The Pleasure of Shelling a Pistachio

Pleasure of shelling a pistachio

I thought I’d turn my eye to something important today, the pleasure of shelling a pistachio. The reason this topic comes to mind is a commercial I saw while riding the stationary at the gym this morning. I’m not sure what the commercial was about but in it an anthropomorphic creature of some sort flicked pistachios in a bowl and commented something along the lines of it’s time to get rid of shells.

I think I speak for a healthy majority of people in saying the pleasure of shelling a pistachio is a great deal of the joy in devouring the tasty nut. Yum. Now, I’m sure there are those who disagree and please feel free to tell me so. I welcome dissent here.

My question is, why do I enjoy the process of removing a pistachio from its shell and then eating it as opposed to having them pre-removed and just eating them?

The Unshelled Pistachio

Lest I be accused of not trying both methods, I’ve eaten from a large bowl of unshelled pistachios in the past. You just dig in with your grubby fingers, or perhaps use the spoon the germophobic hosts provide, and pop them directly into your mouth. They certainly must taste the same either way. A pistachio is, after all, a pistachio.

But do they taste the same? My answer is no, they don’t. My brain does something. When I pop pistachio after pistachio, or even a handful, right in a row, the taste is diminished. They just don’t taste as good to me this way.

Now, obviously, this is mental. There is something in the pleasure of shelling a pistachio that changes the perceived flavor, for me at least.

What’s the Difference?

Two things come to mind in trying to decipher why I enjoy the taste of a pistachio I’ve removed from its shell more than one I have not.

The first explanation is simply the time between eating one. When I shell them one by one, there is a delay before gratification. I’m not the sort to remove ten from their shell and then eat them in a row. I remove one, eat it, move to the next. I even take some time to sort out the larger and smaller at times. The smaller being more difficult to shell, generally.

The second explanation is the effort required to shell a pistachio somehow translates to the joy of eating it. The sense of accomplishment in getting it open, casting aside the shells, and then popping it into my mouth. There is also the satisfying sound of the shell breaking open.


There’s no doubt in my mind that I enjoy the taste of a pistachio I’ve removed from the shell more than one I have not. How do you feel about it? Is it a human thing? A Tom thing?

Do you like the taste of pistachios more if you shell them yourself?

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Tom Liberman

Irish Court rules Subway Sandwiches not made with Bread

Subway Sandwiches

The Supreme Court of Ireland just ruled Subway Sandwiches are not made with bread. You read correctly. What’s important to understand is not the ruling itself but the reason behind the ruling, why is it judges must spend time determining the composition of Subway sandwiches.

The reason the justices were examining the situation is because Ireland has a tax exemption for staple foods like bread but differentiates bread from cake by how much sugar is used in the baking process. A case was brought by Subway wanting a refund for the ingredients they use to make bread. The court ruled the amount of sugar used in making bread for Subway sandwiches is greater than the limit allowed. I’m going to stop examining the actual case here and get to my main point, which has nothing to do with how the bread on Subway sandwiches is prepared.

The problem here is that the courts are looking at the baking process of bread, not what that procedure might or might not be. It’s basically the same reason the United States Supreme Court ruled a tomato is a vegetable. It all has to do with taxes, tariffs, and government intervention.

Now, you are probably thinking, hey, it’s a good thing the government gives tax exempt status to staple foods so that people don’t have to pay extra for a simple meal. I agree. The problem isn’t giving tax exempt status to bread, the problem is taxing food at all. What is the justification for taxes on food?

I’ve written before I’m not completely against taxes. We pay taxes for transport infrastructure because the government uses tax money to build and maintain roads. We find those roads particularly useful and so, rather than have each neighborhood build and maintain their own section of road, we allow the government to tax us for a unified system.

The justification for taxing food is the same as the justification for any product. People need to drive to the store to purchase things. However, the drive to the store to purchase bread is exactly the same as the drive to purchase a chocolate cake. Taxing cake but not bread is an attempt to make people eat in a healthier manner and forces the courts to look into the baking process at Subway, which is time not well spent.

If we decide it is important for people to purchase food and give tax exempt status to those doing so, we should do it across the board. The best solution is to simply stop taxing all food items rather than force the courts to decide what constitutes bread. Simple and efficient, the way government should operate but seldom does.

Tom Liberman

The Philosophy of Pasta Sauce

Pasta Sauce

A philosophically inclined friend of mine recently posited a tongue in cheek question about her batch of pasta sauce and her family’s disinterest in eating said treat. Is it delicious if no one eats it? While frivolous and fun, it is also an interesting question from a philosophical standpoint and, because I am unable or unwilling to resist the temptation to dive into such a feast, I shall attempt to examine it.

It is obviously a twist on the old if a tree falls in the forest question but there is an important difference. When a tree falls in the forest there is a sound save and this is a measurable phenomenon. Even if no one is there to hear the noise, it exists on a physical realm. Now, certainly pasta sauce exists in a physical way and taste buds in our mouths react to those flavors. But the idea of delicious is a construct, it does not exist physically but metaphysically.

Deliciousness itself is a subjective idea, its nature as a construct defines it as such. I find certain whiskeys quite delicious while others describe the taste of the same beverage in less favorable terms. If no one eats the pasta sauce then it cannot be delicious nor can it be vile. Yet, the pasta sauce is clearly made up of physical things that have flavors. If we compare those flavors with others that people have described as delicious, then it is certainly fair to suggest that Ellen’s pasta sauce most certainly is delicious despite it not having been tasted by her ungrateful family.

Much like Schrodinger’s cat, the pasta sauce appears to be in a state of quantum superposition. I know this will appeal to my friend whose dissertation is entitled, Mental Disorder in a Biomedical Age: Problems with Symptoms, Perils of Reduction. Yes, I know I’m a cyberstalker. Before she married herself off to a great fellow, before she gave birth to a pair of lovely children, and before she prepared her batch of pasta sauce, I was crushing on her at the gym. That is neither here nor there and we must return to the topic at hand.

Is the pasta sauce delicious? I think I’ve shown, with some logical consistency, that it is not delicious at all and it is quite delicious at the same time. I suspect you will find this conclusion as unsatisfying as a bowl of pasta, dripping with delightful sauce, of which you are not allowed to partake. Philosophy can be that way.

Take care and attempt to eat the pasta we call life with as much gusto as you can manage.

Tom Liberman

What the Sausage and Whiskey Experts Taught Me

Sausage and Whiskey

I’ve recently watched a couple of videos of Epicurious experts trying to guess whether a particular food or beverage, sausage and whiskey, item is expensive or cheap and the passion and knowledge of the people trying to speculate struck me quite powerfully. What I noticed was they were extremely accepting of the lesser product even while praising what they thought was the more expensive.

The sausage expert and the whiskey expert were correct in their assessments each time but it was their passion that really stood out to me. Particularly when confronted with something that wasn’t to their taste, the sausage expert judging a meatless product for example.

In every single case, they were looking for good things in the products rather than dwelling on what they disliked. They were happy to recommend the lower quality product as a less expensive option for those without their own exacting standards. They were not offended by a lower quality product nor did they feel the need to denigrate it excessively to show off their expertise.

Certainly, they spoke about why one product appeared to them to be of a higher quality and went into detail about what made one potentially more expensive and better tasting than the other. They spoke about ways that distillery and sausage makers go about producing lower quality products without denigrating or insulting.

I think this is at great odds with what we see in the regularity of our life. Our televisions sets are filled with people telling us how awful is someone else or some other product. The comment sections on news stories are absolutely bursting with self-important people railing against perceived slights. I must admit to you that I’ve done the same although, having watched the Epicureans, I think I’m going to focus more on the positive in the future. That doesn’t mean to say I will ignore things that are bad or wrong, just that I will try to spend more time on what positives can be taken from the situations.

The question I must ask myself is; why am I so angry at things that have little or no affect on me? Why do I feel the need to hurl personal and nasty insults? Is this behavior more a reflection of my own shortcomings than of the offensive product or person?

Yes, a friend posted a rather stupid meme but can I point that out without being insulting? Can I productively mention why I think it’s wrong? I think I do this to some degree although I certainly have my lapses. If someone hurls an insult at me, can I shrug and understand that is more a reflection of their own issues than anything about me?

I like to think I can improve and the next time I feel the red haze rising, I’ll try to think of the sausage expert kindly and with great gentility, reviewing the meatless product.

As for you, that’s your business.

Tom Liberman

Nello Bans Single Women from the Bar Illustrating Compound Stupidity

Nello Restaurant

There’s a news story making the rounds about an upscale restaurant in New York City called Nello which has instituted a policy wherein they have banned single women from sitting at the bar. Such women must sit at a table. It’s a double-dipping, moronic, Libertarian Triggering, nightmare of epic proportions!

The reason for the new policy is that prostitutes sometimes sit at the bar in the hopes of attracting customer. The management of Nello doesn’t like having these ladies in their establishment so they’ve taken to seating single women at tables rather than the bar. Why is this so incredibly stupid, you might ask me? I’m so, so happy to tell you.

Nello is banning all women because women are engaging in a banned profession despite the fact that the banning of prostitutes is clearly not working in the first place! But, obviously, the banning of single women from the bar will work where the banning of prostitutes hasn’t. Oh, the joyous, glorious, Libertarian irony. I’m figurately giddy. Or is that literally giddy? You’ll have to read my recent blog on the difference between the two to know. As for me, I’m just so darned pleased with myself that I’m going to continue to ramble.

You see, the banning of women because the other banning isn’t working is not the only problem with the Nello policy. All single women wanting to dine at Nello are being punished for something someone else is doing. This is the misguided thinking behind the so many useless, freedom defying laws that dot the legislative slates across our country. Some people might waste their money playing poker or betting on sports, ban gambling! Someone might become addicted to a substance, ban marijuana! Kids might be vaping more than is good for them, ban Electronic Cigarettes! Someone might use a firearm in a crime, ban weapons!

Nello, my dear fascist enforcers of moronic policy, if there is a lady of the evening in your restaurant, kick her out. She’s the one causing the issue. Personally, I have no problem with prostitutes. They are providing a service to a willing clientele. However, I absolutely support Nello’s right to have in their establishment who they want; if they don’t want ladies of the evening so be it.

Now, before you start telling saying, ‘Hey, dumbass, you’re being hypocritical because Nello can ban single women at the bar and you should support their right to do so’. I agree Nello has every right to ban single women from the bar, the owner of the restaurant can make any decision in that regard he or she wants although Constitutional protections for gender might well be something to consider legally. I just think it’s a poor business decision. They are alienating a certain portion of their clientele.

Stupid decisions? Those are theirs to make as well. If it affects their business, perhaps they’ll change the policy. That’s the reality of the situation. I can’t tell Nello how they run their restaurants. I can choose which restaurants to patronize. That’s freedom.

Tom Liberman

Vaginal Rejuvenation, Chipotle Gift Cards, Ginger-less Ginger Ale, and Critical Thinking

Critical ThinkingA plethora of news stories in recent days reminded me why I’m of the opinion that the solutions to many of the problems we face today lies in teaching Critical Thinking skills from an early age. Solutions will never come from government warnings and the illusion we are safe because of such intervention does more harm than good.

Let’s take a look at the trio of stories that caught my attention. The Food and Drug Administration is now attempting to shut down various Vaginal Rejuvenation clinics whose services have no known efficacy and, if improperly performed, can cause harm. Many people have been fooled by a fake $100 gift card for Chipotle. Finally, a woman is suing Canada Dry because there is no ginger in their Ginger Ale despite advertisements that suggest there might be such.

What do all these things have in common? The people who are harmed lack Critical Thinking skills. In the first case, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been vociferously lambasting Vaginal Rejuvenation as a scam for over ten years. Anyone who goes in for treatment of their body without doing at least a cursory investigation of the procedure about to happen is clearly not engaged in Critical Thinking.

At least some of the people who fell for the Chipotle scam gave away personal information to the scammers in order to get a free $100. Probably the motto of the Critical Thinking movement should be: Nihil est in vita liber. Nothing is Free in Life. If you thought Chipotle was going to let you purchase $100 worth of food for simply passing along a web link you are clearly lacking in Critical Thinking skills.

In the case of the ginger less Ginger Ale, the ingredients are on the bottle. Certainly, the advertising is designed to fool but if you want to make sure you get your daily dose of ginger, then it is imperative for you to look at ingredients.

All three of these problems require no government intervention. Certainly, if a medical procedure is botched there should be ramifications and the legal system can be invoked, but that would be for doing damage, not for you getting a stupid procedure that doesn’t work when there was readily available information to that effect.

We may look at the people fooled in all three cases and happily pat ourselves on the back for being too smart to avoid it but the reality is more sinister. As more and more people exhibit an inability to engage in Critical Thinking, the fabric of our society becomes unwound. Those of us capable of making good decisions are increasingly harmed by those who cannot. When a certain percentage of people in a society can no longer think critically, the society will most certainly be crushed.

More and more people entertain ludicrous conspiracy theories and act in ways that can potentially harm us all. This is dangerous for me and that’s the person I care about the most. I don’t really care that a bunch of idiots are harming themselves, that’s the way the world works. I care they are harming me.

How do we solve this problem? There is no way to account for everyone’s gullibility and stupidity. Some people will be foolish no matter how much we warn them. However, if we start teaching Critical Thinking skills at every step of the schooling process I’m of the opinion we will do far more good than any number of government regulations designed to protect us.

Nihil est in vita liber.

Tom Liberman

The Ice Cream Sandwich that Defied the Power of the Sun!

Great Value Ice Cream SandwichI have an ice cream sandwich problem. I’ve written about it before and it’s haunted me since childhood. I’m a little less tempted now. It turns out the ingredients in some ice cream sandwiches make them resistant to the power of the sun, in other words, they don’t melt.

Technically, according to the article, they do melt, they just don’t lose their solid shape. This does make even an addict like myself begin to wonder what I’m putting into my body when I purchase those delightful treats and down them without hesitation. I will admit that I generally purchase a higher-class of ice cream sandwich simply because I’ve reached the point in my life where I prefer something tasty and more expensive over something cheap but rather icky.

I’ve never had the Great Value sandwiches from Walmart so I can’t speak to their flavor but I have enjoyed Klondike Bars which apparently have many of the same ingredients and are somewhat, although not completely, resistant to melting as well.

I think everyone tries to eat at least a little healthier to some degree or the other and the people of the United States spend a great deal of money on diet products. This indicates a desire to eat better food. The problem is that providing certain kinds of healthy food without particular ingredients is not so easy.

However, I’m willing to bet that the media storm surrounding the Great Value Ice Cream Sandwiches will put a fairly big dent in the sales of the product. That Walmart will probably have to change the ingredients and perhaps even re-brand the product. What’s interesting is that the ice cream sandwiches were not hurting anyone. The ingredients have been tested by the FDA and approved for use in food. Such ingredients are tested fairly thoroughly and if they were toxic would be banned. So what we have is the sandwiches being judged in court of public opinion. I’m all for this. The more information people have about anything the better decision they are going to make.

It’s interesting because I came out with an article not long ago about how Monsanto is helping to feed the world safely using genetically modified food (GMF). There’s a significant body of evidence that they don’t do any harm, can be grown more easily in pest-heavy and environmentally unfriendly regions, increase yields, and can provide more nutrition than their counterparts. Those opposed to such products are vehement in their opinion despite the facts. Those that will boycott the Great Value Ice Cream Sandwiches will likely be just as vehement.

The question I ask myself is how do I reconcile my rather immediate distaste at reading the article about the ice cream sandwiches with my complete lack of concern with GMF?

I guess it just that I’m comfortable with the idea of eating GMF because I’m aware of the amazing good they do in helping prevent starvation world-wide. If I want to eat a delicious ice cream sandwich without churning my own ice cream and baking my own sandwich material then I’m forced to put up with some chemicals in my food. There is a price to pay for the conveniences of modern society and the fact of the eight-billion people that inhabit our world.

In the end it’s best to avoid processed food as much as possible but it’s not so easy … especially when you have a problem.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Pizza Wars from Jon Stewart

Pizza StyleThere was a recent spat on the Jon Stewart show about what sort of pizza style is the best. Stewart is in the midst of an erudite debate with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in which the highest levels of oratory and rhetoric are on display in their quest to determine which style of pizza is the best.

I do not suggest that I am at the same level of popularity as Stewart and Emanuel but I do have an opinion on pizza and I suspect that some of my loyal following might as well.

Now, there is much debate between the two great cities about the merits for and against the Deep Dish style for which Chicago is famous and the more traditional New York Style. Being from St. Louis I thought it might be fitting for me to at least introduce St. Louis style into the debate. To discuss the merits of the super-thin crust pizza that is a favorite here in my home town before moving on to the debate between the more well-known Chicago and New York styles.

With that in mind I think I can sum up St. Louis style in a single word. That word being abomination.

Thus unburdened I can now, in good conscience, move on to the more pressing matter of the debate between New York and Chicago.

We have a pizza place here in St. Louis that specializes in deep dish, Chicago Style, pizza. It is called Pi. It’s a fancy pizza to be certain. It’s popular, this is true. People flock to the restaurant and praise the pizza with all their heart.

I can distill my opinion into a few words. Better than St. Louis style … barely.

But for pizza? For real pizza? For tasty pizza? New York style is the only answer.

Now, a short trip down memory lane as I remember some of the best New York style pizza I’ve ever eaten.

In the Loop there was a place called Racanelli’s. It was owned and operated by a Yankees fan with a broad, and I mean thick, New York accent. They had a spinach slice that brought tears to my eyes. I used to ride my bike down to Forest Park, around a time or two, and then on my return trip home stop by to get a slice. I had dreams about those slices. The owner had no problem with St. Louis Cardinals fans but I would suggest not wearing a New York Mets cap in his presence. Sadly, they were bought out and went straight down hill. Sigh.

I flitted hither and yon for a few years trying Joanie’s Pizzeria, Sunflower’s, Dewey’s, and the not bad at all Whole Foods Pizza Pie but I did not find a good slice until wandering into a neighborhood joint, La Pizza, a few years back. It’s a shack, this much is true, but the slice is good.

Now, if Mr. Stewart wanted to invite me out to New York and show me a place or two he thinks might have a better slice, well, I would be willing to stray. I’ll wait by the phone.

Now, my loyal fans. I put the question to you. What’s your favorite slice? New York, Chicago, or the Lou!

[polldaddy poll=7584294]

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

The Public Perception of Being Overweight

Hating Fat PeoplePerhaps I’m not the best person in the world to be talking about overweight people and the public perception they face in the United States. I’m 5′ 7″ and about 165 pounds. I work out five days a week and come from a family of relatively thin people. Still, the pure mean-spirited nastiness I see directed towards overweight people sometimes stuns me.

I just finished reading a story about a Frenchman who was denied a flight back to France because he weighs over 500 pounds. The airline couldn’t accommodate him because of his weight. In the article it was mentioned that he was in the United States receiving medical treatment for a hormone disorder at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. This is in all likelihood at least partially responsible for his weight gain while in the U.S.

The family made alternate plans and will now take a train to the coast and liner to Europe. I understand the airline and their policy and certainly the family itself does not seem to have an issue with happened, or at least nothing of that sort was mentioned in the article.

What prompted me to write this blog was the avalanche of horrible comments below the article itself. I’ve a number of friends who battle weight problems and, even though I’m relatively thin, I’m trying to get a little more fit and drop some weight.

The thing about losing weight that is so difficult is that eating is something we do every day. Eating can be an incredible joyful and sensual experience. I love to eat good food. I’ve been accused by dining mates of having sex with a particular good order of oysters. Drool … oysters on the half-shell.

If you are a drug addict, or a cigarette smoker, or an alcoholic the best method of removing the addiction from your life is to completely end the habit, cold-turkey as they call it. That’s just not possible with food. We must eat and it is generally healthy to eat multiple times each day. There is temptation at every turn. To lose weight and keep it off you must be strong for not a week or a month but for the rest of your life.

In addition it is not just eating better but you must exercise. You must find time in an already busy day to get to the gym and do cardiovascular and weight work. That is the only true path to fitness and anyone who tells you it’s easy is lying.

I’m single, I have no pets, I work at most 40 hours a week so it’s not that hard for me to get to the gym almost every day, but even then it’s not easy. I have to make myself do it. I shop only for myself so if I refrain from buying fatty foods at the grocery store then I’m not tempted by having them nearby.

Losing weight and keeping it off is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. It’s not easy, it requires effort every day, multiple times a day.

What bothers me the most is all the hate towards overweight people. It’s not like I’m covering exciting new ground here. The vast majority of people know that it is difficult to keep off weight. The diet industry is huge. The exercise industry is huge. Food is cheap and abundant. It is designed to be tasty so that we overeat. Human nature is to eat while the eating is good.

So, why all the hate? Why the nasty comments? If almost everyone realizes how difficult it is to lose weight and get fit why do we see so many spiteful comments?

When my overweight friends take steps to solve the problem I encourage them. I help in any way I can. I don’t make nasty comments about them to their face or behind their back. What’s the difference between me and the people making those nasty comments?

I’m at a point in my life where I’m increasingly less inclined to be cruel to other people in order to feel better about myself. In fact, being cruel makes me feel worse about myself. If you’ll forgive my smug self-satisfaction, I’m simply the better person.

Are you?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

China Dumped Honey and Tariffs created Crime

HoneyI just read a fascinating story on Bloomberg Business Week about massive food fraud involving imported honey.

The entire episode could have been avoided if only we lived in a capitalistic system instead of a crony capitalistic system. It’s not that complicated but let me explain what happened and then I’ll talk about how it could have been avoided.

Cheap Honey

Not long ago I wrote about how a monopoly itself is not criminal but can lead to anti-trust behavior that is illegal.

In this case we have an entire country that engaged in the anti-competitive practice of dumping. Prior to 2001, China dumped huge amounts of cheap honey on the United States in an attempt to squeeze out competition. This included American beekeepers. They complained. These complaints proved to be accurate but, because China is a foreign country, it was impossible to arrest anyone.

Tariffs on Honey from China

Instead large tariffs were placed on Chinese honey driving up the cost of Chinese honey to the point where it cannot be profitable for an American company to purchase honey from China. This tariff is still in place and almost no honey brought into the United States, the largest honey importer in the world, is from China. At least it’s not supposed to be.

This is important. We, the American consumers, could be purchasing reasonably priced honey from China. This in turn would drive down the cost of honey. However, tariffs prevent it. The loser in this is the free market and the consumer. Not that China shouldn’t have been punished for their Dumping tactics but I’ll get to that.

In the meantime, China was still making huge amounts of honey but they couldn’t sell it to the world’s biggest honey importer because of the tariffs. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened next.

Illegal Honey Arrives

A company in Germany, along with allies around the world, managed to route Chinese honey into other nations, repackage it, and sell it in the United States at a cheaper price. Many American companies were complicit in that they purchased the cheap honey knowing full well it was not from the purported point of origin.

However, because this honey was not properly labeled, much was getting through that didn’t meet Food and Drug Administration safety standards. In particular the Chinese use a pesticide called chloramphenicol which is banned in U.S. Food.

In addition, much Chinese honey is substandard but was being adulterated to pass as a higher quality and thus getting a better price. Fraud.

Eventually the government caught onto the scheme and arrested a few of the Americans involved, penalized the American companies, and put out arrest warrants on foreign nationals who will likely never be prosecuted.

What Might have been Done

Now, here’s the issue. If the governments of the United States and China had agreed to some large fine on honey exporters because of the dumping then China would have continued to sell honey in the U.S. We would not have gotten contaminated honey, we would not have gotten adulterated honey. China would have sold its low quality honey at a low price, honey from China would have been tested regularly for chloramphenicol.

However, the honey producers in the United States saw an opportunity to put competition out of business. So a massive tariff was instituted by well-bribed politicians that potentially caused real damage to American’s health and certainly has us paying a higher price for honey.

Don’t mistake this post as an excuse for China to engage in Dumping. They should have paid a massive penalty used to reimburse U.S. honey producers for lost sales during the dumping. But, after that, sales should have resumed as usual.

We live in a massively complex global economy and I absolutely think it is the government’s job to protect American businesses from foreign nations engaging in anti-trust practices. On a fair playing field I think our industry will win many of the battles.

This fair playing field comes with a price though. If another nation provides a product in a way that doesn’t violate anti-trust laws, they might well put American companies out of business.

Right now the playing field is largely unfair. Nations like China have, until recently, had extremely cheap labor which makes manufacturing a less expensive proposition. As these Third World nations begin to prosper they will eventually lose this edge. Manufacturing will return to the U.S. It is already returning.


The way to level the playing field is complex to say the least. Fines and tariffs are weapons in our arsenal. I’m not categorically opposed to either one.

The long-term goal is to have a prosperous, developed world where equal competition brings out the best in everyone.

I think in this case the attempt to level the field actually tilted the field in one direction. Just as the Chinese honey dumping scheme attempted to tilt it in the other. The result was that you and your family members probably ate adulterated honey.

Tom Liberman

Paula Deen and the word Nigger

paula deenYes, you see correctly. I don’t use the euphemism “n-word” when I mean to say nigger. Am I worse than every newscaster, magazine writer, blogger, and general person who says “n-word” when they mean nigger? Read this blog and then tell me what you think.

Paula Deen admits to using the word nigger when referencing black men. Nigger is a vile word with a vile meaning. Because she has used the word in conversation she is paying a significant price. Today I want to examine her use and understanding of the word, the public reaction to said use, and the lawsuit that brought it all to the public’s attention.

Paula runs a very successful restaurant that grew into a Food Network television show which spawned a number of food related books, magazines, and other endeavors. She has made a lot of money because of her hard work and apparently tasty food. I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten any of her recipes. We can be certain that people like it.

I’m sure you know the story by now but to recap for those of you who, like me, were largely ignoring it up to now, she is being sued by a woman who was offended by the fact that Paula used the word nigger in her restaurant. This employee has bi-racial nieces and nephews and is filing suit against Paula and the restaurant because the employee was personally offended. During the trial it was brought up that Paula planned a “plantation themed” wedding for her brother that would include black servers.

Because of these revelations Paula has lost her television show, her book deals, and many of her sponsors.

I think the word nigger is horrible. When Paula used it in front of the employee the person should have told Paula that it was offensive. Maybe she did, I don’t know the details of the case. Paula says the word was used commonly as she was growing up and I don’t doubt her for a moment. I’ve heard the word used in all its ugly connotations a number of times over the years and I always tell people I don’t like it, please don’t use it in my presence. If they continue, they continue, I can’t control them. I can stop being around them, an employee doesn’t have this luxury.

Is Paula an evil person for saying nigger? It certainly doesn’t reflect well on her. Does she discriminate against black people? Apparently not. Does she hate black people, the evidence seems to be no. Does the idea of a plantation themed wedding including all black servers seem in poor taste, you bet.

What bothers me most about the entire story is the prevalence of the “n-word”. If people didn’t say the “n-word” when they mean nigger then maybe Paula, and a lot of other people would have gotten the message.

Nigger is a nasty term meant to convey laziness, lack of trustworthiness, thieving character, and a no good lay about. It’s applied to black people because that is the stereotype associated with them, used to explain why they could be kept as slaves against all human decency. Paula, when you say nigger, that’s what you are saying. If someone had told Paula that twenty years ago I bet she would have stopped using it right at that moment. She seems like a pretty decent sort who just didn’t know the ugliness of the word she was using.

I know it seems strange to suggest that she didn’t understand the meaning but I think that’s often the case. When we say the “f-word” and the “c-word” and the “n-word” instead of “fuck”, “cunt”, and “nigger” we hide the ugliness of the word. We hide its true meaning. People say nigger who don’t mean nigger. Not to excuse Paula, she said it, she should have known what it meant.

If people want to remove themselves from Paula’s life; be they advertisers, networks, publishers, or just an average person, that’s their right. I don’t begrudge them for a moment.

However, from what I can make of this entire episode, Paula just didn’t understand how awful the word nigger truly is, and she’s not alone. If we in society would stop saying the “n-word” and start saying nigger, I think people like Paula would understand. When we say the “n-word” we are hiding behind semantics. We are saying nigger without saying it and it truly causes confusion.

What I would respect the most from Paula was if she stood up in her next interview and said nigger. Tell us she said nigger. Tell us she knows the meaning of the word nigger. Tell us she’s sorry for using the word nigger not only for the word itself but the meaning behind it. That she knows nigger is an awful word. That she understands why it’s a terrible thing to say.

And I would respect her advertisers, sponsors, and friends if they then all forgave her.

I don’t think it will happen. I think everyone will continue to say the “n-word” and I think that’s too bad. No one knows more than me that words have power. Do we not tell German children about the holocaust because it’s so awful? Just the opposite. Here is what happened. This is what a word means. We, as a nation, enslaved another group of people. We made them seem sub-human. We applied words like nigger to them. It was awful and terrible. We should be ashamed.

When you call someone a nigger you are saying you don’t think slavery and everything associated with it was a terrible thing. If you mean that, then go ahead and call a black person a nigger. If you know what it means and hate everything associated with it, then explain to other people what the word really means. Don’t hide the word. Bring it out into the bright sunshine. Expose it to the world for what it truly is.

Evil grows in hidden corners, away from plain sight. It shrinks when exposed, when ridiculed, when attacked by good people who are not afraid. Other people are encouraged to be good themselves, to not use vile words with terrible meanings. The world becomes a better place. I’m all for that.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (it’s honestly a fun and easy read, just ask my mother! $2.99)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Foamy Beer is the Key to Happiness

Foamy BeerYou probably won’t believe me when I tell you that a good head on your beer is the key to happiness in life, even if you don’t drink beer. I had a conversation with a co-worker the other day about taking pleasure in life and how to best achieve that. The more I think about that conversation the more I realize that the consumer driven model in the United States is contributing to our misery. Beer is merely an example of my theory but I think a pertinent one.

We would all like to happy. No one is ever going to be happy all the time so the idea is to have as many moments of happiness as possible. How do we achieve this?

Foamy beer!

Traditional beer steins have a fill line an inch or so below the rim of the cup because beer tastes better when consumed through a foamy head. However, people want more so they insist on the glass being filled to the brim. They gave up joy and pleasure for more. I think that’s a prevalent theme in our culture.

Do you put a little hot water in your coffee mug in the morning to heat it up before putting in the coffee? The coffee or tea is better that way but it takes longer.

Do you warm a cold soup spoon for a few second before plunging into your bowl of piping hot soup? Do you use a hot towel on your face before you shave? People used to do these things. Why? Because it gave them pleasure. Do we eat fresh grown vegetables? Do we use spices grown in our windowsill garden? Do we eat freshly baked bread and smell the odor wafting through our houses? No, no, no. Why not? Because it takes time and effort. I’m not suggesting that I’m immune to this syndrome or that I’ve got all the answers. I don’t bake bread or grow vegetables. I’m just saying that if I were to do so it would provide me with moments of happiness.

The big happiness that we strive for is also good. Vacations, a comfortable house, a car. I don’t think consumerism is all bad, I just think we’ve gone too far. We work too much to buy things and skip out on simple pleasures.

A bowl of soup and a few freshly made rolls to dunk? Count me in. A bowl of soup down at BreadCo (Panera Bread to everyone who doesn’t live in St. Louis) and rolls made that morning is pretty good. I’ll take it. But, if I choose to spend a little time I could have more. It’s my fault I don’t. Consumerism has some blame in all of this but in the end I need to make sure I get pleasure and happiness out of life.

I’m not even suggestion you grow a vegetable garden or cut back on your hours of work, I’m merely proposing that you have the bartender pour that beer with a head even it means you lose a small amount of the total beer. Take pleasure when you can, there will be time when there is no more.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Now Available! The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt