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Fast Food America

September 25, 2011 1 comment

Is fast food really cheaper than cooking real food at home? If you do the math, it turns out… not so much.

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

Another argument runs that junk food is cheaper when measured by the calorie, and that this makes fast food essential for the poor because they need cheap calories. But given that half of the people in this country (and a higher percentage of poor people) consume too many calories rather than too few, measuring food’s value by the calorie makes as much sense as measuring a drink’s value by its alcohol content. (Why not drink 95 percent neutral grain spirit, the cheapest way to get drunk?)

So why do we continue to eat so much of it? Mark Bittman argues “The core problem is that cooking is defined as work, and fast food is both a pleasure and a crutch”. I have trouble with that because, well, cooking is work. As someone who enjoys cooking, I can tell you it’s still work. It’s active and it’s time consuming. This is not a knock on cooking, but hey, lets be honest here. Cooking, and the clean up involved, is more of an effort that stopping at the drive through on your way home from work. This is true for all but the simplest of meals.

The important thing is to emphasize the rewards involved. Health is first and foremost. But cooking can also be a creative outlet. If you have a family, then it can be a shared effort to bring people together. And with just a little bit of practice, the food you can make at home can taste light years ahead of what you get from your local take out joint.

Fast food shouldn’t be illegal. Hardee’s don’t need to be picketed. Instead we should be investing in American food culture. We teach kids about art and music, but not about food, which to me is crazy. Cooking is just as much an art as painting and clarinet playing, and arguably more important. People should take pride in what they eat, and for the most part that means cooking yourself. Eating only fast food is like listening to only top 40 radio, but worse. At least radio doesn’t hurt your liver.

Categories: Nom, Politics

The Power Of The State

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

So if Twitter is to be believed, Troy Davis, a man who may well have been wrongly convicted of murder in the state of Georgia, was just put to death by lethal injection. I honestly don’t have much to say about the specifics of his case. Most of the stories I’ve read about him only gave the basic bullet points. Suffice it to say that there was doubt that this man committed this crime, even among those closest to the case.

This seems like a good time to talk about the Death Penalty in general. A state with the power to kill is a state that will abuse that power. Someone once said that the state does not have the right to take anything that it cannot return. Each of us are living every day by the graces of a government that hasn’t yet decided we need to be removed. Once we give the state the right to take a life, we change the relationship between the people and the bureaucracy. Citizens become dependent on the government  not to protect life, but to provide it. We are put in the position of asking the a bureaucracy to grant us not just our freedom, but our very right to exist.

And make no mistake. We all built this machine. We are all complicit in this death, and every subsequent execution.

This is where some of you are no doubt going to rev your Camero engines, put on your shades and say “not me, man. I don’t even vote”. Doesn’t matter.  You have an affirmative responsibility to make your voice heard. Vote. Call your representative, even if she’s not the one you voted for. You live in America. This is the price of admission.

Categories: Politics

Maybe One Day We’ll Be A Democracy

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Kevin Drum points out here that we’ve come to a point where Republicans can run any sort of shenanigans they see fit and no one bats an eye. Of course they’re going to cynically manipulate the political system for their own ends. It’s what they do. It’s not even news any more.

What gets me is is the John Cohn quote he uses to illustrate this, though. Speaking about the nomination of Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Cohn says:

So is Cordray on track for confirmation? Of course not. As Shelby made crystal clear, he and his fellow Republicans really don’t care about Cordray’s qualifications right now. They care about the board itself. They don’t like it. Until Obama and the Democrats agree to modify it to suit conservative tastes, the Republicans won’t confirm anybody to run it.

….Brookings scholar and historian Thomas Mann has called this practice a “modern-day form of nullification.” I agree — and I think it’s worth pondering just what that means.

The consumer protection agency exists because one year ago a majority of democratically elected lawmakers passed a law and a democratically elected president signed it. Now a minority of Senators representing a minority of the country are exploiting their procedural powers (i.e., using the filibuster) to prevent that law from taking effect.

That’s undemocratic. And I mean that with a small “d.”

Growing up at the tail end of the Cold War, it was very important for teachers to emphasize that America is a democracy. But living in a democracy means asking a lot of hard questions that they weren’t interested in. It became a slogan without substance.

Now we’re seeing the institution rot from the inside. None of the basic School House Rock level mechanisms have changed, but instead they’ve being subverted in a more blatant way than ever before. We’ve lost the pretense that everyone is working in good faith towards solving problems.

This is not to say that in the past we were ruled by a benevolent class of Jimmy Stewarts. The issue is how blatant the corruption has become.

It’s entirely possible that Republicans in the Senate truly think that their actions are in the best interest of the nation. I’m sure most autocracies believe in that from the start. The fact is they’ve made it clear that they’re not interested in the rules, in the principles, that used to be part of the national myth. Today, all that matters is results.

Categories: Politics