Monday, March 30, 2015

Bat Soup

in Collapse, Jared Diamond discusses reasons for the extinction of various societies.  The Greenlanders, descendants of Eric the Red, lived next to abundant species of fish, yet the archeological remans show almost a complete absence of fish bones.  The Greenlanders, evidently, had a cultural taboo against eating fish, although their Inuit neighbors used fish as a mainstay of their diet and survived with no problem.

In an essay in the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote about some of the food taboos of various cultures.  Some may be familiar.  Jews don’t eat pork and shellfish.  They are also forbidden to eat reptiles, amphibians, and most insects, although, evidently, some species of kosher locusts are allowed.

Islam divides food in halal and haram.  Haram includes pork, dog, cat, and monkey.  Hindus don’t eat beef.  The Moru of South Sudan allow only children and old people to eat chicken and eggs.  The Yazidis, who have been in the news lately because of ISIS repression, don’t allow lettuce.  Jains don’t eat onions.

If you think those restrictions are strange, and I do, consider the last time you saw horse meat on any menu, although I understand you can eat horse in France.  When I lived in California, the legislature passed a law making it illegal to eat cat, which, I believe, was directed at a racist idea that Vietnamese were eating cat meat.

It seems to me there are only three reasons to forbid certain kinds of food.  First, I don’t think we should ever eat an endangered species.  Second, I don’t think we should eat any food that is a result of obvious cruelty.  That eliminates veal and most pork.  (Before you eat pork, know how the hogs were raised.)  Also eliminate lobsters that are boiled alive.

Finally, there are occasions when a food causes us health problems.  Try to buy locally grown chickens to avoid salmonella.  Wash your lettuce thoroughly.  And if you live in Guinea, do not eat bat soup.  There’s a good chance you might contact Ebola, which is why bat soup has been banned in that country.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Usually by Easter dandelions are blooming.  This year may be an exception; Easter is early, and we’ve had a very cold March.  

\When the dandelions do bloom in your front yard, here’s a tip.  Allow them to bloom.  Don’t apply herbicides.  Dandelions are pretty, and they are one of the earliest of flowers, which means that any bees active will have flowers to pollinate.

If you are worried about what your neighbors will think, put up a sign that says “Bee lawn.”  

This will bring your four advantages:
•  no herbicides added to the environment.
•  help for honeybees.
•  a savings of time and effort.

•  satisfaction

Saturday, March 28, 2015

"Killing Jesus"

The National Geographic Channel is airing “Killing Jesus” on Sunday, March. 29.  The show is based on Bill O’Reilly’s version, not the Bible.

O’Reilly has written quite a few of these books, among them Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, and Killing Responsible Journalism.

I wondered why the National Geographic Channel would use the O’Reilly version instead of the Bible when I realized that O’Reilly was probably there, right after he covered that Falkland Islands War.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Driver's license/Concealed weapons license

Say you have a Mississippi driver’s license and you drive to Pennsylvania.  A Mahoning Township cop pulls you over for doing 30 in a 25 mile-an-hour zone and asks to see your license.  He’ll give you a speeding ticket, but he won’t arrest you for not having a Pennsylvania driver’s license.  

Now Senator John Cornyn of Texas has introduced a bill to allow people who have a license to carry a concealed weapon in their home state to carry it in any state, even in states with strict laws against concealed carry.

Cornyn has said it’s just like a driver’s license.

Not so much.  To get a driver’s license in Mississippi, you must actually know how to drive.  You have to pass a test.  It has a written part and a driving part, pretty much like Pennsylvania’s.

To get a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Mississippi, you have to fill out a form.  That’s it.

To get one from Florida, according to columnist Gail Collins, you send $112 to the Florida Department of Agriculture.  You don’t have to live in Florida.

The National Rifle Association, of course, backs Cornyn’s bill.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Jim Hightower, former Agricultural Commissioner of Texas and a very liberal guy, publishes a monthly newsletter to which I subscribe entitled “The Hightower Lowdown.”  A few issues ago he railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international 12-nation trade agreement pushed by the Obama administration.  

Hightower’s main objection was that the agreement allowed foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws if those laws restricted trade.  To take an extreme example, let’s say if a foreign corporation that produced cigarettes felt that anti-smoking laws were harming trade, it could sue to have those laws overturned.

Now, get this.  A chapter in the draft of the trade deal dated Jan. 20, 2015, was obtained by Wikileaks.  The cover of the chapter, which details the ability of companies to sue, was not to be declassified until four years after the Trans-Pacific Partnership comes into force.

The Obama administration downplays the possibility of corporate lawsuits.  Elizabeth Warren begs to differ.  On this one, I’m going with Jim Hightower and Elizabeth Warren.  Scrap the Trans-Pacific partnership.

If you want to read the article in today’s Times detailing the potential problems with suits, go to <>.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I don’t think there is anything inherently dangerous in genetically modified foods.  The environmental left can be as irrational on GMOs as climate change deniers are on global warming.

Having said that and shocking all my Green Party friends, I think it is disgusting the way companies like Monsanto are using GMOs.  Monsanto has developed and patented Roundup Ready corn and soybean seeds in order to sell its profitable herbicide, not to prevent famine.

What’s worse, according to an op-ed piece by Mark Bittman in today’s Times, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is a probable carcinogen.  We’ll probably know in ten or fifteen years.

Here is another disgusting development.  Rep. Pompeo (R-Kansas--where else) has introduced a bill to prohibit states from requiring the labeling of GMO foods.  If those products are safe, what is the harm in labeling them?

This is just one more example of Republican hypocrisy.  Republicans are in favor of states’ rights except when they aren’t.  This bill, of course, is strongly supported by Monsanto.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Police and Firefighters

When Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin pushed a bill that would curtail collective bargaining rights for government workers, he excluded police and firefighters.  

In 2012 Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder signed a “right to work for less” bill to eliminate the requirement that workers contribute dues to the unions that represent them, whether or not they are members.  Firefighters and police unions were exempt.

Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois is currently proposing $2 billion in cuts to government workers’ pensions–except for police and firefighters.  

The usual reason given is that these people put their lives on the line.  OK, here’s a list of work-related fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2013:

Logging workers, 91.3
Aircraft pilots and flight engineers, 50.6
Refuse and recyclable material collectors, 33.0
Truck transportation, 24.0
Electrical powerline installers and repairers, 33.0
Construction laborers, 17.7
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs, 15.7
Grounds maintenance workers, 12.6
Waste management and remediation, 10.7
Police and sheriff’s patrol officers, 10.6
Athletes, coaches, umpires, and related, 8.9
Firefighters 8.2

Perhaps the exception has more to do with politics?  Perhaps these Republican governors are complete hypocrites?  Perhaps this has everything to do with elections, and nothing to do with principle?  Ya think?

The figures on fatality rates are taken from Noam Scheiber, “New Labor Rules for Public Sector Workers Don’t Apply to All, NYT, 20 March 2015, p. B-1, B2.