The Loin Ranger
By Tony Kornheiser, The Washington Post, Sunday, July 14, 1996
The other day President Clinton announced a complete overhaul in the way
meats and poultry are inspected before they are sold to the public.
Standards are going to become much tougher, involving elaborate chemical
testing. And that's good, of course, because you can never be too
vigilant when it comes to the health of the public.
What threw me off a little, though, were the current standards. I was
somewhat surprised to learn that in such a sophisticated country as ours --
probably the only country in the whole world to offer three kinds of
dipping sauces with Chicken McNuggets -- the exhaustive system by which
we have been inspecting meat for contamination is as follows:
1. Look at it.
2. Poke it.
3. Smell it.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: Hey, my dog does that.
What can you tell by looking and touching and smelling? Imagine the
official USDA checklist:
 Yes.  No.
Feels like a sack of eyeballs?
 Yes.  No.
Smells like a dead opossum in an open sewer?
 Yes.  No.
No to two or more? Eat that sucker!
Amazingly, U.S. government inspection standards for meat have remained
virtually unchanged for 90 years. Meat inspection may be the only thing
in the country that hasn't changed in the last 90 years, other than
Carol Channing's hairdo. Since 1906, by law, we have been poking and
sniffing meat to ascertain freshness. And in its day this law was
considered a landmark in protecting the citizenry. What on earth did
the government do to make sure meat was fresh before 1906 -- hire a
witch doctor to do a "freshness dance"?
Clearly, we are concerned with meat because of mad cow disease in
England. If it ever got here, it would surely be renamed Attention
Deficit Disorder Cow Disease. (Actually, the farmers' great fear is
Disgruntled Cow Disease.)
I trust our government's efforts to raise the standards for meat will
work better than the French government's efforts to extinguish raging
forest fires. I heard this story from my friend Gino, who heard it from
his friend Tammy, who heard it from her friend Andy, who works for a
competing newspaper and read it in a wire story that his newspaper,
whose identity must remain a secret, for some reason deemed Unfit to
Print. The French, seeking to respond more effectively to fires,
developed a large scooping gizmo on the belly of an airplane. It allows
a pilot to fly low over the Mediterranean and scoop up an enormous well
of sea water to carry back and dump on a fire.
So the French sent their flying canteen out on its maiden voyage. And
the pilot flew a few hundred feet offshore, scooped up a mammoth load of
water, and dumped it on a raging fire. And it worked. A few trips, and
the fire was out!
The only problem was revealed later -- when fire inspectors, sifting
through the smoking rubble, found...
(Can you guess?)
(We'll give you a few more seconds. This is good.)
...the charred remains of a man wearing swim trunks, swim fins and goggles!
Talk about a bad way to die!
One minute you're snorkeling the tranquil, blue Mediterranean, and
suddenly a plane drops out of the sky and scoops you into its fuselage.
And you are in there, sloshing around, thinking nothing could possibly
get worse, when suddenly...
Man, if I were the family of that particular roasted man I would sue.
But that's because I'm an American, and Americans are always suing.
As an example, I submit this item just in from Allentown, Pa., where the
Wawa chain of convenience stores is suing its competitor, the Haha
market, for infringing on the name.
"Call the next case, bailiff."
"Wawa v. Haha. Counsel for the plaintiff, Baba; for the defense,
"Call your witnesses, counselor."
"Wawa calls Mr. Caca and Ms. Poo-Poo."
Anyway, Wawa is demanding that Haha change its name.
No, seriously ... the chain of 500 stores called Wawa, which has to be
the dopiest name of any store anywhere, even dopier than Piggly Wiggly,
is claiming that a store called Haha is deceiving the public into
thinking it has a Wawa connection -- as if that's beneficial. I mean, I
wouldn't walk into a store named Wawa if I had an open head wound.
The owners of Haha, Tamilee Haaf and George Haaf, are countering by
claiming they came upon the name honestly, by abbreviating their
surnames. I guess it's a good thing they aren't Tamilee Short and
I'd like to end by sharing a letter I received from a Ms. Chaney in
Montgomery County, who was irked at my column two weeks ago about the
She wrote: "How dare you call Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg a 'chick.'
Do you refer to your wife as a 'chick,' your mother as a 'chick'? You
may not agree with her recent opinion on the Virginia Military
Institute, but to refer to her as a 'chick' says volumes about what kind
of person you are, and what kind of column you write. Illerate comes to
Ms. Chaney, you are right. I appologice.
Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company
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