September 12, 2013

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Sticking to the rules of the editorial game

Last Friday, sitting at the breakfast table, cup of coffee in one hand and the local daily in the other, I had already snorted incredulously at a front-page story headlined “Faith and Football.” Really?  I mean, really? With everything going on in the world, this makes the front page?

So I open the section dedicated to local news and editorial and what do I spy on the left-hand side of the editorial section, supposedly devoted to the left-hand side of the news, but an editorial headlined “Farm bill is a barnyard brawl,” written by one Will Coggin, who is a “Senior Research Analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom.”

Google “Center for Consumer Freedom” and you will find some very interesting information, including this description of the organization: “The Center for Consumer Freedom, formerly the Guest Choice Network, is an American non-profit firm that lobbies on behalf of the fast food, meat, alcohol and tobacco industries.”

Let’s get one thing straight: editorials are opinion pieces and have always been so. It’s the section in print media where someone (in the case of the piece you are reading right now, me), complains, kvetches and screeches or sucks up, over-praises and exaggerates on or about something. Everyone who is not a media novice knows this. 

So when I was reading Coggin’s distorted interpretations of what the King amendment in the Farm Bill currently before Congress means, I was perfectly prepared to become ordinarily irate if I had found them on the right-hand side of the page. The man works for an organization that “lobbies on behalf of the fast food, meat, alcohol and tobacco industries.” ’Nuff sed, right?

But to find his ravings on the left-hand side of the paper? Just how did that happen?

Let’s backtrack to the piece itself. Coggin refers to the Humane Society of the United States repeatedly as “vegan.”  Huh? First, how in the world can an organization be vegan, or for that matter, meat-eating? Second, as a supporter of the Humane Society, surely one of one of the best-respected nonprofits in the U.S., I am not aware of any regulation requiring its members to be vegan, vegetarian, Rotarian or Abyssinian. Must have missed that memo, Mr. Coggin. 

Then the author raises the favorite bugaboo of the right, my home state of California and its evil progressive agenda. He asserts that an “amimal-rights ballot campaign "in California” (“animal rights,” + “California” = “the sky is falling”) that banned the common hen housing used on state egg farms” is the reason the King amendment is needed.

Where do I even start with that?  Rep. Steve King (R, Iowa) inserted The "Protect Interstate Commerce Act," into the current version of the Farm Bill. This makes it illegal, as Leighton Woodhouse puts it in an article on HuffPo, “for a state (such as California) to prohibit or restrict the sale of an agricultural product (such as eggs) produced in another state (such as Iowa) based upon its method of production (such as highly constrictive battery cages).”

Californians passed Prop. 2 in 2008.  It requires that “calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely."

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill two years later requiring that all eggs sold in California be produced under Prop. 2’s standards. Rep. King’s position is that this violates interstate commerce laws, in other words, adversely affecting Big Ag egg producers in his home state (this is the same Rep. King, by the way, who objected to an amendment in the 2012 Farm Bill making it a federal crime to bring a minor to a organized animal fighting event, saying that laws about such activities “should be left to the states”). 

While it is no surprise to find Tom Coggin in the hip pocket of Big Ag, because that is who he openly works for, and perhaps even less of a surprise to find an Iowa Republican residing in the very same location, we still need to ask ourselves, in what portion of the wardrobe does the person live who positioned Mr. Coggin’s editorial on the left-hand side? Because it surely would require feats of prestidigitation worthy of Houdini himself for that to make any kind of sense.


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