Thursday, May 31, 2012

Applauding Bloomberg's Big Brother Act

     Michael Bloomberg has been one of New York's most active mayors during his decade in office.  And his list of accomplishments is impressive.

But one of his most active areas of endeavor--and accomplishment-- remains controversial.  That would be what Bloomberg's critics call intrusion into how they live and what they eat.  They see it as big brother sticking his nose where it doesn't belong.

The Mayor told New Yorkers that second hand smoke was harmful to the general population--even outdoors.  And he turned his opinion into law--making it illegal to smoke in city parks.

Most of Bloomberg's big brother moves, however, have been changes that affect what people eat.  He even went to war with food ingredients,  such as trans fat and salt; and now he is taking on sugary drinks.

If the Mayor gets his way, there will be a limit--16 ounces--on the size of sugary drinks that eating establishments can offer to the public.  Outfits like McDonald's and Coca-Cola are understandably up in arms as they envision a major loss of revenue.

So what justifies such a move by the Mayor?  Why should he be able to tell people how large a sugary drink they can buy?

The reason is simple.  The reason is a good one.

It now costs taxpayers $4. billion a year for city-funded medical care for overweight people. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Therapeutic Value Of A Macaroni Salad

     It might seem questionable as to the therapeutic value of preparing a macaroni salad.  But there is, indeed, something therapeutic about whipping up this warm weather favorite--at least for me.

I'm preparing this pasta dish for a Memorial Day hot dogs-on-the-grill and plate-to-pass picnic at the apartment complex where I live.  I'm making more than enough for the 50-some residents expected--so as to allow for seconds and take-home containers.  It's the same recipe I've seen used, and the same salad I've happily devoured,  for more than half a century.

For me, and I believe countless others,, Memorial Day, like most other holidays, can be bittersweet.  There's the fun and the joy of mixing and mingling with those we like and love in the present.   But there's also that occasional feeling of sadness that comes over us when we think of  family and friends with whom we shared this special time in the past, but who are with us now only in spirit.

We miss them.  But anything we do that recalls the happy moments of Memorial Days past can have a healing effect.  And that's what my macaroni salad does for me.

It turns the ache of sadly missing them into the joy of remembering them.   All from macaroni salads, past to present.   

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Meaning Of Memorial Day

     It's here again, the first of our warm-weather holiday weekends, and from now through Monday,  countless gatherings all across America will celebrate Memorial Day, 2012.  It's the unofficial start of the summer season, and it means different things to different people.

Some of these holiday get-togethers will go by the name BBQ, while others will be called a cookout or a picnic or a block party.  Up north, it's an occasion to mix and mingle with family and friends and neighbors after a long winter of mostly indoor activities.  Down south and in desert areas, it's a time to get together outdoors, before the blast furnace heat of  mid and late summer makes being outside almost unbearable.

Memorial Day weekend, for most folks, will be bittersweet. There's the joy of a long weekend with those we like and love. But there's also the sadness that comes with remembering the fallen heroes for whom this holiday was originally intended.

Memorial Day has always been, and remains today, one of our more controversial holidays. It's origin goes back to the late 1860s, when it was called Decoration Day, and flowers or flags were placed on Civil War graves.

As the idea for a Decoration Day--one that honored all who had died on both sides--spread throughout the country, many of those who lived in Confederate states abstained.

It was not until a century later,in 1967, that, by federal law, Memorial Day became the official name for the holiday.   For most of its history, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30. In recent years, however, it has been celebrated on the last Monday in May, creating a very popular long holiday weekend.

There are those who favor a return to the May 30 date--their thinking being that this would return Memorial Day to the solemn time of remembrance originally planned. Senator Daniel Inouye, of Hawaii, has twice, in 1999 and again in 2007, introduced a bill to effect that change. To date no further action has been considered by Congress.

Americans can do both--enjoy a long holiday weekend, while still remembering, and honoring the service men and women who died for their country.  I remember the American Legion in Key West doing this..

A morning visit to the military cemetery, with solemn ceremony and thoughtful remembrance, is followed by an afternoon given to celebrating the lives of service men and women everywhere--both the living and the dead. I think Post 28 has it right.

Here's hoping that this weekend your thoughts will turn from time to time to the true meaning of Memorial Day; but we wish also, for you and yours, happy times over this long holiday weekend.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Economy Top Concern & Bush Gets The Blame

     The latest Washington Post/ABC News Presidential poll released Tuesday morning shows President Obama holding a slight lead--49 to 46 percent--over presumptive GOP challenger Mitt Romney.

Listen to Romney surrogates and Congressional Republicans, however, and you get the idea that the incumbent President must surely be trailing badly in the court of public opinion.  These partisan politicos tell us that the American people disapprove of just about everything that Barack Obama does or proposes.

But,  as the saying goes, numbers don't lie, and the figures in this latest poll tell a different story--that   President Obama's chances of winning a second term are looking good.  The survey shows him beating Romney on almost every question, and there are several areas that really stand out as indicators that voters will give the President four more years.

Voters told the pollsters in this survey that the economy--no surprise--is their top concern.  The President's approval rating on his handling of the economy has gone up-- albeit slightly--in recent months, and the voters still blame our current economic woes more on George Bush than Barack Obama by the wide margin of 49 to 34 percent.

As for understanding the economic problems Americans are having, the President wins here by 48 to 40 percent.  And as for character issues, voters say--by 52 to 38 percent--that Barack Obama has "the better moral character to serve as president".

Also especially interesting is the survey's finding that there is a very real enthusiasm gap favoring the Democrats.   According to this latest poll, 48 percent of Democratic voters are very enthusiastic about their candidate; while only 23 percent of Republican voters are very enthusiastic about the GOP candidate.

Monday, May 21, 2012

China's Movies Takeover Is Like A Horror Film

     For a lot of years, I spent a lot of time--as in long-hours, six-day weeks--managing motion picture theaters in six different cities.  Before that, I got my training and experience by working at my hometown Mayfair Theater in West Virginia, the Paramount Theater in Times Square, New York City, and at the iconic Hollywood Paramount in L.A.

I loved every minute of it all, and the wonderful memories are too many to count.  That's why today's movie theatre news hits me hard and is so tough to take.

In a $2.6 billion dollar deal, China's Dalian Wanda Group has effected a takeover of the largest American movie chain, AMC Entertainment.  This acquisition will link the world's largest theater market with the world's fastest growing theater market.  China's Wanda Group will become, by far, the world's largest motion picture chain, with nearly 6,000 movie screens around the globe.

My concern is this.  American movies have always had a profound influence on American culture.  With control of the largest chain of theatres in the United States in Chinese hands, will that influence be to the benefit of Chinese interests?  Wanda is a privately owned business, but it is a Chinese business under the control of the Chinese government.

What makes me all the more wary is the word that the Securities and Exchange Commission is checking into the dealings of American and Chinese film makers. 

It is possible, and perhaps even probable, that the Chinese could soon have a say in both the production and the exhibition of the movies we see in our local theaters.

For me, this scenario is like watching a horror film. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

George Zimmerman -- Not Guilty

     After being asked again yesterday why I haven't written about what has become known as the Trayvon Martin story, I'm passing along my personal opinion--knowing full well that  it won't sit well with a majority of readers.

 I begin by acknowledging that if George Zimmerman had heeded the request of a 911 dispatcher, and not followed someone he viewed as suspicious on the night of February 26, Trayvon Martin would still be alive.

That is  fact that must weigh heavily on Zimmerman as he awaits trial on second degree murder charges.

But aside from disobeying an order from higher authority, and being an overly zealous community watch volunteer, George Zimmerman did nothng wrong.  As more information comes out of the investigation, it is obvious, at least to me, that Zimmerman is guilty neither of murder, as charged, nor even manslaughter.

I believe that the injuries he sustained, especially the two lacerations to the back of his head, support his version of what happened--that he was assaulted to the point that he feared for his life, and only then fired the gun that killed Trayvon Martin.

A hooded stranger within a gated comunity would evoke concern from a lot of people.  And Trayvon must be considered a stranger in that he was only visiting his father for a brief period while being suspended from school.

The death of a teenager--any teenager, by any means--is a tragedy.  But to convict George Zimmerman of murder is to make the Trayvon Martin story all the more tragic.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The President -- From A Different Point Of View

        Except for cable news programs, I seldom watch daytime TV.  But yesterday I did--tuning in to "The View".  The attraction was the special guest--the President of the United States.

I'm a political junkie and I was interested in what President Obama had to say about the latest news and the important issues of the day.  What I came away with, however, was more than Barack Obama's opinions on political matters.

I came away with increased admiration for a man who must surely be the most well-rounded Commander In Chief in our nation's history.

The President did field questions of a political nature, and he did put on display his obvious understanding of domestic matters and foreign affairs.  But what was surprising was his incredible knowledge about a variety of subjects.   Throughout the program he alternated between showing his serious side and his sense of humor.

President Obama came across to me as a man who knows his job.  He instills confidence.  But he also came across as a regular guy--as one of us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Distracted Driving Could Happen To You

(Editor's Note:   It was a year ago at this time that a freak accident took the life of a dear friend.  It was a case of distracted driving.  With Gabe in mind, we are  providing again a column that appeared a few days after the accident.)

So you think of yourself as a conscientious motorist. You know you are, because you remain alert behind the wheel, and you never do anything that could qualify you as a distracted driver.

This column is to remind you that even though you are cautious and careful--always expecting the unexpected--you can still be a victim of your own distracted driving. Such was the case for a lady in Key West Wednesday morning.

She was driving a school bus which suddenly veered into the path of an oncoming moped. The collision was head-on, killing the rider, Gabe Mardones. It was ruled an accident, and no charges were filed.

That's because it was a freak accident--a case of distracted driving that could happen to anyone. Apparently, a sudden disturbance among the 51 students aboard the bus startled the driver for just the second or two that it took for the crash to occur.

My heart goes out to the driver, who had a clean driving record, and no disciplinary history, during 16 years as a school bus operator. I can only imagine what she must be going through, and I do feel for her, although I don't know her.

I did know the victim, in a very special way, and like many people who knew Gabe, his death hits me hard. In his 62 years of life, he helped a lot of people, including yours truly. I remember well his words of encouragement.

A couple of years ago, I spent a lot of time and did a lot of writing at Florida Keys Community College--a stone's throw from where the accident occurred Wednesday. Back then, both Gabe and I traveled College Road of a morning--he on his way home from his dusk 'til dawn shift, and me on my way to the library at FKCC. It was on that stretch of road where Gabe died

I look at distracted driving differently now. Like many things in life, there are times when it can happen to anyone--through no fault of their own.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Sobering Correllation -- Obesity & Early Death

     We are coming into that time of year when warm weather and outdoor activities bring about big changes in our menus and eating habits.

It's the time of year when we think hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad and cole slaw, baked beans and home made pie.  All so delicious--and all so fattening.

It's not the best time to come across a column I wrote last year about obesity.  Spotting the article immediately dashed my daydreams of the aforementioned summertime favorites.  It was an instant reminder of the perils of picnic foods, which can help pave the way to obesity.  And obesity is a killer.

The state of Mississippi is evidence of that fact.  Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity in the nation--for both men and women.  Mississippi is also worst in the nation with the shortest life expectancy.  This undeniable correlation is not a one-time occurrence--but one that has occurred five years in a row.

Curious as to what is currently happening relative to the subject of obesity, I checked and found that the national effort to promote healthful eating and exercise is apparently falling on deaf ears.  There has been no significant improvement in the rate of obesity n America.  A mind-boggling 35 percent of adults, and 17 percent of children currently qualify as obese.

The children of today will be entering adulthood heavier than they have ever been at any time in history.  That dire prediction came earlier this year from Dr. David Ludwig, director of a childhood obesity program at Children's Hospital in Boston.

There is a ray of hope in that the anti-obesity effort is widespread and ongoing, and resulting public awareness might soon begin to bring about a decrease in the rate of obesity.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Remembering Mother's Days Past......

"Why did you do that?"  

When seen in writing, this question reads like a reprimand.   But when these words are heard, they can be the epitome of love.

I know, because I hear them today, as I heard them on so many Mother's Days past. My Mother is with me now only in spirit, and yet I still hear that question, and I still see that smile, and I still feel that unconditional love. Memory can be a beautiful thing.

 What my Mother was saying to me was, "I wish you hadn't spent all that money that these flowers must have cost".

Truth be told,  as happy as she really was with the remembrance,  I know that my Mother would have gladly traded those flowers for a little more time spent in her company.

Whether the time spent with your Mother today is in person, or in memory, may it give you a a very happy, and truly blessed Mother's Day feeling.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Democratic Team For 2016

     Whether or not President Barack Obama wins a second term come November, it will be necessary for Democrats to come up with a new team to compete for The White House next time around..

And although there will be fresh-face possibilities on the scene by 2016, it is quite possible that it will be some  familiar faces that make up the Democratic ticket four years from now. 

Hillary Clinton must surely be considered at this point in time to be the prohibitive favorite, the presumptive choice to head up the Dems' Presidential ticket.  Her popularity polling numbers are currently through the roof, and both her record and resume are beyond reproach.  And as either Secretary of State, or private citizen, there is little of a negative nature that can be affixed to her, and tarnish her image between now and 2016.

 In that Presidential election year, Hillary Clinton will not yet be 70, and if elected, would enter office the same age as Ronald Reagan when he became President.   And age should not be a factor when considering the decision-making ability of a Presidential candidate who would service a maximum of eight years.  As a nation, we trust the decision-making abilities of Supreme Court Justices who are appointed for life.

The logical choice for a Vice-Presidential candidate will be New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is wildly popular in his home state, and is considered to be a rising star in Democratic circles.

 Though he is already experienced in governing on the state level, and is both knowledgable and competent in domestic matters, Cuomo will be somewhat short on  expertise in foreign affairs.  Still, Andrew Cuomo will be an attractive candidate for the bottom of the ticket.

And then there is Joe Biden.  The current, capable Veep would be a serious candidate for President were it not that his age--74 in 2016--makes him just enough older than Hillary Clinton to cause a possible problem with the party faithful. 

But that doesn't mean the end of the line for Joe Biden.  Pencil him in as an excellent choice for Secretary of State.  The wily Washington veteran has the experience, the negotiating skills, and the drive to make him a powerful voice for America on the world stage.

This team of Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, and Joe Biden, along with outgoing, or former President Barack Obama , and former President Bill Clinton, could make a political powerhouse in 2016 that has seldom, if ever, been seen on the campaign trail.     


Friday, May 4, 2012

Further Hope For Peaceful Coexistence

     Chen Guangchen has given the world further hope for a future of peaceful coexistence between China and the United States.

The blind activist, who has been putting a spotlight on human rights abuses in China,  set the stage for a major confrontation between the world's two greatest economic and military  powers when he escaped from house arrest and sought refuge in the United States embassy in Beijing.

But a "who blinks first" showdown was avoided when both countries gave a little to settle the issue. And the result of rational thinking and reasonable compromise has Chen getting permission to travel to the United States, with his family, to study at a yet undisclosed place of higher learning.

Such a quick resolution to the problem is evidence of a realization by the United States--and by China that peaceful coexistence is in the best interest of both countries..

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Politics Stops At The Water's Edge

     It is a long held belief by most politicians that criticism of a sitting President should be stilled whenever, and as soon as, our Commander In Chief leaves American soil to travel abroad.

While political attacks have always been a part of our democratic process, they are acceptable only within the borders of these United States.  And that's because whenever, and wherever he travels, the President represents all of the people, and it is not a time for partisanship.  It is a time for showing the world a united front.

With all that in mind, it was good to see that unwritten policy in force Tuesday, when President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

John McCain, who lost to our current Commander In Chief in the last Presidential election, was supportive in his comments about the trip.  And presumptive GOP nominee this time around--Mitt Romney--was equally respectful.

Both men did themselves proud--looking more like patriots than politicians.    

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Ripple Effect Of Reasonable Thinking

     In the court of public opinion, someone can be judged to be doing the right thing, when actually it's very wrong.

Such is the case with the burning of a Quran in north central Florida last Saturday evening.  Many of the people I've spoken with since seem to think it was perfectly okay.  They see it, I guess, as an enjoyable show of disrespect for the religion of those who attacked America on 9/11.

What they are not seeing, however, are the possible ramifications--including violent retaliation against our troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.

Fortunately, the world, in general, and America, in particular, have leaders who speak out responsibly to change attitudes when they are wrong.  Examples are the present Pope and our current President--both of whom spoke out strongly against the burning of Qurans back in 2009  when it first became an issue.

Their efforts helped to create a ripple effect of reasonable thinking that is slowly, but steadily turning the tide of public opinion against Islamophobia.

About Romney's Swiss Bank Account

     According to former Democratic Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, the Presidential battle for that all-important swing state is about to heat up--with presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney feeling much of the heat.  The Dems are poised to point out three problem areas for Romney due to his past modus operandi.

First, there is his decision to file for an extension before making public his federal tax return.  That, in itself, conjures up the image of a man deferring as long as possible the release of information not conducive to public confidence.

The delay, the extension, is counter to tradition, and it leads to speculation that there will  be information contained therein that will not be helpful to the Republican cause.

Then, there is the matter of investments placed with off-shore, Cayman Islands banks.  The question here is, " What is wrong with American banks?"

Finally, and most damaging to the Romney image, is the disclosure in Romney's 2010 federal tax return that he has enjoyed the protection and privacy of a numbered Swiss bank account.  That account was closed about the same time that Mitt Romney became a serious candidate for The White House, but it still begs the question,  "why?" 

Why did Mitt Romney feel the need for a secret Swiss account.  Was he looking to make money on the fluctuation of the U.S. dollar, or was there something else he wanted to hide?

Whatever eventually comes of these three problems, Mitt Romney may well regret not enlightening the American people earlier on.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

All Of Us Are Sometimes Forgetful

     Alzheimer's disease has been a frequent topic of discussion in this space over the last three years--prompting occasional questions from readers.

A few days ago, a regular reader called to inquire about the early indicators of Alzheimer's.  She is concerned that some forgetfulness she is experiencing might mean there is trouble ahead.  After misplacing her keys, she had endured a day of worry until she found them.  About the same time, she found herself in the kitchen unable to remember why she had gone there.

There is a world of difference between occasional forgetfulness and Alzheimer's disease. All of us are sometimes forgetful, and we are a little bit more so as time goes on. No need to be concerned about that.

The time to wonder if you, or someone you know, is in the early stages of Alzheimer's is when more serious difficulties occur, such as needing help to perform routine daily tasks, having trouble recalling recent events, losing the ability to converse, getting lost while walking or driving in what should be familiar territory, being unable to operate common appliances, or behaving inappropriately. Then it is time for a visit with a Doctor.

A recent email inquired as to the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia. And the answer here is that Alzheimer's is a form of dementia--the most common form.