Monday, December 30, 2013

Today's Posts

Thinking About New Year's Resolutions

Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet?

Yes, I know that many Christians ignore the whole idea. In fact, some are downright grinchy about it, believing that making resolutions is more about reliance on one's own willpower than on God's grace to effect change in their lives. Many more, however, dismiss the idea simply because they've failed so many times in the past. They decide they're actually better off by staying the way they are, playing around with the same excuses, and trying to keep themselves comfortably distant from higher aspirations.

But here's the deal -- making resolutions isn't optional for the Christian. Not at all. Think for just a moment about the Scripture's frequent use of exhortational verbs like "dedicate," "reckon," "establish," "consider," "purpose," "consecrate," "prove," "remember," "put aside," and many more. All refer to the prayerful making (and keeping) of spiritual resolutions.

You just can't avoid it...not if you want to live in accordance with the Word.

It may help for you to dispense with the idea of New Year's resolutions and instead see careful, purposeful changes in your life as Christmas gifts to Jesus. That's what Claire and I try to do. And it's been a great reminder to us that God is a God of wondrous and inexhaustible grace. Through the cross of Jesus, He is always ready to forgive sin and failure. And He is also ready to empower His disciples to begin again and again.

Note also that the Latin word behind resolution means to untie. And an awful lot of our obstacles to spiritual growth involve un-tying the knots of bad thinking and bad habits. To untie these knots, we need patience and other virtues given by the Holy Spirit. We need better information which means more frequent and more effective Bible study. We need to make sure we're praying hard as well as trying hard. We also need a heavenly perspective, one that sees our honest resolutions and efforts as investments in eternity. And finally, the successful achievement of our prayerful resolutions is greatly helped by authentic Christian fellowship, the kind that provides rich supplies of encouragement, accountability and assistance.

Resolutions are not our enemies. But we need to envision the benefits of spiritual growth (liberation, peace, joy, greater effectiveness in ministry, etc.) in order to more willingly embrace the work involved to get there.

2013 Was a Banner Year for the Nanny State (But a Bummer Year For Freedom).

Over at The Foundry (Heritage’ Foundation’s ace collection of policy news), James Gattuso and Diane Katz take a quick look at “The 10 Worst Regulations of 2013.”

Read through the article. And then remember that the likes of Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and an uncountable horde of judges, clerks and committee chairs have three more years (at least) to harass and weaken the Republic.

Where’s the aspirin, honey?

It's Everyone's Fault...But Mine!

The president is a chronic whiner, a habitual complainer and excuse-maker. He relied on blame shifting for his entire first term, and I suspect it’s not merely a tactic for Obama. It is how he’s been conditioned, how he views the world and his place in it. He believes deep in his bones that every setback he encounters is due to outside forces. And so he has laid the blame for his failures on his predecessor, the congressional GOP, the Tea Party, conservative talk radio hosts, millionaires and billionaires, Wall Street, Japanese tsunamis, the Arab Spring, Fox News, and more. Those excuses no longer work–and because they don’t, one of the main political arrows has been removed from the Obama quiver.

It’ll be interesting to see if Mr. Obama is emotionally able to adjust to this new situation. My guess is he’ll try the same lines of attack–including portraying himself again and again as the only adult in a room of unruly children–even as most Americans believe his act has grown old and stale. And as the failures of the Obama presidency continue to multiply and his record of incompetence becomes even more indisputable, will Mr. Obama become more aggrieved, more prickly, and more detached from reality? The new year will go some distance toward answering whether you can teach a hubristic president new tricks. This much we know: the old ones have become tedious and monotonous…

(Peter Wehner, “Obama’s Tedious Act Grown Old and Stale,” Commentary)

"Completely a Lie" -- The Latest MSM Attempt to Alter the Benghazi Record

Fifteen months after the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, the narrative of the attack continues to be shaped, and reshaped, by politicians and the press.

But a New York Times report published over the weekend has angered sources who were on the ground that night. Those sources, who continue to face threats of losing their jobs, sharply challenged the Times’ findings that there was no involvement from Al Qaeda or any other international terror group and that an anti-Islam film played a role in inciting the initial wave of attacks.

“It was a coordinated attack. It is completely false to say anything else. … It is completely a lie,” one witness to the attack told Fox News…

Adam Housley’s report for Fox News shouldn’t be missed: “'Completely false': Sources on ground in Benghazi challenge New York Times report.”

Friday, December 27, 2013

More Catching Up

* “The Death of the Bedside Manner: ObamaCare is speeding the decline in the quality of medical practice.” (Marc Siegel, Wall Street Journal)

* “It Was Posted on a Humor Site, But This Serious Takedown of the TSA Is Blistering” (Sharona Schwartz, The Blaze)

* “Obama’s Veterans Administration Prevent School Kid’s Christmas Cards to Troops” (Warner Todd Huston, Publius Forum

* “President Obama's Top 10 Constitutional Violations Of 2013” (Ilya Shapiro, Forbes)

* “What to Do When ObamaCare Unravels” (John H. Cochrane, Wall Street Journal)

Catching Up

Christmas kept us all busy but don't let these articles get by you.

* “8 Americans to Remember This Christmas” (Brett Schaefer, Heritage Foundation)

* “Kwanzaa: The Holiday Brought To You By the FBI” (Ann Coulter, Town Hall)

“Encouraging Lessons from the ‘Duck Dynasty’ Imbroglio” (David Limbaugh, Human Events)

* “Russia Chooses Life” (Steven W. Mosher, PRI)

* “Why December 25?” (Erick Erickson, Human Events)

* “The Case for Christmas (Part 1)” by Chuck Norris.

* “Army: Don’t say Christmas” (Todd Starnes, Fox News)

* “Into Year 6, Obama admits he’s clueless” (Joseph Curl, Washington Times)

* "Bozell Column: '60 Minutes,' Tool of the State?" (NewsBusters)

Monday, December 23, 2013

The 92 Favorite Toys of Your Childhood (And a Few More)

Just in time for your last-minute Christmas shopping. Well, okay; it's too late for that. As a matter of fact, it was originally posted in July of 2010. But it still makes for lighthearted and fun reflection at this toy-oriented time of the year. Have fun remembering.

Joe Carter over at First Things took on a big job when he tried to list The 100 Greatest Children’s Toys. In fact, it was so big that he only came up with 92. I think you'll enjoy looking through the alphabetical list and seeing if it contains your favorites.

Among those in Carter's list that were around our home (the 5 Hartford kids were born in the span from 1946 to 1961) were Army Men, jump rope, Lincoln Logs, Mr. Potato Head, Play-Doh, Matchbox cars, roller skates, Slinky, teddy bears, Tinker Toys, and View Master.

What our family used that didn't make his list were:

* Balls. Sorry, Mr. Carter, but this was a serious omission. Rubber balls, plastic balls, beach balls, baseballs, basketballs, footballs, whiffle balls, Super Balls, even old golf balls -- these were by far my favorite toys from the earliest age.

* Balloons. These were a summer staple in our neighborhood. Why? Think water hose, hot days, and backyard frolics.

* Bikes. I can see why this might be disqualified from a toy list but, hey; he did list Big Wheels, wagons and roller skates.

* Electric football.

* Guns. Carter listed the Daisy BB gun which our folks never let us possess. (A wise decision, I think. All three boys had trouble enough surviving childhood.) But he didn't list air rifles which we did have and all those play pistols. We also had a plethora of squirt guns but since Carter does list the Super Soaker (alas, too expensive a water weapon to ever make it under our Christmas tree), I'll let that pass.

* Jacks

* Marbles

* Models (planes, cars, ships, monsters, Rat Fink)

But, like I said, Joe Carter's list is still quite impressive. And he's done us all a nice service not only for you to go on over and see if your favorites made the grade but to use as a conversation starter for family gatherings. Thanks, Joe.

Christmas Tree Reflections (II)

In the Christmas season when this blog was young (2005), I printed these brief comments from a longtime friend and mentor, Abe Penner. They remain fresh and stimulating.

Christmas Tree Reflections

I find myself staring at the Christmas tree with all the lights and the beauty that it shows, and at times I am reminded of something a Christian said one day at Christmas time. It was very profound and I will always remember it.

He said, "Isn't that tree really pretty with all the lights, decorations and gifts under it? Do you know what that reminds me of? It reminds me of the three trees in Scripture. The first tree was the tree of knowledge, and how Adam and Eve were not to touch it. But because they did touch it, the second tree was necessary, and that was the tree of Jesus' cross on which Jesus died on for our sins.

And that brings me to the third tree. Because of Christ’s death which paid our penalty, believers will be able to partake of the tree of life which is described in Revelation.

And then there’s the Christmas tree lights. They remind me of John 8:12, that Jesus is the light of the world, and that if we follow Him we will be led to life abundant and eternal. The gifts under the tree remind me of God's gift of His Son (John 3:16) Who would die so that we can be saved."

I had never looked at the Christmas tree like that before, and what he said will stick.

(Thanks, Abe. Merry Christmas.)

Looking for a Few Important Reads?

Amid the Christmas hustle and bustle, you may have missed these exceptional articles. Here's another chance at them.

* “The Genuine Conflict Being Ignored in the Duck Dynasty Debate” (Larry Alex Taunton, Atlantic

* “Obama’s terrible, horrible, very bad year” (John Podhoretz, New York Post)

* “Churches and the Welfare State” (Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism)

* “Gay Couple to Marry on Float During Rose Parade” (Alec Torres, NRO)

* “Insurers show no backbone as White House keeps moving ACA goalposts” (Jonah Goldberg’s syndicated column)

* "The Obama Christmas card reveals the zero at the center of our government." (Bookworm blog)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Today's Posts

This Way to Christmas: A 4-Step Plan to Begin Elevating Your Holiday Season

Of all the popular sayings that Claire and I work hard to refute, one of the most dispiriting and irreligious is the old adage, “Christmas is for kids.”

Oh my, no. Christmas is way too big, way too important to relegate to kids alone. After all, the Advent of the Savior, as the angel explained to the shepherds outside Bethlehem, is “good news of a great joy which shall be for all people.” Get that? All people. That means adults as well as kids...

Read the rest of the December letter on the Vital Signs Ministries web site right here.

Hint -- The letter reveals the four-fold strategy (a carefully kept secret until now!) that Denny & Claire use to make their every Christmas season full, meaningful, and memorable.

"Isn't There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas Is All About?"

"60 Minutes" Had a Bad Year in '13

"60 Minutes" has been so constantly praised as great journalism that most Americans accept it on faith; that is, until they see "60 Minutes" tackle an issue or company or personage that they actually know something about.

Then, finally, they begin to realize that "60 Minutes" is just another propaganda program with one-sided coverage, manipulative methods, sly promotions of CBS interests, and consistently liberal politics.

In addition, the program has always had a preoccupation with pop culture celebrities that's almost as sophomoric as Entertainment Tonight.

I'm pleased therefore that the program has had a bad year as reported in some detail in this NRO story by Eliana Johnson.

Because anything that weakens the impact of "60 Minutes," actually strengthens the Republic.

Count 'Em: 5 Things ObamaCare Reveals About Liberals

Barack Obama promised that if you like your insurance, you can keep it. He said the same thing about your doctor. He claimed Obamacare would REDUCE the cost of health care, save the average person money and provide universal coverage. 

Not only are all of those promises untrue, it's hard to miss the fact that no one on the Left SEEMS TO CARE. That's because whether Obamacare actually works or not is secondary to left-wing goals like centralizing government power, gaining more control over the American people and making liberals feel good about themselves.

Don't miss John Hawkins' nifty column, "5 Things Obamacare Teaches You About Liberals" right here.

Prison Violence Runs Rampant

Here's a Mona Charen column that is sad, horrifying and disgusting all at once. The subject is an unpleasant enough one to think about (prison rape) but it suggests some other very troubling problems too.

For instance, why is the available technology NOT being used to protect prisoners and curb the violence?

Why is the Obama administration's Justice Department so indifferent to a law that was passed (unanimously!) by the U.S. Congress?

Why is government so loathe to properly control and oversee the prison system when they are otherwise so zealous to control and oversee the lives of law-abiding citizens?

And why is the government so unconscionably blind to the long term dangers to society of young men being regularly tortured by ongoing violence and terror in prison walls -- and therefore trained to do the very same when they are again outside?

Here's the column, "When No One Is Watching."

Monday, December 16, 2013

Today's Posts

Celebrate Christmas. Celebrate Life.

I Can Name the Best News in the World in 8 Notes

Kids Are Trouble. (But Kids Are Priceless.)

Check out this new Coke ad from Argentina. And be sure to wait for the joyous, life-affirming payoff. Superb.

"Merry Christmas" (Ray Stevens)

Spot on, Ray! And merry Christmas to you too.

Did You Miss This One?

As the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season has accelerated, you may have missed these timely and illuminating articles. Here's another chance at them.

* “House Report: Ill-Trained Obamacare Navigators Encouraging Fraud, Jeopardizing Private Info” (Tony Lee, Breitbart)

* "A tale of two airlines." (Includes a delightful and heartwarming clip.)

* “AFT’s Weingarten: Common Core Implementation Will Be Worse Than Obamacare” (Brittany Corona, Heritage Foundation)

* “Our Bored President” (Ed Lasky, American Thinker)

* “ObamaCare's Troubles Are Only Beginning” (Michael J. Boskin, Wall Street Journal)

* “PolitiFact's Forked Tongue” (James Taranto, Wall Street Journal)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Today's Posts

The Passing of Christmas

Dear Virginia,

Because you have been such a loyal friend of Christmas, I wanted to write a personal letter to try and explain the sad news I’ll be announcing at a press conference tomorrow.  Virginia, I’m retiring.  I’ve already deleted my database, put the sleigh up on Craig’s List, and changed forever into civilian clothes. Mrs. Claus and I have sublet our cottage here to a Russian drilling crew (they insist they own the North Pole anyway) and we’ve sold the workshops to a Chinese toy manufacturer.  For ourselves, we’ll be moving to Malta, at least for awhile.  There are at least some remains of civilization on that island; the health care system is top notch; and the climate may well help my arthritis.         

Virginia, I know this may seem like an abrupt and drastic move but, trust me, I really had no other choice.  I’m deeply saddened to think of the heartbreak the cancellation of Christmas will bring to good-hearted supporters like you.  Yet I also believe that the true friends of Christmas will sympathize with my plight. I have, of course, been grieved and frustrated over the increasing commercialization of the holiday.  That’s been going on for decades.  But the demands from the children of the last couple of generations have driven me over the edge.  Virginia, you and I both can remember when you were thrilled and very grateful to receive a doll, a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and some candy. Your brother felt the same way that Christmas when I left him a football, some Lincoln Logs and a couple of oranges.  But now children are absolutely insatiable. You simply cannot give them enough. And even a magic bag isn’t without a bottom.

And then there are the kinds of presents they crave!  There’s no way I can leave them the horrid things they ask of me.  Little girl dolls dressed in sexually suggestive outfits.  Grotesque and gory video games.  Rap music which glorifies savagery against women.  Movies full of blasphemy and brutish violence.  There’s no way I could give an impressionable child such nasty, noxious things.  And as a result, I’ve lost a big chunk of my market share.  Back in the 1950’s baby boom, I really had to hustle to keep up with demand.  But, in recent years, my trip takes a quarter of the time because I have so few children who want the presents I have to give.  To keep from laying off the elves, I’ve kept production high but we have completely run out of storage space. Our overstock of board games, baby dolls, puzzles, fire engines, books – I could go on and on – is crushing us.

But the present crisis, Virginia, has arisen from still other matters -- key among them being a vociferous committee of elves which started with grumbling, then moved on to organized protests, and ended up by forming unions connected, respectively, with the AFL, the SEIU, and the Teamsters.  The subsequent demands from union leaders are not only irrational, they are downright immoral.  For instance, I refuse to allow, under my name, the manufacture of gifts which I believe to be decadent and culturally destructive.  Nor will I provide health coverage plans that would cause me to violate my religious convictions. Virginia, I shudder to think of the hard-working elves who have been loyal to the spirit of Christmas having to sign up for unemployment but the troublemakers have left me no other option. So, alas, I am shutting down Christmas altogether.

The fun, the festivity and the faith is gone.  Even if I could somehow solve the market share problem and the labor problem (big ifs, indeed), there are plenty of other matters also pressing hard against Christmas.  You know about some of these, Virginia, like the movements of secularism, paganism and consumerism that insist traditional Christmas give way to Holiday Break, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Black Friday, and so on.  But you probably haven’t heard about the harassment coming at me from those who claim (without genuine scientific evidence, I might add) that the pixie dust that I’ve used for centuries has dangerously depleted the ozone layer. And there’s the increasing clamor of animal rights groups who argue that the pace required to travel the whole world on Christmas Eve constitutes reindeer abuse.

And, Virginia, unless you noticed it on Drudge, you also wouldn’t know about the post-election Executive Order from the White House. It insists that American children receive X amount of presents regardless of whether they’ve been naughty or nice.  Reads the order, “An equitable redistribution of wealth cannot be achieved if the recipients are to be judged by merit, initiative or moral character.  A just society is an entitled society.”

Yet that wasn’t the only change that the White House order contained – not by a longshot.  I was informed (in no uncertain terms) that were I to persist in gifting American children there were several other requirements.  I had to slim down.  I had to decry the practice of children leaving me and the reindeer cookies or anything else that wasn’t within the First Lady’s dietary guidelines. I had to stop smoking.  To help out the atrociously inept Post Office, I had to agree to a subcontract which would cede to them 1/3 of my U.S. deliveries. Furthermore, I had to yield authority of all North Pole operations to OSHA, EPA, NRLB, HIPA, IRS, the UN, and other alphabet agencies to be named later.

And, one more thing, I had to change the color of my red suit to blue.

So you see how things stand, Virginia.  Post-modern forces have long made it extremely difficult to practice Christmas in its traditional, warm-hearted ways.  But those forces no longer constitute influential pressure alone, they have now become intolerant to the point of coercion. Christmas has been a wonderful blessing to the world but the powers that be are now forcing it to become the antithesis of what it was. I cannot be a part of that evil evolution. So, yes, Virginia, there still is a Santa Claus.  But Christmas…Well, Christmas itself has passed away.

(This post originally appeared here last Christmas season. But it wears well.)

Belgian Senate: Mercy Killing of Kids Needs to Be “Regulated”

"What? You were trying to call the teen suicide hotline? Golly, we don't do that anymore. We're here to help you solve your medical, social and emotional problems by hooking you up with a licensed euthanasia service. I can give you three that provide 24-hour pickup service if you're interested."

Too out there? Maybe.

But, then again...maybe not. 

The outcome was expected, but observers overseas were astonished at the margin of victory. By a vote of 50 to 17 yesterday, the Belgian Senate approved euthanasia for children. When the bill finally passes – which now seems quite certain – there will be no age limit for choosing to die at the hands of Belgian doctor. The next step is a vote in the lower house, which will probably take place in May.

The conditions for euthanasia are vague. Children who are under 18 but who are of sound mind can request death if their situation is “medically hopeless” and if they are experiencing “unbearable physical suffering that within the foreseeable future will result in death."

Supporters of the bill have argued that there will only be about 10 or 15 cases each year. They contend that terminally-ill children are already being euthanased and it is better for the practice to be regulated…

In November 16 paediatricians urged lawmakers to approve the legislation in an open letter in the press. "Why deprive minors of this last possibility? Experience shows us that in cases of serious illness and imminent death, minors develop very quickly a great maturity, to the point where they are often better able to reflect and express themselves on life than healthy people."

Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders rejected this reasoning. "We express our deep concern at the risk that such a grave subject will be increasingly trivialised," they said in a joint statement. "The euthanasia of fragile people, be they children or incapable, is totally inconsistent with their condition as human beings. We cannot accept a logic which will lead to the destruction of society's foundations."

Michael Cook at Mercator has more.

James Dobson vs ObamaCare

Not surprisingly, Christian pro-life champion James Dobson continues the good fight.

Dobson v. Sebelius is the lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. It makes the common sense and thoroughly Constitutional argument that ObamaCare’s coercive mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Says Dr. Dobson, “Our ministry believes in living out the religious convictions we hold to and talk about on the air. As Americans, we should all be free to live according to our faith and to honor God in our work. The Constitution protects that freedom so that the government cannot force anyone to act against his or her sincerely held religious beliefs. But the mandate ignores that and leaves us with a choice no American should have to make: comply and abandon your religious freedom, or resist and be fined for your faith.”

Here's more details from

Rank Incompetence: Obama's Afghanistan "Experts" Are Clueless

President Obama’s brain trust on Afghanistan does not know much the U.S. spends on the war each year or the American cost in lost lives on the battlefield.

This embarrassing lack of basic knowledge from State Department and Pentagon experts on Afghanistan at a House hearing Wednesday prompted even a Democrat to say he was stunned.

Good grief.  With Barack Obama at the helm, our ship of state is not only dangerously drifting, but from stem to stern it reeks of incompetence, inefficiency and arrogance.

I'm afraid it's time for the women and children to make their way to the lifeboats.

Jane Fonda's Charitable Foundation Doesn't Give a Dime

See Jane hoard. See Jane deceive. See Jane get caught for breaking federal law.

Though Jane Fonda’s private foundation has nearly $800,000 in assets, the group has not made a charitable contribution during the last five years for which it has filed federal tax returns, an apparent violation of Internal Revenue Service rules…

In the most recent tax return, Fonda’s foundation reported making no contributions or grants. Prior tax returns show that the organization, which is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, similarly made no payouts in 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007. In 2006, the group made a single $1000 donation to the Atlanta Obstetric and Gynecology Society…

While Fonda’s foundation has not been making donations, the group has tried to grow its stash via the stock market. For example, the foundation’s last tax return lists 166 separate trades--involving thousands of stock shares--that netted about $2200.

Here's more.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Today's Posts

Another Swinging Christmas!

For Claire and I, already profound fans of Christmas, our celebrations are being greatly intensified (and expanded) this year with the presentations we're doing of the Christmas edition of "When Swing Was King."

Whether it is the effusive thanks we're getting from the residents of the senior care facilities where we do the shows, listening to them joyfully singing along to the Christmas carols, seeing them smile at some of the lovely photos in the program or wiping away a tear brought by a particularly intense memory, or sharing stories of Christmas traditions with one another, Claire and I are being blessed with a rich and unforgettable treasure.

Among the comments we've heard:

"Oh, my heart was really touched by your program. It was so lovely and it brought back many precious memories. Thank you so much."

"It is such a nice Christmas present that you bring to us. You know, we love your regular show but your Christmas one is sure the best of all."

"Oh, those songs were always an important part of our family's Christmas but I just never hear them anymore. Even the radio station that plays Christmas music doesn't play those old songs anymore. So this is the only place I can enjoy them. It just takes me back to very sweet times. Thank you."

"Can't we just stay here and have you play it all again?"

The revised playlist of our Christmas "When Swing Was King" goes like so:

Bob Crosby & the Bobcats Orchestra: “The “Skater’s Waltz”

Tommy Dorsey Orchestra: "March of the Toys"

Benny Goodman Orchestra: "Jingle Bells"

Frank Sinatra: “O, Little Town of Bethlehem"

Perry Como: "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"

Vaughn Monroe: "Let It Snow"

Nat King Cole: "O, Come All Ye Faithful"

Gene Autry: “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

Woody Herman Orchestra: "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town"

The Mills Brothers: "O, Holy Night"

Judy Garland: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

Glenn Miller Orchestra: "Silent Night"

Bing Crosby: "White Christmas"

If, by the way, you'd like to catch the Christmas edition of "When Swing Was King" and, in the process, enjoy a holiday visit with some residents of a senior care facility who would love to have you come a'calling, here's our remaining schedule:

December 12 - Life Care Center of Omaha at 2:00

December 13 - Immanuel Courtyard (Independent Living) at 2:00

December 16 - Skyline Manor (the nursing home wing) at 2:30

December 17 - Oxbow Living Center in Ashland at 2:00

December 17 - Walnut Grove at 6:30

December 18 - Autumn Pointe in Fort Calhoun at 2:30

December 19 -  Life Care Center of Elkhorn at 2:30

December 20 - Brookstone Village at 4:00

So Far, Each ObamaCare Enrollee Has Cost Taxpayers $14,000

Over at Americans for Tax Reform, they’ve done the math.

With $4.5 billion of taxpayer money shelled out so far to promote Obamacare at the state level and another $677 million for that glitch-riddled website — all to sign up 364,682 “enrollees” — the government cost is moving along at a rate of $14,000 per person!

And that’s just to get ‘em in the program. The costs of ObamaCare itself aren’t even in the equation yet!

It's your tax dollars at…check that; it certainly ain’t your tax dollars at work. But it is your tax dollars being spent -- and not on new fighter jets, Social Security, meat inspectors or the interstate highway system.

My, how far afield the priorities of government have gone.

Oh, the Disaster That Is ObamaCare!

Jim Geraghty zeros in the absolute disaster that is ObamaCare.

We've been warning that Obamacare would be a train wreck for a long time. Now the boxcars full of dynamite reach the impact point.

Pardon the ALL CAPS, but this seems like a fairly huge point: ALMOST NO ONE HAS PAID FOR THEIR INSURANCE YET!…

Sure, some of these folks are writing the checks right now, or will in the coming days. Obamacare defenders are quick to point out people don't like to pay for services ahead of time. But some significant chunk won't pay on time -- they've got about two or three weeks to make that first payment -- and thus they'll begin 2014 without health insurance. And these are the folks who made it through the glitchy exchanges! The question is whether or not they realize that they're not really insured before or after they end up in the doctor's office or emergency room.

Part of the problem is that you can't pay through -- which really means that despite what everyone has said, you can't actually buy insurance through Wasn't that the point? Apparently not.

Here's Sebelius Wednesday, discussing how you make the purchase: "You make it through an insurance company -- you don't pay the federal government. We are the sign-up site, and you make the payment directly to the insurer." It's as if referred you to the book publisher's website to finalize your purchase.

Representative Michael Burgess (R., Texas), raked her over the coals for this dysfunctional method of finalizing your payment:

Burgess: Do you know how hard it is to actually make that payment, hold your billfold out and actually make that payment? Have you done that yourself?

Sebelius: I have not.

Burgess: Well I'll tell you, it's almost impossible. I've never seen a business where you get to the point in the fundamental business transaction where you're gonna make the payment, and you can't do it. That is a flawed system.

Several readers told me they've called the insurance company in an attempt to pay, only to find the insurance company hasn't received the records from the government yet.

We are witnessing one of the all-time Charlie Foxtrots, if you catch my drift.

Serious question: How many folks signed up and somehow don't think they have to pay? Our Eliana Johnson: “In Durham last month with Obamacare navigators, I sensed not elation at the law's passage but a general sense of confusion that may help to explain the poll's finding. "I have to tell people all the time, 'It's the Affordable Care Act, not the Free Health Care Act,'" one navigator told me. The same navigator said the consumers who come to him are largely unaware that they will have to pay a penalty if they choose not to purchase insurance.”

I have long suspected that the lowest of low-information voters liked health-care reform because they believed it meant somebody else would pay for their health care…

Obamacare is going to rank with one of the all-time self-inflicted national wounds, right up there with Prohibition.

The excerpt above is from Geraghty's NRO e-mail update Morning Jolt which you can receive for free by signing up right here.

The News is In (Again) -- Planned Parenthood Is All About Abortion

The latest Planned Parenthood annual report has been released and, guess what?

It reveals the very same thing that previous annual reports (going back many, many years) have shown; namely, that Planned Parenthood is not about women’s health nor about providing women with the best information and options for their future.

Planned Parenthood is about selling abortion — as many as it possibly can.

Writes Steve Ertelt, “The report indicates a high percentage of pregnant women are going to Planned Parenthood get abortions while a handful get prenatal support or adoption referrals. The report shows 149 abortions for every adoption referral Planned Parenthood makes.”

In a related story, Mallory Quigley describes a few other salient points from the PP annual report.

During fiscal year 2012-2013, Planned Parenthood reported receiving $540.6 million in taxpayer funding, or nearly $1.5 million per day.

Planned Parenthood reported $58.2 million in excess revenue, and more than $1.3 billion in net assets.

In 2012, Planned Parenthood performed 327,166 abortions , a 2% drop from 2011. In 2002, Planned Parenthood performed 227,385 abortions, meaning they perform 100,000 more abortions than they did 10 years ago.

Over the past three reported years (2010-2012), Planned Parenthood has performed nearly one million abortions (990,575).

Think it's time to write your Congressman again about de-funding this mega-abortion corporation? Me too.

A Thank-You for "When Swing Was King"

Denny & Claire,

 As we come to the end of 2013, we want to thank you so much for your faithful service to Bethany Lutheran Home through your monthly “When Swing Was King” program.  We have all enjoyed your many programs.  Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come each month & spend time with our residents.  They look forward to your program each month, and appreciate the extra time it takes to set everything up including the plastic curtain for our stained glass window!! 

You guys are such a blessing!  Thank you also – Denny – for reading the names last month for our Veteran’s Day Program & helping us out with that.   We like that radio voice!  We are so grateful that you will be coming back in 2014.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas & look forward to seeing you in the new year.

The Real Mandela (and His Tragic Legacy)

...Mandela was always treated by the fawning Western press as a font of endless wisdom. But in fact many of his comments were appalling and silly. He had drunk deeply from the well of left-wing revolutionary theory and it never left his system. Even late in life, during his supposedly mellow period, he often spoke as an embittered Communist, saying of America, for example: “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America.”

This is why Raul Castro had a place of honor at his memorial. Mandela was one of his brother Fidel’s biggest fans, calling his murderous revolution “a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people” and praising his anti-Americanism: “We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of a vicious, imperialist-orchestrated campaign.” A lot of Mandela’s cronies were just thugs , like Gaddafi, who had opposed apartheid for cynical reasons having nothing to do with racism.

Mandela’s supposedly delicate moral conscience didn’t extend to the victims of these thugs or the victims of his own Oprah-style Brave New World morality, which inspired him to pass one of the most liberal abortion laws in African history, under which hundreds of thousands of South African babies have died.

Almost all of the leaders, starting with Barack Obama, who trotted up to the podium on Tuesday to portray Mandela as a moral colossus subscribe to his selective understanding of human rights, under which “progress” is measured not by the elimination of human rights abuses but by the replacement of one abuse with another.

When Obama shook hands with Raul Castro at the memorial, defensive reporters, scrambling to put the best possible spin on it, purred about Mandela’s powers of reconciliation and healing even in death. A better explanation for the handshake is that Mandela’s legacy of ends-justify-the-means leftism was bound to bring liberal revolutionaries together.

Read the rest of this illuminating, provocative article ("The Tower of Babble") by George Neumayr in the American Spectator.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Today's Posts

Will Yours Be a Car Wash Christmas?

While leaving Blair the other night, I drove by a car wash that had this posted on a big sign, "Need a Christmas gift idea? Give free tokens!"

I smiled at what I figured was a quirky kind of joke. But, after a few minutes, I thought again. Maybe it wasn't a joke at all. With the modern Yuletide so awash in remarkably garish, gratuitous and expensive gifts, maybe these guys have gone in a completely different direction -- opting instead for something as mundane and impersonal as car wash tokens.

Is this what Christmas has come to?

In the "happy golden days of yore" (the line comes from Martin and Blane's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"), giving presents required some personal investment. Dad made you a little wagon; Momma knitted you a scarf; Grandma baked you a pie. Even after Christmas began to be commercialized, shopping for family and friends was a time-consuming activity -- not because there was so much to buy but because you were searching for just the right gift, something you knew the recipient needed or wanted.

That kind of Christmas shopping is almost nonexistent nowadays. It no longer involves thinking carefully about what to buy. And making something by hand? Good grief -- forget about it. We've lost the time. We've lost the talents. We've even lost the desire itself to expend our own efforts in the creation of a Christmas present. No,  just give 'em a gift card to a department store or to an online company.

One of the causes for this condition is that the commercialization of Christmas I mentioned earlier just got further and further out of hand. One Christmas gift wasn't enough for little Timmy. He now had to get 2 presents, then 4 presents, then 11 presents. And the Christmas lists expanded too. No longer were parents expected to give presents to just their kids (and maybe a little tip for the milkman and the paperboy) but to practically everybody they knew.

So no longer could the gifts be very personal. How could they be? Dad can only whittle so many flutes and Mamma only sew so many dresses. Furthermore, you were coerced by advertisers, storekeepers, peer pressure, and an distorted doctrine of what true affection required (one's worth was measured in quantity of dollars spent) into a whole new system of "celebrating" Christmas. The modern holiday no longer emphasized reveling with friends and family -- and sharing gifts with those closest to you something reflective of your personal devotion to them. It emphasized instead the mania of Black Friday, excessive spending, debt, stress, and resentment. The giving of gifts became one of the banes of Christmas rather than one of its blessings.

Can we go back? Can we recover some of those warmer, truer, healthier Christmas customs? Of course. It might take some courage. It might take some explanations. And it might take some sacrifice. After all, baking cookies takes longer than buying an iTunes gift card. But if we want our lives (and those of our family members and friends) to find in Christmas some genuine affection, spiritual meaning, and moral stimulation, we need to concentrate again on quality, not quantity.

Our country can't afford anymore to keep Christmas according to Madison Avenue. The consuming spirit of consumerism (pun intended) has ruined our economy and spoiled our culture. And though it has left in its wake a false sense of entitlement, irresponsible expectations, and a secularized and commercialized Christmas ethic, we can start rebuilding. Recall for a moment the intense warmth and hope you feel when watching "It's A Wonderful Life," "White Christmas," or "Miracle on 34th Street." Those feelings have nothing to do with Christmas presents but rather with the invaluable treasures represented by romance, family, redemption, community, and festivity.

With love, reason, and inventive effort, we can indeed recapture some of that warmth and bring it into real life. Perhaps, like me, you're unable to whittle or knit. Fine. But can you bake a pie? Decorate cookies? Throw a party? Sing a song? Tell a story? Write a personal Christmas card? Or, at the very least, spend some time trying to select a personal gift for your loved one rather than take the prosaic path of the gift card -- or the car wash tokens?

Merry Christmas!

EU Effort to Force Liberal Abortion on All Is Rejected

For the second time in two months, the European Parliament rejected a report that recommended that EU nations declare abortion to be a human right and to make abortion available within all public health systems of member countries. Adoption of the report would have placed more pressure on pro-life nations like Ireland, Poland and Malta to legalize abortion on demand…

Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign said: “Today is International human rights day. It is fitting that a report which sought to attack the most basic human right – the right to life –  was rejected. The Estrela report sought to turn on its head the right to life, ignored the mounting evidence that abortion hurts many women and undermined the concept of conscientious objection for medical practitioners.”

She told LifeNews: “The scrapping of the report shows that grassroots efforts of pro-life people advocating for authentic human rights have an impact. Irish people joined many others right across Europe in contacting their MEP’s asking them to reject this report.  The result is evidence that making our voices heard on behalf of those who have no voice can make a real difference.”

Nora Sullivan remarked about the proposal, “This measure claims to be a human rights issue yet it fundamentally ignores the human rights of the three key people involved in this tragic act.  It ignores the most basic right, the right to life, of the baby at the center of the whole issue.  It ignores women’s real needs by hiding them behind the iron curtain of abortion rhetoric.  And it ignores the conscience of the doctor, who is being asked to end a human life after spending years training how to preserve it,” Sullivan said. “The European Union should not be asking physicians to suppress their consciences; it should be trying to find its own.”

(Steven Ertelt,

Wealth Redistribution: The Government Give & Take

Well, he promised us wealth redistribution, didn’t he?

The top 40 percent of households by before-tax income actually paid 106.2 percent of the nation’s net income taxes in 2010, according to a new study by the Congressional Budget Office.

At the same time, households in the bottom 40 percent took in an average of $18,950 in what the CBO called “government transfers” in 2010.

Here's more.

Plagiarism & Ghostwriting in Christian Publishing

In this Christianity Today article ("The Real Problem with Mark Driscoll's 'Citation Errors'"), Andy Crouch tries hard to give the popular evangelical preacher/author a pass on the unavoidable fact of Driscoll's plagiarism.

But he does hit Driscoll hard for the sordid practice (quite common among celebrities, including celebrity preachers) of hiring ghostwriters to do work that is then passed off to the public as their own.

It's a blatant deception that the publishers go right along with. Indeed, the publishers are usually the stimulants to the practice. You got a name? You got a following? Hey, let's use it to make some money!

Again, I can't agree with Crouch's somewhat nonchalant attitude towards plagiarism. But I certainly do applaud him for seriously condemning the practice of ghostwriting.

Check it out.

The Misplaced Priorities of Team Obama

Obama’s eagerness to bring his inner circle to the memorial for the dead South African leader stands in contrast to the snub he sent to the United Kingdom a couple of years ago.

In April 2011, Obama only sent a few former diplomats to mark the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had revived the U.K. economy with free-market policies and also solidified the U.S.-U.K. alliance.

Obama’s memorial speech for Mandela is expected to be “in the 10-15 minute range,” said Rhodes. The speech about Mandela will partly focus on Obama, Rhodes said…

Obama’s departure from D.C. means he’s absent from the long-planned Christmas parties scheduled with member of Congress, absent from budget talks and from the effort to rebuild the Obamacare system…

(Neil Munro, Daily Caller.)

What Will We Learn from the Obama Experiment?

What will history make so far of our five-year voyage with Barack Obama? What will it make of hope and change — other than a sort of hysteria of 2008 that was a political version of the Pet Rock or the Cabbage Patch Doll derangement? Did we really experience faux-Greek columns and Latin mottoes (vero possumus) as Obama props to usher in the new order of the ages?

What exactly made David Brooks focus on trouser creases, or Chris Matthews on involuntary leg tickles? How could any serious person believe a candidate who promised to change the very terrain of the planet? Why would sober critics declare a near rookie senator “a god”?

Only as America slowly sobers up from five years of slumber can we begin to fathom Obama’s likely legacy — which is mostly wisdom acquired only from pain.

Liberals always had thought a right-wing bully president would erode civil liberties. How ironic that a charismatic, post-racial, self-described “constitutional law professor” has done more damage to our Constitution than has any president since Richard Nixon. Had the AP, IRS, or NSA scandals occurred during the Bush second term, congressional Democrats would have been calling for impeachment.

The old controversial presidential signing statements of the past are mere misdemeanors compared to Obama felonies of declaring settled law null and void, from the employer mandate to the implementation guidelines of Obamacare to exempting pet businesses and congressional staffs from the requirements of the law. A president can now decide not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, or grant pre-election, de facto amnesties. Why, then, pass laws in the first place? The idea of political opponents being audited by the IRS or critical journalists having their phones monitored will be Obama’s Nixonian legacy. After Obama, one of two things will happen: either the presidency will be redefined as a sort of super-executive that can both make and enforce statutes, or a constitutional reaction will set in, and Obamism will be cited as a danger to the republic that we wish in the future never to repeat…

Don't stop now. Victor Davis Hanson has much more to say in one of the best political commentaries in recent days. The article is over at PJ Media, "Learning Through Pain."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top Ten Sacred Christmas Songs (Elvis Didn't Make It.)

Over at First Things, they've assembled a video clip list of their "Top Ten Sacred Christmas Songs."

Nice... but way too highbrow for me. I mean, no Bing Crosby? You gotta' be kidding. And nothing by Perry Como, the Mills Brothers, Nat King Cole, Karen Carpenter, Johnny Mathis, or Andy Williams?

Note too the specific songs that didn't make the First Things list? "Silent Night." "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing." "O Little Town of Bethlehem." "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." "Go Tell It on the Mountain."

Instead, the list includes "O Magnum Mysterium," "See Amid the Winter’s Snow," "Weihnachtsleid" and "Lo, Es Ist Ein Ros Gesprungen."

Good grief, were these guys raised in a museum?

Anyhow, on the chance that your cultural education was more lofty than mine (a pretty easy bet), you may find these clips inspiring. Go on over.

(This post originally appeared in December, 2010)

Wrong Side Up

The person who is offended by displays in the public square of things grotesque, sexually offensive, scatological, blasphemous, and anti-Christian will find his complaints not only ignored but the complainant himself will be mocked, vilified and sometimes threatened with retribution.

But what protests will be listened to with respect and deference? What protests have a probable chance of being enacted, often with desperate haste and profound apologies?

Those that target a nativity scene, a Ten Commandments marker, a football game prayer, the use of the name “Jesus” by a chaplain, a cross, a pro-life display, or a Bible. 

Think something’s gone wrong?

Politics & Christmas Day Number 1

From a purely logical point of view, the Advent of Christ occurred at a most inconvenient time and in a most inhospitable place. The details of this scheme certainly would not have been cleared by professional planners or modern-day management consultants. I mean the circumstances seemed so wrong.

Caesar Augustus, the ruler of the Roman world into which Jesus was born, was no friend of religious freedom. Indeed, he was a tyrant of the old school who used repression, intimidation and violence as effective controls over the populations he dominated. And his underlings in the chain of command? Just as bad. Quirinius, the governor of Syria was a thug and Herod, the Roman-acclaimed King of the Jews who controlled Palestine, was a vicious assassin.

This then was the hostile, unstable, sin-sick political situation into which God sent His Son for His plan of redemption to be acted out. It’s absolutely amazing how God’s ways are so different than ours, isn’t it? And, not only different but superior beyond measure. For salvation was secured in this alarmingly dangerous situation and God’s overcoming power was manifested all the more brilliantly because of its background. In our present political instability, this Christmas reality is a good one to remember.

A similar divine irony is in play in Matthew 2:6 where Jesus is presented as not only the ruler of Israel but her shepherd too. Now the Jews knew all too well how earthly rulers conducted themselves. After all, they had been dominated by ruthless potentates during much of their history and were now oppressed by Rome’s insanely vicious tyrant, Herod. But the rule of the Messiah was to be radically different. And with the image of the Shepherd, the Holy Spirit through Matthew was emphasizing the tenderness, the devotion, the sacrificial love that would mark the Messiah’s reign. And by this compassion, Jesus Christ would rule not over territory alone but over the human heart as well.

Later, in Jesus’ teaching ministry, He graciously offered Israel this radically different kingdom, a kingdom marked by love and holiness and peace. But Israel rejected it. The price -- a whole-hearted submission to God -- was just too high for self-righteous, self-satisfied people to pay. The sheep disdained their Shepherd, preferring even the tyranny of Rome to God’s loving deliverer.

What a cataclysmic tragedy this was. And yet, despite this, God went on to make a way for Israel (and the entire world) to yet enter the peace of His kingdom. How? The ruler would serve as the Good Shepherd, even to the willing surrender of His own life for the sheep. Right here, in the very beginning of the Christmas story, is a dramatic foreshadowing of that great present that would be offered the whole world; namely, the sacrifice of Jesus as payment for the sins of the world.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Today's Posts

Hey, Santa Redirected My Letter To Politicians

In case you missed this post from last Christmas...

I pass along two documents for you to peruse. One is a copy of a letter I sent to Santa. The second is the note that Santa then attached to copies of my letter he sent on to several political leaders.

Dear Santa,

What I most want for Christmas this year may be beyond even your North Pole magic so I’ve decided to ask for just three things – things that are undoubtedly practical, certainly directed for the common good, and do-able even in the current political climate.

1) I would like serious actions taken to protect America’s democracy from voter fraud. We desperately need voter I.D. laws, fair and effective voting machines, non-partisan oversight, harsh penalties for vote fraud crooks -- and tough enforcement of all of these.

2) I would like government funds to the mega-abortion corporation Planned Parenthood completely eliminated.  For crying out loud, it’s a multi-million dollar business that kills preborn boys and girls, zealously promotes and enables promiscuity and, in a dozen other ways, contributes to the decadence of American culture.  So why, when the nation is broke, do we scrape up $350 million from the taxpayers every year to give to this sinister group?

3) Renewed efforts from America’s lawmakers and opinion leaders to defend and promote the U.S. Constitution -- especially its protection of the freedoms of religion, speech, and association.

Please Santa, I’m deeply appreciative of all the wonderful presents you’ve given me over the years, but this year I’m asking for you to concentrate on these three wishes.



And then here's the note Santa attached to mine before sending it along to Senators Fischer and Johanns, Congressmen Terry, Fortenberry and Smith, and a few others.

Dear Senator Fischer,

I’m redirecting this letter to you as it is more in line with your responsibilities than mine.  However, I pass it along with two personal notations.

First, I can vouch for the character of the letter’s author – at least to the extent that ever since his conversion to Christianity way back in 1970, he’s maintained a place on my “Nice” list.

And second, I personally (and wholeheartedly) agree with his requests.  Indeed, I especially urge you to act diligently upon his second wish.  As someone with a solid history as a friend of children, I consider Planned Parenthood one of the greatest menaces in modern history.  So anything and everything you do to de-fund this business would be dearly appreciated up here too.

Thank you,

S. Claus

An Exquisite Christmas Opportunity

I’m afraid Claire and I already have an event scheduled for this Saturday night but otherwise we would certainly be down at the Joslyn.

But maybe you’ve got the night free, a $10 bill, and a desire to have an evening of quality, stylish, and memorable music to introduce the Christmas season. Plus you get dinner!

Here’s the details:

December 7, 2013, at the Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge Street

Dinner at 6:00 p.m. Concert at 7:30 p.m.

Grace University invites you for a fantastic night of food and music at the beautiful Joslyn Art Museum as you raise money for student scholarships. During the Festival of Christmas scholarship concert you will enjoy music of the Grace University:

• Chorale
• Concert Band
• Women’s Choir
• Chamber Singers
• Instrumental Ensembles

Featuring Special Guest: Millard South High School Choir

Proceeds go to support student scholarships. The event begins with a wonderful dinner catered by Hap Abraham Catering at 6 p.m. in the Fountain Court followed by the concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Witherspoon Concert Hall at the Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St.

Thank you for supporting Grace University students! Tickets will be available at the check-in desk.

Questions? Contact (402) 449-2922 or