Avoid Splenda, et al

A recent report in the Journal of Toxicology issued a warning against using artificial sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda). It concludes: In animals examined for the study, Splenda reduced the amount of good bacteria in the intestines by 50 percent, increased the pH level in the intestines, contributed to increases in body weight and affected P-glycoprotein (P-gp) levels in such a way that crucial health-related drugs could be rejected.  – Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Part A 2008;71(21):1415-29 I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this publicly, but I’m going to today. Something in my metabolism or genetic makeup triggers a severe neuro-toxic reaction with the artificial sweetener Aspartame (Nutra-Sweet, etc.).  I’m hesitant to write about this because numerous studies have shown Aspartame to be “safe” and the manufacturer is quick to point this out. I’m not an alarmist, and readers should draw their own conclusions. (long explanation removed – if you’re interested, contact me privately) When I’ve accidentally ingested Aspartame over the last 20+ years, I’ve experienced the identical neural symptoms to varying degrees — it’s no fluke. Some might claim that these symptoms are purely coincidental or even psychosomatic, and they may be right. But I doubt it, and I’m not taking any chances. For what it’s  

Can Earth Sustain Its Population?

Challenging article  in this week’s Christian Science Monitor. Some say that the Earth cannot sustain the kind of rapid industrial growth we have seen 1950-present. My own research tells me that energy is scarce, not abundant (relative to demand). I’ve also found a strong correlation between access to energy and population growth (and its opposite: limited access to energy and population decline).     Do I think population control should be discussed in the USA? Yes. But today’s CSM article underscores the cultural difficulties in even discussing the issue. Kudos to CSM for having the journalistic guts to tackle this. Some data from the CSM article:    * In 1950 the less-developed (poorer) regions of the world had roughly twice the population of the more developed (richer) ones. By 2050 the ratio will exceed 6 to 1.  * Human numbers currently increase by 75 million to 80 million people annually, the equivalent of adding another United States to the world about every four years.  * At present, the average woman bears nearly twice as many children (2.8) in poor countries as in rich countries (1.6 children per woman).  * Some 51 countries or areas will lose population between now and 2050. Germany is expected to drop from 83 million to 79 million people, Italy from 58 million to 51 million, Japan from 128 million to 112 million and the Russian Federation from 143 million to 112 million.  * If recent trends continue as projected to 2050, virtually all of the world’s population growth will be in urban areas.  * Everyone born in 1965 or earlier and still alive has seen human numbers more than double from 3.3 billion in 1965 to 6.8 billion in 2009.  * The peak population growth rate ever reached, about 2.1 percent a year, occurred between 1965 and 1970. Human population never grew with such speed before the 20th century and is likely never to grow with such speed again. Note also comment #23 on this CSM article from Dr. Clifford  

A sick culture of debt

To our new president, please do not print more money, more debt. We are well beyond historically high public debt ratios.  This kind of massive indebtedness will likely ripple through our world for decades. The next generation is going to inherit a nightmarish, bankrupt world of our making. That generation, my son’s generation, will become little more than the clean-up crew for our indulgent parties. Injecting debt into a sick culture of debt is like giving smack to a junkie. Huge infusions of new debt will only prolong the enivitable bottom, slow the recovery cycle, and artifically skew the natural work-reward cycles.   Mr. Obama, let the economy hit bottom on its own. It will be messy, people will suffer. But recovery will probably come far sooner – and stronger. Our time in history is beggining to look an awful lot like the 1930s, where our government tried to spend its way back to prosperity. Eventual prosperity did not come by government programs (they failed), but ironically by the arrival of WW2. Consider that.. Mr. Obama, if you must create new debt, invest it in alternative energy. And be creative. Any idiot president with a pen and a willing congress can print money (Bush and friends did it for years). I seem to remember something about “change” coming to Washington.    From today’s AP newswire.. The collapse in bank stocks today was swift: State Street Corp. plunged 59 percent, Citigroup fell 20 percent and Bank of America lost 29 percent. Royal Bank of Scotland fell 69 percent in New York trading. “The reason we’re having a panic drop is the fact that Europe is catching our cold, and we could have deeper and deeper problems that could require more and more money. And eventually the government is going to have to stop spending,” said Keith Springer, president of Capital Financial Advisory Services. “It’s a pretty dangerous situation to be  

Free Markets

Let me get this straight – a small community of Wall Street executives has spent the last few years making tens of billions of dollars in salaries and bonuses based solely on their ability to game and rig the financial system, and now we’re essentially being asked to pay for their ill-gotten wealth. Our political leaders (Fed, Treasury, Exec, etc.) have been saying for three years that our economy is on sure footing. In the words of Henry Paulson over the last 18 months, the housing crisis will be contained to sub-prime. Now, all of a sudden, he says we’re facing global economic catastrophe. And you’re asking me to trust these men with $700B of public cash? Without oversight? Without restriction? Without penalties for failures? U.S. Treasury Secretary Paulson – the former CEO of Citibank Goldman Sachs with a net worth exceeding $200M – is a leading figure of the Wall Street community that created this mess. I can’t emphasis enough: I don’t trust them to do the right thing. There are far too many conflicts of interests at work. At this point, I would much rather see Wall Street, and the global economy, suffer the natural consequences of excessive debt and greed. Let all the greed factories fail. Honest businesses – those which actually produce real goods and legitimate services – will dig our way back to global solvency. You want true deregulation? You want free markets? Now’s your  

Doc Kauffman

When Dan came home from school today, I noticed he was wearing a Fender Since 1946 tee-shirt. This triggered a memory I hadn’t thought about in years. In the early 1940’s, two men formed an Orange County partnership called Kauffman & Fender. Leo Fender and Clayton “Doc” Kauffman initially made Hawaiian lap steel guitars and later experimented with solid body prototype electrics of the Broadcaster (Telecaster) and Precision Bass. Kauffman left the company and Leo renamed it Fender Electric Instrument Company. When I was growing up in Orange County (circa 68-71), I would bring my 1958 Fender Stratocaster to Doc for “tune-ups”. In reality, my guitar didn’t need a tune-up. I just enjoyed hanging out with him. He had stories about electric instruments dating back to the 1920s, designing guitars for Rickenbacker in the 1930’s, and so much more. He never failed to remind me that the tremolo arm on my Strat was his patented design. Doc (1975 photo above by Rob Cusuman in Doc’s living room) would take me into his garage and walk me through all the steps of setting up a Stratocaster on his workbench – which I already knew. It was the only way I could hear more stories. One day, probably the last time I visited him, he grabbed on old piece of plastic — I think it was one of the newer (at that time) plastic milk cartons. He cut out a piece of plastic in the shape of a guitar pick. Then, with a conductors hole punch, he punched three small holes in the shape of a triangle. He handed it to me and said, “this is the Doc Kauffman pick”. Daniel’s tee-shirt reminded me about the Doc Kauffman pick. I remember years ago putting it in my Yamaha 12-string electric case, along with a broken Kluson low-E tuning machine from the 58 Strat. A moment ago, I dug into my case stack – and found it! Clay “Doc” Kauffman was the technical guru behind the first Fender guitars, some of which remain in production today (P-bass, Tele). I think it’s just too cool that, as a kid, I had a chance to hang with inventor of many of today’s most popular electric instruments. Wikipedia lists Doc’s passing in 1990. Apparently (I’ve not seen it) Doc has a section devoted to him in (Microsoft founder) Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project under the Space Needle in  

Taken on Good Faith

Because he was always the good-hearted one, the ingenuous one, the one who knew no cunning, who, if “innocent” didn’t quite apply, still merited some similar connota- tion of naïveté, simplicity, the sense that an essential awareness of the coarseness of other people’s motives was lacking so that he was constantly blundering upon situations in which he would take on good faith what the other rapaciously, ruthlessly, duplicitously and nearly always successfully offered as truth. . . All of that he understood about himself but he was also aware that he couldn’t alter at all his basic affable faith in the benevolence of everyone’s intentions and that because of this the world would not as in romance annihilate him but would toy unmercifully with him until he was mad. – C.K. Willams, from the poem Self-Knowledge,  

Food for Thought

According to the UNFAO, thirty percent of the earth’s usable land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production. What’s more, it’s said that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases – more than all fossil-based transportation. University of Chicago Geophysicists Gidon Eshel and Pam Martin calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent, it would be equivalent to switching from driving a standard sedan (e.g., Camry) to a hybrid Prius. The Japanese National Institute of Livestock Science estimates that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days. Energy consumption and food production are intimately related, with large animals being disproportionately more energy intensive than other food sources. As fuel costs skyrocket, so does everything else, especially food. Last year, the UNFAO’s worldwide Food Price Index shot up 40%. In one year. The EPA estimates that U.S. agriculture – much of which now serves the demand for meat – contributes to “nearly three-quarters of all water-quality problems in the nation’s rivers and streams.” The use of antibiotics in cattle is said to be contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, along with increased incidence of diet-related disease. It gets even more personal. Stanford professor Rose Naylor shows that roughly 800 million people suffer from malnutrition, while most of the world’s corn and soy is used to feed cattle and pigs. Depending on animal and process, up to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption. For U.S. grain-fed beef, this imbalance is up to ten times higher. Diets heavily reliant on large animals are not only unhealthy and unnecessary, but one might say, unholy. By eating fewer large animals, we (1) use far less energy, (2) generate far less CO2, (3) potentially improve our health, and perhaps most importantly, (4) contribute to a more equitable and just distribution of calories into the world’s neediest communities. That, I believe, is Christ’s heart. The proteins, aminos, vitamins, and other nutrients we need can be found, in abundance, in foods other than big meat. Caveat: I’m not a vegetarian, but our family’s diet is rarely based on big  

Benedictus

May there be some beautiful surprise Waiting for you inside death Something you never knew or felt, Which with one simple touch Absolves you of all loneliness and loss, As you quicken within the embrace For which your soul was eternally made. May your heart be speechless at the sight of the truth Of all your belief had hoped, Your heart breathless In the light and lightness Where each and every thing Is at last its true self Within that serene belonging That dwells beside us On the other side Of what we see. – John O’Donohue, “poet, priest, philosopher” John passed away January 3, 2008. from John O’Donohue’s The Question Holds the Lantern The journey shows you that from this inner dedication you can reconstruct your own values and action. You develop from your own self-compassion a great compassion for others. You are no longer caught in the false game of judgement, comparison and assumption. More naked now than ever, you begin to feel truly alive. You begin to trust the music of your own soul; you have inherited treasure that no one will ever be able to take from you. At the deepest level, this adventure of growth is in fact a transfigurative conversation with your own death. And when the time comes for you to leave, the view from your death bed will show a life of growth that gladdens the heart and takes away all