Thursday, December 08, 2005

It's about time

NASA is finally getting a clue.
The U.S. space agency issued a solicitation for proposals on Tuesday for firms interested in handling delivery services now provided by the three shuttles, which are due to stop flying by 2010.

Why Johnny is Fat

One of my hot-button issues is diet. Every time I see some food called "junk", "unhealthy" or, for that matter "healthy" I want to slap some sense into the speaker. Between Vegans, Militant Vegetarians, Enviro-nuts and just plain Nosey Nanny types people seem to be all confused about what to eat.

For starters, organic is just a marketing term used to sell ordinary or sub-standard foodstuffs to the gullible. Given a choice between organic or regular at the store, I always choose the cheapest.

And just as there is no such thing as junk food, there is no such thing as health food. All food is healthy, else you can't really call it food. Applying the maxim that "the dose is the poison" you arrive quickly at the fact that all foods are good, but some diets aren't. If you eat a variety of foods, it really doesn't matter if some of what you eat is candy, milkshake, cheeseburger, or even the colored, sweetened grain dust sold as "breakfast cereal". Just don't eat too much of anything, nor too little of the nutrients you need. This isn't rocket science.

Since the Do-Gooders replaced the "Four Basic Food Groups" with "The Food Pyramid" obesity has skyrocketed. Some say that's because people went nuts with the idea of getting fat out of their diet, and it all got replaced with carbohydrates. Note also that you stay satisfied longer with a protein/fat rich meal than one of pure carbs. But this leads to another pet peeve:

There is no such thing as fattening food. There are only fattening diets. Eating fat is not what makes you fat. It's just the First Law of Thermodynamics, folks, and there's no way around it. If you absorb more calories than you burn, you gain weight. If you burn more calories than you absorb, you lose weight. Period. End of story.

A great column by John Hood covers much of this ground, but provides new data I hadn't heard:
Furthermore, the line of causality from advertising to obesity must run through the intermediate point of eating more, or at least more calorie-laden, food. But there is surprisingly little agreement about this. Federal data reveal that average caloric intake of U.S. teens rose by only one percent from 1980 to 2000, while obesity rose 10 percent. Sedentary lifestyles seem to be the more significant factor. During the same period, average physical activity dropped by 13 percent. In the British medical journal Lancet earlier this year, researchers concluded that the extent of exercise "plays an important role in weight gain, with no parallel evidence that energy intake had a similar role." I'm not necessarily saying that American children shouldn't eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer curly fries. But inactivity is the far more serious culprit here, and the institute is doing no family any favors by suggesting otherwise.

If you're an adult, you are 100% responsible for how much you weigh. If you are a parent, you (and no corporation nor advertiser in theh world) have responsibility for how your offspring tips the scales.

And for crying out loud, don't buy organic if you can help it.

Lincoln and Iraq

A must-read article on The New Republic (free registration required, see if you're averse) points out the parallels between Iraq and Lincoln's war. The case is made that short wars rarely produce meaningful change, but long wars do.
What would have happened had the second Iraq war turned out like the first, as the White House apparently expected? Saddam would have been toppled, the Iraqi people would have celebrated, order would have been restored quickly, followed by a speedy exit for British and American troops. Then what? Maybe the rule of Iran-style Shia mullahs, perhaps another brutal Sunni autocrat to take the place of the last one, possibly an endless civil war between the two. Today, there is a real chance of a vastly better result--precisely because the insurgency survived, because it wasn't quickly defeated. Sunni intransigence needed to be crushed slowly; a quick in-and-out war was not enough to kill the dream of forever tyrannizing Iraqi Kurds and Shia. More important, thousands of senseless murders over the past 32 months have taught Iraqis--Sunni, Shia, and Kurd alike--just how vicious Zarqawi and his allies are. That lesson will have very useful consequences for the long-term health of the region.