Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sugar makes you stupid

What sugar does to you:

Sugar makes you stupid, literally: High-carb diet is linked to early Alzheimer's. Carbohydrates are a complex form of sugar. In digestion carbs, whether complex carbs or simple carbs, are broken down chemically into sugars and then metabolized. More on the link with Alzheimer's here. The link is so strong that the NY Times asks, "Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes?" But not just middle-aged and older adults should eschew sugar- and carb-rich diets. So should children since such diets are directly the cause of obesity and poor school performance because sugar makes you stupid. Also, see Science Daily on the subject. Now, order and read this book:

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Why Gun Control Is Racist

It's usually a cold day in the devil's domain when I agree with Cornel West on much, but I have been saying this for a long time:
Cornel West recently expressed his belief that the concern Americans have about mass murder reflects a racist lack of concern with the real problem with murder, which is largely black on black.
I left my post below as comment on a post at Outside the Beltway several days ago. West's comments are a good hook to post it here:

If gun controllers were honest and familiar with the facts, they would admit that America does not have a “gun problem,” we have a gang problem.
America’s horrific murder rate is a result of the transformation of major American cities into Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda and El Salvador. Our murder rate now largely consists of criminals killing criminals.
As David Kennedy, the head of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control, put it, “The majority of homicide victims have extensive criminal histories. This is simply the way that the world of criminal homicide works. It’s a fact.”
The elephant in the room that almost no one on any side of guns issue will admit is that criminal gun use is a race-based issue. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (see links listed at end), despite a fraction of the total population relative to whites, blacks kill one another in higher absolute, not just relative numbers. The homicide rate among American whites is almost the same as among Canadians. Ninety-four percent of black homicide victims are killed by other blacks (86 percent for whites, showing that interracial murder is pretty rare, for whatever that is worth.)
The gun problem in America today is almost exclusively about criminal use of firearms by (mainly) young men who illegally obtain firearms specifically to use in criminal acts. And the majority of of those criminal shootings are blacks shooting other blacks.
That is why I say that the gun control movement is not merely uninformed, it is also inherently racist because it’s only when white grade schoolers or theater goers or US Representatives are shot to pieces that the media and gun controllers get energetic. The two to three Sandy Hooks that occur every week among the black populations of America never draw a protest from the Left.
The entire purpose of the gun control movement is not to stop shootings generally. It is to stop shootings of white people. Not one single measure proposed by Sen. Feinstein or coming forth from VP Biden will have the slightest effect on the gun-homicide rate among blacks, as even Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has said:
However, McCarthy acknowledged aiming at assault weapons misses the mark when dealing with Chicago’s gang violence. The weapon used is generally a handgun and rarely is it purchased through legal channels. McCarthy wants to target straw purchasing, which is when legal gun buyers will purchase a weapon and then let it loose in the illegal market.
Straw purchasing, of course, is already illegal.
But the Left doesn't care what cops like McCarthy say. It’s only the "chocolate kids," as Cornel West puts it, getting killed. As long as it stays inside the inner cities it matters not. But when it takes place in white-bread Connecticut or Aurora, Colo., something must be done!
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Close Encounters of the Redneck Kind


'via Blog this'

Dying to win the lottery

The odds of winning the lottery are even worse than the math says in the long term.
(NEWSER) – The case of a Chicago man who died suddenly weeks after a big lottery win is now being treated as a murder, police say. Urooj Khan scored a $1 million scratchcard win in June and died the day after the check for his winnings was issued the following month, CNNreports. The medical examiner initially declared the death to be from natural causes but after a relative urged doctors to look into the case further, tests revealed that a lethal dose of cyanide had killed the 46-year-old.

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New Answer to Fermi's Paradox?

Radiation From Deep-Space Could Accelerate Alzheimer’s - Business Insider:

Physicist Enrico Fermi postulated that once a civilization attained even rudimentary space flight, it should be able to reach any point in the galaxy in only five million years. The Milky Way, however, is billions of years old.

"So," asked Fermi, "where is everybody?"

One original answer I have seen is that all the alien races we assume are out there are too busy overeating fast food and watching electronic porn to journey millions of light years through space for no good reason.

Now a more technical reason may be in the offing. Turns out that interstellar space flight probably will just plain kill you:


If you get radiation-induced Alzheimer's just going to Mars, it surely means death going to an enormously-farther star.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

The Professional Poor, the Idle Poor and the Poverty Traders

A Boston street scene from the early '80s:

She stood to the left of the entrance for part of the day and to the right for the remainder. You didn't know when she'd shift, but she always seemed to be in your path as you came out of the building. 
Going for some coffee? 
"Spare a quarta?" 
Going to lunch? 
"Spare a quarta?" ...
She got a quarter out of about every fifth person. I once estimated she made about $75 a day, tax free. That worked out to a take homeless of $18,750 a year in 1983. Not bad when you considered that she had zero overhead.
And so operate the Professional Poor, a class of people with whom I have, unfortunately, an intimate familiarity. The Professional Poor are people who make their careers and their incomes out of always being one rent payment away from eviction, one tank of gas away from not being at their dying mother's bedside, one meal away from starvation, one unfilled prescription away from deathly illness. Their vocation is begging. Their client base is anyone who looks likely, but especially pastors, church people and (I don't know how they can tell this, but they can) the guilty-feeling well to do.

The Professional Poor are not lazy. They work hard for their living. The Boston woman was on her feet with almost no break for probably 12 hours per day. I distinguish them from the Idle Poor, who are the welfare class, the people both indigent and indolent, the people being referred to these days are the Entitlement Class. (And I distinguish both from the true Working Poor, of whom I wrote in 2003.)

The Professional Poor plan their days and their calls or sales routes (for they are selling their poverty to you) as carefully as the most successful businessman. They are masters of timing, to wit:

Christmas Eve, 45 minutes before I begin the Christmas Eve service. Through the door by my office walks a haggard-looking woman of indeterminate age (anywhere from 45-75) whom I peg as one of the Professional Poor before she's taken two steps inside the door. They all have a look that gives their game away when you've been dealing with them as long as I have.

I must say that this woman, whose name I purposely don't recall but whom I'll call Clara, had an original beg. She wanted a place to stay with her husband overnight, being too poor to rent a hotel room. She wanted to stay in my home. Or the home of another church member. Or would one of us simply rent her a hotel room? Then they'd continue her journey in the morning. To her sick mother's house. In Wisconsin. (I live in middle Tennessee).

Of course, the Professional Poor can recognize the poor-weary as easily as we can recognize them, so it took her only halfway into her carefully-rehearsed pitch to understand she was dealing with a professional, too. So: time to take it to a higher level - out comes the Ziploc quart-size bag crammed full of prescription bottles and the earnest explanations that her sick husband in the car must have enough rest. And proof that they really are Wisconsin residents: here is my Wisconsin driver's license!

The hopeful light in her eyes dims when she hears my reply: "We do all of our direct charitable assistance through two local agencies. One is twenty-five miles away but the other is not even two miles down the street. However, I have no idea whether they are still open on Christmas Eve at this hour. I will be glad to give you directions."

The last thing the Professional Poor want to do is deal with a charity agency. Agencies  know every scam out there and even know the names of the Professional Poor who do them. Agency workers view the Professional Poor with all the compassion of a Swiss banker. 

Clara knows she's not making the sale. She makes a final, desperate push: "Oh, we don't have enough gas to make it that far." (So you intend to drive to Wisconsin how?)

I say nothing because there is nothing to say. Without a word she suddenly bags her props and walks out the door. Like any astute business woman, she knows when to cut her losses. On to the next client.
I once gave to all who asked. Now I give to none. Once a year I write checks to funds for widows and orphans of police, firemen, and soldiers killed in the line of duty. Beyond that, I find I can no longer spare a quarta. And when I hear, in the back of my mind, the old Depression anthem "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" I find that although I can spare it, I no longer want to give it. 
It has taken decades of ceaseless hectoring but at long last my compassion account in the Bank of Human Kindness is overdrawn. I'm tapped out. I still try to care but I find, if I am honest, I couldn't care less.
I still care for the truly beaten down, but I have no compassion for the Professional Poor. I never give to anyone who comes to my church asking for money; we do assist with utilities or grocery purchases, but never on a cash basis. And by never I mean, "never." (What part of "never" don't you understand?) There are countless businesses I do not patronize, so when the Professional Poor come to sell their edge-of-disaster poverty to me, my wallet stays put.

Not everyone agrees with me on this, including other Christians of devout faith and true compassion. Some have made a compelling case that we should give without inquiry or distrust and let God sort it out in his good time. I understand their point.

I reply with two points of my own. First I relate what happened in the late 1990s one county away. A small church there established a cash fund to give to people in need. There was a limit per recipient, about $40 or so, but whenever someone came by, the pastor (according to news reports) would take $40 from the file cabinet and hand it out.

One day a man came by and asked for money. "I will give you forty dollars," the pastor said. "I'll take it all," said the man, pulling out a gun. He murdered the pastor and took all the money.

So I never give money to beggars. They swap information about who is loose with a sawbuck and where. Actually, they usually sell the information to each other since they see each other as marks just as much as they see you. Any church or business that starts handing out cash or freebies one day will find double or triple the opportunities by the end of the week.

My second point is that if I had unlimited resources, then of course I could give everyone who came by everything they asked for. Heck, if I had unlimited resources, I could give them all a new Mercedes-Benz. But I don't. And every time I give to the Professional Poor, I have less to give to the truly needy. (The "truly needy" is of course a cliche now, but they really do exist and we are obligated to help them.)

At least, though, the Professional Poor are working for a living. I'll credit them that even if their living in the scam, the con, fraud and deceit.

Not so with the Idle Poor, who are described by Peter Cove, who, "a half a century ago ... dropped out of graduate school and enlisted as a foot soldier in America’s War on Poverty." 
Today, I’m still on the front lines, working to move people out of dependency and into employment. But with an important difference: I've become fed up with the useless policies that I once supported, and I’m trying to change the strategy of our bogged-down army. ...
[T]he government’s unprecedented expenditures failed to bring about the decline in poverty that Johnson had promised. Instead, they made things worse. Neither city hall nor I comprehended that the “community action” organizations on which we lavished taxpayer dollars would entrench dependency by urging people to get on the welfare rolls. War on Poverty funds paid for social workers, community activists, and lawyers to organize the poor, but these organizers, far from lifting poor people out of dependency, helped them sign up for more—and more expensive—welfare programs. For instance, the National Welfare Rights Organization urged single black mothers to protest the welfare system’s eligibility restrictions, and the organization’s goal was to flood the system with new clients. 
The activists succeeded beyond their wildest imagination. By the end of the 1960s, during a period of economic prosperity and low unemployment, one out of every seven New Yorkers was on the dole. By 1975, War on Poverty spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) had tripled, and the percentage of poor families’ income supplied by welfare had risen from 7.5 percent to 14.1 percent. Under the pressure of the advocates, government programs emphasized “welfare rights,” postponed self-sufficiency, supplied unproven and expensive services, and left most welfare clients out of the workforce. That’s perhaps the main reason that, as some pundits quipped, “in the War on Poverty, poverty won.”
The Idle Poor do not work for their largess. In fact, working is counterproductive to them because government dollars stop if they get a job. So their income is free and they act like it.
Welfare recipients took out cash at bars, liquor stores, X-rated video shops, hookah parlors and even strip clubs — where they presumably spent their taxpayer money on lap dances rather than diapers, a Post investigation found. 
A database of 200 million Electronic Benefit Transfer records from January 2011 to July 2012, obtained by The Post through a Freedom of Information request, showed welfare recipients using their EBT cards to make dozens of cash withdrawals at ATMs inside Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn; the Blue Door Video porn shop in the East Village; The Anchor, a sleek SoHo lounge; the Patriot Saloon in TriBeCa; and Drinks Galore, a liquor distributor in The Bronx.
The Idle Poor are being played, too, and some may even know the scam for which they are the product, for they are being sold no less surely, though less harshly, than those on the block in 1840s Charleston. The Idle Poor are the sales merchandise of the Poverty Traders, the "social workers, community activists, and lawyers to organize the poor."

Poverty, you see, is big business. The federal government paid out almost $440 billion last year alone in welfare payments. Add to that just under $300 billion that Americans gave to charity privately. With that much money available to tap, con artists and scammers are inevitable.

Once we institutionalized poverty, we professionalized it. Creating poor people and keeping them poor is the deliberate policy of the Obama administration. You need consider only the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or "food stamps."
By the end of August 2012 (the most recent data), there were 47.1 million Americans on food stamps, a new all-time record high. ... 
Since Obama took office, the number of Americans enrolled in SNAP has risen by more than 45 percent.
For which this president will infinitely blame George W. Bush. The Poverty Professions are here to stay. Forever. By design.

Update, Jan. 2016: "High-Tech Homeless Man In Detroit Accepts Credit Card Donations On A Cell Phone"

Truer words were never spoken

"The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for."

"When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra."

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Secrets Your Pastor Can't Share in a Sermon

Secrets Your Pastor Can't Share in a Sermon:

UM Rev. Lee Stevenson, whom I have known for many years, posted the link to this on his FB page. Warning to lay people - it is potentially upsetting! But of the nine "secrets" the writer says your pastor won't share with you, I pretty much agree with eight. Sorry, I won't tell you which eight.

Read at your own risk.

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Time to recover what fornication means

Touchstone Archives: Sexual Iconoclasm:

In his book Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers(Oxford University Press), sociologist Mark Regnerus shows that abstinence-pledge programs are most effective with younger adolescents, and that the "appeal of the pledge diminish[es] as the sex drive increases with age." Regnerus demonstrates that Evangelical Protestant teenagers aremorelikely to engage in sex while unmarried than their Mormon, Jewish, and even mainline liberal Protestant peers. 
Regnerus also demolishes the common notion that these virginity pledges are the driving force in what many of us have seen anecdotally for years—namely, Evangelical teenagers clinging to a "technical virginity" through sexual practices other than intercourse. Regnerus acknowledges that the "technical virginity" charade happens, but he says it has nothing to do with seeking to avoid some kind of religious guilt. It's instead a "future-oriented, self-focused (but not anti-family), risk-aversive, parent-driven (and subtly class-oriented)" middle-class morality. 
To put it bluntly, teenagers of whatever religious persuasion in contemporary America are more likely to delay intercourse and to substitute oral sex or some other form of gratification for intercourse because they are trying to avoid risks to their future economic well-being. They are "technical virgins" because they want to go to college rather than because they want not to go to hell. As conservative Evangelicals grow more socially and economically ascendant, Regnerus predicts, they will be more likely to adopt the same forms of sexually tolerant risk management focused on economic viability. 
This brings us back to language. The talk of "abstinence" and "waiting" shores up the implicit risk management behind the cultural milieu. It is not just in our public witness that we adopt the culture's grammar; we do so in our own churches and parishes. How often do we urge teenagers to maintain chastity to be consistent with their "values" and to avoid bad consequences to their health, their future marriages, or their walk with God? These consequences are no doubt real, but why would it seem so awkward to say what the Scripture says quite straightforwardly—that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10)? 
One does not have to be some sort of wild-eyed "hellfire and brimstone" revival preacher to recognize that the apostles and prophets seem insistent that sexual immorality brings upon itself the wrath of God (Rev. 21:8).
Read the whole thing.

"The Narcissism Epidemic"

Once upon a time, a wise man wrote the following advice:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility esteem others more than yourselves.
Well, that's gone the way of the dodo in America. BBC News - Does confidence really breed success?
About nine million young people have filled out the American Freshman Survey, since it began in 1966. 
It asks students to rate how they measure up to their peers in a number of basic skills areas - and over the past four decades, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being "above average" for academic ability, drive to achieve, mathematical ability and self-confidence.
This was revealed in a new analysis of the survey data, by US psychologist Jean Twenge and colleagues.
Graphic showing how the the percentage of American students rating themselves as "above average" has gone up. Measures shown: Drive to achieve, social self-confidence, intellectual self-confidence, leadership ability and writing ability
Another study by Twenge suggested there has been a 30% tilt towards narcissistic attitudes in US students since 1979.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines narcissism as: "Excessive self-love or vanity; self-admiration, self-centredness."
In The Narcissism Epidemic, co-written with Keith Campbell, Twenge blames the growth of narcissistic attitudes on a range of trends - including parenting styles, celebrity culture, social media and access to easy credit, which allows people to appear more successful than they are.
"What's really become prevalent over the last two decades is the idea that being highly self-confident - loving yourself, believing in yourself - is the key to success.
"Now the interesting thing about that belief is it's widely held, it's very deeply held, and it's also untrue."

Am I a narcissist?

Close-up of a woman wearing red lipstick
The Narcissistic Personality Inventory asks 40 questions, then ranks you on a narcissism scale
I wonder how many test takers will see their scores and post on Facebook, "Look how well I did on the narcissism test!"

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dig Finds Evidence Of Another Bethlehem : NPR

Dig Finds Evidence Of Another Bethlehem : NPR:
Thousands of Christian pilgrims streamed into Bethlehem Monday night to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It's the major event of the year in that West Bank town. But Israeli archaeologists now say there is strong evidence that Christ was born in a different Bethlehem, a small village in the Galilee.

About 100 miles north of where the pilgrims gathered, shepherds still guide their flocks through green unspoiled hills, and few give notice to the tucked-away village with the odd sounding name: Bethlehem of the Galilee. But archaeologists who have excavated there say there is ample evidence that this Bethlehem is the Bethlehem of Christ's birth.

"I think the genuine site of the nativity is here rather than in the other Bethlehem near Jerusalem," says Aviram Oshri, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority which has excavated here extensively. He stands on the side of a road that now cuts through the entrance to the village. It was the construction of this road that led to the discovery of the first evidence that Bethlehem of the Galilee may have had a special place in history.

"It was inhabited by Jews. I know it was Jews because we found here remnants of an industry of stone vessels, and it was used only by Jews and only in the period of Jesus," Oshri says.

He also found artifacts which showed that a few centuries later the community had become Christians and had built a large and ornate church. He says there is significant evidence that in early Christianity this Bethlehem was celebrated as the birthplace of Christ. The emperor Justinian boasted of building a fortification wall around the village to protect it. The ruins of that wall, says Oshri, still circle parts of the Galilee village today.

He thinks many early scholars would have concluded that this Bethlehem was the birthplace of Christ.

"It makes much more sense that Mary rode on a donkey, while she was at the end of the pregnancy, from Nazareth to Bethlehem of Galilee which is only 7 kilometers rather then the other Bethlehem which is 150 kilometers," Oshri says.

He adds there is evidence the other Bethlehem in the West Bank, or what Israelis call Judea, was not even inhabited in the first century.

Paula Fredriksen, an American scholar of the historical Jesus, says that early Christianity only started to pay attention to the Judean Bethlehem in the fourth century, when the Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

According to the Old Testament, Judean Bethlehem was the City of David where the future messiah would be born. Fredriksen says that it would make sense for early Christianity to focus on that Bethlehem

"The Bethlehem that's the only Bethlehem that matters for the tradition is David's Bethlehem," Fredriksen says. "And David's Bethlehem quite specifically is in Judea."

Oshri draws similar conclusions. He says that for devout Christians, the story of Jesus and his birth is inextricably linked to the internationally known city of Bethlehem.

How does Oshri think Christians would react to finding out that Bethlehem that they thought about is wrong?

"I don't think it will have any influence," he says. "The tradition is one thing. People will go on believing. And I can understand it."
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