Wednesday, February 20, 2013

When a calorie is not just a calorie

A story from Wired magazine reports that the traditional method for counting the calorie content of food is inaccurate, because it ignores how much energy the human body takes to process different preparations of the same food. The findings were presented by a panel of researchers American Association for the Advancement of Science.

... the panel reviewed a new spate of studies showing that foods are processed differently as they move from our gullet to our guts and beyond. They agreed that net caloric counts for many foods are flawed because they don’t take into account the energy used to digest food; the bite that oral and gut bacteria take out of various foods; or the properties of different foods themselves that speed up or slow down their journey through the intestines, such as whether they are cooked or resistant to digestion.

A major distinction comes when comparing raw foods, which use up a lot of calories to digest, with cooked foods, which are processed by your body more easily, and therefore result in more net calories left in your system.
One key area where the system is inaccurate, Wrangham reported, is in estimating the calories for cooked food. Cooked items often are listed as having more calories than raw items, yet the process of cooking meat gelatinizes the collagen protein in meat, making it easier to chew and digest—so it takes fewer calories to eat. Heat also denatures the proteins in vegetables such as sweet potatoes, said Harvard University evolutionary biologist Rachel Carmody, a postdoc who studies the energetics of digestion and organizer of the session.

My takeaway from this story is that, given a choice between eating a raw carrot and one cooked, raw is better. Same with any fruits, such as apples, or vegetables, like bell peppers, which don't need to be cooked to taste good.

When it comes to weight loss and weight control, the preparation method of your food should be a secondary or tertiary concern. Much more important is to eliminate addictive foods, such as anything with sugar or other sweeteners added, to eliminate inflammatory foods, like dairy and wheat, to eliminate systemic toxins, like transfats, preservatives, excess salts and fake sugars, and to control your portions. If you only eat good foods, and you eat one small meal every 5-6 hours, beginning with breakfast and ending with dinner, and you mix in a modest, healthy snack 2-2.5 hours after breakfast and lunch, you will be satiated and, if you are fat, you will lose weight. And if you add in 60 minutes of exercise every 24 hours, you will get in good shape in 6 months or less.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Who is our greatest president?

The Davis Enterprise, this week, asked people on the street, "Who is our greatest president?" Most of the respondents got it wrong. 
“I guess I would have to say Obama, I think because he’s an excellent mediator.” ... “Woodrow Wilson, because of his idealism.” ... “Bill Clinton, because he fixed things.” ... “Bill Clinton. He’s a great president; he should be a king. Policies, charisma, leadership, you name it.”

Two, at least, had smart choices, although the person who picked Franklin Roosevelt had poor reasoning:

“FDR, I guess, because I like social programs.” ... “Lincoln. Saved the union and ended slavery.”
There are three possible right answers: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


Our first president did two things as president which have served our nation extremely well ever since he held that office:

First, Washington, by choosing to step aside after his second term and leave it up to the citizens to pick their new leader, established a democratic precedent for an office which inherently has many of the trappings of a king. He could have won a third and (had he lived) a fourth term, and effectively made the presidency a job for life, albeit with elections every four years. That would have been in line with how kings and other potentates worked. Once in office, they are there for the long haul. In that course, we would have lacked the new blood we get by regularly turning over the office, often changing parties, every four or eight years. With a limited amount of time, our presidents are compelled to do all they can to improve the country, while managing its business, in the limited time they have.

Second, Washington, with the great help of his Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, effectively created the federal government out of nothing. It was not clear, even in the Federalist Papers written by Hamilton, exactly what the size and scope of our new central government would look like. The Washington Administration built it up dramatically, figured out how to use taxes and debt to pay for our needs, and established a working relationship with the states, respecting the division of responsibilities. Had Washington not been there, and had we started with someone less wise (like Thomas Jefferson), the federal government would not have gotten off to such a strong start, would not have built a healthy foundation and perhaps would have collapsed not long after the Constitution was adopted.


The argument for Lincoln is almost entirely built on the fact that he saved the union. Abraham Lincoln ascended to the presidency at the time of our nation's greatest crisis, and he was uniquely able to guide us through it. Lincoln deserves high praise for his leadership in the Civil War and historic greatness for emancipating the slaves. Lincoln won the war by employing large numbers of black-American soldiers, many of whom were escaped slaves. Their war efforts permitted and effectively required President Lincoln then to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. A secondary part of Lincoln's greatness, as president, was his greatness as a writer. His words, written and spoken, are themselves more eloquent than all other presidents we had before or have had since.


Despite the fact that FDR violated the Washington precedent of stepping aside after his second term--leading the Republicans, when they had a chance, to amend the Constitution to prohibit any later president from serving more than 8 years--his claim to greatness was built on three big factors: his profound leadership in the Great Depression; his leadership in our nation's largest military effort, World War 2; and his policies created during the War which served the cause of peace among all the major powers and the cause of economic prosperity in the decades after he died.

In hindsight, there are reasons to doubt some of the approach that Roosevelt took to solving the Depression. Much more is known today about the inadequacies of our Federal Reserve policies, which starved the nation's banks of cash and kept the economy sluggish much longer than it should have. However, in his time, Roosevelt is rightly credited with lifting the spirits of a sunken nation full of unemployed workers. FDR was a great public speaker, who inspired his country, when the people needed it. Using radio addresses, he was the first great figure of the mass media. It is overstated to say that Roosevelt "saved capitalism"--that was the argument of business honcho Joe Kennedy (father of JFK), who served Roosevelt as his first head of the SEC. However, FDR's reforms in the banking system and his regulations of the stock markets (designed smartly by Kennedy) ultimately helped to restore lost confidence and in doing so have served our nation well ever since. FDR's legacy of Social Security and other welfare programs is more of a mixed bag, as these ideas have been beneficial in some respects but harmful in others. None of his job's programs really accomplished anything in terms of getting us out of the economic swamp.

Much like he did throughout the Great Depression, Roosevelt used strong and comforting rhetoric in radio addresses to lead our nation in World War 2. Among his best decisions in the war were to put in place great generals at the top of his command, among them George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, and of course Admiral Chester Nimitz running the Navy. Roosevelt deserves extra credit for winning unconditional surrender from Germany and Japan (even though he died shortly before this took place). By completely destroying our enemies, we were able to help them rebuild as countries which could prosper without being threats to their neighbors. That decision played a large role in keeping the peace in Europe and around Japan since WW2.

Lastly, Roosevelt's Administration during the War set up the economic structure which allowed for more and more trade, and hence more prosperity after the War, than had ever taken place before in history. Additionally, the basic design of NATO (which came about under Harry Truman) was agreed upon during the War and served as an effective block on the communist powers and held the free Europeans together.


So who was our greatest president? Lincoln. Ultimately, it was Lincoln because he faced our nation's greatest crisis and brilliantly led us through it. Had Lincoln not been killed, it seems highly likely to me that he would have also done a much better job than Andrew Johnson did in leading our country's reconstruction.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Study: Diet Soda Increases the Risk of Diabetes

One thing I never see: a thin person drinking a diet soda. The only people who consume these drinks are fatties. And clearly, drinking zero-calorie, artificially flavored drinks is not making them thin. A new study out of France suggests they may be worse for one's health than sugary sodas, and it is well established just how unhealthy eating any products with sugar is.

Yet another study confirms what people have been saying for ages: Stop drinking diet soda. Like, right now. Drinking just one 12-ounce can of an artificially sweetened fizzy drink per week can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes by 33 percent, French researchers found. And given that most people don't stop at a single weekly serving, your real risk for diabetes could actually be much higher.

This was no small study. It included more than 60,000 people, all women.

The study ... was conducted by France's National Institute of Health and Medical Research and covered 66,118 middle-aged women whose dietary habits and health were tracked from 1993 to 2007. ... Though it's well-known that people who consume a lot of sugar are more likely to develop diabetes, the researchers found that participants who drank "light" or "diet" soft drinks had a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those who drank regular, sugar-filled sodas. Those who drank 100 percent natural squeezed fruit juices instead had no additional risk.

Part of the problem is that these sweeteners are chemically addictive. Users cannot stop at one drink.

Women who choose artificially flavored soft drinks usually drink twice as many of them as women who choose regular soda or juice—2.8 glasses per week compared to 1.6 glasses. "Yet when an equal quantity is consumed, the risk of contracting diabetes is higher for 'light' or 'diet' drinks than for 'non-light' or 'non-diet' drinks," the researchers, epidemiologists Francoise Clavel-Chapelon and Guy Fagherazzi, said in a statement. Women who drank up to 500 milliliters (about 12 ounces) of artificially sweetened beverages per week were 33 percent more likely to develop the disease, and women who drank about 600 milliliters (about 20 ounces) per week had a 66 percent increase in risk.

Diet sodas not only increase your chance of becoming a diabetic (by jacking up your insulin); they make you fat, too, because they increase your physical cravings for sugar.

Drinking sweetened beverages increases the risk of becoming overweight, which is itself a risk factor in developing diabetes. But the study didn't find that the results were the same even among overweight women. So how can artificially sweetened drinks be making the problem worse if they're fat- and calorie-free? "With respect, in particular, to 'light' or 'diet' drinks, the relationship with diabetes can be explained partially by a greater craving for sugar in general by female consumers of this type of soft drink," the researchers explained. "Furthermore, aspartame, one of the main artificial sweeteners used today, causes an increase in glycaemia and consequently a rise in the insulin level in comparison to that produced by sucrose."

The takeaway: stop drinking soda of all kinds. You would do well to stop drinking fruit juice and any other drinks with added sugars. Your best bet is to drink tap water. It will quench your thirst far better than all flavored drinks.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What caused the lights to go out in New Orleans?

It turns out the answer to the mysterious 34-minute power outage at the Super Dome in New Orleans during the Super Bowl had a terribly mundane cause: The local electric utility, Entergy New Orleans, set the trip setting too low on a circuit breaker.

The manufacturer of a protective device blamed in the power outage that interrupted the Super Bowl said a low "trip setting" on the equipment caused the partial blackout in the Superdome. Friday's statement from S&C Electric Co. of Chicago said the outage would have been avoided if the operator of the relay device had set the trip threshold higher. The statement did not name the operator, but the equipment was owned and installed by Entergy New Orleans, the local electric utility company that supplies power to the dome. Earlier Friday, Entergy said the device was the cause of the power outage.

In essence, what happened is the same thing as a circuit breaker in your house shutting off electric flow if you have too many appliances running on one circuit.

Here is what Wikipedia says about circuit breakers:

A circuit breaker is an automatically operated electrical switch designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by overload or short circuit. Its basic function is to detect a fault condition and, by interrupting continuity, to immediately discontinue electrical flow. Unlike a fuse, which operates once and then must be replaced, a circuit breaker can be reset (either manually or automatically) to resume normal operation. Circuit breakers are made in varying sizes, from small devices that protect an individual household appliance up to large switchgear designed to protect high voltage circuits feeding an entire city.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Europe considers designating Hezbollah as terrorists

I find this USA Today story intriguing:

Under pressure from the United States and Israel, the European Union said Wednesday it will think about designating Hezbollah a terrorist group now that it has been implicated in a bomb attack that killed six people in a sovereign EU nation. U.S. officials urged European leaders to take decisive action against Hezbollah after a report by the Bulgarian government that said the Iran-backed group orchestrated a bus bombing in Burgas in July that killed six people. ... Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Wednesday that "if the evidence proves to be true that Hezbollah is indeed responsible for this despicable attack, then consequences will have to follow."

The fact that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and has carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks on Jews never once stirred the Europeans to call a spade a spade. Only after Hezbollah staged a terrorist attack in Europe--of course against Jewish people--are the Europeans considering being honest?

The reason the Europeans will not call Hezbollah a terrorist organization is because the EU is run by leftists who hate Israel. If they accept the fact that Israel is under attack by criminals, like Hezbollah is, the anti-Israel case in Europe suffers.

The EU has refused to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Some members say it is a political organization with an armed wing. Hezbollah has refused to disarm as it agreed to do in a United Nations-brokered truce after a war with Israel in 2006. In 2011, Hezbollah and its allies gained 18 of 30 Cabinet seats in Lebanon's government.

The list of Hezbollah's crimes is very long. A few of them include:
•The bombing of the U.S. Embassy in 1983 in Beirut, which killed 58 Americans and Lebanese.
•A truck bombing in 1983 that demolished the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Americans. A truck bombing of French barracks that same day killed 58 French soldiers.
•The bombing of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 in Argentina, which killed 29 people, and the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in 1994 in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people.
•A bomb attack on the Khobar Towers military housing complex in 1996 in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemembers.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Should companies tie health insurance premiums to employee’s health? is reporting that, when employees sign up for some company-provided health insurance plans, physically fit workers are charged less, fatties more.

... as companies struggle to curb rising health-care costs, they are increasingly pointing a finger at workers’ ballooning bellies. Obesity-related health problems account for a big chunk of medical claims, insurance experts say, leading some executives to believe the best way to trim their budgets is to get workers to trim their own fat first. ... For the past few years, companies have experimented with tying health insurance premiums to people’s health. Here’s how it works: Employees go through medical and biometric testing as part of their health insurance open-enrollment process. They are weighed, their height and blood pressure are measured, and their blood is drawn. Those with high scores on cholesterol, glucose and blood-pressure and — or with chronic conditions like diabetes — are told they will have to pay higher premiums unless they actively try to improve their risky condition.

It's entirely fair to make people whose lifestyle choices result in higher health risks to internalize the medical costs of those choices. (It's a different matter for people born with health challenges, even though they, too, tax the medical system more than people without congenital maladies.) However, it's questionable whether requiring fat people to pay more will actually incentivize them to lose weight.

Fat people already pay a high price for being overweight. They are usually ashamed of their condition. They know they are putting their health at risk. They literally have trouble comfortably fitting in society. Everyone prefers to look good and feel well. All else held equal, no one wants to be obese.

So while I support a higher medical premium for those who are overweight or who smoke or drink or do drugs, I doubt the added cost will tip the scales toward making fat people drop down to a healthier weight.

I think the two major factors needed for an obese person to get healthy are internal motivation and dietary education.

For some, the internal motivator may be a health crisis, such as a heart attack or developing diabetes. It might be turning age 40 or 50. It could be the birth of a child or an imminent marriage or a divorce. Whatever it is, the fat person has to desperately want to lose the weight and has to use that motivator to drive himself to do everything possible to change his lifestyle, including eating properly and exercising regularly.

Dietary education is something seriously lacking in our society. The main reason so many people are so fat is because they eat foods with added sugars. Sugar is what makes you fat. There has long been a focus on animal fats and calorie counts in diets. That's mostly a waste of time. The key educational component that fat people need to understand is that they are addicted to sweets, and they need to eliminate all added sugars from their diet. They need to cut out all sodas (even diet sodas), all cakes, all candies, all honey, all ketchup (which is loaded with sugar) and all processed foods where sugar is added.

The one sugar that is okay to eat is fruit, as long as the fruit is loaded with fiber. Our bodies can process the sugar in fruits without turning that sugar into fat. But fruit in the form of juice, where the fiber has been removed, is very much the same as drinking a can of Coke. It's unhealthy, and to the fat person it is poison.

Once obese people completely eliminate all foods with added sugars -- it takes a few weeks to detoxify a body from sugar and end all cravings for sweets -- dieting is easy. The rest is just common sense: Eat a modest meals and don't pig out in between or after dinner.

Less obvious -- and not hard to follow -- is the need to eliminate all foods with gluten and dairy. It's not so much that milk and cheese or pasta and bread are addictive or that your body cannot process them. It's that these food groups cause chronic inflammation, and in fat people inflammation results in added belly fat. As it pertains to health, belly fat is worse than other bodily fat deposits.

Keep in mind that because fat people are food addicts, eliminating entire food groups (dairy, gluten and sugar) is far easier than trying to eat modest amounts of these groups. It's very much like an alcoholic. He can maintain his sobriety if he resolves to drink no alcohol. His addiction makes it impossible for him to just drink in moderation. Fat people need to address sugar, gluten and dairy in the same way.

The final component to good health is the need to move, to burn off the calories once takes in. With internal motivation, a fat person will be able to gradually increase the amount they exercise. An adult who wants to get and stay fit should work out for 30 minutes twice a day. That is achievable by starting out doing less and slowly adding more. It really doesn't matter what the exercise is, as long as it involves movement. A 30 minute walk and 30 minutes on a stationary bike would be sufficient. A half an hour of skipping rope and 30 minutes more swimming laps will do the trick, too.

If a fat person is in terrible shape, it's fine to start off with a 5 minute walk in the morning and 5 minutes dancing at night. After a few weeks of that, just add 5 minutes to the morning walk, and a few weeks later add 5 minutes to the dance. In a few months, he can achieve 30 minutes of exercise, twice each day.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My Super Bowl prediction: Intangibles favor Baltimore

Something Justin Tuck of the New York Giants said on Thursday on SportsCenter rang true to my ear:

“I like the Ravens for one simple fact -- they remind me of us. They seem to be the team of destiny. I truly believe the 49ers are a better team on paper. But this is a game where so many emotions have come into this game. I think the Ravens are riding high with the whole playing for Ray (Lewis). All types of stuff that momentum is going to come into effect on Sunday. I think I am going with the Ravens just because of that."

A number of things cause me to think the 2012 Ravens are a lot like the 2011 Giants. Neither one, for starters, had a great regular season. The Giants were just 9-7; the Ravens 10-6.

Both teams had good stretches: the Giants won 6 of 7 after losing their first game; the Ravens won 8 of 9 after starting 1-1. And both teams had bad stretches: the Giants lost 5 out of 6 games from mid-November to mid-December in 2011; the Ravens lost 4 out of 5 games in December, 2012.

Arguably, the reason neither was consistently good in the regular season was due to key injuries, where older veteran leaders on defense were out for some games. It was in those stretches the Giants in 2011 and the Ravens in 2012 lost. When they had all their players, these clubs were excellent.

Both the Giants and Ravens had to win three playoff games to get to the Super Bowl. Each of them started by winning one at home and then they won two on the road.

The Giants were led by quarterback Eli Manning, whose regular season career passer rating (82.7) is good, but not great.  The Ravens are led by quarterback Joe Flacco, whose regular season career passer rating (86.3) is good, but not great. Since 2005, 23 NFL quarterbacks who attempted at least 2,000 passes have a passer rating of 75.0 or higher. Flacco ranks 14th; Manning 16th. Neither is anywhere near the best: Aaron Rodgers, 104.9 and Tom Brady, 101.3.

In the two seasons Eli Manning led the Giants to the Super Bowl and the one Joe Flacco has done the same for the Ravens, each was his best. Manning's post-season passer rating for the Giants championship runs in 2007 and 2011 was 100.1, 17.4 better than his career number. Flacco's post-season passer rating for the Ravens championship run, this year, is 114.7 so far, 28.4 better than his career number.


As Justin Tuck said, San Francisco appears to be the better team in 2012 on paper. The 49ers outscored their opponents by 124 points; the Ravens bettered theirs by just 54. The two teams scored almost the same number of points: 398 for Baltimore; 397 for San Francisco. The difference was that the 49ers gave up only 273 points in 16 games; the Ravens allowed 344.

The 49ers had a much better running game. San Francisco gained 2,491 yards on the ground; Baltimore 1,901. The Ravens passed for 441 more yards. But after Colin Kaepernick replaced Alex Smith at quarterback, the passing numbers for the two teams were nearly identical.

Baltimore's defense, now, however, is better than it was when Ray Lewis was out. Lewis has been a tackling machine in the post-season. And while Terrell Suggs is still not 100%, the Ravens missed him part of the season and that hurt their defense, as well.

A huge factor for San Francisco's defense will be their pass rush. When Justin Smith was out, teams doubled-up on Aldon Smith and the 49ers could not pressure opposing quarterbacks. That exposed their defensive backs, who had to cover for much longer. My expectation is that, while Justin Smith is still ailing, their line will be able to rush Flacco, and that will give their backs a chance to cover the Ravens receivers.


There are five factors to judge a team by: offense; defense; special teams; coaching; and intangibles. When comparing the two clubs, each factor is worth zero or more points to one and the inverse to the other.

Offense: Because of his experience and quality and quantity of his receivers, Joe Flacco is likely to pass for more yards than Colin Kaepernick. Conversely, between Frank Gore and Kaepernick, the 49ers look to have a big edge in the running game over Ray Rice and the Ravens. Additionally, the 49ers scheme is run-oriented. Offensive value--San Francisco +3.

Defense: Both teams are strong on the defensive line. The 49ers are just a bit stronger. Both have excellent linebackers, but the 49ers are better. Their defensive backs are roughly equal as groups, but because Ed Reed is a great playmaker, the Ravens have an edge. Offensive value--San Francisco +2.

Special Teams: Justin Tucker was perfect all season on extra points and 30 of 33 on field goals, including 4 of 4 for 50+ yards; the 49ers weakness this year has been David Akers, who missed 7 field goals and was only 2 for 6 from 50+. Special Teams value--Baltimore +3.

Coaching: John Harbaugh has more experience. Jim Harbaugh has more intensity. The Ravens were forced to change offensive coordinators mid-stream. The 49ers offensive play-calling has been questionable at times. Coaching value--Even.

Intangibles: The first which works for the Ravens is the Ray Lewis factor. He is their clear leader. He inspires them. This will be Lewis's last game. They want to send him out on top. And the other is what Justin Tuck said: this Ravens team is very much like last year's Giants team. It might not be great on paper. But when it counts, they will come up big. Intangible value--Baltimore +5.

Added together, the Ravens win by 3 points. The big difference will be the intangibles.

My pick: Baltimore 24, San Francisco 21.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Ed Koch dead: Mayor who became a symbol of New York City passes away at 88

Among the many things to love about Ed Koch was his willingness, unusual for a politician, to say things just how they were. He never came across as fake. Even when Mayor Koch stumbled, I respected the fact that he was a forthright man.

Sadly, the New York Daily News is reporting that Koch passed away yesterday.

Three-term mayor Ed Koch, whose exuberant "How'm I doin'?" tagline made him synonymous with New York chutzpah, is dead at age 88. The Bronx born pol was a reformer who saved the city from bankruptcy but whose final term was marked by scandal and corruption. Political friends and foes praise Koch as a man who meant what he said and fought for the city he loved. ... “Ed Koch has given New York City back its morale," the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said in 1984.

I had noticed that in the last year, when Koch's name was in the news, it usually regarded his failing health.

Koch was in and out of the hospital in recent weeks, battling a fluid buildup around his lungs that caused shortness of breath and made speaking difficult. He was unconscious when he was moved to the intensive care unit at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Columbia Thursday afternoon, and died at 2 a.m. Friday of congestive heart failure.


In some respects, it's amazing Koch lived to age 88.
Koch, who'd had a mild stroke while in office in 1987, suffered a heart attack in 1999 and had a bout with pneumonia in 2001. Nothing slowed him down for long. In August 2008, firefighters and paramedics raced over to his Greenwich Village apartment after he accidentally set off his Life Alert pendant in his sleep. He jovially told the Daily News that he had not died. “To the consternation of my enemies, I'm still alive,” the then 83-year-old said.

In the last few years he sensed the end was near.
A couple years later, as he marked his 85th birthday, a more subdued - but still feisty — Ed Koch acknowledged his mortality. "I'm coming to the end of my life, whether it's another five years or so ... or less, or more," he said. "I do reflect on what I've done for the 85 years that I have been given so far. And I'm proud of what I've done."


Koch's name will forever be remembered in his native city.

“Through his tough, determined leadership and responsible fiscal stewardship, Ed helped lift the city out of its darkest days and set it on course for an incredible comeback,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement Friday. “We will miss him dearly, but his good works - and his wit and wisdom - will forever be a part of the city he loved so much.” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Koch “was more than just the sum total of his accomplishments.” “Mayor Koch was larger than life," she added. “He stood taller than the bridge that bears his name. His sense of humor and tenacious spirit personified this town. Ed Koch was New York."

To my mind, the relationship which defined Koch's fame in New York was his animosity with the criminal activist, Al Sharpton, who came to national fame in the Tawana Brawley fraud.

... the Rev. Al Sharpton, with whom Koch clashed repeatedly, called hizzoner a man who “fought for what he believed. He was never a phony or a hypocrite,” said Sharpton. “He would not patronize or deceive you. He said what he meant. He meant what he said.” ... Koch long had an uneasy relationship with the city's black leaders, but the one-two punch of the 1986 Howard Beach race beating and the 1989 shooting death of a black teen in Bensonhurst proved fatal to his mayoralty. He lost the 1989 Democratic primary to Dinkins, who became the city's first black mayor.

One thing I liked about Koch was his effusive Jewishness.

Edward Irving Koch was born Dec. 12, 1924 in the Bronx, the son of a Polish-Jewish furrier, but actually grew up in Newark, N.J. One of three kids, he grew up idolizing his big brother Harold, who died in 1995. In a kids book Koch wrote with his sister called “Eddie: Harold’s Little Brother,” he recounted how his brother set him on the path of City Hall by telling him to do something he’s good at.


Koch's battles with Mario Cuomo led to questions about whether Koch was gay.

Though most famous famous for being mayor, he served eight years in Congress before setting his sights on Gracie Mansion in 1977. Koch was the dark horse in a crowded field seeking to oust hapless Abe Beame from City Hall. But on primary day, Koch lead the pack followed closely by then Secretary of State Mario Cuomo — setting the state for brief but brutal runoff battle that Koch won. Cuomo refused to quit and carried on as the Liberal Party candidate, over the objections of his own advisers and the Democratic Party. And on the streets, some of Cuomo's supporters took the campaign to a new low by posting signs reading, “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo,” a reference to longstanding rumors that Koch was gay. ... He was a champion of gay rights, but his own sexuality was off-limits for discussion. And his public appearances with Bess Myerson, the first Jewish Miss America, on his arm did little to banish the rumors. “I have a social life,” the lifelong bachelor once said. “But I don't discuss it.”