Friday, July 26, 2013

Today's Posts

Of Muslim Persecution of Christians (And Other Lawlessness)

It's a weird, wicked and truly lawless world we live in. Want a few examples from today's news?

Here's a story about a young gangster who was convicted of first-degree murder, in large part due to the fact that he had tattooed on his chest a detailed depiction of the murder.  While over here is a story of the U.S. border patrol deporting an illegal alien. That's news in itself, yes. But this fellow, over a 25 year period, had been convicted of 37 crimes in the U.S. -- crimes ranging from a plethora of misdemeanors to such heavy felonies as burglary, robbery, drug crimes, and assault on a federal officer.

That's lawlessness.

But so is this example of vote fraud...as well as the underlying apathy that promotes and enables it. But that's nothing compared to a promotion of infanticide. And that's just the point emphasized by a pro-life activist who wondered if college students (raised in a world where abortion is considered a sacrament by progressives) would actually sign a petition to legalize “fourth trimester” abortions -- even if they were carefully reminded that would mean the killing of babies who were already born. Spoiler alert...they would.

For crime of the same ironic type, here is a commentary on the United Nation's honoring, of all people, the cowardly and murdering tyrant, Che Guevera. While, at the same time, the U.S. White House cannot be bothered to protest the horrendously unjust persecution of an American pastor by Iran.

That's lawlessness.

But then that last story is par for a course that includes the American media's unconscionable indifference to the persecution of Christians around the world as well as billions of dollars that American taxpayers are forced to donate to Muslim nations every year -- even when those nations have terrible human rights records. Indeed, even when those nations are openly antagonistic to the United States.

Check it out. This comes from David French's compelling column in National Review, "Our Pathetic Support for Muslim Oppression."

After quoting the Hoover Institute's Bruce Thornton ("Few people realize that we are today living through the largest persecution of Christians in history, worse even than the famous attacks under ancient Roman emperors like Diocletian and Nero…And most of this persecution is taking place at the hands of Muslims. Of the top fifty countries persecuting Christians, forty-two have either a Muslim majority or have sizable Muslim populations."), French writes:

It is a sign that we have utterly lost our minds that many Americans worry far more about “Islamophobia” than they do about this very real oppression, and many Americans will mock critics of the Muslim world as bigots or extremists for condemning conduct that should shock the conscience of any civilized person. 

It’s one thing to be so blinded by multicultural nonsense (failing to appreciate that it is the Muslim world — not America — that desperately needs to embrace “diversity”) that we can’t clearly identify evil, it’s another thing entirely to subsidize oppression on a grand scale. Read this ABC News chart of American aid recipients and weep:



I’m no math major, but even a lawyer can see that we subsidize oppressive Muslim governments to the tune of roughly $8 billion per year — collectively far more than we give our closest Middle Eastern ally (and vibrant Democracy), Israel. We’ve certainly debated aid for Egypt in recent weeks and months, but note that Pakistan receives far more aid than Egypt. At the ACLJ we have an office in Pakistan that works overtime defending Christians from trumped-up blasphemy charges, and gruesome tales of Pakistani intolerance are legion. Shall we also mention Osama bin Laden’s hiding place for the better part of a decade, or the Pakistani intelligence service’s spotty (at best) record on fighting the Afghan Taliban? Pakistan has American blood on its hands and American dollars in its banks.

For too long — through Republican and Democratic administrations — we’ve turned away from abuse of women, ignored the persecution of Christians, made excuses for terrorism, and attached few meaningful conditions to our billions upon billions of dollars in aid. Instead, we’ve wrung our hands about our own “imperialism,” vigilantly policed our alleged Islamophobia, and kept writing checks to intolerant regimes — even as extremism flourished.

At some point this policy moves from na├»ve, to foolish, to pathetic, and — ultimately — to evil. Right now, we’re pathetic. If we keep paying for this oppression, we’ll be complicit in evil.  


Lawlessness to the max. Come, Lord Jesus.

A Few Numbers Democrats Don't Care to Mention

In follow up remarks to Barack Obama's long and windy economics speech earlier this week, White House spokesman Jay Carney praised the president for pulling the nation from the depths of the "Great Recession" by creating 7.2 million private sector jobs.

No kidding. 7.2 million jobs.

But then Jay Carney also believes in unicorns, elves, and ObamaCare.

Here, however, are some real numbers that Mr. Obama, Mr. Carney or any other Democrat wants to think about.

* During Obama's presidency, 9.5 million Americans have dropped out of the labor force.

* For every job created in this time, we have lost 1.3 jobs. I'm no math wizard but I'm pretty sure that's going backwards, guys, not forward.

* There are 15 million more Americans on food stamps today than when Obama was sworn in as our President. So even if we believe Mr. Carney's figure, that means we've put two people on the food stamps list for each person who has managed to land a new job.

Like I said, the Democrats don't want to think about these all-too-real economic indicators. But they are numbers that the rest of us can't afford not to think about -- long and hard.

It's Not the Scandals That Are Phony, Mr. President

“With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball. (President Obama, Wednesday.)

Question: How many Americans have to be murdered in an al-Qaeda attack on a U.S. consulate before it stops being a “phony” scandal?

Answer: If Barack Obama is president, more than four.

Writers across the spectrum — from the liberal New York Times to the conservative Wall Street Journal — have beaten up on President Obama’s latest “dreadful, cliche-ridden”(James Taranto, wsj.com) speech on economic policy, the second-longest speech of his presidency.

How can a man talk for more than an hour on a single topic, as Obama did on Wednesday, and say absolutely nothing new? As columnist Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post explained, “It’s because the president has nothing to say about the economy.”

Liberals complain that all conservatives ever say is “Cut taxes and cut spending!” Perhaps they’re right, but that’s two more ideas than Barack Obama has offered during his entire presidency...


Read the rest of Michael Graham's article in the Boston Herald.

And Don't Miss These...

Among your weekend reading, make sure these articles make the list:

* "Christian Tragedy in the Muslim World" (Bruce Thornton, Hoover Institution)

* "Let's Have Justice For Ambassador Christopher Stevens" (Investor's Business Daily editorial)

* "Obama the Unembarrassable" (David Limbaugh)

* "The NSA's New Spy Facilities are 7 Times Bigger Than the Pentagon" (Aliya Sternstein, Defense One)

* "Stop the Train. We Want to Get Off" (William Kristol, Weekly Standard)

* "Detroit Ran Into The Inviolable Rule Of Economics" (Charles Krauthammer, Investor's Business Daily)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Contemporary Church Music: Enjoy It? Endure It? Or Escape It?

* “I have always kept one end in view, namely, with all good will to conduct well-regulated church music to the honor of God.” (Johann Sebastian Bach)

*  "Oh my, no. The church must never sing its songs to the melodies of the world.” (Fanny Crosby)

* "'What a way to learn great theology!' That’s what comes to mind whenever I sing one of those old hymns. 'And Can It Be' is like putting the doctrine of salvation to music. 'Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing' is a melodic lesson in grace. No wonder good hymns make for strong faith!" (Joni Eareckson Tada)

Okay, I have a confession, though it's a confession which my friends will confirm has never been a secret. And I make it again today without apology.  I have for decades been frustrated (no, that's not quite strong enough, make it thoroughly turned off) by the music featured in modern evangelical churches.

Indeed, when the hymnals were tossed out and replaced by overhead projectors...when the thoughtful, intellectually stimulating songs of Christianity's heritage were exchanged for repetitive and inane choruses...when the volunteer choirs and song leaders were replaced by entertainment-oriented worship teams who were allowed to dictate to the congregation when to stand, sit, clap, hold up hands, etc...when the music's volume increased to the levels at which I used to play Steppenwolf when stoned...and when unbridled emotionalism not only trumped but even eclipsed the traditional religious virtues of rationality, orderliness and corporate fellowship, I checked out.

And I wasn't alone. Many others, especially men, headed towards the nearest exit too.  George Barna, in describing how profound a part church music now plays in contemporary religious life, said "This is the feel; this is the sound that constitutes who you are and what you’re about."

But my redemption, my ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church, my responsibilities to be salt and light in a dying world -- these are much more important and much more involved than just church music.  I'm afraid that contemporary worship music does provides "the feel" for so many Christians in the West. But I resent (and steadfastly oppose) the naive notion that "the sound constitutes who I am and what I'm about."

But where were those evangelicals to go, the ones who didn't care for the loud music, the maudlin (often mindless) choruses, the coercive worship leaders, the dramatic emphasis on emotional experience?

Well, many of them turned to liturgical churches, places where they hoped to find order, contemplation, beauty, tradition, and a principled and relevant agenda for social action, especially about such biblical priorities as the sanctity of life. Others looked around until they discovered those few evangelical churches that hadn't given in (at least, not completely) to the new wave.  But way too many evangelicals just dropped out of church altogether.

Of course, the larger percentage of evangelicals (men and women) who were initially uncomfortable with the new music and the new attitudes learned to adapt. "Everyone else seems to be enjoying it. I guess I'd better get with the program too." In so doing, their church experience (and usually their religious lifestyle) changed. More emotional, more introspective. And less oriented to theology and mission.

Many of you will want to write and tell me that your church is an exception. Good. I'll be glad to hear it. Others will say, "Right on, brother. So come on over and join us in Rome...or Constantinople...or Geneva." Still others will simply dismiss my criticism out of hand, seeing it as just another peccadillo from an aging curmudgeon who won't accept the social realities of the 21st Century. Fair enough, there's certainly some truth in that. After all, I was defiantly counter-culture in 1969 only to find out the next year (the year of my conversion to Christianity) that my counter-culture life was only beginning. And, of course, over 30 years in the trenches of pro-life activism have not made me any fonder of modernity, be it in art, film, literature, politics, fashion...or church music.

So curmudgeon though I may be, you may still find these observations (and opinions) of some value to consider. I hope so.

Also, for another provocative perspective on this matter, you might find this article of interest, "Is individualism killing worship?" It is written by David Murrow, an author, former pastor, and the director of Church for Men. And, if you don't agree with his views, you may find someone in the comments section that you do agree with.

By the way, my thanks to Jim Myers for drawing my attention to the Murrow article via a Facebook post. But don't blame Jim for anything I've written that gets you riled. That's on me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Today's Posts



Attention, Praying Christians: The Target Is Planned Parenthood.

We have been encouraged to learn that many have found Vital Signs Ministries' prayer program against Planned Parenthood (launched in the spring 0f 2012) to be valuable in their intercession against this mega-abortion corporation. But we know it can be helpful to many more so please help us pass it on -- and please use it regularly yourself!

The program is designed to 1) be a reminder to pray, 2) to bring greater specificity to our prayers, and 3) to get a lot of us praying for the same things at the same time.

We call the prayer program “3 for 5” and here’s how it works.

We’re asking believers to covenant together to pray at least 3 minutes a day on the 5 weekdays about specific issues related to Planned Parenthood’s ongoing assaults on the culture of life.  That could mean 3 minutes of prayer added to one’s morning meditations, a minute prayer lifted up three times a day…whatever.  And for every weekday, we’re encouraging prayers aimed at particular targets.  Again, this way we’re praying more AND praying for the very same things, agreeing with one another and the Holy Spirit to oppose the evil deeds of this mega-abortion corporation.  Below are the specific targets for each weekday, a sample prayer and a Scripture “springboard.”

1) Monday’s focus: Pray for Planned Parenthood’s scheduled victims for the week.

“This week many young women are scheduled to have their babies destroyed by Planned Parenthood abortionists.  Many more will abort children through the various chemicals that the business sells.  Father, we pray for many of these minds to be changed.  We ask that these moms will choose instead the guidance and loving assistance of pro-life family members, churches and pregnancy aid centers.  And we also pray that those who have already been exploited and victimized by Planned Parenthood will find healing in the cross of Christ.”

Scripture exhortation: Deuteronomy 30:19 -- “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” (NASB)

2) Tuesday’s focus: Pray for shame and scandal to be the portion of Planned Parenthood.

“Holy Lord Jesus, today I pray that the immoral and violent nature of Planned Parenthood be increasingly revealed to the public.  Raise up journalists, lawyers, politicians, educators, celebrities, business leaders and more to expose the organization’s promotion and enablement of abortion, sexual perversion, promiscuity, and misuse of government funds.  Take from Planned Parenthood their financial support, their partnerships and their false cloak of respectability.”

Scripture exhortation: Ephesians 5:11 --“And so do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” (NASB)

3) Wednesday’s focus: Pray for spiritual conversion among Planned Parenthood employees and supporters.

“Please, Lord Jesus, reveal to those who work with, promote or otherwise support Planned Parenthood the organization’s inherent evils.  Give them a new understanding of the sanctity of life, marriage, family and purity.  And with repentance and conversion, make of these ‘born again’ people effective servants of Your grace and holiness.”

Scripture exhortation: 2 Corinthians 5:17 -- “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come.” (NASB)

4) Thursday’s focus: Pray for those who stand against Planned Parenthood’s assaults on the culture of life.

“Dear Jesus, today we earnestly pray for all those who seek to defend the least of these and to restore a sanctity of life ethic to our nation.  We pray for those who, in various ways, prayerfully oppose the barbarism of Planned Parenthood.  We ask You to provide wisdom, protection and spiritual power in abundance for sidewalk counselors, clergy, medical professionals, pro-life educators and especially for those who serve with pro-life pregnancy aid ministries.”

Scripture exhortation: Timothy 1:7 -- “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (NASB)

5) Friday’s focus: Pray for a dramatic reformation of sexual ethics among American youth.

“Father, today’s prayer is for a fresh and compelling conviction of Your truths regarding modesty, purity, self-control, and the blessedness of sexual relations within marriage.  Reveal these precious virtues especially to youth and to those who influence American culture.  And also, Lord, please expose for all to see Planned Parenthood’s perverse and counter-productive sex-ed philosophy.”

Scripture exhortation: Philippians 4:8 -- “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (NASB)

Note -- In order to better remember the prayer focus for each day, Claire and I concentrate on key words -- Monday: Victims. Tuesday: Scandal. Wednesday: Conversion. Thursday: Heroes. Friday: Youth.

And we then use an acrostic to help us recall those key words. VSCHY: "Vital Signs Can Help You" -- as in helping you to pray against Planned Parenthood!

Works for us! Let's hope it works for you too. Thus we make an even greater impact in our intercession.

Thanks.

Uh, About Those Washington Scandals

The old guard media has done everything it can to make you forget the huge scandals swirling around the White House. And the chief tactic in that campaign is one used by magicians, salesmen, and the clever duck on the left; namely, distraction.

Thus, instead of reporting on Benghazi, the NSA spying, the dreadful woes caused by ObamaCare, the political shenanigans of the IRS, the wiretaps on AP reporters, the numerous examples of Team Obama members lying to Congress, etc., the media has given us wall to wall, minute by minute coverage of other stuff, especially the Zimmerman trial and the royal baby.

But you don't have to fall for this old trick. After all, it's 2013 and the monopoly of news, information and commentary that the networks and the New York Times once held has been busted wide open.

So, go ahead. Read some liberated stuff, a few enlightening articles which reassuringly show that not everyone has been distracted from the major Washington scandals.

* "Embattled IRS chief counsel met with Obama 2 days before agency changed targeting criteria" (Patrick Howley, Daily Caller)

* "No Big Surprise: Biased Media Ignore Obama Scandals" (Brent Bozell, Investor's Business Daily)

* "Lois Lerner’s Ace in the Hole" (Ray V. Hartwell III, American Spectator)

* "A Bombshell in the IRS Scandal" (Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal)

* "Stockman suggests witness intimidation behind stalled Benghazi investigation" (Alexis Levinson, Daily Caller)

* "Frank Wolf Demands Answers on Benghazi Attacks: Va. Republican asks questions as media attention drifts from attacks" (Adam Kredo, Washington Free Beacon)

* "Questions raised about IRS executive travel" (Jamie Dupree, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Nancy Pelosi: Turning a Blind Eye to Democrat Perverts

There has been some very weird, wicked and outrageous stuff going on among some of Nancy Pelosi's Democrat colleagues. Think Bob Filner, Anthony Weiner, David Wu, and Eric Massa.

But Rep. Pelosi isn't troubled by the antics of these sexually perverted abusers of women (until she absolutely has to, that is) because she's so busy with the purely invented "war on women" waged by Republicans.

Writes Michelle Malkin, "Whether she's carrying a gavel or just carrying water, Pelosi has served as a loyal apologist and abettor of the Democratic Bad Boys Club. What exactly will it take before voters finally turn this perv protector into a 'former colleague'?"

Read the details in Malkin's illuminating column, "Nancy Pelosi, Creep Enabler" from Town Hall.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Today's Posts

Aren't Rainy Days Nice?

Well, if your lawn has been stressed with several hot, dry July days, the two substantial rains we received last night and this morning are very nice indeed. We are generous with our sprinklers but, for a green and healthy lawn, there's nothing like the cooler temperatures, purity, and comprehensive coverage that happens when God waters.

It's also especially gratifying when you've mowed that lawn shortly before the first drops fell! (I love that.)

With the lawn chores out of the way for a few days (except for a bush I'm planting later today), we're deep into the schedule of activities for this week. However, it's a schedule that has been altered quite a bit after learning about the death of Jean Lawson's mother.

Jim and Jean, dear friends of ours for over 40 years, live in Colorado now (as did Jean's Mom) but the funeral and burial will be here in Omaha. We invited them to stay with us and we'll use our place as a hub for the family gatherings. Plus, I'll be helping out with the funeral.

That means accelerated efforts in the next couple of days not only to prepare the guest rooms but to get the book read for our literary club this weekend and my sermon prepared for Sunday. Also on the to-do list: Claire has a lunch with Karla today; I have an early morning meeting on Thursday with Pat; and we have the last "When Swing Was King" presentation of the month on Friday. I'll try to keep up blogging too but we'll see how things go.

In the meantime, we'll scurry on...encouraged by the fact that we're free from mowing, trimming and watering the lawn for a bit.

Rainy days are nice.

Okay, Bail Out Detroit. And Then What?

From today's Morning Jolt, Jim Geraghty's e-mail update that I've encouraged you to sign up for (several times, in fact -- go to National Review for the info), comes these musings on the idea being wafted around about a federal bailout of Detroit.

Let's assume the federal government didn't have $16 trillion in debt and had an extra $18 billion lying around. Assume that the whole country had a bipartisan spirit of generosity, eager to help out a city that had, for years, gone to a domed stadium on Thanksgiving Day to watch their football team lose to some visiting team.

Once Washington writes a check to Detroit to cover the city's $18 billion in debt . . . then what? You still have the same moribund economy, the same 78,000 abandoned structures, the same two-thirds of ambulances not in service, the same failing schools, the same shrinking population, the same shameful police response time, the same terrifying violent-crime rate, the same 40 percent of street lights not working . . . and likely, the same failed leaders, with the same failed philosophies and viewpoints that got the city in this mess in the first place. Conservatives outside the city like to point to it as decades of liberal policies run amok, but let's be fair: They can't even get liberalism right. Nearly half of the owners of Detroit's 305,000 properties failed to pay their tax bills in 2011.

It's the trifecta of liberal policies and incompetence and corruption that set up the city as a vortex of urban failure so intolerable that almost anyone who could afford to leave did.

Bleeding Woman Taken by Ambulance from Leroy Carhart's Abortion Mill

 Operation Rescue reports on yet another woman endangered by late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart.

...A local activist caught LeRoy Carhart on video wheeling the injured woman out of the abortion clinic and into an awaiting ambulance. That video, published by Operation Rescue, prompted coverage by national news outlets, including Fox News.

It appeared that the abortion clinic worker that placed the 911 call, who identified herself as “Ashley,” attempted to minimize the patient’s injuries by evading a question about the seriousness of the bleeding.

“Uh, we have it under control but it’s a little more than the doctor would like,” the caller said.

“That response was completely contradictory and never directly answered the dispatcher’s question,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “If the bleeding was under control, why did the woman require emergency medical intervention and transport? This kind of obfuscation can cause a delay in necessary emergency treatment since the responders are not given an accurate picture of the patient’s true condition. The danger is compounded by the fact that Carhart has no hospital privileges whatsoever.”

This is the second known serious abortion complication suffered by Carhart patients this year. On February 7, Jennifer Morbelli died from complications to a 33-week abortion. Carhart had left town and could not be reached by family or emergency room physicians when her condition deteriorated. This left hospital staff in the dark about her condition and previous treatment, which delayed their ability to treat her...

Phil Mickelson Wins One for the Ages (and The Taxman!)

Golf superstar Phil Mickelson played one of the most impressive final rounds of all time to win the British Open last Sunday at the Scottish course of Muirfield, just a week after he had won the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart. And along with the joy, the sense of achievement, and the increase in career status from these two wins, Phil also will take home the combined prize money of $2,167,500.

Well, not really.

For, in the modern era of the Nanny State, what one earns isn't even close to what one is allowed to keep.

Forbes looks into the matter in this illuminating story, "Phil Mickelson Wins Historic British Open And Incurs 61% Tax Rate."

...The United Kingdom, which has authority to set Scotland’s tax rate until 2016, graduates to a 40% tax rate when income hits £32,010 then 45% when it reaches £150,000. Mickelson will pay £636,069 ($954,000, or 44.02%) on his Scottish earnings.

But that’s not all. The UK will tax a portion of his endorsement income for the two weeks he was in Scotland. It will also tax any bonuses he receives for winning these tournaments as well as a portion of the ranking bonuses he will receive at the end of the year, all at 45%. It is a significant amount for Mickelson, with only Roger Federer and Tiger Woods earning more among athletes from endorsements and appearances. Mickelson ranked No. 7 overall with $48.7 million in Forbes’ June list of the world’s highest-paid athletes.

The UK is one of few countries that collects taxes on endorsement income for non-resident athletes that compete in Britain (the US also does). The rule has kept track star Usain Bolt from competing in Great Britain since 2009, outside of the 2012 Summer Olympics when the tax was suspended as a condition for hosting the Games. Spain’s Rafael Nadal has also allowed UK tax policy to dictate his tennis playing schedule.

The good news for Mickelson is that he can take a foreign tax credit on his US return so he is not double-taxed at the federal level on this income. The bad news is that the credit does not cover self-employment taxes (2.9%) or the new Medicare surtax (0.9%). Additionally, California does not have a foreign tax credit so he will have to fork out 13.3% there as well. Although he receives federal deductions for his California tax and half of his self-employment tax, these deductions do not benefit him on this income because as they reduce his federal tax they reduce his foreign tax credit.

Without considering expenses, Mickelson will pay 61.12% taxes on his winnings, bringing his net take-home winnings to about $842,700. When expenses are considered (10% to caddy Jim “Bones” Mackay, airfare, hotel, meals, agent fees on endorsement income/bonuses—all tax deductible here and in the UK), his take-home will fall closer to 30%...


Do you think Phil might be playing this song on his way home?





Five from the Frontline (Must-Read Articles)

In addition to the posts linked to yesterday and today, here are five other articles from recent days you shouldn't miss.

* "The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment" (Shelby Steele, Wall Street Journal).

* "The slow erosion of religious freedom in Europe" (Roger Trigg, Mercator)

* "Christine O’Donnell: IRS ‘Set Up A Back Door’ for Political Opponents to Access Tax Records" (Lindsey Grudnicki, National Review).

* "Raising Hell in Texas" (Paul Kengor, American Spectator).

* "The president’s take on race" (Cal Thomas)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Today's Posts

Heroes


Even Labor Union Leaders Are Getting It: ObamaCare Is a Disaster

As the reality of Obamacare emerges, a disastrous calamity imposed on the American people, even the most compliant members of the Obama fan club are beginning to panic. Three union presidents have sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi a scathing letter decrying Obamacare, showing just how out-of-control this law has become. This astonishing reversal has been underreported so far, except by the ever-vigilant Tom Gara in the Wall Street Journal.

The fact is that the crater of Obamacare is getting deeper, with sharper edges. The unions are first-tier political allies of President Obama and the Democratic Party, and it was surely their last resort to put their grievances with Obamacare in writing in the public sphere. A lot must have happened behind the scenes before they felt sufficiently frustrated with the Obama administration to take this step...
(From Ed Rogers, "The Insiders: Obamacare is falling apart," an op/ed published in the Washington Post.)

This is a great article indeed to find in the Washington Post. And it's an article that provides you with several terrific talking points to bring up with your Democrat friends.

Like the admission from HHS that you are not, in fact, guaranteed to keep your own doctor or your own insurance...or the labor unions admitting that ObamaCare will likely destroy the 40-hour work week...or that such formerly lockstep Democrats as the Teamsters' James Hoffa are willing to publish in a public letter such paragraphs as this, "We have been strong supporters of the notion that all Americans should have access to quality, affordable health care.  We have also been strong supporters of you.  In campaign after campaign we have put boots on the ground, gone door-to-door to get out the vote, run phone banks and raised money to secure this vision.  Now this vision has come back to haunt us."

My, my.

Again, do your Democrat friends (and your country) a big favor. Give them a copy of this article. Let them see how the insiders of their own party are realizing what a grand disaster ObamaCare is. It just might make a difference in the way they vote in 2014.

Transnationalists Have a Wonderful Plan for Your Life (And They Will Make Sure You Follow It!)

If you thought the very idea of a sovereign republic (not to mention, your personal freedom) was under attack by judges, Nanny State bureaucrats, and United Nations busybodies, I hate to tell you this but...you're right. 

Globalism is passionately alive. And aided most willingly by the Obama administration, this transnational movement is growing by leaps and bounds.

Below are several excerpts from an alarming article published in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, "American Sovereignty and Its Enemies." Written by Sohrab Ahmari, the article depends heavily on an interview with former Senator and veteran conservative, John Kyl. It is an article that deserves careful reading.

Proponents call this movement "legal transnationalism," and as Mr. Kyl writes in a recent Foreign Affairs magazine article (co-authored with Douglas Feith and John Fonte of the Hudson Institute), "the idea that a U.N. official can sit in judgment of the U.S." is one of its main innovations. Transnationalists want to rewrite the laws of war, do away with the death penalty, restrict gun rights and much more—all without having to win popular majorities or heed American constitutional limits. And these advocates are making major strides under an Obama administration that is itself a hotbed of transnational legal thinking.

"Transnationalists are a group of people who are convinced they are right about important issues," Mr. Kyl says as we sit down for a chat at the plush Washington office of the law firm Covington & Burling, where the 71-year-old Arizona Republican has served as an adviser since leaving the Senate in January. "But they are in too much of a hurry to mess with the difficulties of representative government to get their agenda adopted into law—or they know they can't win democratically. So they look for a way around representative government."…

Take Cedaw. If the Senate ever ratifies this piece of "1970s feminism preserved in diplomatic amber," as one commentator described the treaty, the U.S. would become subject to oversight by a Geneva-based committee that requires signatory states to, among other things, "achieve a balance between men and women holding publicly elected positions"; "ensure that media respect women and promote respect for women"; and "modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of . . . stereotyped roles for men and women….

To be clear, transnationalism isn't a conspiratorial enterprise. In the legal academy, its advocates have openly stated their aims and means. "International law now seeks to influence political outcomes within sovereign States," Anne-Marie Slaughter, then dean of Princeton's public-affairs school, wrote in an influential 2007 essay. International law, she went on, must expand to include "domestic choices previously left to the determination of national political processes" and be able to "alter domestic politics."

The preferred entry point for importing foreign norms into American law is the U.S. court system. The Yale Law School scholar Howard Koh, a transnationalist advocate, has written that "domestic courts must play a key role in coordinating U.S. domestic constitutional rules with rules of foreign and international law." Over the past two decades, activist judges have increasingly cited "evolving" international standards to overturn state laws, and Mr. Koh has suggested that foreign norms can be "downloaded" into American law in this manner…

…President Obama has given them [transnationalists] an opening to shape U.S. policy. Ms. Slaughter and Mr. Koh held top posts at the State Department during Mr. Obama's first term, and their tenures coincided with an aggressive push to ratify or recognize as customary law Cedaw and a host of other progressive causes.

For proof that the transnationalist threat isn't merely theoretical, look no further than the European Union. Says Mr. Kyl: "What they have now is a situation where their sovereignty has largely been supplanted by others who are not accountable to voters in individual European countries."

It was in Europe where these ideas were first implemented, and it is to the EU that transnationalists look as a model. Today over half of the regulations that affect Europeans' lives are made by administrators in Brussels, not by national legislatures.

These regulations include the EU's ban, announced in May, on restaurants serving olive oil in traditional glass jugs or terracotta bowls (to protect the "image" of olive oil); the prohibition against insurers charging women drivers lower premiums (sexism); and Commission Regulation 2257/94, otherwise known as the "bendy banana" law, which until recently required farmers to discard irregularly shaped bananas (don't ask).

American transnationalists look with admiration on Europe. "Once those laws are passed, EU institutions . . . look over national shoulders to ensure that they actually do what they commit to do," Ms. Slaughter has written. "This European way of law is precisely the role that we postulate for international law generally around the world."

Mr. Kyl is less sanguine. "When your society is regulated to that extent by someone who has no accountability to voters, something is very, very wrong," he says. "The transnationalists should be the last ones lecturing anybody about what ought to be because what is is the U.S. Constitution, which recognizes sovereignty in the American people. That is embedded in everything about our country. It's not outmoded—it's who we are. And if you're not willing to accept that, then you haven't signed on to the most basic notion of what it is to believe about our country."

Friday, July 19, 2013

Today's Posts


"The Only History That Is Worth a Tinker's Damn"

"History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history that we make today."

That's Henry Ford as quoted in an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 1916.

Of course, the portion of that quote which has gone down in...uh, history, is the first line. But it is actually the last line that is the most relevant to modern culture.

Indeed, it's pretty obvious that the cultural "powers that be" (politics, academia, Hollywood) are determined to escape what they believe are the shackles of the past. They are progressives through and through who believe that civilization is like detergent or breakfast cereal -- only the "new and improved" brands should be allowed on the shelves. Everything else should go to the trash bin.

Therefore, the virtues of Western culture, no matter how beautiful, ennobling or indispensable for a society's health (think of the U.S. Constitution, religion, marriage, family, etc.) are ignored if not mocked and vilified.

History is made an ally of this bold social transformation; that is, a distinctly progressive version of history, a twisted thing that is much more propaganda than it is precision. It is a thing that is quite willing to drastically distort the actual record, to carefully omit (even conceal) those things that do not fit with the desired political conclusions, to engage in outright invention -- all to create an ideologically favorable product.

"History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history that we make today."

Yes, the words are Henry Ford's. But the sentiment is alive and well in the hearts of today's progressives.

America: The Home of the Retired, the Part Time, and the Unemployed

"Spanish labour laws do not encourage employers to hire full-time permanent workers and many are offering only part-time contracts. Faced with high unemployment, potential employees eagerly accept these conditions. Meanwhile, the high youth unemployment rate makes it virtually impossible for a young Spaniard to even start a professional career. As a result, thousands of young Spaniards have emigrated since the beginning of the year, continuing the trend that started last year when 30,000 of them left for Germany alone, a 45% increase over the previous year."

ObamaCare (and other Nanny State economic disasters) are creating the same conditions right here in the United States.

Except, of course, our young and frustrated unemployed are not emigrating anywhere. For even if they had the motivation to pack up and climb on a plane, their skill sets (or, more honestly stated, their lack thereof) are not of value to anyone, anywhere.

Brother, this can't end good.

A Dark Future for Natural Marriage?

Dr. Greg Gardner, our friend and pro-life colleague from Birmingham, England, sent along an update from Family Education Trust, one of the key defenders of natural marriage in the U.K. Greg said of this letter, "This is about as accurate a summary as you can find about the recent same sex ‘marriage’ travesty." I think he's spot on and I wanted to pass it along.

The letter is written by Norman Wells, the Director of Family Education Trust, but it features several paragraphs from Michael Lord, the Baron of Framlingham. Here is an excerpt from that letter.

As you may have seen in the press, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill completed its parliamentary passage at the beginning of this week and received Royal Assent yesterday.

Having campaigned vigorously for many months in support of the legal definition of marriage as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, we are extremely disappointed by this outcome.

How did we get here?

Less than a decade ago, when civil partnerships were being introduced for same-sex couples, the minister for constitutional affairs, Lord Filkin, told the House of Lords: “The concept of homosexual marriage is a contradiction in terms, which is why our position is utterly clear: we are against it and do not intend to promote it or allow it to take place.”

Prior to the 2010 General Election, same-sex marriage did not feature in the election manifesto of any of the three major political parties. Yet in spite of a complete lack of any electoral mandate, in March 2012, the government published a flawed consultation document that read more like a declaration of intent. By framing the document in terms of ‘how’ and not ‘whether’ to legislate for same-sex marriage, the government registered its determination to redefine marriage, regardless of what the public thinks.

Both during the consultation period and during the passage of the Bill through Parliament, the government made it clear that it was not interested in a meaningful debate in which all the issues could be thoroughly explored. It ignored over 500,000 members of the general public who had signed the Coalition for Marriage petition and declined to engage with the serious concerns that were raised by parliamentarians in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

In the course of Monday’s Third Reading debate in the House of Lords, Lord Framlingham spoke for us all when he said: “Today has the potential to be deeply sad for this House and for millions of people -- children, parents, families, teachers, clergymen -- indeed, anyone who believes in the traditional family unit and its fundamental role in the life and cohesion of our country…

“The questions that many are asking are: why now and why the haste? The simple truth is that the coalition Government have colluded with equal love campaigners and the European Court of Human Rights in bringing…an appeal against our country’s long-established and settled position on marriage. There was a suggestion -- some would call it a threat -- that if legislation were not brought forward by June this year then changes would be forced on us. The House of Lords Library tells me that as legislation is proceeding the case in the European Court of Human Rights will probably not now be pursued. What outrageous, behind-the-scenes arm twisting.

“The result is that not one meaningful amendment has been accepted, not because none has been worthwhile but for the sake of entirely contrived deadlines, which suit campaigners in a hurry and a Government who want it off their plate well before the next general election. How cynical and how dangerous. Given the huge effect the Bill, if passed, will have on millions of people, what an abuse of the parliamentary system to put speed before truth. So many important issues causing great concern have been left unresolved and hanging in the air, such as the effect on teachers, faith schools, the issue of adultery, consummation, the effect on registrars, which has already been referred to, and the use of premises -- issues touching the lives of thousands every day, not to mention the effect on marriage itself.

“Those of us who have sat through all the stages of the Bill and have watched the Government knock down amendment after amendment have despaired at their intransigence. This House prides itself on being a revising Chamber. On this Bill it has been a bulldozer. We are being used to bulldoze through an ill thought through Bill, the ramifications of which the people have not begun to understand. All great issues are essentially very simple. We make them complicated when we do not want to face them or when we are anxious to hide their true meaning and purpose. This Bill is built entirely on pretence. It pretends that there is no difference between a man and a woman. From this deceit have sprung all the problems we have been wrestling with—problems we have failed to resolve and which will bedevil generations to come. How can we possibly give our blessing to legislation built on pretence?”...

The Democrat Disaster That Is Detroit

Question: What do you get when you add 1) very high taxes, 2) production jobs going overseas because of greedy, intransigent labor unions, 3) production jobs exchanged for counter-productive Nanny State bureaucrats (who also have greedy, intransigent unions behind them), 4) a monstrously high crime rate exacerbated by 5) a collapsed justice system, and 6) complete dominance by the Democrat Party?

Answer: Detroit.

Here are excerpts from the USA Today article, "Detroit: How the Motor City went bust."

Detroit, the once-thriving Midwest metropolis that gave birth to the nation's auto industry, is now the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy...

• The city's unemployment rate has nearly tripled since 2000 and is more than double the national average.

• The homicide rate is at historically high levels, and the city has been named among America's most dangerous for more than 20 years.

• Detroiters wait an average of 58 minutes for police to respond, compared with the national average of 11 minutes.

• An estimated 40% of the city's street lights didn't work in the first quarter of 2013.

• Roughly 78,000 city structures have been abandoned...

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing represents perhaps the biggest body blow yet to a faded city that's now home to barely 700,000 — down from a peak of 1.8 million during the auto industry boom years of the 1950s — and struggles to cope with the abandoned buildings and decaying municipal services.

The filing listed more than 100,000 creditors and more than $1 billion in estimated liabilities, but Orr has said Detroit's total financial responsibilities could be as high as $20 billion...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Today's Posts

Why Protest Planned Parenthood?

This morning Claire and I and a few friends stood on the sidewalk in front of a Planned Parenthood facility, a facility in which occurs the barbaric abortion of preborn boys and girls. The killers who ply their grisly trade there use super-sharp knives, high-powered suction machines (25-30 times more powerful than your home vacuum cleaner), and various types of poisonous chemicals to insure "fetal demise."

But, as horrible and blasphemous as are these crimes against humanity, the employees of Planned Parenthood are engaged in even more than this. For instance, they work against any and all restrictions to abortion. They promote a "sex education" campaign which enthusiastically promotes and enables premarital sexual activity (even among the very young). They work zealously for the weakening of parental authority, the marginalization of natural marriage, and the outright elimination of those moral values that are he hallmarks of Judaeo-Christian culture.

To be sure, these pernicious practices of Planned Parenthood are well worth our peaceful, prayerful protest and we will continue our efforts to enlighten others of their dastardly deeds.

Playing the Distraction Game

Why have civil rights organizations and black clergy wagered their reputations on the Zimmerman case? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the issues that really concern African-Americans simply are too painful to discuss. 

Five years after the ultimate boost to self-esteem — the election of the first black president — things are getting worse faster. If black leaders — from Barack Obama and Eric Holder on down — can’t talk about the real problems, the prospects for the future are frightening indeed.

(David P. Goldman, "What Do You Do When The Oppressed Are Their Own Worst Oppressors?" PJ Media)

This is truly a must-read article.

Chatty Cathy, Please Call Your Office.

Wanna' talk about cultural degradation, particularly how it is creeping into the once protected years of childhood innocence?

I wrote about Monster High dolls a couple of years ago, encouraging you to send along your courteous complaints about this bizarre phenomenon to mega-toymaker Mattel. Well, they obviously didn't care about your opinions because there were way too many Moms who were buying the eerie dolls for their little girls. Indeed, the Monster Dolls have been a billion dollar hit for Mattel.

And where fast money is available, things like morality, innocence, and wholesome social ideals are mere irrelevancies.

Here's what I said in March 2011.

Oh, boy; Mattel Toys is at it again.

I've blogged about these guys before: Mattel Toys: Paranoid, Grubby and Heartless and About That $95 Homeless Doll. But there's a whole new reason I'm warning you this morning to buy your kid's toys from someplace else.

Theresa over at Stories for the Homeschool Heart has the whole sordid story on Mattel's Monster High Girls, little "fashionita dolls" who are the teenage daughters of monsters like Dracula and the Wolfman. The dolls come dressed for the evening in super-short, skin-tight, skin-showing goth outfits.

Chatty Cathy, where have you gone?

Monster High Girls fashion accessories include fishnet stockings, stiletto heels, fangs, and horns. There's also extra stuff that goes along with the little tarts -- items like the Dracula Jewelry Coffin in which they sleep, a Monster Fearbook Journal,  Skull Sensor Door Alarms and a Monster High Tatoo Roller in which the doll's owners can apply to themselves that special touch for a night out -- you know, things like stitches, bite marks and snake skin.

And did I mention the market for these little ghouls? It's little girls -- ages 6 to 12.

But I've barely got started here. Theresa has a lot more over at her blog post...information about the related games and songs and pop-off hands. Sigh. Go on over and check it out.

We've written letters to Mattel (without reply, I might add) asking them to explain their bizarre, anti-child behavior. We will continue to do so. But the company isn't going to change its weird ways until they get an awful lot of letters and an awful lot of parents choosing other, more healthy and life-affirming toys for their children. So after you scoot over and read that post, come back here and use the contact information offered below to call or write Mattel. Let them know you're going to pass the word to other parents and grandparents to avoid Mattel products at all costs.

Mailing address: 

Mattel, Inc., 333 Continental Boulevard, El Segundo, CA 90245-5012.
Phone: Customer Relations at 800-524-8697


As I said, Mattel were not dissuaded from stepping up their marketing of these surreal monster dolls. Indeed, this new article from NPR, "Fangs And Fishnets For The Win: 'Goth Barbie' Is Monstrously Successful" details how the company is ratcheting up its efforts to push these sexy villains to little girls and their mothers. The reporter writes,

In the hopping Toy Fair compound run by Mattel, Barbie's pink displays seemed almost dowdy and passe next to Monster High's glamorous dolls, which look like the underfed love children of Tim Burton and Lady Gaga. Mattel's Dana De Celis is showing off a pretty brunette doll with flowing hair and wolfish ears: "She's our werewolf so she's gonna howl for us," De Celis says as the doll issues an electronic wolf howl. "She tosses her head back, she arches her back, she closes her eyes and she is literally howling at the moon."

"The message about the brand is really to celebrate your own freaky flaws, especially as bullying has become such a hot topic," says Cathy Cline. She's in charge of marketing for Mattel's girls' brands — and sales have surged 56 percent this year, thanks to Monster High. "And it's also one of the fastest growing brands within the entire toy industry," Cline adds.

Mattel had no idea Monster High would — in just three years — become a billion dollar brand, says Kiyomi Haverly, vice president of design at Mattel. "Honestly, it was very surprising to us. We just noticed girls were into darker goth fashion." And Twilight and zombies — but Monster High dolls are designed for girls ages 6 to 12, so they're not too terribly dark...


Werewolves? Zombies? Monsters that are, we're assured, "not too terribly dark"? And Moms that feel absolutely fine about giving such gifts to their little girls?

Our culture's devolution is well underway.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Today's Posts

The Final Volume of "When Swing Was King"

The present volume of "When Swing Was King" represents (at least, for a long while) the last one I will have to make from scratch. We now have 23 different volumes which means, except for our Christmas edition, we will not repeat a "When Swing Was King" volume for two whole years! That's a really big deal for us.

Why?

Because though I undoubtedly will still tweak programs now and then -- change a few photos, change a few stories, maybe even swap a song -- the long hours required to decide on the 12-13 songs for each new volume, fix each song's volume level, find and edit the 200 plus photos each volume requires, combine everything into a Power Point presentation, and do the necessary research to make the commentary interesting, entertaining and humorous, are pretty much behind us now.

(What will I do with my time now?)

But that's not all. We finally solved the mysteries that had kept us from creating an efficient spreadsheet program to keep this whole deal organized. Therefore, we now have all 23 "When Swing Was King" presentations organized according to volume number, song title, orchestra and vocalist and, when applicable, even the photo theme. That's going to make that "tweaking" process a whole lot easier and it will help us in our promotion packages as well.

So just what ended up in that final volume? Like usual, there were a few favorites that have shown up in previous volumes as well as some delightful new entries. Here's the song list.

1) Glenn Miller Orchestra
"Moonlight Serenade"

2) Chick Webb Orchestra
"Stompin' at the Savoy"

3) Benny Goodman Orchestra (vocals by Helen Ward)
"You Turned the Tables On Me"

4) Xavier Cugat Orchestra
"Perfidia"

5) Eddie Howard Orchestra
"You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby"
(Photo theme: Hollywood celebrity baby pictures)

6) Artie Shaw Orchestra
"Rose Room"

7) Vaughn Monroe Orchestra
"Red Roses for a Blue Lady"

8) Lawrence Welk Orchestra
(featuring Henry Cuesta)
"La Mer"
(Photo theme: Dramatic seascapes)

9) The Ink Spots & Ella Fitzgerald
"I'm Beginning to See the Light"

10) Art Lund
"Mam'selle"

11) Harry James Orchestra
"Strictly Instrumental"

12) Perry Como
"Round and Round"
(Photo theme: The year 1957)

The July LifeSharer Letter is Up




Yet Another Story of "Sequester Hypocrisy"

Different details but always the same story line. Team Obama and the Democrats scream about the sequester cuts while continuing to spend wads of money on luxurious perks for themselves, astounding foreign aid packages that even go to America's enemies, and absurdly wasteful welfare state projects.

Here's another one.

Just two days after the Pentagon began furloughing hundreds of thousands of civilian personnel due to budget cuts, the Army ordered its second batch of televisions for the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, an expense totaling more than $80,000 in the last two months…

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel warned just a day before the second TV purchase that sequestration will cause “serious damage” to the military.

"If the cuts continue, the Department will have to make sharp cuts with far-reaching consequences, including limiting combat power, reducing readiness and undermining the national security interests of the United States," Hagel said in a letter to the Senate Armed Forces Committee on July 10.

Furloughs for the Pentagon began on Monday July 9, when 650,000 civilian workers were forced to take the first of 11 days off without pay, one a week through September.

Guantanamo Bay, however, is not cutting back.  As CNSNews.com previously reported, the detention center also is looking to hire seminar instructors to teach terrorists watercolor painting, Adobe Photoshop and Arabic calligraphy, among other things.

In addition, the Pentagon has asked for $450 million to maintain and “upgrade” the detention facility...

America's Golfer-In-Chief: Plenty of Practice But Still A Duffer

Golf.com asked their readers, "Would you rather play 18 holes with Barack Obama or George W. Bush?"

The results: Don’t care or neither one...4%. Barack Obama...18%. George W. Bush...78%.

Interesting.

Of course, one would have a much better chance of finding Obama out on the links. After all, he's enjoyed 125 days of golf since becoming our President.

For an ironic look at the matter, check out The Obama Golf Counter.

Wendy Davis -- It's Not About Women's Health. It's About Abortion.

Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, takes a look at the latest lionized heroine of abortion zealots.

Wendy Davis is the country’s most prominent defender of late-term abortions. What Rosa Parks was to desegregation, what Eunice Kennedy Shriver was to respect for the disabled, what Elizabeth Cady Stanton was to women’s suffrage, the Texas state senator is to abortion after 20 weeks of fetal development…

A ban after 20 weeks, near the end of the second trimester, represents a minor restriction on abortion by any reasonable standard. Many European countries, which we tend to consider laxer on such matters, ban abortion well before 20 weeks. It’s not just that Wendy Davis is out of step in Texas; she would be out of step in Belgium and France, where abortion is banned after 12 weeks…

Wendy Davis always couches her position, of course, in terms of reproductive “health.” In the very same breath, though, she opposes a provision of the Texas law requiring that abortion clinics meet the same standards as outpatient surgical centers. Since abortion involves outpatient surgery, this would seem an uncontroversial measure, especially given that Democrats favor the strict regulation of practically every other business and activity in America.

The provision is drawn from the recommendations of the Gosnell grand-jury report that wanted tighter controls to prevent the kind of butchery that it had investigated from happening again. The requirements, like wider hallways, aren’t frivolous. One of Kermit Gosnell’s “patients” bled to death because his clinic couldn’t properly accommodate a hospital gurney. Whistleblowers from an abortion clinic in Houston have told horror stories reminiscent of Gosnell’s unspeakable practices.

If the balance of the Democratic party weren’t invested in protecting abortion as a kind of secular sacrament — “sacred ground,” as Nancy Pelosi calls it — it would recoil from Wendy Davis in embarrassment. Instead, it lionizes her. And why not? She exemplifies its moral and political bankruptcy on this issue.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Today's Posts

A Grand Sunday

The Violent Persecution of Christians Isn't Just in the Middle East

The Collectibles Game Can Hurt You

Judging Zimmerman (Do Facts Matter At All Anymore?)

Chet Thomas: Making a Difference

And from the weekend, The Terribly Failed Promise

A Grand Sunday

What a grand day we had yesterday.

We started things off with a leisurely drive up to Herman (about 10 miles north of Blair) where I had been asked by Pastor Doug Russell to preach the Sunday morning sermon. It turns out that Doug had been a student at Grace Bible college back in the 80s and had joined us in pro-life witness at an abortion mill in south Omaha then. We had a good time reconnecting and the church family was also very gracious, hospitable and encouraging.

Herman Community Church is one of the very few churches that support Vital Signs Ministries and so we were particularly honored to be a part of their service. Also, it was great to touch base with several other friends that we've known over the years.

Thank you so much, Herman Community Church, for your wonderful reception yesterday and your generous support of our work.

We had to take a "rain check" on a lunch invitation from Pastor Russell and his family because we had to get back to Omaha to pick up our repaired Oldsmobile (thanks to Jeff Bledsoe from Christian Car Care) and to finish preparations for a special performance of "When Swing Was King" at Word of Hope Lutheran Church in Ashland.

I managed to finish the "WSWK" program in time for the evening event but a wrong turn (my bad) and then incorrect directions from Google Maps (their bad) threatened to make us late for the party. But we made it. Long time friends Wilson and Sandy Metz welcomed us and showed us around (Wilson, a veteran leader in the Omaha area of Christian men's ministries is now the pastor of the church.)

With a "WSWK" poster and the lure of dessert treats, the church had used the local paper and word of mouth to promote a fun evening for seniors throughout the area. But this was the first such event the young church had sponsored and so no one knew what to expect. It was a very pleasant surprise then when the guests began to arrive -- in a steady stream. By the time we were scheduled to start, the church was full!

Wilson gave us a very kind introduction. And with just a quick word of introduction, we were off. The set up was fantastic -- two large screen, overhead TVs on each side of the sanctuary and two large speakers. It really helped the crowd get into the swing of things (pun quite deliberate). They loved the music, the photos, the commentary. And, though only a few of the audience was from the church, the whole bunch stayed afterward for the desserts, drinks and conversation. The people were very gracious and Claire and I found ourselves in a sea of complements, expressions of appreciation, and invitations to return. They weren't even above bribing us by sending us home with peach pie!

It was a swell evening and it certainly appeared to be a very effective "community attraction" event for the church. Maybe your church should consider it too. After all, we're willing. And we're cheap -- a peach pie will do the trick.

Could anything else have made the day more delightful? Actually, yes. Phil Mickelson won the Scottish Open; Kenny Perry completed an amazing comeback to win the Senior Open in Omaha; and a teenager (Jordan Spieth) won the John Deere Classic.

A great day indeed.

The Violent Persecution of Christians Isn't Just in the Middle East

From Fuerza Latina Cristiana and reprinted by Voice of the Martyrs website:

Eight pastors have been murdered in Honduras in 2013 alone. In the most recent attack, which took place on June 19th, Pastor Eduardo Mejia was stabbed to death. Pastor Mejia led a church called "God Is Love." The other seven pastors killed over the first half of this year have all died from gunshot wounds.

An estimated 600,000 illegal weapons circulate in Honduras, and most are owned by criminals. According to data released by human rights organizations, Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world...about 85 per every 100,000 people. To date, none of the cases involving the murdered pastors has been solved.

While we know these servants of the Living God will be the recipients of His promised eternal reward for their faithfulness in ministry service, let us pray that this truth and the reassuring presence of Jesus will greatly comfort the hearts of their grieving loved ones and congregation members. According to Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted."


We are also mindful of our need to pray for the salvation of the perpetrators who are serving the enemy as 'workers of iniquity' by taking these pastors' lives. May they one day be able to personally experience God's mercy, forgiveness of sin, and His greatest gift of grace which is salvation.

The Collectibles Game Can Hurt You

Having some interest in collectibles, I found myself reading an article last night entitled "9 Completely Worthless Collectibles" by Jason Notte. The article spoke of products that are highly promoted to be valued collector items but, alas, are anything but. The list included (some of you better brace yourself) Hummel figurines, Beanie Babies, Franklin Mint items, Hess toy trucks, Thomas Kinkade paintings, Norman Rockwell plates, Lladro statues, Cabbage Patch dolls, and Precious Moments figurines.

The article (one of those maddening ones that requires you to advance the page for each bit) is nevertheless informative and entertaining. Well, entertaining unless you've been counting on any of these things to bolster your retirement.

Here, for instance, is the section on Precious Moments.

Few collectibles milk their rabid followers with such impunity that they almost insure fans will lose money with each passing year. Wide-eyed, innocence-embodying Precious Moments porcelain figurines have no such qualms about their greed.

It's bad enough that Precious Moments collectors have to watch as figurines they paid $45 for at retail sell on eBay for 99 cents to $5 apiece, but Precious Moments Incorporated (PMI -- yes, it's a corporate entity based on figurines) has no problem making fans bank accounts depreciate as quickly as their collectibles. For $36 to $39 a year, PMI offers collectors access to its "Collectors Club," with benefits including the opportunity to buy "collectors only" statuettes, a "member's kit" and a free figurine thrown in for good measure. PMI also partners with Bank of America on a Precious Moments MasterCard for the cutest debt imaginable and Precious Moments checking and savings accounts, so account holders always remember where their expendable income is going.

Also, through a link on the PMI Web site, Collectibles Database Online will "value" collections for $30 in the first year and $19 each additional year. Collectors Club members are spared such indignities by getting a $10 discount in the first year. Most antiques dealers will tell collectors these statues are worth next to nothing for much less than that.

PMI's former business partner Enesco discovered as much the hard way in 2004, when it severed the relationship due to faltering sales. Even PMI hasn't been immune, as it was forced to scale back its Precious Moments Chapel theme park in Carthage, Mo., three years ago after "increases in gas prices and the general decline in tour bus activity" and a "reduction in paid admissions to the park." Kahn places the pricing of Beanie Babies and their ilk on par with the resale value of collectible plates containing Norman Rockwell illustrations, but that's still more than the return on the pastel, pink-and-purple Precious Moments figurines.

"Precious Moments are worth precious nothing -- they have no value," Kahn says, noting he refused to consign a woman's collection of 7,000 such statuettes that she'd insured for $110,000. "I gave her some advice: Leave your door open, your lights on and your back windows open."

Judging Zimmerman (Do Facts Matter At All Anymore?)

Has there ever been a clearer case of race baiting, irresponsible journalism, and a calculated strategy for social division than what we have seen with the news and commentary on the George Zimmerman trial?

Well, the trial is finally over and despite outlandish behavior by the prosecuting attorneys, enabling help to the prosecution by the judge, and the surrounding media circus that deliberately ignored the facts of the case in their zeal to have George Zimmerman burned, the defendant was cleared of all charges.

Following the verdict, there have been violent and destructive riots, arson, preachers "honoring" Trayvon Martin by preaching in hoodies, and death threats to Zimmerman, members of the jury and policemen. President Obama, as usual, has ignored the facts of the case and delivered comments which further divide the nation, encourage the protests, and push one of his pet projects, the counter-productive fiasco of government gun control.

Is there no shame left in America? No desire for a rational, unbiased examination of facts before making sweeping judgments -- judgments that are so bold as to include another's mind and motivations?

Say goodnight, Gracie.

But, before you do, you might want to check out these illuminating articles on the matter:

* "State never proved its case, legal analysts say" (David Ovalle, Miami Herald)

* "Guilty Until Proven Innocent: How the Press Prosecuted Zimmerman While Stoking Racial Tensions" (John Nolte, Breitbart)

* "A Dagger at the Heart of Justice" (Mark Steyn, National Review)

* "FBI records: agents found no evidence that Zimmerman was racist" (Frances Robles and Scott Hiaason, Miami Herald)

* "The Zimmerman Verdict" (Wall Street Journal editorial)

* "Answering 7 Key Questions About The George Zimmerman Trial" (John Hawkins, Town Hall)

* "Injudicious Criminal Justice in Florida" (John Fund, National Review)