Saturday, January 01, 2005


Cranial Cavity's Take On PETA/Chicken Killing

Has the KFC Boardroom been Infiltrated by PETA? Cranial cavity adds some examples of what it would be like to be killed by PETA or McDonald's. Check out their website, they have some other great stuff too.

Friday, December 31, 2004


Yours Truly Wins The Outside The Beltway Caption Contest

Outside The Beltway : Caption Contest Winners Didn't think it was one of my best entries but I appreciate the award nonetheless.


People Shoving Food In Their Mouths - Not McDonald's or Burger King - Make People Fat

This Study recently published in the Lancet is outrageous. Their claim is that fast food, in and of itself, causes type-2 Diabetes, obesity and heart problems. They say that they have controlled for all other variables and that fast food consumption more than three times per week leads to the aforementioned health problems. The only problem is that there is no controlling for the variable of personal responsibility. Only persons living in caves for the last fifty years would not have at least some idea that fast food is not good for you. Yes, it is quick and inexpensive, but that comes at a price. Much like the tobacco companies, the fast food industry has been attacked in recent years for peddling a product which can have bad health problems. And, like the tobacco companies, never is the choice of the person to smoke or eat fast food taken into account. Now the tobacco companies have been harshly - and rightfully so- punished for advertising to kids and covering up their own evidence that nicotine is addictive and causes cancer. However, fast food companies, to my knowledge, do not put "addictive chemicals that make you crave it fortnightly" (special acknowledgment to anyone who correctly identifies that movie quote), and there is no law against their marketing to children. In a related article, one researcher is quoted as saying:

Fast-food restaurants may argue that the evidence that customers are being super-sized by their meals is too weak. But should customers not be given the benefit of the doubt? Appropriate action would be to reduce portions to normal sizes, and to sell burgers of lean meat, whole-grain bread or buns, fat-reduced mayonnaise, more vegetables, lower-fat fried potatoes, and reduced-sugar soft drinks. Although the price may be increased, at least such changes in fast-food meals can have no adverse health effects.

The only problem is that there is no evidence that the above meal is any better. Moreover, just by changing the composition of the fast food, you do nothing to the food one eats at home. I guess the next logical step is to outlaw selling anything that the Lancet thinks is bad for your health.

Another big problems here is that there are huge behavioral differences in people that manifest as a propensity to eat fast food, smoke, drink or engage in other unhealthy activities, or not. A case in point: several years ago, a large clinical trial looking at women who had taken hormone replacement therapy made the conclusion that the HRT dramatically lowered the incidence of heart disease and osteoporosis. We later found out that this conclusion was not correct. What really had happened is that all the women who were taking HRT generally were more health conscious. They tended to have a more healthy diet and exercised more. Healthy eating lead to better heart health and exercise lead to decrease in osteoporosis. When the study was repeated, this time in a prospective fashion so as to control more variables, the previous conclusions were not borne out. This is the problem with most large retrospective studies - there is no control of many confounding variables. So does fast food cause type-2 diabetes - we do not know. The only way to tell would be to have one group eat fast food 3 times per week and another group not eat the fast food and have both groups eat the exact same diet otherwise, participate in the same amount of exercise and all participants must have the same genetic predisposition to diabetes. We will never know the answer.

Finally, the attack on the fast food industry is another example of trying to take care of the symptom, instead of the problem. As a doctor, I would never give pain medication alone for an infection. While this would dull the pain, it simply would not solve the problem. Here, the fast food industry is not the problem, personal choice and irresponsibility are the problem. Trying to regulate or eliminate the symptom will not change the fact that there is no social doctrine which says that staying healthy so as not to unduly stress the resources of your community is wrong and borders on immoral. So enjoy your Whopper or Big Mac, just don't do it too often, eat reasonably at other times and exercise - these are the things will keep you from getting fat.

UPDATE: Maybe the fact that Obesity is rising sharply among US preschoolers has something to do with why they are becoming diabetic earlier.

Update #2: Anonymous correctly identified the quote as being from "So I Married An Axe Murderer" but inocrrectly identified it as awful.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


Price of Big Mac Likely Going Up Thanks To PETA

McDonald's says it will consider more humane method to slaughter chickens PETA has struck again. Now it is trying to get McDonald's to change the way in which they kill their chickens so they can make those tasty McChicken and McNuggets without hurting the poultry.

The fast-food giant said it is studying the possibility of "controlled atmosphere killing," in which chickens are killed by replacing oxygen in the air they breathe with an inert gas, such as nitrogen or argon.

It would replace a slaughtering process in which chickens are hung by their legs on a moving conveyor line and pulled through an electrified vat of water. The electrical charge is supposed to stun the chickens, and then their throats are cut.

Exactly how do they know how much pain a chicken has when being killed. The two methods of slaughter described above appear equally unappealing to me. Their current method seems equal to being shot with a tazer and then having your throat slit while you were out cold. The second method sounds like slow suffocation. Given the choice, I would rather NOT have my oxygen slowly cut off - just do it quick.

The real problem is in the cost. Pure, medical grade oxygen does not come cheap and I'm guessing that pure, medical grade Argon or Nitrogen are even more expensive. Now factor in the cost of making a special room in which chickens will slowly have their oxygen replaced with Argon until they are dead. Compare this with the cost of a large vat of water, 125 volts and a knife. Plus you have got to retrain all those chicken electrocutioners and decapitators to be high pressure gas techs. Pretty soon the airport isn't the only place you will be paying $4 for a Big Mac.

Linked to Beltway Traffic Jam

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Election Flashback: John Kerry Called This The Worst Economy Since The Great Depression

Sales of Existing Homes Hit Record High Not only was that one of the stupidest things Kerry had to say during the campaign, it really is an insult to all the Americans who lived through the Great Depression.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Brookings institute Proposal For Social Security Reform

The Brookings Institute has a different look at the Social Security Problem. Basically, their proposal does not include personal social security accounts and pays for the changes in life expectancy, growing wages and the increasing number of beneficiaries by raising the maximum taxable income level, decreasing benefits for higher wage earners and adding a legacy tax to fund the current under-funding of social security. Their policy abstract:

Social Security is one of America's most successful government programs. It has helped millions of Americans avoid poverty in old age, upon becoming disabled, or after the death of a family wage earner. Despite these ongoing successes, the program faces a long-term deficit and policymakers should make changes to it sooner rather than later. Addressing the long-term deficit would put the program and the nation's budget on a sounder footing. Restoring long-term balance to Social Security is therefore necessary, but lawmakers do not have to destroy the program in order to save it.

Our plan restores balance to Social Security without drawing on general revenues, preserves the program's basic structure, and strengthens its social insurance functions. Its combination of revenue and benefit changes reflects the type of balanced approach that was successfully adopted in the 1983 reforms of Social Security.

An interesting idea but based on lowering benefits - albeit by 1% to 7% - and adding a legacy tax, I'm not sure it will fly. Certainly there is something to be said for their argument to bring back the idea that this is really an insurance policy for the poor, retired or disabled worker and not a government managed/funded retirement account. With this in mind, and given the notion that many 30 and 40 somethings do not even believe social security will be around for them, maybe we should be paying for the social security overhaul with huge decreases or even eliminations of benefits for those in the highest income ranges and more modest decreases for those in the mid to upper income ranges. Couple this with some expansions in the IRA benefits to make sure the mid to upper level earners save plenty for retirement and we may have a better solution. The key to the Brooking's or any reform plan is to implement it over many years. This is the part usually lost on the government and the media but the most important so that the changes are brought about gradually and do not surprise anyone.


Senior UN Official Retracts Comment Calling Rich Nations "Stingy"

Jan Egleland backed off of his remark calling all rich nations stingy with regards to helping the tsunami relief effort. Funny, I don't remember this guy getting his panties in a wad when we saw no economic help from anybody when we were attacked on 9/11. Just to set the record straight on how much help we provide the rest of the world:

The United Nations urged rich nations a quarter of a century ago to give away 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product every year in the form of development aid.

To date, however, just a handful of European nations, most of them in Scandinavia, actually meet that goal.

The United States, the world's largest economy, contributes about 0.13 a year of its GDP to development aid. But that figure excludes aid to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as food aid, where the United States is the world's largest donor.

"We are busting our butts to help and comments like that don't reflect what we are doing," said a State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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