Does the origin of your meat concern you? Since the outbreaks of 2003, the Country of Origin law has required meat packers to reveal where any meat you buy comes from. Now Congress has repealed the law, making determining the source of your red meat even harder to figure this out.

Congress has tried to prevent repealing the act, in part because of the World Trade Organization’s objections. The World Trade Organization had recently authorized Canada and Mexico to begin more than $1 billion in economic retaliation against the United States. Thankfully U.S exporters can now relax now that the law has been lifted and there will be no need for such a drastic retaliation.

In the United States, there’s really no need to worry about disease since there has only been 4 confirmed cases of mad cow disease in the United States since 1996. What about other countries that our meat might be coming from though?

The United Kingdom coming in first with 177 confirmed cases and France with 27 confirmed cases might not be as healthy as one would have previously thought. Technology advances in 2008 that allow us to test live cows for the disease instead of having to wait post-mortem will also help. This should prevent the spread of mad cow disease between cattle and limit the chances of it getting spread to humans.

For many, buying locally and supporting American industries are important values. Although only 8-20 percent of the total United States meat supplies comes from foreign sources, with the repeal of this law its going to be extremely difficult to know exactly which meat is foreign and which was born, raised or slaughtered here.

For other people, ensuring the freshness of the food they eat is important. Not because it could be coming from a different country but many meat manufacturers alter the meat to make it last longer than it typically would. For example, while many might look to color to determine how fresh a package of ground beef might be, this can be false due to the treatment that the meat undergoes.

Many manufacturers inject meat with carbon monoxide in order to give it a fresh pink color. This works because the carbon monoxide binds with a pigment in the meat so that it brings out the vibrant red colors. Unfortunately this false advertising can cause the meat to look edible and fresh but in reality it could be days, weeks or even years old and still have that same bright color to it.

So while your meat might be safe from disease, the idea of how fresh your meat is could be the main cause for consumers’ concern. It’s now up to the consumer to make sure that freshness is guaranteed and in order to do that you should ask the butcher at your grocery store but if that’s not enough for you, then buy from a local butcher who personally deals with the meat. With changes to your food happening daily, it becomes increasingly important to know not only the capabilities of the companies but what you could be feeding your family.

I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of debt. I’m just wondering, on a Friday: if defaulting on debt isn’t so bad, then what exactly is the problem with debt? What is the worst-case scenario if it isn’t default? All these years, I thought I understood at least this much of the Republican platform, but color me shocked: I don’t.

How Republicans Are Convincing Themselves That A Debt Default Wouldnt Be So Bad — And Why Theyre Wrong | TPMDC.

It seems that the story about Apple’s location tracking has widened quite a bit since going to the Senate and additional hearings have been called:

Apple Location-Tracking Drama Extends to Carriers, Prompts Hearing – Mobile and Wireless – News & Reviews – eWeek.com.

These hearings might possibly lead to some genuinely important and helpful laws to enhance our individual privacy.

But since the word “tracking” is getting used a lot, there is an important point that is likely to get lost in the public debate. That is: it doesn’t matter if Apple or Google (who produce the Android Operating System that powers many other smart phones) or AT&T are “tracking” your location. What matters is that information about your whereabouts for the last year or more are available to… anyone.

I should also point out that smart phones logging nearby wifi locations and other data points makes perfect sense to me as a developer: developers are always looking for the most efficient means of delivering content, the better to enhance the user experience. So, keeping record of the spots the user will likely revisit is a good idea, in a purely theoretical programmatic bubble.

The trouble is: if that data is available and not encrypted in some fashion, then not just the developer but any person with access to your phone can access this data. Bluetooth and wifi make having access to your phone a lot less personal than you might think, too.

I am not writing to raise the red flag of panic, either: very simple measures can solve these problems. Encrypting the data would be sufficient. But if the public debate centers on the companies like Apple “snooping” on their customers, we’ll get sidetracked by trust issues.

Don’t get me wrong: I think the idea of setting up permanent habitations in space is, in the words of Kenny Powers, “Cool as fuck.” But seriously, the Republican Congressman who penned this new bill running through Congress called it “the Reasserting American Leadership in Space Act,” and calls it REAL.

New Bill Directs NASA Back to the Moon By 2022, With Permanent Habitation In Mind | Popular Science.

Casting aside the fact that there’s no E in the above “anagram,” which should fairly be called RALS, how is going to the moon any way to “reassert” our leadership in space? A better bet would be to actually live up to our commitments to the International Space Station and concentrate on the long-term viability of a habitation on Mars or its moon, Deimos.

I would say that, based on the list of Congress-critters who’ve signed on to the bill, what this bill should probably be called is “The Reasserting the South’s Dependence on the Wasteful Space Program They So Revile Till They Lose Their Shit Act” (RSDWSPTSRTTLTS).

Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, now does it?

Well, how about that? Scientists are discovering that the Human Pamplona Virus – linked in other studies to cervical cancer in women – is found in half of all adult males as well. Now mind you, I think there’s reason to doubt that this will raise any real hairs on the Christian Conservatives that currently hold the purse strings in Congress just yet: after all, its just cervical cancer in women.

But what other things is HPV complicating or causing for men? Dare I say: infertility? Maybe diminished sexual performance (also known as Floppy Dick)? Once we make that link, just watch Glaxo Smith-Kline suck up the research money to find a cure.

Half Of Adult Males Carry HPV – Science News.

For most experienced political watchers, the whole Chris Lee blow-up might be interesting news fodder, but it ultimately doesn’t really change much. We’ll get a new Republican in the 26th District, but it will be a Republican almost certainly.

Consider the numbers: in 140 years of Dem/Repub rule of American politics, there have been exactly four Democrats that have represented the 29th. (source is ::gasp!:: WikiPedia.org) The district – even after we factor in the dissolution of the 29th – is tailor-made for Republicans, being a trifecta rural, white and relatively wealthy. The Census website illustrates these last points perfectly: The 26th district is 92% white with an average income of $55k, about four thousand dollars a year more than the national average.

A few years back, 13WHAM had a bunch of us bloggers on to discuss the primaries which included Chris Lee in his first run at Congress. While on the set, I actually looked up these very numbers. I would have looked pretty smart if I’d said them, too, which I didn’t.

Well, now I have. I still feel smart, damnit.

I have studiously avoided any contact with television news at all over the course of the weekend, ever since the Friday shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabriella Giffords. I managed to Twitter something about it, but otherwise, I decided that this weekend might be a good one to sequester myself and my wife from the every-minute, every-second deluge of media coverage, social recrimination and political posturing that would surely follow.

Let us now trot out the relatives who have lost loved ones; those who knew the shooter; the anti-gun lobby; the pro-gun lobby; the mental health experts and the wounded mental health patients, defending themselves against attacks not meant for them. Let us trot out the defenders of all things politics; those inscrutable creatures, of whom the unholy alliance of Carville and Matlin is a sick parable of soulless, unblinking opportunism. And of course, let’s have the jaded “I told you so” attitudes of those who will not even honour the tragedy with the benefit of surprise.

It only just barely worked. You may have noticed.

So, lets address it: ever since the 2008 campaign, I have indeed been worried about the sort of mayhem that would be unleashed somewhere in the country as a result of the ever-increasing hate speech, race-baiting and paranoia-stoking that surrounded the McCain campaign. The speech and stoking includes both Sarah Palin’s kid-with-matches school of politicking and Senator McCain’s own prevaricating, opportunist dance with the craziest wing of his party. He is not and was not a better man for having simply retrieved the microphone from the one woman whom he could not have pretended not to have heard.

Is that white-hot rhetoric of two years ago responsible for the acts of this one kid from Arizona? Perhaps. But then what about the shooter’s history of mental illness? Apparently, he was scaring kids at his college before he started shooting. On balance, a history of mental illness leading directly to a shooting seems a more immediate cause than a two year-old campaign community or a year-old Palin poster with targets on it. Not to alienate those in my audience with history of mental illness: certainly, not everyone with problems is going to resort to violence.

And anyway: this is Arizona, where pictures of targets can hardly be a rare thing. The Congresswoman herself cites it as the home of the OK Corale with pride. They’ve managed to eliminate just about every ordinance regarding the carrying of weapons – including concealed weapons – throughout the state. So, maybe that’s the problem? Maybe guns are the pariah we’re looking for. Or concealed weapons at the very least. As a rather strong supporter of gun rights myself, I have to say that my own feelings are that responsible gun ownership does not generally extend to concealing them and walking around. Perhaps this is an opportunity to revisit the issue of gun control.

But I seem to be finding myself writing a very familiar post, now. Are we back on this, again? Guns. After the inconvenient and uncomfortable discussion of political discourse – we all hate it, but millions of dollars in media revenue is supported by it – after the uncomfortable discussion of mental illness, we settle on the issue which directly affects less than a quarter of us directly, guns.

I was blunt in my last post, some three years ago now, on the subject of how our grieving nation chooses to express itself. I will be more charitable here. Tragedy happens everywhere in the world and it happened here in America on Friday. Twelve people, not one, were shot; six are already dead. These are not the types of things we are meant to understand as rational human beings. When we attempt to explain what happened in political or social terms, what we’re really doing is screaming into that scariest of voids: the distance between us and the limits of our ability to understand what is in anyone else’s mind. Ever.

It may indeed have been the rhetoric: the open and violent imagery regularly egested by political operatives cannot be helpful. It may indeed have been prevented without legal access to so many guns: can’t shoot it if you don’t have it. It might have been prevented with better monitoring and treatment of mental illnesses or simply troubled youth. One thing can be said with absolute certainty: there will be more than ample time within our 24-hour, 365-day new cycle to discuss it at nauseating length on any other occasion but now.

For now, it would be best to do the honour to the victims and families of simply accepting the tragedy for the single horrible event that it is. Without judgment. Without weaving it into a narrative. Let tragedy be tragedy.

Well, its November 2nd and if you have managed to make it all day without seeing any news, this is just a reminder that yes, it’s Election Day. Time to get out there and do your civic duty.

I don’t think there’s any question that, for Democrats, this year’s civic duty is just that: a duty. Very few of us are overly enthusiastic about what the media keeps telling us will be a drubbing. Personally, while I’ve never been sanguine about Dem’s chances, I have to admit that the constant barrage of media negativity is starting to wear on my stomach.

Thing is: no one is really polling most of these individual Congressional races and really, the pundits are largely going on feeling which is to say: largely going on the group-think of the Pundit Class. It will be interesting to see what the narrative is by tomorrow morning. You can be sure that, no matter what happens, it certainly won’t be the media’s fault for over-hyping what is supposed to be a serious matter of electing leaders. If the Republicans don’t crush the Democrats across the board – if the take the House as is now all but axiomatic in the group-think, but do no better – the question will be what is wrong with the Republicans rather than what is wrong with the media’s analysis.

So here’s my advice, gleaned from careful observation of MSNBC, TalkingPointsMemo.com and CNN: the question is how big the wave will actually be, and we really need to watch the early results to get an indication of what happens next, then we’ll need to see how it unfolds from there.

Far be it from me to deprive the national news media their ability to drum up hysterical psycho-drama every waking moment of the day, but I thought that I might offer a few good reasons to cast a bit of doubt on the dire predictions of the smarmy, gossipy Washington press corps so eloquently embodied in Dana Millbank and others. And while I fully understand that I have no voice on the national level, I thought I’d give you a few good reasons to be less amazed than they will profess to be come the end of this latest election cycle:

#5: Just because your “agin” one Party does not make you “fer” another:

Its hard to believe I actually need to say this out loud, but I will: just because I’m pissed at a Democrat does not mean I will vote for a Republican. There has to be a reason to believe that the Republican will do better, which as I will address below, is dubious at best right now. As fun as the media finds it to refer to the people who watch their shows and pay their salaries as “pitchfork-wielding,” knuckle-dragging thugs, the fact is that most of us do not even own pitchforks in the first place. Those of us who do probably have better uses for them. You know, because we think for ourselves.

#4: The Republican capacity to self-immolate.

Republicans had things pretty locked up in Nevada. That is, until Sharon Angle won the nomination there. Now Reid is up by 7. That is, despite a completely upside-down approval rating for Reid in his state. With other winners like Rand Paul and the rest of the Katzenjammer Kids, we can have at least some faith in the Republicans ability to mess this up. And indeed, it is a standard trait of the non-incumbent party that they tend to play Keystone Cops until such time as they simply cannot help but be more attractive than the incumbent party.

From apologies to BP to declaring the inscrutable “Repeal and Replace” agenda for both HCR and now Fin Reg, to describing the financial crisis as an “ant,” to telling the unemployed to just “get a job,” its hard to imagine how Democrats could do a better job of painting the Republicans as out-of-touch. Worse for Republicans, the outlandishly misguided behavior is not atypical, but rather reinforces classic stereotypes of the Republican Party that have traditionally hung their chances out to dry when the issue is the economy. That makes a lot of people’s stomachs hurt when it comes time to actually vote for Republicans.

#3: The Low Turnout Myth

There is no doubt but that turnout can be expected to be lower than it was in the last election. Count on the media to point that out relentlessly, regardless of who wins what, as proof that their analysis is right. But if the last election was a record-setting election – it was – and if turnout in mid-terms is generally lower than in presidential elections – it is – then predicting that turnout will be lower is not exactly the stuff of sages. And I fully expect that the turnout, while lower than the presidential election of 2008, will likely be higher than it was in the previous mid-term election.

Because while we know that mid-terms get less attention, generally, this is not one of those general years. This is not a year when people get to just kick back and be happy with their jobs and wrap Christmas presents. Things are serious and serious-minded people will come out to vote.

Another classic canard of the national news media – one which on its face is self-negating – is that because turnout is low, mid-term elections are both dominated by Conservative voters and also an opportunity for a “protest vote.” The extent to which this concept is true is the extent to which Conservative voters “protest” Liberal and Democratic administrations and no farther. One or the other has to be true, or they’re both false.

Finally, while there’s every reason to think that some people who are angry over the current state of the economy – as distinct from Conservative voters who are just extra angry for their own reasons – will want to “protest” the current administration and Congress, they’ll have to step beyond the blogs, the comments, the FaceBook posts, the cameras, the televisions, the radios, the brave talk at the water cooler and step into that curiously quiet and disquieting space known as a voting booth and actually pull the lever. Which leads me to the next point:

#2: No plan, no vote.

Protest is one thing. But no one disputes the fact that our nation is in a precarious spot right now. This is not the time to simply throw the lever against the incumbent party and feel better about yourself. Polls are showing that Americans generally favour experience over fresh faces – a fact that works better for Dems *after* the 2008 than before it. People are paying very close attention to the news and election politics right now because they need to make what most anyone sees as a very important decision at a very risky time. And when they’re in that booth, what good reason is there to vote in a Republican?

Because the Republicans have shown no new messages, no plan and much worse, absolutely no leadership in the last year and a half. There is absolutely no reason to think that we will do anything other than return to the exact same position we were in on November of 2008 if we put the same party back into power.

#1: America digs a winner

To complain about the “obstructionist” non-incumbent party is a means of applying political pressure. To complain about an incumbent party that “won’t listen to our ideas” is just whining. That was as true for Democrats as it currently is for Republicans. In order to show that you can lead, you have to win something. Right now, Republican wins are few and far between whereas the Democrats are on fire with some of the biggest legislation ever passed in my lifetime. You don’t have to like it to see that they’re winning. And winning is a powerful thing in American politics.

Democrats were able to bring the Bush Agenda to a slow, creaking halt around 2005. And they won big in 2006. By 2008, it wasn’t just that the country was in a dire situation, but rather that Republicans seemed completely ill-equiped to provide an answer that did them in. So far, Republicans have yet to have the same types of successes with the Democratic agenda. If anything, they’ve whipped up a lot of nasty, racist, belligerent protest to the Democratic agenda that dragged the HCR debates well past their welcome… and then lost, anyway.

No plan, no wins, a nasty case of foot-in-mouth and a lot of hasty assumptions about how people will vote do not necessarily add up to a winning strategy. Plan on hearing the phrase “The Republicans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory,” quite a lot by December. That’s not because they really did so badly, but because pundits so completely and intentionally misjudged what is about to happen. Certainly, Democrats will loose seats. Certainly, Republicans will crow about the victories. But the needle won’t have moved appreciably in this next election.

One final point of purely meta, purely Monday Night Football-ish kind of analysis: this is not 1994 by any measure. In 1994, Democrats had controlled Congress almost consistently for twenty years, were riddled with House scandals, were completely dysfunctional and “suffering” from a perfectly good economy where Republicans could play on greed. Republicans meanwhile had a very organized team and a “Contract With America,” which for all the silliness inherent in that title, was at least a well-laidout set of policy agenda. Democrats currently have no serious scandals brewing, have not had time to become unwelcome as a ruling Party and are very well orga-…. well, bad example.

I’ve been blogging for at least five years, now. I’ve been doing so right along with a lot of my other Lefty buddies, commenting on and applauding a lot of the same news sources, such as Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and what has become the entire MSNBC lineup. And right along with Bill Mahar, too. I thought I understood what they were saying when we all complained about George Bush, but in recent months, I’ve begun to doubt that.

In recent months, since the Obama Administration took the White House, Progressive talking heads have been consistently pushing on a number of issues. Gays in the military, Guantanamo, the stimulus package and many others. And the common refrain has been some variation of, “with the stroke of a pen, President Obama could end all this…”

Perhaps I’ve lost my mind, but I could have sworn that one of the things we didn’t like about George Bush was… his use of executive orders and signing statements to bypass the will of the Congress? Did I totally misread that? Because now that we have our man in the White House, we want him to employ precisely the same tactics that I recall people decrying as circumventing the U.S. Constitution. And beyond that apparent contradiction, there are a number of problems with executive overrides of this type which are also worth mentioning.

The first should be obvious: if we can turn over all of Bush’s executive hanky-panky this easily, so too can the next president “correct” the Obama Administration. I may be confused about what we Lefties were talking about a few years ago, but I remember my U.S. History and Government class, and this is definitely not what the Founders had in mind. We are not meant to be a cult of personality like Saddam’s Iraq or Kim’s North Korea. Our laws are not meant to be subject to the whims of the most powerful ape in the room. We may like things fast in our modern world, but some things are better left up to the stodgy, old, slow and yes, painfully prejudiced and ignorant Congress.

Secondly, if the president does not get the work done through Congress, Congress can always pass a law that circumnavigates his circumnavigation. Potentially, they can do so in a way that overrides the veto. Remember how Congress’ slowness was a bad thing? Well, with a stroke of a pen, you’ll be counting on it.

Third, in some cases, it’s really not that simple anyway. The president is sitting on a prison in Guantanamo filled with people who have been wrongly imprisoned. People whose basic human rights have been violated, which is a crime which our Constitution is particularly well-suited to prosecute… harshly. In fact, history buffs will know that the entire point of the Constitution is precisely that.

The president cannot simply wave his pen and declare “Do-over!” He cannot free Gitmo detainees without complications. And he certainly cannot do that by, once again, short-circuiting the legal process. The only legally justifiable means of releasing the Guantanamo detainees is by putting them on trial, but since most of the evidence against even those guilty of actual crimes against the United States was obtained via torture and is therefore not admissible, that means both the guilty and the innocent would be set completely free.

The CIA is another sticky wicket. The good and bad news about stable democracies is that the institutions of government – from the Department of Agriculture to the military to the CIA – maintain contiguous operation beyond presidential terms. The Department of the Interior does not suddenly loose all it’s staff and get repopulated every time a new president takes the oath, though it came close in the Bush Administration. It is this contiguous institutionalization of government that provides the democratic stability we enjoy as Americans, not the voting part. There is even an argument to be made that this bureaucratic stability is what eventually ground the Bush Administration down in the end: whistleblowers throughout the government leaked the documents and instigated the investigations that mired the Bushies down for the past three or four years.

But in the case of the CIA, that also means there are bodies buried deep in the vaults of that secret agency that no president has probably ever known about. And even if presidents do, we the public don’t. Again, untangling this web, especially where torture has been used, is not as simple as people seem to think it is. And as we’ve learned from the Bush Administration, the leadership can only push agencies just so far before they earn the ire of career bureaucrats who will outlast them. I’m quite certain that, as a Constitutional law professor, President Barack Obama is quite well aware of the problem torture presents. I’m quite certain that he’s interested in removing the stain of torture from our government – not out of ideological zeal, but out of fidelity to the Constitution he spent his life studying. But this, like much of the damage done by the Bush Administration, is going to take time to put right.

Of course, I understand that we need people to push issues. Just because a president with a D next to his name gets elected does not mean that the things we need done will get done. There has to be pressure on politicians if anything is to be accomplished, especially presidents; there needs to be a loyal opposition, a position for which the Republicans are ill-equipped these days. But we need to be cautious that, in pushing for small changes, we don’t arrive at unforeseen and lamentable large changes. Pressure is one thing, but irresponsibility is quite another.

I just got this message from the Student Loan Corporation, a division of Citi Corp. At the moment, I have no information one way or the other on the proposed budget changes that Citi is talking about here, but it reads like typical corporate anti-government crap. I’ll look into it some more and let you know:

May 7, 2009

Dear THOMAS BELKNAP,

Thank you for the opportunity to help you obtain the education of your choice. As a student loan provider for the past 50 years, Citi has provided financial aid assistance to millions of students and parents nationwide.

Given the challenging economy and continued increases in the cost of higher education, it is critical that the U.S. student lending system serves the best interests of students and their families. If you believe that competition and choice among student loan providers is valuable, you have an opportunity to make your voice heard.

Why Get Involved?
The government budget outline proposes offering federal student loans solely through the federal government’s Direct Lending Program starting July of next year. While this proposal will not impact a borrower’s ability to obtain a federal student loan, it will eliminate your ability to choose a student loan provider. It will also substantially increase the national debt since each and every federally-insured student loan will be funded by the Federal Treasury through the issuance of treasury securities. This proposal impacts you as a citizen – both as a taxpayer and as a borrower.

Why Does Competition And Choice Matter?
Without private lender involvement through the Federal Family Education Loan Program, students and their families will not enjoy the benefits that competition has made possible for more than 40 years. This competition has provided not only a choice of lenders, but also innovative products and services, such as:

* a variety of borrower benefits that lower your cost of borrowing
* financial literacy programs that educate you on how to borrow responsibly
* web-based tools and resources to advise you about your financing options
* default prevention services to help you pay back your loans

Competition also has driven increased customer satisfaction as a result of the responsiveness, personal attention and on-campus support that student loan lenders have provided to borrowers and schools nationwide.

Make Your Voice Heard
If you value the ability to shop for, evaluate and choose your student loan provider, make your voice heard by contacting your Members of Congress and by signing one of the online petitions that support borrower choice and competition in federal student lending.

Sincerely,

The Student Loan Corporation

It’s so not needed, especially if you offend someone. That’s what Mrs. Linda (Dirty) Sanchez thinks, and she’s introduced a bill in Congress to make sure everyone else is forced to adopt her personal moral code.

They call it “Cyberbullying.” What a load of horseshit. Defamation of character is as relevant on the Internet as it is anywhere else, as are most laws dealing with such issues. There is no need whatsoever to introduce a new law simply because someone made up a clever new name for the same old thing.