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Since reading Frances Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet when it came out in 1971, I have wondered why we are still wasting so much of our plant protein on raising animals that may not be so healthy for us to consume in large quantities to begin with. So I eagerly dived into Jim Motavalli's article "Meat of the matter" (Metro Times, July 30).

Three paragraphs in, Motavalli writes, "the American meat industry produces more than 60 million tons of waste annually — five tons for every U.S. citizen." Unless the country has shrunk to around 12 million people, that 61 million yields only 0.203 tons (406 pounds) per person. Assuming the United States has climbed to about 300 million, the animal waste would have to be about twenty-five times higher to reach that five tons.

The fuck-up could be anywhere in his figures, which made me skeptical of the remainder of the figures quoted in his article; something I didn't want to happen because I agree with the thesis he presents. I wonder how many others just blew off the article as pure crap, rather than really thinking about what it says concerning waste, pollution, and misdirected resources in our modern environment. —Michael Mogill, Detroit

Thanks for asking

Re: "Are we this dumb?" (Metro Times, Aug. 6), Lessenberry is a gentleman for even asking. Contemporary Americans remind me of the English and Japanese of old: hubris and self-congratulation. But only a culture like this could generate a perpetual "gun issue" and a newfound "mortgage meltdown." Let's hear it for Martin Lipset's American Exceptionalism.

I gave McCain money in 2000 but not a sausage this year. If President Bush is the distilled essence of the Republican Party at century's end, McCain is less so, but captive of a now-diseased institution.

And Lessenberry's heavy-handed satire two weeks ago went over the hilt, but it is impossible to deny that thinking about, worrying about, fulminating about, and plotting about race is as American as apple pie. —G.M. Ross, Lowell

No such thing

There is a superficial irony in seeing the late Robert Heinlein mentioned in one of Jack Lessenberry's predictable (but well written!) screeds against the McCain machine. Heinlein may indeed have been a libertarian, but his political leanings were decidedly conservative. And his well-known motto pertaining to no comped meals in a democracy was actually a reflection of his military background — namely that service to one's country is a prerequisite to the privileges of citizenship. His book Starship Troopers was (and is) Heinlein's j'accuse to a nation that thinks more of entitlement than sacrifice. —Robert del Valle, Royal Oak

In Jim Motavalli's cover story, "Meat of the matter" (Metro Times, July 30), we published a few errors worth correcting. Although ammonia is a harmful byproduct of raising livestock, it is a base, not an acid, and therefore does not contribute to acid rain. Also, the figures cited on the volume of waste produced by the American meat industry were incorrect: They were much too low. Instead of producing a mere 60 million tons of waste annually, the USDA has estimated that animals in the U.S. meat industry produced 1.4 billion tons of waste in 1997, which is 130 times the nation's volume of human waste — or 5 tons of animal waste for every U.S. citizen.

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