Monday, March 31, 2014

Over the weekend the Wall Street Journal weekend edition had as its headline, "Putin Calls Obama as Crisis Escalates."   Read the entire article here.

Here is an excerpt:
     Defying Western warnings, Russia has continued to reposition and augment its forces on the border of eastern Ukraine, according to U.S. officials, raising fears of a wider confrontation.
     Russia's Foreign Ministry on Friday dismissed the allegations as invented, saying that Western officials should "take a pain reliever."
Excuse me.  "Take a pain reliever?"  No one.  NO ONE!  would have ever said that to Ronald Reagan.  Ever.  Nor do I think it would have ever been said of George W. Bush.  Certainly, no one would have ever talked to Ronald Reagan like that.  Why?  Because of his personal strength, his stature as a leader, and his courage.  The world knew that Reagan would act militarily if necessary.

On the day of Reagan's inauguration, 52 Americans who had been held hostage for 444 days in Iran were released.  The left is fond of saying that this release had nothing to do with Reagan's inauguration because it was in the works under Jimmy Carter.  Some on the left are quite fond of jumping to conclusions that are not well thought out.  No one knows whether or not the Iranians went ahead with plans for the release because they were afraid of Ronald Reagan coming into office, and the Iranians would certainly never reveal such a fear.  In my mind, there was no doubt.  Ronald Reagan was an unknown commodity and he was widely recognized as a hawk.  If the Iranians were not afraid of what he might do, they certainly should have been.

I might add that Ronald Reagan also brought down the Soviet Union without firing a shot.  Bullies don't pick on the strong.  They pick on the weak.  Ronald Reagan's strength brought a gravitas to U.S. foreign policy that is sadly and conspicuously missing now.

Today's Wall Street Journal headlines..."U.S., Russia Talks Fail to Ease Crisis."  Read the entire article here.  For me, the telling paragraph was this:
     The question of Crimea's future also appeared to be largely drowned out during the diplomacy Sunday.  U.S. officials had only a few weeks ago been demanding Putin reverse his annexation of the territory and pull back his troops.  Mr. Kerry didn't mention Crimea during his remarks-- giving the impression that the U.S. has largely given up reversing the region's absorption into Russia.
It appears that our demand that Putin reverse his annexation was just talk.  A handful of Russian officials got a slap on the wrist-- some passport restrictions to the U.S. and monetary restrictions on U.S. accounts, actions that were mocked on twitter by several of the officials themselves.  Then Russia was kicked out of the G-8, an action Putin said he did not care about.  And Kerry has not not even made the annexation of Crimea part of the negotiations?  Not even part of the discussion?   The Russians are running diplomatic circles around us.  It appears that they got away with the annexation of Crimea.  If they want more territory, why should they stop there?  It's no wonder Russia's Foreign Ministry feels free to mock us.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Presidential Subterfuge?

There seems to be some discrepancy between what our president is saying was discussed in his meeting with Pope Francis and what the Vatican is saying. 

What follows is the complete text in English of the statement the Holy See press office released on Thursday, the day of the Holy Father's meeting with President Obama.

This morning, 27 March 2014, the Hon. Barack H. Obama, President of the United States of America, was received in audience by His Holiness Pope Francis, after which he met with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.During the cordial meetings, views were exchanged on some current international themes and it was hoped that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved. In the context of bilateral relations and cooperation between Church and State, there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated.
In contrast, the White House has issued this text of President Obama answering questions about the meeting.
Mr. President, I just want to follow up on Jim’s question on your meeting with the Pope today.  Do you think some of the schisms that he referenced on social issues would stand in the way of you and Pope Francis collaborating or forming a strategic alliance to tackle income inequality? 
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  First of all, I just want to make clear -- maybe it wasn’t clear from my answer to Jim -- that we actually didn’t talk a whole lot about social schisms in my conversations with His Holiness.  In fact, that really was not a topic of conversation. 
Here is my question to the president.   Mr. President, did you not talk a whole lot about the social issues or was it not a topic of conversation at all.  If you talked a little bit, then it was a topic of conversation.  If it was not a topic at all, then why did you say you didn't talk a whole lot about it.  It seems to me that your two sentences contradict each other.  And your second sentence claiming that it was not a topic of conversation directly contradicts the Vatican's statement.
I'm betting that the Vatican statement is the accurate one.  Your words, Mr. President, seem to me to be subterfuge.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What I love about the Wall Street Journal is its well researched and well written articles.  On the opinion page today is a piece called "ObamaCare Delay Number 38."  I knew there had been delays.  I did not know there had been THIRTY-EIGHT delays!!  It starts out...
Amid one more last-minute regulatory delay, number 38 at last count, the mandate forcing nuns to sponsor birth control is more or less the only part of ObamaCare that is still intact.
 It seems that the deadline to buy insurance has been extended indefinitely, as long as the individual buying it deems the purchase a "hardship."  One is not required to prove the hardship.

Has the administration not argued repeatedly that the entire law would fall apart without the requirement that everyone have insurance?

And has not the administration repeatedly insisted that it would not extend the deadline for enrollment?

If individuals are not required to buy insurance, there is no reason to buy it until you're sick.  After all, you can't be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition.  This system simply will not work.

Read the whole article and see what you think.  You can find it here.

It concludes:
This pattern of dishonesty and political improvisation has come to define ObamaCare, which is the law for some people, sometimes, except when it isn't.  Nothing HHS claims can be trusted, and little that the President of the United States promised about his signature law has turned out to be true.
Well. Those are tough words.  But I'm afraid they are absolutely true.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Another great article from today's Wall Street Journal, "ObamaCare v. Religious Liberty."

From the opinion page, this article does a good job of explaining just what legal issues are being looked
at in the combined cases of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. 
Sebelius.  If you want to know what the case is all about (besides simply a terrible threat to our religious liberty), this is a good summary.  Here is a sample:

Contraception is cheap, plentiful and covered by most health plans. Most corporations are run for profit, not piety. Mr. Verrilli claimed the mandate is necessary to promote public health and gender equality, but HHS could have aided those goals without forcing a minority of business owners with moral aims to implicate themselves in what they consider to be grave moral wrongs.
HHS itself recognized religious sensitivity to the mandate by exempting some businesses but not others, and it could have extended the same conscience accommodations to for-profits as it did to nonprofits. Congress also could have created a free birth-control program for the poor or employees of religious institutions, or increased subsidies for Planned Parenthood.
Good news (we hope, because you never know) is that most commentators seem to think that a majority of the judges were leaning toward the preservation of religious liberty.  And by that I mean ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.  May the Lord guide the decision!

Putin's Takeover of Crimea, part of Ukraine's Sovereign Territory

For those who follow current events there is a lot happening in the world right now.   May I recommend a couple of great articles from today's Wall Street Journal?  The first is by Robert Gates who served as secretary of defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  The article is called "Putin's Challenge to the West."  You can read the entire article (and I recommend that you do) here.

For me, here a couple of his key points:
Mr. Putin aspires to restore Russia's global power and influence and to bring the now-independent states that were once part of the Soviet Union back into Moscow's orbit. While he has no apparent desire to recreate the Soviet Union (which would include responsibility for a number of economic basket cases), he is determined to create a Russian sphere of influence—political, economic and security—and dominance. There is no grand plan or strategy to do this, just opportunistic and ruthless aspiration. And patience.
Gates goes on to say....
He also has a dramatically different worldview than the leaders of Europe and the U.S. He does not share Western leaders' reverence for international law, the sanctity of borders, which Westerners' believe should only be changed through negotiation, due process and rule of law. He has no concern for human and political rights. Above all, Mr. Putin clings to a zero-sum worldview.
Gates concludes with a strong opinion.
Therefore, the burden of explaining the need to act forcefully falls, as always, on our leaders. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "Government includes the act of formulating a policy" and "persuading, leading, sacrificing, teaching always, because the greatest duty of a statesman is to educate." The aggressive, arrogant actions of Vladimir Putin require from Western leaders strategic thinking, bold leadership and steely resolve—now.
Russia's taking over Crimea, part of Ukraine, is no small thing.

In 1994 Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum together with the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty website has a concise explanation of what that memorandum means.
In the "Budapest Memorandum," Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States promised that none of them would ever threaten or use force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine. They also pledged that none of them would ever use economic coercion to subordinate Ukraine to their own interest.
They specifically pledged they would refrain from making each other's territory the object of military occupation or engage in other uses of force in violation of international law.
Russia has violated the Budapest Memorandum as well as many international laws.

As a result, several government officials have had travel restrictions imposed on them by the United States, a move that was mocked on Twitter by a couple of the officials themselves.

Then Russia was kicked out of the G-8.  Putin himself belittled this move making it clear he is not at all troubled by that decision.

I don't pretend to know what the United States should do about this.  But I think it's safe to say that as the leader of the most powerful nation in the free world, Mr. Obama needs to show some strong leadership.  I don't think we're seeing that yet.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

On "Grain Brain" by David Perlmutter More Thoughts....

Interesting quotes from Grain Brain Part 1...
In this part, we're going to explore what happens when the brain is bombarded by carbohydrates, many of which are packed with inflammatory ingredients like gluten that can irritate your nervous system.  The damage can begin with daily nuisances like headaches and unexplained anxiety and progress to more sinister disorders such as depression and dementia.
Wow.  Gluten can irritate your nervous system.  I believe it.  Perlmutter is not the only one saying this.  And you know what?  Irritating the nervous system is not a small thing.

He goes on to say:
The origin of brain disease is in many cases predominantly dietary.  Although several factors play into the genesis and progression of brain disorders, to a large extent numerous neurological afflictions often reflect the mistake of consuming too many carbs and too few healthy fats.
Too FEW healthy fats!!  What does he consider to be a healthy fat?  Extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, butter, avocados, hut and nut butters, and seeds.  Proteins?  Whole eggs, wild fish, shellfish and mollusks, grass-fed beef, fowl, poultry and pork, and wild game.  I love these foods!

The rate of Alzheimer's disease increases in sync with type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes has tripled in the past forty years.  Tripled!!

Again, from Dr. Perlmutter:
What we're beginning to understand is that insulin resistance, as it relates to Alzheimer's Disease, sparks the formation of those infamous plaques that are present in diseased brains.....And the fact that we can associate low levels of insulin with brain disease is why talk of "type 3 diabetes" is starting to circulate among researchers....those with diabetes are at least twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.
He goes on to say:
Researchers have known for some time now that the cornerstone of all degenerative conditions, including brain disorders, is inflammation.....And what they are finding is that gluten, and a high carbohydrate diet for that matter, are among the most prominent stimulators of inflammatory pathways that reach the brain.
I find this astonishing.   Did I mention that since I've stopped eating gluten my skin and hair look healthier (I'm told) and I've lost 10 pounds without effort?  Yeah.  This is feeling like a much healthier me.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Grain Brain" by David Perlmutter

Yes, I'm eating gluten-free, as I said in my previous post.

Since my realization that gluten is definitely not good for me, I have read two books that very much reinforced my decision.  In fact, had I not already determined that I am VERY gluten intolerant I might still give up gluten on the basis of the information in these two books.  They are Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, M.D. and Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D.

From the dust jacket of Grain Brain one learns the following information.  Dr. Perlmutter is a board certified neurologist and president of the Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, Florida.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition and the recipient of numerous awards including the Humanitarian of the Year Award and the Linus Pauling Award.  He is also the author of three other books.

OK.  Dr. Perlmutter has credentials in the mainstream medicine community.  He is not an alternative practitioner.  This is important because he asserts some things that directly contradict what most doctors are telling their patients.  I don't believe one can assume he is wrong because he is in the minority.  Medical advice changes slowly and many a doctor's directions in various time periods have turned out to be directly contradicted by later research.

In the introduction on p. 4  of Grain Brain Dr. Perlmutter makes the following shocking statement.
Modern grains are silently destroying your brain.  By "modern," I'm not just referring to the refined flours, pastas, and rice that have been demonized by the anti-obesity folks;  I'm referring to all the grains that so many of us have embraced as being healthful-- whole wheat, whole grain, multigrain, seven-grain, live grain, stone-ground, and so on.  Basically, I am calling what is arguably our most beloved dietary staple a terrorist group that bullies our most precious organ, the brain.  I will demonstrate how fruit and other carbohydrates could be health hazards with far reaching consequences that not only will wreak havoc on your brain, but also will accelerate your body's aging process from the inside out.  This  isn't fiction;  it's now documented fact.
He goes on to say that "Brain disease can be largely prevented through the choices you make in life."  My mother died of Alzheimer's Disease.  I sure hope he's right.

What is really striking in this book is the direct contradictions to the commonly held beliefs about what is healthy to eat.   On p. 6, again this is just the introduction, Dr. Perlmutter says:
I believe that the shift in our diet that has occurred over the past century-- from high-fat, low carb to today's low-fat, high carb diet, fundamentally consisting of grains and other damaging carbohydrates-- is the origin of many of our modern scourges linked to the brain, including chronic headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, movement disorders, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and those senior moments that quite likely herald serious cognitive decline and full blown, irreversible, untreatable, and incurable brain disease.  
Now that's a lot of conditions to be affected by diet alone.  But, then again, they are all conditions that involve the brain and Perlmutter the neurologist does know a lot about the brain.

More of this to come....

Monday, March 17, 2014

Eating Gluten Free!

For a number of decades I have struggled with digestive challenges.  I was taking immodium 2 or 3 times a week just to keep things under control and had come to assume that I must just have a very sensitive system, nervous stomach, IBS, or something I would just have to live with.

My daughter, who is a nurse and the wife of a soon-to-be chiropractor, suggested I try giving up gluten because it inflames the bowels.  I thought, wheat?  Seriously?  I eat wheat all the time!  But as my symptoms seemed to be very gradually worsening I decided to give it a try.

After about 5 or 6 days my irritable system went normal.  It was so obvious.  I should not be eating wheat.  There have been some ups and downs since then but it is still very clear that gluten and I do not get along.  I have always loved pastas and breads.  Now, after not intentionally eating gluten for over 6 months, I do not desire those foods.  I know what they will do to me and my body has shut down any desire, I guess.  Who wants cramps and diarrhea?  For sometimes days at a time after even a single small gluten exposure?

I'm going to write more about this.  After reading Wheat Belly by William Davis and Grain Brain by David Perlmutter I am completely convinced that wheat (and all gluten) is not good for me, and not only just because of its effects on my digestion.  Dr. William Davis is a cardiologist and Dr. David Perlmutter is a neurologist.

I know that what they recommend is contrary to mainstream medicine.  But for me, the proof is in how I feel and my overall improved health.  More later!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Home Alone!

These are five of my children.  We were missing Anne and her husband Zach.  On this past Friday my daughter Liz left for a weekend Lifeteen Retreat.  On Saturday night my daughter Mary left for Atlanta to spend Spring Break with her sister.  That meant.....none of the offspring were home on Saturday night.  I don't recall when the last time was that that happened.  I'm not sure it has ever happened since the birth of my first born 29 years ago.

Although my husband was home, the house seemed very quiet.  (Well, he is a quiet man.)  It was terribly quiet.  I read....with no all.  The lack of interruptions was itself almost a distraction.  The quiet was so unfamiliar.  It was disquieting, if you will excuse the pun.

As my regular readers know, I have six children.  Five are now adults and the sixth is almost there.  Still, I have two teenagers who still live here.  Next year we may be back to just my husband and me.  Or...there may be four adult children living here, depending on the educational/work plans of each one. But even if next year there are four, it is clear that in a relatively short time they will all be off on their own.

It's a strange feeling realizing that is the case.  Somewhat sorrowful, somewhat gratifying.  After all, that has been the goal these past three decades, to raise children who will then go off to live their lives independently and with virtue, I hope.

Still, the quiet may seem strange for a while.  Perhaps my concentration and attention span will improve, since I will then have the opportunity to focus on a project uninterrupted for a long period of time, something that for the most part I have not done much of for several decades.

I think I will enjoy the time to read and write and pray.  That will be the best part.  And, who knows, perhaps before too long these walls may be hearing the pleasant sound of more little people---- grandchildren, I hope.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Matthew McConaughey wins oscars 2014 - Acceptance Speech

Kudos to Matthew McConaughey for thanking God in his acceptance speech for the award for best actor.  It was a heartfelt thank you, describing God as who he looks up to and as the one who has given him his opportunities.  I was surprised and pleased that this part of his speech was interrupted with applause.  It was not a big applause but applause, nonetheless.  This was not a crowd usually inclined to mention God.  That there were some there applauding was very pleasant.  I thought, "Wow, sisters and brothers in the Lord, even in this audience."

Matthew McConaughey appears to be a man of faith and courage.  God bless him.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Substitute Teaching

I spent four days this past week substitute teaching second graders at my favorite Catholic grade school.  They were adorable.  And a class with only 11 students is never really all that hard.

But the time spent in that classroom gave me reason to reflect on how substitute teaching can sometimes be uniquely difficult.

First off, you don't know the kids' names.  Thankfully, this teacher did give me a class list and each student's desk had the name written in large letters on the front.  Occasionally, I have subbed for teachers who did not provide a class list.  After realizing what an enormous handicap that situation is for the teacher, as soon as I realize I don't have it, I now just go right to the office and ask for the list.  It's next to impossible to control a class without knowing those names and extremely difficult to learn them without a sheet to reference.

Secondly, the substitute teacher does not know all of the teacher's rules.  Good sub instructions will list the most important ones like whether or not the students are allowed to talk while doing their work, or must they sit in their assigned seats, and who is allowed to leave the classroom and when and how.  But no teacher can tell you every little rule they have nor should they.  Nine or ten pages of instructions are just too many for the sub to read in the 10 or 15 minutes she has before the students come in.  When I require something or forbid something that the teacher does not, the students look at me as though I have just legislated something without having been elected.  They don't like it.  They're not even sure they really have to do as I say.  It feels illegitimate to them and sometimes they even resent it.  So usually I ask a student who seems to be reliable, or who the teacher has actually designated in her instructions as reliable (a really helpful tip) what the teacher says about the such-and-such situation.  Then there is usually a disagreement because another student thinks they can nuance the answer in such a way as to get the response they want.  Example:  No, Mrs. V. does not let us go out for recess if we finish our work.  But the student nuancer will say indignantly, "YES! She does!"  Original reliable student insists, "No, she doesn't."  Student nuancer, "Well, she did that one time!!"  I then turn to the reliable student and confirm, "But she doesn't usually let you do it, right?"  The conniver then mutters something about "that one time."

The younger the students the more they get off track if I change the routine at all.  The teacher has given me a rough outline of how things go.  But I might not know, for instance, if the homework is turned into a box, put on the teacher's desk, or if the student keeps it until the teacher gets back.  There are always multiple opinions among the students.  I make my best guess, trying to stick with what seems like the teacher's most likely routine.

And what to do to maintain or regain control of the class?  After quite a few years of substitute teaching I have some of my own techniques.  But, especially with the younger students, it helps to know what the teacher does to get them quiet.  Once in exasperation I asked a student in the front row what his teacher does to get the class quiet.  He said, "She yells at us."  Oh.  I thought well at least if I really lose it and do start yelling no one is going to be shocked.  Sometimes the better students will volunteer suggestions even without my asking:  Ring the bell.  Turn the lights on and off.  Miss B. does such and such.  I don't know if these suggestions are offered out of compassion for my plight or if these students just really want things under control so they can learn. Probably a bit of both.

One thing I've learned is that the more confident I appear the better things will go.  I walk into the classroom like I mean business, standing as tall as I can, which isn't very tall as my height is only five feet.  It doesn't matter how tall it actually makes me.  It's how I'm carrying myself that makes the difference.  Sometimes, with the older kids I give them a little pep talk to start with.  Something like this:   Look, let's start this day out right.  If I tell you to do something I want you to do it.  If I tell you to stop something I expect you to stop it.  If you don't do what you're told I'm going to give your name to Mr. V. as someone who did not cooperate when he was gone.  In other words, I expect you to treat me with the same respect that you treat Mr. V.  Once after such a talk a kid in the back raised his hand and completely straight faced asked, "Are you sure you don't want to be treated with MORE respect than Mr. V?"  I burst out laughing.

Anyway, subbing is fun.  I can do it when I want to and turn down days that don't work.  I earn a little extra money and I get to spend time with some of the nicest kids and most thoughtful staff of any school around.  Despite the challenges it's an occasional job that I do truly enjoy.