Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Texas Monthly Should Be Ashamed

*sigh* I have quite a few issues with this story in Texas Monthly.

It's stories such as this that made me cancel my subscription. Because of things like these:

"More recently, ice cream has become associated with being a good person and doing good works, even though the product really isn’t all that good for you. Honesty matters. Trust matters. We feed it to our children, after all. This is why Ben & Jerry’s, on its website, stresses its commitment to “progressive values across our business,” “climate justice,” and mandatory GMO labeling. This is why Häagen-Dazs wants you to know that the company has devoted more than $1 million to honeybee survival (“We want to keep those little heroes buzzing”). This is why Breyers pledges to use “sustainably farmed vanilla and fruit” and milk and cream from cows “not treated with artificial growth hormones.” Keeping up with modern times, Breyers also features lactose-free, no-sugar-added, fat-free, half-the-fat, carb-smart, and gluten-free ice cream."

No attribution on the claim of ice cream being a reward for good works. Or how unhealthy it may be. And how recently, exactly? Because I would peg that at an early 20th Century phenomenon, not a late 20th century or early 21st century one. You can look back to pop culture and movies from the '40s and '50s and see ice cream as a reward for good behavior and as a treat. Besides, what does reward have to do with being healthy for you? What daddy is taking his daughter out for a seaweed and kelp smoothie for a good report card, anyway? I’m sure it happens somewhere, but nowhere I’d want to live.

The rest of the paragraph is just dripping with sophisticated and enlightened Liberal condescension. Those hicks in Brenham couldn't possibly be enlightened enough to care about such Progressive causes and trends as honey bees and hormone-free milk and sugar-free ice cream, after all. 

Yet, even later in the article the writer admits that Blue Bell does a pretty good job of keeping up with trends: "The company adopted food trends with gusto: it built an empire of ice cream products that included about a zillion flavors, some seasonal and some not, including frozen yogurt, ice cream cups, ice cream without added sugar, low-fat ice cream, sherbet, Bullets, Mini Sandwiches, Banana Pops, Mooo Bars, several kinds of fruit bars, and more."

But that doesn't fit well into the enlightened Blue Bell = small town, hickish, conservative and simpleton narrative that the writer is building up to next.

"In 1989, as the company expanded beyond Texas, it started offering regional flavors, like Key Lime Pie for the Florida customers and Mississippi Mud Pie for those in the Delta. And even though the Blue Bell leadership pretty much ranged from middle-aged white men to middle-aged white men, Blue Bell also shrewdly moved into flavors like Mexican Vanilla—it had a dash of cinnamon—and tres leches con fresas to capitalize on Latino tastes ... And, of course, like all modern corporations, Blue Bell got involved in politics, generously supporting the likes of Dallas congressman Pete Sessions and Senator Ted Cruz, men who share their deeply conservative views of the Texas that was and the Texas that should be."

So we're to believe  that in a stroke of dumb luck and pandering, Blue Bell somehow (shrewdly - and with much mustache twisting and evil hand wringing, too, I suppose...) stumbled into the realization that Hispanics like ice cream, too, and decided to pander to them with. The fact that a bunch of middle-aged white guys are in charge somehow means that they couldn't possibly be in touch with the tastes of any other ethnic group but their own. Sheesh.
And then the bombshell that Blue Bell is a conservative company that supports “the likes of” Pete Sessions and Ted Cruz. Yeah… about that. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics ( Blue Bell gives to both parties. Not equally, but who really expects them to in a conservative state like Texas? But the fact is that Blue Bell gave more money to a single Democrat candidate  - Bob Odom - than to any single Republican in a state race. Oh yeah, and it only gave $1000 to each of Cruz and Sessions, according to ( - hardly bankrolling a campaign, and hardly “generous,” in the words of the author. I’m pretty sure Blue Bell gives more to the local high school every year.

“By 2015, Blue Bell wasn’t a luxury product anymore, and it wasn’t so pure either—high-fructose corn syrup had become part of the recipe, and maybe the factories could be just a little bit cleaner. But it was right there behind Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs. Like so many Texans, it had made it from a small town to the big time.”

Where the hell did this come from? “…and maybe the factories could be a little bit cleaner?????” That little sucker punch of a sentence was out of nowhere and was was completely un-attributed. Have there been cleanliness problems with Blue Bell reported before? Have ceiling tiles and cigarette butts found their way into every bucket of ice cream, like a little nasty prize at the bottom? Not that I’ve ever heard of. I have had the privilege of taking the WAY behind the scenes tour of the Blue Bell factory and I’ve gotta tell you - it’s one of the cleanest places I’ve ever seen. Could it be cleaner and more sterile? I’m sure, but not short of laying off all the workers and using only robots to make the old-fashioned ice cream or hermetically sealing everything and everyone in bubbles. That said, I’m with her on the HFCS. Seriously, Blue Bell - who at home making ice cream uses HFCS? No one. So don’t put it in “Homemade Vanilla.” But I digress…

From the Dallas Morning New: “A health department spokeswoman has repeatedly described the iconic Texas company’s inspection track over the years as “good” with “very few issues, and none that required a warning letter or penalty.” (

“Here is what normally happens when a product is recalled. There are lots of angry protests, with people bearing placards and chanting and, in the most-modern times, setting up accounts. Health experts weigh in. Congressional hearings are held. There are calls for more government regulation. Lawsuits are threatened and filed. The product and its company are vilified, mostly for not caring about the little guy. Some products come back from the brink, and some don’t: Tylenol did. The Ford Pinto did not.”

Tylenol is a product, yes, but it’s also a brand. The Pinto was a model of car. It was a product - a faulty product. But Ford is the brand. It still makes vehicles today. And Blue Bell is more than a product - it’s a brand that makes products. The writer’s failure to see the difference is appalling. Or is it? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it comes at the end of a paragraph about other sensationalized and scary things like congressional hearings and lawsuits. And protests? Placards? Chanting? Has that happened? I drive by the Blue Bell factory every single day and haven’t seen any sign of such a thing. So why even bring it up?

“It wasn’t until April 20 that Blue Bell accepted reality, announcing a total and complete recall of all products. That same day, it brought in another PR firm, the global Burson-Marsteller, whose crisis-management team had represented Tylenol, Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical) in India, and the Argentine military dictatorship. More recently, Blackwater USA hired a subsidiary of Burson-Marsteller to help defend itself in a congressional hearing after the killing of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in 2007.”

Oh my. The association of Blue Bell with the same PR firm that was associated with Blackwater and the Argentine military dictatorship? Clearly then, Blue Bell is just as evil. To borrow from another Texas iconic brand: “get a rope.”

But wait. They’re just a PR firm. They handle all kinds of clients who want to protect their brand - from Lady Gaga to Hormel to Behr paint. And now Blue Bell. Before this Blue Bell has never needed anyone skilled in crisis management, so I don’t fault them for bringing in the professionals -and one of the best. Recalls are high stakes business. But no.. Texas Monthly wants you to just go ahead with the Ted Cruz association and continue down the “Blue Bell is just another big evil corporation” trail with the references to Blackwater and dictators.

But where I almost lost it completely - and what made me sit down and write this piece - was this: 

“The supportive yard signs easily stretched all the way to Houston. Bun B voiced his support on Instagram. Gallery Furniture took out full-page ads. The “Come and Take It” flag, the one used by doomed soldiers in the Battle of Gonzales in 1835, showed up affixed to the Blue Bell logo all over the Internet.”

Here’s the thing. Any real Texan knows that the “Come and Take It Flag” and the battle of Gonzales ended well for the Texans and with Mexican retreat. The “soldiers” in Gonzales were not doomed. They freaking WON!

But don’t take my word for it - have a look at the Texas State Historical Association’s page on the battle. Go ahead. I’ll wait. (

You just lost any and all credibility as far as I’m concerned. You write for Texas Monthly and don’t even know basic Texas history??? Shame on you.

And finally, this:

“Psychiatrists would probably call the (over)reaction of the fans a narcissistic injury, that defense mechanism that kicks in when someone reexperiences a wound that dates all the way back to childhood, like when someone made you go to bed without ice cream, or teased you for being a dunderheaded Texan, or pointed out that what you believed in wasn’t really what it seemed.”

Ah, yes. Armchair psychology. Gotta love it. It’s gotta be because someone more supposedly enlightened than us told us that something we believed in wasn’t worth a pile of cow crap. Like Texas Monthly and this article, for instance? Or the Astrodome? Or the stereotypical Texan? 

Or maybe it’s because Blue Bell is as Texan as barbecue and heat (and goes well with each.)

The stupid suppositions in this article reads much like the highbrow condescension that’s found in The Atlantic and New Yorker, which make sense since its author, Mimi Swartz, was a writer for the New Yorker for years.

Blue Bell may well be in trouble and will take a long time to regain its footing. But the aspersions cast in this thinly researched, pathetic excuse for journalism are wholly unhelpful, unnecessary and unwelcome. Blue Bell is a great Texas brand and I, for one, will not savor the day that they ever decide to shut down or lay off workers because of piling on such as this. 

An important and treasured part of Texas is wounded and bleeding. Must we kick it while it’s down?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Michelle Obama Creates Racial Strife

If you didn't know this was given in 2015, you might think it was given in the 1950s or '60s.

Surely we've come farther than this in 50 years.

Well, those of us who look for the good in life see that things are MUCH better than they were back then. We've come a long, long way as a society. Because there are those of us who choose to see it that way.

But then there are those, like Barack and Michelle Obama, who have a pessimistic outlook on life and can't see it. All they see is race. They see everything through the prism of race, and it distorts everything they see. Those kind of people are the ones ginning up the hate in places like Chicago, New York, Baltimore and Ferguson. And Tuskegee.

This speech wasn't productive. It was counterproductive. It was hurtful and divisive. In a time when we need leaders calling on people to ignore differences and to see each other as more than just the race that they are, this does the exact opposite.

Michelle Obama should be ashamed of herself for this. The fact that she isn't tells you everything you need to know about her and people like her who insist on colorblindness yet do everything they can to point out the color of peoples' skin.