Archive for April, 2008

Bob Marley and the dogmas

April 30, 2008

In the name of Jesus Christ, Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church baptized music icon Bob Marley before he died. Some claim the baptism marked Marley’s conversion to Christianity. Did Marley disown the Twelve Tribes of Israel, a Rastafarian order which honors the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (1892-1972) as the divine “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”? Like an Apostle Paul, Bob Marley had spread the teachings of the Twelve Tribes of Israel “to the ends of the earth”. Perhaps Marley had come to believe Jesus and Haile Selassie (a.k.a. Ras Tafari) shared the same spirit. Whichever dogma Bob Marley favored in the last days of his life, he never shed his Rastafarian identity.

You don’t need dreads or smoke ganja or beat Nyabinghi drums or listen to reggae music or worship Haile Selassie or be black to be a “rasta man” who lives from the heart. Rastafarians are a diverse people with many sects and adherents who don’t affiliate with any sect. Rasta is simply a way of life with a common goal of “One Love. One People. One Destiny.” — all bound in unity with Jah (God).

California smokers to be evicted for smoking in rental homes?

April 29, 2008

Today, the California Senate Judiciary Committee will consider Senator Alex Padilla’s bill to explicitly allow owners of rental housing the option to ban smoking on all or a portion of their property.

Padilla’s concern is second-hand smoke, estimated to kill 38,000 Americans per year. “We share the same walls, the same ventilation units,” he says. (The Los Angeles Democrat lives in an apartment too?)

Currently, California landlords are being sued by smokers opposed to their non-smoking rules and by non-smokers for not setting non-smoking rules.

Some critics who are empathetic for the poor contend the bill, if made into law, would cause a huge wave of homeless smokers and their families. Other critics eager to protect the health of their fellow Californians say the bill is too soft and call for the ban of smoking on all apartment complexes.

I say Padilla’s bill is the common sense solution to the problem. Whose property is it anyway? The landlord should have the right to ban or allow smoking anywhere on his property. If tenants don’t like it, they should rent elsewhere. Trust in the free market forces to clear the way for an adequate supply of rental units for smokers.

How the west was nearly lost

April 27, 2008

Western civilization — that is, from which blossomed democracy, art, philosophy, literature, science, and the industrial revolution.

Under General Sabotai the Mongols were prepared to invade Vienna in the first winter months of 1242. No question they would have decimated the city with their vastly superior army of nomadic warriors. At the time no other military force in the world could match their lethal combination of speed, maneuverability, discipline, and weaponry. From there, the Mongols would have pursued conquest into the Low Countries and then France and Italy. Had Antwerp, Paris, or any other European city resisted, the Mongols’ would have destroyed the city to ruins and murdered all of its inhabitants. The alternative of surrendering wasn’t much brighter; the cities would have been torched and the women and children spared for a dreadful life of slavery. This was the modus operandi of the Mongols, who left a trail of blood and tears stretching for thousands of miles, from China to Central Asia to Southern Russia and as far west as Hungary.

How then was Western Europe saved from this horrific fate? The turn of events was spurred by the timely death of Ogadai, Khan of the Mongols and third son of the infamous Genghis Khan. General Sabotai followed the Mongol law which required him to be present in the homeland to choose a new Khan. The formidable Mongol army never returned to Europe again.

For source material, read ‘The death that saved Europe‘ in the fascinating book, What If?, edited by Robert Cowley.

War for dummies

April 25, 2008

A friend once told me, “War resides in human nature. War comes as natural as breathing to mankind. On the onset of war, people grow excited to join to kill the monotony of everyday life. War empowers them with the feeling of being very much alive. Mankind finds no glory in farm work, factory work, or work in the service sector, especially with petty compensation. Since ancient times, virtually all the mythological heroes were warriors, and war was the only means to feel connected to them. History books highlight wars. Peace times are glossed over. War will always have a central place in the hearts of men.”

Indeed, we live in a crazy world. I am not one to advocate dismantling a powerful American defense, which includes deterrence with nuclear weapons. Liberty must be protected with a feared military defense. However, this notion of a preemptive war strikes a dangerous chord and crosses the boundary of a legitimate defense. If there is a lesson learned from the Iraqi War, I hope it’s the realization of the insanity of a preemptive war strategy.

For an interesting and recent editorial piece on the insanity of war, read Paul C. Campos’s Warrior envy, mass psychosis and McCain.

Don’t cry over spilt raw milk

April 22, 2008

Much of what I was about to write about raw milk has already been said here, so I’ll add just a few things.

M.L. Johnson writes: Pasteurization should not affect milk’s taste, texture or nutritional content, aside from a slight loss of vitamin C, said Robert Bradley, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who has worked in food science for 44 years. However, the process can destroy proteins and enzymes that help the body absorb vitamins and digest lactose, said Michelle Babb, a registered dietitian who teaches at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash. High heat also can damage water-soluble B vitamins, she said.

Where I think the raw milk lovers have got it right is cream on top, organic milk from grass fed cows. Cream on top milk tastes better. Organic is safer. Dairy (and beef) products from grass-fed cows is more nutritious. Farmers should market it as such. Why put people’s health at risk and worry about a high probability of litigation by not pasteurizing? To misquote Peter Tosh: Pasteurize it. Don’t criticize it, and I will advertise it.

PharmaSCANDALcals

April 18, 2008

Don’t let Pharmas fool ya with their aggressive television advertising blitz. Their strategy to increase the bottom line: convince healthy people to buy old drugs for “symptoms” they really never had noticed before or shouldn’t worry about. The ads clearly exploit people’s anxieties and insecurities.

GlaxoSmithKline’s commercial for RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome) runs more like a Saturday Night Live skit. We’re to believe millions are suffering from this — to quote Justin Rohrlich — “extremely rare condition discovered in 1945 by Swedish doctor Karl Ekborn.” Who ever heard of RLS before this ad was broadcast?

It’s not just harmless symptoms they make out to be disastrous, they also target normal behavior like teen rebelliousness, now dubbed by a pharma as “ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder)”.

TV ads for pharmaceuticals often give the illusion you will enter a Jehovah Witness artist’s rendition of paradise only by swallowing the pills, scenes of happy people strolling in a beautiful nature setting. Calm and almost hypnotic music downplays the warnings of serious side effects, which can cause a very real hellish experience. Indeed, a sharp contrast to the serene images of paradise subtilely suggested.

Advertising for smoking is banned for good reason. Adversting for prescriptions should be banned as well. Let the medical doctors dispense drugs without undue influence from the marketers.

Unhealthy “health food nuts”

April 17, 2008

An apple a day won’t keep the doctor away. Even an organic apple won’t do! Some vegans, raw foodists, macrobiotics, food allergy elimination enthusiasts, and vegetarians are learning this the hard way through debilitating health.

What begins as a desire to lead a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious food can turn into an eating disorder called orthorexia. While the anorexia and bulimia sufferer fails to eat enough food or is in the habit of vomiting, the orthorexia sufferer is obsessed with the quality of food. Junk food, artificial ingredients, trans fats, and high fructose corn syrup never reach anywhere near their lips.

Sadly, the obsession for “pure” food often deepens to an extreme, leading to a too strict diet. A puritanical witch hunt for ingredients plays out in the mind of the orthorexia sufferer when reading labels and preparing foods. Lost is the most fundamental principal of healthy eating: a balanced diet.

For more on orthorexia read Health Food Junkies by Steven Bratman, M.D., who coined the term for this eating disorder he had suffered. Can’t trust a medical doctor who may prescribe “unnatural meds”? Then consider what this inquisitive cyclist has to say on the matter (and yes, I know it’s satire).

Robots, not immigrants! — Japan’s solution to labor shortage

April 15, 2008

Wipe the sweat off your brow; the Terminator is not made in Japan! Robots in Japan cannot be more different than the crazed Terminator. Hardwired into their chips is the boy scout creed of “friendly, helpful, courteous.” Leave it to the robots to serve tea, plant rice, prepare sushi, vacuum, and feed the elderly…all without one word of complaint (none filed to date).

In addition to this emerging robotic servant class, Hiroko Tabuchi reports over 370,000 robots work at Japanese factories in 2005, while the Trade Ministry is shooting for 1 million by 2025. This goal is easily obtainable given the decreasing costs for machinery and the ROI (return on investment). Tabuchi: “A single robot can replace about 10 employees, the roadmap assumes — meaning Japan’s future million-robot army of workers could take the place of 10 million humans. That’s about 15% of the current work force.”

Incredibly productive or not, robots often get no respect. Tabuchi reports from a waiting room at Aizu Chuo Hospital: “It just told me to get out of the way!” huffed wheelchair-bound Hiroshi Asami, 81. “It’s a robot. It’s the one who should get out of my way.”

Don’t say that too loud, Mr. Asami. You might agitate a violent, robotic revolution.

Backpackers not welcome in world’s newest democracy

April 14, 2008

Tucked in the Himalayas, the Shangrila hermit kingdom of Bhutan became the world’s newest parliamentary democracy on March 24, 2008, transisting from monarchy. Shed no tears for the beloved, disempowered Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Last year he abdicated his throne to his Oxford educated son to take on the job of democracy’s leading salesman to the Bhutanese. The ex-monarch believes democracy will promote GNH or “gross national happiness.”

Sorry, foreign backpackers. You won’t get a taste of Bhutan’s GNH. Independent travel in Bhutan is forbidden. Visitors must book travel through a registered Bhutanese tour operator, who will arrange for them to be chaperoned from one expensive resort to another.

Much worse off than foreign backpackers who can’t pitch tents in Bhutan’s lush valleys, pristine forests, and mystical mountains are the 100,000 ethnic Nepalese who have lived in refuge camps in Nepal since 1990 after a crackdown on their demand for — are you ready for this? — democracy. The ethnic Nepalese are disenfranchised because the government considers them illegal immigrants.

Vitamin Supplements or Poison?

April 12, 2008

Despite its enormous political clout the pharmaceutical industry is subject to the rigors of testing for safety and effectiveness prior releasing their drugs on the market. Not so for the makers of vitamin supplements and homeopathic remedies thanks to the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. In an ironic twist, those chugging down vitamin and mineral pills to enhance their health instead may be consuming toxic agents. Some nutrients like vitamin B6 don’t take much to reach the threshold of megadose. For more on this story click here, and “don’t forget to take your vitamins.”