Saturday, September 28, 2013

Commentary by Bill Maher on California

September 27, 2013

New Rule: Conservatives who love to brag about American exceptionalism must come here to California, and see it in person. And then they should be afraid -- very afraid. Because while the rest of the country is beset by stories of right-wing takeovers in places like North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, California is going in the opposite direction and creating the kind of modern, liberal nation the country as a whole can only dream about. And not only can't the rest of the country stop us -- we're going to drag you along with us.

It wasn't that long ago that pundits were calling California a failed state and saying it was ungovernable. But in 2010, when other states were busy electing whatever Tea Partier claimed to hate government the most, we elected a guy who actually liked it, Jerry Brown.

Since then, everything Republicans say can't or won't work -- gun control, immigration reform, high-speed rail -- California is making work. And everything conservatives claim will unravel the fabric of our society -- universal healthcare, higher taxes on the rich, gay marriage, medical marijuana -- has only made California stronger. And all we had to do to accomplish that was vote out every single Republican. Without a Republican governor and without a legislature being cock-blocked by Republicans, a $27 billion deficit was turned into a surplus, continuing the proud American tradition of Republicans blowing a huge hole in the budget and then Democrats coming in and cleaning it up.

How was Governor Moonbeam able to do this? It's amazing, really. We did something economists call cutting spending AND raising taxes. I know, it sounds like some crazy science fiction story, but you see, here in California, we're not just gluten-free and soy-free and peanut-free, we're Tea Party free! Virginia could do it, too, but they're too busy forcing ultrasounds on women who want abortions. Texas could, but they don't because they're too busy putting Jesus in the science textbooks. Meanwhile their state is so broke they want to replace paved roads with gravel. I thought we had this road-paving thing licked in the 1930s, but not in Texas. But hey, in Dallas you can carry a rifle into a Chuck E. Cheese, cause that's freedom. Which is great, but it wasn't so great when that unregulated fertilizer plant in Waco blew up. In California, when things blow up, it's because we're making a Jason Statham movie.

California isn't perfect, but it is in our nature from being on the new coast to be up for trying new things -- and maybe that's why the right wingers are always hoping we fail. On the campaign trail last year, Mitt Romney warned that if we didn't follow his conservative path, "America is going to become like Greece, or... Spain, or Italy, or... California." And that was a big laugh line with Mormons, because Greece, Spain and Italy have some art and poetry and theatre, but nothing like Salt Lake City. Yes, Mitt sure hates California, which is why he moved to San Diego. To the house with the car elevator.

What conservatives fear about California being a petri dish for the liberal agenda is well-founded. For example, as Obamacare gets implemented here much more successfully than predicted, the movement to just go all the way to a single payer system is gathering steam. It actually passed the legislature twice, but was vetoed by Schwarzenegger, who argued it didn't go far enough to cover the children of that natural, beautiful love between a man and a cleaning lady.

In lots of areas, California seems to have decided not to wait around for the knuckle-draggers and the selfish libertarian states to get on board. They can mock "European style democracies" all they want, we are building one here, and people like it -- the same way when Americans come back from a vacation in Europe they all say the same thing: "Wow, you can see titties on the beach!" But they also remark on the clean air, the modern, first world infrastructure, the functioning social safety net, and bread that doesn't taste like powdered glue. And they wonder, "Why can't we get that here?" Unless they're Republicans, in which case they wonder, "How can people live like that?"

Well, swallow hard, guys, because California is eventually going to make all Americans live like that. Why? Because we're huge. The 12th largest economy in the world, the fifth largest agricultural exporter in the world, and of course number one in laser vaginal rejuvenation. There's 40 million of us -- so, for example, when California set a high mileage standard for any car sold in this state, Detroit had to make more fuel-efficient cars; we're just too big a slice of the market, and it would be too expensive to make one car for us, and another for shit-kickers who want something that runs on coal.

It's so ironic -- the two things conservatives love the most, the free market and states rights -- are the two things that are going to bend this country into California's image as a socialist fagtopia. Maybe our constipated Congress can't pass gun control laws, but we just did. Lots of 'em. Because we don't give a shit about the NRA. Out here that stands for "Nuts, Racists, and Assholes." So while the rest of America is debating whether it's a good idea to allow guns in bars or a great idea to allow guns in bars, California is about to ban lead bullets. Which is a no-brainer, because bullets don't need lead, and lead kills birds and gets into the food supply of people who hunt their own food. Which explains why Ted Nugent is such a raving lunatic.

While other state governments are working with Jesus to make abortion more miserable -- because otherwise women would use it for weight loss -- California is making it easier. We actually have a guy dancing on the street corner dressed as the Statue of Liberty spinning a big arrow that says, "Abortions!" And a new law will even let nurse practitioners perform abortions. And dog groomers can aid assisted suicides by Skype.

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, our minimum wage is almost three dollars higher than the national rate, and in 10 years a third of our electricity will come from renewable energy and 15 percent of our cars will be electric.

And while Republicans in the rest of the country are threatening to deport every immigrant not named Ted Cruz, California just OK'd driver's licenses for undocumented aliens. That's right, we're letting them drive cars -- just like white people! You Red Staters may ask, "How come they're lettin' Meskins drive?" Well, it's because they have to get to their jobs. You see, here in California we're embracing the modern world -- we can't be worrying about all the nonsense that keeps Fox News viewers up at night when they should be in bed adjusting their sleep apnea mask. Our state motto is, "We're Too Busy for Your Bullshit."

The bottom line is that we are moving the country's largest economy into a place where we can all be health-insured, clean air-breathin', gay-married, immigrant-friendly citizens who don't get shot all the time. And my message to the rest of America is: do not resist. Kneel before Zod! California has been setting the trends in America for decades, from Silicon Valley to silicone tits, and it's not going to stop now. We say jump -- you say, "Please sell me new exercise clothes for jumping." We said put cilantro in food, and dammit, you did, you put cilantro in food, even though neither one of us knows what it is. Almond milk? We just had some extra almonds and thought we'd fuck with you. The enormous earlobe hole? You're welcome. We also invented the genius bar, where the kid with the enormous earlobe hole takes your MacBook in the back and fills it with animal pornography.

- Bill Maher, host of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher

Knowledge Quiz, No. 47

The Quotes Quiz
              I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz.
*    *    *    *
Who first said these famous quotes?
1. Conversation should be pleasant without scurrility, witty without affectation, free without indecency, learned without conceitedness, novel without falsehood.
2. Before God we are all equally wise - and equally foolish.
3. Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.
4. We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we learn.
5. Always do what is right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
6. Hate the sin; love the sinner.
7. If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
8. Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet.
9. Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them as much.
10. Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.
11. Anger makes dull men witty but keeps them poor.
12. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
13. If Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not even crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he had to say, and make fun of it.
14. Man is the cruelest animal.
15. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.
16. One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.
17. If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.
18. Eighty percent of success is showing up.
19. It is easy to be brave at a safe distance.
20. We have not lost faith, but we have transferred it from God to the medical profession.
1. William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English poet and dramatist.
2. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born American physicist and Nobel Prize winner.
3. Aristotle (384BC- 322BC), Ancient Greek philosopher, critic, physicist, and zoologist.
4. Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British politician and statesman.
5. Mark Twain (1835-1910), American author, journalist, humorist and wit.
6. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), Indian politician and spiritual leader.
7. Mother Teresa (1910-1997), Albanian-born Indian humanitarian & missionary.
8. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American essayist and poet.
9. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Irish dramatist, novelist and poet.
10. Confucius  (551BC-479BC), Chinese philosopher.
11. Elizabeth I (1533-1603), Queen of England.
12. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), American essayist, inventor, scientist, politician and diplomat.
13. Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish author, essayist and historian.
14. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher.
15. Martin Luther King (1929-1968), American civil rights leader and clergyman.
16. Jane Austen (1775-1817) British novelist.
17. Albert Camus (1913-1960)
18. Woody Allen (born: 1935), American comedian, actor, movie director and saxophone player.
19. Aesop (620BC-560BC), Ancient Greek slave and fable author.
20. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Irish playwright.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Puns, No. 2

A pun, also called paronomasia, is a type of word-play. In a pun a word of two or more meanings and of similar sounds. The intent of a pun is to create humor by exploiting multiple meanings of words. Puns may be regarded as idiomatic, in-jokes, word games, or just a form of humor. Puns requires a large vocabulary both to create and understand. Puns have long history and have been used since ancient times by writers such as Plautus, William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, John Donne, Louis Carroll James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. Movie producer and punster, Alfred Hitchcock, said Puns are the highest form of literature.

Here are some modern puns:

Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
How does Moses make his tea?  Hebrews it.
I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then, it dawned on me.
This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.
I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I can't put it down.
I did a theatrical performance about puns.  It was a play on words.
Were the Indians here first because they had reservations?
I didn't like my beard at first. Then, it grew on me.
How do you make holy water? Boil the hell out of it!
Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?
When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
What does a clock do when it's hungry?  It goes back four seconds.
I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then, it hit me!
Broken pencils are pointless.
I tried to catch some fog. I mist.
England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.
I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.
I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.
Velcro: what a rip off!
Cartoonist found dead in home. Details are sketchy.
Venison for dinner? Oh, deer!
Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love, and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.
Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?"
Two cows are standing next to each other in a field. Daisy says to Dolly, "I was artificially inseminated this morning." "I don't believe you," says Dolly. "It's true; no bull!" exclaims Daisy.
An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.
I went to a seafood disco last week and I pulled a mussel.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sex News, No. 4

The Most and Least Erogenous Zones of the Body

Recent research was aimed at revealing "the magnitude of erotic sensations from various body parts." The results ended up being a little predictable, a little unexpected, and a lot of sexy.

The Guardian reports on the work of researchers in South Africa and the United Kingdom, who published an article in the journal Cortex. They surveyed 800 men and women, asking them to rate 41 different body parts for their erogenous capabilities.

The sexiest body parts were a no-brainer: genitalia, lips, ears, and inner thighs. Surprisingly, shoulder blades ranked as one of the more pleasurable spots for both men and women.

But the real interest came in the lowest-ranked body parts. Knee caps and feet both received a zero ranking on the sexy scale. Now, as most of us are initiating a face-palm and saying "Well, duh!" as we think about knobby knees and fragrant feet, consider this: For many years, scientists have thought that feet were one of the most erogenous zones of the body. It's believed that the area of the brain that handles nerve impulses from the feet is right next door to the processing center for genitalia sensations. So our feet ought to be just one exit down on the Highway to Heaven, at least in terms of brain signals.

Not so, the survey found. Feet were a sexual flop for most of the survey respondents. Study authors note that while foot fetishes (such as shoe obsession, foot massaging, etc.) may be common, there appears to be a big difference between a fetish and an erogenous zone.

Another startling find was that men and women are very similar in their ranking of erotic body parts. Oh, there were a few differences (men often found hands and the back of the legs very erotic, while women ranked them lower), but overall the scientists were surprised to find "remarkable levels of correlation" between the sexes. This goes against the traditional belief that women are loaded with erogenous zones and men only have one obvious hot spot.

Study authors were also amazed to discover that the erotic rankings held steady no matter what a person's age, socioeconomic status, cultural background, or sexual orientation. Human beings all seem to share common erogenous zones, the scientists conclude. This suggests that in most cases, our sexual proclivities are hard-wired, not based on ethnicity or experience.

Not only does research tell which parts of the body are the most erotic, but also the optimal speed at which to stroke human skin for maximum pleasure. It's 5- centimeters per second, by the way, just in case you're hoping to do a little experimentation of your own.

Sex During Pregnancy

They say size doesn’t matter, but when it comes to sex during pregnancy, but the size of the female belly and your positions do matter. As the female gets bigger and the pregnancy advances ,many women may feel like they are too big to be to have sex.

The physical realities, however, don’t have to end up being physical limitations when it comes to sex positions during pregnancy as long as the couple start getting a little creative with their positions. Assuming women have gotten an okay to have from their practitioners to continue to have sex, some of these pregnant sex positions may keep a pregnant woman comfortable:
Side-lying positions. If the female lies on her side front-to-front or front-to-back, this position is often the most comfortable sex positions during pregnancy. Both options keep you off your back and the female  does not have to worry about holding up the weight of the belly.
Man on top. The missionary position is fine as long as the man keeps his weight off the woman by supporting himself with his arms. But, if the man likes to have his hands free during sex, try this edge-of-the-bed move. The female lies on the bed on her back and then move a little down so that her bottom is at the foot of the bed and her legs are dangling down to the floor. Then, the man kneels or stands in front of the woman to enter her. To make the her a little  more comfortable, the female may want to prop a couple of pillows under her back.
Woman on top. This classic position is a great pregnant sex position because it doesn’t put any pressure on the female's belly and it enables the woman to control the depth of penetration and clitoral stimulation.
Rear entry. There are plenty of ways to play with this position, a favorite during pregnancy, because it allows the man access without ever having to maneuver around the female's belly. For instance, the woman leans against a wall facing it with the hands spread while the man enters from behind. Another example is the man sits on a chair and the female sits on his lap facing away from him while he enters her.
Sex and the Expecting Man
Men, your partner's pregnant breasts may be swelling, but before you do the obvious, ask before you touch. The breasts of a pregnant woman are likely to feel tender, painful, and not at all sexy especially around the nipple area. She may also be wary about sex and cautious about doing anything too wild or anything at all in bed. Sex during pregnancy is safe but follow her lead  throughout the nine months. If she's not in the mood, if she's feeling too nauseated, or if she's just too plain tired, try again at another time- and be a good sport about it. Remember, she's got a lot going on in her mind and in her body right now so be understanding and patient.  
Also, watch your tongue. As her tummy begins to swell, try to remember that for many women, "showing" often sparks the first fears of becoming fat. Heighten your sensitivity. Run your hand over that miraculous little swell and tell her how much you love her and the baby. And even in jest, never use the words fat, big, wide, round, or any variation thereof - including Buddha-like.
What some people call morning sickness can hit her at any hour of the day or night and it's an absolutely awful feeing (think stomach flu, motion sickness, and the worst hangover of your life all rolled into three or more miserable months). With luck, she'll get past it once she gets out of the first trimester, but until then do whatever you can to make her more comfortable. Bring her foods that quell her queasiness and do not provoke run to the toilet, for instance, ginger ale, smoothies, crackers, etc. And, be there for support when she's hugging the toilet for an hour straight (hold her hair back, bring her some water, rub her back, etc.). Encourage her to eat small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. And remember, no jokes. If you'd been throwing up for ten straight weeks, you wouldn't find it amusing. Neither does she.
Many  so-to-be fathers feel a little left out. After all, she's the one getting all the attention from the practitioner, from the grandparents-to-be, friends, etc. Your impending fatherhood is only in the abstract right now. Don't let yourself become alienated from the process. An open and honest dialogue with your partner about your feelings will remedy any feelings of aimlessness that you might be having. Tell her about your concerns and anxieties, and encourage her to share her feelings as well. Even if your worries seem to pale in comparison to what she's going through right now, they are still valid and need to be shared with your partner. There's nothing more important than communicating with her. This is no time to play the aloof macho-male.  Open up and spill your guts for a change. And remember, the best way to keep from feeling left out is to get involved.
Finally, men, always remember this.  She's the one who is pregnant, not you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Word Games

These statements are for those who love the ambiguity, the philosophy and the idiosyncrasies of the English language:
Atheism is a non-prophet  belief.
If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?
I went to a bookstore and asked the salesclerk , where is the self-help section? She said that if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.
What if there were no hypothetical questions?
Is there another word for synonym?
What do you do if you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?
Would a fly without wings be called a walk?
If the police arrest a mute, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?
Why do they put Braille on drive-through bank machines?
How do they get deer to cross the road only at those yellow road signs which say "Deer Crossing"?
What was the best thing before sliced bread?
Does an egotist talk about other people?
Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?
How is it possible to have a civil war?
How can you release when you have not leased yet?
If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown too?
If you ate both pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?
If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done?  
Whose cruel idea was it to have the word "lisp" have an "s" in it?
Why are hemorrhoids called "hemorrhoids"  and not "assteroids" ?
Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?
If you spin a blind-folded oriental man in a circle three times, does he become disoriented?
Why can an atheist get insurance for acts of God?
Why do shops have signs which say "guide dogs only". Dogs cannot read and their owners are blind.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dangerous Food from China

or are you willing to die so that the Chinese and the U.S. food importers can make obscene profits?

Where does your processed chicken products come from like chicken nuggets and chicken tenders ? The answer may not be straightforward following the U.S. Department of Agriculture's announcement on Friday that it has approved four Chinese poultry processors to begin shipping chicken to the U.S.  According to The New York Times, the poultry that the Chinese processors are allowed to ship will be initially only restricted to cooked meat from birds raised in the U.S. But, critics worry that the rules will change in the future, opening the door for poultry raised and slaughtered in China, a country notorious for its food safety problems, to be shipped to the U.S.

Among those critics is Tony Corbo, a senior lobbyist for the advocacy group Food and Water Watch. This is the first step towards allowing China to export its own domestic chickens to the U.S., he told the Times.  Corbo has good reason to be concerned. In the last months alone, Chinese police discovered an illegal food smuggling plot to sell 46 year-old chicken feet treated with bleach, a criminal ring accused of selling rat and fox meat as lamb, and abnormally high levels of cadmium, a metal that can cause cancer and other illnesses, in rice. Also troubling, is incidents of avian-flu in China, an explosion at a Chinese poultry factory in June killed at least 119 people, and an incident in which 20,000 birds were euthanized after 6 people died after eating contaminated birds.  

Unlike other meat imported to the U.S., at the insistence the U.S. chicken industry,  the poultry shipped by Chinese processors will not require point-of-origin labeling. Under USDA rules, the labeling does not apply to foods that have been cooked. "Consumers will have no way to tell if those chicken nuggets in the supermarket freezer were processed in the U.S. or in China" writes Bloomberg correspondent Adam Minter. Moreover, the USDA will not require its own regulators to supervise the processors on premises.
Point-of-origin labeling is relatively new in the U.S. But, it has proven to be popular with consumers and unpopular with meat producers. (What else is new?)  In July, industry groups filed a suit against the USDA, which charges that requiring more information about a product's origin on its label is too expensive and provides no benefit to public safety or health.


If a diner in the U.S. consumes a lunch of tilapia, mushrooms and spinach, there’s a decent chance the entire meal was imported from China. And the overwhelming odds are that none of those foods were inspected by the Food and Drug Administration when they arrived in the U.S.

Chinese food product imports to the U.S. are continuing to rise, but inspections in both China and the U.S. aren’t keeping pace, posing a growing danger to consumers. Many of the imports are used by restaurants, institutions and food processors; as a result, consumers see no labels, keeping them unaware of the origins of what they’re ingesting.

Chinese imports dominate some food categories to a striking extent. In a testimony before a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in May, food safety expert Patty Lovera noted that China accounted for 80% of tilapia, 51% of cod, 49% of apple juice, 34% of processed mushrooms, 27% of garlic and 16% of frozen spinach consumed in the U.S. in 2011.

Reports on the state of Chinese food processing establishments are discouraging. More than half of food processing and packaging firms on the Chinese mainland failed safety inspections in 2011, according to a report by Asia Inspection, a China-based food quality control company. Meanwhile, in the U. S., inspections of imported food products are minute compared to the total volume of imports. According to a recent study by the Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee in 2011, FDA inspections were a mere 2.3 % of the total of all imported food products.

The same study states that food imports generally have risen 10% annually since 2004, and are continuing to rise (imports grew from $399 million in 2011 to $426 million in 2012). The FDA estimates that food imports from China and India will grow by 9% annually between 2010 and 2020.

There have been many reports in recent years from both domestic and foreign sources about serious violations of food safety in China. These reports have been continuous and alarming. For example. in 2012, China had thousands of dead pigs show up in a major river, was faced multiple milk scandals, and passed off rat meat as edible. In addition, as Ms. Lovera told Congress, that there is “widespread smuggling of products like honey to avoid tariffs and food safety restrictions [and] mislabeled products ‘trans-shipped’ through another country but produced in China.”

Food safety problems are not only a concern to the U.S. The German magazine Der Spiegel recently posted online a list of "rejected food" imported into the EU from China during 2012, including insect-infested potatoes, rabbit meat loaded with antibiotics, oyster sauce with staphylococcus, salmonella-infected ginger, pumpkin seeds contaminated with glass chips and arsenic in frozen calamari. 

An on-going co-operative agreement between the United States and China on attacking common food safety should theoretically provide a foundation on which effective actions could be taken to help deal with quality issues in products destined for the U.S. First signed in 2007, the agreement between the FDA and China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine was renewed for another five years in December.

Under the terms of the agreement, the FDA conducts workshops on U.S. requirements for certain high-risk foods such as farm-raised fish and engages in outreach that enhances Chinese food safety officials’ understanding of American standards and practices. After signing the original agreement, the FDA also opened offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, but that has not led to significantly increased inspections of Chinese food facilities, which totaled only 85 in 2011.

The current relative coolness of U.S.-China relations suggests that prospects of increasing official cooperation, involving even the non-political issue of food safety, are slim. Against that background, Congress might do well to consider increasing the FDA’s budget for inspections. Meanwhile, U.S. foundations, NGOs and government agencies should explore the possibility of funding Chinese NGOs that focus on improving food safety in China. With Chinese regulators seeming unable to control contamination, it may fall to the country’s increasingly rights-conscious citizens to force better enforcement of food safety laws.

According to the South China Morning Post, as much as 70 percent of Chinese rivers and lakes are polluted from industrial facilities like chemical and textile plants.  Recently, residents in Zhejiang, one of the less polluted provinces in China, offered 300,000 Yuan ($50,000) if government officials would dare to swim in the local waterway. No official did.

The U.S. embassy in Beijing releases air pollution reports each hour. Americans living in Beijing depend on that information to decide whether they’ll go out or not at that time.

There have been numerous reports on China’s horrific pollution of air, water, and soil. With that level of pollution, it is almost impossible to have safe food.

Here are the top 5 products imported from China that you should watch out for.  

1. Tilapia
Tilapia is the current fish of favor. Whole Foods Markets are promoting Tilapia with an onsite chef and free tasting. TV commercials promoting Tilapia are frequent. Yet 80 percent of the current tilapia supply (382.2 million pounds per year) comes from China.

It is well known in China fish farmers won’t let their children eat the seafood they cultivate. There was a report in China a few years ago of a young girl living in a fish-farming village who started to get her period at age 7 because of the high levels of hormones used in fish cultivation. Farmers use strong antibiotics and growth hormones to keep fish alive in often overcrowded dirty conditions.

2. Cod
About  51 percent of cod on the U.S. market is from China, or about 70.7 million pounds per year. What is true for tilapia, is equally the case for cod farming.

3. Apple Juice
If you are buying a bargain apple juice that doesn’t taste very good, it might be a product that has traveled a long distance—all the way from China. About 50 percent of the apple juice sold in the United States originates in China—about 367 million gallons per year.
Pesticide residues that remain on fruits, vegetables, and processed foods when they enter the food supply have long been a problem. China is the world’s largest pesticide producer and has largely failed to address illegal or dangerous chemical residues on foods, a fact made evident by the nation’s generous maximum allowable residue levels.

4. Processed mushrooms
Try to steer clear of canned mushrooms; 34 percent of processed mushrooms are from China, or 62.9 million pounds per year.

5. Garlic
There are many ways garlic can enter into all kinds of processed food. About 31 percent of garlic, or 217.5 million pounds per year, is from China. You might see label “organic product,” but in reality, there’s no third party to checking and certifying “organic” products in China. To turn a profit, anyone can label a product as “organic.”

The above information is based on the 2011 data presented on May 8, 2013 in testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hearing on the Threat of China’s Unsafe Consumables. Food imports from China have been increasing by about 7 percent each year.

The big question is, given this irrefutable information, why does the USDA permit the sale of these dangerous foods from China ?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama Concerning Syria

September 3, 2013
Dear Mr. President,
Here we go again!  Bush knowingly lied us into a war in Iraq over weapons of mass destruction that did not exist and now Obama wants to attack Syria on the pretext that they used chemical weapons. The intervention in Iraq ended up in a disaster. Syria is a much worse no-win situation. Even our closest ally, the UK, wants nothing to do with Syria. But, we intend to intervene. Tell me Mr. President, what exactly is the difference between slowing killing a hundred-thousand people with bullets or doing the same thing with gas?
What will we accomplish by attacking Syria? It will not contribute to a victory by the good guys- because there are no good guys in that conflict. It will not get rid of Assad. It will not prevent another chemical attack by the determined and ruthless government. It will not end the conflict. It will not stop the Syrian allies, Russia, Iran, etc. It will not achieve anything except possibly more civilian deaths, increased enmity in the Moslem world, and possible retaliation.  
The U.S. is not the paragon of virtue. We are the only nation to have ever used an atomic bomb against civilians.  We are constantly invading countries, intervening in the internal affairs on sovereign nations, and going to war often under false pretenses.  We have been in more wars in the last 100 years than any nation on earth and have been at constant war since 1941. We are not seen as world's savior. We are viewed by much of the world as interventionist bullies.  Why do we see ourselves as the "world's policeman"?  Isn't that what the U.N. is for?
This nation spends more on its military than the next 12 nations combined. We give the military more money than it requests or needs. And, we do it at the expense of domestic spending on such things as medical research, services for poor children, food stamps, education and the arts.
There was a time when we were the world leader in almost everything, but now we are a world leader in executions, incarcerations, gun violence and religious hypocrisy. We are on a low slide from being a respected leader to a has-been and from a first-world country to a third-world country.
It is now clear that you did not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. What have you done internationally or domestically to deserve this high honor? Nothing. And, in spite of all your campaign rhetoric, you not only have done nothing to halt the decline, but along with the two major political parties, have actually hastened it.
The time has come to say "Enough!".  We are not what we see ourselves as being. We are not God's chosen people. We are not the "shining city on the hill". We are not "a beacon of liberty".  We are not even a full democracy. And, we are not always right.
When will this madness stop?

Respectfully yours.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Great Thinkers, Great Thoughts, No. 36

1. Forget injuries. Never forget kindness. - Confucius
Confucius (Kong-fu-tzu, literally Master Kong; 551- 479 BC) was a Chinese thinker and philosopher. The philosophy of Confucius emphasized personal morality, governmental morality, correct social relationships, sincerity and justice. He advocated strong family loyalty, ancestor worship, respect for elders, and the family as the model for ideal government. He was one of the first to state the principle, Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. Confucius' principles became the basis of Chinese beliefs and traditions.
2.  Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie. - William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare  (1564 -1616) was an English poet and playwright . He is often regarded to be the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 152 sonnets, two long narrative poems and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Among his greatest plays are Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet.
3.Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something. - Plato
Plato (424/423-348/347 BC), was an Ancient Greek philosopher, writer, mathematician, student of Socrates and founder of the Academy of Athens, the first institution of higher education in Europe. Along with Socrates and Aristotle, Plato is credited with laying the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Thirteen letters and thirty-six dialogues dealing with philosophy, ethics, logic, rhetoric and mathematics have been ascribed to him..
4. Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything. - Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922 - 2007) was a 20th-century American novelist, playwright, short story writer, essayist , poet and political activist. Among his most popular novels were Cat's Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973). His work tended to be characterized  as blend of satire, gallows humor and science fiction. In addition, he was a liberal and leftist intellectual, a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and honorary president of the American Humanist Association.
Aldous Leonard Huxley (1894-1963) was an English writer, humanist, pacifist and satirist. He edited Oxford Poetry magazine. He also wrote short stories, poetry, travel works, and film scripts. Huxley spent the later part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death. His best know work is the novel, Brave New World.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1841-1900) was a 19th-century German philosopher poet and composer who wrote on religion, morality, culture, philosophy and science. Nietzsche's influence remains substantial in the philosophies of existential and nihilism. He radically challenged the value and objectivity of "truth". His key ideas include the death of God, perspectivism, and  the nature of power. Central to his philosophy was the idea of life-affirmation. That notion involved an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life's expansive energies however socially prevalent those views might be.
Victor Marie Hugo (1802-1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist. He is one the most famous and best-known French writer. Among volumes of poetry, Les Contemplations is one of the most famous. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Miserables (1862) and Notre-Dame de Paris (aka: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831) are his best-known works. Although a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as time passed and he became an ardent supporter of the republican form of government. And, some of his work dealt with the political issues,  social issues and artistic trends of his day. Hugo's many talents did not include exceptional musical ability;  nevertheless, he had a major impact on the music world through the inspiration that his works provided for 19th and 20th century composers. In addition, Hugo loved music and two famous musicians were his friends, Berlioz and Liszt. 
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 -1827) was a German composer and pianist. He is viewed as a major figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in classical music. His best known compositions are his 9 symphonies, 5 concertos, 32 sonatas and 16 string quartets. He also composed other chamber music, choral works, and songs. A portion of his Symphony No. 9, The Ode to Joy, is the national anthem of the European Union.
The name Lao-tzu means Old Master. No one knows his real name or the dates of his birth or death. However, scholars place his birth between 600 and 300 B.C.E. He is credited with the writing of the Tao-Te Ching (tao means the way of all life, te means the fit use of life by men, and ching means text). Lao-tzu wanted his philosophy to remain a natural way to live life with goodness, serenity and respect. He laid down no rigid code of behavior and believed a person’s conduct should be governed by instinct and conscience. In addition, Lao-tzu believed that human life, like everything else in the universe, is constantly influenced by outside forces. He believed “simplicity” to be the key to truth and freedom. And, he encouraged his followers to observe and to seek to understand the laws of nature, to develop intuition  in order to build up personal power, and to use that power to lead life with love, and without force.
10. Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing himself. - Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910) was a Russian novelist, playwright, essayist and short story writer. His two most famous works are the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. He is considered one of the world's greatest novelists. Tolstoy was a moralistic, social reformer, ethicist and ascetic. His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus caused him to become a fervent Christian and pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance are expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You which profoundly affected the non-violent resistance movements of both Gandhi and Martin Luther King.