Sigh. Vacation over. Back to the real world.
Sad to see the news is just as exasperating as it was when I stopped paying attention to it two weeks ago. President Trump has had a terrific first 100 days. No, President Trump has had a terrible first 100 days. North Korea is rattling its chains again, and this time we're paying attention. Trump's wall is on hold. The government will continue at least through September, but then it's the shutdown threat all over again.
Maybe I can ease back into things by writing about food, since that was such a highlight of vacation. Had some wonderful Mexican. Ate breakfast with the old fogies from the VFW hall. Had a great steak cooked on the grill by my brother. Enjoyed my sister-in-law's meat loaf and spaghetti. Experienced smoked brisket at what is reputed to be the best barbecue joint in Hill Country, Texas. (Memo to Fort Wayne residents: Shig's is comparable, so go enjoy.)
But, no. Even that has been put in the political hopper:
*A group of Yale graduate students have gone on a hunger strike to demand union representation and better benefits from the university. I've been hungry, so I tend to pay attention to hunger strikes as serious business: These people are risking their health for something they believe in.
Except, not really:
As it turns out, the hunger strike might not put anyone's health in peril. According to a pamphlet posted on Twitter by a former Yale student, the hunger strike is “symbolic” and protesters can leave and get food when they can no longer go on.
So, by God, we're going to hold out until you administration pigs . . . wave a Big Mac in front of our faces.
In case you're wondering what deplorable conditions the graduate students have to suffer through now: They receive a $30,000 annual stipend, get 100 percent free health care and free tuition. To Yale.
Oh, the humanity.
*The United States Department of Agriculture, under new Secretary Sonny Perdue, is going to make school lunches edible again. Basically, schools will be given a lot more flexibility in setting menus.
Starting with good intentions, to enlist schools in the fight against obesity, the Obama administration eliminated salt and emphasized vegetables and did everything else possible to ensure that a lot of the lunches ended up in the garbage.
It wasn't just students, parents and conservative critics who howled. The School Nutrition Association has been complaining for a long time:
“I'm seeing more food waste than is acceptable,” said Lynn Harvey, SNA's incoming vice president and chief of School Nutrition Services for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
“What we need are modest modifications to the rules that would enable us to provide foods that children like and will accept,” she said during a hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education last month.
Not only, critics contend, have the strict standards caused participation in the school lunch program to decline, they've created black markets for salt packets in cafeterias and more work for security guards, who now have to stop pizza deliveries from coming onto campuses.
Kids are resilient. They can eat just about anything and bounce back. If we really want schools to help fight childhood obesity, let's resume putting more emphasis on gym class.
*Whole Foods, sometimes jokingly referred to as Whole Paycheck, is going through tough times, as even its most loyal customers start to realize it is the grocer for pretentious people:
Whole Foods has long been the butt of jokes for its prices – although it disputes it is more expensive than it rivals – and its bougie products. Comedian John Oliver is particularly fond of its asparagus water.
[. . .]
Outside Trader Joe's, Brooklyn homemaker Eva Lev said she rarely visits Whole Foods nowadays. “It's like that Jim Gaffigan joke – Whole Foods on Sunday is just a refugee camp for people with too much money.” Lev added she prefers Trader Joe's “because it seems like an everyman's place, and you can still get organic”.
Trader Joe's is mentioned by several people as the everyman alternative to Whole Foods. I've been to the one in Indianapolis a couple of times while visiting my sister, and it's OK, but I wouldn't go out of my way to shop there. For that kind of shopping experience, I prefer Fresh Market on Jefferson Boulevard.
ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS
Sportswriters should not expound on politics, and popes should not lecture us on economics. Pope Francis shows his ignorace when he complains of the "invasion" of libertarianism. The policies he so roundly criticizes can do the most to bring the masses out of crushing poverty.
This isn't exactly breakthrough news, but it's good that people are paying attention to it: Intimacy is the real key to better love and sex. Knowing we have problems with intimacy and figuring out what to do about it are two entirely different things.
New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, in a piece on climate change, merely suggested that people on both sides of the debate be open to all the evidence (and as it happens, he believes in climate change). The reaction: A seething barrage of loathing and contempt, even from fellow journalists. Don't mess with their religion, Bret.
If you like Billy Joel (or any other musician, for that matter), don't feel like you have to apologize, and don't pay any attention to the music critic "experts." Did you know, btw, that Joel is sixth-best-selling musician of all time, behind only the Beatles, Garth Brooks, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin and the Eagles?
Mainstream guilt keeps popping up. A student union in Britain wants to ban clapping and cheering during assemblies because it excludes deaf people. And Oxford University has apologized for a newsletter suggesing that lack of eye contact is an example of casual racism after receiving backlash from the autism community.
Yeah, nothing wrong with me that a new body couldn't cure: Doctor plans to perfdorm a human head transplant this year.
Sure he's not the first one to discover this: Trump says he thought being president would be easier. In fact, it would be surprising if he didn't feel that way. In business, he was the guy, and he got what he wanted. In government, he's one of many, and every single one of them has a constituencey to answer to.
Now is a good time to have a healthy debate over what makes America great, especially the role nationalism plays. There are good ways and bad ways to to define that term, and President Trump's isn't necessarily the best one.
A school in New York has trashed all its "antiquated" textbooks (apparently the whole idea of books is antiquated, not just these particualr books), but doesn't seem to have any idea of what to replace them with.
No, President Trump is not out to gut the First Amendment. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is talking about looking at a change in libel law, which would require only congressional action, not a constitutional amendment. Of course, that exercise itself would be fraught with perill if, as I suspect, they want to make it easier for public figures to win a libel case. That would put a serious crimp in the free and open discussion of ideas vital to the public good.