Friday, November 28, 2008

Today's Posts

Give Knowledge for Christmas This Year

'Tis the Season for Telling Stories. Let the First National Day of Listening Kick-Off Something Besides Football.

GM No Longer Has a Tiger in Their Tank

And from yesterday, The First Thanksgiving Proclamation (June 20, 1676)

Give Knowledge for Christmas This Year

Looking for Christmas gift ideas? Why not look for quality goods and not for stuff that, in the words of that Home Alone kid, will "probably rot your teeth and your mind."

I've got a couple of sources for you today:

1) "All I Want for Christmas"-- A National Review Online Symposium. Weighing in on the matter is Raymond Arroyo, Myrna Blyth, Rick Brookhiser, Matthew Franck, Mark Hemingway; Kathryn Jean Lopez; John J. Miller; Jay Nordlinger; Michael and Catherine Pakaluk, and John J. Pitney, Jr.

And though mostly books, their gift suggestions do run a wide gamut: Exiles by Ron Hansen; the Matthew Hervey novels of Allan Mallinson; A Secret Life:The Polish Officer, His Covert Mission, and the Price He Paid to Save His Country by Benjamin Weiser; the 33-CD series of The Sopranos; Cool Hand Luke by Donn Pearce; Firing Line classics on DVD; Amata Means Beloved, a murder mystery by Sister Mary Catharine Perry, O.P.; Empire of Lies by Andrew Klavan; Safe Houses by David Pryce-Jones; The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life by Ramesh Ponnuru; the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Hilary Hahn, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard by Fan Shen; and many more.

They're fun, helpful ideas. And you might want to check out NRO's previous years too.

2) Here's an another angle -- already fantastic but made more so by the current financial crunch -- why not treat the readers on your Christmas list (and, of course, yourself) to quality pre-owned books? You can get a stack of 'em for what you'd pay for a single new book. And though I'm sure there's some good stuff being published nowadays, you can't lose by reading (and re-reading) the classics.

For ideas on used books, may I be so bold as to suggest you take a look at the Top Ten lists from my own reading in 2008 (one list for non-fiction and another for novels)? And while you're over there at the Book Den, you can check out the much, much longer lists represented by the reading rotas of the Notting Hill Napoleons. This post covers the 2008 list whereas this one covers 1992 through 2007.

'Tis the Season for Telling Stories. Let the First National Day of Listening Kick-Off Something Besides Football.

Did you know that today (November 28) has more significance than shopping, turkey sandwiches or even the Nebraska/Colorado football game?

It's the first official National Day of Listening. That's right, listening. It's something we all do too little of anyhow but the specific reason that StoryCorps, the nationwide oral history project, has created this special day is to promote personal storytelling, a critically-important part of life that is getting snowed under by television, technology and a pace of life that severely undermines interpersonal relationships.

I'm all for it (along with President Bush and the First Lady) and I urge you to consider joining in the spirit too. "This holiday season, ask the people around you about their lives — it could be your grandmother, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood. By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten. It may be the most meaningful time you spend this year."

I first became aware of the importance of what is called oral history in my undergraduate days but way, way before that I had learned the value of stories. My father was a keen and talented storyteller; so were my uncles and other adults in my life. And in the tales they spun, I learned about life's priorities, practical wisdom, perspective, virtue, dangers, humor, spirituality and more. I learned about history in an "up close and personal" way --and I learned how listening to one another's life stories does wonders for friendships, communication skills, and for building self-esteem and sense of purpose.

One of my most precious possessions today is a 2 1/2 hour interview I did of my Dad not long before he was killed by a drunk driver. Claire and I were in Colorado for a visit and I used an old boom box/tape player to record Dad's answers to my wide-ranging questions about his life. It didn't take much to get Dad to tell stories and I already knew a great deal even about his early life but I had decided to use this interview to probe a little deeper, to possibly learn things I wasn'y aware of.

It was a tremendous success. We sat in the kitchen drinking coffee and talking, comfortable, friendly and very open. Perhaps because we both knew we might not have many chances like this in the future, Dad seemed particularly mellow and pensive. He was very forthcoming, even talking about mistakes he had made and things in his life that had brought pain. Even if I had not recorded these memories of his, the afternoon would have been one of the most important of my life. But the fact that I do still have them (edited and re-recorded onto CDs, copies of which were given to my Mom and siblings) means the world to me.

Listening. It takes time. It takes effort. It even might take a bit of practice as you learn how to do it well.

But it's well worth the investment.

There's plenty to help get you started over at the StoryCorps web site. And, who knows, in a day or two, I might even drop in a portion of my interview with my Dad to spur you on.

GM No Longer Has a Tiger in Their Tank

You know things are really, really bad for General Motors when they fire Tiger Woods!

(Who knows. Maybe it's some bad karma up there in Detroit. Look at the Lions.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The First Thanksgiving Proclamation (June 20, 1676)

"The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present War with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgments he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to ourselves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed, It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed; and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many Intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an Insensible people, as not standing before Him with Thanksgiving, as well as lading him with our Complaints in the time of pressing Afflictions:

The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God's Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being persuaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Today's Posts

It's Wow Time Again! Adult Stem Cells Used to Create Human Organ.

Just in Time for Winter: A New Cold War

That Non-Existent War on Christmas Is Back

The High Costs of Nature Worship: We Can't Afford 'Em

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation Revisited

Japan: A Country of Martyrs

British Humanists Push Atheism with Taxpayers' Money

It's Wow Time Again! Adult Stem Cells Used to Create Human Organ.

It's wow time as yet another big stem cell breakthrough has occurred. And yes, you guessed it; it's adult stem cells that are behind this fantastic development. On the other hand, embryonic stem cell experimentation, despite the millions thrown its way, has given us nothing but unqualified hype.

Here's the story from The Scotsman:

A woman has become the first patient in the world to receive an organ created in a laboratory, in a pioneering operation that could change transplant surgery, doctors said yesterday.

Claudia Castillo's body part was grown using her own stem cells harvested from bone marrow.

Professor Anthony Hollander, part of the team behind the breakthrough, described it as an example of "stem cell science becoming stem cell medicine."

Using Ms Castillo's stem cells to create a new airway for her means there are none of the tissue-rejection problems that are a major issue for transplant surgery and which usually mean recipients have to take powerful drugs for the rest of their lives.

Researchers from the UK, Italy and Spain worked together in the extraordinarily complex procedure to grow tissue from the 30-year-old mother of two to fashion a new bronchus – a branch of the windpipe – and carry out the transplant operation.

Scientists believe the same approach will be used in years to come to create engineered replacements for other damaged organs. In five years, they hope to begin clinical trials in which laboratory-made voice boxes are implanted into patients with cancer of the larynx.

Professor Martin Birchall, a member of the team from the University of Bristol, said: "What we're seeing today is just the beginning. This is the first time a tissue-engineered whole organ has been transplanted into a patient.

"I reckon in 20 years' time, it will be the commonest operation surgeons will be doing. I think it will completely transform the way we think about surgery, health and disease."...

Just in Time for Winter: A New Cold War

This is where timidity, unpreparedness and weakness leads.

Russian warships sailed into port in Venezuela on Tuesday in a show of strength as Moscow seeks to counter U.S. influence in Latin America. Russia's first such deployment in the Caribbean since the Cold War is timed to coincide with President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Venezuela, the first ever by a Russian president.

Russian sailors dressed in black-and-white uniforms lined up along the bow of the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko as it docked in La Guaira, near Caracas, and Venezuelan troops greeted them with cannons in a 21-gun salute. Two support vessels also docked, and the nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great, Russia's largest navy ship, anchored offshore.

Chavez, basking in the support of a powerful ally and traditional U.S. rival, wants Russian help to build a nuclear reactor, invest in oil and natural gas projects and bolster his leftist opposition to U.S. influence in the region.

He also wants weapons - Venezuela has bought more than $4 billion in Russian arms, including Sukhoi fighter jets, helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, and more deals for Russian tanks or other weaponry may be discussed after Medvedev arrives Wednesday...

That Non-Existent War on Christmas Is Back

We hear it every year from the news media and other liberals. "There is no war on Christmas. It's all in the intolerant imaginations of paranoid Christians."

But all the while, the evidence for that war piles up. And up. And up.

Here's one of the first of what I have no doubt will many reports in this "Winter Solstice" season. It's a story of how Florida Gulf Coast University has prohibited all holiday decorations from the common spaces on campus. But that's not all. They've also canceled a popular Christmas card design contest (they're trying to institute an ugly sweater competition to take its place -- there's a sermon illustration for you) and the school's traditional Christmas tree has been altered into a "giving garden."

"Public institutions, including FGCU, often struggle with how best to observe the season in ways that honor and respect all traditions," President Wilson Bradshaw wrote in a memo to faculty and staff Thursday. Hmm. It seems that the one tradition (indeed, the one behind it all) isn't being very honored or respected at all.

Like always in these situations, the high-handed actions of the Scrooge-in-question are ticking people off. For instance, the Staff Advisory Council received 44 anonymous comments after the president's memo. And every one of them opposed Grinch Bradshaw's move.

Junior Marilyn Lerner, a 20-year-old resort and hospitality management major from California, said she'll miss seeing Christmas trees in the Student Union. "I think they're pretty," said Lerner, who is Jewish. "It's just a Christmas tree. I don't mind."

The High Costs of Nature Worship: We Can't Afford 'Em

"We Cannot Worship Nature and Remain Free" is the title of this provocative Human Events essay by A.W.R. Hawkins. It's a fine article but a maddening one, detailing as it does Barack Obama's promise to "bankrupt the coal industry," the use of environmentalism as a cover for a socialist agenda, and the disastrous irrationality represented by nature worship.

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation Revisited

Lisa Fabrizio makes some wry and insightful comparisons between Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation and those sentiments persistently propounded by the powers that be in education, media and the incoming administration.

We arrive once again at the time of year when our ancestors gave thanks to God for the innumerable blessings he has bestowed on our beloved country. But as time goes on, the thanks, if any, goes more and more to humans and worse yet, to a government that promises to care for its citizens from cradle to grave.

The new leader of that government will be Barack Obama, and given the frequency with which our president-elect is compared to Abraham Lincoln -- father of the GOP -- I thought it might be a good time to recall the words of President Lincoln and see how many, if any, of his sentiments in his proclamation of the Thanksgiving national holiday still ring true today...

It's a very good piece. And perfect reading for Thanksgiving. Check it out in its entirety (courtesy of the American Spectator) right here.

Japan: A Country of Martyrs

Faith McDonnell reports for the Institute on Religion and Democracy on the first beatification ceremony to ever take place in Japan. It happened just a couple of days ago on November 24th. Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins conducted the ceremony, honoring 188 of the Christian martyrs who were killed between 1603 and 1639.

The beatification is linked to sentiments expressed by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Japan in 1981. "Deeply moved by the faith of the Japanese Catholics, and by the legacy of those who had given their lives for their faith, John Paul II had told an archbishop in Nagasaki that Japan was a country of martyrs and that they should be recognized. Pope Benedict XVI issued the decree for the beatification last year..."

As Fr. Mark Tardiff recently described it, within sixty years after Portuguese Jesuit Francis Xavier began preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in Japan (mid 16th Century) “the Shogun unleashed a persecution of the young Church which rivaled in fury that of the Emperor Diocletian at the beginning of the fourth century.”

Nevertheless, the "power of Christ was shown forth in the Japanese martyrs of the seventeenth century as clearly as it was in the Christians of the first centuries. There is the same clear eyed awareness of their choice, the same unflinching conviction in the face of demands to renounce their faith, the same unbowed and even joyful spirit in the face of cruel suffering, the same more than human strength that witnessed to Another who suffered in them. Torments and death could not overcome them; they were killed and they conquered.”

British Humanists Push Atheism with Taxpayers' Money

Okay, let me get things straight here...

The British Humanist Association: 1) is waging an aggressive campaign to rid Great Britain of any contact between religion and public education;

2) is sponsoring an address by "prominent atheist" A.C. Grayling, who claims "religious belief shares the same intellectual respectability and rationality as belief in the existence of fairies;"

3) is sponsoring the "atheist bus campaign" in which London buses will be displaying signs saying, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life;"

4) sponsored speaking engagements by MP Evan Harris (who has been called "Dr. Death" because of his pro-abortion extremism) and homosexual rights activist Angela Mason;

and, get this, 5) received a £35,000 grant of taxpayer money from the government's Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Neil Addison, a Roman Catholic barrister who specializes in religious discrimination is, like nearly every British taxpayer who learns of this farce, a bit put off. "There's nothing wrong with the British Humanist Association organising seminars, but it's the fact that they're getting public money. There is the question of whether this is what Government money should be going for, particularly in a time of recession.

If we're having a debate on religion, should we be paying one side of the argument to hold it, especially with public money?"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Today's Posts

Virtue Media Will Keep On Saving Lives...Whoever Is In the White House

Michael Medved at the Heritage Foundation

Yet More Tax Dodging by Democrat Congressman Charlie Rangel

Polygamous "Marriages" -- Western Law Caves In (Again) To Shari‘a Law

If Proposition 8 Is Overturned, So Is Democracy

Next in Line for Federal Bailout -- The State of Illinois?

Failing Banks Nevertheless Managed to Pay Bill Clinton $2,100,000 for Speeches

Virtue Media Will Keep On Saving Lives...Whoever Is In the White House

Here's a nice story on the pro-life outreach Vital Signs Ministries has been so high on -- Virtue Media.

Michael Medved at the Heritage Foundation

If you've got some time, I'm sure you'll find this Michael Medved address (courtesy the video department over at The Heritage Foundation) well worth it.

Medved's speech is introduced by Rebecca Hagelin and deals with his new book, The 10 Big Lies About America.

The speech was enlightening, entertaining and extremely helpful for conservatives who still hope they can make an impact in our post-modern culture.

And it may well cause you to put The 10 Big Lies About America: Combating Destructive Distortions About Our Nation in your letter to Santa.

Yet More Tax Dodging by Democrat Congressman Charlie Rangel

Back in September came the news of Charlie Rangel's illegally parked car in the House of Representatives' special lot. Turns out it had been there for years. And that was just the latest in a series of embarrassing indications that the veteran Congressman from New York was a self-centered, shady (if not overtly corrupt), tax-dodger.

Too harsh? Hardly; the evidence is plentiful on all counts.

And that evidence just keeps piling up

Here, for instance, is the most recent Rangel revelation -- the gentleman has added to his tax-dodging credentials by an illegal tax break he received on a house he owned in the District of Columbia.

Here's the story as told by the Washington Post:

D.C. officials say that Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), who recently has been buffeted by questions about his personal taxes and real estate dealings, was incorrectly given a tax break on a house he owned in the District.

Rangel received the "homestead exemption," a property tax break for people who live in a permanent, primary home in the city, that reduced the taxes he paid on a house on Colorado Avenue NW in the Crestwood neighborhood. Rangel and his wife, Alma, bought the four-bedroom house when he first entered Congress in 1971 and sold it in 2000 for $500,000.

City officials said Rangel, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, got the tax break from at least 1995 until 2000, amounting to $288 per year, said Natalie Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Office of Tax and Revenue. Officials yesterday continued researching whether the break covered a longer period.

The exemption is designed as a break for people who buy a home in the District and use it as a primary residence. But Rangel always has maintained his primary residence in New York, making him ineligible...

Receiving the District's homestead exemption could also create a problem for Rangel in New York, where he and his wife have occupied several rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem. To qualify for the low-cost rentals, tenants in New York must claim them as a primary residence.

The House ethics committee began an investigation of Rangel at the congressman's request after a series of news reports raised questions about his personal financial affairs.

He came under fire over the summer for occupying the rent-stabilized apartments in a city where affordable housing is scarce. Some contend that Rangel's below-market rent amounts to an improper gift from the landlord; the congressman disagrees.

Rangel also acknowledged that he had not disclosed, or paid taxes on, at least $75,000 in rental income from a beachfront villa in the Dominican Republic that he has owned since 1988 -- a home financed, in part, with a no-interest loan from the developer. He paid back taxes of $10,800 to the Internal Revenue Service and New York state.

He pledged in September to hire a forensic accountant to untangle his records but delayed the hiring until this month. Milne said he did not know why the hiring was delayed...

Polygamous "Marriages" -- Western Law Caves In (Again) To Shari‘a Law

Daniel Pipes writes a brief but most enlightening article for Front Page Magazine exposing the West's increasing acceptance of harems. Uh huh; you read right -- harems.

Check it out.

A Scottish judge recently bent the law to benefit a polygamous household. The case involved a Muslim male who drove 64 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone – usually grounds for an automatic loss of one's driving license. The defendant's lawyer explained his client's need to speed: "He has one wife in Motherwell and another in Glasgow and sleeps with one one night and stays with the other the next on an alternate basis. Without his driving licence he would be unable to do this on a regular basis." Sympathetic to the polygamist's plight, the judge permitted him to retain his license.

Monogamy, this ruling suggests, long a foundation of Western civilization, is silently eroding under the challenge of Islamic law. Should current trends continue, polygamy could soon be commonplace...

United Kingdom: Bigamy is punishable by up to seven years in jail but the law recognizes harems already formed in polygamy-tolerant countries. The Department of Work and Pensions pays couples up to £92.80 (US$140) a week in social benefits, and each multiculturally-named "additional spouse" receives £33.65. The Treasury states that "Where a man and a woman are married under a law which permits polygamy, and either of them has an additional spouse, the Tax Credits (Polygamous Marriages) Regulations 2003 allow them to claim tax credits as a polygamous unit." Additionally, harems may be eligible for additional housing benefits to reflect their need for larger properties...

Australia: The Australian newspaper reports "it is illegal to enter into a polygamous marriage. But the federal government, like Britain, recognises relationships that have been legally recognised overseas, including polygamous marriages. This allows second wives and children to claim welfare and benefits."...

Thus, for the cost of two airplane tickets, Muslims potentially can evade Western laws...

At a time when Western marriage norms are already under challenge, Muslims are testing legal loopholes and even seeking taxpayer support for multiple brides. This development has vast significance: just as the concept of one man, one woman marriage has shaped the West's economic, cultural, and political development, the advance of Islamic law (Shari‘a) will profoundly change life as we know it.

If Proposition 8 Is Overturned, So Is Democracy

Today's Wall Street Journal editorial is a compelling one, arguing that the California Supreme Court's entrance into the Proposition 8 affair endangers not only the clear decision of the voters against homosexual marriages, but it endangers the whole idea of American democracy as well.

...It's true that we've seen some wild things in the days since California voters approved Proposition 8 -- a measure on the state ballot prohibiting same-sex marriage. We've had the burning of the Book of Mormon. The mailing of envelopes filled with white powder to Mormon temples. And activists marching on Mormon churches with signs and shouts of "hate" and "bigot" directed at anyone who might have a difference of opinion.

In modern America, of course, these acts all come under the banner of "tolerance." And it's interesting that all those so outraged by the alleged disrespect toward the Quran shown by Guantanamo prison guards (the most sensational report was later retracted by Newsweek) appear unperturbed by the ugliness directed against our Mormon brothers and sisters...

The great achievement of our system was to create a political order where these great moral disputes, as a matter of policy, are left to the people -- with allowance for differences according to region and locale. Moral agents have a role to play, generally by shaping the larger culture in which these decisions are framed and debated. But the outcome is left to the people acting through their elected representatives, a process that inevitably involves compromise, trade-offs and messy accommodations.

These political accommodations can be thought illogical or even corrupt by those focused solely on the moral. Partial-birth abortion is a good example. In the moral sense, surely the humanity of an unborn child is not affected by whether he or she happens to be aborted inside the womb or, a few minutes later, outside the womb. And gay-rights activists see no moral difference between two men who want to get married and the traditional male-female couple making their walk to the altar.

What people hold as a moral ideal, however, and what they will accept as a workable compromise are two different things. Left to their own devices, most Americans can work these differences out in politics much as they do in their everyday lives, as untidy as these solutions may be. Unfortunately, when the courts short-circuit this process, they do three things corrosive to our politics.

First, they act as dishonest referees, imposing one set of preferences over another.

Second, they cheat the American people of an honest political contest, where candidates need to persuade the people of their views to put them into effect...

There's a few other points the editorial makes -- including the huge advantage the Democrats have in elections by saying they believe something they don't in order to keep certain voters appeased (like Joe Biden's contention that the Democrat ticket didn't support homosexual marriage) but then relying on liberal, activist courts to do the job anyway.

Again, it's a good piece. And you can read it in its entirety here.

Next in Line for Federal Bailout -- The State of Illinois?

Barack Obama's state of Illinois is in big, big trouble. Already looking at a budget deficit of more than $2.5 billion, its backlog of unpaid bills is $4 billion right now and will be $5 billion before the flowers bloom. Yipes.

Dennis Byrne's excellent op/ed in the Chicago Tribune describes the mess:

...Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes tried recently to rattle our cage with another dire prediction of the morass we're creating, but who's listening? It's such boring stuff, you know. Except for what Hynes warns is coming: poor families denied medical care; schools crying for money; local governments failing to meet payrolls; state police cars parked; mass transit cutting service or raising fares.

Hey, Democrats, these are your people, the ones you supposedly care the most about. Hey, Democrats, the people running the state are yours too. But you keep putting them back into office year after year, despite their incompetence, petty quarreling and whatever else occupies their wee minds. The only one of them doing a good job is Hynes, whose latest warning should make everyone wonder: If our economy is in such a mess, and our 401(k)s have gone to pot, and the federal government is setting stratospheric records for borrowing, and no one is making loans, then how will Illinois ever get out of this mess?...

Frankly, I don't know what can be done. Hynes recommends urgent short-term borrowing that will keep suppliers going for now. He also wants some form of federal aid, such as paying the state its Medicaid reimbursement before services are provided (in effect, turning reimbursements into advances). He also wants the state to eliminate "Catch 25" (actually Section 25 of the Illinois Finance Act), which requires the state to pay all its bills in the same fiscal year in which they were incurred, with a few exceptions, such as Medicaid. This is a giant loophole that allows the state to push the huge pile of unpaid Medicaid bills into the next fiscal year, and use the money that should have been set aside for Medicaid for other purposes, so that the state budget (fraudulently) looks in better shape than it actually is.

I'm not sure how well any of that will work; it might already be too late. Who would lend Illinois money in its current financial condition? How can we count on the federal government for help when it is borrowing every dollar in sight for its assorted bailouts, mortgage purchases, bank and financial institution assistance and impending auto industry loans coming to more than $1 trillion?

Oh, that's right. In Washington, the answer to any problem is to borrow more. And more. Look for Washington to pull Illinois out of the fire and let us cheer all the taxpayers in the other 49 states.

Failing Banks Nevertheless Managed to Pay Bill Clinton $2,100,000 for Speeches

Here's an infuriating tidbit that the mainstream media has (hmm...conveniently for Democrats) refused to disclose.

Four major banks, including one that collapsed, two that received federal bailout money and one that filed for bankruptcy this past September, paid former President Clinton $2.1 million for 13 speeches he delivered on their behalf between 2004-2007, according to Senate financial disclosure statements filed by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.)....

The facts and figures are in this CNS News report.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Today's Posts

It's Monday. Ain't Nowhere to Hide.

What Goes Around...

When Is Free Speech NOT Free Speech? Well, I Guess When It's Spoken By a Christian.

"American Prayer"

The Brave New World of Bioethics (Through the Eyes of Contraception Journal)

It's Monday. Ain't Nowhere to Hide.

What Goes Around...

Regarding the ever-increasing lineup of the "Friends of Bill" that will be taking center stage in the Obama administration, the inspired wags over at say,

"Clinton Redux continues. Maybe they could send back the White House furniture they nicked."

When Is Free Speech NOT Free Speech? Well, I Guess When It's Spoken By a Christian.

Our friend Tom Beatty (preacher, prison chaplain and fellow watchman on the wall) passes along this item from OneNewsNow as an example of how the thought police is extending their grasp.

The so-called "free-speech code" of Yuba Community College District is under federal court scrutiny.

California student, Ryan Dozier, decided to spend some time on campus sharing his faith and handing out tracts to fellow students, generating conversations about Christianity. Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney Heather Hacker comments on the situation.

"A campus police officer came over and told him that if he continued to do so without a permit that he would be possibly expelled or arrested, and so Ryan stopped immediately," she explains.

Hacker says Dozier thought the case was closed, but he was apparently mistaken. "Three weeks later he got a certified letter from the president of the college stating that his actions were the subject of a campus crime report," she adds. "Last time I checked, sharing your faith on a public college campus was not a crime."

But the letter informed him he could face expulsion if he shared his faith on campus again. ADF filed suit, and a federal judge has ordered the college to suspend enforcement of its highly restricted free speech policies until the lawsuit is resolved.

"American Prayer"

If my memory serves me well, I first met Donna Milgaten when I was in Salt Lake City for speaking engagements way back in the mid-1980s. I was there to help out a new Christian Action Council chapter and to help organize sidewalk counseling efforts at the abortion clinic there. Donna was one of a noble few who were taking on these difficult challenges. I was impressed with Donna's love for God and her family, her kindness and compassion, her insight and her musical talents -- and I'm pleased to say that it seems like all of these virtues have only grown stronger and deeper in the intervening years.

This post serves to introduce Donna Milgaten to you...through her music. In particular, I'm suggesting you read these comments from her MySpace page and then that you listen to her very moving song, "American Prayer" which you'll find there as well. It's terrific.

Oh, that the music of our churches was half as relevant, half as biblical as Donna's "American Prayer" is.

From Donna's page:

In this age and place and time we have an odd perspective on the world. We sit like Dorothy on our beds in the midst of the cyclone and watch the images swirling into view on the screen...

* perfectly manicured people in perfectly manicured settings fly by, pausing long enough to tell us what we really need to be satisfied;

* Carl Sagan wannabes ride by on the airwaves wowing us with the wonder of our meaningless existence as cosmic accidents;

* a televangelist relates the gospel that Jesus gives particular attention to the prayers of thousand dollar donors..

...and we get the uneasy feeling that we're not in Kansas anymore.

Look at the faces passing by on the streets- they are "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." They are bombarded every day with The Lie that there are no absolutes--and the casualties are strewn among the rubble of a society shaken off of its foundation. We are a culture that desperately needs a Solid Rock to stand on. In one way or another, we all grapple with all these issues of our day. Believers in Yeshua HaMashiach have the incredible treasure of His Word to guide us as we grapple. My searching and struggling to apply the One to the other sometimes takes the form of a song that I can't get out of my head until I've worked it out. I pray these songs will make people think and maybe even consider things from a little different perspective, and that the Ruach Ha'Kodesh will be poured out through all the spaces between each note and word. Thanks for listening!...

Shalom and agape,

Donna Milgaten

The Brave New World of Bioethics (Through the Eyes of Contraception Journal)

From this editorial in the latest edition of Contraception Journal comes frightening previews of how far our post-Christian culture is willing to travel from the sanctity of life ethic it one revered.

...As individuals and couples face decisions about whether to use genetic testing and ART [assisted reproductive technologies], practitioners will be ever more challenged to provide comprehensive and unbiased counseling for women who are pregnant or wishing to become pregnant. With the availability of prenatal, prepregnancy and preconception testing of fetuses, embryos and gametes for hundreds — and potentially thousands — of genetic conditions, prospective parents will have to make decisions about whether or not to use available genetic testing and what to do when they receive positive test results. While prenatal testing has been used for decades and providers have long counseled their patients in this area, they have not often had access to full information about raising a child with a disability...

[Note the unscientific use of the terms "
prepregnancy" and "preconception" in the above paragraph. These terms defy the medical realities of when conception really occurs. And, of course, they are thus used to obscure what's really happening when women use "birth control" drugs and devices; namely, precious human beings conceived in the image of God are being destroyed.]

...Although platforms and positions will become more complex than in the past, advocacy for reproductive health rights and justice will be more important than ever during the next decade. The basic tenets of reproductive health and justice promote the rights of women, men, their families and communities to lead healthy reproductive lives and advance the conditions necessary to exercise them. Already the issues have become more complicated and dynamic than ever with the advent of new reproductive technologies.

How do we establish policies in the area of reproductive genetics while simultaneously assuring reproductive autonomy? For example, while we stand firm on the rights of all women to choose whether or not to have a child, to continue wanted pregnancies to term and to access legal and safe abortions, how do we answer questions such as, “Does the right to choose whether or not to have a child extend to the right to choose the characteristics of a child (e.g., choosing the child's sex or, in the future, possibly choosing eye color or other genetically determined traits)?”...

Yes, beyond the talk in this editorial about moving forward on "egg retrieval" for oneself or others, beyond its insistence on "unbiased" counseling (look out Christian physicians and CPCs), and beyond it's desire for yet more extensions of surgical and chemical abortion, the editors of Contraception Journal dare to suggest (as if it were a genuinely open moral question) that "leading healthy reproductive lives" just might include the aborting of babies because they have the wrong color of eyes!

When one considers this willingness of the modern scientific community to defy even heaven in its coercive push for abortion, embryonic stem cell experimentation, and genetic manipulation -- and when one remembers the enthusiasm of these things by the incoming Democrat administration (i.e., Ellen Moran, executive director of the abortion rights organization, EMILY’s List, was named White House communications director by President-elect Obama on Saturday) -- we see that the brave new world of bioethics is at our doorstep.

God save us.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Today's Posts

Of Christmas, Books and Getting Away for the Weekend

The United States of Europe? Courtesy of George W. Bush?

Obama Hires More Clinton Insiders -- One Tied to Marc Rich, the Other to Fidel Castro

Fireproof's Success Has Hollywood Baffled

Cuba's Policy of "Holding Kids Hostage"

"Suppress Criticism of Islam and You Will Be Spared Retaliatory Violence"

Won't Anyone Face Financial Facts When It Comes to the U.S. Auto Industry?

Of Christmas, Books and Getting Away for the Weekend

It's official. Well, it will be late this afternoon anyhow when we start unloading our stuff at the Whispering Pines Bed & Breakfast down in Nebraska City.

The Christmas season will be here.

For the last several years Claire and I have made our annual weekend retreat with the Notting Hill Napoleons (our 16 years and running literary club) the kickoff for our Christmas celebrations. And what a great start it is: spending time with good friends; preparing (and eating!) delicious meals; plenty of conversation spread over diverse topics; selecting our books for the coming year; and conducting our traditional discussion of the year's Charles Dickens novel.

But before we go, we've got an awful lot to do so including having breakfast with my Mom, picking up our car, studying for Sunday's sermon, and finishing the Dickens novel! I'd better leave off blogging and get to it, huh?

And if, by chance, you're interested in finding out any more about the Napoleons, you can do so by sorting through that section over on my literature/arts blog, The Book Den. You'll find entries I made last night about the Napoleons' Getaway, The Key (Seven of Them, Actually) to a Great Melodrama -- George M. Cohan's "Seven Keys to Baldpate", and "Father of the Bride" Finds a Fan. And there's a lot more. Have fun and have a great weekend.

The United States of Europe? Courtesy of George W. Bush?

The results of the G-20 economic summit amount to nothing less than the seamless integration of the United States into the European economy. In one month of legislation and one diplomatic meeting, the United States has unilaterally abdicated all the gains for the concept of free markets won by the Reagan administration and surrendered, in toto, to the Western European model of socialism, stagnation and excessive government regulation. Sovereignty is out the window. Without a vote, we are suddenly members of the European Union. Given the dismal record of those nations at creating jobs and sustaining growth, merger with the Europeans is like a partnership with death...

Will Obama govern from the left? He doesn't have to. George W. Bush has done all the heavy lifting for him. It was under Bush that the government basically took over as the chief stockholder of our financial institutions and under Bush that we ceded our financial controls to the European Union. In doing so, he has done nothing to preserve what differentiates the vibrant American economy from those dying economies in Europe...

(Source: Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, Town Hall column, November 19)

Obama Hires More Clinton Insiders -- One Tied to Marc Rich, the Other to Fidel Castro

The evidence that Barack Obama is looking to create Bill Clinton's third term just keeps coming.

Here is a Washington Times story about Eric H. Holder Jr., Obama's pick to direct the Justice Department. Holder served as the deputy A.G. under Clinton and, in that role, was the key fellow in winning the extremely controversial pardon of billionaire fugitive financier Marc Rich.

And from Humberto Fontova, writing for American Thinker, there's this:

Among the throng of Clinton regime retreads recruited for the Obama administration we find Gregory Craig. Craig served as Obama's advisor on Latin American during the campaign, and was appointed last week as chief White House Counsel.
The MSM has mentioned Craig's role as Bill Clinton's impeachment lawyer, but mostly has omitted mention of Craig's role as chief facilitator for Fidel Castro's shanghaiing of Elian Gonzalez.

Officially Craig served as attorney for Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. This humble man worked as a hotel doorman in a nation where the average monthly salary is $16. The high-rolling Gregory Craig worked for Washington D.C.'s elite firm, Williams & Connolly, one of America's highest-priced law firms.

Upon accepting the case, Gregory Craig had flown to Cuba for a meeting with Fidel Castro. Craig's remuneration, we learned shortly after his return, came from a "voluntary fund" set up by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and "administered" by the National Council of Churches. The same reporters and pundits, who routinely erupt with snide snorts midway through any statement by a Republican press secretary, reported this item with a straight face.

But then, this media also reports that Castro's Cuba provides free and exquisite health-care. And the explanation of Craig's funding issued from the same source...

Fireproof's Success Has Hollywood Baffled

Rick Pearcey writes with his characteristic wit and wisdom about the dramatic film Fireproof (and more) in this engaging article.

...“The point I’m trying to make,” said one critic, is “should movie theaters be an appropriate setting for religion? Seems to me it’s a little disrespectful to God to invoke his name while chewing on popcorn and slurping on cokes.”

Right -– it’s out of respect for the Creator that we banish him from entertainment society. That might do for bluebloods in suits at tea parties congratulating themselves for being different from “those people.”

But the real Creator describes himself as not afraid or too “spiritually minded” to get his hands dirty and muck it up with human beings. He moves by humanity and conviction, not by style points awarded by the Washington Post.

Of course a film like Fireproof belongs in movie theaters. An Obama-packed Supreme Court may well change this, but there is currently no wall of separation between church and cinema...

Cuba's Policy of "Holding Kids Hostage"

"Holding children hostage'' -- that's a scary but appropriate way to describe what Communist Cuba is doing as the government regularly denies uses exit visas to kids of Cuban professionals who have permission to temporarily live abroad. This is, of course, a cruel leverage to force the parent's return. The policy is also used as a revenge against those daring to defect from the "worker's paradise."

Here is just one exemplary story.

"Suppress Criticism of Islam and You Will Be Spared Retaliatory Violence"

Nina Shea, international human-rights lawyer and now the director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, has a brief but important article over at The Weekly Standard about the latest developments in the "religious harmony" department...and how they reveal radical Islam is becoming even more intolerant and coercive.

There's no doubt about it. The move to severely restrict the freedoms of speech and religion under the guise of banning "hate speech" is well underway.

Two international meetings to promote interfaith harmony were held in the last two weeks, one in New York and one in Rome. The former, called by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia under the auspices of the United Nations, drew some 20 heads of state to discuss a "Culture of Peace." The latter brought together Muslim and Catholic scholars at the Vatican in the latest session of the dialogue called A Common Word. Both gatherings underscored the gulf between us. At both, all parties spoke for peace and tolerance, but they often meant different things...

For the past decade, the Saudi-based Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has pushed the U.N. to adopt a universal ban on defaming Islam. This measure would aim to curb the freedom not only of Danish cartoonists but also of scholars, writers, dissidents, religious reformers, human rights activists, and anyone at all anywhere in the world who criticizes Islam. This is already the effect of the domestic laws against apostasy and blasphemy that exist in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, and other states of the Islamic Conference.

Inside Saudi Arabia, there is, of course, a complete absence of religious freedom. All churches are banned, and apostates can be put to the sword (though in practice they more often suffer long prison terms). So the Saudi king's initiative might be seen in the West merely as a brazen public relations ploy. From the OIC perspective, however, the Saudi quest for religious understanding is more purposeful. The king, as the defender of the faith, has come to strike a deal with the West: Suppress criticism of Islam and you will be spared retaliatory violence...

Won't Anyone Face Financial Facts When It Comes to the U.S. Auto Industry?

It's only common sense, right? Throwing good money after bad isn't smart. And when the money thrown is somebody else's, it isn't fair either.

But when it comes to the American economy nowadays, common sense is anything but common.

And a tragic case in point is how the whining automobile manufacturers are likely to get huge cash infusions from the American taxpayers despite Detroit's stubborn failure to face financial facts. Martin Feldstein describes here a few of the most salient:

...The Big Three pay much higher wages than production workers are paid in the nonunion auto firms and in the general economy. And the health-care costs of current workers and retired union members are an enormous additional burden.

The simplest solution is to allow GM and the others to file for bankruptcy. If the companies file under Chapter 11, they would be able to continue producing cars, and the work force would remain employed while the firms reorganized. The firms would also be able to get short-term credit under bankruptcy protection.

The bankruptcy court could require the unions to rewrite contracts, bringing wages down to levels that would allow the firms to compete and therefore to maintain employment.
Scaling back employee and retiree health benefits would further improve price competitiveness and allow better cash wages.

The firms' bondholders and other creditors would have to take losses. Shareholders' fate would depend on how firms responded to this restructuring.
Only by reducing wages and benefits will the firms be able to survive and provide good jobs.

If politicians in Washington cannot live with the thought of the auto industry in bankruptcy, and decide that some cash must be delivered, this should be done as part of a fundamental restructuring plan imposed by the government in exchange for those funds...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Today's Posts

Tom Daschle: This Is Obama's Idea of Change?

In-Fighting Among Pro-Lifers: It Hurts the Babies Most of All

The Obama Administration: Bill Clinton with a Daley Twist?

Do the Democrats Want a Religious America?

Revisiting "Reactions: The U.K.'s Horrendous Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act"

Tom Daschle: This Is Obama's Idea of Change?

Of the news that Tom Daschle is set to be Barack Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Family Research Council says, "Breaking news this afternoon suggests that President-elect Obama is unlikely to govern from the middle. By appointing former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D) as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, the 44th President provided a frightening glimpse of his new Cabinet.

"According to Politico, 'Daschle was also considered for health care czar in the White House, but the transition team decided he could be more effective with Secretary in front of his name.' As Majority Leader, Daschle was a notorious opponent of every pro-life measure. He blocked the partial-birth abortion ban, voted for taxpayer-funded military abortions, and supported a measure that would have forced Americans to pay for the distribution of the morning-after pill to young school girls.

Apart from his extreme political ideology, the selection of Daschle is even more troubling because the South Dakotan lacks any experience in the public health arena.

To most Americans, who thought this election was about 'change,' these appointments must seem incredibly ironic. So far, the new Obama administration has only managed to change the titles of the same old liberal leadership"

In-Fighting Among Pro-Lifers: It Hurts the Babies Most of All

Jill Stanek's column here is particularly good as she deals with the current ideological, methodological and, I would add, sometimes personality-oriented divisions in the pro-life ranks. It makes a very helpful contribution to the issues discussed in my first post today (Revisiting "Reactions: The U.K.'s Horrendous Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act") but, more important, read it because it makes a genuinely valuable corrective to pro-lifers who want the best chance to save lives from the abortionist's clutches.

The Obama Administration: Bill Clinton with a Daley Twist?

From the ever-reliable Evans-Novak Political Report comes this quick assessment of the transition.

As the Obama Administration continues to take form, the new team increasingly looks like Clinton-Administration-Meets-Chicago.

1. It is all but official that Obama intends to tap Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) as secretary of State, and it is clear that Clinton is considering the job. She has dispatched lawyers to assist in the vetting process, but she could, in the end, still say no.

2. The question before Clinton: Is secretary of State her best available path the presidency in 2016? It's certainly more promising than another four to eight years in the Senate, and the governorship does not at the moment appear available to her.

3. The question before Obama: Will the Clintons' penchant for ethical indiscretions hurt his administration, and is there any healing-old-wounds value to picking her. It certainly wins him media adulation, but what doesn't?

4. Senate confirmation would give Republicans another chance to Clinton-bash, but she would face no serious resistance in that chamber, and would probably get a majority of Republicans along with all Democrats.

Do the Democrats Want a Religious America?

What's in the works for America when Barack Obama's extremism on abortion starts being dished out upon all Americans from the Oval Office? Will the passage of the Freedom of Choice Act (which he and the Democrats strongly support) spell doom for countless preborn children, for freedom of conscience, and for freedom of religion?

Or could it actually spell doom for the Obama administration?

Consider, for instance, the effects on Catholic hospitals -- if, that is, the Roman Catholic Church stands up strong against Obama.

Chicago's Cardinal Francis George, the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is quoted in this LifeSiteNews article as saying, "FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children. It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities."

LifeSiteNews' John-Henry Westen continues, "In light of this possible attempt to revoke conscience rights under the Obama administration, Catholic League president Bill Donohue has urged President Bush to enact regulations, already in draft for months, which would protect the rights of doctors, nurses and health workers from being discriminated against if they refuse to perform or assist in abortions, as well as other morally contentious procedures. 'At stake are the religious rights of these professionals,' said Donohue.

"To put it differently, were FOCA to become law (it needs to be reintroduced in the House), the culture war that the Vatican official was referring to would come to a boiling point," he warned. "In practical terms, this would mean the closure of every Catholic hospital in the nation: No bishop is going to stand by and allow the federal government to dictate what medical procedures must be performed in Catholic hospitals. Make no mistake about it, the bishops would shut down Catholic hospitals before acquiescing in the intentional killing of an innocent child. Were this to happen, it would not only cripple the poor, it would cripple the Obama administration."

Donohue concluded: "It is for reasons like these that the Catholic League urges President Bush to move with dispatch in instituting rules protecting the religious rights of all health care workers. If Obama wants to undo them, it will set up a confrontation he will surely regret."

Revisiting "Reactions: The U.K.'s Horrendous Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act"

A comment on yesterday's Vital Signs post Reactions: The U.K.'s Horrendous Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act came from pg:

Re your piece on Josephine Quintavalle's Mercator article:

I fear you have misunderstood: The loss of Glasgow East by Labour was a welcome result for the pro-life cause. The successful SNP candidate, John Mason, was the only one who opposed the HFE Bill. I feel you are a little harsh in your observations. Speaking out without fear or favour is the right thing at times. At others, more subtlety may be required. It is not about compromising principles, being deceitful or behaving improperly. It is about using resources and opportunities intelligently within a principled framework.

Denny responds -- Thank you for your comments, especially for correcting my impression that Quintavalle was criticizing Cardinal O'Brien. I understand now that her use of his example was, in fact, a positive illustration of the use of plain language -- just earlier she had been emphasizing that pro-lifers not use "complicated terminology." Good for her. And I apologize for passing along my false impression.

My mistake, as most readers will sympathize, came from connecting Quintavalle's use of the Cardinal's words to her earlier criticisms: "being heroic is simply not enough;" arguing that pro-lifers need to learn "the value of self-effacement, pragmatic game play, and sheer cunning;" criticizing "islands of pro-life rhetoric" and "predictable pro-life profiles;" and insisting we must "move beyond repetition of absolutes regarding human life."

Therefore, regarding the basic observations of the Vital Signs post, they stand.

And even though I honestly do appreciate pg's comments, especially her correction of my mistake, I must say her defense of Quintavalle seems just more of the same. For instance, speaking out without fear or desire to court favor isn't "the right thing at times." It's the right thing all the time!

And so, while I'm sure Quintavalle, pg and Denny Hartford all use the same words in this debate (i.e. subtlety, wisdom, intelligence, winsomeness, not creating unnecessary barriers, and so on), I fear our understanding of their interpretation and application may be quite different.

And most directly, the difference is this -- I do not blame the plain-speaking social conservatives in America for John McCain's loss. I do not blame the 2nd Century Christians of Rome for not being subtle, pragmatic or cunning enough in their stand against Nero. And I do not blame the prayerful, principled British pro-life advocates for the passage of Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

No, let's let the blame fall on those who deserve it rather than deflate, distract and divide our own community with unfair, counter-productive criticism.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today's Posts

Reactions: The U.K.'s Horrendous Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act

Whose Really Insane About Marriage?

It's Payback Time: Radical Abortionists Want Obama to Deliver His Promises

Sarah or Arnold: Who Better Represents Republicans?

Second Sight

Reactions: The U.K.'s Horrendous Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act

Josephine Quintavalle has written a thoughtful, interesting piece for Mercator in which she analyzes the horrible defeat the British pro-life community experienced with the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. I do not agree with all of her conclusions, however, fearing that her advice sounds the same strains of unfair blame that are occurring on this side of the Atlantic over the defeat of John McCain. I print below a couple of sections of Quintavalle's essay along with my comments.

...Everything is now approved, every taboo is broken, every possible outrage against human dignity is now formally endorsed: animal-human embryos, artificial gametes, cloning using two maternal egg sources, germline manipulation, preimplantation diagnosis for eugenic purposes, posthumous conception, removal of the child’s need for a father, use of tissue without proper consent … The list goes on.

We fought hard against the bill. The Catholic Church, strengthened by its clear position on the right to life of the human embryo, was particularly vocal, and a great deal of activity was centred around other Christian churches as well. Many of the pro-life organisations grouped together under the banner Passion for Life, and, with a platform which included parliamentarians David Alton, Ann Widdecombe, Geraldine Smith and David Burrowes, travelled the land conducting rallies and encouraging the audiences to make their voices heard. Two million postcards of opposition were sent to MPs from around the country, and everyone was encouraged to lobby personally their individual representatives. There were protests in Parliament Square, briefings, debates, processions, prayers. And we lost every vote...

The new law represents a total victory for science, for genetic determinism, for unconstrained reproductive freedom. Even more worryingly, it has a built-in capacity for limitless liberty, a quality proudly described as “future-proofing” by health minister, Dawn Primarolo.
Summing up in the House of Commons, having assured us cryptically that “The kaleidoscope of science is coming to a rest,” Ms Primarolo proudly asserted that no longer will the “extremes of scientific progress be blocked by red tape, stifled by regulation, or frustrated by a regime that fails to keep pace with social change”. That’s the new legislation in a nutshell...

Now Josephine Quintavalle, the director Comment on Reproductive Ethics, goes on in this Mercator article to criticize pro-life advocates' methodology in the uphill battle they fought against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and Parliament.

But her criticism is too harsh and much too naive.

I'm afraid this frequently happens when there is an election or a cultural battle lost. Certain critics emerge who foolishly underestimate the strength of the opposition and insist that the reason for the loss must lie somewhere in their own camp. This is happening now in the U.S. as several try to blame Sarah Palin and the religious conservatives for John McCain's loss instead of honestly appraising the strengths of the Democrats' campaign.

The reasons the Democrats won the election are simple: a huge money advantage and the wholesale Obamamania of the mainstream press.

Nevertheless, some critics, seeking to advance their own agenda in the party (i.e. wanting to shape the G.O.P. into something more secularized, or more libertarian, or more friendly to the nanny state) invent the silliest, most unfounded indictments against their colleagues.

Sarah Palin didn't lose the election for the Republicans. Indeed, the record clearly shows she was the brightest light it had. And the religious conservatives that she so joyously energized? They're not to blame either. They provided, as they have since Reagan, the party's most energetic and loyal support. Any attempt to move the party away from the principles they hold (sanctity of life, military superiority, fiscal responsibility, freedom, and so on) would create a disaster.

Nevertheless, the whining goes on. And that whining usually gets round to suggesting: 1) moral compromise, 2) pragmatism trumping principle, and 3) a reduction in religious motivation, language and purpose.

Are such things emerging from Quintavalle's criticism of the British pro-life community too? Read her concluding paragraphs and make up your mind.

Much and all as we may admire martyrs, in the secular world of today’s United Kingdom being heroic is simply not enough. It is right and proper for the churches to preach the religious truths, but the lay voice has to learn the value of self-effacement, pragmatic game play, and sheer cunning. We need to build unlikely alliances, not create islands of pro-life rhetoric; we need to work far more successfully with middle-ground players, engage in creative lateral thinking.

If we stand up with predictable pro-life profiles we are quickly marginalised. We need to liaise far more with unexpected spokespeople of the calibre of Frank Field, for example. This Labour MP, with no affiliation to any known lobby positions, tabled abortion amendments of extraordinary astuteness.

Arguments, too, must move beyond repetition of absolutes regarding human life and include the utilitarian. In embryo research, for example, we need to address safety concerns, funding allocation, the economic complexities of marketing tissue in countries with different ethical approaches...

When Scotland’s Cardinal O’Brien used the words, “Frankenstein monsters,” the media reacted immediately, the temperature rose, and it helped lose the Labour Party a by-election in Glasgow East!

I think Quintavalle's assessment of the devastating defeat suffered by the pro-life community (and indeed, the whole British society) by the passage of the monstrous Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act is spot on. And I appreciate all of the efforts she and here CORE colleagues exacted in opposing it.

However, I am concerned about her criticism of the pro-life strategy, fearing it leads to unnecessary (and unhealthy) compromises and the adoption of an "end justifies the means" mentality.

For instance, despite Quintavalle's characterization of the matter, Cardinal O’Brien's use of the term "Frankenstein monsters" was not what lost the by-election in Glasgow East. Did the intolerantly secular media take umbrage at the Cardinal telling the truth? And did they use it as a club to go after him? Sure, what else is new?

But to blame the Cardinal, as she does, rather than the audacious bias of the press is irresponsible and even cruel. And to use that particular case as an illustration of how British pro-lifers need to go easy, to mince words, to be more utilitarian, "to learn the value of self-effacement, pragmatic game play, and sheer cunning" is a most unfair ploy.

I am certainly sympathetic to Quintavalle's concerns. And I'm sure we would agree that pro-life activists need to be as wise, as winsome, as effective as possible in our pro-life efforts. But we must beware of the temptation to win a quarter but give away the game -- and that's what surely happens when Christians begin to compromise, become pragmatic, and aim at lower goals.

We've got to be careful. In the U.S. and the U.K. both, the Christian pro-life community must stand firm in His truth and withstand unfair criticism that might distract us from our responsibilities. And, of course, among those responsibilities are loving our neighbors, defending the defenseless, speaking the truth in love, rebuking evildoers, praying for those who persecute us, and many others.

But not among them are "learning the value of self-effacement, pragmatic game play, and sheer cunning."