Numerous UC Santa Cruz biologists have been threatened in pamphlets left at a coffee house in California. The home of one was bombed on Saturday while he and his family were at home. A car belonging to a second researcher, whose name has not yet been released, was also bombed and a third researcher received a threatening phone call but no explosives were found on the scene.
The reason for the bombings? One of the biologists, David Feldheim, studies the development of the nervous system of mice in order to learn how the brain and eyes work together and thereby lay down basic research that can someday be used to treat those who have lost their sight to illness or injury. A second one works on Drosophila. He was attacked for using fruit flies in his experiments. Of course, we get the obligatory statement from outspoken nutsack Jerry Vlasak about how this is justified because fruit flies have rights and it's OK to bomb people's homes to defend them. I guess that when you're a fruitcake it seems logical to defend the supposed rights of fruit flies "by any means necessary."
Santa Cruz firebombs look familiarJerry Vlasak is the leader of a bona fide terrorist organization and makes no bones about it. Why he's walking around free is beyond me. This mujahadeen should be spooning with a large convict bearing a neck tattoo in a cell in federal prison. Our government has managed to sweep up numerous individuals in Afghanistan and hold them without charge for years in Cuba but they can't manage to round up Vlasak and his stinky hippie axis of evil and provide them the due process to which they are entitled? Sounds like extreme incompetence to me — either that or it simply hasn't been a priority. The current administration doesn't care much for science, after all, so how much priority have they given to putting a stop to this?
Wyatt Buchanan and Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle
The devices used in two firebombings targeting UC Santa Cruz biologists are similar to some used in the past by animal rights activists, investigators said Sunday.
The bombs were so powerful they were like "Molotov cocktails on steroids," said Santa Cruz police Capt. Steve Clark.
One struck the home of assistant biology Professor David Feldheim on Saturday morning, forcing him to flee with his family. The other exploded just a few minutes earlier, gutting a car parked outside the campus home of a second researcher.
Later, Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputies went to the home of a third researcher who received a threatening telephone message, but officers found no explosives.
More than 50 investigators, including some from the FBI's regional terrorism task force, are looking into the attacks.
Feldheim, whose townhouse was firebombed just after 5:30 a.m., uses mice in laboratory research on brain formation.
He told The Chronicle that he and his wife, along with their 7-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, had to drop a ladder from the window of a second-floor bedroom to escape after smoke filled the home's first floor...
Feldheim was treated at a hospital and released, police said. Clark said the attack on Feldheim is being considered an act of terrorism and attempted murder.
Clark said the bomb at Feldheim's house was similar to those used by animal rights extremists in the past, adding, "There are instructions on how to make it on their Web sites."
Feldheim and the unidentified faculty member who received the threatening message were named on pamphlets that were left on a stack of newspapers in a downtown Santa Cruz coffee shop last Tuesday, Clark said. The unsigned pamphlets at Caffe Pergolesi, which printed 13 researchers' pictures and addresses, called them murderers and torturers and said, "Animal abusers everywhere beware."
The name of the researcher whose car was bombed was not on the pamphlets, Clark said...
A different view was expressed today by Jerry Vlasak, a Los Angeles spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, which often posts on its Web site communiques from activists taking credit for attacks. He said the benefit of animal research does not justify its expense or the exploitation of animals.
Vlasak said the bombers likely were not trying to hurt Feldheim, but were instead "trying to send a message to this guy, who won't listen to reason, that if he doesn't stop hurting animals, more drastic measures will be taken ... it's certainly not an initial tactic, but a tactic of last resort."
Feldheim, whose work includes introducing genes into living mouse brains, said Sunday that his research "is aimed at understanding how brain connections form during development, with special focus on the visual system." He said the work is important "so we can learn how to fix these connections after damage due to injury or disease..."
The Chronicle article refers to these incidents as "an escalation in a series of protests against UC researchers." This isn't an escalation of protest; these are bombings. Someone's home was set on fire and the lives of himself and his children were immediately put in peril by a group of lunatics who are more concerned with the lives of mice and fruit flies than they are with those of humans. That's not "protest," that is, as FBI investigators point out, attempted murder. If I march outside of a business while carrying a sign, if I sit in the doorway and refuse to move, that's protest. The moment I take out a gun and start firing at office workers, it ceases to be protest and starts to be attempted murder. By the standard used in calling this an "escalation of protest," Jim Adkisson was protesting when he opened fire in a church last week. Buchanan and/or Bulwa should be ashamed of themselves for using that word to describe the bombing of someone's home. Is it an "escalation of protest" if I were to be so incensed by this that I waited for them in the Chronicle's parking lot with a machete? Somehow, I don't think they'd use the word "protest" in describing the incident to the police while ambulance attendance packed their severed digits in ice; they'd rightly use words like "assault" and "attempted murder" and "unjustified attack" and "maniac." Acts of violence, attempts at murder, are not legitimate protest. Setting fire to a house containing a seven year old child is even further from it.
Jerry Vlasak's moronic assertion that the bombers didn't mean to hurt Feldheim and his family is so unbelievably stupid that the man should be taken into protective custody at the very least to insure that he doesn't cause himself injury by wandering into a busy intersection. Anybody who buys a statement like that should be treated likewise. The intent of this terrorist act was precisely to cause harm. Feldheim had to be taken to the hospital. The house filled with smoke and the people inside were lucky enough to be able to escape by climbing out of a second-story window. Who in their right mind wouldn't see not only the physical damage that has been done here but the psychological harm that has been done to the victims? How well will Feldheim's children be sleeping? How many nightmares have been inspired, how much fear, how much trauma?
Mice and fruit flies don't have any rights at all. They're born, maybe they reproduce, and they end up as sustenance for some predator. Rights are a social and political construct; insects and rodents have no concept of such things. By the same token, the terrorists involved in these incidents — including Vlasak — should lose all of their rights. They've demonstrated their violent intent toward society and should lose the benefits of membership therein. Vlasak's rights should extend at this point only to that of remaining silent and having an attorney present, and to a speedy trial, and those are the only ones to which he is entitled. He and his junior Unabomber crew deserve even less consideration than do the mice and flies whose lives they consider more valuable than those of the human beings who have dedicated their lives to better understanding the biology and ecology of those creatures for the benefit not only of humans but of the natural world itself — a world which the terrorists themselves don't begin to understand and care nothing about.
As members of civilized society, however, I do think we should give these monsters what they want once they're appropriately rounded up. We can dress them in organic orange jumpsuits and leave them manacled to trees and rocks in the wilderness and let them commune with nature all they like for the day or two that they'd survive their punishment. I still think they have a valuable role to play in the magnificent web of being that is life on earth. They can do community service by explaining to bears, rats, mountain lions, mosquitoes and ants the rights to which they believe the animals are entitled as their entrails are being extracted and maggots hatch in their eye sockets. We can even reduce the duration of their sentences if they can remember the words to "The Circle of Life" while they're being consumed by their clients.
Once they've become bear burgers and vulture vittles, those of us who actually do care about the well-being of this planet and its inhabitants enough to dedicate ourselves to understanding how it all works together will be able to get back to work without pondering whether or not we should be arming ourselves against a cowardly militia of malodorous malefactors.