Monday, September 29, 2008

Ministry in Burkina Faso

We made it to Ouagadougou. All of the luggage with the supplies we packed made it too. We are very busy and the internet connection is tenuous so I will not be able to blog from Ouagadougou this week. We will return late Monday, October 6th. We have already met with the American ambassador to Burknia Faso; toured, presented gifts and helped at an orphanage and continue to prepare for the festival. We ask for your prayers for a profound and effective time of ministry as we work to make our teaching, the marriage seminars, and the festival itself all rousing successes for the kingdom of God. Thank you.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Flying to Ougadougou

Because today and tomorrow are travel days (Omaha to St. Paul to New York to Paris to Ougadougou) and because I still have several things to do before taking wing, I know you'll excuse my not blogging today.

As mentioned in an earlier post, however, I will be taking along Claire's laptop and I will be endeavoring to continue the blog from Burkina Faso next week. Please "tune in" to see if I can pull it off.

The reasons for the trip I've explained in previous posts: "Preparations for Haggai Fest Well Underway," and "Vital Signs Pie Social Celebrates Upcoming Haggai Fest in Burkina Faso." And there's the "official" Haggai Fest website with more info right here. There's even a blog at that site which will probably start revealing inside stories of our mission within a couple of days.

We would, of course, appreciate any and all prayers for a safe, profound and effective time of ministry as we work to make our teaching, the services to the orphanage, the marriage seminars, and the festival itself all rousing successes for the kingdom of God. Thank you.

As my last blogging act for the day, I will gather in the Top Ten for Claire to send out later this afternoon. That's our weekly review of Vital Signs where we attempt to select the Top Ten posts of the week and email them with direct links to you. It helps cybersurfers, we are often told, to keep up to date with helpful, action-oriented updates from the culture wars -- without being overwhelmed by them.

We're pleased to hear those compliments. And we're pleased to send out the Top Ten to whoever asks us. So, if you're not on our Top Ten list, zip us a note at and we'll sign you up.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Today's Posts

Are You Planning a "Fireproof" Weekend?

Surprise, Surprise: "Brain Death" Isn't Death

Being Buried by Unrealistic (Dare We Say Greedy?) Expectations

"I Deserve" -- The New Mantra of Western Culture

Uncomfortable Truths About In Vitro Fertilization

Are the Niceties of Shari'ah Law Coming to a Formerly Civilized Country Near You?

Want a Clear, Concise Explanation of the Fannie/Freddie Mess?

Are You Planning a "Fireproof" Weekend?

I hesitate to put a link to the official site of the movie "Fireproof"that's opening this weekend, as they say, in select theaters --- but only because a movie trailer will automatically pop up and, in my opinion, give way too much of the story away.

But I'll do it anyway (here you go) though I strongly suggest you quickly move your cursor over and stop the clip from showing. After all, you want to save some dramatic tension for the theater, don't you?

And just why should you plan on seeing this flick starring Kirk Cameron? Well, here's a few answers to that question from people you might recognize...

"Amazing! Action-packed, heartwarming, and a great resource to help strengthen and affirm marriages!" Dr. Gary Smalley, author of Change Your Heart, Change Your Life

"FIREPROOF is an excellent film that makes marriage-commitment real and attainable with Christ's grace." Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville

“FIREPROOF went beyond my expectations! It captures the real-life issues of marriage in a moving, emotional, and riveting way. It inspires you to put your faith in action and fight for your marriage. I encourage anyone who is married or even thinking about getting married to see this movie.” Dr. Tony Evans, Senior Pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship

"FIREPROOF is going to do much more than entertain and stir hearts; this is a movie that will impact couples in a profound way for decades to come." Dennis Rainey, President, FamilyLife

"Anyone who is married or plans to be married will find FIREPROOF both inspirational and instructive. It is an excellent movie!" Richard Land, President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (SBC)

"FIREPROOF dramatically affirms that a marriage works best when the husband, the wife, and God work together for its success." Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, The Knights of Columbus

"FIREPROOF is a gripping and powerful story. Its surprising twists and turns make for a great plot with a simple, but powerful message. I loved it and you will too!" Mike Huckabee

Surprise, Surprise: "Brain Death" Isn't Death

Our old friend and colleague, Dr. Paul Byrne has a review of recent developments in the "brain death" controversy showing how the ever-increasing fever for human organs is causing even what little protection there was for potential donors to be swept away.

..."Brain death" never was, and never will be true death. This has been known by neurologists and organ transplanters since the beginning of the multi-billlion industry. So if a declaration of "brain death" is not true death, but organs are taken legally in accord with "accepted medical standards," why not continue to make "acceptable" less stringent criteria?

In the 10 years after the ad hoc Committee conjured up the Harvard Criteria, 30 more sets were reported by 1978. Every set became less stringent. Less strict sets were reported until eventually there is a criterion that does not fulfill any of the "brain death" criteria. This is known as donation by cardiac death (DCD). Organs are obtained for transplantation by first getting a DNR order, then taking the patient off life support and wait until the patient is without a pulse (NOT WITHOUT A HEART BEAT!).

In the past the waiting time was 10 minutes, then shortened to 5 minutes, then 4, then 2 and now in the NEJM (8-14-08) the waiting time is only 1.25 minutes until they cut out the baby's heart...

Being Buried by Unrealistic (Dare We Say Greedy?) Expectations

Victor Davis Hanson has these observations (and more of great value) in his Town Hall column. (Be sure to read both pages.)

...We created the cultural climate for this shared madness. Television shows advised how to “flip” a house after putting in cosmetic improvements. Real-estate seminars and popular videos convinced us that homes were not places to live in and raise a family but rather no different from piles of chips on a Vegas table.

We created the phony populist creed that everyone deserved to own a house. So lawmakers got the message to relax lending standards in service to “fairness.” But Americans forgot that historically nearly four in 10 of us aren’t ever ready, or able, to sacrifice for a down payment, monthly mortgage bills, home maintenance and yearly taxes — and so should stick to renting...

"I Deserve" -- The New Mantra of Western Culture

It’s also axiomatic that only the rich—that is, anyone making more money than you—seek to get something for nothing. Thus, several developments last week in New York City’s massive housing-welfare regime will never be portrayed as a manifestation of greed among the poor, but only as social justice.

In June, the city’s Rent Guidelines Board approved a rent increase for apartments whose tenants have lived in them for more than six years and that rent for less than $1,000 a month. The Board acted in response to rising fuel, water, and tax expenses, which have hit small property owners particularly hard. On September 16, the Legal Aid Society and Legal Services of New York sued the Rent Guidelines Board over the new rates.

The rent increase—$45 a month for one-year leases and $85 a month for two-year leases—will affect tenants like Santiago Garza, who has been living in a rent-stabilized apartment on West 48th Street since 1981. Garza pays $570 a month for his digs, while a comparable apartment next to him rents for $1,800, he told the New York Post in June. Yet Garza and the hundreds of angry tenants and advocates who protested the rent hike when it was approved believe that they are merely getting what they deserve—unlike their landlords, who don’t “do enough,” Garza complained. Getting a $1200-a-month subsidy from your landlord, and forcing him to take a huge loss on the market value of his property, isn’t greed, it’s a right! A $1200-a-month windfall to a tenant: simple justice. A market-driven level of rent: landlord avarice.

This remarkable sense of entitlement is of course the official creed in New York, whose city council and representatives in Albany believe that landlords are virtually public entities, obligated—at whatever cost to themselves in foregone income—to provide services and shelter to a lucky group of renters (and at whatever cost to the city in unbuilt rental units). Imagine if the New York City Council, whose speaker, Christine Quinn, enjoys a rent-stabilized apartment in Chelsea, capped worker salaries, so that employers would not face the hardship of competing in the marketplace for employee talent. Such a law would be denounced as a grotesque infringement on the economic rights of the common man. But if the first-time owner of a duplex in Queens seeks a market return on his investment, he is pilloried for ripping off the poor...

Source: Heather MacDonald's wry and compelling "Greed Is for Other People" over at City Journal.)

Uncomfortable Truths About In Vitro Fertilization

...This is not a good situation for the babies. The human body is only built to bear one child at a time; only ten percent of twin pregnancies make it to their due dates. The more babies in one womb, the earlier they’re born, and the more time they’ll have to spend in NICU. The more likely, also, they are not to survive. Born early and drastically underweight, such babies are often considered miraculous if they even make it home. Moreover, such high-risk pregnancies are more likely to end by C-section, and it’s the high rate of C-sections that is in part blamed for the current rise in maternal mortality.

Of course, it’s possible for a multiple pregnancy to be reduced, and the procedure is fairly common. After all, goes the logic, better to lose two babies in utero than lose all four at birth. Doctors can determine the position of all the fetuses by using ultrasound. They will then test those fetuses that are easiest to reach for abnormalities. And if all the fetuses are equally healthy and get-at-able, the doctors will ask the parents which gender they would prefer to keep. Usually, triplets and quads are reduced to twins (the risks go far, far down with only two in the womb), so parents may be able to choose one of each sex and complete their family right away, assuming they’ve already got a dog at home.

It’s an understandable logic: Eliminate one or two so the remaining two can thrive. But it completely bypasses the real question: Should these children have been created in the first place? There’s something to be said for the old “children are a blessing” mentality; it fostered the idea not only that children are good, but also that children are sent from somewhere else. Their coming cannot be rigidly controlled. If anything, it’s the notion that the timing and apportioning of children can be controlled absolutely that’s gotten us into this situation...

Kate Bluett has a lot more to say about the important (and terribly misunderstood) moral issues involved with in vitro fertilization. Read the entirety of her fascinating, challenging article in Salvo Magaizine right here.

By the way, here's a few posts from previous Vital Signs Blog relevant to this issue: Culling Embryos to Get a Perfect Baby; Does the Pro-Life Movement Care About In Vitro Fertilization?; The Tragic Fate of IVF's "Excess" Babies; Ova Freezing as a Lifestyle Choice; In Vitro's Monstrous Secret; and What Happens to the "Extra" Embryos?

Are the Niceties of Shari'ah Law Coming to a Formerly Civilized Country Near You?

If there's any doubt that the suicide of Western civilization is well underway, read about this upcoming conference hosted by that formerly Catholic university located just outside Washington, D.C. The conference (“Is There a Role for Shari'ah in Modern States?”) will feature Islam apologists John Esposito and Harvard Law professor, Noah Feldman -- two fellows who never let facts stand in the way of a strong ideological agenda.

And understandably, certain elements of Shari'ah law probably won't be raised by the speakers.

After all, items like the "honor killing" of disobedient wives and daughters, genital mutilation of young girls, torture and death sentences for moral offenders, rewards for the persecution of non-Muslims, and execution of apostates might tend to be a bit "off-putting" for conference attendees.

Want a Clear, Concise Explanation of the Fannie/Freddie Mess?

Investor's Business Daily lays the blame for America's financial crisis at the doorsteps of Presidents Carter and, more emphatically, Clinton, as they tried to fund a dangerously ambitious "affirmative action" housing program with huge amounts of government money. It was an unfair, unwise move which eventually submerged our entire financial structure in bad debt.

Though it was Jimmy Carter who signed the Community Reinvestment Act, starting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to aggressively lend to minority communities, it was Clinton who "supercharged the process" by rewriting their rules in ways never envisaged by Congress.

...In so doing, he turned the two quasi-private, mortgage-funding firms into a semi-nationalized monopoly that dispensed cash to markets, made loans to large Democratic voting blocs and handed favors, jobs and money to political allies. This potent mix led inevitably to corruption and the Fannie-Freddie collapse...

The rewrite, as City Journal noted back in 2000, "made getting a satisfactory CRA rating harder." Banks were given strict new numerical quotas and measures for the level of "diversity" in their loan portfolios. Getting a good CRA rating was key for a bank that wanted to expand or merge with another.

Loans started being made on the basis of race, and often little else.

"Bank examiners would use federal home-loan data, broken down by neighborhood, income group and race, to rate banks on performance," wrote Howard Husock, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute.

But those rules weren't enough.
Clinton got the Department of Housing and Urban Development to double-team the issue. That would later prove disastrous...

Since they could borrow at lower rates than banks due to implicit government guarantees for their debt, the government-sponsored enterprises boomed.
With incentives in place, banks poured billions of dollars of loans into poor communities, often "no doc" and "no income" loans that required no money down and no verification of income.

By 2007, Fannie and Freddie owned or guaranteed nearly half of the $12 trillion U.S. mortgage market — a staggering exposure.

Worse still was the cronyism.

Fannie and Freddie became home to out-of-work politicians, mostly Clinton Democrats. An informal survey of their top officials shows a roughly 2-to-1 dominance of Democrats over Republicans.

Then there were the campaign donations. From 1989 to 2008, some 384 politicians got their tip jars filled by Fannie and Freddie.
Over that time, the two GSEs spent $200 million on lobbying and political activities. Their charitable foundations dropped millions more on think tanks and radical community groups.

Did it work? Well, if measured by the goal of putting more poor people into homes, the answer would have to be yes.
From 1995 to 2005, a Harvard study shows, minorities made up 49% of the 12.5 million new homeowners.

The problem is that many of those loans have now gone bad, and minority homeownership rates are shrinking fast.

Fannie and Freddie, with their massive loan portfolios stuffed with securitized mortgage-backed paper created from subprime loans, are a failed legacy of the Clinton era.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Today's Posts

The Real Story of Sarah Palin's Religious Journey

Planned Parenthood Finally Removes Disgusting Videos

Conservative Anglican Bishop Rumbled

Preparations for Haggai Fest Well Underway

How the Tide Has Turned on Embryonic Stem Cell Experimentation

To Avoid Explosions, Turn the Loos to the West.

The Real Story of Sarah Palin's Religious Journey

Had enough of the wild rumors and scurrilous attacks on Sarah Palin? Of course you have.

So give Terry Eastland's article in the Weekly Standard a go as he fairly, sympathetically informs you about her interesting "faith journey."

Planned Parenthood Finally Removes Disgusting Videos

American Life League supporters Tuesday celebrated the news that Planned Parenthood Columbia-Willamette took down the videos on the lewd web site that was first launched in July.

The video site, which Planned Parenthood marketed as "sex education," included skits of two teenage boys engaged in oral sex, girls and boys examining each other's reproductive organs, couples talking about participating in orgies and masturbation among others.

When American Life League alerted the pro-life movement to the site, the story made national headlines.

A.L.L. president Judie Brown issued the following statement.
"Praise God!" said Judie Brown, "after months of pro-life outcry against this site, we can finally rest knowing this site will no longer threaten our kids. Planned Parenthood finally pushed the envelope past the point of tolerance. Every person concerned with the health and wellbeing of our children should have been outraged by this blatant attempt to sexualize kids. It appears the roar of just anger over this Planned Parenthood filth was so great, Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion chain had to shut it down. This is truly a great day."

Conservative Anglican Bishop Rumbled

"It is a very sad day for The Episcopal Church. It is a sad day for me, a faithful son of that church." (The Bishop of Pittsburgh, Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan)

David Virtue reports on the trumped-up, illegally conducted deposition of Bishop Duncan by the Episcopal Church House of Bishops, a group that has been marked for some time now not only by heretical views but by a mean and unfair intolerance of those Anglicans who continue to preach traditional doctrine.

But Bishop Duncan isn't taking this action as a defeat. Nor is his congregation.

Indeed, the conclusion of his letter of response stated, "Nevertheless it is also a hopeful day, hopeful because of the unstoppable Reformation that is overtaking the Christian Church in the West. It is also a hopeful day for me personally as I am unanimously welcomed into the House of Bishops of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, an act applauded by Anglican archbishops, bishops, clergy and people all around the world.

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will move forward under its new Ecclesiastical Authority, its Standing Committee. That body will carry the diocese through to our realignment vote on October 4. With the success of that vote, it will be possible that we be joined together again as bishop and people."

Preparations for Haggai Fest Well Underway

It was a wild scene here last night as members of the team that are flying to Ougadougou, Burkina Faso this Friday got together to pack our bags with items needed for the Haggai Fest we will be participating in as well as gifts to an orphanage there that is connected to one I've visited previously.

For the orphanage, Claire and I had already packed one bag with 11 dozen cloth diapers and 41 baby blankets made by Sandy Bouquet's group up at Country Bible Church in Blair: Sandy, Riley Rasmussen, Ben Bouquet, April Bouquet, Eli Edens, Jacob Edens, and Maddie Lacey. (See photo.) Thanks, guys!

Among the things we then packed for the Fest itself were 17 Frisbees; 10 deflated balls; 2 dozen tennis balls; 10 bottles of tempura paint powder and dozens of brushes and face-painting utensils; hundreds of toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste; thousands of stickers and wristbands; hundreds of plastic eggs and balloons; and still quite a bit more fun stuff.

All of it in preparation for the activity stations we're creating to accompany the gospel rally that hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Burkina Faso kids will be attending next week.

In addition to the Haggai Fest itself, members of our team will be teaching seminars on children's ministry to a select group of 200 leaders from all over the country, conducting marriage seminars, preaching at the Haggai Fest crusade, visiting the orphanage, speaking in churches, meeting the U.S. ambassador, and more. It will be an action-packed week and we certainly would love to have your prayers.

I'll be taking Claire's laptop with me and I'll try to maintain (in an understandably reduced form) the work of Vital Signs blog. So stay tuned. Also, Patrice Kabore, the architect and inspirational leader of this project (though he won't be accompanying us to Burkina Faso) is constructing a Haggai Fest blog! That's in addition to the website he already created which informs visitors of what's going on.

How the Tide Has Turned on Embryonic Stem Cell Experimentation

I can't think of any more vivid example of the dramatic change in the scientific and political paradigms regarding stem cell research than James Thomson, the discoverer of human ESCs--moving away from embryonic stem cell field and into IPSCs.

Read Wesley J. Smith's post about this amazing turnaround.

To Avoid Explosions, Turn the Loos to the West.

This story from the Daily Mail (U.K.) explains that the toilet facilities to be be built at the Olympic Park in London will not face Mecca as Islam "prohibits Muslims from facing the Kiblah - the direction of prayer - when they visit the lavatory."

Now I don't care which way the Olympic toilets face and I certainly have no serious problem with anyone's respectful courtesy to a religious group. But let's face it. This isn't about religious sensitivity at all; it's about terrorist blackmail.

Other religious groups (especially Christianity) are regularly dissed and no news editor, education official or toilet designer cares a naught. The adherents of the slighted religion simply sigh over the lack of respect and go on about their business.

But a viciously intolerant religion that blows people up when it perceives an offense? That's what turned the toilets.

It is but one of a long string of recent examples of how cravenly spineless Western culture has become.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Today's Posts

Vital Signs Ministries -- September Updates

Persecuted But Not Defeated

How Effective Are Condoms in Preventing AIDS?

Margaret Sanger, Call Your Office; The Washington Post Just Now Learns That Abortion Rates Are Much Higher Among Minority Groups

Follow the Stink

Filling the Big Hole in Barack Obama's Autobiographies

Vital Signs Ministries -- September Updates

We normally post the latest issue of the LifeSharer letter (my monthly communiqué about Vital Signs Ministries) over on our "official" web site. But because I dealt with some more personal matters this month -- my Mom's health problems --we will not be publicly posting the letter this time around.

Below, however, are a few excerpts of the LifeSharer letter (available to you every month just for the asking, by the way) with information which those following Vital Signs activities will find of interest:

1) There’s been quite a bit of cyberspace activity for us recently:

A) The official Vital Signs web site ( is up and looking great with lots of Christ-centered pro-life information. Yes, we’ve still got stuff to put on and renovations to make but that’s a never-ending process. Among the things that are prominently presented there are VSM info, pro-life articles, pro-life and gospel dramas, links to our internet services, and even the video presentation (in two forms, no less) of Come to the Light, the documentary we made about the conversion from Islam to Christianity of Colonel Saye Zerbo, former president of Burkina Faso.

B) Vital Signs Blog. Whew! This is a 5-day a week labor of …well, let’s call it love, anyhow – that covers the culture wars from the perspective of a veteran Christian activist. That means, it’s a blog that deals with a whole host of issues of spiritual relevance but with the clear purpose being to get readers to do something about those issues! Pray. Talk. Write. Vote. Give. And then pray some more!

We’re getting rave reviews for Vital Signs Blog from a lot of folks and we sure hope you’re among our frequent visitors. ( And the numbers of hits on the blog recently went through the roof (and just kept going) when Sarah Palin was chosen as John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee. That’s because our blog was one of the most accessible and prominent internet sources with news and pictures of the Alaskan governor. You see, I had been touting her since last February!

C) VSM Resources ( is also up and running. This, as you know, is our Russian-language site with sermon outlines, pro-life information and other articles. This is just getting underway and much needs to be added but that’s happening every week now. And, yes, there’s versions of the material available at the site in English too…just in case you want to take a peek.

D) Exposition 101 ( is the sermon podcast site we explained in last month’s LifeSharer letter. The sermons will keep piling up there too but with one important difference – I’m going to start recording them directly onto the computer instead of doing them “live” from the pulpit of Faith Bible Church. That will dramatically improve the sound quality.

E) The Book Den ( This is the site that gets the shortest shrift. It’s a great concept and I’m still plugging away at it too but, hey, there’s only so many hours in the day!

2) Two weeks ago I was honored to once again serve as a chapel speaker for Grace University and I want to thank John Hood and Gerald Burkholder for the invitation. I was asked to speak on “The Christian and Politics” and I took the occasion to cover some ground that normally (but improperly) gets left out of such discussions; namely, the essential motivation for Christian political action being to demonstrate the vibrancy of one’s love of God by showing a honest, relevant and humble love for one’s neighbor.

Politics in this perspective must first be locally expressed; that is, the love of others must be shown first to family and neighbors. Thus, I explained, politics for the believer is not just about legislation, elections and public advocacy but also about the PTA, the Boy Scouts, support for police and firemen, and helping your neighbors shovel the snow off their walks. All of these serve “the body politic.” All of these, when properly motivated, are expressions of neighborliness that reveal the genuineness of our Christian faith.

3) Among the other valuable activities of these past few weeks have been a personal meeting Claire and I had with Congressman Lee Terry and a couple of his staff members. It was a productive meeting in which we talked about several human rights issues including abortion, the ghastliness of tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood, and the persecution of religious believers.

4) I participated in the annual memorial service for children who have died through abortion and miscarriage. This service is sponsored by the Business and Professional Persons for Life who are also responsible for creating the beautiful and inspirational memorial at the southwest end of St. Mary Magdalene Cemetery.

5-A) We had a terrific time discussing Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel at the last Book It! discussion meeting here at our home. There were 7 of us who had read Ms. Ali’s horrific stories of female mutilation, abuse, honor killing and other brutal mistreatments of Muslim women. Following our talk, we prayed together that Ms. Ali would find the grace of God through the cross of Christ. In fact, that prayer has been followed up with many more. And followed up also with the letter to Ms. Hirsi Ali, a nice reply to which came our way the next week.

5-B) One other Vital Signs Book It! note -- The next books in our discussion series are The Faith by Charles Colson, Home Invasion by Rebecca Hagelin and Check with Chip on Stem Cell Research by Chip Maxwell. Call or e-mail for info.

6) I was profoundly honored by the request of family members that I give a brief eulogy at the memorial service honoring my old friend, Ruben Dyck. I had known Ruben for 35 years or more and had enjoyed with him a warm, stimulating friendship. Among the most significant fruits of our relationship was his early endorsement of our pro-life work (when other evangelical leaders were very slow to do so), his participation as a speaker at the Vital Signs “Frontier Issues” conference on aging and my accompanying him (at his request) on my very first trip to Belarus. Though Ruben had his 82nd birthday on the day we returned from that trip (it was his third), he planned to keep going back to Minsk as long as God allowed him. Well, his health began to break that next year and he was unable to return. Could that be part of my motivation to keep going back to Belarus – ten times at latest count? No doubt about it. Ruben, I’m very much looking forward to telling you and Helen all about those trips the next time we have coffee together. And I’ll bet the coffee up there is something else!

7) We had some fresh faces join us for our last bi-monthly meeting of the Omaha Chesterton Society and so the discussion was even more enlivened and helpful than usual. Part of the reason too was the nature of the Chesterton book under discussion. It was Brave New Family, a compelling collection of essays dealing with issues of family, the eugenics movement, modernity’s insistence on changing sex roles, the blessedness of true romance and marriage, and more. It is chillingly up to date, very profound and yet fully relevant even to those who’ve never read Chesterton before. But why am I writing about an OCS meeting in a VSM LifeSharer letter? Well, because the themes of Brave New Family are ones that are right up your alley! And since we only discussed the first three sections of the book and still have another three sections to go, I’m sure many of you LifeSharers would find the reading and discussion of tremendous interest. Please call us for details, okay? (341-8886)

8) Another of the recent speaking engagements I should mention was my “opening the season” for the Christian students fellowship over at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It was a good crowd (maybe 25-28 med and nursing students) and after handing out some detailed sheets with Scripture references and statements by Church Fathers and other heroes of the Faith relevant to abortion, I spoke for about 30 minutes. Knowing that the biological aspects are probably well understood by these kids, I concentrated on pro-life apologetics, illustrating my points with stories from nearly three decades of ministry. I talked for a bit too about the nobility of their profession and the unique and wonderful chance they will have to shine the light of Jesus into our darkened culture. They were a keen group and I was honored to speak to them. Many thanks to Dr. Denny Weisenburger who suggested my name to the group and to Martin Goodenberger who made the invitation.

9) Well, number 9 in this list of VSM happenings is taking me pretty close to my space limits here. I was going to use number 9 to explain a bit about the personal study and writing I’ve been doing in preparation for my upcoming teaching seminars in Burkina Faso (September 26-October 6) as well as the planning sessions we’ve had for the team going over. But there’s not enough room. And since you’ll be far more eager to hear what actually happened (with the teaching, the crusade events, the children’s Haggai Fest, the visit to the orphanage, the marriage seminars, and so on) than you would be with just a “prep talk,” I’ll hold off and give you a full report in the next LifeSharer. Okay?

Persecuted But Not Defeated

If you haven't checked in for awhile with The Persecution Report, a 13-minute video clip presented by Voice of the Martyrs which explains just a bit of the injustice and cruelty meted out to Christians around the world, I encourage you to do so now.

This particular segment includes a compelling, detailed section about the Communist mistreatment of Christians in China, but also brief reports about the torture and subsequent death of a 37-year old Eritrean Christian women, the severe beatings of Indian evangelist Shyam Kumar and Pastor A. Jayrag by Hindu extremists, and the brave service for Jesus Christ by saints serving in an area of Pakistan that hadn't seen a Christian church in 600 years.

How Effective Are Condoms in Preventing AIDS?

How effective are condoms in preventing AIDS?

Actually, they are not very effective at all. Undoubtedly because a condom retains the bulk of the discharge of semen, the rate is cut down. To become infected with any disease, two things are relevant in terms of the offending, invasive agent. One is the presence of some of those viruses, or germs, itself. The other is the quantity of that agent entering the body. If there are only a few bugs, the average human will kill them off. If there’s a very heavy dose, the chance for an infection succeeding is greater. Therefore, by cutting down on the volume of semen, a condom certainly reduces the chance for AIDS. But AIDS viruses do get through the condom.

Why is this?

Sperm have a diameter of 50 microns. Naturally occurring holes in the wall of a latex condom have a diameter of 1.0 microns. The HIV retrovirus which causes AIDS has a diameter of 0.1 microns. In effect, this would be comparing perhaps an ant crawling on a basketball. AIDS viruses swim freely through the holes in the condom. That is a fact that should be widely publicized.

(Source: Chapter 35 "Contraception," in Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Willke's book Why Can't We Love Them Both?) (Online edition here.)

Margaret Sanger, Call Your Office; The Washington Post Just Now Learns That Abortion Rates Are Much Higher Among Minority Groups

In the first comprehensive analysis since 1974 of demographic characteristics of women who have abortions, researchers found that the overall drop in the abortion rate has been marked by a dramatic shift, declining more among white women and teenagers than among black and Hispanic and older women.

Not surprisingly, there are several instances of liberal spin in this Washington Post article dealing with abortion rates being much higher among minority groups. As in the false claim by a spokeswoman for the abortion-enthusiastic Guttmacher Institute that, "This is the first time anyone has looked at this in a comprehensive way." That's not correct. Pro-life groups have emphasized studies showing these sad trends for at least three decades. Indeed, the evidence was so clear even in those early days that Jesse Jackson opposed abortion as a genocidal tool.

Nevertheless, the article is an important one to take note of -- and one can hope and pray that minority leaders do just that, realizing that the eugenics goals of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger are being realized...and too often with their help.

Follow the Stink

* Evidence suggests that a YouTube video with false claims about Palin was uploaded and promoted by members of a professional PR firm.

* The family that runs the PR firm has extensive ties to the Democratic Party, the netroots, and are staunch Obama supporters.

* Evidence suggests that the firm engaged in a concerted effort to distribute the video in such a way that it would appear to have gone viral on its own. Yet this effort took place on company time.

* Evidence suggests that these distribution efforts included actions by at least one employee of the firm who is unconnected with the family running the company.

* The voice-over artist used in this supposedly amateur video is a professional.

* This same voice-over artist has worked extensively with David Axelrod's firm, which has a history of engaging in phony grassroots efforts, otherwise known as "astroturfing."

* David Axelrod is Barack Obama's chief media strategist.

* The same voice-over artist has worked directly for the Barack Obama campaign.

This suggests that false rumors and outright lies about Sarah Palin and John McCain being spread on the internet are being orchestrated by political partisans and are not an organic grassroots phenomenon led by the left wing fringe. The findings (
courtesy of the vigilant, talented watchdog bloggers at The Jawa Report) follow...

Filling the Big Hole in Barack Obama's Autobiographies

And since when does someone as young as Obama and with as little on their resumé of accomplishments merit two autobiographies anyhow? Golly, this guy's got an ego.

Despite having authored two autobiographies, Barack Obama has never written about his most important executive experience. From 1995 to 1999, he led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists...

Stanley Kurtz finally got access to some of the U. of C. library files that had been protectively hidden and writes what certainly is one of the "must-reads" of the week. I print a few excerpts below but you can read it all right here in the Wall Street Journal.

...One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama's "recruitment" to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.

The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism...

In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.

CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).

Mr. Obama once conducted "leadership training" seminars with Acorn, and Acorn members also served as volunteers in Mr. Obama's early campaigns. External partners like the South Shore African Village Collaborative and the Dual Language Exchange focused more on political consciousness, Afrocentricity and bilingualism than traditional education. CAC's in-house evaluators comprehensively studied the effects of its grants on the test scores of Chicago public-school students. They found no evidence of educational improvement...

The Obama campaign has cried foul when Bill Ayers comes up, claiming "guilt by association." Yet the issue here isn't guilt by association; it's guilt by participation. As CAC chairman, Mr. Obama was lending moral and financial support to Mr. Ayers and his radical circle. That is a story even if Mr. Ayers had never planted a single bomb 40 years ago.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Today's Posts

Chris Smith: Why John McCain Is the Guy

How Will History Judge George W. Bush?

When Nursing Homes Feel Like Prison

The Incessant Drumbeat of the Left

Juvenile Sermons Can't Keep Americans from "Quitting Church"

"This Is the Way Civilisation Dies."

"Can You Hear Me Now," About Cell Phones and Brain Cancers, That Is?

Chris Smith: Why John McCain Is the Guy

The epic struggle to regain protection for the lives of unborn children both in practice and in law is at a critical juncture--unlike any time in my 36 years in the pro-life movement--in the 2008 presidential election.

The differences in this election are crystal clear, the stakes are enormous both nationally--nothing less than the Supreme Court--and internationally--taxpayer-funded abortions around the world. We must elect a pro-life president. If we truly value the most persecuted minority in the world--unborn children--we must elect John McCain.

Thus says Congressman Chris Smith, one of our nation's foremost pro-life champions. Why exactly does he insist on John McCain being the best choice for President? Read on.

How Will History Judge George W. Bush?

Charles Krauthammer believes that history will judge President George W. Bush much differently than has the New York Times, NBC News or the public opinion polls. Read why in this column.

When Nursing Homes Feel Like Prison

[Charles Todd] Lee is among the Medicaid recipients across Florida challenging the nightmare of the old and disabled: to be forced from comfort and familiarity into a nursing home.

They say the state is illegally forcing them to live in nursing homes when they should be able to live where they choose. Advocates charge that nursing homes, afraid of losing money, have successfully pressured politicians to make qualifying for community care more difficult. They have filed a federal lawsuit seeking class-action status on behalf of nearly 8,500 institutionalized Floridians.

Whether the litigation gets Lee and others moved out of nursing homes remains to be seen. But at the very least, it has illuminated the frustration experienced by older people or those with disabilities who say they're shuttled into nursing homes when they are healthy enough to live at home, with relatives, or in other less institutional settings.

"There are very, very, very few people who cannot be cared for outside in the community," said Stephen Gold, a Philadelphia disability lawyer who, along with AARP attorneys and others, is representing the group. "Why should the state give a damn whether you put the money in the left pocket of the nursing home or the right pocket of the community?"

Americans who qualify for Medicaid and get sick or disabled enough to require substantial care typically have little problem gaining admission to a nursing home. But obtaining Medicaid-supported services at home, such as visits from an aide, is substantially harder and often involves a long waiting list, even though it may cost the government less...

Read more here.

The Incessant Drumbeat of the Left

William Staneski vividly describes "the drumbeat of the left" in this provocative piece for American Thinker. It's a good sanity check.

Juvenile Sermons Can't Keep Americans from "Quitting Church"

On this particular page of the Washington Times web site you can watch a very interesting video clip (less than 3 minutes) featuring Julia Duin talking about her new book, Quitting Church: Why the Faithful Are Fleeing and What to Do About It.

Even in this short clip, Duin has some penetrating things to say about the "dumbing-down" character of the seeker-friendly church movement and how "juvenile" sermons just aren't relevant, challenging or helpful enough to keep people from eventually walking out the doors.

"This Is the Way Civilisation Dies."

Melanie Phillips latest article in the Daily Mail (U.K.) is a chilling, infuriating reminder of how profoundly enveloping is the culture of death. I print excerpts below but I urge you to read the whole article here.

Has there ever been anyone who has displayed more inhumanity towards her fellow human beings, and yet had more influence over British society, than the noble Baroness Warnock?

In an article for a church magazine, Lady Warnock has declared that elderly people with dementia are 'wasting' the lives of those who care for them, and have a duty to die in order to stop being a burden to others.

On pitiless Planet Warnock, people are valued in proportion to their ability to lead an independent life. If they can't do so, they are to be written off as valueless - and even more nauseating, they are being told they actually have a duty to end their lives...

Tempting though it may be, it would be a mistake to treat this elderly philosopher as an eccentric who can be safely ignored. Lady Warnock is a key figure in the development of medical ethics in this country, from research on embryos to the debates over euthanasia.

Although the days when governments called upon her to serve on such committees of the great and the good may be over, her thinking provides graphic evidence of the slippery slope down which we are sliding at terrifying speed.

What she originally presented as the 'right to die', for example, soon mutated into the 'duty to die'. The claim that euthanasia would benefit sick people by ending their pain is thus revealed as a fraud. The real point is to benefit the sick person's relatives, in whose interests the patient must be expected to forfeit life itself...

It is a view she carried into practice when she watched her incurably ill husband, Geoffrey, accept the help of a family doctor to take lethal doses of morphine in order to end his life...

This is indeed the path to barbarism. But Lady Warnock is by no means alone in holding these views. They are mainstream among our secular, anti-religious elites - and alarmingly, nowhere more so than in the medical profession.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, for example, said two years ago that 'active euthanasia' should be considered to spare parents the emotional and financial burden of bringing up seriously disabled newborn babies. These doctors were advocating killing newborn infants for the presumed benefit of others.

A terrifying, amoral landscape is opening up before us, brought into being by the philosophy embodied by Lady Warnock - the garlanded intellectual, whose epitaph will be a dehumanised society where the weakest are being steadily sacrificed for the benefit of the strong. This is the way civilisation dies.

"Can You Hear Me Now," About Cell Phones and Brain Cancers, That Is?

"I hardly ever use my cell phone."

I've stated that before here on Vital Signs as I linked you to studies conducted by Dr Vini Khurana, a top neurosurgeon who has received 14 awards over the past 16 years and has published more than three dozen scientific papers, about the growing evidence linking brain cancers to mobile phone use.

Well, the scientific evidence continues to mount (though woefully under-reported) that cell phone use is dangerous, particularly to the young. Check out this story from the Independent (U.K.).

...Last week the European Parliament voted by 522 to 16 to urge ministers across Europe to bring in stricter limits for exposure to radiation from mobile and cordless phones, Wi-fi and other devices, partly because children are especially vulnerable to them. They are more at risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing and because – since their heads are smaller and their skulls are thinner – the radiation penetrates deeper into their brains.

The Swedish research was reported this month at the first international conference on mobile phones and health.
It sprung from a further analysis of data from one of the biggest studies carried out into the risk that the radiation causes cancer, headed by Professor Lennart Hardell of the University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden. Professor Hardell told the conference – held at the Royal Society by the Radiation Research Trust – that "people who started mobile phone use before the age of 20" had more than five-fold increase in glioma", a cancer of the glial cells that support the central nervous system. The extra risk to young people of contracting the disease from using the cordless phone found in many homes was almost as great, at more than four times higher.

Those who started using mobiles young, he added, were also five times more likely to get acoustic neuromas, benign but often disabling tumours of the auditory nerve, which usually cause deafness.

By contrast, people who were in their twenties before using handsets were only 50 per cent more likely to contract gliomas and just twice as likely to get acoustic neuromas.

Professor Hardell told the IoS: "This is a warning sign. It is very worrying. We should be taking precautions." He believes that children under 12 should not use mobiles except in emergencies and that teenagers should use hands-free devices or headsets and concentrate on texting. At 20 the danger diminishes because then the brain is fully developed. Indeed, he admits, the hazard to children and teenagers may be greater even than his results suggest, because the results of his study do not show the effects of their using the phones for many years. Most cancers take decades to develop, longer than mobile phones have been on the market.

The research has shown that adults who have used the handsets for more than 10 years are much more likely to get gliomas and acoustic neuromas, but he said that there was not enough data to show how such re
latively long-term use would increase the risk for those who had started young. ..

Friday, September 19, 2008

Today's Posts

With Apologies to Senator Obama, There's Only One Superman

Mocking Christianity is De Rigeur for the Washington Post

Will the Real Party Lackey Please Stand Up?

Fresh Shame for the Associated Press

Like His Car, Charlie Rangel Should Be Towed Out of Congress

More Patriotism = More Taxes

A "Breath-Taking" Summer for Principled Science

With Apologies to Senator Obama, There's Only One Superman

Have a great weekend!

Mocking Christianity is De Rigeur for the Washington Post

From the Family Research Council --

Christians will be the first to tell you that no one is safe from ridicule on the editorial page. For years, we've watched the church become a familiar punch line for the media's elite, who seem to suffer from an incurable phobia of faith. This week, however, the Washington Post's religious bias hit an all-time low in the political cartoons of Pat Oliphant, which were splashed across the paper's web page with an incredible lack of sensitivity.

In the caricature, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is speaking in tongues as her Republican running mate looks on. Sen. John McCain says, "She's a Pentacostal and... only God can understand what she's saying, but it gives my campaign a direct line to the Almighty." In the background, God tells St. Peter, "All I can hear is... some right-wing politician spouting gibberish."

As of yesterday, the Post had received 350 complaints-and counting!

No one familiar with Pat Oliphant's repertoire should be shocked that his cartoons appeal to the lowest common denominator. But what should outrage readers is that a newspaper with one of the nation's largest circulations would choose to publish such slander, particularly given how the Post dons kid gloves in its treatment of every religion but Christianity. Had Oliphant attacked Islam, many would be calling for his beheading, as they did to a certain Danish cartoonist who dared to poke fun at Mohammed.

Regardless of the Post's unease with the charismatic movement, Pentecostals deserve the same respect as Muslims. In the end, the fact that the Post's editors continue to carry Oliphant's cartoons says a lot more about their judgment than it does his.

Will the Real Party Lackey Please Stand Up?

The Philadelphia Inquirer goes out on a limb to allow space for John R. Lott Jr., a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, to compare Barack Obama's latest campaign pitch with the actual record.

Does John McCain represent a third Bush term? The Obama campaign claims the two are almost indistinguishable. It was the mantra during the Democratic convention, and it is the theme of new ads Barack Obama is running. The ads claim that McCain is "no maverick when he votes with Bush 90 percent of the time."

This week Obama has begun a constant refrain that there is "not a dime worth of difference" between Bush's and McCain's views. It is a consistent theme of Democratic pundits on talk shows.

Is this the same McCain who drove Republicans nuts on campaign finance, the environment, taxes, torture, immigration and more? Where has McCain not crossed swords with his own party?

As it's being used, the 90 percent figure, from Congressional Quarterly, is nonsensical. As Washington Post congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman explained, "The vast majority of those votes are procedural, and virtually every member of Congress votes with his or her leadership on procedural motions."

Obama might want to be a little careful with these attacks, as the same measure has him voting with Democrats 97 percent of the time...

But then truth doesn't matter here, does it? It's all about getting traction with undecided voters and winning the election. Wild exaggerations, distortions and even outright lies, fear-mongering and character assassination -- anything goes as long as you don't get caught.

And, with the MSM falling over itself to get an extremely liberal Democrat in the White House, Barack Obama has high hopes that he can get away with it.

Fresh Shame for the Associated Press

James Taranto comments on a particularly disgusting example of the MSM's double standard. To differentiate, I put Taranto's comments in bold.

This ought to be considered a crime story, but the Associated Press treats it as something else:

[From the AP story] Hackers broke into the Yahoo! e-mail account that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin used for official business as Alaska's governor, revealing as evidence a few inconsequential personal messages she has received since John McCain selected her as his running mate.

"This is a shocking invasion of the governor's privacy and a violation of law. The matter has been turned over to the appropriate authorities and we hope that anyone in possession of these e-mails will destroy them," the McCain campaign said in a statement.

The Secret Service contacted The Associated Press on Wednesday and asked for copies of the leaked e-mails, which circulated widely on the Internet. The AP did not comply.

The disclosure Wednesday raises new questions about the propriety of the Palin administration's use of nongovernment e-mail accounts to conduct state business.

Let's step back for a moment and consider what this says about the press's attitude toward privacy. A few years ago, the New York Times revealed the existence of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, a theretofore-secret effort to prevent attacks by listening in on overseas terrorists' phone conversations. In defense of the Times's action, we heard a lot of pious proclamations about privacy: George Bush might want to snoop on your phone conversations or emails, and the press was merely being vigilant in protecting your privacy.

Yet the AP, in reporting on its own role in the current story, tells us that it refuses to cooperate with the Secret Service's investigation of the privacy breach. Granted, the AP probably doesn't have that much to contribute to the investigation. But the symbolism is telling, and surely deliberate. It suggests the press places a far lower premium on privacy than on its own privileges and its adversarial attitude toward government (or perhaps toward Republicans).

Especially telling in this regard is the AP's reference to the emails as "leaked." (The Boston Globe uses the verb leak in its headline for the AP report.) Usually this term refers to a government agency or other organization's failure to keep a secret. A leaker is someone who is authorized to possess information but not to disclose it.

These emails were not leaked, they were stolen. Here we have an actual invasion of an American citizen's privacy, and what is the press's attitude? If the AP is representative (and given its organizational structure, it should be), it is to regard "questions about the propriety" of the victim as more important than the invasion of privacy itself.

Like His Car, Charlie Rangel Should Be Towed Out of Congress

It was certainly a little embarrassing.

After all, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee isn't supposed to deal with such...uh...pedestrian problems as having your car towed away.

But there he was. Charlie Rangel. Watching Capitol police remove his vintage silver Mercedes-Benz from the House of Representatives parking space where it had been stored (illegally) for years.

But the day wasn't a complete bummer for Rangel.

After all, his Democrat pals came to his side to defeat a measure which would have forced him out of the Committee chairmanship because of his involvement in several scandals, including a proven record of tax evasion.

Stated Michael Steel, spokesman for House GOP leader, John Boehner, "The new information about Chairman Rangel taking advantage of taxpayers to illegally store his vintage luxury car is appalling, mostly because it is part of a pattern - a pattern of Chairman Rangel abusing his public position for personal gain."

Ken Spain, press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said, "In a way, this latest revelation is symbolic of how Charlie Rangel and the Democrat-led Congress have chosen to conduct themselves. Rangel continues to openly thumb his nose at the law while remaining parked atop the most powerful committee in Congress. The 'most ethical congress in history' continues to embarrass itself."

More Patriotism = More Taxes

Exploiting the crisis on Wall Street to whip up a frenzy for even more tax increases (a patriot's duty, according to Joe Biden), Barack Obama's plans for America are scarier than ever.

Senator Obama is throwing around a lot of misplaced blame this morning, refusing to acknowledge the Democrats' role in overspending, Fannie Mae, etc. But he's then refusing to explain the details of his own financial program for the United States.

That's okay. This Investor's Business Daily editorial gives you a few of the most salient points.

Obama would add more than $343 billion in annual spending according to the National Taxpayers Union...

So when it comes time for a President Obama to decide where to drill for more cash for Uncle Sam, the middle class is where he is going to find all the vast untapped resources to be; taxing the rich alone — who already pay such a large proportion of taxes already — simply won't bring in enough money...

Massive new taxes and the abandonment of global economic freedom sold as "patriotism" is not only an outrage; it's a huge danger to an economy that has enough troubles already.

A "Breath-Taking" Summer for Principled Science

Mailee Smith, posting on the Americans United for Life blog, alerts us to a great (though brief) speech on the House floor from Dr. Dave Weldon (Army veteran, internal medicine physician and Republican Congressman to Florida's 15th District). The speech concerned the about the "breath-taking" summer it has been for medical breakthroughs, particularly with the Harvard studies into the direct "reprogramming" of adult cells in the pancreas into insulin-producing cells and the Harvard/Columbia creation of 21 disease-specific stem cell lines for further research.

Both breakthroughs, furthermore, are free from the immorality of destroying embryos.

"There is no medical reason to proceed with research into cloning human embryos for their stem cells because that science is obsolete, it is more cumbersome, it is more expensive, said Dr. Weldon. "We have a better, quicker, easier way to do it.”

“Science is moving beyond the debate. Science is taking us in a direction of ethically responsible research.”

The link given at the end of the AUL story to a video clip of Dr. Weldon's remarks didn't work when I tried it. But I think this one will. The talk is just 5 minutes -- well worth your time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Call for DWI Courts Creates Some Echoes

In response to yesterday's post ("For the War Against Drunk Driving, Specialized DWI Courts Needed Now.") which was sent by mail to the Nebraska Supreme Court Justices, came the following.

Dear Mr. Hartford:

I read your thoughtful & informative memo this morning. I will read the 2007 study by the Michigan Supreme Court and take all of this information into consideration as our court analyzes the Scottsbluff County results & other requests for DUI specialty courts.

Thank you for your well reasoned memo and your obvious interest.


John M. Gerrard

Nebraska Supreme Court

FYI -- A shortened form of that post has been accepted by the Omaha-World Herald and I'm told it will appear in Sunday's paper. Nice. Getting drunk drivers off the road should be an important matter for us all and whatever we can do to make that happen (including the creation of specialized DWI/Drug Courts) is a very good thing.

Doubts About Darwin: The Natural Limits to Biological Change

Our old friend, Dr. Ray Bohlin is interviewed by Anika Smith from the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture in this 18-minute podcast file. It's an extremely interesting conversation dealing with the limits of biological change, intelligent design, Bohlin's early skepticism of Darwinism, his advice to young scientists, and more. Good stuff.

Ray Bohlin, the President of Probe Ministries earned his Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from the University of Texas at Dallas. He is the co-author of The Natural Limits to Biological Change and Creation, Evolution, and Modern Science.

EPM Never Stands Still

I'm always pleased to receive e-mail updates of what's happening over at Eternal Perspectives Ministries. And I know you would to -- it's a very dynamic group of Christians that Randy Alcorn has assembled out there in Oregon and their dedication to serve our Lord is changing lives all over the planet. And, sure; you can sign up for those same updates I receive at the EPM site right here.

And while you're over there, be sure to check out some of the newer things happening with EPM.

They include: 1) the posting of a pdf version of Randy Alcorn's dynamite book, Why Pro-Life?; 2) EPM's giving thousands of Randy's books (fiction and non-fiction titles) to prison inmates that ask for them. The latter represents a neat prison outreach that you can be a part of too. And 3) the stimulating articles found at Randy's blog.

Fannie Mae CEO to Congressional Black Caucus: You Are Our "Family"

Here's part of P.J. Gladnick's post over at NewsBusters about the "family connections" of Fannie Mae to the Congressional Black Caucus (yes, including Barack Obama). Given what's happened in recent days, the text of Daniel Mudd (he's on a video clip here too) is an astonishing piece of news that in an honest, fair world would be a very big deal.

But we don't live in that kind of world. And so, because this would obviously be an embarrassing item for Democrats, the MSM has ignored it completely.

A stunning example of the incredible disconnect between the mainstream media and the blogosphere is this video of the interim Fannie Mae CEO, Daniel Mudd, addressing the Congressional Black Caucus, including Barack Obama, at their swearing-in ceremony in 2005. Although this video is spreading quickly in the blogosphere, you have yet to see or hear anything about it in the MSM. As you can see in the video, Mudd talks about the problems of Fannie Mae yet that didn't keep Obama and other Democrats from taking large contributions from that organization or doing anything to try to fix it...

As of this writing, a check on Google News shows NO news outlet has so much as mentioned this video despite the fact of Obama being present and later receiving $126,349 from Fannie Mae. Ask yourself this, if the CEO of Fannie Mae had addressed a similar "family" speech to a group of congressional Republicans who had received big donations from that organization, do you not think the video would have already appeared on the nightly news of the major networks?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Today's Posts

For the War Against Drunk Driving, Specialized DWI Courts Needed Now.

Google Evens the Playing Field a Bit

Reporters Again Helping Obama, This Time By Undercutting the Reliability of Gianna Jessen

For the War Against Drunk Driving, Specialized DWI Courts Needed Now.

One of the most important developments in the war against drunk drivers (and it's a war remember with very real casualties: 15-18,000 people are killed annually in alcohol-related traffic crashes) is the expansion of specialized DWI Courts. Nearly 450 such courts now exist across the country and David Wallace, Director of the government's National Center for DWI Courts, credits them as being a major reason for the remarkable 3.7% drop in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities since last year.

Certainly other factors are involved: greater diligence of law enforcement, interlock device laws, sobriety checks, educational campaigns, more prosecutors and judges getting tougher on DUI crimes, and so on. I applaud all of these things and pray that they're extended more and more.

But DWI Courts are aimed at changing the behavior of the worst offenders, those criminals who haven't even let convictions or license revocations keep them from climbing behind the wheel when drunk. And, as such, the DWI Courts represent a crucial line of defense for the public as well as a proven course of more effective help for the offenders.

The state of Nebraska, however, has yet to create a single DWI Court although the Nebraska Supreme Court did allow a "hybrid court" to start in Scottsbluff County last fall. This is a "problem-solving court" which normally deals with drug cases but which has been allowed opportunities to include drunk drivers in its case load.

Nebraska's problem-solving courts, according to the Court's web page, "all seek to use judicial oversight and a comprehensive team approach to improve outcomes for victims, communities and participants. These court programs strive to achieve marked results like decreased drug/alcohol abuse and recidivism; at the same time, they seek to maintain the ultimate authority of the court process."

These courts generally act after the sentence is pronounced and, though the goal is to get people enrolled in alcohol and/or drug treatment programs, mental health counseling as needed, and regular participation in Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous programs, it doesn't mean that the court is going soft on DWI criminals. Indeed, unlike what generally happens in regular courts dealing with such cases, DWI Courts involve strict coercion measures, guaranteeing the offender is in treatment. Monitoring the offender's accountability is careful and more thorough. Criminals convicted in DWI Courts are regularly tested for alcohol use as well as being required to appear regularly in court (often every week) for the judge to review their progress.

And regular penalties aren't waived either. Scott Carlson, the Statewide Coordinator of Problem-Solving Courts, told me this afternoon that, in the case of the Scottsbluff court, all DWI offenders must serve the full length of the minimum jail term. Again, that's tougher than what one can often expect from a regular court.

But so far, the Nebraska Supreme Court has been reluctant to move forward on the creation of DWI Courts. As one source explained, the Justices are concerned about appearing to be too lenient with drunk drivers. And so they're waiting for more conclusive results.

I understand their caution. And I sympathize with their concerns of being too lenient with the perpetrators of this particular crime. I've been advocating more aggressive police action, tougher penalties, and more effective laws since 1985 when my father was killed by a drunk driver in Colorado.

But how long will it be before the Nebraska Supreme Court members appreciate the good results already piling up from specialized DWI Courts?

Wallace argues, "These courts are changing the behavior of the high-risk drinking drivers. The fact that the number of fatal crashes involving these drivers has not changed is unacceptable. We've been doing the same thing for years with these individuals and it has not worked. It is time for a change. DWI courts are that change and must be expanded throughout the country."

A 2007 study by the Michigan Supreme Court found that offenders sentenced to traditional probation were 19 times more likely to be re-arrested for a DUI charge than a DWI court participant.

Have the Nebraska Supreme Court members read that study?

Or these?

* A 2000 Vera Institute of Justice report concluded that “the body of literature on recidivism is now strong enough, despite lingering methodological weaknesses, to conclude that completing a drug court program reduces the likelihood of future arrest.”

* The largest statewide study on drug courts to date was released in 2003 by the Center for Court Innovation (CCI). The study analyzed the impact of the New York State drug court system. The study found that the re-conviction rate among 2,135 defendants who participated in six of the state’s drug courts was, on average, 29 percent lower (13% to 47%) over three years than the for the same types of offenders who did not enter the drug court.

* In Chester County, Pennsylvania, drug court graduates had a rearrest rate of 5.4 percent, versus a 21.5 percent rearrest rate among the control group; a 33 percent rearrest rate for drug court graduates in Dade county, Florida, versus a 48 percent rearrest rate among the control group; and a 15.6 percent rearrest rate for drug court graduates in Dallas, Texas, versus a 48.7 percent rearrest rate for the control group.

The above are all cited by the National Drug Court Institute here.

Drug courts even save taxpayers money.

In Multnomah County, Oregon, a countywide study estimated that for every dollar spent on drug court, taxpayers saved ten dollars. A follow-up study in the same location conducted by the National Institute of Justice showed that when costs were compared between “doing business as usual” and the drug court model, the drug court model saved an average of $2,328.89 per year for each participant. One of the components of cost benefit analysis research is the value of the costs associated with victims of crime. If crime is reduced, the cost to victims, also known as “victimization costs,” is also reduced. When the victimization costs were accounted for in the Multnomah County study, the average savings increased to $3,596.92 per client. The total savings to the local taxpayer over a thirty-month period was $5,071.57 per participant, or a savings of $1,521,471 per year.

A study by the Department of Economics at Southern Methodist University reported that for every dollar spent on drug court in Dallas, Texas, $9.43 in tax dollar savings was realized over a forty-month period.

The questions must be asked again? Have the members of the Nebraska Supreme Court not read these studies? And how long will it be before it creates more DWI Courts here in the state?

The case is certainly persuasive on several fronts -- DWI Courts are proving more successful in getting drunk drivers off the road; in helping rescue more offenders from their dangerous behavior; and even in saving tax money.

The traditional courts haven't been the answer for repeat DWI offenders. And so the numbers of drivers and pedestrians killed by repeat drunk drivers keep piling up as do the numbers of shattered lives, bereaved families, and severe economic effects. So, by all means, let's advance on all fronts in the war against drunk driving. But let's make sure that includes the speedy creation of specialized DWI Courts.