Friday, March 31, 2006

In the words of The Rascals and George W. Bush, people everywhere just want to be free. The point seems almost trivial: We want to be able to do what we want, and we don't want people stopping us.

But many events give me pause as I stand to mutter my Bushy cliches about the universal love of liberty. Here's one: Tens of thousands of people gather to mourn the death of their beloved dictator. One might think it difficult to regard the regime of Slobodan Milosevic -- featuring war, ethnic cleansing, rape camps and other hijinks -- with affectionate nostalgia. And yet, after his richly deserved croak, people were sobbing on the streets of Belgrade.

In St. Petersburg, a group of Russian communists renamed a scenic boulevard "Slobodan Milosevic Street." This made sense, as the Russian people responded to the chaotic Yeltsin administration with an explicit nostalgia for forced collectivization, one-party elections, hilarious show trials and the gulag. And now that they've got a good, strong leader in Vlad Putin, their desires are well on the way to realization.

Lest one think an enthusiasm for personal subordination is limited to the Slavs, let me assert that it is a universal feature of our admirable species. Indeed, since the development of the political state, human history is incomprehensible on any hypothesis other than that people hate and fear their freedom. On the hypothesis that everyone aspires to freedom, it is difficult to explain why we are continuously subordinated....

... We want the government to guarantee our health, deflect hurricanes, educate our children and license us to drive; we want to be told what to eat, what to smoke and whom to marry. We are justly proud of the fact that no enduring society has ever incarcerated more of its people. Noting that the policeman has a pistol, a club, a stun gun, a can of pepper spray and a database that includes us, we feel happy and secure.

Our submission is absolute: We want to be operated like puppets and provided for like pets.

The terrorists hate our freedom. But we should be comfortable with that. We hate our freedom, too.

The Fear of Freedom
...Advocates for liberty are increasingly facing a new challenge. Used to be that our main fight was against the ever expanding size and scope of government. But it's fast becoming the case that half the battle is convincing people that freedom is actually a good thing in the first place. People would rather have a massive government that makes all of their decisions for them, ostensibly because they'd rather have someone other than themselves to blame when they make the wrong decisions. Hence, the uncomfortable number of smokers who support smoking bans because they think it'll help them kick the habit.

Another outgrowth of fears of freedom are those trendy attacks on choice itself, where choice was once seen as an almost universal positive.

The phrase for this is parentalism (as opposed to paternalism), or the idea that grown adults are distubingly beginning to see the government as a parent, someone to watch over them, and guide their hand toward good decisions....

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Battle for the Mainline Churches
...These days, the battle lines are drawn over such issues as same sex marriage and ordination of gay and lesbian priests and ministers. But as important as these matters are, the stakes are far larger. They go to the extent to which the mainline churches will continue to play a central role in American public life, or the extent to which they will be marginalized, perhaps forever.

People outside of the churches may wonder, why they should care? Methodist minister Andrew Weaver, who has researched the Institute and its satellite groups, explains that the member churches of the National Council of Churches account for about 25% of the population and half of the members of the US Congress. “NCC church members’ influence is disproportionate to their numbers,” he says, “and include remarkably high numbers of leaders in politics, business, and culture.... Moreover, these churches are some of the largest landowners in the U.S., with hundreds of billions of dollars collectively in assets, including real estate and pension funds. A hostile takeover of these churches would represent a massive shift in American culture, power and wealth for a relatively small investment.”...

...In retrospect, it seems inevitable that powerful external interests would organize and finance the conservative rump factions into strategic formations intended to divide and conquer—and diminish the capacity of churches to carry forward their idea of a just society in the United States—and the world.

When the strategic funders of the Right, such as Richard Mellon Scaife, got together to create the institutional infrastructure of the Right in the 1970s and 80s, they underwrote the founding of the IRD in 1980 as a Washington, DC-based agency that would help network, organize, and inform internal opposition groups, while sustaining outside pressure and public relations campaigns.

IRD was started as a project of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM), an organization of conservative Democrats (many of whom later defected to the GOP), who had sought to counter the takeover of the party by liberals associated with 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern. IRD was originally run by Coalition chief, Penn Kemble—a political activist who did not attend church.3 According to a profile by the International Relations Center, IRD received about $3.9 million between 1985 and 2002 from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Sarah Scaife Foundation, John M. Olin Foundation, Castle Rock Foundation, The Carthage Foundation, and JM Foundation.4

The Institute remains a well-funded and influential hub for a national network of conservative factions called the Association for Church Renewal. The member organizations, called “renewal” groups, variously seek to neutralize church tendencies of which they don’t approve; drive out staff they don’t like; and seek to take over the churches, but failing that—taking as many churches and assets out as possible. The network’s spokespersons are treated as credible voices of conservative dissent by mainstream media.

IRD’s program is currently focused on the NCC’s three largest denominations, together comprising 14 million members: the United Methodist Church, The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA). They also find the time to target the NCC, and the World Council of Churches. For example, interim IRD president Alan Wisdom personally attended the recent World Council of Churches (WCC) meeting in Brazil, issued critical dispatches for the IRD web site, and sound bites for the press.

One Association for Church Renewal (ARC) member group, The Presbyterian Layman, a nationally circulated publication edited by Parker Williamson, has been notable for being particularly caustic and divisive. At a press conference sponsored by ARC in connection with the 50th anniversary meeting of the WCC in Zimbabwe in 1998, Parker declared, for example, “Rhodesian blacks were in no position to run this sophisticated and highly efficient infrastructure… Theirs had been a tribal life, governed by a worldview that could not easily comprehend ideological assumptions on which the Rhodesian economy was based.”5 Most recently, Williamson joined Alan Wisdom, (a Presbyterian renewal leader), at the WCC meeting in Brazil, from which he posted critical reports in The Presbyterian Layman Online....

Sinners in the hands of an angry GOP
At a messianic "War on Christians" conference, Tom DeLay warned that "the future of man hangs in the balance" as other righteous souls demanded that gay sex be explicitly described to restore "shame."

Introducing Rep. Tom DeLay at the War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006 conference in Washington Tuesday, master of ceremonies Rick Scarborough described him as "the man God has appointed in this last day." The conference began on Monday and was saturated with millennial anxiety. A succession of preachers, talk-radio hosts, religious right operatives and, significantly, major Republican politicians took to the stage at the posh Omni Shoreham hotel to rally the troops for an epic battle between the forces of national renewal and those of vice and enervating perversion. So it wasn't surprising to hear Scarborough, a Baptist preacher who has made it his mission to organize "patriot pastors" for political action, talk about DeLay's legal troubles as part of a culminating war between heaven and hell.

"I believe the most damaging thing Tom DeLay has done in his life is take his faith seriously in the public office, which made him a target of all those who despise the goals of Christ," said Scarborough, a former college football player and longtime DeLay ally. Taking the stage before the 200 or so adoring activists in the banquet hall, DeLay ran with the end-times theme. "We have been chosen to live as Christians at a time when our culture is being poisoned and our world is being threatened, at a time when sides are being chosen and the future of man hangs in the balance," he said. "The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will."...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

DeLay says he sees war on Christianity in U.S.
WASHINGTON - American society looks down on Christianity, U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay asserted Tuesday at a conference of religious conservatives, but God and Jesus Christ have chosen Christians to stand up for faith.

DeLay, who is facing tough times of his own, offered a half-hour speech that was part history lesson and part sermon to a crowd of about 300 gathered at a Washington hotel for a two-day conference titled "The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006."...

...The conference was convened by Vision America, a group founded by the Rev. Rick Scarborough to mobilize "patriot pastors" of all denominations to promote Christian involvement in government.

Scarborough, the former pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pearland, is a long-time DeLay ally.

"This is a man, I believe, God has appointed ... to represent righteousness in government," Scarborough told the audience, which included Eagle Forum Founder Phyllis Schlafly, former ambassador Alan Keyes, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan....

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

They Thought They Were Free
The Germans, 1933-45
Excerpt from pages 166-73 of "They Thought They Were Free" First published in 1955

...What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter....

..."You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’

"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have....

..."But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D....

Health system 'neglects elderly'
Elderly people are being neglected and poorly treated by England's health system, inspectors say.

...One of the worst areas, the report found, was mental health care, where older people found services deteriorating as they passed the age of 65.

The vast majority of older people surveyed said they had not been asked their views on the NHS or council services in the last year, and 80% did not think they had influenced the planning of services.

The report did find that steps had been taken to address age discrimination in public services and more people were being supported to allow them to live at home.

Gordon Lishman, director-general of Age Concern England, said it was "shocking" that so many social services departments were still failing to meet the needs of older people - the main users of these services.

He said: "Sadly, too many older people in need of public services are currently treated as second-class citizens."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Steve Webb said: "The needs of older people are not a priority for this government."

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said the report highlighted the possibility that government targets for assessing patients in Accident and Emergency departments had led to the rushed discharge of older people.

He also highlighted concerns about inconsistencies in community rehabilitation of stroke patients. ...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha?
Last November, U.S. Marines killed 15 Iraqi civilians in their homes. Was it self-defense, an accident or cold-blooded revenge?

The incident seemed like so many others from this war, the kind of tragedy that has become numbingly routine amid the daily reports of violence in Iraq. On the morning of Nov. 19, 2005, a roadside bomb struck a humvee carrying Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, on a road near Haditha, a restive town in western Iraq. The bomb killed Lance Corporal Miguel (T.J.) Terrazas, 20, from El Paso, Texas. The next day a Marine communique from Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi reported that Terrazas and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by the blast and that "gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire," prompting the Marines to return fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding one other. The Marines from Kilo Company held a memorial service for Terrazas at their camp in Haditha. They wrote messages like "T.J., you were a great friend. I'm going to miss seeing you around" on smooth stones and piled them in a funeral mound. And the war moved on.

But the details of what happened that morning in Haditha are more disturbing, disputed and horrific than the military initially reported. According to eyewitnesses and local officials interviewed over the past 10 weeks, the civilians who died in Haditha on Nov. 19 were killed not by a roadside bomb but by the Marines themselves, who went on a rampage in the village after the attack, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three children. Human-rights activists say that if the accusations are true, the incident ranks as the worst case of deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. service members since the war began. ...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

No choice, no peace in Upper St. Clair
...Most people don't question our system of public education. But it's not only absurd and consumer-unfriendly, it's creepily un-American. Imagine if we had to get our groceries this way. Imagine a state Department of Groceries. Imagine a public food system where citizens are assigned defined grocery districts.

If you wanted "free" public food, you'd shop at your local taxpayer-supported district supermarket. If you went to a private supermarket, crossed the grocery district line, or grew your own food, you'd still have to pay local food taxes.

Imagine a system of public grocery stores where every un-fireable union employee has to have a certificate from a state grocery college. Where a local food board sets food taxes, hires top grocery store bureaucrats and ultimately decides how many organic items should be stocked or whether the meat section should be expanded.

Imposing such a horrible, inefficient and stupid food-delivery system on Americans would cause a revolution. But an even less democratic system of public grocery stores -- with far less choice for consumers -- actually existed for decades. I saw it in 1988 in communist East Berlin.

Being forced to buy food in a depressing, pathetically understocked East Berlin government supermarket was a bit like being forced to buy public education in America. ...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Afghan Christian Could Get Death Sentence
KABUL, Afghanistan Mar 19, 2006 (AP)— An Afghan man is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death on a charge of converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under this country's Islamic laws, a judge said Sunday.

The trial is believed to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam should take here four years after the ouster of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime.

The defendant, 41-yer-old Abdul Rahman, was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada told The Associated Press in an interview. Rahman was charged with rejecting Islam and his trial started Thursday. ...

The "Myth" of Bush's Loyalty
...The key element that binds Christianism with Bush Republicanism is fealty to patriarchal leadership. That's the institutional structure of the churches that are now the Republican base; and it's only natural that the fundamentalist psyche, which is rooted in obedience and reverence for the inerrant pastor, should be transferred to the presidency. That's why I think Bush's ratings won't go much below 25 percent; because 25 percent is about the proportion of the electorate that is fundamentalist and supports Bush for religious rather than political reasons. They are immune to empirical argument, because their thought-structure is not empirical; it is dogmatic. If the facts overwhelm them, they will simply argue that the "liberal media" is lying. Bruce poignantly thinks the GOP is still the secular, empirical, skeptical party it once was. It's not: it's a fundamentalist church with some huge bribes for business interests on the side, leveraged by massive debts. So all criticism is disloyalty; and disloyalty is heresy. The facts don't matter. Obey the pastor. Or be damned.

Time Warner promotes terrorism and anti-Christian bigotry in new leftist movie, 'V for Vendetta'
It has only been two weeks since the Oscar ceremony celebrated left-wing politics and anti-Christian bigotry with such movies as "Brokeback Mountain" and "Syriana."

Today, Time Warner is continuing that policy by releasing "V for Vendetta" – a vile, pro-terrorist piece of neo-Marxist, left-wing propaganda filled with radical sexual politics and nasty attacks on religion and Christianity. ...

...The whole movie, in fact, is a thinly veiled attack on the War on Terror now being waged by Prime Minister Tony Blair in Great Britain and President George W. Bush in the United States. The movie's story was actually updated from a graphic novel that attacked the conservative administration of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, one of the greatest political leaders of the 20th century....

...The rest of "V for Vendetta" not only depicts Christians as evil people who oppress and torture "innocent" people, it also depicts homosexuals as a persecuted, harmless minority of "nice" people....

...The Christian view of art sees God as the ultimate ruler of all creation and all communication. The Christian view of art also sees Jesus Christ as the ultimate standard of all artistic excellence.

Armed with this basic theology of art, we can fight the evil influence of such movies as "V for Vendetta."

Knowledge of theology can lead to understanding, but the fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom. In other words, God hates it when institutions and people like Time Warner and the filmmakers behind "V for Vendetta" pervert mankind's ability to create art. When we behave so sinfully, we should all fear His righteous judgment....

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Cass Congratulates Alito at White House
Dr. Gary Cass had the honor Wednesday, February 1, to represent thousands of ministry supporters at the White House, when Samuel Alito was sworn in as the nation's 110th Supreme Court Justice. Dr. Cass, Executive Director of the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, met and spoke with both Justice Alito, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice John Roberts at the White House reception that followed Mr. Alito's oath-taking.

Dr. Kennedy celebrated the confirmation of Justice Alito, stating that he "will move the Court toward its proper function as an arbiter of the rule of law and away from its dangerous role as an agent of social change."

"It is my hope," Dr. Kennedy said, "that he will join those already on the Court who recognize that Roe v. Wade is a constitutional aberration and vote with them to reverse this most destructive ruling."

Just days before the Senate confirmed Alito to the Supreme Court, Coral Ridge Ministries delivered to the Senate more than 25,000 hand-signed petitions, urging a vote and Alito’s confirmation. ...

Dobson: Alito Sent Thank You Note for Backing His Nomination
DENVER — Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said Wednesday that new Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito sent him a letter thanking him and his radio listeners for their support during his Senate confirmation hearings.

Alito wrote that "the prayers of so many people from around the country were a palpable and powerful force. As long as I serve on the Supreme Court, I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me," Dobson said on his radio broadcast.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Alito's note was in response to a letter Dobson sent congratulating him on his confirmation. ...

Go to church, back the war
Protestants and frequent churchgoers are most supportive of the war in Iraq, according to research released yesterday by Gallup.

"In general, the more frequently an American attends church, the less likely he or she is to say the war was a mistake," noted Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport, who analyzed a series of polls that posed the question, "Is the war a mistake?" to 4,000 adults from January 2005 to February 2006.

Overall, 45 percent of Protestants and 47 percent of "other Christians" thought the war was a mistake. The figure was 52 percent among Catholics, 58 percent among other religions and 62 percent among those who had no religion.

Frequency of church attendance also held sway. Overall, among those who never went to church, 62 percent said the war was a mistake. Among those who attended services once a week, the figure was 44 percent. ...

Friday, March 17, 2006

US evangelicals warn Republicans
Prominent leaders from the Christian right have warned Republicans they must do more to advance conservative values ahead of the US mid-term elections.

Their message to Congress, controlled by Republicans, is "must do better".

Support from about a quarter of Americans who describe themselves as evangelicals was a factor in President George W Bush's two election victories.

The Republicans will need to keep them onboard if they are to retain control of Congress in November....

Half of Americans Say Bush Misled on WMD's
Many adults in the United States remain sceptical of their government’s justification to launch the coalition effort in Iraq, according to a poll by Gallup released by CNN and USA Today. 51 per cent of respondents believe the Bush administration deliberately misled the American public about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction....

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Christians Have as Many Abortions as Everyone Else, Catholics Have More
A new study by The Center For Reason ( finds that Christians have just as many abortions as their non-Christian counterparts. The study concludes that in the year 2000, Christians were responsible for 570,000 abortions. Catholics were found to be the worst offenders, with abortion rates higher than the national average.

Why Gun-Barrel Democracy Doesn’t Work
Over the past half century, the United States has repeatedly sent its military forces abroad in the name of democracy. Yet very few of the countries we have invaded have become democratic.

When it involves itself in the affairs of others, the United States likes to say that it is doing so in defense of freedom and democracy. That's what we said in Iraq, among other things, when we toppled Saddam Hussein. That was part (though not all) of our argument for going after the Taliban in Afghanistan. But it's also what we said in Vietnam in the 1960s, in Grenada in 1983, in Panama in 1989, and in numerous other interventions during the twentieth century.

In fact, presidents rarely fail to trot out "democracy" as a justification for their actions abroad. That's because it is popular with Americans, who like to feel they are on the side of the angels. But if it’s democracy we’re after, we are failing miserably.

Between World War II and the present, the United States intervened more than 35 times in developing countries around the world. But our research shows that in only one case—Colombia after the American decision in 1989 to engage in the war on drugs—did a full-fledged, stable democracy with limits on executive power, clear rules for the transition of power, universal adult suffrage, and competitive elections emerge within 10 years. That’s a success rate of less than 3 percent. ...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Decadent Elite Laugh At Torture During Gridiron Club Dinner
Russert dresses in drag, sings 'rendition' song

The mainstream press is having a hearty chuckle about the capers and the chicanery witnessed at the annual Gridiron Club dinner, a get-together of media and government elites. The highlight was an "amusing" rendition of a torture song by a dragged-up Tim Russert.

I for one don't find it funny that a bunch of war criminals and their sycophantic collaborators are cackling and patting each other on the back about the 'hilarious shortcomings' of the administration.

Ahhh isn't Cheney cute for shooting a man in the face? Isn't it rollicking that those kids got raped and those Abu Ghraib prisoners were tortured to death?

Even the CIA controlled Washington Post had to admit it went too far.

"Tim Russert, making his first appearance as a new member, decked out in a blue dress and a shiny blond wig as one of the cable news bunnies. But there were also some true clunkers. Singing about torture, subbing "rendition" for "tradition" and borrowing the "Fiddler on the Roof" song was not funny at all. The chumminess of the politicos and the press corps can be cloying."

You would think these power whores would learn to act with a modicum of decorum, especially after last time's fiasco, when Bush caused worldwide anger by making a comedy routine about Iraq's missing WMD, an 'intelligence mistake' (or lie to rational thinking people) that has already cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and over 2,000 US troops....

The liberal baby bust
What's the difference between Seattle and Salt Lake City? There are many differences, of course, but here's one you might not know. In Seattle, there are nearly 45% more dogs than children. In Salt Lake City, there are nearly 19% more kids than dogs.

This curious fact might at first seem trivial, but it reflects a much broader and little-noticed demographic trend that has deep implications for the future of global culture and politics. It's not that people in a progressive city such as Seattle are so much fonder of dogs than are people in a conservative city such as Salt Lake City. It's that progressives are so much less likely to have children.

It's a pattern found throughout the world, and it augers a far more conservative future - one in which patriarchy and other traditional values make a comeback, if only by default. Childlessness and small families are increasingly the norm today among progressive secularists. As a consequence, an increasing share of all children born into the world are descended from a share of the population whose conservative values have led them to raise large families....

The Return of Patriarchy
Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best.

...Today, by contrast, childlessness is common, and even couples who have children typically have just one. Tomorrow’s children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents’ values, as always happens. But when they look around for fellow secularists and counterculturalists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.

Advanced societies are growing more patriarchal, whether they like it or not. In addition to the greater fertility of conservative segments of society, the rollback of the welfare state forced by population aging and decline will give these elements an additional survival advantage, and therefore spur even higher fertility. As governments hand back functions they once appropriated from the family, notably support in old age, people will find that they need more children to insure their golden years, and they will seek to bind their children to them through inculcating traditional religious values akin to the Bible’s injunction to honor thy mother and father.

Societies that are today the most secular and the most generous with their underfunded welfare states will be the most prone to religious revivals and a rebirth of the patriarchal family. The absolute population of Europe and Japan may fall dramatically, but the remaining population will, by a process similar to survival of the fittest, be adapted to a new environment in which no one can rely on government to replace the family, and in which a patriarchal God commands family members to suppress their individualism and submit to father.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Air Force Sued Over Religious Recruiting
DENVER -- A vocal critic of Pentagon policies on religion in the ranks filed court papers Thursday alleging that an Air Force recruiter in New Mexico was asked "to use Jesus Christ as a recruiting tool."...

Monday, March 13, 2006

'Over-efficient' surgeon must delay operations
A senior surgeon has made a public apology to patients whose operations are being postponed - because he has been too efficient.

Peter Cox, a general consultant surgeon at the West Cornwall Hospital, Penzance, and his colleagues have been told to slow down by the local health authorities.

Not only has Mr Cox met the current six-month waiting list target but he has surpassed it. As a result, more than 50 of his patients are being sent letters telling them that their surgery dates will be put back.

The perverse state of affairs has come about because the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust - which yesterday announced 300 redundancies and an £8 million deficit - has treated 4,600 patients more than were budgeted for in this financial year.

Mr Cox said yesterday: "This is all about finance. The thing that really annoys me is that I cannot see how this will really save any money. All they are doing is deferring the payments to a later date.

"Now I will have spaces in my operating list. They may give me other patients who are close to the waiting time deadline but this will take some time to organise."

In a letter to The Cornishman, newspaper Mr Cox said: "I am writing this letter to apologise to the 50 or more patients who have been given dates for operations under my care, who will shortly receive letters explaining why they have been delayed.

"Although I have tried to prevent this, I am powerless to do so. The directive has come from the Primary Care Trust for the next financial year.

"They have informed the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust that they will not pay for routine operations unless the patients have waited at least 18 weeks from the time that they were put on the list....

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Is Heaven Populated Chiefly by the Souls of Embryos?
What are we to think about the fact that Nature (and for believers, Nature's God) profligately creates and destroys human embryos? John Opitz, a professor of pediatrics, human genetics, and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah, testified before the President's Council on Bioethics that between 60 and 80 percent of all naturally conceived embryos are simply flushed out in women's normal menstrual flows unnoticed. This is not miscarriage we're talking about. The women and their husbands or partners never even know that conception has taken place; the embryos disappear from their wombs in their menstrual flows. In fact, according to Opitz, embryologists estimate that the rate of natural loss for embryos that have developed for seven days or more is 60 percent. The total rate of natural loss of human embryos increases to at least 80 percent if one counts from the moment of conception. About half of the embryos lost are abnormal, but half are not, and had they implanted they would probably have developed into healthy babies.

So millions of viable human embryos each year produced via normal conception fail to implant and never develop further. Does this mean America is suffering a veritable holocaust of innocent human life annihilated? Consider the claim made by right-to-life apologists like Robert George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, that every embryo is "already a human being." Does that mean that if we could detect such unimplanted embryos as they leave the womb, we would have a duty to rescue them and try to implant them anyway?

"If the embryo loss that accompanies natural procreation were the moral equivalent of infant death, then pregnancy would have to be regarded as a public health crisis of epidemic proportions: Alleviating natural embryo loss would be a more urgent moral cause than abortion, in vitro fertilization, and stem-cell research combined," declared Michael Sandel, a Harvard University government professor, also a member of the President's Council on Bioethics.

As far as I know, bioconservatives like Robert George do not advocate the rescue of naturally conceived unimplanted embryos. But why not? In right-to-life terms, normal unimplanted embryos are the moral equivalents of a 30-year-old mother of three children.

Of course, culturally we do not mourn the deaths of these millions of embryos as we would the death of a child—and reasonably so, because we do in fact know that these embryos are not people. Try this thought experiment. A fire breaks out in a fertility clinic and you have a choice: You can save a three-year-old child or a Petri dish containing 10 seven-day old embryos. Which do you choose to rescue? ...

Armageddon Lobby

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Framers and the Faithful
How modern evangelicals are ignoring their own history.

...Even though Jefferson was labeled anti-religion by some, he had become a hero to evangelicals—not in spite of his views on separation of church and state, but because of them. By this point, Jefferson had written his draft of the Virginia statute of religious freedom, and he and James Madison were known as the strictest proponents of keeping government and religion far apart. Because Baptists and other evangelicals had been persecuted and harassed by the majority faiths—the Anglicans in the South and the Puritan-influenced Congregationalists in the North—these religious minorities had concluded that their freedom would only be guaranteed when majority faiths could not use the power of the state to promote their theology and institutions.

Each side of our modern culture wars has attempted to appropriate the Founding Fathers for their own purposes. With everything from prayer in school to gay rights to courtroom displays of the Ten Commandments at stake, conservative and liberal activists are trying to capture the middle ground and win over public opinion. Portraying their views as compatible with—even demanded by—the Founding Fathers makes any view seem more sensible, mainstream, and in the American tradition. And in truth, you can find a Jefferson or Adams quote to buttress just about any argument. But there are a few facts that might actually be stipulated by both sides in the culture wars. First, the original Constitution really didn't say all that much about religion. God is not mentioned, and the only reference to religion is a ban on providing religious tests for holding office. (Ask why, and the arguments would resume with fury: Conservatives say the Founders left it out because they wanted the states to regulate religion; liberals say it was because the framers were secularists who wanted strict separation between religion and government).

Second, there was a widespread view among religious people of all flavors that the Constitution would be much stronger if it had a Bill of Rights that more explicitly guaranteed religious freedom. The 18th-century evangelicals were among the strongest advocates of this view and of the Bill of Rights, which declared that "Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion." Throughout the states, evangelicals pushed hard for ratification of the Bill of Rights in the state legislatures....

...It is ironic, then, that evangelicals—so focused on the “true” history—have neglected their own. Indeed, the one group that would almost certainly oppose the views of 21st-century evangelicals are the 18th-century evangelicals. John Leland was no anomaly. In state after state, when colonists and Americans met to debate the relationship between God and government, it was the proto-evangelica1s who pushed the more radical view that church and state should be kept far apart. Both secular liberals who sneer at the idea that evangelicals could ever be a positive influence in politics and Christian conservatives who want to knock down the “wall” should take note: It was the 18th-century evangelicals who provided the political shock troops for Jefferson and Madison in their efforts to keep government from strong involvement with religion. Modern evangelicals are certainly free to take a different course, but they should realize that in doing so they have dramatically departed from the tradition of their spiritual forefathers....

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

...These twentysomethings routinely say things like "I’m just trying to find God’s will for my life" or "I’m wondering what God’s will is." Their very language implies that deep down they believe God is playing a big game with them. He’s created a great riddle for them to try and solve … a divine round of hide-and-go-seek in which they are forced to participate. But I don’t think God delights in making things difficult for His creation. Although we might all wish that God would spell out His thoughts regarding what job to take or whom to marry, that’s generally not how it works.

People who become obsessed with finding and doing God’s will right before they have to make big life choices often miss the point entirely. That’s because the only time we really need to know and do God’s will is right now—in this present moment. Whether we follow His will in the small choices we make during the next hour of our lives has the greatest significance.

St. Francis of Assisi offers a good example of this. While he was raking leaves one day, a neighbor asked, "If you knew for certain that Christ Himself were coming back in a half-hour, what would you do?"

St. Francis replied, "I’d finish raking the yard."...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

How Southern Baptists Have Changed
...In traditional Baptist thought all members of the church were seen as equal ministers with different spiritual gifts -- a doctrine referred to as the priesthood of believers. The role of the pastor in this context was to preach and teach, to train the congregation for service, to care for the needs of the congregation, and to provide administrative coordination to the work of the church. Pastors were viewed as servants of the church.

The Patterson-Pressler coalition insists that the pastor is the unquestioned ruler of the church. W. A. Criswell said, "Lay leadership of the church is unbiblical when it weakens the pastor's authority as ruler of the church . . . a laity-led church will be a weak church anywhere on God's earth. The pastor is ruler of the church." In 1988 the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution affirming that the pastor was the ruler of the church....

Alito’s note to Dobson debated
...Here is the text of a letter that Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said he received from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Dobson read the letter on his radio broadcast Wednesday.

Dear Dr. Dobson:

This is just a short note to express my heartfelt thanks to you and the entire staff of Focus on the Family for your help and support during the past few challenging months.

I would also greatly appreciate it if you would convey my appreciation to the good people from all parts of the country who wrote to tell me that they were praying for me and for my family during this period.

As I said when I spoke at my formal investiture at the White House last week, the prayers of so many people from around the country were a palpable and powerful force.

As long as I serve on the Supreme Court I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me.

I hope that we’ll have the opportunity to meet personally at some point in the future.

In the meantime my entire family and I hope that you and the Focus on the Family staff know how we appreciate all that you have done.

Sincerely yours,

Samuel Alito

Gitmo: The Worst of the Worst?
A report, based entirely on Defense Department documents, exposes the truth about Guantánamo

Four years ago, the president was assured by his lawyers in the Justice and Defense departments that, as commander in chief, he had the ultimate power to determine which of our captives in the war on terrorism are "enemy combatants"—and to imprison many of them indefinitely at Guantánamo.

Then, after the Abu Ghraib photographs went around the world (recently, even more repellent pictures from that prison have been internationally distributed), Gitmo became a recruiting tool for our enemies, while causing increasing disquiet among our allies.

On February 16, a British high court judge, Sir Andrew Collins, emphasized: "America's idea of what is torture is not the same as ours and does not appear to coincide with that of most civilized nations."

He was referring to a February 15 report by five independent U.N. special rapporteurs on torture that Guantánamo be closed and its prisoners be tried or released.

What has newly inflamed human rights critics of Guantánamo's treatment of its prisoners—whom Donald Rumsfeld has described as "terrorists" and "the worst of the worst" of the suspected terrorists we have captured—are confirmed reports of the force-feeding of desperate prisoners, held for four years with no end in sight. At one point, 130 had refused food, but that number is now down to four because of the methods used to prevent one or more of the resisters from dying, thereby further shaming the United States.

As described to me by Tom Wilner, a Washington-based attorney for a number of the prisoners, and further detailed in the following February 9 National Public Radio account by Neil Koslowe, another attorney for a detainee there, the hunger strikers are tied down to a metal restraint chair as officers "force open their mouths and then they shove down their mouths through thick tubes in their noses nutritional supplements mixed with milk of magnesia and other ingredients. Removal of the tubes is often violent. The prisoners get nauseous, they vomit. They defecate over themselves. They urinate over themselves."

This goes on for hours a day, and screaming doesn't make it stop.

Responding to this vivid account of what the president has often called the "humane treatment" of prisoners at Gitmo, White House press secretary Scott McClellan brushed aside rising condemnations of the brutal force-feeding:

"We know that these are dangerous terrorists being kept at Guantánamo Bay. They are people determined to harm innocent civilians." ...

... Now dig this about "the worst of the worst" of the "bad guys" intent on killing Americans:

There are now about 490 prisoners at Gitmo, and "55 percent of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or coalition allies.

"Only 8 percent of the detainees were characterized as Al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40 percent have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda at all and 18 percent have no definitive affiliation with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

"Only 5 percent of the detainees were captured by United States forces. [A total of] 86 percent of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody. This 86 percent of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were turned over to the United States at a time at which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies." (Emphasis added.)

The Northern Alliance included Afghan warlords—not noted, to say the least, for their concern for any due process in rounding up "suspects" or the quality of the "evidence," if any, connecting their captives with terrorism. But these warlords were attracted by the generous sums the U.S. gave them for these suspects—many of whom were then warehoused at Gitmo. ...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Radar Didn't Get Her; Radiation Did
The large, black SUV passed the woman on the left, abruptly slowed down, and then dropped behind her. Suddenly, flashing red and blue lights lit up her rearview mirror.

"Ma'am, you were pulled over because you set off a nuclear radioactive alarm," a man dressed in a blue jumpsuit-type uniform and a baseball cap said in a monotone.

It sounds like a scene from the movie "Men in Black." A select group of state troopers and inspectors from the state Department of Motor Vehicles now wear ultra-sensitive, portable radiation detectors on their belts to check for dangerous materials inside large trucks.

But the 45-year-old Suffield woman wasn't hauling nuclear waste. She had been injected with a radioactive substance for a common medical test....

Health Care: Is the Canadian Health Care System Better Than America's?
...A February 2004 Canadian Medical Association poll revealed that only 14 percent of Canadians believe their country has a sufficient number of doctors. 49 percent of Canadians said either they or a member of their household had to wait "longer than you thought was reasonable" to see a medical specialist within the last year. 38 percent gave the same answer when asked about access to their family physician, and 31 percent said so about access to advanced diagnostic procedures.2

A whopping 74 percent of Canadians were concerned about long waits for access to emergency room services, while seven percent said they or a member of their household had suffered deteriorating medical conditions as a result of delays in access for care over the past year. Two percent of Canadians actually reported that a member of their household had died waiting for health care.3

Why the waiting times? In Canada, says Dr. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., former president of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, "If the Canadian government says it provides a particular medical service, it is illegal for a Canadian citizen to pay for and obtain that service privately. At the same time, the Canadian government bureaucracy rations medical services."...

That 'harmless' and 'neccessary' Patriot Act
...They paid down some debt. The balance on their JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten to an unhealthy level. So they sent in a large payment, a check for $6,522.

And an alarm went off. A red flag went up. The Soehnges' behavior was found questionable.

And all they did was pay down their debt. They didn't call a suspected terrorist on their cell phone. They didn't try to sneak a machine gun through customs.

They just paid a hefty chunk of their credit card balance. And they learned how frighteningly wide the net of suspicion has been cast.

After sending in the check, they checked online to see if their account had been duly credited. They learned that the check had arrived, but the amount available for credit on their account hadn't changed.

So Deana Soehnge called the credit-card company. Then Walter called.

"When you mess with my money, I want to know why," he said.

They both learned the same astounding piece of information about the little things that can set the threat sensors to beeping and blinking.

They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn't move until the threat alert is lifted....

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Return of Patriarchy? Fatherhood and the Future of Civilization
Will the world soon experience a return of patriarchy? That is the question raised by Phillip Longman in the current issue of Foreign Policy.

The magazine's cover features a rather stunning headline: "Why Men Rule--and Conservatives Will Inherit the Earth." That headline would be surprising in almost any contemporary periodical, but it is especially significant that this article should appear in the pages of Foreign Policy, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The publication of this article is likely to set a good many heads to spinning.

Phillip Longman is Bernard L Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. He is a well-respected author and researcher, whose books have included The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do about It (2004). In his previous works, Longman has projected how falling birthrates throughout advanced societies will lead to financial, political, social, and demographic decline.

In this new article, he presses his argument to the next stage--announcing the return of patriarchy--the concept of male leadership--as essential to a recovery of higher birthrates and reproduction....

..."Yet, for more than a generation now, well-fed, healthy, peaceful populations around the world have been producing too few children to avoid population decline. That is true even though dramatic improvements in infant and child mortality mean that far fewer children are needed today (only about 2.1 per woman in modern societies) to avoid population loss. Birthrates are falling far below replacement levels in one country after the next--from China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, to Canada, the Caribbean, all of Europe, Russia, and even parts of the Middle East."

Throughout human history, a persistent fall in birthrates has served as a harbinger of cultural decline and a warning of cultural collapse. The reasons for this are many, but center in the fact that the cause of falling birthrates is often a loss of social cohesion and confidence and the effect of falling reproduction rates is a decline in economic prosperity and erosion of the social structure....

...Nevertheless, Longman argues that the return of patriarchy is almost assured, given the social crisis that will be produced by a catastrophic fall in birthrates.

"Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule," Longman explains. "Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station. It competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles."

Longman understands the simple fact that a great deal of cultural capital is required in order to encourage young men to marry and men of all ages to fulfill responsibilities as husbands and fathers. The normative picture of the "good life" for men, at least as presented in the dominant media culture, does not include the comprehensive responsibilities of fatherhood. When men are not stigmatized for failure to be faithful as husbands and fathers, young men will take marriage and parenthood with little significance, as many will avoid marriage and fatherhood altogether.

To some extent, the statistics tell the story. Almost twenty percent of women born in the late 1950s are nearing the end of their reproductive lives without ever having had children. Longman's assessment is blunt: "The greatly expanded childless segment of contemporary society, whose members are drawn disproportionately from the feminist and countercultural movements of the 1960s and 70s, will have no genetic legacy."

Beyond this, the falling birthrate contributes to many other social ills. "Falling fertility is also responsible for many financial and economic problems that dominate today's headlines," Longman asserts. "The long-term financing of social security schemes, private pension plans, and health-care systems has little to do with people living longer. . . . Instead, the falling ratio of workers to retirees is overwhelmingly caused by workers who were never born."

The effects within the society are psychological as well as demographic, political, and financial. As Longman understands, declining birthrates can also affect what he calls "national temperament." He attributes the fact that the American voting population has become more conservative in recent years to anxiety over falling birthrates. Beyond this, we must now add the fact that millions of voters, who would have been raised by more liberal parents, were simply never born. ...

...But, why is patriarchy so important? Longman answers that question with great care. "Patriarchal societies come in many varieties and evolve through different stages," he explains. "What they have in common are customs and attitudes that collectively serve to maximize fertility and parental investment in the next generation."

A culture of patriarchy directs men to their responsibilities as husbands and fathers. Men who fail in these responsibilities are seen as inferior to those who are both faithful and effective. Furthermore, a patriarchal structure holds men accountable for the care, protection, discipline, and nurture of children. In such a society, irresponsibility in the tasks of parenthood is seen as a fundamental threat to civilization itself.

Longman quotes feminist economist Nancy Folbre, who observed: "Patriarchal control over women tends to increase their specialization in reproductive labor, with important consequences for both the quantity and the quality of their investments in the next generation." As Longman explains, "Those consequences arguably include: more children receiving more attention from their mothers, who, having few other ways of finding meaning in their lives, become more skilled at keeping their children safe and healthy." ...

SESAME statement on HB 1088
..."The Department of Justice reported, in 1998, there were 103,600 reported cases of sexual misconduct in our nation’s schools and most of them involved a teacher. In contrast; there were 10,667 reported cases of sexual abuse by clergy between 1950 and 2003"...