Monday, January 27, 2014

Wrong Number

The phone rang today, and I answered it.

Me: Hello?

Phone: HI.  DON.

Me: Uhhh?

Phone: I'm looking for Don.

Me: I think you have a wrong number.

Phone:  No, I'm looking for DON.

Me: I think this is a wrong number?

Phone: *click*

So after that I came online to blog about it, because I forgot that I had a blog and realized I should probably post something.  Sorry for forgetting, blog.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Facebook Petition

My last post was about a petition I didn't sign, today's is about a petition that I did sign.  Because it's only fair to provide balanced non-biased petition coverage.  Also because I'm lazy and this was an easy post.

People should sign this!  It's a petition asking Facebook to expand the options regarding gender and sexuality in a profile's Basic Info section, to include genders beyond just male and female and to include sexualities beyond just straight, gay or bi.  It's important!

I think these two petitions are a pretty good example of something that probably isn't all that helpful and something that is.  Well-meaning (though shark-racist) it may be, the dolphin petition doesn't seem like it will be all that useful in the grand scheme of things.  I mean, why would the Government of Peru care about some random Canadian lady's opinion on how they enforce their dolphin ban?  Or a hundred random Canadian ladies, or a thousand.  Basically, the opinions of a few average citizens in another country just aren't that important to foreign governments.  I don't pay taxes to Peru, I don't vote there, I don't even think about Peru all that often.  But I do use Facebook.  I'll go out on a limb and say that most people on the internet use Facebook.  Most everybody signing that petition will be a Facebook user.  Unlike Peru, Facebook will have a reason to care about the opinions of people signing this petition.  If it gets enough signatures it might make them realize that while it seems like a simple thing, it's important to a lot of people and thus something that they should consider changing, to better serve their customers.  There are loads of people who are unable to express their gender or sexuality accurately on Facebook, and considering the amount of time people spend online, and how our social interactions are largely taking place on sites like Facebook these days than they are in face-to-face situations, I think it's a pretty big deal that people can properly say who they really are in those situations.  And it's not like it would be a lot of work for Facebook, either; unlike Peru, which will have to spend a lot of money sending ships and crews out on regular patrols and then having officials work extra time dealing with the increased numbers of caught offenders, all Facebook has to do is add another button or two to their website.  And Facebook changes their website constantly.

So, to compare:  the dolphin petition is asking Peru to a) listen to the opinions of a bunch of random foreigners who offer nothing to the country but criticism, and b) spend a ton of money to placate these foreigners (who will probably forget about Peru entirely the second they do).  Sure, there are ethical and legal reasons to do what the petition is asking, but those reasons are not actually affected by the petition in any way.  The Facebook petition, though, just asks Facebook to a) listen to people who are probably already users as they express a grievance with the service they are being offered directly, which impacts their active use of the site rather than just their polite sensitivities for a situation that they aren't directly involved in at any stage, unlike the Peru one, and b) make a small change to the profile setup that won't affect anybody but the people who are asking for the change, and which can probably be done the next time Facebook does some big huge redesign that everyone will hate like they do two or three times a year.  The difference is huge regarding the amount of work the petitions are requesting be done as well as in the direct impact the issues have on the people signing the petitions in the first place.  So it's kind of disappointing that the largely impractical, armchair-activist dolphin petition has almost eighteen thousand signatures as of this time while the Facebook petition that has an actual day-to-day effect on a number of Facebook users over a relatively simple issue only has about a hundred.

Also, it never occurred to me to post this Nimona strip on my last post about sharks.  So this is to make up for it.

Any day where I can plug Nimona is a good day.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Screw Sharks, Think Of The Dolphins!

So I was going through the junk folder on my oldest email account, just to see if I was missing anything, and I found this petition: "The Cost of Shark Bait Soup: Dolphins Chopped Up And Skinned Alive."  The hysterical summary cries out about the sadful sadness that is the dead dolphins, butchered by those horrible fishermen.  They just don't appreciate these amazing creatures!  Also something about havoc on the ecosystem.  The dolphins, though!  The dolphins!

Seriously.  The first paragraph of the petition's description reads, "Shark fin soup comes with a price. And we're not talking the thousands people pay to eat it — we're talking the mass killing of sharks, the disruption of our oceans' ecosystem, and the brutal slaughter of hundreds of thousands of dolphins used by fishermen as shark bait."  The other two paragraphs, however, focus exclusively on the fate of the dolphins, and the petition itself is asking the Peruvian government to better enforce the ban on dolphin meat.

I didn't sign the petition.  Normally, I'm a sucker for petitions.  I know they don't actually have any real effect, most of the time, and they are an easy way for someone to pretend to be an "activist" without actually doing any real, meaningful activism.  But sadly, I'm guilted into signing them pretty easily.  A corporation has done something mean!  I must take a stand, or else I am supporting them!  An animal is being abused?  I must sign this, or else I will be as bad as the people abusing it in the first place!  Et cetera, et cetera.  But I didn't sign this one.  In fact, I was kind of offended by it.

For one thing, they don't ever mention which kind of dolphin is usually being slaughtered.  It makes me a little suspicious.  After all, while there certainly are endangered breeds out there, the bottlenose dolphin, for example, isn't endangered in the slightest.  Neither the petition nor the article it links even throws in a sentence like, all dolphins are killed, regardless of endangered status!  Also, dolphins are kind of dicks.  I admit, I've got a bit of my own personal bias going on too: dolphins are just so universally adored, but I just don't see how they are any cuter or more endearing than another type of animal, and after a lifetime of hearing about how they're so sweet and friendly and spiritual and they have such a connection to us and "My spirit animal is a dolphin because I just love dolphins" I just got kind of annoyed by them.  I don't actively dislike dolphins or anything, they just don't register as special to me the way they seem to for everyone else.  

Which leads me to what is probably the main reason I didn't sign the petition: it was just obsessed with the freaking dolphins, and it completely ignored the worse industry: shark fishing.  Even though the petition's page starts out by directly mentioning shark fin soup, which kills a huge amount of sharks annually, it's the freaking dolphins that matter.  They're as bad as dolphins, taking an industry that's explicitly about killing sharks in horrible ways and only being concerned with the way it affects the one animal that's popular and cute enough for them to stir up emotions over.  It's killing the dolphins that will ruin the ecosystem, folks! The shark killing is just a little side drama to add to this horrible dolphin tragedy!

You could probably say that sharks are my dolphins: everyone else seems to think they're just awful, but I love them to pieces, and the shark fishing industry just breaks my heart.  The dolphins are getting off easy here.  The article the petition links to even says, "the dolphin is hauled on board and almost immediately dies on the deck of the vessel."  Bleeding profusely, sure, but at least it dies right away.  Compare the poor sharks; a lot of the time, the fishermen don't even kill them before cutting off their fins, and they just toss them back into the water to sink down and die, eaten by predators or drowning without their fins propelling water through their gills.  And I can't think of any non-endangered shark breed subjected to finning off the top of my head.*  Great whites, endangered.  Hammerheads, endangered.  Mako sharks, probably endangered, I can't remember.  Whale sharks and basking sharks, both endangered and greatly sought after.  If the petition really cared about the plight of amazing creatures, it would be objecting to the entire practice of shark finning, not just the way shark finning also includes the death of "cute" animals like dolphins.

*Not to say that there aren't any; I can pretty much guarantee that there are plenty I'm not thinking of.  Just not off the top of my head, like I could with the dolphin thing.

But nope!  Hey Peru, get to work on saving those dolphins!  Those cutie-patooties are the real victims of the shark finning industry!  Assuming this is that magical unicorn petition that actually does have an effect on the real world, what would happen if it worked?  Peru would stop people from hunting dolphins, sure.  But it wouldn't stop anyone from hunting sharks, or from using a different animal as bait.  This petition isn't about animal rights, it's just about dolphins specifically, because people have decided that dolphins alone are worth protecting, but sharks aren't cute enough and "the ecosystem" is too broad and vague to have an emotional impact.  Look at Flipper!  He's always smiling!  Quick, pass a law!

Disclaimer: I'd just like to say, for the record, that I'm not an animal rights activist.  I strongly disapprove of animal abuse, and I love just about any critter that isn't a bug.  I absolutely think there should be laws in place to protect animals, especially endangered ones like the various sharks and dolphins mentioned in this post.  But I also approve of keeping animals as pets, and of using them when it's convenient, I approve of animal testing (look, it's sad that animals get hurt over it but I want to know that my makeup and medicine is safe for living things before it starts getting tested on humans!), and I approve of hunting.  In fact, I think hunting is more humane than animal farming.  At least my moose had the space and freedom to run around and live, and it's not stuffed to the moosey gills with steroids and hormones.  Basically, just because I disagree with how limited this petition is, don't lump me in with those Peta freaks.  

Update: I was on Wikipedia and remembered this article, so I looked up shark finning!  Turns out that of the dozen or so species listed on the page as being commonly fished, only about three of them are non-threatened: blacktips, blues, and tigers.  Well.  They're "near-threatened," so still not great that they are being hunted, but they're still classified as "least concern."