Letters to Paula, JF97

Paula Poundstone is waiting to answer your questions about life's little mysteries. E-mail her at paula@motherjones.com.

Avis Peel, Centerville, Iowa: I have been a vegetarian for several years. I read in a vegetarian publication that people who eat meat carry five pounds of fecal waste inside them at all times, whereas vegetarians have much less. Do you think this is true or are they just saying that to make up for all those awful vegetarian jokes we have to put up with?

A: First of all, I'm sorry about the vegetarian jokes. I don't know exactly which slights you've withstood. I'm the one who said, "I have a friend who's a macrobiotic. She doesn't eat meat, chicken, fish, white flour, sugar, or preservatives. She's pale, sickly, and exhausted just from looking for something to eat. She can eat wicker."

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I didn't mean any harm. The same goes for the times I've said, "Scientists don't know what's in tofu because even they are afraid to touch it."

In my defense, I said these things a long time ago. I actually admire your commitment. I'm sure I mock out of jealousy.

Anyway, Avis, it appears you're the reigning public expert on this subject. I spoke with someone at the Nutrition Counseling Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and I had barely gotten your question out when she cut me off, saying, "I won't answer that."

I was so embarrassed. I'm glad I spared you that phone call. Perhaps, in some small way, it makes up for some of the vegetarian jokes. I think she took offense to the mention of "fecal waste." Apparently she attended a med school so elite that they only mentioned foods going in.

Penny Shye, e-mail: I would like a clearer understanding of why the entertainment industry worships the Clintons.

A: I'm not really enough of a celebrity to be qualified to answer your question. (I recently became a household name in my house, though. I can't even go to the bathroom there without being recognized.)

Many people speak on behalf of the candidates they support. Members of the entertainment industry are just more recognizable while they're doing it. Years ago I went with Robin Williams to a Gary Hart fundraiser. Melissa Gilbert from "Little House on the Prairie" stood on the stage behind Hart. I couldn't get over it. I kept thinking, "Isn't that Half Pint? Does Gary know she's behind him?"

As for the Clintons, it is inaccurate to say that the entertainment industry worships them. Charlton Heston, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Shirley Jones all vote Republican. I always thought that instead of voting for our leaders, we should have a talent show of the people flanking them onstage. No disrespect to Shirley Jones, who I think is fabulous, but I suspect the Democrats would clean up. Did you hear Trent Lott sing at the Republican National Convention?

Craig Morioka, Los Angeles: Can you explain to me where my tax dollars go?

A: I believe that Sen. John Kerry's office once told me that 15 percent of the federal budget goes to pay interest on the debt, 1 percent goes to welfare, 1 percent goes to foreign aid, 49 percent goes to entitlements, 16 percent goes to defense, and 15 percent goes to neighborhood stuff.

I can assure you, Craig, that almost none of it goes directly to me.

Write Paula c/o Mother Jones, 731 Market Street, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94103. Fax her at (415) 665-6696; or send e-mail to paula@motherjones.com.