Archive for January, 2009

Medical Professionals Are Heroes, Too

30 January 2009

If you’ve ever been to a hospital, even just for a routine exam or treatment, you often get just a glimpse of how hard the doctors, nurses and others professionals work.

Working long hours, often with little sleep and low pay, they make the often difficult decisions that save human life and try to help us live longer. They often have to deal with abusive patients, who cannot understand why doctors and nurses simply can’t “do something” for them. These people simply don’t understand how complicated medicine really is or hour many years doctors and nurses have to study and train to reach a level of competance before they are allowed to treat their first patient. Nurses, especially, are often the target of abuse by angry or impatient people who treat them are little better than the doctors’ secretaries, when they are, in fact, highly-trained professionals.

I used to work in a hospital. I was one of the support staff, but not a doctor or nurse. I got to know the staff at he hospital I worked at as real human beings and I saw a lot of what they went-through on a daily basis.

I found this video on YouTube made in tribute to them. I hope that you will give this video a five-star rating, if you have a YouTube account.

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I Respond to Tea Questions

26 January 2009

Okay, a friend, somehow, found my blog and read my last post on Tea Wars. He asked questions of me that I figure it might be better to answer here:

Question: What is “tea culture”?

Answer: It’s the way the general tea-drinking populace of your country or area consumes tea. How they drink it, when they drink it, etc. You can have different tea cultures within a common border and these habits are often passed-down from one generation to the next and usually don’t change easily.

For example, in Britain, they add cream to tea, the Irish add milk. Russians tend to drink their tea sweetened with fruit preserves, while Americans use lemon and sugar. Chinese, Japanese, etc never put milk or sweeteners in their tea. Middle Easterners add mint leaves.

While people in the USA tend to see tea being drunk from little cups made of porcelain, the British actually drink their tea from mugs, like the way a lot of Americans drink coffee. Some countries tend to use very small cups, like in Oriental countries.

While we usually see tea being made by steeping a bag in a cup or pot, Russians, Turks and Persians will use a two-pot system. In such cases, there is one small pot containing a super-strong “essence”, of which a small amount is poured into your cup, depending on how strong you like your tea and then you take hot water from the second pot to fill your cup. It’s a good way to serve tea when you have different people who like their tea served in various levels of strength. In the movieK-19 the Widowmaker, there was a scene where the Executive Officer pour a cup of tea from the small pot on top of the samovar and drinks it straight. Usually, Russians don’t do it that way, unless they have balls made of stainless steel.

I could go on all day, since tea cultures vary from one culture to the next.

Question: Which is better the better tea: green, black, oolong or herbal?

Answer: Herbal tea is not tea, it’s an “infusion”. Tea is only made from the tea plant and anyone who tells you differently is either completely ignorant of what tea really is or is just a frakking liar.

As far as the green vs black vs oolong, it really depends upon what food you’re serving. I’ll drink green tea when I’m eating vegetarian food or fish, oolong when I’m eating at an Oriental restaurant and black tea the rest of the time. Since I seldom go vegetarian, don’t eat that much fish and tend to dislike Oriental food, I usually drink black tea all the time. Green tea has more in the way of anti-oxidants, but I doubt if most tea-drinkers consider that point, unless they are cancer patients or something.

Question: Why don’t you like Lipton?

Answer: As I said, I’ll drink Lipton tea as iced tea, but not hot. Lipton made their blend so that it could be served iced or hot, unlike most teas that get cloudy and stale when cold. This is due to the types of tea that are added to the particular blend. Some teas do well when cold, others don’t. You can’t have a tea blend that tries to be “all things to all men” without trading-off flavor and I think Lipton did that.

Question: What is it with tea time?

Answer: Okay, tea time is a purely British invention that got started long ago to serve as a snack time between lunch (served at 12pm) and dinner (served at about 8pm). Still yet, most tea-drinking cultures around the world don’t have a particular time that they limit to having a cup of tea. Most of these people will drink it at any time of the day or night.

Question: Is there competition between coffee and tea?

Answer: Not really. When Starbucks expanded into Britain, some Brits tried coffee for the first time and there was a bit of a fad that occurred because of it. Tea consumption declined as coffee consumption rose. Naturally, some of the British tea merchants panicked over the loss of income and some sectors felt that Britain was losing an essentiial part of their culture. But, tea is still the second-most consumed beverage in the world, right behind water.

Question: Isn’t drinking tea unAmerican?

Answer: That’s a stupid question, Tony. Most immigrants to the USA came from coffee-drinking countries, so naturally they brought those habits with them and coffee became a staple in the United States. If my grandmother’s family hadn’t been from East Frisia, they would have been coffee-drinkers in the USA as they would have been in Germany.

Question: what is the American tea culture?

Answer: American tea culture has been influenced by various cultures.

In the American South, sweet tea is a regular fixture at mealtimes, being drunk at all times of the day, especially in summer time. Iced tea is a purely American invention and is ot found in any other country. In the South, iced tea is served with sugar, but not lemon. People outside the South will add lemon, though.

As far as hot tea, most Americans add honey or sugar and/or lemon to their tea. The adition of lemon to hot tea came from Russian Jews who emigrated to the United States during the 1800s, though the British do it also, as noted in the scene from the movie Titanic where you can see a lemon slice floating at the top of the captain’s cup of tea when he’s on the bridge shortly before they hit the iceberg. Most Americans don’t add cream or milk to their tea and I’ve gotten some strange looks from people when they see me do it.

Question: Cream first or tea first?

Answer: Oh, how witty you are! You found something that has caused arguments to start in English tearooms and now you’re asking me. For those who don’t know, I’ll give you the rundown of the Cream First vs Tea First issue:

You start with your teapot, filed with tea. You have the cream, sugar and your empty cup in front of you.

Do you add the cream and sugar to the cup and then add the tea or do you pour the tea first and then add cream and sugar?

Now, most Americans wouldn’t be able to see the reason behind this longstanding debate between two irreconcilable parties. Most Americans ad cream and sugar to their coffee after it has been poured, so they might figure it would be the same for tea. Well, the "Cream Firsters" would go apoplectic if you even mentioned doing it that way with their tea.

Without going into too much detail, both sides have what they feel are good arguments for going either cream- or tea-first. Some of the arguments from both sides seem a bit silly, even to me. But, however you want to drink you tea is okay by me.

My personal preference is to add the cream and sugar to the cup and then pour in the tea. The reason I do that is because I think it helps the cream and sugar blend into the tea better than if Ihad added the tea first, then cream & sugar. I give the tea a couple of stirs afterwards to mix-in the last bits of sugar and that’s it.

And I don’t want any arguments from you Tea Firsters on this. Just drink your cups of tea with the improperly mixed cream and sugar, and leave me to enjoy tea the G-d intended it to be drunk.

So, there!

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Standing-Up for Tea-Drinkers’ Rights

25 January 2009

Part of my grandmother’s family came from East Frisia, otherwise known as Ostfriesland. In that part of Germany, the people are not coffee-drinkers, but tea-drinkers. As most Germans prefer coffee, East Frisia stands-out for its tea culture. In fact, the bulk of the tea consumed in Germany every year is drunk in that province.

As you may guess, tea occupied a part of our lives, especially when I visited with my grandparents. I don’t think my grandmother ever drank coffee in her entire life. I think she got Grampa into the habit, too, as I never saw him drink coffee, but I assume he did at some time after the family arrived in America during the 1930s. As I grew-up, I developed into a tea-drinker, much to Granma’s delight.

So, while I might have the rare cup of coffee, you will never find coffee in my home and you will always find a generous supply of tea, teacups and pots in my cupboard. We lived in the South for a few years and I developed a liking for Southern Sweet Tea, much to Granma’s horror, since it is served cold.

Once in awhile, I find myself eating out, especially with friends from work and I recently was asked to go to breakfast with a coworker. After the meal, I asked for some hot tea. I always like to wash-down breakfast with hot tea, but I usually eat breakfast at home, not in restaurants. The waitress brought me a Lipton teabag with a cup of hot water to dunk it in. Hiding my outrage at this blasphemy against the gods of tea, I drank my tea and asked for a refill of hot water for my second cup.

Things went downhill from there.

Since my friend wanted to talk after breakfast, I finished my second cup over conversation. The second cup was obviously weaker than the first, of course. I then asked for a new teabag and some more water. Then, the waitress dropped the bombshell: a second teabag would cost the same amount as the first one.

Never mind the cost, which was a little over a dollar, but I noticed how coffee-drinkers were able to get unlimited refills of coffee, but tea-drinkers have to pay for any tea beyond cup #2. Now, this offended me.

Why am I being punished for drinking tea, instead of coffee, I wondered? It’s not like coffee-drinkers can only drink coffee made with the exact same grounds as their first two cups were made with. Oh, no. Fresh grounds in the machine every few minutes, so their coffee is always fresh. Tea, on the other hand was weaker on the second go.

Okay, this is America, the Land of the All-Night Taco Stand, Land of Opportunity, and all that. Just no frakking opportunity for a tea-drinker for a decent cup of tea. Dear G-d, Lipton is like the bottom of the barrel for hot tea, compared to Twinnings, Tetley’s and PG Tips. Health experts in the media tell us to drink tea for better health and, yet, we’re limited to one frakking cup of halfway decent tea!

Okay. Okay. No problemo. I’ll just know better next time, I thought.

So, a couple of days later, my friend and I are back at the same restaurant for breakfast. This time, I brought my own teabags, which were of the brand Lyon’s, which is popular in Ireland. So, I asked the waitress for a cup of hot water, since I had my own teabags. You know what she said to me? She said that the manager doesn’t allow people to bring their own teabags, since it’s like bringing outside food into the restaurant!

What in the Holy Name of Frakk is this???

I’m serious!

Okay, outside food, I can understand. But, I cannot bring a tiny bags of dried leaves into a restaurant? I cannot drink as many cups of tea as I want because the manager is afraid of people starting with tea and going to bringing in steak platters from outside or something like that?

Hey, I tip well, okay? I’m not one of those cheap bastards that orders everything on the menu, treats the waitress like crap and doesn’t leave a g-d damned tip! I always tip, at least, 20% and so I thought that I could get a bit of leeway here.

But, nnnnnnooooo! Not for you, Mr Tea-drinker! It’s back to the rear of the bus for you and all your sorry kind!

So, being a Jew, I decided to stand-up for myself against the Forces of Intolerance and I asked to speak to the manager. After waiting for what seemed like forever – it almost seemed like the Messiah would come to our table before the manager did – this fat twenty-something kid comes out and I, politely, asked him if I could bring in my own teabags.  I figured that for something so small and insignificant, he wouldn’t care. I was wrong. Oh, G-d was I wrong.

He acted like I had just asked if  I could have sex with his wife or something. He actually seemed offended that I would even ask the question. His exact words were “Hell, no.” and that was it.

At this point, my friend was getting nervous and he thanked the manager for his time and we continued with our meal, my Lyon’s teabags staying-put in my coat pocket.

As we left, I told my friend that I didn’t want to eat there anymore. If I’m going to eat out from home, I’ll only eat somewhere that would allow me to bring my own teabags, as everyplace seemed to only stock Lipton’s, which is good for iced tea, but is horrid (in my opinion) when served hot. He resisted, at first, but he hated to eat alone and we actually got some of our work done before we had to go to the office at 9am, so he agreed to find somewhere else.

And we did. It seems that there is this little place, not far from the first one, where you can bring in teabags of your own choosing. The only catch is that you pay the same price for a cup of hot water as you would for a cup of coffee, which I can live with. I wasn’t the only tea-drinker there, either. A young lady brings her bags of green tea to drink with her meal. She’s recovering from breast cancer and drinks green tea as part of her regular diet. There’s also this Russian cabdriver who brings some obscure brand with him and drinks (I swear) about a gallon of tea in a sitting.

Nice to be with like-minded people. Besides, it’s also cheaper there and the waitresses are better-looking, which is always a plus.

After about two weeks of all this, I found myself at the local Big Box store and who should I run-into but the manager from the first restaurant! Apparently, he remembered me from our little encounter.

He mentioned that they hadn’t seen me since that day and when I might be coming back. I told him that I had found somewhere else, a place that welcomes tea-drinkers and I would be eating my breakfast there from now on.

Now, this took me of-guard: he couldn’t believe that I would stop eating somewhere simply over the Tea Issue.  I told him that I have been a tea-drinker my whole life and I wasn’t going to stop just for him. I didn’t add the fact that I had actually become attached to the new place, developing friendships with the other regulars (we eat the three times a week, at least) who were very friendly. The young woman, Eileen, is in remission and has a fanatical interest in stamp-collecting. The Russian, somehow, got me to become a semi-regular chess partner. What is it with Russians and chess? I think he likes beating me at chess out of revenge against all Germans because of World War Two, never mind that my family left Germany shortly before the war even started. No, this Rooskie has to punish us all. He’s probably a Trotskyite or one of those that believes in Permanent Revolution. Damned commies! Weren’t Lenin and Trotsky both Jews? Where’s the love?

There’s also the waitresses and the owner, who can usually be found on the floor working alongside her employees.

All this in a tea-friendly environment. What more could I want?

He had this look on his face like I had just told him there’s no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny and he turned away without saying goodbye or even apologizing for his rudeness when I had tried a diplomatic solution before.

You don’t tell a Jew that he can’t have something. You just don’t! Especially when there are alternatives.

I think Granma would be so proud of me.

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So What If the Pope Gets Jews Mad At Him?

25 January 2009

I read that the Pope has ended the excommunications of some bishops who belong to a breakaway portion of the Catholic Church, including one who is a Holocaust denier. The group, known as the Society of Pius the Tenth, used to have a radio show in my city and I heard all the usual stuff about the “Evil Talmud” and Holocaust revisionism, etc etc etc.

Now, the Pope is allowing one of them back into the Church he runs and people are worried about how the Jews will react.

Okay, Reality Check Time: if I were Pope, I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about what Jews, Muslims, Lutherans, Buddhists or anyone else who was not a member of my Church thought. I mean, the Catholic Church has a pretty bad history in how it treated the Jews and, even though they apologized for it, it’s still his Church to run and since he’s the Pope, he can run it however he wants to.

The Catholic Church, despite being the largest Christian denomination, has its share of problems. There has been a longstanding resistance on the part of more conservative elements within the Church who oppose the changes made at Vatican Two and in recent years. These are your vehement opponents of Mass said in any language but Latin, ordination of women, gay rights, abortion, etc and this is just within his own Church. Then, you have the more Liberal side of the Church who want women priests, loosening of the rules regarding abortion, tolerance for gays, and so on. And then, there is the problem of people who feel the Church should do more work in the realm of social justice, labor unions, international debt relief, liberation theology and more.

Seriously, the guy in the white hat has a lot on his plate without worrying about what people outside his Church thinks.

Besides, why should he care? If we’re not going to convert to his religion and vice versa, let’s all just agree to let the other side run their religion the way they want.

What’s next, not having wine at Mass because it might offend Muslims? Maybe encourage vegetarianism to keep the Buddhists happy.

Honestly, there are some things about the Catholic Church that I would change if I could. But, I’m not Catholic, so it’s really none of my g-d damned business, is it?

If we’re all supposed to be so nice to each other, why not make the Jews say something nice about Jesus on Shabbos? Hey, if we’re all supposed to care about what the Other Guy thinks, maybe we Jews ought to be a bit nicer to the Christians #1 guy, right? There are some rabbis out there that I’ve heard call Jesus a false prophet and you know the Catholics wouldn’t like that.

So, in the end, the Pope is the Big Boss of the Catholic Church and if he wants to let some Holocaust denier back in, be my guest. Hey, it’s his Church, right?

I’ll just make a note to say some rude things about Jesus once in awhile, just to be fair.

  • Question: do you know what Jesus said when they first put him on the cross?
  • Answer: “Hey, I can see my house from here.”

Huh, I feel better already.

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Why Not Legalize Same-Sex Marriage?

25 January 2009

Okay, I keep hearing about the fights that erupt in every State when local legislators or courts even talk about making it legal for people of the same gender to marry one another and have that marriage legally recognized by that State.

Opponents of same-sex marriage talk about “activist judges” who, somehow, reinterpet the Constitution to allow gay or lebians couples to marry one another. There is always a big hue and cry whenever the subject comes up, primarily for religious reasons.

Homosexuality is almost universally condemned in every religious faith in the world and anti-homosexual feelings have been expressed by people of various ethnic backgrounds and by people of either gender. It seems that, to find a positive comment being made about homosexuals or homosexuality, you pretty much have to talk only to homosexuals themselves. It is no wonder that the rights of gays and lesbians have een strongly curtailed in countries around the world.

Yet, certain countries have legalized same-sex marriage or civil unions, though these nations tend to be of European descent – Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden – and you won’t find something similar occurring in an African or Asian country, with the sole exception of Nepal. In the United States, only the States of Massachusetts and Connecticut give recognition to it.

Civil Unions are recognized in the nations of Andorra, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary,  Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Uruguay. In the USA, civil unions are recognized in California, Connecticut, Washington DC, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

So, what’s the big deal? In the USA, we often tout ourselves as the freedom-lovingest country in the world. But, when it comes to recognizing same-sex marriage or even its watered-down version of civil unions, we seem to hark back to our history as one of the most religiously devout countries in the world and giving gays and lesbians any rights at all is almost like asking some one to cut-off their own right arm. The Religious Right, of course, is leading the fight against gay marriage in America. This is expected, since atheists and agnostics have no religious grounds upon which to oppose gay marriage in the first place.

There are numerous statements made by same-sex marriage opponents that I have heard repeatedly over the years. I’m going to explore each of them in-turn and give my responses. I’d like anyone who is opposed to same-sex marriage to tell me if/how I may be mistaken.

CLAIM: “Allowing gay marriage would take away from the sanctity of heterosexual marriage.”

RESPONSE: How? Men and women have been marrying each other for thousands of years, with mixed results. How would heterosexual marriage be less important or less likely if we allowed gays to marry? Unless you were going to legalize gay marriage and ban straight marriage at the same time, this claim is irrelevent.

CLAIM:  “Most of the major religions consider homosexuality an aberrant behavior.”

RESPONSE:  So what? Religions around the world condemn all sorts of things, like: eating certain kinds of foods, making statues, not attending religious services on certain days and converting to another religion. Will we rewrite our laws in order to accommodate the religious precepts of all the major world religions? I should also point-out that the USA has no state religion and no religious test is allowed as a condition to hold either elective or appointed positions within the government, so there is no reason to care what a particular religion or group of religions likes or dislikes. 

CLAIM: “Allowing gay marriage would open the door to practitioners of all kinds of aberrant behavior to seek legitimacy.”

RESPONSE:  An interesting argument, perhaps with some justification. But, to claim that it would force the legalization of bestiality, pedophilia and incest is something of a stretch and ignores the fact that there is a compelling state interest to prohibit such behaviors.

CLAIM:  “Allowing gay marriage would cause thousands of confused young people to accept homosexual inclinations as normal, and they would begin to actively practice homosexuality.”

RESPONSE:  If you don’t have homosexual desires in the first place, you’re not going to act on them. Most people, male and female, who experience homosexual desires in their lifetime never act on them, and I don’t see how legalizing gay marriage would cause that to change.

CLAIM: “Homosexuality is not an immutable characteristic. Homosexuals can change to heterosexuals, with proper counseling, and thousands have. Legalizing gay marriage would dramatically curtail efforts to save people from being homosexual.”

RESPONSE:  Even with gay marriage prohibited by law, anti-gay ministries have had dismal results trying to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals. The actual numbers of people who have been changed is very low, with frequent relapses into homosexual behavior. I don’t see how the prospects for such programs could get any worse.

I await the response from the anti-gay lobby.

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Messianic Judaism is a Fraud

24 January 2009

You may have heard about Messianic Jews by now. I think most people have heard about the Jews for Jesus, although there are other groups of “messianic Jews” or “Hebrew Christians” out there. You may have even wondered if there have always been congregations of Jewish Christians, who prayed in Hebrew, kept Kosher and observed the various Jewish High Holy Days. Have there even been Mesianic Jewish Rabbis out there, you wonder?

Actually, no. None of that is even remotely true.

The general lack of success in converting Jews to Christianity stems from several sources:

There is a long history of Christian persecution of the Jews, from the Roman Empire when Christianity became the state religion, to the Crusades and Middle Ages, pograms in Russia and culminating in the Holocaust of World War 2. Christians seemed to be hell-bent on either expelling the Jews from where they lived, converting them on pain of death or just plain killing them. Needless to say, most Jews, even the most secular ones, didn’t really look at Christianity as a source of goodwill for the Jewish people.

Next was the religious incompatibility between Judaism and Christianity. For every scriptural quote a minister or priest had to convince Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, rabbis have a ready response. From a stricly Jewish standpoint, using only the Bible (what Christians call the “Old Testament) it isn’t very hard to refute any claims of Jesus being the promised Messiah.

Third, even secular Jews have grown-up in a household where, at least, the cultural aspects of being a Jew were evident. We always have a devout grandparent or uncle or even a prent that observes at least some aspect of the Jewish faith. Embracing Christianity, for a Jew is like stepping out of this comfortable spot and into a foreign country. Historically, Jewish culture has found little welcome in Christian churches. In fact, Judaism was often looked at as passe and as a religion whose time had come and gone, being replaced by the “New Covenant” of Jesus.

So, how to get past al this and get Jews to convert to Christianity? Furthermore, why do most Messianic Jews believe many of the same things that evangelical Protestants believe and not as the Catholic or Orthodox do, considering that those branches of the Christian church are far older and have much larger followings?

A few decades ago, some of the evangelical Christians hatched a plan to launch a movement tht could evangelize to the Jews on a large scale and in a more organized fashion. They understood the problems I have outlined above and sought a way they could share the Gospel with the Jews in a way that Jews would feel more comfortable.

The actual founding father of the Messianic Jewish movement is Moishe Rosen (born Martin Meyer Rosen) who founded the group Jews for Jesus, the largest and most successful of the Messianic Jewish organizations, with his wife in 1969. Apparently coming from a Jewish family himself, though they were not devout.  According to Rosen, his father attended an Orthodox synagogue, but wasn’t very religious. Rosen and his wife converted to the Baptist Church and Rosen was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1957.

Wanting to find a way to bring more Jews into the Church, in 1973 Rosen left the employment of the American Board of Missions to the Jews (now called “Chosen People Ministries”) to incorporate a separate mission which later became known as Jews for Jesus Ministries.

However, Rosen never broke with the Baptists. In 1986 he received a Doctor of Divinity Degree from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon and in 1997, the Conservative Baptist Association named him a “Hero of the Faith.”. Rosen has referred to himself both as a Messianic Jew and as a Christian.

Jews for Jesus is far from the first attempt by Christians to convert Jews. As I said, there have been numerous attempts over the centuries to convert Jews to the Church. Even Martin Luther gave it a try, though he was unsuccessful and, in his anger, published the notorious book On the Jews and Their Lies, which called for Jews to be expelled or killed, their synagogues and homes burned and their books destroyed.

Learning from past mistakes, Christians have taken a more subtle aproach. By offering an environment where they would see a rabbi, see Hebrew symbols and hear Hebrew or Yiddish spoken, they create Messianic synagogues where these things are readily apparent. At two conferences – one in Switzerland and the second in Thailand – it was realized that most Jews simply didn’t want to stop being Jews, even if they weren’t particularly observant to begin with. Once a Jew converts to another religion, he stops being a Jew and most of us simply don’t want to do that. It’s simply one step too far for many of us Jews.

So, the messianic movement was born.

Prior to the 1960s, there were no Messianic Jewish synagogues. There were no Messianic rabbis. It’s all a fraud.

Messianic Judaism is a modern, invented religion, born of a plot hatched out of the frustration of evangelical Protestants from their previous lack of missionizing success.

Messianics claim that Orthodox rabbis have converted from Orthodox Judaism to Messianic Judaism. Michael Esses once claimed to have been an Orthodox rabbi who converted to Christianity and became one of the leading missionaries to the Jewish people. He even presented a diploma from the non-existant rabbinical college The Sephardic Yeshiva of New York. This fraud was exposed by his wife, when the couple divorced and she published a book which contained a copy of instructions Michael had given to the printer who created his fraudulent diploma in the first place.

Tuvya Zaretsky was the director of the Los Angeles office of Jews for Jesus. It was publicly revealed during a television interview of Zaretsky in Philadelphia, when the host asked him if that was his real name. Zaretsky, reluctantly admitted that his real birth name was, in fact, Lloyd Carson. But, he was simply following the example of Martin (later Moishe) Rosen.

The chief supporters of this great fraud being committed against the Jewish people includes several powerful Protestant denominations:

  • Southern Baptists, chief underwriters of Jews for Jesus;
  • Seventh Day Adventists, they publish Shabbat Shalom magazine;
  • Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church; and, of course,
  • Assemblies of God;

Jews for Jesus’ budget surpasses $11 million and they have missions around the world, including in the USA, Moscow, South Africa, Argentina and even Israel.

Jews for Jesus has an insideous method for converting elderly Jews to the Messianic movement. They will find elderly Jews who are living in nursing homes whose families seldom visit them. Once they have this information,they will send young missionaries to visit them in the homes and try to convert them. Jews for Jesus also published Modern Maturity magazine. this despicable tactic targets elderly people who are lonely and desperate to have the attention of anyone younger than themselves, especially people of the age that their children and grandchildren would be.

Jews for Jesus even offers its expertise to Protestant churches and instruct them of how to prostelytize to Jews.

I get a real laugh at some of these Protestant preachers who try to pretend to be Jewish or try to use Jewish symbols to somehow justify their message. I see ministers wearing tallis during their sermons, often incorrectly. One guy I saw yesterday was wearing it around his neck like a gym towel. I posted a comment and let him know about his mistake. His response was to delete my comment. Sadly, I think that they get enough credibility from their viewers to continue to do it, otherwise they would not do it in the first place or would stop doing it.

The chief strength that the messianic  movement has it its outreach. They actually reach out to the lonely people in the Jewish community, university students far from home for the first time, the elderly, the deaf and for many others. They enthusiastically welcome new faces into their “synagogues”, while most Jews tend to remain at arms length from an unfamiliar person who comes to their shul for the first time.

My grandparents weren’t particularly religious, neither were my parents. So, I grew-up not being devout. I’m still not religious. But, even though I haven’t gone to shul myself in years and the state of the Jewish religion plays little part in my own life, I find the history of the Messianic Judaism movement, its tactics and its goals to be despicable.

 

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Louisiana Becomes Creationism vs Science Battleground

18 January 2009

Providing the basis for a possible, and probable, series of lawsuits, the Louisiana State Board of Education approved a new set of rules to allow the introduction of creationist materials into school classrooms.

After failing on a 5-5 vote to delay adoption of the rules, BESE members unanimously approved them, minus a section that specifically excludes materials promoting “creationism or intelligent design or that advance the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind.” Such language in the rules was determined to be outside the realm of the legislation.

During a committee hearing opponents and advocates of the new rules expressed their views on the subject of whether the new rules should be adopted. The board was most swayed, however, by Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek’s argument that the language was unnecessary. He said “I’m satisfied that you cannot teach creationism or intelligent design” with other language in the rules. The portion he referred to states, “The materials shall not promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion”.

Teaching that life on Earth is the result of divine creation was expressly prohibited by a ruling of the United States Supreme Court, so openly teaching it as science is illegal. However, creationist organizations plan to review science textbooks for what they consider “objectionable material”. I guess they mean anything too scientific for their tastes.

See, this is how it starts. Allow creationist materials to be “available” to teachers, so any teacher who might have religious objections to teaching evolution could dip into the ready-made supply of creationist materials. That would equally be true of any teacher who might be pressured by outside groups to include “just a little” creation “science” as part of their classroom instruction.

According to the five year plan of the Discovery Institute, they want to start with creationism being taught in addition to evolution. From there, they want it to become the dominant scientific perspective in twenty years. Never mind that science has wholly rejected creationism or intelligent design as legitimate, creationists plan to use the ballot box and the general ignorance of science on the part of the masses in order to further their agenda.

What do they hope to gain, you ask?

Simple answer: Power.

If more people disregard science in favor of religious dogma, that gives more power to religious leaders. That means more congregants, more donations and more influence in the political arena in order to pursue their agenda on issues such as abortion, gay rights, and the futherance of the accumulation of power for the Religious Right.

They want power and the best way to achieve power is to start by indoctrinating the young while their minds are still vulnerable. If they can indoctrinate the young, they wil have followers for decades to come. When the yound mature, they will grow-up and become voters who will support those candidates the Religious Right tells them to and then the agenda can be brought to fruition via the ballot box.

I seriously doubt if even the Doscovery Institute really believes in the crap they’re peddling. After all, their arguments get torn to shreds by real scientists whenever they actually manage to get into a debate with them. However, teaching evolution in public schools and convincing the general public to believe in it doesn’t empower the Religious Right. But, creationism does.

They want o be the kingmakers of America. They want to be the ones calling the shots as to who has the right to do what and when. They don’t really believe this nonsense, as it is only a means to an end.

Belief in evolution empowers science and that’s the last thing the Religiuos Rights wants, which is pretty frakking scary.

 

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An Old Song Brings Back Unpleasant Memories

18 January 2009

While waiting in line for a new cable box, the song “That’s What Friends Are For” played over the PA system.  Sung by Dionne Warrick, Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder, it rose to the #1 spot on the Billboard charts in January 1986 and stayed there for four weeks. It was a benefit fundraiser for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) and netted three million dollars for that charity.

Memories of the early years of the AIDS epidemic came back to me unbidden. I remembered the sheer paranoia of that time, when people thought that you could get HIV from kissing an infected person, from using an public toilet seat and numerous other things that science later proved to be false. People became even more hateful against gays and lesbians, as they were blamed for unleashing AIDS upon America, even though most AIDS deaths were of heterosexuals in Africa. Since most AIDS cases in the USA were of gay men, they took the brunt of the “credit” for the environment of fear that permeated America for awhile.

While our President at the time, Ronald Reagan, refused to even speak the word, AIDS was busy decimating the gay community and people who lived in hard-hit areas, like San Francisco, told me that it seemed as if they were going to a funeral every week or every month.

Once medical research got off the ground, the real method of HIV’s transmission became better-known and the fear began to subside. But, not the hate. Gay men, especially, were blamed for the disease and leaders of the Religious Right wasted no time in calling it G-d’s punishment and urging that infected people be exiled to leper colony-style camps in the United States. People even aired their fear that the HIV virus could mutate into a form that could become an airborne virus, which could be spread by sneezing, which could devastate the human race. Yet, we are here thirty years later and that has not happened. Still, at the time, some people thought that face masks could save them from catching the AIDS virus.

I remember being involved in a charity event in Hawaii back in 2004. At one point, we were on the island of Molokai and we rode our bikes to the top of Kalaupapa Lookout. A desolate and lonely place, if there ever was one and I don’t think the comparison of leprosy to AIDS, along with the once deafening calls for exile were lost on anyone there.

As time past and scientific research took the lead over religious bigotry, new drugs were found to slow the spread of HIV’s destructive path over the human race. People with HIV began to live longer and remain healthier. Optimism took the place of despair and we began to relax a bit.

Too much, it seemed. Some began to think that AIDS was finished, as protease inhibitors began to make their way into the hands of AIDS patients. Too many were too quick to seize upon this hope, despite evidence that the protease inhibitors didn’t work for everyone. Some even began to relive the risky sexual behaviors that had earlier resulted in people being infected in the first place, years before.

As always, the rational voice of science tells us to remember that a virus, like any living thing, can mutate. It can adapt itself in successive generations, to become resistant to the drugs we use today and we may find ourselves fighting this fight again in a few years.

Still, hearing that old song brought back the memories of those years. It reminded me of the fear we all had. It seemed that a plague had finally come that could spell the end for many of us, if not all of us.

I read once that, back in the 1950, a leukemia diagnosis meant that you had between six months and two years to live. Now, many forms of this same cancer can be brought into full remission, with survival rates for some strains as high as 90%. The fight againt leukemia has been a long and difficult road, but much success has been won with hard work of dedicated scientists and physicians.

The same is true of diabetes, leprosy, bubonic plague, malaria and many others. Our victory over smallpox, which once devastated entire nations, is virtually complete.

Both the bubonic plague and small pox have a striking similarity to AIDS: religious leaders of their time claimed that they were G-d’s punishment meted-out to sinful men. If so, G-d could have done a better job of it, as both of those diseases are rare to find in today’s world and both are 100% curable by modern medicine.

There will be other diseases in the future which will rival or surpass AIDS in the scope of the fear it will invoke in people. However, as long as we rely on science and not superstition, to fight out battles against these plagues, we can win, survive and succeed as a race.

 

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Creationist Superfraud: Harun Yahya

15 January 2009

Okay, let me start by mentioning that Harun Yahya’s real name is Adnan Oktar a.k.a Adnan Hoca. He was born in Ankara, Turkey in 1956 and is the leading Muslim creationist in the world.

His most well-known book is Evolution Deceit, a copy of which I own and it is mostly a rehashing of old creationist arguments with an Islamic tone added to them. Copies of his latest work, The Atlas of Creation were distributed to teachers and scientists in Europe and the United States.

Oktar is the head of the Foundation for Scientific Research (Bilim Arastirma Vakfi, or BAV) which originally adopted its arguments from young-earth creationist organizations in the United States, but discarded claims about a young Earth and a global flood which are not vouched for by the Qur’an or in Islamic tradition (the Sunnah). As such, BAV showed a degree of sympathy for “intelligent design” creationism instead, employing catchphrases like “irreducible complexity” and using the phrase “intelligent design” as equivalent with “creation.” Later, however, Oktar denounced “intelligent design” as not being Islamic enough.

Oktar got his start as an author in 1986 by publishing  Judaism and Freemasonry. After this, he was arrested and imprisoned, eventually being transferred to a mental hospital (I wonder why?) and was released after 19 months. Naturally, Oktar claims that the Freemasons were behind the whole thing.

Later, in 1996, his organization published The Holocaust Lie, crediting the deaths of “a few Jews” to a typhoid epidemic that occurred near the end of the war, which is one of the lies that Holocaust deniers like to use. A strongly-worded criticism of this book by a Turkish painter and intellectual, Bedri Baykam, published in the Turkish paper, Black and White, was responded by Oktar to with a lawsuit alleging that Mr Baykam had committed slander. The suit was withdrawn a few months after Oktar was revealed as the author by Mr Baykam.

Since then, Oktar has backed-off his anti-semitic tirades and has embraced, at least publicly, inter-religious dialogue, except in the case of Buddhists, which I will explain later.

In 1998, Oktar began his campaign against “Darwinism” by attacking Turkish academics who taught evolution. Teachers were harassed, threatened and slandered in fliers that branded them as communists. Six of the professors eventually sued and won a large settlement.

Oktar also doesn’t like Buddhism, asserting that Buddhism is  a false religion built upon idolatry and falsehood. He calls Buddhist rituals “meaningless” and “empty”. Interesting that he picks on a religion that has a long history of not trying to forcibly convert everyone around them at either the point of a sword or the barrel of a gun, blowup school buses, take hostages or similar acts of religiously-inspired violence.

Oktar has become well-known for using bullying tactics in order to silence anyone who speaks-out against him.

In September 2008, a Turkish court banned Internet users in Turkey from viewing the official Richard Dawkins Web site after Oktar claimed its contents were defamatory, blasphemous and insulting religion, arguing that his personality was violated by this site. In response, Dawkins posted a Turkish translation of his “Venomous Snakes, Slippery Eels and Harun Yahya” article  on his website. Then one week later a complaint by Oktar led to the banning of the internet site of the Union of Education and Scientific Workers as a reaction to the Union’s uncomplimentary press release about Adnan Oktar’s Creation Atlas.This was followed in October by a block of the country’s third-biggest newspaper site, Vatan.

Furthermore, no one in Turkey will be able to read this blog without using a proxy, as Oktar had successfully petitioned a Turkish court to block access to WordPress after a blog critical of him was posted there and WordPress refused to take it down. You can read WordPress’ blog post on the topic.

Oktar’s lawyer made this demand of WordPress, which I reproduce here in the original typefont”WE DEMAND YOU TO REMOVE AND PROHIBIT ANY BLOGS IN YOUR SITE THAT CONTAIN MY CLIENT’S NAME ADNAN OKTAR OR HIS PEN NAME HARUN YAHYA OR VARIOUS COMBINATION OF THESE 4 NAMES.”

Well, I have this to say to you and your client, Mr Kerim Kalkan and Atty. Ceyhun Gökdoğan: screw you and screw the ugly horse you rode in on! You might be satisfied living in a country that’s a dictatorship where free speech exists in name only. But, here in the USA, we actually have free speech. As such, I am free to tell you, your law partners, your client, your clients’ friends, your friends, your pets and everyone else associated with you and them to go straight to Hell!

There. I am now assured that I will never be allowed to travel to Turkey. But, that’s okay. After all, I have the pleasure of knowing that Oktar is going to be grabbing his ankles for the next few years in a Turkish prison after being recently sentenced to prison by a Turkish court for running an illegal organization for the purposes of personal gain. Sucks to be him, am I right?

In September 1999 Adnan Oktar was arrested following multiple scandals and further allegations. In that court case, Oktar was charged with using threats for personal benefit and creating an organization with the intent to commit a crime. One complainant, a fashion model named Ebru Simsek claimed she was blackmailed and then slandered as a “prostitute” in fax messages sent to hundreds of different newspapers, TV channels, major business companies, foreign consulates and government offices for refusing to have sex with Adnan Oktar. Having seen a picture of Ebru and a picture of Oktar, I cannot fathom why Oktar would even think that a woman that looks her that would ever even think about having sex with somebody that looks like him. A woman has to have some standards, right? Besides, since Oktar claims to be such a devout Muslim, doesn’t the Qur’an forbid having sex with a woman that you’re not married to? And how the hell does this pious servant of Allah manage to live in an opulent mansion? Didn’t theprophet Muhummad himself willingly live in poverty and eschewed personal extravagance of any kind?

Hey, what’s the Turkish word for “hypocrite”?

So, the judicial process lasted over two years, during which most of the complainants’ retracted their claims, repportedly because of threats or bribes from SRF members. As a result most of the cases against Oktar and SRF members were dismissed, with only two members receiving jail sentences for a year each.

According to the indictment of the prosecutor’s office, cited by the daily Cumhuriyet, Oktar’s organisation used its female members to attract young scholars from rich families, with the promise of sex in exchange for attending events. Should one of these female members attempt to leave the group, they were threatened with the release of the tapes.

Oh, my FRAKKING G-d!

Okay, what’s the Turkish words for “sexual slavery” and “blackmail”?

Amidst ambiguous circumstances all charges were dropped by that court only to be picked by another court eight years later. In 2008 Oktar was finally convicted for a variety of crimes including engaging in criminal threats. On May 2008 Oktar and seventeen other members of his organisation were sentenced to three years in prison. Oktar intends to appeal these charges.

Yeah. Harun Yahya would like to have some sex, just not the kind availble in a Turkish prison.

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Kent Hovind, Ted Haggard and, now, Harun Yahya. Is there something about creationism in-general, that attracts people like these total scumbags?

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Health Food Scams: XanGo Juice

15 January 2009

Made with the fruit mangosteen – not to be confused with mangos, which are a different plant- and other juices, it is marketed by the corporation XanGo, LLC which is a multi-level marketing company founded in 2002 and based in Lehi, Utah. They are the current leader in marketing products made from mangosteen juice.

Mangostten is part of a group known as the Guttiferae, a family of mainly tropical trees and shrubs that secrete an acrid yellow resinous juice. Mangosteen’s scientific designation is Garcinia mangostana, named after a French explorer, Jacques Garcin.

Marketing materials for XanGo Juice claim numerous health benefits for humans. These include:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-microbial
  • anti-fungal
  • anti-viral
  • anti-cancer
  • anti-ulcer
  • anti-hepatotoxic
  • anti-rhinoviral
  • anti-allergic effects

Promotional literature for the product claims that antioxidants from the inedible rind of the fruit provide health benefits. But, none of these claims has scientific proof established by peer-reviewed research and human clinical trials.

The company’s website states that “research shows xanthones (an alleged component of XanGo juice) possess potent antioxidant properties that may help maintain intestinal health, strengthen the immune system, neutralize free radicals, help support cartilage and joint function, and promote a healthy seasonal respiratory system”; however, they also add a footnote with the following disclaimer: “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

Notice how they add the disclaimer at the bottom of the label, likely knowing that the majority of people who even glance at it won’t read it all the way through to the end.

A scientific advisor for the company, David A. Morton, PhD , said in 2006 there is “emerging evidence that mangosteen has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-microbial properties”, yet acknowledged the only study of humans consuming mangosteen juice was conducted as a test of dysentery therapy in Singapore in 1932.

By the way, Dr Morton’s brothers, Joe and Gordon, helped found the company in the first place. It’s just a coincidence, right?

Yeah, right.

In 2007, the Mayo Clinic stated there was laboratory evidence that the xanthones in mangosteen had anti-inflammatory activity, but there was no evidence demonstrating such anti-inflammatory effects in humans. Quoting Mayo Clinic, “”there are no published clinical trials showing evidence that either the fruit or its juice — marketed under the name XanGo juice — is an effective treatment for arthritis, cancer or any other disorder in humans.”.

But, they said it had anti-inflammatory properties, didn’t they? Or maybe they just think it has anti-inflammatory properties?

Well, multi-level marketing companies seldom let inconvenient facts get in the way of profits, don’t they?

As far as XanGo’s effectiveness against cancer, the American Cancer Society’s profile of mangosteen juice states there is no reliable evidence that mangosteen juice, puree, or bark is effective as a treatment for cancer in humans.

And wouldn’t you just know that the government would have to step in at some point and not in a small way either. On September 20, 2006, the United States Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to XanGo LLC in response to the company’s promotion of Xango juice as a drug (meaning that it could treat or prevent a disease, such a cancer or arthritis), in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1)]. The agency’s letter further warned that Xango juice had not been properly tested for safety and efficacy, and as a proposed new drug it could not be legally sold in the US without prior approval of the FDA, and that the company could face enforcement action including seizure and/or injunction of products or suspension of business. Under FDA drug labeling rules, XanGo LLC, as manufacturer, is responsible for satisfying scientific criteria to make health claims on its product labels and all marketing materials. As far as I know, the case remains open.

Dr. Ralph Moss, author of several natural remedy books, said this in reference to XanGo Juice, “In my opinion, what we have here is simply an overpriced fruit drink.”

On visiting the XanGo website, he heard various claims of the anti-cancer benefits of XanGo given by Dr. J. Frederic Templeman, a Georgia family practitioner who has written a small book on mangosteen.

Dr Templeman mentioned that there are 44 scientific publications on this topic. But, as Dr Morton discovered, there are just 29 articles on the topic of Garcinia mangostana in PubMed, the US National Library of Medicine database which contains over 14 million citations. A total of four of these studies relate to cancer.

An over-priced fruit drink. That pretty much sums it up for me, too.

Look, I’m not saying that people don’t have a right to eat and drink something. Neither am I saying that people and businesses don’t have the right to make money.

But, I draw the line when a company or an individual makes health claims about their product that are either untrue or unverified by science.

As I’ve said in previous entries on health, you can do pretty well for yourself by eating and drinking foods that you can find in your local supermarket. For the cost, you can’t beat sweet potatos, blueberries, strawberries, yams and other foods which have been proven to be good for you. They are less expensive than these fad health foods and do the job that these “alternatives” can only claim to do for you. That is: to keep you healthy and help you live a long life.

You might wonder if there could possibly be any harm in drinking XanGo. You may actually like the taste and don’t mind spending the money. Consider the case of a patient with severe acidosis (acidity of the blood plasma) possibly attributable to a year of daily use of mangosteen juice. The amount the patient drank everyday is not specified and neither is the brand. The drink he consumed was infused with xanthones, as occurs in the manufacture of XanGo juice. The authors of the case report proposed that chronic exposure to alpha-mangostin, a xanthone, could be toxic to mitochondrial function, leading to impairment of cellular respiration and production of lactic acidosis.

And you thought it was just another brand of juice, didn’t you?

No, it’s not a juice. It’s a business and a business exists for the sole purpose of making money.

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