Saturday catching up post

As anyone who regularly reads this blog can tell, I’ve been a bit hit and miss in posting lately.  The bride and I have been swamped with work on the Sous Vide Supreme project.  MD has been working with chefs to develop recipes along with creating a bunch herself; she has been editing a book on sous vide for the home cook written by yet another sous vide expert; she’s been posting on the Sous Vide Supreme blog (eggs the sous vide way); and, as you can see at the left, she’s been talking sous vide to anyone who will listen.  All this while she prepares for performing the Messiah in about two weeks.  I’ve been heavily involved in the business end of things, which is a never-ending task.  Plus, I’m the taster-in-chief.  Neither of us dreamed that this would turn into such a time-gobbling project after the development of the machine.  But it has.  It seems that we are spending twice as much time now working in some capacity on  Sous Vide Supreme than we ever did before – even when we were at our busiest.  I’m going to have to work harder on my time management if I expect to keep up with all the other projects – including this blog – that I have going.

Twitter

The sous vide time commitments have put a real hickey on my reading.  I’ve probably read less over the past four months than in any four month period of my life.  Instead of five or six books per week, I’m down to about two or three max.  I hate it.  I’m trying to keep up with my daily medical/scientific journal trawl, but that has even slacked off a bit.  When I do find something of interest, instead of blogging on it as I used to, I stick it up on my Twitter page.  I probably post 10-15 times per day on Twitter, so if you want to keep up on a moment-by-moment basis, follow me on Twitter.  If you have a problem thinking of yourself as a Twitter person, give it a try.  I dipped my toes in the Twitter waters with great hesitation, and now I love it.  I’ve found it extremely valuable because I find all kinds of new stuff daily.  You’ve got to be careful who you follow, however, or you can waste a ton of time.  If you get started, start following people who provide you with information you can use.  I avoid following people who do nothing but tell me what they ate for breakfast that day or what movie they’re going to see that night.  Sign up an give it a go. You don’t have to write anything (or tweet, as it’s called) if you don’t want to.  You can simply lurk and be the beneficiary of a ton of good info.   The Twitter people take you by the hand and get you squared away.  It takes all of about two minutes – if even that.  Literally.

Comments

I have fallen way, way behind on dealing with comments.  As I wrote a while back, I had to stop answering individual comments, and I’ve pretty much stuck to my guns on that.  Problem is, I had about three hundred comments stacked up before I started doing that.

When comments come in and I post them, they go up in by date.  So back when I was spending half my day dealing with them, I would often come across a comment that required some thought and a detailed answer.  If I didn’t have time to deal with it right then, I put it off until later.  Often when later came, I had 20 or 30 more that came in after the one requiring the time.  I didn’t want to answer those and put them up ahead of the one I hadn’t answered, so I simply didn’t deal with any of them.  Now I’ve got about 340 of them stacked up and it gives me heartburn whenever I even get on my blog administration screen.  The sad thing is that some of these comments go back months and months.

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what to do with them, and I’ve finally come to a decision.  I’m simply going to post them as they are.  I’m going to post about 30 of them per day until they’re all up.  Why not all at once?  Because I know many of you are set up to get comments emailed to you when I post them.  I don’t want to clot email accounts with 340 emailed comments all at once, especially since some of these comments are lengthy.  So, I dole them out over the next 10 days or so while keeping up with the new comments as they come in. I won’t start this process for a few days to get those of you who don’t want even 30 of them a day coming in to unsubscribe.

Since many of these hoarded comments contain very good questions, they are a trove of subjects for future blog posts.  As I post them, I’m going to reread them and clip those that would make for good posts into Evernote or my new favorite plaything DEVONthink that I’m just starting to feel my way along with. (See this great Steven Johnson (whom I follow on Twitter) article about the virtues of DEVONthink.)  After I’ve got these blogworthy comments in a format in which I can find them instantly, I’ll start working through them and posting.

Bloggers and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

I don’t know how closely blog readers attended to the recent announcement by the FTC that they were going to start riding herd on bloggers, but the bloggers went ballistic.

Among its other duties, the FTC patrols the universe of advertising in this country looking for anyone or any company engaging in, as they term it, deceptive practices.  In other words, the FTC is on the prowl seeking out advertisers who make false claims in order to stop them and punish them.  Which all sounds good in the abstract, but in reality is a whole other story.

As I pointed out in an earlier blog, it’s a valuable exercise to read Kevin Trudeau’s first book to see how the FTC operates.  The nutritional and health information he presents is total garbage, but his description of the practices of the FTC is right on the money. (I’ve got to admit that some of the nutritional and health information presented in Trudeau’s first book (the only one I’ve read) is accurate, but I write that off to the law of averages.  He presents so much information that odds are some of it just happens to be true.  So, if you read the book and come across something that is nutritionally accurate, don’t write me about it.  I know a few things are there, but not enough to justify reading the book other than the first part, which is an excellent treatise on the FTC.)

The FTC has the power to absolutely ruin anyone and/or any company it chooses to go after.  If you read the first part of Trudeau’s book, you’ll see how.

So, the FTC opined that they planned on monitoring bloggers to see if they disclosed the fact that they were paid to do reviews on products.  Apparently, many bloggers make money by doing paid reviews on products without disclosing such, and the FTC doesn’t like it.

I’ve never reviewed products for pay, but I have read enough about it to know how it works.  Companies provide bloggers products, then pay these bloggers for reviews of the products.  I guess the fact that bloggers are given the products and possibly paid for the reviews as well might induce them to write positive reviews of products that they thought sucked.  And I assume that’s what the FTC is concerned about.

The FTC’s actions certainly got the blogosphere in an uproar.  So much so, in fact, that the FTC started to crawdad, which I never thought would happen.  Just goes to show that if you turn the spotlight of public awareness on even the most aggressive and powerful of all government agencies, you can get results.

Not that I fear the FTC on this (at least not at this point), I’ll go ahead and disclose where I get dinero from this blog.  Virtually all of the money that comes to me through the blog comes from readers buying products through Amazon.com.  When they buy a book I recommend or go through one of the book thumbnails of Protein Power or the 6-Week Cure up at the top right or any of our other books I have up on the site, I get a little bit of lucre for it.  And I get a little more if they buy anything else after entering Amazon through one of the portals in this blog.  In a good month, it’s enough to cover my hosting and web guy expenses; in a bad month (as this one is turning out to be), it’s about enough to cover the hosting of the site and maybe an hour or so of the web guy time.

Google ads

I get a little income from Google ads, but I’m trying to get them off the site.  I’ve had several web guys working on the site over the years, and I guess code for these Google ads is stuck all over the place.  I get rid of them in once place, it seems they pop up somewhere else.  When I had Google ads everywhere, I made about $150 per month, which, in my opinion, isn’t enough to justify tacky-ing up the site with a zillion ads.  Plus, I don’t have time to go through and spend time trying to figure out which ads to block.  Many people, I’ve learned, don’t realize that these ads aren’t part of the site, and they wonder why, when I’ve just spent 2000 words bashing statins, an ad for a statin pops up.

A while back I was having lunch with Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple when he asked me what kind of a deal I had going with Atkins Nutritionals.  I told him I didn’t have any kind of deal going with them whatsoever.  I asked him why he asked.  He told me that he gets my blog posts by email, and that at the bottom of each one is a banner ad from Atkins.  I was embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know you could get the posts by email and that I didn’t have a clue why the Atkins ads were there.  I went home and pulled up the blog (I usually never look at the actual blog – only the admin page), and sure enough, there was a way I could get the posts by email.  I signed up to get my own posts, wrote one, and sure enough, here it came with an Atkins ad at the bottom of it.  I thought I had it all taken care of, but I just looked moments ago and there is still a banner ad at the bottom of the emailed post.  I’ve added it once more to the list of things to have my guy deal with when I get with him on Monday.

Book recommendation

While on the subject of Amazon.com, books and book recommendations, I might as well recommend one.
I finished a terrific book not long ago called A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers. As the title implies, this is a treatise about the fall of the House of Lehman, one of the country’s oldest investment banks, and is written by one of the vice presidents who names names and points the finger.

Not only is this book chock full of great information about how Lehman Bros, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs and others operate, it is extremely well written.  The ‘author’ realized he didn’t have the skills to tell his own story in a readable manner, so he hired a writer.  But he didn’t just go out and hire one of the non-fiction write-for-hire folks that are swarming around out there, he hired Patrick Robinson, a best-selling thriller writer.  As a consequence, the book is absolutely gripping. Not only do you learn a ton about how the financial crisis developed, you learn it in a gripping, racing-through-the-pages fashion.  You’ve heard people say about certain books that they read like a novel.  Well, this one does.  I had real trouble putting it down.

After reading this book, you will know exactly why we’re in the boat we’re in now and will be stupified at the mismanagement at the top.  As I read through and learned about the perfidy of Moody’s, Standard & Poors, and the other financial rating outfits that gave the most worthless financial instruments triple A ratings, I was stunned that these companies hadn’t been prosecuted.  Without their complicity, the whole house of cards couldn’t have been erected because no one would have purchased the products.  I was interested to read in today’s Financial Times that at least  Ohio is going after them.  I suspect Ohio won’t be the last.  According to the author, these companies made billions while failing to do their due diligence before passing out AAA ratings like they were candy at Halloween.

Not long after I read the book, I came upon a piece by Calvin Trillin in the editorial section of the New York Times that summed up the situation nicely.  The problem was the enormity of the amounts of money waiting to be made drew smart people to Wall Street.  A funny but insightful short essay.

After you read the book and Trillin’s piece, take a look at this video I posted about a year ago.  It will make it all that much more funny.  And sad.

The 6-Week Cure blog

All I can say is that it’s about up.  And apologies for not having it up sooner.  I hope we’ll have it operational this week and populated with a few posts.

Another vegetarian myth

I wrote in a bookish post (or maybe in answer to a comment on a bookish post – I can’t remember) a while back that I had read most of the mystery novels out there and was looking for a new series to sink my teeth into.  Someone suggested the DI Charlie Priest mysteries by Stuart Pawson.  I got one and liked it, so I’ve been motoring through those as time allows.

The last one I read was Deadly Friends about a murdered doctor, a serial rapist and a host of other minor villains. At a point about midway through, DI Priest and one of his underlings are walking around scoping out a pharmacy prior to entering to get info about the dead doctor.  All these books – at least the four or five I’ve read so far – are written in the first person, so everything is from Priest’s perspective.  Here’s what he says:

We completed our circuit of the block.  Passing the back of the butcher’s I tried not to inhale and wished I had the willpower to go vegetarian.  Trouble is, I like my steaks.

AAARRRGGGHHHH!  Even in mystery novels I’m being reminded of how deep the vegetarian mantra has wormed its way into our collective brains.  How many times have we all heard variations on this theme?  One of the ideas the vegetarian movement has managed to get firmly implanted in the minds of many is that vegetarianism is a more healthful way to eat.  I’ve heard numerous people wistfully say they really would like to be able to follow a vegetarian diet because it’s so much more healthful, but they just like meat too much to do it.

The truth is, as we all know, that vegetarian diets are decidedly less healthful than diets containing animal protein. But the great unwashed masses don’t seem to have figured this out.

But I’ve got to hand it to the vegetarian brigade: they’ve managed to successfully propagandize most of the population.  And they’ve done so without any real science behind them.  The most they can point to is a sheaf of observational studies that don’t prove squat.

The low-carb/Paleo movement, on the other hand, is producing more data almost daily that a lower-carb, higher-fat, higher-protein diet is infinitely better for a majority of the population.  But, we don’t get the message out as well as the other side does, I suppose.  I went to a Borders Books the other day and found an entire collection of free booklets written for children telling of the horrors of factory farming and encouraging them to go vegetarian.

We are starting to make some inroads into this nonsense, however, with the help of some former vegetarians who have seen the error of their ways.  If you haven’t read Lierre Kieth’s book yet, add it to your Christmas list.

I’m girding my loins for all the hostile comments I’m sure to get from angry vegetarians.  These comments will be from vegans telling me how healthy they are and how many miles they can run and how they could kick my butt in any endeavor I might wish to engage them in.  And they’ll reference the idiotic China Study and a host of other meaningless observational junk.  But wait.  I don’t have to gird my loins.  I’m not dealing with these comments any more.  I’m just posting them as they come in.  Give it your best shot.

To see under what conditions our genome developed, read on.

The hunter-gatherer lifestyle

Just to wrap this long, meandering post up, I want to end with a link to a great article in the December 2009 National Geographic.  And to bring this post full circle, I’ve got to let you know that I found this article on Twitter.  I wouldn’t have discovered it otherwise. At least not as quickly as I did.

The long article is about the Hadza who follow a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in remote Tanzania.  The area the Hadza roam is being encroached upon by all kinds of agricultural and tourist businesses, and the author doubts these indigenous people can maintain their lifestyle for much longer.
The men hunt and the women gather.  The Hadza went on a nighttime baboon hunt and took the author along.  His account of the hunt makes for a riveting read.  Once killed, the Hadza haul the baboon back to what serves as a camp and prepare to serve it up.  I’ll leave you with the author’s description of the meal.

Ngaola skins the baboon and stakes out the pelt with sharpened twigs. The skin will be dry in a few days and will make a fine sleeping mat. A couple of men butcher the animal, and cuts of meat are distributed. Onwas, as camp elder, is handed the greatest delicacy: the head.

The Hadza cooking style is simple—the meat is placed directly on the fire. No grill, no pan. Hadza mealtime is not an occasion for politeness. Personal space is generally not recognized; no matter how packed it is around a fire, there’s always room for one more, even if you end up on someone’s lap. Once a cut of meat has finished cooking, anyone can grab a bite.

And I mean grab. When the meat is ready, knives are unsheathed and the frenzy begins. There is grasping and slicing and chewing and pulling. The idea is to tug at a hunk of meat with your teeth, then use your knife to slice away your share. Elbowing and shoving is standard behavior. Bones are smashed with rocks and the marrow sucked out. Grease is rubbed on the skin as a sort of moisturizer. No one speaks a word, but the smacking of lips and gnashing of teeth is almost comically loud.

I’m ravenous, so I dive into the scrum and snatch up some meat. Baboon steak, I have to say, isn’t terrible—a touch gamy, but it’s been a few days since I’ve eaten protein, and I can feel my body perking up with every bite. Pure fat, rather than meat, is what the Hadza crave, though most coveted are the baboon’s paw pads. I snag a bit of one and pop it in my mouth, but it’s like trying to swallow a pencil eraser. When I spit the gob of paw pad out, a young boy instantly picks it up and swallows it.

Onwas, with the baboon’s head, is comfortably above the fray. He sits cross-legged at his fire and eats the cheeks, the eyeballs, the neck meat, and the forehead skin, using the soles of his sandals as a cutting board. He gnaws the skull clean to the bone, then plunges it into the fire and calls me and the hunters over for a smoke.

The Vegetarian Myth

Before I get into a discussion of the absolutely phenomenal book you see pictured at the right, I’ve got a few disclosures to make.  First, I’m not much of a believer in the notion of man-made global warming or climate change (as they now call it since temperatures have been constantly falling instead of rising).  I’m a denier, in the pejorative term used by those who are believers.

Second, I’m not particularly pro-feminist.  And I certainly don’t hang around with any self-proclaimed radical feminists.  I have a wife who is smarter than I am, who is more talented than I am, and who, pound for pound, is probably a better athlete than I am, and I’m not bad. (In my defense, I can read much, much faster than she, but, she has better comprehension.) I long ago gave up the idea (if I ever really considered it seriously) that men are superior to women in any ways other than brute strength.  Having said that, however, I do believe that men are better suited to certain endeavors than woman and vice verse, but that doesn’t mean either men or women should be denied the opportunity to give whatever it is they want to do a whirl just because of their sex.  I guess I consider myself an egalitarian.  But from what I’ve seen of radical feminists, I’m not sure that I would count myself a big fan.

Given the above, you wouldn’t think I would enjoy and recommend a book written by a self-proclaimed radical feminist who is obviously a believer in global warming and the impending end of the earth as we know it.  I wouldn’t think so, either. Not my cup of tea even when it is sort of preaching to the choir.

But I can tell you that Lierre Keith’s book is beyond fantastic.  It is easily the best book I’ve read since Mistakes Were Made, maybe even better.  Everyone should read this book, vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike.  If you’re a radical feminist, you should read this book; if you’re a male chauvinist, you should read this book; if you have children, especially female children, you should read this book; if you are a young woman (or man) you should read this book; if you love animals, you should read this book; if you hate vegetarians, you should read this book; if you are contemplating the vegetarian way of life, you should definitely read this book; if you have a vegetarian friend or family member, you should this book and so should your friend.  As MD said after she read it, “everyone who eats should read this book.”

Anyone who has ever read a book on writing has come across the hackneyed piece of advice to cut open a vein and bleed on the page.  Lierre Keith, the author of this book, has come closer to literally doing that than almost any writer I’ve ever read.  Not only does her passion for her subject bleed through in almost every sentence, she is a superb lyrical prose stylist.  My book is dog eared, underlined and annotated from front to back – I can’t remember anything I’ve read that has contained so many terrific lines.

In fact The Vegetarian Myth is filled with so many good quotes (most by the author but some from other authors) that I was reminded of the old joke about the redneck who went to see a performance of Hamlet.  When the show let out, someone asked him what he thought of it.  Replied he:  It wasn’t nothin’ but a whole bunch of quotes all strung together.  As you’ll see when I ‘quote’ them below, The Vegetarian Myth contains quotable lines and paragraphs at about the same rate Hamlet does.

Ms. Keith was a practicing vegetarian (vegan) for twenty years, driven by her passion for kindness and justice for all creatures.  She couldn’t bear the thought of even killing a garden slug, or, for that matter, even removing a garden slug from her garden to a place where something or someone else might kill it.  Her years of compassionate avoidance of any foods of animal origin cost her her health.  Her story of coming to grips with the realization that whatever she ate came as a consequence of some living being’s having to die form the matrix onto which her narrative hangs.

You can read the first 14 manuscript pages of the book on the author’s website.  I have quoted from these 14 pages liberally below.

The introduction to The Vegetarian Myth explores Ms. Keith’s rationale for writing such a book, a book that, given her years of walking the vegetarian walk, must have been incredibly difficult to write.  She says as much with her first sentence.

She ponders the idea of factory farming, which she loathes, and the misbegotten idea that most people hold (not most readers of this blog, but most of the people in the world) that grains are good, not only for people, but for many animals as well.  And the common misconception that agriculture, the growing of annual grains and plants, is a wonderful, kind, sustainable activity.

This misunderstanding is born of ignorance, an ignorance that runs the length and breadth of the vegetarian myth, through the nature of agriculture and ending in the nature of life. We are urban industrialists, and we don’t know the origins of our food. This includes vegetarians, despite their claims to the truth. It included me, too, for twenty years. Anyone who ate meat was in denial; only I had faced the facts. Certainly, most people who consume factory-farmed meat have never asked what died and how it died. But frankly, neither have most vegetarians.

The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. The truth is that agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems. The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you.

I want a full accounting, an accounting that goes way beyond what’s dead on your plate. I’m asking about everything that died in the process, everything that was killed to get that food onto your plate. That’s the more radical question, and it’s the only question that will produce the truth. How many rivers were dammed and drained, how many prairies plowed and forests pulled down, how much topsoil turned to dust and blown into ghosts? I want to know about all the species—not just the individuals, but the entire species—the chinook, the bison, the grasshopper sparrows, the grey wolves. And I want more than just the number of dead and gone. I want them back.

After she had seen the error of her ways as a vegan and had been eating meat for two years, for reasons unknown to her, the author continued to surf the same vegan websites and message boards she had for years.  Until she read one post that was so bizarre that she finally realized the large intellectual gap that had widened between her rationale thinking and the cult like thinking of, well, a cult.  It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

But one post marked a turning point. A vegan flushed out his idea to keep animals from being killed—not by humans, but by other animals. Someone should build a fence down the middle of the Serengeti, and divide the predators from the prey. Killing is wrong and no animals should ever have to die, so the big cats and wild canines would go on one side, while the wildebeests and zebras would live on the other. He knew the carnivores would be okay because they didn’t need to be carnivores. That was a lie the meat industry told. He’d seen his dog eat grass: therefore, dogs could live on grass.

No one objected. In fact, others chimed in. My cat eats grass, too, one woman added, all enthusiasm. So does mine! someone else posted. Everyone agreed that fencing was the solution to animal death.

Note well that the site for this liberatory project was Africa. No one mentioned the North American prairie, where carnivores and ruminants alike have been extirpated for the  annual grains that vegetarians embrace. But I’ll return to that in Chapter 3.

I knew enough to know that this was insane. But no one else on the message board could see anything wrong with the scheme. So, on the theory that many readers lack the knowledge to judge this plan, I’m going to walk you through this.

Carnivores cannot survive on cellulose. They may on occasion eat grass, but they use it medicinally, usually as a purgative to clear their digestive tracts of parasites. Ruminants, on the other hand, have evolved to eat grass. They have a rumen (hence, ruminant), the first in a series of multiple stomachs that acts as a fermentative vat. What’s actually happening inside a cow or a zebra is that bacteria eat the grass, and the animals eat the bacteria.

Lions and hyenas and humans don’t have a ruminant’s digestive system. Literally from our teeth to our rectums we are designed for meat. We have no mechanism to digest cellulose.

So on the carnivore side of the fence, starvation will take every animal. Some will last longer than others, and those some will end their days as cannibals. The scavengers will have a Fat Tuesday party, but when the bones are picked clean, they’ll starve as well. The graveyard won’t end there. Without grazers to eat the grass, the land will eventually turn to desert.

Why? Because without grazers to literally level the playing field, the perennial plants mature, and shade out the basal growth point at the plant’s base. In a brittle environment like the Serengeti, decay is mostly physical (weathering) and chemical (oxidative), not bacterial and biological as in a moist environment. In fact, the ruminants take over most of the biological functions of soil by digesting the cellulose and returning the nutrients, once again available, in the form of urine and feces.

But without ruminants, the plant matter will pile up, reducing growth, and begin killing the plants. The bare earth is now exposed to wind, sun, and rain, the minerals leech away, and the soil structure is destroyed. In our attempt to save animals, we’ve killed everything.

On the ruminant side of the fence, the wildebeests and friends will reproduce as effectively as ever. But without the check of predators, there will quickly be more grazers than grass. The animals will outstrip their food source, eat the plants down to the ground, and then starve to death, leaving behind a seriously degraded landscape.

The lesson here is obvious, though it is profound enough to inspire a religion: we need to be eaten as much as we need to eat. The grazers need their daily cellulose, but the grass also needs the animals. It needs the manure, with its nitrogen, minerals, and bacteria; it needs the mechanical check of grazing activity; and it needs the resources stored in animal bodies and freed up by degraders when animals die.

The grass and the grazers need each other as much as predators and prey. These are not one-way relationships, not arrangements of dominance and subordination. We aren’t exploiting each other by eating. We are only taking turns.

That was my last visit to the vegan message boards. I realized then that people so deeply ignorant of the nature of life, with its mineral cycle and carbon trade, its balance points around an ancient circle of producers, consumers, and degraders, weren’t going to be able to guide me or, indeed, make any useful decisions about sustainable human culture. By turning from adult knowledge, the knowledge that death is embedded in every creature’s sustenance, from bacteria to grizzly bears, they would never be able to feed the emotional and spiritual hunger that ached in me from accepting that knowledge. Maybe in the end this book is an attempt to soothe that ache myself.

How anyone who can read these 14 pages and not purchase and read this book is beyond me.

After the introduction which deals with why the author wrote the book, The Vegetarian Myth is divided into four sections: Moral Vegetarians, Political Vegetarians, Nutritional Vegetarians, and To Save the World.

The first three of these sections are the author’s in-depth refutations of the moral, political and nutritional arguments that vegetarians are constantly putting forth.  She does a masterful job.

In the Moral Vegetarians chapter, the author addresses the moral issue of killing animals for our own food.  She beautifully makes her case by cutting to the heart of the matter:

What separates me from vegetarians isn’t ethics or commitment.  It’s information.

And while she was in her 20-year trek in the vegetarian wilderness, she shielded herself from information as most cultists do:

I was on the side of righteousness, and like any fundamentalist, I could only stay there by avoiding information.

She finally realized the truth about agriculture; she figured out that the amber waves of grain are as death dealing as any slaughterhouse.

And agriculture isn’t quite a war because the forests and wetlands and prairies, the rain, the soil, the air, can’t fight back.  Agriculture is really more like ethnic cleansing, wiping out the indigenous dwellers so the invaders can take the land.  It’s biotic cleansing, biocide. … It is not non-violent.  It is not sustainable.  And every bite of food is laden with death.

There is no place left for the buffalo to roam.  There’s only corn, wheat, and soy.  About the only animals that escaped the biotic cleansing of the agriculturalists are small animals like mice and rabbits, and billions of them are killed by the harvesting equipment every year.  Unless you’re out there with a scythe, don’t forget to add them to the death toll of your vegetarian meal.  They count, and they died for your dinner…

Soil, species, rivers.  That’s the death in your food.  Agriculture is carnivorous: what it eats is ecosystems, and it swallows them whole.

In Political Vegetarians she refutes the politics (predominantly liberal) of the vegetarian movement and describes the dark side of political meddling in our ecosystem approved of in the main by PETA and other vegetarian groups.  She follows the money.

Rice, wheat, corn – the annual grains that vegetarians want the world to eat – are thirsty enough to drink whole rivers.

The result has been an unending river of corn, drowning our arteries and our insulin receptors, our rural communities, and poor subsistence economies the world over.  The corn comes at a huge environmental toll: there’s a half gallon of oil in every bushel.  And it’s essentially a massive transfer of money from the US taxpayer to the giant grain cartels, who are able to command the price of grain to be lower than the cost of production, with all of us making up the difference – five billion dollars in subsidies for corn alone, straight into the pockets of Cargill and Monsanto.

Nutritional Vegetarians is about the nutritional inadequacies of a vegetarian and especially a vegan diet.  And she does an absolute bang up job of laying out the rationale for following a no-grain, low-carb diet.

I have a disclosure to make here.  Much of the information in this chapter is based on Protein Power and The Protein Power LifePlan.  MD and I are listed in the acknowledgments, but I swear I didn’t know this until I bought the book.  We aren’t the only ones, but there are plenty of quotes from us in this chapter.  Gary Taubes, Malcolm Kendrick and (dare I say it) Anthony Colpo are quoted liberally as well.  I would have loved this book just as much if we had never been quoted.

Ms Keith has made a few minor innocuous errors in this chapter, but, all in all, she has done a tremendous job of synthesizing the scientific information into an easy to read, informative format.

The Nutritional Vegetarians section isn’t just about the science of why vegetarianism is bad and meat eating is good, it gets into the nutritional politics (as opposed to the vegetarian politics in the previous section) as well.  Ms Keith shows how we got to where we are by the nutritional strong arming by the McGovern committee back in the late 1970s.  George McGovern (a senator from a grain-producing state) and his cronies basically set the nutritional standards under which we are still oppressed.  They have been a disaster, as some scientists at the time predicted they would be.

And some scientists knew ahead of time that they would be.  Phil Handler, the president of hte National Academy of Scientists asked Congress, “What right has the federal government to propose that the American people conduct a vast nutritional experiment, with themselves as subjects, on the strength of so very little evidence that it will do them any good?”  Dr. Pete Ahrens, an expert on cholesterol metabolism, told the McGovern committee that the effects of a low-fat diet weren’t a scientific matter but “a betting matter.”

It’s twenty-five years later and we aren’t winning this bet.  Each US American now eats sixty pounds more grain per annum and thirty pounds more cheap sugars, mostly from corn.  [Is it any wonder we’re all fat?]

The result, Dietary Goals for Americans, set in motion a cast sea change in the public’s beliefs and behaviors. … Dietary Goals was a predictable victory in a war that started ten thousand years ago.  What really won were those annual grasses that had long since turned humans into mercenaries against the rest of the planet.  We would now enshrine them like demi-gods, those whole grains and their sweet, opiate seductions, believing in their power to bestow health and long life, even while they slowly ate us alive.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book review that was positive from beginning to end, and this one is no exception.  Based on the many comments I’ve gotten on this blog and my response to them, I’m sure many of you will find my main objection surprising.  There is too much politics in the book.  Not nutritional politics, but feminist politics.

I know, I know, I let my libertarian leanings come through in all kinds of blog posts and comment answers, but there is a difference.  My blog is just that – a weblog of things I find interesting or informative.  And it’s free.  I don’t particularly like to pay for a book (and I paid full price for this one plus shipping) on a given subject then be beaten over the head with a political viewpoint.  I guarantee you that our new book has zero politics in it.  And if people bought our book expecting to learn about getting rid of their middle-aged middles and were fed a generous dose of my politics mixed in with the information, I would expect them to be flamed.

To give the author her due in this matter, the vegetarian ideology that had her in its grasp for 20 years was intertwined with her feminist politics, so a bit of said politics are necessary to describe how she was so taken in for so long.  But I think she went a little overboard with it.

And, I think the last section of the book – To Save the World – is the weakest part of the book.  The author makes several recommendations, all of which (save one) are, in my opinion totally unrealistic.  But I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions after you’ve read the book.

I’ve read that when people are asked to recall what they remember of something they read, they tend to remember the first thing in the piece and the last thing.  Most of the middle melds into a vague memory of what the article was about.  I certainly don’t want people to remember this last negative part I wrote and let it dissuade them from reading this book.  The good parts of the book so far outweigh the not-so-good parts that there is really no contest.

At a time when PETA and other vegetarian groups are mobilizing and ramping up their activity levels, a book such as this one bringing sanity to the debate is more important than ever.  And don’t think these groups aren’t becoming more active.  In the past, PETA and PETAphiles pretty much devoted their educational efforts toward the idea that eating animals was cruel.  Now they are starting to make the case that a vegetarian diet will solve the obesity epidemic.  Take a look at this billboard in Jacksonville, Florida.

whales

If you find this sign annoying, buy The Vegetarian Myth and do your part to fight back. And if you have or know anyone with a daughter who is contemplating going vegetarian (young females are the most common victims), please make this book available.  It could be the most important thing you ever do for the long-term mental and physical health of a young woman.

If you’ve made it this far in this long review, take a couple of minutes and watch this YouTube of Lierre Keith at a book event; she’s as fascinating to listen to as she is to read.

Odds and ends May 21, 2009

verdi-after-party-small

I figure it’s about time for another grab bag of a post updating everyone on what’s going on at Casa Eades and throwing up a few interesting articles and websites.

The Verdi Requiem

The Santa Barbara Choral Society’s Verdi Requiem was a triumph last weekend.  As you can see from the photo above, MD was pretty whipped when it was over.  Apparently, it’s pretty demanding on soloists, orchestra and chorus.  And, as you can see from the photo above, the listeners don’t have the same burden.  Other photos here.  A recent review of the concert here.

The concert was pretty well attended, although not as well attended as it would have been had the entire city not been consumed with worry about the fire from the week before.  Santa Barbara is just now returning to normalcy.  The receipts from the door covered a little over 40 percent of what it cost to put on the production.  When I heard that figure, I thought the whole thing was a financial disaster, but I learned that that figure is typical for non-profit arts productions.  Around 40 percent of the cost comes from the people who buy tickets – the other 60 percent comes from patrons who sponsor the event.  In other words, the ticket prices are subsidized by the nobless oblige of the wealthy, a large number of whom consider it their obligation to support the arts.  So, next time you go to a great performance that costs you $25 to see, thank a rich person that you didn’t have to pay $60.

Twitter adventures

As anyone who has followed me on Twitter knows, I spend a lot of time reading and posting to Twitter since I first posted about it.  It’s a great way to do mini posts because users of Twitter are limited to 140 characters, so it’s tough to get too verbose.

I was pretty clueless about Twitter until I started using it, so I assume others are clueless as well.  If you are not in the know about this social networking tool and would like to keep up with these mini posts, there are a couple of ways you can do it.  You can sign up for Twitter and follow me (and anyone else you would like to follow).  It takes maybe one minute to sign up for Twitter.  All you need is a working email address and a username and you’re in.  Once you are a Twitteree (or whatever they’re called), and sign up to follow me, you can read these mini posts as I put them up.  If you want to sign up, click here and get started.  If you do start, you will probably find that a bunch of your own friends are using Twitter, so you can keep up with them as well.

The other way you can access these mini posts is by clicking on the little blue bird logo that says FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER.  If you click there, you will go to a page that gives you all the latest mini posts, but you’ll have to keep going back to get the updates as they come in.  Here is a link to the page you will find.

I occasionally Tweet (a Twitter mini post is called a Tweet, a loathsome word if there ever was one, at least when applied to activities of grown humans) on personal stuff, but mainly the Tweets are mini posts on medical articles or other news articles that I think are of interest along with anything else I find that strikes my fancy.

For those of you who do follow me on Twitter, I apologize for any Twitter faux paux I may have committed.  One of the things that most appealed to me about Twitter was the notion that I could put up these mini posts without anyone responding.  But, alas, I was wrong.  I discovered a few days ago that people can respond and several hundred have.  I was taking time from feverishly mini posting by looking around my Twitter home page when I found a highlighted link that said: @DrEades.  When I clicked there, I was appalled to find several hundred responses to Tweets I had made.  I learned that when people respond to Tweets, it ends up in that section.  So, I wasn’t off the hook.  But I couldn’t possibly respond to several hundred people – even at 140 characters a response.  So, if you replied to something I wrote and I didn’t respond, you now know what happened.

I did have a couple of interesting experiences in responding however.  When I discovered the @DrEades section and found the zillion responses to my Tweets waiting there, the most recent one was from a lady who took me to task for one (or several) of my political Tweets.  She wrote that she had always liked my nutritional writing but that my political postings had alienated her.  I decided to reply to her just to see how the whole reply thing worked.  I sent her one of my favorite Thomas Jefferson quotes:

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.

Then I watched her site and found that she had deleted the Tweet to me, which is how I learned that one could delete these things once they are up.  They can’t be changed, so if you make a grammatical error (which, sadly, I have done a few times) it can’t be fixed, only deleted.  Then she deleted me from her list of people she follows.  I guess the Thomas Jefferson quote alienated her even more.

People are really strange.  I posted a Tweet about an email that I had received a dozen times about how George Bush has a state of the art, energy-efficient ranch house in Crawford, TX while Al Gore has a giant, energy-gobbling house in Nashville.  I always ignored the email because I thought it probably was an urban legend kind of thing.  Then someone sent me a link to the Snopes report on it, which said that the email was true.  I posted the Snopes report on Twitter.  Then I started to wonder what makes Snopes the last word authority on everything, so I started looking into that.  I discovered that Snopes is a husband – wife team, who live in a double-wide house trailer on the outskirts of Los Angeles.  They do all the checking themselves.  I was stunned.  I always figured that Snopes was some kind of outfit with a staff of hundreds that checked out all these things.  The notion that the ultimate authority on everything was just a mom and pop operation who make their living by ads on their snopes.com website.  Now that I know the situation, I’ll be more careful when I accept snopes as the last word on everything.

I put up a Tweet that said basically Who would’ve thought Snopes was a mom and pop operation?  Some guy signed up to follow me on Twitter, and immediately sent a nastygram to @DrEades that said If Snopes is a mom and pop outfit, what does that make the Protein Power blog? A ‘Pop’ outfit?  I replied that the Protein Power blog is a ‘Pop’ operation, but isn’t considered by anyone to be the last word on everything.  He then deleted me from his list of people he followed. As I say, a lot of bizarre people in the weeds out there.

The whole experience has been very strange indeed.  But I’m still working my way through it, probably alienating people right and left.  So join up, follow me, and watch the fun.

Upcoming travel plans

MD and I are leaving late Sunday night for Hong Kong, then to Guangzhou, back to Hong Kong, then to London.  Sadly, the entire trip will be a working trip.  We’re hard at it in our efforts to change the world, and this trip is all about that.  By the time we get back, I should be able to write about what we’ve been working on.

I will take a lot of photos and continue to blog during the trip.  And Tweet.

Comments on the blog

I continue to be mired in comment woes.  I just checked, and I have 78 comments in moderation, some of which have been there for weeks.  It has kind of become a comments graveyard.

I’ve whined about the comment situation for that last two years. I’ve said that I wasn’t going to continue to answer questions and was just going to post the comments as they came in.  My resolve would last for about two days, then I was right back answering all the questions.  Now, I’ve gone into a funk over the whole thing, and have devolved into just ignoring the comments that require answering and letting them stack up, which I hate doing.  But, I’ve been so busy lately that there isn’t much else I can do.

I was reading a book titled Economic Sophisms by one of my heroes, Frederic Bastiat, when I came across the following paragraph that, in a way, applies to the comment situation.

We must admit that our opponents in this argument have a marked advantage over us.  They need only a few words to set forth a half-truth; whereas, in order to show that it is a half-truth, we have to resort to long and arid dissertations.

It’s easy to pen a comment that says, Hi Doc, what are your thoughts on this article? and attach a link.  I have to read the article, pull the actual study, read it, think about it, then write an answer that is considerably longer than the original comment.  What takes a commenter 20 seconds to write ends up costing me an hour or two to come up with an intelligent answer or even an ‘arid dissertation.’

I’m also getting a lot of comments asking for my ideas and recommendations on personal health issues.  People send me lab results and want to know what I think.  Without treating a given individual as a patient, medico-legal restrictions prevent me from answering these kinds of questions.

I never read the comments on blogs that I read, so I must assume that many people don’t read the comments on this blog.  But I end up spending way more time dealing with the comments than I do writing posts.  If I didn’t have to deal with the comments, I would write more posts.

I noticed that Mark Sisson, whom MD and I had lunch with yesterday, has started making posts out of some of his comments in a Dear Readers section of his blog.  He takes several comments that he thinks may be of interest to all his readers, posts them, and throws them out for the combined wisdom of all his readers to deal with. I may start doing this myself and weighing in along with the readers.  If anyone out there has any advice for me on this issue, I’m all ears.

Soda tax in New York

I just read this article this morning.  Was going to make a mini post out of it, but thought it would be better here.

A New York state senator (I’ll leave it to you guess from which party) says that by adding a measly one cent tax to each can of non-diet soda sold, the state of New York can add $100 million per year to its coffers.  If this is true, it means that citizens of and visitors to the state consume 10 billion cans of non-diet soda annually!  The population of New York state is a little over 19 million.  Dividing 10 billion by 19 million calculates out to about 525 cans of non-diet soda per man, woman and child in the state.  That’s almost 90 six-packs per person per year.  Wow!  There have got to be some low-carbers who live there who drink zero six-packs per year, which means that some other poor slob is drinking 180 six-packs per year.  That’s a lot of high-fructose corn syrup.

To my way of thinking, this is an onerous tax.  It moves $100 million from the pockets of the citizenry and puts it in the coffers of the bureaucrats to spend.  And, despite the fact that it sucks off 100 million bucks, the tax isn’t high enough to discourage consumption, so it really has no societal advantage except for transferring funds from the citizens to the government.

Where does your beef come from?

I don’t mean what part of the country.  I mean what part of the cow.  Here is a great site created by the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida showing way more than I (and probably you) need or want to know about beef anatomy.  But if you really do wonder where a flank steak or some other piece of beef comes from on the cow, click here to find out.  A lot of work went into this site.

Gradient gel electrophoresis

For those who hate to pay big bucks to have a lab tell you how much small, dense LDL you have, here’s how you can do it yourself.  That’s right.  With a drinking straw and a few other simple ingredients, you can make your own electrophoresis equipment and test your blood anytime you want for minimal expense.  Warning.  This is a real geek site.  I doubt that many will want to put together their own equipment, but at least it shows what’s involved in making a primitive version and how complex the testing process is.  May make you not feel so bad dropping the money to get the test done professionally.

Feel better immediately

And, finally, here is your feel-good YouTube of the day.  Watch this huge prank (if that’s what you would call it) played on the people in the train station at Antwerp one morning.  Really delightful.  Watch the faces of those watching.

Remember, don’t forget to help me out on this comment issue.  All suggestions will be appreciated.