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Perambulating Pine Cones

Perambulating Pine Cones

My favorite mammal is the pangolin. Some hold out for the duck billed platypus. I admit that the platypus has its points for perversity, but I feel that the pangolin has more cachet. Everyone has heard of the platypus whereas the pangolin is more obscure. The usual reaction of people when they see a pangolin is “What in the hell is that?” When they’re told that it is a mammal, they are likely to say, “You’re kidding, right?”

Pangolins look like perambulating pine cones. That’s a good start. They have teeth in their stomach. That may be a bit of an exaggeration; what they have in their stomachs are horny buds that act as teeth. Still, they grind up their food in their stomach so in my book they have teeth in their stomachs. And in time of need they can curl in a ball and roll down hill. How cool is that?

Like many other peculiar animals they are anteaters. If you like, you can think of them as aardvarks with ichthyosis. Then again, you might think of them as a cross between an aardvark and a pine tree. That works for me, though the biology is a little obscrure.

A lady yclept Mary Cole knows of my little obsession sent me the photo to the right. She and I once viewed a stuffed pangolin in England. It looked much like an oversized pine cone with legs. The photo shows a baby pangolin slurping up milk. Isn’t it just the cutest little critter?

Many thanks, Mary. Life is good.

Oh rats

According to a study at Princeton high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is even worse than I thought it was. The researchers checked out what happens to rats with a sweet tooth. They added sweeteners to the diet of rats. Some got HFCS; the others got ordinary table sugar (sucrose). Guess what. You don’t need to guess; you know what’s coming.

The rats on the sucrose diet were okay. The rats on the HFCS diet became obese. All of them. Worse, they developed something called the metabolic syndrome. This is a complex of related symptoms – low grade inflamation, accelerated cholestral levels, incipient heart disease, insulin resistance, and, in advanced cases, diabetes.

The problem with HFCS is the free fructose. Table sugar (sucrose) binds together glucose (blood sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar). When the body digests table sugar it has to split the sucrose into glucose and fructose. Apparently that extra step of digestion provides some protection against the toxic effects of fructose.

Make no mistake about it – fructose is a low grade chronic toxin.

HFCS conists of 55% fructose, 42% glucose, and 3% more complex sugars. The sugars are all free floating which means that the fructose can go straight to the liver and work its evil magic.

Go ahead, keep drinking those bottles of pop sweetened with HFCS. You drink your death.

NOTE: The industry website for HFCS says the report is deeply flawed. They may have a point. News releases quite often aren’t very reliable. However the rat report only confirms what is already known about the digestion of fructose.

The first grackle of spring

As I wwas writing this, I spotted a grackle sitting on the bird feeders. Oh, joy. You know that spring has truly arrived when the feathered pests have shown up.

A farce in Washington

I am impressed. The Democrats finally passed a health care bill, doing it in the shabbiest way that they could come up with. They are now patting themselves on the back for having done this great thing. Many of them even believe their own propaganda. Snort.

The fundamental problem in Washington is that the politicians are in the thrall of the large corporations. The health care bill is littered with concessions to corporate America. Here is an example:

Twenty five years ago or so most health insurance companies were non-profit; they were bought up by for profit companies. In those parts of the world that have decent health care systems, health insurance companies are non-profit and are tightly regulated. They aren’t here, and they aren’t going to be. Why not? You know why – the for profit companies have bought and paid for friends in Congress. Why is for profit bad? The answer is simple enough. There is an inherent conflict of interest in health insurance for profit.

Other countries have a single health system with simplified paper work. Administrative costs are typically in the 2-4% range; in the US they are in the 18-25% range. Nothing has changed on that front. The US has an amazing variety of health care systems. Nothing has changed on that front.

The sad thing is that there was a real chance for real reform. What we got was failure of leadership that produced a trillion dollar band aid. As the wit said, the problem with the health care bill isn’t the abortion language in the bill, it is that the language in the bill is an abortion.

Then there is the constitutional problem. According to the bill everybody must have health insurance. The, ah, do-gooders don’t have a problem with this. The dark side of do-gooding is the totalitarian impulse. If a do-gooding scheme requires that everybody stand on their head, then by God everybody had better stand on their head.

It could get interesting if the Supreme Court holds its nose and upholds the bill. What next? Well, the American auto industry is in trouble. Let’s fix it by passing a law that everybody has to own an American made car. And so on.

As you may gather, I don’t think much of the great reform. Mind you, I don’t think much of the No, Nothing party either. The difference between the two parties is that one party wears its corporate owners logos on its sleeves and the other wears them on their underwear. You can decide which is which.

So Mr. Smart Ass, what would you do? Okay, I will tell you. Here is a very simple bill that will save more lives and improve American health than the great reform.

As of January 1, 2011, the sale of cigarettes is prohibited and high fructose corn syrup is banned as a food additive.

That’s it. You know why that can’t happen. We’ve known for decades that smoking is a killer. The evidence is in that HFCS is a killer. They aren’t little puppies; they are big dogs. But there is a lot of a money in tobacco and HFCS. It’s really very simple:

We have the best Congress that money can buy.


It occurs to me that I’ve been spending entirely too much editorial space on the lamentable state of politics in this country. Perhaps I should have an editorial or two about the lamentable state of politics in Bulgaria.

Oh, yes, there is a reason why I don’t mess with the Bulgarians.

This page was last updated April 2, 2010.

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Collected editorials