November 30, 2009

Power line corridors save species

Good news.  Sometimes, high-voltage power line corridors can save a species. 

Green lines

The corridors - carefully maintained to prevent trees from growing high enough to touch tension lines - can recreate the meadow and shrubby landscape that once dominated New England. Some scientists are even looking at these corridors as grassy escape routes for animals and plants from the harsher effects of climate change as temperatures rise worldwide.

“It’s hard to explain to conservation groups that [species] are being saved in the most unpopular and disturbed kinds of landscapes,” said Robert Askins, a biology professor at Connecticut College who has studied birds in transmission corridors. “I was shocked originally to be working in them myself.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:58 PM | Permalink

A breakthrough in MS?

Researcher's labour of love leads to MS breakthrough

What he learned in his medical detective work, scouring dusty old books and using ultra-modern imaging techniques, could well turn what we know about MS on its head: Dr. Zamboni's research suggests that MS is not, as widely believed, an autoimmune condition, but a vascular disease.
More radical still, the experimental surgery he performed on his wife offers hope that MS, which afflicts 2.5 million people worldwide, can be cured and even largely prevented.
For the Italian professor, however, the quest was both personal and professional and the results were stunning.

Fighting for his wife's health, Dr. Zamboni looked for answers in the medical literature. He found repeated references, dating back a century, to excess iron as a possible cause of MS. The heavy metal can cause inflammation and cell death, hallmarks of the disease. The vascular surgeon was intrigued – coincidentally, he had been researching how iron buildup damages blood vessels in the legs, and wondered if there could be a similar problem in the blood vessels of the brain.

Using ultrasound to examine the vessels leading in and out of the brain, Dr. Zamboni made a startling find: In more than 90 per cent of people with multiple sclerosis, including his spouse, the veins draining blood from the brain were malformed or blocked. In people without MS, they were not.

He hypothesized that iron was damaging the blood vessels and allowing the heavy metal, along with other unwelcome cells, to cross the crucial brain-blood barrier. (The barrier keeps blood and cerebrospinal fluid separate. In MS, immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier, where they destroy myelin, a crucial sheathing on nerves.)

More striking still was that, when Dr. Zamboni performed a simple operation to unclog veins and get blood flowing normally again, many of the symptoms of MS disappeared.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink

Climategate again

What kind of scientists dump their original data on which all their calculations have been based because of lack of space?

Climate change data dumped
SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.
In a statement on its website, the CRU said: “
We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data.”

Mark Steyn comments
Hysterical queens like Gordon Brown are demanding we introduce global taxation, micro-regulation of every aspect of your life, massive multi-trillion dollar transfers from the productive sector to eco-rackets and transnational bureaucracies, bovine flatulence levies and extraterrestrial surveillance of once sovereign states on the basis of fevered speculations for which there is no raw data:

Shannon Loves writes  Arguably, these are the most important computer programs in the world. These programs generate the data that is used to create the climate models which purport to show an inevitable catastrophic warming caused by human activity. It is on the basis of these programs that we are supposed to massively reengineer the entire planetary economy and technology base.

The dumped files revealed that those critical programs are complete and utter train wrecks.

In the London Telegraph, Christopher Booker writes Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with the Climategate whitewash.

This is a huge scientific scandal and a journalistic one as well.  Steyn again.
If you rely on the lavishly remunerated "climate correspondents" of the big newspapers and networks, you'll know nothing about the Climate Research Unit scandals - just the business-as-usual drivel about Boston being underwater by 2011. Indeed, even when a prominent media warm-monger addresses the issue, the newspaper prefers to reprint a month-old column predating the scandal. If you follow online analysis from obscure websites on the fringes of the map, you'll know what's going on. If you go to the convenience store and buy today's newspaper, you won't. That's the problem.

Richard Fernandez takes a more measured tone.
The main objective criticism of the carbon-based warming model is that it is not proved. That’s different from saying it’s not true. It may or may not be true. However, until it is conclusively shown to be true and the results can be reproduced, it would be unwise public policy to embark on a trillion dollar amelioration program, with far-reaching economic, social and environmental effects. Government normally intervenes when there is a compelling public interest to do so. It should never intervene on the basis of an uncertain bet. Government is not the racetrack where bureaucrats can bet taxpayer money on the horses they fancy.

So what are the 192 countries who are about to converge on Copenhagen to do?  Roger L. Simon says
The time would be better spent drinking aquavit in Tivoli Gardens than it would spending a fair portion of the world’s wealth on anthropogenic global warming that could be either an illusion or a very minor contributing factor to a far more complex problem. Let’s postpone.

The UN doubles down Leaked emails won't harm UN climate body.   So has President Obama who announced a major commitment to cutting greenhouse gases.  On what basis?  This is ridiculous, a commitment based on no facts  without any scientific grounding.

Let's just note for the record the complete failure of Cap and Trade in Europe which so far is estimated to have cost European taxpayers $140 billion last year alone.

UPDATE.  What one climate researcher, Eduardo Zorita says
Research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files. .... The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas...

I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere -and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now- editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations,even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the 'politically correct picture'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink

Reconsidering Hellman

I very much liked Lillian Hellman's Pentimento when it came out even though her reputation for honesty was challenged early on and most famously by Mary McCarthy who said of Hellman, "Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the."

But I had no idea she was Stalin's Trollop, a blackmailer and a racist to boot.  John Zmirak convinced me.

A youthful convert to orthodox Communism, Hellman never wavered in her loyalty to the Moscow Party Line. She whitewashed the artificial famine in Ukraine, praised the grotesque Purge Trials, and backed Stalin's alliance with Hitler.
Honoring the Hitler/Stalin pact, she joined the Communist-sponsored Keep America Out of War Committee (which promptly dissolved when Hitler invaded Russia), and lauded Stalin's invasion of neutral Finland.
As she stood up for the inalienable right of cosseted screenwriters to get rich writing scripts they'd vetted with Soviet spies, Hellman oozed approval of Communist puppet regimes from Eastern Europe to China. She denounced Roger Straus (of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) for publishing Alexander Solzhenitsyn. In fact, she created her own little KGB in the publishing world, keeping hostile books out of print and hounding her enemies. As Koenig recalls: "When a journalist wrote a piece she disliked, she told him that if he didn't print a retraction she would tell his employer (this was when such things mattered) that he frequented gay bars. It was no coincidence that the plot of all Hellman's hit plays turned on blackmail."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:47 AM | Permalink

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving


Lord, behold our family here assembled.
We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell;
for the love that unites us;
for the peace accorded us this day;
for the hope with which we expect the morrow;
for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies,
that make our lives delightful;
and for our friends in all parts of the earth.
Let peace abound in our small company.

Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge.
Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere.
Give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders.
Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully
      the forgetfulness of others.
Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind.
Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies.

Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors.
If it may not, give us the strength to encounter
      that which is to come,
that we be brave in peril, constant in tribulation,
      temperate in wrath,
and in all changes of fortune, and, down to the gates of death,
      loyal and loving one to another.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:05 AM | Permalink

November 24, 2009

'Hide the decline' of truth

I always believed scientists were motivated by the pursuit of truth.  Yes, I knew there was a whole global industry in climate change, but I thought mainly they were politicians greedy for power, environmental extremists seeking to raise money and bureaucrats looking for sinecures.  I just never grasped how deeply corrupt so many scientists had become.  What was hidden to me until now was the extent of the decline of interest in the truth.

ClimateGate: The Fix is In

This is an enormous case of organized scientific fraud, but it is not just scientific fraud. It is also a criminal act. Suborned by billions of taxpayer dollars devoted to climate research, dozens of prominent scientists have established a criminal racket in which they seek government money-Phil Jones has raked in a total of £13.7 million in grants from the British government-which they then use to falsify data and defraud the taxpayers. It's the most insidious kind of fraud: a fraud in which the culprits are lauded as public heroes. Judging from this cache of e-mails, they even manage to tell themselves that their manipulation of the data is intended to protect a bigger truth and prevent it from being "confused" by inconvenient facts and uncontrolled criticism.

The damage here goes far beyond the loss of a few billions of taxpayer dollars on bogus scientific research. The real cost of this fraud is the trillions of dollars of wealth that will be destroyed if a fraudulent theory is used to justify legislation that starves the global economy of its cheapest and most abundant sources of energy.

This is the scandal of the century. It needs to be thoroughly investigated-and the culprits need to be brought to justice.

Climategate Computer Codes Are the Real Story

I think there’s a good reason the CRU didn’t want to give their data to people trying to replicate their work.

It’s in such a mess that they can’t replicate their own results.

So why is ClimateGate Totally Ignored By TV News Outlets Except Fox?

Who cares about the truth?

Ace on the Media Blackout

What what these guys are doing -- and this is the real scandal that no one wants to address -- is merely presenting their claims as naked assertions, with charts and displays to "back them up," and then when people ask for the data, methodology, and assumptions that went into creating those displays, they simply refuse.
Science is in the business of reproducible results. That is the central point of it. That results must be reproducible by anyone following the same procedure.

But they refuse to disclose what procedure produced these results, so no one can reproduce them. At least -- no one except their buddies, chatting together in secret email lists, telling each other what "tricks" to use to "hide the decline."

And no one points out: This is not science. Science is not secret. It is open, it is conducted openly, information -- the goal of science -- is to be disseminated, not hoarded and kept under lock and key.

The Anchoress
In a nutshell, Climategate is a destroyer of world-views. As someone who has always maintained that the AGW hype was a matter of politicians and grifters seizing an opportunity to use unsettled science as a means of getting filthy rich while imposing harsh measures against human freedom, I am very familiar with the world-view of the alarmists.
Let’s name the grifters, disassemble the dubious global policies that have been hovering for landing in Copenhagen, admit that the greatest threat to the world and its people is predicated on bombs and hate rather than some feckless, unprovable idea, and then let’s prepare for the cold, cold winter with some good old-fashioned oil-drilling while we finally begin to debate a nuclear future.

Investors Daily in Climate Con Job
Junk Science: The Senate expects to take up global warming legislation by spring, but nothing more should happen in Congress on this issue until there's been a thorough probe of the ClimateGate scandal.
These scientists, if they can still be called that, have successfully conned the world into believing that radical and costly remediation is needed to stop the planet from overheating. They have needlessly menaced people and taken taxpayer funds to perpetuate the deception. They need to he held accountable. Sen. James Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Environmental and Public Works Committee, and Lord Lawson, British chancellor under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, are right to be calling for investigations.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 23, 2009

More on the mother who didn't give up

Hats off to this remarkable mother. 

I never gave up hope: The mother of man in 'coma' for 23 years knew he understood every word she said

Josephine Houben's son Rom was left paralysed at the age of 20 after a car crash in 1983.

Although doctors insisted his consciousness was 'extinct' and that he was unaware of the world around him, Mrs Houben refused to accept the diagnosis.

Josephine Houben insists she knew her son Rom could understand her during his 23 year 'coma'

Three years ago, she contacted a leading brain specialist, who re-examined Mr Houben and found his brain was working almost normally.

It emerged he was suffering from 'locked-in' syndrome, and that although he had lost control of his body he was still fully aware of what was happening.

Mrs Houben, 73, who lives in Liege, Belgium, said: 'The important message is never give up. You must have faith.

'My husband and I always knew instinctively that he was there as a human being.

'But the doctors were always doubtful and said he was a vegetable.

'But my husband and I knew he wasn't.

'If I asked him to move his eyes in a certain direction he did so.

'The doctors weren't impressed and they said it was a nervous tic or a coincidence. They didn't believe us.
We took him often on holiday with us to the south of France.

'I fed him with a spoon and we talked to him and treated him in every way as if he was a normal person.

'When my husband died in 1997 I went to the hospital to tell him that his father was dead. He shut his eyes.

'There were no tears but he understood everything.

'Recently, when he was able to communicate with me, he passed me a message via the computer to say, "Sorry, I could not help you mummy when father went".'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:58 PM | Permalink

No country for old men

Via Bookworm Room comes the depressing and disheartening news that the World War II vets in Britain still alive in Britain say

'This isn't the Britain we fought for'

Nearly 400,000 Britons died. Millions more were scarred by the experience, physically and mentally.
But was it worth it? Her answer - and the answer of many of her contemporaries, now in their 80s and 90s - is a resounding No.

They despise what has become of the Britain they once fought to save. It's not our country any more, they say, in sorrow and anger.

Sarah harks back to the days when 'people kept the laws and were polite and courteous. We didn't have much money, but we were contented and happy.

'People whistled and sang. There was still the United Kingdom, our country, which we had fought for, our freedom, democracy. But where is it now?


As a group, they feel furious at not being able to speak their minds.

They see the lack of debate and the damning of dissenters as racists or Little Englanders as deeply upsetting affronts to freedom of speech.

'Our British culture is draining away at an ever increasing pace,' wrote an ex-Durham Light Infantryman, 'and we are almost forbidden to make any comment.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:47 PM | Permalink


Patient trapped in a 23-year 'coma' was conscious all along

A car crash victim diagnosed as being in a coma for the past 23 years has been conscious the whole time.

Rom Houben was paralysed but had no way of letting doctors know that he could hear every word they were saying.

'I dreamed myself away,' said Mr Houben, now 46, who doctors thought was in a persistent vegatative state.

He added: 'I screamed, but there was nothing to hear.'
Mr Houben described the moment as 'my second birth'. Therapy has since allowed him to tap out messages on a computer screen.

Mr Houben said: 'All that time I just literally dreamed of a better life. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt.'

It was a high tech brain scan that revealed that Houben's brain was still functioning almost completely normally.

It's almost to imagine the extraordinary isolation of those aware but unable to communicate. 

They are The Undead.

On the Very Edge of Life and Death. 

There's More 'There' There.

The sensation surrounding the publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by the French editor Jean-Dominque Bauby was as much for the revelation of the existence of such a thing as  'locked-in syndrome' as for the courage and humanity of Jean Do, who wrote his memoir in his head and communicated sentence by sentence through the  blinking of his eyes.

Later, the artist Julian Schnabel made the quite extraordinary movie of the same name in 2007 which was nominated for four Academy awards. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:31 AM | Permalink

Global Warming Scientific Fraud

Philip Jones is a climatologist at the University of East Anglia which maintains the "instrumental temperature record" on which much of global warming theory depends.  He is director of the Climate Research Unit (CRU).

A couple of days ago, a hacker broke into that CRU  and released 61 megabites of confidential files onto the internet.

James Delingpole calls it  Climategate and asks whether it's  the final nail in the coffin of 'Anthropogenic Global Warming'?

When you read some of those files – including 1079 emails and 72 documents – you realise just why the boffins at Hadley CRU might have preferred to keep them confidential. As Andrew Bolt puts it, this scandal could well be “the greatest in modern science”. These alleged emails – supposedly exchanged by some of the most prominent scientists pushing AGW theory – suggest:

Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.
But perhaps the most damaging revelations  – the scientific equivalent of the Telegraph’s MPs’ expenses scandal – are those concerning the way
Warmist scientists may variously have manipulated or suppressed evidence in order to support their cause.

Delingpole summarizes: they  manipulated evidence, had private doubts whether the world really is heating up, suppressed evidence, had fantasies of violence against climate sceptic scientists and discussed how best to squeeze dissenting scientists out of the peer review process.

Remember this when people argue the science is settled. 

Andrew Bolt excerpts the most damning of Professor Jones's emails.

Nigel Lawson in The London Times, Copenhagen will fail - and quite right too

Astonishingly, what appears, at least at first blush, to have emerged is that (a) the scientists have been manipulating the raw temperature figures to show a relentlessly rising global warming trend; (b) they have consistently refused outsiders access to the raw data; (c) the scientists have been trying to avoid freedom of information requests; and (d) they have been discussing ways to prevent papers by dissenting scientists being published in learned journals.

There may be a perfectly innocent explanation. But what is clear is that
the integrity of the scientific evidence on which not merely the British Government, but other countries, too, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claim to base far-reaching and hugely expensive policy decisions, has been called into question. And the reputation of British science has been seriously tarnished. A high-level independent inquiry must be set up without delay.

The Founder of the Weather Channel and 30,000 other scientists wanting to sue Al Gore for Global Warming Fraud

It's about time since for years  global warming scientists have been unwilling to debate the skeptics.  Instead they insisted the science was settled, the consensus was overwhelming and called skeptics the equivalent of Holocaust deniers.

When faced with fraud charges, they will be forced to defend their claims, reveal their evidence and submit to cross-examination. 

Christopher Booker, The Obsession With 'Climate Change' Turning Out To Be The Most Costly Scientific Blunder In History

the most notorious example of this was the so-called 'hockey stick' graph, which for years was brandished to show that, after flat-lining for 1,000 years, global temperatures had suddenly soared upwards in the late 20th century to levels never known before in recorded history.

The hockey stick was used by the IPCC and Gore as the supreme icon of their cause. Then, two statisticians revealed that the graph had been created by a computer model programmed to produce hockey stick shapes whatever data were fed into it.

Before it is too late, we must insist our politicians re- examine the increasingly shaky scientific case on which all those proposals are based.
No one has put this better than Professor Lindzen, one of the world's leading climatologists, when he wrote:
'Future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st-century's developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally average temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree, and on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections contemplated a roll-back of the industrial age.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:45 AM | Permalink

November 22, 2009

"You are the custodians of beauty in the world"

"This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart, and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration. And all this through the work of your hands... Remember that you are the custodians of beauty in the world."

as artists you know well that the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.

Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God.

Pope Benedict XVI in the Sistine Chapel addressing representatives of all the arts

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:13 PM | Permalink

November 20, 2009

Irresponsible, unnecessary, reckless and political

I really try not to write about politics on this blog, but the Attorney General's decision to give Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his fellow terrorists a civilian trial in New York City just blocks from Ground Zero has had me infuriated for days. 

Charles Krauthammer on the Travesty in New York

For late-19th-century anarchists, terrorism was the "propaganda of the deed." And the most successful propaganda-by-deed in history was 9/11 -- not just the most destructive, but the most spectacular and telegenic.

And now its self-proclaimed architect, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, has been given by the Obama administration a civilian trial in New York. Just as the memory fades, 9/11 has been granted a second life -- and KSM, a second act: "9/11, The Director's Cut," narration by KSM.

September 11, 2001 had to speak for itself. A decade later, the deed will be given voice. KSM has gratuitously been presented with the greatest propaganda platform imaginable -- a civilian trial in the media capital of the world -- from which to proclaim the glory of jihad and the criminality of infidel America.
By what logic? In his congressional testimony Wednesday, Holder was utterly incoherent in trying to explain. In his Nov. 13 news conference, he seemed to be saying that if you attack a civilian target, as in 9/11, you get a civilian trial; a military target like the Cole, and you get a military tribunal.
Moreover, the incentive offered any jihadi is as irresistible as it is perverse: Kill as many civilians as possible on American soil and Holder will give you Miranda rights, a lawyer, a propaganda platform -- everything but your own blog.

I was shocked to see that Attorney General Holder never seemed to have considered precedent which is the first thing any law school student learns.  Lindsey Graham asks "If Bin Laden were captured today would we have to read him his Miranda rights at the moment of capture?" 

Andrew McCarthy is the go-to guy to read when it comes to criminal trials for terrorists.  He is the former Assistant United States Attorney who in 1995 prosecuted Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 others for the 1993 bombing of World Trade Center bombing and this is what he has to say

The decision to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other top al-Qaeda terrorists to New York City for a civilian trial is one of the most irresponsible ever made by a presidential administration. That it is motivated by politics could not be more obvious. That it spells unprecedented danger for our security will soon become obvious.
Pres. Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, experienced litigators, fully realize that in civilian court, the Qaeda quintet can and will demand discovery of mountains of government intelligence. They will demand disclosures about investigative tactics; the methods and sources by which intelligence has been obtained; the witnesses from the intelligence community, the military, and law enforcement who interrogated witnesses, conducted searches, secretly intercepted enemy communications, and employed other investigative techniques. They will attempt to compel testimony from officials who formulated U.S. counterterrorism strategy, in addition to U.S. and foreign intelligence officers. As civilian “defendants,” these war criminals will put Bush-era counterterrorism tactics under the brightest public spotlight in American legal history.

This is Justice Delayed by "Holder's friends in the al-Qaeda bar that caused the trial delays he now criticizes."

It is mind-boggling that the delay in completing commission trials would be derided by Eric Holder, a lawyer whose firm is among those responsible for the litigation-driven delay that became a lawfare triumph for al-Qaeda. Holder and his comrades did everything they could do to undermine the commission system, both in legal motions and in public appearances accusing the Bush administration of torture, war crimes, and disregard for the legal rights of terrorists.

And exactly when would Holder have had Khalid Sheikh Mohammed be tried? We did not gain custody of him until his capture by the Pakstanis in 2003. After that, years were taken to break him in our attempt to extract the full breadth of his knowledge of al-Qaeda’s players and plans, and to exploit that intelligence to save lives. KSM was submitted to a military commission in 2006 — shortly after Holder’s colleagues in the al-Qaeda bar got the commission system invalidated in Hamdan.

Yet, within two years (i.e., in less time than most civilian terrorism cases), KSM and four fellow war criminals stood ready to plead guilty and proceed to execution. But then the Obama administration blew into Washington. Want to talk about delay? Obama shut down the commission despite the jihadists’ efforts to conclude it by pleading guilty. Obama’s team permitted no movement on the case for eleven months and now has torpedoed a perfectly valid commission case — despite keeping the commission system for other cases — so that we can instead endure an incredibly expensive and burdensome civilian trial that will take years to complete.

The KSM were "ready to plead guilty and proceed to execution".    Americans, especially New Yorkers, deserve more than this irresponsible, unnecessary, reckless and political show trial proposed by this Administration.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 AM | Permalink

Unlikely and inspiring Odyssey

IN 1975 Hung Ba Lee was only 5 when he fled Vietnam in a fishing boat piloted by his father,  a commander in the South Vietnamese Navy and the rest of his family and 400 other refugess.  They were rescued at sea by the US navy, taken to a U.S. base in the Philippines, then a refugee camp in California and finally to Virginia where the family rebuilt their lives.

Last week, Le returned to Vietnam as commander of a Navy warship.

Unique homecoming to Vietnam for US commander.

 Unique Homecoming Vietnam Usnavycommander

Le returned on the Lassen, an $800 million, 509-foot destroyer equipped with Tomahawk missiles and a crew of 300. The ship and the USS Blue Ridge, the command vessel for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet, are making the latest in a series of goodwill visits to Vietnam, which began in 2003 when the USS Vandergriff paid a port call to Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon.

"I thought that one day I would return but I really didn't expect to be returning as the commander of a Navy warship," Le said after stepping ashore Saturday. "It's an incredible personal honor."

"I'm proud to be an American, but I'm also very proud of my Vietnamese heritage," said Le, who spoke a few halting words in Vietnamese.
Le has few memories of his three-day journey on the fishing trawler, which ended just as they were running out of food, water and fuel.

But he has vivid memories of the example set by his father, Thong Ba Le, who is now 69 and has never returned to Vietnam. After the family settled in northern Virginia, he took a job in a supermarket, where he worked his way up from bag boy to manager.

"I always wanted to be like my dad," Le said. "He persevered and overcame many challenges."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

November 18, 2009

When unemployment continues to rise, what to do?

A terrific multimedia timeline graphic on the rise of unemployment across the country from 2007-2009.

"The worst is yet to come" writes Nouriel Roubini, one economist who saw the trouble coming and about whom Fortune magazine said
In 2005, Roubini said home prices were riding a speculative wave that would soon sink the economy. Back then the professor was called a Cassandra. Now he's a sage.

Unemployed Americans should hunker dow for more job losses.

This is very bad news but we must face facts. Many of the lost jobs are gone forever, including construction jobs, finance jobs and manufacturing jobs. Recent studies suggest that a quarter of U.S. jobs are fully out-sourceable over time to other countries.
Based on my best judgment, it is most likely that the unemployment rate will peak close to 11% and will remain at a very high level for two years or more.

The weakness in labor markets and the sharp fall in labor income ensure a weak recovery of private consumption and an anemic recovery of the economy, and increases the risk of a double dip recession.

Ben Bernake is more circumspect

In remarks to the Economic Club of New York, Bernanke predicted the economy should continue to grow next year, but he warned of "important headwinds," including a weak job market and tight credit for small businesses and households.

Those forces "likely will prevent the expansion from being as robust as we would hope," he said

So what's an average person to do?

Megan McArdle who blogs on economics for the Atlantic has had her own share of economic travails.  Newly engaged, she was surprised to find herself converted by financial guru David Ramsey whose message is simple Lead Us Not Into Debt.

Nonetheless, Ramsey has made a convert out of a secular journalist with one of the pricey M.B.A.s he likes to poke fun at. I have never felt as serenely in control of my finances as I have during these months of knowing that every single dollar is where it is supposed to be: either in the bank, or on a well-chaperoned date with our envelope organizer. The process has been surprisingly painless but, even more surprisingly, pleasant.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

30 second cure for hiccups

Alone at home last night, I came down with hiccups that wouldn't stop.  I googled and found this 30 second cure for hiccups that I pass on because it worked right away.  The key is in the swallowing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:08 AM | Permalink

November 16, 2009

The Economic Effects of Religion and Religious Liberty

Michael Fitzgerald writes a terrific article on the curious economic effects of religion in the Boston Globe

Satan, the great motivator

A pair of Harvard researchers recently examined 40 years of data from dozens of countries, trying to sort out the economic impact of religious beliefs or practices. They found that religion has a measurable effect on developing economies - and the most powerful influence relates to how strongly people believe in hell.
It stands as one of the more intriguing findings in a growing body of recent research exploring how religion might influence the wealth and prosperity of societies. In recent years,
Italian economists have presented findings that religion can boost GDP by increasing trust within a society; researchers in the United States showed that religion reduces corruption and increases respect for law in ways that boost overall economic growth. A number of researchers have documented how merchants used religious backgrounds to establish one another’s reliabity
On a larger scale, religious denominations affect economics by
creating bonds of trust and shared commitment among small groups, both necessary qualities for lending and trade. In the Middle Ages, studies show, monk-run estates outperformed those that used serfs, thanks to religiously inspired cooperation and frugality. The Quakers of 18th-century Britain, renowned for their scrupulous honesty, came to dominate British finance. Ultra-orthodox Jews similarly dominate New York’s diamond trade because of levels of trust based on religion. Modern religious kibbutzim on average outperform their secular rivals, in part because of trust built through engaging in communal religious rituals.

Back in 1985 German-born Cardinal Ratzinger who was to become  Pope Benedict XVI  presented a paper entitled ``Market Economy and Ethics'' at a Rome event dedicated to the Church and the economy in which he predicted that  a decline in ethics ``can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse.''

It is becoming an increasingly obvious fact of economic history that the development of economic systems which concentrate on the common good depends on a determinate ethical system, which in turn can be born and sustained only by strong religious convictions. Conversely, it has also become obvious that the decline of such discipline can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse. An economic policy that is ordered not only to the good of the group — indeed, not only to the common good of a determinate state — but to the common good of the family of man demands a maximum of ethical discipline and thus a maximum of religious strength. The political formation of a will that employs the inherent economic laws towards this goal appears, in spite of all humanitarian protestations, almost impossible today. It can only be realized if new ethical powers are completely set free.

On his visit to the White House, Pope Benedict quoted his predecessor Pope John Paul II
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.

But there's more to it.  Arab societies are strongly religious in their profession of Islam.  Yet Arab societies, apart from oil money, have not developed economically as they should have.  Joseph Loconte strongly suggests that  economic prosperity requires religious liberty in Economic Prosperity: A Step of Faith

Christian reformers of the seventeenth century, in fact, were among the first to grasp the importance of freedom of conscience to the stability and economic well-being of the state.
Henry Robinson (1605-1664), a merchant and son of a wealthy London tradesman, traveled widely on the Continent...Robinson regarded the right of private judgment in matters of faith as essential to human flourishing, akin to the right to private property or private enterprise. These rights were connected, and the repression of religious freedom produced blowback in the economic realm.
These facts still seem to be lost on many Muslim intellectuals. They complain about the “deprivation of human capability” in the Arab world, but exonerate regimes that deprive people of their inalienable rights. They link economic growth to new forms of “social cohesion,” but tolerate political arrangements that guarantee social strife. They even call for a “fundamental rethinking” of how Arab states should approach cultural and religious diversity—yet refuse to rethink their assumptions about the nature of religious belief or the moral demands of human dignity.

It requires no leap of faith—just, perhaps, a little historical memory—to realize this is not the road to economic development. It is the long and fractious and familiar detour to permanent stagnation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 PM | Permalink

Market-based health care solutions

Seven market-based health care solutions that have lowered health care costs and improved both access and quality of service  have gone unnoticed.  Congress to Healthcare Market: Drop Dead

1. Retail clinics
2. Retail clinic-hospital partnerships
3. On-site workplace healthcare clinics
4. Affordable $4 generic drugs that have already saved consumers $1 billion since Walmart introduced them in 2008.
5. Prepaid medical plans
6. Concierge medicine
7. High-deductible health insurance plans along with individually owned and managed health savings accounts.

Just for the record, the CBO released its cost analysis of the Republican health care plan and found it would reduce health care premiums and the deficit by $68 billion over 10 years.

How were the Republicans able to reduce costs?

• by creating high-risk insurance pools
• allowing people to purchase health insurance policies across state lines
• instituting medical malpractice reforms

Today, small businesses  - the ones who create the majority of jobs - have difficulties finding affordable health plans for their employees because they lack the negotiating leverage a large business has.  Under the Republican plan, rates would drop 7-10% for  small business plans, 5-8% for the individual market and only 0-3% for large corporations.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:01 PM | Permalink

Health Round-up

Here are some miscellaneous health care stories from the past several days that seem worthy of notice.

I never knew that breast-feeding your baby helps you shed extra weight you gain during the pregnancy.
Breast-Feed the Baby, Love the Calorie Burn

Dr Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist who spent 20 years counseling college students is on a tear to challenge the "sex ed oligarchy"  What's missing in sex education. 

She specifically wants to smash the ideas that "sex trumps everything" in life, and "promiscuity, experimentation and fringe behaviors" are healthy.

In Britain with recent changes to assisted suicide rules,  a group of leading lawyers, peers and former judges warn Elderly and disabled could be forced to commit suicide under changes to rules

“The current law acts as a powerful deterrent against abuse and exploitation of vulnerable people and has been firmly upheld by Parliament.  Removing these safeguards could lead to increase in vulnerable and disabled people being pressured into ending their lives.”

Elder medical care is not one of the six core areas that are the focus of medical school training.  The American Geriatric Society calls out to all medical schools to prepare all medical students to treat the elderly.  There are just not enough geriatricians to go around (only 1 geriatrician for 2546 elderly today and in 20 years only 1 for 5000 elderly)

There are drugs that work to prevent prostate cancer and breast cancer.  So why aren't people at risk taking them?
Gina Kolata tries to figure out why Medicines to Deter Some Cancers Are Not Taken

Much of what Americans do in the name of warding off cancer has not been shown to matter, and some things are actually harmful. Yet the few medicines proved to deter cancer are widely ignored.

"Rumbles through the medical community" as a third study questions the effectiveness of the popular cholesterol drugs Zetia and Vytorin. 

A widely prescribed and expensive cholesterol drug is not as effective as
niacin, a cheap vitamin, in helping to unclog coronary arteries in people already taking statins, the standard medicines used to lower cholesterol, according to a new study.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:55 PM | Permalink

November 14, 2009

"Holy crap, that's it"

Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything

An impoverished surfer has drawn up a new theory of the universe, seen by some as the Holy Grail of physics, which has received rave reviews from scientists.

Garrett Lisi, 39, has a doctorate but no university affiliation and spends most of the year surfing in Hawaii, where he has also been a hiking guide and bridge builder (when he slept in a jungle yurt).

 Garrett Lisi Surferdude Physicist

Lee Smolin at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, describes Lisi's work as "fabulous". "It is one of the most compelling unification models I've seen in many, many years," he says.
Lisi's inspiration lies in the most elegant and intricate shape known to mathematics, called E8 - a complex, eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887, but only fully understood by mathematicians this year after workings, that, if written out in tiny print, would cover an area the size of Manhattan.

E8 encapsulates the symmetries of a geometric object that is 57-dimensional and is itself is 248-dimensional. Lisi says "I think our universe is this beautiful shape."
Lisi's breakthrough came when he noticed that some of the equations describing E8's structure matched his own. "My brain exploded with the implications and the beauty of the thing," he tells New Scientist. "I thought: 'Holy crap, that's it!'"

The above linked article by Roger Highfield appeared in 2007 and since has been viewed over a million times as Highfield follows up in the Surfer dude's theory of everything: the magic of Garrett Lisi

There is no way I can grasp what he is doing but the video that purports to explain it is stunningly beautiful and ordered, so I conclude he's on to something.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2009

The Center of Our Galaxy

 Milky Way

The dazzling image combining reds, yellows, blues and purples, was created by layering stunningly detailed pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory on top of each other.

The Milky Way is at the centre of our own galaxy and this image shows its core. The image was created to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first demonstration of his telescope.

Each telescope's contribution has been presented in a different colour. Yellow represents the near-infrared observations of Hubble, which is better known for its astonishing visible-light pictures.These infrared observations outline the most active regions where stars are being born and reveal hundreds of thousands of stars.

Red represents the infrared observations of Spitzer. The radiation and winds from stars create glowing dust clouds that form complex structures from compact spheres to long, stringy filaments.

Blue and violet represent the X-ray observations of Chandra. X-rays are emitted by gas heated to millions of degrees by stellar explosions and outflows from the super-massive black hole in the galaxy's centre.

The bright blue blob on the left side is an emission from a double star system containing either a neutron star or a black hole. A supermassive black hole - some four million times more massive than the Sun - resides within the bright region in the lower right.

When these views are brought together, the composite image provides one of the most detailed views ever of our galaxy's mysterious core.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:52 PM | Permalink

November 11, 2009

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

The Armistice between the Allies and Germany calling for the cessation of hostilities and ending WWI  took effect. 
Twenty million died.

 In Flanders' Fields

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 AM | Permalink

November 10, 2009

The Third Man

Near death, aided by ghostly companions

When Sevigny awakened, he could barely stand. His back was broken in two places, his knees were busted, and he had internal bleeding. He gave up hope of surviving and curled up in the snow to die. But then he felt an odd sensation. He felt someone behind him and heard a voice: "No, you can't give up. You have to live."

"It was right over my right shoulder," Sevigny said. "It was like if I would sneak up to you and put my nose a quarter of an inch from your neck. It was that kind of physical sensation."

What happened next was so profound that Sevigny, a scientist who disdains organized religion, says he couldn't talk about it for years afterward without crying. Sevigny still doesn't know who that voice belonged to, but another man does. He calls it "The Third Man."

Some people call them guardian angels.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 AM | Permalink

Politics will dominate medical coverage

The Lords of Entitlement

The bill is instead a breathtaking display of illiberal ambition, intended to make the middle class more dependent on government through the umbilical cord of "universal health care." It creates a vast new entitlement, financed by European levels of taxation on business and individuals. The 20% corner of Medicare open to private competition is slashed, while fiscally strapped states are saddled with new Medicaid burdens. The insurance industry will have to vet every policy with Washington, which will regulate who it must cover, what it can offer, and how much it can charge.
The real importance of the abortion uproar is as preview of the politics that will dominate every medical coverage issue if ObamaCare becomes law.
Every decision of what to insure or not—when an MRI can be used, or whether a stage-four breast cancer patient can get Avastin or some future expensive drug—will become subject to political intervention over moral disputes or budget constraints. Heretofore, these decisions have largely been made between a doctor and patient. This is the real "right to life" issue.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:21 AM | Permalink

November 9, 2009

The Fall of the Wall

Widowed a little over a year, I went to Washington, D.C., a political appointee in the first Bush administration. In so doing, fulfilled a dream I had since childhood when I worked in John Kennedy's campaign for President. and was inspired by his "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"  In college,  I decided to major in government in college with a focus on foreign policy which in those days was all about the Cold War.  The stories of the brutalities in the Soviet Union and in China were horrific and forever inoculated me from leftism and from romantic ideologues who excused the cruelty and the brutishness of these regimes because their grand utopian ends justified any means.

I couldn't have imagined that 1989 would be a "year of miracles"  with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain across Eastern Europe.  Watching the news and seeing the euphoria of hundreds of thousands of people as they fled West was amazing, profoundly moving and exhilarating.  The long war won without a shot being fired because it was an evil empire rotten through and through.

For Christmas that year, I was given a piece of the Wall as a souvenir.  I held it in my hands, then burst into tears, thinking of all the people who had died in gulags and camps and by disastrous government policies that caused wide spread famine.  100 million victims.


Roger Kimball in Tyranny Set in Stone

Was there ever a more fitting monument to tyranny than the Berlin Wall? Conceived in desperation, this brutal barrier was erected in 1961 by the state not for the protection but for the incarceration of its citizens. Hold fast to that thought. The Berlin Wall was the stuff of gritty spy novels, the literal instantiation of Winston Churchill’s “iron curtain,” which in 1946, with characteristic prescience, he saw descending across Central and Eastern Europe.
What, finally, brought down the wall? The candidates for that honor are many, from the impersonal operation of History to the people-power of movements like Solidarity and the spiritual leadership of Pope John Paul II. Among Western academics, the role of Mikhail Gorbachev enjoys pride of place. His mantras of glasnost and perestroika (“openness” and “restructuring”) became favored terms in English. In the late 1980s, Gorbachev, the true-believing Communist, was the hero. Never mind that he wished to salvage the Soviet empire: he spoke to the hearts and minds of the Western intelligentsia in a way Ronald Reagan never did. Reagan, after all, had the temerity early on in his tenure to describe the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” How the liberal establishment recoiled from, how it ridiculed that phrase. “The Western diplomatic firmament,” William F. Buckley Jr. recalled in 1990, “shook with indignation.”

Natan Sharansky, the Soviet dissident who became an Israeli politician, was confined to an eight by ten foot prison cell at the time  and later wrote

My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth--a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.

Berlin-Wall Death Strip

John O Sullivan on Freedom's Triumph

Until 1989, Europe and the world were divided between freedom and communism. These two systems were in constant conflict, militarily, economically and ideologically even if their struggles were kept in some kind of stable equilibrium by the nuclear balance of terror. Most observers thought this Cold War was a permanent fact of life.

Ronald Reagan disagreed. He told friends his view of the Cold War was "We win, they lose."

This process began even before Reagan's election: In 1979, Pope John Paul II visited his native Poland and was greeted by a nation united with him against an isolated communist government.

It gathered steam when Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl were elected in America, Britain and West Germany on conservative platforms of installing US missiles in Europe to match the Soviet SS-20s. By 1984, the missiles had been installed in the face of a vast, Moscow-inspired "peace" campaign. At that point, we'd won; they'd lost.
There was a natural outburst of rejoicing throughout Europe — more from ordinary people on both sides of the Iron Curtain than from their cautious governments. In its 70-plus years of power, Soviet communism had murdered tens of millions of people; penned millions more in slave camps; corrupted those beyond its raw power; ruled through terror, censorship and lies; launched World War II jointly with the Nazis, and concealed its criminal rule behind a Potemkin façade of social idealism and scientific advance.

 Fall Berlin Wall

Wall St Journal, From Truman to Reagan, the benefits of moral clarity

Yet if the West's stand in Berlin demonstrates anything, it is that moral commitments have a way of reaping strategic dividends over time. By ordering the airlift in 1948, Harry Truman saved a starving city and defied Soviet bullying. As importantly, he showed that the U.S. would not abandon Europe to its furies, as it had after World War I, thus helping to pave the way for the creation of NATO in April 1949.

By holding firm for 40 years, Truman and his successors transformed what was supposed to be the Atlantic alliance's weakest point into its strongest. To know what the West stood for during most of those years, one merely had to go to Berlin, see the Wall, consider its purpose, and observe the contrasts between the vibrant prosperity on one side of the city and the oppressive monotony on the other.
"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle," George Orwell once said. That is what the heroes of 1989 did with unblinking honesty and courage for years on end until, at last, the Wall came tumbling down.

David Pryce Jones in Remembering the Fall of the Berlin Wall suggests that the events that night in Berlin began with an unintended impression given by an East German official at a press conference and a frantic telephone call by a border agent that went unanswered.

Honecker would have had no scruple about giving orders to fire on the crowd, and nor would Erich Mielke, brutal head of the Stasi. Egon Krenz likes to boast that as prime minister he killed nobody but this was because he lost the chance to do so. Plans for armed repression certainly existed. Instead, as often seems the case at historic turning points, accident took over. Gyula Horn, on behalf of the Hungarian Communist party, decided to open the Hungarian section of the Iron Curtain. To a certain extent, the Hungarians wanted to make life difficult for the Soviets, but more generally, they hadn't perceived that from that moment East Germans would come and go as they pleased in huge numbers. The moment the Soviet bloc was no longer a properly controlled entity the Berlin Wall became a relic.
Günter Schabowski was the East German Politburo member who had the task of explaining to the world's press this sudden and unexpected breech in the Soviet empire. He had drawn the short straw. Maybe he was even an honest man, as such types go. Once he was no longer a Communist apparatchik, he took a job as a lowly journalist in Rothenburg, an unspoilt little town in West Germany, and there I interviewed him. At the outset of his famous press conference, he was to say, he had had no intention of declaring that the Berlin Wall was now open. But the questions threw him off balance, (Daniel Johnson, son of Paul Johnson, was one of the questioners) and he misspoke — as politicians like to put it — giving the unintended impression that people could indeed now cross the Wall freely.
Within a short time, the picks and jack-hammers were out and cheering people were dismantling the Wall. In another interview, I questioned the Stasi officer who had been on duty that night at the crucial point. When Schabowski's press conference brought the demonstrators charging towards him and his men, he would willingly have opened fire but needed the order to do so to cover himself. His urgent telephone call to his superiors for instructions went unanswered.

What is the likelihood that this was deliberate rather than incompetent? So this officer and his bewildered Stasi men were overrun with their weapons in hand, and so Schabowski played the sort of minor role on whom the plot turns that Shakespeare loved to write about, and so Gorbachev was as surprised as the rest of the world to be granted the great good fortune of entering the history books as the man who freed millions from Communism.

Such is history,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:27 PM | Permalink

"Lenin would have smiled"


Melanie Phillips writes We were fools to think the fall of the Berlin Wall had killed off the far Left. They're back - and attacking us from within

For many communist fellow travellers, the scales fell from their eyes when the Hungarian uprising was crushed in 1956. Others, over the years, lost faith not just in communism but in its less radical sister, socialism, as their core tenet of 'equality' proved itself in a myriad different ways to be the enemy of freedom and justice, with market forces appearing to carry the torch of liberty instead.

But as communism slowly crumbled, those on the far-Left who remained hostile towards western civilisation found another way to realise their goal of bringing it down.

This was what might be called 'cultural Marxism'. It was based on the understanding that what holds a society together are the pillars of its culture: the structures and institutions of education, family, law, media and religion. Transform the principles that these embody and you can thus destroy the society they have shaped.

This key insight was developed in particular by an Italian Marxist philosopher called Antonio Gramsci. His thinking was taken up by Sixties radicals  -  who are, of course, the generation that holds power in the West today.
with the development of the EU superstate we can see that the victory over one anti-democratic regime within Europe  -  the Soviet Union  -  has been followed by surrender to another.

For the republic of Euroland puts loyalty to itself higher than that to individual nations and their values. It refused to commit itself in its constitution to uphold Christianity, the foundation of western morality.

Instead, it is committed to moral and cultural relativism, which sets group against group and guarantees supreme and antidemocratic power to the bureaucrats setting the rules of 'diversity' and outlawing all dissent from permitted attitudes.

When the Berlin Wall fell, we told ourselves that this was the end of ideology. We could not have been more wrong.

The Iron Curtain came down only to be replaced by a rainbow-hued knuckle-duster, as our cultural commissars pulverise all forbidden attitudes in order to reshape western society into a post-democratic, post-Christian, post-moral universe. Lenin would have smiled.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:03 PM | Permalink

November 7, 2009

"Human individuality cannot be contained"

A portfolio of tract houses by photographer Julie Baum who writes

 Julie Baum House

Over the past 50 years these Houses have transformed from modest white cubes into a vibrant display of personality and present a rebellion against conformity. My work asserts that human individuality cannot be contained. Inevitably it shines through even the most average facade.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

More than 1 in 6 is unemployed or underemployed

Broader Measure of U.S. Unemployment Stands at 17.5%  reports The New York Times.

More than one out of every six workers — 17.5 percent — were unemployed or underemployed in October. The previous recorded high was 17.1 percent, in December 1982.

This includes the officially unemployed, who have looked for work in the last four weeks. It also includes discouraged workers, who have looked in the past year, as well as millions of part-time workers who want to be working full time.

The official jobless rate — 10.2 percent in October, up from 9.8 percent in September — remains lower than the early 1980s peak of 10.8 percent.

With the release of the jobs report on Friday, the broadest measure of unemployment and underemployment tracked by the Labor Department has reached its highest level in decades. If statistics went back so far, the measure would almost certainly be at its highest level since the Great Depression.

                                  Chart from Innocent Bystanders

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:36 AM | Permalink

They failed to cultivate hypocrisy, treachery and realpolitik

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall Roger Scruton writes

The flame that was snuffed out by freedom

My small contribution consisted of joining like-minded colleagues to smuggle books and printing materials, to organise lectures and to maintain an underground messaging service. The experience taught me a lot about people, and in particular about the transforming effect of sacrifice on the human character. The people that I met were imbued with a more than ordinary gentleness and concern for one another. It was hard to earn their trust but, once offered, trust was complete.

Moreover, because learning, culture and the European spiritual heritage were, for them, symbols of their own inner freedom, and of the national independence they sought to remember, if not to regain, they looked on those things with an unusual veneration. As a visitor from the world of fun, pop and comic strips I was amazed to discover students for whom words devoted to such things were wasted words, and who sat in those little pockets of underground air studying Greek literature, German philosophy, medieval theology and the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

In 1985 the secret police moved against me and I was arrested in Brno; visits to Czechoslovakia came to an end and I was followed in Poland and Hungary. But our team kept going until 1989 when, to our surprise, the catacombs were opened and our friends came pale, staggering and bewildered into the sunlight, to be hailed by the people as the natural trustees of their restituted country. This was a wonderful moment and, for a while, I believed that the public spirit that had reigned in the catacombs would now govern the State.

It was not to be. Having been excluded for decades from the rewards of worldly advancement, our friends had failed to cultivate those arts — hypocrisy, treachery and realpolitik — without which it is impossible to stay in government.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:23 AM | Permalink

November 5, 2009

"The demise of a once- great nation has arrived without a vote being cast or a bullet fired."

The end of a 1000 years of history.


Sold out to Europe by generations of weak, lying leaders

The drive by the Eurocrats to impose the Lisbon Treaty has made a mockery of democracy.  The Labour Government promised the British electorate a  referendum but disgracefully reneged on that pledge. Hugh Gaitskell would have been outraged by Brown’s refusal to keep his word. In his great 1962 speech he said that British  people had to be consulted about their future in Europe. The belief that the political élite knew best, he argued, “was an odious piece of hypocritical, supercilious, arrogant rubbish”.
WE will lose any vestige of control over our borders, our  justice system and our foreign policy
Our national embassies will be soon be superseded by those of the EU, while our Army will be subsumed within the new European Defence Force. EU control of all environmental policy will mean sweeping new regulations on everything from bin collections to petrol prices.

For the first time the
EU will have the power to raise its own taxes, bringing another heavy financial burden on the already oppressed British public.
Already 80 per cent of our laws are dictated by the EU. Lisbon will make Westminster redundant as an institution, there will be a Europe-wide police force, complete with all the  sinister intrusive powers of the modern surveillance state.
We can be sure that the fashionable ideology of political correctness will be rigorously enforced by our European masters, crushing the rich heritage of our Christian civilisation in the name of diversity. It is no coincidence that on the very day that the Lisbon Treaty was finally ratified by all 27 member states, the European Court ruled that crucifixes had to be banned in Italian schools for fear of offending minorities.   

The definition of dictatorship is the inability to remove from power those who govern us, no matter how corrupt or authoritarian they are. That is exactly what the post-Lisbon EU will be like, wielding unprecedented authority but accountable to none, insulated by privilege and riddled with abuses
But now,
without even a whimper, our politicians have thrown away our democratic liberties. What is even worse, the entire saga of our relationship with the EU has been based on the cynical deception of the public by the  political establishment.
"The demise of a once- great nation has arrived  without a vote being cast or a bullet fired.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 AM | Permalink

The 'Shale Gale'

Us Energy

Via American Thinker comes this graph of the day showing the extraordinary fossil fuel energy resources the United States has - more than Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezula and Canada.  The figures are sourced from this Congressional Research Service report released last week.

Randall Hoven pulls out these statistics from that same report.

Total fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) reserves of the US, in Barrels of Oil Equivalent:  1,321.3 billion BOE.

US consumption of fossil fuels in 2008:  14.8 billion BOE.

Earlier this week Daniel Yergin in the WSJ wrote about America's Natural Gas Revolution

Yet the natural gas revolution has unfolded with no great fanfare, no grand opening ceremony, no ribbon cutting. It just crept up. In 1990, unconventional gas—from shales, coal-bed methane and so-called "tight" formations—was about 10% of total U.S. production. Today it is around 40%, and growing fast, with shale gas by far the biggest part.

The potential of this "shale gale" only really became clear around 2007. In Washington, D.C., the discovery has come later—only in the last few months. Yet it is already changing the national energy dialogue and overall energy outlook in the U.S.—and could change the global natural gas balance.
With more drilling experience, U.S. estimates are likely to rise dramatically in the next few years. At current levels of demand, the U.S. has about 90 years of proven and potential supply—a number that is bound to go up as more and more shale gas is found.

A  'shale gale' of unconventional and abundant U.S. gas is transforming the energy market.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 AM | Permalink

November 4, 2009

Climate change religion

In England, Climate change belief given same legal status as religion

In a landmark ruling, Mr Justice Michael Burton said that "a belief in man-made climate change ... is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations".

The most famous climate change believer of all stands to make a bundle.  Al Gore could become the world's first carbon billionaire

For the NY Times, John Broder examines Gore's dual role as advocate and investor.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:01 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

More on the Worst Bill Ever

The Wall St Journal calls it The Worst Bill Ever

In a rational political world, this 1,990-page runaway train would have been derailed months ago. With spending and debt already at record peacetime levels, the bill creates a new and probably unrepealable middle-class entitlement that is designed to expand over time. Taxes will need to rise precipitously, even as ObamaCare so dramatically expands government control of health care that eventually all medicine will be rationed via politics.

Yet at this point, Democrats have dumped any pretense of genuine bipartisan "reform" and moved into the realm of pure power politics as they race against the unpopularity of their own agenda. The goal is to ram through whatever income-redistribution scheme they can claim to be "universal coverage." The result will be destructive on every level—for the health-care system, for the country's fiscal condition, and ultimately for American freedom and prosperity.

Mr. Obama rode into office on a wave of "change," but we doubt most voters realized that the change Democrats had in mind was making health care even more expensive and rigid than the status quo. Critics will say we are exaggerating, but we believe it is no stretch to say that Mrs. Pelosi's handiwork ranks with the Smoot-Hawley tariff and FDR's National Industrial Recovery Act as among the worst bills Congress has ever seriously contemplated.

Annual Medicare Fraud: $60 Billion; Annual Profits of Top Ten Insurance Companies: $8 billion

As 60 Minutes reported last week, Medicare fraud is rampant and has now replaced the cocaine (ahem) business as the major criminal activity in South Florida

House Republicans Find 111 New 'Bureaucracies' in Health Care Bill

Among some off the new agencies, the list cites a Health Insurance Exchange; the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation; the Public Health Investment Fund; the Public Health Workforce Corps; an Assistant Secretary for Health Information; the Food and Drug Administration Office of Women's Health; grant programs for alternative medical liability laws, infant mortality programs and other issues; and about 100 other government-sponsored creations.

26 reasons to oppose Pelosi's health care bill, H.R. 3962.  Here are a few:

• Permits federal taxpayer funding of abortion services, above and beyond the status quo of current law.

• Provides for a "health care czar" called the Health Choices Commissioner, who could forcibly enroll individuals in government-run insurance and whose tasks include requiring random compliance audits on Americans' health benefits plans.

• Allows for "community organizations" like ACORN and Planned Parenthood to assist the Health Choices Commissioner in enrolling individuals in the Health Insurance Exchange.

• Provides for 13 new and different tax increases, including an employer mandate excise tax.

• "Grandfathers" out of existence individual health insurance coverage.

• Retains the "death panels" by providing for bureaucrats working for a new comparative effectiveness institute funded by a tax on health benefits. The institute could publish the protocols needed to deny patients access to life-saving treatments on cost grounds.

• Contains NO ban on federal promotion of assisted suicide and/or health care rationing of treatments.

• Slashes Medicare payments to providers by more than $400 billion.

Using the English to 12-year-old -AOLer Translator, I've translated the above.









Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:46 PM | Permalink

Five Hard Truths

Five Hard Truths That Will Set You Free

1. Life is hard.
2. Your life is not about you.
3. You are not in control
4. You are not that important
5. You are going to die.

-Hoag's Object

Hoag's object

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 AM | Permalink

From a tiny town in Texas to urban chic

The values of my fringe homeschooling family have become urban chic now

Growing up in a home-schooling family in rural Texas, I got used to thinking of myself as fringe. Like a good number of home schoolers, my parents distrusted television, the food industry, the medical profession, and, well, just about anything that average middle-class Americans considered normal. Most of my brothers and sisters were born in our parents’ bedroom and never made the pilgrimage to the local hospital for vaccinations. We spent lots of our days away from textbooks, trying our hands at growing and raising our own food and tackling grown-up chores. We did not catch many episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or eat many Pop-Tarts.

Needless to say, I was, for much of my adolescence, preoccupied with proving I was “mainstream”—that despite all this natural, organic, precocious living, I was capable of consuming as thoughtlessly as everyone else. Now, as a post-college transplant to New York, I have to do a rapid reverse. Never did I imagine that what I once considered my parents’ annoying “alternative” choices would be lifestyle gospel in New York, praised on the cover of cool magazines, evangelized by all sorts of celebrities. Now, I’ve started to think of my parents and their obscure home-schooling friends living in tiny, isolated American towns as some kind of urban prophets.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 AM | Permalink

November 2, 2009

"Once, long ago, I was held captive in Kabul, Afghanistan."

Phyllis Chesler on A Lesson Learned in Kabul

Once, long ago, I was held captive in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Yes, I went there of my own free will, but I was only 20 years old and in love with my college sweetheart
If one survives such a grand and dangerous adventure, one learns some important lessons.


Thus, at too young an age, I already understood that barbarism and hatred of the Other is indigenous to Islam; it is not caused by Western “evil.” Intra-tribal and religious-sect feuding is a permanent way of life in the wild, wild East.
I could never get anyone in the American civil rights, anti-war, feminist, or post-colonialist movements to understand this. They needed to blame the Big Bad West for the world’s problems. They also needed to identify the developing world as intrinsically innocent, pure, victimized.
My people: Western feminists, leftists, gay liberationists, progressives, absolutely refuse to stand up to Islam’s subordination and bestial persecution of women, dissidents, and homosexuals. The same activists who easily condemn Christianity and Judaism as “misogynists” are hushed about Islamic misogyny in practice.
Now I and a handful of others are trying to tell the truth about Islamic gender apartheid.  Those of us who are raising the alarm are being demonized as “Islamophobes,” “racists,” and “fascists.” Yet, in my opinion,
western civilization, beginning with Europe, will be won or lost on the issue of women’s rights.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:43 PM | Permalink

Truth, not perception, corresponds to reality. Why is is so hard to find?

Richard Fernandez writes one of the best essays of the year that begins with a mother's lament over the BBC's cocaine culture.

Bows and Flows

Why have we become so indifferent to counterfeits? So willing to accept the clever facsimile for the ostensibly real? In part because perceptions are now such a big part of the economy that for so long as perceptions appear to be OK, then the economy must be ‘OK’.  In recent years management literature has talked extensively about the “servitization of the products” The modern economy no longer produces “things”. It produces intangibles called services. Insurance, banking, government, tourism, retail, education, social services, franchising, news media, hospitality, consulting, law, health care, environmental services, real estate and personal services now dominate the activity of the Western world. We produce satisfaction.

Perhaps the key difference between an economy based on things relative to that based on services is that the “truth” of things is self-evident while the value of services is often based on perception. Perception is often the proxy for value in a service economy. Indeed it often comprises the value itself, at least in the entertainment industry and possibly in news. It immediately follows that in a huge market for intangibles where “children’s programs”, sporting events, entertainment, academic degrees, derivatives, mortgages, ‘health care’, news and environmental indulgences are traded for vast sums telling the unflattering truth can be extremely costly. Stay away from the truth unless you absolutely positively have to.

In a market for fantasy the truth has little or no value.
One of problems economists should study is what happens when the overall truth content of a servitized economy declines. Whereas the “truth” of a ton of steel is the steel itself, what is the truth of a bundled subprime mortgage? What is the truth content of a credit default swap? Perhaps we don’t know, and this circumstance has directly led to the current economic crisis. The financial meltdown is from a certain point of view, a pure crisis of information. What we don’t know (or better yet what we do know but ain’t so) is hurting us.
Bad information destroys. We need to be free of bad information. Perhaps the underlying reason for the large and seemingly growing crisis in the Western World is that its truth reserves — the percentage of its information store that actually corresponds to reality — have fallen below a critical level and its institutions are attempting to cover the deficit by frantically printing more lies. Maybe the reason why finance, politics, news, real estate and environmental services are in dire such straits is that they among the service industries have the biggest portfolio of defective information. And it’s killing them. While there may be a tendency in the service economy to increase the amount of spin for short term gain in the long run survival depends on its minimization.
We have to know where we are, if we are to avoid getting lost.

The way to the truth is to take the shortest path back to reality.

I've been pondering for a while now why truth matters so little to many people. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

Best body art ever

 Body Art Tracy

Absolutely stunning body art by Craig Tracy with more examples here.  Above is 'Butterfly'.  I'll leave it to you to find the human body.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 AM | Permalink

Another reason to floss

There's growing evidence of a link between heart disease and gum disease.

That’s the conclusion of a “consensus’’ statement written by leading gum disease specialists and cardiologists published online earlier this year in the American Journal of Cardiology and the Journal of Periodontology.

“The mechanism of the relationship strongly points to inflammation’’ as the culprit in both cardiovascular disease and periodontitis, or gum disease, says Dr. Thomas E. Van Dyke, a professor of periodontology and oral biology at the Boston University School of Medicine.
Dr. Paul Ridker, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, notes that “cardiologists now understand that inflammation is a major risk factor for heart disease. Patients with periodontal disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis all have chronic inflammation, and all turn out to have higher cardiac risk than previously appreciated.’’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 AM | Permalink