Category Archives: Thoughts from a Common Man

Roundup, GMO & Terminator Seeds, Oh My!

GMO

My wife has gone through some medical issues, the worst being that she contracted thyroid cancer four years ago. I am happy to report that she beat the crap out of it and is now cancer free.

During this journey, she took it upon herself to seek ways on how to take better care of her body by watching what she eats and looking at alternative ways to lead a healthier lifestyle. Recently, she had to go on a gluten free diet due to inflammation in her system.

She does a copious amount of research when faced with changes. She wants to know what the ramifications are of the changes being made.

For me, being a typical guy, I have not given much thought about what I eat. Quite often, when she won’t be home for dinner, I will take the easy way out and grab a McDonald’s double-quarter pounder with cheese with a large order of fries. And while it may taste so good ingesting it, I find myself not feeling so good in the next few hours and often quite sluggish the next day.

Which brings me to the reason why I am writing this piece, the true first piece under the “Thoughts From a Common Man” section. I have something to say about the shortcuts the agriculture industries are taking; in the name of profits over the health of American citizens. Our government needs to be held accountable, too.

Did you know that the standard harvesting practice for some wheat farmers in the United States is to drench their wheat fields with Roundup? That’s right, the stuff that’s in your garage you use to get rid of weeds. Using Roundup allows combines, the piece of farm equipment used for harvesting, to work through withered, dead plants more easily. It reduces maintenance costs and wear and tear on the combine.

How do you feel knowing your health is being sacrificed to ease maintenance costs or replacement costs on farm equipment?

But I need to say here, according to an article from the Huffington Post (The Truth About Toxic Wheat), the use of Roundup is not common practice. The practice is most often used with farms that pre-harvest their wheat, mainly in North Dakota, small parts of South Dakota and parts of Canada.

Other states, such as Kansas and Oklahoma and the majority of wheat producing regions, don’t have a need to pre-harvest mainly due to their dry and warm climates as well as the variety of wheat they grow.

The practice of using Roundup eliminates the need of swathing the wheat; which means farmers cut the wheat down, lay it rows and let it dry. It lies there until the moisture content of the wheat kernels reach a desired moisture content. The ideal percentage would be 13.5% but anything less than 18% is good.

So imagine a farmer swaths his wheat crop and it rains for the next week. That’s income laying on the ground that he needs to support his family. By using Roundup, farmers would not have to swath their crops as the Roundup weakens the wheat so it is easier on the equipment.

Apparently, another “benefit” from using Roundup is it allows the wheat to ripen more evenly. Again, I have to ask the question, are these practices, mainly looking at the bottom line of the farmers’ livelihood, OK to use at the sacrifice of even one person’s health?

I have the utmost respect for farmers. The service they provide by feeding this country is critical to the nation’s security. They have a very tough job and I can’t believe how tough the government made it for them when hundreds of families lost their farms. Some of those farms have been generational…some up to six or seven generations of existence!

It wouldn’t, and it isn’t, fair to call all farmers out on the use of Roundup Ready crops. They take great pride and care of the crops they produce. But the farmers who use Monsanto’s genetically modified terminator seeds, often called Roundup Ready crops, are the ones that need to take a good long look in the mirror.

What are Roundup Ready Crops? The best definition I found is from MIT (Roundup Ready Crops) In nutshell, these crops are modified to be resistant to Roundup. Monsanto altered the DNA of these seeds to be resistant to their own product. These seeds are called terminator seeds, seeds that are sterile in the second generation. The theory is that since these crops are resistant, Roundup can be used to eliminate unwanted foliage during harvest.

Since these seeds are sterile farmers, if they want to use Roundup, must purchase seeds from Monsanto since other seeds would not be resistant. Monsanto claims to be addressing the needs of the world when it comes to food supply. However, there isn’t a lot of evidence to support that Roundup Ready crops increases the yield or profit of farmers who use their seeds.

In an article from May of 2014, the Inquisitr website stated there were much higher levels found in genetically modified soy in the US food supply. (May 4, 2014 Post Regarding Roundup Levels in Soy of US Food Supply.) The research was conducted by researchers in Norway. The USDA and the EPA both say Roundup used on foods is safe but a report from the June 2014 Elsevier publication, Food Chemistry, contradicts that statement. That report can be found here Roundup Ready GM Soybeans from the ScienceDirect website.

Glyphosate, the main chemical in Roundup, does not wash out from the plant. It is absorbed and translocated within the entire plant. That means when we eat genetically modified foods, we are also eating this chemical.

Soy is usually the base protein in baby formula and genetically modified organisms can be found in almost all packaged and processed foods in the United States.

Think about that for a second. Soy is in baby formula which uses GMOs. And these GMOs can be found in most packaged food in the United States.

There are currently 26 countries in the world that have a ban or partial bans on GMOs. This includes Switzerland, China, France, Greece, Mexico and Russia. Sixty other countries have significant restrictions on GMOs. (Source: The Nation Blog – Twenty Six Countries Ban GMO’s)

What processes do these countries use that does not necessitate the use of Roundup in order to ensure their citizens are eating healthy products? What do they know that the United States doesn’t? To be honest, I think the U.S. knows the same thing those countries do but is more focused on near term profit gain over the health implication later.

I am not going to claim that I have an answer for any of this. But during the creation of this article, I had to pause due to an insightful conversation with one of the smartest people I know, my wife Nancy.

She posited that perhaps our industry and government is focusing on the wrong thing. Instead of using Roundup on farm crops to make them easier for the farm equipment to harvest, why aren’t the better minds focusing on making the equipment stronger?

We went through several trains of thought around this and we came to several conclusions:

  • European countries, who have been around a lot longer than the United States, are taking a long view approach and putting the health of their citizens above profits. We both agreed that the United States is much like a teenager that wants the instant gratification now and not seeing the ramifications of what may occur later.
  • Special interest groups and big corporations, like Monsanto who make Roundup, are using their influence to positively affect their bottom line rather than the health of American citizens.
  • We are approaching this issue from the wrong direction. Instead of messing with Mother Nature by changing the plants chemically, we need to come up with a mechanical solution that would benefit the farmers and still give these companies the profits they seek. All the while, giving the American consumers a better shot at living longer and healthier for generations to come.
  • We don’t know the long term implications of what this does to the land, the water, the neighboring areas and the animals who are also affected.

There has to be a better solution to this issue. The United States has always prided itself on having some of the best and most creative minds in the world. Yet, other countries are passing us by because we, from a creative standpoint, have gotten lazy. Using this chemical solution as opposed to a mechanical solution is based on it being cheaper, not the right thing to do.

We have become a nation focused on finding ways to build things cheaper and faster. Some of you may want to add the word “better” to that phrase but you’d be wrong. Items made now have a planned obsolescence built into them because companies want you to replace rather than repair.

I think it’s time to take control of what we want to ingest. I don’t feel we should sacrifice our health to make it easier on farm equipment that harvest the crops. Above all, our industries and our government need to start asking “Is this the right thing to do?” Not to hold the notion that it’s better for a bottom line profit or to take or keep control of a government office.

Removing greed and the lust for power will never be out of an equation. But at least we can strive for these instances to be an anomaly rather than the norm.

New England’s Deflategate – How Stupid Has This Become?

All this crap over an under-inflated football!
All this crap over an under-inflated football!

I wasn’t going to write about this because I find this becoming more idiotic with each passing day.

I understand that the Patriots have a past of skirting, bending and at times, even breaking the rules.  But in the grand scheme of things, isn’t this being taken to the extreme considering past scandals in the NFL?

OK, I concede that there is a standard as to what the NFL footballs need to be set at a certain PSI.  But did the use of the underinflated footballs really have that much of a bearing on New England’s 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts?  Doubtful.

Case in point:  It has been determined that if the underinflated footballs were used, it would have been in the first half as the footballs were checked at halftime and filled to the proper settings.

At that time, the Patriots were ahead of the Colts 17-7 with the Colts very much in the game.

But New England exploded for 21 points in the third quarter, using properly inflated footballs, made the Colts one dimensional by forcing them to revert to strictly a passing game and were able to harass Andrew Luck into making poor decisions.

Now, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that New England did in fact use the under-inflated footballs.  But did Belichick or Brady or any member of the coaching staff have any part in actually ordering someone to make these footballs illegal?

Let’s examine a few irregularities.  The footballs were checked nearly 2 hours before game time.  Why would they be checked that far in advance?  Wouldn’t they be checked as close to game time as possible?  It can’t be they didn’t have the time.  At half time, which is only 12 minutes long, they had the ability to gather all 24 footballs, check them and pump them up to standard specifications.

To ensure that the footballs were set to standards, couldn’t they have been checked and set at standard specifications much, much closer to game time?

And why on earth would the starting quarterbacks have any say as to which ones should be for their use and ones they reject be used for the kicking game?

But what is really getting my dander up is the media frenzy surrounding this so-called “scandal.”

You can be damn sure that more stringent checks will be in place for Super Bowl 49.  So we can be assured that the footballs used in the game will not have any effect on the outcome of the game.

It’s time to stop this nonsense.  The NFL has made a huge mistake in letting this drag out for an entire week.  Roger Goodell and whoever is in charge of checking the equipment should have had this all wrapped up in 24 hours.

If the investigation found that the Patriots did have any part in it, the NFL should levy a fine against them that would hurt the pocket book to the extreme.

Forbes has valued the Patriots at $1.4 billion dollars.  The fine should be 1/4 of their worth which would turn out to be $350,000,000  million dollars.  And for good measure, they lose their first and second round draft picks for the next 3 years.

Extreme?  To be sure.  But it would send a message to the rest of the NFL that cheating of any kind will not be tolerated.

However, what if it was an equipment manager took it upon himself to let some of the air out of 11 footballs because he had heard that Tom Brady likes softer footballs?

Well, that person is an employee of the New England Patriots.  And it just goes to show, that if it indeed is true an employee of the Patriots is responsible for getting the footballs to the football field, we have what is know as the fox guarding the hen house, don’t we?

If that’s the case, we can reduce the fine drastically as well as not lose any draft picks.  Naturally the equipment manager is terminated and banned from ever getting another job with another NFL team,

Either way, this nonsense goes away in a day and the focus goes back to what is important.

The Super Bowl.

On to the game please.

Titus Young – From The Penthouse to The Outhouse

titus young

When the Detroit Lions drafted Titus Young in the second round of the 2011 draft, I thought the Lions finally found a wide receiver that could complement All-World Calvin Johnson.

But now, at age 25, he was arrested for the third time on five counts of battery…how far and how fast Young fell from grace is astounding.

Were there warning signs of trouble?  Or was Young just another player that coaches looked the other way because of his talent?

To say that Young was a game changer may have been an understatement.  His high school stats are impressive.  While at University High School in Los Angeles, he amassed 1,879 in 92 catches averaging 20.4 yards per catch in his 3 years as a varsity player.

At Boise State, he continued his dominance posting 3,063 yards over 204 receptions while scoring 25 TD’s, including a career high 83 yard touchdown score.  He was considered by many a top-flight receiver but trouble was brewing for Mr. Young.

Young was in trouble frequently while at Boise State.  Missing workouts, arguing with coaches and being generally a disruption to the team.  Regardless of how talented a player you are, being disruptive causes teams to lose cohesion and trust in one another is lost.

Discipline seemed to have little effect on him.  Then coach Chris Petersen sat him the first quarter of the 2007 Hawaii Bowl for violating team rules.  In 2008, Petersen suspended him for three games, again for violating team rules.  Two weeks later, Petersen extend the suspension indefinitely saying the team and Young “needed a break” from each other.

In 2011, Young declared for the NFL Draft…and trouble continued to follow.  One pre-draft training site kicked him out because of his attitude.  All of these warning flags, despite being considered by many draft pundits a considerable talent, caused many teams to bypass Young in the draft.

The Lions took a chance on him.  Desperate for the need to get help for Calvin Johnson, Lions felt the 5’11” 174-pound receiver with 4.39 speed was just the ticket.  And Young seemed to respond to the Lions by working hard.

In his rookie season, Young was used primarily as the 2nd receiver.  He was named the Detroit Sportscasters Association Rookie of the Year.

But a leopard rarely changes spots, right?  And Young was no exception.  Despite his success on the field, his troubles off the field  began to escalate…and even at times leaked between the lines.

He started to become undisciplined on the field.  In a game against the New Orleans Saints, he shoved safety Malcolm Jennings in the face, drawing a 15-yard penalty and was benched the rest of the game.  Other incidents occurred and caused Young’s friends to ask the NFL for help.  Young declined the offer extended from the NFL.

2011 fared no better as Young continued to spiral down.  Young sucker-punched Lions safety Louis Delmas and was suspended for two weeks.  After a game against the Green Bay Packers, the Lions again suspended Young for getting into a verbal confrontation with receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and for deliberately lining up in the wrong position two times during the game.   The Green Bay game was the last game he played for the Lions.  In February of 2014, the Lions released Young.

The St. Louis Rams claimed Young off waivers but then released him a  few days later.  Head coach Jeff Fisher said the reason was because the team wanted to go in a different direction.  However, Sports Illustrated reported the reasons were because the Rams were concerned about his behavior.  He seemed lost in interviews with Fisher and threw a fit when he was barred from boarding a flight to Los Angles after forgetting his ID.

After his release, Young was out of football, considered a pariah because of his behavioral issues.  Teams acknowledged his talent but his disruptive ways more than offset that talent.

What happened to Young isn’t rare.  The only reason his story is so prevalent is because he happened to make it to the NFL.  But no parent, relative, coach or teacher worked hard enough to help him.  Granted, we all know that people need to want to be helped and if Young spurned all the offers of help, there was little that could be done.

However, he went through several systems and became successful in each of them because he was a talented football player.  So who is culpable in all of this?  Certainly, Young has to be held accountable for his actions.  But I also feel that society is accountable as well.

Of all his days playing a game he loves, where was the discipline, the one tough enough to sit him when he acted out?  Not during his college or NFL days, by then, the damage was already done.

But the elementary and high school teams, they needed to start the process then.  Kick him off teams instead of treating him special because of his talent.

I don’t know all of the ins and outs of Young’s life and I don’t purport to being an expert in behavior issues.  But I do recognize that Young was screaming for help for a long time…and was ignored.

So from the penthouse to the outhouse he  goes, probably going to jail and most likely and early ending to a once promising life.

Russell Wilson – Not Black Enough? Does it Really Matter?

Russell Wilson has the Seahawks pointed in the right direction.
Russell Wilson Not Black Enough?  What does that mean?

I have been hesitant to discuss this. But since this blog (being me) has stated that no subject is off limits even if it makes people uncomfortable, I have decided to voice my opinion.

I had planned on doing a ton of research about what it means to be a black man. Doing a Google search gave me plenty of material to refer to. In the end, it really didn’t help much because there are many, many different attributes that can be attached in how to define a black man.

Here some of the items that I came across on what it means to be a black man:

  • Accepts the consequences of his actions
  • Demands only what he willing to give
  • Forgives
  • Always tells the truth
  • Respects women
  • Controls his emotions
  • Defends his family
  • Admits he’s wrong
  • Takes care of his responsibilities
  • Is a nation-builder
  • Always seeks to improve himself

I gathered these from a Washington Post survey (Washington Post – Being a Black Man Survey). What struck me first and foremost is that is one helluva list to live up to.

What struck me as second is that this shouldn’t be limited to defining a black man…this should be what every man, Black, White, Asian, Arabic, Slavic…and whatever other nationality you can think of should aspire to.

When I look at Russell Wilson, I see a person who is attempting to do what is on this partial list. I also see a very, very good quarterback in the NFL and person who thrives on making his team better by making himself better.

And now to the crux of the matter: Russell Wilson has been accused of not being “black enough.” Despite the many articles and opinions that are out there, I still don’t know what that means. And a lot of that is due to the subjectivity of the many definitions that are out there on the subject.

I grew up in Detroit, lived there for 30 years. I have inter-acted with a variety of people and have had mostly positive interactions with them. I don’t know, maybe I got lucky with that. I was raised to see differences but also to embrace the differences because that’s what makes Americans great.

Did I mention I am white and was raised in an upper-middle class family? Does that make a difference to anyone? Should it?

I have always had an open hand when I meet people. I recognize they are different from me and am comfortable in saying it doesn’t matter to me. Why? Because I want to hear what anyone, man, women, child, Black, White, Armenian, Italian, Japanese, Irish and whatever other nationality you can think of has to say.

I want to understand different cultures. Not to belittle them but to grow as a person and hopefully be able to relate to others better.   And I would hope to have the same happen to me…that anyone can reach out to me and try to understand me better.

And the foods! OK, maybe that’s why I like everyone so much…because of all the different foods and tastes that are available. And I would be proud and honored to be invited to break bread with others and feel free to discuss anything without any repercussions….and I hope that I would be able to invite you into my home and make you feel comfortable.

Maybe it’s as simple as that: Open our collective homes and everyone just bring a special dish and we all just talk…talk about anything not just what socially relevant.

Why can’t I talk to you about what it means to be a black man?

Thoughts from a Common Man

This is where I get to be a bit selfish.

I plan on writing whatever is on my mind in this section and only I will be able to post to it.  I will welcome comments regarding the articles that I write, but this section is for me.

What subjects will I cover?  It’s pretty wide open.  It can be political, sports, scientific or just plain rants or raves.

For example,  I would have loved to have written an article about Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL or any professional sports team.

My opinion is that it just doesn’t fricking matter.  And why should it?  He plays the game of football and in college, played at a pretty high level.  But I suspect the reason he dropped to the 7th round was because teams didn’t want to deal with the media pressure that surrounds the fact he’s gay.

Let’s put this into perspective.  Hypothetically, it’s the 2014 draft.

Your team needs a QB, desperately.  There is a player coming out of college who has been compared to several great QB’s of the past, saying he’s got the quickest release since Dan Marino, an arm that rivals Brett Farves and has the coolness of Joe Montana under pressure.

This guy is NFL ready and will get your team to the Super Bowl inside of three years.

Excited?  Would be ticked if your team, one that desperately needs a QB, didn’t take him?

Two weeks before the draft, he announces he is gay.  Still want him?  Does him being gay affect the fact that he can be one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game?  Would it affect that he would help your team to the Super Bowl inside of three years?

Love to hear your thoughts.

Welcome to Beer Thinker Sports

Some of you that come across this site (and I hope that many do) may remember me from my days of writing for the Bleacher Report under the pseudonym of Seattle Lion Fan. Bleacher Report, a fine website in its own right, changed philosophies during its growth. As such, it was their decision to remove my writer’s status.

It was possibly one of the best things that could have happened. I had never claimed to be a sports journalist and they were taking a direction in becoming a school for budding writers. But I always wanted to write what I wanted to write about and not have assignments forced upon me. And since I wasn’t making a career of it, it was an amicable separation.

So what have I been doing for the last the last two years? I had been searching for a place that I could write about what I want…my opinions on the Detroit Lions.

There have been plenty of sites that I visited and even joined. All of them are great sites but none of them felt right to me. In fact, one site that I joined, I submitted in article about Michael Sams, the first openly gay person to be drafted by the NFL. I thought it was one of my better written articles and I really didn’t take sides one way or the other. Unfortunately, the owners of the site felt differently and the article was taken down inside of 15 minutes.

It was at that point that I decided that if I was going to write about what I wanted to write about, then I was going to have to start my own site.

While at Bleacher Report, I had written several articles using the Beer Thinker as yet another identity. I had some good reaction to those articles and from there, the germ of an idea grew into the start of Beer Thinker Sports.

I hope that this site can differentiate from the thousands of sports sites that are out there now. I want to grow this site to allow fans, not people who hope to start a journalism career, to write about their teams and say what they want to say.

So I am going to start small and focus on just a few select teams such as the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Mariners. From there, I will decide at what pace this site will grow depending on the ambitions of others in their respective towns and/or loyalties to their respective teams.

The rules for the site will be simple:

  1. All who are members of this site will give each other the respect that any person deserves. An opinion is just that. It may not agree with yours but respect that others may differ from you. Hopefully, this generates a civil discourse where all sides can feel free to express their opinions without feeling threatened or demeaned.
  2. Flaming will not be tolerated. Swearing will not be tolerated. Bullying will not be tolerated. Name calling will not be tolerated. If you were having any discussion with someone face-to-face, would you behave in this manner? Be civil…you can disagree without stooping to bullying or name calling.
  3. No subject is off limits but there will be an approval process prior to any article getting published. There will be articles that might make people uncomfortable. But that won’t be a constraint to publishing provided the article is well written in a manner that will promote civil discussion.

I also want to have folks write about what goes on their areas. For instance, there are a thousand and one sites out there regarding the PGA. I don’t want to be yet another site that wonders if Tiger Woods is good for the game or not.

What is the favorite place to play in your area? Not the expensive ones that you might play once or twice a year. The places where you hone your skills on a regular basis. I shoot in the mid 90’s and play at a great course called Druid’s Glen. As a member, I pay about $45.00 (with a power cart) and have always been treated great.

And of course, the beer. After all, this is the Beer Thinker Sports web site. Beer and sport have always gone together. Talk with us about the microbreweries in your hometown. Toss is in a place about your favorite BBQ joint or a great steakhouse that always gets that New York strip just right.

The goal of this site is to bring back a sense of community….and if this can be accomplished in one small corner of the World Wide Web then it can be called a success.

Again, welcome to Beer Thinker Sports!

Jim Dunn