Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Supreme Court Justice

Dear Madame L,

I read your post about the so-called "broccoli test," in which you claim that the liberal-versus-conservative composition of the Supreme Court won't matter for deciding the issue of the health-care law passed by Congress in 2010.

But here's a new one for you: The Supreme Court, by a 6-to-3 majority, recently decided a case against a grandmother, putting her back in jail for a crime she probably didn't commit, apparently just to "teach a lesson" to the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had thrown out the woman's conviction.

It seems to me that when the highest court of  the land, which is supposed to be impartial, uses outdated medical understanding and picky technicalities to send an innocent person back to prison, and does it in a quiet way to keep from drawing attention to the case, there's something really wrong with that court, and, by extension, with our entire government system.

"And now if ye have judges, and they do not judge you according to the law which has been given, ye can cause that they may be judged of a higher judge. If your higher judges do not judge righteous judgments, ye shall cause that a small number of your lower judges should be gathered together, and they shall judge your higher judges, according to the voice of the people" (Mosiah 29:28-29).

Please enlighten,

Another Dear Reader

Dear Another Dear Reader,

Madame L thanks you for bringing this case to her attention. The article you linked to also details a case in which a man was deceived by police into making a confession which should not have been accepted in court, and being convicted.

The issue of shaken-baby syndrome is being disputed, but, more importantly for our justice system, as you point out, is the fact that the Supreme Court is using such a case as a way to "punish" a lower court instead of to bring justice to a person who is probably innocent. (And who, even if she is not innocent, deserves to have her case decided based on medical evidence, not intra-judicial wrangling.)

Madame L does not have a solution to this issue, except the following recipe: 

1. Vote for officials, including the President of the United States, who have opinions and support policies like those you yourself support. 

2. Let them sit in office long enough for you to see if they are making laws and appointing judges who are righteous and who will uphold justice for all the public.

3. If they're not doing that, throw them out and elect new officials who will uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land.

4. Continue to pray for righteousness to prevail in America.


Madame L

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Restore America?

Dear Madame L,

Per your frequent suggestions, I've been trying to keep up with news on the Republican presidential primary contenders, and I think I've found the one I could vote for: The libertarian Ron Paul.

Ron Paul really seems to oppose big government and the foreign entanglements we've gotten ourselves into over the last 10 years, and I saw in one of his televised speeches that he responded favorably to some "Occupy" protesters, telling them he's on the side of the 99%.

What do you think of his candidacy?


Informed Voter

Dear Informed Voter,

Madame L commends you for your interest in politics. Madame L believes that ALL of us took a stronger interest in what the politicians are saying and, more importantly, how they are voting, we would have a stronger and more responsive government, a government that would be doing what we, the people, the supposed government itself, want to be done.

Madame L has been fascinated with Ron Paul's supposed populism and his proposals to "restore America." Like you, Madame L likes the idea of our elected officials responding to our actual wishes and needs rather than the desires of big businesses and wealthy campaign donors.

However, Madame L finds Ron Paul's proposals and, more importantly, his actual stances on social policies, disappointing. In fact, this politician has just dressed up the anti-social programs of Ayn Rand philosophy, or so-called libertarianism, in words that appeal to the very people who would be hurt by his proposals.

Because here's the thing: He wants to cut the very programs that benefit the middle class and the poor people of our country. He actually believes these programs are wrong, that he would be doing the country a favor by keeping the poor from "looting" the resources that should be available to others, i.e., the wealthy. 

For example, he would cut $645 billion in Medicaid over four years, as well as food stamps, family support, and child nutrition, because in his libertarian view, society does not function to benefit its weaker, poorer, and/or sicker members.

If you don't believe Madame L, please check out his "Restore America" plan.  This shows that Ron Paul's real desire is to "restore America" to some pre-industrial state of increased wealth for the wealthy and abysmal poverty for the rest of us.

Ron Paul named his son Rand after Ayn Rand, the mentally disturbed, sociopathic, atheist. Ayn Rand believed there is no such thing as the public and there is no social or moral obligation among humans. It was victory to the strongest, and let the poor suffer, as "Nature" intended (see Tennyson's In Memoriam A.H.H.: "...Nature, red in tooth in claw...").

(Note that Madame L does not call Ayn Rand a writer, because although her scribbles were published, she wrote  horribly; and Madame L will never review any of Rand's books on these virtual pages because they are so full of moral and philosophical garbage in addition to being badly written.)

So, even if Madame L agreed with Ron Paul's desire to cut defense spending to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, she would not agree with these proposals of his:

Cut aid to education. (Slash the Department of Education)
Cut government-subsidized housing. (Slash the Department of Housing and Urban Development)
Cut energy programs. (Slash the Department of Energy)
Cut programs to promote commerce and technology. (Slash the Department of Commerce)
Cut support for the environment. (Slash the Environmental Protection Agency)
No more national parks. (Slash the Department of the Interior)

You want a nice park where you can enjoy nature? Take a bath and get a job (to quote another ridiculous and anti-social Republican presidential candidate), make a lot of money, and buy some land of your own where you can enjoy nature.  

You want your children and the other children in your community to have a good education so they can get jobs? Pay for it yourself. Those who can't pay, let them send their children out to start working as young as they can (to quote that same other ridiculous and anti-social Republican, who thinks child labor laws are "stupid"). 

You want to maintain the clean air and water standards we've had for 30 years now, thanks to Nixon's Environmental Protection Act? Tough, because Ron Paul wants to cut drastically the funds going to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

You want our country to make progress in commerce and hold its own against the other nations of the world? Madame L has no idea how Ron Paul would propose to do that, but she assumes it would involve slashing social programs and providing further entitlements to the wealthy.

Madame L thinks Ron Paul is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. He doesn't care about the 99%. His proposals are based on immoral and unjust and anti-Christian principles, and they would benefit no one but other people like himself --- and the 1%.

If you want to find a Republican candidate who really stands up for the little guy, check out Buddy Roemer. Don't know who he is? That's because he hasn't been allowed into any of the televised debates, and that's because he hasn't been getting any donations from big business and wealthy individuals like the others, including Ron Paul, have. If you want to help him get into a debate, he'd love to have your help. 

(Full disclosure: Madame L does not support Buddy Roemer, hasn't donated and won't be donating any money to his campaign, and will not vote for him, ever. But she likes the way he tells the truth, including pointing out the lies of his opponents, including pointing out that Newt Gingrich, the aforementioned ridiculous and anti-social candidate and current front-runner, has accepted millions of dollars to lobby on behalf of the 1%, and including distancing himself from the libertarian ideas of Ron Paul.)


Madame L

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, November 27, 2011: Flyaway

Did Shakespeare love birds? Madame L asks only because he has Portia say to Nerissa, in "The Merchant of Venice":

The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark
When neither is attended, and I think
The nightingale if she should sing by day,
When every goose is cackling, would be thought
No better a musician than the wren.
How many things by season seasoned are
To their right praise and true perfection?

...and has Hamlet say to Horatio, "There is special providence in
the fall of a sparrow..."

Birds are so perfect a creation that God himself notices the fall of every sparrow (Matthew 10:29). 

Does that mean that people who love birds are special? Probably not in the usual sense of the world. Possibly so in the sense of being somewhat crazy, and Madame L says this as a more-than-slightly crazed bird person, herself.

But you don't have to be crazy about birds, pet birds or wild birds, to enjoy "Flyaway: How A Wild Bird Rehabber Sought Adventure and Found Her Wings," by Suzie Gilbert. 

The author's five-year work of love as a bird rehabilitator started with a vow not to take babies or fledglings or songbirds of any sort. In the middle, she took in lots of baby birds because she couldn't say no. 

In the middle, she would take baby birds in baskets and reptariums to her children's baseball and soccer games so she could keep up with their every-half-hour feeding schedule. 

By the end, she had two large bird flights in her back yard, cages inside and outside her house, herons in the bathtub, owls and red-tailed hawks in the shed, a freezer just for rodents and fish for the raptors and other predators, two- to eight-hour drives to pick up and deliver wounded and recovering birds, and a deep sorrow for all the birds she couldn't rescue.

What did the author get out of all her experiences? Her love for wild birds and all wild animals grew, her despair for humans increased but was mitigated by the people who cared for the injured creatures, and her need for a mission was satisfied.

As always, Madame L will gladly share her copy of the book with any of you Good and Faithful Readers who are interested.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving --- and Evacuation Day

Dear Kind and Gentle Readers,

Madame L wishes all of you a very happy Thanksgiving Day. She hopes you're with family and/or friends, and hopes your hearts are full of joy and gratitude.

She hopes you'll also say a prayer on Evacuation Day (Nov. 25, this year the day after Thanksgiving) for the brave American soldiers and sailors who were imprisoned in British prison ships during the Revolutionary War. (Over 10,000 of them died on those ships, more than the combined number of Americans who died in every battle during the Revolutionary War.) Evacuation Day celebrates the day in 1783 that the British finally left.

Our nation used to commemorate Evacuation Day with boys climbing up a greased flagpole to tear down the Union Jack. Since Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in 1863, though, we've tended to neglect Evacuation Day in favor of overeating on the fourth Thursday of every November.

Madame L thanks Jon Stewart and his guest historian/comedian Sarah Vowell for bringing this day to her attention in their Nov. 17 discussion of Evacuation Day.

Best wishes to all,

Madame L

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Broccoli Test

Dear Madame L,

I'm worried about the Supreme Court deciding to decide the constitutionality of so-called Obamacare, the law passed by Congress in 2010 that mandates health insurance.

The current court is very conservative, and two members of it have accepted payments to speak to super-conservative groups which are fighting Obamacare. Since they don't have to recuse themselves, as judges in lower courts do, and since they seem to be taking every opportunity to restrict individual rights and increase powers of corporations and those who are already wealthy, what will they do to my health insurance?


Worried for Future Health Insurance

Dear Worried,

Madame L feels your pain and has no solution to your worry.

Madame L has heard progressives argue that justices Thomas and Scalia should recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest; and conservatives argue that Justice Elena Kagan should recuse herself for the same reason. She has read that Republican presidential candidates are crowing over the supposed certainty that the Supreme Court will strike down the legislation. Yet, unlike progressive and conservative pundits and Republican presidential candidates, Madame L has not the power of seeing the future.

However, she's keeping up on the issue and has recently read one opinion piece that she hopes will encourage you: The Broccoli Test, by Harvard law professor Einer Elhauge. He argues that the court will base its decision on the Commerce Clause as well as the fact that people are required to be covered by Medicare. 

Madame L will try to keep you and all her Dear (and Gentle) Readers posted as she becomes aware of more opinions on the court's expected ruling on health care.

By the way, Madame L prefers to call this legislation the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress in 2010 and signed into law by President Obama onMarch 23, 2010, rather than Obamacare.

As always, you can find more information on Wikipedia about this program than Madame L can ever provide.

Best wishes,

Madame L

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why Madame L Reads Paul Krugman's Column

Dear Madame L,

With the deadline for the so-called Super Committee coming up and the committee's apparent inability to make a decision on some combination of budget cuts and revenue increases, I keep reading conflicting stories and opinions.

I've been reading a lot of attacks on Pres. Obama and the Democratic Party in general for not going along with the Republicans' demands to cut Medicare and Medicaid spending while not raising taxes on the 1-percent of people who are wealthy. And then of course the Democrats spin the story the other way.

I don't know what to believe. Can you help?



Dear Puzzled,

There are lots of ways to deal with the confusion our country is currently cursed with, as pundits on both sides of every issue pick and choose the facts they lay out to support their opinions, with apparently little or no regard for the truth.

But life is short, and not even Madame L can read every newspaper and watch every TV news broadcast every day. So she has only one suggestion for you, and that is to read Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times.

Krugman, who won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics, gets right to the point of every issue, and, refreshingly, calls out those pundits who lie or misstate the facts. (Madame L thanks columnist Alex Pareene for providing the specific examples mentioned below.)

For example, without mentioning the pundits' names, he recently pointed out that those who are claiming that Pres. Obama isn't providing clear leadership on the budget and revenue issues are lying: 

After another Times columnist wrote that President Obama's politics on the issue of the supercommittee's tax and budget decisions is "a bowl of poll-tested mush," Krugman wrote a few days later:

Oh, and let me give a special shout-out to “centrist” pundits who won’t admit that President Obama has already given them what they want. The dialogue seems to go like this. Pundit: “Why won’t the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?” Mr. Obama: “I support a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes.” Pundit: “Why won’t the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?”

After another columnist wrote that there really isn't any economic inequality between the American 1% and the rest of us, Krugman wrote a few days later:
Anyone who has tracked this issue over time knows what I mean. Whenever growing income disparities threaten to come into focus, a reliable set of defenders tries to bring back the blur. Think tanks put out reports claiming that inequality isn’t really rising, or that it doesn’t matter. Pundits try to put a more benign face on the phenomenon, claiming that it’s not really the wealthy few versus the rest, it’s the educated versus the less educated.
So what you need to know is that all of these claims are basically attempts to obscure the stark reality: We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only.
These are just a few examples. Krugman makes his point this succinctly, this clearly, every time. Madame L recommends that you read his columns to get an unbiased and accurate explanation of the issues.


Madame L

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, November 20, 2011: The DASH Diet for Hypertension

What "other way" do you think the doctor will recommend to take care of high blood pressure? It should be remembered that lowering salt intake is only one way that is recommended to help control high blood pressure. Other aspects of the diet, such as eating lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, along with plenty of exercise, stress-relief, and possibly even weight loss, should also be considered. When those things are not enough, or when the patient is not motivated enough to do those things, the next thing a doctor will consider (at least, in my experience) is medications. Personally, I've always believed that if it can be resolved without medication and all the side effects that go along with the meds, so much the better.

I have a friend who, with her husband, served a mission to Africa. While there she lost weight and her blood pressure went down to normal levels. She attributed it to the change in her diet, although I'm sure the increased walking must have helped as well.

Low sodium diet, healthy diet, exercise, stress relief, and, when needed, medication. I bet that's what the doctor will order.
 Dear Ellen,

Thanks for commenting extensively on high blood pressure and its likely causes and possible treatments.

You have confirmed again Madame L's original statement that "other causes, including genetics, obesity, lack of exercise, and other dietary factors" can all contribute to high blood pressure. 

Madame L's personal and family experience with high blood pressure led her to read and follow the advice given in "The DASH Diet for Hypertension," by Thomas Moore and Marc Jenkins (available in new paperback at for $10.20).
This book is "prescribed" by many doctors for their patients with hypertension, and it recommends the same actions you list: a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk products and low in beef and pork; plenty of exercise; stress relief; and weight loss.
The book includes recipes and menu plans as well as the scientific and medical background one needs to appreciate the seriousness of hypertension. It beats all the other "diet" books Madame L has ever read (which is more than a few). 
Madame L recommends the DASH diet for anyone, not just those who have high blood pressure. Following the advice in this book will make you feel better in every way.
As always, Madame L will be happy to loan her own copy of the book to anyone who requests it. Just email her at [ellemadame (at)]. 

Best wishes,

Madame L 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Age of Aquarius Arrives

Dear Madame L,

I'm very disappointed in you. The Age of Aquarium officially arrived one week ago (Nov. 11, 2011), and you didn't even mention it.

Shame on you,

Old and Faithful Reader

Dear Old Faithful,

Madame L wonders how seriously you're really taking this, especially since you called it the "Age of Aquarium."

Madame L has tried to make clear that her interest in astrological nonsense is strictly as an amused observer. 

However, for you and other easily amused Dear Readers, Madame L has Googled "Age of Aquarius" and has found that a great many people appear to be taking this seriously, which just goes to show... nothing, probably.

“We are entering the Age of Aquarius on November 11, 2011. It will be a new time. The entire psyche is changing. You must purify the mind, body and soul to be real, innocent, and sattvic (pure). Elevate yourself to be angelic. This age which you will serve is an age of awareness and experience.” This online magazine goes on to promise: "As we get closer and closer to November 11, 2011, which marks the official arrival of the Age of Aquarius, the collective consciousness of our planet is being impacted with profound changes. Aquarian Times provides tools for you to handle these changes and to become guiding lights for others as they, too, meet the challenges of the Aquarian Age."

Madame L hopes you will also be edified by this video, in which a very spiritual person points out that we are all individual bits of water, yet all unified in the same large ocean; and that this is a "super cool time to be alive," among other things.

Watch the whole thing for fascinating tidbits about the attack on New York, spies on the Internet, and other such revelations. 

Also, be aware that Yogi Bhajan's own estimation of the arrival of the Age of Aquarius has varied; at one point he said it happened ten years ago.  

Whenever it arrived, Yogi Bhajan has this message for all of us: 

"This will be the age of experience, expertise, and expansion. Prosperity shall be the key factor, and the prosperity message is: Prosperity, prosperity, prosperity, is perpetual with people who prefer to be penetrating, prepared and purposeful." (Don't you love a man with alliteration? No?)

But then, since Madame L has amused herself out for now, feel free to make your own Google search, and please feel free to share your results with Madame L and your fellow Dear and Gentle (and Old and Faithful) Readers.

Best of luck,

Madame L 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rep. Coburn (R-OK) Report on Millionaires

Dear Readers,

As a follow-up to yesterday's answer to a question about representative goverment, Madame L presents this interesting report released on Sunday (Nov. 13) by the office Rep. Coburn (R-OK), showing that billions of dollars are being given by US, the PEOPLE of the United States, to people who are already millionaires.

The report, “Subsidies of the Rich and Famous,” shows how, under the current tax code, the federal government is giving billions of dollars to individuals with an Annual Gross Income (AGI) of at least $1 million, subsidizing their lavish lifestyles with the taxes of the less fortunate, according to this press release from Coburn's office.  Quoting further from the press release:

“'All Americans are facing tough times, with many working two jobs just to make ends meet and more families turning to the government for financial assistance. From tax write-offs for gambling losses, vacation homes, and luxury yachts to subsidies for their ranches and estates, the government is subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Multi-millionaires are even receiving government checks for not working.

“'This welfare for the well-off – costing billions of dollars a year – is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate, many who are working two jobs just to make ends meet, and IOUs to be paid off by future generations. We should never demonize those who are successful. Nor should we pamper them with unnecessary welfare to create an appearance everyone is benefiting from federal programs,' Dr. Coburn said.

"These billions of dollars for millionaires include $74 million of unemployment checks, $316 million in farm subsidies, $89 million for preservation of ranches and estates, $9 billion of retirement checks, $75.6 million in residential energy tax credits, and $7.5 million to compensate for damages caused by emergencies to property that should have been insured.

"All and all, over $9.5 billion in government benefits have been paid to millionaires since 2003. Additionally, millionaires borrowed $16 million in government backed education loans to attend college.

"On average, each year, this report found that millionaires enjoy benefits from tax giveaways and federal grant programs totaling $30 billion. As a result, almost 1,500 millionaires paid no federal income tax in 2009.

Are you outraged? If so, let your government represenatives hear from you!


Madame L

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's a New Day

To go along with the "Yes We Can" video:

Yes, We Can

Dear Madame L,

Aren't you getting discouraged by the current political atmosphere, in which our elected representatives to government are ignoring our wishes, and the 1% gets richer while the 99% continue to get poorer, while the only protests anyone seems to have thought of (the Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy protests) are turning into messes? 
How can you maintain hope in the future, considering how messed up the present is?



Dear Depressed,

Madame L continues to believe that we CAN make changes that will lead us into a brighter future.

Madame L encourages you to 

---Write to your Member of Congress and Senators from your state, and to your local newspaper opinion page; and call the offices of your representatives to tell whoever answers the phone your opinion;

---Join with like-minded people to visit Congressional and Senatorial offices to tell them in person your views and ask them to represent you; and

---Raise your voice to call for change in every way you can.

Do you want taxes raised on wealthy individuals and corporations, while keeping social safety-net guarantees for the rest of us? YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Look at these poll results:

Making hundreds of millions of dollars in spending cuts to Medicare and Medicaid through increasing beneficiary costs:
Yes - 29% 
No - 75%

Changing the way in which increases in Social Security benefits are calculated in order to lower program costs and lower future benefits:
Yes - 38% 
No - 56%

Increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations:  
Yes - 66%
No - 31%

Closing tax loopholes and reforming the tax code to make the tax code fairer:  
Yes - 89%
No - 7%

If someone in government who is supposedly representing you is voting against what you want them to do, let them know you disapprove of them and will not vote for them to be re-elected.  Better yet, let them know you'll actively work for them to be voted out in 2012.

For example, Madame L's Member of Congress was elected on a promise to represent the people of her district, but then signed Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge after arriving in Washington, D.C. This has prompted Madame L to write email messages and call that person's local and D.C. offices to protest; and to begin working for the election of a different person to that office.

(Please become active in politics even if your opinions are very different from those of Madame L! Maybe you like the idea of lower taxes for rich people and policies that will result in many more desperate and homeless families. If so, go for it.)

If you want representative government, you have to let the government know what your views are.


Madame L 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Urinotherapy---Thanks for Making Madame L's Day

Thank you, Jeff, for your hilarious comment:
Umm. What about drinking urine? It even has a name: Urinotherapy.
A former Prime Minister of India, Morarji Desai, practiced drinking his own urine, and it is referred to as far back as the Roman poet Catullus, criticizing a Gaul named Egnatius for using it to whiten his teeth.
Is this practice currently "in" or "out" with the so-called "science writers"?
BTW, how do you make comments anonymous?
In response to your first question: Madame L  believes urinotherapy is NOT recommended by most so-called "science writers" --- nor by most or any licensed health care providers. 

However, Madame L has found a hilarious blog about this topic (which she does not necessarily recommend for the serious reader). This sub-head from the blog may provide you with all the information you need on the topic, without having to check further:

"Urinotherapy does not have to part of our life style, but it is very helpfull [sic] for people in serious situation [sic] or in cases that other things does [sic] not work."

Madame L scanned quickly through the Wikipedia entry on urinotherapy, which she found almost as hilarious as the aforementioned blog post and your comment. Would the fact that writer J.D. Salinger as well as the prime minister you mentioned and other famous or notorious people have been adherents recommend the practice to you? No, I thought not.

In response to your second question, Madame L does not know how to post anonymous comments to other people's blogs (nor to her own). She has received some anonymous comments, which are automatically filtered for her, and which she has never accepted for posting. Sorry.

Madame L also apologizes for using the word "hilarious" three times, plus this time, in this response, and also for possibly overdoing her use of [sic]. She simply could not help herself.

Take care, and don't drink any urine,

Madame L

Debunking Food Myths

Dear Madame L,

I read that article you linked to the other day about debunking food myths, and I think you're wrong about high salt intake. I think that article debunked the idea that salt is bad for you, and your reader should talk to his/her doctor about another way to take care of his/her high blood pressure.



Dear Delusional Debunkee,

Madame L sticks by her original advice. Madame L would like to bet you money, except that she's not a bettor, that in a few months from now another article will come along, citing a new study showing that salt is indeed very bad for you and that reducing sodium intake is essential for lowering blood pressure.

Madame L is amazed at how so-called "popular science writers" can take whatever idea they like at the moment and "popularize" it for the "general public," which generally means dumbing it down beyond recognition and misrepresenting the scientific research involved.

Case in point: Recently you may have read that everyone, including pregnant women, should be drinking a glass of wine a day for its resveratrol content, even though the content of that chemical is practically nil in a glass of wine. And even more recently you may have read that women should not drink wine at all. Both of these contradictory ideas were supposedly supported by scientific research.

Madame L disagrees with a lot of what so-called "medical science" recommends for people, particularly when she sees articles in news magazines or reports on the nightly news. From her own experience, she knows how hard it is to represent accurately the results of complicated experiments in 200 words or less; and she has seen the vast difference between the news articles and the scientific papers the science and medical writers are trying to summarize for us, the general readers.

But she believes that moderation in all things, except in drugs that are deleterious to human health (including alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine), which should be avoided entirely, will promote health and well-being for everyone, no matter what the latest scientific or medical fad says.

And she asks you to read this comment from another reader, seconding the advice of Madame L and countless medical researchers:

Dear Madame L, As someone who has high blood pressure, and is on medication for it, I'd like to comment, too. I think your answer was very good--most of us would benefit from cutting back on salt, with or without high blood pressure. I assumed I was supposed to do just that, at the time of my diagnosis, and I've learned to appreciate the flavors of food without all the salt. Interestingly enough, after my last annual check-up, I was told that my sodium levels were too LOW, and I actually needed to start salting my food a little more! When the nurse called me with that news, she said she had never before been asked to give that message to any of the doctor's patients. That's beside the point, I know, but I just wanted to share, lol. High blood pressure is serious, and, as you implied, using yourself as a guinea pig with such a serious health concern would not be very wise. There are a lot of seasonings available that can make food taste soooo good, without all that salt!! Good luck to your Dear Reader.

So, again, take care,

Madame L

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, November 13, 2011: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Dear Gentle Readers,

Madame L apologizes for posting this review a day late.

Continuing her theme of Christmas stories ("A Christmas Carol" and "Wishin' and Hopin'"), Madame L wants to recommend most highly of all "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," which she calls "The Best Christmas Story Ever (After The Original, Of Course)." 

Re-reading this book, as she does every year, Madame L realizes why it's so good: 

First, not only do characters change (as in any good novel), but all the main characters change, from the Herdmans (the sinners) to the self-righteous church-going people (the Pharisees) involved in the Christmas pageant. 

Second, all these changes are brought about by the miracle of Christmas itself, the miracle of the tiny child, born in the lowliest of conditions, who has the power to transform all of us. 

So the Herdman children (great symbolic name, no?) are introduced in the opening lines of the book: "The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker's old broken-down toolhouse."

The Herdmans go from lying, stealing troublemakers to transforming the traditional Christmas pageant characters of the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel, who announces, "Hey! Unto you a child is born!"

And the rest of the congregation go from self-righteously judging the Herdmans to shedding quiet tears of joy as they are struck by the Spirit of Christmas.

So there's humor and hypocrisy, as we expect in any book about the realities of life confronting the idealistic spirituality of this great celebration, but there's also redemption, which uplifts us. 

We see ourselves in the cigar-smoking Herdman children and the harried parents. 

We see that there's hope for all of us if we can let ourselves feel the miracle of the Christ child, our Savior and Redeemer.

The book is available in several formats and many prices at, and Madame L sees that a movie has been made of the story, which she will review sometime after she sees it.

Best wishes to all for a happy, love-filled, and spiritual holiday season,

Madame L 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Salt and High Blood Pressure

Dear Madame L,

My doctor just diagnosed me with borderline-high blood pressure. She told me I should cut back drastically on salt in my diet, but I've heard that high sodium isn't the main reason for high blood pressure. What can you tell me about this?


I Love Salt

Dear Salt-Lover,

Madame L thinks you should follow your doctor's instructions to the letter. 

High sodium intake has been implicated as a cause of high blood pressure, even though there are other causes, including genetics, obesity, lack of exercise, and other dietary factors.

Why would you want to test this on yourself? 

Take care,

Madame L

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why Are People So Competitive?

Dear Madame L,

I was running laps the other day at the local high school track, a way I can get exercise while listening to music and not worrying about being attacked or run over on the street.

After awhile, I became aware that another runner had caught up with me, then passed me. After he passed, he slowed down almost to a walk, until I drew near him, and then he looked over his shoulder at me and started running again. I was keeping my usual pace the whole time, as I run there for exercise, not for competition. The guy kept doing that, and I realized he was competing with me, even though I wasn't competing with him.

Then I realized that this happens all the time with people, sometimes with me. Even at work, when people are talking about some TV show, the person who remembers the most details and tells the stories in the funniest way seems to "win." And so I'm wondering if you know why people compete so much?


Out of the Running

Dear Out Of It,

You've raised an interesting question. Biologists, psychologists, and anthropologists would point out that the fastest runner and strongest hunter would have most access to food, so there's an evolutionary aspect to it. As one writer puts it, "Competition is one of the most basic functions of nature. Those best able to compete within an environmental niche survive. Those least well adapted die out. Competition remains a powerful instinctual drive in human nature. We compete against each other, we compete against ourselves, and we compete as groups against other groups."

Animals besides primates and humans also compete for food, attention, and mating opportunities. Even the beautiful songs of male birds in the spring are aimed at acquiring a mate and defeating rivals; and those that sing the best and add the most variations to their songs attract mates.

Family counselors would point out that the child who is most endearing (smiles first, says "Mama" early, learns fastest) to his/her parents may be given more chances to succeed further. Both older and younger siblings would agree.

A recently published book, Duels and Duets, by John L. Locke, suggests that human male speech tends to be competitive and aggressive, establishing hierarchical position (duels), while female speech tends to be cooperative and harmony-establishing, maintaining family and social relationships (duets). 

However, some recent research on primates and humans shows that most of their/our behavior is NOT directed toward competing for resources; and a new book by linguist Steven Pinker shows that human violence has decreased over our history. 

So, there's hope for us as a species. But what about individual situations? Madame L suspects that you would really like to know how to handle this competitive runner at the high-school track. Madame L is glad to know that you're listening to music as you run on the track (and not on the streets), and hopes you can find enough relief and distraction in your music to be able to ignore that guy. Madame L does not recommend shooting dirty glances at the guy, as this may encourage him to think he's won something or may goad him to act even more competitively.

Gentle Readers, how have you handled unseemly competitive behavior?

Keep on running,

Madame L

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bank Transfer Day---You Can Still Do It

Dear Madame L,

I want to transfer my money from a big Wall Street bank to a community bank or credit union, but I didn't have a chance to do it on Saturday the 5th. Is it too late?

Also, I think one problem with a credit union is it's very local, and I've been using the national ATM network of my big bank.


Fed Up With My Big Bank's Fees

Dear Fed Up,

It's not too late. In fact, the sooner you make this change, the better for you. Credit unions have as many "banking products" as most people need (savings accounts, checking accounts, certificates of deposit, home mortgages, car loans, small business loans, etc.), and in general they offer higher interest rates for savings, lower interest rates for loans, lower fees for everything, and personal, friendly service.

Also, most credit unions give their member access to a nation-wide network of ATMs which are ALL FREE, unlike many bank ATMs.

Some commentators are saying the Nov. 5 "Bank Transfer Day" was only the beginning, and Madame L hopes they are right. Madame L has long been a big believer in credit unions.

According to CUNA (Credit Union National Association),* benefits of belonging to a credit union include free ATM access, shared branches, and electronic banking. About three-quarters of credit unions belong to a surcharge-free ATM network, while some 97% of credit unions offer Web-based home banking, allowing members to check balances, view their account histories or transfer funds online. And 94% offer online billing while 47% offer mobile banking.

*Full disclosure: Madame L is a former employee of CUNA.

Go for it,

Madame L

Monday, November 7, 2011

Want to see an asteroid?

Dear Madame L,

I heard an asteroid is going to be passing close to Earth soon. How can I see it?



Dear Star-Gazer,

Madame L has also heard about Asteroid 2005 YU55, which will be passing within 200,000 miles of Earth on Tuesday the 8th. 

Unfortunately, you won't be able to see it without a telescope, according to It will be close to Earth and best viewed on the East coast around 6:30 Eastern time. (If you live on the West coast, like Madame L, you may have much less of a chance to see it, even if it's not obscured by clouds.

Madame L is planning to take part in an online chat with Thomas Statler (National Science Foundation expert on near-Earth asteroids) on  The chat will start at 1:30 pm, Eastern time, and you can submit questions any time before that.

Asteroid 2005 YU55, in an image made from radar data taken by the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico. (NASA/Cornell/Arecibo - Associated Press)

You can also keep updated on the asteroid's flight on the Jet Propulsion Lab's "Asteroid Watch" website. 

Happy viewing! Please let Madame L know, Dear Star-Gazing Readers, if you have any luck seeing this extraterrestrial wonder.

Also Looking at the Sky,

Madame L

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, November 6, 2011: A Homemade Life

Madame L loves the whole idea of memoirs that include recipes, and this one, "A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table," by Molly Wizenberg, is as good as any.

But one thing Madame L does not love about this book is the kind of recipe instruction that says, "Using a sharp knife, cut the bread into pieces," because Madame L believes that anyone who writes a recipe book should assume his/her readers are smart enough to use a sharp knife to cut their bread. 

Another thing Madame L does not love about this book is the kind of recipe instruction that says, "Using a steel blade in the food processor, cut the walnuts into small pieces..." because Madame L does not have a food processor. (And if she did she would have the brains to use the machine's steel blade to cut up walnuts.)

One final reason Madame L does not love this book is that she did not find one recipe in it that she actually ever used to make anything.

Madame L did like the stories about the author's family, the stories behind the recipes. 

Madame L has read many books of this genre without once finding one that had even one recipe she liked so much that she tried it.

Dear Readers, would one of you please write a memoir with recipes? Madame L happens to know that all her Dear (Gentle) Readers have great recipes, interesting families, and a knack for writing. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Testing, Testing: Emergency Alert System

Dear Gentle Readers,

Madame L has just received a notice that next Wednesday, November 9, at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time), FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the FCC (the Federal Communications Commission) will conduct the nation’s first ever Emergency Alert System (EAS) test. According to Madame L's cable provider:

The purpose of this test is to help determine if the national-level system will work as designed, should officials ever need to send a national alert.

This test will last about three minutes and will be seen on all local, cable, and satellite TV stations across the country, as well as radio.
Please pass this information along to friends who may not have heard about it.

Here’s What You Should Know:

Your TV and radio programming will be temporarily interrupted. However, as soon as the test ends, you will be returned to your regularly scheduled programming.

To learn more about the national EAS test, check the FEMA information page at or the FCC's page at

Again, please pass this along.


Madame L

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bank of America Gets It!

Dear Madame L,

I heard on the news last night that Bank of America has changed its mind and will not be billing its customers for using their debit cards to make purchases.


Already a CU Member

Dear Already a CU Member,

Isn't that great news! And some of the other big banks have also gone back on their proposal to bill their customers for using their own money.

But the way it's being reported in the press lets us all know how begrudgingly this change has been made, as the Washington Post, for instance, made the focus of its story the $8 billion the big banks will lose by not charging these fees.

Congratulations on being a credit union member already. Yes, Madame L is still recommending and will always recommend that people use credit unions and local community banks to save their money. Remember, it's your money, not the bank's, and they're making money off it already, without charging you for using it yourself. Credit unions are run by volunteer board members, while banks are run by CEOs and board members who receive very large rewards for their work. 

Also, remember that Bank of America, which received a gigantic bailout from US, the taxpayers, is still planning to lay off (FIRE) 30,000 employees, after giving $11 million in severance pay to just two of its executives. Cartoonist GB Trudeau names those two executives, and so will Madame L. They are Joe Price and Sallie Krawcheck. They were laid off in September and replaced by two new rich people. 

And do thank the 22-year-old former Bank of America customer Molly Katchpole, who started the online petition, signed by hundreds of thousands of people, which finally made the giant bank change its mind.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stop Banking with Wall Street

Dear Madame L,


Tired of Being Ripped Off by My Big Bank (Which Charges Me Money for Using My Own Money)

Dear Tired of Being Ripped Off,

Madame L is happy to help, and many organizations are helping people like you and her make the change. There's even a Facebook page for Bank Transfer Day.

This page gives information on how to transfer your funds, how to find credit unions and community banks with more customer-friendly policies, and a list of FAQs (frequently asked questions), including why you don't have to worry about your actions causing another Great Depression.

Don't wait until Nov. 5 to make the change, because that's a Saturday. Here are "4 Simple Steps for Taking Your Money Out of the Vampire Banks."

Here is some information from the "Rebuild the Dream" website, the site with the pledge: 

"By signing the pledge this week you'll help show Wall Street, the media, and the public that our outrage isn't going anywhere—and that the Occupy movement is only inspiring more and more of us to take action.

"If you need help we have resources and guides for how to switch banks, and we can help you find a great local or community bank. We can also connect you with new campaigns that are popping up everywhere to get groups, churches, schools, and cities to move their money too.

"These banks see the threat all this public anger could pose to their way of doing business. They know that if their customers start abandoning them it's not only going to hurt their bottom line, it's going to hurt their reputation even more and make it much harder for them to keep getting away with rigging the system and profiting at the expense of everyone else.

"And that's the goal. We, the American Dream Movement, need to show that our anger and frustration is getting worse and turning into action at every level—including right on down to the choice of cards in our wallets."

Madame L has already made the change, and encourages all of her Dear Readers to do likewise.


Madame L