Just for General Mills. Yup.

You know General Mills. It’s a big honkin’ conglomerate producing many, many tons worth of processed factory food-like substances your kids clamor for due to multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns engineered by rogue child psychologists to wham on the Youth Sugar Organ tucked into the brain’s lower vortex.

Well, it turns out General Mills gets sued a lot. Like many corporate executives, those at General Mills decided they could save a lot of money on lawsuits by finding a way to force aggrieved customers and the like to use arbitrators rather than hire lawyers to settle their grievances. Now, this happens all the time when a consumer is forced to sign or otherwise agree to what amounts to a contract, such as the purchase of licensed software or cellular service. Lawyers for companies who provide such goods and services know there is nothing worse for their companies than other lawyers, and so they insert clauses basically telling their peasant customers that if they want Internet or cable TV or a mobile phone, they had better give up the right to hire a lawyer should their ears or balls fall off due to negligently configured microwave towers or web packets or what have you.

But until the New York Times reported it today, we had heretofore never before been forced into giving up our right to hire lawyers through the act of eating a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Now, apparently, we have:

“PLEASE NOTE THAT SECTION 3 BELOW CONTAINS A BINDING ARBITRATION CLAUSE AND CLASS ACTION WAIVER,” the company says, shouting, all in caps, in the “Legal Terms” section of its web site. “IT AFFECTS THE RIGHTS YOU HAVE IN ANY DISPUTE WITH GENERAL MILLS (INCLUDING ITS AFFILIATED COMPANIES AND BRANDS), INCLUDING DISPUTES ARISING OUT OF YOUR PURCHASE OR USE OF ANY GENERAL MILLS PRODUCT OR SERVICE FOR PERSONAL OR HOUSEHOLD USE, INCLUDING GENERAL MILLS PRODUCTS PURCHASED AT ONLINE OR PHYSICAL STORES.”

General Mills’ team of lawyers then goes on to say that you are entering into a “binding legal agreement” and consent to give up the above rights “in exchange for the benefits, discounts, content, features, services, or other offerings that you receive or have access to by using our websites, joining our sites as a member, joining our online community, subscribing to our email newsletters, downloading or printing a digital coupon, entering a sweepstakes or contest, redeeming a promotional offer, or otherwise participating in any other General Mills offering…”

The Times says that new lawyer words added to the General Mills web site after a Times reporter called them up now indicates “that buying its products would bind consumers to those terms.”

Ergo, eat a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, give up your right to hire a lawyer with whom to sue General Mills.

Now why, I wondered, would the maker of so many fine food-like substances go to such great lengths to keep attorneys so far at bay?

The Times reporter wondered, too, and found that General Mills had paid $8.5 million last year in a suit over health claims it made about its Yoplait yogurt, and was forced in another case to remove the word “strawberry” from its Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups, which somehow did not happen to contain even a trace of strawberries.

A little search for both “recalls” and “General Mills” also found:

→ General Mills recalled some single-serve cases of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal last year because they might have been tainted with salmonella;

→ General Mills recalled some batches of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls With Icing last year because they might have contained fragments of plastic;

→ General Mills recalled some cases of Old El Paso Hot Chunky Tomato Salsa last year “due to the presence of glass.”

→ General Mills recalled cans of Progresso Italian Wedding Soup last year after word got out beef used in the soup had come from a slaughter house the U.S. Department of Agriculture accused of processing “diseased and unsound animals” whose meat was not inspected by the government, you know, as is required by law.

So in response to General Mills’ contention that I have (mistakenly or otherwise) purchased one or more of the company’s products and thus in effect signed a contract that I knew nothing about giving up my right to hire a lawyer and sue the crap out of said General Mills if I eat a mouthful of high-fructose corn syrup-encrusted glass shards for breakfast, I have made some changes to my web site’s Legal Terms, to whit:

IF YOU ARE A CURRENT OR PAST EMPLOYEE, CONTRACTOR FOR OR REPRESENTATIVE OF GENERAL MILLS CORP. OR ANY OF ITS AFFILIATES OR SUBSIDIARIES, BY HAVING READ THIS BLOG POST, GLANCED AT THIS WEB SITE OR THOUGHT ABOUT READING THIS OR ANY OTHER ARTICLE LOCATED AT THIS INTERNET DOMAIN YOU HAVE FOR ALL LEGAL PURPOSES AGREED THAT BOB DUNN AND ALL MEMBERS OF HIS IMMEDIATE AND EXTENDED FAMILY POSSESS THE IRREVOCABLE RIGHT TO HIRE A VERITABLE BUTTLOAD OF LAWYERS IF THEY SO CHOOSE, FOR THE PURPOSE OF SUING GENERAL MILLS AND/OR ITS AFFILIATES, SUBSIDIARIES, EMPLOYEES, EXECUTIVES AND/OR CONTRACTORS INTO SUBMISSION ANYTIME THE MOOD STRIKES AND THEY FEEL SO MOVED.

I’m glad we got that settled.

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Waiting For Winter Again

by bdunn on April 14, 2014

in Uncategorized

By now the evenings here should be a balmy 65 degrees or so, but instead Someone is promising to deliver us 38 degrees both tonight and the next, with heavy north winds to boot.

Rowcovers Laid Down Ahead of the ColdThat’s simply unacceptable to vegetable gardeners hereabouts, whose eggplants, tomatoes and peppers are terrified of such a threat. Yet it appears no one is willing to do anything about the impending doom, and so it is I am cutting and unfolding lengths of white “greenhouse” plastic to prepare row covers with which to do battle against the elements. Sucks is what it does, as I had better plans for my time. But no.

The worst of it is the very real possibility that I will bust my posterior and expend my valuable time erecting temporary plastic plant protection only to find that the temps don’t get so cold after all and oh well. But you can’t take a chance, can you, not when we’re talking tomatoes.

The National Weather Service issues one blanket forecast for the entire Greater Houston area. The problem for people who grow things outdoors is that the Greater Houston area covers more than 10,000 square miles (seriously), and while we reside at the southern-most edge of the metro, the northern-most edge is about 75 miles and two counties away. And some of the southern metro area lies in USDA climate zone 9b, while the rest is in 9a. But the weather service forecasters usually give all of us their predictions for what the low temperatures will be up on the northern edge.

Thus, it could wind up 10 degrees warmer here than what the weather ‘casters are saying.

But hey, we’re talking tomatoes here, right? You don’t gamble with your tomatoes. You just don’t.

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The Grumpy Old Man went grocery shopping at the HEB store yesterday and became even grumpier. Not because of any of the usual incompetence or hijinks grocers pull – but because of the prices.

Steelhead trout, a favorite of mine, had gone from $8 a week ago to $10 a pound (yeah, in actuality the listed prices were $7.99 and 9.99, but I’m not playing that game). They still had fresh gulf shrimp, but the price had gone from $12 to $15 a pound. Chuck roast of any kind (which I use to grind hamburger) was more than $5.50 a pound – and more than sirloin steak, which makes no sense to me. Baby-back pork ribs were so high I just remember making some kind of woshing sound with my mouth as I passed them by.

It wasn’t my imagination; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service reported recently that the so-called food-at-home price index rose more in the first two months of 2014 than during the entire year of 2013. And I know from the cattle farmers who live around our little farm that the last couple of drought years caused some of them to reduce the size of their herds. So there are fewer cattle and they’re more expensive to raise.

Then you can add in the fairly major increase in gasoline prices over the past few weeks, not helped at all by the recent Houston Ship Channel snafu in which a cargo ship collided with a barge packed full of oil, spilling 160,000 gallons or so into Galveston Bay and shutting down traffic from, among other things, refineries that supply gasoline to much of the rest of the country.

The result of these factors is that most people effectively got a pay cut over the past month or so. This, of course, makes the Grumpy Old Man grumpier still. Yet it’s not surprising.

It reminds me how fragile the U.S. food distribution system is. The main factor allowing Americans to obtain such a variety of food at what has been remarkably low prices is what used to be remarkably low fuel prices. As gas here closes in on $3.50 a gallon, it seems obvious to me that at some point HEB and Kroger and the rest will stop offering items such as Chilean Sea Bass or shrimp from Vietnam, because the increased cost of fuel surely must at some point make them unaffordable to the masses.

The trend might represent good news for local food providers – but not for the typical consumer. Local produce from the farmers’ markets and pasture-raised beef and pork and chicken have been here all along (and here’s a list if you’re interested). I am happy to extol the healthy virtues and benefits of food obtained right from the grower/producer. But one of those benefits is not price.

The unfortunate truth is that most people base their budgets on the amount they must spend buying food from the grocery stores. If rising fuel costs cause grocery store prices to rise to the level of locally produced food, that means average consumers will be forced to either eat less or devote significantly more of their income to food. The good news is that they may then be able to spend that money on home-grown produce, eggs and meat that are a lot healthier than what they’ve been eating.

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SCOTUS Puts Another Brick In The Wall

April 2, 2014 Be Afraid

The corporate elitist majority making up the current iteration of the Supreme Court has just acted again to make it easier than ever for very rich people to buy election outcomes and decide in advance who’s going to wind up on the general election ballot. In its usual 5-4 vote, the “justices” ruled to remove […]

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Daniel Boone’s Ice Box

March 31, 2014 Country Life

There’s a lot to be said for the peaceful serenity of country life far off the beaten path. This is not one of those stories. This is more about the evils of planned obsolescence and expectations involving the power grid and modern conveniences and how participants in what’s laughingly referred to as the service industry […]

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Back Around The Sun Again

March 24, 2014 Garden

Last week, winter’s last grasp finally loosened to the point that I planted a couple of gardens, tomatoes on Wednesday followed by eggplants, hot and sweet peppers and basil on Friday. I grow everything from seed beginning in mid-January, and the ‘mater plants were big, a little too tall and impatient to climb out of […]

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Walgreens Pharmacies Can Officially
Kiss My Ass

March 7, 2014 Be Afraid

I saw two days ago where Walgreens was bragging about its February pharmacy sales having increased 6.7% over those of February 2013, in part because they administered 700,000 more flu shots than the 7 million shots they gave last year in the same month. Then today, I noticed that Walgreens sent us a letter addressed […]

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