Your Character ALWAYS Catches You

and I DO mean ALWAYS.

Just ask now-disgraced former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.

Sadly, there were times where it would have been easy to defend Tressel. After all, a coach cannot control what his players do off the campus.

At the same time, there were instances in which he clearly took a three-monkey approach: he knew there was wrongdoing, and took no action. Perhaps he figured it was a no-win situation and hoped things would blow over. Perhaps he was trying to keep his key players from getting ruled ineligible. Perhaps it was some combination of the two.

At any rate, there were no acceptable excuses for what he did.

He went to great lengths to promote his Christian faith, and reportedly held regular Bible studies.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Proverbs was among the books studied.

A Different World

My 20-year-old, amazing, niece moved in with us a month or so ago to save money to continue her college education. She’s now working two jobs with the possibility of a third short-term one mid-summer.

I love her. We kept her a lot when she was little, so we’ll always have a special place in each other’s hearts.

Niece has kept two babies for the older sister of a girl she went to high school with. She finally told this single mom she would not keep her babies anymore because the mom was taking advantage of my niece. However, the grandmother called Niece and asked if she’d watch the babies during younger sister’s college graduation ceremony. Niece agreed, and we all helped.

The oldest baby is 18 months; the youngest is 6 months. They have two, different biological fathers. Mom has slept around impulsively and has continued to do so since the baby was born. Mom lives with her parents and sister and three dogs and her two babies in a mobile home. The bed and crib for the babies is in the family room.

My Momma-heart, my Human-heart, is crushed. These two little girls are beautiful and sweet. They didn’t ask for this mother who will dump them off on anyone and go clubbing and not show up to pick up her babies till the next afternoon.

The six-month old does not handle her formula well. Mom is on welfare, so she gets whatever is paid for. Her tummy was not well tonight, so I helped her. Poor thing. I could feel and hear it. Niece said she’s always like that.

I am so thankful we all (my girls, my husband, my niece, and myself) got to help these two babies. I am also very thankful my Niece has drawn the boundary lines. I am deeply saddened for these two, innocent, little girls. I am very thankful I have not met their Momma; I have a few choice words for her.

My heart is heavy, crushed, saddened, but I can pray. And God will hear my prayers for these two babies.

Campbell, Government, Big Food, Big Medicine, and Nutrition

In The China Study, T. Colin Campbell provides substantial insight as to the conflicts between science, government, the medical establishment, and the food industry in the fight over what constitutes proper nutrition. While he does a wonderful job articulating the mess we currently have, what he fails to understand is that this is exactly why we need to get government out of the business of recommending nutritional guidelines.

Right now, we have a system in which Big Food and Big Medicine–two establishments that wield the big money–pretty much dominate the ear of Big Government.

Big Food–which includes the meat and dairy industry, the fast food industry and related restaurant chains, as well as food companies that make products from meat and dairy–has a vested interest in protecting the status quo. They have hired guns in science and academia who wield a large degree of influence over government agencies, lawmakers, and their staffs.

Big Medicine–which includes physicians, insurance companies, medical services, and Big Pharma–is a similar opponent. While the medical world is increasingly aiming in the direction of prevention of disease, they place the emphasis on prevention that involves the work of medical professionals. Heart scans, angioplasties, bypass surgeries, radiological procedures, colonoscopies, pills, and injections–those are things that bring in the bucks for Big Medicine.

If you go vegan, you may reduce your chances of a heart attack to zero, but it makes no money for your cardiologist or your primary care doc. You’ll also hit many players in the Big Food industry in the pocketbook.

Unfortunately, Campbell seems to think that getting government on the side of the vegans is the answer to all of this. In fact, the better answer is to get government completely out of the business of nutritional guidelines and recommendations.

Ultimately, it’s not the government’s place to control what doctors learn, what doctors discuss with their patients, what citizens wish to eat, or what products Big Pharma and Big Food market to us.

Fact is, in the Internet, we have the best free market of information ever known to the world. And nutrition is not rocket science.

    If you have heart disease, a vegan diet may save your life.
    If you have naturally high cholesterol, an Atkins or South Beach diet is tantamount to pouring gasoline on a fire.
    If you have a high diabetes risk, getting your weight down will go far toward preventing Type 2 Diabetes. If you have Type 2 Diabetes, getting your weight down–and keeping it down–may eliminate your diabetes.

Do we need government to tell us any of those things? Of course not. We don’t know the “causation”, but let’s not kid ourselves: if you’re at risk, the actionable intelligence is there, and it’s on you to decide what to do with it.

People can choose to make their own decisions about nutrition. Dr. Esselstyn found that patients–once they realized the control they had over their disease via diet–were very willing to make the changes they needed to make.

The medical establishment needs to start deciding which team they are on: the side of the patients or the side of their pocketbook. Docs need not advise all patients to go vegan, but if I’m a cardiologist and I have a patient who has heart disease, you can bet that I’m going to be telling him that going vegan may save his life. If I don’t do this, then shame on me.

If I’m a primary care doc and I have a patient with diabetes (Type 1 or 2), you can bet that I’m going to be telling him that going vegan and getting weight control will cut the amount of insulin needed (for Type 1) and possibly even eliminate the (Type 2) diabetes altogether. If I don’t do this, then shame on me.

If I’m a primary care doc and I have a patient that is showing some signs of Alzheimer’s or related dementia, you can bet that I’m going to be telling him that he has nothing to lose by going vegan. (While we have not determined the efficacy of this approach with respect to dementia, it’s not like other therapies are working worth a rat’s posterior.)

If I’m a neurologist and I have a patient with MS, you can bet that I’m going to be telling him that going vegan may improve his overall quality of life by mitigating his complications. The science is unmistakable here.

You can also bet that if I have a patient that has found weight control to be elusive, I’ll be telling him that going vegan may succeed where other attempts have failed. The science may not be perfect here, but the pointers are strong enough.

You can also bet that if I have a patient that is in otherwise good health, but who eats a “standard” diet, and he asks me about proper nutrition, I’ll be telling him that at least cutting back the proportion of animal based products–and replacing that with plant-based products–will provide a foundation for long-term health.

On a different take, the patient is going to need to start taking responsibility for knowing what is best and what is not. This information is not restricted from you; it is readily available and is but a mouseclick or two away. You need not spend thousands of dollars on specialists to learn what is available at your library, or via the Internet. I don’t need government to do this for me.

Moreover, by getting the government out of the business of making nutritional recommendations, we will make the landscape more of a true free market. As more people cut back on animal-based products, Big Food will invest more capital in developing plant-based products that are healthier and taste good.

We may also see a driving down of health care costs without costly legislation. Fewer heart procedures, fewer chemo treatments, fewer surgeries…all of that means less strain on insurance costs. It also makes medical pricing for routine services more competitive. Traditional physicians (MDs) may see more competition from osteopaths (DOs) and even chiropractors and nutritionists over basic prevention of disease.

The critics will complain–with some merit–that we will see a lot of quacks emerge. At the same time, we have plenty of quacks now. They exist in the medical establishment, government, and all levels of industry. In the current setup, they are protected by government.

By getting government out of the business of nutrition, we might see a badly-needed shakeup in this area.

Video Recording A Funeral

A “young” man in our church┬ápassed from this life to the next after a horrible experience with cancer. He has three children, two of which are preschoolers. They sent out a note that there would be both a photographer and a videographer at the visitation and the funeral.

What do ya’ll think about having a visitation and funeral photographed and videographed?

It’s So Difficult

to take most pundits seriously. Even the ones I like. Ann Coulter can fire the zingers like no other, but–when push comes to shove–she’ll get behind any nominee with an R next to his name. Even worse are the otherwise telegenic youngsters–like Chrissy Satterfield of WorldNetDaily.

While Herman Cain has many qualities that appeal to Americans–he’s a self-made millionaire, he’s run businesses successfully, he can speak eloquently without a teleprompter–his connections with the Federal Reserve, and his opposition to auditing the Fed, are not going to resonate with at least half of the conservative base. Can he overcome that? Probably.

But not with Palin at his side.

Palin–as popular as she may be among the Tea Party faithful–is, to put it politely, sorely lacking in gravitas.

She was VERY unimpressive as McCain’s running mate. While she kept the conservative base from staying home–which would have produced a landslide of Reaganian proportions for Obama–she did very little to attract independent voters. Her failure to articulate matters of economics and foreign policy quickly turned her into a better-looking version of Dan Quayle.

Adding insult to injury, she failed to serve out her term as the Governor of her state, quitting in the middle of her term. Her reasons were narcissistic at best. Americans will want a candidate who will be with them in good and bad times. What does her record as Governor of Alaska say about her? She’s a quitter.

Palin, sadly, failed to grasp Callahan’s Law: A man’s got to know his limitations. She should have pursued the RNC chairmanship: she’s an excellent fundraiser, and that position is mostly a fundraising position anyway. She should have served out her term as Governor, thereby establishing her reliability. She’ll never be President, but she could have established herself as a proverbial kingmaker.

Instead, she has sold a lot of books, raised a lot of money, and helped a few Tea Party candidates–most of whom did not really need her help anyway, as they were going to win with or without her support.

All the while, her gravitas–rather than increasing–has only plummeted. She supported TARP alongside McCain, and–worse–has never repudiated her support of the bailouts. There is nothing about her that indicates that she will stand up to the Military-Industrial Complex. There is nothing about her that indicates that she will stand up to K-Street. There is nothing about her that indicates she will stand up to Goldman Sachs or Citigroup.

She’s a socially-conservative big spender, just like Bush. Only worse, she is still as ignorant of major issues on a level that only Dan Quayle can appreciate.

Personally, I think Cain’s chances are questionable at best. But Palin does nothing for him.

That Satterfield–who was gung-ho for The Donald–seriously considers Palin as someone who will make Herman Cain a contender, only shows she has no business as a WND columnist.

Moore Asks: Can Romance Novels Hurt Your Heart?

HT to Charles/SXM for this one.

The answer to the question is effectively a no-brainer: heck yeah they can hurt your heart. I only disagree with Moore in this respect: those novels, in many cases, are on the same par as pornography. Not long ago, one of our allies–Elusive Wapiti–provided excerpts from one of those novels. It was on the same plane as what one would read in the “letters” section of many a porn mag.

And yes, the dynamics of romance novels–and their impact on women–is comparable to what visual porn does with men: it stokes unreasonable expectations, and as such threatens marriages as partners hold each other to those worldly, unreasonable expectations.

For the most part, Moore nailed it. I’ll also give him credit for noting that visual porn is more common with women than one would expect.

At any rate, it would be interesting to see whether our friends at Boundless bother to address this matter of romance novels. It is, after all, a relevant issue.

THE WORLD IS ENDING TODAY!!!

Well…not really. Even if Harold Camping thinks so. (He’s been wrong before when he’s made this call, so there’s no reason to believe he’s right this time.)

But that brings me to a story I heard many years ago (names changed to reflect current events):

Once, God looked upon the earth, and decided that He had had enough. He decided to destroy the whole world, saving no one.

He called the titans of mainstream media before His presence to give them the scoop: The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, FOX News, and the Wall Street Journal.

He told them: Tomorrow, at noon, I am going to incinerate the world. No one will be left, everyone will die. There will be no Ark, no flood, no survival. It’s over. Done. Finito. Report that!

In the evening, on FOX News, Glenn Beck ran a special segment, in which he blamed this all on George Soros.

In the morning…

USA Today had a full-page article with the following in large print: “WE’RE DONE!”

The New York Times
, in a small blurb on page D-17, noted that “some sources say that the world will have a major event at noon.”

The Washington Post ran a front-page story: “World Ends Today”, with the subheader, “Women and minorities to suffer the most”

The Wall Street Journal noted on the side: “World to end at noon, markets to close early.”

Re-Assessing Nutrition, Part 2 (“Correlation does not equal causation” only goes so far)

At times, nutrition can seem like economics: get 3 nutritionists in a room, and you’re going to get 6 different opinions.

Anyone with an opinion can cite one or more studies that give them credibility. If you want to eat a high-fat/high protein diet, there are studies that appear to support you. If you want a low-fat/high-carb diet, there are plenty of studies that appear to support you. If you want something in between, there are studies that appear to support you.

The problem is that when we assess the question–“what is the best dietary regimen”–we often don’t qualify it appropriately. The proper question is, “What is the best dietary regimen for my given activity level and health situation?

We also have to qualify it–as economists do–by indicating ceteris paribus (all things being equal). This is because some people have food allergies, others have metabolic issues, others have Type 1 Diabetes, and so forth. Dietary needs can vary. This is perhaps the main factor that makes the field of nutrition a difficult one.

Given that a third of Americans are obese, the common question is, “What is the best dietary regimen for getting off these #$%! pounds???”

If you have heart ailments, a better question may be, “What is the best dietary regimen for keeping my ticker tocking?”

If you are an athlete, the question might be, “What dietary regimen puts me in the best position to get my best performance?”

For me, the proper question is, “What is the best dietary regimen that minimizes my risks of cancer, heart disease, and dementia?”

In the world of sports–especially those that require high endurance–the science is indicative of high complex carbs/low-moderate protein/low-moderate fat. In the endurance world, vegans are not uncommon. While weightlifters and bodybuilders are still steeped in protein-mania–and science appears to support that approach in those sports that are dependent on strength–the rest of the sports world is not as big on steak and eggs as was the case 30 years ago.

But what if you are not a full-time athlete? What if you don’t run marathons? What if you’re only getting a couple hours of cardio per week? What if you just want to stay healthy, keep the excess pounds off, keep autoimmune diseases in check (i.e. arthritis) and mitigate your risk of cancer?

What if you’re like me: you want to do all those things, but still do the occasional 100-mile bike ride, or half-marathon, or half-Ironman?

It’s fair to ask what the science says about all of this.

Enter two excellent reads–Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD and The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell.

Esselstyn did his own 20-year study while he was a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. He took a set of patients with advanced heart disease–many of them had already had bypass surgery and/or angoplasty–and put them on a strict vegan diet. He monitored the results over a 20 year period. The results were breathtaking: those patients overwhelmingly were able to avoid further cardiac incidents, and in many cases the heart disease was even reversed.

The skeptics, however, can look at Esselstyn’s work and punch holes in it: (a) there was no “control” group, (b) it’s only one isolated study, (c) perhaps Esselstyn was personally biased.

Even then, the results are what they are. It’s a Cleveland Clinic study. Esselstyn’s credentials are impeccable. Any bias-centered criticism of Esselstyn would have to be balanced against his record of intellectual integrity as a physician.

Verdicts:

(a) Esselstyn has provided ACTIONABLE INTELLIGENCE for those who have heart disease and wish to avoid future surgeries and/or premature death.
(b) Esselstyn has provided ACTIONABLE INTELLIGENCE for those who wish to mitigate their risks of heart disease and complications thereof.

And that’s what we’re all about here: ACTIONABLE INTELLIGENCE.

And that brings me to Campbell and The China Study (TCS).

In TCS, Campbell makes a more comprehensive case for a vegan nutritional regimen. He begins by highlighting his scientific work, analyzing carcinogens (aflatoxin), and nutritional approaches in various undeveloped nations. It was in the course of studying the dynamics of aflatoxin that Campbell stumbled into the dilemmas between plant versus animal proteins. His first two chapters are foundational in this respect.

As Campbell made his case for the vegan approach–highlighting links between animal-based diets and a myriad of ailments–the skeptic in me often screamed, “Correlation does not equal causation!” Everyone with a bare-bones-basic knowledge of statistics knows that.

Unfortunately, while that statement is indeed true, it only goes so far. And every physician worth a penny knows that.

Want an example? Type 2 Diabetes.

While we have a plethora of scientific evidence correlating obesity with Type 2 Diabetes, we still have not verified conclusively that obesity causes Type 2 Diabetes. At the same time, (a) every good physician in America will tell diabetes patients to get their weight down and keep it down; and (b) when a Type 2 Diabetic drops the pounds, the diabetes usually goes away.

Correlation does not equal causation, but–if the correlation is strong enough, that constitutes ACTIONABLE INTELLIGENCE.

If dropping the pounds eliminates the diabetes, does it really matter–for your own health–if causation has not been established?

If you have the choice between eating a vegan diet or enduring painful, costly, and debilitating heart surgery, does it matter if causation has not been established?

Now some of Campbell’s proposals are controversial. For example, we have not determined that a vegan diet will keep you from getting Alzheimer’s, or Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Multiple Sclerosis.

Still, given that medical treatments for those diseases have not shown much promise, if eating less meat and jacking up the veggie intake might mitigate that risk–assuming it is a risk that you feel passionate about–then Campbell has given you ACTIONABLE INTELLIGENCE.

Correlation isn’t causation, but it is useful in forming testable hypotheses. At the very least, Campbell provides a nice basis for a myriad of such hypotheses.

Another aspect of TCS that is refreshing is the way Campbell provides insight into how the government has influenced nutrition education in ways that are harmful to Americans. While Campbell strikes me as a left-of-center type, his analysis is without respect for political parties and is more centered on the fascistic, incestuous relationship between lobbyists for the food industry, government agencies, and lawmakers. Campbell also provides a stark picture of how government influences nutrition: from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Education, and how the food lobby has fought to stack the advisory panels with their own hired guns.

One does not have to be a vegan to appreciate the fact that the government’s recommended daily allowances are too fat-heavy and do not include enough fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. And Campbell provides an honest assessment as to why those recommendations are what they are.

At the end of the day, Campbell is no hack. He’s an honest scientist who has gone where the evidence took him. That evidence has led to many correlations, some of which have statistical significance.

We don’t have causation established, but we have the same smoking guns that appear to be showing up whenever a malady gets studied. You can decide, “Correlation does not equal causation, so I don’t care.” And that is your business. Or you can decide that you have enough inherent risk that this intel is worth acting on. That is also your business.

I would argue that it is not the government’s place to tell you what you must do, but it is on you to decide for yourself if Campbell and Esselstyn are on the money.

Maybe there’s a risk that is important to you; perhaps not. Does everyone need to go vegan? Not by a long shot. Is a total vegan approach required to mitigate the risks highlighted by Campbell? No (although Esselstyn insists on it himself.) Do we need government telling us to go vegan? No.

But if mitigating your risks of cancer, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disorders, Type 2 Diabetes, and perhaps dementia is important, then it’s worth a look.

My only gripe with TCS: Campbell provides no vegan recipes. He does a wonderful job extolling the virtues of the vegan approach, but does a crappy job of providing a portrait of how appealing and enjoyable it can be. (Esselstyn, however, devotes a large part of his book to providing recipes.)

Campbell, however, has started a larger discussion: to what extent ought government be involved in the promotion of nutrition?

I’ll try to tackle that one next week.

Re-Assessing Nutrition, Part 1

I had the privilege of growing up during a period in which many sacred cows of nutrition became the focus of much scrutiny.

Many people may not remember, but not too long ago, (a) world-class athletes were sold on high protein/low carbohydrate diets; (b) coaches almost universally gave out salt tablets to athletes before games and practice; (c) it was not uncommon for professional teams to drink beer after games to rehydrate; (e) marathon runners–in order to “carbo load”–ate lots of sugary foods for the carbo-boost.

Today, those practices are sacrilege. While protein still gets a lot of hype–largely due to Atkins-mania–athletes are re-discovering the benefits of complex carbs. Salt tablets have given way to electrolyte replacers that go lighter on salt and provide more balance. Beer is now understood to be a DEHYDRATING agent. And marathon runners are looking more at gels (Hammer Gel, GU) and other products that provide complex carbohydrates prior to competition.

It is arguable that tennis stars Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl–and 6-time Ironman champion Dave Scott–provided the impetus for that nutrition revolution.

Lendl and Navratilova embraced the high complex carbohydrate/low protein approach of Robert Haas, and became the most dominant players in their sports. Navratilova–once an overweight underachiever–became the fittest player in the history of women’s tennis; Lendl held the #1 spot on the men’s tour for a record 270 weeks; Scott was similar in his approach–although he was a strict vegetarian. He would win six Ironman World Championships. (An Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim AND a 112-mile bike ride AND a full marathon of 26.2-miles.)

I followed a lot of that, and–after letting my fitness slip for a few years in the 1990s–embraced that path as I reached fitness levels I had not even realized in my high school days. I know many other athletes–especially marathoners and ultrarunners–who have taken this approach. For serious endurance athletes, it’s darn close to standard.

A couple months ago, an acquaintance of mine who is in the same spin class gave me a book to read that challenged him: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD. In it, Esselstyn–a renowned former Cleveland Clinic surgeon, combat surgeon in Vietnam, and Olympic Gold Medalist (rowing, 1958)–makes the case that, with a vegan approach, heart disease can be prevented and even reversed. The thrust of his book was his own study–during his Cleveland Clinic days–of a set of cardiac patients who had advanced heart disease. He put them on a total plant-based (vegan) diet, and the success was overwhelming.

The study wasn’t perfect–there was no “control” group. But still, his results are nothing to sneeze at. He had my attention.

I also noticed that the forward for his book was written by T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study. A friend of mine–KM, who is a physician–recommended that I read that book as it is one of her favorites. So I read it, too.

I’ve had many conversations with KM over the years. And she, like Campbell, lamented that physicians do not get a lot of nutrition training. While she is not a vegan, she appreciates the principles that Campbell provides, and has adopted many of them.

Personally, I loathe most vegetarians, especially the envirowackos who are out to castigate anyone who eats chicken, fish, beef, or pork. I have no use for those types.

Still, I’m all about mitigating my controllable risks, and Campbell and Esselstyn provide a good case for anyone with known heart disease/cancer risks who wants to control those risks without medical approaches.

In part 2, I’ll discuss why I agree with Campbell and Esselstyn. (Hint: The “correlation does not equal causation” argument only goes so far.)