Tuesday, September 20, 2005

My Employer is Insane

OK, we all get memos from time to time that make us go "Huh?!" Well today my boss decided that we needed to stamp out a wretched vile plague around the business(nevermind increasing competence of incompetent employees, assigning personal responsibility for work-related tasks or improving profit margin) so a memo was written. What is this plague so vile it needed to be dealt with in a company-wide memo you ask?


We have post-it proliferation.

The text of said memo is as follows:
"Effective immediately (and permanently), the use of "post-it" notes (or any other type of scrap paper) is strictly prohibited from use anywhere in the building. There will be no exceptions of any kind. All post-it notes in the building are to be immediately turned in to me by placing them in the box outside my office. No additional post-it notes or small notebooks will be purchased, made available or used."

Well, that is that. The thing is, this is just the symptom of a much larger problem. Firstly, this is a PR nightmare(there have been other memos) by punishing everyone for the screwups of a few. Secondly, it is not well explained, making people think it is just crazy. There is actually good reason not to use them in certain areas of our business, but punishing everyone to not deal with a few people is..well...off.

It occurred to me that during the fall of communism, when russia was attempting to convert to capitalism, it had a rough go. Some people longed for the comfort that communism brought them by knowing they would have a little to depend on from their government instead of making a go of it for themselves. Businesses had it especially rough, with a shortage of quality business supplies. I think maybe I will find our sister city in Russia and send them these post-its. It will becoma a nation wide program. We will call it:

Post-its for Petrushka Dolls.

For every case of post-its, they will send us Petrushka Dolls, and it will show our support for their heritage, culture and new found lifestyle of capitalism. It will also end the terrible post-it proliferation my boss finds so unseemly.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The USDA and its Time Travelling Mad Cows

You should always question your government. They all lie. Republicans, Democrats, Green Party. Don't trust any of them. One of the many lies they are recently trying to shove down our throats(literally) is the idea that your food supply is safe. Now, I could go on forever with things I have personally seen such as meat plants with ill-informed and seldom seen USDA inspectors from the bottom of the barrel, illegal immigrant workers with TB and Hepatitis, or any of the nefarious practices carried out by the producers and processors themselves to save time and money....but that's for another day. Specifically, I am thinking of something more sacred, something nearer to Holy. Something each of us (almost) holds dear. Something that screams "American" symbolizing us as much as apple pie, poorly written sit-coms or recycled movies passed off as quality entertainment from Hollywood(Herbie, The Dukes of Hazard, War of the Worlds - there are a total of nine this Summer). Something even accepted by the French with open arms and placed in the center of the universe(or what the rest of us call it - Paris). No, I am talking about the cheeseburger. Or specifically what goes into the cheeseburger...BEEF!

OK, more to the point. Mad Cow disease has been rearing its ugly head in the news over the past few years, yet most Americans are oblivious to its source, its potential threat or the fact that the rest of the world has been dealing with it for the past decade while we, as is our democracy, are still in our infancy with regard to acknowledging and dealing with this problem. Now I'm not generally classified as to the left, or as an environmentalist tree-hugger or a soccer mom. But facts are facts, and the sad truth is we live in a nation of people who have a reading level on average of 8th grade who rely on one basic source for the news they get, while paying most attention to the weather and the sports report. One would not expect them to know much beyond the bounds of their country...most don't even bother to make themselves aware of what is going on outside their own little suburb. So here it is, don't say you haven't been warned.

Your government is lieing to you. They've done it many times before. And acknowledged that they do. Mad Cow Disease is one of those things where you, the American people, make it easy for them to get away with their lies by choosing to remain uneducated and wallow in your ignorance, fat and happy. While you worry over whether Paula Abdul slept with someone on American Idol and other earth shattering topics of importance, the people who make money off of you and keep you in the dark smile at how easy you allow their jobs to be. The USDA has stated that you are safe from MAD COW thanks to their effective screening program. All is well. Do not worry. ahem.

They make you believe mad cow is a "European problem", not a problem here thanks to our effective and thorough screening thanks to your loving government. The truth is, they are being intelectually dishonest with you. True, their screening has found one or two cows thus far and eliminated them from getting into the food supply...but that's only half true. The USDA knows that its screening process is not meant to find cows with MAd Cow, and they know that the odds of finding an infected cow in an everyday slaughterhouse is nil. Here's why (and they know this) so you do the math.

The screening here depends largely on whether a cow is a "downer cow" either not able to walk or showing signs of motor-neuron distress as it walks. That is the first step in identifying a cow with Cad Cow disease according to the USDA. Thats a fair assessment and that much is true. They use this same screen in Europe. However, what you may not know is that the cattle in Europe on average are not slaughtered until they reach 5 years old. You may also not know that in cattle, it takes 4 to 5 years on average for a cow to start to show signs of Mad Cow Disease. Thanks to economics, capitalism and efficiency, we slaughter at age 2.5 to 3. This is because the rate a cow grows after year 3 decreases considerably, so feeding a slowly growing cow is not as good as giving that feed to a new smller younger one, thus you make more money. Nothing wrong with money, I understand this. The USDA also understands this. Do you get the picture yet? We are screening cattle using a screening method designed to see something you wouldn't normally see in a cow until it is 4 or 5 years old, so most likely we will never see it even in an infected cow. Now it starts to add up right!? There can only be one explanation as to how the government can say a test designed for a five year old cow is valid when the cow is only three years old. Clearly the answer is Time Travel. THE GOVERNMENT HAS TIME-TRAVELLING COWS! Obviously the Russians and the Chinese need to be kept away from such a National Security secret as a cow which can transcend space and time. The last thing we need is a Mad Cow warping in from another dimension and attacking our defenses. If you thought open borders were a problem, imagine your suburb streets lined with cowpatties from time travelling Mad Cows of doom. I imagine soccer moms would go into a tizzy and call emergency meetings to rewrite rules of Homeowner Associations over Panera takeout. It would be mass chaos.

This is why I say they are intellectually dishonest. The USDA knows these facts, yet they parade their testing around like it is actually beneficial. Keep in mind, the two cows they found so far were not even normal slaughter cows, both were advanced beyond 5 years, one a dairy cow which stopped producing milk at a beneficial level, so it was sent for slaughter. These cows they found make up less than 1% as far as age is concerned. Not very comforting. I wonder how many cows made it into the food supply that were infected, but thanks to the faulty screening practices were never found? But they say "Do not worry." You are safe. Remember, only cows which are fed remains of other cows or sheep are prone to such a disease anyway. Hmmm. Before you buy this lie, you may want to consider that both squirrels and elk have diseases very similar genetically and in symptom to Mad Cow, and I don't know about you but I have never seen a squirrel nor an elk go canibalistic and eat another. Yet the disease is spreading among them...so how safe are you?

I also know a little bit about Crisis management. If you have some bad PR, you release it on a Friday. Why? Because nobody pays attention to the news on Friday...especially late in the day. The only other time to release statements of bad news about yourself or your company is right after a National disaster when nobody will pay attention anyway. Anyone who doubts this should Google Gary Condit(you may remember him, he was the suspect for killing Chandra Levy). Fortunately for him, when the heat was on the most it was early September, 2001....then the Twin Towers fell. Guess who all the reporters stopped following. The USDA also does the same thing with regard to Mad Cow. In this report you can see how they intentionally released a positive result on a Friday afternoon to bury it. I suppose if you really were proud of finding it(as they claim to be, since it shows they are effective at protecting you) they would have released it on a Monday at midday...but maybe I'm just cynical.

What further confuses people is that many suppliers actually want to test. They want to pay to have the cattle screened in a laboratory, yet the USDA has made it not available to them. Actually they went a step further, anyone who wants to test beyond what the USDA already offers is not only allowed, they will be prosecuted. Ummm, excuse me? SO a company wants to be safer and that is illegal? I guess it has to do with all that money again.....or maybe the fact that the testing will start to show that cows ar ein the food supplly and infected, and the USDA isnt finding them. Hmmmm. That couldn't be it could it? Surely the government wouldn't cover up its own incompetency. Or maybe they are just trying to hide the fact that all those cows know how to travel through time.