Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Letter to Governor Herbert

Please email Governor Herbert at gherbert@utah.gov

I have provided a template which you can use here.

Just cut and paste and fill in your own information

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Dear Governor Herbert,

I am writing to ask you to please reconsider your stance on Utah Senate bill SB314 sponsored by Sen. John Valentine R-Orem. This bill is damaging to the economy of the great state of Utah. It hurts local businesses' ability to attract customers by not allowing them the freedom to set prices at their discretion and goes against the logic and fabric of Utah being one of the most business friendly states in the country. Taking away an entire sector of business’s rights is counterintuitive and is bad for the state.

Furthermore the closure of Utah state liquor stores is again damaging to the people of Utah who use these services, the employees at these stores who would be put out of work, and the profit that these stores make that is funneled back into government services for its citizens. Every store that is threatening to be closed is very lucrative and very profitable and very widely used, meaning that their closures are destructive for both the government and its constituents.

I thank you for your time and ask that you reconsider your signing of this bill for the good of the state of Utah and its population.

Sincerely,

{name}


{name}

{address, optional}

{zip code, do include}

{phone number, optional}

Monday, January 24, 2011

communities + millennials

Communities are defined by the people living in them. What those people do, where those people go, and who those people connect with. People want to meet others, be around people, and evolve with the other people in their community, no matter how alike or different they may be.

And so too do “we.” We are a blossoming community of young people who are exiting one phase of their life and entering into the next one. Millennials, Generation Y, Echoboomers, the Internet Generation. The nomenclature does not matter, but we are a budding group that is trying to define ourselves in our world, in our state, in our city, in our community.

We are a misperceived bunch, one not defined by the clich├ęs that our parents’ generation uses to characterize us; a generation that might be under our parents’ wings longer than in previous times, but one that realizes that wing casts a huge shadow. We are a bunch going through a collective quarter-life crisis. We are not leeches, we do not expect handouts, but neither do we think we can simply pull ourselves up by our bootstraps--that doesn’t work. Our reality is different than the generations before it, not wrong, not with less wanting or longing for success or definition, but different.

We want to be part of a community and we are. We live here, we do stuff, we go places, we connect with people like us, and we connect people who are different from us. Embrace us, don’t disregard us. We exist, and in our own way we play a huge part in defining our community.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What do we expect from Kyle

responding to a question from Salt Lake Tribune columnist, Kurt Kragthorpe (twitter.com/tribkurt) I wrote this utterly too long essay.

the Question: Whit apologized, saying fans deserve better. What do fans expect when they show up?

the Answer: Fans expect a showing. Going into the TCU game I was half expecting to win and half expecting to lose. A loss would have been acceptable but I am a lot more close to upset with the throttling we got was just unacceptable, especially at home especially when you have a crowd that fired up.

Kyle cannot stop people from dropping balls, or the quarterback missing throws, all of which happened. But Jordan Wynn is 19 and I found myself being more upset with the play calling than anything else. However, in the world where Kyle is the highest paid person in the state of Utah, the buck clearly stops with him. Kyle can do a few things: YELL AT RODERICK TO RUN THE BALL!

More importantly however, I think the ultimate problem is that Utah, under Kyle had not experienced a big game situation like this (the Sugar Bowl was entirely different for a lot of reasons). I think the four biggest factors in the Utes losing was College GameDay, the numbers 3 and 5, the camouflage jerseys, and TCU being really good. The fourth one, Kyle can't do anything about, so we'll focus on the first three. Basically what those three things boiled down to is pressure.

This was a pressure filled game that, on Saturday, Utah had no business being in, what I expect from Kyle is to be able for his guys to handle pressure. And this pressure game is only the beginning. If Utah is playing for a Rose Bowl birth, Pac 12 championship, or [only peeing my pants slightly] a trip to the national championship, the pressure will be 572358x more than it was for a Mountain West game in the middle of the season, that happened to have an ESPN show beforehand.

Long answer: above. Short answer: handle pressure better than you did.

However, there is hope. Since, as I mentioned, this is Utah's first game of such magnitude (again, Sugar Bowl entirely different) Kyle knows what he did wrong [he better] and he now knows what that pressure feels like, for him, hius staff, and his players. Every coach needs to learn, and I feel as though this is Kyle's learning experience. If he didn't learn, then the Pac 12 experiment will be scary, if he does, based on his talent as a coach, and the talent of the players he can recruit, the sky could be the limit.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

NFL Picks

I know very little about the NFL. But here are my picks in case I am right:

NFC West

49ers*

NFC South

Saints

NFC North

Packers*

NFC East

Cowboys

NFC Wild Card

Vikings

Falcons

AFC West

Chargers*

AFC South

Colts*

AFC North

Ravens

AFC East

Jets

AFC Wild Card

Titans

Patriots

NFC Playoffs

Round 1

Falcons over Cowboys

Saints over Vikings

Round 2

Packers over Falcons

49ers over Saints

Round 3

Packers over 49ers

AFC Playoffs

Round 1

Titans over Jets

Ravens over Patriots

Round 2

Colts over Titans

Ravens over Chargers

Round 3

Colts over Ravens

Super Bowl

Colts over Packers

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Meat and me [and everyone and everything else]

This is a repost of a previous essay with revisions and additions


Meat and me [and everyone and everything else]


I would like to think I have some sort of moral compass. I would like to think that I care about animals and animal rights. I can say that I am appalled by the videos on the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) website. The videos make me nearly throw up; looking at the inside of slaughterhouses or any industrial farm is horrendous. But I eat meat, and I do not know if I really plan to stop. Is my moral compass wrong? Am I inflicting unthinkable pain on the animal? Is there a middle ground that we can walk that includes eating meat and not torturing animals?

To really get to the root of any sort of middle ground, we need to start with the animals themselves. It is generally assumed that animals feel some sort of pain. There is not actually much evidence that they do not. They have similar nervous systems and although there is no way to actually figure out how an animal feels pain, we can work under the assumption that they do. This leads us to the inevitable conclusion that killing an animal for meat causes the animal to experience pain and that, on some level, is just not okay.

So while animals do feel pain, do they suffer? Where is this line drawn? Can an animal know suffering? This is where the line gets more and more blurry. Are these same animals that are incapable of higher thought or moral affectations actually suffering? One problem is the definition of suffering. Is suffering just a lot of pain? Or is suffering something beyond pain? Is it something more cognitive? If I stub my toe, it hurts, but if my friend is dying, I am in more pain than a thousand stubbed toes. Is that animal in the slaughterhouse going through a series of stubbed toes or a friend dying? The other [major] problem is that it is an unanswerable question. To my knowledge, no human speaks cow. So physiological experiences are all we have as a gauge into the mind of an animal.

This very question has caused an entire animal rights movement whose goal is to equalize the rights of animals to be like those of humans. But really, how does one equate a human and a lesser animal? On the surface they are not equal. Chickens do not philosophize. Cows do not ponder their existence. Goats do not have moral compasses. The animal world does not have its own moral compass; there are no “rights” in the animal world. A wolf does not care that the deer it kills has a baby. The wolf is just hungry. The wolf does not vote on which deer it is all right to kill, it just does it. If a wolf can kill an animal, why can’t I?

The argument for animal rights has many different forms, and one of the strongest is leveled from an entirely utilitarian point of view. Peter Singer, a noted utilitarian philosopher and author, has a particularly concise logic for not eating meat. He says that “equality is a moral idea, not an assertion of fact.” His basic claim is that animal rights activists do not want equal treatment, just equal consideration in the best interest of everybody and everything. The argument is that a cow does not want to sit on the couch and watch television the same way I do not want to hang out in a pasture and chew cud all day. The logic behind this is hard to pull apart. If we eat animals, shouldn’t we eat people too? If we don’t eat people, shouldn’t we not eat meat? The argument there comes back to the moral considerations. Michael Pollan points out that the reason we would forego meat is the same reason why we have some sort of moral difference from animals. But as Pollan himself points out, this runs into its own set of problems; people with severe mental disabilities or infants are awarded rights even though they can make no moral distinctions. How do we justify not killing them but in turn justify killing animals that are on the same level of mental capacity as the disabled person?

The buzzword this conversation creates is “speciesist” and that is a word Pollan finds hard to shake. I agree. It is hard to shake. If you are going to eat meat, you have to agree that you are on some level better than those in the animal world. But being a speciesist does not justify those PETA videos. Do we stop eating meat on the grounds that the practices are not humane or that the idea is not? The practices are indeed inhumane. I am hard pressed to find a way in which they are not. In the world of capitalism, in which we are firmly rooted, the incentive to make money outweighs the incentive to humanely treat animals; and agribusiness is born. But we like capitalism and we have been living in a world of deregulation for some time. The entire American dream is rooted in the ability to at least have a chance to make money. So why can’t agribusiness make money by taking advantage of animals?

There is an interesting parallel here. Back in the early days of industrialism factory workers were being mistreated, so unions were formed, government stepped in and worker’s rights were born. So could this happen with animals? Maybe. There are some road blocks to this, however. First of all, cows do not speak any human languages, so someone has to speak on their behalf. This is already being done by plenty of people, like Singer and like PETA. But people are going to still eat meat. Their call (for the most part) is to stop eating meat entirely. I, for one, am probably not going to stop for the moral reasons or even more logical ones that a utilitarian perspective presents. What should we do?

But is moral justification the only argument against eating meat? As it turns out there are much more practical, though less philosophical reasons for not eating meat. The power point slide you missed in Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” was that the meat industry causes just as much greenhouse gas as the transportation industry does. A 2006 study done by the United Nations concluded that the meat industry was in the top two or three worst contributors to creation of greenhouse gasses. The next logical question would be to ask how exactly eating a steak causes greenhouse gasses? The problem is the farts and burps of the animals being raised. No, seriously. Farts and burps are pockets of gas that the body does not want, so it releases them in the best (and funniest) way it knows how, through farting and burping. A primary gas that is released through this process is methane, which is a greenhouse gas. Humans have one stomach, but a cow has four, as does a sheep. This leads to more farts and burps, which in turn help contribute to global warming. This is compounded by the fact that agribusiness cows, specifically, do not eat a proper cow diet. Cows do not eat corn, as they do not digest it well, but corn is cheap (cough*subsidized), so corn is fed to the cows. An unnatural diet complicates their digestive systems and in turn increases the fart and burp problem. To put it into perspective, eating one pound of meat is equivalent to driving a sport utility vehicle 40 miles.

Greenhouse gasses are just the tip of the iceberg. Meat eating is by far just as destructive to the actual physical land itself. Grazing cows hurts the land – it is aggression on the land itself. Basically, when the land is used up the animals have to go somewhere else and graze that land and so on. It is damaging to indigenous species that occupy the grazed land. This need for new land causes forests to be cleared, which is [obviously] bad for the forests and the species that live there, especially in unique and diverse areas such as the tropical rainforests, which are being demolished at an alarmingly fast rate. Entire species can be [are being] wiped out just to make room for animals to graze. This does not even count all the land that is used to grow the food for the animals to eat. Massive tracts of land grow food just for animal consumption.

All in all somewhere around 80% of the agricultural land in the United States is used for animals. This number becomes even more staggering when you consider the actual output. The high output land is being used for relatively low output animals. 70% of the land used to grow grains, for example, is used to feed animals. These animals do not give us 70% of our diet; compounding that, the eating of meat is a one-time shot. You only get to eat the same cow one time. If that wasn’t bad enough, only the best cuts of meat are used. The less desirable parts are processed into less than desirable products (e.g. hot dogs) using even more resources.

Basically, we put way more energy into the raising of animals than we get out of raising those animals. However that isn’t even the end of it. Since the animals are fed so much and so aggressively they in turn process that and it turns into excrement; they poop it out. This overload of fecal matter has to go somewhere. To dispose of the feces, for the most part, one of two things is usually done. One: it sits there or two: (a saving grace, sort of) it is used as manure for crops. The recycling seems reasonable but both strategies result in massive amounts of runoff that pollute waterways. According to the Environmental Protection Agency factory farms pollute waterways more than all other industrial sources combined.

But this meat onion has one more layer. Transportation. The meat that caused all the aforementioned problems has to get to my plate and that comes from widely dispersed geographical regions. The travelling meat uses fuel to get to all the various stores and restaurants. A simple example: the average 18 wheeler gets about 6 miles per gallon and has a tank of about 240 gallons. The current (November 18, 2009) average price of diesel fuel in the United States is $2.79/gallon. Texas is the largest exporter of beef cattle in the country. To travel from Fort Worth, Texas to Salt Lake City, Utah driving is 1243.53 miles. If we do a little math we basically figure out that an average 18 wheel semi-truck can get to Salt Lake from cow country on one tank of gas, but that one tank of gas costs almost $3500. And that doesn’t count the expense of the driver, the wear on the car, or the trip back for more.

Delving into this meat quandary even further we get to something a little more personal: the actual human health problems of overconsumption of meat, especially red meat. There is a laundry list of studies that show the problems with overconsumption of red meat. The problems range from particularly credible ones like cardiovascular health to less plausible ones like Alzheimer’s disease. The most comprehensive study was done by a group of scientists from several institutions including the National Cancer Institute and the University of North Carolina and studied over 500,000 people. The most dramatic conclusion from the study was that over a 10 year period, the people who consumed the most red meat had about a 30% greater chance of dying than those who ate the least amount of meat over that time period – this was mostly due to cardiovascular disease and cancer. That is not the only side of the health coin, though. The same study showed lowered mortality risk for people who ate more white meat (chicken, turkey) than those who ate less white meat. This seems reasonable but the white meat industrial farms are run just as inhumanely and produce comparable amounts of waste.

It seems reasonable to assume from a thinking person’s perspective that the inhumane treatment of animals is just plain unacceptable. No matter how much you champion capitalism, it does not seem reasonable to put animals in an industrial setting. This causes problems for and from the animal, for the environment, and even maybe the health of the person eating it. As a general bedrock of “solutions” to this problem, the industrial farm needs to be changed. There are a few stepping stones [boulders] to overcome for this to actually happen, though, which makes this problem seem so ominous.

The best way to effectively control this would be through regulation. But since agribusiness is one of the largest lobbies in the United States there is very little regulation and that lobby is probably not going away. The other problem with the regulation of agribusiness and industrial farming is that it would spike up the cost of meat at least significantly and probably dramatically. People like five dollar steaks more than they like 25 dollar steaks, totally unaware of the uglier side of the industry that keeps that steak price down.

Where does that leave us? We, in a nutshell, fundamentally need to change how we eat. Totally not eating meat is not really an option for most people. But eating less meat really ought to be. Eating better meat ought to be. Eating more of our meat and eating meat that is produced closer to home ought to be. But, how do we do that? How do we get to some sort of happy medium or at least a not-awful one? I think to really get to this position we have to look at three key groups. The three most important groups to advocate change in this awful cycle are PETA, sustainable farmers, and foodies.

“Foodies” is a broad term for people who are really into food at a variety of different levels, whether growing, cooking, eating, writing, blogging, or talking. They [we] are just plain and simple really into food. In this foodie movement there are huge emphases being placed on sustainability and humanity. Foodies are the thought leaders of food, the early adopters. And their championing sustainable and ethical meat is a good start for the hordes that follow them.

This grassroots [grass-fed] movement has already begun. Recently, noted celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck spoke out against foie gras, the liver of goose because of the inhumanity of force-feeding the geese to fatten up their livers. Chris Cosentino, a chef in central California operates an educational tool about offal, the insides and not traditionally used parts of the animal, like the intestines, to maximize the use out of the animal. Rick Moonen, a chef in Las Vegas, is deeply rooted in the sustainable seafood movement. The best restaurants all over the country are using only organic and humanely raised and predominantly local meat.

People at the forefront of the culinary industry are championing organic ingredients and many of them are championing local ingredients. Although there is a certain politicization to the entire movement, the food actually tastes better. It is better for you because it does not have the toxins amd antibiotics that are inherent in the industrial farm meat. And even though the food is more expensive, this serves as a subtle benefit because it actually curbs your overall consumption of meat, which is a good thing for your health at the personal level, and for the environment at a macro level.

The local, organic food eating movement has gone hand in hand with the local, organic food producing movement. These farms use the land and the animals in a much more natural way. Polyface Farm in Virginia is one noted site where the animals live in harmony with one another and with the humans raising them. They eat the diet they want to eat, and they are humanely slaughtered in an open place, not on a closed off cold factory floor. The farm has guiding principles that focus the farm towards openness and the health of the land and the health of the animals, which in turn makes better food. The success of farms and farmers gives hope to this working at some sort of mainstream level. The more pressure these farms are able to put on the industrial farm, the better.

And this brings us back to our friends at PETA. As abhorrent as they find the meat industry, they serve a valuable purpose in the re-humanizing of meat eating. The role they play is to continually bring to the public eye the inhumanity that plagues the industrial farm industry. PETA and groups like it need to be the unions the animals cannot really have themselves. They need to get the word out as much as possible and continue to disgust people. Humans are unique in this fact: they can get disgusted. They do have some sort of affinity for animals and the sooner they get disgusted the sooner they will realize the effects of the meat industry on so many areas of the world, and on themselves, and in that realization will see that real, large scale change is possible. So maybe it is good that I watched those videos after all.



Friday, October 16, 2009

Things I hate that everyone likes Volume I: Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are is a 1963 book written by Maurice Sendak. Basically, the book is a picture book about a boy named Max who gets in trouble and has to go to bed without supper. While in his bedroom, he imagines going to a world of strange and ugly creatures and he becomes their leader and then gets homesick and comes back to his room. Recently, it was optioned for a movie, putting this story on the big screen. The book is beloved by everyone.

Let me posit this: MOST OVERRATED BOOK EVER. I know this is sacrilege amongst almost everyone but it sucks. Okay, it doesn’t suck, it just really is overrated. Let me explain, it is not that the book itself is bad. What bothers me is just how much everyone loves it. And it’s not just that they love it, it’s that they fucking love it. People waited in hours in line for the movie premier of a book that has 10 sentences in it. I was at a party the other day where someone was getting a fucking tattoo of Max and the Wild things on his arm. It’s not even that, it’s that everyone was into it. They thought it was cool. Fuck. I need to go punch a wall now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

when it's grey outside

trees aren't as vibrant when it's grey outside

they blend in with power lines, with stoplights, with street signs

the western mountains are lost in hazy clouds and smog

this landscape would be deafening if it weren't so muted

the wind picks up to scatter dust and leaves and memories and newspaper over the beaten down cement

footsteps are harder to discern, harder to remember, harder to acknowledge when the wind blows

sounds echo more loudly in the wind when it's grey outside

they are just harder to understand