September 29, 2011

The U.S. government sold guns to really bad guys

Fast and Furious is a scandal I can't keep up with, but now, according to Michael Walsh in the NYPost, there is A 'Furious' revelation .  I agree that a special prosecutor is now needed.  This is far worse than Watergate.

This just might be the smoking gun we’ve been waiting for to break the festering “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal wide open: the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives apparently ordered one of its own agents to purchase firearms with taxpayer money, and sell them directly to a Mexican drug cartel.

Let that sink in: After months of pretending that “Fast and Furious” was a botched surveillance operation of illegal gun-running spearheaded by the ATF and the US attorney’s office in Phoenix, it turns out that the government itself was selling guns to the bad guys.
People were killed with Fast and Furious weapons, including at least two American agents and hundreds of Mexicans. And the taxpayers picked up the bill.

So where’s the outrage?

There’s none from the feds. Attorney General Eric Holder has consistently stonewalled Rep. Darrell Issa, Sen. Chuck Grassley and other congressional investigators.
Further, we now know that a host of federal agencies (including the ATF, the FBI and IRS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration and, very probably, top officials at the Department of Homeland Security) were all in the loop at various levels, as was the White House.

Where are the Woodward and Bernsteins of today?  At Pajamas Media, MSM Sheep: Ignoring the Scandal of the Century

I don’t wish to understate it: elements of the U.S. Departments of Justice, State, Homeland Security, and Treasury are responsible for supplying an arsenal to narco-terrorists waging a civil war against an American ally. Our federal government may bear responsibility for at least 200 murders committed with “walked” firearms, in what Mexican Attorney General Marisela Morales describes as a “betrayal” of her country by the Obama administration.
This is objectively the most important political and legal story in America right now.
Instead, both the New York Times and Washington Post have responded to Gunwalker with attempted character assassinations of Congressman Darrell Issa, the lead investigator.

The Post ran a desperate hit piece on Issa, a story turned down by at least two other news organizations and left-wing blog Talking Points Memo for being too thinly sourced. They gave the byline to a reporter returning from a plagiarism suspension.

After that failed to stop Issa, the New York Times produced a hit piece so rife with errors that it amounted to fiction.

Among the MSM, only Richard Serrano of the Los Angeles Times, Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News, and William Lajeunesse of Fox News have faithfully reported on the story.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 PM | Permalink

Movin on down South

A Jersey boy moves to Mississippi and loves it and tells you why in Southern Like Me.

Most of what we Yankees know about the South comes from TV and movies. Think Hee-Haw meets Mississippi Burning meets The Help and you get the picture.

But my own prejudices bore little resemblance to the reality I encountered when I moved south. I fell in love with the place. With the pace of life, for openers. Things got done, and done well, but it always seemed as if people had time for one another. 


It’s quite a story, actually. Americans, black and white alike, are moving in record numbers to a part of the country where taxes are low, unions are irrelevant, and people love their guns and their faith. And yet we have heard hardly a peep about this great migration from our nation’s public intellectuals.

Why? Because their ideological prejudices won’t permit them to admit the obvious. They’d prefer to focus their research on the pre-1970s South because they are more comfortable with — and more invested in — that old narrative, while this new one marches on right under their noses.
It turns out that white Yankee migrants like me, African American migrants from Chicago, and businessmen owners in Illinois and around the world, see something in the South that novelists, journalists, academics, and our current president cannot.      The future.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:47 AM | Permalink

Breaking through barriers

Astonishing photo of a Tomcat fighter breaking the sound barrier.  It really looks as if it's breaking through from another dimension.

 Breaking Sound Barrier

It looks like a Hollywood special effect, but there’s actually no computer trickery involved – just two high-powered jet engines.

This is the moment an F14D Tomcat fighter smashed the sound barrier as it roared above the flight deck of USS Theodore Roosevelt during a fly-past.

The dramatic cloud effect occurs when humidity is high and the air condenses behind the plane. It is accompanied by a loud crack, caused by compressed air waves exploding.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

More crony capitalism in the green sector

In the next 48 hours, the Department of Energy will be handing out another $5 billion in loans under the same loan program that approved Solyndra. 

Just this week, the DOE announced a $737 million loan guarantee to finance construction of the Crescent Dune Solar Energy Project, a 110 megawatt solar power generating facility in Nevada.

The company that's receiving the loan Solar Reserve has as its investment partner the Pacific Corporate Group headed by Ron Peloisi, brother-in-law to Nancy Pelosi in what appears to be another example of crony capitalism

Worse, the Energy Department said the project will result in 600 construction jobs and 45 permanent jobs.

That puts the cost per permanent job at over $16 million reports Ed Morrissey.

Meanwhile, we taxpayers will have one over-the-top splendid facility in Silicon Valley, the first factory built there in 10 years.

Bloomberg press investigates Solyndra's $733 Million Plant that had Whistling Robots and Spa Showers

The building, designed to make far more solar panels than Solyndra got orders for, is now shuttered, and U.S. taxpayers may be stuck with it. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 6, leaving in its wake investigations by Congress and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a Republican-fueled political embarrassment for the Obama administration, which issued the loan guarantee. About 1,100 workers lost their jobs.

Amid the still-unfolding postmortems, the factory stands as emblematic of money misspent and the Field of Dreams ethos that seemed to drive the venture... --

The plant features 19 loading docks, four electric car charging stations in the parking lot and landscaping of wild grass and a rock garden. An automated rail system moved parts through the assembly process.
“It was first class,” David Chan, 51, who was an information-technology contractor for Solyndra, said in an interview. “I’ve been in the business for 25 years and have seen some elaborate buildings. I’ve never seen a facility like it.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

September 27, 2011

Facebook is Big Brother

You aren't the customer, you're the product being sold says Michael van der Gallen in The 8 ways Big Brother's Facebook's New Changes Alienate Its Users

Most of the changes aren’t meant to make life easier for users — that means: for you and me — but for advertisers. The goal clearly is to make it easier for them to target people whose Internet behavior implies they may be interested in a company’s products. If that means that you and I have a more difficult time using the world’s largest social network, so be it. Facebook has more important things to consider, namely money.

I am horrified to learn that Facebook is asking users to share their medical history, that the new profiles are "The biggest Breach of Your Privacy in Facebook's History" and that its new "Open Graph" creates a permanent record over which the user has no control.

Lauren Weinstein — an expert on the Internet and privacy – adds rather succinctly: Biggest fans of Facebook’s new Open Graph:

FBI, CIA, NSA, TSA, + (all Department of Homeland Security departments and assets)
Local Law Enforcement
Your boss
Your medical and life insurance companies
Your auto insurance company
Department of Motor Vehicles
All lawyers (especially divorce and personal injury)
Anyone else who might want to know how you’ve spent your time, at any point in the future, based on the permanent data record created automatically by your activities at vast numbers of sites, all collected in one place for ease of court orders.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 PM | Permalink

What one entrepreneur can do

We need more people like Dr. Paul Polak, more little projects and fewer big ones.

An Entrepreneur Creating Chances for a Better Life

For 30 years Dr. Polak, a 78-year-old former psychiatrist, has focused on creating devices that will improve the lives of 2.6 billion people living on less than $2 a day. But, he insists, they must be so cheap and effective that the poor will actually buy them, since charity disappears when donors find new causes.
Inventing a new device is only the beginning, he says; the harder part is finding dependable manufacturers and creating profitable distributorships. The “appropriate technology” field, he argues, is “dominated by tinkerers and short of entrepreneurs.”

His greatest success has been a treadle pump that lets farmers raise groundwater in the dry season, when crops fetch more money. He has sold more than two million, he said.
Q. What’s the biggest mistake aid agencies make?

A. As we were developing our pump, the World Bank was subsidizing deep-well diesel pumps that could cover 40 acres. The theory was that you’d get a macroeconomic benefit, but it was also very destructive to social justice. The big pumps were handed out by government agents; the government agent was bribeable. The pump would go to the biggest landholder, and he’d become a waterlord.
Q. What are your principles for success?

A. In 1981, I said, “I’m going to interview 100 $1-a-day families every year, come rain or shine, and learn from them first.”

Over 28 years, I’ve interviewed over 3,000 families. I spend about six hours with each one — walking with them through their fields, asking what they had for breakfast, how far their kids walk to school, what they feed their dog, what all their sources of income are. This is not rocket science. Any businessman knows this: You’ve got to talk to your customers.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 PM | Permalink

What's happened to the movies?

I love movies and for years would see 2 or 3 a week.  When Netflix first appeared I was ecstatic because I could see all the movies that I had missed over the years. 

But these days there are fewer and fewer movies I even want to see.  Somehow movies today don't move me.  They just don't matter. I couldn't put my finger on it but John Podhoretz did in Say, What?

Movies make plenty of noise, but don’t speak to us.
audiences no longer engage with them as they once did. They do not expect to be drawn in—and they aren’t. The movies they have been trained to attend for decades are contrivances, amusement park rides, seemingly designed to be disposable, forgettable, pointless.

David Clemens follows on Colleges' Lost Love of Film

Movies used to matter a great deal, as did film criticism; films were anticipated events (a new Fellini!) and they established cultural milestones (2001:  A Space Odyssey); films found and shaped the zeitgeist (La Dolce Vita, Blow-Up, The Graduate).  Critical responses, too, were eagerly awaited.  I learned more about close analysis and criticism from reading Pauline Kael, John Simon, and Stanley Kauffmann than I ever learned in grad school English.

Why even mention box office bonanzas such as Titanic, Mama Mia, Sex and the City, Avatar?  Nothing but soap opera and melodrama.
Instead of offering joy, suffering, passion, or anything else remotely human, academics and universities first embalm, then inter, the arts whose beating heart should afford students a personal awakening to what Kauffman calls “the increments of their cultural life.”

Academicizing produces cataloguers, historians, theorists, careerists, and docents.  In such a climate, can film art in college be saved or is the visual future just YouTube and TEDTalks?  Andrew, a former student, told me that after watching Au Hasard Balthazar, he was so moved that he was unable to speak for two days.  Perhaps his reaction is a key to how higher education might better approach all the arts:  select for the humane and aesthetic, in film, in books, in painting.  Set aside theorizing, historicizing and deconstructing, those three offensives in the academy’s war against beauty and transcendence. Return to film viewing as an experience rather than an occasion for didacticism.  When using film, just let students watch and absorb. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 PM | Permalink

Are you getting your Vitamin B12?

Study Finds Vitamin B12 May Prevent Memory Loss

A new study has found a link between poor nutrition and cognitive problems in older adults. The study, published Monday in the journal Neurology, found that adults over 65 with a vitamin B12 deficiency are more likely to have lower brain volumes and cognitive impairment than those with adequate B12.
“We showed that four out of five markers of B12 deficiency were strongly associated with poor cognitive performance overall, and more specifically, poor episodic memory and perceptual speed,” said Christine Tangney, Ph. D., the study’s lead author and associate professor of clinical nutrition at Rush.

The researchers also found that brain volume was significantly lower in those with high levels of markers for B12 deficiency.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 2-6 micrograms of vitamin B12 for adults over 50.

Foods rich in vitamin B12 are fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and milk products

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 PM | Permalink

"It does not tell a story. It contains 'just the facts'"

From MIT 's Technology Review  Why Doctors Don't Like Electronic Health Records

Jerome Groopman, a Harvard internist, wrote in How Doctors Think, "Clinical algorithms can be useful for run-of-the-mill diagnosis and treatment ... but they quickly fall apart when doctors need to think outside their boxes, when symptoms are vague, or multiple and confusing, or when test results are inexact."

The computer is oversold as a tool to improve health care, implement reform, cut costs, and empower patients. The reasons are obvious to anyone who treats patients. You cannot look a computer in the eye. You cannot read its body language. You cannot talk to an algorithm. You cannot sympathize or empathize with it.

We physicians are not Luddites or troglodytes. We are savvy about using the Internet, technology applications, and social media. For us, medicine mixes art and science. What we seek from patients are clues, constellations of signs and symptoms, and stories. We choose not to be reduced to data-entry clerks sorting through undigested computer bytes.

A string of numbers containing demographic, laboratory, and other patient information, no matter how systematically assembled or gathered, is not narrative. It does not tell a story. It contains "just the facts," as Sergeant Joe Friday used to say. That is why an ophthalmologist told me that when he gets an EHR summary, he ignores it: "It does not tell me the patient's story. It does not tell me why the patient is here, what troubles the patient, and what the referring doctor wants me to do."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:21 PM | Permalink

September 26, 2011

Persecution of Christianity here, there and everywhere

British Postal Service Refuses to Deliver Christian CDs after deciding they were 'offensive material'

Postal workers refused to deliver CDs of Bible readings after deciding they were ‘offensive material’.  Several churches had paid for discs with recordings of St Mark’s Gospel to be produced to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. They were due to be delivered to all households on the Channel Island of Jersey, but church leaders were stunned when they were told postal workers would not handle the 45,000 CDs.

Some British MPs want to "Force Churches to Perform Same-Sex Unions or Close Them Down."

British police ban display of bible texts on a video screen in a Christian cafe because it breaches public order laws.

Raymond Ibrahim reports on the Muslim Persecution of Christians that occurred in just the month of August and it is astonishing.  This is news that rarely, if ever, reaches the mainstream media.  Ibrahim  writes the persecution is habitual, if not chronic, and it is  "systematic, interrelated, and ultimately rooted in a worldview inspired by Sharia Law."

whatever the of persecution that took place, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; apostasy and blasphemy laws; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya, the additional tax that can be imposed on by Muslims on non-Muslims in a Muslin state; overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or second-class "protected" citizens; and simple violence.

Lest you think this couldn't happen In the United States where the Free Exercise of Religion enshrined in the Bill of Rights is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" , think again.

In Imagine No Religion, Adam Freedman reports that  In the San Diego school district, teachers display all sorts of posters and banners -Tibetan prayer flags with images of the Buddha,  posters of Mahatma Gandhi, images of the Dalai Lama, Malcolm X and John Lennon and the lyrics of Imagine.  Singled out for discipline was a teacher who had displayed for decades

a quotation from the Declaration of Independence ("All men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator..."), the official motto of the US ("In God We Trust"), and the phrase "One Nation, Under God" -- a phrase inserted by Congress in 1954, and reaffirmed by Congress in 2006

The teacher won in the district court on Free Speech and Establishment clause ground but the Ninth Circuit reversed  ruling

the teacher's banners are not protected by the free speech clause, and that State action that allows teachers to promote Buddhism, Hinduism, and Atheism, while prohibiting "judeo-christian viewpoints" presents no Establishment Clause problem.

In Capistrano, California, a city founded as a Christian mission and home to California's oldest building still in use where Father Junipero Serra celebrated mass, city officials fined a Christian couple $300 for holding a bible study in their home because they did so without getting a city permit.

Texas school punishes boy for opposing homosexuality

An honors student in Fort Worth, Texas, was sent to the principal’s office and punished for telling a classmate that he believes homosexuality is wrong.
Dakota was in a German class at the high school when the conversation shifted to religion and homosexuality in Germany. At some point during the conversation, he turned to a friend and said that he was a Christian and “being a homosexual is wrong.”

“It wasn’t directed to anyone except my friend who was sitting behind me,” Dakota told Fox. “I guess [the teacher] heard me. He started yelling.

These are not just outlying cases.  Look what's happening at the highest federal levels where the threat to religious freedom is unprecedented as the Obama Administration's redefines  religious freedom. 

The Department of HHS has promulgated new regulations to govern which religious organizations may receive an exemption from other Obamacare regulations that require them to pay for contraceptives, sterilizations, abortions and other services that violate their religious beliefs.  The definition of a qualified religious organization is so narrow  Jesus Christ Himself Wouldn't Get ObamaCare Religious Exemption.  Really.   It excludes Catholic non-profits, colleges and social service agencies that do not primarily teach religion or who employ non-Catholics or who serve non-Catholics.  So much for the church's mission to serve the poor whoever they may be. 

The Fight to Be Catholic  outlines the threats not just from HHS but also from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board. 

Two years ago, the Administration declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed by Congress.  Today it attributes prejudice and bias to those who continue to believe in traditional marriage.  Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to the President last week.

We as Bishops of the Catholic Church recognize the immeasurable personal dignity and equal worth of all individuals, including those with same-sex attraction, and we reject all hatred and unjust treatment against any person. Our profound regard for marriage as the complementary and fruitful union of a man and a woman does not negate our concern for the well-being of all people but reinforces it.

"Mr. President, I respectfully urge you to push the reset button on your Administration‟s approach to DOMA. Our federal government should not be presuming ill intent or moral blindness on the part of the overwhelming majority of its citizens, millions of whom have gone to the polls to directly support DOMAs in their states and have thereby endorsed marriage as the union of man and woman. Nor should a policy disagreement over the meaning of marriage be treated by federal officials as a federal offense— but this will happen if the Justice Department's latest constitutional theory prevails in court. The Administration‟s failure to change course on this matter will, as the attached analysis indicates, precipitate a national conflict between Church and State of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:10 PM | Permalink

September 25, 2011

You deserve nothing. Remember that.”

What your grandfather learned from the school of hard knocks. 

The 4 Personal Finance Principles That Would Make Your Grandfather Proud from The Art of Manliness

Grandpa learned his financial lessons from the school of hard knocks. He lived through the Great Depression, which taught him to live leanly, to save, and to be grateful for what he had. And he lived in a time where staying out of debt was a matter of independence, pride, and self-reliance, something he believed reflected on a man’s most precious resource–his character.

1. Resourcefulness - 

the intersection of self-sufficiency and creativity.

2. Awareness -

Consciousness of what he was spending by noting all purchases in a pocket notebook.

3. Comfortable negotiating. -

Negotiation is simply when communication and problem solving collide. Anytime there is a problem–and you use communication to solve that problem–you are negotiating.

4, Non-Entitlement Attitude -

“You deserve nothing. Remember that.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 PM | Permalink

"It's been such a long time since I heard anything that gave me some hope."

I found this story profoundly moving.  It comes from Sandro Magister, The Pope in Germany. In the Desert of Faith

"Where God is, there is the future" is the title Pope Benedict XVI wanted to give his third visit to Germany.
In Berlin and Erfurt, Benedict XVI enters into the area of Europe farthest from God. He wants to make it a new mission territory. A report from Chemnitz, where atheists are in the majority and almost no one is baptized anymore.
The protagonists of the renewed evangelization are a few families of Neocatechumenal Catholics, who have gone there as missionaries from other European countries.
It is moving, the little crowd of young Christians this evening in Chemnitz, formerly Karl-Marx-Stadt. Because in this corner of the former German Democratic Republic, civilization was born, in the year 1136, from a handful of Benedictine monks who founded an abbey, bringing in their wake Christian families who lived around the convent and cleared the forests for farmland, and those families also had about a dozen children apiece.

Can the story begin again, when it seems finished? You ask yourself this in this silent and spent city, where one out of every four inhabitants is elderly, and the only children of broken families are alone. Here the people turn around and look if a Neocatechumenal family goes out with even half of its children. And if a classmate happens to come over for lunch, he takes a picture of the crowded table with his cellphone, in disbelief.
"You're so lucky," they often say to us, "you go home from school and you all eat together. We eat alone, or with the cat." In a flash of longing for a real family.
Two generations without God are a lot, to the memory of men. But when, one day, some of Professor Rebeggiani's children began to sing from the balcony of their home – for the pure joy of it – the ancient song "Non nobis Domine sed nomini tuo da gloriam," the neighbors came to the windows to listen. And a widow asked the young people to sing the same song at the cemetery, in memory of her dead husband. They did, and one of those present approached them at the end: "It's been such a long time," he said, "since I heard anything that gave me some hope."

Who knows, you ask yourself, if it didn't begin the same way for the handful of Benedictine monks and laypeople who arrived here in 1136: with the astonishment of men who glimpsed something beautiful in them, and felt a mysterious longing for it.

Not to us, not to us, O Lord,
But to your name give glory.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:35 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2011

They even stole from the king

From Daniel Hannan, A cautionary tale from George I, King of the Hellenes

Here's a little story for those who are tempted to place too much trust in Greek politicians. It is recounted in the Duke of Edinburgh's biography.

Shortly after George I – since Philip's grandfather – had ascended to the Hellenic throne, he called a Cabinet meeting. Around the table were the patriarchs of Greek politics, men whose surnames still dominate contemporary administrations. During the discussion, the young monarch rose from the table in order to illustrate his point on a wall map. When he returned to his chair, his gold fountain pen was missing.

The king asked for the pen to be returned, but no one moved. He asked again. Nothing. Eventually, he declared:

'Gentlemen, this joke has gone far enough. I shall now turn off the lights. If, when I switch them back on, the pen is back in its place, we shall say no more about it'.

He switched off the lights. When they came back on, his silver inkstand had vanished too.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:51 PM | Permalink

Government officials and bureaucrats are never held accountable

In the Spectator, The great euro swindle

Very rarely in political history has any faction or movement enjoyed such a complete and crushing victory as the Conservative Eurosceptics. The field is theirs. They were not merely right about the single currency, the greatest economic issue of our age — they were right for the right reasons. They foresaw with lucid, prophetic accuracy exactly how and why the euro would bring with it financial devastation and social collapse.

Meanwhile the pro-Europeans find themselves in the same situation as appeasers in 1940, or communists after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They are utterly busted. Let’s examine the case of the Financial Times, which claims to be Britain’s premier economic publication. About 25 years ago something went very wrong with the FT. It ceased to be the dry, rigorous journal of economic record that was so respected under its great postwar editor Sir Gordon Newton.

Turning its back on its readers, it was captured by a clique of left-wing journalists...The central historical error of the modern Financial Times concerns the euro. The FT flung itself headlong into the pro-euro camp, embracing the cause with an almost religious passion. Doubts were dismissed....The paper waged a vendetta against those who warned that the euro would not work....For a paper with the FT’s pretensions to authority in financial matters, its coverage of the single currency can be regarded as nothing short of a disaster.

James Delingpole points to The Guilty Men

How did they get away with this stuff? It's a question I find myself asking time and again of all those establishment figures using every manner of dirty trick to promote the Man Made Global Warming scam. As we saw with Appeasement and we saw again with the Euro, foremost among these dirty tricks is a relentless campaign to discredit those who disagree with them by implying that they are mad, extreme, out-of-touch, unrepresentative, ill-informed. What's depressing, as we saw with the Appeasers and again with those Europhiles, is there is no great penalty for having been so totally wrong..... you can be sure that those Guilty Men won't actually be experiencing even the slightest frisson of guilt or embarrassment about the decent people whose reputations they have helped destroy, or the damage they have done to our economy, our democracy and our freedoms.

Government officials and bureaucrats are never held accountable.  Can you think of one former or present  official or bureaucrat who was held accountable in the financial and housing disaster that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac precipitated? 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink

‘The increase of CO2 is not a cause for alarm and will be good for mankind’

A contrarian view on CO2.  Prominent Scientist Tells Congress: Earth in ‘CO2 Famine’

‘The increase of CO2 is not a cause for alarm and will be good for mankind’

Award-winning Princeton University Physicist Dr. Will Happer declared man-made global warming fears “mistaken” and noted that the Earth was currently in a “CO2 famine now.”  Happer, who has published over 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers, made his remarks during today’s Environment and Public Works Full Committee Hearing entitled “Update on the Latest Global Warming Science.” 

“Many people don’t realize that over geological time, we’re really in a CO2 famine now. Almost never has CO2 levels been as low as it has been in the Holocene (geologic epoch) – 280 (parts per million - ppm) – that’s unheard of. Most of the time [CO2 levels] have been at least 1000 (ppm) and it’s been quite higher than that,” Happer told the Senate Committee

“Earth was just fine in those times,” Happer added. “The oceans were fine, plants grew, animals grew fine. So it’s baffling to me that we’re so frightened of getting nowhere close to where we started,” Happer explained. Happer also noted that “the number of [skeptical scientists] with the courage to speak out is growing” and he warned “children should not be force-fed propaganda, masquerading as science.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

Nobody on the planet knows how to make a pencil

Knowledge is dispersed and shared. Friedrich Hayek was the first to point out, in his famous 1945 essay "The Uses of Knowledge in Society," that central planning cannot work because it is trying to substitute an individual all-knowing intelligence for a distributed and fragmented system of localized but connected knowledge.

So dispersed is knowledge, that, as Leonard Reed famously observed in his 1958 essay "I, Pencil," nobody on the planet knows how to make a pencil. The knowledge is dispersed among many thousands of graphite miners, lumberjacks, assembly line workers, ferrule designers, salesmen and so on. This is true of everything that I use in my everyday life, from my laptop to my shirt to my city. Nobody knows how to make it or to run it. Only the cloud knows.

Matt Ridley: From Phoenecia to Hayek to the 'Cloud'

Milton Friedman explains the power of the free market using a pencil

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:24 AM | Permalink

September 23, 2011

MS and neuro-steroids

Could a daily pill stop or even reverse multiple sclerosis?

Doctors have made an 'exciting' breakthrough that could lead to a new treatment to stop - or even reverse the symptoms - of multiple sclerosis.

Researchers have discovered that people with MS have significantly lower levels of brain chemicals called neuro-steroids.

Neuro-steroids help build brain cells and maintain their function, connecting different areas of activity in the brain.

Scientists and neurologists at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada believe that it would be possible to replace the missing chemical with a daily pill that would represent a completely different way of dealing with the disease that affects more than 85,000 people in the UK.

Dr Chris Power announced the discovery in a research paper in the latest issue of Brain.
He said: 'This frankly is an exciting breakthrough and has huge potential. The role of neurosteroids in the brain has been known for some time but no one thought - until now - that they might play a role in MS.'
'We are talking about it being at least six or seven years away as a treatment but I am optimistic about our chances even though there are a number of hurdles to overcome.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:06 PM | Permalink

Pope Benedict in Germany

Before Pope Benedict traveled to Scotland and England last year, the conventional wisdom was that it was going to a disaster.  It turned out to be a resounding success.   'He routed his enemies and brought  joy to the faithful' and  'Benedict Wows Britain' were two headlines.

Human nature abhors a vacuum, and now into this vacuum of moral leadership strode Pope Benedict, proclaiming truths that might not be welcomed by a secularized audience, but must be recognized as consistent and compelling, worthy at least of some consideration—enough to make people “sit up and think.”

Something very similar is happening in Germany.

In a speech before the German parliament, the Bundestag, the Pope gave a powerful defense of the natural-law tradition and an equally powerful critique of moral relativism and warned of 'cultureless' Europe.

In his September 22 speech to the Bundestag, the Holy Father said that the Nazi regime illustrated how a government that does not recognize objective standards of justice can become a nightmare regime.

"Without justice, what else is the state but a great band of robbers?" the Pope asked, citing the words of St. Augustine. He continued:

We Germans know from our own experience that these words are no empty specter. We have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the state became an instrument for destroying right--a highly organized band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss.
The tradition of government based on the fundamental principles of natural law has been the basic foundation for the legal system of Germany and other European nations, the Pope said. However, that tradition is now imperiled:

The idea of natural law is today viewed as a specifically Catholic doctrine, not worth bringing into the discussion in a non-Catholic environment, so that one feels almost ashamed even to mention the term.

In the absence of natural-law reasoning, the Pope observed, politicians find it impossible to discern clear and objective standards of justice.

On concluding his speech, the parliamentarians gave him a two-minute standing ovation.

Rainer Bruederle, head of the ruling coalition’s Free Democratic Party, welcomed the speech as “an important support” for politics, which “strengthened the basis for responsible action, based on the inner foundations of democracy and the rule of law.” The Pope, Bruederle said, “brilliantly” put this across in “clear, simple lines, making it clear and understandable for everyone.”

In Der Spiegel Online

It has been billed as Pope Benedict XVI's most difficult trip abroad to date. But so far in Germany, the pope has not sought to shy away from controversy. His bluntness has surprised many -- and could transform the visit into a rousing success.
He did not mince words. He spoke about nature and reason and demanded from the parliamentarians an increased sense of moral responsibility for ecology and equality. It was a very political speech. It was courageous. And it was unique.

A politician's "fundamental criterion and the motivation for his work as a politician must not be success, and certainly not material gain," the pope said. "Politics must be a striving for justice, and hence it has to establish the fundamental preconditions for peace." A politician's success, he continued, should be "subordinated to the criterion of justice, to the will to do what is right, and to the understanding of what is right."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:21 PM | Permalink

Mega-Mega Death

The toll of  humans killed by China over the course of its one-child policy now dwarfs the number killed  by Stalin 20 million , the number killed in World War II 66 million and the number killed by Mao Tse Tung 40 million.

China's One Child Policy Toll Reaches 400 Million

During a meeting yesterday with members of the House Budget Committee, Congressman Huelskamp asked Gao Qiang, who served for two years as the Party Secretary for the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China, about the country’s population control policy.

Through an interpreter, Party Secretary Gao responded that the population of China is 400 million less than it would have been had the Party not adopted and enforced a one-child policy. He went on to say that China had prevented more births than the population of the United States, which currently stands at 312 million.

But it also reveals a fundamental disconnect with the demographic reality that they themselves have created, namely, a rapidly aging population that is disproportionately male. Thanks to family planning run amuck, China is a country where unborn baby girls are selectively aborted, where young men cannot find brides and where young women are trafficked across borders to meet this demand.

According to advance testimony, today The House Subcommittee on Health and Human Rights will hear of Explosive new evidence of torture, murder and pillage related to China's brutal one-child policy.

I’ve received an advance copy of the testimony to be given by Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, and it is heartbreaking and infuriating. How can China be getting away with this as the world stands by?

Littlejohn’s report, which includes photos, contains 13 new documented cases of “family planning” coercion, including the forced abortion of 8-1/2 month old twins; Family Planning Police; Family Planning jail cells; the demolition of homes (even by relatives, for missing a pregnancy check); the use of “implication” (detention, torture and fining of relatives of “violators”); a couple brutally tortured for missing a pregnancy check by one day; a man whose head was smashed and who is now permanently disabled because his wife had a second child; and a father who was beaten to death because his son was suspected of having a second child.

Last month in China, Vice President Biden said

Your policy has been one which I fully understand – I’m not second-guessing – of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people.  Not sustainable.

They would have had enough people if they hadn't killed all the babies.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

The War Against the Young and the Lost Generation

The War Against The Young: Warning From Italy and Japan

The war on the young is led “by cadres of elderly men, content to manage decline” and exacerbated by younger generations, who don’t seem to know what’s going on or understand the gravity of the financial situation that will hit them in the future.
To succeed today, many young people need to recognize that no job will be waiting for them when they finish studying.  They are going to have to create their own opportunities.  It is a good time for creative entrepreneurs.

Italy and Japan have particularly bad cases of the blues; with relatively small numbers of young people and large ones of older people, the old are not only cunning and entrenched in positions of power: they can still beat the kids in elections.  Politicians reinforce generational privilege rather than acting on the knowledge that, in the end, an economy that doesn’t work for the young is an economy doomed to decline.

A warning too late?  The recession that began in 2008 is hitting the young the hardest.  The young are becoming a "lost generation" amid the recession.

In record-setting numbers, young adults struggling to find work are shunning long-distance moves to live with Mom and Dad, delaying marriage and buying fewer homes, often raising kids out of wedlock. They suffer from the highest unemployment since World War II and risk living in poverty more than others — nearly 1 in 5.

New 2010 census data released Thursday show the wrenching impact of a recession that officially ended in mid-2009. It highlights the missed opportunities and dim prospects for a generation of mostly 20-somethings and 30-somethings coming of age in a prolonged slump with high unemployment.

"We have a monster jobs problem, and young people are the biggest losers," said Andrew Sum, an economist and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard University, added, "These people will be scarred, and they will be called the 'lost generation' — in that their careers would not be the same way if we had avoided this economic disaster."

Economists say this trend will continue for another decade and when it's over it will take another decade for this generation to recover fully.

Of course this delays the entire process of becoming an adult, getting married, buying a house, and starting a family.
When the Lost Generation is found again, they'll be older, inexperienced and without assets to speak of. And they will need to grow up fast.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink

September 21, 2011

Wicked sunburn

Just how much are taxpayers on the hook with the bankruptcy of  Solyndra?

More than half a billion dollars!  $535,000,000 is the exact amount that we know of today 

Solyndra got more stimulus than 35 states get for 'shovel ready' projects.

There's a congressional hearing scheduled for Friday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations..  Attorneys have advised the committee that ,Solyndra executives will take the fifth.  No wonder with possible criminal charges in the future.

Iowahawk tweets Oddly, Solyndra execs no longer big fans of sunlight .

Former Federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy calls the Solyndra debacle criminal fraud.

Homing in on one of the several shocking aspects of the Solyndra scandal, lawmakers noted that, a few months before the “clean energy” enterprise went belly-up last week, the Obama Energy Department signed off on a sweetheart deal. In the event of bankruptcy — the destination to which it was screamingly obvious Solyndra was headed despite the president’s injection of $535 million in federal loans — the cozily connected private investors would be given priority over American taxpayers. In other words, when the busted company’s assets were sold off, Obama pals would recoup some of their losses, while you would be left holding the half-billion-dollar bag.
OMB had figured out that there was no economic sense in restructuring: Solyndra was heading for bankruptcy anyway, and an immediate liquidation would net the government a better deal — about $170 million better. The case for leaving things where they stood was so palpable that OMB openly feared “questions will be asked” if DOE proceeded with an unjustifiable restructuring. So, with numbing predictability, the Obama administration proceeded with an unjustifiable restructuring. In exchange for lending some of their own money and thus buying more time, Solyndra officials were given priority over taxpayers with respect to the first $75 million in the event of a bankruptcy — the event all the insiders and government officials could see coming from the start, and that hit the rest of us like a $535 billion thunderbolt last week.

Solyndra is just the most egregious  example of The Spreading Green Jobs Scam

Boondoggles: With a minimum of five green firms going bankrupt, taxpayers find themselves on the hook for at least one possibly illegal loan while paying ghastly sums for each green job created. We've been sunburned.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

The Nose Knows

From the New Scientist, The unsung sense: How smell rules your life

it is becoming clear that the brain's olfactory centres are intimately linked to its limbic system, which is involved in emotion, fear and memory. That suggests a link between smell and the way we think.

Rob Holland and colleagues at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, meanwhile, have found that the hint of aroma wafting out of a hidden bucket of citrus-scented cleaner was enough to persuade students to clean up after themselves - even though the vast majority of them hadn't actually registered the smell
work by Mujica-Parodi suggests we can sense another's fear from their sweat.


The smell of fear may be just one of many olfactory signals emitted by the human body. Another study this year, by Yaara Yeshurun at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, and her team found that the imperceptible smell of women's tears decreases sexual arousal in men.
The surprising thing about these studies is that few of the subjects were aware of the smells that they were facing, yet their behaviour was altered nevertheless.
Smells are especially good memory evokers, but it's actually a myth that odours trigger more detailed memories than other stimuli. "The memory is not more accurate and you don't remember more details," says Yaara Yeshurun at the Weizmann Instititute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, "but it is unique in that it is more emotional." 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink

September 20, 2011

"A long, likely parade of horribles"

In Forbes is Greece and The Crisis of the Governing Elite

Europe’s governing elite – and those who believe in the superiority of government in the management of the economy – is in crisis.  Their visions of a more just society and economic security are being shredded by the stark reality that the governments they run are running out of money.

That begins a wonderful quote of Frederic Bastiat , “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state.  They forget that the state lives at the expense of everyone.”

While Takis Michas writes in the Wall Street Journal Greece Won't Reform

"The present government has done absolutely nothing during the last 12 months to speed up privatizations, reduce the public sector or open up closed professions," Athanasios Papandropoulos, a leading economic analyst, told me recently in an interview. "In these 12 months it has not fired even one civil servant. The only thing it is doing is trying to tax the private sector out of existence. Why should we believe that they will do something different now?"

Bret Stephens takes a whack at What Comes After 'Europe'.

What comes next is the explosion of the European project. Given what European leaders have made of that project over the past 30-odd years, it's not an altogether bad thing. But it will come at a massive cost. The riots of Athens will become those of Milan, Madrid and Marseilles. Parties of the fringe will gain greater sway. Border checkpoints will return. Currencies will be resurrected, then devalued. Countries will choose decay over reform. It's a long, likely parade of horribles.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:51 AM | Permalink

"Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free"

Jerry Pournelle opines that Obama declares war on liberty and property

There is a way out of this Depression. Our lands do not lie in ruins. Our fields are not cratered from bombs and filled with mines. Many of our idle factories still exist. Wonderful machine tools and laboratory instruments are sold at scrap value on eBay and at public auction. There is lots of unused productivity in this land, and we know the formula for prosperity. It is liberty. That has always been the secret of American exceptionalism. We had founders whose goal was to insure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity.

Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free. We have always known this. We know it still.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

"They understood the connection between morality and morale"

Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi in the U.K, . reflects on The challenge of 9/11: The West needs to re-moralize itself, or it will continue down a path of cultural weakness and decline.

the fourteenth century Islamic thinker Ibn Khaldun. We don’t know much about Ibn Khaldun in the West but we should. He was one of the truly great thinkers of the Middle Ages. He has every claim to be called the world’s first sociologist.
Ibn Khaldun’s theory was that every urban civilisation becomes vulnerable when it grows decadent from within. People live in towns and get used to luxuries. The rich grow indolent, the poor resentful. There is a loss of asabiyah, a keyword for Khaldun. Nowadays we would probably translate it as “social cohesion.” People no longer think in terms of the common good. They are no longer willing to make sacrifices for one another. Essentially they lose the will to defend themselves. They then become easy prey for the desert dwellers, the people used to fighting to stay alive.
The real challenge of 9/11 is not what it seemed at the time: Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, Sayyid Qutb and radical Islam. These were real and present threats, to be sure, but they were symptoms, not cause. The challenge was the underlying moral health of Western liberal democracies, their asabiyah, their sense of identity and collective responsibility, their commitment to one another and to the ideals that brought them into being.
There is, to my mind, only one sane alternative. That is to do what England and America did in the 1820s. Those two societies, deeply secularised after the rationalist eighteenth century, scarred and fractured by the problems of industrialisation, calmly set about remoralising themselves, thereby renewing themselves.

The three decades, 1820-1850, saw an unprecedented proliferation of groups dedicated to social, political and educational reform – building schools, YMCAs, orphanages, starting temperance groups, charities, friendly societies, campaigning for the abolition of slavery, corporal punishment and inhumane working conditions, and working for the extension of voting rights. Alexis de Tocqueville was astonished by what he saw in America and the same process was happening at the same time in Britain.

People did not leave it to government or the market. They did it themselves in communities, congregations, groups of every shape and size. They understood the connection between morality and morale. They knew that only a society held together by a strong moral bond, by asabiyah, has any chance of succeeding in the long run. That collective effort of remoralisation eventually made Britain the greatest world power in the nineteenth century and America in the twentieth.

One real life example of the remoralization of a society is what happened in Poland with the Solidarity movement and John Paul II's return to Poland in 1978. The Untold Story of the Collapse of Communism: And Why the 'Arab Spring' is Not Like Solidarity

The Solidarity movement was not aimed against anybody. Its first goal was to unite and reconcile people fragmented and isolated by the operations of Communist secret police and Communist propaganda.
“The movement was born in the hearts of Poles during the first pilgrimage of John Paul II to his Fatherland in June 1978”. This pilgrimage had critical significance for the formation of Solidarity. Polish workers were inspired seeing themselves in mass public prayer meetings for the first time on a such a grand scale. Other Solidarity leader Krzysztof Wyszkowski explains: “we understood that there is more of us than them.” Polish workers rejected fear from their hearts. In this moment the Communist regime lost its power of influence because fear is a fundamental element of a totalitarian system.
The movement was not a political organization but a moral force for the renewal of society.
This Christian revival, called sometimes “revolution of conscience”, had a decisive role in the success of peaceful negotiations between the Solidarity movement’s representative and Communist regime. For various reasons, too complex to explain here, it was an unfinished revolution. After thirty years it is however even more crucial to emphasize that democratic changes were the fruits of an invisible spiritual change. The fall of Berlin Wall preceded a massive come-back of Polish people to God’s presence.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

September 18, 2011

It's not easy being red

People with red hair are approximately 1-2% of the human population, 4% of the European population, 13% of Scots, 10% of Irish, Redheads are pejoratively called 'ginger' in England and 'poil de carotte' in France and 'ranga' in Australia according to Wikipedia which has long and fascinating article on Red hair

Sperm bank turns down redheads
The world's largest sperm bank has started turning down redheaded donors because there is too little demand for their sperm.

Mr Schou said the only reliable demand for sperm from redheaded donors from Ireland, where he said it sold “like hot cakes”.

 Redhair Baby

It's tough being ginger even when you're a seal: Lonely pup shunned by his colony

Sitting all alone on a beach, this little seal is an outcast from the colony.

Its crime? Having reddish-brown fur and the palest of blue eyes. The rest of its sleek black family took an instant dislike to the ginger pup, leaving it to fend for itself.

 Lonely Ginger Seal

The BBC asks Is gingerism as bad as racism?

A red-haired family claims to have been driven from their Newcastle home because of abuse. Why is the harassment of redheads dismissed as just harmless fun?

It's not easy being red.

 Trio Redheads

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 PM | Permalink

Protective fatty acids for pregnant women

Low-fat yoghurt 'child asthma risk' during pregnancy

Pregnant women who eat low-fat yoghurt can increase the risk of their child developing asthma and hay fever, a study says.

At the European Respiratory Society conference, researchers will suggest this could be due to an absence of protective fatty acids in yoghurt.

The diets of more than 70,000 Danish women were analysed and their children followed until the age of seven.
But the results showed that milk intake during pregnancy was not linked to any increased risk of asthma.

In fact, milk was shown to protect against asthma development.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:12 PM | Permalink

Yellow alert

 Yellow On Eyelid

Yellow markings on eyelid warn of heart attack

Yellow markings on the eyelids are a sign of increased risk of heart attack and other illnesses, say researchers in Denmark.

A study published on the BMJ website showed patients with xanthelasmata were 48% more likely to have a heart attack.

Xanthelasmata, which are mostly made up of cholesterol, could be a sign of other fatty build-ups in the body
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:08 PM | Permalink

Love letter to New York City

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:06 PM | Permalink

September 16, 2011

The illusion of green jobs

It's not just Solandra that's a bust says the Washington Post

A $38.6 billion loan guarantee program that the Obama administration promised would create or save 65,000 jobs has created just a few thousand jobs two years after it began, government records show.

The program — designed to jump-start the nation’s clean technology industry by giving energy companies access to low-cost, government-backed loans — has directly created 3,545 new, permanent jobs after giving out almost half the allocated amount, according to Energy Department tallies.

Despite controversy, White House doubling down on clean energy loans

To date, the DOE has finalized 17 loan guarantees for a range of solar, wind and geothermal projects. The department has issued 15 conditional commitments that must be finalized by the end of September.

Mark Steyn on Obama's magical thinking on green jobs  

The estimated cost of the non-bill is just shy of half a trillion dollars. Gosh, it seems like only yesterday that Washington was in the grip of a white-knuckle, clenched-teeth showdown over whether a debt ceiling deal could be reached before the allegedly looming deadline. When the deal was triumphantly unveiled at the eleventh hour, it was revealed that our sober, prudent, fiscally responsible masters had gotten control of the runaway spending and had carved (according to the most optimistic analysis) a whole $7 billion of savings out of the 2012 budget. The president then airily breezes into Congress and in 20 minutes adds another $447 billion to the tab. That’s what meaningful course correction in Washington boils down to: seven billion steps forward, 447 billion steps back.
On Thursday night, the president told a Democratic fundraiser in Washington that the Pass My Jobs Bill bill would create 1.9 million new jobs. What kind of jobs are created by this kind of magical thinking? Well, they’re “green jobs” – and, if we know anything about “green jobs,” it’s that they take a lot of green. German taxpayers subsidize “green jobs” in their wind-power industry to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars per worker per year: $250,000 per “green job” would pay for a lot of real jobs, even in the European Union. Last year, it was revealed that the Spanish government paid $800,000 for every “green job” on a solar panel assembly line. I had assumed carelessly that this must be a world record in terms of taxpayer subsidy per fraudulent “green job.” But it turns out those cheapskate Spaniards with their lousy nickel-and-dime “green jobs” subsidy just weren’t thinking big. The Obama administration’s $38.6 billion “clean technology” program was supposed to “create or save” 65,000 jobs. Half the money has been spent – $17.2 billion – and we have 3,545 jobs to show for it. That works out to an impressive $4,851,904.09 per “green job.” A world record! Take that, you loser Spaniards! USA! USA!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 PM | Permalink

The Future of Work

In the past week or so, there's been a number of articles about jobs and the future of work worth reading.

The Freelance Surge Is the Industrial Revolution of Our Time from the Atlantic.

Today, careers consist of piecing together various types of work, juggling multiple clients, learning to be marketing and accounting experts, and creating offices in bedrooms/coffee shops/coworking spaces. Independent workers abound. We call them freelancers, contractors, sole proprietors, consultants, temps, and the self-employed.

And, perhaps most surprisingly, many of them love it.

This transition is nothing less than a revolution. We haven't seen a shift in the workforce this significant in almost 100 years when we transitioned from an agricultural to an industrial economy.

What about those who are still looking for jobs?

Arnold Kling an economist/blogger writes about The Job-Seeker's Paradox

A job seeker is looking for something for a well-defined job. But the trend seems to be that if a job can be defined, it can be automated or outsourced.

The marginal product of people who need well-defined jobs is declining. The marginal product of people who can thrive in less structured environments is increasing.


The same technology that is eliminating jobs also connects us and empowers us in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. Maybe what’s becoming obsolete is not jobs per se, but the idea that they are something that you simply find.

Increasingly, perhaps, a job is something that we each have to create. We can’t count on someone else to create one for us. That model is disappearing. We have to carve something out for ourselves, something that the machines won’t immediately grab.

Who wants to be a corporate drone?

Megan McArdle The New New New Economy

Then the jobs started to go away and we discovered that many people like dreary predictability--at least, compared to the real-world alternative, which is risk.  What many, maybe most, people actually want, it turns out, is the creativity and autonomy of entrepreneurship combined with the stability of a 1950s corporate drone.  This is a fantasy, of course, but given their druthers, it's not clear that most people will pick risk over dronedom.

Walter Russell Mead Where Are the Jobs

It looks as if we are trapped: globalization is killing job growth in the tradable sector and we can’t all work for the government or in healthcare.  Burger flipping, many conclude, is the wave of the future; the middle class is doomed, and American standards of living are bound to decline....That could not be more wrong....

There is much more room for growth in non-traded services than people think.  Last spring Matt Yglesias had an important post that offered a glimpse of the promised land. In “The Yoga Instructor Economy” Yglesias pointed out that there will be a rising demand for personal services that can’t be outsourced.
Value added intermediation is the rationale for a whole range of services that entrepreneurs will be building in coming years.  You might have a family tech agent that for some reasonable fee reviews and manages your communications life...Similarly, many people would benefit from someone to help them navigate the healthcare system; somebody who understood your insurance, knew their way around the local medical system and was committed to helping you get the best treatment at the best price... 
These jobs will be in non-traded services and they will often be locally based.

Are jobs obsolete?

We start by accepting that food and shelter are basic human rights. The work we do -- the value we create -- is for the rest of what we want: the stuff that makes life fun, meaningful, and purposeful.

This sort of work isn't so much employment as it is creative activity. Unlike Industrial Age employment, digital production can be done from the home, independently, and even in a peer-to-peer fashion without going through big corporations. We can make games for each other, write books, solve problems, educate and inspire one another -- all through bits instead of stuff. And we can pay one another using the same money we use to buy real stuff.

After reading all these, The Education of Steve Jobs is particularly telling.    Schools are inhospitable environments for aspiring entrepreneurs.    Yet, it is precisely in becoming entrepreneurial that people will find the work they love and the success they want in the new, new economy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:55 PM | Permalink

September 15, 2011

He keeps track of all his kids on an Excel spreadsheet

Boston attorney Ben Sisler knows he has at least 70 children and he's only 33.

As kids conceived with donated sperm grow up, life may get complicated for donors

He is registered on an online registry called the Donor Sibling Registry that matches children conceived by sperm donors with their biological fathers and half-siblings. Based on his calculations, “I have reason to expect between 120 and 140,’’ said Seisler. He recently met two of them - a 7-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother, who bore what Seisler calls “a bizarre resemblance’’ to him - as part of a reality documentary special, “Style Exposed: Sperm Donor,’’ which airs Sept. 27 on the Style network.
Seisler said he’s glad he met the kids but admits the experience was at times a bit surreal. “It was kind of wild. On the one hand, these kids are biologically my kids. On the other hand they are not my kids. I didn’t raise them. I have no control over how they are raised.

“There is no road map for this, no protocol to follow,’’ Seisler reflected. “This really is uncharted territory.’’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:02 AM | Permalink

Forget the lottery. Search out medicare/medicaid fraud

One disabled man in New Jersey did and earned $15.4 million.   

In the U.S. a "qui tam" action can be brought by any individual under the False Claims Act with knowledge of past or present fraud against the federal government to bring suit on its behalf.    Whistleblowers, called "relators" , the person filing under the act stands to receive 15-25% of any recovered damages.    With at least $87 billion a year lost to Medicare/Medicaid fraud, there exists the potential to make a
great deal of money for  enterprising individuals or groups  employing all the  technological tools and information at hand to ferret out fraud.

Disabled New Jersey Man Earns $15 Million Exposing Largest Medicaid Fraud In History

Richard West was shocked when he went for some dental work and found his Medicaid benefits had maxed out.
Pulling up his Medicaid record, he totaled the care he'd received, the bills submitted by his provider -- and found the problem.
According to The Star-Ledger, West, 63, found the company arranging his nursing care, Maxim Healthcare, was over-billing the government for hundreds of hours of service from people he'd never seen.


After calling several government hot-lines and receiving no help, he got a lawyer of his own. That phone call unraveled a fraud stretched across 40-states and resulted in a $150 million settlement  -- the largest for healthcare fraud in history.  Monday, Maxim agreed to return $121.5 million in state and federal claims; $8.4 million to the VA, and pay a $20 million fine.

For exposing the fraud West will receive $15.4 million.

Tuckerton man's resolve helps uncover multimillion-dollar health care fraud

A one-time auto mechanic, truck driver, commercial fisherman and carpenter before his disease — a genetic disorder that prevents muscles from functioning — put him in a wheelchair, West gets 16 hours of nursing and home health care a day. He said he brought his case only because no one would listen to him.

He said it was not hard to figure out what was going on. "The hard part was turning them in," he remarked.  West, who lives in Tuckerton, said he tried going through a county social worker, to the state Medicaid waiver office, and then the Medicaid hot line for fraud.  "No one ever did anything," he complained.

Robin Page West, his attorney (and no relation to him), said winning will be a mixed blessing.  "He no longer qualifies for Medicaid," she noted with a smile.

"The three most salient characteristics of Medicare and Medicaid fraud are: It’s brazen, it’s ubiquitous, and it’s other people’s money, so nobody cares," writes  Michael Cannon in Entitlement Bandits.

Judging by official estimates, Medicare and Medicaid lose at least $87 billion per year to fraudulent and otherwise improper payments, and about 10.5 percent of Medicare spending and 8.4 percent of Medicaid spending was improper in 2009. Fraud experts say the official numbers are too low. “Loss rates due to fraud and abuse could be 10 percent, or 20 percent, or even 30 percent in some segments,” explained Malcolm Sparrow, a mathematician, Harvard professor, and former police inspector, in congressional testimony.

The GAO reports that Medicare Fraud is Four Times Greater than the profits of all the health insurers in the country!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 AM | Permalink

September 14, 2011

"Severe discrimination on race and ethnicity" at University of Wisconsin

The Center for Equal Opportunity releases its 2 studies and claims "severe discrimination on race and ethnicity" in UW admissions, both for undergraduates and at the law school.

The odds ratio favoring African Americans and Hispanics over whites was 576-to-1 and 504-to-1, respectively, using the SAT and class rank while controlling for other factors.
CEO chairman Linda Chavez noted: “This is the most severe undergraduate admissions discrimination that CEO has ever found in the dozens of studies it has published over the last 15 years.” Chavez also noted: “The studies show that literally hundreds of students applying as undergrads or to the law school are rejected in favor of students with lower test scores and grades, and the reason is that they have the wrong skin color or their parents came from the wrong countries.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 PM | Permalink

Dealing with Regret

 Regret Statue

James Altucher regrets a lot

I regret losing all of my money and then losing my house. I regret not spending  more time with my kids when they were little and I regret not saving the life of my dad when I could’ve. 

And much, much more.

Here are his 20 Ways to Deal with Regret

A)    Ask yourself, “What am I doing TODAY?” Today is the day we care about. Where we can improve ourselves, help people. Move forwards. What are you doing today?  This is a good mental discipline. WHEN Regret comes up about yesterday, ASK yourself,  “What am I doing TODAY?” Practice this. Then practice it again.
F)      Honesty.  Honesty can lead to wealth.  Being honest also helps you avoid denial about your regrets. Stop blaming others. It’s important to realize that both Most things don’t work out AND most of the time, It’s Your Fault.  I was often in denial about both of those things. They are both truths.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 PM | Permalink

China will soon become the largest Christian country on earth

Liao Yiwu spent four years in jail for writing and recording "Massacre", a poem about the killing of democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and when faced with jail again for the publication of his book God is Red slipped out of China to take refuge in Germany writes Ellen Bork in Hammer and Sickle and Cross

"God Is Red" consists of informal profiles of Christians in the cities of Beijing, Chengdu and Dali and in remote areas of the southwestern province of Yunnan. Beginning with a 100-year-old nun and ending with a recovering slacker in his 20s, his subjects describe the days of Western missionaries, the advent of communism—"like hearing the sinister caw of dark ravens," the nun recalls—and the ambiguous tolerance of the post-Mao era.
Mr. Liao is an unlikely chronicler of China's roughly 70 million Christians. Though skeptical about the vicious, anti-religious Communist propaganda he was raised on—he is 53—he is also skeptical of religion itself.
Mr. Liao became interested in the topic after encounters with two doctors who gave up successful careers to pursue missionary work, one in the mountains, the other in the underground "house churches" of Beijing (an alternative to the official churches controlled by the state). At the time, Mr. Liao himself was struggling, broke and on the run from security agents whom he had provoked by reporting on the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement. His research proved redemptive. "These trips have exhilarated me, lifting me out of my drunken depression," he recalls. "In these remote corners, I have discovered a center point, where East met West, and although there has been a collision of cultures, there is now a new Christian identity that is distinctively Chinese."

 Jesus In Chinese Arts

The BBC reports on Christians in China: Is the country in spiritual crisis?

“There are already more Chinese at church on a Sunday than in the whole of Europe.”

Christopher Landau has recorded two fascinating programs for the BBC as he journeyed through China and reports on why Communist authorities are allowing Christianity to flourish so freely now.

Christianity in China. episode 1
Christianity in China. episode 2

For BBC4, Tim Gardam reports on God in China where Christianity is exploding: China will soon become the largest Christian country on earth. 

As the Communist Party seeks to address the effects on Chinese society in becoming manufacturer to the world, combined with rampant consumerism and its own one child policy, it is turning to religion to fill the void.
God in China Christianity and Catholicism

There are more Christians in China (70 million) than there are people in Britain (62 million in 2009).  Some estimate the number of Christians in China to be closer to 80 million, even 100 million, when you count all the practicing Christians in underground churches that are not approved by the government.  If you take the latter number, there are more Christians in China than members of the Communist party.

Xun Jinzhen, a Christian convert who runs a beauty salon in Beijing, put it eloquently when he said: "We have very few people who believe in communism as a faith. So there's an emptiness in their hearts."

The growth of the Christian churches in China is a story of great courage and belief in the special status of man as a moral creature, for whom good and evil are eternal truths that cannot be redefined by politicians. It gives enormous hope for the future happiness of a people who have suffered under the dying creed of communism for much too long.

 Chinese Icon Mary Babyjesus

One reason the Chinese government is allowing Christianity is because of the social services they provide - old age homes and orphanages and more  - at little or no cost to the government. 

Another is a quote from Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power that I repeat one or more times every year since 2006.

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.  That is why the West is so powerful.

“The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”

But not all in the government are happy because the Growth of Christianity in China may lead to social change.

Beijing's often brutal crackdown on those of the Christian faith, have included roundups, blacklisting and jailing. The government has driven thousands of followers underground, spurring on the house church network. It's estimated that 60 percent of Chinese Christians attend unregistered house churches.

 Chinese Crucifixion

Catholic Christians in China have faced increasing hostility with the growth of what is called the "Patriotic" Church, a State sponsored Chinese Catholic expression which seeks to undermine the authority of the Pope and the teaching office, the Magisterium, of the Roman Catholic Church.

Recently, this Patriotic Church proceeded with the consecration of one of its own Bishops with no approval from the Holy See. Catholic bishops and Priests loyal to the Church were coerced and compelled to attend or face persecution. Pope benedict XVI has heroically and publicly spoken out against this persecution and encouraged the Chinese faithful to persevere.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:54 PM | Permalink

Freelancers Unite

Sara Horowitz asks Why is Washington Ignoring the Freelance Economy?

Despite the fact that close to one-third of the country's workforce is comprised of independent workers, this sizeable chunk of our economy has none of the protections and benefits that "traditional" employees have. Health insurance? No. Unemployment insurance? Nope. Protection from unpaid wages, or race, gender, or age discrimination? Not a chance. We've left these 42 million workers out to dry and entirely out of our social support system.

The Freelance Surge Is the Industrial Revolution of Our Time

It's been called the Gig Economy, Freelance Nation, the Rise of the Creative Class, and the e-conomy, with the "e" standing for electronic, entrepreneurial, or perhaps eclectic. Everywhere we look, we can see the U.S. workforce undergoing a massive change. No longer do we work at the same company for 25 years, waiting for the gold watch, expecting the benefits and security that come with full-time employment. We're no longer simply lawyers, or photographers, or writers. Instead, we're part-time lawyers-cum- amateur photographers who write on the side.
This transition is nothing less than a revolution. We haven't seen a shift in the workforce this significant in almost 100 years when we transitioned from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Now, employees are leaving the traditional workplace and opting to piece together a professional life on their own. As of 2005, one-third of our workforce participated in this "freelance economy." Data show that number has only increased over the past six years. Entrepreneurial activity in 2009 was at its highest level in 14 years, online freelance job postings skyrocketed in 2010, and companies are increasingly outsourcing work. While the economy has unwillingly pushed some people into independent work, many have chosen it because of greater flexibility that lets them skip the dreary office environment and focus on more personally fulfilling projects.
This new, changing workforce needs to build economic security in profoundly new ways. For the new workforce, the New Deal is irrelevant. ...

The solution will rest with our ability to form networks for exchange and to create political power. I call this "new mutualism ."

She's doing her bit with the Freelancer's Union that provides advocacy, tips, resources and insurance for the independent workers that make up 30% of our nation's workforce.    Good for her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:31 PM | Permalink

Take your B vitamins to stave off Alzheimer's and eat your chocolate

Great advances on the Alzheimer's front

Daily Vitamin B pill can  help stave off Alzheimer's

A daily vitamin pill could dramatically slow the onset of memory loss in old age and even protect against Alzheimer's disease, researchers have found.

The tablet, containing high doses of B vitamins and folic acid, reduced memory decline by 70 per cent in some elderly people.
It also halved the rate of brain shrinkage in some patients - a physical symptom associated with forgetfulness that can lead to full blown Alzheimer's disease.
In future people could be tested for vitamin B levels in middle age and alter their diet to boost their chances of remaining healthy, researchers said.

A full scale national trial to establish whether the breakthrough can actually delay the slide into Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is expected to begin within the next year.

Insulin may slow Alzheimer's, study finds

Inhaling it through the nose twice daily seems to slow symptoms of memory loss. More study is needed, but researchers are encouraged.
Dr. Jacobo Mintzer, an Alzheimer's expert at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston who was not involved in the study, hailed the research as "a new way of thinking" about treating dementia.

"As a clinician, I would not tell my patients to get their hopes up," he said. "But as a scientist, I always get very encouraged when the paradigm shifts," as he said it has here.
"A safe, easy delivery system — those are things we'd love to see for any kind of treatment for Alzheimer's disease," said Laurie Ryan, a neuropsychologist who directs clinical trials involving dementia at the National Institute on Aging, which funded the pilot study.

And the benefits of dark chocolate every day keep adding up, making it a far superior health food than soy or tofu.

Chocolate 'as good for you as exercise'  or so experiments with mice show.

Scientists found that small amounts of dark chocolate may improve health in a similar way to exercise.

The researchers focused on the mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses in cells that generate energy, and discovered that a plant compound found in chocolate, called epicatechin, appeared to stimulate the same muscle response as vigorous activity.

Dr Moh Malek, from Wayne State University in Detroit, who led the US study on mice, said: ''Mitochondria produce energy which is used by the cells in the body. More mitochondria mean more energy is produced the more work can be performed.

''Aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, is known to increase the number of mitochondria in muscle cells. Our study has found that epicatechin seems to bring about the same response - particularly in the heart and skeletal muscles.''
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:29 PM | Permalink

September 12, 2011

Some reflections on the tenth anniversary of 9/11

Bret Stephens on 9/11 and the Struggles for Meaning

September 11 was nothing if not a day of loss, and this memorial cannot avoid expressing something of that loss. The problem is that it's exclusively about loss, while 9/11 was also a day of extraordinary giving: of the first responders, the passengers on Flight 93, the people in the towers who helped each other out, the emergency crews, the volunteers. A better 9/11 tribute would reflect those deeds, not sound an echo to the nihilism that was at the core of al Qaeda's designs.
So 9/11 remains a date and an event unto itself, somehow disconnected from everything that still flows from it. No doubt that helps draw a line between our feelings about it and the controversies over Iraq, Guantanamo, waterboarding, drone strikes, the freedom agenda and all the rest of it. But it also strips the day of any context, intelligibility or a sense of the greater purposes that might flow from it. This is how an act of evil and of war has been reduced, in our debased correct parlance, to a "tragedy."

We'll Never Get Over It, Nor Should We Peggy Noonan

But New York will never get over what they did. They live in a lot of hearts.

They tell us to get over it, they say to move on, and they mean it well: We can't bring an air of tragedy into the future. But I will never get over it. To get over it is to get over the guy who stayed behind on a high floor with his friend who was in a wheelchair. To get over it is to get over the woman by herself with the sign in the darkness: "America You Are Not Alone." To get over it is to get over the guys who ran into the fire and not away from the fire.

You've got to be loyal to pain sometimes to be loyal to the glory that came out of it.

 Tattoo 9:11

Rich Lowry sees A Decade of Heroes

On a morning of horrors on Sept. 11, 2001, we witnessed acts of sacrifice that will live forever in American memory.

As people fled the World Trade Center, amid falling bodies and debris, firefighters ran into them. As people ran down the stairs, the firefighters marched up them. They carried 100 pounds of gear, moving slowly toward a fire hot enough to melt steel raging 1,000 feet above them.

After a flaccid decade of (somewhat illusory) prosperity and peace in the 1990s, the savagery of September 11 brought home the timeless relevance of the virtue of courage. Not “moral courage,” but old-fashioned physical courage of the sort celebrated since the days of Homer.
 Nyfirefighter Remembers-1

Ten Years Later, "My Pet Goat" Has Gone from Anti-Bush Fodder to Inspiring Moment

President Bush's remarks at the Dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, PA

And with their brave decision, they launched the first counteroffensive of the war on terror. The most likely target of the hijacked plane was the United States Capitol. We will never know how many innocent people might have been lost. But we do know this: Americans are alive today because the passengers and crew of Flight 93 chose to act, and this Nation will be forever grateful.

The 40 souls who perished with the plane left a great deal behind. They left spouses, children, and grandchildren who miss them dearly. They left successful businesses, promising careers, and a lifetime of dreams that they will never have the chance to fulfill. And they left something else: a legacy of bravery and selflessness that will always inspire America. For generations, people will study the story of Flight 93. They will learn that individual choices make a difference, that love and sacrifice can triumph over evil and hate, and that what happened above this Pennsylvania field ranks among the most courageous acts in American history.

Ten Years Without an Attack,  John Yoo

Looking back over the decade, the first clear lesson is the critical importance of Mr. Bush's decision to consider the struggle with al Qaeda a war....The 9/11 attacks constituted an act of war—they were a decapitation strike, an effort to eliminate our nation's leadership in a single blow. If the Soviet Union had carried out the same attacks, no one would have doubted that the United States was at war. Al Qaeda's independence from any nation state would not shield it from the American military and leave it solely to the more tender mercies of the FBI and the courts.

9/11 and the successful war
, George Friedman

Ultimately, there are three lessons of the last decade that I think are important. The first is the tremendous success the United States has had in achieving its primary goal — blocking attacks on the homeland. The second is that campaigns of dubious worth are inevitable in war, and particularly in one as ambiguous as this war has been. Finally, all wars end, and the idea of an interminable war dominating American foreign policy and pushing all other considerations to the side is not what is going to happen. The United States must have a sense of proportion, of what can be done, what is worth doing and what is too dangerous to do. An unlimited strategic commitment is the definitive opposite of strategy.

Iran gave the hijackers and Al Qaeda  a lot more help than is generally supposed. Iran's Dirty 9/11 Secrets

It has taken nearly ten years, but the real story of Iran’s direct, material involvement in the 9/11 conspiracy is finally coming to light. And it’s being revealed not by the U.S. government or by Congressional investigators but by private attorneys representing families of the 9/11 victims in U.S. District Court.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:48 PM | Permalink

September 11, 2011

The spiritual impact of 9/11

 Wtccross Rubble

The Meaning of the Cross at Ground Zero by Father Brian Jordan who celebrated most of the Sunday Masses at Ground Zero.

I must say this: "We saw evil at its worst and goodness at its best."
Christmas Eve was the coldest night recorded during the 10-month recovery period at Ground Zero. Nevertheless, more than 150 worshippers came for midnight Mass. We sang Christmas carols and prayed for all who died on 9/11. One hour before the Mass, a firefighter's body was recovered, and I joined the Honor Guard from the pit to the top road to accompany the body to be transported by a FDNY fire truck. The Honor Guard participated in the Mass as tears streamed from their eyes in memory of their fallen brothers.

One of the most powerful Masses I ever experienced was not planned or even anticipated. Sunday, May 12, was Mother's Day, and we expected a great number of mothers who lost loved ones on 9/11 — husbands, children, siblings, etc. to participate in the Mass. During the homily, unexpectedly, two units of U.S. Special Forces soldiers joined in the Mass.  One unit just came back from a tour in Afghanistan; the other was about to be dispatched there. During the sign of peace, I asked all the mothers to first embrace those coming back from their first experience of war and then the second unit who would experience war for the first time due to 9/11.

 Cross Firefighters

New York's Cardinal Egan remembers 9/11 very well

The first person to appear on a gurney was a woman who had died and was completely burned. I anointed her from head to toe.
Standing with me were two doctors. One was trembling and weeping. I went over to him and asked what was wrong. He told me, “My father was on one of the highest floors of the tower.” I asked him if he’d like to sit down and have a cup of coffee.
He said, “No, Your Eminence, I am a doctor, and this is my place.”

Soon after, I told Pope John Paul II about that young man. He asked me, “Has he finished his education?” I said he still faced years of training. The Holy Father asked whether the doctor would have to cover the costs himself, and I said, “Yes.” The Pope said he would like to help him. Later on, Cardinal [Leonardo] Sandri, prefect for the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, delivered a check to the young man.
President [George W.] Bush visited Ground Zero and from the stage shouted down to me to say an opening prayer. I shouted my prayer in the sky. Afterwards, the president said, “Isn’t it a shame we don’t always pray with that intensity?”

There were many funerals in the wake of the attacks. There were two or three funerals a day. They were for firefighters, police and emergency workers. The mayor went to almost every one. He was outstanding and gave great leadership. The same was true for those who worked with him. At one Mass, there was a woman, the widow of the deceased. She was pregnant and had a baby in her arms. Her sons were serving at the altar. You would have to be a stone not to be touched.
It was a time of great tragedy, but also of great heroes. New York and the world saw examples of self-sacrifice that I don’t think have ever been matched in our time. People worked around the clock, with dust and sand from above or below. No one was thinking about themselves. Police officers, firefighters, emergency workers poured themselves out for others. You couldn’t help but be inspired by that. We saw heroism and self-sacrifice — expressions of great holiness.

Brian Williams, the anchorman and a friend for many years, asked me, “What has been the spiritual impact of the attacks?

It had an amazing effect.

 Wtccross Memorial

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

September 9, 2011

What people don't get about my job

In the Atlantic, a fascinating look at What People Don't Get About My Job: From A to Z

A is for Army Soldier
"Some of the most free-thinking people in the United States are in the US Army."

E is for Engineer
"I wish children could understand how much fun I have."
G is for Graphic Designer
"The vast majority of designers make ugly things for incompetent people."

H is for Historical Archivist
"I am the preserver of history itself."

I is for IRS Employee
"You are the middle class! I'm helping you!"

J is for Journalist
"The purpose of opinion journalism is to make money ... to generate ideas ... to get on television...."

K is for Kindergarten Teacher
"I am not only a teacher, but a security officer, tutor, mentor, and counselor."

N is for Nanny
"Seeing the world through children's eyes is intense and beautiful and fleeting"

P is for Professional Philosopher
"I love being a philosopher, even though it may sound pretentious.".

R is for Referee
"You can't imagine that I don't care who wins. But I really don't."

U is for Unemployed
"I have never known this desperation."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2011

Painted Hands

Advertising art can be glorious.  Just look at what Guido Daniels has done with painted hands to sell AT&T.


Carribean Fish and Coral


Australian Boomerang


Costa Rica


Thailand White Elephants

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:02 AM | Permalink

September 6, 2011

Holocaust of lies

Next state over from me, little Rhode Island is showing all of us what happens when its pension system begins to fail under the weight of its promises.

From Walter Russell Mead, Rhode Island Pension System Collapsing

Rhode Island is one of the bluest states in the country, and one where public sector unions have long worked with sympathetic politicians to create a true blue system of well paid public employees retiring comfortably on generous pensions with cost of living raises automatically thrown in.

The only problem is that the state could never afford the beautiful utopia it was crafting, and so politicians and union leaders chose the path of systemic deceit.  Taxpayers weren’t told what the bill for the system would be; public service workers weren’t told that the pension guarantees they’d been sold were worthless because taxpayers would not and could not foot the bill.

An economic crisis is nature’s revenge on those who make and those who accept false promises; it is a holocaust of lies when the dross is burned away and only what is real and true remains.
A lot of people who believed Rhode Island’s lies will now be looking for part time work in what they were told would be a secure retirement.  As far as I can tell the union leaders and politicians who concocted this disaster between them have no plans to suffer any cuts in their own pay or pension plans — and intend to go on “serving the public” without any accountability at all.

Mead includes this great quote from Thomas Carlyle, Bankruptcy rules

Great is Bankruptcy: the great bottomless gulf into which all Falsehoods, public and private, do sink, disappearing; whither, from the first origin of them, they were all doomed. For Nature is true and not a lie.  No lie you can speak or act but it will come, after longer or shorter circulation, like a Bill drawn on Nature’s Reality, and be presented there for payment, — with the answer, No effects.  Pity only that it often had so long a circulation: that the original forger were so seldom he who bore the final smart of it!  Lies, and the burden of evil they bring, are passed on; shifted from back to back, and from rank to rank; and so land ultimately on the dumb lowest rank, who with spade and mattock, with sore heart and empty wallet, daily come in contact with reality, and can pass the cheat no further.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink

Reality bites

FORTY may be the new 30, but try telling that to your ovaries.

In the New York Times, Fertility is a Matter of Age No Matter How Young a Woman Looks

Advances in beauty products and dermatology, not to mention manic devotion to yoga, Pilates and other exercise obsessions, are making it possible for large numbers of women to look admirably younger than their years. But doctors fear that they are creating a widening disconnect between what women see in the mirror and what’s happening to their reproductive organs.

“Somewhere between 30 and 40 your internal organs are aging but you don’t feel it, and now you don’t even see it,” said Dr. Karyn Grossman, a dermatologist with practices in Manhattan and Santa Monica, Calif. “At least you used to get some visual feedback.”
“Everyone in my life told me how young I looked for my age,” she said. “I assumed it was the same on the inside as it was on the outside.”

Why it's time to regulate the IVF industry.  It should have been done years ago.  Creepy: One sperm donor, 150 kids

As more women choose to have babies on their own, and the number of children born through artificial insemination increases, outsize groups of donor siblings are starting to appear. While Ms. Daily’s group is among the largest, many others comprising 50 or more half siblings are cropping up on Web sites and in chat groups, where sperm donors are tagged with unique identifying numbers.

Now, there is growing concern among parents, donors and medical experts about potential negative consequences of having so many children fathered by the same donors, including the possibility that genes for rare diseases could be spread more widely through the population. Some experts are even calling attention to the increased odds of accidental incest between half sisters and half brothers, who often live close to one another.

“We have more rules that go into place when you buy a used car than when you buy sperm,” said Debora L. Spar, president of Barnard College and author of “The Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception.
Although other countries, including Britain, France and Sweden, limit how many children a sperm donor can father, there is no such limit in the United States.
“Just as it’s happened in many other countries around the world,” Ms. Kramer said, “we need to publicly ask the questions ‘What is in the best interests of the child to be born?’ and ‘Is it fair to bring a child into the world who will have no access to knowing about one half of their genetics, medical history and ancestry?’

“These sperm banks are keeping donors anonymous, making women babies and making a lot of money. But nowhere in that formula is doing what’s right for the donor families.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 AM | Permalink

September 3, 2011

The absence of tenderness

Reflected in the today's popular music is the loss of courtship and the consequent absence of tenderness.

Mark Steyn on A Tale of Two Declines or Even if the economy were to fix itself overnight, we'd still face cultural challenges.

Take my order ’cause your body like a carry out
Let me walk into your body until it’s lights out.

Lovely:  I am so hot for you I look on you as a Burger King drive-thru.  That’s what the chicks dig. That’s what you’ll be asking the band to play at your silver wedding anniversary as you tell the young ’uns that they don’t write ’em like they used to. Even better, this exquisite love song is sung not by some bling-dripping braggart hoodlum of the rap fraternity but by the quintessential child-man of contemporary pop culture, ex-Mouseketeer Justin Timberlake.

It’s not the vulgarity or the crassness or even the grunting moronic ugliness, but something more basic: the absence of tenderness. A song such as “It Had To Be You” or “The Way You Look Tonight” presupposes certain courtship rituals. If a society no longer has those, it’s not surprising that it can no longer produce songs to embody them: After all, a great love ballad is, to a certain extent, aspirational; you hope to have a love worthy of such a song. A number like “Carry Out” is enough to make you question whether the fundamental things really do apply as time goes by.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:36 PM | Permalink

In Thrall to Bankers

If you want to get really discouraged over this Labor Day weekend,  read what Nassim Taleb (famous for his black swan theory) wrote.   

The American Economy Will Transfer $5 Trillion to Banker Pay and Bonuses Over the Next 10 Years.

Such transfers represent as cunning a tax on everyone else as one can imagine. It feels quite iniquitous that bankers, having helped cause today’s financial and economic troubles, are the only class that is not suffering from them – and in many cases are actually benefiting.
In other words, banks take risks, get paid for the upside, and then transfer the downside to shareholders, taxpayers, and even retirees. In order to rescue the banking system, the Federal Reserve, for example, put interest rates at artificially low levels; as was disclosed recently, it also has provided secret loans of $1.2 trillion to banks. The main effect so far has been to help bankers generate bonuses (rather than attract borrowers) by hiding exposures.

Taxpayers end up paying for these exposures, as do retirees and others who rely on returns from their savings. Moreover, low-interest-rate policies transfer inflation risk to all savers – and to future generations.

Perhaps the greatest insult to taxpayers, then, is that bankers’ compensation last year was back at its pre-crisis level.  Of course, before being bailed out by governments, banks had never made any return in their history, assuming that their assets are properly marked to market.

Nor should they produce any return in the long run, as their business model remains identical to what it was before, with only cosmetic modifications concerning trading risks.

So the facts are clear. But, as individual taxpayers, we are helpless, because we do not control outcomes, owing to the concerted efforts of lobbyists, or, worse, economic policymakers. Our subsidizing of bank managers and executives is completely involuntary.

I don't know how much credence to give this.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:25 PM | Permalink

Popular TV shows teach children fame is most important value

The continuing devolution of the culture, part 467.

Popular TV Shows Teach Children Fame Is Most Important Value, Psychologists Report; Being Kind to Others Fell Dramatically in Importance Over 10 Years.

Fame is the No. 1 value emphasized by television shows popular with 9- to 11-year-olds, a dramatic change over the past 10 years, UCLA psychologists report in a new study.

On a list of 16 values, fame jumped from the 15th spot, where it was in both 1987 and 1997, to the first spot in 2007. From 1997 to 2007, benevolence (being kind and helping others) fell from second to 13th, and tradition dropped from fourth to 15th
"I was shocked, especially by the dramatic changes in the last 10 years," said Yalda T. Uhls, a UCLA doctoral student in developmental psychology and the lead author of the study. "I thought fame would be important but did not expect this drastic an increase or such a dramatic decrease in other values, such as community feeling. If you believe that television reflects the culture, as I do, then American culture has changed drastically."

Community feeling (being part of a group) was the No. 1 value in 1967, 1977 and 1997, and it was the No. 2 value in 1987, the study found. By 2007, however, it had fallen out of the top 10, to 11th.

The top five values in 2007 were fame, achievement, popularity, image and financial success. In 1997, the top five were community feeling, benevolence (being kind and helping others), image, tradition and self-acceptance. In 2007, benevolence dropped to the 12th spot and community feeling fell to 11th. Financial success went from 12th in 1967 and 1997 to fifth in 2007.

The study is published in the July issue of Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, a peer-reviewed journal featuring psychosocial research on the impact of the Internet on people and society.

Uhls and Greenfield analyzed Nielsen demographic data to determine the most popular shows with 9- to 11-year-olds and then conducted a survey of 60 participants, aged 18 to 59, to determine how important each value was in episodes of the various shows.

"The biggest change occurred from 1997 to 2007, when YouTube, Facebook and Twitter exploded in popularity," Uhls said. "Their growth parallels the rise in narcissism and the drop in empathy among college students in the United States, as other research has shown. We don't think this is a coincidence. Changes we have seen in narcissism and empathy are being reflected on television. In the past, children had their home, community and school; now they have thousands of 'friends' who look at their photos and their posts and comment on them. The growth of social media gives children access to an audience beyond the school grounds."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:14 PM | Permalink

Take a gander

Two snow geese flying south.


1.5 million snow geese take flight at the same time at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri.

 Snowgoose Migration 1.3Million

Photographer Mike Hollingshead in  Ready, steady, goose!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:05 PM | Permalink

Il Divo sing Amazing Grace

I'm late in discovering Il Divo ("divine male performer" in Italian) but when I heard this I was dumbstruck at the beauty of these four men singing Amazing Grace.  It looks like the Colosseum in Rome, but in fact the concert took place at the Pula Arena in Pula, Croatia.

And to think it was Simon Cowell who began it all.

According to Wikipedia.

The idea behind Il Divo's creation came to Cowell after hearing Andrea Bocelli singing Con te partirò while watching The Sopranos. Aware of this new appreciation for lyrical voices and classical music, he decided to form a multinational quartet (the members hail from Spain, Switzerland, France, and the United States, the name being in Italian) that tried to recreate the style of The Three Tenors.

Simon Cowell conducted a worldwide search for young singers who were willing to embark on the Il Divo project, which lasted two years, from 2001 until December 2003, when the fourth member of Il Divo, American tenor David Miller, was signed. The well-established formation of Il Divo comprises a renowned Spanish baritone, Carlos Marín; two classically trained tenors, Swiss Urs Bühler and American David Miller; and a French pop singer, Sébastien Izambard.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:10 PM | Permalink

Star trails down under

 Star Trails Lincoln Harrison

Photographer Lincoln Harrison captures stunning images of star trails in Australis with time-lapse photography and 15 hour photo shoots.    More photos here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

September 2, 2011

Market failure AND Government failure -

MARKET FAILURE VS. GOVERNMENT FAILURE:  We’ve certainly seen a lot of the latter, lately. If “market failure” is an excuse for taking power away from markets, shouldn’t “government failure” be a reason to take power away from government?

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit

The Government Failure link leads to op ed today by Gary Becker in The Wall Street Journal. The Great Recession and Government

The origins of the financial crisis and the Great Recession are widely attributed to "market failure." This refers primarily to the bad loans and excessive risks taken on by banks in the quest to expand their profits.
Although many banks did perform poorly, government behavior also contributed to and prolonged the crisis. The Federal Reserve kept interest rates artificially low in the years leading up to the crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two quasi-government institutions, used strong backing from influential members of Congress to encourage irresponsible mortgages that required little down payment, as well as low interest rates for households with poor credit and low and erratic incomes. Regulators who could have reined in banks instead became cheerleaders for the banks.
The widespread demand after the financial crisis for radical modifications to capitalism typically paid little attention to whether in fact proposed government substitutes would do better, rather than worse, than markets.

Government regulations and laws are obviously essential to any well-functioning economy. Still, when the performance of markets is compared systematically to government alternatives, markets usually come out looking pretty darn good.

Market failure AND Government failure - We had both.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

"Create your own grad school. Open your own doors"

Penelope Trunk's Best alternative to grad school strikes me as quite good advice.

If you are thinking of going to graduate school, you need to understand that the process of discovering what value you bring to the adult world is a very hard process to endure. Because you are probably smart, and you like to learn, and most jobs are not about paying you to learn. You have to create that for yourself.
Life should be a process of learning and doing, learning and doing. Grad school is all learning. It’s an imbalance that is not fair to you, and not right for you. Create your own grad school.  Open your own doors.
Find a foot in a door and then start learning everything you can to open that door wider.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 AM | Permalink

September 1, 2011

Abortion is a risky business

Sure to cause controversy is the study endorsed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry which concluded that Women who have abortions 'face double the risk of mental health problems'.

Professor Coleman has been the frequent target of pro-choice campaigners in the U.S. for her insistence that abortion is linked to poor mental health.

But while critics have doubted her methods, they have failed to damage her academic reputation, and publication in the peer-reviewed British journal is a signal that the psychiatric establishment is now taking seriously the possibility that abortion is a cause of anxiety, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide.
Professor Coleman’s study was based on an analysis of 22 separate projects which together analysed the experiences of 877,000 women, of whom 163,831 had had an abortion.
Overall, the results revealed that women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81 per cent increased risk of mental health problems, and nearly 10 per cent of the incidence of mental health problems were shown to be directly attributable to abortion.’
The study said that abortion was linked with a 34 per cent greater chance of anxiety disorders, and 37 per cent higher possibility of depression, a more than double risk of alcohol abuse – 110 per cent – a three times greater risk of cannabis use – at 220 per cent – and 155 per cent greater risk of trying to commit suicide.

Professor Coleman added: ‘There are in fact some real risks associated with abortion that should be shared with women as they are counselled prior to an abortion.’

Let's face it.  Abortion is a risky business and women planning to undergo an abortion should be advised of the risks.     

Abortion is also the leading cause of death in the United States with 1.2 million abortions a year.  The number of people who die with heart disease is 598,607.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:59 PM | Permalink

Back to school advice

Walter Russell Mead very good Back to School advice to returning students and to their parents.

And so, dear students, welcome back!  Your generation is going to have dig its own way out of the hole my generation has dug for you (thanks for the Medicare, kids, and sorry about the deficit!), but here are a few tips that may help you get the best out of your college years.

1.  The real world does not work like school.
2.  Most of your elders know very little about the world into which you are headed.
3.  You are going to have to work much, much harder than you probably expect.
4.  Choosing the right courses is more important than choosing the right college.
5.  Get a traditional liberal education; it is the only thing that will do you any good.
6.  Character counts; so do good habits.
7.  Relax.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink