Friday, July 30, 2010

Today's Posts

Remembering What We've Lost

Working on new editions for our "When Swing Was King!" outreach into nursing homes and assisted living facilities has meant several days spent in looking for pictures from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. From my selections will come the 140-180 we will need for each 13-song presentation.

We plan to eventually have 13 such Power Point/music presentations (2 of them with a Christmas theme) so that even if we show them every month at a given site, they will not be repeated until the next year.

Finding the pictures and selecting the music has been fun -- even though sitting at a computer or scanning books can get tedious after a few hours. But it can also be an emotional experience. For, after all, these photos and the music belong to another world. They can bring back fond memories certainly, but those memories often have a poignant, even painful side. The musicians that wrote and played the tunes, the "crooners and canaries" who sang them, the audiences that listened to them on the radio or perhaps danced to them at the Palomar or Elitch's or the Savoy or Peony Park -- have almost all passed.

And the world we now inhabit is much different. It's faster paced. It's less sentimental. It's more concerned with gadgets and illusions and vicarious involvement.

And it's much more immoral.

That last is not a popular statement and even conservatives balk at saying it in public. But it is true nonetheless. Conducting a blog which must daily deal with such evils as the wholesale abortion of preborn children, the promotion by government and media of false religion, the extremities of sexual perversion played as entertainment, and the utter breakdown of civility which extends from simply losing the traditional social graces to young males continually murdering one another in the streets, makes one all too aware of social devolution.

So is it any wonder that I've found myself shedding a few tears when I look at pictures from days gone by or listening to tunes played by the big bands of the war years? I feel sadness not only for those we've lost -- Can it be I really live in a world without Roy Rogers or Bing Crosby or Jimmy Stewart? -- but sadness too for a world we've lost, a world where religious faith, ethics, social cohesion, the rule of law, a common commitment to protect children, and a love of freedom within the bounds of moral responsibility were so much more firmly embraced than now.

"When Swing Was King!" is going to be an important ministry for Vital Signs. We've already seen its impact in the facilities where we've presented it and we've been pleased to hear the excitement from the activity directors of other places who have invited us in. We are delighted to take seniors on "a sentimental journey" by sharing with them the sights and sounds of their youth. We know that doing so brings them pleasure. And we love the opportunity it brings us to build friendships with residents and staff.

"Who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once." (Robert Browning)

But I'm afraid these programs will always bring a bit of mourning too -- for loved ones passed, for youth and health lost, and for a way of life long gone.

That, of course, is where Christianity comes to the rescue. For the solidity of the Christian worldview, it's "realness," acknowledges pain and suffering and evil. It doesn't gloss over the terrible realities of sickness, deterioration, disability or death. But it does point the way to the soul's salvation (accepting by simple faith the payment for sin Christ paid on the cross) and a future which soars beyond the decay which affects this world, this culture, these bodies.

And that's why we play the music. To evoke memories that touch the hearts of senior citizens as well as our own. To bring some pleasant diversion from the pills, the pain and the loneliness that is the lot of so many living in old folks' homes. But also to create opportunities for Christian friendship in which we can share with these dear people the joys of the past and the even greater splendors of the future.

The Shirley Sherrod Story Isn't Over

The proglib press got all it wanted out of the Shirley Sherrod story; namely, an angle that it used to slam Andrew Breitbart, Fox News, and conservative bloggers in general. The NAACP and the White House which seemed to be so off-balance in the aftermath of Sherrod's firing have now been restored to good guy status.

However, the ever-increasing powers of that new media that liberals hate so much mean that the real story cannot be so easily dismissed.

And, as the rest of the Sherrod story emerges, there's a lot of embarrassment. But it's not the problem of conservatives but rather for the Sherrods, for her defenders in the MSM, or for all backers of corrupt, Nanny State politics.

Here's Jack Cashill at American Thinker:

Had Andrew Breitbart dutifully written a column detailing how an obscure USDA official, Shirley Sherrod, and her husband, Charles Sherrod, had scammed the government out of millions, the story would have had the range and lifespan of a fruit fly...

Breitbart, however, had put a potentially huge story into play the only way he could -- through sheer provocation. As he knew, and as we are learning, the story goes well beyond Sherrod's long-ago racist mischief-making with a poor white farmer.

This past Sunday, in his weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle, "Willie's World," veteran black politico Willie Brown confirmed that "there is more to the story than just [Sherrod's] remarks...

And that story is a real wild one.

Read on.


Obama, Bolton Give Americans One More Reason to Vote G.O.P.

...However this ruling came out, it was only going to be the first round. Appeal is certain. But the gleeful Left may want to put away the party hats. This decision is going to anger most of the country. The upshot of it is to tell Americans that if they want the immigration laws enforced, they are going to need a president willing to do it, a Congress willing to make clear that the federal government has no interest in preempting state enforcement, and the selection of judges who will not invent novel legal theories to frustrate enforcement. They are not going to get that from the Obama/Reid/Pelosi Democrats.

Andy McCarthy has one of the best, most succinct reviews of Judge Bolton's muddle-headed veto of Arizona's immigration law. It's over here at NRO's The Corner.

Women Are Being Oppressed and Mutilated: Where Are the Feminists?

One can't help but wonder at (and be saddened by) the neglect of feminist concern towards such brutal injustices as sex trafficking, honor killing, genital mutilation and, as this video shows, breast ironing.

Indeed, Western feminists are often moved to outright rage when it comes to under-representation in clubs, the ERA, parental leave, discrimination against lesbians, or any limitations whatsoever on abortion (even ultrasound information laws or waiting requirements) and yet the aforementioned barbarities which torture and mutilate women, force them into cruel and degraded slavery, and even destroys them gets hardly a mention.

All women -- as well as all men -- need to find their voice against these terrible evils. We need to pray hard, move our governments to action, encourage the press to report on these outrageous acts of violence, and intercede directly through churches, missionary outreaches and relevant organizations including the anti-sex trafficking program of the Salvation Army and the child sex tourism prevention project of World Vision.

It's not enough to shake our heads in sadness or disgust. Nor is it enough to criticize American feminists for the lack of passion they feel for protecting the women of the world from the most terrible of oppressions.

We must pray and act -- now.

(Note -- The video linked to above does show some graphic evidence of the monstrous practice of breast ironing, a practice in which hot stones are used against a girl's breasts to restrain their growth. It is used to keep girls from attracting male interest before the family is ready for her to marry. Please be discerning about showing the clip to others.)

Modern Govt: Inefficiency, Waste and Cheating on a Massive Scale

Tax and spend politics, that dynamic duo of modern politics, is dangerous enough to the republic.

But it creates the stage for the even more sinister vices of modern bureaucracy: inefficiency, waste and cheating on a massive scale.

Here's a couple of examples recently uncovered in Michigan.

* Up to $2 million in Medicaid money went to dead people last year. Well, those checks were sent out to dead people but it was then very alive crooks who did the spending.

* A Department of Community Health program designed to serve disabled and elderly people in their homes paid out $800,000 for people who were already in long-term care facilities. In one example, DCH paid $8,888 over a 12-month period for one person to live in their home, while at the same time also paying for the individual's stay at a long-term care facility.

* The totals of money "lost" to waste and fraud are astounding. The findings in a recently released state audit of the Michigan Department of Community Health shows that as much as $4.4 billion was not properly accounted for. You read that right -- $4.4 billion. And that's just for the last two years!

The audit found "significant deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting." Uh, I guess so. And the report also showed that federal laws were frequently ignored altogether, like those that required the DCH to review their records.

Republicans in the state were livid.

"It seems like a system that invites dishonest people to really take advantage of at the cost to the taxpayers," said Michigan State Representative Tom McMillin. "This is why people are so skeptical of more taxes. Everyone knows this stuff exists - lax controls. The people who allowed this to happen have been getting raises and getting Cadillac benefits. They are going to cry they don't have enough resources..."

One of McMillin's colleagues, Representative Dave Agema, agreed. "Don't ask for tax increases when you have inefficient government and you are wasting taxpayer money. Government keeps getting bigger when they are not efficient with the money they have. "

And finally, this from a third Republican state representative, State Rep. Joe Haveman, "The auditor general report outlines a department that is rife with overlooked fraud and abuse, and it is simply frightening that this is the type of service our state provides people in need. As local governments are forced to choose between policemen versus fire fighters, as education funding is being cut, it is unconscionable for one department to waste as much as $4.4 billion in just two years and have no accounting for it."

Tom Gantert has the story here. (Hat tip: Blogs Lucianne Loves)

Still Spending Like a Drunken Democrat

The economy is in the tank and things are looking worse every day. Our national debt is poised over us like the sword of Damocles, a sword that is already popping the balloons of entrepreneurship, enterprise, and hope. Nevertheless, instead of tightening spending, Congressional Democrats remain stubbornly, irrationally, and dangerously stuck on stupid.

The proof is all around -- the bailouts, the stimulus, the give-aways, the nationalization of entire industries, and so on. And yet the proof just keeps building up. For instance, last night the Democrat-dominated Congress passed a THUD appropriations bill for the 2008 Fiscal Year (THUD is Transportation, Housing and Urban Development) that will cost Americans $67.4 billion!

That's 38% higher than the THUD bill of just 3 years ago. 38% higher!

And on the way to that thunderous THUD, Democrats sternly rejected rejected six separate amendments which would have reduced the cost of the bill, amendments which were overwhelmingly supported by Republicans.

Democrats are spending like there's no November.

Will they get away with it? Or will November bring us a new Congress? That, my friends, is up to you and me.

Here's the details from the RSC.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Today's Posts

Barack Obama Bemoans the "Reptilian Side of Our Brain"

If it were not for a fawning press, the long progression of preposterous claims, the gaffes, the glaring inefficiency, the secrecy and the outright lies told by Barack Obama would have finished him.

But as it is, even Obama's pitiful performance on ABC's insipid talk show “The View” is being glossed over if not ignored altogether.

For instance, imagine the howl from the media if a Republican would have called black Americans "a mongrel people." Instead, Sam Youngman from The Hill has the president's back. "The president did not appear to be making an inflammatory remark with his statement. The definition of mongrel as an adjective is defined as 'of mixed breed, nature, or origin,' according to"

Obama also took occasion on the program to blame others for the firing of Shirley Sherrod. The president, as we all know by now, is quite good at shrugging responsibilities off onto others. Even as he can take credit for things that he's had nothing to do with it. The ladies on "The View" dutifully accepted the President's story.

As they did this whopper: "My hope is that I've tried to set a tone in the debate that says, 'Look, we can disagree without being disagreeable.'" This from a politician who regularly denounces the motives of everyone who dares stand in his way. This from one of the most polarizing partisans of the modern era. It's laughable -- except to the president's staunch defenders in the Fourth Estate.

And one more from Obama's "charming" TV appearance, a statement in which he managed to accept not only the wildest distortion of evolution but also disparage all humanity as inherently racist. "Obama noted 'there's still a reptilian side of our brain' that leads people to not trust others 'if somebody sounds different or looks different.'"

As I suggested before, were a conservative to make such a doofus remark, his or her career would be ended forthright. Remember Dan Quayle's alternate spelling of potato? But because it was made by an arch-liberal, it will slip by with nary a word of protest let alone alarm.

We are living in bizarre days.

Racism in Cuba: Communism Retains Colonial Prejudices

It turns out that Communism isn't color blind, after all. Indeed, far from eradicating racism in the island paradise, the Castro government has gone to great lengths to protect and promote it. Here are a couple of influential voices taking on the issue in an important series, "Race in Cuba," over at The Root.

...Cuban society was thus built with a strict code in which skin color placed human beings in certain social classes and even within varying degrees of humanity: Black, in many cases, was synonymous with beast.

"The black problem" is so fundamental, the matter of ethnic origin among the island's inhabitants so dramatic, and racism so persistent among those with decision and economic power that Cuba's independence from the Spanish empire was delayed by almost a century precisely because of its large number of blacks. (At certain points in the 19th century, blacks made up 60 percent of the resident population.) They were a people who had been exploited and who, in a moment of institutional disorder, it was feared might try to vindicate their rights and their humanity, as had happened in the neighboring colony of Saint Domingue...

The curious, contradictory and painful part is that various historians and sociologists also agree that the persistent "black problem" is still with us today, in the 21st century, urgently and tensely waiting for a definitive solution that never comes, in spite of laws, decrees and official edicts that paternalistically (but that are, deep down, racist) try to stipulate ethnic representation in certain affairs of state, government and the Communist Party. As if a few more dark faces in the official apparatus could really be an answer to the profound problems that have so much to do with economics and social thought and so little to do with the utopian volunteerism of our leaders who, in the end, are simply practicing politics with their "anti-discrimination" decrees.

The painful truth is that, in Cuba, the vast majority of the prison population is black or mixed-race. The most physically ruined parts of the cities are those where most black and mixed-raced Cubans, weighed down by spiritual burdens and secular misery, have lived for generations. They are also the ones who, in the economic and social climbing of the last few decades, are least represented ... and let's not mention certain attitudes, repressive attitudes -- in other words, the attitude of the Cuban police, where blacks are mostly concentrated at the bottom of the pyramid -- that treat dark-skinned persons with much greater rigor ... precisely because of the color of their skin...

(Leonardo Padura, Cuba's best-known novelist, is the three-time recipient of the Dashiell Hammett Award given by the International Association of Detective Writers.)

The letter signed by 60 African Americans about the state of racism in Cuba, which ended decades of silence on Cuba's racial policies, was the first shot...

The exclusion of blacks from the halls of power and from the most advantageous economic sectors can be explained in part by the historical consequences of slavery and the inequalities of the black and mulatto population to whites in the first years of our socialist project, but it is no longer justifiable.

Other things -- such as the near total absence of textbooks at all levels of learning about the history and culture of Africa and of blacks in Cuba, continued emphasis of European aesthetic values, the degrading representation of black and mulatto women in touristic propaganda and police harassment -- continue to batter the self-esteem of the country's population of color...

(Inés María Martiatu Terry is a Cuban writer and cultural critic whose many books include Over the Waves and Other Stories, published in the United States. She has received various awards, including the Ministry of Culture's distinction for national culture.)

Boneheads on the Bench: The American Judicial System Is a Cruel Joke

Maurizio Antoninetti, who suffered a disabling injury while in the Italian army and now works for San Diego State University, uses a wheelchair when he goes out to dine. But when he was denied the same "viewing experience" as other patrons at a San Diego Chipotle restaurant (the barrier blocked his view of the counter), he sued.

And won.

It didn't matter that the restaurant offered to personally show Mr. Antoninetti samples of the various dishes and personally prepare them at his table. Nor did it matter that the restaurant chain had, at immense cost, already renovated all but two of their other restaurants in the state to accommodate wheelchair patrons in the specific way Mr. Antoninetti desired. Nor did it matter that Mr. Antoninetti failed to show any irreparable damage because of the restaurant's arrangement.

And finally, it didn't even matter to the court that Mr. Antoninetti is a fellow who seemingly conducts a cottage industry in lawsuits -- over 20 since he came to America!

Note the paragraph below, an extremely damning paragraph that was nevertheless rejected outright by the court.

The [district] court found that Antoninetti had failed to show irreparable injury because he had not revisited either restaurant after Chipotle adopted its written policy and because his “purported desire to return to the [r]estaurants is neither concrete nor sincere or supported by the facts.” It also stated that Antoninetti’s “history as a plaintiff in accessibility litigation supports this Court’s finding that his purported desire to return to the [r]estaurants is not sincere. Since immigrating to the United States in 1991, Plaintiff has sued over twenty business entities for alleged accessibility violations, and, in all (but one) of those cases, he never returned to the establishment he sued after settling the case and obtaining a cash payment.”

The American court system has become a cruel joke.

Will the NFL Tackle Drunk Driving?

Although drunk driving arrests among NFL players are actually less than those of the general male population of the same age, it is definitely a serious problem. There is about one DUI arrest per 165 NFL players per year, making it the league's most repeated criminal action. Indeed, for the last ten years an NFL player has been arrested for drunk driving more than once a month.

And, as with every drunk driver, the repercussions can be deadly.

To combat the problem, the NFL this year began a partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, marking the first time MADD entered into such a relationship with a pro sports league on a national level.

It makes for strange bedfellows. The beer industry has been a big NFL sponsor and beneficiary. But concerns about the league’s image — and a broader crackdown on player conduct — have led to a series of new measures by the NFL, including leaguewide sponsorship of a ride-home program for players a few years ago...

MADD’s relationship reached a new level with the league after Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian while driving drunk in Florida last year. As a result, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail. At the time, MADD blasted the sentence for being too light and challenged the league with a statement: “This case is a clear test of the NFL’s continued tolerance of drunk driving among its players. We are closely watching what the NFL does.”

That “increased the conversation” between MADD and the NFL, said Debbie Weir, MADD’s chief operating officer. “We really admire NFL Commissioner (Roger) Goodell, that he takes this problem very, very seriously.”

Just how serious remains to be seen. But the anticipated decision by the NFL to suspend Vincent Jackson for a whole season because of a second DUI conviction and educational programs like the one described in this article (a MADD representative who lost her daughter to a drunk driver addressing the NFL rookies) is an important and very welcome start.

The Fight for Academic Freedom Heats Up

It is not clear why the number of academic freedom cases seem to be increasing. Is it because the iron hand of ideological conformity is squeezing professors more tightly? Or is it because more subjects of attack are fighting back in court?

I tend to think it is for both those reasons. Socially acceptable views in academia tend to run from the left to the far left. More traditional, conservative viewpoints are regarded as simply wrong. It occurs in field after field. We see it on many aspects of the evolution debate and issues pertaining to bioethics. Academic freedom policies are adopted by universities, but then selectively applied. They probably were written to protect left wingers in dissent, so when a right winger tries to appeal to them, administrators regard the appeal as bizarre. Freedom of dissent is for liberals, not conservatives.

But groups like the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) have been established in the past decade precisely to answer the cries of professors and students who are discriminated against on ideological grounds. As a consequence, some professors may be more willing now to sue...

(Bruce Chapman, "Academic Freedom Cases Increasing," Discovery News)

Setting the Record Straight

She's smart. She's smooth. And she's spot on.

Here's Ann Coulter clarifying on just which side of the culture wars lie the real racism, violence and hypocrisy. Pass this one along.

While engaging in astonishing viciousness, vulgarity and violence toward Republicans, liberals accuse cheerful, law-abiding tea-party activists of being violent racists.

Responding to these vile charges, conservative television pundits think it's a great comeback to say: "There is the fringe on both sides."

Both sides? Really? How about: "That's a complete lie"? Did that occur to you simpering morons as a possible reply to the slanderous claim that conservatives are fiery racists?

The most notorious accusations of "racism" at anti-Obama rallies so far has consisted of the allegation that one black congressman was spat on and another called the N-word 15 times at an anti-Obamacare rally on Capitol Hill last March.

The particularly sensitive Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., perhaps walking too closely to a protester chanting "Kill the Bill," was hit with some spittle – and briefly thought he was a Freedom Rider! When observers contested Cleaver's account – with massive video evidence – he walked back from his claim of being spat upon.

The slanderous claim that a protester called the civil-rights hero John Lewis the N-word 15 times was an outrageous lie – never made by Lewis himself – but promoted endlessly by teary-eyed reporters, most of whom cannot count to 15.

The media never retracted it, even after the N-word allegation was proved false with a still-uncollected $100,000 reward for two seconds of video proof taken from a protest crawling with video cameras and reporters hungry for an act of racism...

Since Obama became president, the only recorded violence at tea parties or town halls has been committed by liberals. Last fall, a conservative had his finger bitten off by a man from a crowd in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Two Service Employees International Union thugs have been charged with beating up an African-American selling anti-Obama bumper stickers at a St. Louis tea party in August 2009.

Respected elder statesmen of the Democratic Party have referred to Obama's "Negro dialect" (Harry Reid), said he would be getting them coffee a few years ago (Bill Clinton) and called him "clean" (Joe Biden). And that's not including the former Ku Klux Klan Democratic senator, the late Bob Byrd.

So I'm thinking that maybe when conservatives are called racists on TV, instead of saying, "There are fringe elements on both sides," conservative commentators might want to think about saying, "That is a complete lie."...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Today's Posts

An Ugly Water Sculpture vs Firefighters: Ann Arbor Chooses the Former

The city of Ann Arbor, like so many in the Barack Obama economy, is having a bad time of it. They are, for instance, laying off firefighters and getting rid of the city's solid waste coordinator.

Yet Ann Arbor is hiring an art coordinator. Is that position more necessary than the one handling the city's trash removal? Or the guys who will put out the fires?

I guess so. And the city council's aesthetic tastes are not yet satisfied. They're paying a German artist $850,000 for a three-piece "water sculpture" to decorate the new courthouse.

"The Public Art Commission’s Public Art Task Force invited Dreiseitl to create the proposal after they were impressed by his keynote speech on storm water mitigation at the Huron River Watershed Council’s annual State of the Huron Conference last fall. The artist agreed to the task, and the City Council unanimously approved an expenditure for him to develop the proposal for $77,000, early this year."

$77,000 for the idea. Then $850,000 for the artist to oversee it. Plus who knows how much to build the thing. They could pay a lot of firefighters for that dough.

Tom Gantert has the bizarre tale. And over here you can see a slide show of just what this monstrosity will look like.

(Hat tip: Blogs Lucianne Loves)

Reflecting on "The Man Who Was Thursday"

The Man Who Was Thursday is a very unusual book, one that even some of GK Chesterton’s warmest fans find inexplicable, frustrating and even a bit alarming. And though I certainly do not want to give any of the surprises of the novel away, there are a few things which I can mention that may help unlock some of the most mystifying puzzles of the novel and increase the reader's understanding and enjoyment.

First of all, it’s crucial to note that The Man Who Was Thursday has a subtitle that you ignore at your peril. That subtitle? A Nightmare. Accepting that idea right at the beginning of your reading will be a big boost in your understanding of the novel. For instance, you will not be so quick to insist on clearly defined and rational connections within the book. You’ll be more reserved in jumping to conclusions. Instead, you’ll let Chesterton lead you through Thursday’s mysterious and surreal plot, revealing the story in his own way and in his own time. Remembering the subtitle will also make you more aware of the superb artistry of Chesterton’s novel, especially the dream-like characters, conflicts and chase scenes.

The Man Who Was Thursday is most definitely a story with a moral – several of them actually. But Chesterton’s philosophy is revealed in a much different style than he used in a newspaper article, apologetic essay or public debate. And it is from a lack of appreciation for the peculiar rules of such novels of fantasy that result in so many scratching their heads over The Man Who Was Thursday. Too many readers forget that Chesterton was as remarkably skilled a poet and artist as he was a polemicist. And, as great as his passion was for communicating essential truths, he utilized all the various tools at his disposal to do so.

Thursday cannot be read in the same way as Orthodoxy or The Everlasting Man. It is a novel, a poetic flight of fancy, a genuine nightmare – but one that nevertheless makes powerful points about idealism, honor, bravery, sacrifice, justice, man’s need for fellowship and, yes, even man’s need for God.

I would even claim that the very elusiveness in The Man Who Was Thursday is a Chestertonian way to underscore man’s need of divine revelation. In other words, man can earnestly, even sacrificially search for answers about creation and about his own significance “under the sun,” but that quest will be ineffective unless God Himself, moved by His own mercy and love, reveals Himself to man. Thus, it is in the novel’s perplexity that Chesterton reveals the answer to the ultimate, critical questions. But what else should one expect from the master of paradox?

However, let me assure those of you who have yet to read The Man Who Was Thursday that the novel stands as one of the world’s favorites among G.K. Chesterton’s achievements. But not because of its philosophical weight. No, it's probably more in spite of it! And that is because the novel is such rollicking fun! The mystery is riveting; the witty and profound observations are classic GKC; the chase scenes are every bit as terrifying as in one’s own dreams; and the unexpected conclusion is as provocative as in just about any book that you’ll ever read.

Have at it.

A Culture of Narcissism (Politics Included)

Dandy New York Times op-ed columnist and alleged intellectual David Brooks took time out last week from admiring Barack Obama’s “perfectly creased pant” and bemoaning America’s disregard for his beloved educated elite class to explain the Mel Gibson mess in The Gospel of Mel Gibson. With all the pop-psychology gravitas of a Cosmopolitan sex advice column, Brooks declared Gibson the prototype narcissist, the “Valentino of all self-lovers:”

"His self-love is his most precious possession. It is the holy center of all that is sacred and right. He is hypersensitive about anybody who might splatter or disregard his greatness. If someone treats him slightingly, he perceives that as a deliberate and heinous attack. If someone threatens his reputation, he regards this as an act of blasphemy. He feels justified in punishing the attacker for this moral outrage. And because he plays by different rules, and because so much is at stake, he can be uninhibited in response. Everyone gets angry when they feel their self-worth is threatened, but for the narcissist, revenge is a holy cause and a moral obligation, demanding overwhelming force."

Perhaps if Brooks weren’t so infatuated with that impeccable crease, he’d realize he just described the President. Are all of the educated elite this dense?...

(Riley Hunter, "The Gospel of David Brooks: Insights Into Mel Gibson from the Educated Class," posted at Big Hollywood.)

Observations on Work

My sister quoted Malcom Forbes on her Facebook page this morning -- "If you have a job without any aggravations, you don't have a job."

I replied that Forbes' observation reminded me of a conversation I once had with Dad on the back patio. I was a teenager complaining about some job I had and how I didn't enjoy it or feel any sense of fulfillment.

His answer was, "Son, that's why they call it 'work.' If you had fun doing it, they wouldn't have to pay you to do it."

"It's Bush's Fault" -- Team Obama's Favorite Excuse Isn't Helping Anymore

Opinion polls across the board are showing President Obama has lost the respect and trust of a majority of Americans. And the disaffected include those who voted for him and felt sure he would turn things around for the country.

Regarding the latest Univision/AP poll, Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, said of the president, "A lot of these folks wouldn't like him no matter what, but I think the country has pretty much the same problems it did before Obama took office — at least that's how voters feel — and more and more that's becoming Obama's fault rather than Bush's fault."

Kara Rowland further reports for the Washington Times:

Support for Mr. Obama has eroded among whites, independents, men and now Hispanics, who were part of the coalition that powered him to the White House in 2008...

The Reuters-Ipsos poll, also released Tuesday, found that an overwhelming majority of Americans — 67 percent — do not think Mr. Obama has focused enough on creating jobs, compared with the administration's emphasis on overhauling health care and rewriting the nation's financial rules. The survey said only 34 percent approved of the president's handling of the economy and jobs while 46 percent rejected it as unsatisfactory.

Pollsters said the drop is not unusual for a president confronting so many thorny issues, but that it does show voters want solutions and think Mr. Obama has had enough time to deliver...

Mr. Jensen warned that rank-and-file Democrats should be wary of appearing alongside Mr. Obama on the trail, noting that his polling firm's numbers show the president would be a drag on Democratic candidates even in such places as his home state of Illinois.

The Left Is Struggling Against "The New Journalism"

For generations, conservatives lamented the decline in standards. When Hollywood portrayed glandular instincts as the new moral compass of the secular age, conservatives waxed nostalgic over the lost decency of the "studio system." When the education industry shelved the great books in favor of hugs, conservatives lamented the demise of the three Rs and the "closing of the American mind." When the left became enamored with a "riot ideology" that mistook lawlessness for political protest, conservatives invoked "law and order." Name a front in the political and culture wars, and conservatives defended the authority of authority and the tradition of tradition, while liberals and leftists defended sticking it to the man.

But now that the legacy media is one of the last resources the left still has at its disposal, even Comrade Jones isn't immune to mossy nostalgia for Walter Cronkite (who, by the way, is easily one of the most overrated American icons).

And that's the irony: The left only believes in sticking it to the man when it isn't the man. Teachers unions and tenured professors, now that they control their guilds, are darn near reactionary in their white-knuckled grip on the status quo. Liberal legal scholars are a cargo cult to stare decisis, for the simple reason that the precedents are still on their side.

The essence of the culture war today is a battle over whose "gatekeepers" are legitimate and whose are not.

Nowhere is this more true than in the temples of journalism, where the high priests are barricading the doors with pews and candelabras to fend off the barbarians...

Jonah Goldberg has an excellent column (they usually are) dealing with the "new journalism." Read it in its entirety right here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Today's Posts

Beware the Wolves! (And Other Vital Signs Notes)

To Promote Abortion, George Soros Finances Yet Another Apostate Group

Who Owns the Rain?

Illegal Immigration Is Bad for Your Health

Revealed: Obama Administration Backed Release of Mass Murderer

Christian Music Festival Provides "Sheep's Clothing" for Jim Wallis

Beware the Wolves! (And Other Vital Signs Notes)

The latest in the Faith Bible Church sermon series, "Beasts of the Bible," is available over on the Vital Signs Ministries web site. The series has been a exciting one and very well received. We hope visitors to Vital Signs Blog will take the opportunity to see what's going on too by giving one or more of those "beastly" sermons a listen. You'll find them by using this link and we think you'll find them of great value.

All of the sermons are based upon a careful exegesis of the respective Scripture texts but present the information in a relevant, inspirational way. We even have a little fun. So do check them out.

Last Sunday's sermon was "Beware the Wolves." The previous titles in the series are "Donkeys and Horses," "The Stampeding Swine," "The Prodigal Prophet Meets the Great Fish," "The Blasphemers and the Bears," and "The Talking Donkey."

Also of note (though I'm pretty late in making the announcement) is that the July edition of the LifeSharer letter is up at the VSM site. The LifeSharer is the monthly correspondence from Claire and I that gives an insider's view of what's happening in this evangelical pro-life ministry that has been serving the cause of "the least of these" since 1982.

In this issue, we have information about our sidewalk counseling, about our outreach at nursing homes and assisted living residences, updates on both the ministry and our personal lives (usually the same thing!), a brief essay entitled, "Why the Abortion Movement Is Bummed Out," and more.

We always hope and pray that individuals who read through our monthly LifeSharer letter -- along with surveying our web site, our history, and the daily postings on this blog -- will find themselves desirous of helping us in our crucial and comprehensive work. You can do so by prayer, by participating in our various activities, by encouragement and, yes, by financial contribution. The last can be provided simply by using this donation link. We would be very grateful for such help (in any amount) so thank you very, very much.

And finally, one quick update on our "When Swing Was King" outreach. The news must be spreading fast. And, thank the Lord, the reviews of the program must be pretty good. For just since this post last Friday, we have been invited to present the program at two more places, Skyline Manor and Immanuel Courtyard. We couldn't be more honored and pleased.

To Promote Abortion, George Soros Finances Yet Another Apostate Group

George Soros, the far-left billionaire who has given millions to promote abortion, socialism, the removal of religion from the public square, and other radical "causes," isn't above using a religious front for his nefarious activities. Remember his bankrolling of pseudo-evangelical Jim Wallis which we emphasized last week.

Now here's a report on how some of Soros' mad money is being given to a group of apostate Catholics (posing as defenders of the faith, of course) to dupe Catholic voters into sending back to Washington those sinister politicians who claimed to be pro-life and yet voted for the dramatic extension of abortion via Barack Obama's takeover of the U.S. health care system.

Who Owns the Rain?

Who owns the rain -- even the rain that falls on your own property?

Well, if you live in Utah, Washington or Colorado, it seems the government does.

Picture this. You are a citizen of one of those states and decide to be environmentally responsible. You get a barrel with which to collect the rainwater that runs off your roof which can then be used (in place of extra tap water that depletes the nearby reservoir) to wash your hair, fill your pool, or water your garden. Guess what?

You're breaking the law.

For it turns out the government can fine you for that common sense action. If you fail to pay the fine, you could, like other serious criminals, be tossed in jail. Therefore, you must desist from the practice. The only legal recourse you have is to apply for a water use permit for which -- you guessed it -- you must pay the government. If they allow it at all.

It's another case of government by arrogant nincompoops.

Below is a news clip from a Utah TV station and over here you'll find a story on this remarkable situation from Natural News. That story, by the way, may seem to go a bit over the top towards the end. But then, who would have thought state governments would dare claim they had the rights to the raindrops a'fallin on your head? (Hat tip: Ron Rizzo)

Illegal Immigration Is Bad for Your Health

Immigration into the U.S. should be carefully regulated. Not stopped. Of course not. Americans are a hospitable people and they understand that immigration is a noble, important and very welcome part of our history and our future.

But controlled and legal it definitely should be.

And in this article for Fox News Health Blog, Dr. Manny Alvarez reminds readers of one of the common sense reasons why; namely, our nation's physical health.

...If you look at the way that legal immigration is conducted around the world, it is always based on a set of checks and balances. One of those checks is the prevention of certain communicable diseases.

Here is a list of things people applying for visa/residency status in this country may be tested for during their physical exam as required by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services.

* Tuberculosis

* Syphilis (for applicants 15 years or older)

* HIV (blood test)

* Gonorrhea

* Narcotic drug addiction

* Physical or mental disorders with associated harmful behavior

* Chancroid

* Lymphogranuloma venerum

* Granuloma inguinal

Under the immigration laws of the United States, a foreign national who applies for an immigrant visa abroad, or who seeks to adjust status to a permanent resident while in the U.S., is required to receive vaccinations to prevent the following diseases:

* Mumps Measles-Rubella

* Polio

* Tetanus and Diphtheria Toxoids
* Pertussis
* Haemophilus influenzae type B

* Hepatitis B

* Any other vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices

Now, this list is not just an American standard — you will find similar lists in most developed countries around the world. Without a system of checks and balances, we run the risk of having diseases that have otherwise been eradicated in this country coming back in a big way. When people travel here illegally, they could have the potential to spread certain diseases that could be very devastating to the general population...

Read more here.

Revealed: Obama Administration Backed Release of Mass Murderer

The US government secretly advised Scottish ministers it would be "far preferable" to free the Lockerbie bomber than jail him in Libya. Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison.

The intervention, which has angered US relatives of those who died in the attack, [yeah, and a lot more Americans than that!] was made by Richard LeBaron, deputy head of the US embassy in London, a week before Megrahi was freed in August last year on grounds that he had terminal cancer.

The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama's claim last week that all Americans were "surprised, disappointed and angry" to learn of Megrahi's release...

Christian Music Festival Provides "Sheep's Clothing" for Jim Wallis

Last Sunday, in my summer "Beasts of the Bible" series at Faith Bible Church, we examined the 12 verses in Scripture that deal with wolves. Among those verses are several in which the animal is used as a metaphor for the savagery, the persistence and the opportunism of false teachers.

Being reminded of how false teachers often wrap themselves in sheep's clothing in order to more effectively sneak in and "devour" the faith of weak and ignorant Christians, helps one see how those verses find sad application in the case of Jim Wallis.

For more on Wallis' distortions of the gospel, see this previous post (with its accompanying references) and then be sure and check out the recent Mark Tooley article in Front Page Magazine, "The Pearly Gatecrasher."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Today's Posts

"When Swing Was King!" Expands its Audience

Today Claire and I headed over to the Via Christe nursing home to present "When Swing Was King!" to another audience. It was the second time around for this particular program (we had done it for Life Care Center a couple of weeks ago) and we have really been looking forward to it.

Actually, we tweaked the program quite a bit for today's event. For instance, we replaced several of the songs with better recordings. We dropped one song completely and picked up another. And then I changed probably 40 or 50 of the accompanying photos. Yes, it meant another very late night but we're delighted with the changes.

We were a lot more comfortable with the equipment too. Well, maybe "comfortable" isn't the best word. Let's say instead, we're not as freaked out about the Power Point projector as the first time. That's a big step forward.

So yes, the new and improved version of "When Swing Was King: The Sights and Sounds of the Big Band Era" enjoyed another gala performance today for about 25 residents of the facility. They had a wonderful time -- and so did we.

We hope to present it in several other places in addition to these two who have already put us on their regular calendars. We will keep this version (13 songs and over 160 images) but also create additional ones with new songs, new images, and new Big Band trivia items to entertain the folks.

And here's where you come in. Do you know of a nursing home, assisted living complex, retirement home or a shut-in single who would enjoy a musical trip down memory lane? Then please let us know. Once the programs are prepared, we can present them to as many audiences as time permits. The show lasts a little less than an hour and, of course, is presented at no charge to anybody.

And who knows? You may want to join us. The music's great. You'll like the pictures. And I can almost guarantee you'll make some new friends too. Let's face it -- these guys have had enough pills for the day, enough struggling to get around with walkers and wheelchairs, and more than enough soap operas and game shows on TV. Let's help them relax, reminisce and be re-invigorated with the music of their lives -- back in the days "When Swing Was King!"

"Why Can't Arizona Be as Inhospitable as They Wish to People Who Have Entered the United States Illegally?"

That was one of the questions U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton asked of Team Obama attorney Edwin Kneedler as she tried to make him prove his charge that specific provisions of the Arizona immigration law intruded on federal authority.

Bolton is the judge who will decide whether Arizona's new immigration law is constitutional -- this is what passes for democracy in the United States nowadays, one person's opinion trumps the majority of voters of an entire state -- but such questions as those above gives backers of the law some hope.

The Privileges of the Ruling Class

Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among our establishment's parts.

If, for example, you are Laurence Tribe in 1984, Harvard professor of law, leftist pillar of the establishment, you can "write" your magnum opus by using the products of your student assistant, Ron Klain. A decade later, after Klain admits to having written some parts of the book, and the other parts are found to be verbatim or paraphrases of a book published in 1974, you can claim (perhaps correctly) that your plagiarism was "inadvertent," and you can count on the Law School's dean, Elena Kagan, to appoint a committee including former and future Harvard president Derek Bok that issues a secret report that "closes" the incident. Incidentally, Kagan ends up a justice of the Supreme Court.

Not one of these people did their jobs: the professor did not write the book himself, the assistant plagiarized instead of researching, the dean and the committee did not hold the professor accountable, and all ended up rewarded. By contrast, for example, learned papers and distinguished careers in climatology at MIT (Richard Lindzen) or UVA (S. Fred Singer) are not enough for their questions about "global warming" to be taken seriously. For our ruling class, identity always trumps.

(Excerpt from "America's Ruling Class and the Perils of Revolution" by Angelo M. Codevilla)

Technology Has Not Liberated Us

...An elementary school in Silver Spring, Md., offers a stress management class for second-graders. Merchants do a brisk business in scented candles with alleged calming properties. Meanwhile, Americans gulp all varieties of legal and illegal drugs "to take the edge off."

But doing one thing at a time is more than some people can take. Hence, power yoga, which purports to combine the meditative process with burning carbs.

Perhaps all this frenetic activity is itself a drug to drive off the demons of depression. Weaker family ties and friendships leave many vulnerable to loneliness. Television and the Web offer only the illusion of companionship...

(Froma Harrop, "'2010: A Space Odyssey' Updated" at Rasmussen Reports)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Today's Posts

On Reading and Re-Reading

It's an old saw that suggests "If you cannot enjoy reading a book over and over, there is no use in reading it in the first place."

I couldn't agree more. For despite the continual pressure to follow trends, stay edgy, keep up to date, get ahead of the curve and so on, I'd guess a full 4/5 of my reading in recent years has actually been re-reading. Yeah, 4/5 easy.

Some would blame this on my poor memory or perhaps my age (at 59 now, I'm especially well-suited for curmudgeon status) and they'd probably be right to do so. But even more pertinent, I believe, is my appreciation of quality -- and I argue that the best books are the old books. So why not keep learning from and enjoying them the most?

The last few weeks are exemplary. For instance, on Monday evening Matt, Claire and I, John and Barb, Chet, Allen and Cindy all gathered here to discuss Money, Possessions and Eternity, a remarkably instructive and challenging book written by Randy Alcorn. We had a great time talking about the book, a very thorough Bible study that we all found of tremendous value. I know I certainly found it illuminating and provocative...just as I did the first time I read it back in the late 80s in preparation for a radio interview with the author. And just like then, the book has prompted Claire and I to shake some things up with our finances and our outlook. Old books, properly applied, do lead to new actions.

In other reading of late, there have been a couple of new titles. The May selection for the Notting Hill Napoleons (our longstanding book club) was The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara. It is the author's second of his World War II trilogy, one which describes the preparation for and first few days of the Normandy landings. It is an excellent read, very enjoyable as history and novel both. Though our club concentrates on classic literature with few living authors making the cut, Shaara has still become one of our favorites.

In fact, when the designated June book turned out to be a clunker (Voyage to Arcturus), we opted to take as our alternate choice, Shaara's final WWII book, No Less Than Victory, in which he concentrates on the Battle of the Bulge. Like we have come to expect, it it was an enlightening, exciting page-turner dealing with an important part of our nation's history.

But, as thoroughly satisfying as these new books were, they ended up whetting my appetite to return to a few "tried and true" historians of the same period. So, I raced through David Howarth's D-Day (the 1959 book that is really a rare find nowadays) and Walter Lord's Lonely Vigil: Coastwatchers of the Solomons before getting into the heavier Infamy: Pearl Harbor and its Aftermath by Walter Toland. The last one is a troubling, even infuriating read because Toland painstakingly documents the bonehead errors Washington made (if that's all they were) in not passing along to Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lt. General Walter Short the latest and best intelligence information concerning the expected Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

All of these were re-reads, the Lord book being a favorite I return to every decade or so.

Next up in my reading list is another I've previously enjoyed (Rafael Sabatini's Fortune's Fool, July's Notting Hill Napoleons pick) and then a new read (Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, the next in Vital Signs' Book It! series). But you can count on there being a few old favorites in between.

Pro-Homosexual Tyranny at Georgia College

Now here is a school bullying problem!

Augusta State University in Georgia claims that students coming to the school will find "strong academics, outstanding faculty, and the resources they need to succeed."

What the school does not reveal, however, is that they demand the student must leave at the entrance gate their intellectual independence, their conscience and any prior moral convictions they have -- or else get the hell out of their progressive environment.

A remarkable case in point is the demand by ASU officials that a Christian counseling student renounce her views on homosexuality and undergo a "re-education plan" which includes training in "diversity sensitivity," doing additional reading and writing additional papers which will describe the results of the "re-education" on her prior beliefs. The student is also ordered "to increase exposure and interactions with gay populations. One such activity could be attending the Gay Pride Parade in Augusta.”

The plan calls for the student to complete a monthly report on how the “remediation” assignments have influenced her beliefs so that faculty can “decide the appropriateness of her continuation in the counseling program.”

If the student refuses to this outrageous tyranny (supported, remember, by the tax money taken from Georgia citizens) or if the brainwashing process doesn't work well enough to insure a change of belief, ASU promises her that she'll be unceremoniously kicked out of the Counselor Education Program.

For crying out loud. George Orwell himself couldn't have made this kind of thing up.

The student facing these persecutors is a 24-year old woman who wants to attain her master’s degree in counseling at Augusta State. And though she never denigrated anyone in communicating her embrace of biblical teaching on sexuality, simply explaining her views calmly and in appropriate circumstances, the college instituted this oppressive and thoroughly disgusting brainwashing regimen.

And you still think Christian values aren't anathema to the folks who run America's institutions of higher learning? And you still doubt that education officials won't use the powers at their disposal to coax, command, and even coerce students into the "group think" categories they've predetermined?

The battles of the culture war do not get any hotter than those being waged in America's schools. But those fights are more desperate than even the difficult ones you and I wage in the public square for students must fight for their freedom, their religious faith, their virtue and their conscience against the most enormous odds.

They need our support and help. They need our prayers. And they need warrior attorneys who serve with organizations like the Alliance Defense Fund, who have already entered the fray by filing suit against Augusta State University.

The Castro Brothers vs The Ladies in White

You have to hand it to Fidel and Raul Castro. They are masterful tacticians. Whenever they’ve needed to diffuse pressure, they set tongues wagging with speculation about reform. By the time the ruse is exposed, another period of stability has set in. The recent announcement that 52 political prisoners will go free has spawned a whirlwind of conjecture. Are the brothers at it again?

The slow-motion release that began last week and will go on for months will liberate one-third of Cuba’s political prisoners, according to the Havana-based Cuban Commission for Human Rights. These men emerged some years ago as a group of independent journalists. Together with an organization of librarians and some bloggers, they later began an effort to bring to life a Cuban civil society. Not since the emergence of illegal human-rights organizations and political parties had anything more encouraging happened. No wonder the Castros incarcerated 75 of them. What they didn’t anticipate was that the wives and sisters of the prisoners would jump to fame. With a campaign that got louder and bolder with every pogrom that busted their marches, the incredible Ladies in White gained for these heroes the attention of the world.

One day, out of the blue, a prisoner deployed the ultimate weapon – the hunger strike. The death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo in February changed the game. The decision by Guillermo Farinas to replace Mr. Zapata, and the announcement by others that they would follow suit if the second striker died, took the struggle to a level not seen since the anti-Castro guerrillas of the 1960s. Left-wing celebrities – a bellwether of Cuban affairs – expressed their disgust for the Castros, friendly democratic presidents shunned them (except for Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who infamously called the prisoners criminals) and Spain’s socialist government confirmed that there was no hope that the European Union would lift the diplomatic sanctions. The economy, despite Venezuela’s subsidies, was stagnant, and Fidel Castro made sure, with intimidating columns from his sickbed, that the timid reforms his brother Raul had signalled he wanted were a non-starter.

Other releases have lifted people’s hopes in the past. In 1969-70, about 1,300 prisoners were deported. In 1979, after a controversial negotiation with some exiles, 3,600 opponents were set free – and expelled. In 1998, Pope John Paul II’s visit was followed by the release of 40 men – and another mass deportation. Few regimes have played more deftly the sinister game of confining and torturing innocent persons in rat-infested jails only to win praise for using them as bargaining chips in subsequent negotiations...

...The safest bet is to assume that the Castros are – for the umpteenth time – taking one step back before taking two steps forward. Raul Castro’s insistence that the prisoners leave the island with their families means he wants to get rid of the independent journalists and the Ladies in White – and abort the embryonic civil society they had painstakingly engendered. But it is not inconceivable, given Raul Castro’s bind, that the regime will try some reform in order to beef up the economy and ensure its survival after Fidel Castro dies – a move that, if it’s to generate international support and investment, will require a degree of political accommodation.

Not even Raul Castro himself knows whether reform will really occur. But one thing is clear: The Black Spring heroes and their Ladies in White have revealed to us, against all odds, that the Castros are not invincible. After 51 years, this is a soothing thought.

(Alvaro Vargas Llosa, "Are the Brothers Castro At It Again?" in yesterday's Globe and Mail)