August 31, 2010

Gerotranscendence

Lars Tornstam coined the word "gerotransendence" to describe a state in later life.


Simply put, gerotranscendence is a shift in meta perspective, from a materialistic and rational view of the world to a more cosmic and transcendent one, normally accompanied by an increase in life satisfaction.

Gerotranscendence is regarded as t
he final stage in a possible natural progression towards maturation and wisdom. According to the empirically based theory, the individual moving towards gerotranscendence may experience a series of gerotranscendental changes or developments. These typically include a redefinition of the Self and of relationships to others and a new understanding of fundamental existential questions. The individual becomes, for example, less self occupied and at the same time more selective in the choice of social and other activities. There is an increased feeling of affinity with past generations and a decreased interest in superfluous social interaction. The individual might also experience a decreased interest in material things and a greater need for solitary "meditation". Positive solitude becomes more important. There is also often a feeling of cosmic communion with the spirit of the universe, and a redefinition of time, space, life and death

I wouldn't have known about gerotranscendence, although I've experienced some of it, it were it not for Paula Span. Nor would I know that this is so contrary to what people expect about old age, that many children and caretakers often label this behavior as "pathological."

Take for example the fact that some elderly people confuse past and present. Are they improperly oriented in time and place? Or are they experiencing a transcendence of the borders of time? Dr Tornstam argues

old people who experience these changes (including greater spontaneity and playfulness, less self-absorption, and feelings of “cosmic transcendence”) take greater satisfaction in their lives.

Her post on Aging's Misunderstood Virtues in in the New York Times includes an interview with Lars Tornstam.

But perhaps there’s nothing wrong, said Dr. Tornstam, who has been investigating aging for more than 25 years. Our values and interests don’t usually remain static from the time we’re 20 years old until the time we’re 45, so why do we expect that sort of consistency in later decades?
“We develop and change; we mature,” he told me in a phone interview from his home in Uppsala, Sweden. “It’s a process that goes on all our lives, and it doesn’t ever end. The mistake we make in middle age is thinking that good aging means continuing to be the way we were at 50. Maybe it’s not.”

An increased need for solitude, and for the company of only a few intimates, is one of the traits Dr. Tornstam attributes to this continuing maturation. So that elderly mother isn’t deteriorating, necessarily — she’s evolving. “People tell us they are different people at 80,” Dr. Tornstam explained. “They have new interests, and they have left some things behind.”
--
When he began publishing his work in the mid 1980s, it made a bit of a splash. “It was so unusual,” recalled Merril Silverstein, a social gerontologist at the University of Southern California, who teaches about Dr. Tornstam’s theory, though he remains somewhat skeptical about it. “It turns on its head the current ideas about ‘successful aging’ — avoiding disease, remaining productive, forming social relationships. This advocates the opposite, a retreat into your own consciousness.”.

If you're interested in learning more about Gerotranscendence, you can download Tornstam's 2 page pamphlet here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:22 PM | Permalink

DIY remedies that actually work.


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Press on your gums to stop a nosebleed.

Cough during an injection to beat pain.

Wiggle your head to end pins and needles.

Blow on your thumb to stop palpitations.

Fingers in your ears for a sore throat.

Suck on an ice cube to soothe toothache.

Swallow sugar to stop hiccups.

Put pressure on a burn.

Wear bed socks to beat insomnia.

Use duct tape to remove a wart.

Grunt to stop a stitch.

Sprinkle black pepper on a cut.

Eat coconut to relieve diarrhea.

Medical specialists explain why they might work and how.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:07 AM | Permalink

August 30, 2010

"The psalms are a perfect reflection of the human condition"

The Anchoress at Summa This, Summa That gives us a refreshing look at what true religion can offer that moral therapeutic deism cannot in The Bliss of the Divine Office.

I cannot tell you how often I open the LOTH and find in the antiphon and psalms the exact reflection of where my heart and mind are.

This should not surprise, though. The psalms are a perfect reflection of the human condition – even the “cursing” psalms, which can be terrifying because they so accurately articulate that which is alive within us that can ultimately destroy us.

That particular morning brought Psalm 102, and it was just what I needed:

I have become like a pelican in the wilderness,
like an owl in desolate places.
I like awake and I moan
like some lonely bird on a roof.

but oh, how it ends – on what a note of triumph:

Long ago you founded the earth
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish but you will remain.
They will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like clothes that are changed.
But you neither change, nor have an end.

A beautiful depiction of the constant-renewal of the world and all Creation in it, including you and me.

----

And in all of that, we are His raiment, and whether we consent to it or not, we will eventually be worn out and put away, and He will go on, living in others, arrayed in whatever garment they offer. Whether we are thin, fat, old, young, fit orparalyzed, or even “born with half a brain,” God suits up within us, and we either let him do his thing, or we hold him back. If we cannot make him a perfect Temple, we have the opportunity, at least, to say “it’s all I have, O Christ, but please use it as you will.”

Well, if God is going to suit up with us–and he is–then no wonder Thomas Merton looked at the people at Fourth and Walnut and saw them shining like the sun!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:56 AM | Permalink

Mutant Ninja Christians

In More teens becoming 'fake' Christians, CNN reports on a study by Kenda Creasy Dean, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and author of Almost Christian

Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls "moralistic therapeutic deism." Translation: It's a watered-down faith that portrays God as a "divine therapist" whose chief goal is to boost people's self-esteem.

--She says this "imposter'' faith is one reason teenagers abandon churches.

"If this is the God they're seeing in church, they are right to leave us in the dust," Dean says. "Churches don't give them enough to be passionate about."

This is not the first time I’ve heard about moral therapeutic deism and teenagers. Albert Mohler wrote about it five years ago about the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these:

1. "A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth."

2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions."

3. "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself."

4. "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem."

5. "Good people go to heaven when they die."

That, in sum, is the creed to which much adolescent faith can be reduced. After conducting more than 3,000 interviews with American adolescents, the researchers reported that, when it came to the most crucial questions of faith and beliefs, many adolescents responded with a shrug and "whatever."


American teen-agers, he said, are heavily influenced by the “ideology of individualism that has so profoundly shaped the larger culture.”

As the researchers explained, "This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of sovereign divinity, of steadfastly saying one's prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering, of basking in God's love and grace, of spending oneself in gratitude and love for the cause of social justice, et cetera.

Rather, what appears to be the actual dominant religion among U.S. teenagers is centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people."


What it brought to my mind was a quote from Flannery O’Conner in The Habit of Being: “Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”


"Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church" (Kenda Creasy Dean)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 AM | Permalink

August 28, 2010

Tai Chi


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Tai Chi Reported to Ease Fibromyalgia

The ancient Chinese practice of tai chi may be effective as a therapy for fibromyalgia, according to a study published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

A clinical trial at Tufts Medical Center found that after 12 weeks of tai chi, patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, did significantly better in measurements of pain, fatigue, physical functioning, sleeplessness and depression than a comparable group given stretching exercises and wellness education. Tai chi patients were also more likely to sustain improvement three months later.

“It’s an impressive finding,” said Dr. Daniel Solomon, chief of clinical research in rheumatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the research. “This was a well-done study. It was kind of amazing that the effects seem to carry over.”

Best of all, you can do Tai Chi no matter what your age. I know in my town, they offer free classes to seniors.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:46 AM | Permalink

What bacon and duct tape can't do, baking soda can

51 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda

7. Treat Insect Bites & Itchy Skin.
 For insect bites, make a paste out of baking soda and water, and apply as a salve onto affected skin. To ease the itch, shake some baking soda into your hand and rub it into damp skin after bath or shower.


10. Clean Brushes and Combs. 
For lustrous hair with more shine, keep brushes and combs clean. Remove natural oil build-up and hair product residue by soaking combs and brushes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a small basin of warm water. Rinse and allow to dry.

19. Clean the Oven. 
Sprinkle baking soda onto the bottom of the oven. Spray with water to dampen the baking soda. Let sit overnight. In the morning, scrub, scoop the baking soda and grime out with a sponge, or vacuum, and rinse.

26. Clean and Freshen Sports Gear.
Use a baking soda solution (4 tablespoons Baking soda in 1 quart warm water) to clean and deodorize smelly sports equipment. Sprinkle baking soda into golf bags and gym bags to deodorize, clean golf irons (without scratching them!) with a baking soda paste (3 parts Baking sodato 1 part water) and a brush. Rinse thoroughly.


47. Freshen Stuffed Animals. Keep favorite cuddly toys fresh with a dry shower of baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda on and let it sit for 15 minutes before brushing off.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

August 27, 2010

Nature by Numbers

This fabulous video via Aggie Catholics.
  

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

August 26, 2010

The New Evangelization to Save Western Civilization

Sandro Magister yesterday writes of a remarkable and important speech by Archbishop Chaput in When the Tribunal of the World Condemns the Church.
There are truths that the dominant culture sees as subversive: on life, the family, sexuality. American archbishop Chaput explains why, and calls Christians to a great battle of resistance. "Only the truth can set men free"
---
With respect to the past, the shift represented by the new course of the Church in the United States consists, on the terrain of politics, of abandoning the "Kennedy doctrine," the doctrine of a rigid separation between Church and state, the effect of which – according to its critics – is the privatization of religious belief in the isolation of the conscience and its elimination from the public sphere.
--
And it is against this offensive that Archbishop Chaput is calling Catholics to "resistance." Against the reigning "relativism" that preaches tolerance but in reality produces oppression.
.
But Chaput's appeal is not only defensive. It is above all proactive. And it is connected to the master plan of Benedict XVI's pontificate, for a "new evangelization" of the regions of the world in which Christianity is at risk of being extinguished.

Chaput's speech is entitled Living Within the Truth: Religious Liberty and Catholic Mission in the New Order of the World.
Today, in an era of global interconnection, the challenges that confront Catholics in America are much the same as in Europe: We face an aggressively secular political vision and a consumerist economic model that result – in practice, if not in explicit intent – in a new kind of state-encouraged atheism. [...]
The West is now steadily moving in the direction of that new “inhuman humanism.” And if the Church is to respond faithfully, we need to draw upon the lessons that your Churches learned under totalitarianism. A Catholicism of resistance must be based on trust in Christ’s words: “The truth will make you free” (John 8:32). [...] and --Living within the truth also means telling the truth and calling things by their right names. And that means exposing the lies by which some men try to force others to live.

Two of the biggest lies in the world today are these: first, that Christianity was of relatively minor importance in the development of the West; and second, that Western values and institutions can be sustained without a grounding in Christian moral principles. [...]

Downplaying the West’s Christian past is sometimes done with the best intentions, from a desire to promote peaceful co-existence in a pluralistic society. But more frequently it’s done to marginalize Christians and to neutralize the Church’s public witness.

The Church needs to name and fight this lie. To be a European or an American is to be heir to a profound Christian synthesis of Greek philosophy and art, Roman law, and biblical truth. This synthesis gave rise to the Christian humanism that undergirds all of Western civilization.
[...]
--
We live in a time when the Church is called to be a believing community of resistance. We need to call things by their true names. We need to fight the evils we see. And most importantly, we must not delude ourselves into thinking that by going along with the voices of secularism and de-Christianization we can somehow mitigate or change things. Only the Truth can set men free. We need to be apostles of Jesus Christ and the Truth he incarnates.
--
I would argue that the defense of Western ideals is the only protection that we and our neighbors have against a descent into new forms of repression – whether it might be at the hands of extremist Islam or secularist technocrats.


Read the whole thing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 PM | Permalink

River Runs Red

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River that runs red: Photographer captures rare phenomenon in the Rockies

The naturally-occurring phenomenon was captured by Rochelle Coffey at Cameron Falls, in Alberta, Canada. The red colouring of the water was a result of heavy rainfall washing sediment into the river.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:44 PM | Permalink

Dry Water making new waves

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It looks a lot like powdered sugar but what you are looking at is "Dry Water" created by scientists.

Each particle of dry water contains a water droplet surrounded by a sandy silica coating. In fact, 95 per cent of dry water is ''wet'' water.

Scientists believe dry water could be used to combat global warming by soaking up and trapping the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Tests show that it is more than three times better at absorbing carbon dioxide than ordinary water.

Dry water may also prove useful for storing methane and expanding the energy source potential of the natural gas.

Dr Ben Carter, from the University of Liverpool, presented his research on dry water at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

He said: ''There's nothing else quite like it. Hopefully, we may see dry water making waves in the future.''

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:12 PM | Permalink

Lessons from three years around the world

Back from a three year trip around the world with only a backpack and laptop Gary Arndt tells us the 20 Things I Learned.

People are usually good; the media lies; the world is boring; people don't hate Americans; Americans aren't as ignorant as you might think; Americans don't travel; the rest of the world isn't full of germs; you don't need a lot of stuff; traveling doesn't have to be expensive; culture matters; culture changes; everyone is proud of where they are from; America and Canada share a common culture; most people have a deep desire to travel around the world; you can find the internet almost everywhere; in developing countries, government is usually the problem; English is becoming universal; modernization is not Westernization; we view other nations by a different set of criteria than we view ourselves; and finally, everyone should travel

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

Good news on the melanoma front

Having lost someone to metastatic melanoma, I always pay attention to advances in treatment and I think this is very good news indeed.

New drug shrinks many advanced melanomas: study

An experimental therapy that targets the protein that feeds certain types of advanced skin cancer has successfully shrunk tumors in up to 80 percent of test patients, a study has indicated.

The orally-administered medication, called PLX4032, "shuts off" tumors by neutralizing a mutated gene called "BRAF" that feeds the cancerous growths.

"We have never seen an 80 percent response rate in melanoma, or in any other solid tumor for that matter, so this is remarkable," said Paul Chapman, senior author of the study and a doctor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

"Metastatic melanoma has a devastating prognosis and is one of the top causes of cancer death in young patients," said Keith Flaherty of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and a lead author.

"Until now, available therapies were few and unreliable, so these findings can really change the outlook for patients whose tumors are fueled by this mutation."

The study, published in the August 26 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, grew out of the discovery that BRAF mutations, which occur in roughly half of patients with melanomas, effectively feed and grow the tumors.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:07 PM | Permalink

Are you losing control of your digital selves?

What's online can hurt you as many job applicants have found to their dismay.

Remember the New York Times Magazine piece from a few weeks ago? The Web Means the End of Forgetting.

When historians of the future look back on the perils of the early digital age, Stacy Snyder may well be an icon. The problem she faced is only one example of a challenge that, in big and small ways, is confronting millions of people around the globe: how best to live our lives in a world where the Internet records everything and forgets nothing — where every online photo, status update, Twitter post and blog entry by and about us can be stored forever. With Web sites like LOL Facebook Moments, which collects and shares embarrassing personal revelations from Facebook users, ill-advised photos and online chatter are coming back to haunt people months or years after the fact.

In a recent book, “Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age,” the cyberscholar Viktor Mayer-Schönberger cites Stacy Snyder’s case as a reminder of the importance of “societal forgetting.” By “erasing external memories,” he says in the book, “our society accepts that human beings evolve over time, that we have the capacity to learn from past experiences and adjust our behavior.” In traditional societies, where missteps are observed but not necessarily recorded, the limits of human memory ensure that people’s sins are eventually forgotten. By contrast, Mayer-Schönberger notes, a society in which everything is recorded “will forever tether us to all our past actions, making it impossible, in practice, to escape them.” He concludes that “without some form of forgetting, forgiving becomes a difficult undertaking.”

Luckily a few entrepreneurs have seized the opportunity to fill a need that was unimaginable thirty years ago.

For a fee, digital dirt can be buried

Michael Fertik knows all about how online searches can damage reputations. The 2005 Harvard Law School graduate founded ReputationDefender four years ago because he didn’t like how young people’s online behavior could be permanently recorded on the Internet and haunt them later.

For a fee that ranges between $10 a month and $1,000 a year, the Redwood City, Calif.-based company works to counteract negative reviews, comments, or blog entries for clients.

“People were losing control of their digital selves, and there was something fundamentally un-American about that,’’ said Fertik, 31. “I don’t think the random product of a Google machine needs to define your life.’’

The company promotes more “positive factual’’ or “neutral news’’ by using multiple profile pages and social media links so that they will surface higher on search results.

ReputationDefender, the foremost company in the growing field, recently raised $15 million in new venture capital.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:34 PM | Permalink

Is it true?

Tom McMahon evaluates things differently now that he is older

When I Was Young:

The first question I would ask: Does this make sense?

  • If it didn't, I would stop right there. No need to go further.
  • If it did, I would go on to ask: Is it true?

Now that I'm older:

The first question I ask: Is it true?

  • If it isn't, I stop right there. No need to go further.
  • If it is, I go on to ask: Does it make sense?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

LIfe 101

Doing Good and Doing Well - teaching virtue to a skeptical generation

After a few years of teaching the course, I’ve begun to think of it as lessons in “Life 101” — how to boost your well-being through a modern understanding of virtue. Many young adults are struggling with the ethical challenges of the real world not because they aren’t good people, but because they need a refresher course on how to live an honest, successful, and productive life. The motto of my high school was “not for school, but for life we learn.” That’s how I see my course on the Sociology of Everyday Life.   ---------

Some might argue that I'm devaluing the intrinsic truth of the virtues by focusing on their instrumental benefits — that is, conflating what’s good with what works. But teaching students the practical benefits of living virtuously is the most realistic first step to inculcating them with virtue. We all know that it’s good to be honest, generous, self-controlled, tenacious, and thrifty, but it’s the doing that dogs us.


We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit - Aristotle
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

August 24, 2010

AA: The Power of the Group

From Wired, Secret of AA: After 75 Years, We Don’t Know How It Works

“Doesn’t matter how much snow we get—a foot, 10 feet piled up in front of the door,” he says. “I will leave my apartment tomorrow and go find a meeting.”

He clasps his hands together and draws them to his heart: “You understand me? I need this.” Daily meetings, the man says, are all that prevent him from winding up dead in the gutter, shoes gone because he sold them for booze or crack. And he hasn’t had a drink in more than a decade.

The resolve is striking, though not entirely surprising. AA has been inspiring this sort of ardent devotionfor 75 years.

------It’s all quite an achievement for a onetime broken-down drunk. And Wilson’s success is even more impressive when you consider that AA and its steps have become ubiquitous despite the fact that no one is quite sure how—or, for that matter, how well—they work. The organization is notoriously difficult to study, thanks to its insistence on anonymity and its fluid membership. And AA’s method, which requires “surrender” to a vaguely defined “higher power,” involves the kind of spiritual revelations that neuroscientists have only begun to explore.

What we do know, however, is that despite all we’ve learned over the past few decades about psychology, neurology, and human behavior, contemporary medicine has yet to devise anything that works markedly better. “In my 20 years of treating addicts, I’ve never seen anything else that comes close to the 12 steps,” says Drew Pinsky, the addiction-medicine specialist who hosts VH1’s Celebrity Rehab. “In my world, if someone says they don’t want to do the 12 steps, I know they aren’t going to get better.”

------One thing is certain, though: AA doesn’t work for everybody. In fact, it doesn’t work for the vast majority of people who try it. And understanding more about who it does help, and why, is likely our best shot at finally developing a system that improves on Wilson’s amateur scheme for living without the bottle.

___There’s no doubt that when AA works, it can be transformative. But what aspect of the program deserves most of the credit? Is it the act of surrendering to a higher power? The making of amends to people a drinker has wronged? The simple admission that you have a problem? Stunningly, even the most highly regarded AA experts have no idea.

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There is evidence that a big part of AA’s effectiveness may have nothing to do with the actual steps. It may derive from something more fundamental: the power of the group....after a review of nearly 200 articles on group therapy, a pair of Stanford University researchers pinpointed why the approach works so well: “Members find the group to be a compelling emotional experience; they develop close bonds with the other members and are deeply influenced by their acceptance and feedback.”

Lots more at the link.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 PM | Permalink

Elegy to Lost Possibilities


Poet and philosopher David Whyte on Regret from The School of Life

Regret is a short, evocative and achingly beautiful word; an elegy to lost possibilities even in its brief annunciation. It is also a rarity and almost never heard except where the speaker insists that they have none, that they are brave and forward looking and could not possibly imagine their life in any other way than the way it is. To admit regret is to understand we are fallible: that there are powers in the world beyond us: to admit regret is to lose control not only of a difficult past but of the very story we tell about our present; to admit sincere and abiding regret is one of our greatest but unspoken contemporary sins.

The rarity of honest regret may be due to our contemporary emphasis on the youthful perspective; it may be that a true, useful regret is not a possibility or a province of youth; that it takes a hard-won maturity to experience the depths of the emotion in ways that do not overwhelm and debilitate us but put us into a proper, more generous relationship with the future. Except for brief senses of having missed a tide, having hurt another, having taken what is not ours, youth is not yet ready for the rich current of abiding regret that runs through and can even embolden a mature human life.

Sincere regret may in fact be a faculty for paying attention to the future, for sensing a new tide where we missed a previous one, for experiencing timelessness with a grandchild where we neglected a boy of our own. To regret fully is to appreciate how high the stakes are in even the average human life; fully experienced it turns our eyes, attentive and alert to a future possibly lived better than our past.

I used to say that I had no regrets in my life, but now, after many years, I can think of a number of things that I have done that I now regret.

Whyte is right when he says that the young couldn't bear such self knowledge except in small doses. It may be that you can't become wise until you've experienced regrets.



Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:53 PM | Permalink

"The future of search is verbs"

Esther Dyson on the Future of Internet Search

Bill Gates uttered one of the smartest things he has ever said: “The future of search is verbs.” But he said it at a private dinner and it never spread.
-----
when people search, they aren't just looking for nouns or information; they are looking for action. They want to book a flight, reserve a table, buy a product, cure a hangover, take a class, fix a leak, resolve an argument, or occasionally find a person, for which Facebook is very handy.
They mostly want to find something in order to do something.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink

The Effect of the Rage Against God

Peter Hitchens, brother of Christopher, in a very interesting interview by Hugh Hewitt

He asks a penetrating question to atheists, the major theme of his new book:
"The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith" (Peter Hitchens)
they want there not to be a God. And I think that we would get so much further with them if we insisted in every discussion where they actually deign to talk to us, and treat us as so surfeit that is not to be worth talking to, that we concentrate it upon this question, which I notice the very interesting atheist philosopher, Thomas Nagel admits as crucial. Why do they so much want there not to be a God?

He sees the decline of Britain the result of the receding tide of Christianity.

HH: You were saying, Peter, at the break that Methodism in its turn of the century rise around the 1800s powered a great age in Great Britain, and then the draining away of Christianity has powered the collapse of the edifice of that great age?

PH: We had this extraordinary combination, which very few nations and civilizations achieve of order and liberty. And people were free. There was no oppressive state. We were very lightly policed. The law did not weigh heavily on our shoulders. We weren’t told to do much. But we actually behaved ourselves, because as a people, we knew that there would be reasons to do so. And our language is full of Biblical allusion. And our music, certainly at that stage, also full of the great hymns of the English Church. Everybody’s minds were full of the injunctions of Christianity, and it was believed. I…there are many arguments about how its end came. I tend to think that the 1914-1918 war was probably the great blow to it, and a number of other institutions in our country. But since then, it has been in decline. And once people stopped believing in it, and become practical atheists, they’re not Dawkins, I’d say. They don’t go on and on about being atheists. They just are, and they are atheists in their everyday life. They believe that might is right, and they either act on it by being strong and frightening other people, or they act on it by being frightened, and having no recourse. There is absolutely nothing but force in the lives of many people in our country now.

Later he remarks on the explicitly non-Christian nature of the European Union.

And you’ll possibly remember the case of Signor Buttiglione, the Italian who wanted high office in the European Union, was excluded form it because he was specifically Roman Catholic. The European Union is an overtly, explicitly anti-Christian, or not exactly anti-Christian, but non-Christian body.

Altogether, the failure of the liberal experiment of the left and the waning of the effect of Christian faith on the poor is enormous .

unless we get some kind of grip on ourselves, unless particularly people begin to realize that the great left liberal experiment has failed on its own terms…what worries my particularly is the intelligent and educated people of my country are, by and large, still determined to pursue a series of ideas which can be shown to have failed. ...they’re so profoundly uninterested in the minutiae of how society operates. ..., they’re always writing about grandiose subjects like foreign policy and resistance to Islam and so forth. Well, okay, fine. These things are important. But you never, ever see them discussing how our society functions, and what’s happening, particularly what’s happening to the poor.... everything has to be grandiose and never actually focuses on what’s happening to the person struggling to get his children through schools when the schools are bad. What’s happening to the person trying to raise honest children in a dishonest, crime-ridden neighborhood? What’s happening to somebody who’s trying to keep his marriage going when all the laws of divorce and property are designed to undermine that marriage? What’s happening to people who are trying to keep their children away from dugs when the whole of our culture, all the rock music and all the movies, and all the jokes, and half of the stuff that’s pumped out in the education system says drugs are okay? These disastrous things are going on all the time, and nobody in the elite seems to be aware of the awful damage being done to millions and millions of individual lives by it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:33 AM | Permalink

August 19, 2010

Hidden traps on campus

There are many hidden financial and privacy traps that Karen Blumenthal in the Wall St Journal warns parents about in Packing for College, 2010 Style

Among them:

1. Not reading what the college health insurance policy covers and doesn't.

2. Not having your college student sign a health care power of attorney as well as a HIPAA release form.

3. Not getting insurance riders for that brand new computer for college.

4. Not getting clear about how money will get to the student.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:13 PM | Permalink

Health care better in church-run hospitals



U.S. church-run hospitals provide higher quality care — Thomson Reuters study

Catholic and other church-owned systems are significantly more likely to provide higher quality performance and efficiency to the communities served than investor-owned systems, according to a Thomson Reuters analysis of the quality performance of 255 health systems in the United States.

Catholic health systems are also significantly more likely to provide higher quality performance to the communities served than secular not-for-profit health systems, it said. By contrast, investor-owned systems have significantly lower performance than all other groups.

That's no surprise to me. People who work in a church-run hospital are far more likely to be religious and see their vocation, not only as a way to serve the sick but also a way to serve God. Not by chance do many of elderly Jews I know of reside in Catholic nursing homes. "They get the best care there," says a Jewish friend, "Care that is motivated by love."

Daniel Burke writes about the study in the Huffington Post

The report was short on specific reasons for religious hospitals' success, saying that further study will be required to understand the differences. The performance measures included mortality rates, the number of medical complications, readmission rates, lengths of stay, profitability, and other factors.

The Catholic church in the U.S. runs 624 hospitals and 499 long-term health care facilities, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"When your mission is rooted in Jesus who healed the sick, only top quality care will do," said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops. "This study confirms what many take for granted. The church leads in providing quality health care efficiently."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:07 AM | Permalink

Demography is Destiny


Demography and Economic Destiny

Why the global economic crisis is really about old age—and how to encourage prosperous countries to have more children.
Perhaps there is an economic system that can preserve prosperity even in the face of an aging, stagnating population, but it has not yet been devised. It is no coincidence that modern industrial capitalism emerged amid the population explosion of late 18th-century England or that it flourished most in the rapidly growing United States. A young, growing population creates more demand for products and a larger supply of labor. By encouraging people to look for more efficient ways to provide food, energy, and other essentials, it also spurs innovation and entrepreneurism.

Here's two more:

Can Europe Survive Its Population Plunge?

Europe is dying. The Washington Post, among others, reports that, within a hundred years, there will be the rare German in Germany or Italian in Italy. Some demographers believe it is too late to correct Europe's plunge into extinction. "The fall in the population can no longer be stopped," reported Walter Rademacher of the German Federal Statistics Office.

Replacement fertility rates are 2.1 children per woman in developed nations. No nation in Europe can claim that rate, and most fall under 1.6. At those levels, each generation is barely half the number of the preceding one. The working-age population is reduced by 30 percent in just 20 years, having a devastating impact on economies. Today, European Union and United Nations experts are sufficiently alarmed to call councils to address the population crisis. The irony is that this is a crisis of their making.
The World Won't Be Aging Gracefully

But if you think that things couldn't get any worse, wait till the 2020s. The economic and geopolitical climate could become even more threatening by then -- and this time the reason will be demographics.


Yes, demographics, that relentless maker and breaker of civilizations. From the fall of the Roman and the Mayan empires to the Black Death to the colonization of the New World and the youth-driven revolutions of the 20th century, demographic trends have played a decisive role in precipitating many of the great invasions, political upheavals, migrations and environmental catastrophes of history. By the 2020s, an ominous new conjuncture of these trends will once again threaten massive disruption. We're talking about global aging, which is likely to have a profound effect on economic growth, living standards and the shape of the world order.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:00 AM | Permalink

“The Rolling Stones roll in, Soviet army rolls out.”

Satisfaction, at Last with a great graphic.

I was 16 then, and to this day I recall the posters promoting the concert, which lined the streets and the walls of the stadium: “The Rolling Stones roll in, Soviet army rolls out.”

_RollingStones_Prague.jpg  But the BBC tells How The Beatles Destroyed Communism

For almost 30 years, the Fab Four were a symbol of modern life, freedom and, ultimately, of the falseness of the Soviet way of life. More than anything, the film showed them a tantalising glimpse of just how free and thrilling their lives could be without the poisonous shackles of Communism.

Smuggled records and illicit listening to Radio Luxembourg - coincided with the arrival in power of the repressive, uncharismatic and aged Leonid Brezhnev in 1964. The fun, upbeat, youthful sounds couldn't have been more different - or more revolutionary. This sound was coming from people their own age, and people who they'd been told were out to destroy them. To discover that, far from that, they were making enormously attractive music, had a powerful effect on an entire generation.

Unbelievably, Russian fans made illegal bootleg copies of smuggled Beatles records by copying them on to used X-ray film with dictation machines. These would be hidden up sleeves or under shirts and passed on through the black market or among friends. The introduction of reel-to-reel tape recording helped spread this gen-tle revolution a little quicker but, even in 1991, a full two years after the Berlin Wall had been knocked down, a planned pro-gramme about The Beatles was pulled from trans mission at the last minute by pan-icked TV bosses.


The everlasting rivalry - The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:14 AM | Permalink

August 18, 2010

A Religious Renaissance?

Another perspective on our aging society comes from John Allen in the National Catholic Register with a look at the market they represent.

Factoids first

  • For the first time in history, the number of people on earth aged 65 and over will soon exceed the number of children under 5.
  • Nearly 40 million Americans today are 65-plus, greater than the combined populations of New York, London and Moscow. By 2050, the 65-plus total will soar to over 80 million.
  • Every eight seconds in the United States today, a baby boomer turns 65.

These trends cause policy wonks to fret about how the West will afford pensions and health care, especially as the ratio of workers to retired persons shrinks from 4-to-1 (the level analysts say is ideal) to 3-to-1 (the projection for the United States by 2050), or 2-to-1 (Canada and Europe), or even 1-to-1 (Japan). Catholics ought to worry too, because when public safety nets break down and elder care isn’t available in the family, faith communities will be pressed to step into the gap
.

Yet seen through American Catholic eyes, the “grayby boom” ought to be a source of excitement as well as anxiety, because whatever social strains it may create, rapid aging also heralds a potentially massive religious renaissance.

-- To be sure, turning 65 does not magically make someone religious. The current crop of elderly Americans is more religious partly because that’s how they were raised, and it’s not clear how future generations will turn out. Nevertheless, it’s also a consistent sociological finding that someone marginally open to religion at 35 will be much more actively religious at 65. Researchers say that an uptick in both prayer and attending religious services begins in the early 30s with such people, and builds as they age.

In other words, the “core market” for religion in America, the segment of the population most inclined both to believe and to belong, is about to explode.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 PM | Permalink

Many will have to change their names

These remarks by Google CEO Eric Schmidt do not boost confidence.

Young will have to change names to escape 'cyber past' warns Google's Eric Schmidt

_google-schmidt.jpg

The private lives of young people are now so well documented on the internet that many will have to change their names on reaching adulthood, Google’s CEO has claimed.

"I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time," Mr Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal in an
interview.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 PM | Permalink

The One World Illusion

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the living women I most admire for her intelligence and her courage. Now living in hiding because of the threats against her life, she is the author of "Infidel and a founder of the AHA foundation "to help protect and defend the rights of women in the West against militant Islam".


home_Ayaan.jpg

When she writes, I read.

In How to Win the Clash of Civilizations in the Wall St Journal, she makes an important point we all would do well to keep in mind: we have to see the world as it is and not as we wish it to be.

What do the controversies around the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, the eviction of American missionaries from Morocco earlier this year, the minaret ban in Switzerland last year, and the recent burka ban in France have in common? All four are framed in the Western media as issues of religious tolerance. But that is not their essence. Fundamentally, they are all symptoms of what the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington called the "Clash of Civilizations," particularly the clash between Islam and the West.

Huntington's argument is worth summarizing briefly for those who now only remember his striking title. The essential building block of the post-Cold War world, he wrote, are seven or eight historical civilizations of which the Western, the Muslim and the Confucian are the most important. The balance of power among these civilizations, he argued, is shifting. The West is declining in relative power, Islam is exploding demographically, and Asian civilizations—especially China—are economically ascendant.
Huntington also said that a civilization-based world order is emerging in which states that share cultural affinities will cooperate with each other and group themselves around the leading states of their civilization. The West's universalist pretensions are increasingly bringing it into conflict with the other civilizations, most seriously with Islam and China.

Thus the survival of the West depends on Americans, Europeans and other Westerners reaffirming their shared civilization as unique—and uniting to defend it against challenges from non-Western civilizations .--Huntington's model, especially after the fall of Communism, was not popular. The fashionable idea was put forward in Francis Fukuyama's 1989 essay "The End of History," in which he wrote that all states would converge on a single institutional standard of liberal capitalist democracy and never go to war with each other. The equivalent neoconservative rosy scenario was a "unipolar" world of unrivalled American hegemony. Either way, we were headed for One World.
-----
Our civilization is not indestructible: It needs to be actively defended. This was perhaps Huntington's most important insight. The first step towards winning this clash of civilizations is to understand how the other side is waging it—and to rid ourselves of the One World illusion.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 PM | Permalink

Amusing ourselves to death

What good is boredom?   

George Will looks at "the chaos of constant communication" and those Lost in Electronica

Adam J. Cox is a clinical psychologist worried about the effect of today’s cornucopia of electronic stimuli on the cognition of young boys. Writing in The New Atlantis, he says human beings evolved in a world of nutritional scarcity and have responded to the sudden abundance of salt, sugar, and fat by creating an epidemic of obesity. And, he says, the mind, too, now craves junk nourishment:

“Fifty years ago, the onset of boredom might have followed a two-hour stretch of nothing to do. In contrast, boys today can feel bored after thirty seconds with nothing specific to do.”

The ubiquitous barrage of battery-powered stimuli delivered by phones, computers, and games makes “the chaos of constant connection” an addictive electronic narcotic. As continuous stimulation becomes the new normal, “gaps between moments of heightened stimulation” are disappearing; amusement “has squeezed the boredom out of life.” For the hyperstimulated, “the synaptic mindscape of daily life” becomes all peaks and no valleys.
But valleys can be good for us. Cox believes that a more common occurrence of boredom in the young would be welcome evidence of “the presence of available resources for thought, reflection, and civil behavior.” Cox notes that “being civil is rarely fun—it requires patience, forethought, and some willingness to tolerate tedium.” So for the overstimulated, “civility feels like submission.”

Cox worries about the deficits in the communication abilities of young males for whom a “womb of all-encompassing stimulation” induces “a pleasant trance from which they do not care to be awakened.” Hence, perhaps, the “failure to launch” of many young males who, “preoccupied with self-amusement,” struggle to make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. What Cox calls “the unbearable lightness of adolescence” is not new; what is new is an “excess of amusement” producing a deficient sense of gravity.


---

Unlike reading and listening to stories,” Cox warns, “the blitz of electronica doesn’t build deeper listening skills or a greater range of emotional expression.” Self-absorption, particularly among young males, may be the greatest danger of immersion in the bath of digital amusement:
“Not only does withdrawal into electronica enable them to bypass the confusion and pain of trying to give their emotions some coherence, it also helps them avoid the realities of being a flawed, vulnerable, ordinary human being.

So boredom has important benefits after all. Yet most of us are enthralled with electronica.   We are all - in Neil Postman's immortal phrase - "Amusing ourselves to death".   His insight that we are entering an age where our brains are formed by images rather than ideas came twenty-five years ago has proving prophetic. Today, the image, the brand, the narrative and the optics bury any serious discussion of policies and ideas.


"Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business" (Neil Postman)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:48 PM | Permalink

Place your bet

The Probability of God

By applying Bayesian probabilities, a statistical method devised by eighteenth-century Presbyterian minister and mathematician Thomas Bayes, Urwin attempts to determine the probability of God’s existence. Since 50-50 represents “maximum ignorance,” Unwin begins with a 50 percent probability that God exists (or 50 percent probability that God does not exist) and then applies it to the following modified Bayesian theorem:

urwin formula.gif
------Unwin then uses the following lines of evidence and applies his own, admittedly subjective, figures for their likelihood:
Recognition of goodness (D = 10) Existence of moral evil (D = 0.5) Existence of natural evil (D = 0.1) Intra-natural miracles (e.g., a friend recovers from an illness after you have prayed for him) (D = 2) Extra-natural miracles (e.g., someone who is dead is brought back to life) (D = 1) Religious experiences (D = 2)

and concludes that the possibility that God exists is 67%. Joe Carter rates them differently and comes up with 99%.

Personally, I prefer Pascal's Wager
Pascal1423.jpg

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:30 PM | Permalink

Take Me to Your Museum

I never thought about this before, but it makes sense.

If Aliens Exist, They Will Probably Love Bach

Art may attract aliens more than academics because any extraterrestrial civilization that we are able to get in touch with is likely to be much older than us and more technically advanced, researchers said here at the SETIcon conference on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
Humans would probably have little to teach them about science and mathematics that they don't already know, the theory suggests. However, our art and music is singularly human, and could likely be fascinating to an alien species.

take-me-to-your-leader.jpg
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:29 PM | Permalink

August 17, 2010

Marriage and Prayer

Another study shows the importance of religion in living a good life, this one published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Does your marriage have a prayer?

Couples that study Scripture, pray and attend church together are significantly more likely to say they are happy or extremely happy in their marriage, according to new research in the Journal of Marriage and Family. Likewise, duos who don't agree on religious beliefs or practice the same faith together tend to be less happy in their marriage, regardless of race or ethnicity, says W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.   ----

He co-authored the research with Christopher Ellison at University of Texas, San Antonio, and Amy Burdette, Florida State University. They relied on data from the 2006 National Survey of Religion and Family Life survey of 2,400 adults ages 18 to 59. Who's very, very happy? Folks who pray together: 83% of whites who pray together, compared to 69% of those who don't pray together.. 73% of blacks who do vs. 52% of those who don't. 78% of Latinos who do vs. 65% of Latinos who don't.

Wilcox speculates that close-together-close-to-home religious lives offer road maps for constructive relationships and stress forgiveness when life goes awry. This is a twist on happiness that disengages delight in life from "stuff" or financial success.



Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 AM | Permalink

Words

There are no words of Words except fabulous.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

Geotags

Another in a long list of things I didn't know before.   Most digital photos whether taken on a camera or with a GPS-equipped smartphones have embedded within them geotags that provide the longitude and latitude of where the photo was taken.

Is this important? Only if you want to keep what remains of your privacy - like where you live, where your children live or what you have and whether you're on vacation - when you post photos online.

Web Photos That Reveal Secrets, Like Where You Live

“I’d say very few people know about geotag capabilities,” said Peter Eckersley, a staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, “and consent is sort of a slippery slope when the only way you can turn off the function on your smartphone is through an invisible menu that no one really knows about.” -----

The Web site ICanStalkU.com provides step-by-step instructions for disabling the photo geotagging function on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Palm devices.

A person’s location is also revealed while using services like Foursquare and Gowalla as well as when posting to Twitter from a GPS-enabled mobile device, but the geographical data is not hidden as it is when posting photos.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

Girls being girls

Here's a great example of why religion is good for kids. Look at these talented girls and the fun they are having.

While Felicita wrote the song she sings with her sisters, her father taped it all to present a thoroughly engaging video of girls acting like real girls, playing and praying perfectly naturally without any self-consciousness.

Wholesome never looked so good.

Particularly when compared to the lives too many young girls now live in our over-sexualized culture, as Mary Rose Somarriba writes in A Girl's Life in the Cyberbubble.

Girls who dress sexy before puberty, are putting themselves on display like objects, not for themselves but for others. As Sax sees it, “our culture pushes girls to define themselves in terms of how they look instead of helping them to develop a sense of who they are,” and this sets them up for depression, anxiety, and unsatisfying relationships in the future.

In concluding, she plaintively asks

How did we get here? And where do we go from here?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 AM | Permalink

August 13, 2010

The Geography of Unemployment

Maybe it's the colors chosen, but watching The Geography of Unemployment, made me think of an invasive cancer spreading its deadly effects throughout at the American body politic.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:47 PM | Permalink

Quote of the day

From the Associated Press, the thought for today:

"The great business of life is to be, to do, to do without, and to depart."

— John, Viscount Morley of Blackburn, ...

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:45 PM | Permalink

August 12, 2010

Perseid Showers tonight

Perseid-Meteor-Shower

Miss Kelley alerted me to the annual Perseid shower that peaks tonight when one can see as many as 50 meteors an hour

The Perseids are among the most reliable of the year’s cosmic fireworks displays. In mid-August, Earth passes through a stream of grit left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle in its eccentric 130-year orbit. Flecks of debris burn up as they pass through the atmosphere, at a height of about 60 miles, producing streaks of light — and sometimes leaving behind glowing trails that fade into the night....The Perseids are so called because the point they appear to come from, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus.

The meteors hit the Earth's atmosphere at about 140,000 miles an hour.  The celestial show begins at sundown, NASA said, when Venus, Saturn, Mars, and the crescent moon hang close together until around 10 p.m., when the Perseid shower is expected to start....the shooting streaks of light most visible between midnight and dawn Friday because the moon will not be up during that time.

The showers are also called "The burning tears of St Lawrence" because they appear every around his feast day. St. Lawrence  is the patron saint  of the poor, librarians and cooks.  The latter because he was roasted  to death and yet managed to joke with his executioners,  "Now you may turn me over, my body is roasted enough on this side."

The best way to see the shooting stars is to find a dark place without a lot of competing lights, lie down on the ground, face south and gaze skyward.    Get your kids out of bed and into the backyard.

The only equipment needed is a sleeping bag or blanket.  Telescopes and binoculars restrict the range of vision when what you want is the largest range possible.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:49 PM | Permalink

How did so many smart people get so much wrong?

But in this summer of unrecovery, it’s still important to understand how so many smart people got so much so wrong.

Michael Barone on A Failure of Modesty

Democrats have been aimed at propping up the old order — holding up housing prices and the mortgage market, keeping the Detroit auto companies in place, maintaining the lush standard of living of public-employee-union members (the purpose of the $26 billion the House was summoned back to Washington to approve Tuesday).

Unsustainable patterns of production, Kling writes, prevent the trial-and-error process of private investment that creates new jobs and new patterns of production that will be sustainable.
--

But facts are stubborn things. The fact that the private-sector economy has not responded as administration economists expected and confidently predicted should be a wake-up call.

It shows the limits of expert knowledge and of the ability of political actors to make optimal economic choices.

Modesty, like frugality, is one of those virtues, forgotten or disregarded for far too long.  Boy am I ready for its  comeback

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:57 AM | Permalink

Tilt the glass

Now scientific proof for what anyone over 25 who drinks champagne already knows.

French scientists work out how to pour the perfect glass of champagne: tilt the glass

Through exhaustive testing the team discovered that pouring champagne at an angle and down the side of the glass is best for preserving its taste and fizz.

Although the 'discovery' confirms what experienced bar tenders and drinkers have known for centuries, the researchers say it is the first time anyone has scientifically proven the correct method for dishing out the bubbly.

Their study also confirms the importance of chilling champagne before serving to enhance its taste.

--

-Champagne, Tilted Glass

Gérard Liger-Belair and colleagues noted that tiny bubbles are the essence of fine champagnes and sparkling wines.

Past studies indicate that
the bubbles — formed during the release of large amounts of dissolved carbon dioxide gas — help transfer the taste, aroma, and all-important 'mouth-feel' of champagne

So far, no one is trying to tax the carbon output by the glass, but give them time.

The discoverer of champagne, Dom Perignon was a Benedictine monk responsible for the production of wine at his abbey.  He experimented with different ways to avoid the common problem of refermentation of white grapes.
Tasting the results of one of his experiments, he shouted to his fellow monks,  "Come quickly, I am drinking stars"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

August 11, 2010

Native intelligence vs. actual performance

Native intelligence may indeed not vary by neighborhood but actual performance-- whether in schools, on the job or elsewhere-- involves far more than native intelligence. Wasted intelligence does nothing for an individual or society.

Thomas Sowell in Cheering Immaturity

One of the many disservices done to young people by our schools and colleges is giving them the puffed up notion that they are in a position to pass sweeping judgments on a world that they have barely begun to experience. A standing ovation for childish remarks may produce "self-esteem" but promoting presumptuousness is unlikely to benefit either this student or society.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:59 PM | Permalink

How to solve the problems of an aging society

Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson

Our society does not—despite rhetoric to the contrary—put much value on raising children. Present budget policies punish parents, who are taxed heavily to support the elderly. . . .

Societies that cannot replace their populations discourage investment and innovation. They have stagnant or shrinking markets for goods and services. With older populations, they resist change. . .

We need to avoid Western Europe's mix of high taxes, low birth rates and feeble economic growth. Young Americans already face a bleak labor market that cannot instill confidence about having children. Piling on higher taxes won't help.

Phil Lawler comments

Policies that discourage child-bearing also discourage saving and investment. Without saving and investment, the economy won’t grow. Without economic growth, tax revenues will falter. Without rising tax revenues, we can’t continue making those entitlement payments to the elderly.

Oddly enough, the best way to ensure security for the elderly is not to expand their entitlements, but to encourage young parents to have more children.

As Mark Steyn so famously said, "It's the demography, stupid". 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:29 PM | Permalink

"It is entirely possible that today is the revolution"

One of the most common question successful revolutionaries ask themselves afterward is ‘what have I done?’ During their retirement John Adams and Thomas Jefferson grappled with the question of what actually happened during the Revolution. Jefferson’s answer was that no one could ever describe it. “Nobody; except merely it’s external facts. All it’s councils … which are the life and soul of history must be forever unknown.”

Adam’s memorable response was to question whether the Revolution happened when people thought it did. Their exchange frames the great debates of today in the most striking form. Where is this crisis leading? And when is it happening?
To some extent the crisis is unfolding in the change in attitudes that are taking place today. It is entirely possible that today is the revolution.
--

“The Revolution was in the Minds of the People, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen Years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington.”
Here, nearly 250 years ago, was Adams talking about memes and cognitive warfare, and the possibility that changes in attitudes and modes of thinking were in fact where America was born. Today the world is by increasingly perceived as being in the throes of a huge change. Who can write the history of it? And where and when are these events taking place?

Richard Fernandez on The Secret History of the World

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 AM | Permalink

August 10, 2010

Too much gorging at the public trough

Robert Rizzo, the city manager of Bell City, California, a blue collar town of about 40,000  had sufficient shame to step down when the news broke and outraged citizens learned that his salary was $1.5 million/year including 28 weeks of vacation and sick leave. 

That is not enough to keep him from being the poster boy, the obese result of too much gorging at the public trough.

Robert Rizzo

The WSJ in its editorial, The Pension Bell Tolls

According to the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, a nonprofit that advocates pension reform, Mr. Rizzo is hardly alone. The foundation lists 9,111 retired California government workers receiving pensions in excess of $100,000 a year. The top earner, one Bruce Malkenhorst, receives $510,000 a year for his tenure as city administrator of Vernon, California (population, 91). Not including health benefits.

These paydays are the inevitable result of the dominance of government unions in city and state politics. While most private workers have 401(k)-type plans that rise and fall in value with economic growth, unions negotiate guaranteed payouts that stay lucrative whether or not the cities can afford them.

Ace reports that

In 2005, fewer than 400 voters cast ballots in a special election that cleared the way for City Council members to dramatically boost their own salaries. In that election, more than half the votes cast were absentee ballots, the method of voting most susceptible to fraud.

I think low voter turnout is about to change, especially the disparity between government pay and private sector pay continues to widen as USA Today reports Federal workers earning double their private counterparts

Federal workers have been awarded bigger average pay and benefit increases than private employees for nine years in a row. The compensation gap between federal and private workers has doubled in the past decade.

Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data are the latest available.

 Pay Rates-1

Such a disparity is not only unfair, but unsustainable.  So far, most people are in agreement.  We don't want Two Americas: Public Bureaucrats and the People.

John Edwards was right. There are two Americas, just not his two (the rich and powerful versus everyone else). The real divide today is, on one side, the 20 million people who work for state and local governments and the additional 3 million who’ve retired with fat pensions. On the other, the rest of us, roughly 280 million Americans. In short, there’s a gulf between the bureaucrats and the people.
--
Nationwide, unfunded retirement benefits are $3.2 trillion, according to Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute. On top of that, he estimates the unfunded debt for the health coverage of state and local government retirees is $1.4 trillion.

The real question becomes how do state and local governments unwind themselves from the crushing legal obligations for benefits and pensions incurred as a result of union contracts.   

Pension Tsunami
The California state government provides a “defined benefit” pension plan to each of its employees. Such “defined benefit” pension plans are far more generous than any 401(k) or defined contribution pension plan available from any other employer in the state! In fact, the plan is so generous that it makes the average state employee a millionaire after only 22 years of work!
--
It would require putting $56,889 ($1,251,562/22 years = $56,889) into your 401(k)/IRA or other retirement account every single year during those 22 years! When you work for the state, the state does this for you!

Federal subsidies so far are propping up state and local governments.    New York, California, Illinois, and Michigan are deep in their own fiscal holes, but how long can they expect other states to bail them out?

Dick Morris points to one way wherein
lies a golden opportunity to reform state governments and redress the imbalance of power between elected officials and public-employee unions.

Absent endless federal subsidies, states will simply no longer be able to afford to give the unions everything that they want. And governors — many of them newly elected Republicans — will realize that they can’t even afford to honor agreements their big-spending predecessors OK’d.

The GOP Congress should then amend the federal bankruptcy law to provide for a way — now absent — for states to declare bankruptcy. (Municipalities can do so under current law, but states have no such relief.)

Here’s the key: The reforms must require that states abrogate their public-employee union agreements in the bankruptcy process, just as private corporations like Delta and Chrysler have done. The wage hikes, the work rules, the pension plans all go out the window.

It's going to be a nasty fight

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:43 PM | Permalink

Creative job exits UPDATED

My, but people are getting creative in quitting their jobs.  I mean who didn't feel a little thrill when Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who finally cracked at the abuse and cursing of passengers, in particular that of one woman,  announced that he was quitting, grabbed a couple of beers, pulled the emergency slide and slide out , ran home and into the arms of his boyfriend before being arrested by the police.

I don't know who Jenny is, but she quit her job on a dry erase board and emailed the entire office 33 photos which are hilarious.

Amazing-Girl-Quits-6

Maybe not the best career move, but a cool drink of delicous-ness for all of us stuck in the August doldrums.

UPDATE

JetBlue passenger says flight attendant started fray that led to infamous exit

Jenny who's real name is Elyse Porterfield is an actress in LA and her creative exit was a hoax designed to get her attention and boy did it.

Hoax-Deux-14

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:39 PM | Permalink

Breasts too soon

What can explain the growing phenomenon of girls as young as 7 developing breasts? 

New research published in the medical journal Pediatrics  is showing that girls in the U.S. are entering puberty earlier.

At age 7, about 10 percent of white girls and 23 percent of black girls had started developing breasts, compared to 5 percent of white girls and 15 percent of black girls in 1997, according to a study led by Dr. Frank Biro of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

At age 8, about 18 percent of white girls and 43 percent of black girls had entered puberty, compared to around 11 percent of white girls in 1997, but the same as black girls in that year.

Early puberty in girls is a concern because studies have shown they are more likely to develop breast and uterine cancer later - women who spend more of their lives menstruating have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.

Experts aren't sure what caused the earlier development of puberty.

But another study published Monday in Pediatrics shows that overweight girls are more likely to enter puberty earlier. The study was led by Dr. Mildred Maisonet from Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health and conducted on girls in Great Britain.

In China, it's  even worse.  Tainted Chinese baby milk powder has caused baby girls as young as four months to grow breasts.

Tests were ordered on infant formula made by the NASDAQ-listed company Synutra after reports surfaced in China's state media that three children fed on the formula had entered into precocious puberty.
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According to an investigation by Beijing's "Health Times" newspaper, laboratory tests on the children showed levels of estradiol, a female sex hormone, and another hormone, lactogen, were between three and seven times expected levels.

I bet it's the  added hormones to food stocks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:10 AM | Permalink

August 9, 2010

Men do more than their fair share, study shows

Bombshell study.  Dr Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics finds that women's "double shift' of work and domestic duties is a myth.

Catherine Hakim said: ‘We now have a much more specific and accurate portrait of how families and individuals divide their “work” and this data overturns the well-entrenched theory that women work disproportional long hours in jobs and at home in juggling family and work. Feminists constantly complain that men are not doing their fair share of domestic work. The reality is that most men already do more than their fair share.’

While men carry out substantially more hours of paid work, women will often choose to scale down their hours of paid employment to make time for household work when starting a family. In Britain, men are shown to actually work longer hours on average than women, as many will work overtime to boost family income when the children are at home while wives switch to part-time jobs or drop out of employment altogether.

Couples with no children at home and with both in full-time jobs emerge as the only group where women work more hours in total than men, once paid and unpaid work hours are added up.

Reuters headline New study blasts theory that women do more work
He may leave his socks lying around and avoid emptying the dishwasher, but a new study shows husbands do as much work as their wives.

Neil Lyndon, Feminism? Forget it, sisters

This is the first time I can remember in 40 years that an authoritative study on a key issue of so-called gender politics has come out with a self-evident truth that runs directly contrary to orthodox feminist ideology. The fact that it has been written and published by a woman makes it even more delightful.

Ever since the late Sixties, it has been an incontestable article of faith in the feminist creed that men are lazy, slobbish, barbaric, barely civilisable and incapable of switching on the vacuum cleaner without breaking it .
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What next? Might a respectable study soon reveal that, contrary to what we are always told, one in four men does not batter the woman he lives with? Or that not all men are rapists? Might the entire edifice of lies that comprises modern feminism now be about to tumble?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:20 PM | Permalink

"What makes them so special?"

What is going on in the DOJ Civil Rights Division?  This is nuts

Jim Treacher

If you live in South Carolina and are sent to prison, that is. J. Christian Adams — remember him? — writes in the Washington Examiner:

Two unpleasant topics of conversation most of us avoid are the epidemic of HIV/AIDS among prison inmates and a variety of sometimes violent events resulting in transmission of the disease. Some states long ago implemented policies to protect the uninfected part of the prison population while providing exceptional medical treatment and counseling to the infected population.

In South Carolina, it has worked so well since 1998 that there has only been a single transmission of HIV/AIDS to a noninfected prisoner. All that may change, however, thanks to a threat from Eric Holder’s Justice Department.

South Carolina received a letter from the now-infamous Civil Rights Division that the policy of keeping infected inmates at a designated facility, instead of scattered across the state in the general prison population, may unfairly stigmatize infected prisoners. To the Obama political appointees in the Civil Rights Division, this constitutes discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act… Naturally, DOJ has threatened a lawsuit.

That’s right: Stopping the spread of AIDS and treating those infected is a civil rights violation. Because then everybody knows you have AIDS, and that’s a lot worse than, like, keeping other people from getting it. What makes them so special?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:42 PM | Permalink

Clash of Galaxies

 Crash Of Galaxies

It started about 100 million years ago and it's still going on.

Stunning new image of two galaxies as they slowly crash into one another over millions of years

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:41 PM | Permalink

Learning about Medicare

In a short time, I will qualify for Medicare and here are some things I am learning that does not make me feel confident.

1. Medicare is going broke even faster than we thought. 
In an unprecedented dissent, the chief actuary of Medicare rejects the rosy projections from the 2010 Medicare Trustees Report.

He couldn't,  in good conscience, sign the report, so he issued an alternative memo.
The memo claimed that the estimates used by the White House and its allies underestimated costs by a whopping 68% and could not possibly be seen as a good-faith projection of the program’s future

2. Medicare's policy for covering drugs is not uniform across the country.
If you have stage 4 breast cancer or ovarian cancer, are on Medicare, and your only hope is treatment with Avastin,  you can't get Avastin in Colorado even with health insurance, though you can in California, New York and all other states.  Why Avastin matters.

3. Medicare limits hospital readmissions.
The Deadly Pact: How Obamacare will 'save' money

....To clarify, the above provision gives the Health Secretary the discretion to remove life-extending treatment from the reach of seniors and place them in state wards for the purposes of making the "transition" to death as painless as possible. This "transition" can be activated for virtually any reason, including "a history of multiple readmissions" or "risk factor." Both of these qualifiers describe more than half the country, making this provision a transparent attempt by government to cut costs by forcibly cutting lives short.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 PM | Permalink

The effects of religion on young child development

From Live Science, Study: Religion is Good for Kids

Kids with religious parents are better behaved and adjusted than other children, according to a new study that is the first to look at the effects of religion on young child development.

The conflict that arises when parents regularly argue over their faith at home, however, has the opposite effect.

John Bartkowski, a Mississippi State University sociologist and his colleagues asked the parents and teachers of more than 16,000 kids, most of them first-graders, to rate how much self control they believed the kids had, how often they exhibited poor or unhappy behavior and how well they respected and worked with their peers.
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The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services—especially when both parents did so frequently—and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents.
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Bartkowski thinks religion can be good for kids for three reasons. First, religious networks provide social support to parents, he said, and this can improve their parenting skills. Children who are brought into such networks and hear parental messages reinforced by other adults may also “take more to heart the messages that they get in the home,” he said.

Secondly, the types of values and norms that circulate in religious congregations tend to be self-sacrificing and pro-family, Bartkowski told LiveScience. These “could be very, very important in shaping how parents relate to their kids, and then how children develop in response,” he said.

Finally, religious organizations imbue parenting with sacred meaning and significance, he said.
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Bartkowski points out that one limitation of his study, to be published in the journal Social Science Research, is that it did not compare how denominations differed with regards to their effects on kids.

“We really don’t know if conservative Protestant kids are behaving better than Catholic kids or behaving better than mainline Protestant kids or Jewish kids,” he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:35 PM | Permalink

August 7, 2010

It will be a while before I look for a new gym

I cancelled my gym membership a few months back when my favorite yoga teacher, Michael Preston, a politically incorrect fifty-year-old male who not only understood what aging bodies could do and couldn't do and made laugh at once in every session, moved away.    With him gone, the gym just seemed boring and  I just go very much once Spring arrived and I could begin working in my garden and taking long walks.

Just as well after reading in the New York Times the ease with which, even at the best gyms, one can pick up serious skin diseases and irritating, even horrific, infections.      In sum, one in three people have a skin disease that is communicable.

The advice one athletic trainer and co-author of the report gives may be good advice, but it sure takes the steam out of any desire I might have had to find a new gym.

If you plan to work out in a gym or use a locker room, Mr. Foley suggested that before choosing a facility, you quiz the management about the cleaning agents used (they should be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency) and daily cleaning schedule for all surfaces and equipment. If exercise mats are not cleaned between classes, he suggested bringing your own. Antibacterial wipes or spray bottles should be provided and used by everyone to clean equipment after a workout.

Be Sure Exercise is All You Get at the Gym

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 PM | Permalink

Reversing AIDS

A powerful video on how the effects of AIDS can be reversed.

Via Brutally Honest

It must be acknowledged that President's Emergency Plan for AIDS relief begun in 2003, the largest U.S. foreign aid program in history, the bulk of which has been invested in people who already infected  has saved and will save millions of lives.

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said
In my annual medical mission trips to Africa during the Bush administration, I saw the cost of treatment for HIV with life-saving antiretrovirals (ARVs) drop from $4,000 a year to $125. The number of Africans on ARVs jumped from 50,000 to 2.1 million.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:38 PM | Permalink

August 6, 2010

The annual salmon feast

 Annual Salmon Feast2

 Annual Salmon Feast-1

'July is summer time in the northern hemisphere and the salmon are returning to Alaska from open ocean in order to spawn literally by the millions.

'For thousands of brown bears all along the coast and spawning rivers this means the dinner bell is ringing loudly.

'The bears wait patiently for the fish to come to this spot, as all fish must get past the falls to spawn, or die trying.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:33 PM | Permalink

August 5, 2010

What's Wrong with Weddings

According to Andrew Brown at the Guardian, the modern wedding is a celebration of ego which is the biggest enemy of the subsequent marriage.

The great point about completely impersonal ceremonies, whose form is the same for everyone, whether these are religious or entirely civil, is that they remind us that the problems and difficulties of marriage are universal. They come from being human. They can't be dodged just by being our wonderful selves, even all dusted with unicorn sparkle.

On your wedding day you feel thoroughly special, and your guests will go along with this; so that is the moment when the ceremony should remind you that you're not all that. What you're doing isn't a step into fairyland. And if it does turn out to be the gateway to a new life, that is one that will have to be built over time and unglamorously with the unpromising materials of the old one.

Funerals, on the other hand, should be much more personal. I love the gloom and grandeur of the prayer book service; and there is much to be said for thinking about our own deaths from time to time. But death is the extinction of an individual life, and remembering and celebrating that individual is part of the proper response. And it's one time when we can be certain it won't inflate anyone's self esteem.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:58 PM | Permalink

August 3, 2010

"Tries to do so little and yet falls so short"

Normally, I see a lot of movies in the summer, but this year, there are so few I even want to see that I have to agree with Joe Queenan who calls it The Worst Movie Year Ever.

But it's been a boom year for movie reviewers with snark as the accompanying graphic to the piece shows.

 Snarky Moviereviews

Barbara Nicolsi blames the boomers

As cultural power brokers, the Boomers have stamped their downward spiral from stoned rebels to cynical whiners on many aspects of Hollywood's once great storytelling voice. Greedy for the power and control they have lusted for since they came of age, the Boomers created the factory model of blockbuster movies in which the pursuit of mega-dollars eliminated creative story choices again and again. They bequeath to an age desperately in need of hope and heroes, a storytelling industry that is shattered to its core in having forgotten how to weave a good tale. For decades Hollywood had the whole world sitting on its lap. The Boomer elites squandered that global audience in their one lifetime.
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First is the effect on the gargantuan Boomer generation of a lifetime of listening to their own voices. The movies being created by and for the Boomers today are a very unentertaining mix of "Never regret! Life starts at 70!" and "Life is a cruel joke, ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'" Movies like It's Complicated showcase a bunch of grey hairs still acting badly, swallowing their shame and ignoring their appropriate role as the wise mentors of the younger generations. The Dorian Greyish dark echo of this kind of story are movies like There Will Be Blood and the chillingly titled No Country for Old Men, in which the characters' lives of narcissism and greed devolve into cynicism and brutality.
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If they would be saved, the Boomer Generation must be guided into repentance for the way they self-righteously sacrificed all others as they fled from the simple heroism of adult human life. The rigid eradication of tradition, the gross materialism, the unbridled license, the embarrassing promiscuity -- all always accompanied by shrill distortion and denial -- have left our society disconnected, bloated, poorly educated, unable to trust and simmering in resentment. If the Boomers don't begin to admit to the rest of us where they went wrong, we all risk losing any of the positive achievements the generation has contributed to human history. I see many of my Millennial Generation students clamoring to set back the clock to a day before the Sixties, when there were grown-ups.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

Bewildering Complexity

Obamacare Only Looks Worse Upon Further Review writes Kevin Hassett

68 grant programs, 47 bureaucratic entities, 29 demonstration or pilot programs, six regulatory systems, six compliance standards and two entitlements.

Getting that massive enterprise up and running will be next to impossible. So
Democrats streamlined the process by granting Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius the authority to make judgments that can’t be challenged either administratively or through the courts.

Via The Corner, comes this portrait of Obamacare with PDF, if you can bear looking more closely here

 Obamacare-Portrait
"We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it,”  Nancy Pelosi


The chart was developed by Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee.

Brownback, the committee’s ranking member, added, “This updated chart illustrates the overwhelming expansion of government control over health choices and the bewildering complexity facing everyone affected by this law."
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In addition to capturing the massive expansion of government and the overwhelming complexity of new regulations and taxes, the chart portrays:

$569 billion in higher taxes;
$529 billion in cuts to Medicare;
swelling of the ranks of Medicaid by 16 million;
17 major insurance mandates; and
the creation of two new bureaucracies with powers to impose future rationing: the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the Independent Payments Advisory Board.

Brady admits committee analysts could not fit the entire health care bill on one chart.
“This portrays only about one-third of the complexity of the final bill. It’s actually worse than this.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:06 AM | Permalink