Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Today's Posts

"Just Give Me My Freedom"

Hey, What Happened to Hank the Cow Dog's Family?

Pro-Natal Actions in Russia Taking Effect

Debating Euthanasia (But Keep Religion Out Of It, Please)

News You Might Have Missed...But Don't Want To (PETA Killing Animals, Britain's Food Police, Al Sharpton's Embarrassment, and Al Franken's Getting Caught in Another Financial Scandal)

"Just Give Me My Freedom"

I have started to post a few of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "prose poems" over on The Book Den and I invite you to visit there once in awhile and read through some. They are very moving, very well-crafted. Solzhenitsyn, of course, has been a master in many genres, especially the history and novel, but the short stories and "prose poems" published in a 1971 Farrar, Strauss and Giroux collection (Bantam's paperback version came in 1972) are special, but too little-known, gems.

Here is one of the shortest and yet most memorable of all, particularly when remembering it comes from the pen of one of the 2oth Century's most heroic freedom fighters.

The Puppy

In our back yard a boy keeps his little dog Sharik chained up, a ball of fluff shackled since he was a puppy.

One day I took him some chicken bones that were still warm and smelt delicious. The boy had just let the poor dog off his lead to have a run round the yard. The snow there was deep and feathery; Sharik was bound- ing about like a hare, first on his hind legs, then on his front ones, from one corner of the yard to the other, back and forth, burying his muzzle in the snow.

He ran towards me, his coat all shaggy, jumped up at me, sniffed the bones—then off he went again, belly-deep in the snow.

I don't need your bones, he said. Just give me my freedom .

Hey, What Happened to Hank the Cow Dog's Family?

John R. Erickson, the creator of the beloved Hank, the Cow Dog stories has describes his run-in with the intrusively feminist and anti-family attitudes of CBS.

...Why had CBS done this? Because someone at the network had decided to use a Saturday morning cartoon series (and my Hank book) as a platform for feminist ideology -- an ideology that viewed women as an oppressed minority, men as brutes, marriage as slavery, and motherhood as an insignificant waste of time.

They had vandalized my innocent, funny little story . . . and they had done it by stealth.

I was particularly outraged because the Hank books were always meant to be read aloud by families. If the television people felt such loathing for two-parent families, why hadn’t they chosen a book that said so, out in the open, where everyone could see it?...

Read the rest of this story (along with Erickson's compelling exhortations) at this Pearcey Report page.

Pro-Natal Actions in Russia Taking Effect

Patrick Armstrong at Russia Blog believes the demographic picture is improving somewhat for Russia.

RosStat claims 273,700 births in January and February (up 12.8% over the previous year) and 368,200 deaths (up 4.1%). A bill to restrict abortion advertising has been proposed and a Duma deputy gave some numbers here: In 2006 there were one and a half million abortions (40.3/1000 women) in Russia, down from the two million in 2002 (54.2/1000 women).

So, evidence that the various programs are having an effect. We don’t know yet, of course, whether the programs encourage more children, or just earlier children. Data over the next few years will tell us.

Debating Euthanasia (But Keep Religion Out Of It, Please)

Henry Williams reports for spiked about the "dignified" debate about euthanasia occurring at British Academy of Film and Television Arts in central London. The debate convened a 4-member panel to debate "The Rights and Wrongs of the 'Right to Die'"-- Mick Hume, Times columnist and spiked’s editor-at-large, (arguing against legalized euthanasia from a ‘humanist, left-wing’ standpoint); Clifford Longley, a writer for the Catholic weekly The Tablet and a panelist on BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze; Daniel Sokol, a medical ethicist at St. George’s Medical School at the University of London (a proponent of physician-assisted suicide); and Ashley Riley, director of campaigns and communication at Dignity in Dying.

The reason for the public debate (and the public joined in earnestly towards the end of the evening) was the heavy media attention given to a new British film, "Three And Out," whose plot involves a London subway train driver's search for a suicide candidate who will jump in front of his train, thus giving both parties what they want: death for the depressed person and modest wealth (via a compensation claim for the driver). The film is billed by spiked as a "bittersweet comedy." The Times calls it a meeting of "slapstick suicide and brooding melodrama."

What most interested me about William's report were these lines from his conclusion:

...One striking aspect of last night’s debate was the complete absence of the religious dogma which is normally so intractable from the arguments surrounding euthanasia. Longley and Hume, opposed to the right to die, cited philosophers such as John Donne and Cicero to back up their arguments about the immeasurable value and worth of human life. ‘Life cannot be measured in months, days or minutes, just as it cannot be measured in pounds or pence’, said Hume, who said we should ‘take a strong stand that life is worth living and death is not the solution to life’s problems’. Even when Sue Nelson tried to pin down this matter by asking Longley if he thought euthanasia was a ‘sin’, he said in reply: ‘I have my own morality but I would not wish to impose it on you.’

Indeed, in place of the old-style religious debate about euthanasia - where Christians oppose it and secularists are presumed to support it - last night’s discussion showed that much of the contemporary debate on the right to die is a clash between morality and science...

Debating euthanasia apart from religious dogma? Accepting as intellectually acceptable quotations from a poet/preacher and ancient philosopher but rejecting the legitimacy of quoting Holy Scripture? Suggesting that morality is a thing different from and/or separated from religion? Positing morality and science as being intrinsically opposed? A supposed Catholic denying the universality of moral truths altogether?

As troubling to me as are this euthanasia "comedy" and the pseudo-scientific arguments defending euthanasia, the assumptions made by Mr. Williams in the close of his article reveal just how severe has been the decline of Christian influence in Western culture. That bothers me much more.

News You Might Have Missed...But Don't Want To

PETA Killing Animals, Britain's Food Police, Al Sharpton's Embarrassment, and Al Franken's Getting Caught in Another Financial Scandal ----

Here's some interesting news tidbits for you to mull over during your midweek melancholy. I'm not saying you'll find them inspirational or even cheery...just interesting.

* For instance, here's a reminder of how the tedious details of life can bug even the great ones. It's a New York Post story of how the Rev. Al Sharpton emerged from a momentous meeting in Queens yesterday with Rep. John Conyers (Democrat from Michigan) only to discover that his 2007 Jaguar had been hauled away by a city tow truck. It seems that Sharpton (whose meeting with Conyers had been about punishing New York City cops over a recent court decision he didn't like) owed $900 in tickets.

* Over here is a Newsweek report of a growing split among the animal rights bunch. The issue is killing unwanted animals. Some, like lawyer Nathan Winograd, author of "Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America," argues that "over-population is a myth. With better outreach and public relations, we can find homes for virtually all of the healthy animals we are now killing."

Nice attitude? Well, you may be surprised to learn that it runs absolutely against the philosophy of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Writes Newsweek, "The organization has practiced euthanasia for years. Since 1998 PETA has killed more than 17,000 animals, nearly 85 percent of all those it has rescued." You can understand, however, that although PETA is a very strong proponent (and practitioner) of animal euthanasia, that's a little secret that the organization certainly doesn't want publicized. The image, the fund understand.

* Caroline Stacey, writing for the Times (U.K.), wonders about how things might change for school kids at lunch time after, that is, Britain's "packed lunch police" get on the job.

Ms. Stacey writes, "Hmm, what's it to be? A lentil korma with brown rice and salad, then fruit and a yoghurt for afters, or a High School Musical bag stuffed with crisps and a couple of bars of chocolate? It sounds absurd but in some schools children sitting next to eat other could be eating such contrasting lunches."

Uh huh. You want absurd? Here you go: Alan Johnson, Britain's Health Minister, has suggested that schools begin checking lunch box contents. ("Sorry, miss; you've got a packet of Fritos there. I'm afraid you'll have to come with us.")

The report tells about various efforts used thus far by school bureaucrats to influence (and control) kids' eating habits including banning certain foods altogether, segregating the packed-lunch kids from the school-lunch kids, and giving classes on nutrition (and how to make healthy sandwiches) for parents.

But to officials like Johnson, it won't do. It's time for coercion. As the Times reporter describes, "The School Food Trust, the body set up by the Government to turn round school dinners, suggest drawing up a policy for packed lunches - a few basic rules to bring them in line with a healthier school environment - and make sticking to it part of a code that parents have to agree to."

* And finally, here's a brief report of the unfunny, viciously arrogant, and ultra-liberal Al Franken who is a Democrat candidate for a Minnesota seat in the U.S. Senate. But little things like this story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune could prove problematic for Franken. It tells how the comedian finally got round (but only after the press discovered the problem) to paying $70,000 in back taxes and penalties going back to 2003 -- taxes and penalties owed to 17 different states!

But it wasn't his fault, don't you know. Franken is now blaming his accountant. (The accountant, Allen Chanzis, a partner in Wlodinguer Erk & Chanzis, a New York City firm that specializes in the music, film and TV industries, has served Franken for 18 years.)

All of this, by the way, is extra to the matter of Franken failing for many years to pay a $25,000 penalty to the New York State Workers' Compensation Board. That penalty was levied on Franken for breaking the law three years running (2002 to 2005) by failing to carry workers' compensation insurance for employees of his corporation, Alan Franken Inc.

But in spite of these heralded problems with money and taxes, Franken has repeatedly said he will not release his income tax returns for the years in question. Hmm. Perhaps what's in those returns would create even more political trouble for the guy.

Interestingly enough, the liberal Star-Tribune describes Franken in its news story as being the front-runner in the race. However, Power Line points out that the latest Rasmussen poll puts Norm Coleman ahead of Franken by seven points.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Today's Posts

Keeping Culture Alive

Why Did He Choose O'Connor? Reagan's Biggest Mistake

Colorado State Moves to Stifle Intellectual Freedom

It's a Start: More Doctors Refusing to Do Abortions

12-Year Olds Having Abortions No Shock to Progressive "Family Planners"

Wright's Way Wrong on Race

Keeping Culture Alive

Claire and I are often described as "nostalgic" because our entertainment choices are heavy on old music, old movies, old radio programs, and old books. We're certainly not hiding from the world -- our 26 years of service with Vital Signs Ministries, my travels around the world, even the daily engagement with the edgy issues I have to deal with on this blog -- prove that.

But when it comes to entertainment (and yes, the more idyllic, spiritual functions art can perform), we generally look to the past. Yes, we do carry season tickets to the Omaha Symphony but I guess that hardly makes us modern. After all, the composers whose works they perform are almost always dead and gone. And even when we attend the symphony's Pops series, it's for acts like the Glenn Miller Band, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Benny Goodman Orchestra, and the Beach Boys.

Come to think of it, we're not even current about TV! The only television programs I've watched in the last several months (besides sports and the occasional Wheel of Fortune) have been DVD copies (obtained from the internet and the public library) of Have Gun, Will Travel, I Spy; Ozzie and Harriet; and Naked City.

But the label of "nostalgia" (often used as a pejorative) doesn't suggest why we prefer entertainment from a different era. The answer to that is, quite simply, quality. In intelligence, creative talent, wholesomeness, beauty, and moral purpose, the artistic productions of previous decades (with very few exceptions) soar far above those being sold to the public today. So why make do? Why compromise? And why should we deprive our children and grandchildren of higher, healthier, more soulfully crafted art?

Over at Power Line, William Katz, a Hollywood insider who once worked for Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show, shares some very interesting, very moving thoughts about this matter, especially regarding our social obligations to keep America's best art alive for succeeding generations.

Please read the whole article but here is an engaging excerpt:

..We cannot inject talent into young composers. We cannot wave a wand and have them write the beautiful melodies we used to enjoy. We cannot, by law, require film studios to respect America and celebrate its values. What we can do is keep the tradition of greatness alive by preserving and showing our best movies, and playing our greatest songs for young people – in schools, broadcasts and recordings. Maybe, just maybe, some kids in a new generation will realize that memorable movies start with great stories and great characters, not special effects or gimmicks, and that great songs last because they touch us, not because they match a demographic.

Recently, a new, superb production of “South Pacific” opened in New York. It’s sold out. One critic remarked that people lean forward in their seats to hear every word. What are they hearing? They are hearing the sounds of talent, craft, and respect for the listener, and they are hearing things that reach them inside.

And no amount of talk about “cultural change,” “cutting-edge concepts,” or “target audience” can convince me otherwise.

Why Did He Choose O'Connor? Reagan's Biggest Mistake

I recently finished Bob Novak's remarkable memoir, The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years of Reporting in Washington, a riveting autobiography of the famed (and immensely successful) journalist which provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes view of America's political happenings of the last half century. It is a great read, giving one plenty to ponder about political philosophy and methodology, culture, ambition, the workings of the media, and even religion (Novak converted to Roman Catholicism late in his life).

And amid the well-crafted pages of The Prince of Darkness (there's nearly 700 of those pages but, not to worry, you'll enjoy every one of them) are such revealing vignettes as this one about Ronald Reagan's selection of Sandra Day O'Connor for the Supreme Court.

...The First Evans & Novak column I wrote after returning from a reporting/family vacation trip to Europe in July 1981 belied Daniel Schorr’s 1980 election night taunting of me as someone who could not criticize President Reagan. By July, I had criticized the new administration for betraying the Reagan Revolution's principles—but never Reagan himself. In my column of Friday, July 10, I crossed that line. Thereafter, many of the president's men viewed me as more of a critic than a supporter.

I received a telephone call on July 8 from William Gribbin, a junior White House aide. I met Bill the previous summer at the Republican convention in Detroit where he was editing the party platform. He was intense and very conservative. I think Bill learned to trust me, and that is why he called now to say he had something important. Unlike many leakers, Gribbin was not interested in currying favor with me or promoting himself was disturbed by the president's announcement the previous day, July 7, that he intended to nominate the nation’s first female Supreme Court justice: fifty-one-year-old Sandra Day O'Connor, a former Republican majority leader of the Arizona State Senate who two years earlier had appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals by a Democratic governor. Gribbin and the Christian conservatives who had so vigorously supported Reagan for president considered O'Connor unacceptable because of her positions on abortion.

“Why Did He Choose Her?" was the Washington Post's headline on our column about O'Connor. The answer was contained in the document Gribbin gave me: a memo written to the attorney general of the United States by his thirty-five-year-old counselor, Kenneth W. Starr.

Gribbin told me that O'Connor's sponsor was Dave Gergen, who wanted a woman justice to give Reagan a foothold in the movement and distance him from the social conservatives. The formal recommendation, echoing the White House staff, came from Attorney General William French Smith, Reagan's personal attorney and the weakest of the cabinet.

Reagan telephoned Smith on Monday, July 6, when social conservatives erupted after O'Connor's selection leaked—the president's first inkling of how controversial this nomination would be. The president wanted a quick check on complaints that his first Supreme Court selection was pro-abortion. Smith did not have a clue and bucked the question over to a young Ken Starr. On the next day, July 7, Starr handed his boss the two-and-a-half page memo that Gribbin supplied me on July 8. My column, published July 10, called Starr's memo "hurriedly prepared" and "error-filled,” but added that it "convinced" Reagan to go through with the nomination.

Starr's investigation that cleared Judge O'Connor on abortion appeared to consist solely of a telephone interview with her, and she was less than truthful. O'Connor told Starr she could not remember how she voted on a 1979 Arizona legislative bill to legalize abortion. Starr did not look into records showing that Senator O'Connor was a co-sponsor of the measure and voted for it as it lost in committee.

Starr's memo concluded: "Judge O'Connor further indicated in response to my questions that she had never been a leader or outspoken; advocate on behalf of either pro-life or abortion rights organizations. She knows well the Arizona leader of the right-to-life movement, a prominent physician in Phoenix, and has never had any disputes or controversies with her." Starr was referring to Carolyn Gerster. I phoned Gerster, and learned that Starr had not called her. "I had an adversary position with Sandra O'Connor," Gerster told me, calling her "one of the most powerful pro-abortionists in the Senate." Gerster harbored an eleven-year-old grievance against O'Connor for burying an antiabortion proposal in the Senate Republican caucus.

I wrote in the Evans & Novak column of July 10:
"[I]nnocence has departed for right-to-life activists. Dr. Gerster cannot forget a 45-minute meeting with Reagan in Rye, N.Y., on Jan. 17, 1980, in which candidate Reagan promised her that his first appointment to the Court would share their anti-abortion views. She chooses to believe that the President has been misled by advisers.

But the more plausible explanation is that Reagan shares the view of Jim Baker and his other aides that the Moral Majority [the social conservatives] is not vital to his political coalition. He has given that signal by ignoring its sensibilities in selecting Sandra O'Connor."

With this, I burned bridges to the White House, Baker, and maybe the president. Many Republican sources claimed I was overheated and that Sandra O'Connor would turn out fine on abortion. Indeed, Justice O'Connor was a clever politician who in her first years on the court seemed to be voting with conservatives. But before long, she evolved into the swing vote on a five-to-four divided court that nearly always swung left on social issues. In 1993, she voted with the majority upholding the Roe v. Wade decison legalizing abortion. From a conservative standpoint, O'Connor was not the worst choice ever by a Republican president for the Supreme Court, but she was pretty bad. Ronald Reagan, Jim Baker, and Ken Starr were wrong about her, and I was right...

Colorado State Moves to Stifle Intellectual Freedom

By pioneering the science of seasonal hurricane forecasting and teaching 70 graduate students who now populate the National Hurricane Center and other research outposts, William Gray turned a city far from the stormy seas into a hurricane research mecca.

But now the institution in Fort Collins, Colo., where he has worked for nearly half a century, has told Gray it may end its support of his seasonal forecasting.

The reason?

He's "a highly visible and sometimes acerbic skeptic of climate change" whose criticism of global warming enthusiasts are "often biting and adversarial."

Of course, the reporter's descriptions in the above sentence fairly drip with irony for it is the proponents of man-made global warming who fit the terms much better: "highly visible," "ascerbic," "often biting and adversarial."

And it's certainly not the global warming skeptics who are censoring the actual science and unjustly forcing those with different views out of their jobs.

As I mentioned in a post yesterday about Ben Stein's excellent film, "Expelled," the most important fights of our era, at their foundation, are about intellectual freedom. For on issue after issue, the establishment has not only chosen to deny plain facts (scientific, historical, cultural, economic) but then to use intimidation, manipulation, obfuscation, and even coercion to keep honest inquiry in the closet.

Consider how the plain facts are buried regarding: 1) the immense health dangers and social costs of homosexuality; 2) the barbaric methods employed by abortionists; 3) the definite links of surgical abortion to a whole host of physical and psychological health problems; 4) global warming and the immense costs required to implement so-called solutions; 5) the remarkably inefficiency of Darwinian evolution to explain natural order and design; 6) the economic realities of both individual and national debt; 7) the philosophical underpinnings of Planned Parenthood and other anti-natal organizations; 8) the overwhelmingly liberal bias regularly exercised in the Western press; 9) the availability of safe, less expensive power (oil, gas and atomic) that is being denied because of irresponsible applications of environmentalism; 10) the abortifacient nature of so-called birth control chemicals and devices; 11) the motives, methods and extent into Western hospitals and nursing homes of euthanasia; 12) the motives and methods involved in embryonic stem cell research; 13) the horrific consequences of divorce...

The list could go on.

And in every case, the immediate battle is not over the merits of the competing positions but simply to allow all competing positions a fair hearing. Intellectual liberty, freedoms of speech and association, honesty and humility as prerequisites to authentic inquiry and discussion -- the conservative must first fight to secure these basics before we can even hope for more.

The facts relevant to the above issues (and more) will win out...but only if they have free air and a fair forum.

It's a Start: More Doctors Refusing to Do Abortions

More babies survive, more parents escape severe moral and physical dangers, and society is more ennobled when...there are fewer abortionists plying their grisly trade.

Therefore, here's very good news from Italy.

The Italian Ministry of Health has reported that nearly 70 percent of Italian gynecologists now refuse to perform abortions on moral grounds and that the number is only increasing.

Doctors in Italy are able to use a "conscientious objection" clause, which has been strenuously defended by the Catholic Church in the predominantly Catholic country since abortion became legal in 1978, and refuse to commit abortions.

Between 2003 and 2007 the number of gynecologists claiming protection under the conscience clause for abortion rose from 58.7 percent to 69.2 percent, according to the report.

For anesthetists helping in abortions, the figure of those refusing to participate rose from 45.7 percent to 50.4 percent...

12-Year Olds Having Abortions No Shock to Progressive "Family Planners"

The British government tried to keep a lid on it but the Sunday Times pressed the point and finally got access to what the bureaucrats at the Department of Health had been hiding; namely, the news that girls as young as 12 were having abortions.

While this alarming tragedy has enraged and saddened citizens across Great Britain, the reaction of the so-called "family planning" establishment is all too typical.

Explains the Times, "While some doctors reacted with sadness to the figures, family planning experts said society needed to “stop being shocked” that children were having sex and becoming pregnant.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service,
which runs a chain of abortion clinics, said: “This is a tiny number of girls. Children grow up very quickly in our society. They are maturing faster physically, psychologically and socially, and society just has to come to terms with that."

Wright's Way Wrong on Race

One of the strangest things about the NAACP Wright pseudo-scientific speech on learning, and its enthusiastic CNN coverage and analysis, was the abject racialism of Wright. It was sort of an inverse Bell-Curve presentation, based on assumed DNA differences.

His convoluted explanation of African-American right-brain 'oral' culture as more creative, musical, and spontaneous versus European left-brain traditional analysis could never have been given by someone white to that audience without justifiably earning booing and catcalls...

In short, Wright's speech on black-right brainers, white-left brainers — replete with bogus stereotypes and crude voice imitations — was about as racist as they come and at one time antithetical to what the NAACP was once all about. Again, the Obama campaign and its appendages have set back racial relations a generation. Just ten years ago, any candidate, black or white, would have rejected Wright making a speech about genetic differences in respective black and white brains. Now it's given to civil rights organizations by the possible next President's pastor and spiritual advisor — and done to wild applause for an organization founded on the idea that we are innately the same, while being gushed over by ignorant "commentators."

As I said before, between Wright's racism and hatred, and Obama's contextualization of what he has said, we have so lowered the bar that the next racist (and he won't necessarily be black) who evokes hatred of other races and then offers a mish-mash pop theory of genetic differences will have plenty of "context" to ward off public fury.

Orwellian times.

(Victor Davis Hanson, commenting in NRO's Corner on Rev. Jeremiah Wright's strange remarks at the Detroit NAACP the other night. The text of that entire speech can be read at this CNN page.)

And for a few other takes on Wright's performance and what it portends for American race relations and Barack Obama's candidacy, check out these Town Hall responses from, respectively, David Limbaugh, Bill Murchison, George Will, and an especially good column from Rich Lowry.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Today's Posts

Ben Stein's "Expelled" is a "Tremendous, Compelling Film"

Memo to Jim Wallis: Social Justice Doesn't Include Abortion

Of McCain, Obama and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright

Free Speech? Yes, I Remember It Fondly.

Yes or No? Virgina Foxx Gets Foxy with Sex Ed "Experts"

Canada's First Cord Blood Bank to Open?

Good News for Knees (Thanks to Adult Stem Cells)

Ben Stein's "Expelled" is a "Tremendous, Compelling Film"

We had an "Expelled" party last Saturday night, a lively conversation shouted over the noise of an equally lively Old Chicago restaurant. And the talk was of Ben Stein's riveting new movie which we had just attended. John and Barb, Matt, Claire and I, Jake, Daniel, Glory and Abraham all believed the film to be an important salvo in not merely the Intelligent Design controversy but in the larger culture war of which it is a part.

And we all recommend "Expelled" to you.

Stein has performed an extraordinary and exemplary service in "Expelled" and I hope many young Americans understand and embrace the message of the film; namely, the incalculable value of intellectual freedom. Sure, the film investigates the arrogance and the closed-mindedness of the Darwinian powers that be and it deftly reveals the wild injustices they've committed against freethinkers.

But the overarching ideal Expelled presents is intellectual freedom. Stein's use of the continuing motif of the Berlin Wall as a metaphor for the tyrant's irrational paranoia set against the yearning of the human spirit for truth was brilliant. As was the whole methodology of the movie. For instance, his use of humorous snippets from old films served not only as entertaining comedic relief but very effective illustrations of his message. His fairness in giving both sides of the ID controversy their time was also superb, particularly so because the best arguments as to why moviegoers' should distrust unadulterated Darwinism frequently came from the Darwinists themselves!

And then the sheer audacity of Ben Stein to connect the dots (not very far separated at that) between the doctrines of Darwin to such movements as human eugenics, Planned Parenthood-style racism, and ultimately the "Final Solution" was daring indeed. But daring only to those who fear political correctness more than they love truth.

Ben Stein, I emphasize again, has made a tremendous, compelling film -- a film that is 1) a highly effective argument for the legitimacy of at least the discussion of Intelligent Design; 2) a powerful, well-crafted defense of intellectual freedom; and 3) a soaring tribute to the sanctity of human life.

Memo to Jim Wallis: Social Justice Doesn't Include Abortion

A human being, created in the image and likeness of God, is brutally murdered. Indeed, the victim of this indefensible act is killed in the most heinous and barbaric of ways: her body ripped apart or, perhaps, burned to death by chemicals or her skull crushed.

That is what occurs in an abortion. And abortions are perpetrated thousands of times every day in America, creating an agonizing number of innocent lives unjustly taken whose blood cries out to a holy God.

But this Associated Press story (relying on liberal voices like Jim Wallis - the accompanying photo shows Wallis with a few friends) is, in reality, just a puff piece for Barack Obama and the Democrat Party. It describes how young religious voters are avoiding the issue of abortion altogether to instead focus on matters of...uh..."social justice."

Social justice? While turning one's back on the senseless bloodbath I've described above?

Abortion represents a gruesome wave of violence that occurs in America's own neighborhoods -- with the numbers of victims in just one day being more than the number of Americans killed in the entire Iraq war to date.

No, Jim Wallis' heterodoxy and hypocrisy notwithstanding, to claim to be concerned about social justice while refusing to adamantly oppose the ongoing holocaust of abortion (or, as is true of Obama and his party, actually defending, promoting and extending the violence of abortion) is the basest and most irrational of immoralities.

Of McCain, Obama and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright

From Jonathan Martin at Politico:

Pointing to Barack Obama's remark today on "Fox News Sunday" that his former pastor was "a legitimate political issue," John McCain this afternoon brought up two new controversial statements by Jeremiah Wright that have recently surfaced.

"I saw yesterday some additional comments that have been revealed by Pastor Wright, one of them comparing the United States Marine Corps with Roman legionnaires who were responsible for the death of our Savior," said McCain, responding to a question only about the North Carolina GOP ad, at a news conference in Coral Gables, Fla, He also cited comments Wright made that seemed to compare the United States and Al Qaeda.

But even while raising the Wright comments unprompted, McCain continued to say that he didn't think Obama held similar views. When it was noted that he had previously said Wright was not fair game, McCain again alluded to Obama's statement this morning. "But Senator Obama himself says it's a legitimate political issue, so I would imagine that many other people will share that view, and it will be in the arena," McCain said...

On Wright, McCain appears to be torn. He wants to avoid even the hint of exploiting the race issue, but he and his advisers (not to mention the North Carolina GOP) plainly recognize the political opportunity Obama's former pastor provides. Further, McCain's camp is not deaf when it comes to the anger expressed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives who have grumbled about their nominee's criticism of the North Carolina GOP. To many on the right, Wright is a gift from above, and for McCain to excoriate those who use it reminds them why they've always been wary of their new standard-earer.

Which may explain why, in addition to the cover of Obama's political permission slip, McCain eased off his criticism today and even brought up other Wright comments. "I can understand why the American people are upset about this," he said of Wright. "I can understand that Americans viewing these kinds of comments are angry and upset, just like they viewed Senator Obama's statements about why people turn to their faith and their values. He believes that it's out of economic concerns, when we all know that it's out of fundamental belief, fundamental faith in this country and its values and its principles. Again, Senator Obama is out of touch. I can't control and will not in the future control. I will voice my opinion and I will continue to think and to say that I think that ad should not be run. But I won't continue to try to be the referee here."

Free Speech? Yes, I Remember It Fondly.

One wonders why we yet talk about the "threats" to free speech or even the "assaults" on free speech when the self-evident facts show that free speech is already being abridged, altered and even arrested altogether.

One of the latest examples is the egregious bullying and censorship directed at London mayoral candidate, Alan Craig, by the BBC and ITV.

It seems that the broadcast executives didn't like what Craig, the Christian Choice candidate, (photo upper left) had to say in his Party Election Broadcasts. Specifically, they didn't appreciate Craig's description of Tablighi Jamaat, the Islamic organization behind the plans for the so-called "Mega" Mosque to be built near the site of London's Olympic stadium. The Tablighi Jamaat is a Muslim missionary sect that has been called by French security services, "an ante-chamber for fundamentalism." Two of the July 7 London suicide bombers are believed to have attended one of its mosques.

What offended the TV execs was Craig's reference to the organization as "separatist," though it most certainly is. But the BBC and ITV still required Craig to either change his text to suit their opinions or be refused his legal airtime.

The change they required was that Craig use the word “controversial” instead of "separatist." But then they decided to go further and insist that Craig could only use the word "controversial" if he applied it the building of the "Mega" Mosque and not of the Tablighi Jamaat itself.

The Christian Legal Centre will be calling for a Judicial Review of the BBC’s and ITV’s decision, and ask the judge to order, as a matter of urgency, the unedited Party Election Broadcast on both channels.

For more details, see this statement by the Christian Legal Centre. (And thanks to both Stuart and Greg for bringing the issue to my attention.)

Yes or No? Virgina Foxx Gets Foxy with Sex Ed "Experts"

Last Friday, I cited the Family Research Council's commentary on the abstinence/government funds hearings being held on Capitol Hill. It included a paragraph describing a panel of "experts" answers to a simple "yes or no" question from Congresswoman Virgina Foxx.

Well, here's a bit more detail on that matter and it comes in the form of a very revealing video clip of the answers to Congresswoman Foxx (a Republican representing North Carolina's 5th District) and her simple question: "If provided evidence [that] abstinence education programs are as or more effective than comprehensive sex education, would you support optional federal funding for such programs?"

Watching this brief clip will show you in a dramatic way what abstinence-based education programs are up against; namely, an entrenched bureaucracy which ignores even the clearest and most salient of facts in their demand for valueless (and thus tragically counter-productive) sex ed programs.

Canada's First Cord Blood Bank to Open?

A newborn baby can save another child's life -- if its mother is willing to donate the blood from its umbilical cord to a new umbilical-cord blood bank.

Canada's first cord-blood bank, expected to be approved by provincial governments in June, wants 10,000 new mothers to donate their babies' stem-cell rich blood.

Once thrown away as medical waste, cord blood is now used to fight leukemia, inherited blood disorders and even diabetes. The stem cells in healthy cord blood help regenerate blood cells and rebuild immune systems. The national bank will also link up with donor registries worldwide in a reciprocity agreement.

Umbilical-cord blood is already being used in medical treatment, but the samples are obtained internationally. Canada is one of the few industrialized countries without its own cord blood bank.

(Canwest News Service)

Good News for Knees (Thanks to Adult Stem Cells)

Here's a report out of Melbourne, Australia describing the dramatic prospects for adult stem cell treatments for athletic knee injuries and other joint issues stemming from such maladies as osteoarthritis.

The biotech firm, Mesoblast, recently completed successful animal trials which saw the injection of adult stem cells derived from bone marrow, abdominal fat, hip, skin and teeth give greatly increased protection to damaged knee cartilage. And the company is now ready for human application trials, believing that they may be ready to create a "billion-dollar market" for their technique in just a few years.

Professor Silviu Itescu, Mesoblast's director and chief scientific adviser, said the injected stem cells bound themselves to the cartilage, halting its degeneration. "Is it that the cells are protecting the cartilage, or is it accelerating the rate of repair? At the moment, we don't know," he said. "Either way, the result is more cartilage, thicker cartilage."

The human trials, to be conducted both in Australia and the U.S., will involve about 80 patients who have had knee arthroscopes in the previous month.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Today's Posts

Beware the Difference Between Self-Confidence and Stupidity

Warning: Learning About Obama's Friends and Advisors Can Make a McCain Supporter Out of You

The Nebraska Voter Information Packet Is Here

Waxing Wroth Over Abstinence Education

Minnesota School Officials "At Swords" with Rationality

Running Against Bush...Responsibly

Belarus' Sentencing of Peaceful Demonstrators Elicits US and EU Protests

Beware the Difference Between Self-Confidence and Stupidity

Warning: Learning About Obama's Friends and Advisors Can Make a McCain Supporter Out of You

Despite the overwhelmingly sweet coverage the Western press has so far given Barack Obama, his extremely liberal policies, relative inexperience, and recently revealed testiness are finally beginning to get the attention of American voters.

And indications are that these voters are being unpleasantly surprised.

But just wait till they become yet more informed about others in Obama's circle of friends and advisors. Sure, the Senator's connection with Tony Rezko and Bill Ayers has marred his image a bit and the close mentoring relationship he has had with Jeremiah Wright was even worse. But Republicans are certainly going to do what they can to inform the voting public about a few others before November.

Among them? Larry Lessig.

Lessig, a friend and supporter of Barack Obama, is described on the official Obama website as one of the industry experts supporting Obama's plan to create a technology czar for the U.S. As such, Lessig has frequently been called in by journalists to explain the candidate's technology plan.

But what about Lessig's reputation as a "digital communist,"one who believes there should be no such thing as intellectual property rights? Or about Lessig's use in lectures of "a video of a 'gay' Jesus Christ sashaying nearly naked down a city street to the tune of Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive,' only to get run over by a bus" -- a practice only stopped when a conservative web site highlighted it?

Having that kind of associate doesn't play well outside of San Francisco or Greenwich Village.

And then there's a seemingly unending list of Obama advisors whose antipathy towards Israel Power Line has been describing over the past couple of weeks? They include Joseph Cirincione, Samantha Power, Robert Malley, Merrill McPeak, and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

And, oh yes, there's also academician and Obama friend, Bernadine Dohrn, who helped kick off his first political campaign. Dohrn, who along with Ayers has a Weather Underground past, once warned Americans (Power Line offers a vintage recording of her remarks) that the Weather Underground was planning a series of violent attacks. In the light of these attacks, Dohrn suggests that people guard their colleges, banks, and even their children because the revolution is designed to bring American society (or the "pitiful, helpless giant," as she so elegantly phrases it) "to its knees."

But to date, Barack Obama's response to the extremely controversial (if not downright reprehensible) nature of many of his friends and advisors is not to repudiate them -- just hope the media doesn't get round to reporting on them.

But with the ever-growing power of the new media (Rush Limbaugh and peers, Fox News, conservative think tanks, and the emergence of bloggers as an exceptional informational, influential force), that's not a very good plan.

The Nebraska Voter Information Packet Is Here

The newest version of the Nebraska Voter Information Packet (the most complete survey on state candidates that you're going to find) is now up and online -- in plenty of time for you to do your homework prior to the May 13th Primary Election.

The VIP is a non-partisan effort offering information on legislative and citizen initiative issues as well as candidates' positions (in their own words) on these issues. There's no attempt to spin the data...just provide a lot of it.

Find the VIP right here.

Waxing Wroth Over Abstinence Education

The Family Research Council reports on how the politics of promiscuity worked in this week's Congressional hearings on abstinence education:

Yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held an extremely one-sided hearing to assess the effectiveness of authentic abstinence education. It took just one look at the witness list to see how Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) had stacked the deck against abstinence proponents.

When asked by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) if they would support abstinence education, three of the four "health experts" who testified against it said they would oppose abstinence even if scientific evaluation showed it to be as or more effective than so-called comprehensive sex ed. Dr. Harvey Fineberg of the Institute of Medicine was the only one in this anti-abstinence group to maintain a sense of scientific integrity by quietly answering yes.

On the positive side, Dr. Stan Weed, the lone pro-abstinence health expert at the hearing, testified solidly on behalf of the positive impact of abstinence-centered education. He presented research that demonstrates the effectiveness of abstinence programs across the country, including two of his own studies that showed decreases in rates of sexual initiation by 45 and 50 percent in youth when compared to non-program groups.

Missing from the discussion was the fact that the Chairman's own state has never accepted federally allocated Title V money for abstinence education--and its teens are suffering greatly for it. California is a tragic example of what can happen in today's culture in the absence of strong abstinence-centered education. Since rejecting the abstinence funds in the first year they were offered to states, the rates of STIs in California youth exploded at an estimated 1.1 million new cases per year in 2005.

Congressman Waxman should recognize the dire need of young people in his own state and stop protecting entities that promote high-risk behavior to youth.

Minnesota School Officials "At Swords" with Rationality

Among the most irrational features of the Nanny State is the extremity of its "zero tolerance" policies involving school kids and weapons. Sure, the system has to be tuned in to students carrying guns, switchblades, and explosives. But administrators have gone bonkers in recent years in stretching "zero tolerance" far beyond what is fair, manageable and even legal.

The latest case in point? Two Minnesota high school students who bought souvenir swords during a spring break choir trip in the United Kingdom were expelled for the remainder of the school year! This though the swords never made it out of the store.

It seems a meddling chaperone noticed the duct-taped boxes containing the swords after the students left the souvenir shop. The gifts were confiscated on the trip (never making it to Minnesota, by the way), and the two innocent kids were punished by being shipped home early.

But not punished enough. For when they got home, they were informed of their expulsion for the entire year.

The father of one of the students (his now-expelled son is a choir member, Sunday school teacher and Boy Scout leader) told the Pioneer Press, "The severity of the punishment didn't fit the crime here. There was no intent of violence. What got him in trouble was being lost in the moment and buying a cool souvenir for his room. It wasn't like he was buying an M-16."

The other student, a senior, was not only expelled for purchasing the 18-inch "Lord of the Rings" replica sword (intended as a Father's Day present for her Dad), but officials initially informed her she would not be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies. School officials eventually relented on the latter point.

Running Against Bush...Responsibly

Ben Domenech over at Red State has an intriguing article about the course for a Republican victory needing to be "responsibly anti-Bush" and how uniquely fitted for that course is Senator John McCain.

More than a year ago, a conversation among RS editors ended with this point being made, and solidly: that whoever the nominee was (at that point, Rudy Giuliani seemed likeliest), he would have to steadily and respectfully run against the record of George W. Bush.

The chief debate among the Republican base during the primary season concerned a central disagreement about which part of that Bush record deserves running against. The fiscal conservatives argued that a break from Bush’s fatigue-inducing economic policy is what’s needed. Anti-immigration Republicans pointed to Bush’s stalled border policies and yelled. The libertarians argued – in an odd break from fact-based analysis for otherwise rational people – that Bush’s Christianity-tinged pro-life and pro-marriage domestic policies overreached, and should be rebuked to attain some portion of the solidly Democrat atheist, agnostic, and mainline church demographic. Still other GOPers said the moment demanded only a break of stylistic points – claiming Bush’s policies were in large part correct, but they were sold to the public with about as much grace as the New Coke campaign.

This always seemed a bit too complex to me. In my view, the next candidate needed to run a campaign that respectfully rebuked the President on the two major overarching issues for his unpopularity – two areas that did far more damage to his brand outside the beltway than any steel tariffs or faith-based funding: The mismanagement of the war in Iraq, and the failure to respond to the disaster of Katrina.

To the unexpectedly good fortune of the Republican Party, the reemergence of John McCain has provided us with the only other candidate who can conceivably run a campaign that achieves both these aims...

The McCain campaign already has staked out turf that reveals their unique capacity for criticizing the Bush administration on the war while still winning the overwhelming majority of people who voted for the man and his post-9/11 policy. McCain wins both pro-war and anti-war Republicans – the latter more a statement of management then purpose. He wins frustrated vets who want the boys to come home, and frustrated vets who want the surge to work. After years of building him up as the noble maverick on issue after issue, the MSM’s calls of “out of touch” and “warmonger” are just too late to be effective – and likely to backfire in their faces should anyone point out that Marine lance corporal Jimmy McCain just got back from Iraq, and should be headed out again soon. The war is not his problem.

Yet until this week, it remained to be seen whether McCain could effectively confront the Bush administration’s inaction in Katrina with a response that demonstrated his recognition of that colossal failure, his ability to grasp the management demands at issue, and his commitment to lead when the next disaster comes.

McCain passed this test. Oh, did he pass it...

Here's the rest of Domenech's commentary.

Belarus' Sentencing of Peaceful Demonstrators Elicits US and EU Protests

From the "It's So Hard to Get Along with Dictators" Department comes a couple of Radio Free Europe reports about the ever worsening relationship between Belarus and the United States.

In one incident, the U.S. State Department (through spokesman Tom Casey) has asked Belarus "for the immediate and unconditional release of [Andrey] Kim as well as all political prisoners in Belarus." Kim was one of ten young Belarusians sentenced a couple of days ago to 18 months in prison simply for participating in a peaceful (but "unsanctioned") rally back in January which supported the rights of small-business owners. The Belarusian court also found Kim guilty of "violence or threats of violence against a police officer."

Writes Casey, "It is another example of the Belarusian government working to silence political opposition and silence civil society."

The next day a similar protest and appeal was registered by the European Union. E.U. External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner condemned the conviction of Kim and the others. "I call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those arrested whilst demonstrating peacefully, as well as all other political prisoners."

The second example involves the Belarusian Foreign Ministry's subsequent move to further reduce the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Minsk. In a puerile action reminiscent of Soviet-era shenanigans, Belarus insisted the embassy staff (already lowered to a skeleton crew of 17 because of Belarusian demands issued just last month) should be now be shaved to a mere five!

Belarusian authorities, acting on the desires of the country's dictatorial president, Alexander Lukashenka (photo upper right), are justifying the bizarre action because the United States is continuing economic sanctions against Belarus. The U.S. "expressed a protest against the new demand and noted that this unprecedented and unjustified move by the Belarusian authorities would lead to serious consequences."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Today's Posts

Of Ideology, Science and Moral Ethics: The Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research Embraces Them All

Wikipedia: Still a Bastion of Bias and Error

Will Obama's Hopes "Evaporate Like Morning Mist?"

Another Ghastly "Green Tax"

The Book Den Is Open Again

Which Eggheads Won the Campus Outrage Awards?

"The Most Dogged Foe of Unborn Human Life in the U.S. Senate”

Of Ideology, Science and Moral Ethics: The Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research Embraces Them All

Certainly, the challenges facing the Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research are many and daunting. After all, they are a small, severely underfunded group. And their efforts both to defend the sanctity of human life and to promote humane standards of scientific research and medical care are stridently opposed at every turn.

Nevertheless, NCER has several reasons to be encouraged and the April issue of the NCER (available online right here) clearly shows a few of them.

But the primary foundation for confidence and hope is because the academicians and activists of NCER fight on the side of the angels. They love life and cherish the Creator of life. They embrace truth and, unlike their ideological foes, they do not need to twist facts, obfuscate or distort the science, play word games, or otherwise hide from the plain truths.

The men and women affiliated with the Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research know that good science, progressive science, is thoroughly compatible with the great ethical traditions of Western civilization, traditions that rationally, justly and compassionately protect innocent human life as well as such irreducible values as freedom of conscience and the morality of the Hippocratic Oath.

They would deeply appreciate whatever help like-minded citizens could contribute. Financial assistance is very important as are opportunities to speak. And regarding the latter, former Nebraska State Senator and now NCER Executive Director Chip Maxwell is an engaging speaker who offers enlightening, non-threatening presentations on the issues of cloning, stem cell research, genetic engineering and so on. He frequently does these presentations alongside Dr. Sheryl Pitner, Greg Schleppenbach and other top-notch speakers.

Here's the appropriate contact info:

Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research, Inc.

PO Box 3463
Omaha, NE 68103-0463

Wikipedia: Still a Bastion of Bias and Error

"Wikipedia is in the hands of the zealots."

That's the conclusion of Lawrence Solomon, the executive director of Energy Probe, after engaging Wikipedia editor Kim Dabelstein Petersen in a very one-sided battle over global warming articles.

Here's the details.

Will Obama's Hopes "Evaporate Like Morning Mist?"

In the cold Iowa darkness after Barack Obama won the first of his primary victories, Gabor Steingart, (photo left) the award-winning Der Speigel journalist, wrote, "(Obama) has scant hope of reaching the White House. He's too young, too inexperienced, too vague, and for many Americans, too black. His magic words about the era of change, of hope, of an America he will unite -- all that will evaporate like morning mist."

Well, now that Obama has moved just a step away from securing the Democrat nomination, does Steingart still hold to that pessimistic view?

In a word, yes. Steingart writes:

...This prediction was confirmed in Pennsylvania. The euphoria over the 46-year-old senator has until today only gripped 50 percent of Democratic voters -- who make up only a third of registered voters. The Obama flame burns, but only in parts of society. Obama receives more goodwill than actual votes. And his press is better than his real situation. Obama's chances of a successful run for the White House are anything but rosy. There are three reasons why his presidential run will be difficult:

First, a politician who favors social policies has a tough time in a recession. In his desperation over the persistent rejection by white working class voters, Obama has shot himself in the foot.

He recently promised voters the moon at a trade union convention: State-subsidized health insurance. A $100 billion infrastructure program for the construction of bridges and roads. A $160 billion ecological investment program. Tax exemption for all pensioners with an annual income of under $50,000. Tax cuts for all middle-income groups. An increase in the minimum wage, which is currently set at $7.50 an hour.

But the voter groups which are decisive for any president distrust people who claim to be miracle workers. The union officials clapped, but many of its members lowered their heads pensively.

These people want new jobs, but they don't want new government debt. They want leadership, but Obama is only flashing his wallet.

Secondly, he is an opponent of war in a time of war. The United States is fighting a lonely and increasingly difficult war on two fronts, in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would like to finish the war quickly -- but the majority of Americans would like to win it first...

Thirdly, he is a party favorite in times of dwindling party loyalty. He excites the active members of the Democratic Party, the officials, the young people and the university graduates, not to mention that part of the party -- a part which should not be underestimated -- which is to be found within newspapers and TV stations. Up to 35,000 people came to his meetings in Pennsylvania.

But the further one moves from the ranks of the true believers in the direction of the undecided -- from the left to the center, from young to old, from student to worker -- the lower the excitement over Obama...

The American electoral system gives the center exceptional political power. Since most states are firmly in the hands of one party, attention is focused on the so-called swing states, large states such as Ohio, Texas, California and Pennsylvania which are sometimes Democratic and sometimes Republican. Obama has won many US states -- but not these swing states...

Another Ghastly "Green Tax"

It is but one of many such examples of how governments are "cashing in" on the mania for going green -- even when the actual results in bettering the environment are negligible. Or worse.

Here the Telegraph (U.K.) reports that the enormous "green levy" that the British government will be using to exploit motorists will double car tax revenue to £4 billion. But even as the figures from Treasury itself have shown, this huge tax increase will reduce vehicle emissions by less than 1%.

Justine Greening, a shadow Treasury minister who obtained the figures [photo top right], said last night: "This is a massive tax hike which will have virtually no impact on the environment. Despite their claims, the Government don't expect this move to change behaviour at all - it is just another eco-stealth tax of the worst kind."

The Book Den Is Open Again

After taking much too long a hiatus from The Book Den (my other blog, one specifically devoted to literary pursuits), I’ve decided to jump back in with a renewed resolve to keep it at least as current as the old days. We'll see. With the increased attention I’ve given to Vital Signs Blog, my other duties for Vital Signs Ministries, and now an ongoing commitment to prepare a sermon each week for an inner city church, that’s going to be a rather tough assignment. But hey – who needs six hours of sleep a night anyway, right?

The first “official” entry of the new era is an overdue installment of a feature that has become popular with the nation’s English teachers, librarians and retired disc jockeys; namely, Denny and Claire’s Annual NHN Book Recommendations, primarily developed for the consideration of the members of our “fine vintage” literary club.

So, if you're interested in books and authors, reviews, reading recommendations, poetry, publishing, etc., pay a quick visit every once in awhile to the Book Den.