Friday, November 26, 2010

Today's Posts

Thanksgiving On the Run

The first part of the long Thanksgiving weekend has been delightful. Now, however, it's time to get back to work.

Our festivities began with a wonderful Thanksgiving eve dinner with my Mom and then, on Thursday, we had a delicious meal and a relaxing, convivial time with 21 members of Claire's family down in Lincoln. (Yes, only 21. The two Colorado-based families and part of the California one couldn't come.)

But today it's time to get moving on Sunday's sermon AND on the Christmas edition of "When Swing Was King," the first presentation of which is Monday! So enough of blogging; I gotta' get going.

Here's hoping you have a terrific time with your long weekend. And remember, thanksgiving is a virtue which enriches, beautifies and strengthens the whole year round!

The Democrats' New Mad Hatter

What do you think should be the number one priority of the new Congress coming into office? Most freshman congressmen and women will be looking to repeal Obamacare and stop tax hikes. But Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s first goal is to change House rules on wearing hats in the building. Why? Because they’re sexist of course.

Wilson, a newly elected Democrat, has already set her sights on the likely next Speaker of the House John Boehner. Before she fights him on taxes, health care, or abortion; she wants to convince him to let her wear her collection of over 300 vibrant and flashy hats. Her hat collection takes up a whole room in her house, and now she wants them to be seen in the House.

Wilson is a member of the Left, but before she fights for the little guy, she wants to fight for her own fashion rights...

(Paul Cooper, News Real Blog) Thanks to Blogs Lucianne Loves for the link.

Obama's Biggest Lie?

Barack Obama is only halfway through his term, but it's not too early to ask: What is the biggest whopper he has told as president? So far, the hands-down winner is:

"No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."

Obama made that particular pledge in a speech to the American Medical Association in June 2009, but he said the same thing, with slight variations, dozens of times during the health care debate. And now, exactly eight months after he signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, we're seeing just how empty the president's promise was...

Read more of this story right here at the Washington Examiner.

Credit Card Theft -- And Your Card Never Leaves Your Pocket

Let's hope your credit card information wasn't swiped this morning when you were in a Black Friday shopping crowd. Or that the data on your passport wasn't lifted when you were in the airport.

After all, it's awfully easy to do. A criminal needs no more than an electronic scanner (which he can buy online for less than a hundred bucks) and to get within 3 feet of your credit card to steal your number and expiration date.

And we're not talking pickpockets here. This critical information is stolen while your card is still in your wallet and your wallet is still in your back pocket!

Wanna' see how? And how, for a few dollars, you can prevent this from happening to you? Check this out. (In particular, pay attention to the TV news clip in the right hand corner of the page.)

One more report (This one is from the Washington Post a couple of years ago.) reminds us that it's not just credit cards and passports that are "up for grabs," but also Metro subway cards, building access and parking lot cards, highway toll passes and even digital driver's licenses.

And the tip for protecting yourself that this story suggests is even cheaper.

HIV-Tainted Razor Blades: The Newest Tactic of Animal Rights Terrorists

The Animal Liberation Front is a lot more than an animal-rights organization. They are a bunch of irrational, violent terrorists who are trying to end all use of animals in scientific research. And to that end, the ALF is using firebombs, sabotage, extreme property damage, vandalism, and an escalating campaign of terrorist intimidation.

For instance, the latest crime in the ALF's campaign against one UCLA scientist was to send him HIV-tainted razor blades along with the threat of cutting his throat.

Oh, by the way, the ALF has no problem whatsoever with abortionists killing preborns or with the deliberate killing of the elderly and infirm or with lethal experimentation using embryos -- as long, of course, as the victims are human beings.

Warning Video for Unthinking Husbands

If the Christmas gift that you're thinking about for your wife is a new vacuum cleaner, a ceiling fan or a gift card for a grocery store, you'd better pay careful attention to this video.

You can't say you weren't warned.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Two Thanksgiving Day Posts

A Very Special Thanksgiving Eve

My Mom has been in a serious decline the last month or so -- much weaker, more severe memory loss, more confusion -- and beginning Sunday, she was in bed most of the time and nearly incoherent. She wasn't even able to come down for the "When Swing Was King" performance we did at her nursing home on Tuesday. But then yesterday morning, she seemed to revive a bit and by the afternoon was ready and willing to head out the door for a Thanksgiving dinner with us!

We went to her favorite restaurant (Summer Kitchen) and she ordered what has become her favorite meal: mashed potatoes and country gravy, three slices of burnt bacon, a buttered dinner roll and a couple of dessert pastries to take back home. She was still awfully weak and forgetful but Claire and I talked the evening away about Thanksgiving and Christmas memories. Mom loved it.

After those days when all we could do was sit by the bed holding her hand, the blessings of enjoying a meal together, talking and looking at the car lights moving along Maple Street were really wonderful.

I've had a lot of wonderful Thanksgiving days in my life with incredible menus -- but last night's Thanksgiving Eve dinner (Claire had a tuna sandwich and I had a hamburger) may well become my most memorable. Thanks, Lord.

A Thanksgiving History

The earliest record of a thanksgiving in America is 1541 by Spanish explorer Coronado at Palo Duro Canyon in what is now Texas. French Protestant colonists at Charlesfort (now Parris Island, South Carolina) held a thanksgiving service in 1564. In 1607, the Jamestown settlers held thanksgiving at Cape Henry, Virginia, and there are many other records of such hallowed observances.

The first call for an annual Thanksgiving was at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, in 1619, when Captain John Woodlief and 38 settlers aboard the ship Margaret, proclaimed, "Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacion in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."

Here is a wonderful Thanksgiving Day history lesson.

Read on.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today's Posts

Something to Think About at Thanksgiving Dinner (Or Maybe Not!)

A turkey is more occult and awful than all the angels and archangels. In so far as God has partly revealed to us an angelic world, He has partly told us what an angel means.

But God has never told us what a turkey means. And if you go and stare at a live turkey for an hour or two, you will find by the end of it that the enigma has rather increased than diminished.

G.K. Chesterton from All Things Considered.

Thanksgiving Is Good For You!

“Research Shows Grateful People Are Healthier.” That's the headline that grabbed Barb Malek's attention and it got her to thinking -- and writing. Check out her timely essay right here. Your Thanksgiving will be all the richer for it. Plus, as I commented on Facebook yesterday, it is of particular value if you're looking for conversation material with those non-believers or even nominal Christians that you'll be sharing turkey with!

And, while I'm thinking of the Maleks, let me mention that John has started a blog as well. A New Jersey boy who came all the way to Nebraska on a track scholarship, John met Barb in college and they somehow decided to stay here. We are among the many who are delighted they did.

John brings to his blog a spiritual insight borne of many years of Bible study, marriage and parenting experience (the Maleks have four grown children, the oldest boys are married too), a lot of reading, church leadership, work in the insurance industry, a love of baseball and decades of exceptional service as a pro-life activist.

John's latest entry at his blog (In Pursuit of Reason) is a fine review of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield.

Vatican Now Okay with Condom Use? Uh, That Would Be a No!

Have you seen the recent headlines?

“Pope Says Condoms Acceptable 'In Certain Cases'.”

“Pope Endorses Condoms for Male Prostitutes For AIDS Prevention.”

Or how about this line in the Telegraph, “After decades of fierce opposition to the use of all contraception, the pontiff will end the Catholic Church's absolute ban on the use of condoms.”

Only one problem.

They ain't even close to the truth.

Here's the real story.

Council Bluffs Doesn't Want Late-Term Abortionist

Here is a terrific Thanksgiving present from the folks in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The City Council there unanimously voted to insure that a particular tract of land would never have an abortion mill on it. This was in response to the announcement a couple of weeks ago by a notorious late-term abortionist that he was looking to build a new abortuary in the town.

“I think the council is unified on this,” Councilman Matt Schultz said. “We’ll try to do what we can to prevent this type of activity.”

That drew loud applause from abortion opponents who filled the council room and overflowed into the hallway outside the chamber. There were so many who came – an estimated 300 – a police officer stood watch at the door to ensure no overcrowding.

Here is a contact page to send a thank-you note to the City Council members. Please use it. We need to give the proper "attaboys" when folks step out to defend life, liberty and decency.

Got a Beef With Your Cell Phone?

What's your beef with your cell phones?

How about too much static and too many dropped calls? Or misleading coverage maps that don't really show the dead zones? Confusing extra charges on your bill? Huge early termination fees and automatic contract extensions that keep you from shopping around?

Or maybe this:

When you open your cell phone bill, or log on to manage your account, do you hold your breath for a moment? Did you blow your voice or text usage limit? Did the kids download something unexpectedly costly? Will this be another $400 bill?

According to a recent FCC study, an estimated 30 million Americans this year got hit by an unexpected, very high cell phone bill. Bill shock costs us all. We spend hours on the phone with customer service. We fork out hundreds in unexpected plan charges.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Cell phone customers in Europe get a quick call or text when they are getting close to their usage limits, and another one when they hit those limits. That puts you in control of your family's cell phone service again.

After such a notice, most of us would quickly change our calling behavior--stop using the personal cell at work, temporarily take away a child's phone, use the land line more if we have one. The FCC is asking for your thoughts on this idea. With your help, it could become the law here, and help us end this costly consumer headache. Take a moment right now to support this common sense idea.

Want to pursue this? It's pretty easy and this website at Hear Us Now provides you all you need to know. So, take a few minutes during Friday's halftime show and let the FCC know your opinions. It could just save you a nice bit of change.

(Thanks to Lonnie Nichols for the tip.)

Scalia: "The Constitution Says What It Says and It Doesn't Say Anything More"

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia slammed the modern U.S. judiciary and the high court for using the idea of a "living constitution" to invent new rules and meanings that have led to a "right" to abortion and decriminalized homosexual conduct.

Scalia made his remarks last Friday during a University of Richmond luncheon lecture entitled "Do Words Matter?" The event was covered both by the Associated Press.

"The Constitution says what it says and it doesn't say anything more," said Scalia to an audience of 250 people, most of them legal professionals and academics.

The 74-year-old jurist, appointed to the high court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, warned that government by judges is inevitable when the original meaning of legal language in laws and constitutions is not respected. This attitude, he said, allows "five out of nine hotshot lawyers to run the country."

"Under the guise of interpreting the Constitution and under the banner of a living Constitution, judges, especially those on the Supreme Court, now wield an enormous amount of political power," continued Scalia, "because they don't just apply the rules that have been written, they create new rules."

Scalia pointed out that the high court distorted the meaning of "due process" (referring to legal procedure) in the 14th Amendment to invent new rights under a "made up" concept of "substantial due process." That has allowed the 14th Amendment to become the gateway to legal abortion and other behaviors, which the constitutional authors never intended and viewed as criminal.

"The due process clause has been distorted so it's no longer a guarantee of process but a guarantee of liberty," Scalia expounded. "But some of the liberties the Supreme Court has found to be protected by that word - liberty - nobody thought constituted a liberty when the 14th Amendment was adopted. Homosexual sodomy? It was criminal in all the states. Abortion? It was criminal in all the states."

He also commented on the modern confirmation process of Supreme Court justices, saying it was akin to a "mini-constitutional convention" because Senators are fighting about how a justice will interpret words.

"The way to change the Constitution is through amendments approved by the people, not by judges altering the meaning of its words," he added...

( story, published in Catholic Online)

Team Obama Doubles Down on Privacy Intrusions

Backing off? Not Team Obama.

Even after the storm of protests over the humiliating (and unconstitutional!) search procedures being used by government-hired TSA employees at airports, Janet Napolitano responds by an arrogant promise of a lot more to come.

“[Terrorists] are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through. I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Today's Posts

"Don't Touch My Junk!" (Obama's Line Too?)

Can You Say, "Infectious Disease," Janet Napolitano?

Oh yes, one other thing you might want to think about while getting ready to fly to Grandmother's house for Thanksgiving.

Those gloves that the TSA screeners are wearing for those outrageously intrusive pat-down searches? Consider how many armpits, bottoms and groins those gloves have touched by the time they get to yours.

No, those gloves are for the health of TSA employees, not you. For your health they care even less than they do your privacy rights.

So, get the Lysol out, Grandma. Your kids may be bringing something else to your house besides the kiddies.

"I Can't Help But Marvel at the Miracle of New Life."

On Claire's Facebook page yesterday, she posted a very brief report about the sidewalk counseling activity from earlier in the day. I thought I'd post here a response she received from a dear lady who is the mother of one of our good friends now living in Colorado:

God bless you for the work you do to preserve these precious lives. After 18 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren (with two more on the way) you would think it would get to be old hat, but each time I hold one of these wonderful little ones, I can't help but marvel at the miracle of new life. Keep up the good work.

"Sentenced to Life"

Malcolm Muggeridge and Alan Thornhill wrote a powerful anti-euthanasia play back in 1982 which enjoyed only a brief run in London's West End. "Sentenced to Life" was an engaging, artful and very fair presentation of the sanctity of life issues which surround the care of the profoundly sick and disabled. And yet, because the message of the film was unmistakeably Christian, it was dismissed as propaganda, preachy, and simplistic.

Meanwhile, on a stage across town, another play dealing with euthanasia was being enacted. It was "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" But, unlike the Muggeridge/Thornhill effort, this play was very well received by critics and public alike. It was a great success and was eventually turned unto a popular motion picture.

But "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" is every bit as much propaganda as "Sentenced to Life." Indeed, it is much more "preachy," substantially less balanced, and allows for much less of a credible presentation of varying points of view on euthanasia than does the Christian play. It is, on several points, an inferior drama than "Sentenced to Life."

Why then the reaction of the critics and the play-goers?

Truth hurts.

In fact, truth does more than hurt. It challenges. It provokes. It convicts. The Christian message, regardless of the form in which it comes, illuminates those very areas which we prefer to keep dark. And especially in this post-Christian era -- when the entire culture is set on hailing such evils as abortion, euthanasia and fetal experimentation even as it derides traditional morality, the sanctity of life, marriage and the home, and the simplicity of Chirist's gospel -- one can be sure that the truth will be marginalized and, if possible, dismissed altogether.

But the Christians in our living room last night who discussed "Sentenced to Life" together are well aware of the challenge of living for Jesus Christ in the midst of a decadent, de-constructing culture. We are, after all, Christian pro-life activists. And so we were able to not only appreciate the brilliant artistry of the play but to willingly apply its lessons.

And that means that we love those confronted by life's difficulties; that we sacrificially give the respect, the care, and the time needed for those suffering; that we humbly, hopefully minister to the aged, the disabled, the lonely, the confused, the sick and the alienated.

This is the primary message of "Sentenced to Life", that we care enough to help people live out whatever time God gives them (and under whatever circumstances) rather than do the expedient, self-centered thing; namely, help them to die and get out of our way.

And Christians serve the suffering in the light of their Savior and by His power. As they do so, they lovingly build a culture a life. And that is the best argument of all to the culture of death.

This is perhaps why the drama critic for the New Scientist back in 1982 ended his review of both plays the way he did. For after characterizing "Sentenced to Life" as "passionate propaganda" that drags along with an obvious religious theme and then praising "Whose Life Is It Anyway" as wittier, livelier, funnier with the audience reveling in the ending, the critic nevertheless had this to say in his final paragraph -- "Strangely, though, it is the Muggeridge-Thornhill tract that leaves the more lasting impression, and the feeling that that the authors are right..."

"Sentenced to Life" isn't an easy to obtain play but it can be found by looking through old book stores on the web. Believe me, you'll find it worthwhile. And, if you're fortunate enough to have a few friends to read and discuss the book with you like we have in Vital Signs' Book It! meetings, you're better off still.

Al Gore Flips on Ethanol; Admits He's a Political Phony

While speaking at an environmental conference in Athens, Greece (it's the only kind of gig he can get nowadays) former Vice-President of the United States and the fellow who came within a few hanging chads of becoming the nation's Commander in Chief, Al Gore surprised many when he completely reversed himself on the issue of ethanol being an important eco-friendly tool.

Gore now says (just weeks before the tax credits for ethanol are up for renewal) that corn-based ethanol isn't the way to go after all. "It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first generation ethanol," said Gore. "First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small."

He also blamed the lobbyists working for ethanol companies for keeping the ineffective, expensive subsidy program going.

But wait. Didn't Al Gore once loudly trumpet ethanol as an energy-efficient fuel, one that government desperately needed to get behind? Wasn't he once standing arm in arm with those lobbyists he now denounces?


But, in a shockingly candid moment (here's what happens when you don't have handlers and a teleprompter), Gore admitted his former position was not based on solid scientific evidence. And it didn't represent the kind of careful, responsible, disinterested decision one hopes for in leadership.

"One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."

In other words, Al Gore's ethanol support was a matter of the most petty political pandering. Principles, facts and the good of the people be damned -- Gore was looking for votes! And he was willing to say anything in order to get them.

And this guy nearly became our President?

Thank the Lord for those hanging chads.

G.O.P. Joys

Republican Blake Farenthold has finally been declared the winner in an extremely tight race in Texas Congressional District 27. His defeat of career politician and seemingly invincible Solomon Ortiz (first elected to the House in 1983) represents one of the most stunning of political upsets and one which reveals just how powerful the Tea Party sentiments are among American voters.

Farenthold's victory also brings to 62 the number of House gains for the Republicans in this election.

Four others are yet to be decided with Republican Ann Marie Buerkle's bid to take over New York's 25th District looking particularly probable.

The elephant is happy.

Obama Won't Stand Up to TSA. How Will He Stand Up to North Korea?

President Barack Obama cannot stand up to his own TSA airport screeners. In fact, he and his team leaders can't get straight just what they think about the new intrusive procedures of the TSA that has the whole country upset.

So what gives us any hope that he can stand up to the likes of Kim Jong-Il?

Here's the AFP story about North Korea's artillery attack on a South Korean island yesterday -- an attack that killed one South Korean soldier, injured a dozen others, destroyed homes and, quite likely, was the opening of war.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Today's Posts

The Political Arena of the First Christmas

From a purely logical point of view, the Advent of Christ occurred at a most inconvenient time and in a most inhospitable place. The details of this scheme certainly would not have been cleared by professional planners or modern-day management consultants. I mean the circumstances seemed so wrong.

Caesar Augustus, the ruler of the Roman world into which Jesus was born, was no friend of religious freedom. Indeed, he was a tyrant of the old school who used repression, intimidation and violence as effective controls over the populations he dominated. And his underlings in the chain of command? Just as bad. Quirinius, the governor of Syria was a thug and Herod, the Roman-acclaimed King of the Jews who controlled Palestine, was a vicious assassin.

This then was the hostile, unstable, sin-sick political situation into which God sent His Son for His plan of redemption to be acted out. It’s absolutely amazing how God’s ways are so different than ours, isn’t it? And, not only different but superior beyond measure. For salvation was secured in this alarmingly dangerous situation and God’s overcoming power was manifested all the more brilliantly because of its background. In our present political instability, this Christmas reality is a good one to remember.

A similar divine irony is in play in Matthew 2:6 where Jesus is presented as not only the ruler of Israel but her shepherd too. Now the Jews knew all too well how earthly rulers conducted themselves. After all, they had been dominated by ruthless potentates during much of their history and were now oppressed by Rome’s insanely vicious tyrant, Herod. But the rule of the Messiah was to be radically different. And with the image of the Shepherd, the Holy Spirit through Matthew was emphasizing the tenderness, the devotion, the sacrificial love that would mark the Messiah’s reign. And by this compassion, Jesus Christ would rule not over territory alone but over the human heart as well.

Later, in Jesus’ teaching ministry, He graciously offered Israel this radically different kingdom, a kingdom marked by love and holiness and peace. But Israel rejected it. The price -- a whole-hearted submission to God -- was just too high for self-righteous, self-satisfied people to pay. The sheep disdained their Shepherd, preferring even the tyranny of Rome to God’s loving deliverer.

What a cataclysmic tragedy this was. And yet, despite this, God went on to make a way for Israel (and the entire world) to yet enter the peace of His kingdom. How? The ruler would serve as the Good Shepherd, even to the willing surrender of His own life for the sheep. Right here, in the very beginning of the Christmas story, is a dramatic foreshadowing of that great present that would be offered the whole world; namely, the sacrifice of Jesus as payment for the sins of the world.

"When Swing Was King" Review

I'm finishing the LifeSharer letter (a year-end review written a month early) but I thought I'd post this excerpt for our friends who share our excitement over our new "When Swing Was King" program.

Now, in a review of the blessings of 2010, I surely can’t leave out the development of “When Swing Was King,” ...Vital Signs Ministries’ unique combination of big band music, an informative and entertaining commentary, a photo display showing life and popular culture of the era…and the chance to make solid new friendships with the residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other retirement centers. We only came up with the idea in late summer but, boy, how it has taken off. Indeed, before Christmas Day dawns, we will have presented “When Swing Was King” 27 times! And in 11 different facilities! And with 7 of them putting us on their monthly schedule! (I know, I'm asking what's wrong with those other four activity directors too!)

The residents have absolutely loved it. Hearing their gratitude and seeing their enjoyment has been incredibly invigorating to Claire and me. They love the music. They are thrilled with the memories. The show creates delightful conversations with each other. They appreciate the trivia and the comedy I share, often having their own stories which they want to share afterward. We have frequently heard the word “professional” used of the programs by activity directors and visitors. That’s splendid. But even more welcome are the smiling faces, the tender hands applauding each number and the warm invitations to “please, come back soon!”

In order to keep the experience fresh for our audiences, we have already created 5 different volumes of “When Swing Was King.” That's 13 big band songs and a couple of hundred photos each. We’re already working hard on our Christmas volume and will then work on producing another 6 for the regular series. Little wonder then that our Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons will feature the strains of Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo and Duke Ellington in the background! What a joy this ministry has been for us.

With "Parasite Singles" & Low Birth Rates, Japan is Dying

Japan is dying...literally.

With a rapidly aging population with fewer and fewer young people to carry on, Japan represents one of the worst cases of "birth dearth" in the world.

Close observers had known trouble was coming but the crisis hit harder and faster than expected. The 2005 census, for instance, showed that Japan's number of deaths exceeded that of births for the first time. And it's not getting any better.

Here from The Economist:

Since the mid-1970s, when it became clear that the number of births was resolutely declining, Japanese governments have made efforts to encourage people to have more babies. But for all that they have increased child benefits and provided day-care centres in the past 30 years, the birth rate has remained stubbornly low. One reason is that in Japan, unlike in the West, marriage is still more or less a prerequisite for having children. Only 2% of births take place out of wedlock. And weddings cost a lot of money. The more elaborate sort may involve renting a chocolate-box “church” and hiring or buying at least three bridal outfits. The average cost of a Japanese wedding is about ¥3.2m ($40,000).

Having gone to all that trouble, married couples do, in fact, have an average of slightly more than two children, just above what is needed for births to exceed deaths. The trouble is that fewer and fewer people get married. Women wait ever longer and increasingly do not bother at all. According to the NIPSSR, six out of ten women in their mid- to late 20s, which used to be the peak child-bearing age, are still unwed. In 1970 the figure was two out of ten. And almost half the men between 30 and 34 were unmarried in 2005, more than three times as many as 30 years ago...

One of Japan’s most prominent sociologists, Masahiro Yamada of Chuo University, thinks that most young Japanese women still want to be housewives, but are struggling to find a breadwinner who earns enough to support them. He points out that half the young people of prime marrying age -- 20-34 -- still live with their parents. In the 1990s he coined the term “parasite singles” to describe them. They seemed to be getting a good deal, saving money on rent and spending it on foreign travel and luxury goods instead. If they wanted privacy, they could always go to one of Japan’s ubiquitous love hotels...

Florian Coulmas of the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo, who has made a special study of population issues in Japan, has no easy explanations for the low birth rate, but describes it as the “bitter fruit of success” in Japanese demography. “A growing percentage of the population, both married and never married, without children has no vested interest in society, with hitherto unknown consequences for its self-image and sense of purpose,” he writes.

TSA Agents Exempt From TSA Search Procedures

Here, from a local TV news station in Albuquerque, is a report on how TSA agents, those people who are searching your stuff and "touching your junk" during airport screening, are exempt from such searches even though they bring themselves, their bags and their backpacks into supposedly secured areas.

The clip is a couple of years old but the TSA exemptions it reports on are still in place. It is but one more example of how Homeland Security cares more about hassling innocent air travelers than it does about providing fair and effective security.

NPR Gets a Lot More of Your Money Than It Admits

In the dust up after Juan Williams' firing from National Public Radio (1 and 2), many began calling on Congress to defund the leftist media organization. But NPR President Vivian Schiller dismissed the controversy by explaining that NPR received only a scant 3% of its money from taxpayer dollars.

Was Vivian Schiller fibbing?

Mark Browning over at American Thinker does the math.

...To understand NPR funding, we have to recognize that public radio is a two-tier operation. There is, on the one hand, the network itself, the Washington-based producer of programs that actually terminated Juan Williams' contract. On the other hand, there is the collection of some nine hundred NPR affiliate radio stations who bring this programming to radios around the United States. We cannot hope to understand NPR's finances without understanding the stations as well, so let's begin there.

According to information available from the NPR website, local radio station money comes from the following sources:

32.1% Individual contributions

21.1% Business contributions

13.6% University funds

10.1% Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds

9.6% Foundation money

5.6% Federal, state, and local government funds

7.6% Other

At first glance, this distribution of funds seems to confirm that public radio's support does not come in large amounts from the direct allocation of tax moneys. After all, 5.6% is not a gigantic portion of the budget, is it? But let's look more closely. That 10.1% that comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is 99% provided by -- you guessed it -- the federal government. Those university funds, whenever they are provided by a public university, represent taxpayer-provided dollars. We can safely assert that three out of four university-supported stations are publicly funded, which means that more than 10% (three-quarters of that 13.6%) is taken from the taxpayer's pockets.

So far, we find that NPR member stations count on direct or indirect taxpayer money for some 25% of their funds -- and that's before we consider some of the largest portions of their budgets...

Given that only 89% of the NPR income pie comes from external sources (the rest coming from investment returns), it is not unreasonable to assert that more than 25% of NPR funds from outside sources actually comes from taxpayers. That's not an overwhelming portion of the budget, but it's a long way from two to three percent.

As annoying as I find the bias at MSNBC or the New York Times, I will respect to the end their right to be as biased as they'd like. What they do with their money and whatever funds they can convince advertisers to kick in is their own business. The same does not apply to the likes of NPR. That's your money and my money going into their coffers and funding that unbalanced message. We need to demand that NPR either be pushed away from the public trough or be required to present a modicum of evenhandedness.

Use this article in composing your letters to Congress. 3% or 25% or whatever it is -- the government shouldn't be paying anything into the leftwing propaganda machine that is NPR. Defund the thing. Now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Today's Posts

Cuba's Communist Congress Ignores Human Rights. Surprised?

It's been 13 years since Cuba has enjoyed a meeting of the Cuban Communist Congress, that association which is supposed to be “the highest leading force of society and the State.” Most Cubans were not thrilled at the news. After all, the 5 previous Congresses had not changed anything. Cuba was still Cuba -- beautiful but irreparably soiled by Castro's ineffiecient, stifling and ugly brand of tyranny.

Still, there were a few (there will always be dreamers) who hoped that this time might finally be different, that this time there would be some meaningful social and civil rights reforms.

But when the booklet came out explaining the guidelines for the 6th Congress (to be held next April), there wasn't word one about these critical matters. The following comments come from Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez:

...There is not a single mention of openings in the area of civil rights, nor of loosening the rigid political structure that holds us in its grip.

Nor is there any mention of eliminating the absurd restrictions on travel that prevent Cubans from freely entering and leaving our own country, much less the ability to form parties other than the one with the hammer and sickle, nor of a chance to vote in direct elections for the president.

The brochure only discusses issues of finance and productivity; civic conquests will have to wait or happen in parallel with the rigid framework of this document...

Although many of the economic proposals raised in this document head in the desired direction — of reform and opening — the fact is that neither the depth nor the speed at which these adjustments might be made is likely to calm the frustration of most Cubans.

The most heated issue of this party meeting seems to be the possible re-election of Fidel Castro as the eternal leader of the Cuban Communist Party, or his replacement by another figure, undoubtedly his younger brother who has already inherited the leadership of the nation. The expectations around this decision, however, were cut short by the announcement of a national conference — in parallel with the congress — where internal organizational issues will be discussed.

A date for this has not yet been set, but the planned conference removes all political decisions from the PCC Congress. Such that the real congress will not be the one that occurs in the spring of this coming year, but another, we don’t yet know when or where. What we do know is that there is no doubt that it will mark my life — our lives — with the same stubbornness and blindness of every other Party meeting since the year of my birth.

It's a Mad, Mad and Wicked World (A Round-up)

* From George Soros -- "Today China has not only a more vigorous economy, but actually a better functioning government than the United States."

* Yipes! Talk about Big Brother government! Senate Bill 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, would put all food production (including your backyard garden) under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security. Among the far-reaching scope of this intrusive law, would be the criminalization of storing your own seeds and the surrender of ultimate control to the World Trade Organization. (1 and 2).

* From the euthanasia watch comes this item. New York Times writer Paul Krugman deridingly dismisses the talk of "death panels" by critics of ObamaCare and then proceeds to insist that "death panels" will be necessary to bring down medical costs for the rest of us! Check out the ABC videotape for proof of his hypocritical rant.

* San Francisco 49ers guard Chilo Rachal was demoted for last Sunday's game with the St. Louis Rams. The standout player was benched at the start of the game by outspoken Christian coach, Mike Singletary. And what was Rachal's offense? Drugs? DUI? Fighting? Gambling on the game? No, Rachal had missed two days of practice last week because of the birth of his son, Chilo Jr. So much for family values.

* As Democrats lined up to defend the intrusive search procedures employed by the TSA in American airports -- that's right; Democrats are defending these dangerous, indecent, and clearly unconstitutional search techniques -- Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill refered to the grope searches as getting a dose of "love pats." Dismissing the health dangers of the radioactive naked body scans, she mewed, "I'm wildly excited that I can walk through a machine instead of getting my dose of love pats."

* Victoria Kolakowski is, as far as we know, the first transgendered person in the United States to become a judge. She openly admits that her campaign (she barely won) stressed her championing of "diversity" as much as it touted her 20 years as a lawyer. She prides herself most on working "to break down barriers and blaze a trail in the legal profession" as when she married her wife, an editor at the Bay Area Reporter.

"Black Men Need to Be in the Home"

Even a liberal columnist like Bob Herbert understands that government isn't the solution to the extreme problems facing black Americans. Here are some thoughts from his latest New York Times column:

...We know by now, of course, that the situation is grave. We know that more than a third of black children live in poverty; that more than 70 percent are born to unwed mothers; that by the time they reach their mid-30s, a majority of black men without a high school diploma has spent time in prison. We know all this, but no one seems to know how to turn things around. No one has been able to stop this steady plunge of young black Americans into a socioeconomic abyss...

It is inconceivable in this atmosphere that blacks themselves will not mobilize in a major way to save these young people. I see no other alternative.

The first and most important step would be a major effort to begin knitting the black family back together. There is no way to overstate the myriad risks faced by children whose parents have effectively abandoned them. It’s the family that protects the child against ignorance and physical harm, that offers emotional security and the foundation for a strong sense of self, that enables a child to believe — truly — that wonderful things are possible.

All of that is missing in the lives of too many black children.

I wouldn’t for a moment discount the terrible toll that racial and economic injustice have taken, decade after decade, on the lives of millions of black Americans. But that is no reason to abandon one’s children or give in to the continued onslaught of those who would do you ill. One has to fight on all fronts, as my Uncle Robert said.

Black men need to be in the home, providing for their children. The community at large — including the many who have done well, who have secured a place in the middle or upper classes — needs to coalesce to provide support and assistance to those still struggling...

Why Won't the U.S. Learn from Israel About Airport Security?

Yesterday Michelle Sullivan passed along on her Facebook page this tantalizing scenario from Kelly Anderson Wright -- "The Israelis are developing an airport security device that will eliminate full-body scanners. Simply step into a private booth that detonates any explosive device you have on you. No racial profiling, no long, expensive trials...... swift, immediate justice, and more seats for standby passengers!"

Sounds effective, huh?

But seriously, the Israelis do know a thing or two about airport security. They have been the terrorists' Number One target for decades and yet they have managed to keep their airports safe and free -- without long lines and hassled passengers, without the gross security breaches that have plagued American airports, and without naked body scans and groping screeners.

Why can't we learn from the best?

Straight From Big Sister

From Nanny State to Police State

The Washington Times has TSA's number -- again.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has crossed the line. As if subjecting millions of Americans to X-rated x-ray scans and public groping sessions weren't bad enough, the agency now threatens $11,000 in fines against anyone refusing to submit to humiliation at the airport.

Oceanside, Calif., resident John Tyner found this out after he posted on YouTube a video of his degrading encounter with TSA screeners. Mr. Tyner's catchy phrase, "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested," spread quickly, thanks to attention provided by the Drudge Report. TSA was not amused, and an official announced Monday that Mr. Tyner faces punishment for leaving the airport without submitting to the high-tech or low-tech molestation options.

The term is not used lightly. Under 18 U.S. Code Section 2244, " 'sexual contact' means the intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh or buttocks of any person with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade." It's no coincidence that TSA initiated sexual-contact pat-downs after fliers began to refuse the pornographic scanners. There can be no question that when threats of civil punishment are used to ensure compliance, those encounters with the TSA lose their status as a voluntary transaction. It's even more outrageous that these unnecessary searches are being conducted on children...

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano insists that anyone who has a problem with the state of affairs simply shouldn't fly. Unelected bureaucrats like Ms. Napolitano - known across the blogosphere as Big Sister - have no business making decisions that touch upon such a fundamental right as the ability of innocent citizens to travel freely. In Ms. Napolitano's view, Americans wishing to visit family and friends across the country exercise a privilege granted by the government. Air travel is no longer a free transaction between a member of the public and an airline.

Once freedom at airports is "locked down," it's inevitable that TSA will next target buses, trains and the Metro. After all, al Qaeda has attacked each of these modes of transportation in other parts of the world. Strict controls on internal travel is the hallmark of a police state...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Today's Posts

Washington Times Editorial: "Obama's Hand in Your Crotch"

The Transportation Security Administration's demeaning new "enhanced pat-down" procedures are a direct result of the Obama administration's willful blindness to the threat from Islamic radicals. While better tools are available to keep air travelers safe, they would involve recognizing the threat for what it is, which is something the White House will never do.

El Al, Israel's national airline, employs a smarter approach. Any airline representing the state of Israel is a natural - some might say preeminent - target for terrorist attacks. Yet El Al has one of the best security records in the world and doesn't resort to wide-scale use of methods that would under other circumstances constitute sexual assault. The Israelis have achieved this track record of safety by employing sophisticated intelligence analysis which allows them to predict which travelers constitute a possible threat and which do not. Resources are then focused on the more probable threats with minimal intrusion on those who are likely not to be terrorists.

Here in the United States, these sophisticated techniques have roundly been denounced as discriminatory "profiling." Allegedly postracial America has been unable to come to grips with the difference between immoral and illegal racial discrimination and the prudent use of the types of techniques that police on the beat use every day, which is similar to practices the customs service applies to assessing which packages being sent into the country are licit and which were sent by smugglers. TSA believes an 80-year-old grandmother deserves the same level of scrutiny at an airport terminal checkpoint as a 19-year-old male exchange student from Yemen. This policy not only is a waste of time and resources, it denies reality.

The new crotch-inspection policy is a direct result of al Qaeda underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed attempt to take down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 last Christmas. At the time, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, in masterful doublespeak, "Once the incident occurred, the system worked." However, the incident itself was a symptom of systemic failure. Abdulmutallab's name was on various watch lists. He had traveled to Yemen to network with al Qaeda. Warnings concerning him had been received from Yemen and Britain. His father had even attempted to notify the United States about the coming attack. None of this made an impression.

Despite all the government bureaucracy and TSA's intrusive inspection practices, Abdulmutallab's attack was only foiled because of a faulty bomb and the actions of alert passengers. Now all passengers have to pay the price by having their privacy (and their privates) invaded, which is the Obama administration's alternative to instituting a policy that will target the source of the problem. Indeed, they refuse to admit that a Muslim problem exists.

The Obama administration prides itself on seeking purportedly "intelligent" solutions to complex problems, but it has no such answer to air safety. Its policy for protecting American travelers is to simply and superficially check everyone, and tell those who have concerns about their personal privacy to take it or leave it. So when a TSA worker asks to examine your private parts, don't blame the terrorists, blame an administration that refuses to admit that America is at war with Islamic radicalism.

(One of the best commentaries to date. Thanks Washington Times!)

A Life-Saving, Soul-Saving Song from Nick Cannon

One can never hear too much of this Nick Cannon song or watch too often the inspiring video he produced. I was moved to post it again by seeing it over on Randy Alcorn's blog.

The song suggests how influential a strong, principled man can be in abortion decisions. So often when I speak to young men outside abortion clinics, I tell them, "My friend, you can be a hero today. A lifesaver. Come on; you know that in your soul you are directed stand up for children, not to ignore them when they're about to be hurt by the bad guys. Please, do the right thing this morning."

Here is a story through song of a young man who took such a challenge to heart.

Enjoy it and pass it on to others. (And yes, I've provided the lyrics after the clip.)

"Can I Live"
(featuring Anthony Hamilton)

Talking Ma
I know the Situation is Personal
But it something that has to be told
As I was making this beat
You was all I could think about you heard my voice

[Verse 1]
Yeah Just think Just Think
What if you could Just
Just blink your self away..
Just Just wait just pause for a second
Let me plead my case
It's the late 70's Huh
You Seventeen huh
And having me that will ruin everything huh
It's alot of angels waiting on their wings
You see me in your sleep so you cant kill your dreams
300 Dollars thats the price of living what?
Mommy I dont like this clinic
Hopefully you'll make the right decision
And dont go through with the Knife incision
But it's hard to make the right move
When you in high school
How you have to work all day and take night school
Hopping off da bus when the rain is pouring
What you want morning sickness or the sickness of mourning

I'll Always Be a part of you
Trust Your Soul Know it's always true
If I Could Talk I'd Say To You
I'll Always Be a part of you
Trust Your Soul Know it's always true
If I Could Talk I'd Say To You

[Verse 2]
I am a child of the king
Ain't no need to go fear me
And I see the flowing tears so know that you hear me
When I move in your womb that's me being scary
Cause who knows what my future holds
Yo the truth be told you ain't told a soul
Yo you ain't even showing I'm just 2 months old
Through your clothes try to hide me deny me
Went up 3 sizes
Your pride got you lying saying ain't nothing but a migraine
It ain't surprising you not trying to be in Wic food lines
Your friends will look at you funny but look at you mommy
That's a life inside you look at your tummy
What is becoming ma I am Oprah bound
You can tell he's a star from the Ultrasound
Our Sprits Connected Doors Open Now
Nothing But Love And Respect Thanks For Holding Me Down She Let Me Live...

I'll Always Be a part of you
Trust Your Soul Know it's always true
If I Could Talk I'd Say To You
I'll Always Be apart of you
Trust Your Soul Know it's always true
If I Could Talk I'd Say To You
[Repeat 2]

[Nick Talking]

It's uplifting foreal yall
I ain't passing no judgement
Ain't making no decisions
I am just telling ya'll my story
I love life
I love my mother for giving me life
We all need to appreciate life
A strong woman that had to make a sacrifice
Thanks for listening
Thanks for listening
Mama thanks for listening

Liberal Psychologists' Most Tragic Blind Spot: Abortion

Over at Erase the Need, Barb Malek has another of her illuminating pro-life, pro-woman essays. You'll find this one under the provocative title, "The Damage Abortion Does to Women, Part I: The American Psychological Association is a Big Liar!"

Intrigued? You should be. Go on over.

Will You Be Paying for Chemical Abortions?

Could your insurance plan be required to cover abortion-inducing drugs? A known loophole in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) could allow pro-abortion advocates to sneak this abortion mandate through the back door. If a federal agency determines “contraception” is “preventive care” every American will be obligated to subsidize abortion through their health insurance premiums...

Mary Novick has more over at the Americans United for Life blog. It's very important information to pass along.

He Just Can't Stay Home: Obama Headed Abroad Again

If President Barack Obama is not yet convinced that his international star power has faded, his next round of transatlantic summitry should clear up any lingering doubts.

Coming off a marathon Asia trip where Obama often found himself rebuffed by fellow world leaders, he will head to Europe this week where the agenda will be clouded by a growing divide over economic strategy and a sense of neglect among traditional U.S. allies...

If President Barack Obama is not yet convinced that his international star power has faded, his next round of transatlantic summitry should clear up any lingering doubts.

Coming off a marathon Asia trip where Obama often found himself rebuffed by fellow world leaders, he will head to Europe this week where the agenda will be clouded by a growing divide over economic strategy and a sense of neglect among traditional U.S. allies...

Obama may also have to deal with fallout from last week's Group of 20 summit in Seoul, where he faced a backlash over U.S. monetary easing policy, resistance to his push for hard targets on global balanced growth and reluctance to join in pressuring China over its currency.

Reflecting a growing estrangement over economic policy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron have strongly opposed Obama's call for stimulating economic expansion with more government spending. They prefer to stress fiscal discipline.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble took the rhetoric to a new level earlier this month when he said the Federal Reserve's decision to pump $600 billion into the U.S. economy was "clueless." Germany, China and other big exporters see it as a backdoor way to cheapen the dollar and give U.S. goods a trade advantage...

You Object to Being Groped? What? Are You Not Patriotic?

"It's all about security," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said. "It's all about everybody recognizing their role."

Despite officials' insistence that they had taken care to prepare the American flying public, the flurry of criticism from private citizens to airline pilots' groups suggested that Napolitano and other federal officials had been caught off guard.

In other words, you, the citizen, are supposed to endure whatever the Nanny State orders you to do. In Janet Napolitano's mind, that's your role.

Forget about the 4th Amendment. Forget about the injustice of innocent people being treated like criminals. Forget about standards of personal privacy and decency. And, while you're at it, forget about all of the huge holes in our nation's security that the Obama administration's Homeland Security is doing nothing about: the borders, the ports, waves of illegal immigrants, the pro-terror groups inside the U.S.

And "caught off guard?" For crying out loud, how could the government assume that such intrusive procedures as dangerously radioactive naked body scans and groping hand searches would not create a firestorm of protest?

Once again, the government under Barack Obama, has shown itself mindlessly out of touch with the American people, arrogant, completely indifferent to the U.S. Constitution which expressly prohibits unwarranted searches, and oh-so-willing to get tough and aggressive not with criminals but with innocent American citizens!

Republican Congress, are you listening? TSA reform cannot come fast enough.

Big Brother or Big Bully? Investigation & Fines Looming for Groping Resister.

You know you've got a serious cultural problem when a fellow that the populace considers a hero is considered by the government as a criminal.

The Transportation Security Administration has opened an investigation targeting John Tyner, the Oceanside man who left Lindbergh Field under duress on Saturday morning after refusing to undertake a full body scan.

Tyner recorded the half-hour long encounter on his cell phone and later posted it to his personal blog, along with an extensive account of the incident. The blog went viral, attracting hundreds of thousands of readers and thousands of comments.

Michael J. Aguilar, chief of the TSA office in San Diego, called a news conference at the airport Monday afternoon to announce the probe. He said the investigation could lead to prosecution and civil penalties of up to $11,000.

TSA agents had told Tyner on Saturday that he could be fined up to $10,000.

“That’s the old fine,” Aguilar said. “It has been increased.”...

Aguilar said that once a passenger enters the security area, there is a legal obligation to follow through with the process.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Today's Posts

Special Needs, Special Caring

In Romans 12:10, the Apostle Paul urges Christians to "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 12:23-24, he explains the need to give all the more honor to those who are denied it by the world.

These are important exhortations to Vital Signs Ministries, seeking as we do to build a culture of life in which all people are treated with respect, dignity and compassion. But in an irreligious culture, one dominated by pragmatics, profits and the pursuit of self-indulgent pleasure, there are certain types of people who are continually being marginalized.

And worse.

I've been reflecting anew on this challenge these last few days -- days which have included dealing with my Mom in her declining health, presenting "When Swing Was King" over the weekend in two nursing homes; leading my church yesterday in observing the Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, being asked to give prayers yesterday afternoon at a public vigil outside the northwest Planned Parenthood, sidewalk counseling this morning at the Bellevue abortion clinic, preparing to talk to little kids at a church AWANA program on Wednesday night and, after it was called to my attention by high school classmate Ron Rizzo, thinking about how I might observe Special Education Week.

I know that part of the challenge is to keep on doing such things as I mention above. But to do them with renewed vigor, humility, gratitude and joy. I also need to link them together; that is, to seek the connection between the preborn child, the disabled teenager, the prisoner of conscience, and the aged grandparent. That connection is one of common humanity, yes. But it is a stronger, more vital connection too -- the bond of grace.

There are other challenges too. For instance, I must pray more fervently, more frequently for people who are specially targeted or who are considered "throwaways." I must be willing to break out of established patterns and comfort zones in order to plead their cause. And, when I can (and I can an awful lot more than I'm usually given to), be ready to volunteer my hands in their service.

I must encourage others to honor those whom the world despises. And I must give thanks and encouragement to the caregivers who effectively, faithfully serve people with special needs all the time.

So, thank you to special education teachers. You are doing a noble and wonderful ministry. Thank you to nurses and aides and therapists and activity directors and all others who work in the homes for the aged, orphanages and hospitals. Your work is of exceptional value. Thank you to adoptive parents, to CPC volunteers, to intercessors, to missionaries, and to all others who are putting Paul's exhortations into loving reality. God sees your heartfelt service and His rewards will prove well worth your every sacrifice. But we need to thank you too.

"Going Postal" Means Going Broke!

The U.S. Postal Service boasts that it has cut billions in expenses and dropped over 100,000 full-time workers. Nevertheless, because of the economy and the changing technology (e-mails are free, you know), it is losing more money than ever.

Like a net loss of $8.5 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That's more than double the $3.8 billion from the year before.

Class, can you say "Privatization?"

Did Toy Story 3 Contain a Warning for the Democrats?

Just a couple of days before the mid-term elections, author Andrew Klavan explored for the L.A. Times some of the striking parallels between the philosophic forces shaping the elections and...Toy Story 3.

Sound wild? Well, I guess it is. But Klavan makes some very solid points. And, as usual, he makes them in a memorable, entertaining way.

Thanks to Kathryn Judson for pointing out this nifty article. (And, for those of you who haven't seen the movie yet, be careful of a few spoilers.)

...Which brings us back to the midterm election, which may also be the beginning of a narrow escape indeed -- a narrow escape from a leftist culture that has sought for 40 years to people and shape our imaginations with Lots-o'-Huggin' Bears, Big Babies and sissified men; an escape from race-baiters and gender warriors who have sought to take away our pride in our heroic cowboy past and replace it with a droning litany of our all-too-human sins; an escape from an intellectual and political elite who have attempted to destroy our Space Age optimism by selling us environmental hysteria, guilt and fear.

Most of all, let's hope this "Toy Story 3" election is the beginning of an escape from the smothering notion that we are helpless victims who need to live in a daycare state that supplies our every need. Perhaps then we can return to the great American conception of ourselves as loyal, courageous and resourceful individuals fashioned by our creator to be free, and well able to find our own way to infinity and beyond.