Sunday, June 28, 2009

Books! My Favorite Topic

I saw a list similar to the following on Joe's facebook last night. This is the Top 100 List from a BBC survey of favorite books. From what I can tell, they did this survey several years ago in conjunction with their The Big Read program. Apparently, The Big Read was and still is an effort to promote a higher level of national literacy in the United Kingdom. They have a web site with several links to ideas for starting reading groups based on tackling the Top 100 list.

The list our friend, Alex, posted on facebook was somewhat different, but allegedly it was also the BBC one. On that list, I came out at 39 books of the 100. This list I only got 38. Either way, kind of humiliating for me, since I pride myself on reading lots of classics. I've been on a pulp fiction wave lately. It takes so much less thought. I"ll have to get my nose back to the classics grindstone.

Although I did not find this factoid anywhere on the BBC pages, Alex said that the average person has only read 6 titles. So I guess I did OK from that perspective. But Alex scored 40 and that gets up my competitive dander.

I'll have to request a few from the list for my summer reading. Actually, if I finished the several I have started in the past and read the others that we have here on our home shelves, I'd probably bump that number up to about 60. Who needs a public library when one is a compulsive used book buyer?

I was interested to see His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, in the #3 slot. That is the trilogy which includes The Golden Compass. The Golden Compass was the movie that generated so much publicity a while back. Allegedly His Dark Materials is a series which is the anti-Christian counterpart to C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. I've never read any of Pullman's books, but perhaps I should just to see what they're like. I did pull Once Upon a Time in the North off the library shelf once because it had an interesting cover.

I was, of course, happy to see Pride and Prejudice in the #2 slot and to see so many other Jane Austen titles in the list.

You'll notice I marked the ones I've read. Sorry about the goofy formating. I can't figure out how to do a tab on here.

Take a look an see how you score.

So here goes:
Yes 1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
Yes 2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
Yes 4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Yes 5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Yes 7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
Yes 9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
Yes 10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Yes 12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Yes 18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Yes 22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
Yes 23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
Yes 24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
Yes 25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
Yes 26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
Yes 27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
Yes 28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Yes 30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
Yes 35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
Yes 36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
Yes 38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
Yes 40. Emma, Jane Austen
Yes 41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
Yes 46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
Yes 47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
Yes 51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
Yes 56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
Yes 58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
Yes 59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
Yes 63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Yes 64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
Yes 70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
Yes 74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
Yes 81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
Yes 83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
Yes 87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
Yes 90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On Conspiracies

I have recently heard some stuff. I vacillate between being intrigued and inwardly rolling my eyes. I really like to believe that our civic leaders are basically moral people. I don't like to hear that prominent people I respect, even though I might disagree with some of their decisions, are crooks or underhanded or power grabbers.

This is not a perfect world. There will always be intrigue and deceit and manipulators. There will also always be conspiracies. When I keep in perspective that God is in full control, it keeps me from fretting. But even though I am not fretting. I still like to know the truth. I'm still curious. I don't want to be duped. But also, I don't want to be naive.

What am I talking about? Control of world events. Ever heard of the Bilderburgers? I'll let you do a search on them if you want to know more. According to Wikipedia, from a source they call grreported,
The Bilderberg Group, Bilderberg conference, or Bilderberg Club is an unofficial, annual, invitation-only conference of around 130 guests, most of whom are persons of influence in the fields of politics, business, and banking. The participants talk about a variety of global issues, economic, military, and political.
Sounds pretty benign. But as the above linked Wikipedia article also states, conspiracies have followed this secretive group.

Charlie Skelton, of Guardian has documented his experience trying to report on the May 2009 Bilderberg meeting. I've not read the entire series. The first several articles are kind of light hearted.

Politico writer, Kenneth Vogel wrote an interesting article, Bilderbergers Excite Conspiracists. Mr. Vogel appears to write off the idea of a world wide conspiracy in the Bilderbergers, but he also gives objective information about why the group is the object of conspiracies.

Recently my husband picked up a book from the public library, The Rise of the Fourth Reich:The Secret Societies that Threaten to take over America, by Jim Marrs. I don't think Joe read much of it. It was not what he thought it was when he picked it up. I found the title interesting, so I browsed through it also.

The gist of this book is that various secret groups such as the Bilderbergers and the Trilateral Commision, and several others are fronts for the Nation Socialist Part, aka Nazis. And further that these groups have worked to plant members in positions of power here in the US and abroad in order to manipulate the social order.

Interestingly, The Rise of the Fourth Reich author, Jim Marrs also wrote Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy the book upon which Oliver Stone's JFK is based. My impression is that this movie was pure political fiction. I've never read the book but, my having seen the JFK movie and knowing that it was based upon Mr. Marrs' book did flavor my impression of The Rise of the Fourth Reich.

I just read George and Laura, Portrait of an American Marriage, by Christopher Andersen. I had also read, long ago, Barbara Bush: A Memoir. Both of these books made me really like the Bush family.

I can't say that I know much about the first President Bush. I was only just coming into political awareness during that time. Perhaps anyone following immediately after Ronald Reagan would seem mediocre. But I do remember really thinking highly of him and his wife, as people, after reading Mrs. Bush's memoir.

I am old enough at this point to have more opinions regarding the younger Bush and his presidency. I think he was strong on many things. Really great. He was just the right man to have in power after 9/11. He appointed many strict constructionist federal judges. He kept additional strains of embryonic stem cells from being exploited. On the other hand, he added to the bloat of the federal bureaurocracy in so many areas.

After reading George and Laura, I really like them as people. On so many levels.

I don't want to, (nor do I) think, for instance, that President Bush planned the 9/11 attacks so he could consolidate his power. I don't like to think he was a pawn of some secret global movers and shakers. I don't even believe that he intentionally falsified intelligence in order to move the war on terror into Iraq.

I know this flies in the face of what some of my conservative friends believe. Sorry.

When all is said and done, I have to remember Psalm 2:1-6
Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.
We humans can plot and connive all we want. We can be naive on the one hand or duped by a false conspiracy on the other. But when all is said and done, God will sit in His heavens and laugh. We can rest assured that His King is on His Holy Hill. What more do we need?

I'm Appalled

This is kind of old news, but I didn't have a chance to write about it when it was fresh. I am sick, sick, sick of the media bias. Bad enough when the regular news is reported in a one-sided fashion. There are plenty of examples of that out there.

But shame on two "non-news" personages last week.
  1. Playboy's Guy Cimbalo and his naughty take on conservative women, one of whom is Michelle Bachmann, who represents Minnesotans in Washington. I don't really want to leave any links for this one. If you don't know what I'm talking about and only if you're an adult, do your own research.
  2. David Letterman and his joke about Gov Palin's daughter. Madhenmom at The Blog I Would Write... has several posts addressing this episode. My favorite is "Sarah and Me", but check them all out. Especially if you want to find out how to make your voice heard.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Breakfast Ideas

My friend, Char, has started a blog to highlight healthier breakfasts. Check it out for hot breakfast ideas.

Here's something I used to do quite often. It's not very frequent any more, since I operate a mostly gluten free kitchen, with twelve eaters in the household. I don't do much baking, and of those things I do bake there's never much left over.

Bread Pudding. It can be made ahead and eaten cold or re-heated easily if you have people breakfasting at various times.

Just cube up all your dried ends of bread or baked goods (coffee cake, muffins, etc), or things that didn’t turn out quite right, or even the good stuff works, too, and put them in a baking dish. Mix up eggs and milk, sweetener of your choice (does not need much), add cinnamon or other spices and a bit of vanilla and pour it over the bread cubes. Bake.

The best way to eat it is to serve warm with fresh cream. Or for more protein make a custard sauce to pour over. Some people like butter melted on top. Or dot the top with butter before baking. Try soaking overnight before baking. Add raisins or grated apples or nuts. For a moister pudding, keep a dish of water in the oven. Lots of variations.

My basic recipe calls for 4 eggs, 2 c milk, 1/3 c sugar and 3 c bread cubes, bake until set, 35-40 min. I use that as a starting point and just go from there depending on what I have.

The amounts of everything is very lose. You want enough liquid to cover the bread most of the way. If you have more, it will be less bready and more egg/milky, the consistency of a quiche or egg bake. The more milk you use compared to egg, the longer you must cook it. Or it may not set well all, more like a bread cube porridge.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Breakfast of Champions

What on earth does extruded mean? From what I can tell, it refers to the process by which already processed grain mush is forced through various machines at extremely high pressure in order to form the stars and flakes and puffs which make up the bulk of cold cereal varieties.

Well and good. What does that have to do with health and nutrition? I am going to attempt to answer this via a circuitous route. I am going to use corn as an example.

Corn meal
Total Fat 1 g
Sodium 10 mg
Total Carbohydrates 23 g (2 of which are sugars)
Protein 2 g

Corn Flakes
Total Fat o mg
Sodium 200 mg
Total Carbohydrates 24g (2 g of which are sugars)
Protein 2 g

According to these basic facts, corn flakes except for the sodium, is pretty comparable to corn meal. In the name of efficiency, isn't the time saved a fair compromise? Corn meal has to be prepared: mush, corn bread, tortillas, etc. Carbs are carbs, right. Proteins are proteins. And so on. I've heard many people say that if the components are the same, why does it make a difference whether the food item is processed or not. Or whether it is artificial or not.

Not being a chemist or biophysicist, I've never had a good answer to these questions. I still don't know much. It's very easy in the field of health, to be drawn into a "he said, she said" situation. Probably we all know how it feels to be using data to support an argument and have someone else come with data that seems to be equally valid, but from an opposing viewpoint. Instinctually, I guess, I'm more of a natural is better person.

We still eat cold cereal. Not every morning, but much more often than I'd like. As homeschool mom, I can handle teaching the food pyramid and the pop-nutrition facts. And I do introduce those ideas. Mostly while doing food prep or sitting at the table during and after meals. But it somehow seems so inadequate when there are so many ideas of health out there. And since those same Department of Health and pop-nutrition maxims change constantly, I hesitate to teach them as "nutrition facts."

So in the name of giving my kids a better explanation of why I don't like to feed them like breakfast cereal, here's what I've learned.

First off is the idea of processed grains. Often this means the grain has it's various components removed, to make the final product more stable, palatable, visually appealing and/or more readily shaped into whatever. Components like the bran, the germ, the seed coat are removed. During this step, many nutrients are lost. Things like vitamins and nutrients, essential fatty acids, fiber, and the enzymes that help us digest the proteins and carbs. Some of these, in an artificial form, are later added back in. Then, see, it can be called fortified.

Often times, the next step is adding chemicals to bleach and further stabalyze what's left of the grain.

Then finally the extruding process. Once all the necessary nutrients are stripped, what's left? Can it hurt us? From what I understand, this process changes the chemical shape of the proteins. These proteins are much harder on our system. Especially the organs of the endocrine system, the kidneys and pancreas. Some go so far as to use the word toxic to describe these new proteins.

What got me thinking about this was a reference in a reader comment to one of the blogs I sometimes read, Kelly the Kitchen Kop. The topic of the post was breakfast cereals and why they are bad for us. Two different commenters mentioned a study in which three groups of laboratory rats were fed as follows. One group got water, one group got cold cereal and water, one group got the box the cereal had come in and water.

According to these commenters, the group that got the box lived longer than the group that got the cereal. I don't know about the validity of these studies. A person can find a study to say just about anything. But I got a kick out one of Kelly's commenters, "So, if you’re going to have cereal, make sure to have a piece of the box as well."

Somewhere I think I saw that MythBusters did an episode on this. I can't find anything that says how it turned out. For those of you who might be fans of Jamie and Adam and company, I did find someone mention that the unaired portion included lots of blowing up the, uh, control group.

I found another reference to what I think is the same study at Nourished Magazine. The author, Sally Fallon is well respected within the alternative health and nutrition arena. She also cites another similar study.
One group received plain whole wheat, water and synthetic vitamins and minerals. A second group received puffed wheat (an extruded cereal), water and the same nutrient solution. A third set was given only water. A fourth set was given nothing but water and chemical nutrients.

The rats that received the whole wheat lived over a year on this diet. The rats that got nothing but water and vitamins lived about two months. The animals on water alone lived about a month. But the company’s own laboratory study showed that the rats given the vitamins, water and all the puffed wheat they wanted died within two weeks—they died before the rats that got no food at all. It wasn’t a matter of the rats dying of malnutrition. Autopsy revealed dysfunction of the pancreas, liver and kidneys and degeneration of the nerves of the spine, all signs of insulin shock.

For more on extruded cereals and also health in general from the above Ms Fallon, see the Weston A. Price Foundation web site. Ms Fallon organized this foundation to promote her ideas on metabolism, slow foods, and wellness in general. She is, I think, a biophysicist. Some may find Ms Fallons writing acerbic, but even so, there is information there for the gleaning.

Sally Fallon has published, along with Mary Enig, Nourishing Traditions, which is a very comprehensive "Nutrition 101." In it, Fallon introduces the readers to what she considers the most dangerous myths in popular nutrition regarding the various components of our diets, for instance, fats, dairy products, grains, meats, etc. She also gives what she considers better alternatives. In the second half, Fallon includes recipe suggestions using the alternative ideas.

Ms. Fallon has also published a book called Eat Fat, Lose Fat, that highlights the metabolic problems that are rampant today in large part because of, in her opinion,adherence to a heart healthy lowfat diet. She gives menu and lifestyle suggestions for three categories of readers, those who want to lose a significant amount of weight, those who could lose a bit, and those who just want to make lifestyle choices to include healthier fats.

Getting back to my kids and their desire for breakfast cereal. They always kind of get a glazed expression on their face when I try to teach them about the differing health ideas out there. But they were totally engaged when I read to them the anecdotes of the laboratory rats.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Flynn's Mitch Rapp on Peace

From the closing passage of Executive Power.

It is the eve of a momentous summit on Middle Eastern affairs. Hero and all around tough-guy CIA man, Mitch Rapp is explaining to President Hayes why he's not optimistic about peace in the middle east.

"Sir,...I'm a skeptic as to whether or not that peace will ever become a reality."

The president frowned. He did not want his good mood spoiled. "Why do you think that."

"Because there's an element within the Arab world that will settle for nothing short of the total destruction of Israel."

"That element hasn't been invited to the table. Israel and Palestine must coexist side by side. There is no other choice."

"I agree, sir, but that element doesn't want to be invited to the peace table. That's the problem. They only want the destruction of Israel."

"So, what would you advise me to do?" asked a cautious Hayes.

Exactly what your're doing, sir. Just make sure you hold no illusions about what it will take to really make peace. Those groups that don't want peace need to be dealt with, and there's only one thing they understand."

"What's that?"

Rapp reached behind his back with his left hand and drew out his gun. He wanted to make his point with the president, bring him back down from the clouds. This part of the peace process was easy, with civilized men and women gathering in a magnificent city like Paris, talking about noble causes while the world press lauded them with accolades. At night they all went to bed secretly dreaming that one day soon they would win the Nobel Peace Prize, while several thousand miles away young Palestinian boys and girls were being trained to blow themselves up in the name of their god. Those so-called martyrs cared little about documents signed in fancy rooms by fancy men. It was not possible to reason with unreasonable people.

Rapp held his gun in the palm of his hand for the president to see, and said, "This is the only thing zealots understand, sir. If you want peace in the Middle East they need to be dealt with. Only then will Israelis and Palestinians be able to live side by side."
Perhaps there are real life world leaders who can learn from the fictional Mitch Rapp?

Local Color

I just finished reading Vince Flynn's Executive Power. I have to pat myself on the back a bit, because I actually picked it up from the library 2 weeks before I allowed myself to start it. I had goals I needed to accomplish before I could read it, so I kept walking past the library box where the book was, truly, screaming for my attention each time I saw it there.

Flynn included in his book an interesting reference, a cameo appearance one might say, of a local Minnesota personality. When Joe and I lived in Mankato, we could tune into AM1500 from the Twin Cities while in our car. We would periodically listen to Joe Soucheray, host of the Garage Logic radio show. Since that time, Mr. Soucheray's show has spread and we've picked it up on a number of different stations around MN. His basic schtick is that good ol' boys sitting around their garages tinkering and tipping back a few cold ones have the wisdom to solve the world's problems if only someone would listen.

Mr. Flynn is also from the Twin Cities. Some readers familiar with the Garage Logic show will appreciate the following quote.

CIA director and single mom of seven year old Timmy, Irene Kennedy, is musing about the male role models in her son's life.
There was also the quirky Frenchman a few doors down, Mr. Soucheray, who hung out in his garage all day listening to the radio, tinkering with an endless array of gadgets and pursuing his lifelong fascination with the internal combustion engine.
I really enjoy it when an author can include cultural illusions, both well known and obscure, that bring pleasure to those who notice them, without detracting from the pleasure of those who are not in the know.

No Strings Attatched

Char just sent me a comment related to the Mark Steyn post from may 26th. I added the comment there, but I also wanted to give it its own post. Char pointed me to this article in the Wall Street Journal, How Hillsdale Beats Harvard. I've heard it said that private colleges are still totally independent if the only government moneys they accept are the federal student grants and loans.

Here is a good example of how that works. Or doesn't.

Kudos to Hillsdale College for consistency.

God is Good

As my husband has periodically reminded me, we shouldn't remember and acknowledge God's goodness only when we have obvious reminders of it. He is always good. But I had an experience lately that caused me to rejoice more than usual in His providence.

A week ago, Saturday, I loaded up my nine younger children, ages 5 months to almost 15 years. We had a graduation party for Joe's cousin and our Goddaughter, Amber, to attend in Redwood Falls, which is a little over a five hour drive south of us. We were then continuing on to Joe's parents' house where our oldest son Jeremy lives during the school year. He attends ECHO Charter School at a town near them. Since his school year was complete, we were bringing him home with us. Yeah!

Getting back to the story, I was driving along; all was well; we were listening to Focus on the Family Radio Theater, The Secret Garden. Our vehicle is pretty noisy, more so on a windy day like it was that day. Because of the noise, we were struggling to hear the story even at full volume. Suddenly, about half way between Sebeka and Wadena, it became much harder to hear over the thump, thump, thump from outside. I was tempted to ignore the sound, being used to the constantly changing racket of the van. But when it became apparent that I was having difficulty keeping the van from pulling over into the oncoming traffic, I suspected a flat tire.

Ah yes, the front driver's side. Flat as can be. Those steel belt wire things poking out all over. Big blowout site. Not just one of those "fix the hole and re-inflate" situations, but a "need a new tire right now" situation. Besides which, I suspected that I had no jack or spare. And it was, may I remind you, a Saturday afternoon. In the middle of nowhere. Truthfully, I was not even sure where we were. I remembered going through Sebeka, but I couldn't remember in which order the towns occurred, and I could not remember going through Menahga.

Just having a cell phone was reassuring. I knew that I could call Joe. I could call a tow truck. I could call 911 if need be. Thank you for technology. But I still had no idea how to tell them to find me. Somewhere on US71 heading south. That's a pretty big area.

After trying the two farm sites immediately adjacent, and finding no one home, Matt tried the next one down; not far, maybe 2 or 3 hundred yards. Thank you for teen age boys. Soon he returned on a golf cart driven by a Mr. Wells.

Upon seeing how far gone my tire was, Mr. Wells suggested I back into his driveway where he could work on my poor van more easily. I was a bit reluctant to try this, since I HATE backing up in this van. After a few tense minutes, I made it without managing to back into the flow of traffic.

I unloaded the kids and settled them under a lilac bush with our picnic lunch. Mr. Wells and Matt removed my flattened tire and then he gave me a ride into Wadena to see whether we could find a tire shop open on a Saturday afternoon. The second place we tried, Cenex, was open. Thank you for Cenex. They had a tire the size we needed. Thank you for tire. Soon we were on the way back to the house.

Before we went into town Mr. Wells had taken me into his house to meet his wife. He told her the kids were outside having a picnic lunch and the older ones would watch the younger. I was a little bit nervous about leaving them. Not that I feared for their safety at the hands of a strange woman. I suppose something bad could happen, but I like to believe in the lauded "Minnesota Nice" idea. I was, however, nervous the kids would have been naughty or caused Mrs. Wells extra stress. Mean, we're talking about nine children playing in a stranger's yard in this age of liability suits. I would not ever hold anyone accountable for my children getting hurt in the normal course of playing on someone else's property. Certainly not when this family was rescuing me. But Mrs. Wells had no way of knowing that.

And so we returned to find the kids playing nicely; Mrs. Wells was sitting on the front steps visiting with various of them. She did not seem at all bothered by this unusual Saturday happenstance.

When I got back from town, Inge was in immediate need of her mother, so I sat on the steps to take care of her needs. After Mr. Wells got the van "ready to roll", he gave the kids rides in his golf cart. Then he let the older ones drive each other around.

When we were ready to leave, I offered him some money for his time and work and he replied, "Absolutely not. You made our day."

Well, let me tell you, that is not what a mother of nine would expect to hear from someone. I always feel I must apologize for the sheer number of us. We are a bit overwhelming. It really made my day to have such a wonderful flat tire experience.

The behavior of the Wells' reminds me of one of my favorite Bible passages, Hebrews 13:2 "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

I certainly can not hold claim to any of my family members being angels, but I do thank God for providing us with a couple of angels that day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Manipulating Statistics and Other Peeves

Have you heard the figure being tossed about that there are 50 million uninsured people in America?

The idea that our government wants to nationalize the healthcare industry angers me on so many fronts. I don't even know where to begin. Let me try to be clear. In my frustration that may not be an easy task.

First, national healthcare does not work.
  • Ask all the doctors who have come to America from Canada or England to practice medicine because they were no longer allowed to practice medicine according to their own standards of good care.
  • Ask all the patients in those and other countries who have to wait years for treatment. Or who are denied treatment because it is deemed too costly.
  • Ask those who come to America at great personal expense because here they can get the treatments they need.
  • Or consider the State of Oregon whose state run medical program has not payed for treatments that are not on their "approved list" but will foot the bill for physician assisted suicide. Read more about these cases here and here and here. Asounding.
Second, the federal government has a very poor track record on the various things they try to control and manage for us. Think social security. I heard segments of a speech President Obama made recently in which he used the term "unsustainable" to refer to the rising cost of healthcare. What is unsustainable is the idea that the government can continue to take over large segments of the American economy. Last fall it was the banks, now the automobile industry, soon healthcare.

Where does it end? And who is going to pay for it? Obviously the tax payers.

And guess what. The pool of people otherwise known as the American tax payer is getting smaller and smaller. With the new tax policies going into effect, more voting Americans than not will pay no national income tax. Do I mean that I wish for more taxes? Not at all. But think about the implications. Those who don't pay any income tax often receive that great big annual bonus known as the Earned Income Credit. I know because we fall into this category. What this means is that each April or May, I get a big chunk of money from the federal government that came out of someone else's pocket. (Do I send it back? I guess I am not that noble. But I do experience pangs of conscience.)

What I am getting at is that for the first time in American history, more people will be receiving for free all the variety of government services available. Be it the traditional welfare type programs such as food stamps, WIC, housing assistance; government financial gifts such as tuition grants or the Earned Income Credit; or the many services our government offers or helps offer to all citizens such as protection from enemies, education and infrastructure. Who is going to be left to vote against such continued federal government growth if everyone is on the dole? Pity the poor souls, again the ever decreasing number of them, who pay for all this.

The third reason I get irate thinking about the healthcare industry is that those discussing these policy changes manipulate the numbers in order to secure more support for their programs. I hate being a statistic used by someone to support something I don't believe in. My family has in recent years been uninsured for short periods of time. We did this by choice. We chose not to purchase health insurance. I'll save that logic for another post. But when I hear politicians claiming that they need to step in because people are uninsured, I get my hackles up.

From Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny
In 2006, the Census Bureau reported that there were 46.6 million people without health insurance. About 9.5 million were not American citizens. Another 17 million lived in households with incomes exceeding $50,000 a year and could, presumably, purchase their own health care coverage. Eighteen million of the 46.6 million were between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four, most of whom were in good health and not necessarily in need of health-care coverage or chose not to purchase it. Moreover, only 30 percent of the nonelderly population who became uninsured in a given year remained uninsured for more than twelve months. Almost 50 percent regained their health coverage within four months. The 47 million "uninsured" figure used by Pelosi and others is widely inaccurate.
(In his book, Mr. Levin includes references for the above statistics. Also, to hear him speak on this subject, check out yesterday's Mark Levin Show.)

So when you hear the figure 50 million uninsured Americans, be skeptical. Be very skeptical.

There is a final reason why I don't like the discussions surrounding the healthcare crisis in America. Never are the two reasons that seem to me most obvious given adequate hearing: the soaring costs physicians have to pay for malpractice insurance and the great quality of medical care to which we Americans have become accustomed.

This may sound harsh, but when we are ready to stop suing our medical practitioners, when we are ready to stop going to the doctor for every little thing, when we are ready to die instead of using the wide variety of expensive cures that are available, we can complain about the high costs.