September 30, 2008

The opaque dark matter on the balance sheets

I'm beginning to understand 'credit default swaps' , what Warren Buffett called 'financial weapons of mass destruction' after reading The Monster That Ate Wall Street.

What could possibly go wrong with freeing up all that money in capital reserves to cover loans outstanding when you could buy insurance to protect against that risk?

Since credit default swaps are privately negotiated contracts between two parties and aren't regulated by the government, there's no central reporting mechanism to determine their value. That has clouded up the markets with billions of dollars' worth of opaque "dark matter," as some economists like to say. Like rogue nukes, they've proliferated around the world and now lie hiding, waiting to blow up the balance sheets of countless other financial institutions.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:21 PM | Permalink

"Cut everything"

The one thing you can control right now is how much you spend. 

Brent Arends in the Wall St Journal says Stash Your Cash.

Cut everything.

Drop your cable package and TiVo. Say goodbye to Applebee's and Starbucks. Cancel the ski trip.

Slash every single penny you possibly can from your household budgets and start building up cash.

Yes, I'm serious. The shocking collapse of the rescue package on Capitol Hill threatens a disaster on Main Street. Unless this gets reversed almost immediately, it could turn a slowdown into a slump, and a slump into a depression.

It's hardly possible to make any sensible recommendations about investments or other financial matters until we get a better sense of what will happen next.

Ordinarily in a panic like this I'd be urging people to invest. My usual approach is that the worse people are panicking, the more aggressively you should buy. And that might still be the right thing to do.

But the political and financial situations right now are chaotic.

So you need to get an iron grip at least on one thing you can actually control: Your own personal budget.

Even saving $10 a day by making your own sandwiches and taking your own Super Grande Latte to work is a small victory.

This is now a financial war: You versus the economy. And most Americans are badly prepared. They have far too little cash on hand to cope with a major downturn.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:45 PM | Permalink

Prayer and Aspirin

Scientists are beginning to show that faith and belief in God can relieve pain.

Researchers at the Oxford Centre For Science Of The Mind, in Oxford University, in a study published in the journal Pain, conducted an experiment with electric shocks on 12 Roman Catholics and 12 atheists as they studied a painting of the Virgin Mary.

The Catholics in the experiment seemed to be able to block out much of the pain as they were able to activate part of the brain associated with conditioning the experience of pain, reported the Mail on Sunday. The study also found that participants who had strong religious belief could moderate their pain by thinking about it more positively.
The researchers found that the Catholics felt "safe," "taken care of" and "calmed down and peaceful," said that looking at the painting of the Virgin Mary.

Matthew Archbold adds his own personal testimony about one of the longest nights in his life  in Prayer Might Work Better than Aspirin

Michael Gerson on the biological basis for spirituality, Faith Beyond the Frontal Lobes says
..the brain is more like a muscle than a computer. The spiritual facility can be developed -- and it changes over our lifetimes, as our brains age. In this narrow sense, prayer and meditation work in the same way that aerobic training works on the heart muscle.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

The Formation of Young Women

Parents who have young girls headed for college should read Lipstick Jungle and consider carefully what environment they want for the daughters.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink

September 29, 2008

23 portions of fruit in a single glass

Cherry juice hailed as superfood

Drinking a glass of cherry juice a day offers the same health benefits as eating 23 portions of fruit and vegetables, research reveals.

It found 250ml of the juice contained more antioxidants than five portions of peas, tomatoes, water melon, carrots and banana.

Previous research has shown that antioxidants - which target harmful molecules in the body called free radicals - can help prevent cancer, heart disease, stroke and ageing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:15 PM | Permalink

"Laramans", Catholics in Hiding

I'm familiar with the conversos, Jews in 14th and 15th century Spain who were compelled to convert to Christianity, many of whom, unwilling to abandon completely the tradition of their forefathers,  continued to practice Judaism secretly, but this is the first I've heard of Catholics in hiding.

"We have been living a dual life. In our homes we were Catholics but in public we were good Muslims," said Ismet Sopi. "We don't call this converting. It is the continuity of the family's belief."

The majority of ethnic Albanians were forcibly converted to Islam, mostly through the imposition of high taxes on Catholics, when the Ottoman Empire ruled the Balkans.

For centuries, many remembered their Christian roots and lived as what they call "Catholics in hiding". Some, nearly a century after the Ottomans left the Balkans, now see the chance to reveal their true beliefs.

In staunchly Catholic families, often in villages with a strong social network, men converted publicly but continued to practice Christianity at home. Women and daughters often kept the faith, meaning it was transmitted to children.

Catholic priests administered the sacraments to these "crypto-Catholics" during house visits to the women.

The Catholic Church officially opposed this ministry to the converts, but local clergy often ignored that and maintained ties to the families.

The fact that there were "Catholics in hiding" was known during the Ottoman Empire: Albanians even had a word for them, "laraman", meaning piebald, or two-colored.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 AM | Permalink

"They were tired of their parenting role"

So a 34 year old widower dropped off his nine children at a Nebraska hospital.

The well-intentioned "safe haven" law has unintended consequences.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that the man had a “history of unemployment, eviction notices and unpaid bills – and a psychologist’s determination that he lacked common sense.”

The children’s grandmother told the World-Herald other family members planned to take care of the children, but the paper said their destination was still uncertain.

In USA Today, Landry said the children were “struggling to varying degrees with what’s happened to them.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink

"Dying is more homework that I was counting on"

One of the funniest writers around, P.J. O'Rourke faces an embarrassing, but curable, cancer.

I looked death in the face. All right, I didn't. I glimpsed him in a crowd.
I still cursed God, as we all do when we get bad news and pain. Not even the most faith-impaired among us shouts: "Damn quantum mechanics!" "Damn organic chemistry!" "Damn chaos and coincidence!"

But God, Sir, in Your manner of teaching us about life's consequential nature, isn't death a bit ... um ... extreme, pedagogically speaking? I know the lesson that we're studying is difficult. But dying is more homework than I was counting on. Also, it kind of messes up my vacation planning. Can we talk after class? Maybe if I did something for extra credit?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:31 AM | Permalink

September 26, 2008

"The whirlpool sucking down finance"

If you like me have spent the past few days trying to figure out what in the name of all that is holy has been going on in Washington and on Wall Street  that threatens our lives as we know it,  let me point to two articles that helped me.

First Ben Stein.  Everything you wanted to know about the credit crisis but were afraid to ask

...First, the alert reader will notice that Ben Stein said many times that the amount of money at risk in the subprime meltdown was just not enough to sink an economy of this size. And I was a point. The amount of subprime that defaulted was at most - after recovery in liquidation - about $250 billion. A huge sum but not enough to torpedo the US economy.

The crisis occurred (to greatly oversimplify) because the financial system allowed entities to place bets on whether or not those mortgages would ever be paid. You didn't have to own a mortgage to make the bets. These bets, called Credit Default Swaps, are complex. But in a nutshell, they allow someone to profit immensely - staggeringly - if large numbers of subprime mortgages are not paid off and go into default.
These Credit Default Swaps have been written (as insurance is written) as private contracts. There is nil government regulation of them. Who writes these policies? Banks. Investment banks. Insurance companies. They now owe the buyers of these Credit Default Swaps on junk mortgage debt trillions of dollars. It is this liability that is the bottomless pit of liability for the financial institutions of America.

Because these giant financial companies never dreamed that the subprime mortgage securities could fall as far as they did, they did not enter a potential liability for these CDS policies anywhere near their true liability - which again, is virtually bottomless. They do not have a countervailing asset to pay off the liability.

This is what your humble servant, moi, missed. This is what all of the big investment banks and banks and insurance companies missed. This is what the federal government totally and utterly missed. This is what the truly brilliant speculators in these instruments did not miss. They could insure a liability they could also create and control. It is as if they could insure a Cadillac for its value upon theft - but they could control what the value the insurer had to pay off was. The insurer thought it might be fifty thousand dollars - but it was manipulated into being two million.

This is the whirlpool sucking down finance.
As I said, the pit of loss is bottomless. Warren Buffett, the smartest man of all time in the world of finance, has called financial derivatives - of which Credit Default Swaps are a prime example - "weapons of financial mass destruction." And so they are. As with the hydrogen bomb, no one thought they would ever be used to end the world. But unless someone figures a way out - and maybe the new RTC is and maybe it isn't - we are in real peril. This should never have happened. Now that it did happen, should the taxpayer pay to make the billionaire speculators whole on their bets? What the heck is to be done?

Second, Steve Pearlstein, Gut Check

You're angry. I'm angry. House Republicans are angry. We're all angry at having to put up huge amounts of cash to rescue a financial system because a lot of very rich people rolled the dice with other people's money and lost.

Now let me tell you something very simple and very important: You can try to prevent a financial meltdown or you can teach Wall Street a lesson, but you can't do both at the same time.
First, stop fixating on Wall Street executives -- there will be time to deal with them later.
Second, we need to act quickly. The financial situation is now downright scary. Don't look at the stock market -- that's not where the problem is. The problem is in the credit markets, which are quickly freezing.
People are so nervous, and there is so much distrust, that all it would take is one more hit to trigger the modern-day equivalent of a nationwide bank run. Financial institutions would fail, part of your savings would be wiped out, jobs would be lost and a lot of economic activity would grind to a halt. Such a debacle would cost us a lot more than $700 billion.

Third, the latest proposal hammered out between the Treasury and Democratic leaders won't cost anywhere near $700 billion unless we get a 1930s-like Depression, in which case we'll have much bigger problems to worry about.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 AM | Permalink

September 24, 2008

Airbags for the Elderly

A JAPANESE company today unveiled a wearable airbag for the elderly that pops out when they fall.

The 1.1kg airbag looks like a traveller's waist pouch but inflates in one-tenth of a second when sensors detect the wearer has taken a tumble.

The Tokyo-based company, Prop, unveiled the ¥<148,000 ($1685) device at a fair of products for the elderly and people with disabilities.

It protects the back of the head and the buttocks with two inflated bags that contain 15 litres of gas each.

Elderly people are more prone to injury when they fall due to their brittle bones.

 Michelin Man

They will only look like the Michelin man when the airbags inflate.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 PM | Permalink

September 23, 2008


A lot of people don't quite understand what the charge of elitism means. 

Victor Davis Hanson explains that elitism is a state of mind and not to be confused with anti-intellectualism.

It is a world view in which one’s refinements from the commons—whether they are natural or acquired tastes and interests, whether they be intellectual, musical, artistic, architectural, or simply social—are seen as exclusive rather than inclusive.
Second, elitism is the deliberate deprecation, in active or passive fashion, of the other world of physicality and pragmatism. The true elitist values his books, his music, his refined taste in furniture, food, and fashion to the neglect of how one makes a book, to the absolute uninterest in the construction of a violin, a chair, a fig, or a pair of pants
Third, the elitist, by his very nature, proves overreaching. That is, he seems in anti-Platonic fashion, to think his expertise in one field is instantly transferable to another. ..the elitist seems to think that his Harvard Law Degree or Stanford PhD, or Victorian on Pacific Heights instantly makes him a far better guide to human nature, diplomacy, warmaking, and governance—almost anything—than does the sheet-rocker or crane operator.

What gets my goat are the people who sneer at those who believe in and pray to God, you know the Christian bible-thumpers.

Doctor Bob said it best:

The secular mindset cannot grasp that in a morally corrupt world filled with evil, that some might be called to seek the wisdom and power of God to resist evil and defend the good, and through such prayers seek the hope and character to transform the world in some small way to a place where good overcomes evil.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 PM | Permalink

Why I prefer plumbers

Sippican reminds me once again that bedrock knowledge is practical knowledge about how to do things, make things, repair things and generally make life livable for the rest of us.  The older I get the more I appreciate the practical wisdom of working men and women.

The End in the Middle or how to move heavy things.

If I told you you had to move that 439 pound box down a flight of stairs, could you do it? Here's what's at your disposal: A thirteen year old boy, his mom, and whatever you have laying around. Easy. By the way; you're in a hurry, because the item is made from cast iron, and it's going to rain. And you can't drop it -- it's precision machinery.

In my mind knowing how to make, install and repair plumbing is far more important to the human race than finding new ways to package and sell sub prime mortgage loans made to people who couldn't or wouldn't pay them back.

Plumbers, after all, know how to segregate waste and send it away to be treated so we don't ever have to touch it.    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, under the CRA regulations,  required every bank Issuing mortgages to take on bad credit risks in the name of 'fairness'.  I learned as a girl "One bad apple spoils the bunch".      I could use more vivid metaphors but this one works too.

After Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made sure that bad apples were in every mortgage portfolio, shaky mortgages from every they promised that the good faith and credit of the U.S. government was guarantee every loan.  That's why the federal government had to come in and take over and why taxpayers have to pay for all the bad apples.  The crisis and insolvency Alan Greenspan warned about has come to pass. 

Who is responsible?

I want to see Fannie and Freddie examined for fraud. 

Plumbers would never have gotten us into this mess.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:41 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2008

Who's most susceptible to superstition?

The most religious appear to be the least  superstitious according to a recent study from Baylor University conducted by the Gallup organization.

Look Who's Irrational Now

The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won't create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that's not a conclusion to take on faith -- it's what the empirical data tell us.

"What Americans Really Believe," a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

This is not a new finding. In his 1983 book "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener," skeptic and science writer Martin Gardner cited the decline of traditional religious belief among the better educated as one of the causes for an increase in pseudoscience, cults and superstition. He referenced a 1980 study published in the magazine Skeptical Inquirer that showed irreligious college students to be by far the most likely to embrace paranormal beliefs, while born-again Christian college students were the least likely.

G. K. Chesterton says it best, "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing - -they believe in anything,"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 PM | Permalink

Beauty heals

From the New Scientist In pain?  Take one masterpiece, three times a day

THE power of art to heal emotional wounds is well known, but could contemplating a beautiful painting have the same effect on physical pain?

To investigate, Marina de Tommaso and a team from the University of Bari in Italy asked 12 men and women to pick the 20 paintings they considered most ugly and most beautiful from a selection of 300 works by artists such as da Vinci and Botticelli.
The subjects rated the pain as being a third less intense while they were viewing the beautiful paintings, compared with contemplating the ugly paintings or the blank panel. Electrodes measuring the brain's electrical activity suggested a reduced response to the pain when the subject looked at beautiful paintings

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 AM | Permalink

September 18, 2008

Fast, far fall

Days of wine and Porsches over

Personal fortunes amassed through decades of work are being vaporized.

Lehman boss Dick Fuld had a $1-billion stake in his firm just 18 months ago, took home a $34-million paycheque, and enjoyed a sterling reputation.

This week, his holdings are worth $1.3-million, he's unemployed and his name is mud.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink

What not to do before you die.

Richard Wilson writes the anti-travel guide: 101 things not to do before you die and points out that most 'once in a lifetime' experiences will either end in disappointment or something much worse.

instead of marvelling at world sites, Wilson suggests avoiding places like the Taj Mahal and the Egyptian pyramids.

Wilson writes: "Advice to anyone about to travel to Thailand is simple. Before you go, sort out a decent photo of yourself, preferably taken at a party smiling and celebrating the joy of being alive, because the newspapers and TV news bulletins will want something to accompany the article about your tragic death."

Just as I was about to post this after a tip by Miss Kelly, I came across this:  Axe-welding villagers hold British holidaymakers in Peru.

The tourists were visiting a remote part of the South American country when their bus was surrounded by about 50 local people brandishing pickaxes, metal bars and poles.

The villagers yelled threats and pelted the vehicle with rocks and branches, smashing windows and doors, before forcing the terrified holidaymakers from the bus.

They were led away and forced to sit on the ground, while the Peruvian driver and two other Peruvians, one of whom was the group’s guide, were hit with sticks.

The holidaymakers, who were on a two-week tour costing about £2,000, were then berated by the villagers, who accused them of being thieves who had come to steal their natural resources.

The incident ended only when the villagers realised they had attacked the wrong people.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:20 AM | Permalink

Free train travel for all

In Holland a new political party called the Charity, Freedom and Diversity party or NVD has been registered in advance of elections next May.

It's platform?

• legalize child pornography
• legalize sex with animals
• reduce the age of consent to 12 from 16
• legalize hard and soft drugs
• free train travel for all

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:02 AM | Permalink

"The Proper Sorrows of the Soul"

By focusing only on symptoms and not on causes, has psychiatry incorrectly diagnosed too many cases of ordinary sadness  - what Thomas `å  Kempis called "the proper sorrows of the soul" - as depression?

Ronald Pies, a professor of psychiatry at Tufts, outlines some of the conceptual and scientific problems in Redefining Depression as Mere Sadness.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:47 AM | Permalink

September 16, 2008

Monasteries, the root of European culture

When the news is just too much, I can trust that Pope Benedict will inspire me.  When I  immerse myself in his words, I am curiously refreshed.  I must have been a monk in another life.

A few days ago Pope Benedict was in Paris at the recently restored 13th century College des Bernardins, on the origins of western theology and roots of European culture.  The college had been a residence of young monks until the French revolution.  The Pope's visit was the official inauguration of what is now a meeting place for the dialogue between faith and culture.

 College Des Bernadins

The Vatican publishes the text.

The monasteries were the places where the treasures of ancient culture survived, and where at the same time a new culture slowly took shape out of the old"

That was not their intent.  The monks sought the truth. They wanted to find God.

First and foremost, it must be frankly admitted straight away that it was not their intention to create a culture nor even to preserve a culture from the past.  Their motivation was much more basic.  Their goal was: quaerere Deum.  Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, they wanted to do the essential – to make an effort to find what was perennially valid and lasting, life itself.  They were searching for God.  They wanted to go from the inessential to the essential, to the only truly important and reliable thing there is.
it is through the search for God that the secular sciences take on their importance, sciences which show us the path toward language. Because the search for God required the culture of the word, it was appropriate that the monastery should have a library, pointing out pathways to the word. It was also appropriate to have a school, in which these pathways could be opened up

Quaerere Deum – to seek God and to let oneself be found by him, that is today no less necessary than in former times.  A purely positivistic culture which tried to drive the question concerning God into the subjective realm, as being unscientific, would be the capitulation of reason, the renunciation of its highest possibilities, and hence a disaster for humanity, with very grave consequences.  What gave Europe’s culture its foundation – the search for God and the readiness to listen to him – remains today the basis of any genuine culture.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:33 PM | Permalink

I could just spit

The potential liabilities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac total about $5 trillion. Putting that in perspective (as the Wall Street Journal did pre-bailout), until a week ago, the entire United States national debt equaled $9.5 trillion. We’ve now increased it by more than 50 percent.

Andrew McCarthy says Book 'Em

Well the political class, which created the disaster that is Fan and Fred and seems desperate to preserve them,
As Democrats continue to champion these “quasi-government” entitles, the Bush administration quietly announced on Friday (as all eyes were on Lehman) that though the government is now running the mortgage giants — and thus all of us are officially on the hook for their liabilities — it sees no need to incorporate their balance sheets and the business operations in the federal budget.

Does that sound familiar? It should. When managers who don’t happen to run the United States government decide to park their losses and liabilities off the books, we call that corporate fraud. When they did it at Enron (in a scam involving a pittance of what we’re talking about here), the execs went to jail for a long time. Even their accounting firm was prosecuted, causing countless employees who had nothing to do with the scheme to be put out of work.

I don't trust public-private partnerships because they seem to benefit only the politically well-connected who take out enormous fees for putting deals together and some enormous salaries and bonuses.

I don't understand why we can't go after them for abuse of trust in the same manner we went after the executives of Enron .

When I read about Jamie Gorelick, Mistress of Disaster  I get so mad at "the political class", I could, as my mother would say, just spit.    This is a damning piece.

It’s not often that one person plays key roles in two — count ‘em, two — trillion-dollar disasters. Welcome, my friends, to the world of well-connected Democrat Jamie Gorelick.

Investors' Business Daily  says it was the obsession with multiculturalism by those in the Clinton administration who dictated new rules and regulations that led to this mess.

Tough new regulations forced lenders into high-risk areas where they had no choice but to lower lending standards to make the loans that sound business practices had previously guarded against making. It was either that or face stiff government penalties.

Apparently one Clinton crony Franklin Delano Raines took the helm in 1999 at Fannie Mae, for example, he used it as his personal piggy bank, looting it for a total of
almost $100 million in compensation by the time he left in early 2005 under an ethical cloud.

Other Clinton cronies, including Janet Reno aide
Jamie Gorelick, padded their pockets to the tune of another $75 million.

Raines was accused of overstating earnings and shifting losses so he and other senior executives could earn big bonuses.

Clearly if the executives in charge were overstating earnings and shifting losses so they could earn big bonuses as alleged, a criminal investigation should begin immediately.  Book Em is right.

Just Barking Mad sums it all up
Let’s be clear. The risky financial instruments that are now the major source of such pain and misery were pushed hardest by a former Clintonista trying not only further a Liberal social engineering plan but to enrich her own self in the process. America…what a country!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:28 PM | Permalink

The General and his Daughter

This is the most admirable thing I've ever read about Charles DeGaulle. 

 Anne De Gaulle

The lovely photograph above of Le Général and his youngest daughter comes from an article by Michael Gerson on America's "4-month-old civil rights leader" —
Trig's Breakthrough. Mr. Gerson:

The family struggles of political leaders can be morally instructive. Contrast the attitude of Joseph Kennedy with that of Charles de Gaulle, who treated his daughter Anne, born with Down syndrome in 1928, with great affection. The image of this arrogant officer rocking Anne in his arms at night speaks across the years. After her death and burial at age 20, de Gaulle turned to his wife and said, "Come. Now she is like the others."

From the Western Confucian who has collected lots more about the General and his daughter. Via Tea at Trianon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:09 PM | Permalink

Another myth exploded

Anyone who's ever read a fashion magazine has read a thousand times  that horizontal strips make you look fat while vertical stripes slim you down.

Wrong!  It's vertical stripes that make you look fat.

Scientist explodes myth about Big Bum theory and the wrong kind of stripes

 Vertical Horizontal Stripes

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 PM | Permalink

From Magna Carta to Sharia Law

From Magna Carta to Sharia Law - Britain's Decline

A couple of years ago even, it seemed unimaginable that Britain would adopt Islamic law.

We have sunk further and quicker than we thought possible. Today we learned that sharia courts (which have operated illegally in Britain until now) are being re-classed as tribunal hearings, making their judgments legally binding. According to the Daily Express, “new powers have been given to tribunals in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network’s headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.” According to the Daily Mail, this “[…] new network of courts […] agree[s] to be bound by traditional sharia law, and under the 1996 Arbitration Act the court's decisions can then be enforced by the county courts or the High Court.”

It is almost unbelievable that this should occur in a modern, democratic, Western country, and, moreover, under a government that claims to be liberal, and to care about the right of women and homosexuals among others.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:27 PM | Permalink

The Pencil Czar

George Will on who commands the millions of people involved in making a pencil,  Pencils and Politics and the idea of spontaneous order. 

Producing this simple, mundane device is, Ruth says, "an achievement on the order of a jazz quartet improvising a tune when the band members are in separate cities." An unimpressed student says, "So a lot of people work on a pencil. What's the big deal?" Ruth responds: Who commands the millions of people involved in making a pencil? Who is in charge? Where is the pencil czar?

Her point is that markets allow order to emerge without anyone imposing it. The "poetry of the possible" is that things are organized without an organizer.
Goods and services, like languages, result from innumerable human actions—but not from any human design. "We," says Ruth, "create them with our actions, but not intentionally. They are tapestries we weave unknowingly." They are "emergent phenomena," the results of human action but not of human design.

Update.  A most famous essay, I Pencil by Leonard Read with an introduction my Milton Friedman who wrote:

"I, Pencil" is a typical Leonard Read product: imaginative, simple yet subtle, breathing the love of freedom that imbued everything Leonard wrote or did. As in the rest of his work, he was not trying to tell people what to do or how to conduct themselves. He was simply trying to enhance individuals' understanding of themselves and of the system they live in.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:22 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2008

Personality traits for living longer

The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, the oldest running study on aging,  says Active, stable people live longer

The most recent findings looked at the link between personality traits of people and their lifespan. The data showed that certain personality traits were definitively linked to a longer life, including emotional stability, organisation, discipline, conscientiousness and resourcefulness.

Certain other traits led to a shorter life: anger, emotional instability, anxiousness and depression, among them. The study concluded that "longevity was associated with being conscientious, emotionally stable, and active".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

Widow can't use husband's frozen sperm to conceive.

Because her late husband made it clear he did not want to father a child posthumously
Widow can't use husband's frozen sperm to conceive.

The court said he and his wife had a loving marriage, with one subject of disagreement: She wanted children and he did not. They nevertheless tried unsuccessfully to conceive a child and went to a clinic to begin in vitro fertilization in June 2005, but had not completed the procedure before his death.

His widow, administrator of his estate, sought custody of the vial of sperm he had deposited with the clinic. A Superior Court judge refused, citing the couple's contract with the clinic in which a box was checked saying the sperm was to be discarded if he became incapacitated or died.
But the court said such rights must give way to her husband's stated intent not to father a child after death. Quoting the 1993 California ruling, the court said the husband, as the donor, had "sole decision-making authority as to the use of his sperm for reproduction."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 AM | Permalink

September 12, 2008

The Healing Power of Music

We know that listening to music can ease stress, but now
scientists are discovering it has a powerful effect on pain, immunity and even recovery from heart attacks.

Tunes to soothe.

South African researchers have successfully used Bach's Magnificat to benefit mood, boost the immune system and lower stress hormones in people undergoing physiotherapy for infectious lung disease.

"Bach: Magnificat, BWV. 243; Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen" (Philips)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 AM | Permalink

How Big is Your Cognitive Surplus?

Edge also has up the much-talked-about video of Clay Shirky on Gin, Television and Cognitive Surplus

And this is the other thing about the size of the cognitive surplus we're talking about. It's so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let's say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That's about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that  is 98 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

I think that's going to be a big deal. Don't you?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

"Most Democrats don't understand that politics is more like religion than it is like shopping."

...the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way. When Republicans say that Democrats "just don't get it," this is the "it" to which they refer.

From the Edge, Jonathan Haidt on What Makes People Vote Republican

In several large internet surveys, my collaborators Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek and I have found that people who call themselves strongly liberal endorse statements related to the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations, and they largely reject statements related to ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. People who call themselves strongly conservative, in contrast, endorse statements related to all five foundations more or less equally. (You can test yourself at We think of the moral mind as being like an audio equalizer, with five slider switches for different parts of the moral spectrum. Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans. The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment.

In The Political Brain, Drew Westen points out that the Republicans have become the party of the sacred, appropriating not just the issues of God, faith, and religion, but also the sacred symbols of the nation such as the Flag and the military. The Democrats, in the process, have become the party of the profane—of secular life and material interests. Democrats often seem to think of voters as consumers; they rely on polls to choose a set of policy positions that will convince 51% of the electorate to buy. Most Democrats don't understand that politics is more like religion than it is like shopping.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

September 11, 2008

Remembering 9/11

Of all the things I read today on 9/11, these are the best.

The Anchoress knows that  9/11 is Remembrance and Prayers that begins with praying the Office of the Dead from the Liturgy of the Hours.  Listen to her podcast of the prayer and then follow her links.

 Cross Ground Zero

Sissy remembers the prayers of Pope Benedict at Ground Zero "Our hearts are one with theirs."

Gerard Vanderleun reposts The Wind in the Heights, a remembrance of his days watching the fires at Ground Zero from Brooklyn.  Beautiful, moving, pure gold.

Sujo John tells his incredible survivor's story about being buried alive when the towers collapsed

Today, still etched in Sujo's memory are the people who perished while he survived and the call on his life to tell others about the name that will take them to heaven.

"I see lost people around me," he said. "Watching people die on 9/11 has totally changed my life."

Neo looks back at seven years at things she never could imagine on 9/11.

From 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center comes the USS New York and its motto, 'Never Forget!'

When it was poured into the molds on September 9, 2003, 'those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence,' recalled Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, who was there. 'It was a spiritual moment for everybody there.'

Junior Chavers, foundry operations manager, said that when the trade center steel first arrived, he touched it with his hand and the 'hair on my neck stood up.' 'It had a big meaning to it for all of us,' he said. 'They knocked us down. They can't keep us down. We're going to be back.'

Hat tip the Deacon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:12 PM | Permalink

September 10, 2008

Good Man, Goodfriend

How can you forget a guy by the name of Goodfriend? 

Via John Podhoretz who was in the 8th grade with Sidney Goodfriend comes this story in the Washington Post about Goodfriend who, after  25 years on Wall Street, found new purpose and meaning in a noble endeavor.

"It's not whether or not anyone is for or against the war, but it's for the troops," Pace said in an interview. "It is certainly something that is very, very helpful to our vets. When it comes time to leave the military, they don't have any connections outside."

Program Aids Veterans Entering Corporate World

Ed Pulido joined the Army at 18 and spent 19 years in uniform. He lost his left leg four years after being wounded by a roadside bomb in Baqubah, Iraq. And when he was discharged in 2005, with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, he decided to the devote the rest of his life to work with a foundation helping the families of veterans who have been wounded or killed.

But he had one problem, he said: "How to initiate the contacts with corporate leaders, to be able to fundraise and to network."

That's where Sidney E. Goodfriend came in.

Goodfriend spent 25 years as a banker on Wall Street, mostly at Merrill Lynch. But, he said, he had made enough money, he was looking for a career change, and he wanted to make a contribution through public service.

With his own money, and using his Wall Street connections, Goodfriend, 48, founded a group called American Corporate Partners, which pairs returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with mentors from the corporate world. He has enlisted six companies -- Campbell's, PepsiCo, Home Depot, Verizon, General Electric and investment bank Morgan Stanley -- that have each promised to offer returning vets 50 mentors, in eight cities.

And what drives him? "It's a lot more meaningful than being a banker," he said. "I'm probably too old to enlist, so this is my way of making a contribution."

He added, "If you said 10 years ago I'd be doing this, I would have been astonished."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink


"Man's life is like a drop of dew on a leaf."  Socrates


More extraordinary photographs at Every Dew Drop has Heaven in It.

“Every dew-drop and rain-drop had a whole heaven within it." - Longfellow

“Earth's liquid jewelry wrought of air.” -Philip James Bailey

The dew-bead - Gem of earth and sky begotten. - George Elliot

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 AM | Permalink

He wrote the book on community organizing

Melanie Phillips in a Revolution You Can Believe In

The seditious role of the community organiser was developed by an extreme left intellectual called Saul Alinsky. He was a radical Chicago activist who, by the time he died in 1972, had had a profound influence on the highest levels of the Democratic party. Alinsky was a ‘transformational Marxist’ in the mould of Antonio Gramsci, who promoted the strategy of a ‘long march through the institutions’ by capturing the culture and turning it inside out as the most effective means of overturning western society. In similar vein, Alinsky condemned the New Left for alienating the general public by its demonstrations and outlandish appearance. The revolution had to be carried out through stealth and deception. Its proponents had to cultivate an image of centrism and pragmatism. A master of infiltration, Alinsky wooed Chicago mobsters and Wall Street financiers alike. And successive Democratic politicians fell under his spell.

His creed was set out in his book ‘Rules for Radicals’ – a book he dedicated to Lucifer, whom he called the ‘first radical’. It was Alinsky for whom ‘change’ was his mantra. And by ‘change’, he meant a Marxist revolution achieved by slow, incremental, Machiavellian means which turned society inside out. This had to be done through systematic deception, winning the trust of the naively idealistic middle class by using the language of morality to conceal an agenda designed to destroy it. And the way to do this, he said, was through ‘people’s organisations’.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 AM | Permalink

Paglia on Palin

The inimitable Camille Paglia on Palin

Pow! Wham! The Republicans unleashed a doozy -- one of the most stunning surprises that I have ever witnessed in my adult life. By lunchtime, Obama's triumph of the night before had been wiped right off the national radar screen. In a bold move I would never have thought him capable of, McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his pick for vice president. I had heard vaguely about Palin but had never heard her speak. I nearly fell out of my chair. It was like watching a boxing match or a quarter of hard-hitting football -- or one of the great light-saber duels in "Star Wars."...This woman turned out to be a tough, scrappy fighter with a mischievous sense of humor.

Conservative though she may be, I felt that Palin represented an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism. At her startling debut on that day, she was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before. And she was somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist. In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:23 AM | Permalink

The World Didn't End

I must admit that when I first heard of the possible consequences of the Hadron particle collider in Geneva, I was a little worried.

 End Of World

Thankfully, the first experiment was successful and the world didn't end. 

The London Times has 30 other dates when the world was due to end.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 AM | Permalink

September 8, 2008

"Clear command and control, clear coordination, clear communication."

According to the New Orleans Times Picayune, Governor Bobby Jindal took full command during the crisis by pushing the bureaucracy aside and making people accountable especially in  evacuating more than 1000 critical care patients  the day before Hurricane Oscar hit.

Jindal knew the storm's initial high winds would ground aircraft by 9 p.m., so he had less than 20 hours to mobilize a key part of one of the largest medical evacuations in the nation's history, without sufficient resources in hand. Otherwise, the patients, along with the nurses and doctors attending them, could risk remaining in Gustav's path.

"You could see it in his eye," said Alan Levine, the state's health secretary. "He didn't want any bureaucracy to get in the way."

At the center of this reinvented decision-making system, according to interviews with those in the middle of the process, was Jindal, 37, who was leading a brand new team of aides and Cabinet members with a little more than seven months of experience in office. Adding to the pressure, Gustav drew the media's spotlight during the Republican National Convention, putting Jindal and his GOP administration's performance on a national stage even though he had never in his career faced any crisis so serious.

"I'd give him an A-plus," said Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, who sat beside Jindal at the state command group meetings. "He managed it very, very, very well."

After so many failures in the wake of Katrina, it's great to hear how much better the coordinated response has been this time around - and the lack of partisan rancor.

Landrieu, who witnessed Katrina at the emergency center and on the ground, played an adviser role to Jindal. He has experience with emergencies on local, state and national levels of government. His sister, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., was at the emergency center on the day of the storm. As a leading Democrat in the state who often opposes Republican politicians, Mitch Landrieu is keenly aware of the deep partisanship and mistrust that built up between Democrat Blanco and President Bush's Republican administration during Katrina.

This time, "there were no partisan walls, there was no paranoia," he said.

Instead, there was "clear command and control, clear coordination, clear communication," Landrieu said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 AM | Permalink

September 7, 2008

Fusing Motherhood and Politics

A very interesting article and back story on the pregnancy and delivery of Sarah Palin's infant Trig Paxson Van Palin in the New York Times and just how she balances work and family.

Fusing Politics and Motherhood in New Way

Sarah Palin’s baby shower included a surprise guest: her own baby.
Most had learned that Ms. Palin was pregnant only a few weeks before. Struggling to accept that her child would be born with Down syndrome and fearful of public criticism of a governor’s pregnancy, Ms. Palin had concealed the news that she was expecting even from her parents and children until her third trimester.
Ms. Palin’s three-day maternity leave has now become legend among mothers. But aides say she eased back into work, first stopping by her office in Anchorage for a meeting, bringing not only the baby but also her husband to look after him.
Many high-powered parents separate work and children; Ms. Palin takes a wholly different approach. “She’s the mom and the governor, and they’re not separate,” Ms. Cole said. Around the governor’s offices, it was not uncommon to get on the elevator and discover Piper, smothering her puppy with kisses.

“She’ll be with Piper or Trig, then she’s got a press conference or negotiations about the natural gas pipeline or a bill to sign, and it’s all business,” Ms. Burney, who works across the hall, said. “She just says, ‘Mommy’s got to do this press conference.’ ”

Ms. Palin installed a travel crib in her Anchorage office and a baby swing in her Juneau one. For much of the summer, she carried Trig in a sling as she signed bills and sat through hearings, even nursing him unseen during conference calls.

Todd Palin took a leave from his job as an oil field production operator, and campaign aides said he was doing the same now.

At her baby shower, Ms. Palin joked about her months of secrecy, Ms. Lane said. “About the seventh month I thought I’d better let people know,” Ms. Palin said.

“So it was really great,” she continued. “I was only pregnant a month.”

I bet her husband has been a really big help since he has been on leave from work since the birth. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 PM | Permalink

September 6, 2008

"Being read your death sentence...

Robert Novak on his Brain Tumor

The first sign that I was in trouble came on Wednesday, July 23, when my 2004 black Corvette struck a pedestrian on 18th Street in downtown Washington while I was on my way to my office.
I promptly suffered another seizure in the ambulance, the second of three seizures that day. I gained admittance to the high-quality Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, which has an excellent oncology staff. A biopsy was performed, which showed a large, grade IV tumor. In answer to my question, the oncologist estimated that I had six months to a year to live.

Being read your death sentence is like being a character in one of the old Bette Davis movies.

I believe I was able to withstand this shock because of my Catholic faith, to which I converted in 1998.
My dear friend, the Democratic political operative Bob Shrum, asked Sen. Kennedy's wife, Vicki, to call me about Dr. Friedman. I barely know Mrs. Kennedy, but I have found her to be a warm and gracious person. I have had few good things to say about Teddy Kennedy since I first met him at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, but he and his wife have treated me like a close friend. She was enthusiastic about Dr. Friedman and urged me to opt for surgery at Duke, which I did.

The Kennedys were not concerned by political and ideological differences when someone's life was at stake, recalling at least the myth of milder days in Washington. My long conversation with Vicki Kennedy filled me with hope.
There are mad bloggers who profess to take delight in my distress, but there's no need to pay them attention in the face of such an outpouring of good will for me. I had thought 51 years of rough-and-tumble journalism in Washington made me more enemies than friends, but my recent experience suggests the opposite may be the case.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:58 PM | Permalink

Hot seats could fry away fatherhood

Hot seat is a gamble for the gonads

Men who enjoy warming their bottom on a heated car seat should beware, for they may also be frying their chances of fatherhood, New Scientist reports in its latest issue.

Sperm production is best when the temperature of the scrotum is one or two degrees Celsius (1.8-3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) below the core body temperature of 37 C (99 F).

The study, led by Andreas Jung at the University of Giessen, did not verify the volunteer's sperm count or sperm mobility, but the researchers fear that only a slight increase in temperature is enough to damage the sperm-production process, the British weekly says.

Previous work in this field has already found that sitting in a car for more than three hours, even on an unheated seat, can impair a man's ability to conceive.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

Court orders girl, 10, to see dying father

Court orders girl, 10, to see dying father

In an extraordinary Family Court judgment, the girl - who has said she wishes that her father would die - was instructed to see her father who is dying from liver cancer and has up to 12 months to live.

The girl, who is almost 11 years old, lives with her mother and has not seen her father since late 2003.

The mother has an intense hatred of the father and doubts that he is ill, despite doctors' statements that the man has inoperable cancer.

An expert told the court that if the father dies without he and the child being able to say goodbye, the child will come to regret this later in life when she has emotional independence from her mother and "has had time to reflect on the appalling way in which she was drawn into the conflict between her parents".

Justice Le Poer Trench said he had agonised over the decision but felt the child should be given an opportunity to see her father.

A court officer will supervise the once-a-month visits and determine their duration.

It was also suggested to the father that he might write a letter to the child and make her a DVD to view in the future should she want to learn more about her father in the future.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

Palin: 'Cruise Missile from Middle America'

Never in my lifetime have I seen such a shameful display of piling on as that demonstrated by the mainstream media this week as they picked up and amplified the most disgraceful and lurid rumors about Sarah Palin and her family without any fact-checking or proof.    When contrasted with their non-existent reporting on John Edwards affair, a partisan bias was clear.

What was most shocking to me was the outright sexism on display by other women who call themselves feminists.  They greeted the surprising but historic selection of Palin, a self made and accomplished woman by any standard, with disparagement and scorn and charges of tokenism, a cynical ploy even that Palin was  'not a real woman' because she is pro-life.

Victor Hanson captures it best.  Target Palin
A beautiful, confident, articulate, independent, accomplished—and conservative—woman apparently has enraged Team Obama, the mainstream media, and the entire American intelligentsia, as if they were collectively hit by a cruise missile aimed from Middle America

It was a relief to read the British press.

Sarah Palin: it's go west, towards the future of conservatism
The best line I heard about Sarah Palin during the frenzied orgy of chauvinist condescension and gutter-crawling journalistic intrusion that greeted her nomination for vice-president a week ago came from a correspondent who knows a thing or two about Alaska.

“What's the difference between Sarah Palin and Barack Obama?”

“One is a well turned-out, good-looking, and let's be honest, pretty sexy piece of eye-candy.

“The other kills her own food.”

Now we know, thanks to her triumphant debut at the Republican convention on Wednesday, that Mrs Palin not only slaughters her prey. She impales its head on a stick and parades it around for her followers to jeer at. For half an hour she eviscerated Mr Obama in that hall and did it all without dropping her sweet schoolmarm smile, as if she were handing out chocolates at the end of a history lesson.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Left falls again and again into the old trap of underestimating politicians whom they don't understand. From Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to George Bush and Mrs Palin, they do it every time. Because these characters talk a bit funny and have ridiculously antiquated views about faith, family and nation, because they haven't spent time bending the knee to the intellectual metropolitan elites, they can't be taken seriously.

No one paid much attention to the fact that she had been elected governor of a state. Or that she got to that office not because, unlike some politicians I could mention, her husband had been there before her, or because she bleated continuously about glass ceilings, but by challenging the entrenched interests in her own party and beating them. In almost two years as Governor she has cleaned out the Augean stables of Alaskan Government. You don't win a statewide election and enjoy approval ratings of more than 80 per cent without real political talent.

One British  reporter flies to Alaska and drives to Wasilla .
Sarah Palin: she came from nowhere
At the age of 10, Sarah Palin got her very own bunny rabbit. Which means to say that she crouched down in the grass outside her family home, aimed her shotgun and blew its furry little head off. That's how things work in Alaska. You kill stuff. You freeze it. You turn it into stew.
Could all the astonishing details I had read about this 44-year-old woman's life possibly be true? Basketball prodigy. Wife of a half-Inuit named Todd who races snowmobiles and calls himself the First Dude. Part-time commercial fisherwoman. Talented moose-killer. Beautiful - former runner-up Miss Alaska. Mother of five (one of whom is named Piper Indy, after the Polaris Indy snowmobile). And, of course, governor - with an Eliot Ness agenda that has seen her take on the members of her own Republican Party, calling out corruption and wasteful government spending, going as far as to auction her predecessor's private jet on eBay.

Alaska's Margaret Thatcher
Oh boy. I don't know what is going to happen next in the Sarah Palin story, but one thing is now for sure: John McCain has picked an Alaskan Margaret Thatcher to be his running mate.

She spoke for 36 pugnacious, stilleto-heeled, in your face, Barack Obama is a limp-wristed cover boy minutes. She blew the roof off. Sarah Palin has now shaken up a presidential race like no other nominee in modern times.
Having put to rest any doubts that she is a very tough lady not afraid of a fight, many males in the audience - when not giving her a standing ovation - were instinctively crossing their legs--
o an almost primal roar from the Republican delegates, who had just been treated to a barnstorming attack on the Washington media, Barack Obama, and eloquent defence of what it takes to be a mayor and governor, Mrs Palin greeted on stage her 17-year-old pregnant daughter, the father of their baby, Levi Johnston the high school ice hockey hunk who arrived in Minnesota yesterday, her snow-mobiling champion husband Todd, their son Trig born with Down's Syndrome in April, their two other daughters, and eldest son Track, who is to be deployed to Iraq in a week's time.

We are in interesting times.

"She's like a moose going after a cabbage

How perfect is Sarah Palin's First Dude?

It would, after all, take an icy heart not to warm to an oil rig worker and commercial fisherman from the far reaches of Alaska’s North Slope: a man’s man; a beer drinker; a salt-of-the-earth type. ... Adding to the charm were the stories about the 44-year-old sourdough (slang for an Alaskan native) being a stay-at-home dad who cooked for their five children and put them to bed every night.
When asked what he saw in his future wife, he said: “She was the best-looking girl on the basketball team.”
The couple were inseparable. They lived five miles apart but talked every night on two-way radios. They fished together in Bristol Bay. When Mrs Palin broke her hand during one particularly brutal trawl, she went straight back out to sea for the next catch. “I couldn’t disappoint [Todd],” she said. “No matter how cold or nauseous, you just didn’t complain.”

WHY, why, why can't WE have a Sarah Palin
The moose-huntin' mom is the most talked-about woman in the world.
She was an electrifying mix of passion, energy, optimism and plain speaking. The exact opposite of the slippery, two-faced, depressing bunch of third-raters who parade on our Westminster stage.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:50 AM | Permalink

September 2, 2008

Failure to Launch

How life for men has changed.

Newsweek looks at Why young Men Delay Adulthood to Stay in "Guyland."  The never-ending party of delayed adulthood  does not bode well.

 Leaving Guyland

Tony Dokoupil, 28, engaged to be married, examines the 20 something scene and reads the new book Guyland by the sociologist Michael Kimmel.

the traditional markers of manhood—leaving home, getting an education, finding a partner, starting work and becoming a father—have moved downfield as the passage from adolescence to adulthood has evolved from "a transitional moment to a whole new stage of life." In 1960, almost 70 percent of men had reached these milestones by the age of 30. Today, less than a third of males that age can say the same.
he found that the lockstep march to manhood is often interrupted by a debauched and decadelong odyssey, in which youths buddy together in search of new ways to feel like men. Actually, it's more like all the old ways—drinking, smoking, kidding, carousing—turned up a notch in a world where adolescent demonstrations of manhood have replaced the real thing: responsibility.

Today's guys are perhaps the first downwardly mobile—and endlessly adolescent—generation of men in U.S. history. They're also among the most distraught—men between the ages of 16 and 26 have the highest suicide rate for any group except men above 70—and socially isolated, despite their image as a band of backslapping buddies.
The happy family man, on the other hand, is an alien concept in Guyland, and all too scarce in popular culture. Men like me, who actually embrace married life in their 20s, are seen as aberrations—or just a bit odd.

"Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men" (Michael Kimmel)

What came to my mind was Kathleen Parker whose book Save the Males is causing a furor.

From the London Times, Where have all the real men gone?

The reality is that men already have been screwed – and not in the way they prefer. For the past 30 years or so, males have been under siege by a culture that too often embraces the notion that men are to blame for all of life’s ills. Males as a group – not random men – are bad by virtue of their DNA.

While women have been cast as victims, martyrs, mystics or saints, men have quietly retreated into their caves.
NOTHING quite says “Men need not apply” like a phial of mail-order sperm  and a turkey-baster. In the high-tech nursery of sperm donation and self-insemination – and in the absence of shame attached to unwed motherhood – babies can now be custom-ordered without the muss and fuss of human intimacy.
By elevating single motherhood from an unfortunate consequence of poor planning to a sophisticated act of self-fulfilment, we have helped to fashion a world in which fathers are not just scarce but in which men are also superfluous.

As luck would have it, a Cub Scout’s father was semi-retired or between jobs or something – we didn’t ask – and could attend the meetings. He didn’t have to do a thing. He just had to be there and respire testosterone vapours into the atmosphere.

His presence shifted the tectonic plates and changed the angle of the Earth on its axis. Our boys were at his command, ready to disarm landmines, to sink enemy ships – or even to sit quietly for the sake of the unit if he of the gravelly voice and sandpaper face wished it so...

But, of course, boys don’t stay Cub Scouts for long. We’ve managed over the past 20 years or so to create a new generation of child-men, perpetual adolescents who see no point in growing up. By indulging every appetite instead of recognising the importance of self-control and commitment, we’ve ratified the id.

Our society’s young men encounter little resistance against continuing to celebrate juvenile pursuits, losing themselves in video games and mindless, “guy-oriented” TV fare – and casual sex.

In the coming years we will need men who are not confused about their responsibilities. We need boys who have acquired the virtues of honour, courage, valour and loyalty. We need women willing to let men be men – and boys be boys. And we need young men and women who will commit and marry and raise children in stable homes.

Unprogressive though it sounds, the world in which we live requires no less.

"Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care" (Kathleen Parker)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

Walk, don't run

Regular gym visits 'can wear out your hips in middle age'

Ten years ago it was unusual to do hip replacements on anyone under the age of 55 but now it is commonplace in people in their forties and fifties.

'We are seeing a lot of people in early middle age with significant arthritis and worn-out joints and in many cases it is down to the gym craze.

'People are crippling themselves with impact exercise. It is particularly problematic for overweight people who go to the gym.'
The best exercise is a 30-minute brisk walk three times a week, but walking doesn't make gyms any money.

'Exercise is being taken in a very forced, unnatural way.'

He added: As your body ages, you should be taking brisk walks, playing a gentle game of tennis or doing some gardening, not be being thrashed in a gym.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 AM | Permalink