Archive for the 'Politics' Category


Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Seth Godin was riffing on the concept of expertise and passion today. He was basically making the argument that some positions in an organization do not have to be filled by people who are driven by a passion for the product that is being produced. I concur with that and I have a personal story to support it.

Several years ago, I left my soul sucking job at a huge sawmill for a job as the roaster at a fair trade coffee cooperative. I have some enthusiasm for coffee (the tangible product) and also for social justice (the intangible product), but I wasn’t extremely PASSIONATE about either. My skills were developing efficient systems, performing repetitive tasks efficiently and implementing quality control.

The man and wife founders are PASSIONATE about their products. When their baby of a company outgrew mom and pop style management, one of them bit the bullet and went to school to learn how to be a general manager. I was with the company during a period of major growth. When I recently checked on its progress I was pleased to see that it appears to be thriving in ways that I couldn’t have predicted three years ago.

I can’t think of any instances where slightly mismatched worldviews caused problems between me and my coffee-making coworkers. When the entire production crew was given the day off to support and participate in an anti-Bush demonstration, I chose to stay at the roastery and perform some maintenance. For the record, I am not a fan of GWB. I just chose not to protest a foreign leader who was on an official visit to my country. That, and it was time to sweep the chimneys.

The Opposite of Walmart

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

If Walmart has a diametric opposite, it might just be No Sweat Apparel. They sell mostly organic union made clothing. They currently are promoting an initiative related to a Palestinian garment manufacturer and an Arab/Israeli Peace Organization comprised of former combatants from both sides. In addition to all the ethicalness, the Organic Bethlehem Initiative Tee actually looks pretty cool.

The FDA Protects the Public (from itself)

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

One of the many things that the FDA has to take into consideration is the possibility of causing panic. It took me several minutes to digest a recent story about melamine in American baby formula. The FDA diligently tested US supplies of baby formula in the wake of the scandal in China. They didn’t find any evidence of deliberate addition of the toxic substance but the tests were accurate enough to detect trace amounts. Melamine is a very common substance and it can potentially get rubbed off of equipment and packaging (my mother once found a large chunk of wood in a boxed chocolate).

Health experts do not consider these trace amounts to pose a health risk, but the FDA still had a problem. They did not have a maximum safe level on the books at the time. The trace amounts were not publicly announced. The associated press had to use the Freedom of Information Act to get access to the results. This makes the FDA look bad but the bottom line is that scaring people out of using baby formula would have caused greater harm to public health than the melamine.

This post is a bit unbalanced so far. For the ying to my yang, please read this slam of the FDA on It says almost the opposite of what I said and strangely enough I don’t entirely disagree with it. My commentary is the result of my imagining what would have happened if this particular incident played out with the FDA acting the way that people like Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, want it to act.

The WHO recommends two years of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Breast milk is not regulated by the FDA.