We’ll begin this week’s Backtalk with David Straley, who believes he’s spotted some “inane math” toward the end of part 2 of our Hogwashed series.

“I greatly appreciate the INDY‘s report on hog farming,” he writes, “but it contains a bit of inane math. The authors estimate 110,000 pigs within a ten-mile radius and divide by the radius (?!) to get ‘ten thousand pigs per mile’ (nearly two pigs per foot), instead of by the area within that radius (314 square miles), which would give 350 hogs per square mile. That seemed low to me, and I find Wikipedia cites 2.2 million hogs in Duplin County’s 819 square miles, which gives almost 2,700 hogs per square mile, so the authors’ estimate of hogs per square mile is about one-eighth of the true concentration. That’s about four hogs per acre.

“And I wonder how many of the CAFO operators are absentee owners? Do they live away from the stink while inflicting it on hapless neighbors? With Google Maps, you can see the hog CAFOs, usually away from the highway and with a driveway that doesn’t lead past any house. You’d think, if the owner were on site, then for convenience of access, a fair proportion of them would have a driveway from their homes to the CAFO site. To say nothing of the inhumanity to the hogs.”

Speaking of hogs, Roger B. takes issue with Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme’s story on a North Carolina barbecue camp: “Despite being a double graduate from UNC and a bleeding heart Chapel Hill liberal who has never written any letter to the editor, I am moved to respond to the unfortunate article ‘White Meat.’ My attendance at the N.C. State Barbeque Camp, an N.C. State alumni-sponsored event, was a surprise birthday gift from my son, a UNC and N.C. State MBA graduate, whose father dabbles in smoked ribs and Boston butts. Although criticized as insufficiently diverse, I wore a UNC emblazoned hat throughout but was accepted by a clearly N.C. State crowd.

“The camp was an excellent combination of teaching about preparing cuts of meat for smoking, the flavoring process, and the cooking process, with a good mix of commentary on the history of barbecue, the ongoing evolution of the cooking styles, and a variety of related topics such as Dutch oven cooking, various smoker equipment, and barbeque competition cooking. It was not billed as nor expected to be a class on the anthropology of barbeque.

“That an event of this sort would be criticized by a UNC Food Studies student as not adequately diverse and insufficiently attentive to the racial or political aspects of the history of barbeque in the South is simply unfair and, frankly, overanalyzed from a very biased perspective. It demonstrated the kind of unwarranted, out-of-place, ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude that sometimes gives UNC-Chapel Hill a bad name among many in our state.”

Last week, we also reported that Governor Cooper had asked the State Board of Elections not to provide “sensitive information beyond what is public record” about the state’s voting rolls to a White House commission investigating voting integrity. (Earlier this week, following a lawsuit by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the commission asked states to hold off.)

“Good!” writes Marianne Eileen Wardle. “There’s plenty of information publicly available they can use. I have no confidence in Republicans or this White House not to abuse it.”

“The vice president and Mr. Vote Suppressionist [i.e., Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, who is chairing the commission along with Vice President Pence] have no business investigating our party registrations,” writes Kathryn Welch. “This is what dictators do. What next? Will they make it illegal to be a Democrat or independent?”

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