MORE SHORT RANTS ON ALL SUBJECTS

part twenty-one

WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO THE NETWORK NEWS

You can't watch a major newscast without hearing what movie is number one at the box office. You almost never hear anything about agriculture unless it relates to commerce.

IT'S HAPPENED AGAIN

This is the fourth time I've pointed it out, but it keeps happening. Early this month Tyson Foods recalled beef from several states due to e coli contamination. I just saw on the news that there was another school shooting.

You can mark your calenders. Every major food or drug recall is shortly followed by a rampage somewhere in the country.

DAN RATHER COMMENTS ON KATIE COURIC

Rather called into question the perciieved credibility of CBS news, which is now anchored by newsbabe Katie Couric.

The thing is, it's not Dan Rather that undermines Couric's credibility. It's CBS. She joined the staff of Sixty Minutes in order to do hard news, and what does CBS do? They get her an interview with the Secretary of State of the United States of America, and it turns out to be mostly girl talk. It's like a pajama party. If CBS valued the credibility of their new anchor, they wouldn't have put that on the air.

Sixty Minutes did this with the late Ed Bradley as well. They talked and talked about how much they respected him as a journalist. But actions speak louder than words, and when stories were assigned, Ed Bradley got the black stories. CBS typecasts all their journalists. A place for everyone and every one in his place. Moreley Saefer does the offbeat human interest stories. Mike Wallace exposes the crooks. Andy Rooney handles the eccentric material, and they have Katie lookin' cute. CBS is making decisions that make Couric into a lightweight. Rather is just pointing it out.

6/11/07

HILLARY ON CSPAN

Senator Clinton was on C-span talking to a group of medical professionals about universal healthcare.

She said one problem with the status quo is that insurance companies are deciding not to insure patients that stand a high risk of developing expensive medical conditions. She called that "cherry picking," and said that it was wrong, greedy, heartless, etc.

Within thirty seconds she was saying that most of the malpractice claims are made against a small percentage of doctors, and if insurance companies could refuse to insure those doctors, then the price of malpractice would drop and doctors could charge less for their services.

Regarding the right of insurance companies to decide who they will and will not insure, those are opposite positions. She says it's wrong for insurance companies to cherry pick while insuring patients, but she recommends cherry picking when insuring doctors.

Another thing: by refusing to sell malpractice insurance do doctors it doesn't like, an insurance company becomes a de facto medical board, deciding who will and will not practice. I think that's a decision better left to medical professionals, not accountants and actuaries.

RTJ--6/16/2007

PAUL GREENBERG, TOMATO DUDE

In today's column, Pulitzer Prize winning ArDemGaz editor Paul Greenberg waxes poetic on the subject of tomatoes. Here's a quote:

"One day I'd like to work my way through all the great tomato varieties one thin slice at a time. There'd be only the occasional salty cracker on hand to cleanse the palate between the Big Rainbow, White Wonder, Red Plum, Evergreen, Carmello, Golden Jubilee, Ultra Pink, Ultra Boy, Red Gold Stripe, Early Cascade, Red Peach...."

I Googled that list of tomato varieties and found only one page containing all of them. Here's the URL: http://www.gmushrooms.com/Posters/Tomatoes.htm. There's no one seed company I know of where you can buy all of those varieties. I personally get a catalogue from a company called "Totally Tomatoes" which sells somewhere near a hundred varieties. They only carry a couple from Mr. G's list. The well-known seed companies, Burpee, Parks, Territorial, also might have one or two of these. Also, Mr. G. did not name a tomato that was not on the poster.

Try this URL: http://www.heirloomtomatoes.bizland.com/varieties.htm. They say they sell 400 varieties, but I only found one or two of Mr. G's varieties in their catalog.

Dude's busted. Mr. G's list of tomatoes came off this poster. Of the hundreds of possible varieties, Mr. G and the makers of this poster chose the same ones. I guess he took this poster to be, in his words, "all the great tomato varieties." What this poster shows is a miscellaneous selection of heirloom tomato varieties, not the world's great tomatoes. There's not even a Brandywine or Arkansas Traveler on the poster. There's no Marmande, no Black Krim.

There's nothing strictly speaking wrong with what he did there; but there's something that just rubs me the wrong way. If he had said, "I've got a poster of tomatoes hanging in my breakfast nook... Big Rainbow, White Wonder, Red Plum, Evergreen, Carmello, Golden Jubilee, Ultra Pink, Ultra Boy, Red Gold Stripe, Early Cascade, Red Peach. Some day I'd like to line them up and give them a try." That wouldn't have bothered me at all. In his column he was espousing the virtues of noncommercial varieties of tomatoes, and the sum total of his research on such varieties is to take a list of names from this poster that you can see down at Fazolis.

This is the paragraph that shows us how much work you did on your paragraphs, and the inference is that you didn't do much. If you write a column telling the Arkies about sushi, you can drag and drop something you find on the web and we won't know the difference. However, if you are going to tell the Arkies about tomatoes, you can't be lazy like this. This paragraph damages your garden cred in the rest of your column.

RTJ -- 6/24/07

THE CAR BOMB ATTACKS IN SCOTLAND

I was watching the coverage when I realized that these botched attacks have the same strategic effect as a successful atttack. The intent of these attacks, according to the Maoist strategy these guys have adopted, is to get footage of an airport in flames broadcast worldwide and to get the authorities to adopt restrictive security measures that will prove to be unpopular.

These guys were doctors and medical technicians, sworn to protect life, not to take it. Maybe they botched the attack on purpose. They make their point, they achieve a kind of martyrdom through the legal system, and because they deliberately shot wide they look more sympathetic, not the uneducated, bloodthirsty dead-ender maniacs we're led to expect.

RTJ -- 7/6/07

UNIVERSAL NATIONAL SERVICE

I've been watching the Democrat debates/pep rallies, and I've noticed them all espousing universal national service. I've also heard the idea brought up on National Public Radio. Hillary said she'd like to set up some public service academies modelled on the national military academies. So somebody could go to government school instead of West Point and they could get benefits for doing so, like for instance deferred student loans.

Whenever I see ALL the Blue State candidates AND Natrional Public Radio agreeing on something I have to be suspicious. Down the road, the draft-dodging graduates of the government academies and national service programs are going to try to claim the same benefits as veterans based on the assumption that military service is one of many equivalent kinds of national service.

If Chelsea Clinton spends four years changing linens in a four-star cabin at Yellowstone National Park, she should not get the same benefits as someone who spends four years in the military.

If I'm right, this notion of universal national service is just a tactic for the children of privelege eventually to tap into government benefits intended for veterans. If we extend veterans benefits to aristocrats and draft dodgers, the taxpayer is really going to get pinched.

RTJ -- 7/23/07

THE COINS

Sometimes I see on my search utility reports that somebody has typed in the string "coins." I'm guessing those people have found one of the promotional coins I had minted back in 2001 and 2002. Here's the story on the coins:

In 2001 I decided to get some half-ounce silver coins minted with my web address and web site name. The artwork on one side is the Powhattan Runestone, the Van Buren Mystery Grave is on the obverse. The dies were made by Great Western Mint in Utah, since gone out of business. I had two hundred struck with the intention of leaving them as tips in diners where I often found myself. I thought this would increase traffic on my website, assuming the waitress would show this little treasure to everybody she knew. As far as I know they did not and it did not. Waitresses were not even impressed that I left a half ounce of 0.999 pure silver as a tip for a burger and a bag of chips. They seemed to think I was a cheapskate leaving a bus token as a mean joke. I've still got one, but Arkansas waitresses have most of them.

In 2002 I designed a second coin. On one side the artwork was a picture of Pinnacle Mountain. On the other, a fruiting muscadine vine. Muscadine is a wild grape that grows down here. This time I got two thousand tokens struck in cheaper metals, copper, nickel/silver, bronze and brass. In addition to the four metals I had half the coins made with smooth edges and half with ridged edges, so there are in all eight variations of the 2002 coin. I thought that I could accomplish with volume what I could not with quality. As far as I know this did not work either. Not only that, but about a year later my ISP changed its users area to "users.aristotle.net" and the URL on the coin was no longer my web address. Anybody typing in the old URL from the coin will be redirected to the new URL thanks to Aristotle, but the discrepancy in the URL creates a bad impression.

For some reason, people just didn't seem to get it. This was a metal business card promoting my blog. I dropped one into the tip jar at Teri Lynn's in Little Rock, and while I was eating my garbage dog, I noticed one of the employees picking it up and trying to read the lettering, "Arkansas Roadside Travel Lodge." Great.

Also, the 2002 coins were one-ounce size, like a silver dollar. The Great Western Mint made the larger size dies by mistake and only charged me for the half-dollar size as per our contract. They went out of business shortly thereafter and the dies for the two coins now belong to whoever bought the business.

The dollar size is not convenient. Although it is easier to read, you put two or three in your pocket and you feel encumbered. I couldn't carry enough with me to distribute them as freely as I wanted. I've still got about a coffee mug full of the cheap brass ones, and I've mostly given up handing them out because they did not achieve the desired results. As far as I know, the Travelogue gets about the same traffic today as it did five years ago. As far as I know.

If anybody out there wants a coin or a set of coins or a shoebox full of coins, find out who bought The Great Western Mint. If they still have the dies they'll make as many as you want for the price of the planchettes.

RTJ -- 7/23/07

FARM SUBSIDY SCANDAL

I see on the news that there's a scandal over deceased farmers continuing to recieve subsidy checks for the government. The National Media has suggested that farm subsidies should be phased out because farmers are all rich and this scandal only proves that they are bilking the government.

On ideological grounds I can agree with discontinuing farm subsidies. Subsidies are used by the government as an instrument of centralized planning, deciding what crops get grown by subsidizing some foods and not others. In a free market economy, we don't do that. We let market forces decide.

However, if you just go and yank 40% of every farm's revenue out from under it, you are going to cause unintended consequences which will affect even people who don't usually suffer from the effects of unintended consequences.

The first thing that happens is the price of everything in the supermarket goes up 40%. Bread goes from two bucks to three bucks. A family that spends eight thousand a year in groceries suddenly needs an extra three thousand a year.

Since every worker needs another $3,000 a year to stay alive, every burger flipper and street sweeper is going to need a raise of $1.50 an hour. Every civil servant will need that raise, too, and your taxes will go up to pay for it. Set aside for the moment that to get $3,000 a year, you have to get paid $4,000 a year, so we're actually talking about a $2/hr raise for the whole country just to live the way we're living now.

What about all those ethanol and biodiesal projects that the government has been subsidizing lately? Well, all that cash that they spent in our name gets flushed down the toilet because the cost of raw materials just went up forty percent, and even the government aid already promised will not allow the projects to stay in business.

Who's going to be president when the cost of groceries jumps by 40% overnight?

Understand that we're already paying 40% more than the ticket price for our groceries, it's just that the extra doesn't appear on the tape because we pay it through our taxes. If the government would stop collecting the exact amount of the discontinued subsidies, theoretically everything would even out. But there's no way they're going to do that. They'll cut the subsidies and spend the savings on something else, so the prices at the store will begin to reflect the true cost of production, and that's going to be a shock.

Now that American food costs 40% more, what happens to our foreign markets? American beef gets shipped all over the world, but when the cost of feed goes up, so does the cost of beef. So does the cost of milk. So does the cost of cheese.

So obvously, every business in the country is not going to be able to give everybody on the payroll a cost of living raise. Some businesses are only marginally profitable, and this would sink them. And with the cost of food suddenly up by 40% and the cost of labor to prepare and serve it up by another 20%, what happens to the cost of your restaurant meal? How many restaurants would shut down overnight? How much unemployment is that?

Ideologically, it sounds right. Let the cost to the consumer reflect the cost of production. But I don't think there's a politician in Washington that's gong to tug very hard on this tablecloth unless he wants to leave his successor with a bushel full of headaches.

RTJ -- 7/29/07

MYTH BUSTED

One of my pet observations is that food and drug recalls and health-related product recalls are followed shortly by rampages. In my rants I've pointed out several instances where those two things are associated.

This last eight weeks has been one product recall after another, from lead paint on toys made in China to tainted pet food, also from China, to tainted toothpaste, also from China. Yet no rampage in the news so far.

A quote from Chief Dan George in "Little Big Man:" "Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't."

MICHAEL VICK

If he had killed human fetuses instead of dogs, he wouldn't be going to jail.

RTJ -- 8/25/07

Want to argue about it? Send me mail.


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