The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘health’

EAT SH*T AND DINE

Every so often I need to take a break from the “news,” as we euphemistically term it, and turn my attention elsewhere.  This was one such week.  I’m not sure if the breaking point was that the final, final, final, deadline for caving into Iraq in the nuclear “negotiations” had come and gone.  Or was it Hillary’s hilarious declaration that “She had never received a subpoena from the House’s Benghazi committee regarding her submitting her emails,”  a copy of which Congressman Trey Gowdy held up before the camera for all to see and to which Ms. Clinton’s lawyers had filed a response.

If Ms. Clinton were an ordinary American business, had developed an advertising campaign and introduced her product in print and on the air with the same amount of truthfulness in which she expresses her past activities, there would be a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of all those who had purchased her product, relying on her statements about how her product works.  But sadly, far too many of us simply do not pay attention and are willing to believe and buy anything that our politicians, Ms. Clinton being the poster child for this example, sets forth and accept it, if they hear it at all, as Gospel truth – or whatever passes for absolute verity in  today’s society.  Regarding Clintonionism, this quote comes to mind:

“The only thing that sustains one through life is the consciousness of the immense inferiority of everybody else, and this is a feeling that I have always cultivated.”

– Oscar Wilde

It really is an amazing phenomenon that the masses hear constant homilies from the over-privileged and under-qualified, those who are at the top of the political and pop culture food chain about how they are under-privileged, victims of an unfair system gamed by those in power to keep them in total and permanent subjection and not realize that it is those who are speaking who are, in fact, the very ones who are doing all within their power to make sure that theses poor slobs remain in their lowly estate.  And in this effort, there is no more staunch or sycophantic co-conspirator than the media.

“By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”

– Oscar Wilde

I believe that quoting Mr. Wilde is permitted under the current rules.  As we now know, he was a bisexual which is a state of being that is very much in vogue but to his discredit he was white, male and far too witty for most of his audience to truly understand his “bon mots”.  Well, the wonderful thing about freelance blogging is that I needn’t worry about the imposition of censorship by an editor or the opinion of the masses – at least for the moment.

But where is this all leading – and why the title for this post?

Perhaps you’ve heard about the ongoing taxpayer funded studies in which the government paid for professorial investigations into the causes of why it is that people die.  That would seem to be an admirable inquiry.  So they gave grants to a group of esteemed scientists to research this important issue.

These brilliant minds looked at the mystery of life and death.  First they noted that many of their parents and almost all of their grandparents had passed from this veil of tears.  And not one of them had a single great grandparent alive – and they further discovered there was no one living who had been born in the eighteenth century or earlier.  No, not a single one.

This, of course, caused a great deal of discussion over many bottles of Merlot as these intellectual titans tried to find a common thread which would account for all of this being born and then being dead.  And, in fact, they reached a conclusion.  What they discovered was that during the course of their lives, all of these people ate stuff, without exception.  And, without exception, all of them were dead.  Obviously, eating – or at least eating the things that we have for centuries – ultimately leads to death.

Well, even with as obvious a connection as this, only 97% of these scientists concurred that eating was the cause of these ultimate deaths, the other three percent apparently being so traumatized at this revelation that they were consigned to a lifetime regimen of lithium and sequestered away to one of our finer loony bins where they will ultimately not be cured of their delusions nor ever returned to society to mingle among the rest of us.  Nor will they be allowed to express an opinion which challenges the newly established orthodoxy on this subject.

This is far-fetched you food deniers might say.  But think about it.  It’s only been three years since Mickey D’s stopped using “pink slime” in the preparation of their hamburgers and, not meaning to take away anything from the controversy that Donald Trump has stirred up with his comments, why is it that virtually all Mexican  food has an appearance of something that has been pre-masticated, partially digested and then regurgitated to be consumed later by someone else?  Can eating that really be good for you?

But to believe that the main stream medium will report on this important topic is far from likely.  So, other than those who read this blog and spread the word, will the truth of the cause of man’s mortality ever be revealed?  Fortunately, I think it will – and the source will be one which is most unexpected.  It will come from some flash in the pan member of our pop culture – or so I predict.  Perhaps the vehicle for this revelation will be the twenty-two year old Ariana Grande who has already demonstrated an ability to put her tongue where it ought not to be.  And if not her, there is an ample supply of such people who might get the job done.

Perhaps there is someone even now in Hollywood who has had a Shirley Maclaine experience and to whom the truth has been revealed.  (Or perhaps they simply have taken some sort of hallucinogenic drug, got the munchies and in the process of crawling around their 23,000 square foot pied à terre happened upon their cat’s litter box).  And there, clumped in a bit of kitty litter, is the solution to mankind’s mortality and their craving for a quick snack – cat poop – and by extension dog poop.

Now think about it.  There are an estimated 160 million dogs and cats in the United States who regularly provide us with poop, which we have viewed, until now, as something that is destined for a landfill.  What a tragic waste of the perfect food substance – already pre-digested by another animal so we don’t have to put stress on our own bodies by attempting to extract all those elusive nutrients.  And in the case of cat poop, there’s also the added advantage of being able to ingest a bit of litter which provides our bodies with a bit of roughage.

This could spark an entire new industry, job growth and an end to poverty in the country.  And not only would this mean jobs and an end to hunger in America and ultimately the entire world, we could export our excess animal poop to Mexico, thus restoring the balance of trade in favor of the U. S.  But the best part of this is that our friends to the south might not even notice a difference in the appearance of the food they set forth on the family table.  No advertising campaign necessary.

America – Eat Sh*t And Dine!

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NEVER LET REASON STAND IN THE WAY OF STORE POLICY

Once upon a time there was a store whose name was “Whole Foods”.  I don’t know if it doubled in size from a previous store whose name was “Half Foods” – but that isn’t germane to our story.  They sell nice products (under the catchall name of “organic”), at eye-opening prices.  That’s fine since that’s their thing and no one is compelled to shop there who doesn’t want what they have to offer.

Well, we have two such markets on this side of town here in Las Vegas.  And what they offer to me is the opportunity to buy a variety of specialty flours that I incorporate in making the dog biscuits I bake for Gracie.  These flours whether oat, or brown rice or barley can be found in their bulk food section.

I prefer buying things on a bulk basis because it allows me to control the quantity I purchase and the only packaging that is involved is that thin little plastic bag which contains the product you’ve decided to buy.  And, of course, there is the little tag on which you write down the product’s number so that you can check out with it.

Now the problem with bulk buying is that a person needs to be careful and moderately co-ordinated, making sure that the plastic bag is fully open when the product is dispensed.  Otherwise, Geronimo – it doesn’t take much to cause the nice lady on the store intercom to announce to all the shoppers – “We need a cleanup in Bulk Foods”.  And there you are, with garbanzo flour all over your shoes, looking around innocently to see who could be the possible cause of such mayhem.

There is a second problem with the bulk food section at Whole Foods and other stores which offer this convenience.  That is finding the tags and then finding the pen which is supposed to be near them so that you can write down the product code.  Apparently, since banks stopped supplying those at the little stations where they allowed customers to get deposit and withdrawal slips, pen thieves everywhere have turned to grocery stores’ bulk food sections for their supply of writing implements.

Well, since I always buy the same flours at Whole Foods I solved this problem by simply emptying the contents of my purchases into the appropriate receptacle at home, re-using the bag to pick up dog “poo” at the park and saving the tags on which I had inscribed the correct number for my next visit to the store, thus making the landfill free of yet one more bulk food tag – at least for several more reuses.

I really am all about environmental friendliness.

So a few weeks ago, when I was picking up my latest stash of flours, I was standing behind a lady who had a large purchase and had brought in three re-usable grocery bags to accommodate it.  The checker beamed at her, “Well, good for you.  You have a three bag credit of $.30.”  (I didn’t know that they offered a bag credit but was delighted that they did).  She then told her that her total came to $157.49.

So when it was my turn to pay for my two little one pound bags of flour, I asked the checker, “You know, I don’t need a bag for those.  I’ll take them as they are.  So would I be entitled to receive a bag credit for my purchase?”  I said this in my usual friendly and sincere manner.

She responded, “No.  In order to get the bag credit you have to bring in a bag.”

Her response was delivered in the sort of light-headed but friendly way that I have generally seen from the far above-average staff that Whole Foods employs.  There was no snarling, no heavy sighing and then the delivery of a response which is infected with a tone of “Oh, my God.  Why do I always have to get the retarded people in my checkout line?” which is what I often see from the “help” at other stores.

So with this information I decided to pursue the subject a bit further.  After all, ten cents on a four dollar purchase is a 2.5% savings – which is better than having a money market account – especially since the return is immediate.

“May I ask why Whole Foods offers a bag discount?”

She politely responded, “That’s to help the environment by reducing the number of bags that go into landfills and the store saves money by not having to provide a bag.”

Good, sound reasoning.  I liked it.

So I said, “Well, by not using a bag to take home my purchase, simply taking these two little packages as is, are we not accomplishing both of the goals you just cited – and, therefore, shouldn’t I still be entitled to the bag credit?”

I had thrown a fly in the ointment.  (Actually, I think those products can be found in the personal care section).  But after a moment, this young lady recovered and said, “Well that’s just store policy.”

So after paying for my purchase I was picking up my two one pound bags of flour  and was going to leave when I decided to have her place them in a bag for me, which she did.  After all, by not receiving the bag credit I effectively had purchased a bag – and I wanted it.  (It’s a nice heavy paper bag and I’m sure I will find many uses for it  before I consign it to the compost bin).

Well, only a fool, an idiot or an Obama voter is going to repeat a mistake they have previously made, so on my next visit to Whole Foods about ten days later, I was prepared.  I came armed with two reusable bags.  I thought about bringing in a grocery cart in which to let them rest while I manipulated my two one pound flour purchases into their bags.  But then I decided to open one bag, put the other one inside it and let them sit on the floor as I dispensed the goods.

This worked out nicely.  I reached in my coat pocket and removed my product coded tags, twisted each around the appropriate bag, placed both of these in the re-usable bag and sauntered over to checkout – delighted that I had not caused anyone to have to use the intercom system.

When I got to the checkout counter, I first placed the still-folded re-usable bag on it, I removed my two one pound packages and held them back and then shoved the other re-usable bag forward, placing the dividing bar at the end of my order.  Thus, the checker was confronted first with my re-usable bags before seeing my purchase.

In order to avoid a hassle, I began by telling her that I had a bad back and the reason I had brought in two bags was that I was following my doctor’s advice that I should only carry things where the weight was balanced on both sides of my body.  That made sense to her and she expedited my checkout, placing one bag of flour in each of these bags and giving me a $.20 bag credit.

So the way I look at it, I made up for the bag credit I was denied on the previous trip – and I’m still ahead by one very nice heavy paper bag that I know will get multiple uses before I finally consign it to the compost bin.

On the way out of the store, I noticed that Whole Foods invites its customers to offer suggestions and comments.  I was going to offer mine that customers who do not request a bag but take their purchase home in the original packaging be given a bag credit.  But I couldn’t find a pen.

ON SHOWING UP

Today is the opening game of Major League Baseball’s World Series.  I have never quite understood how it got that name, but it is what it is.  Even as an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan as a kid, I remember asking my father, “Why do they call it the World Series when all the teams playing are American?”  Dad, who usually knew the answer to almost everything found himself at a loss for an explanation.  But I guess with the inclusion of a few Canadian franchises, the title is now more justified than when I was a youngster.

In any event, those who are baseball fans are excited.  One of my friends from the dog park, a loyal San Francisco Giants fan, is flying out this morning to attend the first two games in the Bay Area.  A friend of hers has season tickets and has generously offered her the use of one of them.  I know her adrenaline is pumping hard as she assembles her jerseys and other paraphernalia which she will wear in attending these first two games of the series.

I have never attended a World Series game but I can imagine for those who love the sport it is truly a rush.  I picture my friend, having made the trek from Las Vegas, all excited at the prospect of watching her favorite game.  There she is in her seat, properly attired and all excited hoping that the Giants bring home a victory for her and all their other fans in the stands and the millions watching the game.

It gets closer to the time for the first pitch when she notices something unusual.  The Giants are out on the field warming up, but the dugout for the Detroit Tigers is mysteriously empty.  The Tigers didn’t make it to the game.

A rustle starts among the crowd in the stands.  “Where are the Tigers?”  The rustle becomes louder as the fans realize they are going to be deprived of their right to watch this game.  There will be no game because the Giants are handed a Win by Default.

If this were to happen can you imagine the outrage that would ensue?  This would not make headlines only on the Sports Page of our newspapers.  It would make headlines on the Front Page – and I’m sure that our columnists who wrote for Arts and Entertainment, Health and Beauty and Travel would all throw in their two bits as well.

Our blog commentaries on the Presidential election would be dwarfed by the volumes that would be written about this abdication of the Detroit Tigers’ responsibility to participate and the Tweets that would be Tweeted would be sent in record-breaking volumes.  The outrage would be phenomenal.

Well, of course, that isn’t going to happen.  But this scenario does point to the truth of that old saying, “Ninety percent of winning is ‘just showing up’.”  And that brings me to the actual subject of this post.

Several months ago I had called on Rep. Jesse Jackson (D – IL 2nd District) to step down due to his medical condition.  I had hoped that the Congressman would be a statesman and not a politician and do the right thing for the people of the district which he represents.  I lived in that district when he was first elected to the House and so I feel a certain vested interest in the matter.

Several days ago, his father the Rev. Mr. Jesse Jackson, acting as his spokesperson, indicated that the Congressman is returning to the Mayo Clinic for further treatment for his Bi-Polar Disorder which has kept him from fulfilling his elected duties since June of this year.  Apparently the Congressman is so unwell that he is not able to update his constituents himself.

With an election only 13 days away, Mr. Jackson will undoubtedly be re-elected as he has chosen to remain on the ballot.  Because of the way that the congressional district is delineated, Bugs Bunny, if running as a Democrat, would win in a landslide.  Certainly the people in the 2nd District are aware of Congressman Jackson’s condition and despite it will re-elect him, much to their discredit.

By the nature of his condition, I have to allow the Congressman some leeway, believing that he is not really capable of making rational decisions at this moment in time.  However, I do want to point to someone of influence over him, a person who has held a large moral sway over the community and who is no stranger himself to politics, who should exert his influence to persuade the Congressman to do the right thing and step down.  That person is his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

You may recall that the senior Mr. Jackson offered himself as a Democratic nominee for President in 1984 and again in 1988.  He has had a long and successful career advocating equal rights for our black citizens.  I have heard him speak (or perhaps preach) about how we should do the “right thing”.  And it is now time for the Rev. Mr. Jackson to do that himself and encourage his son to step down from a position which he is unable to execute competently, due to his medical condition.

There is no one in this country who doesn’t realize that we have significant challenges ahead which we must address in a mature, honest and thoughtful manner.  Whoever is the next President of the United States will need to work with a Congress that is composed of the best and most capable people we can find, people who are truly committed to doing the people’s business.

Rep. Jackson is not currently capable of being one of those people.  And if his father cannot persuade him to do the right thing, then the House, when it convenes in January, should make that decision for him by expelling him.

If, “Ninety percent of winning is just showing up,” we cannot expect to win if there are people who simply aren’t able to attend.  Congressman Jackson is one of those.

Rep. Jackson, please follow the advice your father gave us for years and “Do the right thing.”

Step down.

UNFIT TO SERVE

Every employer makes determinations about people.  Should I hire this person or that one – or hold off hiring anyone and try to redistribute the job’s responsibilities to those already on staff – or should I just do it myself?  These are real questions that real business people face regularly.

The process is, by its nature, essentially discriminatory.  We might require a Master’s degree which discriminates against those who are high school dropouts.  We might believe the job requires at least five years of related work experience – which discriminates against those who are freshly graduated.  This sort of discrimination is allowed by Federal law because it focuses on what are called BFOQ’s (Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications).

On the other hand, discriminating against applicants on the basis of gender, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or Vietnam War status is a prohibited practice and a violation of that same law.  That is because we believe these attributes have no bearing on whether a person will be able to perform his or her job duties.

These are the rules which regulate privately-owned businesses, from IBM to the little mom and pop diner.  They are also the rules that clog our system with law suits brought on behalf of those who think they have been victims of illegal discrimination – much to the benefit of trial lawyers who specialize in these sort of suits.  Having said that, there is a need to oversee the activities of short-sighted employers who harbor prejudices, whatever the form that it takes.

But when it comes to those who serve in Congress, there are only two requirements, which are that they conform to the eligibility requirements set forth in the Constitution and that they receive a plurality of votes from those who live in their district or state.  Sadly, that may not be enough.

A person of conscience should, as in the case of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, realize that her physical health, as a result of being shot,  was insufficient to allow her to discharge her duties to her constituents.  She resigned her office.  I applaud her for her courage in putting those she represents first and herself second.  That is an attribute of a stateswoman and I hope she experiences a complete recovery.

The House of Representatives has procedures for censuring those who are charged and convicted of ethical violations.  I am not sure if the procedure allows for a convicted congressman’s expulsion – or if that is left to the voters in his district at the next election.

But what happens in the case of a congressman who is physically impaired – as was Congresswoman Giffords, or mentally so.  To the best of my knowledge, there is no procedure other than the way in which that congressman wishes to handle the issue.

The reason I bring up this matter is the physical and mental condition of Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. who has been on a “leave of absence” since May and is currently being treated for depression and bi-polar disorder at the Mayo Clinic.  I am particularly interested in this situation because I lived in the Congressional District from which Rep. Jackson was first elected in 1994.

By way of context, remember Presidential-candidate Sen. George McGovern’s 1972 effort to attain the White House.  Sen. Thomas Eagleton was his original choice for Vice-President but was dropped from the ticket when it was revealed that he suffered from depression.

Let me say that I wish  Rep. Jackson every good wish for a complete and full recovery.  I don’t know enough about these conditions to know if that is a possibility.  I certainly hope it is.

But until that occurs, I would call on him to be a statesman and resign his office in the interest of allowing someone who is, at this time, better physically and mentally able to represent his constituents.

America faces serious challenges – the most serious I remember during my lifetime.  We need everyone in every elected office to be a person who is healthy both physically and especially mentally in order to address these challenges.

No one but those who are running for election truly knows if he meets that standard – or if they are unfit to serve.

ON MEDICAL ETHICS

My physician in Chicago, Dr. Sherman and I had a long-term relationship until his retirement.  He ran a practice in which he knew his patients and never seemed to be overly interested in expanding his business.  His staff consisted of one nurse – a woman who happened to be Mrs. Sherman.

When I called for an appointment, there was no menu to get through to reach the right party.  Either Dr. Sherman or his wife took the call.  I could hear them turning the pages of the appointment book to find a time that was good for both of us.

All his patients had his home telephone number in case of an emergency.  I used it one time in the thirty years I saw him when I had an extremely bad case of the flu.  Dr. Sherman decided that I needed to see him right away – so he made a house call.

Dr. Sherman treated adults and he treated children.  And most of all, he treated his patients with compassion and respect.  After an appointment he always took time to sit down with me to find out how my life was going.  These conversations inevitably concluded with the statement, “I hope I don’t see you until next year for your physical – unless it’s at the symphony.”  I knew he meant that.

Hippocrates would have been proud of Dr. Sherman and other professionals like him.

Are there any Dr. Shermans left today in the practice of medicine?  If so they are well camouflaged.  Today the practice has taken on all the characteristics of our technological age and incorporated some of the worst elements of factory farming as well.

The personal relationship between the physician and patient has been replaced by the more highly efficient bar code where the individual is simply numerically identified as one of the herd, milling about the overcrowded stall.

With the lack of interpersonal relationships between physician and patient, it is easy to see how the following situation might occur.

A 23 year-old  man in Philadelphia was denied a heart transplant.  Although he is a good candidate for the procedure, the reason he was declined was because he is autistic and has other psychiatric issues.  In making the determination to reject his application, reasons that were cited included the possibility of steroidal interference with his general health.  Steroids are necessary in order to maximize the patient’s ability to accept the new organ.

There are, perhaps, better candidates for a heart transplant than this young man.  And there is a shortage of hearts and other organs which are available for that purpose.  But it’s difficult to avoid wondering about the procedures and the people who will make these determinations for all of us should Obamacare survive and go into effect.

Under the Affordable Care Act, seven as yet unnamed bureaucrats will effectively be in charge of our dispensation of medicine.  If that doesn’t frighten you it should.  Simply look at how well bureaucracy has bungled most matters with which it has been entrusted.  It’s been that way since Joseph invented the concept in ancient Egypt.

What is most disturbing to me is that when you have an impersonal bureaucracy viewing the general public as merely components which make up a herd, it is not a difficult step to begin to decide that perhaps that herd should be culled and the weak sacrificed for “the greater good.”

With no personal relationship with the victims it’s not too hard to arrive at that view, if you think of them merely as statistics – a mindset not much different from that held by the mass shooters we hear so much about of late.

If you believe that could never happen in America you are wrong.  It has happened.  It was called the Tuskegee syphilis experiment  (also known as the Public Health Service syphilis study).  If you want more details on how 600 impoverished black sharecroppers went untreated for their disease so that we could analyze its progression, you will find it at this link to the Wikipedia article.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuskegee_syphilis_experiment

It doesn’t take a particularly fertile imagination to question that if this one experiment has made its way to the light of exposure, are there others about which we have never heard?  And if so, how many and who are those who were victimized?

The greater good is a nice phrase.  But the good or ill that any society does must always be measured by the way it treats it’s least important member.

We must always be mindful that if we stand by silently as another group is selected as the sacrificial lambs, we have opened the door to a shift in attitude or policy and we may be the next group of sheep on the way to the slaughter house.  Both ethics and common sense suggest that we should oppose any such policy or program with all our might and strength.

Dr. Sherman passed away several years ago at the age of 87.  I suspect there are few left who are like him – physicians who have a true sense of compassion and a relationship with their patients.  People whose lives embodied the very essence of medical ethics.  Their passing is a great loss for all of us.

MYSTERY THEATER

I don’t remember whether this was a short story or something that aired on television and I certainly don’t remember the name or author.  But it was an intriguing tale that I thought would be worth sharing.

Set in Victorian England, a beautiful young woman marries an elderly member of the peerage who is in rather poor health.  She is delighted with her ascent into the nobility but less enthralled with the old duffer who served as her entrée.  But she doesn’t expect him to last long so she perseveres as his wife.

Sadly, the variety of maladies from which her husband suffered appear to be remediating and she decides to take matters about sending her husband into the next world into her own hands.

She begins to add the most minute quantities of poison to his meals – insufficient to kill him instantaneously which might draw suspicion on herself, but enough to make him start to experience physical malaise.  She continues this poisoning for months and finally the cumulative effect of the toxins begin to take their toll on the old man.  His vital organs start to fail and he succumbs to death.

Of course, today we would be able to prove the cause of this man’s death was due to poisoning but the physicians of that time would have concluded that his demise was due to natural causes.

By the way, the widow came under no suspicion and polite society grieved with her at the loss she had experienced.  It turns out this was the perfect crime.

Poisoning has been the preferred method of murder for women for centuries.  Lucrezia Borgia was quite proficient in the practice as were many other of our female ancestors.  Of course, men have also used this method to dispatch adversaries as was the fate handed down to Socrates.

Most of us would agree that murder in any form is heinous and those of us who are responsible members of society, other than perhaps saying in anger, “I’m so mad I could kill him,” have never seriously contemplated that as a way to resolve our differences with our fellow men.

But what if there were someone loose in our midst whose time framework for murder were not months, as in our story, but rather decades?  How would we ever see his handiwork after so great a time period – even with today’s modern methods of detection?  I suggest that we should consider just such a perpetrator – the government agency which oversees those foods it deems safe for us to eat – the FDA.

Perhaps the term murder is inappropriate.  Any crime has to contain several elements which include motive, means and opportunity.  I can think of no rational reason that the FDA would be motivated to cause the death of millions of Americans – other than the far-fetched one that by ensuring we consume a poor diet, we are more likely to then rely on pharmaceutical prescription drugs which it also oversees – thus adding to the term of the job expectancy of its employees.  But I am loath to make that suggestion.

But the FDA in its role as overseer of the foods we allow on the shelves of our supermarkets, does have both means and opportunity to carry out this plot – intentionally or unwittingly.  I would like to take one product with which many of us are familiar to illustrate my point.  That product is manufactured by General Mills and is called Hamburger Helper.

According to the General Mills’ website, Hamburger Helper is available in 40 delicious flavors.  Further, the company offers the following information about itself:

“Our Mission is Nourishing Lives.  Making lives healthier, easier and richer every day.”

“Our Values.  Everything we do reflects our strong core values and we live these values every day.”

Let’s look at what goes into this product and see how that is reflective of General Mills’ Mission Statement and their Value Statement:

Enriched macaroni made from bleached Durum wheat is the first ingredient.  What is that?  I mean enriched certainly makes it sound nutritious.  Well this is what it means.  Perfectly wholesome wheat is first stripped of its nutritive value (bleached) in order to extend its shelf life and then other nutrients (chemicals) are returned to it (enriched) in the manufacturing process.

A little further down the list of ingredients (after a variety of chemical additives which I would probably misspell and have thus omitted) we come to Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil.  This means that Soybean Oil has had hydrogen added to it (again for the purpose of extending shelf life).  Unfortunately this particular form of oil is one of those nasty things that tends to clog our arteries, thus causing all sorts of cardiovascular problems as we consume them over time.

And, of course, no good processed food would be worthy of the name if it didn’t contain sugar in some form.  In this case, the form which sugar takes is corn syrup.

Unlike our first two ingredients which are designed to allow the product to stay “fresh” on the shelf through the next Ice Age, sugar is added to a great number of our processed foods for one simple reason.  We are addicted to it and our food manufacturers realize giving the customer what she wants is a good way to keep her coming back for more.  With nearly $14 Billion in annual sales, apparently General Mills has found a winning formula.

It would be unfair to single out General Mills and say they are manufacturing junk food under the guise of its being “nutritious” and foisting this off on an uneducated public.  They are not alone.  They and their competitors who manufacture similar products all fall under the supervision of the FDA.

We have seen how government has difficulty dealing even with short term issues – let alone ones whose ramifications are long term.  In this regard, the FDA is probably no more or less guilty than others in the bureaucracy or than those whom we elect to public office.  When something will not manifest its bad effects for years or decades it is not only easy but convenient to sweep it under the rug and leave it to someone else to deal with at a later time.

We are all dealing with the effects of that sort of thinking in the massive overload we have placed on our healthcare system, much of which could have been avoided had we spent our lives consuming nutritious foods instead of junk and rearing another generation who is learning to consume the same unhealthful items.

Once upon a time, people who believed that “You are what you eat,” were considered off-base and a little kooky, not only by the general populace but by the medical establishment as well.  Today that thinking has changed and we understand more fully the relationship between good food and good health.  But we still fill our grocery carts with products that do anything but meet the definition of “good” other than, perhaps, as far as taste is concerned.

The Federal government still allows these items into the food chain – even at a time when it is grappling to find ways to cut “fraud” from Medicaid and Medicare.  What greater fraud is there than that a tremendous number of products available for consumption are at the heart of our medical conditions and are approved by the FDA for sale?

If you go to the FDA’s web page the by-line reads, “Protecting and Promoting Your Health.”  That is a noble cause and one we should all applaud.  But it plays better as theater than fact.  How they can make that statement in light of the ever increasing evidence that we are eating our way into illness is a mystery to me.

IT’S NOT NICE TO FOOL MOTHER NATURE (PART TWO)

Before the advent of antibiotics if a person developed an infection they either depended on their body to overcome it or they succumbed to it and died.  That we have greatly reduced the number of these deaths through dispensing pharmaceuticals is undeniable.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that by allowing pharmaceuticals to do the work that in many cases our own bodies could and should do – by taking a prescription at every drop of a hat – we are lessening our own bodies’ abilities to fight off these infections.  And in many cases, the bugs we are fighting with drugs are becoming resistant to them.

As useful as antibiotics are I was surprised to learn that only 20% of them are taken by humans – most of the rest going to animal livestock and the vast majority of those are being fed to our chicken population.  What are the effects of this practice which is overseen by the FDA?  Well, for about 8 million at-risk women, the news is not good.

The problem is E.coli which has now evolved as a “superbug” –  and a chicken is apparently the perfect place for it to grow.  Because of the nature of factory farming, even healthy chickens are fed a diet of antibiotics to enable them to survive the unhealthy, overcrowded, (and may I add), inhumane conditions in which they briefly live and die.  Many of these chickens receive antibiotics from the time they are in the egg until the time they appear in your local supermarket meat counter.  And we are the unwitting “beneficiaries” of this drug therapy – designed not only to overcome disease but to make these animals grow faster and larger.

The specific risk that researchers at McGill University and others have noted is that for at-risk women who consume these chickens there is a significant increase in the number and severity of bladder infections which simply won’t go away.

Naturally, the poultry industry denies any evidence correlating the transfer of E.coli from chickens directly to humans and alleges that the reason this superbug is so drug resistant is because of our own willing overuse of antibiotics.  That is a point well-taken.

But is there a rational person who does not believe that if we feed our bodies with sub-standard food, we will get sub-standard and perhaps unexpected outcomes?  As the phrase goes, “Garbage in – Garbage out.”

The reason that we avoid eating foods that contain fast acting toxins is because we realize what will happen if we consume them.  The difference between consuming a poisonous mushroom and eating a lifetime’s worth of “over-medicated” meat is that we can see the effect the mushroom has on us almost immediately.  The evidence takes time to manifest itself when the toxins appear in only small quantities.  But they will appear over time.

In 1907 in Minamata, Japan the villagers convinced the Chisso Corporation to build a plant in their fishing village.  Chisso manufactured drugs, plastics and perfumes which contained a chemical compound which was known as acetaldehyde.  Mercury was a key ingredient in the manufacturing process which began in 1932.  The waste from the production lines was dumped into Minamata Bay.

By the mid-1950’s people started developing symptoms of what has become known as “Minamata Disease.”  People with this disease exhibited a range of different symptoms which  included a degeneration of their central nervous systems.  Some had slurred speech and blurred vision.  Others experienced numbness in their limbs or in their lips.  Others exhibited behaviors which were similar to those that people with Tourette Syndrome display including involuntary body movements and suddenly shouting out words in an uncontrolled manner.

The disease not only affected people but animals as well.  There were numerous reports of cats committing suicide by running into the Bay drowning themselves and birds began dropping from the sky.

One of Chisso’s employees, Dr. Hajime Hosokawa said that an “unknown disease of the central nervous system had broken out.”   He speculated that the disease was linked to the consumption of fish that the people in Minamata ate – fish that were feeding in the waters into which Chisso poured their waste materials.

The company denied any wrongdoing but a few years later transferred their dumping operations from the bay into the Minamata River.  Several months after they began doing this, the people who lived downstream also started exhibiting the same symptoms.  It was clear that Chisso was to blame for this and Dr. Hosokawa proved the effects of consuming acetaldehyde to the corporate officers of Chisso.  They buried his research and the evidence and continued to proclaim their innocence.

By 1974 the board of physicians of Kumamoto Prefecture had certified 798 victims of the disease with another 3,000 waiting to have their cases evaluated.  The pollution of Minamata Bay and Minamata River went on for 36 years and would have continued but that the production method which produced the toxins became obsolete.

Even though many suspected that the fish that they were eating was the cause of their disease, consider the plight of people who had only two choices.  The first was to continue to eat tainted food.  The second was to starve to death.  Fish and rice were the villagers’ only staple food supplies.

We in the United States are more fortunate.  Our supermarket shelves are overflowing with food.  And we have the FDA to protect us from companies which don’t adhere to their standards.  That should make us all feel secure – until we read about superbugs and E.coli.

As powerful as mankind thinks he is, Mother Nature has not exited the stage.  She offers us the richness of an incredibly bountiful earth.  But she also brings us tempests of wind, fire and flood.

She has loaded the revolver and handed us the pistol.  Now it is up to us to see if we pull the trigger.

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