Monday, October 31, 2011

Today's Posts

Working Vacation: Daybook Day 7

Claire and I continue in our working vacation down here in the Branson area and things are going well on both fronts. Want a quick review of our activities since Friday's post? Here you go:

* We did (as I mentioned last time around) get down to Vasken's Deli here for lunch on Friday. But we also swung by the U.S. Cellular place again so Claire could exchange one of our new phones and get a bunch more advice from Stephanie. They've been really helpful and so we took along some cupcakes as a thank-you. We fit in a bit of grocery shopping too and made it home to watch Game Seven of the World Series. We were rooting for the Cardinals and so the experience was particularly exciting.

* Saturday morning we took off for Silver Dollar City. Claire landed a special 2-day pass which allowed us to get in on the last day of the National Harvest Festival but then, after the park is closed all week preparing for their elaborate Christmas displays, we will enjoy being there next Saturday also. The highlights: watching several lumberjack contests, hearing gospel songs from Pure Heart, finding a quilted wall hanging for Christmas, and listening to the mellow and inspiring performance of the Homestead Pickers as they joined with young musicians from the audience. That last hour was worth the price of admission alone and we will never forget the rendition of the old hymn, "Beulah Land," done extemporaneously by a young woman from the audience and backed up by the Pickers and a few friends. In fact, I may write more about this later this week.

* Saturday night was even more special for us. We drove 30 miles up to Crane, Missouri to visit my Aunt Ferris, a lovely woman who was always one of our favorite relatives. Ferris is 88 and, not surprisingly, dealing with a lot of physical problems. However, she remains a vibrant, fun, engaging and deeply spiritual woman and we had 4 hours of wonderful fellowship with her, my cousin Belinda and two of her grandchildren and, a bit later in the night, my cousin Ervin and his wife, Alice, who were in town briefly from Little Rock. This branch of the family has gone through a lot of difficult trials and suffering but a lot of overcoming too. And the hours we spent catching up, reminiscing, hearing stories about Ferris and Thomas back in the days when they were hanging around with my Mom and Dad, listening to Ferris play a little guitar, eating pie, and learning about the current ministries of my cousins (Belinda in caring for her Mom and Ervin and Alice serving with the Assemblies of God Family Services Agency) -- well, they were absolutely priceless. Our decision to come to Branson for our working vacation was vindicated in one evening!

* Sunday was spent lazing around. No kidding, just lazing around. We read a bit, talked, watched a bit of the NFL game and later on an episode of the Next Iron Chef contest on the Food Network. It was pretty neat. Of course, it's a bummer when you catch a program like this on someone's cable TV, get interested in the eventual outcome and then realize that because you don't have cable TV at home, you'll never know how it ends! Oh, well.

* Today's agenda includes a visit (and lunch) at the College of the Ozarks, a Christian institution that's known as “Hard Work U" because all students here work their way through school. It's quite a place from what we've heard and we're anxious to get a closer look. Then we've marked off a couple of hiking trails to explore.  And the rest of the day? Well, as I've said in an earlier post, we're not always sure of where we'll end up. You (like Claire and I) will have to wait and see.

Think God Can't Use the Likes of You?

Here is a quick reflection on that question from the blog of veteran missionary (and friend) Doug Nichols.

When you feel God cannot use you, it is helpful to remember that Noah was a drunk, Abraham was too old, Isaac was a day dreamer, Jacob was a liar, Leah was ugly, Joseph was spoiled, Moses had a stuttering problem, Gideon was afraid, Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer, Rahab was a prostitute, Jeremiah and Timothy were too young, David had a affair and was a murderer, Elijah was suicidal, Jonah ran from God, Naomi was a widow, Job went bankrupt, Peter denied Christ, the disciples slept through prayer, Martha worried over everything, the Samaritan woman was divorced more than once, Zacchaeus was too small, Paul was too religious, Timothy had a stomach problem, and Lazarus was dead.

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29, NASB).

Does Planned Parenthood Really Have a Racist Agenda? Let's Hear from Margaret Sanger.

The immediate aim of this American Life League video clip was to stimulate principled protest over the Smithsonian Institution's honoring of Margaret Sanger, the founder of what is now America's leading abortion business, Planned Parenthood. That particular campaign is outdated by a couple of years. But the information the video clip contains (namely, Sanger's own words about the racist, elitist eugenics that compelled her) remains extremely relevant to current protest efforts -- like getting government agencies to stop giving Planned Parenthood $1 million of taxpayer money every day.

Check it out. And then pass it on.

Just Who Is "Entitled" to OWS Donations?

Winter has arrived for Occupy Wall Street and the call has gone out for those with resources to take care of those without.

Typical, right?

Well, it turns out that even the socialists who are trying to run things are getting ticked off at how certain members of the 99% are exploiting the cause. For instance, after a public SOS for warm weather gear (so that the protesters could continue to camp out in snow-covered Zuccotti Park) did bring in gloves, hats, scarves, sleeping bags and tents, it was appropriated by what OWS organizers deem the wrong kind of folks.

And to OWS leaders, the wrong kind of people are the "professional homeless" who think they're "entitled" to stay warm. 

Nick Hommen [a 29-year old OWS volunteer from Salem, Oregon who was handling donations] said some demonstrators were taking advantage of people’s generosity. “We can’t afford to keep buying new tents. It’s ridiculous the sense of entitlement people feel,” Hommen said.

And he distinguished between actual protesters and the growing number of homeless people invading the park, a rift first reported last week by The Post when kitchen workers revolted over working 18-hour days to feed “professional homeless” people. “We can’t continue to be a homeless shelter,” Hommen said.

Laughable, lugubrious and loony -- all at the same time.

Michelle Obama is Getting Over-the-Top Mad Again.

Mad Michelle this week popped down to Davis Island, Fla., to hobnob with the very people her husband despises - the 1 percent. At a massive mansion on the bay, filled with the wealthiest of the wealthy, America’s first lady launched into a tirade about “them” - the Republicans.

“Let’s not forget about what it meant when my husband appointed two brilliant Supreme Court justices, and for the first time in history, our daughters - and our sons - watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court. But more importantly, let’s not forget the impact their decisions will have on our lives for decades to come - on our privacy and our security, on whether we can speak freely, worship openly and love whomever we choose. That is what’s at stake here,” she said to applause.

Yes, Republicans hope to regain the White House so they can install Supreme Court justices who will trample Americans’ privacy, ignore the nation’s security, crush free speech and persecute the religious.

Oh, and they’re rich and racist to boot. “Will we be a country where opportunity is limited to just the few at the top? Who are we? Or will we give every child a chance to succeed no matter where they’re from, or what they look like or how much money their parents have. Who are we?”

That’s right, rich people (white, of course) certainly don’t want black people to succeed. They want to squelch success based on what people look like, how much money they have. “Are we going to let them succeed?” the first lady yelled. “Nooo!” the rich white people screamed...

Here's more about the menacingly mad Michelle from the Washington Times' Joseph Curl.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Today's Posts


Working Vacation: Daybook Day 4

After my blogging yesterday morning, we drove into Branson to the U.S. Cellular store where Stephanie spent about an hour and a half helping Claire work out some problems with our new phones. We ran into some problems that even the staff there didn't know how to fix. (No surprise -- the problems involved Facebook!)

Following that we drove through the increasingly cool evening to the shops at Branson Landing (shown at right). Claire bought me a couple of shirts at the Bass Pro Shop. We bought a shirt for a friend at the St. Louis Cardinals store. I bought a couple of books at a half-price Christian books store. And then while Claire did some window shopping for clothes (no luck, it turned out), I drank coffee and did some work at Jammin' Java.

When we joined up again it was to buy three bottles of flavored balsamic vinegar (infused, respectively, by tangerine, strawberry and coconut) at a really nifty place, the Devo Olive Oil Company. We discovered these products a year ago and have used them quite a lot. We buy through their website and their lemon-infused olive oil is a product we use an awful lot. Then we bought Claire a slice of carrot cake (her favorite dessert) to take home. We bought it by the way, at Dino's 24 Carrot Cake Company. Yeah, that Dino, Dino Kartsonakis, the fabulously talented Christian musician. He owns the place; his music is playing over the speakers; and he has hopes of making his bakery a national chain. Claire, after enjoying the cake, hopes he's successful enough to get one in Omaha real soon.

We had thought about eating out last night but we wanted even more to watch the World Series game. So, back into the forest to the condo where we watched that thrilling comeback victoryfor the Cardinals. Not the best defensive game by either team but a really exciting contest.

Today I've been blogging while Claire has been dealing with website servers and the phones. In an hour though we're heading down to lunch at Vasken's Deli, our favorite Branson eatery. (The potato salad is the best I've ever had.) We'll hang around there and talk for probably quite awhile before going off to check out a few sites for hiking -- the trail near our condo is awfully short. The  rest of the day? Well, besides making sure we're home for hot dogs and the Texas/St. Louis game, I don't really know. That's part of the fun of vacations, right?


Christians Are Giving Less to Missions, Concentrating on Local Church Programs

A recent study conducted by Empty Tomb, Inc. (a religious relief organization) suggests that Christian giving which serves the needs of others has dropped to its lowest levels in over 40 years. It was a study that involved both liberal and evangelical church groups. And, contrary to what you might first think, these results are not merely the result of a bad economy. No, American Christians are looking more inward than ever by tithing less and by using a greater percentage of the money that does come in to fund church programs that directly serve the parishioners.

My personal experience tends to back up the contentions of this study. I'm all too well aware, for instance, of how few churches ever made donations to Vital Signs Ministries. And of how the few that once did have stopped. (Vital Signs only has 3-4 churches that help us out in our Christian pro-life ministry and the regular monthly total of all of them put together is less than $350.)

The situation is very much the same with most of our friends who are missionaries and para-church servants. We hear all the time about how local churches are reorganizing their finances by severely cutting their support of missionaries and investing instead in more local church staff, programs, building projects, equipment and events. I know of one evangelical church (otherwise sound in doctrine) that has 0% of their budget directed to missions of any kind! No, it's all too true. The priority of giving has shifted quite dramatically.

Also undergoing a dramatic shift is the willingness of the congregation to themselves meet the needs of the local church. For example, just a couple of generations ago, the idea of paying for multiple ministers (and a secretary for each one), custodians, song leaders, groundskeepers, consultants and so on would have been laughable. These services were then performed by members of the congregation. Out of love for Christ, they mowed the lawns, taught the classes, cleaned the church, visited the sick, played the piano, and so on.

In many small churches, like Faith Bible Church where Claire and I are involved, these things are still done by volunteers.(Even the Teaching Pastor of the church receives only the regular guest speaker honorarium.) But the ongoing work of the ministry is performed by the people of the church. And performed very well. Though only a congregation of about 65, Faith Bible Church provides a neighborhood relief and gospel outreach, an open gym night, AWANA classes for neighborhood kids, visitation, summer camp, an ongoing Bible study for women, a monthly men's breakfast, a weekly Bible study, Sunday School classes for all ages, grounds and building maintenance, worship team, sermons that are recorded and uploaded onto the internet (some translated into Russian), a library ministry, numerous fellowship events, special summer classes, film nights, Good News Clubs, participation in various pro-life events, advocacy letter-writing, neighborhood barbecues, adult retreats, work days, and more -- all performed by volunteers.

And one more item that's very relevant to the Empty Tomb study showing the sad downturn in church giving -- In this little congregation of Faith Bible Church, a church located in a poorer section of town and having nothing remotely resembling a wealthy parishioner in the whole bunch, over 30% of the church income goes out to missions!

The American church desperately needs to get back to biblical principles and role models. They need to serve sacrificially, look outside themselves and get a lot more generous in meeting the most crucial needs of the world around them. And the example of Faith Bible Church is a good one to be stimulated by.

Girl Scouts Now Accept Boys. The Catch? They Must Be "Living Like Girls."

Ah, our progressive culture just "progressed" another bizarre step down the path to degradation...and nonsense.

The Girl Scouts, touting their standing as a tolerant, "inclusive" organization has just accepted a boy into the troop.

Rachelle Trujillo, the vice president of communications with Girl Scouts of Colorado, told reporters, "We have privacy rights that we are very respectful of with families. We do not require proof of gender when a family wants their daughter to be a member of Girl Scouts.” However, Trujillo quickly added that boys who are "living like boys" will not be admitted.

Said Ms. Trujillo, “The child must be living life as a girl.”

Goodnight, America. It was nice while it lasted.

Make No Mistake, United Way Gives to Planned Parenthood.

Those glowing commercials featuring NFL players notwithstanding, United Way has become infamous to many as an organization that stimulates he most wicked kinds of coercion. Many of you know from personal experience how the thing works. Sometimes it's merely the snide remark, the sharp asides, the whispered warning about how an employee's contribution to United Way isn't a voluntary thing at all. It's expected; indeed, required.

And some of you have heard the threat put a lot more directly. "Give to United Way or give up any hope of promotion." Or "You hold out and the expected dollar amounts will have to come from your colleagues. So pony up with your share or get ready for recriminations." Or "You know how fragile is job security nowadays. If you want to keep your position, you'd better be %#@&% sure you write that check." Or "Don't worry; we've already adjusted your salary this month to allow for your United Way contribution. Don't bother to thank us."

And why do some Christians still hold out against such intense, unfair and, I firmly believe, illegal extortion? Because forced giving isn't true benevolence? Yes. Because they already give generous amounts to people, projects and causes that they believe in? Yes. Because United Way has been proven over and again to be less than circumspect in the way it spends money? Yes.

And because United Way gives to downright wicked organizations like Planned Parenthood? Yes.

Nationally in 2008, local United Ways distributed an estimated $1.9 million to Planned Parenthood agencies.

Any finances being donated to Planned Parenthood (even if not specifically for abortion services) will free up more of their money to be used toward abortion services.

Some area United Ways, like New York City and Atlanta, provide grants to Planned Parenthood. The Dallas, Houston, and Austin United Ways do not give money directly to Planned Parenthood. However, Austin and Houston Planned Parenthoods do encourage donors to give money through the United Way’s workplace campaign. Many of the local United Ways also send volunteers to Planned Parenthood.

Nationally, the main United Way website ( also directs volunteers toward Planned Parenthood. Again, not every state or city agency promotes Planned Parenthood, but several do. One is too many.

Here's more including a link to a site which can help you effectively oppose United Way's sponsorship with Planned Parenthood.

Taxpayers Forced to Enrich Obama's Personal Fortune

Did I hear you say you had never bought one of Barack Obama's books, one of those ghostwritten, narcissistic biographies that hailed the young community organizer before he had done anything noteworthy at all?

Well, you're wrong. For it turns out that your taxes have purchased at least $70,000 worth of Obama's two books (Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope) to serve as government Christmas gifts and to furnish "key libraries" in embassies around the world.


Of course, the President hasn't thanked you for helping bump up his personal fortune. Indeed, the administration is being ticklishly evasive on the whole matter. But I figured you'd want to know that even though your personal finances may be reeling, you're nevertheless doing your part in helping provide for plenty of wasteful, foolish government spending that enriches others.

Including Barack Obama who has raked in millions already from "his" books.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Today's Posts

How To Conduct A Working Vacation

First of all, we wanted an affordable, quiet, comfortable (yet stimulating) place to stay. Check. We've got that with a lovely two-bedroom condo at  Eagle's Nest Resort just south of Silver Dollar City (Branson) in southwest Missouri. We're on the third floor with a balcony which overlooks the forest along the shore of Table Rock Lake. It's quite beautiful and serene, especially on a cool rainy day like today. The autumn colors of the trees are stunning and they make for a perfect backdrop for blogging, writing, reading, talking, listening to music, sipping tea and coffee, playing a few hands of gin rummy, and so on.

An effective working vacation for us also involves a good balance of work, rest, reflection, reading and recreation. We are only into it a few days but so far that balance has been pretty good. In fact, here's the breakdown for the last couple of days:

Work projects thus far: A) My regular activity on Vital Signs Blog which includes cross-posting on Facebook and other sites. B) My creating a new blog for Nebraskans Against Planned Parenthood. C) Claire's working on Vital Signs finances. D) Claire's learning how to use our new phones.

Rest, reflection and reading thus far: We're getting up early. We do this even on vacations -- don't want to waste any time, I guess -- but our pace is pretty casual. A) The trip down here on Tuesday was great. Wonderful conversation and listening to the tunes of the 40s, 50s and 60s via the rented Ford's satellite radio.  B) We have a long tradition whenever we're in Kansas City of eating lunch at the original Arthur Bryant's barbecue restaurant. Well, we decided to try Gates instead this time around. Bad move. Sorry, Arthur. We've learned our lesson. C) I found a nice walking trail that goes down to the lake and I spent a nice time in prayer there yesterday. I made it back home just before the rain came again! D) Claire finished Kelly Rosati's book, Wait No More: One Family's Amazing Adoption Journey while I've started on a re-reading of the C.S. Lewis Narnia series.

Recreation thus far: Besides walking yesterday, grocery shopping and a couple hours' drive around the Branson area, we haven't done much. We're undecided about booking into any of the shows but there's a couple we're thinking about. This afternoon, we'll head down to Branson Landing where Claire can do a little window shopping while I sit around doing a bit of Vital Signs planning at a coffee shop. We may eat somewhere down there or come back and fix hot dogs and chili here at the condo. Then more reading, more music, more lovely time together.

We'll keep you posted as we go. Prayers for God's guidance as we seek His agenda for the next stages of ministry are greatly appreciated.

Obama's Student Loan Stunt Backfires

Charles Krauthammer said of Obama's plan to pay down student loans. "It's entirely incoherent. I'm not sure if those savings are real, where are they? What he spoke about today was tweaking the student loan program, which he now controls. In a way, it's rather astonishing. The numbers were run by an economics correspondent today in The Atlantic magazine. And It turns out what he is offering the students is between $4.50 and $7.70 a month of relief."

"Now these are students that he addressed today and spoke about their carrying an average of $25,000 in loans...This is keeping with all of the promises he has been making in the last campaign tour in which he promised relief to homeowners in a program which has already failed. And now he is doing it on student loans. If his audience had known how minuscule is the benefit, he would have been laughed out of that auditorium."

And whether it's because the numbers don't add  up OR because the savings are so low anyhow OR just because the American public has learned all too well that Barack Obama cannot be trusted to come up with beneficial economic programs -- the President's announcement may have played well with the entitled whiners of the Occupy Wall Street mobs, it wasn't embraced by the general public. From Rasmussen: 

Even as President Obama talks about easing the burden on those with student loans, in fact, Americans are more inclined to think the government should help those who haven’t gone to college instead. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 21% of American Adults think the federal government should forgive the nearly $1 trillion in loans it made or guaranteed to help students pay for a college education. Sixty-six percent (66%) oppose the forgiveness of all student loans.

PETA Goes to Court to Free SeaWorld "Slaves"

A federal court is being asked to grant constitutional rights to five killer whales who perform at marine parks -- an unprecedented and perhaps quixotic legal action that is nonetheless likely to stoke an ongoing, intense debate at America's law schools over expansion of animal rights.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is accusing the SeaWorld parks of keeping five star-performer whales in conditions that violate the 13th Amendment ban on slavery...

The plaintiffs are the five orcas, Tilikum and Katina based at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., and Corky, Kasatka and Ulises at SeaWorld San Diego...The lawsuit asks the court to order the orcas released to the custody of a legal guardian who would find a "suitable habitat" for them...

This AP story is sadly laughable...and not merely because of its subject matter. The reporter takes this weird publicity stunt way too seriously. For instance, does the reporter really think that this lawsuit is going to "stoke an ongoing, intense debate at America's law schools?" Come on.

Or from further on in the story: "The suit...hinges on the fact that the 13th Amendment, while prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, does not specify that only humans can be victims." No kidding? Brother, those founding fathers sure lacked vision, didn't they? Imagine them forgetting to put critters on the same moral and legal plane with people.

Francis Schaeffer used to apply the term "stupid-wicked" as a description of the post-Christian culture. Reading this story emphasizes just how appropriate is that conjoined word. Lord, help us.

Planned Parenthood's Racism: A "Heinous Human Injustice"

...The abortion industry kills more black people than the alcohol and tobacco industries, combined. According to the CDC, in the latest annual report on abortion statistics, there were over 363,705 deaths caused by abortion versus 289,366 deaths from all other causes combined.  Where’s the outrage?

Where’s the resistance against the number one killer of African-Americans?  Abortion is advertised even more disproportionately, and has a consistent negative health outcome—death.  On billboards, in school-based clinics, through advocate media, nonreciprocal PR responses (Tebow Ad response) and tragically, in churches, abortion is heralded as merely a positive “choice”.

Planned Parenthood has lodged itself in the urban environment for decades, overseeing and instigating years of the decay of the black family, increasing unintended pregnancy rates, soaring fatherlessness (72.3%) and exponentially higher STD rates. Gonorrhea is 20 times higher among blacks than whites and 10 times higher than Hispanics.  Chlamydia is 8 times higher among blacks than whites and 3 times higher than Hispanics.  And with all of the targeting that Planned Parenthood does, aiming for the black community since The Negro Project, abortion occurs 4.9 times more among blacks than whites, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

We have more access to condoms and all other forms of birth control than ever before in human history. Yet Planned Parenthood, the self-professed savior of the urban community, fails at its most basic tasks—reducing unintended pregnancy rates and preventing the spread of STDs. The only thing they do not fail at is killing through abortions. Their entire billion-dollar business model centers on this heinous human injustice...

Ryan isn't through. Read the rest of his column right here.

Jewish Conservatives Challenge Media: Report Anti-Semitism of the "Occupy" Events

Hours after Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center challenged the American media to report accurately the anti-Semitism that has been a part of many of the Occupy wall Street protests, three prominent Jewish leaders made the same request. Here are those three statements:

“The Left has a long history of anti-Semitism going back to Karl Marx. In that context, the anti-Semitism of some OWS protestors and organizations isn’t surprising. What also isn’t surprising, but is disturbing, is the mainstream media’s refusal to report this. Unsubstantiated allegations of racism on the part of certain Tea Party protestors which later proved to be unfounded was the subject of intense media scrutiny. Real palpable, verifiable anti-Semitism on the part of OWS protestors the media has no interest in covering.” (Don Feder, Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation)

“To paraphrase John Keats, all you need to know about the Occupy Wall Street crowd is that truth usually goes with beauty. Self-obsessed dilettantes who foist their feces and filth on a downtown park are probably not speaking the truth. Today’s cultural conflict is not between Jews and Christians, blacks and whites, or even rich and poor. It is between those who struggle to sustain civilization and those who wish to obliterate it. Anti-Semitism, excremental assault, abolition of commercial creativity and the glorification of depravity are all variations of the attack against civilization.” (Rabbi Daniel Lapin, American Alliance of Jews and Christians)

“Mainstream media should be every bit as vigilant about anti-Semitism of the Left as they are appropriately indignant about anti-Semitism of the right. Fortunately, Media Research Center is there to expose the frequent double standard when it comes to public expressions of Jew hatred.” (Michael Medved, nationally syndicated talk radio host)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Today's Posts

Raymond Chandler Makes the A-List

Back in August over at The Book Den, I posted a revised list of my Mystery Writers Honor Roll but I thought I'd finally get around to explaining just why I had added Raymond Chandler to that noble company. Chandler made the grade after I concluded a Raymond Chandler jag in which I devoured the Library of America edition which featured him. The closely-packed, 1200 page book contained three Chandler novels (The Big Sleep; Farewell, My Lovely; and The High Window) along with thirteen stories published in American magazines in the thirties. Those magazines were primarily “pulps” like Black Mask and Dime Detective.

I thoroughly enjoyed every page.

Chandler is a terrific mystery writer though his style leans more to the hard-boiled detective and police procedural genres than the traditional mystery. In that sense, he would rank alongside Erle Stanley Gardner in my list. But Chandler strives for higher goals than Gardner in his writing – simple entertainment and well-paying profits are not enough. And though Chandler himself was never satisfied with his work, there were many who considered him not only a superb detective novelist but a fine literary craftsman as well. In that company were Gardner himself, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden and Evelyn Waugh.

Raymond Chandler’s stories are detailed, dark, and though filled with action, they are also cerebral in theme and complex in plot. The prose is terse, often delicately timed to the action being described. In this, he shows a poetic skill very rare in the form. There is also a high regard for realism in his descriptions of characters, dialogue and setting. He manages all of them extremely well.

His world, of course, is filled with the thugs, cops, molls and saps of the underworld and there’s plenty of blackmail, corruption, robbery, bluffs, gunplay, fisticuffs, car chases and car crashes, mysterious beauties, heavy villains, seedy scenes and tough talk. But Chandler's protagonists always blaze through to a triumphant ending with justice well served. And if the heroes heads aren’t always intact by the closing sentence, their principles are.

So, I repeat; Raymond Chandler has been warmly inducted into my Mystery Writers Honor Roll and for those of you interested in the genre, I’m recommending you give him a try. You’ll find very well drawn characters, inventive yet easily believable plots and a concise, rhythmic use of simple sentences.

And speaking of sentences -- I confess I was as captivated by the wit and imagination of those uniquely descriptive phrases known as “Chandlerisms” as anybody else. In fact, here are just a few of the many I noted along the way:

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”--“Red Wind”

“The knocking sounded again... I went over and opened the door—without a gun. That was a mistake.”--“Red Wind”

“His eyes measured me for a coffin...”--“Red Wind”

“Rhonda Farr...held up her hand, the one with the cigarette holder, looked at it, posing. It was a beautiful hand, without a ring. Beautiful hands are as rare as jacaranda trees in bloom, in a city where pretty faces are as common as runs in dollar stockings.”--“Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”

Ricchio went on: ‘We’ll play clean. Our racket wouldn’t be worth a squashed bug if we didn’t. You’ll play clean too. If you don’t your shamus will wake up on a pile of dirt. Only he won’t wake up. Get it?’--“Smart-Aleck Kill”

"I'm an occasional drinker, the kind of guy who goes out for a beer and wakes up in Singapore with a full beard." --"The King in Yellow"

‘”If you want trouble,’ he said, ‘I come from where they make it.’”--“The King in Yellow”

“I didn’t say anything. I was way past the age when it’s fun to swear at people you can’t hurt."--“Finger Man”

“Dorr raised his head a few inches and looked at me with his mouth slightly open. He had beautiful teeth, but they hadn’t grown in his mouth. --“Finger Man”

“As a bluff, mine was thinner than the gold on a week-end wedding ring." --“Finger Man”

“Shoes dropped on cement and a smaller spotlight stabbed at him sideways from the end of the billboards. Behind the spot a casual voice spoke: ‘Don’t shift an eyelash, bud. You’re all wrapped up in law.’”--“Pick-Up on Noon Street”

“She was a tall, seedy, sad-eyed blonde who had once been a policewoman and had lost her job when she married a cheap little check-bouncer named Johnny Horne, to reform him. She hadn’t reformed him, but she was waiting for him to come out so she could try again.” --“Goldfish”

"I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun."-- Farewell, My Lovely

“This car sticks out like spats at an Iowa picnic.”-- Farewell, My Lovely

“Who is this Hemingway person at all? A guy that keeps saying the same thing over and over until you begin to believe it must be good.”-- Farewell, My Lovely

“But me not buts. I make a sop of you. I’ll drown you in a butt of Malmsey wine. I wish I had a butt of Malmsey wine to drown in. Shakespeare. He knew his liquor too.”-- Farewell, My Lovely

‘"She's a charming middle age lady with a face like a bucket of mud and if she's washed her hair since Coolidge's second term, I'll eat my spare tire, rim and all."’ -- Farewell, My Lovely

"The house itself was not so much. It was smaller than Buckingham Palace, rather gray for California, and probably had fewer windows than the Chrysler Building. I sneaked over to the side entrance and pressed a bell and somewhere a set of chimes made a deep mellow sound like church bells. A man in a striped vest and gilt buttons opened the door, bowed, took my hat and was through for the day."-- Farewell, My Lovely

“She had a voice you could crack a brazil nut on.”-- The Lady in the Lake

"From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. From ten feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away."--The High Window

Abortionists (And Their Friends) Prefer "Crimes Done in Secret"

On Tuesday, a federal judge blocked the ultrasound portion of North Carolina’s abortion law which was supposed to take effect yesterday, October 25. Abortion-rights groups had argued that subjecting women to the ultrasounds would “subject women to emotional pain and violate the medical ethics of doctors…” Excuse me? Since when is it ethical to hide the truth from women?  Shouldn’t every woman have the opportunity to know the full truth about the humanity of her unborn child before making a decision to destroy it?

Barb Malek is one of the directors of the AAA Center for Pregnancy Counseling and is therefore a Christian woman who well knows the unique life-affirming (indeed, life-saving) power of intrauterine ultrasounds. Here is her latest column, "Why is the Abortion Industry So Afraid of Ultrasounds?"

You'll find the essay here at Barb's blog, Erase the Need. It's a pro-life blog that definitely belongs in your favorites list.

Country Star Collin Raye Defending Sanctity of Life

“It [was] a barbaric way to die...I know that there are a lot of complex issues involved. But in the case of Terri Schiavo, she didn’t need any extraordinary means. She wasn’t on a respirator. She simply needed food and water to stay alive. I think that is one of the saddest chapters in American history.”

That's country music star Collin Raye talking to NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez. Raye, who had 15 number-one hits in the 1990s has recently become the official spokesman for the Schiavo Life and Hope Network. Pretty cool.

Here's more of the interview.

Former Planned Parenthood Director: Govt. Investigation Long Overdue

It is a matter of public record that the affiliates of Planned Parenthood and its national headquarters receive about $1 million per day in federal-state support for a total of $1 billion or more in tax dollars in any three-year period.

This alone would merit close government attention as to whether these funds are being spent appropriately and, specifically, in keeping with the federal laws that not only say abortion should not be funded but also that public money should not be made available to any program in which abortion is used as a means of family planning.

I can state categorically from personal experience that abortion is indeed deployed as a means of family planning according to the mission of Planned Parenthood and its affiliates.

I have personally witnessed and can testify to the validity of specific concerns raised by Stearns in his Sept. 15 letter to Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards, including instances in which an employee or affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America failed to:

• Properly account for and maintain separation between government funds prohibited from use for elective abortions and those funds derived from other sources that are not subject to such limitations.

• Notify parents when a vulnerable girl is seeking an abortion, including instances when the minor girl is the victim of an act of statutory rape under applicable state law.

• Provide a woman undergoing an abortion with accurate and relevant information regarding the stage of her pregnancy, including the opportunity to view ultrasound imagery that may have profoundly affected her decision to undergo an abortion.

• Detect and act upon instances where a girl or woman was brought to the clinic under some degree of coercion, up to and including instances where the girl or woman was subjected to human trafficking.

The decision by the subcommittee to delve into the extent of these issues is long overdue, and it will provide an appropriate check and balance on an entity that, as I can personally attest to, has operated as a law unto itself, gladly accepting tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer support while using the rubric of “reproductive rights” to claim exemption from the normal standards of accountability that every other recipient of public funds is expected to meet...

Read the rest of Abby Johnson's Open Letter (Johnson once worked as a Planned Parenthood facility director) right here.

Pepsi No More

This note is to inform you that Vital Signs Ministries is joining the boycott of Pepsi products because of Pepsi's refusal to disconnect itself from Senomyx, a research firm that uses embryonic kidney cells taken from an aborted baby to produce "taste receptors." I will be passing along the reports about this profoundly offensive partnership to everyone in my spheres of influence.

I hope and pray you discontinue immediately your relationship with Senomyx, apologize for not making an immediate admission/apology to those who have written you earlier and pledge to have nothing to do with such unnatural and immoral policies in the future.

Thank you for considering my most heartfelt complaint.

Denny Hartford
Director, Vital Signs Ministries
Teaching Pastor, Faith Bible Church

Why the big deal?

Read this...and then join me in the Principled Pepsi Protest.

Send along your letter or e-mail to Jamie Caulfield, Sr. VP at:
PepsiCo, Inc.
700 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577
(914) 253-2000
Email form:

Others who have joined the boycott include:  Concerned Women for America, American Life League, National Black Pro-Life Union, Colorado Right to Life, Life Issues Institute, Defenders of the Unborn, CREDO, Life Choices, Human Life Alliance, International Right to Life Federation, Operation Rescue, Black Students for Life,, and many others.

And now Vital Signs. And maybe you too?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Today's Posts

The Working Vacation Begins

Well, in what was a pretty typical situation for us, Vacation Day One found us still at home -- and working! And Vacation Day Two is having a similar start.

But not to worry. We got some important things done yesterday: Vital Signs business, lawn mowed, everything packed, etc. And today we've just got a few more things to check off before we're on our way, traveling in a rented Ford with satellite radio. Nice.

We're heading to a condo at Eagle's Nest a bit southwest of Branson for a couple of weeks of a working vacation. I'll be doing some limited Facebook and blogging during our time away but other things (including writing, reading, hiking in the forest -- and celebrating our 40th anniversary) will take priority.

Have You Read What They Read?

Here is a nifty site that gives you the bestselling books of each year in the entire 20th Century. I found it intriguing to see what books were popular with earlier generations of American readers and how those choices related to books that I myself have read. You might find it of interest too.

And in addition to comparing what they read with what you've read, you might also find a few titles for future reading. After all, services like Project Gutenberg are making available (for downloading onto a Kindle and other e-readers) a lot of books that have long been out of print. That's very cool. For as a historian (as well as an aficionado of wholesome literature), I find it exciting to be able to read books that informed, entertained and even inspired those who went before me.

Anyhow, here's one result of my engagement with this 20th Century book list. I scanned just the first three decades looking for books that I had read at some time or another. I print them below. Not all of them were gems, of course. So please note that only the titles I put in bold print are books that I would heartily recommend to others.

From 1900: #5 -- Eben Holden by Irving Bacheller (also #5 in 1901) and #8 -- Richard Carvel by Winston Churchill. (This, by the way, is the American author Winston Churchill, not the other one.)

1902: #1 -- The Virginian by Owen Wister (also #5 in 1903) and #7 -- The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle.

1905: #4 -- The Clansman by Thomas Dixon Jr.

1906: #6 -- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

1913: #8 -- Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter (also #2 in 1914).

1914: #3 -- The Desert of Wheat by Zane Grey. Also in the Non-Fiction category (It looks like they started keeping track of this genre in 1912.), I've read #1 -- The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams.

1920 Non-Fiction: #3 -- Roosevelt's Letters to His Children, Joseph B. Bishop, editor.

1921 Non-Fiction: #1 -- The Outline of History by H. G. Wells (also #1 in 1922 and #5 in 1923).

1925 Non-Fiction: #3 -- When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne and #4 -- The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Barton (also #1 in 1926).

1926 Non-Fiction: (besides Barton's) 8 -- The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant (also #1 in 1927).

1927 Non-Fiction: (besides Durant's) #3 -- Revolt in the Desert by T. E. Lawrence

1928: #1 -- The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder and #4 -- The Greene Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine. Also, wrongly put in the Non-Fiction category (it is a play) is #5 -- Strange Interlude by Eugene O'Neill

1929: # 1 -- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and #4 -- The Bishop Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine. Also, at #8 in the Non-Fiction category (again, wrongly put) is the narrative poem, John Brown's Body by Stephen Vincent Benét.

Again, here is the list. Go begin your own adventures.

Shocking Sex Ed Program Is Mandatory

Fresh from the "And You Still Keep Your Kids in Public School?" Department:

Barack Obama's zealous support for Planned Parenthood makes it no surprise that his Department of Education is pushing hard for values-free sex education, including a complete denial of funds for any program that emphasizes abstinence training.

An example of just how that policy is being enacted can be seen in New York City where a mandatory, coeducational sex ed program has been forced onto students -- a program that includes the most reprehensible (and counter-productive to the espoused purpose) elements.

Here's more.

Sex ed, which becomes mandatory in city middle and high schools next year, is meant to stem unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among teens. But parents may be shocked by parts of the Department of Education’s “recommended” curriculum.

Workbooks reviewed by The Post include the following assignments:

* High-school students go to stores and jot down condom brands, prices and features such as lubrication.

* Teens research a route from school to a clinic that provides birth control and STD tests, and write down its confidentiality policy.

* Kids ages 11 and 12 sort “risk cards” to rate the safety of various activities, including “intercourse using a condom and an oil-based lubricant,’’ mutual masturbation, French kissing, oral sex and anal sex.

* Teens are referred to resources such as Columbia University’s Web site Go Ask Alice, which explores topics like “doggie-style” and other positions, “sadomasochistic sex play,” phone sex, oral sex with braces, fetishes, porn stars, vibrators and bestiality...

“Kids are being told to either abstain or use condoms -- that both are responsible, healthy choices,” said child and adolescent psychiatrist Miriam Grossman, author of “You’re Teaching My Child What?”

The DOE “relies on latex,” she said.

But Grossman argues that the books minimize the dangers that pregnancy can still occur with condom use, and that viruses such as herpes and HPV live on body parts not covered by a condom.

(Susan Edelman, New York Post)

Ben Nelson's Lying Ad Exposed by Fact Check

An ad approved by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska twists the facts about what three potential GOP opponents have said about Social Security and Medicare.

While showing a photo of an elderly couple, the ad accuses Jon Bruning of embracing a Medicare plan that could “raise your rates and cut your benefits.” But only those 54 years old or younger would have been affected by the plan.

It says Deb Fischer “would also cut Medicare.” But that’s based on her support for a bill that specifically exempted Medicare spending, and she has said “we must keep our commitment to the people who are in [Medicare].”

It says Don Stenberg “wants to cut Social Security,” when, in fact, he says he opposes any cuts for current beneficiaries, or those nearing retirement age.

A graphic in the ad says the three Republicans have “Risky Plans for Seniors.” The Nebraska Democratic Party began running the TV spot, called “Peas,” on Oct. 10. It has been paid for by the Nebraska Democratic State Central Committee. Nelson makes an appearance at the end of the ad, giving it his approval...

Nebraska Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Lorenz couldn’t tell us how Bruning’s support for Ryan’s plan for future Medicare recipients, or Fischer’s support for the Cut, Cap and Balance Act with an exemption for Medicare spending, meant that they were planning to make cuts for current beneficiaries...

It’s true that Bruning and Fischer both support overturning the health care law, and that would ultimately have an impact on the increased prescription drug coverage now provided by the law. But there is no mention of that scenario in the ad, and anyone who saw the ad, or bothered to check its sources, likely wouldn’t make that connection either.

Another Cover Up of Planned Parenthood Crimes

Why can't the crimes of Planned Parenthood be successfully prosecuted? Because of still other crimes (namely, a nefarious cover up) committed by Planned Parenthood pals.

Here's part of the report from the Kansas City Star:

The country’s first criminal prosecution of Planned Parenthood was left teetering Friday when it was revealed the state of Kansas destroyed abortion records that prosecutors planned to use as evidence.

Johnson County prosecutors asked a judge to delay a Monday hearing to decide if there’s enough evidence to try Planned Parenthood on 23 felony counts of falsifying termination of pregnancy reports...

“Unbelievable,” said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life.

“We don’t believe for one second this was anything but purposefully done to protect the abortion industry.”

The shredding occurred when KDHE was under former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, an abortion rights supporter...

The destroyed records were critical in establishing the authenticity of records from 2003 that Kline obtained when he investigated Planned Parenthood as attorney general. Planned Parenthood also provided copies of the records, but Kline contended that those did not match the ones he had in his possession...

In 2007, after he became Johnson County prosecutor, Kline filed a 107-count complaint against the abortion provider.

In addition to the 23 felonies, the complaint also charged Planned Parenthood with multiple misdemeanor counts of failing to maintain the pregnancy termination reports, failing to perform viability tests on fetuses and unlawful late-term abortions.

Prosecutors contended that Planned Parenthood had not kept the documents five years as required by law and falsified copies to cover it up...

The case is significant for Planned Parenthood, which has been fighting efforts by Congress and state legislatures to strip the agency of millions in family-planning money because it provides abortion.

A conviction “would have a profound adverse effect on the organization nationwide,” Brownlie said in an interview earlier this week.

“It would certainly fuel the effort on the part of Republicans in the House and the Senate to deny funding for Planned Parenthood.”...

Kline, now a law professor at Liberty University in Virginia, accused the abortion providers of violating state law and covering for pedophiles by not reporting pregnancies of underage girls. He sought medical records of former patients to prove his case,

Some of Kline’s supporters have said the Kansas Supreme Court and the disciplinary board it appoints went after Kline because of his opposition to abortion. They note that several justices on the court were appointed by Sebelius.

“Do we still have a rule of law? Does the law mean anything or not? Or does it only mean something if the issue’s not abortion?” asked Culp.

“What we’ve seen over the years is when the issue is abortion all the rules changes, especially if abortionists are supporting people in places of power.”

A Show of Hands -- Who Likes Occupy Wall Street?

Let's add things up here.

The great unwashed of the Occupy Wall Street movement have now garnered endorsements (and direct participation) from the Communist Party, the Nazi Party, Islamic jihadists, the New York Times...

and 64% of Democrats.

Harry Truman, what in the heck has happened to your party?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Today's Posts

So What Cell Phone Company Did We Go With?

When You Think of Komen, Do You Think of...Abortion?

The Birth Control Pill & Abortion

Electric Car Bill: $529 Million of Your Tax Money Going to Finland

After Religion Dies -- Halloween

Not Optimistic About America's Future? Think Again.

Another Democrat To Retire, Delivers Parting Shot at Obama

So What Cell Phone Company Did We Go With?

There was a lot of interest in Claire’s post earlier this month about her discussion with Verizon officials about their support of Planned Parenthood.  Remember? We were trying to establish the most aboveboard company for our cell phones and Claire was involved in checking out their corporate donation policy. Well, she has been wanting to get back to you but she wasn’t having an easy time getting much information about cell companies.  Verizon did call her back a few days ago and insisted that they don’t give to Planned Parenthood.  However, they do allow their employee’s to give to whatever charitable causes they select and then Verizon will donate a matching grant.

That’s going to be a pretty common situation because companies are not only concerned about keeping their employees happy, they’re concerned about the lawsuits that could crop up if they start discriminating between charitable groups. When Claire asked the Verizon gal if fear of litigation was a driving force in their policy, the woman unabashedly said yes.  So, let’s face it, even though we know that Planned Parenthood doesn’t deserve charitable status at all (it makes millions of dollars in profits), our government has made the bonehead decision that it does.

It wasn’t a surprise then to learn that the same policy exists with other cell phone companies.  They too deny that they formally give money (as a corporation) to Planned Parenthood but admit that their money gets through via matching grants of employee donations.  One cell phone company, however, that doesn’t appear on any Planned Parenthood boycott lists that I could find was U.S. Cellular.  So, I did call U.S. Cellular, a Midwest-based wireless company that is not on any lists, and asked the customer service representative if they give to Planned Parenthood.  He put me on hold for quite awhile in order to "check with corporate." When he came back, he said that U.S. Cellular does not give to Planned Parenthood.

So, as far as we were able to determine, our best course looked to be U.S. Cellular. And though our priority was doing the right thing morally, it turns out that U.S. Cellular's record of service is excellent and they offered us a very good deal too. We thought you might like to know.

When You Think of Komen, Do You Think of...Abortion?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer. In 2007, the most recent year numbers are available, 202,964 American women were diagnosed with breast cancer — and 40,598 women died from it.

Almost everyone in America knows a woman who has had breast cancer. Some of those beloved friends and family members may have died from it. So when an organization like Susan G. Komen for the Cure conducts fundraising projects for research, it’s difficult to say no. We’re encouraged to help by buying a certain brand of yogurt or a certain soft drink. Pink ribbons pop up on products everywhere. We can buy items we would normally buy and feel good about helping find a cure.

So if Komen’s mission is to find a cure for breast cancer, why are they giving huge sums of money to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider? According to its Form 990, Komen affiliates gave more than $550,000 to affiliates of Planned Parenthood in 2010. A year earlier, they donated over $731,000. Komen says the grants are used to fund breast exams and mammograms. However, numerous reports confirm that Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms. What Planned Parenthood does do is abortion.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America has carefully crafted a public image as a protector of women’s health. PPFA is also the largest abortion chain in America. It is fully in the abortion business and its bottom line depends on performing more and more abortions...

Considering all the money that Planned Parenthood takes in, why in the world would Komen divert money that could be put toward breast cancer research to this abortion behemoth? Federal government grants to PPFA are, by law, not allowed to pay for abortion per se, but the money is certainly used to build infrastructure and promote the organization. Komen, too, says the funds it gives PPFA are not used for abortion, but it helps to bring new clients through the door.

Komen’s support of the nation’s largest abortion provider is ironic in that, while Komen works to find a cure for breast cancer, Planned Parenthood is providing a “service” that contributes to the increase of breast cancer. There is a substantial body of evidence to show that getting an abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. Joel Brind, Ph.D., one of the foremost researchers to make the abortion-breast-cancer link, estimates that upwards of 10,000 cases of breast cancer each year are attributable to induced abortion.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure has created the public image of an organization doing good. Unfortunately, when you think Komen, you have to also think Planned Parenthood; and when you think Planned Parenthood, you have to think abortion.

(Read the rest of "Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood" by National Right to Life President Carol Tobias right here.)

The Birth Control Pill & Abortion

Electric Car Bill: $529 Million of Your Tax Money Going to Finland

You can't make this kind of stuff up.

With the approval of the Obama administration, an electric car company that received a $529 million federal government loan guarantee is assembling its first line of cars in Finland, saying it could not find a facility in the United States capable of doing the work.

Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department's $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two years after the loan was announced, the job of assembling the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car has been outsourced to Finland.

"There was no contract manufacturer in the U.S. that could actually produce our vehicle," the car company's founder and namesake told ABC News. "They don't exist here."

Henrik Fisker said the U.S. money so far has been spent on engineering and design work that stayed in the U.S., not on the 500 manufacturing jobs that went to a rural Finnish firm, Valmet Automotive.

"We're not in the business of failing; we're in the business of winning. So we make the right decision for the business," Fisker said. "That's why we went to Finland."

...When asked directly by ABC News if taxpayers should worry about the more than $500 million in federal funds on the line, he was emphatic: "No, I don't think they need to worry about it," Fisker said.

After Religion Dies -- Halloween

...But as much as we’d like it to be, Halloween isn’t secular. It is pagan. There’s nothing else to call a set of ceremonies in which people utter magical phrases, flirt with the night and evoke the dead. One of my family’s favorite Halloween props was a hand that moved, as though from the netherworld, when you reached to collect a few pieces of candy corn. Necromancy is a regular part of Halloween games. Zombie masks are one of this year’s top- sellers. As grouchy theologians used to point out, the origin of Halloween was most likely Samhain, an ancient Celtic holiday on which the dead, in some accounts, supposedly returned to visit.

There’s a reason for the pull of the pagan. In the U.S., we’ve been vigorously scrubbing our schools and other public spaces of traces of monotheistic religion for many decades now. Such scrubbing leaves a vacuum. The great self-deception of modern life is that nothing will be pulled into that vacuum. Half a century ago, the psychologist Carl Jung noted the heightened interest in UFOs, and concluded that the paranormal was “modern myth,” a replacement for religion.

Children or adults who today relish every detail of zombie culture or know every bit of wizarding minutiae are seeking something to believe in. That church, mosque and synagogue are so controversial that everyone prefers the paranormal as neutral ground is disconcerting. There’s something unsettling about the education of a child who comfortably enumerates the rules for surviving zombie apocalypse but finds it uncomfortable to enumerate the rules of his grandparents’ faith, if he knows them...

(Amity Shlaes, "Halloween’s Pagan Themes Fill West’s Faith Vacuum" in

Not Optimistic About America's Future? Think Again.

Today's must read? It's gotta' be Brad Lips' article in American Thinker. Entitled "Cheer-up America! The Case for American Optimism," the article actually begins with a straightforward review of how bad off the country is. Fair enough. Denial gets us nowhere.

But Lips explains that dealing with the various crises before us will be easier than at any time in the last 70 years. Why? Because certain truths have broken through the fog of politics as usual, creating more common ground upon which to build solutions.

And who should we thank for this new dawn of consciousness?

"First and foremost, thank Barack Obama."

Surprised? Then go read the article. It's a gem.

(Hat tip: Lucianne.com

Another Democrat To Retire, Delivers Parting Shot at Obama

It wasn't a huge surprise that California Democrat Dennis Cardoza announced that his fifth term in Congress will be his last. After all, he's the sixth current Congressman to announce plans for retirement. And yes, they're all Democrats.

But what was surprising -- and, to the White House, very embarrassing -- is just how Cardoza bowed out; namely by delivering a severe shot at Barack Obama's incompetency.

“Looking back on disappointments, I am dismayed by the Administration’s failure to understand and effectively address the current housing foreclosure crisis.  Home foreclosures are destroying communities and crushing our economy, and the Administration’s inaction is infuriating."

“After nearly 20 years in elected office, I offer this advice: Voters need to reward statesmanship.   Too many Americans are losing faith in our government and our democracy.  For our country to change course, voters must aggressively punish extreme partisanship and rhetoric when they cast their ballots.   The United States of America is too great a nation for us not to demand excellence in our leaders.”