Category Archives: Food


Michael Specter, a New Yorker science writer, has written a new book accusing Americans of being stupid about science. It’s not that I don’t agree with him. I just have one quibble.

I have to caution: I haven’t actually read the book. But I have heard him on several radio shows promoting it. He is especially hard in these interviews on those who believe organic or “natural” diets is the only safe way to eat. I couldn’t agree more. While I do prefer organic foods myself, Americans are unhealthy because they don’t eat vegetables at all, pesticides or no. And believing the natural world is somehow better for you than the mechanical and technological world in which we’ve cocooned ourselves ignores most of human history. It’s a relatively new thing that we’re living past 30 or 40, and it’s not just because we were hunted by predators. The world is dangerous for us, and there’s really no concrete divide between the natural world and the manufactured one. Though we can never prove for certain that the chemical BPA doesn’t cause cancer, we already know about viruses and natural plants like tobacco that definitely do. You’ll do yourself a lot more harm by never getting a vaccine for, say, HPV than you will help yourself by drinking out of a Sigg.

In these interviews, Specter goes off on folks who protest genetically modified foods, but I think he mischaracterizes their objections and the benefits. First, he says those who object protest what these foods might do to harm humans. While there are some out there who fear that without evidence, there are bigger objections to those who are uncertain about what the introduction of new genetic material might do to ecological health. That’s a pretty rational fear when one considers what introducing chemical fertilizers and pesticides did to the environment; the truth is we usually don’t know how the food chain could react, and how pests could adjust.

Second, he argues that these genetically modified foods could benefit the many hungry people on our planet by making more food more available. He needs to go back and read Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1998 for showing that most of the world’s famines have to do with distribution of wealth, not actual food shortages. That’s still true now; there’s probably plenty of food on the earth, there are just some of us who eat too much of it, which was part of what the organic and locavore food arguments try to address. Genetically modified foods are not going to be used to feed hungry people, they’re going to be used to increased profits.

Specter could address these things in his book, but in interviews he’s not mentioned them, and so he’s underselling his argument.

More Supermarkets, Please.

via Wikimedia Commons.

via Wikimedia Commons.

Up until last fall, I lived in Bed-Stuy, and the only supermarket near me was so far away that I would just do my food-shopping on the way back from my gym — which happens to be in a completely different neighborhood.  The bodegas on either end of the block where I lived only sold white bread; fresh fruit and vegetables were completely out of the question. Fast food restaurants abounded. After 10 p.m., you had to stand outside the bodega and tell the store employee what you wanted through bullet-proof glass; they handed you your goods via a rotating carousel. If you were hungry at that hour — and I usually was, since I work evenings — there was no place to get food, except Papa John’s. (Ugh.)

Then my lease ran out and I stumbled into an apartment for slightly less than I was paying — in Park Slope, that notorious bastion of upper middle class liberalism and helicopter parenting. My mind was blown. It’s just two miles away, but the demographic chasms are ginormous. This is the whitest, most affluent place I’ve ever lived, and the nutritional options border on the cartoonish. There are supermarkets two blocks in every direction, a surfeit of top-shelf restaurantsthe famous Food Co-Op, and the 24-hour bodega on the corner sells fresh herbs and organic kale. As dope this is for me now, I had to move to a completely different neighborhood in order to have regular access to fat-free milk.

The larger public health implications of these kinds of disparities  are obvious. The lack of access to a decent-sized supermarket is a growing problem here in the city, though it’s worse in other places:  there are just four chain supermarkets in all of Newark, New Jersey’s largest city; Detroit, a city with a population of just under a million, doesn’t have any.

When we talk about obesity and the way it correlates is poverty, we spend most of our time talking about pushing low-income consumers into making healthier choices and probably not enough time discussing how we can get food retailers to sell healthy food them in the first place.


Book of the month: All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?

This month’s pick, All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America is a recommendation from shani-o who writes: “In the book, Berg touches on the role racism has played in starvation of both whites and blacks in the 60s, notes the varying policies presidential administrations have enacted to fight hunger, and gives an excellent primer on food stamps and welfare reform.

He goes on to challenge the notion that individuals and organized charities are the viable solutions, and insists that government programs are the only way to give poor people the stability they need to focus on education and work, so they can eventually enter the middle class. Berg also discussed the term  ‘food insecurity’ (also known as ‘hunger’) in the U.S.”

An article on Berg in the Philadelphia Inquirer described ‘food insecurity’ as “the lack of access to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life.”

Berg is the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and previously worked for the Clinton Administration where he was the Community Coordinator of Community Food Security for the USDA.

We will be discussing the book on September 15. Check out Berg’s website and read an excerpt of the book.

Happy Reading.

Posted Without Comment.

Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: A drinkable moment

If this post from Thomas Lifton passes for true American Thought, then we’re all doomed: “I think this photo constitutes another major Obama blunder. As some AT commentators point out, this picture becomes a metaphor for ObamaCare.” A former colleague once told me, “Blackink, don’t argue with logic. Because logic will argue with you.” Truer words …

On a slightly more positive – and logical – note, here’s your PostBourgie-approved reading material from the weekend:

Have you all seen President Obama’s official Kenyan birth certificate? The document that finally proves – once and for all – that Obama is the Antichrist sent back to Earth to turn the U.S. into a third-world mudhole and bleed hard-working real Amurikins of their tax dollars in the form of reparations? No. Of course not. Because one doesn’t exist. (Blackink)

According to a bunch of economic indicators, the recession may be slowing down. Good news, but any potential recovery probably won’t be quick enough for the 1.5 million people who will probably run out of unemployment benefits in the next few months. (G.D.)

This is your new Republican party: Writes Like She Talks posts 13 candidates in the GOP “Young Guns” program — an initiative to challenge sitting House Dems (unsurprisingly, very few of them are actually “young”). Guess what? Out of the 13 GOP challengers, one is a woman, and two are Asian men. Meanwhile, five of the races are challenging Democratic women. (Shani-o)

Our very own Jamelle, Matt Y, Steve B and Ezra offer thoughtful rebuttals – some might call them smackdowns – of Ross Douthat’s column today praising Texas as a “model” economy. As a sort of aside, I had quite a chuckle when Jamelle referred to Ross “an affirmative action hire.” Good one. (blackink)

Adam at TAPPED notes the state of leadership in Black America. It ain’t pretty. (Shani-o)

Lou Dobbs has become a “publicity nightmare” for CNN. (G.D.)

In case you missed it, here’s the text of the e-mail Boston police officer Justin Barrett sent to Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham. What’s funny is that he criticizes Abraham for her “ridiculous” and “substandard” writing. What’s scary is that he thinks suspects don’t have rights. Here’s hoping no one ever again sees this guy trailing them in their rearview mirror. (Blackink)

In the early 1800s, firefighting was a private, for-profit industry in most urbanized U.S. cities. And it might surprise you – or not – to know that the industry was “corrupt, bloated and expensive.” Sound familiar? (Blackink)

Hortense at Jez takes to task another one of the “stupidly named sociological gangs” women frequently find themselves placed in by the world. Like Cougars, MILFS, and PUMAs, the latest term is “TWITS” and it stands for “Teenage Women in their Thirties.” Ugh. (Shani-o)

Michael Pollan, self-appointed champion of food and foodies everywhere, pens a piece in the Times Magazine on television’s role in the death of real home cooking. mute sees his latest pronouncement as snobby and ineffective; Amanda Marcotte calls him antifeminist. (I wonder what our resident kitchen maestros universeexpanding and Jamelle think about his conclusions) (G.D.)

There’s absolutely no reason that a cop should tase a 72-year-old woman on a dare. (Blackink)

Business woman and blogger Penelope Trunk muses about when to work on romance, and when to work on … work. (Shani-o)

A luxury condo in downtown Fort Myers, Fla., has 32 stories and only one tenant. (Blackink)

College Humor offers a solution to MySpace’s problem: dead accounts. (I think I might need that MySpace Hospice option.) (Shani-o)

Baatin, one-third of the original Slum Village lineup, was found dead in his home. He was 35. (Jay Dilla, the hugely influential producer who was the group’s most famous member, died in 2003 from complications due to lupus.) (G.D.)

New York, Boston and Chicago round out the top 3 on Forbeslist of best cities for singles. But Milwaukee at No. 9 and Miami at No. 29? Really? (Blackink)

The best take on Michael Vick, The Commish and the sanctity of The Shield that I’ve read so far: “Since he was first covered by the media, prosecuted by the government, and admonished by the NFL with such brio, Vick has served as a vessel for the country’s anger toward black men. There was little effort made to understand what he did and why he did it, as though stopping to do so would necessarily excuse it. Beyond this lack of general curiosity and empathy, there was an ugly racial element. To be blunt, Vick’s crime was a black one.” (Blackink)

Rob Neyer, Scott Lemieux, Allen Barra and Will Weiss take issue with Toure’s somewhat poorly reasoned review of three books largely centered on steroids in baseball. (Blackink)

Joe Jackson explains to us the difference between spanking and beating. (Shani-o)

And at this point, Mariah has pretty much proved her point about Eminem being obsessed with her. Who keeps the voicemails of someone they slept with once, several years ago? More on this later in the week. (Blackink)

Oh. And could someone tell Stephon Marbury to turn off the camera? Please?

Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: In memory of The Anchorman

I apologize for the delay. The dog ate my homework. I had a death in the family. I got caught in traffic. And then my car broke down. But, as President Obama told us last week, “no excuses”:

Without further delay, your PostBourgie-approved reading material from the weekend:

As a native Houstonian, I feel the need to mention that Walter Cronkite had deep roots in the Bayou City. (Bi)

Funny but true: With the death of Kronkite, Fake Virginia at Daily Kos offers up The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart as the most trusted man in America. (Bi)

Shem Walker, 49, stepped out of his brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, to see a man sitting on his stoop. He told the man to get off his stoop, and the man didn’t — he was wearing headphones, and couldn’t hear Walker —they got into a violent altercation. But the man on the step happened to be an undercover cop — and Shem Walker is now dead. TNC: “What continues to amaze me about these cops, is how they seem to, all at once, lack basic street sense and basic training. Why are you sitting on some dude’s stoop, in Clinton Hill, in the first place? With earphones on, no less? You’re just asking for beef. Why are you pulling out a gun and shooting someone over a fist fight? You’re a cop, for God’s sake. Why do you think pulling a gun and saying “Freeze, police!” but not showing any fucking ID, is gonna work? Don’t they know that any drug dealer could do the same thing?” (GD)

On the subject of cops, the NYPD – the largest police force in the country – is steadily shrinking due to a lack of cash and a paucity of recruits. (GD)

Embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has not talked about his stroll along the Argentine trail nearly enough. No, really. More, more, more! (Bi)

Sex miseducation: After years of steady improvement, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise again among U.S. teens, according to a new federal study. It’s probably because too many kids know how to use condoms and take birth-control pills. Clearly, Bristol Palin has a solution for all that. (Bi)

Adam reflects on President Obama’s address to the NAACP last week, noting that there was a lot more to the message than “no excuses” for teh Negroes: “Obama wasn’t wagging his finger. When he said that ‘all these innovative programs and expanded opportunities will not, in and of themselves, make a difference if each of us, as parents and as community leaders, fail to do our part by encouraging excellence in our children,’ he was stating the obvious. That’s why everyone cheered. But if the President actually believed that all that was required was a stronger grip on our bootstraps, he wouldn’t be pushing health care reform.” (Bi)

What would Pat Buchanan have to say to be forever excused from polite company? Claim that AIDS is nature’s retribution against gays for violating the laws of nature? Advise that the Republican Party strongly consider the political platform of a one-time grand wizard of the KKK? Call Adolf Hitler an “individual of great courage”? No, no and no. Indeed, Buchanan might outlast us all, like cockroaches after a nuclear winter. Media Matters reviews through the lengthy historyof an unapologetic race-baiter. (Bi)

Lou Dobbs is a birther? (Bi)

RNC Chairman Michael Steele said that he “doesn’t do policy”? No shit. (Bi)

Via Yglesias, Ryan Powers points out the U.S. Senate’s “proud tradition of standing against social progress” with significant health care reform on the horizon. (Bi)

Oliver Willis imagines what might have happened if Fox News had been around to cover the March on Washington in 1963: “The tranquility of our nation’s capital was disturbed today as some 250,000 plus negroes invaded and occupied the Lincoln Memorial.” Film at 11. (Bi)

Speaking of Fox News, guest military pundit Ralph Peters suggested Sunday that if the American soldier recently captured by the Taliban deserted his unit, uh … “I don’t care how hard it sounds, as far as I’m concerned, the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.” Wow. You can see it all here. (Bi)

HBO is airing a documentary on a high school in Charleston, Mississippi, which had its first racially integrated prom in 2008. (GD)

Since I spend roughly two hours a day commuting to and from week, I’ve figured out ways to talk, text and read while driving. Obviously, none of these behaviors are safe. And, in fact, might be more dangerous than getting behind the wheel after downing a couple beers. We all might be better off if our state and/or federal government went about the business of considering legislation that might discourage such behavior. (Bi)

The federal government has been pushing to make it easier for people to use food stamps at farmer’s markets. (GD)

If you’re like me, and you’re prone to eating anything that is not nailed down or poison, then this list of six binge-proof foods that will keep you full and satisfied for hours might come in handy. (Bi)

Malcolm Gladwell suggests overconfidence might be a major reason for the Wall Street collapse: “Several years ago, a team headed by the psychologist Mark Fenton-O’Creevy created a computer program that mimicked the ups and downs of an index like the Dow, and recruited, as subjects, members of a highly paid profession. As the line moved across the screen, Fenton-O’Creevy asked his subjects to press a series of buttons, which, they were told, might or might not affect the course of the line. At the end of the session, they were asked to rate their effectiveness in moving the line upward. The buttons had no effect at all on the line. But many of the players were convinced that their manipulation of the buttons made the index go up and up. … They were traders at an investment bank.” (Bi)

OMG: Sonia Sotomayor confirmed! (Judging from that pic, she hasn’t aged a bit.) (GD)

In quite a tremendous gesture, Tyler Perry is sending those kids who were turned away from that private Philadelphia-area swim club  to Disney World. (Bi)

Hilzoy’s final post. We’ll miss her unique, eloquent and passionate voice. (Bi)

Are girls’ sports more “innocent”? (GD)

Is there anyone out there who can offer a safe, nurturing home for an abandoned, NFL quarterback? He’s got a bit of an aggression problem with other pets but he loves to run and is eager to learn new tricks. (Bi)

But if you’re looking for good football news, you can’t do much better than former Florida State star-Rhodes Scholar-Superman Myron Rolle. He’s announced plans to build a medical clinic and sports complex in Steventon, Exuma in the Bahamas. Yeah. He’s better than us. (Bi)

ESPN’s Lester Munson reports on an antitrust caseagainst the NFL now before the U.S. Supreme Court that “could easily be the most significant legal turning point in the history of American sports.” If the NFL prevails, all major professional U.S. sports leagues could be immune from all forms of antitrust scrutinty. Wow. (Bi)

Ok. I’m off to watch the new T.O. reality show. Enjoy Shaq:

Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: Reign of the Lake Show.

How does it feel to live in Kobe’s world?

And without any further delay, your reading material from the weekend:

1. William G. Bowen, who served as the president of Princeton from 1972 (Sonia Sotomayor’s freshman year) to 1988, is also one of the most outspoken supporters of affirmative action policies in higher education. “One lesson that I have derived from participating in this debate, for heaven knows how many years, is the simple-minded assumption that you either deserve to be there or you don’t. There isn’t just one index of merit, and the point of admissions is not to bestow gold stars on people who’ve done well before, to predict the future. It’s to choose students to invest in who are going to make the university better and are going to make society better. Those are bets on the future.”

2. Deepak Bhargava, who runs the Center for Community Change, said the Obama administration has undertaken a “stealthy” fight against poverty.

3. Barbara Ehrenreich on how the poor have been left out of media coverage of the current downturn: “The already poor…the undocumented immigrants, the sweatshop workers, the janitors, maids and security guards…had all but “disappeared” from both the news media and public policy discussions. …Disappearing with them is what may be the most distinctive and compelling story of this recession. When I got back home, I started calling up experts, like Sharon Parrott, a policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who told me, “There’s rising unemployment among all demographic groups, but vastly more among the so-called unskilled.”

4. Ennis at Sepia Mutiny remembers Loving Day, the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Loving v. Virginia.

5. The porn industry’s disease-screening practices are facing new scrutiny after more than a dozen performers tested positive for HIV.

6. Leigh at Poverty in America says the analog-to-digital TV switch is going to hit the poor and elderly the hardest.

7. According to U.S. News and World Report, Albuquerque, Boise, and Auburn, Alabama, are three of the 10 best places to live in the country. Really?

8. A devastating, “Takeover”-style critique of Jonah Goldberg.

9. The 10 most absurd Time magazine covers of the past 40 years. I’m partial to “Dirty Words.”

10. In a fair and just world, there’s no way Krispy Kreme faces a grim future while places like McDonald’s and Olive Garden flourish.

11. With California in general and Los Angeles in particular suffering through a devastating economic crisis, how can the city justify spending $1 million for the Lakers’ championship celebration?

12. Speaking of the NBA champs, Bethlehem Shoals nicely sums up the arguments against The Black Mamba thusly: “… there’s no denying it: Kobe Bryant has proven himself, is beyond reproach, and no question is of the game’s all-time greats. I’m sorry, but from now on, you just might have to keep calling Kobe names, or saying you don’t think he’s a very nice person. All valid basketball arguments have left the station.”

13. More sports, with a dash of politics: Is Rush Limbaugh really interested in buying the St. Louis Rams?

14. Stop. Hammer Time: