Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to Prevent Obesity

California has required restaurant chains to put calorie totals on their menu. But, calories are abstract, and there is a much more direct way to tell someone "this is a lot of food."

Fortune Cookies
Because nothing says "you have issues with portion control" like a treasure trove of fortune cookies in with your Chinese food takeout. It's a direct way to communicate the number of people who should be required to consume that amount of food.

The fortune cookie method of battling obesity is simple. Just require restaurants to include one fortune cookie for a set number of calories. Order a quadruple whopper with fries and a shake? That's fine, but you must face the shameful presence of five fortune cookies in with your order.

Here is a handy key to fortune cookie presence in a takeout/delivery order for one person:

1 Cookie - Yay, a fortune!*

2 Cookies - Maybe they're just being nice . . .

3 Cookies - You should google gyms in your area to temporarily alleviate shame

4 Cookies - Do you have another person hidden in your closet?

5 Cookies - Avoid eye contact with the delivery person.

6 Cookies - Jamie Oliver is currently planning a TV show based on your life.

*My most recent fortune cookie read "Eat your fruits and vegetables to strengthen your health." Americans are so fat that even an industry which critically relies on deep frying every and any animal part is worried about us.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Return America's Prosperity Act

Why isn't a Democrat proposing a bill which would return us to 1995-96 tax levels?

Would it pass? Of course not. But it would be a way to constantly remind people that the last time we had economic prosperity in this country was after a Democratic President broke the back of an intransigent hyper conservative Republican Congress.

It's the sort of thing I expected from Al Franken when he was elected.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Offensiveness and Hyper Sensitive Feminists

I stumbled across this article about a recent milk ad campaign that has been pulled.

The gist: An old study suggests that calcium can lessen the symptoms of PMS. So milk launched a campaign that can be summarized with a single picture:

So the article described the outcry over this add campaign, and it concluded with a simple question: is this add offensive?

The overwhelming percentage of online voters said that it was not offensive. The comments below the article lamented the "oversensitive feminists" for not being able to take a joke. (WARNING: it is highly recommended that you just take my word for it on this one, and don't venture into the comment thread on your own, that kind of thing can be dangerous).

A lot could be said about this add, and the idea of hypersensitive feminists who can't take a joke. But I'll keep it short.

I thought about whether or not I found the add "offensive." I did vote for that option at the end of the article, but it wasn't quite right. I don't get PMS, and I wasn't offended. The ad did upset me, but if I wasn't personally offended by it, why was I upset?

It's because the ad is harmful. Just like most jokes that rely on further marginalizing marginalized groups are harmful.

In the end the ad doesn’t offend me, it hurts me. It hurts me by making the culture I live in a little bit worse. It feeds a damaging stereotype that allows female thoughts and opinions to be dismissed at a higher rate than male. The idea that women who are PMSing are ‘crazy’ and ‘irrational’ as opposed to ‘in physical pain and discomfort’ is an idea which is used by misogynists (women included) to dismiss female emotions every day of the month.

The ad is clear, poor men suffer under the irrational oppression of their female overlords, and they should buy milk in a desparate attempt to seek a reprieve. Is that offensive? I’d say that really it’s more harmful than offensive. It *hurts* our society. It isn’t because it’s a joke, or because feminists can’t take a joke, but because it feeds a monster THAT EXISTS. Jokes based on stereotypes or assumptions, or pooling categories, are funny when they feed a monster that isn’t real. It’s a fine line, but I think it’s fairly distinct. PMS being used to marginalize women is common in our society. So a joke which feeds that concept is harmful.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Manipulative or Stupid? Both!

This is a typically interesting and well written post by Amanda on Pandagon. It's about the quandary of figuring out whether a right wing media nutjob is manipulative or stupid. Those being the two choices. It's clear that some people aren't true drinkers of the current right wing kool aid, with many once conservative pundits being left behind by the extreme opinions of the current right (Arizona Immigration, birthirism, 'forcible' rape etc.).

When reading her post, I immediately thought of Glenn Beck. I think he is in a special category all his own. He is both a manipulative non-believer, who seems to be stupid enough to be buying into his own con. One image jumped to mind:

For those of you who have not seen Tropic Thunder, go see Tropic Thunder. The premise of this scene is simple: Ben Stiller was an actor in a terrible movie, but in this isolated spot he has an audience that loves his re-enactments of this movie. In his audiences adoration for his performance, he loses his self identity.

To me, this happens to conservative pundits. They don't really believe what they're shilling at first. But, pretty soon the applause of their audience carries them away, and they actually believe it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Things that make me like individual athletes

The Packers won the Super Bowl. Afterward Greg Jennings was interviewed on the sidelines, in one of those super informative on the field "how does it feel?" type of interviews. (as a side note, someone the sideline reporter didn't seem to have a question a prepared, and ended up floundering to find the correct wording. How does that happen?). In the interview Jennings discussed the team overcoming injuries in the game and mentioned in passing " . . . our number one receiver went down . . . "

The thing is, Greg Jennings is the team's number one receiver by all relevant statistics. He has been for three years. Donald Driver was the one who got hurt. Donald Driver the career long Packer, and one of the few players who had Super Bowl experience on this years Packers.

It was pretty clear from Jennings phraseology that he genuinely considers Driver their number one receiver. It wasn't a forced phrased, no one asked him who the number one guy is, he could have just said 'Donald Driver,' but he said 'our number one receiver.'

I just think that's cool. We don't have much with which we can determine which players we 'like' and which we don't. This sort of thing is way up there for me. Welcome to my #1 fantasy pick next year Mr. Jennings.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thought of the Day: Is it Wrong to Watch the NFL?

I mean 'wrong' in a moral way. This idea is actually my fiancées, and I find it interesting to consider. The idea is best illustrated by a simple analogy through spectrum.

We can all agree that it would be wrong to pay to watch two people fight to the death, even if they consented and were paid money for the fight. We can all agree that it is not wrong to pay to watch people play golf, even though a stray golf ball could potentially kill someone. So we can use these points as the end of a spectrum that represents the ethics of watching, and thereby contributing to, a sport.

'Mortal Combat'--------------------------------------------------------'Golf'

Most sports we watch are somewhere in the middle. But, almost all sport has some level of genuine risk. So if we agree that there is a risk level that is too high for consent (i.e. 'lose and you die' risk level) then where do we, as individuals draw the line?

Personally, this is a major reason why I don't enjoy boxing. It's just too brutal for the real live human beings who participate in it. It causes a lot of harm, and as a viewer I can't escape from the images of an addled George Foreman trying to remember a single sentence long enough to film a commercial for his grill. Boxing smashes brains, so I don't feel ok watching it.

As we gain more information about the dangers of football, and as the game seems to become more concussion prone, I think it is worthwhile to really consider where football falls on the spectrum.

Personally, it hasn't fallen below boxing yet, and I still watch football every weekend. But it was just a thought that I think is worth rolling around from time to time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thought of the Day

Is the United States more litigious than Europe because we have traditionally lacked the same social safety net?

Conservatives complain about both our sue happy culture (until they want to bring a suit), and the idea of providing extensive social safety nets. When thinking about it today I realized that the two might be structurally related.

A lot of the ideas about liability in tort law lie in a philosophy similar to the idea of the 'lowest cost avoider.' This theory says, for example, that the producer of a dangerous product is in a better position to consider the costs and benefits of adding safety devices to the product, and that economic efficiency in this respect can be reached if the producer pays for all harm caused by the product.

In the general tort context I think of it as the 'someone has to pay' principle. When there is a harm, someone has to pay for it, that's a given. The tort system just decides *who* pays. If I slip and fall in the grocery store, and get $50,000 of harm (medical and lost working time), then that harm exists in and of itself. The tort system now decides who should pay.

On justification for the tort system in this case is that the grocery store is in the best position to know how many slip and falls happen, and how many resources to invest in avoiding them. If they bear all the costs, we should reach an efficient level of slip prevention. The counter point is that it removes my incentive to not slip.

A large part of the tort system is that sometimes it just feels unfair to make an individual bear certain burdens. We have all heard about huge jury awards in personal injury cases.

It seems possible that this sense of 'unfairness' is born from our lack of social safety net. A slip and fall in a grocery store could go from bad, to devastating if I don't have health insurance, a medical leave policy, unemployment pay, food for my family, etc. So in the United States our tort system might have developed more robustly than other developed countries in an attempt to spread the cost of risk among a larger pool of people.

Europe doesn't have the same high level of personal injury lawsuits. But, they already spread the risk by provided tax funded safety nets for individuals who are hit by difficult circumstances.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thought of the Day

A rant on ESPN radio made me think about this pattern today:

It seems to be the pattern of life for people to spend the first half of their lives working to make their lives better, citing the fact that they want their kids to have more than they had. Then spend the second half of their lives ranting about how the next generation has it so much easier than they did.

Go figure.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Obama Approval Higher than either Clinton or Reagan

I'm sure that will be the lead on Fox News for the next week. Of course his approval is lower than either Carter or Bush Sr. It seems the lesson is that a lot can change in the third year of a Presidency.

You can go to gallup's website to compare polling data for every President since Truman:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Twisted Desire to Date a Nazi

As I continue down the rabbit hole of misogyny on the web (the start of my journey is discussed here) there is one particular scenario that seems to make misogynists really really angry. The scenario is that of a hot girl being with a jerk. No other scenario angers a 'nice guy' quite like seeing a super hot babe with a guy he perceives as a bad person.

A post at the excellent blog Man Boobz outlines such a scenario here. In it, David Futrelle, does an excellent job of explaining how the original poster (someone who goes by 'Scarecrow') is anything but a nice guy. He is in fact a festering pile of hate and resentment. This is a standard response to the 'nice guy' complaining about the hot chick dating the 'jerk'. You don't have to peel back very many layers to often reveal the alleged nice guy as an entirely self centered individual, who lacks basic respect for other human beings, especially women.

However, Scarecrow's story reveals another simple response to the nice guy complaint, and even a potential answer to the question Scarecrow himself poses to the world he views as so cruel and unfair. From his original post:

When I went to the pre-trial, I saw two young men (say late teens or early twenties). One of them had a swastika on his left shoulder. The other had arms covered with various tattoos. They were both skin-heads - real winners (sarcasm). They were obviously into drugs (I KNOW that the "we stole this car" was merely a rouse for them to deny possession of drugs and illegal firearms).

The thing that pissed me off:

They had their girlfriends with them: Two super-mega-hot women, a brunette and a blond. Both were busty, thin, and extraordinarily pretty in the face. They had no tattoos or piercings. They both looked quite ordinary, except for their well-above-average aesthetic appearance.

I wondered: Why do such losers get totally hot women, and men who are better off and "square" do not get the time of day from such women?
Read it in it's entirety here, if you dare.

So I'm going to propose one possible answer for him: because they are jerks. You see, when men view women only as object, and not real people, they completely fail to prescribe any personality to individual women. A females social worth is based upon her physical appearance, as all woman have the same basic programming, in the mind of the 'nice guy' misogynist.

Astoundingly it never occurs to the poster that these women, who were dating Nazi, Skinhead, drug users, might themselves be Nazis, or drug users.

Of course, not all women who date bad guys are themselves bad. But it astounds me that the poster doesn't even begin to consider this possibility. At the exact same moment he is criticizing these women for being with their terrible boyfriend, the poster is desiring to be with these women. Women who likely meet the same criteria that cause the poster to describe a man as a 'loser,' not deserving of hotness.

When I see a really hot girl with a guy I know to be a bad person, my first thought is not that she should be dating me. Honestly, my first thought is to question her character. If I know the guy is selfish, dismissive and rude, then I'm going to think that maybe she has some of these characteristics as well, at least in large enough amounts to not care if they exist in a mate. If I see a hot girl who is dating a nazi meth user, my first thought is not "dang, she should be dating *me.*" I don't want to date a nazi meth user, and the odds that she is one just went up by a lot.

I think there's some projecting going on here. The poster obviously would happily date these girls he saw in court, in order to have sex with someone he thinks is hot. He apparently wouldn't need to undergo much investigation into her personality, drug use or potential hatred of racial minorities. Obviously, rather than deal with this character flaw, he has projected onto all women and assumed they are just as shallow as he is. This makes him burn with the anger and judgment that only extreme self delusion can allow.