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Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

…On Picking Fruit.

Posted by Steve on July 19, 2009

Yesterday I picked fruit. There’s a number of pick-your-own-fruit farms in town, and while most of them only have strawberries (for which the season is over) there’s one that has blueberries and blackberries. So, I was able to go there enjoy a fun activity outside for a few hours, participate in the local economy, and best of all, get over seven pounds of farm-fresh berries for a price that would’ve only gotten me two or three pounds of not-as-fresh berries at the store. I’ve been eating handfuls of blackberries since then, and I’ve got some pancake mix, so I’ll probably mix up some of that tonight, toss the fruit in, put it in a bowl, and have black & blueberry pancakes for breakfast this week.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I like getting local produce at stands or farmer’s markets or the like, and a you-pick farm is definitely in that category. It’s often cheaper, it’s often higher quality (at least in terms of flavor and freshness, although it may not be as large due to not having been treated with polyploidy-inducing fertilizers), it’s often fresher… and I tend to think it’s safer. See, by now we’re used to food recalls: alfalfa sprouts and peanut butter, tomatoes, peppers, green onions, spinach – just a few I can name off the top of my head in the past few years. Now, one of the proposed solutions is to split the Food and Drug Administration into a Food Safety Administration and Drug Safety Administration, bringing some of USDA’s food-safety programs into the new Food Safety Administration. That’s contained in the proposed H.R. 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, currently sitting in committee. Incidentally, as of 1:10 PM Eastern on July 18, 2009, there were 36 bills in the U.S. Congress containing the phrase “food safety”, such as the “Keeping America’s Food Safe Act” (H.R. 999 IH), the “SAFER Meat, Poultry, and Food Act of 2009” (H.R. 815, and by the way… aren’t Meat and Poultry both types of Food?), and of course the “Safe FEAST Act of 2009” (H.R. 1332). Apparently safe food is something lots of people in Congress want to sponsor bills about.

Now, I found out about this after someone sent me something on Facebook urging opposition to the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 on account of something about it “banning organic food”. Well, 1) my understanding is that it really doesn’t ban organic food, 2) organic food is priced higher (usually – sometimes there’s weird exceptions) than regular food and the farm lobby would never let something ban growing and selling higher-priced food (some of the price is related to farm expenses, but some of it’s a premium – which means higher pure profit), and 3) partially as a consequence of 2, organic food may well be superior environmentally, nutritionally, and flavorly, but it really doesn’t do anything to address food distribution and availability. So I can’t say I’m spurred to action by a perceived threat to organic farming.

I do think, though, that the approach being taken in the bill, which seems to be establishment of a centralized food safety monitoring agency to enforce uniform standards (including to imported food) of safe food growing and processing, isn’t necessarily the ideal solution. And part of it’s on account of that “centralized” issue.

Don’t get me wrong – large scale farming and processing makes large-scale food distribution possible. I’m in Virginia; I can get pineapple year round – because it’s grown in Hawaii in the summer and in the Southern Hemisphere during the winter. But, there’s a catch. Processed tomatoes (tomato sauce, ketchup, etc.) are available cheaply throughout the United States… partly because of an economy of scale due to 90% of them being grown in California. And that centralized growing and processing scheme means that widespread distribution of food-borne illness is possible. Hepatitis or E. coli O157:H7 infects a massive farm or processing plant that ships nationwide, and hooray, the disease has now been shipped nationwide. Whereas with local farming… if that farm I picked berries at yesterday had contaminated fruit, I’ll get sick, other locals will get sick, but nobody outside of the immediate area is at risk. And I wonder if dispersion of food production and processing might not be better for safety than centralization, even if it means less monitoring. Sure, it might mean more infections more often – but the infections would never be of epidemic scale.

Not sure, really – agriculture and food safety are hardly my areas of expertise, or really areas of interest. But it’s food for thought, I guess.

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

…On the Redemption of Congress.

Posted by Steve on September 29, 2008

Thanks to the House of Representatives, I forgive the United States Congress for the Senate’s willingness to make a horrible decision. Although, I’m still angry about Division A, Section 129 of Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009. Only 12 Senators voted against that legislation (though 8, including Obama and McCain, didn’t vote and 1, Burr, voted “Present” ): 11 Republicans and 1 Democrat – Russ Feingold, the best of them. He’s got some flaws in his positions, primarily that he could stand to be a little stronger on support for private weapons ownership and his stance on capitol and corporal punishment is as wrong as it’s possible to be, but on a great many more issues his stance is far and away the rightest of anyone in the Senate. Had he run for president, I would have voted for him in the primary. Assuming, of course, he hadn’t dropped out by the time my state got to vote – and that’s something that really irks me, candidates dropping out before all the primaries have happened. Either impose a “no dropping out” rule on the candidates or have all the primaries and caucuses on the same day, I say.

Posted in From the News, Here be Politics! | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

On an All-Bad Decision by Congress

Posted by Steve on September 28, 2008

The “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008” appears likely to pass, and that is a very, very, bad thing. The people of America are being put close to $700 billion further in debt in order to bail out elements of the financial sector that should instead have been hung out to die. Mark my words: there is nothing good about any bailout, including this one. “If you fuck up, you die,” is supposed to be the one iron-clad rule of life: that there is never a second chance, that there is never a margin for error, and if you can’t live your life flawlessly you suffer because any and every mistake you make can mean your ruin. Apparently, that’s not the case if you’re part of Wall Street. Thing is too, there’s no benefit from this. Catastrophic collapse of the financial sector (which isn’t happening – regional banks and financial institutions, which made sound lending decisions, are going gangbusters) is a good thing. The markets are friction loss in the engine of the economy: they drain a resource (money) without doing any productive work. Look at commodities markets: you’ve got oil well people and oil refinery people involved, who have a tie to the procurement, distribution, and use of the oil and thus a legitimate reason for being involved, and then you’ve got commodities investors who have no tie to the procurement, distribution, and use of oil, and thus no legitimate reason for being involved in the market. But they are, anyway, investing in oil futures. They’re nothing but middle-men, driving up the price without producing value. Cut them out of the process and they’re ruined, yes, but things improve for everyone else.

Hell, the touted “limits on executive compensation” don’t actually strip away golden parachutes or institute a salary cap on executives. They’re a sham, a facade of meaningful legislation. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

There is nothing good about this legislation. It is all costs and no benefits, and it is likely going to pass.

Posted in Economic Activities, From the News, Here be Politics! | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

…On Being Asked for Support

Posted by Steve on July 24, 2008

This may be something peculiar about me (though I hope not, as it’s a good way to be and thus should be common), but when someone asks me to support something, I like them to answer some questions for me:

  1. What, specifically, do you want me to support?
  2. How, exactly, do you want me to support it?
  3. And this deserves supporting why?

Just recently was I led to the website of these people. Now, I’ve clicked every link on their website, and read everything there, but I couldn’t find answers to something it seems fairly obvious to ask about: what is their proposed text for this “National Service Act of 2009” they intend to see passed, as stated in their “Strategy” and “Timeline” tabs? It seems odd that they ask for support and don’t specify this. It seems extremely peculiar that they don’t provide their proposed legislation’s text especially since they have that big notice on their front page about how they don’t support mandatory programs. After all, the text of the “Universal National Service Act of 2007” that Representative Rangel proposed very clearly was setting up a mandatory program, and you’d think they’d want to make the distinction between that proposal and their own as clear as possible – which would entail spelling out the differences. A lot harder to not distinguish things properly when their differences aren’t detailed. Not to mention, a lot harder to succeed in deliberately misrepresenting someone’s ideas when they’ve clearly stated those ideas in explicit detail.

Furthermore, you’d think they’d want to do as much as possible to clarify how their affiliation to these folks doesn’t include agreement with whichever one’s responsible for including vested enfranchisement in their “Lexicon of Service” glossary and “Choose Your Own National Service Act” poll. I mean, “do this if you want to be allowed to vote” doesn’t meet any definition of “voluntary” that I’ve ever heard of. For that matter, “You’ve been drafted into the military, like it or not, but if you don’t like it, we’ll make you do civilian work instead” also doesn’t leave that civilian labor meeting any definition worthy of the word “voluntary”.

Also, opprobrium unto to who wrote the poll on the second site, as it’s heavily laden with leading questions. The first site just has an abysmally short “poll”.

Oh, another thing: Rangel’s bill there? Way too much delegation of decision-making to the executive branch. The executive is there to do just that: execute. As in, “implement policies determined by others, carry out instructions given by others, and implement the will of others.” Not form policies with legal force or promulgate regulations for the citizenry-at-large. President of the U.S. shouldn’t be a policy-making office, it should just be the world’s most glorified Assistant Manager job. To allude to sci-fi I don’t like, you know how on Star Trek Patrick Stewart always said “Make it so” to people? Yeah, the President isn’t Patrick Stewart. The President’s the guy Patrick Stewart’s telling to make it so.

Posted in English according to me, Here be Politics! | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »