July 29, 2011

Cure for the common cold?

Could zinc be a cure for the common cold? Taking supplements could shorten illness length by 40 per cent

It is medicine’s holy grail, eluding doctors and scientists for centuries. But remarkably, the cure for the common cold could be no more complicated than a mineral supplement.

Taking high doses of zinc can cut the length of colds by almost half, according to research. The evidence emerged from the combined results of 13 trials which tested the ability of zinc lozenges, which dissolve in the mouth and are widely available, to fight off colds.

Three of the studies showed taking daily doses of zinc acetate higher than 75 milligrams – seven times more than is generally recommended – as soon as symptoms began, shortened colds by an average of 42 per cent.

Five others, using other types of zinc salt at doses greater than 75mg, resulted in a 20 per cent reduction. But five studies of doses lower than 75mg showed no benefit at all.

The idea that zinc lozenges might be effective against colds stems from an accidental observation in the early  1980s. Doctors saw that the cold of a three-year-old girl with leukaemia vanished when she dissolved a zinc tablet in her mouth.
--
Zinc deficiency is very common, with less than half of Britain’s population eating even half the recommended daily allowance.

It is not stored in the body, although can be found in tissue and bones. It aids the immune system, helps wounds heal, is important for proper taste and smell, and vital for male fertility. It may slow sight loss caused by age-related macular degeneration.  Rich sources include shellfish, lamb, liver, steak, pumpkin seeds and wholegrains.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink

Who owns our $14.3 trillion in debt?

Mainly Americans and principally the Social Security Trust Fund, according to Business Insider using figures published by the US Treasury.

Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9 percent)

Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1 percent)

Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1 percent)

Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5 percent)

Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6 percent)

Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2 percent)

Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1 percent)

State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2 percent)

Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4 percent)

United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4 percent)

Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5 percent)

State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5 percent)

Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4 percent)

U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6 percent)

China: $1.16 trillion (8 percent)

The U.S. Treasury: $1.63 trillion (11.3 percent)

Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19 percent)
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:01 AM | Permalink

July 28, 2011

How much to borrow, how much to cut

Still unknown is what will happen in the House tonight, so in the meantime here are some interesting facts to ponder.

Apple Now Has More Cash Than The U.S. Government

According to the latest daily statement from the U.S. Treasury, the government had an operating cash balance of $73.8 billion at the end of the day yesterday.

Apple's last earnings report (PDF here) showed that the company had $76.2 billion in cash and marketable securities at the end of June.

In other words, the world's largest tech company has more cash than the world's largest sovereign government.
That's because Apple collects more money than it spends, while the U.S. government does not.

Nancy Pelosi on today's vote:

"What we're trying to do is save the world from the Republican budget. We're trying to save life on this planet as we know it today."

Day Foster says By the Bye, You Could Zero Out Discretionary Spending . . .

. . . and you’d still have to raise the debt limit. That means no defense appropriations, no law enforcement appropriations, no highway appropriations. Nothing. None of it. And you’d still have to raise the debt ceiling. Or else default on interest payment. Or else decide which current beneficiaries don’t get their Social Security and Medicare checks.

Mark Steyn

The $7 billion that he calls “a real, enforceable cut for FY2012″ represents what the government of the United States currently borrows every 37 hours.

If the CBO’s scoring is correct — that it reduces the 2012 deficit by just $1 billion — then the ”cut” represents what the United States borrows every five hours and 20 minutes. In other words, in the time it takes to photocopy and distribute Boehner’s “plan,” the savings have all been borrowed back.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 PM | Permalink

The prophecies of Iowahawk

Thank you Iowahawk making me laugh out loud as he envisions THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE BUDGETARY MELTDOWN END DAYS WHERE WE FACE FINAL ARMAGEDDON UNLESS WASHINGTON GETS ITS BAR TAB RAISED ANOTHER TRILLION. Or something.

I know the consequences of failing to do so are too horrible to contemplate, but I went ahead and contemplated them anyway. This resulted in a bunch of 140-characters-or-less prophesies for the Twitter hashtag #ConsequencesofDefault, which I have edited and compiled for your edification. If my inner Nostradamus is any guide, the post-apocalyptic future of August 3, 2011 looks grim indeed:

Beltway policy experts begin living by own wits; after 45 minutes there are no survivors.

Roving bands of outlaws stalk our streets, selling incandescent bulbs to vulnerable children.

NPR news segments no longer buffered by soothing zither interludes.

Breadlines teeming with jobless Outreach Coordinators, Diversity Liaisons, and Sustainability Facilitators.

General Motors unfairly forced to build cars that people want, for a profit.

Chaos reigns at Goldman Sachs, who no longer knows who to bribe with political donations.

Mankind's dream of high speed government rail service between Chicago and Iowa City tragically dies.

New York devolves into a dystopian hellscape of sugared cola moonshiners, salty snackhouses and tobacco dens.

At-risk Mexican drug lords forced to buy own machine guns.

Potential 5-year old terrorists head to boarding gates ungroped.

Defenseless mortgage holders forced to live in houses they can actually afford.

Without college loan program, America loses an entire generation of Marxist Dance Theorists.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:50 PM | Permalink

Fear of Aging

93-year-old Rhoda Curtis writes Why Our Society is Ageist

Why does Elizabeth fear old age? Why does anyone? There is a strange conflation in our American society between growing old and becoming infirm. And there seems to be a sense of shame connected with infirmity, in spite of all the wheelchair accommodations in our streets and the electrically propelled chairs whizzing along the sidewalks and the streets. It's this sense of shame that I don't understand. It isn't as if the ageing process was something we could control and/or manage. Bicycle, motorcycle and automobile accidents render people of any age infirm and dependent upon all kinds of physical support to be mobile. Are we ashamed of becoming crippled in any way? I think we are. Political correctness phrases like "Otherwise enabled" don't really fool anyone, least of all a person in a wheelchair or on crutches or someone walking with a cane. The "crippled ones" know how they feel; they know how debilitating pain really is, and they know how difficult it is to stay mobile.

Any self-image that prevents people like Elizabeth from engaging fully with life is a destructive self-image. Conversely, it's when we engage fully with life that we find ourselves enjoying that engagement. We feel satisfaction. If we accept someone else's image of us as true, it becomes true, no matter how damaging or uplifting. If that image doesn't conform to one that satisfies us, we slowly destroy our own possibilities.
--
When I lived in South Korea about 30 years ago, I noticed that women over the age of sixty felt encouraged to go into business for themselves, and in general seemed to be happier than the under-60-year-olds.

It was the reference to South Korea that reminded me of a post I wrote in 2004, Our Fears of Aging Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecies and the remarkable series of studies by psychologists Ellen Langer and Judith Rodin.

Just how much the mental stereotypes we hold can affect our lives can be seen in Fear of aging.

Fear of aging speeds the very decline we dread according to a series of studies by psychologists Ellen Langer of Harvard and University of Pennsylvania President Judith Rodin.  Our collective negative stereotypes of aging, in particular the idea that aging brings about memory loss, lead to "decreased effort, less use of adaptive strategies, avoidance of challenging situations, and failure to seek medical attention for disease-related symptoms."

By contrast, in China the elderly are revered for their wisdom; aging itself is seen as positive and active. When groups of elderly Chinese and elderly Americans were compared against each other and then with younger people on memory retention, the older Chinese did so well even the researchers were surprised. They concluded that the results can be explained entirely by their positive images of aging.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:09 PM | Permalink

July 27, 2011

"What's the use?"

Ronnie Bryant, a Birmingham coal operator speaks and, by chance,  David McElory was there and heard him.

‘I’m just quitting’: A scene right out of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ in Birmingham

I was at a public hearing in an inner-city Birmingham neighborhood for various government officials to get public input on some local environmental issues. There are several hot topics, but one of the highest-profile disputes is over a proposal for a coal mine near a river that serves as a source of drinking water for parts of the Birmingham metro area. Mine operators and state environmental officials say the mine can be operated without threatening the water supply. Environmentalists claim it will be a threat.
--

After Bryant listened to all of the business-bashing, he finally stood to speak. He sounded a little bit shellshocked, a little bit angry — and a lot frustrated.

My name’s Ronnie Bryant, and I’m a mine operator…. I’ve been issued a [state] permit in the recent past for [waste water] discharge, and after standing in this room today listening to the comments being made by the people…. [pause] Nearly every day without fail — I have a different perspective — men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just … you know … what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I don’t know. I mean, I see these guys — I see them with tears in their eyes — looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So as I stood against the wall here today, basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you.

“McElroy comments,

The only thing I’m sure of is that what I saw today is a broken process and a sham. We all want a decent environment in which to live, but when various people at a public meeting — including federal officials and community members — talk about “environmental justice” and make it clear that their intent is to make it harder for businesses to operate, well, I can see why a businessman would decide to quit. I consider myself an environmentalist — because I want to live in a safe, secure, clean world — but what I saw isn’t reasonable concern for the environment as much as it’s an ideological agenda.

Via Mollie Hemingway at Ricochet who read the comments.

... reader after reader talks about how running a small business is a thankless task made impossible by the burden of various regulations. My friends who run small businesses have reported horror stories about the difficulties they face in running a business while jumping through regulatory hoops. We need to find a better balance.

There is hundreds of billions of capital on the sideline not creating jobs because of uncertainty over regulations, taxes and the ability of the government to solve the problems of too much spending and too much debt.

It may indeed be, and I think it is, a "crisis of the old order " as economist Robert Samuelson writes today in the Washington Post

We have left our collective comfort zone. Ideas and institutions that, on the whole, served well since World War II are under a cloud. .... Governments everywhere are striving to protect the old order because they do not understand and fear the new.

Right now it's the uncertainty that is blocking economic growth as Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry,  writes

Uncertainty is the bane of economic recovery. It is the main reason the Great Depression lasted for a decade. It is a major reason why the current economic slump continues. Business owners and investors do not create jobs when they fear factors beyond their control that could impact their profitability. Those factors abound at the moment.

A mammoth government intrusion into health care, rife with mandates and complex government regulations, sits in limbo in the courts. Businesses simply do not know at this point what the impact on their bottom lines will be if the law is upheld. The Obama administration’s energy policies are killing domestic energy jobs while driving energy prices higher for businesses and consumers. The majority of businesses in the U.S. are non-union. Obama’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board continue to try to muscle through pro-union regulations that Congress has refused to enact. Free trade agreements sit idle in Congress, agreements that can expand American exports and create jobs.

The one element that absolutely will reduce the federal budget deficit and the national debt is a rapidly growing economy. That won’t happen as long as our national economic policies put the public sector first, continue to create uncertainty, and throw roadblocks in the path of business investment and job creation. The June employment figures are a testimony to that fact.   
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:54 PM | Permalink

July 26, 2011

"Anything but silence seems to cheapen the suffering"

"Anything but silence seems to cheapen the suffering"

Walter Russell Mead, From Norway to Hell

The ghastly, shocking news from Norway has stunned the whole world.  Empathy for the young victims and their families, horror at the cold blooded and deliberate evil behind this act, and fearful wonder at the depths of madness it reveals are all joined together. We Godbotherers will be bothering God about this, asking for his compassionate and merciful presence in the lives of those who must now begin a lifetime’s journey in the presence of unspeakable grief.

To respond to events of this kind is a challenge.  The tragedy is so great that anything but silence seems to cheapen the suffering, but it also demand some kind of response.

There are some trying to draw some political conclusion about left and right from the massacre; I would like to go deeper.  This tragedy doesn’t just speak to the state of cultural politics in our time, or remind us (as it surely does) that evil has a home in every human culture and human heart; it challenges some of our deepest beliefs about where the world is headed.
--
The Norwegian horror says less about any shortcomings in Norwegian life and culture than about modern life generally.  It reminds us of the profoundly unsettling truth that modernization may lead to more violence and more death than ever before.  Modernization is not just more golden arches and more bloggers.  It is also about accelerating social change.  Capitalism drives technological change and technological change feeds on itself the more of it we have, the more we get.
--
This accelerating, unpredictable and destabilizing change can cause individuals and social groups to become unhinged: to lose their way in the confusion and mystery of modern life.  Blue collar factory workers lose their jobs by the millions; some adapt, some endure, a few go postal.  The upper middle class feels the earth shake beneath its feet as old certainties are challenged and old ways of making a living cease to work.  Most go about their business; some, like Ted Kaczynski, flip out to the Dark Side.
--

The only conclusion that makes sense to me is that human beings are stuck in a condition of radical uncertainty.  Something big and earth shaking is going on around us, but the information we have does not allow us to predict where it all goes.

In my view, this is one of the reasons that belief in a transcendent power beyond the human mind is intellectually necessary to grapple successfully with the realities of our time. When the determinist progressives threw God under the bus, they threw away the possibility of an integrated world view that has room both for scientific and rational analysis on the one hand and a honest, unsparing appraisal of the radical uncertainty around us on the other.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:53 PM | Permalink

What will help the truly poor in our cities

Another insightful essay from Walter Russell Mead in God and Our Urban Blues: Why Blue Can't Save Our Inner Cities, Part II

The great waves of civil rights legislation and urban policy since the 1960s had successes and some failures.  The great success has been the establishment of a much larger and better educated Black middle class.  Forget the high profile achievements of the few — two of the last three Secretaries of State, the current President and Attorney General, for example.  It is much more important that millions of African Americans all over the country are getting better educations, better jobs and better housing than ever before.

But there have been great failures as well. The deterioration of urban life for those who haven’t made it into the middle class is an ongoing tragedy that fifty years of policy have done little to help.  There are reasons to believe that fifty more years of the same approaches will also fail.

I’ve written about some of these obstacles.  Progressive social policy makes cities expensive and cumbersome places for the kind of businesses that employ poorly educated, low-skilled workers.  Many of our well intentioned urban policies end up steering jobs away from the people who need them most.  Municipal labor practices make everything from infrastructure construction to normal urban administration cripplingly expensive, creating an expense structure and a tax burden that basically makes life impossible for many of the small businesses that could offer jobs to low skilled workers.

None of these points has anything to do with race, and if readers will forgive me, I’d like to keep the discussion non-racial for a while.
--
we need to go on and say that some key urban problems are lumpenproletarian problems: the problems of large groups of people who have become disconnected from the habits and institutions through which their lives can be improved.  This population, often marked now as in Marx’s time by alcoholism and other forms of addiction, and then as now enmeshed in a culture of violence and crime and crippled by weak family structures, encounters many difficulties and makes life more challenging for those who live in and around it.
--
Government and bureaucratic institutions can’t do much to fix these problems.  Drug and alcohol addictions, the consequences of abandonment or violence in the home, the corrosion of soul and self esteem that comes with years of unemployment, forced recruitment into gangs, a culture of sexual exploitation and violence marked by contempt for women and homosexuals: these are the kinds of evils Jesus spoke of when he told his disciples that some evils are only cast out by fasting and prayer.

....when we are talking about uneducated people who have grown up in wasted social landscapes with little exposure to positive role models, little experience with or preparation for employment in the formal economy and for whom hard work at low pay may be the only road forward, the only realistic hope is often the power of faith and the support of a strong and focused religious community.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 AM | Permalink

July 24, 2011

Two tittles in my name

25 Everyday Things You Never Knew Had Names  via First Thing's Joe Carter

How many of these do you know?  One clue, I've got two tittles in my name.

Tittle, lunule, crepuscular rays, ferrule, gynecomastia, muntin, morton's toe, arms akimbo, desire path, semantic satiation,  skeuomorph, brannock device, paresthesia, phosphens, armscye, wamble, feat, peen, rectal tenesmus, dysania, mondegreen, petrichor,  philtrum, purlicue, aglet.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:03 PM | Permalink

July 23, 2011

"We are now experiencing the greatest avoidable epidemic in history”

Broken Promises: How the AIDS establishment has betrayed the developing world.

Harvard University researcher Edward Green rose to prominence in the AIDS controversy with his 2003 book, Rethinking AIDS Prevention. His new book, Broken Promises: How the AIDS Establishment has Betrayed the Developing World, chronicles the continuing battle over how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Green, a key player in the struggle, documents how two radically different strategies have competed for funding and support.

One is a risk elimination strategy: abstinence, faithfulness to one partner with condom used only if one partner in a couple is already infected.  The other is the sex-positive condom code with no need to change sexual behavior if condoms are used.

The evidence for the failure of condom marketing and distribution programs and the success of fidelity/delay was clear, yet many of western experts and those funding prevention programs continued to insist that condoms were the only solution and all Africa needed was more condoms. Not only was the money spent on these programs wasted, but money to deal with Africa’s other health care needs dried up.

Through his first book, Rethinking AIDS Prevention, Green had been able to convince some key leaders that behavior change was more effective than condom promotion. Others were convinced by their own research that prevention should focus on fidelity/delay, with condoms used only as a back-up.
--
Green was facing an entrenched AIDS establishment run by gay AIDS activists, population controllers, and suppliers of condoms, all committed to the sexual revolution and determined to impose that revolution on Africa. Green was appalled by the racism he found among those involved in condom promotion. They commented privately that AIDS spread in Africa because African men are incapable of controlling their sexual urges and therefore the only answer is condoms. This in spite of research which showed that Africans when faced with the facts about HIV transmission are able to substantially change their behavior.

The Pope got it right.

In spite of mounting evidence of the failure of condom programs, the AIDS establishment ridiculed as anti-scientific anyone who did not support their strategy. When Pope Benedict XVI was asked about AIDS in Africa, he said that “… if Africans do not help by responsible behavior, the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics. On the contrary, they increase it.” For this he was roundly condemned, but according to Green, “He had summarized the best current research on AIDS prevention in Africa.”
--
HIV has infected some forty-six million people in Africa and eighteen million have died. Green believes this could have been brought under control two decades ago, had ABC been employed, but because it was not “we are now experiencing the greatest avoidable epidemic in history.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:39 PM | Permalink

Professor thanks Illinois taxpayers for his "cushy life"

Carol Iannone gives just one outrageous example of how the Public sector squeezes the taxpayers.

David Rubinstein, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, describes his retirement package and thanks the taxpayers of Illinois for his “cushy life”:

After 34 years of teaching sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I recently retired at age 64 at 80 percent of my pay for life. This calculation was based on a salary spiked by summer teaching, and since I no longer pay into the retirement fund, I now receive significantly more than when I “worked.” But that’s not all: There’s a generous health insurance plan, a guaranteed 3 percent annual cost of living increase, and a few other perquisites. Having overinvested in my retirement annuity, I received a fat refund and — when it rains, it pours — another for unused sick leave. I was also offered the opportunity to teach as an emeritus for three years, receiving $8,000 per course, double the pay for adjuncts, which works out to over $200 an hour. Another going-away present was summer pay, one ninth of my salary, with no teaching obligation.

Professor Rubenstein estimates that given a normal life span, these benefits have nearly doubled his working-years salary. He puts “work” in quotation marks, citing his two-course-per-semester teaching load and other boons that make the tenured full professor’s life a heavenly haven. He goes on to point out the basic unfairness of making taxpayers who really do have to work hard, and for much less in pay and benefits, foot the bill for this kind of costly, comfy retirement for those on the public payroll.

It's America's ruling class that Angelo Codevilla wrote so eloquently about last year in America's Ruling Class and the Perils of Revolution. At least David Rubenstein is sufficiently self-aware that he sees how unfair and unjust the situation is. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:29 PM | Permalink

The excesses of medical research

This is the latest grotesque example of medical research unbound from any human ethics.

150 human animal hybrids grown in UK labs: Embryos have been produced secretively for the past three years

Last night a campaigner against the excesses of medical research said he was disgusted that scientists were ‘dabbling in the grotesque’.

Figures seen by the Daily Mail show that 155 ‘admixed’ embryos, containing both human and animal genetic material, have been created since the introduction of the 2008 Human Fertilisation Embryology Act.

This legalised the creation of a variety of hybrids, including an animal egg fertilised by a human sperm; ‘cybrids’, in which a human nucleus is implanted into an animal cell; and ‘chimeras’, in which human cells are mixed with animal embryos.
--
The figure was revealed to crossbench peer Lord Alton following a Parliamentary question.Last night he said: ‘I argued in Parliament against the creation of human- animal hybrids as a matter of principle. None of the scientists who appeared before us could give us any justification in terms of treatment.

‘Ethically it can never be justifiable – it discredits us as a country. It is dabbling in the grotesque. ‘At every stage the justification from scientists has been: if only you allow us to do this, we will find cures for every illness known to mankind. This is emotional blackmail.

‘Of the 80 treatments and cures which have come about from stem cells, all have come from adult stem cells – not embryonic ones. ‘On moral and ethical grounds this fails; and on scientific and medical ones too.’

Josephine Quintavalle, of pro-life group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: ‘I am aghast that this is going on and we didn’t know anything about it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:11 PM | Permalink

Grief bacon, blue smile and air person

From Mental Floss, 15 wonderful words that have no English equivalent.  My favorites.

3. Slampadato (Italian)
Addicted to the UV glow of tanning salons? This word describes you.

4. Luftmensch (Yiddish)
There are several Yiddish words to describe social misfits. This one is for an impractical dreamer with no business sense. Literally, air person.

12. Glas wen (Welsh)
A smile that is insincere or mocking. Literally, a blue smile.

14. Boketto (Japanese)
It’s nice to know that the Japanese think enough of the act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking to give it a name.

15. Kummerspeck (German)
Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:10 PM | Permalink

July 22, 2011

The case for making playgrounds more dangerous

Can a playground be too safe?

“I grew up on the monkey bars in Fort Tryon Park, and I never forgot how good it felt to get to the top of them,” Mr. Stern said. “I didn’t want to see that playground bowdlerized. I said that as long as I was parks commissioner, those monkey bars were going to stay.”

His philosophy seemed reactionary at the time, but today it’s shared by some researchers who question the value of safety-first playgrounds. Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.

“Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.”
--
“Climbing equipment needs to be high enough, or else it will be too boring in the long run,” Dr. Sandseter said. “Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years.”

Sometimes, of course, their mastery fails, and falls are the common form of playground injury. But these rarely cause permanent damage, either physically or emotionally. While some psychologists — and many parents — have worried that a child who suffered a bad fall would develop a fear of heights, studies have shown the opposite pattern: A child who’s hurt in a fall before the age of 9 is less likely as a teenager to have a fear of heights.
---
...the jungle gym of Mr. Stern’s youth was still there. It was the prime destination for many children, including those who’d never seen one before, like Nayelis Serrano, a 10-year-old from the South Bronx who was visiting her cousin.

When she got halfway up, at the third level of bars, she paused, as if that was high enough. Then, after a consultation with her mother, she continued to the top, the fifth level, and descended to recount her triumph.

“I was scared at first,” she explained. “But my mother said if you don’t try, you’ll never know if you could do it. So I took a chance and kept going. At the top I felt very proud.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:28 PM | Permalink

When a photo moves

Cinemagraphs: What it looks like when a photo moves

It’s somewhere between a photo and a video, a piece of artwork that seeks to perfectly capture a fleeting moment in time.

New York City-based photographer Jamie Beck and Web designer Kevin Burg “hand-stitch” together her photos and his Web design to make animated gifs they now call “cinemagraphs.”

I can't embed them but you can see how charming they are at the link.  There are more at their Tumblr link, From Me to You

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:23 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2011

Marshall McLuhan

Today is the 100th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan's birth.

McLuhan is known for coining the expressions "the medium is the message" and "the global village" and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented.

From Nicholas Carr's blog, Rough Type

Even as he came to be worshipped as a techno-utopian seer in the mid-sixties, he had already, writes Coupland, lost all hope “that the world might become a better place with new technology.” He heralded the global village, and was genuinely excited by its imminence and its possibilities, but he also saw its arrival as the death knell for the literary culture he revered. The electronically connected society would be the setting not for the further flourishing of civilization but for the return of tribalism, if on a vast new scale. "And as our senses [go] outside us," he wrote, "Big Brother goes inside."
--
McLuhan also saw, with biting clarity, how all mass media are fated to become tools of commercialism and consumerism — and hence instruments of control. The more intimately we weave media into our lives, the more tightly we become locked in a corporate embrace: “Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit by taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left.” Has a darker vision of modern media ever been expressed?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:16 PM | Permalink

Obamacare stalled the recovery

From the Heritage Foundation, the data shows Recovery Stalled After Obamacare Passed.

Private-sector job creation initially recovered from the recession at a normal rate, leading to predictions last year of a “Recovery Summer.” Since April 2010, however, net private-sector job creation has stalled. Within two months of the passage of Obamacare, the job market stopped improving. This suggests that businesses are not exaggerating when they tell pollsters that the new health care law is holding back hiring. The law significantly raises business costs and creates considerable uncertainty about the future. To encourage hiring, Congress should repeal Obamacare.
 Heritage-Chart

The problem for those who want to cut the budget and reduce the deficit is the seventy million government checks sent out each month. 

The 70-Million-Check Constituency

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:45 PM | Permalink

The secret to keeping a clean house

Dear Home Ec 101,
How do you keep a clean house?
Signed,
N00b in Newford

Heather says:

The short answer? You put crap away.

If every person in every home simply put things where they belonged, keeping a clean house would only be a matter of dealing with dirt. Unfortunately the universe tends toward entropy, a state of maximum disorder and minimum energy. Putting things away takes effort many of us feel could be better spent in other ways, like getting just one more level in Farmville.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:20 PM | Permalink

Excluding a Christian church from Ground Zero

Given the problems facing the Department of Homeland Security, you would think they would avoid the problems inherent in political correctness if only to maintain their credibility, but no.

A new video from the DHS characterizes white middle class Americans as the most likely terrorists with no mention of its own finding in December "In the last 24 months (2009 and 2010) 126 people were indicted on terrorist-related charges in the United States. All of them were Muslim."

I simply cannot understand why the mayor and the governor are not on the phone demanding the Port Authority to do all it can to rebuild St.Nicholas which was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks with the tenth anniversary less than 2 months away.

Islamic Supremacism trumps Christianity at Ground Zero

While New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg works in anxious haste to build the cultural obscenity that is the Ground Zero mosque, the iconic St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was built in 1916 and destroyed in the attack on the World Trade Center towers by Muslim terrorists, remains vanquished, unable to rebuild.
Bloomberg is lobbying for 9/11 taxpayer funds for the Islamic supremacist grifters behind the Ground Zero mosque, but St. Nicholas Church is in purgatory ten years after the worst day in modern American history.
--

I spoke with Evan C. Lambrou, who is a former editor of the National Herald, the country's oldest and largest Greek-American newspaper, and a distinguished graduate of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Boston.  He explained that it was "wrong for the Port Authority to take the church's original property for its purposes, in exchange for another parcel nearby; extract the church's good faith by promising to actually deliver the promised new parcel; and then not make good on that promise. In short, the Port Authority got the church to do something it didn't really want to do by promising the church something else instead, and then refused to give what was promised. That's just not right. It's morally reprehensible, in fact.

"It's very disgraceful that the Port Authority has compelled the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese to file a federal lawsuit just to rebuild one of our churches. And it's simply astounding that people work themselves into such a frenzy about Park 51; that so many elected officials have rushed to defend development of an Islamic community center two blocks away from Ground Zero; and that virtually no one cares about the Port Authority's plans to exclude a Christian church from Ground Zero altogether."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:18 PM | Permalink

July 17, 2011

Lightbulbs, Mozart, Microbes and more

Some things I learned last week.

At last.  House turns off light bulb standards by voice vote  thus pleasing 67% of Americans who were opposed to the light bulb ban that was to begin next January.  Remember when Energy Secretary Chu said,

"We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money."

Mozart Probably Died Young From Not Getting Enough Sun

A new theory suggests legendary composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died at 35 due in part to a vitamin D deficiency. 

Vitamin D is produced when the body is exposed to natural sunlight and Mozart spent his life in high-latitude Austria, working at night and sleeping during the day

The Equality Principle is not what you think according to some judges.

A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down Proposition 2, Michigan’s 2006 initiative banning racial preferences in education, public employment, and contracting. Employing the Orwellian reasoning that so often characterizes such decisions, the panel’s 2–1 ruling held that in passing a measure mandating that all citizens be treated equally by the state, Michigan’s electorate had violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

The Toronto District School Board decrees that Only White People Are Racist

Reuters reports that Black men survive longer in prison than out.

Boston is the #1 city for meanness.

Father and son at first and last shuttle watch, bookends to America's space age

 Father-Son-Shuttle-Launch

Matt Labash on Keeping America Mediocre or embracing the new dumbness.

The University of Iowa’s MBA program has just announced a $37,000 scholarship based on one application Tweet, as opposed to an essay. “We want {applicants} to show us more about themselves,” the director for the Tippie School of Management said. “This would give us a lot more depth and show us a lot more about a candidate than an essay would show.” Seriously? Sometimes, there are no words

U.S. Department of Education report suggests that "the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests,”  While FBI estimates that half of the priest cases were exaggerations or fraud.  That means that there may have been as many as two hundred times as much abuse by teachers than priests in the same time period.

A hundred times as many, as much as Two hundred times? Sure, kick the priests around but they're pikers compared to teachers. They aren't even in the same league.

Experts train bacteria to restore 17c frescoes in Spain.

The Trillions of Microbes That Call Us Home and Keep Us Healthy

LaTuga is one of several medical researchers at Duke working with microbial ecologists to study the development of the human microbiome—the enormous population of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that live in the human body, predominantly in the gut. There are 20 times as many of these microbes as there are cells in the body, up to 200 trillion in an adult, and each of us hosts at least 1,000 different species. Seen through the prism of the microbiome, a person is not so much an individual human body as a superorganism made up of diverse ecosystems, each teeming with microscopic creatures that are essential to our well-being.
--
Khoruts and his colleagues reported last summer that they were able to use a fecal transplant to treat and apparently cure a woman with a life-threatening Clostridium difficile infection, which causes severe inflammation of the colon. The patient had an extremely poor prognosis: Suffering from chronic diarrhea, she had lost 60 pounds over eight months. “All antibiotics were failing, and she was in really bad shape,” Khoruts says. In a last-ditch effort to improve her condition, he mixed a small sample of the patient’s husband’s stool with saline solution and injected it into her colon. Within 24 hours her diarrhea had stopped. After a few days, the symptoms were gone.

In studying this patient’s progress, Khoruts was initially surprised to find that there was a nearly complete replacement of the woman’s microbial flora with her husband’s microbes. “By the time these patients get to this desperate treatment point, they’ve taken so many antibiotics that their microbiome has been decimated,” he says. “So when we transplant the new bacteria, they simply move in to occupy the empty space.” Before Khoruts and his team performed the procedure, no research had been done on how fecal transplants work or how they impact the microbiome. “Since then we’ve done another 23 patients,” he reports, “all with dramatic stories.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

"Keyboard ready" projects

Why Nothing is "Shovel Ready" Anymore

President Obama recently admitted he was surprised to discover that shovel ready didn’t mean shovel ready anymore.

He shouldn’t have been: the essence of blue social policy is to make everything complicated and hard.
--
We’ve created such an intricate and expensive regulatory environment these days that you can’t put people to work on real projects even if you try.

What we have now are “keyboard ready” projects: contracts that start armies of already-employed white collar bureaucrats pushing proposals and specifications around in dizzy little circles.  Not much comes out in the way of jobs — but money is spent, briefs are filed, and emails fly.

That’s the blue model for you: sixty years of non-stop progressive improvements, and we’ve lost the ability to put young people to work.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 AM | Permalink

July 16, 2011

Incredible Moonbow at Yosemite

Lunar rainbows are rare phenomena.  Yosemite National Park is one of the few places they can sometimes be seen

Somewhere over the... moonbow: Dazzling arc of colour lights up night sky at Yosemite National Park

This dazzling arc of colour soaring across the night sky looks unreal.

But this is no fantasy or trick of the light, it is known as a moonbow, the rainbow of the night.

 Moonbow Yosemite

Many more photos at the link

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 PM | Permalink

More worrisome things

More worrisome things that I must take note of and pass on so I can clear my tabs.

A very different picture of what Palestinians think was revealed in a recent  survey of 1010 Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was completed last week by American pollster Stanley Greenburg and it's not very hopeful.

6 in 10 Palestinians reject a two-state solution.  Sixty-six percent said the Palestinians’ real goal should be to start with a two-state solution but then move to it all being one Palestinian state.
--
Seventy-two percent backed denying the thousands of years of Jewish history in Jerusalem, 62% supported kidnapping IDF soldiers and holding them hostage, and 53% were in favor or teaching songs about hating Jews in Palestinian schools.
--
Seventy-three percent agreed with a quote from the (Hamas) charter (and a hadith, or tradition ascribed to the prophet Muhammad) about the need to kill Jews hiding behind stones and trees.
--
But only 45% said they believed in the charter’s statement that the only solution to the Palestinian problem was jihad.
--
When asked what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s top priorities should be, 83% said creating jobs. Just 4% said getting the UN to recognize a Palestinian state, and only 2% said peace talks with Israel.

I don't like this at all.  Hezbollah hooks up with Mexican drug cartels.

Islamic terrorist groups are setting up shop in Mexico and forming alarming ties with the country's brutal drug cartels, according to a 2010 internal memo from the Tucson Police Department.  The memo, leaked by the hacker group LulzSec as part of its Arizona Department of Public Safety hack, warns that Hezbollah has established operations — and a large arms stockpile — in Mexico.

Mark Steyn reports on a public taxpayer-funded school in Toronto where every Friday afternoon, the cafeteria is opened for Muslim Friday prayers that was featured in last Saturday's Toronto Star.

 Toronto Hs Muslimprayers

The picture is taken from the back of the cafeteria. In the distance are the boys. They’re male, so they get to sit up front at prayers. Behind them are the girls. They’re female, so they have to sit behind the boys because they’re second-class citizens – not in the whole of Canada, not formally, not yet, but in the cafeteria of a middle school run by the Toronto District School Board they most certainly are.

And the third row? The ones with their backs to us in the foreground of the picture? Well, let the Star’s caption writer explain:

At Valley Park Middle School, Muslim students participate in the Friday prayer service. Menstruating girls, at the very back, do not take part.

Oh. As Kathy Shaidle says:

Yep, that’s part of the caption of the Toronto Star photo.

Yes, the country is Canada and the year is 2011.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 PM | Permalink

July 15, 2011

The Diversity Racket

Heather MacDonald on the University of California where Less Academics, More Narcissism is the rule.

Even as UC campuses jettison entire degree programs and lose faculty to competing universities, one fiefdom has remained virtually sacrosanct: the diversity machine.

Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing.
The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.

In years to come, people will look back at this in utter amazement

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 AM | Permalink

"Pretty much everyone over 50 in America feels on some level like a refugee"

Peggy Noonan, This Is No Time for Games

Pretty much everyone over 50 in America feels on some level like a refugee. That's because they were born in one place—the old America—and live now in another.
__

But everyone over 50 in America feels a certain cultural longing now. They hear the new culture out of the radio, the TV, the billboard, the movie, the talk show. It is so violent, so sexualized, so politicized, so rough. They miss the old America they were born into, 50 to 70 years ago. And they fear, deep down, that this new culture, the one their children live in, isn't going to make it. Because it is, in essence, an assaultive culture, from the pop music coming out of the rental car radio to the TSA agent with her hands on your kids' buttocks. We are increasingly strangers here, and we fear for the future. There are, by the way, 100 million Americans over 50. A third of the nation. That's a lot of displaced people. They are part of the wrong-track numbers.
--
There is so much unease and yearning and sadness in America. So much good, too, so much energy and genius. But it isn't a country anyone should be playing games with, and adding to the general sense of loss.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 AM | Permalink

See a rainbow toad for the first time.

No one had seen the Bornean rainbow toad since 1924. 

After months of scouring remote forests, conservation scientists found him, no longer a lost amphibian.

Elusive rainbow toad photographed in colour for the first time, after almost a century in hiding

 Rainbow Toad

Isn't he beautiful.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:32 AM | Permalink

The Totalitarian impulse and Elite Sanctimony

These days when the debate over gay marriage has become rancorous, George Weigel  reminds us about the totalitarian temptation in No Homophobia.

[C]rying “homophobia” is a cheap calumny, a crypto-totalitarian bully’s smear that impresses no serious person.

As analysts running the gamut from Hannah Arendt to Leszek Kolakowski understood, modern totalitarian systems were, at bottom, attempts to remake reality by redefining reality and remaking human beings in the process. Coercive state power was essential to this process, because reality doesn’t yield easily to remaking, and neither do people. In the lands Communism tried to remake, the human instinct for justice — justice that is rooted in reality rather than ephemeral opinion — was too strong to change the way tastemakers change fashions in the arts. Men and women had to be coerced into accepting, however sullenly, the Communist New Order, which was a new metaphysical, epistemological, and moral order — a New Order of reality, a new set of “truths,” and a new way of living “in harmony with society,” as late-bureaucratic Communist claptrap had it.
--
[M]arriage and the families that are built around marriage constitute one of the basic elements of civil society, that free space of free associations whose boundaries the just state must respect. If the 21st-century democratic state attempts to redefine something it has neither the capacity nor the authority to refine, it can only do so coercively. That redefinition, and its legal enforcement, is a grave encroachment into civil society.

If the state can redefine marriage and enforce that redefinition, it can do so with the doctor-patient relationship, the lawyer-client relationship, the parent-child relationship, the confessor-penitent relationship, and virtually every other relationship that is woven into the texture of civil society. In doing so, the state does serious damage to the democratic project. Concurrently, it reduces what it tries to substitute for reality to farce.

That’s what those whom Mr. Kennicott deplores as virulent bigots were trying to point out.

Neoneocon points out how religious freedom lost in Gay marriage and religious freedom

The original legislation contained an important clause protecting (for now) churches from being forced to perform gay marriages if it violates their beliefs. But it lacked protection for any other group or individual that might have a similar problem. The repercussions could have been predicted, and actions such as that of Laura L. Fotusky, who resigned as town clerk of Barker, NY because performing such marriages would violate her religious beliefs, might be followed by similar actions on the part of others facing the same dilemma.
--
Ms. Rice’s characterization of their attitude as “personal” and “discriminatory” is personal and discriminatory itself, because beliefs founded in a religion that’s been a going concern for two thousand years are more of a group/institutional thing than some personal idiosyncrasy. Plus—at least until the NY legislation was passed less than three weeks ago—the belief that marriage remained the province of man and woman was considered mainstream and nondiscriminatory.

No doubt Ms. Rice, who is a DA, chose her words carefully in order to downplay and/or ignore the real issue here, which is religious freedom, a supposedly protected right. It is the same issue involved in protecting hospital and health care workers who refuse on religious grounds to participate in abortions that run counter to their belief system.

It's hard not to agree with Frank Furedi who wrote in The Australian on a similar debate down under: When gay matrimony meets elite sanctimony.

Whatever one thinks about the pros and cons of gay marriage, a tolerant society cannot deny the right of homosexual couples to formalise their relationship. But the campaign for gay marriage is not just about rights but about the contestation of values and attitudes.

From a sociological perspective, the ascendancy of the campaign for gay marriage provides a fascinating story about the dynamics of the cultural conflicts that prevail in Western society. During the past decade the issue of gay marriage has been transformed into a cultural weapon that explicitly challenges prevailing norms through condemning those who oppose it. This is not so much a call for legal change as a cause: one that endows its supporters with moral superiority and demotes its opponents with the status of moral inferiority.

As a result, it does not simply represent a claim for a right but a demand for the institutionalisation of new moral and cultural values.
--
What we have here is the casual affirmation of a double standard: tolerance towards supporters of gay marriage and intolerance directed towards its opponents.

The declaration that certain values and attitudes are incompatible with modern society tends to serve as a prelude towards stigmatising and attempting to silence it. That is why the so-called enlightened opponents of "old-time religion" more than match the intolerance of those they denounce as homophobic bigots.

In the Anglo-American world, gay marriage has become one of those causes through which the cosmopolitan cultural elites define themselves and construct a moral contrast between themselves and ordinary folk. What's really important for them is the sense of superiority experienced through the conviction that "we" are not like them. In this way, a clear moral distinction is drawn between the forward-looking attitudes of an enlightened, courageous minority and the backward-looking prejudices of a homophobic majority.

Another Australian writer Sheila Liaugminas interviews Princeton philosophy professor Robert George in The
Orthodoxy of Sexual Liberation

Devotion to “sexual freedom” had been no part of the liberalism of FDR, George Meaney, Cesar Chavez, Hubert Humphrey, or the leaders and rank-and-file members of the civil-rights movement. Today, however, allegiance to the cause of sexual freedom is the nonnegotiable price of admission to the liberal (or “progressive”) club. ...

As Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and I argue in our Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article, once one buys into the ideology of sexual liberalism, the reality that has traditionally been denominated as “marriage” loses all intelligibility. That is true whether one regards oneself politically as a liberal or a conservative. For people who have absorbed the central premises of sexual liberation (whether formally and explicitly, as liberals tend to do, or merely implicitly as those conservatives who have gone in for it tend to do), marriage simply cannot function as the central principle or standard of rectitude in sexual conduct, as it has in Western philosophy, theology, and law for centuries.
--
Moreover, one will come to regard one’s allegiance to sexual liberalism as a mark of urbanity and sophistication, and will likely find oneself looking down on those “ignorant,” “intolerant,” “bigoted” people — those hicks and rubes — who refuse to get “on the right side of history.” One will perceive people who wish to engage in conduct rejected by traditional morality (especially where such conduct is sought in satisfaction of desires that can be redescribed or labeled as an “orientation,” such as “gay” or “bisexual,” or “polyamorist”) as belonging to the category of “sexual minorities” whose “civil rights” are violated by laws embodying the historic understanding of marriage and sexual ethics. One will begin congratulating oneself for one’s “open-mindedness” and “tolerance” in holding that marriage should be redefined to accommodate the interests of these minorities, and one will likely lose any real regard for the rights of, say, parents who do not wish to have their children indoctrinated into the ideology of sexual liberalism in public schools. “Why,” one will ask, “should fundamentalist parents be free to rear their children as little bigots?” Heather’s two mommies or Billy’s two mommies and three daddies are the keys to freeing children from parental “homophobia” and “polyphobia.”

---
“Let the marriage matter be put to the ballot in state after state,” he said, emphatically. “Because when the people deliberate on the issue, they have always come down on the side of traditional marriage.” In 31 out of 31 times it’s been put to the vote, he reminds me.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:13 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2011

Then a lost Michelangelo discovered

'Lost Michelangelo' masterpiece worth £100million found hanging on wall of student halls in Oxford

A painting which has been hanging in a student hall of residence at Oxford since the 1930s could be a Michelangelo masterpiece worth £100million.

The mid-16th century work depicting the crucifixion of Jesus was believed to be by one of the Renaissance artist’s contemporaries, Marcello Venusti.

But Italian scholar Antonio Forcellino claims that infra-red technology revealed the 12-inch by 27-inch work to have been painted by Michelangelo himself. ‘No one but Michelangelo could have painted such a masterpiece,’ Mr Forcellino wrote in his book The Lost Michelangelos.

 Lost Michelangelo
Uncanny: An image of a painting of the crucifixion of Christ by Michelangelo, left, and the painting which was hanging in Oxford University, right, previously thought to be by Marcello Venusti but is now considered to be by Michelangelo

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 PM | Permalink

First a Lost Leonardo da Vinci

The 15th Leonardo Salvator Mundi, Savior of the World

 Salvator-Mundi Davinci

Lost Leonardo da Vinci painting discovered

Salvator Mundi was in an American private collection from that point until 2005, when it was purchased from what appears to be a consortium of art dealers, but the owners are keeping fairly mum about it. They commissioned New York art historian and dealer Robert Simon to study the piece and he saw through the repaint, dirt, varnish and tragic cleanings past to the details of Leonardo-level quality like the pattern of the stole and the bubbles in the crystal orb.

They still didn’t think it was an actual Leonardo original at that point. It was only after years of cleaning and restoration that the full beauty of the painting gradually revealed itself. In the fall of 2007, they called in the big Leonardo guns.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 PM | Permalink

'New York City, there is a massive double rainbow outside. Leave your desks immediately,'

 Rainbowcurve Manhattan

Stunning photograph by Inga Sarda-Sorenson of Central Park under a double rainbow after an early evening downpour on Wednesday .  Her blog is Inga's Angle, One shutterbug's tale on the Big Apple

Heads turned upwards and Twitter and Facebook went a buzz with excited messages.

'New York City, there is a massive double rainbow outside. Leave your desks immediately,' tweeted one worker.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 PM | Permalink

July 12, 2011

Reckless Endangerment

Peter Wallison writing in the Wall Street Journal, Government-Sponsored Meltdown

[T]he Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) reported in January that the 2008 crisis was caused by lax regulation, greed on Wall Street and faulty risk management at banks and other financial firms, few were surprised.
--
According to the FCIC majority report, the government's housing policies—led by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—contributed only "marginally" to the crisis. Moreover, Fannie and Freddie "followed rather than led Wall Street and other lenders" into the subprime and other risky mortgage lending that ultimately caused the financial crisis.

But the narrative is beginning to unravel with the publication of Reckless Endangerment by Gretchen Morgenson, a business reporter and commentator for the New York Times, and Josh Rosner, a financial analyst,

Far from being a marginal player, Fannie Mae was the source of the decline in mortgage underwriting standards that eventually brought down the financial system. It led rather than followed Wall Street into risky lending.
---
After James A. Johnson, a Democratic political operative and former aide to Walter Mondale, became chairman of Fannie Mae in 1991, they note, it became a political powerhouse, intimidating and suborning Congress and tying itself closely to the Clinton administration's support for the low-income lending program called "affordable housing."

 Jamesjohnson

I had always heard that Fannie Mae passed along its cost savings to homebuyers in the form of lower mortgage rates.    I just began reading the book last night and was shocked to learn that the company kept billions of dollars, at least one-third of the government subsidy for itself each year that it paid out to executives, shareholders and friends in Congress.  In his nine years at the company James Johnson took out more than $100 million in pay. 

One former executive said, "Once he walked in the door, Fannie Mae became a political machine."

The authors write:

Washington played not one but three starring roles in creating the financial crisis of 2008.  First, it unleashed the mortgage mania by helping to relax basic rules of lending that had been in lace for decades.  Then its policymakers looked the other way as the mortgage binge enriched a few and imperiled many.  Even after the disaster hit and the trillion-dollar bailouts began, Congress and administration officials did little to repair the damaged sustem and ensure that such a travesty could not happen again.

This was reckless endangerment of the entire nation by people at the highest levels of Washington and corporate America.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2011

Orphans as Parents

The Saturday essay in the Wall Street Journal by Susan Gregory Thomas

The Divorce Generation
Having survived their own family splits, Generation X parents are determined to keep their marriages together. It doesn't always work.

For much of my generation—Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980—there is only one question: "When did your parents get divorced?" Our lives have been framed by the answer. Ask us. We remember everything.
--
"Whatever happens, we're never going to get divorced." Over the course of 16 years, I said that often to my husband, especially after our children were born. Apparently, much of my generation feels at least roughly the same way: Divorce rates, which peaked around 1980, are now at their lowest level since 1970. In fact, the often-cited statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce was true only in the 1970s—in other words, our parents' marriages.
--

Such sentiments bring to mind a set of statistics in "Generations" by William Strauss and Neil Howe that has stuck with me: In 1962, half of all adult women believed that parents in bad marriages should stay together for the children's sake; by 1980, only one in five felt that way. "Four-fifths of [those] divorced adults profess to being happier afterward," the authors write, "but a majority of their children feel otherwise."

But a majority of their children feel otherwise. There is something intolerable about that clause. I can't help feeling that every divorce, in its way, is a re-enactment of "Medea": the wailing, murderously bereft mother; the cold father protecting his pristine, new family; the children: dead.
--
After hearing about my background for some time, my distinguished therapist made an announcement: "You," she said, "are a war orphan."

Orphans as parents—that's not a bad way to understand Generation X parents.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:17 PM | Permalink

Poor Baby

Loved this  via Neatorama

--Poor-Baby

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:10 PM | Permalink

July 10, 2011

"The Real Saints are Hidden

 Church In The Clouds

                                                                                                  Janez Tolar

Looking for the Little Ones

Stop and consider that the real saints are hidden. They follow the little way. If you were to tell them they were a saint they would laugh and tell you to keep searching. If you even had the sense and discernment to see the saint next to you--the ordinary person who perseveres--the little person who serves others--the plain Jane who takes life easily and simply loves people, then you would learn again what true holiness really is. If we only had eyes to see the simplicity of the saints, the extraordinary ordinariness of holiness, the practical good humor and humility of the truly grace filled ones.

The little way is the one Therese de Liseux found in her Carmelite monastery.  A pampered, middle-class girl in provincial France, she entered the convent at 15 and died of tuberculosis when she was 24.    She lived a hidden life, yet her spiritual autobiography, The Story of a Soul, published after her death became a modern spiritual classic, read by millions around the world and translated into dozens of languages.  She was beatified in 1923, canonized in 1925 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997.

 Therese

She wrote

" I have always wanted to become a saint. Unfortunately when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by. Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 AM | Permalink

July 9, 2011

No way would I give up the Internet for a million dollars

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:51 PM | Permalink

July 8, 2011

Beer, wine, salt and sweets, powerpoint and Marilyn Monro

400 trillion trillion pints of beer lost in space

Well, not beer exactly. But they did find alcohol: ethyl alcohol, to be precise, the active ingredient in all major alcoholic drinks...Three British scientists, Drs. Tom Millar, Geoffrey MacDonald and Rolf Habing, discovered this interstellar Everclear floating in a gas cloud in the contellation of Aquila (sign of the Eagle, the mascot of Anheuser-Busch! Hmmmmm).

Red wine: Exercise in a bottle

As strange as it sounds, a new research study published in the FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), suggests that the "healthy" ingredient in red wine, resveratrol, may prevent the negative effects that
spaceflight and sedentary lifestyles have on people.

The report describes experiments in rats that simulated the weightlessness of spaceflight, during which the group fed resveratrol did not develop insulin resistance or a loss of bone mineral density, as did those who were not fed resveratrol.  A low gravity environment makes it nearly impossible for astronauts.

For the earthbound, barriers to physical activity are equally challenging, whether they be disease, injury, or a desk job. Resveratrol may not be a substitute for exercise, but it could slow deterioration until someone can get moving again."

Cutting back on salt 'does not make you healthier' (despite nanny state warnings) 

Eating less salt will not prevent heart attacks, strokes or early death, according to a major study.
Its findings contradict all recommendations by the Government and medical profession urging the public to reduce the amount of salt they consume.

Research involving nearly 6,500 people concluded that there was ‘no strong evidence’ that lowering levels in the diet reduced the risk of heart disease or premature death.
---
The authors from Exeter University looked at seven published studies involving 6,489 people. Some had high blood pressure, others had normal blood pressure and they had all been put on salt-reduction diets.
But the authors found that there was no evidence that cutting down reduced deaths or heart disease in either group. And they found that patients with heart failure who cut back on salt were actually at higher risk of death – possibly because the change in diet is such a shock to the body.

Sweets are 'good for children and may stop them from getting fat in later life'

It is an astounding claim that flies in the face of decades of nutritional wisdom.  Eating sweets might actually stop your child from getting fat, researchers say.

According to their study, youngsters who regularly eat chocolate bars and other treats are significantly less likely to be overweight or obese than those who do not.
--
Researchers at Louisiana State University in the U.S. monitored more than 11,000 children and young people between the ages of two and 18 from 1999 to 2004.The data showed that children who ate sweets were 22 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese than those who did not.  Among adolescents, even more – 26 per cent – were likely to weigh less than their counterparts who did not eat sweets.

Across all ages there were also lower levels of C-reactive protein in sweet-eating children. High levels of the protein are thought to raise the risk of heart problems and other chronic illnesses.

Explaining the survey results, the researchers said that children who were fed the right portions of sweets from an early age learned the vital skill of ‘food discipline’.

One political party in Switzerland wants to ban powerpoint.  "Finally do something" says the APP instead of wasting 2.1 billion Swiss Francs a year.

Marilyn Monroe was teeny tiny, smaller than a size 2  with a waist size of 22 and a bust of 34, no zaftig at all,  writes Virginia  Postrrel  who saw Marilyn's dresses, along with fifteen thousand people at the preview for the June 18 auction of Debbie Reynolds’s "extraordinary collection of Hollywood costumes, props and other memorabilia.

Seven pieces of good news nobody is reporting

A therapist and mother writes that the obsession with our kds' happiness may be dooming them to unhappiness, How to Land Your Kid in Therapy,

Press this button and make everything OK.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:20 PM | Permalink

Culture of Corruption

After a year-long investigation finds widespread cheating and intimidation in Atlanta schools, the largest cheating scandal in the history of the United States was exposed.  Way to go, Atlanta.

Investigation into APS cheating finds unethical behavior across every level

The voluminous report names 178 educators, including 38 principals, as participants in cheating. More than 80 confessed. The investigators said they confirmed cheating in 44 of 56 schools they examined.
--
Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets. Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.  Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.  For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district,
---
“APS is run like the mob,” one teacher told investigators, saying she cheated because she feared retaliation if she didn’t.

How many children were robbed from the education they had every right to expect from the teachers they looked up to.

Harvard doctors punished over pay

Concluding a three-year investigation, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School sanctioned renowned child psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Biederman and two colleagues after finding they violated conflict of interest rules.
---
They did not specify the nature of the violations. But in 2008, Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, accused the three doctors of accepting millions of dollars in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007, and of failing for years to report much of the income to university officials.

These were psychiatrists prescribing drugs for children!    How did they rationalize not disclosing the money they were making on the side from the very companies who were making the drugs they were prescribing. 

That horrible Gunrunner operation called Fast and Furious was funded by the stimulus to the tune of $10 million

Attorney General Eric Holder, who now feigns a blissful ignorance about the whole mess: having nothing to say about its beginnings as Operation “Gunrunner” or its latest incarnation as “Fast and Furious.”
--

The problem with Holder’s feigned ignorance is that he gave a speech in Cuernavaca, Mexico, on April 2, 2009, in which he boasted about Operation “Gunrunner” and told Mexican authorities of everything he was doing to insure its success.

Investors' Daily editorializes:

The ATF's gun-running disaster was funded in the stimulus bill. Think about all the criminal and drug cartel jobs saved or created. And our attorney general once bragged to a Mexican audience about implementing it.

This could be, no pun intended, the proverbial smoking gun in a growing administration scandal that deserves as much mainstream media attention as Iran-Contra or Watergate.
--
At a House oversight hearing last month, three federal firearms investigators testified they wanted to "intervene and interdict" the guns at the border, but were repeatedly ordered to step aside and let the traffickers proceed.
--
On Dec. 14, Terry was fatally shot in the Arizona desert while patrolling one of the region's most dangerous drug- and human-smuggling corridors. He was shot in the back with an AK-47 assault rifle. Two weapons that were allowed to cross the border as part of Project Gunrunner were found at the scene.

The evidence suggests that Agent Terry's death was financed by the president's stimulus package with the full knowledge and support of Attorney General Holder.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 PM | Permalink

July 6, 2011

More destruction of the marine environment

When I first moved into my office at the Department of the interior, there were a number of photographs on the well taken by Department photographers.  The one that fascinated me most was a photo of an underwater drilling platform teaming with fish. 

The Department of the Interior is now requiring all offshore drilling rigs to decommission and dismantle their rigs when production is completed.

The most prolific marine ecosystem on earth is being systematically destroyed on orders of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

So let’s try this: the most prolific and “diverse marine ecosystem” ever recorded by marine scientists was created by the “facilities” the U.S. Dept. of the Interior is hell-bent on dismantling (offshore oil platforms). Acting as artificial reefs over the past half century, the natural beauty, teeming fish life, coral colonies, and “bio-diversity,” created by these structures is amply documented in several studies commissioned by none other than the U.S. Dept. of the Interior.

One recent report by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Minerals (a division of the U.S. Dept. of the Interior) boasts that “fish densities are 20 to 50 times higher at oil and gas platforms than in nearby Gulf water, and each platform seasonally serves as critical habitat for 10 to 20 thousand fishes.”

In fact, “villainous” Big Oil produces marine life at rates that puts to shame “wondrous” Earth Goddess Gaia. “The fish Biomass around an offshore oil platform is ten times greater per unit area than for natural coral reefs,” found Dr. Charles Wilson of LSU’s Dept. of Oceanography and Coastal Science (emphasis added). ”Ten to thirty thousand adult fish live around an oil production platform in area half the size of a football field.”

Yet endangered coral in the Gulf of Mexico is being blown up, blow-torched, and winched out of the Gulf by the ton to bleach in scrapyards — as mandated by federal regulations. Tons of Red Snapper, Grouper, Amberjack and thousands of other “endangered” or “threatened” fish species are being dynamited in the Gulf of Mexico and left as shark-chum—as mandated by the same federal regulations. Most of these “facilities,” you see, are “dismantled” with explosives detonated around their legs below the Gulf floor. Behold the usual collateral damage here.

“It smells like death here,” said Texas fishing captain Brent Casey about a Gulf coast scrapyard piled with sections of dismantled oil platforms. “I wish you could see these 75-foot piles of metal covered in coral. It’s just insane. Forty years of habitat — gone.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 AM | Permalink

"A holocaust of youth and hope on a scale hard to match"

Walter Russell Mead on The Shame of the Cities and the Shade of LBJ

Since the Great Society era of Lyndon Johnson, the country has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into poor urban neighborhoods.  The violence and crime generated in these neighborhoods costs hundreds of billions more.  And after all this time, all this money and all this energy, the inner city populations are worse off than before.  There is more drug addiction and more social and family breakdown among this population than when the Great Society was launched.  Incarceration rates have risen to levels that shock the world (though they make for safer streets); the inner city abortion rate has reached levels that must surely appall even the most resolute pro-choicers not on the Planned Parenthood payroll.  Forty percent of all pregnancies in New York end in abortion, with higher rates among Blacks; nationally, the rate among Blacks is three times the rate among white women.  Put it all together and you have a holocaust of youth and hope on a scale hard to match.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

The Diamond Path

From the Anchoress

Grandpa Garfinkle was a master in healthy teaching. When we children next encountered him, he noted our discomfort and did not try to excuse us. The juice had been meant for others, and we had been thoughtless and selfish. But the old man knew how to reinforce a lesson with kindness.

“Now, listen all of you, because your priest is going to tell you this too: there is one very best way to live your life. First, you love and serve God, and you keep the commandments. Then, you look around at everyone else and see where you can love and serve them. Then, if you have any energy left over, you can think about yourself. This,” he said, raising his finger to emphasize the point, “is the way you walk on a road made with diamonds, by forgetting yourself, and what you want. It is the diamond path.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 AM | Permalink

Licking the morning dew off its eyeballs

 Gecko Licking Eyeball

From the Telegraph's Picture of the day

A gecko licks the morning dew off its eyeballs. This gecko is found on coastal sand dunes in Namibia. The nocturnal reptiles collect water on their eyeballs in the early morning when a mist bank descends as cool coastal air hits warm desert air. Then they lick it off to have a drink. It took photographer Isak Pretorius three days in to get the licking picture, following gecko tracks across the dunes through the mist.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

"State-encouraged incest"

Germany and EU to Legalize Pedophilia and with it, Child Pornography as well


Booklets from a subsidiary of the German government’s Ministry for Family Affairs encourage parents to sexually massage their children as young as 1 to 3 years of age.
--
“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.”

My favorite Canadian author Michael O'Brien comments:

It is, he said, “State-encouraged incest, which in most civilized societies is a crime.” The development is, he suggests, a natural outcome of the rejection of the Judeo-Christian moral order.

“The imposed social revolution that has swept the western world is moving to a new stage as it works out the logical consequences of its view of man’s value,” said O’Brien. “It is merely obeying its strictly materialist philosophy of man. If man is no more than a creature created for pleasure or power. If he is no more than a cell in the social organism, then no moral standards, no psychological truths, no spiritual truths can refute the ‘will to power’ and the ‘will to pleasure’.”
--
The wiser and deeper position of most civilizations recognized that children need a period of innocence,” commented O’Brien. “Now the state, the German state, is encouraging destruction of this state of innocence,”
he added. “This is consistent with the materialist philosophy that sees all moral norms and all truths about human nature as repressive. Pleasure and their distorted concept of freedom are their only guiding principles.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 AM | Permalink

July 4, 2011

So where do we stand this Fourth of July?

Toby Harnden's  view from abroad Down on the Fourth of July: the United States of gloom

a country whose hallmark has always been a sense of irrepressible optimism is in the grip of unprecedented uncertainty and self-doubt.
--
Frank Luntz, perhaps America’s pre-eminent pollster, argues that his countrymen are much more downbeat now than in 1980. “The assumption with the Carter years was that it was a failure of the elites, not the system. We thought the people in charge screwed up. We didn’t blame ourselves.” Remarkably, many Americans think things will only get worse and the good times will never return.
--
Luntz has found that 44 per cent of Americans believe their country’s best days are in the past, 57 per cent that their children will not achieve the same quality of life, and 53 per cent that they are less free than five years ago. So what is going on?

While Walter Russell Mead is optimistic, The Future Still Belongs to America

This tsunami of change affects every society—and turbulent politics in so many countries make for a turbulent international environment. Managing, mastering and surviving change: These are the primary tasks of every ruler and polity. Increasingly these are also the primary tasks of every firm and household.
--
The 19th century was more tumultuous than its predecessor; the 20th was more tumultuous still, and the 21st will be the fastest, most exhilarating and most dangerous ride the world has ever seen.

Everybody is going to feel the stress, but the United States of America is better placed to surf this transformation than any other country. Change is our home field. It is who we are and what we do. Brazil may be the country of the future, but America is its hometown.

I can't be so hopeful when one in four Americans don't know who their forefathers declared independence from

When only one in four high school seniors scored at least a proficient knowledge of US citizenship, you could call it American Amnesia

For the past ten years, our research team at Stanford has interviewed broad cross-sections of American youth about what U. S. citizenship means to them. Here is one high school student's reply, not atypical: "We just had (American citizenship) the other day in history. I forget what it was." Another student told us that "being American is not really special….I don’t find being an American citizen very important." Another replied, "I don’t want to belong to any country. It just feels like you are obligated to this country. I don’t like the whole thing of citizen...I don’t like that whole thing. It’s like, citizen, no citizen; it doesn’t make sense to me. It’s like to be a good citizen—I don’t know, I don’t want to be a citizen...it’s stupid to me."

Such statements reflect more than an ignorance of citizenship—though they may provide us with clues about the source of students' present-day lack of knowledge. Beyond not knowing what U.S. citizenship entails, many young Americans today are not motivated to learn about how to become a fully engaged citizen of their country. They simply do not care about their status as American citizens. Notions such as civic virtue, civic duty, or devotion to their country mean little to them. This is not true of all young people today—there are exceptions in virtually every community—but it accurately describes a growing trend that encompasses a large portion of our younger generation.

And we expect these children to pay for our social security in our old age?

Maybe what we need is a 10 minute Fourth of July Seder .  It's Dennis Prager's idea and he gives us a list of materials and  directions for a ritual to connect with the meaning of the day.

Iced tea

Salty pretzels

Strawberries and blueberries and whipped cream, but any goodie colored red, white, and blue will do.

A small bell (the ringer on your cell phone will do in a pinch.)

An American coin (the bigger the better; a half dollar is ideal, but a quarter will do).

A printed (unsigned) Declaration of Independence.

Lyrics to “God Bless America” for all your guests.


Three ideas summarize what America is all about. They are engraved on every American coin. They are “Liberty,” “In God We Trust,” and “E Pluribus Unum.”

Host passes around an American coin and chooses readers from the group to read the following:

Reader No. 1: “Liberty”means that we are free to pursue our dreams and to go as far in life as hard work and good luck will take us.

Reader No. 2: “In God We Trust”means that America was founded on the belief that our rights and liberties have been granted to us by the Creator. Therefore they cannot be taken away by people.

Reader No. 3: “E Pluribus Unum”is a Latin phrase meaning “From Many, One.” Unlike other countries, America is composed of people of every religious, racial, ethnic, cultural, and national origin — and regards every one of them as equally American. Therefore, “out of many (people we become) one” ‐‐ Americans.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:14 PM | Permalink

The Cost of Freedom

One father writes While My Son Serves in Iraq

After his enlistment I had to ask why he would join an organization where taking orders is a way of life. "It's how you get to the big game," he replied. Put another way, he's a single young man looking for adventure—and perhaps meaning—and tends to believe that the people who man the office cubicles are the real drones.

He certainly chose an unusual path: Fewer than 1% of Americans wear the uniform these days. That, in turn, puts families of deployed soldiers in something of a world of their own.

For one thing, you're unlikely to bump into someone at the local tavern to commiserate with (which is not an argument for avoiding taverns, tavern life being one of the traditions that our children cross the oceans to protect).

New acquaintances sometimes seem shocked to meet someone with a deployed family member. "I'm so sorry," is their typical response. You'd almost think the lad was heading into rehab or entering the slave trade.
---
It is undoubtedly true that war is good not only for munitions makers but also for what a friend calls the "prayer life." In the run-up to Sarge's 2007 deployment, a celestial petition entered my mind so effortlessly and naturally that I assumed the same has been true for soldiers' parents through the ages: If a life must be taken, take mine and spare his.

Deployment can also be a positive experience for soldiers. After returning home, our son said that "when I'm out in the desert, I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing." Sometimes you have to travel 7,000 miles to find a sense of purpose, and many men, I suspect, may come to wish they had made a similar journey.

While another is a 76-year-old Army medic on 4th tour in war zones

The untold scandal of the betrayal of men and women in uniform by their own family members

A couple's candid memoir of life during deployment

‘Men were coming home on leave to find their wives gone from their houses,” David French writes about the strain of deployment on marriage. “Other men were getting the modern equivalent of the ‘Dear John’ letter via Facebook message or e-mail. Some guys discovered wives or girlfriends were pregnant, and still others were finding that their bank accounts had been looted by the very people they most trusted with their financial affairs. In fact, I would say that the ongoing betrayal of our men and women in uniform by their own family members is perhaps the most underreported scandal and toll of the war. It is an enduring symbol of the depravity of man and the fallen nature of our own culture.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:00 PM | Permalink

"The things of the spirit come first" - Calvin Coolidge

President Calvin Coolidge was a 4th of July baby,  born on July 4 in 1872.

His Speech on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence is extraordinary and

and I urge you to read and ponder it.    We are not only in danger of neglecting our great heritage, we may fail to pass it on and that is worse.

We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation.

Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period.
Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience.

It is not so much then for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather
to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.
-----
We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people....

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern.  But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

--
Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meeting-house. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

July 3, 2011

"Genuine freedom requires responsibility"

Remarkable.  I've sung  America the Beautiful countless times and never pondered "Confirm they soul in self-control"

Paul Kengor did, This Fourth of July: Confirm Thy Soul in Self-Control

As noted by John Howard—the outstanding senior fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, & Society—Montesquieu noted that each citizen in a self-governing state must voluntarily abide by certain essential standards of conduct: lawfulness, truthfulness, honesty, fairness, respect for the rights and well-being of others, obligation to one’s spouse and children, to name a few.

“Each new generation must be trained to be responsible citizens … to be virtuous and conscientious,” writes Howard in The St. Croix Review. “Once the free society is well-established, the daily life of the family and the society is such that becoming virtuous is not a monstrous chore for the young people.”

Sadly, becoming virtuous has indeed become a monstrous chore in a society not only lacking virtue but eschewing virtue—fleeing virtue like a vampire fleeing a cross. Living life in a good way—what Benedict Groeschel calls The Virtue Driven Life—becomes so alien that the people prefer darkness over light. When virtues are not taught—whether at home, at school, or by America’s educator-in-chief, the TV set—they become unknown and ignored and unfulfilled, desiccated and dead upon the national landscape.

And perhaps saddest of all, as John Howard notes, v
irtue is something that can be acquired, like learning to speak a culture’s language. Once inculcated, however, it needs to be continuously reinforced by the cultural elements of the society. Virtue needs nourished, like fruitful plants need water and sunlight. Says Howard emphatically: “I want to repeat…. Virtue must be continuously reinforced by the culture.”

We Americans might not think about this much, but we actually sing it fairly often, even if the words don’t sink in. Consider this line from one of our sacred political hymns, America, the Beautiful:

America, America,
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

That’s the ticket: Confirm thy soul in self-control...
--
In truth, a genuine freedom requires responsibility. As the song says—and as Washington and Montesquieu intimated—we must successfully govern ourselves in order to successfully govern our nation.

It’s a timeless concept worth remembering this Fourth of July and every day going forward.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 PM | Permalink

The cost of the stimulus - $278,000 per job

Very quietly on Friday before a long weekend a report was released by Obama's economists which revealed  that the Stimulus has cost $278,000 per job

The report was written by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, a group of three economists who were all handpicked by Obama, and it chronicles the alleged success of the “stimulus” in adding or saving jobs. The council reports that, using “mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus” (which it describes as a “natural way to estimate the effects of” the legislation), the “stimulus” has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs — whether private or public — at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job. 

In other words,
the government could simply have cut a $100,000 check to everyone whose employment was allegedly made possible by the “stimulus,” and taxpayers would have come out $427 billion ahead.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:57 PM | Permalink

July 2, 2011

What is Man?

[T]he essential question of our time is the anthropological question, the question of man.

What is man? What is his nature, his meaning, his duty, his destiny?

Scripture tells us that man is a being mysteriously, almost paradoxically, endowed with a double nature: one physical, and so transient, doomed to the vicissitudes of change and then to pass away; and one spiritual, immortal, destined for eternity.

But the modern world has, for the most part, denied this definition or understanding of man.

The modern world has, for the most part, embraced a reductionist view of man, viewing man as a physical being only, moved by chemical reactions and hormonal drives, condemned by the haphazardness of an essentially meaningless universe to create himself and his own meaning according to his own desires, without any transcendent reference of any type, not to mention the reality signified by the word "God," which only arouses polite snickers in elite circles.

Pope Benedict has often made this point -- that our age suffers from the absence of God.

Robert Moynihan, The Shadow Over Europe 

Because, oddly, it is of the essence of being a man, of being human, that man transcend himself. Unless man transcends himself, he is not man. This is the paradox at the heart of our being, the strangeness of our humanity.

Without God, without the transcendent, without the holy, man is bereft of what is of its essence beyond man, of the divine, of the "above," of the sacred, of that which surpasses the purely digital, the purely numerical....

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:40 PM | Permalink

Lanterns in the sky over Poland

It's just magical as Poles release 11,000 lanterns to the night sky to celebrate Midsummer's Eve

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

What you can do with a dollar bill

Amazing.

 Dollarkoi

via Colossal

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:47 AM | Permalink