Friday, January 30, 2009

Today's Posts

The Black Paw Strikes Again

Earlier this week I talked to a couple of groups of the AWANA kids over at Faith Bible Church. Most of my talk was the Black Paw story of my youth, a true-life account of one of the most exciting days of my life, a day in which a 4th (or maybe I was by then a 5th-grade) kid who loved reading history and mystery books became involved in his very own mystery. No kidding.

That adventurous day included a wild discovery, a series of clues left by a 19th-Century stagecoach robber which my friends and I had to decipher, the digging up of the Black Paw treasure...and a most surprising climax of the story.

Anyhow, in today's e-mail came this delightful note:


Just want to thank you so much for your Awana talk.

It was one of the best!!

Jane and I have decided to really focus on the two key words you used, Adventure and Treasure with our kids. We are planning on having a family meeting this weekend to talk about Adventure - What are some adventure type things you would like to do this year. We are going to really encourage them to think creatively. We will also encourage them to find real Treasure through their own personal reading of the Word of God and having a prayer time.

Your talk is launching our family into something fresh and exciting for hopefully many years ahead.


Wow. That makes me want to tell it all over again. And I'll certainly do that whenever anybody drops by for tea. Or, for that matter, when they invite me over to their church, Sunday School, AWANA group...whatever.

"Once upon a time, a long time ago in south Denver, there was this kid..."

RSVP to Al Gore

Melissa sent this along, thinking I'd probably appreciate the barbed humor it represents. I did. And I think you will too.

"Dictators Are Making a Comeback"

Claudia Rosett has a terrific, hard-hitting piece in Forbes that reminds us that our problems are a lot more than economic.

Dictators are making a comeback.

Just four or five years ago, the headlines were full of democratic movements, notably the yellow, rose and cedar "revolutions" in the Ukraine, Georgia and Lebanon. The Taliban had been toppled, Saddam Hussein overthrown. Democratic stirrings were heralded from the streets of Iran and China to promises of reform in Saudi Arabia and Libya. Freedom was continuing a roll begun way back in the Reagan era. Tyrants were on the outs with polite society.

These days, dictators are on a roll. Among the many signs was last week's op-ed in The New York Times by none other than Muammar Qaddafi, unrepentant and brutal tyrant in Tripoli for the past 40 years--though, for the purposes of this piece, the Times identifies him politely as "the leader of Libya." I am still pondering that article, and not solely because this is the same New York Times that last fall rejected an op-ed by John McCain when he was running for president. Qaddafi used his patch of American editorial space to float a plan that would demographically blitz democratic Israel out of existence by setting up a single combined Palestinian-Israeli state, which he suggests we call "Isratine."

It's tempting simply to dismiss such stuff as unintended self-parody--whether on the part of Qaddafi, the Times or both. But it is also a token that tyrants are back in style, not only feeling safe to venture out of their spider holes but preening as elder statesmen and increasingly welcomed back to the parlors, editorial pages and negotiating tables of democratic high society.

Earlier this month, New York-based Freedom House reported that for the third straight year, freedom around the globe is, on balance, in retreat. In most of the former Soviet Union, this continues "a decade-long trend of regression." In the Middle East, apart from improvements in Iraq, stagnation is the word. The brightest spot is South Asia, which saw improvements in Pakistan, the Maldives and Bhutan. But looming over that landscape is China, which "increased repression instead of delivering human rights reforms pledged in connection to hosting the Olympics." Latin America and Africa registered net declines.

The basic cause for concern is not that there are more dictatorships than a few years ago, but that the global ethos has shifted. There is a growing swagger among despots...

The rest of the article (and it definitely should be read in full) is here.

Isn't This Cozy? Emanuel Holds Daily Chats with "Objective" Reporters

Warner Todd Huston has an enlightening (though hardly surprising) "media bias alert" for us over on NewsBusters.

"Politico reports that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel holds daily chit chat sessions with several Old Media pals every morning to start his day. Apparently Emanuel has for years been involved with daily bull sessions to plan media coverage and ideological strategy with CNN's James Carville and Paul Begala, as well as ABC's George Stephanopoulos, with the occasional participation of pollster Stan Greenberg. But there is one little problem with this daily palling around with mediots these days: Emanuel now works for the White House. [Image credit:]

As Politico's John Harris notes, "in any given news cycle, it is quite likely that Washington’s prevailing political and media interpretation -- at least on the Democratic side -- is being hatched on these calls." In light of this early morning scheming, one has to wonder where the supposed autonomy of the media is if they are being programed by the Obama White House in off the record, secret and daily conversations? Where is their objectivity if these media mavens are all assisting Emanuel mold and shape the news to further a specific ideological goal?..."

Read the rest of Huston's report, including the ironic contrast between this coziness and the way the MSM responded to the idea of the Pentagon briefing journalists who covered military affairs.

(The clever cartoon is from the NewsBusters story too.)

United Methodists Commemorate the "Catastrophe" (That Being the Creation of Israel)

Radically heterodox in theology. Extremely left wing in politics. Inanely inept in history. That's three strikes and out for the hierarchy of a once-venerable Christian denomination. No wonder they're shrinking into oblivion.

Mark Tooley describes here in The Weekly Standard the latest misstep of the Methodists; namely, a much-ballyhooed commemoration (in the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill) of the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation.

Concludes Tooley, "Across recent decades, the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill has hosted rallies and lobby events for groups supporting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Marxist guerillas in El Salvador, for front groups of the North Korean regime, for advocates of Fidel Castro's misrule, for apologists of the Soviet empire, and for countless other tyrannies that have plagued the modern era. By portraying Israel's founding as a "catastrophe" that can only be redeemed through the gradual eradication of the Middle East's only longstanding democracy, the Methodist lobbyists are at least faithful to a decades-long tradition."

What's Really Going On With These Trillions in Bailouts? Or, In Other Words, How Do You Go About "Stimulating" a Dead Parrot?

Randall Hoven's wry commentary on our economic confusion ("Bailouts, Relativity and Dead Parrots") is not to be missed.

You'll find the entire piece over at American Thinker. But since I know a lot of you read through whatever is on the opening Vital Signs Blog page but rarely use the links to check out the original articles, here is a good chunk of Hoven's excellent article.

I'm still trying to grasp the concept of a trillion dollar bailout. Einstein thought about riding a beam of light. I think he had the easier time.

Think about this bailout thing for a moment. We are told that the problem is a credit crunch -- a lack of lendable funds, or a lack of willingness to lend them. The solution would therefore seem to lie in coaxing money from the relatively asset-rich to the relatively asset-poor.

How would you do that? Our government is doing it with huge bailouts, an $850 billion bailout under President Bush and an $825 billion or so stimulus under President Obama, on top of all the other bailouts for AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, etc. Multiple trillions of dollars.

Where does the government get this money? It doesn't have it on hand, not by a long shot; it already owed the public over $5 trillion before this all started. Answer: it borrows it.

That's right. When the problem is lack of borrowable money, the federal government steps in and borrows a few trillion more. Let's be clear: the government said the problem was lack of supply, so it increases the demand by trillions?

This makes zero sense to me. The government will be borrowing from lender A to give to lender B. It would be better if we could simply get A to lend to B directly and therefore avoid the middleman. This also makes me wonder if we'd be better off having lender A provide a loan to himself. (I'm not so sure that's not happening.)

But not all the bailout money is even going to lenders. That "stimulus" money will therefore do nothing for a credit crunch, but will simply dish out money to Americans that was borrowed from other Americans, to be paid back by future Americans. Are we supposed to thank the government for forcing us to borrow money from ourselves? Doesn't the idea that this will benefit us defy some law of thermodynamics?

How does borrowing by the government help other borrowers, the supposed intent of fixing a credit crunch? Talk about "crowding out." This is Godzilla "crowding out" Bambi.

I must be wrong about something, because geniuses from Henry Paulson to Timothy Geithner seem to disagree with me. (Maybe it has to do with curved space-time. If the government's debt has a large enough mass, it bends the whole geometry of the universe to its will. Or something. Think of banks as balls on a rubber sheet ...)...

In my advanced age I've come to believe that if something does not make any sense, it's because it does not make any sense.

I have many opinions about Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke and even Barack Obama, but I don't think they are all stupid, in any normal sense of the word "stupid." I can't believe that they believe these bailouts will really help the real economy. How can anyone think that massive borrowing is the way to fix a lack of borrowable funds?

I think they are motivated by two things. First is a version of CYA. Imagine yourself as Treasury Secretary or head of the Fed or even President. You are perceived to be in charge of the economy (even though no one really is, except maybe George Soros).

* Your analysis tells you the economy is going south.

* You know there is nothing you can do about it.

* But you can't be perceived as doing nothing about it or else you will lose your phony-baloney job.

So what do you do? You do what governments throughout history have always done in such situations: spend massive amounts of other people's money. When all is said and done you can say, "Well at least I did everything in my power to avert this crisis." In a world where intentions trump results, it's the smartest thing you can do.

President Obama and his capo, Rahm Emanuel, also have another motivation: a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. The outgoing Republicans could have left Obama no better gift than the notion that the government must spend trillions of dollars more than it's ever spent before, immediately, or we will all die. The Democrats were handed both the money and the permission. (Here, son, take the car and this fifth of whiskey.)...

Didn't you ever wonder if the witch doctors themselves thought dropping a virgin in the volcano would really bring good crops? I'm thinking they didn't. But it kept them in their witch-doctor jobs and gave them a few final moments in private with the virgins.

And that, boys and girls, is how government works.

Oh, by the way, if you don't get the "Dead Parrot" reference in the title of
Randall Hoven's article, you can always watch the 6-minute sketch from the old Monty Python TV show to figure it out. You can see it on You Tube right here.

New Treatments for MS Patients Using Adult Stem Cells

Here's yet another promising medical development using adult stem cells. It involves transplanting cells obtained from the patient's own bone marrow which seems to be stabilizing, even reversing multiple sclerosis.

And, of course, though the headline of the story screams "stem cells," you have to get halfway through it before discovering that it is (as always) adult stem cells that are providing the progress and hope.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Today's Posts

It's Not PETA's Favorite Restaurant

Thanks God for Getting Me Through This. Now, Who Can I Sue?

It's all so modern American, isn't it? When you experience any kind of misfortune in life, call a lawyer and try to find someone who you can squeeze a few dollars from.

And this is what's happening even for those passengers of US Airways 1549. For instead of thanking God for their miraculous delivery and turning their redeemed lives towards noble purposes, more than a few are looking to cash in...big time.

Here's Jane Chastain's witty and wise column (as always) exploring the matter.

"Thank You, Lord, for the Beautiful Day" Can Now Get You Fired

Claude McIntosh describes for the Standard Freeholder (Cornwall, Canada) one of the latest assaults on free speech in his country which, in this case, also involves the heavy-handed censorship of religion, tradition and a charming pleasantry.

A long-standing tradition at the Cornwall Post Office has been pulverized by the out-of-control political correctness steamroller.

For years, before leaving for their appointed rounds, local letter carriers and their inside colleagues would exchange an expression — “Merci Seigneur pour la belle journee (Thank you Lord for the beautiful day).”

Nice harmless touch to the start of the day.

Not any more.

It’s been torpedoed by the weak-kneed wimps at Canada Post, apparently in concert with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. The expression has been banned.

Employees at the Cornwall office have been warned that anyone who uses the expression will be suspended (without pay).

According to sources inside the post office, Canada Post brought down the heavy-handed hammer after one employee, a recent arrival, complained that the expression trampled their rights.

A complaint was filed with the Human Rights Commission and an investigation was launched. That’s when the Nervous Nellies’ knees started knocking inside the Canada Post executive suites. Let’s be crystal clear here. It isn’t the expression that has Canada Post’s knickers in a knot, it’s the use of Lord.

If the expression was, “Thank you George or whoever for the beautiful day,” there wouldn’t be a problem. Just don’t mention Lord or God. It could get you fired. At least at the Cornwall Canada Post depot.

To say this is carrying political correctness too far, to the extreme, is an understatement.

It illustrates just how far the political correctness pendulum has swung in this country.

"Rangel Rule" Puts a Spotlight on Tax-Dodging Democrats

Fox News reports here on Congressman John Carter's nifty ploy to 1) eliminate all IRS penalties for Americans who pay past due taxes and 2) to highlight the sense of pompous privilige with which Democrats exploit the system.

Way to go, John Boy. We're pullin' for you.

...The legislation calls for the creation of what he calls the, "Rangel Rule," -- drawing attention to the recent legal issues of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., enabling citizens who fail to pay taxes on time to do so later with no additional fees.

Rangel, who writes the country's tax policies, acknowledged last fall that he failed to pay thousands in real estate taxes for rental income he earned from a property in the Dominican Republic. As of September 2008 the Harlem Democrat reportedly paid back more than $10,000 in taxes but that did not include any IRS penalties.

"Your citizens back home should have the same rights and benefits that come to you as a member of congress. You shouldn't be treated any differently under the law than your citizens back home," Carter said. He added that citizens should receive the "same courtesy" that the IRS is allegedly granting Rangel and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who also recently acknowledged a failure to pay taxes.

Carter penned a letter to Rangel earlier this month requesting that he either pay the IRS fees or join him in co-sponsoring the legislation establishing the rule. "As Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, I believe you set an example for all American taxpayers in your dealings with the IRS, and that you must do so in a way that enforces blind justice without regard to wealth or status," he wrote in the January 6th missive.

A spokesman for the New York Democrat would not comment on the state of the tax issue, which is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, but did respond to the Carter bill...

Carter, a former judge, said he is trying to focus in a what he believes is a double standard and add some levity to the debate. "I am raising this issue not so much to just push the issue but to open the discussion. I don't think it's wrong for us to start having a free discussion in congress and with a certain amount of humor in it about how should people be treated in congress," he said.

I suggest a quick "attaboy" is in order for Congressman Carter. He can be reached through this contact page. And if you'd like to contact your Congressperson and Senators to urge their support, you can use the same contact page.

Barack Obama: "I Serve as a Blank Screen"

President Barack Obama is a beguiling but confounding figure. As he said of himself in "The Audacity of Hope," "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." It is indeed audacious that he should proclaim this consciously disingenuous attribute. And as one reads his inaugural address, it is hard not to conclude that it was crafted shrewdly to perpetuate such confusion.

Run-of-the-mill politicians try to hide their duplicity. Only the most gifted of that profession brag that they intend to confound and confuse the public. Such an effort is beyond ingenious; it is brazenly ingenuous.

And it is working. Many of my fellow conservative commentators are embarrassingly eager to search Obama's words, groveling for hopeful signs that he is not a radical intent on changing the face and nature of our republic...

I believe that Obama intends to craft a new nationalism, using the disassembled timber of our traditional values to build a new, more collectivist and less individualistic ship of state. The planks will look vaguely familiar, but the ship will be quite different. It is as if he would disassemble the warship Old Ironsides and build with its timbers a collectivist's ark.

Oddly, my suspicion is confirmed by my liberal friend, scholar and columnist for The Washington Post E.J. Dionne, who wrote last week that "President Obama intends to use conservative values for progressive ends. He will cast extreme individualism as an infantile approach to politics that must be supplanted by a more adult sense of personal and collective responsibility. And in trying to do all these things, he will confuse a lot of people."

Perhaps E.J., hopefully, and I, suspiciously, both have misread Obama. But one is entitled to be suspicious of a politician who openly brags, "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." That strikes me as a conscious intent to deceive in order to diffuse opposition to his designs until it is too late to block them. Ronald Reagan never hid his policy intentions from public view. Neither, in fairness, did Lyndon Johnson or Walter Mondale or Barney Frank or Nancy Pelosi.

A politician who will not sail under his own flag sails, in effect, against all flags. Such a strategy may, in time, undercut his support from increasingly suspicious progressives, liberals, moderates and conservatives -- once they recognize the deception.

(Tony Blankley, "Obama's Collectivist Nationalism" January 28)

Congress to Al Gore: Guide Us, Save Us, O Mighty Seer!

Dana Milbank, in the Washington Post, underscores not only the arrogance and insipidity of Al Gore but the mindless fawning of our current Congress towards his discredited climate change phobias. When you realize these guys are running our country, it's a very disturbing article.

The lawmakers gazed in awe at the figure before them. The Goracle had seen the future, and he had come to tell them about it.

What the Goracle saw in the future was not good: temperature changes that "would bring a screeching halt to human civilization and threaten the fabric of life everywhere on the Earth -- and this is within this century, if we don't change."

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry (D-Mass.), appealed to hear more of the Goracle's premonitions. "Share with us, if you would, sort of the immediate vision that you see in this transformative process as we move to this new economy," he beseeched...

Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) begged the Goracle to look further into the future. "What does your modeling tell you about how long we're going to be around as a species?" he inquired...

The chairman worried that the Goracle may have been offended by "naysayers" who thought it funny that Gore's testimony before the committee came on a morning after a snow-and-ice storm in the capital. "The little snow in Washington does nothing to diminish the reality of the crisis," Kerry said at the start of the hearing.

The climate was well controlled inside the hearing room, although Gore, suffering from a case of personal climate change, perspired heavily during his testimony. The Goracle presented the latest version of his climate-change slide show to the senators: a globe with yellow and red blotches, a house falling into water, and ones with obscure titles such as "Warming Impacts Ugandan Coffee Growing Region." At one point he flashed a biblical passage on the screen, but he quickly removed it. "I'm not proselytizing," he explained. A graphic showing a disappearing rain forest was accompanied by construction noises.

The Goracle's powers seem to come from his ability to scare the bejesus out of people. "We must face up to this urgent and unprecedented threat to the existence of our civilization," he said. And: "This is the most serious challenge the world has ever faced." And: It "could completely end human civilization, and it is rushing at us with such speed and force."...

The Goracle supplied abundant metaphors to accompany his visuals. Oil demand: "This roller coaster is headed for a crash, and we're in the front car." Polar ice: "Like a beating heart, and the permanent ice looks almost like blood spilling out of a body along the eastern coast of Greenland."

The lawmakers joined in. "There are a lot of ways to skin a cat," contributed Isakson, who is unlikely to get the Humane Society endorsement. "And if we have the dire circumstances we're facing, we need to find every way to skin every cat."

Mostly, however, the lawmakers took turns asking the Goracle for advice, as if playing with a Magic 8 Ball...

By the way, Milbank's take on the event and the appearance of this article in the Washington Post represents an interesting and perhaps hopeful sign. Scott Johnson over at Power Line comments:

...What's happening here? Milbank himself is generally a reliable indicator of mainstream liberal opinion. Is anthropogenic global warming not the crisis it's cracked up to be? Is Al Gore rightly deemed a figure of fun? Are those deferential Republican senators lagging indicators of correct opinion? Does Milbank owe those troglodytic Republican House members featured in his 2007 column an apology?

Milbank devoted a respectful 2008 column to James Hansen. Hansen is the chief climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the man who originally raised the alarm on global warming in a 1988 appearance before Congress and one of Al Gore's closes allies. As far as I can tell from the column, Milbank takes Hansen's claims seriously.

Retired NASA atmospheric scienticst John Theon is Hansen's former supervisor. Watts Up With That? reports that Theon has now publicly declared himself a global warming skeptic who asserts that Hansen "embarrassed NASA" with his alarming climate claims.

Though It would be a mistake to take any of Milbank's columns too seriously, his column today may suggest that "the climate" on anthropogenic global warming is changing, and changing for the better. But will it change in time to prevent the Obama administration from doing serious damage? We can only hope that Milbank will tackle the question some time soon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Today's Posts

President Obama: "Good Salesman, Bad Product."

Congressman Jeff Flake: "President Obama is speaking to House Republicans right now on Democratic stimulus bill. Good salesman, bad product."

An Obama Priority: Abortion Overseas (And with Your Money)

Laura Hirschfeld Hollis writes an excellent column for Town Hall evaluating President Obama's "first export;" namely, the order to start giving American taxpayers' money to promote and even perform abortions as part of America's foreign policy.

Here are a couple of extracts but I do encourage you to read the whole piece. For instance, you won't want to miss her concluding paragraphs aimed at those supposed pro-life citizens who were so foolishly beguiled into voting for Obama.

...With nearly 50 million children destroyed by abortion in the United States alone since 1973, do we really need more? Technology like 3-D ultrasound has demonstrated that the human child in the uterus is far more developed and biologically sophisticated much earlier in gestation than we knew 36 years ago. (Remember “it’s just a clump of cells”?) Fetal surgery now saves children with formerly life-threatening conditions like spina bifida, and treatment for preemies has backed up viability to less than 23 weeks – that is just over halfway through a normal pregnancy. Isn’t it long past time that America’s policy on abortion reflected the scientific information that we now have about fetal development? Shouldn’t the president whose campaign was energized by cutting-edge technology, and whose inaugural address emphasized the proper role of science be swayed by that?

What are we to make of the first African-American president who is so blind to the devastation abortion has wrought among African-Americans? African-Americans make up less than 15% of the U.S. population, but over 35% of abortions are performed on African-American women. To get some sense of the magnitude of this impact, consider that, according to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 293,000 black Americans died in 2005. The single largest cause of death was heart disease, which claimed over 74,000 lives. By comparison, the 1400 abortions of black babies daily in the United States is over 438,000 African-Americans destroyed every year. Upwards of 13 million abortions have decimated the African-American population in this country. This is a holocaust, and one that cannot be prettied up under the rubric of “reproductive freedom.” Why does the man who hearkens back to the words of Martin Luther King not heed the call of some of King’s descendants who lead on this issue today?

And, ironically, since the “family planning” agencies now receiving U.S. dollars are disproportionately working in developing nations, the recipients of such “care” will almost certainly be “people of color,” as the expression goes. What do Obama’s supporters think about the fact that among his first acts as President is helping pay for the destruction of babies of color in other countries?...

Will This Be the Last Sanctity of Life Proclamation?

Of course, George W. Bush wasn't going to be President on this January 22nd, the anniversary of Roe v Wade. And he knew that his successor certainly wouldn't be mourning the onslaught of abortion which that Court decision unleashed on America nor would Barack Obama be proclaiming any Sanctity of Life Day.

So Bush went ahead, grabbed a pen a few days early and signed his final proclamation. God bless him.

Here, courtesy of Denise Burke over at the Americans United for Life Blog, is the text of the Bush proclamation. I suggest you print it off and hang on to it. It is going to be a long time before such a document comes from the Oval Office. And unless the Church wakes up to its responsibilities, including the priority of defending the sanctity of life, it may be the last one our decadent culture ever sees.

National Sanctity of Human Life Day, 2009
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

All human life is a gift from our Creator that is sacred, unique, and worthy of protection. On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our country recognizes that each person, including every person waiting to be born, has a special place and purpose in this world. We also underscore our dedication to heeding this message of conscience by speaking up for the weak and voiceless among us.

The most basic duty of government is to protect the life of the innocent. My Administration has been committed to building a culture of life by vigorously promoting adoption and parental notification laws, opposing Federal funding for abortions overseas, encouraging teen abstinence, and funding crisis pregnancy programs. In 2002, I was honored to sign into law the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which extends legal protection to children who survive an abortion attempt. I signed legislation in 2003 to ban the cruel practice of partial-birth abortion, and that law represents our commitment to building a culture of life in America.

Also, I was proud to sign the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, which allows authorities to charge a person who causes death or injury to a child in the womb with a separate offense in addition to any charges relating to the mother.

America is a caring Nation, and our values should guide us as we harness the gifts of science. In our zeal for new treatments and cures, we must never abandon our fundamental morals. We can achieve the great breakthroughs we all seek with reverence for the gift of life.

The sanctity of life is written in the hearts of all men and women. On this day and throughout the year, we aspire to build a society in which every child is welcome in life and protected in law. We also encourage more of our fellow Americans to join our just and noble cause. History tells us that with a cause rooted in our deepest principles and appealing to the best instincts of our citizens, we will prevail.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 18, 2009, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize this day with appropriate ceremonies and to underscore our commitment to respecting and protecting the life and dignity of every human being.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

"Blinded by Science" -- Does Atheism Play Fair with the Facts?

"Skeptics ardently defend their right to reject religious dogma and make up their own minds about ultimate reality. Certainly, atheists, scientific or not, are free to adopt whatever belief system they choose, but can they legitimately claim science as the basis for atheism? Put more simply, has science disproved God, as the irreligionists maintain?"

Terrell Clemmons has a provocative little article in the latest online edition of Salvo which explores these questions.

Would You Like Chips with that Sea Kitten?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are now suggesting that we continue to catch and eat fish because the name itself creates a comfortable but artificial distance between humans and...well, fish. Therefore, PETA is now campaigning (I'm not making this up) to replace the word "fish" with "sea kittens."

Stuart Derbyshire, a psychology professor at the University of Birmingham, writes in spiked! that this might set a curious precedent. "If the idea catches on, we might soon be referring to pigs as ‘pink land clouds’, trees might become ‘land coral’, and so on. It could get awfully confusing – imagine arriving in the rainforest wearing scuba gear."

He also opines, "PETA’s fact sheet is a mix of scientific evidence, some reasonable interpretation and a not-inconsiderable amount of lunacy. But it is not always clear where interpretation stops and lunacy begins."

Albert Mohler on Secularism, Obama, Denominations, Revival and More

Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler addressed a group of evangelical Anglicans (the Mere Anglican conference) last week in Charleston. Brief quotations from that address plus a stimulating interview of Dr. Mohler by conservative Anglican activist David Virtue can be found here at Virtue Online. Here are a few highlights:

* "Americans are like Indians, the most religious nation on earth, ruled by Swedes, the most secular nation on earth."

* "In talking to secular people, we are speaking to people who are just as alienated as those who have never heard the gospel."

* "I think I understand on this (homosexual) issue and on the abortion question, [Barack Obama] is far more self consciously pro abortion than any preceding chief executive. This is of tremendous concern. Those who have been fighting for human dignity for all persons for some time feel certainly disheartened. The good news is that America is not a pro abortion nation. The nation seems to have settled into a position in which it thinks that abortion is a grave moral evil that should be kept as a legal option. That is an incongruous and unstable understanding. Either the immoral or illegal understanding is going to have gain supremacy as some point."

* "As an historical theologian, I am concerned with revival in the churches. An awakening must first emerge in the churches. Evangelicals who think revival will begin in the culture and spread to the churches are deluding themselves."

* "Denominations are only compelling in terms of interest when they present a vision which is attractive to believers because it mobilizes them for ministry that they cannot accomplish alone. If it is a self- serving bureaucracy, they deserve to die. It is better off being without them. The amazing things, even as these younger churches organize themselves, they take on a shape that is denominational even if they don't call it that. The Emerging Church Network is basically a denomination, as is the Seeker Sensitive churches."

* "I have grave concern about the reduction of the gospel to 'The "Purpose Driven Life."' There is a great deal more to Christianity that a believer must know. The problem with many of these approaches, at the populist level, is that it does not appear that believers get there."

Cowering to Muslim Pressure, Netherlands Prosecutes Parliamentarian

In the Netherlands, public criticism of Islam can get you censured, exiled and assassinated. And now it can even get you prosecuted by the government.

Bruce Bawer has a brief review in City Journal, describing sanity's downward spiral previous to the trial of Geert Wilders. He explains the sad and suicidal history of political correctness in which Dutch leaders have already surrendered freedom, balance and other virtues of Western culture to radical Islam. You can read Bawer's fine article in its entirety here.

“The Freedom Party (PVV),” read yesterday’s press release, “is shocked by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal’s decision to prosecute Geert Wilders for his statements and opinions. Geert Wilders considers this ruling an all-out assault on freedom of speech.”

The appalling decision to try [Geert] Wilders, the Freedom Party’s head and the Dutch Parliament’s only internationally famous member, for “incitement to hatred and discrimination” against Islam is indeed an assault on free speech. But no one who has followed events in the Netherlands over the last decade can have been terribly surprised by it. Far from coming out of the blue, this is the predictable next step in a long, shameful process of accommodating Islam—and of increasingly aggressive attempts to silence Islam’s critics—on the part of the Dutch establishment...

At times, it seems that he is the last prominent Dutch figure willing to speak bluntly about the perils of fundamentalist Islam. The same people who demonized Fortuyn have done their best to stifle Wilders. In April 2007, intelligence and security officials called him in and demanded that he tone down his rhetoric on Islam. Last February, the Minister of Justice subjected him to what he described as another “hour of intimidation.” The announcement that he was making a film about Islam only led his enemies to turn up the heat. Even before Fitna was released early last year, Doekle Terpstra, a leading member of the Dutch establishment, called for mass rallies to protest the movie. Terpstra organized a coalition of political, business, academic, and religious leaders, the sole purpose of which was to try to freeze Wilders out of public debate. Dutch cities are riddled with terrorist cells and crowded with fundamentalist Muslims who cheered 9/11 and idolize Osama bin Laden, but for Terpstra and his political allies, the real problem was the one Member of Parliament who wouldn’t shut up. “Geert Wilders is evil,” pronounced Terpstra, “and evil has to be stopped.” Fortuyn, van Gogh, and Hirsi Ali had been stopped; now it was Wilders’s turn...

But Wilders—who for years now has lived under 24-hour armed guard—would not be gagged. Thus the disgraceful decision to put him on trial. In Dutch Muslim schools and mosques, incendiary rhetoric about the Netherlands, America, Jews, gays, democracy, and sexual equality is routine; a generation of Dutch Muslims are being brought up with toxic attitudes toward the society in which they live. And no one is ever prosecuted for any of this. Instead, a court in the Netherlands—a nation once famous for being an oasis of free speech—has now decided to prosecute a member of the national legislature for speaking his mind. By doing so, it proves exactly what Wilders has argued all along: that fear and “sensitivity” to a religion of submission are destroying Dutch freedom.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Today's Posts

Dear Working Americans, The Government Requires More of Your Money...And Now.

Dear Working Americans, The Government Requires More of Your Money...And Now.

Somebody has to pay for government's wasteful spending, pork barrel projects and nanny state programs, right? So step right up, Mr. Working Citizen -- you're the chump.

Indeed, it seems the primary business of liberal politicians like Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger is to squeeze ever more of your money into their bloated, woefully inefficient system.

After all, the police and courts are losing to the criminals big time. The schools are failing our kids and thus greasing the wheels for yet more cultural decline. The welfare state has yet to be checked, let alone dismantled. Entitlement programs have been gratuitously distorted from their original purposes.

But none of that means a thing to their insistence that you foot the bill...and a bigger and bigger bill it constantly is.

Sales taxes are being raised. Property taxes are being raised. Service fees (another term for taxes) are being raised. And it still isn't enough.

So what's next? Well, this AP article names just a few, some of which represent proposals by spending-addicted pols and some which are already gouging the citizenry: gift wrapping, tuxedo rentals, video rentals for home use, rounds of golf, auto repairs, veterinary care, amusement park and sporting event admissions, appliance and furniture repairs, MP3 downloads, taxi rides, movies, concerts, haircuts, diaper services, manicures and massages, attorney and accounting services, pet grooming, water well drilling, fur storage, shoe repairs, swimming pool cleaning, taxidermy, and dating services.

Benjamin Franklin once said that "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." What the people of the United States have done in recent decades is willingly surrender their liberty (along with their purse) to government.

Result? We're lunch.

But it doesn't stop there. For after the United States government has used us all up and there is no more public largesse to draw from, the structure falls in upon itself. And it, in turn, inevitably becomes lunch for the wolves waiting without.

Bon App├ętit.

Heavens to Murgatroid! What's Really Going On with the "Stimulus Plan?"

Rory Cooper over at the Heritage Foundation's Foundry lets loose a whole lot of ominous facts and great one-liners with which you can dramatically, effectively communicate to your friends and family what's really going on with the Obam/Pelosi "stimulus plan." Here's a sample:

* After Congress appropriates the FY’09 omnibus bill, they may have spent over $1.4 Trillion in less than one month!

* $825 Billion is equivalent to borrowing $10,520 from every family in America.

* If all families were asked to equally shoulder the burden of $825 Billon, this debt would be equivalent to what they roughly spend on food, clothing, and health care in an entire year.

* Reid-Pelosi-Obama are enacting a nationalized health care policy with no debate. The government will soon be responsible for more health care spending than the private sector, i.e. socialized medicine.

* Pork Spending: Digital TV Coupons ($650 Million), Gov’t Cars ($600 Million), Nat’l Endowment for the Arts ($50 Million), Repairs to National Mall ($200 Million, including $21m for sod).

Cooper has more, including suggesting real solutions to our economic woes, right here.

Why is America's Greatness Declining? Here's 50 Million Reasons.

Maris Bentley, a pro-life sidewalk counselor who is also a teacher possessing a master’s degree in guidance counseling, wrote this fine op/ed column which (quite surprisingly) was published in the Omaha World-Herald's online edition. It's very good.

Thursday marks the 36th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States. Since that day in 1973, 50 million Americans have been eradicated, primarily by those among us who should have the highest regard for human life: mothers and medical doctors.

Fifty million is a staggering number. For most of us, it is beyond our ability to comprehend. Fifty million dead would make the Vietnam Memorial Wall 80 miles long instead of 500 feet long. Fifty million gone, and we will never know what they had to offer.

I go weekly to the abortion mill in Bellevue to pray and to speak to those who are going in and out of that place. What I see and hear sickens me.

I see a teenager getting out of a car to throw up. She looks up at me with tears in her eyes as her mother yells at me and at her. They park the car, and the mother takes her daughter in.
I see a man, angry and vulgar, escorting a woman in, her eyes downcast. She never looks up, and she never speaks.

I see an affluent, professional couple in an expensive vehicle with a child in a car seat in the back. The attractive, well-dressed woman gets out and reaches in the back to kiss her child before she goes in.
The man, who tells me he is her husband, responds to my plea to save the life of his child by telling me it is not human life because there is not sufficient brain development. I encourage him to check the medical textbooks, and he smugly says, “I am a doctor.”

I see a young man who comes out to smoke and who tells me he is not ready to be a father yet. When I reply that it is too late, he is already a father, and I ask, “Why not adoption?” he tells me that he wouldn’t want someone else raising his child.
I talk to the workers who tell me that this is a better alternative: These babies are unwanted and would likely be abused, become criminals and burdens to society.

This is the culture of death.

Years ago, when I first heard Pope John Paul II use the term and apply it to our country, I remember feeling surprised — and defensive.

We live in a country that has welcomed millions of immigrants, a country that rallies to protect democracy and freedom throughout the world, a country that sends billions of dollars of relief to the less fortunate. How could anyone think that ours was a culture of death? What I didn’t understand then, I do now.

Our affluence, our technology, our secularism and our materialism have brought us to this point. We are wealthy and powerful. We can have what we want, when we want it, even if we can’t afford it. We have kicked out God and traditional morality and embraced “whatever makes you happy” relativism.

Can’t have a baby? We’ll make one for you in the laboratory. Don’t want the baby you have? We’ll help you get rid of it at the Planned Parenthood clinic.
Want to marry someone of the same sex? We’ll change the laws and reinterpret centuries of prohibitions. Don’t like your hairline or your gender? We’ve got the doctors. Worried about aging and death, suffering from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s? Those frozen embryos and aborted fetuses will be put to good use to find a cure. Otherwise, we’ll just mercifully put you out of your misery (when your intake exceeds your output).

This is the culture of death.

Roe v. Wade is both a cause and a symptom of what ails us. Our nation will never rise to previous heights of greatness. Indeed, our beloved country will continue its downward spiral into moral depravity and all that accompanies it as long as we continue to destroy what is truly our most precious natural resource: our children.

Where Will Obama Go to Church?

Mark Tooley explores this interesting question for the Wall Street Journal and, in so doing, not only gives a detailed review of Washington D.C. churches, but also of Barack Obama's heterodox views of Christianity.

Where will President Barack Obama attend church in Washington? Thanks to revelations about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ (UCC) in Chicago, Mr. Obama's church shopping requires more careful political contemplation than a new president typically needs. But his ultimate choice likely will be a noncontroversial church, suitable for young children, with a brief commute and tightly scheduled worship that gets the president back home early on Sunday mornings.

Even so, Washington provides such a wealth of opportunities that more factors than those will come into play. Mr. Obama's own background could point him in several possible directions. His mother, Ann Dunham, was a spiritual seeker drawn to many religions. Both of her husbands were nominal Muslims. Mr. Obama's maternal grandparents were Unitarians.

Mr. Obama's early Chicago activism took him to Trinity. At an altar call, he professed faith in Christ. Trinity is a black congregation within the nearly all white 1.2 million United Church of Christ. Although it originated with New England's Puritans, the UCC has mostly shed its strict Calvinism of past centuries and arguably is America's most liberal mainline Protestant denomination.

A UCC church in Washington could be a comfortable fit for a former member of Chicago's Trinity. Trinity's social liberalism -- on issues of gay rights and abortion rights, for instance -- is more like that of other UCC congregations than of historically black denominations, which typically are theologically conservative. The 2.5 million member African Methodist Episcopal Church, for instance, voted unanimously in 2004 to prohibit same-sex unions. Pastor Wright's flamboyant preaching style echoes that seen in many black churches. But his radicalized Social Gospel more resembles that of white mainline Protestants.

Mr. Obama seems to share the cool rationalism of the UCC's liberal New England roots more than the evangelistic and emotive black church tradition. Talking to the Chicago Sun-Times about his faith in 2004, he cited his "suspicion of dogma" and "too much certainty," and said he preferred a "dose of doubt" in religion. Somewhat deflecting questions about prayer, Jesus and the afterlife, Mr. Obama defined sin as "being out of alignment with my values."...

The rest of this article is right here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Today's Posts

You Sometimes Need a Little Help to Get Up On Mondays

Must Be the Season of the Witch

The title line above comes from an old Donovan song (1968 or thereabouts) but the look at Wiccan religion recently done by the Barna Group suggests that witchcraft may be a real and potent force here in this century.

Wicca has significant opportunities for growth, according to researcher George Barna. Among the conditions that would facilitate an increase in the number of Wiccans in America are:

1. the fascination that adolescents and teenagers have with casting spells, performing magic, being an integral part of a small group of like-minded people, and the opportunity for creative expression accompanied by demonstrations of power

2. the highly individualistic nature of the faith

3. its sensitivity to nature and the environment

4. the moral ambivalence of its codes and beliefs at a time when America’s young adults, teenagers and adolescents are not attracted to strict moral rules and practices

5. the necessity of a high degree of personal participation

6. the appeal of the secrecy in which Wiccan activities and relationships are undertaken

7. the profitability - and, therefore, likely continued flow - of books, movies and television shows that feature appealing characters engaging in Wiccan activity

8. the growing determination of Americans to tolerate and accept worldviews, philosophies and religious practices that stray from those of the traditional or widely-recognized religions (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism)

9. the cultural value placed upon personal experience and adventure rather than adherence to a strict ideology

However, Barna also noted that Wicca faces significant growth challenges in the years to come. Among its challenges are:

1. the absence of a centralized organization that will fund, plan and intentionally promote its beliefs and practices

2. the lack of one or a handful of charismatic, widely-recognized and respected leaders to champion its cause

3. not having a recognized guidebook or body of "sacred literature" to define and facilitate its practices and growth

4. the likelihood of stiff resistance from several of the larger, traditional faith groups that are popular in the U.S., such as Christianity.

Barna said he expects Wicca to continue to fly below people’s religious radar until it develops higher profile, more structured leadership, which is in some ways antithetical to Wiccan practices. However, he also expects significantly growing numbers of young Americans to embrace elements of Wiccan practice, such as spell casting and performing magic rituals, which have proven to be central behaviors featured in various popular media presentations in recent years. Many young adults will not consider themselves to be Wiccan but will adopt some of its practices and thinking alongside their more traditional religious views and behaviors.

It's Certainly a New Way to Give Cops the Goat

Nice trick...if you can pull it off. But you still land in jail, don't you? I mean why not a deer or, better still, a bird?

From Yahoo News:

One of Nigeria's biggest daily newspapers reported that police implicated a goat in an attempted automobile theft. In a front-page article on Friday, the Vanguard newspaper said that two men tried to steal a Mazda car two days earlier in Kwara State, with one suspect transforming himself into a goat as vigilantes cornered him.

The paper quoted police spokesman Tunde Mohammed as saying that while one suspect escaped, the other transformed into a goat as he was about to be apprehended.

The newspaper reported that police paraded the goat before journalists, and published a picture of the animal.

Obama's Pro-Abortion Arrogance Shows Up Early

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has rightly described as arrogant President Barack Obama's dastardly move to start funding (with taxpayer dollars) the abortions of unborn children in other countries.

"If this is one of the first acts of President Obama, with all due respect, it seems to me that the path towards disappointment will have been very short," Fisichella said. "I do not believe that those who voted for him took into consideration ethical themes, which were astutely left aside during the election debate. The majority of the American population does not take the same position as the president and his team."

More on Rick Warren's Inauguration Prayer

Last week I made some comments on Rick Warren's inauguration prayer. Here's a few other reactions from around the web you may find interesting.

For instance, Brad Hirschfield, a liberal rabbi much in demand by television talk shows, hailed it's gentle inclusiveness. "Tellingly, Pastor Warren, when he finally got around to mentioning Jesus (by his Hebrew, Arabic and Greek/English names), described him as 'the one who changed my life and taught us to pray'. He did not call on Jesus as the one who changes all of our lives, or the one who should do so. He simply shared the facts of his own spiritual journey and the role which Jesus played for him in that journey. Warren expressed pride and joy in what he believes while choosing words that made it clear that no one else was expected to share that journey with him."

Meanwhile, this blogger (whose site carries a colorful sidebar ad saying "This blog supports gay marriage") had no serious problems with Warren's prayer. " I listened to Rick Warren's invocation at the Inauguration on NPR as I was heading back to work from lunch, and you know what ? The man did a decent job. Nothing negative, nothing partisan. All quite uplifting. Couldn't find anything to disagree with. It was, most assuredly, way too Jesus-y for a lot of folks, but what did you expect there ? He's Rick Warren, the pastor of a conservative, evangelical megachurch. And he certainly didn't change my mind on any of the religious or social issues on which we differ. But all in all, not bad."

"Pat Edington, an antiques appraiser from Mobile, Ala., also supports gay marriage – but warmly praised Warren's invocation. 'I thought his prayer was magnificent,' said Edington, a Presbyterian and regular churchgoer. 'I thought he encompassed everything this inauguration was about.'"

The L.A. Times opened up it's story on the matter with this sentence: "In his inaugural invocation Tuesday, evangelical Pastor Rick Warren delivered a message of unity that pleased some of his most vocal critics in the gay and lesbian community."

The blog Iron Ink expressed a different view. "There is a purposeful blending going on in this prayer. As I said earlier it is an an attempt to be Christian and pluralist at the same time. Think of the prayer as a compromise document – the purpose of which is to satisfy everybody who hears it because they are going to interpret it through their grid. In my estimation this is what Warren was reaching for. Evangelicals could hear it through their grid and be satisfied. Pluralists could hear it through their grid and be satisfied."

"Johnny" responded to Christianity Today's reprinting of the text of Warren's prayer this way, "Nice prayer, but you left out who Jesus is so what sort of prayer was it? Saying "to the one who changed my life" is not exactly praising our Lord and Savior and put Him in His rightful place. In fact, it makes Christ appear subjective, as opposed to the objective truth applicable to all people. The implication is "Jesus works for me". This was a safe prayer and I'm disappointed. Yes its a prayer to the nation, but you are a Christian first, everything second. Speak boldly and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Senator Oprah?

Welcome to the Entertainment Tonight approach to government.

Illinois' crooked chief executive (for awhile yet) decided to go to the Good Morning America studios instead of his impeachment trial.

Anyhow, while there he confided to Diane Sawyer that, just like New York Governor Paterson, he too almost selected for the U.S. Senate a celebrity liberal, mega-rich and Obama-enthusiastic, but with absolutely zero experience in politics.

This guy's a peach, ain't he?

Nancy Pelosi: America Can't Afford Babies Anymore

The Left gets loonier (and more dangerous) by the day. Case in point -- check out this Drudge Report flash.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi boldly defended a move to add birth control funding to the new economic "stimulus" package, claiming "contraception will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."

Pelosi, the mother of 5 children and 6 grandchildren, who once said, "Nothing in my life will ever, ever compare to being a mom," seemed to imply babies are somehow a burden on the treasury.

The revelation came during an exchange Sunday morning on ABC's THIS WEEK.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?

PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Today's Posts

Recent Book Den Entries

Rick Warren's Prayer Disappointing

Calmly Discussing Who Should Be Killed

Stem Cell Research -- In Plain Language

The Collapse of Conservatism

Recent Book Den Entries

Recent posts over on The Book Den that you might find of interest:

* White Nights, Dark Dreams: Revisiting Dostoevsky

* Bill Coker’s "Sunday Morning at the Bed and Breakfast"

* It Ain't No Mayberry: A Review of O Little Town

* The Real Life Adventures of Ozzie Nelson & Family

* and one I went ahead and printed below here on Vital Signs Blog, Stem Cell Research -- In Plain Language.

You might also notice that I've expanded the links section over there. So, if you're into quality literature, you would do well to explore some of the sites I list.

Rick Warren's Prayer Disappointing

If you didn't watch the inauguration, you may be wondering about how the invocation of Rick Warren went. Here it is.

Reverend Warren made no reference to the unborn, to the holocaust of abortion, to the devastation of sexual aberrations or anything else that might be deemed controversial.

Except praying in the name of Jesus which he did and for which I commend him.

But Warren should have taken this unprecedented opportunity to speak truth to power. He did not and that's a shame.

And, while I'm at it, also shameful was this silly, sycophantic line in his prayer, "And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in Heaven."

Really? Are you so certain, Reverend Warren, that the election of a non-Christian who aggressively supports abortion delighted heaven? (Obama praised Roe v Wade and declared again his desire for unrestricted "freedom of choice" the very day after Warren's invocation).

Were the angels and saints applauding simply because of the new President's racial makeup? If you think so, Reverend Warren, your values are anything but biblical ones.

And if you don't really believe that, then why so severely distort Christianity in order to play to the crowd?

It was a very disappointing moment.