Have you noticed, scientists have now developed a computer that can “translate a dog’s bark”? Supposedly this computer can recognize “whether a dog was in a stranger, fight, walk, alone, ball or play scenario.” Handy, especially since ultra-opportunistic (aren’t they all) presidential candidate Barack Obama recently pledged his support for animal rights – probably a blatant ploy to unleash “animal write-in votes” just as he reached out to Reaganites and other potential voting blocs.

Certainly animals need more and more high-profile political advocates – what with the tortures of factory farming while animals are alive, their subsequent wholesale slaughter, and then our gutting their carcasses and feasting on their dead flesh.

Any thinking person must be for animal rights. Animals humanize us. They are the weak and powerless. We give them voice.

Last century, when “animal rights” first began to be bandied about as a legal concept, long before, you should pardon the expression, vile Rick Santorum raised the specter of interspecies, um, unions, one of the more intelligent monthly magazines, either The Atlantic or Harpers, featured a forum on the topic, featuring one of my favorite activists in the entire universe – pioneering law professor and philosopher Gary L. Francione, first academic in America to teach animal rights theory in a jurisprudence curriculum on a college campus, at the University of Pennsylvania.

I’ll never forget a subhead they ran with the piece – “Credit Cards for Cockroaches”!

Why not? We humans sure have made a mess of our finances.

As for this election year’s Manchurian Candidate, Barack Obama says he has been repeatedly endorsed by the Humane Society and has also sponsored a bill in the Illinois State Senate to prevent horse slaughter. We’ll see. “I think how we treat our animals reflects how we treat each other,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “And it’s very important we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty perpetrated on animals.”

Meanwhile, the current Chinese New Year celebrates the Year of the Rat, which isn’t as bad as it sounds, although certainly it could pertain to American politics.

A very wise feng shui practitioner, Philly’s Kevin Starbard, urges via e-mail that we “begin the year in harmony and happiness. The Rat Year is all about new beginnings. … This year is thus an appropriate time to start new ventures, especially groundbreakings. This includes new ideas, directions and ways of doing things. It is a time to experiment and put plans into action, as there will be plenty of opportunities to achieve success. Something to consider is that which is begun now is likely to have long-term consequences, so choose wisely to enrich our life.”

And in a presidential election year, yet!

“Rat is a very alert, coward, quick, sly, ambitious and smart animal,” according to an apparently omniscient Chinese Fortune Calendar Internet site, and I quote: “Human[s] still learn something from rats. When all rats run away from a building with no reason, we should run and leave the building soon too. Ancient Chinese won’t get on a ship without rats, because that’s not normal.”

Yup. Politics, the art of bringing folks into the same room who don’t want to be in the same room!

Astoundingly enough, not everyone’s thrilled with Obama. I mean, besides the Hillary-ites and naysayers like yers truly. African People’s Socialist Party (Uhuru) Chairman Omali Yeshitela calls Barack Obama “White Power in Black Face.” Hmmmm. Now he tells us. How disappointing.

“He hasn’t said the word ‘black’ out of his mouth, not even to talk about the color of his suit or his shoes! He cannot address the suffering of African people,” Yeshitela comments about Obama’s U. S. presidential candidacy. “When you talk about a presidential election where they’re going to spend more than a billion dollars, a lot of forces with a whole bunch of money are promoting him for their own reasons. Not because of what’s important to Africans, but because of what’s important to this element of the ruling class. So he’s important, because at this time of crisis, where you might be looking for revolution, where you might be willing to talk about overturning the system, he brings Africans back into the safe embrace of the Democratic Party.”

Who’d-a thunk it?

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