Friday, February 25, 2011

Odds & Ends


I love coffee. I love the smell of coffee. I love a cup of coffee in the morning and a cup in the evening. While I have tried to cut down on the amount of coffee I consume in one day, the Mrs. and I can go through a pot on a cold winter day easily.

Now, I cannot drink my coffee black. I need some creamer and I like a little bit of flavoring. So, the wife and I would buy the various flavors of coffee creamer, trying the seasonals as well as the mainstays like French Vanilla or Carmel. When we started dieting we both found that the creamers consumed way to many points. So we had to find an alternative. Skim milk and splenda, while good in a pinch, just did not really do it for us. It was with great joy, then, that we found a perfect little "mash-up" that we really love in our coffee and does not kill our diet. The outlay of cost is not substantial and while it adds a little more preparation time, it gives us some great tasting coffee house coffee.

First, you start off by going to Amazon and buying two things, a frother and a bottle or variety pack, depending upon your likes, of Torani Sugar Free syrups. The Torani is awesome and if you get the sugar free syrups, the calories/points are very low per serving. Personally, I like the Chocolate, the Vanilla and the Carmel. DO NOT make the mistake of buying the Classic Carmel, it is just not as good. The Hazelnut is not bad, it just comes off as a little bitter to me. The variety pack is good if you like or want to try these flavors and the Irish Creme or Raspberry. You can find the variety pack HERE. The other thing you need to get is a frother. We picked up this one and it has worked out well. It is a basic, no frills frother that does the job and does it well and cheaply.

Now that you have that, go and pick up some silk or blue diamond sugar free or unsweetened almond milk. You can get the flavored, if you choose not to get the syrups, but I would suggest you go flavor free if you get syrups.

Now, measure out some of the almond milk. For two cups of coffee, I generally fill up the almond milk to the line on the frother (I do not know how much that is, but I believe it is about a cup).

Add the flavoring. I will generally use 2 tablespoons per cup of coffee.

Pour the milk-flavoring into a pot and warm it up. DO NOT use a microwave as the almond milk seems to separate in the microwave. Warm up the milk until it is hot, but not bubbling hot.

Pour the milk-flavoring mix into the frother. Froth the milk for about 10 -15 pumps. You will now have a nice frothy milk flavoring.

If you have a fresh brewed pot, pour the milk into your cups and then pour your coffee. If you have warmed up your coffee in the microwave, pour the milk mixture into the coffee and stir.

Atlas Shrugged

If you have been paying attention, you know that the movie that some said could never be made, has been made. It appears to be a pretty close adaptation to the original. In case you have not seen or heard anything about this, check out the trailer below.

Recently, the producers released a scene from the movie which can be viewed below

This movie was made, according to IMDB, with a budget of only 15 million. That is nothing by today's standards. The cast is mostly television actors but from what I have seen, read and heard from those that have seen this movie, they all do an excellent job.

We all need to support this movie. As of now, I do not know if it is going to run anywhere here in St. Louis but should it, we should organize a group to see this movie when it opens. If you are in another area of the country, please get your friends together to see this movie. The producers, director and actors of this movie will probably be ostracized for being a part of this important and relevant film and we, the movie going public, should buycott this movie and make sure we all go and see it.

Who is with me?

Comic Books

Even though I am over 35, I still love comic books. I love the art and the stories they tell. While I do not buy the monthly issues, I regularly pick up the collections and graphic novels. Additionally, I watch the cartoon movies that are put out by both Marvel and DC. It was while watching one that I came across a revelation of sorts.

I was watching a DC cartoon that was had Superman and Batman. I figured that it would be no big deal to let my 8 year old daughter watch it with me. As she is curled up next to me, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the way these artists portrayed women. It was not that they portrayed them as weak or feeble. In fact all of the women were very strong physically and mentally and could keep pace with the men. My uncomfortableness was due to the way they were drawn and the clothes that they wore. Supergirl was model skinny thin but was, well, well endowed. She always wore a half shirt and her clothes were somewhat tight and showy. Pausing the movie, I checked the rating and found that it was rated PG 13. I stopped the movie and finished after my daughter went to bed.

This whole thing got me thinking, though. Girls are reading comics now. They are not just reading Archie and such. There are many young girls and women who read Spiderman, Iron Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, Avengers, X-Men and so forth. The women, as they are portrayed in these comics, are completely unrealistic in body dimensions. While I understand that these are comics, I have to wonder, what does this do for already body conscious women. Comic books are fantasy, but the portrayal of these strong women in barely there outfits can be daunting. I know that part of it is for the male fantasy, but what about the young women?

I do not believe in censorship or in stopping these companies' right to draw and distribute comics. I enjoy these comics but what responsibility, other than slapping a rating on them, do these companies have? Do they have any responsibility? Are there other fathers out there that struggle with this too?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Child Rights vs. Parental Rights - What You Need to Know

What if I told you that there are people who are actively attempting to control the rights of parents to raise children as they see fit. To many of my readers, this comes as no surprise but many of you may not know how close we are coming to this.

If you have not heard, there is a movement for the US to ratify The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, often called the CRC or the UNCRC. The stated reasoning behind the need for this treaty is because

the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth

That sounds great....until you read the text of the document and understand what this "treaty" is trying to do and has done to other countries.

Since its adoption by the United Nations in 1989, the UNCRC has become the most widely accepted international agreement in history and approved by every nation except for the United States and Somalia. All participant countries pledge to protect children’s rights, foster their development, and uphold their best interests by re-writing their national laws to conform to the standards set forth in the treaty.

While this sounds great, the reality is that the UNCRC allows that national governments interfere in the decisions of individual families and parents. By invoking the “best interests of the child ,” UN policymakers and government agents have the authority to substitute the decisions of the parent on behalf of the child with their own decisions if they see their decisions as in the best interest of the child. In essence, parents do not have rights to parent, and just about become only caregivers. Parents across the world are now discovering that the family is being undermined without true regard to the results for the very children they are supposed to be protecting.

You may think that the UNCRC is just words and that the US does a very good job of taking care of children. You may even think that to worry about this treaty is nothing more than paranoia. Possibly, but here is what the results of implementing this treaty has done in some countries:

  • The Canadian government has taken steps toward rejecting parental discipline that conflicts with the "best interests of the child." In June 2008, a Quebec court overturned a father's decision to ground his 12-year old daughter after she posted photos of herself on a dating website, saying that the punishment was "too severe." - Full story can be found HERE.
  • The Canadian Senate approved a bill which would drastically restrict the right of parents to physically discipline their children. - Full story can be found HERE
  • The government of Brazil has prevented minors under the age of eighteen from being "criminally chargeable" at all. Under the Brazilian Penal Code, conduct that is usually a crime or misdemeanor is considered an "act of infraction" if carried out by a minor. Acts of infraction carry only minor penalties, including a warning, an obligation to repair damage caused, community service, or confinement in an educational institution. - More information can be found HERE
  • In France, the law also grants minors access to contraceptives without the consent of their parents, and certain medicines and contraceptives can even be obtained by minors anonymously and at no cost. A minor may also have an abortion without parental consent, so long as she is accompanied by an adult of her choice. - More info can be found HERE
  • In 2002, Italy’s highest appeals court ruled that parents are required by law to support their adult children until the children “find a job to their liking.”- More info can be found HERE
There are many other examples of how intrusive this treaty is. What is scary is that in 2009, the Obama administration indicated that it was reviving efforts to sign this treat.

If you think about it, though, it is not surprising. It is not surprising that this administration would want to push the concept of government control over children. If you look at it's track record with Healthcare, pushed Unionization of jobs and increased governmental dependency programs, it only makes sense that Obama and his merry band of idealists would sign on to this bill.

The portions of this treaty that are important have already independently been ratified by the US via optional protocols. On May 25, 2000, two optional protocols were adopted; the first restricts the involvement of children in military conflicts and the second bans the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. It is important to understand that ratification of these two protocols by the United States means that the ratification of the full UNCRC will have no positive impact with these issues.

So, I think most of my readers can understand why the UNCRC is not needed and generally bad for our country. With that said, there are those that are constantly trying to get this treaty ratified by the House and Senate. In my humble opinion, there is only one way to fight this and that is an amendment to the US Constitution. As a father, parent and concerned citizen, I believe that it is time that we amened the Constitution to affirm the rights of parents over the state. That is why I am supporting and ask each of you to review the Parental Rights Amendment.

The Parental Rights Amendment is a very basic amendment that does a lot. It reads as follows:
SECTION 1 - The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.

SECTION 2 - Neither the United States nor any state shall infringe upon this right without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.

SECTION 3 - No treaty may be adopted nor shall any source of international law be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.
This Constitutional amendment guarantees the rights of the parent to raise their children as they see fit while also guaranteeing that the government can step in only in extreme measures.

Naysayers are stating that an amendment is not needed and the US and state law already guarantee parental rights. With that said, we need to take preventative action before the courts can begin using this UN ratified treaty as a determination in their decisions. In some cases, the courts are already using the UNCRC to guide their decisions in court rulings, even though it is un-ratified. Rather than reprint what has already been written, read this full article here to understand what I mean.

So, what can you do? The first thing you can do is become informed. You can do that by going to the web page and studying the proposed amendment. You can find details regarding why the wording used was used and how it pertains to Supreme Court proceedings already on the books. Additionally you can find Senators and Congressman that currently sponsor this bill. Here in Missouri, none of our Senators are sponsoring although Roy Blunt did support it when he was in Congress and in Congress Todd Akin, Jo Ann Emerson, Sam Graves and Blaine Luetkemeyer have all thrown support behind this. Pick up the phone and call your Senator and Congressman and tell them to support this bill. Additionally, you can help out by donating your time and/or money to the cause. You can find more info on how to help at the Parental Rights web page listed above.

With the government and the left generally trying to take more of our liberties away from us, we must now act to ensure that the rights of the parent are guaranteed. It does not take a village to raise children, it takes parents.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Missouri Education Watchdog: Perhaps Homeschooling Parents Should be Heading Up the Department of Education. They Spend Less Money for Better Test Results.

Education is all about our future. Even if you do not have kids, you must realize that strong education is the backbone for sustaining our country. The fine folks over at Missouri Education Watchdog have put together a great blog posting that needs to be read by everyone.

Missouri Education Watchdog: Perhaps Homeschooling Parents Should be Heading Up the Department of Education. They Spend Less Money for Better Test Results.

Missouri is pretty pro homeschooling unlike some states. We can only hope that more state and federal politicians take a look at these numbers and begin realizing that throwing money at public schools is not the answer.

Friday, February 11, 2011

This Is One Reason Why We Are Now Homeschooling

Dana's interview with Richard Dreyfuss explains just one reason why we have chosen to homeschool.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The 2011 Taurus SHO

As many of my readers know, I am a supporter of common sense green technology. Any time you can make something smarter, that consumes less but gives equal or more, I am all for it. That is why I am all for anyone that wants to buy a Prius or Volt. More power to you. For me, though, I like a little kick to what I drive. That is one of the reasons why I love the new Taurus SHO.

This car just screams kick ass in so many ways it is not even funny. For a middle class dude like me, this is the perfect combination of sports and luxury. Yes, it is pricey so I will be buying a used one when it comes time. That said, I just love this car.

MCJ, why did you bring up green tech when you talked about this? you may be asking. Let me tell you. Rather than go with the V8 like previous Taurus SHO's, Ford got smart and installed what they are calling their Eco-Boost engine. For non gear heads I will keep this simple. Using two turbos that kick in at different stages of performance, the car is able to generate 365 horsepower using a 3.5 liter V6. If you want to read the details on this, go HERE. Basically, you can get a really fast sports car that gets 18 MPG in the city and about 27 MPG on the highway. Not bad. This is the type of smart engineering that I feel a lot of middle class people are looking for in a sports and/or luxury car. Speed and luxury done smartly.

The other nice thing, even though it is a sports sedan, it adds a touch of luxury but there is still room enough for a car seat or two and trunk space that a mafioso would be proud to have if you get my drift (if you don't, email me and I will explain it to you).

I like that Ford has made a car that can compare with the Audi or the Lexus as far as space, speed and styling but is American made. In fact, it is produced about 6 hours away from STL in Chicago.

As it is, Ford is on many people's list of buycotts due to them not taking a bailout from the government and being smart about restructuring before the economy went in the tank. By the way, I do not work or am in no way related to Ford or the Ford Motor Company.

This car is not cheap in any way, shape or form. A new on will run you about 36K, but in a year or two, you should be able to find a used one for 25- 30K. So, if you are middle age, middle class but want a touch of luxury and a touch of kick ass, this may be the car for you to look into. If I get the chance to drive one for a bit, longer than with a dealer salesmen, I will follow up to this post.

In the meantime, if you are interested, here are some cool videos to watch that show just how kicken this bad boy is.

So, what do you think?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Been A Long Time

Hey all,

I know it has been a long time. A lot has been going on in my personal life that has taken priority over all of this. What started out as a break after the elections turned into an extended break. Throw in things happening at home and it just turned into absenteeism on my part.

I am not ready to say I am back, fully, yet. That said, I have had some realizations that I want to share, which will explain some things.

First and foremost, the rage and anger that really drew me to blogging is not there anymore. I do not like what Lacy Clay and the Democrats are trying to do, but I am not enraged as I once was. I am still concerned and at times they anger me, but any more, I pity their small mindedness and stupidity. I am also dismayed with what I see happening amongst those on my side of the political leanings. As I have stated before, I am getting tired of the "you are not a true Conservative" mantra I have heard from some on the right. No one person can say what a true Conservative is or is not. I spoke to these thoughts before and you can read them HERE

Second, there is more to life than politics. When I was writing this blog, I found myself immersed in politics and it is draining. It sucks the life and sometimes joy out of living. I still watch and monitor politics, but I cannot live it like I once did. Some people thrive on it, but I can only do so much. The break helped me realize that. I have decided to focus this blog more on the life of the Middle Class. Politics, school, finances, etc. I think it fits the big picture and will maybe help people understand our perspective. I know that there is someone from the New York Times and the House of Representatives that regularly is checking this site. Maybe they can learn something.

Third, I decided to put my money with my mouth is and started going Galt. You may remember a post I did a few months ago (HERE). My wife and I talked long and hard about it and we are now homeschooling. This is better for us and better for our children. By not relying upon the schools, we can teach our kids for knowledge, not for testing as the public schools have done. We also can teach a curriculum that is best suited for us and not for a teacher's union or an archdiocesan. I have nothing against those who choose to send their kids to public or private school, but we have the option and have chosen to go this route. Less reliance upon the Federal and State Governments is important to me.

Fourth and finally, I started living my life. That means I started doing things that me and my family want to do. Whether that is playing video games, going on mini vacations, having the occasional date nights, etc. Rather than waiting for the other shoe to drop, and thinking I had to stay hyper-alert to the goings on of the world, I started living in balance and moderation. This goes to the way I eat, drink, play, etc. If you cannot enjoy your life now, then what is the purpose.

I hope everyone still continues to read this blog. If not, oh well. It will be a mix of everything from here on out.

Take care,

Middle Class Joe