Archive for September, 2007

Call Centers in Prisons

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

You may not know that many companies that are household names make use of prison labor in the United States. The cliche is prisoners making license plates for the state, or doing road work.

Corporations are pretty quiet about the contracts they have with UNICOR and other companies that operate prisons. There is just no way to put a pretty face on the practice. There is a chance that when you call customer service the person answering the phone will be a convict. My source indicated that there were prison call centers in almost every state in America.

The biggest critics of these programs are, not surprisingly, the competition. Defenders say that the prisons are competing with outsourcing not domestic call centers.

My biggest concern is that a people who profit from the prison system are not going to be motivated to curb the growth of the prison population through positive social change. One sad aspect of this is that prisoners who are indirectly working for big corporations have no hope of getting the same kind of work for that employer on the outside. That is just wrong.

Exercise is Good For Us

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I learned two things about the relationship between exercise and body fat. The first thing I learned is that the report that medical scientists write for each other are way too complicated to for me to fully grasp much less paraphrase in a blog post.

Luckily I was able to learn something worthwhile from a press release crafted by the same scientists.

Studies are showing that when people eat a high fat meal and then exercise, fats get oxidized and broken down into healthier molecules. This happens in the skeletal muscle tissue. The press release is actually pretty good reading.

Rethinking Consumer Habits

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

There are probably thousands of examples that I could use for the point that I am going to try to make in this post. For no particular reason, I have decided to use Cat Food as the example. The demand for cat food existed for thousands of years before an industry came into existence to meet that demand with cheaply produced conveniently packaged and well marketed products.

Wait a second, what did people do to feed their cats before there was a pet food industry?

I think the answer is that they did basically the same thing that the industry does, except without the marketing and the packaging. Pet food is formulated to be nutritious, but at the lowest possible cost. Byproducts of the industries that feed humans are often used and also as as much cheap grain based filler as cats will tolerate. I grew up on a farm that often had a double digit cat population. We went through quite a bit of commercial cat food but we also fed the cats much of the oil and grease related to cooking for people. We would simply add some water to a greasy pan that had been used to cook some meat or fish, bring the mixture to a low boil and add oatmeal and/or cornmeal.

The scandalous adulteration of wheat gluten with melamine that occurred in China is not all that surprising to me. I took a course in applied animal nutrition in college and I remember the complicated calculations used to get a food that met the maintenance and growth requirements for an animal at the lowest cost. This melamine has NO NUTRITIONAL VALUE, but the nitrogen content in the chemical can make it appear that the wheat gluten has a higher protein content. This alteration makes the wheat gluten more valuable on the market.

What happened with China was bound to happen because the Western World was exporting the pressure to minimize costs, but has no way of exporting regulation and oversight. Adulteration like this was widespread in North America before federal regulations and federal resources were directed at the situation.

I’m a bit off track with this post. The main point that I wanted to make is that consumers can have a small pet food industry in their own home so they don’t have to put their trust in the multinational industry that created the Chinese pet food scandal. I was inspired to write this post after seeing a page of recipes for cat meals.

The broader point is that just about every ‘industry’ can potentially be abandoned wholesale by consumers if the situation warrants it.