Saturday, November 21, 2009

Energy Bars

When you're traveling, the food you get to eat can be very variable.  We spent last weekend in Yosemite Valley, which limited our dining options; we mostly ate at the Ahwahnee Hotel, which is Very Good and Very Expensive.  When we came home, however, we had to decide what to do about lunch, since Jim wanted to come home via Crane Flat and Big Oak Flat (I forget which road that is).  Frankly, along that route at this time of year, you can't even rely on an open convenience store until much later in the day than we wanted to eat.  

We were in Curry Village when we decided to get something we could eat sitting in the car, by the roadside somewhere, which meant that "lunch" was "something we can buy in the store at Curry Village."  Jim had the remains of a sandwich from the day before, and he ate that; I decided to get a couple of energy bars.  

They didn't, of course, have any of the ones I like; I've tried both Luna and Clif Bars, and I'm not impressed.  (I like the energy bars Kashi makes.)  But I like peanut butter, so I chose something called "thinkThin," in the "chunky peanut butter" flavor.  This was the strangest energy bar I've ever eaten.  It had no flavor.  It didn't taste of anything; not peanut butter (certainly not chunky peanut butter, since it had a very uniform bland texture), not the chocolate which appeared to coat it.  No flavor at all.

A look at the label (I should have done this first) explains it.  The first ingredient is "protein blend (calcium caseinate, whey protein isolate, soy protein isolate)," followed by glycerin, and sugar-free chocolate coating.  (Maybe that explains the lack of chocolate flavor.)   They claimed it was flavored with "sea salt" but I couldn't taste any salt, either.  In other words, this is sort of "essence of food" without any of the usual characteristics of food like scent, flavor, or texture.  It said it had 8 grams of fat (probably in the chocolate) but I couldn't taste that either.

I ate the thing because it was what I had, and I assumed it had some nutritional value.  It's supposed to help you lose weight.  A diet of those things would drive you to a double cheeseburger with a chocolate milk shake in sheer frustration.  When we finally found an open convenience store, I bought a pair of Reese's Cups, and finally got my peanut butter fix.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Civilian Trials for Terrorists

There's been a lot of flap lately about Attorney General Holder's plan to try the half dozen men suspected of the 9/11 attacks in civil court in New York.  The AP quotes Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as calling it a "perversion of justice" to put wartime enemies into a civilian criminal court.

I guess the Allies were wrong to try the Nazi leaders in Nuremberg, then.

Mr. Holder believes he has the evidence to convict these men in a normal civilian court.  I'm not sure whether the people who oppose his plan don't believe him, or whether they're afraid a New York jury wouldn't convict these guys.  Frankly, I believe a New York jury is so likely to convict that, if I were Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's defense lawyer, I'd be moving for a change of venue.  We're supposed to have one of the best legal systems in the world; do we really not trust it to give these men honest justice? 

And let's stop talking about a war.  This isn't a war.  We're being attacked, not by an enemy nation with an army, but by a group of criminal thugs who use a perversion of Islam as justification for acts that no religion, including Islam, condones.  These are criminals, and the criminal system is the right place for them.  We'd do better if we took that mindset to Afghanistan, too:  the Taliban, and Al Qaeda for that matter, are armed thugs practicing extortion on the people of Afghanistan (and Pakistan), just like the Mafia in Chicago in the thirties.  They even run dope, like the Mafia.  They're just another form of organized crime, and we need to use our crime-fighting tools on them, and quit dignifying them as opponents in a "war."

About Abortion

Let's be clear about the Stupak Amendment to the House health care reform bill.  This amendment won't prevent any woman, by itself, from getting an abortion.  It will only prevent poor women from getting abortions; rich women will be able to fund their own.  But any woman poor enough to require federal subsidies to buy insurance (which will be a lot of women, I suspect) would have to pony up her own dollars if she found herself in a pregnancy which she couldn't, for some reason, carry to term.  This could be anything from an inability to feed the children she already has to a life-threatening health condition; the Stupak amendment makes very little distinction.

I thought the problem with our current health system was exactly that the care you get depends on the amount of money that goes into your health insurance.

I'll offer a trade, though - the Stupak Amendment can stand if we also add an amendment to prevent any Federal funding for Viagra and similar drugs.  Ever.  In this case there would be no exceptions, since the inability to get it up is not a life-threatening condition.  We'd have the same condition:  rich men would still be able to get the drug through private insurance, poor men would have to find their own dollars if they want it.

Seems only fair to me.

Friday, November 06, 2009

It's Being Dealt With

It's now all over the San Francisco Bay Area that Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and his wife have some problems with the IRS.  The IRS has slapped a tax lien on some property they own, for $239,000 in back taxes covering 2005-2007, during most of which period Mr. Dellums has been Mayor of Oakland. 

The Mayor has recently told the Montclarion newspaper that "it's being dealt with."  I can't link this statement because, although some of the Montclarion is online, this article isn't; and a quick Google search for "Dellums tax" doesn't produce any online published response from the mayor.  But I have the paper in my hand.

There you go again:  the passive exonerative (sometimes called the passive evasive), so favored of politicians .  Heaven forbid that Hizzoner should say exactly who is doing what, or anything as direct as, "We're going to pay the money."  I've blogged about this practice before (Hiding behind the passive, March 2007).  What's really clear from the article is that Mr. Dellums doesn't want to talk about this:

"I told you that it's being dealt with," he said Monday night.  "We owe taxes.  It's now being dealt with, and it will be dealt with expeditiously.  Period ... P-E-R-I-O-D."
Well, I wouldn't want to talk about it either, but - I'm not the mayor.  This is unfortunately typical of Mr. Dellums' entire tenure as mayor - he doesn't want to tell people what he's doing, ever, about anything at all.  In this case, the situation he doesn't want to talk about could theoretically (if something goes wrong in those expeditious dealings) end up with the mayor of Oakland in tax court.

This is not the behavior that voters expect from the mayor of a large city.  I didn't vote for him, and I've only seen him do one thing in office that made me consider I might have been wrong - the negotiations over the garbage contract in his first year in office.  I recently read a speculation that he may be considering a run for a second term.  I think he should reconsider.  Based on the comments on his lifestyle in all the articles about this mess, I don't think he can afford this job.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Not Jerry Brown

So Gavin Newsom has withdrawn from the 2010 California governor's race.  I didn't plan to vote for him; I consider him a fast-talking flake (too fast talking sometimes).  But this election poses a major problem for me:  the Democrats, at this moment, have nobody in the race - except Jerry Brown, who isn't officially running, but is accumulating campaign funds like they were going to stop printing money tomorrow.

I will not vote for Jerry Brown again.  Ever.  For anything.  I sat through his first governorship, and listened to him oppose Proposition 13 until it passed, when he pretended it was his idea all along.  "Governor Moonbeam," pfah.  I endured his mayorship of Oakland, a town he did a lot to destroy.  He imposed his "strong mayor" government because he couldn't bear to have anyone disagree with him, ever; after he left, the clueless citizens of Oakland elected Ron Dellums, who can't make a decision to save his soul and doesn't really like running a city, anyway.  (I never have figured out why he agreed to run.  Maybe he felt flattered to be asked.)  Lately Mr. Brown has been making a fool of himself in the Attorney General's office - although at least he had the sense to put his wire-tapping assistant on administrative leave.  I wonder how long it'll take for the guy to be reinstated.  The mere fact that he thought it was OK to record conversations secretly, in the AG's office, says volumes about the tone of that office - set by Mr. Brown.  The whirring sound you hear is Pat Brown, an honest and honorable politician, spinning in his grave.

So - no Democrats running.  Whom to vote for?  Well, there's someone I'd like to see win it:  Tom Campbell, the moderate Republican.  Tom Campbell, who actually understands the state budget - he must be the only man other than the Comptroller who does.  And Tom Campbell, being a moderate Republican, hasn't the chance of a celluloid cat in Hell, although I'm delighted to see him hanging in there and will certainly vote for him if he gets the nomination.  The Republicans look like going for Meg Whitman, probably because she can pay for the campaign herself, even though her voting record is nearly nonexistent (great civic participation!) and she's on the record as donating to Democrats.

If the race turns into Jerry Brown versus Meg Whitman, I'm voting Green.  Or Libertarian.  I suppose I could register Republican so as to vote for Campbell in the primary, but it'd put me on the Republican mailing list, and I don't think I could stand it.  We have to have somebody in the governor's mansion who will tell the idiot citizens of California the honest truth about the corner they've painted themselves into; and whoever that person may be, it ain't Jerry Brown.