No Kill Animal Shelter Proposal for Oakland, California

I spent the past year researching the animal shelter situation both in Oakland and elsewhere in the U.S. I have interviewed over 100 individuals from government, the humane community, rescue groups and animal services departments. I have learned that “no kill” is an achievable goal.

Four months ago, I completed a proposal for the city of Los Angeles. I also recently asked Governor Schwarzenegger to establish a California Animal Commission which would assist cities and counties in achieving the “no kill” goal. I have not received a final word from the Governor’s office, but am hopeful. The Commission would provide suggestions and proposals to localities that desire assistance.

I put many hours into my 54 page proposal. I hope you will find my research and suggestions useful. Most of these ideas have been successful elsewhere. The main part of the proposal can be found at

Click here for the exact link.

Feel free to leave comments on this blog and please urge Oakland to move towards "no kill." Thank you.


From Democracy to Omniocracy: Government for Animals & Nature

Clint Eastwood recently plunged into the murky political pond with his statement, "Extremism is so easy. You've got your position, and that's it. It doesn't take much thought. And when you go far enough to the right, you meet the same idiots coming around from the left."

What is extremism, and is it easy to hold such a stance? Is the political scale truly circular, so that the "far right" clasps hands with the "far left"? Finally, does the left-right continuum serve as a constructive paradigm upon which society can be structured?

If someone screams, "I am a moderate; we should all be moderates" at the top of his lungs and flails around like a lunatic, would he be considered an extremist? An "inappropriate" display of emotion could be "extreme," even when devoid of "extreme" content.

Today's "extremists" are in good company: Jesus, Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Baruch Spinoza all bore this label at one time. Jan De Witt and his brother Cornelius—17th Century Dutch politicians—were hacked to death by the populace, largely due to their "radical" and "unsavory" political perspective. Their crime? They were proponents of democracy. Their body parts were displayed in storefronts all over town.

Who shall we call extreme? The vigilantes who did the lynching? The shopkeepers who showcased the body parts? Or the De Witts with their pro-democracy stance?

Do "extreme" beliefs emanate from a mechanical thought process, as Eastwood suggests, rather than an intense philosophical journey? It arguably requires reflection and hypercritical analysis to defend ones theories against the cloned, echoed and mass produced opinion of the common folk; it requires conviction to risk social ostracism and other forms of retaliation.

The "approved" or popular view is more likely to be perfunctory. Why think when one can plagiarize? Why go out on a limb when one can cling onto the tree or never climb in the first place?

And who are these "far right" and "far left" "idiots" to whom Eastwood refers when he makes his own arguably "extreme" comment? Perhaps he perceives those on the edge as moralistically shrill, as manifesting a tone level of fear and anger. Perhaps this is how the "right" and "left" overlap or come full circle in his mind. But this is a gross generalization, since the "extremes" are subjective and the political continuum fallacious.

The left-right distinction began in France to indicate nothing more than where the political parties sat during Parliament; soldiers were positioned in the center to prevent disagreements from resulting in bloodshed. It has morphed into a Democratic-Republican or liberal-conservative scale.

There is no objective definition for "Democratic," "Republican," "liberal" or "conservative." Real Democrats and Republicans, for example, do not necessarily reside on one particular side of the divide; they move in divergent directions on assorted issues.

In addition, political spectrums vary. One could say, for example, that all governments—democracy, fascism, communism—inhabit the "left" while anarchy or a lack of control rests on the "right." One could argue instead for an up-down continuum with free-market capitalism at the top and communism at the bottom.

Suppose we accept the flawed, but commonly accepted paradigm of a left to right political continuum, as Eastwood offers. If we define the "left" as the group that protects the voiceless, the powerless, and the forgotten, then the natural progression would be to protect the truly voiceless – animals and nature.

Nonhumans are excluded from our political system, without representation. They have no standing in court; yet corporations do. In fact, nonhumans are virtually omitted from the conversation in our anthropocentric and speciesist society.

A move "left" arguably means to move away from Democracy – which is really just a rule by the elite (humans) – to an Omniocracy (which I describe as a government of, by and for all living beings). The European Union has added nonhumans to their Constitution, as have Switzerland and Germany. New Zealand, India and Reggio Emilio, Italy have outlawed using animals in ways we normally think acceptable in the U.S. (boiling lobsters alive, keeping fish in small bowls, vivisection, etc.).

We are trailing behind other nations, but it might be difficult to amend our Constitution in our What's the Matter With Kansas? country at this time. It might be easier to start with certain states. You may be wondering what would stuffing a few extra words in a state Constitution really do. Well, words are a powerful tool and an important start.

Lastly, does this move to the left spit us out on right? Probably. One could argue that traditional "right" politics/economics prompts a gap between the rich and poor, thus culminates in the rule by a few, such as corporations. To implement policies that foster the idea that nonhuman species have value "in and of themselves," a "top down" government or rule by a few (although not corporations) again seems required.

People are self-interested (as are all species) thus cannot be expected to vote against their desires. Legislators, however, are different (or should be) because they attain self-worth from helping others, being fair and inclusive, and consulting the "big picture." Plato got this part of his Republic right in my estimate.

Omniocracy requires abolishing the left-right continuum and forming a new paradigm to balance pragmatic concerns with the needs of all. It would be similar in structure to the representative government upon which we now rely. There will naturally be conflicts of interest between species and individuals; but government's job will be to mediate and arbitrate these "disputes."

We are taught democracy is the most inclusive, just and beneficent political system in the world. It is time to re-evaluate, without letting "extremist" labels scare us. Successful ideas advance through three stages: first ridicule, then discussion, finally adoption. I say we start the discussion to which Eastwood's words have provided a starting point.

The Clint Eastwood quote is posted on Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown's blog and is taken from Feb 28, 2005 issue of Time Magazine.

Another Doomsday, Another Dollar: Shifting Science towards Peace & Ecology

In his book, Our Final Hour, Cambridge professor and Britain’s “Astronomer Royal” Martin Rees predicts humanity has no more than a 50/50 chance of survival into the next century and that by 2020 a million people will perish due to scientific error or terror. Some would call him prescient, while others would interpret his words as alarmist, resembling a layer cake with environmental fears on top of nuclear fears on top of chemical and biological threats, ad infinitum. With a sci-fi flare, he warns of runaway technology, human clones and an ability to insert memory chips into the brain.

Doomsday predictors get much the same respect as the “toxic fumes” sign at the local service station; they impart their wisdom, yet we yawn. Situations which seem grim and overwhelming, even potentially lethal, tend to be ignored. Attention on more immediate and “American” concerns, such as consumer goods and personal advancement, monopolize our daily thoughts. This is arguably foolhardy and indicative of the “another doomsday, another dollar” mentality.

Rees is not a lone voice on the scientific stage. The “Bulletin of Atomic Scientists” reports we have seven minutes until our final bow at midnight. Other reputable experts surmise that a “gray goo” or nanotechnological catastrophe poses the greatest threat. This involves the invention of miniature, self-replicating machines that gnaw away at the environment until it is devoid of life. It need not be deliberate sabotage—as in technological warfare by one nation against another--but could result from a laboratory mishap.

Astronomers speak of fugitive asteroids that could destroy major sections of our planet within the next 30 years. Others point to atom-crashing tests and their potential for a lethal strangelet scenario. Strangelets are malformed subatomic matter, which could distort all normal matter and dissolve the earth in seconds.

There are streams of alerts from environmental experts who tell us natural disasters are on the rise. They warn of climatic change and tell us the world's species die at a rate 1000 times greater than they did prior to human existence due to habitat destruction and the introduction of non-indigenous species into the ecosystem. Their conclusion? If we do not reverse the damaging trend, Earth itself will be extinct.

Should we open our minds to doomsday predictions? And if we accept them, what is the next step to insure or increase our chance of planetary survival?

In his book, Science, Money and Politics, Daniel Greenberg follows a trail of suspicion. He condemns what he believes to be the self-serving, greedy scientific community with its bungled research, conflicts of interest and findings that never see the light of day due to suppression by corporate sponsors. But this seems to be an overly cynical, embellished perspective; there are surely many scientists dedicated to discovery and social responsibility, apart from any personal gain. And we should not forget that offering controversial insights can be at a cost; proponents of “radical” theories often expose themselves to public and professional ridicule.

Regardless of skepticism, the “Pascal’s Wager” game plan seems a good bet. This essentially means we should not gamble with eternity, but instead urge the scientific community to take precautions since Armageddon allows no second chance. Better to err on the side of life, even if it means some black holes will go unexplored and some research grants will be pulled.

Precaution means building contingency plans--such as shields and containment measures--into emerging technologies so that if an experiment goes awry, a safety net will kick into place. It means the scientific community should better police itself. It means committees or boards—both local and international—should be established for oversight and regulations, much like Albert Einstein proposed in 1947 to maintain worldwide peace. Many nation-states and multinational corporations are known for fighting even minimal efforts to regulate dangerous technology, and they must be countered.

There are pragmatic hurdles to be negotiated when trying to impose rules on private parties or on authorities in renegade lands, but the ozone hole “near disaster” demonstrates how the world can cooperate when it comes to life-and-death matters. As cultures dovetail, as communications rise, as borders become more porous, and as the world figuratively shrinks, it will be easier to impose structure and scientific parameters on nations that seem combative today

Science must shift its course and find new mountains to climb. It looks to us for cues. Due to our materialistic bent as a culture, our cursory endorsement of “progress” and our captivation with the Prometheus-like aura of technology, we subtly ask the scientific community to scale those mountains that are the highest (great accolades can be received), the easiest (the path of least resistance) or the most profit-oriented (grant money from special interests or an emphasis on reducing labor so companies can realize greater proceeds) rather than those that are the most ecological and peace-enhancing.

The research community has rivers of creativity and forests of energy that could instead be directed towards rivers and forests. It could move towards ecological preservation and restoration, peaceful alternatives to conflict and a furthering of life on this planet.

We will know a cultural transition is underway when news reports following fires, earthquakes and other disasters address the impact on natural systems and nonhuman species, rather than just the human and economical consequences, such as the number of homes lost. Our capitalistic culture thrives on the fact that nature is cost-free, which in turn, reinforces the notion that it is expendable and devoid of value. This reality must change. Our reality must change. And science must change. It must shift towards peace and ecology. It’s as plain as doomsday.


Removing Intelligence From America

Removing Intelligence from America or RIA is a serious national problem. It's a widespread malady, or better yet, a side effect from a drug overdose. The drug is our culture, and it is killing any hope of a collective intelligence.

RIA is a devious and subtle process that goes unnoticed until one day when a European or Asian asks us the capital of Spain or the date of the American Revolution, and we freeze. We search for the answer, but it disappeared with our short-term memory three days after our high school history exam in 1979.

The Europeans and the Asians are asking us questions now; they cannot understand why we don't know anything. Is it due to our failing educational system, our focus on money and consumerism, bureaucratic paralysis and the emphasis on job specialization, our isolation from other nations, or all of the above? I fill in "all of the above" with my number two pencil.

They don't use number two pencils in England. Students write essays. The teachers read the pupils' answers rather than attend perfunctory department meetings, and students form sentences rather than guess bubble "B" all the way down the page. My 17 year old daughter--a true American teenager--is an expert on bubble "B," and in lieu of the Classics, has memorized the merchandise at Abercrombie and Fitch.

Our educational system persuades us away from long-term memory skills, generalized knowledge, and learning for enjoyment. When remembering is not the goal, forgetting is achieved. It tries to be fair or automated at the cost of all else, and accentuates our right vs. wrong mindset.

We are arguably an overly moralistic, black or white society. Are you with us or against us? Did you pass or fail? When subjectivity and creativity are compromised and replaced with a theoretical or actual "true or false" exam, intellectual disinterest often results.

We embrace another "either-or" and make it an ideal: to be a consumer or a salesperson at all times, both contributing to the decline of our national IQ. These roles are promoted through our primary educators: television, in which news or other programming is slotted in between commercials; and our failing schools, in which we are taught how to specialize.

American media emphasizes buying and selling, and both distract us from relationships, art, grassroots politics, intellectual discourse, and of course, the world at large. Why learn poetry, explore philosophy, or study foreign customs when you can purchase a trendy skateboard or make an extra few bucks from a business deal? We are taught to buy low and sell high and finagle the deal.

In order to achieve and acquire, most Americans develop a niche and cannot operate outside this limited range. Churchill wrote his own speeches, yet most U.S. politicians have speech writers, advisors, assistants and advisors to their assistants. Tony Blair regularly answers a broad range of unscripted questions on his feet in the House of Commons; George W. Bush knows how to read a cue card. Sometimes.

English barristers tend to be generalists while American lawyers are mostly specialists. There are no depositions in England: cross-examination is an art form requiring overall mastery of the law. In America, deposed parties endure countless questions. The ensuing trial is nothing other than a stage piece in which all details have been worked out by niche lawyers in advance.

The same is true in government: most U.S. jobs are standardized, requiring a fill in the dot mentality. Bureaucratization and excessive regulations relieve the individual of decision-making, leading to specialization, and eventually boredom. There's no need to be clever or see the grand scheme because the dozens and dozens of rules know the answer. The system is supposedly "intelligent," so the individual need not be.

Our geography and youth as a country may account for some of our ignorance. We stand relatively alone in a very big land. European nations have to listen to and negotiate with their neighbors; they have to know the situation outside their borders. We don't enjoy the rich tradition that some nations have, therefore many of us ignore the historical altogether. We're a new country, so we only want to know about new things.

But is this in our best interest? Should our physical isolation mean intellectual isolation? Even though we have a roomy first-class seat, shouldn't we know what's going on in coach? Shouldn't we look out the window to get a glimpse of the big picture--the past--to see how our journey fits into the whole and how it may impact the future? If we put up our tray tables and put down our "Sky Mall" magazine, maybe over time we can boost our collective intelligence and gain greater respect from the rest of the world.