July 31, 2009

Quality adjusted life year

Is this what health care rationing would look like?

1 Quadriplegic = Half a Human Life, 1 Teen = Fourteen 85 Year Olds

That is the assumption behind a benchmark some, including Peter Singer, are urging for inclusion in any overhaul of the U.S. health system. It's called QALY or Quality of Life Years and the U.S. government has already endorsed it by including substantial funds for research on the concept in the "stimulus" bill. Here's how Peter Singer explained it in the New York Times:

As a first take, we might say that the good achieved by health care is the number of lives saved. But that is too crude. The death of a teenager is a greater tragedy than the death of an 85-year-old, and this should be reflected in our priorities. We can accommodate that difference by calculating the number of life-years saved, rather than simply the number of lives saved. If a teenager can be expected to live another 70 years, saving her life counts as a gain of 70 life-years, whereas if a person of 85 can be expected to live another 5 years, then saving the 85-year-old will count as a gain of only 5 life-years. That suggests that saving one teenager is equivalent to saving 14 85-year-olds.

The principle for Singer applies not only to age, but disability as well:
One common method is to describe medical conditions to people — let’s say being a quadriplegic — and tell them that they can choose between 10 years in that condition or some smaller number of years without it. If most would prefer, say, 10 years as a quadriplegic to 4 years of nondisabled life, but would choose 6 years of nondisabled life over 10 with quadriplegia, but have difficulty deciding between 5 years of nondisabled life or 10 years with quadriplegia, then they are, in effect, assessing life with quadriplegia as half as good as nondisabled life. (These are hypothetical figures, chosen to keep the math simple, and not based on any actual surveys.) If that judgment represents a rough average across the population, we might conclude that restoring to nondisabled life two people who would otherwise be quadriplegics is equivalent in value to saving the life of one person, provided the life expectancies of all involved are similar. . .

.Mark Steyn asks

How did the health-care debate decay to the point where we think it entirely natural for the central government to fix a collective figure for what 300 million freeborn citizens ought to be spending on something as basic to individual liberty as their own bodies?

Elsewhere he calls it The Nationalization of Your Body

If you peel the Census Bureau and DHHS figures, of those alleged “45 million uninsured Americans”, one-fifth aren’t Americans; another fifth aren’t uninsured but are covered by Medicare; another two-fifths are the young and mobile (they don’t have health insurance, but they don’t have life insurance or home insurance, either: they’re 22 and immortal and life’s a party); and the remaining fifth are wealthier than the insured population. Really. According to a 2006 Census Bureau report, 19 per cent of the uninsured have household income of over $75,000. Since the last round of government “reform” in the Nineties, wealthy Americans have been fleeing insurance and opting to bring health care back to a normal market transaction. And, if you look at the “uninsured discount” offered by doctors, one can appreciate that, for everything but chronic disability, it’s not an irrational decision to say I’ll get a better deal for my broken leg or my colonoscopy or my heavy cold if I just write a check for it.
What’s so moral about relieving the citizen of responsibility for his own health care?  If free citizens of the wealthiest societies in human history are not prepared to make provision for their own health, what other core responsibilities of functioning adulthood are they likely to forego? Oh, Smith and Jones can still be entrusted to make their own choices about which movie to rent from Netflix, or which breakfast cereal to eat. For the moment. But you’d be surprised how quickly the “right” to health care elides into the government’s right to tell you how to live in order to access that health care. A government-directed medical system can be used to justify almost any restraint on freedom: After all, if the state undertakes to cure you, it surely has an interest in preventing you needing treatment in the first place – or declining to treat you if your persist in your deviancy

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:53 PM | Permalink

“We don't want welfare, we want water.”

It is unbelievable to watch what is happening in California.  In terms of unemployment, the hardest hit state is California and the hardest hit county in California is Fresno with a jobless rate reaching 40% in some towns.

There's been a three year drought, the farmers in the most productive valley in the world are really hurting, the government controls the water and they are not giving any to the farmers.

It's all going to the delta smelt.

Delta Smelt California

Gone, Gone, Gone

This is not a story about fish. Rather, it is a story about how efforts to save the fish through a court-ordered water shortage have pushed a region already brought to the brink by recession over the edge.

It is also a story about how farmers are fighting back, using almost unimaginable stories of economic hardship to argue for a reversal of environmental rules that could see their farms thrive once again, but also endanger wildlife that may never come back.
Last December, fresh restrictions meant to protect the fish were imposed, effectively shutting down the spigots and starving the Central Valley farmers of water.

Those in Fresno County saw their monthly allotments evaporate, virtually overnight. Here's how Mr. Allen recalls it: “When it came time to get my initial water allocation in January, we were told it would be zero. In February, my heart was pounding. Zero again. March, same thing. April, zero.” By that point, most of his crop of winter wheat had already withered and died.
Today, Interstate 5, the highway that slices through the San Joaquin Valley, is flanked by parched fields. Signs, in English and Spanish, proclaim: “Congress-created dustbowl” and “No water, No future” and “Like foreign oil? You'll love foreign food.”

The bitter irony that farm families in the region known as America's salad bowl are flocking to food giveaways at churches and community centres is lost on no one.

Without water, farmers have left an estimated 200,000 hectares of once-productive farmland fallow. Thousands of farm workers, mainly Spanish-speaking migrants, have been laid off.

Mr. Howitt estimates lost farm revenue in the San Joaquin Valley could top $2-billion this year and will suck as many as 80,000 jobs out of its already-battered economy.

The problem is the Endangered Species Act, which, unless you impacted, you have no idea how draconian it is.  The basic problem is there is no balancing of interests between animal and humans.  Once a species is declared endangered, it doesn't matter how much money it costs to 'save' the critter or what economic devastation it creates in the surrounding human community, the species must be saved.

Now the California water agency is changing its course on the delta smelt and petitioning the federal government to reconsider its protections for the delta smelt citing new information about another population of smelt that's not effected by the state water operation.

I'm all for protecting ecosystems and endangered species, but not at such an egregious human cost.

Like Todd Allen in How green was my valley

His farm, a million-dollar operation in good times, is 70-per-cent financed. He also owes money on three tractors, a $140,000 drip system, which is useless to him now, and his house.

“I've never been in a predicament like this … so, if I can survive this year, I can survive anything,” he says, blinking back tears.

When he began to farm full-time 20 years ago, he had a consistent water supply. He also had 10 employees and started with 600 hectares of cantaloupe, cotton and wheat.

This year, he has laid everyone off and is doing what little labour is left himself.

“You know, I am really scared for my family. I have two daughters and I thought I had a future going out here, and now I can't even sell this land because, without water, it is worthless,” he says.

“It seems like in this economy the government would look for quick fixes instead of throwing money at everything. All they have to do is turn the pumps on. The water is there.”
But most farmers here say they don't want a handout. At a town hall meeting in Fresno a few weeks ago, tempers flared as farmers flustered Interior Department officials by shouting: “We don't want welfare, we want water.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 PM | Permalink

Tillamook Cheddar

Jack Russells can do just about anything, but I've never heard of one who earned his keep, that is until Tillamook Cheddar.

 Jack-Russell Painting Dog

Stepping back from the sheet of paper before her, Tillie the artist cocks her head, surveys her work, then launches into a frenzy of finishing touches. No one minds that she appears to be making a dog’s breakfast of her latest assignment.

As the world’s pre-eminent canine painter, the ten-year-old Jack Russell terrier — full name Tillamook Cheddar — has clawed her way up to become something of a big cheese in the art world.

Notching up her 20th solo exhibition, she has earned more than $100,000 from sales of her work, visited five countries and drawn comparisons with the abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock.

“If you put her work before someone without telling them that a dog did it, they wouldn’t be able to tell it apart from a human artist’s,” said Jane Hart, curator of the Hollywood Art and Culture Centre in Hollywood, Florida.

Her owner, F. Bowman Hastie III, of Brooklyn, New York, gets her started by rubbing paint from an oil-stick on to vellum, taping it colour-side down on to lithograph paper and laying a sheet of protective plastic film on top. Tillie then sets to work, scratching and biting at the vellum through the plastic, the pressure of her claws, paws and teeth transferring the coloured pigment on to the paper below.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:21 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2009

Question of the Day

In the long run obese people die sooner thus saving us money.  Sure, they are more expensive to treat on an annual basis, but since they die sooner, their lifetime health care costs are less.

If Obesity Saves Taxpayers Money, Should It Be Encouraged?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 PM | Permalink

July 28, 2009

Health news roundup

I am, alone of all my friends, a big milk drinker.  Yes, the milkman still delivers my milk in glass bottles each week straight from Crescent Ridge Farm.

But I'm not going to lord it over them that milk drinkers have longer lives because of the reduced incidences of coronary heart disease and stroke, up to 15-20%

But I will warn them against sunbeds.  Even before studies showed that tanning beds definitely cause cancer, DEFINITELY cause cancer, I wouldn't go near them given my red hair and pale and freckled skin.  I used to use those self-tanners but now I can't be bothered.

A large independent review has show that organic food 'has no health benefits' over conventionally grown food, but when it comes to certain fruits and vegetables, I discern a far better flavor.

But the worse health news of all is that Divorce damages your health - and getting remarried barely helps.

Divorced people have 20 per cent more chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer than married people, according to the study of 8,652 people aged between 51 and 61 by Professor Linda Waite of the University of Chicago.

They also have 23 per cent more mobility problems, such as difficulty climbing stairs or walking short distances.

Do they have a 'right' to health care?  Do the obese?  Do alcoholics?

No says Theodore Dalrymple in the Wall St. Journal There is no 'right' to health care - for anyone.

If there is a right to health care, someone has the duty to provide it. Inevitably, that “someone” is the government. Concrete benefits in pursuance of abstract rights, however, can be provided by the government only by constant coercion.
The question of health care is not one of rights but of how best in practice to organize it. America is certainly not a perfect model in this regard. But neither is Britain, where a universal right to health care has been recognized longest in the Western world.

Not coincidentally, the U.K. is by far the most unpleasant country in which to be ill in the Western world.

I wondered about this talk of right to health care because if you have a right, how can the government can decide who gets what medical procedure? 

Econoblogger Megan McCardle describes it far more vividly

The other major reason that I am against national health care is the increasing license it gives elites to wrap their claws around every aspect of everyone's life.  Look at the uptick in stories on obesity in the context of health care reform.  Fat people are a problem!  They're killing themselves, and our budget!  We must stop them!  And what if people won't do it voluntarily?  Because let's face it, so far, they won't.    Making information, or fresh vegetables, available, hasn't worked--every intervention you can imagine on the voluntary front, and several involuntary ones, has already been tried either in supermarkets or public schools.  Americans are getting fat because they're eating fattening foods, and not exercising.  How far are we willing to go beyond calorie labelling on menus to get people to slim down?

These aren't just a way to save on health care; they're a way to extend and expand the cultural hegemony of wealthy white elites.  No, seriously.  Living a fit, active life is correlated with being healthier.  But then, as an economist recently pointed out to me, so is being religious, being married, and living in a small town; how come we don't have any programs to promote these "healthy lifestyles"?  When you listen to obesity experts, or health wonks, talk, their assertions boil down to the idea that overweight people are either too stupid to understand why they get fat, or have not yet been made sufficiently aware of society's disgust for their condition.  Yet this does not describe any of the overweight people I have ever known, including the construction workers and office clerks at Ground Zero.  All were very well aware that the burgers and fries they ate made them fat, and hitting the salad bar instead would probably help them lose weight.  They either didn't care, or felt powerless to control their hunger.  They were also very well aware that society thought they were disgusting, and many of them had internalized this message to the point of open despair.  What does another public campaign about overeating have to offer them, other than oozing condescension?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:01 PM | Permalink

Vaccines now made with aborted fetal DNA

For some time now parents with autistic children, in numbers increasing every year,  wondered whether the vaccines given them had been contaminated with mercury in the form of Thimerosal, a mercury containing organic preservative. 

The FDA has removed thimerosal from all vaccines given to children under 6 while conducting studies to determine whether vaccines containing trace amounts of mercury as a preservative in vaccines against contamination by microbes could have a causal relationship to autism.  They concluded on the basis of their studies and studies in the U.K. Denmark, and Sweden that it did not.

Now an even graver question has arisen.

Is Aborted Fetal DNA in Vaccines Linked to Autism?

Despite research ruling out mercury (Thimerosal) or the measles portion of one specific vaccine, autism continues to rise to a level of one in every 64 children in the UK.

The NVAC [1] draft report recommends further study of the potential for vaccines to contribute to autism in children who have underlying mitochondrial disease, a worthwhile study given the clinical history of such children developing autism after vaccinations (see [2] Poling case). What the NVAC has overlooked, however, in their recommendations, is that
epidemic regressive autism is associated with the switch from using animal cells to produce vaccines to the use of aborted human fetal cells for vaccine production. Now when we vaccinate our children, some vaccines also deliver contaminating aborted human fetal DNA. The safety of this has never been tested.

Autism and autism spectrum disorder are polygenic diseases, meaning that multiple genes have been shown to be associated with these diseases. Studies have also clearly shown that there is an environmental component, a trigger, that is required. Vaccines are an obvious potential environmental trigger for autism because of the almost universal childhood exposure to vaccines in first world countries.
Those studies have largely ruled out the new measles portion of the MMR II or mercury as the environmental trigger for autism. However, the compelling temporal association between this new MMR vaccine and autism cannot be ignored or explained away.
What has been ignored is the fact that this new MMR vaccine introduced the use of aborted fetal cells for vaccine production. At one point, as much as 94 percent of children in the U.S. and 98 percent of children in the UK were given this vaccine.

Today, more than 23 vaccines are contaminated by the use of aborted fetal cells. There is no law that requires that consumers be informed that some vaccines are made using aborted fetal cells and contain residual aborted fetal DNA.
Preliminary bioinformatics research conducted at SCPI indicates that “hot spots” for DNA recombination are found in nine autism-associated genes present on the X chromosome. These nine genes are involved in nerve-cell synapse formation, central nervous system development and mitochondrial function.

Could genomic insertion of the aborted fetal DNA, found in some of our childhood vaccines since 1979, be an environmental trigger for autism? Could the fact that genes critical for nerve synapse formation and nervous system development are found on the X chromosome provide some explanation of why autism is predominantly a disease found in boys? Could the “hot spots” identified in these autism-associated genes be sites for insertion of contaminating aborted fetal DNA?

These questions must be answered, and quickly. Recent literature suggests that autism spectrum disorder may now impact one out of every 100 children. The pharmaceutical industry is also currently moving to replace more animal-produced vaccines with aborted-fetal-cell production and also to produce biologic drugs using aborted fetal cells.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink

More on rationing of medical care to seniors

GovernmentCare’s Assault on Seniors

Since Medicare was established in 1965, access to care has enabled older Americans to avoid becoming disabled and to travel and live independently instead of languishing in nursing homes. But legislation now being rushed through Congress—H.R. 3200 and the Senate Health Committee Bill—will reduce access to care, pressure the elderly to end their lives prematurely, and doom baby boomers to painful later years.

The Congressional majority wants to pay for its $1 trillion to $1.6 trillion health bills with new taxes and a $500 billion cut to Medicare. This cut will come just as baby boomers turn 65 and increase Medicare enrollment by 30%. Less money and more patients will necessitate rationing. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 1% of Medicare cuts will come from eliminating fraud, waste and abuse.

How it began with comparative effectiveness research which Betsy McCaughey writes is code for limiting care based on the patient's age.

The assault against seniors began with the stimulus package in February. Slipped into the bill was substantial funding for comparative effectiveness research, which is generally code for limiting care based on the patient’s age. Economists are familiar with the formula, where the cost of a treatment is divided by the number of years (called QALYs, or quality-adjusted life years) that the patient is likely to benefit. In Britain, the formula leads to denying treatments for older patients who have fewer years to benefit from care than younger patients.

When comparative effectiveness research appeared in the stimulus bill, Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., (R., La.) a heart surgeon, warned that it would lead to “denying seniors and the disabled lifesaving care.” He and Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) proposed amendments to no avail that would have barred the federal government from using the research to eliminate treatments for the elderly or deny care based on age.

From Family Security Matters who,  unlike just about everyone in Congress, has read the health care  bill

PG 425 Lines 4-12 Government mandates Advance Care Planning Consultations. Think Senior Citizens end of life prodding.

Pg 425 Lines 17-19 Government will instruct & consult regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney. Mandatory!

PG 425 Lines 22-25, 426 Lines 1-3 Government provides approved list of end of life resources, guiding you in how to die.

PG 427 Lines 15-24 Government mandates program for orders for end of life. The Government has a say in how your life ends.

Pg 429 Lines 1-9 An "advanced care planning consultant" will be used frequently as patients’ health deteriorates.

PG 429 Lines 10-12 "advanced care consultation" may include an ORDER for end of life plans. AN ORDER from the Government to end a life!

Pg 429 Lines 13-25 - The Government will specify which Doctors can write an end of life order.

PG 430 Lines 11-15 The Government will decide what level of treatment you will have at end of life.

Who will decide what treatment you will get?  Your doctor or the government.  George Will asks about Our New Medical Judges?

If President Obama has his way, another such unelected authority will be created -- a manager and monitor for the vast and expensive American health-care system. As part of his health-reform effort, he is seeking to launch the Independent Medicare Advisory Council, or IMAC, a bland title for a body that could become as much an arbiter of medicine as the Fed is of the economy or the Supreme Court of the law.
Under his plan, the president would name five physicians or other health-care-savvy members to serve for five-year terms on its board, picking one of them as chairman. Like the nominees to the Fed and the Supreme Court, they would have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Each year, IMAC would have two responsibilities. First, it would recommend to the president updated fees that Medicare would pay doctors, hospitals, rehab centers, nursing homes, labs, home-care and ambulance services, equipment manufacturers, and all other providers. That is now done by Congress itself, and the lobbying by potent hometown individuals and institutions is one reason Medicare costs keep growing.
....Second, IMAC would annually recommend a set of broader reforms to improve the quality or reduce the cost of medical care. On each report, the president would have 30 days to approve or reject the recommendations, but he would have to act on the whole package, not pick it apart.

If he approved, the package would go to Congress and could be overruled only by joint action of the Senate and House within 30 days. Absent that, the secretary of health and human services would order the changes into effect.
Americans will have to decide if they are comfortable having those commissioners determine how they will be treated when they are ill.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

July 27, 2009

Health care should not be given to those who are irreversibly prevented from being productive

What sort of men are advising the President on health care?

The stated views of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel are that doctors should look beyond the needs of their patients, beyond the Hippocratic oath,  and consider social justice such as whether the money could be better spent on somebody else!

Emanuel, however, believes that "communitarianism" should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens . . . An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).

Translation: Don't give much care to a grandmother with Parkinson's or a child with cerebral palsy.

That's Betsy McCaughey in the New York Post on the Deadly Doctors, those Obama Advisors who want to ration care.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother to chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, is health health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research.

He explicitly defends discrimination against older patients.  The $500 billion plus cut in Medicare over the next ten years  plays out that discrimination, cuts for seniors just as the boomers begin to join them.

Knowing how unpopular the cuts will be, the president's budget director, Peter Orszag, urged Congress this week to delegate its own authority over Medicare to a new, presidentially-appointed bureaucracy that wouldn't be accountable to the public.

Dr. David Blumenthal, another key Obama adviser on health care, is the
national coordinator of health-information technology, a job that involves making sure doctors obey electronically deivered guidelines about what care the government deems appropriate and cost effective.

In the WSJ's weekend program, Critical Condition,  McCaughey said 
I am shocked at the AARP’s behavior, and frankly, to me they’ve betrayed seniors. I’m amazed that seniors continue to pay their dues to the AARP. The AARP says that they support universal coverage. Well, seniors already have that. And they have so much to lose under this.

To see what happens when an 83-year-old Swedish woman is told by the government  she was 'too old' for treatment.

The Doc Is In says the AMA sells out doctors

The AMA is a bunch of elitist fools who are only interested in schmoozing with the politicians and pretending they are the voice of medicine. They are not, which is why their membership rolls look like the New York Times readership stats.

Only about 17% of eligible practitioners are members which explains why 85% of its annual revenue comes from other sources than membership dues.

To begin to grasp what an abominable monstrosity this bill is, check out The Devil's in the Details as well as this terrific image that I gather was made by Brian Johnson


Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:17 AM | Permalink

July 26, 2009

Thanks to global warming, we have Machu Picchu

Since it's been a particularly cold and rainy summer, I appreciate even more the benefits that can accrue from global warming.  Before this article in the London Times, I had no idea that  the rise of the Inca civilization is attributed to a 400-year-period of warm weather.

Climate study puts Incas’ success down to 400 years of warm weather

According to new research, an increase in temperature of several degrees between AD1100 and 1533 allowed vast areas of mountain land to be used for agriculture for the first time. This fuelled the territorial expansion of the Incas, which at its peak stretched from the modern Colombian border to the middle of Chile.

“Yes, they were highly organised, and they had a sophisticated hierarchical system, but it wouldn’t have counted a jot without being underpinned by the warming of the climate,” says Dr Alex Chepstow-Lusty, a palaeo-ecologist from the French Institute for Andean Studies in Lima, Peru.

As the treeline moved higher up the mountains, the Incas re-sculpted their landscape to maximise agricultural productivity. They carved terraces into the mountainsides and developed a complex system of canals to irrigate the land

 Machu Picchu

“It was the perfect incubator for the expansion of a civilisation,”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:54 PM | Permalink

July 24, 2009

Priceless moments quantified

Count your blessings (you could be rich)

According to a new book, You Are Really Rich, You Just Don't Know It Yet, this is the monetary value of those little moments that were previously considered to be priceless. Shrewdly tapping into the mood of recessionary re-evaluation that has seen many of us question what's truly important now that our bank accounts are rattling empty, a team of researchers asked a thousand British people what made them happy.
But the figures here are less important than the sentiments, namely the reassurance that, as a nation, deep down we prioritise human interactions above commercial transactions. Shopping wasn't cited as a life-enhancing activity, although we do it constantly; whereas being part of a community was pegged at £33,698, something many of us take for granted.

"You are Really Rich: You Just Don't Know it Yet" (Steve Henry)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

Hats off to Robert Lappin

Robert Lappin, 87, donated $5 million to restore the retirement savings of about 60 employees of various family enterprises that had been wiped out when the Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff collapsed.

One man's imperative to give

“I am absolutely thrilled,’’ said Amy Powell, a former publicist for the foundation and one of the employees whose savings were restored. “I really knew in my heart, all my heart, that Mr. Lappin would do all he could do for his employees.’’ 

Lappin had invested so heavily with Madoff that it cost him much of his personal fortune. The foundation lost $8 million when Madoff’s assets were frozen last December, and for a time was forced to shut its doors. Lappin said that now, after Madoff and the payment to employees, his personal net worth is less than $5 million, about a tenth of what it was before the scandal broke. 

Yet giving his own money to the employees was simply the right thing to do, he said. “At least from the feedback, they feel very grateful and happy, which makes me feel very happy,’’ said Lappin. “So far no kisses, but I have had some hugs.’’

Family and friends said Lappin feels an imperative to give. Over the years, that led him to sponsor 17 education, interfaith outreach, and family development programs under the umbrella of his namesake foundation. He has given more than $30 million to Jewish causes on the North Shore. After the Madoff scandal, he raised $450,000 to restore the foundation’s Youth To Israel travel program. It sent 82 Jewish teens on pilgrimages to Israel just last Sunday.

“He’s among moral giants,’’ said Rabbi Yossi Lipsker of Swampscott, director and founder of Chabad-Lubavitch of the North Shore, which runs Hebrew schools and other programs. Lappin, who helped the rabbi fund his center, “embodies the highest ideals of our traditions,’’ said Lipsker. “He’s a lover of his people. He’s a lover of the land of Israel.’’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:05 PM | Permalink

Ten Lessons in Leadership from a Janitor

Unknown to the cadets at the US Air Force Academy, their janitor William "Bill" Crawford was a medal of honor winner

While we cadets busied ourselves preparing for academic exams, athletic events, Saturday morning parades and room inspections, or never-ending leadership classes, Bill quietly moved about the squadron mopping and buffing floors, emptying trash cans, cleaning toilets, or just tidying up the mess 100 college-age kids can leave in a dormitory.

Sadly, and for many years, few of us gave him much notice, rendering little more than a passing nod or throwing a curt, “G’morning!” in his direction as we hurried off to our daily duties.

Why? Perhaps it was because of the way he did his job-he always kept the squadron area spotlessly clean, even the toilets and showers gleamed.  Frankly, he did his job so well, none of us had to notice or get involved.  After all, cleaning toilets was his job, not ours.

What happened when they learned the truth

Word spread like wildfire among the cadets that we had a hero in our midst-Mr. Crawford, our janitor, had won the Medal!  Cadets who had once passed by Bill with hardly a glance, now greeted him with a smile and a respectful, “Good morning, Mr. Crawford.”

Those who had before left a mess for the “janitor” to clean up started taking it upon themselves to put things in order.  Most cadets routinely stopped to talk to Bill throughout the day and we even began inviting him to our formal squadron functions.  He’d show up dressed in a conservative dark suit and quietly talk to those who approached him, the only sign of his heroics being a simple blue, star-spangled lapel pin.  Almost overnight, Bill went from being a simple fixture in our squadron to one of our teammates.

Ten Lessons in Leadership from a Janitor

While I haven’t seen Mr. Crawford in over twenty years, he’d probably be surprised to know I think of him often. Bill Crawford, our janitor, taught me many valuable, unforgettable leadership lessons. Here are ten I’d like to share with you.

Be Cautious of Labels.  Labels you place on people may define your relationship to them and bound their potential. Sadly, and for a long time, we labeled Bill as just a janitor, but he was so much more. Therefore, be cautious of a leader who callously says, “Hey, he’s just an Airman.”  Likewise, don’t tolerate the O-1, who says, “I can’t do that, I’m just a lieutenant.”

Everyone Deserves Respect.
  Because we hung the “janitor” label on Mr. Crawford, we often wrongly treated him with less respect than others around us.  He deserved much more, and not just because he was a Medal of Honor winner.  Bill deserved respect because he was a janitor, walked among us, and was a part of our team.

Courtesy Makes a Difference.  Be courteous to all around you, regardless of rank or position.  Military customs, as well as common courtesies, help bond a team.  When our daily words to Mr. Crawford turned from perfunctory “hellos” to heartfelt greetings, his demeanor and personality outwardly changed.  It made a difference for all of us.

Take Time to Know Your People.  Life in the military is hectic, but that’s no excuse for not knowing the people you work for and with.  For years a hero walked among us at the Academy and we never knew it.  Who are the heroes that walk in your midst?

Anyone Can Be a Hero.  Mr. Crawford certainly didn’t fit anyone’s standard definition of a hero.  Moreover, he was just a private on the day he won his Medal.  Don’t sell your people short, for any one of them may be the hero who rises to the occasion when duty calls.  On the other hand, it’s easy to turn to your proven performers when the chips are down, but don’t ignore the rest of the team.  Today’s rookie could and should be tomorrow’s superstar.

Leaders Should Be Humble.  Most modern day heroes and some leaders are anything but humble, especially if you calibrate your “hero meter” on today’s athletic fields.  End zone celebrations and self-aggrandizement are what we’ve come to expect from sports greats.  Not Mr. Crawford-he was too busy working to celebrate his past heroics.  Leaders would be well-served to do the same.

Life Won’t Always Hand You What You Think You Deserve.  We in the military work hard and, dang it, we deserve recognition, right?  However, sometimes you just have to persevere, even when accolades don’t come your way.  Perhaps you weren’t nominated for junior officer or airman of the quarter as you thought you should-don’t let that stop you.  Don’t pursue glory; pursue excellence.  Private Bill Crawford didn’t pursue glory; he did his duty and then swept floors for a living.

No Job is Beneath a Leader.
  If Bill Crawford, a Medal of Honor winner, could clean latrines and smile, is there a job beneath your dignity?  Think about it.

Pursue Excellence. No matter what task life hands you, do it well.  Dr. Martin Luther King said, “If life makes you a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be.”  Mr. Crawford modeled that philosophy and helped make our dormitory area a home.

Life is a Leadership Laboratory.  All too often we look to some school or PME class to teach us about leadership when, in fact, life is a leadership laboratory.  Those you meet everyday will teach you enduring lessons if you just take time to stop, look and listen.  I spent four years at the Air Force Academy, took dozens of classes, read hundreds of books, and met thousands of great people.  I gleaned leadership skills from all of them, but one of the people I remember most is Mr. Bill Crawford and the lessons he unknowingly taught.  Don’t miss your opportunity to learn.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

How to Spot a Liar

I don't know how scientific this is, but here are some tells to look for if you think someone is lying.

How to Spot a Liar

The average person tells four lies a day, or 1,460 lies a year. Lying is easy … spotting a liar is a harder. But you may not need the high-tech gadgets used on CSI to detect deception. Sometimes, the truth is written all over your face.

Pinocchio may not be just a fairytale. Studies show when someone lies, the cells inside their nose swell and release histamines, making it itchy, which is why
when someone's lying, they're more likely to scratch their nose.

"The face conveys so much information," David Matsumoto, Ph.D., a psychologist at San Francisco State University in Calif., told Ivanhoe.

Other ways to spot a liar include looking at how much someone blinks.
People blink less frequently than normal when they're lying and eight-times faster afterwards. Also, look for the "liar's lean." Liars tend to lean forward and rest their elbows or knees on a table. They also tend to use words like "would not" or "could not" instead of "wouldn't" or "couldn't."

Research shows men and women lie about the same amount. They just lie about different things. Women usually lie to make others feel better while men often lie to make themselves feel better.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 PM | Permalink

The spiritual lives of Alzheimer's patients

The religious sense remains alive.

Not even Alzheimer's can erase God

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 PM | Permalink

The Dirty Secret of ES

Just as the Obama administration has promulgated federal funding rules for embryonic stem cells,  Forbes magazine reveals The Dirty Secret of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Hope for any benefits from ES research is decades away.

Thomson blamed simple biology. Among other problems, ES cells require permanent use of dangerous immunosuppressive drugs. They have a nasty tendency to form tumors both malignant and benign including teratomas--meaning "monster tumor." Teratomas can grow larger than a football and can contain eyeball parts, hair and teeth. Yech!

OK, so how many "decades?"

"The routine utilization of human embryonic stem cells for medicine is 20 to 30 years hence," embryonic stem cell research advocate William Haseltine and then-chief executive officer of Human Genome Sciences.

Others say 'three to five decades' or 'never in my lifetime'.

Meanwhile adult stem cells (AS) have proved to be just as flexible as embryonic stem cells (ES) without the health concerns or moral baggage.

AS cells have now treated scores of illnesses including many cancers, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, immunodeficiency disorders, neural degenerative diseases, anemias and other blood conditions. They've been used in over 2,000 human clinical trials. There has never been an ES cell clinical trial. Former National Institutes of Health director Dr. Bernadine Healy, once an ES cell research enthusiast," now calls them "obsolete."

That's why it hardly makes sense to vastly increase federal research funding for ES cells. Medical research spending is always a zero-sum game. However big the overall budget, every dollar approved for one grant is a dollar lost to others.

UPDATE; Researchers produce cells they say are identical to embryonic stem cells

Two groups of Chinese researchers have performed an unprecedented feat, it was announced today, by inducing cells from connective tissue in mice to revert back to their embryonic state and producing living mice from them.

By demonstrating that cells from adults can be converted into cells that, like embryonic stem cells from fetuses, have the ability to produce any type of tissue, the researchers have made a major advance toward eliminating the need for fetal cells in research and clinical applications.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 PM | Permalink

July 20, 2009

"It's symbolic of our struggle against oppression"

All I could think of when I read that the Health Care Bill will direct the HHS secretary to develop "Standards for Measuring Gender" --As Opposed to 'Male' and 'Female' was Monty Python's The Life of Brian.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 PM | Permalink

Cure for radiation sickness found?

This is great news.

Dramatic discovery by Jewish-American scientists could change world; anti-radiation medication proves effective, safe in tests. Further experiments to be fast tracked, FDA approval possible within 1-2 years

The ground-breaking medication, developed by Professor Andrei Gudkov – Chief Scientific Officer at Cleveland BioLabs - may have far-reaching implications on the balance of power in the world, as states capable of providing their citizens with protection against radiation will enjoy a significant strategic advantage vis-à-vis their rivals.

For Israel, the discovery marks a particularly dramatic development that could deeply affect the main issue on the defense establishment's agenda: Protection against a nuclear attack by Iran or against "dirty bomb" attacks by terror groups.

Gudkov's discovery may also have immense implications for cancer patients by enabling doctors to better protect patients against radiation. Should the new medication enable cancer patients to be treated with more powerful radiation, our ability to fight the disease could greatly improve.

'Stable, safe, and easy to inject'
The company's subcontractor in Europe is already prepared to embark on mass production. Meanwhile, emergency regulations in Israel allow the government to purchase drugs on short notice, even if they are still in the process of being approved. Notably, the medication in question is not a vaccine, but rather, a preventative drug administered via one or several shots.

The medication works by suppressing the "suicide mechanism" of cells hit by radiation, while enabling them to recover from the radiation-induced damages that prompted them to activate the suicide mechanism in the first plac

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2009

Climate change fraud

James Lewis  who describes himself as a scientist by trade who carps as a hobby about the passing parade of human fraud and folly doesn't hold anything back in discussing the Climate Change Fraud

It is the Best of times and the Worst of Times for Science

Scientific skeptics have been there all along. Global warming was always a blatant concoction by normal scientific standards. Scientists I’ve talked to over the years are finally muttering it, in private. Some are looking ashamed. But very few are expressing real outrage at the fraudsters. Too many of them were either suckered  or corrupted by money, power, and simple cowardice.


The sciences are now like Russia after Glastnost: Everybody can see a massive disaster ahead, but nobody wants to say it out loud. We are in that moment of shocked silence just before the bare-naked emperor becomes a target of universal laughter and ridicule. Well, this emperor is buck naked, just like the fairy tale.

As I’ve talked with scientific colleagues in private, they are quietly nodding, yes, yes, of course it’s all BS. Pure model-driven fantasy. Really lousy, deceptive, and fraudulent selection of the data. A gigantic slap in the face for NASA. A thousand greedy grant swingers all over the world. The media chasing scare stories, and fake “scientists” chasing the media. They fed each other lie after lie after lie. It was a very profitable partnership.
Here’s a bit of truth. Scientists love money. It’s only corporate money that smells bad to them.
Government money smells like fresh-mown grass, green and lush. Even if they knew the whole game was a set-up, professors and college presidents went right along with it. Do you have any idea how much pressure college faculty are under to bring in grant money? The big universities get a big chunk of their budgets from “overhead expenses” — payoffs from Washington. Even undergraduate teaching is subsidized by science grants. So are grad students and faculty. In the end, professors don’t get tenure without bringing in a steady supply of money, and after tenure, the pressure only gets worse.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 PM | Permalink

Aurora Australis: The Southern Lights

 Southern Lights

Stunning video of Aurora Australis: The Southern Lights, time lapse photography by Anthony Powell

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 PM | Permalink

Terminal Bliss and the Lure of Marriage

The mysteries of love explored in Terminal Bliss, a review of  A Happy Marriage

"A Happy Marriage: A Novel" (Rafael Yglesias)

The second chapter opens on a bleak night 30 years later. Margaret, now Enrique’s wife, is in her 50s, at the end of an excruciating three-year battle with cancer. “You have to help me die,” she begs her husband. This is a tall order. She needs him to nurse her; to prevent anyone from sustaining her when she falls into a coma; and to tell her parents she won’t be buried in their family plot — tough tasks, but also concrete ways he can help. Harder is accepting that her life is ending, that “their marriage was a mystery he was going to lose, despite 27 years living inside it, before he understood who they were.”

The mystery of what’s at the heart of a marriage can’t be unlocked, or even fully captured in words. But Enrique and Margaret are anything but common, distinct both as characters and in the endurance of their love.

I missed Unfaithfully yours, the cover story in Time by Caitlin Flanagan, but it's relevant if only as a measure of what's been lost

 Time Cover Marriage

In the past 40 years, the face of the American family has changed profoundly. As sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin observes in a landmark new book called The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today, what is significant about contemporary American families, compared with those of other nations, is their combination of "frequent marriage, frequent divorce" and the high number of "short-term co-habiting relationships." Taken together, these forces "create a great turbulence in American family life, a family flux, a coming and going of partners on a scale seen nowhere else. There are more partners in the personal lives of Americans than in the lives of people of any other Western country."

An increasingly fragile construct depending less and less on notions of sacrifice and obligation than on the ephemera of romance and happiness as defined by and for its adult principals, the intact, two-parent family remains our cultural ideal, but it exists under constant assault. It is buffeted by affairs and ennui, subject to the eternal American hope for greater happiness, for changing the hand you dealt yourself. Getting married for life, having children and raising them with your partner — this is still the way most Americans are conducting adult life, but the numbers who are moving in a different direction continue to rise. Most notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in May that births to unmarried women have reached an astonishing 39.7%. (See pictures of love in the animal kingdom.)

How much does this matter? More than words can say.
There is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and human misery in this country as the collapse of marriage. It hurts children, it reduces mothers' financial security, and it has landed with particular devastation on those who can bear it least: the nation's underclass.

Or is marriage an institution that still hews to its old intention and function — to raise the next generation, to protect and teach it, to instill in it the habits of conduct and character that will ensure the generation's own safe passage into adulthood?
Think of it this way: the current generation of children, the one watching commitments between adults snap like dry twigs and observing parents who simply can't be bothered to marry each other and who hence drift in and out of their children's lives — that's the generation who will be taking care of us when we are old.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:15 PM | Permalink

ROAM the wild horses in the gelded age.

When I worked at the Department of Interior, one of the perennial issues was that of the wild horses.  They reproduced wildly and in their large numbers did extreme damage to rangeland - public, private and leased,  But since the public had such a romantic image of wild horses, they were never culled.  Instead, the faint hope was they would be adopted one by one.  What resulted was lawsuit after lawsuit against the government for the way they were managing the wild horses.

 Wild-Horses  Herd

But never in my wildest imagination, could I have dreamed up the legislation that just passed the House  - Restore Our American Mustangs Act or ROAM.

Mark Steyn takes it away in a do-not-miss piece  A symbol of the Old West meets the gelded age.

On Friday, the House passed the Restore Our American Mustangs Act – or ROAM. Like all acronymically cute legislation, its name bears little relation to what it actually does: It's not about "restoring" mustangs. The federal Bureau of Land Management aims for a manageable population of 27,000 wild mustangs. Currently, there are 36,000, and the population doubles every four or five years. To prevent things getting even more out of hand, the BLM keeps another 30,000 mustangs in holding pens – or, if you prefer, managed-care facilities. That's to say, under federal management, one in every two "wild" horses now lives in government housing.
To facilitate the release of the tame "wild horse" population, the act adds to their present 33-million acre habitat (that's bigger than New York State) another 20 million acres – or approximately the size of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont combined. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the total tab at around $700 million – ie, chump change. If you look for it in the line-item budget, it comes down at the bottom under "rounding error." It's a mere ten-and-a-half grand per mustang. If you're wondering why it costs more to keep a horse on 52 million acres of wilderness than it does to stable him at an upscale horse farm in New England, that's because, in order to prevent the mustang population doubling again by 2013 and requiring the annexation of another 50 million acres (i.e., an area the size of Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands combined), the bill mandates "enhanced" contraception for horses and burros.

In 1971, the United States Congress recognized mustangs as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West." And surely nothing captures the essence of the "pioneer spirit" than living on welfare in a federal care facility while being showered with government contraceptives. Welcome to America in the gelded age.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:51 PM | Permalink

'Uh-oh" on the Health Plan

I dislike being pressed to make any financial decision "right now" because I feel I'm being swindled.    I feel that same way about the health care proposal now before the Congress.

What I read and see makes me want to yell to all of Congress, "Stop, stop.  Go home.  Take a break and come to your senses."   

Wall St Journal

Mr. Obama's February budget provided the outline, but the House bill now fills in the details. To wit, tax increases that would take U.S. rates higher even than most of Europe. Yet even those increases aren't nearly enough to finance the $1 trillion in new spending, which itself is surely a low-ball estimate. Meanwhile, the bill would create a new government health entitlement that will kill private insurance and lead to a government-run system.

The most remarkable quality of this health-care exercise is
its reckless disregard for economic and fiscal reality. With the economy still far from a healthy recovery, and the federal fisc already nearly $2 trillion in deficit, Democrats want to ram through one of the greatest raids on private income and business in American history. The world is looking on, agog, and wondering why the United States seems intent on jumping off this cliff.

The Congressional Budget Director says all the various health care proposals will increase, not reduce federal government spending and so the Federal Budget is on an unsustainable path

While the Vice President says We Have to Go Spend Money to Keep From Going Bankrupt

The Investors' Business Daily says the individual private health insurance is illegal under the House plan. It's Not an Option

It didn't take long to run into an "uh-oh" moment when reading the House's "health care for all Americans" bill. Right there on Page 16 is a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal.
So we can all keep our coverage, just as promised — with, of course, exceptions: Those who currently have private individual coverage won't be able to change it. Nor will those who leave a company to work for themselves be free to buy individual plans from private carriers.
What wasn't known until now is that the bill itself will kill the market for private individual coverage by not letting any new policies be written after the public option becomes law.
The public option won't be an option for many, but rather a mandate for buying government care. A free people should be outraged at this advance of soft tyranny.

Dick Morris points out that rationing health care  is inevitable and it's older people who will suffer the most.
Obama’s health care proposal is, in effect, the repeal of the Medicare program as we know it. The elderly will go from being the group with the most access to free medical care to the one with the least access. Indeed, the principal impact of the Obama health care program will be to reduce sharply the medical services the elderly can use. No longer will their every medical need be met, their every medication prescribed, their every need to improve their quality of life answered.

It is so ironic that the elderly - who were so vigilant when Bush proposed to change Social Security - are so relaxed about the Obama health care proposals. Bush’s Social Security plan, which did not cut their benefits at all, aroused the strongest opposition among the elderly. But Obama’s plan, which will totally gut Medicare and replace it with government-managed care and rationing, has elicited little more than a yawn from most senior citizens.

The organizational chart of the Democratic plan charted.

Healthcare Map click image to enlarge.  Via Maggie's Farm who Says it all.

Rick Moran asks

So what do we get after spending at least a trillion dollars over 10 years? The [5] CBO says we would still have 17 million legal Americans not insured. We would also almost certainly have some form of rationing. And the chances are good that we would have a system performing much worse for people who are insured today.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 AM | Permalink

July 16, 2009

In praise of shopkeepers

Running a good shop is a service to one's community, of much greater value, in my view, than the work of two hundred social workers, five hundred psychotherapists, and a thousand second-rate poets -- and more honorable than the efforts of the vast majority of the members of Congress. A nation of shopkeepers, far from being the put-down Napoleon thought, sounds more and more like an ideal to which a healthy country ought to aspire.

Joseph Epstein In Praise of Shopkeepers

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:16 AM | Permalink

Economic uncertainty makes for fewer divorces

What God Has Joined Together, Recession Makes Hard to Put Asunder

For Some, the Downturn Keeps Divorce on Ice; Ms. Brewster, Husband Share a House Divided

A May survey by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, a national organization for financial professionals who work on divorce cases, found that the recession was delaying divorces, and inspiring "creative divorce solutions" in living arrangements.

"People are saying, 'I've put up with it for the last 10 years, I can put up with it for another year,'" says Gary Nickelson, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. In a poll of 1,600 of its members, the group says, respondents estimated that divorce cases in the six months through March were off 40% from normal levels.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:47 AM | Permalink

Multi-galaxy Collision or Cosmic Dance


Four galaxies are involved in this pile-up 280 million light years from Earth. The bright spiral galaxy at the center of the image is punching through the cluster at almost two million miles per hour.

When I saw this photograph, the word that came to mind was  a Greek one,  "perichoresis" used to describe the joyful dance of love that takes place within the Holy Trinity.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:39 AM | Permalink

July 15, 2009

Finding the Meaning of Life in the Face of Mortality

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York has begun a new program "to help cancer patients find a sense of meaning, peace and purpose, even as the end approaches.

Helping Cancer Patients Find the Meaning of Life

“For many cancer patients, the biggest challenge is, ‘How do I live in the space between my diagnosis and my eventual death?’” says William Breitbart, a Memorial Sloan-Kettering psychiatrist who developed the program, known as meaning-centered psychotherapy, and has tested it with more than 300 patients since 2000.

Dr. Breitbart based his program in part on the writings of Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz with the conviction that people can endure any suffering if they know their life has meaning. The eight-week program helps patients with Stage 3 or 4 cancer reconnect with the many sources of meaning in life—love, work, history, family relationships—and teaches them that when cancer produces an obstacle in one, they can find meaning in another.

 Dr Breitbart

“We help cancer patients understand that they are not dead yet,” says Dr. Breitbart.
“The months or years of life that remain can be times of extraordinary growth.”
Session five focuses on encountering life’s limitations, and Frankl’s message that even when everything else has been stripped away, people can still choose their attitude toward a situation and the meaning they take from it. Discussion questions include: what would be a meaningful death?
“We tread lightly here; this is not supposed to be a scary session,” says Shannon Poppito, clinical psychologist who led many of the sessions. She says that what troubles many cancer patients most is not the fear of death, but unresolved issues from the past. It’s never too late to resolve them, says Dr. Breitbart, who notes that in Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” the main character becomes the person he wants to be in the last five minutes of his life.
simply experiencing life can be meaningful. For session seven, patients are asked to list things they love or find beautiful. Ms. Wilker talked about her husband and her 28 nieces and nephews and 62 grandnieces and grandnephews. She also talked about the view from her apartment that she was enjoying again and the Greek statue of Winged Victory that she had seen in her 20s in the Louvre.

“I realized that I didn’t have to work so hard to find the meaning of life,” she says. “It was being handed to me everywhere I looked.”

In the final session, group members present a “legacy project” that symbolizes the meaning they’ve found and want to pass on.
It’s paradoxical,” says Dr. Poppito, who is now in private practice, using meaning-centered therapy to help patients face a variety of life transitions. “You’d think that once people have found this new meaning in life, they wouldn’t want to let it go. But knowing their life has meaning and that it will continue beyond them seems to lessen that white-knuckle grip on life and give them a sense of peace.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink

Spiritual Barbarism

Thaddeus J. Kozinski calls the Pope A new St Benedict for the new Dark Ages

We tend to associate barbarism with images of primitive savages looting and pillaging villages, razing the walls of cities, and enslaving women and children. However, the Holy Father is suggesting here an entirely new kind of barbarism, one with a distinctly spiritual character. Civility is the quality of soul and society by which we recognize not only that other people exist, but also that they have the right to our courtesy, dignity, and respect. Civilization, then, as the opposite of barbarism, is founded upon the recognition of the dignity and rights of the other. Thus, a culture in which "the highest goals [are] one’s ego and one’s own desires" is the very definition of barbaric.
Today’s barbarism is of a distinctly spiritual nature
. It is not so much a physical as a philosophical barbarism that has overtaken Western culture, a barbarism of the soul that is camouflaged by a quite "civilized" bodily façade.
The philosophical barbarian does not wish to have any external demands imposed upon him, for he desires all of reality to conform to his presuppositions, prejudices, and plans. He is unwilling to open his soul fully to the objects and entities around him, for he does not trust that any good will come to himself from such vulnerability. Instead of accepting the imposition of an objectively real world with infinite plenitude and profundity, he imposes upon it his paltry perspective, thereby rejecting a rich, resplendent reality for a scanty and superficial one.
He reduces reality to the size of his shrunken soul. Since the less there is to know, the less there is to love, the end result of this barbaric state of soul, tantamount to staring at one’s spiritual navel, is perpetual, relentless boredom.
Boredom is the telltale sign of the starving soul, and today’s barbarians are starving for the two staple soul-foods: knowledge and community. Modern secular culture feeds its denizens plenty of "knowledge" in the form of technological know-how, scientific facts, ephemeral trivia, and politically correct aphorisms, but this is paltry fare with little nutritional value compared to the sumptuous banquet of truth they could have if they only recognized their hunger for it: they desire "know-how" regarding their souls; they pine for the meaning of things, not just for facts; they yearn to partake in the complex and elegant conversation with "the best that has been thought and said" that we call the Great Books, not politicized and pre-digested cant.
Most of all, these barbarians are starving for friendship, for intimacy, for communion. Growing up in dysfunctional families as orphans in their own homes, in neighborhoods where no one knows each other, in rootless communities in perpetual emigration, and in cities and suburbs where the empty blandishments of consumerism and mall shopping are what passes for festival; their desire for authentic friendship—to know and be known—has become rapacious.
Caritas in Veritate, "Charity in Truth." Our new Benedict’s encyclical is out, and its essential message, the power of love in truth and truth in love, when practiced, is precisely what could convert us love-sick and truth-starved barbarians.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:30 PM | Permalink

Zoning Out

Thus is good news for those who daydream.

Stop Paying Attention: Zoning Out Is a Crucial Mental State

Researchers say a wandering mind may be important to setting goals, making discoveries, and living a balanced life.

The fact that both of these important brain networks become active together suggests that mind wandering is not useless mental static. Instead, Schooler proposes, mind wandering allows us to work through some important thinking. Our brains process information to reach goals, but some of those goals are immediate while others are distant. Somehow we have evolved a way to switch between handling the here and now and contemplating long-term objectives. It may be no coincidence that most of the thoughts that people have during mind wandering have to do with the future.

Even more telling is the discovery that zoning out may be the most fruitful type of mind wandering....In their fMRI study, Schooler and his colleagues found that the default network and executive control systems are even more active during zoning out than they are during the less extreme mind wandering with awareness. When we are no longer even aware that our minds are wandering, we may be able to think most deeply about the big picture.

All of which brought to mind one of my very first posts in 2004. Does Daydreaming Make You Happy?

After finding that about one child in 30 is brilliant and happy, (Harvard psychologist Burton) White did a great deal of research to determine what demographic or psychological characteristics distinguished those children. But the children came from a wide variety of backgrounds -- rich and poor, small families and large, broken and stable homes, poorly and well-educated parents -- and from all parts of the U.S. Finally, through extensive questioning, he determined that the bright and happy children had only one thing in common: All of them spent noticeable amounts of time staring peacefully and wordlessly into space." -- Michael Ray and Rochelle Myers (from Creativity in Business)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:18 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

What to do if a dirty nuke detonates in your city

Stay inside.  .

A panel was convened  by the National Academy of Sciences to assess the nation's level of preparedness for such an attack.

The panel explored the consequences of a nuclear explosion packing a punch equivalent to 10,000 tonnes of TNT. That's tiny compared with the thermonuclear weapons deployed by the US and Russia - and smaller even than the 15-kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 - but plausible for an improvised device.

The blast wave would destroy buildings and kill almost everyone within 1 kilometre (see map), so the panel focused its attention on people outside this zone, for whom the main danger would come from radioactive fallout. "That's a place where you could get big gains if you plan right,"
For many people, the safest option would be to seek shelter in buildings or underground. Just staying inside could slash the immediate death toll from radiation by up to a factor of 100, or even 1000,

More here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

Getting married for the wrong reasons

If you want to have a marriage that lasts, you are better off NOT living together beforehand.  Too many people who live together get married for the wrong reasons

Prenuptial Cohabiting Can Spoil Marriage

Upwards of 70 percent of U.S. couples are cohabiting these days before marrying, the researchers estimate. The study, published in the February issue of the Journal of Family Psychology, indicates that such move-ins might not be wise.

And it's not because you start to get on one another's nerves. Rather, the researchers figure the shared abode could lead to marriage for all the wrong reasons.

"We think that some couples who move in together without a clear commitment to marriage may wind up sliding into marriage partly because they are already cohabiting," said lead researcher Galena Rhoades of the University of Denver.

Couples might also be nudged into nuptials because of a joint lease or shared ownership of Fido - along with other practicalities.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:03 PM | Permalink

July 14, 2009

Alive and happy

 Meg Wedding

At 19, Meg was told her brain tumor was inoperable by her British doctors.  Nonsense said her mother, I won't let my daughter die

Without the doctor she found in Boston who did operate successfully, Meg would not be alive, married and with a new job in publishing and a new charity to give support to other people suffering with brain tumors. 

Meg was out of hospital within three days and back home within the month, just in time to celebrate her 2:1 degree result. Soon after she took a job in publishing.

'I can't forget about my brain tumour as I still have annual scans and will need them for the rest of my life,' she says. 'But they show that everything is fine and there are no cancer cells. I'm incredibly lucky.'

Meg didn't hesitate when Josh, an investment consultant, proposed on a trip to Venice last summer.

'Sadly Professor Black wasn't able to come to the wedding,' says Meg. 'But Josh and I thought about him so much that day. I owe my life to him - and to my mum who wouldn't give up until she had found a cure.
'I've no doubt that, without my operation, I'd now be dead. Britain is gradually catching up with America. But, sadly, we still don't yet have the same high level of technology. I wish everyone could have the same chance I had.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:51 PM | Permalink

"The doctor made you in a dish"

Parents explain to their children how they came to be.  No Stork Involved but Mom and Dad Had Help.

Marla Culliton and her husband, Steven, of Swampscott, Mass., have 7-year-old twins, Jacob and Naomi. “When they were 4, I told them, ‘First you have to get married, then you have to have a nice house, then you can go to a doctor, and he can help you,’ ” said Mrs. Culliton, a dental hygienist. “At 5, they said, ‘How is the baby made?’ I said: ‘They come from a sperm and an egg. The doctor made you in a dish.’ ”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

July 13, 2009

Bursting Bubble

 Bursting Soapbubble

Photographer Richard Heeks, from Exeter, used a fast shutter speed of 1/500th of a second and chose a perfect wind-free day so nothing would disturb his shoot, while his wife Sarah provided the all-important finger.

A bubble is made up of three layers - one thin layer of water sandwiched between two layers of soap molecules.

As Mrs Heeks's finger breaks the surface tension, the perfect sphere is replaced by a round mass of soapy droplets which dissolve into the air. And the bubble is gone.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:39 PM | Permalink

Attack on Faith

Hal Colbatch, writing in the Australian, says

I WROTE here in April that Britain appears to be evolving into the first modern soft totalitarian state, but it seems I didn't know the half of it.

UK bill an attack on faith

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have warned that religious schools and care homes could be forced to remove crucifixes, holy pictures or other religious symbols or icons from their walls in case they offend atheist or non-Catholic cleaners. Under the terms of the bill, Catholic institutions could be guilty of harassment if they display images offensive to non-Catholics.
Andrew Summersgill, the general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, says: "The practical consequences of this are that a Catholic care home, for example, may have crucifixes and holy pictures on the walls (that) reflect and support the beliefs of the residents. A cleaner may be an atheist or of very different religious beliefs. Nonetheless, if a cleaner found the crucifixes offensive, there would be no defence in law against a charge of harassment."

There is no test of reasonableness in the draft legislation; instead, the test is completely subjective.

"It is tailor-made for people to come up with objections because it puts the emphasis on the person being offended rather than on an objective test of what ought to be considered reasonable,

No surprise that this bill is largely the creation of the Harriet Harman, the Equality Minister, perhaps the most committed of left-wing social engineering activists

London priest Tim Finigan says: "For the government to promote this agenda in extreme form at a time when the political system is suffering unparalleled contempt and the far-right groups have their best opportunity for years is stupid beyond belief."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

Wedding, split up, then murder

Jailed:  Bride and groom who split up before reaching wedding reception and then killed her ex-lover 18 hours later.

A bride and groom whose wedding night ended with beating her former lover to death have been jailed for a total of 17 years.

Barry Johnson and Wendy Shobrook's marriage led to murder 18 hours after the ceremony.

They split up before reaching the reception and the bride set fire to her husband in the marital bed. Then they killed her old boyfriend after she left her new husband for him that same night.

When you talk about wedding disasters, this story has to be at the top.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 AM | Permalink

Science Czar advocated compulsory abortion and mass sterilization to combat overpopulation

Back in 1977, many people believed that overpopulation would lead to global catastrophe.  It was such a problem they argued, that even the most extreme totalitarian methods  should be used like:

• compulsory abortions
• the government should take babies away from single mothers or force them to have abortions
• the government could dictate family size
• people who cause "social deterioration' could be compelled not to have children
• mass sterilization of human beings through drugs in the water supply would be OK so long as it didn't harm livestock
• a "planetary regime" should control the global economy and dictate by force the number of children allowed to be born.

Forty years later, we can see how wrong their scientific predictions were because we now know that many countries are in demographic death spirals. 

So what happened to the crank scientists who advocated such totalitarian methods as a solution for a problem that took care of itself?   

Well, John Holdren became the United States Science Czar, the new Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Presumably, he's advising President Obama on a host of scientific issues among them climate change and embryonic stem cell research.  Know that he advocated the disturbing and crackpot policies listed at the beginning of this post in a book he  co-authored with Paul and Anne Ehrlich science in 1977 called Ecoscience.

So fantastic, disturbing and frightening were his ideas that Zombietime felt it necessary to scan pages of the book so people could see that the quotes weren't made up.  John Holdren, Obama's Science Czar, says: Forced abortions and mass sterilization needed to save the planet.

Does Holden still believe them?  No one knows.  He's never disavowed them.  But I sure care now that climate change is the global catastrophe du jour .    I'm wary of all alarmists especially when they advocate such undemocratic, despotic  methods and are now advising the President. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 AM | Permalink

July 12, 2009

The Next Shoe to Drop

How did we fall so far so fast?  And can consumer confidence and spending be restored when every household I know is saving as much as they can, worried about their jobs, afraid of losing them and troubled about what's happening to their retirement savings.    Every sector of the economy is hurting.    Hoping on a wish, Sears and K-Mart are starting Christmas sales in July.

Robert Reich on When will the Recovery begin?  Never

The so-called "green shoots" of recovery are turning brown in the scorching summer sun.

Problem is, consumers won't start spending until they have money in their pockets and feel reasonably secure. But they don't have the money, and it's hard to see where it will come from. They can't borrow. Their homes are worth a fraction of what they were before, so say goodbye to home equity loans and refinancings. One out of ten home owners is under water -- owing more on their homes than their homes are worth. Unemployment continues to rise, and number of hours at work continues to drop. Those who can are saving. Those who can't are hunkering down, as they must.

The X marks a brand new track -- a new economy. What will it look like? Nobody knows. All we know is the current economy can't "recover" because it can't go back to where it was before the crash. So instead of asking when the recovery will start, we should be asking when and how the new economy will begin.

David Goldman on the Zombie Economy

It’s not about getting a recovery going. That’s not going to happen, not if Martians land in flying saucers with a billion tons of gold to invest in bank capital. It’s about preventing something worse than we have now, namely screaming, bug-eyed, blood-in-the-streets, rape-the-crops-and-burn-the-women panic. Zombie not bad. Zombie good. Zombie better than alternative, which is you dead. Really dead. No breath, never get live again. Zombie is as good as it gets. You zombie, you still alive, sort of. You not zombie, you dead. Opposite of zombie not happy, lively, active. Opposite of zombie is you push daisies up. The best we can get out of this is a zombie banking system, one that still pays its debts because it earns enough interest from the toxic assets left over from the last boom.

Thanks to David Layman for pointing out the Cosmic Convergence of these two.

Here's Nouriel Roubini,Doctor Doom, on Brown Manure, Not Green Shoots who says the jobs situation is even worse than the headlines.

With the current rate of job losses, it is very clear that the unemployment rate could reach 10% by later this summer--around August or September--and will be closer to 10.5%, if not 11%, by year-end. I expect the unemployment rate is going to peak at around 11% at some point in 2010, well above historical standards for even severe recessions.

It's clear that even if the recession were to be over anytime soon--and it's not going to be over before the end of the year--job losses are going to continue for at least another year and a half.
The details also suggest that other aspects of the labor markets are worsening. If you include discouraged workers and partially employed workers, the unemployment rate is already above 16%.


Yes, we can print more money, but who's going to buy the paper?  Paul Craig Roberts A Perfect Storm

It is obvious to Chinese officials that neither China nor the entire world has enough spare money to purchase $4 trillion of US Treasuries over the next two years.
The Obama-Federal Reserve-Wall Street plan for the US to spend its way out of its problems is coming unglued. The reckless spending is pushing the dollar down and interest rates up.

Every sector of the US economy is in trouble. Former US manufacturing firms have been turned into marketing companies trying to sell their foreign-made goods to domestic consumers who have seen their jobs be moved offshore. Much of what is left of US manufacturing–the auto industry–is in bankruptcy. More decline awaits housing and commercial real estate. The dollar is sliding, and interest rates are rising, despite the Federal Reserve’s attempts to hold interest rates down.

When the Reagan administration cured stagflation, the result was a secular bull-market in US Treasuries that lasted 28 years. That bull market is over. Americans’ living standards are headed down. The American standard of living has been destroyed by wars, by offshoring of jobs, by financial deregulation, by trillion dollar handouts to financial gangsters who have, so far, destroyed half of Americans’ retirement savings, and by the monetization of debt.

The next shoe to drop will be the dollar’s loss of the reserve currency role. Then the US, an import-dependent country, will no longer be able to pay for its imports. Shortages will worsen price inflation and disrupt deliveries.

Life for most Americans will become truly stressful.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:47 PM | Permalink

July 9, 2009

Almost a year

A study of 2500 women, ages 16-60, found that

Women spend almost a year of their lives deciding what to wear

On average, women take 20 minutes to decide on an outfit and 52 minutes deciding what to take on vacation.

If you add in how much time we spend doing laundry, ironing, going to the drycleaners and shopping,  I bet we still spend less time than we do preparing and eating food.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:25 PM | Permalink

July 7, 2009

Ecce Home

Xavier Le Pichon has a remarkable article up (Speaking of Faith @American Public Media), Ecce Home (Behold Humanity)

A geophysicist, Le Pichon writes of the fragility and evolution of our humanity beginning with a small child dying in Calcutta through the poignant tale of his father taking care of his mother through her long and painful decline.

Who is this child that the tidal wave of human misery has deposited among the dozens of other “dying destitutes”, as announced on the board at the entrance: “Home for dying destitutes”. Why did I have to travel over ten thousand kilometers to meet him so that he would completely reorient my life?

Suffering has suddenly swept my soul: it has washed away everything in me. How so much suffering that I had not even noticed could be present next to me? As I had been standing on the crest of the advancing wave of our scientific and technologic civilization, I did not even glance at the debris left over by its flow. I was looking ahead. And suddenly, among the debris of my civilization, this child becomes for me a person, the most important person in my life.

Contrarily to what is often assumed, the weak and imperfect parts are often those that allow the evolution to occur without any revolution. This is true for the evolution of life, which is in great part based on the occurrence of coding errors during the duplication of the genetic information. One can ask whether it is not also true of our societies. We tend to dissociate the individuals who are well adapted to our social life from those that have difficulties to follow the pace that is imposed on them by our life style. Yet a society that separates the producers from the others considered as dead weight, even as marginal or excluded individuals, is a hard society, characterized by conflicts and often by complete rejection of minorities. It is sad and pessimistic. On the contrary a society where all are well integrated has a much more adaptable structure, with a different, easier and more conciliatory mode of life. It is often happier and more optimistic

He finds that even Neanderthals fed and looked after severely handicapped members of their communities who were too disabled to contribute to the quest for food. 

this experience of welcoming the suffering of our neighbor is at the very heart of our identity of humans since the origin.
Thus human societies have reorganized themselves about a new pole governed by the presence of suffering and death, which is related to the realization of the fragility and vulnerability of its members. Actually, we tend to judge the degree of humanity of a society through the way in which it takes into account in its organization the presence of suffering and death.
Taking care of fragile and vulnerable individuals has revealed to humans their own fragility and vulnerability. It has forced them to enter this dark world of fear in order to learn to live with it. They have realized that the human individual is a unique reality that keeps its unity under widely changing aspects from the fetus to the aged person at the end of his life.
Father Thomas Philippe co-founder of L’Arche with Jean Vanier said: “If we take away from someone who is suffering, any meaning to his suffering, if we make him feel even indirectly that his suffering is useless and is a burden to the community, what is left for him? Despair.” We must welcome each person in such a way that she retains her full dignity and still have a sense of having something to offer to the community.

He learned from the deep transformation of his father's heart and the suffering humanity of his mother a deep mystery

What my mother and father experienced together during her long and painful illness helps us to understand a little better the nature of this mysterious transformation of relationships which comes when we welcome handicap, suffering and illness. If this welcome is made with dignity and love, the person we welcome becomes the one who leads us into a new deepening of our true humanity. That person changes us deeply as she also changes the nature of the community around them. My mother who had played such an important role during her active life to form the bonds that unified our family had at the end of her painful life an even greater influence in maintaining our unity and in deepening the heart of my father while she appeared to be utterly powerless. One can say that she radiated much more love than what she had received. She had revealed to those who had welcomed her with love a new depth of their humanity. They now better understood that they had a heart and could only find happiness in love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 PM | Permalink

Parents of Boys

Parents of boys should read Charles Martel on How My Parents Raised a Sissy

In the 1950s when I was a grade-school kid, my father was a heavy equipment mechanic with lots of hair on his chest and a blue-collar fondness for spending much of his time out in the garage. I remember the time I walked out there and found him sewing a hole in one of his overalls. Until then, I has assumed that sewing was something only girls and women did.

“How come you’re sewing your overalls, Dad? Shouldn’t Mom be doing that?”

“Well, son, they’re my overalls so they’re my responsibility,” he answered. “Besides, I already know how to sew.”

“Where’d you learn that?” My voice indicated that I thought the person responsible for teaching him this skill should be boiled in oil for violating some basic law of nature.

“In the Army,” he said. “Everybody learned a little basic sewing so he could take care of himself out in the field.” My father paused, this former paratrooper who’d fought Hitler in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, and then said something that has stuck with me ever since. “
The Army didn’t want a bunch of sissies running around out there. You know, men who can’t take care of themselves.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:19 PM | Permalink

Coffee and Alzheimer's

Daily caffeine dose may delay progress of Alzheimer's, researchers say

Three large cups of coffee a day could help to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease and even reverse the condition, researchers say.

A daily dose of caffeine can suppress the degenerative processes in the brain that can lead to confusion and memory loss, a study in mice suggests.

Although drinking coffee has previously been linked to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s, this is the first study to suggest that caffeine can directly target the disease itself.

My mother drank coffee from morning to night and never had any problems sleeping or any trouble with her memory, so I believe this

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 PM | Permalink

July 4, 2009

Drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776

From the splendid HBO miniseries John Adams , Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Adams go over the draft for the Declaration of Independence.

Here is the theme song.  You'll see the earlier American flags inscribed  "Don't Tread on Me",  "Appeal to Heaven" and "Unite or Die".

Peggy Noonan writes in Making History

Then John Adams rose. He wished he had the power of the ancient orators of Greece and Rome, he said; surely they had never faced a question of greater human import.

He made, again, the case for independence. Now is the time, the facts are inescapable, the people are for it, we are not so much declaring as acknowledging reality. "Looking into the future [he] saw a new nation, a new time, all much in the spirit of lines he had written in a recent letter to a friend: '. . . We are in the very midst of revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world.' " Outside the wind picked up and the storm struck hard with thunder and lightning. Storms had in the past unnerved Adams, but he spoke steadily, logically and compellingly for two hours.
..on the morning of July 5, the people of Philadelphia started getting their hands on independently printed copies of the Declaration, and the impact was electric: My God, look what they said yesterday—"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." And on the 6th, a local newspaper carried the text of what had been agreed upon on the 4th. And so the celebration of the Fourth of July as one of the signal moments in the history of human freedom, was born. And so we mark it still.
Almost two years ago, I was lucky enough to tour Mount Vernon with a dozen people including him. (If I were David McCullough I would know the date and time. But I know the weather.) At the bottom of a stairway leading to the second floor, we chatted for a moment, and I asked him how he accounted in his imagination for the amazing fact of the genius cluster that founded our nation. How did so many gifted men, true geniuses, walk into history at the same time, in the same place, and come together to pursue so brilliantly a common endeavor? "I think it was providential," he said, simply.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 AM | Permalink

Freedom from Responsibility

 Jeffersonmemorial Fireworks-1

IN the years following his presidency, Thomas Jefferson had time to contemplate more deeply on freedom and reflect on the importance of education of the citizenry.

He wrote in 1810 in a letter to William Duane,  "The information of the people at large can alone make them the safe as they are the sole depositary of our political and religious freedom." 

Elsewhere he wrote in a letter to Charles Yancey in 1816, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

All of which makes even more alarming a recent  survey of Arizona high school students who were asked basic questions of citizenship that are asked in the test given to candidates for U.S. citizenship.    Only 3.5% of the public high school students passed!

•  More than 70 percent of Arizona high school students were unable to identify the  Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

•  75 percent were unable to correctly identify the first 10 amendments to the Constitution as “The Bill or Rights".

•  More than two-thirds of the students surveyed could not identify the two parts of the U.S. Congress.

•  Half of the public school students surveyed could not identify the two political parties in the U.S. 

•  Eighty-five percent of students surveyed did not know the length of a term of office for a U.S. Senator. 

•  Only 26 percent of students correctly answered “the President” when asked who is in charge of the Executive Branch of government 

•  Only  26.5 percent of students identified the first President of the United States as George Washington.

God help us if our schools can not educate students in the most basic elements of our history or the responsibilities of citizenship.    People are losing the true sense of freedom as a call to personal responsibility not escape from it.

When Pope Benedict visited the U.S. and spoke at the White House last year, he spoke of freedom in a fresh way. 

"Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. ...The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one's deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good. Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that "in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation," and a democracy without values can lose its very soul. Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent "indispensable supports" of political prosperity. values can lose its very soul. Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent "indispensable supports" of political prosperity.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:02 AM | Permalink

What does Freedom require?

When it comes to personal behaviour we have now come to believe that there is no right and wrong. Instead, there are choices.

So writes Jonathan Sacks across the pond in Credo: Without a shared moral code there can be no freedom in our society.

What has been lost is trust — our trust in those we chose to look after our affairs — and trust is the basis of society. If we are to recover it, we must ask some deep questions.
I believe we have lost our traditional sense of morality. I do not mean that we are less moral than our grandparents. We care about things they hardly thought about: world poverty, inequality, global warming and the loss of biodiversity. We are more tolerant than they were.

But note this: the things we care about are vast, distant, global, remote. They are problems that require the co-ordinated action of millions, perhaps billions of people. The difference we as individuals can make to any one of them is minimal. That does not mean they are not important: they are. But they are issues of politics, not of morality in the conventional sense.

When it comes to personal behaviour we have now come to believe that there is no right and wrong. Instead, there are choices. The market facilitates those choices. The State handles the consequences, picking up the pieces when they go wrong.
Without conscience there can be no trust. Without a shared moral code there can be no free society. Either we recover the moral sense or we will find, too late, that in the name of liberty, we have lost our freedom.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:10 AM | Permalink

July 3, 2009

Eye tooth

I have a lot of open tabs and many things to blog about, but this is the strangest, most surprising and wonderful news I've heard this week.

Blind man sees wife for first time after having a TOOTH implanted in his eye

'The doctors took the bandages off and it was like looking through water and then I saw this figure and it was her. She's wonderful and lovely. It was unbelievable to see her for the first time.'
'I feel fantastic getting my sight back,' he said. 'I can't really describe it - it's beyond words. I was blind for 12 years and when my sight came back everything had changed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:29 PM | Permalink

No skin in the game

Negative equity  found to be the biggest reason for the mushrooming rate of mortgage foreclosures since 2007.

Zero money down, not subprime loans, led to the mortgage meltdown.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

July 2, 2009

"Kitsch is a disease of faith" but "Beauty will save the world"

Roger Scruton on Beauty and its corruptions

Kitsch is a mould that settles over the entire works of a living culture, when people prefer the sensuous trappings of belief to the thing truly believed in. It is not only Christian civilisation that has undergone kitschification in recent times. Equally evident has been the kitschification of Hinduism and its culture. Massproduced Ganeshas have knocked the subtle temple sculpture from its aesthetic pedestal; in bunjee music the talas of Indian classical music are blown apart by tonal harmonies and rhythm machines; in literature the sutras and puranas have been detached from the sublime vision of Brahman and reissued as childish comic-strips.

Simply put,
kitsch is a disease of faith. Kitsch begins in doctrine and ideology and spreads from there to infect the entire world of culture. The Disneyfication of art is simply one aspect of the Disneyfication of faith -and both involve a profanation of our highest values. Kitsch, the case of Disney reminds us, is not an excess of feeling but a deficiency. The world of kitsch is in a certain measure a heartless world, in which emotion is directed away from its proper target towards sugary stereotypes, permitting us to pay passing tribute to love and sorrow without the trouble of feeling them.

"Beauty" (Roger Scruton)

The paradox, however, is that the relentless pursuit of artistic innovation leads to a cult of nihilism. The attempt to defend beauty from pre-modernist kitsch has exposed it to postmodernist desecration. We seem to be caught between two forms of sacrilege, the one dealing in sugary dreams, the other in savage fantasies. Both are forms of falsehood, ways of reducing and demeaning our humanity. Both involve a retreat from the higher life, and a rejection of its principal sign, which is beauty. But both point to the real difficulty, in modern conditions, of leading a life in which beauty has a central place.

To point to this feature of our condition is not to issue an invitation to despair. It is one mark of rational beings that they do not live only -- or even at all -- in the present.
They have the freedom to despise the world that surrounds them and to live in another way. The art, literature and music of our civilisation remind them of this, and also point to the path that lies always before them: the path out of desecration towards the sacred and the sacrificial. And that, in a nutshell, is what beauty teaches us.

Fyodor Dostoevsky once made an enigmatic remark, "Beauty will save the world" about which  Alexander Solzhenitsyn organized his Nobel Lecture on Literature in 1970

And so perhaps that old trinity of Truth and Good and Beauty is not just the formal outworn formula it used to seem to us during our heady, materialistic youth. If the crests of these three trees join together, as the investigators and explorers used to affirm, and if the too obvious, too straight branches of Truth and Good are crushed or amputated and cannot reach the light—yet perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable,
unexpected branches of Beauty will make their way through and soar up to that very place and in this way perform the work of all three.

And in that case it was not a slip of the tongue for Dostoyevsky to say that “Beauty will save the world,” but a prophecy. After all, he was given the gift of seeing much, he was extraordinarily illumined.

And consequently perhaps art, literature, can in actual fact help the world of today.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:56 PM | Permalink