Are we speaking the same language?

I’m always amazed at how little people understand vegetarianism and veganism. Not so much that people don’t grok it to the point of adopting it. I can’t fathom how “consume no flesh” and “consume no animal products” is particularly complicated. Fish is not vegetarian. Chicken is not vegetarian. Cheese is not vegan. These aren’t complicated ideas. Still, the way people persist in being shocked to learn these basic truths demonstrate how little people think about what they eat.

In that context, the journalist charged with telling this story either doesn’t get it, or isn’t thinking about the meaning of the words, only that the word count meets the editor’s need.

Vegetarians who have learned to live without roast beef dinners and bacon sandwiches were yesterday forced to make another major sacrifice: chocolate.

Learned to live without and major sacrifice. Vegetarianism can’t be about choice, because that doesn’t make sense. It must be about willful deprivation.

It came after the makers of Britain’s most popular chocolate bars, including Mars, Snickers, Maltesers and Milky Ways, admitted that they now contain an ingredient derived from a cow’s stomach.

This month, Masterfoods began using animal rennet to produce the whey needed for its products, rather than a vegetarian alternative. Rennet is extracted from the stomach-lining of slaughtered newborn calves, and is used in traditional cheese production in central Europe. In Britain a microbial alternative made from mould is used.

Food manufacturers cheating on their ingredients is nothing new. McDonald’s uses beef and dairy in making its fries. It’s not common sense to think it includes those ingredients. But surprising? No. As long as major chocolate makers include dairy products in their dark chocolate¹, it’s clear how little concern they have for vegetarian/vegan needs.

Here’s the best part, though, courtesy of the journalist:

The admission by Masterfoods presents the country’s three million vegetarians with an ethical dilemma over whether to consume more than 20 best-selling products.

What ethical dilemma? It contains an ingredient derived from an animal’s stomach. That’s not vegetarian.

Paul Goalby, the corporate affairs manager at Masterfoods, told the Mail on Sunday: “Since changing the sourcing of our ingredients we are no longer able to ensure our chocolate will be animal rennet-free. So we made the principled decision to admit it was not guaranteed to be vegetarian. If the customer is an extremely strict vegetarian, then we are sorry the products are no longer suitable.”

They’re admitting it before someone inevitably drags it out. Bravo. That’s an honest move and gives vegetarians full information. But Mr. Goalby fell into the same bizarre non-grasp of what vegetarians choose to eat. He’s off in believing this change only affects the “extremely strict vegetarian”. That term is like saying someone is “a little bit pregnant.” Either you are or you are not.

Link via Fark.

¹ From the Hershey’s website for Special Dark:

Dark chocolate, also known as sweet or semi-sweet chocolate, typically has a higher percentage of cacao solids (cocoa, chocolate liquor and cocoa butter) than milk chocolate.

Well, duh. Dark chocolate shouldn’t have milk. Hershey’s own glossary of chocolate products reflects this. So why does it include milk in Special Dark? I’d guess milk is cheaper than cocoa.

Did the editor punt this assignment?

Here’s a fascinating story:

Miracles do happen. That’s what doctors said about 30-year-old Shannon Malloy.

A car crash in Nebraska on Jan. 25 threw Malloy up against the vehicle’s dashboard. In the process, her skull became separated from her spine. The clinical term for her condition is called internal decapitation.

I can’t imagine what that must feel like or how I’d respond in the moments after that happened. I’m impressed that she lived.

I can’t add more to that. Instead, allow me to present this horrendous writing in the story.

Five screws were drilled into Malloy’s neck. Four more were drilled into her head to keep it stabilized. Then a thing called a halo — rods and a circular metal bar — was attached for added support. It’s not exactly a pain-free procedure.

Then a thing called a halo? I’m flabbergasted. I predict that will be the worst piece of writing I’ll read this month. At what level of schooling does a writer learn to replace Then a thing called a halo with Then a halo?

I also noted was attached, but I make that mistake, too. Avoiding the passive voice is every writer’s struggle. Every writer struggles with the passive voice.

Story link via Fark.

Catching Up: Virginia Tech Edition

I don’t have any desire to delve into the political issues arising from the shootings at Virginia Tech beyond the issues I already discuss here. With that in mind, two issues are driving me nuts from the fallout.

Because the murderer at Virginia Tech wrote violent stories, violent stories must now become criminal, regardless of the First Amendment:

Told to express emotion for a creative-writing class, high school senior Allen Lee penned an essay so disturbing to his teacher, school administrators and police that he was charged with disorderly conduct, officials said Wednesday.

Lee, 18, a straight-A student at Cary-Grove High School, was arrested Tuesday near his home and charged with the misdemeanor for an essay police described as violently disturbing but not directed toward any specific person or location.

Such a story might signal a problem that will lead to mass murder. Ban it. Are people really this stupid and oblivious to the evidence that violence in literature and movies and television and theater overwhelmingly does not lead to acting out that violence? The answer appears to be yes, which is a reflection of our desire to ban anything and everything that might be bad, no matter how small the risk actually is. We’re only two weeks beyond the tragedy, yet we’ve already learned the wrong lessons. Brilliant.

I know what happened at Virginia Tech will always follow the school, no matter how much good happened before or happens in the future. It’s human nature to remember the awful more than the good. I realize that my years of happiness with Virginia Tech and being a Hokie are personal, not national. I accept that and won’t try to fight human nature. But I’m not ready to idle away as pontificators misuse language for their agenda.

For example, last week, the editors of the Wall Street Journal analyzed “Blacksburg’s Silver Lining”:

In the wake of an event such as Virginia Tech, our system moves heaven and earth to figure out what went wrong and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This of course is what we did after September 11 and after the botched response to Hurricane Katrina.

Here’s what’s really unnerving about this inevitable “process”: In June 2000, the Bremer Report of the National Commission on Terrorism described virtually everything we needed to know about preparing for the kind of attack that occurred in September 2001. Similarly–and you can guess what you’re about to read–in 2002 the Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative, conducted by the Secret Service and the Department of Education, told us virtually everything we need to know to prevent a Virginia Tech.

…for the purposes of stopping another Virginia Tech

After Blacksburg,…

Virginia Tech is a school, not an event. Blacksburg is a town, not an event. The murders at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, were the event. If you can’t get this right, I won’t listen to anything else you have to say. (Not that the editors provided anything worth adopting, choosing instead for the expected dismissal of rights in favor of the appearance of safety.)

Kip mocks such language and the results of such abuse here, then here and here.

It’s sad and something I don’t cheer.

Now that the title cleared away any notion that I’m happy when someone gets hurt, Scott Adams nailed the analysis of New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine’s car accident from the perspective of who is to blame. (The accident occurred while he was en route to the Governor’s Mansion to host a meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team.)

Post Removed

I removed today’s post so that my governor would not have a car accident.

I wish I’d written that. I rarely laugh out loud at the written word, but that brought on a full sixty seconds of out loud laughter.

Post Script: Just to be extra clear, I wish Gov. Corzine a complete recovery. That recovery will be difficult, apparently. Now that I’ve ruined the humor…

[Insert Witty, Accurate Title]

I’m not an attorney, but I’m fairly certain the relevant CNN editor botched attached to this story:

A judge violated a juvenile’s free-speech rights when he placed her on probation for posting an expletive-laden entry on MySpace criticizing a school principal, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The three-judge panel on Monday ordered the Putnam Circuit Court to set aside its penalty against the girl, referred to only as A.B. in court records.

“While we have little regard for A.B.’s use of vulgar epithets, we conclude that her overall message constitutes political speech,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote in the 10-page opinion.

The state filed a delinquency petition in March alleging that A.B.’s acts would have been harassment, identity deception and identity theft if committed by an adult. The juvenile court dropped most of the charges but in June found A.B. to be a delinquent child and placed her on nine months of probation. The judge ruled the comments were obscene.

The title of the article?

First Amendment extends to MySpace, court says

I doubt that was up for consideration. The meat of the story seems to be whether the school’s punishment of the girl’s speech was constitutional. It doesn’t seem to matter that she posted her rant on MySpace, any more than if she’d written it on her arm and walked sleeveless around her local mall.

I know how hard it is to come up with effective, catchy titles from blogging for 3½ years. If I can’t be witty, I aim for accurate. Anything else is just a punt. I’m not charging for my product and I adhere to that. CNN should, as well.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the judges had any business inserting the court’s opinion that it has little regard for her vulgar epithets. So what? If it has no bearing on how the case should be interpreted under the law, keep the subjective disdain out of the ruling. I might accept “While the court recognizes that A.B.’s use of vulgar epithets is unpopular, …” or some such pandering to community morals. I doubt it, but even then, speech is speech.

Thought for the Day

I like this, from Annie Sertich’s blog, Jesus’ Favorite:

As I drove myself back from Hollywood tonight, I turned off the radio, got off the phone, and just made another car memory. One that involved just silence. And as I drove in silence, I heard my Dad’s tears. His regrets. His sadness. It broke my heart.

And THEN, just as I was pulling up to my place, I heard her. Her laughter from the passenger seat. Her singing along to Donna Summer. Her telling me. What to remember. “Don’t wait. Don’t fucking wait. Do what you want to do, NOW. Be with who you want to be with NOW. Believe in what you want to believe in, NOW. ‘Cuz in 6 months or 8 months or 7 years, it may be too late. “

They waited. They fucking waited. Waited until the savings account looked ok, and the job was done. But cancer didn’t. And now my Dad drives that car alone.

I don’t envy having to go through such experiences, but that’s great writing.

Economic Thought of the Day

George Will gets it right today on the coming push to increase the federal minimum wage:

But the minimum wage should be the same everywhere: $0. Labor is a commodity; governments make messes when they decree commodities’ prices.

That’s spot on. The essay is not perfect, as Kip at A Stitch in Haste points out with a useful economics lesson, but the conclusion is the same. The correct minimum wage is $0. If the uninitiated come away with the wrong justification but the correct conclusion, we can work on the reasoning. Short-term isolated problem versus long-term widespread damage. Easy choice if those are my alternatives.

Of special note, I love this line that Kip wrote to explain Will’s loose semantics:

…sloppily knocking a foul ball down the right-wing line…

His entire post is worth reading, and shows why he should be widely read, but that phrase by itself is excellent. I wish I’d written it.

Another sentence I wish I’d written

My only take on Sen. Barack Obama’s announcement that he’s thinking of running for president in 2008 is that I won’t trust a politician who breaks a promise he made on national television barely ten months later. However, I do wish I’d written Charles Krauthammer’s opening sentence about Sen. Obama.

When, just a week ago, Barack Obama showed a bit of ankle and declared the mere possibility of his running for the presidency, the chattering classes swooned.

That’s a spot on assessment, and a well-written sentence.

This can’t be the level of debate

Am I missing something? At Commonwealth Conservative post about the brouhaha over Sen. Allen’s alleged use of racial slurs in the early 1970s, a commenter named Ben argues that no one should support Sen. Allen because he is a racist. Maybe, though the accusation is hardly iron-clad. Ben states that supporting James Webb is the better character choice. Again, maybe. But in response to that, a commenter named Cato asks Ben:

So how do you like Webb personally profiting from the gratuitous use of the N-word in his novels?

Let’s assume for a moment that Sen. Allen used racial slurs. I’ll also assume Mr. Webb’s novels include gratuitous use of that word, since I have not read them. That said, I’d like to believe that voters are smart enough to decipher between a conversation in a person’s life and made-up conversations in a book. If that distinction isn’t possible, I myself am not suited for any future political office because I have written stories in which (imaginary) people are (pretend) murdered by (fake) characters who temporarily resided in my mind. I should be locked up.