Are You A Racist?


racist_fade

So I was reading an excellent article over at Mother Jones: “The Science of Why Cops Shoot Young Black Men”  and it mentioned the often disturbing results people get when they take the Harvard Iplicit Association Test.

The author mentions first taking the test at Understanding Prejudice but with a little digging I found that at the Harvard site here .

I highly recommend spending the 10 minutes or so it takes to take the test.

While reading the article, and reading about the test it made me think of a blog post I did a while back: “I am a racist, a hopmphobe, a sexist” .

I must say, I was a little surprised after taking the tests, that they showed virtually no implicit “isms” for me. But it does fit with some of what I have said before- that many of the “isms” I feel I have lurking in my brain are not truley based on race/gender/sexual preference etc…but more about the sameness or difference in culture, values, and other such factors.

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Community- and Small Business in America


So in the area where I live, there is a great small meat compan, Victorian Farmstead. Dedicated to quality, local, proper and ethically raised meats. For years they operated at Farmers Markets in the area, and out of their own home space. About a year ago, when the established, worker owned, non-profit natural food store (the aptly named “Community Market) from the next town over expanded to our town (thankfully giving us an alternative to “Whole Foods”), they gave Victorian Farmstead the meat counter in the store.

So anyway, about a week ago, the owner of Victorian Farmstead sent out a combined “mea culpa”…and a plea for help:

If You Never Read Anything I Write…Please Read This!

This is by far the scariest thing I have ever written. Our business is in trouble and I have to ask for help. I’m pretty good when it comes to proposals and showing potential investors our plan and why we will succeed. But I have never had to figure out what to do when things look bleak. And so, I am writing this to ask for your help. I truly believe in what we do and I am 100% confident that we can make this company successful. I decided to write this in the hope that explaining our situation to our faithful will do a couple of things: generate a much needed cash infusion quickly and get some fresh business management ideas from others that have been where I am before. So here goes…

This has been a very tough year for Victorian Farmstead and I take most of the blame. In the early part of this year the cost of meat started to rapidly rise. Prices on commodity beef, pork and chicken rose quickly as talk of the ongoing drought reached panic stage everywhere. My ranchers did what they were supposed to do and raised the price I paid for whole animals accordingly. I decided to hold my ground. I thought that raising my prices would be the wrong message to send. I thought I could make up the cost difference through increasing volume. I was very wrong.

What happened is that by the time I realized how poorly that decision affected our bottom line, I had put us in a fairly deep hole. We got behind with our suppliers and processors. I am very fortunate that we had good relationships to begin with, as they have ALL bent over backwards to stretch terms as far as I could hope. And for the most part I have been able to keep up with these payment plans. Now we are at a point where the weekly struggle to meet those terms is getting harder and harder.

The problem is the “got behind” money. As most of you know, we raised prices in the early fall. Much to my chagrin, it did not affect volume much at all. Had I done that early this year we would not be in the situation we are now. Hind sight is, as they say, 20/20. But when I look at the revenue today, we would be getting by if we didn’t have to pay the weekly payments on the past due amounts. We would not be rolling in it or anything close to that, but our weekly revenue covers our weekly expenses. What is happening is that the revenue is not supporting the amount we have to pay to catch up. How do I fix that?

The only solution I can see is a significant cash infusion, and quick. I don’t have the time or credit score to go to a bank. So what do I have to offer? I have a reputation and a history with you, my supporters and customers. I have come up with a plan that will do everything we need to get over this rough patch. I am asking each one of you to put up $50. If everyone that opens my newsletter each week does this, we can not only get out of the hole we are in, but we can pay for the professional advice I need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. In exchange we will send you a $50 gift certificate good after April 1st, 2015. This will give us time to recuperate and plan. If you want to pitch in more or less that’s great too. $50 just seemed to be the most meaningful amount I could come up with.

I know that there are those out there that will say “why am I going to donate to a for-profit business?”. Here is my answer. What we have built is more than just a meat company. For so many it has become their only trusted source of protein. We, as a company, have become a resource. We make sure that you are getting what you pay for, that the animals are treated the way they should be, fed what they should be and harvested the way they should be. We have educated ourselves so that when you ask us what to buy, or how to cook it, we can answer with confidence. At the end of the day, I am hoping that I have built up $50 or more of goodwill with every one of you.

You should also know that this was a very hard decision to make. I have almost as much pride as confidence and I am setting that pride aside to ask for your help. I know this also comes at a time of year where you are probably inundated with requests for handouts and donations. I would prefer this wasn’t seen that way but I understand why it will be. We have considered in the past doing a Kickstarter campaign, but there is not the time to do something formal at this point. I have set up a PayPal account or you can drop a check in the mail. Just make sure that you include your email address so we can send the gift certificate.

What else can be done if you can’t afford to donate? Place your holiday orders and shop at the farmers market this weekend! Every order we get helps. Come see us this weekend and buy a Christmas tree! The Christmas tree farm is a part of our overall business and every dollar counts. Pass this email on to someone you know that might be able to help and share with them your thoughts on the importance of our company to you. We see odd things go viral on the web all the time these days. If everyone who reads this shares it with their social media network, word will spread quickly. Help me get the message out that this business we built and love is worth saving!

Finally, thank you for reading this. If nothing comes of it, I will deal with it. I’m not scared of failing personally. I am scared of failing my wife and kids and my mom. But even if I do, they will still love me and help me get back up on my feet. I am terrified of failing those that have supported us through the first 5 years. I’m scared of failing my employees. And I am scared that many who count on us will not have access to the quality of protein that we provide. And so I’m asking you to take a $50 risk that we can turn this thing around. Thank you for your consideration.

Humbly,

Adam Parks
Owner, Victorian Farmstead

DONATE HERE

 

Having been a small business owner, and a farmer much of my life I immediately donated. And I must admit, I worried if it would make a difference. If others would step up to help a business they use, respect, rely on.

So I was very pleased, a week later, to receive this email:

I Can’t Thank You Enough!

This is the second scariest thing I have ever written, but for much different reasons than last week. How do you say thank you for the incredible gift of support you all have given us? I am humbled by the sheer volume of encouraging messages, financial contributions, offers of professional services, advice from others that have been through similar situations and other well-wishers.
Last Friday was the lowest point of my professional life. I am not an emotional guy by any standard, but I spent most of the day crying. I cried when I realized that I had no choice but to send this desperate plea. I cried when I had to sit my wife and mom down and explain the situation I had put us in and what I was about to do. I did get one good laugh when I attempted to set up the PayPal link only to find that my account had been suspended. Not because I owed them money, but because I had failed to submit a photo ID and utility bill for proof of identity. I was actually so screwed up I couldn’t RECEIVE money. Then I spent a good half hour hyperventilating before I had the nerve to actually press send.
What happened next was truly amazing. It was like a scene out of a movie. About 15 minutes after I hit send I got an email with the subject “Notification of Payment Received”. Then another….and another. In the first hour there were over 30 of those. I cried some more. It wasn’t just the money, although that was obviously the whole point. It was the letters thanking ME for asking for help! Whhhaaaat??? Turns out that our situation hit home with a lot of people. I mean a LOT of people.
So what does all this mean for Victorian Farmstead and the Parks Family? Well, we live to fight another day. The first step was filling all your holiday orders and we have done that as best we could. We have great friends at Golden Gate Meat Company, Stemple Creek Ranch, and BN Ranch that have made sure of that. Once we get past the holidays it will be a time to take it all in. There is much to discuss, learn from and build upon. Thanks to all of you we now have not only the financial means, but we have a team of local professionals who have offered to help with the bookkeeping, accounting, financial strategizing and planning. It will take some time to assimilate all of this but I am now confident that we will make it and eventually thrive.
You see, it is not just the money that will save us, although that is an ongoing concern and every dollar that has or will come in is huge for us. It is the way we were buoyed by our far reaching community. We have learned that what we do is important to others and I have to do a better job in captaining that ship. I learned that I need to ask for help sooner rather than later. And most importantly we learned that our biggest asset is you, our customers, friends and supporters. The vegetarians that heard of our plight and contributed because they believe that we are important to a secure food system even though they don’t eat meat. The single mom who asked if she could contribute with her EBT card (I thanked her, declined and got a hug). The competitor, Tara Firma Farms that offered a large sum of money and said we could work out the details later. The anonymous woman who pitched in $500 dollars and when I called to make sure she didn’t make a mistake and add a zero, simply said she had been in my shoes and someone did the same for her once. She lives in NY and had never heard of us before someone on Facebook passed it on to her.
Oh yeah, Facebook. However silly Facebook may be for all its nonsense (what is with all the cat videos???) it has some amazing powers. We had a meeting a few months ago to discuss our social media marketing and how to get more impressions (folks that see what we post). We even called one of our local competitors to pick their brain because they got 3-5 times the responses we got on average. We would get 50-300 and they would get 300-600. The letter that I wrote has been seen by over 36,000 organically. That is not because I’m some great writer, it is because so many of you took the time to share our story. Those numbers don’t count the email shares, those of you that cut and pasted my letter and shared it on your message boards and blogs. It is just stunning how much power is out there. I can’t tell you how blessed we feel that you all used your power for us.
I have one more request, and it takes a lot of nerve to even type those words after what you have done for us. If you took the time to share my first letter, please duplicate that with this one. I just don’t want anyone that pitched in to not receive this thank you, as it is all that I have to offer. While we absolutely will honor every single gift certificate, we can never truly repay this great gift that has been given us. All I can tell you is that we go into 2015 with a renewed sense of hope, pride and community. We are so much stronger now, because we know that what we work for every day is so important to so many. So on behalf of myself, my family and my staff…Thank You!

Adam Parks
Owner, Victorian Farmstead Meat Company

 

Anyway…I loved all this in so many ways.

That a small business owner was willing to step up and essentially say- “look- I’m good at what I do. But not so much at running a business”. From personal experience, I’d say often the best people are the worst at running a business. And all too often- some of the worst people are far too good at it.

And I’ll be the first to admit- I’m not always the most optimistic person when it comes to the human race. So to see so many in the community stepping up in so many ways- it helprs rekindle my hope.

And it encourages me to see such support of a business model based on quality and ethics rather then the lowest price at any cost.

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Cuba…and the eternal question- which came first, the chicken or the egg?


Ok, this is inspired by many of the responses to Obamas move towards normalizing relations with Cuba. Including the WaPo’s editorial piece here.

I am not in denial of the myriad of problems in Cuba.Nor of the abuses.

But I must ask- what role our own actions played in all of this? How different may things have been if America did not spend decades do everything it could to undermine any alternative economic (and related political) system in the world? If Cuba had never faced constant threat of violence. If it’s leaders did not face constant threat of murder. If America had honored it’s capitalist ideals- allowing trade- not just from american countries but from any country that wanted to do business with US companies?

To have anything approaching an honest conversation, we MUST ask ourselves what role did we play? What evil became as a sole result of reaction to our narrowminded actions? And of course- we also gave them “an enemy”. I, as no one does, or could, have any idea how things might have been differnet without our actions- and their responses to them. But we also gave them a bulwark against their own failures- an enemy to blame for their failures or drastic actions.

It is long past time that our country take accountability for our actions. And honestly discuss how these actions often cause as many problems, if not more, then they solve. That we ourselves play a makor role in creating the problems that plague us.

And, as a somewhat related aside, I wonder what normalized relations with Cuba would mean for our immigration debate? Surely it will mean the end of the unique policy (feet wet/feet dry) where every cuban who makes it on to US soil automatically gains citizenship.

Posted in immigration, obama, politics, socialism, tea party, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Congress blocks the will of the people- blocks marijuana legalization in DC


This saddens me more then surprises me. But the opinion piece printed in the Washington Post by two Republican congressmen infuriates me. So below is their opinion piece, with my responses in bold. I tried to keep the responses brief…there is much more I would and could add to each point.

original piece at WaPo here

 

By Andy Harris and Joe Pitts December 12 at 6:20 PM
Andy Harris, a Republican, represents Maryland’s 1st Congressional District in the House, where Joe Pitts, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District.
Many have asked why Republican legislators who profess respect for self-government and democracy would step in to overrule D.C. residents who voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in the city. We would like to answer that question head-on. Simply put, we believe that Congress must defend the federal government and the U.S. Constitution by preventing marijuana legalization from moving forward in the District.

Federal policy on marijuana is neither arbitrary nor set in stone. Proper procedures exist for changing the way that marijuana is regulated in the United States, but a ballot initiative in the federal district is not one of them. If the city were allowed to proceed, it would create legal chaos.

So just what is the “proper procedure” ? It has been 18 years since CA voters first legalized “Medical Marijuana”. And we now have 36 states with some legal recognition of marijuana as medicine. And three states (plus washington DC) where the people have voted for outright legalization. And yet, these “proper channels” have failed to respond to the will of the people, nor even moved to correct the wrongful classification of cannabis as schedule I.

The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance was made through a legal and scientific process established by Congress and administered by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency. This classification means that the drug has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use and cannot be used safely even under medical supervision.

No, actually it was not. Marijuana was “emergency scheduled” by Nixon. Having nothing to do with science and everything having to do with the those damn hippies, the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, and the social chaos of the time. More then two years later the scientific panel charged with investigating the isssue gave their report- recomending decriminilization. The DEA ignored the scientific evidence, and maintained its schedule I status. And let’s be perfectly clear- the federal government themself holds patents on medical uses of cannabis. And despite decades of research being blocked by marijuanas status as schedule I, there is a huge body of scientific evidence of its numerous medical uses.

Marijuana use is far from benign, and the effect the drug has on users can ripple through a lifetime and touch both their families and society at large.

Indeed. One of the worst of these is arrest. Having a criminal record. Jail. A lifetime of problems getting jobs, loans, housing, student loans, etc just because of a choice to use a substance that the majority of americans believe should be legal. Not to mention the social stigma, based largely on the perputation of incorrect information on marijuanas supposed harm.

Many studies have shown that use of marijuana can have a wide range of negative effects on an individual’s brain, body and behavior. This includes short- and long-term effects on functions such as brain development, memory and cognition, motivation and lung health. Persistent marijuana users have shown a significant drop in IQ between childhood and midlife.

Hmm. And many studies have not shwon this. And there is great debate over whether the conclusions drawn in the studies showing supposed harm are correct, and if so, if they are overblown. There are countless other factors that come into play in the course of a persons life, and the evidence is far from clear that marijuana is THE culprit, or even a major factor.

Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found to be a factor in car accidents, including fatal ones. Both emergency department visits involving marijuana and treatment admissions for abuse have increased in recent years. In 2011, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there were 128,857 emergency room visits related to marijuana use, about the same as for heroin use and almost double the number of marijuana ER visits in 2004 (65,699).

This is, to be polite, idiotic. Millions of americans use marijuana- and unlike any other substance, it can be tested for in the system for ~two weeks. (most other substances, legal or not, can only be tested for for 6-48hrs, and many are not included in normal tox screens). NIDA themselves have numerous papers showing alcohol and prescription drugs are the two biggest problems in america.

Further, a number of studies have shown that states that have broad medical marijuana laws have seen a marked DECREASE in DUI accidents and fatalities. 

Legalization in some jurisdictions has led to increased marijuana use by teenagers. According to officials in Nebraska, areas of the state that border Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, have seen an increase in the number of teens ticketed for possession of marijuana and a spike in the drug’s potency. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, in a statement approved just this year, maintains that: “Marijuana use is not benign, and adolescents are especially vulnerable to its many known adverse effects.” The group opposes efforts to legalize the drug even for adult use.

Sorry, but this is cherrypicking of data. Let’s look at some of the issues with this claim: First, Nebraska has long been a wasteland when it comes to cannabis. So we have an even greater “forbidden fruit” factor then in many areas of the country. A spike in usage would not be surprising- in the short term (remember, Colorado has had legal shops for less then 2 years). Second, the increase in teens being ticketed may well relate more to increased enforcement by police of vehicles returning from Coloroado then an actual increase in use. Third: I would like to see data on what a rise in teen cannabis use means for other substances. Does the rate of drinking, cigarette use, prescription drug use go down? 

There is much we still don’t know. NIDA is doing important research into the impact of marijuana use. We need more investigation into the health effects of recreational consumption, its effect on teen educational achievement and the economic impact of using the drug. We also need to look closely into chemical components of marijuana, such as THC and CBD, that could have medical indications and figure out ways to avoid the negative effects of smoking or ingesting marijuana.

Umm, really? Have you ever seem the “marijuana” NIDA provides for research? It is a nasty brownish green crumble composed of leaves, stems, and flower that bears no resemblance to what is actually used in states with loose marijuana laws. NIDA and the DEA have fought long and hard to maintain this monopoly- blocking researchers from being able to produce or obtain top quality cannabis for research. Further NIDA has a decades long history of refusing to approve research unless its intent is to look into “harm”. 

The FDA and DEA have a process for analyzing such studies and approving controlled substances. We do not let any other substance become approved by ballot initiative. Every drug must be subject to the same strict scrutiny.

This is simply not true. Indeed- it questionable whether cannabis meets the criteria to fall into ANY of the schedules under the Controlled Substances Act. And as previously stated, the recommendation from such a pael decades ago was decrimilization.

And why does the DEA, an enforcement agency, play ANY role in the scheduling of substances? Their role is to enforse the laws. It is the role of scientists to determine the harms/benefits of a given substance. 

Legalizing marijuana in the District is a recipe for legal chaos. There are 26 separate law enforcement agencies in the city. Twenty-five of them answer only to the federal government. If the city proceeded with legalization, whether an individual is arrested for marijuana possession could end up hinging on whether the arresting officer works for the Metropolitan Police Department or, say, the National Park Service. Individuals possessing an amount of marijuana legal by District law could find themselves arrested and prosecuted after they walk into a federal building or step into a federal park.

Ah yes, legal chaos. (translation: congress might actually have to address the issue, rather then burying this ban in an appropriations bill). We ALREADY have this legal chaos. For nearly 20 years the Feds have been arresting people who were in compliance with their state laws- and barring them from presenting in court for their defense that they were in compliance with their state laws. Further- every state with legal marijuana of some form has countless federal properties- from courthouses to parks where we already have these same issues of uneven enforcement.

We believe every state should respect federal law and take caution prior to legalizing marijuana. Unlike in the states, though, Congress has a direct responsibility under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, for policy in the District. This does not mean we need to micromanage. The people of the District should have a local government that is tailored to their needs. But when their wishes clearly conflict with federal law, Congress’s will must be preeminent.

Ah yes- the party of states rights- except when those states go for things like gay marriage and legal marijuana. Such hypocrisy. (And yes, I realize one can claim this hypocrisy cuts both ways- but I would argue the deciding factor is whether these “states rights” are moving forward, hand in hand with science- or whether they are trying to pull us backwards). 

Posted in drug policy, drug use, gay marriage, medical cannabis, medical marijuana, obama, politics, rand paul, romney, ron paul, science, social, taxes, tea party | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Sit, Stay, Ride: The Story of America’s Sidecar Dogs


<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/107891763″>Sit Stay Ride: The Story of America’s Sidecar Dogs – Trailer</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/ristauliimatta”>Ristau &amp; Liimatta</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Sure to bring a smile to your face. A great documentary…about joy on so many levels…

Their website is here .

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished- Homeless Camp Featured in Article “Cleared” by Police


I’m at a loss for words. So I’ll let others tell the story.

Just a couple days ago Mother Jones published an article online about “The Jungle” – a homeless camp in the heart of wealthy Silicon Valley. Read it here .

And today I see reported in the SF papers it’s been “cleared” by the police. Read story here .

Too depressing for words…

Posted in 1%, christian values, obama, politics, social, taxes | Tagged , | 2 Comments

NASA to Launch Test Flight of Orion Capsule Thursday


This Thursday, December 4th, NASA will be launching the Orion Capsule on an unmanned test flight. This is the capsule intended to carry astronauts to and from the ISS.

At this point I feel I need to say: Polling suggests that Americans generally believe NASA’s budget to be as high as 20% of the Federal Budget. The truth is much different- for over 40 years it has averaged roughly 1% of the federal budget. In 2012- the last year I can find complete numbers quickly, it was 0.48%, or just under a half-penny for every tax dollar.

 

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At this point I will direct you to an excellent piece on the Orion Capsule over at the Houston Chronicle, which is the sixth piece in an excellent series on NASA by Eric Berger.

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