how many horses the caller had, or any other probative question, the callers would simply hang up.

H.R. 6598 was a last-minute attempt by horse slaughter opponents to do an end run through the Judiciary Committee. Goodlatte and the ranking members of the House Agriculture and Commerce committees had managed to bottle up a similar bill (H.R. 503) in their committees.

The Senate version of that bill (S. 311) was reported out of committee last year but was blocked on the Senate floor by Goodlatte's stalwart pro-slaughter ally, Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho. Like Goodlatte, Craig had demonstrated the good sense to forget a promise: to resign after his unfortunate arrest in the Minneapolis Airport men's room affair.

With formidable resolve, Craig refused to surrender his seat even after being admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee for illegally using his campaign coffers to mount a legal challenge to his own guilty plea in that incident. It is such politicians who have bequeathed to our Congress its coveted 15 percent approval rating.

Goodlatte used his seat on the Judiciary Committee to fulfill his sacred obligation to old compatriots, like his former Agriculture Committee minority leader Charles Stenholm, and his former aide Brent Gattis, who left his side to work as pro-slaughter lobbyists for the firm of Olson, Frank and Weeda.

In 2007, the last three horse slaughter plants in the U.S. were closed by state laws in Texas and Illinois, but the industry quickly shifted its operations to Canada and Mexico. The slaughter of American horses actually increased, but the victory for anti-slaughter proponents sent shock waves through the pro-slaughter community.

There loomed the possibility of a crisis of faith among the horse slaughter lobbyists. Professionals like Goodlatte and Craig realized that such a crisis might ripple through the entire system, causing untold financial devastation.

Goodlatte has long enjoyed the largesse of horse slaughter supporters like the American Quarter Horse Association. No breed is more prominently represented in the slaughter trucks rolling toward Canada and Mexico than the quarter horse. A unique American breed with a muscular rump, it is both the unchallenged denizen of rodeos and a highly prized menu selection among European horsemeat gourmets.

The AQHA and Goodlatte have long dismissed the assertion that the AQHA defended horse slaughter because it needs the registration fees on foals for their bottom line. Like Goodlatte, it continually insists that there are excess horses and slaughter is the only answer.

By meeting time, Goodlatte had his survey. Claiming that rescues could accept only 7,000 of the more than 100,000 horses sent to slaughter each year, Goodlatte skillfully consumed the allotted time for considering H.R. 6598. No matter that the survey was a farce, the tactic was successful and the bill was once again delayed.

The following Tuesday the committee finally reported the bill out over Goodlatte's warning that if it passed, unwanted horses would starve, creating a buzzard epidemic. But the delays all but guaranteed it would not pass.

Bill Brewer, AQHA executive, demonstrated the hyperbolic hypocrisy of their excess-horse excuse in his 2008 AQHA convention speech. Reveling in their earnings, he declared not that there were too many horses in America, but that "our challenge becomes looking at ways to introduce an equine economic stimulus package that will boost registration numbers so we don't have a horse shortage in a few years."

1 comment:

CJ said...

Ode to Larry Craig: "Forgive Me America for I have Sinned"

Oct. 15, 2008 | It has become one of the predictable spectacles in American public life: a disgraced politician, apologizing for some adulterous shenanigans before a phalanx of microphones, with his grim-faced wife stationed at his side. Europeans are famously baffled by the custom, and ask why we insist on making a career-busting issue out of the love lives of our leaders. Even those Americans who write the whole thing off to our Puritan heritage can't quite figure out why some icons of the political right are forgiven their trespasses -- like Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana -- while others -- say, former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida -- go down in flames. Even when it comes to their own church leaders, religious conservatives seem so unpredictable. Both Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart were caught fooling around with women who were not their wives, but Swaggart was embraced while Bakker was jettisoned.

Susan Wise Bauer's "The Art of the Public Grovel: Sexual Sin and Public Confession in America" offers an answer to these conundrums and a canny analysis of American political symbolism. She examines several scandals involving politicians and church leaders, dating back to Grover Cleveland's 1884 presidential campaign (plagued by rumors that he'd fathered an illegitimate child) and the monthlong disappearance of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson (suspected of having run off with a married man) in 1926. Some politicians, like Ted Kennedy, never quite managed to shake the taint of their scandals. Others, like Bill Clinton, emerged from the media circus more popular than ever. Bakker's multimillion-dollar PTL ministries enterprise was destroyed. Swaggart was back in the pulpit three months later. Jimmy Carter almost scuttled his first presidential campaign simply by admitting to a magazine journalist that he'd "committed adultery in my heart" (without actually doing anything about it!), and Bernard Cardinal Law was forced to resign because of his inadequate response to child sexual abuse perpetrated by the priests in his charge. As Bauer sees it, the leaders who survive are the ones who have mastered the art of public confession.

"At the end of the 20th century," Bauer writes, "Americans increasingly expected their erring leaders to publicly admit to their sin and ask forgiveness." The roots of this expectation lie in the rituals of evangelical Protestantism and the practice (familiar to everyone from movies and television ministries) of hauling your sorry self to the front of the congregation, proclaiming your sinful ways to the gathered faithful, humbly begging for God's pardon and promising to follow a righteous path in the future. A version of this performance has become de rigueur for straying leaders because of what Bauer regards as "the essential likeness between American democracy and American evangelicalism." The two institutions "share the resemblance not merely of first cousins, but of full siblings."

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Horrifying as this notion may be to secular Americans, as Bauer delineates the resemblance, it's not all bad. Its intentions are essentially egalitarian. Confession is a central tenet of Christianity, of course, but public confession has become important in certain Protestant churches because it's meant to keep the prideful, and especially the powerful, in line. It is a way of making rulers accountable to their followers, of reminding them that they lead only with the consent of the led. "We both idolize and hate our leaders," Bauer writes in a particularly psychosocial passage from "The Art of the Public Grovel." "We need and resent them; we want to submit, but only once we are reassured that the person to whom we submit is no better than we are. Behind the demand that leaders publicly confess their sins is our fear that we will be overwhelmed by their power." The leader who effectively admits his weakness, whether before the electorate or his congregation, is assuaging that fear by demonstrating that he does not regard himself as superior or innately entitled to boss his followers around.

It's almost always a sexual transgression that prompts this type of confession, and the culprit is invariably male. That's partly because most American leaders are men, but Bauer feels that a potent, if unconscious metaphor is also at work. The accusation of "predatory sexual behavior" (typically associated with men) arouses acute anxiety in followers, causing them to "fear that they would be deceived and exploited" in other ways "by those to whom they had willingly granted power." If the president can't be trusted with the daughters we send to Washington to work as interns, if the preacher tries to seduce the church secretary in a hotel room, who's to say that these men won't also take advantage of the whole electorate or congregation, using the authority we have invested in them for their own personal gain?

When an evangelical leader gets into this kind of trouble -- Swaggart's motel room tryst with a prostitute or, more recently, Ted Haggard's drug-fueled cavortings with a callboy -- skeptics often marvel that the faithful aren't more shaken by the news. How can they not see that self-righteous fulminating over fornication or homosexuality betrays an unusually keen interest in the same? Isn't it obvious that Swaggart is a horn dog and Haggard a closet case? To ask such questions is to fail to grasp the Manichean drama of the evangelical mind-set, in which every Christian must submit and secure his soul for salvation over and over again (hence the popularity of revival meetings among those who already believe). Evangelicals -- or, as Bauer calls the more recently politicized variety, neoevangelicals -- view each soul as a battleground in which the forces of good wrestle with the forces of evil. "There is a part of my life so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life," Haggard told his congregation when he resigned his pulpit. "The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete."

Most evangelicals can identify with such struggles, although their own demons may be gambling or booze instead of hookers. And they know that on occasion, even within the most devout soul, the good side will lose, if only temporarily. Instead of undermining a preacher's appeal, such backsliding, if properly confessed and repented, humanizes a leader. To a working-class flock that harbors a constitutional mistrust of "elites" who think they're "better than us," an incident like this assures them that the man in charge understands their own fight to remain on the path of virtue. Furthermore, in recent decades evangelicals have come to see society at large as the site of an ongoing contest between good and evil; it is a mirror of the conflict within the individual Christian's soul, and every soul won for Jesus brings the world that much closer to the Second Coming. The leader who has spectacularly gotten himself back on track with God is also demonstrating to his followers and everybody which side he's on.

To pull this off, the sinner in question must expertly handle the argot and iconography of his scandal. It helps to have a working familiarity with evangelical Christianity and its precepts. Ted Kennedy, for example, clung to the notion that his confession, and any penance he did to atone for his sins, were private matters, as confession is in the Roman Catholic faith. Many observers in the press and public complained that Kennedy never gave a satisfactory account of the Chappaquiddick incident, an accident in which a young girl riding in Kennedy's car was drowned. By this they don't mean that Kennedy withheld some fact about the case; rather, according to Bauer, what they missed was a true admission of moral responsibility and guilt. Perhaps Kennedy's confessor assured him that because he had no intention of sinning, he was not guilty of sin (true according to Catholic doctrine), but the public still worried about exactly how culpable he was. What the people really wanted, Bauer believes, is for Kennedy to accept blame openly, in which case they might well have been willing to forgive him. Kennedy, however, kept the world out of his personal reckoning of the incident.