My irrational food fears and dark meat

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted in regards to my complicated relationship with food, but I’ve been inspired by this interesting story in Slate about the international politics of dark meat chicken.   Short version: Americans love their white meat chicken, but not their dark meat.  There’s actually not much of a good reason for this except cultural bias– dark meat is just as healthy and the taste issue is entirely subjective (and cultural).  Interesting history behind this is described in the article.  Anyway, we’ve been shipping a ton of that excess dark meat to Russia, where they prefer it, but now the Russians have been sharply limiting their imports of our chicken (and totally lying about the reasons), meaning we need to find new international markets for our excess dark meat.  Anyway, the part that really struck me was an explanation about our cultural preference for white meat:

“When you’re faced with a chicken leg, there’s no hiding the fact that it’s the leg of an animal,” says Pelchat. The modern consumer is nearly as averse to seeing a leg on their plate as they are to seeing a fish head. We have grown accustomed to buying boneless, bloodless slabs of meat in cellophane-wrapped trays and don’t want to be reminded of the provenance of our meal, that it came from an animal that was once living, breathing, and moving. A nondescript breast fillet appeals since it bears little resemblance to an actual chicken.

Wow!   This is exactly my response, but I was always under the impression that I was quite unusual in this matter, not the basis behind a whole cultural theory.  I eat plenty of meat, but as I always tell people, I do not eat any meat that actually resembles an animal, e.g., a hamburger has nothing in common with a cow, but I don’t eat ribs; I’ll eat fish sticks, but nothing that at all resembles the actual fish, etc.  So, am I actually a prototypical modern consumer, or does this Pelchat guy have it all wrong?

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GOP Budget Fantasy

It’s a little frustrating to see the Republican budget “plans” to be covered as anything beyond the pure fantasy they are.   Might as well call upon alchemy and unicorns to fix the long-term budget.  Elliot Spitzer has a nice column in Slate taking Republicans to task on the matter which is bolstered by some nice figures.  First, the numbers:

4. Our annual budget is significantly out of balance:

a. Spending is about $3.8 trillion.
b. Revenue is about $2.5 trillion.
c. This leaves a deficit of about $1.3 trillion.

5. The big buckets of spending are pretty clearly separable:

a. Defense—about $900 billion.
b. Social Security—$730 billion.
c. Medicare—$490 billion.
d. Medicaid—$300 billion.
e. Interest—$250 billion.
f. Nondefense discretionary—$610 billion.

Now, look at those numbers above again to appreciate the sheer fantasy of Republican proposals:

And where exactly do the Republicans want to cut? Not at all in defense, Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, the biggest drivers of current spending. Moreover, these are the buckets of spending that if not altered will generate larger deficits every year and contribute almost nothing to our future competitiveness.

Instead, they propose that virtually the entirety of the cuts—$2.3 trillion of $2.5 trillion—come from nondefense discretionary spending. That means slashing spending in everything from education to scientific research funding by a whopping 20 percent to 30 percent over the next decade.

Just so we’re clear, those kind of cuts, besides being devastating and stupid, are completely politically impossible.  The Greene solution?  Raise taxes a bit on the middle class, a bunch on the super-rich (i.e., more progressive tax rates, while still topping out below 50%) and modestly by raising the FICA cap, save on Medicare through health care reform, cut defense to a reasonable degree.  If Republicans truly had their way, they’d manage to turn the US into a backwater within 50 years.

Chart of the day

The latest health care reform/repeal voting from KFF (via Ezra):

repealexpandpoll.jpgh.png

What I like about these questions is that they are pretty damn vague, which is much in keeping with the public’s understanding of the issue.  Of course, there’s only 20% who actually favor the policy just passed by the House.   I’m not exactly holding my breath for the “replace” portion they are promising.

SOTU for Slovaks

I spent most of the SOTU watching my DVD of the town.  Even as great a speaker as Obama is, speeches still leave me bored.  Besides, the reaction to the speech is so much more important than the speech itself.  Anyway, after digesting the post-speech coverage from the Post, the Times, and Jon Chait, here’s what I quickly fired off to the Slovakian audience.  No great insights, but, in case you’re curious what I had to say…

On the whole, I think this was a very good and effective speech from the president.  He presented an optimistic vision of America’s future in which an active, but leaner, government must play an important role through investments in infrastructure, research, and education.  This presents a fairly stark contrast to the Republican position of “dramatic cuts now!”  I think it was very much aimed at Independent voters and I think it probably resonated quite well with them.  Perhaps most importantly, I think it was aimed at media elites who help shape the political discussion.  He wanted to present a clear contrast with Republicans and help frame the issues going forward in a way that is more conducive to his policy goals.  The truth is, it will be very difficult to have meaningful legislative accomplishments with the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, but insofar as compromises will be made, it is important for the debate to happen on Obama’s terms, rather than Republican terms.  I think he helped to make that happen tonight.  That said, as fine an orator as Obama is, it is ultimately just a single speech.  I think he accomplished about as much as he can hope to out of it, but the real tests are going to be the coming weeks and months as we see just how much he is able to accomplish with the new Republican-controlled congress.

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