Thursday, December 30, 2010

Interesting--and disturbing--perspective on Iran . . .

Please ignore the fact that it's part of a (very long) advertisement. I think the primary story of a 1,354-year-old conflict that looks as if it is just now about to break out into all-out war is rather compelling.

Please go to this page. As soon as the video begins to load, click on the "x" in the tab control for your internet browser as if you intend to close the window. You will be given the opportunity to read the document rather than have to wait interminably for a voice-over to narrate it to you as it shows you each line in video form. (Trust me: unless you read at some horrendously slow pace, you will do much better reading the key information on your own!)

You want to hit the "Cancel" option in the "Confirm" screen that will pop up ["Are you sure you want to navigate away from this page?" --No. You don't. You must want to read the page rather than have to listen to the boring voice-over video.]

So click "Cancel" and then do a search for The Murder That's About to Change the World.

Start reading there.

It's a great story well written.

. . . Again, I am not recommending the sales copy or the investment services that are touted beginning immediately after the story.

I am just saying I think the story itself is probably well worth you trouble to read.

Personally, I'd quit where the author says,

Iran is ready to assert its place in the world. Think Japan or Germany in the 1930s. The threat is there, it's large, and it's not going away anytime soon.

How the world responds, we can't know.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Math for the pure joy of it . . .

The visuals and commentary are about two times too fast for me to follow with great understanding, and I don't want to take the time now to re-watch these videos so that I can understand exactly what she is talking about, but Vi Hart reminded me of a joy I used to experience many, many years ago. For various reasons, I abandoned the pursuit. It gives me pleasure to see that others, however, think along these lines. I never doodled the way she does, but I used to find patterns like these rather fascinating.



[Please note that I have embedded YouTube versions of two of her videos here in my blog--just to attempt to entice you to actually watch one or both of them. BUT . . . if you want to understand them and really get "into" them, I encourage you to follow the text links . . . because she provides useful Wikipedia links that explain the more technical terminology and concepts. The text links will also bring you to her website that includes a lot of truly remarkable videos and technical (and not-so-technical) papers . . . about math and music and . . . well . . . art . . . and things of beauty . . . and lots of other stuff.]

Thanks, Luke, for the originating link that led to the video that led me to check out Vi's website:

Vaccines--why one mom is saying "no"

I have signed up for Google Alerts for my own name, "sonlight curriculum", and a couple of other terms.

Tuesday I received an alert for an overwhelmingly kind blog post about Sonlight Curriculum by a Sonlight customer from South Africa. To the right of the post, I noticed a whole series of comments about another post the blogger had written titled Why We Don’t Vaccinate.

Oh. my. goodness. She has done her homework, I think. And she has put together a well-stated summary case against a lot (most? all?) of the childhood vaccines currently being touted by mainline medical providers.

I've heard most of the arguments before in bits and pieces. But Taryn Hayes has done her homework and she provides all the references. The two graphs at the bottom of her post, "a comparison in decline between scarlet fever (unvaccinated disease) and measles (vaccinated disease) in Australia," are, perhaps, more striking than anything else on the page.

But check it out for yourself. It is worth being informed, I think!

And while you're there, you may want to read the counter-arguments of "Lloyd," someone Taryn identifies, in her response, as some kind of [medical] doctor. In essence, he asks, "If vaccines are so useless, then how and why was smallpox wiped out by vaccination? And what of polio? . . . Not to mention German measles/rubella, 'regular' measles, haemophilus and pneumococcal diseases. . . ."

Taryn asks Lloyd if he might be willing to review some of the articles that have her concerned. And following one of the links she provides, I eventually found myself at a copy of an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola where he notes,
A 1992 study published in The American Journal of Epidemiology shows that children die at a rate 8 times greater than normal within three days after getting a DPT vaccination.

A preliminary study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found children who received the HiB vaccine . . . were found to be 5 times more likely to contract the disease than children who had not received the vaccine.

In the New England Journal of Medicine July 1994 issue a study found that over 80% of children under 5 years of age who had contracted whooping cough had been fully vaccinated.

In 1977 Dr Jonas Salk (inventor of the Salk polio vaccine) testified with other scientists that 87% of the polio cases which occurred in the US since 1970 were the by-product of the polio vaccine.

The Sabin oral polio vaccine (OPV) is the only known cause of polio in the us today.

The February 1981 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 90% of obstetricians and 66% of pediatricians refused to take the rubella vaccine.
Hmmmm . . .

And then there are papers like this, by Roman Bystrianyk of HealthSentinel.com, that demonstrates that the lartest decline in death rates from virtually all communicable diseases for which vaccines are generally credited really came about long before--and to a much greater degree than could ever be ascribed to--the advent of their respective vaccines.

Consider, too, Dr. Raymond Obamsawin's Vaccination Tables, especially beginning at page 24, Immunization Dangers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tilting at windmills . . .

After my post Tuesday about Wickard v Filburn, when I began reading my tardy copy of this week's The Week magazine, I realized conservatives are almost assuredly mistaken who took comfort in Judge Henry Hudson's ruling last week about the so-called health-care reform measure.

The Week reported,
A federal judge in Virginia gave new momentum to Republican opposition to President Obama’s health-care reform by ruling this week that it’s unconstitutional to force individuals to buy health insurance. Judge Henry Hudson said the Constitution’s Commerce Clause does not authorize the federal government “to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market.” . . .

This ruling properly frames “Obamacare” as having “historic consequences for American liberty,” said The Wall Street Journal. Obama’s scheme depends on the government punishing citizens who don’t buy health insurance—in effect, a tax on “doing nothing.” Can Big Government get any more intrusive than that? The only flaw in Hudson’s ruling is that it “didn’t go far enough” and kill this monstrosity in its crib, said Investor’s Business Daily. But at least the judge has given “a strong momentum boost” to a repeal movement that once seemed like “wishful thinking.”
Based on what I wrote about Wickard v Filburn, I'm afraid it is still wishful thinking. If the Supreme Court were to overturn this legislation, it would mark an astonishing "new day" in the dismantling of Big Government.

In the same article, The Week said,
The Obama administration compared this ruling to earlier conservative objections to Social Security, Medicare, and civil-rights legislation. “Those challenges ultimately failed,” said Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “and so will this one.”
It will be interesting--but, in my opinion, hardly likely to be surprising--whose hopes and/or predictions will come true.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Food Safety Bill Passes . . .

Not particularly unexpected.

This is from Judith McGeary of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. (I met Judith at the Acres USA conference two weeks ago. I appreciate her level-headed, thoughtful approach. She is less excitable than me or Mike Adams :-) ):
This afternoon, the House voted 215-144 to approve the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (now HR 2751), including the Tester-Hagan amendment.

The bill has taken many bizarre procedural twists. Throughout the process, Agribusiness repeatedly tried to prevent the Tester-Hagan amendment from being included. Even today, members of the House critiqued the bill's protections for small-scale direct marketing producers.

It's clear that, without your calls, the bill would have passed without any protection for small-scale producers. Thank you for all of your calls and letters over the last year!

As passed, the bill includes the same version of the Tester-Hagan amendment as S510: It exempts producers grossing under $500,000 (adjusted for inflation) and selling more than half of their products directly to “qualified end users” from the HACCP-type requirements and the produce safety standards. “Qualified end users” means individual consumers (with no geographic limitation), or restaurants and retail food establishments that are EITHER located in the same state OR within 275 miles of the producer. While complex, this amendment effectively carves out small-scale producers who are selling in-state or to local foodsheds from two of the most burdensome provisions of the bill. More details on the Tester-Hagan amendment are available on our website.

There is still cause for concern about how FDA will exercise the new powers granted to it in S510. The agency's track record is one of favoring Agribusiness at the expense of both family farmers and consumers. S510 does not address the underlying problems of consolidation of our food system or the industry capture of the agency, which result in the agency's flawed policies. But the inclusion of the Tester-Hagan amendment provides critical protections for producers who sell at farmers markets, through CSAs, and at local co-ops and groceries, helping us to continue to build our movement and fight for fundamental changes.

We owe a thank you to Senator Tester and Senator Hagan for standing up for local producers and consumers.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The bill will now go to the President, who is expected to sign it.

Passing the law is still only one step in this process. Next year, Congress will face the issue of how to fund all of the new regulations and new FDA bureaucrats. To actually implement the entire bill, Congress will have to approve $1.4 billion of new spending or cut other programs accordingly, based on the CBO estimates. This gives us a chance to affect the level of funding and seek limits how the money can be spent.

And, on the agency side, the FDA will have to go through the rulemaking process. We expect that the agency will focus on writing rules that benefit Agribusiness and disadvantage independent producers, as usual. We will have to take action to ensure that our concerns are on the record and to urge Congressional official to take steps to rein in the agency from overstepping its bounds.

Why S510/HR2751 is so dangerous: An historical perspecitve

Whew, boy! I've been well aware of most of what follows. I've just never seen it all put together quite so potently in one article:
In arguing for S.510, the "Food Safety Modernization Act," there are all sorts of attorneys, legislators and internet commentators who keep claiming, "The government won't try to control the food production of small farms." They say, "Your backyard garden is safe" and that the feds won't come knocking on your door to control your seeds or foods.
How sad that they are unaware of Wickard v. Filburn, the 1942 Supreme Court decision that pretty well destroyed any constitutional limitations on the power of the federal government . . . right down, literally--and most specifically--to your backyard garden.
How the tyrants came after a farmer named Roscoe Filburn

It all starts with a farmer named Roscoe Filburn, a modest farmer who grew wheat in his own back yard in order to feed his chickens.

One day, a U.S. government official showed up at his farm. Noting that Filburn was growing a lot of wheat, this government official determined that Filburn was growing too much wheat and ordered Filburn to destroy his wheat crops and pay a large fine to the federal government.

The year was 1940. . . . And . . . the federal government had decided to artificially drive up the prices of wheat by limiting the amount of wheat that could be grown on any given acre. . . .

But Roscoe Filburn wasn't selling his wheat to anyone. Thus, he was not engaged in interstate commerce.
Excursus on Interstate Commerce

In case you are unaware:
Before adoption of the Constitution, states, under the Articles of Confederation, had erected protectionist barriers that interfered with the free flow of trade in the new country. One of the main reasons for the Constitutional Convention was to remedy that problem. The framers' solution was the commerce clause, which was intended to make a free-trade zone out of the United States. (The clause also delegated to Congress the power to "regulate" trade with foreign nations and the Indian tribes. We will hold until later the question of whether this was a good way to solve the problem.)

At first, the clause was closely interpreted as referring to interference by the states with the flow of commerce. In 1824, Chief Justice John Marshall's Court, in the first big case involving the commerce clause, Gibbons v. Ogden, struck down a New York law creating a steamship monopoly for traffic between New York and New Jersey. Marshall laid down the principle that for the national government to have jurisdiction, the issue must involve interstate commerce; i.e., it must involve the trafficking of goods (not manufacture) between two or more states. He also recognized that the enumeration of the interstate commerce power implied powers unenumerated (concerning intrastate commerce) and thus undelegated.

Gibbons may have gotten things off to a good start, but it did not last. Marshall sprinkled just enough bad seeds that, taken out of context, would allow later justices, legal scholars, and political opportunists to cultivate the commerce clause into a general power to do anything that could conceivably affect interstate commerce.

For example, in 1870, the Court upheld federal inspection of steam passenger vessels that remained within a single state but carrying goods shipped from or destined for other states. The problems here were two: the inspection law was not intended to prevent state interference with free trade, and the subject of regulation was private enterprise. Thus, we can glimpse the beginning of the modern view that the commerce clause granted to Congress a plenary power to regulate anything that had the potential to affect interstate commerce.

It was a short step to creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887, which cartelized the railroads and regulated their rates.

One last barrier had to be hurdled. Taking the lead from Marshall, succeeding courts insisted on confining the commerce power to commerce, the movement of goods; production was regarded as prior to commerce and thus outside federal jurisdiction. In 1895, the Court would not let the central government use the Sherman antitrust law to stop the merger of sugar refiners. In 1903, the Court upheld a federal prohibition on the interstate trafficking in lottery tickets. In 1918, it struck down a prohibition on the interstate shipment of goods produced in plants using child labor.

But as Richard Epstein has written, the barrier between production and commerce was "not as well-defined" as the Court held. After all, a market economy is an integrated web of activities in which everything affects everything else, however remotely. Manufacturing arrangements can influence commercial activities. It was only a matter of time before the barrier would disappear and the national government would begin to regulate production directly.

Looking back, the progression from the early cases to the New Deal, when all inhibitions on federal regulation of the economy were dispelled, appears inexorable. Too much had been conceded along the way. The mooring of the commerce clause — the principle that state governments could not erect trade barriers — was too long lost, the distinction between government and private acts too long forgotten. (The Sherman Act outlawed private combinations in restraint of trade.)

In 1937, the Court upheld the National Labor Relations Act, which compelled employers to engage in collective bargaining, holding that the commerce clause subsumed those things "affecting commerce." In the particular case, the Court said that phrase meant "tending to lead to a labor dispute burdening or obstructing commerce."

After President Roosevelt threatened to pack the Court to dilute the influence of the uncooperative "nine old men," a majority of the justices took to the most expansive definition of the commerce clause like a drunk to drink. The Court blessed the secretary of agriculture's power to set minimum prices for milk sold intrastate. "The marketing of intrastate milk," wrote the Court in the 1942 Wrightwood Dairy case, "which competes with that shipped interstate would tend seriously to break down price regulation of the latter." Yes, so? What was the Court's point? Only that nothing — especially not liberty — should be permitted to get in the way of the national government's power to regulate the economy.

As hard as it may be to notice, Wrightwood Dairy still preserved something of a distinction: the intrastate sale of milk obviously entailed an act of commerce. Did that mean the commerce clause barred the national government from regulating noncommercial activities? Not for long.

Enter Roscoe Filburn . . .

--From The Future of Freedom Foundation, Freedom Daily, August 1995,
The Commerce Clause: Route to Omnipotent Government

[Filburn] wasn't growing wheat as something to use for commerce at all, in fact. He was simply growing wheat in his back yard and feeding it to his chickens. That's not commerce. That's just growing your own food.

But get this: The government insisted he pay a fine and destroy his wheat. So Filburn took the government to court, arguing that the federal government had no right to tell a man to destroy his food crops just because they wanted to protect some sort of artificially high prices in the wheat market.

This case eventually went to the US Supreme Court. It's now known as Wickard v. Filburn, and it is one of the most famous US Supreme Court decisions ever rendered. . . .

The US Supreme Court sided with government tyranny

. . . The federal government claimed authority under the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution (Article 1, Section 8), even though the Commerce Clause was originally written primarily to prevent states from erecting tariffs, not to allow the federal government to control interstate trade. But thanks to the twisted interpretation of the government, . . . the feds claimed that Filburn's growing of his own wheat effectively reduced interstate commerce in wheat. Therefore, they reasoned, they could regulate his backyard wheat production (and order him to destroy his wheat).

Because of this US Supreme Court decision in 1942, it now means the federal government can order you to halt food production in your own back yard by arguing that when you grow your own food, the amount of food you purchase from other food providers is reduced, meaning that your food production impacts interstate trade and therefore can be fully controlled by the federal government.

In other words, the federal government claims the authority right now -- even without the Food Safety Modernization Act -- to knock on your door and order you at gunpoint to destroy all the food in your garden, your greenhouse or your farm. They can order you to destroy all seeds in your possession and all food harvested from your own garden. And they can do all this with the full protection of U.S. law by simply citing the precedent set in Wickard v. Filburn in 1942 as ruled by the US Supreme Court.
Mike Adams proposes a correlation between what we are seeing occur relatively slowly here in the United States to what occurred recently in Venezuela on a faster timeline:
[G]overnment is constantly trying to expand its power to the point of tyranny. As a current example of this, look at what just happened with [Hugo] Chavez in Venezuela. He has now been granted what are essentially dictatorial powers over the country (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy...). Chavez is now the King of Venezuela, and whatever he says is now law. Venezuelan citizens are now slaves to his tyranny, and they must follow his orders or be executed.

The United States is moving in precisely the same direction. First, power gets stripped away from the People little by little. Then it gets concentrated in the hands of a few regulatory agencies who write their own laws and who stay in power year after year because none of their officials are elected. . . . And then, over time, a few powerful individuals concentrate power from those agencies into their own hands. Before long, the country is run by a handful of power-crazed tyrants who disregard all freedoms and rights of the People.

This is precisely what the FDA is doing with the Food Safety Modernization Act. Backed by yet more funding and a new army of agents, plus the Supreme Court ruling that says the federal government can order you to destroy the food you're growing in your own back yard, the FDA can now pillage the countryside, going from farm to farm and house to house, burning fields and ordering the citizenry to destroy their plants, seeds and crops. This is exactly what they've been doing to raw milk producers and food coops, by the way.

That is no exaggeration. It is a documented "legal" precedent established in Wickard vs Filburn, and it can be used at any moment to destroy the ability of people to grow their own food. . . .

What will you eat when the government destroys your local food supply?

. . . When the GMO crops suffer a mass catastrophic failure, and the monocultured wheat dies from a global viral infection called ug99 "rust", what will you eat? . . .

Those people who have the foresight to grow their own gardens and protect their food sources from the tyranny of the federal government may . . . have a chance at surviving. The rest . . . [?]

Big Government declares war on the local food movement

Make no mistake, folks: the government is attempting to destroy the local food movement. They are trying to wipe out small, organic farms that compete with corporate agribiz in the same way the FDA has long plotted to destroy natural health supplement companies who compete with Big Pharma.

It's all about wiping out the little guys and protecting the monopoly markets of the largest and most influential corporations that are poisoning the earth and destroying your health.
In the original article from which I am quoting, here, Adams makes this sweeping statement but doesn't demonstrate the point until several paragraphs later. Let me place it in context here:
Keep the big picture in mind as you consider all this: When teens are poisoned by the aspartame in diet soda, the FDA does nothing. When children are given cancer by the sodium nitrite in hot dogs, the FDA does nothing. When countless thousands of Americans suffer heart attacks and cardiovascular disease each year from the partially-hydrogenated oils used throughout the food supply, the FDA does nothing. But when you grow fresh produce in your own back yard and carry it to your local farmer's market to sell it without government permission, you will be arrested by the FDA as a criminal.
--I think the FDA's behavior in these regards is well established. And with these kinds of well-established track records, do we have any grounds for questioning Adams' statement?

I don't think so.
As Wickard vs Filburn clearly demonstrated, the government does not believe you have any natural right or Constitutional right to grow your own food. In fact, the government believes it has the right to order you to destroy your food at the time of its choosing.

Don't think this could happen to you? Filburn didn't either. The idea that his own government would show up at his door and order him to burn his field of wheat was simply unimaginable. Similarly, the idea that the FDA would tear across the countryside wiping out small family farms is unimaginable to many Americans today. But that's only because they don't know their own history and they put far too much faith in the flimsy idea that the government somehow, in some way, respects the rights and freedoms of the People. . . .

Five years ago, I joked that people might one day be arrested for smuggling broccoli across state lines. Today, that joke [may become] a sad reality. The mere act of growing food and selling it to your neighbor without government permission is about to become a criminal act. And no, small farms are not "exempt" from HR2751. They must provide financial information and apply to the FDA to be granted exemption status. That sounds a lot like slaves begging for mercy from the king, doesn't it? . . .

Shame on all those who supported this bill. May history have mercy on their souls for the suffering and injustices they have unleashed upon us all.
Adams notes that S.510 passed the Senate and was sent back to the House by "the entire U.S. Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike." As far as he is concerned--and I'm afraid I would have to agree with him--their vote proves them "traitors to the freedoms upon which [the United States of] America was founded."

This article (save the excursuses) comes from--and with special thanks to--Mike Adams' NaturalNews.com

--In case you missed my previous posts on this subject that include practical suggestions for action (necessary even this morning), please see The House of Representatives will subvert your rights to quality food tomorrow (12/21) unless . . .

Monday, December 20, 2010

The House of Representatives will subvert your rights to quality food tomorrow (12/21) unless . . .

You and thousands of others scream your head off.

To quote John F. Tate, president of Campaign for Liberty,
On Sunday evening, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell conjured up a backroom deal to revive the so-called “Food Safety Modernization Act” – passing it by unanimous consent after it was thought dead.

Even though dozens of Republican senators opposed the bill only a few weeks ago, not one member – not even Tom Coburn, who led the opposition to the regulatory boondoggle – dared speak up to oppose the FDA’s food takeover.
This is truly outrageous!

They shoved it into HR 2751, what used to be known as the "Cash for Clunkers" bill. They gutted HR 2751 as it was written, and "simply" substituted S510! So the "new" HR 2751 may (indeed, probably will) come up for a vote as early as tomorrow (Tuesday).

Tate commented,
Liberty is never more in danger than when legislators are looking to cut a quick deal, and last night was another harsh reminder of this fact.

It only required one senator to speak up and object to further empowering [the current Congress'] radical regulatory agenda to bury the bill.
But that was not to be.

Main problems with the bill: As noted in the past, it gives the FDA unbridled authority to shut down virtually any farm operation merely on the basis that some bureaucrat somewhere had "reason to believe" that something on the farm might be harmful. No judicial review. No appropriate due process. Just suspicion.

And look whose "beliefs" will control your food supply if the act passes tomorrow!

As the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund noted this morning:
[The] FDA does not respect individuals' rights to obtain healthy, quality foods of their choice. The agency has stated as a matter of public record, that . . . "There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food."
Indeed, when a group of citizens sued the FDA for the right to drink raw milk, the FDA replied,
"Plaintiffs' assertion of a 'fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families' is . . . unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish."
More to the point of the bill itself, however, consider, please, that,
The Act does nothing to address [the worst] food safety problems in this country, such as those resulting from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and various contaminants (e.g., BPA, pesticides, herbicides, etc.).
The FDA has shown that it cares very little about these significant and proven sources of danger. It refused to go after the egg producer whose half-billion tainted eggs became the rallying cry for those who claim we need the bill. It has been well aware of this producer's problems for years. But it maintains a rather hands-off approach to them. After all, it's a big producer and it employs a lot of people.

Meanwhile, it makes sure to pursue every minor problem it hears about on small farms and among raw and unprocessed food advocates. (See my post with a whole series of sample videos.)

Notice that the agency
has used its existing power to benefit the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries at the expense of public health (e.g., allowing the overuse of antibiotics in confined animal feeding operations and refusing to require labeling for genetically-modified foods). This Act does not address the fundamental problems at this agency in order to truly protect public health.
Moroever,
[The] FDA has adequate powers under existing law to ensure food safety and effectively deal with foodborne illness outbreaks. FDA has power to inspect, power to detain product and can readily obtain court orders to seize adulterated or misbranded food products or enjoin them from being sold. The problem isn't that FDA needs more power; it's that FDA does not effectively use the power it currently has. The agency has power to inspect imported food yet inspects only 1% of food coming into this country from outside our borders.
From a constitutional perspective:
The Act will expand FDA's involvement in regulating food in intra-state commerce, further interfering with local communities. State and local governments are more than capable of handling any problems related to food in intrastate commerce. All the major outbreaks of foodborne illness involve either imported food or food in inter-state commerce.
And from a practical perspective:
The Act will hurt our ability as a nation to be self-sufficient in food production because it has more lenient inspection requirements for foreign than domestic producers creating an unfair advantage for food imports. Giving an advantage to foreign producers will only increase the amount of food imported into this country that does not meet our domestic standards. The Act does not address food security--the ability of a country to produce enough food to meet its own needs.
Please contact your Representative first thing Tuesday morning.

I just used the petition capacity of DemocracyInAction.org to send a modified version of their standard anti HR 2751 letter to my representative:
Sir:

While there is no question that food safety has been lacking at the large, multi-million-dollar corporate food producers, HR 2751, the so-called "Food Safety Modernization Act" creates unbelievably burdensome requirements for thousands of small family farmers who exceed $500,000 in mere food REVENUE, whether they make a profit in the end or not.

As a small business owner myself, and a fan of our local farmers' market, I am appalled at this notorious attempt by Big Ag to stifle their organic and whole foods competitors.

I urge you to OPPOSE the passage of HR 2751's so-called "Food Safety Modernization Act." Leave intRA-state commerce in the hands of the states, where it belongs . . . and create a bill that provides teeth to deal with the companies that are really doing damage to our health through their confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and BPA, pesticides, herbicides, and so forth.

Please.

Sincerely,

John Holzmann
A shorter note (more to the point) on another DemocracyInAction page:
No Food Control (S.510/HR.2751) this Year!

I oppose including the fake "food safety" (actually "food control") bill, S.510/HR.2751 or any of its language in any Bill before Congress, this year.

"No one's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session." SO FINISH YOUR BUSINESS AND GO HOME!

I want the new Congress to find ways and means to protect our local and natural food production and distribution, as well as our natural health remedies, from Federal FDA control.

Divest the FDA of any authority over our food and supplements!

Health and Food Freedom for food safety is an important issue to me, and to many millions of Americans, and I will remember your votes!
Make your voice heard.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Masterful Photoshopper

Erik Johansson of Norrköpin, Sweden, was featured in the January issue of Popular Photography magazine in a piece called "Optical Illusions: Making the impossible seem real," a special version of the magazine's regular feature called "Share My Project."

I was intrigued with Johansson's M.C. Escher-like "Common sense crossing":


and "Vertical turn":


Johansson describes his methodology for making these photos:
"To combine photos, you have to make sure [to] capture your elements in the same lighting and from the same angles, with the same shadows," he says. "To get multiple perspectives on a scene, I'll shoot from different elevations."

For ["Common sense crossing"], for instance, to combine the vertical lines of traffic with the horizontal lines, he had to shoot from different hills along the roadside, at a far enough distance to capture perlectly straight lines.

After a rough composite, he seeks out his final additions. He regularly collects a stock library of elements such as skies and trees, or textures from rocks and pavement. Other times it's simply a matter of more research.

The final stage of compositing them in Adobe Photoshop, he says, takes 10 to 30 hours. "Combining is less difficult when the photos are planned carefully in advance," he says.

Using up to 100 layers, he adds photos in piece by piece.
Go to Johansson's website to see many more photos, some of them whimsical, others rather mind-blowing.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Temple Grandin

Someone is going to think I am way "out of it." And that is fine. I can handle the embarrassment. Though I have an idea I'm not the only one who is rather behind the times when it comes to Temple Grandin.

Her name first came into my consciousness sometime early this fall. I was listening to an interview, probably on NPR or CPR (Colorado Public Radio)--though neither of these particular linked interviews includes the specific portion of the interview that I recall.

In case you are unfamiliar with her, Grandin is a PhD professor of animal science at Colorado State University who is also autistic (has been since early childhood; she didn't speak until she was four years old). Her research and ideas have rather significantly impacted the livestock industry in the United States. Over half of all meatpacking plants include basic inventions of hers.

About a month ago, I realized Grandin was to be one of the featured speakers at the Acres USA conference last week. And one of the three films they would show was titled Temple Grandin. I was excited to see her . . . and, hopefully, to watch the movie.

As it turned out, there was a seminar I wanted to attend that was at the same time as the movie. I figured I could watch the movie later. But I heard her speak.

She is a passionate woman. And her autism, I think, is rather obvious in her manner of speaking. After she had finished her main presentation, the floor was opened for anyone to ask her questions. Sometimes her answers came out making obvious good sense, but socially or emotionally . . . ummmm . . . "off." Too passionate. Too emphatic. Not quite "right" for the audience or the people asking the questions.

When I returned home, I told myself, I wanted to watch the movie.

And yesterday, when I went online and discovered that 124 people had reviewed the film on Amazon, and it rated a solid 5-stars (something one almost never sees whenever any item gets more than about 50 reviews), I realized I had to watch it. And so I rented it and Sarita and I watched it together last night. She once; I twice--once "regular," and once with audio commentary by Grandin herself, the director, and the script writer.

I am glad I watched it twice. I wouldn't have appreciated the commentary without having first watched the film, but the commentary deepened the experience immeasurably. Grandin and her co-commentators affirmed the historicity, the accuracy (or occasional fictionalizations), and the meanings of various things portrayed on screen.

Claire Danes (Juliet in the 1996 Leonardo DiCaprio Romeo and Juliet) plays Grandin. She does an absolutely masterful job. Her voice sounds like Grandin's; her mannerisms--even though I have never spent significant time with an autistic person--I am convinced, are spot on: the way she holds her eyes, the way she rushes her words, the emotional responses. In one scene, the way she runs: I sensed even that was perfectly acted to portray the way someone with autism would carry her body.

Partially through the movie itself, but if you're willing to take the time, much more through the audio commentary, I believe the film conveys a tremendously helpful and eye-opening view of what it is like to live with autism--from the perspective of the autistic person.

You come to understand (at least a part of the range of the autistic spectrum), and you come to appreciate some of the unique strengths that someone with autism may enjoy. As Grandin has said, even "If I could snap my fingers and become non-autistic, I would not do so. Autism is part of who I am."

Maybe I should say: You may find you learn to appreciate some of what Grandin and other authorities are describing as neurodiversity.

Watch the movie. I am sure you will not be disappointed!

And here is a TED presentation Grandin made: The World Needs All Kinds of Thinkers. (Oh, wow!)

How quickly knowledge fades!

"Men's Prayer" at our church for the past year and a half or more generally consists of about three of us meeting on Friday mornings from 6:30 to 7:30 or so.

Yesterday the three of us met and the other two guys asked how my time in Indianapolis had gone. Had I learned anything?

Eventually, I got around to talking about my foray into sauerkraut-making. After I finished describing how I had made my sauerkraut, one of the men--somewhere in his 70s--said, "That's exactly how my mother made sauerkraut!"

"Your mother made sauerkraut?"

"All the time!"

"My mother, too!" said the other guy--about 60 years old and a guy who grew up on the farm.

I thought: "How strange! Sauerkraut-making sounds as if it were relatively common knowledge not that long ago. But our generation grew up never knowing. And the next generation. And, now, a third generation. No knowledge. All I/we have ever known (until very recently) is the synthetically-produced/'dead' kind of food that lacks any of the beneficial microorganisms in it by the time we eat it."

A Rube Goldberg apparatus to rival Honda's commercial

I expect you remember Honda's astonishing commercial from a few years ago:



A musical group call OK Go has created their own (rather destructive) Rube Goldberg device to match or beat what Honda did:



Enjoy!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Expensive urine

I thought this cartoon was another good response to the question I raised in my post a few days ago: Why do Americans eat junk food?


Mike Adams of www.NaturalNews.com comments that critics of proponents of organic foods, vitamin supplements, herbs and so forth often say that investments in such things only give people "expensive urine."
When it comes to really expensive urine, however, doctors fail to look at the cost of all those pharmaceuticals and chemotherapy drugs they're shoving down the throats of patients. Those drugs are excreted through the urine, too, and when you add up the cost of those (just the financial cost, not even counting the cost in devastating side effects), they far outweigh the cost of eating healthy foods and taking supporting supplements.

If you really want expensive urine, go see a doctor. Ten visits later, you might find yourself on ten prescription drugs. Your body will be a wreck, your mind will be half-lost, and you'll be peeing away twenty bucks in medications every time you visit the restroom.

And guess what? All those medications end up in the environment. Trace amounts of antidepressant drugs are already showing up in the public water supplies in cities around the world. Pharmaceuticals, it seems, not only lead to expensive urine, they also lead to devastating environmental consequences such as fish producing dual sex organs.
Adams' comment about finding yourself on ten prescription drugs reminds me of the doctor's letter to Dr. Jonathan Wright that I quoted about a month ago. If you don't remember, he began his letter by saying, "Last week, I saw a 55-year-old woman who is very, very sick due to insurance-covered treatment with patent medicines." --And he then lists the ailments that are close to killing her, one ailment after the other brought about by the symptom-only "fixes" prescribed by the woman's primary care physician.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making live-culture foods . . .

About two months ago it suddenly hit me. The way I expressed it at that time was, "I like acidic foods." I'm not sure I got that right. Maybe I should have said "tart" foods or "piquant" foods--spicy tomato sauces in or for pizza or spaghetti; spicy (though not overly-hot) salsa and/or picante sauces; sauerkraut; pickles; SweeTarts® candies; vinegary salads; kefir; yogurt; sourdough breads (the sourer the better!) . . . --If I'm eating spinach or broccoli: give me lemon juice on them. (Yum!) . . . Oh! And that makes me realize: Yes, I love almost all citrus fruits. I'll suck on a lemon with pleasure. Straight. Grapefruit. . . .

Ahh!

Probably two and a half years ago, now, Amy introduced us to Bubbies® naturally fermented sauerkraut and pickled cucumbers. They were good, though I have continued to prefer more "modern" sauerkraut.

Early this past summer, while I was visiting Amy and Phil in Virginia, Amy offered me some homemade kombucha--a fermented sweet tea.

Oh, wow! Very refreshing!

I have never enjoyed the flavor of alcohol. As I have told many people, it always makes me think of cough syrup. Yucky! (It seems that at least a couple of my kids have inherited the alcohol-tastes-yucky gene from me.)

And kombucha, apparently, can ferment to alcohol. At least slightly. But if Amy's komucha contained alcohol, it was very slight, and I enjoyed the flavor.

Late this fall I decided I would begin brewing my own kombucha. I have now made and consumed two full batches and am brewing my third.

Sarita hasn't joined me. But I enjoy it.

A few weeks ago, as I was in our local Vitamin Cottage/Natural Grocers, Sarita asked me to find some kimchi--the Korean equivalent to sauerkraut but made with almost any vegetables rather than cabbage either necessarily or primarily. (Kimchi can be virtually the equivalent of sauerkraut, but usually not.)

Anyway. After trying kimchi, and realizing that the local fresh fruits and vegetables season is at an end, we got to talking about how we might preserve the remaining organic vegetables we have on hand, and especially cabbage.

"What if we make our own sauerkraut?"

So that's what I did beginning about two weeks ago.

I chopped a head of cabbage into relatively fine pieces, then dumped them into the crock from our crock pot along with some sea salt; mashed the mixture down as well as I could (and I mean mashed it!); placed a saucer on top of the mash; mashed that down; placed a half-gallon jar full of water on top of the saucer to apply continual pressure; covered the entire apparatus with a clean towel; used a rubber band to seal the edges; and let it sit in the kitchen for about a week and a half.

Then, two days ago: voìla! Finished sauerkraut!

We ate some last night.

Good!

I'm hoping to learn how to make more such fermented foods with the capable coaching of Sandor Katz.
*****

A postscript.

Last week, while I was at the Acres USA conference in Indianapolis, it hit me: several speakers commented on how animals know what foods to eat for their health. If they are in need of a particular nutrient, they will seek out--somehow, naturally, through some "sixth sense," as it were, exactly the kind of plant or animal or whatever-it-is (even dirt!) that they need to ingest in order properly to nutrify themselves.

Is it possible, I began to ask myself, that I desire fermented foods because I could really use the bacteria--the "probiotics"--that inhabit them? Have I been "starving" myself, as it were, of the very things that would provide great benefits to my body?

--The hypothesis would certainly fit with what a lot of naturopathically-oriented people say: that people (like me) with autoimmune difficulties often suffer from "leaky gut syndrome" which, itself, is often the result of a poor biotic atmosphere in the gut . . . a problem itself that often arises from too much use of antibiotics earlier in life.

Well, with my asthma difficulties as a child, I received quite a lot of antibiotics just to keep me alive. I am sure they did their work. But I don't remember anyone ever worrying about re-seeding my gut with appropriate bacteria once the bad bacteria had been eliminated.

I wonder. . . .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Lest we forget . . ."

I mentioned that I am the son of a Holocaust survivor. Someone asked if I could tell my father's story.

As it turns out, my dad (who is now 89 years old) was recently corresponding with one of his cousins (who is five or ten years younger) about how they and their families escaped Germany in the late '30s and early '40s.

I was more or less familiar with my dad's story:

He left his family and home in Nuremberg, Germany, on Friday, August 24th, exactly one week before the German army crossed the Polish border and launched WWII.

"It was the last chance for a Jewish boy approaching his 18th birthday to get to England from our region of Germany via the Kindertransport," my Dad wrote. (As it turns out, no Kindertransport trains left his region after that.)
The deadline for getting my British visa papers to the transport organizers in Germany was a Monday in early August 1939.

We all knew the signs that Germany was preparing to attack Poland: The propaganda made it OBVIOUS! Of course we could not guess the exact date when this would happen, but the signs were familiar from the earlier strikes (Austria, then Sudetenland, then Czechoslovakia!)

So, the critical Monday for being part of the Kindertransport was a week away. I prayed that we could receive the needed papers from England by Wednesday, to be SURE that all was in order. Wednesday's mail brought nothing...

"So, maybe Thursday? PLEASE!!!"

No dice...

Thursday night's prayer: "We are running out of time, Lord! Please, give us the assurance we need that You care: You KNOW that unless we (the Jewish office in Nürnberg) receive and forward the papers on Friday, there is no way that we can make the Monday deadline for getting me on this Kindertransport!!! PLEASE, Please, please...."

We spoke with Edith Abraham at the Jewish congregational office: "Sorry, it has not come. So... you'll be on the next transport, in September..."

But I felt VERY strongly there would be no September Kindertransport from Frankfurt.

That evening I prayed for a miracle, having not the slightest idea how that could possibly happen.

(The clock was ticking, and it was 11:59:59 — if not already 12:00:00+!)

On the Monday after the weekend, Mutti ["Mom" or "Mommy"--JAH] spoke again with Miss Abraham . . . who surprised her with the statement, "ERNEST IS IN!"

I stood near Mutti as she turned towards me and smiled with a tear in her eye, nodding towards me. I said, "PLEASE, let me talk to her!"

So, I took the receiver and heard Edith Abraham repeat: She had called the appropriate office in Frankfurt and confirmed that I would be part of the next Kindertransport to London, scheduled for mid-August.

I questioned her: "Friday evening, you told Mutti that the visa had not arrived. The deadline for getting it to the Frankfurt office was today. So, how could this be? Do you not see the contradiction? I MUST KNOW!!!"

Miss Abraham understood and explained: "I happened to be in the office Saturday morning, when the mail arrived. And I noticed that one of the letters looked like it might be the papers that we have been waiting for. I grabbed it, opened it, and
it was indeed your visa!

"So, congratulations: you don't have to wait until September..."
Dad has commented innumerable times: Miss Abraham, by all rights, "shouldn't" have been in the office on Saturday. After all, Saturday is Shabbat, Sabbath, the day when all Jewish offices everywhere are closed. But she was there to get the message (and forward it)--a message without which, as my father is fond of saying, there might, very likely, be none of his offspring.

What of other family members?

I have a few clues.

One uncle, due to his political views "and, I assume activities" (said my father) forced him to flee from the Nazis before anyone else in my father's extended family. That was in the early 1930s, probably 1934.

Other family members began leaving later in the '30s.

My dad says he was invited to spend a few weeks one summer (I would have to guess it was either in 1936 or 1937) with his great aunt and uncle and their children in Rinteln, not far from Hamlin (famed for its "Pied-piper").

I have only heard my dad tell this story once:
I remember the terrible experience of visiting some friends of [my cousins] the R_____ family whose breadwinner had a small shop. The shop became the object of Nazi vandals. The vandals posted or smeared some anti-Jewish stuff on the store window. The Jewish storekeeper was later caught using his camera to take pictures of the hateful slogan. The result: He was arrested and sent to the Dachau concentration camp near Munich. Although released and returned to his family a few weeks later, he was by then a broken human being.

My relatives asked me whether I really wanted to be along on the visit to this man's home, and I agreed to go--but have never lost the memory of seeing and hearing this broken being, alive, but totally unable to stop crying, unable to relate to his family or to visitors, alive, yet a human wreck. Why did they bother to return him home? (He died a week or two after our visit.)
The Jews in Germany knew things were bad, but they didn't think it would get that bad (as bad as it eventually became).

The major turning point, however, was Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938.

As a result of the events that night, "We were driven out of our apartment in Nürnberg and our grandfather lost most of his considerable possessions (large home, furniture, equipment) in Erlangen, just about overnight.

"Our Uncle Max owned a significant share of a celluloid factory in Nürnberg being their chief European salesman by virtue of his command of languages. He lost all that in 1938 [Kristallnacht], but fortunately had foreseen events and moved much of his wealth to Bolivia, South America - and thus was able to provide desperately needed support to branches of the family who joined him in La Paz, including my family."

It was what happened to his grandfather, however, that most impacted my dad. Primarily, I believe, because he accompanied his mother to his grandfather's (his mother's father's) apartment two days after Kristallnacht.

Most terrible for him was seeing the "shiny black Blùthner [or Flügel--he has identified it as one or the other at different times] baby-grand" that his Grosspapa kept on the second floor. "It stood and witnessed the destruction of its environment in Erlangen--and then vanished after Kristallnacht."

More details about Kristallnacht:
On the second [Thursday] in November 1938, I was sent home from school, discovering that Jewish families all over had been visited by Nazi squads overnight -- and MOLESTED....

My brothers came home from school and told gruesome tales they were told by fellow students in their respective classes.

Mutti came home and demanded, "WHERE IS PAPA?" (He came home around 4 or 5 pm, with more tales of what he had seen and learned around town.)

Mutti tried to reach her dad on the phone all afternoon: "No response!?!"

We called friends in Erlangen and finally reached someone who said all Jewish men were under arrest: "Schutzhaft" they called it....

What were we to do that night???? We had no car, no safe destination, no plan for ecape. So, my parents decided to spend the night in our second-floor apartment, hoping that the presence of 11 other non-Jewish families might be more of a deterrence than being "out there" where nobody knew us.

Mutti decided to take the bus to Erlangen in the morning. I asked her permission to come with her.

Mutti had a key to allow us access into her dad's home. The interior had been DESTROYED: Wild, angry hoodlums systematically had gone through the house, using axes to knock through every door, into every piece of furniture, painting, breaking the back of every bookcase, smashing all kitchen stuff, destroying every piece of
clothing in closets, all dishes in the kitchen cabinets, every light fixture... all EXCEPT my Aunt Lilly's wedding gift from her parents: The wonderful small Flügel!

It stood alone in the center of the living room, not a scratch, not a particle of dust, waiting to be carried off in triumph by the leader of the band of criminals who, no doubt, considered themselves 'honorable citizens' of their town.

If someone really so treasured that instrument, I have little doubt they took care of it over the years -- and it may be there to this very day, still waiting to be redeemed by the rightful owner...
Dad has said his grandfather was very special to him.
You have a right to ask, "Why was Großpapa 'SPECIAL to you'?"

Mutti knew him well, and she was much concerned that he should NOT see the devastation that those hoodlums had perpetrated in his home. How could he cope with the anger and grief?

She tried to persuade the Erlanger Polizei to make sure he would be directed to come to us in Nürnberg DIRECTLY from the lockup where he was detained.

Well, they released him without saying anything; he went to his home, saw what had been done, accepted it as DONE -- called us, and then took the next bus to come to us.

His example inspired me for the rest of my life: "DO NOT PANIC -- the Lord watches over you!"
So what happened to Dad's family after Kristallnacht?

Writing to his cousin, my dad said that, after Kristallnacht, he was "astounded — and SCARED!"
My Mother threatened to take us three boys and LEAVE if our Dad persisted in his attempt to 'outlast' Hitler and the Nazis, as he appeared determined to try and do! She wanted us to have a FUTURE. . . . Of course, so did our Dad. The question was really: 'How do we do that?'
Again, continuing with the story as my dad told it in a letter to his cousin:
When I read in your last letter that your mother told your dad that she was leaving with the 3 boys, it reminded me of what my mother told me many years ago. She told my father that if he wanted to stay in Germany , feel free to do so, but that she and Walter were getting out of here. It seems to me that the ladies had more foresight than the men.
Dad's cousin replied,
I think that a lot of Jewish men who fought in the first world war, like your father and mine, just thought that this could not happen to them, that they were excluded from these things. In addition, my father really was not prepared to live in Cuba and then in the U.S.A. He did not speak the English language, and as a "Geschaeftsfuehrer" in Berlin he had no ability to make a living in the "Ausland." It so happened that we were on the very last transport out of Berlin on October 19, 1941. The next one never made it to freedom.
My dad replied:
As I recall, [my parents and two brothers] left for Italy [and thence to Chile and Bolivia] at the end of December 1939. The 'marital debate' over emigration was settled in 1939.
And as for his Grosspapa? Dad said his parents left him in the Jewish Altersheim [retirement home] in Nürnberg when they fled the country in December 1939.
I believe our grandfather . . . died of malnutrition (starvation) in the "model for seniors" concentration camp Theresienstadt a couple of months or so after being deported there from the Altersheim.

I can "see" his picture even now, with his hat, standing next to his special friend Max Goldschmidt and all the other Jewish men from the Erlangen Gemeinde [community], assembled in the yard of the local police lock-up the morning after Kristallnacht. He was such a wonderful example to them — and to ALL of us!
--I have posted this here "lest we forget."

One additional item: In case you can read German, my sister found on the web a family story written by one of my dad's [second cousins once removed(??)] named Sigmund Sachs. You can find amazing details about my dad's extended family--especially about his mother's side of the family--beginning at the bottom of p. 17 with the story of Onkel [Uncle] Max, a highly successful salesman.

My father has often spoken of him. Onkel Max knew seven languages and became the international salesman for the Celluloidwarenfabrik Gebr. Wolff GmbH, Fürther Straße of Nürnberg. Eventually he bought the company. It was he who helped my father's parents and brothers escape to Bolivia during the War.

Sachs wrote (in English translation from my sister, p. 18 in the referenced paper):
He was always fair and helped many as was needed. Later he helped over 50 friends and their families . . . not only that he helped them make it out of Germany, he also sent the visas and affidavits and took them all into his home in La Paz Bolivia until they could manage their lives on their own.

They all called him "Our Maxel." He had only one dream--to go back to Germany. But this dream never came true. He died in La Paz.

He was married to his one Nürnberger Christian friend.

None of us who survived will ever forget him.
--Sounds very much how my father has described him.

Further down the page (on p. 18), Sachs also describes Dad's grandfather ("Onkel Iwan") and Onkel Iwan's four daughters--my grandmother and her three sisters, Ida (my grandmother), Frieda, Nelly and Lilly.

Kinda weird to read one's own family history written by someone else!
******

Ah! While I'm at it.

My sister did a great job of translating another portion of Sachs' story that has broader interest, I think, especially when it comes to the history of the Holocaust.

He writes (again, in English translation thanks to my sister):
Everything seemed to be wonderful [in the early 1900s] and then suddenly difficult times came for Germany but particularly for the Jews.

Germany had a terrible inflation, as in many lands, and that was the time when we first heard the name of Hitler.

That was the start of the fight against the German Jews.

Nürnberg was the stronghold of antisemitism. The worst was the disgusting magazine with the name "Der Stürmer" (The Stormer) from Streicher. This Jewish-hater made all the Jews responsible for all the difficulties we were experiencing.

At the beginning we didn't take things seriously but it got worse from day to day. Those were the years of 1923-1928. And now we were experiencing antisemitism all over the place. The time came when we were ashamed to be Jewish believers.

Fights in the beerhalls and on the streets belonged to daily experiences. The first uniformed Nazis were all over in the streets on their trucks and screamed, "Jews Die! Jews get out! Jews are our misfortune!" etc.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh, my goodness!

Just about takes my breath away! . . . It certainly brought tears to my eyes.



Turn up your speakers!

As my father said, this is a piece of music never intended to be played on the violin; only on the organ.

He added, "Bach was a powerful organist. Researchers have known this for MANY years. Then, many years after his death, someone discovered Bach's truly amazing works for solo cello--stuff that challenges the BEST of the BEST soloists! How was it possible for Johann Sebastian to write world-class cello SOLO works unless he had mastered the instrument?"

A little about the violinist, Vanessa-Mae, whose musical style, she says, is "violin techno-acoustic fusion."

Hmmm. Maybe she's right.

I'll just call it beautiful.

Going through security at the airport

I traveled to Indianapolis this past week. Prior to leaving, I determined how I would approach the TSA scanners and pat-downs.

Leaving Denver last Monday morning, I could see which line would run me through the so-called "naked body scanners" (actually, back-scatter X-ray imaging devices). I determined to avoid those lines and go through the usual/old-style scanners.

I made it. No problem.

Coming back from Indianapolis, however, was a different story.

There was only one line.

Now, no one in front of me was sent through the big scanner. Everyone was going through the old-style scanner.

Until me.

The TSA woman motioned for me to step into the back-scatter imager.

I said, "I'd prefer to be patted down."

She calmly and quietly spoke into the radio microphone she had hanging from her shoulder: "We have an opt-out."

She then asked me to step aside and wait for a person who could pat me down.

Very interesting what happened thereafter.

I had to wait about seven or ten minutes "extra" for the guy to come and be able to pat me down. And the pat-down itself took about a minute and a half or two minutes.

I was the only one whom he patted down in all that time.

But, it seemed, all of a sudden, that everyone else in line after me "had to" go through the full-body back-scatter scanner.

So I got to observe several--many--people going through the scanner.

And then--it blew me away--every one of them was then greeted by a TSA agent on "the other side" who proceeded to pat them down as well!

. . . I thought: "What good is the back-scatter imager if it has to be followed by a full pat-down as well? Why subject yourself to the extra radiation if you're also going to be frisked?"

I was happy I was only frisked.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Amazing abilities in the animal world . . .

A chicken's head is like a steadicam: move the body however you will, the head--or, should I say, the front of the head, where the eyes are--stays absolutely still.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Great interview with George Gilder

The last issue of World magazine was perhaps the best ever, in my opinion. Its focus: "Calling" or, to use the latinized word, vocation.

EXCURSUS on Calling

Traditionally, it has been understood that whatever one's "job" or "business" or "profession," that is one's vocation. And what one does by way of pure pleasure, is a hobby or avocation--literally, a non-calling.

I don't want to go too far into these matters, but it seems to me that one might pursue a "job" or "business" or "profession" not by way calling or vocation, but simply as a means to an end, a means by which one is enabled to pursue other, "higher" goals--either, simply, to "stay alive," "keep body and soul together" (because one can't find other work to do) or, perhaps--as is the case with many missionaries in limited-access circumstances--as a means by which to gain legal access to the area in which one actually senses he or she is called to minister.

"Calling," it seems to me--vocation--is something more akin to a compulsion, a "necessity laid upon" a man or woman to do something of great worth whether he or she feels a lot of pleasure from the activity or not, whether the activity is easy to do or hard, requires great courage or, almost, nary a second thought.

Whether one is engaged in one's calling or, simply, a "job" or "profession," I believe it is still incumbent upon us to do our work "with all our heart, soul, mind and strength" and "as unto the Lord." But I sense there is--and, rightly, we ought to recognize a distinction between vocation (or "calling") and job.

Okay. Back to the subject at hand.
So World had this great issue on calling.

Not exactly in line with the broader theme, but, I sensed, somewhat closely related, Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky conducted an interview with George Gilder titled Server system: The strength of capitalism . . . is that success depends on taking others into account.

I thought Gilder had much to say of interest and value and, certainly, worthy of being thought about.

Just a few points:
  • A lot of people think that capitalism can sometimes be productive, but it also has a moral cost. Profit means that you succumbed to greed.

    But those who look out for No. 1 are often not investing. They're buying gold or espousing theories of how to invest in a period of catastrophe . . . [that] are really anti-entrepreneurial. Their vision does not lead to bold investment in the face of obstacles. It doesn't lead to creative enterprise. It leads to a retreat from the marketplace.

    Capitalists have to operate in economies that are full of predatory governments and vicious people. They have to learn how to prevail over these obstacles—that is what entrepreneurs do.
     
  • Investors succeed by giving. This is what the investment process is. You give before you get a return; you are not guaranteed a return. Your success is completely dependent on how other people respond to the product you offer.

    One of the great delusions of economics is that supply and demand are equally balanced sides of economic transactions. No: What matters in economics is supply. Supply creates its own demand.

    Demand is like gravity. It exists everywhere: People demand things. But they can only receive products if they offer productive services. Production, innovation, invention, enterprise, service: Those make possible economic growth and advancement.
     
  • To say [self-interest] drives capitalism: How does that distinguish capitalism from any other­ system? Self-interest certainly could be said to drive socialism as well, because what a greedy, self-interested person wants is guaranteed returns. He thinks he is entitled. He seeks guarantees from the government. What is more greedy than a public-service union controlling the government and getting 70 percent greater salaries and benefits than comparable private-sector workers because of their political clout?

    Entrepreneurs don't have guarantees. They are willing to rise and fall on the basis of what other people think of their work.
     
  • Entropy measures the degree of surpris[e] in a communication: How much is unexpected, surprising? If I give a speech and if everything I say you knew already, no information has been transmitted. It's a zero entropy communication. Politicians seem so boring because they poll their audiences before they speak, and thus manage to achieve totally boring zero entropy communication: No surprise.
     
  • Entrepreneurs create new things, and whether they succeed or not is dependent on the willingness of other producers to exchange their production for the output of the entrepreneurs. If they produce high-entropy creations, they get a big response. The customers are surprised by the new iPod or whatever it is and are willing to exchange the fruits of their own production for the production of the entrepreneur.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Courtship questions for potential suitors

If you know me, you know I wrote a book some 20 years ago about Dating With Integrity. We've kept it in print all the way till today, thought I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps we should let it go sometime in the next few years.

Meanwhile, I remain interested in the general subject.

I saw this post and thought: "Wow! Pretty deep. But . . . even if you weren't to view such questions as some kind of "Final Exam" for a potential mate for your child, and even if you were to throw out half the questions as impertinent, offensive, or opposed to your own views on this, that, or the next subject: How valuable might it be to engage a potential future son- or daughter-in-law in discussions on such subjects? Might such questions actually help build deeper relationships . . . not only between your son or daughter and his or her potential mate, but between you and that potential mate as well . . . as you mutually explored some of the deeper aspects of your respective philosophies of life?

Please understand: I am not an advocate of the so-called "Courtship Model" of acquiring suitable partners for one's children. If you believe in such a thing, I'm not going to get in an argument over it. I will be happy to discuss the pros and cons.

My point: I am not advocating that you adopt any of the philosophy of Stacy McDonald.

However, I do think she and her husband have raised some very valuable questions worthy of your and my serious consideration as we consider how to help our sons and daughters (or, now, grandsons and granddaughters) find appropriate mates.

PS: I like what Stacy writes on August 20 in the comments section:
These . . .. questions aren’t meant to be a fool-proof checklist for a guaranteed happy ending. They are only a very small beginning in a long process of real life examination and growth. I . . . know of a few families who found out the hard way that some young men are just good “test takers.”

Each situation is different, but if you don’t already know the family or the young man, it is very important to make sure that you [get] to truly know the person. That means they need to be in real-life situations, with real stresses and irritations. I think you . . . [need] to see if [a potential mate's] answers “played out in real life.” That is the key.

One family I know recommended taking the potential suitor on a family vacation with all the little siblings. The “real person” can come out quickly on a long crowded van ride. :-)

Again, there is no way we can fool-proof our lives from deceptive or dishonest people. However, we can trust God. As we use wisdom and discretion, taking our jobs as parents seriously, we can trust that God will protect us and our children.

A list of questions are no guarantee, but they are a start. We can’t check off our list and relax. There is much work, prayer, discussion, and getting to know him/her” that must go on.
Lots of additional good, thought-provoking discussion in the (unbelievably long!) comments section!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Economics à la Bill Watterson's Calvin

Lemonade at "15 bucks a glass?!" Susie explodes, dumbfounded at Calvin's audacity.

"That's right! Want some?"

"How do you justify charging 15 dollars?!" asks Susie.

"Supply and demand," says Calvin.

"Where's the demand?! I don't see any demand!" says Susie.

Oh, replies Calvin. "There's lots of demand!"

"Yeah?" challenges Susie.

"Sure!" says Calvin. And he proves his point.

S510 back from the dead

Ay-yi-yi!

Looks like Monsanto, Cargill, and the other major industrial food suppliers may get their way and get “their own“ bought-and-paid-for food czar in charge of all food production in the U.S.

Speak of tyranny!

Please read S 510 Food Safety bill is still alive and may unleash a new army of FDA agents . . . and call your senators.

What‘s got me worked up?

  • Even with the Tester Amendment (that permits farms with less than $500,000 annual revenue off the hook), this law encompasses virtually any and every viable “real“ farm in America. --$500,000 revenue will hardly permit enough profit to support a single family, much less an operation that requires a non-family employee or two.
     
  • Constitutionally, according to the 5th Amendment, what is the U.S. Congress doing providing for the FDA to regulate local food growers/producers/distributors? If i grow fruits and vegetables (or meat or milk or any farm product) solely for sale to people in my own state, according to the 5th Amendment, the Congress ought not to be seeking to regulate my trade with my neighbors. (But, of course, the federal government has justified its infringements in these matters for decades. So I should probably simply acquiesce, right?)
     
  • The issue that Mike Adams emphasizes in the article I have highlighted here: the plan to move full regulation of food production to the administrative whims of individual bureaucrats who can be bought off by special interests--bureaucrats who can always hide behind the justification that they had “reason to believe“ that something might be harmful. No judicial review. No appropriate due process. Simply the decision of a new “food czar.“
And we think we live in “the land of the free“?

Christmas music up to date

Just for fun. But pretty impressive.

Enjoy!

From North Point Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. The iBand plays Christmas music.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Why do Americans eat junk food?

I had heard this before, but Food, Inc. developed the theme with a brief look at the eating habits of one lower income family. "I can't afford good food," says the mother. It would be far better for her family--and especially her diabetic husband--if they were to eat vegetables, but a small helping of vegetables would cost more than a hamburger at a fast food restaurant. So fast food it is . . . as the family suffers the consequences of obesity and diabetes.

Reader's Digest featured a brief "Best of the Blogs" article in its October issue called Why That Salad Costs More than a Big Mac.

Look where federal food subsidies go--and then compare them to government dietary guidelines (which have problems themselves, but . . .)
Meanwhile, the government is proposing to take over our healthcare system. Who can afford healthcare nowadays, right?

But the largest factor in medical costs today? --The result of lousy nutrition.

So the federal government subsidizes not just poor nutrition, but actually debilitating nutrition . . . so that . . . what? It can subsidize the resulting necessary medical expenses?

Does this make sense?

Life Extension Magazine, October 2010 said,
Similar to the deferred effects of cigarette smoking, medical costs associated with obesity-related diseases are mostly postponed. This means that society has only begun to pay the enormous healthcare expenses that will accrue as overweight individuals succumb to cancer, vascular occlusion, kidney failure, diabetes, arthritis, early senility, and other illnesses.

The federal government’s meager steps to combat this calamity have failed. The evidence can be seen by the fact that nearly three times more Americans are obese today compared to 1960. A more startling statistic is that six times more Americans are morbidly obese (body mass index 40 and above) than in 1960.

Obese individuals (body mass index 30 and above) now comprise over one-third of the American population. Another one-third is overweight (body mass index of 25-29). The majority of Americans are thus destined to suffer higher incidences of degenerative diseases than this nation’s healthcare system can afford.
There's more, but I'll stop here.

Maybe those of us who can afford to eat properly ought to eat properly, despite government incentives to eat poorly. After all, it wasn't that long ago the average American family spent 30 percent or more of its income simply to eat. Few of us would need to approach anything close to that number to eat only healthy foods and all organic all the time.

But let us not "even" go that far. What if we "simply" modulate our intake of the truly awful "foods" (y'know, like soda pop, white-flour-and-sugar based sweets, French fries, potato chips and other similar deep-fried snacks), and what if we determined to eat at least half a pound a day, per person, of the cruciferous and deep green leafy vegetables? Those few changes might create a revolution in our personal health statistics.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Theory and practice

Yesterday's post with its references to more or less accurate metaphors reminded me of something Maynard Murray says in the last chapter of his Sea Energy Agriculture. He tells the story of a missionary who made a canoe out of a certain tree in order to prove that the "ancient wisdom" of the elders in the tribe to which he was preaching was hokum. (The elders said that if anyone made a canoe out of that particular kind of tree--a tree in which a certain "sacred bird" had made a nest--the canoe would sink. The Bird God didn't take kindly to that kind of sacrilege and would send evil spirits to plague the foolish man who encroached upon the god's prerogatives within the tree. --Something like that.)

So the missionary made his canoe and, with great fanfare and public display, set out into the water to demonstrate that the evil spirits had no sway over him.

Sadly, "When he had paddled the craft just beyond a nearby reef, it sank and the missionary drowned."

Murray concludes the story:
[S]ome people can be right in practice but wrong in theory while others can be right in theory and wrong in practice. In our example, the natives practiced accurately while the theory behind the practice was scientifically inaccurate. The missionary-scientist, on the other hand, was right in not accepting the evil-spirits doctrine, but failure to thoroughly investigate the facts cost him his life.the truth of the matter was that the sacred birds had nested close to a food supply and the wood of the trees in which they nested was filled with wood-boring worms.
And so, he suggests, that is the way it is with proponents of organic vs. conventional (or inorganic, chemical-based) farming methodologies.
It is true that organic farming imparts some very desirable properties to the soil; that soil texture is often improved; that the nutrients in an organically fertilized soil are good; that plants grown with organic fertilizers have good nutritional value and perhaps superior taste when compared with those grown under some forms of chemical fertilizer; that the building of microscopic life in the soil is beneficial to the crops grown; that aeration and supply of oxygen to the plant roots is good in organic farming.

However, it is not true that plants need organic matter in order to grow into healthy living organisms. It is not true that chemical fertilizers "poison" crops or the soil per se.

What the organic farmers overlooked is the fact that almost without exception plants utilize elements for their nutrition only if those elements in the final analysis are in an inorganic state before absorption. Regardless of the form of the fertilizers when they're placed in the ground, they must first be converted to an inorganic state before the plant takes them in! This is the essence of the primary difference between plant and animal life on this planet. Plants take in elements in the inorganic form and convert them to an organic form. In an opposite manner, animals must have elements in the organic form in order to carry out their metabolism. . . .

When evaluated under botanical facts, the organic hypothesis which demands that all fertilizer be organic in order to be beneficial is rendered invalid. The criticism that chemical farming poisons the soil also breaks down under this precise analysis. While overly harsh, this criticism is not without foundation although chemical fertilizers do not "poison" the soil or crops per se. Instead, the unwise manner in which they are disproportionately applied to the soil can and does upset the physical and chemical functions of the plant and can produce blocking of nutrients or an imbalance of elements.

Let us now evaluate the points used by the inorganic proponents to substantiate their arguments. It is true that plants can grow through their entire lifecycle without organic matter; that organic matter has no magical properties; that yields are very high for chemically fertilized farms; that the average life expectancy in the United States is statistically higher than in most other countries; that under chemical fertilization our farm production is the highest it has ever been.

But, it is not true that plants grown under the present methods using chemical fertilizers are as vital and complete nutritionally as the claims would have us believe. Furthermore, it is absurd to say that the genetic makeup of the plant's seed is more important to nutritional composition than the plant's food in the soil. It is not true that based on average life expectancy, American health is good. [NOTE: This book was written in the mid-1970s--about 25 years into the chemically-based farming industry. For what it's worth, I believe the diabetes epidemic, the obesity epidemic, and the explosion of other inflammation-oriented diseases have made themselves known since then. --JAH] But most important, it is not true that supplying a plant with its five or six major elements in the form of a fertilizer is sufficient to produce good and healthy plants. Plants require a great deal more than five or six elements.

The debate between "organic" and "inorganic" farmers is then reduced to the point of our chapter. The "organic" farmers are right in practice but they adhere to a clouded theory. Conversely, the "inorganic" farmers subscribe to correct chemical theory, but they are woefully inadequate in their biological practices. An accurate overview would serve to combine the inorganic theory with organic practice to provide all the necessary elements of nutrition and proper quantities and optimum balance. . . .

I cast my vote for the practices of the organic farmer and accept the plant physiology theory of the inorganic farmers. Thus, when asked for a prescriptive plan of action, I suggest the practices of the organic farmer, while recognizing their hypothetical shortcomings. For the inorganic advocates, I suggest using a complete chemical fertilizer in which the trace elements are included in balanced, life-supporting proportions.

--Sea Energy Agriculture, pp. 96-98, 100; emphases mine--JAH

And I say: Amen!

Just when you think you're safe . . .

Yowzie! My acquaintance Sherry Casella had this link on her Facebook page. Something to beware of!

. . . For the solution to the problem, you'll want to go here. (Beware, however. They have been overwhelmed with order since this video went viral.)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Bacteria, sickness and health

Mike Adams of Natural Health News often makes side quips about the modern scientific and commercial food establishment's anti-bacterial fixation. The general viewpoint promoted by our society seems to me to match what Adams complains about: that the only good bacteria is a dead one. As he put it in his last article about S510, Top ten lies about Senate Bill 510:
Lie #8 - The FDA just wants to make food "safer"
Actually, the FDA wants to make the food more DEAD. Both the FDA and the USDA are vocal opponents of live food. They think that the only safe food is sterilized food, which is why they've supported the fumigation, pasteurization and irradiation efforts that have been pushed over the last few years.
Sounds about right to me (as far as the mentality of the FDA and USDA). But, I was reminded recently, the mentality is totally wrong from the perspective of the latest scientific discoveries.

My reference to Bonnie Bassler in my "Weird" Science #5: Microbes and Soil post was picked up by Keith Johnson on the Permaculturelist blog. And that yielded a comment by Doug Weatherbee that focused on the central point of Bassler's TED talk--something I didn't mention in my post--the significance of what Bassler calls Quorum Sensing:
Over the past 15 years Dr. Bassler and her MIT team discovered that all bacteria species "speak" in 2 chemical languages: one language is a private language only understood within the specific bacteria species and the other language is the Esperanto common language understood by all bacteria species. Until Dr. Bassler's work, microbiologists couldn't understand how some bacterial mixtures which contained pathogens like E. Coli would not show E. Coli virulence and other bacterial mixtures which contained E. Coli the E. Coli would be very active and engaging in a virulent attack. Dr. Bassler figured out that the E. Coli were communicating to other E. Coli using the private E. Coli chemical language AND communicating to ALL of the other bacterial species using the common bacterial language. Only when the E. Coli number of individual bacterium RELATIVE to the total of all bacteria species numbers was high enough in E. Coli to give the E. Coli a fighting chance of winning would the E. Coli "switch" on and become virulent. From an evolutionary standpoint this makes sense. Why would a pathogenic organism species make an attempt to create dis-ease (which entails a use of valuable energy) when it is completely outnumbered by other microbial species who may be potential predators who function as a check and balance against the dis-ease.

This has profound implications for farming and ranching.
--And, I might say, to how we should approach a lot of medicine.

Weatherbee maintains his focus on agriculture (since that's his specialty; he's a Certified Soil Foodweb Advisor):
Whether our biocides are synthetic "chemical" pesticides or "organic" home-made pesticides, the thinking behind their use is the same: if the pathogen is present (even in a neighbour's field) we lay down a biocide attacking the pathogen. Our biocides, whether a commercial Syngenta pesticide or a homemade permaculture recipe for powdery mildew sulphur containing "organic" biocide, kills BOTH the bad-guy pathogen microbes and the good-guys.

Problem here is that the bad-guys usually (not always but usually) reproduce more quickly and come back before the good-guy microbes. Quorum Sensing points to a fundamentally new way of thinking about this in our farms. We need to increase the ratio of good-guy microbes in the soil and on the plant surfaces in relation to the "bad-guy" pathogen microbes. Research on plant pathogen suppression with composts backs this up. It's the amount of a plant pathogen species #s in a compost relative to the total pile of microbes that determines whether the plants will develop the disease. (Emphasis mine--JAH)
Well, the same relation exists in our bodies as well. As Barbara Minton notes in an article published on Mike Adams' Natural News site: "[T]aking probiotics is probably one of the best interventions you can do to stay healthy or regain your health. That's because those four pounds of little critters in your gut are to a very large degree your immune system. They hold the keys to your very existence."

I'm afraid Minton may be using an "old" and inaccurate metaphor for what occurs in our guts. For her, the "good" bacteria go to war against the "bad" bacteria:
Probiotics are friendly bacteria similar to those found in people's guts, especially in the guts of breastfed infants who have been provided this natural protection against many diseases by their mothers. Most friendly bacteria come from the Lactobacillus or Bididobacterium groups. There are several different species of bacteria in each group. Some probiotics are also friendly yeasts.

Taking probiotics is a way to keep your friendly bacteria population up to full strength so it is always at the ready to defend you. It is a way to replenish the bacteria that are killed off by the pesticides and chlorine. If you have taken antibiotics, taking probiotics is even more important because you probably have unfriendly microorganisms living in your gut that your reduced levels of friendly bacteria are having difficulty handling.
But I wonder if Bassler's view may be more accurate.

Perhaps what's happening is not so martial as the "old" probiotic model implies. Maybe the "good" bacteria never have to go to war at all. Rather, it's their fearsome countenance (sorry; I know I'm engaging in some anthropomorphism, here, myself; . . . --Maybe it's their overwhelming numbers, a bacterial form of what human militaries call deterrence) that, as Bassler's model suggests, "simply" dilute the more destructive bacteria's numbers enough that they never produce the "quorum" necessary to decide, "Let's go! It's time to attack!"