The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I notice that over on Jerry Pournelle’s blog, he’s starting to talk about Iraq as a “Trillion dollar war.” When someone as far Right as Jerry talks that way, I suspect the cost of this thing is really starting to sink in.
You know, when people talk about how bad Saddam was, and how good it would be to help his people, I partially empathize. It’s kind of like saying that if a kitten falls into a well, we should save that kitten. I agree. What if it costs enough money to cripple a nation? Is it still a good idea? What if it was a child in the well? Do you spend enough money that you have to deny education to millions of other children? Or health care? I’m sure everyone has a different calculus for these matters. But I’m not convinced Saddam was that much more problematic than the Saudi Royals. Especially considering that none, not one, of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqi.
Fun push-polling in Nevada, eh? Mentioning “Barack Huessein Obama” four times in a robo-call is obviously playing to fear of Muslims. This is politics as usual, and about as ethical as a robo-call asking if someone believes that Hillary can keep control of a government when she didn’t know her husband was getting blown in her own house. Both are honest, both loathsome. I hate politics, and seriously hope that Obama can work his game without resorting to such crap.
Intermittent Fasting. Basically, it is controlling food intake by jiggering the hours or day that nutrition is taken in. There are several different methods, including:
1) EOD. You eat every other day.
2) “Warrior Diet.” Eating in a particular time slot at the end of the day, say between 7 and 9. Ori Hoffmeinkler recommends very specific eating patterns here: first salad, then protein, then carbs. Drink a large glass of water, wait 10 minutes, and if hungry, start over again.
3) “Waving” caloric intake. Every other day you depress the intake to about 600 calories.

There are others, but those are the ones that come first to mind. The list of positive benefits is astounding, and at this point the scientific research looks quite strong. If you’re looking at this to lose weight, I’d suggest EOD or Warrior Diet. The reason is that once you eat ANYTHING, you awaken “Limbic Hunger” and the urge to munch gets pretty powerful. If you eat nothing on a given day, your hunger is a low-level growl rather than a roar.

I know of no serious research that suggests healthy person MUST have “all nutrients every day.” That wouldn’t match our ancestral hunting-gathering pattern at all. For health, there’s no need to lower overall caloric intake. The EXACT SAME caloric intake (averaged over a month) on EOD might very well result in weight loss. Why? You’ll be healthier, and healthy people move their butts more than unhealthy ones. It’s natural.

However, if you want to lose weight, you need to have an exercise program of some kind integrated into your schedule. If you aren’t sweating for a minimum of twenty minutes at least three times a week, there should be no mystery why your butt is spreading. Trying to control your weight through monitoring food alone is simply nuts. Lower your food intake, and you’re likely to send your body a message that there is a famine: best to preserve energy. You start walking more slowly, moving less. Next thing you know it’s “I’m dieting and can’t lose weight!” leading to the illusion that your body disobeys the laws of physics. You need both.

Intermittent Fasting simply works. You might want to use Hoodia to help you with the hunger pangs, though. “Desert Burn” brand is the real thing. There are others.
Has everyone who is interested in an answer to the question “is gender or race more of a barrier in America” asked several black women their opinions? I can’t read your minds, and am aware how wrong I could be, but my thoughts on it are as follows:
1) If you haven’t asked, you either don’t really care, don’t know any black women, or are so invested in a position that you don’t want to know the truth.
2) If you don’t know any black women, I’m curious why you think you have enough data to form an opinion on the matter.

And because I KNOW that some of the people reading this will misinterpret (it happens every time) I want to state clearly: I am not taking a position either way. My only position is that the people with the best ability to answer the question are black women. Where’s the best place to live: New York or L.A? Ask a dozen people who have lived both places. What is more limiting, being blind or having one leg? Ask one-legged blind people. And so on.

If being female is more limitation, black women would know. If being black is more limitation, black women would know. If you can’t trust them to say, then how can you trust women as a whole to answer, or blacks as a whole to answer? Or whites. Or men. Or anyone, about anything?

White women, and black men have equal investment in being “right” about this issue. (Vote for me! I’m more disadvantaged!)
White males? That’s interesting. They get it from both sides. I suspect that they might have clearer minds on the subject than either white females OR black males. But…(yeah, there’s always a but) remember that all white males know women. All of them. Without meaningful exception. Most white males love at least one woman (a mother, sister, wife, SOMETHING). Just as a white person who knows and loves at least one black person might be expected to have more racial empathy than one who does not, I find it reasonable to believe that white males would be, on the average, more sympathetic to women than to the “Other” group he may have little contact with. And during the 60’s it was a common joke among guys that one of the best ways to get laid was to profess empathy with feminist causes. Hey, I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, I really think my position is safest: the question can’t be answered definitively, and for anyone other than a black woman, there is an element of voyeurism involved: ranking income above life expectancy, rape above murder, incarceration above personal insult, sexual harassment above infant mortality, etc. etc.

Leave it alone, or perform the experiment and let us know. Suggest others do it. Send us THEIR results as well. Either no one can be trusted to tell the truth in such surveys, or a trend would reveal itself pretty quickly.


Jason is entering pre-kindergarten. It’s so interesting that when he was the OLDEST kid in the younger group, his behavior tended toward the younger. But as the YOUNGEST kid in the older group, he’s maturing rapidly. His potty training, a little spotty just weeks ago, is getting better at mach speed.
I hesitate to say it, but it looks as if Shadow Valley is finally coming together. It’s felt like pushing a Velcro boulder up a Velcro hill over the last couple of years. But T is reading it now, and that’s a huge advantage.


Frank said...

Steve said

It’s kind of like saying that if a kitten falls into a well, we should save that kitten. I agree. What if it costs enough money to cripple a nation? Is it still a good idea? What if it was a child in the well? Do you spend enough money that you have to deny education to millions of other children? Or health care?

First, this is why we can't, and don't get involved with every despot and dictator throughout the world. We, the United States, through their elected representatives (i.e. Congress) decided it was worth taking out Iraq. I am quite confident that Bush hopes to leverage it into a safer and more secure Middle East that will police itself with regards to terrorism.

But I do not think that we are in a situation where rebuilding Iraq is going to cripple us as a nation.

We came much closer to that after WWII when we implemented the Marshall Plan.

One could argue that The Marshall Plan cost way more than the rebuilding of Iraq in terms of GDP. First it must be realized that during WWII, the public debt carried by the US was at 120% of GDP. Today it is around 60%.

Second, there is this:

Behrman writes, “From June 1947 to its termination at the end of 1951, the Marshall Plan provided approximately $13 billion to finance the recovery . . . of Western Europe.” This was less than half the Europeans’ initial request and four billion dollars less than President Truman’s initial proposal to Congress, but it was still serious money. Behrman computes that, in today’s dollars, “that sum equals roughly $100 billion, and as a comparable share of U.S. Gross National Product it would be in excess of $500 billion.” That’s actually an understatement. In fact, the total amount disbursed under the Marshall Plan was equivalent to roughly 5.4 per cent of U.S. gross national product in the year of Marshall’s speech, or 1.1 per cent spread over the whole period of the program, which, technically, dated from April, 1948, when the Foreign Assistance Act was passed, to June, 1952, when the last payment was made. A Marshall Plan announced today would therefore be worth closer to seven hundred and forty billion dollars. If there had been a Marshall Plan between 2003 and 2007, it would have cost five hundred and fifty billion. By comparison, actual foreign economic aid under the Bush Administration between 2001 and 2006 totalled less than one hundred and fifty billion, an average of less than 0.2 per cent of G.D.P.

We are hardly going to break the bank by helping Iraq.

And though some have called the Marshall Plan the "the most unselfish act in history", clearly it was in our interests to pursue the rebuilding of Europe and we reaped incalculable rewards by investing this way.

And that was at a time we could hardly afford it.

We can easily afford to rebuild Iraq now and I predict we will reap the rewards of freeing Iraq and then being seen to not have abandoned them after we got what we wanted.

That would be the ugly American thing to do.

Steven Barnes said...

Well-expressed perspective, Frank. Thanks.

Steven Barnes said...

Oh...I forgot to say that the difference (in my mind) is that stopping Hitler actually was a valid thing to do, while I simply never bought Saddam as a threat to the world. So what we got with the Marshall plan was something that was actually worth doing--but terribly expensive. While with Saddam it wasn't worth doing--and terribly expensive.

Unknown said...

"Has everyone who is interested in an answer to the question “is gender or race more of a barrier in America” asked several black women their opinions?"

Well, I haven't asked any black women with whom I'm personally acquainted. (And, yes, I suppose this does mean I don't really care that much to find out the answer - but that's consistent with my stated position that the question's probably unanswerable anyway.) However, I did find a post elsewhere that links about half a dozen different blog responses of women of color to the Steinem editorial:

Steven Barnes said...

Interesting. I'm delighted that most of these women take the position that a conclusion can't be rationally reached. That taking any solid position at all trivializes the pain of others, or requires disowning part of one's self. That's the way I'd LIKE to think I operate.

Mike R said...

>difference (in my mind) is that stopping Hitler actually was a valid thing to do, while I simply never bought Saddam as a threat to the world.<

For what it's worth, he was talking about the cost of the Marshal Plan, which was post-WWII. It's goal was to stop Western Europe from going communist, not to stop Hitler. Weather some of Western Europe would have gone communist without it is a debatable point, but most historians think probably not, but who knows?

The Iraq War, while expensive, is just not on the same scale as the fight against Hitler. If the US were to commit the same share of GDP to fighting radical Islam as it did to fighting the fascists in WWII the cost today would be around 20 Trillion or so, and the total costs would probably be around 40 or 50 Trillion (pensions and benefits for the next 50 years). If US per capita death rates were the same, we would have lost around 1.2 million soldiers so far as well.

As you rightly point out Saddam was not a threat on the level that Hitler was, which is why we haven't spent anywhere near the amount in treasure or lives to fight him that we did to fight Hitler.

Mark Jones said...

I'm doing IF (intermittently, alas--I need to be more consistent about sticking to it). One thing I've noticed is that on the days when I give in and cheat or just abandon the fast, I regret it half an hour later when I'm no longer hungry. I caved, but to not great purpose--I'll still be hungry _again_ later and now I've blown my fast. Remembering that has made it easier lately to stick to the fast; yeah, I get hungry, but as you say--it's a low level hunger and I _can_ ignore it if I choose.

My wife also forwarded me a report of a study that indicates that simply standing, or puttering, will make a significant difference in weight gain. Real, heavy exercise is still important, but the study compared two groups who didn't exercise--one group sat a lot more than the other. The standing group burned more calories overall.

So over the Christmas holidays I swapped out my computer desk at home for a standing workstation. I can already see a difference in my behavior. I wander away from the monitor a lot more often to do other things. I dance while I netsurf. It's been a very good idea.

The only drawback currently is that I find more difficult, somehow, to compose when I'm standing. I do a lot of writing (fanfic, original fic, online games) but it isn't as easy standing as it is when I sit. I figure that'll change, but it's an unexpected side effect.

Steven Barnes said...

Interesting and sane, Mike. I'm enjoying this discussion. Too bad we're not all at a party having it in real time...

Steve Perry said...

The ask-a-black-woman methodology is statistically valid if you ask enough of them. A handful of friends? Nope.

You've already copped to that.

Yep, it does give viewpoints that are interesting, and closer to the action, but it strikes me as kind of like asking somebody whether it is better to be rich and black or poor and white. Way too many factors to sort (or lump) using the question without narrowing it down considerably.

I've lived in L.A. and I've lived in Oregon. Which is better? For me, Oregon.

If I were Steven Spielberg, who supposedly has a house up here somewhere, I expect my answer might be shaded the other way.

It always depends on who you ask, and "black woman" takes in a whole lot of territory. Lemme see: Condee Rice is black, isn't she? Halley Berry? So is the check-out clerk Mona at my local Safeway. You figure they would have the same experiences to offer up?

Sharpen your question, you might get closer. As it stands, it *is* unanswerable, if you want a valid answer ...

Steven Barnes said...

No, I don't think you have to sharpen your question as much as you have to get lots of answers. I think 10 is the minimum. And I'd be HAPPY to get Condie's answer. Or a poor black woman. Or Ophrah. They would have had different experiences, yes, so the more you ask, the better your sample.

Steve Perry said...

You make my point for me.

If you ask ten women, and they are all college-educated and wealthy, you get a different response than if you ask ten who are all below the poverty line.

One each doesn't give it to you anymore than one robin a spring makes.

To get a sample that covers the spectrum on any poll that is remotely believable, you need a much larger number for so disparate a group.

"Black women?" No better than saying "Asian women," or 'Jewish women."

Is sex more important than ethnicity? Too big.

You don't include anything about age, locale, education, work, marital status, looks, income, a plethora of things that can influence how a person is treated.

Take identical twins. Send one to school at Harvard and give her job working in New York City as a highly-paid corporate lawyer.

Send the other to Jackson, Mississippi, a high-school dropout, and put her to work cleaning motel rooms at local by-the-hour stop'n'screw.

Make the lawyer a pilates fanatic who runs marathons and a size two. Make the cleaning lady morbidly obese.

Both black, both women. You don't see they might have different views of how their race or sex matter? Or their weight, education, income, locale, yadda yadda ... ?

Larger, the most likely it is to be accurate, but even so, that's no guarantee.

I'm not arguing about the conclusion, I don't think the jury has a verdict of that, but the methodology.

You could argue that being rich and/or famous is not a cure for social ills, and I'd go along with that. Listen to Clarence Thomas talk -- he's an angry, bitter man in a lot of ways, and here he is one of the arguably most powerful men in country, if not the world, in his ability to make an impact on the way things work. He is royally pissed-off.

Does he have a right to be that bitter? Sure. But I'm guessing a lot of folks would look at him and say, What the fuck are *you* bitching about?

Ashtray in the Rolls is full? Oh, gee. How sad for you.

(Me, I believed Anita, who had little to gain and a lot to lose by coming forward.)

Me asking the handful of black women I know personally which is worse, being black or being a woman doesn't give me a wide enough net. "Worse," for most of them, is relative term.

In an either/or world, you could maybe break those down easily. Shades of gray that blend those edges together make it hard to see unless you can focus the question enough to get a better view.

You are still too broad in your query ...

Steven Barnes said...

I disagree, Steve. At least partially because I've actually asked around--(but stopped before I got to ten, because I didn't want to fool myself into thinking an informally conducted survey was some kind of determinative.) My housekeeper has the lowest level of education. She said neither was as much a problem as money, period. Others, who ranged from a LOT of college to high school, all had pretty much the same answer. The only exception was one who was so light skinned that she said she is usually mistaken for white.
My guess is that college educated women tend to compete and associate with other college educated women. Under-educated women deal with other low-income women and THAT strata of society.

The consistency with which the same answer came back really surprised me, and made me want to call the survey off, lest my opinions solidify. If the opinions coming back had been 60-40 or 55-45, I'd agree that there was more need to be careful. But frankly, as long as this is just a thought experiment for you, you won't get it, Steve. Don't trust me for a hot second. Haul out your rolodex and ask. Or call a social worker and ask them to do it. Or a college recruiter, or anything else you want. I believe that pure numbers will reveal the truth in this one, unless someone deliberately loads it by choosing Feminists or Black Power advocates. My very grim suspicion is that once you start asking, the answer will still come back pretty much the same.
In other words: I'll bet you five bucks that High class, low class, high income, low income, high education, low education: the factors of race and gender have about the same proportion of effect--although obviously the more power you have, the less drastically negative either will be. I doubt the proportions change much at all. And here I make myself vulnerable. Having said it, all you have to do to prove me wrong is ask the questions, dude. Then talk to your poorest and richest friends and ask 'em to do the same thing. Quit with the thought experiments, and come get my money.

Steve Perry said...

I'll make the calls, just because I'm curious, but I don't think your question gets a better answer from a handful of black women than it would a handful of anybody.

Nobody is offering any proof.

What black women believe is no more evidence than what any other woman believes is; if they believe that race is a bigger issue than sex (or vice-versa) that doesn't tell you anything other than that's what they believe.

A guy in a cannibal's pot might know the best way to prepare long pig, but that he is in the cauldron isn't the reason why he might.

It doesn't follow.

I'll stipulate that black women might have strong opinions, and that most of them will vote black over female, but -- so what? It doesn't answer the question, only what they *believe* about the question, and now we're back to square one -- it's simply not not evidence. There's no science there.

It gets an answer from a person who is female and black, and: "Is gender or race more of a barrier in America based on your personal experience?" which is how you have to phrase it, doesn't erase any of the other factors that just don't filter out.

An obese black women is going to get different looks and opportunities than a drop-dead gorgeous movie star -- that's just how it is. Dorothy Dandridge and Halle Berry make the cut for what a lot of folks white or black or red or yellow think is attractive.

How do you pull that variable out?
Or where you live? Or all those other things?

This ain't how.

Steven Barnes said...

If enough people ask enough people, Steve, you'll get the obese, the rich, the poor, the beautiful, the brilliant, and the ignorant. Eventually, you'd get everyone in the country. Would that still not be enough? Then I submit that it's simply not possible to tell whether anyone is better or worse off than anyone...which is ultimately true, in my mind, but we rarely use such deconstructions in casual conversation. I am curious, though--what makes you think that black women would be likely to come down on the "race" side? They're no more black than they are women, after all. Do you hold the opinion that race is more oppressive, or do you base this on something else?