20 February 2004

Low-carb injustice

Yesterday, the Times ran an article on the low-carb food revolution
sweeping the food industry.  I don’t count my carbs, and the
article gave me further reason to avoid doing so.  Here’s the
quote that shocked me the most:

“None of this was really available,” Ms. Lipson said. “The amount of
stuff that’s available now, it’s amazing,” she said, poring over
pancake mixes, pasta and chocolate bars. Asking for “something like
rice,” she was directed to a row of canned low-carb mashed potatoes in
a variety of flavors. “Garlic parmesan?” she asked her husband. “You
like garlic parmesan?”

The price: $6.99 for seven ounces.

No one is claiming that eating low-carb is cheap. Robert Hall, 30, was
buying nacho cheese and cool ranch twists by CarbFit, some baked
cheese, low-carb soft tacos made by a company called Adios Carbs, and,
for his girlfriend, low-carb brownies. He left with $122.18 in low-carb
food. “I spent 300 bucks last time,” he said. “This was just a
supplemental visit.”

So, it’s massively expensive to eat this way.  Which makes me
more likely to want to follow the general model of portion control if I
wanted to lose weight.  Or — and I will if today’s beautiful
weather holds — spend more time on my bicycle.

But there’s a social justice concern here, too.  Following a
low-carb diet leads to bad use of the earth’s resources.  Since
most Americans bulk up on their protein with meat, this means that we
require more meat.  Meat — ususally from poultry or cattle —
requires lots of resources to produce, in terms of feed, waste products
generated (effluent and methane), and slaughter anddistribution
facilities.  (I think the general ratio is about 7-10 units of
feed to produce a unit of cow and about 3.5-5 units of feed for
chicken.)  It requires many more agricultural and economic
resources to sustain a massive scale diet shift like the one that we
are seeing right now.  Meat has a greater impact on the
environment that vegetable and grain matter, and the shift from plant
production to meat production also has a disproportionate effect upon
the world’s poor, who can’t afford the indulgence of meat.  Only a
wealthy country can even consider such a diet.

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 20 February 2004 at 12:22 pm by Nate
19 February 2004

Civil disobedience and local control

Political people don’t generally like civil disobedience, unless it’s for a cause that they support.  Witness the spectacle going on in my former domicile, San Francisco
(And enjoy the punctuation problem that kept the restraining order from
going out.  It makes this former editor and current teacher’s
heart absolutely warm.)  Conservative religious groups are foaming
at the mouth at the act of mass civil disobedience to California’s
unjust law defining marriage as only occurring between one man and one
woman.  But just a few months ago, when Roy Moore’s Ten
Commandments monstrosity was being fought over in Alabama, civil
disobedience of the law was all the rage with this same group of people.

My point above is not profound.  People are hypocrites,
especially when it comes to questions of power or perceived
power.  But it still surprises even cynical me when hypocrisy
occurs in public and we all see it.  Same idea’s going on with all
the hullaballoo about “activist judges” — they only seem to be
“activist” when they rule against you; when they’re for you, then the
judges are just upholding the rule of law.

But the members of the groups opposing gay marriage and acts of
civil disobedience against an unjust regime, such as in San Francisco,
should remember the words of the teacher they profess to revere:
“You hypocrite!  First remove the plank of wood from your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to remove the speck of dust from your
brother’s eye.”

Still, I am never surprised by hypocrisy in American (or other)
politics, by all parties involved, whether Howard Dean types or George
W. Bush.  Politics simply cannot bring out the best in people
without also bringing out the worst in them also.

Posted in Politicks on 19 February 2004 at 4:34 pm by Nate
18 February 2004

Ignorance, to our detriment

Ryan makes the following observation:


It’s quite sad that we don’t have similar public religious studies education in America. I envy all my colleagues who had the benefit of a rigorous Catholic school education, steeped in theology and religious history. Public school kids would do well to learn a little religious history. In my public school we learned nothing about religion—I was forced to study on my own, borrowing philosophy and religious history texts from Olympia Public Library. I was both unsurprised and appalled when I saw this post over at Crooked Timber:



I’ve wondered before about this, in part because of a course in Classical Social Theory that I teach. I usually take a detour for a lecture before we read some Max Weber, because a chunk of the class (upper-level undergraduates) will have no clear idea what the Reformation was. This surprised me when it first happened, but now I anticipate it. Last year I got a very nice evaluation from an evangelical Protestant student saying, in part, “Thanks for respecting my views and for all the information about where Protestantism came from! I never knew that!” She would wear “Jesus Loves You” t-shirts to class and really livened up our discussions about Durkheim.


Now, I hardly expect all evangelicals to teach their children their own religious history, outside the occasional hagiographic sketch of the sect founder. To expect more would be absurd. But is it really that unreasonable to wish that any child coming out of a basic high school education in America would at least have a good idea of what the Reformation was? Ugh.


I envy my Catholic sistren and brethren too.  I was raised in the evangelical environment, and everything was filtered through that lens, and so there was a decided lack of historical background or context.  Even though I went to religious schools, I had to do the same thing as you — borrow texts in philosophy, theology, religious history, and the sociology of religion from acquaintances and libraries.

Americans are possibly the only nation I can think of with this simultaneous attraction and great fear of religion.  And we’re the poorer for it: we know very little about other religions (and if that threatens one’s faith to know about other religions, then it’s a pretty poor faith one has; anything else is probably intellectually dishonest), and we know very little real information about our own religion (whatever that is.

Posted in Rayleejun on 18 February 2004 at 11:12 am by Nate

Margaret Cho responds…

“Queens do not play. They will fucking kill you.
Lesbians know how to throw a punch that will leave a very large bruise,
and aren’t opposed to kicking protesting men right in the balls. The
underrepresented, unvoiced, ignored part of our population, the great
many that make up the Cho Army are something you are unaware of, and
pretty much the gang not to fuck with.”

Margaret Cho repsonds in her blog to a group of conservatives who
threatened to picket her performance at a Texas nightclub.  One of
the protestor leaders is also one of the people who sent her racist,
mysoginist, homophobic e-mail.  So his contribution ot the public
discourse is on a par, well, with the KKK.  So I feel free to
ignore his ilk, even to the point of telling such people that I don’t
listen to or consider their viewpoints valid.  (No, I wouldn’t
move to restrict his right to say whatever; but I’m exercising my right
to not listen and to ignore.)

Anyway, here’s the link for some interesting reading.

Posted in OnTheWeb on 18 February 2004 at 10:54 am by Nate
14 February 2004

Evangelical Christians and gays, united on one point….

A note on the controversy regarding an American Airlines pilot who evangelized over the PA system.

Quote from Christianity Today weblog:
“Amazingly, only one publication was able to score an interview with
Findiesen himself. Even more amazing, that publication is The Advocate,
a gay magazine—editor-in-chief Bruce C. Steele was on the flight. Even
more amazing: The Advocate’s article is fair, even positive, toward
Findiesen’s actions.”

Now what’s so amazing about the fact that the Advocate was fair? 
It’s no more surprising that the Advocate conducted fair reporting than
that CT might be able to conduct fair reporting.  Both are
issue-oriented magazines, intended for very particular audiences that
both see themselves out of the mainstream.  (Frankly, the Advocate
and CT share more in common with each other than with mainstream
publications like the New York Times.)  If CT can be “objective”
or “fair” in its reporting, why can’t the Advocate?

Is there something about gays that makes them more prone to project
bias than evangelical Christians? What are we to think of such
“reporting” on CT’s part?

Posted in OnTheWeb on 14 February 2004 at 7:09 pm by Nate
9 February 2004

Letter to my elected representative

As you will see later in the letter, I’m not optimistic that these
work, based in my own previous experience and study.  But I
figured I’d better try regardless.

    Dear Senator Shannon,

    I write to
encourage you to vote “no” on the amendment to the Massachusetts
Constitution that would restrict civil marriage to opposite-sex
couples, as this presents an unjust and unethical denial of civil
rights to same-sex couples here in the Commonwealth.

    One of the most
basic assumptions of our form of government, throughout more than two
centuries of existence, has been that all people, no matter what
characteristics they possess – their religion, race, ethnicity,
national origin, or sex – have the right to have the government treat
them fairly, equally, and in exactly the same way as their fellow
citizens.  Our governments have the duty to make sure that any and
all of the citizens receive the same treatment in the same
circumstances as everyone else.  Because gay people cannot receive
the legal protections for their committed, lifelong relationships that
“straight” couples can, gay people in the Commonwealth remain
second-class citizens.

    You are now asked,
in this vote, to stand at the forefront of perhaps the last bastion of
“acceptable” prejudice in our country.  You occupy, in some sense,
a position similar to that of the members of Congress who passed the
Voting Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1965.  You
have the opportunity and the duty to “do justice and love mercy” in
service to the citizens of the Commonwealth and your own
constituents.  Many residents of Somerville are gay and lesbian,
and they depend on you to do what is right for them, by asking the
Commonwealth (and only the Commonwealth) to provide them equal justice
under the law.

    One of the most
laudable contributions of our Commonwealth to the nation has been that
we have sought to keep religious bodies and the institutions of the
government from entanglement with one another; it was our venerable
forebear John Adams who wrote the original Massachusetts Constitution,
which included guarantees of free speech, free press, and the
separation of churches and the state.  It seems clear, however,
that many of our fellow citizens fail to understand the differences
between civil marriages and religious marriages.  Although we call
the two institutions by the same name – “marriage” – they are, in fact,
quite different.  As regards the state, marriage is a set of legal
arrangements that bind two people together in chosen kinship and
property; as regards a church, marriage is a sacrament of recognizing
the blessing of love that develops between two people in committed
relationship. The decision of the Supreme Judicial Court that stated
that the benefits of civil marriage must be extended to same sex
couples will force no church to perform or sanction same-sex
marriages.  We already, as a citizenry, understand that the intent
of two people to enter a lifelong union does not necessitate the
involvement of a church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious body;
for cases such as these, we have relied upon the civil institution of
marriage.  No religious body can be forced to perform an
opposite-sex marriage if it objects to the union of the partners. 
Similarly, religious bodies will perform same-sex marriages only if and
when they decide that these religious marriages are acceptable to their
beliefs.  (I am aware of the very contested nature of these
discussions, as my own church, the Episcopal Church, of which I am a
committed member, has come to the brink of schism over this issue, as
we struggle to work out the consequences of same-sex
relationships.)  It is not the state’s duty to protect the
“sacred” nature of marriage – this is the duty of the church, and your
vote in this matter will not affect religion’s ability to define what
marriage means for each religious body.

    I must admit that
I do not have much confidence that my letter will do much to influence
the direction of your thinking, if you are considering voting in favor
of the aforementioned amendment.  My experience as a legislative
aide to California Senator Quentin L. Kopp and as a doctoral candidate
in political science at Harvard University have taught me that most
legislators have made up their mind on virtually all issues far in
advance of public debate.  But I write in the hope that my letter,
in combination with many others, can bolster you in casting your vote
against this unjust and unethical constitutional amendment.

Posted in Politicks on 9 February 2004 at 10:15 am by Nate
6 February 2004

Not much new to say about marriage in Mass.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court pronounced correctly the other
day when it noted that gay civil unions are not marriage and that the
Massachusetts and US Constitutions regard “separate but equal” as being
actually “separate and NOT equal.”

I’ve already written about this before, so I won’t say much new here, except the following.

The creation of a whole group of people who are legally married under
at least one state’s laws — even if it only occurs for a couple of
years before conservatives can get a constitutional amendment on the
ballot — means that the genie is out of the bottle.  You can’t
unmarry those people, because the state has no authority to dissolve a
legal contract, so long as the contract it legal. (Let’s remember that
that’s what marriage is in the state: a contract.  It’s only
“sacred” in the context of a church or religious tradition.  So
all this nonsense that the governor and the president make about
preserving the “sacred” nature of tradition makes me wonder whether
they are running for priest or politician….)

But if there’s a move to take it away, BF and I will move to City Hall
pretty darn quickly, so as to be in the protected class.  For us,
of course, the more important marriage (in most of the sense of what
“marriage” means) will be the church marriage, but that will be
interesting to figure out as this is a Roman Catholic and Anglican
pairing.

Posted in Politicks on 6 February 2004 at 3:26 pm by Nate