Food Fads, Hysteria, Science, and Common Sense

I’ve been away from BLOGging for some time and have a lot to catch up on; for the audience of a dozen or so regulars who visit, sorry for the lull, and stay tuned. A lot has happened this spring and summer (while I’ve been traveling, sorting/processing photography and being a husband and shift-worker). This BLOG is going to get lively and thought-provoking again.

We’ll start with a nonpartisan issue about which I’ve had mixed but strong thoughts: organic and “natural” food.

On one side: Much of the popularity of it strikes me as shallow, trite, cultural pop-fad crap–little more than a herd mentality. Advertising consultants, commercial producers and stores like Whole Foods (a.k.a Whole Paycheck) laugh all the way to the bank by profiting off hipsters, herd followers, the scientifically ignorant, anti-GMO paranoiacs, and all who buy into the latest “superfood” craze.

To that end, I read with great interest a piece by a physician and his co-author, an OU law professor, entitled, “The Colossal Hoax Of Organic Agriculture“.

Among other things, they point out that many “organic” pesticides are toxic, and that synthetic ones constitute a tiny percentage of all pesticides in even non-organic foods. Furthermore, how do you know the producers, labelers and sellers are telling the truth about “organic”?

“Organic” standards themselves (even if properly enforced, and they’re often not) let through a lot of unsavory and unhealthy possibilities. As such, they see the “organic” movement as mostly a big fat artifice. And they didn’t even address the inherent nature of green, leafy vegetables to take up and concentrate potentially toxic metals found in soil–whether grown by organic rules or not.

I see the piece not as an attack on the principle of organic foods so much as on as its execution and delivery, more specifically:

  1. Industrial- and small-scale “organic” production involving lack of rigorous standards/enforcement,
  2. Harmful substances that can get into “organic” food despite that label, and
  3. Artificially high pricing targeted to the privileged followers of the culturally popular.

After all, what we now call “organic” as an ideal (actuality aside) simply is how our ancestors in the 1800s farmed by default, before we had 300+ million mouths to feed in this country. What the writer is saying, in a nutshell, is that you’re paying too high of a premium for a label—a label that probably doesn’t represent what you’re actually getting and that makes little difference anyway.

“Organic” and “all natural” really don’t mean a lot, most of the time. After all, arsenic, poison ivy and black widow spiders are natural. They must be good to eat, right? Also 100% natural and organic: the e.coli bacterium, found in everybody’s large intestine and what comes out of it. E. coli can be on your organic or non-organic lettuce if the illegal alien who picked it wiped his butt with his hands before going back out in the field. Listeria, also natural, can sicken and kill people along the food-distribution chain. This has happened

On the other side, I don’t endorse simply buying whatever’s the cheapest and sucking it down either. To be responsible parents and caretakers of our loved ones, we have a beholden duty to pay attention to our food. If I eat something potentially harmful, it’s my choice, not yours…I am knowingly taking that risk and liking the food regardless, or because I have assessed its benefits as greater than its potential harm—not because I choose to be ignorant thereabouts.

By growing one’s own vegetables, one exerts direct control over that side of the diet. I’d grow more if I weren’t so lazy about gardening. [Garden got flooded out this year with two feet of rain in May, and I never replanted.] I recommend this to everybody; even apartment dwellers can get creative and grow some food. Just be advised that, as with everything else, even home-grown vegetables (and animals if you have room) are only as good as the soil from which they sprout and the feed going into their mouths.

Locally sourced food is somewhat better for accountability’s sake; one can interact directly with the growers. “Buy local” still is no panacea, however…

  1. You don’t know whether the seller is telling or hiding the truth about what did or did not get sprayed on the stuff, and
  2. Good luck getting locally sourced bananas, coconuts, mangoes, coffee and halibut in Oklahoma, Brooklyn, Denver, or Idaho.

Our 1800s forefathers, who knew no other way than what we now call “organic” farming, simply did without what wasn’t local…and when local variety was low (as in wintertime or famines), occasionally had nutritional deficiencies to show for it.

Sometimes I’ll pick organic over not, if the price difference is small or none. Like many sensible people who want to minimize harmful things going down the gullets of their children and themselves, I’m also cautious about synthetic growth hormones and will avoid steroidal meat and milk most of the time (hoping that the producer isn’t flat-out lying, which happens as the writer notes). Yet I’m sure I’ve consumed a lot of hormone-fed animal products over a lifetime, before it became a cause du jour.

“Processed” food is not all evil, despite the rampant and thoughtless stereotyping about it. To claim, “I just avoid processed food,” is lazy, anti-intellectual, probably dishonest (almost all food is “processed” somehow) and potentially depriving oneself of something nutritious and tasty too. Instead one should pay attention to the type of processing, the ingredients involved, quality and quantity. I also see the anti-GMO, anti-aspartame and anti-Monsanto hysterias, and other such offerings from the moldy catacombs of the Internet, as unscientific, overblown, tinfoil-hat, paranoid, fear-mongering bullcrap.

Even science shifts. Saccharin once was deemed cancerous…now, not really. Eggs were heart-chokers…now, not so much. All fat was bad…then saturated fat was bad…now coconut (saturated) fat is good. Butter was bad…margarine was good…now butter’s back and margarine is the ultimate processed-food evil. With all the mixed signals, especially over time, what is one to do?

The bottom line is that, despite the latest hype-of-the-week, there is no “superfood”. None! Variety is what matters. Any “food” in excess, and exclusive of others, can be harmful—even water! Barring prohibitive medical conditions (allergies, diabetes, etc.), don’t feel guilty about the occasional indulgence in a “bad for you” item. Let science, personal taste, your medical situation, and common sense–not irrational emotions or media buzz, guide your consumption.

Now I’ll go polish off that last bit of a tub of chocolate-mint ice cream and have a few “Hint of Lime” Doritos before some nanny-state bureaucracy bans them…

Shortsighted and Smug Proclamations on America’s World Role

    “In the United States, the Republican Party is adrift. Unable to accept the end of a John Wayne-esque era, party leaders seek at once to isolate the United States and curb the threat of competition from the ‘rest.'”

      — Frenchman Hubert Vedrine, Foreign Policy Online

Some variation of that sentiment, expressed in many different fora by left-wing pundits near and far, is a variation of an oft-repeated meme the last few years, a made-in-media artifice, a pop-fad born of liberal herd mentality, and represents a company-line talking point of leftism more than a serious assessment. That’s even more true coming from a Frenchman who hasn’t deeply immersed himself in American democracy in the first person, unlike Alexis de Tocqueville, and who instead sits comfortably afar casting stones. As such, he hasn’t gained the insight that only can come from first-hand and direct experience and appreciation.

How shortsighted, smug and ignorant of those who repeat such sentiments, including the writer. He should study history, if only just a little. If he did, he soon should realize that, after every election, one side touts the results as a signal of the impending doom of the other’s ideals. It has happened over, and over, and over. The same goes for past Republicans.

Every time, regardless of the claimant political party, the victory trumpet has been shown premature by mere virtue of the eventual election of the other side’s candidate(s). Events happenthat weaken or discredit the part in power, then the other party balances out. Rinse, wash, repeat. Were he to study more than two months of history, he would see that there are cycles…yes, cycles…that’s right, cycles…and that each one represents a swing of a pendulum. Next time the Republicans claim the Oval Office, I’m sure more than a few from both sides will be proclaiming the imminent doom of the Democratic party in particular and liberalism in general. [If it only could be true!] Since he wrote that article, ISIS and Boko Haram have gained notoriety and the U.S. Administration seems utterly inept and devoid of direction in its approach to those genocidal menaces–all whilst continuing to spy on its own population as if We the People presented a greater threat than proliferating genocidal lunatics hell-bent on our destruction and those of deeply brotherly allies like Israel.

There simply is no such thing as leadership “from behind”. America doesn’t lead by looking at other nation’s bungholes. Our position of supreme respect and world authority wasn’t obtained by being passive, cowardly wallflowers. America only can lead from the forefront of freedom in a position of powerful strength–not just military or financial, but the unsurpassed moral strength inherent to the founding American worldview, centered the divinely ordained rights and ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, codified by our great Founders and carried out by a courageous and civic minded populace. And yet the populace is losing said courage, has lost much understanding, has become haplessly entitled, and a shrill subset has erroneously decided that because we’ve made mistakes that we have no moral authority. Wrong.

We only have stumbled in this regard due to financial foolishness (more later) and cultural diversions and distractions *away* from the “John Waynesque” approach. Secularization, passivity, and superficiality of the domestic culture certainly don’t help. Nor does a systemic straying of educational priorities away from the intellectual, specific and rational (reading, writing, math, civics, science) and toward the emotional, vague and irrational (“self esteem”, “tolerance” and “collaboration”)–the result being a nation populated by far too many materialistic, entitled intellectual wussies who may project someone’s fuzzy notion of “empathy” but who can’t point out their own states on a map, solve basic algebraic functions, name all nine Supreme Court justices, or discuss the Constitutional implications of the New Deal.

Children of governmental dependency learn to look that way for solutions to their problems, instead of in the mirror and the pages of the Bible, such that the state becomes an object of idolatry. All hail, Dear Leader Barack!

Speaking of false idols…when more people can name three “Idol” winners than three halogens from the periodic table, this is but one of many symptoms of a serious societal disorder. The same goes for the proliferation of wretched compositional skills, such that the words “there”, “their” and “they’re” are treated as interchangeable in the common lexicon, as are “you’re and “your”. I could name countless more examples, but hope that you get the point.

Nations may grow, but who does the world look to for sustenance, for leadership, for defense of freedom? Not India…not Brazil..not England…not Russia…definitely not China or India, but America. When the crap hits the fan, the world looks one way, and one way only: toward the stars and stripes, flying high. The only question is, will we be there to stand strong and set things right, regardless of our flaws, or will we collapse under the weight of our own fiscal mismanagement and moral ambiguity, utterly paralyzed, ripe for the taking by the most powerful or feeble of enemies?

There is where the writer is negligent, completely and inexplicably missing the greatest dual threats to America’s rightful reign as world leader–1) our loss of education-driven national moral unambiguity and social cohesion, the one voice projected loudly across the world, the voice of rightness and freedom against evil, and 2) our crushing, ever-expanding national debt, and the palpable risk thereof to this nation’s very existence. I can’t assign an ounce of credibility to any essay on America and its position that fails to deal with these massive problems.

We need more clear, concise, unambiguous, John Wayne-style leadership…not less.

Regarding Ted Cruz and U.S. Citizenship

Ted Cruz today announced his Republican primary candidacy for U.S. president. Though I agree with most of his positions on the issues, and admire his academic and rhetorical prowess and grasp of history, let’s set that aside and look as objectively as possible at an issue that has been raised about Cruz long before today. Is he eligible by citizenship?

The motivation for this examination is a snide, bitter, cynical, anti-conservative meme floating around (far from the only one too)…

That was done by somebody named John Fugelsang, who somehow thinks he’s funny. At least he has the courage or naivete (you decide) to own up to such stupid overgeneralizing, of a company-line liberal sort that panders to a sycophantic gaggle of Cruz-hating left-wing foamers. [I’ve hosted the image locally in case the creator sees this essay and tries to delete it from his social media out of shame and embarrassment…sorry, man, too late–it’s on the record now!]

Yet this seems to be a common attitude on the left. I call BS.

There are some of us conservatives–I’d say a substantial majority –who never made any claims about Obama’s birth. Not that you’d hear about it from that Fugelsang dude, or our radical-leftist-dominated corporate media majority, who likes to focus on a tiny minority of conspiracy theorists and paint us all with that brush. [And no, I’m not a habitual Fox News watcher either…too many commercials.]

As for Cruz, I don’t know for sure yet whether he qualifies as a “natural-born citizen” but it strongly appears that he does. At first, this seems to lie somewhere in a gray area between parents stationed overseas on military bases (e.g., John McCain’s situation, almost always considered a citizen) and complete non-citizen. Regardless, the question will be resolved one way or another–it has to be now that Cruz has declared as a candidate.

I’ve seen some say, “Who cares where where anyone is born?” The answer: our national Founders. Why does it matter? The U.S. Constitution–specifically, Section 1, Article 2:
“No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

The Naturalization Act of 1790, though not carrying the weight of the Constitution itself, offers clarity and focus:
“The children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens: Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States.”

Combining those two seems to clear both Cruz and Obama. At first I was agnostic about the Obama birth issue–taking a “let’s see the evidence” approach. So far, however, more evidence points toward Obama than against him. Though the son of a Kenyan man, the latter appears to have been born in Hawaii to a fully American mom, by virtue of his birth certificate; so pending credible refutation of that evidence…he is eligible. As far as I am concerned Obama is a “natural-born citizen” until proved otherwise. Even if the birth certificate ultimately were to be repudiated, it’s almost too late anyway. The damage is done.

Cruz was born “out of the limits of the United States” to a fully American mom and a Cuban dad who had been a full-time “resident of the United States” before moving to Canada. Even if it ultimately might take a SCOTUS ruling to firmly close the issue (depending on if someone formally challenges his eligibility), it appears the law and the Constitution are in Cruz’s favor.

So even though it’s a gray area, the shade of gray is very, very pale–enough so that a challenge to Cruz’s citizenship might either not be mounted at all, or if it is, might not even it to the SCOTUS due to abundant precedent in the presence of numerous U.S. citizens born abroad to at least one American parent. To invalidate Cruz would be an unprecedented high-court application of the “Natural Born Citizen” clause and would decertify thousands of other citizens.

For what it’s worth, this Harvard Law Review article supports the notion of Cruz’s eligibility too.

Most of the time the issue is very clear. As a native-born child of native-born U.S. parents (all in Texas), older than 35, I am eligible for the presidency without question. Being an foreign-born to foreign parents (a naturalized immigrant who did it the right way–the legal way) my wife is not. So it goes. If you don’t agree with the citizenship or age rule, and think naturalized citizens, anyone not a “natural-born citizen” or anyone under 35 should be eligible for President, then amend the Constitution. Good luck with that; the Founders made the process necessarily difficult.

As I’ve said before and surely will again, the Constitution is the first, last and only valid word on the role of federal governance in this nation. The role of federal courts is not to interpret the Constitution, but to apply it. [If you were taught “interpret” in school, you were taught wrongly.] How does “natural-born citizen” apply to someone in Cruz’s position? For now, it’s not 100% clear, but probably 98% in his favor.

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