Book Reviews, Charles, Economics, Gardening & Farming, Popular, Post-Liberalism, Practical Skills, Social Behavior
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The Eggs Benedict Option (Raw Egg Nationalist)

Often those who complain about the world in which we live offer neither a clear vision of how things might be different, nor a path to achieve that vision. Refreshingly, in The Eggs Benedict Option the pseudonymous writer Raw Egg Nationalist offers both vision and path, centered around food, in all its aspects, as the core of human flourishing. His essential insight is that, now as ever, he who controls the food controls the people. We must pick the controller—either our globalist ruling classes, or each of us for himself. The former is and will be a disaster for the nation. But for the latter, hard work and discipline are required.

As you can tell from his pen name, REN is very focused on the health benefits of eggs, especially of raw eggs. (He earlier wrote a cookbook manifesto, titled simply Raw Egg Nationalism.) Eggs are, however, merely the condensed symbol of his worldview; he does not exhort us to live only on eggs, but rather to eat a full range of pre-industrial, largely animal-derived, foods. The Nationalist part of his moniker conveys his resistance to the globalist plan of universal imposition of an unhealthy and enervating plant-based, industrially produced-and-processed diet. That plan deliberately diminishes each of us, and “The nation is only as strong as the individuals who make it up.” REN has spread his message widely. For example, he was recently featured in the Tucker Carlson documentary The End of Men, which analyzed in detail the severe physical and mental debilities of today’s men (no doubt Carlson invited him in part because REN edits and publishes a notable men’s magazine, called simply Man’s World, in which yours truly has published an article).

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The title of this book, in case it’s not obvious, is a play on Rod Dreher’s famous Benedict Option. However, Dreher does not appear here, other than for REN to make in passing the same point I have made repeatedly, that the Benedict Option is inadequate because it makes no provision for defense against attacks that are inevitable if it gets any traction whatsoever—which, let’s be honest, it’s not getting. The option REN offers is wholly compatible with Dreher’s ideas, but is much more defensible, as well as practical, because it is largely personal, involving no larger organization, formal or informal, that can be attacked.

The Eggs Benedict Option does offer specific nutrition advice, but most of all it is a book about politics—how we are governed, or more precisely, in our times of decay, how we are controlled. REN identifies the massive global push to force mankind into a wholly plant-based diet as a chimerical utopian impulse. Why is this program bad? It sickens us and enslaves us. What is the solution? Small-scale and household agriculture, which will make us healthy and contribute mightily to destroying our noxious overlords.

We begin with standard boogeymen of the Right—Klaus Schwab (whom REN calls a “thrift-store Palpatine”), the World Economic Forum, the Great Reset, “you will own nothing and you will be happy,” and so forth. As REN points out, none of what is planned for us, which he generically lumps together as the Great Reset, is a “conspiracy theory” (anyway now a meaningless term, or rather one that means the opposite of its original meaning), because our globalist overlords are entirely open about their plans for us. They aim to perfect, as it were, mankind through our simultaneous total atomization and total subordination to their control. REN (with reference to Alexander Dugin, who has done much legwork on this topic), traces this desire back to the nominalism of William of Occam. That may be a stretch (though he is not the first to make the connection, and nominalism is at least in part the root of our modern discontents), but certainly the idea of earthly human perfection is an ancient belief central to the Left.

To this end, they have a great many plans for us, all nasty. We will focus, however, on their plans for our diet. Their main plan is a global shift, for most people (the ruling class will, as always in history, eat the very finest and desirable foods whenever they want), to an exclusively plant-based diet, heavy on highly-processed products, derived ultimately from grains. The diet we will have thus imposed on us is some variation on the so-called Planetary Health Diet, originally proposed by an NGO that is one of the innumerable tentacles of the Regime (in this case, an NGO funded by a Swedish billionaire and his wife). The stated aims of the PHD are three: to feed ten billion people by 2050; to reduce deaths caused by poor diet; and “to be environmentally sustainable so as to prevent the collapse of the natural world.” To achieve these ends, the PHD demands the masses eat a diet of primarily grains, along with industrially-produced seed oils (i.e., oils that require intense chemical processing to extract food from otherwise-inedible seeds), some fruits and vegetables, very little dairy and eggs (1/4 of an egg per day), and essentially zero meat (fourteen grams per day). This is not a diet meant to meet people’s desires—would you choose to eat it?—but quite obviously a diet meant to make them easy to control. Controlling diet is not a new ruling class tool; REN points out that Plato suggested feeding the masses a vegetarian diet to keep them compliant, and nothing has changed in the past 2,500 years.

The globalists don’t admit they just want control, no surprise. But their aim is very poorly hidden. The PHD’s last stated goal, sustainability, is pretty clearly the most important aim of the PHD, with “collapse” being code for “global warming,” and the PHD explicitly taking laughable farces such as the Paris Agreement as divine commands written on stone, much more important than any mere human desire. The globalists talk, for example, about “the globe’s carbon budget” as a limitation on food, as if there were such a thing. We don’t have to guess at the actual practice and results of this insane approach. Early examples can be seen already in recent instances such as the Dutch government’s attempt to destroy farmers using military force in order to meet “climate goals,” and the Sri Lankan government’s deliberate collapse of the country’s agricultural system in order to toady to their globalist overlords. Whether the first two PHD goals, of feeding people and reducing deaths, are real and merely secondary, or, as seems likely, just lies covering the Regime’s well-documented desire to make the masses weak and compliant, and preferably much smaller in numbers, is not totally clear. It probably depends on which appendage of the Regime is being discussed.

Regardless, the PHD is to be implemented both by government compulsion and by handing over the food production and distribution process to giant corporate entities intertwined with the government. As REN notes, this latter process is already largely complete (hidden by that the vast majority of food companies which appear independent competitors are divisions of a handful of truly enormous companies). The PHD merely aims to finish it, and then in practice forbid eating anything not pre-approved and distributed through limited, official channels. To aid control, much work is being done on new foods, supposedly “sustainable” but actually demanding huge amounts of inputs, such as lab-grown meat, fake meat, and insect proteins. The real benefit of these “foods” is that they can be patented and then manufactured centrally, increasing government and corporate control.

Leaving aside its inevitable use by the government to crush political opposition unconnected to food, were such a system to be implemented (Justin Trudeau would love to starve his enemies), REN emphasizes that the PHD, and all variations of it, is simply not healthy. (The sickly-looking Sam Bankman-Fried, fraudster head of the collapsed crypto exchange FTX, proudly followed the PHD, which is pretty much all the evidence you need.) Men are the most, but not the only ones, affected, because the PHD lowers testosterone and raises estrogen—a feature, not a bug, in the eyes of the planners, who fear masculinity most of all. It is a lie that seed oils are healthier than animal fats; it is a lie that cholesterol is bad for you. Grains are not healthy in quantity and plant protein is not the equivalent of animal protein. Moreover, the giant corporate farms needed to grow these grains use enormous amounts of pesticides, destroy irreplaceable topsoil, and are antithetical to ordered freedom.

I certainly oppose the PHD’s program, for the same reasons as REN, but my perspective is a little different than REN’s. I don’t think their more aspirational plans, requiring new technology, are going to happen, because we have passed technological apogee and are moving backward. Thus, although no doubt the globalists can cause a lot of damage, even horror, by simple, tried-and-true methods such as dictating who may eat what, or may eat anything; destroying farmers through confiscation; and taxing healthy foods while subsidizing revolting foods, we’re never going to be eating lab-grown meat or drinking cockroach milk, because those things are not technologically possible at scale, at least with the social-technological stack we have today. Moreover, I just don’t think the vast majority of Americans will put up with being told to adopt the PHD. Let’s not forget, the company Beyond Meat, after a decade of having been pumped up with billions of dollars, is failing rapidly and will soon likely disappear. (If you’ve ever tried their products, you know why.)

REN does find a few points of agreement with the PHD. He concurs that reducing food waste is a sensible goal. Nor should we have factory farming of animals. And it may be that Africans can benefit from the PHD, because a bad diet is better than no diet, and the incompetent governance and worthless cultures found in Africa often result in the latter. But the West is not Africa (even if we are letting Africa invade us), and there is no need for us to eat like Africans, because we’re not Africans, and we owe the Africans nothing. In any case, all these legitimate goals can be met without adopting any element of the PHD—to which end REN offers the Eggs Benedict Option.

So what would REN have us do? Unlike Neolithic people (REN discusses James C. Scott’s excellent Against the Grain, which points out that sedentary agriculture was a health catastrophe for mankind, but enabled extraction by a new ruling class), we can’t run away from our rulers, so we will have to fight in place. On the individual level, we should raise as much of our own food as possible, using regenerative farming techniques, and we should eat primarily eggs, meat, dairy, and animal fats, while limiting grain. (REN’s plan is not dissimilar to William Wheelwright’s “ice cream nationalism”; both ideas spring from the same ferment on the Right.) This is not just a pipe dream—as REN shows in detail, it’s been done in Russia over the past few decades, where two-thirds of Russian households operate small garden plots, which collectively produce more than fifty percent of Russia’s agricultural output (and this does not include extensive foraging, hunting, or fishing). This is not done, or not anymore done, primarily for subsistence or due to hardship; it is more a cultural phenomenon. (REN does not say, but it is true, that this system gives Russia enormous resilience completely lacking in most of America, and moreover also shows that Russia’s relative GDP is underestimated, because such production is not included in GDP.) On the group level, we should have what Dugin called the Great Awakening, a spontaneous uprising to defeat the globalists, to oppose and to defeat the Great Reset. REN explicitly offers his ideas as part, though only part, of that Great Awakening. While I have read no Dugin, this certainly fits with my belief that not only is our Regime fragile, but it can be overthrown by a counter-elite that rises in the hour of need.

An obvious question is who in this scenario is going to feed the urban apartment-block dwellers. In Russia, and in Central Europe in my personal experience, it is common for city dwellers to have plots in the country close to the city. Are American urban dwellers, or for that matter suburbanites, going to do this? Well, probably not, not now at least. They’re too busy watching Netflix (REN observes that the average American watches thirty-two hours of television every week) and getting handouts, either from the government or from those who employ them at their parasitical jobs. But they could. As REN points out, Russian gardens are about nineteen million acres; America has twenty-eight million acres of lawns (though looking online, some estimates are forty million acres). Moreover, America has a much more favorable growing climate than Russia. Yes, making a change in America to something resembling the Russian system would require a cultural (and legal) earthquake, but much stranger things have happened, and if there were a need because supply chains had collapsed along with handouts, it might get the necessary stimulus very quickly.

We should also recognize that raising our own food has many benefits beyond healthy eating. Most importantly, it is a skilled practice rooted firmly in reality. (I butchered a rooster this afternoon; that was very real, and very instructive to my children.) In the words of Matthew B. Crawford, adopting such practices creates a “situated” man (or woman), one who understands that he is not autonomous or able to escape reality, making him a more rounded individual with far more strength that the desiccated, massified individuals who make up our population today. Or, put another way, a strong nation will result from REN’s plan in ways much beyond the merely physical. In addition, as I discussed in connection with Jean-Michael Fortier’s The Market Gardener, that localism in agriculture increases social trust very significantly.

I’m not a hundred percent sold on everything REN says. I don’t think it’s true, for example, that in the Middle Ages “nobles towered over much of the peasantry.” While conditions in Europe over a thousand years varied widely, it is generally true that prior to the Industrial Revolution peasants in the West were usually very healthy—not surprising, given they had plenty of good food and plenty of exercise, along with half their days as holidays. It was Enlightenment propagandists who manufactured the lie that the Middle Ages were times of oppression, starvation, and unhappiness. (In fact, most likely the higher nobility was less healthy than the peasantry; gout, for example, was famously an upper-class disease caused by eating excessive amounts of rich foods, and they were crowded together more than the peasantry.) More relevantly, I think it’s possible that REN overstates the benefits of his proposed diet. For example, he recommends (although emphasizing that self-experimentation is key) entirely eliminating grains. It seems to me fairly obvious that humans in their natural state are generally omnivores who eat quite a few, but not exclusively, animal products, and do not eat products that are highly processed or contain additives, whether synthetic sweeteners, fillers, or what have you. Therefore, any diet of that sort is likely to be relatively extremely healthy, and perhaps REN’s diet skews too far in one direction. But the beauty of his approach is that whatever works for you, you can adopt.

Over the past two decades, I have myself gradually changed my views not only on diet, but on related matters such as organic food (especially that which avoids pesticide use) and plastics. If you had asked me in 2000, I would likely have suggested, channeling all the slick propaganda of the corporate/government complex (much of it since revealed to be the opposite of the truth, such as that eggs and butter are bad for you, and you should eat margarine and soybean oil), that there was no problem with any of those things. And having just started dating, and then marrying, a vegetarian (well, pescetarian, meaning eating fish), I was cutting the amount of meat I ate. But years of seeing increasing diet-connected problems in the West, from obesity to low testosterone and sperm counts, have largely convinced me (and my wife) there is a very big problem with the food we eat, and the obvious response is to eat more simply. Should we completely eliminate seed oils, for example, something that has gotten attention in Right circles recently? I’m not sure, but the arguments seem plausible enough that my family has sharply reduced their consumption. We are also introducing quality meats into our family’s diet, though it is early days on that yet, and encouraging yet more consumption of butter and eggs. We raise chickens and bees, I extensively foraged for black walnuts this fall, and will, hopefully soon, have at least a full acre under intensive cultivation. It takes time, but not massive amounts, and the direct benefits are many, including the psychological boost that comes from working outside, rather than sitting for endless hours in front of a glowing screen.

One possible objection to REN’s plan that my own experience shows is that eating more simply is more expensive (if you are already preparing your own meals). It’s easy for the wealthy to buy organic food and meat that’s not factory farmed, and to eat twelve eggs a day. It’s less easy for most people, and becoming harder as inflation increases. True, household gardening, along with barter, alleviates some of these challenges. Practices such as raising chickens are within the reach of most people, as is vegetable gardening. But there is a learning curve, and you need quite a few chickens to get twelve eggs a day, or to get any significant amount of meat.

This is where we run into the simple fact that most people’s food desires today are distorted and lacking virtue, totally aside from the plans of our globalist overlords. Expense is not the main problem; the main problem is that most people don’t want to eat simply and well. They prefer mass quantities of processed food engineered to taste good and they are too lazy to cook. As with changing or breaking any habit, it is difficult and takes time and discipline to totally, or even significantly, change your diet. Discipline is in very short supply today. People today, of all classes, are mostly very averse to any hardship, especially physical labor that takes them from their transitory electronic pleasures. That’s even true when the alternative is death—as all who paid attention know, anyone not very old who died during the Wuhan Plague was almost certainly fat. But people put on weight during the Plague, rather than losing it, and acted like they couldn’t help it. If they won’t change with that incentive, the only incentive that seems as if it might work is fear of starvation, at which point it’s very late to adopt the necessary practices.

On the more positive side, it is a lie told to us by corporate goons that industrial farming, drenching the world with atrazine and Roundup while stripping the earth of nutrients, is necessary to feed our large population. (In truth, most industrial farming is the result of government deformation of the farming market, along with political manipulation of various types.) To the extent it’s true, it’s only because most people want to eat grossly excessive amounts of food engineered to taste good, bought cheaply, without having to lift a finger to prepare it. If that ended, so would any possible rationale for industrial farming on the scale it is practiced in America today—and we would get health and resiliency benefits of incalculable value. But again, this can’t be done overnight.

And, to close on what is to some degree inside baseball, let’s examine a recent dispute related to this book. This was triggered by an article in City Journal, by the Swedish writer Malcolm Kyeyune, not a man of the Right but popular in certain circles on the Right (and someone whom I admire and often cite for his insights). He views REN’s program negatively, as something meant less for the practical ends REN identifies, and more as a program meant to create meaning for individuals adrift on the sea of liquid modernity. He claims, in short, that the recent erosion of social cohesion, dating more or less in its current downward spiral to 2008, has been “a privatization of meaning among younger millennials and members of Generation Z.” This leads often to forms of Gnosticism. For Kyeyune, food choice is only part of a much larger, mostly futile, search for hidden meaning.

Kyeyune doesn’t think much of Tucker Carlson’s documentary. “The casual observer can be forgiven for thinking that some sort of vaguely ‘fascist’ imagery is on display. But look closer, and a different picture emerges: what you see advertised is a form of messianic, almost millenarian, self-help—about as far as one could get from an ideology of violent collectivism. Once you understand why the activities are taking place, moreover, the self-help dimension becomes impossible to ignore.” “The ‘science’ here is secondary. Seed oils are not merely bad on some empirical level; they are evil on a spiritual level. Seed oils corrupt the body. By eliminating them (and by preaching such elimination), one cleanses oneself of impurity and helps others achieve salvation, as well. In this narrative, which the Carlson special echoes, many contemporary young men have been robbed of their true potential due to an environmental toxicity. If the toxicity is removed, a higher, more natural state of being opens up.” Kyeyune ties this impulse to the desire to profit through cryptocurrency, finding hidden knowledge while at the same time striking a blow against our satanic overlords. He says all these movements are a form of religious revival, of “conversion and salvation.”

This article set off some sniping on Twitter among the online Right. We can leave aside the question of how important the online, or dissident, Right is in the grand scheme of things (my short answer is not very important, though it punches above its weight, but it might rapidly gain influence under the correct conditions). I think Kyeyune overstates his case, and incorrectly blurs the distinction between self-improvement and transcendence. Nothing REN promises, for example, is perfectionism; nor is it related to spiritual gain, really; nor is it even hidden knowledge. In the usual historical routine, Gnostic hidden knowledge is limited to initiates, who have been prepared to receive knowledge when they accept the guiding principles of a group, and they must continuously prove themselves to be admitted further in. Scientology is the obvious modern example. What REN offers is open and for everyone, and if you don’t like all of it, well, go ahead and try some of it. Or don’t; you’re not going to hell, or being thrown into a volcano by Xenu, you’re just going to have lower energy and less happiness.

Moreover, I don’t think that REN’s program, and similar programs, are as individualistic as Kyeyune claims. Rather, they are building blocks of new communities, many enabled by positive use of modern communications technology—and if there is somewhat of a revivalist feel to this, so what? Revivals are what rebuild a society. This is evident in Carlson’s documentary, and it is necessarily the case that local agriculture leads to the creation of an interlocking web, as trade in goods and information naturally develops. Sure, crypto communities are poisonous, encouraging desperate suckers to lose what little they have, and following classic fad and fraud dynamics. That doesn’t mean all proposed alternatives to the current system have those same debilities, and as I have already outlined, it’s undeniable that REN’s program has manifold high-impact, real-world benefits for those who choose to follow it—and if enough do, for the entire nation.

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  1. Gespenst says

    Let me explain: an ancient sage once said a clever thing (accidentally, beyond doubt). He said, From an old dystopian novel:

    ‘“Love and Hunger rule the world.” Consequently, to dominate the world, man had to win a victory over hunger after paying a very high price. I refer to the great Two Hundred Years’ War, the war between the city and the land. Probably on account of religious prejudices, the primitive peasants stubbornly held on to their “bread.” In the 35th year before the foundation of the United State, our contemporary petroleum food was invented. True, only about two-tenths of the population of the globe did not die out. But how beautifully shining the face of the earth became when it was cleared of its impurities!’

    ~Yevgeny Zamyatin. “We”

  2. Counter Elite Elites: Yes, at last.
    (Whitepills follow).

    The Line Forms

    Musk is no outlier, bold though he be, he is the beginning of a line. The faithlessness of the Democrats towards their instruments who thought themselves allies will be and is becoming their undoing. In fair truth the Republicans are accomplices.

    The line prior are the corpses of Afghanistan, Ukraine, Facebook, Amazon teetering with unionization, Starbucks riots and above all The Former Tycoons and C levels (CEO, etc) who have been cast aside in need and are ruined or damaged. No one likes to be used and discarded.
    People with resources who are used and discarded are dangerous.

    Even swine like Weinstein and Cuomo have friends.

    We can add many journalists and academics.

    We can add nameless legions who have been damaged , burnt out, victims of crime that are dead or fled chaos and crime.

    The system is running out of instruments and the betrayed turn on their betrayer.

    The reasons for reflexive betrayal are political souls with politics as religion are compelled to use and betray, and the Left itself always eats and denounces its own- when the Left is your base and primary striking arm you can’t have allies, friends or even family.

    • Charles Haywood says

      True. Although it is also true that they know this, and if they allow Musk to succeed, it will also break the spell, and the Left never allows the spell to be broken. As I always say, the Left reacts to any actual perceived loss of power with violence. How that plays out here, I am not sure.

  3. Politics is Power but also Offices$

    What if The Deep State is actually a shallow mirage?
    Let’s examine the question;
    How Deep are they?
    How many are in “The State”?

    The Deep State is defined as the permanent and unelected state, guarded by the Praetorian Intelligence Services and Law Enforcement.

    The real Deep question; how Deep are their ranks?

    As the President cannot fire anyone in the Civil Service there’s no reason for anyone in government to care who is President. Nor Congress, although in theory they might cut their Department’s budget, or have embarrassing hearings, but these are annoyances. The elected government cannot fire anyone in the permanent government by Law. This means the elected and elections are no threat to the permanent government.

    The vital inverse trait of the elected cannot fire the unelected is the unelected don’t pick the elected, the voters DO.

    But are the voters figureheads of vital interest to the bureaucracy?

    No. The elected cannot touch the unelected. By Law.
    That’s the point of an Independent Civil Service.

    So why the reaction to Trump and populism? A potential threat mistaken for a mortal one? To who? The most important detail then is WHO went after Trump and why – the WHO being not the names but HOW many are they and WHAT are their true numbers?

    The answer is Trump was a potential threat to the Rice Bowls but Who’s Rice Bowls?

    Trump was reacted to and undone by a small conspiracy of a few political operatives who with the aid of the media hype were able to enlist many outside government to stand against his election regardless of the cost to the legitimacy of the system: said Risk to Legitimacy is potentially Fatal. As many of the most important allies against Trump were Oligarchs the Impression of both corruption and Elites aligned against the People is Imposing.

    How Deep are they?

    What if the real threat of populism isn’t to the government proper but the politicians and their camp followers? IF Said Camp followers and a few people in the FBI, perhaps CIA, certainly Congress who are vitally interested in holding office and the goodies and riches therein are threatened and in both parties (Trump ran first against the Republicans) were the vitality interested – not the bureaucracy. Moreover those are the only ones we saw acting. Getting partisan hatred is so baked in nationwide that the real miracle would have been if it didn’t happen! These partisan machines exist of course for the benefit of …. the professional political class.
    The Civil Service is NOT the Professional Political Class.
    (The real Civil Service can’t stand to watch TV for reasons we can all agree with, moreover they see the truth with their own eyes and don’t need the Media’s distorted lens).

    We may be seeing a mirage, a few actual enemies in the Civil Services giving the impression of a vast state arrayed against us – when the actual opponents are just the political classes and their camps and cronies- it is their interests that were vitally threatened. They lose elections they lose money and staff jobs, not the bureaucracy.

    The political elected don’t command the unelected and don’t control them either, but nor do the bureaucrats control the partisan interests.

    One’s power and interests don’t overlap the other. Suborning a few people like Strzok and DOJ political appointees doesn’t mean you captured and can maneuver the State – for it simply doesn’t answer to politicians.

    We may be intimidated by a mirage. The Democratic Party and the entrenched DC GOP- but not the State itself.

    The State of course just largely sat it out, certainly it voted Democratic, but not summoned the State’s resources. Its not illegal for government employees to vote.

    Of course it’s in the interest of professional conservatives to raise this Spectre of a vast conspiracy- so they fundraise against it – filling their own rice-bowls. That Doesn’t mean it actually exists.

    We may be intimidated by a mirage, an opponent who has fooled us into thinking it’s hopeless- but if pushed the shallow ranks will give way.

    Fraud of course being the very spirit of our Age.

    Let us look very closely as to how Deep this Deep State really is – and WHO we are opposed by – not Spectre’s summoned by our opponents, our “own” professional grifters , our own fears.

    How Deep are they, and how many are really “The State”?

    • Charles Haywood says

      I have pointed this out before–most people in the ruling class will simply change their tune overnight to fit with new overlords. This happened repeatedly in France between 1789 and 1812, for example.

  4. Karen Bradford says

    The victory gardens during WW2 fed many people but today the citizenry is too lazy and uninterested in learning how to garden to produce enough food to cover their needs. This is not a small feat. Self restraint and discipline is needed for sustainable farming, laughable traits to the people who love living in a reality of their choosing. (Subsidized by everyone else) But,that’s probably unimportant to those who understand how our food has been manipulated and are dedicated to seeking alternatives.
    Read where US cornfields produce four times the oxygen of the Amazon due to subsidies for ethanol, is one example of our perverse use of the land.

    Interesting read. Thanks.

  5. Carlos Danger says

    Interesting review. Obesity continues to confound scientists. No one can figure out what causes it or how to fight it. The New York Times had an article on that just yesterday: “Scientists Don’t Agree on What Causes Obesity, but They Know What Doesn’t” (

    It’s not a bad article for the New York Times, and I think it is accurate. Different people have different theories (including Raw Egg Nationalist) and all the theories have been proven wrong. So what is right?

    • Charles Haywood says

      Yes, that is an interesting NYT article. I’m more open to the idea of non-volitional contributors than I used to be, whatever those might be. On the other hand, when the NYT says “Laziness, gluttony‌‌ and sloth were not referred to as obesity’s helpers,” this is clearly false. All three of those are very much helpers, and a society that has abandoned discipline and, more importantly, stigma in all areas is always going to be fatter, at least when food is as widely and cheaply available as it is now. I was a chubby youngster and teenager (by 1980s standards, not by today’s standards), and I was stigmatized, and rightly so. That (along with my inner drives) gave me impulse to exercise and curb my eating. So the NYT‘s idea is that people are no more responsible for overeating than they would be for losing weight under forced starvation is dishonest. The underlying tenor of the NYT‘s article is to endorse the modern idea that shame is bad and individual responsibility is never a solution to anything.

      All else equal, nobody has to be obese. Anyone with basic discipline and will power (with the exception of a tiny number of people with real endocrine or metabolic disorders) may not look like Brad Pit in Fight Club, but will not be significantly overweight. Carrying a few extra pounds, perhaps, and more so as one gets older. But when people say otherwise, they are not telling the truth. It is just a lie that telling people to “eat more vegetables and exercise” is “the equivalent of tackling global warming by asking the public only to fly less or recycle.”

      • Carlos Danger says

        I’m not sure eating and exercising will do much to counter obesity. It seems like they should, but testing that hypothesis with scientific rigor has largely shown that they don’t. Willpower seems to work only for a short while. But there are outlier people who have been able to lose weight and keep it off. They are, unfortunately, rare.

        (A good book on this is Secrets From the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again, by Traci Mann. Or you can watch her Talk at Google!)

        Obesity is a complex problem, and like all complex problems, we try to make it simple. That can be a problem, so it’s more important than ever to follow the logical process we call the scientific method. Not limited just to science, the method can help us hone in on fact and steer away from fiction.

        The method has two steps. The first step is to create a hypothesis. To do that, we can use inductive reasoning. Anecdotes, personal experience, observation, opinion, statistical analysis, hunches, and the like all help in the hypothesis stage.

        The second step is to test the hypothesis. Here inductive reasoning cannot be used. Experiments must be carefully designed that will either prove or disprove the hypothesis. Or if experiments are impossible, the principles of causal inference might be able to help.

        With obesity, scientists have tested many hypotheses, but none have survived. It remains a puzzle. Maybe you are right with your hypothesis, Charles, but as far as I know there is no scientific evidence to support it.

        • Charles Haywood says

          I have seen that, and there are interesting things like the Palladium piece on the microbiome. That said, it’s still true that nobody who is adequately disciplined is truly obese. Willpower absolutely works; it just has to be constant. Maybe it’s harder than it used to be, but I just don’t think anybody has to be obese.

  6. Ryan Murray says

    As to the question of who would feed the vast urban population of the nation in a more regenerative model the solution does not need to be a radical return to the land, a modest one would do. Even in a regenerative agricultural paradigm a single farm family (especially if farmers return to a proper sized family) can properly steward thousands of acres of row crops or livestock grazing with modern farm machinery and electric fencing. Look at what Gabe Brown, farmer and author of Dirt to Soil is doing in North Dakota or Shane New in Kansas or Allen Williams in Alabama. A modest increase in the percent of Americans who are in agriculture would be all that’s needed. There are plenty out there who would make great farmers. I married a refugee from the failed State of California who had to flee the San Francisco Bay area. She is now an excellent dairy farmer, mother and Trad wife extraordinaire.
    For those interested in going further down the Raw Egg Nationalist path a great book is Weston A Price’s Nutritional and Physical Degeneration. A book on what to feed ourselves and our children to raise and maintain a population of Chads.

  7. Cameron Crowley says

    I enjoy your commentary, even you come off as needlessly arrogant – still, entertaining.
    Regarding self driving autos- you clearly have not driven a Tesla with the newest beta version of full self driving software- it’s driving itself today, not 10 years from now, but right now. In five years, self driving cars and trucks will be ubiquitous. This is an odd blind spot for you. Yes, technology usually takes twice as long as it’s proponents think, but you need to dream big too achieve. You remind me of “experts” who were quoted as saying definitively that man will never fly, a year before the Wright brothers got airborne at Kitty Hawk.
    Anyway, we shall soon see.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Thank you. But the blind spot is yours. Even the boosters are beginning to admit that: And “self-driving” cars with endless “beta” versions have been able to drive in basic conditions for a long time. It’s the edge cases that are impossible. This is like people who say that high-speed algorithmic processing, which simulates intelligence, will lead to intelligence. One of these things is not the same as the other; it is a category error.

      • Carlos Danger says

        Interesting discussion about computer-driven cars. Let me add my perspective.

        I’ve been working on electric car technology for 20 years, and computer-driven cars for 10 years. (With a couple of patents in those fields.) And I’ve been working with computers for over 40 years, including some work on “artificial intelligence” (machine learning is the better term). So I’m diving into the deep end rather than the shallow end in talking about this.

        From my perspective, I don’t think either of you make helpful predictions of the future of computer-driven cars. Nobody can predict the future on anything about a complex system — it’s unpredictable. And modern technology is certainly complex.

        Will computer-driven cars be on the road in any significant number in five years? Seems unlikely, but it’s certainly possible. Or will computer-driving algorithms be unable to handle the task, no matter how hard we work on them? It’s impossible to tell.

        Rather than focus on predicting the unpredictable, I focus on how to make the future unfold faster. That is, to speed up technological evolution so that we can achieve the possible more quickly. “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

        Technological evolution, just like biological evolution, doesn’t happen in long leaps but in the accumulation of small steps in the right direction. We can speed it up by doing two things: (1) encouraging more people to take a variety of steps and (2) learning from failures to correct course.

        So if computer-driving is going to happen, we should encourage people to try a variety of ideas, even if they fail. That’s how our system should work. (As Nassim Taleb put it, “The essence of capitalism is encouraging failure, not rewarding success.”) Idle predictions are worthless. Actual experiments are priceless.

        Unfortunately, instead of doing that, we are spending fortunes on moonshot attempts. And we are punishing people who take risks and fail. (Like Anthony Levandowski in the computer-driving field, and Elizabeth Holmes in the medical testing field.) We need to make failure fast, cheap and survivable. That’s the way technology will evolve fastest.

        Of course, it’s not that simple. In a TED talk Chris Urmson gave in March 2015 he said: “Conventional wisdom would say that we’ll just take these driver assistance systems and we’ll kind of push them and incrementally improve them, and over time, they’ll turn into self-driving cars. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s like me saying that if I work really hard at jumping, one day I’ll be able to fly.”

        We do benefit from leaps of genius, if and when they come. Not every technology can be developed by only taking small steps beyond what already exists. We need a mix of both small steps and long leaps.

        To achieve that end, we are doing a variety of things. For one, we are promoting a standard car-driver interface, so that any computer driver can be plugged into any car. And we are trying to put together a pool of money (probably $10 million to start) from carmakers and others to fund a variety of innovative projects at universities.

        Will this work? Who knows. We can’t predict the future. We won’t know until we try. So we’ll try. And, as Donald Trump likes to say, we’ll see what happens.

        • Dutch says

          I have noticed that the paving, striping, and other markings of roads and highways have become bold and standardized, here in So Cal. For example, merging lanes now are marked for the lane that is ending with huge, repeated, standardized (as from a large stencil) arrows pointing towards the other lane. I don’t believe much of this is done in the name of increased driver awareness, but instead increased detection and orientation for the cars’ auto-navigation systems. It is not only the system installed in the car itself, but also the physical driving environment which is being tailored to auto-navigation.

          So, too, the “lane departure”, “other car alongside”, and “braking assist” technologies, now in my relatively basic and cheap Honda, are attempts to hone in on more reliable systems. My own experience suggests issues with freeway concrete seams that deviate from the lane stripes, and conditions where the sun, low in the sky, shines head-on into the front of the car (and into the sensors). My best guess is that an ever increasing percentage of the roads will be “certified” for auto-driving (perhaps sometimes accompanied with the exclusion of manually-driven cars), and other, especially poorer and more outlying areas, will be “manually driven” only.

          • Carlos Danger says

            Excellent observations, Dutch. I think you are right. Both cars and the environment in which they operate are moving toward more computer driving. In small steps, not large leaps. Will cars ever get to full computer driving? Hard to say. Perhaps better to just wait to see what happens than to try to predict.

            Cameron Crowley touts Tesla’s computer driving technology in his comment above, but Tesla’s technology is hardly toutworthy. On the SAE automation scale, Tesla’s just at Level 2, the same as other carmakers. No carmaker (including Tesla) is at Level 3, or even close. The Los Angeles Times had a good article about that:

  8. Carlos Danger says

    A few more words about artificial intelligence. Charles’s discussion about artificial intelligence in comments and reviews here has been genuinely intelligent, and I mean to gainsay none of it, but to add to it.

    Artificial intelligence has evolved a lot in the decades since I was involved in the field as a new computer science/mathematics graduate. The work people were doing back then was rules based, and it evolved into expert systems before taking the big leap into neural networks that transformed the discipline.

    But “artificial intelligence” continues to be just the ability to learn from experience, which is better termed “machine learning”. Computers can be programmed to do that. What computers are unable to do (still) is to be creative. To make an intuitive leap from past experience to apply lessons learned to a new situation.

    That’s what intelligence is — to create information using logic and reason. Computers are wizards at processing data, but computers remain unable to create data. Artificial intelligence is mimicry and simulation, not real intelligence, as that requires abstract reasoning which computers can’t do.

    How does all this apply to computers driving cars? In theory, computers should be good drivers. They can process data very, very fast — much faster than the human brain. They have good memories. They have good sensors. And computers handle monotony well. They love it.

    That’s why computers have largely taken over flying airplanes for the airlines. At best, in modern planes (and particularly fighter jets) the computer flies the plane, and the pilot just controls the computer rather than the plane. It’s all fly-by-wire, with pilot optional.

    Getting the pilot out of the loop helps. Computers operate at a time scale millions (if not billions) of times faster than humans. And the monotony that computers love, humans don’t. We fall asleep. We drink. We speed. We get distracted. We text. We talk. We get angry. Better to have a computer in charge.

    Except when, as Charles says, an edge case is encountered. Or when a sensor gives faulty readings and things becomes murky. As in the Air France 447 case where the autopilot gave up when sensors gave conflicting readings and the human pilots had to take over and muffed it. In the sky, those cases are rare. In cars, they would be still rare but even so, too common.

    Does a car driver (human or computer) need to engage in abstract reasoning? Is that what allows humans to respond to edge cases? Is that what gives us the “common sense” and robust (rather than brittle) sensory perception that lets us drive so well?

    That’s hard to tell, and only time will tell as we try and fail and learn by trial and error. My guess (and it is just a guess) is that computers will be driving our cars in the next decade. They will not be doing it the same way humans do, but like computers do.

    Computers learned how to play first chess and then Go, not by being able to engage in abstract thinking, but by being able to learn from the kind of experience only a computer system could build. The $25-million AlphaGoZero computer played millions of games against itself, and became the most skilled player in history.

    I think computer drivers will do the same. Not by using the same techniques as AlphaGoZero, but in similar fashion where the vast breadth of experience the computer driver draws on from both real-life situations and simulations will obviate the risk from edge cases.

    That’s my opinion. But no one knows, or can know, whether that will happen.

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