Jimmy John Liautaud, Big Game Hunting, and Ethical Boycotting… Or, the Treacherous Desert of Abundant Choices



The man in the photos smiles broadly as he poses behind the hulking carcass of an elephant, and, in another picture, he wears the same grin as he hoists a leopard’s limp body for display.

Repulsed, I found it easy to order my submarine sandwich elsewhere.

But that brings me to an unsettling revelation: My self-righteous mini-boycotts are random, inconsistent and, often, hypocritical.

How many businesses would offend me if I knew more about their owners, their investments and their source of labor? Where does one draw the line? Am I a horrible person if I long for some amount of blissful ignorance? (Chocolate and child labor come to mind.)

Many of my friends say they, too, avoid certain trademarks that conflict with their personal values regarding the environment, politics, morals or human rights.

Wal-Mart continues to draw wrath for the methods it uses to keep prices low, from its labor practices to its effect on mom-and-pop businesses. Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria Secret’s Pink and other companies that seem to sexualize children in their advertisements grate on others.

One childhood friend who fled to Wisconsin long ago boycotts the entire state of Illinois because he is disgusted with our corruption and politics. Another refuses to use self-checkout lanes, saying that “it’s symptomatic of our absurd complacency. We get less service for the same amount of money, while unemployment goes up.”

After the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I saw a woman in a floppy hat outside a suburban gas station, holding a giant hand-lettered sign: “Boycott BP.” I had to admire her determination, though I wondered what effect her one-woman effort had on the motorists who sped by.

We are victims of our own success when it comes to consumer choices — because there are so many of them. I already spend way too much time in the cosmetics aisle, trying to make sense of which skin care products are affordable and effective.

Now that I have learned that the plastic microbeads in my favorite facial scrub are clogging Lake Michigan, I will start my product search over again.

I know, I shouldn’t complain. Some people don’t have the luxury of boycotting, say, Wal-Mart, because it’s all they can afford.

Yet I often compromise my values out of laziness, convenience, cost or sheer desire. Um, chocolate.

A co-worker who dropped R&B artist Chris Brown from her iPod because of his violent history with singer Rihanna admitted that she still listens to the also-notorious singer R Kelly. Sure, Kelly was acquitted of child pornography in 2008. But Georgia suspects he’s no poster child for healthy relationships and feels vaguely guilty about it.

Some people devote much effort toward making ethical choices, and business gurus pay attention to them.

“To do ethical boycotting, you need the ability and the time to think abstractly,” said Joel Whalen, associate professor of marketing at DePaul University. He agrees it can be challenging but added that social media have given the unhappy consumer a bigger voice, which can be conveyed by photos and graphics as well as an old-fashioned complaint letter.

The Internet is rich with complaints about businesses, mostly prompted by poor customer service, which deserves its own essay.

Remember the singer whose humorous YouTube music video “United Breaks Guitars” propelled him to fame in 2009? Canadian Dave Carroll sang about how the airline’s baggage handlers at O’Hare International Airport broke his $3,500 Taylor acoustic guitar and refused to pay for it.

United was forced to respond, and eventually it donated $2,500 in his name to support music education through the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, according to news reports.

Similarly, you can find documentaries that expose corporate interests and ethical concerns. But, as Whalen pointed out, people are quicker to react if the problem hits close to home, such as if they discover their water supply is being polluted. Human rights violations in Third World countries, however, are not as “real.”

When considering Jimmy John’s, I learned from news articles that Liautaud contributes to right-wing causes and threatened to move his business out of Illinois when the state sales tax increased.

Liautaud, through a corporate spokeswoman, declined comment on all of those issues, including the safari photos and the status of his headquarters relocation.

Personally, I don’t want to research every corporate executive to compare their right or left leanings, both of which could offend.

But those photos ruined my appetite, and gave me one less choice to make.

Article found here | Chicago Tribune


… and an excerpt from Rober Hirschfeld’s Jimmy John is a Big Man. With the Photographs to Prove it | Smile Politely

I believe we’re collectively culpable, and pointing out the varying degrees of hypocrisy in order to maintain the status quo is a fool’s errand at best and slyly evil at worst.  After all, you may eat tofu harvested from mono-crop fields and ride your bike to work on the streets — thus mitigating your footprint, but still acting as an accessory to a few of the prongs of civilization that have destroyed animal habitat – the primary cause of species decline in the first world.  Such complicity is, in fact, real. 

However, I don’t think this relative complicity should prevent one from speaking out about human behavior — though that is a recurring theme in the comments, and surely will be pushed by Jimmy John’s PR department.  Collective culpability and relative hypocrisy do not mean that any behavior is sanctioned, or that we are incapable of making value judgements on grossly immoral acts.

I eat meat. I don’t have a moral problem with that (partially because I firmly believe in the rightness of big predators like leopards and wolves). But I eat more than I should, and I’m not always careful about where it comes from. I do have a problem with that. If these pictures lead to greater discussion of how humans fit in to the larger landscape, I will be happy.

Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts

[As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.

What I didn’t know was where this attitude came from. Given the presence of moral relativism in some academic circles, some people might naturally assume that philosophers themselves are to blame. But they aren’t. There are historical examples of philosophers who endorse a kind of moral relativism, dating back at least to Protagoras who declared that “man is the measure of all things,” and several who deny that there are any moral facts whatsoever. But such creatures are rare. Besides, if students are already showing up to college with this view of morality, it’s very unlikely that it’s the result of what professional philosophers are teaching. So where is the view coming from?

A few weeks ago, I learned that students are exposed to this sort of thinking well before crossing the threshold of higher education. When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

Hoping that this set of definitions was a one-off mistake, I went home and Googled “fact vs. opinion.” The definitions I found onlinewere substantially the same as the one in my son’s classroom. As it turns out, the Common Core standards used by a majority of K-12 programs in the country require that students be able to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.” And the Common Core institute provides a helpful page full of links to definitions, lesson plans and quizzes to ensure that students can tell the difference between facts and opinions.

So what’s wrong with this distinction and how does it undermine the view that there are objective moral facts?]

Read the full article here | OPINIONATOR | THE NEW YORK TIMES


Amnesty International and Decriminalization of Prostitution in America

Celebs Protest Amnesty International Call to Decriminalize Prostitution | REASON

[Amnesty International has come to the conclusion that decriminalizing prostitution is the best way to “respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of sex workers.” But actress Anne Hathaway played a French whore in Les Mis, so she has feels about the issue, too. Hathway is one of several high-profile actresses, including Lena Dunham and Meryl Streep, who are protesting Amnesty’s “Draft Policy on Sex Work,” which states that all “consensual sexual conduct between adults—which excludes acts that involve coercion, deception, threats, or violence—is entitled to protection from state interference.”

Criminalizing the sex trade actually leads to increased harassment of and violence against sex workers, states Amnesty, including their abuse “at the hands of police.”

The Hollywood Reporter notes that “in the past, celebrities like Jon Stewart, Madonna and Kristen Wiig have not hesitated to back Amnesty International, one of the most influential human rights watchdog groups.” But stopping the state from punishing people for having sex is simply too much in Tinseltown, apparently. In response to Amnesty’s draft recommendations—which are slated for presentation in Ireland in August—a long list of celebrities joined activist groups and religious leaders in signing a protest letter.

The group—which included actors Angela Bassett, Kevin Kline, Marcia Gay Harden, Lisa Kudrow, Chris Cooper, Allison Williams, Emily Blunt, and Emma Thompson—said they are “deeply troubled by Amnesty’s proposal to adopt a policy that calls for the dedecriminalization of pimps, brothel owners and buyers of sex.”]


We are All Connected


“The grizzly bear is central to some of our oldest and most sacred narratives, accounts that speak to the creation of constellations and the coming of sacred bundles. The circumstances do not exist that would make us, the stewards of this land, turn on our relative, the grizzly bear, to satisfy the US government, state game agencies, and affluent white trophy hunters,” Chief Yellow Old Woman impresses upon the Secretary.

“The grizzly bear has been significant to the Blackfoot people since the time of our Creation,” says Chief Stanley Grier of the Piikani Nation.

Chief Grier describes the grizzly as “a fundamental part of our existence,” and for that reason he categorizes the US government’s intent to delist the Great Bear and enable the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to open trophy hunts on them as an act of cultural genocide.

Chief Charles Weasel Head of the Blood Tribe and Chief Yellow Old Woman “fully concur” with Chief Grier’s assessment.

“It is cultural genocide. I wouldn’t put it any other way,” agrees Blackfeet Councilwoman Cheryl Little Dog. “To delist and allow trophy hunting of the grizzly bear is the government again saying to our people, ‘Forget how sacred the grizzly bear is. Forget your sacred ways,’” she says.

The Blackfeet Nation is now in the eye of the grizzly delisting storm. Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suggest that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) intended to target the Blackfeet Nation as the key to facilitating the delisting of the grizzly population in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) if the government and states were again thwarted in Greater Yellowstone.

“The Region has the horses to focus on only one grizzly delisting effort at a time,” FWS Assistant Director, Gary Frazer, cautioned FWS Director Ashe in a communication dated 3/19/12. Frazer then advised Ashe that FWS grizzly coordinator Chris Servheen would take, “other necessary steps for delisting the bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.”

Read the full report | NATIVE NEWS ONLINE


Animals That Became Extinct In The Last 100 Years

[In June 2015, a study published by experts from Stanford, Princeton and the University of California-Berkeley declared the world’s vertebrates are going extinct 114 times faster than the natural rate of extinction, according to the Huffington Post.

The researchers write that “these estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way.”

Last year, we published the following list of every animal that went extinct in the last century. Updating it today to highlight the most recent study and news that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service have declared the eastern cougar extinct. And we’re dangerouslyclose to losing 13 more animal species.

The number of extinct animals is difficult to calculate and always higher than the estimate. In some cases, a species is presumed extinct — none have been seen in years — but it’s yet to receive official extinction status by the IUCN. But the important thing to remember is that extinction is not a historical problem — it’s a contemporary issue.

In the article, take a look at every animal (except insects, which are extremely difficult to catalogue but which you can find here) that went extinct in just the last 100 years. The list is based on research provided by the Sixth Extinction, a website created to “enhance free public access to information about recently extinct species,” and in order of their approximate date of extinction. We’ve included all the animals confirmed extinct by the IUCN, and added a few more declared extinct by other credible individuals and organizations.]

Here is Every Single Animal that Have Become Extinct the Last 100 Years | PIXABLE


Cannibalism, Colonial America and Stalinist Russia

A Review on BLOODLANDS, by Ron Rosenbaum

[Most people don’t associate cannibalism with the Soviet Union. But as Timothy Snyder describes in his book Bloodlands, the 1933 Stalin-imposed famine in Ukraine was so severe that cannibalism became surprisingly prevalent. The state had to set up an anti-cannibalism squad, and hundreds of people were accused of eating their neighbors or, in some cases, their family members. (Ron Rosenbaum shares many of the gruesome details in a book review for Slate.)

Historians and anthropologists, however, have tried to study the history and science of cannibalism over the years: why it happens, when it occurs, and who’s affected. It tests the ultimate boundaries of cultural relativism, health, and ritual. Though this list isn’t at all comprehensive, it catalogs some of the unusual things about cannibalism you might have missed.]

Turns out there are a lot of myths about cannibalism — and how it’s been practiced over time. Here are a few surprising things experts have learned: Seven Surprising Facts about Cannibalism | VOX


What is Going on in New Orleans… in Numbers

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. He is also a member of the legal collective of School of Americas Watch, and can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, the nation saw tens of thousands of people left behind in New Orleans. Ten years later, it looks like the same people in New Orleans have been left behind again.

Stats on schools, housing, incarceration, demographics, income: Shocking Stats About New Orleans | ALTERNET