Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Conversation about pet insurance

Friend 1: You're playing with fire if you don't have pet insurance.

: When my dog Dignan was under my sole care, I carried an alternative version of pet insurance that was totally free.

It was the belief that he could either tough out his expensive injuries or risk being put to sleep.

It's called the "What Our Parents, Grandparents, and All Other Ancestors Did For Doggy Health Care" Plan.

[fast forward a couple months and topic of pet insurance comes up again]

Friend 2: After spending as much time as I have with my girlfriend and her her dog, I remember what dog ownership is like. I take back my statement about thinking Kendall's method of insurance was funny. I want to buy insurance for this dog already.

Me: It's not supposed to be funny.

Dignan has cost me (and now my sister) nothing but food and a couple shots since I got him almost four years ago. I love him dearly but am also aware that dogs are much better adapted to living with discomfort and pain. If something happened to him that made him uncomfortable, I would wait for the problem to clear up on its own. If it got worse, I would probably bite the bullet and take him to the vet. If it was an overly expensive problem to fix, I would have to weigh the costs v. the benefits of getting him fixed.

Basically, I wouldn't spend much money on making the dog merely less uncomfortable, nor would I spend a lot of money on extending the dog's life when a dog doesn't live very long to begin with. It may sound callous, but it seems ridiculous to me to spend a lot of money on a non-human. Call me an asshole, but I'd rather put the dog to sleep, be really, really sad for a few days and then just get a new dog, which is actually a really fun thing to do, than be milked monthly by an insurance company or dump money down the never-ending hole known as a dog with health problems.

Friend 3: You have no soul.

Friend 4: You have no soul for real.

Me: If I had no soul, I wouldn't be sad about doing it. Knowing when it's time to let go of your dog doesn't mean you loved it any less. To me, pet insurance is another example of the wussification of America, or perhaps more accurately an example of America's crippling fear of death.

I guess I'm just more comfortable with death and with a dog's place in the food chain. People these days seem to think that dogs are actual family members or something and that if they spend enough money on their dogs, they'll live forever. No matter how much money you spend on your dog, he or she will not live longer than 10 or maybe 15 years. If it makes you feel better to spend thousands on insurance and deductibles over the years to cover reconstructive surgery and physical therapy and whatever else, go for it. But don't attack me because I'm comfortable with getting a couple extra opportunities over the course of my lifetime to pick out new puppies that will not spend their lives in traction, casts, and those dumb neck cones.

Friend 4: I get what your saying, Kendall, but regardless, I'm willing to spend 20 bucks a month to potentially save me from one of those decisions.

Me: Even if you completely reject my argument that we have gone too far in humanizing our pets, why pay an insurance company who will charge you a deductible and potentially 10 to 20 percent of the costs and most likely do everything in their power to reject your claim? I would probably go ballistic the first time I heard the words "policy limit" or "pre-existing condition" at the vet's office. Why not put $20 per month in an interest-bearing account and then use that to pay for the dog's vet bills if and when they come up?


Check out this article on how pet names are becoming more human

Friday, July 30, 2010

My overly simplistic solution for solving unemployment and public health

30 Hour Work Weeks. Everyone works 3/4 time.

Instead of hiring six employees to work 240 hours per week, an employer could hire eight employees to work 240 hours per week. All those extra jobs will put a huge dent in unemployment.

Those eight employees have the equivalent of an extra day off and 30 extra minutes per day to exercise, cook dinner and spend time with family and friends, thereby making our society healthier and happier.


Edit: Forgot to mention that productivity generally rises as hours decrease.

I knew I wasn't the first one to think of this, but here's an article discussing it much more eloquently.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Am I wrong or was this guy a flaming douchebag?

So I was meeting Rachel at a corner in San Francisco the other evening and my phone died mid-conversation just as she was telling me how far away she was and how soon she would get there. This was in Hayes Valley, which is a pretty affluent and low-crime area.

I needed to call Rachel to confirm where she was to see if she needed a ride, so I asked the first person I saw walking on my side of the sidewalk if I could borrow a phone for 30 seconds because I was meeting someone and my phone had died mid-call. He looked to be in about his late 20s, was moderately chubby, dressed somewhat hipsterish, and had a Blackberry in his hand which he had clearly just finished using.

Our friend looked at me for a second and kind of threw back his head and said in what to me was an extremely whiny voice, "MAN.....are you serious?" Basically he implied that I had just asked for a piece of his liver, or definitely one of his kidneys.

Let me preface this by saying that I have let somebody on the street borrow my phone probably a dozen times. I normally have plenty of minutes, but even if I didn't, I consider it a matter of common courtesy to help somebody out when it costs me very little.

So anyway, taken aback because I thought I had made an imminently reasonable request, I simply said, "Well, yeah, but I guess you really don't have to if you don't want to."

He looked at me again, all huffy-puffy, an extremely put-out expression on his face, dropped the phone in his pocket, and said, "No, sorry. I really have to be someplace." Mind you, I was walking in the same direction as him, had my dead phone in my hand, and looked respectable because I had just come from work.

I was walking side-by-side with him for a while and he wouldn't even look in my direction to see the stunned look on my face. After a few seconds, I stopped and said, "Well, thanks. Thanks a lot, buddy. you really helped me out."

He acted like I hadn't said anything and didn't even flinch, so I yelled, "You know what? That was really shitty." Again no response, which served the dual purpose of pissing me off more and assuring me this guy was a giant pussy, so I added a final. "Yeah, that's right! Don't turn around! Thanks a lot for helping your fellow man! Dick!!"

I think it would have been pretty funny if he did turn around and try to fight me because that would have been an epic throwdown, the Ali-Frasier of chubby sissy-hipster slap fights, the pillow fight of the week as it were. But he didn't, so I guess I came out on top (if "coming out on top" means I had a crappy, dead cell phone in my hand and had just lowered myself to name-calling and half-threatening a weakling who was probably scared of my patchy beard and proto-mullet.

At this point, the interaction is merely an amusing anecdote and not really worthy of a blog post, but the next guy I asked who actually did let me borrow his iPhone told me one of the only reasons he let me borrow his phone was that he turned down the last guy who asked him to borrow his phone and the guy straight-up punched him in the face. Granted, he also said the reason he said refused the previous guy was because the guy had come off like an, in his words, asshole* when he asked to borrow it, but it still got me thinking.

What the hell is the big deal with lending someone a phone? Isn't that the most basic of common courtesies? Am I reaching when I say this is further proof that civility in this society is all but completed evaporated?

As usual, I will overreact and use this completely isolated incident to generalize about a whole group of people . What I'm going to take away from this is that the Me Generation has pretty much run amok in San Francisco, turning a charming destination for outlaws and immigrants into a yuppie wasteland.

Yep, I'm convinced. This would never happen in Oakland.


*Which was proof he didn't witness my altercation with the chubby hipster.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A few messages regarding The Riot That Wasn't

Holy shit. "The Riot" was as badly over-hyped as "The Decision."

1. To the protesters: Excellent job. You managed to keep your cool when the media, outside residents, and those who seek violent confrontation did everything in their power to turn the situation as ugly as possible.

2. To the police: Excellent job, which is something I never thought I would say. You said all the right things going into the day and you followed through on your promises. You allowed the passionate residents to say their piece and express their First Amendment rights. When things started to turn ugly when a bunch of the same shit-starters came in from out of town, you immediately responded and kept the city safe without escalating it.

3. To the media and especially KRON: God, you fucking suck. What ended up being less violent and disorderly than a sports championship celebration has been turned by you into the second coming of Rodney King.

You wanted there to be a riot so bad before the day even started. You kept adding fuel to the fire with your questions throughout the day. You started reporting there was a riot even when there wasn't one.

The one exception I saw was Yobie Benjamin, blogger for The Chronicle. He kept his cool and managed to keep everything in perspective. You can read his live blog from last night here.

Epilogue: Yes, there was violence and arrests but try to look at the good side. The cops exercised maximum restraint and 99% of the actual protesters were peaceful. There were maybe a dozen crazies in a group of 1,500 or so. Most arrested did so within principles of passive resistance - quiet yet defiant. Damage was minimal considering what could have been. I sympathize with the victims of vandalism.

If one asks me what I think? The protest was largely peaceful and was a legitimate exercise of the First Amendment. The cops performed very well under very difficult circumstances and the Oakland community was commendable.

No, it was not perfect but it is a picture of America today... divided and imperfect but still able to rise to tomorrow's challenges.

4. To the anarchists or trouble-makers or whoever come in from out of town to try to escalate this situation: Fuck you and your whole ethos. There are people trying to live down here. We're not your pawns in your little suburban angst game. You may want the world to look like a Cormac McCarthy novel but we don't.

5. To the residents and workers of Oakland who freaked the fuck out and started fleeing the city and preparing for World War III: You are stupid, fear mongers and thinly veiled racists. I know you think any time minorities gather en masse that violence, mayhem and white lynching are a foregone conclusion, but your thoughts and actions just contributed to an atmosphere of panic.

As someone far more eloquent than I wrote on twitter:

the dehumanization of oakland's citizens that assumes they will riot is the same dehumanization that leads cops to shoot them in the back.

6. To anyone--including a friend of mine--who endorsed or called for rioting, especially those who don't live in Oakland: What the hell is wrong with you? There are people living and working here. Why would you ever endorse or wish for our city and residents to be harmed?

7. To the family of Oscar Grant: You got jobbed. Should have been 2nd Degree Murder.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The World Cup stole my ability to blog

But since I'm in a feisty mood and there's a certain NBA star who needs to be called out, here are some rants and raves about tonight's impending disaster (replete with lots of dirty words). My apologies to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports* for "borrowing" some of his insights.

A. Lebron really has dropped in my book. For him, this period of free agency has been his defining moment. He, and I think more so than the media, has been playing up the hype leading up to this summer for years. Nobody in the media forced him to don New York hats and make little hints and innuendos. Nobody forced him to have an hour special. Kobe definitely could have handled this situation the same way as Lebron, but he chose to quietly renegotiate a monster deal and go ahead and win a title. I never, ever in a million years thought I would say this, but at this moment, I would actually say I prefer Kobe, who has traditionally been one of my most hated basketball players, to Lebron.

B. Just because Lebron isn't in front of the cameras discussing free agency doesn't mean his publicity team and agent and entourage aren't doing stuff behind the scenes to encourage this feeding frenzy. You can't throw chum in the water and then be surprised when the sharks show up. How many times does it have to be said that none of the other monster free agents refer to themselves as the King and do specials? Lebron controls his camp. Period. You'd have to be crazy to think he hasn't had a hand in this. Getting others to do your bidding while you look innocent is what having power is all about.

Anyway, taking Lebron's silence under the best of circumstances, here are some things he has done that are still shitty.

1. Agreeing to this ridiculous hour-long special. No other star is doing this. As Stan Van Gundy said, it takes 15 seconds to say where you're going, not a produced special.

2. If he does sign with the Cavs, he could have done so long ago and spared us all this agonizing orgy of idiocy. If he doesn't resign, he's having this ridiculous espn love fest to rub it in the face of the city who loves him.

3. He had his camp leak the news of Wade and Bosh to the media, so today would be all about him.

4. Referred on his OWN Web site to this ridiculous TV program as "The Decision." Unless I missed something and he's the reincarnation of Harry fucking Truman about to incinerate a couple major cities, I think he's overestimating and over-hyping this moment.

Trying to hide his ego under a cloak of charity is despicable and insulting to our collective intelligence. The guy is a hundred-millionaire. He could donate the same amount directly to the Boys and Girls Clubs whenever he wanted and not even notice it missing from his enormous pile of gold bars. He could have held a press conference, donated the money ... See Moreand told the Worldwide Leader to go fuck themselves. His personal appearance money is pennies compared to the ad revenue espn will generate and I haven't heard espn say they're giving the money to charity. Instead, he would rather have his ego erotically stroked for 60 minutes by the suits at the MTV of Sports. In an era where it's always about the money even when it's not about the money, this is either about the money or about the ego. Take your pick.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thought on Lew Perkins and the KU ticket scandal

1. I'm always really, really pissed off when tickets are distributed straight to scalpers*. It completely undermines the system because the whole idea of printing tickets with a value on them is to set their price. All tickets should be sold directly to the fans at face value, with a limited number being set aside some for players' families and other big friends of the department. Zero should be distributed to known scalpers. The athletic department's job is to make money but also to put fans in the seats and give them a good experience. Giving them to the Pump Brothers or anyone else who resells them is ripping off your fans. Period.

2. As for Lew's culpability, an AD should have some idea of where the tickets are going if he's making true fans pay out the ass for them in the form of donations. Maybe not Lew, but somebody Lew employs, should know who's sitting in the best seats and if he doesn't know who they are, he should know how they got their tickets. Maybe that was Rodney Jones, which would be the ultimate betrayal, but as somebody said previously. If big donors, or even medium donors, aren't getting good seats, that is something that should be looked into. I don't know if Lew should get fired for this because it's a decision outside my level of knowledge and expertise, but I think he should be giving the exact same length of rope as other employees fired by him.

3. The exercise equipment is probably not a big deal and he has already paid fair rental value, but I also think anyone who deals with NCAA compliance and ethical rules would absolutely know it's wrong to accept a gift like that. How can he negotiate the morass of ridiculous NCAA regulations and think it's totally fine to accept a high value gift for free?

4. I think one of the major problems we have here is that the Athletic Director has too many responsibilities. They're managing the athletics side which deals with hiring/firing coaches, addressing issues with players like fights and grades, NCAA compliance and making other decisions that affect players and fans. Then there are the business decisions like raising revenue and building new facilities. I honestly think they could be two different jobs just like with professional sports where you have both a general manager and a president of operations or whatever they call it. Maybe they already do divide the labor, and if they do, it should be more apparent to the fans and media who's in charge of what so we know whose head to call for (if
one needs calling for).

*This is especially true with TicketMaster and tickets for concerts. I know a person in the ticket industry who has kenfirmed to me that tickets that never go on sale to the public and are set aside for the secondary market aka scalpers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Food Democracy Now

Tell the DOJ to stand up for farmers today. End the fear and intimidation in rural America!

Dear Kendall,

Today family farmers face some of their toughest times since the Great Depression. In the last 48 hours we drove more than 900 miles across the country to be here in Normal, Alabama because we believe it's important to stand up for farmers in the face of unfair contracts and corporate abuse.

Right now, the Department of Justice and USDA are holding their second listening session on anti-competition issues in the food industry. Today Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder are listening to farmers talk about the abuses in the poultry industry that are forcing family farmers deeply into debt and out of business.

Unfortunately, because of how the poultry industry works, there’s a lot that they won’t hear. Despite widespread reports of price manipulation and corporate intimidation, the Department of Justice has had a hard time finding any poultry farmers willing to testify publicly about these abuses.

In the past few days we’ve heard directly from chicken growers who were warned by the company that they contract with that if they even show up at this hearing they will face retaliation, possibly losing their contracts. There’s no place in America for these types of threats to our nation’s farmers.

Click here to stand up for family farmers across the country who bear the brunt of agribusiness’s corporate abuses in the Heartland. Tell Attorney General Holder and Secretary Vilsack it’s time to put an end to this type of corruption.

Farmers are afraid to come forward because they know if they do they face the possibility of losing their jobs, their houses and their farms. This happens all the time in rural America. Last year America got a taste of what the chicken industry is all about when poultry grower Carole Morison, who starred in Food Inc., spoke out against the industry. After 23 years her company cut her contract! And the only way she could hold onto her farm was because both she and her husband had two off-farm jobs.

For decades, poultry growers have complained about the unfair contracts, price manipulation and loss of income due to corporate intimidation. Without competition, family farmers have no choice but to submit to company demands, however unreasonable.

Farmers no longer own the chickens, but raise them on contract, regularly going into debt more than $1 million to build highly specialized buildings, with only one or two companies to sell to under contract in their area. As a result, farmers have no competitive markets to sell to and companies like Tyson and Perdue dictate the terms of the contract, including costly modifications to their structures. Oftentimes these are demands that farmers are simply unable to sustain.

In these “take it or leave it” contracts, farmers live in constant fear of having their contracts canceled if they fail to comply with the demands of companies such as Tyson.

Now, as the Department of Justice is finally ready to investigate this deplorable situation, the Big Chicken companies have put the word out that they will retaliate if any grower testifies. On the way down to Alabama we spoke with one grower who actually said that farmers are afraid to even show up at the public hearing, lest they become “made an example of”.

This type of fear and intimidation has no place in America.

Here at Food Democracy Now! we believe that farmers should not have to live in fear of having their contracts pulled out from under them, forced into continuous debt and should be paid a fair wage for their labor.

Tell the Administration to stand up for family farmers like Carol Morison as they bravely share their stories and fight for justice. It’s time to Fight Big Food!

Thank you for participating in food democracy!

Dave, Lisa and The Food Democracy Now Team

We need to keep the pressure on! Please donate to Food Democracy Now today – whether it’s $5 or $50. We rely on folks like you to keep us going. Thank you!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Full body scanners at KCI

My parents just informed me that full body scanners are now in use at the Kansas City airport. I predictably blew a gasket while they basically implied it was just another small price to pay to fly safer.

I really think they are over-the-top and a pretty sever invasion of privacy. The idea that some TSA fuckwad can look at my girlfriend or mother or sister naked is disturbing, to say the least. I would rather take my chances with metal detectors and than have to think about some random asshole from Raytown making regular deposits into his Spank Bank in the name of national security.

I really think we're not too far off from having to strip down completely naked behind a curtain, check our clothes and those pesky navigation disrupters (cell phones and iPods) with security and put on a TSA-issued robe for the flight. Then again, we'd only be one karate expert terrorist attacking a flight attendant away from having our hands and feet restrained throughout the flight.

I can't wait for the not-too-distant future where I'm paying $1,000 to sit naked and tied up in a cramped space for three hours, and no, I'm not talking about my plans to hang out with Charlie Sheen and Hugh Grant this Saturday night.

At this point, I don't think too many people would even object to the robe scenario. Anything for safety, right?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Learning to accept consequences

I just wanted to give everyone an update on the current state of my digestive track, as I went out for Szechuan hot pot for the first time last night. But first allow me to set the scene for you...

Picture me on the edge of a cheap, wooden chair in a small, brightly lit restaurant in Oakland's Chinatown. A few minutes after the waiter has finished asking the standard Are-you-sures, he sets down a junky, old burner with such an old connector to the gas can that it seems like it could explode at any minute. He soon brings out a huge bowl and sets it on the burner. Like a grunt on recon, I probe cautiously at first, picking out familiar pieces of beef, shrimp and mussels from a boiling cauldron of spicy broth. I like what I taste, so I start fumbling with the chopsticks more rapidly as I stop discriminating and start pulling out pig intestines, liver, and other unmentionables.

The heat begins at my lips as the numbing effect of the infamous peppercorns takes hold and doesn't stop until the heat of the chilis have warmed by whole throat and stomach. The sweat begins as beads on my forehead but quickly advances to a full-on flop sweat. My hair is naturally thin so as the sweat bonds my hairs together, you can clearly see my pink scalp. The spiciness is becoming hard to handle and I'm breathing so heavily that I'm almost grunting. The occasionally moan of pleasure dueling with pain emits from a deep-down place in my body I can't even control.

With each bite, my shirt is getting flecked with stains of red chili oil as the toxic substance drips through my beard and down my chin. My mouth is so numb from the peppercorns that I basically have a speech impediment, but I'm wide-eyed and rambling nonstop at Rachel because the pain has released so many endorphins that I'm practically delirious. She is saying almost nothing because she is starving and didn't really want to go this restaurant anyway and the food is too incendiary for her to eat. She tries in vain to mask her contempt for me, but who can blame her?

Eventually my belly is so full that I can eat no more and waive the white flag. The table and napkins are ruined. The aftermath must look like some deranged savage cut the throat of his own horse and scooped out the entrails with his bare hands. The restaurant is cash only, so I borrow some money from Rachel, throw down the cash on the table, and stumble out into the night, still drunk on heat.

Flash forward to today: My stomach is bubbling and gurgling like a volcano getting ready to erupt. I sit in my cubicle like a prisoner on death row who has exhausted his appeals, resigned to my fate and waiting for my inevitable date with destiny in what I hope will be my sanctuary: the least frequented restroom in the office.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Mexicans seem to care for this holiday about as much as Jews care for Hanukkah, but I thought I'd say a few words in honor of this pseudo-holiday.

1. I love our neighbors South of the Border. I have said numerous times that they will come to be as beloved to Americans as the Irish, but with better food.

2. Is the Arizona immigration racist and evil as written? I haven't read it and I doubt many have, but I would imagine a law like that would depend on how it's enforced. If brown people are getting pulled over for no reason and asked for their visas, then yes, it's a bad law. But what if it becomes clear from talking to a person in another circumstance that his immigration status is rather dubious?

- Beldar, you still haven't given me your social security number.
- My social security number... I--....I am sorry. I keep forgetting.
- I need that number. I got state payroll forms. You do have a number?
- Of course. I am a citizen.
- All right. Give me the numbers.
X... point...3...

In that case, it would be pretty clear that the person in question is an illegal alien. Believe it or not, you can sometimes figure out that someone has immigrated illegally without pulling them over for no reason other than to check their papers. I would imagine it sometimes just comes up in other contexts.

If the Arizona law is then directing law enforcement officials not to ignore the immigration status, is that a bad thing? Aren't the lawmakers just wanting the existing law to be enforced, sort of like how doctors are required by law to report parents to Social Services if there's evidence of child abuse? I personally don't really care for mandatory reporting because I think it takes away discretion and common sense, but that doesn't mean it's an evil or bad law.

Again, this very well might be a terrible law and I think immigrants (legal or illegal) from the South make this country a better place*. Just about every single immigrant I've ever met, I have wanted him or her living in this country a hell of a lot more than the average white trash American citizen I see yelling at and spanking his kid at theme marks or holding up grammatically incorrect signs at Tea Parties calling Obama a Nazi.

I think the most glaring failing of the law, from what I know, is that there is no exception for victims or witnesses of crimes. If this law discourages immigrants from coming forward in these situations, it should be obliterated from the books now and without question (or amended). But right now, I'm just wondering if the national reaction to Arizona's frustration over immigration policy is a little knee jerk at this point.

*Do illegal immigrants make this country a better place? Probably. Do they deserve to not be deported....probably not.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Genetically modified crops are creating new super weeds that are resistant to herbicides.

And in other news....

Our overreaction to skin cancer that led to a total aversion of the sun has led to Vitamin D deficiencies and a surprising return of rickets. Prepare to be surprised again when a sudden uptick in Vitamin D over-consumption leads to some equally worse problem.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Senators oppose Know Your Farmer Program

Pat Roberts, from my home state of Kansas, believes that small farmers are rich hobbyists and not worthy of our support. He would rather we continue to give billions to the large conventional corporations that are making us fatter by the minute.

I wrote Senator Roberts to tell him how much his letter upset me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Democrats fail at setting the agenda again

I read this great editorial in the New York Times by David Brooks about the Big Government War waging right now in which he said one of the biggest failings of the Democratic Party is that they're more concerned with winning arguments than deciding what they arguments will be. Or maybe more that the Democrats don't understand what the public perception will be of their agenda. For instance, the debate about health care was not really about health care itself but more about big government v. small government. We all have seen how well that worked out for them.

So my question is this: If the Democrats had sought to reform the food system, which I believe would have helped treat one of the real causes of the health care crisis, would we still be having the Big Government debate? Food reform probably would have required a reworking of the Farm Bill, which amounts to billions of dollars in spending by the Federal Government. In that case, Democrats would actually be taking on misguided government spending rather than increasing it. I'm guessing we would have heard from Palinites that elitist Democrats were declaring war on farmers, but would the Democratic party be in the free fall it is in now if they had picked a different agenda?

Bonus question: Would the backlash have been better or worse if Obama had tried to reduce government spending by scaling back the military and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Looks like "organic" might be the next dirty word

Is "organic" now a politically charged term? Will it be as repellent to left-leaning politicians as the word "liberal"?

This Washington Post story on the White House garden has me convinced. Michelle Obama and White House aides have said they use only natural fertilizers and pesticides in the garden but that the garden was not organic. Hmmm.... I thought that was what organic meant.

The story goes on to say that the White House would not disclose what made the garden not organic. That makes me think it is organic, but they just don't want to call it that because it would associate themselves with people who care about what they eat, liberals, intellectuals, and other undesirables the radical right Palinites have labeled as "elitist" and "snobbish."

I understand that the term might mean very little to we consumers who are looking for the best, freshest products, but why would you not want to say your garden is organic if it is organic? And if it isn't organic and you use some commerical fertilizer or something, why wouldn't you just come out and say what it is?

Friday, April 23, 2010

New hipster slur

The results of the Gawker poll are in and "fauxhemian" is your new hipster slur.

That my favorite, "ironoclast," didn't even make the final vote is all the proof I need to know that the majority of the voters were, in fact, hipsters themselves.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Having children

So I was recently around one of Rachel's co-workers who was talking about how she was debating whether to sign her daughter up for a soccer league. Her daughter was already involved in ballet and swimming and some other activity, so she was concerned that it might be too much.*

As you can imagine, this conversation wasn't really my cup of tea. Of course my input wasn't requested but anyone who knows me knows that won't stop me from butting into a conversation I know nothing about. The only thing I could think of was to ask whether kids just ride around their bikes after school any more.

"Oh no," she almost whispered. "You just can't do that anymore."

"Of course," I said, not picking up on the non-joke, "just think of what could happen."

Completely, dead-seriously she said, "I mean, these days you have to worry about getting abducted."

I quickly changed the topic, or allowed the topic to change, I don't remember which, because I knew I was about five seconds away from either having or inducing a nuclear meltdown**.

First of all, I grew up in the Golden Age of Serial Killers. Gasey, Dahmer, and Bundy all had their heydays in the late 1980s and early 1990s. All of those boxy white vans made for abducting people came out around the same time . It seemed like every single day there was a news story about a child murder.

Yet my friends and I were out every afternoon totally unsupervised. I had to tell my mom where I was, but that consisted of telling her I was going to play soccer or football or just out riding my bike and playing in the creek. There was no adults around and nobody seemed to care.

We were told over and over to not talk to or accept rides from strangers. Somehow it worked. Not one of my friends, or friends of friends or friend of friends of friends was ever abducted. Now I'm sure a few of them were molested, but that was probably by a family member or priest or otherwise trusted adult.

The point is that children get abducted or molested regardless of whether we want them to or how much we shelter them. Even children who are kept in their homes can be stolen directly from the home. Remember Polly Klaas?

Did Polly Klaas get abducted because she wasn't sheltered enough or because she rode her bike after school? No. Polly Klaas was murdered because bad shit happens and you can't do much about it more than you can prevent a car accident.

You can teach your children to avoid strangers and be smart, just as you can teach them to look both ways before they cross the street. But if we're teaching them to be so scared of the world that they can't leave their own backyards, then we shouldn't be surprised when they turn out to be helpless, corpulent, and otherwise as useful as tits on a bull.

What a depressing worldview to have when you won't even let your children go outside. I wouldn't even bring a child into this world if I thought letting him outside would just lead to child murder. Now if there's an active serial killer operating in your town, it might be a good idea to keep little Timmy locked up until they find the guy or the abductions slow down. But to just assume there's one in every neighborhood is pretty twisted.

To paraphrase the great Gus McCrae, Life is short. Shorter for some than others. But it's not how you die that's important. It's how you live.

*Great conversation by the way. Meanwhile, I was talking to her gay co-worker about going to concerts and eating good food. If that's not an argument for waiting to have kids or to have none at all, I don't know what is.

**Just remembered this isn't entirely true. I pointed out this recent incest/murder case and suggested that maybe if kids were out riding their bicycles more, they would at least be safe from getting molested by their fathers.

Friday, April 16, 2010

In Germany, it's a crime to be an asshole.

To me, making it a crime to deny the Holocaust is giving way too much credence to idiocy. Why make a martyr of a scumbag like British Bishop Richard Williamson? As the famous First Amendment absolutist saying goes, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." In America, some of our strongest First Amendment protections have come at the expense of defending the Ku Klux Klan and Larry Flynt.

The real question is why the Catholic Church hasn't told this guy to shut his trap or defrocked his ass. With all their PR troubles, I'm surprised they're letting a creep run around making about the most inflammatory statements you can make.

In other news, free speech is also under attack in Bishop Williamson's home country. Yes, those rascally Brits are at it again. This time they're threatening to use censorship and surveillance in the form of the Digital Economy Act.

In case you didn't know, this Parliamentary act will regulate copyright law and give economic protections to those who need it most: huge corporations, of course. And if you believe their press releases, the mega media conglomerates are living hand-to-mouth these days because of piracy. So if we don't do something to help them--namely, set up a police state to monitor the Internet--our whole society will crumble. In fact, they're suffering so badly, they poured millions of dollars into lobbying for Britain's Digital Patriot Act.

According to this article, we can look forward to future extreme and Draconian measures here in the good ol' U. S. of A.

In the US, the MPAA and RIAA (American equivalents of the MPA and the BPI) just submitted comments to the American Intellectual Property Czar, Victoria Espinel, laying out their proposal for IP enforcement. They want us all to install spyware on our computers that deletes material that it identifies as infringing. They want our networks censored by national firewalls (U2's Bono also called for this in a New York Times editorial, averring that if the Chinese could control dissident information with censorware, our own governments could deploy similar technology to keep infringement at bay). They want border-searches of laptops, personal media players and thumb-drives.

They want poor countries bullied into diverting GDP from humanitarian causes to enforcing copyright. And they want their domestic copyright enforcement handled, free of charge, by the Department of Homeland Security.

Elements of this agenda are also on display (or rather, in hiding) in the secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a treaty being drafted between a member's club of rich nations. They've turned their back on the United Nations to negotiate in private, without having to contend with journalists or public interest groups. By their own admission, they intend to impose this treaty on poor countries as a condition of ongoing trade, and in the US, the Obama administration has announced its intention to pass ACTA without Congressional debate.

Look forward to lots of hot rhetoric comparing media consumers to people who steal cocaine (see the comments of the article if you don't believe me). Because, you know, only a criminal would think the Fourth Amendment is a good idea.

We'll see what happens, but if that IP Czar tries to tell us that unless we have something to hide, we all have to install spyware for copyright protection, then I'm going to feel kinda bad for calling all those Tea Partiers paranoid lunatics.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tell me why non-endangered whales shouldn't be harvested.

I saw an online Greenpeace petition that wanted me to tell Obama to oppose any relaxation on a ban of commercial whaling and it got me thinking.

I don't know much about the international ban on whaling but I've always heard it was because whales were hunted to the point of extinction. Overfishing of whales was one of those short-sighted practices of centuries past before the idea of environmental stewardship had really taken hold. Without getting into the history of whaling, which has been happening for millennia, and the specific numbers of whale populations, if you assume for a minute that whale populations have rebounded enough to safely allow some limited harvesting, would you have a problem with it?

I think a lot of people would say "No whaling under any circumstances." If that's your stance, I want to know why. Aside from being a mammal, what makes a whale different from a sardine or a tuna?

If you're vegetarian or vegan and don't think we should be eating animals at all, that's fine. I disagree, but that's fine. I'm not really concerned with you, though. I want to know what would make a omnivore be opposed to whaling.

I would imagine you could make the sentience argument for cetaceans, but that's getting dangerously close to speciesism. I just don't think we know enough about animals to assume that a whale or dolphin has sentience but that a pig or chicken or cow or oyster does not.

I have to admit that there's something troubling about eating and killing animals that I have paid just to try to get a glimpse of and that might be more intelligent than we are, but my brain tells me I shouldn't let my emotions get in the way of an ethical decision. Do we really want our dietary decisions made for us based on someone deciding that an animal is sufficiently intelligent.

I also probably wouldn't make whale or dolphin a regular part of my diet based on mercury consumption alone, but I'm having trouble finding any reason that limited whaling should be banned if the population numbers have truly rebounded. Tell me why I'm wrong.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

You don't eat meat but you do eat fish?!

With rising mercury levels, species like blue fin tuna disappearing, and the horrendous impact of farmed fish, how can anyone look at me with a straight face and tell me they don't eat meat but then concede that they do eat fish?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Which team would you rather be based upon the past 12 years?

Team 1:

1 National Title
Made tournament every year (Average seed: 4.8)
Overall record: 309-109 (73.9 winning percentage)
5 Double-digit loss seasons
5 Conference Titles
Taking out worst season (7th place), finished as low as 6th in conference
5 Players on current NBA rosters
Less time spent as #1 overall ranked team in nation

Team 2:

1 National Title
Made Tournament Every Year (Average Seed: 3.2)
Overall Record of 338-82 (80.5 winning percentage)
2 Double-digit loss seasons
8 Conference Titles
Taking out worst season (5th place), finished as low as 2nd in conference
9 players on current NBA rosters
More time spent as #1 overall ranked team in nation

OK, now what if I told you that Team #1 went to the Final Four 6 times the past 12 years and Team #2 went 3 times? Would that change your opinion? I guess it depends on how much you buy into conventional wisdom.

If it isn't obvious by now, Team #1 is Michigan State and Team #2 is Kansas.

Tom Izzo clearly has a better tournament record in terms of wins and losses than Bill Self/Roy Williams, but his success has produced the same number of titles, though he has a chance this weekend to add another.

Over the course of the next week, you will a constant refrain: 6 Final Fours in 12 years is an astounding feat and Tom Izzo is the greatest coach in the game. Both of which are arguably true but both need to be qualified.

Six Final Fours is an astounding feat considering how hard it is to string together wins in the tournament while avoiding bad games and bad luck. And Tom Izzo is great at winning a point*. The question is what value do Final Fours really have. Fans enjoy the experience, potential recruits will see the game on TV, and the universities get to pat themselves on the back and add another few stitches to the Final Four banner. For some schools like George Mason, it might be the greatest athletic accomplishment that the school ever achieves.

But if you went to a Final Four, did you really win anything? Michigan State has also had to endure four (and a possible 5th) crushing defeat. Yes, they can look back at their seasons and be proud for a season well played, but why couldn't a team that lost in the Elite Eight be as proud--or even more proud--if they had an as good or better regular season? Why is the tournament success the only success that matters these days? Why is a Final Four so much better than an Elite 8 or Sweet 16 but reaching the championship game and losing is rarely regarded as much better than reaching the Final Four?

The tournament is important but it's not the end-all, be-all of a season. If Michigan State loses on Saturday or Monday, I will have no problem saying that their season wasn't any more successful than Kansas's, Kentucky's or Syracuse's. Many will say that Final Fours are great for recruiting. If that's true, then I hope Michigan State will use this second consecutive Final Four and sixth in 12 years to recruit some better players than they have in the past.

And, yes, I'm biased and bitter as hell.

*It's sort of like how you heard all year how Syracuse was SOOOO hard to match up to because of their zone. Yes, the zone is good but if it was such a weapon as the media makes it out to be, they never would have lost a game.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Food Democracy Now

Take a stand for organics, tell the USDA to reject Monsanto's GMO alfalfa

Dear Kendall,

Everything you thought you knew about organics is about to change. If the USDA and Monsanto get their way, organic integrity is about to go the way of the dinosaur.

Once again, the organic industry is under assault. This time the USDA is determined to let Monsanto ride roughshod over common sense environmental rules that would protect organic farmers from having their crops contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds.

Tell Secretary Vilsack that Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa cannot be allowed to undermine the organic industry. Comments are due by close of business on Wednesday, March 3rd. So please ACT TODAY:

During the Bush administration, Monsanto illegally won USDA approval for its GMO alfalfa by convincing USDA regulators to bypass a mandatory environmental review.1 In 2007, a court reversed this decision, ordering the USDA to complete the legally required environmental impact statement (EIS).

Shockingly, the Obama Administration’s recent review would approve Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa.

The draft USDA EIS was issued in December 2009 and is poised to allow Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa on the market, despite the fact that the USDA admits that these seeds will contaminate organic feed that organic dairy farmers rely on to produce organic milk.2

According to the CEO of the largest farmer-owned organic dairy coop in the U.S., GMO alfalfa “threatens the very fabric of the organic industry.”3 We can’t allow this to happen.

Despite massive public outcry in the past, the USDA's environmental review went so far as to say that U.S. organic consumers don’t care about GMO contamination.

Tell Secretary Vilsack that you care about organic contamination and that you want him to stand up for the organic industry and organic consumers.

Thanks for all you do,

Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team

Help support our work: If you'd like to see Food Democracy Now!'s grassroots work continue, please consider donating what you can, whether it's $5 or $50. Every bit helps!. We appreciate your support!


1. Farmers Sue USDA Over Modified Alfalfa Crop, The New Standard, March 3, 2006

2. Roundup Ready® Alfalfa Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website

3. USDA stance on GM alfalfa threatens “fabric of organic industry”, The Organic & Non-GMO Report, February, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Go, Kansas City, go!

That's right folks, Kansas City is one of 18 cities to be included on the USA Bid Committee's bid to FIFA to bring the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to American soil! Help us celebrate by continuing to invite your friends and family to sign the online petition

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What people who don't drink or eat meat do on a weekend

I'm adding meatlessness for my fourth annual month of no alcohol. I'm only slightly more irascible than usual, but the weekend was still somehow undepressing, bordering on fun. For those who aren't accustomed to being painfully clear-headed, here are some things you can do with your time:

-Watch "Terminator 2," which is infinitely better than "Avatar."

-Disregard the nosy know-it-all who tells you foraging wild mushrooms in state parks is illegal but then throw them away because they are rotting and of the false variety of chanterelle

-Make mozzarella cheese with whole milk, citric acid, and rennet

-Take advantage of Proposition 215 and read David Sedaris

-Use sourdough starter to make pancakes and pizza crust

-Watch your team lose to a under-matched and depleted Tennessee team

-Infuse liquor to drink when you decide to not be sober anymore

-Liberate some lemons from your neighbor's tree and preserve them

-Get up and walk out of a Bikram Yoga class because you're about to pass out

-Clean out your pipes (not a euphemism)