Thursday, December 20, 2007

On Hunger and Obesity

Does anyone else besides me find fighting both hunger and obesity among the “most underprivileged” contradictory? Someone even said that obesity is the “new face of hunger”. Interestingly enough this presents three creative ways to raise taxes on the “slim and wealthy” (and everyone else who pays taxes).

First raise taxes to provide money for the hungry to buy food. Then tax high calorie foods so that they can’t afford it. And then institute a federal program to educate the hungry which food to buy using the money government gives them. Yes, such program exists and according to website it “grew from $660,000 in 1992 to over $147 million in 2002”, and some $313 million in 2008.

But here is a novel idea: how about we solve problems by reducing federal spending instead of increasing it? For example start reducing food stamps for those who become obese using them? Who knows, maybe this will help reduce the budget deficit as well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Negotiations Giuliani style

Recently I was having a series of conversations with my colleague at work on whether Michael Bloomberg will make a better President than Rudy Giuliani. But as much as my friend believes that Bloomberg’ s business skills would make him a better President, I think that since dealing in the international arena is more like dealing with the mob than with legitimate business partners, we need a President who is a prosecutor more than a businessman.

I hope Rudy will use his plea negotiation skills when dealing with characters like the nut from Iran, whose name is not worth my effort trying to spell it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Murder and the “Teenager Issue”

In the recent news about a Muslim father who allegedly killed his own sixteen years old daughter in Canada over her refusing to wear a Muslim headscarf, I came across a quote from Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress, who said that the whole thing must just be a “teenager issue” completely unrelated to Islam, or immigration. What irritates me in this comment is that no matter what the motives are it’s never the victim’s problem (or issue) that he or she got murdered. It’s the murderer, the father in this case, who obviously had an “issue” be that Islam, immigration or parenting in general. Does Mr. Elmasry think that 9/11 was an aviation issue?

Co-Programming Experience

Recently my girlfriend, a Hillary supporter and a recruiter in computer technology, got fed up working on commissions and decided to look for a job with a nice base salary. Being a software engineer, I suggested her to look around in that area. Obviously she figured she would need at least some programming experience to find a job in software engineering. “Yes, but you have two years of co-programming experience with me”, I said (that’s how long we have been dating). I told her she could put a note on her resume “if you don’t think it matters ask Hillary Clinton”, she runs for office on the same premise LOL. Talk about being the “co-President” for eight years. “Well, if you don’t think you can use it to find a programming job how can the same quality Hillary to be the President of the United States” I said. Although my girlfriend remained unconvinced we decided that if she will find a programming job I’ll let the same argument for Hillary stand for what it’s worth. Just that argument of course.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Communism and the Christmas tree paradox

I’m a long time listener to the Rush Limbaugh show and mostly, if not always agree with what he is saying. Nevertheless he made me laugh this past Tuesday when I was listening to the podcast of his show. He was talking about Chinese (or ChiComs as he calls them) buying up Christmas trees and said that, I quote “This would never have happened in the Soviet Union. Well, if it did and the state caught you, you'd be shot by a firing squad. Religion was not allowed in any shape...”

Well, I grew up in the Soviet Union, and while it's true that religion was suppressed in all its shapes and forms, Christmas trees or “New Year trees” (Новогодняя Ёлка) as we called them were an integral part of the Soviet culture. The reason is that, had Communist simply denied people such an appealing symbol as the Christmas tree and Santa Clause, it would cause resentment to the whole idea of Communism especially in the early days. Communists were smarter than that, rather than getting rid of the symbol they adopted it as their own, renamed Christmas tree to “New Year’s tree” and Santa Clause to “Grandpa Freeze” (Дед Мороз) making them secular or “folk” symbols without changing anything the way they looked, by the way.

Growing up the Soviet Union, I remember lighting up New Year tree and receiving gifts from the “Grandpa Freeze” every year. It was almost ritualistic and everyone did it. New Year's trees were lit at local chapters of the Communist party, in schools, kindergartens and in Kremlin by the Secretary General on live TV.

Christmas however was completely forgotten, I remember, reading an old novel in school where the term Christmas tree was mentioned – the first time I heard it. All the children in class asked the teacher what it was, and teacher said, “Well, that’s what they called the New Year tree, back in the dark years of region”

Coming to this country it was a cultural shock to find out that Christmas tree is a regions symbol connected to Christianity, and that non-Christians, Jews for example don't do it. As a consequence many Jews from the Former Soviet Union, especially the older generation still light Christmas (or New Year) trees at home refusing to accept that it has any religious meaning.