May 31, 2010

The Solemn Trust

Having watched both Band of Brothers and the Pacific this spring, I've come to a far deeper realization of just how great the sacrifice of so many men has been.    We can never remember or thank them enough.

Here in Boston, the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund and Gold Star families  planted 20,000 flags on Boston Common in the show of the Sailors and Soldiers memorial to commemorate the 20,000 Massachusetts men who have died in American wars since WWI.

Uncommon valor on the Common.

-Flags Boston Common

Each represents someone who once breathed and lived on this earth,” says Melida Arrendondo of Roslindale, who lost her stepson Alexander, a 20-year-old Marine, in Iraq. “The most important thing for every Gold Star family, no matter where you are in politics or your background or rich or poor, you want your loved one remembered.”

 Flags-

BlackFive on The Solemn Trust

"The solemn trust."  "Ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us."

The quote above is from the order establishing a day in May to gather and present flowers upon the graves of the Fallen.  In other words, it is our duty to remember those who gave all on Memorial Day.  The General Order continues:

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.
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Honor them by ensuring that our future was worth the sacrifice of their tomorrows.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 AM | Permalink

May 27, 2010

Lessons from the Meltdown

Walter Russell Mead on the Top Ten Lessons of the Global Economic Meltdown

1.  The American Century isn’t over.
2.  Liberal capitalism works.
3.  The rogue states are parasites.
4.  The old left is dead.
5.  Nobody really understands the world economy.
6.  That goes double for financial markets.
7.  The Battle of Financial Markets is over; the Battle of State Finance has begun.
8. The demographic crunch time is here.
9.  Culture matters.
10.  The politicization of economic governance is dangerous business.

He concludes
It is clear that the mix of democracy and capitalism is a dangerous if necessary brew; after decades in which we failed to think the costs and risks through, we are now suffering the consequences of policies that create dangerously perverse incentives in both political and economic spheres.  Reducing damaging but popular forms of state intervention in the economy while ensuring the state retains the authority and the ability to provide the effective legal and regulatory frameworks without which no modern economy can flourish is the fiendishly difficult and delicate task which Europeans and Americans alike must now undertake.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 AM | Permalink

Man infected with computer virus

Man infected with computer virus and no, it's the Onion, it's the BBC. 

A British scientist says he is the first man in the world to become infected with a computer virus.

Dr Mark Gasson from the University of Reading contaminated a computer chip which was then inserted into his hand.

The device, which enables him to pass through security doors and activate his mobile phone, is a sophisticated version of ID chips used to tag pets.

In trials, Dr Gasson showed that the chip was able to pass on the computer virus to external control systems.

If other implanted chips had then connected to the system they too would have been corrupted, he said.

Dr Gasson admits that the test is a proof of principle but he thinks it has important implications for a future where medical devices such as pacemakers and cochlear implants become more sophisticated, and risk being contaminated by other human implants.
--
Professor Rafael Capurro of the Steinbeis-Transfer-Institute of Information Ethics in Germany told BBC News that the research was "interesting".

"If someone can get online access to your implant, it could be serious," he said.

Professor Capurro contributed to a 2005 ethical study for the European Commission that looked at the development of digital implants and possible abuse of them.

"From an ethical point of view, the surveillance of implants can be both positive and negative," he said.

"Surveillance can be part of medical care, but if someone wants to do harm to you, it could be a problem."

A whole new world of plot devices for mystery writers has opened up,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink

May 26, 2010

A very restricted circle of potential being

Mark Vernon on spirituality, not machinery

You Are Not A Gadget, the new book by Silicon Valley luminary Jaron Lanieris, he says, fundamentally a book about spirituality. He is at pains to stress that humans are not machines, though the digital revolution has developed the habit of assuming we are. So, he advises, "We should assume supernatural specialness to people." Supernatural? Specialness? Spirituality? It seems misplaced language for the man who coined the term "virtual reality" and is routinely included on lists of leading public intellectuals. Is it anything more than West Coast hippie-speak?
--

He's no Luddite. Rather, "Enlightened designers leave open the possibility either of metaphysical specialness in humans or in the potential for unforeseen creative processes that aren't explained by ideas like evolution that we already believe we can capture in software systems." So,
he prefers a mysterious view of life over a materialist one, not out of any prior metaphysical conviction, but simply because it works – works in terms of enlarging, not restricting, our humanity. It's a pragmatic advocacy of a religious attitude to life, and no doubt shaped by his Californian context. But it's a strikingly religious attitude, no less.

A quote from William James seems apropos:

"Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make very small use of their possible consciousness, and of their soul's resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

Playing in dirt

 Playing-In-Dirt

Playing in dirt is good for kids

Parents, here's another reason for your kids to play outdoors in the dirt: It might make them smarter.

And, as a side benefit, dirt appears to be a natural anti-anxiety drug, but without the side effects.

Mice exposed to a bacterium found in soil navigated a maze twice as fast, and with less anxiety, as control mice, in studies presented yesterday at the 110th general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

The researchers say we've become so urbanized we risk losing a connection with an organism in nature that may actually be beneficial to humans.

As for dirt being a natural anti-anxiety drug, it works for me whenever I garden.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

Moral sense twisted beyond imaging

It's not just the euro that's cratering.  Moral sense has been twisted beyond imagining.

A showtrial of children for being naughty
The conviction at the Old Bailey in London of a 10-year-old boy and an 11-year-old boy for attempted rape is bad enough. That the children were convicted despite the fact that the eight-year-old defendant admitted in court that she had made up the story of her ordeal is even worse. But what was worst of all was the very public exploitation of these three children for the purposes of working out adult fantasies.

This sordid spectacle had nothing to do with justice. As the trial judge Justice Saunders acknowledged, the case would have collapsed if the defendant had been an adult, because the evidence provided by the young girl was so inconsistent. That’s another way of saying that in these proceedings, what really counted was not the evidence on offer, but adult prejudices and the imperative of sending the ‘right message’.
--

But in truth, this make-believe court scene was part of a ritual which criminalises children who play doctors and nurses and which incites eight- and 10-year-olds to act out the role of ‘rape victim’ and ‘sexual predator’ for a watching adult audience. In their hearts, everyone involved in this mock-trial knew that everything about it was fake.

On top of that Germany and EU to Legalize Pedophilia and with it, Child Pornography

From a booklet by the German Federal Health Education Center aimed at parents of children under 6.

“Fathers do not devote enough attention to the clitoris and vagina of their daughters. Their caresses too seldom pertain to these regions, while this is the only way the girls can develop a sense of pride in their sex,” reads the booklet regarding 1-3 year olds. The authors rationalize, “The child touches all parts of their father’s body, sometimes arousing him. The father should do the same.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:10 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2010

Governor Jindal willing to go to jail to build sand barriers the federal government won't approve

There's no question that British Petroleum is primarily responsible for the devastating oil spill from the exploded rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  I agree that pushing them out of the way  makes no sense because you would lose B{'s expertise, equipment and personnel.

But why did the federal government not have an oil spill response plan is beyond me.  Why more of the federal government is not involved in beyond me.

President Obama can blame BP all he wants, but the President is the one responsible for not seeing that the federal government provides millions of feet in boom to Louisiana and for not demanding that the Army Corps of Engineers approve an emergency dredging permit for a state plan to dredge and build new barrier islands to keep the oil from reaching marshes and wetlands.

Only the Obama administration can approve the dredging.

-Oil-Spill-Big Picture
only one of the great photos from The Big Picture

Governor Jindal is so frustrated, he says he will build them even if the federal government sends him to jail.


The oil has already hit more than 65 miles of shoreline , and the slick is now as big as Maryland and Delaware combined.
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No one has to look far to see what's at stake. While beaches can be cleaned up, the marshes cannot, and marshes make up the majority of Louisiana's coastline.


Jindal warned that the state's entire shoreline could end up polluted with black sludge if he doesn't get more help, immediately.


"It is clear we don't have the resources we need to protect our coast," the Republican said. "We need more boom, more skimmers, more vacuums, more jack-up barges that are still in short supply. Let's be clear: Every day that this oil sits is one more day that more of our marsh dies."
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Jindal said that oil has seeped as far as 10 miles into some of the state's fragile marshlands, areas teeming with wildlife.

Here Governor Jindal is fighting mad as you can see in this clip

" We don't want oil on one inch of Louisiana's coastline, but we'd much rather fight this oil off of a hard coast, off of an island, off of an island, off of a sandy beach on our coastal islands, rather than having to fight it inside in these wetlands," Gov. Jindal said, making the case for sand booms.

The governor said he has been forced to protect Louisiana without the approval of the Army Corps of Engineers, which is weighing the ecological impact of the construction of more sand booms.

"We are not waiting for them. We are going to build it," Jindal said.

"We can either fight battle -- we can fight this oil -- on the Barrier Islands 15 to 20 miles off of our coast, or we can face it in thousands of miles of fragmented wetlands," Gov. Jindal said, clearing favoring the first option.  "Every day we're not given approval on this emergency permit to create more of these sand booms is another day when that choice is made for us, as more and more miles of our shore are hit by oil."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:19 PM | Permalink

May 23, 2010

Regaining What Was Won, But Is Almost Lost

One of the more interesting books that came out in 2006 was Jesus in Beijing, How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Balance of Power by David Aikma whose author, David Aikma, said in an interview,

I would like readers of Jesus in Beijing to grasp how Christianity, though assumed by many in the West to be outmoded and irrelevant to modern life, is regarded by many Chinese as the absolute key to a successful, peaceful, powerful modern China in the future.

This is not to defend the Chinese Communist government over the years and its disastrously bad policies, the genocide under Mao Tse Tung in China and Tibet more than fifty million people, the  "gendercide"  of a hundred million baby girls through forced abortion which is now causing great social instability because young men with no women to marry take to rampaging and kidnapping through the countryside and its violent suppression of political opponents and its complicity in the harvesting of organs of executed prisoners.

But what is happening among Chinese intellectuals is fascinating.  Akima says

But another factor has been a very open-minded approach by many Chinese intellectuals into such phenomena as the remarkable historical primacy of Western civilization around the world. How could this happen? What were the core principles of Western civilization that enabled it, time and again, to correct itself rather than plunge into cyclical and eventually permanent decline? Many concluded that it was Christian ethics and the dynamism of a faith based on a profound hope in the future and a belief that history was not cyclical, as Buddhism and even Confucianism proclaimed, but linear, and with a specific end goal.
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At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.

How the West Was Won

"To sum up: the rise of the West was based on four primary victories of reason. The first was the development of faith in progress within Christian theology. The second victory was the way that faith in progress translated into technical and organizational innovations, many of them fostered by monastic estates. The third was that, thanks to Christian theology, reason informed both political philosophy and practice to the extent that responsive states, sustaining a substantial degree of personal freedom, appeared in medieval Europe. The final victory involved the application of reason to commerce, resulting in the development of capitalism within the safe havens provided by responsive states. These were the victories by which the West won."
Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (Random House, 2005)  via Paragraph Farmer

Today, almost alone, Pope Benedict XVI, argues for a return to the vital source that made Europe great, A Revolution of Love is Necessary

It is an exacting challenge. The times we are living in place us before great and complex problems, and the social question has become, at the same time, an anthropological question. The ideological paradigms have collapsed that pretended, in the recent past, to be the "scientific" answer to this question. The spread of a confused cultural relativism and of utilitarian and hedonist individualism weakens democracy and fosters the dominance of the strong powers. A genuine political wisdom must be recovered and reinvigorated; to be exacting in what refers to one's own competence; to make critical use of the research of human sciences; to address reality in all its aspects, going beyond all ideological reductionism or utopian pretension; to show oneself open to all true dialogue and collaboration, keeping in mind that politics is also a complex art of balance between ideals and interests, but without ever forgetting that the contribution of Christians is decisive only if the intelligence of the faith becomes intelligence of the reality, key of judgment and of transformation. A real "revolution of love" is necessary.

More from the Holy Father as he reflects on the "priceless cultural and artistic heritage" of Christianity
"Modern culture, particularly in Europe, runs the risk of amnesia, of forgetting and thus abandoning the extraordinary heritage aroused and inspired by Christian faith, which is the essential framework of the culture of Europe, and not only of Europe. The Christian roots of the continent are, in fact, made up not only of religious life and the witness of so many generation of believers, but also of the priceless cultural and artistic heritage which is the pride and precious resource of the peoples and countries in which Christian faith, in its various expressions, has entered into dialogue with culture and the arts".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

The New York Times is starting to get it

Well, the New York Times is finally catching on.

Crisis Imperils Liberal Benefits Long Expected by Europeans

Across Western Europe, the “lifestyle superpower,” the assumptions and gains of a lifetime are suddenly in doubt. The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.


Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.
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With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle, at least not without a period of austerity and significant changes. The countries are trying to reassure investors by cutting salaries, raising legal retirement ages, increasing work hours and reducing health benefits and pensions.
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In Athens, Mr. Iordanidis, the graduate who makes 800 euros a month in a bookstore, said he saw one possible upside. “It could be a chance to overhaul the whole rancid system,” he said, “and create a state that actually works.”

Mark Steyn as only he can takes a swipe at the hypocrisy of the NY Times  in a Big Fat Greek Funeral

Greece has run out of Greeks to stick it to. So it’s turned to Germany. But Germany too is in net population decline. The Chinese and other buyers of Western debt know that. If you’re an investor and you don’t, more fool you. Tracking GDP versus median age in the world’s major economies is the easiest way to figure out where this story’s heading.
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“Another reform high on the list is removing the state from the marketplace in crucial sectors like health care, transportation and energy and allowing private investment,” reported the New York Times. “Economists say that the liberalization of trucking routes—where a trucking licence can cost up to $90,000—and the health care industry would help bring down prices in these areas, which are among the highest in Europe.”

Removing the state from health care brings down prices? Who knew? This New York Times is presumably entirely unrelated to the New York Times that’s spent the last year arguing for the governmentalization of U.S. health care as a means of controlling costs.

Here in the U.S. even Paul Krugman sees a Lost Decade Looming.

the employment gains of the past few months, although welcome, have, so far, brought back fewer than 500,000 of the more than 8 million jobs lost in the wake of the financial crisis?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:18 AM | Permalink

May 22, 2010

How did we get here?

32 states have borrowed money from the federal government to make unemployment payments; California has borrowed $7 Billion.

The FDIC lists "problem" banks at 775 , one tenth of all US banks.

The 10 States Most Likely to Default according to the Business Insider

10. Wisconsin
9. Massachusetts
8. Ohio
7. Nevada
6 New Jersey
5 New York
4. New York City
3. Michigan
2. California
1. Illinois

Financial Follies

As chaos spreads around the world and the U.S. deficit deepens, the White House seems confused and Congress can't even pass a budget. Have we ever lived through a time of greater incompetence?

In the last two days, two key policy spokesmen for the White House have given two entirely different visions of where we're headed.

One is Paul Volcker, legendary former chairman of the Federal Reserve. At 82, he's seen a lot, and he says time is "growing short" for the nation to address its burgeoning financial problems.

"We better get started," he said in a recent speech at Stanford University. "Today's concerns may soon become tomorrow's existential crises." In particular, he warned of "uncontrolled borrowing."

The other is Tim Geithner, our youngish Treasury secretary, who brushes aside talk of fiscal Armageddon. "The important thing," he said Wednesday, "is you're seeing the U.S. in a much stronger recovery than people expected even three months ago."

The lack of clarity and absence of a unified message is stunning. Fact is, the structural deficits the U.S. faces are monumental.

Scariest headline of the week via Maggies Farm entitled Yikes
Dow Theorist Richard Russell: Sell Everything, You Won't Recognize America By The End Of The Year   

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:45 PM | Permalink

North Platte Nebraska

When America and Americans were at their best.

via Patrick Madrid

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:45 PM | Permalink

Judicial Sanity

I post about only a few political issues.  One of them is the federally-created drought in the Central Valley and San Joaquin valley  of California that some dub the " Congressional Dustbowl" where the federal government controls the water and they have shut it off to farmers to save a tiny fish, the delta smelt and to protect endangered salmon.
"We don't want welfare, We want water"

Now a federal district court judge , who imposed some of the draconian rulings in this case endangered salmon, has reversed himself to rule that human beings are also part of the ecosystem.  Water Sanity for Central California

District Judge Oliver Wanger declared to federal regulators that they must consider the impact of their "draconian" actions on human communities, something they've never done up until now.

"Federal defendants completely abdicated their responsibility to consider alternative remedies," Wanger wrote.

He also ripped into the environmental regulators for their junk science "guesstimates," stating that their shut-off "lacked factual and scientific justification, while effectively ignoring the irreparable harm (their regulations) have inflicted on humans and the human environment," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
--

 Droughtpix

The water shut-off has been a nightmare for California. Huge farms growing the world's finest grapes, peaches, almonds, pistachios, plums and walnuts — as well as cotton, carrots, cantaloupe and the other lush truck crops that come out of California's temperate weather and rich soil — have gone fallow.

Adding insult to injury, water has increasingly been turned into a bargaining chit, with Washington using access to it as political leverage to force local congressmen to vote for unpopular bills like health care reform.

But the worst part of these decisions is the high human cost. California's communities have suffered terrible disruption, with unemployment as high as 45% in some towns and farm workers forced to stand in food lines for bags of Chinese-grown carrots near fields they once harvested.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

May 21, 2010

The Airplane Shot

This is great  - The Airplane Shot

Hard to believe it's from a government-owned company.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:18 PM | Permalink

The new forgotten and voiceless are donor sperm children

Alana writes in Taboos and the New Voiceless Americans

But you know what I am afraid to tell people? I’m afraid to tell them that my dad was a sperm donor. To me, that is creepy. To me, that sounds disgusting. To me, there is something wrong with that. It embarrasses me. So for the most part, I don’t tell anyone. I tell them my dad is dead. And when they ask me if I knew anything about him like, how did he die? or how did he meet your mom? I say: “I don’t want to talk about it.” And they shut up. Because death is a concept people understand as tragic. But “Assisted Reproductive Technology” or what I like to call “Deliberate Spiritual Robbery” doesn’t receive the same kind of sympathy.

Fertility technologies represent a new taboo. And kids like me don’t have a parade, nor a long line of celebrities eager to advocate for us. We don’t have a Lady Gaga on our side. It’s not cool to be one of us- which is one of the reasons we don’t speak up and announce to the world who we are. Our fight is much lonelier and much less colorful.

I enormous sympathy for the complexity of life for sperm children.  As I wrote in "Life Debt" of Donor Conceived Children

What seemed to be an easy answer for the mother has created a complex "life debt" for the children, burdening them in unexpected ways as they struggle to make sense of their genetic heritage.

What do sperm babies do on Father's Day

One commenter said.

well, it seems no one was really thinking of the children when the whole spermbank thing started. Gee, you mean an industry that's almost entirely dependent on college students masturbating for beer money doesn't think much about the future consequences? There's a surprise.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:47 PM | Permalink

Facing bankruptcy, facing reality in Spain

Back when I posted Economic Suicide Pact, one brave Spanish economic professor looked at the economic effects of the torrential spending on wind energy in Spain and concluded:

each "green" job created cost $752,000 -$1.4 million in subsidies
each "green" job entailed the loss of 2.2.other jobs

Today, Christopher Horner reports that the

Spanish newspaper La Gaceta runs with a full-page article fessing up to the truth about Spain’s “green jobs” boondoggle, which happens to be the one naively cited by President Obama no less than eight times as his model for the United States. It is now out there as a bust, a costly disaster that has come undone in Spain to the point that even the Socialists admit it, with the media now in full pursuit.

 Economia Verde Ruina

La Gaceta boldly exposes the failure of the Spanish renewable policy and how Obama has been following it. The headline screams: “Spain admits that the green economy as sold to Obama is a disaster.”
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The numbers in the long run are even scarier. The government itself says that the alternative energies sector will receive 126 billion euros in the next 25 years. Just an example: The owners of solar plants make 12 times more than what they pay for the energy coming from fossil fuel combustion. The majority are subsidies charged to the consumer.

The conclusion is that with the economy at the point of bankruptcy, it is not possible to keep injecting money in such a costly sector. And the government seems to realize this now.

Facing bankruptcy, facing reality and facing facts.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

Making things

We have a society that ought to be haunted by Chartres: by the fragments of our landscape over which great steeples once rose, declaring truth in stone meant to outlast ages. Instead we look around at a clutter of cheap franchise operations; and traffic accelerating from nowhere to nowhere.

David Warren in Making things

Window-North-Chartres

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:24 PM | Permalink

May 18, 2010

German Nationalism

If for some inexplicable reason you wanted to reawaken German nationalism, how would you go about it? I suggest a three-part strategy.

First, you would replace the rock-solid German currency by one with very shaky economic foundations, against the wishes of almost the whole German population (which, of course, you would not deign to consult).

Second, you would make sure that same population paid for the gross and dishonest profligacy of the Greek government: a profligacy that was rendered possible by the adoption of the very currency that the German population did not want in the first place.

Third, you would do everything possible to ensure that the crisis will spread, last for a long time, cost a fortune in failed attempts to solve it, and fall mainly to the Germans to pay for.

It goes without saying the second and third parts of the strategy should be against the wishes of the German population whose opinion, however, should be bulldozed aside as being of no account.

Theodore Darlrymple on Reawakening Germany's Nationalism.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 AM | Permalink

Happy Iceland

 Aurora Borealis Iceland

From Bing, an amazing photo of the aurora borealis above Iceland by photographer Olgeir Andresson.  Iceland now ranks #1 as the happiest country  in terms of life satisfaction based on a 2009 survey from the OCED, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

That’s right – the country which had to be bailed out by the International Monetary Fund, faced austerity on a massive scale, suffered social upheaval and booted out its government, and watched itself go from global wonder to basket case overnight, is, statistically, the smuggest country in the world.

It's quite amazing how facing adversity  can make us happy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:28 AM | Permalink

May 17, 2010

The Bonfire of the Liberties

Mark Steyn, A slow-burn bonfire of liberties in broken Britain.

The other “defining moment” got less coverage. Another “pensioner,” 74-year-old Roy Newman, got sick of the various party hacks knocking on his door and put a sign up in his front window: “GET THE LOT OUT.” Ninety minutes later, two police officers arrived at his home to arrest him for “racism.”

Racism? Why, yes. His sign was a piece of white card with red and blue lettering. Red-white-and-blue, geddit? The colours of the Union Jack. If using the same colour scheme as the national flag isn’t coded racism, I don’t know what is. Mr. Newman was prevailed upon to alter some of the letters to yellow, thereby diminishing the racist subtext.

With bigotry and racism running rampant, it was inevitable that homophobia would raise its ugly head. Dale McAlpine, a practising (wait for it) Christian, was handing out leaflets in the town of Workington and chit-chatting with shoppers when he was arrested on a “public order” charge by police officer Sam Adams (no relation), a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community outreach officer. Mr. McAlpine said homosexuality is a sin. “I’m gay,” said Officer Adams. Well, it’s still a sin, said Mr. McAlpine. So Officer Adams arrested him for causing distress to Officer Adams.

In fairness, I should add that Mr. McAlpine was also arrested for causing distress to members of the public more generally, rather than just the aggrieved gay constable. No member of the public actually complained, but, as Officer Adams pointed out, Mr. McAlpine was talking “in a loud voice” that might be “overheard by others.” And we can’t have that, can we? So he was fingerprinted, DNA-sampled and tossed in the cells for seven hours.

The other day, upholding the sacking of a black Christian for declining to provide “sex therapy lessons” to gay couples, Lord Justice Laws ruled that “law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds is irrational, divisive, capricious, arbitrary.
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In today’s advanced Western society, there are no absolute rights—for all individual freedoms must be “balanced” against the state’s commitment to “multiculturalism” or “equality” or whatever other modish conceit tickles its fancy.
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in the modern era “rights” are baubles in the state’s gift, and the sovereign confers them at the expense of individual liberty. Truly, this is an Orwellian assault on the very foundations of freedom.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 PM | Permalink

"Sexual obesity"

while we’re on the subject of bad habits that can turn unwitting kids into unhappy adults, how about that other epidemic out there that is far more likely to make their future lives miserable than carrying those extra pounds ever will? That would be the emerging social phenomenon of what can appropriately be called “sexual obesity”: the widespread gorging on pornographic imagery that is also deleterious and unhealthy, though far less remarked on than that other epidemic—and nowhere near an object of universal public concern.
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The data about the immersion of young Americans in pornography are startling and disturbing. One 2008 study focused on undergraduate and graduate students ages 18 to 26 across the country found that more than two-thirds of men—and one out of every ten women in the sample—viewed pornography more than once a month.
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Countless men,” she summarizes from the interviews, “have described to me how, while using pornography, they have lost the ability to relate to or be close to women. They have trouble being turned on by ‘real’ women, and their sex lives with their girlfriends or wives collapse.”
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Treating men in the early to mid-1990s for their pornography habits, he found it a common refrain that many were no longer able to have intercourse with their own wives. “Pornographers,” he concludes, “promise healthy pleasure and relief from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is an addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Paradoxically, the male patients I worked with often craved pornography but didn’t like it.”

Mary Eberstadt on The Weight of Smut that is crushing our society. 

She presents a summary of the social science reports on the social costs of pornography.

Bursting through the academically neutral language, the studies, the survey data, and the econometrics were the skin and bones of the very human stories that went into it all: the marriages lost or in tatters; the sexual problems among the addicted; the constant slide, on account of higher tolerance, into ever edgier circles of this hell; the children and teenagers lured into participating in various ways in this awful world in the effort to please romantic partners or exploitive adults. This report, in sum, like the conference that preceded it, answers definitively the libertarian question of “So what about pornography?” with a solid list of “Here’s what”—eight documented findings about the manifold risks of warping the sexual template with pornographic imagery

Her good suggestion
What, if anything, can be done about this other obesity epidemic? For starters, we could use a campaign that might promise to do to pornography what was ultimately done to tobacco—a restigmatization based on the evolving record of fact. What’s needed is nothing less than the kind of leadership that turned smoking, in the course of a single generation, from cool to uncool—one eventually summoning support high and low, ranging from celebrities, high-school teachers and principals, counselors, former users, and anyone else who knows they belong in the coalition of the willing on this wretched issue.

She quotes Roger Scruton
"This, it seems to me, is the real risk attached to pornography. Those who become addicted to this risk-free form of sex run a risk of another and greater kind. They risk the loss of love, in a world where only love brings happiness.”

Max, a  commenter, remarks

Or, as Malcolm Muggeridge put it more succintly: "How do I know pornography depraves and corrupts? It depraves and corrupts me.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:44 PM | Permalink

May 15, 2010

The big fish in a small town

From the Guardian, U.K. and its series Eyewitness comes this remarkable photograph of a big fish in a small lake in France. 

 Carp French Brother

French photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta captures the hour- long battle between a 15kg (33lb) carp and his brother at a small lake near Montpellier in southern France

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 PM | Permalink

May 13, 2010

Forced Sterilization in the West

If you thought only women in China were forcibly sterilized by the government, then read this story from the London Times.

Doctors sterilize Uzbek women

WHEN her baby died soon after delivery, Gulbahor Zavidova, 28, a poor farmer’s wife, longed to be pregnant again. After months of trying she and her husband visited a doctor who told her she could never have another child because she had been sterilised.

The procedure had been performed immediately after she gave birth, by doctors who did not ask her consent. On learning she could not bear children, her husband left her.

“Not a day passes without me crying,” she said. “I was outraged when I found out what they had done. How could they do such a horrible thing without asking me?”

According to human rights groups, tens of thousands of young women like Zavidova have been sterilised without their consent in the authoritarian former Soviet state of Uzbekistan.
--
Activists say mass sterilisation began in 2003, but was eased after two years following an outcry. It is said to have restarted in February this year, when the health ministry ordered doctors to recommend sterilisation as an “effective contraceptive”. Critics claim every doctor was told to persuade “at least two women” a month to have the procedure. Doctors who failed faced reprisals and fines.

What was most shocking was the complicity of the United States in this forced sterilization campaign.  Apparentlyforced sterilization began much earlier.

The Silence of the Complicit: Uzbekistan's Forced Sterilization and the West's Indifference.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the five former Soviet Central Asian Republics (the “stans:” Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) finally achieved independence. Naturally, the United States was quick to offer a diplomatic relationship with these countries. However, with these diplomatic ties came U.S. foreign aid dollars—and a now-infamous U.S. foreign aid agenda.

In a 1997 report, PRI reported on how USAID quickly made population control their highest priority in all 5 central Asian nations—with a vengeance. USAID’s “assessment team” was sent in to decide what was most needed by the Central Asians, but before they set foot on Asian soil, the assessors had already decided what the answer would be. 

“Predictably,” PRI reported, “the assessment team discovered that there was a critical need for birth limitation and large quantities of contraceptive supplies were required throughout the region again, even though it is one of the least densely populated places on the planet.
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As a result of this “investigation,” USAID proceeded to sterilize women. Lots of women. In fact, one USAID report claimed that USAID officials had implanted IUDs (intrauterine devices) in more than one million women in 1991 alone.
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Which brings us to this year’s news about massive sterilizations. It seems clear that, even if USAID is no longer directly involved with sterilizing tens of thousands of women, their legacy lives on. It is highly doubtful that a nation like Uzbekistan, emerging from the murk of Soviet oppression and being only lightly populated, would prioritize population control in this way. And yet, it mysteriously continues to do so.
And worse, there is practically no public outcry in the West. Organizations like USAID count on their own silence, and the brevity of the public consciousness, to make these human rights scandals go quietly into the night. Rarely is there any press fanfare, or any collective public outrage.

How many women did not know what had been done to them?  In how many other countries did this happen?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 12, 2010

"Why are you striking?" one man said angrily. "You have good jobs."

The best article I've read on the Greek crisis is in Spiegel International, Is It Already Too Late to Save Greece

-Street Protests Greece

Greece has more than five times as many civil servants per capita than the United Kingdom. The country's inflated government apparatus consumes tens of billions of euros a year. It's money the Greek state doesn't have -- and actually never did
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In approving the Greek bailout plan, the international community is more intent on saving its own banks than rescuing Greece itself. The Greek government owes €162 billion to foreign banks and private industry worldwide. German banks hold €33 billion in Greek government bonds.

Creditors must surely realize that the loans are no longer collectable, says Ulrich Blum, the president of the Halle Institute for Economic Research in eastern Germany. "The verdict on Greece is already in."
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Harsh Measures

In specific terms, the donor nations and the IMF are requiring additional wage cuts for public employees and a further increase in the retirement age from 63 to 65.

In addition, only one-fifth of civil servant positions that become available are to be filled, and the value-added tax will be raised a second time this year, to 23 percent.

Finally, the government will be required to take decisive action against tax evasion, which is practically a national sport in Greece, as well as tackle rampant corruption.

'
Not Even Competitive in Tourism'

Greece is often described in the media as a trading and service economy, but that is an enormous embellishment. In reality, the country has completed the transition from an agrarian society to a republic of bureaucrats.

The country has no industry to speak of, no products capable of competing in global markets, and no research community that could develop such products for the future. Some 70 percent of the Greek economy is dependent on consumer spending.

'Why Are You Striking?'
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At any rate, the situation has changed abruptly for the trade unions, which are spearheading the protests. During the recent general strike, union members were loudly berated by passersby. "Why are you striking?" one man said angrily. "You have good jobs."

'War Against Corruption'

The system operated according to the principle: Once you're in, you're in for good. Government employees were set for life.

Rakintzis isn't just talking about bribes. He also cites the problems of abuse of office, waste and unjust enrichment, corruption and the small financial favors known as fakelaki, the notorious "little envelopes" that speed up service. And he complains about the lack of efficiency in many government agencies, whose reason for existing is sometimes not even clear to members of senior management.

'People Are Tired'

This is why Papandreou wants to see his major municipal reform, dubbed "Kallikratis," approved this summer. Rakintzis has already done the preparatory work for it. The number of municipalities is to be reduced from 1,034 to only 370, and the number of municipal companies to two per municipality. About 6,000 of these institutions still exist today. But that is expected to change. As Rakintzis says, "this is a gigantic step forward and a good new beginning."

The prime minister also wants to mercilessly close government agencies and offices that have no real duties and that make little sense, and that employ staffs of people who do nothing but have been paid for years. The government plans to remain steadfast and to make a clean break with such pointless bureaucracy.

Athens therefore has grand plans. But whether all of this will be sufficient is questionable. There is "a feeling of exhaustion in many parts of society," says economist Jens Bastian. "People are tired." Although that fact will cause protests to die off, in his opinion, he wonders whether an exhausted populace will be able to sort out the huge mess that Greek is in.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink

Genetic testing at Walgreens

Walgreens to sell genetic tests, FDA investigating

Walgreens will begin selling personal genetic testing kits on Friday, the first major retail chain in the U.S. to offer the home tests. CVS plans to have the same test kits in its stores by August.

Both drug store chains are buying the kits from Pathway Genomics, a San Diego-based startup that offers genetic health and ancestry reports.

The over-the-counter tests, which have been available through a few Internet retailers, haven't reached a mass audience until now. And their pending arrival has scientists and bio-ethicists concerned that consumers will misuse or misunderstand the results.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration told the Tribune Tuesday that it is investigating the medical claims two-year-old Pathway is making in marketing its genetic test to consumers. The test has not been approved by U.S. regulators.

UPDATE: Walgreen Won't Sell Genetic Test Until Maker Works Out Issues With FDA

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

Aspirin and dark chocolate

Always have on hand  aspirin and dark chocolate, aspirin for a heart attack, dark chocolate for a stroke.

Dark chocolate 'can reduce risk of brain damage after stroke'

Dark chocolate can reduce brain damage following a stroke, a study suggests.

Scientists have discovered that a compound called epicatechin, commonly found in dark chocolate, protects the brain against strokes by shielding nerve cells.

They based their findings on tests in mice and hope the effects can be replicated in humans.

Advice from the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide.  Aspirin for a heart attack

If you think you may be having a heart attack, you need to get aspirin in your system quickly.  Aspirin works by inhibiting the platelets that otherwise would clot around a cholesterol-laden plaque thereby causing more blockage in a coronary artery

For the best results, chew a single full-sized 325-mg tablet.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

May 11, 2010

The Greek Contagion

My man Paul Ryan on the Greek crisis and the choice we have before us

Do we want an opportunity state on top of a safety net or a crade-to-grave welfare state?

What we are seeing is the failure of European socialism and social welfare states. What is basically happening here is this sovereign debt crisis could come over and spread to us.

via Gateway Pundit

Let's just point out that what the IMF is recommending Greece do is to PRIVATIZE health care, energy, and transportation to get itself back on track.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:09 AM | Permalink

May 10, 2010

The Doctor's Demeanor

I've wondered for a long time why medical research is not doing more to harness the power of placebos.

Today in the Boston Globe fake medical treatments can work amazingly well.

For a range of ailments, from pain and nausea to depression and Parkinson’s disease, placebos--whether sugar pills, saline injections, or sham surgery--have often produced results that rival those of standard therapies.
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“In the last 10 years we’ve made tremendous strides in demonstrating the biological veracity of the placebo effect,” says Ted Kaptchuk, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and one of the coauthors of the Lancet article. “The frontier is, how do we utilize what is clearly an important phenomenon in a way that’s consistent with patient-practitioner trust, and informed consent?”
--
according to advocates, there’s enough data for doctors to start thinking of the placebo effect not as the opposite of medicine, but as a tool they can use in an evidence-based, conscientious manner. Broadly speaking, it seems sensible to make every effort to enlist the body’s own ability to heal itself--which is what, at bottom, placebos seem to do. And as researchers examine it more closely, the placebo is having another effect as well: it is revealing a great deal about the subtle and unexpected influences that medical care, as opposed to the medicine itself, has on patients.

And then I learned how much depends on context.

“Medicine is intensely meaningful,” says Daniel Moerman, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Michigan at Dearborn who coined the phrase “meaning response.” “It’s this highly stylized, highly ritualized thing.” He urges us to “forget about the stupid placebo and start looking at the system of meaning involved.”
--
“It’s amazing,” says Kaptchuk. “Connecting with the patient, rapport, empathy . . . that few extra minutes is not just icing on the cake. It has biology.”

It may be, then, that the simplest and least ethically hazardous way to capitalize on the placebo effect is to acknowledge that medicine isn’t just a set of approved treatments--it’s also a ritual, with symbolism and meaning that are key to its efficacy.
--
Whether we call it the placebo effect or use new terms, the research in this field could start to put a measurable healing value on doctors’ time and even demeanor, rather than just on procedures and pills. And that could change medicine in a way that few blockbuster drugs ever could.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

"The twenty-first century is a time of uncertainty, risk, revolution and explosion"

Walter Russell Read says what's going on is A Crisis of Faith Not A Crisis of Stocks

With the world’s financial markets gyrating wildly and the threat of a true depression looming over the still fragile economic recovery, the faith today that seems under the heaviest assault is more modern: the faith that natural and social science would lead humanity to an era of progress, security and peace.
-

while liberal modernity has succeeded as a way of organizing human society for greater productivity and power, it has failed as a religion.  The rational, liberal enlightenment has helped us master the forces of nature (though events like the oil spill in the Gulf remind us that we still have much to learn in this respect), but it has not done much to help us master ourselves or to shape our destiny.
--
The twenty-first century is a time of uncertainty, risk, revolution and explosion and unfortunately we are heading into it with some assumptions that look less and less likely.
--
We like to assume that history is getting calmer, more settled, safer and more predictable.  It ain’t.  history is going to remain radically risky, radically unknowable, and scarier than anything Stephen King ever wrote.
--
Liberal democratic capitalism is not a strategy for making God unnecessary by creating a stable and predictable world.  Liberal democratic capitalism is a revolutionary force that brings us face to face with the haunting uncertainties and big questions that since the dawn of time have driven people to God in search of answers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

Quote of the week from Raquel Welch

Seriously, folks, if an aging sex symbol like me starts waving the red flag of caution over how low moral standards have plummeted, you know it's gotta be pretty bad.

It's sex o'clock in America

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:25 AM | Permalink

Babies and Good and Evil

Before they can even crawl, Babies know the difference between good and evil at six months.

At the age of six months babies can barely sit up - let along take their first tottering steps, crawl or talk.

But, according to psychologists, they have already developed a sense of moral code - and can tell the difference between good and evil.

An astonishing series of experiments is challenging the views of many psychologists and social scientists that human beings are born as 'blank slates' - and that our morality is shaped by our parents and experiences.

Instead, they suggest that the difference between good and bad may be hardwired into the brain at birth.

 Babyandtoyrabbit

Professor Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University in Connecticut, whose department has studied morality in babies for years, said: 'A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.

'With the help of well designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life.

'Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bones.'

This is very much in accord with Catholic teaching on The Natural Moral Law

The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie:

The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:

UPDATE

As usual, I never got around to reading the NYT Sunday magazine so I missed the cover story on The Moral Life of Babies

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 AM | Permalink

May 9, 2010

Make hay on the water

Via American Digest, comes this brilliant way to clean up the oil before it reaches shore and sand.

It's totally amazing.    Nothing could be simpler, greener or cheaper.   

But it has to be done before the oil hits the shore.

Hire them now!

Make hay on the water now! 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

Things my mother taught me

A passalong for all moms everywhere.  Happy Mothers' Day

I OWE MY MOTHER!! 

1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL  DONE. 

"If you're going to kill each other, do it  outside.  I just finished cleaning." 

2. My mother  taught me RELIGION. 

"You better pray that will come  out of the carpet."

3. My mother taught me about  TIME TRAVEL. 

"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to  knock you into the middle of next week!"

4. My  mother taught me LOGIC.   

"Because I said so, that's  why." 

5. My mother taught me MORE  LOGIC. 

"If you fall out of that swing and break your neck,  you're not going to the store with me."

6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT. 

"Make sure you wear clean  underwear, in case you're in an accident."

7. My  mother taught me IRONY. 

"Keep crying, and I'll give  you something to cry about."

8. My mother taught me  about the science of OSMOSIS. 

"Shut your mouth and eat  your supper." 

9. My mother taught me about  CONTORTIONISM. 

"Will you look at that dirt on the back  of your neck!" 

10. My mother taught me about STAMINA.   

"You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone." 

11. My mother taught me about  WEATHER. 

"This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it." 

12. My mother taught me about  HYPOCRISY.   

"If I told you once, I've told you a million times.  Don't exaggerate!"

13. My mother taught me the CIRCLE OF LIFE.   

"I brought you into this world,  and I can take you out."

14. My mother taught me about  BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION.   

"Stop acting like your  father!"

15. My mother taught me about  ENVY. 

"There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do."

16. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.   

"Just wait until we get home"

17. My mother taught me about RECEIVING   

"You  are going to get it when you get home!"

18. My mother  taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE.   

"If you don't stop crossing  your eyes, they are going to freeze that way."

19. My  mother taught me ESP.   

"Put your sweater on; don't you  think  I know when you are cold?"


20. My mother taught me  HUMOR.   

"When that lawn mower cuts off your toes,mdon't  come running to me."

21. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT. 

"If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll  never grow up."


22. My mother taught me  GENETICS. 
    "
You're just like your father."

23. My mother taught me about my ROOTS.   

"Shut  that door behind you.  Do you think you were born in a barn?"


24. My mother taught me  WISDOM.   

"When you get to be my age, you'll understand."

And my favorite:

25.  My mother taught  me about JUSTICE.     

"One day you'll have kids        and I hope they turn out just like you!"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 AM | Permalink

May 8, 2010

"The Self Help Disaster"

The deadly flood that soaked Nashville, including iconic music dives like the Grand Ole Opry, may become the worst disaster to hit the state since the Civil War, and one of the worst non-hurricane disasters in US history.

Nashville flood: The South's self-help disaster

While the Nashville, Tennessee, flood will bring federal aid, some complain the area became the nation's hidden disaster. But many Tennesseans are happy to clean up the mess on their own.

So where was the 24-hour blitzkrieg news coverage of a major US city under water?

With the Gulf oil spill and the Times Square bombing attempt dominating the news cycle, maybe the relative lack of coverage and attention can be chalked up to disaster overload or the lack of a broader political and social narrative of the kind that drove hurricane Katrina coverage.
--

"A large part of the reason that we are being ignored is because of who we are," writes Patten Fuqua on the hockey blog Section 303. "Did you hear about crime sprees? No … you didn't. You saw a group of people trying to move two horses to higher ground. [We] weren't doing anything to draw attention to ourselves. We were handling it on our own."

Alison  writes Here in Nashville, God is With Us in Our Deepest Need

Here in Nashville, people sought shelter and comfort from neighbors, and churches, and schools. Areas all around Nashville were affected in one way or another as every river and creek overflowed. The Cumberland River finally spilled over into downtown Monday, causing major damage to our businesses. Story after story began pouring in to the bookstore. Four employees were displaced from their homes by the flood. Everywhere people were gathering to help and everyone has played a part, be it by corporal or spiritual acts of mercy.

Those who can, tear out, and dig out, and clean. People work extra shifts for the families who need to stay home. Food and clothing and other necessities were donated in huge quantities. We attended funerals and buried our dead. Priests still are celebrating Masses despite the massive energy they are using to attend to the spiritual needs of our communities. Many took in families or took care of children so others could go work. Moms are substituting for our teachers and our principals.

You may be on your own for a long time so your neighbors and the people you know around town are your most important resource.  Just how faith-filled communities can inspire the others around them in time of great need while creating great deeper social bonds is just remarkable.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 6, 2010

Reaping the Wind

Last week, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved the Cape Wind project, the first offshore wind energy project in U.S. coastal waters.  Covering 24 square miles, 130 wind turbines will be located 4-11 miles off the south coast of Cape Cod.    Cape Wind is expected to supply 75% of the electricity needs of Cape Cod

How much will Cape Wind cost Massachusetts taxpayers?  Robert F. Kennedy Jr, an environmental lawyer, said

“It’s a boondoggle of the worst kind.  It’s going to cost the people of Massachusetts $4 billion over the next 20 years in extra costs.”

Even if we accept such wildly inaccurate and charitable assumptions, the cost of energy generated by Cape Wind over those twenty years will be over thirty-three cents per kilowatt. That’s more than six times the typical wholesale price for electrons today, around six cents per kilowatt, depending on the market.

Thanks to government subsidies, Massachusetts’ residents won’t have to pay the full price for Cape Wind power. Instead, they’ll only have to fork over four and a half times the going rate

The Wind Farm Scam

If you really want to understand the futility of wind power, consider the following analysis. In 2007 (the last year for which verified data is currently available) the Department of Energy reported that there were 389 wind-farms producing electricity in the United States, with a net generation capacity of 16,596 megawatts.  If all of those windmills were churning out electrons at capacity all of the time, they would have produced a little over 145 million megawatt hours of electricity in 2007. How much did they in fact produce? A little less than 27 million megawatt hours, or less than twenty percent of capacity (also called “capacity factor” in the business).

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:07 AM | Permalink

Life in 90 seconds

By popular opinion in the U.K., the most beautiful commercial ever made will bring tears to your eyes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:01 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2010

Sniffing the wind and calling it a day

"Looking at American  life in a whole new way" and Leaving the Reservation

A silent tide is sweeping across the country among family men of a certain age. Men who’ve decided that they are done living on the government’s terms, shrugging off the tight-fitting version of suburban success with an ease they never thought possible. They’re walking off the reservation on their own terms, without anyone taking slightest bit of notice.

These men don’t show up at Tea Party rallies, march on Washington or join militias. They go to work, love their wives, pay their never-ending taxes, fees, surcharges and diligently raise the next responsible generation. Most people would call these solid men our nation’s backbone.

Many have served our country, in war zones, with distinguished honor. They gladly earn their bread while supporting complete strangers who don’t, can’t or won’t work. They span the spectrum from blue collar workers to successful entrepreneurs. A number of these good men have been sniffing the wind for the past two years and they’re calling it a day. Bolt holes are being created, money is being transferred out of the market and into solid commodities, debt load is being reduced with an eye towards further economic collapse. Politics have become meaningless to this breed, they’re done, disgusted, fed up with whole cesspool. These men are looking at American life in a whole new way.

via American Digest's Sidelines

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

Caring for Words

Stefan McDaniel reviews  Caring for Words in a  Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

McEntrye forthrightly identifies the villains: biased journalists and cynical advertisers, entertainers, and politicians. These usual suspects, she says, are the titans of the word industry who have inundated us with cheap language designed not to tell the truth, but to manipulate, evade, or sell. Public language is thus (to adopt McEntyre's preferred, ecological metaphor) polluted and depleted by "thoughtless hyperbole, unexamined metaphors, slogans and sound bites, grammatical confusion, ungrounded abstractions, overstatement, and blather" which seep malignantly into ordinary speech and thought.
--
When we lose the "subtlety, clarity, and reliability of language, we become more vulnerable to crude exercises of power."
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McEntyre worries that the prevalence of bad English not only deadens our sensitivity to truth and falsehood but also spoils our taste for language as language, thereby denying us a pleasure "akin to the pleasures of music."

 Words

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Perhaps worse than the loss of music is the loss of subtlety and range, which diminishes experience itself. "As words fall into disuse," McEntyre says, "the experiences they articulate become less accessible." She illustrates this point excellently through a meandering reflection on the word felicity. We are less likely to enjoy this very particular kind of sober, rational mature happiness sought by Jane Austen's heroines if we abandon or flatten a word that identifies it with clarity and distinction. Only felicity can reliably present felicity to the consciousness as an attractive possibility; without it, the incontinent self-indulgence glamorized in popular entertainment becomes our only model of happiness.
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McEntyre tells us to demand precision from others, especially when they speak in public. She outlines our civic duty of "clarifying where there is confusion; naming where there is evasion; correcting where there is error; fine-tuning where there is imprecision; satirizing where there is folly; changing the terms when the terms falsify."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 AM | Permalink

Guaranteed Retirement Accounts

Nationalizing your 401(k)s to make them 'guaranteed retirement accounts' and to bail out the underfunded union pension plans. 

Republicans Sound Alarm on Administration Plan to Seize 401(k)s

In February, the White House released its “Annual Report on the Middle Class” containing new regulations favored by Big Labor including a bailout of critically underfunded union pension plans through “retirement security” options.

The radical solution most favored by Big Labor is the seizure of private 401(k) plans for government disbursement -- which lets them off the hook for their collapsing retirement scheme.  And, of course, the Obama administration is eager to accommodate their buddies.

Vice President Joe Biden floated the idea, called “Guaranteed Retirement Accounts” (GRAs), in the February “Middle Class” report.

In conjunction with the report’s release, the Obama administration jointly issued through the Departments of Labor and Treasury a “Request for Information” regarding the “annuitization” of 401(k) plans through “Lifetime Income Options” in the form of a notice to the public of proposed issuance of rules and regulations. (pdf)

House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and a group of House Republicans are mounting an effort to fight back.

It's been done in Argentina and in England as I wrote in Pension Apartheid.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:01 AM | Permalink

May 4, 2010

It's Electron Boy

The best story you'll read all day.

 Superhero For Day

Erik Martin, who is living with liver cancer, has always wanted to be a superhero. On Thursday, the regional chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted him that wish with an elaborate event that involved hundreds of volunteers in Bellevue and Seattle.

Local boy with cancer turns into a superhero for a day

Like any good superhero, Electron Boy kept his innermost thoughts to himself. But he did have one important thing to say:

"This is the best day of my life."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:33 AM | Permalink