On Valentine’s Day 2013 I learned I had a broken heart. The murmur, as it had been referred to for all my 61 years had now become Severe Aortic Stenosis and needed to be quickly repaired. I underwent surgery February 21 only to find there was also an aortic aneurysm dangerously close to rupture. In all, three operations were performed during the one surgical session
I’m at home recovering now and to answer the many questions that arose through social media, I thought I’d make a few simple facts available. My prognosis is full recovery in three months or less.
There are more things I want to say about such circumstances, like the value of animal use in human heath, but right now my whirring mind well outpaces my recovering body.
Most of all, I just wanted to say thanks. To God, for his mercy and manifest blessings, to all my family, to a world-class team of cardiovascular doctors, surgeons, nurses, rehab specialists and staff, and to those of you who have passed along your expressions of care and concern.
Lord willing, I just might hang around a little while longer.
Psychologist and professor Kenneth J. Gergen describes civil discourse as “the language of dispassionate objectivity”, and suggests that it requires respect of the other participants, such as the reader. It neither diminishes the other’s moral worth, nor questions their good judgment; it avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experiences.(Wikipedia)
A fellow ag journalist recently engaged in civil discourse when he courteously disagreed with me in his opinion column. I thank him for that – not because I enjoy being disagreed with but because he was willing to honor my point of view while expressing a differing opinion. That’s the way it should be.
It seems that many of today’s more outspoken voices have read and subscribed to the Saul Alinsky Book “Rules for Radicals.” The way I read it, the book encourages conflict, not conflict resolution. It’s not about finding common ground or even agreeing to disagree. It’s about winning an argument at any cost. There’s nothing civil about it.
Only when the privilege of disagreement is honored can dissenting parties begin to discuss their differences and find that, often, there are areas of agreement that lead to acceptable resolutions.
I’m sure some will disagree. Please do so honestly and thoughtfully and perhaps the process will be more productive.
I didn’t watch the Superbowl.
No, I’m not un-American. I like football, I just didn’t really care for either the Ravens or the 49ers. Forgive me for saying I couldn’t care less if Beyonce’ reunites with Destiny’s Child. I don’t even have television. Cable doesn’t come out this far and I got tired of paying for hundreds of satellite channels that seldom aired anything worth watching.
But, I do love farmers. When Facebook and Twitter started erupting with accolades for the Ram truck commercial, I did a quick internet search and watched the video. As I noted on social media, I’m a Ford guy but Dodge scored some serious points with that ad.
Being a reporter and a broadcaster with a rather conservative point of view, I’ve always loved Paul Harvey, even though we occasionally disagreed. The basis of the Dodge ad was his 1978 speech to the national convention of the Future Farmers of America, an address that never fails to bring a tear to my eye.
Chrysler Motors has pledged a dollar to FFA for every internet view of the spot.
The commercial is subliminally salted with heroic photos of Dodge Ram trucks and CaseIH tractors (both owned by the Italian firm Fiat.) To those who have an issue with that, get over it. Someone dropped a packet of cash to buy two minutes of Superbowl airtime and they deserve to reap some benefit – even though there are curmudgeons like me who will applaud their work, but still buy from a competitor who produces a more desirable product. It’s called fair trade.
Many liberal voices are rising to decry the spot as commercial pandering and emotional manipulation. Just keep in mind that many of those same voices have never shied away from using images of abused puppies and kittens to solicit money to build their war chest and line their own pockets without committing any real resources to the plight of those creatures they exploit.
It’s a feel-good spot. Not that it should puff farmers and ranchers up with a new-found sense of self-importance, but it may help bolster the image of agriculture in the eyes of many consumers who see this as reinforcement for what they already believe – honest, hard-working, God-fearing people put in long, difficult hours for a lifestyle they believe in that also, by the way, helps put food on their table, clothes on their back and a roof over their head.
For the Greek chorus of environmental zealots, animal rights activists and other anti-agriculture forces it won’t matter anyway. As they keep saying on the interweb, “haters gonna hate.”
This entry was written for and initially appeared on the Kentucky Food and Farm Files blog.
As the lame-duck session of the 112th United States Congress comes to a close, it becomes more and more obvious that a Farm Bill will not be voted on this year.
Last week, in a speech at a forum sponsored by the Farm Journal, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack asked “Why is it that we don’t have a farm bill?” The Secretary then proceeded to answer his own question, saying “It isn’t just the differences of policy. It’s the fact that rural America with a shrinking population is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country, and we had better recognize that and we better begin to reverse it.”
I’d have to disagree, Mr. Secretary. If this were a vote on Farm Policy alone, it might not draw as much attention but it might not be as divisive. If Washington were indeed honest, they would admit that cuts to farm programs would be a mere drop in the bucket as it applies to improving the country’s fiscal position.
The problem lives in the fact that the Farm Bill is no longer a Farm Bill. Sec. Vilsack himself admits this, in referring to the measure as a “Food, Farm and Jobs Bill.” With all due respect, Mr. Secretary, I don’t think that even comes close.
Take a hard look at the breakdown of programs included in the omnibus bill and you will find that less than 20 percent of the measure actually deals with farm policy. The remaining 80+ percent bankrolls the Supplemental Needs Assistance Program (SNAP,) school lunches and other social nutrition programs. Sec. Vilsack has argued in the past that these are farm issues because they involve the products farmers grow. I find that link a weak one, at best.
The reasons the Farm Bill has had such a rocky path in congress is primarily because of wrangling over cuts to entitlements represented by the nutrition component. It has little to do with what the Secretary perceives about the political relevance of rural America.
The relevance argument is a valid one, however, but not strictly for the reasons Vilsack blames. The relevance of farmers and ranchers lies largely in their roll of feeding the nation, a fact that urban, suburban and “exurban” America either does not understand or chooses to ignore. We will not change perceptions by being silent. I do agree with the Secretary about the messaging. “We need a proactive message, not a reactive message,” he noted.
A proactive message, however, does not include a public scolding from the administration. Everyone needs to be unified and positive if we are to counter the negative attacks coming from societal segments that would dictate how food is produced. We need you on our side, Mr. Secretary. And, we need a Farm Bill that is really a Farm Bill.
There’s a rumor going ’round that I’m a journalist. Back a few years ago, I would have been gratified to be identified as such, but with the current state of the news media, I’m not so sure. I think I’d just as soon be recognized as a storyteller.
I grew up watching the likes of Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. I’m not quite old enough to remember Edward R. Murrow, but I have studied his work as have legions of journalism students. To me, folks like that are the gold standard of the news business – not that they were perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they were skilled craftsmen with a respect for their industry.
The onslaught of negative publicity for the ag industry and the pandering, preening and posturing of the so-called mainstream media in the recent presidential campaign have soured me somewhat on the mantle of “journalist.”
ABC’s malicious and unwarranted attack on industry innovator Beef Products, Inc. and the Consumer Reports junk science stories about arsenic in rice and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in pork are but a few examples of the agenda-driven drivel that tries to pass itself off as news. I take little joy in the demise this week of the Rupert Murdock-backed new media website “The Daily,” even though they “played a key role in igniting the national media firestorm” regarding LFTB.
The shift to new media is not surprising, even though it is not without it’s bad apples (are you listening Huffington Post?) It’s becoming more and more difficult to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s grinding their ax or goring someone’s ox. (How’s that for colorful ag metaphors?)
I won’t even claim that you’ll be hearing totally unbiased information from me, although I try to assure that my opinions are easily identified as such.
It has become increasingly important to closely examine and weigh every piece of information as you seek to develop your own honest and balanced opinions. As more and more on-line information sources are instituting “pay walls” or paid subscriptions, try to be as certain as possible that you’re not paying someone to lie to you.
You should know the story: Cain becomes angry with God because God gave him instructions he didn’t want to follow, so his brother’s sacrifice was acceptable and his wasn’t. Out of jealousy and envy, Cain takes Abel’s life. A part of the story that isn’t revealed to us is how he did it. One thing is certain, however. He didn’t say “Oh, wow! I can’t murder my brother yet – firearms haven’t been invented!”
For Bob Costas to categorically state that “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today” is absolutely absurd. The first murder was committed without a gun and many murders and suicides have occurred since that did not involve a firearm.
The deaths of Perkins and Belcher are indeed tragic. For Costas to try and exploit that tragedy to further a political agenda is reprehensible. For his employer, NBC Sports to remain mute on the matter is complicit. If Costas was off the reservation with his remarks, the network should at least indicate that they either support his editorializing or that he expressed his own views. Their silence suggests tacit approval of the action, or that possibly he was a mere mouthpiece.
Whoever is responsible owes a huge apology to the viewing audience and to mourning families and friends who didn’t need this sad episode turned into a political football.
Unquestionably, John Wayne is my favorite actor. Not to say that all his films were of the caliber of The Searchers or Red River. There were some stinkers, like the 1956 disaster, The Conqueror, in which Duke was cast as – wait for it - Genghis Kahn!?!
Another film that doesn’t rate high in Wayne’s artistic canon is 1971′s Big Jake. The considerable talents of Bruce Cabot, Maureen O’Hara and Richard Boone were mostly squandered in this B-grade oater, but the real draw to me is the underlying theme of ageism. I doubt Wayne and director George Sherman fully appreciated the significance of the statement they made about a grandfather searching for his kidnapped grandson.
Jacob McCandles shows up at his sprawling New Mexico ranch after an absence of 18 years, only to learn from his estranged wife (O’Hara) that a grandson he never knew he had, also his namesake, has been taken by a gang led by John Fain (Boone.) Big Jake sets off in search of Little Jake with the aid of his long-time friend Sam Sharpnose (Cabot) and two of his sons (played by real-life son Patrick Wayne and Chris Mitchum, son of Duke’s good friend Robert Mitchum.)
Patrick Wayne’s character resents his father’s extended absence and demonstrates it by repeatedly and disrespectfully calling him “daddy.” When the elder Wayne has finally had enough, he tells the young man “Well, son; since you don’t have any respect for your elders, it’s time somebody taught you some respect for your betters!” Big Jake then demonstrates that he is still a formidable foe.
This issue of disrespect is what it all comes down to. The story is set at the beginning of the twentieth century and progress is the order of the day, with sophisticated weaponry and the advent of the automobile to replace the horse. Big Jake proves in the end that newer and younger is hardly a substitute for tested, proven and wiser.
Perhaps that’s an attitude that might be considered today.
Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindall and many of the young turks of the Republican Party seem to be believing what they’re seeing in the liberal media about the GOP being the party of “old, white guys.” As I’ve stated before, that term is the trifecta of intolerance: old (ageism,) white (racism) guys (sexism.) Maybe they think they’ll remain young forever. *hint* It don’t work that way.
Perhaps rather than being totally dismissive of the old guys, a little something of value might be learned from them. Throughout history, cultures have venerated their seniors, often recognizing the tribal or community elders as sources of wisdom (meaning, in part, that they had learned from their mistakes.)
Aging does not always equate to senility. Some of us old, white (or black or brown or whatever color) guys and gals still have a lot to contribute.
When Big Jake overtakes and overcomes his nemesis, Duke holds the dying John Fain, whose last words are “I thought you were dead!” Jake replies “not hardly.”
Is agriculture worth the fight? I suppose it has to be. I wouldn’t have started this blog otherwise.
What saddens me is that a fight is deemed necessary by some, when in fact it’s not.
We must eat. What we choose to eat and how farmers responsibly choose to produce what we eat isn’t really even the issue here. Ideologies and agendas and the occasional sales pitch are the issue.
I’d like to see all the petty bickering and political posturing set aside so that farmers can farm and people – especially our children – can be adequately and appropriately nourished, but I’m too much of a realist to believe that’s going to be allowed to happen any time soon. But hey,a guy can dream.
Until then, yes – I’m afraid it has to be #WorthTheFight.
For a while I toyed with the idea of calling this entry “Nothing To See Here, Folks – Move Along” because for most of you who read this blog, there is absolutely nothing of interest about this book. Besides, you’ve probably read it all before.
It could seem like Deja Vu because these are the same old worn-out unsubstantiated vegan arguments you’ve heard a million times. But then, it might be because you’ve read Robbins’ column on Huffington Post. The book is a compilation of previously printed material from his column and his blogs, a tactic often used by pseudo-celebrities to create another revenue source from devoted followers that will buy anything with their hero’s name on it.
I started reading this book to glean honest and objective arguments from the vegan camp to balance out what I hear from my friends in the meat industry. They’re not there. Instead there is a plethora of opinion without the slightest hint of documentation to back it up, save gratuitous lists of books and films by fellow vegans.
By way of comparison, the book I previously reviewed, The Locavore’s Dilemma, had 46 pages of notes documenting the research that went into it.
Robbins is an activist, pure and simple. He’s the son of Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream founder Irv Robbins. According to his website,
John Robbins was groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps, but chose to walk away from Baskin-Robbins and the immense wealth it represented to “…pursue the deeper American Dream…the dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem.”
Robbins is welcome to his opinions, but to me that’s all they are. I didn’t find any substance here, just more hyperbole.
The Locavore’s Dilemma:In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Diet
by Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu
published by Public Affairs Books
Mark Twain once quipped “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”
What this book sets out to do is clear up some of the distortions about the Local Food Movement. It does so by providing facts in abundance and then backing them up with historical evidence. If anything, that may be it’s ultimate shortcoming.
The title is intended to draw the obvious parallel to Michael Pollan’s treatise, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” but there are a multitude of differences.
Let’s start out with some observations about, and comparisons of, the authors. Pierre Desrochers is an associate professor in geography at the University of Toronto with a rich background in agriculture and economics. His wife and Locavore Dilemma co-author, Hiroko Shimizu is an international public policy specialist. Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan is a journalism professor at UC Berkeley.
Pollan’s narrative is a very well-written piece of prose. Desrochers and Shimizu’s offering, while thoroughly researched and carefully crafted, reads a bit like a college textbook expanded from a policy paper (which it was.)
I don’t say that to be critical, because the policy wonk/historian side of me thoroughly enjoyed Locavore and enthusiatically gobbled it up in short order. The former literature student side preferred the Pollan read, as inaccurate, pompously personal and preachy as it was. I suppose that’s where the meat of these observations lie. If you’re not careful, the Pollan book sells you a romantic, bucolic bill of goods, while Locavore cites science, economics and history that completely blows that notion out of the water.
The first thing that really leaps from this book is that the current movement is a reworking of previous efforts to proselytize adherents to a local land of milk and honey. They all failed, some failed miserably. And, this is not an American phenomenon – there have been similar efforts – for various reasons – all over the world.
Locavore sets the stage by establishing the concept of SOLE food (Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical) then systematically knocks down this house of cards by debunking the movement’s myths about social capital, economics, environmentalism, food security and health benefits. Take notes and keep them on your smart phone or tablet so you can quickly make reference when engaging in conversation. The book’s discussion and complete dismissal of the concept of food miles is well documented and convincing.
The forward was written by Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst (The Omnivore’s Delusion) and is an engaging, albeit mildly curmudgeonly, discourse that is not to be overlooked.
Now, here’s the thing as I see it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with shopping farmers markets and growing your own food. Where the problem comes in is when a personal preference is pushed as a panacea to the ills of the world and it’s supporters are so zealous as to promote it at any cost and try to see it instituted as public policy. If food production methods were so much better a century ago, why was change so readily embraced? Locavore offers some thoughtful and thought-provoking suggestions about how that question might be answered.