Why I’m Not Blogging about Politics

A post in which I proceed to blog about politics.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m very involved there with politics. But if you follow this blog, you know that I very seldom blog about it.

I’ll make my position clear here just once: I don’t like Donald Trump. I think he’s a conman who isn’t sincere about anything he promised his base during the campaign. I think his only goal as president is to make himself and his family richer by playing the system any way he can. I think that the only reason he’s a [supposed] billionaire is because he started life with millions he got from his father, consistently cuts project costs by not paying his contractors what he owes them, and has been bailed out after more than a few bad business decisions. For Pete’s sake, the guy has six bankruptcies under his belt — doesn’t that speak volumes? How people can trust and believe in a conman like this is beyond me.

I think he’s semi-literate, a guy with a tiny vocabulary who can’t be bothered to prepare for meetings or speeches because he thinks he can bluff his way through them — and everyone lowers their standards to make sure he does.

I also think he’s a crazy narcissist who needs constant ego stroking, a true man-child who can only focus on things that affect him personally. I think he’s delusional in the sense that he rewrites events in his own mind to fit the narrative he wants to tell about himself and then actually believes the new story. Simply said, he believes his own lies.

I think members of his staff likely did collude with Russia during the election — and maybe he did, too — and that Putin definitely has enough dirt on him to make him march to his tune. I think he’s hiding far more than he’s revealing and I’m sure that what he’s hiding is plenty to be ashamed of.

And no, I don’t want to debate it. So save your pro-Trump comments for some other blog.

And yes, I would like to see him removed from office. Impeachment would be nice. So would a resignation. Heck, I’d probably celebrate if he just dropped dead of a heart attack.

(Not that I think Pence is good for this country, but that’s a whole other story.)

But that doesn’t mean I’m one of the rabid left wing anti-Trump kooks that are making fools of themselves by believing every single Trump conspiracy theory thrown at them.

And I’m outraged by the people cooking up these theories and pushing them. While it’s possible that these people actually believe the nonsense they’re spouting, I think it’s a lot more likely that they’re trying to secure a position for themselves on the far left like Alex Jones’s position on the far right: offensive nut jobs who can turn a buck by building a following of gullible people on the left who are desperate for any hope that Trump will be removed from office in shame.

And I’m fed up with people who tweet and retweet these theories and then get upset with me when I advise them not to believe anything until it’s published by a credible news source. As if I’m somehow “the enemy” because I’m not as gullible and desperate as they are.

Seriously?

I recently changed the tweet pinned to the top of my Twitter profile page in an effort to advise people who are going nuts these days over what they’re seeing and reading and believing. Will it help? Probably not. But it’s my new mantra when it comes to politics: “PAY ATTENTION, everyone. Think before you react. Check before you believe. And, for pete’s sake, CALM DOWN!”

While there are similarities and differences between our current state of political affairs and the Watergate scandal that brought down Nixon, I have full confidence that the legal system will do the right thing when it comes to dealing with Trump.

Eventually.

Until then, I see no reason to blog about politics anymore. I have more interesting — and positive — things to write about.

Want to comment on this post? Comments are open — for now. But there are a few strings attached.

First, read the Comment Policy. You’ll find a very informative comic there about “free speech” that perfectly illustrates my thoughts on the matter. If your comment violates this policy in any way, it will be deleted before it even appears. Even I won’t read it.

Second, if your comment mentions Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama (or emails or Benghazi, etc.) as a reason for supporting Trump now, today, after all the shit that’s come down since the election, I will delete your comment. If you can’t make a 2017 argument for supporting Trump, you obviously haven’t thought much about what’s going on and have nothing worth sharing here. Go back to your Fox News bubble and leave the rest of us who actually care about the future of our country alone.

Third, don’t expect me to debate with you on the merits of Donald Trump. I won’t. No matter how nicely you present your argument, thus getting it past moderation, I will not reply. I’ve said everything I have to say above and you cannot convince me that I’m wrong about any of it.

If you want to respond to someone who has commented, keep that comment policy in mind. And keep it civil. If I don’t spend all of my time moderating this post’s comments, the comments will stay open. But if moderation becomes a chore, I’ll shut it down.

Seriously, I have better things to do with my time than deal with MAGA trolls.

Real News from Real Sources

Want to know where to get facts?

Forbes ArticleThe other day, one of my Facebook friends shared a link to an article on Forbes that discussed the difficulty of finding reliable news sources in a world where so many sources are labeled “fake.” The article listed, with objective descriptions, what the author considered honest and reliable news sources. I’ll run down the list quickly here; I urge you to read the article to get additional information about each source:

  1. The New York Times
  2. The Wall Street Journal
  3. The Washington Post
  4. BBC
  5. The Economist
  6. The New Yorker
  7. Wire Services: The Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg News
  8. Foreign Affairs
  9. The Atlantic
  10. Politico

There are runners up and financial resources, too. Again, I urge you to read the article to get those lists. (Spoiler alert: CNN is on a list; Fox News, Brietbart, Huffington Post, and Mother Jones are not.)

As I added on Facebook when I shared a link to the article, the real trick is convincing the people who already turn to less reliable news outlets that these news outlets are better and more truthful. Another challenge is getting people to understand the difference between fact-based articles produced by journalists and opinion pieces produced by pundits.

If you’re interested in doing the right thing during these difficult times — and don’t don’t fool yourself: these are difficult times — start by informing yourself about an issue by turning to reliable news sources. (Note the plural there; try to learn from at least two good sources.) Be careful to get information from journalists and not pundits. (In other words, skip the OpEd and political commentary pages/columns.) Go beyond the headlines! Think about what you’ve learned. Discuss it with other people you know and trust who have done the same thing. Then form your own opinions and act accordingly. Acting means calling your congressperson or senators when an issue comes up to vote. These days, it also means showing up for peaceful protests and doing what you can to help convince those sitting on the fence to see things your way and also act.

It’s sad to me that so many people are falling for “alternative facts” fed to them by unreliable news sources, many of which are playing political games for ratings or other gains. What’s even worse is that the “fake news” label is being applied to what are truly reliable news sources.

Stop the ignorance. Get your information from reliable sources and make your own decisions.

Learning about Milk Fat

I learned something new today, thanks to a debate with a friend.

The other day, a friend and I were discussing milk.

I told her I preferred 2% milk but was trying to get to like 1% milk. To me, it was about reducing unnecessary fat and calories in my diet. I’ve been drinking 2% milk for years and actually now prefer its flavor and consistency over whole milk. Whole milk, to me, had become too rich, almost like a light cream. I wanted to start liking 1% milk in an effort to further reduce fat and calories for a healthy diet. I already enjoy fat-free yogurt; indeed, I don’t think I’ve had whole milk yogurt in years, if ever. (Do they even make it? I guess I could make my own.)

My friend was adamantly opposed to reduced fat milk. I gathered from our conversation that she thought they added things to the milk that made it less healthy when they removed the fat. Or that something about the actual process of making reduced fat milk caused it to be less healthy. In any case, she thought reduced fat milk was bad and didn’t want to hear anything else about it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, especially in the past three or four years, is that when someone is stuck with an idea in their head it’s no use debating the point. At least not without facts. And although I suspected there was nothing unhealthy about reduced fat milk, I had no evidence to prove my point. So I let the subject drop and we chatted about other things.

But this morning, when I sat down with my coffee and some time to kill before dawn, I set about finding some evidence to support my point of view.

How Reduced Fat Milk is Made

I Googled “How do they make reduced fat milk?” I got a number of search results. The first, from The Kitchn website, had the answer I was looking for: “How is Skim Milk Made?“. Here’s the pertinent info:

So how is skim milk made? Traditionally, the fat was removed naturally from milk due to gravity. If fresh milk is left to sit and settle, the cream — which is where most of the fat is — rises to the top, leaving behind milk with much less fat.

The quicker, modernized way of making low-fat and skim milks is to place the whole milk into a machine called a centrifugal separator, which spins some or all of the fat globules out of the milk. This occurs before the milk is homogenized, a process which reduces all the milk particles to the same size so that natural separation doesn’t occur anymore.

The article goes on to provide some other interesting information about milk and fat free milk. Among that information was a note about additives:

Federal law mandates that most skim milk has to be fortified with vitamin A and sometimes vitamin D. This is due to the fact that even though whole milk naturally has a fair amount of both, the vitamins are fat soluble and thus lost when the milk fat is removed during the skimming process.

Milk solids in the form of dried milk are also added since they contain proteins that help thicken the watery consistency of skim milk.

Not only was this likely the additives that worried my friend, but it also explained how some brands of skim milk were far more palatable than others: they likely added back more dried milk to thicken it up.

2% Milk
The only thing that creeps me out about Shamrock Foods milk is its extraordinarily long shelf life: the quart I bought last week is supposedly good until March. Could it be the plastic packaging?

Now I don’t know if the 2% milk I normally consume has a lot of vitamins or any milk fat added back in. The milk in my camper’s refrigerator now — remember, I’m on the road this winter — is from Shamrock Farms and says it contains “reduced fat milk, Vitamins A & D.” Nothing about milk solids.

So nothing I learned about the production of reduced fat milk has scared me away from drinking it.

Benefits of Whole vs. Reduced Fat Milk

Scrolling down in the same search results, however, brought up links to two different articles in TIME Magazine. I read them both. After all, I wanted to learn the truth — a truth that would either support or even change my own opinions.

  • The Case Against Low-fat Milk Is Stronger Than Ever from April 4, 2016 cites a study of people whose health had been tracked for 15 years. The conclusion was that, if anything, people who consumed whole fat dairy products were less likely to be obese or suffer from type 2 diabetes.
  • Why Full-Fat Dairy May Be Healthier Than Low-Fat from March 5, 2015 cites the results of over 25 studies that concluded that “people who eat full-fat dairy are no more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes than people who stick to low-fat dairy. When it comes to weight gain, full-fat dairy may actually be better for you.”

Huh.

Both articles suggested that there might be something special about the fat in dairy that works with our bodies to help them process the foods we eat and help us feel full. Dairy fat could actually be preventing us from eating less healthy sugars and carbs to feel sated. And these articles maintained that it was foolhardy for diets to recommend cutting (or eating) just one kind of nutrient — for example, low fat or fat-free diets — when the body naturally works with all consumed nutrients together.

I understand how these studies could have gotten these results. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the fat-free diet craze was in full swing, stores were full of fat-free processed foods. I know because I still lived at home (or at least visited regularly) and saw that my mother bought them. She, like so many other people, thought that the answer to keeping weight under control was to keep as much fat out of their diets as possible. But rather than do this by eating naturally low fat foods like fruits and vegetables and whole grains, they did it by buying processed foods labeled “fat free.” They then consumed as much as they wanted, not paying attention to the ingredients that made this food taste good despite the lack of fat: mostly sugar. Calorie counts were sky high. It was around this time that I started reading labels and making food choices based on what I read. While I don’t have a perfect diet, I’ve learned to minimize my time in a supermarket’s middle aisles where all the processed foods reside.

The Calorie Argument

Okay, so what about calories? The articles both confirmed that one of the benefits of reduced fat dairy products was the accompanying reduction in calories. So I decided to see just how many calories I was saving by switching between whole, 2%, and 1% milk. (I really detest fat-free milk and generally only have it in lattes because I think it froths better. Fat free yogurt tastes fine to me.)

So I Googled “What is the calorie count for whole, 2%, 1%, and fat free milk?” The PopSugar website had the answer I sought: “Whole vs. Reduced vs. Low-Fat vs. Nonfat Milk.” Here’s the nutritional information that interests me for one 8-ounce cup of milk:

  Whole 2% 1% Fat-free
Calories 150 130 110 90
Total Fat (g / %) 8 / 3 5 / 2 2.5 / 1 ~0 / 0

What’s interesting when you read data in the article’s table is that they all the same fiber, carbs, and protein but 1% and fat-free milks actually have more sugar — although admittedly it isn’t much more: 11g vs. 12g.

Now I don’t drink a lot of milk, although I probably do drink more than the average adult. I’ll go through a half gallon in about a week. Every cup of 2% is saving me only 20 calories over whole milk and a switch down to 1% milk would only save another 20 calories. Is it worth it? I don’t think so.

At this point, I sort of regret getting so used to 2% milk.

An Exercise in Critical Thinking

So what did I learn?

In a way, my friend was right: reduced fat milk isn’t any better for you than whole milk. And if she believed that there were additives, she’s right — although I’m not sure those additives make reduced fat milk any less healthy.

But in a way, she was also wrong: reduced fat milk isn’t really bad for you. It just doesn’t give the health benefits we’ve been led to believe.

As for me, I was wrong. There’s no real reason to switch to reduced fat milk. I have no evidence to show her. I have nothing to stand on for pressing my original point of view.

Will I change the way I buy milk? Probably not — at least for now. I really do like 2% milk. I’m used to it. To me, drinking whole milk is almost like drinking cream. I’m not so picky, however, that I’ll turn down whole milk if that’s the only thing available. I’m not worried about 2% milk hurting my health.

But 1% and fat-free milk have definitely become a little bit less attractive. No real calorie benefit and what’s with the added sugar? And what if milk fat really is good for you? Should I really be minimizing it?

And that’s what critical thinking is all about, folks. Gathering information and forming your own opinions after thinking about what you’ve learned. Even if you begin researching with a preconceived notion, you need to be ready to change your mind when the evidence clearly tells you your notion is wrong. You shouldn’t just look for evidence that supports your view. You should look for evidence that tells the whole story, the true story, or at least the story that properly conducted research and established facts support.

I sure wish more people would learn to think critically in today’s world.