Dumb lawsuits: less healthy than Nutella

30 04 2012

You’re a manufacturer of a delicious cocoa-hazelnut spread enjoying a new-found popularity in the United States. You’ve complied with all American food labeling laws, including providing a complete list of ingredients and nutritional information. Despite this, you’re now $3 million poorer – all because a pair of particularly litigious mothers couldn’t be troubled to combine a thorough reading of the label with a healthy serving of common sense.

Such is the predicament facing Ferrero, the Italian maker of Nutella after losing a class action lawsuit. Despite television commercials declaring the tasty spread to be a part of “a tasty yet balanced breakfast,” the sugary, calorie-laden condiment  – which is probably no worse for kids than sugary, calorie-laden breakfast cereals – is not, in fact, as boringly healthy as plain granola. That kids actually enjoyed slathering it on toast should have been a tip-off.

Oh yeah, this looks like a substitute for oatmeal

But the class action lawsuit against Ferrero isn’t just another example of ludicrous litigation. It’s an example of the type of legal abuse that undermines any notion of personal responsibility – and drives business into the protective arms of big government. Read the rest of this entry »



29 04 2012

This pretty much says it all

Come to think of it: Sanjay Gupta was a great commencement speaker and all, but Alice Cooper would have given him a run for the money. Have you ever heard Nights with Alice Cooper? Cooper has a surprisingly charming personality and knows how to spin a yarn. To think, we could have had the first commencement speech accompanied by pyrotechnics.


27 04 2012

One of the great things about this past semester is that I had to take a “senior colloquium” to complete my history concentration. I chose “Michigan in the Era of Industrialization,” which focused on – that’s right – Michigan in the Era of Industrialization (basically 1880-1920).

The purpose of the class was to devise a topic for a term paper and then spend time doing research on that topic. I chose the development of the Detroit Museum of Art, which later became the Detroit Institute of Arts (a timely topic, given the DIA’s current funding situation).

Anyway, everyone taking the class was forced to do research at the Bentley Historical Library. And by forced, I mean required to use an awesome on-campus resource that most students probably don’t even know exists.

I looked into the William C. Weber and D.M. Ferry Papers for primary source material. “Looking” really means “browsing,” as one has to search through reams of interesting if largely irrelevant material to find suitable content.

Often that browsing turns up bits of ephemera that is pretty interesting in its own right.

Like this:

I snapped a photo of this letter, dated March 31, 1914, just because I liked the “Hotel Pasaje” letterhead. It was in the D.M. Ferry Papers along with a bunch of other material on the Detroit Museum of Art from the mid-1910s.

Reading the first few lines after the fact, however, I wish I had copied the entire letter. It says:

My Dear Mr Ferry-

A large collection of old masters is for sale here in Havana.

Whoa. Cuba was a very different place pre-Fidel, but I hardly took it to be a repository of priceless art. What happened to those old masters? Were they sold? Are some of them in the DIA? In Fidel’s place? Again, little bits and pieces of correspondence or old memos raise questions that are fascinating, but one must set them aside to focus on the topic at hand.

Still, some day, it would be interesting to follow up on Havana’s old masters. It might make a great story.

For men who love their country, and also other men

27 04 2012

…there’s this sticker:


I found it on my door when I got back to Ann Arbor yesterday. It’s not really applicable as I am neither gay nor a veteran, but it was a nice thought, I guess.

I can’t imagine whoever decided to print up these decals is laughing all the way to the bank. But you never know. There could be a new post-DADT market for such products.

I think this might be my new favorite thing

26 04 2012

If you’re going to force people to march around in a senseless display of military force, you might as well make them do it with some rhythm.

Generally, mocking the plight of those stuck under totalitarian rule isn’t cool. But if there’s one thing that tyrants can’t stand, it’s parody.

UPDATE: North Korea’s missiles might be fake, but Dear Leader’s groove is always 100% genuine.

Student loansharking

25 04 2012

That’s a nice 3.4 percent student loan interest rate you’ve got there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it…

That’s the ominous subtext to Obama’s recent focus on student loans. Whether delivered before increasingly disillusioned college students or performed slow-jam style on Jimmy Fallon, his message was as clear as it was cynical: support me, or terrible, terrible things will happen to your monthly student loan payments.

This was the best "loan shark" image I could find, I swear. It might actually be a lawyer, I don't even know

Of course, terrible things have already started happening to Americans’ monthly student loan payments. Recall the staggering fact that payments on about a quarter of our collective $1 trillion in student loan debt are already overdue.

But that’s not the fault of the interest rates on federally-subsidized Stafford loans. At 3.4 percent, those rates are relatively low in historical terms – although they are set to double to 6.8 percent on July 1 if Congress does not take further action. “Further action” means, in this case, further taxpayer resources devoted to keeping those rates low. Read the rest of this entry »

All the interesting stuff happens in Grosse Pointe when I’m not there

24 04 2012

Can’t believe I missed the naked meth’d-out guy running down Mack Avenue.

And I was planning on going home tomorrow.

Oh well. At least it wasn’t a friend or relative.