Food and Finance

By James Kwak

I just read Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, and what struck me was the parallels between the evolution of food and the evolution of finance since the 1970s. This will only confirm my critics’ belief that I see the same thing everywhere, but bear with me for a minute.

Pollan’s account, grossly simplified, goes something like this. The dominant ideology of food in the United States is nutritionism: the idea that food should be thought of in terms of its component nutrients. Food science is devoted to identifying the nutrients in food that make us healthy or unhealthy, and encouraging us to consume more of the former and less of the latter. This is good for nutritional “science,” since you can write papers about omega-3 fatty acids, while it’s very hard to write papers about broccoli.

It’s especially good for the food industry, because nutritionism justifies even more intensive processing of food. Instead of making bread out of flour, yeast, water, and salt, Sara Lee makes “Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White Bread” out of “enriched bleached flour” (seven ingredients), water, “whole grains” (three ingredients), high fructose corn syrup, whey, wheat gluten, yeast, cellulose, honey, calcium sulfate, vegetable oil, salt, butter, dough conditioners (up to seven ingredients), guar gum, calcium propionate, distilled vinegar, yeast nutrients (three ingredients), corn starch, natural flavor [?], betacarotene, vitamin D3, soy lecithin, and soy flour (pp. 151-52). They add a modest amount of whole grains so they can call it “whole grain” bread, and then they add the sweeteners and the dough conditioners to make it taste more like Wonder Bread. Because processed foods sell at higher margins, we have an enormous food industry pushing highly processed food at us, very cheaply (because it’s mainly made out of highly-subsidized corn and soy), which despite its health claims (or perhaps because of them) is almost certainly bad for us, and bad for the environment as well. This has been abetted by the government, albeit perhaps reluctantly, which now allows labels like this on corn oil (pp. 155-56):

“Very limited and preliminary scientific evidence suggests that eating about one tablespoon (16 grams) of corn oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in corn oil.”

With this fine print disclaimer:

“FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim. To achieve this possible benefit, corn oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.”

Unfortunately, nutritionism is pretty much bogus science. The major claim of nutritionism over the past thirty years–that fat is bad for you–turns out not to have any foundation at all.*

What does this all have to do with finance? Roughly speaking, read academic finance for nutritionism; the financial sector for the food industry; subprime loans, reverse convertibles, and CDOs for highly processed food claiming to improve your health but actually killing you; current disclosure laws for the FDA-approved health claims on corn oil; thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages and index funds for the neglected, unsubsidized, unadvertised fruits and vegetables in the produce section; the OCC and OTS for the FDA; and the long-term increase in obesity and diabetes for the long-term increase in household debt.

In both cases, you have an industry that earns profits by convincing people to do things that are not in their long-term interests; that, in the process, creates negative externalities for the rest of society; and that has cowed regulators into submission, if not outright cheerleading. In both cases, the industry defends itself from critics by saying that it is simply providing what customers want, and hence any new constraints (even, say, accurate organic labeling laws) constitute a paternalistic intrusion into people’s economic freedom. And in both cases, the industry claims that if it isn’t allowed to continue on its current course, the economy as a whole will suffer. (After all, our corn- and soy-based diet is what enables the industry to provide huge numbers of calories at low cost.)

One big difference is that when it comes to the food system, there is a fair amount you can do to protect yourself and your family from its unhealthy effects (if you have the money). With the financial system, it’s a bit harder.

* It’s a bit more complicated than that, so before you take this as advice, read Part I, Chapter 5.

100 thoughts on “Food and Finance

  1. Mr Kwak wrote:

    “One big difference is that when it comes to the food system, there is a fair amount you can do to protect yourself and your family from its unhealthy effects. With the financial system, it’s a bit harder.

    * It’s a bit more complicated than that….”

    Sir you are correct, it is more complicated.

    Climate Wars – by Gwynne Dwyer

    “From one of the world’s great geopolitical analysts, a terrifying glimpse of the none-too-distant future, when climate change will force the world’s powers into a desperate struggle for advantage and even survival.”

    “Gwynne Dyer is one of the few who are both courageous enough to tell the unvarnished truth, and have the background to understand, not misrepresent the inputs. This book does a superb job of detailing the merging realities of climate/energy. These realities are not pretty.”

    — Dennis Bushnell, chief scientist, NASA Langley

    “This is a truly important and timely book. ”

    — James Lovelock, award-winning scientist, inventor, and originator of the Gaia hypothesis

  2. I’m glad to see an econoblogger posting about this, because it’s a critical issue.

    However, I was about to make the opposite point from this:

    One big difference is that when it comes to the food system, there is a fair amount you can do to protect yourself and your family from its unhealthy effects. With the financial system, it’s a bit harder.

    At least for the time being (at least until the health racket mandate is imposed in 2014), we’re not being coerced under violence or threat of violence to participate in the rentier finance system.

    But under the radar of most of the MSM there’s already a repression campaign including intimidation raids (with guns drawn) against those who would try to produce and distribute outside the corporate food system.

    Here’s an example:

    And while the health racket bailout and the sham finance bill got all the attention, a veritable corporate food tyranny bill, intended to pose severe economic burdens on small producers and distibutors, and whose language could be used to criminalize all non-corporate food production, has been making its way through Congress.

    The House version passed in 2009, and only one senator’s obstruction stopped the Senate version from passing in the previous session, but Reid says he’ll seek cloture right after the election. So the danger looms.

    Here’s a rundown on these bills:

  3. Russ wrote:

    “…there’s already a repression campaign including intimidation raids (with guns drawn) against those who would try to produce and distribute outside the corporate food system.”

    Aspartame – Rumsfeld’s – Bioweapon Legacy

    The concept of repression is not new. Bottom line, there were natural safer alternatives to Aspartame, corporate interests won. The song remains the same.

  4. Enjoyed the connection, James! I thoroughly enjoyed In Defense of Food, gives some handy tips. Having spent four years for my B.S. in Nutrition, people always love to ask me what to eat, and it pretty much boils down to Pollans suggestion of read food: fruits, vegetables, nuts, some grains. The stuff that doesn’t come pre-wrapped, in a box or can. Third paragraph, were you referring to the likely ill-effects of processed food in general despite health claims, or the ingredients? I’ll agree the amount of corn we eat is likely not healthy, but large amounts of soy seems to treat many rural asian communities just fine. Plus it’s a nitrogen fixer, so I would assume it doesn’t require quite as extensive inputs as corn and deplete soil as rapidly.

  5. Senate Bill S510 Makes it illegal to Grow, Share, Trade or Sell Homegrown Food

    “If accepted [S 510] would preclude the public’s right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, feed and eat each and every food that nature makes. It will become the most offensive authority against the cultivation, trade and consumption of food and agricultural products of one’s choice. It will be unconstitutional and contrary to natural law or, if you like, the will of God.”

    ~Dr. Shiv Chopra, Canada Health whistleblower

  6. Gwynne Dyer, OC (born April 17, 1943) is a London-based independent Canadian journalist, syndicated columnist and military historian.

    Dyer was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and joined the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve at the age of sixteen. While still in the naval reserve, he obtained a BA in History from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1963; an MA in Military History from Rice University, Houston, Texas, in 1966; and a PhD in Military and Middle Eastern History at King’s College London in 1973. Dyer served in the Canadian, American, and British naval reserves (trained as a navigator). He was employed as a Senior Lecturer in War Studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, 1973-77.”

  7. yeah, it must be all the “corn” we eat thats the problem. corn products account for only ~7% of average daily caloric input. the average american eats ~190 lbs of meat, ~630 lbs of dairy, and only ~100 lbs of corn-based products. and if you think if corn subsidies are bad the american meat industry is subsidized to the tune of 75%.

    pollan continues to dance around the simple fact that a mostly vegetarian (preferably mostly vegan) is the *only* sustainable and healthy diet. but a book whose main theme is to go “veg” would not sell well in this nation of gluttons.

  8. Yuan wrote:

    “… corn products account for only ~7% of average daily caloric input.”

    “The average American consumed approximately 37.8 lb (17.1 kg) of HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) in 2008, versus 46.7 lb (21.2 kg) of sucrose.

    “In March 2010, there was evidence of harmful health effects associated with high-fructose corn syrup, this time for a type liver disease.

    About 30 per cent of adults in the U.S. have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, said study author Dr. Manal Abdelmalek, an associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center. When fat builds up in the liver, it can cause inflammation, then scarring known as cirrhosis of the liver — permanent damage to the liver that leads to a blockage of blood flow through the organ.

  9. I pretty much agree with the post, but if I was to get nit-picky I would substitute the words “fixed-rate mortgages” with adjustable-rate mortgages, because I think ARMs have done much more damage than fixed-rate mortgages have. If you look at who has won out on the movable rates on the mortgages I would wager a tidy sum the banks have won out over debtors as rates have risen. Keep in mind I’m going on a 30 year period here since about 1981 to now.

    Also being very nit-picky food is more tangible. I can see it, smell it, touch it. With water I can clean off most of the chemicals on the fruits and vegetables I get at the grocery store. But if banks are using Repo 105 to mislead investors or using VaR to misvalue assets, and carrying real estate at its original purchase price when it has since gone vacant, even a professional investor will find it very time consuming to find out if what the bank says on the “nutrition label” (the balance sheet) is anywhere close to accurate.

    But one thing is for sure–CDOs and CDS represent the nutritional value of Hostess Twinkies and a Hostess Cupcakes. And CDS and CDOs add as much in market liquidity as eating 2 packs of Twinkies add health to the bowels.

  10. I loved this piece. The juxtaposition is surprising but revealing: the increasing colonization by multinational capital of not just everyday life–eating, saving–but also what passes for authoritative knowledge about these things.

    You rocked it.

  11. Ted K

    “…I think ARMs have done much more damage than fixed-rate mortgages have.”

    FYI, According to Credit Suisse information graphs, ARMs (option adujstable rate mortgages) should peak mid-2011.

  12. Another thing that kills me is this rubbish about HFTs and Hedge funds “increasing market liquidity”. When some dealer/broker swamps the market with E-mini 500 futures and there is no “bid”, how in the hell does that improve market liquidity??? It sure as hell doesn’t help the individual investor when the exchanges put his trade to the back of the line even when he executed his order first. Going on our food analogy, it’s like me trying to get a lower retail price for food than Wal-Mart does from its wholesale suppliers. We hear this word “liquidity” passed around on CNBC (and other outlets), like liquidity is free market’s version of penicillin. What it oftentimes translates to for those who can read between the lines is “License to screw the little guy”.

  13. For a period lasting about 10 years, that began in 1991, I had a small rustic furniture business. For $30. per year I bought permits from the USDA/Forestry that allowed me to gather dead-fall in the Tahoe Basin.

    At the time there were vast numbers of dead trees due to a powder post beetle blight. The Forestry Dept. people were selling these doomed trees for salvage but the loggers only wanted the bigger ones, my permits allowed me to take anything dead, but, they did not allow me to take anything longer than 10 feet, and with what are called ‘fuel-wood permits’, it was not permissible to drive off of the logging roads. This basically limited my bounty to that which I could carry, although at times I had an employee so we were able to move some fairly large sections of wood when I had a need for such.

    What I am getting at has to do just how intimate I became with each piece of wood during this process. After the initial gathering there was de-barking, cutting, drilling, tennoning, dremmeling, sanding, finishing, buffing, and ultimately delivering a finished product to my a customer. The key point though is that after countless thousands of pieces of wood I realized that I had never actually seen a powdwer post beetle even though the wood always had their telltale holes throughout. They do in fact bore distinct holes that are easily recognized.

    So, the thing is that when the loggers were cutting down the infected trees they were not removing them fast enough. Downed timber would actually be left in decks(stacked logs) sometimes for months, before being hauled away. But the fact that I was not seeing the beetles meant that they were vacating the downed trees and moving to uninfected trees as soon as each tree was being felled. Yet there was a large scale effort underway to stop the blight, skidders, dozers, etc., and even helicopters were involved on many fronts.

    At the time it didn’t occur to me that our local Forestry officials would be anything other than grateful when I explained to them that their efforts to curtail the blight were misguided, that they would be anything less than grateful. So I just went to them and explained that there were no beetles in the downed wood. They politely blew me off.

    About a year ago I read somewhere that this blight now extends from the Tahoe Basin to Central British Columbia. I don’t know why.

  14. P.S.~ My previous comment was not meant to suggest that we have a ‘big government’ problem, I do think though that we have a somewhat incompetent government.

  15. Here’s an excerpt from Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemna, about my neighbor, Joel Salatin:

    (Then, try farmer Salatin’s book, Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal. It’s a hoot, right out of a 21st century 1984….)

    Then, maybe we could extend the analogy to “modern medicine” and the influence of Big Pharma and the FDA. How long before they move beyond forcing horse piss on me instead of bio-identical hormones, or outlawing vitamin C?

    For a laugh, try this:

    On an awkward, but more serious note, try this:

    The scenario James sees evolving is happening widely in America. ….Lady in Red

  16. Rickk, don’t forget “Vitamin F”. This is from the old cartoons on MTV. I’m just afraid James won’t believe in “Powdered Toast Man” anymore….

  17. For another nice comparison of this sort, see Larry Lohman’s “Uncertainty markets and carbon markets: Variations on Polanyian themes” in New Political Economy 15(3), June 2010, pp. 225-254. It’s about the underlying structural similarities between financial derivatives and carbon cap and trade.

  18. James, I’ve read most of the responses, and a point that you should make that no one else is making is the one that I believe is the real show stealer. But, before I give you that one, I must say that in “macro” terms, your argument is completely accurate. Yes, the food industry spends millions in advertising to make us fat and sick, and yes, the finance industry spends millions to convince us that the things that worked for decades are outmoded and that there is a “better” way to do finance. And, both industries can do this because of the incredibly high profit margins made through all kinds of statutory and regulatory arbitrage and control. There is endless money spent on lobbying the FDA (if eggs are any indication, it must be working better than ever), and similar amounts spent developing confusing and ineffective financial legislation (will the foreclosure debacle actually cost Wall Street more than a few hundred million in fines?).

    The real story is the effectiveness in the plutocracy’s ability to destroy a nation. This American plutocracy is working like a well oiled machine in making the average American’s life miserable. When we go to vote next week, regardless of the selection we make, we will be voting for a greedy, power hungry person who has financed themselves into office through largesse of multiple oligarchs. This defines plutocracy.

    So long as this is true, the cogency of arguments made on this and the other wonderful, rational blogs available to all of my fellow citizens will not matter a whit. I would venture to guess that fewer than 10,000 people a day read this blog, out of a couple hundred million who should be reading such informed commentary. Oh, please don’t stop. Perhaps some charismatic and actually ethical individual will spring forth in the next couple of years willing to risk everything to swim upstream against he plutocratic current and actually pave the way for a real change. Not likely, but possible.

    Until that day, I will continue to view myself as a helpless, but informed, victim.

  19. I’ve said it before and no doubt will again in the future but Baseline Scenario is a constant and steady motivator of why it’s important to get out of bed in the morning, metaphorically speaking!

    And writing this here in bed in London at 8.20 am, I am going to follow my own advice!

    Great article James and some truly fabulous comments, mine excluded. ;-)

  20. James, you see the same things everywhere because things are the same everywhere. Proof follows:

    What does this all have to do with ENLIGHTENED GOVERNANCE OF OUR COUNTRY? Roughly speaking, read POLITICS for nutritionism; the POLITICAL PARTIES for the food industry; PRESIDENTS, SENATORS AND CONGRESSMEN for SMOOTHLY TALKING LIARS claiming to improve GOOD GOVERNANCE but actually killing YOUR COUNTRY; CORRUPTED MASS MEDIA IN BED WITH THE POLITICANS for the FDA-approved health claims on corn oil; POLICY GUIDANCE BY SCIENTISTS AND NON GOVERNMENTAL CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS for the neglected, unsubsidized, unadvertised fruits and vegetables in the produce section; CONGRESS for the FDA; and the long-term increase in obesity and diabetes for the long-term increase in THE FEELING THAT THIS COUNTRY IS BROKEN.

    I rest my case :)

  21. You are utterly wrong when you claim that:

    “It’s especially good for the food industry, because nutritionism justifies even more intensive processing of food.”

    Quite the contrary! A true nutritionist would never endorse the “processing” of food but prescribe simple, wholesome ingredients with no extra additives (such as the infamous “E” numbers – as they are called here in Europe).

    In this respect, the foodstuff found on the shelves of the average American supermarket, apart from being packed and labeled in a blatantly tacky manner that personally put me off, is as a rule loaded with damaging preservatives and additives, being quite deprived of true nutritional value. (the junky ingredients of the bread you quote are relevant in this respect)

    Bizarre is also America’s obsession with high fructose corn syrup, which, happily, is not being reciprocated in Europe.

    Perhaps this phenomenon has to do with America having a sweet(er) tooth. But I guess the food industry is manipulating them, luring them into believing the corn syrup is an essential ingredient.

    All in all, the nutritionists are not to be blamed for America’s obesity epidemics. And it is not fair you call “nutritionism” a bogus science. The problem lies with the Americans refusing to heed the advice of the nutritionists and being hooked on a high carb/fat diet and their refusal to get off their SUVs and simply…walk, do some exercise!

    Ultimately, it is a cultural problem. Why simply buy and cook a normal potato which involves the extra effort of washing it, peeling its skin off and slicing it when you can buy ready made frozen chips pre-soaked in some sort of transfat?

    Perhaps the workaholic culture that lies at the essence of America simply renders people too tired at the end of the day so they are basically unfit to cook. So instead they go for unhealthy take aways such as fat cheese laden pizzas or fast food burgers/fried chicken etc.

    Only a thin segment of well off and health conscious people can afford the luxury to selectively and carefully choose the food they consume.

    This segment, of course, is well read and well informed. The professional nutritionist is catering precisely for this privileged segment of the population. That is why you are likely to encounter obesity rather among the lower strata of the society, people who ultimately ignore (or can’t afford to heed) the precious advice of the nutritionist.

  22. I can speak as one who enjoys pushing the line as far as it will go, the hosts of this site are quite liberal on their comment policy. Basically vulgarity and commercial ads I think are the only thing that will bust you. Links a few times can be hassle cause they don’t always imbed, but even then the link will show. I think Mr. Kwak has the filter settings about as near as good as he can make them. But they keep it pretty tight on the curse words and racial epithets. Unlike many blog hosts they allow some pretty harsh attacks on the blog hosts themselves and they don’t take them down. That shows a lot of personal integrity and “stand-up” type behavior.

    I know of at least 2 prominent econ/finance bloggers who are quick to take down anything which attacks them. I think all that does is shows insecurity. I’ve never seen that here.

  23. I would like to believe what you write except for one problem. Several actually. A) you linked to a report about a shutdown of a small dairy despite clean test results. The post has updates on the post indicating there were questionable test results justifying the action.

    B) Mike Adams. If you let Mike Adams post on your site, you lose ALL credibility. He makes claims that are not scientific at all, and has a vested interest in getting people to buy his “all-natural” supplements. This is a conflict of interest that is never declared. Seriously, if you want credibility, purge ALL contact with Mike Adams. He also says vaccines are bad for people, with nary a piece of scientific evidence.

  24. James Kwak, your foodfinance post has attracted a lot of crazies. You might want to set some conditions or edit the posts.

    Key points: if they talk about the evil FDA, and FDA thats been largely gutted and depowered by Bush and co., remember, the FDA wants to regulate “natural” vitamins and supplements.

    To see how nuts these people are, look at MMS Miracle Mineral water. Used properly, according to the directions… it makes BLEACH. Bleach is a poison. It kills. This is what they’re scared the FDA will do: prevent them from selling real poison to gullible idiots.

    Again MMS is BLEACH. It does not cure you. MMS is banned in the UK, and they had to put an apology on their website in Australia for the fraudulent health claims. Here’s the “evil” FDA’s warning about MMS:

    Please clean the quacks out, soon, or else they’ll be here permanently, and I, a regular reader, will have to leave.

  25. I’d say that the reason you see parallels is that both systems are – broadly speaking – what anthropologists call ‘symbolic systems’. Food science, in my opinion, is a sort of hygiene system – and you’ll see from classic anthropological works like Mary Douglas’ ‘Purity and Danger’ the importance of hygienic sign-systems in our conceptions of society. It operates similar to how dietetics used to operate in ancient societies – i.e. tied closely to ethics and household ‘economy’.

    As for the financial system, well, after all, it’s just a factory for the manipulation of signs and symbols, right? There’s no surprise that two sign-based systems will, in any given historical period, exhibit extremely similar developments.

    A look at any history of ideas will confirm that – see, for example, the dissemination of notions of ‘energy’ in the late 19th century; where every sphere, from psychology, to physics to philosophy (Nietzsche) was trying to think things through in terms of ‘energy’.

    The great historian of science and economics Philip Mirowski once wrote: “Universal history is the story of different intonations given a handful of metaphors.” And it’s no surprise that the two sciences that rely most heavily on metaphor – hygiene/food science and finance – will show remarkable similarities in any given historical period.

  26. Wrong.

    You fraudulently claim that one of these posts was misleading, when:

    1. As you yourself say, it gives an update on the alleged test.

    2. The second Rawesome piece discusses precisely that dubious “positive” test at length. (Oh yeah, you rejected that one on account of who wrote it. I’ll get to that in a moment.)

    The fact is that in over 30 years of operation Morningland Dairies has never had one single complaint of food-borne illness. That’s infinitely better than your industrial agriculture can claim.

    As for this phantom test of yours,

    1. The proper protocols for the collection of samples were disregarded in both California and Missouri.

    2. Even so, tests at the Missouri facility (100 samples) turned up nothing, although the FDA has reneged on its promise to deliver a copy of the report certifying Morningland’s health.

    3. Many listeria subtypes have no known connection with human illness. But all the FDA does is test for basic L-mono without further testing to determine what the subtype is. So the FDA flags an allegedly contaminated sample, yet the odds still are that it’s an innocuous subtype.

    4. The FDA’s “zero tolerance” policy regarding listeria, which is mysteriously only enforced where it comes to small producers, never the big ones who actually cause all outbreaks, has no scientific validity. The EU, for example, allows trace amounts.

    The zero tolerance policy is clearly politically motivated, in order to be used as a weapon against small producers. It’s never intended to be enforced against corporate ag.

    5. There was no legal warrant for the raid, or for the produce which was simply illegally, or for the terrorization and detention of employees and customers by gun-toting thugs.

    As for those drawn guns, the cops involved say they were lied to about what the raid was about.

    Needless to say, there could never be a legitimate reason to kick in doors with drawn guns to investigate a contaminated cheese sample.

    6. We the people don’t need or want proactive, aggressive government action toward small producers. Morality and reason say ALL proactivity must be aimed at the BIG producers, who are responsbile for 100% of significant food outbreaks.

    The record of Wright Eggs through the decades is a refutation emblazoned across the sky of all your lies about how the government is trying to “protect” the consumer, when it’s clearly nothing but a hired thug trying to stamp out the competition for its Big Ag masters.

    The fact is, the only intent here was to shut down a non-Big Ag producer, and intimidate all producers, distributors, and food- and freedom-loving citizens outside the corporate system.

    As for your attack on Mike Adams, how ridiculous. Who exactly are you sticking up for here? Let’s look at who you’re siding with: DeCoster and his murderous eggs (who have had innumerable real violations over the years, yet never been subjected to anything remotely like this fascist raid); Monsanto and its global poisons and death seeds; the socioeconomically and environmentally devastating CAFOs and crop monocultures; the tyrannical FDA.

    Yeah, we see whose side you’re on. Yet you want to make a fetish out of the alleged conflict of interest of one little guy? Keep trying to peddle that one.

    I bet you also stick up for the poor victimized Wall Street bankers against those nasty predatory borrowers as well, right?

    You can try to apply this repression all you want with what you obscenely call your “justified actions”. You’re going to fail, my “American” friend.

    Here’s more on the Morningland case:

  27. I’ve lived and worked in Europe as well as the US. There are some key differences that help to account for things beyond just that Americans have a bigger sweet tooth and don’t listen.

    1. High fructose corn syrup is heavily subsidized by the government. Therefore, it works its way into EVERYTHING. Granted, if it weren’t subsidized then it would be replaced in everything with some other form of sugar, but that would be preferable, because the more processes a sugar is, the worse it tends to be for the human body. There are metabolic reactions. Pure cane sugar, which sweetens coke outside of the US, is actually better for you. Another result of the subsidy is that unhealthy food that is essentially made of cardboard but then “tasted up” with sugar and salt is the cheapest form of calories. Again, that doesn’t mean that without the subsidies that Americans would start eating more leafy greens, but at least they wouldn’t be chasing the $1 value meal at every fast food restaurant. It’s also why those frozen fries are so cheap.

    2. As to “nutritionism”, it is a bogus science, and it is almost like a misdirection campaign. The idea is that people can get heavily processed food “injected” with whatever “nutrients” are hot at the time. “Dietary fiber” and “Whole Grains” have replaced Niacin and Riboflavin as the popular ones, but the truth is that context matters. Just because you can print on the back of a box that something has X many grams of dietary fiber does not mean your body can naturally digest and process it. It is drilled into us in the media to ignore the forest for the trees. Just this morning, on the Today Show, they had a “nutritionist” who walked through a line of packaged foods and said how “good for you” the frozen waffles are because they are made with “whole grains.”

    Culturally I do agree with you, though, that is a large part of it. Government and media policy, however, also have an impact.

  28. Is that a threat or a promise?

    Given your reference to “Bush”, and your general pro-elitism, I’ll take it you’re a craven little statist liberal.

    In which case no threat or promise you could issue would have any credibility at all.

  29. Personally I suspect the problem of lab based food sources NOW RAMPANT is that it is not geared towards nutrition at all (selective process of a few hundred thousand years of wile plant selection and cultivation condensed into an alteration for the purpose of cosmetics, shelving, and pure domestically conditioned taste & appetite all for one purpose +price/profit/market control). Aside from that I have no problem with it except that, of course, I think I have a right to know what I am paying for and a choice as to what I decide to ingest for my well being, and that should be protected for me by my governing representatives.
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  30. Russ,

    Ad hominem attacks, while unfortunately effective, do not make for a legitamate supported argument.

    I find it fascinating that you give a mini-lecture on listeria but completely ignore the presence of Staph in the samples. Are you suggesting that Staph is not dangerous either?

    I browsed S510 on OpenCongress and pulled the PDF and did numerous searches. The bill actually specifically lays out, well here is the language ”
    ‘(A) provide sufficient flexibility to be applicable to various types of entities engaged in the production and harvesting of raw agricultural commodities, including small businesses and entities that sell directly to consumers, and be appropriate to the scale and diversity of the production and harvesting of such commodities;

    ‘(B) include, with respect to growing, harvesting, sorting, packing, and storage operations, minimum standards related to soil amendments, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment, and water; protections for small businesses and agriculture

    That doesn’t sound like jackboots in the backyard garden to me.

    There is also no attack on those selling supplements, unless they are making claims that are unsubstantiated or supported by questioniable claims.

    Finally, equate an attack of Mike Adams with a support of another position is at best intellectually dishonest. That is akin to saying one must be a supporter of the Taliban if they don’t think that Karzai should be propped up by the U.S.

  31. According to Nobel laureate Robert Fogel:

    “Between 1875 and 1995, the share of family income spent on food, clothing, and shelter declined from 87 percent to just 30 percent, despite the fact that we eat more food, own more clothes, and have better and larger homes today than we had in 1875. All of this has been made possible by the growth in the productivity of traditional commodities. In the last quarter of the 19th century, it took 1,700 hours of labor to purchase the annual food supply for a family. Today it requires just 260 hours, and it is likely that by 2040, a family’s food supply will be purchased with about 160 hours of labor.”

    Fogel does however ignore the effects of subsidies and the external costs related to health-care. He does in fact go on to argue that the health-care costs are a positive consequence:

    “Consequently, there is no need to suppress the demand for healthcare. Expenditures on healthcare are driven by demand, which is spurred by income and by advances in biotechnology that make health interventions increasingly effective. Just as electricity and manufacturing were the industries that stimulated the growth of the rest of the economy at the beginning of the 20th century, healthcare is the growth industry of the 21st century. It is a leading sector, which means that expenditures on healthcare will pull forward a wide array of other industries including manufacturing, education, financial services, communications, and construction.”

    Only a top-notch economist could find a way to make the skyrocketing prevalence rates of diet-related diseases into a type of progress. Fogel very deftly ignores that the trend that he attributes to “productivity” accelerated as a result of the combined occurrence of the ‘green revolution’ and agricultural subsidies. These combined to create the illusory conclusion that productivity gains were a benefit to the ‘aggregate’, when, what in fact happened over the past 30 years was a redistribution of wealth. This made possible by stagnant wages for the working-class which in turn allow the investment-class to expand and increase ‘their’ gains from the increased productivity.

    What economists like Fogel have done well to obscure is the role that staple goods costs play in regards to wealth distribution. When staple costs rise, wages must rise in step or consumption slows and this affects discretionary spending disproportionately. If wages are stagnant as staple costs rise–discretionary spending must fall and thereby consumption must fall. Or, if wages ‘are’ allowed to keep pace with productivity gains wealth distribution factors remain constant. So, the investment-class has nothing to gain by stagnant wages unless staple goods costs remain stagnant too. Consequently, it is when real staple-goods costs fall in unison with real wages that gains from increased productivity become unevenly distributed via increased profits.

    Food costs are therefore the most important consideration regarding social engineering objectives. Agricultural subsidies, and all of the compromises made in food quality, play a far more important role in the necessary manipulations required to maintain our national advantages in economic terms and in global strategic terms as well. The artificially low value of staple goods makes it less than cost effective for developing or undeveloped nations to invest in ag development and this creates trade dependencies. Nations that must import food are more inclined to sell their raw materials so as to meet their obligations and so this keeps poor nations that ‘should’ have the advantage of cheap labor from developing not only their ag infrastructures, but also industrial capacities. This gets a little complicated but it is critical to understand that it is artificially low food values that makes trade escalation schemes effective. A nation for example that has an abundance of iron ore and cheap labor would seem a naturally endowed candidate for investment in steel production. Then too, this in turn would lead to all types of industrial production where steel is integral and the savings in shipping costs alone would suggest that investment for such enterprises would be forthcoming. But, developed nations have structured their tariffs so as to discourage undeveloped nations from using their raw materials by imposing large tariffs on finished goods while keeping tariffs low on raw materials. This of course acts as an incentive for undeveloped nations to sell resources rather than utilize them. That incentive though is strengthened by keeping poor nations poor. And that begins by keeping them dependent on food imports, which can be most immediately and easily afforded, with a minimum of investment, by choosing to export that which has been made the most cost effective by structured tariffs.

    That is the beauty of neocolonialism, it is no longer necessary for powerful nations to usurp resources, poor nations can be manipulated into making voluntary contributions to rich nations. Of course poor nations must have ‘business friendly’ leaders and that has some external costs just like artificially low food values do, but what’s a trillion here and there spent on a military that has almost limitless weaponry. Being fat, lazy, unhealthy, and stupid, seems a small price to pay considering that we rule the world. And of course some us are able to extend our lives due to medical advances and thereby be stupid and lazy for longer periods of time, while of course ruling the world from the comfort of our convalescence.

    Ray L-Love (sorry that I was not able to keep this shorter)

  32. Wow Russ, way to go on that reading comprehension test. Too bad you failed.

    A) I said you were saying that the tests were clean when the updates indicate tests said that there were Listeria and Staph positive samples. This is lying, and deceptive. You continue to maintain the samples are clean. Again, lying.

    B) You failed to address Mike Adams saying vaccines are harmful, when there has not been a single conclusive (properly done) study that shows a link. This entirely discredits everything else he says. He has also recommended poisons like MMS Miracle Mineral. That is BLEACH.

    Mike Adams has been repeatedly slapped down by the FDA and the FTC for fraudulent health claims. Again, this discredits everything he says.

    C) I never once said anything in support or against “Big Ag”, but you proceeded to attack me for it. I buy local foods. I want to buy humanely raised meat. I’m also a believer in the germ theory(Mike Adams isn’t), so I know the necessity of pasteurized milk and eggs in things like mayonnaise.

    Just because someone says something negative about a proven crazy and kook doesn’t mean they’re a paid shill or supporter of any conspiracy. They just may have a different viewpoint, often backed up by evidence and logic.

    Hell, I’d love to be paid by “Big Ag” as I’m a dirt poor student! ;)

    Please don’t put words in my mouth, like every other crazy kook on the web does. It just makes you look worse.

  33. Why hello Russ! Nice to talk to you too. Ironically, I’m socially liberal, but in many ways, fiscally conservative. However, I believe in evaluating ideas and methods, rather than just parroting party lines.

    I’m not a proponent of bigger government, I’m a proponent of Good Government. Good government are departments like the FDA, empowered to actually close down factories, or the new consumer financial protection organization.

  34. Ray, it sounds like you aren’t a big fan of the Economics 101 conventional wisdom that embraces competitive advantage, and the ‘interdependence’ that follows just as the night must follow the day.

    Supersize that side order of fries for me!

    I also really like that fact that Oprah got into all sorts of trouble with the beef industry during the mad cow disease scare where she said she might never eat a burger again (or something like that). The beef industry in Texas has some particularly arcane (i.e., absurdly powerful and over-reaching) anti-libel laws regarding what one can or can’t say about beef.

  35. Wow. I was supposed to get a laugh out that O’Rourke article? I didn’t realize he was such an (expletive deleted). Seems like everyone on the right is like that these days. I can’t stand them.

  36. @Tyler: I’ve been looking for a response to this post from Mike Adams, and I can’t find it. Meanwhile, it’s interesting that you, Tyler, are permitted to post, while you advocating “purging” Mike Adams…who only appears here in your comments and those by Russ.


    Meanwhile, James Kwak’s post is thoughtful and provocative, as usual. I haven’t had anything “Sara Lee” for many years; from now on, it will be never. This human body thanks you, James.

  37. “The success in Asia of Carrefour, the French giant superstore chain, didn’t come because the famously lactose-intolerant East suddenly developed a hankering for brie.

    Unlike, say, McDonald’s, supermarkets don’t simply impose the cultural prejudices of their home countries on others — Walmarts in Beijing stock live tortoises for turtle soup and proudly tout moisturizer made with sheep placenta (a fabled wrinkle reducer).

    But supermarkets are big factors in what epidemiologists call the nutrition transition: Local, fresh food is losing out to processed goods that tend to be higher in salt, fats, and sugar — and far more profitable for retailers. The result? Dramatically rising rates of obesity everywhere.”

  38. jeff,

    Ironically, I grew up on the Irvine Ranch in California where my parents worked as ranch hands. My mother was mostly the cook for those men who lived in the bunkhouse but she rode colts and worked outside some too. My Dad was though in fact a cowboy. And I too was a sort of a cowboy, I was actually a professional roper when I was in my late teens and early twenties and I qualified for the National Finals in Oklahoma City in ’76,’77,’78. (But I was the weird cowboy with the long hair who talked about things that were considered to be ‘odd’).

    To make myself out as even more of a betrayer of my own kind, I now live in Texas.(but there are countless places I’d rather be)

  39. The very article which is linked in the update:

    tells the story of this elusive “contamination” for which the agency refuses to divulge its procedures or the actual results, but only this secretive accusation.

    As for jackboots, um, uniformed cadres STORMED A DAIRY WITH DRAWN GUNS. A private, members-only club. How much more jackbootish do you want it to get?

    Here’s the beginning of the story of this “investigation”, a real keeper for the good civics textbooks:

    On August 24th, fifty-five days after the cheese from Morningland Dairy was seized by agents at Rawesome, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) tested the cheese and reported that they “detected” listeria monocytogenes and staph aureous in two cheeses. The CDFA then reported this “detection” to the Missouri Milk Board and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). On August 26th, the Missouri Milk Board contacted the cheesemaker from Morningland Dairy, Jedadiah York, and told him they were coming by to discuss a problem with some cheese. Denise and Joe Dixon were at the American Cheese Society convention in Seattle when this call occurred. Jedadiah called them and told them that Milk Board Inspectors, Don Falls and Roger Neill, were coming to the plant to talk about a problem and the Dixons said to fully cooperate and find out what the problem might be. And that’s when things began to get interesting.

    The Missouri Milk Board Inspectors had no batch numbers or paperwork to show to Mr. York, but they pulled up the report from CDFA on Morningland’s computer and show Jedadiah the picture of cheese that was definitely under a Morningland label. However, the codes, which would tell the Plant Manager the dates of the batches, were not visible in the photos nor recorded on the CDFA report. Details were completely lacking. No levels regarding the amount of bacteria detected in the cheese were indicated on the CDFA report, no chain of custody regarding the product, no explanation of sample temperature controls or the lack of such were delineated, and no reports or complaints of illness had been made. Mr. Falls of the Missouri Milk Board told Jedadiah they would be back in the morning and that he expected to have this all taken care of very soon. The inspectors checked into a hotel and came back the next morning.

    Solely on the basis of this phantom alleged “contamination”, the feds then illegally ordered Morningland to shut down and issue a recall, even though the FDA has no authority to order a recall, only to ask for it (although your food bill intends to change that; I can’t wait to hear how you think it’ll be used against the likes of DeCoster).

    They then illegally issued a press release announcing the recall, in order to use strongarm thug tactics to break this small company.

    The story gets worse from there; anyone with the stomach to read more can follow the link.

    This is one of only many recent cases of federal thugs assaulting small producers and distributors. There are zero corresponding cases of such raids on big corporate producers. This is in spite of the fact that 100% of significant food outbreaks are caused by industrial producers like DeCoster. Almost none are caused by small sellers. And as I said, Morningland has been responsible for exactly zero cases of illness. Including since these alleged contaminants were detected all those months ago.

    On its face this is obviously a case of thuggish corruption. The feds are acting as Big Ag’s corporate goons. These food bills impose one-size-fits-all burdens which have been intentionally crafted to be a minor nuisance at most to the big, poisonous producers, but to pose severe economic and logistical obstacles for small ones. The bills, like these thug tactics, are meant to crush the food relocalization movement, a democratic, economic, and physical imperative, before it really gets rolling.

    But in spite of all this evidence, and in spite of this government’s across-the-board anti-democratic, pro-corporate record, you would have us believe all these actions constitute legitimate law enforcement (but you refuse to explain why DeCoster never once got the same treatment over decades of real infractions), the bills are innocuous, and the language of the bills, which clearly could be construed to give the FDA vast, indeed tyrannical, power, is just boilerplate which would never be abused in such a way, oh no.

    (If it’s no big deal, why does the NSAC, a moderate group, oppose the House version, and say it will support the Senate and final versions only if they include a slew of amendments to explicitly exempt small producers from all of that ominous language?)

    As for anyone who would choose to side with the corporate-government nexus in order to attack one small actor, I think the parallel with siding with the Wall Street-government nexus against the “deadbeat” borrower is exact. You’re being intellectually dishonest to deny such an obvious parallel.

    Nor, given the patent fact that we’re under assault by a kleptocracy which arrogates more unaccountable power and asserts itself more aggressively all the time, do I think there’s anything “ad hom” about accusing anyone who’s still capable of siding with the state against sustainability activists and relocalizers of being on the side of the enemy.

    This ain’t the world of your civics texts.

  40. Carla, sorry if I wasn’t clear. Russ linked to a post written by Mike Adams about something. I was explaining that Mike Adams has no legitimacy whatsoever. Thats when Russ proceeded to use ad hominem attacks on me, rather than the argument.

  41. I’m “lying”, hmm?

    I quote your own words:

    A) you linked to a report about a shutdown of a small dairy despite clean test results. The post has updates on the post indicating there were questionable test results justifying the action.

    And I repeat that here’s you yourself admitting the post has all the information. That’s where you got it in the first place, remember? If I were trying to lie about something, why would I link to two posts which discuss the thing I’m supposedly lying about? (Three, if you include the one I added above.)

    Talk about failing reading comprehension……

    More reading comprehension: Where did I or anyone but you say a word about vaccines? (Or supplements, for that matter.) There are certainly real questions about some vaccines, but that’s not our subject here. What does Adams’ position on vaccines have to do with his reportage on the Rawesome raid? Lincoln was a racist, you know. I guess that invalidates everything he ever said and did.

    Talk about ad hom…….

    I buy local foods. I want to buy humanely raised meat.

    In that case, you better stop worrying about Mike Adams and start worrying about the FDA and its corporate ag masters. Because sooner or later what you call their “justified actions” are going to be coming home to you, and you know how it goes:

    First they came for the raw milk people, and I didn’t care…..

  42. Let me know when your heroes at the corporatist FDA shut down a factory instead of a small dairy.

    And the consumer bureau scam…thanks for the laugh.

  43. Hmmm… I was moreso speaking – rather abstractly, it must be said – about dietetics, or what is today called ‘food science’. In retrospect this may not have been the most relevant place to try to discuss it, but I still think it’s quite interesting.

    What I’m getting at is this: both food science and finance are rather vague areas of study. True, there are some pretty basic laws – sugar will rot your teeth and increased government spending will eventually lead to inflation – but when it comes to nuance, both these spheres are open to so much debate that I often think these nuances meaningless and subjective. Just sit down with a food scientist and discuss certain topics – like the Atkins diet – and you’ll come away with the sort of vague bemusement you’ll also find when you talk to certain financiers and financial economists. Often they seem to speak as if there were no reference to reality.

    I reckon that, in their social functions, these people – apart from having a very basic role to spread certain time-tested truths – also act like myth-makers or holy men. Food scientists’ assertions often resemble Leviticus in their ultimate arbitrariness (now Omega Z cures cancer; now it causes it etc.) – while financiers often take on the role of oracular diviner (picture Greenspan rummaging through a goats entrails and you’ll see what I’m getting at).

    Conceived in this way it’s not surprising that both spheres show overlapping ‘logics’. I was sort of referring to Kwak’s assertion that he often sees the same patterns everywhere (I believe he studies Law – another highly symbolic system). It also sketches out a theory of why nutrionism and the like is a ‘bogus science’ as Kwak aptly calls it.

    The fact is nutrionism and it’s ilk are fundamentally irrational systems with some rational gains – in this they resemble, say, Leviticus or hygienic systems. This is why they are very much so comparable to finance.

    As to your example, it doesn’t have a huge amount to do with the point I was trying to make (albeit rather badly). What you’re referring to is simple cost reduction. What I read into Kwak’s post was a critique of food science as a science.

  44. Since I don’t eat or approve of government-subsidized quasi-food, I’m not going to quibble with the strained analogy. However, let the comment section reflect the fact that Michael Pollan has seen fit to condemn Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution with a casual disregard for the hundreds of million lives they saved. No doubt Pollan has done some good reporting over the years, but his scientific background is as a Berkeley restaurant critic.

  45. jeff,

    Ironically, I am a cowboy who lives in Texas. I did in fact qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in ’76,’77, and ’78. (I then went by the name Ray LaPan which is a stepfather thing, I still use the ‘L’ as a middle initial)

    Anyway, I have no point. I live in Texas so I should have something to say about anti-libel laws regarding beef but I was unaware that any such laws were in existence. I thought we just shot anyone who was bad for business? And with lawyers being sooooo potentially bad for business, there is always the risk of having shot all of the lawyers and not having any to enforce the anti-libel laws. So, I don’t see any need for the laws in the first place. Kinda paradoxical, and bullets being so much cheaper than lawyers I doubt that any such law exists. You should probably check your sources.

  46. I thought that the comment above was somehow lost, so, I wrote another similar, but not the same, comment that will have some redundancies. I’m not drunk or using drugs of any kind today so I can only blame my computer and society and my wife and this site and etc. and etc. It could not have anything to do with my skills on a computer, no way!

  47. “~190 lbs of meat, ~630 lbs of dairy”

    And what feeds the animals that produce those foods? Corn.

  48. food science in the usa has always been about shelf life, transportability and profitability, not nutrition.

  49. pilkingtonphil opined, “I’d say that the reason you see parallels is that both systems are – broadly speaking – what anthropologists call ‘symbolic systems’.”

    I’d say it’s the YEAST :-)

    Wiki it, “The yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been used in baking and in fermenting alcoholic beverages for thousands of years.[5] It is also extremely important as a model organism in modern cell biology research, and is one of the most thoroughly researched eukaryotic microorganisms. Researchers have used it to gather information about the biology of the eukaryotic cell and ultimately human biology.[6] Other species of yeast, such as Candida albicans, are opportunistic pathogens and can cause infections in humans. Yeasts have recently been used to generate electricity in microbial fuel cells,[7] and produce ethanol for the biofuel industry.”

    Definitely “13 Brewers” :-)

    Thanks for bringing back the memory of the first food fight I got caught in back in high school – Pancake Breakfast Day. Totally unfair, of course, but everyone in the cafeteria during the 4th period feeding that erupted into mayhem were given “detention” – even if all you did was pick off a syrup drenched pancake that landed on your head in the cross fire (collateral damage) and fired it back at the shooter….sure it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt…

    More misery for others = More money for ME ME ME

  50. Dear James Kwak,
    Thank you for being as clear minded as you are. Yes. Food does resemble Finance. You are very right. I had not looked at it that way yet, but I surely stayed away from processed finance as well as processed food since 1968, when I understood that whole food is all one can take to protect one’s health and thoughts. If a grain can be put in the ground and give a plant with the same grains as a result, then that grain is fitto go into my cooking pot. So brown rice, yes 20 Euro for ten kilos, goes into my pot since then and I have not been to a doctor in 42 years.
    So, by all means, let’s to go back to normal life, the normal life we have lived for many thousands of years as civilised human beings.
    Thank you very much for your clarity. Thank you.
    By the way, are you of Dutch descend? We have the name Kwaks here a lot. Koos Kwaks, an artist, is a friend of mine.
    Louwrien Wijers

  51. @Bayard: “The real story is the effectiveness in the plutocracy’s ability to destroy a nation.”

    Well, you hit that nail on the head.

    Then you say: “When we go to vote next week, regardless of the selection we make, we will be voting for a greedy, power hungry person who has financed themselves into office through largesse of multiple oligarchs. This defines plutocracy.”

    When I vote next week, for the first time in Ohio history, there will be two Green Party candidates and a Socialist Party candidate on my ballot, along with, I believe, a Libertarian or two.

    When I first read your statement that “Perhaps some charismatic and actually ethical individual will spring forth in the next couple of years willing to risk everything to swim upstream against he plutocratic current and actually pave the way for a real change” I was going to retort: One person can’t make that kind of change.

    However, I realized that in Ohio, one person recently did. Following a legal challenge by the Libertarian Party, our Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner reviewed the disgusting behavior of the Republican and Democratic parties in restricting access to the ballot to themselves, and she threw ballot access wide open to alternative political parties.

    One person can make an enormous difference. But it does take an educated, engaged, and committed electorate to seize the opportunities offered and turn them to the greater good.

    WE are the stumbling block.

    However, I am excited and encouraged that this year, I can vote for a Green Party candidate for county-wide office, and a Socialist for the U.S. Senate. Thank you, Secretary of State Brunner.

  52. Pretty much seems to agree with my thoughts yes??? Those are awesome graphs. Thanks Rickk.

    Actually I see a lot of similarities with banks getting people into ARMs and the financing that car dealerships offer. It almost seems intentionally geared to getting people “upside down” (negative equity) on the loan.

  53. Quite a bogus argument, to ridicule nutrient requirements as “nutritionism.” Try living without Vitamin C, Iron, and the essential amino acids. Nutrition as an advancing science, has little to do with the economically driven food chemistry Pollan correctly derides. A proper comparison between nutrition and finance would use the word “fundamental,” not one I am certaint you would so lightly discard.

  54. Maybe, I’m taking this too seriously, but I don’t think you really understood what I was getting at – have a look at the reply I gave someone else above, which, I hope, was a bit clearer…

    Fundamentally, I don’t think that food science is purpose built charlatanism geared toward making money. Like finance, it’s practitioners genuinely believe the ‘laws’ they discover…

  55. It’s about the caloric intake. The process of breaking down any and all “food” is compromised when the intake is more than the system can handle to break up large pieces into the micro-nutrient size that cells can uptake.

    Consuming too much profit without releasing a trickle is what’s ailing the economy. No one person can “spend” a billion dollars.

    Greed and gluttony – and the other 5 “sins”…

  56. Uh… now we’re going way off the mark… I was – and I believe Kwak was too – mainly commenting on how food science is, in fact, a pseudoscience – and in this regard it is similar to finance which also bears the stigmata of a pseudoscience. This is why both are so open to manipulation by corporate powers.

    As for the metaphors and analogies being put forward in the comments section, they merely re-enforce my point. As the French say: “Comparison n’est pas raison”

  57. RAYLLOVE: ASIDE from the rant and republican stalemate of too big government except when they run it…the excess of bureaucracy and redundancy is true of all technologies as well. The facts of diminishing returns are exaggerated by incompetent people over time and the incentives that are supposed to “revive” the integrity of the system (and systemics) are most often at cross purposes with each other. People go into politics for personal reasons and they are not always the greatest people fit to govern. We are witnessing media driven market politics running our political system mostly for self gain. It is an enormous enterprise that far exceeds government. The pure lust for power is another factor. Mostly when I hear Big Government these days it is coming directly FROM big government and becomes a slick marketing tool for political manipulation and “driving the herd” (which I know you have a 1st hand knowledge of from your comment). As a horseman you probably also know the true meaning of “hoodwinked” which is what we all get a taste of from Big Finance and Power Play politics these days.

    PS: I truly enjoy your posts!

  58. Maybe that is what it’s going to take for us to get over our idea that we are somehow “exceptional” as a species.

  59. Multiple postings can happen to anybody in this digital age…

    From’s “Food Libel Laws” entry:

    “Food libel laws, also known as food disparagement laws and informally as veggie libel laws, are laws passed in 13 U.S. states that make it easier for food producers to sue their critics for libel. These 13 states include Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas.[1] Many of the food-disparagement laws establish a lower standard for civil liability and allow for punitive damages and attorney’s fees for plaintiffs alone,[2] regardless of the case’s outcome.[3]”


    “In some states these laws also establish different standards of proof than are used in traditional American libel lawsuits, including the practice of placing the burden of proof on the party being sued.”

    What a country!

  60. It is, of course, just a matter of time before corporations are allowed to vote and be selected to serve on juries. A logical extension given the recent Supreme Court ruling re: Citizens United vs. FE.

  61. Bruce,

    Just for the record, so that one day old cowboys receive the recognition we deserve regarding economic analysis, (which we spend more time on than some may realize), the widespread imposing of capital controls that is occurring in the emerging economies, will almost certainly redirect excess liquidity to commodities. That has in fact already began, demand for commodities was expected to wane as stimulus funds waned but commodity prices have been rising. This is to be expected of course where wheat and maybe some other grains are concerned but hard commodities have gone up about 10% recently. More QE with no access to the capital markets in the emerging nations should lead to massive concentrations of liquidity. But I’m not so sure that the QE can happen with so much opposition on so many fronts. ?

  62. Capitalism in the form of corporatism is like a virus on the economic body and devours the host.

  63. “You failed to address Mike Adams saying vaccines are harmful, when there has not been a single conclusive (properly done) study that shows a link.”

    Vaccines aren’t harmful? Please direct me to the studies that show this. Umm, that’ll be “conclusive, properly done” studies, thanks. Wouldn’t hurt if there were no interest-conflicted authors, as well.

    Try telling a parent who has watched their child die just after receiving a vaccination that they aren’t harmful. Try reading a few historical reports on side effects. I suggest starting in Lancet.

    You bloody fool.

  64. jeff,

    I stand corrected. In fact, I asked around some and it turns out we were each correct. “Food libel laws” are needed for people who live in other states and who interfere with business, especially beef business, or the oil business. We Texans can run into problems if we shoot people in other states so we must then resort to more expensive options. But this gets complicated because we have unilateral agreements with some states such as Louisiana. And of course it depends a great deal on the color of the person being shot at, and that can vary from state to state. To make things even more complicated, certain types of white folks, liberal Californians for instance, can be shot for just any reason in any of the surrounding states while it is frowned upon to shoot Mexicans if they are working regardless of what they say. And in New Mexico it is actually unlawful to shoot Mexicans even if they ‘are picketing’ ‘during’ business hours, so go figure? New Mexico ‘is’ a state in the US after-all… and in Mexico it ‘is’ ok to shoot picketing Mexicans, as if there were not enough nuances to keep track of in the first place. But of course everybody shoots at everybody in Mexico so that doesn’t actually apply here. The important thing is that these policies do all work because I don’t know of a single case involving a black woman having the audacity to make disparaging comments related to beef production here in Texas, but, as you pointed out, that sort of nonsense does occur in places like Illinois. I suppose it follows that our policies down here are so effective that mouthy broads like Oprah are deterred from living here. And it is probably worth noting that Oprah being a liberal woman, and black, and mouthy, well, lets just say that shooting her would not require any further justification. Had she not said something derogatory about beef already, it would be safe to assume that she would eventually.

  65. Swant, I’m sorry to hear about your loss.

    However, blaming the doctors or the vaccine is not the right avenue to go. Sometimes, bad things can happen for no reason, or cause we can discern.

    If we look at the epidemology of vaccines, we see NO evidence that they are harmful except to those whom are allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine. No increase in autism. No increase in deaths. In fact, with vaccines, more children survive childhood than ever before.

    Whooping cough, mumps, measles are DEADLY diseases to children. Mumps can permanently blind or deafen children. Helen Keller’s teacher was blind and deaf due to mumps. Whooping cough kills. More children die with these diseases than without.

    Your child’s death is unbelievably tragic, but there may not be anyone to blame for your child’s death. I know this can make you feel utterly powerless, but it is a truth.

    There is not, and can not be a conspiracy to harm children. That would suppose that millions of people, doctors, parents, workers, were in on the conspiracy, and all actively colluded to harm children. This staggers the mind to even suppose it could exist. There are not this many evil people in the world.

    If there were a conspiracy, we would have heard it. Instead, we only hear accusations, funded by ethically corrupt doctors(Andrew Wakefield), and people selling their own solution. They want to make money, and so they lie, whether they believe their own lies or not.

    If you have ever had someone say, “This is what happened, and I have a solution for that, its only $34.99 for 3 months!” then they’re peddling a solution, profiting from loss.

    Now you directed me to the Lancet. I’m sure you’re aware that Andrew Wakefield’s study was thrown out of the Lancet, and his actions were found ethically corrupt by a council of his peers? He took money, and did disclose this in his study. He said things to the media that were not in the study. He pressured *CHILDREN* to take part in needless painful procedures that were not approved by the hospital ethics board. Then he paid the parents for this.

    All of those are against the law in Britain. He is not reliable. He needlessly hurt children for money from a trial lawyer.

  66. “Pseudoscience” is a method of cherry-picking data to promote pet theories that can ultimately become hard facts because all the other “data” is discarded.

    More misery for others = More money for ME ME ME

    is a hard, cold mathematical FACT.

  67. I’m definitely saving that information for a time deemed convenient by me. God bless tippy and the fine reporting at CBC.

  68. Unlike in China, where they specialize in phemaldehyde flavored beer and melamine poisoned babies milk powder.

    Oh well, only 13,000 Chinese children were ill from the milk, 80% under age two. I’m sure kidney stones must be a very jolly experience for babies when Premier Wen Jiabao visits the hospital (after several days of Chinese Government silence) and pats the babies on the head. They must feel like they were touched by God and the permanent damage to their kidneys is not a big deal when weighed against the profits/kickbacks gained by China’s top officials.

  69. Ted,

    “A Chinese court has condemned two men to death and sentenced a company boss to life for their roles in the production and sale of poisoned milk that killed at least six children and made almost 300,000 ill.”

    “Geng Jinping was given the death penalty for producing and selling toxic food. The official China Daily website said he added the powder to milk.”

    “A third man received a suspended death sentence, which is usually commuted to life in prison.”

    “The heavy sentences reflect the outrage across China caused by the case, not only because children were affected and because it taps into potent food safety fears, but because local officials covered up the problem for at least a month after Sanlu alerted them.”

    “Tian, the most senior official charged, pleaded guilty to producing and selling fake or substandard products. During her trial in December she admitted having known of problems with her company’s products for months before telling authorities.”

    “Tian was fined 20m yuan (£2.12m) while Sanlu, which has been declared bankrupt, was fined 50m yuan.”

    “State media said the charges against her did not carry the death penalty.”

    Zheng Shuzen, who said her granddaughter died of kidney failure after drinking Sanlu milk formula but was not included in the list of victims, told Reuters that Tian “should have been shot”.

    “So many children died but they kept the official number down so that she could get life [in jail], not death.”

    “Courts sentenced a total of 21 people involved in the scandal today. Two more defendants received life sentences and three former Sanlu executives, including one who uses a wheelchair after a failed suicide attempt last year, were given between five years and 15 years in prison.”

  70. I have been searching all day for a recent work on mega-Corporate domination of the food supply network. I have not had luck so far but I can say that only a handful of Corporate giants own the vast majority of what you think is diversity and variety on your shelves.

    Most of the brands these days are false fronts for marketing the same products by the same massive network of Industrial food production. If we are comparing finance to food we first must recognize that the basic homegrown foodstuff is a thing of the past. Most of us old enough to remember “real” food know that it simply is for the rich now. We usually get the watered down, mealy, rancid, chemically stabilized version and have learned to like it. The
    “financial” side of food is an upper tier production line and is growing smaller in comparison to the mass markets…and proportionately more expensive.
    (2) Agricultural landscape is dwindling while massive agribusiness (thank you Reaganites…) have become technologically dependent; exhaust the land faster, and are proud to say that they utilize so much less land to produce so much more. this of course, leaves big finance sectors plenty of new land to develop into malls and urban/suburban sprawl. The question is whether this inverse proportion can continue very far into the future. I am sure 50 or so years from now we all envision greenhouses in space growing all our food hydroponically. So no problem. Of course these will have been genetically altered for shipping and handling which is already par for the course.

    (3) If knocking out variation among small farmers wsn’t enough to test evolutionary theory in real time, the stubborn question of our water supply will be raising its ugly head more and more. We’ll say no more about that…money is enough like water as it is!

    ($) What I did manage to find for the loyal troopers who have been working this issue is one promising reference book. Judge for yourself:

    worth noting:
    Hungry Corporations: Transnational Biotech Companies Colonize the Food Chain ( 2004 )
    Helena Paul (et. al)
    Helena Paul (Author)

    Editorial Reviews (as per Amazon)
    Product Description
    This book is about the growing dominance of transnational corporations over many aspects of our lives, from executive super-pay to private sector pension funds. The authors of this book look at the hi-tech agro-chemical and genetic engineering companies that now dominate the food chain. In this detailed account, they show how a handful of companies have accelerated the industrialization of agriculture; penetrated the previously independent world of scholarly research; manipulated public opinion, and more.”

    So perhaps we have a TBTF system of food supply domination right under our noses and fail to see it because it is all broken up into a derivative package of brand names that are all part of one great delusion of a free market working to optimize supply according to our demands. Instead, we seem to have our demands conditioned by the expediency of profit seeking (turn key) corporatism.

    By the way…I shop at my Asian store…real diversity and variety…and I trust the food!

  71. Easy fix Rickk! :)

    Vitamin D = 5-10 minutes of sun a day

    Omega 3’s = flax seed, lots of green leafy vegetables, heck even tofu usually has some omega 3’s.

    In general, the less processed and the more veggies you eat, the better.

    There’s just too many good reasons to not eat meat. Or at least very infrequently, because I do love sushi every once in a great while…

  72. jeff simpson stated:

    “It is, of course, just a matter of time before corporations are allowed to vote and be selected to serve on juries. A logical extension given the recent Supreme Court ruling re: Citizens United vs. FE.”

    Koch Bros. Dynasty includes Dixie cups. Think of this relatively incidental reality…. Every time you buy Dixie cups or plates you are potentially contributing to the political spending spree of these moguls along with their direct financing of the tea party front groups that hackle and shackle grassroots democracy into big finance’s personal interests. Corporate politics is already (literally) on your table and on the plate. And if a street beggar is using a dixie cup…well?

  73. “This will only confirm my critics’ belief that I see the same thing everywhere, but bear with me for a minute”

    Well, at least it’s not $ex.

  74. Bruce E. Woych wrote:

    “It is, of course, just a matter of time before corporations are allowed to vote and be selected to serve on juries.”


    “The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.”

    Justice John Paul Stevens

  75. Nick B in DC

    “Vitamin D = 5-10 minutes of sun a day”

    Optimal exposure takes place only under very specific conditions that are difficult to duplicate (time of day 11-2/ & season), if not impossible, especially if you have to shovel snow in the winter.

    “Omega 3′s = flax seed, lots of green leafy vegetables, heck even tofu usually has some omega 3′s.”

    Omega 3’s – You’ll have to eat a lot of veggies to convert their ALA into useful amounts of EPA/Omega 3. The conversion factor is 40-1, or you could toss in some Tuna once in a while to make it easier. :-)

  76. The saying attached to my “Yogi” teabag this morning:

    “Goodness should become human nature, because it is real in nature.”

    Robots don’t eat food, so no worries.

  77. Rickk

    Good points. ALA > EPA + DHA is a pretty low conversion, but probably higher than 2.5% Just googling brought up this Oregon State synopsis.

    “Studies of ALA metabolism in healthy young men indicate that approximately 8% of dietary ALA is converted to EPA and 0-4% is converted to DHA (7). In healthy young women, approximately 21% of dietary ALA is converted to EPA and 9% is converted to DHA (8). The better conversion efficiency of young women compared to men appears to be related to the effects of estrogen (6, 9). ”

    PLUS, if you are eating a high ALA diet, there will be less competition for the enzymes that LA also use, so a better absorption rate. Not sure if that means a better conversion rate. Some (real, not farm raised) fish in the diet is a good idea though. Too bad we are depleting most of the fish populations around the world :(

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