She's Got a Bone To Pick
One very important factor that Emily Yoffe ("Got Osteoporosis?") leaves out in all the comparisons among diets in China, Africa, and America is genetic/ethnic background.
Did these studies compare Chinese-Americans to Chinese people in China, and African-Americans to native Africans?
The genetics of a person of European descent can be vastly different from a person of Chinese or African descent. Osteoporosis, breast cancer, and sexual maturation are all highly influenced by genetics. Unless you are comparing rural Chinese diets with the diets of Americans with the same ethnic background, these comparisons are largely invalid.
People in Northern Europe and North America have consumed dairy products as a large part of their diets for centuries. They also tend to have very different body types than Asians or Africans. It is known that many people of African ethnic origin and other ethnic groups (including Asian) have problems digesting milk products past puberty. People of Northern European descent often do not have this problem. Could it also be that Northern European ethnicities have more problems with hip fractures or higher estrogen levels for reasons other than diet?
Just because rural Chinese and African people may not need high dairy consumption to be healthy does not mean that Americans should be discouraged from drinking milk.
The Values Thing
With respect to Jacob Weisberg's "Ballot Box" ("It's the Empty Materialism, Stupid"), he makes one decent point, and then blows it.
It's true that, as he says, "We're electing someone to run the government, not minister to the condition of our souls." And though Bill Clinton proves that people will elect presidents who feel their pain, still I think Weisberg is close to the mark on this point. But from there, he goes wrong.
George W. Bush and Bill Bradley are not talking about individual holders of wealth. Nor are they engaging in subtle class warfare. They are responding to those who would assert that American society as a whole is just fine because it is collectively wealthy. American society is manifestly not "just fine."
I believe the majority of Americans, if they think about it at all--and keep in mind that the ones who think about it are also the ones who take the time to vote--think that our cultural life has coarsened, or even debased, and that the sense of "values" that just 30 or even fewer years ago meant that the majority of Americans felt no need to lock their doors has been, perhaps irretrievably, lost. How else can people understand tragedies such as Littleton, in which "normal" middle-class kids are not playing baseball or flirting with girls or even duking out their differences after school on the playground; they are nursing monstrous visions of murder and mayhem, while building bombs in their clueless parents' garage. Anyone who pays the least attention could make a long list of their preferred examples.
This is the spiritual emptiness Bush and Bradley are talking about. Not whether a 27-year-old "Dellionaire" is bored with his Lamborghini. Or whether those less fortunate are envious of his horsepower.
Revenge Killings, Served Up Cold
I must thank David Greenberg for the fascinating "History Lesson" ("The Avengers") on the postwar Jewish "Revenge Group," but I disagree that such an organized and, frankly, insane plan has much in common with the revenge killings by Albanians (we assume) of Serbs in present-day Kosovo.
I think the Serbian government and police were the evil monsters in the recent conflict--the Yugoslav army maybe less so--and that the outcome of our bombing campaign was generally a good thing. However, I've never had any illusions about the unsavory nature of the Kosovo Liberation Army, as the more simple-minded media outlets seem to still hold.
The killings of the 14 Serbian farmers look to be a case of classic terrorism with a clear political aim--scaring the remaining Serbs out of Kosovo. Killing even the boys and old men doesn't sound much like the vengeance of honorable men.
The "Revenge Group," on the other hand, was bent on carrying out revenge killing without any political aim. The Nazis were well out of power; nothing would have come of the killings except a vague sense of self-satisfaction on the part of those involved.
In any case, I can't condone what either group of killers did or planned to do. To even for an instant try to intellectually justify killing members of one group simply because other members of that group did unspeakable things--whether that group consists of Serbian civilians or imprisoned SS guards--is lazy thinking. It's plainly wrong, and there's no amount of philosophizing that could convince me it's not.
How To Keep Your Kids From Turning Into Tele Tubbies
The recent installment of "Culturebox" ("I Want My Electronic Baby Sitter!") by Judith Shulevitz deserves comment. She's wrong: The issue isn't that working parents must choose between anesthetizing their children with television or catering to all their whims while also trying to pay the bills and nuke the frozen dinner. Given a little guidance and some suitable playthings, children who don't get hooked on television at an early age are actually perfectly capable of amusing themselves for long stretches of time. Obviously there's a lot more to say on the subject, but Shulevitz doesn't seem to be aware of much that has already been said.
Chevy Chase, Md.