90% Less Beef

Before I can go forward with this blog post, I have to make a couple of confessions and apologies.

I have been known to make fun of vegetarians in my life.  I’m sorry. For real, regardless of your reasons for being a vegetarian or a vegan, I’m sorry for being an asshole.

I have also been a terrible friend to the environment for the vast majority of my life.  It has never been because I didn’t believe that humans are killing our planet. It is just that in any given moment, I make terrible choices and choose convenience over the life of our planet.  I’m sorry for being an asshole.

I am trying really hard to change, and I’m starting with beef.

90% less beef

The beef industry is really terrible for the planet.  This is a fact that I have been aware of for quite some time, but I haven’t paid much attention to it.  I remember a “calculate your carbon footprint” quiz that I did at least 15 years ago, and I was surprised by how much my consumption of red meat contributed to the carbon footprint I was leaving on the planet.

So I knew, but I didn’t know, you know?

A report was released last October in international science journal Nature which looked at the impact of food consumption on climate change.  There were a number of conclusions, but the most striking was that the world needs to cut its beef consumption by 50% in order to hit targets that keep our current trajectory of climate change from being irreversible.  Western countries – specifically the United States and the United Kingdom – need to cut their beef consumption by 90% in order for the world to have any hope of meeting that target.

90% less beef.  Does that number sound ridiculous?  Does it sound impossible?

I can definitely cut 90% of the beef from my diet.

Why this is the thing that I’m choosing to go all in on when it comes to the environment, I don’t really know.  I love beef.  A well cooked medium rare steak is literally my favorite food on this planet.  And it is simply not Thanksgiving without steak.  But when it comes right down to it, most of the beef that I eat is really pretty pointless and easily replaceable.

I have a ton of privilege when it comes to the food that I eat and my ability to easily shift my diet to other (often higher priced) alternatives.  If more people like me – people who can afford the occasional Impossible Burger (which are delicious at Burgatory and only okay at Houlihan’s), who have the flexibility to introduce more plant-based protein into their diet, and who have the time and energy to make the change – we can help to drive down the price of beef alternatives and create a wider market for plant-based food.

I am, at best, in the middle of the bell curve on adoption

I am not a trail blazer.  On this particular topic, I am representative of those who are pretty much smack in the middle of the bell curve.  Lots of you have been vegetarians for climate-based reasons for years, and for other reasons even longer.  I am not trying to be in any way self-congratulatory on this topic.  As I mentioned earlier, I have been an asshole for much of my life.  But as the need to shift from beef to alternatives becomes more urgent, I realize that I need to get on board.

What I am trying to say – and to quote Bill Nye the Science Guy – is:

“…the planet is on fucking fire.  There are a lot of things we could do to put it out. Are any of them free? No, of course not. Nothing’s free, you idiots. Grow the fuck up. You’re not children any more.”

90% less beef is not free, but it’s 100% do-able – and it’s only one of a million things I’m going to need to personally change about the way I live my life.


Buttigieg: Non-Objections (Addendum)

In my previous post, I addressed objections that are often brought up as barriers to supporting Buttigieg in the primary.  I am embarrassed to say that I forgot one of the most important ones. 

buttigiegButtigieg is not a person of color or a woman.

My own journey as a Feminist Buttigieg supporter

I can’t say that this is not a valid objection, because it is well past time in this country that we have a female President. I’ve struggled myself to come to terms with being a feminist and a Buttigieg supporter, with well-qualified women running in this race. 

For me, I had to really take a look at the things that were important to me in our next President – and make sure that the things that Buttigieg brings to the table are more than enough to outweigh the advantages of supporting a female candidate.  I had to know that even if I overcorrect and give female candidates an edge, Buttigieg would still come out on top in my evaluation.

What Buttigieg must do to earn my continued faith

It has also been vitally important to me that any male candidate that has my support is more than just “not a misogynist”.  A male candidate winning the Democratic primary damn well better be prepared to be a Feminist and an active advocate of the rights of women and an active partner in understanding and solving for the challenges facing women.  That includes all of the intersectional groups, such as women of color, trans women, trans women of color, single mothers, and more.

To this point, I do not think there is any male candidate that comes close to Buttigieg on these issues*.  It’s not just the issues that he focuses attention on – addressing the challenges of trans women of color, the maternal mortality rate of black mothers, and the absolute necessity of a woman’s right to control her own body and healthcare.  It is also the little things, like deliberately and consistently using the phrases “she or he”, “woman or man”, “hers or his” – putting women first in all of the simple, everyday ways that women have always been put second.

Buttigieg has also specifically acknowledged that if a male candidate – particularly a white male candidate – should win the Democratic nomination, he must be committed to an administration that is genuinely diverse, with women and persons of color in all levels of the administration.

It’s what he hasn’t done that has also earned my faith

In addition to the things that Buttigieg needs to keep doing, it is also what he hasn’t done that has earned my trust.  While being an openly gay man could be used as the diversity card to get out of tough conversations about privilege, he has refused to play that game.  He may acknowledge that being gay is still a challenge in the world we live in.  He talks about his ability to stand up to bullies, such as our current President, as a result of being used to homophobic attacks.  But he never uses the fact that he’s gay as “proof” that he understands the challenges of other marginalized groups.

Did I forget any other objections?  I can’t believe that I forgot this one in my original post.  Thankfully, Pete brought it up himself in his HRC speech tonight.

* Updated 5/19/19 – When I originally wrote this, I felt like Buttigieg was doing the most among male candidates to talk about issues facing women.  In fairness, I may have just been paying more attention to him – and certainly given the recent abortion bans in several states, more male candidates have been really explicit about their perspective.  I have been impressed, specifically, with Cory Booker on these issues – and again, I suspect that my original dismissal of him here was due to simply not paying enough attention.

Buttigieg: The Non-Objections

I have already talked about most of the core reasons why Mayor Pete Buttigieg has my vote in the Democratic Presidential primary.  If you haven’t read it, you may want to start there.

pete2Today I want to address the objections.  I am not aiming to defend the way that he stands on any specific issue; if you disagree on his positions on the issues, that’s entirely valid and you should examine other candidates to find the best fit.  (I would argue that some disagreement on issues is inevitable and you may also want to consider personality and leadership skills, but I am not planning to make that argument today.)  In this post, I want to address the following four objections that I believe are invalid:

  1. He lacks experience at a national level.
  2. Voters won’t elect a gay candidate.
  3. He can’t beat the sitting President.
  4. He doesn’t have specific policy ideas.

1. Buttigieg lacks experience at a national level.

I do not think that this is a totally invalid objection.  We must examine every candidate’s experience to determine if she or he is a good fit for the office of the President.  Simply due to age, Pete has less experience than many candidates in the race.  He also has a non-traditional background for the highest national office.  Those are valid considerations.

I am not going to give the campaign standard answer that “being a mayor of a city of any size” is the perfect experience for US President.  I do think it’s valuable experience, but that alone would still leave a candidate vulnerable to the objections around foreign policy or national legislative experience.  I think military service is also exceptionally valuable in a Presidential candidate, but that still does not fully address the lack of foreign policy experience.

What the campaign is not stressing – and there are likely some good political reasons for it that I just don’t understand – is that Buttigieg has been on a path to national politics since he was a teenager.  In high school, he won the JFK Profiles in Courage essay contest.  At Harvard, he was the president of the Harvard Institute of Politics.  Buttigieg was a summer intern for Senator Ted Kennedy.  He went Oxford and studied philosophy, politics, and economics, apparently debated convincingly (and some might say obnoxiously) about the future of the Democratic party.  He worked on John Kerry’s Presidential campaign.  His run for DNC Chair in 2017 was unsuccessful, but not improbable.

My point is that while Buttigieg may not have yet held an elected role in the federal government, he’s been studying it – and its impact on the country and the world – for the better part of his young life.  He may know Washington better than Washington knows itself.

2. Voters won’t elect a gay candidate.

Really well-meaning people, including my own mother whose political perspective I respect and admire, have said this out loud. And it drives me batshit freaking crazy.  Maybe it makes me crazy because I think there might be a kernel of truth to it that I just refuse to play into.

If Buttigieg is the best candidate to lead the country and the fact that he is gay is still a problem for voters, then I guess we don’t deserve the best candidate to lead the country.

3. Buttigieg can’t beat the sitting President

First, I will remind everyone that it is really early.  (I have to remind myself of this fact daily.)  There’s still almost a year before the first primary votes are cast.  There is plenty of time to build support for a win in the general election.  Buttigieg does have a few hurdles to overcome, including overall name recognition (rapidly being solved), gaining the support of black and Latinx voters, and overcoming the objections covered in this post.  But if you believe that Buttigieg is the best choice for President in 2020, you have a chance right now to get him there.

I also believe that Buttigieg is one of the few candidates who is going to be able to energize young voters.  (By “few” I mean that there are probably like … four or five others running who I think can appeal to young voters.  Sanders, Warren, and O’Rourke.  Maybe Harris and Booker?)  If Buttigieg is the nominee, the general election campaign will focus on generational change, and I think Buttigieg’s campaign – particularly with the help of Chasten – has the ability to mobilize young voters.

4. Buttigieg does not have specific policy ideas.

This has to be the single most frustrating objection for the Buttigieg campaign, because it’s obvious that not coming out with detailed policies at this point in the campaign is a deliberate choice.  And if it isn’t obvious, you aren’t paying attention.

I’ve heard otherwise smart journalists opine that Buttigieg’s lack of specific policy plans is due to the fact that his campaign has grown faster than expected.  However, I think the one thing that the campaign has been really clear about – and the very reason that it has been so successful in capturing attention – is that Democrats need to talk about values.  The campaign is built on the idea that before you can convince someone that your policy idea is sound, you have to make sure they believe that your moral compass and values are aligned with their own.

Buttigieg also is right when he points out that when it comes to policy, the vast field of Democratic candidates is not going to differ that much.  Hell, when it comes to values the field isn’t going to differ that much.  What differs is how well a candidate can communicate those values and connect with voters.  I would say that Buttigieg has done a damn good job of that so far.

When it comes to policy, there are going to be good ideas coming from every candidate, and those ideas are rarely entirely original.  Candidates should be listening to the ideas of everyone in the field, and highlighting and lifting up the ideas that really stand out, whether they came up with them or not.

What Buttigieg is not afraid to do at this point in the campaign, however, is to fully and honestly articulate how he feels about a policy or an idea.  One thing that is regularly said of Buttigieg’s style is that he is not afraid to answer a question.  He isn’t evasive.  He doesn’t say what he thinks the audience wants to hear.  He’s consistent, he’s clear, and he’s thorough.  And sometimes that means saying, “I’ve not really thought about that before.”

Are there other objections that I should address?  Did I get it wrong?  Please feel free to engage in comments, on Twitter, or on Facebook if you have a differing (and reasoned) opinion.

UPDATED:  I absolutely forgot a big one–Pete Buttigieg is a white man. 

Kamala Harris: I just…yes.

kamalaI am not sure why my blog post about Kamala Harris has been so difficult to put together.  The honest truth is that I’m not totally sure why I like her so much.  I don’t even agree with many of her policy positions.  But she’s a bad ass woman who I can see leading this country in the right direction.  While Buttigieg still holds the top spot for me, my thoughts about Kamala Harris have evolved.

I had originally put Harris further down on my list, because her record on criminal justice has been … mixed.  But after her CNN Town Hall, I thought she did a reasonable job of defending that record.  I think she understands the issues of criminal justice reform better than almost any of the other candidates.

I am not a big fan of her flagship idea to raise teachers’ salaries.  I agree that we need to invest in education, including doing significant work to increase teachers’ salaries.  My dad, my sister, and so many of my friends were or are teachers; I deeply feel that they are all underpaid.  I just don’t know that this is the best way to spend dollars on education improvements.

Harris is also a supporter of a full stop Medicare-for-All program, with the virtual elimination of private insurance, except as supplemental insurance.  While I think that we are headed in this direction, I again think that it is too simple to say that we’re just going to jump here.  I believe we need a slower trajectory to this end goal, with a public option.

Even as I write my thoughts up in this post, I recognize that Harris in my second spot is not totally rational – but I like her.  I trust her. If a zombie apocalypse were upon us, I would be entirely comfortable with her in charge.

Buttigieg still has my vote, but if Harris is the nominee, I will happily sport a Kamala Harris For the People tee, put up a yard sign, and talk to my neighbors and friends about her.

Joe Biden: Crazy Uncle Joe

bidenJoe Biden is a known commodity.  His political career is older than I am – and I’m not exactly young.  He knows what is required of the office of the President through first hand, albeit not direct, experience.  Perhaps most importantly for many people, Biden can very likely beat the sitting President in the general election.

I don’t think any of those are good enough reasons to give him my vote in the primary.  Here are some reasons why I won’t:

  1. Biden voted for the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 – a bill that has, in retrospect, been a disaster for this country.  A bad vote doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, if the candidate also sees it as a bad vote.  I can find no information that indicates that Biden sees this as the disastrous legislation that it was.
  2. Biden’s treatment of Anita Hill is, by now, an old story.  What’s not an old story is that he attempted to apologize to her for that treatment only weeks (maybe days) before formally announcing his 2020 candidacy.  It’s never too late to apologize, but sometimes it is the wrong time to apologize if you want anyone to believe that you were sincere.
  3. Last year, he was captured at a speaking event saying that he had no empathy for millennials.  In addition to be a really stupid thing for any politician to say, he used the Kent State shooting as an example of why things were hard for his generation – ignoring the epidemic of school shootings over the past twenty years.
  4. Biden’s attempt to be the bipartisan healer could be admirable, except that it has lead to him indicating (just today) that he would seek middle ground solutions on climate change.  The actual policy is a bit unclear in the details – two different sources seem to be provided slightly different accounts – but it’s the idea of “middle ground” when it comes to something as catastrophic as climate change.  You can talk about solutions that work well for the economy and the climate without seeking “middle ground”.  I am usually all for looking for middle ground, except that in this situation, it seems to undermine the sense of urgency that we absolutely need to be pushing when it comes to action on the climate.
  5. Biden has a habit of saying stupid shit and then laughing it off.  Crazy Uncle Joe.  He’s a gaffe machine.  Ha ha ha.  Except that words matter, and when a leader can’t be bothered to recognize that what he says has the power to hurt or heal, I can’t be bothered to listen to him.
  6. While I have absolutely no reason to believe that Joe Biden has ever crossed a line into sexual assault, his complete disregard for the fact that his handsy behavior makes people – mostly women and girls – incredibly uncomfortable is flat out inexcusable.  It’s been laughed off for years, but when he was finally forced to address multiple accounts of women saying that he made them uncomfortable, he took his normal path of a half-assed non-apology.  Within a week, he’d used the situation as a punchline at an event.

Biden does not have my vote in the primary, and it would take something pretty major to change my mind on that.  If he is the Democratic candidate, I will vote for him against the current President, but I can’t imagine myself as an enthusiastic campaign supporter.

Julián Castro: Struggling to stand out

castroJulián Castro had been mentioned as a possible Vice Presidential pick by Hilary Clinton in 2016, and I remember that I really wanted him to be the choice.  I am not sure now why I was so interested in Castro for the VP spot.  I wish I could recapture some of that enthusiasm for him.

I have no reason not to like Castro as a Democratic Presidential nominee.  I think there’s a good perspective coming into the race as a former cabinet Secretary, and Castro was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Obama.  

Castro’s views on immigration align pretty well with my own, with a focus on our need to not only reform our immigration system, but also to recognize that we need to provide critical aid to Central America (among other places) to help families stay safely in their own countries.

I just wish Castro wasn’t quite so boring in interviews.  I’m as tired of writing the same thing as you guys are probably tired of reading it, but Julián Castro inspires zero excitement or interest in me.  

I really want someone to tell me I’m wrong.  Tell me what to watch to get inspired.  

Michael Bennet: I did not expect to like him

bennett_michael_senatorMichael Bennet was a surprise.  If I’m not mistaken, he’s the most recent entry into the Democratic primary race, and the very fact that anyone is choosing to get into the race at this point is annoying me.  (Mostly because I’m tired of sounding like a broken record in these blog posts.) And so I did not expect that I would be very interested in what he had to say.

Honestly, I really just like the way that he comes across.  He is very calm and reasoned.  There’s so many candidates right now, just the fact that I like his voice is enough to make me pay more attention.  I also like that in interviews I’ve seen with him so far, he makes a point of speaking well of other candidates in the race.  

My only minor negative on Bennet is that he seems to put climate change as a third priority behind the economy and democratic reform.  I honestly don’t know yet if that means he takes it any less seriously than others – it’s just that he talks about the other two as the top priorities.

I’m going to make a point to keep listening.  I might even donate to his campaign if he gets close to making it to the debates.  

Has anyone been following Bennet at all?  Anything I need to know that I haven’t found yet?


Seth Moulton: Meh, part deux.

I watched the WMUR Conversation with the Candidate for both Seth Moulton and Tim Ryan on the same day.  Moulton may have benefited from this comparison.  Overall, I found him to be reasonable, relatively intelligent, and a bit overly sincere.  (The guy has a heart-tugging story for everything.)

I generally like Moulton’s position on healthcare, where he is on the side of a strong public option.  (The “Medicare for all who want it” position.)

On education, he also does not believe that four year universities should be free, but rather suggests investing in high school and vocational schools to ensure that everyone can get a good education with skills necessary for the workforce.  

sethmoultonOn climate, Moulton is on board with the Green New Deal and he supports a carbon tax.  He also proposes a CCC-like service opportunity to provide jobs and implement infrastructure changes that would be more climate friendly.  Moulton also talked a bit about tax incentives for individuals and businesses who implement green energy sources.

Moulton is okay.  He’s middle of the pack for me. I could support him in the general election, but I have a hard time imagining that he’s going to capture enough attention to get there.

Any other opinions I should hear?  Interviews I should watch?


Tim Ryan: I’m not a fan

ryanIn such a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls, I do not have a lot of time to spend on each candidate.  First impressions matter.  After about 40 minutes with Tim Ryan, my first impression is that I am not at all a fan.

Substance-wise, Tim Ryan is hyper-focused on economic issues.  That’s not a terrible thing, but when he is given a chance to talk about his priorities, climate doesn’t get mentioned.  If you aren’t mentioning climate as a priority, I’m not really interested in your candidacy.

Personality-wise, I find Ryan to be a bit insufferable.  Honestly, this is based on a single set of interviews.  (WMUR Conversation with the Candidate.)  Maybe Tim Ryan was having a bad day.  Maybe *I* was having a bad day.  But with a large field, I’m not interested in spending more time with him.

Anyone have a reason I should reconsider?  Feel free to point me to resources that might change my mind.

John Hickenlooper: Déjà vu

hickenlooperI spent about an hour listening to the WMUR interview and town hall with 2020 Democratic candidate and former Governor John Hickenlooper on my drive to work.  After arriving to work, I wrote down three notes:

– Okay ideas on policing and education

– Foreign policy?

– Painful to listen to.

The last note is self-explanatory.  In the interview I watched, there were no foreign policy questions asked of Hickenlooper, so I noted that I had no perspective on where he stands.  And I can only barely remember what he said about policing and education.

Clearly, Hickenlooper did not come across as inspirational or even memorable.

In an effort for fairness, I looked up a few other articles that might be able to tell me why I should consider a vote for Hickenlooper, including this one from Vox and this one from FiveThirtyEight.  They were not particularly compelling.

Final verdict?

Hickenlooper is a moderate Democrat who describes himself as a “do-er” – and his record as Governor of Colorado is pretty decent.  However, he doesn’t strike me as any level of inspirational, at a time when we are in desperate need of inspiration.

Anyone feel differently about Hickenlooper?  There’s obviously a lot I don’t know about the guy – and with so many candidates, I’m not going to bother to do too much more research without a compelling reason.  Let me know if you think there is a compelling reason.