Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dietary Guidelines or Executive Overreach?


The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has submitted their 572 page report to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture.  This report provides recommendations for the final dietary guidelines which are issued by these two departments every five years.

There are two proposed changes in this report that caught my eye.  First, dietary cholesterol will no longer be a big concern.  Well. Considering for how long cholesterol has been consistently pronounced the heart disease bad guy, this is really earth shattering and very good news to those of us who have long enjoyed eggs! If there is evidence to support this change, as I assume there is, when are doctors going to stop prescribing statin drugs

Incredibly, the committee has also included "sustainability" in their guidelines.  As Tennille Tracy wrote in a Wall Street Journal article on 2/20/2015, "The committee recommended that Americans eat less red and processed meat, and excluded lean meat from a list of foods that make up a healthy diet.  While lean meat is firmly endorsed in the current guidelines, the panel explained that researchers don't yet have a standard definition for what qualifies as lean meat.  It did acknowledge in a footnote that lean meat could have a role in a good diet."

Well, if lean meat can have a role in a good diet then why is it not listed under healthy food?  It is not listed because the committee has decided that eating red meat is not a sustainable dietary option.  this is about environmentalism, not health.  They also recommend that only seafood that is not threatened be eaten as part of a healthy diet.

What bothers me is what seems like dishonesty here.  The dietary guidelines are supposed to reflect the latest research on what constitutes healthy eating.  Environmental sustainability is an entirely different subject and should not be included.  To tell us what is healthy to eat by applying criteria that have nothing to do with what food is good for us, the committee is expanding their focus and not truly giving us what they say they are giving us.

Dietary guidelines are one thing.  Sustaining our environment is another.  I would prefer that they not pretend that the latter is a factor in the former.  Seems as though the committee is trying to expand its power to make recommendations.  Dietary guidelines should refer only to diet and how it effects an individual's health.  Anything else is an overreach.

But setting the honesty and overreach question aside, there are some who would argue that what the committee is calling for in the name of sustainability is not even very good science.

Agricultural economist Jayson Lusk has argued that the committee has not considered everything they might on the question of sustainability.  You can view the entire discussion here.

Have an opinion on this subject?

The public is encouraged to provide written comments through April 8.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Giuliani's Remarks on Obama and Whether or Not He Loves America

Rudy Giuliani recently said, in a speech at a GOP event, that he did not believe that President Obama loves America.

I don't know if President Obama loves America either.  There is certainly a lot of evidence to suggest that he does not.

Giuliani has been just raked over the coals for this remark.  Perhaps it hit a little too close to home?  I would render a guess that perhaps half of America thinks that the President does not love his country.  He rarely says anything positive about it.  He disregards the Constitution on a regular basis.  He criticizes our history.  He said at the outset that he wanted to "remake America."  As some have said, who wants to remake something that they love?

So Giuliani wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal op-ed page explaining his remarks.  He said he did not mean to judge the president's heart.  Fair enough.  He went on to explain his concerns....
I hope and pray that President Obama can rise to the occasion and underscore America’s greatness as our history and values merit. If he does so, I will be the first to applaud him. But I can only be disheartened when I hear him claim, as he did last August, that our response to 9/11 betrayed the ideals of this country. When he interjected that “we tortured some folks,” he undermined those who managed successfully to protect us from further attack.
And to say, as the president has, that American exceptionalism is no more exceptional than the exceptionalism of any other country in the world, does not suggest a becoming and endearing modesty, but rather a stark lack of moral clarity.
I applaud Giuliani for his honesty.  It's about time someone said out loud what so many of us have been thinking for years now.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I read the Wall Street Journal every day, at least the Opinion Page.  I read it not because I am particularly interested in financial matters.  I read it because all of the articles are well written and well researched.  I learn a lot from these pages.

Today there is a piece written by Michael B. Mukasey and David Rivkin Jr. called "Another Obama Collision With the Constitution."  It addresses the issue of Obama's request for Congress to pass an AUMF, Authorization to Use Military Force.  The president does not need authorization to use force.  He doesn't need it constitutionally and he doesn't need it because the AUMFs of 2001 and 2002 are still in effect.  I wish I could give you a link to the entire article, but it seems you need on online subscription.  If you would like to see the beginning of the article and an offer to buy the online subscription you can find it here.

The authors argue that despite it's lack of necessity it is still generally a good idea for Congress to pass an AUMF because it  buttresses the president's authority.  They present the case, however, that "President Obama's proposal is fundamentally flawed," because it bans "enduring offensive ground operations" and expires in three years.

In other words, it ties the president's hands.  It limits his ability to use force. I find myself rather frequently asking what President Obama's motivations are.  Perhaps I am wrong, but in this case it seems to me that he is hoping to blame his unwillingness to use military force on Congress.  If Congress passes the AUMF that Obama has proposed, then he can blame Congress for his unwillingness to use ground troops to fight ISIS.  If Congress does not pass it, he can say that Congress did not authorize him to use military force.  Such a move would be dishonest, of course, because the 2001 and 2002 authorizations are still in effect, but somehow I don't think that will stop the president from saying so.

As Mukasey and Rivkin put it:
It is bad enough that legislation to tie a president's hands is being proposed by a president.  That it is proposed by this president, who has been so willing to exceed his constitutional authority in domestic affairs--by rewriting immigration laws, antinarcotics laws, ObamaCare and so on--underscores the administrations cynicism and its disdain for the Constitution.
They conclude "No AUMF is better than one that is constitutional flawed."

I would add that no AUMF is better than one proposed by a president for cowardly and clearly political reasons.

IT'S SO COLD!!!!!!



We are experiencing subzero, bitterly cold temperatures in Michigan.  It's the kind of cold that burns your nose as you breathe.  Exposed skin will start to tingle in seconds.  And snow makes that scritch-scritch sound as you walk on it.  Those who have lived in cold climates will know what I mean.  It's the sound of very, very, dry snow.

Even indoors everything is dry.  We have a piano that needs to be taken care of and the hygrometer showed dangerously low humidity this morning.  I turned up the fan on our humidifier and boiled a pot of water on the stove.  Yes, even boiling water on the stove does help.  I bring it to a hard boil and then turn it off. The steam that results goes right into the air.

What's good about such weather?  Bathrooms stay cleaner longer because they are drier, for one rather insignificant thing.

The severity of the cold reminds us of our vulnerability and fragility as humans.  May this realization help us to lean more on God.  And may it fill us with concern and compassion for the homeless, whose very lives are in danger in this weather.

But the best part about this drastic weather is the hope of Spring.  We are more than halfway through February and, as the saying goes, March will come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.  In Michigan, March can still be a cold month.  But there will be a day here and there that warms up a little.  It may go into the 40 degree range and, for us, that feels like Spring.  That is the weather when children want to dispense with their coats!

And when our thermometers hit the 50s or 60s range, nearly everyone is smiling.  There is almost a euphoria.  We want to plant flowers.  (But we don't dare yet without special precautions because frost is possible in April and even in May.)  The Farmer's Market will start selling those beautiful winter pansies which can actually freeze solid and still come back if you put them in the sun.  I love to buy one for my porch.  It's such a delightful splash of color against what has been a dreary, monochromatic backdrop for many months.

But the winter weather itself also has its own beauty.  There is the drama of the large snowfall, the blowing whiteouts, the blizzard conditions.  If you don't have to go anywhere, it can be strangely lovely.  And the snow itself is strikingly pretty in the sun.  Sometimes it sparkles like diamonds and reflects so much light that sunglasses are helpful.

Still, as is nearly everyone in Michigan, I am very much looking forward to the Spring. :-)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Administration's Plan for Countering Violent Extremism-- John Kerry's Opinion Piece and My Reaction

John Kerry has written an opinion piece that appears in today's Wall Street Journal.  In my opinion, it is an embarrassment.  You can read the whole piece here.http://www.wsj.com/articles/john-kerry-our-plan-for-countering-violent-extremism-1424305659

He starts with a nod to the role of military reaction to wanton violence.  Then he goes on to say, "But military force alone won't achieve victory.  In the long term, this war will be won only by deploying a broader, far more creative arsenal."

So, in the long term, there is a creative solution?  I'm waiting for the suggestion that we might discern what this arsenal is by making collages.

He goes on..."A safer and more prosperous future requires us to recognize that violent extremism can't be justified by resorting to religion."  This future you speak of, Mr. Kerry, requires us to recognize this principle?  We have already recognized it as a country.  In fact, our nation is founded on the recognition that all must be able to practice religion freely.  There is nothing for Americans to recognize here.

He elaborates, "A safer and more prosperous future also requires us not to be distracted by divisions grounded in hatred or bias."   So... we have a problem of distraction due to our bias??  We do, Mr. Secretary?  It's our problem?

He continues, "There is no room in this fight for sectarian division.  There is no room for Islamophobia or anti-Semitism."  I was not aware that this so-called Islamophobia was causing violent terrorism.  Is that really a part of the problem?  And no room for anti-Semitism?  Someone should tell that to ISIS.  There is no room for their hatred of Jews.  What on Earth is the Secretary of State talking about??  And, since you have not mentioned Christians, Mr. Secretary, shall we assume that there is room for hatred of Christians?

In regards to the summit at the White House and State Department, Kerry says that they will "expand the global conversation..."  Oh, good, because we really have a problem of limited conversation.  "...and, more important, adopt an action agenda that identifies, shares, and utilizes best practices in preventing and countering violent extremism."

In other words, this administration does not know what to do, refuses to be decisive, and will instead wait for a summit  to decide what's going on and what should be done about it.

Mr. Kerry goes on, "Success requires showing the world the power of peaceful communities instead of extremist violence."  It does?  You mean we just need to give peace a chance?  Seriously, Mr. Kerry?

Apparently the cause of terrorism is the lack of good governance, according to Kerry.  We must identify the "zones of greatest vulnerability," and "target our resources to meet the specific needs of those places."  They need job training, he says, and a vision of human dignity.

While it may be helpful to identify the causes of terrorism.  (Note they don't use the word terrorism-- it's violent extremism.  Not sure why.)  We have a problem that needs to be dealt with in the here and now.

Is the problem that John Kerry and Barack Obama do not want to admit that evil exists?  Sometimes evil must be recognized for what it is.  ISIS and all terrorists are acting against good, against God, against peace.  They are serving evil.  They are wrapped in hatred and no vision of peace, no jobs program, no ongoing conversation is going to change that.

This is what happens when the children of the sixties ascend to public office.  Wish there were adults in charge.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Remember That You Are Dust...

From Magnificat, the Meditation of the Day by Venerable Thomas A Kempis:
It is there you show me to myself-- what I am, what I have been, and what I am coming to; for I am nothing and I did not know it.  Left to myself, I am nothing but total weakness.  But if you look upon me for an instant, I am at once made strong and filled with new joy.  Great wonder it is that I, who of my own weight always sink to the depths, am so suddenly lifted up, and so graciously embraced by you.
This paragraph really spoke to me.  In recent years the Lord has shown me how profoundly weak and dependent on him I am.  I am dust, yes.  But in Him, I can do all things.  Blessed be God.

May this Lent bear much spiritual fruit for us all!

Monday, February 16, 2015

George Washington's Birthday.


Did you know that the name of the holiday we celebrate on the third Monday in February is George Washington's Birthday?  This in spite of the fact that George Washington's actual birthday is February 22.  In 1971, Congress, always acting in the people's best interest (tongue in cheek), passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to give workers more three day weekends.  Yes, they really did that.  This act effected George Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran's Day.

Now I enjoy a three day weekend as much as anyone else.  But when you have a holiday named George Washington's Birthday and we know that George Washington's birthday is February 22, does it really make sense to change it to the third Monday?  Almost seems dishonest.  Anyway, that's Congress.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that Abraham Lincoln's birthday is February 12 and the third Monday in February is usually between February 12 and February 22.  Thus the holiday, George Washington's birthday, has morphed into something called President's day. But, let it be known, the federal holiday is still officially called George Washington's birthday.

There.  Got that off my chest. :-)

George Washington is rightly called the Father of Our Country as indeed he is.  I just finished reading his first inaugural address and I'm all teary eyed.  What an amazing man.  What an incredible leader.

 Mount Vernon



Views from Mount Vernon, George Washington's home

Much of what I am about to write about George Washington is from the Mount Vernon website and www.history. com. Mount Vernon is, of course, the home of George Washington and is a fascinating place to visit.  The Mount Vernon website provides a wealth of information about our first president.

Washington was a Virginia gentleman and a successful farmer and businessman.  He was one of the largest land holders in the U.S. at that time owning 8,000 acres at Mount Vernon and 50,000 acres elsewhere. He knew first hand the effect of British taxes on the colonists and supported independence from Great Britain very early on.  As a Virginia delegate to the First Continental Congress, Washington was elected Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and eventually led it to victory.

Washington was a valiant commander in chief.  Mountvernon.org states "George Washington exhibited great steadiness and courage in battle and was frequently near the front lines during his many battles.  At the Battle of Monongahela in 1755, Washington had two horses shot out from underneath him and his coat was pierced by four musket balls.  At Kip's Bay and the Battle of Princeton, Washington risked his own life when rushing to the front lines to rally his flagging troops."

In 1787 he was asked to attend the Constitutional Convention and was elected its president.  He was the first to sign the Constitution.

Washington did not want to be president.  He wanted to return to Mt. Vernon to his family and farming but instead bowed to public pressure.  He won the election very easily.  John Adams, who came in second, became vice president.  At that time there wasn't a popular vote for president.  Only the Electoral College voted for president.  George Washington was elected unanimously twice, the only U.S. president to ever have this distinction.  At the time the United States consisted of 11 states with a population of 4 million people. (Today the U.S. population is 318 million.)

Washington D.C. had not been built so Washington never lived in the White House, although he was very involved in its design as well as in the design of the U.S. Capital.  As president Washington lived in New York and Philadelphia.

According to the Mount Vernon website, at the age of 28, George Washington was 6 ft. 2 inches tall, weighed 174 pounds, and was known as energetic and an excellent dancer. "Dancing was an important part of the social fabric of 18th century life.  And as Washington's social stature began to rise, the number of balls, cotillions, parties, and dances he was invited to also rose considerably. Young Washington, blessed with an athletic frame, quickly came to love dancing and there are many accounts of his dancing throughout the night with an array of female guests."

Did he have wooden false teeth as some have said?  He did not, but he was plagued with many teeth problems and he did have dentures eventually.  Mountvernon.org has some very interesting information about George Washington's teeth problems.  You will feel great sympathy for Washington and deep gratitude for modern dentistry.

Yes, he owned slaves, a topic the New York Times today, as we celebrate Washington's birthday, so tastelessly decided to detail in an op-ed piece.  But he did have some reservations about slavery and ultimately was the only slave owning president to provide for freedom for all of his slaves in his will.

Under President Washington, the United States became a country, not only by winning independence from England, but also by instituting many of the structures that are a part of the fabric of our country even today.  He signed the Judiciary Act of 1789, establishing a six member Supreme Court and the position of Attorney General, and authorizing the creation of a Department of Foreign Affairs (later to be called the State Department), and a Secretary of State.

He signed the Coinage Act of 1792 that established the dollar as our currency.

He authorized the construction of six frigates, the start of the U.S. Navy, with the Naval Act of 1794.

And Washington is said to have read the Bible and prayed every day, on his knees.  From Washington's first inaugural address:
Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.
In other words, from the very start, George Washington acknowledged that God had blessed the Unites States of America and that we ought to be piously and humbly grateful, not only for the formation of our country but for all the blessings that came about thereafter.

May God continue to provide for and bless these United States of America.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Saint Valentine's Day

From Catholic.org I learned the following interesting tidbit about Saint Valentine.


St. Valentine was a Priest, martyred in 269 at Rome and was buried on the Flaminian Way. He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses.  

Read more about Saint Valentine here on Catholic.org

Bee keepers? Plague? Fainting?  The rest I kind of understand.

Happy Saint Valentine's Day to everyone!!