Friday, May 15, 2015

Last Call For Fugly Fruits

You know what, this California startup that plans to bring "ugly" fruits and vegetables to America's doorsteps for half the price of grocery store produce is actually a really, really good idea.

Remember the ugly fruit and vegetables that were all the rage in France last summer? We’ll, they’re coming to America. 
More to the point: They’ve actually been here this whole time — just not on most people’s plates, nor in supermarket aisles. A new Oakland-based startup calledImperfect is out to change that. Its founders, three veteran food-waste entrepreneurs, are on a mission to bring ugly produce (they prefer the term “cosmetically challenged”) to, quite literally, your doorstep. 
“Our bold vision is for consumers across America to have the option of having a box of Imperfect produce delivered to them weekly, for 30 to 50 percent cheaper than [what they’ll find in] grocery stores,” said Ben Simon, Imperfect’s cofounder. Before they go national, however, the team will roll out a trial in Oakland and Berkeley in the summer of 2015, with the goal of reaching 1,000 customer households in the first six months.

Imperfect plans to bring this produce to grocery stores as well, where otherwise it would go to waste. Considering California's drought and multiple urban food deserts, this is a fantastic idea (some of this produce already goes to California food banks, too.)

The reason Imperfect can get ugly produce at such a steep discount from farmers is that otherwise those fruits and vegetables would almost certainly go to waste. As Grist has previously reported, most large supermarket chains simply won’t buy products that don’t meet certain size, diameter, consistency, and color requirements. If a field turns up “substandard” produce (which sometimes just means slightly crooked cucumbers or carrots half an inch too small), it may cost the farmer more to harvest it than he or she would make by selling the crop. As a result, roughly 7 percent of the produce that’s grown in the U.S. each year is left to rot in the fields. 
“Believe me, farmers hate to see a field of perfectly good, nutritional produce go to waste,” said Ron Clark, another Imperfect cofounder and the company’s director or sourcing. Clark helped to launch California’s Farm to Family program, which buys more than 125 million pounds of “ugly” produce per year from statewide farms and distributes it to food banks. He’s behind Imperfect’s drive to partner with major supermarket chains. 
“I see retail as the real game changer,” said Clark, explaining that while the CSA-style model will appeal to a “sophisticated, educated urban market of millennials,” supermarkets reach a much broader audience.

Yeah I know, it's Uber But For Fugly Produce, but this actually looks like a worthy thing to try.  For things like potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and carrots (things I'd mash, chop, or dice anyway) I'd try this service, especially if it was significantly cheaper than the grocery store.

Good luck to these guys.  I hope the service reaches Cincinnati sometime soon.

The Kroog Versus Jebya

Paul Krugman lowers the boom on Jeb Bush, who turns out is much more like his hated brother Dubya than anyone knew.

Jeb Bush wants to stop talking about past controversies. And you can see why. He has a lot to stop talking about. But let’s not honor his wish. You can learn a lot by studying recent history, and you can learn even more by watching how politicians respond to that history. 
The big “Let’s move on” story of the past few days involved Mr. Bush’s response when asked in an interview whether, knowing what he knows now, he would have supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He answered that yes, he would. No W.M.D.? No stability after all the lives and money expended? No problem. 
Then he tried to walk it back. He “interpreted the question wrong,” and isn’t interested in engaging “hypotheticals.” Anyway, “going back in time”is a “disservice” to those who served in the war. 
Take a moment to savor the cowardice and vileness of that last remark. And, no, that’s not hyperbole. Mr. Bush is trying to hide behind the troops, pretending that any criticism of political leaders — especially, of course, his brother, the commander in chief — is an attack on the courage and patriotism of those who paid the price for their superiors’ mistakes. That’s sinking very low, and it tells us a lot more about the candidate’s character than any number of up-close-and-personal interviews. 

For the most part, I consider Jeb Bush to be an incompetent, less effective version of his older brother, but after this week I'm willing to add "and as viciously self-serving".

Wait, there’s more: Incredibly, Mr. Bush resorted to the old passive-voice dodge, admitting only that “mistakes were made.” Indeed. By whom? Well, earlier this year Mr. Bush released a list of his chief advisers on foreign policy, and it was a who’s-who of mistake-makers, people who played essential roles in the Iraq disaster and other debacles. 
Seriously, consider that list, which includes such luminaries as Paul Wolfowitz, who insisted that we would be welcomed as liberators and that the war would cost almost nothing, and Michael Chertoff, who as director of the Department of Homeland Security during Hurricane Katrina was unaware of the thousands of people stranded at the New Orleans convention center without food and water. 
In Bushworld, in other words, playing a central role in catastrophic policy failure doesn’t disqualify you from future influence. If anything, a record of being disastrously wrong on national security issues seems to be a required credential.

And we had eight years of that, and the great opportunity to have at least four more under another Bush, right?

No thanks.

A Round Of Texas Hold-'Em (Back)

We're roughly six weeks or so away from a Supreme Court decision that could allow same-sex marriage in all 50 states, and the bigots are getting extraordinarily nervous, none more so than in Texas. where the state's Republican AG is all but vowing to simply ignore any such ruling.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton suggested on Wednesday that a bill that would prevent county clerks from issuing or recognizing same-sex marriage licenses was reaffirming the will of the voters of the state. 
“We passed a constitutional amendment [banning same-sex marriage] in 2005, it was overwhelmingly approved by the voters,” Paxton told CNN host Alisyn Camerota. “That’s our background here.” 
Camerota noted that as recently as two years ago, polls showed that support for marriage equality in Texas was evenly split. 
“If Texas follows national trend lines, we’ve seen support tick up for same-sex marriage,” she pointed out. “So, why pass a law that would apply to everyone?” 
Paxton, however, argued that the “real poll” happened on election day.
“My job as attorney general and the job of the Legislature is to really follow the will of the people and enforce the laws that we have,” he remarked. “This is both in statute and in our constitution. So, that’s my job, and that’s the job of the Legislature.”
But the attorney general was not willing to say that the state would follow the Supreme Court if it decided to rule in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage later this year.
“Aren’t you saying that the gays and lesbians in your state are not as valued at heterosexuals because they can’t form into a union?” Camerota asked. 
“All the Legislature has done in the past is try to reflect the values that have been in this state and this country for over two centuries,” Paxton insisted.

It's going to be really interesting to see what happens should SCOTUS chuck state bans on same-sex marriage into the dustbin of history.  The reaction of deep red states will not be that of joy, and I suspect we may see years of legal wrangling before all is said and done.  Some Alabama judges kept enforcing anti-miscegenation laws for three years after Loving v Virginia supposedly eliminated those laws in 1967, and Nixon had to step in with a district court order to specifically put a stop to the practice. I foresee a number of country clerks and judges refusing to marry same-sex couples for quite some time, and for things to be pretty ugly afterward (remember in several states, it's still quite legal to fire someone for being LGBTQ.)

We'll see how it all shakes out, but if history is any guide, people like Ken Paxton aren't going to just shrug and give up.


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