September 28, 2017

Virtue is its own reward

6 Ways virtue is its own reward, according to science

Doing the right thing really can be it’s own reward — and it can be a huge help to our mental health. A series of studies recently released reveal that being virtuous, helping others, and expressing gratitude produce positive outcomes not only in the lives of those around us, but also in our own lives, too. Granted, we shouldn’t just be kind for our own health benefit, but there is a beauty in the fact that helping others also can have good side affects in our own lives.

1.  Better sleep habits
....A recent study found that participants who had a purpose for their life experienced fewer sleep disorders and problems and also experienced better quality of rest.

2. Increased general happiness
.....Previous studies have shown that when you spend money on others, you’re happier than when you spent the same amount of money on yourself. In fact, brain scans reveal that small acts of generosity and virtue cause the brain to produce a”warm glow” as a response to boosted happiness levels.

3. A boost in positive emotions
.....Not only does gratitude boost your happiness levels, but it also raises your happiness set-point (the “default” level of happiness you feel independent of circumstances), according to psychologist Robert A. Emmons. Other positive emotions that are increased by living virtuously include joy, optimism, pleasure and enthusiasm. Virtue also suppresses feelings of depression, envy and resentment.

4. A lowered rate of depression
Giving your time, talent, and treasures can lower your chances of depression.....

5. “Helper’s high”
.... some research shows that those who help may actually gain more in terms of mental health than those on the receiving end of their kindness and generosity. Helping others also leaves you with a greater appreciation for what you’ve been blessed with, as well as a sanctification that comes from giving of yourself.

6. Increased self-esteem
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 PM | Permalink

July 3, 2017

"I hope you will be treated unfairly"

Chief Justice John Roberts, at his commencement address to graduates at Cardigan Mountain School uses an uncommon way to illustrate the importance of the virtues

From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope you will suffer betrayal, because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time, so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck again, from time to time, so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in your life, and understand that your success is not completely deserved, and the failure of others is not completely deserved, either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you will be ignored, so you will learn the importance of listening to others. And I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:37 PM | Permalink

May 2, 2017


The secret to honesty revealed: it feels better

It is a mystery that has perplexed psychologists and philosophers since the dawn of humanity: why are most people honest?Now, using a complex array of MRI machines and electrocution devices, scientists claim to have found the answer.

Researchers at University College London discovered that at a physical level the brain finds decency far more satisfying than deception. The trial revealed that, despite accumulating a large amount of money, most participants derived no deep-seated satisfaction if the success was gained at the expense of others.

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.
Thomas Jefferson

No legacy is so rich as honesty
Shakespeare, All’s Well that Ends Well

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

February 15, 2017

Feel-good roundup

Firefighter adopts baby he delivered on emergency call  "It was meant to be," says the proud dad.

 Firefighter+Adopted Daughter

Fireflghter Marc Hadden, who worked with the medical unit, was eating dinner in the middle of his 24-hour shift when he had to hop in the ambulance and head out to the emergency. He and his partner found a woman in labor, and as soon as they got her in the ambulance she was ready to give birth. Hadden took charge — his first time ever being in charge of a delivery in 20 years of his work, according to a story on CBS News.  Little did the firefighter know at that moment that he was helping his own daughter take her first breath.

Mystery student brings enough valentines for everyone, 1,300

Students of Troy High School, in Ohio, received a wonderful Valentine’s day surprise yesterday when each student found an origami heart stuck on their locker. The truly impressive part is that all of these hand crafted gifts were made by one anonymous student ---who began making them last September.

 Valentines 1300 For Everyone

'I Know They Are Going to Die.' Foster Father Takes in Only Terminally Ill Children

 Bzeek Cares For Dying Children

Mohamed Bzeek has chosen a tough, heart-wrenching vocation. The quiet, devout, Libyan-born Muslim has for more than two decades been a father to terminally ill children in Los Angeles County’s foster care system. And as a long profile in the Los Angeles Times makes clear, he is very good at what he does. Bzeek reportedly has buried about ten children -- some of whom died in his arms -- yet still maintains the patience and empathy to do what even the children's parents can't or won't do.'I know they are going to die'....

Mohamed Bzeek moved from Libya to the US in 1978 and began fostering in 1989 with his late wife Dawn

after they decided to care exclusively for terminally ill kids.  He has buried ten children in the past 20 years of fostering severely ill children.  Dawn died in 2013. Bzeek cares for the kids, and his disabled son, by himself.  Bzeek is currently caring for a six-year-old girl who is paralyzed, deaf and blind. Foster care workers say he is the only person they can turn to with an ill child.

'The key is, you have to love them like your own,' Bzeek told the Los Angeles Times. 'I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.'

Great Britain digs deep for grieving siblings

For the three siblings who lost their parents to cancer within days, a nation pulled out the stops. A homeless beggar donated his day’s earnings, a family in Scotland offered a home, countless others gave a tenner in anonymity.

Luke, 21, Hannah, 18, and Oliver Bennet, 13, were “astounded” as the total amount raised to keep them in full-time education soared above £192,000 in five days. The money poured in via the website JustGiving after Julie and Mike Bennet’s children, who live in the Wirral, released a picture of their parents holding hands on their deathbeds.

 Parents Just Before They Died

Mike Bennet, a cabinet-maker, had a brain tumor diagnosed four years ago. Last May his wife, Julie, a primary school teacher, had liver and kidney cancer diagnosed. Last month, after their treatments failed, the couple were admitted to Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral and put in adjacent beds for their final days. Mr Bennet died there on February 6, aged 57. Mrs Bennet was then moved to St John’s hospice in Bebington, where she died on Saturday, aged 50.

“They are extremely, extremely grateful,” Ms Gallagher said. “They just cannot believe the support they have been given. They are proper down-to-earth kids whose parents brought them up well. It is not about cars and new shoes with them. It is about rallying around each other.”

 Siblings Can Continue Their Education

The money will allow the siblings, Oliver 13, Hannah 18 and Luke 21, to continue in full-time education
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:10 PM | Permalink

February 9, 2017

Is higher education as the West has known it for eight hundred years possible any more?

Institutions are disregarding true education in favor of offering a ‘college experience.’ - an excerpt from Anthony Esolen’s new book Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture.

Any dispassionate observer must conclude that higher education in the United States, and in many other Western nations, is in a bad way. I am not talking about troubles that are easily remedied or errors that require adjustment and reform. I am talking about whether higher education as the West has known it for eight hundred years is any longer possible.
it is insufficient to say that higher education suffers. Except in the most technical of disciplines, and perhaps even in those, the very possibility of higher education comes to an abrupt halt. If a professor must negotiate an emotional and verbal and political mine field before he opens his mouth, then he is no professor any longer. He is a servile functionary, no matter his title and no matter how well he is paid. He instructs his students not in freedom but in his own servility. That many of the students demand this servility of him and of themselves makes their capitulation all the worse.
The colleges have not abandoned moral considerations utterly. Relativism is an unstable equilibrium — imagine a pyramid upside down, placed delicately upon its apex. It might make you break out into a cold sweat to stand in its shade. The question is not whether some moral vision will prevail, but which moral vision. The colleges are thus committed to a moral inversion. High and noble virtues, especially those that require moral courage, are mocked: gallantry in wartime, sexual purity, scrupulous honesty and plain dealing, piety, and the willingness to subject your thoughts, experiences, and most treasured beliefs to the searching scrutiny of reason. What is valued then? Debauchery, perversion, contempt for your supposedly benighted ancestors, lazy agnosticism, easy and costless pacifism, political maneuvering, and an enforcement of a new orthodoxy that in denying rational analysis seeks to render itself immune to criticism. You sink yourself in debt to discover that your sons and daughters have been severed from their faith, their morals, and their reason. Whorehouses and mental wards would be much cheaper. They might well be healthier, too.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:43 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2016

People who believe reality exists and people who don't

Prudence today has come to mean cautiousness.  Who can forget Dana Carvey mocking President George H.W. Bush, "Not going to do it. Wouldn’t be prudent."  (Carvey described his impersonation of H.W. Bush once by saying that it was a cross between Mister Rogers and John Wayne.) 

We've lost the sense of prudence, so I was quite struck by Gaghdad Bob's discussion of prudence in Garbage In, Liberalism Out.

In my lifetime the left has been wrong on every major issue. That’s quite a record, and it leads one to wonder about the source of their preternatural consistency. What is it in them that causes such awful decision-making?  Whatever else it is, it involves an absence of the virtue of prudence. Prudence, writes, Pieper, is "highest in rank among the four cardinal virtues." [Aristotle said the same; so did St.Thomas Aquinas]

Recall the other three, justice, courage, and temperance. Why would they be subordinate to prudence? Because, for example, courage without prudence is just rashness or recklessness. Justice without it is -- well, anything from tyranny to social justice, which amount to the same thing in the end. And temperance without prudence reduces to a lukewarm relativism. So prudence "is the mother of the other three virtues" and "precondition for all that is ethically good." But why, exactly?

Because prudence first and foremost implies contact with reality. Obviously, if we don't know what reality is, then we cannot make prudent decisions about it.
The sharp ideological differences in the country are a direct consequence of differing ideas about reality. Or, one side believes reality exists, while the other maintains it is both relative and a consequence of perception; which is to say they don't believe in reality at all. So really, the debate reduces to people who believe reality exists vs. people who don't.
"The precondition for every ethical decision is the perception and examination of reality." And "prudence is the art of making the right decision based on the corresponding reality..." So there are really always two steps: 1) contact with and receptiveness to reality, and 2) deciding rightly.


Since Greek and Roman times Prudence has been personified as a woman holding a serpent and a mirror

The artwork above is called “Prudence” and was painted by Italian Renaissance painter Piero del Pollaiuolo. Prudence holds a serpent in reference to Matthew 10:16 that Christians be “wise as serpents” as well as a mirror to indicate the importance of self-knowledge to wisdom. 

 Titian - Allegorie Der Zeit
Allegory of Prudence by Titian, National Gallery, London

From Wikipedia

To Titian, prudence was preparation, foresight and judgement from experience and human history. The three faces in the painting represent the passing of human generations, with the young facing the light while the oldest fade into shadow; the faint inscription above their heads may be translated as "From the past, the present acts prudently, lest it spoils future action"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 AM | Permalink

January 4, 2016

"There’s nothing more discouraging than the lack of hope" The theological virtue of Hope.

In The Public Discourse Europe, Multiculturalism, and Nihilism by Luca Volonte

The EU’s current assimilation model led to the segregation of most people coming from Islamic countries. There are “Banlieue” districts in every European city, in which the rules regarding social and community life are completely different from the ones adopted in the rest of the city. Official secularism has led to a rise of sharia.
The idea of a superficial multiculturalism, in which everything is conformed to State nihilism and secularism without reference to any religious reality—especially the Christian one—has miserably failed.....European totalitarian secularism is strong, and a discriminatory, violent attitude against religion is spreading.
By contrast, every successful model of cultural integration has been built upon a real respect for other faiths and other cultures—a respect that starts from the proud affirmation of one’s own cultural memory and personal identity. ...As Europe and the entire West world have abjured not only God, but their own historic, cultural, and religious roots, it has become increasingly difficult for modern Europeans to understand and find solutions to current problems.

The fact that Europe bans Christmas traditions in public schools, as well as Christmas songs, nativity scenes, Christmas decorations, and public processions in memory of patron saints (see, for example, the abolition of St. Martin's Day in Germany) is not due to the complaints of Muslim citizens or children. I have never heard of protests organized by Muslim communities or parents on this matter. In the vast majority of such cases, Christian traditions are abolished because of political decisions taken by governments and school authorities. Such authorities use the trivial excuse that they “don’t want to offend anyone” of a different faith and that they wish to “maintain a peaceful atmosphere” that does not encourage terrorist attacks. The terrible risk of religious violence and the tragedies that have occurred are actually used by the supporters of totalitarian secularism to repress cultural memory and restrict religious freedom.
The new secularism is not only interested in controlling today’s society; it also seeks to deprive future generations of the keys to unlock and interpret of our personal and international memory. The abolition of books like Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Sun,” the Rule of Saint Benedict, and the novels of G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Graham Greene, and Cormac McCarthy will not help society to develop integration and mutual respect. On the contrary, such repression will lead everyone to new unbearable forms of slavery.

There’s nothing more discouraging than the lack of hope. In Europe, we see—on a grand scale—the same phenomenon that is taking place in our private lives. Europe and the Western world can only emerge from this downward spiral by putting religious faith and respect for history and tradition at the center of our communal and personal lives. When one has taken a wrong turn, sometimes the only way to reach the goal is to come back and take the well-trodden path, abandoning dangerous shortcuts and doing the hard work necessary to ascend the summit.

Hope is the Christian messageIt is not a classical virtue but a theological oneThe Effrontery of Hope

It seems to me that we take “hope” for granted...The culture in which we live has been steeped, for two thousand years of Christianity, in the language of hope.
That near-certainty of disappointment and sorrow most definitely occupied the thought of pagan antiquity....A serious study of the literature and thought of pagan antiquity instead reveals a profound pessimism regarding human life and destiny. The Greeks and Romans had no idea of “progress,” “human development.” or “fulfillment” in the modern senses of those words. On the contrary, they saw human history and the lot of mankind as one of relentless decline and devolution.......

So, when the Christian message infiltrated the pagan culture, it struck Greco-Roman antiquity as something radically different. It was really and truly “news.” Whether it was deemed “good” news or not depended on the outlook and openness of the hearer, but it was certainly something they weren’t accustomed to hearing from their own dominant culture. The newness and radicalism of the Christian message at least partially accounts for the hostility and derision that the Faith frequently encountered. It was an effrontery to the mindset and received worldview of its time.
We see around us today the signs that our society is sinking into the fundamental despair that plagued the ancients. Perhaps we too can proclaim, in this Christmas, the effrontery of a God who chose to save us by doing something different, which seemed to the world either an absurdity or an offense.

Gagdad Bob on Hope: Natural and Supernatural

Pieper writes that merely natural hope "blossoms with the strength of youth and withers when youth withers."..This is obviously a sobering reality, but again, I think it explains why older people who should know better cling to the callow political enthusiasms of their youth.
Now, the loss of natural hope brings with it the growth of what we might call "natural despair." ..Likewise, hopelessness and cynicism would be quite appropriate in a wholly materialistic worldview, for what is there to hope for aside from the grim maximization of an ever-dwindling pleasure while pretending death isn't right outside the door?
This very different type of transnatural hope is by no means tied to natural youth. However, consistent with Jesus' statements regarding the importance of holy childlikeness, this hope "bestows on mankind a 'not yet' that is entirely superior to and distinct from the failing strength of man's natural hope."
Pieper writes of "the enchanting youthfulness of our great saints," for "nothing more eminently preserves and founds 'eternal youth' than the theological virtue of hope. It alone can bestow on man the certain possession of that aspiration that is at once relaxed and disciplined, that adaptability and readiness, that strong-hearted freshness, that resilient joy, that steady perseverance in trust that so distinguish the young and make them so lovable."
Too old, older than Abraham, too young, young as a babe's I AM. The circle unbroken by and by, a Divine child, a godsend, a touch of infanity, a bloomin' yes.

For in the end, hope is nothing more or less than a trusting and childlike Yes! to the Creator, and the faithful certainty that his creation is indeed good.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

May 15, 2015

"Health, safety and security…have replaced faith, hope and charity as virtues"

Theodore Dalrymple on The Cure for Hypochondria

There is no doubt that hypochondriacs are boring; you fear to ask them how they are in case they should tell you.  But one cannot help but suspect that their excessive concern with the state of their health is a defense against something worse, an existential fear that life has no meaning beyond itself, and that therefore the achievement of health, the avoidance of illness, is the highest goal possible.

Certainly, our obsession with health, safety and security (which have replaced faith, hope and charity as virtues) is not proportional, except possibly inversely, to risk or threat.  The hypochondriac is not assuaged by statistics that show that his generation is the healthiest that has ever lived, or that death does not lurk in every food and every product and every situation.  In the absence of a transcendent purpose in life, staving off death becomes all-important.  Hypochondriasis, then, is in part a religious or philosophical problem.

….it is far more important for people to be able to lose themselves that to find themselves.  The ability to distance themselves from their own twinges and morbid thoughts is precisely what hypochondriacs lack. 

To observe, but also to observe yourself observing: that is the trick.  Once, when being mildly beaten by a Balkan policeman with a truncheon, I managed to think about how I was going to describe it, and I found thinking about it a considerable relief.  There comes a point, of course, when such detachment is impossible: but by definition, almost, hypochondriacs have not yet reached that point. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 PM | Permalink

July 17, 2014

Self control is personal power and so is grit

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. — Lao-tzu -

What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it, that’s another matter. — Peter F. Drucker -

An Indulgent Life Isn’t Necessarily a Happy Life

Recent research, which will be published in next month's Journal of Personality shows that People with higher self-control also tend to lead happier lives.
In all three studies, the researchers found a link between self-control and happiness. The findings may be correlational and self-reported (which can always mean people may exaggerate the good stuff and minimize the bad), but the results still feel very true to life. “For me, I’ve actually found it to be quite an eye-opener,” Vohs said. “Because the lesson that should be taken away from this paper is that the best way for people to live healthy and happy lives is to avoid temptations in the first place.” Happiness is about more than living in the moment; it's important to keep the future in mind, too.

Only people who discipline themselves -  be it saving money, losing weight, learning tennis or writing a book - can reach their goals

Stuart Schneiderman comments

It turns out that if you make plans for the future and keep yourself focused on whatever it is you need to do to bring them to fruition, you cannot at the same time yield to every temptation.

It’s like being in training for a race or a competition or a recital. You need to follow a strict regimen to be capable of performing at your best. And you need to follow it consistently and regularly—you need to make it a habit.  You do not practice self-control for its own sake. You do it with a goal and a purpose in mind.

Daniel Goldman says Grit and emotional intelligence, not IQ or academic performance is the best predictor of personal and business success.

Studies at the University of Pennsylvania have found that students who don't have the highest IQs in their class but get high grades share an attitude called grit.” They keep plugging away despite any setbacks or failures.

And a 30-year longitudinal study of more than a thousand kids – the gold standard for uncovering relationships between behavioral variables – found that those children with the best cognitive control had the greatest financial success in their 30s
Cognitive control refers to the abilities to delay gratification in pursuit of your goals, maintaining impulse control, managing upsetting emotions well, holding focus, and possessing a readiness to learn. Grit requires good cognitive control. No wonder this results in financial and personal success….

Both grit and cognitive control exemplify self-management, a key part of emotional intelligence. IQ and technical skills matter, of course: they are crucial threshold abilities, what you need to get the job done….

It’s the distinguishing competencies that are the crucial factor in workplace success: the variables that you find only in the star performers – and those are largely due to emotional intelligence.

These human skills include, for instance, confidence, striving for goals despite setbacks, staying cool under pressure, harmony and collaboration, persuasion and influence.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 PM | Permalink

August 1, 2013

"It's better to hold the door for a woman than to let it slam in her face."

There may be a chance now that it's being touted in the New York Times which has discovered, Chivalry Is a Virtue We Should All Aspire To  by Emily Esfahani Smith.

Ordinary people are seeing that chivalry contributes to healthy relationships. A recent study in the academic journal Psychology of Women Quarterly found that chivalry is associated with greater life satisfaction among men and women. An initiative called the Gentlemen’s Showcase, led by college women on campuses across the country for the past few years, rewards young men for helping out others in need. And perhaps most important, a major study of more than 10,000 people from around the world — one of the largest studies of its kind — found that the No. 1 attribute that both young men and women seek in a mate is not money or beauty or intelligence, but kindness, which lies at the heart of the chivalrous act.
Being good — being noble — is also at the heart of chivalry. As a society, we can agree that certain types of behavior are better than others. It is, for instance, better to hold the door open for a woman than to let it slam in her face; it is better to give up your seat to someone in need rather than let that person stand in your stead; it is better to forgo a late-night cab when a stranger with young kids needs it more.

Chivalry is, as Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield might say, a manly virtue, but that does not mean that women cannot be chivalrous too. The essence of chivalry is self-sacrifice. Whether or not we name that selflessness chivalry, the compassion that stands behind it is something we should celebrate.

 Live With Chivalry

Glenn Reynolds comments "Chivalry was a system, and one that made demands on women every bit as much as on men." 

One commenter said, "Women were expected to behave in a chaste manner and be loyal to their husbands and supportive (in the traditional woman's role sense) of the warriors who were sacrificing for them."

Reynolds replied, "Precisely. It was a system involving mutual obligations; with one set deemed obsolete, it's absurd to expect the other set to continue as before."

I looked up the first reference in the article in the Psychology of Women Quarterly where chivalry is described as "benevolent sexism", Why Is Benevolent Sexism Appealing? Associations With System Justification and Life Satisfaction.    The authors make this astonishing conclusion:

Our findings reinforce the dangerous nature of benevolent sexism and emphasize the need for interventions to reduce its prevalence.

The major study referred to in the article, published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 1989  is entitled  Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures by David M. Buss Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, but I had to search through almost impenetrable language for what is indeed  the most important conclusion which was almost an aside in the main text and discussed no further.

Both sexes rated the characteristics 'kind-understanding' and 'intelligent'  higher than earning power and attractiveness in all samples, suggesting the species-typical preferences may be more potent than sex-linked preferences.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2013

Profumo, Weiner and Spitzer

Last week Peggy Noonan wrote about How to Find Grace After Disgrace and in particular John Profumo.

What a scandal it was. It had everything—beautiful women, spies, a semi-dashing government minister married to a movie star, a society doctor who functioned, essentially, as a pimp. And the backdrop was an august English country estate where intrigue had occurred before.

Unlike modern political sex scandals, which are cold and strange, it was what a scandal should be: dark, glamorous. Human. No furtive pictures of privates sent to strangers, no haggling over the prostitute's bill.
Profumo—humiliated on every front page as an adulterer, a liar, a man of such poor judgment and irresponsibility that he mindlessly cavorted with enemy spies—was finished. Alistair Horne, in his biography of Macmillan, wrote of Profumo after the scandal as a "wretched" figure, "disgraced and stripped of all public dignities."
Because Profumo believed in remorse of conscience—because he actually had a conscience—he could absorb what happened and let it change him however it would. In a way what he believed in was reality. He'd done something terrible—to his country, to his friends, to strangers who had to explain the headlines about him to their children.

He never knew political power again. He never asked for it. He did something altogether more confounding.

He did the hardest thing for a political figure. He really went away. He went to a place that helped the poor, a rundown settlement house called Toynbee Hall in the East End of London. There he did social work—actually the scut work of social work, washing dishes and cleaning toilets. He visited prisons for the criminally insane, helped with housing for the poor and worker education.

And it wasn't for show, wasn't a step on the way to political redemption. He worked at Toynbee for 40 years.
He didn't give interviews, never wrote a book, didn't go on TV. Alistair Horne: "Profumo . . . spent the rest of his life admirably dedicated to valuable good works, most loyally supported by his wife.
When he died in 2006, at 91, the reliably ironic Daily Telegraph wore its heart on its sleeve. "No one in public life ever did more to atone for his sins; no one behaved with more silent dignity as his name was repeatedly dragged through the mud; and few ended their lives as loved and revered by those who knew him."

She concluded that New York's politicians could learn from this Englishman's example.  I doubt it.  Weiner disgraced the House of Representatives and his wife, Spitzer was forced to resign as governor for his tawdry transactions with prostitutes and he humiliated his wife.  That both are just a few years later campaigning to be elected again to public office only demonstrates that they know no shame and feel no humiliation.  I suspect that they look on John Profumo as crazy.  Atonement? That's medieval. 

 Nymag Weiner Spitzer Cover

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:25 PM | Permalink

July 8, 2013

"Evil is suffering passed on to someone else"

A very interesting post at Quora, Why do certain people derive pleasure from doing cruel things to their fellow human beings?

Especially the post by Diane Meriwether, Kinder than necessary.

Part one - suffering in. ….. Part Two - suffering out…….

When suffering is upon us we have two options.  We can process and digest it or we can pass it on. …My definition of evil is suffering passed along to someone else.  In the process, whatever started the pain is lost and the energy moves as revenge or cruelty until someone else can bring it to ground.

In July 1995, 8000 men and boys were massacred in Srebrenica.  Later, there was an interview where a man justified his part in the murder.  He explained that his son had been killed by Bosnian Muslims.  I remember being floored.  How could it be that someone who had suffered the loss of a child could ever want anyone else to feel that way?  But of course, what he was hoping to do was to not feel the loss, to turn it into heat and blast it on to someone else's heart. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:51 PM | Permalink

May 22, 2013

A Woman of Valor and Courage

In the horrific beheading today of a British soldier in London, a Mum talked down Woolwich terrorists who told her: 'We want to start a war in London tonight'


A mother-of-two described tonight how she put her own life on the line by trying to persuade the soldier’s murderers to hand over their weapons.
Cub scout leader Ingrid Loyau-Kennett selflessly engaged the terrorists in conversation and kept her nerve as one of them told her: “We want to start a war in London tonight.”

Mrs Loyau-Kennett, 48, from Cornwall, was one of the first people on the scene after the two Islamic extremists butchered a soldier in Woolwich, south east London.  She was photographed by onlookers confronting one of the attackers who was holding a bloodied knife.

Mrs Loyau-Kennett was a passenger on a number 53 bus which was travelling past the scene, and jumped off to check the soldier’s pulse.
“Being a cub leader I have my first aid so when I saw this guy on the floor I thought it was an accident then I saw the guy was dead and I could not feel any pulse.

“And then when I went up there was this black guy with a revolver and a kitchen knife, he had what looked like butcher’s tools and he had a little axe, to cut the bones, and two large knives and he said 'move off the body’.

“So I thought 'OK, I don’t know what is going on here’ and he was covered with blood. I thought I had better start talking to him before he starts attacking somebody else. I thought these people usually have a message so I said 'what do you want?’

“I asked him if he did it and he said yes and I said why? And he said because he has killed Muslim people in Muslim countries, he said he was a British soldier and I said really and he said 'I killed him because he killed Muslims and I am fed up with people killing Muslims in Afghanistan they have nothing to do there.”

Moments earlier, the killers had hacked at the soldier “like a piece of meat”, and when Mrs Loyau-Kennett arrived on the scene they were roaming John Wilson Street waiting for police to arrive so they could stage a final confrontation with them.

She said: “I started to talk to him and I started to notice more weapons and the guy behind him with more weapons as well. By then, people had started to gather around. So I thought OK, I should keep him talking to me before he noticed everything around him.

“He was not high, he was not on drugs, he was not an alcoholic or drunk, he was just distressed, upset. He was in full control of his decisions and ready to everything he wanted to do.

I said 'right now it is only you versus many people, you are going to lose, what would you like to do?’ and he said I would like to stay and fight.”
The suspect in the black hat then went to speak to someone else and Mrs Loyau-Kennett tried to engage with the other man in the light coat.
She said: “The other one was much shier and I went to him and I said 'well, what about you? Would you like to give me what you have in your hands?’ I did not want to say weapons but I thought it was better having them aimed on one person like me rather than everybody there, children were starting to leave school as well.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:00 PM | Permalink

A respite for wonderful news

From Slashdot Cell Phones As a Dirty Bomb Detection Network

"The Idaho National Laboratory has built a dirty bomb detection network out of cell phones. Camera phones operate by detecting photons and storing them as a picture. The INL discovered that high energy photons from radiological sources distort the image in ways detectable through image processing. KSL TV reports that the INL's mobile app detects radiation sources and then reports positive 'hits' to a central server. Terrorists deploying a dirty bomb will inevitably pass by people carrying cell phones. By crowdsourcing cell phones, the INL has created a potentially very large, inexpensive, and randomly mobile radiation detection grid."

First Responders Rescued Over 100 Survivors in Moore, Oklahoma in the Midnight Hours (Video)

The faith and resiliency of Oklahomans

On Tuesday morning, a helicopter was circling overhead and thunder rumbled from a new storm as 35-year-old Moore resident Juan Dills and his family rummaged through the remains of what was once his mother’s home. The foundation was laid bare, the roof ripped away and only one wall was still standing. They found a few family photo albums, but little else.
We are still in shock,” he said. “But we will come through. We’re from Oklahoma.”

 Girl-Rescued-From Rubble Okl

The Inspiring Story of What an Arizona Cop Did to a Teen She Found Walking 9 Miles

An Arizona teenager working at a fast food restaurant had to walk nine miles home if he missed the last bus of the evening.

Christian Felix still had several miles to go when Phoenix Sgt. Natalie Simonick spotted him around 11 p.m. last month. When she pulled over thinking he was breaking curfew, she learned he was 18 years old and thus not in violation, but she also learned a few other things about the young adult, ABC News reported.

At a press conference last week she said she saw a strong work ethic in Felix, the local ABC affiliate KNXV reported. She also found Felix had never learned to ride a bike nor had he ever driven a car.

“He never had a father in his life, so he had no one to teach him,” Simonick said.

That’s when Simonick took it upon herself, asking her husband if they could give the teen their extra bike so he would have a more reliable form of transportation. Last month, she and other officers even gave him a lesson.

Helen Mirren takes the Queen's place to grant a dying boy with Down's syndrome his fondest wish to have tea with the Queen of England

After the show, Mirren, still dressed as the Queen and in character, invited the 10-year-old backstage to have tea and cakes served by footmen. She also introduced Burton to her corgis.

“She stayed in character for the whole thing. Oliver thought she was the real Queen, and well, that’s good enough for us,” the boy’s father, James Browne, said, according to the Daily Mail.

Mirren also knighted 10-year-old Oliver, giving him the official title of “Sir.”

 Helen Mirren Dying Down'ssyn Boy
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 AM | Permalink

April 24, 2013

The "War on Wisdom" and why good intentions are not enough

How often have you heard the excuse, But his intentions were good? 

Dennis Prager points out that "good intentions cause much of the world's great evils."

Take communism, for example. The greatest mass-murdering ideology in history, the greatest destroyer of elementary human rights, was an ideology supported by many people who believed in moral progress and human equality. It took Stalin's peace pact with Hitler to awaken many Western leftists to how evil communism was. And still, vast numbers of Westerners went on to support Stalin, Mao, Ho, Castro, Guevara or all of them. Were all these Westerners bad people, i.e., people who reveled in the suffering of others? Of course not.

When Good People Do Bad Things

In order to do good personally and in order to support social policies that do good, what humans need even more than a good heart (as beneficial as that can be) is wisdom.

This explains why we are in the morally confused world that I and other columnists document almost every week (and daily in my other life as a radio talk show host). There has been a war on wisdom.
Western universities have an abundance of people of intellect, people with a vast repository of knowledge and people who mean well. Yet, the Western university is a moral wasteland. Why? Because it lacks wisdom. The university relies on the good intentions of its professors, not on the accumulated wisdom of the past, for answers to society's problems. Thus, the Founding Fathers have little to teach us (they were rich, white men and often slaveholders); the Constitution is what we today say it is (which means it is anything a person with good intentions wants it to be); and the Bible is superstitious nonsense at best, pernicious nonsense at worst.

Instead of wrestling with the great ideas of those who lived before them, the university is dominated by people who are convinced that all one needs to know achieve good is to love equality and social justice, and to regard reliance on the Bible, Judeo-Christian values and the American Founders' values as an indication of moral and intellectual weakness.
The wise -- as opposed to most of the highly educated -- know, among many other things, that when you give people something for nothing, you produce ungrateful people; that when you obscure the differences between men and women, you end up with many aimless men and angry women; that when you give children "self-esteem" without their earning it, you produce narcissists who enter adulthood incapable of handling life; that if you do not destroy evil, it will proliferate; and that if you are kind to the cruel, you will cruel to the kind.

If you really want good to prevail, the key is wisdom, not the heart.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:55 AM | Permalink

April 17, 2013

Covenant Eyes

For parents who want to protect their children from porn, for employers who want to keep their employees from accessing porn at work or for people struggling with porn addiction, there's new software called Covenant Eyes to provide "internet filtering and accountability".

From the website:

Our Internet Accountability software monitors how the Internet is used and sends a report to the person you select, such as a friend, parent or mentor. This online transparency helps you think twice about how you use the Web.

Our Internet Filtering software lets you set time limits and block websites based on age – customizable parental controls for each of your kids.

More than 1 in 8 web searches are for erotic content

67% of children admit to clearing their Internet history to hide their online activity

79% of accidental exposures to Internet porn among kids take place in the home

56% of divorce cases involve one party having an obsessive interest in online porn

29% of working adults accessed explicit websites on work computers.

A Covenant Against Porn by Fathers for Good

The real concerning issue isn’t addiction (even though that is distressing), but rather how use of porn over time shapes one’s beliefs and attitudes. Study after study show that use of porn, even little by little over time, leads to exaggerated perception of sexual activity in society, a diminished trust between couples, the belief that sexual promiscuity is natural, the belief that casual sex and premarital sex is preferable, a cynicism about the need for love and affection between intimate partners, a lack of attraction to one’s intimate partner, a lower satisfaction with relational sex, a loss of interest in relational sex, exhaustion of one’s sexual response system, a greater objectification of women, a greater acceptance of “rape myths,” a deeper sense of loneliness, a loss of sexual self-esteem, and a desire to see more pornography and a greater variety of niche pornography.

Covenant Eyes provides people with a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to combating online temptation: accountability. One of the reasons why pornography can spread so easily online is because of the anonymity of the experience: no one has to know it is being viewed. Dr. Alvin Cooper says this experience of anonymity is one of the driving forces behind cyber-compulsions. Accountability is what neutralizes this.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:56 AM | Permalink

April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombings, Evil Met by Goodness

It was a lovely, sunny day showing the promise of Spring.  Daffodils were coming out and the very tips of the trees had begun to green.  Yesterday promised to be special Patriots Day here in Massachusetts, every year celebrated as a state holiday, this year, the first day of April school vacation. In Lexington, the colonial and British re-enactors were out  at 5:30 am, acting out the first skirmishes of the American revolution on the Lexington Green to the excited and appreciative crowds,  the first event of the day to Lexington's 300th birthday.

The Boston Marathon is always a grand event, even for those like me who no longer go to watch the runners who come from all parts of the world to compete in this most prestigious running  event.  There are hundreds and hundreds of volunteers to make sure the event goes smoothly and thousands and thousands who gather to cheer the runners along the 26 mile course.  The runners had worked hard for months, if not years, to get themselves in shape to run the grueling race.  Friends, families and strangers come out to applaud them,  cheer them on, and offer  water to exhausted runners at Heartbreak Hill. several miles from the end.

How stunned and bewildered the runners must have been at mile 25 when a policeman told them, “Race is over, folks,” “There is no finish line.”

Those at home watching the marathon on television knew, long before most of the runners,  of the bombs.  And those at the finish line saw the terror unleashed on the streets of Boston.

Eight-year-old Martin Richard  from Dorchester, Massachusetts, was killed as he was standing at the finishing line waiting to give his father, Bill, who was competing in the Boston Marathon, a hug. His six-year-old sister, Jane, lost a leg in the blast and his mother Denise is in hospital after undergoing brain surgery, while his 12-year-old brother, Henry, escaped without injury.

 Martin Richard +Family Marathon

The horror was unimaginable.  Evil exploded in Boston with ball bearings designed to kill, maim and lacerate human bodies. 

'These runners just finished and they don’t have legs now': Witnesses recount war zone at Boston Marathon as bombs left 26th mile littered with disembodied limbs and 'shoes with flesh still in them'

Competitors and race organizers were crying as they fled the chaos. A man was pictured with his lower leg blown off, while children were seen being wheeled away in chairs with burned limbs.

Blood and broken glass was strewn across the sidewalks, while a emergency worker was seen checking the pulses of young women lying on the ground.  A trauma nurse told ABC that the race's medical tent has become a makeshift morgue and that staff are dealing with injuries including severed limbs, shrapnel wounds and children with severe burns.
David Abel, a reporter for the Boston Globe who was standing just feet from the finish line to record runners, recounted the scene of horror he witnessed.

'I saw just a pile of bodies,' he said. 'It was the worst thing I've ever seen in my life… mangled limbs, people not breathing. Within minutes, police, medical staff, marathon staff [arrived] and were just trying to carry people off as quickly as possible.'

Brothers watching Boston Marathon each lose a leg  "Ma, I'm hurt real bad"

People understood immediately that the bombs were the acts of terrorists.  Whether the terrorists were foreign or domestic, amateur or professional, acting alone or in concert, there is no doubt the explosions were intended to kill or maim as many innocent civilians as possible. 

How incomprehensible is this evil.  How moving, inspiring and encouraging was the response of the first responders, the police and medical personnel and so so many others  who ran to help the victims.

-Fallen Runner 3 Cops
Bill Ifring, 78, from Washington state collapsed in the force of the blast, then got up and finished the race.

 2 Men Help Woman Boston Bombing

"Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping…I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world,"  Mr. Rogers.

 Man-Comforts-Woman Boston Bombings
Man comforts injured woman at site of first explosion

 Cowboyhat-Rescuer Boston Bombings

Carlos Arredondo, the man in the cowboy hat, tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire when he learned his Marine son was  killed in Iraq.    He was saved by the Marines who brought him the news, treated for his severe burns, and emerging from his deep grief, he became a peace activist.  He was handing out  American flags at the finish line when the bombs exploded.  After applying a tourniquet to the man's leg in the picture above, he rushed with the EMT and the woman to bring the victim to the medical tent and then into an ambulance saying, "You're going to be fine."

Confusion for marathoners leavened by kindness

As chaos unfolded at the Boston Marathon Monday, bewildered runners were redirected without explanation. It was the beginning of an hours-long odyssey for the competitors, many of whom were without their cellphones, or money, or anything but thin singlets and shorts. Dazed out-of-towners struggled to find designated gathering spots or their hotels, asking passersby for directions or a call on a cellphone. Many were unable to retrieve their belongings. Most of all, they were cold and exhausted.

Yet many were met with kindness from locals; offered blankets and jackets, cash and food, and a free place to sleep. “People in this city have been unbelievable,” said Glenn Sheehan, 50, a runner born in Wakefield and now lives in South Carolina. “ ‘Let me give you food, let me give you water’ — it’s been like that all afternoon.”
A Google Docs form was quickly set up to allow Boston residents to open their homes to marathon runners from outside the area who had no place to stay in the aftermath of the tragedy.

'Anyone wanting to get out of the back bay come over plenty of tables and calm here and don't worry you don't have to buy a thing,' tweeted a local restaurant called El Pelon Taqueria. 'open wifi, place to charge cell, or just don't want to be alone, food and drinks,- pay only if you can #bostonhelp.'

Pictures of heroism and humanity flooded Twitter, from police officers carrying injured young children to the residents who left their warm homes to greet runners stranded by the emergency and offer them comfort.

When so many have been so senselessly killed or maimed, it's all to easy to succumb to fear and despair.  Yet, even as I look at these terrible pictures,  I find myself encouraged by the goodness of so many people.  I always knew Bostonians
were tough, smart and resilient.  Yesterday, I realized how kind and good they are when evil strikes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2013

Wisdom, Prudence and Human Flourishing

The English writers  Orwell and Huxley describe two types of enslavement, external and internal  In U.S. we are more Brave New World than 1984 though we have elements of both.

Hunger Games and Dystopia

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, as has often been pointed out, imagined two very different dystopias. In 1984, written just after the Second World War, Orwell depicts the forces that held people captive as fundamentally external: coercion, espionage, laws, constraints, threats, lies, the state.  By contrast, Huxley’s Brave New World, published just after the Wall Street crash had turned the excess of the twenties into the Great Depression of the thirties, portrays a future in which people are enslaved to forces within themselves: desire, inanity, hedonism, egotism, fatuity. For all the similarities between the two books, it is this difference that is the most striking.
The greatest threat to human flourishing is the lack of wisdom, phronesis, or virtue. Whereas moderns understand freedom in terms of unconstrained individual choices, many ancients regarded the forces underlying individual choices—passions and desires which might in turn be foolish, selfish, or carnal, much like those depicted in Brave New World—as something from which people needed to be freed.
The essence of eleutheria, in the vision of writers from Aristotle to St. Paul, was being free to become what one was originally designed to be, rather than simply being free to make decisions (decisions which, of course, might stunt one’s progress towards ultimate fulfillment). Thus humans could be enslaved, not just to the other, but to the self. One needs redemption from the flesh as much as from the powers. Under such a vision of liberty, modern Westerners might not be as free as we would like to think.

Eleutheria is the Greek term for liberty. Eunoia, in addition to being the shortest English word containing all five vowels, comes from Greek meaning "well mind" or "beautiful thinking" and is a rarely used medical term referring to a state of normal mental health.

Phronesis is the Greek word is most often translated as "practical wisdom" or prudence.  Sophia is the other Greek word for wisdom sometimes translated as "theoretical wisdom".  Young people can acquire sophia in their respective fields, but, as Aristotle pointed out, maturation is required for  phronesia or prudence.  Young people do not as yet as have the life experience of sufficient particular experiences that's necessary for prudence.    This was clearly evident to Cicero who said:

"Rashness belongs to youth; prudence to old age," 
"Prudence is the knowledge of things to be sought, and those to be shunned."
"Precaution is better than cure"

One of the seven virtues, prudence is often misunderstood by young people as Kathryn Britton points out In Praise of Prudence from Positive Psychology News.

Generally speaking, adolescents understood them quite well, but I remember they had a tendency to confuse Humility with humiliation and Prudence with prudes. According the authors, “It seems that for most students, caution/prudence is a stuffy trait associated with timidity and lack of adventurousness.”

No wonder that "“The least prevalent character strengths in human beings are prudence, modesty, and self-regulation.”

Britton continues:

Psychologist Vincent Jeffries defines prudence as, “the use of reason to correctly discern that which helps and that which hinders realizing the good.” Think about all that entails: being able to project today’s actions into the future, to imagine the possible outcomes, and to form judgments about alternatives. I expect a person with the character strength prudence must have a high tolerance for ambiguity, needing to deal with incomplete and often conflicting information in order to make judgments.

As the expert contributor to the Prudence chapter in Character Strengths and Virtues, Nick Haslam identifies the following qualities of prudence:
A foresighted stance toward the future, holding long-term goals and aspirations

Ability to resist self-defeating impulses and to persist in beneficial activities, even if they lack immediate appeal (Grit anyone?)

• Reflective, deliberate, and practical thinking about life choices

• Ability to harmonize multiple goals into a “stable, coherent, and un-conflicted form of life.

• Ability to seek personal good without being collectively destructive.

In positive psychology, flourishing is “to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience.”
Flourishing is the opposite of both pathology and languishing, which are described as living a life that feels both hollow and empty.
Flourishing is a positive psychology concept which is a measure of overall life well-being and is viewed as important to the idea of happiness

A pioneer in positive psychology, Corey Keyes describes flourishing thusly:

flourishing is the epitome of mentally healthy adults having high levels of emotional well-being; they are happy and satisfied; they tend to see their lives as having a purpose; they feel some degree of mastery and accept all parts of themselves; they have a sense of personal growth in the sense that they are always growing, evolving, and changing; finally, they have a sense of autonomy and an internal locus of control, they chose their fate in life instead of being victims of fate.

Keyes reports that only 18.1% of Americans are actually flourishing. The majority of Americans can be classified as mentally unhealthy (depressed) or not mentally unhealthy or flourishing (moderately mentally healthy/languishing).

He is quoted as saying,

"We are living longer — on average 30 years longer than at the start of the 20th century — yet we are not living healthier. The question is: Are we just living dependent and sick, or are we living healthy and able to contribute?"

"I think we set up an impossible task, because our hedonistic version of happiness is impossible to sustain. But it is quite possible to feel fulfilled and content and that the world is meaningful by aligning yourself with some ideals, something that is bigger and better than you, and trying to live up to it."

For a flourishing life, one that is well-lived, we do well to cultivate the virtue of prudence.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:02 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2013

Good news for the whole world, wonderful man and toy stories

Wonderful news for the world - Cheap, clean water may soon be available for the whole planet.

According to Reuters, defense contractor Lockheed Martin has developed a filter that will hugely reduce the amount of energy necessary to turn sea water into fresh water. The filter, which is five hundred times thinner then others currently available, lets water pass through but blocks all salt molecules. It will use almost 100 times less energy than other methods for making salt water drinkable, giving third world countries another way of expanding access to drinking water without having to create costly pumping stations.

A righteous and humble man gets recognized for his life-saving acts of kindness.  YouTube link

In 1938, Nicholas Winton helped 669 Jewish kids escape certain death from the Nazis. He never told anyone that he did this.

While on ski trip in Switzerland, Winton took a detour in Czechoslovakia to help the children of refugees. Nazi Germany had recently annexed a large part of Czechoslovakia and the news of Kristallnacht, a violent attack on Jews in Germany and Austria, had just reached Prague.

Winton set up a rescue operation for the children, filling out the required paperwork for them to be sent to homes in Sweden and Great Britain. He had to raise money to fund foster homes for all of them, and then he sent 669 children away from Czechoslovakia on trains before the Nazis closed down the borders.

Winton told no one that he did this, not even his wife. In 1988, his wife found a scrapbook full of pictures of the children and letters from parents in their attic. She arranged to have Winton's story appear in newspapers.    Many of the children Winton saved went on the BBC television program, That's Life, to meet him for the first time since the war. They refer to themselves as "Winton's children". 

Winton is now 101 years old and has received awards from Israel and the Czech Republic as well as Knighthood from the Queen of England in 1993.

Toy Stories  Fantastic Photos of Children from Around the World with Their Prized Possessions.

Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti spent 18 months photographing children from around the world and their most prized toy possessions. His website


Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:13 PM | Permalink

February 18, 2013

George Washington was politically incorrect

When I heard of Pope Benedict's resignation, one thing that came to mind is . what King George III said about George Washington.

When King George III of England heard that Washington had willingly relinquished power after the war, he said, “If true, then he is the greatest man in the world.”\

When I googled to find out the exact quote, I came across this article about Washington by the historian Peter Lilliback

In these politically correct times, George Washington isn’t the hero he once was.

Children don’t read about him in school as much as their parents did. They’re much more likely to learn about African-American, Native American or female heroes.

New Jersey, in fact, issued new history standards a few years ago that omitted any mention of Washington.
Washington’s stature has diminished so much that a recent Washington College Poll found that Americans had a higher respect for Bill Clinton’s job performance as president than they did for George Washington’s.

What Maj. Gen. Henry Lee said at Washington’s funeral

First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere; uniform, dignified and commanding, his example was edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting.”

He may have been, in today's terms the most politically incorrect president we've ever had.  Is that why the greatness of the man is no longer taught?

 Backside Mt Rushmore
The Backside of Mt Rushmore from Miss Cellania

Freedom of Speech

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.


The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good.

Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth.


The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.

Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.


To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear.


Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.

It is  the peculiar boast of our country, that her happiness is alone dependent on the collective wisdom and virtue of her citizens, and rests not on the exertions of any individual


The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.


To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.


I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.


My observation is that whenever one person is found adequate to the discharge of a duty… it is worse executed by two persons, and scarcely done at all if three or more are employed therein.


Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.

The Constitution

The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.


I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.

I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.

His Mother

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

January 25, 2013

Pornography is not a victimless crime

Our daughters are abused by a culture of porn
Young girls, under pressure to have sex as never before, need parental protection

It’s not often that I unleash my inner Mary Whitehouse, but the way young girls today are expected to conform to a hideous porn culture makes me want to don a pair of glasses with upswept frames and get myself one of those battleaxe perms. A friend’s daughter recently started at a highly regarded boarding school. When her mother asked how she was enjoying the mixed-sex environment, the girl said quietly: “You have to give the boys oral sex or they get cross.” Reeling with shock, the mum protested that her darling daughter did not have to do anything of the sort. “Oh yes you do,” replied the girl. “And you have to shave down there or the boys don’t like it.”
The girl in question is not some brazen, street-smart sixth-former; she is 14 years old. With a woman’s body, perhaps, but still a child. A child who, as far as her parents were concerned, was leading a sheltered middle-class life, not auditioning to become a professional footballer’s WAG. Teenagers have always had secrets, places where they go to try on their new selves, be it the pages of a padlocked diary or the back row of the movies. But mine is the first generation of parents that has to protect its young not just in the world we can see and hear, but in a parallel, online universe for which we barely know the password. And it’s really tough. Tougher even than we know.

What a world we have created where parents are clueless when it comes to the protection of their daughters. Pornography is not a victimless crime.  Boys are stunted in their emotional, psychological and relational development by pornography.  Girls are damaged in their development as they act out the pornographic fantasies of boys.  Some will become so hardened that they can say along with Mary Elizabeth Williams, So what if abortion ends a life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:27 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2012

People do wonderful things

I needed this.  Sometimes you need a reminder that people can do wonderful things.

26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year

 We Have Power

And surveillance cameras catch some of it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 PM | Permalink

October 23, 2012

Bits and pieces: Texas postman and Hermes, Noc the whale, Republicans more knowledgeable, writing that works, a humble politician

How a Texas Postman Became an Hermes Designer

Oliver is 70 years old. He wears his mustache trim and neat. And though he's one of the most important living African-American painters, he just doesn't understand what the fuss is about. Never mind that he's the only American artist ever to design a scarf for Hermès — which he's done 16 times.
Again, he's also an employee of the U.S. Postal Service.

"He doesn't believe he can make a living as a painter," Sheeler says. "He doesn't even believe that he's that good — those are his words. He just likes to paint.    He works overnight at the post office, comes home, paints a little bit, takes a nap and then does it all over again. He survives on two to three hours of sleep. Eats a sandwich on his break at the post office. He gets a 30-minute break, and then he goes back to sorting mail."

Pew Research: Republicans More Knowledgeable Than Democrats
In a scientific survey of 1,168 adults conducted during September and October of last year, respondents were asked not only multiple-choice questions, but also queries using maps, photographs and symbols.  Among other subjects, participants identified international leaders, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, nations on a world map, the current unemployment and poverty rates and war casualty totals.

In a 2010 Pew survey, Republicans outperformed Democrats on 10 of 12 questions, with one tie and Democrats outperforming Republicans on just 1 of the 12.  In the latest survey, however, Republicans outperformed Democrats on every single one of 19 questions.

On YouTube, Marriage=Biology (Not Bigotry).  The best argument I've ever heard for the traditional definition of marriage.  Don't miss it.

Noc the whale who imitated a human voice

The male named Noc had a distinctly human-like voice, much to the surprise of scientists who previously thought whales typically produce sounds in a manner that is wholly different from humans.  Noc died five years ago after 30 years of living amongst dolphins and other white whales and being in contact with humans at the National Marine Mammal Foundation based in San Diego in California. the incredible recordings of the whale were revealed for the first time as the team published their findings.

However, the incredible recordings of the whale were revealed for the first time as the team published their findings. Sam Ridgway, who led the study, said: 'Our observations suggest that the whale had to modify its vocal mechanics in order to make the speech-like sounds. 'Such obvious effort suggests motivation for contact.'
The study 'Spontaneous human speech mimicry by a cetacean' are published in the latest issue of Current Biology.

In the Atlantic, The Writing Revolution

For years, nothing seemed capable of turning around New Dorp High School’s dismal performance—not firing bad teachers, not flashy education technology, not after-school programs. So, faced with closure, the school’s principal went all-in on a very specific curriculum reform, placing an overwhelming focus on teaching the basics of analytic writing, every day, in virtually every class. What followed was an extraordinary blossoming of student potential, across nearly every subject—one that has made New Dorp a model for educational reform.
A lightbulb, says Simmons, went on in her head. These 14- and 15-year-olds didn’t know how to use some basic parts of speech. With such grammatical gaps, it was a wonder they learned as much as they did. “Yes, they could read simple sentences,” but works like the Gettysburg Address were beyond them—not because they were too lazy to look up words they didn’t know, but because “they were missing a crucial understanding of how language works. They didn’t understand that the key information in a sentence doesn’t always come at the beginning of that sentence.”
The Hochman Program, as it is sometimes called, would not be un­familiar to nuns who taught in Catholic schools circa 1950. Children do not have to “catch” a single thing. They are explicitly taught how to turn ideas into simple sentences, and how to construct complex sentences from simple ones by supplying the answer to three prompts—but, because, and so. They are instructed on how to use appositive clauses to vary the way their sentences begin. Later on, they are taught how to recognize sentence fragments, how to pull the main idea from a paragraph, and how to form a main idea on their own. It is, at least initially, a rigid, unswerving formula. “I prefer recipe,” Hochman says, “but formula? Yes! Okay!”

5 Life Advantages You Acquire from Experiencing Poverty

1) Once things have been really bad, you’re not as frightened of tough times and risks.
5) Being poor makes you work hard not to be destitute again.

The Anchoress on George McGovern on Realities of Market Economy and Sweeping Legislation

unlike the pols of today, he wasn’t afraid to say there was something he didn’t know, an answer he didn’t have and even something he may have gotten wrong. Such humility is unthinkable in 21st century politicking.
In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn’s 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:25 PM | Permalink

October 10, 2012


Thomas J. Neal

I watched a 9/11 documentary a while ago, and one of the lines really grabbed my attention. A Chief from one of the fire stations said, in describing his men, “They got character. And I’ll tell ya what character is; character’s what made these guys go up the stairs of the World Trade Center. While everybody else was goin’ down, they were goin’ up. These guys are heroes.”

Character is the amalgam of all our choices, our unbreakable steel core forged by virtuous acts carried out repeatedly in the face of adversity, hardship, struggle, suffering. Character is the rudder that steers us aright in the stormy seas and keeps our boat from turning awry and capsizing, the ballast that keeps us steady in an unsteady world.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

September 23, 2012

Three of the most persistent men in the world

My favorites from Quora's question Who is the most persistent person who ever lived?

Dashrath Majhi

Dashrath Majhi's wife died without any treatment, because the nearest town with a Doctor was 70 km away from their village in Bihar, India. Well that could have been a far shorter distance, if not for a hill in between the village and the town.

Dashrath did not want anyone else to suffer the same fate as his wife.  So he did the unthinkable:

From Wikipedia:

Dashrath Manjhi's claim to fame has been the herculean task of single-handedly carving a 360-foot-long (110 m), 25-foot-high (7.6 m) and 30-foot-wide (9.1 m) road by cutting a mountain of Gehlour hills with a hammer, chisel and nails working day and night for 22 years from 1960 to 1982. This passage reduced the distance between Atri and Wazirganj blocks of Gaya district from 70 km to just 7 km.

Jadav "Molai" Payeng has spent about 30 years singlehandedly planting a 1,360 acre forest.

It all started way back in 1979 when floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. One day, after the waters had receded, Payeng , only 16 then, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles. That was the turning point of his life.

"The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage. I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there.

The rest of the story at Treehugger

Augustin in Honduras who, ravaged by polio, set out to overcome his poverty and disease by building a helicopter out of discarded bits of trash.  It took him 50 years, but he persisted even though every one thought he was crazy.  Tyler Bastian made a short film to tell his story in Everything is Incredible on Vimeo

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 PM | Permalink

September 20, 2012

Sin in Breaking Bad. UPDATED

Sin, the very word sounds archaic.  Yet, Kyle Roberts at Patheos makes a convincing case that society still needs 'sin' language.

He explores Breaking Bad, the TV drama that just showed its mid-session-finale.  Like Roberts and millions of others, I am hooked on the drama but all of us will have to wait until next summer to see the second half of the fifth season and the final conclusion of the story of the corrosion of one man's soul and its devastating effects on the people around him.

 Walter White-1

For those of you who haven't seen it Roberts provides a quick summary:

the drama about Walter White, a middle-aged high school chemistry teacher turned meth manufacturer. When Walt learned he had a severe case of lung cancer, and was given only months to live, the scramble was on for a way to provide for his family. He fell in with Jesse, a former student turned meth dealer, and discovered he could apply his chemistry skills to make crazy powerful meth (and loads of cash). Of course, along the way Walt finds himself in all sorts of trials and tribulations–doing and seeing things a reserved, educated “family man” with a Ph.D. in chemistry could have never anticipated…

Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, has affirmed that his goal is to turn Mr. Chips into Scarface. Gilligan has noted that the problem with most television shows is the “stasis” of its characters. They don’t change much, because consistency secures longevity. Breaking Bad is going to end after season five, and it’s not going to be pretty.

One of the geniuses of this show is that it seems to highlight the necessity for the theological category of “sin.” The show doesn’t so much dance around questions of moral ambiguity as it does put the viewer face to face with our potential for unabated moral depravity and for the inane ways in which we might try to “justify” that depravity. That conscientious, highly educated, high school teacher and family man could make a series of existential choices that lead him down a path of dramatic, moral and personal transformation (through which he contributes, directly or indirectly, to the personal destruction of others), seems outrageous to us. But empirical observation (and recent, tragic news events) confirms this is an actual possibility. As theologian Reinhold Niebuhr famously noted, “The doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.”
as Kierkegaard believed, sin is an absurd “position,” in which one refuses to accept the basic limitations of our finitude. Sin is the refusal to submit ourselves to God and to embrace the weaknesses of our humanity. Sin is, for Kierkegaard, when anxiety turns to despair and when, in despair, one refuses to give oneself over to God. Sin is Walter White refusing to accept his death and trampling on others in order to secure an inheritance for his family–and to do it “my way.” “I earned this,” he says.

As a society, we cannot interpret the immoral actions of human beings solely by reference to neurology gone haywire, nor can we belittle the consequences of sinful actions by a empathetic deference to the sacredness of personal choice.

Only the language of sin adequately describes the way of life Walter White chose, a disordered way of thinking and behaving.  One commenter adds:

We simply are lost for words adequate to describe our experience in this world without a deep understanding of sin, and particularly, the Augustinian one of prideful reaching, the idolatrous rejection of limits that we see displayed in Walter White. The one thing I would add to it, is that it is not just the rejection of our finitude that characterizes our sin. The other problem is the deification of a finite good such as family, relationships, money, security, etc. so that it replaces God within the moral landscape we inhabit. Once that is done, we will inevitably follow its commands, (because all gods have commandments to obey), and be transformed into the image of what we worship. This component, the making ultimate of non-ultimate things, is the idolatry that Augustine, Kierkegaard (Sickness Unto Death), as well as H. Richard Niebuhr spoke of that gives sin its forward propulsion.

UPDATE:  Jack Thornton at Word on Fire compares Breaking Bad to Paradise Lost

Sin exists, sin matters, and “Breaking Bad” confronts this reality head on.

The fear of death and the driving desire to provide for one’s family are very powerful, and one can at least sympathize with these emotions even while one condemns his decision to create a dangerous narcotic. But as the show continues it is clear that the central motivation for his actions is not something so noble as the desire to provide for his wife and children. It’s pride. He wants to feel powerful and influential. He wants to be in control of both his own fate and the fate of others. He wants to use his chemistry talents to be the best at something. He wants to be feared. And so, when he is offered a way out, a way to pay for his treatment and legally, safely provide for his family for the rest of their lives, he rejects it because he considers it charity and, in his arrogant opinion, charity is a bad thing.

So, driven by pride, Walter sets out into the world of drug trafficking and with each step falls deeper and deeper into sin and crime.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:58 AM | Permalink

August 31, 2012

A Remarkably Good Man

Congratulations to Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan for  a well-run convention with some great speeches.  I watched the convention last night on streaming video because I wanted to see what the delegates saw and I've had enough pundits and opinionaters to last me for quite  a while.

The two most affecting speeches were by people you never heard and who didn't leave a dry eye in the house.  You wouldn't have seen them unless you watched CSpan

First Pat and Ted Oparowski share the story of Mitt Romney's kindness towards their son diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, first 
buying him fireworks and later writing the will of the dying 14-year-old boy, and then at his funeral delivering the eulogy.

When Pam Finlayson, a newcomer to Massachusetts,  joined a new church and Romney the pastor visited her at home and helped with the laundry and visited her in the hospital after her daughter was born prematurely.

Other stories of a remarkably good man here, Joey's Park, Romney the firefighter, Christmas spirit and the search for Melissa, all at Little known facts about Mitt Romney 

In Slate

One of my personal friends, Kenneth Hutchins, the former chief of police in a Boston suburb who also worked closely with Romney at church, shares: “I’ve seen him visit with needy families in gang-ridden neighborhoods, show up in his jeans to help a family move, counsel with individuals who were grieving. I’m also confident that he helped many financially, but he has never disclosed his generosity, nor would he.”

Mark Krikorian comments on 'With No Cameras and No Reporters'

Romney sees it as unseemly to boast about them. As one of his sons said, “but when it comes to personal stories, especially the ones where he rescued someone or helped people, it feels like he is bragging, and he is a little reluctant to tell them.”

It’s that reticence to talk about acts of Christian charity that I find most encouraging. We’re never going back to the days of John Quincy Adams, who thought “the Presidency of the United States is not an office to be either sought or declined.” But the idea of a nominee who is uncomfortable prostituting every aspect of his life in order to gain office is deeply reassuring.

It somehow reminds me of the scene in Sergeant York where Gary Cooper, presented with numerous offers to be a celebrity endorser, tells the Cordell Hull character, “What we done in France is something we had to do. Some fellows done it ain’t a-comin’ back. So, the way I figure, things like that ain’t for buying’ and sellin’.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

August 18, 2012

His brother's keeper

This story is a devastating reflection on the President who speaks eloquently of being our brothers' keeper, but doesn't pay a penny to help out his own half-brother or his aunt even though he earned $789,674 in 2011.

How I became George Obama's 'brother'

A few days ago I received a call from a man I recently met named George.  He was a bit flustered, and soon informed me that his young son was sick with a chest condition.  He pleaded with me to send him $1,000 to cover the medical bills.  Since George was at the hospital I asked him to let me speak to a nurse, and she confirmed that George’s son was indeed ill.  So I agreed to send George the money through Western Union.  He was profusely grateful. 

But before I hung up I asked George, “Why are you coming to me?”  He said, “I have no one else to ask.”  Then he said something that astounded me, “Dinesh, you are like a brother to me.”

Actually, George has a real life brother who just happens to be the president of the United States.  (George Obama is the youngest of eight children sired by Barack Obama Sr.)  George’s brother is a multimillionaire and the most powerful man in the world.  Moreover, George’s brother has framed his re-election campaign around the “fair share” theme that we owe obligations to those who are less fortunate.

Roger Kimball writes

this spectacle of callous familial neglect by, as Dinesh rightly describes him, the most powerful man in the world is something special. Forget politics. This is about simple humanity. I have to assume that Dinesh’s facts are true. No one would dare fabricate such a story. But what does it mean?  For once I am speechless.

In 2010, the Obamas reported a joint income of $1,728,096

In 2011, the Obamas reported $789,674 in income.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

July 31, 2012

Confirm thy soul in self control

Anthony Dalrymple on Diluting Self-Restraint

First there has been a profound cultural shift in the direction of the abandonment of self-control as a virtue. Thanks to the cultural revolution of the 50s and 60s (of which I am a product), people have fewer self-patrolled boundaries than they once would have had. Managers who once would have felt ashamed to deprive shareholders of their funds no longer do so. One sees this loss of self-control in all walks of life. In the public sector, for example, in which I have spent much of my adult life, the public purse is now shamelessly looted by those who work in it in a way that was inconceivable when I started my career (inefficiency is another question entirely). I could give many other examples, from obesity to gambling to drug-taking and binge-drinking.

Paul Kengor , "Confirm thy soul in self-control"

George Washington, knew the necessity of governing one’s self before a nation’s people were capable of self-governance. As Washington stated in his classic Farewell Address, “’Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”
A forgotten philosopher who had an important influence on the American Founders was the Frenchman, Charles Montesquieu, whose work included the seminal book, The Spirit of the Laws (1748). Montesquieu considered various forms of government. In a tyrannical system, people are prompted not by freedom of choice or any expression of public virtue but, instead, by the sheer coercive power of the state, whether by decree of an individual despot or an unaccountable rogue regime. That’s no way for human beings to live. There’s life under such a system, yes, but not much liberty or pursuit of happiness; even life itself is threatened.

Montesquieu concluded that the best form of government is a self-governing one, and yet it is also the most difficult to maintain because it demands a virtuous populace. As noted by John Howard—the outstanding senior fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, & Society—Montesquieu noted that each citizen in a self-governing state must voluntarily abide by certain essential standards of conduct: lawfulness, truthfulness, honesty, fairness, respect for the rights and well-being of others, obligation to one’s spouse and children, to name a few.
Sadly, becoming virtuous has indeed become a monstrous chore in a society not only lacking virtue but eschewing virtue—fleeing virtue like a vampire fleeing a cross. Living life in a good way—what Benedict Groeschel calls The Virtue Driven Life—becomes so alien that the people prefer darkness over light. When virtues are not taught—whether at home, at school, or by America’s educator-in-chief, the TV set—they become unknown and ignored and unfulfilled, desiccated and dead upon the national landscape.

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

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

That’s the ticket: Confirm thy soul in self-control. Our liberty is enshrined in our laws, but liberty should not be license for opportunities for the flesh. Our liberties, protected and permitted as they are, should not be exploited to do anything and everything we want, including things harmful to oneself, to one’s family, to one’s neighbors, to one’s culture, to one’s country. That misunderstanding and abuse of freedom is what Pope Benedict XVI calls a “confused ideology of freedom,” one that can engender “the self-destruction of freedom” for others.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

May 30, 2012

Big Dewey Falls

When I graduated from law school, my first job was on Wall Street with the law firm Dewey, Ballatine, Bushby, Palmer and Wood, then the largest firm in New York City and the country as far as I know.

Largest again.  The successor to Dewey Ballantine, after a 2007 merger,  is Dewey & Leboeuf and it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday in the biggest collapse of a law firm in U.S. history

Negative economic conditions, along with the firm's partnership compensation arrangements, created a situation where its cash flow was insufficient to cover capital expenses and full compensation expectations, Dewey said.

With the bankruptcy, comes Big Dewey Debts

The beleaguered New York law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP owes millions of dollars to thousands of creditors, including legal headhunters, legal-research vendors and a dining service that kept Dewey's lawyers fed, according to papers filed in federal bankruptcy court.
The entire unwinding could take years. In addition to the hundreds who were laid off and the big creditors who are owed money, including secured lenders, bondholders and federal pension regulators, Dewey's demise leaves holes in the balance sheets of enterprises large and small whose services are essential to big law firm functions.
"I would say it is the worst possible result for everyone," said Brad Hildebrandt, the chairman of Hildebrandt Consulting LLC. "Now the creditors will have to fight over what's left, and the partners will inevitably have to contribute."

At Above the Law, people comment on why the firm failed in Gone Dewey Gone.

The ‘Steves’ are to blame, but ‘ineptitude’ is too kind a word to describe what they did at Dewey. Greed and unchecked power proved to be a lethal cocktail.”
Debt is what killed Dewey. Debt is what killed most other firms the past few years. It will kill many more. I’ve heard that just three of the AMLAW100 operate without incorporating debt into their operations. Three!  Many of them distribute all their cash to their partners at the end of the year, and then operate in the red until October or November. All it takes is a few partner departures or a collapse of one or two practice groups to destroy most firms.”

The biggest winner in the reader poll was the Guaranteed compensation deals for certain partners.

“An absolutely insane idea, especially in a shaky economy. What motivation does a rainmaker partner with a multi-million dollar guarantee have to hustle to increase his book of business? Likewise, what motivation does a service partner making $300k have to work harder when all (and I mean all) of the big money is being funneled to the rainmaker partners? And, how was this plan supposed to work unless revenues kept skyrocketing?”

The New York Times reports Dewey's Collapse Underscores a new reaity for law firms

Dewey collapsed under the weight of a toxic combination of high leverage, lavish financial guarantees to many partners and faltering revenue. This makes it, in many ways, the Lehman Brothers of the legal profession, although perhaps that’s unfair to Lehman Brothers. Though highly leveraged, Lehman Brothers had enormous assets on its balance sheet — while Dewey, like law firms generally, had scant tangible assets. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop the firm from heavy borrowing of about $225 million, both by issuing bonds and by drawing on a large line of credit.

“This absolutely falls into the category: What were they thinking?” Bruce MacEwen, a lawyer and president of Adam Smith Esq. and an expert on law firm economics,

I left after a year because I was completely bored with the work and didn't want to get used to the money.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2012

Young people with deep moral yearnings and no way to talk about it

David Brooks on The Service Patch

[C]ommunity service has become a patch for morality. Many people today have not been given vocabularies to talk about what virtue is, what character consists of, and in which way excellence lies, so they just talk about community service, figuring that if you are doing the sort of work that Bono celebrates then you must be a good person.
When I read the Stanford discussion thread, I saw young people with deep moral yearnings. But they tended to convert moral questions into resource allocation questions; questions about how to be into questions about what to do.

It’s worth noting that you can devote your life to community service and be a total schmuck. You can spend your life on Wall Street and be a hero. Understanding heroism and schmuckdom requires fewer Excel spreadsheets, more Dostoyevsky and the Book of Job.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 AM | Permalink

March 28, 2012

"The 'Take Care of Me' Society is Wrecking the USA"

Charles Sykes writes in the Fiscal Times, The Entitled States of America: We Want More!

The 'Take Care of Me' Society is Wrecking the USA
Wants have been transformed into "rights" in America and ultimately into obligations and entitlements.
The entitlement state appeals to voters who believe they will bear no consequences for the costs or sustainability of the program. Questions of affordability don’t come into it, because they know they will never have to pay for it. (Recall that 49.5 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax at all.)

They are not thinking of the burden to their children, their grandchildren, their friends, their fellow citizens of the country, or anyone else. As long as it is free to them – it’s free. And good luck telling them otherwise.

Like Troy Senik at Ricochet, I think Dave Ramsey is doing more to fix America's economy than our President.

America, it turns out, is not just a debtor nation; it is a nation populated by debtors.....U.S. households owe a combined $11.5 trillion on credit cards, car loans, mortgages and other consumer debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Ramsey – who counsels against the evils of debt at every turn – has become a sensation throughout the country, largely because his methods, when faithfully applied, consistently work. Against the trend of the age – the get-rich-quick scheme – he preaches instead the virtues of prolonged, patient savings, budgeting, and abstention from debt.

That there is such a robust market for his message augurs well for us. That so many Americans had to turn to their radios for lessons that were taught at the kitchen table only a few generations ago does not.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:54 PM | Permalink

January 21, 2012

Last words on Women and Children First

As usual Mark Steyn has the last word,  The Sinking of the West.

I contrast the orderly, dignified, and moving behavior of those on the Titanic (the ship, not the mendacious Hollywood blockbuster) with that manifested in more recent disasters. There was no orderly evacuation from the Costa Concordia, just chaos punctuated by individual acts of courage from, for example, an Hungarian violinist in the orchestra and a ship’s entertainer in a Spiderman costume, both of whom helped children to safety, the former paying with his life.


In my book, I cite First Officer William Murdoch. In real life, he threw deckchairs to passengers drowning in the water to give them something to cling to, and then he went down with the ship — the dull, decent thing, all very British, with no fuss. In Cameron’s movie, Murdoch takes a bribe and murders a third-class passenger. The director subsequently apologized to the First Officer’s hometown in Scotland and offered £5,000 toward a memorial, which converted into Hollywood dollars equals rather less than what Cameron and his family paid for dinner after the Oscars.
Today there is no social norm, so it’s every man for himself — operative word “man,” although not many of the chaps on the Titanic would recognize those on the Costa Concordia as “men.” From a grandmother on the latter: “I was standing by the lifeboats and men, big men, were banging into me and knocking the girls.”

Whenever I write about these subjects, I receive a lot of mail from men along the lines of this correspondent: “The feminists wanted a gender-neutral society. Now they’ve got it. So what are you complaining about?”
We are beyond social norms these days. A woman can be a soldier. A man can be a woman. A seven-year-old cross-dressing boy can join the Girl Scouts in Colorado because he “identifies” as a girl. It all adds to life’s rich tapestry, no doubt. But I can’t help wondering, when the ship hits the fan, how many of us will still be willing to identify as a man.
The Costa Concordia isn’t merely a metaphor for EU collapse but — here it comes down the slipway — the fragility of civilization. Like every ship, the Concordia had its emergency procedures — the lifeboat drills that all crew and passengers are obliged to go through before sailing. As with the security theater at airports, the rituals give the illusion of security — and then, as the ship tips and the lights fail and the icy black water rushes in, we discover we’re on our own: from dancing and dining, showgirls and saunas, to the inky depths in a matter of moments.

Writing at Pajames Media, Neo neocon examines the Origin of Women and Children First

In our current world of feminism and equal rights, it’s become harder and harder to continue to justify the Birkenhead drill, except for the need to protect future generations and those who bear them.

But that’s no small thing. As science fiction writer Robert Heinlein wrote in his novel Time Enough For Love: 

All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly, which can — and must — be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. 

That is still true in a larger sense, although it needn’t apply to the passengers on every ship that meets with disaster. But the society that ignores it completely is a society that may ultimately depopulate itself.

That's very close to my understanding that when lives must be saved, more life and potential life is saved if women and children first.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:12 PM | Permalink

January 20, 2012

More on women and children first

It's been most interesting to read what people have to say about Captain Francesco Schettino, dubbed 'Captain Coward' and 'Chicken of the Sea' as well as about those of his  crew and the men that elbowed aside women and children to get into the lifeboats.

What was surprising is how many commenters blamed feminists for holding men to an unjust double standard. Feminists have been saying for decades that they are just as tough as men, they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and don't need any protection.  Who can forget, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

I believe that The natural duty and responsibility of men is to protect life, especially women and children,  and if necessary give up their lives to do so.    Children have a long life ahead of them; women can create new life.  And that is why they are naturally given preference and rescued first.  More life is rescued if women and children are rescued first.

Whatever happened to women and children first?

It would now seem as though the accident was avoidable, and this makes it all the more horrifying for everyone who lived through what one crew-member called a 36-hour nightmare.

One of the features of the disaster that has provoked a great deal of  comment is the stream of reports from angry survivors of how, in the chaos, men refused to put women and  children first, and instead pushed themselves forward to escape; and how the Italian crew ignored passengers and reportedly shouldered their way past mothers and pregnant women to get into lifeboats.
When the Titanic went down in April 1912, the Captain’s orders were: ‘Women and children first!’
Although this legendary edict was never part of maritime law, it was adhered to so strictly on the Titanic that men were actually stopped from boarding lifeboats, many of which went to sea only three-quarters full.
There were only a few exceptions to the unvarying tales of heroism: three men in steerage who disobeyed the rule — Italians, coincidentally — were shot.

The chivalry was reflected in survival rates: 74 per cent of the women were saved; 52 per cent of the children; and just 20 per cent of the men.
As the father of three daughters, I do not, with a single fibre of my being, wish to go back to a time when women could not have the vote or get a university degree. Nor do I, surrounded by extremely strong-charactered and intelligent women in my family and among my friends, feel tempted to regard women as the frail sex.

But the fact remains that there is a longing among most men to protect women and children, and chivalry is simply a manifestation of that longing.  And whatever transpires about the reason for the Costa Concordia disaster, the disappearance of a chivalric code is a sorry reflection on society today.

Ed West says  Women and children first is the great marker of civilisation

Before the Victorian era it was normal for men to save themselves rather than to lay down their lives for a woman, a very un-Darwinian act of selflessness; in many cultures still men are given priority during famines. A system where women and children are given preference, in contrast, is one where physical strength gives way. For that reason "women and children first" remains one of the great markers of civilisation.

"Dud, Where's My Lifeboat'

A century ago this spring, as the Titanic entered its death throes and all its lifeboats had been launched, Capt. Edward Smith told his crew: “Men, you have done your full duty. You can do no more. Now it’s every man for himself.” One witness recalled seeing him, probably washed overboard, clutching a child in the water as the Titanic disappeared. A member of the crew always believed it was Captain Smith’s voice he heard from the water after the Titanic was gone, urging him and others on: “Good boys! Good lads!”

“Every man for himself” is a phrase associated with the deadly Costa Concordia disaster, but not as a last-minute expedient. It appears to have been the natural order of things.

Costa Concordia hero Roberto Bosio calls captain Francesco Schettino 'a disgraceful man'.

'Only a disgraceful man would have left all those passengers on board. It was the most horrible experience of my life. A tragedy, a heartache that I will carry with me forever.'

Off-duty Bosio, who captains the Concordia's sister ship the Serena, was only on board the ship by chance as he made his way back home to Savona, near Genoa. Bosio, who is engaged and lives in Ventimiglia on the French-Italian border, was in his cabin resting when disaster struck.

He helped dozens of woman and children into lifeboats, and is understood to have organised the entire rescue effort throughout the night.
'Don’t call me a hero. I just did my duty, the duty of a sea captain – actually the duty of a normal man.

'I and the others with me just did our duty. We looked each other in the eyes for a second and then we just got on with it.'

Seafarers outraged that Captain could Jump Ship

"It's a matter of honor that the master is the last to leave. Nothing less will do in this profession," said Jorgen Loren, captain of a passenger ferry operating between Sweden and Denmark and chairman of the Swedish Maritime Officer's Association.
Jim Staples, a captain for 20 years, who spoke Wednesday from a 1,000-foot (300-meter) cargo vessel he was captaining near New Orleans, said captains are duty-bound to stay with the ship until the situation is hopeless. When they bail early, everything falls apart.

"I'm totally embarrassed by what he did," he said of Schettino. "He's given the industry a bad name, he's made us all look bad. It's shameful."
A more recent example is Robert Royer, the captain of a fishing vessel that sank off Alaska in 2010. As water gushed into the ship and the three other crew members jumped overboard, Royer stayed in the wheelhouse to make a frantic mayday call and give the ship's position to the Coast Guard. The crew said that likely saved their lives, because the ship's emergency beacon didn't work.

On bravery, cowardice, moral evolution and the Costa Concordia

Why are humans cowardly and brave? What inspires suicidal courage or craven self-preservation? -- If Capt Schettino did flee the sinking ship, then he failed his duty as a captain and a leader, regardless of the evolutionary background of our species. But more interesting is that others – tens of millions of others throughout human history – have not; have risked (and lost) their own lives for other people. We often criticise human nature as brutish, selfish or ugly, but it's not – or not always. The callous logic of natural selection has made us brave, moral and loyal as well.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 AM | Permalink

January 17, 2012

Captain Coward

 Capt Francesco Schettino
Francesco Schettino, Captain of the Costa Concordia

Stricken cruise liner captain DID abandon ship 'half an hour before passengers' AND refused to go back when ordered

Francesco Schettino to appear before judge today on charges of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship.  He ignored orders from the Italian coastguard to return to his ship and the hundreds of passengers he abandoned to fend for themselves.

Officials say that during those chaotic minutes, the bungling skipper had tried to palm them off and minimise the dangerous situation it was facing - and that it was his juniors who realised the impending disaster and ordered passengers and crew to the lifeboats.

From a translation of the phone communications between the coast guard and the captain  

Coast Guard: "Tell me the reason why you are not going back on board."

Schettino: "There is another life boat ... "

Coast Guard: "You go back on board! That is an order! There is nothing else for you to consider. You have sounded the 'abandon ship.' Now I am giving the orders. Go back on board. Is that clear? Don't you hear me?"

The captain did not go back and that is why he is now  the most hated man in Italy and dubbed "Captain Coward"

Facebook anger at skipper of doomed cruise liner who 'abandoned ship hours before passengers'

Thousands have taken to the web to vent their fury at the so-called ‘Captain Coward’, who is now claimed to have ‘skimmed’ past the Tuscan isle of Giglio not just to salute a retired officer but also to impress his head waiter’s family on shore.

Many scorned his decision not to remain with his stricken ship.

Even with the order to abandon ship, many of the crew were also cowardly.  One survivor reported

that men pushed past children who were screaming 'I don't want to die' as the young and elderly were 'abandoned by the crew'.

What others said about  the Cowardly crew on cruise

“No one was giving directions, saying older people and kids should get into the boats first,’’ said Karen Camacho, of Homestead, Fla.

“Instead of letting passengers get into lifeboats, the crew went in first and [was] saying not to let [passengers] in,’’ she told USA Today.

Some compared the wreck to the Titantic, but in that disaster when people realized there were not enough lifeboats, men willingly gave up the chance to save their lives so that women and children could be saved first.  By so doing, they proved themselves to be real men.  The natural duty and responsibility of men is to protect life, especially women and children,  and if necessary give up their lives to do so.    Children have a long life ahead of them; women can create new life.  And that is why they are naturally given preference and rescued first.  More life is rescued if women and children are rescued first. 

I would even say this is true in all cultures and is probably hard-wired into our human nature.  Fathers and mothers naturally would sacrifice themselves to save their children.  Men who flee disaster to save their own skins and abandon women and children are cowards.  They fail to achieve humanness. And for that reason, they are shamed.

Cicero said long ago, Courage is the first virtue enabling all others. 

'My husband gave me his lifejacket as we jumped off sinking cruise ship... I never saw him again,' says French survivor

A Costa Concordia survivor has told how her husband saved her life before drowning - because there was 'nobody there' to save him.

Frenchwoman Nicole Servel, 61, said Francis Servel, 71, gave her his lifejacket before they leapt off the sinking cruise ship.
She said: 'I owe my life to my husband – it’s obvious he saved me.' She managed to swim for shore, while Mr Servel was swept underwater and drowned.'

Captain Coward is in court today

Schettino, who faces up to 12 years in jail for manslaughter, will appear in court today after his company chiefs accused him of an ‘unauthorised and unapproved’ decision to sail so close to the eastern side of the island of Giglio.

The £400million liner, with 4,200 passengers and crew, was sailing just 300 yards from the island’s rocky coast when it should have been at least four miles out to sea. It came to grief on Friday night after sustaining a 160ft gash in the port-side hull.

After swiftly escaping from the listing liner, Schettino – the Concordia’s skipper for six years – was arrested along with first officer Ciro Ambrosio.

The captain was spotted wrapped in a blanket on his way to the shore at around 11.30pm – more than four hours before the evacuation of the vessel was completed - and breaking the maritime tradition of remaining with his ship.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 PM | Permalink

November 9, 2011

“America is seizing up before our eyes”

American Optimism by Elizabeth Scalia

Last week Mark Steyn wrote, “America is seizing up before our eyes,” and that is a spot-on image. She is like a brilliantly conceived machine that, poorly maintained for more years than any of us cares to admit, has gone too long untuned; the oil of her invention has thinned out and broken down and now bit-by-bit, gear-by-gear—economically, socially, spiritually—she is making an ungodly noise and grinding to a halt.

There are probably ten thousand articles to be found on the Internet all fleshing out their theories of what is behind America’s swift collapse. Curiously, most of them will touch—all without realizing it—on the seven deadly sins; Capitalist Greed; Spiritual Sloth; Physical Lust; Nationalist/Military Pride; Consumer Gluttony; Partisan Wrath; Class Envy. Good arguments can be made blaming some are all of these sins for our current dire straits and for the sense that we are standing upon a precipice.

The classical seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues are relevant in all ages, even ours, because human nature doesn't change.

Here is the article Elizabeth referenced: Mark Steyn, Occupiers part of grand alliance against the productive

At first glance, an alliance of anarchists and government might appear to be somewhat paradoxical. But the formal convergence in Oakland makes explicit the movement's aims: They're anarchists for statism, wild free-spirited youth demanding more and more total government control of every aspect of life – just so long as it respects the fundamental human right to sloth. What's happening in Oakland is a logical exercise in class solidarity: the government class enthusiastically backing the breakdown of civil order is making common cause with the leisured varsity class, the thuggish union class and the criminal class in order to stick it to what's left of the beleaguered productive class. It's a grand alliance of all those societal interests that wish to enjoy in perpetuity a lifestyle they are not willing to earn. Only the criminal class is reasonably upfront about this. The rest – the lifetime legislators, the unions defending lavish and unsustainable benefits, the "scholars" whiling away a somnolent half-decade at Complacency U – are obliged to dress it up a little with some hooey about "social justice" and whatnot.
America is seizing up before our eyes: The decrepit airports, the underwater property market, the education racket, the hyper-regulated business environment. Yet, curiously, the best example of this sclerosis is the alleged "revolutionary" movement itself. It's the voice of youth, yet everything about it is cobwebbed
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

October 30, 2011

"The Dead Zone at the Core of American Life"

In Foreign Affairs, The Broken Contract by George Packer

This inequality is the ill that underlies all the others. Like an odorless gas, it pervades every corner of the United States and saps the strength of the country's democracy. But it seems impossible to find the source and shut it off.
Some argue that this inequality was an unavoidable result of deeper shifts: global competition, cheap goods made in China, technological changes. Although those factors played a part, they have not been decisive. In Europe, where the same changes took place, inequality has remained much lower than in the United States. The decisive factor has been politics and public policy: tax rates, spending choices, labor laws, regulations, campaign finance rules. Book after book by economists and other scholars over the past few years has presented an airtight case: over the past three decades, the government has consistently favored the rich. This is the source of the problem: our leaders, our institutions.

But even more fundamental than public policy is the long-term transformation of the manners and morals of American elites -- what they became willing to do that they would not have done, or even thought about doing, before. Political changes precipitated, and in turn were aided by, deeper changes in norms of responsibility and self-restraint. In 1978, it might have been economically feasible and perfectly legal for an executive to award himself a multimillion-dollar bonus while shedding 40 percent of his work force and requiring the survivors to take annual furloughs without pay. But no executive would have wanted the shame and outrage that would have followed -- any more than an executive today would want to be quoted using a racial slur or photographed with a paid escort.

Let's take a look at Rajat K. Gupta, a former director of Goldman Sachs who was charged by federal prosectors last week with inside trading in what the New Times calls A stunning fall from grace for a star executive 

“Here he sees an opportunity to make a hundred million dollars over the next five years, or 10 years, without doing a lot of work,”

Walter Russell Mead writes, The Boomer Establishment Sinks Deeper Into Failure and Shame.

The American corporate establishment is reeling today at the news that the government is bringing criminal charges against Rajat K. Gupta, for many years the head of the most trusted name in corporate consulting.  According to the government, Gupta passed insider secrets to the systematically dishonest Raj Rajaratnam, the disgraced and convicted former head of a major hedge fund.  McKinsey, the consulting firm Gupta led, is privy to the most sensitive information in American corporate life, and its reputation for discretion and integrity is the core of its business.  It is hard to imagine a more damaging development to the reputation of the firm.  It is not just that its head may have committed crimes that undermine everything the firm stands for; it is that those around him were so blind, so naive and so easily fooled that the self described master strategists of business look like gullible nitwits.

The problem goes well beyond McKinsey.  If the government proves its case, it will demonstrate that the American establishment has lost its ability to discern character and demand integrity. Gupta not only rose to the head of a firm that depends on reliability and discretion; he advised the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and served on the boards of directors of some of the biggest names in American business.

That a criminal could win the trust of so many of the ‘best and the brightest’ in philanthropy and business chillingly demonstrates the moral and intellectual vacuum in the corporate world.  Years of excessive payment for executives, okayed by go along to get along boards of directors, a culture of entitlement and a lack of personal character and strong moral codes have created a dead zone at the core of American life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 PM | Permalink

"Compassion, unlike charity, is not a virtue acquired by self-discipline and habitual practice. It is only a feeling,"

No Fooling with the Republic is a  fascinating interview by Kathryn Jean Lopez of Mary Ann Glendon, professor of law at Harvard and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican about her new book, How Scholars and Politicians Have Imagined the World from Plato to Eleanor Roosevelt.

GLENDON: Aristotle held that politics and philosophy were the most choiceworthy vocations for certain kinds of persons — those who are capable of pursuing them, and “most ambitious with respect to virtue.” I take the more capacious view that a person can have more than one vocation, and that all honest vocations can be paths to a virtuous life. Think of parenthood, for example! The challenge is to discern one’s own path toward the perfection of one’s nature, and to follow through on that discernment. Some of the persons profiled in my book (Plato, Locke, Tocqueville, Weber) were surprisingly slow to figure out where their own talents lay.

LOPEZ: What’s wrong with Rousseau’s legacy of the “politics of compassion”? 

GLENDON: In his effort to ground morality in something other than religion, Rousseau hit upon what he considered to be a natural feeling of empathy for the suffering of others that makes us unwilling to harm others, unless our own self-preservation is at stake. But compassion, unlike charity, is not a virtue acquired by self-discipline and habitual practice. It is only a feeling, and a fleeting one at that. It yields not only to self-preservation, but to self-interest. It’s too shaky to serve as the foundation for a just society. --
LOPEZ: “Just because one does not see the results of one’s best efforts in one’s own lifetime does not mean those efforts were in vain.” Is there anyone in particular you’d point that out to today?

GLENDON: That’s a lesson for all of us, perhaps especially for people who are raising children!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:14 PM | Permalink

October 24, 2011

Doing good versus doing nothing

The opportunities to make grand heroic gestures are rare while we can, if we choose, do simple acts of kindness everyday.

A good rule of life.  Always Go to the Funeral

By the time I was 16, I had been to five or six funerals. I remember two things from the funeral circuit: bottomless dishes of free mints and my father saying on the ride home, “You can’t come in without going out, kids. Always go to the funeral.”

Sounds simple — when someone dies, get in your car and go to calling hours or the funeral. That, I can do. But I think a personal philosophy of going to funerals means more than that.

Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex’s uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:15 PM | Permalink