Culture Category

UPDATE Thursday, December 7, 2017: Filing is closed, and here is the final 2018 school board candidate list from the Tulsa County Election Board. Only three of 17 seats will be contested. Shawna Keller, the incumbent from District 4 in the eastern part of the Tulsa school district, has drawn two opponents: Kyle R. Wagner and Raymon Simpson. Suzanne Schreiber, the other Tulsa incumbent, drew no opposition. Contested elections will occur in Broken Arrow (Theresa Williamson vs. John Cockrell) and Collinsville (Jennifer McElroy vs. Brady Stephens). No one filed for the Bixby seat, which will be filled by appointment by the other school board members -- a missed opportunity to bring some accountability to bear in that district.

Seat 4 in most districts will be up for election in 2019 (with filing a year from now in December 2018). In Tulsa, only the District 1 seat will be on the ballot; District 1 is currently held by Gary Percefull, and covers the portion of the district west of the Arkansas River, downtown Tulsa, Owen Park, Irving/Crosbie Heights, Brady Heights, neighborhoods along the Sand Springs Line, southern part of Gilcrease Hills, and, southeast of downtown, the Riverview, North Maple Ridge, Swan Lake, Tracy Park, Forest Orchard, Village at Central Park, and Pearl District (south of 6th Street) neighborhoods.

A year is a long way off, but now is the time to start thinking and planning to run. I can think of many young parents who have decided to homestead in the traditional neighborhoods around downtown who would bring new perspectives and energy to the Tulsa school board.

This is a reworking of a post from two years ago, but it has been updated with current information about open seats and candidates, and there is some new information below.

Edina-Cover-A_is_for_Activist.jpgWe are in the midst of the annual filing period for public school board positions in Oklahoma, which ends Wednesday, December 6, 2017, at 5 p.m. Most school districts will have a single seat, Position No. 3, up for election to a five-year term. Glenpool also has seat 5 on the ballot to fill an unexpired term. After the first day of filing, many seats have yet to draw a candidate, and no district has more than one candidate.

(Here is the current list of candidates for Tulsa County school board seats. And here's where you'll find maps showing school district and election district boundaries.)

School board filing always comes at a busy and distracted time of year. As I've written before, it's almost as if school board elections were deliberately scheduled to escape the notice of potential candidates and voters.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious consideration to running.

The election will be held on February 13, 2018, with runoffs on April 3, 2018, for those seats where no candidate won a majority of the vote in the February election.

The Tulsa district, largest in the state, has two out of seven seats up for election to a four-year term, Posts No. 4 and 7.

Tulsa Election District 4 is east Tulsa, covering the district roughly east of a line midway between Memorial and Mingo. The current member for District 4 and board vice president, Shawna Keller, is a member of the left-wing Oklahoma Education Association (and, by requirement,
a member of the left-wing National Education Association) according to her bio on the school board website, which describes her as a teacher at Owasso Ram Academy. Shawna Keller is a registered Democrat. (That link goes to information from December 2016, but I was able to confirm current status through the Oklahoma State Election Board's online voter tool.) So far Keller is the only candidate to file in the district

Tulsa Election District 7 covers, roughly, the portion of the district south of 51st St., plus the neighborhoods around Patrick Henry Schools and Promenade Mall. The incumbent is board president Suzanne Schreiber, who was first elected to the seat in 1996. Suzanne Schreiber is also a registered Democrat. So far she is the only candidate to file for the seat.

Looking through the online biographies, I think it's fair to assume that there is not a single conservative on the Tulsa School Board. Six are registered Democrats; one (Amy Shelton in District 2) is registered as an independent.

In addition, Tulsa Technology Center board seat 2 is up for a seven-year term, representing eastern sections of the district roughly bounded by 66th Street North, 31st Street South, and east of Yale Avenue within Tulsa County, plus the part of Rogers County and Wagoner County north of 41st Street within the TTC boundaries. TTC seems to have more money than it knows what to do with; it would be lovely to have a fiscal conservative on the board who could curb their building spree. Incumbent Rick Kibbe, a registered Republican, is the only candidate thus far.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious thought to running, even if you have no school-aged children, even if you have children that are homeschooled or in private school, even if you've never had a child in the public schools. The public school system exists to serve all citizens by educating the children of the community, so every citizen has an interest in the curriculum being used, the way discipline is handled, the condition of the school buildings, and the credentials, skills, and philosophical presuppositions of the teachers, principals, and administrators. Property owners support the school system through ad valorem taxes, and so they have a reasonable interest in the proper and efficient expenditure of those funds. So do all citizens who pay state income and sales taxes, which provide funds to supplement local property taxes.

If you are, like me, a homeschool or private school parent, you will have experience and valuable insights with successful, classical alternatives to the faddish and failing teaching methods, priorities, and content currently in use in the public schools.

I ran some numbers, comparing 2010 census data, broken down by age, with the closest school attendance data I could find, from the 2010-2011 school year. In the Tulsa school district, the average daily attendance was only 67.2% of the number of school-aged children (5-18) who lived in the district on Census Day 2010. That means about a third of school-aged kids were either homeschooled or in private schools, the highest proportion of any district in the metro area. The Tulsa district also had the lowest percentage of residents in the 5-18 bracket -- 17.9%. Compare that to the Sperry district, where 91% of school-aged residents attended the public school, and where 22.6% of the residents were school-aged.

It seems that a substantial number of families move from the Tulsa district to the suburbs when their children reach kindergarten, or, if they stay, many opt for homeschooling or private schools. Those numbers make a strong case for new leaders in the Tulsa district. And if the school board is going to be strictly representative, at least two of the seven members should have children in homeschool or private school, and a majority should be conservative.

Filing is simple: A notarized declaration of candidacy, and a signed copy of the statutory requirements for school board candidates. For this office there is no filing fee. You can view the Oklahoma school board filing packet online. And although school board elections are officially non-partisan, the local and state Republican Party organizations will provide assistance to registered Republicans who are candidates for non-partisan office. (I suspect the same is true of the Democrats.)

There was a time when it was generally agreed that schools existed to transmit knowledge and the values of the community to the rising generation, working alongside parents. At some point, as part of the Gramscian long march through the institutions, the public schools were infiltrated by Leftists who saw them as a venue for missionary work, converting children away from the values of their parents, away from the ideals that made America a prosperous and peaceful nation. The Left has influence over schools of education, textbook publishers, teachers' unions, and continuing education for teachers, administrators, and board members.

If you live in a suburban or small-town district, you might suppose your district is safe from Leftist influence. Think again. Through their college training, their teachers' union newsletter, continuing education courses, peer relationships, and curriculum, your districts' teachers and administrators work in an atmosphere of Leftist presuppositions about the world. It takes strength, conviction, and vigilance for a conservative educator to be conscious of that atmosphere and to resist its influence.

Earlier this fall, Mandy Callihan, a teacher and parent in Jay, Oklahoma, was infuriated to learn that her 12-year-old daughter was being taught in school about mutual masturbation and anal and oral sex, complete with a worksheet she had to fill out. She and other parents went to the school looking for answers and discovered that the curriculum had been approved by the school board and the middle school principal. The superintendent, claiming ignorance, halted the program, but parents were told it would have to be brought back the following year.

In Minnesota, the Center for the American Experiment has just published a detailed 10-page report on slipping standards at the once-successful Edina school district in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. While academic achievement has declined, Leftist indoctrination is on the rise:

Today, for example, K-2 students at Edina Highlands Elementary School are learning--through the "Melanin Project"--to focus on skin color and to think of white skin as cause for guilt. "Equity" is listed as a primary criterion on the district's evaluation for K-5 math curricula. At Edina High School, teachers are haranguing students on "White Privilege," and drilling into them that white males oppress and endanger women. In a U.S. Literature and Composition class, 11th-graders are being taught to "apply marxist [sic], feminist" and "post-colonial" "lenses to literature."

In short, in Edina, reading, writing, math and critical thinking skills are taking a backseat to an ideological crusade.

The Leftist bent of the school district came to public attention after the overwrought reaction by students and teachers to the election results, but the roots of the problem went back several years, to the school's decision to try to close the achievement gap between students of different races by focusing on structural racism as the cause:

The All for All plan's fundamental premise is that white racism--not socio-economic factors like family breakdown--is the primary cause of the achievement gap. If minority students' academic performance is to improve, "systems that perpetuate inequities" must be "interrupt[ed]" and "barriers rooted in racial constructs and cultural misunderstandings" must be "eliminate[d]," according to the district's position statement on "Racial Equity and Cultural Competence in Edina Public Schools."

The story mentions one race-conscious elementary school principal who adopted a curriculum provided by the slanderous Leftist group that calls itself the Southern Poverty Law Center. The same principal eliminated flex groups -- opportunities during one period for children of similar ability levels to work together with a teacher, receiving targeted instruction -- because they were perceived as insufficiently diverse. A high school literature class describes a course goal in this way: "By the end of the year, you will have...learned how to apply marxist [sic], feminist, post-colonial [and] psychoanalytic...lenses to literature."

There are, it must be said, many good conservatives, many devout Christians serving in Oklahoma's public schools. But they need support in the form of school board members who will set policy and curriculum and ensure that the paid staff adhere to it. Conservative school board members should not give undue deference to "professionals" who have been trained to see education through a Leftist lens. The subject matter taught, the methods used, and the values undergirding it all should be firmly under the control of our elected representatives on the school board.

Education is necessarily ideological, because it rests on presuppositions about knowledge, truth, goodness, and beauty. The ideology of the public schools should reflect the ideology of the community.

If I were running -- and our district isn't up for election this year -- here are some of the planks that would be in my platform:

  • Introduce the classical trivium as the philosophy and method of instruction in schools that are currently failing. That includes a heavy emphasis on memorizing facts in the elementary years, which gives children a sense of mastery and accomplishment and provides a solid foundation for subsequent learning.
  • Instill pride in our city, state, and country. America has its flaws, but it is a beacon of liberty and opportunity that inspires hope in hundreds of millions of people around the world who wish they could live and work here. Our children should understand the aspects of our culture and history that have made our country prosperous and peaceful.
  • Keep the Land Run re-enactments in our elementary schools. It's a fun and memorable way to introduce students to our state's unique history. There is an activist in Oklahoma City who managed to convince historically ignorant principals and school board members there that the '89 Land Run was an act of genocide. Oklahoma City, founded by the '89 Land Run, no longer has reenactments of that event, because of a zealot who pushed her slanderous revision of history on ignoramuses in charge of the schools.
  • Return music to the elementary grades. An early introduction to classical music and learning to make music by singing have tremendous developmental and behavioral benefits.
  • Review all federal grants and determine whether the cost of compliance and the loss of independence is worth the money.
  • Young people who foolishly believe that swapping sexes will solve their deep unhappiness deserve pity and guidance. It is utter cruelty to humor their misplaced hope that "changing gender identity" will cure their misery. Leadership at each school should craft a way to accommodate these deluded young people with compassion and dignity, while protecting the dignity of everyone else, and while affirming the biologically undeniable reality of the two sexes.

On that last point, doing the wise thing will require resisting Federal pressure. If the U. S. Department of Education refuses funding based on its perverted interpretation of Title IX, the school should sue the DoE.

Our public schools need principled, intelligent conservative leadership. Will you step forward to serve?

RELATED (from 2015):

Stella Morabito writes, "Ask Not Who's Running For President, Ask Who's Running For School Board," and she cites the recent battle in Fairfax County, Virginia, over transgender policy as one among many reasons:

The board voted 10-1 with one abstention to shove the policy down the throats of startled parents. There was no discussion and no consideration given to the concerns expressed. Instead, the parents were in effect smeared as intolerant bigots.

The ten board members voting in compliance with this federal harassment behaved like a bunch of cronies who seemed most interested in securing their places of privilege in a coming nomenklatura by regurgitating Orwellian-style talking points about "equality" and "non-discrimination."...

When informed citizens of goodwill vote en masse locally, they can provide an effective check on corruption and force government to be more responsive to its citizens. This kind of citizen activism serves as a buffer that can prevent state and federal governments from absorbing local governments.

As we've seen from the Fairfax County case, our distraction from local elections and neglect of local politics is fertile ground for growing laws under the radar on issues that have not been debated or thought through.

More than ever, we need to push back against the use of local elections as a back door to enforcing agendas established by central, national, or even international agendas.

Walt Heyer, a man who underwent sex-change surgery and then, realizing that the change failed to give him the happiness he had hoped for, changed back, writes that the Obama Administration is using its perverted interpretation of Title IX to force public schools to trample their students in the transgender war against science and reason.

Let's look back and unmask the founders who started the gender madness we see infiltrating into our public schools today. As I detail in "Paper Genders," changing boys into girls started in the perverted minds of three abhorrent pedophile activists from the 1950s who were at the forefront of promoting a movement for sexual and gender experimentation... [Alfred Kinsey, Harry Benjamin, and John Money]....

Public schools are becoming centers for gay, lesbian, and gender-pretender activists and only secondarily fulfilling their purpose as institutions for sound academics. The laws are being interpreted far beyond the original intent of non-discrimination based on gender to where they protect gender pretenders at the expense of the rights of non-trans kids. Gender pretenders are assured access to every school facility and program available to the opposite gender, up to and including girls-only dressing rooms and showers.

Every child's rights to privacy and protection from exposure to inappropriate opposite-sex nudity are now in jeopardy. According to these new legal interpretations, if you like your gender and want to keep your gender that's fine, but you cannot keep your freedom, rights, or protections in public-school dressing rooms or restrooms. The current conflict of interest playing out in school locker rooms between girls born as girls and the self-acknowledged gender pretender trans-kids is real and it is not funny. Non-trans students have lost their right to privacy and parents have lost the freedom to parent and protect their children....

Studies show that people with gender issues also have other psychological issues 62.7 percent of the time. When the co-existing illness is treated, often the desire to change gender dissipates. By not treating the co-existing illnesses first and instead putting the patient through gender reassignment--hormones and surgery--the medical community does irrevocable harm to the patient's body and long-lasting harm to his mind.

The harm is deeper for impressionable children and adolescents who experiment with gender-change behaviors and hormones or hormone blockers. Studies have shown that the majority of kids who are gender confused will grow out of it if they are left alone....

Gender pretenders--also known as trans-kids, crossdressers, or transvestites--should get counseling, not encouragement. Social terrorists who use child transvestites to advance an agenda of sexual perversion should be shut down, not be guiding public school policy.

It's time for parents and kids to fight against the social terrorism of gender change. It's time to take schools back from males who wish to expose themselves with impunity in the girls' locker room.

Liberty requires virtue

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From an essay in The Public Discourse by Robert R. Reilly, replying to an essay by Patrick Deneen, who claims that the Founders created a Hobbesian republic containing the individualistic, antinomian seeds of its own destruction.

However, he fails to mention that Madison, like almost all of the Founders, makes explicit that the principal condition for the success of the republic is virtue. In Federalist 55, he states:
As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.

Without the exercise of those qualities, Madison said, "the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another." Ironically, it is precisely the chains of despotism that Deneen suggests the Founders laid in creating a Hobbesian regime, the very thing Madison is rejecting here.

As Professor Thomas G. West points out in his superb new book, The Political Theory of the American Founding,

the founders' concern with natural rights and their concern with virtue did not belong to distinct categories of thought. Instead they thought of virtue as a condition of freedom and a requirement of the laws of nature. In the Virginia Bill of Rights, as elsewhere, we are told that "no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved . . . but by a firm adherence to . . . virtue."

The reason is that the key to republican government is not merely free choice. As we know from the Weimar Republic, people can freely choose anything, even Hitler. The key, as the Founding Fathers knew, is virtue.

Freedom is not divorced from nature; it is rooted in and limited by nature. Virtue is conformity with what is naturally good. That is why freedom, rightly understood, is freedom to choose the good. It is not license or licentiousness, which is unnatural, i.e., against nature. Only a virtuous person is capable of rational consent, because only a virtuous person's reason is unclouded by the habitual rationalizations of vice. Vice inevitably infects the faculty of judgment. No matter how democratic their institutions, morally enervated people cannot be free. And people who are enslaved to their passions inevitably become slaves to tyrants. Thus, the Founders predicated the success of democracy on the virtue of the American people. If there is any one thing on which the founders and the founding generation agreed, it was this. Without it, the republic would fail, and it is why it is failing now--not because of the Founding but despite it.

Heaven on earth?

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During a recent long drive, I tuned in, via the miracle of the internet, to ABC radio in Australia, and listened to the "Overnights" show. In this particular hour, the host was playing songs with "heaven" in the title. Gospel songs about the eternal state of the blessed like "When We All Get to Heaven," "In the Sweet By and By," "I'll Fly Away," and "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder" were not on the playlist.

I don't know how far back one could trace the metaphor comparing the experience of romantic or erotic love as heaven, but it goes back at last as far as Irving Berlin, whose "Cheek to Cheek," as sung by Fred Astaire in Top Hat was the first song of the hour.

Heaven, I'm in heaven,
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak,
And I seem to find the happiness I seek,
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek.

The host played Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" -- the lyrics sung Beatles-style by an Australian tribute band called the Beatnix, and the tune accompanying the lyrics to the theme to Gilligan's Island by Little Roger and the Goosebumps. The Righteous Brothers' sloppy and sentimental "Rock 'n' Roll Heaven" was played. There was a number from Jesus Christ Superstar, in which Judas complains that Jesus's followers have "Heaven on Their Minds." But most of the music was about the idea that "Heaven Is a Place on Earth," bliss and ecstasy generated by means of a romantic relationship.

Will Heaven carry any weight as a metaphor for the current and coming generations, in which Christianity is increasingly absent from common culture?

The playlist brought to mind a recent blog entry by Rod Dreher, in which he quotes from sociologist Mark Regnerus's new book Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy. Regnerus cites data showing that the more liberal an American woman is, the likelier that she will say that she wants more sex than she has been having.

Regnerus sets out a hypothesis:

  1. More liberal women are less religious than conservative women. (True.)

  2. More liberal women are therefore more likely to have a difficult time attributing transcendent value to aspects of life such as work, relationships, children, and daily tasks. Some psychologists speak of this attribution as "sanctifying daily life." That is, liberal women are less apt to conceive of mundane, material life as somehow imbued with or reflecting the sacred. For them the world is, to use Max Weber's term, more disenchanted -- predictable and safer, but emptier and less mysterious.

  3. Nevertheless, most people experience sexual expression as, in some significant way, transcendent, or higher-than-other experiences. Giddens concurs: "Sexuality for us still carries an echo of the transcendent."

  4. More liberal women therefore desire more frequent sex because they feel poignantly the lack of sufficient transcendence in life. If sex is one of the few pathways to it, then it is sensible for them to desire more of it.

He then tested his hypothesis against data including religious attendance, importance of religion, and changes in religious inclination over time. He found that the strongest correlation to wanting more sex was not political liberalism, but loss of religious belief.

In a world increasingly bereft of transcendence, sexual expression is emerging as an intrinsic value. Sex is the new opium of the masses, [social psychologists Roy] Baumeister and [Kathleen] Vohs claim, a temporary heart in a heartless world. Unfortunately, something so immanent as sex will not -- and cannot -- function in the manner in which religion can, has, and does. (To be sure, some replace it with an appreciation and devotion to nature.) Sex does not explain the world. It is not a master narrative. It has little to offer by way of convincing theodicy. But in a world increasingly missing transcendence, longing for sexual expression makes sense. It should not surprised us, however, that those who (unconsciously) demand sex function like religion will come up short. Maybe that is why very liberal women are also twice as likely to report being depressed or currently in psychotherapy than very conservative women.

(Opiates are also increasingly serving as the opiate of the masses.)

No wonder we have a culture war. Without hope of heaven, all wrongs must be righted in this life. Without hope of heaven, sexual ecstasy would be one of the few paths to something approximating transcendence, and it would seem cruel beyond measure for religious liberty, social stigma, taboos, or any other force to interfere with a person's pursuit of the ultimate orgasm. Indeed, the Sexual Revolution is rooted in that pursuit, and its founding father, Wilhelm Reich, believed that the orgasm was the primal source of life energy. His crackpot ideas found a hearing among the Beat Generation writers in the 1950s and through their influence into popular culture and mainstream society, where they found a welcome with those who sought a "scientific" justification for their perverted desires and a pretext for tearing down the taboos that society had adopted to protect itself from the destructive power of unconstrained sexuality. Historians Will and Ariel Durant wrote, "Sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints." In their pursuit of orgasmic transcendence, Reich's devotees have broken the levees and sent the fire flooding into every home.

(If you want to know more about Wilhelm Reich and his cultural influence, Christopher Turner published a biography of Reich in 2011 -- excerpt here, review by Christopher Hitchens here, Independent review here, feature story in the New York Observer -- with obnoxious auto-loading video ads -- here.)

But while American Christians may be better able to find transcendence in daily life, heaven is seldom in our thoughts, beyond vague hopes that we will again see our departed dear ones again.

When I was young, it was a commonplace among evangelical Christians that we should beware of being so heavenly minded that we were no earthly good. There was even a popular Contemporary Christian song in the '80s of the title "Too Heavenly Minded," a reaction perhaps to the heaven-focused hymns common to Southern Gospel music. The song was really an admonition not to neglect the needs of the people around us, but I think the chorus earwormed its way into our brains and convinced us we shouldn't be contemplating heaven at all. The desiccated vision of heaven that had made its way into popular culture -- dressed in robes and wings, floating on clouds and playing harps -- made thoughts of Heaven easier to forgo.


C. S. Lewis had a different opinion: In Mere Christianity he wrote, "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next... It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither."

In The Weight of Glory, Lewis wrote, "It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Richard Baxter, the Puritan pastor of Kidderminster in the mid-17th century, devoted a book to the topic of The Saints' Everlasting Rest, writing that meditating on the joys of Heaven is a "duty by which all other duties are improved, and by which the soul digests truth for its nourishment and comfort."

Christians will find it challenging to resist the ecstasy that the world assures us can be found in sexual sin or reality-bending drugs if we have no hope of true, lasting delights in the life to come. As the Apostle Paul exhorts us, in his letter to the Colossians:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Preaching to the choir

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I was involved in a vigorous, in-person discussion the other night over the Nashville Statement. While everyone involved professed agreement with the historic Christian views of sexuality and sexual identity, some felt that the timing was poor, in the wake of the Hurricane Harvey catastrophe. Others couldn't see the point of a statement that would not persuade someone who was not already convinced of the Biblical position. I defended the statement, which I have signed, saying that Christian young people need to hear a clear restatement of Biblical truth on these issues, crafted to address the particular points of attack being used against Biblical truth, because otherwise young people are only hearing attacks on the Christian position with no responses. Sometimes, I said, the choir needs preaching to.

This entry isn't intended to get into the specifics of the Nashville Statement, but rather to defend the notion of speaking out when you have no reasonable expectation of swaying large numbers of people to your view.

Julia Galef posted four reasons to Twitter recently in response to those who ask why she bothers "arguing with people online, since I'm never going to get them to change their minds." It seems to me that the first and second are particularly applicable to the debate over the value of the Nashville Statement.

Reasons it can be worthwhile to argue with people on the internet, even if you have no hope of changing their minds:
  1. To change the minds of less-committed onlookers
  2. To give relief and comfort to onlookers who share your view and wish someone would stick up for it
  3. To set an example of "sharing one's opinion even if it's controversial," a value norm to reinforce even if you don't change anyone's mind on that particular issue
  4. To set an example of "polite and reasonable argumentation," again a valuable norm in its own right

I would add a fifth reason: To build toleration for your view. Friends of yours who disagree will learn that your view is held not just by strange people they see protesting on the news, but by someone they know and respect. Even if they still strongly disagree with your view, they will be less likely to cast someone who holds it beyond the pale of polite company, because they don't want to cast a friend -- you -- beyond the pale of polite company.

Now, this does not always work. I can think of a few "friends" I've lost because my views on social issues. But in general, it can help to shift the "Overton Window" in the direction of your perspective, which can encourage your allies to speak out, which ultimately can move your view from beyond the pale to controversial but tolerable to conventional wisdom.

I have some experience with this. When I got involved with city zoning issues almost 20 years ago, there weren't many people in Tulsa who thought about, much less supported, ideas like protecting walkability or neighborhood character with design guidelines or using small measures (Roberta Brandes Gratz's concept of "urban husbandry") to revitalize downtown. While these ideas still aren't universally applauded, they now have a significant and vocal constituency among civically engaged Tulsans.


Pastor Steven Wedgeworth writes: "Beware the cool shame. It has unexpected power over people, even those you wouldn't expect. The only way to resist it is with guns blazing."

When friends are saying things that are true but unpopular, truths that could subject them to social penalties, I want to be cheering them on and encouraging others to do the same, not discouraging them from speaking out.

About 10 years ago, an intelligently entertaining (and often spiritually edifying) pop culture blog went on permanent hiatus. It's worth revisiting, in this year of the 500th anniversary of its pseudepigraphous author's great historical moment.

The premise of Luther at the Movies: The Great Reformer, famed for his blunt speech, reviewing the latest cultural effluent from Hollywood.

The blog's tagline:

Join me, Martin Luther (Doktor), as I do to contemporary cinema what I did to the Whore of Babylon. Unless I am convinced that a motion picture does not emit a stench to choke a sow, my conscience is captive to my impeccable taste. Here I sit, in a comfy Loews stadium-seating theatre, replete with Nacho bar and adjustable arm rests! I can do no other!

From the Blogspot "About me" section:

Although alive in Christ, as far as this vale of tears is concerned, I am currently as dead as Chevy Chase's movie career, though I have not let that interfere with a robust drinking and blogging career. My favorite color is blood red and I like walking in the rain.

From the inaugural post:

...Well, beware you purveyors of pompous pus foisted on shepherdless sheep--I'm back! The wretched of the earth who seek to escape their miserable lives for two hours only to be tricked into seeing V for Vendetta now have a champion!

Hollywood, New York, London, Rome, Bombay--listen well! The only cheek I will turn is the one on my backside--for you to kiss as I eviscerate your contemptible contributions to the common culture. And yes, I mean derivative crap like Lucky Number Slevin!...

Luther did not limit himself to music:

As we look ahead to launching another child into higher education, I am thinking that the Ivy League schools have ceased to offer an education worthy of the price tag, much less their long and honorable heritage.

Case in point: This center-left Yale student's complaint that his Shakespeare course had been politicized:

Full disclosure: politically I am center-left, voted for Hillary Clinton, and I dislike our current president. Politics in the classroom does not unsettle me because I disagree with the liberal viewpoints. What unsettles me, rather, is the thought that my education is being politicized at the expense of timeless truths.

I chose to study English because I wanted to improve my writing and reading abilities, because I value the literature of the language I speak, and because some aspects of the human condition are only accessible through books, plays, and poems. Reading Shakespeare should, of course, inform the way we think about systems of government, political leaders, and historical change. But it shouldn't require an "I'm With Her" sticker and a subscription to The Washington Post. One will have a difficult time deciphering the hidden nuances of Julius Caesar if one is determined to view his character through the prism of current events.

Literature is ideally a way of broadening our social imaginations. If authors are only worth reading insofar as they inform modern phenomena, then the entire English canon is of mere antiquarian interest and can be summarily dismissed.

Classrooms need not be purged of politics altogether. That's neither possible nor desirable. But professors must recognize the line between timeless political insights and rank partisanship. Politics in the classroom can also be a distraction from the syllabi and the space built into the curriculum for contextualizing historic sources with contemporary situations.

This prompted an interesting series of comments by the pseudonymous "Chi Huavara", posted on June 26, 2017 at 4:36 pm:


You're starting to wake up. You've identified a problem, but though you've described the symptoms, you don't know what the problem is exactly quite yet. You can't really put your finger on it. Since you've already started, let me help you here.

It's important to understand the history of modern education in America, and in particular, Critical Theory and its origins. Some will attempt to mischaracterize what follows as a conspiracy theory, but this is really just the basic history of education in America, freely available to anyone willing to do the research.

After the Russian Revolution, Marxists were perplexed as to why Marxist thought didn't overtake Europe as they expected it would. So they set about devising ideologies and strategies specifically designed to conquer Western Civilization and the globe with Marxism.

In 1918, Hungarian Deputy Commissar for Culture and Marxist György Lukács was independently developing such strategies. Lukács developed what he called "cultural terrorism." One component of cultural terrorism, was to develop sexual education courses in schools that would work to distort traditional sexual morals. He came to the conclusion that if sexual morals in Christians could be compromised and undermined when they were children, then Christianity itself could be destroyed, and along with it Western Civilization and therefore opposition to Marxist indoctrination. He surmised that Christianity was the foundation of Western Civilization, and therefore had to be directly attacked. He accomplished this by highly criticizing Christian sexual moral values in the classroom, while simultaneously promoting sexual promiscuity. He also derided parental authority, which children are always open to. This had the effect of transforming children into bullies, petty thieves, sex predators, murderers, and sociopaths. The Hungarian working class became enraged at Lukacs' work, and drove him out of Hungary. He would...

In 1923, In 1923, Lukacs founded the Institute for Marxism at Frankfurt University in Weimar Germany along with fellow Marxists Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno. Cultural Marxists came to realize however, that their true intentions would be better concealed if they changed the name to the Institute of Social Research, which is popularly referred to as the Frankfurt School. The primary goal of the Frankfort School was to translate Marxism from economic terms to cultural terms, or to teach Cultural Marxism. It would use multidisciplinary methods to indoctrinate and manufacture new groups of oppressed proletariat. Marcuse used polymorphous perversion to expand the ranks of the proletariat to homosexuals and transexuals. Gramsci's "Long March Through The Culture" strategy was utilized alongside Freudianism to create a kind of psychological spearhead in their War on Christianity and Western Civilization.

In 1930, Marxist Max Horkheimer became director of the Frankfurt School, and begun work to transform György Lukács' work into the ideology of Cultural Marxism, which wouldn't be fully realized until some time in the 1950s.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, many professors from the Frankfort School fled since they were identified with Bolsheviks, the school having been modeled after the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, and also since many of their members were Jewish. Professors from the Frankfort School would relocate to the United States and become very influential in American universities and re-establish the Frankfort School in New York City with help from Columbia University. The Frankfurt School professors would shift their goal from destroying Western culture in Germany, to destroying Western culture in America.

At Columbia University, Cultural Marxism would come to be known as Critical Theory, which all modern circular is based on today.

Then like clockwork, 20 years after György Lukács Critical Theory (Cultural Marxism) is taught in America, we see the rise of the beatniks, and later the hippies; the first American victims of György Lukács' academic indoctrination strategy. The beatniks and hippies, exhibited the same kinds of behavioral aberrations as the earlier Hungarian students as bullies, petty thieves, sex predators, murderers, and sociopaths.

These boomer-era hippies then became professors, and through the haze of LSD and other mind-altering substances, continued to indoctrinate generations of future students with Critical Theory nonsense.

This is why you see what you see from your professors. It's their designed purpose to indoctrinate you with far left Marxist ideology, rather than provide a genuine education. And to ridicule and punish those who question their recitations.

What can be done?

I propose the ratification of a Constitutional Amendment that would establish a permanent separation of education and state. After all, when you have state funded and supported "education," then what you're going to get is generations of highly indoctrinated statists every graduation.


Totalitarian communism as a political force is mostly dead, but the cultural movement it spawned to undermine the West has succeeded and continues its erosive work in schools across Western Europe and the Anglosphere.

The transgender debate is very personal to cultural critic Camille Paglia, professor of literature at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, as she tells Washington Free Beacon writer Sam Dorman, in a highly-quotable interview about her latest book Free Women, Free Men. Paglia, a Catholic-raised atheist lesbian who nevertheless reveres the classic arts and literature produced by Western Civilization, dissents strongly (and entertainingly) from leftist and feminist orthodoxy. In this interview, Paglia debunks Democrat excuses for Hillary Clinton's defeat, explains Donald Trump's victory, evaluates the political impact of Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, and Elizabeth Warren, and criticizes the Left for ignoring the ethical realities of abortion. But I particularly want to call your attention to this passage, in which she describes her own experience of "gender dysphoria" and articulates what used to be commonsense about transgenderism, locker rooms, and personal pronouns.

[Dorman:] You say you were never encouraged by "misguided adults" to believe that you were actually a boy or "that medical interventions could bring that hidden truth to life." Do we have an obligation to not participate in or encourage someone's gender dysphoria in adulthood, or just childhood?

[Paglia:] My lifelong gender dysphoria has certainly been a primary inspiration for my entire career as a researcher and writer. I have never for a moment felt female--but neither have I ever felt male either. I regard my ambiguous position between the sexes as a privilege that has given me special access to and insight into a broad range of human thought and response. If a third gender option ("Other") were ever added to government documents, I would be happy to check it. However, I have never believed, and do not now, that society has any obligation to bend over backwards to accommodate my particular singularity of identity. I am very concerned about current gender theory rhetoric that convinces young people that if they feel uneasy about or alienated from their assignment to one sex, then they must take concrete steps, from hormone therapy to alarmingly irreversible surgery, to become the other sex. I find this an oddly simplistic and indeed reactionary response to what should be regarded as a golden opportunity for flexibility and fluidity. Furthermore, it is scientifically impossible to change sex. Except for very rare cases of intersex, which are developmental anomalies, every cell of the human body remains coded with one's birth sex for life.

Beyond that, I believe that my art-based theory of "sexual personae" is far more expansive and truthful about human psychology than is current campus ideology: who we are or want to be exceeds mere gender, because every experimental persona that we devise contains elements of gesture, dress, and attitude rich with historical and cultural associations. (For Halloween in childhood, for example, I defiantly dressed as Robin Hood, a Roman soldier, a matador, Napoleon, and Hamlet.) Because of my own personal odyssey, I am horrified by the escalating prescription of puberty-blockers to children with gender dysphoria like my own: I consider this practice to be a criminal violation of human rights. Have the adults gone mad? Children are now being callously used for fashionable medical experiments with unknown long-term results.

In regard to the vexed issue of toilets and locker rooms, if private unisex facilities can be conveniently provided through simple relabeling, it would be humane to do so, but I fail to see why any school district, restaurant, or business should be legally obligated to go to excess expense (which ultimately penalizes the public) to serve such a minuscule proportion of the population, however loud their voices. And speaking of voices: as a libertarian, I oppose all intrusion by government into the realm of language, which belongs to the people and which evolves organically over time. Thus the term "Ms." eventually became standard English, but another 1970s feminist hybrid, "womyn", did not: the populace as a whole made that decision, as it always does with argot or slang filtering up from ethnic or avant-garde subgroups. The same principle applies to preferred transgender pronouns: they are a courtesy that we may choose to defer to, but in a modern democracy, no authority has the right to compel their usage.

But Trump is Cyrus or Constantine or something....

Yahoo News: Trump's executive order disappoints religious conservatives

"The executive order on the whole looks to accomplish very little of substance, against the backdrop of a lot of show," said John Inazu, a professor of law and religion at Washington University in St. Louis and author of "Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference."...

The biggest disappointment for religious conservatives was that Trump did nothing to assist them in ongoing conflicts with gay rights advocates that have played out, most conspicuously, over the rights of Christian bakers or photographers who do not want to provide services for same-sex weddings. The most pressing concern for most religious conservatives is what they see as growing hostility to their religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage.

"Twice now, he has failed to stand up for common-sense policy on religious liberty when liberal opponents lashed out against it," [Heritage Foundation's Ryan] Anderson wrote....

Many conservatives suspected that Vice President Mike Pence, whom they see as an ally, was outmaneuvered by the president's daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who are influential advisers with top White House jobs. The two are widely believed to be sympathetic to the cause of gay rights.

As governor of Indiana, Pence championed a broad religious liberty bill but watered it down after widespread criticism, angering his conservative allies. Now that he's in the White House, he was expected to fight hard for a strong executive order as a way of making amends to that wing of the party.

Last week, a Republican Senate aide told me the word about the religious liberty order on Capitol Hill was that "President Jared has it on hold." The aide added: "I haven't seen any evidence that Pence has the pull to trump Jared."

Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation:

Twice now, he has failed to stand up for commonsense policy on religious liberty when liberal opponents lashed out against it.

Back in February, he caved to the protests of liberal special interest groups as he declined to issue an executive order on religious liberty that had been leaked to hostile press.

And earlier today, he issued an executive order on "free speech and religious liberty" that does not address the major threats to religious liberty in the United States today.

Today's executive order is woefully inadequate. Trump campaigned promising Americans that he would protect their religious liberty rights and correct the violations that took place during the previous administration....

In reality, what Trump issued today is rather weak. All it includes is general language about the importance of religious liberty, saying the executive branch "will honor and enforce" existing laws and instructing the Department of Justice to "issue guidance" on existing law; directives to the Department of the Treasury to be lenient in the enforcement of the Johnson Amendment; and directives to the secretaries of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (HHS) to "consider issuing amended regulations" to "address conscience-based objections" to the HHS contraception mandate.

But the federal government should be honoring and enforcing our religious liberty laws anyway, legislation is required to actually address the Johnson Amendment--which isn't the prime priority on religious liberty--and the Supreme Court has already unanimously instructed the federal government to resolve the case....

There is still time for Trump to make good on his promises. He can still issue an executive order based on that February draft, and then Congress can act to make those provisions permanent.

Congress could start by passing the Russell Amendment, the Conscience Protection Act, and the First Amendment Defense Act. Trump promised to sign into law both the Conscience Protection Act and the First Amendment Defense Act.

Trump promised while on the campaign trail that he would robustly defend religious freedom from pressing threats. Today, he didn't make good on that promise. But he still can, and should.

The ACLU isn't bothered by it one bit
, because they don't see it as impeding their anti-Christian aims.

The ACLU said Trump did not make good on his prior assertion to "totally destroy" the Johnson Amendment and said the directive to federal agencies to explore religious-based exceptions to healthcare lacks teeth but may lay the groundwork for a future legal battle.

"What President Trump did today was merely provide a faux sop to religious conservatives and kick the can down the road on religious exemptions on reproductive health care services," Romero said.

The order signed did not include language in a leaked draft that critics fear would allow federal contractors to refuse service to LGBT employees because of their faith.

From Gregory S. Baylor, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the organization that provides legal firepower to defend individuals and organizations who are being attacked for their religious convictions:

"During his campaign, President Trump stated that the first priority of his administration would be to preserve and protect religious liberty. In speeches, he said the Little Sisters of the Poor and other people of faith will always have their religious liberty protected on his watch and will not have to face bullying from the government because of their religious beliefs. Religious voters took him at his word, giving the president a mandate to affirm and protect Americans' first freedom.

"The current outline of the Religious Liberty Executive Order released by White House officials recalls those campaign promises but leaves them unfulfilled.

"First, no specific relief is offered to families like the Vander Boons in Michigan, who were threatened with the effective closure of their family-run business for simply expressing a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government....

"A pledge to 'provide regulatory relief' is disappointingly vague, especially given the long existence of an obvious means of solving the problem: crafting an exemption that protects all those who sincerely object on religious and moral grounds so that they can continue to serve their communities and the most vulnerable among them. We encourage the administration to pursue that course of action and to do so promptly so that it can resolve the dozens of cases still pending against it.

"We strongly encourage the president to see his campaign promise through to completion and to ensure that all Americans--no matter where they live or what their occupation is--enjoy the freedom to peacefully live and work consistent with their convictions without fear of government punishment."

Everett Piper reacts, and his thoughts echo those of a New York City conservative I met during the 2004 Republican National Convention, who called the Democrats the "party of the crotch":

Very disappointed.

It doesn't even address the sexual fascism that undergirds nearly all of the anti-religious fervor from the Left.

Think about it - Nearly everything they champion is about sex.

  • Abortion: We want to have sex like rabbits and then kill our offspring before our children are born.
  • Gay Marriage: We want to have sex with whoever we want to have sex with and then force the church to sanction it.
  • Obamacare mandates: We want to have sex any time and any place and force the state (i.e. the public) to pay for meds to mitigate the consequences and the diseases we suffer as the result.

The loss of religious freedom all comes down to the state forcing us to worship at the altar of sexual fascism. It all comes down to the state "establishing" a new religion in the temple of Diana - a religion of prostitution and child sacrifice (again all about sex) - and forcing all of us to bow down in submission and worship the state's god.

A few weeks ago, Nat Hentoff, a long-time columnist for the Village Voice, died. Despite the fact that Hentoff was a political liberal and an atheist, he was remembered fondly by many conservative Christians, particularly for his principled opposition to abortion and his defense of the freedom of speech, even for conservatives under attack from the left. From William Doino's tribute:

But nothing shocked the progressive world more than Hentoff's decision to become a pro-lifer, in the early 1980s, at the very moment the Left was attacking Ronald Reagan for defending the unborn. What infuriated "pro-choice" liberals most was Hentoff's assertion that he had come to his decision, not by means of any religious convictions, but by studying the very scientific and medical textbooks on conception and fetology which liberals--self-proclaimed supporters of reason and science--presumably supported.

Yet, as Hentoff pointed out in his many writings and talks on the subject, the problem for the "pro-choice" Left was--and remains--that there is overwhelming evidence that human life begins in the womb, and that the fetus is a developing human life, worthy of legal protection. Hentoff was also outraged by those liberals who openly supported infanticide and "mercy killings" for the old and disabled.

Hentoff believed his pro-life convictions were not only consistent with, but demanded by, his classic liberalism; and that it was those "liberals" who sanctioned the culture of death who were betraying their stated ideals in defense of human rights and the weakest members of our society.

Sadly, not all pro-life liberals have been as principled as Hentoff. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, Teddy Kennedy, Joe Biden, and Fritz Hollings are among the Democrat politicians who professed opposition to abortion as they climbed the political ladder in socially conservative states, then embraced abortion rights when they developed presidential ambitions. It seems likely that these politicians never really had convictions on the issue, just a willingness to say whatever it took to win. (These types exist in the GOP as well.)

One former Democrat presidential candidate is a different case entirely. Carl Trueman recalls a passage from Nat Hentoff's memoirs:

There is one passage in Speaking Freely (177-78) that offers disturbing insights into modern political culture. Hentoff quotes a certain politician on abortion: "What happens to the soul of a nation that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of society will we have twenty years hence if life can be taken so casually?" He also quotes the same politician on the right to privacy: "There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of a higher order than the right of life. That was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore outside of your right to be concerned." This politician had himself almost been aborted, and he saw the clear connection between the dehumanizing of a child in the womb and racial oppression, in that both involve a denial of real personhood to a human being.

Later on, this politician decided to run for president and magically changed his mind on abortion. His name? Jesse Jackson.

In his memoir, Hentoff recalls meeting Jackson on a train in 1994. As they journeyed together, Hentoff told Jackson that he frequently quoted his pro-life writings because they were among the most compelling he had read. Jackson, he said, looked troubled. Hentoff then asked the politician whether he had any second thoughts on his change of mind. Jackson looked even more troubled and said, "I'll get back to you on that." Hentoff ended the anecdote on this laconic note: "I haven't heard from him since."

This story brought back a memory. Ten years earlier, Jackson was making his first run for the White House. On January 15, 1984, the eight major candidates for the Democrat nomination -- Rev. Jackson, Senators Gary Hart, Walter Mondale, John Glenn, Alan Cranston, and Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, former Sen. George McGovern, and former Florida Gov. Reubin Askew -- participated in a debate on the campus of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. The first half was moderated by ABC Nightline anchor Ted Koppel. The second half would feature questions from the audience, facilitated by daytime TV talk show star Phil Donahue.

Some pro-life activists in Boston had the idea of going to Dartmouth to demonstrate and, perhaps, to have the chance the be in the audience to ask the candidates to explain and defend their support for abortion. I remember a Campus Crusade for Christ staffer, Rita Tracy, driving myself and a few other MIT students up to Hanover to join in the effort. I remember standing out in the bitter cold just off campus, during the hour or so before the debate, holding signs and chanting, and that we all had trouble not laughing at ourselves -- we just didn't see ourselves as angry radicals.

We didn't get into the debate itself but watched on TV from another lecture hall. When the debate ended, the pro-life protesters gathered to consider our next move. The candidates were going to appear, two-by-two, in lecture halls around campus for townhall-style Q&A sessions. It would be another chance to confront the candidates on the abortion issue. Some of the group wanted to head to the session with Walter Mondale, because he was the front-runner. I suggested instead that we should go to the session with two formerly pro-life candidates, Jesse Jackson and Fritz Hollings, and challenge them to defend their about-face. And that's where most of us headed.

My memory of what happened next is rather vague. I seem to recall that the two candidates each had a set amount of time to field questions, and that we didn't get to direct a question about abortion to Jackson, but one of our number, an Orthodox rabbi from Boston, managed to ask Hollings about his changed views. Hollings gave the usual song-and-dance about being "personally opposed" to abortion but supporting the rights of women to make their own choices, a performance that only cemented his rhetorical resemblance to Foghorn Leghorn. (It was easy to imagine Hollings saying, "Fortunately, I keep my feathers numbered in case of just such an emergency.")

After the session ended, we poured out of the lecture hall onto the snowy quad, under a cold clear night. TV cameras surrounded Jackson, their lights making his eyes glow a green-gold color. I was about six feet away and was struck by his charismatic presence -- tall, with formal bearing, and quick to find a memorable phrase in answer to a reporter's question.

What impact might Jesse Jackson have made had he chosen to stick with his eloquent pro-life principles during that presidential campaign, had he put his charisma and rhetorical skill in the service of the sanctity of human life? In 1984, there were still plenty of pro-life voters among rank-and-file Democrats -- blue-collar Catholics from the Rust Belt and small-town southerners who backed Reagan in 1980 in part because of his bold opposition to abortion. Jackson might well have built a rainbow coalition that included pro-lifers as well as economic liberals and his fellow African Americans, and it might have been enough to get him to the nomination. His success as a pro-life candidate could have heartened pro-life officials, candidates, and voters to stick with the Democrat party. A Reagan-Jackson general election battle between two pro-life candidates might have driven pro-abortion activism to the fringes of American politics. We might have avoided the political self-sorting that drove social conservatives out of the Democrat Party of their grandparents and great-grandparents.

Win or lose, Jackson as pro-life candidate would have remained a credible voice not only for those who were weak and powerless because of their race, but those too small to speak for themselves. Instead, he abandoned his principles for the sake of the deep-pocketed Democrat donors who would only contribute to candidates who adhered to the absolutist pro-abortion position. His influence and moral authority has almost entirely evaporated, and his subsequent career and that of his son have been marred by scandal.

At least we still have his powerful words from before 1984. May God grant Jesse Jackson the grace of regret and repentance, and may he once again be a powerful voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.


Jesse Jackson's 1977 essay in Right to Life News.

In 1988, Colman McCarthy contrasted Rev. Jackson, 1977, with Candidate Jackson, 1988.

In 1999 and 2000, Hentoff also criticized Jesse Jackson for his refusal to get involved with the effort to free black slaves in Sudan.

For many Americans, Rick Steves is the guru of European travel, specifically of an approach to travel he calls "through the back door" -- skipping the high-priced hotels, chain restaurants, and tourist traps which insulate you in an American bubble, and instead encountering authentic local culture, staying at B&Bs, hostels, and pensions, eating where the locals do, and seeing historical attractions that are off-the-beaten path. The front door is formal, where strangers ring the bell; the back door is where you welcome friends and neighbors for a cup of coffee at the kitchen table.

My wife and I first encountered his work in the late 1980s, and used it to plan visits to central Europe and the British Isles. Even when we didn't follow his specific recommendations, his approach to travel guided ours and led us to some memorable people and places.

Steves is an admirer of European social democracy, a self-described progressive Lutheran, and a resident of Seattle. In his latest Facebook post, he discusses the difficulty he has in discussing the election results with his European friends.

Europeans are struggling to understand the anger and energy coming from the slice of America that voted for Trump. And I am, too. From my point of view, working class Americans voted against a candidate who supported things that would seem to benefit them -- like higher minimum wages, affordable health care, and free community college. But clearly, those voters see things differently.

This election has nudged me to get out of my West Coast bubble and try to better understand parts of my own country that I rarely visit. In an honest attempt to empathize with red state voters, I read "Strangers in Their Own Land" by Arlie Russell Hochschild -- and found it quite enlightening.

Steves links to a blog post that he calls "my little 'book report' -- a collection of my notes, summaries, and favorite passages from 'Strangers in Their Own Land'."

The post is full of condescending generalizations about middle America and southerners in particular. A few examples -- and keep in mind that words below seem mainly to be quotes from or Steves's paraphrases of Hochschild's words, and not necessarily Steves's own thoughts.:

The Tea Party is more than a political group -- it's a culture. Traveling through red America, you notice this culture: No New York Times in newsstands, no organic produce in grocery stores, no foreign films. Fewer small cars, fewer petite sizes in clothing stores, fewer pedestrian zones, more pit bulls and bulldogs, fewer bicycle lanes, fewer color-coded recycling bins, fewer solar panels. Cafés with virtually everything on the menu fried. Lottery machines in bus stations. No gluten-free entrees. Lots of signs advertising personal injury lawyers....

The key issues: small government, guns, low taxes, prohibition of abortion. It's natural for a blue state person to marvel at how red state voters seem to vote against their economic interest. But it's not about money. It's a political high, emotional self-interest. A disdain for federal money helping them out. (Hillary's offer of higher minimum wages, free community college, affordable health care was ignored or even ridiculed.)

Emotional self-interest -- freedom from being a stranger in one's own land -- was what got traction in 2016. Trump supporters happily overlooked all the contradictions (and even blatant lies) to protect their elation. Liberals can't stop thinking, "But it's a lie!" The fact is, Tea Party Americans willingly and knowingly accept lies because they care about other things -- emotional needs -- much more.

Pretty sure I've seen the New York Times for sale here, although newsstands are hard to find anymore. Plenty of conservatives in these parts are also gluten-free and choose organic produce when they can or -- gasp! -- even grow their own vegetables and raise their own chickens. We have bike lanes, and conservatives are some of the most avid cyclists I know.

As for "emotional self-interest" and believing in lies, we believe that the left is selling lies. We know that "free" community college -- like any transaction involving a third-party payer -- is a license for college administrators to build their empires without having to worry that higher costs will drive away customers. We know that the Affordable Care Act has made medical care less affordable and less accessible than it was before for the vast majority of Americans. We know that involving the government in the economy inevitably leads to shortages and rationing. We know that higher minimum wages increases costs to consumers and gives employers incentives to automate and eliminate jobs.

We know what Rick Steves does not seem to know -- there is no such thing as a free lunch. We see that his beloved Europe is drowning in debt, imploding demographically, unable to sustain its welfare state without an influx of immigrants who don't share modern European values. We see the Left's disdain for the old values of European Christendom which built the monuments and villages and customs and traditions that he admires. We see Europe -- and Blue America -- as a cut-flower society, detached from the sources from which it drew nourishment, its apparent vitality beginning to fade and wilt.

Steves has a huge blind spot. For 30 years or more, he has been encouraging Americans to travel to Europe, to meet Europeans first-hand. He would never want you or me to feel that we know Europe because we read a book about it by an American author who looks down on Europeans and their ways, who confirms the basest prejudices against Europeans. Can you imagine Steves saying, "You don't need to visit Gimmelwald. Sean Hannity's latest book will tell you all you need to know about the Swiss." And yet he is willing to let a condescending American author shape his understanding of the Middle American voters who didn't want Hillary Clinton to be president.

Rick Steves needs to apply his own philosophy to his own country. He needs to visit the small towns and big cities of the American heartland. He should pick up a copy of Jane and Michael Stern's Roadfood and hit the best diners in every state, talking to the customers and waitresses and cooks. Visit Pennsylvania -- the middle part between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia -- West Virginia, Oklahoma, west Texas, rural Wisconsin. Visit a variety of churches -- big suburban megachurches, small country Baptist churches, PCA congregations, Catholic parishes -- and hang out between Sunday School and worship to chat over coffee. Better yet, see what these churches are doing during the week to provide for the physical needs of their communities. Talk to the homeschooling moms who come to Bibliomania Bookstore in Tulsa to buy curriculum and materials for their kids. Visit the lay Catholics who have decided to build a community around Clear Creek Monastery. Sit in the stands for a high school basketball game or stand on the sidelines for a pee-wee soccer match.

Rick Steves needs to extend to his own countrymen and their attitudes and customs the same respect and understanding that he readily extends to Europeans. Steves celebrates the diversity to be found in Europe's various nations and regions, the peculiarities that reflect each locale's unique history. He deplores the homogenizing forces of mass culture and multinational conglomerates. Conservatism, as Russell Kirk expounds it, prefers the culture and institutions that spring from the local community to alien values, enforced from afar, yet Steves's fellow liberals want to impose their own values and ways on all of America. The left-wing commenters on his blog and on Facebook go well beyond condescension and incomprehension to full-blown contempt and hatred for their fellow Americans.

Rick, it's time to go "through the back door" to get to know the strangers with whom you share a country. You'll find a warm welcome, and you'll learn some things you don't know.

The Wall Street Journal editorial reports that France's High Audiovisual Council (which sounds like nerds with tape on their glasses wielding gavels) has banned "a television commercial showing happy children with Down Syndrome."

Produced to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, the commercial showed several cheerful children with DS addressing a mother considering abortion. "Dear future mom," says one, "don't be afraid." "Your child will be able to do many things," says another. "He'll be able to hug you." "He'll be able to run toward you." "He'll be able to speak and tell you he loves you."

France's High Audiovisual Council removed the commercial from air earlier this year, and in November the Council of State, the country's highest administrative court, upheld the ban, since the clip could "disturb the conscience" of French women who had aborted DS fetuses.

Advocates say the move hampers efforts to reverse the high rate of DS terminations. Ninety-six percent of DS pregnancies are terminated in France, according to the pro-life Jerome Lejeune Foundation, which sought to overturn the ban. Setting aside the abortion politics, the Council's reasoning is so broad that potentially any TV advocacy could be chilled.

Here's the ad:

This is amazing on several levels. Will they ban ads encouraging saving for retirement because they might disturb the consciences of people who chose to spend instead of saving?

The whole point of advertising is to disturb the viewer's contentment so that he'll spend money on your product.

How does a positive social or political change occur unless the consciences of citizens are disturbed as they are confronted with the damage caused by the status quo?

Of course, I wouldn't expect to see the High A/V Council apply this rule to an ad in any realm of debate beyond these two: sex and Islam and the consequences of each. The abortion industry is keen to suppress any information, no matter how innocuous or how winsomely presented, that might give a prospective abortion client second thoughts. Pro-life advocates have adjusted to avoid unnecessary offense, eschewing bloody photos of aborted fetuses, from which most people will avert their eyes. But the pro-aborts object even to images of healthy babies in utero, or, in this case, happy, healthy children -- any image that could undermine the fears and ignorance on which they prey.

This decision treats French citizens as children who need to be protected against the stirrings of their own consciences, so that they will persist in selfish, infantile behavior and remain dependent on the paternal state.


Here is the press release from Jerome Lejeune Foundation (en Francais) after the decision by the High Audiovisual Council.

In October 2015, the Jerome Lejeune Foundation challenged a Charlie Hebdo cover that depicted a disfavored politician, Nadine Morano, as a Down Syndrome baby. The cover called Morano "la fille cachée trisomique de de Gaulle" -- "the hidden trisomic daughter of De Gaulle." Jean Marie Le Méné, head of the foundation, writes that Charlie Hebdo is guilty of "chromosomal racism." He notes the discrimination faced by Down Syndrome children, even before birth, and reminds that people with Down Syndrome used to be called "mongoloid".

"Trisomique" refers to Charles de Gaulle's daughter Anne, who had Down Syndrome, but who was not hidden from the public. De Gaulle, the leader of the French resistance during World War II and monumental post-war president, said of his daughter, "This child also came as a grace, she helped me get over all the failures, get past any man, see further." Anne died in 1948 at the age of 20. Anne saved her father's life in 1962, when the frame of the photo he carried of her deflected an assassin's bullet.


George Will reacts:

So, what happens on campuses does not stay on campuses. There, in many nations, sensitivity bureaucracies have been enforcing the relatively new entitlement to be shielded from whatever might disturb, even inappropriate jokes. And now this rapidly metastasizing right has come to this: A video that accurately communicates a truthful proposition -- that Down syndrome people can be happy and give happiness -- should be suppressed because some people might become ambivalent, or morally queasy, about having chosen to extinguish such lives because . . .

This is why the video giving facts about Down syndrome people is so subversive of the flaccid consensus among those who say aborting a baby is of no more moral significance than removing a tumor from a stomach. Pictures persuade. Today's improved prenatal sonograms make graphic the fact that the moving fingers and beating heart are not mere "fetal material." They are a baby. Toymaker Fisher-Price, children's apparel manufacturer OshKosh, McDonald's and Target have featured Down syndrome children in ads that the French court would probably ban from television.

The court has said, in effect, that the lives of Down syndrome people -- and by inescapable implication, the lives of many other disabled people -- matter less than the serenity of people who have acted on one or more of three vicious principles: That the lives of the disabled are not worth living. Or that the lives of the disabled are of negligible value next to the desire of parents to have a child who has no special, meaning inconvenient, needs. Or that government should suppress the voices of Down syndrome children in order to guarantee other people's right not to be disturbed by reminders that they have made lethal choices on the basis of one or both of the first two inappropriate principles.

Here's a direct link to the high court ruling, which quotes the High A/V Club ruling:

« susceptible de troubler en conscience des femmes qui, dans le respect de la loi, avaient fait des choix de vie personnelle différents »

Here is a press release from a month ago about the Center for Women's Studies at Northeastern State University. NSU is funded by the taxpayers of Oklahoma (with additional subsidies from people who shop in Broken Arrow) and governed by the board of regents of the Regional University System of Oklahoma. Emphasis added.

Northeastern_State_University_Logo.pngNSU, College of Liberal Arts announce new director of the Center for Women's Studies

(Tahlequah, Oklahoma)--In 2015, the Institute for Women's Policy Research gave Oklahoma an overall grade of D+. Dr. Suzanne Farmer, the new director of Northeastern State University's Center for Women's Studies, is one of many working to change that grade. A professor of history at NSU since 2011, Farmer has served as co-director of the center since 2013.

The Center for Women's Studies is a multidisciplinary, integrated program that seeks to empower NSU students to become socially responsible global citizens through fostering learning about gender roles and relations across cultures and history. Honoring both the university's history as a female seminary and the legacy of Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation and Sequoyah Fellow at NSU, the Women's Studies program prioritizes study of minority women, indigenous women and women's leadership.

Farmer said that it is an honor to be named director of the center, where she is able to highlight national and regional issues that affect women in Oklahoma.

"Historically, the roots of Northeastern State are firmly planted in female Cherokee education, and as a historian, that continues to inspire me," Farmer said.

Dr. Phil Bridgmon, professor and dean of Liberal Arts, said that the College of Liberal Arts made a wise choice in selecting Farmer for this role.

"She has shown very capable initiative and leadership as co-director, and we expect that she will continue to heighten awareness of issues facing women particularly in Oklahoma, and globally," Bridgmon said.

Courses in the Women's Studies program support many of the university's core values and goals: promoting an environment of learning and discovery, full inclusion, civic engagement, along with encouraging global knowledge and cultural sensitivity.

Objectives of the Women's Studies program include teaching the history of women's movements in the United States and other countries, bringing attention to the issues facing women in Oklahoma, raising the global consciousness of women's and gender issues, investigating the way gender intersects with social movements, education, society, history, criminal justice, politics, communication, the arts, family life, and popular culture and encouraging activism and other forms of civic engagement around women's issues.

Farmer would like to see the center become a center of advocacy for the region and a touchstone for women in the Green Country community.

"We plan to continue to seek out programming that emphasizes our goal of making NSU students socially responsible global citizens, but I also hope to include members of the community and our alumni as we work to build up the center's presence here on campus and in the region," Farmer said.

At a university founded as a female seminary, where approximately two-thirds of NSU students are women, and in a state where many social issues disproportionately affect women, Bridgmon places high importance on the success of the center.

"We must continue to do our best when honoring our past, serving our students, and influencing a better world through awareness and service. The Center for Women's Studies is an important part of these efforts within the College of Liberal Arts."

For more information on the Center for Women's Studies, please visit

Published: 8/30/2016 5:11:12 PM

Notice the highlighted phrases: "empower," "heighten awareness," "raising the global consciousness," "encouraging activism," "influencing." This is not an academic enterprise. The NSU Women's Studies Center is engaged in activism, advocacy, and evangelism for a particular religious perspective using public dollars, arguably in violation of Oklahoma's Constitution, the same provision that was used to remove the Ten Commandments from the grounds of the State Capital. Note too what's acting as the spur: A radical feminist organization's D+ grade for Oklahoma, based on Oklahoma voters' rejection of radical feminist views of family and the value of human life.

If you want to understand how feminism, working through college women's studies programs, works as a corrosive influence on our culture, I encourage you to browse the research done by reporter Stacy McCain in his "Sex Trouble" series. A couple of years ago McCain decided to read the textbooks that are often assigned by college women's studies courses and to report on the destructive ideas they promote. At the same time, he has investigated how those ideas have influenced popular thinking as it emerges in blogs and on social media. He has serialized his research on his blog, "The Other McCain," and has produced the first edition of his research in book form, Sex Trouble: Essays on Radical Feminism and the War against Human Nature (available in softcover and Kindle), and is working on an expanded second edition.

Scholars combing through historical documents to understand how women's roles in family and society have changed over the centuries would be a worthy academic pursuit, no more or less worthy of state subsidy, I suppose, than other historical research. Advocating for a worldview, particularly one that has been destructive of civilization, is not worthy of our tax dollars. NSU's regents should shut down the center. If they're unwilling to take such a step, they should be replaced as soon as opportunity allows.

Oklahoma's Clear Creek Abbey and the lay community growing around it are featured in a recent story about the "Benedict Option" -- an approach to living faithfully in Christian community as the broader culture transitions from being supportive of and accommodating to Christianity to being hostile and aggressive. The term "Benedict Option" was coined by columnist Rod Dreher, who was inspired by the role Benedictine communities played in preserving civilization through the Middle Ages.

Writer John Burger sets the scene in his essay on

For the most part, Christians have had a happy -- some would even say "privileged" -- time of it in America, where Christianity and Christian churches were essentially left alone as they freely exercised their religion within society both privately and, up until recently, in partnership with the government.

Well, that was then, and this is now. The very effective cooperative partnership that existed between the U. S. government and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to serve victims of human trafficking was ended due to the Obama administration's insistence that contraception and abortion be included in any assistance provided to victims. Some cities have seen Catholic adoption services come to an end because they cannot conform to anti-discrimination laws that, in legal suit after suit, are adjudicated against religious freedom.

In general, Christians are firmly being told that if they wish to remain in the public square and involved in social services, parades, or business enterprises of any kind, they will have to sacrifice their values and teachings to the shifting morals of the times and resultant regulations, or be ready to give up their business and abandon their missions.

The time of "privilege" appears to be over. Christians face challenges unimaginable even a decade ago, and must discern new ways of being in a nation that has become hostile to expressions of faith lived outside the sanctuaries and beyond the pews.

A comment on that first paragraph: Christians have had a happy time of it in America because it was founded by our Christian forebears, who came here from Europe in order to have the freedom to live out their Christian faith, not merely to worship behind closed doors, but to order their communities in accordance with the truth of God's Word. Court rulings, starting in the 1960s, turned the prohibition of a Federal establishment of religion into a pretext to chase religious belief out of community institutions at every level of government. Where the stick of court rulings could not reach, the carrot of Federal funds entangled local schools in Federal mandates. Public schools that were once the means of transmitting a community's values to the rising generation were converted to mission stations for secularism, dedicated to alienating children from the ideals that built Western Civilization.

So what to do? The Benedict Option calls for Christians to establish "new forms of community that have as their ends a life of virtue." Dreher quotes Robert Louis Wilken:

At this moment in the Church's history in this country (and in the West more generally) it is less urgent to convince the alternative culture in which we live of the truth of Christ than it is for the Church to tell itself its own story and to nurture its own life, the culture of the city of God, the Christian republic. This is not going to happen without a rebirth of moral and spiritual discipline and a resolute effort on the part of Christians to comprehend and to defend the remnants of Christian culture

The Aleteia story describes the evolution of a community around Clear Creek Abbey:

"Formally speaking, there are no 'primary organizers' of the community that is forming, little by little, around our abbey," Father Anderson said in an interview. "From the beginning, we monks wanted to avoid planning a lay community, allowing, rather, that to happen naturally, organically, if it would."

Father Anderson said that there are 37 households living near the abbey now. [Institute for Excellence in Writing director Andrew] Pudewa and his wife and family have been there since 2009. They always sought out places that fostered a sense of community and had lived in several places around the country and abroad, including some experimental communities.

"When we came to visit it looked like this could meet all of our requisites--a Christian community, rural, a relatively safer part of the country, conservative, and a place where it's easy to grow a business and thrive," he said. "What I would kind of see as our village idea, in a way, isn't to just escape the ugliness of worldliness--because you can't really ever escape that, no matter how far out you go--but it is to cultivate a life of peace and faith and community that can nurture people who may then go out into the world and do things."

What brings everyone together? For Pudewa, it's the abbey, which is clearly the focal point and source of spiritual strength.

"Without the monastery, there would be no reason to be here because this is the land of ticks and chiggers and cottonmouths and copperheads and brutally hot summers and storms and tornadoes," he said. "One thing every family seems to go through is trials and tribulations. You move out here and you will be tested."

Pudewa, founder and director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, said that a lot of prospective residents are drawn by the abbey's orthodoxy and rigorous adherence to liturgical norms. "There's never going to be anything goofy at the monastery," he said. "The abbot, the hierarchy, the total dedication of the monks to the monastic life and holiness and the Benedictine rule and work and prayer--that's the example that in a lay person's way we wish we could emulate."

The article goes on to describe two other forms that the Benedict Option has taken -- the Anselm Society, an arts-focused community connected with an Anglican parish, and a Washington-based group of Catholics who gather for dinner, prayer, and discussion.

This coming weekend, the monastery and the nearby Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) will host a conference called "The Idea of a Village." Speakers include Rod Dreher, Baylor theology and literature professor Ralph C. Wood, Thomas Aquinas College tutor John F. Nieto, Abbot Philip Anderson, the Father Abbot of Clear Creek, and IEW director Andrew Pudewa. The main thread of the conference is on Saturday, May 21, 2016, at IEW, but there are related activities Friday night and Sunday morning at the Abbey.

From the conference website:

In the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire, Christians gathered around the communities of religious in monasteries of the Benedictine tradition for spiritual succor and stability. Likewise, many of today's Christians, discouraged by the corruption of our own declining empire, desire a similar spiritual support. Some of these families have informally settled around Clear Creek Abbey, a thriving monastery of Benedictine monks, and are, in the words of Abbot Philip Anderson, O.S.B., seeking "to recommence the business of building a just and healthy form of social life, from the ground up." While some have heard of this idea as "the Benedict Option," it might more simply be thought of as the pursuit of sanity in a world gone crazy.


A medievalist blogger from San Antonio details a four-day visit to Clear Creek Abbey.

Last year, D. C. Innes wrote a three-part series on the Benedict Option for World magazine.

The Benedict Option has three elements: re-centered Christian identity, attractive community witness, and defensive political engagement. Dreher calls it "a new and concentrated inwardness so that we can strengthen our communal lives and our outward witness and service to the broader culture." His call is to rediscover what should have been our focus all along: the Christ-headed community that sustains us in our precious faith, matures our understanding of it, and enables our consistent practice of it. In this way, Dreher's Benedict Option is both preservative and proclamatory.

Politically, it entails "a strong recalibration on the part of Christians of what is possible through politics in a liberal order." This recalibrated effort nonetheless calls for aggressive defense of religious liberty, e.g., through organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom. In the almost half-century of culture-warring, we left our rear flank exposed. Dreher is calling us to fortify that flank while maintaining a defensive stance on the political front, all while flinging wide open the doors of the city to receive refugees from the Dark Lord's territory.

From Chapter X, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (emphasis added):

My term of actual service to Mr. Edward Covey ended on Christmas day, 1833. The days between Christmas and New Year's day are allowed as holidays; and, accordingly, we were not required to perform any labor, more than to feed and take care of the stock. This time we regarded as our own, by the grace of our masters; and we therefore used or abused it nearly as we pleased. Those of us who had families at a distance, were generally allowed to spend the whole six days in their society. This time, however, was spent in various ways. The staid, sober, thinking and industrious ones of our number would employ themselves in making corn-brooms, mats, horse-collars, and baskets; and another class of us would spend the time in hunting opossums, hares, and coons. But by far the larger part engaged in such sports and merriments as playing ball, wrestling, running foot-races, fiddling, dancing, and drinking whisky; and this latter mode of spending the time was by far the most agreeable to the feelings of our masters. A slave who would work during the holidays was considered by our masters as scarcely deserving them. He was regarded as one who rejected the favor of his master. It was deemed a disgrace not to get drunk at Christmas; and he was regarded as lazy indeed, who had not provided himself with the necessary means, during the year, to get whisky enough to last him through Christmas.

From what I know of the effect of these holidays upon the slave, I believe them to be among the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of insurrection. Were the slaveholders at once to abandon this practice, I have not the slightest doubt it would lead to an immediate insurrection among the slaves. These holidays serve as conductors, or safety-valves, to carry off the rebellious spirit of enslaved humanity. But for these, the slave would be forced up to the wildest desperation; and woe betide the slaveholder, the day he ventures to remove or hinder the operation of those conductors! I warn him that, in such an event, a spirit will go forth in their midst, more to be dreaded than the most appalling earthquake.

The holidays are part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong, and inhumanity of slavery. They are professedly a custom established by the benevolence of the slaveholders; but I undertake to say, it is the result of selfishness, and one of the grossest frauds committed upon the down-trodden slave. They do not give the slaves this time because they would not like to have their work during its continuance, but because they know it would be unsafe to deprive them of it. This will be seen by the fact, that the slaveholders like to have their slaves spend those days just in such a manner as to make them as glad of their ending as of their beginning. Their object seems to be, to disgust their slaves with freedom, by plunging them into the lowest depths of dissipation. For instance, the slaveholders not only like to see the slave drink of his own accord, but will adopt various plans to make him drunk. One plan is, to make bets on their slaves, as to who can drink the most whisky without getting drunk; and in this way they succeed in getting whole multitudes to drink to excess. Thus, when the slave asks for virtuous freedom, the cunning slaveholder, knowing his ignorance, cheats him with a dose of vicious dissipation, artfully labelled with the name of liberty. The most of us used to drink it down, and the result was just what might be supposed; many of us were led to think that there was little to choose between liberty and slavery. We felt, and very properly too, that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum. So, when the holidays ended, we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field,--feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery.

Derryck Green, an African-American writer currently pursuing his doctorate in theology and ministry, has written several recent columns at JuicyEcumenism critical of the way certain evangelical groups are falling all over themselves to embrace #BlackLivesMatter. Back in December, Green wrote that Intervarsity had been "seduced by compartmentalized justice" when it invited #BlackLivesMatter member Michelle Higgins to be a plenary speaker at Urbana 15, Intervarsity's triennial missions conference.

Christian leaders have a tremendous responsibility to be voices and examples of reason. Christian credibility is at stake. So it's a cause for concern when Christians engage in negligent and questionable behavior. Here it involves using racial guilt to manipulate Christians into supporting a movement that perpetuates a secular social and political narrative that consists of lies and racial paranoia under the guise of fighting racial inequality....

Further, if the goal is to reduce the racial disparities in education, people should not only advocate that poor children receive better quality education, they should also encourage the redemption and reconciliation of the black family. Not only would that contribute to the mitigation of academic disparities suffered by blacks, increasing the number of intact black families would also mitigate the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Blacks aren't locked up disproportionately simply and only because they're black. Blacks are imprisoned disproportionately because of the disintegration of the family and the collapse of the Christian moral value system.

Speaking of criminals, here's another fact: #BlackLivesMatter valorizes black criminality and sanctifies black criminals. The lives of everyday blacks don't matter to this movement, including the lives of blacks tormented by black criminals. This is why #BlackLivesMatter is a misnomer. The only black lives that matter to these social agitators are the ones killed by (white) cops, largely the result of the actions of the criminals themselves. Defending and honoring the lives of black criminals over the lives of blacks that aren't criminals, but in need of our attention, is despicable and unworthy of being called or legitimized by Christianity.

Green's most recent column looks at an article Mark Charles, a Native American activist, who wrote about his decision not to participate in communion at Urbana 15 and not to participate in a plenary session of prayer for persecuted Christians around the world. Green doesn't use the phrase "virtue signaling" but it fits the phenomenon that Green describes.

Moreover, supporting Black Lives Matter is lazy activism. Actually, it's not activism at all. It's a public display -- theater really -- to show the viewing public that you hold the socially acceptable view on this social/political trend to avoid being morally implicated or socially associated with the "problem" this organization claims to address.

To the point, I'm convinced that people don't really want to address racial discrimination and inequality -- where it actually exists. The waters are intentionally muddied so people can't see or think clearly about the issue -- in this case, directly addressing the "root causes" of racial disparities to lay blame on that which is responsible -- even if and when it means to do so implicates the suffering. Instead, this has become a cause without end -- for if it ends, people would no longer have the prospect of feeling good about themselves by marginalizing racism through public displays of fruitless, self-aggrandizing, abstract forms of "activism" that are nothing more than a therapeutic salve for our collective racial insecurities.

For whites -- Christian and non-Christian alike -- forthrightly addressing racial discrimination and inequality or the sake of the affected would mean no longer engaging in obligatory acts of charity that disempower minorities simply to absolve feelings of racial guilt. It would also mean rejecting the premise that the mere existence of racial disparities are themselves evidence of racism. In other words it means refusing the predetermined parameters of the current "conversation on race," which include being forced to acknowledge and admit white privilege and accepting blame for all that befalls racial minorities- and doing so knowing that baseless charges of racism will ensue. It will be difficult, but as Christians, in some respect, it's picking up your cross in pursuit and obedience of the one who died on it.

For blacks, again, Christian and non-Christian alike, candidly addressing racial discrimination and racial inequality means no longer willingly relishing racial victimization and helplessness, while using it as a form of power/social leverage to extract more white guilt in the form of continued and forced moral genuflections, and social reparation. Instead it means acknowledging responsibility and embracing the obligation to engage the same kind of self-determination our antecedents relied on for dignity and success in far more difficult circumstances than we face, in a country that was significantly more racist than it is today. This will be difficult as well -- very difficult actually -- because to choose self-determination over victimization and white guilt is considered racial betrayal, violating the unwritten rules of black racial solidarity that leads to racial excommunication. But, this too, is bearing one's cross in pursuit and obedience of the one who died on it.

Regarding that last point: After the 1921 Race Riot, the African-American residents of Tulsa's Greenwood District built it back better than it had been before, with much of the reconstruction complete within a year. Newspapers and other documents of the period (such as the 1921 Booker T. Washington High School yearbook) reveal the high standards the community had set for itself, in the face of tremendous government and private racial discrimination.

One more note: I was disheartened last year to see that an old friend of mine who works for a campus parachurch ministry was promoting Mark Charles and his revisionist view of Native American history. Campus ministries and many evangelical churches seem to believe that they must embrace the professional racism industry in order to earn a hearing among millennials.

Run for School Board

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Next Monday through Wednesday, December 7 - 9, 2015, is the filing period for public school board positions in Oklahoma. Most school districts will have a single seat, Position No. 1 up for election to a five-year term. Skiatook will have one additional seat on the ballot to fill an unexpired term, and Glenpool will have two additional seats. (Here is the Tulsa County Election Board press release listing the school board offices up for election. And here's where you'll find maps showing school district and election district boundaries.)

School board filing always comes at a busy and distracted time of year. As I wrote last year, it's almost as if school board elections were deliberately scheduled to escape the notice of potential candidates and voters.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious consideration to running.

The Tulsa district, largest in the state, has two out of seven seats up for election to a four-year term, Posts No. 5 and 6. The election will be held on February 9, 2016, with runoffs on April 5, 2016, for those seats where no candidate won a majority of the vote in the February election.

Tulsa Election District 5 covers Riverside to Yale from 21st to 41st, plus Riverside to Harvard between 41st and I-44, plus Utica to Yale from 11th to 21st, plus a small section just south of I-44 between Peoria and Riverside. The current member, Cindy Decker, was appointed to the post in May 2015. Her bio suggests that she's part of the problem with American education, tied in with the social services non-profit and educational consulting world. "Decker has been an education researcher since 2002. She is passionate about ensuring all children have a quality education. She works as Director of Research and Accountability at CAP Tulsa while also consulting for various groups including the U.S. Department of Education and Howard County Public School System in Maryland. She is Chair of the Board of Moto, Inc., a family-owned business based in Illinois. Formerly, she was a Senior Economist working with the education team at the U.S. Government Accountability Office." Cynthia Gustafson Decker is a registered Democrat.

Tulsa Election District 6 covers, roughly, I-244 to 51st Street from Yale to Mingo, plus 51st to 61st, Sheridan to Memorial, plus (oddly) Memorial Park Cemetery. The incumbent is Ruth Ann Fate, who was first elected to the seat in 1996. Ruth Ann Fate is also a registered Democrat.

Looking through the online biographies, I think it's fair to assume that there is not a single conservative on the Tulsa School Board. One member is a Democrat political consultant. Another is a former Democrat County Commissioner. One of the members is a teacher in a different school district and a member of the OEA, the far-left teachers union.

In addition, Tulsa Technology Center board seat 5 is up for a seven-year term, representing northern and western Tulsa County beyond the Tulsa city limits, plus those parts of Creek, Pawnee, Osage, and Washington Counties within the TTC boundaries. TTC seems to have more money than it knows what to do with; it would be lovely to have a fiscal conservative on the board who could curb their building spree.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious thought to running, even if you have no school-aged children, even if you have children that are homeschooled or in private school, even if you've never had a child in the public schools. The public school system exists to serve all citizens by educating the children of the community, so every citizen has an interest in the curriculum being used, the way discipline is handled, the condition of the school buildings, and the credentials, skills, and philosophical presuppositions of the teachers, principals, and administrators. Property owners support the school system through ad valorem taxes, and so they have a reasonable interest in the proper and efficient expenditure of those funds. So do all citizens who pay state income and sales taxes, which provide funds to supplement local property taxes.

If you are, like me, a homeschool or private school parent, you will have experience and valuable insights with successful, classical alternatives to the faddish and failing teaching methods, priorities, and content currently in use in the public schools.

I ran some numbers, comparing 2010 census data, broken down by age, with the closest school attendance data I could find, from the 2010-2011 school year. In the Tulsa school district, the average daily attendance was only 67.2% of the number of school-aged children (5-18) who lived in the district on Census Day 2010. That means about a third of school-aged kids were either homeschooled or in private schools, the highest proportion of any district in the metro area. The Tulsa district also had the lowest percentage of residents in the 5-18 bracket -- 17.9%. Compare that to the Sperry district, where 91% of school-aged residents attended the public school, and where 22.6% of the residents were school-aged.

It seems that a substantial number of families move from the Tulsa district to the suburbs when their children reach kindergarten, or, if they stay, many opt for homeschooling or private schools. Those numbers make a strong case for new leaders in the Tulsa district. And if the school board is going to be strictly representative, at least two of the seven members should have children in homeschool or private school, and a majority should be conservative.

Filing is simple: A notarized declaration of candidacy, and a signed copy of the statutory requirements for school board candidates. For this office there is no filing fee. You can view the Oklahoma school board filing packet online. And although school board elections are officially non-partisan, the local and state Republican Party organizations will provide assistance to registered Republicans who are candidates for non-partisan office. (I suspect the same is true of the Democrats.)

There was a time when it was generally agreed that schools existed to transmit knowledge and the values of the community to the rising generation, working alongside parents. At some point, as part of the Gramscian long march through the institutions, the public schools were infiltrated by Leftists who saw them as a venue for missionary work, converting children away from the values of their parents, away from the ideals that made America a prosperous and peaceful nation. The Left has influence over schools of education, textbook publishers, teachers' unions, and continuing education for teachers, administrators, and board members.

There are, it must be said, many good conservatives, many devout Christians serving in Oklahoma's public schools. But they need support in the form of school board members who will set policy and curriculum and ensure that the paid staff adhere to it. Conservative school board members should not give undue deference to "professionals" who have been trained to see education through a Leftist lens. The subject matter taught, the methods used, and the values undergirding it all should be firmly under the control of our elected representatives on the school board.

Education is necessarily ideological, because it rests on presuppositions about knowledge, truth, goodness, and beauty. The ideology of the public schools should reflect the ideology of the community.

If I were running -- and for family and business reasons I can't -- here are some of the planks that would be in my platform:

  • Introduce the classical trivium as the philosophy and method of instruction in schools that are currently failing. That includes a heavy emphasis on memorizing facts in the elementary years, which gives children a sense of mastery and accomplishment and provides a solid foundation for subsequent learning.
  • Instill pride in our city, state, and country. America has its flaws, but it is a beacon of liberty and opportunity that inspires hope in hundreds of millions of people around the world who wish they could live and work here. Our children should understand the aspects of our culture and history that have made our country prosperous and peaceful.
  • Keep the Land Run re-enactments in our elementary schools. It's a fun and memorable way to introduce students to our state's unique history. There is an activist in Oklahoma City who managed to convince historically ignorant principals and school board members there that the '89 Land Run was an act of genocide. Oklahoma City, founded by the '89 Land Run, no longer has reenactments of that event, because of a zealot who pushed her slanderous revision of history on ignoramuses in charge of the schools.
  • Return music to the elementary grades. An early introduction to classical music and learning to make music by singing have tremendous developmental and behavioral benefits.
  • Review all federal grants and determine whether the cost of compliance and the loss of independence is worth the money.
  • Young people who foolishly believe that swapping sexes will solve their deep unhappiness deserve pity and guidance. It is utter cruelty to humor their misplaced hope that "changing gender identity" will cure their misery. Leadership at each school should craft a way to accommodate these deluded young people with compassion and dignity, while protecting the dignity of everyone else, and while affirming the biologically undeniable reality of the two sexes.

On that last point, doing the wise thing will require resisting Federal pressure. If the U. S. Department of Education refuses funding based on its perverted interpretation of Title IX, the school should sue the DoE.

Our public schools need principled, intelligent conservative leadership. Will you step forward to serve?


Stella Morabito writes, "Ask Not Who's Running For President, Ask Who's Running For School Board," and she cites the recent battle in Fairfax County, Virginia, over transgender policy as one among many reasons:

The board voted 10-1 with one abstention to shove the policy down the throats of startled parents. There was no discussion and no consideration given to the concerns expressed. Instead, the parents were in effect smeared as intolerant bigots.

The ten board members voting in compliance with this federal harassment behaved like a bunch of cronies who seemed most interested in securing their places of privilege in a coming nomenklatura by regurgitating Orwellian-style talking points about "equality" and "non-discrimination."...

When informed citizens of goodwill vote en masse locally, they can provide an effective check on corruption and force government to be more responsive to its citizens. This kind of citizen activism serves as a buffer that can prevent state and federal governments from absorbing local governments.

As we've seen from the Fairfax County case, our distraction from local elections and neglect of local politics is fertile ground for growing laws under the radar on issues that have not been debated or thought through.

More than ever, we need to push back against the use of local elections as a back door to enforcing agendas established by central, national, or even international agendas.

Walt Heyer, a man who underwent sex-change surgery and then, realizing that the change failed to give him the happiness he had hoped for, changed back, writes that the Obama Administration is using its perverted interpretation of Title IX to force public schools to trample their students in the transgender war against science and reason.

Let's look back and unmask the founders who started the gender madness we see infiltrating into our public schools today. As I detail in "Paper Genders," changing boys into girls started in the perverted minds of three abhorrent pedophile activists from the 1950s who were at the forefront of promoting a movement for sexual and gender experimentation... [Alfred Kinsey, Harry Benjamin, and John Money]....

Public schools are becoming centers for gay, lesbian, and gender-pretender activists and only secondarily fulfilling their purpose as institutions for sound academics. The laws are being interpreted far beyond the original intent of non-discrimination based on gender to where they protect gender pretenders at the expense of the rights of non-trans kids. Gender pretenders are assured access to every school facility and program available to the opposite gender, up to and including girls-only dressing rooms and showers.

Every child's rights to privacy and protection from exposure to inappropriate opposite-sex nudity are now in jeopardy. According to these new legal interpretations, if you like your gender and want to keep your gender that's fine, but you cannot keep your freedom, rights, or protections in public-school dressing rooms or restrooms. The current conflict of interest playing out in school locker rooms between girls born as girls and the self-acknowledged gender pretender trans-kids is real and it is not funny. Non-trans students have lost their right to privacy and parents have lost the freedom to parent and protect their children....

Studies show that people with gender issues also have other psychological issues 62.7 percent of the time. When the co-existing illness is treated, often the desire to change gender dissipates. By not treating the co-existing illnesses first and instead putting the patient through gender reassignment--hormones and surgery--the medical community does irrevocable harm to the patient's body and long-lasting harm to his mind.

The harm is deeper for impressionable children and adolescents who experiment with gender-change behaviors and hormones or hormone blockers. Studies have shown that the majority of kids who are gender confused will grow out of it if they are left alone....

Gender pretenders--also known as trans-kids, crossdressers, or transvestites--should get counseling, not encouragement. Social terrorists who use child transvestites to advance an agenda of sexual perversion should be shut down, not be guiding public school policy.

It's time for parents and kids to fight against the social terrorism of gender change. It's time to take schools back from males who wish to expose themselves with impunity in the girls' locker room.

Hack-proof your mind

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Is the current generation of Americans especially susceptible to propaganda and emotional manipulation?

Early this past summer, Stella Morabito wrote a column for The Federalist called How to Escape the Age of Mass Delusion. Morabito pondered the startling turnaround in societal norms on sexual identity issues, the backlash against modest attempts to protect the liberties of dissenters from the new consensus, and the mob eruptions in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore:

American conservatives are by and large clueless about propaganda methods and tactics. And it shows. There are virtually no conservative social psychologists around. You'd think once a liberal social psychologist hits the public over the head with this fact some on the Right would take notice and at least try to get clued in.

Meanwhile, the Left has been employing social psychology and depth psychology on the masses for decades. President Obama's campaign staff was filled with social psychologists. In this context, those who believe conservatives can subsist on reason and logic alone are kidding themselves. It's no wonder GOP leaders are caving on so many principles, and being absorbed so easily into the Left's machine.

A lot of people are scratching their heads today, wondering how life got to be so surreal, so fast in the United States of America. Based on the silencing tactics revealed by the LGBT lobby, many observers are likely now thinking: "Gee, I thought marriage equality was merely a gay rights movement. I didn't realize that fascism was part of that package." The Great Unraveling continues at a rapid clip when slipping on a pronoun in these days of transgender rule could cost you your career or earn you massive social media rallies chanting "hater" at you.

To understand these phenomena, Morabito turned to a nearly 60-year-old book, The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing, by Dutch psychiatrist Joost A. M. Meerloo. Meerloo wrote the book "after years immersed in the study of social psychology and countless interviews with victims of mental coercion, including Nazi officers and American prisoners of war in Korea." Morabito quoted the opening of Meerloo's forward:

"This book attempts to depict the strange transformation of the free human mind into an automatically responding machine - a transformation which can be brought about by some of the cultural undercurrents in our present-day society as well as by deliberate experiments in the service of a political ideology."

Further quotes from Meerloo:

"It is simply a question of organizing and manipulating collective feelings in the proper way. If one can isolate the mass, allow no free thinking, no free exchange, no outside correction and can hypnotize the group daily with noises, with press and radio and television, with fear and pseudo-enthusiasms, any delusion can be instilled."

"The totalitarian potentate, in order to break down the minds of men, first needs widespread mental chaos and verbal confusion, because both paralyze his opposition and cause the morale of the enemy to deteriorate - unless his adversaries are aware of the dictator's real aim."

"The techniques of propaganda and salesmanship have been refined and systematized; there is scarcely any hiding place from the constant visual and verbal assault on the mind. The pressures of daily life impel more and more people to seek an easy escape from responsibility and maturity."

Morabito explored the social and mental engineering that laid the groundwork for today's mob eruptions:

Unfortunately, too many Americans have been sleeping through most of its propaganda battles, and for a very long time. When it comes to understanding the inner workings of social psychology and political correctness, we seem to be at a loss.

Meanwhile, the power elites who now control the media, academia, and Hollywood seem to understand social psychology well enough to exploit it on a massive scale. They have engaged in psychological warfare against the private mind by inducing "collective belief formation." There's really nothing new here. Conditioning and nudging the masses into groupthink is a very old trick of all wannabe dictators. The bloody twentieth century is filled to the gills with examples.

Yet it feels like we've awakened to an ambush. A lot of Americans watched in shock while cultish mobs suddenly attacked the RFRA that [Indiana Gov. Mike] Pence initially defended. But the groundwork for mass hysteria like this was stealthily laid for decades, and the minefields sown.

Family breakdown led to community breakdown, which we can see in the decline of trust in society. Ignorance was cultivated in the schools through political correctness and squashing free debate. The academy's disparaging of western civilization virtually wiped out respect for any serious study of history and civics, as well as for the Socratic method and the rules of civil discourse. Political correctness sewed confusion into the language, particularly regarding identity politics. Youth are now set to be programmed for conformity through the K-12 "Common Core" curriculum mandates.

All of that and more promotes the semantic fog that allows for mind rape. It amounts to an act of "logicide," to borrow a term from Meerloo, whom I will continue to quote below. To kill logic and reason that might stand in their way, wannabe dictators "fabricate a hate language in order to stir up mass emotions." Leaders in Indiana, Arkansas, and Louisiana have been unable to understand this tactic and are grossly unprepared to deal with it. So they simply surrendered. In effect, they joined the mob, further endangering everybody's freedom....

I encourage you to read the whole article, in which Morabito goes on to call for action to fight against mass delusion through free speech and targeted ridicule and to fight against societal atomization through genuine friendship.

So, in the end, freedom truly depends upon breaking down the walls of separation that tyranny builds. It means cultivating the art of friendship, boldly exercising our rights to free association and to communicate our thoughts to others. It means cultivating knowledge instead of cultivating ignorance.

After all, political correctness is primarily a tool for crushing people's ability to have open conversations in friendship and mutual respect. In this context, it seems very much like a tool to bring all personal relationships under state control. And it shouldn't surprise us that this is being done today in the name of equality for certain kinds of personal relationships. Tyrannies always pretend to promote the very thing they seek to destroy.

The ongoing campus war against free speech inspired Morabito to write a follow-up: 10 Resources For Hack-Proofing Your Mind

The dynamics are similar wherever there is obstruction of the free exchange of ideas. They include: using silencing tactics to achieve conformity of thought; blind rage and intolerance towards any ideas that diverge from the agenda; and all-out efforts to eliminate perceived enemies.

But the visible actors who are shutting down freedom seem not to be free agents themselves. They act more like recruits whose behavior has been conditioned through political correctness, an effective behavior modification tool. It's been entrenched for decades in the West, in education, media, and pop culture. With terrorists, we know that indoctrination is far more direct.

Either way, messing with your mind--or coercive thought reform--is a common denominator of any agenda that depends on shutting down real conversation. Whatever the grievance du jour, it serves mostly as a distraction from the main goal: collectivist conformity that ends up empowering an elite. Campuses are prime recruiting grounds....

Student agitators are not the root of the problem, though. They seem more like victims of coercive persuasion since universities stopped valuing independent thought for conformist thought. They're easy targets for mind-rape by the elites and lobbies who can use them for mass mobilization behind various agenda items. We can now see the student agitators acting as deployable agents for hacking the minds of others. Kind of like a Borg.

To resist this (submission is futile) we must first be aware of our own human susceptibility to coercive thought reform and mind manipulation. So, where to start?

Why not start a mind-rape prevention book club? Students who wish to retain their sanity on PC-conditioned campuses should be especially interested in exploring this. But everyone should try to learn how to fight mob psychology either on their own, or, ideally, in conversations with others.

Below is a very select list of books and other materials that can help to inoculate the mind against mass delusion. None of the titles are recent. That's partly because I've found the greatest clarity and respect for independent thought in material written decades ago....

In these times of growing confusion and delusion, we must try to learn all we can about how to keep our minds free from coercive manipulation. Let's recognize political correctness for what it really is: a political tool to imprison us into conformity of thought. The PC-induced "safe spaces" on campuses amount to nothing more than Pavlovian conditioning chambers. Sane spaces--places that allow real learning and real relationships--are what people really need, because without free expression, there is no diversity.

One of her recommendations is the Mind Hacking Alert pamphlet from NJ Safe and Sound. It focuses on the special vulnerability of young adults under the age of 25:

You're already at risk for mind-hacking because of your age. The part of the brain that's responsible for emotions, judgment, decision-making, planning, and impulse control- the prefrontal cortex- is not fully mature until around age 25. That doesn't mean you're stupid - only that you have to be extra smart around mind-hackers.

The pamphlet goes on to list specific vulnerable conditions, including many that apply to new college students.

RELATED: Sharyl Attkisson, an award-winning investigative journalist and a former reporter for CBS news, spoke recently about "Astroturf and manipulation of media messages" (10 minutes).

What is astroturf? It's a perversion of grassroots. Astroturf is when political, corporate, or other special interests disguise themselves, and publish blogs, start Facebook and Twitter accounts, publish ads, letters to the editor, or simply publish comments online, to try to fool you into thinking an independent, or grassroots, movement is speaking. The whole point of astroturf is to try to give the impression that there's widespread support for or against an agenda when there's not. Astroturf seeks to manipulate you into changing your opinion by making you feel as if you're an outlier when you're not....

Astroturfers seek to controversialize those who disagree with them. They attack news organizations that publish stories they don't like, whistleblowers who tell the truth, politicians who dare to ask the tough questions, and journalists who have the audacity to report on all of it. Sometimes astroturfers simply shove, intentionally, so much confusing and conflicting information into the mix that you're left to throw up your hands and disregard all of it, including the truth.

Attkisson calls Wikipedia "the astroturfers' dream come true" as paid operatives "co-opt pages on behalf of special interests," violating Wikipedia's policies "with impunity." As an example, she discusses the connection between an apparently objective study on sleeplessness by the National Sleep Foundation, which turned out to be funded by the makers of a new sleep drug.

She then offers tips on how to protect yourself against astroturf, listing hallmarks of astroturf". One example: "Instead of questioning authority, they question those who question authority."

(Here's Attkisson's take on the media's attacks on Donald Trump over his statements, corroborated by contemporaneous news reports, about Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey. Her weekly program, Full Measure, airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. on KTUL channel 8 in Tulsa and KOKH channel 25 in Oklahoma City.)

MORE: The latest example of either herd mentality or coordination: The attack by leftist bloggers and politicians on anyone offering "thoughts and prayers" for the victims of today's shootings in San Bernardino, California.

Last Tuesday night, Rosaria Butterfield, Ph.D., gave a talk on sexual identity to a standing-room-only crowd in the Great Room at the University of Tulsa's Allen Chapman Activities Center. Butterfield's visit was sponsored by several evangelical Christian groups on campus: Reformed University Fellowship, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Chi Alpha, and the TU Wesley Foundation, which are connected with the Presbyterian Church in America, the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, and United Methodist denominations, respectively.

(MORE: Here is an audio recording (MP3, 47MB, 1 hr 53 min) of Rosaria Butterfield's talk and the first half-hour or so of the Q&A that followed. Please excuse the sound of my pen and pages turning; I thoughtlessly had my recorder clipped to my notepad. I either ran out of battery or memory before the Q&A concluded.)

Prior to Butterfield's talk, an aggregation styling themselves "The Students of United Campus Ministry, Pride at TU, the Society for Gender Equality, HeadStrong, and Earth Matters" issued an open letter objecting to the event. The University of Tulsa Collegian published the open letter (PDF), along with a list of signatories and a response from the groups sponsoring the event.

United Campus Ministry is sponsored by local congregations affiliated with the PCUSA, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, and Unitarian Universalist denominations.

Here is an excerpt with the gist of the protest letter:

The students of United Campus Ministry, the Society for Gender Equality, HeadStrong, Earth Matters, and Pride at TU want to state publicly that we are outraged that several ministries from the university will be hosting Rosaria Champagne Butterfield on November 17th.

Mrs. Butterfield speaks openly not only about her conversion to Christianity, but also her conversion from lesbianism to straightness.

Mrs. Butterfield believes that being gay or transgender is fundamentally opposed to being Christian.

Inviting someone to speak about orientation as a spiritual or psychological weakness actively creates a hostile environment for all LGBTQ+ students.

Many of the students who are concerned about this speaker's presence on our campus identify as both Christian and LGBTQ+, and we believe that by hosting Mrs. Butterfield, these campus ministries are trying to silence our voices and invalidate our identities....

Any discussion or promotion of such practices, or suggestion that sexual orientation is not immutable is discrimination and a threat....

We will not allow our community to be harassed without responding. We will not accept hate speech on our campus without condemnation. We will not allow our loving community to be hurt by this woman's supposed wisdom. We will not be broken by your hate.

The letter follows the typical pattern of campus hostility to free speech, casting the discussion of ideas in terms of safety: "hostile environment," "a threat," "oppression," "hate speech," "safe place," "harassed." The aggressor poses as victim: They claim that that their voices are being silenced, while it is they who are attempting to silence the voices of Rosaria Butterfield and the campus organizations who invited her.

It should be noted that the night of the speech itself went surprisingly well, to the credit of the university. Protesters lined up at the top of both staircases leading to the Great Hall, holding signs but remaining silent, and not obstructing people going to the talk. (I'm not sure if that was their decision or at the insistence of campus police.) During the talk, the protesters stood along the walls to the right of and behind the audience, so they heard the speech. During the Q&A following Butterfield's talk, most if not all of the questions were from protesters and most of those seemed to be sincere inquiries, not gotcha questions. It seemed as if Butterfield's telling of her story disarmed them. When questioners started asking follow-ups (holding up a long line behind them) or making statements following the answer, Butterfield gently requested that they stick to one question and follow the ground rules.

For the record, here is the list of signatories of the open-letter, the supporters of shut-uppery at TU. (If you signed this letter and later come to regret your hostility to the free expression of ideas, contact me at the email address in the sidebar, and I'll be glad to note that you've withdrawn your support.) Alumni donors to TU should note that a couple of the signatories are departments funded by the university.

The Women's and Gender Studies Department
The University of Tulsa Institute of Trauma, Adversity and Injustice
The Student Alliance for Violence Education
Lisa Wilson
Evan Taylor, East Side Chrisitian Church
Rev. Nancy J. Eggen
Rabbi Micah Citrin
Ekklesia at Missouri State University
Rev. Robert Martin
Fr. Dewayne Messenger
Rabbi Karen Citrin
Rev. Chris Moore
Rev. Fred Turner
Rev. Susanna Weslie
Kelley Friedberg
Phill Melton
Sara N. Beam
Rev. Geoffrey Brewster
SA President Whitney House
Pride and HeadStrong President Tara Grigson
President of Society for Gender Equality Gracie Weiderhaft
Whitney Cipolla
Dr. Melinda McGarrah Sharp
United Ministry Executive Director Jennie Wachowski
Oklahomans for Equality
Lamont Lindstrom
Dr. Maralee Waidner
Mana Tahaie
ABC Vice President Kyla Sloan
Sheridan Turner
Bridget Branham
Nicole Nascenzi
Lauren Jackson
Karl G. Siewert
Isaac Sanders
James Johnson
Rosie A. Lynch
Jack Kent Cooke
Cameron Cross
Samantha Overstreet
Sonja Worthy
Cody Jackson Brown
Tina Daniels
Scott Gove
Mary Wafer-Johnston
Brynn Jellison
Zane Cawthon
Morgen Cavanah
Elizabeth Cohen
Brittany Bell
Justin DaMetz
Bronte Pearson
Alyssa Adamson
Megan Senol
Melissa Miller
Casey Mattin
Alex Wade
Sara Douglas
Charissa Schaefer
Emily Landry
Seton Lazalier
Michelle Hunter
Mariah Rubino
Nicole Flippo
Ashley Bailey
Will Schoenhals
Sierra Dyer
Ken Leep-Sills
Sharon Bishop-Baldwin
Lauren Keithley
Toby Jenkins
Don Satterthwaite
Josh Harris
Lucille Hengen
Hayley Harris
Anna Facci
Misti Yerton
Diane Bucchianeri
Abigail Obana
Robin larson
Jessica Pongonis
Stephanie Greif
Megan Curtis
Scott Arnold
Jordan Dunn Hoyt
Mark Archer
Giselle Willis
Sarah Hicks
Carly Putnam
Conor Fellin
Ronni Joe Killion
Julia Evans
Lisa Dodwell
Madison Reid
Ashley Knapp
Brian Hasse
Lauren Delucchi
Chris Madaj
Shiloh Tune
Judith E. Nole
Justin Turner
Prof. Amy Schachle
Alicia Ruskey
Deanna Tirrell
Casey Copeland
Shannon Martin
David Burch
Aiden Smith
Sean C. Conner
Laura Banks
Phillip Jennings
Grace Heaberlin
Daniela Rosales
Karyn E. Fox
Paul Meuser
Stephen Place
Laci Lynn
Sean Patrick Rooney
James Scholl
Tyler Carter
Julie Austin
Kaitlyn Marie Counter
Carlos Martos
Benjamin Buchanan
Adela M. Sanchez

From a Leftist publication, a surprising report focused not on weapons but on the copycat aspect of mass shootings:

Journalism can be a powerful force for change, and news organizations should not flinch at reporting on mass shootings. But what the Daily News editors didn't realize was that this sensational approach can possibly do more than perturb or offend. Such images provide the notoriety mass killers crave and can even be a jolt of inspiration for the next shooter.

The next one struck just five weeks later, in Oregon. The 26-year-old man who murdered nine and wounded nine others at Umpqua Community College last Thursday had posted comments expressing admiration for the Virginia killer, apparently impressed with his social-media achievement: "His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems like the more people you kill, the more you're in the limelight."...

Evidence amassed by the FBI and other threat assessment experts shows that perpetrators and plotters look to past attacks both for inspiration and operational details, in hopes of causing even greater carnage. Would-be attackers frequently emulate the Columbine massacre; one high-level law enforcement agent told me that he's encountered dozens of students around the country who say they admire the Columbine killers. "Some of these kids now weren't even born when that happened," he said. The 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech and other attacks that generated major publicity have also spawned many copycats, according to several law enforcement officials I spoke with....

As part of our investigation into threat assessment, Mother Jones documented the chilling scope of the "Columbine effect": We found at least 74 plots and attacks across 30 states in which suspects and perpetrators claimed to have been inspired by the nation's worst high school massacre. Their goals ranged from attacking on the anniversary of Columbine to outdoing the original body count. Law enforcement stopped 53 of these plots before anyone was harmed. Twenty-one of them evolved into attacks, with a total of 89 victims killed, 126 injured, and nine perpetrators committing suicide. (See more about this data here.)

More from their research on the Columbine effect:

In at least 14 cases, the Columbine copycats aimed to attack on the anniversary of the original massacre. Individuals in 13 cases indicated that their goal was to outdo the Columbine body count. In at least 10 cases, the suspects and attackers referred to the pair who struck in 1999... as heroes, idols, martyrs, or God. And at least three plotters made pilgrimages to Columbine High School from other states.

But this data only raises the question: Why did these copycats seek the glory of infamy? What psychic void were they trying to fill?

Here are three writers that see a pattern: The absence of a father.

Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D., "
Obama Ignores the Obvious in Oregon: Yet Another Fatherless Killer

What Obama did not say in his impassioned address, what would have truly been a break in the "routine" and rhetoric that inevitably follow tragedies involving firearms, was that 26-year-old shooter Chris Harper Mercer was the umpteenth example of a fatherless boy who grows up to be a violent criminal.

It is, of course, much easier to blame guns for our problems than to address the underlying causes of American violence. For one thing, gun control is a popular, quick fix. All it takes is a law and legislators can pat themselves on the back for having "dealt with" the problem.

Fatherlessness, on the other hand, is a trickier affair that requires more complicated and unpopular solutions, such as dealing with America's ridiculously lax no-fault divorce laws and a culture that privileges independence over personal responsibility.

And no one wants to face the ugly truth that our current redefinition of marriage from its historical identity as the union of one man and one woman has effectively made the role of fathers optional. By putting the desires of adults above the needs of children, we inadvertently feed the fire of violent crime....

As University of Virginia Professor Brad Wilcox pointed out in 2013: "From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia's 'list of U.S. school attacks' involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place."

Wilcox has noted the overwhelming social scientific evidence connecting violence and broken homes, which suggests that boys living in single mother homes are almost twice as likely to end up delinquent compared to boys who enjoy good relationships with their father.

Another researcher, Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson, has written that "family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States."

And criminologists Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi, have further documented the fallout from fatherless families, writing that "such family measures as the percentage of the population divorced, the percentage of households headed by women, and the percentage of unattached individuals in the community are among the most powerful predictors of crime rates."

As long as politicians and the media choose to focus exclusively on firearm availability in their response to violent crime, they will continue to miss the most important element involved.

A more mature response to America's current crisis would begin with a serious discussion of what factors have come together to produce the breakdown of American families and what can be done to reverse this trend.

Dennis Prager, "The Right does have answers on guns, Mr. President."

Why does the left focus on more gun control laws, and why doesn't the right?

One reason is quintessentially American. Most Americans believe that it is their right -- and even their duty -- to own guns for self-protection. Unique among major democratic and industrialized nations, Americans have traditionally believed in relying on the state as little as possible. The right carries on this tradition, while the left believes in relying on the state as much possible -- including, just to name a few areas, education, health care and personal protection.

A second reason for the left-right divide is that the left is uncomfortable with blaming people for bad actions. The right, on the other hand, is far more inclined to blame people for their bad actions....

The third reason for the left-right divide on guns is that the two sides ask different questions when formulating social policies. The right tends to ask, "Does it do good?" The left is more likely to ask, "Does it feel good?"...

On gun violence, the left doesn't ask, "What does good?" It asks, "What feels good?" It feels good to call for more gun laws. It enables liberals to feel good about themselves; it makes the right look bad; and it increases government control over the citizenry. A liberal trifecta....

One thing that would make incomparably more difference than more gun laws is more fathers, especially in the great majority of shooting murders -- those that are not part of a mass shooting. Why aren't liberals as passionate about policies that ensure that millions more men father their children as they are about gun laws? Because such thinking is anathema to the left. The left works diligently to keep single mothers dependent on the state (and therefore on the Democratic Party). And emphasizing a lack of fathers means human behavior is more to blame than guns.

Another is to cultivate participation in organized religion. Young men who attend church weekly commit far fewer murders than those who do not. But this too is anathema to the left. The secular left never offers religion as a solution to social problems. To do so, like emphasizing fathers, would shift the blame from guns to the criminal users of guns.

I would ask every journalist who cares about truth to ask every politician who argues for more guns laws, and every anti-gun activist, just two questions:

"Which do you believe would do more to decrease gun violence in America -- more gun laws or more fathers?" "More gun laws or more church attendance?"

Barack Obama says, "Our gun supply leads to more deaths. The GOP has no plausible alternative theory."

The GOP does. But as usual, few Republicans say what it is. And no liberal wants to hear it.

Matt Walsh, "Our Kids Don't Need Gun Control Laws, They Need Fathers":

In all of these cases, the media and Obama -- and this time even the perpetrator's father -- diligently counted how many guns the killers had in their homes but failed to notice how many parents they had in their homes. That seems like quite a detail to overlook. Before we wonder if a guy's access to guns turned him into a murderer, you'd think we'd pause to reflect on whether his lack of access to his own father might have played a role.

These mass killings happen with relative frequency, and they are usually not perpetrated by men who grew up in strong families with both biological parents present. Divorce and fatherlessness are the two elements that tie most of these cases together. No other factor -- gun laws, politics, racism, etc. -- comes close. Dylann Roof was a white guy killing black people, Vester Flanagan was a black guy killing white people. Their races were different, yet the one line that cut right through both of them was divorce. Even in cases where the killer's parents are still married, a closer inspection will often reveal a home filled with instability and chaos.

Indeed, it's not just the high publicity tragedies that seem to always involve broken homes. The statistics across the board are staggering and conclusive: 90 percent of homeless kids are from fatherless homes; 63 percent of kids who commit suicide are from fatherless homes; 71 percent of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes. Children from fatherless homes are at a much greater risk of developing drug addictions and are four times as likely to be poor. Out of all the youths in prison, a full 85 percent are from fatherless homes. In the inner city where violence and drug abuse are rampant, four out of every five children are growing up without their biological fathers.

You name the societal ill or problematic group -- from violent boys to promiscuous girls to everything in between -- and right there in the middle you'll find broken homes, unstable families and absent fathers.

So why aren't we talking about this?...

Fathers and mothers both play an integral role in the spiritual and emotional formation of a child. Take one or both away, and there's a chance the child becomes emotionally and spiritually deformed. It's a very simple formula. There's no disputing it -- just ignoring it -- and I think we choose to ignore it for a few reasons.

For one thing, the left-wing cultural narrative requires us to deny the distinction between men and women, which means denying the distinction between mothers and fathers. According to progressivism, the nuclear, biological family is but one type of arrangement, one variant equal in every way to families with one mom or two moms or three dads or whatever, and none can be judged more ideal than the others....

Even though progressives obsess over organic milk and free-range chickens, they pretend that the natural, organic family -- the family as it was meant to be -- is in no way superior to the modified versions. But to connect violence to broken homes is to admit that (shock!) kids benefit from having mom and dad in the same house. Progressivism can make no such admission, so it continues blaming bad things on inanimate objects, rather than fatherlessness and divorce.

But for another thing, beyond ideology, I think we ignore the family's role in all of this because it hits, literally, too close to home. Some single mothers bizarrely see a discussion about fatherhood as an attack on them, and some men, especially divorced men, see the hand wringing over fatherlessness as an affront against them. Both groups make it impossible to have this conversation.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are equally hesitant to speak categorically in favor of the nuclear family. We know it's challenging and difficult to be a parent and a spouse.... If we acknowledge that our kids need us, that they depend on our presence, that they require our full-time love and support, then we've backed ourselves into a corner. If the going gets tough, we have to stick around.... We minimize the importance of families to provide ourselves with an escape hatch, should we need it.... These are scary propositions -- all this duty and responsibility stuff. We'd rather not dwell on it. Let's get back to talking about gun laws and mental health, we think. That's a much more comfortable debate. Much more removed from our daily lives. It requires much less of us. Actually, it requires absolutely nothing -- which is ideal.

I don't think all of our problems in society can be solved through stable families, but I do think that, if we want to address them, we should begin with the simple but hard things: staying married, raising our kids, being examples, instilling faith and values, teaching them how to be good people, etc. It's not foolproof, but it's a start.

We just have to be willing to do the work.

On his Facebook page, Walsh emphasized that he was speaking about patterns and principles:

I'm not saying these people turn into killers solely because they come from broken homes. I'm not saying every kid from a broken home will be a killer. I'm not saying a kid from a broken home can't grow into a fine adult. I'm not saying any of that, so please don't derail this conversation by pretending that I am. What I'm saying is very simple: in principle, kids are meant to have two parents. A mom and a dad. In principle, this is the ideal arrangement. In principle, the more we stray from this arrangement in our society, the worse things get. The statistics absolutely back me up here.

And that means we should probably at some point start discussing the real solutions. Not gun control. Not policies. Not politics. Parenting. If we REALLY want to cut down on all of these bad things, we should begin by getting married before we have kids, staying married, parenting our kids together with our spouses, and guiding and teaching and raising them so that they can grow into well adjusted adults. Simple.

Scott Ott, the artist formerly known as Scrappleface, is an evangelical Christian and a writer for PJMedia. He has joined the chorus of too-clever-by-half folks who say the way to deal with societal disagreement over the nature and purpose of marriage is to abolish state recognition of marriage.

Liberty-loving people, who revere the extraordinary innovation of a government that guards individual rights, should work now to get government out of the business of marriage licenses, employee benefits based on marital status, tax breaks for married couples, and any other kind of regulation or benefit, regarding marriage or marriage substitutes.

Here in Oklahoma, certain Republican voices have echoed his sentiments and reasoning, including party activists Richard Engle and David Van Risseghem.

The top-rated comments to Ott's column all disagree with him and point out the consequences of removing government recognition of a fundamental unit of society that arises organically from the nature of human reproduction. Here is the top comment by someone calling herself "werewife":

Sorry to have to join the general dissent here, and for a nonreligious reason. The leftist program is to reduce the active institutions of society to just two: The atomized single individual, and the sovereign omnipotent State. Everything in between - the congregation, the workplace, the club, the sports league or community theater company or moms' playgroup or whatever, and especially the FAMILY - will be reduced to an entirely personal and private matter with no status whatsoever in the public realm which the almighty State must respect, unless the group itself is an active arm/agent of the State. The Soviet Union ran on such a principle. Soon enough these United States will too, and proposals like the above will only make it easier.

For an expanded discussion of this idea, see Stella Morabito's piece at The Federalist, "How Personal Relationships Threaten The Power of the State". Morabito is responding to an article that praises a single mother who chose to keep the child's father out of their lives, and she quotes several leftist and feminist authors who see intact families as a source of inequality. Morabito writes:

In all of their ponderings about inequality, our progressive friends never fully address the ultimate source of human misery: isolation brought about by broken and weak human relationships. Of course, cultivating strong human relationships would be counter-productive to an agenda that aims to grow impersonal bureaucracy and its attendant power cliques....

Some of the 12 year olds in Lily's world are in the business of telling all of us what to do and how to live, and ensuring that the only enduring relationships we have are with our government keepers. Others among them -- in politics, academia, the media, Hollywood -- will keep in place conditions that that suppress strong personal relationships. Why? Because only weakened human relationships and alienation can serve to build a culture of distrust, envy, and divisions in class, gender, race, etc. that empowers an elite "vanguard"--among whom, politicians, academics and media moguls are prominent.

By enabling a culture of excess in which self-absorption and self-indulgence reign supreme, power elites seem invested in guaranteeing our problems will be self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating. Their bait -- sloth, sex, and nonstop mind-numbing entertainment - is a feel-good trap. Nothing substantial can be built on what they offer, least of all solid relationships....

It seems funny, doesn't it, how progressive agendas always seem to begin as "solutions" in search of problems? Collectivist agendas breed alienation, isolation, distrust, and dependency, which produce poverty, social chaos, and epidemic anxiety, which soften the ground for collectivist agendas. The myth of "inequality" is perpetuated with the prescription that further isolates people from one another.

Totalitarian states have a history (and a present-day practice) of banning groups operating independently of the state, no matter how apparently benign or apolitical their purpose, because any group can pose a threat to the state's power. Consider the illegal independent labor union in Poland, Solidarity, which brought down the communist government, aided by a Catholic hierarchy that the Communist Party had tolerated. The Chinese Communists didn't make the same mistake: They have government-controlled Catholic-style and Protestant-style churches; independent churches (known as "house churches") are illegal and subject to persecution. The Chinese government has been relentless in pursuit of a system of eastern philosophy called Falun Gong.

It is also standard practice for totalitarian governments to sow the seeds of distrust and alienation everywhere, but especially within families. Children are indoctrinated in the state ideology and taught to identify and report deviationist thought by their parents. There are no independent clubs for children, only the state-run Young Pioneers. Betrayal is rewarded; loyalty makes you subject to collective punishment.

Earlier this year, I saw the "Operation Pedro Pan" exhibit at the History Miami museum. The exhibit powerfully recounts the experiences of the children (mostly in their late pre-teens or early teens) who were airlifted to foster homes in the United States in the early days of the Cuban Revolution. The Castro government had nationalized the schools, including church-run schools, and Christian Cuban parents sent their children to the US to keep them from being indoctrinated by the Communists and against family and religion. (More about that exhibit another time.)

Here are a few more apt comments on Ott's piece. Ruta22 writes:

You lost me at "a government that guards individual rights". Your argument is a bad joke. Another example of someone who doesn't get what's really going on. Disappointing would be an understatement.

Basically, you call for us to cede both public space and government to leftwing totalitarians. Don't pretend otherwise. If you don't understand yet what the leftist plan to do in that vacuum, you need to go read some history. There's a much bigger, organized plan by the left going on that you're not willing to admit to.

I'd write more, but why bother? Anyone who can write "let's be the people of liberty who help them escape from the burden of law through Jesus" doesn't understand that the day that you are no longer allowed to openly preach about Jesus may soon be coming. That's the whole point to the leftist game plan. Got it?

"Cruising Troll" points out that the issue is not how two people relate to each other, but how society deals with this intimate relationship and its consequences:

This is the case in EVERY human society, whether a Stone Age tribe hidden in the upper reaches of the Amazon Basin or the most "advanced" secular European country. Custom and law (the two ARE related) guide how we treat these relationships, both developed over long periods of time based on human experience.

So no Scott, you're wrong about marriage. Anybody who says that government has no place to "incentivize or reward or restrain mutually-voluntary intimate relationships" is either ignorant, naive, or evil. I fully understand the libertarian impulse behind such a statement, but it is misplaced. Perhaps sufficient wealth and technology can successfully ameliorate the realities that have resulted in EVERY human society having a particular intimate relationship called "marriage" that is distinctly different from merely two (or more) people shaggin' in the bushes, but color me skeptical.

It's certainly reasonable to ask whether a particular government policy/law regarding marriage is rational, and a libertarian perspective can be valuable in assessing the matter, but less so if it starts from a position of naivete.


Saturday morning, August 22, 2015, there will be a nationwide protest against Planned Parenthood, against the organization's dismemberment and harvesting of organs from unborn children. Protests are planned for hundreds of locations across the country.

ProtestPP is a coalition of pro-life groups calling for a National Day of Protest on August 22, 2015 at Planned Parenthood facilities all across America. Our goal is to raise awareness of the heartless and even illegal activities of Planned Parenthood by going to where the killing and harvesting of body parts from aborted children takes place. The four main sponsors are: Created Equal, the Pro-Life Action League, 40 Days for Life, and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society.

Creating a presence at neighborhood Planned Parenthood facilities is essential to inform the public about what is going on behind closed doors. Local sidewalk counselors and activists are a key component to shutting down Planned Parenthood in the long term.

The National Day of Protest will strengthen local efforts by raising their profile with the local press, the community and other pro-life activists. Together, the protests held on August 22 will put pressure on the media, both local and national, to report the truth about Planned Parenthood, and on government officials to stop funding this discredited organization.

Here in Tulsa, the protest will take place between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. near the midtown location of Planned Parenthood at 1007 S. Peoria Ave.

The videos from the investigation that launched this protest -- both unedited footage and edited summaries -- can be found at the website of the Center for Medical Progress.

Author A. N. Wilson has a beautiful testimony of his "Road to Damascus" conversion to atheism 20 years ago and his "slow, hesitant, doubting" return to the Christian faith. The trigger for his return: The self-evident reality that mankind was created in the image of God.

Do materialists really think that language just "evolved", like finches' beaks, or have they simply never thought about the matter rationally? Where's the evidence? How could it come about that human beings all agreed that particular grunts carried particular connotations? How could it have come about that groups of anthropoid apes developed the amazing morphological complexity of a single sentence, let alone the whole grammatical mystery which has engaged Chomsky and others in our lifetime and linguists for time out of mind? No, the existence of language is one of the many phenomena - of which love and music are the two strongest - which suggest that human beings are very much more than collections of meat. They convince me that we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true. As a working blueprint for life, as a template against which to measure experience, it fits....

I haven't mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler's neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer's book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer's serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.

My departure from the Faith was like a conversion on the road to Damascus. My return was slow, hesitant, doubting. So it will always be; but I know I shall never make the same mistake again. Gilbert Ryle, with donnish absurdity, called God "a category mistake". Yet the real category mistake made by atheists is not about God, but about human beings. Turn to the Table Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge - "Read the first chapter of Genesis without prejudice and you will be convinced at once . . . 'The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life'." And then Coleridge adds: "'And man became a living soul.' Materialism will never explain those last words."

I've often though that there are two propositions in Scripture that are self-evident to the honest observer: That man was created in the image of God, and that man is fallen, totally depraved.

Consider a highway. Not long ago I drove the Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West. The highway was built in the late 1930s to replace Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway, which was destroyed by the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. Several sections, including the Seven-Mile Bridge, have been replaced more recently. Each new bridge is built with more durable materials and techniques than the bridge it replaces.

Beavers build dams, ants build hills, bees build hives, but their designs haven't advanced in all the years of recorded history. No species other than man builds new things that build upon the successes and failures of others, new designs that incorporate the designs of others in creative ways. We are creators, reflecting the image of our Creator.

It seems like every day another study emerges that reaffirms the wisdom of traditional moral restraints.

An article on the blog of the Institute for Family Studies, Slow But Sure: Does the Timing of Sex During Dating Matter?, reviews two scholarly studies of the timing of a couple's first sexual involvement and their long-term happiness.

My colleagues and I published the first study a few years ago in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Family Psychology. This study involved a national sample of 2,035 married individuals who participated in the popular online couple assessment survey called "RELATE." We found that the longer a dating couple waits to have sex, the better their relationship is after marriage. In fact, couples who wait until marriage to have sex report higher relationship satisfaction (20% higher), better communication patterns (12% better), less consideration of divorce (22% lower), and better sexual quality (15% better) than those who started having sex early in their dating (see Figure 2). For couples in between--those that became sexually involved later in their dating, but prior to marriage--the benefits were about half as strong....

The second study confirmed the finding and delved into the reasons.

They discovered that the negative association between sexual timing and relationship quality is largely driven by a link between early sex and cohabitation. Specifically, sexual involvement early in a romantic relationship is associated with an increased likelihood of moving more quickly into living together, which in turn is associated with lower relationship quality. This finding supports Norval Glenn's hypothesis that sexual involvement may lead to unhealthy emotional entanglements that make ending a bad relationship difficult. As Sassler and her colleagues concluded, "Adequate time is required for romantic relationships to develop in a healthy way. In contrast, relationships that move too quickly, without adequate discussion of the goals and long-term desires of each partner, may be insufficiently committed and therefore result in relationship distress, especially if one partner is more committed than the other" (p. 710).

The author of the article, Jason S. Carroll, says that evidence points to two reasons why couples benefit from waiting: "Intentional partner selection" -- your judgment about the suitability of someone as a spouse isn't clouded by physical entanglement -- and "sexual symbolism" -- emotional intimacy is given time to develop first, and sexual intimacy becomes a symbol of emotional intimacy.

For many young adults, the single life has become synonymous with hook-ups and sexual experimentation. The problem with these patterns is that proper partner selection is often difficult for sexually involved couples who experience strong physical rewards with each other, as these rewards can cause them to ignore or minimize deeper incompatibilities in the relationship. The human brain and body do not just experience pleasure during sex; they also experience strong sensations of attachment and bonding. Simply put, we are hardwired to connect. Rapid sexual initiation often creates poor partner selection because intense feelings of pleasure and attachment can be confused for true intimacy and lasting love. Early sex creates a sort of counterfeit intimacy that makes two people think they are closer to each other than they really are. This can cause people to "fall in love" with, and possibly even marry, someone who is not a good choice for them in the long run....

Emotional intimacy exists in a relationship when two people experience a sense of security, support, trust, comfort, and safety with one another. In dating, focusing on emotional intimacy is a process of coming to know each other from the inside-out, not just the outside in. Sexual restraint allows couples to focus on and evaluate the emotional aspects of their relationship....

...Ultimately, loving and lasting marriages are ones where the sexual intimacy is a meaningful physical symbol of the emotional intimacy shared between the spouses. Without this, sex is just physical and lacks the meaning needed to be truly satisfying over the long term. In dating, couples who hope to marry should focus on developing a foundation of friendship and communication that will serve as the ongoing foundation for sexual intimacy in their marriage. By practicing sexual restraint, couples allow themselves to focus on a true foundation of intimacy: acceptance, understanding, partnership, and love.

As many conservatives attempted to explain to their libertarian-leaning friends, the push for "gay marriage" was never about liberty; it's about coercion -- forcing Americans, under penalty of law, to treat same-sex pseudogamy as the equivalent of natural marriage.

Five black-robed tyrants have imposed their religious views of human sexuality on the nation, but the implications of their ukase are only beginning to be worked out. Individuals and institutions who hold to the natural, scientific understanding of human sexuality and the family, the understanding that was universal among civilized societies for thousands of years, and who seek to continue to give special honor and consideration to natural marriage, will find themselves under attack by the agents of the Sexual Revolution, who will seek to use the power of the State to compel dissenters to conform to their totalitarian worldview.

Think that paragraph is over-the-top? Let me remind you of the answer Donald Verrilli, Solicitor General in the Obama Administration, gave to a question from Justice Samuel Alito:

Justice Samuel Alito asked Verrilli whether a religious school that believed marriage was the union of husband and wife would lose their non-profit tax status.

The solicitor general answered: "It's certainly going to be an issue. I don't deny that. I don't deny that, Justice Alito. It is it is going to be an issue."

Already it would appear that some Christian colleges are caving to the pressure. But I'm happy to report that that isn't the case up US 75 in Bartlesville.

Last weekend, Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, posted an insightful and forthright statement on the matter:

I was just asked by my senator to provide a statement on OKWU's position of providing married housing for "married LGBTQ students."

Here's what I said:

At Oklahoma Wesleyan the issue of married housing is irrelevant.

All OKWU students, regardless of where they live, sign a contract as a condition of their enrollment to live in full compliance with all OKWU behavioral codes and expectations. All students, thereby, agree to abstain from any unbiblical sexual behavior which would clearly include sodomy and any other homosexual acts. A "LGBTQ couple who marries" would be, by definition, out of compliance with their signed behavioral agreement and would, therefore, be in breach of contract and subject to the corresponding consequences as outlined in the Student Handbook.

I would like to add that OKWU does not and will not accept the government's premise of one's sexual inclinations somehow equalling one's sexual identity. There are many things a human being may be inclined to do that he/she should choose not to do. We are created in God's image and, thus, have volitional free will and corresponding moral culpability. Men and women are much more than the sum total of what they are inclined to do. One's personhood is much, much more than one's proclivities. Moral discussions and dictates (sexual and otherwise) have always assumed we can and should rise above our instincts and appetites. At OKWU we refuse labels like "LGBTQ" and consider them to be an ontological insult to the very understanding of what it means to be human.

Pay attention to that last paragraph. The stormtroopers of the Sexual Revolution insist that one's sexual appetites constitute the core of one's being. Dr. Piper expresses the understanding that was once common to all civilized societies. Appetites can be indulged or restrained, as an act of the will. Appetites can and should be cultivated, trained toward the good. His last sentence gets to the heart of the issue: This dispute is about the very nature of being, and its implications go far beyond this specific issue.

Note, too, his phrase "the government's premise." The Supreme Court has made a radical, unscientific notion of human nature the official doctrine of the United States. Adherents of that false doctrine have shown themselves to be very zealous and inclined toward using all power at their disposal to suppress the truth. We need to pray for and stand with courageous leaders like Dr. Piper who will speak and act on the truth despite the pressure to surrender.

MORE: Also during oral arguments in the Obergefell case, Chief Justice John Roberts asked Solicitor General Verrilli specifically about the issue of married student housing. Al Mohler reported and commented on the exchange:

The second exchange was between Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Solicitor General Verrilli, also arguing for same-sex marriage. The Chief Justice asked: "Would a religious school that has married housing be required to afford such housing to same-sex couples?"

The Solicitor General did not say no. Instead, he said that the federal government, at present, does not have a law banning discrimination in such matters on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As for the states, "that is going to depend on how the States work out the balance between their civil rights laws, whether they decide there's going to be civil rights enforcement of discrimination based on sexual orientation or not, and how they decide what kinds of accommodations they are going to allow under State law." He went on to say that "different states could strike different balances."

Make no mistake. The Solicitor General of the United States just announced that the rights of a religious school to operate on the basis of its own religious faith will survive only as an "accommodation" on a state by state basis, and only until the federal government passes its own legislation, with whatever "accommodation" might be included in that law. Note also that the President he represented in court has called for the very legislation Verrilli said does not exist ... for now.

Verrilli's answer puts the nation's religious institutions, including Christian colleges, schools, and seminaries, on notice. The Chief Justice asked the unavoidable question when he asked specifically about campus housing. If a school cannot define its housing policies on the basis of its religious beliefs, then it is denied the ability to operate on the basis of those beliefs. The "big three" issues for religious schools are the freedoms to maintain admission, hiring, and student services on the basis of religious conviction. By asking about student housing, the Chief Justice asked one of the most practical questions involved in student services. The same principles would apply to the admission of students and the hiring of faculty. All three are now directly threatened. The Solicitor General admitted that these liberties will be "accommodated" or not depending on how states define their laws. And the laws of the states would lose relevance the moment the federal government adopts its own law.

While that answer may give some hope that institutions would be protected in conservative states and by a Republican-majority Congress prepared to block such legislation, we've seen here in Tulsa how faux conservatives like Dewey Bartlett Jr and G. T. Bynum and openly liberal Republicans like Blake Ewing are quite willing to impose such laws on their conservative constituents, and how quick alleged conservatives like Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson were to cave to pressure from big businesses to drop religious liberty protections. Even if such legislation is blocked, you can expect that someone would file a federal suit claiming unjust discrimination and citing Obergefell as a precedent.

In that same column, Mohler describes warnings first sounded ten years ago about the conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty by Marc Stern, then of the American Jewish Congress, and George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley:

Back in 2005, long before the movement to legalize same-sex marriage had gained cultural momentum, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty held a forum on the question of gay marriage and religious freedom. The forum included major legal theorists on both sides of the marriage issue. What united most of the legal experts was the consensus that same-sex marriage would present a clear and present danger to the rights of those who would oppose gay marriage on religious grounds.

Marc D. Stern, then representing the American Jewish Congress, put the matter directly:

"The legalization of same-sex marriage would represent the triumph of an egalitarian-based ethic over a faith-based one, and not just legally. The remaining question is whether champions of tolerance are prepared to tolerate proponents of a different ethical vision. I think the answer will be no."

That was a prophetic statement, as we can now see. Stern continued:

"Within certain defined areas, opponents of gay rights will be unaffected by an embrace of same-sex marriage. But in others, the impact will be substantial. I am not optimistic that, under current law, much can be done to ameliorate the impact on religious dissenters."....

The crippling effects of a loss of tax-exempt status was acknowledged at the Becket Fund event by Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School. "The debate over same-sex marriage," he explained, "has become for the twenty-first century what the abortion debate was for the twentieth century: a single, defining issue that divides the country in a zero-sum political battle."

Consider his words:

"Many organizations attract members with their commitment to certain fundamental matters of faith or morals, including a rejection of same-sex marriage or homosexuality. It is rather artificial to tell such groups that they can condemn homosexuality as long as they are willing to hire homosexuals as a part of that mission. It is equally disingenuous to suggest that denial of such things as tax exemption does not constitute a content-based punishment for religious views."

The Center for Medical Progress has begun releasing video and documents from its two-and-a-half-year investigation of Planned Parenthood and the sale of body parts from aborted babies.

The first undercover video released is of a lunch meeting with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. While enjoying a glass of wine and a salad, she casually discusses the care taken in dismembering a baby so that the desired parts can be harvested, using ultrasound to decide which parts to crush. Nucatola describes changing the "presentation" of a baby to breech position to make it easier to extract the baby's head -- "calvarium" as she euphemistically calls it. What she describes is essentially the same techniques used in illegal partial-birth abortion. The sale of fetal tissue is also a violation of Federal law.

As expected, pro-abortion ghouls claim that the video has been misleadingly edited, so CMP has released unedited footage -- the full 2 hour, 42 minute, 22 second lunch meeting. You can read the transcript of the unedited footage here.

On the documents page, CMP presents original source material -- orders and fulfillment for fetal body parts, ads enticing abortion clinics to enter into "financially profitable" partnerships with companies that are seeking the organs of aborted babies, help-wanted ads and bonus payments for body-part harvesters.

Commenting on the news, columnist Matt Walsh points out that Planned Parenthood's harvesting and transfer of organs undermines a common pro-abortion talking point: "It's only a clump of cells!"

The fact that body parts are being "donated" clearly indicates that the child has a body with parts. It is not a blob nor a lump nor a ball nor a clump. It's a body. With organs. And limbs. A body. A body that is living. A body belonging to a member of the human species. A body that must be caused to stop living through a method that is commonly referred to as "killing."

Writing at RedState, Leon Wolf draws some conclusions about the fact that this practice is occurring and that so many Americans will defend it:

For decades, our elected officials and political leaders have indulged the polite fancy that conservatives and liberals both have similar, good-natured wishes for America at heart, with but honest, good-faith disagreements about the best policy means to achieve those shared ends.

It's time for that happy horsecrap to end....

And here is the problem - a pretty significant part of the country is essentially okay that this is happening. How do I know this? Because a sufficient mass of people in America sent back to office essentially the same cabal of Congresscritters who couldn't vote to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011, and furthermore re-elected the President in 2012 who campaigned in their favor. Get it? Forget taking actual legal action against Planned Parenthood, we (as in, the people who vote in elections in America), cannot even muster the will to elect politicians who will stop our tax dollars from going towards it.

What do people possessed of basic human decency have in common, politically or culturally, with the portion of America that can watch this video and either be actually glad about what it contains, or dismiss it with a shrug of the shoulders and a hearty "meh"?

Nothing at all, and it's time we stopped pretending otherwise.

Wolf closes with an excerpt from Richard Selzer's Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery about the lingering horror of encountering the remains of aborted babies on a city sidewalk, the result of a mishap in the disposal of "hazardous waste" from a hospital.


Douglas Wilson says the pro-life public needs to join in the pursuit of this story, turning up the heat on companies and non-profits who donate to Planned Parenthood and politicians who work to direct taxpayer dollars to them:

When Congress reconvenes this fall, we will no doubt have a pitched battle over federal funding for Planned Parenthood. This is as it should be, and a lot of money for PP is at stake. Compared to a military campaign, that battle will be the equivalent of besieging the capital city. But like a capital city, the walls there are thick and well-reinforced. Because we are ostensibly a democracy, that fortress is configured to look like it is open to your input. But for the most part, whenever an uproar starts, they are prepared to withstand it. They do withstand most of them. Most "marches on Washington" end, everybody goes home, and the Beltway Natives go back to being themselves. But sometimes real changes do happen. We want this to be one of those times.

So the principal of pursuit needs to be observed before the ultimate political battle is joined. Between now and then, we need to go after certain designated soft targets that are directly related to all this. Does your corporation give money to Planned Parenthood? In the light of these videos, you are certainly in a position to ask why. So why not ask why?

The moment is right, and the momentum is good. Nobody wants to defend what is going on in those videos. Look at the candidates for the Democratic nomination -- that's a crew that is willing to defend truckloads of indefensible things, and on this subject all of them have their heads down to study patterns in the carpet. And so the question must constantly be posed - do you want to support what is going on in those videos? The only possible answers are, "no, we should quit supporting them," or "yes, we should support them." But nobody wants to say "yes, we should support them." So ask the hard questions that require one response or the other....

A profile of David Daleiden, the young man who headed the 30-month investigation into Planned Parenthood and the marketing of organs from aborted babies:

"It is a paradox that we can't have laws that recognize unborn babies as human, and yet, it is their very humanness that makes them valuable for experimentation," Daleiden said in an interview last week with the Register.

"It is as if they [the biotech companies] are going on a treasure hunt for the heads or hearts of babies, but how much more valuable would those heads and hearts be if they were allowed to grow up and be a part of society?"...

It was while majoring in government at Claremont McKenna College in California that Daleiden received his first hint that the abortion industry was selling parts from aborted babies.

"I was working as a research assistant and attended a stem-cell conference as part of my job," he said. "The presenter mentioned using cells from an aborted baby for research. That got my attention. I thought, 'Wait a minute -- what?'"

Although he had been active in the pro-life movement since high school, before that moment, he had not thought about aborted babies being used in research.

That thought stayed with him. He continued his pro-life work, which included working as a citizen journalist investigating the abortion industry, and became the director of research for Live Action in 2008.

In 2013, at the age of 24, he founded the Center for Medical Progress to investigate in-depth bioethical issues. "Human Capital" is its first project....

According to Daleiden, although the biotech company incurs all the work and expenses involved in procuring the body parts, Planned Parenthood still charges a "specimen fee" for each one.

"Our investigators spent almost three years deeply imbedded with Planned Parenthood and their affiliates," Daleiden said. "And we heard from their own mouths, over and over, again and again, that they make money off of selling the parts of aborted babies and have a profit motive in doing so."

"Turning aborted babies into a revenue stream is an inhuman exploitation of the not fully dead," Daleiden said.

"They are saying that some unborn babies are more valuable dead than alive. It's a terrible, barbaric place for a democratic society to go."

In recent years, social media has facilitated the rapid spread of outrage. A few representative cases:

In nearly every instance, a difference of opinion within a community becomes a topic of conversation for outsiders, who amplify the issue, creating a "shame storm" that pressures the community's leaders, unaccustomed to worldwide scrutiny, into acting precipitously. In some cases, the outrage has its origins entirely outside the community.

For example, the Deborah Brown School hair code case: The affected student was upset, because the code forbade wearing dreads. The parents backed the student rather than the school and called a local TV news, which was happy to have a juicy controversy to broadcast. The local news story was shared through social media, where posters vented, characterizing the African-American leadership of the school as a bunch of self-hating racists, insisting that the school's rules were unreasonable, and demanding that they be changed at once. Perhaps under pressure from donors or from the sponsoring university, the charter school caved and changed its rules.

Bloomberg columnist Megan McArdle wrote recently about the "shame storm" phenomenon:

Twitter makes it absurdly easy to shame someone. You barely have to take 30 seconds out of your day to make an outraged comment that will please your friends and hurt the person you've targeted. This means it is also absurdly easy to attack someone unfairly, without pausing to think about context -- or the effect you are having on another human being much like yourself. No matter what that person did, short of war crimes, you probably would not join a circle of thousands of people heaping abuse upon a lone target cowering in the center. But that is the real-world equivalent of what online shame-stormers do.

This sort of tactic may buy silence, though it is likely to be the most effective on people who already agree with you and simply said something infelicitous. What it cannot buy is community, beyond the bonds that build between people who are joined in collective hate. With the exception of Lehrer -- who clearly realized he'd done something wrong without needing to be told -- the people whom Ronson interviews do not think that they were the victims of perhaps excessively harsh justice; they think they were victims of abuse. They often recognize that they did something stupid, but they don't think they deserved to be fired after having their lives dissected and their character impugned by thousands of people who had never even met them.

Writing at The Federalist, Mark Fitch advises that the Internet amplifies the apparent size of the community of the outraged and that those claiming to be offended often are pretending -- what they really feel is a lust for power:

It is often quite easy to feel that you are greatly outnumbered and that the entire world is against you, particularly if you have the gall to air your beliefs in the public realm (or be caught in it, in this situation). Social media can seemingly explode with anger at your mention of a political or cultural position that goes against whatever the Video Music Awards are advocating this year. You are beset by Legion.

But are you, really? Two thousand people is a drop in the bucket of the overall population, but when they all turn and look at you it can feel overwhelming. While outrage is nothing new in cultural or political fights, the Internet's ability to allow individuals to reach people they have never met or places they have never been perpetrates an illusion. Memories Pizza was deluged with one-star ratings by people who had never been to the establishment or sampled its pizza.

It was recently revealed that nearly 70 percent of the criticism lobbed at Rush Limbaugh (which is ample) comes from a small group of activists that have devoted their lives to attempting to make his miserable. However, to view coverage of Limbaugh in television and Internet media, you would think that the entire country is listening and vastly offended at everything he says. You would see and hear what appear to be great swaths of civilization amassing against this radio host. But this is an illusion born of spirit, not of substance, and it is meant to influence the spirit of others. It is necessary to separate the corporeal reality from the illusory zeitgeist.

Few people have time to be so incensed, and those that do should not drive culture. Their offense is an illusion. Their feelings may matter to them, but need not drive discussions and certainly shouldn't attain such grandiose proportions. Ideas can be debated and talked through, and individuals who maintain a decorum of objective detachment can often find common ground. But fight with a spirit, with irrational rage, and there is no way to find commonality.

The anonymity of the Internet allows this illusion to truly reach its greatest power as a single individual can assume any number of Internet personas that can spew any amount of nonsense and vitriol with no accountability or personal reflection whatsoever. The pseudo-anger and the Internet's ability to instantaneously connect users can often give the impression of widespread outrage, when really hardly anyone has noticed.

We should treat the purveyors of social media outrage as the tantrum-throwing toddlers whose tactics they have adopted. The more they fuss, the longer it will be before their demands are considered (if ever).

Businesses and other organizations should proactively put in place policies that require an inviolable cooling-off period prior to action taken in response to public outcry. Leaders of organizations caught in the crosshairs of a social media frenzy need to insist calmly that any changes will be handled through the organization's normal processes, after the mandatory cooling-off period -- no sooner than 30 days after the frenzy has died down, which should be long enough that the mob gets distracted by the next outrage du jour and the organization can consider the matter carefully.

The organization should then calmly examine the consider the issue in terms of general principle. Is there a consistent principle or rule behind the demanded action? If we apply that rule consistently, what other actions would be required and what precedents would be set? If we take all those consistent actions, is the result really desirable, or should the rule be modified?

During the Brady Street / Brady District controversy, I suggested that the city appoint a commission to look at the history behind all of Tulsa's names, decide on criteria that make a name unacceptable, propose substitutes for unacceptable names (preserving, I hope, Tulsa's orderly street-naming and numbering system), and propose a means for covering the cost of renaming. The public would adopt or reject the renaming and its attendant costs by an up-or-down vote. I went through a catalog of names that, by the standards applied to Brady Street, would have to be changed.

Of course, the mob will resist any effort to generalize or take a deliberative approach to the outrage du jour. They are practicing Rule 13 of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals:

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and 'frozen.'...any target can always say, 'Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?' When your 'freeze the target,' you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments....

Local news editors can help dampen the effect of the mob by declining to "doorstep" the targets of these frenzies, pressuring them for a response. They should put themselves in the shoes of the business and organization leaders that have been targeted by the mob. Someday they may be targeted; wouldn't they want to be given space to respond after due deliberation?

One more thing: Most people who fly the Confederate flag nowadays do not do so to express hate. When the Confederate flag was painted on a car named "the General Lee" for a TV series it was not intended to express hatred toward anyone, but pride in Southern accents, Southern cooking, Southern folkways, and Southern hospitality. That an online mob can so quickly cow politicians and corporations into bowing to their will, based on the meaning they impose on this symbol, is a frightening thing, not a great day for America.

Who gets to decide what a symbol should mean? The Nazis used the Star of David as a symbol of shame and persecution. The Israelis took that star and fly it proudly on their national flag. The enemies of Israel consider that flag and that star to be symbols of racism and oppression. If the enemies of Israel demand the suppression of the Israeli flag and star, should retailers cooperate?

Happy Independence Day!

Take 10 minutes to listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence, from the Monticello website, read by Thomas Jefferson Williamsburg re-enactor Bill Barker. has an annotated version of the Declaration of Independence, with links to explanations of the the specific historical context behind the text.

As today's 239th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence approached, I observed some ambivalence about the usual celebrations among conservative writers. In the last month, we have seen the rule of law turned on its head, with the judicial branch rewriting Obamacare to save it and inventing a new right while discarding precedent after precedent the legal basis upon which substantive due process claims were considered in the past. Like the Red Queen of Wonderland, the Court majority screamed "Sentence first, verdict after!" Having determined the desired outcome, they invented a tortured legal path to their destination. The ability of the people to decide their own laws was swept away. The people seem to have no recourse, no defense against this supra-legislature, this Washington oligarchy which not only fails to defend their rights but attacks them.

We may take a bit of comfort in the fact that this victory was achieved by deceiving the American people: Had the President been honest about his desire to redefine marriage, he would not have been nominated in 2008, much less elected, and would not have been in a position to advance to the Supreme Court lawyers who lied, under oath, about their opinions on the topic.

But there was deception on the other side, too. Americans kept electing Republicans who talked big about defending our liberties and reforming our runaway Federal government, but time and again they have demonstrated what might be generously called a lack of courage but what we fear is really intentional betrayal.

From Thomas Sowell:

When any branch of government can exercise powers not authorized by either statutes or the Constitution, "we the people" are no longer free citizens but subjects, and our "public servants" are really our public masters. And America is no longer America. The freedom for which whole generations of Americans have fought and died is gradually but increasingly being taken away from us with smooth and slippery words.

From law professor John Yoo:

Obergefell short-circuits the political process. Instead of campaigning to persuade majorities in each of the 50 states, as it had done in some states, gay-marriage advocates only had to convince five justices to impose a single rule on the nation. While many may welcome Obergefell's result, its method takes a fundamental question away from the realm of democratic self-government and transfers it into the hands of five men and women who never stand for election and hold their jobs for life....

But instead of allowing the political process to run its normal course, the Supreme Court decided to rewrite Obamacare. On behalf of a six-justice majority, Roberts concluded that Congress could not possibly have intended such a draconian limit on tax credits. It must have meant to give the subsidy to everyone, because that would have made for a more effective overhaul of the health-care system. In other words, the court ignored the plain text of the law passed by Congress to write a better one. The justices may have better legal talents than the average legislator, but our Constitution does not give them the responsibility to make the compromises and judgments reserved to the legislative process.

Sadly, Roberts penned the central dissent in Obergefell on the ground that the majority was rewriting the Constitution. "Under the Constitution," he wrote, "judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be." But if he wonders where his colleagues got the idea to assume the power of a supra-legislature, he need only look at his own opinion in King v. Burwell. This fault, however, is not his own, or in our stars, but is common to a court that is slowly, but surely, taking away the right of our democracy to govern itself.

Even at the local level we see elected officials, the Fairfax County, Va., school board, in this case, acting like an oligarchy, insisting upon using the public schools to indoctrinate children in the mores of the Sexual Revolution, over the protests of the public that put them into office.


Should we celebrate this 4th of July?

Luma Simms, who immigrated from Iraq as a child, says she's celebrating the 4th differently this year:

After the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision, I've been ruminating over my naturalized home and wondering if there's a way to give my children a better life, the way my parents assumed that coming to America would give me a better life. The morality of Obergefell is one issue. But beneath all that, what has deeply concerned me is the stark lawlessness of it all....

The fourth of July celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was never just an excuse for a backyard barbecue for me. It was a day I observed with deep gratitude and a certain amount of solemnity. It was a celebration of what our predecessors in this land had done, the course they had set us on and the paths they had opened for us.

The Declaration of Independence says some truths are self-evident. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court say that we make up our own truths....

The Declaration of Independence says we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court overlook the real and true rights human beings possess and say that man gives man rights--worse, that they as the high court of this country are the ones which posit what is a right and what is not, as their reality changes faster than any written law they might be called upon to interpret....

The Declaration of Independence says that among the rights our Creator God gives us are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Five justices of the Supreme Court of these United States have said and continue to say that life is not a universal right. That women can end the life of a child in their wombs. They have upheld and continue to hold to decisions that undermine the life of the weak, the poor, and the outcast. They say: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life," yet they deny those being killed the right to even suggest they might have a concept of existence that includes themselves. In short, these five reduce the "pursuit of Happiness" to access to sex without boundaries.

The Declaration of Independence says government derives just power from the consent of the governed. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have trod upon the people's voice and have usurped power for themselves.

So, as I read the Declaration this year, I boldly affirm its words. There has indeed been "a long train of abuses and usurpations" by this court. They have undermined and invalidated the legal and ethical foundations our Founders went to war to win for us, their posterity. And this makes my celebration this year more a focus on the inspired spirit of man that would stand and recite to the world not only the litany of injustices that its "leaders" exercise upon the people daily, but the logical conclusion of these injustices: that the people could suffer them no longer.

The blogger called "Weirddave," who has been writing a series on fundamental concepts at Ace of Spades HQ, acknowledges the problem:

There is really no argument about it, the fundamental principles upon which this nation was formed have been eroded or eclipsed to the point where the greatest Democratic Republic in history, a model for the world and a beacon for freedom, is now nothing more than another damned dirty Oligarchy, impoverished peons subservient to a greedy ruling class. In short, we've reverted to the norm. American exceptionalism is dead because America isn't exceptional anymore, we're just like all the rest of the countries in the world, just like all the rest of the countries throughout history. We are no longer sovereign citizens, we're are subjects of a ruling elite.

...The Fourth of July holiday celebrates the Declaration of Independence, the document where America declared it's freedom and boldly stated it's grievances against an out of touch ruling elite. We'll have fireworks, fellowship, celebration, and community. Flags will be raised, rockets shot, anthems sung and BBQ eaten. It's all one great big orgy of Americana, and although most people aren't even aware of it, they are celebrating a dead letter, an antiquated concept, an ideal that has been killed by an unelected cadre of black robed tyrants, cowardly legislators more interested in power than oaths and an executive drunk on the power to destroy everything that he is honor bound to safeguard. It's Independence Day! Time to celebrate our independence from the values that made us great! Who cares? It sure feels good, don't it?

You don't buy the idea that America is ruled by an oligarchy alienated from its people? How else would you describe a situation where five robed judges dismiss the opinion of the majority of the public, an opinion shared by nearly every age and society, as grounded in irrational animus, and use that contempt as a basis for invalidating laws passed by Congress and a majority of the states.

The writer calls on Americans to remember their birthright, as set out in the Declaration of Independence, and he urges his readers to Read the Whole Thing. After reprinting the text of the Declaration, he continues:

That document was written 239 years ago by an assembly of the brightest human minds ever joined for one purpose in the history of mankind. Those men accepted the challenge presented by an uncontrolled aristocracy seeking to rule over all people, as had been the case throughout history, and calmly and clearly destroyed the idea of an oligarchy. What a brilliant victory for mankind, for liberty, for freedom for self expression.

Unfortunately you and I are living in the era of Revolution 2: The Oligarchy Strikes Back. Make no mistake, the oligarchy has struck back, hard. Most of the freedoms guaranteed to We The People by the follow up document to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, have been abandoned or overturned.... A small cadre of elites, both elected and unelected, has managed to almost completely gut the rights that we are born with. They have succeeded because we have been too busy to notice, or too lazy, or too afraid. The majority of us, Nock's "Mass Man" (what we call LIVs today), have been complicit in their own enslavement. All of this has already come to pass. It is done. Over. Finished.

He urges us to reread the catalog of tyrannies, the facts the Founders "submitted to a candid world" and to note how many apply to us today.Then he challenges us with the memory of the Founders and those who followed in the defense of liberty:

We stand metaphorically on a dusty battlefield of American history. Around us lie the tattered remains of various flags that other Americans have held high as they did their bit to establish or preserve the birthright; Gadsden. Goliad. Gonzalez. Culpeper. 1st Naval Jack. Appeal to Heaven. Behind us the dark eyes of those who came before us watch, in each eye a silent question burns: "What are you made of?". The time has come. We must answer that question with our Lives, our Fortune and our sacred Honor.

A reader asked columnist Matt Walsh to write something upbeat for Independence Day, something to remind everyone that America is still great. Walsh demurred:

I could write patronizing, pandering nonsense telling you everything is fine, this country is awesome, and the future will be bright and filled with lollipops and puppy dog farts. But what good would it do, besides win me some PR points? If you want hope, it needs to be planted firmly in truth, or else it's like administering morphine while you die of kidney failure. It'll make you feel better for a time, but it won't save you....

Walsh cites a long list of indicators of cultural decline and argues against any claim to national greatness based on the past or any hope for future greatness based on a vain belief in national destiny:

But it's a matter of historical record that America was a great country, and an exceptional one. And it's also a fact that the historical record is just that -- history. We have to stop resting on the laurels of our great-grandparents and pretending that somehow, because they came off the boat from wherever and persevered through the Depression, we get to mooch off their greatness for eternity. Frankly, our great-grandparents would be disgusted at our country now, and ashamed of it, and of us. Their greatness was their own. We don't deserve it and have not earned it....

Yesterday someone on Twitter told me that America will "always" be great, no matter what happens or what we do. Others have insisted it's divine destiny that America reclaim its greatness. But this kind of talk isn't patriotic; it's paganism. It paints this country like it's literally the Kingdom of God. As if, out of all the thousands of countries that have existed since the dawn of time, ours is the first that really will last forever. This is to make Americanism into a religion. It's idolatry. It's foolishness, especially considering the Romans and the Greeks felt exactly the same way yet even they were evidently wrong.

We have no guarantees, nor should we seek them. The Lord, in His wisdom, might see fit to smite America from the Earth, like Sodom and Gomorrah. Can't say I'd blame Him. Or maybe He will lead us through this dark age to true greatness. I don't know.

(Looking at the history of the 20th century, it's as if we suddenly decided, sometime after World War II, that civilization was nice and all, but it's hard work, so let's chuck it.)

We ought to celebrate Independence Day for the sake of honoring and being stirred to action by the memory of those who put everything at risk for the sake of liberty, while humbly and soberly acknowledging that we have fallen far short of preserving their legacy.

We ought to celebrate Independence Day, because the Declaration of Independence represents ideals worth celebrating, ideals that are opposed by the architects of our national decline.

A writer at Vox posted yesterday that we should regard American independence as a tragic mistake. The post was riddled with historical inaccuracies, but the gist of it was that this whole checks-and-balances thing gets in the way of Progress like restrictions on fossil fuels.

Yesterday, a friend who works in Christian campus ministry posted an approving link to a Native American activist who blogged about how he made a stink about a chain restaurant's display of the Declaration of Independence. He made a stink because the Declaration includes the words "Merciless Indian Savages," which he claims means that the "foundations of the United States of America are blatantly unjust."

When our server, who was also Native, came to the table, I asked if I could show him something. I stood up and pointed out that 30 lines below the famous quote "All men are created equal," the Declaration of Independence refers to Natives as "merciless Indian savages."

The irony was that the restaurant was filled with Native American customers and employees. And there in plain sight, a poster hanging on the wall was literally calling all of us "savages."

That's literally untrue, and it's telling that he chooses not to quote the entire sentence containing that phrase:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

It is the last item in the Declaration's list of grievances against King George III, and from "has endeavoured" to the end of the sentence, the words are straight out of Thomas Jefferson's "rough draught."

George III had, through his agents in America, stirred up rebellions among slaves and attacks against the colonists by certain Indian tribes. This was not out of any British love for slaves or Indians; these groups were convenient proxies to harass the colonists. This statement is an indictment aimed at George III, not Indians. (Ignore the commas, which were not applied in 1776 with the same rules used today.) The phrase "merciless Indian savages" is qualified by the restrictive clause "whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."

This sentence tells us what the Continental Congress thought of the particular Indian nations who were incited by the British against the settlers; it says nothing about what the Congress thought of other Indian groups or about Indians generally. The same American founder who wrote the phrase in question wrote the following in his first State of the Union:

Among our Indian neighbors also a spirit of peace and friendship generally prevails, and I am happy to inform you that the continued efforts to introduce among them the implements and the practice of husbandry and of the household arts have not been without success; that they are becoming more and more sensible of the superiority of this dependence for clothing and subsistence over the precarious resources of hunting and fishing, and already we are able to announce that instead of that constant diminution of their numbers produced by their wars and their wants, some of them begin to experience an increase of population.

Those are not the words of a bigot or a racist.

And yet the activist in question stretches a specific phrase referring to specific people who had attacked innocent settlers so that he can conclude that the "Declaration of Independence is a systemically racist document" along with the rest of our founding documents, and therefore of course the whole system must be overthrown.

The institutions of this nation may be systemically racist, but I do not believe a majority of the citizens are. However, in a nation that is systemically racist, anti-racism is less about personal racist attitudes and more about a willingness to change the system.

(He also misreads the apportionment clause of the Constitution to bolster his case. But Indians weren't counted toward apportionment not because they weren't seen as human, as he claims, but because they were citizens of other sovereign nations and therefore not taxed. And he claims that American settlers, including the Protestant dissenters who settled Plymouth Colony, were really carrying out a 15th century papal bull to subjugate the pagans.)

It is sad that a manipulative misreader of American history with a radical political agenda can gain a hearing among goodhearted people like my friend. Does this also indicate a problem with modern American evangelicalism -- having internalized the Leftist guilt trip and anxious not to seem wedded to political conservativism for the sake of reaching Millenials, must they credulously accept whatever Leftist grievance-mongers claim?

The only antidote is for Americans to understand our history -- not the malevolent caricature concocted by the Left, but the original documents and context -- and to be unafraid to correct the misconceptions being promoted by professional ax-grinders.

In a similar context in 2007, Michael Medved wrote:

The notion that unique viciousness to Native Americans represents our "original sin" fails to put European contact with these struggling Stone Age societies in any context whatever, and only serves the purposes of those who want to foster inappropriate guilt, uncertainty and shame in young Americans.

One of the most urgent needs in culture and education for the United States of America is discarding the stupid, groundless and anti-American lies that characterize contemporary political correctness.

Rush Limbaugh, Jr., father of the radio talk show host, wrote an essay on the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, "The Americans Who Risked Everything":

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

It is reasonable to be disappointed in the direction of our national culture, but we should rekindle the Spirit of '76 in our own hearts. We should reacquaint ourselves with the words of the Declaration of Independence and the brave men who signed their names to it, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, and we should resolve to be as bold in the defense of our liberties as they were.

Over at The Federalist (which is rapidly becoming my favorite site for news and opinion), Peter Burfeind has written an essay that explains the philosophical roots of the sexual revolution in this country, as part of a larger rebellion against nature and reality -- an ancient rebellion known as Gnosticism: "Gnostic Mysticism Grounds Modern Progressive Ideology." I want you to read the whole thing, but I need to quote a few points to pique your interest.

Marriage institutionalizes the reproductive system in the same way a restaurant or dinner table institutionalizes the digestive system. Again, cultural variances are granted, but the basic natural order of male sex organ depositing seed into female sex organ in order to propagate the species is simply what the reproductive organs and system are all about.

True, nature introduced attraction to the mix to draw male and female together, but, like tastes in food, the attraction fosters a greater biological purpose. Historically, societies have wrestled with the tension between the pure biological purpose and the element of attraction, in regards to both reproduction and digestion, but generally when the attraction becomes totally disconnected from the biological purpose, this has been seen as indulgence, gluttony, promiscuity, and immoderate behavior.

Such nature-based reasoning is downright offensive in a post-'60s world where sexuality has indeed been disconnected from its biological and natural purpose and rests in personal attraction alone. The spiritual pathology of this cultural revolution is exactly this revolution toward Gnostic paradigms of thinking, particularly its understanding of sexual love.....

Burfeind asks us to consider the absurdity of divorcing sexuality from biological reality with an illustration of the consequences of divorcing eating from biological reality:

Let's say I determined the biological "rules" of the digestive system were oppressive. Let's say I preferred to glory in the taste of food alone, but not its digestion, so that I vomited everything I ate. Let's say I got my nutrition intravenously, so that wasn't an issue.

Society currently calls this an "eating disorder," but isn't such thinking oppressively bound by the natural "rules" of the digestive system, the "rules" of our biology? ...

But what about biology? What about the digestive system and its clear biological purpose? Ahhh, this is where our Gnosticism comes in handy, because all nature-based or flesh-based "systems" are inherently unjust and oppressive, creating prison cells from which true redemption demands an escape. In a way, the vomiter is the truly liberated one, one of the few not oppressed by his biology....

Matching people against the standards set by biological realities has always been a trustworthy way of identifying disorders, and in the end it actually helped people. When that standard is removed as oppressive, people will be left to wallow in an understanding of humanity rooted not in nature but self-determination alone. Psychology categorized homosexuality a disorder until 1973 for a reason, because it was and remains a breach of the natural reproductive order.

Now that the Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage for all states, and the Rubicon of nature-rebellion has been completely crossed, what real authority remains to declare anything a disorder? As many conservative commentators have pointed out, what argument remains to say "body integrity identity disorder" is not simply the misnomer for transabled people who can only live out their "authentic" identity once they've cut off the limb they feel shouldn't exist?

Of course this is madness, but if madness is sacralized through a wave of pop-culture affirmation and nature is chased out with pitchfork, what real argument does society have to declare anything a disorder? We already allow a male who believes himself female to amputate his sex organ. Why not amputation of limbs?

Again, I urge you to read the whole thing, and you might find Burfeind's blog Gnostic America interesting.

Literary critic Harold Bloom's 1992 book, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation, looked at popular religious movements in America through the lens of his own Gnostic faith, and found Gnosticism expressed in Mormonism, Word-Faith Pentecostalism, and the Southern Baptist Convention. Regarding the SBC, Bloom was specifically referring to the "soul competency" doctrine that became prevalent under the early 20th century leadership of E. Y. Mullins, and not the recapture of the SBC in the 1980s by adherents of Biblical inerrancy:

For Bloom, who argues that Americans are prone to a Gnosticism through self-worship. Mullins is the pioneer of the Southern Baptist tradition taken up by moderates in the inerrancy controversy, "the definer of their creedless faith." According to Bloom, Mullins' doctrine of soul competency so focuses all meaning and truth in the autonomous individual-"sanctioning endless interpretive possibilities"-that all religious authority is vaporized, even the authority of Scripture.

Mullins has been portrayed as a bold progressivist seeking to bring enlightenment to Southern Baptists, but thwarted by insularity and conservative opposition; and as a calculating denominational politician, who changed his colors in order to save his seminary and his personal leadership....

The central thrust of E. Y. Mullins' theological legacy is his focus on individual experience. Whatever his intention, this massive methodological shift in theology set the stage for doctrinal ambiguity and theological minimalism. The compromise Mullins sought to forge in the 1920s was significantly altered by later generations, with personal experience inevitably gaining ground at the expense of revealed truth.

Once the autonomous individual is made the central authority in matters of theology-a move made necessary by Mullins' emphasis on religious experience-the authority of Scripture becomes secondary at best, regardless of what may be claimed in honor of Scripture's preeminence. Either personal experience will be submitted to revelation, or revelation will be submitted to personal experience. There is no escape from this theological dilemma, and every theologian must choose between these two methodological options. The full consequences of a shift in theological method may take generations to appear, but by the 1960s most Southern Baptists were aware of a growing theological divide within the denomination, and especially its seminaries.

In 1990, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was founded by dissenters from the conservative resurgence in the SBC. The CBF became a home for Baptist pastors, scholars, and leaders who embraced Mullins' emphasis on individual experience and elevated individual autonomy over doctrine. Although the CBF is miniscule compared to the SBC (roughly 1900 congregations to 46000; the CBF doesn't maintain membership counts), SBC pews are still full of congregants whose understanding of the Christian faith was shaped by the Mullins perspective, as expressed in the education materials produced by the SBC's Sunday School Board and in pastors educated in Baptist colleges and seminaries during the years of Mullinsite dominance.

The headline quote is from the Grauniad*, the left-wing British newspaper, from an editorial pooh-poohing concerns about the marginalization of Christians in the officially Christian United Kingdom.

Here's the context (emphasis added):

They claim then that it would violate their consciences to do or say certain things which society as a whole has determined are moral. This won't do. Conscience cannot provide "a get out of jail free" card, neither metaphorically nor, should it come to that, literally. We all have consciences but there is no guarantee they will lead us to the same conclusions. This fact is literally tragic, as the Greeks knew. Nonetheless, any society has to privilege some ethical viewpoint and some virtues.

In the west we privilege conflicting but broadly liberal values. We no longer privilege the authority of the Bible. So, once we have determined that discrimination against homosexuals violates the principle of equality - and that is the settled position in both law and public opinion now - the fact that some people are compelled by their consciences to disagree does not exempt them from behaving as if it were true. There cannot be a special exemption for mistaken beliefs held on religious grounds when these harm others.

The Christian Institute, an organization that defends the rights of British Christians to live out their faith in an officially Christian nation, responded to the Grauniad:

Institute spokesman Simon Calvert said: "Most UK Christians do not need The Guardian to remind them that their own marginalisation should not be put on a par with the persecution of believers overseas."

"But this does not mean that highlighting such marginalisation is 'hysterical'. Why are Christians the only people the Guardian thinks should keep quiet when they are mistreated?

"The editorial seems to equate 'civilised society' to 'endorsing homosexual relationships'. In so doing it seeks to devalue centuries of orthodox Christian thinking and entirely ignore the fact that Christianity has made arguably the biggest single contribution to the civilised society our country has enjoyed for hundreds of years.

"More than that, they ignore the fact that the principle of religious liberty, Christians being able to live out their faith in the public square, is vital for a truly civilised society....

"After years of being told that Christian morality should not be allowed to have any influence on the law, Christians might be surprised to see The Guardian now admitting that 'any society has to privilege some ethical viewpoint and some virtues'. Clearly, they mean their own secularist viewpoint, not the Christian one, which they assert is 'mistaken'."

So much for pluralism. The Left was all about toleration and pluralism during the Gramscian march through the institutions. Having been tolerated and allowed to rise through the ranks, they begin to crack down on conservatives, to hinder their promotion, or exclude them from admission altogether. We've seen this in academia, we've seen it in church organizations, we've seen it in the entertainment industry. Conservatives in these institutions find themselves having to hide their views to keep their careers.

The Presbyterian Church USA provides an early example. Only 11 years passed between the Auburn Affirmation of 1924, which argued for toleration of heterodox views within the northern denomination, and the 1935 expulsion of J. Gresham Machen from ministry within that denomination. Having gained control of the denomination, the Leftists purged Princeton Theological Seminary in 1929. When conservatives, in response, founded an independent seminary and missions board, in 1934 the Leftists punished and expelled ministers who cooperated with them. In ten years, the Leftists went from saying that the denomination's General Assembly had no authority to require adherence to orthodox Christian doctrine to saying that the General Assembly had the authority to forbid the support of independent, orthodox Christian organizations -- that is, organizations which the Leftists did not control -- under pain of expulsion.

Truth can tolerate the existence of error, but the Leftist worldview, grounded as it is in delusions about reality, requires the totalitarian suppression of truth.

Having purged the cultural institutions and used them to brainwash those members of the public not firmly grounded in the truth, the Left is now purging the general public. You can believe the truth, but you have to behave as if the Left's delusions are true.

Since the Left is finally being honest about the reality that some ethical viewpoint will control society, conservatives should not be shy about working to recapture the culture for the worldview and values that built a peaceful and prosperous civilzation, while working to displace from positions of cultural influence the advocates of destructive doctrines that have led to an explosion of relational breakdown, mental illness, and violence.

Retaking the culture is not about mere partisanship -- "we like our side better than your side." It's about rebuilding a safe and stable society to everyone's benefit.

This is a long-term project, but so was the Left's Gramscian march. It will be difficult, because, as they have for many years, the Left will use their control of institutions to pose as dispassionate experts. Conservative efforts to retake control of our public schools and universities will be characterized as "politicizing" supposedly neutral institutions, and naive folks who are themselves conservative will be led to resist. The fight over AP US History was a preview of coming attractions. I was amazed to see friends who are politically and religiously conservative join in the outcry against the legislative bill to offer an alternative, in response to the Leftist changes to the AP US History curriculum. They believed the line that legislators were politicizing the course, but not the Leftists who were remaking the course to serve their political ends, because the College Board was seen as some neutral authority -- a neutral authority with the power to withhold a desired credential.

As conservative Presbyterians learned in the 1920s and 1930s (and in every decade since then), the Left is not going to allow anyone to opt out, not without paying a heavy price. (Just ask the folks at Kirk of the Hills Church.)

P. S. Some conservative pundits have criticized conservative efforts in the 1980s, like the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition to exert political influence through the Republican Party, while neglecting the importance of cultural institutions. It seems to me that politics was the only earthly lever available, even at that point. The Left had already consolidated control of academia, entertainment, and the Democratic Party.

P. P. S. Just as the Leftist takeover of the mainline Presbyterian denomination is a useful paradigm for understanding the Left's strategy, the conservative retaking of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s can serve as a paradigm for fighting back.

* The Grauniad is the nickname given to the paper by the satirical magazine Private Eye.

MORE about Prof. Machen and the Leftist capture of the PCUSA:

Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Machen led the founding of the OPC after his expulsion from the PCUSA.

"The Necessity of the Christian School," a lecture delivered by Machen to the 1933 convention of the National Union of Christian Schools.

Christianity in Conflict, Machen's own account of the controversies of his career.

MORE: Erick Erickson has a fresh example of the culture war within the church: The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church replaced a pastor against the wishes of the congregation, because the pastor had signed a statement in support of existing denominational policy on marriage.

The church's pastor, Dr. Carole Hulslander, and her husband Douglas used their own funds to help start the church fifteen years ago.

But after Dr. Hulslander signed a "Unity and Integrity" statement calling on the United Methodist Church to maintain its standards of Biblical integrity with regard to marriage, the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church sought to remove her....

Two weeks before Easter, the District Superintendent showed up with a new pastor. When the Chair of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee refused to allow a service that Sunday morning, because the District had violated the church's Book of Church Discipline, the congregation retreated to their fellowship hall to sing and pray. The new pastor came in and began berating one of the members of the congregation. The new pastor demanded keys be handed over. When others intervened to calm the situation, the new pastor told the congregation to 'f*ck off'." The lion that would separate the sheep from their shepherd now paces around the walls of this church.

So it would appear that, although the national denomination has not yet been fully captured by the Left, the regional body has been, and they are seeking to drive out opposition to make it easier to win at the national level. The real estate arrangements in the denomination mean that the hierarchy could deprive the congregation of the church they built with their own funds. Like the historic Episcopal parishes at Truro and Falls Church in northern Virginia, like Church of the Holy Spirit in Tulsa, they will likely have to forfeit that investment and fund another meeting place. (Tulsa's Kirk of the Hills was at least able to ransom their property, but it doesn't sound like the North Georgia Conference will let these people off that easily.) With the Left, it always seems to come around to cursing and coercion, and they're not shy about using the power they have to crush opposition, because they know their fellow-travelers in the mainstream media will find a way to paint them in a sympathetic light.

MORE: Writing for Media Research Center, Jeff Dunetz documents Hillary Clinton's aim to "privilege some ethical viewpoint" by suppressing religious beliefs that hinder the unfettered practice of abortion. Dunetz quotes a Daily Caller report of Clinton's speech last week to the 2015 Women in the World Summit:

"Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don't count for much if they're not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice -- not just on paper," Clinton said.

"Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will," she explained. "And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed. As I have said and as I believe, the advancement of the full participation of women and girls in every aspect of their societies is the great unfinished business of the 21st century and not just for women but for everyone -- and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States."

It's a clear expression of the missionary drive of the Leftist religion. Converts must be made, if not by persuasion, then by the exertion of political will. More of a jihad than a mission, really.

(Clinton is right about one thing: "Rights have to exist in practice -- not just on paper." Freedom of religion is worthless if it merely means the freedom to believe something in your own head while being compelled by the state to behave as if lies were true.)

Dunetz points out that this is not a new stance for Clinton. He points to two examples where Clinton condemned Israeli government accommodations to Orthodox Jewish practice.

[In a 2011 speech, Clinton] referred to the decision of some male Orthodox IDF soldiers to leave an event where female soldiers were singing (Orthodox men do not believe in listening to the singing voice of women). Ms Clinton said it reminded her of the situation in Iran. Of course, in Iran, the women may have been lashed or executed for violating gender codes. In Israel, the women sang, but the men who felt it was against their religious beliefs to listen to a woman sing were allowed to walk out.

She also expressed outrage at the small number of Jerusalem buses that offer sex-segregated seating to meet the needs of Orthodox men and women who are shomer negiah, avoiding physical contact with the opposite sex outside of family relationships in order to guard purity.

ADDED at the top because of its valuable info:

Thomas F. Madden reviews The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam by Jonathan Riley-Smith

On September 11, 2001, there were only a few professional historians of the Crusades in America. I was the one who was not retired. As a result, my phone began ringing and didn't stop for years. In the hundreds of interviews I have given since that terrible day, the most common question has been, "How did the Crusades lead to the terrorist attacks against the West today?" I always answered: "They did not. The Crusades were a medieval phenomenon with no connection to modern Islamist terrorism."

That answer has never gone over well. It seems counterintuitive. If the West sent Crusaders to attack Muslims throughout the Middle Ages, haven't they a right to be upset? If the Crusades spawned anti-Western jihads, isn't it reasonable to see them as the root cause of the current jihads? The answer is no, but to understand it requires more than the scant minutes journalists are usually willing to spare. It requires a grasp not only of the Crusades but of the ways those wars have been exploited and distorted for modern agendas....

It is generally thought that Christians attacked Muslims without provocation to seize their lands and forcibly convert them. The Crusaders were Europe's lacklands and ne'er-do-wells, who marched against the infidels out of blind zealotry and a desire for booty and land. As such, the Crusades betrayed Christianity itself. They transformed "turn the other cheek" into "kill them all; God will know his own."

Every word of this is wrong. Historians of the Crusades have long known that it is wrong, but they find it extraordinarily difficult to be heard across a chasm of entrenched preconceptions. For on the other side is, as Riley-Smith puts it "nearly everyone else, from leading churchmen and scholars in other fields to the general public." ...

Riley-Smith describes the profound effect that Sir Walter Scott's novel The Talisman had on European and therefore Middle Eastern opinion of the Crusades. Crusaders such as Richard the Lionhearted were portrayed as boorish, brutal, and childish, while Muslims, particularly Saladin, were tolerant and enlightened gentlemen of the nineteenth century. With the collapse of Ottoman power and the rise of Arab nationalism at the end of the nineteenth century, Muslims bound together these two strands of Crusade narrative and created a new memory in which the Crusades were only the first part of Europe's assault on Islam--an assault that continued through the modern imperialism of European powers. Europeans reintroduced Saladin, who had been nearly forgotten in the Middle East, and Arab nationalists then cleansed him of his Kurdish ethnicity to create a new anti-Western hero. We saw the result during the run-up to the Iraq War, when Saddam Hussein portrayed himself as a new Saladin who would expel the new Crusaders.

Christianity Today: The Real History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden

So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression--an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.

Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity--and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion--has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.

With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt--once the most heavily Christian areas in the world--quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

Gov. Jindal on the President's comparison of modern-day ISIS to the Crusades of the 11th through the 13th centuries:

Bobby Jindal on Friday released a statement responding to the president's remarks on Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast in which he cautioned Americans from getting on a "high horse" when taking a stance against radical Islam because people have committed "terrible deeds" in the name of Christianity, too.

"It was nice of the President to give us a history lesson at the Prayer breakfast," Jindal said. "Today, however, the issue right in front of his nose, in the here and now, is the terrorism of Radical Islam, the assassination of journalists, the beheading and burning alive of captives. We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today."

Ace on the intellectual depth of Obama's National Prayer Breakfast comments:

But Obama doesn't deliver that; Obama delivers the same low-IQ, trite, Marxism for Dummies sh** that all glittering mediocrities like himself traffic in, for they can not manage any better.

Charles Krauthammer makes this point, mostly, when he says Obama's remarks were simultaneously "banal and offensive," and says further that these remarks are "adolescent."

Indeed. These are the Deep Thoughts of the Fourteen Year Old.

But I would go one step further. All fourteen year olds are not alike; some are clever and bookish and and full of interesting ideas (if not yet any wisdom).

And some are rather dull-witted and just want to sound like they may be clever. And these slow-witted 14-year-olds tend to just repeat, in a twittering high pitched pre-pubescent voice, a dumbed-down version of Recieved Wisdom they've heard from "Cool Adults."

All the "Cool Adults" the adolescent Obama knew were radicals and communists, and he has done far more pot than thinking since he heard these banal cliches, so what you're hearing is Obama straining to remember, through a pottish haze, what his dull 14-year-old boy brain heard from his communist benefactors in the late sixties and early seventies.

Tomorrow morning, Monday, October 27, 2014, at 8 a.m., I'll be on 1170 KFAQ discussing judicial races on the Pat Campbell Show. (UPDATE: Here is the podcast of my conversation about judicial races with Pat Campbell, Eddie Huff, and Tulsa Beacon publisher Charlie Biggs. Here is a direct link to the MP3 file.)

Judicial races are the trickiest part of the ballot. In Oklahoma, only district court races are contested, and all judicial elections are non-partisan. The Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct, set by the State Supreme Court, tightly controls what judicial candidates can say and how they can campaign. This code grants a private club, the Oklahoma Bar Association, an official role in policing judicial candidates. Attorneys, who have first-hand experience with the capabilities and character of judicial candidates, are wary of speaking out against a judge before whom they may one day have to stand. If you're lucky, you may get some off-the-record scoop from friends at the courthouse. All this adds up to confusion and frustration for the voter.

In 2004, the Oklahoma Family Policy Council put together a questionnaire for Supreme Court and appellate judges focusing on judicial philosophy. They had their attorneys look at the questionnaire to ensure that judges would not violate Oklahoma's Code of Judicial Conduct by answering the questions. In the end, six of the eight judges sent a letter saying they couldn't respond to the questionnaire, the other two didn't respond at all.

Worldview matters. We are in the midst of a culture war. Like all movements grounded in unreality, the leftist fascist movement seeks totalitarian control of institutions and the destruction of any institution it can't control. Never has it been more important to know whether the men and women who seek to be our judges are in accord with the founding principles of American jurisprudence and Western Civilization or are in sympathy with the destructive forces arrayed against civilization.

While I know many fair-minded and good-hearted liberals, fair-minded enough to rule against their own ideological interests if the law points that way, many on the left have been influenced by the ideas of critical legal theory, which boils everything down to power and the use of any means to the end of establishing left-wing dogma as the state religion.

We need to see the hearts of these candidates. Sometimes we have rulings and written opinions that tell us whether a judge is with civilization or against it. At times we may only have indirect indications of a judge's character and worldview.

In the blog entries that follow, and in my radio comments tomorrow, I'll do my best to set out my judgment of the judges and the basis for that judgment.

MORE: This is an update of an entry from 2006 about the judicial offices in Judicial District 14. The structure and offices are the same, but some of the names are different for 2014.

It took me a while to puzzle all this out, and I thought others might be interested as well.

Oklahoma has 26 District Courts. Tulsa County and Pawnee County constitute Judicial District No. 14. State law says that District 14 has 14 district judge offices. (Why are Tulsa County and Pawnee County coupled together? Why not Pawnee with, say, Osage, and Tulsa on its own, as Oklahoma County is?)

One judge must reside in and be nominated from Pawnee County, eight must reside in and be nominated from Tulsa County. If there are more than two candidates for any of those nine offices, there is a non-partisan nominating primary in the appropriate county, and the top two vote-getters are on the general election ballot. (Even if one gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two still advance.)

In the general election, all voters in Pawnee and Tulsa Counties vote on those nine seats.

The remaining five district judges are selected by electoral division in Tulsa County. In order to comply with the Voting Rights Act, Tulsa County is divided into five electoral divisions, one of which (Electoral Division 3) has a "minority-majority" population. (The minority-majority district is much smaller than the other four, as it must be in order to guarantee that the electorate is majority African-American.) For each of these five offices, if there are three or more candidates, there is a non-partisan nominating primary. If one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, he is elected; otherwise, the top two advance to the general election. For each of these five offices, the candidates must reside in the corresponding electoral division, and only voters in that electoral division will vote for that office in the primary and general election. (Oklahoma County, Judicial District No. 7, is the only other county with judges elected by division.)

Despite the three different paths one can take to be elected, a Judge in Judicial District No. 14 can be assigned to try any case within the two counties.

Each county in the state also elects an Associate District Judge, nominated and elected countywide. After two elections in a row in which the incumbent Tulsa County Associate District Judge was ousted, for the second time Dana Kuehn has been reelected without opposition. There is a two-man contest for Pawnee County Associate District Judge, Patrick Pickerell of Cleveland v. Ken Privett of Pawnee.

In addition to the elected judges, the District has a certain number of Special Judges, who are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the District Judges. There is no correspondence between being a district judge, associate district judge, or special judge and the docket you may be assigned to handle.

All this I was able to puzzle out from prior knowledge and browsing through the relevant sections of the Oklahoma Statutes. What I still couldn't quite figure out is which of the 14 offices corresponded with the five electoral divisions, and which one was nominated from Pawnee County. Although electoral division 4 votes for office 4, I was pretty sure the pattern did not apply to the other offices. After a few phone calls, someone from the Tulsa County Election Board found the relevant info in the League of Women Voters handbook. So here it is, for your reference and mine.

Office Incumbent Nominated by Primary 2014 Elected by General 2014
1 Kellough Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
2 Harris1 Tulsa Co. ED 3 Yes Tulsa Co. ED 3 Yes
3 Caputo Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
4 Cantrell Tulsa Co. ED 4 Tulsa Co. ED 4
5 Sellers Pawnee Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
6 Chappelle Tulsa Co. ED 2   Tulsa Co. ED 2  
7 Gillert1 Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
8 Barcus Tulsa Co. ED 5   Tulsa Co. ED 5 Yes
9 Morrissey Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
10 Fitzgerald Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
11 Nightingale Tulsa Co. ED 1   Tulsa Co. ED 1  
12 Fransein Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
13 Musseman Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
14 Glassco Tulsa Co. Yes Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes

Offices elected by Tulsa County Electoral Divisions in red.
Offices nominated by Pawnee County in blue.

1 Not seeking re-election.

Eight of the incumbent district judges were re-elected without opposition.

Two incumbents did not seek re-election. Former Tulsa Mayor and Tulsa County District Attorney Bill LaFortune was the sole candidate for the open seat (Office 7) being vacated by Tom Gillert. Retiring judge Jesse Harris left the other vacancy in Office 2, which drew four candidates; Sharon Holmes and Tanya N. Wilson survived the primary and will face the general election voters in their north Tulsa judicial election district.

The other four incumbents face challengers in the general election:

Office 1: William Kellough v. Caroline Wall
Office 8: Mark Barcus v. Doug Drummond
Office 10: Mary Fitzgerald v. Eric Quandt
Office 14: Kurt Glassco v. Jill Webb

The contested races will be decided by all voters in Tulsa and Pawnee counties, with the exception of Office 2 (decided by voters in Election District 3, mainly the north part of the City of Tulsa) and Office 8 (decided by voters in Election District 5, which covers Tulsa County west of the Arkansas River and north of 141st Street S, plus north of the river and west of downtown Tulsa, plus the east side of the river south of downtown and west of Lewis). The Tulsa County Election Board hosts a map of the Tulsa County judicial election districts. So everyone in Tulsa County will have three district judge races on the ballot, and about half the county will vote on a fourth race. Everyone in Pawnee County will vote on Offices 1, 10, and 14, plus their county's Associate District Judge race.

Judges on the Court of Civil Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals, and Oklahoma Supreme Court face retention every six years after their initial retention vote at the general election after their appointment. If there are more votes against retention than for retention, the judge is removed from office and the governor appoints a replacement.

Sawi he spoke

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Lately, for the eight-year-old's bedtime story, I have been reading the book Peace Child by Don Richardson. In 1962, Richardson, his wife Carol, and their infant son went with Regions Beyond Missionary Union to the Sawi, a people who live in the sago palm swamps along the Kronkel River in what was then Netherlands New Guinea, now the Indonesian half of that island.

The story is told in an engaging and suspenseful manner, with the end of each chapter leaving my son anxious to learn what happens in the next. The book begins with stories of Sawi intrigue that took place prior to the Richardsons' arrival, illustrating the value the culture held for treachery -- "fattening with friendship for the slaughter." You might invite an enemy to your home, feed him and treat him with honor for weeks or months before springing the trap on your trusting victim. You have him over for dinner... and then have him for dinner.

Richardson then takes us across the Pacific to the frozen tundra of Canada's Prairie Bible Institute, where he and his wife met and where they heard the call to take the gospel to the isolated inland tribes of Netherlands New Guinea. From this point on the story follows the Richardsons as they arrive in New Guinea, meet neighboring tribes, survey the Sawi territory, make initial contact, build a home, and begin learning the language and customs of the Sawi.

I had been helping my daughter and her friend through a tough passage of Latin, one that made extensive use of indirect discourse with accusative subjects and present, perfect, and future infinitives in active and passive voice. We finished, and I went to read the next chapter of Peace Child to my son. This passage on the grammar of the Sawi language seemed apropos, so I brought the book and my son back to where the girls were studying and read it to all of them. You think you have it tough with six Latin tenses?

Peace_Child.jpgSpeaking Sawi was proving far more than an exercise in stringing simple terms together. Often a single word turned out to be only a stem to which a seemingly limitless number of suffixes or chains of suffixes could be attached.

Each verb, for example, has nineteen tenses in its indicative mood alone. So far I had isolated the functions of only one-third of those nineteen tenses. Also, each of the nineteen tenses occurred in both a first-person and a non-first-person form, making a total of thirty-eight verb endings to choose from every time I wanted to make a simple indicative statement in Sawi.

Another group of verb endings were slowly emerging as the subjunctive mood of the language, a system for expressing "if," "could have," "would have," and "should have." Further, I was getting glimmerings of an imperative mood, a brace of suffixes which say "let me," "let us," "let him," as well as give commands in the second person.

Apparently concrete verb stems became etymological phantoms which could assume any one of fifteen different shapes even before one began extending them with suffixes. One form of the stem proclaimed the subject as singular, another as plural. Still othres indicated action aimed at either a singular or plural object. Other forms signified operations which were either customary, progressive, repeated, reciprocal, experimental, conclusive, partial, excessive or obstructed.

In Sawi, every sequence has to be in correct time order with no steps omitted. The grammar is correspondingly set up to handle long action sequences in a smooth, flowing manner.

Every statement has to be classified as either firsthand or secondhand information. Sawi won't let you take credit for someone else's thoughts. Nor will it let you avoid responsibility for your own utterances. It abhors indistinctness. It tolerates no nonsense. It would resist a translation of Alice in Wonderland like oil resists water. Surgically precise, transistorized description is its goal.

Sometimes I felt like my brain circuits would get shorted before I mastered Sawi. And yet learning it was a great adventure. I often felt like a mathematician must feel as he tackles problems and breaks through into new formulas which work like magic.

Sawi is so enchantingly specific in its vocabulary. In English you open your eyes, your heart, a door, a tin can or someone's understanding, all with one humdrum verb "open." But in Sawi you fagadon your eyes, anahagkon your heart, tagavon a door, tarifan a tin can, and dargamon a listener's understanding.

If someone had shown me a statement of Sawi grammar and asked me to guess the type of persons who developed it, I would have guessed a race of pedantic-philosopher types obsessed with fastidious concern for handling masses of detail efficiently.

And yet, looking deeper, I would have guessed they were also poets -- an entire subclass of Sawi verbs is devoted to personifying inanimate objects as speaking! If a flower has a pleasant scent, it is saying fok! fok! to your nostrils. Is it also beautiful? It is saying ga! ga! to your eyes. When a star twinkles it is whispering sevair! sevair! If your eyes twinkle they are calling si! si! If mud squishes around your feet, it is murmuring sos! sos! In the Sawi universe, not only man, but all things are communicating.

Climbing up a notched pole, I entered the manhouse and sat down on the grass mat among the men of Haenam and Yohwi. They didn't look like the philosopher-poets their language suggested they were. I felt I was sitting in the presence of a mystery. How did a culture addicted to barbarism develop such a refined, logical and efficient language? Perhaps the swift thought and keen reflexes needed to survive in a violent context served to produce linguistic efficiency also.

Or was their language an artifact pointing back to an earlier age of more complex aspirations? I had already noticed that the Sawi had a deep, almost compulsive esteem for their ancestors. Perhaps there was more than just a sentimental basis for it.

"A race of pedantic-philosopher types" brings to mind Tolkien's design of the languages of Middle Earth or the scholars who constructed languages like Esperanto and Volapük.

In the same chapter, Richardson feels he has enough of the language to attempt to explain the story of Jesus to a group of Sawi men. He is shocked to find that they see Judas as the hero of the story and Jesus as his dupe -- the ultimate example of fattening with friendship for the slaughter. The realization causes Richardson to feel hopeless that he could find a way to communicate the gospel to this culture. But he prays and God provides in a surprising way, and that's the rest of the story.

Notwithstanding the cannibalistic treachery of the Sawi, Richardson describes with admiration their language and the efficiency of their way of life, using the flora and fauna on hand to sustain themselves.

When progressives hear conservatives condemning multiculturalism, they wrongly assume that conservatives wish to eradicate other cultures, other languages, other folk customs and force conformity to bland Anglo-Saxon suburbia. In fact, conservative Christians may be doing more than anyone else to preserve dying languages and musical traditions, through the work of groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators. The practice of the evangelical mission community is to translate the gospel into the "heart language" of every people group and, as they come to faith in Christ, to express their faith in their own music.

Richardson's account of the Sawi way of life allows us to draw an important distinction. Multiculturalism insists that we suspend all value judgment of another culture, and so we must not condemn the cannibalistic treachery of the Sawi -- live and let live. A Bible-believing Christian would say instead that there are aspects of a culture which are morally neutral, aspects which are positive, and aspects which are -- let's not mince words -- evil, aspects which disfigure the imago Dei borne by every human of every tribe, tongue, and nation. While every culture in this fallen world has negative elements, some cultures have a built-in engine for reform and improvement, while others may only shed negative elements under outside encouragement or pressure, and so we ought to reject a false moral equivalence between cultures.


Don Richardson sells his own books, books on related topics, and his own artwork depicting the cultures of New Guinea on his website.

In 2012, fifty years after his arrival, Don Richardson and his three sons returned to the Sawi lands:

Never the Same from Pioneers-USA on Vimeo.

The New Testament has been translated into Sawi, but only three Papuan languages have a complete translation of the Bible. World Team, the successor agency to Regions Beyond, has five current translation and literacy projects that need your support.

The Summer Institute of Linguistics' Ethnologue has a map showing the incredible linguistic diversity of eastern Indonesian Papua (New Guinea). Here is the Ethnologue's entry on the Sawi language, which has an estimated 3,500 speakers.

An index of online resources for the Sawi language.

Here is a collection of audiovisual Bible lessons in the Sawi language.

Volume 14 (1986) of the journal Irian: Bulletin of Irian Jaya has a paper describing kinship and marriage customs among the Sawi.

A prime example of the failure of multiculturalism: Officials turning a blind eye to the exploitation of young girls in Rotherham, England, for over a decade out of fear of being thought racist or Islamophobic. James Delingpole writes:

The impression given was that to be against multiculturalism is like being against chicken tikka masala, or bhangra, or arts festivals or smiley brown skinned people or fun generally.

But multiculturalism isn't and never was a handy synonym for "multiethnic". And at last, it seems, the majority of British people have twigged.

Multiculturalism is the philosophy that says the grooming, trafficking and mass rape of underage white girls by Muslim gangs is not as bad as being thought Islamophobic.

Multiculturalism is the philosophy that says it's better to let a little African girl get tortured to death by her relatives than it is to be thought culturally insensitive or judgemental.

The Left has a tendency to suppress facts either because they believe it will embolden their ideological enemies, or they are concerned that the facts will lead people to unauthorized conclusions.

Here are a couple of recent examples. I will add more as I come across them.

The National Post reported recently on a study by neuroscientists that shows rote memorization lays an important foundation for higher-order reasoning in children:

In effect, as young math students memorize the basics, their brains reorganize to accommodate the greater demands of more complex math. It is a gradual process, like "overlapping waves," the researchers write, but it clearly shows that, for the growing child's brain, rote memorization is a key step along the way to efficient mathematical reasoning.

The news story's writer framed this as a finding that was "sure to inflame the math wars" between "fundamentalists" and their "popular and progressive" opponents.

As a scientific justification of rote learning, the study seems likely to further polarize the controversy over math teaching styles, in which arithmetical fundamentalists are squared off against the popular and progressive forces of "discovery-based" learning, in which students are encouraged to find their own ways to the right answer.

By illustrating the benefit of repetition and memory, and showing how it serves as a stepping stone to mature calculation, the research is likely to embolden the fundamentalists, who have only recently started to win back lost ground.

Jenks middle school principal Rob Miller has a popular blog where he evangelizes for the idea that the billions we spend on education shouldn't go to teaching actual content. Here he is talking about the Howe school district in LeFlore County, which got a failing grade from the State Department of Education because of its students' poor test scores, despite having all sorts of cool classroom technology:

But what happens if bringing back more traditional teaching strategies actually brings their scores up? This will simply empower the naysayers and it will be very difficult to return to the district's original vision for 21st century teaching and learning-processes that create globally competent critical thinkers instead of just good test takers.

God forbid we should empower the naysayers! You can't be a "globally competent critical thinker" unless you've mastered fundamental facts about math, geography, history, grammar, and logic. Those are the building blocks for competent critical thinking, but Principal Miller and the Howe school leadership seem to want to skip right by the "boring" basics in favor of gee-whiz technology.

Ashers Baking Co, a Christian-owned chain of bakeries in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, has been sent a letter from the Equality Commission for refusing an order to make a cake featuring a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, the message "Support Gay Marriage," and the logo of an organization called "Queerspace."

A customer placed an order for the cake on a Friday, staff at the location sent the request to headquarters for review, and on Monday, headquarters contacted the customer and advised him that they couldn't complete the order and he would be refunded his money. Six weeks later the company received a letter from the Equality Commission accusing Ashers of discriminating against the customer on the basis of his "sexual orientation."

Daniel McArthur (24), general manager at the Newtownabbey company which has been running since 1992 and employs 62 people, said Asher's had been founded by Christians, and the current directors are Christians.

"That means that we run our business according to Christian values and beliefs, according to what the Bible teaches. It means for example that we don't open on Sundays, that we trade openly and honestly with people," he said.

Mr McArthur said even the company's name was Biblical, as Asher was one of the 12 tribes of Israel. "It was a tribe that had gifted bakers," he added.

The cake was for an "anti-homophobia and transphobia" event hosted by the then-Mayor of North Down, Andrew Muir. Another baker, located in the same city as the event, filled the order. The nearest Ashers location, in Belfast, is 12 miles away, suggesting that Ashers was specially targeted for political reasons.

Northern Ireland has sometimes been called the Bible Belt of Europe. The Ulster Scots (also known as "Scotch Irish") who settled America's Bible Belt are descended from the same stock as the Protestants of modern Northern Ireland. Under the British constitution, England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have different laws pertaining to marriage and family. Northern Ireland has not yet caved to the forces of libertinism but still maintains the civilized definition of marriage, the legislature having voted down three "gay marriage" bills in the last three years.

Since the discrimination charge doesn't match the facts of the case, it will be interesting to see how it is handled. Ashers didn't discriminate against the customer because of his "sexual orientation"; they discriminated against the words the customer wanted on the cake. Surely they would have refused the same order even if a customer of normal sexual desires had requested it. In a video message, Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur notes that the bakery has refused commissions involving indecent language and imagery.

Ashers has the support of the Christian Institute's Legal Defence Fund.

Recently, a friend suggested to me that American Christians would have to be cagey about objecting to "gay marriage." Rather than openly refusing service on moral grounds, he said that Christians should find other excuses. In this case, for example, the bakery might have said that they couldn't bake a cake featuring copyrighted characters. I replied that to do so was to surrender our freedom of conscience, which has to include the right to express our disapproval of immoral behavior. Also, as a practical matter, the cramdown artists" (see below) are zealous enough to investigate the validity of excuses. If a wedding photographer says she's already booked for the day of a "gay wedding," expect the diversity mutaween to stake out her house and studio that day for evidence that the excuse was bogus.


William Murchison writes that we have a duty to talk back to the "cramdown artists" seeking to coerce approval of their moral viewpoint:

What this country almost certainly doesn't need right now is more laws and regulations; but it doesn't necessarily need fewer laws and regulations, either. What we appear to need above all else is a deeper -- and that's not saying much -- understanding of the purposes for which a civilized society passes laws and enacts regulations. We need, in essence, moral instruction.

Eeek! "Moral instruction"? "Right" and "wrong"? By whose lights, whose standards? The contraception debate -- to the extent you call it a debate instead of a shouting match -- brings to mind these fundamental, yet generally skirted, issues. In 21st-century America, right and wrong are matters we hand over to the big guns in politics and -- alas -- the chattering profession, my own profession: the media. He who makes the loudest noises and wins the most elections gets to cram his views down the public's throat....

...the proprietors of viewpoints at variance with those of the cramdown artist have a duty only partially fulfilled. That duty is to speak back; to explain why the cramdown artists are morally off base, by widely, and historically held, standards. This task has not been performed well, or at all, partly -- such is my intuition -- because the cramdown artists get lathered up when their judgments meet with contradiction.

Too bad. The time for backtalk has come. In fact, it came a long time ago; we just didn't notice. Alas.

Former Conservative MP and Minister Ann Widdecombe writes in the Daily Express:

Surely it is an elementary feature of true democracy that nobody should be obliged by law to affirm that which he or she does not believe.

Yet Parliament was assured time and again that the introduction of gay marriage would not cause discrimination against those who believed it wrong. What price your assurances now, Mr Cameron?...

In a free country the baker should be able to refuse to take part in what is effectively PR for gay marriage in the knowledge that any customers who do not like that decision are free to buy their morning loaf elsewhere. But then it is a long time since Britain and freedom were synonymous.

Widdecombe reports on a letter from someone who was rejected as a foster parent "because she would not affirm that a gay relationship was on a par with a marriage between a man and a woman."

Presumably the powers that be would prefer a child to be shunted between homes as long as they are run by politically correct care workers than be placed in a loving environment with foster parents who do not sign up to state orthodoxy.

Sid Caesar, RIP

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I'm struck by one detail in the obituaries for comedic actor Sid Caesar. He got married in 1943 to Florence Levy, and he stayed married to her until her death in 2010 -- 67 years on their way to together forever, as Paul Harvey used to say. Not a whiff of scandal.

I'm also struck by the parallels to the life and career of a British comedic actor. Caesar was just two years older than Tony Hancock. Both had early exposure to the stage and began their comedy careers during World War 2, emerging as dominant stars in the early 1950s, backed by talented young writers (Caesar by the likes of Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, and Neil Simon, Hancock by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson). Both moved comedy in the direction of finding humor in real life, a break with the surreal and slapstick comedy of the past. Both inspired generations of young comedians. From Wikipedia:

Writer Mel Tolkin stated that Caesar "didn't like one-line jokes in sketches because he felt that if the joke was a good one, anybody could do it. One-liners would take him away from what drove his personal approach to comedy." Larry Gelbart described Caesar's style as "theatrical," and he called him "a pure TV comedian." In describing his control during the live performances, actress Nanette Fabray recalled that unlike most comedians, such as Red Skelton, Bob Hope or Milton Berle, Caesar always stayed in character: "He was so totally into the scene he never lost it."
Neil Simon recalled that after writing out a sketch and giving it to Caesar, "Sid would make it ten times funnier than what we wrote. Sid acted everything out, so the sketches we did were like little plays." Simon also remembered the impact that working for Caesar had on him: "The first time I saw Caesar it was like seeing a new country. All other comics were basically doing situations with farcical characters. Caesar was doing life.

In the 1960s, both went through a vicious cycle of career collapse and chemical dependency. But only one emerged from the 1960s alive. In 1968, Hancock, despondent and alone in Australia, deliberately overdosed on barbiturates and vodka. Caesar recovered to write a book about his lost years, went back into acting, and lived to enjoy the tributes of his admirers. What was the difference?

I don't know for sure, but I suspect it was the detail with which I began this article: Sid Caesar's 67 years of marriage to the same woman, who knew him before he was famous. Three kids. Someone to keep him grounded. Someone to pull him out of his tailspin.

(Hancock's personal life was rather more complicated. And one by one, he cast off the writers and colleagues who had helped his star to shine.)


This may be another clue. It appears that Caesar maintained a vital connection to his Jewish faith.

Rena Strober, a young comedic actress and singer, got to know Sid Caesar through her membership in the Friar's Club, and that led to an invitation to celebrate the Second Night of Passover 2013 at Sid Caesar's home, surrounded by legends of comedy and Broadway. Theodore Bikel presided; Rena, as the youngest present, asked the Four Questions; Mel Brooks, Norm Crosby, John Byner, and Lainie Kazan were among the other guests. It would be Caesar's last seder.

Writer Esther Kustanowitz, a friend of Strober's, tells of the impact of a YouTube video of a classic sketch on Sid and Rena's friendship:

We reflected on her time with Sid, and his impact on generations of humor aficionados, including my father, the creator and editor of blog JewishHumorCentral, who regularly posts videos from comedy classics like "Your Show of Shows." A few months ago, he had posted a video clip of one of Caesar's classic sketches ("The Argument to Beethoven's 5th," featuring Sid and Nanette Fabray in a powerhouse wordless duet, linked below), and I shared it with Rena. She had never seen it before, but played it for Sid later that day. They talked about the clip, whether it was improvised or rehearsed (the former, she remembers him saying), and how brilliant it was, and Rena told him that the clip had appeared on a friend's father's Jewish humor blog. This was a story born decades ago in one comedy sketch that has resonated through the years and across technology, crossing from virtual into reality. I connected to Rena through blogging. I connected Rena to my dad's blog. And she was able to bring my dad's virtual connection to and deep appreciation for a legendary comedian to that comedian himself. The virtual, with the intercession of real people having real conversations, enabled an ill man to understand that what he had produced in this world had resonance beyond the point that he could have imagined. I believe that this connection, midwifed by the Internet, was a gift for all of us.

Here's that clip:

A tribute on Jewish Journal mentions his performance at a Hanukkah event in 1996. Here he is in 1991, doing his double-talk schtick on a telethon for Chabad's work on behalf of Russian Jewish immigrants.

Monty Hall remembers his old friend and frequent lunch companion:

The two men knew each other for some 40 years and frequently ran into each other at testimonial dinners, mostly Jewish, for this or that honoree.

"Often Sid was in the audience and when the M.C. spotted him and asked him to say a few words, Sid would launch into one his fractured Italian or Japanese monologues and have everyone in stitches," Hall added.

At the get-togethers at Factor's, Hall would sit next to Caesar and regale him with Yiddish jokes.

Those weekly lunches were immortalized in a film called, appropriately, Lunch.

From the Telegraph obituary

Using mostly his own material, Caesar drew on his observations of everyday life, making use of the comedy of situation or character rather than the gag or wisecrack, so prefiguring the emergence of the sitcom. By modern lights, the humour lacked edge. "There were so many things we couldn't do," Caesar later recalled. "It was the 1950s. Everything had to be squeaky clean. So it made us work harder and made us think deeper."

In a second volume of memoirs, Caesar's Hours (2003), he admired the way his heroes, great comedians of the silent film era - like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton - worked "both sides of the street", playing humour off against pathos.

An anecdote from an obituary of art and music critic Hilton Kramer, founder of The New Criterion:

It did not please Hilton Kramer to make enemies. But he knew that the job of a cultural critic was to tell the truth and that the truth is often unpalatable.

He loved telling the story of attending a dinner at the Whitney Museum. He was seated next to the film director Woody Allen, who asked whether he ever felt embarrassed when he met socially artists whom he had criticized. No, Kramer replied, they're they ones who made the bad art: I just described it. Mr. Allen, he recalled, lapsed into gloomy silence. It was only on his way home that Kramer recalled writing a highly critical piece about "The Front," a P.C. movie about the Hollywood blacklist in which Mr. Allen acted. That anecdote encapsulates something essential about Kramer's practice as a critic.

I have at times felt sheepish to be in the presence of politicians whose decisions I have criticized. Henceforth, I'll follow Mr. Kramer's example. Me, embarrassed? Pal, you're the one who made the bad policy. I just wrote about it.

Hat tip for a version of this anecdote to Meghan Cox Gurdon, writing critically in Imprimis about today's lurid literature targeting older children: The Case for Good Taste in Children's Books, a must-read for parents and other teachers of the older children that publishers label "young adults."

Leadership Tulsa executive director Wendy Thomas, writing on Facebook back in late May 2013:

Hannibal B. Johnson and I got to visit with a delegation of non profit directors and consultants from Belarus yesterday sponsored by the Tulsa Global Alliance. One of them posed and interesting question. He said they knew a lot about American life from our American films and TV but pointed out how infrequently those films depict or charity/non profit organizations and wondered why that was, especially since it seems to be such a large part of our national identity. Never thought about it before. Any ideas?

Thinking about it now, a couple of months later, I'm inclined to blame the disconnect between Hollywood and the rest of America. Massive amounts of money not only insulate you from the consequences of your bad behavior but also from the need to depend on voluntary communities to help you get through life. You don't need family, you don't need mutual support, mutual submission, or voluntary cooperation, because you can buy what you need and want without the need to negotiate. Naturally, then, Hollywood would be blind to the way churches, extended families, fraternal organizations, mutual-aid societies, and other non-profits enrich the lives they touch. Hollywood would believe that the problems they solve with money can only be solved by money, and naturally they would see the state providing that money. To the extent they think about community and family and voluntary associations, they would likely see those mediating institutions as suppressive of individuality, demanding conformity to group norms as a condition of assistance.

Thomas also wrote:

Our national spirit is especially evident this week in light of the tragedy in Moore. The other thing that always strikes me about our charitable spirit is that it is not limited to people of great wealth. In fact, I believe I have read that people with more modest incomes give a greater amount as a percentage of the income. Volunteer Tulsa also would have stats about volunteerism.

Author Hannibal Johnson replied to Thomas's post:

I really enjoyed meeting the delegation from Belarus. I found them to be professionally astute and intellectually curious. They also helped me better appreciate the civil society infrastructure we too often take for granted. They talked about working in an environment with few resources and a lack of government support (indeed, often, affirmative government opposition). The kind of government support (tax exemptions for nonprofits and tax-deductibility of contribution to nonprofits) and private sector backing that seems so natural here is all but absent in Belarus. That makes what these folks are doing all the more impressive.

Sometimes it takes a stranger to point out what's all around us. Alexis de Tocqueville noticed the same thing about America circa 1830.

Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited America in 1831:

Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools. Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an association in the United States.

From an American Enterprise Institute report on de Tocqueville and the development of civil society in China:

An important function of civic and political organizations is to educate individuals about being citizens in a free society. Such groups may also form alliances with like-minded organizations in order to lobby the government or coordinate their advocacy messages. Shared interests among civic groups are a natural precursor to the development of political associations. But civic associations--reservoirs of social capital though they may be--cannot promote liberalism or sustain political freedom on their own.

Furthermore, social capital does not become political capital as readily as some groups may hope. To understand the dynamic between civic and political associations, it is helpful to consider two different types of regimes. The first is real totalitarian despotism, in which every organization is a tool of state. The second is the corporatist authoritarian model, in which many common interest activities or advocacy groups are allowed to exist until they become problematic--either by challenging the system of government or making a claim to justice. For example, the Chinese government, as a corporate authoritarian regime, may tolerate an environmental group that is calling attention to a particular ecological plight. The state's patience would likely run out, however, if the same group were to challenge a specific CCP environmental policy.

The notion that civil society activity portends liberal political progress is problematic, if Tocqueville is right. Even for those groups that operate with relative autonomy, it seems that the process of self-governance only provides a lesson in good-neighborliness, rather than promoting the tendencies necessary for liberalism. Indeed, it is reasonable to presume that a stable corporatist authoritarian state could sustain a vibrant, yet contained civil society--one in which individuals and organizations are active but lack the compulsion to develop political agendas.

Then again, some civic groups are inherently troublesome to despotic regimes. It is not an accident that religious groups have been intimately involved in political revolutions throughout history. Religious groups feature an inherent call to justice, posing an automatic challenge to repressive systems. Universities, as generators of new ideas are also perennial threats to authoritarian regimes. The same can be said of newspapers, which can spin small ideas into bigger issues, and ethnic minorities, through whom one idea can be promulgated among a broader group of people. To understand the future role of civil society in China, it will be important to examine the nature of prominent civic associations and identify the terms on which they engage with the regime. Are they simply seeking the redress of minor grievances? Are they providing a benign service or forum that the state cannot? Or are they calling attention to systemic flaws in the state's model of governance?

In his Ancien Regime, Tocqueville's native France provides the basis for a study of civil society, as he seeks to understand the forces which had, prior to the revolution, managed to stifle all attempts at civic association. In poring over state documents from the pre-Revolutionary era, Tocqueville comes to understand the vast bureaucratic schemes which had prevented civic engagement and political activity. He further finds that the Revolution had adopted the same despotic features of the Old Order, again undermining the incentive for French citizens to create and engage in such civic life.

Writing on June 18, 2013, in the Wall Street Journal, Niall Ferguson worried that the American distinctive of civil society and self-organization is dying, replaced by a growing dependence on government, that America is moving away from the qualities de Tocqueville admired and toward the conditions of which de Tocqueville warned:

Tocqueville would not recognize America today. Indeed, so completely has associational life collapsed, and so enormously has the state grown, that he would be forced to conclude that, at some point between 1833 and 2013, France must have conquered the United States.

The decline of American associational life was memorably documented in Robert Puttnam's seminal 1995 essay "Bowling Alone," which documented the exodus of Americans from bowling leagues, Rotary clubs and the like. Since then, the downward trend in "social capital" has only continued. According to the 2006 World Values Survey, active membership even of religious associations has declined from just over half the population to little more than a third (37%). The proportion of Americans who are active members of cultural associations is down to 14% from 24%; for professional associations the figure is now just 12%, compared with more than a fifth in 1995. And, no, Facebook is not a substitute.

Instead of joining together to get things done, Americans have increasingly become dependent on Washington. On foreign policy, it may still be true that Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus. But when it comes to domestic policy, we all now come from the same place: Planet Government....

Genius that he was, Tocqueville saw this transformation of America coming. Toward the end of "Democracy in America" he warned against the government becoming "an immense tutelary power . . . absolute, detailed, regular . . . cover[ing] [society's] surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way."

Tocqueville also foresaw exactly how this regulatory state would suffocate the spirit of free enterprise: "It rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces [the] nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd."

If that makes you bleat with frustration, there's still hope.

Hat tip to The Political Hat, who writes:

America's strength lies in its civic virtue, in particular the ability of the people to take upon themselves the duty and privilege of maintaining economic and social order, and to cherish and protect our values and heritage. It is this free interaction of free individuals to voluntarily associate their combined power, that gives us the freedom and capacity to meet the our needs and the needs of others, and to create a society that does not require the pseudo-benevolent hand of Leviathan....

Indeed, we are quickly turning into the France that de Tocqueville contrasted America to. Instead of initiative, creativeness, and virtue, we are subject to the whims of government. Rather then some type of lens through which the "volonté générale" is focused, the government has become "a system of relief operating from such a distance... bound to be capricious, sometimes misdirected, and always quite inadequate."

The civic basis of our society is thus rent asunder, such that the government assumes all the functions that were previously reserved for free men, thus diminishing those free men into dependent nouveau serfs. We do not loose these freedoms necessarily because we are explicitly forced into serfdom, but because "when the head becomes too swollen, the body develops apoplexy."

A few thoughts:

I'm disheartened by the outraged reaction from my liberal friends, who are certain that justice was denied, and that a racist murderer has been set free. NBC, CNN, President Obama, and other public figures and opinionators did race relations and common sense in America a grave disservice in the way they depicted the event, distorted the available evidence, and framed it as a racially motivated killing. If you stopped listening and made up your mind at that point, I can understand why you'd be outraged by Zimmerman's acquittal.

But the testimony in the trial, from both prosecution and defense witnesses, paints a very different picture. Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain in an gated townhome community that had experienced several recent burglaries, noticed an unfamiliar man, dressed to match the description of suspects in those crimes. He called 911, described the person, tried to keep him under observation, and requested that the police check out the situation. Meanwhile, Trayvon Martin was on the phone with a friend, complaining that he was being followed by a "creepy-ass cracker." Rather than call 911 and report a stalker, rather than get back to the townhome where he was staying as soon as possible, it appears that Martin chose to confront Zimmerman, wrestling him to the ground and beating Zimmerman's head against the pavement. One witness said it looked like a mixed-martial arts move called "ground and pound." Zimmerman, pinned to the ground, had no means escape, feared for his life, and shot.

Zimmerman is from a mixed-race family and was an outspoken supporter and organizer on behalf of a black homeless man who had been mistreated by local police. He supported President Obama's election. Yet he has been portrayed as a racist who stalked and killed Martin because of his race.

An NBC edit of the 911 call gave the impression that Zimmerman volunteered the race of the person he was watching. In fact, Zimmerman only identified race in response to a question from the dispatcher. NBC retracted the edited version and fired those responsible.

CNN transcribed a comment on the 911 call, putting an old-fashioned, seldom-heard, four-letter racial epithet in Zimmerman's mouth. Monosyllables can be easy to mishear, particularly on distorted low-bandwidth recordings, and once an authoritative source like CNN asserts the identification of an authoritative word, it's hard to hear it as anything else. But CNN later retracted their transcript, and concluded that Zimmerman had said, "It's f***ing cold." Others believe he said, "F***ing punks." But by the time the correction was made, many had already pegged Zimmerman as a racist vigilante and were beyond persuasion.

The use of years-old photos of Zimmerman and Martin also shaped public opinion in a way that framed Zimmerman as a hateful, racist thug who should have had no reason to see baby-faced Martin as a suspicious character.

However the confrontation began, once it advanced to Martin straddling and beating Zimmerman (as corroborated by eyewitnesses and Zimmerman's injuries), it became a matter of self-defense for Zimmerman. All the preliminaries became irrelevant at that point to Zimmerman's guilt or innocence. Zimmerman said he believed his life was in danger, believed Martin would grab Zimmerman's gun and use it against him, so Zimmerman grabbed the gun and shot.

Wikipedia has a detailed, heavily footnoted, and dispassionate summary of the evidence and varying accounts of the incident. Will Saletan at Slate describes the case as a tragedy of misperception and overreaction by both Zimmerman and Martin. The New York Times has a series of aerial photos showing the progression and location of events leading to the shooting.

This case has been portrayed as being about race in America, but there's no evidence that racial animus drove Zimmerman's actions. But if Martin did in fact confront Zimmerman and initiate the struggle that led to the shooting, I have to wonder if Martin's response to Zimmerman's surveillance was conditioned by the racial grievance industry and a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that he owed no one an explanation of who he was and why he belonged there.

Some may say that, as a white man, I am blind to the realities of race in America, and the suspicion that surrounds blacks, particularly young black men. But as a man, particularly as a man who wears a beard, I am continually aware that my presence in an unfamiliar place could be a source of worry to others, and that my expression, gait, demeanor, and dress can either reassure or stoke fears.

My favorite form of exercise is walking, and I would much rather walk through a historic neighborhood admiring homes than perambulate an oval indoor track. I'm interested in cities and neighborhoods and development, and when I travel I like to walk or drive through interesting areas and take pictures. I know that my strolling and staring and picture-taking may trigger worries, and that I need to be ready to give a calm and confident answer to anyone who questions what I'm up to.

In 2008, I was driving back from visiting relatives near Lawrence, Kansas, at night. As I passed through downtown Ottawa, I was taken by the beautiful neon of the Plaza Theater and stopped (no one behind me) to roll down the window to take a photo. A police officer spotted me and pulled me over. He asked me what I was drinking (Diet Coke) and why I was taking pictures. He thought I might be casing the jewelry store next door to the theater. I was tired and a bit shaken up, but I answered him calmly, and my calm demeanor, along with the sleeping toddler in the back seat in his car seat, set the officer at ease, and I proceeded onward to my destination. What if, instead, I had been incensed at his unwarranted inference, and had responded with hostility?

I recall another occasion many years earlier, when I worked at Burtek. I would sometimes pick up some lunch at a drive-thru (usually Lee's Chicken, Arby's, or Burger Street) and drive to McClure Park, about a half-mile from work, find a shady spot to park the car, and I'd eat, read the paper, and listen to Paul Harvey on KRMG (or if I was late getting away to lunch, KGGF's later broadcast) on the car radio. Once I parked under a tree along the south side of 7th Street, the northern boundary of the park. I noticed a woman who appeared to be from a nearby house striding with determination toward my car. She shot me a nasty look, walked around behind my car, and made a show of writing down my license plate number. I don't recall how I reacted, but I think I asked in a loud voice if there was a problem. She simply walked away. It was odd, but I figured out later that there must have been a burglary or some other suspicious activity nearby, and my presence marked me as a suspect. I think I avoided parking on 7th for a time after that, even though I had every right to park there and there were some very nice shade trees to park under. I didn't want to give anyone a reason to suspect me of wrongdoing.

If I find myself walking down a street with just one person ahead of me, particularly if the other person is female, I will adjust my pace or even cross the street to make it clear to the other person that I'm not going to approach. It's a matter of being considerate and thoughtful of the way my actions will be viewed by others.

Trayvon Martin didn't deserve to die for seeming to be suspicious and that wasn't why he died. He died because of a fight in which he physically beat another person and put the other person in fear for his life. A simple "can I help you?" followed by a gentle explanation would have avoided the confrontation, the fight, and the shooting.

MORE: Robert Stacy McCain reports that Martin's possession of stolen goods and marijuana were treated as disciplinary incidents rather than juvenile crime, in an effort by school police officials to reduce the Miami school district's crime stats:

Both of Trayvon's suspensions during his junior year at Krop High involved crimes that could have led to his prosecution as a juvenile offender. However, Chief Charles Hurley of the Miami-Dade School Police Department (MDSPD) in 2010 had implemented a policy that reduced the number of criiminal reports, manipulating statistics to create the appearance of a reduction in crime within the school system. Less than two weeks before Martin's death, the school system commended Chief Hurley for "decreasing school-related juvenile delinquency by an impressive 60 percent for the last six months of 2011." What was actually happening was that crimes were not being reported as crimes, but instead treated as disciplinary infractions.

McCain says that, had Martin been taken into custody as a juvenile offender in Miami, he would not have been in Sanford, Florida. Instead, he was suspended from school, and he was sent to stay with his father's girlfriend in Sanford. reports that Obama's Department of Justice provided logistical support for anti-Zimmerman protests in Florida.


I missed this, but Detective Christopher Serino testified that George Zimmerman responded with relief when told Serino mentioned that the altercation may have been captured on video:

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara questioned Serino about Zimmerman's fourth interview with police, when Serino teamed up with Officer Doris Singleton for a more aggressive line of questioning.

Serino stated that, during that interview, he suggested to Zimmerman there were surveillance cameras in the area of the shooting that could have captured the attack.

Zimmerman responded, "Thank God, I was hoping somebody videotaped it."

Singleton, also present during the interview, testified that she did not find any significant differences between Zimmerman's oral and written statements, and found no evidence Zimmerman had any ill will, spite or hatred toward Martin. Singleton added that Zimmerman appeared to be in shock when he learned that Martin was dead.

This YouTube video has the relevant section of Serino's testimony beginning at 30:38. And Legal Insurrection has a detailed account of Serino's testimony.

A year ago, Jack Cashill published a detailed timeline of Trayvon Martin's last hour, based on the 7-11 surveillance camera and phone records.

doug_cox-planned_parenthood-322px.jpgState Rep. Doug Cox (RINO-Grove) is using the aftermath of a disaster to gain a national platform from which he can heap scorn on his fellow lawmakers and his fellow Oklahomans in order to support Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, from whom he received a national award this year (pictured right) as a "pro-choice" Republican.

Under the guise of mourning the loss of 24 lives in this week's storm, he's promoting an organization responsible for the deaths of 3,316,822 by abortion procedures over a 12-year-period. Over the same period, Planned Parenthood made 25,846 adoption referrals, a ratio of 128 babies killed for every baby saved.

Cox is the member of the Republican caucus most likely to oppose a pro-life bill, and he's been an unreliable vote for the conservative cause on other issues as well. His 2012 conservative rating by the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper was 29%, lower than that of many Democrats. Cox and State Sen. Brian Crain have teamed up in support of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma. This article ought to be the final straw to prompt the Republican caucus to give him the heave-ho and to take away his chairmanships. If the Oklahoma Republican Party stands for anything, they ought to be recruiting and preparing a primary opponent right now.

Cox attacks "multiple bills [moving through the legislature] with the sole purpose of blocking women's access to preventive health care." Here's the beginning of his Huffington Post op-ed:

The eyes of the entire country have turned to Oklahoma this week in the wake of Monday's devastating tornado. The tornado tore through seventeen miles of ground, destroying homes, schools, and hospitals in its path. Twenty-four lives have been lost, including 10 children.

It is these kinds of tragic disasters that bring people together. As a physician, as a parent, as a state legislator who takes my oath to put my constituents interests first, I can't be silent when -- at a time of need for care, empathy, and community -- my colleagues in the Oklahoma state legislature are using the last days of session to further restrict Oklahoma women's access to health care. In these final days of session, my colleagues in the state legislature will consider multiple bills with the sole purpose of blocking women's access to preventive health care.

Cox refers obliquely to two bills but omits the bill number, perhaps so we can't see if he's accurately depicting their content. SB 900, which has emerged from a conference committee, sets priorities for family planning and counseling funding, putting public agencies at the top of the list followed by hospitals and rural clinics, with private clinics at the end of the line, and HB 2226, which requires a prescription for the Plan B abortifacient drug for girls 16 and under, but allows it to be sold over-the-counter for ages 17 and up.

Both bills are common-sense measures. SB 900 has been reported out of conference committee and has passed the Senate. The conference committee report on HB 2226 has passed both houses and is on the governor's desk.

The overwhelming majority of Oklahomans, regardless of political affiliation, oppose abortion. Oklahomans have elected overwhelming majorities of pro-life legislators, pro-life statewide officials, and a 100% pro-life congressional delegation. We don't want our tax dollars going to organizations that perform abortions or lobby for abortion rights. Oklahomans, in overwhelming majorities, believe that sex is for marriage, and we don't want our tax dollars going to organizations that publish websites for children as young as six that encourage teens to experiment sexually. We believe that children should be protected from sexual predators, and we don't want our tax dollars going to organizations that shield statutory rapists from the legal penalties they deserve.

If Planned Parenthood wants Oklahoma taxpayer dollars for their medical clinics, they should stop performing or referring for abortions, stop lobbying for abortion rights, and stop promoting sexual irresponsibility among teenagers in the name of sex education. Money is fungible, and anything PP receives from state government for non-controversial activities frees up funds for controversial activities.

Cox represents an unfortunate phase in the development of a Republican majority in the Oklahoma legislature. Well-known local civic leaders who seemed conservative but who hadn't been active in Republican politics were recruited to run for open seats in Democratic-dominated districts. Unfortunately, we later learned that some of these legislators hadn't been involved in Republican politics because they don't hold Republican views. With massive majorities in both houses, the GOP legislative caucuses should consider taking chairmanships away from those members who consistently work against core Republican principles.

UPDATE 2013/05/24: SB 900 passed today and is on its way to the governor.

UPDATE 2013/05/29: Cox has an op-ed in today's Oklahoman, in which he deliberately blurs the distinction between contraceptives (means of preventing conception) and the Plan B "morning after" chemical abortifacient. From his rhetoric in this piece, it appears he believes that the best protection society can offer 12 - 14 year old girls is condoms and Plan B. If only people like Cox were as serious about protecting the innocence of children as they are about protecting them from smoking and bad nutrition.

okgop2013.pngConservative political pundit Fred Barnes will be the keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Republican Party's pre-convention gala dinner, Friday, April 19, 2013. Gov. Mary Fallin and former Gov. Frank Keating will also speak, and Keating will serve as emcee.

Tickets start at $50 per person, with proceeds going to support the ongoing work of the Oklahoma Republican Party. For $125 per person ($225 per couple), you can attend the reception and have a photo-op with Fred Barnes.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard, co-founding the magazine in 1995. He has been a Fox News contributor since 1996. You may have first encountered him along with Mort Kondracke as regular panelists on "The McLaughlin Group" in the 1990s; the two then co-hosted Fox News's "The Beltway Boys."

I predict that Mr. Barnes will be warmly welcomed by Oklahoma Republicans, and not merely as a fellow conservative, but also (for perhaps the majority of us) as a fellow follower of Christ. He lives out his faith in often-hostile territory -- both in the DC metro area and in the realm of mass media. He understands first-hand, in a way that many of his right-of-center media colleagues do not, the aspects of the Christian faith that have motivated so many Oklahoma Christians to be involved politically, but also that one's Christian faith is much, much more than one's political involvement.

Barnes is an evangelical Anglican, a long-time member of The Falls Church, which withdrew from the Episcopal Church USA for the mainline denomination's radical departures from God's Word and which was recently evicted by the mainline denomination and the courts from its historic home. In 2007, Barnes and his wife Barbara left The Falls Church to help launch a new evangelical Anglican church being planted in Alexandria by The Falls Church. Barnes wrote about the experience of being involved in church planting in the Wall Street Journal.

Many thanks to the Oklahoma Republican Party for sponsoring BatesLine.


Fred Barnes archive at The Weekly Standard: His latest column asks why the Republican Party gave up our best issue and stopped talking about growth.

And here's Barnes, along with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and others, speaking in support of Birthmothers, a ministry that connects women in unplanned pregnancies with a supportive friend and the emotional and physical resources they need to bring their children into the world.

In 2008, I encountered Fred Barnes in a St. Paul elevator on the way to hear a talk by Fred Thompson.

Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society, will give three lectures in Tulsa this coming Wednesday and Thursday, April 3 and 4, 2013, on the life and work of G. K. Chesterton, the prolific early 20th century English writer and Christian apologist known as "the Apostle of Common Sense." His writing ought to be part of your education, particularly if you aspire to think and write clearly. His insights are timeless, as aptly applied to the politics, culture, and academia of today as they were a century ago.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at 2:50 p.m.
"The Influence of G.K. Chesterton on C.S. Lewis."
Oral Roberts University room GC 5112

Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at 7 p.m.
"Chesterton and the Christian Imagination"
Oral Roberts University room GC 4114

Thursday, April 4, 2013, at 7 p.m.
"An introduction to G.K. Chesterton"
St. Bernard Parish, Room G-8
4001 E. 101st Street, Tulsa


Chesterton (1874-1936) is hard to sum up, but here's Ahlquist's attempt: Who Is This Guy and Why Haven't I Heard of Him?. Ahlquist answers the latter half of that question:

Modern thinkers and commentators and critics have found it much more convenient to ignore Chesterton rather than to engage him in an argument, because to argue with Chesterton is to lose.

Chesterton argued eloquently against all the trends that eventually took over the 20th century: materialism, scientific determinism, moral relativism, and spineless agnosticism. He also argued against both socialism and capitalism and showed why they have both been the enemies of freedom and justice in modern society.

And what did he argue for? What was it he defended? He defended "the common man" and common sense. He defended the poor. He defended the family. He defended beauty. And he defended Christianity and the Catholic Faith. These don't play well in the classroom, in the media, or in the public arena. And that is probably why he is neglected. The modern world prefers writers who are snobs, who have exotic and bizarre ideas, who glorify decadence, who scoff at Christianity, who deny the dignity of the poor, and who think freedom means no responsibility.


Dawn Eden met Dale Ahlquist in 2004 and found him to be "a living epistle" of Chesterton:

The quality of Chesterton that is most noted by his fans, beyond his gift for insightful analysis and his counterarguments against heresies such as relativism, is his sense of wonder at the world. Over and over, in Orthodoxy, The Man Who Was Thursday, and, really, every other work of his that I can think of, he outlined the necessity of having a permanent sense of awe and gratitude for God's creation. I sensed that wonder in Dale, as well as an effervescent desire to carry out another one of Chesterton's dictums: that we should be happy.

(You'll have to visit the Wayback Machine to see the twin priests she mentions.)

QUOTATIONS by G. K. Chesterton, from the American Chesterton Society:

"The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice." - A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant, 1901

"A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." - The Everlasting Man, 1925

"Progress is a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative." - Chapter 2, Heretics, 1905

"Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision." - Orthodoxy, 1908

"My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday." - New York Times Magazine, 2/11/23

"I still hold. . .that the suburbs ought to be either glorified by romance and religion or else destroyed by fire from heaven, or even by firebrands from the earth." - The Coloured Lands

"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." - ILN, 1/14/11

"Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God." - Christendom in Dublin, 1933

"The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man." - Chapter 19, What I Saw In America, 1922

"If you attempt an actual argument with a modern paper of opposite politics, you will have no answer except slanging or silence." - Chapter 3, What's Wrong With The World, 1910

"For fear of the newspapers politicians are dull, and at last they are too dull even for the newspapers." - All Things Considered, 1908

"If there were no God, there would be no atheists." - Where All Roads Lead, 1922

"There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions." - ILN, 1/13/06

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." - Chapter 5, What's Wrong With The World, 1910

"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." - ILN 8-11-28

"Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - ILN, 5/5/28

"The whole structural system of the suburban civilization is based on the case for having bathrooms and the case against having babies." -G.K.'s Weekly, 7-6-29

"Progress is Providence without God. That is, it is a theory that everything has always perpetually gone right by accident. It is a sort of atheistic optimism, based on an everlasting coincidence far more miraculous than a miracle." - Wells and the World State, What I Saw in America


G. K. Chesterton's Works on the Web
G. K. Chesterton quotations
A Chesterton reading plan

One can argue about whether the death of marriage leads to big government or vice versa, but simply raising the topic shouldn't put one beyond the pale, should it?

OCPA has raised that question, and they're giving high school seniors a chance to do some deep thinking about a hot issue and maybe earn a college scholarship at the same time.

ocpalogo.jpgThe Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs will award $12,000 to five high school seniors in this year's essay contest. We asked students to answer the following question:

What impact, if any, does the structure of civil society, including family structure, have on the growth of government and vice versa?

The deadline is this Monday, April 1, 2013. For contest rules and an entry form visit

Some food for thought, along these lines:

There are those fiscal conservatives who believe that defending the traditional view of marriage and family, held nearly worldwide for millenia, is a losing cause, and so they advocate surrendering, so that the conservative movement can put all of its resources into the battle over the size and scope of government, which they presume to be more winnable.

In 2010, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a pro-life Christian and founder of an inner city classical Christian school, told the Weekly Standard:

that the next president, whoever he is, "would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We're going to just have to agree to get along for a little while," until the economic issues are resolved.

In September 2010, Mike Pence (then a congressman, now Governor of Indiana) responded to that perspective:

To those who say that marriage is not relevant to our budget crisis, I say, you would not be able to print enough money in a thousand years to pay for the government you would need if the traditional family continues to collapse.

Phyllis Schlafly calls the divide between fiscal and social issues "phony":

Contrary to politicians who want to call a truce about social issues, there is absolutely no way to separate social and fiscal issues; they are locked in a tight political embrace....

That's because the social issue of marriage, and its importance to our society, has become a tremendous fiscal issue. The problem of marriage absence is now costing the taxpayers even more than national defense....

It is obvious that when the mother of these children has no husband to support her and her babies, she calls on Big Brother Government. You and I then pay the bills for what is labeled welfare. It's not poverty that causes broken families; it's the absence of marriage that causes poverty and puts kids below the designated poverty line. Social issues cause fiscal expenses.

Columnist Mark Steyn speaking at Hillsdale College in March 2012:

Anytime I went into an ABC show all the people said, "How can Rick Santorum be a credible presidential candidate? He's so weird." Then I actually asked what's weird about him. He's weird because he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. He's weird because the family is the basic building block of society. In fact, it was non-weird for almost all of human history. What's interesting to me is not Santorum's weirdness, but the fact that so much of what he says is now presumed to be weird. I think he's right on the basic issue, which is that the crisis America faces is not primarily an accounting problem or a bookkeeping problem. We're broke for a reason. This country is the most broke nation in history because it is not the republic of limited government and self-reliant citizenry De Tocqueville observed two centuries ago. So he's right in the extent that the [financial] brokenness is a symptom of the problem not the problem and in that sense I don't find Santorum half as weird as 90 percent of his critics.

Happy Pi Day! This evening at 6:28 Eastern time, applicants to MIT will learn whether or not they've been admitted. For those hopefuls and anyone else in need of worthwhiling away a little time, some links of interest:

Tyson Wynn, who runs local news site, has been bombarded with complaints from Canadian animal rights activists and their allies about a nearby event that he knew nothing about and has nothing to do with. Among other things, these people have threatened never to vacation in Welch (pop. 619). Tyson offers some advice on how not to advocate for your cause.

Aerogramme Writers' Studio: Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: From some of the most compelling storytellers of our time. Rule 9 begins, "When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next."

Somewhat related: Ace ponders the Mystification/Revelation Model of Teaching. First you puzzle and frustrate your student, then you relieve his frustration with a solution. You're going to be much more interested in information if it answers a question that's bothering or intriguing you. Ace sees this technique used in good movie storytelling. Seems to me that Jesus' parables fit the same pattern.

My Tulsa friend Erin Patrick gets a mention in a Wall Street Journal article about grown kids who stay on their parents' family plans for phone and digital entertainment. Erin's daughter is on the family phone plan; her 16-year-old son is paying for some of his own subscriptions out of the money he earns. "Ole Buttermilk Sky": A song-by-song description of a British CD collection of mid-1940s recordings by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, mainly songs from the Tiffany Transcriptions that were not included in Kaleidoscope's LPs. The article by Tom Diamant includes some interesting info on the Crosley Transcriptions (aka Presto Transcriptions) and how to tell a sloppy re-issue from a careful dubbing.

Did you know that Southern Hills Country Club is in a low-income "food desert"? The U. S. Department of Agriculture has an interactive food desert map. That SHCC is in a low-income food desert is an example of the hazards of aggregation. I guess the number of households in the apartments on the east side of Lewis north of 71st outnumber the households in the massive homes backing up to the golf course, but they're all in the same census tract.

StateImpact has a Google Map of municipal water rates in Oklahoma. It's not close to complete, but interesting nevertheless.

Rex Brown says in-home filters may be the cause of your slow DSL internet and offers a solution -- an outdoor splitter where your phone service comes into the house.

Warren Buffett praises John Maynard Keynes, but his father Howard Buffett was a friend of libertarian economist Murray Rothbard, who sent a copy of his Panic of 1819 to Howard for Warren. Thinking that Warren must have lost that copy, economist Mark Thornton sent him another.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal documents the rising popularity of home-brewing among Christians. One of the churches mentioned appears to be part of the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (although they take pains to hide their affiliation on their website; I deduced it from where their pastoral staff went to college and seminary); there's an elder at our local PCA congregation who makes some very nice beers. (An unanswered question: Why do home brewers and craft brewers feel obligated to go overboard with hops?)

C_Everett_Koop.jpgFormer U. S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop died Monday at the age of 96. Many of the headlines about his death have focused on his time as a member of President Reagan's cabinet and his breaks with conservative allies on government policies regarding tobacco and AIDS.

Evangelicals of a certain age will remember their first encounter with Koop, in the 1979 film series Whatever Happened to the Human Race?. Koop, then a leading pediatric surgeon, appeared in the series with Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer reviewing threats to the sanctity of human life -- abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia -- and calling their fellow Christians to take action to resist these threats.

David Bayly, who knew Koop personally, writes:

The Roman Catholic pro-life movement had its legion of stalwarts in the seventies and early eighties: Joe Scheidler, Mother Theresa, Father Paul Quay, Archbishop O'Connor; the list is impressive. And Evangelicalism? Who were her pro-life leaders? There literally weren't any, at least initially. But then God brought Everett Koop and Francis Schaeffer together and the battle was joined from the Protestant side. It's not an exaggeration to say that Dr. Koop and Francis Schaeffer were the twin fathers of the modern Evangelical pro-life movement.

So we praise God for the life and witness of Dr. Koop. He was there when almost no one else was. Some in the Christian Medical Society may lionize Dr. Koop at his death, but they will perhaps have forgotten Dr. Koop's disgusted resignation from an organization he helped found for its refusal to take an officially pro-life position--a stance he maintained even after Tim's and my father assumed its presidency for a few years in the early 80s. Despite their friendship, Dr. Koop refused Dad's request that he rejoin. Even after passage of a clear and forceful pro-life stance, he initially refused to rejoin an organization that, as he saw it, had been cowardly on the central moral issue of the day.

Read the whole thing. Bayly tells of Koop's correction and encouragement to him as an amateur boy scientist, an anecdote that highlights Koop's devotion to science.

Before he became a public figure, Koop was a pioneering pediatric and neonatal surgeon. From the Philadelphia Inquirer's obituary:

After interning at Pennsylvania Hospital, Dr. Koop joined Children's in 1948, the staff's first pediatric surgeon. For a time, he was the hospital's entire surgery department. When he retired at 66, he presided over 26 full-time surgeons in eight specialties.

Dr. Koop was a pioneer in surgery on newborns, developing techniques for birth defects that, before him, had meant certain death.

The parents of ailing children saw him as heroic. He achieved national prominence in 1974, when he headed a team of 20 surgeons that separated conjoined twin girls who had been born in the Dominican Republic....

To save a life, he did not always follow the rules. In a 1968 interview in Philadelphia Magazine, he told how, on an icy night in 1953, he had received a call from Pennsylvania Hospital about a newborn who had been delivered with abdominal organs in the chest.

Within minutes, Dr. Koop drove to the hospital, parked his car on the sidewalk, and raced to the delivery room. He wrapped the baby in a blanket, placed it on the floor of the car near the heater, and drove back to Children's.

He took no X-rays. He carried the baby to the operating room, opened the chest, put the organs in their proper place, repaired a hole in the diaphragm, and closed it back up.

He had broken all the rules, he said, and would not have followed that procedure at the time of the interview. "On the other hand," he said, "we had a living baby."

He rejected abortion and abhorred amniocentesis, a test to see if a fetus has genetic defects. He labeled it "a search-and-destroy mission." Most women who have amniocentesis did not keep their babies if a defect was found, he noted. "Many of the congenital defects are things that I have spent my entire life correcting," he said.


Whatever Happened to the Human Race, as a YouTube playlist:

C. Everett Koop papers at the National Institutes of Health

The C. Everett Koop Institute at Dartmouth

P. S.: The Inquirer obit mentions that the Senate held up his nomination for 10 months. I suspect (can't find the details) that Senate Democrats were responsible for that hold. He wasn't the only Republican appointee to be blocked by Democrats, and present-day Senate Republicans should remember that even as a minority party they have leverage and ought to use it for the good of the country.

A few thoughts that have been stirring for a week or so:

It's fascinating to me that some of the same liberals who worry (rightfully) about the impact of massive development on the delicate interactions of physical ecosystems can be blithe about the encroachments of the monolithic state on the self-sustaining interdependencies of loyalty, love, parenthood, family, church, neighborhood, community, and commerce.

You can't build a pipeline without poisoning the earth and destroying species, but somehow government with its massive coercive powers can get involved in regulating every human interaction without destroying the intricate web that is the social fabric of a community.

We aren't happy with what nature produces on its own. There are bugs and burrs and mudholes. So we fence it, pave part of it, prune it, brushhog it, spread weedkiller and pesticide to get rid of what we don't want, and spread fertilizer to encourage what we do want. A meadow that thrived for centuries on its own terms is turned into a lawn that needs constant, expensive maintenance to keep it attractive. We find ourselves fighting against nature rather than husbanding it.

We aren't happy with what human nature produces on its own. People can be clannish, selfish, thoughtless. Even when we had a thriving, natural, social ecosystem, people in genuine need sometimes fell through the cracks. The desire to provide government assistance to those few who couldn't be helped any other way became a government program for everyone in need. Dependence enables dysfunction, which creates more dependence and more need for government intervention, which is expensive, because every intervention must be managed.

The leftist response to the problem with human nature and human society is to fence it, pave it, and try to remake it completely, trashing the social ecosystem in the process. They never succeed in changing human nature, but they use their every failure as justification for more spending and more intervention. It's the epitome of non-sustainability.

If I'm solely dependent on government for my food, housing, and job (or unemployment benefits), I don't need to calibrate my interactions with others, and I don't need to rein in my self-centeredness or my desire for instant gratification. I can be as sociopathic as I like and still get fed, clothed, housed, maybe get a free cell phone and free internet. If my sociopathy is amusingly peculiar, I might even get a degree of notoriety on reality television. My only obligation is to vote for the folks who keep spending money on me.

There was a twitterpated Twitter dust-up the other day, in which fiscal conservatives resurrected a year-old dispute and used it to trash social conservatives and wish for our disappearance from the political realm. One tweep said we should work together with groups of "conservatives" organized to promote sexual immorality in order to "destroy progressivism."

But destroying traditional Judeo-Christian views of family and sexual morality are a key part of the progressive agenda, and that part of the progressive agenda must be defeated if we also wish to turn back encroachments upon our economic liberties. A populace that has been trained to believe that their sexual appetites are paramount and must be indulged and honored by all and protected from scorn and shame is going to need and demand a big, power-hungry, money-hungry government to rescue them from the wreckage they make of their lives. They aren't going to vote for policies that encourage entrepreneurship and allow the self-disciplined to prosper. They're going to vote for politicians who will protect them from the consequences of their folly without any need to turn from their folly, much less feel ashamed of it.

SOMEWHAT RELATED, from Rod Dreher:

My sense -- and I've said this elsewhere -- is that from a traditional conservative and small-o orthodox Christian perspective, the battle has been lost because the culture has been lost, and the wisest thing we can do is to retreat to defensible positions while continuing to live out and to teach our religious and moral traditions, in hope of better times. If I'm right, then as a practical matter, the best we can hope for in the secular realm is to fight for the liberty to be left alone. This, as John Z. gets, means in practical terms embracing a libertarianism that we find philosophically objectionable, but which is probably the only option open to us.

Worth your attention: Jonathan V. Last, writing in the Wall Street Journal explains the dire consequences of America's declining fertility rate, which is likely to decline even more steeply in years to come:

The nation's falling fertility rate underlies many of our most difficult problems. Once a country's fertility rate falls consistently below replacement, its age profile begins to shift. You get more old people than young people. And eventually, as the bloated cohort of old people dies off, population begins to contract. This dual problem--a population that is disproportionately old and shrinking overall--has enormous economic, political and cultural consequences....

Low-fertility societies don't innovate because their incentives for consumption tilt overwhelmingly toward health care. They don't invest aggressively because, with the average age skewing higher, capital shifts to preserving and extending life and then begins drawing down. They cannot sustain social-security programs because they don't have enough workers to pay for the retirees. They cannot project power because they lack the money to pay for defense and the military-age manpower to serve in their armed forces.

Last points to Japan as a warning:

If you want to see what happens to a country once it hurls itself off the demographic cliff, look at Japan, with a fertility rate of 1.3. In the 1980s, everyone assumed the Japanese were on a path to owning the world. But the country's robust economic facade concealed a crumbling demographic structure....

By the 1980s, it was already clear that the country would eventually undergo a population contraction. In 1984, demographer Naohiro Ogawa warned that, "Owing to a decrease in the growth rate of the labor force...Japan's economy is likely to slow down." He predicted annual growth rates of 1% or even 0% in the first quarter of the 2000s....

Because of its dismal fertility rate, Japan's population peaked in 2008; it has already shrunk by a million since then. Last year, for the first time, the Japanese bought more adult diapers than diapers for babies, and more than half the country was categorized as "depopulated marginal land." At the current fertility rate, by 2100 Japan's population will be less than half what it is now.

And America can't count on immigration to make up for our decline. Fertility rates in source countries are declining, reducing the pressure for emigration, and the fertility rate among immigrants in the US declines as they become acculturated.

As a solution, Last says it won't be enough to offer tax incentives for childbearing, although those are needed. (I like his idea for cutting social security tax for parents during child-rearing years, with bigger cuts for more kids.) There's a basic cultural attitude that needs adjustment.

There have been lots of changes in American life over the last 40 years that have nudged our fertility rate downward. High on the list is the idea that "happiness" is the lodestar of a life well-lived. If we're going to reverse this decline, we'll need to reintroduce into American culture the notion that human flourishing ranges wider and deeper than calculations of mere happiness.

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the U. S. Supreme Court decision that overturned abortion laws in nearly every state, and in memory of the 55 million unborn children killed since that time by legal abortion in America (a holocaust that rivals Communist Russia and Communist China in scope and surpasses Nazi Germany by a factor of 10), the fourth annual Tulsa March for Life will begin at 8th and Boulder downtown tonight, Tuesday, January 22, 2013, at 7:00 pm. The march will proceed to Centennial Green at 6th and Boston, for a rally at which pro-life activist Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be the keynote speaker.


AUL has transcripts and audio of the oral arguments in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.

Americans United for Life reflects on 40 years after Roe, and AUL's focus on laying the legal groundwork to protect the sanctity of human life whenever and wherever the political will exists to do so. AUL has ranked Oklahoma as 2nd in the list of states most protective of unborn children, trailing only Louisiana.

Last year, columnist Tim Carney posted a list of quotes by left-of-center legal scholars attacking Roe and Doe as bad decisions by the Supreme Court.

In a 2012 op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, Diana Schaub points to Baltimore's astronomical abortion rate (in 2005, 86.2 abortions per 1,000 women) as a cause of the city's decline:

It is this matter of ethos that is crucial, according to Montesquieu. He argues that "the chief cause [of depopulation] is to be found in a change of customs." Not surprisingly, the customs he focuses on are those most entwined with human procreation and childrearing -- above all, the status of the institution of marriage (although he doesn't neglect another closely related matter: the spirit of commerce and industry). In his examination of factors that can undermine the fruitfulness and health of populations, he singles out "the cruel habit the women [of some locales] have of aborting themselves, so that their pregnancy will not make them disagreeable to their men."

The decline of marriage, particularly among African-Americans, is all too familiar. Not as well-known is that Maryland has a very high abortion rate (third highest among the states in 2005, the year that the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene stopped collecting abortion statistics). The breakdown by jurisdiction reveals that Baltimore City is driving those deadly numbers, and also that the abortion rate among African-American women is at least triple the white rate.

Even for those in favor of legal abortion, the situation should be dismaying. And it certainly represents what Montesquieu termed "a change of customs." For comparison: In 1970, Baltimore City abortion rates for single white and black women stood at 7.43 and 10 respectively (the abortion rate is the number of abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44), with the married women's rates half that. By 2005, the Baltimore rate was 86.2. The National Abortion Rights Action League, which cites that figure, did not provide the African-American rate, but it would be substantially higher.

A Facebook friend shared an item posted on December 28, 2012, by Teletul Estrellatv Tulsa (channel 51, Tulsa's only Spanish-language TV station) about President Barack Obama participating in a Día de Reyes event on January 6 at 3 pm in the parking lot of the Las Américas supermarket parking lot at Admiral and Lewis. Día de Reyes is known in the liturgical calendar of the English-speaking world as Epiphany or Three Kings' Day, marking the visit of wise men from the east to worship and offer gifts to the child Jesus, as related in the 2nd chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew.

La Casa Blanca confirmó hace minutos que el presidente Barack Obama aceptó la invitación de grupo Teletul y líderes comunitarios hispanos, para participar en evento del Día de Reyes, a realizarse en Tulsa el próximo 6 de enero a las 3 de la tarde. Es la primera vez que un mandatario estadounidense participa en un evento de este tipo, orientado a la comunidad hispana en Tulsa, y es parte de los esfuerzos del presidente por acercarse a las familias inmigrantes en su batalla contra el déficit fiscal. El evento durará sólo 30 minutos debido a la recargada agenda presidencial, y se llevará a cabo en el área de estacionamiento de Supermercados Las Américas de Admiral y Lewis, donde converge un gran número de hispanos. ¿Usted asistirá?

As it happens, December 28 is another feast day associated with the Nativity of Christ and with Matthew chapter 2. It's the Feast of the Holy Innocents, marking the deaths of the babies and toddlers killed on the orders of King Herod the Great of Judea, in his effort to destroy the prophesied king of the Jews, whose arrival posed a threat to his own reign. Matthew 2:16-18:

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

"A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more."

In the Hispanosphere, the Feast of the Holy Innocents is traditionally a day for practical jokes, along the lines of April Fools' Day. The notion of innocence could be connected with the innocent intent of the trickster or the innocence to the point of gullibility of the trick's victim. So Teletul's announcement was a prank.

The Facebook friend who shared the "news" about Obama's visit made a reference to Dia de Los Inocentes. Not knowing the day's connection to practical jokes, I thought it was a reference to Obama's radical support for the slaughter of innocent children, not only those still in the womb, but even those who manage to survive a botched abortion.

We're in the midst of the High Holy Days, the period between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and I just came across an apropos video excerpt of a talk by Leonard Nimoy, the actor famous for his role as First Officer Spock in Star Trek, the original series.

In this clip, Nimoy responds to the question, "Is there Judaism in Star Trek?" He begins by listing Jewish values -- education, social justice, compassion for those in need, the dignity of the individual -- that are found in Star Trek. He talks of his childhood as a Jew in overwhelmingly Catholic Boston and how it informed his role as an alienated character, "the other, the outsider," not fully at home among either humans or Vulcans.

His Judaism not only made him feel at home in the series and in the role, but it was the well from which he drew the Vulcan greeting gesture. In the clip, he talks about the impression made on him as a child by the drama of the Priestly Blessing chanted by the kohanim (men of the congregation directly descended from Aaron) on the bimah (platform) of the synagogue:

(Nimoy grew up in the West End of Boston, then an Eastern European Jewish neighborhood, cleared in the 1950s by "urban renewal" for high rises.)

MORE: What I was looking for when I found the above video: From the July 28, 1967, episode of Malibu U, Leonard Nimoy sings "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins":

A Rally for Religious Freedom will be held in dozens of cities across the nation tomorrow, bringing together Catholics and Protestants to protest government intrusion in the religious convictions of health care providers. Tulsa's rally will take place at Chapman Centennial Green, on 6th Street downtown between Main and Boston, from noon to 1 p.m., Friday, June 8, 2012.

Speakers will include Rev. Dr. Jim Miller, pastor of Tulsa's First Presbyterian Church, Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tulsa, constitutional attorney Leah Farish, Sr. Barbara Anne Gooding of St. Francis Hospital, Dennis Jernigan, and Rev. Leonard Ahanotu of St. Clement's Catholic Parish in Bixby.

Parking will be available in a lot owned by 1st Presbyterian Church on the south side of 8th St between Main and Boston -- the north half of the block only.

When the Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a secular philosopher hit the same theme in the same week, it's worth paying attention:

First, Dean Russell Moore, writing for Desiring God Blog -- Fake Love, Fake War: Why So Many Men Are Addicted to Internet Porn and Video Games:

You know the guy I'm talking about. He spends hours into the night playing video games and surfing for pornography. He fears he's a loser. And he has no idea just how much of a loser he is. For some time now, studies have shown us that porn and gaming can become compulsive and addicting. What we too often don't recognize, though, is why.

In a new book, The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan say we may lose an entire generation of men to pornography and video gaming addictions. Their concern isn't about morality, but instead about the nature of these addictions in reshaping the patten of desires necessary for community....

But the compulsive form of gaming shares a key element with porn: both are meant to simulate something, something for which men long.

Pornography promises orgasm without intimacy. Video warfare promises adrenaline without danger. The arousal that makes these so attractive is ultimately spiritual to the core.

Satan isn't a creator but a plagiarist. His power is parasitic, latching on to good impulses and directing them toward his own purpose. God intends a man to feel the wildness of sexuality in the self-giving union with his wife. And a man is meant to, when necessary, fight for his family, his people, for the weak and vulnerable who are being oppressed.

The drive to the ecstasy of just love and to the valor of just war are gospel matters. The sexual union pictures the cosmic mystery of the union of Christ and his church. The call to fight is grounded in a God who protects his people, a Shepherd Christ who grabs his sheep from the jaws of the wolves....

Moreover, these addictions foster the seemingly opposite vices of passivity and hyper-aggression. The porn addict becomes a lecherous loser, with one-flesh union supplanted by masturbatory isolation. The video game addict becomes a pugilistic coward, with other-protecting courage supplanted by aggression with no chance of losing one's life. In both cases, one seeks the sensation of being a real lover or a real fighter, but venting one's reproductive or adrenal glands over pixilated images, not flesh and blood for which one is responsible.

Zimbardo and Duncan are right, this is a generation mired in fake love and fake war, and that is dangerous. A man who learns to be a lover through porn will simultaneously love everyone and no one. A man obsessed with violent gaming can learn to fight everyone and no one.

The answer to both addictions is to fight arousal with arousal. Set forth the gospel vision of a Christ who loves his bride and who fights to save her. And then let's train our young men to follow Christ by learning to love a real woman, sometimes by fighting his own desires and the spirit beings who would eat him up. Let's teach our men to make love, and to make war . . . for real.

About all that I'd add is that the drive to fight doesn't necessarily mean war, although we may have occasion to take up arms to defend our loved ones, our country, and our civilization against those who would destroy them. There are countless opportunities to stand up for truth and justice. There are billions of people who have never heard the gospel, and many of them live in lands where proclaiming the gospel could cost you your liberty or even your life. You may have a revolutionary idea that would make lives better or even save lives, but to pursue it requires you to leave a comfortable and safe job. The world cries out for true servant-leaders, good shepherds who will, in imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd, put their own reputations, comforts, and lives on the line for the sake of others.

Indulging in porn and video combat dissipates our innate drive to woo, to excel, to achieve, to compete, to win, to innovate. When our restlessness should push us forward to take risks, these impostors pacify us into complacency and invite us to settle for mediocrity.

This brings to mind the old hymn, "Rise Up O Men of God":

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up and make her great!

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!

(I've always loved Phil Keaggy's setting of these words.)

Next, here's perpetually interesting philosopher Alain de Botton responding to questions about his new book on sex in a chat with Grauniad readers. (Emphasis added.)

It is perhaps only people who haven't felt the full power of sex over their logical selves who can remain uncensorious and liberally 'modern' on the subject. Philosophies of sexual liberation appeal mostly to people who don't have anything too destructive or weird that that they wish to do once they have been liberated.

However, anyone who has experienced the power of sex in general and internet pornography in particular to reroute our priorities is unlikely to be so sanguine about liberty. Pornography, like alcohol and drugs, weakens our ability to endure the kinds of suffering that are necessary for us to direct our lives properly. In particular, it reduces our capacity to tolerate those two ambiguous goods, anxiety and boredom. Our anxious moods are genuine but confused signals that something is amiss, and so they need to be listened to and patiently interpreted - which is unlikely to happen when we have to hand one of the most powerful tools of distraction ever invented. The entire internet is in a sense pornographic, it is a deliverer of constant excitement which we have no innate capacity to resist, a system which leads us down paths many of which have nothing to do with our real needs. Furthermore, pornography weakens our tolerance for the kind of boredom which is vital to give our minds the space in which good ideas can emerge, the sort of creative boredom we experience in a bath or on a long train journey. It is at moments when we feel an irresistible desire to escape from ourselves that we can be sure that there is something important we need to bring to consciousness - and yet it is precisely at such pregnant moments that internet pornography has a habit of exerting its maddening pull, thereby helping us to destroy our future.

de Botton is right to broaden his view of the problem beyond internet porn to the internet itself. Even as I've been putting this post together, every time I get stuck on a word or unsure about the next sentence, I've had to fight the urge to open another tab and see what's new on Twitter or Facebook or Homestar Runner or Ace or email.

Internet porn and first-person shooters aren't the first distractions in history capable of sapping a man's will to fight and strive and achieve. TV does a pretty good job of it, although eventually you run out of channels. (You never run out of Internet.) Porn has been around for a long time, too, doing its deadening work in the form of paper and celluloid and magnetic tape, but never before has it been as readily and anonymously accessible. It's always been possible to dampen down restlessness, boredom, and anxiety with the help of alcohol or narcotics. Many a man has dissipated his initiative in sports fanaticism, obsessive collecting, and compulsive hobbies. Some (but not all) of these things can be enjoyed in moderation as a needed respite from the battle; all have the potential to become a substitute for the battles we are called to fight but prefer to avoid.

When I feel the nagging sense that I could be doing more with the opportunities and abilities God has given me, when the cavernous gap between my potential and my accomplishments screams at me, I need to resist the temptation to reach for the nearest distraction, and instead thank God that I can still feel restlessness and ask Him for the wisdom to know where best to channel it, for His Kingdom's sake.

MORE: CNN article by the authors of The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It:

Young men -- who play video games and use porn the most -- are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety.

Such new brains are also totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play and on long-term goal-setting.

Guys are also totally out of sync in romantic relationships, which tend to build gradually and subtly, and require interaction, sharing, developing trust and suppression of lust at least until "the time is right."

And here is Zimbardo's talk at TED on The Demise of Guys.

OKCapitolLampPost.jpgOklahoma Speaker of the House Kris Steele has pulled a pro-life bill from the House calendar, effectively killing it for the year. SB 1433, which establishes the principle that personhood begins at conception, was, figuratively speaking, poisoned and dismembered by Steele, who claimed the support of a secret vote in the Republican House caucus, according to a story last Thursday by Pat McGuigan of CapitolBeatOK.

Expressing deep disappointment, state Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City, a Republican, said in a statement to CapitolBeatOK, "I am pro-life and do not agree with refusing to grant a floor hearing to any pro-life bill that has gained committee approval.

"While I will abide by the caucus' decision, I certainly was not among those opposing the bill. And I will continue fighting for the rights of the unborn."

The legislation would have found that the "life of each human being begins at conception" and asserted the "laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state."...

Speaker of the House Kris Steele informed members of the Capitol press of the GOP House caucus decision Thursday afternoon. He stressed the decision was "not made unilaterally."

There may well be a solid, substantive reason for a pro-life legislator to oppose this bill, even though this is a bill strongly supported by Oklahomans for Life, but that debate and vote should have been held openly, not behind closed doors. If I were in charge of the Oklahomans for Life scorecard, I'd have to give a demerit to every Republican member of the House and assume they voted in secret to kill the bill unless they take active, public steps to override Speaker Steele and allow the bill to be heard on the floor of the House.

Killing bills in secret out of fear for political consequences is the sort of garbage the Democrats used to pull when they had the majority. I expect better from my fellow Oklahoma Republicans, particularly in light of our strong history of passing pro-life legislation. Shame, shame, shame on Speaker Steele and his accomplices.

State Sen. Brian Crain, author of SB 1433, says that there may have been confusion about his bill:

Crain, R-Tulsa, said opponents to his bill became confused with his measure and proposals being advanced by a national group on personhood, which is supporting Oklahoma's initiative petition effort.

"They started mixing up one for the other and thought they were all the same," he said.

"There were some people that knew that this thing was constitutional; they just chose to not be completely open about what they thought this bill truly did."

Crain said the bill is based on a law in Missouri, which was upheld in 1989 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

MORE: State Rep. Paul Wesselhöft pins the blame for stopping the personhood bill on the State Chamber of Commerce. From his April 20, 2012, press release:

State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft said today he is disappointed that the personhood bill will not be given a hearing on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

"When I ran for this office, I promised my constituents that I would be a pro-life voice in the Legislature," Wesselhoft said. "Therefore, my constituents and Republican friends deserve to know that I strongly supported, argued and voted for the Personhood bill to be heard in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

"Unfortunately, a majority of my Republicans colleagues voted not to hear it. That bill could have sent a vital moral message that human life in the womb is not a blob of tissue but a living person created in the Image of God.

"I don't believe SB1433 presented a substantive problem but an image problem for the State Chamber of Commerce."

House leadership announced this week that Senate Bill 1433 would not be given a floor hearing in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The legislation simply declares that the "life of each human being begins at conception" and that the "laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state."

Meanwhile, although Steele claimed the bill would have no substantive effect (if not, then why kill it?), leading pro-abortion lobby group Planned Parenthood is celebrating his decision:

Photo from the website

standupbanner.pngAmericans will rally in 140 cities across the nation at noon tomorrow, Friday, March 23, 2012, to protest the Obamacare HHS mandate requiring nearly all private health insurance plans to cover "all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, surgical sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs," overriding an employer's moral convictions.

Tulsa's rally will be held at LaFortune Park, 5801 S. Yale Ave. Speakers will include Tulsa constitutional attorney Leah Farish. In 2005, Farish received Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Law Project's Mary Beth Tinker Award for her successful defense of the right of a Muslim high school student in Muskogee to wear a headscarf at a public school.

Dozens of pro-life and religious liberty organizations have joined forces to organize this nationwide event, including the Pro-Life Action League, Concerned Women for America, and the Becket Fund for Religous Liberty.

Social liberals often complain that social conservatives want to use government power to impose their views on everyone else. As the Obamacare HHS mandate demonstrates, it's the other way around: Lefties want to use government to force everyone to conform to their moral judgments. We need to stand up for religious liberty if we want to preserve it.

FearAnIarthair.JPGI want to call your attention to an excellent essay on the excellent blog Fear an Iarthair (that's Irish for "Man of the West"), entitled "What is conservatism?"

This brief essay will not take you long to read -- five minutes or so -- but it is one you will want to re-read and ponder, possibly even memorize certain passages. The author says that it is "not quite done," the beginnings of a work in progress on the differences between conservatism and libertarianism, but it seems fully baked to me.

Some quotes to entice you to read the whole thing:

In the end, though, Conservatism is less a laundry-list of political points than an approach to life and to governance that presupposes certain truths, certain ideas....

Conservatism, you might say, is the practice, perhaps the reflexive practice, of prudence, the prudential working-out of some basic ideas about the Divine and Man....

Conservatives might differ on exactly what the role of government should be or what the rewards and perks of governing should be, but they never really doubt that government is a necessary, normal, inevitable, and even Divinely ordained facet of human existence....

If, then, Conservatives are generally people who believe in the Divine and divinely-ordained concepts of right and wrong, they necessarily believe, necessarily presuppose, that Man has certain inherent rights. They also think that if government is part of the Divine Order, then it must have a purpose and it must, too, have bounds....

Government is Divinely ordained, but so are limits to government's role in human life (and this is explained at great length in Lex, Rex). The Conservative abhors lawlessness, but despises tyranny, at the same time acknowledging that human nature being what it is and human limits being what they are, the perfect balance between too little and too much government will not be achieved in this world....

The Conservative approaches the prospect of changing long-established practice and custom, not with hubris, but with humility and respect. This does not mean that the Conservative reflexively opposes all change; he knows that a society must be capable of prudent changes to survive and thrive. Nevertheless, change must be thoughtful and prudent, not hasty, not emotional, not sweeping aside the whole of existing society. The Conservative knows, deep in his bones, that it is all too possible for the cure to be worse than the disease and it is probably better to put up with some small, bearable grievances than to risk catastrophe for the sake of quickly implementing wholesale change, the consequences of which are very hard, if not impossible, to foresee and manage....

The essayist notes that much of what he says in this essay is found in succinct form in the Declaration of Independence.

The essay offers links to more food for thought: Edmund Burke's writings on the American and French Revolutions, Samuel Rutherford's Lex Rex, and Russell Kirk's list of ten conservative principles.

His "about" page is worth reading, too, for its thoughts on Western Civilization, education, leadership, martial arts, and barbecue.

MEND marks 25 years

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mend_logo.gifEarlier this evening, I attended the annual fundraising banquet for MEND Medical Clinic and Pregnancy Resource Center. MEND was founded in 1987 to provide pregnant women in crisis pregnancies in the Tulsa area with the resources they need to say "yes" to the new life growing within.

In 2011, MEND worked with over 1,500 clients, and provided tens of thousands of diapers, infant and maternity clothes, baby food and formula. MEND's clinic conducted 278 ultrasounds, and of 226 pregnancies confirmed through ultrasounds, 204 clients chose life. MEND accomplishes much with a small staff and a small budget. They are happy to receive gently used maternity and baby clothing and equipment, but their greatest needs are for volunteers and financial support, so that they can expand the number of women they can help.

According to their website, MEND can help with limited ultra sound, limited STD testing, confidential counseling, childbirth and parenting classes, adoption referrals, medical, legal, and housing referrals, maternity and baby clothes, baby furniture, diapers, formula, and baby food, abortion information and education, and support groups.

The MEND wish list includes $3,400 to buy a new outdoor sign for the facility, $1,300 to cover the cost of pregnancy tests, $750 / month to rent a billboard to advertise MEND to women in need of help. It also includes 30 committed volunteers: Spanish speakers, client mentors, client advocates, and clerical and computer help in the office.

Contrary to the caricatures of the pro-abortion industry, pregnancy resource centers are there to help women for the long haul, providing support and encouragement through pregnancy and after the baby is born. At the same time, they offer help and support to those hurting from abortions in their past.

There was a special acknowledgment of recently retired cofounder and director Nancy Roe, who spoke about the founding of MEND, how it was inspired in part by Bernard Nathanson's film "Silent Scream" and her own experience helping a young woman in a crisis pregnancy and the sense that God was calling her to respond with action.

Nancy Roe's successor as executive director is Forrest Cowan. He noted the incongruity of being a man in an organization with an overwhelmingly female staff, but the situation has already brought opportunities for him to talk with the young men who sometimes come along with women to the clinic. Many times what makes a pregnancy a crisis is the absence of a man to support and care for the mother and the baby. While it isn't MEND's core mission to address the deficit of male leadership, commitment, and responsibility, that deficit is one of the reasons a place like MEND is needed.

A highlight of the evening was a live pre-natal ultrasound. MEND Medical Director Dr. Matthew Stevens and his assistant were in a partitioned room with the mom-to-be, while the images were shown on big screens at the front of the room. It brought back happy memories of seeing the ultrasounds of our three children to see this little one wiggle and kick, and to see and hear its tiny heart beating.

I was pleased to see State Rep. Pam Peterson, who served on the MEND board prior to her election to the legislature and who has authored many pro-life bills, including the heartbeat bill in the current session; State Sen. Brian Crain, who is the lead sponsor for the personhood bill; and Rogers County Republican vice chairman Jason Carini, who is a candidate for State House District 23, a seat that is open because Rep. Sue Tibbs is term-limited. The political aspect of the pro-life cause is important, but these politicians understand the vital needs filled by an organization like MEND, which is there to provide direct assistance to women in crisis.

It was also encouraging to read the names of companies in the list of donors: Apache Corp., Thermal Windows, Warren Clinic/St. Francis Health System, Dixie Moseley Interiors, KCFO, Improving Lives Counseling Services, Coreslab Structures, Helmerich & Payne, Paradigm Construction & Engineering, Smith/Latta, Trinity Chemical., Glenpool Flowers, Heart's Desire Baskets and Gayle Falconer, and Jim Weems, Doug & Norma Latta, musician Faith Kelley, and graphic designer Anna Rose were acknowledged with special thanks for their in-kind contributions to the fundraiser.

Eight churches were on the list of donors, demonstrating their commitment to the sanctity of human life: Christ Presbyterian Church, First United Methodist Church of Tulsa, Grace Lutheran, Kirk of the Hills, Northside Christian Church, Trinity Lutheran, Tulsa Christian Fellowship, Victory Christian Center.

If you believe in the sanctity of human life, I urge you not only to vote your values on election day, but also to get involved with MEND. Give -- you can sign up online for a one-time contribution or a recurring contribution. Encourage your church to support MEND as part of reaching the local "mission field." Volunteer to be a mentor. Pray for the women who come to MEND, for women who in crisis pregnancies who are looking for support but have yet to find a place like MEND, and for the staff and volunteers who work with them.

MEND Medical Clinic / Pregnancy Resource Center is located at 6216 S. Lewis, Suite 100, Tulsa, OK 74136, 918-745-6000.

planned_parenthood_mammograms.jpgThe Washington, D.C., based blog Alexa Shrugged weighs into the debate over the Obamacare mandate that would force church-owned institutions to fund insurance coverage for contraception, abortifacients, and abortion even if such funding violates the principles of the owners. Alexa has posted three installments in this series, marshaling facts, figures, and reason to counter some of the wild claims made by the left.

This issue is a gut check for conservatives: Will we acquiesce in the Left's framing of the issue (aided and abetted by the mainstream media) as a question of banning contraception or endangering women's health, and shrink away from any further debate in hopes the issue will go away? Or will we stay in the debate, defending religious liberty, keeping the focus on the egregious attempt by the Obama administration to force its values on religious Americans and the institutions they've built and funded with their own money? Precisely because this is a liberty issue, it ought to win the support of libertarians and social liberals and moderates. If you're an Obama fan, you may think government power will only be used to coerce conservatives to do what you want, but once that power is there, once the precedent is set, it could be used to coerce you to violate your own conscience.

Here are links and excerpts for the articles in Alexa's series so far:

Part 1: Controlling the Birth Control Debate

Hey liberals: You know that if the Obamacare law has the power to mandate the right to free birth control, it also has the power to ban it, right? As Rush Limbaugh said, "Obamacare could ban contraception. Once Obamacare is implemented, the government can make any change unilaterally it wants." As in, the next president, (oh, let's REALLY give them chills!) maybe Santorum, can not only change that mandate, but replace it with whatever other mandate he wants because the law gives him that power. As they say, "A government big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away."

If the government can force insurers to cover birth control for free, and can force you to buy health care, what CAN'T it force companies and citizens to do? I am very afraid that if the Supreme Court does not declare Obamacare unconstitutional we will find out.

Part 2: Debunking the Myth that 99% of Women Are Using Birth Control

First of all, if this is true, clearly there is no crisis of accessibility or cost - 99% is as universal for coverage as you'll ever get. And if 99% of women already have a way of getting or paying for birth control, then why in the world do we need to make it free through an Obamacare mandate?? ....

#5: The fact sheet says "only 7% of women aged 15-44 are at risk for unintended pregnancy but are not using contraceptives." This does not address WHY these women are not using contraceptives - maybe they don't care either way if they get pregnant - but Democrats seem to assume it is because they're not handed out for free. So, we're forcing EVERYONE to subsidize ALL women's birth control for Obamacare - including those who can pay, those who already get it free or at a discount - because up to 7% of women "at risk" are not using it???

Part 3: No, Planned Parenthood, Birth Control is NOT "Basic Health Care"

Unlike abortion, which stops a beating heart and ends a life, I am pro-choice when it comes to contraception. However, contraceptives are, on the whole, not a health care need, but a lifestyle want. The vast majority of women don't use contraception because they need to prevent pregnancy for their health but because they don't want children at that particular point in time in their lives, for whatever reason, that's fine to me...

Alexa lists a number of cancers and other dire side effects linked to hormonal contraceptives:

Even Planned Parenthood lists the serious and potentially fatal side effects for contraceptives with estrogen like the pill, the patch and the NuvaRing as heart attack, stroke, having a blood clot in the legs, lungs, heart, or brain, or developing high blood pressure, liver tumors, gallstones, or yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice). (Interesting aside - Planned Parenthood lists these risks under the section labeled "What are the Disadvantages of xxx" and not under "How safe is xxx." Seems like it should be the opposite. Or both.)...

I encourage you to click through and read all three articles. I've just added Alexa Shrugged to the BatesLine blogroll, so you'll see new items in the series as they're posted.

MORE: The Heritage Foundation's blog has excerpts from the testimony of two women, Oklahoma Christian University senior vice president Allison Dabbs Garrett and Calvin College medical director and physician Dr. Laura Champion, who testified last week at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the Obamacare anti-conscience mandate. A key quote from Garrett:

There is a vast difference between the right to make a purchase for oneself and requiring someone else to pay for it.

And another pithy quote on the topic, from Frank J. Fleming (@IMAO_) on Twitter:

If you want contraceptives to be a personal matter, you probably shouldn't force other people to pay for it.

Christmas dissent

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Brian Ervin, former reporter (and a darned good one) for Urban Tulsa Weekly, has started a blog called, and his first entry asks some tough questions of his fellow Christians about Christmas:

Jesus said, "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it."

So when we say "Christmas is all about family" as an alternative to the commercialism that typifies the season, does that really honor Him? Howler monkeys and hyenas and wolves have "family values" all on their own, quite apart from any Christian influence.

When we celebrate this mish-mash of customs and obligations we call "Christmas," do we really do it to worship Him? Or is it just that these are a part of our cultural security blanket, and we do it out of childhood nostalgia or a sense of obligation to the people who inculcated those customs?

Julie R. Neidlinger has had her fill of Christmas, American style:

Church, which should be a place where the never-ending nails-on-chalkboard noise slips away, becomes its own monster. Pressure to be festive and solemn and then festive and then introspective at church services, as jerked about by worship leaders and sermons and well-meaning folks leaves me nothing but angry. This last Sunday, the sermon was wonderful and just as I began to mull it over in the difficult place in life I find myself, it was wiped from usefulness by a rendition of the Chipmunks Christmas song and wanting hula hoops because I guess Christmas is about the kids and we can't possibly leave the service without choking down something upbeat.

Don't miss that link in the above quote. It leads to Julie's account of a Christmas eve megachurch service that seemed to miss the whole point.

My own Christmas eve church experience this year (also at a megachurch, with the relatives we were visiting) began with clips from Rankin/Bass holiday specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life, Jingle All the Way, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and, of course, A Christmas Story, displayed on the big screen in an endless loop until it was time for the Christmas concert to begin in earnest. Yes, concert -- the worship leader and his family, amped up so we couldn't hear the singing of our fellow audience members, and the lights down so we could keep our focus on the family at the front. ("What would Christmas eve be without the [worship leader's] family?" asked the senior pastor rhetorically. An actual worship service, perhaps?) And this was what they called the "traditional service."

There was one almost traditional touch: At the end, we sang "Silent Night" as candlelight spread through the audience, along with the sickly green-yellow glow of the glowsticks they gave to the small children (liability issues, presumably).

Finally, here's an interesting story about Christmas eve traditions from a religious group that doesn't observe Christmas: Slate: Benyamin Cohen: Holy Night: The Little Known Jewish Holiday of Christmas Eve. Seriously. It's about Jewish traditions that evolved from the 1500s or earlier, in the face of persecution, on how to keep oneself safe and holy on the Christian holiday.

MORE: Here's another Jewish Christmas tradition via a photo posted by GaelGreene on Twitter. The sign in the photo reads:

The Chinese Rest.
of the United States

would like to extend
our thanks to
The Jewish People

we do not completely
understand your dietary

But we are proud and
grateful that your GOD
insist you eat our food
on Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

Roundup 2011/12/28

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I got some potpourri for Christmas, so here's some potpourri for you -- an assortment of interesting articles from the last couple of weeks.

nov. 2004 006_edited
Photo by Lathyrus on Flickr

Warner Todd Huston: The newspaper typo that began NORAD's tradition of tracking Santa on Christmas eve in 1955.

James Lileks invites you to peruse a collection of Christmas ads and other ephemera from the '50s and '60s.

During the run-up to Christmas, Tweets of Old featured Santa letters published by newspapers a century or so ago on its Facebook page. One of the sweetest:

Dear Santa Claus,

I am not going to ask for much this Xmas for there are so many little girls and boys I know it would be impossible to carry them all lots of presents. Then you are getting old and I know it must be hard for you to get about.

I have a beautiful doll so please bring me a little bed for it, a rubber ball and just anything you have left after visiting the other children.

With best wishes to you and Mrs. Santa Claus, I remain.

Clyde Butler, Starkville, Mississippi, 1921

Gawker: The endlessly quotable Vaclav Havel (1935-2011): Havel was a playwright, dissident under Communist rule of Czechoslovakia, and the first president of liberated Czechoslovakia. *He had the media misfortune of passing away on the same day as Christopher Hitchens and Kim Jong-Il.) My favorite of the quotes listed:

"You do not become a dissident just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society."

Havel wrote a 2004 column about Kim Jong-Il and North Korea under Communism, comparing the stories of North Korean refugees to the news from Auschwitz escapees that alerted the world to the reality of the Holocaust:

Today, the testimony of thousands of North Korean refugees, who have survived the miserable journey through Communist China to free South Korea, tell of the criminal nature of the North Korean dictatorship. Accounts of repression are supported and verified by modern satellite images, and clearly illustrate that North Korea has a functioning system of concentration camps. The Kwan-li-so, or the political penal-labour colony, holds as many as 200,000 prisoners who are barely surviving day-to-day or are dying in the same conditions as did the millions of prisoners in the Soviet gulag system in the past.

The Northern part of the Korean peninsula is governed by the world's worst totalitarian dictator, who is responsible for taking millions of human lives. Kim Jong-il inherited the extensive Communist regime following the death of his father Kim Il-sung, and has shamelessly continued to strengthen the cult of personality.

He sustains one of the largest armies in the world and is producing weapons of mass destruction. The centrally planned economy and the state ideology of juche have led the country into famine. The victims of the North Korean regime number in the millions....

Innocent North Koreans are dying of hunger or are closed in concentration camps, as Kim Jong-il continues to blackmail the world.

Now is the time for the democratic countries of the world - the European Union, the United States, Japan and, last but not least, South Korea - to unify under a common position. These countries must make it perfectly clear that they will not make concessions to a totalitarian dictator.

They must state that respect for basic human rights is an integral part of any future discussions with Pyongyang. Decisiveness, perseverance and negotiations from a position of strength are the only things that Kim Jong-il and those similar to him understand.

Let's hope that the world does not need any more horrifying testimony to realize this.

An Investors Business Daily editorial ponders the outpouring of grief by North Koreans at the death of Kim Jong-Il:

The world witnessed a grotesque spectacle Tuesday as millions of North Koreans mourned the death of the world's most odious dictator. It's a classic demonstration of the dehumanization of communism.

In the free world, tears would never be shed for a monster like Kim Jong Il, the megalomaniac who ruled North Korea with an iron fist for 17 years, leaving a legacy of man-made famine, a network of Gulag prison camps for free thinkers, and bone-grinding poverty for workers unlike any other place on earth.

But in a reminder of what totalitarianism does to human minds, thousands of North Koreans -- mostly soldiers -- loudly wailed at the death of the tyrant known as "dear leader." It's a reminder this nation remains an enemy state of highly damaged individuals who have no understanding of freedom, a worrisome thing in a nation of nuclear weapons and evil intentions.

National Review Online, Hans von Spakovsky: Yes, Virginia, there really is voter fraud, as demonstrated by recent convictions of city officials and Democrat operatives in Troy, N. Y., for forging absentee ballots:

As for the constant liberal claims that voter fraud does not occur, one of the Democratic operatives who pled guilty, Anthony DeFiglio, told New York State police investigators "that faking absentee ballots was a commonplace and accepted practice in political circles, all intended to swing an election." And whose votes do they steal? DeFiglio was very plain about that: "The people who are targeted live in low-income housing, and there is a sense that they are a lot less likely to ask any questions."

Heavy manufacturing is making a comeback in the US, writes Joel Kotkin, and Oklahoma City is 10th on the list of best cities for industrial job growth. (Tulsa didn't make the top 50.) And, by the way, we need more engineering majors to fuel this growth.

Maybe there's something to this notion of the Anglosphere: The five most charitable countries in the world in 2011, in terms of giving money, volunteering time, and helping strangers are the USA, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Last year's top five were Australia, New Zealand, Ireland/Canada (tie), USA/Switzerland (tie). The ranking by the Charities Aid Foundation is based on the percent of the population that acts charitably, rather than the amount of charity. (Via Ace of Spades HQ overnight thread.)

Michelle Malkin: The Year in Obama Scandals -- and scandal deniers: Fast and Furious / Gunwalker, Solyndra, LightSquared, Carol Browner, the drilling ban, Obamacare waivers to cronies, voter fraud, and more.

Another Investors Business Daily editorial explains the light bulb ban (suspended for now) as another example of how regulation helps the politically connected big business at the expense of small business. (Via Michael Chamberlain on Twitter.)

Margaret Thatcher in the Commons on European monetary union (video). According to the description for this video, this speech on October 30, 1990, sealed Thatcher's downfall, betrayed by Europhile members of the Conservative Party, including members of her own cabinet, who had decided she was an obstacle to their dream of a single European state. (Anyone familiar with the evolution of the European Union and particularly with the way the ruling class in each country, from every party, ignore the objections of their countrymen to the loss of national sovereignty will understand the origin of similar fears in the United States of America.)

The American Bar Association punished a law school applying for provisional accreditation because officials spoke to the New York Times for an article about how ABA accreditation drives up the cost of a law degree. Time to bust up this cartel.

How integrated is Tulsa?

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I came across some research, based on the 2000 U. S. Census, calculating various indicators of racial integration in the nation's 100 most populous metropolitan areas. It points to an impressive degree of progress over the last half century in Tulsa.

Racial Integration in Urban America: A Block Level Analysis of African American and White Housing Patterns

According to that paper, 16.3% of the City of Tulsa's population and 9.4% of the Tulsa Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was African-American in 2000.

The researchers analyzed the racial composition of each census block, sorting them into four categories:

  • >= 20% Black and >= 20% White (the authors of the study term these "black-white integrated blocks")
  • < 20% Black and > 50% White
  • > 80% Black
  • Other Mixture

A census block is the smallest unit of census statistics. Streets, creeks, railroads, section lines, city limits all serve as census block boundaries. For example, a city block split in two by a railroad track would result in two census blocks.

In the Tulsa MSA, there were 75,471 African-Americans in the 2000 Census. 28.0% lived on blocks where the population was at least 20% black and at least 20% white. 28.7% lived on blocks where the population was less than 20% black and at least 50% white, 36.0% lived on blocks where the population was at least 80% black, and 7.4% on blocks with some other racial mixture.

Put another way, in 2000 64% of African-Americans in the Tulsa metro area lived on racially diverse blocks. In 1960 that number was below 10%. While there is a concentrated area of black population in north Tulsa, two-thirds of Tulsa's black population is scattered across the map.

I don't have census block data on population by race in 1960, but I do have that data by census tract -- areas of a few dozen blocks, often about a 1/2 square mile in area. In 1960, blacks were 8.7% of the City of Tulsa's population. In 1960, 91.6% of Tulsa's blacks lived in six census tracts -- 2, 5, 6, 7, 10, and 11 -- about 4 sq. mi. area bounded roughly by Cincinnati Ave on the west, Mohawk Blvd on the north, the Santa Fe tracks on the east. Outside of the City of Tulsa, the only significant clusters of blacks in Tulsa County in descending order, were the rural part of tract 2 (bounded by Mohawk Blvd, Yale, Peoria, Apache and 36th St. N), the city of Sand Springs, tract 67 (likely that most were in the South Haven subdivision near 51st St and 33rd West Ave), tract 76 (likely around Rentie's Grove), and tract 90 (likely in and around Alsuma)

So we've gone from over 90% of blacks living in a small part of the city in 1960 to living all over the metro area -- 64% outside of predominantly black areas -- in 2000. That seems like progress to me, but the authors of the research don't rank Tulsa as significantly integrated (see their maps of Tulsa) because there are so few blocks on which the population is at least 20% black and at least 20% white. In a city where the overall black population is less than 20%, that doesn't seem like a good measurement of integration.

Of course, geographical integration isn't necessarily a good measure of social integration either, as we tend to connect with people we know from church, school, and work and may not spend much time with our own neighbors.

Here are a couple of maps from the 1960 census reports, showing tracts in and round the City of Tulsa and for the rest of Tulsa County. I've superimposed pairs of numbers on some of the tracts. The first number is the number of blacks, the second is the total population of the tract. Red numbers are inside the city limits; blue numbers are outside. Click the pictures to view full size:

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, 2nd District Congressman Dan Boren, 3rd District Congressman Frank Lucas, and 5th District Congressman James Lankford are honorary hosts for the 40th anniversary celebration of Americans United for Life. Minnesota Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is also an honorary host, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions are the three honorary co-chairmen for the event, to be held at the Newseum in Washington on November 2, 2011.

AUL is the leading pro-life legal organization, helping state and federal lawmakers craft and defend constitutional legislation that upholds the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception to its natural end.

From the AUL press release:

Milestones for AUL include: successfully defending the Hyde Amendment before the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing the intellectual groundwork for Fetal Homicide legislation now passed in 38 states, reducing abortions state by state through cutting-edge model legislation found in Defending Life (a catalogue of 39 pieces of model legislation), leading in the fight against assisted suicide, and testifying for life in state legislatures around the country and in the last two Supreme Court justice confirmation hearings. To read more about AUL's accomplishments in recent media coverage, click here.

According to AUL's history page, AUL was incorporated 40 years ago this month "by a group of activists, including Brent Bozell of National Review, who wanted to educate Americans about abortion from a non-denominational, interdisciplinary perspective. Early board members included Catholics, Unitarians and Jews.
The first chairman of the AUL Board was George Huntson Williams, a Unitarian minister who then held the Hollis Professor of Divinity Chair at Harvard Divinity School."

Marsha M. Linehan, a professor of psychology, psychiatry, and behavioral science whose life work has focused on help for the chronically suicidal, has spoken to the New York Times about her own struggle with self-destructive urges. The revelation comes some 50 years after she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Connecticut, where she was described in her discharge papers as "one of the most disturbed patients in the hospital."

Linehan has decided to speak out to give hope to her fellow sufferers that it is possible to live a successful productive life despite a mental illness.

Two notable things here. First, Dr. Linehan is from Tulsa:

Her childhood, in Tulsa, Okla., provided few clues. An excellent student from early on, a natural on the piano, she was the third of six children of an oilman and his wife, an outgoing woman who juggled child care with the Junior League and Tulsa social events.

People who knew the Linehans at that time remember that their precocious third child was often in trouble at home, and Dr. Linehan recalls feeling deeply inadequate compared with her attractive and accomplished siblings. But whatever currents of distress ran under the surface, no one took much notice until she was bedridden with headaches in her senior year of high school.

Her younger sister, Aline Haynes, said: "This was Tulsa in the 1960s, and I don't think my parents had any idea what to do with Marsha. No one really knew what mental illness was."

More significant: What sustained her and ultimately empowered her to live was her faith in Christ:

It was 1967, several years after she left the institute as a desperate 20-year-old whom doctors gave little chance of surviving outside the hospital. Survive she did, barely: there was at least one suicide attempt in Tulsa, when she first arrived home; and another episode after she moved to a Y.M.C.A. in Chicago to start over.

She was hospitalized again and emerged confused, lonely and more committed than ever to her Catholic faith. She moved into another Y, found a job as a clerk in an insurance company, started taking night classes at Loyola University -- and prayed, often, at a chapel in the Cenacle Retreat Center.

"One night I was kneeling in there, looking up at the cross, and the whole place became gold -- and suddenly I felt something coming toward me," she said. "It was this shimmering experience, and I just ran back to my room and said, 'I love myself.' It was the first time I remember talking to myself in the first person. I felt transformed."

Mountaintop experiences never last, but tough times no longer drove her to suicidal impulses. She had come to a point of "radical acceptance":

She had accepted herself as she was. She had tried to kill herself so many times because the gulf between the person she wanted to be and the person she was left her desperate, hopeless, deeply homesick for a life she would never know. That gulf was real, and unbridgeable.

This kind of acceptance doesn't preclude the possibility or necessity of change, but that drive to change can be productively directed forward rather than generating despair over the unchangeable past.

The article goes into further detail about the evolution of dialectical behavior therapy, her approach to helping "supersuicidal people."

There is video accompanying the article of Dr. Linehan describing the spiritual experience that led to her healing. It does not surprise me that this experience of radical acceptance was connected to meditation on the cross.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.... What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?... For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:1, 31-32, 39)

P. S. Dr. Linehan is the director of the Behavioral Research & Therapy Clinics. Their website appears to be gone, and her own webpage is in dire need of an update. (There's a download link for RealJukebox!) The BRTC's contributions page seeks someone to develop and maintain their website. The date on the page is from 2002, so I'm guessing they never found anyone. If you have web skills and suicide prevention is a cause that touches your heart, follow that link and get in touch.

The headline story in today's Delaware State News reported testimony in the trial of pediatrician Earl Bradley on two dozen counts of rape, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation of children. According to the story, much of the prosecution's evidence is digital video recovered from thumb drives and memory sticks. 86 victims appeared on the tapes, nearly all were toddlers.

Amid the news story's account of the horrific testimony by the detective who had to review the videos, two items stood out:

The first is a warning to all parents. Just as a molester will "groom" a potential victim to be unwary, trusting, and compliant to the molester's advances, this molester groomed the parents of his patients to see nothing suspicious in him being alone with their children for an extended period of time:

Detective Garland said several incidents caught on video illustrate "planning and grooming" by Bradley in order to commit the acts. For instance, giving popsicles and prizes, such as princess dolls and other toys, and keeping them in the basement as a reason to separate parent and child made those occurrences common at his practice.

"By normalizing it, you avoid objections. You have that whole grooming thing going on of parents," Detective Garland said.

I imagine some parents had qualms about their children going alone with the doctor, but perhaps they felt foolish, thinking it inconceivable that a trusted professional would harm their children.

Parents should never feel embarrassed about acting to protect their children against someone who seems to have harmful intentions, even if its only a hunch. You may be mistaken, but you can be firm but gracious, protecting your child unapologetically but
without causing embarrassment to someone whose intentions may truly be honorable.

I'm reminded of the leader (now former leader) of an activity for pre-teen and teenage children. At one event, I saw that he drove a windowless full-size van. As far as I knew, this man had no personal or professional reason to own such a vehicle. I wouldn't have let my child join the group if this man were still involved; happily, he left before any of my children were ready to participate.

The second item that stood out involved a hurdle that the investigators had to cross, an unnecessary hurdle.

Some of the sex acts on captured on video were stored in password-protected files with an encryption software program that posed a challenge to forensic investigators. Detective Garland said that upon learning that the manufacturer that created the software was no longer in business, investigators resorted to trolling "less than reputable" online sites that deal in pirated software to help crack the code.

Why isn't there a reputable company offering software to crack these password-protected files? Possibly because of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). The federal law, passed in 1998 without a roll call vote and signed by President Clinton, prohibits circumventing technological protections on software and media. The law has created a chilling effect, deterring software companies from providing consumers with the means to make fair use of the software and media they own. The U. S. Copyright Office has authorized some temporary exemptions to the law, but as far as I can tell (and I'm no expert) there is no exemption for reverse-engineering software owned by a defunct company.

While I support the right of Americans to use strong encryption (e.g. Pretty Good Privacy) so as to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects," I don't see why we should make it hard for companies to replicate the functionality of obsolete programs. There's something wrong when a measure intended to protect movie studios works instead to protect child rapists.

Browsing through a copy of The Happiness Project at the airport bookshop, I encountered the phrase "aspirational clutter," the stuff you don't need but keep around because represents some project or plan you hope to accomplish (but very likely won't). Consider this a yard sale of blog entries and news articles that turned into aspirational clutter in the form of browser tabs; perhaps someone else will find them useful:

Michelle Malkin: Finding Marizela: The maddening quest for a missing young person's online/text info: People young and old, especially young, leave behind a long trail of digital tracks, but the trail isn't readily accessible when a young woman vanishes.

I have two tabs containing a friend's Facebook notes on political topics. Is it allowable to blog about someone's Facebook notes? Should what happens on Facebook stay on Facebook?

Ed Stetzer: FIRST-PERSON: The May 21 phenomenon & a lesson for all Christians: The forecast and fizzled apocalypse inspires a look back at May 19, 1780, when New England's skies turned dark from smoke and fog and many thought the end was at hand. What should a Christian do in light of the end? Be about his Father's business:

The Connecticut legislature was unsure if they should meet or go home with their families and face the end. They would have to bring in candles to conduct even the most basic business. But, Abraham Davenport (later made famous by a poem) stood up and expressed it clearly. He stood up and proclaimed:

"I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face, No faithless servant frightened from my task, But ready when the Lord of the harvest calls; And therefore, with all reverence, I would say, Let God do His work, we will see to ours. Bring in the candles!"

Davenport was not embarrassed or ashamed that the King might suddenly return. He was waiting and ready -- if this was the moment, so be it. Yet, for many Christians and churches, they have been unengaged in Kingdom work, so the return of the King is bad news -- so, suddenly, they want to "look busy."

You don't need a billboard with a date. You need a passion to live for a soon-returning Savior. I'm not the model on this by any means, but I will be here, doing the same thing I had planned because that's what I think Jesus would have me do.

I want to live ready in light of the soon return of Jesus, not acting like a nut because someone said He is coming back tomorrow. Honestly, I think that is part of why Jesus says, "no man knows the day or the hour." It's because we don't have to think, "Jesus is coming! Look busy" because we have been living in light of His return.

Timothy Dalrymple: A Letter to Harold Camping and Those Who Expected Judgment Day: "Your heart was in the right place.... You were right to believe that God will, one day, gather his children unto himself and draw history as we know it to a close.... You were right to spread the warning.... Our faith is not placed in a person or in a prediction, but in the good news of Jesus Christ.... No one knows when the end will come-so we must always be ready. ... We should remember the difference between scripture and an interpretation of scripture.... We should always beware the power of charismatic leaders and groupthink to sway our beliefs.... Finally, we should never believe that we've got God figured out...."

Hot Air: Is the Rapture schadenfreude turning sinister?: "Despite Camping and his followers being an extremely small fringe group, the media has covered this story as if the entire Southern Baptist church made this prediction."

Christianity Today: Should Christians Care about Harold Camping, May 21, & Doomsday?: A round-up of more commentary on the end of the world

Volokh Conspiracy: Nine Puzzles of Space and Time: Brain teasers involving time and geography. For example:

"I am located in one of the 48 states in the Continental U.S. If I go 90 miles in a straight line, regardless of direction, I will have needed to move my watch one hour ahead to keep it set correctly." In what state was Art?

Mark Steyn: The unzippered princeling and the serving wench: Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the special dispensations reserved for the Great Men of the Permanent Governing Class. And here's Ace of Spades' commentary on the Rights and Privileges of the Ruling Class:

The New Aristocracy isn't made by blood but by credentials. The aristocracy is "born" in each countries two or three most elite schools, and the formal induction into the class occurs in key international/financial government bureaucracies.

And then?

Then you can stop paying taxes with no fear of the consequences the commoners face, and you can forcibly rape (or, actually, sodomize) the help and know that an entire nation's aristocrats will defend you and criticize those lowly prosecutors who charge you.

It has always been the case that the nobility in one country supported the nobility in other countries, even countries with whom they were at war, because national ambition is always well, well secondary to personal ambition. Perpetuating the rights and privileges of the new class is more important to the members of the new class than any transitory policy goal.

Don Surber: They don't want you to travel: Government energy and security policy seem designed to take away Americans' cherished mobility.

John Piper: Thoughts on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment: An irenic and solid case for upholding the definition of marriage, despite the reality of sin and brokenness in marriage. Point 2 puts homosexuality in the broader context of disordered sexuality. Point 3 address the relationship between God's law and human law: "Not all sins should be proscribed by human law, but some should be.... there are many sinful behaviors that should not be illegal." Point 4 addresses the legal significance of marriage, leading to the crux of the issue in point 5:

The issue is not whether same-sex unions are permitted, but whether they are institutionalized. The issue is not whether we tolerate same-sex relationships, but whether we build on them as a foundation for society. The issue is not whether we forbid a particular sin, but whether we mandate social approval of that sin. The issue is not whether we block a sinful behavior, but whether we imbed it in our laws.

That's a few tabs cleared away....

Added to the blogroll

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So many people have a blog nowadays that you may stumble across a friend's blog before they let you know that they have one. Here are a few blogs of friends and associates that I've come across recently. They're worth reading, and I'm adding to the blogroll, so you'll see their latest posts show up over on the BatesLine blogroll headlines page and (as appropriate) the BatesLine Oklahoma headlines and BatesLine Tulsa headlines pages.

I've gotten to know Tulsa visionary and restaurateur Blake Ewing through his involvement in organizations like TulsaNow. He doesn't post on his blog often, but when he does post it's usually a blockbuster essay on our city's challenges and possible futures. There's been a lot of talk about his latest: "Grow up, Tulsa." (I disagree with him on a few points and may elaborate in coming days.)

English with Rae is a blog aimed at helping those learning English as a second language go beyond "This is a pen," providing examples of conversational English and American culture in context and presented in a way that makes them interesting even if English is your first language. Rae, a college friend of my wife's, spent many years in Japan and writes from her experience as a second-language learner of Japanese and with Japanese learners of English. A news item about a Honolulu restaurant adding a tip to the bills of non-English speaking guests is the starting point for her most visited article, Tipping Cows and Everyone Else, which covers three different kinds of tipping (restaurant, cow, and advice), introduces customary tipping practices, and provides examples of the Present Real Conditional form, all neatly interwoven.

Gina Conroy is an author based here in Tulsa. We know her through school, and she was my daughter's creative writing teacher. Her blog, Defying Gravity, is devoted to striking the balance in life as a wife and mom and in pursuit of her dream of novel writing. She is under contract to contribute a novella to an anthology, and a recent entry is devoted to the process and pain of cutting a 50,000-word work in progress down to 20,000. She often interviews other writing moms and dads. Many recent entries have been devoted to dreams and ambitions -- rekindling them, thwarting dream-killers, and balancing your dreams.

Urban Garden Goddess is a Philadelphia-based blogger just getting into home organic gardening. As a rookie gardener last year, Tania (a friend through blogging circles) won third prize in the individual vegetable garden category in the Philadelphia Horticultural Society's City Gardens Contest. She's also a runner, and a recent entry is about "solid eating for a solid race performance."

San Francisco architect Christine Boles and I were both active in Campus Crusade for Christ at MIT back when. Her blog illustrates some of the creative solutions she and her husband, partners in Beausoleil Architects, have devised to meet the needs of clients while respecting history and the environment. Her latest entry shows how they turned a ground floor room into a garage while preserving the bay window that makes up the historic facade. In an earlier post, she advocates for "deconstruction" and recycling of building materials over demolition and landfill. This was interesting, too: The importance of the oft-overlooked V in HVAC -- ventilation.

Texas State Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) is married to a high school classmate of mine. Last year he defeated an incumbent Republican in the primary and went on to election in November. His blog has only a few entries, but they provide some insight into the 2011 Texas legislative session and the budding conflict between fair-dealer and wheeler-dealer Republicans. He is an author of HB 1937, which would prohibit TSA groping in the absence of probable cause. His article -- Dividing the Apple -- about the tough budget decisions facing the legislature, is worth reading. An excerpt:

Civil government has nothing except that which it takes from We the People. Unlike God, the government cannot create value or substance out of nothing.

When the Federal Reserve with Congress' approval "prints more money," it simply increases the number of federal reserve notes ("dollars") that are being exchanged in our economy for goods and services. The increase in the number of federal reserve notes in circulation does not represent more wealth. It merely divides the same value of goods and services in the economy into smaller parts. If you divide an apple into 4 parts or 8 parts, it is still just one apple.

The Texas legislature cannot create wealth either. It has no money except that which it takes from We the People. It can divide the apple of wealth we enjoy and redistribute it, but it cannot create more apples.

Even so, we are running out of apple. Even after adjusting for inflation and population growth, the portion of the apple that our state government consumes has grown by 45% over the last decade (that number is 87% without any adjustments). As the state's portion has grown, Texas families and businesses have had to settle for a smaller portion to feed themselves.

As first steps to budget cutting, Simpson has called for cutting all corporate welfare from the budget and reducing administrative overhead in the common and higher educational systems. His name popped up in a recent AP story:

Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, put together an odd-couple coalition of Democrats and Republicans to approve an amendment zeroing out funding for the Texas Commission on the Arts and redirecting it to services for the elderly and disabled.

Channeling tea-party-like, populist anger right back at his own leaders, Simpson also has railed against hundreds of millions of dollars in what he calls "corporate welfare." It happens to include Perry's job-luring initiatives, the Texas Enterprise Fund and Emerging Technology Fund.

"These parts of the budget are more protected than schools and the weak among us," Simpson said. He failed to redirect the money, but not before raising a stink among Republicans.

Links, on parenting and other topics, hither and yon:

La Shawn Barber marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible with a review of God's Secretaries, Adam Nicolson's book on how this unparalleled influence on the English language and Anglophone culture came into being.

Al Mohler calls attention to a New York Times report that 40% of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion; in the African-American community in New York, the number is 60%. Nationally, 22% of American children are murdered in the womb.

In the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Amy Chua, the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother evangelizes for her rather stern approach to motherhood; Ayelet Waldman answers with a defense of more lenient parenting. (Via Tim Bayly, who also offers the Taiwanese animated version of the dispute.)

Paul Tripp writes that we should never treat opportunities to parent our kids as an interruption. Among other things, this means not treating our kids' foolish behavior as a personal affront.

Our new Miss America, 17-year-old Teresa Scanlan was "home schooled until her junior year because she needed to grow out of being shy as a child." (Via Brandon Dutcher.) Why damage a sensitive girl's love of learning by insisting it be coupled with the relentless cruelty of her peers?

Free Range Kids author Lenore Skenazy writes that the tendency to assume all men are predators puts kids in danger.

Rick Harrison raises questions about the accuracy of GIS databases that indiscriminately aggregate data from a variety of sources; no substitute for a real survey, he says.

Tulsa photographer Emmett Lollis shares his experience of converting his website from HTML to PHP, with all the glorious, gory details.

Good in-depth story by LAWeekly: Zoning changes advertised as innocuous housekeeping are discovered instead to create a presumption against neighborhood protections in Los Angeles:

When he pored over the fine print in the Core Findings Ordinance itself, Brazeman was stunned to discover that rather than the policy-neutral word changes throughout the zoning code that were advertised as the ordinance's purpose, the new phrasing chipped away at community protections in favor of developers.

Within days, Brazeman spent an undisclosed sum to purchase full-page ads in the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News, issuing a warning to residents that zoning code protections were being undone citywide. His cell phone was soon jammed by callers ready to join his effort to publicly call out the Core Findings Ordinance.

(Via Mickey Kaus on Twitter.)

Finally, Skip Oliva calls attention to "eight crazy constitutional scenarios" including the 25th Amendment loophole that could allow the president to be recalled under congressional authorization. (Via Tim Carney on Twitter.)

Clearing out my browser tabs and clearing my conscience of failing to write a blog post about each one:

Gabriel Malor, co-blogger at Ace of Spades HQ, will be on 1170 KFAQ with Pat Campbell at about 6:30 to discuss the CAIR lawsuit to stop Oklahoma's anti-sharia amendment.

Joe Miller is just a hat shy of looking like Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs in Treasure of the Sierra Madre (or the parody of the character in a Bugs Bunny cartoon): "Say, pardon me, but could you help out a fellow American who's down on his luck?" The stubble probably cost him the election. Either shave it off or grow it out to a respectable length. "Miami Vice" has been off the air for 20 years.

Tulsa Public Schools to consider eliminating schools: KRMG news story says the Tulsa district has 90 schools, same as the 1960s, but we have only half the students today that we did 40 years ago. The student population stat sounds right, but the school count can't possibly be the same: TPS has closed plenty of schools since peak baby-boomer enrollment, including more than a dozen I can think of off the top of my head: Mason High School; Bates, Lynn Lane, Lincoln, Lowell, Longfellow, Pershing, Revere, Franklin, Riley, Ross, Whittier (or Kendall -- they merged) Elementary Schools; Horace Mann Jr. High, Wright Jr. High (repurposed as an elementary). Did I miss any? I can't think of the name of the old elementary school near 45th and Peoria that now serves as home of the Tulsa Ballet.

Brandon Dutcher at Choice Remarks links to a HuffPo entry by John Thompson about the projected low number of graduates for African-American males in Oklahoma City Public Schools neighborhood high schools. Thompson calls this a crisis, but he uses too many qualifiers to exclude too many students who are being educated successfully in OKC public schools (e.g. students at charters like Harding High School, magnet school students, students in inner-suburban districts), and he fails to give us numbers as bases of comparison (how many total African American male students in neighborhood high schools are there?). Oh, and he's wrong to equate neighborhood schools with non-selective schools. Charter schools can't select their students, either. There's probably a story here, and it may be jaw-dropping, but it needs a teller who'll be more careful handling the numbers.

Thompson links to this interesting map of the OKC metro area showing population as color-coded dots - whites are red, African-Americans are blue, Asians are green, and Hispanics are orange. Each dot represents 25 people. Thompson says it shows racial segregation, and while it's true that there's a predominantly African-American area between the Santa Fe tracks and I-35 as well as a rural African-American area in NE Oklahoma County, and undoubtedly this reflects the official and unofficial segregation of earlier decades. But a look at the big version of the map shows blue dots scattered through out, alongside red, green, and orange.

Here's the Tulsa race and ethnicity map from the same set. Note how colorful the ORU campus is.

Cassy Fiano writes that feminist blogger Jessica Valenti is a big ol' chicken for refusing to participate in a panel discussion that includes just one conservative woman.

Sarah Palin to freshman Republican congressmen-elect:

Remember that some in the media will love you when you stray from the time-tested truths that built America into the most exceptional nation on earth. When the Left in the media pat you on the back, quickly reassess where you are and readjust, for the liberals' praise is a warning bell you must heed. Trust me on that.

Ed Morrissey recounts a Clarence Thomas anecdote about justices reacting to social pressures and remarks:

With that in mind, the freshman class should steel themselves that getting the job done right will mean few plaudits in the media in the short run, even fewer speaking invitations, and no medals or plaques from lobbyists and Academia. Their reward will be a more secure, less indebted, and fiscally restored United States of America, and the gratitude of a nation in the long run for restoring sanity and accountability. And frankly, that should be enough.
Warner Todd Huston reports that mainstream media's coverage of a crooked Maryland county politician has (once again) neglected to identify the crook's party affiliation.

Muslim extremists protest Armistice Day in London. And J. E. Dyer comments on the shifting of Britain's place in the world as the U. S. under Obama has distanced itself from the Special Relationship the two countries long enjoyed.

Tim Bayly writes about the new NIV's further slide away from scripture and toward political correctness.

Following a link to a critical article about Glenn Beck, I came across a blog called Architecture + Morality. The blog's tagline: "Musings on Architecture, Urbanism, Politics, Economics and Religion." The two co-bloggers are "relieved debtor" -- a Lutheran pastor -- and "corbusier" -- an architect, both based in the DFW metro area.

The mix of topics is fascinating to me, and the directness and depth of thought represented by each entry makes for satisfying reading. Here are a few of their recent entries:

Distillation in Desert Climate: Some observations about Albuquerque and the impact of climate on the built environment.

Are House Churches the Future of American Protestantism? The entry begins, "If you can get everything you spiritually need from a small group, why would you ever attend an established congregation?" But then this question is asked and answered, "So if house churches solve so many problems, why were large congregations ever allowed to exist in the first place?"

Glenn Beck: An Ego in Search of a Message: "Not only does he presume to be a political expert, he is now some sort of preacher of an ambiguous gospel. And why has he adopted this new religious tone?"

"Imagine": Theme Song for the Morally Vague: "The song really is an imagining of a world without human beings that are what they are. Why don't we instead work with the problems of man and aim to fix them? I suppose a song that offered that proposition would not be nearly as appreciated."

Designing for the Apocalypse: why many architects love a crisis: "The issue's inherent demand for greater control over the environment in the hands of an enlightened elite complements well with architects' own (and as yet, unrealized) ambitions of becoming the major shapers of the built environment. Idealistic architects ultimately want to transcend the rough-and-tumble, at times crass, reality of the free market, and if the global warming issue makes this possible they will quickly jump on the bandwagon." This is a sweeping piece that covers the history, from Vitruvius to the present, of what is an architect's mission.

Why Conservatism is So Counterintuitive and Ideologues are Lazy, Part 2

Why do people relinquish control over their own money, their own property, or even their own way of life? The only answer that makes sense to me is that when conservatism is explained in policy terms, when its shortcomings are highlighted, a bleak picture of it can be, and is, painted. A system without the proper controls, a system with loopholes, a system that leaves the most vulnerable without guarantees...these are the results of the free market. To support such a system, then, could hardly be considered moral. Every time something goes wrong in a free society, the lack of central control is an easy explanation, even if inaccurate. It's an easy solution to a complex problem. It's intuitive, even if false.

People need to know, it seems, that someone is at the switch. Someone needs to be in charge of providing housing, someone needs to be in charge of food, someone needs to be in charge of jobs and healthcare. And when the natural business cycle (and/or government regulation) results in high prices or inavailability, the market is the scapegoat. There aren't enough controls and we need someone who can guarantee me what I need. That need for control is so intuitive, its practically biological. So when conservatism refuses to answer the question of who will provide food/shelter/healthcare/etc. with anything more than a shrug, it is considered morally delinquent. In truth, it trusts that someone will provide the service needed. That service may be provided imperfectly, but it always does so more perfectly than a central planner.

The most recent entry is about a music video from Tulsa's own Church on the Move, called "Dad Life," and what it says about the megachurch movement.

... the celebration and appreciation of the middle class lifestyle has to be one of the primary reasons the megachurch appeals to suburban middle class.

They should think twice about this approach. The entire gospel is on the line when this kind of pandering takes place in the Church. It delegitimizes those of us that hold fast to transcendent traditions and it forces the church into a marketplace it has no business being in. It openly creates competition between congregations because they take credit for being the Church when they are not.

Perhaps nothing epitomizes this more than the above viral video. The video is a simple celebration of suburban fatherhood, seen by about 5 million people on YouTube and a product of the Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK. I can relate to it. I have a daughter. I have an SUV. I spent lots of time doing yardwork. I don't buy gas station sunglasses, however; I find the far better deal is the dollar store.

But what is missing? The gospel! There is no mention of God, Jesus, the cross, or even a shameless plug for their own congregation. (Isn't Sunday worship, even at a megachurch, part of "the dad life"? I guess not.) Why should this video kick off a sermon series at a church? Wouldn't it be more appropriate at a PTA meeting or sports team parents get together?

The video and the blogger's comments bring to mind why (20 years ago) we left a non-denominational Bible church that seemed too focused on the lifestyles of the upwardly mobile middle class and went searching for (and found) a church focused on sound doctrine, missionary outreach (in Tulsa and abroad), and God-centered worship.

Architecture + Morality is not often updated, but every entry is worth pondering.

In the current issue of National Review, the conservative magazine's editorial board sets out the case for marriage as it has traditionally been defined, a definition that has been reaffirmed repeatedly by Congress, legislatures, and the voting public from coast to coast.

If you are a conservative, you need to study this article and fully digest it. National Review has done a great service with this piece, equipping conservative elected officials, activists, writers, and voters with sound argument to back up the conservative intuition against proposals to alter radically the institution of marriage. One of the challenges of conservatism is that you are called upon to defend ideas and customs that are long-established and were once universally accepted. When a radical idea like same-sex marriage is no longer immediately derided as a crackpot notion, conservatives need to prepare themselves to argue from first principles.

We think that there is quite a bit to be said for [marriage]: that it is true, vitally true. But it is a truth so long accepted that it is no longer well understood. Both the fact that we are debating same-sex marriage and the way that debate has progressed suggest that many of us have lost sight of why marriage exists in the first place as a social institution and a matter of public policy.

The editorial sets out the reason government is involved in marriage at all:

So at the risk of awkwardness, we must talk about the facts of life. It is true that marriage is, in part, an emotional union, and it is also true that spouses often take care of each other and thereby reduce the caregiving burden on other people. But neither of these truths is the fundamental reason for marriage. The reason marriage exists is that the sexual intercourse of men and women regularly produces children. If it did not produce children, neither society nor the government would have much reason, let alone a valid reason, to regulate people's emotional unions. (The government does not regulate non-marital friendships, no matter how intense they are.) If mutual caregiving were the purpose of marriage, there would be no reason to exclude adult incestuous unions from marriage. What the institution and policy of marriage aims to regulate is sex, not love or commitment. These days, marriage regulates sex (to the extent it does regulate it) in a wholly non-coercive manner, sex outside of marriage no longer being a crime.

Marriage exists, in other words, to solve a problem that arises from sex between men and women but not from sex between partners of the same gender: what to do about its generativity. It has always been the union of a man and a woman (even in polygamous marriages in which a spouse has a marriage with each of two or more persons of the opposite sex) for the same reason that there are two sexes: It takes one of each type in our species to perform the act that produces children. That does not mean that marriage is worthwhile only insofar as it yields children. (The law has never taken that view.) But the institution is oriented toward child-rearing. (The law has taken exactly that view.) What a healthy marriage culture does is encourage adults to arrange their lives so that as many children as possible are raised and nurtured by their biological parents in a common household.

The article addresses the distinction between bans on interracial marriage and affirmations of the traditional definition of marriage, and it addresses the oft-stated objection that childless couples are allowed to marry:

Some couples that believe themselves to be infertile (or even intend not to have children) end up having children. Government could not filter out those marriage applicants who are certain not to be able to have children without extreme intrusiveness.

I appreciated this point, too, which echoes a discussion we had in the comments here:

Same-sex marriage would introduce a new, less justifiable distinction into the law. This new version of marriage would exclude pairs of people who qualify for it in every way except for their lack of a sexual relationship. Elderly brothers who take care of each other; two friends who share a house and bills and even help raise a child after one loses a spouse: Why shouldn't their relationships, too, be recognized by the government? The traditional conception of marriage holds that however valuable those relationships may be, the fact that they are not oriented toward procreation makes them non-marital. (Note that this is true even if those relationships involve caring for children: We do not treat a grandmother and widowed daughter raising a child together as married because their relationship is not part of an institution oriented toward procreation.) On what possible basis can the revisionists' conception of marriage justify discriminating against couples simply because they do not have sex?

Read the whole thing and arm yourself to make a stronger defense of the societal benefits and rationale behind the government recognition of marriage, as traditionally understood.

If you're a conservative, one of your core beliefs is that human nature has no history. Human nature is not some malleable thing that the government can, with sufficient incentives or punishments, reshape into its ideological ideal. The Soviets tried to create a "New Soviet Man," willing to give his all for the sake of the state with no hope of reward for himself, and they failed miserably. Any society that refuses to acknowledge basic, undeniable truths about human nature will meet the same fate. It's like trying to build a bridge over a canyon without acknowledging gravity.

One of the undeniable truths about life is that life reproduces. Whether you believe that life is the result of evolutionary blind chance or an intelligent designer, there's no doubt that life perpetuates itself through reproduction. There are differences of opinion on the list of the essential characteristics of life, but reproduction is on everyone's list.

Humans reproduce sexually. That's obvious to most of my intelligent readers, but sometimes you have to state the obvious. There are two sexes, male and female, and one representative of each sex is needed to make reproduction happen. Round about the age of 13 certain hormones kick in making us not only capable of sexual reproduction but also driving us to seek out someone with whom we can reproduce.

If that sexual drive fixes itself to some person, animal, or object with whom reproduction is impossible, it means there's been a malfunction. Something has gone haywire. Whether that mis-direction is the result of an act of the will, some physical or psychological trauma, or both doesn't change the reality that one's sex drive isn't working to further the survival of one's own genetic traits.

A conservative approach to issues involving homosexuality begins with the reality that it is a malfunction, a disability of one of the core characteristics of all living beings.

* * *

I'm amazed and disappointed by the willingness of many self-described conservatives to wave the white flag on cultural issues. Perhaps some of them believe that asserting traditional -- and increasingly counter-cultural -- understandings of marriage and sexuality are hurting conservatism's political success. Perhaps some have abandoned traditional sexual mores in their own lives and don't wish to be called out as hypocrites. Perhaps they just don't want to be thought of as judgmental.

But being a conservative means being willing to deal with human nature as it is. It means respecting and defending the institutions that have evolved over millenia to cope with human nature, particularly the institution that provides a stable context for the reproductive drive and the children that result from it.

RELATED and a must-read: Theodore Dalrymple's City Journal essay on the roots and fruits of the Sexual Revolution. It's from 10 years ago but seems right up to date. Dalrymple notes the clash between the realities of human nature and the misguided utopianism of those who laid the foundation for what emerged in the 1960s: Margaret Mead, Havelock Ellis, Alfred Kinsey, to name a few:

The revolution had its intellectual pro-genitors, as shallow, personally twisted, and dishonest a parade of people as one could ever wish to encounter. They were all utopians, lacking understanding of the realities of human nature; they all thought that sexual relations could be brought to the pitch of perfection either by divesting them of moral significance altogether or by reversing the moral judgment that traditionally attached to them; all believed that human unhappiness was solely the product of laws, customs, and taboos. They were not the kind of people to take seriously Edmund Burke's lapidary warning that "it is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free": on the contrary, just as appetites often grow with the feeding, so the demands of the revolutionaries escalated whenever the last demand was met. When the expected happiness failed to emerge, the analysis of the problem and the proposed solution were always the same: more license, less self-control....

There is virtually no aspect of modern society's disastrous sexual predicament that does not find its apologist and perhaps its "onlie" begetter in the work of the sexual revolutionaries 50 or 100 years earlier. It is impossible to overlook the connection between what they said should happen and what has actually happened. Ideas have their consequences, if only many years later....

Of course [Margaret Mead's] depiction of Samoa was in error: she was taken in by her ironical informants. Sexual morality in Samoa was puritanical rather than liberal, and owed much to the efforts of the London Missionary Society, no advocate of free love during adolescence or at any other time.

But few people are averse to the message that one can indulge appetites freely without bad consequences to oneself or others, and so Mead's book passed as authoritative. And if youthful sexual libertinism was possible in Samoa with only beneficial social and psychological effects, why not in Sheffield and Schenectady? Even had her depiction of Samoa, per impossibile, been accurate, no one paused to wonder whether Samoa was a plausible model for Europe or America or whether the mere existence of a sexual custom--the celibacy of religious communities down the ages, say--should warrant its universal adoption.

So generations of educated people accepted Mead's ideas about adolescent sexuality as substantially correct and reasonable. They took the Samoan way of ordering these matters as natural, enjoyable, healthy, and psychologically beneficial. No doubt Mead's ideas were somewhat distorted as they filtered down into the class of people who had not read her (or any other) book: but it does not altogether surprise me now to meet people who started living in sexual union with a boyfriend or girlfriend from the age of 11 or 12, under the complaisant eyes of their parents. Only someone completely lacking in knowledge of the human heart--someone, in fact, a little like Margaret Mead--would have failed to predict the consequences: gross precocity followed by permanent adolescence and a premature world-weariness.

Man of the West looks at the Leftist track record and wonders why America's leftists "champion the same policies that have brought whole nations to their knees and criticize their opponents for their alleged insensitivity to the poor--the poor that leftist policies indisputably create in massive numbers!" He also offers the short and painful truth about taekwon-do.

Mikhail Gorbachev was just as callous a despot as his less-polished predecessors, according to once-secret Soviet documents. There's a treasure trove of documents about the USSR from the last years of the Cold War, smuggled out at great risk, but they've yet to find an English translator or publisher.

Ever read about a head of state's snub of Jesse Owens after his triumph at the 1936 Olympic Games? Owens said the snub wasn't from Hitler but FDR. (Via Kathy Shaidle.)

It's like Mystery Science Theater 3000 for the funny pages: The Comics Curmudgeon. (I had no idea how depressing Funky Winkerbean had become.)

C. Michael Patton (the theologian from Edmond, not the recycler from Tulsa) writes about the day he quit believing in God.

Brandon Dutcher offers a Father's Day anecdote from a recent Weekly Standard cover story about Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Lori Bongiorno, the Conscious Consumer, says it's wasteful to rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

Brace Books -- a great independent bookstore in Ponca City (with a coffee bar, too) -- passes along a parent's recommendation of John Grisham's book for pre-teens: Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.

I just visited with a customer, who is the mom of a 10-year-old son, about this book. She and her son have read it......and she said it's a good read, a page-turner like Grisham's courtroom books, and very appropriate for kids.

Barbara Hollingsworth, local opinion editor of the Washington Examiner, critiques plans for high-density, transit-oriented development in Tysons Corner, Virginia:

It will cost billions of dollars to transform Tysons Corner, but the fact is that the county simply doesn't have the money. Instead of asking the landowners to pick up the slack, county leaders are proposing a series of general countywide tax increases -- on meals, real estate sales, vehicle registration, rental cars, hotel rooms and car repairs.

This means that average Fairfax County residents and businesses, whose property taxes have doubled during the past decade, will be taxed even more to pay for redevelopment in Tysons Corner --over and above the estimated $100 million a year they will be charged for the Silver Line's operating costs. In the current economic climate, there's no guarantee taxpayers will get a return on their forced investment.

Gene Healy examines the structural damage done to federalism by the passage of the 17th Amendment:

"Let the state legislatures appoint the Senate," Virginia's George Mason urged at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, lest a newly empowered federal government "swallow up the state legislatures." The motion carried unanimously after Mason's remarks.

So it's probably fitting that it's a George Mason University law professor, Todd Zywicki, who has done the best work on the 17th Amendment's pernicious effects.

Zywicki shows that selection by state legislatures was a key pillar of the Constitution's architecture, ensuring that the Senate would be a bulwark for decentralized government. It's "inconceivable," Zywicki writes, "that a Senator during the pre-17th Amendment era would vote for an 'unfunded federal mandate.' "

And finally, Mark Merrill offers a simple set of Rules of the House.

I told a friend a few weeks ago, "I don't even like writing software anymore." That's a problematic sentiment, given that I'm a software engineer by trade. I'm happy to report, however, that in the heat of hardware/software integration and long hours of focused effort on Making Things Work, I'm back in flow and enjoying tinkering with code again.

That's not leaving me much time for blogging, so here's a selection of some really thoughty stuff from other bloggers

Erick Erickson of RedState: Slaves to Government: Constitutional Gnosticism will destroy a free republic":

Consequently, we have gone beyond a point where you can sit down and read the constitution and really understand what the heck Congress can and cannot do....

We have reached a point where we have to rely on men and women in black robes and lawyers to tell us what we can and cannot do. A society begins to breakdown when the average citizen can no longer understand what his government can and cannot do without relying on men and women in black robes and lawyers all of whom have as many opinions to that question as there are opinions.

Then you cross into the territory where we have already arrived. A Congress can pass a 2,700 page piece of legislation to do something Congress arguably cannot do by making states do it, which is arguably unconstitutional. The legislators who voted on this 2,700 page piece of legislation, when asked, have no clue what is in the legislation.

You cannot sustain a free republic when the citizens who are expected to comply with the law have no understanding of what the law is or how their government works without paying the gnostics to enlighten them and the people who write the law do not know what is in the law.

(Did you know you can't tell how many state senators and state representatives Oklahoma has and how they're apportioned by reading our state constitution? The number and method was fixed by court order in 1964 and reaffirmed in statute with every decennial reapportionment.)

RH Potfry of satirical news site The Nose on Your Face is "Quitting the Blog Thing":

That 2 guys with demanding day jobs and families could cobble together some of the work we've done, get linked by everyone from Mark Steyn to Ann Coulter, and even get featured on the Huckabee Show, says a lot about how the ambitious amateur can use the internet to chase a dream.

But that chase has its price. Over the past six months, I've been nagged by the realization that I'm watching my daughters grow up over the top edge of my laptop. That if not for my wife's bizarre appreciation of my oddness, she could divorce me for neglect....

All things considered and given the limited hours in a day, I need to choose the job that comes with a paycheck, and make sure I'm fully present in the lives of the people I love.

Will Republican leadership walk back from the call to repeal the Obamacare monstrosity? Iowahawk seems to think they've already started and predicts the future with a few words per month.

Ace: Letterman Interviews Tea Party Leader & Grand Unified Theory of Everything Political -- some brilliant analysis of how political appeal works at a sub-rational level, and why the left-stream media is working so hard to convince you Tea Party supporters are wackos:

Successful politicians are often -- almost always, really; one struggles to find a contrary example -- able to appeal to those who should be opposed to them, based on purely rational inputs (past voting history, stated positions, rhetorical priorities) to nevertheless support them based on non-rational or pre-rational inputs -- a general sense of a guy as one of your own.

Non-ideological independents are, well, non-ideological, and tend to be deeply suspicious of those who are strongly ideological. Partly due to their ideology of not having much of an ideology, and partly due to sub-rational reasons: People who are strongly ideological are "not like me" and therefore viewed with antipathy....

Newt Gingrich, back when he was Speaker, gave seminars to conservative candidates on how to win elections, and he highlighted the importance of describing one's opponent (or his ideas at least) as (and I quote) "bizarre," "weird," and alien. (Not sure if that last one was used, but that was the idea.) This is the flip-side of appealing to the "One of Us" feeling -- portraying your opponent as "Not One of You."

Now, of course, the media engages in similar political rhetoric on a daily basis in the service of its cherished liberal party. The media is heavily invested in the Weird, Dangerous, Alien narratives when discussing the Tea Party. That is the biggest reason for the constant denigration of Tea Partiers as racist, homophobic, ugly, uneducated, zombie-like, etc. The media is always trying to paint Tea Partiers as "Not One of You" to discourage people from joining in the cause or viewing their claims as legitimate.

Also remember how CNN described the Coffee Parties. Did they deploy their "Weird, Dangerous, Alien" storyline in describing this group of mutant Obama Zombies? Oh dearie me no. For groups CNN likes and wishes to promote, it employs the "One of Us" Narrative....

So that's the media's template -- the left is portrayed by using the most broadly inclusive nouns, expressing the most broadly palatable and vague ideology. (All the CNN pieces on the Coffee Party refuse to divulge the Coffee Party is leftist and insist it is a centrist group concerned only with non-ideological concerns such as fair process and clean politics.)

The right is portrayed by using the narrowest possible categorical nouns and their ideology is represented as specifically as possible (to discourage those who don't share those particular views) and the Weirdness Factor is highlighted-- just in case some of those specific positions are actually attractive to a lot of people, the Weirdness Factor ought to keep you away.

He has an extended example from CNN's coverage of the "Coffee Party" movement. He also has links to Letterman's interview with Pam Stout, a leader of a Tea Party group from Sandpoint, Idaho. It's notable because it runs counter to the narrative -- Mrs. Stout comes across as normal, likable, and sincere.

Try viewing the news through this lens for a few days. You've probably seen it done at a local level, too, with phrases like "Gang of Five" used to render the legitimate concerns of a group of city councilors unworthy of public discussion.

National Review's Jim Geraghty has a list of "The Complete List of Obama Statement Expiration Dates," including his opposition to individual health care mandates, his commitment to shut down Gitmo, etc. Some are campaign promises that have expired since he took office, some are statements made since Inauguration Day that are now inoperative, and some are campaign promises that expired during the campaign itself.

Ivy League graduate William Deresiewicz writes in the American Scholar (the journal of Phi Beta Kappa) on "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education." One of the disadvantages: It hinders intellectual activity.

Being an intellectual begins with thinking your way outside of your assumptions and the system that enforces them. But students who get into elite schools are precisely the ones who have best learned to work within the system, so it's almost impossible for them to see outside it, to see that it's even there. Long before they got to college, they turned themselves into world-class hoop-jumpers and teacher-pleasers, getting A's in every class no matter how boring they found the teacher or how pointless the subject, racking up eight or 10 extracurricular activities no matter what else they wanted to do with their time. Paradoxically, the situation may be better at second-tier schools and, in particular, again, at liberal arts colleges than at the most prestigious universities. Some students end up at second-tier schools because they're exactly like students at Harvard or Yale, only less gifted or driven. But others end up there because they have a more independent spirit. They didn't get straight A's because they couldn't be bothered to give everything in every class. They concentrated on the ones that meant the most to them or on a single strong extracurricular passion or on projects that had nothing to do with school or even with looking good on a college application. Maybe they just sat in their room, reading a lot and writing in their journal. These are the kinds of kids who are likely, once they get to college, to be more interested in the human spirit than in school spirit, and to think about leaving college bearing questions, not resumés.

That ought to keep you busy while I get some sleep.

WAIT: Almost forgot about this, by Richard Fernandez, which touches in different ways on the themes in Ace's post:

Who makes monsters? Mostly the Left: because of its huge presence in the media and the arts, the Left has traditionally manufactured the most hate-objects. They've done it for so long that it has become almost a birthright. The photographer Zombie has documented dozens of calls from the left, from demonstrators to celebrities, for the assassination and murder of President George W. Bush. But that's not a crime, is it? "Threats to the president aren't excusable now, and weren't excusable in the past -- and yet death threats against Bush at protests seem to have been routinely ignored for years (and readers who have any evidence showing that the threateners depicted below [in the Zombie post] were ever prosecuted for threatening the president, please tell me and I'll update this essay with the new info). Why the discrepancy?"

The discrepancy is probably because the Left has long appointed itself the guardian of the freak-minting industry. It is a prerogative that is jealously guarded. Thus Glenn Reynolds could receive this insulting email calling for civility without the slightest irony. "I cannot emphasize this enough: your brand of public discourse is hurting our country. It us poison. So f[***] you, you GOP utensil, and f[***] your mother for bringing you forth." Get it Glenn? So too could Ann Coulter be threatened by protesters at the University of Ottawa to prevent her from making a "hate speech." S**t flows downhill. There is no mystery to that. It's Leftist physics.

But the unintended consequence of uncontrolled and systematic distortion; the unforeseen effect of shipping funhouse mirrors everywhere is that sooner or later frustrated audiences put on corrective spectacles. The most sophisticated audiences eventually have a pair of corrective spectacles to suit every context. The term for this method of fixing distortions is adaptive optics. My grandfather had a simple rule of thumb for understanding the controlled news broadcasts in the last days of World War 2. Whatever the Japanese broadcasts claimed he believed the reverse. After listening to one strident description of a vast Japanese naval victory he concluded, "the IJN is no more."...

One might argue that the explosive growth of the blogosphere has been driven by its utility as an adaptive optical appliance through which to view the media. But it's a hell of a way to run a railroad. Since the reality "out there" is first distorted by the media to the point where the discerning members of the public must apply a further distortion to make the image sensible, we inflict a huge signal loss on the viewer. There is no guarantee that the applied corrections don't do more harm than good. Back in the days of the anti-Marcos underground I asked someone why he bothered to read either the government newspapers or the Communist Party propaganda sheet. He replied, "I buy it for date, my friend. It's still good for telling me what day it is."

A better situation would be one in which billions of independent sensors gathered an image and left the end user to process the information. The terrible memetic distortions of the 20th century are partly rooted in the ill-matched marriage between news gathering and meme-minting. The phrase the medium is the message was originally intended to convey the sense of absolute divorce between content and information. In an environment dominated by the formal medium, real information content actually declines. A point is reached where all news stories become variations of a few didactic themes.

Today is the March for Life, the annual event to protest Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that overturned abortion laws nationwide and that has resulted in the death of nearly 50 million innocent American children since that date. You may not be able to get to Washington today to join the march, but you can show your support by registering as a virtual marcher. So far over 65,000 Americans are participating virtually, including leaders like RNC Chairman Michael Steele, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, Andrew Breitbart of, and Americans United for Life CEO Charmaine Yoest.

You have likely heard about the lawsuit by abortion advocates seeking to halt implementation of Oklahoma's newly enacted abortion reporting legislation, due to go into effect on November 1, 2009. Here is a news release from Oklahomans for Life debunking a number of claims made in the lawsuit:

NEW OKLAHOMA ABORTION-REPORTING LAW DESIGNED TO HELP WOMEN Abortion advocates, news accounts misrepresent law

TULSA - Abortion advocates, aided by several recent news accounts, continue to misrepresent a new Oklahoma law strengthening abortion reporting in the state. The Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act, set to go into effect on November 1, 2009, was passed by large majorities in the Oklahoma House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Brad Henry in May. It is being challenged in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"Abortion advocates either don't understand - or else are intentionally misrepresenting - Oklahoma's new abortion-reporting law," said Tony Lauinger, state chairman of Oklahomans For Life. "It is not true, as alleged, that reports about individual women's abortions will be posted online, nor will reports about individual abortions contain personal identifying information: no name, no address, no hometown, no county of residence, no patient ID number. To say otherwise is clearly false and misleads the public."

The Center for Reproductive Rights has persistently misrepresented the Oklahoma law, claiming that it requires doctors to provide information about where women live. These assertions are absolutely false.

As written, the new law requires that a report for each abortion be sent to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The questionnaire gathers demographic information including age, race, marital status and educational level and gathers information on the method of abortion used. Numerous states have similar reporting requirements, and the abortion industry collects and publishes similar information through annual surveys by the Guttmacher Institute (formerly the research arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America).

The new reporting form also asks for the reason the abortion is being sought. The reasons for the abortion listed on the questionnaire are adapted from the September 2005 report, "Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives" published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health by the Guttmacher Institute.

Contrary to claims of abortion activists, the new law actually protects a woman's privacy more extensively than current Oklahoma law. The current reporting form asks for the woman's county of residence. The new law, however, repeals the existing law and any identifying residential information has been eliminated in the new reporting form.

Reports gathered in Oklahoma's three abortion facilities would be submitted on a monthly basis to the Department of Health which will "ensure the security" of the reports. Further, reports may be "accessed only by specially authorized departmental personnel" who will not be able to identify the woman or know in which of Oklahoma's 77 counties she lives. The Department of Health will then produce an annual statistical analysis of the demographic information. Individual abortion reports will not be published.

"It is hoped that the information gathered will make it possible in the future to address some of the underlying societal problems, such as absence of child support or lack of childcare, which lead some women to seek abortions." Lauinger noted.

Abortion complications will also be reported under the new law. Abortion advocates frequently refer to abortion as being "safe, legal, and rare." However, very little data exist regarding abortion complications. When a lawsuit is filed over a botched abortion, there is typically an out-of-court settlement, so there is very little statistical data about the extent of the damage that abortion inflicts on women.

"Abortion is the most under-regulated, under-investigated, and under-researched procedure done on American women today, yet it is the most common and most potentially dangerous to their health and well-being," noted National Right to Life Director of State Legislation Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., in a September 29 release. "If a state can get a handle on the reasons women have abortions, it can lead to better programs that will make it easier for women to have their children rather than resort to abortion."

"Reducing the number of abortions is a goal that even abortion advocates claim to support. This legislation could help achieve that objective by identifying the problems that lead Oklahoma women to seek abortions. Important public-health benefits will be achieved by Oklahoma's Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act," Lauinger added.

The text of the law is available here:

The case is Davis v. W.A. Drew Edmondson.

Oklahomans For Life is the state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee. The National Right to Life Committee, the nation's largest pro-life group, is a federation of affiliates in all 50 states and 3,000 local chapters nationwide.

# # #

If you follow BatesLine on Twitter (and you should), you'll have seen my tweet yesterday about Americans United for Life live-blogging the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. AUL has a legal focus, researching state and federal legislation, court cases, and court nominations that affect issues like abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.

As soon as the nomination was announced AUL launched Sotomayor411, which provides the paper trail to show that, as bad as Justice David Souter has been on life issues, Sotomayor would be far worse. Another site,, listed AUL's top ten questions for senators to ask the nominee and asked readers to vote for their favorite.

Veteran pro-life blogger Dawn Eden, AUL's Senior Fellow for Publications and New Media Outreach, is providing the Judiciary Committee play-by-play, with commentary from AUL president Charmaine Yoest. Eden is well-known for her thorough research on pro-life issues and for her knack for brevity, honed by years of headline writing for New York tabloids.

Here are a couple of updates from Okla. Sen. Tom Coburn's questioning of Sotomayor:

12:24 p.m. - Coburn continues critiquing Sotomayor's past statements. "You've taken the oath already twice, and if confirmed, will take it again." Reminds her of what the oath says -- "I will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties ..." Notes that it doesn't reference foreign law, whereas Sotomayor has said we should take foreign law into consideration.

12:23 p.m. - Coburn says concerns over Sotomayor's past statements will guide his questioning. Is "deeply concerned" by Sotomayor's saying the law is "uncertain" and her praise for an "unpredictable" system of justice. We want justice to be predictable, he says.

Even if you aren't concerned about the sanctity of human life, a Supreme Court nominee who looks beyond the written Constitution and laws to "empathy" and foreign precedents as a basis for her rulings is a threat to the life, liberty, and property of every American, whether born or unborn.

Beyond the life-and-death issues at stake in these hearings, what AUL is doing should be of interest to organizations looking for social media best practices. Just as food needs to digested down into nutrients to get into circulation and reach all parts of the body, a complex news story needs to be digested into pieces that can easily be circulated via blogs and Twitter. There are sympathetic bloggers and Twitter users willing to spread the word, but they don't have time to do the digesting themselves.

Many organizations blast out detailed press releases to bloggers by e-mail (too often accompanied by unsolicited high-res publicity photos). These releases often sit unread and unblogged because they require too much time and effort to digest and turn into a blog post. They can't be turned into a tweet because the press releases exist only in e-mail and so can't be linked. Brief highlights that can be passed along with a couple of mouse-clicks, accompanied by pointers to more detailed analysis and documentation, are far more useful to a blogger/tweeter and more likely to circulate widely.

As James Lileks tweeted, "You want to be quoted? Speak in Lego pieces, not bolts of cloth."

I have only one suggestion for AUL: Post some of the live-blog updates to Twitter (@AUL) in real-time, with appropriate hashtags (#sotomayor and #sotoshow seem to be the most popular) with a shortened link back to the AUL's Sotomayor hearing live-blog.

This morning an off-duty Tulsa city planner tweeted a link to a "memorial" -- a petition seeking the impeachment of State Rep. Sally Kern. A number of the 150 or so signers commented that they consider Kern, who is, like Pres. Obama, Gov. Henry, and nearly every member of Congress and the State Legislature, an avowed opponent of same-sex marriage, an embarrassment to the state of Oklahoma.

Here's the text of the petition, which is intended to reverse the damage that the petition alleges has been caused by Kern to the state's image and reputation (emphasis added, but spelling and punctuation left as is -- consider the whole thing [sic]):

To the Honorable House of Representatives of the great State of Oklahoma

The petition of _____________________, a citizen of the State of Oklahoma, and of the United States, respectfully showeth:

That, Article III, Section 1, of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma, sets forth the article for impeachment and that in such article it states "The Governor and other elective state officers, including the
Justices of the Supreme Court, shall be liable and subject to
impeachment for wilful neglect of duty, corruption in office,
habitual drunkenness, incompetency, or any offense involving
moral turpitude committed while in office."

That, Jefferson's Manual section LIII, 603, states that impeachment may be set in motion by charges preferred by a memorial, which is usually referred to a committee for examination; and

The memorial goes on to set forth that, Sally Kern has displayed to the citizens of her district and of the great State of Oklahoma incompetency while holding the office of State Representative; and

The memorial goes on to set forth that, the actions, public address, legislation, views of Sally Kern have had a negative impact on recruiting and retaining businesses to the State of Oklahoma; and

The memorial goes on to set forth that, Sally Kern has committed acts of moral turpitude while in office; and

The memorial goes on to set forth that, Sally Kern's primary agenda is insight hate and rage towards the citizens of the State of Oklahoma; and

The memorial goes on to set forth that, Sally Kern has violated the convent of the seperation between Church and State; and

The memorial goes on to set forth that, Sally Kern has wasted taxpayer dollars pening legilsation that has added no value to the great State of Oklahoma; and

The memorial goes on to set forth that, Sally Kern has shown support to repress the freedoms, rights, and privliges afforded to the citizens of the great State of Oklahoma by states constitution and the constitution of the Unites States of America.; and

The memorial goes on to set forth that, In all of this Sally Kern has acted in a manner contrary to her trust as State Representative, subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury and oppresion of the people of the State of Oklahoma.

In conclusion the memoralist says:
Having thus submitted to your honorable body the facts of his case, your petitioner begs leave to observe that it appears from those facts:

First. That said Sally Kern is no longer viewed as a representative of the people of the great State of Oklahoma.

Second. That said Sally Kern has in the view of these people displayed incompetency in her ability to perform, enact, and carry out the duties of a Representative for the State of Oklahoma.

Third. That said Sally Kern has displayed poor judgement and moral turptitude in the her actions thus far as a Representative for the State of Oklahoma.

Wherefore, and inasmuch as the said Sally Kern has violated the most sacred and undoubted rights of the inhabitants of the State of Oklahoma, your petitioner prays that the conduct and proceedings in this behalf, of said Sally Kern, may be inquired into by your honorable body, and such decision made therein to impeach, to appoint managers to conduct the impeachment trial in the Senate, and to inform the Senate of these facts by resolution (Manual Sec. 607; Deschler Ch 14 Sec. 9) for trial and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the State of Oklahoma;

And your petitioner, as in duty bound, will pray.

Sincerely, We The Undersigned;

As serious as the allegations against Kern are -- violating "convents," moral "turptitude," "insights" of hate and rage, and "pening legilsation" (an act that looks awfully turptitudinous) -- someone needs to hold the authors and signers of this petition accountable for an assault on the English language. All y'all are making us look like a bunch of ignorant hicks.


Alisa Harris posted a clip from the movie On the Waterfront on the World Magazine Blog in memory of Karl Malden. It's a powerful speech in which Malden, as Father Barry, gives last rites to a longshoreman who was ready to testify against the Mob and paid for his courage with his life. Father Barry finds in Christ the courage to take his own stand in the face of a hostile crowd. It had me in tears.

I came down here to keep a promise. I gave Kayo my word that if he stood up to the mob I'd stand up with him -- all the way. And now Kayo Dugan is dead. He was one of those fellows who had the gift of standing up....

Now what does Christ think of the easy money boys who do none of the work and take all of the gravy? And how does He feel about the fellas who wear $150 suits -- and diamond rings! -- on your union dues and your kickback money? And how does He, who spoke up without fear against every evil, feel about your silence?

You want to know what's wrong with our waterfront? It's the love of a lousy buck. It's making the love of the lousy buck - the cushy job - more important than the love of man. It's forgetting that every fellow down here is your brother in Christ. But remember, Christ is always with you - Christ is in the shape up. He's in the hatch. He's in the union hall. He's kneeling right here beside Dugan. And He's saying with all of you, if you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me!

And what they did to Joey and what they did to Dugan, they're doing to you -- and you -- you -- all of you! And only you -- only you with God's help have the power to knock 'em out for good!

(If you're reading this on the home page, you can watch the clip in the extended entry. Otherwise, scroll down.)

Less eloquently, I tried to make a similar point in my November 2, 2005, column in Urban Tulsa Weekly on faith and political courage:

But faith is more than reciting a creed or performing certain rituals. Faith involves confidence and trust. During a worship service you profess certain things to be true about God's nature and character. During the rest of the week, your true faith--what you really believe about God and his dealings with you and the rest of the humanity--becomes apparent in the way you live your life, and particularly in the way you deal with adversity.

For that reason, what an elected official really believes about God's nature and character affects how he conducts himself in office. Someone who has genuine confidence and trust in God as He is revealed in the Bible will have courage and persistence in the face of discouragement, danger, hostility, oppression, and injustice....

The usual pressure tactics won't succeed with the politician who reads and believes the Epistle to the Philippians. He turns his anxieties into prayers to his all-sufficient Father. You can threaten his job or his wife's job, but he reads that God will supply all his needs. You can threaten him with removal from office, but he is learning, with Paul, to be content in any situation.

You can threaten his reputation and position, but he is a follower and servant of Christ, who forsook his heavenly throne, "made himself of no reputation, and took upon [himself] the form of a servant." You can threaten his life, but he knows that "to die is gain"--the worst you can do is send him on to his heavenly home earlier than he expected. He expects to share in the sufferings of his Lord, but also in his Lord's resurrection.

If you're a Councilor steeped in Scripture you aren't going to be deterred when a big donor threatens to fund your opponent; when someone from the Chamber or the Home Builders corners you to cuss you out over a vote, or when the morning paper does another front-page hatchet job on you....

If we want elected officials who are fearless to do what is right, we ought to look for men and women whose character has been shaped by confidence in a God who is bigger than any adversary they may face.


From 2005, some reactions to that column, including this from Councilor Rick Westcott, then a first-time candidate:

I also think that a person's faith gives them a sense of identity which helps ground them in times of trouble. Because I know who I am in Christ, who God made me, because I know He has a plan for me, it gives me a sense of identity that isn't shaken by those who might attack me. I don't need the external validation that some seek from others.

Frustrated by meetings that drag on and on without ever reaching a conclusion? Angry at members who seem to delight in postponing a decision? Feeling steamrollered by the majority?

If you're an officer or a member of a neighborhood association, committee, or civic organization, some knowledge of the basic rules of order -- parliamentary procedure -- could help your organization have more enjoyable, efficient, and productive meetings.

The Oklahoma State Association of Parliamentarians is holding a training seminar on parliamentary procedure this Friday from 9 to 4 and Saturday from 1 to 4 in Oklahoma City.

Friday morning's workshop covers parliamentary basics: quorums, abstentions, different kinds of motions, the process of handling motions, agendas.

Friday afternoon moves on to more advanced topics: Handling amendments, keeping minutes, nominating and electing officers, maintaining decorum in debate, and methods of voting.

Saturday afternoon will cover substitute motions, the motion to lay on the table ("the most misused and abused motion"), and "bring back motions" ("how an organization can change its mind").

You can find full information on the seminar flyer. For more information and to register, call 405-330-9273 or 405-524-8953.

If you're going to be involved in your community, you're likely to end up on a board or committee at some point, and you'll want to know the rules of the road.

I learned parliamentary procedure from watching my dad run monthly business meetings at our Southern Baptist church, and it's been helpful knowledge at Republican Party conventions and City Council meetings. Robert's Rules of Order are the product of a hundred years of experience and refinement, providing you with simple rules that work 95% of the time and with precedent to handle the difficult cases, too.

arugulance.jpgI seem to have started something.

I made up a punny word for the headline of a 2007 blog post on Barack Obama's lament, at an Iowa campaign appearance, about the high price of arugula at Whole Foods Market. A few other bloggers, including Michelle Malkin and see-dubya, picked up on it. (The graphic at right is by reader Tennyson.)

The word in question -- "arugulance" -- appears to have gained some degree of popular acceptance. Barry Popik, the pop-culture etymologist who searched out the origins of New York City's "Big Apple" nickname, has traced the term from its origins to the present. It appeared in a headline over Maureen Dowd's April 18, 2009, column: "The Aura of Arugulance." The copy editor appears to have pulled it from San Francisco restaurateur Alice Palmer's quote in the story about being derided as a food snob: "I'm just put into that arugulance place. I own a fancy restaurant. I own an expensive restaurant. I never thought of it as fancy. People don't know we're supporting 85 farms and ranches and all of that." It's interesting that she uses the term without defining it, suggesting that she doesn't perceive "arugulance" as an obscure word.

A day later, Josh Friedland at The Food Section offered a definition of "arugulance":

a·ru·gu·lance (noun): a (perceived) attitude of superiority and snobbery manifested in an appetite for pricey -- yet delicious -- peppery greens.

On April 20, an alternative definition was offered by Isaac Seliger at Grant Writing Confidential:

Ordinarily, I don't read [Maureen Dowd's] column, as she is usually even too cynical for a inherently cynical and grizzled grant writer like me. This time, however, the headline caught my eye because it used the term "arugulance," which I learned is shorthand for the arrogance of the grow local/buy local/shop at Whole Paycheck movement.

The next day, Urban Mennonite called "arugulance" "one of five words with which I am newly in love."

An October 2008 entry on Target Rich Environment about Philadelphia talk radio host Michael Smerconish takes Smerconish's unfamiliarity with "arugulance" as an indicator of the host's lack of contact with conservative thought:

He's embraced the Huffington Post and other left-of-center sources for some time, and seemingly ignores all voices on the right (for example, when a caller a few months ago brought up Obama's "arrugulance," Smercommie had no idea what he was talking about).

The blogger takes it for granted that by sometime in early 2008, arugulance is already in common use on the conservative side of the blogosphere.'s link in April 2008 seems to have launched the term's currency among conservatives.

It would be interesting to know the path the word took to get from Michelle Malkin and her readers to Alice Palmer. Like an underground stream, it disappeared for some distance before re-emerging. At some point it must have crossed the conservative-liberal linguistic divide. Or it may be that a lover of wordplay in Palmer's circle of acquaintances independently coined the term.

"Arugulance" won't have the impact of "blogosphere," but it fills a niche.

The Oklahoma House voted Tuesday to prohibit state government funding for the destruction of embryos for the purpose of stem cell research in the state. (The legislation does nothing to hinder the many other forms of stem cell research -- marrow, cord blood, various forms of adult tissue -- which do not require the destruction of a human life.)

SB 315 passed by a wide bipartisan majority of 85-13. The version passed by the House now goes back to the Senate for final approval. If a business is involved in "nontherapeutic research that destroys a human embryo or subjects a human embryo to substantial risk of injury or death," that business does not qualify for any Oklahoma income tax credits or incentive payments. The bill prevents tax dollars from directly or indirectly funding the destruction of human life.

The 13 naysayers were Auffet, Brown, Cox, Hoskin, Kiesel, McAffrey, McDaniel (Jeannie), Nations, Renegar, Roan, Scott, Shelton, and Smithson. Christian, McPeak, and Morrissette were excused from the vote. Everyone else voted yes.

The Tulsa Metro Chamber and the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce have been lobbying Gov. Brad Henry to veto any such legislation when it reaches him. In response, pro-life legislators boycotted a legislative event hosted by the two chambers.

State Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa) said today, "The idea that Oklahoma should condone the destruction of innocent human life in the name of 'economic development' is indefensible. Our law clearly states that human life begins at conception. Now the chambers are advocating the destruction of a legally recognized life in exchange for research dollars, saying the state should determine the best use of a person's life for the state's purposes. That's a huge paradigm shift that runs contrary to the basic values of our nation."

I'm happy that pro-life legislators are voicing their objections to the Chambers' crass and callous stand on this issue.

But if you're a Chamber member, and you oppose the destruction of innocent human life for the sake of economic development, you need to take a stand, too. You need to e-mail Gov. Henry, tell him to sign the bill, and tell him that your Chamber of Commerce doesn't speak for you on this issue.

Then you need to make some calls and do some legwork to find out who authorized your Chamber to speak on this issue. Find out when the board voted on it, which board members voted which way, then make your displeasure known to the executive director (Mike Neal here in Tulsa) and the pro-killing members of the board.

Finally, the pro-life majority on the Tulsa City Council should refuse to continue to give millions in city tax dollars to an organization that advocates using tax dollars to kill people for profit. The Council has the power to end the City's exclusive deal with the Tulsa Metro Chamber for economic development and convention and tourism promotion. Put the contract up for bids in a full and open competition and use our City hotel tax dollars to hire a more competent outfit -- that needed to happen anyway.

Here is the full statement from Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa):

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City and Tulsa chambers of commerce support for embryonic stem cell research, which requires the killing of human embryos, will damage Oklahoma 's reputation as a state that values life, state Rep. Pam Peterson said today.

"The chambers' support of embryonic stem cell research as an 'economic growth' tool is a shocking violation of the public trust and basic moral values," said Peterson, R-Tulsa. "The chamber is effectively advocating the worst kind of discrimination based on age, size and place of residence."

In the past week, both chambers have urged Gov. Brad Henry to veto legislation that would make embryonic stem cell research illegal in Oklahoma . Both groups argue the ban will hinder economic development, be an embarrassment for the state and make it hard to attract "researchers."

"The idea that Oklahoma should condone the destruction of innocent human life in the name of 'economic development' is indefensible," Peterson said. "Our law clearly states that human life begins at conception. Now the chambers are advocating the destruction of a legally recognized life in exchange for research dollars, saying the state should determine the best use of a person's life for the state's purposes. That's a huge paradigm shift that runs contrary to the basic values of our nation."

The ban was supported by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both the state House and Senate.

Even as they have worked to outlaw embryonic stem cell research, state lawmakers have also voted to provide millions for adult stem cell research. Unlike embryonic stem cell research, adult stem cell research does not require the destruction of human embryos.

Adult stem cell research also has a proven track record of results - there are more than 70 research treatments that use adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cell research has been plagued with failure.

"If the chambers were serious about economic development and growing Oklahoma 's biotech industries, they would only support research with a proven track record requiring no moral compromise - our adult stem cell plan," Peterson said. "It's clear that these organizations care more about catering favor from radical groups than improving our economy."

As a result of the chamber's call for vetoing the embryonic stem cell ban, Peterson and other pro-life lawmakers will not attend a legislative event tonight jointly hosted by the Oklahoma City and Tulsa chambers.

MORE: HB 1326, which has similar language, was passed by large majorities in both houses last week (82-6 in the House, 38-9 in the Senate) and is on the governor's desk. This morning, State Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso) called on pro-life business owners to express their support of this legislation:

State Senator Randy Brogdon called on the Pro-Life members of the Tulsa and Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce to join with him in support of HB 1326, which outlaws embryonic stem cell research.

"It's simple," said Brogdon. "HB 1326 says that we won't let Oklahoma businesses profit from the destruction of human life."

Brogdon, a co-author of HB 1326, continued, "And it's a travesty that the Oklahoma City and Tulsa Chamber leadership are more concerned about profit than the protection of human life."

"And I'm sure if the Pro-Life members of the Tulsa and Oklahoma City Chamber knew what HB 1326 entailed, they would not be happy knowing that their leadership was lobbying for Governor Henry to veto this bill," said Brogdon.

"That's why I am calling on the Pro-Life business owners of the Tulsa and Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce to join with me in support of this bill and call on their leadership to halt their lobbying against this Pro-Life legislation," said Brogdon.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the economic downturn is hurting corporate sources of revenue for sports teams and venues, including luxury boxes, club seats, naming rights, and other forms of sponsorship:

In a case of monumentally bad timing, this year three of the biggest names in pro sports -- the Yankees, New York Mets and Dallas Cowboys -- are opening three of the most expensive stadiums ever built, filled with premium-priced seats and luxury amenities. At a combined cost of more than $3.5 billion, the stadiums were conceived and financed in a vastly different environment, a time when corporations and municipalities were flush with cash. Now they're opening just as corporate America is going through a massive belt-tightening -- and trying to avoid the appearance of extravagance at all costs.

"Let's face it, if you're taking TARP funds, it's really hard to justify getting a [luxury] box," says Neal Sroka, a luxury real estate agent hired by the Yankees to help sell the team's premium seats, referring to the funds distributed to banks under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

With just weeks before their new $1.1 billion stadium opens, the Cowboys still have 2,000 premium seats and about 50 of their 300 luxury suites left to sell. The Yankees have hired Mr. Sroka to drum up buyers for the hundreds of premium seats still in their inventory. The Mets, who once had deals for all 49 of their luxury suites, say they've had to go back to the market after one customer, whom they declined to name, backed out.

(Via Field of Schemes.)

We've already seen an aspect of this here in Tulsa: Before SemGroup went bankrupt, the company was expected to be a $7.5 million donor to the new downtown Tulsa Drillers ballpark. It's worse for the Mets: They sold their naming rights to a company that's getting billions in federal aid.

Citigroup, which has received billions of dollars of federal aid, has been forced to defend its $400 million marketing deal with the Mets that includes the right to name the park Citi Field. The Mets have endured weeks of jokes about renaming their field "Taxpayer Stadium" or "Bailout Park," but the deal with Citigroup looks safe for now. A Citigroup spokesman says no taxpayer money will be used for the marketing deal.

You'd think a bank spokesman would be aware of the fungibility of money.

I was sad to learn tonight of the passing of legendary radio broadcaster and Tulsa native Paul Harvey at the age of 90.

Harvey grew up at 1014 E. 5th Pl. -- the house is still there -- went to Longfellow School at 6th and Peoria, and then Central High School, starting his radio career at KVOO when he was still in high school. (They were all within walking distance of each other back in the '30s -- KVOO was in the Philtower.) A few years ago he reported receiving a letter from a more recent resident of that house, who had found a wood-shop project in the attic with his name on it -- bookends, I think it was.

I started listening to Paul Harvey's broadcasts in the mid-1970s, at a time when he wasn't carried by any Tulsa station, at least none that I could find. I listened to him on KGGF 690 out of Coffeyville, Kansas. Eventually -- sometime in the late '70s, I think -- KRMG picked him up.

When I started working in Tulsa after college, I often ate my lunch in the car at a nearby park, listening to his noontime broadcast. If I missed him on KRMG at noon, I could catch him on KGGF at 12:40.

It could be hard to listen to Paul Harvey's broadcasts over the last few years, as time finally took its toll on his vocal cords, but it was still the same interesting variety of news, still the same distinctive speech pattern.

See-Dubya has a fitting remembrance over at Michelle Malkin's blog:

Paul Harvey put news out there that no other outlet touched. His Paul Harvey News and Comment scoured the wires for random stuff-and ideologically inconvenient stuff- you just didn't hear on the Big Three mainstream TV news, and crammed it all in to crisp five minute chunks, complete with terse commentary and the occasional wry thwack of sarcasm-and he still had time for the inevitable personalized pitches for Buicks and the Bose Acoustic Wave Radio. Here's what he had to say about his advertisers:
"I can't look down on the commercial sponsors of these broadcasts," he told CBS in 1988. "Too often they have very, very important messages to put across. Without advertising in this country, my goodness, we'd still be in this country what Russia mostly still is: a nation of bearded cyclists with b.o."

Zing. He was always like that. Paul Harvey invented blogging; he just did his blogging on the radio....

His radio show wasn't particularly ideological-you could tell he leaned right but it was mainly through the choice of stories and headlines he picked out. He also had a syndicated column back in the day that my state paper carried, and he was a rock-ribbed Middle American (Tulsa native, in fact) social and fiscal conservative with a heart of gold, a deep love of country, and no illusions about the stakes of foreign policy. He was a Reaganesque thinker, as well as a Reaganesque communicator.

(See-Dubya notes: "I kind of trace the groundswell of interest in [Fred] Thompson back to his time broadcasting from Paul Harvey's chair, and likewise the deflation of the Thompson bubble to the time he left it." Hearing Fred in that setting certainly sparked my interest,)


You can hear Paul Harvey in full voice in this clip on from 1968.

This page about Tulsa radio on Tulsa TV Memories notes that he was a student of Miss Isabelle Ronan at Central High School, and includes a Real Media clip of Paul Harvey speaking on the Larry King Show about his education, his career, and his optimism.

Here's Paul Harvey's entry in the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.


WGN radio, his Chicago home base, has audio clips from Paul Harvey's broadcasts and speeches and the ABC News radio special on the life and career of Paul Harvey which was heard this morning on KRMG.

KOTV has a story that includes video from his 1994 speech at a Tulsa fundraiser for the Salvation Army.

Route 66 News remembers Paul Harvey's support for a couple of Missouri Route 66 businesses.

Washington Post obituary: "Broadcaster Delivered 'The Rest of the Story'" (It's by Joe Holley. Wonder if he's any relation to the southpaw fiddler.)

Paul Harvey, 90, a Chicago-based radio broadcaster whose authoritative baritone voice and distinctive staccato delivery attracted millions of daily listeners for more than half a century, died Feb. 28 in Phoenix.

A spokesman for ABC Radio Networks told the Associated Press that Mr. Harvey died at his winter home, surrounded by family. No cause of death was immediately available.

Mr. Harvey was the voice of the American heartland, offering to millions his trademark greeting: "Hello Americans! This is Paul Harvey. Stand by! For news!"

For millions, Paul Harvey in the morning or at noon was as much a part of daily routine as morning coffee.


Aaron Barnhart gives a couple of examples of Paul Harvey's impact -- one coming from Keith Olbermann. Keith Olbermann?

"I was his official fill-in from 2001-03 and I was overwhelmed by the thought that went in to the selection and flow of stories. Even when he was off, his rules were in place: each segment began with hard news, moved on to commentary, ended with celebrity and then something light or silly. Then a commercial. Then repeat. Then another commercial, etc.

"I stole it almost entirely for 'Countdown.'"

Bathtub Boy's interpretation of Harvey's demand that ABC replace him as his heir apparent seems a little off:

And though he liked my work, and consented to let ABC groom me to succeed him, when an executive flew to Chicago to get his consent to the network giving away free a Sunday version of his show, done by me, he immediately told them not only would he not agree, but if they did not find a different back-up and write it into a new contract, he would not go on the air the next day. Probably the most job-secure, most irreplacable man in broadcasting, without whom the franchise would sink to 10% of its value, and yet he was convinced he was about to be shown the door. The mind reels.

I don't think Paul Harvey was afraid of losing his job. I think he was afraid of the franchise he had built over 50 years being handed over to a nutter like Olbermann.

But wash your ears out with this, from Barnhart's closing paragraphs:

Finally, a word about Paul Harvey's non-verbal communication. No one in radio got away with the silences that he did. His pauses weren't just pregnant, they were Nadya Suleman pregnant. They were amazingly long, by radio standards. They challenged the listener's assumption that an interruption to the flow of continuous noise meant something was wrong. Nothing was wrong; Paul Harvey just wanted the listener's attention back, in case it had drifted. The great communicator was speaking to his invisible audience with invisible words. And they listened.

So now, as you finish this, don't just observe a moment of silence for Paul Harvey. Listen to the silence.


Kimmswick, Mo., home of his Reveille Ranch, remembers Paul Harvey

Some childhood details from the New York Times obit:

He was born Paul Harvey Aurandt in Tulsa, Okla., on Sept. 4, 1918, the son of Harrison Aurandt, a police officer, and Anna Dagmar Christian Aurandt. His father was killed in a gun battle when he was 3, and his mother rented out rooms to make ends meet. He was raised a Baptist, and it influenced his views.

As a boy he was fascinated with radio and built a receiver out of a cigar box. As a teenager, he had a strong resonant voice, and in 1933 a teacher at Tulsa Central High School escorted him to local station KVOO-AM and told the manager: "This boy needs to be on the radio."

He was taken on as an unpaid errand boy, but soon was allowed to deliver commercials, play a guitar and read the news on the air; two years later, he got his first paycheck.

Christopher Orlet remembers the broad appeal of Paul Harvey's "Rest of the Story":

I remember crawling in from college football practice at 5:30 p.m. -- this was the early 1980s -- and collapsing on a locker room bench while over the loudspeaker came The Voice halfway through his evening broadcast, which wasn't news at all, but a feature story where some famous person's identity was revealed in a surprise, twist ending....

Talk about a surreal scene: fifty exhausted college football players from all across the country lying all over a locker room floor in silence waiting for Paul Harvey to reveal the identity of today's subject. "And now you know...the rest of the story...Paul Harvey...Good Day!" Only then would we hit the showers.

Columnist Bob Greene remembers the many times he sat in the studio for a performance of Paul Harvey News and Comment:

He would make these warm-up noises -- voice exercises, silly-sounding tweets and yodels, strange little un-Paul-Harvey-like sounds -- and he showed no self-consciousness about doing it in front of someone else, because would a National Football League linebacker be self-conscious about someone seeing him stretch before a game, would a National Basketball Association forward be worried about someone seeing him leap up and down before tipoff? This was Paul Harvey's arena, and he would get the voice ready, loosening it, easing it up to the starting line.

And then the signal from the booth, and. . .

"Hello, Americans! This is Paul Harvey! Stand by. . . for news!"

And he would look down at those words that had come out of his typewriter minutes before -- some of them underlined to remind him to punch them hard -- and they became something grander than ink on paper, they became the song, the Paul Harvey symphony. He would allow me to sit right with him in the little room -- he never made me watch from behind the glass -- and there were moments, when his phrases, his word choices, were so perfect -- flawlessly written, flawlessly delivered -- that I just wanted to stand up and cheer.

But of course I never did any such thing -- in Paul Harvey's studio, if you felt a tickle in your throat you would begin to panic, because you knew that if you so much as coughed it would go out over the air into cities and towns all across the continent -- so there were never any cheers. The impulse was always there, though -- when he would drop one of those famous Paul Harvey pauses into the middle of a sentence, letting it linger, proving once again the power of pure silence, the tease of anticipation, you just wanted to applaud for his mastery of his life's work.

He probably wouldn't have thought of himself this way, but he was the ultimate singer-songwriter. He wrote the lyrics. And then he went onto his stage and performed them. The cadences that came out of his fingertips at the typewriter were designed to be translated by one voice -- his voice -- and he did it every working day for more than half a century: did it so well that he became a part of the very atmosphere, an element of the American air.

Steven Roemerman noticed an unusual accent at the Mexican fast food drive-thru:

We decided to eat Taco Bueno for lunch today because it's well...more Bueno. I pulled into the drive through and noticed something interesting. Based on his accent, I determined that the gentleman who was taking my order was Indian. No not Oklahoma Indian...India Indian.

I became suspicious; when I pulled forward to pay, I asked if the gal who took my money if the person that took my order was actually in the building. She said no, that he was in a call center somewhere. "I'm not sure where," she said. I thought to myself, "Yeah, I know where it is." I bet you $10 bucks Taco Bueno's drive through call center is in India. "Thank you, come again."

Steven's e-mailed query to TB HQ about the call center location received a lengthy and polite reply but no direct answer:

Our intention is not to deprive the hard working citizens of the Tulsa community employment, but to find a solution to a lack of applicants willing to work in the quick service environment. The call center is a test to see if it can be a solution by having someone full-time, 100% dedicated, to just taking drive-thru orders. It is a response to guests' needs, but if it fails to help, we will discontinue. We have been listening to feedback for years from our guests about being shorthanded, having long waits, and inaccurate orders.

The note makes reference to other tests Taco Bueno is conducting. It's interesting click through and read the whole thing. In the comments, David Schuttler wonders if Sonic is next. I was at a Sonic the other morning, and the manager was having to take orders and deliver them because someone didn't show up to work that day. Sonic could have done a lot more business if they had someone somewhere concentrating only on order-taking.

Some questions:

What does it say about the economy that businesses are still having trouble finding workers? Are things not that bad or are people still too complacent?

What does it say about American workers if call center agents from a different culture who speak English as a second (or third) language and have probably never seen a Muchaco can do a better job of getting a food order right?

Finally, on the jump page, here's a classic from the Dr. Demento vault -- Stevens & Grdnic's "Fast Food" (1982):

Amish steampunk

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Via Instapundit, I found this article by Kevin Kelly about the Amish and technology. It jibes with a similar story I read some years ago in Technology Review. The Amish aren't anti-technology; rather, they're careful about the impact of technology on the integrity of their community and their independence from outsiders:

In any debate about the merits of embracing new technology, the Amish stand out as offering an honorable alternative of refusal. Yet Amish lives are anything but anti-technological. In fact on my several visits with them, I have found them to be ingenious hackers and tinkers, the ultimate makers and do-it-yourselfers and surprisingly pro technology....

The Amish, particular the Old Order Amish -- the stereotypical Amish depicted on calendars - really are slow to adopt new things. In contemporary society our default is set to say "yes" to new things, and in Old Order Amish societies the default is set to "no." When new things come around, the Amish automatically start by refusing them.

The story points out the differences in practice among different Amish communities, but common motivations to protect the cohesion of the community against technologies like the car and the telephone which exert a centrifugal force and to protect the distinctives of the community against technologies like grid electricity which bind them too closely to the rest of the world.

Within the confines of those aims, the Amish can be quite creative. Kelly tells us about "Amish electricity" at one farm -- a massive diesel generator powers a pneumatic system which drives power woodworking tools and can also be used for specially adapted kitchen equipment.

In fact there is an entire cottage industry in retrofitting tools and appliances to Amish electricity. The retrofitters buy a heavy-duty blender, say, and yank out the electrical motor. They then substitute an air-powered motor of appropriate size, add pneumatic connectors, and bingo, your Amish mom now has a blender in her electrical-less kitchen. You can get a pneumatic sewing machine, and a pneumatic washer/dryer (with propane heat). In a display of pure steam-punk nerdiness, Amish hackers try to outdo each other in building pneumatic versions of electrified contraptions. Their mechanical skill is quite impressive, particularly since none went beyond the 8th grade. They love to show off this air-punk geekiness. And every tinkerer I met claimed that pneumatics were superior to electrical devices because air was more powerful and durable, outlasting motors which burned out after a few years hard labor. I don't know if this is true, or just justification, but it was a constant refrain.

At another farm, Kelly encountered a $400,000 computer-controlled CNC machine, used to make precision parts for pneumatic machinery and kerosene stoves. It was operated by a 14-year-old girl in a bonnet.

The story describes the typical pattern for testing and evaluating new technologies and addresses the dilemmas posed by off-the-grid electricity (solar) and telecommunications (mobile phones).

It's interesting too to read that the Amish (at least some of them) embrace technologies like disposable diapers and genetically-modified corn that city-dwelling crunchy conservatives reject.

Will the Amish way of life survive? In technological terms, they have a better shot than we "English" of surviving a situation like "The Long Emergency" -- the massive, painful societal readjustment that Jim Kunstler predicts as the age of cheap energy ends. Or even a short emergency: As I noted in the aftermath of the December 2007 ice storm, we've forgotten how to build homes and arrange our lives so that we can be well-fed and comfortable without the grid in any weather.

It seems to me that the true heart of Amish culture is not technological aversion or pneumatic ingenuity but mutual subjection to a common rule of conduct, grounded in the principles of their faith.

That's extremely countercultural. The broader American culture seems to have lost the impulse to live up to the expectations of the group. Voluntary societies like churches and clubs often have to choose between enforcing standards and retaining membership. (That's a topic that deserves further consideration.)

As long as Amish communities are successful at screening out socially corrosive technologies, they should be able to maintain the cohesion required for their way of life. The decentralized aspect of Amish culture may help preserve it in general even if a particular community is disrupted.

One last anecdote: Last fall, we went with our homeschooling group to a hearty dinner at an Amish home near Chouteau. The dining room was lit with what appeared to be propane -- brightly glowing net wicks of the sort I remember from Coleman lanterns. As we were leaving, my wife told me that one of the Amish men was trying to figure out how to set up a photocopier he just bought.

Via Instapundit, I found this headline on the CNN website: "Man appears free of HIV after stem cell transplant."

I was curious. I figured it was some form of adult stem cell therapy, but I imagine that many people reading the headline and nothing else would have assumed it involved embryonic stem cell therapy, since that's the kind that gets all the attention, even though adult stem cell therapy has gotten all the therapeutic results to date.

So I read further:

A 42-year-old HIV patient with leukemia appears to have no detectable HIV in his blood and no symptoms after a stem cell transplant from a donor carrying a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to the virus that causes AIDS, according to a report published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The patient is fine," said Dr. Gero Hutter of Charite Universitatsmedizin Berlin in Germany. "Today, two years after his transplantation, he is still without any signs of HIV disease and without antiretroviral medication."

Pretty exciting! The story mentions that the stem cell transplant was for the purpose of treating the leukemia, but they chose a donor with a "gene mutation that confers resistance to HIV."

Donor? I read further:

While promising, the treatment is unlikely to help the vast majority of people infected with HIV, said Dr. Jay Levy, a professor at the University of California San Francisco, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. A stem cell transplant is too extreme and too dangerous to be used as a routine treatment, he said.

"About a third of the people die [during such transplants], so it's just too much of a risk," Levy said. To perform a stem cell transplant, doctors intentionally destroy a patient's immune system, leaving the patient vulnerable to infection, and then reintroduce a donor's stem cells (which are from either bone marrow or blood) in an effort to establish a new, healthy immune system.

So they "destroy a patient's immune system," and then introduce cells "from either bone marrow or blood" from a "compatible donor."

Doesn't that sound like what they used to call a bone marrow transplant?

Some medical expert correct me if I'm wrong, but bone marrow cells are stem cells, so the story isn't inaccurate. But it would have been more informative to the public and to the debate over embryonic stem cell research for the story to use the familiar term of bone marrow transplant, to state clearly that the cells came from an adult bone marrow donor, and to state that no human embryos were destroyed as part of the treatment.

I notice that googling "bone marrow HIV" turns up stories about the same patient from last November. I have to wonder if the scientists changed their terminology to "stem cell" for the New England Journal of Medicine story in hopes of attracting more funding.

The National Health Service website in Britain has an article about the treatment which refers to it as a bone marrow transplant. The NHS article goes into much more detail on the science behind the story and mentions that the patient underwent two transplants from the same donor.

Walmart autonomy

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There's a much-linked recent story in the New York Post by Charles Platt, who "went undercover" to work on as a Walmart sales associate. Something that impressed him impressed and surprised me too:

Having pledged ourselves, we encountered the aspect of Wal-Mart employment that impressed me most: The Telxon, pronounced "Telzon," a hand-held bar-code scanner with a wireless connection to the store's computer. When pointed at any product, the Telxon would reveal astonishing amounts of information: the quantity that should be on the shelf, the availability from the nearest warehouse, the retail price, and (most amazing of all) the markup.

All of us were given access to this information, because - in theory, at least - anyone in the store could order a couple extra pallets of anything, and could discount it heavily as a Volume Producing Item (known as a VPI), competing with other departments to rack up the most profitable sales each month. Floor clerks even had portable equipment to print their own price stickers. This was how Wal-Mart detected demand and responded to it: by distributing decision-making power to grass-roots level. It was as simple yet as radical as that.

We received an inspirational talk on this subject, from an employee who reacted after the store test-marketed tents that could protect cars for people who didn't have enough garage space. They sold out quickly, and several customers came in asking for more. Clearly this was a singular, exceptional case of word-of-mouth, so he ordered literally a truckload of tent-garages, "Which I shouldn't have done really without asking someone," he said with a shrug, "because I hadn't been working at the store for long." But the item was a huge success. His VPI was the biggest in store history - and that kind of thing doesn't go unnoticed in Arkansas.

He was invited to corporate HQ as a guest at a management conference. "It was totally different from what I expected," he told us. "I thought it would be these fatcats talking about money, but no one even mentioned money. All they cared about was finding new ways to satisfy customers. I met everyone including the chairman of the company."

Another surprise, in the answer given by his pet-department supervisor as to why he had been with Walmart for 15 years:

His answer lay in the structure of the store. "It's deceptive, because Wal-Mart isn't divided into separate stores like a mall," he said. "But really, that's how it works. Each section is separate. This is - my pet store! No one comes here and tells me how to run it. I could go for weeks without a supervisor asking any questions." Here was the unseen, unreported side of the corporate behemoth. Big as it was, it was smart enough to give employees a feeling of autonomy.

Back in July 2007, I recounted how the auto department manager for the Chickasha Walmart kept his shop open late for our family, when our van lost a tire tread on the H. E. Bailey Turnpike, heading home from Texas. We had first called the AAA emergency number, which pointed us to a local repair shop, which didn't have the right tire in stock, and the tire store wouldn't be open until the following morning. The Walmart manager's initiative allowed us to get home that night. Otherwise we'd have had to stay the night in Chickasha or limp slowly home on the compact spare.

Oklahoma has inadequate protections against SLAPPs -- strategic lawsuits against public participation. So argues Laura Long in the Summer 2007 issue of the Oklahoma Law Review. (Click here for a direct link to the PDF of her article.)

If you're not familiar with the term, here's the description from Wikipedia:

A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation ("SLAPP") is a lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Winning the lawsuit is not necessarily the intent of the person filing the SLAPP. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate.

While the term originated with reference to suits against people petitioning the government -- e.g., suing homeowners who file a suit to stop a zoning change -- the concept has been extended to comprehend both the Petition and Speech clauses of the First Amendment.

Oklahoma does have a statute, 12 O.S. 1443.1. Long writes:

Oklahoma's anti-SLAPP statute, section 1443.1 of title 12, provides immunity from libel suits upon certain conditions, but does not address other common SLAPP suit causes of action. The statute states that, with the exception of falsely imputing a crime to a public officer, statements made in or about a legislative, judicial, or other proceeding authorized by law shall not be punishable as libel. Further, the statute protects criticism of the official acts of public officers. For a plaintiff to recover in a libel or defamation suit, the public official must show actual knowledge of probable falsity prior to the publication. Short of a deliberate factual lie, a plaintiff may not sue a defendant for defamation even if there were serious doubts as to truth.

Long writes that one of the drawbacks of the existing statute is that it only applies to defamation and doesn't address the many other causes of action used in SLAPP suits, such as business interference, abuse of process, and conspiracy torts.

While the Oklahoma courts have taken an expansive view of protected speech, Long notes, the problem is that the remedies provided are "reactive." They may be helpful once a case goes to trial, but by then the damage has already been done to a SLAPP victim:

Like the statute's narrow scope, the lack of an effective court review process renders Oklahoma's statute inadequate to combat SLAPP suits and their ill effects. Without procedural mechanisms to prevent or cure SLAPP suits in their infancy, the statute fails the third prong of Canan and Pring's test. Due to the costs and anxiety associated with lawsuits, lengthy SLAPP suits discourage targets from continuing their petitioning activities and intimidate future petitioners for fear of similar retaliation. Moreover, prolonged suits often cause support for the original issues to wane, rendering the petitioning activities futile. Implementing procedures that allow for quick dispositions of SLAPP suits while discouraging future suits can mitigate many of these ill effects. Unfortunately, Oklahoma's statute does not provide a method for early review and dismissal, and is therefore inadequate to protect petitioning activity.

In addition to Oklahoma's anti-SLAPP statute, other statutory mechanisms for combating frivolous suits likewise fail to establish adequate protection for targets. A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim generally proves ineffective as a remedy because filers can easily frame petitioning grievances in the form of legitimate tort claims. Further, targets must still spend considerable time and money for pre-trial practice and discovery, and even if the court grants the motion, dismissals do little to deter future SLAPP suits. Similarly, motions for sanctions and shifting of attorney fees often increase total litigation and do little to discourage suing in the first place. Motions such as these may be difficult for targets to invoke and occur too late in the litigation process to prevent the chill on petitioning. Reactionary solutions may effectively vindicate defendants in ordinary lawsuits, but their impact is minimal when the purpose of the suit is to intimidate targets through enormous court costs and time commitments.

Long recommends California's comprehensive anti-SLAPP statute as a guide:

To cure a SLAPP suit with as little impact on petitioning activity as possible, an effective statute should include a special motion to dismiss, an articulable burden of proof for the filer that may include a requirement for more specificity in the pleading, suspended discovery, and an award of costs to the successfully moving party. To prevent future SLAPP suits, the statute should include a specific authorization for serious penalties and accompanying SLAPP-back suits. Together, these elements provide a quick and cost-effective escape route for targets of SLAPP suits and may even discourage filers from attacking the target's First Amendment Right to Petition in the future....

Courts should treat special motions to dismiss as final summary judgment motions with a time period appropriate for expedited motions. As with typical motions for summary judgment, if a trial court denies the motion or fails to rule in a speedy fashion, then a moving party should have a right to an expedited appeal. Further, all discovery should be stayed pending a decision on the motion and appeals. A method for early review and a stay of discovery greatly reduces the time commitment and the financial resources needed to combat the SLAPP suits, thereby lessening the chill effect on petitioning activity....

Regardless of whether a statute contains a probability standard for the motion to dismiss or a standard developed from the Mountain Environment or Omni decisions, every state with an anti-SLAPP statute except Delaware, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Washington, includes some form of early review. If enacted properly, special motions to dismiss are quick, cheap methods to cut off harassing discovery and ensure quick closure.

I understand that there is a move afoot to pass a comprehensive, effective SLAPP law for Oklahoma. This is something that should have overwhelming bipartisan support.

More SLAPP shots:

Be seeing you, Number 6

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Earlier this week, actor Patrick McGoohan died at the age of 80. He created and starred in the late '60s series The Prisoner. I caught glimpses of the show as a four or five year old when it first aired in the US -- Dad watched it -- and I was terrified by the sight and sound of Rover.

When I was in high school, it was shown on public TV. I was hooked, and so was a classmate of mine. He and I weren't friends otherwise, but after we learned of our mutual interest in the show, he'd call after an episode to talk about it. When the last two episodes were aired, there was a lot to talk about. It ran in Boston during my senior year in college, and several of us took to using the "Be seeing you" salute, just for fun. During a business trip to Shropshire in 1999, I made a point of visiting Portmeirion, the Italianate village on the west coast of Wales, used as the setting for the series. (Number 6's place is now a gift shop.)

I read somewhere that McGoohan was in line to play Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings films or Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies but ill health prevented him from taking either role.

As I mentioned over at The Judge Report, McGoohan was married to the same woman for over 50 years, his first and only wife, and insisted that his on-screen characters would never so much as kiss another woman, a stipulation that ruled out playing Simon Templar and James Bond. It would be interesting to know something about his faith and how it influenced his ethics and his artistic vision. So far I've seen nothing on that, but, as we know, "the press doesn't get religion." (I did find this mention, at Reason's website of all places, that McGoohan was a devout Roman Catholic.)

Ricardo Montalban, who also died this week, is another rare example of a Hollywood actor with a long marriage. He had been married for 63 years, from 1944 until his wife's death in 2007. Mark Evanier has an anecdote about a sketch he wrote for Montalban's cameo on a short lived comedy series. Montalban didn't care for the sketch, but why he didn't like it and how he went about making his objections known are remarkable for Hollywood.

I suppose most people will remember Montalban as Mr. Rourke on Fantasy Island. I'll remember him for his role as Khan in Star Trek II, perhaps the greatest of the great even-numbered movies, and for his role as the grandfather in Spy Kids 2 and 3, movies my kids have watched over and over again. By that time, a spinal injury from the '50s was causing him so much pain that he was confined to a wheelchair, and he appeared in the wheelchair in both films. But in Spy Kids 3, in which the characters wind up in a video game, director Robert Rodriguez used the magic of CGI to put Montalban back on his own two feet.

As we get closer to the debut of AMC's new version of The Prisoner, starring Jim Caviezel, the network has placed all 17 of the original episodes on its website for streaming, along with photos and trivia.

There's no place for "plaice" in this dictionary. Words about Christianity (vicar, sin, parish), Christmas (carol, mistletoe), the monarchy (coronation, duke, monarch), seafood (lobster, mussel), pets (corgi, goldfish, hamster), fairy tales (elf, goblin), woodland flora (tulip, sycamore, pasture), and fauna (doe, starling, terrapin) are gone, too, from a popular children's dictionary:

Oxford University Press has removed words like 'aisle', 'bishop', 'chapel', 'empire' and 'monarch' from its Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like 'blog', 'broadband' and 'celebrity'. Dozens of words related to the countryside have also been culled.

How can you read Winnie the Pooh or The Wind in the Willows without words like stoat, beaver, gorse, or (oh, bother!) piglet? And what fiend would flush "budgerigar" down the lexicographical loo? As one commenter on the linked story wrote:

What a pity! Future generations will not be able to understand Monty Python until they've studied it at university.

(This isn't necessarily a new phenomenon: Some advanced individuals in previous generations used comedy and comic strips as a personal curriculum in cultural literacy.)

Another commenter writes:

I've got to 62 and have survived life still not quite knowing what a trapezium is. But the same could not be said had I not known the meaning of buttercup, fern and hazelnut. Our children's lives are being impoverished by this kind of misguided editorial policy.

As a teacher for 30 years, I was saddened by the increasing disappearance of basic idioms from children's language; the Oxford Dictionary policy is symptomatic of the cultural impoverishing of children's vocabulary, language and its use.

And another:

Take away our language and who are we? Our beautiful words, many of which date from Anglo-Saxon times, are now taken from us and generations of future children. They are more than words, they are the golden threads that bind together the rich tapestry of our country's story.

Reading the words taken out is absolutely heartbreaking. They read like the roll call of honour for a country that is dying.

This seems to put it all in a nutshell, referring to the sets of words deleted from and words added to the dictionary:

It would be interesting to try to write two poems: one with the first set of words, the other with the second.

The list of removed words brings to mind "Last of the Summer Wine," "The Archers," and All Creatures Great and Small. The list of added words brings to mind "Only Fools and Horses" and "The Office."

This sentence from the Telegraph story suggests that the shift away from church and countryside has already taken place in children's literature:

Oxford University Press, which produces the junior edition, selects words with the aid of the Children's Corpus, a list of about 50 million words made up of general language, words from children's books and terms related to the school curriculum. Lexicographers consider word frequency when making additions and deletions.

This defense of OUP's omission of these words didn't give me any comfort:

Critics tend to assume that children either read dictionaries for fun to learn new words (which they probably don't) or look up words that they meet in reading or in everyday life. In fact, it's older children who use dictionaries to look up the meanings of words; children aged 7-9 tend to use dictionaries to help them with spelling when they are writing out what they did at the weekend, or keeping a diary - typical school writing tasks. Therefore the contents of the dictionary need to reflect children's actual lifestyles, not an idealised picture of how we would all like childhood to be.

This suggests that children 7-9 aren't reading good books in school, where they might encounter unfamiliar words.

Read the full list here.

(Via Roger Kimball, via NRO's Corner.)

Two University of Tulsa conservative student groups are bringing a scholar and author to speak about economics, women, career, and family. Jennifer Roback Morse describes herself as "your coach for the Culture Wars."

Timeless values are the core of prosperity for business, families and society. The Culture Wars are bad for business. The attacks on timeless values-- including marriage, the two-parent family and religion--increase costs, undermine productivity and demoralize your work force. As your Coach for the Culture Wars, Dr. Morse is prepared to defend against these attacks. Using economics, statistics and history, Dr. Morse will help you take ground and avoid losses in the Culture Wars.

Morse was involved in the campaign for California Proposition 8, which passed on Tuesday, overturning the California Supreme Court's judicial fiat that redefined marriage. In a recent blog entry, Morse explains that CSC's ruling represented the breach of a compromise -- California's domestic partnership law:

There was a compromise. It was called domestic partnerships. Many fair-minded Californians thought that the very generous DP legislation over the last 8 years was the basis for a stable compromise: hospital visitation, insurance, survivorship benefits, adoption, the whole enchilda. But what we saw as a compromise, the gay lobby saw as a stepping stone toward their final goal of gay marriage. The compromise was not disrupted by putting Prop 8 on the ballot. Those law suits that resulted in judicially imposed [same-sex marriage] this spring broke up the compromise.

So now I ask you: why should anyone compromise with the gay lobby? Why should any sensible person give an inch? Particularly when they have so little respect for the democratic process that they are out protesting in front of the Mormon Temple in LA. They are treating their opponents with contempt. Why should we pretend that compromise is possible?

Here are the details for Morse's visit to TU:

For women torn between career and family, Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., offers help and insight. On Wednesday, November 12th, two student groups at the University of Tulsa will sponsor a talk by Dr. Morse. Dr. Morse's research has led her to promote a new model of feminism that supports women both at the workplace and at home. Dr. Morse shows how some feminist policies had negative effects. Her new model for feminism offers greater options for women in all walks of life.

The lecture will take place Wednesday, November 12th, at 7:00 p.m. at the University of Tulsa, in the Allen Chapman Activity Center.

Dr. Morse's findings are drawn from a prestigious scholarly career. She taught economics at Yale University and George Mason University for 15 years. Currently, Dr. Morse is the Senior Research Fellow in Economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

Through her popular books and articles, Dr. Morse takes her research to the public. Her books include Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World (2005) and Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village (2008). Her public policy articles have appeared in Forbes, Fortune, and the Wall Street Journal, among others.

The lecture is sponsored by the TU Law chapter of the Federalist Society and the TU Intercollegiate Studies Group. The Federalist Society stands for the Constitutional separation of powers. The TU Intercollegiate Studies Group promotes the study of Western civilization through book discussions, lectures, and essay contests.

Kudos to these TU students for continuing to bring provocative conservative scholars to speak here in Tulsa.

One-man global content provider Mark Steyn says we haven't been fighting the war for hearts and minds:

It was in many ways the final battle in a war the Republican Party didn't even bother fighting -- the "long march through the institutions." While the Senator certainly enjoyed the patronage of the Chicago machine, he is not primarily a political figure.... He emerged rather from all the cultural turf the GOP largely abandoned during its 30-year winning streak at the ballot box, and his victory demonstrates the folly of assuming that folks will continue to pull the lever for guys with an R after their name every other November even as all the other institutions in society become de facto liberal one-party states.

....Go into almost any American grade-school and stroll the corridors: you'll find the walls lined with Sharpie-bright supersized touchy-feely abstractions: "RESPECT," "DREAM," "TOGETHER," "DIVERSITY." By contrast, Mister Maverick talked of "reaching across the aisle" and ending "earmarks," which may sound heroic in Washington but ring shriveled and reductive to anyone who's not obsessed with legislative process. This dead language embodied the narrow sliver of turf on which he was fighting, while Obama was bestriding the broader cultural space. Republicans need to start their own long march back through all the institutions they ceded. Otherwise, the default mode of this society will be liberal, and what's left of the Republican party will be reduced (as in other parts of the west) to begging the electorate for the occasional opportunity to prove it can run the liberal state just as well as liberals can.

The latter being the fate of, e.g., the Conservative Party in the UK.

On The Corner, Steyn raises a related point

Acorn is still a disgusting organization and Obama's fundraising fraud is still outrageous. But nobody wants to hear that now. The problem for us is more basic - the Dems control the language on such issues ("count every vote", etc), and they're much better at demonizing. Why did McCain talk about Ayers but not even mention Wright? Because he was terrified someone would point a finger and cry "Racist!" And in four years' time the Democrats' media-cultural-organizational advantage on such subjects will likely be even greater.

Oklahomans for Life, the organization that advocates at the State Capitol for the sanctity of human life, has published the responses to its survey of candidates for the November 4 general election in the October 2008 issue of its newsletter. There are separate surveys for federal and state candidates; both surveys ask about concrete policies and bills that are likely to come before Congress and the Oklahoma Legislature. Topics include abortion and abortion funding, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia. The federal survey includes a couple of questions about rationing of federally-funded medical care:

10) Some hospitals have implemented formal policies authorizing denial of lifesaving medical treatment against the will of a patient or the patient's family if an ethics committee thinks the patient's quality of life is unacceptable, even though the patient and family disagree. The federal Patient Self-Determination Act currently requires health care facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid to ask patients on admission whether they have an advance directive indicating their desire to receive or refuse lifesaving treatment under certain circumstances. Would you support preventing involuntary denial of lifesaving medical treatment by amending the Patient Self-Determination Act to provide that if failure to comply with a patient's or surrogate's choice for life-saving treatment would in reasonable medical judgment be likely to result in or hasten the patient's death, a health care provider unwilling to respect the choice for life-saving treatment must allow the patient to be transferred to a willing provider and must provide the treatment pending transfer?

11) Would you vote against any bill that imposes price controls or otherwise limits the right of older Americans who choose to do so to add their own funds on top of the government contribution in order to obtain Medicare health insurance that is less likely to ration medical treatment and prescription drugs?

The same issue of the newsletter includes a response by OfL director Tony Lauinger to Jerry Riley, husband of State Sen. Nancy Riley (D-SD37), who took exception to OfL's characterization of Sen. Riley's voting record. Lauinger points out that the votes a legislator casts trumps the position a legislator claims, and Nancy Riley's two no votes on SB 714 in 2007 made the difference in the legislature's attempt to override Gov . Brad Henry's veto. Lauinger reminds that Sen. Riley's votes on SB 714 contradicted her responses to the Oklahomans for Life survey in 2000 and 2004 (as a Republican candidate for State Senate) and in 2006 (as a Republican candidate for Lt. Governor).

Lauinger's letter addresses the matter of the rape and incest exception, and why the consistent pro-life position permits abortion only when the life of the mother is in jeopardy. (Riley cited the lack of a rape and incest exception as the reason for her opposition to SB 714, but she failed to offer such an exception as an amendment, either in her committee or in the Senate as a whole.)

Ethel Waters, the revered African-American vocalist of blues and spirituals, had occasion near the end of her life to recount its beginning: "My father raped my mother when she was twelve years old, and today they've named a park for me in Chester, Pennsylvania." Recounted in her autobiography, His Eye is on the Sparrow, her life is but one of many of children conceived in rape who went on to make great contributions to this world.

She might wonder how it makes sense, in logic or in law, to execute a child for the crime of his or her father? Abortion does not erase the trauma of a rape. Abortion compounds the first tragedy with a second tragedy - one for which the woman herself is responsible.

It is not valid to assume the best thing for a victim of rape or incest is to abort her baby. For society, abortion might seem to "solve the problem." But for the woman herself, it does not. Abortion often leads to psychological anguish and emotional devastation. Britain's Royal College of Psychiatry issued a warning in March that women may be at risk of mental health breakdowns if they have abortions. They advised that women should not have an abortion until they are counseled about the possible risk to their mental health.

There are more than one million unborn babies being killed by abortion in our country every year. One could rely on the absence of a rape exception as an excuse for opposing all manner of bills that seek to reduce abortions and save the babies we can. Or one could support these reasonable, modest regulations which, while not making abortion illegal, at least give some unborn children - and their mothers - a chance to avoid catastrophe.

That's why Nancy's votes against SB 714 were so disappointing. When the opportunity to help these babies came, she didn't give the benefit of the doubt to life.

While Sarah Palin was speaking to the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, Michelle Obama was hitting two Hollywood fundraisers, giving subtly different messages to different audiences.

Patrick Range McDonald of LA Weekly, who covered the events as the designated pool reporter. Here's his description of the first stop of the night:

Dressed in a purple tank top with a purple floral skirt and black high heels, Obama first addressed a largely gay and lesbian audience at the home of Bryan Lourd, managing partner of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and Bruce Bozzi, Lourd's companion. The event was described by the Obama campaign as an "LGBT Reception."

Approximately 300 donors attended the fund raiser, which took place in the wealthy, Los Angeles neighborhood of Holmby Hills. Minimum contribution for a guest was $1,000 to get through the door. Supporters who raised $25,000 were given access to a VIP room, where Obama met with them and briefly spoke. All money went to the Obama Victory Fund.

Speaking at the fundraiser, Mrs. Obama insinuated that she doesn't think Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is very bright:

Obama then moved on to politics, where she first brought up her husband's vice-presidential choice. "I think it was a really good pick--Senator Joe Biden," she said, and later added, "People say they have amazing chemistry, and it's true."

Obama continued with talk about Biden when she said, "What you learn about Barack from his choice is that he's not afraid of smart people." The crowd softly chuckled.

Later, she spoke about gay rights:

Mindful of the audience in front of her, she then touched up gay and lesbian issues. "In a world as it should be," Obama said, "we repeal laws like DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'" She also said an Obama Administration would "recognize" gay adoption rights. Both lines received loud applause.

Later that evening she spoke at a fundraiser at the home of Samuel L. Jackson:

Located in the gated community of Beverly Park Estates South in the city of Beverly Hills, approximately 300 people attended the event. Minimum contribution for a guest was $2,300, with VIP access for supporters who raised $25,000. All money went to the Obama Victory Fund.

Another star-studded crowd was on hand. Among the celebrities were actor Denzel Washington, actress and singer Barbra Streisand, actor and Streisand's husband, James Brolin, former Lakers star Magic Johnson, actress Scarlett Johansson, actor Ryan Reynolds, and former California governor Gray Davis. Guests gathered poolside in the backyard of Jackson's home and drank red and white wine. Golden shallot pancakes with brie and fig preserves and grilled vegetable torte bites with roasted pepper sauce were served. Bread & Butter Catering provided the food at both fund raisers.

Even in front of a presumably gay-friendly, left-wing Hollywood audience, part of her earlier remarks were omitted from the second appearance:

Obama did not mention anything about gay issues, but much of the rest of the speech was the same.

(Via Wilshire and Washington, Variety's blog on the "intersection of entertainment and politics.)

The New York Sun reports that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign has confirmed that the Illinois Born-Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA), which, as an Illinois State Senator and committee chairman, Obama voted to kill, had the same language as the federal bill which Obama claims he would have supported. The federal BAIPA passed the U. S. Senate by a 98-0 vote in 2002. The Illinois bill was killed in the Health and Human Services Committee after it was amended to include the same "neutrality clause" contained in the federal law.

Sen. Obama appears not to have gotten the memo from his campaign staff:

The dispute flared again last week when a leading opponent of legalized abortion, the National Right to Life Committee, posted records from the Illinois Legislature showing that Mr. Obama, while chairman of a Senate committee, in 2003, voted against a "Born Alive" bill that contained nearly identical language to the federal bill that passed unanimously, including the provision limiting its scope.

The group says the documents prove Mr. Obama misrepresented his record.

Indeed, Mr. Obama appeared to misstate his position in the CBN interview on Saturday when he said the federal version he supported "was not the bill that was presented at the state level."

His campaign yesterday acknowledged that he had voted against an identical bill in the state Senate, and a spokesman, Hari Sevugan, said the senator and other lawmakers had concerns that even as worded, the legislation could have undermined existing Illinois abortion law. Those concerns did not exist for the federal bill, because there is no federal abortion law.

Sevugan's statement makes the eleventh reason Obama or his surrogates have given for his vote against protection for infants who survive an attempted abortion.

Jill Stanek, the Illinois nurse who pushed for the bill because she witnessed infants being shelved to die after surviving an abortion, writes:

While the Obama campaign tonight finally admitted Obama has misrepresented his Born Alive vote all these years, it had the audacity to offer a ludicrous excuse, an excuse Obama himself contradicted only 24 hours ago, as he has for years, that "I would have been completely in, fully in support of the federal bill that everybody supported."

(Hat tip: Dawn Eden.)

MORE: Via Kevin McCullough, Rick Warren wasn't satisfied with Barack Obama's "above my pay grade" answer to Warren's question, "At what point does a baby get human rights?"

No. I think he needed to be more specific on that. I happen to disagree with Barack on that. Like I said, he's a friend. But to me, I would not want to die and get before God one day and go, 'Oh, sorry, I didn't take the time to figure out' because if I was wrong then it had severe implications to my leadership if I had the ability to do something about it. He should either say, 'No scientifically, I do not believe it's a human being until X' or whatever it is or to say, 'Yes, I believe it is a human being at X point,' whether it's conception or anything else. But to just say 'I don't know' on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me.

Warren also challenges the notion that evangelicals are leaving behind the issue of the sanctity of human life:

That's why to say that evangelicals are a monolith is a myth, but the other thing is that you've been hearing a lot of the press talk about 'Well, evangelicals are changing, they're now interested in poverty and disease and illiteracy, and all the stuff I've been talking about for five years now. And I have been seeding that into the evangelical movement and it's getting picked up and a lot of people are talking about doing humanitarian efforts. But I really think it's wishful thinking on a lot of people who think they're going to drop the other issues. They're not leaving pro-life, I'm just trying to expand the agenda....

Don Surber says "above my pay grade" was a "staff sergeant's answer to a general's question."

Not only that, it's a staff sergeant's answer to a "Why?" question. The staff sergeant would be able to answer a "When?" question. "Above my pay grade" means the establishment of that policy was made by a Higher Authority; I can't change it, but I can tell you what it is, and I can carry it out. That makes me wonder just what Higher Authority set the policy that Barack Obama is following. I'm pretty sure that on this issue, for Obama, the Higher Authority isn't the God addressed in Psalm 139.

STILL MORE: Get Religion is a blog that examines the mainstream media's coverage of religion. Terry Mattingly notices that Warren asked Obama a political/legal question regarding recognition of human rights; Obama's defenders in the commentariat are treating it as a moral/religious question.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, when he is crowned in two weeks as the Democratic presidential nominee, will be distinguished as the first major party nominee to oppose restrictions on infanticide.

Before Obama came to the U. S. Senate, that body approved the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA), legislation that affirmed the personhood of any baby that managed to be born alive in the process of an abortion. Surely even a supporter of abortion rights would acknowledge that once a baby is alive and separate from its mother, the only rights that matter are the baby's rights.

You might call it the Gianna Jessen bill. Jessen survived an attempted saline abortion. Once she was born, no further attempts were made to kill her, and she received medical treatment (the attempted abortion left her with cerebral palsy and other medical problems) and ultimately was adopted. But not all abortion survivors receive the same respect. Babies who survive abortions are sometimes denied medical treatment and left to starve to death.

Jill Stanek was a labor and delivery nurse in an Illinois hospital when she discovered that unwanted babies who survived abortion were being left to die in the hospital's soiled utility room. When the hospital refused to correct the situation, she took it public and began advocating for state and federal laws to protect babies who survived abortion.

When BAIPA came before the U. S. Senate in 2002, before Obama came to that body, the bill passed 98-0. Not even the most ardent abortion advocates opposed the bill.

The Illinois version came through the legislature when Barack Obama was serving as a state senator and as chairman of the Illinois State Senate's Health and Human Services Committee. It never reached the floor, because Obama and his fellow Democrats killed it in his committee.

Obama has tried to explain his vote by saying that the bill considered in Illinois didn't have a key clause that was present in the federal BAIPA bill. But researchers have found records from Obama's committee that show the two bills were nearly identical, and in fact he voted to amend the bill to include that key clause, before voting to kill the bill entirely.

Jill Stanek has a summary of Obama's involvement in killing the Illinois bill.

New documents just obtained by NRLC, and linked below, prove that Senator [Barack] Obama has for the past four years blatantly misrepresented his actions on the [Illinois] Born-Alive Infants Protection bill.

Summary and comment by NRLC spokesman Douglas Johnson:

Newly obtained documents prove that in 2003, Barack Obama, as chairman of an IL state Senate committee, voted down a bill to protect live-born survivors of abortion - even after the panel had amended the bill to contain verbatim language, copied from a federal bill passed by Congress without objection in 2002, explicitly foreclosing any impact on abortion. Obama's legislative actions in 2003 - denying effective protection even to babies born alive during abortions - were contrary to the position taken on the same language by even the most liberal members of Congress. The bill Obama killed was virtually identical to the federal bill that even NARAL ultimately did not oppose....

Documents obtained by NRLC now demonstrate conclusively that Obama's entire defense is based on a brazen factual misrepresentation.

The documents prove that in March 2003, state Senator Obama, then the chairman of the IL state Senate Health and Human Services Committee, presided over a committee meeting in which the "neutrality clause" (copied verbatim from the federal bill) was added to the state BAIPA, with Obama voting in support of adding the revision. Yet, immediately afterwards, Obama led the committee Democrats in voting against the amended bill, and it was killed, 6-4.

The bill that Chairman Obama killed, as amended, was virtually identical to the federal law; the only remaining differences were on minor points of bill-drafting style.

Via Dawn Eden, who asks pro-life bloggers to call attention to the story, since the mainstream media probably won't. Ed Morrissey has more at Hot Air.

I'm very happy to pass along the news that friend and top talk host Kevin McCullough is back on the air with his pale Stephen Baldwin (the conservative Baldwin brother). Baldwin/McCullough Xtreme Radio launches tonight from 8 - 10 p.m. Tulsa Time (9 - 11 Eastern) on 21 stations from Cape Cod to St. Augustine, FL, from New York City to Salt Lake City:

New York City - AM 970
Washington DC - AM 580
Salt Lake UT - AM 820
Jacksonville FL - FM 91.9
Charlotte NC - AM 960
Richmond VA - AM 580
Newark NJ - AM 970
Virginia Beach VA - AM 1010
Trenton NJ - AM 970
Greensboro NC - AM 830
Hartford CT - AM 970
Winston-Salem NC - AM 830
Cape Cod Mass - AM 970
High Point NC - AM 830
Roanoke VA - AM 910
Hackensack NJ - AM 970
St Augustine FL - FM 103.7
Danbury CT - AM 970
Statesville NC - AM1400
Mocksville NC - AM 1520
Bridgeport CT - AM 970

You can also listen online via Blog Talk Radio.

Here's what Kevin says we can look forward to:

Here's part of what we're hitting on tonight - so be by the radio:

1. If the top song in the country (especially for those 15-34 female) is, "I kissed a girl and I liked it..." we'd sort of love to get your idea as to WHY it is number 1. Some say it's due to the fact that society and culture have pushed the envelope right over the cliff. The pressure to be funky - the influences of where it comes from and how we respond to it...

2. Brooke Barrettsmith ( is a rising star in the music world. Her new single "Farewell" has been climbing charts. She will join us LIVE to tell us the story behind the song. You may remember Brooke from American Idol season 5 - the most talented Idol class ever.

3. Kevin McCullough will go see it! But Stephen Baldwin has refused to see the newest Batman movie 'The Dark Knight'. The character of The Joker as played by Heath Ledger is a large part of the reason why. Some think Jack Nicholson intimated some sort of supernatural involvement with evil when he played the role years ago in the Michael Keaton/Tim Burton version. As you may know Heath Ledger committed suicide shortly after finishing work on film. Upon hearing the news Nicholson could only reply, "I warned him." We'd like to know whether you think Heath's death was influenced at all by supernatural evil. Which also begs us to consider how we intersect with the supernatural on a daily basis.

4. Music Guests tonight feature: Brooke Barrettsmith, Jonas Brothers, Pillar, Demi Lovato, Tenth Avenue North, Leona Lewis, Natalie Grant, and Duffy!

We'd like to thank our sponsors for making it all happen: Christian Values Network, Compassion International,, and Hit Me Energy Shots.

You can get a sense of the entertaining way Stephen and Kevin deal with serious issues by heading to the BMXRadioNow website and listening to their conversation with KISS's Gene Simmons about merchandising and child-rearing.

It's just under two weeks until the state primary election, and a number of organizations are out to help you make up your mind by asking candidates for their positions on key issues.

Oklahomans for Life has responses from state and federal candidates to a 12-question survey dealing with the issues of abortion and euthanasia, and in ways that are likely to come before Congress and the State Legislature.

It's disappointing that so few Democratic candidates bothered to respond to Oklahomans for Life. The usual excuse is that the survey responses will be used against them by Republican opponents, but that doesn't explain why Democrats don't respond even when no Republicans are running -- e.g. House Districts 72 and 73.

Broadway extension

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My blogpal Anna Broadway has her first book out: Sexless in the City: A Memoir of Reluctant Chastity. It's an entertaining read, especially for those who grew up in the same evangelical subculture that shaped Anna's view of the world. The heart of the book is the conflict that arises as she moves out of that hothouse environment and into the Big City. The resulting collision of values helped to demolish her inadequate, sometimes idolatrous, notions of sex, love, romance, and marriage, making it possible to rebuild on a firm, God-centered foundation.

Last week, Carla Hinton, religion editor for the Oklahoman, interviewed Anna and wrote an insightful account of the conversation:

The book "Sexless in the City" is lighthearted enough that it should keep the reader laughing and wondering what Broadway is going to say next. The humor does not hinder or water down her thought-provoking message for singles attempting to maintain a chaste lifestyle in a society that says the very idea of chastity is crazy and out of touch with reality....

"I really hope that it raises questions about what the basis of our identity is," Broadway said of the book.

"You know, when I started the book, I would say I was closer to the perspective I describe in the prologue -- of being torn between wanting to serve God but thinking that sex is the ultimate experience in life. So, in other words, if I was chaste my whole life and died without having sex, I pretty much thought, even if I hadn't admitted it to myself, that I was going to die with an unfulfilled life.

"But in the course of having the blog and writing the book, I've come to realize that that's only true if my identity is rooted in my sexuality and if I believe that my sexuality is the most important part of me.

"But if my identity is based on something else, then I can have a fulfilled life no matter if I ever marry or not. My fulfillment is not dependent on the number of lovers or sexual experiences I have. I really hope that is the message people can take away from the book, regardless of whether they share all of my values or not, that they find hope in that -- that who we are as people doesn't have to be just limited to and defined by one part of us."

That same link includes a brief audio interview.

I was happy for Anna's book to get coverage in Oklahoma, but I also came away very impressed with Carla Hinton. She comes across as not only knowledgeable but also understanding of the people and ideas she writes about. That's not always true of the religion writers in the mainstream media.

Carla Hinton's Religion and Values blog is a place where she can offer more personal reflections than would be appropriate in a news story (for example, this item on her love of Vacation Bible School), provide links and additional context (e.g., this item relating to a story about bloggers who write about the Southern Baptist Convention, and summarizing reader reaction to a story (such as this entry about a story on tithing). It's a good example of a reporter using a blog to complement her reporting.

Ocean City, Maryland, seems to mock climate change alarmism in its bid to draw tourists to its famous boardwalk this summer. In a funny ad which uses retro elements like test patterns, animated space graphics like something out of a Harvey cartoon, and the shimmy and chatter of a scratchy 8 mm instructional film threading through a school projector, Mayor Rick Meehan advises tourists to book their Ocean City vacations now, in light of a recent study predicting that our oceans will evaporate in a billion years as the earth moves inexorably toward the sun.

Found via Todd Seavey (suffering in New York through near-hundred-degree heat, evidently in a building that doesn't have air conditioning), who initially identified the beach resort as the Ocean City in New Jersey, America's Greatest Family Resort. I have happy memories of the OC in NJ. I spent the summer of 1982 there on a summer project on a leadership training / beach evangelism project with Campus Crusade for Christ. It's worthy of a retro-journal entry of my own some day.

Although bits and bytes are its bread and butter, no major studio better embodies humanity in film than Pixar. A recent interview with Pixar director Brad Bird presents ten ways that Pixar promotes innovation. (Hat tip to Joe Carter's Evangelical Outpost.)

I found two points especially interesting. This one ought to interest Forrest Christian, who has been writing about adult underachievers over at his Requisite Writing blog:

Lesson One: Herd Your Black Sheep

The Quarterly: How did your first project at Pixar--The Incredibles--shake things up?

Brad Bird: I said, "Give us the black sheep. I want artists who are frustrated. I want the ones who have another way of doing things that nobody's listening to. Give us all the guys who are probably headed out the door." A lot of them were malcontents because they saw different ways of doing things, but there was little opportunity to try them, since the established way was working very, very well. We gave the black sheep a chance to prove their theories, and we changed the way a number of things are done here.

Later, Bird explains how geography contributes to creativity.

Then there's our building. Steve Jobs basically designed this building. In the center, he created this big atrium area, which seems initially like a waste of space. The reason he did it was that everybody goes off and works in their individual areas. People who work on software code are here, people who animate are there, and people who do designs are over there. Steve put the mailboxes, the meetings rooms, the cafeteria, and, most insidiously and brilliantly, the bathrooms in the center--which initially drove us crazy--so that you run into everybody during the course of a day. [Jobs] realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen. So he made it impossible for you not to run into the rest of the company.

There are urban design parallels: The layout of some cities makes chance encounters likely; in others a serendipitous meeting is all but impossible. Chance encounters enable the cross-pollination of ideas, which makes the whole city smarter.

If you are walking to work, riding the bus, hanging out a neighborhood coffeeshop, walking across downtown for a meeting, you're more likely to bump into someone you know and have that conversation you've been meaning to have when you get some time. If you're going from place to place in your car, you might wave at someone you know, but you're not going to stop for a chat.

Reader Ted King writes to tell me about a film well worth seeing. It's showing at Tulsa's Circle Cinema through May 15.

It's called The Singing Revolution, and it's about Estonia's struggle for independence in the late 1980s, and the role that patriotic songs played in that successful overthrow of Soviet rule. From the film's website:

Most people don't think about singing when they think about revolution. But song was the weapon of choice when Estonians sought to free themselves from decades of Soviet occupation. "The Singing Revolution" is an inspiring account of one nation's dramatic rebirth. It is the story of humankind's irrepressible drive for freedom and self-determination.

You may find yourself getting choked up watching the trailer. I did.

Here are the remaining showtimes at the Circle Cinema:

Friday, 5/9: 2:00pm, 5:45pm
Saturday, 5/10: 4:00pm
Sunday, 5/11: 2:00pm, 5:45pm
Monday, 5/12 & Tuesday, 5/13: 3:30pm, 7:15pm
Wednesday, 5/14: 5:15pm
Thursday, 5/15: 3:30pm, 7:15pm

Circle Cinema is located at Admiral and Lewis in Whittier Square, an area on the upswing. Just next door to the Circle is a soon-to-open French coffeehouse called Alisée MoMo. It looks very cool.

(Happily, the dirty bookstore on the opposite corner is gone.)

Good news! SB 1878, an omnibus bill containing several related provisions regarding abortion, was passed into law today as both houses of the Oklahoma Legislature voted to override Gov. Brad Henry's veto. The bill had passed both houses with veto-proof majorities (80-12 in the House, 38-10 in the Senate). In the override vote, only one Senator shifted from yes to no, for a vote of 37-11, while the House override passed 81-15.

This bill has five key provisions, according to Oklahomans for Life:

SB 1878 has five parts:

1) protecting health care professionals' freedom of conscience and right to refuse to participate in the taking of an innocent human life;

2) regulating the use of the dangerous chemical abortion pill RU-486, used when the unborn child is about two months old;

3) ensuring that a mother's consent to an abortion is truly voluntary, and safeguarding against coerced abortions;

4) providing a woman an ultrasound of her unborn child which she may view prior to undergoing an abortion; and

5) fostering respect for children with disabilities by disallowing wrongful-life lawsuits which claim that a baby would have been better off being aborted.

(This link is to SB 1878 in Rich-Text Format.)

According to, this is the first time the legislature has overridden Henry's veto. Congratulations to all the lawmakers who supported this, but particularly to Sen. Todd Lamb and Rep. Pam Peterson who shepherded the bill through their respective houses.

Good news from the State Capitol -- State Rep. Pam Peterson and State Sen. Todd Lamb's omnibus pro-life bill is on the way to the Governor's desk.

Via Steve Fair:

Today the Oklahoma State Senate passed SB 1878 authored by Senator Todd Lamb(the former Secret Service Agent, not the race car driver), R-Edmond, and Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa. It passed the Senate 38-10 with a bipartisan vote. The bill contains several pro-life initiatives. By combining various pieces of legislation from Lamb and members of the House, the bill now creates the Freedom of Conscience Act which protects the rights of healthcare providers to refuse to take part in the destruction of human life.

Via Mike McCarville:

By combining various pieces of legislation from Lamb and members of the House, the bill now creates the Freedom of Conscience Act which protects the rights of healthcare providers to refuse to take part in the destruction of human life (SB 1878--Sen. Lamb, Rep. Peterson); regulates the use of the dangerous chemical pill RU-486, used when the unborn child is about two months old (HB 2181--Rep. McNiel); ensures the mother's consent to abort is truly voluntary, and protects against coerced abortions (HB 3059--Sen. Williamson, Rep. Hamilton); provides a woman with an ultrasound of her unborn child which she can view prior to undergoing the abortion (HB 3144--Sen. Lamb, Rep. Billy); cultivates respect for disabled children by banning the wrongful-life lawsuits that claim a baby would have been better off aborted (HB 2814--Sen. Crain, Rep. Sullivan).

While the bill had bipartisan support and will probably be signed by Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, such a strong pro-life bill would not have made it this far when the Legislature was fully under Democratic control. Republican leadership (complete in the House, shared in the Senate) means that pro-life advocates control the flow of legislation in both houses. While some individual Democratic legislators are pro-life, their leadership hasn't been pro-life for many years.

Another step forward for the protection of unborn children in Oklahoma, thanks to Republican control of the State House and solid pro-life legislators like my friend Tulsa State Rep. Pam Peterson. Here's the press release from the Office of Speaker Chris Benge.

Omnibus Pro-Life Bill Passes House Committee

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 26, 2008) -Legislation further defending the unborn child passed the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee today.

Senate Bill 1878, by Rep. Pam Peterson, combines several previously-passed pro-life measures into one bill. The legislation:

  • Protects health care professionals' freedom of conscience by affirming their right to refuse to participate in the taking of a human life.
  • Expands on pro-life legislation passed in 2006 that required abortion doctors to tell a woman she had a right to a free ultrasound at an off-site location. This legislation would provide an ultrasound at the clinic where the abortion would be performed.
  • Bans wrongful-life lawsuits that claim a baby would have been better off being aborted.
  • Ensures that a mother's consent to an abortion be truly voluntary and safeguards against coerced abortions. It requires posters to be placed in abortion clinics informing mothers of their rights and requires abortion clinics to verbally tell minors that having an abortion is their decision alone.
  • Regulates the use of the chemical abortion pill RU-486, which is used when the unborn child is about two months old.

This omnibus pro-life legislation will have the indirect effect of saving the lives of innocent children, Peterson said.

"This legislation is about giving mothers as much information as possible in advance about this irrevocable, life-altering decision. We must do all we can to ensure every woman has all the facts so she can make the most informed decision possible," said Peterson, R-Tulsa. "The bill also protects the integrity of medical professionals who do not wish to participate in performing abortions."

The bill passed the House committee today and will next be heard on the House floor.

Today is the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that overturned restrictions and prohibitions on abortion in all 50 states.

To mark the day, there's a special Blogs for Life event happening at Family Research Council HQ in Washington, overlooking the annual March for Life. Kevin McCullough, who can be heard on BlogTalkRadio and read online at is broadcasting live from Blogs for Life today at 1 p.m. Central Time. The live call-in number is (347) 205-9765.

There are two fronts (at least) in the fight to protect innocent human life in the womb -- the political front and the hearts-and-minds front. We are closer than ever to having a Federal judiciary that recognizes Roe v. Wade and its companion decision Doe v. Bolton as, in Fred Thompson's phrase, "bad law and bad medicine." Sadly, the prospects of progress on the political front in the Federal realm are not looking good right now. (There's still hope of progress on the margins in states like Oklahoma, where pro-life bills have enjoyed broad bipartisan support and newly installed Republican committee chairmen have allowed those bills to progress.)

But if you follow the BatesLine linkblog, you've already seen that there is encouraging news on the hearts-and-minds front. Stephen Chapman's latest column, "The Growing Aversion to Abortion," shows changes in attitudes reflected in public polls and a declining abortion rate:

In 2003, Gallup found, one of every three kids from age 13 to 17 said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. More revealing yet is that 72 percent said abortion is 'morally wrong.'... The report on abortion rates from the Guttmacher Institute suggests that the evolution of attitudes has transformed behavior. Since 1990, the number of abortions has dropped from 1.61 million to 1.21 million. The abortion rate among women of childbearing age has declined by 29 percent.... In 1990, 30.4 percent of pregnancies ended in abortion. Last year, the figure was 22.4 percent.

Chapman presents one explanation for the shift in opinion:

This growing aversion to abortion may be traced to better information. When the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, most people had little understanding of fetal development. But the proliferation of ultrasound images from the womb, combined with the dissemination of facts by pro-life groups, has lifted the veil. In the new comedy "Juno," a pregnant 16-year-old heads for an abortion clinic, only to change her mind after a teenage protester tells her, "Your baby probably has a beating heart, you know. It can feel pain. And it has fingernails."

"Juno" has been faulted as a "fairy tale" that sugarcoats the realities of teen pregnancy. But if it's a fairy tale, that tells something about how abortion violates our most heartfelt ideals -- and those of our adolescent children. Try to imagine a fairy tale in which the heroine has an abortion and lives happily ever after.

On a partly personal note: One of the speakers at this morning's Blogs for Life session was author Dawn Eden. It was three years ago today that she and I were in Oklahoma City at a blogger bash, a chance for her to meet a number of blogpals she had made here in the state. It was a tough time in her life: Just four days before, she had been fired from her job as a copy editor at the New York Post, mainly because of the ardent pro-life views she expressed on her blog.

As that door closed, many others opened. Since that time, Dawn has published a highly regarded and successful book on chastity for single young adult women and has had the opportunity to speak to groups across the U.S. and overseas. It's exciting to see how God has given her ever-broadening scope to use her gifts to influence and educate on important issues, such as the sanctity of human life, which are dear to her heart. On the acknowledgments page of her book, she mentions the editor who fired her and the reporter who pushed for her firing and cites Genesis 50:20: "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive."

You'll want to check out her recent entry, Supreme Irony.

MORE: In a lovely "coincidence," the Academy Awards nominations came out today and Juno, notable for its pro-life elements, was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (for Jason Reitman), Best Actress (Ellen Page), and Original Screenplay (Diablo Cody).

Brian Ervin has the story in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly about the attempt to ban Southwestern Oklahoma State University employees from using the word "Christmas":

While there wasn't an outright "ban" on the holiday or its mention, [SWOSU spokesman Brian] Adler said university employees were told to refrain from including "Merry Christmas" in e-mail tag lines, which are only to include an employee's name, title and contact information.

Adler insisted that whatever "ban" SWOSU imposed on Christmas was confined to e-mail signatures, but not from e-mails themselves, nor from any other means of expression.

He said the policy was implemented for the purpose of ensuring that the "Merry Christmas" greeting wasn't mistaken by recipients as a sentiment officially expressed by the university, rather than from the individual sender, to the exclusion of other holidays or of well-wishing for students and university affiliates of other faiths.

That story doesn't match what Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel was told:

As Staver explained, it all started on the Wednesday before Christmas when Liberty Counsel received a call from Weatherford City Councilor Warren Goldman, who told them of SWOSU banning Christmas on Edmondson's advice.

The Liberty Counsel front man told UTW that he's never had any direct information about the AG office's responsibility for the policy, but said he spoke with the SWOSU Provost, Dr. Blake Sonove, who confirmed to him that the policy was in place and that it was implemented upon advice from Edmondson.

He also said Admissions Coordinator Connie Phillips, Human Resources Director David Misak and Vice President of Finance Tom Fagen each confirmed the same.

Edmondson's involvement may have been a misunderstanding on Councilor Goldman's part, although, if Staver's accounts of his conversations with SWOSU staffers is correct, it was a widespread misunderstanding.

"In my conversation with Dr. Sonove, I told him, 'Your attorney isn't the one who's going to foot the bill for these lawsuits,'" Goldman explained.

"I don't remember exactly how the conversation went," he continued, explaining that when Sonove mentioned something about the state Attorney General ultimately being responsible to defend against potential litigation against the state university, Goldman left with the impression that Edmondson had been the source of the bum legal advice.

"That was a misperception on my part," said Goldman.

Taking the new information from Ervin's story with the earlier statements by university officials, I'm still persuaded that some official at SWOSU tried to pull a fast one and got caught.

An edited version of this column appeared in the December 19, 2007, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly, in the wake of a severe ice storm that knocked out power for many Tulsa residents for a week or more. The published version is no longer available online. I expanded on an idea in this column in a 2011 blog entry: Bates's Law of Creeping Techno-Slavery. Also relevant: A 2009 item on how the Amish decide which technologies are acceptable. Posted online September 9, 2017.

The Amish are laughing at us
By Michael D. Bates

As winter power emergencies go, this one could have been a lot worse. The temperature broke freezing within a day of the ice storm and stayed above freezing (or not far below it) until Saturday night, by which time most PSO customers had had their electrical service restored.

The roads were drivable. Trucks continued to bring food and other supplies to Tulsa, including generators and chainsaws. Except for the rain on Tuesday (which helped to melt the ice from the trees and avoid further damage), the weather was no impediment to PSO and the many out-of-state power company employees who came to town to assist in the cleanup.

Tulsa's Mohawk water plant lost power for a time, but the A. B. Jewell plant stayed online, with plenty of capacity to meet the city's needs.

Even with power out at home, it was possible to spend most of one's time where there was power. Our two big malls stayed open. Plenty of restaurants were open for business. QuikTrip had all of their stores up and running on generator power, so people could buy gasoline to make their way to the restaurants. Downtown never lost electricity, thanks to underground power lines.

Imagine if after the ice storm temperatures had dropped and remained below freezing. Or if the ground had been cold enough that the ice had stayed on the roads, preventing travel and preventing help from reaching us. Or if the outage had covered the entire region.

As I drove through Amish country west of Chouteau last week on a cold and grey Thursday, I caught sight of a line of clothes flapping in the cold wind - bib overalls and simple dresses. The clothesline was behind an unremarkable white two-story house, identifiable as Amish only by the lack of any wires leading to it.

I laughed out loud at the thought of anyone having to dry laundry in the cold winter wind, instead of using a toasty gas dryer.

Less than a mile later, I realized that the joke was on me. I had a gas dryer but for three days had had no electricity to make it work. Like a lot of midtowners, I have a couple of clothesline poles in the backyard, but the wires have long since been taken down.

The Amish, unlike us "English," know how to eat and stay warm, how to wash and dry clothes, how to preserve food, how to live comfortably in all seasons without any connection to the power grid.

It wasn't that long ago that our ancestors lived like the Amish do today. A hundred years ago at statehood, few Oklahomans had electricity, telephones, or automobiles. They depended on local sources of food. They depended on horses and mules and their own two feet to get around. The railroad and the telegraph connected them to the outside world.

Building design was adapted to work with, not against, the local climate. In the north, you'd want a roof steep enough to shed heavy snows. Shutters - real shutters big enough to cover the window - would be important to keep out bitter winter winds, but you'd also want window placement that would allow breezes to cool the house in summer.

In the south, a big porch gave you a shady, breezy place to cool off in the summer.
Trees were an important part of regulating a home's temperature - with leaves, the tree would provide cooling shade in the summer; without leaves, sunlight could pass through to warm the home in winter.

Building interiors were designed to allow the home to be heated with fireplaces, floor furnaces, gas space heaters, or radiators.

If you look at the footprint some of our older office buildings, you'll notice that, rather than a solid rectangle, many were T or U shaped so that every office had a window to let in light and air. Transoms over each door could be opened to allow airflow across the building.
Since the advent of central heat and air, many of those buildings have been squared off to maximize enclosed space. Modern office buildings don't even have windows that can be opened, and those buildings quickly become uninhabitable when the power goes out.

When electricity was first widely available, we used it to supplement natural lighting on cloudy days and in place of oil lamps and candles after dark. Later we used it to run ceiling fans and window unit air conditioners. In place of small ice boxes that used a real block of ice to keep food fresh, we installed electric refrigerators. Electric washers and dryers replaced washboards, wringers, and clotheslines.

New electrical appliances made possible other technological developments. Can you imagine wall-to-wall carpeting in a world without electric vacuum cleaners?

I've noticed that new technologies pass through three stages. At first, a new technology is a luxury, then it becomes a convenience, and eventually it becomes a necessity.

For example, in the early days of automobiles, few people had them, and most folks went about their business as if automobiles didn't exist. When automobiles first became affordable to the general public, most families got by with a single car, still able to accomplish many everyday tasks without it.

Eventually, it became possible for businesses and homebuilders to assume that everyone always had a car at their disposal. With the help of zoning laws that segregated homes from shops from industries from offices, our cities reorganized themselves to make a normal life nearly impossible without two or more cars in the family.

When a technology is in the convenience phase, there's still a backup, and the sudden loss of the technology is a mere inconvenience.

Once the technology becomes a necessity, its sudden absence is a disaster. The older technology that used to fill the same need has largely disappeared. The outdated devices can't be found, and the skills and knowledge to make them work begin to die off with the last generation that had to rely on them. Tried to buy a clothes wringer lately?

We have evolved a way of life which is unsustainable without the ready availability of ever-increasing amounts of electricity. We have no emergency backup.

Last week only three things in my house worked without electricity: The gas log in the fireplace, the gas water heater, and the plumbing system. And even those systems are ultimately dependent on electricity: the treatment plants, pump stations, and lift stations for the water and sewer systems, and the control system for natural gas delivery.

The phone system worked, but as in many homes, all of our phones are cordless and dependent on AC power to work.

My gas furnace was useless without an electric blower to push the warm air around the house.

Some people believe that a lengthy power outage like the one Oklahoma just endured is a preview of things to come. They say we've passed the peak of global oil production and domestic natural gas production, and the economic growth of China and India mean more competition for those declining resources.

In his recent book, The Long Emergency, James Howard Kunstler predicts that we are in for a period of painful readjustment, made more difficult by the way we designed our homes and our cities during this period of cheap, plentiful energy. Kunstler debunks as wishful thinking the idea that biofuels or hydrogen fuel cells or increased energy efficiency will allow us to continue to live as we do today indefinitely.

I'd like to believe that isn't true. I'm not a survivalist, and I don't want to become one. When massive disruptions were predicted for the turn of the millennium because of the Year 2000 software bug, the only precaution I took was to get back from a business trip before midnight GMT on January 1, 2000. It's far more comfortable to assume that life will go on forever as it does today.

Each of us ought to start thinking about how we would feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves and our families in a world without plentiful electricity. When we build houses and buildings, we ought to consider whether the design would be livable when the power is out. As our city revisits its comprehensive plan, we ought to consider how well our development policies would work in a world where energy is far more expensive.

If last week's power outage was a wakeup call, maybe we shouldn't just reach out from under the electric blanket and hit the snooze button.

It still comes in pints!

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The European Union has given up trying to force Britain to conform to metric measurement:

Britain's citizens are now free to buy their ale and milk by the pint and their bananas and potatoes by the pound, then measure the distance they drive back home in miles -- all without threat of interference from the European Union.

The Brussels-based European Union, evidently exasperated, announced yesterday that Britain could carry on indefinitely using its centuries-old system of imperial measures.

Here's a link to the statement by EU Vice-President Günter Verheugen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, who seems to be saying that it was all a big misunderstanding, that it was the British government, not the EU, pushing for metrication. And there's some truth to that.

This announcement follows years of "metric martyrs" -- British shopkeepers being penalized for selling certain items using imperial measures. Many imperial measures were still in use -- miles for road travel and imperial pints for beer -- but were due to be banned as many already had been.

It is a fundamental conservative instinct to prefer systems and customs that have evolved over time to those that are artificially constructed and imposed from above, no matter how elegant and theoretically perfect. A conservative believes there is wisdom in tradition that may not be easily articulated or quantified. There are hidden interdependencies that a wholesale change to a system may unwittingly disturb or destroy. (See "Urban Renewal.")

George Orwell was able to articulate the benefits of traditional units of measure, as See Dubya notes:

In 1984, there's a passage about Socialist metricization being an extension of demoralizing mind control. I remember it concerned an old prole lamenting, over his beer, that a half liter was too little, and a liter was too much, and that he missed his old comfortable pints which had been just right. That's it exactly. Feet and inches are a likewise a useful, human scale. NOTHING is a meter long. (Or are we supposed to switch to one-third-meter hot dogs at ballgames?)

Another example: almost everyone is between one and two meters in height. Centimeters are too small. But five feet six versus six foot two is a useful gradation of measurement, and those gradations have survived because they are part of a system that describes the everyday world and its usual proportions pretty well.

One could say the same thing for acres for land, hands for horses, yards for cloth, and teaspoons and cups for cooking. One useful traditional unit that the British use but which isn't common in America is the stone (14 pounds) as a measure of adult weight. To those used to the system, it's a very natural way of classifying people by weight. For the weight-watcher, measuring in stone gives a plus or minus seven pounds range of fluctuation without inducing anxiety.

Even the European Union acknowledged the intuition of standard quantities appropriate to a given item, although they did it in their usual heavy-handed way. The EU requires (or required) certain products only to be sold in authorized sizes, for example, 330 ml cans of soda and 236 ml containers of fruit cocktail.

The about-face is a happy one, and Simon Heffer suggests it could be the first shot in a revolt against an oppressive and untouchable multinational regime:

Fired up by this victory on metrication, we should all realise how vulnerable this mendacious enterprise is to sheer, relentless opposition.

The question of Europe also has the power to destroy governments, and it could well do so again.

Whatever they believe caused it, the Conservatives are in their 11th year in opposition because of John Major's treachery at Maastricht and his dishonourable behaviour after our eviction from the ERM on Black Wednesday.

The anger Europe stirs up reminds us why Mr Brown wants to avoid a referendum on the new EU treaty, a document unacceptable to this supposedly free and democratic nation.

It should also, though, remind him why he should have one, to get the issue out of the way so he can get on with being Prime Minister. If I were in his shoes I wouldn't hang around, either.

Many more of these "pointless" interferences in our way of life, and much more evidence of our impotence at the hands of the international unelect, and it won't be a referendum on the treaty that we will be calling for. It will be one on whether we want to stay in this oppressive and unsavoury club at all.

Until I get the linkblog integrated with the new template, here are a few interesting links for your perusal. For more links, check out the BatesLine blogroll headlines page, now relocated and cleansed of PHP:

Slate: The Dangers of Reclining Your Car Seat

"Tilt your car seat back in the front, and you'll find that the seat belt no longer rides the way it's supposed to--the upper strap moves up toward your neck and the lower one up from your pelvis to your middle. And it turns out that is dangerous--though somehow neither the government nor car manufacturers think they need to clearly tell us so."

Slate: William Saletan: Buried Alive in Your Own Skull

"Five days ago, Science published a report on a young woman devastated by a car crash in England. For five months after the accident, tests showed no signs of awareness. Doctors declared her vegetative. Then, scientists put her in a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner, which tracks blood flow to different parts of the brain. They asked her to imagine playing tennis and walking through her home. The scan lit up with telltale patterns of language, movement, and navigation indistinguishable from the brains of healthy people.

"Something was awake inside that woman's skull. Without the scanner, no one but her would have known."

TIME: Best 100 TV Shows of all Time

Via WorldMagBlog, where a commenter complains that the Andy Griffith Show is the "single best show, and it isn't even listed."

New English Review: Theodore Dalrymple: How To Hate The Non-Existent (Via WorldMagBlog.)

"Suffice it to say that I have never received such hate mail as when I suggested that religious people were better than non-religious in their conduct. It seemed that many of the people who responded to me were not content merely not to believe, but had to hate. Although I had not denied that religious motivation could motivate very bad behaviour, something which indeed can hardly be denied, I was treated to a summary of the historical crimes of religion such as many adolescents could provide who had recently discovered to their fury that they had been made to attend boring religious services when the arguments for the existence of God had never been irrefutable....

"Perhaps one of the reasons that contemporary secularists do not simply reject religion but hate it is that they know that, while they can easily rise to the levels of hatred that religion has sometimes encouraged, they will always find it difficult to rise to the levels of love that it has sometimes encouraged." Remembering Lane Bryant

"In 1909, Mrs Bryant remarried, to Albert Malsin, who took over the business end of the Lane Bryant shop while she concentrated on design. New York newspapers, however, would not accept advertising for the store, what with all those evil maternity outfits on display. Eventually one paper did agree to run an ad, and when it appeared, the store was completely sold out within twenty-four hours. A second store had been opened in 1915, in Chicago, but feeling that they could not rely on newspapers, the Malsins opened up a mail-order branch, which by 1917 was bringing in $1 million a year."

Potter thoughts

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Last night I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final installment of the seven-book series. Wow. All I will say at this point is that I am very impressed with the way J. K. Rowling tied everything together. There's a depth here that I've never seen in recent children's literature, with many echoes of classical literature.

I went looking for serious online discussions about plot points and literary allusions. Initially, I found some blogs that were inhabited by "fanfic" types -- people who will take a science fiction or fantasy universe and extend it with their own stories. Some of them were rather upset with the way things turned out -- not so much the main conclusion of the book but the fact that the romantic couples they had been cheering for didn't come to pass.

I found better. Here are some links that will be of interest to fans of the series, but only if you've already finished the book, because they are full of spoilers.

First, Rowling has given an exclusive interview to NBC, and you can find it on the MSNBC website. They've cut the interview into a couple of dozen separate stories all linked from that page. Now that the final book is out, Rowling is very happy to clarify plot points and to tell us about details that for various reasons were left on the cutting room floor. (For example, she "knows" much more about the futures of the various characters that she left out of the epilogue, which she didn't want to become too unwieldy.) At some point in the future, she plans to take her notes and publish a definitive encyclopedia of the Harry Potter universe.

Second, Entertainment Weekly did an entire issue about the final book release, including an interview with the actor who plays Harry in the movies about his reaction to reading the final book.

I found both of these via an unofficial but well-designed fan site called The Leaky Cauldron.

I finally found a couple of sites providing some serious literary discussion of the series and the final book, delving into structure, literary technique, and classical and religious allusions, from a Christian perspective: The Sword of Gryffindor by Travis Prinzi and Hogwarts Professor by John Granger. Prinzi is a Presbyterian and is getting a graduate degree to become an English teacher. Granger is an Orthodox Christian and a Latin teacher.

Granger wrote a book, Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader, and you can find brief descriptions of those five keys here. With the release of Deathly Hallows, he has posted a series of 25 thought-provoking discussion questions; I'm starting to go through them with my son as a starting point for our own discussions.

Both Prinzi and Granger started out as "Harry Haters" before becoming fans of the series. In an interview, Granger tells how he first encountered the books:

I read the first book in order to explain to my oldest daughter, who had been given a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, why we don't read serial trash like this. I assumed it was something like Goosebumps. I didn't know anything about Christian objections to the book. I read it – and loved it. Ms. Rowling is a classicist and an acerbic critic of Muggledom. The alchemy and profound Christian imagery of the books I thought (and still think) were wonderful and edifying.

PETA president Ingrid Newkirk to Michael Moore (PDF file), on the release of his new film about America's health care system:

Although we think that your film could actually help reform America’s sorely inadequate health care system, there’s an elephant in the room, and it is you. With all due respect, no one can help but notice that a weighty health issue is affecting you personally. We’d like to help you fix that. Going vegetarian is an easy and life-saving step that people of all economic backgrounds can take in order to become less reliant on the government’s shoddy healthcare system, and it’s something that you and all Americans can benefit from personally.

PETA's never been known for tact.

(Via Weasel Zippers.)

Oh, heck, let's pile on with some Weird Al:

John Gravois, writing an open letter to Oprah Winfrey in Slate, praises Karen Cerulo's book Never Saw It Coming as an antidote to the Oprah-promoted "law of attraction" craze:

The Secret tells us to visualize best-case scenarios and banish negative ones from our minds. Never Saw It Coming says that's what we've been doing all along—and we get blindsided by even the most foreseeable disasters because of it.

Americans don't like thinking about likely negative outcomes. Only 30% of us have wills, despite the fact that 100% of us are going to die.

We dislike thinking about negative outcomes so much, we resent anyone who tries to make us face up to the hard facts:

But unfortunately, we go to great lengths to make people who think negatively feel unwelcome....

Just think of all the pejorative and even pathological terms we have for doomsayers. Like, for instance, doomsayer. Also alarmist, naysayer, paranoiac, complainer, defeatist, downer, and killjoy. Rack your brain: It is hard to think of a laudatory term for contemplating the worst-case scenario.

He forgot fearmonger, nattering nabob of negativism, and Ken Neal's favorite, grump, which he could use as both noun and verb.

But we need naysayers to keep things running smoothly:

Cerulo argues we have a lot to learn from two groups of people who have emancipated themselves from the pressure to think positively. She points out that medical workers and computer technicians—the professional troubleshooters of the world—keep our bodies and mainframes running by being paragons of pessimism. When doctors and IT workers take up a case, they begin by dispassionately assuming the worst and then move up from there.... While this may sometimes make doctors and techies a drag, it also helped them avert worldwide disasters like the SARS outbreak and the Y2K bug.

Say it loud, I kvetch and I'm proud.

Usually it's the other way around. Since Republicans gained control of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, several significant bills have been passed and signed into law which advance the cause of the sanctity of human life. In 2006, a bill providing for informed consent passed both houses by a wide margin and was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Brad Henry, who was then looking ahead to his re-election campaign.

This year, veto-proof majorities in both chambers approved a bill (SB 714) that would have restricted abortion in state-owned facilities. This time Henry, now term-limited and a lame duck, vetoed the bill. I'll take that to mean he isn't running for U. S. Senate or any other office in this pro-life state, and that his retirement plans depend on making nice with a key national Democratic constituency, namely the abortion industry.

Brandon Dutcher sums it up nicely:

We know that Brad Henry doesn't want to go down in history as the lottery governor. Well, perhaps he'll be able to shed that moniker after all. Perhaps he'll be remembered as the abortion governor.

Would that the governor would remember: These blobs of tissue are only four years away from being revenue units for Oklahoma's vaunted pre-K program!

Please contact the State Reps and State Senators who voted for SB 714 and encourage them to vote to override the veto. You'll find the list of State Senators voting yes, with their e-mail addresses, in Oklahomans for Life's latest legislative alert (PDF).

Meanwhile, the U. S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, upheld a federal law banning partial birth abortions. For all the other problems with the Bush administration, his court appointments made this decision possible. Ruben at ProLifeBlogs noticed an interesting remark in Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissenting opinion -- she doesn't think the doctrine of stare decisis ought to apply to this ruling.

ProLifeBlogs notes that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is promoting his bill to provide federal funding for research using stem cells extracted from living human embryos, and he had this to say:

Think about it: If you were treating someone with embryonic stem cells, would you rather use stem cells that came from a healthy embryo, or a dead embryo? The dead embryo died for a reason. There's something wrong with it. Chances are, the stem cells that come from that dead embryo aren't so great, either. So why does anyone think a dead embryo holds the secret to curing juvenile diabetes?...

If this year's debate goes like last year's, then we can also expect opponents of S. 5 to make a lot of unfounded claims about adult stem cells. To repeat, I'm all for adult stem cell research. Adult stem cells are being used successfully today in treating several blood-related diseases. Our scientists should continue this area of research.

But adult stem cells have their limits. They can't do everything that embryonic stem cells can do.

As it turns out, the secret to curing juvenile (Type 1) diabetes isn't in embryonic stem cells at all:

Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again.

What kind of stem cells? Embryonic cells, you ask? Nope. (Emphasis added.)

In a breakthrough trial, 15 young patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes were given drugs to suppress their immune systems followed by transfusions of stem cells drawn from their own blood.

The results show that insulin-dependent diabetics can be freed from reliance on needles by an injection of their own stem cells. The therapy could signal a revolution in the treatment of the condition, which affects more than 300,000 Britons.

(Via Dan Paden.)

MORE: The Times writer added this irrelevant detail to the story:

But research using the most versatile kind of stem cells — those acquired from human embryos — is currently opposed by powerful critics, including President Bush.

Penraker notes the distorting effect of media bias:

Damn George Bush! He and his cronies are sentencing millions of people to death!

Or so they would have you believe. This is the worst, most repulsive kind of journalism - the kind that actively tries to mislead the public by leaving out information. Nowhere does it tell you that Bush explicitly endorses the kind of research on adult stem cells that produced this breakthrough. It tries to mislead the public into thinking that this result was brought about by the type of stem cell research Bush opposes.

Some readers will fix on that line while skimming this story and come away with the impression that this was the result of embryonic stem cell therapy.

Not only does the statement misdirect the reader's attention, Michael Williams points out that it's flat out wrong:

The claim in the first phrase above is false: embryonic stem cells are no more "versatile" than stem cells taken from, e.g., amniotic fluid. Furthermore, embryonic stem cells tend to turn cancerous and cause brain tumors.

So why are leftist politicians and reporters such enthusiastic promoters of research that has yet to show promise of a cure and so dismissive of research that has accomplished a great deal already? Here's Williams's answer:

Why are so many people so eager to slaughter babies and harvest their stem cells despite the fact that embryonic stem cells can't cure anything? I can think of only two explanations. First, scientists who have invested their careers in this direction want to keep the grant money flowing. Second, pro-abortionists recognize their need to increase acceptance of abortion among an increasingly pro-life population.

I'm reminded of a bit in the satirical book The 80s: A Look Back (published in 1979): The humane objection to clubbing baby harp seals for their pelts vanished when it was discovered that the brain fluid of clubbed baby harp seals cured cancer.

At some point, with enough funding, they're bound to find some cure involving embryonic stem cells. Many Americans, pragmatists that we are, will conclude that the destruction of embryonic human life is worthwhile, which will encourage a more cavalier attitude toward life in the womb.

But if more Americans come to understand that all the cures to date have come from non-embryonic stem cell research, the push for embryonic stem cell research will dry up.

The Long Walkers

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Melungeons. Rom. Ramapo Mountain People. Irish Travellers. Lumbee Indians. Black Irish. Black Dutch. Indians speaking Welsh. Ancient Irish script in West Virginia. Runes in southeastern Oklahoma.

Patrick Mead is weaving a fascinating story of hidden people groups -- nomadic or isolated peoples here in the US -- and stories that defy the standard theories on how and when different groups came to North America. Interwoven with stories of various hidden groups, Patrick tells his own story of discovering his Scottish Traveller and Melungeon heritage -- getting his father to spill some closely-held family secrets -- when he contracted a rare lung disease that white people aren't supposed to get.

RELATED (4/12/2007): Julie R. Neidlinger writes about a case in North Dakota in which a juror admits to using a defendant's Roma (Gypsy) Bosnian ethnic background against him during deliberations. "I used my own experiences with ethnic groups, specifically Bosnians and/or Gypsies, to influence the jury.... I told the jury that I had personal experience with Bosnians and that they stole from my business and in the same experience lied to me regarding the theft and their conduct. Even though I had never met Mr. Hidanovic, or any of the witnesses, Mr. Hidanovic and the witnesses' race was discussed in a negative way.... I interjected into the deliberations the concept that if Mr. Hidanovic wasn't guilty of this crime he was guilty of something else."

An incredible dispatch from Las Vegas over the JYB newswires:

For Marvin McJimpsey, Vegas is truly Sin City. His faith prohibits playing cards, but his job as a blackjack dealer at the Luxor Casino requires him to shuffle, deal, and slide cards across the green felt to eager gamblers who don't seem to appreciate the profound conflict of conscience McJimpsey's job entails.

McJimpsey belongs to the Seventh Day Adventists, a conservative Christian denomination whose doctrines forbid drinking, gambling, and dancing.

"Dude, are you deaf?" demands Jeff Chen, a florist from Pasadena, who has a four showing. "I said hit me!"

"I'm sorry, sir," replies McJimpsey. "You'll have to take the card yourself. For religious reasons, I'm not allowed to touch them." After walking around the table to pick up his card, Chen cashes out leaves the casino, complaining that someone with religious objections to touching cards "probably shouldn't be dealing blackjack for a living"....

Find out why the casino can't fire McJimpsey, and more, at JunkYardBlog.

Don't mess with the Mick

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Publishing O. J. Simpson's "hypothetical" murder memoir damaged Judith Regan, but it wasn't the final straw:

O.J. Simpson's kill-and-tell book sickened America, but it was the crass sullying of New York hero Mickey Mantle that finally toppled publisher Judith Regan, according to New York magazine....

"The supposed sullying of Mantle's name hit the cover of the Daily News," says the New York magazine piece, published tomorrow. And "[Harper Collins' CEO Jane] Friedman hit the roof."

"By this point, Friedman was sick of playing nice," the mag continued. "News Corp. executives were appalled, as was [News Corp. mogul] Murdoch."

"Mickey Mantle felt like another major blunder," says one executive of the book, which was to be called, "7: The Mickey Mantle Novel." "It just reinforced the sense that [Regan was] an irresponsible editor."...

The magazine said talk of Regan's firing at the holiday party was met with applause by many News Corp. staffers.

"Friedman told editors that she had fired Regan," says the article. "When she said it, people began to clap."

(Via Mike McCarville.)

Yesterday, Michael Spencer posted five reasons he doesn't like Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. He writes as an admirer of King, not a detractor, reflecting on reactions to the annual observance from African-Americans and from white Evangelicals.

Spencer says that the observance has been treated as the exclusive possession of African-Americans, when it belongs to all Americans:

My African-American students almost universally resent that we do not dismiss school in deference to “their” holiday. (If any holiday should be celebrated by GOING to school, this one should.) When we’ve been asked to have MLK programs, students protest if the program is not all African-American, and for African-Americans. Virtually every image of MLK, Jr. day on the media is dominated by African-Americans.

It’s an American holiday. Dr. King said he wanted to see the day we stopped celebrating skin color and made up a community of love based on character. To make MLK, Jr. day an African-American holiday has the potential to increase the resentment many Americans- particularly in poor, rural areas like ours- already feel toward minorities.

If we can’t celebrate it as an American holiday, then let’s just don’t.

Neither, says Spencer, should it be a liberal holiday to celebrate liberal solutions:

Dr. King’s ideas on social justice hardly resemble the solutions of today’s race baiters and misery pimps. The dignity of suffering, the advocacy of truthful speech, the refusal to whine, the call for conscience and action: these things, not government spending on more and more government programs and employees, are what Dr. King advocated. A role for government? Sure. Government as the savior and solution to every injustice? No way.

He goes on to say that the day ought to celebrate and acknowledge King's legacy in the progress that has been made in the 43 years since his march on Washington, but too often is marked with speeches that suggest that King's work was all in vain; that teaching the history of the civil rights movement would be more valuable than another day off; and that white Evangelicals need to fix their attitude toward the man, warts and all:

We ought to be glad King’s vision was of the peace of Christ and treating people as the images of God. We should thank God he was willing to suffer, be bold and go to the cross. We should see him as an American martyr and thank God for his faith, Christ’s power in his life and his love for all persons, especially his enemies. We can learn a lot from him and we should embrace him.

Spencer suggests marking MLK Day by reading his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," so I did, for the first time. It is a reply from King to white ministers who wrote him to question his promotion of non-violent civil disobedience. In response to their criticism, he defends his decision to come to Birmingham, where he was regarded as an "outside agitator," and his decision to lead sit-ins and marches to challenge the laws of segregation. Here are a few excerpts that grabbed my attention, which I present in hopes that you'll read the whole thing.

King explains how pressure from "gadflies" is sometimes required to bring about negotiation:

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

Then he responds to their counsel to have patience, to wait for southern whites to decide to obey the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection:

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six- year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

Regarding the morality of disobeying unjust laws:

Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all." Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distort the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.... Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong....

King cites openness as an essential element of civil disobedience and sets out honorable examples of such disobedience in history:

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's anti religious laws.

King expresses his disappointment with "peace at any price" moderates:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

... and his disappointment with the white churches of the South:

So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Also in this week's issue is a Jamie Pierson op-ed responding to the "Birth Control Is Harmful" billboards that Catholic-affiliated Respect Life Tulsa has placed around town. Jamie talks about double standards, and birth control, in her opinion, levels the playing field in the power struggle between men and women. I've got some comments, but given the subject matter, I'll put them after the jump....

Interesting bit stuck into the Whirled's story about newly-elected Oklahoma State Representative John Enns, a Republican from Enid. Enns sustained a spinal injury in a farming accident two years ago which left him unable to walk. He gets around mainly in his wheelchair, but through therapy he has regained some ability to use a walker. Among his legislative interests, the story mentions stem cell research:

Enns also wants to do what he can about furthering stem-cell research. It is something that he is told could help him with his condition. Scientists are thinking that stem cells could possibly help grow nerve tissue in his spine.

Enns, who has degrees in biology and chemistry, said he believes stem cells could be taken from adults as well as umbilical cords, and do not have to come from embryos. He blames the media for emphasizing the embryo source rather than other means of obtaining cells.

I appreciate Rep. Enns for making that point in his interview, and I have to give credit to the Whirled Capital reporter, Mick Hinton, and the editors for making that point a part of the story.

ELSEWHERE on the stem cell research front, there's this item from BBC News about a study showing that progenitor cells (similar to stem cells) on the surface of the heart can be used to regenerate heart blood vessels in the presence of a certain protein, thymosin beta 4.

Lead researcher Dr Paul Riley said: "We found that, when treated with thymosin ß4, these adult cells have as much potential as embryonic cells to create healthy heart tissue."

Dr Riley said using thymosin ß4 could lead to a more effective way to repair damaged hearts.

He said: "Our research has shown that blood vessel regeneration is still possible in the adult heart.

"In the future if we can figure out how to direct the progenitor cells using thymosin ß4, there could be potential for therapy based on the patients' own heart cells.

"This approach would bypass the risk of immune system rejection, a major problem with the use of stem cell transplants from another source.

"And, it has the added benefit that the cells are already located in the right place - within the heart itself."

(Via Dawn Eden, who is understandably proud of her father, who discovered thymosin ß4. How wonderful it must be for her as an advocate for alternatives to embryonic stem-cell research to be related to someone who is making those alternatives not only possible but a reality.)

On Evangelical Outpost, Joe Carter looks at seven votes in the U. S. House of special concern to social conservatives, then compares the voting records of the current Republican House committee chairmen with those who would replace them if the Democrats win a majority of seats in November. While not all the Republican chairmen have stellar records on this set of votes, all but two are over 50% (Jim Leach of Iowa and Howard Coble of N. C. only voted the right way on 3 of 7), and 8 of the 13 chairmen voted the right way on at least six of the seven votes. Meanwhile, most of their Democratic counterparts scored a big fat zero. (Three exceptions: One chairman voted the right way once, another voted the right way twice, and Ike Skelton of Missouri, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, who scored a 71.)

I've heard politically-active evangelicals around here say that "the lesser of two evils is still evil." Carter leads off with a quote from Thomas à Kempis book The Imitation of Christ: "Of two evils, the less is always to be chosen." To choose otherwise is to let the greater evil prevail. Refusing to choose, waiting instead for some ideal to fall from the heavens, is to make a choice for the greater evil.

Overall, under Republican leadership in the House, the desired result for social conservatives was attained in five of these seven measures. (A sixth, regarding embryonic stem cell research, was stopped by President Bush's veto.) Looking at the scores of these current and potential committee chairmen, I have no doubt that under Democratic leadership, legislation that protects the sanctity of human life and the traditional definition of marriage would never make it out of committee.

We've seen exactly that situation here in Oklahoma, where, despite a professed pro-life majority in both houses, a Democratic Senate committee chairman, supported by the Democratic Senate majority leadership, blocked pro-life bills from being debated on the Senate floor. The lead story October 2006 issue of the Oklahomans for Life newsletter (PDF) tells how this year's landmark pro-life legislation nearly didn't make it to the Governor's desk:

Senate Democrats were determined to prevent any pro-life legislation from being enacted this year. Senate Democrats facilitated the killing of seven (7) prolife bills that had passed the House this session. The bills were killed by a Democrat committee chairman, serving at the pleasure of the Democrat Senate Leader, who, in turn, serves at the pleasure of the Senate’s Democrat members.

When the Republican House of Representatives reinserted five of those bills in another piece of legislation which had already passed the Senate (and, therefore, did not have to go through committee in the Senate again), the Senate Democrats resisted as forcefully and as long as they possibly could. They were fully prepared to ignore the rules of the Senate by refusing to allow the Republican author of SB 1742 to present the bill for a Senate vote.

The Democrat Leader of the Senate told the bill’s author as late as May 17, the day before the bill ultimately passed, that the bill would not be granted a vote on the Senate floor. It was only when Republicans made it clear that they would attempt to force the issue through a procedural
motion (which would have been voted on in public) that the Democrats relented and agreed to let the vote occur.

With great reluctance, the Democrat Leadership of the Senate allowed the bill to be voted on when the political pressure had built to such an extent that they could no longer contain it.

Once the bill was allowed to come to a vote, SB 1742 passed the Oklahoma Senate 38-8.

At the state level and at the federal level, which party will have control of the chamber is as important as which individual will represent your district.

Here's the conclusion Joe Carter draws:

Social conservatives have reason to be disappointed in the Republicans in Congress. As these scores indicate, though, we will be even more disappointed should the Democrats gain majority control. The GOP doesn't deserve to win; but if the Democrats regain power, it will be society that loses.

RELATED: Paul Weyrich points to the Bush Administration's solid record on judicial appointments and says you can expect strict-constructionist nominees like Samuel Alito never to get a hearing in a Democrat-controlled Senate. "I understand, and am sympathetic to, the reasons not to retain the current crowd in office. But there are two very big reasons why they should be re-elected. If they do not improve their performance in the 110th Congress, recruit primary candidates and replace them."

AND THIS: Are social conservative voters budding theocrats? Bill Rusher hits the nail on the head:

What has happened is that, in the past thirty years, a large number of Americans whose deepest beliefs and concerns are not political but religious have concluded that they have no choice but to gird themselves for participation in the nation's political wars. There are quite enough such people to influence the election returns, and they have been doing so.

But -- and this distinction is crucial -- their posture is essentially defensive. They are not seeking to turn America into a theocracy. They are simply trying to preserve, and where necessary restore, the politico-religious balance that has been traditional in this country. It is the intellectuals, with the critical support of the courts, and above all the Supreme Court, that have successfully eroded that balance, seeking to marginalize religion and convert the entire civic framework of the nation into a purely secular arena, on the pretense that this is required by the First Amendment's supposed erection of a high "wall" between church and state.

Those who imagine that it is religion's defenders who are the aggressors here are simply not paying attention to the increasingly sharp attacks on religious faith that can be found today in such influential places as The New York Times.

Sliced Veggies

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I know this is an old story, but anyway: NBC will be airing episodes of Veggie Tales on Saturday morning, but they've made some alterations. Initially, NBC claimed that the edits were to meet the time constraints of commercial TV, but later they 'fessed up:

“NBC is committed to the positive messages and universal values of ‘VeggieTales,’” the statement said. “Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages, while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view.”

Terry Mattingly at Get Religion comments:

This is a really interesting claim, since the key statement that has been banned is the VeggieTales motto used at the end of each episode, which is: “Remember kids, God made you special and he loves you very much.”

This statement was removed to avoid advocating “any one religious point of view.” This would be the controversial doctrinal point of view which maintains that God loves children. Of course, NBC leaders may have assumed that the statement that “God made you special” could be taken as an attack on evolution. That’s the ticket. Meanwhile, I should stress that Bob the Tomato does not do anything faith-specific while making this closing benediction, such as falling on his knees and making the sign of the cross. Bob the Tomato (see second image) does not have knees or arms.

What else was cut? Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer provided some details to The Tennessean:

Eliminated lines from one episode included “Calm down. The Bible says we should love our enemies.” In another episode, Vischer said, NBC allowed the line “the Bible says Samson got his strength from God.” But the next line — “And God can give us strength, too” — was out.

The changes included cuts in dialogue where characters utter the word “God” and were so last-minute and awkward, Vischer said, that in some cases “it makes the stories not work very well.” For the sign-off, where the original words were simply voiced-over, “the lips don’t match, so it kind of looks like a Japanese cartoon with lips moving” out of synch with the words, he said.

A commenter on the Get Religion post points out the absurdity of NBC acquiring the rights to air Veggie Tales, but then stripping out the religious content:

This is like “Gunsmoke without the guns”....

But it still strikes me as mind blowingly stupid and ultimately self-defeating for NBC. They pay good money for a unique property that comes to them with a built in audience. They then proceed to deliberately remove the one thing that makes the property unique and valuable while simultaneously alienating said built in audience.

It reminds me of what CBS did when they gave Riders in the Sky their own Saturday morning show. The Riders perform cowboy music in the tradition of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and the Sons of the Pioneers, leavened with a lot of comedy that appeals to grownups and kids alike. (If they ever come to your town -- here's a list of tour dates -- take your family -- great music and a lot of fun.) I first got to know them through their weekly Riders Radio Theater. Every episode of the show features a sendup of the old Saturday morning cowboy serials, complete with bad guys (the mustache-twirling melodramatic Slocum and his goon Charlie) and their Gabby Hayes-like geezer of a sidekick, known as Sidemeat.

(This article, from 1997, does a good job of explaining what Riders in the Sky are all about.)

So CBS thought they'd be great for Saturday morning. They could do their cowboy stuff on TV -- but no guns. Not "no shooting guns" but "no guns visible at all." And the villains weren't allowed to be really villainous. This from the network that aired Gunsmoke.

(It must be noted that, even when they're allowed to have guns, the Riders' weapons of choice are Ranger Doug's hypersonic yodel and Sidemeat's biscuits -- "the hardest substance known to man.")

Not only do the networks not "get religion," I don't think they "get" much of anything outside of the very narrow perspective of Hollywoodland.

"Secession" stand


People who can't find something interesting to do in Tulsa just aren't looking hard enough.

Tulsa is home to a chapter of the Altarnet Film Society, a group that exists to promote films "that have a transcendent theme, story, or experience." The AFS website asks and answers the question:

Could there be films that positively communicate wonderful deep concepts? Is it possible to have stories that encourage the heart and inspire personal greatness without being cheesy or corny? At AFS we have discovered that there are just such films, some only a minute long, others 10:00, still others 30:00 long. Let’s screen them together and then talk about what we have just experienced!

The Tulsa chapter holds a screening the last Saturday of each month, and this Saturday they'll be showing Secession, written by Tulsa-based blogger Earnest Pettie, a graduate of OU's film school. Here's the film's synopsis:

An under-appreciated, under-loved housewife decides to move out... or rather, in... to her own pantry. In a war of wills, her husband and son must come to terms with this housewife's unorthodox decision.

It's based on a short story that Earnest wrote, and it was directed by Kate Christensen. Following the film, Earnest will take questions.

The screening will be Saturday night at 7:30, at the Agora Coffeehouse, just northeast of the fountain in the Fontana Shopping Center, 51st & Memorial.

MORE: On his MySpace blog, Earnest wrote about the travails of location shoots for his latest production, "A Man and His Mustache."

AND YET MORE: Here's a short trailer for A Man and His Mustache.

BatesLine has saluted the paintings of William Bouguereau on several occasions in the past, so I was excited to read in the latest Urban Tulsa Weekly that Tulsa's Philbrook Museum is hosting an exhibition of Bouguereau's work and that of his students, beginning on Sunday and running through the end of the year.

Holly Wall's story about the exhibition puts Bouguereau's life and career in the context of the artistic trends of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Popular in his lifetime, his work was obscured within a few years after his death by the rise of impressionism. At long last it's respectable again to enjoy realism in painting.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Lost amid the veto politics this week was the fact that Congress also moved in other ways on ethics and medical research. Mr. Bush signed a bill passed unanimously by the House and Senate that outlawed "fetal farming," or the practice of raising and aborting fetuses for scientific research. The Senate also passed legislation that would have encouraged greater research into exploiting the stem cells scientists need without destroying embryos, as well as research into adult stem cells. That bill failed in the House, mainly because Democrats think they can use stem cells as a political issue against Republicans this fall.

The bill, S. 2754, passed the Senate unanimously, but for some reason needed a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules and pass the bill in the House. The vote was 273-154, with nearly all Republicans voting in favor, and two-thirds of the Democrats voting against.

Only stem cells from non-embryonic sources have found therapeutic uses. Pro-Life Blogs has a list of recent stories about adult stem-cell breakthroughs.

From an e-mail alert from Tony Lauinger, chairman of Oklahomans for Life:

On Tuesday, July 18, the Senate will vote on H.R. 810, a bill that would force taxpayers to fund research using stem cells obtained by killing human embryos. This bill, which is strongly opposed by Oklahomans For Life and National Right to Life, would overturn President Bush's pro-life policy against federal funding of any research that requires the killing of human embryos.

The Senate will vote the same day on two good bills, S. 3504 and S. 2754.

S. 3504, the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act, would make it a federal offense for a researcher to use tissue from a human baby who has been gestated in a woman's womb, or an animal womb, for the purpose of providing such tissue. Some researchers have already conducted such "fetus farming" experiments with animals -- for example, by gestating cloned calves to four months and then aborting them to obtain their kidney and heart tissues for transplantation.

S. 2754, the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act, would require the National Institutes of Health to support research to try to find methods of creating pluripotent stem cells (which are cells that can be turned into any sort of body tissue) without creating or harming human embryos.

Please urge Senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn to vote against H.R. 810, and in favor of the ban on fetus farming (S. 3504) and the ethical-alternatives bill (S. 2754). Tell your senators that you are in favor of research, but not the kinds of research that require the killing of human embryos.

The NRLC has a Legislative Action Center page to make it easy to communicate with your U. S. Senators, or you can call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

I'm happy to see one bill (S. 2754) with a positive focus on stem cell research that doesn't involve destroying embryonic human life. All the breakthroughs in the therapeutic application of stem cells have involved stem cells derived from adult tissue or umbilical cord blood, not from embryos.

I'm fairly confident that Coburn and Inhofe will do the right thing on these bills, but there are some ostensibly pro-life Republican senators (like Majority Leader Bill Frist) who have been seduced by the celebrity supporters of the destruction of embryonic human life. They need to hear from us.

It's worth remembering, too, that the issue is one of funding. Embryonic stem cell research is legal, but adult stem cell research has been more successful at attracting private funding because it has shown the most promising results.

MORE on the issue, found via Pro-Life Blogs:

Buried toward the end of a pro-embryo-destruction story in the July 24 issue of Time:

The good news for all sides is that over the course of this long argument, researchers have learned more about how stem cells work, and the science has outrun the politics. Adult cells, such as those found in bone marrow, were thought to be less valuable than embryonic cells, which are "pluripotent" master cells that can turn into anything from a brain cell to a toenail. But adult cells may be more elastic than scientists thought, and could offer shortcuts to treatment that embryonic cells can't match.

Researchers have discovered that many tissues and organs contain precursor cells that act in many ways like stem cells. The skin, intestines, liver, brain and bone marrow contain these stem cell-- mimicking cells, which could become a reservoir of replacement cells for treating diseases such as leukemias, stroke and some cancers. "Brain stem-cells can make almost all cell types in the brain, and that may be all we need if we want to treat Parkinson's disease or ALS," says Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, who directs the University of California at San Francisco's Institute for Regeneration Medicine. "Embryonic stem cells might not be necessary in those cases." When it comes to treating heart disease, "if you could find a progenitor cell in the adult heart that has the ability to replicate," says Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, "then it's likely easier to start with that cell than begin with an embryonic stem cell, which has too many options."

Cheerleaders for adult stem-cell research point to progress on everything from spinal-cord injuries to diabetes. Scientists at the University of Minnesota have used umbilical-cord-blood stem cells to improve some neurological function; in a paper published last month, Dr. Carlos Lima in Portugal wrote about restoring some motor function and sensation in a few paralyzed patients. At a recent conference of researchers from around the world, a team from Kyoto University in Japan reported success in taking a skin cell, exposing it to four key growth factors and turning it into an embryo-like entity that produced stem cells--all without using an egg. The Kyoto group has submitted its work for publication, after which it will be open to the scrutiny of the scientific community. If successful, it could turn stem-cell science from a tedious, finicky process into a relatively straightforward chemistry project.

(Found via Pro Ecclesia.)

Here is how House members voted on H.R. 810. All four Oklahoma Republicans voted against; lone Democrat Dan Boren voted for the bill.

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost reports that supporters of H.R. 810 are trying to achieve Clintonesque moral hair-splitting:

Congressional bill H. R. 810 seeks to codify the Clinton workaround by circumventing the Dickey Amendment. They dont want to have the blood on their hands (hence their refusal to fund embryo destruction) but once the human has been killed, theyll fund the subsequent research.

The fact that so many legislators can be duped into believing that ESCR will ever lead to cures is simply astounding, and shows the paucity of intellect and discernment on Capital Hill. Ignorance, however, is excusable; cowardice is not. If the party of death (which includes 93% of the Democratic party and 21% of the GOP) truly believes in this research, then they should at least have the courage to sign the death warrant for the humans being destroyed.

Columnist Michael Reagan sums up the state of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR):

Far from curing everything from Alzheimers Disease to spinal cord injuries, and a whole host of other medical problems as proponents promise, all ESCR has produced thus far is cancerous tumors in lab animals. And even top ESCR scientists now admit that any progress in the field is 25 years away, after they stop killing lab animals, that is....

The ESCR community based most of their inflated claims on the work of South Korean scientist Huang Woo-suk, who claimed to have created the world's first cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them, raising hopes of cures for diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Dr. Huang was widely acclaimed as a world-class stem cell pioneer and treated as a hero until investigations disclosed that he had fabricated key data in two papers published in the U.S. journal, Science. He has now admitted the fraud and has been indicted along with five of his associates.

I think Dan Paden has this exactly right:

The real issue when it comes to the hard-core homeless is this: a sense of independence carried to an almost pathological extreme, such that eventually, one has no friends, no relatives, no support network, or at least none of these that are willing to help. Imagine, you who belong to a thriving church, who thrive on close family connections, being out of work and not having anyone who will tip you off to an opportunity in their company, no one who will recommend you to anyone, no one who will take phone calls for you, no one who will so much as let you sleep in their garage while you beat the streets looking for work--and that you'd rather have it that way than put up with the way that they want you to do things, rather than have to listen to their advice.

Social capital may be more important to survival and success than financial capital. I think about all the help we've had over the years from family, friends, fellow church members, and political allies.

For example, we have in our home an impressive amount of baby clothing, equipment, and toys for which we didn't pay. Some of them were gifts, but most of them are loaners. There's a $200 baby hammock -- never would have spent the money for it, but someone in our church had one, their baby had grown out of it, and they were happy to lend it to us for a few months. When our baby has grown out of it, we'll give it back, and the owners will likely pass it along to another church family with a new baby.

You don't get that kind of help unless other people feel they know you and can trust you, and you build that kind of knowledge and trust by being faithfully and consistently involved with other people over a long period of time, helping others with what you have to offer.

In order to build social capital, you have to do some things even when you don't feel like doing them. You have to avoid speaking your mind when it might be hurtful. You have to try not to burn bridges, even when you really want to. And when you do screw up and burn bridges, you try to rebuild them, even if it means eating your words.

I'm reminded of C. S. Lewis's depiction of the Grey Town in The Great Divorce. Because its residents could build a new place to live just by willing it into being, people would part company over the most minor offences, moving further and further away from each other. No interdependence, no community, complete autonomy. (The Grey Town, as it turned out, was Hell.)

Daily Yale Nailing


A few days ago I told you about Yale University's admission, as a special student, of an official from Afghanistan's brutal Taliban regime and about Yale alumnus Clint Taylor's creative way of expressing displeasure with the university.

To provide continuing coverage of the nailing of Yale and to keep public scrutiny and pressure on the university as they consider admitting Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi as a full-fledged undergraduate, Taylor and a few others have set up the Nail Yale blog at The blog's witty tagline: "Fighting the Talibanality of Evil in the Ivy League." You'll find a link in the blogroll on the right side of my homepage.

Defenders of Yale are accusing Taylor and other critics of SRH's admission of being xenophobic. Taylor responds:

"Xenophobia" is the weakest, most ridiculous attack against our campaign the Yale Taliban's few defenders have managed to come up with yet. It's baseless and desperate. Debbie and I have stated again and again that there are so many qualifed people in the Middle East--democrats and reformers instead of theocrats and fascists--who could have taken Mr. Rahmatullah's spot in Yale's special student program.

Our beef is about Mr. Rahmatullah alone. The man served the Taliban. That's evil. You know why we're having this discussion about Mr. Rahmatullah and not about any other foreign student in the special student program? Because Mr. Rahmatullah is the only one who has business cards from the Taliban bearing his name. That's not xenophobia. That's just basic moral clarity.

Hooray for basic moral clarity, and a hearty "Boola, Boola" to Yale alumni who are continuing in the proud tradition of God and Man at Yale.

To the young lady who waited on me in the department store this evening:

I felt sorry for you, as I walked toward your counter with my purchase. From 30 feet away I could see the bright red spot there at the fold of your nostril. That's a spot that's prone to clogged pores, I thought. It was obviously inflamed, festering. It almost seemed shiny.

When I got to the counter, I realized it really was shiny, and it was a tiny red gem, not a zit. (It might have been a carbuncle, albeit not the kind you lance.)

You seemed to have a flawless complexion, and you must spend a lot of time caring for it. Why would you mess it up with a piece of jewelry that looks like a bad skin condition? Are you wearing it to demonstrate solidarity with your acne-afflicted peers?

I don't get it. Do any of my fellow fortyish fogeys get it?

There's an oddly ambivalent editorial about abortion in today's Daily Telegraph, Britain's leading conservative broadsheet, citing the University of Oslo study on the psychological effects of abortion. The paper calls for tightening abortion laws by making the gestational age limit earlier than the current 24 weeks. The article's headline is "The shame of our abortion laws." The editorial is careful not to condemn abortion:

Abortion, like miscarriage, involves the loss of a baby; unlike miscarriage, the loss is the result of a conscious decision. And the operation itself, as Germaine Greer has taken to reminding her fellow feminists, is a gruesome one. No wonder that a fifth of women continue to feel depression, shame or guilt.

At this point we should stress that those feelings may be (and probably are) inappropriate. This newspaper has never offered a view on the morality of abortion per se.

So, according to the Telegraph, the feelings of guilt, shame, and depression are inappropriate, and they say that presumably because they believe there's nothing wrong with having an abortion. Yet they chide Prime Minister Tony Blair for not supporting an earlier cutoff for late-term abortions:

In the short term, more post-abortion counselling is needed. In the long term, the need for it should be reduced by a change in the law. The current limit of 24 weeks is appallingly high; yet Tony Blair, a practising Christian, has opposed efforts to reduce it even slightly. It is he, rather than women who have been pressurised into having abortions, who should feel ashamed.

While I'm glad to see the Telegraph support any further restrictions on abortion, the reasoning in this piece is incoherent, and it reflects an incoherence that I observe in the British Conservative Party, and in the Republican Party in the "blue states". There's a recognition that sound traditional values are being violated, to the detriment of individuals, families, and society, but there's an unwillingness to contradict the spirit of the age by bluntly calling a practice wrong, immoral, or evil.

Voters who hold to traditional values in Britain and in Blue State America have no political home. No major party is speaking to their concerns and priorities, so they stay home on election day. The Conservative Party in Britain and the Republican Party in the US should be the natural homes of these voters, but they're kept at arms' length by the entrenched party apparatus. In Red State America, these motivated values voters have been able to dominate state and local Republican organizations, but the older, once-influential Republican organizations in the Blue States are designed to resist grassroots influence and keep the same people in control of an ever-shrinking party.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum


The British do obituaries better than anyone else. Far from foisting the duty off on entry-level reporters, British newspapers seem to put their best writers to the task of remembering the recently departed. Even if you've never heard of the deceased, the obituary will draw you in with vivid detail and anecdote. It's not unusual to see an obit of someone who was never particularly famous, but nevertheless lived a fascinating life. For example, today the Telegraph has obituaries of Kenneth Swan, proprietor of a cruise line that featured on-board lectures on ancient history, Steve Marcus, saxophonist with Buddy Rich's band, and American playwright August Wilson. The death of the chemist who invented Valium provides occasion for a glimpse at the societal impact of anti-anxiety drugs.

As distinctive as British obits are, I never expected to read a death notice as blunt as the Telegraph's post-mortem of American pop-psych author M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled:

Its opening sentence, "Life is difficult", introduced a tome which argued, uncontentiously and sensibly, that human experience was trying and imperfectible, and that only self-discipline, delaying gratification, acceptance that one's actions have consequences, and a determined attempt at spiritual growth could make sense of it. By contrast, Peck himself was, by his own admission, a self-deluding, gin-sodden, chain-smoking neurotic whose life was characterised by incessant infidelity and an inability to relate to his parents or children. "I'm a prophet, not a saint," he explained in an interview earlier this year....

Latterly he suffered from impotence and Parkinson's Disease and devoted himself to Christian songwriting, at which he was not very good.

He married Lily Ho in 1959; they had three children, two of whom would not talk to their father. She left him in 2003. He is survived by his second wife, Kathy, an educationalist he picked up, while still married, after a lecture at Sacramento, and by his children.

(Hat tip to Joey McKeown.)

You can find Telegraph obituaries here -- free registration required.

Via Mister Snitch!, there's news of a woman, 19 years a paraplegic, who has regained some feeling and movement in her legs following infusion of stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

Mister Snitch writes: "If this, again, is valid, it probably also marks the beginning of the end of principled resistance against stem cell research in this country. The political tide will quickly swing overwhelmingly in favor of more research, and quickly."

I am not aware of any opposition to any form of stem cell research. The principled resistance is to embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Extracting stem cells from an embryo results in the end of that human life; extracting stem cells from cord blood, bone marrow, fat cells, or mucous membranes -- "adult" stem cells -- does not destroy the living human being from whom the cells are taken.

Adult stem cell research has produced real therapeutic benefits, but for some reason it is overlooked by celebrity proponents of embryonic stem cell research. Perhaps it's because it undermines the argument that ESCR is essential. Some ESCR supporters seem desperate to find some positive benefit that can justify the destruction of human life, but so far, all the results have come from non-controversial adult stem cell research.

It reminds me of the lifeboat scenario used to teach "values clarification": There are too many people in a lifeboat, so you have to decide whose life is worth saving and whose should be sacrificed. Ideally, you figure a way so everyone can be saved and no one has to be thrown overboard. That's what adult stem cell research offers.

If there is any political tide resulting from this development, it ought to sweep away federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and deposit those dollars with researchers who are achieving cures using stem cells from cord blood and other sources that respect the sanctity of human life.

Karol, a Russian immigrant herself, notes that there are now more abortions than live births in Russia each year and says that "Russians are the only people I've heard actually be pro-abortion and unapologetically so." She reports some jaw-dropping conversations that reveal an amazingly casual attitude toward abortion among her Russian friends and acquaintances.

Carry-ed away


The history lesson this week at Audience of One was about
temperance activist Carry A. Nation, which gets Brian to musing about America's love/hate relationship with alcohol.

In the entry following that one, Brian, a middle school administrator, writes what he'd like to put in the annual start-of-the-school year letter to parents, about grades, homework, projects, and behavior.

That's right, its not all about the grade you get. This isn't high school and you aren't polishing a transcript to show off to colleges. At this age it is about learning skills and establishing habits that will carry you through those high school and college years. Organization. Prioritizing. Goal setting. Finding your passions. Learning social skills. How to make sense of a mass of information. Of course you want your child to make good grades. So do I. But what we both should really want is for him/her to LEARN. Its not the same thing. If you focus on learning the grades will take care of themselves.

Read the whole thing for more wise words.

Memorial Bible Church, on 61st Street east of Memorial, will host a rally celebrating this year's passage of significant pro-life legislation -- an informed consent law, a parental notification law, and a law concerning unborn victims of crime. The event is from 2 - 5 p.m., Sunday, August 14, and many of the legislators involved in the passage of this legislation will be in attendance. The Tulsa Beacon has details.

The passage of these bills demonstrates that it does matter who gets elected to the legislature and which party controls the legislature. None of this would have happened if the Democrats still ran the State House. Despite the large number of pro-life Democratic voters and pro-life Democrats in the legislature, in the past, the Democrat legislative leadership bottled up pro-life legislation in hostile committees. This year, the Republican leadership in the House took the initiative, and with the help of a handful of pro-life Democrats in the Senate, Senate Republican leaders were able to get the bill through the legislative process, bypassing the committee of virulently anti-Christian Sen. Bernest Cain.

This is an achievement worth celebrating, a reminder that progress is possible in politics. Hope to see you there.

Tulsa blogger Matt Galloway has a lengthy, fascinating, and instructive entry on trendsetters, the adoption of new technology, and how to reach the people who are the trendsetters. The Influentials who set the trends are increasingly resistant to traditional marketing approaches, but guess what? The Influentials are blog readers and blog writers.

I couldn't believe my ears when I heard this on the radio. Sen. Bill Frist, once considered a contender for the 2008 presidential nomination, pretty much killed his chances by stating that he believes that parents should have the option of destroying their unborn children if it's for a good cause.

Specifically, Frist now favors federal funding for stem cell research involving the destruction of human embryos. He insists, however that the "parents" should make the choice. Um, if they're parents then doesn't that make what they're destroying a .... y'know?

Joel Helbling has details and analysis worth reading.

If you assumed that the "Reverend" Fred Phelps was a right-wing Republican, you assumed wrong:

Rev. Phelps has run in numerous Democratic primary elections for governor of the state of Kansas in 1992, 1994, and the last time in 1998, when he came in last with 15,000 votes out of a total of over 103,000 votes cast, or 15%.

Phelps and family campaigned for Bill Clinton in 1992 and was invited to and attended Clinton's inaugural ball in 1993.

Hat tip to Karol, who says she's never been happier to find out someone is not a Republican. Me, too.

A friend e-mailed asking for comment on the Supreme Court's rulings on the two Ten Commandments cases before it.

Very well.

Were you really expecting coherent jurisprudence on religious expression in the public realm from this Court?

P.O.V. on CPB


After reading in USA Today about the premiere tonight of the PBS documentary series P.O.V., I made a note to tune in:

High-schooler Shelby Knox who pledges celibacy until marriage spearheads a campaign for comprehensive sex education.

Unfortunately, the sound was out on the local PBS affiliate, and efforts to notify someone about the problem failed.

The gist of the USA Today story was about liberal bias in public broadcasting amidst plans for cutting Federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). I was curious to see if a bias toward left-wing views of sexual morality was evident in tonight's documentary. Now I'll have to find out second-hand.

CPB mainly funds program development -- the operation of your local public broadcasting outlet is paid for by listeners, local sponsors, and state and local government.

Actor Robert Redford isn't happy about the proposed CPB cuts:

The United States "was built on a foundation of diversity and of protecting the rights of all people," Redford said. "When I see any attempts by one group to take all absolute power to corrupt our democratic principles that might be narrow or ideologically driven, then I know we're in trouble. PBS belongs to the public."

How does cutting funding to CPB "corrupt our democratic principles"? Is there a fundamental right to have the propagation of your opinions funded by the government? And if PBS belongs to the public, shouldn't it cater to majority tastes? Somehow I don't think that's what Redford has in mind. PBS doesn't need to cater to majority tastes because the market handles that quite efficiently. The market even does a pretty good job of "narrowcasting" to smaller but substantial minority interests, thanks to cable and the Internet. What public interest is served by government funding for one TV station out of 100?

Cutting CPB funds won't mean the end of NPR or PRI or PBS. No one is going to declare Sesame Street blighted and bulldoze it. Boohbah and Teletubbies will still be there to hypnotize children, annoy parents, and enhance the recreational use of controlled substances. Barney's position is, alas, secure. Click and Clack will still dispense automotive wisdom. You'll still be able to wake up each morning to the reassuring tones of Bob Edwards -- no, wait, NPR fired him for being too old. If a program is good enough to attract an audience, companies and viewers will see value in contributing toward its production and broadcast.

A couple of weeks ago I critiqued Ken Neal's op-ed attack on the pro-life stance on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. I acknowledged that he made a valid point about in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and the creation of "surplus" embryos that are routinely frozen or destroyed. If those embryos are human life, as I believe, then we have to question the practice of IVF on moral grounds. The ends -- having a baby -- can't justify the means if the means involve destroying human life.

Today, Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost examines the ethics of IVF and other means of dealing with infertility from a Christian perspective. He links to an article on reproductive technologies by Daniel McConchie of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. McConchie suggests that by taking certain precautions IVF can be used in a way that does not involve destroying embryos or exposing them to a greater level of risk than would be encountered in nature.

There's a vigorous discussion in the comments to Joe Carter's post, and rather than try to duplicate that here, I'm going to turn off comments on this entry. If you have a comment, please post it over there.

Another stem cell research advance that doesn't require destruction of human life: Australian researchers have harvested adult stem cells from the nose which have the potential to be developed into heart, liver, kidney, muscle, and blood cells.

(See my earlier item rebutting Ken Neal's op-ed in Sunday's Tulsa Whirled for more links and information about the ways adult and cord-blood stem cells are already being used therapeutically.)

A dose of the Sith


A while back I alerted you to Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn's Star Wars-themed lunchtime talk on sexually transmitted diseases, featuring free pizza. The intended audience was young Capitol Hill staffers. Both Washington papers covered it. From the the Washington Times:

Mr. Coburn, a family physician, later said he doesn't do the slide show for shock value but sees it as a way to get medical facts to young people.

'They don't get enough information,' he said. Most new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur among people younger than 25, and if people know the science, they can modify their behavior, he said. ...

Yesterday, as he has done before, Mr. Coburn advised adults to refrain from having multiple sexual partners and engaging in unsafe sexual activity.

'What would happen in this country if the young women would say no [to sex] until they're 20?' he asked. 'Disease would go down, the pregnancy rate for unwed mothers would go down, the social costs for the next two generations would go down.'

Mr. Coburn also encouraged sexually active youth to use condoms.

'Condoms make a difference,' he said, cataloging the effectiveness of condoms in protecting against fluid-borne STDs such as HIV/AIDS and gonorrhea.

The problem is that condoms don't offer much prevention against several other diseases, such as herpes, human papillomavirus and syphilis, that are transmitted by skin contact, he said.

The Washington Post reports the audience reaction when the first diseased body part photo appeared on the screen:

This image was now projected up on a wall of the U.S. Capitol, and the mood shifted instantly. None of the 160 or so audience members shrieked, or giggled, or ran out of the room. They're not 15 anymore, and this is a professional environment. The chatter stopped; everyone looked straight ahead, or down at their BlackBerries. A large number of women crossed their arms over their chests. Most everyone seemed encapsulated in the bit of air around them, afraid to move or touch the person sitting next to them. The half-eaten slices of pizza, now cooling on laps, seemed deeply unappetizing.

Lest you think Capitol Hill staffers are too worldly-wise to need this sort of instruction, the Post piece includes this anecdote from a previous lecture:

"You keep mentioning the word 'monogamy'," a staffer named Roland Foster recalls one young woman asking after a lecture. "What is that?"

"That's when you have sex with only one partner," Coburn responded.

"You mean at a time?"

Editorial page editor Ken Neal, in Sunday's Tulsa Whirled, displays both ignorance and disingenuousness on the issue of federal funding for stem cell research. Where to begin with this mess?

It's difficult to understand President Bush's opposition to embryonic stem-cell research.

The president appears to believe that "life" is being destroyed to "save life" if the fertilized human eggs headed for destruction are used for medical research.

Ken, if it's a fertilized human egg, it is life -- a distinct human being that will, unless it's destroyed, grow into a potential Tulsa Whirled subscriber. (You're losing those quickly enough as it is, Ken.)

Much has been made about this president's intelligence. Yet he has demonstrated a very high intelligence, often outthinking and outmaneuvering his opponents. There is nothing stupid about this president.

But he appears to have a mental block on stem-cell research. Or perhaps it is a desire to please the radical right wing, which does seem unable to understand stem-cell facts. The president continually discusses adult stem-cell use, apparently thinking adult stem cells are as therapeutic as embryo cells.

They aren't. They can play a role in fighting disease, but the real potential lies with embryo stem cells. Those stem cells hold
the possibility of curing many problems, including Alzheimer's disease, various spinal cord problems, Parkinson's disease and other maladies for which science might develop cures if given permission and money.

Right, Ken, adult stem cells aren't as therapeutic as embryonic stem cells. They are far more therapeutic. There are actual cures using stem cells from sources that don't require the destruction of human life, but none to date involving embryonic stem cells. Patients with congestive heart failure have been treated with their own stem cells (from bone marrow), resulting in improved heart function. A seven-year-old girl with a severe skull injury was treated with fat-derived stem cells which resulted in new bone formation -- she no longer has to wear a protective helmet. Cord blood stem cells have been used to cure infants who have Krabbe disease, a rare and fatal genetic disorder.

(Hat tip for above links to Joel Helbling, for his handy tabular synopsis of stem cell research from December 2004 through February 2005, based on data from the Stem Cell Research Foundation.)

Back to Ken Neal:

Bush steadfastly opposes "killing life to save life," and if that were an accurate statement he would deserve support in that position.

Yet that statement is tantamount to setting up a straw man to beat on.

No one plans to kill in order to save life.

The president's position is particularly perplexing because he has already approved federal funds for use of embryos fertilized in fertilization clinics before Aug. 9, 2001, provided these embryos were headed for destruction anyway.

This is precisely what science wants: The right to experiment on embryos conceived outside the womb since then. Question: Are embryos conceived before Aug. 9, 2001, any less "life" than those conceived after that date?

To be consistent, the president would have to make that contention.

Here Ken is either sloppy or deliberately deceptive. The date of conception was not an issue in President Bush's directive, which allowed the use of federal funds for research on stem cell lines derived from human embryos prior to the date of his order. That means that the embryos had already been destroyed by that date. Bush's order was intended to remove federal funding as an incentive to destroy any more embryos, regardless of when they had been conceived.

Speaking of straw men, the President isn't challenging science's "right" to experiment on human embryos -- although he should. The issue before the government is federal funding for such inhuman experimentation. Isn't that a chilling way to put it? "Science wants the right to experiment with embryos."

Ken wants freedom for scientists, complete freedom from ethical constraints:

Science is continually advancing in the ways that stem cells taken from embryos, umbilical cord blood and human adults can be used. It is constantly learning. But in order for it to learn, even develop uses for stem cells from other than embryos, it must have the right to experiment without Big Brother looking over scientists' shoulders.

Calling Dr. Mengele! All is forgiven. The Tulsa Whirled is ready to set you up with a new lab and plenty of victims, um, subjects, and without any nosey Big Brothers looking over your shoulder worrying about the sanctity and dignity of human life.

Ken goes on to make a valid point about in vitro fertilization:

All over the country, fertility clinics work daily to help couples conceive. To do that, potential mothers are given fertility drugs resulting in the release of many human eggs. In most cases, there are surplus eggs, most of which are fertilized in a petri dish. Some of these are implanted into prospective mothers, but most are either frozen or discarded.

This is true.

Why not use these embryos for scientific research? Bush and those who support his position never discuss this situation. If one truly believes these fertilized eggs are life, then there would be a hue and cry to find women who would accept them and carry them to full term and develop babies. Some estimates are that there are 400,000 surplus fertilized eggs in these clinics.

There is an organization called Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program devoted to this purpose.

Or, one would expect a demand to ban fertilization in vitro in order to bring a few of the eggs so fertilized to life. Why are Bush and those who support him so quiet about this?

Fertilization clinics routinely "kill" hundreds, perhaps thousands of embryos, which "pro-life" proponents choose to ignore.

Ken's back with another straw man to beat up. In fact, many pro-lifers make exactly this point. You may recall reading about someone who lost her job earlier this year in part because she thought this fact should not be obscured.

Back to Ken, who is now worrying about President Bush's legacy:

Future historians are apt to wonder why this country chose to follow ignorance and fall far behind the rest of the world in developing cures for dreaded diseases. It is as if an earlier president had banned government research into smallpox, leaving the war on that killer disease to other countries because he had misguided moral scruples against such research.

President Bush should quit listening to a small, but noisy, part of his constituency, remember he is no longer running for office and do the right thing on stem-cell research.

Ken Neal apparently believes that the President is as disingenuous as he is. President Bush actually believes in the sanctity of human life, beginning at conception. His moral scruples aren't misguided, and he is doing the right thing on stem-cell research by announcing his plan to veto federal funding for the destruction of human beings in the name of progress.

In the June 9 issue of the New York Review of Books, Joan Didion has a wide-ranging 8000-word essay of the details of Terri Schiavo's life and death. As familiar as I am with the controversy, it was still eye-opening to see all the key issues, medical details, and turning points outlined in one place.

Here's Didion on the use of language in the public debate over Terri's fate:

During the period this spring when the spectral presence called "Terri" dominated the national discourse, such areas of confusion between what was known and not known and merely assumed or repeated went largely unremarked upon. Taking a position, which had become the essence of that discourse, demanded impenetrable certainty. There were two entire weeks during which it was possible to hear the Schiavo case debated all day and all night and still not get it straight whether there was, as people were actually shouting at each other on the cable talk shows, "anybody home." ("You're wrong, Pat, flat line, nobody home.") Theresa Schiavo was repeatedly described as "brain dead." This was inaccurate: those whose brains are dead are unable even to breathe, and can be kept alive only on ventilators. She was repeatedly described as "terminal." This too was inaccurate. She was "terminal" only in the sense that her husband had obtained a court order authorizing the removal of her feeding tube; her actual physical health was such that she managed to stay alive in a hospice, in which only palliative treatment is given and patients without antibiotics often die of the pneumonia that accompanies immobility or the bacteremia that accompanies urinary catheterization, for five years.

Even after the removal of the feeding tube, she lived thirteen days. The removal of this feeding tube was repeatedly described as "honoring her directive." This, again, was inaccurate: there was no directive. Any expressed wish in this matter existed only in the belated telling of her husband and two of his relatives (his brother Scott Schiavo and their sister-in-law Joan Schiavo), who testified in a hearing on a 1998 petition that they had heard Theresa express the thought that she would not wish her life to be artificially prolonged. One time she was said to have expressed this thought was when Michael and Scott Schiavo's grandmother was on life support. "If I ever go like that, just let me go," Scott Schiavo said that he had heard Theresa say. "Don't leave me there." Another expression of the thought, Joan Schiavo testified, occurred when the two women were watching a television movie about a man on a feeding tube: according to Michael Schiavo's attorney, George J. Felos, what Theresa said was this: "No tubes for me."

This may be the first time that the blue-state readership of the New York Review of Books encounters some of the facts and connections that were well-known to readers of Blogs for Terri but which never seemed to make it into the mainstream media coverage of the case. Didion challenges the conventional wisdom on many fronts -- here, the idea that a "living will" is the answer to the dilemmas presented by Terri's situation:

There was considerable fuzziness here, not least in the reverence accorded the "living will," which seemed increasingly to be another of those well-meant and seemingly unassailable ideas that do not quite work the way we are encouraged to think they work. The chances of being admitted conscious to a hospital without being pressed to produce a living will have become virtually nil, yet any "living will" prepared in advance (as in "advance directive," exactly the document we are pressed to produce) requires us to make specific medical decisions about situations we cannot conceivably anticipate. According to studies cited last year in the Hastings Center Report by a medical researcher and a law professor at the University of Michigan, Angela Fagerlin and Carl E. Schneider, almost a third of such decisions, after periods as short as two years, no longer reflect the wishes of those who made them. The "health care proxy" or durable power of attorney, through which we assign someone we trust to make the decisions we can no longer make, is the better document, but it optimistically presupposes that we will each have with us at end of life "someone we trust."

The further problem with such directives is that they can be construed as coercive: no one wants to be a "burden." Few of us want to be perceived as considering our own lives more important than the ongoing life and prosperity of the family. Few of us will sit with a husband or wife or child in a lawyer's office or a doctor's office and hesitate to sign the piece of paper that will mean, when the day goes downhill, the least trouble for all concerned. For all the emphasis on the importance of "choice," the only choice generally approved by the culture is to sign the piece of paper, "not be a burden," die.

Whatever your position on the Terri Schiavo case, and whether you paid close attention or not when it was happening, this piece is worth your time and attention.

(Hat tip to Galley Slaves for the link.)

Someone call Imperial OSHA


Not the best of the six by any means, but still a very impressive movie. Even knowing how it must end, and even knowing how each scene must end, I still found myself surprised, and I jumped and my jaw dropped at Anakin's actions during the confrontation between Windu and the Chancellor.

The part of the evening that really got my heart going, though, was the trailer for "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." The title isn't revealed until the end of the trailer, and it was fun to watch my son's face as he began to recognize bits of the story, and he looked back at me with a huge grin of anticipation.

One thing about "Revenge of the Sith" especially bugged me, and it's bugged me since the very first movie:

They were able to build spectacular cities, intelligent and versatile robots, massive and fantastic space vehicles that could leap in and out of hyperspace, and a Death Star that could take out a planet with a single blast.

So how come no one in the Star Wars universe ever figured out how to build a simple guardrail?

The right of the disabled to choose to continue to receive food and water is being contested in court in the United Kingdom.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the General Medical Council (GMC) is appealing a 2004 British High Court decision that gave a terminally ill Lancaster man the right to insist on receiving food and water through a tube, regardless of the opinion of his doctors.

Last summer, the High Court ruled in favor of Leslie Burke, who was diagnosed over 20 years ago with a degenerative neurological condition that will eventually cause him to lose the ability to swallow, while still retaining full awareness. Burke does not want to die of thirst, a process that can take two to three weeks. Because he may also lose the ability to speak by that time, he wants to ensure that his wishes are followed while he can still express them. Burke went to the court to challenge GMC guidelines that would let the doctors, not him, decide whether he should have a feeding tube:

GMC guidelines published in 2002 tell doctors it is their responsibility, rather than that of the patient, to decide whether to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging treatment.

Paragraph 81 effectively allows doctors to withdraw artificial nutrition or hydration from a patient who is not dying because it "may cause suffering, or be too burdensome in relation to the possible benefits".

At the time, the GMC said that the court ruling was unnecessary, that nothing in its standards would require or encourage a doctor to withhold food and water. Now the GMC has filed an appeal, arguing that the ruling gives a patient too much power:

Yesterday, Philip Havers, QC, for the doctors' governing body, said the judge's ruling had effectively "extended the reach of patient autonomy" and redefined the test as to what treatment was in a patient's best interests.

Mr Havers said there was "no evidence" that any member of the medical profession was likely to treat Mr Burke, or apply the GMC's guidance, in the way that he feared.

Follow that? The GMC is saying we're pretty sure we'll give you food and water, but we don't want the law to require us to do it if we don't want to.

In written submissions, however, Mr Havers told the Master of the Rolls, Lord Phillips, sitting with Lords Justices Waller and Wall, that Mr Justice Munby's conclusions put doctors in an "impossibly difficult position".

The result would be that a patient could require a doctor to provide a form of treatment that the doctor considered of no clinical benefit if not harmful.

"Such a conclusion is not in the best interests of patients," said Mr Havers - both as a matter of principle and because it would gravely undermine the "therapeutic partnership based on joint decision-making between doctors and patients".

It would also put the doctor "in an impossibly difficult position, for a doctor should never be required to provide a particular form of treatment to a patient which he does not consider to be clinically appropriate".

Requiring doctors to provide such treatment would undermine the relationship of trust that doctors have with the public they seek to serve, Mr Havers added. It would also be inconsistent with the Hippocratic oath that doctors used to take.

Notice that the GMC is classifying food and water as "treatment," not as basic necessities of life. Notice, too, the gobbledygook about how giving a patient the right not to die of thirst would undermine the "therapeutic partnership" and the "relationship of trust" between patient and doctor.

I think Leslie Burke would not care much about the state of his "therapeutic partnership" with a doctor who is trying to starve him to death.

Read what Burke had to say after last summer's court ruling:

Mr Burke said it seemed as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "I am ecstatic," he said. "I can't tell you what it means to me.

"Anybody could be in the same situation so this has far-reaching consequences. It could happen to somebody in a car accident, not just people with a disability.

"A doctor could decide to withdraw hydration and nutrition and effectively starve a person until they die.

"Doctors have told me I'm going to deteriorate to the stage where I need to be hospitalised and need artificial nutrition and hydration. This could be in 15 or 20 years, but my communication and speech is already deteriorating and is a problem now.

"I won't be able to communicate my wishes either way and this could just be withdrawn without my consent. I would be fully conscious the whole time and it could take two or three weeks to die.

"It's not any way to treat vulnerable people. In a civilised society, it can't be right to allow vulnerable people to effectively starve to death."

Hear, hear. Let's pray that the appeals court agrees.

I get Steve Fair's "Fair and Biased" updates via e-mail (subscribe at okgop -at-, and the current update contains the following item from Roll Call magazine about Oklahoma's junior senator:

You won't want to miss the next big blockbuster thriller, "Revenge of the STDs," coming soon to a theater near you.

A takeoff on "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith," the STD flick -- yes, it's about sexually transmitted diseases -- is a tradition sponsored by Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn. (He held six annual safe-sex slide shows during his three terms in the House.)

Coburn has been sending around a "Star Wars"-themed flier touting this year's slide show with a picture of Yoda declaring, "Stop the STDs, we must," and Darth Vader warning, "Never underestimate the power of the STDs."

The spacey flier opens much the same way "Star Wars" does: "Not so long ago, there were only two known sexually transmitted diseases. Today there are more than 25 STDs which infect more than 19 million Americans each year. ..."

Coburn notes that many people are not aware that the human papillomavirus infects 5.5 million Americans each year. "Studies have shown that condoms do not provide effective protection against HPV infection," Coburn states, adding in a "Dear Colleague" letter that as a physician he personally has witnessed the "ravaging effects" of STDs. "In many cases, STDs lurk undetected in the body for months or years before unleashing their terrible effects," he writes.

Coburn is inviting all Members of Congress, staff and interns to attend the slide show on May 26 (one week after the opening of the final installment of the "Star Wars" saga) at 11:45 a.m. in HC-5 of the Capitol. "A free pizza lunch will be served but attendees should be advised that some slides contain graphic images."

Sen. Coburn has been under fire from the Senate Ethics Committee for wanting to continue practicing as an OB/GYN, as he did during his years in the U. S. House. If you can look beyond the Star Wars gimmickry, this presentation illustrates one of the benefits of having legislators who are still connected with a profession. Coburn can speak on this public health threat from experience; other senators are getting information from lobbyists from Planned Parenthood or SIECUS or other pressure groups. Coburn is able to challenge the conventional wisdom about condoms, and to call his colleagues' attention to the fact that condoms can't protect against HPV, which causes cervical cancer, a fact that deserves consideration as Congress debates funding for abstinence-based sex education.

I hope Coburn gets a good turnout, but I wonder about the wisdom of choosing pizza for the entree.

Matt of Overtaken by Events tells us about another non-profit organization with an innocuous name and a positive reputation that has been captured by the forces of political correctness. The YWCA's position page advocates for unrestricted abortion, for the registration of firearms and a ban on handguns, and is "pro-LGBTQ rights," using after-school programs to "promot[e] awareness with workshops on sexuality."

Matt writes: "If you were confused when little Sally came home from her swimming class and burned her training bra, wonder no longer."

Several pro-life bills passed the Oklahoma House last month but have been bottled up in committee in the Democrat-controlled State Senate. In his weekly Capitol Update, Rep. Kevin Calvey reports that some of these proposals are going to be considered after all, having been attached as amendments to a Senate bill that came through the House corrections committee:

Senate Bill 807, by State Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, and State Rep. Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, would target criminals involved in pornography and the abuse of women and children.