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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Kung Yowza

State agriculture officials seized a truck recently that was carrying 16 tons of rotten, unrefrigerated meat headed to Chinese restaurants in Jacksonville. While, as someone who dines out frequently, I appreciate the catch, I wonder if the government would have better served the public by allowing the meat to be delivered.

No, you ninny, not because I want people to eat rotten food. Quite the opposite. As a former restaurant cook for many years, I doubt these establishments would have actually accepted the deliveries. The story makes it clear that the smell from the delivery truck was what alerted officials. Any decent restaurant owner or cook accepting the delivery would notice this and, unless they are sick bastards, refuse.

Of course there are some sick bastards out there more concerned with money than their patrons' health. Finding out who those people are, if there are any, would have done a greater service.

Which brings me to my favorite personal anecdote regarding this issue. I once had a boss who was not afraid to cut corners, and one morning while prepping for lunch, we noticed that a three-gallon container of chili in the walk-in cooler had a film of mold on top of it. My instinct, similar to other cooks there, was to pitch it and make more, but the boss was obviously thinking of all of the money he would make from the many, many bowls of chili that those three gallons would provide. He scooped off that mold and told us to heat it up.

Don't worry, there's a happy ending. As soon as the boss went back to counting beans and yelling at the wait staff, another cook and I dumped the chili in a garbage can and made a fresh batch. End of story.

I have a feeling you won't be eating Chinese or Mexican for a while.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Your First Mistake

"I just took it for granted that we wouldn't be that stupid."

That's Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican, reacting to news that one of his aides wrote a strategy memo for other Republicans that explained how to use Terry Schiavo's case against the Democrats.

The aide has resigned.

From the Washington Post story:

"Martinez, a freshman who was secretary of housing and urban development for most of President Bush's first term, said he had not read the one-page memo. He said he inadvertently passed it to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who had worked with him on the issue. After that, other Senate aides gave the memo to reporters for ABC News and The Washington Post."

Harkin told the Post that Martinez offered him the memo on the Senate floor and referred to them as "talking points – something that we're working on here."

Martinez should not feign stupidity because it insults our intelligence. It's not like we would be surprised by it – sickened yes, but surprised? Not a bit.

And while liberal bloggers are using this memo as a political bludgeon against their GOP opponents, there is no doubt in my mind that some Democrat staffer has written a similar memo. We may never learn about it, but you can be sure it is there.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Passion of the Soundbyte

Thanks to Think Progress from pointing out a hilarious moment from CNN's Larry King's coverage of the pope's passing. When interviewing Jim Caviezel, whose main qualification for commenting on the pope is that he played Jesus in the movie, Passion of the Christ, King said:

"Jim, you think he's with Jesus now? We only have 30 seconds."

His answer is irrelevant. The question itself depicts the media's ability to ask important, even deep questions and expect answers that fit in 30 second or less.

Welcome to The Party

I just finished re-reading George Orwell's 1984, having read it some 25 years ago as a middle school student. At the time I saw it more as science fiction (it was the 1970s) and missed most of the symbolism and political commentary on Russian communism, English socialism and totalitarianism in general.

The idea of re-reading the book had been on my mind for the past couple of years, considering the reaction in the US to the Sept. 11 attacks and the obvious parallels being drawn by many writers. But what spurred me to action was my discovery of a blog called A Tiny Revolution, the name of which is taken from an Orwell essay on humor writing and vulgarity. Orwell's writing style and subversive philosophy in the essay grabbed my interest, so off the shelves came 1984.

The book is a quick and easy read, but you can spend days pondering how closely his imaginary world resembles the world today. Of course others have spent major parts of their professional careers analyzing these parallels, but as a taste just consider the slogan of The Party and Big Brother that controls all aspects of life and thought in Orwell's book: "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength."

Having finished 1984, I turned to his other works. Just last night I found this essay, "You and the Atomic Bomb," written in 1945 just after the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan. It's an exposition on how the bomb is a tyrannical weapon that only the superpowers would possess and therefore would be used to hold power over the rest of the world.

At the time of writing, it was not known publicly how far along Russia was at developing the bomb. Orwell writes:

"From various symptoms one can infer that the Russians do not yet possess the secret of making the atomic bomb; on the other hand, the consensus of opinion seems to be that they will possess it within a few years. So we have before us the prospect of two or three monstrous super-states, each possessed of a weapon by which millions of people can be wiped out in a few seconds, dividing the world between them. It has been rather hastily assumed that this means bigger and bloodier wars, and perhaps an actual end to the machine civilisation. But suppose--and really this the likeliest development--that the surviving great nations make a tacit agreement never to use the atomic bomb against one another? Suppose they only use it, or the threat of it, against people who are unable to retaliate? In that case we are back where we were before, the only difference being that power is concentrated in still fewer hands and that the outlook for subject peoples and oppressed classes is still more hopeless."
To say that Orwell – real name Eric Blair – was politically astute would be an understatement. Just put Bush's consternation over Iran and North Korea's plans to develop nuclear weapons into the above political context, and it jibes with the feelings of many global security and WMD experts. Small nations like Iran feel they need the bomb so that they are not automatically under the thumb of nations that already have nukes, namely the US and Israel. Iran and North Korea see themselves as the "subject peoples" that Orwell wrote about.

I suggest you read 1984 if you haven't, or at least have not read it in many years. Here is a tidbit, from Inner Party member O'Brien to Winston Smith, the main character, as he lay prostrate in the interrogation room, learning the reality of The Party's intentions:

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."
And later, O'Brien adds:

"Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever.'"
For ever.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Teacher Pay Hypocrisy

The St. Pete Times has a good editorial on the hypocrisy of Jebbo's strategy to reverse the 2002 amendment that requires schools to limit class sizes. In it, the paper mentions something I've been saying about the elite opposition to voter initiatives like this one – that Jebbo and his friends in Tallahassee would rather spend that money on the special interests that put them there.

Jebbo's gambit is to pit the class size reductions against higher pay for teachers. He wants a special election this September in which voters will be asked to repeal the class size amendment and approve a higher minimum teacher salary statewide.

The St. Pete Times accurately points out that Jebbo and state lawmakers "already have that authority in the budget. Instead of increasing teacher pay, though, they have spent the past five years handing out $10.7-billion in tax breaks mostly to people and businesses that can afford to live without them."

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Trivia Question

Q: Why Was the Iraqi WMD Informant Called Curveball?

A: Because "Screwball" was taken.