The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Penzey’s spices and the election

| November 23, 2016

So, last week, Bill from Penzey’s sent out an email; at the bottom was the following:

Racism Update: At Penzeys we believe it’s not the use of tools that set us on a different path from the rest of the animal world; what has set humanity in motion is cooking. In our nearly a million years gathered together around the fire, cooking shaped our bodies and transformed our minds. Cooking unlocked our potential and gave birth to reason, to religion, and to politics and government. The kindness of tens of thousands of generations of cooks created our humanity, but racism, sexism, and homophobia can all very quickly unravel all the goodness cooking puts out into the world. As the voice of cooks, we will never sit idly by while that happens.

You may have read Tuesday Night’s email. In it I said: “The open embrace of racism by the Republican Party in this election is now unleashing a wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades. The American people are taking notice. Let’s commit to giving the people a better choice. Our kindness really is our strength.”

Since I ask you to read my emails, I feel it’s only right that I read each of your replies. In sifting through those replies it was clear that, though not intended, a good number of people seemed to sincerely believe that in my statement I was calling all Republicans racists. In the emails of those Republicans who voted for someone other than the party’s nominee, I sensed genuine pain at having the strength of character to not go along with what was happening, but nonetheless be grouped in with those who were. I apologize for writing something that caused you pain; that is not the person I want to be. You are your party’s future, and you deserve my admiration and respect, and your country’s as well.

For the rest of you, you just voted for an openly racist candidate for the presidency of the United States of America. In your defense, most of you did so without thinking of the consequences of your candidate’s racism, because for most of you the heartbreaking destruction racism causes has never been anything you or your loved ones have had to experience. But the thing is elections have their consequences. This is no longer sixty years ago. Whether any of us like it or not, for the next four years the 80% of this country who did not just vote for an openly racist candidate are going to treat you like you are the kind of person who would vote for an openly racist candidate.

You can get angry at everyone else for treating you like you just did the thing you just did, or you can take responsibility for your actions and begin to make amends. If you are lucky and younger family members are still coming over for Thanksgiving, before it’s too late, take a moment and honestly think about how your actions must look through their eyes. Simply saying “I never thought he’d win” might be enough. But if you have the means, leaving a receipt from a sizable donation to the ACLU or the SPLC accidentally laying around where you carve the turkey, might go over even better.

Or, just do what you do best and volunteer. Through our customers’ support, we’ve given away a lot of our Penzeys Pepper, the Pepper with heart. More often than not, those we meet cooking and serving food to feed those in need are Republicans. You really are a good bunch, but you just committed the biggest act of racism in American history since Wallace stood in the schoolhouse doorway 53 years ago. Make this right. Take ownership for what you have done and begin the pathway forward.

Thanks for reading,


Here is my reply:

Hello Bill,

Well, there’s just a pile of stuff in your most recent newsletter, isn’t there?

First, if you think Trump is a racist, I encourage you to read the following article, which pretty thoroughly debunks that charge:

Second, your “guilt by association” logic is flawed. Essentially, it boils down to:

  1. Trump is racist.
  2. By voting for Trump, you are voting for racism.
  3. You therefore deserve to be treated as someone who voted for racism, even if that was not your motivation.

Were I to subscribe to that logic, the following also holds true:

  1. Obama and Clinton supported drone strikes which murdered children.
  2. By voting for either Obama or Clinton, you are voting for murdering children.
  3. You therefore deserve to be treated as voting for the murdering of children.

Third, you stated:

“Whether any of us like it or not, for the next four years the 80% of this country who did not just vote for an openly racist candidate are going to treat you like you are the kind of person who would vote for an openly racist candidate.”

This is not a plea for tolerance, or for the healing of wounds; it is a passive-aggressive approval that Trump supporters “get what they deserve”. Let me share with you something that someone else said:

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. … We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized. “We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

  • Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A

Now, Mr. Cathy has used his business as a platform to make a statement supporting prejudicial treatment and abuse of about 9% of the US population[1]. As a result, I refuse to do business with Chick-fil-A.


You, in turn, have made a statement that supports prejudicial treatment and abuse of about 20% of the population. How do you expect me to be intellectually honest and still do business with your company if I’m willing to boycott Chick-fil-A over something that affects half the number of people?

By this point, you’ve likely written me off as a upset Trump supporter. Nothing could be further from the truth. His trade policies are foolish mercantilist fallacy, and his immigration policies are, for the most part, largely unworkable. He is a pro-surveillance, pro-police state, crony capitalist, big government president-elect. I always vote for the candidate who is the best choice for peace and freedom. This election, I voted for Gary Johnson.

In closing, you should have kept politics out of your newsletters. Barring a reversal of your position and subsequent public apology, I will be taking my business elsewhere.

He didn’t reply to me directly (nor would I expect him to), but, some hours later, he sent out a followup letter to his customer list.

Yesterday’s email made history for us as the most shared and most commented on email we ever sent. If you have not already read it, please do. And if you would like to share it, our Facebook page seems the best place to do it from. Liking our page helps, too.

And we understand some of you will need to opt out of receiving emails from us. Please do it here, rather than as a reply to this email or as an email to me, as we might not get through all of your emails quickly enough for you. I will read every email you send to me, but at an hour or two a day these emails might still be my light summer reading. And remember, we will always be happy for your return!


To unsubscribe, don’t respond to this email. Rather, hit the button below, then “Confirm opt out now” on the follow-up page.

So, it looks like I’ll be ordering from The Spice House. I’ve emailed them, they believe in keeping their political ideas out of their business speical emails.

Planning for the coming trade war

| November 9, 2016

So, now that the die is cast, it’s time to execute on contingency plan T (as opposed to plan C, which was “prepare for war with Russia”).

In the short term, I have some computer hardware that I’m going to buy that, ideally, I was going to wait until after tax time (in case I needed the liquidity), but now I want to make sure to grab it before Trump assumes office and places tariffs on those foreign goods. I think the right play here is to wait until the post-Christmas tech goods price drop, so the time to buy is early January.

I also am replacing my cell phone, but that will be a used one (I am not spending $700 on a phone. $200 is about where I’m comfortable, so a Galaxy S5 from swappa is in my future), so the lifecycle timeframe doesn’t matter, and I will therefore be getting it as soon as I get my VW money.

The only long term CapEx that we wanted to do was a new family hauler in 2018, but the front runner for that is a VW Atlas which is being built in Chattanooga, and is therefore likely to be minimally impacted by tariffs. As such, that remains on plan.

There were some optional things to be done (pave the driveway, add a fireplace to the living room), which may or may not happen depending on wage and market volatility. We’ve put those off for about 5 years due to having kids, and, we can easily put them off for the forseeable future.

I think everything else is just absorbing price increases, minimizing expenditures, and trying to keep ahead of increases in parts I might need (German cars, Japanese tractor, etc.) for service and repairs. But, the savings is likely not worth the cash outlay now.

Finally, as far as investments go, if your employer matches your 401(k), then that’s still the best deal going. Even if it loses 25% of its value, if your employer matches 100%, then you’re still up 50% over your contribution. Plus, as I am only 36, my horizon for collecting off of it is pretty long, and I can handle the world markets hammering it for the next 8 years (just as they have for the past 8 years). I have other investments, mainly in municipal bonds (because they’ve been doing well) and I’ll be meeting with my financial guy in Q2’17 to reevaluate. With any luck, the markets will have sorted themselves out by then, but, I expect they’ll freak out again when Trump starts poking at Obamacare. After all, when Obamacare was being debated, they went nuts, so it’s reasonable to assume they’ll do the same if it starts getting revised.

Eventually, however, the uncertainty (which is really what markets don’t like) will resolve and stabilize. The real question will be how much wealth will be destroyed in the process.

In summary, I expect I’ll just batten down the hatches, paint a bunch of miniatures, and wait for the storm to pass, just like I always do.