May 27, 2009

Being a sacred witness to the elderly people you meet

There will not be enough doctors, heath care or money when we boomers get old.  We will have to take care of each other.    Time we started learning how by paying attention to what our elderly people need most and that is to be seen and appreciated. 

Mother Theresa, beatified by Pope John Paul II said "There is  more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread."

True Grit : Growing Old in America by Jude Acosta

Ours is one of the few civilizations in recorded history that not only ignores the aged but devalues them. The way we have placed such emphatic priority on youthful sexuality, incessant and needless entertainment, and endless consumerism has in effect put the accrued wisdom of the elderly at philosophical and spiritual odds with everything the modern American marketplace stands for. We are a nation of Peter Pans and we believe that somehow we can avoid growing up if we just pretend that aging, like death, is for someone else, not us. And like very young children we cover our eyes and make believe the aged are not there.
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The irony is that while the increasing number of elderly in America may need more care and companionship than ever before, many, like my friend, Mr. Garry, will in fact be more alone. With less family living nearby, fewer social invitations, and little or no value in a world that places material success on par with spiritual salvation, they are often stuck at home, unable to care for themselves well or at all, and dependent upon government services instead of family. For many Americans, particularly those who live in front of the television, the aged and infirm are all but invisible.
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According to a growing number of mental health experts, loneliness is the greatest contributing factor to all manner of illness in our culture. University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo and writer William Patrick in their book Loneliness (WW Norton, 2008) state that loneliness is so serious a condition that it puts people at risk for heart disease, cancer and respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments. Citing three decades of research, they point out that loneliness can disturb our levels of stress hormones, immune function, and even gene expression, while positive human interaction increases levels of oxytocin, a bonding hormone that reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels. In this sense, loneliness is transformed from a purely "emotional" state to a measurable biochemical one.
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Contrary to current media spin,
it does not take a whole village to change the situation of the elderly in this country. It takes one person, one moment, one conversation at a local park, and, like a sacred witness, the willingness to see them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 PM | Permalink

Declining female happiness

The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women's happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women's declining relative well-being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well-being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries. Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap in happiness in which women in the 1970s typically reported higher subjective well-being than did men. These declines have continued and a new gender gap is emerging -- one with higher subjective well-being for men.

So, women started becoming less happy in about 1975, just about the time when modern feminism came into full force.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 PM | Permalink

Happy Like God

He's a philosophy professor who asks whether the traditional philosophical idea of happiness as an experience of contemplation is really so ridiculous.

Simon Critchley in Happy Like God.

For the philosophers of Antiquity, notably Aristotle, it was assumed that the goal of the philosophical life — the good life, moreover — was happiness and that the latter could be defined as the bios theoretikos, the solitary life of contemplation. Today, few people would seem to subscribe to this view.
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Happiness is not quantitative or measurable and it is not the object of any science, old or new. It cannot be gleaned from empirical surveys or programmed into individuals through a combination of behavioral therapy and anti-depressants. If it consists in anything, then I think that happiness is this feeling of existence, this sentiment of momentary self-sufficiency that is bound up with the experience of time
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As Wittgenstein writes in what must be the most intriguing remark in the “Tractatus,” “the eternal life is given to those who live in the present.” Or ,as Whitman writes in “Leaves of Grass”: “Happiness is not in another place, but in this place…not for another hour…but this hour.”

 Chalice Of Repose

But think about it: If anyone is happy, then one imagines that God is pretty happy, and to be happy is to be like God. But consider what this means, for it might not be as ludicrous, hubristic or heretical as one might imagine. To be like God is to be without time, or rather in time with no concern for time, free of the passions and troubles of the soul, experiencing something like calm in the face of things and of oneself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 PM | Permalink

May 26, 2009

"You can't hammer a nail over the internet."

Before I read The Case for Working with Your Hands, I quickly jotted down what first came to my mind.

1. You see what you have accomplished.
2. Your job can't be outsourced.
3. You have time to contemplate all the mysteries of life and death

Matthew Crawford is more eloquent.

[C]onfrontations with material reality have become exotically unfamiliar. Many of us do work that feels more surreal than real. Working in an office, you often find it difficult to see any tangible result from your efforts.
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The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses.
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The Princeton economist Alan Blinder argues that the crucial distinction in the emerging labor market is not between those with more or less education, but between those whose services can be delivered over a wire and those who must do their work in person or on site. The latter will find their livelihoods more secure against outsourcing to distant countries. As Blinder puts it, “You can’t hammer a nail over the Internet.”
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There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children. It runs through a series of gates controlled by prestigious institutions. Further, there is wide use of drugs to medicate boys, especially, against their natural tendency toward action, the better to “keep things on track.
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The trades suffer from low prestige, and I believe this is based on a simple mistake. Because the work is dirty, many people assume it is also stupid. This is not my experience

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink

Credit card facts

Now here's a credit disclosure I like modeled after the standard format of nutrition label that we are all know.

Hats off to the graphic designers.


David Gibson, Carla Hall and Sylvia Harris are graphic designers and directors of Design for Democracy, a nonprofit group that promotes accessible and transparent civic communications.

 Nutrition-Label-Creditcard-Label

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:08 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Gagdad Bob on Memorial Day

Memorial Day -- like any holy-day -- is not a remembrance of things past, but of things present; or, a recollection of people and events of the past for the purpose of re-membering and reuniting ourselves with the eternal. It is a remembrance of things surpassed -- or of the fixed stars that transcend and illuminate our lives below, and without which we would surely lose our way.
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We remember our heroes because they illuminate the eternal realm of the heroic, a realm that we must treasure and venerate if we are to survive as a culture. Not only is the hero a transcendent archetype, but he is only heroic because he has risked all in defense of another permanent archetype -- truth, liberty, beauty, the good, etc.

"No greater love than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends."

So many have died so that we could be free.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink

May 20, 2009

Hitting the Worry Motherlode

Suze Orman is Having a Moment in the Sunday New York Times Magazine

The career of any financial adviser thrives on worry, and Orman, already the best-known financial adviser in the country, has hit the worry motherlode. In January, “Suze Orman’s 2009 Action Plan,” a guide to the economic crisis, made the best-seller list. Around the same time, Oprah Winfrey began giving the book away free in digital form on her Web site. (After Winfrey announced the offer, the book was downloaded more than two million times in one week.) Overall viewership on “The Suze Orman Show” is up 22 percent from this time last year, and the urgency of the calls has increased, too. Instead of asking about what kind of mortgage makes the most sense, her viewers are calling with questions of survival like, If I have to default on one of my various lines of debt, which one should I abandon first?

With the change in the economic climate, Orman’s role in the culture has shifted from pop finance guru to something more like a trusted national adviser.

What’s most striking about Orman’s frenetic, outsize celebrity is how starkly it contrasts with the sober simplicity of her message.
Track your spending. Stay out of debt. Take care of your car. Look into a Roth I.R.A. Though she is larger than life and wealthy, her primary message is not about larger-than-life ambition or a sky-high entrepreneurial spirit. Orman’s advice rarely sounds like “Go West, young man.” It sounds more like, “Everyone should have a liquid eight-month emergency fund.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:58 PM | Permalink

New Look at What Babies Think

Everything we think we know about babies is wrong

In The Philosophical Baby developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik compiles the latest in her field’s research to paint a new picture of our inner lives at inceptionone in which we are, in some ways, more conscious than adults.
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Alison Gopnik: One of the things we discovered is that imagination, which we often think of as a special adult ability, is actually in place in very young children, as early as 18 months old. That ability is very closely related to children’s ability to figure out how the world works.
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Both Piaget and Freud thought that the reason children produced so much fantastic, unreal play was that they couldn’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. But a lot of the more recent work in children’s theory of mind has shown quite the contrary. Children have a very good idea of how to distinguish between fantasies and realities. It’s just they are equally interested in exploring both.
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They already seem to appreciate the difference between the kinds of morality that comes from empathy and the kind that comes from our conventional rules. From the time they are two, they recognize both are important but in different ways. That’s pretty amazing


"The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life" (Alison Gopnik)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink

The first capital of Eurabia is Rotterdam.

The Capital of Eurabia is Rotterdam by Sandro Magister

Here entire neighborhoods look like the Middle East, women walk around veiled, the mayor is a Muslim, sharia law is applied in the courts and the theaters. An extensive report from the most Islamized city in Europe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:44 PM | Permalink

California is the canary in the mine

Megan McArdle asks Is California Too Big to Fail?

So what about California?  A reader asks.  Ummm, that's a tough one.  No, wait, it's not:  California is completely, totally, irreparably hosed.  And not a little garden hose.  More like this.  Their outflow is bigger than their inflow.  You can blame Republicans who won't pass a budget, or Democrats who spend every single cent of tax money that comes in during the booms, borrow some more, and then act all surprised when revenues, in a totally unprecedented, inexplicable, and unforeseaable chain of events, fall during a recession.  You can blame the initiative process, and the uneducated voters who try to vote themselves rich by picking their own pockets.  Whoever is to blame, the state was bound to go broke one day, and hey, today's that day!
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I am not under the illusion that this will be fun.  For starters, the rest of you sitting smugly out there in your snug homes, preparing to enjoy the spectacle, should prepare to enjoy the higher taxes you're going to pay as a result.  Your states and municipalities will pay higher interest on their bonds if California is allowed to default.  Also, the default is going to result in a great deal of personal misery, more than a little of which is going to end up on the books of Federal unemployment insurance and other such programs.

I know many will think the federal government should bail them out, but not me.  We just have too much on our plates and the debt the U.S, in incurring is frightening and as Robert Samuelson says Risky Debt.

Let's see. From 2010 to 2019, Obama projects annual deficits totaling $7.1 trillion; that's atop the $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009. By 2019, the ratio of publicly held federal debt to gross domestic product (GDP, or the economy) would reach 70 percent, up from 41 percent in 2008. That would be the highest since 1950 (80 percent). The Congressional Budget Office, using less optimistic economic forecasts, raises these estimates. The 2010-19 deficits would total $9.3 trillion; the debt-to-GDP ratio in 2019 would be 82 percent.
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Except from crabby Republicans, these astonishing numbers have received little attention -- a tribute to Obama's Zen-like capacity to discourage serious criticism. Everyone's fixated on the present economic crisis, which explains and justifies big deficits (lost revenue, anti-recession spending) for a few years. Hardly anyone notes that huge deficits continue indefinitely.

And that's without talking about Social Security or the looming unfunded public pension crisis in just about every state. 

The plan most everyone seems to agree on is Soak the Rich.  Only problem is they leave.

We can not imagine how bad it's going to get. The future looks dim indeed and California is the canary in the mine.  There are lessons to be learned from the California debacle but will we learn them?

Victor Davis Hansen says
It is generally known that Americans want it both ways — green giddiness and plenty of oil and gas for their cars and homes; lots of government services and low taxes; a big military but spasms of isolationism. But now California is where the rubber meets the road, and we just saw the big-government side of the equation dissolve. With the highest income taxes, highest sales taxes, and biggest deficits, Californians finally said "no mas," and let the cutting begin. Of course, we have expanded government to such a degree that "radical" cuts will only get us back to about 2005-sized government, and "tax cutting" in this loopy state will mean holding firm at a 9% sales tax and 10%-plus income tax. But one must begin somewhere.

Fabulous charts at QanddO.  Here's one.

Debt-Deficits 03-580

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink

The FedEx arrow

I never noticed the FedEx arrow between the "E" and the "x", but now that I've seen it, I'll look for it on every truck.

Fedex

Here are 25 more logos with hidden messages via Kottke

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 AM | Permalink

Gimundo is back with good news served daily

The good news is Gimundo is back with good news served daily like

Delaying Retirement Can Ward Off Alzheimer's Disease

“The intellectual stimulation that older people gain from the workplace may prevent a decline in mental abilities, thus keeping people above the threshold for dementia for longer,” Simon Lovestone, one of the study’s co-authors, said in a press statement.

Happy News from the Recession: 5 Good Things about Hard Times

I quite liked the idea of Job Angels and Estonia's Bank of Happiness

The Bank of Happiness has no physical presence, but is merely an Internet portal where Estonians can register their contact details, along with details on what personal and professional skills they can use to help community members, as well as requests for what they’d like help with from others.

“I think young people would love to do this. Not everything has to be based on money,” 18-year-old student Evelin Tamm told the Times Online. “I love to clean and to babysit. Perhaps, in return, someone could help me with my maths and physics.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink

Bitterness

A new mental illness that is so destructive that some psychiatrists are urging that bitterness be considered a mental illness  - post traumatic embitterment disorder.  I think we all know or have met people of this sort.

"They feel the world has treated them unfairly. It's one step more complex than anger. They're angry plus helpless," says Dr. Michael Linden, a German psychiatrist who named the behavior.

Embittered people are typically good people who have worked hard at something important, such as a job or a relationship or activity, Linden says. When something unexpectedly awful happens -- they don't get the promotion, the wife files for divorce or they fail to make the Olympic team -- a profound sense of injustice overtakes them. Instead of dealing with the loss with the help of family and friends, they cannot let go of the feeling of being victimized. Almost immediately after the traumatic event, they become angry, pessimistic, aggressive, hopeless haters.
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There are only a handful of studies on the behavior, but psychiatrists meeting Monday were in agreement that much more research is needed on identifying and helping these people. One estimate is that 1% to 2% of the population are embittered, says Linden, who has published several studies on the behavior.

"These people usually don't come to treatment because 'the world has to change, not me,' " Linden says. "They are almost treatment resistant.... Revenge is not a treatment."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

May 19, 2009

Health care rationing has begun: the elderly hardest hit

Last week the  trustees reported that the Medicare will run out of money in less than 10 years, by 2017, two years ahead than projected last year.  Social security will run out of money in 2037.  It will start running deficits in 2017.  The trust funds have always been a fiction since the surpluses have been used to reduce budget deficits. 

From the summary issued by the trustees
Medicare's annual costs were 3.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008, or about three quarters of Social Security's, they are projected to surpass Social Security expenditures in 2028 and reach 11.4 percent of GDP in 2083.

The argument goes Medicare is going to bankrupt us which is why we have to have universal health care.  To which Megan McArdle replies

I hear this argument quite often, and it's gibberish in a prom dress.  Any cost savings you want to wring out of Medicare can be wrung out of Medicare right now:

The Wall St Journal reports that the "unfunded liability" of Medicare over the next 75 years is  $38 trillion.  Yes, trillion.  It's hard to wrap your mind around just how big a trillion is. 

A trillion seconds ago, no one on this planet could read and write. Neither the Roman Empire nor the ancient Chinese dynasties had yet come into existence. None of the founders of the world's great religions today had yet been born.

A million seconds is 13 days.
A billion seconds is 31 years.
A trillion seconds is 31,688 years

Do you believe the White House estimate that it could save $2 trillion in health care over 10 years just like that the Boston Globe asks.

President Obama is right that the cost of healthcare, now more than 16 percent of the economy, is simply unsustainable.
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But will the industry's gauzy pledges of better coordination of care, more standardization of insurance claim forms, reduced administrative costs, and greater efficiency actually yield the promised savings?

Wesley Smith says we're Pushing Health Care Rationing By Not Discussing Health Care Rationing

rationing prohibits health care funders from paying for otherwise covered treatments, based on the patient’s age, state of health, disability, or perhaps, because the patient committed politically incorrect lifestyle crimes such as smoking or being overweight.

The rationing has already begun and the elderly are hardest hit.

Viking Pundit reports on a story in the Boston Globe on the "pathbreaking effort to cut medical costs" begun by Massachusetts General Hospital: send home the frail elderly from the hospital sooner and reduce their emergency room visits. 

Medicare is now the country's largest purchaser of health care.  OMB budget chief Peter Orszag believes that "comparative effectiveness research" will determine what works best.  Problem is virtual colonoscopies work best for the elderly but not for anyone else.  So as the  WSJ reports in How Washington Rations, Medicare now will refuse to reimburse for virtual colonoscopies.

The problem is that what "works best" isn't the same for everyone. While not painless or risk free, virtual colonoscopy might be better for some patients -- especially among seniors who are infirm or because the presence of other diseases puts them at risk for complications. Ideally doctors would decide with their patients. But Medicare instead made the hard-and-fast choice that it was cheaper to cut it off for all beneficiaries. If some patients are worse off, well, too bad.
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All this is merely a preview of the life-and-death decisions that will be determined by politics once government finances substantially more health care than the 46% it already does. Anyone who buys Democratic claims about "choice" and "affordability" will be in for a very rude awakening.

David Brooks in Fiscal Suicide Ahead says that for Obama  Health care costs are now the crucial issue of his whole presidency.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 PM | Permalink

"My wife and I grew up hating Pius XII"

The mitzvah of Gary Krupp, a Jew who was knighted by Pope John Paul, his wife and their Pave the Way Foundation in rehabilitating the reputation of Pope Pius XII,  unfairly called "Hitler's Pope" who, in truth,  saved the lives of up to 850,000 Jews, more than all the international agencies put together.

F0000411

My wife and I grew up hating Pius XII

He is in London because a British television firm is making a documentary about his work on Pius. He is an interesting enough figure to warrant such attention. He is proudly Jewish, a Zionist who, after a successful career fitting hospital suites with new imaging technologies, is spending his retirement battling to restore the reputation of a pontiff maligned as a Nazi sympathiser. Correcting this revision of history is a "Jewish issue", argues Krupp, because Pius was a man who "in just one day hid 7,000 Jews from the Nazis" - nearly six times more than Oscar Schindler saved during the entire war.
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He believes that Pius will eventually be exonerated. All most people know about him is that he was "Hitler's Pope", says Krupp: "But if you go to an average person with the information that we have found they can only come to one conclusion - that this guy was the greatest hero of World War Two. We can prove it. We have something on our side - documented proof - where the revisionists haven't a scrap of paper to support their theories."

 Pius Xii

To find such proof the foundation has commissioned the German historian Michael Hesemann to search the Vatican archives opened two years ago by Pope Benedict XVI. These cover the period from 1922 to 1939, the years when Eugenio Pacelli served as nuncio to Bavaria and then as Pope Pius XI's "Jew-loving" Secretary of State, as he was referred to by the Nazis.
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One piece, discovered in the diary of a Rome convent, revealed that Pius directly ordered the religious houses of Rome to hide the city's Jews on October 16 1943, the same day his protest at their deportation was ignored.
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Since the Sixties most of the evidence in defence of Pius has been unearthed by Jewish historians, most notably by Pinchas Lapide who used Yad Vashem's records to show that the Church under Pius saved up to 850,000 lives - more than all the international agencies put together.

In a piece published in the NY Daily News, Krupp called on Jews to Stop persecuting Pius - WWII pontiff is branded "Hitler's Pope," but he did much to save the Jews

I, along with several researchers, have discovered many documents detailing little-known activities of Pacelli. In 1917, for example, he intervened to protect Jews in Palestine from the Ottoman Turks. In 1925 he helped the head of the World Zionist Organization meet with Vatican officials to promote a Jewish homeland in Palestine. We found a confidential U.S. Foreign Service document reporting the Pope's hatred of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, and a letter signed by Pacelli moving to overturn a proposed Polish law against kosher slaughtering. We located a nun's diary entry stating that her community received orders from the Pope to protect the Jews.
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More evidence shows Pius secretly moved Jews out of Europe. We conducted dozens of video interviews, among them a witness account of a priest who revealed a secret "underground railroad," directly ordered by the Pope, sending more than 10,000 Jews to the U.S. via the Dominican Republic. Many countries would not accept "Jews," so they were given false baptismal papers to travel as Catholics. Pius successfully stopped the deportation of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews when he appealed to the Regent of Hungary. Similarly, he desperately tried to impact the deportation policies of many other countries to, in his words, "save this vibrant community."


With German rifles posted beneath his windows

Aware of Hitler's plan to kidnap him and seize the Vatican, Pius formed a government in exile and still managed to directly stop the arrest of Roman Jews on Oct. 16, 1943. In literally one day, the Vatican managed to hide, feed and support more than 7,000 Jews in Catholic institutions and private homes - all with German rifles posted 200 yards beneath Pius'  windows.
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Prominent Jewish and Israeli leaders like Albert Einstein, Golda Meir and Joseph Lichten, as well as the Italian Jewish community, praised Pius after the war. Upon Pius' death in 1958, Israeli historian and diplomat Pinchas Lapide reported that many had suggested a forest of 860,000 trees be planted in the Judean hills to represent the Jews Pius had helped to save.
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"The most successful character assassination in the 20th century."

The public controversy began in 1963 with a negative portrayal of Pius in a fictitious play called "The Deputy." The highest ranking KGB agent to ever defect recently wrote an article detailing how the KGB planned, financed and edited this play in an operation called "SEAT TWELVE." This illicit KGB effort to discredit the church has been the most successful character assassination of the 20th century.


How the KGB Slandered a Dead Pope

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:10 AM | Permalink

The Incredible Ignorance of NYT Readers about Religion

I wondered for some time why some very smart people, the kind that reads The New York Times, are so abysmally ignorant about religion. And why,  in the words of Bill Schneider, "The press...just doesn't get religion."

Stanley Fish talks God in the New York Times and gives the NYT readers what for.

According to recent surveys, somewhere between 79 and 92 percent of Americans believe in God. But if the responses to my column on Terry Eagleton’s “Faith, Reason and Revolution” constitute a representative sample, 95 percent of Times readers don’t. What they do believe, apparently, is that religion is a fairy tale, hogwash, balderdash, nonsense and a device for rationalizing horrible deeds.
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Pking gets it right. “To torpedo faith is to destroy the roots of . . . any system of knowledge . . . I challenge anyone to construct an argument proving reason’s legitimacy without presupposing it . . . Faith is the base, completely unavoidable. Get used to it. It’s the human condition.” (All of us, not just believers, see through a glass darkly.) Religious thought may be vulnerable on any number of fronts, but it is not vulnerable to the criticism that in contrast to scientific or empirical thought, it rests on mere faith.
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Some readers find a point of vulnerability in what they take to be religion’s flaccid, Polyanna-like, happy-days optimism. Religious people, says Delphinias, live their lives “in a state of blissfully blind oblivion.” They rely on holy texts that they are “to believe in without question.” (C.C.) “No evidence, no problem — just take it on faith.” (Michael) They don’t allow themselves to be bothered by anything. Religion, says Charles, “cannot deal with doubt and dissent,”
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What I say, and I say it to all those quoted in the previous paragraph, is what religion are you talking about? The religions I know are about nothing but doubt and dissent, and the struggles of faith, the dark night of the soul, feelings of unworthiness, serial backsliding, the abyss of despair. Whether it is the book of Job, the Confessions of St. Augustine, Calvin’s Institutes, Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding to The Chief of Sinners,” Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling” and a thousand other texts, the religious life is depicted as one of aspiration within the conviction of frailty. The heart of that life, as Eagleton reminds us, is not a set of propositions about the world (although there is some of that), but an orientation toward perfection by a being that is radically imperfect.
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So to sum up, the epistemological critique of religion — it is an inferior way of knowing — is the flip side of a naïve and untenable positivism. And the critique of religion’s content — it’s cotton-candy fluff — is the product of incredible ignorance.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 AM | Permalink

“It’s bad for us, but it sure is fun”

From the heart of Silicon Valley, eighth graders say that the negative effects of technology vastly outweighs the benefits.

“It’s bad for us, but it sure is fun.”

Through young eyes by Michael Malone reveals remarkable self knowledge by children who lived all their lives in an ocean of technological games and devices.

When asked what they find wrong with living in our modern Wired Web World, the students had no shortage of answers, most of which fell into a half-dozen categories. I’ll let the students largely speak for themselves - voices describing the dark side of the tech revolution with a sincerity few of us adults have ever heard before:

Time-waster
Loss of motivation:

Addictive: “The Internet is like a gateway drug,” says Christine Doan, 13.

 Teen Illuminated Screen

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Second Hand Knowledge: This answer was probably the biggest surprise. The eighth graders seemed to intuitively appreciate that the experiences and information they received from the Web and other digital sources was essentially a simulacrum of reality - a re-creation on a glowing flat screen of the three dimensional natural world . . .and that something was being lost in the translation. “We don’t get as much out of things if we don’t experience them ourselves,” says Lauren Fahey, 13. “We seem to spend a lot of our lives as bystanders,” adds Katherine Wu, 13.
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Exposure
Disturbed Values: All of these forces can’t help but affect a young person’s sense of values. The eighth graders, in some ways sophisticated beyond their years, instinctively understand that. “We can’t respect anything anymore,” says Eric Bautista. Adds Jenna Kunz, “You don’t care about things as much; you aren’t as passionate as you should be.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 AM | Permalink

May 17, 2009

"Seeing deeper into the whole of creation"

A lovely piece by Vanderleun reminding me that Miracles and Wonders Continue

And so, while the petty politicians bleat, and the small and not so small wars rage on in fits and starts, almost everyone on the Earth will sleep tonight with someone they don't really mind all that much. And tomorrow the kids in the playground across the street will run and skip and jump at recess. And tomorrow our planet, one of many like it or perhaps alone in the universe, will turn full of much more goodness and grace than hate and suffering.

And tomorrow, somewhere in mid-heaven, floating weightless between the Earth and the Sun, men and women will carefully repair and refurbish a telescope so that we might see ever deeper into the whole of creation, and perhaps even, just a bit, into the mind and purposes of God.

        cats-eye_nebula

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:33 AM | Permalink

The nonsense of political correctness

Born and raised in Mozambique, now a naturalized citizen, Paulo Sediro is suing a New Jersey medical school and claiming he was harassed and ultimately suspended for identifying himself during a class cultural exercise as a "white Afro-American"

After Serodio labeled himself as a white African-American, another student said she was offended by his comments and that, because of his white skin, was not an African-American.

According to the lawsuit, Serodio was summoned to Duncan's office where he was instructed "never to define himself as an African-American & because it was offensive to others and to people of color for him to do so."

"It's crazy," Serodio's attorney Gregg Zeff told ABCNews.com. "Because that's what he is."

'White African American' Suing N.J. Med School for Discrimination

Who decided that every one with black skin was an Afro-American and that Afro-Americans can't be white? That everyone from Mexico or Guatemala or Nicaragua should be called Hispanic?  That American Indians wanted to be called Native Americans instead of Shawnee, Sioux or Navajo?

Once people accept being labelled, it becomes easier to accept that one can only believe certain things and that's what identity politics is all about.   

Last week, after attending a concert with a friend, we strolled in the spring evening on the streets of Cambridge and bumped into friends of my friend.  The woman, who I heard later had a gay son who died of AIDS, said she had just come from a showing of new film "Outrage" which purports to out several politicians saying they were secretly gay while publicly opposing legislation like gay marriage.
When I demurred from the premise that anyone's privacy should be violated in such a way and said maybe they were against some legislation on policy or political grounds, the woman hissed, "They're evil."

After that incident Bookworm's post on The inevitable result of identity politics resonated

The film “Outrage,” however, typecasts gays, and denies them the right to examine issues through a lens other than their own sexuality.  I say this without knowing or caring whether the men and women named in the movie are actually gay.  What I care about, deeply, is the pressure the gay community imposes upon its members to abjure independent thought, and to march lockstep through a series of complicated and contentious issues.

For a community that, a mere 40 years ago, broke free of the shackles imposed against it, it’s a real tragedy that it now insists upon imposing similar shackles upon itself.


James Hudnall is a far stronger voice against political correctness saying PC is censorship, bigotry disguised as manners, an attempt at mind control and evil in PC Must Die.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:27 AM | Permalink

Killer Chip

Saudi files for 'killer' chip tracking patent

The tiny electronic device, dubbed the “Killer Chip” by Swiss daily Tagesanzeiger, would be suited for tracking fugitives from justice, terrorists, illegal immigrants, criminals, political opponents, defectors, domestic help, and Saudi Arabians who don’t return home from pilgrimages.
--

After subcutaneous implantation, the chip would send out encrypted radio waves that would be tracked by satellites to confirm the person’s identity and whereabouts. An alternate model chip could reportedly release a poison into the carrier if he or she became a security risk.

It's unlikely the German patent office will award protection.

“While the application is still pending further paperwork on his part, the invention will probably be found to violate paragraph two of the German Patent Law – which does not allow inventions that transgress public order or good morals,” spokeswoman Stephanie Krüger told The Local from Munich.

The patent application – entitled “Implantation of electronic chips in the human body for the purposes of determining its geographical location” – was filed on October 30, 2007, but was only published until last week, or 18 months after submission as required by German law, she said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:13 AM | Permalink

May 16, 2009

Tripit

Tripit looks like a great way to organize your travel. 

This free service will create a master itinerary from  the host of travel confirmations one gets from hotels, airlines and rental cars and put it in a form you can share and send to your mobile phone.

There's even an app for the iPhone.

Great press and fabulous testimonials

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 PM | Permalink

Gay Genes and Hate Crimes

Well, this is more than  interesting:  it's important because it goes to the heart of the truth of many claims that underlie the positions people have taken on the political issues before us.

American Psychological Association: No "gay" gene


A decade or so ago (1998) the APA (American Psychological Association) released a brochure titled ""Answers to Your Questions about Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality" that contained the following statement: "There is considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person's sexuality."

However, they have just released a new brochure  and it appears that they have backed off of that somewhat. The new statement says: "There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles..."

The former President of NARTH ( National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), A. Dean Byrd,  Ph.D., MBA, MPH had this comment on the APA's new position: "Although there is no mention of the research that influenced this new position statement, it is clear that efforts to 'prove' that homosexuality is simply a biological fait accompli have failed." He went on to say: "The activist researchers themselves have reluctantly reached that conclusion. There is no gay gene. There is no simple biological pathway to homosexuality."

If homosexuals aren't born that way, then it follow that some homosexuals can change their sexual orientation if they want to.

Charlie Butts quotes

Peter LaBarbera, who heads Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, believes the more recent statement is an important admission because it undermines a popular theory.

"People need to understand that the 'gay gene' theory has been one of the biggest propaganda boons of the homosexual movement over the last 10 [or] 15 years," he points out. "Studies show that if people think that people are born homosexual they're much less likely to resist the gay agenda."
--

"It's irrefutable from a medical standpoint that people can leave the homosexual lifestyle," he argues. "Homosexuality is defined by behavior. Untold thousands of people have found freedom from that lifestyle through either reparative therapy or through -- frankly, most effectively -- a relationship with Jesus Christ."

That there are such political agendas is confirmed by one famous homosexual Andrew Sullivan who wrote with respect to the hate crime legislation now pending in Congress

The real reason for hate crime laws is not the defense of human beings from crime. There are already laws against that - and Matthew Shepard's murderers were successfully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in a state with no hate crimes law at the time. The real reason for the invention of hate crimes was a hard-left critique of conventional liberal justice and the emergence of special interest groups which need boutique legislation to raise funds for their large staffs and luxurious buildings. Just imagine how many direct mail pieces have gone out explaining that without more money for HRC, more gay human beings will be crucified on fences. It's very, very powerful as a money-making tool - which may explain why the largely symbolic federal bill still hasn't passed

One of the big issues that is being pushed is the hate crime legislation already approved by the House and now pending in the Senate, Senate Bill 1105, Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  It's also called the "Pedophile Protection Act" because the definition of "gender identity" is not defined and an amendment to exclude pedophiles from the definition was defeated.

I'm against all hate crimes period.  If it's a crime, it should be punished, period.  I see no difference whether a husband kills his wife, the immigrant down the street or the gay at a bar.  It's murder.  Adding the gloss of 'hate' is only an invitation for the government to intervene arbitrarily in some cases not others, based on what they perceive to be in the mind of the perpetrator.  It's mind-reading.  It's a thought crime.

The pending bill which adds "sexual orientation" and "gender identity"  to an already existing flawed law would make it even worse.   

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 PM | Permalink

My Personal Credit Crisis

I tip my hat to Edmund Andrews who did what none of us can imagine - expose his personal financial delusions - to write  all about My Personal Credit Crisis

If there was anybody who should have avoided the mortgage catastrophe, it was I. As an economics reporter for The New York Times, I have been the paper’s chief eyes and ears on the Federal Reserve for the past six years. I watched Alan Greenspan and his successor, Ben S. Bernanke, at close range. I wrote several early-warning articles in 2004 about the spike in go-go mortgages. Before that, I had a hand in covering the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Russia meltdown in 1998 and the dot-com collapse in 2000. I know a lot about the curveballs that the economy can throw at us.

But in 2004, I joined millions of otherwise-sane Americans in what we now know was a catastrophic binge on overpriced real estate and reckless mortgages. Nobody duped or hypnotized me. Like so many others — borrowers, lenders and the Wall Street dealmakers behind them — I just thought I could beat the odds. We all had our reasons. The brokers and dealmakers were scoring huge commissions. Ordinary homebuyers were stretching to get into first houses, or bigger houses, or better neighborhoods. Some were greedy, some were desperate and some were deceived.
--

I felt foolish, ashamed and angry as I confessed to Bob. Why had I been trying to live a lifestyle that I couldn’t afford? Why had I tried to keep up the image of a conventional suburban family man, when nothing about my situation was conventional? How could I have glossed over the fact that we had been spending about $3,000 more than we were earning, month after month after month? How could a person who wrote about economics for a living fall into the kind of credit-card trap that consumer groups had warned about for years?

UPDATE;

Neo takes a much tougher view. 

Andrews remains mystified as to how this could have happened to him. I can help him out on that: greed and denial. No one forced him to do any of this, and he of all people ought to have known better. But his story is an excellent example of how far many people in this country have come from any idea of personal responsibility.

Reality bites and hard.

In the comments, Beth said...
I read this with disbelief. This guy, after child support, was bringing home less than $3k a month, and his fiancee at the time had no job at all, and it made sense to borrow HALF A MILLION BUCKS???? He keeps saying how easy it was to borrow it, but until months after the bills actually start coming in, he never thought about how hard it would be to pay back. That's the kind of thinking I've seen in friends with manic depression, in a manic phase.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 AM | Permalink

May 15, 2009

Pink boxer shorts

 Pinkboxershorts Taliban

I love this photo and Zachary Boyd too.  He was asleep when a firefight erupted in Afghanistan with only time to grab his helmet, body armor and gun.    The red t-shirt, flip-flops and I love New York pink boxers which, considering he joined the Army because of the 9/11 attacks seem oddly appropriate for this 19-year-old Army Specialist and endearingly American.

Most of the time his appearance on the Afghanistan's frontline would have gone unnoticed by the eyes of the world.

However, Boyd managed to pick the day when a photographer was on hand to capture him going into battle in the pink boxers, red t-shirt and flimsy footwear.

The image of the fight at Firebase Restrepo in the Korengal Valley of Kunar Province later ended up on the front page of The New York Times.

'I knew he was a boxer guy. I knew that for sure. I did not know they were pink, and I didn't know they said, 'I love New York,' father Tommy Boyd told his local Texas radio station WBAP.

'After I saw the picture I just laughed for about five minutes.'

Boyd phoned his mother Sheree Boyd to warn her that he might be in the paper.

'He said: "I hear the Times is what they put on the President's desk",'  she said.

'Then he told us, "I may not have a job any more after the President has seen me out of uniform".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

May 14, 2009

The Predictive Power of Marshmallows

IN The New Yorker this week, an insightful article by Johan Lehrer on the secret of self-control, DON'T.

What, then, determined self-control? Mischel’s conclusion, based on hundreds of hours of observation, was that the crucial skill was the “strategic allocation of attention.” Instead of getting obsessed with the marshmallow—the “hot stimulus”—the patient children distracted themselves by covering their eyes, pretending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk, or singing songs from “Sesame Street.” Their desire wasn’t defeated—it was merely forgotten. “If you’re thinking about the marshmallow and how delicious it is, then you’re going to eat it,” Mischel says. “The key is to avoid thinking about it in the first place.”
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According to Mischel, this view of will power also helps explain why the marshmallow task is such a powerfully predictive test. “If you can deal with hot emotions, then you can study for the S.A.T. instead of watching television,” Mischel says. “And you can save more money for retirement. It’s not just about marshmallows.”
--

 Children Marshmallows

But Mischel has found a shortcut. When he and his colleagues taught children a simple set of mental tricks—such as pretending that the candy is only a picture, surrounded by an imaginary frame—he dramatically improved their self-control. The kids who hadn’t been able to wait sixty seconds could now wait fifteen minutes. “All I’ve done is given them some tips from their mental user manual,” Mischel says. “Once you realize that will power is just a matter of learning how to control your attention and thoughts, you can really begin to increase it.”

Another researcher, Angela Duckworth found that the ability to delay gratification, was a far better predictor of academic performance than I.Q.
She said that her study shows that “intelligence is really important, but it’s still not as important as self-control.”
---
According to Mischel, even the most mundane routines of childhood—such as not snacking before dinner, or saving up your allowance, or holding out until Christmas morning—are really sly exercises in cognitive training: we’re teaching ourselves how to think so that we can outsmart our desires

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:44 AM | Permalink

May 13, 2009

The importance of a horse's ass

Karen Hall in This Explains Everything talks about railroad tracks and Roman war chariots .

Chariot-Roman

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass. And you thought being a horse's ass wasn't important? Ancient horse's asses control almost everything...

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink

Transgendered trolley driver

Jules Crittenden on Aidan Quinn, the transgender trolley driver who was texting his/her girlfriend while driving and plowed into the back of the trolley ahead, injuring 50, causing $10 million in damages and who knows how many lawsuits against the MBtA

Never mind the texting, the three speeding tickets and one accident in recent years and the relative youth at 24. Should people who deny fundamental biological facts and claim to be of the opposite gender be entrusted with large public conveyances that carry dozens of commuters? Would it be discriminatory to question their judgment and stability? Should the NTSB be looking at possible medical issues, such as any effect hormone treatments for example might have on behavior, perception and judgment?

He says
I have no problem with blokes dressing like sheilas and vice versa. It’s a free country. I do have a problem with the government officially endorsing delusion, however, and engaging in bizarre exercises in political correctness that create public safety risks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 PM | Permalink

Life is on your side

Most people think life is against them, trying to piss them off, that they are unlucky, that things don't work out for them. Einstein said that "the most important decision we will ever make in our lives is whether we believe we live in a friendly or an unfriendly universe." If you want to get good at change, you must believe life is your partner, on your side, conspiring for greater good coming into your life -- despite the apparent immediate loss it might appear to be. Change isn't there to hurt, anger or annoy you. It's there to bring new things, people, jobs, opportunities. Always.

Ariane de Bonvoisin in Principles of Change

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 PM | Permalink

Sensible and cost-effective health care

For the past 50 years, we've tried to control health care spending  and no one is satisfied with the results.  Yet, for the most part, we have better care, more advanced technology and more effective medicines than we did 50 years ago.  But there's no question we waste enormous amounts of money and even more is lost to fraud.  We cut back again and again on payments to doctors who treat Medicaid and Medicare patients with the result that make almost no money treating such patients. 

Seems to me there are two ways to go.  Either the government takes over and imposes  price controls and rations health care or we let the market do it.  Now, I can hear you say, but the market hasn't done it and it's not fair.

One country did it and did it well while spending far less.    Singapore put the consumer in control with money each individual was required to put aside for health care.  By using the money wisely and getting the care they wanted, they had money left over they could use in retirement.  A twofer.

American health care policies are sick by Robert Herbold

I believe it's just plain silly for the folks in Washington D.C. to consider spending an additional $600 billion for healthcare. Why throw money at an ineffective and bureaucratic system that is totally out-of-control? Why not figure out how to get it under control before deciding to drown it with more borrowed money from the Chinese or, even worse, further taxing the rich and thus retarding investment that might have a chance of turning around our economy?
--

So, what countries seem to be handling healthcare most effectively and efficiently? Well, there's one nation that has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world as well as the third longest average lifespan for its citizens - and it spends only 3.7 percent of its GDP on healthcare. That country is Singapore.
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Singaporeans participate in a mandatory savings program that sets up a "Medisave" account for each individual. The individual is required to pay a small percentage of his or her income each month into that account, and employers also make a contribution. For individuals who are unemployed, there is a government subsidy. Singaporeans also engage in a "Medishield" program, which is a national catastrophic illness insurance plan. Premiums for the Medishield program are small, because it is government subsidized; as a result, the premiums are paid for out of an individual's Medisave account.

Choice and Competition

Most significantly, when individuals in Singapore feel the need to go to a physician, they select the doctor based on the quality of the care they believe they will get and the cost associated with going to that physician. In essence, physicians compete for the patient's business. Individuals select carefully since it's their Medisave account money that's used to pay for the chosen physician.

Individuals cannot take money out of their Medisave accounts except for medical use. On the other hand, these accounts grow steadily over time because the government invests these funds for the individual in a safe and modestly performing investment fund.

What's important here is that the money is not the government's. It's the individual's money and, at retirement age, people actually have access to these funds. That's why individuals use the funds wisely.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 PM | Permalink

May 12, 2009

The "Yuppie Buffer" is driving contractors crazy

George Packer on The View from a Roofer's Recession  via Crunchy Con

It’s the technology,” the roofer said. “They don’t know how to deal with a human being. They stand there with that text shrug”—he hunched his shoulders, bent his head down, moved from side to side, looking anywhere but at me—“and they go, ‘Ah, ah, um, um,’ and they just mumble. They can’t talk any more.” This inadequacy with physical space and direct interaction was an affliction of the educated, he said—“the more educated, the worse.”  His poorer black customers in Bedford-Stuyvesant had no such problem, and he was much happier working on their roofs, but the recession had slowed things down there and these days he was forced to deal almost entirely with the cognitively damaged educated and professional classes.
----
“They hire someone—this has happened several times—so they don’t have to talk to me,” he went on, growing more animated and reddening with amazement. “It’s like they’re afraid of me! So they hire a guy who’s more comfortable dealing with a masculine-type person. I stand there and talk to the customer, and the customer doesn’t talk to me or look at me, he talks to the intermediary, and the intermediary talks to me.
It’s the yuppie buffer.”
--
This was a completely new phenomenon in the roofer’s world:
a mass upper class that was so immersed in symbolic and digital cerebration that it had become incapable of carrying out the most ordinary functions—had become, in effect, like small children with Asperger’s symptoms

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 PM | Permalink

Access refused to books on top shelves

Books Out of Reach at Never Yet Melted

The Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford, where many a ruminative afternoon was spent by the likes of Gladstone and Attlee, Wilde and Shelly, and Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee, has made the books in its uppermost shelves out of bounds for students—or anyone else for that matter.

The reason: three-year-old British health and safety regulations that the library’s authorities happened to trip upon recently. Better late than never, the library has deemed the use of stepladders to be too risky for a scholar’s life and limb. The momentous decision has been arrived at irrespective of the fact that in the centuries of its existence, no untoward incident is on record to have occurred in the Bodleian owing to the use of ladders for reaching books in the higher rows.

Another idiotic submission to the nanny state, better expressed by the writer of the post, David Zincavage:

The Bodleian’s high shelf books are exactly like mankind’s history, tradition, and the experience of all our deceased predecessors: out of the reach of contemporary idiots.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 PM | Permalink

May 7, 2009

Dirty Jobs

Americans became wealthy and strong through unique self-reliance, common sense, and delayed gratification. And we — or our children — will soon become poor precisely because we hold on to the romance that producing food and fuel and saving money are icky tasks to be ignored or left to others.

Until we change that attitude, we’ll keep borrowing and spending on ourselves what we have not yet earned — all the way to bankruptcy.

Victor Davis Hanson writes  in Americans Want It Both Ways

It's time to reprise one of the very best videos from TED.  Mike Rowe, the host of "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel, travels to Idaho to discover what's really involved in sheep herding and the personal realization of how much he got wrong.  One of the most powerful  tributes to hard labor I've ever heard.  The business of doing the work and getting it done comes first.

He says we as a society have declared a war on work and the collective effect has been the marginalization of too many jobs.  He concludes with a paeon to work, manual and skilled labor and their forgotten benefits. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2009

Who cut off Van Gogh's ear?

Would you still think Van Gogh was mad if you learned that Van Gogh didn't cut off his ear - it was 'chopped off by Gaugin in a row over a woman outside a brothel?

"The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."  Vincent Van Gogh as quoted in Van Gogh : The Self-portraits (1969) by Fritz Erpel.  Here's another.

-Vangogh 1887 Selbstbildnis

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

"Economic policy or comic opera"

I 'm not trained in economics, but I am trained in the law and the rule of law still means something to me.  So I'm with Neo who writes
Where's the Outrage.

The general lack of concern about the administration’s throwing out the usual rules regarding senior lenders in the Chrysler negotiations still has the power to surprise me.

There is no way this course of action can end up benefiting our economy, or even Chrysler. The only beneficiaries are the unions (at least, temporarily; if the company ends up failing, they will go down too)
--
Hedge funds which hold about $1 billion in Chrysler bonds, refused the government's offer to take 30 cents on the dollar.  Legally, they couldn't: they are obligated to get the best return for their shareholders.  The best return would be in bankruptcy court where their senior position as secured creditors under the U.S. bankruptcy code would be followed.  These are  the rules of the game that everyone knows. -
Neo quotes s Bill Frezza who asks

Has it dawned on you what the consequences will be if the President gets his way and consideration is given to creditors not according to contracts, rules, and established legal precedents but according to which group is most politically favored? And do you believe the President advanced the cause of economic recovery by publicly excoriating “speculators” who once hoped to profit by lending money against hard assets to an ailing company?
---

In Chrysler’s case the TARP-backed lenders – that is, banks-too-big-to-fail now living on the dole – chose to kowtow to the executive branch. What they “sacrificed” was the economic interests of their shareholders in favor of the political interests of their management. The non TARP-backed lenders, in this case a handful of hedge funds trying to protect the pension funds, university endowments, and insurance companies that invested in them, balked at getting lower consideration for their secured debt than the UAW is getting for its unsecured obligations. Hence, a trip to court and a tongue lashing by the president.

This is a colossal abuse of power against the rule of law.  Megan McArdle asks

when did it become the government's job to intervene in the bankruptcy process to move junior creditors who belong to favored political constituencies to the front of the line?  Leave aside the moral point that these people lent money under a given set of rules, and now the government wants to intervene in our extremely well-functioning (and generous) bankruptcy regime solely in order to save a favored Democratic interest group. 

One hedge fund leader blasted the "bullying" and "abuse of power".  Hedge Funds outraged at Obama Bullying But Also Cowering in Fear

Clients of hedge funds include, among others, pension funds of all kinds of workers, unionized and not. The managers have a fiduciary obligation to look after their clients’ money as best they can, not to support the President, nor to oppose him, nor otherwise advance their personal political views. That’s how the system works. If you hired an investment professional and he could preserve more of your money in a financial disaster, but instead he decided to spend it on the UAW so you could “share in the sacrifice”, you would not be happy.
--
The President's attempted diktat takes money from bondholders and gives it to a labor union that delivers money and votes for him. Why is he not calling on his party to "sacrifice" some campaign contributions, and votes, for the greater good? Shaking down lenders for the benefit of political donors is recycled corruption and abuse of power.
--
Find me a hedge fund that has been bailed out. Find me a hedge fund, even a failed one, that has asked for one. In fact, it was only because hedge funds have not taken government funds that they could stand up to this bullying. The TARP recipients had no choice but to go along. The hedge funds were singled out only because they are unpopular, not because they behaved any differently from any other ethical manager of other people's money. The President’s comments here are backwards and libelous.

This is America. We have a free enterprise system that has worked spectacularly for us for two hundred plus years. When it fails it fixes itself. Most importantly, it is not an owned lackey of the oval office to be scolded for disobedience by the President.

And what do we taxpayers get out of all of this?  Bill Frezza again.

A doomed third-rate car company majority owned by its militant union run by Italian management building congressionally designed “green” cars no one wants to buy financed by taxpayers into perpetuity because no private investor in their right mind will touch the company with a ten foot pole. Is this supposed to be economic policy or comic opera?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:47 AM | Permalink

May 4, 2009

"Farrago of nonsense"

In light of the coming debut of  Angels and Demons based on another Dan Brown book, the science fiction writer John C. Wright comes out blazing to set the record straight for the history-challenged.

I thought ANGELS AND DEMONS by Dan Brown would turn out to be just an ordinary run-of-the-mill Catholic-bashing hate-fest. But, no, the whoppers told strain credulity. Do people actually know that little about history? It seems that they do.

Brown claims: Copernicus was murdered by the Catholic Church.
Fact: Copernicus died quietly in bed at age 70 from a stroke, and his research was supported by Church officials; he even dedicated his masterwork to the Pope.

Brown claims: “Antimatter is the ultimate energy source. It releases energy with 100% efficiency.”
Fact: CERN, the lab which plays an important role in his story, actually debunked this claim on their website: “The inefficiency of antimatter production is enormous: you get only a tenth of a billion of the invested energy back.”

Brown claims: Churchill was a “staunch Catholic.”
Fact: Any history buff could tell you that Churchill wasn’t Catholic, he was Anglican; nor was he particularly religious. The only things Churchill was staunch about were cigars, whiskey, and defending the British Empire.

Brown claims: Pope Urban VII banished Bernini’s famous statue The Ecstasy of St. Teresa “to some obscure chapel across town” because it was too racy for the Vatican.
Fact: The statue was actually commissioned by Cardinal Cornaro specifically for the Cornaro Chapel (Brown’s “obscure chapel”). Moreover, the sculpture was completed in 1652 — eight years after Urban’s death.

Brown claims: Bernini and famed scientist Galileo were members of the Illuminati.
Fact: The Illuminati was founded in Bavaria in 1776. Bernini died in 1680, while Galileo died in 1642 — more than a century before the Illuminati were first formed.

With so much bogus scholarship on the History Channel and from respectable publishers, George Sim Johnston takes us Back to the Beginning in a brief introduction to the ancient Catholic Church.

The Da Vinci Code... has sold a staggering nine million copies. Both the New York Times and National Public Radio seem to think that it is based on historical fact. Even its author appears to think so. But a book that claims that Christians did not believe in the divinity of Christ until the fourth century, that a Roman emperor chose the four Gospels, that the Church executed five million witches, and that Opus Dei has monks is obviously little more than a farrago of nonsense.

We live in a sea of false historiography, and so it is worth asking: What exactly happened during the first centuries of Christianity? How did a small band of believers, starting out in a despised outpost of the Roman Empire, end up the dominant institution of the Mediterranean world? What was "primitive Christianity"? John Henry Newman became a Catholic in the course of answering that question. History, he said, is the enemy of Protestantism. It is also the enemy of the newly vigorous anti-Catholicism that circulates among our cultural elites.
--
To paraphrase Hilaire Belloc, there was no such thing as a religion called "primitive Christianity." There is and always has been the Church, founded by Christ around the year 30 A.D. That Church has always been hierarchical and sacramental. And it saved Western Europe from both pagan barbarism and Eastern nihilism.

In fact, almost everything we value in our civilization — hospitals, museums, universities, the idea of human rights — is by origin Catholic. These things did not come from the Vikings or northern German tribes; they certainly did not come from the Gnostics. But our modern secular culture displays a willful amnesia on the subject of our Catholic patrimony.

Here's a short video from Catholics Come Home

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 AM | Permalink

Refugees from conservation in the millions

The dirty little secret of environmentalists is that they think their favorite places, for some the world, are be better off without people.

Although it took some years to complete the task of creating a fictional wilderness in Yosemite, all the valley's residents were eventually evicted, and in 1914 their land became a national park - no natives welcome.

This tactic became known as "the Yosemite model" and was replicated around the country, and eventually around the world

No natives allowed by Mark Dowie

Refugees from conservation have never been counted; in fact they're not even officially recognized as refugees. But the number of people displaced from traditional homelands worldwide over the past century, in the interest of conservation, is estimated to be close to 20 million, 14 million in Africa alone. It is a sad history, and one that has forced conservationists to reevaluate the hero status of their movement's founders, and to reconsider the idea of protecting biological diversity by removing humans from the mix.
----

I have traveled all five inhabited continents, visiting hundreds of indigenous communities, some in conflict with western conservation and others in harmony. While tension persists, I have found an encouraging dialogue growing between formally educated wildlife biologists, who once saw humanity as inimical to nature, and ancient aboriginal societies that have passed their remarkable ecological knowledge from generation to generation without a page of text or the benefit of PowerPoint. And I have been heartened to find, mostly in the field, a new generation of conservationists who have come to realize that the landscapes they seek to protect contain high biodiversity in part because people who have been living there, some for thousands of years, are living right.
--

As cultural ecologist Gene Anderson observed, many of the world's traditional societies long ago came to "some kind of terms with their environment, or they would not have lasted long enough to become 'traditional.' " They are, in the language of ecology, living sustainably. And it seems self-evident now that the only way global conservation is going to succeed in its mission of preserving wild places and biodiversity is to end the counterproductive practice of evicting these proven land stewards from their homelands, and instead work together with them in developing sustainable ways of living

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:54 AM | Permalink

Fun with face masks

The outbreak apparently contained, Mexico officials decide today whether to reopen schools and businesses. 

Noted is the willingness of millions to wear face masks which the LA Times says may not stop the flu virus but shows a healthy respect for manners.

And a flair for fun.

 Mexico Swine Flu Masks
From the Guardian, custom face masks take to Mexico's streets

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:45 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2009

"the Israelis have something better than security. They have faith."

Why Israel is the world's happiest country, David Goldman in First Things who formerly wrote as the anonymous Spengler.

If any of you are depressed, morose, despondent, pessimistic, and glum, I have a cost-effective solution. For the price of a dozen sessions with a medicore therapist, you can get on a plane and go to Israel. That will cheer you up. Trust me. Insecurity doesn’t make you unhappy. This life isn’t secure. Shut yourself up in a cave ten miles under the earth with all the distilled water and freeze-dried food you can hoard, equip it with an intensive care unit and a dozen physicians… you still are going to die. Being alive is a very insecure condition as the probability of becoming dead at some future point is — let me check the chart — 100%. Care will slip in through the keyhole,  no matter how secure you try to be. But the Israelis have something better than security. They have faith. That’s true even of secular Israelis, for to be an Israeli is a statement of faith.

And that is why Israel is the happiest country in the world. Last year I made this argument in a
Spengler essay:


“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.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:07 AM | Permalink

Mac De

In France, Mac Do is MacDonald's, but you'll never guess who Mac De is until you read Why Did They Like Him? over at Brits at their Best.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

Customs, traditions and moral values, not the law, are civilized society's first line of defense

Walter Williams on Law vs Moral Values

A civilized society's first line of defense is not the law, police and courts but customs, traditions and moral values. Behavioral norms, mostly transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings, represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error. They include important thou-shalt-nots such as shalt not murder, shalt not steal, shalt not lie and cheat, but they also include all those courtesies one might call ladylike and gentlemanly conduct. The failure to fully transmit values and traditions to subsequent generations represents one of the failings of the so-called greatest generation.
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During the 1940s, my family lived in North Philadelphia's Richard Allen housing project. Many families didn't lock doors until late at night, if ever. No one ever thought of installing bars on their windows. Hot, humid summer nights found many people sleeping outside on balconies or lawn chairs. Starting in the '60s and '70s, doing the same in some neighborhoods would have been tantamount to committing suicide. Keep in mind that the 1940s and '50s were a time of gross racial discrimination, high black poverty and few opportunities compared to today. The fact that black neighborhoods were far more civilized at that time should give pause to the excuses of today that blames today's pathology on poverty and discrimination.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 AM | Permalink

"Don't Make LIfe So Damn Complicated"

From the 7 Lessons in Manliness from the Greatest Generation

Lesson #7 Don't Make Life So Damn Complicated

If there’s a common thread in these lessons, it’s having a common sense and a level-headed approach to life. In our day, when men are obsessing about finding themselves, their holy grail of a woman, and their “passion,” the Greatest Generation’s uncomplicated approach to life is refreshing. They didn’t go on a diet, they simply ate whole food; they didn’t exercise, they worked around the house; they didn’t obsess about their relationships, they just found a gal they loved and married her. They always looked sharp, but never fussed with fashion trends. They didn’t mull over which appliance better suited their personality and image, they just bought the machine that worked the best. They didn’t think about how to get things done, they just got em’ done. When Joe Foss, a celebrated and daring WWII pilot and then governor of South Dakota was asked if he missed his younger days, he said, “Oh no. I’m not a guy who missed anything from anywhere. I’ve always been a guy who just gets up and goes.” Instead of spending you time navel gazing your life away, just get up and go!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:51 AM | Permalink

"Ambitious, dissatisfied, and vaguely angry'

Peter Wood explores how college today is shaping the American character of the young.

Children never learn or remember all the details of they are taught, but they drink in the basic messages about what is important and what’s not. In that sense, America has its own madrasses—secular madrassas of multiculturalism and sustainability. We call them public schools. Ashley Thorne’s article here last week, “Green Goblins,” pondered the recent poll of American school children by an environmentalist group that purported to find, “One out of three children aged 6 to 11 fears that Ma Earth won't exist when they grow up.”  Our success in teaching reading and math may be a bit spotty, but our success at instilling eco-apocalyptic fear in preteens is outstanding.

American Character, the Remix: How College is Shaping Us Now

The character that contemporary American education seems most to foster is also a person unmoored to any abiding sense of reality. He or she—more often she given that about 58 percent of the students are young women—is ambitious, dissatisfied, and vaguely angry.  College has made it a settled fact that America is a profoundly unfair society, but that the “structural inequalities” run so deep that there is little that can be done about them. This allows the alternatives of resentful passivity or frenetic pursuit of symbolic protests and acts of atonement. Often you see both in the same person. Lethargically pessimistic one day, stridently assertive the next.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:49 AM | Permalink

May 1, 2009

Miracle close to home

Marshfield miracle helps sainthood cause

Jack Sullivan, a longtime Plymouth District Court clerk magistrate,  says he experienced a miraculous healing after praying for the help of the late Cardinal John Henry Newman.  This is wants known as intercessory prayer, praying on behalf of another.  Catholics believe that those in heaven, the saints, can intercede for us as well.

 Sullivan Miracle1

Lying in a hospital bed after surgery on his spine, unable to walk and in agonizing pain, Jack Sullivan propped himself up on elbows and prayed.
Not to some vast, unknowable God, but to a specific figure in the Catholic church, vastly respected, yet mortal: Cardinal John Henry Newman, an Englishman who died in 1890.

The healing, as Sullivan tells it, was almost immediate. He felt a tingling all over, was flooded with warmth, and, as easy as that, he could walk.

Now, the recovery that Sullivan, 70, has been describing for almost a decade, a drama that unfolded in August 2001, is on the verge of being deemed a miracle by the Catholic church, and the unassuming Marshfield man, a church deacon and father of three, is at the center of an accelerating campaign to make the late British cardinal a saint.

 Sullivan Miracle2

A panel of theologians, convened by the branch of the Vatican that investigates possible miracles, has concluded that Sullivan's recovery resulted from his prayer, the London Telegraph newspaper reported. A panel of doctors previously researched his claim and found no medical explanation for what happened, Sullivan said. The final decision to bestow miracle status rests with Pope Benedict XVI. If that status is given, as expected, it would lead to beatification for Newman, the last step before canonization, or sainthood.
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'The most important thing was the sense of exuberance I felt, exuberance and confidence that all would be well, all would be rosy, and a tremendous happiness,' Sullivan said yesterday. 'I got up and walked all over the place, twisting my cane like Charlie Chaplin.'"

Farther afield

The would-be assassin of Pope John Paul II, Mehmet Ali Agca, writes from prison that he is now a Catholic

"I have decided to return peacefully to the (St Peter's) square and to testify to the world of my conversion to Catholicism," he says in the letter written in Italian.

"Just for a day, I would wish to return to Rome to pray at the tomb of John Paul II to express my filial appreciation for his forgiveness," he adds.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:05 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Good news on the health beat

Eating fatty foods may boost your memory, say scientists

Researchers at the University of California-Irvine think so. A team of scientists found that oleic acids from fats are converted into a memory-enhancing signals in the part of the brain responsible for remembering emotional events.

Oleic acid, or OEA, is found in unsaturated fats - or so-called "good fat" - such as olive oil, grape seed oil and acai berries.
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Researchers said OEAs helps animals remember where they found a nice, fatty meal.

"By helping mammals remember where and when they have eaten a fatty meal, OEA's memory-enhancing activity seems to have been an important evolutionary tool for early humans and other animals," Dr. Daniele Piomelli said.

"Remembering the location and context of a fatty meal was probably important survival mechanism for early humans."

My sister has had multiple sclerosis for thirty years so I really appreciate this quite good news Adult stem cells cure multiple sclerosis patient in Canada

Alex Normandin, 26, of Montreal, Canada has been cured of his Multiple Sclerosis following the implantation of his own Adult Stem Cells. The stem cell therapy was done in conjunction with a research program in Ottawa with Dr. Mark Freedman.

Former FDA Commissioner David Kessler explores why we just can't resist fat, salt and sugar food when wrapped up together in "highly palatable" junk food. 
Instead of satisfying hunger, the salt-fat-sugar combination will stimulate that diner's brain to crave more, Kessler said. For many, the come-on offered by Lay's Potato Chips -- "Betcha can't eat just one" -- is scientifically accurate.
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"Highly palatable" foods -- those containing fat, sugar and salt -- stimulate the brain to release dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center, he found. In time, the brain gets wired so that dopamine pathways light up at the mere suggestion of the food, such as driving past a fast-food restaurant, and the urge to eat the food grows insistent. Once the food is eaten, the brain releases opioids, which bring emotional relief. Together, dopamine and opioids create a pathway that can activate every time a person is reminded about the particular food. This happens regardless of whether the person is hungry.

Now that we know that, we can drink white tea that contains anti-obesity substances.

Marc Winnefeld led a team of researchers from Beiersdorf AG, Germany, who studied the biological effects of an extract of white tea – the least processed version of the tea plant Camellia sinensis. He said, "In the industrialized countries, the rising incidence of obesity-associated disorders including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes constitutes a growing problem. We've shown that white tea may be an ideal natural source of slimming substances".

With the rise of autistic disorders among Somali immigrants in Sweden and Minnesota, a condition that never appeared in Somalia,
scientists are now asking whether Vitamin D deficiency is a cause of autism

Proponents of the vitamin D–autism link say there is biological plausibility to their theory. They cite a 2007 review by Allan Kalueff, a researcher now at Tulane University, in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. That review—based on more than 20 studies of animals and humans—concluded that vitamin D during gestation and early infancy was essential for "normal brain functioning."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:03 AM | Permalink