Hello friends and farmers,
In this edition, the theme is policy: its unintended consequences and often shortsightedness. There's a couple short rants in this one, would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree. I'm trying to censor myself less in my writing, and overall. I noticed my self censorship to a new degree a couple weeks ago while speaking on a podcast. The fear of judgment, alienating people I know, being criticized, and my thoughts and opinions at a moment in time being captured and made permanent and public. It was paralyzing, and ultimately resulted in diluted statements with not much value-add. So instead of overthinking it, I'm trying to be more liberal with sharing my true opinions, and I'm treating this newsletter as practice. Let me know what you think.
🔥 Hot tip following the last update: Studio Ghibli's almost full catalog is available to stream on HBO Max, so if you're a subscriber, you can easily watch the two Miyazaki films I mentioned in my last email plus all the rest, except for Grave of the Fireflies, which is apparently "one of the saddest films ever made."
🍳 Another hot tip (and one I'll probably never actually use): Coating produce with egg keeps it fresh longer. This is less a practical home ec tip than it is an early indicator of possible tactics for extending shelf life. Whether this would actually cut down on food waste remains to be seen. My view is that technology rarely solves a behavioral problem, and in America, food waste is largely a question of what we value. Plus, instead of continuing to try to find new uses for our heavily subsidized commodity crops like corn and soy, isn't it time we subsidized something more valuable, like better farming practices that decarbonize the atmosphere?
🇺🇸 The subheading for this article says it all: "Imported beef can be stamped with a 'Made in the USA' label if it was packaged in the U.S." Basically, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service allows imported meat to be labeled as a product of the USA as long as it's processed and packaged in the states. All that cheap grass-fed beef at Trader Joe's? There's a good chance it's imported from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, or Nicaragua, consistently the top 6 countries of import over the past 5 years.
- Separate but related: I'm not sure why, but this makes me think of the opening scene of The Newsroom, episode one. A sophomore student asks "Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?" After the other two panelists give superficial and unconscious answers, Jeff Daniels's character Will McAvoy gives a joke response that's purposefully inane and equally myopic: "The New York Jets." After some chuckling from the audience, the professor hosting the panel pushes him for a "real" answer, and I love how he then rips into the question, the panelists, and the whole delusional and self-aggrandizing notion of our own American greatness.
- Watching it again though, he goes on to romanticize a recent past when America was better in all the ways he enumerates, and maybe I'm reaching but, it strikes me as a little bit "Make America Great Again." Which, if you've been paying attention, is not just a Trump slogan but an insidiously entrenched, White view of America, not to mention a consequence of the great man theory. Because when exactly was America great? When women couldn't vote? When we had slaves? When we stole land and committed genocide?
- Jeff Daniels's monologue reels it back in for me, though, with this truism: "First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one." Simple and obvious, but incredibly hard to do when the problem hides in plain sight. Listen to David Foster Wallace's 2005 commencement speech "This Is water" if you haven't before. He opens with a short parable about fish that demonstrates the difficulty of recognition in a beautifully succinct way, "that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about." He concedes the banality of this statement when made in plain English before qualifying that "in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance."
- Part of my unlearning has been realizing how much I've been indoctrinated into a self-centered worldview, where the world revolves around and exists to serve US. To give a banal example, it's like the MLB calling its championship the World Series.
👮🏻♂️ If you're reading between the lines, the two previous articles are about policy failures. Here's another potential policy failure: the new NYPD Police Reform bill that bans and criminalizes certain control tactics. Rener Gracie controversially called the bill an "absolute disaster." If you don't know Rener Gracie, he's an outspoken member of the Gracie family, who developed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and created UFC to prove its effectiveness against all other forms of martial arts. Rener is obsessed with BJJ and incredibly skilled at and knowledgeable about it. He's trained many members of the police force and has strong opinions about the root of violent behavior, bullying, and how mastering something like BJJ actually leads to less violence. It's one of those things where mastery in one subject can lead to enlightenment in other areas. Regarding these new rules, I absolutely agree with Rener's position. Criminalizing these tactics is shortsighted and counterproductive. It will unintentionally encourage more violent alternatives, like how subsidizing corn unintentionally led to centralized animal feeding operations, and facilitating North American trade led to false labeling.
- Political rant on the above: Reactionary policies like this are not the answer and show an acute lack of understanding and forethought. We continue to address symptoms, to gain political clout and public approval, rather than root cause. The root of the problem here is the racial biases inherent not just in the police force but in the country, systemically and ideologically. We're not going to solve anti-Blackness by specifying the tools by which Black people can and can't be oppressed, brutalized, and murdered. Derek Chauvin didn't murder George Floyd while J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao watched because kneeling is not banned; it's because he, like all of us, was indoctrinated into the insidious ideology of White supremacy. You don't have to be in the KKK to believe in or perpetuate it. It's in our everyday language: "Oh, that's the sketchy (read: Black) part of town." Or "that's the nice (read: White) part of town." For more on that, here's an eye-opening 6-minute interview with White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo.
📉 A friend sent me this table showing historical highest marginal income tax rates, which peaked in 1944 to 1945 at 94%. It makes sense tax rates were so high then because that was wartime, but even through the 50s and early 60s they stayed above 90%. After dropping to 70%, they stayed there or higher through the 70s before starting a sharp and precipitous decline through the 80s to now, where they are a paltry 37%. Gives a pretty clear indication of the amount of power the wealthy class has over our government, and why we should be scared of FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google).
📽 Movie recommendation: The Great Hack is the 2109 documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and their role in Brexit and Trump's election. The film explores the idea of truth in the modern world, the implications of big data, and the very real and scary ways it can be and is leveraged. Fun side note: I was on a webinar with Brittany Kaiser, former business development director of Cambridge Analytica and whistleblower in the film. I didn't buy her redemption tour in the film because something about her seemed suspect. In real life (though it was also through a screen), something about her still struck me as disingenuous. Watch it on Netflix here.
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Betting the farm,