Eco-Terrorism, Animal Cruelty, and Tort Reform

The Independent Film Festival of Boston is over for another year…sad. It always goes by so fast. I saw three documentaries that freaked me out/depressed me/made me mad for various reasons. So let me share, so you can be freaked out, depressed, and mad as well.

If a Tree Falls

This doc focuses on a man who is considered a terrorist for committing arson. Daniel McGowan is imprisoned in a highly restrictive communications management unit for terrorists, because he helped burn down a lumber company. He was a member of a radical environmental group called Earth Liberation Front, a “top domestic terrorist group” according to the FBI. OK, arson is wrong. But calling people who burn down buildings in the middle of the night and don’t hurt a hair on a living being’s head a terrorist? That is ridiculous. How do you induce terror by burning down an empty ski lodge in Vail?

Project Nim

This doc is about Nim Chimpsky, a chimp who was part of a language experiment in the 1970s. He lived with humans as an infant, and then was taught ASL by a variety of teachers. The head researcher decided that Nim didn’t really learn language (grammar, syntax, etc.), but the guy was definitely communicating with humans using ASL. I thought it was pretty amazing.

But then came the part where he was discarded after the research project ended, and then sent to a medical research lab. They actually showed scientists injecting chimps with drugs in research experiments. I will never forget that image as long as I live. It was horrifying. Luckily Nim was rescued from the lab, but briefly lived a depressing solitary existence (although he was in a sanctuary). The last few years of his life seemed OK; more chimps joined him at the sanctuary. Apparently there are still more than a thousand chimps being used for medical research. OMG, read about what the poor chimps endure.

Hot Coffee

OK, so the first doc mainly pissed me off. The second one depressed me. This one freaked me out. I hope I never need to go court to sue any person or business. This doc is about the civil justice system, and how “tort reform” is screwing the common person up and down and forward and backward.

Do you think that the woman who sued McDonald’s when she spilled coffee on her lap was being a bit crazy? I kind of did, too. WELL, I saw images of her burns, and those are images I will never forget. And, I learned that more than 700 people had complained to McDonald’s about being burned from coffee or tea! The woman just wanted the money to cover her medical expenses. She had to have skin grafts, etc. etc. McD’s and the media just put a PR spin on it to make it look totally frivolous.

And apparently businesses are buying judicial seats for judges who will rule in their favor (by financing campaigns). And many states have caps on damages. So a jury can say you deserve $5 million in damages, but your state may say sorry, there’s e a cap at $1 million. That doesn’t help a family who files a medical malpractice suit because they will need to pay millions of dollars for health care due to a doctor’s mistake.

Well, now I have to find some petitions to sign…

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