Think of the pigeons
Last week, Michael Jackman dove into the world of metro Detroit's pigeon-racing scene ("In the face of race bans, dwindling membership, and a low, low profile, metro Detroit's pigeon racers struggle to keep the sport flying," Aug. 26). Jennifer O'Connor, a writer at PETA, wrote in to highlight the dark side of the sport:
Your piece on pigeon racing didn't address how many birds suffer and die in this pastime.
PETA conducted a 15-month undercover investigation into some of the largest pigeon-racing operations in the U.S. PETA's investigators documented massive casualties of birds during races and training, rampant "culling" (killing), abusive training and racing methods, and illegal interstate gambling. In fact, the woman you quoted as advocating for racers was charged with conspiracy to violate Oklahoma's Anti-Commercial Gambling Act and commercial gambling.
Since pride and profit are often the compelling factors in pigeon racing, owners have little use for birds who can't or won't win. One racer told PETA's investigators that the "first thing you have to learn" in pigeon racing is "how to kill pigeons." Another recommended killing these gentle birds by drowning them, pulling their heads off, or squeezing their breasts so tightly that they suffocate.
Pigeons are smart and have complex social relationships. Their hearing and vision are both excellent but they still flock in large numbers to help protect each other from predators. They are completely innocuous and enrich our mornings with their gentle cooing. They deserve to be left in peace, not forced to race to their deaths.
We received a number of comments on Jack Lessenberry's Politics & Prejudices column about Donald Trump's stance on "illegal immigrants" ("To hell with immigrants!" Aug. 26). Reader "Harry Palmer" commented:
What's even more pathetic than Trump's demagoguery is the cowardice of the rest of the GOP presidential candidates to stand up to him. These are the same people who are telling us they'll stand up to Iran, Putin, and Assad, but are too cowardly to stand up to a reality TV host with a hair pancake on his head.
As far as a "user fee" on gas — that may be a solution now, but if miles per gallon on newer vehicles keeps increasing, or metro areas ever get what can reasonably be called "mass transit," funding will be coming up short again in no time.
Graduated income tax, higher fees for truckers, raising corporate taxes, and a gas tax increase would be a better solution. Grow up, legislature. Stop sucking up to your big-money donors and quit pretending you can have a civilized, non-Third World state with 21st century infrastructure for nothing.
Helping the homeless
Michael Jackman's recent blog post ("Why I don't ignore people begging for money in Detroit anymore," Aug. 26) earned plenty of reader responses. Reader "Lynne" wrote:
I used to be a social worker in my community who worked with a largely mentally ill homeless population. I can tell you, almost all of the panhandlers in Ann Arbor are not homeless. Mostly they are people on Social Security disability and they are begging for money for little luxuries such as the ability to go out for coffee with a friend (and yes, cigarettes and booze too). Basically the money they get gives them a roof over their head, food in the kitchen, and maybe $40 a month for such things people would consider not essential. Yet life is made up of those things. I really wish we were taking better care of people. It would be cheaper too, by the way. It actually costs society much less to house, clothe, and feed homeless people. It certainly puts them in a better position to receive health care, both physical and mental.
I try to always acknowledge panhandlers and their humanity, but I can't bring myself to give them any money simply because I hate being asked for money on the street and I don't want to encourage that behavior. However, I make a mental note of it and I keep track and at the end of the year, I donate $1 to the homeless shelter for every time someone asked me for money on the street. I also donate to the political campaigns of those I think might change things for the better for the disabled. The low amount of money we give disabled people in this country is shameful and that robs them of as much dignity as anything else. I also sometimes, if I know the panhandler, just invite them to have lunch with me. That always seems to go over well even though I don't particularly consider myself to be the best conversationalist in the world.