Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Give me liberty ...

Two hundred thirty five years ago this month, Patrick Henry gave his famous speech. A snippet:

This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty towards the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

(Hat tip: Bill Giovannetti)

The people vs. production agriculture?

Katerina Athanasiou writes in the Cornell Daily Sun:

From Food, Inc. to Michael Pollan’s novels, in recent years, the public at large has criticized agriculture. Often, the public portrays farmers as villains. Busy farmers frequently remain unheard in the media. Recently, ABC ran a special with the headline, “Got Milk? Got Ethics? Animal Rights v. U.S. Dairy Industry.”

This upset students from farming backgrounds, like Kelly Lee ’13 from Mill Wheel Farm in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin. She said, “I was really upset that was the portrayal of the dairy industry. That was one farm in one instance, where things weren’t up to standard. Most arms in the US use healthy and responsible management practices.”

Prof. Michael Van Amburgh, animal science, is advisor of the Cornell University Dairy Science Club (CUDS). He suggested that many of the negative perceptions of dairy farmers emerge due to public opinion of animal welfare.

He believes that public view of animal treatment is caused by “anthropomorphism,” or the allocation of human qualities to animals. For example, animal images infiltrate popular culture through the personification of animals in books and cartoons. From these sources, the public generates the notion that animals have needs that parallel those of humans.

More here. (Hat tip: Advocates for Agriculture)

Actually, Katerina, it's not the public at large that's had the problem with production agriculture. It's a few very loud and well-funded activists and their willing accomplices in the elite media.

Is the Obama honeymoon over in Europe?

I thought the whole knock on President Bush was that he didn't get along with our allies in what Donald Rumsfeld once derisively referred to as "Old Europe."

From Fox News:

"Europe is beginning to feel a little concerned that it's being taken for granted," said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. " When summit meetings are skipped, when it takes 14 months for the French to have an Oval Office meeting, they are starting to become concerned that maybe allies aren't as appreciated as they had anticipated from this administration."

There are other grievances. European leaders felt cut out of the side-deal Obama cut at the Copenhagen climate talks, depriving them of co-negotiating clout on an issue Europe believes it has defined for more than a decade. France wants less pressure to send more troops to Afghanistan and more action on sanctions against Iran. France also wants what it considers to be a fairer shot at the contract for airborne refueling tankers on behalf of its government-backed aircraft maker Airbus and its U.S. partner Northrop Grumman Corp. Great Britain sees its "special relationship" with the U.S. as a thing of the past. England, Germany and France want more U.S. muscle behind their push for tougher global financial regulations. [...]

Clearly, whatever the amount of listening, the level of consultation and agreement is decidedly less than a year ago. One on need compare Sarkozy's take on Obama's America now and a year ago.

"We cannot afford to have the world's number one power not being open to the rest of the world," Sarkozy said Monday at Columbia University. "The world does not stop at the East Coast, the world does not stop at the West Coast."

Say what you want about President Obama, but he's not one to sit around and wait for permission from Europe to do things, either.

It sort of makes you wonder what kind of U.S. president the Europeans would like. A lap dog, perhaps.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Obesity and The Last Supper

Could the key to American obesity be found in artists' renderings of the Last Supper? Some scholars think so.

From the American Farm Bureau Federation:

Looking at the 52 paintings of The Last Supper, the meal entrees gradually grew by about 70 percent and the bread by 23 percent. Furthermore, the size of the apostles’ plates increased by nearly 66 percent.

While some critics blame modern farming and the advent of take-out food in the last 40 years for America’s fat problem, the authors instead suggest it's a natural consequence of “dramatic socio-historic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food” that started more than 1,000 years ago.

Writer Tracy Taylor Grondine continues:

One can argue that food portions have grown significantly over the last 20 years. Take movie popcorn for example. Twenty years ago the average size of the theater treat was five cups, equal to 270 calories. Today, movie goers instead typically buy a tub that weighs in at 630 calories.

The super size trend continues in everything from bagels to burgers to pasta dishes to desserts. What used to be considered an extra large soda is now deemed a medium. Unfortunately, America’s waistbands have reacted accordingly. Approximately 65 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.

According to the article, your hamburger should be the size of a deck of cards, a slice of bread the size of a cassette tape, a baked potato the size of a computer mouse, and a portion of pasta the size of a tennis ball. To me, that sounds like a serious diet during Lent.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Drawing a crowd

A mass e-mailing from the Tea Party Express sought to put to rest any ambiguities about the size of Saturday's rally in Searchlight, Nev., which featured Sarah Palin.

From the e-mail:

So how big was the event? Well, here's an aerial view of the rally - showing JUST ONE section of the crowd:

And here's one more picture for you for now - it's another aerial shot, this time of Highway 95 leading to-and-from Searchlight. Get this: the photo was taken at 1:35 PM Pacific - more than 1 1/2 hours after the rally ended, and yet thousands of cars still were trying to get to the rally location:

(Photos courtesy of

Blastoff into the Blogosphere 2.0

No, this isn't an April Fools trick, though some of my past critics would probably tell you it is.

Welcome to my new blog.

Nearly five years after I first entered the blogging realm with my first post titled "Blastoff into the Blogosphere," and a little more than a year after my first post on Blogriculture, I'm back in the rocket ship for another mission.

First a little personal background. I've been a political junkie since I was 12 years old during the 1976 presidential campaign, when I was fascinated that California had a current governor (Jerry Brown) and a former governor (Ronald Reagan) in their parties' respective primaries. I've been a professional journalist since 1988, working at various daily papers throughout California and covering a diverse range of beats from education and business to politics and religion. I became familiar with agricultural industries during stints in Colusa, Merced, Napa and Redding.

As Gary West explained recently, I had my own blog at my last paper, and it consistently ranked in the top three in page visits among the more than a dozen bloggers on the paper's Web site. That blog, also initially titled "Jefferson Journal," aimed to offer insight and perspectives on the popular culture, politics and local issues not often seen in the news pages of the paper or in the mainstream media.

I had a lot of fun, sometimes at the expense of national politicians, Hollywood types and local officials. And occasionally, my blog asked serious questions.

When I was fortunate enough to come to work for Capital Press in late 2008, it wasn't long before I started contributing to Blogriculture. That's been a great experience, too. However, upon seeing the rate at which the use of social media has taken off in the ag world in recent months, I was inspired to propose to my editors the idea of launching the new Jefferson Journal as a way to expand the Capital Press' social media offerings. Gary is doing such great things with Twitter, Facebook and video; I wanted to use my talent and experience to help bolster our online package.

Like Blogriculture and the Back Forty, the Journal will touch on issues related to agriculture. In addition, I'm also aware that farmers and ranchers watch movies, follow politics, send their kids to college, volunteer at church, have concerns about the future of the country and basically live life just like everyone else. The Journal will do a little bit of everything. I believe you'll find that I look at life in a similar way that many of you do.

But enough about me. I urge your participation in the development of this space. Feel free to drop me an e-mail at to send me any tidbits, or, of course, to respond on this page.