Thursday, August 24, 2006


Foie Gras and Finite Government

It is about opportunity cost, not cruelty

Just in case one of my current 3 readers (this means you donkey!) gets the wrong impression from my ealier posting, my beef (he, he) with the city of Chicago is not that I don't agree that foie gras production is cruel (It certainly seems to be), but that it is an issue best handled by individuals and consumer education rather than by government fiat. What's interesting in the Washington Post article I linked to is that the ban may be having the perverse effect of actually increasing its consumption!

The comments (I'm guessing from Midgie) touch on an underlying and valid issue. Is it proper for the government to regulate the production of foie gras. The answer is yes. Federal, state and local governments all play a role in ensuring that the food we eat is safe and sanitary. The debate then is how far that regulation should go, is it appropriate for the government to take an active role in ensuring that livestock is raised and slaughtered in a humane manner? Again my limited knowledge of such matters indicates that the answer here is probably yes as well. The government regulates how cows may be slaughtered if I am not mistaken. So there is both a rational and factual basis for the City of Chicago's decision to ban the sale of foie gras on cruelty grounds.

However, the power of any government is finite. There are only so many laws that can be enforced and so many issues that a unit of government can ruminate on and pass into law. At some point there is an opportunity cost to passing an ordinance like the foie gras ban. What issue did not get debated by the city council so the foie gras ban could be considered? Has Chicago fixed its dismal public schools (which used to be the worst in the nation)? Has the self-reinforcing poverty and horrors of projects like Cabrini-Greene been eradicated? Are shut-ins being visited? The homeless being fed? Certainly the answer is no.

Does this mean I'm advocating putting the issues of humane treatment of geese on hold forever, or banishing any debate on the matter as the ills of humanity will always overshadow such matters? Again no. I think that geese should be treated humanely, but I also think that goal can be reached without resorting to government and the arbiter in the matter.

The same results can be achieved by activism and education, in fact looking at how things are panning out in Chicago, that may have been the better approach. I offer up The Body Shop or even Starbucks are examples here. The Body Shop (and its ubiquitous stores) built a brand around its cruelty free products. Starbucks only buys coffee from farms the meet certain sustainable environmental practices and pays a fair trade price (rather than market price) for its supply of beans. We can do better for the geese by educating consumers as to why foie gras is wrong, don't think it will work? Check out this link.

As more and more consumers are educated about the cruelty issue, sales will decline and enterprising geese farms will develop humane practices to grow foie gras or will move on to a more profitable (and hopefully more humane) crop. A ban without educating me as to why I shouldn't be doing or eating this, only makes the forbidden fruit that much more desirable. And requiring the government to arbitrate such matters means that some other issue can't be addressed or some other law can't be enforced. It also keeps us away from that slippery slope of over regulation I so ham handedly discussed in the comments to the original post on this issue.

I suppose this is an example of how the line of government power versus individual choice is different for each of us, yet at the same time the desired outcome is one that is shared.

(Links will be added in the AM...can't do it from my mac...Thanks and goodnight!)


Flashback Thursday:

Elephant’s First Day of School

On my way to work this morning, I noticed the local elementary school, close to my house, was a-buzz with activity. It’s back to school time, although I don’t think DC schools open for another week or so. Anyway, it got me reminiscing about my first day of school more than 30 years ago.

The date was some time in early September, the year 1975. My family had just moved from the Detroit suburb of Livonia to the wonderful resort town of Charlevoix. I was decked out in the finest, matching garanimal’s outfit. Brightly colored plaid pants (red, green and yellow predominating) with a green turtleneck shirt. A turtleneck shirt might sound odd in these days of global warming, but back then the scientific consensus was we were headed toward another ice age (and apparently, my mom dressed me appropriately).

I was excited to join my older brother in the ritual of heading to school. It wasn’t like it was some exotic trip to a far away building; my family lived across the street from the elementary school. (This would be an odd trend; I’ve always lived close enough to school to walk. I have never, ever taken a bus to school in my life). So off I went, my metal 1-Adam Twelve lunchbox in hand (it may have been an Emergency 1 lunchbox). I think my focus that day was on fort building with those large cardboard blocks and more fort building as our elementary school playground included some woods.

It would turn out to be an exciting year. Some interesting things come to mind that definitely show it was a different time. First, shortly after school started we had a program called, “Send A Mouse to College” where we would save pennies for the American Cancer Society so they could buy mice to use for lab testing. (I kid you not…I have pictures!).

Another memory that stands out is when we got our first reading books and broke up into our reading groups. I think the book was called Signposts. The teacher handed them out just before Thanksgiving. I was psyched. Having had a slightly older brother, a mother who was a teacher and an affinity for Sesame Street, I had apparently learned to read well before kindergarten, so having the books was permission to read. I read them in their entirety as my family traveled (over the river and through the wood) to grandmother’s for Thanksgiving. Of course when I got back to school after the holiday I got in trouble in front of the whole class, for reading them.

The rest of that year was filled with more fort building, reading, art projects (I can still smell the paste!) and general fun. I still miss naptime on my carpet square.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Socail Issues

The Differences Between Repuplicans and Democrats...

Republicans tell you who you can sleep with and what you can do in bed. Democrats tell you where you can smoke and what you can eat. Apparently it is all about the vices...


Feel Old Wednesday...


Time for the annual factoids about this years college freshman class. It seems to get scarier each year.


Reality shows have always been on television.
Richard M. Daley has always been the mayor of Chicago.
Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the U.S.
The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union


Tony Bennett can...

Bite Me...

They have a term for people like Tony Bennett in France. They would call him the Caviar Left. (If his comments can be so classified). But sadly, Mr. Bennett, whose music I quite enjoy, seems to think America is a cultural wasteland that's contributed nothing, save jazz to the world.
I beg to disagree.

Along with Jazz, America has helped shape the world music scene as the polygot cultures in our country rub up against each other and intermix. Country music, bluegrass, rock and roll, hip-hop, the blues, gospel, and pop music are all American inventions. And Art? I'd put Wyeth, Warhol, Whistler, and up with any from the old world. Literature? Hemingway, Steinbeck, Morrison, Twain, Whitman, Woolf? And in the world ranking of Noble prizes for literature, the U.S. is a close 2nd only to France (12 vs. 13 awards). They must be just copy cats.

And science? Hmmm, how about effective treatments for AIDS, polio, small box, malaria, yellow fever? Or perhaps sending men to the moon(You'd think with a song like "Fly me to the moon" he'd get that one), robots to 8 of the 9 planets, wide spread electric generation, the assembly line, maglev trains, nuclear power, the telephone, computers, television, or RECORDED MUSIC?!

I hear the term, "American Cultural Imperialism" tossed about by elites like Mr. Bennett. I've never quite known what that is supposed to mean. American "cultural" products are popular around the world, not because we force them into other markets, but because we offer an array of goods (be it music, literature, movies, art, television, food) that people enjoy. Perhaps they are popular world-wide because they spring from a heterogeneous culture rather than on homogeneous one? American culture is world culture because to look our citizens is to look at the world.

There are many legitimate criticisms that can be laid at the feet of the United States, but cultural wasteland isn't one of them. It is ironic, that someone who had profited as an artist, would, in essence, be blaming himself and his customers for this wasteland he alleges. What's worse it that it gets play because we are so quick to agree with such uninformed criticism.

Perhaps Mr. Bennett is troubled by the debut of K-Fed earlier this week or the pending Paris Hilton Album? If so I share his concerns. But even the quickest reflection on the cultural and scientific contributions of the United States to the world at large shows the ignorance of such a statement.

Most of us are not the types to get all worked up into a nationalistic frenzy..."U-S-A, U-S-A..." But that certainly doesn't mean we should let statements like Mr. Bennett's lie without challenge.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Best Product Name Ever!

"Only Nerds Buy the Po'plee"

I was browsing the aisles of the College Park IKEA this weekend, looking for a replacement lazy susan thingy for a kitchen cabinet when I stumbled upon what I believe is the best named product ever. Behold (and fear) the Grankulla!


Appocolypse Blogged

Beware of August 22, 2006

Oh my, I was just googlin' and realized that there is some crazy prediction that the appocolypse is going to happen tomorrow. Something to the with Iran (perhaps testing a bomb?)...who knows. I just hope it happens after my business lunch at Palette.

Good luck to all my readers in these the end times...all five of you!


R.I.P. - G.O.P.

You know they've jumped the shark when...

I haven't blogged much about politics for a while and for good reason. There isn't much good news to report. At the federal level, I see the current republican majority as an utter failure. A failure so embarrassing that I'm bracing myself for...(It's so hard to say)..."Speaker Pelosi". Just about everyone else I know, from my brothers back in the Midwest, to cabdrivers and even so-called true believers are now lining up against the President and his long string of failures.

But you know that conventional wisdom has turned, or the paradigm has shifted when you get Senators from the GOP denouncing the last six years. Senators are never on the cutting edge of anything, so by the time it gets to their lips, it is so true it is a cliche. Worse for Bush and Co. is the fact the the unimaginative talking head and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough does a video segment saying you're dumb.

Of course the bigger question is, what comes next? I don't see any leadership in the wings of either party. So, I've been left to quietly ponder the future.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Fox News Special

Red Heads are Slutty...

Fair, Balanced and a bit titillating! That's my fox channel! Today they have a ground breaking report on how red heads get more action than blondes. Hard hitting, family appropriate news. Of course it does bring up a good question...why are red headed women alluring, but red headed guys are creepy gingers? (Oppie, Carrot Top, Danny Bonaduche?)....

Of course the best part about the Fox television empire is trying to reconcile the facile rhetoric of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity with the programming reality of Fox television with such great shows as Temptation Island, The Littlest Groom and Married by America.


Today is my Friday!

August Projects...

It is becoming a tradition at the Elephant's house, to take time off in August to work on various home maintenance projects. Last year it was building the shed and painting the inside of the house. As I've discovered, a 100 year old house can be fussy and likes some attention (like constant attention). So, I'm taking a long weekend to knock out some projects...the biggest of which is sanding and restaining the ceadar siding on the facade of the house.


You Can't Spell Northwest without NO...

Oh my...

It figures that after years of sporadic business travel I would finally reach elite status on the crappiest airline in the U.S. How bad is Northwest Airlines? So, bad that they are telling their employees to save money by picking through the trash. Sad.

Of course these are the very same employees who have the customer service skills of a department store clerk in the old Soviet Union. On my flight from Tokyo to Detroit last November, a mother with a baby was trying to get all situated and was having a difficult time. The surly flight attendant, clearly annoyed she had to take a break in her conversation with her coworker, yelled at the lady but offered no help, then went back to her conversation and to ignoring her customers. I've found that to be pretty typical from NWA employee....

Of course being an elite flier doesn't mean much anymore. Upgrades are rare on packed planes, frequent flier miles are difficult to cash in. The only real benefit was boarding earlier to get coveted overhead bin space for your carry-on luggage - which is now mostly banned. So, why pretend flying is anything more than a bus with wings?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Hollywood for Ugly People?

50 Most Beautiful Hill People...

They say DC is Hollywood for ugly people. You decide. Here's the Hill's 50 Most Beautiful Hill Folk.


George Felix Allen

Virginia is for White People...

Sigh...For a short while in the 1990s, we could pretend that Virginia had entered the 20th century. Hi-tech offices springing up along the Dulles Toll Road, AOL, and other cutting edge businesses seemingly changing a state that was capitol of the confederacy, banned interracial marriage until 1967, and more recently had gone on a gay bashing streak. Alas, George Allen's recent controversy shows that for some in the Commonwealth, very little has changed.


I Blame Thos Liberal Activist Judges

And Maybe NASA...

Those wacky so-called religious right folks were right! Ever since "activist" judges in Massachusetts redefined a the term "family" its definition is up for grabs. Apparently now, even our solar system's "family" of planets needs redefining. I think we may need a constitutional amendment, I've always been suspicious of Saturn- So showy with those rings!

Interesting non-the-less that even in the 21st century we are still learning about the very basic make up of our own solar system. Of course perhaps we need more planets, you NASA can loose a couple.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Weekend at Bernie's III:

Havana Nights

Dude, this whole Castro thing has me thinking one thing....Weekend at Bernie's III. I mean how much fun would that movie be, Andrew McCarthy and Jason Silverman proping up an failing communist regime by pretending thier good friend Fidel is still alive.


News I Can't Use

New Segways...M'eh...

Did I ever tell you the very sight of a Segway sends me into an inexplicable rage? I don't know why, but when I see someone zooming by me on the sidewalk on one of these contraptions I just want to beat the person with an umbrella. Shocking I know. I think perhaps all the hype surrounding its debut way back when, or just the entire smuggness of the thing. Anyway, seems to me that for $5,000 you could look much more cool riding a Vespa (and still have a couple thousand left over). Meanwhile I still wait for my hover car.


Wither Detroit

Jobs Scare, Housing a Bargain

This past Friday, I was metro'ing home. As you head out East of the city on the Red line, the track elevates and you get a nice view of the city. From the vantage point of the Rhode Island Avenue Station, I counted no less than 9 construction cranes dotting the skyline. (Building what soon will be a huge glut of condos). Anyway, it had me again reflecting on the differences between DC and Detroit (or any city and Detroit). Seems the housing market is tanking and it never was very strong to begin with.


Kill NASA: Update

You Can't Buy This Kind of Incompetance...

I guess NASA was getting tired of being crowded out of the failure spotlight by FEMA and DHS. So many incompetent federal agencies these days make it tough to grab headlines. But fear not, it appears that in addition to not using the $100 billion space station - to save money- they've now apparently lost the original moon landing footage. Yes, let's give em money to send people to Mars s0 we can lose that footage too.


March of the Emperor!


Check out this commercial for the original French version of March of the Penguins. It is funny to me.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Non-Smoking Update

Four Months!

Wow, I don't think about it much anymore, but in a few days it will be 4 months since I stopped smoking. Perhaps next week I will fall off the wagon and smoke a cig and then go on an anti-semetic rant in front of my office building?


Check Your Bags Update:

I may have been on to something?

House Intelligence Committee Chair Pete Hoekstra (R, MI) is quoted today as saying...the plot "eliminates the days of carry-on baggage," according to The Associated Press.

He's right of course, at least for the near term. But seriously, is the extra few minutes this adds to our travel that bad? Is it better than being gassed by some home-made Zyclon-B on your flight to Toledo? I think so.

I am so not a fan of this administration or its tactics in fighting the war on terror, but I have no doubt in my mind that these stone-cold-terrorists want nothing more than to bring down another couple of planes. I'm trying not to get caught up in the media hype about this, checking my bag or not checking my bag is not a huge deal for me and flying ceased being anything but a necessary evil long before 9/11. I've got other things to worry about....


Shakes on a Plane

Your Weekend Reading:

With all this talk about banning liquids from planes, I can just imagine the nightmare scenario for air marshals. They storm a plane shouting, "Get those mother f'cking shakes off this mother f'cking plane" and a fuzzy purple blob of a passenger sits trembling in panic. He drops his shamrock shake and they open fire. The scene ends in a bloody purple carnage.

All these new security measures make me think of the Sideshow Bob quote, "Ah, when flying was a gentleman's sport...before every Joe Lunchbox could wedge himself behind a tray table and jet off to Raleigh-Durham." I too long for the days when flying was a bit less of a hassle. When the upstairs of a 747 was a groovy lounge and when flight attendants (Stews!) were required to wear little hats. In short, I long for an experience that probably has only ever existed in an Austin Powers Movie. Alas!

So with flying on the brain, here is this week's weekend reading assignments:

The future of flying is batwing and it's all to save the planet
AIRLINE passengers of the future will have to do without window seats and fly in giant batwing aircraft as a result of aviation industry proposals to tackle climate change.

History of Flight
Everything you wanted to know about flight as put together by some federal government commission formed to produce a website on the history of flight.

Airbus: Losing altitude
Delays, redesigns, and a management shakeup have sent the company into a tailspin. Can it pull out of trouble?


Check Your Bags

For the "War" Effort, for a week or two...

Still seems to be a bit of chaos in the airports this week and we all try to shake out the implications of the latest attempt by "radical" Islamicists to convert us through yet another airplane explosion. (Or so the government tells me).

Here's an idea that will save us all a lot of time and frustration over the next two weeks or so. Check your roll on bag rather than carrying it on, at least for the next few weeks. It will speed up security screening and boarding and better yet, you won't have to ask me to lift it into the overhead bin for you*. That way you won't have to play stupid and be like "Oh, I didn't know that hydrogen peroxide was a liquid, or that hair gel is a 'gel'." It will save us all a bunch of time, and will speed the process of getting back to the normal hell of flying that much quicker.

*As a semi-frequent traveler, I get asked all the time by people to help them lift their overstuffed carry-on bag into the overhead bin. My philosophy is that if you personally can't lift your own bag, it is no longer a 'carry-on' bag and you should check it. So, I politely decline when asked and get called all sorts of is very "Curb your Enthusiasm," and sort of odd when someone you don't know (and probably wouldn't like if you did know) gets all mad at you for not doing their heavy lifting.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Interesting Statistics

No Major Airline Accidents/Deaths in Over 4 Year.

Seems a bit counter intuitive given the events to the last day and the outsourcing of airline maintenance to places like El Salvador, but flying has never been safer. Oh yes, the planes are full, you have to pay for that exit row seat and the dreaded gray snack box, but at least you're not gonna die.


Thinking Happy Thoughts

I Like Puppies...

The World is still ok.



Blowing up planes...that's a new one...

Terrorists never seem to learn do they?

This alleged new plot to blow up planes just reconfirms that Islamic radicals** (and it is usually Islamic radicals as opposed to let's say Quaker radicals, amish radicals or a violent offshoot of the salvation army) have no capacity for original thought. So now, thanks again to these fundamentalists/terrorist plots, I cannot (for now) travel with my hair gel, dooming me to a fate of looking like Cynthia McKinney while I'm on the road. Gee, I'll start growing my beard now and converting...the vision you all paint of a pan Islamic paradise seems so wonderful. Do they even realize how much they are harming their brand?

(**or if you so inclined (or Mel Gibson) replace Islamic radicals with "US government agents led by the world Jewish conspiracy"...)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Yes Please!

Birthday Gifts...

Hey, I'm turning 37 next month and since I can't have a hover car, I want this...


Where Have All the Hurricanes Gone?

And why isn't anyone blaming global warming?

Hmmm..interesting. Despite the heat and the media frenzy about the Al Gore movie, there has yet to be a major hurricane this season. Hurray! In fact the forecast for storms has been downgraded. Let's hope this pattern keeps...


2nd Time Around

Hi, Hawaii...

A little jet lagged from my flight back yesterday, but I survived my second trip to Hawaii with no apparent ill effects (except a sunburn).

The ABA Conference was adequate, if only to get my CLE requirement done for the next couple of years. The meeting itself was poorly organized and I actually had to sit on the floor in several seminars as they ran out of chairs.

I also had the chance to meet and visit with an actual bearded lady. (I kid you not, this woman had more facial hair than K-fed). I had no idea what was up with that, but I tried not to stare (moley, moley, moley!) and instead focused my gaze on her unibrow.

After cramming in about 26 hours of CLE, I didn't have much time for the beach...but did manage to rent an umbrella and chaise on Wiakiki for the afternoon before my flight. (Thus, a cell phone photo of my actual feet at the beach).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


How do you spell irony?


Dude, can we just get around and kill NASA already?! The leadership from this venerable organization - the one that has taken billions of your money and given us the Mylar balloon in return - is that it plans on not using the space station (that is spent $100 BILLION TO CONSTRUCT) because it wants to save money. Ridiculous.

Also ridiculous, the fact that all this is happening under a GOP led government and their solution seems to be to give NASA more pie in the sky projects.


Wither Detroit


For the 1st time, U.S. drivers buy more import brands. It's interesting and something I've blogged about from time to time. It is possible to profitably make cars in the United States. It is just that GM and Ford can't seem to do it. My little brother was in town a few weeks ago from the relatively healthy western side of Michigan. He was agog at the mass of construction cranes, condo projects, new houses and what not here in the Mid-Atlantic region..."you just don't ever see that in Michigan." he said.


Conference Blogging

Live from Honolulu

Headed out tomorrow for Honolulu for the ABA Conference. A great way to stock up on those annoying CLE's. Will be taking my Palm Treo and should be able to post photos and tune won't be nearly as boring as the seminars I'll have to sit through.



Busy, Nasty, and Rage-ifying

Lack of posting is a result of a hectic and rather difficult few weeks in the office. Trying to cope with some major organizational change and have a few employees who are getting a bit too big in the britches. ...Things are on the path to better and I'm leaving the office to attend a conference for a Hawaii, again! (So as much as things have been difficult the past few weeks, if my complaint today is that I have to go to Hawaii, for the second time in 4 months...I guess its not THAT bad)...


Tonight I'm Gonna Party Like It's...


Interesting...very interesting...Here's hoping for a transition to democracy and an opening up of Cuba to American Tourism!

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