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In today's pages: Proposition 2, Goldberg on Obama, Syria

October 28, 2008 | 10:55 am

Proposition 2, chickens, Jonah Goldberg, Barack Obama, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Dewey, John McCain, Sarah Palin, science, Syria, attack, Iraq, President Bush, Supreme Court, Louisiana, unanimous juries, Nebraska, families The chickens have  come home to roost on today's Opinion page, where Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle argues that egg-laying hens need more space. Proposition 2 on California's Nov. 4 ballot would force chicken farmers to use bigger cages that would allow hens to stand up and stretch their wings -- currently, they're confined to a space smaller than a "letter-sized sheet of paper." It also calls for larger confinement spaces for veal calves and sows. Writes Pacelle:

The greatest nation in the world, with the most innovative farmers, can do better than immobilize animals in severe confinement systems for their entire lives. Family farmers know food quality is enhanced by more humane farming methods, and they know there is a balance between animal care and economics.

Columnist Jonah Goldberg weighs in on Barack Obama, arguing that the only thing truly novel about him as a candidate is the color of his skin. His liberal ideology, on the other hand, dates back to Woodrow Wilson, who proposed that "the old concept of individualism needed to be replaced by a new system in which the citizen 'married his interest to the state,'" Goldberg writes. Other formative influences on Obama's thinking are the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt and liberal philosopher John Dewey.

Dewey proposed that statism be taught as a kind of civic religion in our schools so that Americans could be raised to see the government as the solution to all of our problems.

While Goldberg beats up on Obama, author and Arizona State University Origins Initiative director Lawrence M. Krauss pounds John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin over their apparent disdain for science. Both have pointed to government funding of studies as a waste of taxpayer dollars, without recognizing the importance of the research. A $3-million study of grizzly bear DNA that was blasted by McCain is actually "essential to preserving a threatened species," Krauss writes, while Palin's casual dismissal of fruit fly research ignores the threat these bugs pose to American agriculture.

Over on the editorial page, The Times questions the timing of Sunday's raid by U.S. troops in Syria, believed to be the first U.S. attack on Syrian soil. The attack seems to be part of a continuing escalation of U.S. military activities within sovereign countries like Syria and Pakistan that are causing severe diplomatic headaches, worsening Western relations in the Middle East and complicating efforts to reach a security agreement in Iraq. If these strategic experiments by the Bush administration fail, it's the next president who will have to pick up the pieces.

Also worrying The Times is the Supreme Court's willingness to chip away at the concept of unanimous juries, allowing the state of Louisiana to convict an alleged killer even though all 12 jurors didn't agree. Only Louisiana and Oregon allow non-unanimous verdicts in criminal cases. "The unanimity requirement increases the credibility of verdicts by making it likelier that jurors will move beyond knee-jerk reactions to engage the arguments of both prosecution and defense."

Finally, The Times points out that Nebraska isn't the only state that has a problem with abandoned children. Though a poorly written law in that state led to a crisis in which parents were discarding young children and teenagers at hospitals without fear of prosecution, every state needs to do a better job of publicizing its counseling and intervention services for struggling families.

* Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles

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