Hooray Chipotle

I love Chipotle and I especially love Carnitas (mmm, sous vide Pork).  I was surprised on Monday to find that Carnitas were not available because they could not obtain responsible pork from their regular supplier.  Well, damn it, then, I happily settled for responsible beef over irresponsible pork.  In all seriousness, I love that Chipotle takes this stuff seriously and I sure wish more places would.  I am under  no illusions that pigs for Carnita’s live an idyllic, Wilbur-life existence, but I very much appreciate that it is better than the typical industrial pig and that Chipotle cares about this.  I read a while back that humane/responsible meat ends up being about $1 per burrito.  Seems to me a small price to pay.  Anyway, more on the story:

Chipotle says it stopped serving pork at hundreds of its restaurants after suspending a supplier that violated its standards.

Chris Arnold, a spokesman for the Mexican-food chain, told The Associated Press it was the first time the company stopped serving a topping for its burritos and bowls. He said Chipotle learned of the violation by the supplier Friday through a routine audit and did not have a timeline for when carnitas would return to affected stores, about a third of its total base…

As for Chipotle, Arnold said the company was looking at a variety of ways to remedy its carnitas shortage, including the use of different cuts of pork or increasing orders from other suppliers. He said he hoped the supplier in question would fix its issues and eventually come “back on board.”

Arnold said the carnitas topping typically accounts for about 6% to 7% of entree orders; chicken is the most popular topping.

Seriously?!  Carnitas is so much better than the chicken it’s not even funny.  I’ve tried all the meats and they are all good, but carnitas simply wins hands down.   Anyway, I’ll be there for Sofritas on January 26.

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In defense of government

Another post from Michael Tomasky to remind me why I love him so much.  In short, Democrats need to defend government, damnit!

To me that means taking Chuck Schumer’s recent advice, which I wrote about at the time.The Democrats have to get over their fear of defending government. The central distinguishing feature of this new Republican Congress will probably be that it’s going to launch attacks on government across virtually all of its domestic functions: programs for the poor (and for the middle class, which Medicaid now basically is to a considerable extent); public investment in infrastructure and the like; regulation of all types, especially the environmental kind; and on and on and on. President Obama will veto most of it, but the Republicans will be happy to force every veto, confident that every manufactured showdown over government will be a win for them.

They’ll be confident of that for one reason: Recent history teaches us that the Democrats won’t forcefully defend government. They’ll say things like “Such-and-such Republican initiative goes too far.” Most of them won’t say it’s just morally and practically wrong. That is what Democrats have to spend the next two years doing. And a certain presumed presidential candidate needs to be doing it, too…

I believe that it is possible to make government interesting and appealing, and to surprise people with all that government does for them every day that they take for granted and just assume was the handiwork of the “more efficient” private sector. Go to virtually any town of a decent size in the country, especially a college or university town where the research dollars flow, and the government is doing all kinds of good things people don’t know about. Someone just has to tell them. Changing public opinion, of course, will be the work of a generation or maybe two, but kudos to Stewart for getting it started.

In the meantime, Democrats in the Senate need to find ways to take the right stands. When the Republicans come after the EPA, Democrats need to be ready to talk about all that the EPA has accomplished over the years—the rivers and lakes made swimmable and fishable, the polluting power plants made cleaner, and all the rest. I never hear a Democrat talk about these goods, which are, in the literal sense, indivisible—for us all.

Yes, yes, and yes.  So long as Democrats do little more than barely defend government as a necessary evil, Republicans will keep winning the politics of this.  Does government go too far sometimes?  Of course.  Does it bite off more than it can chew?  Should it be more selective in the problems it tries to tackle?  Most likely.  But damnit, government is the best of us.  It is the American people coming together to solve problems than collections of individuals never could.  And we shouldn’t be afraid to make that argument.

Cancer and an (un)just world

Had lunch today with a friend who’s child was diagnosed with leukemia a couple years ago (kid is doing great– yeah gleevec!), but was really interesting to me to learn how people actually blamed him and his wife for the cancer.  The mom recently shared this NYT article about the randomness of cancer.  Not a big surprise to anybody who pays attention– sure there are lifestyle factors, etc., that affect likelihood of cancer– but there’s also clearly a big lottery going on here.  Anyway, in her comments on the article, she mentioned how people actually wanted to know what her and her husband had done wrong to cause their child’s cancer.  Amazing to me.  If anybody ever blamed me for Alex’s rare genetic disease, I sure haven’t heard about it.  But, alas, this seems to be sadly common.  First, as to cancer’s randomness:

It may sound flippant to say that many cases of cancer are caused by bad luck, but that is what two scientists suggested in an article published last week in the journal Science. The bad luck comes in the form of random genetic mistakes, or mutations, that happen when healthy cells divide.

Random mutations may account for two-thirds of the risk of getting many types of cancer, leaving the usual suspects — heredity and environmental factors — to account for only one-third, say the authors, Cristian Tomasetti and Dr. Bert Vogelstein, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We do think this is a fundamental mechanism, and this is the first time there’s been a measure of it,” said Dr. Tomasetti, an applied mathematician.

Though the researchers suspected that chance had a role, they were surprised at how big it turned out to be.

So, how does this relate to a just world.  If there’s 2/3 chance cancer is random, then it can’t be your “fault” when you or your kid gets cancer.  But why would people want it to be your fault when your kid gets cancer?  Because if it is, that means they can do all the right things so their kid doesn’t get cancer and have an (illusory) control over bad things happening to them.  The upshot of all this is the Just World bias, in which humans regularly convince themselves that other people “deserve” the bad things that happened to them so they can go on thinking they themselves will not be a victim of random misfortune.  In thinking about all this, I came across a nice Slate article on the matter:

Judgments about behavior not only unsettle and stigmatize the patient, but reflect the interrogator’s own insecurities. Frequently, those disease detectives are attempting to regain a sense of control amid the inherently random and sometimes unjust world that we all reside in, according to researchers who have studied stigma. Psychologists refer to this as the “just-world hypothesis,” a bias in thinking and perception that was first described by psychologist Melvin Lerner and colleagues more than four decades ago, and which has since been documented in numerousbooks and articles.

“I think that in one part there is a fundamental assumption in our society that the world is a just place, and that bad things don’t happen to good people,” says Gerald Devins, a stigma researcher and senior scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto. “And I think when bad things happen to good people, it’s threatening to everybody.”

“Secondly, you can say knowledge is power in a sense,” Devins says. “If we feel like we understand something, it gives us the illusion of control.”

Life is unfair.  Plenty of people get cancer and they did absolutely nothing wrong.  Others smoke a pack a day for a lifetime and die at 90.  Horrible things happen to good people and wonderful things happen to bad people.  (Of course, plenty of the converse is true as well) and the sooner people accept this (never?), the better we can all treat each other.

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