Florida Indoor Fish Farm: An Aquaculture Alternative

A few groceries have been offering delicacies like elk steaks for decades, at least. But the odds are that hunters aren’t supplying your grocery’s meat department with wild game.

That’s not surprising, or shouldn’t be.

I’ll be talking about an indoor Florida fish farm, wild raspberries, chickens, and why genetically modified foods don’t fill me with fear and foreboding.


Life After the Neolithic Revolution

My ancestors were hunting for food until a little less than an millennium back.

But even then, they were also planting crops and raising livestock.

Somewhere along the line, hunting morphed into a recreation reserved for the upper crust. Which gave us some of the Robin Hood tales, and that’s another topic.

Folks started collecting and eating wild grains upwards of 100,000 years back. Then, around the time when Saharan forests and prairies were drying out, someone developed artificial plants.

Several someones, judging from the way crops like barley, lentils and flax popped up in at least five parts of Eurasia and the Americas. V. Gordon Childe called that transition the Neolithic Revolution in 1936, and the name caught on.

Oddly enough, I’ve yet to see claims that Sumerians caused the end of civilization as they knew it by growing wheat.

Or that Egypt’s parliament should pay reparation for desertification happening during Pharaoh Narmer’s administration. Never mind that the process started before folks living in the Luan River valley were making fine pottery.1

Now, about artificial organisms. Like chickens.

Wild Raspberries

'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!' (1978)Thanks to my father’s taste for what he called “wild raspberries,” I know what real “raspberries” taste like.

I’m not entirely convinced that the tiny red berry-things he found in parts of northern Minnesota are actually a wild form of the European red raspberry.

But they look like farm-grown raspberries.

I’ve eaten both. The store-bought things have the same taste, and are much larger. But they’re also, well, insipid. Pale echoes of the wild variety.

The impression I get is that commercially-grown raspberries have the same amount of flavor per berry.

And since they’re so much larger, the flavor’s spread over more volume. Too much more, for my taste. But then, I’ve eaten the wild variety. Those pumped-up store-bought things just can’t compete.

My guess is that most Americans have never eaten “wild raspberries,” so they don’t know what they’re missing.

And many may never have eaten anything other than genetically modified foods.

Rimshot's photo of a Vorwerk chicken. (2009)Take chickens, for example.

There is, arguably, no such thing as a “non-genetically-modified” chicken.

Sure, the red junglefowl was and is native to parts of south and southeast Asia.

Those birds look like domestic chickens. Some domestic chickens.

Mainly because domestic chickens are what happened after folks started modifying red junglefowl and assorted other species.2

Attack of the Acronyms

I know that “GMOs” are — for some — a terrifying new threat to life, liberty and the status quo.

And I think that “new” isn’t always “better.”

On the other hand, I don’t think “new” is always apocalyptic.

I also suspect that unfamiliar acronyms like ACCA, CRAC and ASHRAE can be scary. So maybe sharing what GMO, TALEN and ELISA mean will help.

In any case, I enjoy learning what terms mean. You experience may vary, but I’ll go ahead with definitions anyway.

“GMO” is an acronym meaning “genetically modified organism.”

But a GMO isn’t just any old genetically modified organism.

A GMO is a critter we’ve modified with new genetic engineering technology.

And now, more acronyms:

  • Gene-modifying tools
    • CRISPR
      • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat
    • TALEN
      • Transcription Activator-Like Effectors Nuclease
  • Gene testing tools
    • ELISA
      • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
    • PCR
      • Polymerase Chain Reaction
    • RT-PCR
      • Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction

Finally, please: relax. There won’t be a test on this. There’s no need to memorize words and alphabet soup like immunosorbent and RT-PCR.3

“Finally?” No, not really. But that’s (almost) all the acronyms I’ll use. Today.

Assumptions and Atomic Nazi Zombies

Barth F. Smets/Barkay/Colvin's Tree of Life with horizontal gene transfer.I’d like to see folks relaxing about GMOs.

That’s relaxing, not either blindly assuming that eating all the chicken we like is okay because chickens are modified organisms; or that mRNA vaccines and other newfangled biotech must be Satanic because it’s unnatural.

Or simply because it’s new.

I talked about mRNA vaccines, viewpoints, ethical issues and making sense when Moderna’s and Phizer’s were nearly ready for production. (December 5, 2020)

As I see it, “making sense” includes testing new tech. Whether it’s biotech or a kerosene lamp. (August 11, 2017)

Testing a new strain of oats or a new dog breed, for example, probably makes sense.

After all, we wouldn’t want hideously mutated oatmeal monsters attacking the General Mills headquarters in Golden Valley, Minnesota. Or unexpectedly-intelligent American Hairless Terriers demanding Federal regulation of dog sweaters.

Lobby card for Cahn and Siodmak's 'Creature with the Atom Brain.' (1955)Or a mad scientist’s GMO sorghum beer leading to a plague of atomic Nazi zombies. A threat which may have been more marketable in 1955, and that’s yet another topic.

I’d be considerably more angsty about GMOs, TALEN, CRISPR and atomic zombies if I didn’t remember horrifically horrible horrors of my youth. And hadn’t read about Joseph, Laban and Laban’s modified livestock.

Another reason I’m not railing against the evils of genetic engineering is that mixing and matching genes has been going on for a very long time. It’s called “horizontal gene transfer,” and explains how fungal genes help pea aphids hide from predators.4


Meanwhile, in Florida

An indoor fish farm. Image copyright Aquamaof, via BBC News, used w/o permission.
(From Aquamaof, via BBC News; used w/o permission.)

Finally — that’s my third “finally” today, in case you’re keeping score — here’s what started me talking about groceries and Sumerians, chickens and GMOs.

The salmon you buy in the future may be farmed on land
Dan Gibson, BBC Business News (April 25, 2021)

In a series of indoor tanks 40 miles south west of Miami, Florida, five million fish are swimming in circles a very long way from home.

“The fish in question are Atlantic salmon, which are far more typically found in the cold waters of Norway’s fjords or Scotland’s lochs.

“As the species is not native to Florida, and would be unable to cope with the state’s tropical heat, the water tanks are kept well chilled, and housed in a vast, air-conditioned and heavily insulated warehouse-like building.

“The facility, called the Bluehouse, opened its first phase last year, and intends to be the world’s largest land-based fish farm….”

An indoor salmon farm in Florida may not be the strangest point in Dan Gibson’s article.

Bluehouse’s owner is Atlantic Sapphire, an Norwegian-owned business.

So how come a Norwegian business owns an indoor Florida fish farm?

Atlantic Sapphire folks think selling salmon to Americans will cost less if the fish aren’t flown across the Atlantic. They picked the Florida location in part because that’s where there’s access to a fresh water and a salt water aquifer. Makes sense to me.

So does the quality-control angle.

A Sinister Salmon Setting?

Energy-efficient closed-loop water recycling system for indoor fish farm.
(From Atlantic Sapphire, used w/o permission.)

The Florida fish farm’s salmon live in a closed-loop system. Water temperature and pH, day-night cycles, everything is ideal for the salmon.

It’s ‘unnatural’ — so the fish aren’t exposed to diseases and parasites. Which means that fish from the Florida farm won’t need or contain antibiotics and pesticides.

And, since the cost of Bluehouse brand salmon in American groceries doesn’t include air freight, it costs about half what we’d pay for Norwegian imports. On the other hand, Florida Bluehouse salmon won’t include free bonus protein — roundworms.5

Obviously, something is very wrong here. From tediously familiar viewpoints.


Abolish Fish Farms! Freedom For Fish!?

Bluehouse Florida fish farm, image copyright Smart Studio.
(From Smart Studio, via BBC News; used w/o permission.)
(Salmon swimming against an artificial current.)

“‘Fish farms [whether at sea, or on land] are pits of filth,’ says Dawn Carr, Peta’s director of vegan corporate projects. ‘Fish are not fish fingers with fins, waiting to be cut apart, but feeling, thinking individuals capable of joy and pain, and they belong to themselves, not to humans.

“‘Raising fish this way is wretchedly cruel and certainly unnecessary.’…”
(Dan Gibson, BBC Business News (April 25, 2021)

I wouldn’t expect, or try, to convince someone of the ‘fish are people too’ persuasion that raising disease-free, sans-roundworm salmon is not “wretchedly cruel.”

And PETA’s vegan corporate projects director almost has a point. Since humans are omnivores, we can get by without meat.

A few of us, including one of my kinsmen, can’t eat meat; or shouldn’t. For medical reasons. And that’s yet again another topic.

But trying to believe that a large opportunistic omnivore6 shouldn’t eat meat, along with plant products? That doesn’t make sense. Not to me.

Experiencing Emotions, Being Rational

Non Sequtur's Church of Danae and faith-based physics. From Wiley Miller, used w/o permission.Since a fair number of folks see Christians as anything but reasonable — and some Christians seem dedicated to maintaining that image — explanations may be in order.

Again.

I’ve gone over this a lot. But I also run into the attitude(s) a lot, so here goes.

I’m a Catholic, so I think faith and reason get along. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 35, 154159)

Should get along.

I have free will. Deciding what I do, or don’t do, is up to me. (Catechism, 1730, 1778, 1804, 2339)

Within limits. I can’t, for example, decide to flap my arms and fly to the moon. I can, actually, but I won’t achieve liftoff.

Using my brain is, however, an option. Not an obligation, like breathing. Actually, it is an obligation, since I’m Catholic, and I’m straying off-topic.

I’m human, so I’m a “rational animal.” (Catechism, 1951)

And since I’m human, I experience emotions.

They’re part of a package that’s “very good.” But that doesn’t make all, or any, emotions “good.” Emotions aren’t “good” or “bad” by themselves. What I decide to do about an emotion? That’s where “good” or “bad” comes in. (Genesis 1:2731; Catechism, 1763, 1767)

Dominion

John Leech's cartoon: 'How to Insure Against Railway Accidents. Tie a couple of Directors à la Mazeppa to every engine that starts a train.' Punch (March 26, 1853)
(From Punch, via Victorian Web, used w/o permission.)

Earth, seen from the Rosetta spacecraft.Since I’m a Catholic, I think that we have dominion over this world.

And since I’m a Catholic, I do not think “dominion” means poisoning the land while ripping crusts of bread from the bleeding lips of the oppressed proletariat.

Whether or not anyone still talks that way — is still another topic.

Since I’m a Catholic, I think “dominion” is having the authority and responsibility that comes with one of our jobs: taking care of our home, and leaving it in good working order for future generations. (Genesis 1:26, 2:58; Catechism, 16, 339, 356358, 2402, 24152418, 2456)

Animals

William Hogarth's 'The Second Stage of Cruelty, detail. (1751)Treating animals humanely is an ancient idea. (Exodus 23:12; Deuteronomy 25:4; Proverbs 12:10; 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18)

Mistreating animals is a bad idea.

That’s because, besides being animals, we’re people: made “in the image of God.” Our nature comes with responsibilities: like not inflicting needless death and suffering on animals. That said, loving animals the way we (should) love people is also a bad idea. (Genesis 1:27; Catechism, 355, 361368, 17011709, 1951, 2418, 24152418)

Respecting “the integrity of creation” makes sense. So does making reasoned, measured use of animals, plants and mineral resources. We’re stewards of this world, and responsible for handing off its resources to future generations. (Catechism, 24152418)

None of which comes even close to calling for piscine self-determination.


Hunting and Gathering’s Last Bastion

Global capture fisheries/aquaculture production, 2000-2018; from FAO's Statistical Yearbook 2020.
(From FAO, via Wikimedia Commons; used w/o permission.)
(World fish production: old-school capture and aquaculture, 2000-2018. FAO (2020))

David Roberts' 'Ancient Fountain:' a Persian water-wheel, used for irrigation in Nubia. (1838)Fish hatcheries existed in my youth, and zoos/aquariums were learning how to maintain healthy environments for fish.

But harvesting fish for food was almost entirely a ‘hunting and gathering’ activity.

I’d wondered how long it would take for the fishing industry to start catching up with the Neolithic Revolution. And now I’m learning that the process has begun.

Aquaculture isn’t a new idea, it goes back at least six and a half millennia.

But 97% of today’s cultured fish species were “domesticated” during the 20th and 21st centuries.

Whether they’re “domesticated” in the sense that Leghorns are domesticated chickens, that I don’t know. I’m also not sure whether “cultured” and “domesticated” mean the same thing.

I’m more certain that transitioning away from ‘hunting’ fish has been happening in part because we’ve been running out of wild fish.

And Atlantic Sapphire’s Florida fish farm’s profit potential grew because the COVID-19 pandemic has been playing hob with supply chains.7

One of these days, I’ll probably dig into details of how we’ve been transitioning away from my civilization’s last non-recreational bastion of our hunting and gathering roots. But not today. Or, likely enough, not this month.

More of how I see animals, being human and making sense:


1 Putting food on the table:

2 Poultry, naturally:

3 Acronyms and long words:

4 Genetics, mostly:

5 Parasites, seafood’s bonus(?) protein:

6 It’s who; or, rather, what we are:

7 Fish (and a chicken):

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Enjoying Our Annual Renewal of Baptismal Vows

Life isn’t back to normal, here in Sauk Centre, and won’t be.

Not if I see “back to normal” as “being just exactly the way it was two years ago.”

Time and reality don’t work that way.

Life may not be back to normal. But this fifth Sunday of Easter is less not-normal than last year’s.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still in progress, but regional rules — state and church — are relaxing a tad. Partly, maybe mostly, because mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are not just in the pipeline. They’re here. And that’s another topic. Topics.

At any rate, life and my routines are less not-normal than they were at this time last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic — along with decisions made by Minnesota’s secular and Church leaders — being what they were, I stayed home during last year’s Holy Week.

That wouldn’t have been my first choice.

But I can only decide how I deal with reality. Altering reality — on the ‘change global events’ level — is well above my skill set.

“This is Our Faith”

From Calendar of Major Events, Jubilee of Mercy, 2015; used w/o permission.I can also decide whether to fret and fume over missing one of my favorite ‘once-a-year’ faith events: or enjoy experiencing it again after a pandemic-provoked postponement.

Postponement from my viewpoint.

We made the annual renewal of baptismal promises last year, as usual. But not with me in the church.

I vastly prefer enjoying what is, over brooding on what isn’t possible. So I enjoyed joining the folks in my parish in this year’s formal ‘this is what we believe’ statement.

I enjoyed it a lot.

“Do you renounce Satan, and all his works and empty promises?

“Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?

“Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?

“Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who today through the Sacrament of Confirmation is given to you in a special way just as he was given to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost?

“Do you believe in the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

“This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(From “The Renewal of Baptismal Promises” Order of Confirmation, English translation © 2013, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Liturgy Office, England & Wales (www.liturgyoffice.org.uk/Resources/Confirmation/OC-Renewal.pdf (May 26, 2017))

Maybe that looks familiar. I’ve posted the ‘England & Wales’ version of the declaration before, back in May of 2017. The wording in ours is a little different, but not much; and the ideas are the same.

Somewhat-related posts:

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Weekend

I started writing about a Florida fish farm that’s raising salmon for American groceries.

Salmon don’t live in Florida’s lakes and rivers. The water’s too warm. Besides, they only spend part of their lives in fresh water.

That’s why the fish farm is on land.

So far, so good. I knew what I was going to write about, where to find information I’d need, and then I started writing.

If I’d made an outline, planned ahead and generally taken advice from ‘write your way to fame and fortune’ how-2s, then — I’d probably still be writing an outline.

Lobby card for Cahn and Siodmak's 'Creature with the Atom Brain.' (1955)Instead, I now have nearly a thousand words written about wild raspberries, chickens and GMOs. With Sumerians, Pharaoh Narmer and atomic Nazi zombies on the side.

I’m definitely not going to get my Florida fish farm piece finished by Saturday. Sunday, maybe. Then again, maybe not.

On the ‘up’ side, I’ve been having fun writing it. So I figure there’s a chance you’ll enjoy reading about Florida salmon and all the rest.

Finally, and inevitably, the usual vaguely-related stuff:

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Floyd/Chauvin Trial, Taser Trouble and Irksome Issues

On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, a jury said that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.

Folks have been reacting to that.

But protestors haven’t torched Minneapolis shops and services in the three days since then. Not as far as I know.

Which is a relief, but not a surprise. For one thing, it’s late April: still a bit too chilly for comfort during pyromaniac performance art’s prime time.

I’ll be taking a quick look at headlines. Then I’ll talk about life, law, justice and why I think murder is a bad idea.


Headlines


(From Harper’s Weekly, via Chicago History Museum and Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Harper’s Weekly’s version of death and drama in Haymarket Square. (May 15, 1886))

I still don’t know what, if anything, folks who thought defunding Minneapolis police was a good idea were thinking.

Maybe that’s because I don’t assume that police departments cause crime.

Or maybe if I understood the political subtleties in play, then I’d have added my voice to an anarchist anthem, liberal lyric or conservative chorus.

Then again, maybe not. I’m guessing “not.”

At any rate, there’s been no shortage of opinions — expressed by words or actions— regarding the recent trial.

Before I wade into politics, pigs and all that, another of my assumptions.

Based on experience and ‘book learning,’ I figure that police officers neither paragons of virtue, nor thugs with badges. Not all of them.

Maybe picking a knee-jerk response the last year’s craziness would be easier if I chose one or the other stereotype. But that doesn’t make sense. Not to me.

Porcine Protest and a “Confrontational” Controversy


(George Floyd protests, 2020.)

Pig’s head thrown at former home of Chauvin defense witness
Tim Stelloh, NBC News (April 18, 2021)

“Vandals threw a pig’s head at the onetime home of a former California police officer who was a defense witness for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer accused of killing George Floyd, police said.

“The incident occurred early Saturday in Santa Rosa, California, at a house where the witness, Barry Brodd, used to live, Santa Rosa police said in a statement….”


Waters calls for protesters to ‘get more confrontational’ if no guilty verdict is reached in Derek Chauvin trial
Chandelis Duster, CNN (April 19, 2021)

“…The comments by Waters, a California Democrat and icon among progressives, were immediately seized on by Republicans who claimed that Waters was inciting violence. The congresswoman denied in a subsequent interview that she was encouraging violence, but the remarks come at a time of immense national tension amid several high-profile killings of Black people at the hands of police officers and as American cities brace for a fresh wave of protests as the Chauvin trial nears a close….”

A key phrase in the pig’s head piece is “used to live.”

Barry Brodd doesn’t live in Santa Rosa, or California, any more. But seeing the pig’s head as an anti-Brodd protest seems reasonable.

On the other hand, it’s not the only possible motive.

Maybe whoever lives there incurred a militant vegetarian’s wrath, shortchanged a butcher or was the victim of random pig violence.

Regarding the Waters “more confrontational” statement, I don’t know its context or history. In any case, I’m glad that folks didn’t celebrate the guilty verdict by torching more stores. By my standards, that’d be daft: at least as daft as last year’s use of arson as a call for justice.

Actions, Responses


(From Fibonacci Blue, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(George Floyd memorial in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (May 30, 2020))

“George Floyd: Jury finds Derek Chauvin guilty of murder”
(April 20, 2021)
BBC News

“…Chauvin was found guilty on three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

“He will remain in custody until he is sentenced and could spend decades in jail….

“…The 12-member jury took less than a day to reach their verdict, which followed a highly-charged, three-week trial that left Minneapolis on edge….

“…They say one of the most likely avenues of appeal is the huge publicity given to the case, with the defence team arguing that this might have influenced the jury.

“Also, Presiding Judge Peter Cahill said on Monday that public comments by Democrat Congresswoman Maxine Waters could be grounds for an appeal.

“Over the weekend, Ms Waters had urged protesters to ‘stay on the street’ and ‘get more confrontational’ if Chauvin were acquitted….

I wasn’t surprised at a guilty verdict in the D. Chauvin trial.

Intransigent conservatives and ardent liberals agree that Chauvin’s actions resulted in Floyd’s death.

Well, mostly agree. One version of the events says that Floyd was sick, and so didn’t survive last year’s encounter.

The way I heard it, Chauvin restrained Floyd in a way that’s legitimate. When dealing with a strong, active suspect.

If Floyd was so unwell that a routine restraint technique killed him, then I’d wonder why police used the technique: when they outnumbered the suspect four to one.1

Perceptions

Walt Kelly's Deacon Mushrat and Simple J. Malarky. (11953)Blaming Chauvin’s defense for raising what I see as goofy questions is an option.

But I grew up in an America where too many of my homeland’s self-described best and brightest could have checked into a loony bin, no questions asked.

Could have, if they’d had a trifle more self-awareness and weren’t promoting currently-trendy crackpot notions.

Watching McCarthyism’s dying gasps and enduring academia while political correctness was in bloom did nothing to encourage adulation of my betters. And that’s another topic.

What does surprise me a bit is that D. Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts. And that the jury reached that conclusion after only 10 hours of deliberation.

Consequences

Fiery protest in Washington DC, 2020.
(From Brett Weinstein, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Protest and fire in Washington, DC. (May 30, 2020))

Claes Jansz Visscher's Gunpowder plot executions etching, detail. (1606)Looks like we’ll learn what D. Chauvin’s sentence will be this coming June.

I’m not looking forward to that.

Quite a few folks, I strongly suspect, feel prison is too good for Chauvin. I also strongly suspect that we’ll see a revival of last year’s ‘defund the police’ demands.

And nights are warmer in June, so maybe we’ll have a replay of last year’s ‘let’s set fire to the neighborhood’ events. I hope not.

Oopsie

Comparison: Glock 17 and Taser X26P.
(From Brett Weinstein, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(When is a Taser not a Taser?)

The traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, a week ago last Tuesday, wasn’t quite routine.2

Duante Wright had an outstanding arrest warrant. He and a Mr. Driver had been accused of attacking and robbing someone. Using a gun as well as their hands.

Maybe that explains why a police officer used a “Taser” during the traffic stop. But the arrest warrant doesn’t explain how the Taser turned out to be a Glock pistol.

I Am Not Making This Up

'Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers' No. 1 cover. (1971) (low-resolution thumbnail)Events during the next few minutes reminded me of yesteryear’s underground comix.3

How a veteran officer could have mistaken a Glock for a Taser in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright
Corky Siemaszko, NBC News (April 13, 2021)

“…The answer to that question may have as much to do with what was going on in Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter’s mind as with which weapon she was holding in her hand, experts told NBC News on Tuesday.

“The Glock pistol that Potter was wielding when she fired the fatal shot at Wright on Sunday as he allegedly attempted to flee is black metal and almost a pound heavier than the neon-colored plastic Taser she may have believed she was brandishing as she was caught on a video yelling, ‘Taser! Taser! Taser!’…”

Glocks, Tasers, and Frames of Reference

Police issue X26 TASER. Not a Glock.
(From Junglecat, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(This Taser is not a Glock.)

I’ve never been a police officer. My frame of reference does not include dealing with someone who violated traffic rules, and may have used force while acquiring $820.

So maybe just over 7 ounces of plastic can look and feel just like 1 pound, 6 ounces of metal during a traffic stop.

Maybe everything with a handle looks like a Taser on Tuesday afternoons.

At any rate, a bullet from the “Taser” punctured Duante Wright.

Maybe he shouldn’t have driven away, but he did. Then he hit another car and a concrete barrier. Police officers caught up with him, used CPR, but he died anyway.

Then the ‘I didn’t know the Taser was a Glock’ police officer and the Brooklyn Center police chief resigned. The last I heard, the police officer has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. I don’t know what’s happened in that $820 robbery case.

I gather that quite a few folks aren’t happy about how Duante Wright died. Can’t say that I blame them.


Troublesome Topics

(Members of Texas Army National Guard's 136th MEB military police supporting local law enforcement in Austin, Texas. (May 30, 2020)
(U.S. Army photo by Charles E. Spirtos, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

Something that’s gotten lost in the George Floyd shuffle is why four police officers came to Cup Foods last May.

And this brings me to life, law, justice and other awkward topics.

Whether or not George Floyd bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill is probably a moot point.

He’s dead. And in the Cup Food owner’s place, I’d prefer dropping charges to risking the wrath of Floyd’s followers.

For all I know, someone’s proven that the $20 bill was genuine.

But oddly enough, nobody’s said that money, cigarettes or Big Tobacco caused last summer’s mess. Not that I’ve seen. Maybe news and social media can accommodate only so many crazy ideas at a time, and that’s yet another topic. Topics.

Since proof that a mistake sparked George Floyd’s lethal encounter would enhance his value as a martyr, I suspect that the bill was bogus. Whether he knew it was counterfeit, and hoped a clerk wouldn’t notice, or thought it was legal tender — is another moot point.

The same goes for the $820 robbery charge that ended in death by “Taser.”

How I see law, justice and all that hasn’t changed since the last time talked about it.

So this may be a good time for you to stop reading — and go polish the cat, let out your shoes or do whatever.

Life and Love

'Vanitas Still Life,' Pieter Caesz. (1630)I think my life matters. But I can’t stop there. Since I’m a Catholic, I must see all human life as special: sacred, a gift from God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258, 2260)

I must also see everyone as a real person, a neighbor, someone who matters: created in the image of God. Someone I should — must — love. No exceptions. (Genesis 1:27; Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31, 10:2537; Catechism, 1789, 2258, 2260)

As I’ve said before, and almost certainly will again, that can be awkward.

Law and Chickenman

Dick Orkin's Chickenman, opposing crime and/or evil.I think that passing a bogus bill is wrong.

But that’s not because I think America’s assorted federal and state laws are sacred: immutable principles carved into the great world-tree Yggdrasil.

It’s because I think our laws regarding counterfeit currency aren’t all that far from natural law: principles that are woven into reality, and which don’t change.

Recapping what I keep saying: natural law doesn’t change. It’s part of reality. Positive law, rules we make up, changes. And should change as our circumstances change. In an ideal world, positive law would reflect natural law. (Catechism, 19501974)

We don’t live in an ideal world; so sometimes what’s legal isn’t right, and sometimes what’s right isn’t legal. That sort of disconnect may have inspired Chickenman’s ongoing quest: opposing crime and/or evil. (June 6, 2020)

Stealing Isn’t Right, Even if It’s Legal

Étienne Picart's 'Faces Expressing Anger.' (1713)Justice matters. Theft is wrong, even when it’s legal. (Catechism, 1807, 24012414)

For example, if I paid someone $10 for $20 worth of work, that’d be wrong; even if my era’s laws said it was okay.

Buying something with a piece of paper that’s nearly worthless strikes me as being uncomfortably close to forgery: which the Church says is a form of theft. (Catechism, 2409)

That’d be true, even if I feel that stealing is okay because I’ve been cheated. Intent matters, but the end does not justify the means. (Catechism, 1753)

Finally, justice isn’t fueled by anger. Or shouldn’t be. (Catechism, 2302)

Murder Isn’t Nice And We Shouldn’t Do It

A Saturday night gone wrong: nine killed in Dayton, Ohio. (August 4, 2019)I figure — and hope — that only a few folks see killing an innocent person as okay.

Defining “person” and “innocent” gets tricky.

So does settling on what “killing” means. And that’s yet again another topic.

Since I’m a Catholic, I think killing an innocent person is murder, no matter how it’s done — or how young, old, or sick the person is. That’s because, again, human life is sacred: a gift from God. (Catechism, 2258, 22682279)

I also think that sometimes taking a human life can’t be avoided.

There are times when the only way to keep someone from killing innocent people is ending that person’s life. The idea’s called legitimate defense. (Catechism, 22632267)

But legitimate defense isn’t even close to saying murder is okay if I feel threatened. And I sure don’t think an alleged $820 robbery warrants ‘shoot to kill.’

Angry and Disgusted

Temporarily closed businesses in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (June 21, 2020)I’m still angry about George Floyd’s murder.

I’m not so much angry as disgusted and puzzled by this month’s ‘I thought the Glock was a Taser’ SNAFU in a Twin Cities suburb.

And I’m profoundly glad that I live in a town where the local police are not earning a reputation for using lethal force when responding to allegedly counterfeit bills, or being befuddled over distinctions between a Glock and a Taser.

But being angry, or disgusted, won’t help me understand what went so horribly wrong in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center.

So I’ll keep trying to stay calm(ish), remember that my assumptions aren’t facts, and maybe return to this subject when I’ve learned more. Or table the topic. Maybe permanently.

I’ve talked about this sort of thing before:


1 A dubious $20 bill, death and carrying signs:

2 The Curious Case of the Taser That Wasn’t:

3 Remembering days of yore, when relevance was relevant:

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