Friday, July 19, 2002

is corn (yeah, zea mays, that stuff) killing us?

When a Crop Becomes King. New York Times (sign-in required, but it's free). Op-ed column by Michael Pollan, author of "The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World."

It's something I never really thought about: eating fewer Doritos will not only make us healthier, but will cut down on our dependence on Middle East oil ... ah, so THAT's why that obscene $190 billion corn subsidy was signed by Dubya last month!

The problem in corn's case is that we're sacrificing the health of both our bodies and the environment by growing and eating so much of it. Though we're only beginning to understand what our cornified food system is doing to our health, there's cause for concern. It's probably no coincidence that the wholesale switch to corn sweeteners in the 1980's marks the beginning of the epidemic of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in this country. Sweetness became so cheap that soft drink makers, rather than lower their prices, super-sized their serving portions and marketing budgets. Thousands of new sweetened snack foods hit the market, and the amount of fructose in our diets soared.

This would be bad enough for the American waistline, but there's also preliminary research suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup is metabolized differently than other sugars, making it potentially more harmful. A recent study at the University of Minnesota found that a diet high in fructose (as compared to glucose) elevates triglyceride levels in men shortly after eating, a phenomenon that has been linked to an increased risk of obesity and heart disease. Little is known about the health effects of eating animals that have themselves eaten so much corn, but in the case of cattle, researchers have found that corn-fed beef is higher in saturated fats than grass-fed beef.

We know a lot more about what 80 million acres of corn is doing to the health of our environment: serious and lasting damage. Modern corn hybrids are the greediest of plants, demanding more nitrogen fertilizer than any other crop. Corn requires more pesticide than any other food crop. Runoff from these chemicals finds its way into the groundwater and, in the Midwestern corn belt, into the Mississippi River, which carries it to the Gulf of Mexico, where it has already killed off marine life in a 12,000 square mile area.

To produce the chemicals we apply to our cornfields takes vast amounts of oil and natural gas. (Nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas, pesticides from oil.) America's corn crop might look like a sustainable, solar-powered system for producing food, but it is actually a huge, inefficient, polluting machine that guzzles fossil fuel a half a gallon of it for every bushel.
posted by lee on 07/19/02 at 04:18 PM
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Saturday, July 20, 2002

fun fun fun

We did it, we went to see Eight Legged Freaks. We even paid full price. You know what? It was worth it! It was fun, it was pretty funny, it was a great send-off on all the mutated-bugs-turned-monster movies. And the cinematography was really well done. It was a hell of a lot better than that lame Men in Black II.

Anyone who sees this movie and says it's awful and therefore he or she didn't like it needs a serious enema. Yes, it's awful, but it's wonderful fun. Contrary to what most of the self-inflated critics seem to want us to believe (including Elvis Mitchell and that peabrained Charles Taylor), not all movies have to be meaningful to be good, fun, escape. Roger Ebert had the guts to admit that he liked it. Ebert got it. Most of the other reviewers did not. No analysis of the movie is required, would just be a waste of time.

Go see it, have fun, stop thinking so much.

posted by lee on 07/20/02 at 05:47 AM
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Sunday, July 21, 2002

At last - suit filed about requiring ids and searches at airports - Suit challenges airline ID requirements - July 19, 2002

I want to know what I can do to support this lawsuit - I'm getting really tired of the transformation of our society into a Soviet society.

A prominent civil libertarian sued the U.S. government and two major airlines Thursday, claiming that security requirements that compel U.S. citizens to show identification before flying are unconstitutional.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco, John Gilmore, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that requiring ID from travelers who are not suspected of being a threat to airport security violates several amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit alleges that the regulations restrict freedom of travel, permit intrusive searches without good cause and violate the Freedom of Information Act because they have not been published in the Federal Register.
posted by lee on 07/21/02 at 04:26 PM
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More than 500 innocent Afghanis are dead. And for what?

Flaws in U.S. Air War Left Hundreds of Civilians Dead. (Sign-in required, but it's free.)

" ... the evidence suggests that many civilians have been killed by airstrikes hitting precisely the target they were aimed at. The civilians died, the evidence suggests, because they were were made targets by mistake, or because in eagerness to kill Qaeda and Taliban fighters, Americans did not carefully differentiate between civilians and military targets."

From the New York Times, Sunday June 21, 2002:

What is our goal, here? To "get" OBL? To wipe out terrorists? Did we accomplish either? If so, there has been no mention of it in the media.
posted by lee on 07/21/02 at 04:36 PM
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As Stanley says, “But it’s a benevolent dictatorship”

Wider Military Role in U.S. Is Urged

"The Bush administration has directed lawyers in the Departments of Justice and Defense to review the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 and any other laws that sharply restrict the military's ability to participate in domestic law enforcement. Any changes would be subject to Congressional approval."

Hey, put a tank in my back yard. That'll sure make us all feel safer. Sure it will.

What makes me even nutser is that the gubmint is spending OUR MONEY to figure out ways to take away our rights.
posted by lee on 07/21/02 at 04:54 PM
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Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Lomax - not an anthropoligist, but a rip-off artist

I meant to blog on Sunday about the New York Times lionizing Alan Lomax, proclaiming him as king of American folklore because he "discovered" blues musicians such as Leadbelly and Muddy Waters. And he did do some excellent research. But he was also less than honest and had little integrity. He hated the rise of folk rock not because, as he claimed, it was inauthentic (never mind that music is SUPPOSED to evolve), but because people listening to the new folk would no longer listen to the old folk music as much and therefore cut way into his income stream. Plus, he could no longer set the rules.

So I was interested in Dave Marsh's article in Counterpunch: Alan Lomax: Great White Fraud.

As a veteran blues observer wrote me, "Don't get too caught up in grieving for Alan Lomax. For every fine musical contribution that he made, there was an evil venal manipulation of copyright, publishing and ownership of the collected material."

The most notorious concerns "Goodnight Irene." Lomax and his father recorded Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter's song first, so when the song needed to be formally copyrighted because the Weavers were about to have a huge hit with it, representatives of the Ledbetter family approached him. Lomax agreed that this copyright should be established. He adamantly refused to take his name off the song, or to surrender income from it, even though Leadbelly's family was impoverished in the wake of his death two years earlier.

Lomax believed folk culture needed guidance from superior beings like himself. Lomax told Bochan what he believed: nothing in poor people's culture truly happened unless someone like him documented it. He hated rock'n'roll--down to instigating the assault against Bob Dylan's sound system at Newport in '65--because it had no need of mediation by experts like himself.
posted by lee on 07/23/02 at 04:40 AM
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SURL’s latest newsletter

Usability News - 4.2 2002. I love the stuff from Wichita State's Software Usability Research Lab -- they do REAL research and present it so I can draw my own conclusions, apply their findings in ways that make sense. SURLs stuff on kiosk usability is good, too (poke around the site).
posted by lee on 07/23/02 at 09:08 PM
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Friday, July 26, 2002

poison ivy league

Yale accuses Princeton of hacking

"... admissions officials at Princeton hacked into a Yale Web site that was set up for prospective students. Yale said it found 18 unauthorized log-ins to the Web site that were traced back to computers at Princeton, including computers in the admissions office ... "

This is why the ivy league costs so much more than it's worth -- worrying about stupid crap like this.
posted by lee on 07/26/02 at 02:37 AM
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Didja ever wonder what makes light sticks glow?

Well you can find out here: WHAT'S THAT STUFF?, courtesy of Chemical & Engineering News.
posted by lee on 07/26/02 at 05:59 PM
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Monday, July 29, 2002

infographics with a beat

"Remind Me" by Royksopp has some nicely done infographics. Reminds me a lot of the work XPlane does.
posted by lee on 07/29/02 at 02:30 PM
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