Saturday, January 30, 2010

Let's Hope She's Right

Here's Peggy Noonan's assessment of the status of Obamacare based on what the president said in the State of the Union Address: (read the whole column here)
The president did not speak of health care until a half hour in. "As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed." Then, "If anyone has a better idea, let me know." Those bland little sentences hidden in plain sight heralded an epic fact: The battle over the president's health-care plan is over, and the plan will not be imposed on the country. Waxing boring on the virtues of the bill was a rhetorical way to obscure the fact that it is dead. To say, "I'm licked and it's done" would have been damagingly memorable. Instead he blithely vowed to move forward, and moved on. The bill will now get lost in the mists and disappear. It is a collapsed soufflé in an unused kitchen in the back of an empty house. Now and then the president will speak of it to rouse his base and remind them of his efforts.

Food Esthetics, Food Ethics

But if there is a food politics, there are also a food esthetics and a food ethics, neither of which is dissociated from politics. Like industrial sex, industrial eating has become a degraded, poor, and paltry thing. Our kitchens and other eating places more and more resemble filling stations, as our homes more and more resemble motels. "Life is not very interesting," we seem to have decided. "Let its satisfactions be minimal, perfunctory, and fast." We hurry through our meals to go to work and hurry through our work in order to "recreat" ourselves in the evenings and on weekends and vacations. And then we hurry, with the greatest possible speed and noise and violence, through our recreation—for what? To eat the billionth hamburger at some fast-food joint hellbent on increasing the "quality" of our life? And all this is carried out in a remarkable obliviousness to the causes and effects, the possibilities and the purposes, of the life of the body in this world.
(Wendell Berry, "The Pleasures of Eating" (1989), in Bringing It to the Table—On Farming and Food, pp. 229-230 [2009])

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Third Way

When reading in Genesis 24 this morning I was struck by the words of a relative of Abraham.

Abraham had sent his servant from Canaan back to Mesopotamia to find a wife for his (A.'s) son, Isaac. The servant asked God to show him the right woman through specific signs. When a young woman he encountered at the village well, Rebekah, fulfilled those signs, and was a relative of Abraham to boot, he concluded she must be the one for Isaac. When the servant then met Rebekah's family and recounted his mission and the fulfillment of the signs, Rebekah's brother and father agreed that the whole thing was from the Lord. It was their words of response, which amounted to an agreement, that struck me:
"The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master's son, as the Lord has spoken" (verses 50-51; ESV, italics added).
The new English Standard Version is a very literal translation ("bad or good"). The New Living Translation (second ed.) renders it this way:
"The Lord has obviously brought you here, so there is nothing we can say."
Both translations are helpful. "Bad or good" reflects how quick we are as humans to lump life into two categories when considering the acts of God: they are either bad or good. But Rebekah's father and brother resisted that temptation by saying, "We cannot speak . . ." about the morality of the event. Indeed, "There is nothing we can say." They recused themselves, disqualified themselves, from forming, or at least uttering, an opinion on God's ways.

That seems wise to me. Rather than being a cop-out, it's reflective of what God said through the prophet Isaiah:

"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the Lord.
"And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."
(55:8, NLT)

It also calls to mind the apostle Paul's response to those who questioned God's will and ways:
Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, "Why have you made me like this?" (Romans 9:20b, NLT)
There are so many "acts of God" on which we make quick judgments—God's command to kill certain people in the Old Testament or natural disasters in our day; we are quick to label His acts "bad or good." In truth, those are our ways (bad and good), not God's. He apparently has a "third way" that is different from ours; higher than ours (transrational?). Perhaps the better part of wisdom is to withhold applying any of our categories to Him as long as we are looking through a glass darkly from our vantage point on earth.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Publisher of Forbes Magazine Goes (Mostly) Vegan

Rich Karlgaard is the publisher of Forbes magazine—the standard-bearer of American business magazines. I was a Forbes subscriber for many years and loved it but finally had to DNR my subscription when it got too expensive. I especially loved Karlgaard's column in every issue—usually the first thing I read. His columns were fun, smart, honest, and betrayed a Renaissance mind that seem to be aware of almost everything happening in business and culture. He also spoke highly of his church and family life. He was even kind enough to respond to a couple of emails I sent commenting on his column. But I never imagined him being anything other than a meat-and-potatoes guy.

So when he wrote an extended post on his personal blog recently about going "mostly" vegan, I was really surprised: "In Praise of (Mostly) Vegan Diets." His reasons for making the change were health-based and he writes positively about the results. (He even became a road biker, another sign of his smarts. jk) From his description it sounds like he's eating 80-85% vegan (breakfast and lunch) and then eating whatever his wife has fixed for supper—but piling on the veggies and going light on the meat even at that meal.

I was duly impressed. This is a smart guy who looked at the nutritional evidence and decided it would be to his advantage to make a serious paradigm shift. In fact, in another blog post predicting 20 things we might see happen in the 2010's, he wrote . . .
1. Vegan Republicans
All-plant diets, proselytized so far mostly by PETA punks, Prius drivers, old hippies and
Jack Lalanne, go mainstream. The Engine 2 Diet portends the future.
This "vegan thing" is gaining serious traction. I can't remember who it was, but "somebody now-dead but famous" (I think; it's one of those quotes I remember but not the source) wrote that the day will come when the human race looks back on our killing and eating animals with incredulity; wondering how we could ever have done that. That's not why Rich Karlgaard (mostly) stopped eating meat, but the net result is the same. I don't know if that will ever happen, but it's a happy thought.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Haiti Report

Following is a video report from Mark Driscoll, teaching pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, on the condition of the church in Haiti following the earthquakes.He and a team spent 32 hours on the ground four days after the 'quake (also delivering many relief supplies) assessing the situation. Befitting Driscoll's style, it's action-oriented and hard-hitting. (You can watch a larger-format version at the church's web site here.)

Apple Is Shaking the Tree Again

Apple, Inc., releases its new tablet computer today. One of the anticipated features is that the tablet will serve as an e-reader like Amazon's Kindle. But leave it to Apple to create a pricing model that may be more attractive to publishers:

Got Milk? (Got Ethics?)

The Tuesday night (Jan 26, 2010) edition of ABC News' Nightline program aired an undercover segment on inhumane practices in the factory-farming dairy industry. Contrary to the bucolic ads you see on television about "happy cows" luxuriating in green fields, the life of the average dairy cow in America is anything but happy. The 5,000 cows on the New York dairy farm featured in the segment NEVER see grass. They spend their entire artificially-inseminated, miserable lives pregnant (so they continually lactate), crammed into giant manure-filled barns producing milk—until their milk production begins to fall after a few short years, at which point they're carted off to the slaughterhouse after living only 15 percent of their natural life span. Their horns are burned off and tails cut off without anesthesia, and in spite of their obvious pain with these procedures the farmer-owner said, "I don't see what you see" when asked if he thought the procedures hurt the cows. It's amazing what we humans are capable of not seeing. If you drink milk or consume dairy products, please watch the Nightline report and consider whether your pleasure is worth the pain it causes.

And if you think you need milk for calcium to prevent osteoporosis, consider this: America consumes more dairy products than any nation in the world while at the same time having the highest rates of osteoporosis of any nation. If you want calcium try consuming dark green vegetables like bok choy which has much higher levels of absorbable calcium than milk. The primary causes of osteoporosis are the acid base of the Standard American Diet (caused by meat, dairy, and excess grains) which causes the body to leach calcium from the bones to restore the body's ideal slightly-alkaline pH, and the lack of healthy (weight-bearing) stress on bones due to sedentary lifestyles. Moderate bone stress increases bone density and plant-based foods keep the body in a slightly alkaline (ideal) state.

Cow milk has one purpose in nature: to feed baby cows. If you aren't a baby cow you don't need milk (in spite of what uninformed, white-lipped celebrities ask you in their ads).

Kudos to Nightline for tackling this issue. You can see the Nightline video here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's Inevitable

“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” Ludwig von Mises

The Bible calls it reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7).

'Ya Gotta Love Broccoli

George H. W. Bush ("I'm President of the United States and if I don't want to eat broccoli, I don't have to!") notwithstanding, most folks love broccoli. It's taste, texture, and nutrition are good enough reasons, but there's also this reason: It battles its way through the winter freezes unscathed.

I cut this head this morning—and just in time. It was right on the verge of flowering (due to the recent warmup in temps) as you can see from the myriad swollen buds. This head made it through many nights in the low twenties a couple weeks ago, unprotected most of the time. A few nights I covered the cabbage and broccoli with plastic buckets or garbage bags, but stopped when I figured the temps had dropped too low. What troopers! Who could ask for a more lovely head of broccoli, or know what extremes it withstood so I could go out this morning and cut it.



When my crisper in the refrigerator is too full for something like this head of broccoli, I'll put it in a large zip-lock bag, seal the zip all the way across except for an inch, pooch out the inch-long space so it's open and I can get my mouth around it, and suck the air out of the bag, sealing it tight. Oxygen is the great oxidizer of foods, so keeping perishable items in bags with the oxygen sucked out keeps them crisper longer in the "open" part of the refrigerator:


If you never grow broccoli you never avail yourself of the residual treats the plant provides: After a head is cut, the plant will send up small heads at the leaf nodes which can be picked and thrown into a salad or stir-fry—or snapped off and eaten like candy right on the spot as my granddaughters do in their garden. Because the head I cut this morning was overdue for cutting, the side shoots had already formed:


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vegan Cookies at Starbucks

I'm likely the only American who has never set foot in a Starbucks, so I would have missed this if I hadn't seen it on the web: Starbucks is now carrying a line of (reportedly) delicious vegan cookies. Read about them and see pics here. (Thanks to