Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Mayor Willing to Walk the Third Rail for Animals?

Cago at Harlem Meer.  In order to save the rest of the geese in NYC, we might indeed need a mayor willing to walk the third rail for animals.
One of the big news stories in NYC yesterday was about two stray kittens who wandered on rail tracks and halted subway traffic for more than an hour.
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Fortunately, the adorable, but scared kittens were later rescued and are currently at Animal Care and Control (AC&C). 
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"August and Arthur" will be put up for adoption in a couple of weeks.
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But, since this is primary season, it doesn't surprise that some members of media saw fit to put the question of what to do in these situations to five of the top candidates running for NYC Mayor:
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Anyone reading this blog knows I have been undecided on who to support in Mayoral race as unlike other animal advocates, I have doubts about de Blasio.
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(Interesting to note that while other candidates at least had something to say, the de Blasio campaign was strangely silent about the kittens in peril --- exactly the same non-reaction I got when calling de Blasio's Public Advocate's office about goose gassings in NYC!)
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But, now with the most important issue finally coming to the fore, there is little doubt who to finally pull the lever for!
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Forget about polls and forget about naughty text messages.
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Any guy who will walk the third rail to rescue kitties is definitely an animal lover's candidate!
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And its nice that Anthony Weiner has two kitties -- including one with one eye.
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Hopefully, he also has a heart (though we never saw photos of that) for geese.  
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Indeed, if any mayor can actually stop goose slaughters in NYC, its likely the candidate noted for going against the grain (literally) and never giving in.
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Let the rest of the country laugh.
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We finally have a candidate willing to walk the third rail for animals!  -- PCA
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Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer's End and Winter's Challenges for the Ducks and Geese of Central Park

Cago and mallard pals at Harlem Meer in Central Park.
Cochise, Conner, Connie and Carol -- the four domestics discuss and map out winter strategies.
Mister Mister. (Center) -- a mallard without power of wing.
Mister, Mister. Will winter necessitate his rescue? But now so quick of foot, would such be easy?
Cago -- Will she emerge as unlikely leader of the ducks and geese at Harlem Meer this winter?
 
Summer's End
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We as humans generally mark the end of summer by the calendar.
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I realize the end of summer by the startling changes in waterfowl behavior.
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Shift goes from staking out territories, raising young in some cases and generally taking it easy over the summer to suddenly becoming conscious of the scarcities in winter and the need to "calorie load" during the fall.
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Fall is the time of year geese and ducks frequently take to the air in search of the best feeding sites -- a tendency generally known as "pond hopping" though there is nothing random or playful about it. 
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Its actually serious business.
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There is dramatic increase in appetites of geese and ducks as they strive to build fat layers to help keep warm and sustain them through the winter.
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During times of storms, snow and mostly frozen lakes, food sources become scarce and birds need to depend upon fat reserves and hunker down through the worst of weather. They can often go days or even weeks with barely any food.
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According to the Farmer's Almanac, this coming winter is predicted to be unusually bitter and stormy for New York City.
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But, it seems the geese and ducks already got that memo.
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Labor Day isn't even here yet and the birds have already begun the all important calorie loading.
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Numbers fluctuate around Central Park as wild geese and ducks "come and go" from the various watercourses, trying to grab whatever they can while they can.  Any barley or cracked corn tossed to them by humans during this time vanishes within seconds.
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So, while others may mark the end of summer by the Labor Day weekend (or more technically, Sept 21) I realize summer's end by heightened vocalizations and "pond hopping" activities among geese and ducks and most significantly, increased, voracious appetites.
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Its time to gather and pack on for those sparton days ahead -- even though they're at least three to four months down the pike.
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Even the domestic ducks "get" that.
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Cochise, Conner, Connie and Carol -- The Domestic (Harlem Meer)  Ducks Map their Strategies.
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It is not clear exactly how the domestic (flightless) ducks understand the measures they need to take in fall (such as calorie loading) to help insure their survival over the winter -- but they do.
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Perhaps they pick up this information from the flocks of noisy, constantly communicating mallards they typically hang with.
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Though the vocalizations of the two duck species are quite different in tone and cadence, (the domestics are really loud!) perhaps there are enough commonalities to at least aid in basic understanding. Or, the domestic ducks pick up clues from mallards through body language and behavioral shifts. 
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Over the past week or two, the four domestic ducks at Harlem Meer  have begun to branch out more in terms of moving away from the protected area near the Dana Center to graze in other locations around the lake.
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Unlike the mallards who can fly to different areas around the park to "calorie load," the domestics only have access to those areas they can actually swim to.
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Like the mallards however, the domestics are far more vocal now and appear to be mapping out their strategies for survival during the challenging months ahead.
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Having been abandoned to Harlem Meer last November, the domestics have one winter under their belt and likely have good anticipation now on what to expect and prepare for.
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Unlike last winter however, they no longer have the expertise, experience and leadership of Wiggly and Honker (the other two domestic ducks), who helped to guide and show them the ropes last winter.  (Both, Wiggly and Honker were lost this spring to likely dog attacks.)
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Much remains to be seen on what exactly this winter will bring.
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If (as predicted by the Farmer's Almanac), it is a particularly severe winter and the lake freezes over, the domestic ducks could be in for a very rough time as mallards and any geese present over the winter, have option to leave in search of open water.  The domestics do not have that option and are resigned to take whatever winter has to dish out at Harlem Meer.
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One thing for sure:  The domestics will need to be very robust and strong in order to endure and "work the water" to help prevent it from freezing over this winter.
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And no one is more aware of -- and making preparations for that fact -- than they are.
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Mister Mister and the Challenges of Broken Wing
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One other duck who will also not have power of wing to leave should things get rough at the Meer this winter is "Mister Mister" -- the mallard drake with a broken wing.
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I called Park Rangers about Mister when discovering his broken wing this past spring.  
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Rangers told me they looked for the injured mallard several times for rescue, but "could not find" him.
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This was odd considering there were few mallards at the Meer over the spring and Mister stood out like a sore thumb.  (Nevertheless, the tendency of mallards to sometimes hide out in marshes during the spring can make them difficult to spot -- especially when blending into their surroundings.)
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Now, there are many mallards at the Meer and trying to find Mister in the large group is sometimes even hard for me.
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I was not gravely concerned for Mister's survival over the spring and summer as obviously, ducks without flight capability are able to survive during the warm months.  Indeed, ducks and geese normally go through a (flightless) molting period during the summer when old flight feathers drop off and new ones grow in.
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But, like the domestics ducks, Mister could be in for rough challenges over the winter -- especially if the lake freezes over and his flock leaves.
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Mister has compensated for his wing injury by becoming extremely fast and adept of foot.
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Since he is "different and compromised" Mister unfortunately holds a low place and status in flock order.  He is frequently picked on and chased by other mallards.   But, Mister is extremely fast and able to dart away from anticipated attacks.
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Unfortunately, that "quickness of foot" can and will most likely make Mister very difficult to rescue even though he cannot fly.  -- And rescue could become necessary over an unusually frigid winter.
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For the moment, I am simply keeping a close eye on Mister and working to gain his trust should rescue and treatment for his broken wing become absolutely necessary during the months ahead. 
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Cago -- The Goose Living as a Duck
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I realize I am becoming too attached to Cago (the Canada goose who arrived at Harlem Meer alone in late June after most likely surviving a USDA goose cull that otherwise wiped out her family).
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Cago has completely endeared herself to me over these past few months.
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Perhaps it is because of realizing Cago's likely circumstances and tragic family loss.
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Or perhaps it is because of observing her courageous efforts to deal with loss and at the same time "adapt" to living unnaturally without a mate or flock of her own kind.
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Or, perhaps it's because Cago and I have simply developed a sweet relationship of trust, recognition and respect over the past few months. 
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Cago knows me, comes to me, takes treats from my hand, allows me to pet her and even follows and says "good-bye" to me when I leave Harlem Meer each evening. 
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Its hard not to become attached under those circumstances.
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I have watched and hoped that Cago might have assimilated and been accepted into any of the small flocks of geese that have flown into the Meer since the molt period ended.
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But, none of the visiting or "pond hopping" geese stayed long enough for that to occur.
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I was particularly hopeful that when "Toluse" (an injured gander) arrived to the Meer and Cago welcomed and looked after him, that the two would bond and form a mated pair.
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But, Toluse healed within a matter of days and (as expected) then took off to find his own family again.
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Once again, left behind, Cago appeared a bit down for a few days, but quickly rebounded as at this point, Cago seems to know the score.
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Finding a new mate or flock is not actually as easy or simple as it might seem.
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No one is more aware of that reality than Cago.
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But, what will fall and winter hold for this goose who, for all intensive purposes, has seemed to "become a duck" over the past few months?
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Cago is not a duck and knows she is not a duck.  Nor, will Cago ever be a duck.  
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For the time being, Cago lives as a duck, while also holding on to the hope and anticipation that somewhere down the line, there will be a gander or small flock of geese that will stay long enough for assimilation and bonding to occur.
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Who knows?  Perhaps over the coming months, there will be geese who will look to the experience and "expertise" of Cago to help guide them through the challenges of Harlem Meer in winter.
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The problem is, if she stays, winter at Harlem Meer will also be a new experience for Cago.
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But, having survived so much already, one suspects Cago, -- more than any other bird -- will know exactly what to do.  -- PCA
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Monday, August 26, 2013

No Peaceful Season for the Geese

Nesting Canada goose in Central Park this past May. Her eggs were oiled and later failed to hatch. She was part of state and federal program to "reduce" Canada goose population in New York to "85,000" for the entire state -- less than half of what it is now.
There is no kind or easy season for Canada geese -- especially in New York State. 
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In the spring, the geese are endlessly harassed and/or their eggs oiled and destroyed.
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In the summer (when molting and flightless), they are subjected to USDA WS captures and slaughters.
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And during the fall and late winter, more than 50,000 Canada geese are blown out of the skies of New York by hunters.
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On the latter point, the hunting season and goose bag limits have just been expanded by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on Canada geese:
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I am not a scientist nor biologist.
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Rather, I am an ordinary citizen who simply respects and appreciates wildlife (especially, Canada geese) and likes watching nature shows on the National Geographic channel. (Nat Geo Wild).
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But, one cannot help but question and wonder why 200,000 geese for the entire state of New York is deemed "overpopulation" and why the "goal" is to reduce that population to "85,000" -- less than half of what it supposedly is now.
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New York is one of the largest states in the nation.   
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More than a million humans can be accommodated in the tiny space of Times Square on New Year's Eve. More than 85,000 people typically fill up a football stadium.
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But we are to believe that 200,000 geese cannot be accommodated in the entire state of New York?
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Perhaps my days as a poor math student are coming back to haunt, but something just doesn't compute in these numbers.
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One wonders who exactly are the people who sit in offices somewhere in Washington, DC (i.e. Department of Interior) or upstate New York and figure out what "optimum" populations of animals are and how precisely do we get there?
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Are such determinations based upon actual science or rather, public complaint?
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"Ah, some farmer complained about geese near Lake Champlain and a grandmother complained about the geese in Port Washington.  Bring out the big guns."
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Currently, I am only seeing one Canada goose in Central Park. -- a goose whose entire family was likely wiped out this past June by USDA WS.
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Will a target be placed over Cago's head too, as she is deemed "overabundant" by the DEC?
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Almost all animals in nature enjoy some kind of relatively peaceful and easy season -- a time when food and water supplies are plentiful and the weather is calm.  For most animals, this time is spring (and summer) when easy conditions allow for the animals to rejuvenate, repopulate and compensate for any losses suffered over the year.  ("Turn, turn, turn. For every time, there is a purpose.")
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But, not so for Canada geese.
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There is no time in fact,  when these birds can peacefully breathe in the air, look around them and not see either teams of Border Collies coming to harass them, humans with umbrellas to chase them off and oil their eggs, men in USDA WS uniforms coming to kill them or rifles and arrows pointed in their direction.
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There is a forever target placed over the heads of Canada geese any day or time of the year.
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And we as a dumb "lay people" can only question and doubt bible quotes and wonder why. -- PCA
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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Where Have All the Geese Gone? -- A Question for Political Debate

Cago, solitary, surviving goose at Harlem Meer in Central Park. Cago's family wiped out in 2013 USDA WS Goose cull in New York City.  
Primary Day is less than two weeks away and as of this point, I am only fully decided on one of the political races -- that for Public Advocate.
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As previously noted, I am enthusiastically supporting Letitia James  for Public Advocate because she is one of only two politicians to publicly speak out adamantly and passionately against goose slaughters in NYC when it was of no political advantage for her. 
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Ms. James spoke very poignantly at a 2010 goose rally about how the Prospect Park geese were always of great comfort to her when growing up and sometimes experiencing loneliness, bullying or isolation.  Her speech on geese actually moved me to tears at the time and was one of the most heartfelt in terms of sharing the tender and vital connection between humans (especially, children) and animals.
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But, even if one didn't care about geese or other animals, one should care about politicians taking their civic duties seriously.   Of the four candidates currently running for Public Advocate, Letitia James is the only one to actually vote in recent past city elections. (This question was raised on an NBC debate.)
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If one cannot bother to follow candidates and actually vote in city elections, it is difficult to think such person will take the responsibilities and duties of elective office seriously. Running for political office should not just be about gratifying the ego and making a name for one's self.
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It is disappointing that in all the political debates aired on TV, the issues of animal cruelty and/or protection are never raised for discussion.  
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We hear about all kinds of things, much of which can be difficult for the average lay person to understand (such as neighborhood "rezoning").
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But, whether we should be slaughtering thousands of geese in New York City or forcing horses to haul carriages filled with fat tourists or killing thousands of cats and dogs in animal control shelters because they catch cold is never brought up.
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This makes it difficult for those caring about animal justice to actually make prudent, wise and informed decisions.
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As previously noted, many animal advocates are jumping on the bandwagon for mayoral candidate, Bill de Blasio.
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But, personally speaking, I see nothing in de Blasio's past history nor current statements to indicate he would be far different from that we already have.
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De Blasio was wishy washy when answering a question on goose slaughters in NYC (basically talking out of both sides of his mouth and saying nothing definitive) and he has also been political in his statements on carriage horses saying basically that if NYC gets electric, vintage cars to substitute for horse carriage rides, he would support a ban.
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Call me a cynical New Yorker, but de Blasio's statements on the horses and the couple of other animal issues he briefly addresses on the above "humane" web site don't really say much.
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Put simply, they lack depth and/or indication they have been carefully considered and thought about. 
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One guesses that had the same questions been raised to Christine Quinn before she actually took over the job of City Council speaker, she would have answered in similar phrases and jargon.
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Its easy to talk about "improving" city animal shelters or addressing animal abuse issues before actually taking offices of power and political pressure.
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I only know that as so-called, "Public Advocate," de Blasio's office wasn't even willing to discuss NYC goose slaughters when called about them two years ago.
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Why should one believe de Blasio would be different if taking over the mayor's post?
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At least Quinn was willing to personally correspond on the issue.
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In the end, it is up to the individual to research, study, communicate and determine who are the most capable and also, most sincere and honest candidates to take this city forward in the next four years and hopefully address animal justice issues.
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Personally speaking, I would sooner vote the candidate who is direct and honest in their communications (even if their positions don't necessarily concur with my own) than one who attempts to tell me what s/he thinks I want to hear just to get votes.
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Worst of all, are those politicians who don't respond at all.
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Quinn communicated.  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and so-called, "Public Advocate" Bill de Blasio did not.
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Others may do what they will, but neither indifference nor platitudes win Brownie points with me. 
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I will always remember the impassioned and eloquent speech Letitia James gave to defend the maligned and scapegoated geese in New York City being ruthlessly gassed and slaughtered at the hands of USDA WS. 
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It was not a speech of empty promises and platitude, but one of felt and actual grief.
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But, there are no such speeches or actions to recall from any of the other current candidates in the major political races in NYC.
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So, the days of leaning, without  final decision continue.
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It would represent a real step in progress if just once, the questions concerning animal abuse and killing in New York City were brought up in political debate.  -- PCA
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Lonely Goose and Her "Bad Company" Mallards

Cago -- a lonely goose in the company of mallards.
Mama and brat.
Three ducklings.  -- They look cute, but make no mistake, these guys are tough.
She is alone and yet in the middle of a crowd.
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She has shelter and food and yet is hungry.
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She is stoic and dignified and yet nervous.
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She is Cago, a Canada goose without mate or family, but with flock.
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The "flock" is a bunch of squabbling, cantankerous mallards who, though keeping company with Cago,  also serve to unsettle and jangle her nerves.
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It has been a point of speculation and wonder over the past couple of weeks if, when regaining her flight feathers, Cago would finally leave Harlem Meer in Central Park to search out her former family or mate?
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But, unlike Toluse (an injured Canada goose) who immediately left the Meer as soon as his sprained leg healed a couple of weeks ago, Cago has remained.
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That is likely because Cago no longer has a family to seek out.
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As previously noted, Cago (a late molter) flew into Harlem Meer alone in late June soon after USDA WS goose roundups began in New York City.
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It was speculated then and seems to be confirmed now that Cago was the lone survivor of a USDA WS goose cull because she could still fly when most geese couldn't.
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It isn't clear now how Cago knows her family is gone forever, but she seems aware of the likely reality.
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There is little doubt Cago can fly again, but she has made no move to go anywhere.
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Rather, I find Cago each evening hanging with either the four domestic ducks near the Dana Center at Harlem Meer or on the other side of the lake with newly arrived mallards, many of whom have returned to the Meer over the past couple of weeks.
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But, as the mallards battle and work out their hierarchy and places at the Meer, Cago stands as a neutral party, neither involved in the territorial squabbles nor totally uninvolved by virtue of having to step away from the most contentious tiffs.
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Cago has had to do much stepping away recently.  
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Among the most contentious and "rule enforcing" ducks at Harlem Meer are the mama mallards who have raised ducklings over the spring and summer.
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The ducklings now almost fully grown, they and their mothers are like little armies, throwing their status around and using it to chase off and intimidate, especially newly arrived mallards.
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"Make no mistake.  We RULE around here!"
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It is not clear how the resident mallards determine which females produce young each year, (as only a few do) but from personal observance, it appears to be the strongest, smartest and most of all, toughest.
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One such mama mallard even took advantage of Cago this summer to "babysit" her then tiny ducklings while she harassed and chased off other mallards.
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Last night, a mama mallard and her three (mostly grown) ducklings arrived at the embankment where many mallards and Cago were roosting and it was as though all hell broke loose.
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The ducklings were every bit as aggressive as their mother in laying down rules and letting everyone know who were the real bosses at the Meer.
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Perhaps it was not all that surprising that there were fewer mallards at the Meer last night than the night before when there were easily more than 100.
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Between feisty mama mallards, their entitled "brats" and the four domestic (and also dominant) ducks at the Meer, many newly arrived mallards are finding no long term welcome mats at Harlem Meer. 
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The message seems to be, "Yeah, you can eat a little duck weed on the lake for a day or two, but then quickly be gone!"
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I am guessing this is partially how animals naturally retain healthy populations according to environmental support.
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Status and hierarchy mean everything.
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And certainly among the very high status rulers in both geese and ducks are those who have young.
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As for Cago, by virtue of being a Canada goose, she is respected by the ducks and valued, (not only as a "free babysitter" on occasion, but)  for sentry duty and early warning signals.  
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But, even Cago steps out of the way of angry mama mallards and their kids when they are on a rampage.
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It isn't easy being a lonely goose in the middle of "bad company" mallards -- especially the testy and tough mamas and their so "adorable kids." 
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One suspects that when gazing wistfully over the lake at night, Cago is thinking of and longing for days gone by and loves lost.   
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But, still she faces each new day with sense of hope and in-the-moment, presence and fortitude.  -- PCA
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Animal Cops Now the Real Cops in New York City

On Patrol
An important development that will have significant impact upon animals (and humans) in New York City.
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The ASPCA is relinquishing its powers of human law enforcement to the New York Police Department (NYPD):
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I was interviewed for the above New York Times piece. Though quoted correctly, much of what I shared with reporter was left out.
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Where there is animal crime, there often is human abuse and that's one of the prime reasons why animal cruelty incidents are important to go to the cops. Both, for their own reasons and those beyond.
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Addressing animal cruelty issues early can and will serve as preventative of potential crimes against humans.
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According to the FBI, animal cruelty is one of the major three red flags indicating present or future violence towards people. Those engaged in dog fighting for example, are usually also involved in gangs, drugs, guns and other violence in the neighborhood. Dog fighting is big in NYC and far beyond the scope of the ASPCA to effectively deal with.
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Cops are already involved with animal issues in NYC and usually bring in stray and abandoned animals to Animal Care and Control.  
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Moreover, police are able to respond much more quickly to an animal abuse or cruelty incident than is the ASPCA that has limited staff.  -- Not to mention that it would be far more intimidating to animal abusers to have the NYPD show up to location of alleged abuse, than an animal protective organization. NYPD carries far more weight in terms of being taken seriously.
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This would seem to elevate in the public mind, the gravity and consequences of animal cruelty and the status of animals in general.
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One can argue that cops already have too much on their plates and may shrug off animal cruelty complaints. But, perhaps if people weren't calling 911 for nonsense such as drunken arguments, loud parties or when their cable goes down, police would actually be able to do their jobs.
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The fact is that the ASPCA lacks staff to actually investigate most of the animal cruelty calls it gets.
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For more information on this important development, please read the column below which goes into greater detail and actual statistics:
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It is a good day for the animals in New York City when the abuses or neglect that befall them is finally directed towards the proper and expedient forces of the New York City Police Department.
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Its a job for Ray Kelly, not Sarah Mclachlin or Robertta Flack. -- PCA
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back to the Future with Billy D (de Blasio's Vision for The Out of Towners)

Central Park at night.
Anybody but Billy D.
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Mayoral candidate, Bill de Blasio is a used car salesman and the car he is selling is the Back to the Future of the 1970's and 80's. --  The "good old days" when NYC tottered on bankruptcy and was known as mugger's paradise. 
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I am "old" and remember the 70's and 80's well.
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I was mugged three times during this era -- all three times coming home from work. On two of the occasions, I was viciously hit over the head and knocked to the ground sustaining minor injuries.   Still, I considered myself "lucky" for not ending up in a hospital or being raped.
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Perhaps young people or those living in doorman buildings take protection from crime for granted.
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But, it is one of a mayor's prime responsibilities -- along with keeping the trains running on time.
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I haven't been a fan of Mayor Michael Bloomberg for numerous reasons, primarily his signing on to goose killing contracts with USDA WS and attempting to "nanny care" his constituency.  (One doesn't need a mayor to legislate how much soda to drink or not drink.)
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But, under Bloomberg's leadership streets are safer and one can even dare to walk in Central Park at night --- something that would have been akin to a death wish back in the 1970's.
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Throughout this campaign we have listened to "used car salesman" and former David Dinkins aide, Bill de Blasio virtually and constantly demonize the police as "racists" and thugs.
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While there are legitimate criticisms and concerns with NYC's "Stop and Frisk" program, this doesn't mean the entire program should be ditched as one would throw out the baby with the dirty bath water.  Probable cause needs to be established before such stop, question and frisks occur and "quotas" should cease.  
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Newark, New Jersey has a stop and frisk program and Newark has an excellent African American mayor in Cory Booker.  The trick is to prevent and address abuses, not to issue invitation to muggers, robbers, rapists and murderers to have a field day which de Blasio appears to be doing.
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For me, the most disturbing part of last night's mayoral debate was when minor candidate, Sal Albanese asked de Blasio why he didn't fire two campaign staffers who, according to Albabese tweeted, "Police should be killed."
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Although looking piqued and insulted, instead of directly denying or answering the question, de Blasio proceeded to talk about how much he "respects" the police force.
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That was like Joy Behar saying she "respects" Glenn Beck.
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One can debate who won or lost last night's mayoral debate, televised on NY 1.
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Wiener appeared to have the clearest vision and smartest answers.  He also got the most laughs when admitting he has "texted while driving."  But, Wiener self destructed earlier on when demonstrating he took -- and acted on his name both, literally and seemingly obsessively. Now he's trying to put the "genie" back in the bottle (or pants).
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Bill Thompson had the best line of the night when asking, "Will the real Bill de Blasio please stand up?"  Thompson was indeed fired up last night, prompting one to wonder if he had several cups of coffee before coming on stage?
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And Christine Quinn finally ditched that saccharine sweet, Pollyanna impersonation in favor of her real, "fighting Irish" self.  Quinn will never make it in Hollywood, but could actually be a decent and centrist mayor.  It was good to see her have the gumption to finally go after de Blasio for some of his underhanded campaign tactics and slurs -- particularly the latest one by his wife.
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But, I still think de Blasio supporter, Susan Sarandan's statement that, "You just can't vote your vagina" to be the greatest slur of all -- not just to Quinn, but all women.
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Next month, I plan not only to "vote my vagina," but also my head, which doesn't feel good when knocked to the pavement.  
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I like walking in Central Park at night and don't seek "Back to the Future" return to the bad old days of The Out of Towners.
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Come to think of it, the 70's weren't that good for New Yorkers either. -- PCA
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Time for Dialogue and Examination -- NYC Mayoral Debate

Cago at Harlem Meer in Central Park. No doubt tuned into what will occur at mayoral debate tonight as her future could depend on it.
There is an important mayoral debate to be aired on NY1 tonight.
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All democratic candidates up for next month's mayoral run in the primary will have opportunity to state their positions and goals for New York City.
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Of course, what candidates say when running for political office and what they actually do if elected can be two very different things.
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Some candidates are particularly adept at pandering and posturing to make themselves look good and appear to be what people say they want.
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I say, beware of the candidate who appears to be all things to all people and/or who latches on to the issue of the moment for political opportunity and appeal.
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Also, beware the candidate who is divisive in rhetoric and makes attempt to pit rich against poor, black against white, law enforcement against citizenry or even sex against sex.
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As one who no longer swears allegiance to a particularly political party, but who still holds democratic registration, I will have opportunity to vote in the upcoming democratic primary -- but have yet to decide or commit to a candidate.
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I will therefore watch the debate with great interest and curiosity.
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What I believe are most important to look for in a potential mayor are the senses of integrity, sincerity, vision, commitment, accomplishment, ethics, thoughtfulness and ability to persevere in the face of great challenge and obstacle.
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So far, it has been difficult to find these qualities in measurable supply in the current crop of candidates.
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Some appear to be too wishy washy, and without foundation while others appear like a train wreck waiting to happen.
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As one who has held long belief and commitment to the cause of animal justice, I look for a candidate who appears to be the most open and receptive to examination and response to our current relationship with and treatment of non-human animals.
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Unfortunately, this question is rarely, if ever brought up in political debates.
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One can and should look to the past records and responses of candidates to determine how they voted on animal issues that came before them or any actions they took to advance or block the cause of animal protection.
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There has been much criticism directed towards Christine Quinn for her failures to adequately address issues of animal cruelty and/or protection as Speaker of the City Council.
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Much of the criticism is warranted. 
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But, do we have actual proof that any of the other candidates would be different or better for the cause of animal protection based upon their past records?
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From what I have seen and experienced, we don't.
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Two years ago, when distraught about goose slaughters in NYC, I made many calls to various political leaders and representatives, among them, the Public Advocate's office.
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The response from Bill deBlasio's office and staffer was the most dismissive of any that I personally encountered.
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One can make the argument that as Public Advocate, deBlasio had no power to stop goose slaughters in NYC and one can also point out correctly, that I did not personally speak with the man.
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But, I came away with the unmistakable impression that the holder of this office had little, if any interest in issues of animal cruelty and injustice and did not want to even hear or know about them.
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This was very unlike the experience when calling my city councilperson's office.  Staffers for Dan Garodnick not only listened, but made calls and got back to me to guarantee that geese at Central Park were "safe" from a potential USDA roundup and slaughter.
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I also corresponded with Council Speaker, Quinn a few years ago in email.
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Like deBlasio, Quinn had no direct power to order or stop goose slaughters in NYC.
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Moreover, in email, Quinn resorted to typical political jargon and euphemisms such as "removal" and "euthanized" to refer to goose gassings in NYC -- something that personally frustrated and infuriated me at the time.
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But, to her credit, Quinn did personally respond to every email sent to her on the subject.
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That was a very different experience from the one with deBlasio's office which was entirely dismissive of the issue.
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I realize many animal advocates have jumped on the deBlasio bandwagon as he postures and portends himself to be the most "progressive" candidate in the race for both, humans and animals.
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But, for me, the jury is still out on this question.
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Unfortunately, if going strictly by the Dr. Phil mantra, that "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior" one would have to have doubts on deBlasio's sincerity regarding serious address of animal cruelty issues.
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At least Quinn was willing to personally discuss goose killings in NYC.  
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Dialogue is the first and perhaps most crucial step in recognition and address of any issue affecting humans and animals.
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Yes, I will be rooted to the chair tonight during the mayoral debate and hope that the issue of justice towards animals finally comes up and is thoughtfully and diligently addressed.   -- PCA
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Of Penises, Vaginas and Slaps in the Face -- NYC Politics

Upper West Side of NYC as viewed from Jackie Onassis Reservoir.
NYC politics has truly become the (dirty) joke of the land. 
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First, we have the specter of two candidates running for high political offices who had to resign previous elected positions due to sex scandals.
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Elliot Spitzer who is currently trying to buy the NYC Comptroller election through a barrage of slick TV commercials previously was forced to resign as Governor (leaving NY State in a mess) due to his penchant for high priced call girls.
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Anthony Weiner, who is currently (and still) a candidate for mayor, similarly had to resign his former position as Congressman due to his obsession to send racy pictures of himself (including private parts) to women over the Internet as recently as nine months ago.
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Needless to say, both candidates have provided endless fodder for late night comedians across the country and have served to embarrass one of the greatest cities in the world.
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But, that is not where the sex and private parts discussions end when it comes to NYC politics.
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Yesterday, we in New York City were treated to Susan Sarandan and Cynthia Nixon on the campaign trail for a mayoral candidate far more liberal than even the women on The View.
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Said Ms. Sarandan in seeming effort to intimidate those women voting for City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate, Christine Quinn:
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"As a woman, you can't just vote your vagina."
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Really?
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My "vagina" is usually the last thing I am thinking of when walking into a voting booth.
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Nor, has it been a subject of deep reflection during the current mayoral campaign.
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But, since Ms. Sarandan saw fit to bring the subject up in her support of far left candidate, Bill deBlasio, I am thinking of vaginas now.
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And it occurs that we have yet to have a woman Mayor, Governor or President in NYC.
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Moreover, I seem to recall similar things said when Hillary Clinton ran for President in 2008.
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"You can't just vote your vagina."
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But, I don't recall any advocates for civil or gay rights ever saying to constituents, "You can't just vote the color of your skin or your private parts or your sexual orientation."
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As a woman who takes many things into consideration before voting for any candidate and is yet to decide on which mayoral candidate she will actually support, I feel personally insulted by Sarandan's statement.
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My vagina is not up for political fodder.
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If all the banter about penises and vaginas wasn't enough to turn one off in this political season, there is also the aspect of bullying and intimidation -- particularly directed against Christine Quinn and those who support her.
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Several anti-Quinn groups have sprung up over the months with names like, "Anybody But Quinn," "Defeat Quinn" and others.
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That is OK of course as people have the right of political involvement, organization and  opinion.  In fact, it is a good thing.
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What is not OK is the politics of personal destruction, character assassination and attempts at bullying and intimidation.
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Some weeks ago, I had disagreement with a fellow goose advocate and deBlasio supporter who posted a "Quinn Hates Animals" poster on a pro animal Facebook page.
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While it is true that Christine Quinn generally has a poor record on animal protective issues, she is not personally culpable (like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Bloomberg) for goose slaughters in New York City nor can it be true that she "hates animals."  Quinn and her wife have two large, rescued dogs.
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It is one thing to point out a candidates record on important issues. It is another to call people scurrilous names and make false accusations that cannot be proven.
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Yesterday, at a political event for Christine Quinn, supporters of Bill deBlasio and members of "Anybody But Quinn" attempted to drowned out speakers efforts to talk, interject their own signs and in one case, even slap an Assemblyman and physically attack an Intern working for Quinn.
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Under no circumstances is this kind of bullying and intimidation behavior acceptable in any political campaign in terms of both, what it can potentially lead to and even on its own face, is destructive and thug-like.   
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That Bill deBlasio did not personally condemn (especially the physical assault) one hour later when appearing at the same campaign stop to rally his supporters says a lot about him, none of it (in my view) good nor reflective of his so-called, "humanitarian" character.
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This blog entry should not be taken as "endorsement" of any candidate currently running for mayor as I am personally undecided to this point. 
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I have reservations about all, but particularly the candidate who failed yesterday to speak up when speaking up was both warranted and necessary.
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Perhaps I will (in Ms. Sarandan's words) consult with my "vagina" before voting this time around.
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It cannot, after all, be more wrong than some of the actions witnessed over these past few days and weeks.  -- PCA
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