If you decide to make the sky fall

9 10 2014

I am not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew.

I am not Hindu, or Buddhist, or Jain, Taoist, Bahá’í, Wiccan, Yazidi, Shinto, Zoroastrian, Sikh, or any sort of pagan or animist.

I am not spiritual, and believe in neither demons nor angels nor supernatural vibes of any sort.

I am agnostic, which means I lack knowledge, along with faith and belief. I do not know if none, one, some, or all of the above traditions holds any or the entirety of truth. I do not know if some other tradition holds any portion of truth.

And I’m all right with that. I call myself a “doubter”, and that doubt works for me.

I’m also all right with others who have do have faith in some tradition or another, and, contra Hitchens, do not believe that “religion poisons everything”.

Or should I say, that religion uniquely poisons everything. I think religion is a powerful human invention and thus, like any powerful human invention, may poison its adherents or the course of events, but not that it necessarily or always does so.

It is also possible that religion (l.a.p.h.i.), may serve as an antidote to other invented poisons.

All of which is a rather long prologue to a rather convoluted post on the rather convoluted topic of the role of Islam in the world today, viz., is it uniquely bad in its effects on co-religionists and non-co’s alike?

There is today far more violence among Muslims and between Muslims and non-Muslims than there is in other world religions*. This doesn’t discount other intra- and inter-religious violence or aggression, nor other less-deadly forms of intolerance, but given conflicts across parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, it’s pretty clear that there are. . . issues in Islam.

Are these issues unique to Islam? A little trip through history points to “no”, and had pundits existed in the 16th century, they may have raised similar questions about the aggressiveness and intolerance of Christianity.

Are these issues endemic to Islam? Whatever the violent history of Christianity, it’s mostly not violent today*, which leads some to note that aggression is therefore not an essential part of Christianity. Can Islam work its violence out of its system as Christianity has, or is supremacism and aggression so interwoven in its scripture and traditions that it cannot transform itself as Christianity has?

Trick questions!

Christianity is a sprawling complex of tradition and change and interpretation which has sometimes been violent, sometime intolerant, sometimes triumphalist, and other times, not. That Christianity is currently not at the center of strife in the world* does not mean that its aggressiveness has been bred out of its system. It’s sidelined, but extirpated? Eh.

Islam is also a sprawling complex of tradition and change and interpretation, and thus like Christianity, can find within that complex support for both aggression and tolerance. It is thus difficult to determine whether any one strand within is always and forever at the center of what it needs to be Muslim.

So, why trick questions? Because what counts as essential has been and is contested in history, and what must be interpreted in this way today may be interpreted in that way tomorrow. That is the condition of all human inventions.

None of this is to shield Islam or any other tradition (or human invention) from criticism, and that there may exist no absolute and eternal standards of how to treat one another doesn’t mean one can’t construct and apply our own provisional and worldly standards.

Which is a rather convoluted way to say: of course Islam may be criticized, as should be those who find in Islam justification for horrid acts.

That Muslims are not unique in their religious—or ideological—justifications is also no barrier to criticism: your mom probably pointed out to you long ago that “everyone else is doing it!” is no excuse for your own bad behavior.

One last turn around: If you’re going to go after an entire religious belief system and its effects on adherents and non-adherents alike, then fer-cryin’-out-loud, look at the entire belief system, not just at what you don’t like.

Is there poison in Islam? Yes. But that doesn’t mean Islam is all and only poison.

Or maybe it is. It’s possibly that after thorough study one might conclude nothing good has ever or will ever come from Islam—or any religion.

But I kinda doubt it.


*Crucial caveat: people living in countries having bombs recently dropped on them by Christians might contest this notion of Christianity as not-aggressive.

h/t for link to Sullivan, and this entire damned post was set off by the Maher-Harris-Affleck kerfuffle


Safe flea control, cont.

30 09 2008

Below the body copy is a list with a few more links on (un)safe flea control, some of which I accessed previously, others, only tonight. Good info.

To repeat, AVOID organophosphates such as tetrachlorvinphos, as well as those chems I listed in the previous post. It seems as if many sites agree that the chemicals in many of the monthly topical or oral treatments are pretty safe, and the IGRs are very safe. A number of the sites listed above and yesterday offer comparisons of the various treatments, so make sure to consider what would work best for your animal. As mentioned, I went with Advantage (combined with Zodiac Spot-On) because it seemed the best bet for my old cats, but some might prefer to deliver the medicine by pill, or simply prefer Frontline or Bio-Spot.

Oh, and I neglected to mention the product with the tetrachlorvinphos: It was a Hartz spray (I don’t remember exactly which one, because I returned it to MegaPetStore.) Bad Hartz! Very bad Hartz!

Anyway, the combo of imidacloprid to kill the adult fleas and methoprene to zap the eggs seems to be the ticket: cats are still flea-free, and while their necks were greasy for a few days, that seems to be dissipating. I do notice a slight odor on Skinny Cat; she doesn’t reek, but if her neck nears my nose, I smell a distinct, slightly piney-mothball aroma.

Not that I’m complaining—anything is better than bugs. We’ll all just have to put up with greasy necks and that aroma for the neck few months. Totally worth it.

One caution, however, about the spray (containing a 0.5% concentration of permethrin, along with a low dose of methoprene): I may have to discontinue use of this, or find something else. Although I wore gloves while spraying the shit out of everything, waited for everything to dry, and covered the chairs & mattress with laundered seat covers and sheets, I think some of got into my skin: My hands are tingly with a slight burning sensation. Nothing awful, but it is enough to be noticeable.

Then again, it could also be the methoprene—which could mean I was exposed through the topical treatment. That would suck, since the methoprene is key to killing the next generation(s) of fleas. If I desist from spraying next month, but use the topical Zodiac along with the Advantage, I can at least figure out if the permethrin is the problem. If not, well, I wasn’t planning to use the Zodiac Spot-On beyond next month (tho’ I’ll be continuing with the Advantage at least through 3 months, and perhaps 6). So. I’ll see.

I have to say, regardless, I hope never to have to think about this again.

Anyhoo, here are a few more flea & flea-i-cide related links, mainly concerning the risks of various pesticides (and hey, go university extension services!):

UC-Davis, Flea Management guidelines: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7419.html

Texas Agricultural Extension, Controlling Fleas (gives info on various pesticides, but doesn’t state that some are toxic to cats & dogs): http://insects.tamu.edu/extension/bulletins/l-1738.html

University of Nebraska Lincoln/UNL Extension, Integrated Flea Control: http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/IntegratedFlea.shtml

Flea Away, brief on flea pesticides: http://www.fleaaway.com/Toxicity%20In%20Tick%20&%20Flea%20Control%20Products.html

Fleas and Ticks (I think this is where I got the list, posted yesterday, of bad chemicals; scroll down or link to ‘Toxicities’): http://www.k9web.com/dog-faqs/fleas-ticks.html#toxic

Humane Society of the US, What you should know about flea and tick products:  http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/what_you_should_know_about_flea_and_tick_products/

Here’s a chart I just found tonight, put out by Greenpaws (in pdf): http://www.greenpaws.org/_docs/GP_productlist.pdf

Natural Resources Defense Council (link in previous post): http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/pets/execsum.asp

Ohio State Extension fact sheet on fleas (good comparisons of treatments, what is the active ingredient, how applied, how long lasts, etc): http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2081.html

EPA info on flea pesticides: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/flea-tick.htm#factsheets

My dog has. . .

29 09 2008


Jesus Christ, my cats had fleas! Fleas! AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!

Yes, I lost my mind the moment I examined Fat Cat and found a little nasty scuttling into her fur.


How did they (yep, Skinny Cat, too) get fleas! They’ve NEVER had fleas, or worms, or any of the assortment of nasties which afflict housepets. And they’re indoor cats! INDOOR!. . . .

Except, hm, I have been letting them outside. Skinny Cat would squeeze between the security bars of the window leading into the backyard, to chew on the weeds and sit in the sun, and I’d let both of them hang out with me out front as I cooled down from a run, or read on the stoop. And there are plenty of cats and dogs and outdoor critters in the neighborhood, so, you know, I shouldn’t have been so shocked.

But I was. Shocked and, frankly, disgusted. Really. I’ve already mentioned my genocidal tendencies when it comes to (indoor) bugs, but to see them strolling their way through Fat Cat’s fur set off a primal loathing steeped so thickly in moral panic that I had to remind myself (not terribly successfully) that this was hardly an earth-shaking event.

Still. I found the little bastards at night—long after everything was closed—which meant I could do, basically, nothing.

Except get on the computer and find out what the hell to do. So I searched on ‘cats fleas’, and found this site and this one (it’s not letting me link here; see below: http://www.sniksnak.com/cathealth/flea-control.html) and a bunch of others, and learned more than I cared to about the biology of fleas, and what needs to be done to get rid of them. So I clicked through on one of the sites to National Pet Pharmacy and ordered a six-month supply of Advantage (one each for Skinny and Fat Cat), and sat back, completely freaked out. (This place didn’t help: ‘Under optimal conditions, the flea can complete its entire life cycle in just fourteen days. Just think of the tens of thousands of the little rascals that could result when conditions are optimal!’ Thanks a fucking lot!)

I did not sleep well that night.

The next day I zipped over to MegaPetStore and bought a flea comb and a spray, which I figured I would use until the kitty drugs arrived. Now, a number of the sites had mentioned that IGRs, or insect growth regulators, are key to stopping a parasite attack, especially since a number of the topical monthly treatments (such as Advantage) kill only adult fleas; IGRs kill off the eggs and pupae. So I thought, hey, any products should list IGRs. Only they don’t. They do list active ingredients, but I neglected to read carefully the info on what was what, and, more importantly, what to avoid. I looked at the various products, then grabbed one which included methoprene and tetrachlorvinphos. Okey-doke, I thought.

Wrong thought. When I got home I fired up the computer and checked out what, exactly, these two ‘active ingredients’ are. Methoprene: an IGR. Excellent! Tetrachlorvinphos. . . uh oh. An organophosphate (OP), tetrachlorvinphos is, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Executive Summary on Poisons on Pets, one of seven of a poisonous group of OP insecticides that were, as of the NRDC’s report, still on the market. (Another site, from Sept 08, noted that most of the other OPs had been phased out, but tetra. was still on the market.) Poison. Dammit.

I considered using the spray, anyway, but snapped out of it: the point is to help my cats, not hurt them. And while it’s not like I expected flea-icides to be candy, I did recognize that there were different levels of risk. Some sites were fairly laid back regarding fleas—heeeyyy, bathe your pet, vacuum, shake some powder on ’em, and all’s good—but, as is obvious, ‘laid-back’ and ‘fleas’ really don’t go together for me. And I have to admit that I was so caught up in my own disgust—Ewwww! what if they get on ME? Ewwwww!—that it took a while to get my focus back on the cats. Fleas don’t really like humans, and they do like cats: they were the ones suffering.

So I left the poison capped, got some soapy water, and pulled the comb through their hair, plunging it into the water to drown the nasty bastards. (And drowning does work, unlike, say, trying to crush them. I did manage to kill one with a tweezers, but, man, even after being squeezed tight, I swore I saw it move. And trying to get them beneath something to crush is a trial, too: those little nasties really can jump!) Fat Cat suffered through this, and kept giving me looks like Why do you hate me? I only saw one adult flea on Skinny Cat (tho’ she did have the tell-tale ‘flea-dirt’, i.e., dried blood), but she protested mightily against the comb and inspections. Bad sleep, night two.

The next morning I checked my e-mail and noted that the pharmacy had sent out the drugs, and they were due to arrive at Job3 that day. Yay! Too bad I was working at Job1 rather than Job3 that day, and wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to get into Job3’s building after hours. Thankfully, S. was willing to look out for the package for me (thanks S! Lifesaver!), and I managed to dash over during my lunch hour.

Also, I returned to MegaPetStore with a list of good and bad chemicals in hand. I can’t find the exact links, but I do still have my handwritten notes on okay & bad chems (if I find the links, I’ll post them later) [here’s one site that lists them, tho’ I can’t remember if this is the one I used; link or scroll down to ‘toxicities’]:


carbaryl, chlorpyritos, diazinon, dichloros, dioxathion, lindane, malathion, naled, phenothrin, phosmet, propoxor, pyrethrin, ronnel, tetrachlorvinphos (n.b.: Some of the spelling may be a letter off. My handwriting is, um, bad.)


methoprene, lufenuron, fipronil, pyriproxfen, d-limonene (natural), imidacloprid

Methoprene and pyriproxfen are both IGRs, which can be used in conjunction with imidacloprid (the active ingredient in Advantage & Advocate; I don’t know if it’s okay with fipronil (used in Frontline).

Given the age of my cats, Advantage seemed the best choice (some of the treatments aren’t so great for kittens, ill, or geriatric cats); however, since the imidacloprid would kill only the adult fleas, I combined it with Zodiac Spot On (which only active ingredient is methoprene 3.6%). I squeezed the Zodiac and then the Advantage on to the back of Fat and Skinny Cats’ necks, then got to work spraying down every damned porous surface with Zodiac Carpet & Upholstery spray (active ingredients: methoprene .09% & permethrin* 0.5%, i.e., an egg-and-pupae killer combined with an adult killer). Then I grabbed everything that could be laundered and hauled it to the laundromat, where I washed everything in HOT water, and dried it all to hell.

(*Permethrin is apparently used safely in high concentrations (45-60%) in some dog treatments, but at such levels are deadly for cats.  Concentrations of less than 1% .1% are apparently okay for use on cats, [update: the link is broken, so I’m going by what Jeff wrote] but I didn’t use the spray on the cats: I used it on furniture, pillows, and drapes, and, as per instructions on the can, kept my cats off of everything until the spray dried.)

The cats were a bit punky that night and the next day, but are fine today, two days after treatment. I’ll keep up with the combo-treatment for the next few months, as well as the spraying, but this is more precautionary than anything: Careful and frequent fur inspections have yielded no fleas, and the cats aren’t scratching. Success—thus far.

We are all sleeping better.

One more thing. I was flipped out about this, and when I used the phrase ‘moral panic’, above, I wasn’t kidding. Yeah, it sounds over the top, but so was my reaction. This infestation seemed shameful, something that shouldn’t have happened, something I should have known better than to have allowed. What kind of unclean person lets fleas into her home?

I couldn’t talk about it with my friends, referring only to a ‘situation’ with my cats, and mentioning ‘medicine’ to treat an unspecified ‘issue’. I was grossed out; wouldn’t my friends be similarly appalled?

Nevermind that fleas are common as hell, that I’ve known other pet owners discuss their various cats’ and dogs’ parasites (fleas, ticks, worms), and thought, Yeah, that happens; hell, I’ve even removed ticks from others and myself. And people get worms, scabies, and other parasites, and it’s a health, not a moral, issue. So when I said my cats were sick, I wasn’t lying.

But I wasn’t telling the truth, either, because I was using ‘sick’ as a euphemism for ‘infested’. ‘Sick’ is worthy of sympathy and attention; ‘infested’ is bad, disgusting, to be hidden and eradicated. Had the cats been afflicted with an internal parasite, I probably would have responded as if to a health issue. But fleas! Nope. My bug-a-phobia, combined with my mini-moral panic, led me to keep my mouth shut—at least until I could state the problem had been dealt with. (See! Clean! Nothing to worry about!)

Sigh. I don’t like the reaction, but there it is. At least I wasn’t so frenzied that I couldn’t remember that it was the cats who were really the issue. They are apparently flea-free, and seem to have weathered the first month of their treatments.

And we’re all feeling better about that.

(Some) sites cited (I’ll try to get all the sites on the chemicals, and to make sure the links work, tomorrow):

About.com, ‘Don’t Flee the Flea’, Franny Syufy, http://cats.about.com/cs/parasiticdisease/a/fleas.htm (also some click-throughs on links at her site)

Cat Fanciers’ Association, Cats and Flea Control Products, http://www.cfa.org/articles/flea-products.html

Feline Advisory Bureau (FABCats), Tackling fleas on cats, http://www.fabcats.org/owners/fleas/info.html

Pawprints and Purrs, Inc, Flea Control, http://www.sniksnak.com/cathealth/flea-control.html

The Pet Center, Fleas on Dogs and Cats, http://www.thepetcenter.com/gen/fleB.html

Plenty Magazine, http://www.plentymag.com/ask/2008/09/flea_control_for_pets.php