Saturday, January 30, 2010

Great Espresso at Home on a Budget

I am seriously addicted to caffeine. There is a subtle difference between caffeine that comes from coffee, tea or carbonated beverages. The effect is different when the coffee or tea is iced instead of hot. I'm not a scientist. So don't ask me why.

Instant coffee is not my favourite. I have Turkish coffee moods and espresso moods. I'll expand more on that another time. Because today my focus is espresso.

I have friends with families abroad. One of my most amazing discoveries is that Nescafe varies from country to country. I was at a friend's house whose wife is from France. She put out a jar of Nescafe that her parents brought from France when they came to visit. It was unbelievably rich tasting. I have a high tolerance for caffeine, but I had a hard time falling asleep afterwards. I checked around with my other friends who have relatives in the Moroccan Jewish community in Paris. They told me it was not my imagination and that they also ask visiting relatives to bring French Nescafe with them. I would be real happy if they started making that particular blend over in the US. I think there is a real market for it.

The best and easiest way to make coffee is with an espresso maker. I am not talking about the machines that cost hundreds of dollars. I am talking about the espresso pot that you heat up to a boil on your stove. That is how it is done in working class homes throughout Italy, which is the home of espresso. You can order such pots on line at a range of prices that is far lower than the electric machines, or find them locally. They come with instructions. There are five pieces to a basic espresso pot. The bottom is where you put the water. There is a little hole on the side that releases a jet of steam. Fill it up to BELOW that hole.

Then there is a basket with holes in it and a hollow stem. You fill that up with ground coffee and pack it down a bit. Make sure there is no coffee grains on the lip of the basket. This way, the rubber gasket on the top piece of the espresso pot will have a good seal. You really should use espresso ground coffee, which is finer than American style percolator coffee. You can buy espresso ground coffee in the can or bag, grind it at the store to espresso fineness or get a grinder and grind it yourself.

The next step is to screw the top on. The top has a rubber gasket to seal the three pieces together. In the middle of the gasket is the filter plate.The water will come to a boil, be forced through the coffee grounds, through the filter plate and through a pipe in the centre of the top piece of the espresso pot with holes at the top on the sides of the pipe. You will be able to hear the coffee coming to a boil. As soon as the coffee pot is full, take it off the flame. If you leave it on too long, the coffee will scald and taste awful. If you forget about the coffee and come back 25 minutes later, the coffee will be boiled off and the gasket in the pot can get ruined. Once your gasket is ruined, you may as well get a new espresso pot. That is why my last cup of coffee was instant instead of espresso. I left my espresso on the stove and forgot about it. The stakes are higher than if you do the same thing with a tea kettle. If you remember to clean and use your espresso pot properly, it will last a good while.

If you do the arithmetic, espresso is a much higher quality cup of coffee than your average instant coffee. If you are bringing the water to a boil to make your coffee, then the time is almost the same to make a high quality cup of espresso. I still like the ambiance of Starbucks, but I am not dependent upon them for coffee that is of high quality.

There is another advantage to home made espresso if you have health considerations that limit your caffeine intake. I get decaf French roast coffee beans and mix two parts decaf French Roast to one part regular French roast coffee. This way I can drink a couple extra cups without cranking up my blood pressure to dangerous levels. At home, you can make your own blend.

One last word of caution. A cup of espresso is a lot smaller than a cup of regular coffee. But it still delivers the same caffeine. So don't try to fill up a regular coffee cup with espresso. Even though espresso tastes best without milk, if you do prefer milk with it, add it slowly, because it will cool down quickly.

I prefer to drink my espresso out of the tiny cups. They lose their heat at a more acceptable rate than if I drink out of a regular tea mug. There is a selection of espresso cups on line for all budgets. Amazon has a decent selection.

I'll be real happy if Nescafe sells their French Nescafe in the US. But until that happens, I am going to replace the espresso pot that I left on the stove for too long. If my readers can benefit from my mistakes, it will be work my while.


PS Search words to use at the Amazon site are "espresso pot", "espresso cups", and "coffee grinder". They will all bring up decent selections in a general search. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, January 28, 2010

E Books, Be Books & Other Kindle Alternatives

It took a long time for me to get used to cell phones. My kids got them before I did. One day I punished one of my kids by taking his cell. Then I got hooked. It was useful for work, shopping and all kinds of things. What I still don't like is the fact that my children can get phone calls and the person calling never has to worry about the old man picking up the phone. I make up for this by getting bills which show incoming and outgoing calls on all lines that I pay for. As my father used to say "It's not that I don't trust you, it's that I don't. He was a wise man, my father.

Computers have enabled me to sound off and have people read my articles all across America and around the world. That never would have been possible in the days before computers. Additionally, I can shop for my obscure musical tastes, as well as share them with the world, posting videos of Norwegian, Assyrian and Ghanaian pop music. I can track down books and order them with ease. But I am in no hurry to upgrade. I have a 30 gigabyte hard drive. When it gets cluttered, I burn and delete files in 700 megabyte increments. My computer repair man keeps me going when Windows gets corrupted or slow.

I have no interest in an iPod or iPad. I use a CD player that plays MP3's and wma files as well as regular cds. I can carry discs with thousands of songs. Why upgrade? I have other expenses. My only exception is a cheap 2 gig mp3 player that I can click and drag files onto to transport to other computers. I use the MP3 storage device to carry around podcasts of Radio Canada, as well as biblical and American history.

I would get a Kindle 2. But a big sticking point is the incompatibility with library e books. I went to the Brooklyn Public Library web site to check this problem out. They have a link to a page that lists devices that support a multitude of file types, including the e books lent out by libraries.
I found a review of the Hanlin e reader that almost sounds like it's made to my specifications. Although it does not have wireless access, you can download files from your personal computer on to it. Unfortunately, you have to order it directly from China. via a bank transfer. There has to be an easier way. The BeBook, on the other hand has similar file flexibility and can be ordered with a credit card. The Brooklyn Public Library site is a very good place to research the e book reader if you are budget minded. Perhaps other libraries also offer such information.

I like to collect articles from the internet as well as books. I am out to get the biggest "bang for the buck". I don't need the latest technologies such as wireless access everywhere. I am willing to use my laptop as a springboard and do without wireless access if I can read more file types. There are manufacturers out there who have people like me in mind.

If you see me on the road, I will not be driving the fanciest car. If you see me on the train, and I'm reading an e book, it won't be the flashiest one. I use store brand and not gourmet coffee, and it gives me my caffeine buzz all the same.

Kindle of Amazon did a big favour by creating the concept and design of the e reader. To sell the concept to a guy like me who is slow to adopt new technology is no small feat. But I have to look at the field and see what's out there. Outside Manhattan, we have to watch our money. We need to make it to the next paycheck. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Schwarzenegger Proposes Outsourcing Prisons

We already have telephone tech support from India and service representatives from credit card companies who will discuss your usurious debt with you from Mexico. American corporations are outsourcing whatever they can. Now Arnold Schwarzenegger, bodybuilder, actor and lightweight governor of California has just proposed to ship American prisoners who are illegal immigrants to Mexico, where low wages and less government regulation would slash incarceration costs, hopefully without prisoners slashing each other. The United States would pay the Mexican government for the cost of housing and supervising the prisoners, according to the Schwarzenegger plan. What Schwarzenegger does not discuss are the legal issues. Once a prisoner is in Mexico, who is to say that the Mexican government will not cut his or her sentence? Will they carry out the sentence passed in US courts? who can compel them to do so? Proposals like this make me wonder if Schwarzenegger does not crave the limelight.

I do not think that the outsourcing proposed by Schwarzenegger goes far enough. We already have outsourced medical billing overseas as well as jobs in the automotive industry. I have a new proposal. Let's outsource the government as well. This is how it would work. We open up a university in a country with low wages. We train deserving students in American history, law and government. Fluency in English would be at a premium. Instead of paying the $400,000 dollars that the President of the US gets, we could pay something more like President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who earns $5337.00 a year. President of India Pratibha Patil gets $36,434.00 a year. If we open up a government in exile in India, we could pro rate the US presidential salary according to America's lower population and set the presidential salary at about $12,000.00, which is about a third of that of the Prime Minister of India.

Legislators would be even cheaper. In Bolivia, you could find Congressmen who would be delighted with $100.00 a week. So many people like to come to America that you could probably throw in a junket to Washington DC for about 10 days. Using the Senate offices for a week and a half would be a big selling point. It would be like a luxury vacation for someone who is earning $4500.00 a year as a US Senator.

A Governor like Arnold Shwarzenegger could be replaced by a well trained overseas expert in State government. The President of Nigeria earns about $13,000.00 a year, depending on the exchange rate. If he worked really hard, a Governor of California living in Nigeria could moonlight sending out e-mails to American investors.

While we're cutting expenses, why are we paying the guys who print US dollars American wages? Since we're printing so much money it looks like printing dollars will be a growth industry. Why not outsource the printing of US currency to China? They work for a tiny fraction of our wages.

What about driver's licences? With fiber optic connections, You could move the entire Department of Motor Vehicles to Sri Lanka and conduct your business over a fiber optic connection. A well paid Sri Lankan would be happy to treat you rudely and send you to another line for about $90.00 a month.

Arnold Schwarzenegger would have been a good exercise in governmental outsourcing. His first mistake was coming to America , thereby necessitating a high gubernatorial salary. The second problem with Schwarzenegger is that he comes from Austria, which has wages as high or higher than those paid in the US. Financially sound outsourcing involves subcontracting to places with very low wages.

Of course, even if we outsource the Presidency, the Congress and all fifty state governments, it will still be expensive paying so many legislators. In any industry, you try to do the job with as few people as possible. Government should be no exception. A military junta can govern with a fraction of the personnel required to run our current form of government. If you combine a military junta with the idea of outsourcing our government, you'll have the combined savings of overseas low wages and less employees.

The only obstacle I see to outsourcing the federal and state governments is plain prejudice against foreigners. It may take a long time to get Americans used to the idea of an American President who was born overseas in a country like Kenya. It's a real pity. we have cheap cars and cheap electronics. Isn't it about time we had cheap politicians? Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jakarta's Obama Statue Coming Down?

The United States has a built in safeguard against personality cults. In order to appear on a postage stamp, a person has to be dead for ten years, unless they are a former President.

The rest of the world doesn't have the same restrictions. For this reason, there is a whole list of countries that have issued Obama stamps. Liberia, Tanzania and Guinea are among the nations that have chosen to enshrine President Obama with such lofty notables as Homer Simpson and Sadaam Hussein.

When I saw the stamps from Liberia I was very surprised at their high denomination. I used to go to school with a girl who lived in Liberia. She said that they used old American money. I had thought that the Liberian dollar was close in value to the American dollar, bit it is currently trading at 72 Liberian dollars to one US dollar. With Liberia's years of civil war, one really shouldn't be surprised.

Amazingly enough, the Liberian government has even issued a five dollar coin with a value of about 8 cents.

Most of these stamps were issued in the heady aftermath of Obama's election, when the glow of the teleprompter in Obama's eyes as he gazed into the distance sufficed to make people's hearts palpitate.

Since then, Obama seems to have lost his charm. A statue was erected in Jakarta after Obama's election showing Barack Obama as a young boy when he was living in Jakarta, Indonesia. Now, according to Agence France Presse (AFP), authorities in that country are mulling a proposal to have the statue torn down. AFP reports as follows on the latest tarnish on Obama's bronze.

"Members of the "Take Down the Barack Obama Statue in Menteng Park" group on Facebook say Obama has done nothing for Indonesia.

"Barack Obama has yet to make a significant contribution to the Indonesian nation. We could say Obama only ate and s (expletive) in Menteng. He spent his subsequent days living as an American," the web page says.

"For the dignity of a sovereign nation, Barack Obama's monument in Menteng Park must be removed immediately."

The childhood connection and his knowledge of a few words of Indonesian made Obama popular in the mainly Muslim country of 234 million people."

The world seems to be coming down from a giant bender. The lights have come back on. The sun is up. It was dark in the bar, but now we can see who we took home. And it doesn't look pretty.

With all its problems, America is not Cuba or North Korea. We still have a free press and broadcast media. We have a bicameral legislature. With all hope raised among America's enemies that Obama would give away the store, he still has to get by a Congress that still has to face the American people every two years. So now, all those stamps and even coins are going to look sillier and sillier not only to Obama skeptics, but to those who had hailed him as the Messiah as well. Those who were so quick to commemorate Obama's electoral victory might do well to take a closer look at the country that elected him. A system that can survive the foolishness of the American people, (including their latest President) should be duplicated elsewhere. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Isaiah May Fights in Court For Life

There is a world full of developed nations who have for years had a single payer health care system such as the one Americans have been discussing since Obama became President. It is a complex issue. Many Americans are already covered. A significant number are not. We are a leader in research and development. For those who have health insurance, delivery of services is quick and efficient. There are too many people who are not covered. But destroying the system we have could make things difficult for everyone.

One of the thorniest issues is that of rationing health care, of deciding when doctors should walk away from a living patient. The Canadian courts and medical bureaucracy are dealing with just such a situation.

Isaiah James May is a baby boy whose continued survival is at the center of a battle between his parents and Canada's medical bureaucracy. When he was born on October 24, 2009, his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, depriving his brain of oxygen. World Net Daily quotes as follows the letter from the Alberta Health Services in which they gave their reasons for terminating life support.

"There is no hope of recovery for Isaiah," reads a letter from Alberta Health Services delivered to Isaiah's parents and dated one week before the health care system intended to pull the plug on the baby it has determined irreparably brain damaged.

"Your treating physicians regretfully have come to the conclusion that withdrawal of active treatment is medically reasonable, ethically responsible and appropriate," the letter states. "We must put the interests of your son foremost, and it is in his best interests to discontinue mechanical ventilation support."

The parents, Isaac and Rebecca May promptly appealed the deadline, citing developmental milestones reached by Isaiah such as pupil dilation, opening his eyes and moving his limbs. He has defied predictions by gaining weight and growing. Mr. and Mrs. May took their son's case to Canada's courts. They have until January 27 to appear in court with an independent expert who will deliver a report of Isaiah May's prognosis. This report will determine whether or not Isaiah receives continued life support.

The parents had sought a 90 day reprieve. Alberta Health Services wanted to wrap up a decision in 30 days. Isaiah has defied predictions that he would never urinate, grow or even live past 3 days. The parents are praying for continued miracles and continued divine intervention.

Every society makes displays of its commitment to core values. A statue in the park, a light display on a government office building and national holidays commemorate everything from the founding of a nation to its war dead, from its workers to its feelings of gratitude to G-d.

A core value that separates modern nations from Sparta and from Pol Pot's Cambodia is the idea that a human being is more than a profit loss statement. Civil law is predicated upon the belief that our lives are entrusted to us but do not totally belong to us. That belief inspires the prohibition in most jurisdictions against committing suicide.

There is something profoundly dehumanising about sitting in judgement over the value of a life. It reduces a human life to the level of a corporation being dissolved in bankruptcy court. There is a malignant temptation in human nature to view those of lesser means and abilities as children of a lesser god. This ultimately demeans us all.

The border between the disabled and the dependent is not a towering wall. Every day, those of us who are robust and healthy slip past the border separating those who are healthy and economically productive from those who are disabled and incapable of being economically productive. Indeed, the traffic sometimes goes in both directions. There have been miraculous recoveries from vegetative states. The presence of hope from knowing that we do not know everything keeps us humble and protects us from despair.

Everyone should be encouraged to fight death as long as they wish to do so. To cling to life and the hope that it will be good is a primal urge. It is an illusion to believe that those who cling in the face of diminished hope are taking from the rest of us. To the contrary, they are enduring that the times of our lives that are racked with pain and infirmity will have dignity and meaning.

The Mays deserve our prayers, encouragement and support. Theirs is a battle for hope and for a future for their son. It is ultimately a battle that we will all face. In encouraging them, we are giving solace to those who in the future will fight for life against daunting odds. A life is not a profit loss statement. It is a gift on loan from G-d. If we lose sight of that, we are all diminished. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Moscow's Stray Dogs and Those Who Love Them


  The fall of communism has changed the daily lives of people in the former Soviet Union. An alphabet soup of newly independent countries from Azerbaijan to Turkmenia has lent colour to the map and uncertainty to the political landscape. In Moscow, the altered social and political landscapes have changed life for the city's dog population, according to the Financial Times.

      The citywide stray dog population in Moscow is estimated to be between 35,000 and 50,000.It is a tough world. Dogs abandoned on the Moscow streets have about a 3% chance of survival.

Andrei Poyarkov is a biologist who has been studying Moscow's stray dog population for thirty years. He is familiar with their mortality rates, ancestry and social organisation. He has identified different types of dogs according to their social organisation.

There are dogs who congregate around hospitals and guarded sites who develop emotional bonds with specific individuals, such as security guards who feed them. Then there are dogs who are acclimated to people but have no specific loyalties. Such dogs can smell food being carried by a passer by and determine whether the person carrying the food is likely to feed them. They are astute judges of character

The third class of dogs is wary of humans. They will hunt rats and stray cats as well as forage for garbage but stay in less populated areas, venturing out at night to avoid human contact.

The most interesting portion of the canine population of Moscow is the dogs who live in the subway system, estimated to be around 500 strong. Of this tiny canine subculture is an estimated 20 dogs who can board the subway and get on and off at specific stops of their choosing. They are guided by sounds, smells and visual cues. A measure of how skilled  "metro dogs" are is the fact that they are willing to ride escalators. I once had a dog who was petrified of escalators, consenting only reluctantly to being carried while riding them.

The most interesting aspect of Moscow's canine population is their relationship to people. The Muscovites are mostly fond of their stray dogs.There is even a website ,, where people post pictures and actual videos of their favourite dogs in the Moscow Metro. My favourite video of such a dog has a catchy tune of a lady who sounds like she is singing for a children's television program. It actually shows a "metro dog" riding the subway.

Not all Muscovites are comfortable with their subway strays. One woman, Yulia Romanova, a professional model stabbed a stray to death that she felt was threatening her thoroughbred Staffordhire Terrier. There was an outpouring of public grief and a statue erected in memory of the dog she killed. She spent a year in inpatient treatment at a psychiatric facility.

The stray dog population is not considered to be a nuisance. The general consensus among Muscovites is that they add character to the city.

My favorite stray dog story in New York took place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn about 40 years ago. Machon Chana was established as a school of Jewish studies for Jewish women. It had a small dormitory for students. Many Jewish girls who grew up in non-religious homes had dogs. some of the girls in Machon Chana took to feeding the stray dogs, who ended up stopping by regularly for a lovingly prepared meal. One night, there was an attempted break in at the Machon Chana dormitory. The dogs barked furiously, foiling the attempted break in and thereby repaying the kindness shown to them.

There are Jewish legal authorities who discourage dog ownership, saying that poor people stopping by for charity might be discouraged from stopping by.

There was a false messiah in the 1600's named Shabthai Zvi who created chaos in the Jewish world with his messianic claims. He is widely believed to have been bipolar. Some Jews had a tradition that the Messiah would be recognised in part by the fact that dogs would not bark at him. When Shabthai Zvi came to one city, the dogs did bark at him, thereby precluding his messianic claims. To prevent this from happening again, he stated that Jews should not own dogs at all.

I view the kindness accorded to dogs to be a measure of a society. I also look at how the homeless are treated. My favourite people are those who use the same tone of respect and politeness to a common person as they do with a person who has power over them. Whatever problems may be in the new Moscow of today, the kindness to animals in that city speaks well for them

There are many brush strokes that make the painting of our world. It is a fascinating footnote to this story that Andrei Poyarkov, the biologist spent his entire professional life studying stray dogs. People are defined not only by what they produce and how they live but  by the questions they ask. Humans and dogs have been companion species since the dawn of recorded history. Moscow's strays and the people who love and study them are another chapter in this long  and  and  interesting relationship. Moscow in winter may well be a cold city, but the hearts of its people are warm indeed. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, January 22, 2010

Supremes KO McCain Feingold Bill


    Who can fault "campaign finance reform"? It sound so noble. Throw in the word "bipartian" and you have a law that no one can fault. If you are against campaign finance reform that is "bipartisan" , you may as well come out in favour of world hunger.

The Supreme Court had a different take on this issue when it struck down strategic portion of the McCain Feingold bill, which severely curtailed corporate donations to political campaigns.The Wall Street Journal reports as follows on the landmark decision.

"A divided Supreme Court struck down decades-old limits on corporate political expenditures, potentially reshaping the 2010 election landscape by permitting businesses and unions to spend freely on commercials for or against candidates. President Barack Obama attacked the ruling and said it gave "a green light to a new stampede of special-interest money in our politics," particularly "big oil, Wall Street banks, health-insurance companies and the other powerful interests" that "drown out the voices of everyday Americans." He pledged to work with lawmakers to craft a "forceful response."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has long fought campaign-finance regulations, hailed the court for a "monumental decision" toward "restoring the First Amendment rights of [corporations and unions] by ruling that the Constitution protects their right to express themselves about political candidates and issues up until Election Day."

It is a refreshing display of common sense and respect for free speech that corporate entities and unions can participate openly in the political process. It shows a lack of confidence in the American people that sales pitches for consumer goods are permitted, yet promoting a candidate is off limits. I was always confused when I saw an ad paid by the "Citizens For Tasty Carcinogens Political Action Committee" or the "Committee to Outsource the American Presidency." People who want to pull strings behind the scenes can always find a way to do so.

The last election, John McCain found that he was bound by spending limits that Barack Obama was able to sidestep by refusing government funding for his campaign. Fairness would dictate that both candidates fight by the same rules. It was sweet and delicious irony that McCain was bitten by the law that he championed with such vigor. Bad laws are like bad computer programs. They do exactly what you want and then they mess up in a totally unexpected way.

I want to know who has a candidate in his pocket. If a campaign is forced to log its donations, voters can decide who is beholden to unsavory interests. A law that forces such openness is fine. But a law that bans corporate entities and unions from participating in the political process simply leads to a confusing thicket of PACs that were assembled by someone with an agenda. In the long run, it makes it harder to map who is really behind a candidate.

Bipartisanship is a good thing when it involves uniting around a worthy and transcendent cause. World War Two was won with a bipartisan consensus. There is another kind of bipartisanship that has a lot more to do with ego. It involves taking the public's mind off the issues and focusing on public figures. Having a bill named after you is nice tonic for the ego. How well do such bills help the public? Look at the McCain Feingold bill. It was thankfully tossed by the Supreme Court because it was bad law.

By definition, any bill signed into law is bipartisan. In the best of times, Democrats and Republicans will work together to govern wisely. Someone usually crosses the aisle to pass a bill sponsored by the other party.

Sometimes you have to rally behind your party to defend matters of principle. Political parties have a role in the process.We all know they can be corrupt, but it doesn't have to be that way.

It would be presumptuous of me to applaud the Supreme Court. But I am grateful that they issued a decision that resonates with common sense. I am grateful that the decision was couched in language that was understandable to a layman.

"When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought,"  wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy.

It doesn't get any plainer than that. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Plane Diverted Because of Tefillin Scare

A Jewish passenger on a flight from Louisville to New York inadvertently sparked a security scare during the flight, which was diverted to Philadelphia for an emergency stop. JTA reported as follows.

(JTA) -- A commercial flight was diverted to Philadelphia after a Jewish passenger's tefillin were mistaken for a bomb.

"A passenger on the US Air flight Thursday from New York to Louisville mistook the religious prayer article as a bomb after the Jewish passenger had taken them out to pray, according to reports.

Tefillin consist of two boxes each on a strap of leather.

The passengers and crew were taken off the plane in Philadelphia. Fire trucks and police met the plane on the runway."

On Israeli flights and flights with a lot of Jewish
passengers, the sight of Jewish men wearing tefillin (phylacteries) is a common sight. One leather box is strapped to the head, worn above and between the eyes. The other is strapped to the arm. The boxes contain hand written parchments with biblical verses inscribed upon them, most notably the "Shma" prayer (Hear oh Israel, the L-rd our G-d the L-rd is one.

The boxes express the devotion of the intellect and physical strength to G-dly service. They are worn every day during the morning prayers by Jewish men over the age of 13. Married men also wear a talit. (prayer shawl)Some communities also have a custom of wearing a talit after the age of 13.

Although Tefillin can be put on all day to fulfill the obligation to wear them, they can not be put on at night.

The most famous depiction of talit and tefillin is in Marc Chagall's painting called "The Praying Jew".

It would be wise for airline security in the US to consult with their Israeli counterparts to gain familiarity with this custom.

The 17 year old boy who was detained as well as the airline security and law enforcement officials involved should be commended for working together to clear up any misunderstanding . Sphere: Related Content

Israeli Aid to Haiti


  Along with schools, homes and government buildings, Haiti's hospitals took a big hit. Getting aid in through badly damaged roads and airports has been a daunting task. Many people are found with injuries and infections that present the real danger of  causing fatalities.

I knew that the Israelis were not going to sit this one out. But their participation in the Haitian relief effort has been astounding The Jewish Journal Blog reported as follows of an Israeli hospital set up in Port Au Prince that was actually the first field hospital to be set up in Port au Prince since the earthquake.

"Cut to the Israeli field hospital near Port au Prince.  The reporter tours the facility speechless by what she sees: an MRI machine, patients on respirators, operating stations and beds. In a matter of 48 hours, the Israel Defense Force medical mission and search-and-rescue crews arrived in Haiti.  The medical team established a field hospital adjacent to Port-au-Prince’s soccer stadium that can treat as many as 500 patients per day. The field hospital is equipped with:
• Operating rooms
• An intensive care ward
• A maternity ward
• A pediatrics ward
• Incubator units
• A pharmacy
• X-ray equipment
• 10 tons of medical equipment
• 90 beds, 66 intensive care beds and two delivery beds
• Approximately 250 personnel, including 40 doctors and specialists, 20 nurses and several paramedics.

The IDF team included medical personnel from Sheba Medical Center, ZAKA, Magen David Adom, IsraAID/First and other organizations. "

The Israelis have a record of being quick to respond to natural disasters.They were actually able to get into Myanmar when even the United Nations was not able to get in. 140 countries have benefited from Israeli humanitarian aid. One of the saddest moments for the Israelis was when the Iranians refused help from the "Zionist entity" after a devastating earthquake, preferring a higher death toll to taking help from Israel.

The Israeli government cites the following reason for Israel's dedication to humanitarian efforts.

"If there be among you a needy man, one of thy brethren, within any of thy gates, in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thy hand from thy needy brother."

Deuteronomy 15:7

There are already be those who say that Israel's aid abroad is a "distraction" from its "crimes". I hope they are quick to compete, to try to overshadow Israel's efforts with efforts of their own.

The Israeli government has represented the concern of its citizens for suffering in the world. A small country with much with which to be preoccupied has made the suffering of people in distant places into a matter of top  concern. Thank you Israel, for remembering those in need.

Gordon Lightfoot  The House You Live In (Cover) Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Taliban Porn, Taliban Hypocrisy

In the west, the Taliban has an image of being puritans, outraged at western decadence and weak dedication to Islamic values. This image took a hit in the JAWA Report, a site that monitors Muslim extremism. It turns out that Siraj Haqqani, operator of the Haqqani terror network in Afghanistan is a pornographer, who traps and rapes unsuspecting victims. His mode of operation is simple.

First, he goes to a pious village and extols the virtues of suicide bombing. Families who send a son to blow himself up get a bounty. They also get respect in the village. As a reward to the village, Haqqani sends Dr. Hassan Duraz to examine and treat villagers for free. Part of his mission is to keep an eye out for camera worthy females. When his victim is in the office being examined, Dr. Duraz whistles to his accomplices, Dr. Haqqani's cousin and uncle, who set up camera equipment and film a genuine rape in progress. JAWA report continues as follows about Haqqani's murderous hypocrisy.

Siraj Haqqani now had a big problem on his hands. Righteous Muslims, pious Muslims who send other Muslims to martyr themselves in jihad should be above reproach. They should be living a virtuous life in keeping with the tenets of the Qur’an and the Hadith. At the very least, they should be more virtuous than the Infidel they are fighting.

"That’s the way good Muslims would see it, but not Siraj Haqqani. He saw himself as above Islamic law. In a word, he was a hypocrite. But by Islamic standards, what Siraj decided to do next made him even worse.

In order to protect his moral authority, Siraj had Dr. Hassan Duraz killed. He had the girls murdered. He emptied the Haqqani family pornographic video library and burned all the tapes – or so he thought.

While in Afghanistan, I got to know a mid-level Haqqani commander who was becoming increasingly disenchanted with Siraj’s hypocrisy. We spent time together, drank tea and talked as he provided exceptional assistance with my novel, The Apostle, which is loosely based upon the Haqqanis. It is this mid-level commander who managed to save some of the tapes Siraj thought had all been destroyed."

Fortunately, some of the tapes were saved as evidence. A video with the JAWA report has a Muslim sermon condemning the abuse of the faithful. It is interspersed with excerpts from the Taliban porn, with strategically placed black squares to protect the dignity of the victim. Even with the censorship, the video is highly disturbing.

There is a majorityof Muslims who are leading peaceful and blameless lives. The small percentage of murderers, rapists and criminals who hide in pious garb still constitutes tens of millions of people. Whatever strategy the United States uses to combat Islamofascism must include educating the people about the nature of Islamic extremism. Those who consider non Muslims fair game end up being consumed by their own bloodlust. This is the nature of those America is at war with in Afghanistan. It is foolish to be blinded by illusions and wishful dreams. Thinking Muslims are waking up. We should as well. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martha Coakley's Shameful Record

Tomorrow, the voters of Massachusetts will decide whether Democrat Martha Coakley or Republican Scott Brown will serve out the last three years of a Senate vacancy created by the passing of Ted Kennedy. The philosophical differences of Coakley and Brown are significant, as well as the sixty seat Democratic majority that would be endangered by a Republican victory. At the last minute, President Obama has traveled to Massachusetts to lend his dubious coat tails to the Coakley campaign.

Far more weighty than the promises of a candidate is his or her past record. Promises are cheap. past performance is all that can be counted on. Martha Coakley has been the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 2007. Prior to that she was the Middlesex County District Attorney from 1999 to 2007.

There are times when people are wrongfully convicted in a court of law. During the 1980's there was a rash of cases in which day care center operators were accused and convicted of child molestation. Some of the accusations were horrific. There were bizarre allegations of ritual abuse. One such case was that of the Amirault family in Malden Massachusetts who ran the Fells Acres Day Care Center. After one child who's wet clothing was changed reported being touched in his genital area. From there, the accusations mushrooomed. Some children were interviewed as many as a dozen times. Children who denied anything having occurred ended up telling elaborate and wildly implausible stories. How implausible were the stories? Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal reports as follows.

"Gerald, it was alleged, had plunged a wide-blade butcher knife into the rectum of a 4-year-old boy, which he then had trouble removing. When a teacher in the school saw him in action with the knife, she asked him what he was doing, and then told him not to do it again, a child said. On this testimony, Gerald was convicted of a rape which had, miraculously, left no mark or other injury. Violet had tied a boy to a tree in front of the school one bright afternoon, in full view of everyone, and had assaulted him anally with a stick, and then with "a magic wand." She would be convicted of these charges. Cheryl had cut the leg off a squirrel."

How could any adult believe such allegations? Such an act as that described by the boy would have caused life threatening, if not fatal injuries. In the hysterical spirit of the mid eighties, such allegations were elicited with leading questions and presented to credulous juries. What was not known at the time was that children can be very suggestible. It has since been discovered that false memories can be implanted in a child or an adult. The Scientific American reports as follows in an article that cites several therapists who were successfully sued by patients who had suffered from false memories implanted by psychiatrists.

"In 1986 Nadean Cool, a nurse's aide in Wisconsin, sought therapy from a psychiatrist to help her cope with her reaction to a traumatic event experienced by her daughter. During therapy, the psychiatrist used hypnosis and other suggestive techniques to dig out buried memories of abuse that Cool herself had allegedly experienced. In the process, Cool became convinced that she had repressed memories of having been in a satanic cult, of eating babies, of being raped, of having sex with animals and of being forced to watch the murder of her eight-year-old friend. She came to believe that she had more than 120 personalities-children, adults, angels and even a duck-all because, Cool was told, she had experienced severe childhood sexual and physical abuse. The psychiatrist also performed exorcisms on her, one of which lasted for five hours and included the sprinkling of holy water and screams for Satan to leave Cool's body.
When Cool finally realized that false memories had been planted, she sued the psychiatrist for malpractice. In March 1997, after five weeks of trial, her case was settled out of court for $2.4 million. Nadean Cool is not the only patient to develop false memories as a result of questionable therapy. "

It is very common for the prosecution of child molestation cases to involve specially trained therapists. Sometimes it is the only way to uncover real abuse. But there must be safeguards. Nadean Cool and others who were cited in the Scientific American article did indeed suffer abuse, for which they were awarded millions in damages. But the abuse was at the hands of their psychiatrists, who used leading questions to create false memories.

In the Amirault case, hardened prosecutors and jaded parole boards turned on the sham justice that was meted out to the Amirault family. Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal reports as follows of one such judge.

"Hope arrived in 1995, when Judge Robert Barton ordered a new trial for the women. Violet, now 72, and Cheryl had been imprisoned eight years. This toughest of judges, appalled as he came to know the facts of the case, ordered the women released at once. Judge Barton—known as Black Bart for the long sentences he gave criminals—did not thereafter trouble to conceal his contempt for the prosecutors. They would, he warned, do all in their power to hold on to Gerald, a prediction to prove altogether accurate.

No less outraged, Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein presided over a widely publicized hearings into the case resulting in findings that all the children's testimony was tainted. He said that "Every trick in the book had been used to get the children to say what the investigators wanted."

Even the Massachusetts Lawyer's weekly weighed in against the miscarriage of justice in the Amirault case. When Violet Amirault was released from prison, she was old, penniless and dying of cancer. Prosecutors were clamoring for her and her daughter to be returned to prison. It was in this state of legal limbo that she passed away in 1997.

Where was Martha Coakley when all this was going on? Even as Cheryl and Violet Amirault were released from prison, Coakley continued to lobby against Gerald Amirault's release stating that in cases where women were involved in sex abuse that there was usually "a primary male offender."

In 2000, after the Massachusetts Parole Board voted 5-0 with one abstention to commute Gerald Amirault's sentence, citing a lack of evidence and"extraordinary if not bizarre allegations". Their recommendation went to the governor's desk. Martha Coakley campaigned tirelessly to keep Gerald Amirault in prison, holding press conferences with some of the by then adult accusers and working the press. It was only in 2004 that Amirault was finally paroled.

To this day, Martha Coakley will not answer questions about her actions in the Amirault case, a case that cries out for exoneration and compensation to the wrongfully accused family. Martha Coakley's campaign to keep the Amiraults in prison and under cloud of conviction should be considered when evaluating her fitness to sit in the United States Senate. The voters of Massachusetts should remember Ms. Coakley's disgraceful behavior towards the Amirault family when voting for the next Senator from Massachusetts. Whatever her promises, Martha Coakley's prior record marks her as unfit to hold public office.

The picture with this article is a painting of the Salem Witch Trials

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Hampshire Repealing Adultery Ban?

They must not have much to do in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire state legislature is considering the repeal of the state's 200 year old law against adultery. There are 20 other states with similar laws on their books. Adultery is defined in New Hampshire as sexual relations between a married person and someone who is not his or her spouse or sexual relations between a single person and a married person. The debate in the New Hampshire state legislature has attracted the interest of libertarians who feel that the current law is intrusive and traditionalists who feel that society pays for private infidelity. CNN quotes one New Hampshire legislator as follows.

"I think adultery is a symptom of a relationship in trouble," said state Rep. Timothy Horrigan "(pronounced "whore again"), "a Democratic co-sponsor of a bill to overturn the law. "It's not a criminal offense."

There were others who spoke in favour of keeping laws on the books against adultery. CNN reports as follows.

"Kevin Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Action, a conservative think tank in New Hampshire, said the state should not take a laissez-faire attitude toward infidelity. After working for years with juvenile justice services, he said that he saw firsthand the effects of adultery on children.

"If you think a broken family doesn't cost taxpayers, think again," Smith said. "It is the state's concern if more families dissolve because of the costs."

Smith said his group will propose an amendment to the repeal measure making it clear that adultery remains a civil offense and can be cited as a reason for divorce."

It doesn't take a doctorate in psychology to figure out that infidelity means the marriage is in trouble. If that is all our legislators can do for us, then we are in serious trouble. Anyone who wants to cheat has the option of remaining unmarried to their partner. Anyone who does commit adultery is deceiving their partner and sometimes their children as well. Then there is the matter of diverting financial resources to carry on the affair that rightfully belong to the family. If a mistress becomes pregnant, this can be significant. The state enforces business contracts. A person who violates a legally binding contract can be sued in civil court. Is marriage not also a contract? Why should the implied and explicit terms of the marriage contract not be enforced?

There are fads in psychology which work their way into law. Back in the 70's there was a lot of talk and books about "open marriage." Then there were psychiatrists who said that divorce did not hurt children, that children were far more resilient than we gave them credit for. We are now finding out that divorce does hurt children as do courses of action that lead to divorce. There are some biblical laws that only make sense in a religious context. Sabbath observance might be such a case. But the harmful effects of adultery can be identified without referring to religious teaching. Children are affected by it. Society pays for the emotional fallout from it just as surely as non smokers pay for the health problems of smokers.

The very existence of laws against adultery are a statement that society has a stake in the family. Any substitute for the family is contrived and cumbersome. By protecting the family with legal and financial safeguards, society is protecting itself and its future. We should take an honest look at just how "victimless" a crime adultery is. New Hampshire should reject this change in its criminal code. States that have decriminalised adultery should recriminalise it. And states that have no such laws should put laws on their books protecting marriage.

If the New Hampshire state legislature wants to engage in useless deliberation, let them pass weighty resolutions declaring February to be "Notary Public Appreciation Month." or making the first week in October "Autumn Foliage Appreciation Week." Deliberating on adultery decriminalisation is a waste of time at best. It is trivialising marriage and serves no practical purpose. The bill should be defeated. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Human Sacrifice: Back Again

One of the advantages of growing up in Massachusetts was the realisation that battles of history had been fought there. An early lesson in elementary school was that of the Puritans fleeing to Massachusetts for religious freedom who then founded a theocracy. Next door to Massachusetts, Roger Williams established religious freedom as we know it. All of the faith communities who established themselves in the Western Hemisphere adhered to basic moral laws. Even if some regarded the others as dangerous heretics, civility and courtesy became the general norm.

Uganda is among a number of countries that now have a growing problem with human sacrifice. The BBC is among a number of news outlets that have reported on this growing problem as old beliefs thrive in modern times. They report as follows.

"One witch-doctor led us to his secret shrine and said he had clients who regularly captured children and brought their blood and body parts to be consumed by spirits.

Meanwhile, a former witch-doctor who now campaigns to end child sacrifice confessed for the first time to having murdered about 70 people, including his own son.

The Ugandan government told us that human sacrifice is on the increase, and according to the head of the country's Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce the crime is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly.

In the course of our investigation we witnessed the ritual torching of the shrine of a particularly active witch-doctor in northern Uganda by anti-sacrifice campaigners.

The witch-doctor allowed ceremonial items including conch shells and animal skins to be burned in his sacred grove after agreeing to give up sacrifice.

He told us that clients had come to him in search of wealth."

They capture other people's children. They bring the heart and the blood directly here to take to the spirits… They bring them in small tins and they place these objects under the tree from which the voices of the spirits are coming," he said."

To combat this problem, the Ugandan government has actually established an " Anti Human Sacrifice Task Force. According to the BBC news clip that accompanied the article, it mostly involves getting former witch doctors to persuade currently practicing ones to give up their practices, accept Jesus and to burn down their shrines. How someone who has killed seventy children, including his own son can just burn down his old shrine and walk away is not explained. How many have reverted to their old ways?

The practices of the Ugandan witch doctors resemble some of the practices that were condemned in the Hebrew Scriptures. In biblical times, war was waged against people who sacrificed their children.

It has been over three centuries since Roger Williams opened a haven of religious freedom in Rhode Island where people with vastly disparate theologies could live together. But the Anti Human Sacrifice Task Force has driven home in a grim manner the fact that not all religions are equal. A "priest" who offers the organs of a kidnapped and murdered child to his "spirits" deserves to be killed. People who practice that faith deserve to be wiped out. It should be unthinkable to kill children for good luck. I seriously doubt that Roger Williams would have been blase about human sacrifice.

Don't think that these sick practices will stay in developing countries. Mayombe and other forms of worship of evil spirits have made their way into the United States. In one case, a ritual involved breathing from the last breaths of a person who was dying.

Then there is 'idolatry lite" in which a community will murder a woman for wearing western clothing or renouncing Islam. People like that end up getting drunk on the power they lord over others and expanding their list of capital offenses. Honor killings, forced marriages of nine year olds in Britain and murdering journalists (Theo Van Gogh) are all transgressions of our Western values that we have stopped fighting.

Some religions are better than others. Some people don't deserve freedom of religion. Those are the facts. It's so fashionable to criticise ancient Israelites for wiping out people who did abominations. When the ancient Israelites had an "Anti Human Sacrifice Task Force", they didn't mess around. They had cojones. Freedom of religion is for people who don't sacrifice each other.

If someone thinks human sacrifice is so cool, let them dangle from a rope and see how it feels before they try it on someone else. We pride ourselves in how modern and progressive we are, but we really haven't come that far at all. And it's time to admit it. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

World Reaches Out To Haiti After Quake

Of all the places to suffer an earthquake, Haiti was the least able to withstand such a disaster. When the 7.0 earthquake struck yesterday, January 12, there was no preparation. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and one of the poorest countries in the world. It struggles with AIDS, tuberculosis and malnutrition. Earthquake proofing buildings and homes did not make it on anyone's list of priorities. In the photographs of the destruction, it was clear that not only shanty towns were hit but also the homes of the affluent. Even the presidential palace was not spared.

Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, which also experienced damage, although nowhere near as severe as that in Port Au Prince, Haiti's capitol.

Estimates of the number of quake dead is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. Some estimates were as high as half a million dead in a city of two million. Relief efforts are hampered by the destruction of the Port au Prince airport, including its air control tower. This leaves rescue teams scrambling to send help by boat and via the damaged roads leading from the Dominican Republic to Haiti.

International aid is coming from governments, private charities and corporations. The sensitivity of the United States, which would be high in any case, is heightened by the presence of large Haitian communities in Miami, New York and elsewhere. France, Cuba, China, Brazil Israel and Spain have all pledged support in the aftermath of the earthquake.

To many thousands of Haitians living in the US, the wait for information from their relatives in Haiti is unbearable. Both land and cell phone communication with Haiti has been severely damaged in the quake, making communication with Haiti maddeningly difficult.

Help is urgently needed to aid the victims of Haiti's earthquake. There are many reputable organisations that are involved in collecting funds for the relief effort. The website has listed a number of organisations (click here for article with list)

The Huffington Post web site has an even longer list of organisations that are taking donations. (Click here)

One of the beauties of the internet is that you can "shop till you drop" without leaving your home. This applies not only to shopping but also to giving charity. It is possible to make a donation in a few short minutes via most, if not all of these web sites. I was e mailed a receipt and a thank you note from the organisation to which I gave a donation.

It brings honour to America when its citizens are generous. Chances are that you can also find a religious charity through which to donate, as well as some very good non denominational organisations.

I have a feeling that Americans will come through very nicely for the people of Haiti. It has happened in the past. I 'm sure it will happen again Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New York: Is There a Ford in Our Future ?

When Hillary Clinton left her New York Senate seat to serve as Secretary of State, her seat went to Kirsten Gillibrand. I was hopeful, because Gillibrand had been a pro gun upstate moderate when she represented the 20th Congressional district well outside of New York City. Since becoming a Senator, she has "seen the light" and embraced gun control. Her core value has been getting elected.

Now, she is being challenged by former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, whose record in Tennessee was pro life and against gay marriage. According to the Daily News, he is shedding his old political positions faster than a drag queen getting ready to take a walk on the wild side. The Daily News reports as follows.

"Ford said yesterday he supports gay marriage, despite voting twice in the House for a constitutional ban on same-sex weddings.

"I'm of the opinion now that nothing is wrong with that," he said on NBC's "Today" show."

His political "evolution" , which probably occurred on his plane ride to New York City also included aborting his pro life position. The Daily News noted his transformation as follows.

On abortion rights, Goldin (Ford spokesman) said Ford supports a woman's right to choose. But in 2006, he said, "I'm pro-life, I'm pro-life," and, "I was not pro-choice at one time."

In politics, there are local interests and there are matters of principal. Anyone who cares about the people he or she represents will try to bring money and projects in. They will also attempt to advocate for constituents who need help from the government. Hillary Clinton did very well at this. I knew people who detested her and campaigned against her who ended up respecting her for "doing her homework". She is the type of person who could spend eight weeks reading up on Guyana and running for president there. She would probably do a great job if she were elected there or anyplace. She is very adept at reading an area and a constituency and delivering what they want.

There are, however, matters of principal. If you think abortion is murder, you will need to put your conscience under general anesthesia to vote for it. If you are in favour of the right to private gun ownership and effortlessly change position, it makes me wonder what you really believe. An intellectually honest statement would read as follows.

"I personally oppose abortion and gay marriage. I want to get elected in New York. I will therefore follow the pollsters rather than my heart. Back in Tennessee, I could do both. In New York I must choose. I am pro choice. I am choosing to run for Senator of New York State. I believe in getting elected."

The fact is, the political system does a poor job of reading its constituencies. I live in a predominantly African American area. There are loads of church vans that are very busy taking people to church on Sunday. Pentecostals, Baptists, Muslims and West Indians with back home values are here in strength. They hate racism. They want to see a lot more two parent families. They want to see heterosexual marriage strengthened. They fear crime. Ask the store keepers here if they think they should be allowed to pack heat. They won't give you a sermon about gun control.

There are a lot of people in New York who oppose abortion on religious grounds. If we ever got a political leader from the Brooklyn grass roots, he or she would probably be a mixture of pro labour, pro life, pro family and anti racism. Voting in Brooklyn is a lot like eating out at McDonald's. What is on the menu is all you can get. If you want them to hold the pickles, you have to call corporate headquarters.

The motto "Have it your way" should be transplanted from Burger King to Brooklyn politics. A mix of social and religious conservatism combined with a pro labour and anti racist outlook is underrepresented. Unfortunately, Harold Ford never made it out to Brooklyn and the working class areas of Queens. We are a lot closer to Tennessee politically than we are to Manhattan.

It looks like Harold Ford did a "market study" and packaged himself accordingly. I'd like to see someone run for office who will get out of Manhattan and speak to the rest of New York. What would be amazing would be to see someone actually say what he or she believes, and run the risk of losing an election.

If Harold Ford would have remained the man he was in Tennessee, he would have had my vote. I hope that someone else will enter the New York Senate race who actually believes in something more than getting elected. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, January 11, 2010

Should Junk Food Be Outlawed?

I thought Mayor Bloomberg was the only one trying to legislate good health. Apparently, it's an idea that has really caught on in Europe. Der Spiegel reports on efforts in the European Union to promote better health through taxing unhealthy foods.

'The Spanish government wants to ban excessive trans fats, Denmark will soon be taxing sweets and in Romania, Health Minister Attila Cseke has said he would like to see a tax on unhealthy food.

In Germany, too, there are some in Berlin who would like to see a government offensive against girth. In a Monday interview with the Rheinische Post, Green Party floor leader Renate Künast wants to ban advertising for sweets aimed at children.

"Aggressive advertising campaigns aimed at children 12 years and younger should be forbidden," Künast told the paper. "Food commercials, which are mostly ads for sweets, should not be broadcast during children shows. We need a ban."

I have mixed emotions when I read about health legislation. Middle age has brought me high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. I am quite short for my weight. My brother in law told be that my weight would be perfect if I were seven feet five. Nice guy.

When I was hospitalised with extremely high sugar, I turned a lot around. I have switched to whole grains and turned away from sugar and white flour. I am far from my ideal weight but my doctor has complimented me on managing my sugar well enough that he might cut back on some of my medication.

My motivation to work on my health came from a gut level realisation that I am mortal. Turning away from chocolate chip cookies and beer is not a negative thing for me. It is a positive expression of my love for my family and a desire to enjoy many more years with them. When I see others enjoying the foods that I can not, I am happy for them.

Aside from my wife, there are others who have helped me. My local supermarket carries canned goods that are low salt. Hunts has a no salt added tomato sauce. They also carry some no salt added spaghetti sauces. My favourite is the Eden Organic line of canned vegetables. I have a can of Eden Organic black beans that has 30 milligrams of salt per serving. That is a tiny fraction of what regular canned beans go for. They also carry whole wheat wraps and a few other items that make my life easier.

I like eating in restaurants. The ones that tell me what is safe for me and what is not are my favourites. Jerusalem II in Flatbush has a low carb pizza that is okay if my pressure is under control and I feel I can get away with a little salt. Carlos and Gabby's is another kosher restaurant that will substitute a whole wheat wrap for regular bread in their burgers and sandwiches. Even though it takes a little extra effort, they gladly substitute a salad for french fries. That makes a major difference, because french fries really crank up my blood sugar.

Carlos and Gabbys and Jerusalem II both show the caring and flexibility that I need to be able to take care of my health needs within the parameters of their existing menus. No one from city hall is on their case. They make information available to guys like me who have to watch what we eat. I think that more restaurants should be like them and like Empire Kosher Supermarket. Additionally, I think that healthy menus

In New York city, I feel health legislation is a distraction from some serious problems such as crime and overpriced housing as well as drugs and gangs. I think that the same could be said of London, Paris and some German cities as well.

I think that there is a role for government in promoting healthy choices. Restaurants that have provisions for diabetic, hypertensive and customers suffering from high cholesterol should perhaps get tax breaks. Both Carlos and Gabbys and Jerusalem II have items that are "diabetic friendly", as well as items that I can get away with eating without cranking my blood pressure. There are a lot of details that could streamline the task of promoting healthy choices. Programming registers, doing up menus with notations to guide consumers are helpful. There are probably computerised ways to compute calories, salt, sugar and other things customers care about These provisions cost a business owner money to put in place and to maintain. Any costs related to promoting consumer health should be taken off corporate taxes. But twisting business owners arms with fines and punitive taxes is a bad idea.

There is an exhilarating feeling when one taps into wellsprings of motivation to make positive changes in one's life. Some people never discover such a pleasure. Others actually shorten their lives with the bad choices they make. Most of us are a mix of wisdom and short sightedness. Educate people. Make good choices available and market them. You will save some lives.

The public has really shifted its attitude towards tobacco. With the right combination of education and marketing, government involvement will be largely unnecessary.

When I gave up smoking and started eating better, (still too much) it was out of love for my family and the desire to enjoy many more healthy years with them. Such motivation can come only from oneself and the love of family. The last time I checked, love and familial concern have not yet been nationalised. Let's keep it that way. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Yesterday's News About Harry Reid

Much is being made of Harry Reid's comment that was made during the election about Barack Obama's electability. In the comment Reid went on tape to say that America was ready to elect a "light skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wants one."

The nation is in an uproar over this airheaded and trite comment which is laden with broad brushed negative assumptions about African Americans.

The real news is being glossed over. People who grew up in the era of segregation sometimes have a hard time unloading their psychological baggage. There are plenty of people who opposed civil rights on both sides of the aisle in Congress who have now changed their tune.

But we are only now hearing about a remark that was made in 2008. Back then, the fix was in. A lot of garbage such as Obama's radical pals and 20 years of bigoted sermons by his personal clergyman, Jeremiah Wright were sidelined and replaced with fluff stories.

By no means is Harry Reid the first old white guy to sound like a doofus in front of a live mike. The following remark by Joe Biden was pretty well buried.

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American presidential candidate who is articulate and bright and clean-cut and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

If it had been said that Obama was the first African American candidate to have widespread appeal out of the African American community, there would have been no problem. If anything, his words sounded just a bit too condescending and a bit inarticulate. But Biden's remarks were quickly forgotten. So completely forgotten were they that he ended up being chosen as Vice President.

There are a multitude of sins that are forgiven if you are a liberal Democrat. Ted Kennedy was a notorious womaniser, not known for focusing on a woman's intellect. He was given a pass because he was a supporter of abortion rights.

Bill Clinton was not only a womaniser but credibly accused on several occasions of violence against women.

Congress routinely exempts itself from the civil rights laws that it passes.

There is a pattern here. If someone votes for a liberal agenda, their personal conduct almost never matters. The same allegations against those with unfashionable politics would be heavily promoted as serious business.

President Obama had a long record in the Illinois state Senate and in the Senate in Washington. He also had a record of associations in Chicago and prior to moving there. Obama's prior record was marginalised and air brushed in a manner more befitting that of publicists than of news reporters.

Harry Reid has been rubbing shoulders with reporters for years. Now all of a sudden his awkwardness in matters racial is big news, two years after the fact? The news is not what Reid said but why it is only now being pitched as a news story.

Back in the months before the Obama coronation, the fix was in. Our media has a way of making kings and deposing them. When their guy gets in, he then becomes the enemy. There is the additional benefit of a media spectacle as the media's former darling gets shredded by the same people who once extolled him and gave him a free pass.

I have a feeling that the media is turning on the Democrats one by one. It's a pity that nothing more is being discussed than awkwardness in matters racial. There is a lot of fault to be found with leading Democratic figures. The imperious hypocrisy of Pelosi badly needs to be gored. The pompous pontifications of Al Gore beg to be skewered.

Our mainstream news media seems to be on the verge of a radical discovery, that reporting news sells papers. It's been so long since they've done so that they've almost forgotten how its done. The "revelations" about Harry Reid are an awkward, sputtering start. Give it time.They may actually get around to reporting everything they should have reported back in 2008. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, January 8, 2010

Armed Robbery in Oklahoma & Getting Even

I was just saw a video on Fox News about a robbery in a cell phone store. Some chromosomal human was pulling a little girl around by the hair and pointing a gun at her head when she attempted to come to the defense of her father who was being beaten by armed robbers. The perps got away with a laptop computer and some other electronics.

I think we are becoming deadened to the indignation we should feel at this sort of crime. I see some possible ways of cutting down on such crime. For starters, it should be permitted for storekeepers to have firearms. In grocery stores and other places where I live, sometimes there is an elevated observation post where the manager or a security guard can get the drop on anyone in the store, calling police or administering a bit of lead implantation therapy.

Anyone who covers their face in a retail establishment should be presumed to be committing a crime. Women in burkas might be an exception.

In New York City, there are too many cell phone store robberies that I have heard about. There have also been Ipod robberies and strong arm theft of other electronics. I feel that there should be a "fingerprint chip" in any piece of electronics. I want to be able to use a laptop or a Kindle on the subway or in the park. If someone wants to take such a piece of electronics, it should be possible to activate a tracking chip that would work like Lo-jack does with cars, broadcasting a signal to cops. I believe that this is a service that is offered for laptops. But it should be widespread and a part of any piece of electronic hardware that is attractive to thieves. Such devices need to become commonplace enough that they constitute a genuine deterrent to theft.

My fantasy product would of course be completely illegal. It would be an automobile anti theft device known as "BlowJack". Blowjack would work as follows. It would cause the vehicle in which it is installed to stall and lock its doors when "Blowjack" is activated. It would then set off a concussion grenade inside the car. This would cause hearing damage, damage to internal organs without damaging the car itself. A more benign version would simply set off a smoke grenade. This might be useful for aborting carjackings.

I heard a touching story about an Arab terrorist who had serious blood on his hands. The Israelis rigged up his cell phone with plastic explosives. They called him up and detonated the cell phone when they heard his voice. The Israelis were promptly condemned for "targeted assasinations". Isn't that the best kind?

We have fairly regular drug shootings where I live. Sometimes, the people who make the rest of us miserable kill each other off and spare the justice system the expense.

On the petty theft end of things, there are other ways to get satisfaction. I used to work in a laid back place where you could drink a beer with your lunch. A friend of mine kept getting his beer swiped by an anonymous thief. One day, he replaced his beer with an amber coloured liquid that he had brewed himself, if you get what I mean. After that, no one messed with his beer.

Another friend of mine had a co worker who took long bathroom breaks, always right after his lunch. One day, my friend lifted up the toilet seat and taped two ketchup packets from McDonalds to the little plastic buffers under the toilet seat. He put pinholes in the ketchup packets and gently put down the toilet seat. When his co worker sat down with his newspaper, he got his glutius maximus and a couple of other things sprayed with ketchup. Problem solved. No more long toilet breaks.

I generally avoid seeking revenge. But I love to hear about it. I guess that deep in the heart of every meek soul is a wild animal seeking satisfaction. Sphere: Related Content