May 30, 2008

Resurrection and faith as a love story

Spengler reviews the new book by two Harvard scholars, one Jewish, one Christian, entitled "Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews in Life and death in the Bible and is so enthusiastic about it, I ordered a copy right away.


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"Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews" (Kevin J. Madigan, Jon D. Levenson)


Modern materialism has weaned the industrial world off spiritual food, like the thrifty farmer who trained his donkey to eat less by reducing its rations each day. "Just when I got I had him trained to live on nothing," the farmer complained, "the donkey had to die!" Like the donkey, the modern world has died when its spiritual rations were cut to nothing. We refuse to acknowledge that our deepest needs are no different from those of Biblical man. We fail to nourish them and we die.
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The hope of traditional society for life on this Earth - for men cannot tolerate life on this earth without the promise of eternal life - is precisely the same as it was in late antiquity. Four hundred million Christian converts in Africa and perhaps a hundred million in China are evidence enough that much of the world will abandon broken traditions and embrace the promise of life. Man is still Biblical man, and the Bible yet again may prove a guidebook to life as it did two millennia ago.

Theology should reclaim its throne as queen of the sciences because it is our guide to the issues that will decide the life and death of nations. Levenson and Madigan have done an enormous service to their own and to many other disciplines by clarifying the Biblical understanding of life and death.

Sick of politics, I find myself reading theology and biblical commentary more and more and discovering just how deep and rich it can be.  I am in awe of Pope Benedict the theologian and hang on his words.  As Gerard Baker observed in The London Times

what is most striking, as hundreds of thousands observe this Pope in person for the first time, is not the visual symbolism, the crowds or the made-for-TV events, but the imposing beauty and power of his words.

It’s already a cliche in Rome that
the crowds came to see John Paul but they come to hear Benedict. Among those familiar with his career, his reputation was always that of a fierce intellectual — the theologian and author of dozens of dense tracts on Christianity. But what was missing was an understanding of Benedict’s remarkable capacity to use words to speak to the emotional part of the human brain.

Of course, the Pope will already have known that the US, unlike the Europe he hopes still to convert, is a religious place. True, as in Europe, there are a growing number of so-called cafeteria Christians, those who like to choose from a menu of moral and doctrinal options, who believe religion should be essentially a kind of divine validation of their own lifestyle rather than a call to sacrifice and commitment. But America is still fundamentally receptive to the religious principle, the idea of a single truth rather than a moral chaos of equally valid beliefs
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Shortly before he became Pope, Benedict told a congregation:
“Christianity is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas, or a moralism. Christianity is instead an encounter, a love story, an event.”

This idea of
faith as a love story — God’s love for his people, and our love for Christ, the human face of God — is what Benedict seems to want us to understand as the defining theme of his papacy.

The effect of a living faith is experiencing life as a gift and living in the realms of love unbounded. Far preferable than the "living death" of much of modern culture.

Thus Christians rescued themselves from the maelstrom of death that took hold of the late Roman Empire.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:57 AM | Permalink

Vogue editor deplores cosmetic surgery

British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman writes

But while we want to look younger, we are emphatically not going to get any younger. And while we can a do a great deal about the kind of clothes we wear, and the food we eat, and the holidays we take, and the colour we paint our bathroom, we can't do a damn thing about the fact that we are going to get older.
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While I happily highlight my hair and spend a small fortune on serums and oils, and anything with the word 'radiant' on the packaging, to smear onto my skin in an attempt to improve on nature, for some reason this doesn't, to my mind, fall into the same trap as starting a relationship with a surgeon.

Perhaps it's that when I go to bed at night and wake up in the morning, I can still see the real me.
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Firstly, in a time where we are all obsessed with eating healthy foods, supporting organic initiatives and shielding our children from E numbers, how on earth do you defend the choice to introduce unnatural substances into your skin, the long-term effects of which we still don't know?
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'We broke through the glass ceiling, and we broke the gender barrier, with a tremendous amount of effort, and now we all want to look like Atomic Kittens,' she said. 'Where is the emancipation in that?'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:47 AM | Permalink

May 29, 2008

"Radical Islam filling void left by collapse of Christianity in Britain"

The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, already facing death threats for saying that certain areas of Britain have become "no-go" areas for non-Muslims says the Collapse of Christianity is wrecking British society.

It has destroyed family life and left the country defenceless against the rise of radical Islam in a moral and spiritual vacuum.

In a lacerating attack on liberal values, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, said the country was mired in a doctrine of 'endless self-indulgence' that had brought an explosion in public violence and binge-drinking.

Radical Islam filling void

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, claimed the "social and sexual" revolution of the 1960s had led to a steep decline in the influence of Christianity over society which church leaders had failed to resist.
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Asking what weapons are available to fight this new "ideological battle", the bishop said the values trumpeted by modern politicians such as "respect, tolerance and good behaviour" are "hardly adequate for the task before us".

"The consequences of the loss of this discourse are there for all to see: the destruction of the family because of the alleged parity of different forms of life together; the loss of a father figure, especially for boys, because the role of fathers is deemed otiose; the abuse of substances (including alcohol); the loss of respect for the human person leading to horrendous and mindless attacks on people."

The bishop added that Christian hospitality has been replaced by the "newfangled and insecurely founded" doctrine of multiculturalism, which has led to immigrants creating "segregated communities and parallel lives".

He said many values respected by society, such as the dignity of human life, equality and freedom, are based on Christian ones. But he warned that without their Christian backbone they cannot exist for ever, and that new belief systems may be based on different values.

"Radical Islamism, for example, will emphasise the solidarity of the umma (worldwide community of the Muslim faithful) against the freedom of the individual.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:31 PM | Permalink

May 28, 2008

Finding Child Care on the Web

The working parents' search for child care has to be one of the most difficult choices given how reluctant most states have been in releasing their reports on the web.

At last, inspections made by state regulators of child-care centers of their safety, quality and cleanliness can now be found online reports
Sue Shellenbarger in the Wall Street Journal

Some 20 of 50 states have begun posting the records online and 13 more have plans to do so.

A new generation of Web-savvy parents has been pushing for such information. A Michigan official says one staffer was "totally buried" in written child-care inquiries before it posted data online. Angie's List, a clearinghouse of service ratings, began posting child-care reviews in December 2006 "because our members wanted it," a spokeswoman says.

Links to state regulators' Web sites for child-care safety, quality and health information:
Arizona
Arkansas
Colorado
Florida
Georgia
Indiana
Michigan
Nebraska
New Hampshire
New York State
New York City
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
South Carolina
Texas
Vermont
Virginia
Washington

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

May 24, 2008

Pampered Pregnancy

Pregnancy used to be something camouflaged and endured, nine months of achy backs and euphemisms and elastic waistbands with a 7-pound 9-ounce reward at the end.

Not anymore. For a certain kind of mom with a certain kind of priority, pregnancy is a heady blur of spa visits and personal pregnancy chefs, of baby planners and "babymoons." Pregnancy is not a journey. Pregnancy is a destination, a showplace.

Greater Expectation: Luxury Services for Pregnant Women are Booming

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:31 PM | Permalink

Sky Glow and Light Trespass

At the very moment that humans discovered the scale of the universe and found that their most unconstrained fancies were in fact dwarfed by the true dimensions of even the Milky Way Galaxy, they took steps that ensured that their descendants would be unable to see the stars at all. For a million years humans had grown up with a personal daily knowledge of the vault of heaven. In the last few thousand years they began building and emigrating to the cities. In the last few decades, a major fraction of the human population had abandoned a rustic way of life. As technology developed and the cities were polluted, the nights became starless. New generations grew to maturity wholly ignorant of the sky that had transfixed their ancestors and had stimulated the modern age of science and technology. Without even noticing, just as astronomy entered a golden age most people cut themselves off from the sky, a cosmic isolationism that only ended with the dawn of space exploration.

An excerpt from Carl Sagan's Contact via Jason Kottke  who also links to The Dark Side in The New Yorker documenting the effects of light pollution.

Today, a person standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building on a cloudless night would be unable to discern much more than the moon, the brighter planets, and a handful of very bright stars—less than one per cent of what Galileo would have been able to see without a telescope.

We are deprived of
a direct relationship with the nighttime sky, which throughout human history has been a powerful source of reflection, inspiration, discovery, and plain old jaw-dropping wonder. 
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Growing numbers of us pass most of our waking hours “in a box, looking at a box,” as Dave Crawford put it: we spend our days inside offices, looking at computer screens, and our evenings inside houses, looking at television screens.

What amazes us now in the night sky is what we humans have created.

 Night Sky

We no longer look up to the heavens, we look down on ourselves.

 La Night

Light pollution can be reduced with better design of outside lights that reduces sky glow and light trespass

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:04 AM | Permalink

Daughter of a Feminist Asks What about the Children?

The consequences of growing up the daughter of the trail-blazing feminist and author Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple left Rebecca Walker lonely, ambivalent, and very confused with her longing to be a mother.

She was taught that motherhood was a form of servitude and the worst thing that could happen to a woman.   

When I hit my 20s and first felt a longing to be a mother, I was totally confused. I could feel my biological clock ticking, but I felt if I listened to it, I would be betraying my mother and all she had taught me.

How my mother's fanatical feminist views tore us apart.

I know many women are shocked by my views. They expect the daughter of Alice Walker to deliver a very different message. Yes, feminism has undoubtedly given women opportunities. It's helped open the doors for us at schools, universities and in the workplace. But what about the problems it's caused for my contemporaries?

The ease with which people can get divorced these days doesn't take into account the toll on children. That's all part of the unfinished business of feminism.

Then there is the issue of not having children. Even now, I meet women in their 30s who are ambivalent about having a family. They say things like: 'I'd like a child. If it happens, it happens.' I tell them: 'Go home and get on with it because your window of opportunity is very small.' As I know only too well.

Then I meet women in their 40s who are devastated because they spent two decades working on a PhD or becoming a partner in a law firm, and they missed out on having a family. Thanks to the feminist movement, they discounted their biological clocks. They've missed the opportunity and they're bereft.

Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating.

 Rebecca Walker-1

"Baby Love" (Rebecca Walker)

She's her own woman now, blessed to be a mom and soon-to-published author of Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:17 AM | Permalink

Changing what it means to be human

We used to share an idea of what we mean by the word human.  Now it's not so clear. 

Following the decision of the U. S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade  legalizing abortion, it became acceptable, even politically correct,  to call a human embryo,  'a bunch of cells' thus denying the obvious truth that the 'bunch of cells' was a human being at the earliest stage of development.  When the clear bright moral line upholding the sanctity of human life  was breached, a Pandora's box was opened. 

We are seeing the consequences now. 

In the past few days, Parliament has pooh-poohed the idea that human beings, artificially bred in a laboratory, need fathers or father-substitutes.

The same law-makers, who see nothing wrong with aborting a child aged 24 weeks in the mother's womb, have also joyfully given the go-ahead to research which will involve the creation of human-animal hybrids in laboratories.

This is a momentous step. A decent society is one in which every man, woman and child is regarded as a sacrosanct individual, but such a belief is untenable if our law is also to allow scientists to tinker with our DNA, the stuff of life itself, and to mix it with the DNA of other species.

A N Wilson imagines What would the world be like without men?

In light of the debates this week in Parliament and elsewhere about embryology, about the very nature of life itself, it seems all too possible that by the time today's children are middle-aged they will be living in a Brave New World more horrible than Aldous Huxley imagined in 1932.
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People in Huxley's nightmare do not reproduce through sex or family life. Instead, they are bred in Hatcheries, and then divided into castes  -  the Alphas and Betas running the show, the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons are slaves.

Is this really so far-fetched?
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A few die-hards insisted on such foolish old mantras as 'everyone needs a dad', but the appendage 'like a hole in the head' was soon tacked on by the rest of society.

After the coup, masculinity became illegal and it became necessary, by humane means, of course, to eliminate males altogether.

In the matter of abortion, for example, agnostics and religious believers all agreed that the foetus was a human being. Such a simple belief is no longer taken for granted, and the human body itself is seen by many scientists as an object in a laboratory with which to be experimented.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:51 AM | Permalink

May 23, 2008

Living Walls, Art of Green by Blanc

Patrick Blanc, an unusual combination of artist and scientist, pioneered the art of living walls, or vertical gardens in Paris.

"He’s a curious character because he is the symbiosis of a scientist, an artist and a communicator,” said Stéphane Martin, the director of the Quai Branly Museum. “He has created a personality with his green hair, a look and an image.”

 Patrick Blanc Photograph Nyt

Fascinated by plants that flourish without soil, he traveled to Malaysia and Thailand to observe how plants managed to grow on rocks and so began his career in botany as a researcher with the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris for 25 years.

He found a way of growing plants without soil, using a durable frame of metal, PVC and nonbiodegradable felt.  Without the weight of soil, vertical gardens can be installed on any wall in any climate. 

While he created dozens of these living walls around the world since 1988, he came to serious international attention with his 2001 mur vegetale in the courtyard of the Pershing Hall Hotel in Paris, commissioned by Andree Putman, the French interior decorator and designer.

Ms. Putman called his plant walls revolutionary. “It’s like a magic trick,” she said. “There is no soil in this operation, and yet the plants seem to grow faster. It creates a rather miraculous atmosphere.”

 Pershing Hall Hotel Paris

The New York Times featured him in All His Rooms Are Living Rooms by Kristin Hohenadel.

I like to reintegrate nature where one least expects it,” Mr. Blanc said as he sat at a table in his overgrown back garden, smoking a Vogue Menthol and drinking chilled white Jurançon.

“We live in an era where human activity is overwhelming,” he continued. “I think we can reconcile nature and man to a much greater degree. People become much more sensitive to nature when they suddenly see a plant wall in the Métro” — where he has not yet built a plant wall, but hopes to. “It calls out to them much more than plants in a garden.”
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“Humanity is living more and more in cities, and at odds with nature,” he said. “The plant wall has a real future for the well-being of people living in cities. The horizontal is finished — it’s for us. But the vertical is still free."

But note, he copyrights his walls like works of art.  Now,  imitators are springing up.

In human society, as soon as there’s something new that seems to work, it’s normal that everyone wants to do it,” Mr. Blanc said. “It’s like what people said about Édith Piaf — around her, even the hobos wanted to be singers. If I’m imitated, it’s good.”

Environmental Graffiti tells the story of 15 Living Walls, Vertical Gardens & Sky Farms around the world.

         Patrick Blanc Living Wall

What a wonderful way to create living art and beauty as well environmental benefits in cities everywhere.  Glorious. More please.

Patrick Blanc's website, absolutely gorgeous though it takes a while to load.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:17 PM | Permalink

Biggest Drawing in the World

A Swedish student at the Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm had a great idea for his final project - the biggest drawing in the world.

Using a GPS device in a briefcase as his pen, and very exact travel directions to DHL,  he drew a self-portrait on our planet.  You can see how he did it here.

 Gps Generated Self Portrait

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 PM | Permalink

May 22, 2008

Britannia Drowning

When I read the news from England, I imagine the bright, shiny coin of the British Empire on which Britannia stood strong to protect the rights of her citizens now falling into the darkness with just her head above water, gasping.

 Britannnia Drowning

Children no longer have a right to a father or even a male role model since Parliament voted that fertility clinics need no longer consider a child's need for a father when a single woman or a lesbian couple seeks fertility services.  The experience of the ages that tells us that fathers are necessary for the stable environment needed to raise healthy and happy children is being tossed aside.  Instead human beings are now to be manufactured to suit the selfish desires of the putative parents trumping the needs of those children brought into the world in such a fashion.

We have evidence of "donor-conceived adults who describe the psychological and emotional anguish of being "genetic orphans" who struggle with
powerful feelings of loss of identity through not knowing one or both biological parents and their wider biological families...  They believe society was complicit in a serious wrong done to them in the way they were conceived and ask, “How could anyone think they had the right to do this to me?”

Donor-conceived children
know that the parents raising them are also the ones who intentionally created them with a severed relationship to at least one of their biological parents. The pain they feel was caused not by some distant, shadowy person who gave them up, but by the parent who cares for them.

This knowledge brings the loyalty and love they naturally feel for the parents raising them in direct conflict with the identity quest we all must go through. When they ask, "Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here?" they confront a welter of painful uncertainties our culture hasn't begun to understand.

Despite overwhelming evidence that children without fathers are far more susceptible to problems in school and with drink or drugs, the government now takes the official position that creating fatherless families is just fine. 

No wonder two million British citizens have left the U.K.  in the past decade, in the greatest exodus from the country in almost a century.

"Crossing the ultimate boundary" -human-animal embryos.

Regulators have agreed that 'Human-animal' embryos can be created and used for research.  This decision by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority  crosses a moral absolute, horrific all the more so because it's totally unnecessary.

Scientists want to create hybrid embryos by merging human cells with animal eggs in a bid to extract stem cells. The embryos would then be destroyed within 14 days.

One conservative MP said
mingling animal and human DNA crossed an “ultimate boundary”. He said that exaggerated claims were giving patients false hope and that the dangers of the research were unknown. “In many ways we are like children playing with landmines without any concept of the dangers of the technology we are handling,” he said.

The United States, Canada and  Australia ban the creation of human-animal hybrids.  But Britain, the nation that prides itself on its caring for animals, has strict regulation on medical testing of animals, prohibits almost all genetically-altered food (much to the detriment of African farmers working their way out of poverty), where all natural ingredients are a 'must' for their cosmetics, shampoos and lotions, and only organic food will do, seems to have lost regard for the sanctity of human beings.

Human-animal  embryos are being "manufactured" to be used to extract embryonic stem cells despite the fact that embryonic stem cell research to date has been a bust.   
There are currently 72 therapies showing human benefits using adult stem cells and zero using embryonic stem cells.

Even worse the Gordon Brown, the current Prime Minister from the Labour party is a strong advocate, making "shameless use" of his own son who suffers from cystic fibrosis,  as David Warren points out in Down the Slope: 

But using his own son, as his exhibit, he has very emotionally declared that the creation of hybrid animal/human embryos for research purposes is "an inherently moral endeavour, that can save and improve the lives of thousands and over time, millions"

This in turn allows such as his unpleasant public health minister, Dawn Primarolo  to follow the argument through, and accuse those who are morally repelled by animal/human hybrids of actually willing that humans should suffer from incurable diseases. To be plain: emotional blackmail is being compounded with vile slander.

For Gordon Brown was uttering an untruth.  As even the leading "expert" advocate of the government's measures - Lord Robert Winston, the English fertility specialist, politician, and television personality - has admitted, there is no pressing need for animal/human hybrid embryos. He had already said that the loss of the hybrid clause "won't fundamentally alter the science of stem cell biology." The research could perfectly well go on with adult stem cells, to the use of which there is no moral objection. Even the Roman Catholic Church has contributed directly and materially to that research.
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We are most certainly dealing with a moral absolute in this case. Our entire civilization (including all legal codes throughout the western world) depends upon the sharp and unambiguous distinction between what is human, and what is not.
We do not abandon this "front line" without inevitably lapsing into the kind of barbarism of which fascist-era Germany and Japan served as terrible warnings.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:48 AM | Permalink

May 21, 2008

"Who you marry is far more important than the career you choose"

It's the season for commencement speeches, not many of which will be remembered.  This one will. 

William McGurn, former speechwriter for President Bush delivers the 2008 commencement address at Benedictine College in Kansas.

As a professional speechwriter, I am painfully aware of the forms common for this occasion.  The clichés fall into a familiar pattern:  Dare to be different … do your own thing … and don’t be afraid to be a “rebel.” 

There is something false and cheap about all this.  It is well not to be afraid of being different, and it can be a form of courage.  But if we aim to be different only for different’s sake, the likelihood is that we end up as the ultimate cliché – rebels without a cause.

That is not why men and women choose Benedictine.  Your alumni include highly talented CEOs, military officers, members of the clergy, leaders of great foundations, and even a Nobel Prize winner.  These people owe much of their success to the start they were given here.  And whatever their field of endeavor, I believe all would agree with me about three propositions that are easily forgotten and only painfully re-learned. 

First, who you marry is far more important than what career you choose.  Over the course of a life that has taken me across three continents, I have met many accomplished men and women.  And I have always been astonished by the number who give more thought to choosing the job they may hold for a couple of years than to choosing the spouse to whom they will pledge – before God and their friends – to remain with until death they do part.

Second, no professional achievement – no matter how extraordinary – can match the thrill of seeing the absolute love and confidence reflected in the trusting eyes of a child who calls you Mom or Dad.       

Finally, you will not find lasting happiness by pursuing it.  Happiness is the byproduct of a contented life.  And the surest path to a contented life is to put the needs of others before your own.

Via Peter Robinson

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:07 PM | Permalink

The Next American Frontier

Michael Malone writes that the United States is on the verge of becoming the world's first Entrepreneurial Nation in The Next American Frontier.

What Turner couldn't guess was that the unexplored prairie would become the uninvented new product, the unexploited new market and the untried new business plan.
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We still have companies and corporations, but now they are virtualized, with online work teams handing off assignments to each other 24/7 around the world. Men and women go to work, but the office is increasingly likely to be in the den. ..
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More than 200 million people now belong to just two social networks: MySpace and Facebook. And there are more than 80 million videos on YouTube, all put there by the same individual initiative.

The most compelling statistic of all? Half of all new college graduates now believe that self-employment is more secure than a full-time job. Today, 80% of the colleges and universities in the U.S. now offer courses on entrepreneurship; 60% of Gen Y business owners consider themselves to be serial entrepreneurs, according to Inc. magazine. Tellingly, 18 to 24-year-olds are starting companies at a faster rate than 35 to 44-year-olds. And 70% of today's high schoolers intend to start their own companies, according to a Gallup poll.
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Without noticing it, we have once again discovered, and then raced off to settle, a new frontier. Not land, not innovation, but ourselves and a growing control over our own lives and careers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 PM | Permalink

The Homeless Billionaire

Nicolas Berggruen is a most interesting investor who sold all his homes to live in hotels who eats only two meals a day, one of them chocolate.

He is about to sell his only car. Because he doesn't have children and is unmarried, he is planning to leave his fortune to a personal foundation and an art museum.

"Living in a grand environment to show myself and others that I have wealth has zero appeal," he says in an interview, standing in a hotel room in New York's Upper East Side. "Whatever I own is temporary, since we're only here for a short period of time. It's what we do and produce, it's our actions, that will last forever. That's real value."
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"Historically, I've made my money in financials," says Mr. Berggruen, 46 years old, whose net worth is estimated at more than $3 billion. "Now, I'm investing in the real world. I'm investing in the ground, in things that will last for generations and improve people's lives."

Putting His Money Where His Values Are.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

"Life is a narrow bridge"

I rather liked Paul Greenberg's Things I Should Have Learned


Don't worry so much. Heck, don't worry, period. Worrying is an attenuated form of atheism. Do your best and then let Somebody Else handle it.

"Step lightly; do not jar the inner harmonies." -Satchel Paige.

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Always show good will. If it is not reciprocated, nothing is lost. If it is, celebrate. Contrary to Machiavelli, it is better to be loved than feared, at least in personal relations. Nations are something else; they have interests, not friends.

"Life is a narrow bridge. The most important thing is not to be afraid." -Reb Nachman of Breslov, who also said: "If you believe you can damage, then believe you can repair."
Instead of contemplating our sins, why not make up for them? It can be done. That's what We the Guilt-Ridden forget. Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" starring E. Scrooge should be read the year 'round.

Here's another gem from Reb Nachman: "Seek for the merit in others, even the tiniest shred. Then do the same in yourself."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

"I like pain, I love pain"

 Elaine-Davidson Most-Pierced

Elaine Davidson, 43 years old, a songwriter who lives in Scotland holds the Guinness World as "most pierced woman" in the world with 5920 piercings as of May 16, 2008.    She fears going home to Brazil for fear of being robbed.

"The last time I went to Brazil, I had to wear a face mask because since I have a lot of jewellery [pierced to the skin], I fear being robbed or attacked," Elaine Davidson said from Edinburgh.

She considers feeling pain a motivating factor in her life and says she also walks on beds of nails, fire and bits of glass.

"I like pain, I love pain," she said, explaining that she now wants to exceed 2,000 body piercings.

Davidson has more piercings in her genitalia than in any other part of the body - 500 in all, externally and internally.

"It hurts in the chest as well," she said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

May 18, 2008

"Most Geeks Well-Adjusted"

How a teen-ager feels about himself is the best indicator of his future social functioning.

Revenge of the Nerds: Most Geeks Well-Adjusted

Kathleen Boykin McElhaney, lead study investigator and research associate in psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville,

"I think our study shows that popularity doesn't really matter a whole heck of a lot," McElhaney said. "Our data suggests that finding a social niche and a place where you can be comfortable being yourself is most important."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:37 AM | Permalink

Identity theft among illegal immigrants

When you think about it, it makes sense.  Who needs illegal documents?  People who want documentation to get jobs, credit and driver's licenses and appear as if they are in the country legally.

Steven Malanga, senior editor of  City Journal writes in Illegal in More Ways Than One

As everyone knows, America is experiencing an epidemic of identity theft. In the last five years alone, complaints to the Federal Trade Commission from U.S. residents who have had their identity stolen have skyrocketed 60 percent, to 258,427 in 2007—one-third of all consumer fraud complaints that the commission receives. What’s less well understood, however, is how illegal immigration is helping to fuel this rash of crime. Seeking access to jobs, credit, and driver’s licenses, many undocumented aliens are using the personal data of real Americans on forged documents. The immigrants’ identity theft has become so pervasive that the need to combat it is “a disturbing front in the war against illegal immigration,” according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The FTC’s latest statistics help show why. The top five states in terms of reported identity theft in 2007 all have large immigrant populations—the border states of Arizona, California, and Texas, as well as Florida and Nevada.
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Government statistics probably grossly underestimate the size of the problem. Many local police departments don’t track identity theft accurately, and the FTC only reports complaints that it receives. By combining data on complaints with FTC consumer surveys—which show that far more people have had their identity stolen than report it—Identity Theft 911 estimates that in Arizona alone, some 1.57 million people, or a quarter of the state’s population, have been victims over the last six years. About one-fifth are children—whose Social Security numbers are especially valuable targets, since the kids usually aren’t employed, making discovery of the fraud less likely. “We just don’t know how they’re getting all this information on minors,” says Maryann McKessy, bureau chief for fraud and identity-theft enforcement in the Maricopa County attorney general’s office.

One disturbing theory: health-care employees with access to children’s files are working for organized gangs that trade in illegal documents and are willing to pay richly for the data. “We have a major problem with workers in medical offices stealing patients’ identities, selling them and making a direct profit,” Sergeant James Bracke of the Phoenix Police Department told authors of the Arizona report.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 AM | Permalink

Can the American experiment continue if we are ignorant and hate our own past?

"Unless we have an active memory of, and feel a certain awe for, those now dead and too often forgotten -- who built our universities, erected our majestic buildings, crafted the protocols of our government, and won  our wars --then we have become dead souls of a sort, who drift among the infrastructure they left behind."

A classicist, Victor Davis Hanson takes as his starting point, the Funeral Oration of Pericles

The first is to remind the Athenians that they were simply born lucky: the imperial grandeur that they enjoyed was due to their fathers and grandfathers, who “handed it down free to the present time by their valor.” Such gratitude and humility in the moral sense are, of course, important for a free people, likely to think their present success is all their own, and therefore, in their self-congratulation, prone to hubris and a lack of reflection. Recitation of the accomplishments of earlier others also reminds Athenians that they are a mere link in a larger chain. And therefore they carry obligations to their children not to squander what the sacrifices of their parents achieved.

Victor Davis Hanson warns of the Perils of Cultural Amnesia at the 2008 Bradley Symposium.

The perils Hanson sees are

1. Forgetting the Drudgery of the Past.
We make no allowance for the horrific frontier experiences of millions of poor immigrants of all races, whose real enemies were not always each other, Native Americans, or the “system”....but rather the physical world itself.  In pre-industrial times, how did people head westward without good maps, with only horse-powered wagons, when a strep throat, a pregnancy, or an infected small cut could mean a painful death.

2. Forgetting what was important
The loss of a proper notion of magnitude about the past not only means we elevate the less important over the seminal, but also lose any yardstick of the past by which to measure the present. Today we speak of the 4,000 American dead in an ongoing war for a democratic Iraq as part of the “worst” decision in American diplomatic or military history. But only a generation that was ignorant of the nearly 23,000 casualties suffered in a single day at Antietam, or the 81,000 dead and wounded lost at the Battle of Bulge, or the over 5,000 Americans killed in the first four years of the Philippines insurrection could employ such superlatives of their own experiences with war in Iraq.

3. Losing the ability to understand dilemmas
or the need to accept a bad choice when the alternative is far worse...History is tragedy... If we do not understand the sometimes bleak choices of history, then in the present and for the future we place upon ourselves such utopian burdens that almost any result will be caricatured and second-guessed. And the ultimate result with be a moral stasis,and the bankrupt notion that inaction is not an error of omission.

4. Our present hypocrisy .  A symptom of our cultural amnesia is the too easy casual judgment on past deeds especially in the academy and by taking our present affluence and prosperity for granted while condemning those in the past for those were largely responsible for it.

So what are the ramifications of our cultural amnesia?

Ignorance for one, self-indulgence for another.

Our present generation has nearly bankrupt the social security system, accumulated trillions of dollars in national debt, lost a war in Vietnam, spent trillions of dollars in national wealth on cosmetic surgeries, and induced a crass popular culture of conspicuousconsumption and self-indulgence—and yet has rewritten our public school history textbooks to emphasize the sins of our prior generations. The more we demonize the dead, the more we the living are then free to rewrite the rules of our own moral behavior.

If we can only see our history, Hanson concludes, in terms of racial, gender and class oppressions, what reason is there for the American experiment to continue?

The hard work of uniting diverse peoples under uniquely humane principles is the work of over two centuries; the easy task of ending it can by accomplished in a mere generation through our ignorance or hatred of ourselves and own past.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:44 AM | Permalink

May 17, 2008

When truth is no defense

The Department of Justice for the Canadian conservative government has released its defense of the hate speech provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

(Under the authority of this provision of law, Mark Steyn and MacLeans magazine have been brought up on charges of hate speech before three human rights commissions in Canada.  See Whither Canada?.  Five Canadian bloggers have also been sued by one Richard Warman, a former employee of the Canadian human rights commission.  See The Chilling Effect of Richard Warman)

37.  The defences of truth and fair comment remain available to torts such as defamation and seditious libel, regardless of the medium in which they occur. However, none of the traditional media can avail themselves of these defences in cases of alleged hate propaganda, whether the communication appears in print, on television or on a website.

38. As the Federal Court has explained, defences that may be available in tort actions are not available in cases of hate propaganda because the prohibition is concerned with adverse effects, not with intent.

Blogger Deborah Gyapong writes

I feel like a coup d'etat has taken place and I have awakened to the aftermath.
And this egregious affront to civil rights and to the freedom to speak the truth in Canada is being perpetuated now by the Conservative government.

Woe is us. I have this awful, awful feeling that we're too late. The war has been won by the other side and there are just mopping up operations left, and those that will be mopped up will be those who try to speak the truth in ways that the elite power structure does not like.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink

May 16, 2008

Whatever

"Join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty," Taylor Mali.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

May 15, 2008

Israel at 60 -L'chaim

The wonder is how this most ancient of nations has survived and thrived as a tiny sliver in the Middle East in the face of continuous danger.

Spengler writes they are also the happiest country in the world

In a world given over to morbidity, the state of Israel still teaches the world love of life, not in the trivial sense of joie de vivre, but rather as a solemn celebration of life. In another location, I argued, "It's easy for the Jews to talk about delighting in life. They are quite sure that they are eternal, while other peoples tremble at the prospect impending extinction. It is not their individual lives that the Jews find so pleasant, but rather the notion of a covenantal life that proceeds uninterrupted through the generations." Still, it is remarkable to observe by what wide a margin the Israelis win the global happiness sweepstakes.

Nations go extinct, I have argued in the past, because the individuals who comprise these nations choose collectively to die out. Once freedom replaces the fixed habits of traditional society, people who do not like their own lives do not trouble to have children. Not the sword of conquerors, but the indigestible sourdough of everyday life threatens the life of the nations, now dying out at a rate without precedent in recorded history.
--
The faith of Israelis is unique. Jews sailed to Palestine as an act of faith, to build a state against enormous odds and in the face of hostile encirclement, joking, "You don't have to be crazy to be a Zionist, but it helps." In 1903 Theodor Herzl, the Zionist movement's secular founder, secured British support for a Jewish state in Uganda, but his movement shouted him down, for nothing short of the return to Zion of Biblical prophecy would requite it. In place of a modern language the Jewish settlers revived Hebrew, a liturgical language only since the 4th century BC, in a feat of linguistic volition without precedent. It may be that faith burns brighter in Israel because Israel was founded by a leap of faith.

A love of life and leap of faith, think of that.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:02 PM | Permalink

"It can't happen here"

Despite my self-imposed general ban on politics, I do write often about freedom of speech and freedom of religion, those priceless rights we've been given and for which we have an obligation to pass on unhindered to the generations that follow us.  These civil rights are  a legacy that belongs to all of us; they transcends political differences.

Jonathan Strong writing in the American Thinker is troubled by the same Human Rights Regression that bothers me.

Canadian author Mark Steyn has warned in his book, American Alone, that the West faces major civilizational threats from a combination of it's declining birth rate and an influx of Muslim immigrants, many of whom do not share Western values, and some of whom are violently opposed to Western values.  Like Mr. Levant, Steyn too has been summoned to appear before the British Columbia Human Rights Commission (HRC) to answer before the thought police for portions of his book that were published in Maclean's magazine (Canada's largest weekly news magazine).
--

These HRCs are dangerous (and illegitimate) because they defy hundreds of years of British legal tradition and history.  The British legacy of the rule of law is one of the greatest legacies of British culture in all of history.  Around the world in former colonies and protectorates, the traditions that stem from British courts often continue today even if those nations no longer consider themselves as part of the Commonwealth.  The defiance of history observed by the HRCs and plaintiffs against Steyn are exemplified by a brief review of the time tested legal principles of standing, evidence, and damages.
--

There are also no rules of evidence.  There is no "proof" required, and hearsay abounds within a HRC trial.  The lack of evidentiary rules makes most lawyers cringe.  Everything, including the kitchen sink, can be included in a complaint for the HRC to examine without any fact finding, witnesses, or proof.  The HRC members will then determine what is admissible, important, and "true", which commonly means everything alleged.
--
Steyn does not advocate violence or hatred, he writes to warn the west of the danger that looms because of an ideology that opposes to the values the West has held dear for hundreds of years: freedom of speech, equality of opportunity, the rule of law, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. Steyn's book has warned us of the threats to our Western values, the law suit against him exemplifies that the threat is real and immediate.

Just in case you think 'Well, that's Canada. It couldn't happen here', look what happened to a student and janitor who was found guilty of "racial harassment" for reading a public library book on a university campus in Indiana.

My 'racial harassment'  nightmare

the $106,000-a-year affirmative-action officer who declared me guilty of "racial harassment" never spoke to me or examined the book. My own union - the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - sent an obtuse shop steward to stifle my freedom to read. He told me, "You could be fired," that reading the book was "like bringing pornography to work."
--
Affirmative Action Office of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis from branding me as a detestable Klansman.
They didn't want to hear the truth. The office ruled that my "repeatedly reading the book . . . constitutes racial harassment in that you demonstrated disdain and insensitivity to your co-workers."
--
After months of stonewalling, the university withdrew the charge, thanks to pressure from the press, the American Civil Liberties Union and a group called the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE.

Let me be clear: I don't view this episode as a black-against-white or conservative-vs.-liberal issue. It's a basic civil-liberties issue.
--

The unchecked power of such campus bureaucrats needs to be restrained. And if a union like AFSCME won't protect its workers' constitutional rights, it should go out of business.
If they can stop me from reading one book, then they can stop any American from reading any book.

The book incidentally, not that it should matter, was Todd Tucker's "Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Klu Klux Klan.

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" is often quoted though no one knows who first said it.  Don't be tempted to think that the freedom of not being offended in any way rises to the importance of freedom of speech and religion. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

More offshore oil drilling please; we need more fish

When I served at the Department of the Interior, I was amazed to learn that much of the shellfish and fish on the tables of Los Angeles restaurants came from around the oil rigs off Santa Barbara, so I was quite interested in this article.

Oil spills don't come from producing wells, but from the transportation of oIl and gas.

More offshore oil drilling

For fear of oil spills, as of 2008, the U.S. Federal government and various states ban drilling in thousands upon thousands of square miles off the U.S. Coast. These areas, primarily on the Outer Continental Shelf, hold an estimated 115 billion barrels of oil and 633 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
--
Of the roughly 3,700 offshore oil productions platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, roughly 3,200 lie off the Louisiana coast.  Yet Louisiana produces one-third of America's commercial fisheries and no major oil spill has ever soiled its coast.

On the other hand, Florida, which zealously prohibits from offshore oil drilling, had its gorgeous “Emerald Coast” panhandle beaches soiled by an ugly oil spill in 1976. This spill, as almost all oil spills, resulted from the transportation of oil—not from the extraction of oil. 
--
Recall the Valdez, the Cadiz, the Argo Merchant. These were all tanker spills. The production of oil is relatively clean and safe. Again, it's the transportation that presents the greatest risk
--
More birds get fried by landing on power lines and smashed to pulp against picture windows in one week than perished from three decades of oil spills.

But forget cheaper oil and less pollution for a second. All fishermen and scuba divers out there should plead with their states to open up offshore oil drilling posthaste. I refer to the fabulous fishing – the EXPLOSION of marine life that accompanies the erection of offshore oil platforms.
--
Every "environmental" superstition against these structures was turned on its head. Marine life had EXPLODED around these huge artificial reefs: A study by LSU's Sea Grant college shows that 85 percent of Louisiana fishing trips involve fishing around these platforms. The same study shows that there's 50 times more marine life around an oil production platform than in the surrounding mud bottoms.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

May 14, 2008

Saving the world in study hall

When teen-agers, high-schoolers as well as college students, can show us how savvy and constructive they can be as they engage in practical and useful community service at home and around the world, we have more cause to be hopeful about the future.

What can we do but applaud the Staying Alive campaign organized by a 16 year-old Allyson Brown to raise money to buy mosquito nets at $10 each to protect an African family from malaria.

The aim of Stayin’ Alive, which is run by a group called Malaria No More, is to buy enough bed nets to protect two million children. Allyson, who remains very involved in the program, will have saved more lives as a student than many doctors save in a lifetime.
---

A lot of people say that teenagers aren’t thinking about the greater good,” Allyson added, just a hint of protest in her voice. “But when you give teens a chance to help, and they know their contributions will make a difference, then they help a lot.”

Saving the world in Study Hall

The habit of giving starts early.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:09 AM | Permalink

Pessimism and Generosity

Why are so many Americans glum and pessimistic when by all accounts we are living still in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, the legacy of countless Americans who were hopeful about the future they were building?

Zachary Karabell wonders Who Stole the American Spirit?

Something else is going on – namely a cultural rut of pessimism that is draining our collective energy, blinding us to possibilities, and eroding our position in the world.

Right now we have an unemployment rate of 5% and headline inflation topping 4%. We have economic growth of 0.6%, extremely low consumer confidence and weakening consumer spending, small business optimism at a 28-year low, and of course a housing market that is showing declines in excess of 20% in some parts of the country.
--
Today, the economy and the American political system are seen in almost entirely negative terms, and in need of drastic reform. Perhaps it is a strength to be able to be so self-critical. But there is a fine line between self-criticism and self-excoriation.
--
The alternative to grime-encrusted lenses isn't rose-tinted glasses, but more equanimity about our weaknesses and our strengths would surely help us navigate.

Unfortunately, the problem with downward spirals is, well, that they spiral downward. There is little evidence just now that we are about to break this cycle, and until we do, we will watch in awe, envy and fear as peoples throughout the world do what we used to do so well.

And while we're at it, let's applaud American generosity and for a short time relish the good we do.

Credit where it's due by Janet Albrechtsen in The Australian or Let's hear it for America

THERE is a certain familiarity to the concomitant series of actions and reactions when disaster strikes in the world. The US stands ready, willing and able to offer assistance. It is often the first country to send in millions of dollars, navy strike groups loaded with food and medical supplies, and transport planes, helicopters and floating hospitals to help those devastated by natural disaster.

..... When the US keeps doing so much of the heavy lifting to alleviate suffering, you'd figure that the anti-Americans might eventually revise their view of the US. But they never do. And coming under constant attack even when helping others, you'd figure that Americans would eventually draw the curtains on world crises. But they haven't. At least not yet.

--
The need to paint Americans as a greedy, selfish, war-mongering superpower cannot be disturbed by facts. It matters not that, in the year before the tsunami, the US provided $2.4 billion in humanitarian relief:
40 per cent of all the relief aid given to the world in 2003. Never mind that development and emergency relief rose from $10 billion during the last year of Bill Clinton's administration to $24 billion under George W. Bush in 2003. Or that, according to a German study, Americans contribute to charities nearly seven times as much a head as Germans do. Or that, adjusted for population, American philanthropy is more than two-thirds more than British giving.
--
why not break into a standing ovation every now and again? As more US C-130s and helicopters stand waiting on Burma's doorstep, desperate to help a shattered populace and stymied only by an appalling anti-US regime, this is one of those times.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:57 AM | Permalink

Five new things you can do with your cell phone

I quite liked these Five things you never knew you could do with your cell phone

Who knew the emergency number world wide for mobiles is 112, a number you can dial even if the keypad is locked.

Who knew that you could unlock your car over a cell phone?

And the number I immediately stored in my phone, 800 373 3411 for free 411 information calls.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 AM | Permalink

May 9, 2008

What you do with vegetables could be criminal

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey wants to outlaw out-of-season vegetables

making out-of-season produce illegal would raise "levels of inspiration".
"There should be stringent laws, licensing laws, to make sure produce is only used in season and season only," he said.

HT Perry de Haviland

Man spends 18 hours in police cell and has his DNA taken for 'dropping an apple core', a charge he denies.

From Grandma's House

Listen up brothers and sisters, come here my desperate tale
I speak of our friends of nature, trapped in the dirt like a jail
Vegtables live in oppression, served on out tables each night
This killing of veggies is madness, i say we take up the fight
Salads are only for murderers, cole slaw's a fascist regime
Don't think that they don't have feelings, just cause a radish can't scream

I've heard the screams of the vegetables, watching their skins being peeled
Grated and steamed with no mercy.. how do you think that feels?
Carrot juice constitutes murder.. greenhouses prisons for slaves
It's time to stop all this gardening.. let's call a spade a spade.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:02 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 6, 2008

"When Death is near, how do we show our love?"

After the extraordinary reception to the Beloved Professor Delivering His Last Lecture Jeffrey Zaslow teamed up with Randy Pausch to co-write the new book,


"The Last Lecture" (Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow)

Zaslow reports that Pausch is finding more difficult to say goodbye to his family  than he did to his colleagues at work.

Zaslow asks "When death is near, how do we show our love?" in  A Final Farwell

For many of us, his lecture has become a reminder that our own futures are similarly -- if not as drastically -- brief. His fate is ours, sped up.
--
People wrote about how his lecture had inspired them to spend more time with loved ones, to quit pitying themselves, or even to shake off suicidal urges. Terminally ill people said the lecture had persuaded them to embrace their own goodbyes, and as Randy said, "to keep having fun every day I have left, because there's no other way to play it."
--
Years ago, Jai had suggested that Randy compile his advice into a book for her and the kids. She wanted to call it "The Manual." Now, in the wake of the lecture, others were also telling Randy that he had a book in him--

"Well, you also need emotional insurance," the minister explained. The premiums for that insurance would be paid for with Randy's time, not his money. The minister suggested that Randy spend hours making videotapes of himself with the kids. Years from now, they will be able to see how easily they touched each other and laughed together.
--

Randy also made a point of talking to people who lost parents when they were very young. They told him they found it consoling to learn about how much their mothers and fathers loved them. The more they knew, the more they could still feel that love. To that end, Randy built separate lists of his memories of each child. He also has written down his advice for them, things like: "If I could only give three words of advice, they would be, 'Tell the truth.' If I got three more words, I'd add, 'All the time.' "

The advice he's leaving for Chloe includes this: "When men are romantically interested in you, it's really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do." Chloe, not yet 2 years old, may end up having no memory of her father. "But I want her to grow up knowing," Randy said, "that I was the first man ever to fall in love with her."
--
As he later explained it: "I am maintaining my clear-eyed sense of the inevitable.
I'm living like I'm dying. But at the same time, I'm very much living like I'm still living."
--

And so despite all his goodbyes, he has found solace in the idea that he'll remain a presence. "Kids, more than anything else, need to know their parents love them," he said. "Their parents don't have to be alive for that to happen."

The Last Lecture website.

Cross-posted at Legacy Matters.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 PM | Permalink

Why even the idea of Plant Rights is bad

Am I supposed to feel guilty because I eat salads and fruits? 

The Silent Scream of the Asparagus

This sounds like a joke but isn't.  What it does demonstrate is another way the rights you take for granted can be made subject to a bureaucrat's whim. 

What is clear, however, is that Switzerland's enshrining of "plant dignity" is a symptom of a cultural disease that has infected Western civilization, causing us to lose the ability to think critically and distinguish serious from frivolous ethical concerns. It also reflects the triumph of a radical anthropomorphism that views elements of the natural world as morally equivalent to people.
--
ts majority view holds that it would if the genetic modification caused plants to "lose their independence"--for example by interfering with their capacity to reproduce.

So much for breeding seedless Clementines or grafting hybrid wine grapes.

Belmont Club on the Plant Rights

Swiss lawyers are elaborating the doctrine of vegetable rights.
--
Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out." In short, they are arguing that plants have inherent rights which humans can't transgress. It sounds ridiculous.
--
who is really being "empowered" by the Swiss committee's decision? Is it plants? No. It is bureaucrats. The point of vegetable rights isn't to give plants dignity but to transfer yet more individual human freedoms to activists and government officials.

Deciding that individuals had power over themselves and the things around them was central to the development of human freedom -- and human rights
--

The point of legally empowering vegetables is not to give standing to a stalk of celery who might suddenly decide to appear in court, but to empower the bureaucrats and activist lawyers who will appear on their behalf. Today we already have spokesmen for Gaia. Tomorrow the lawyers from Brussels will be lawyers for brussels sprouts.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 AM | Permalink

Walmart Does It Again

I don't see how Walmart, the world's largest retailer,  makes money on its discounted prescription drug program but apparently it does because they are expanding the program to offer 90 day supplies for $10 and to include several drugs for women to treat breast cancer and hormone  deficiency.

They will also lower the price of more than 1000 over-the-counter drugs.

Already Wal-Mart in less than 2 years has saved customers more than $1 billion.

This is only good.

Said CEO Bill Simon,

"We're in business to make money,"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2008

"Go out and make a bunch of money"

Not many commencement speakers give away such advice, so it's a breath of fresh air to read a  commencement address by P.J. O'Rourke

Go out and make a bunch of money.
--
There's nothing the matter with honest moneymaking. Wealth is not a pizza, where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino's box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich.
--

Don't chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you'll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That's $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You'll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

Slow Medicine

Slow medicine encourages less aggressive and less costly care at the end of life reports the New York Times in For the elderly, being heard about life's end.

Grounded in research at the Dartmouth Medical School, slow medicine encourages physicians to put on the brakes when considering care that may have high risks and limited rewards for the elderly, and it educates patients and families how to push back against emergency room trips and hospitalizations designed for those with treatable illnesses, not the inevitable erosion of advanced age.

Slow medicine, which shares with hospice care the goal of comfort rather than cure, is increasingly available in nursing homes, but for those living at home or in assisted living, a medical scare usually prompts a call to 911, with little opportunity to choose otherwise.
--

The chief medical officer at U.C.L.A., Dr. Tom Rosenthal, said that aggressive treatment for the elderly at acute care hospitals can be “inhumane,” and that once a patient and family were drawn into that system, “it’s really hard to pull back from it.”

“The culture has a built-in bias that everything that can be done will be done,” Dr. Rosenthal said, adding that the pace of a hospital also discourages “real heart-to-heart discussions.”

Beginning that conversation earlier, as they do at Kendal, he said, “sounds like fundamentally the right way to practice.”

That means explaining that elderly people are rarely saved from cardiac arrest by CPR, or advising women with broken hips that they may never walk again, with or without surgery, unless they can stand physical therapy.
--

Some of those most in tune with slow medicine are the adult children who watch a parent’s daily decline. Suzanne Brian, for one, was grateful that her father, then 88 and debilitated by congestive heart failure, was able to stop medications to end his life.

“It wasn’t ‘Oh, you have to do this or do that,’ “ Ms. Brian said. “It was my father’s choice. He could have changed his mind at any time. They slowly weaned him from the meds and he was comfortable the whole time. All he wanted was honor and dignity, and that’s what he got.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

May 4, 2008

"Why can't people just see the best in things?"

A wonderful story about a 18 year-old boy, struck with a terminal cancer,  who is wise beyond his years. 

John Challis.

Teen is running out of innings, but the game still isn't over.

After the walk, John addressed the crowd.

"He spoke from his heart," Mr. Wetzel, the coach, said. "He said, 'I've got two options. I know I'm going to die, so I can either sit at home and feel sorry, or I could spread my message to everybody to live life to the fullest and help those in need.' After hearing that, I don't know if there were many people not crying."

Later in an interview he was asked where he gained his wisdom.

Through cancer.

"They say it takes a special person to realize this kind of stuff," he said. "I don't know if I'm special, but it wasn't hard for me. It's just my mind-set. A situation is what you make of it. Not what it makes of you."
-
"I guess I can see why people see me as an inspiration," he said. "But why do people think it's so hard to see things the way I do? All I'm doing is making the best of a situation."

John then raises his voice.

"Why can't people just see the best in things? It gets you so much further in life. It's always negative this and negative that. That's all you see and hear."
--

Through his own thoughts and through his deep Catholic beliefs, John believes he has "figured it out." He answers questions with maturity, courage and dignity, traits that have become his trademarks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 PM | Permalink

May 2, 2008

The Diaries of Cats and Dogs

I meant to post this last week, so you may have already see it.  From Good Eats

The Dog's Diary

  8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
  9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
  9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
  1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
  3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
  5:00 pm - Dinner! My favorite thing!
  7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
  8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

The Cat's Diary

Day 983 of My Captivity

    My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

    The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Bastards!

    There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

    Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.

    I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released, and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now ...

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 AM | Permalink

Lessons in Manliness

There's a fine, new-to-me blog on  The Art of Manliness where lessons in manliness are next to practical tips like Nine ways to start a fire without matches.   

When all else fails, a coke can and bar of  chocolate will do

Some like John McCain need no lessons but can teach some.  Of course, he'll never do it and so it rests on others to tell. 

Mr. Day relayed to me one of the stories Americans should hear. It involves what happened to him after escaping from a North Vietnamese prison during the war. When he was recaptured, a Vietnamese captor broke his arm and said, "I told you I would make you a cripple."

The break was designed to shatter Mr. Day's will. He had survived in prison on the hope that one day he would return to the United States and be able to fly again. To kill that hope, the Vietnamese left part of a bone sticking out of his arm, and put him in a misshapen cast. This was done so that the arm would heal at "a goofy angle," as Mr. Day explained. Had it done so, he never would have flown again.

But it didn't heal that way because of John McCain. Risking severe punishment, Messrs. McCain and Day collected pieces of bamboo in the prison courtyard to use as a splint. Mr. McCain put Mr. Day on the floor of their cell and, using his foot, jerked the broken bone into place. Then, using strips from the bandage on his own wounded leg and the bamboo, he put Mr. Day's splint in place.

Years later, Air Force surgeons examined Mr. Day and complimented the treatment he'd gotten from his captors. Mr. Day corrected them. It was Dr. McCain who deserved the credit. Mr. Day went on to fly again.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

Self-focused or other-focused lives

Jennifer F has written a remarkable post that may cause you to reconsider your world view

All of my scattered thoughts on the subject were brought into relief the other day when I had a conversation with an immediate family member (whom I don't want to identify directly). He seemed depressed and uneasy about something, and when I asked him why he said it was about his retirement account. He's deeply distressed that he won't have enough money to afford anything other than a government-run nursing home in his old age. I reminded him that my husband and I would love for him to move in with us when it gets to the point that he doesn't feel comfortable living on his own. We weren't even talking about a situation where he might need intensive medical care, yet he flatly refused to even consider the notion.

"I would never do that to you," he said. "I would never have you put your life on hold like that."

We've had this conversation many times before, yet this time, the first since my conversion to Christianity, I was hit by just what a profoundly sad worldview this reflects. I've always wanted this family member to live with us when he can no longer live on his own, and he's always refused on the same grounds. That part is nothing new. Yet this time I saw clearly that the situation goes beyond an unfortunate refusal of help: it reflects a worldview in which well-meaning people like my relative believe that the best thing they can do for their loved-ones is to not burden them with their presence, where the very meaning of life has been twisted to suck love out of the world.
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It leads us to believe that if we were ever to lose our self-sufficiency, our presence would not just be an annoyance but would in fact prevent our loved-ones from fulfilling their very purpose in life.

When I compare my life with the self-focused worldview to my life with the other-focused worldview, the difference is striking. Not that I am anywhere near some saint-like level of always seeking to serve others before myself, but simply understanding that that is the goal, that my own life isn't about me, has changed everything. It's counter-intuitive, it requires sacrifice, and it isn't always the most comfortable path. But it is clear that, truly, this is how we were designed to live. After all these years of trying it my way, it's like I'm finally operating my life according to the instruction manual. And it is ultimately a manual for how to live a life of love, written by he who is Love itself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 AM | Permalink

May 1, 2008

Is Vitamin D too good to be true?

Apparently not if you listen to the scientists.  Vitamin D could
prevent cancer, heart disease and tuberculosis, preserve bones, and thwart autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes.
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Just this month, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a special supplement on Vitamin D highlighting widespread deficiencies "in various populations throughout the world, including 'healthy' people in developed countries where it was thought that Vitamin D deficiency was obsolete."


In March, Picciano chaired a session on Vitamin D at the Experimental Biology annual meeting, one of the largest gatherings of scientists in the world. Designed to pinpoint gaps in knowledge, the session was the second meeting on Vitamin D sponsored by the ODS in a year. In the wake of emerging positive results, the National Cancer Institute gathered scientists to review the nutrient's ability to reduce cancer risk, particularly of the breast, colon, prostate and lung. And last fall, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality issued an evidence-based review of Vitamin D that found it to be key for bone health at all ages, including in the prevention of falls in the elderly.

"There are a lot of benefits to Vitamin D that have surfaced in the last 20 years," notes Hector DeLuca, a University of Wisconsin biochemist who has been a pioneer in Vitamin D research.

Normally, we'd get our vitamin D from the sun, but now, given serious health and vanity concerns about damage to our skin, we take supplements.

Next time you go to the doctor, get your vitamin D level checked.  You may be surprised to learn that you too are deficient as are most adults in the U.S.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Lip Gloss Danger

You may think that your lip gloss offers a protective barrier against the sun, but experts say Lip gloss can invite skin cancer.

“These lip glosses can make more of the light rays penetrate directly through the skin instead of getting reflected off of the skin’s surface,” says Dr. Christine Brown, a dermatologist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
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It's the moisture in lip gloss that's to blame, says Dr. Bruce Robinson, a Manhattan dermatologist. Your lips are equipped with a protective outer layer, but the hydration of a lip gloss "kind of smooshes that down," Robinson says. Once that outer layer is effectively squashed, it's easier for UV rays to penetrate deeper into the skin.

"Instead of having to travel through that thicker layer, it's more condensed," Robinson says. "So the UV rays reach are reaching deeper layers of epidermis and dermis because you don't have this forcefield."
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“Take a magnifying glass and put it over your lips,” Robinson says. When you apply lip gloss and go out in the sun, “that’s essentially what you’re doing.”

 Lip Gloss Lollipop

Just make sure your lip gloss or lip balm has SPF.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 AM | Permalink