"A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take away everything you have."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas to all!

If you haven't seen it already (or even if you have) I encourage you to watch Charlie Brown Christmas. Here is my favorite part, with Linus on "what Christmas is all about." Can you believe they used to show this stuff on TV, and that it's still running today!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Food Safety Modernization Act

I had intended to write about this piece of legislation in a more timely fashion (shortly after it came up for vote in the Senate Thanksgiving week) but other things came up. Now I see that S. 510, the so-called Food Safety Modernization Act, has passed the House and is heading to the President's desk. This occured in spite of consitutionality questions; since this legislation is considered revenue-generating it should have originated in the House, not in the Senate. The Complete Patient (also see previous posts) has written several posts with great analysis.

The bill is intended to bring food safety into the present after outbreaks of foodborn illness. In fact it greatly increases FDA oversight of farming and the food industry, and increases extremely burdensome regulations on food production. Senator Tom Coburn, who outspokenly opposed the bill, believes that the increased regulation would not actually make food safer. He said: "The problem with food safety is the agencies don't do what they're supposed to be doing now. They don't need more regulations. They need less." Sen. Coburn also objected to the cost of the new legislation, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates as a "negligible" $1.4 million over four years.

Originally there was a great deal of outcry (from the few who knew this bill existed) because the new regulations would apply to all food production regardless of size. Sen. John Tester proposed an amendment as a solution to this problem, exempting small farms and those who sell at farmer's markets. Though this appeared to be a solution for small farms, instead of simply exempting them it apparantly places the burden on the farmer to prove that he is exempt. It looks like the FDA could inspect any time it chose. It also appears that the legislation would resurrect the failed National Animal Identification System, which required farmers to register every animal owned. Farming is not a neat and tidy business that can be laid out on paper and expected to remain somewhat constant (is any business, really?). To require extensive records from any business is a huge imposition and only impedes that business' activity and progress. The farmer, depending on his operation, must either hire someone to do the additonal paperwork or do it himself. Either way this greatly reduces the efficiency of his resources and prevents his business from performing to the full extent of his capability. Greater oversight makes the system more cumbersome and will do nothing to keep the people safe.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dennis Prager Calls Out the Music Industry

This column by Dennis Prager is excellent, although it is a very sad indictment of the American music industry (and pop culture at large).

More Thoughts on WikiLeaks

In my previous post on WikiLeaks, a commenter included a link to this Salon article by Glenn Greenwald defending WikiLeaks' actions as good and even necessary. The article is very long and I can't respond point-by-point to everything in the article, but I wanted to respond to some of the major claims made in the article, which are similar to some other comments that I have heard in conversations on the topic.

Key to everything Greenwald writes is his claim that "those who expose secrets are far more hated than those in power who commit heinous acts using secrecy as their principal weapon." Now, the question is, what exactly are these "heinous acts" that Greenwald refers to? He doesn't explicitly define them, but one can hazard a pretty good guess about what he means by reading the entire article. He clearly considers the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be in this category -- later in the article he goes so far as to include a "superb" quote that claims the U.S. "lie[d] blatantly to the entire world in order to invade a country it has long wanted to invade." This is completely false, of course -- Bush relied on U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies in determining that Iraq had WMD's, and nearly everyone else in Congress with access to that intelligence believed the same thing. The war was definitely based on faulty intelligence, but that is very different from claiming that Bush lied or misled the public into a war, a claim for which there is zero evidence. It is also fairly clear that Greenwald considers pretty much all of our country's tactics in the War on Terror, from wiretapping to enhanced interrogations to military tribunals to drone attacks against terrorists, to be "heinous acts."

This is an extremely important point to understand about Greenwald's argument. He not only does not support an aggressive prosecution of the War on Terror, but he actually thinks the U.S. has committed war crimes and deliberate murders of innocent civilians. Therefore, he believes the leaking of classified documents by WikiLeaks is justified because it exposes these crimes by our government. He believes the U.S. government is committing heinous crimes and therefore must be exposed, thwarted, and opposed in whatever way possible. Now, whether my readers agree or disagree with this, I don't see how there can be any debate that it is a deeply anti-American position. It assumes the U.S. is to blame for most of the problems in the world, and therefore cheers an organization that exists for the sole purpose of embarrassing its leaders and jeopardizing its international missions.

I couldn't be more passionately opposed to such a view. I believe our government has become sadly incompetent and corrupt in many ways, but I do not believe for a moment that the U.S. has committed heinous crimes on the international scene. Supposedly, according to Greenwald, WikiLeaks is shining a spotlight on these heinous crimes, but he provides not one example of a heinous crime committed by the U.S. government in any of these thousands of leaked documents. That is because the documents do not expose wrongdoing by the U.S. government. They do not reveal heinous crimes. It would be one thing if Assange were leaking a couple of specific documents that reveal crimes perpetrated or covered up by our government. That, in my opinion, would be justified. Instead, Assange is indiscriminately leaking thousands of classified documents, none of which expose crimes but all of which compromise our government's position in some way on the international scene. Assange is not a whistle-blower; he is an anti-American troublemaker. This provides an answer for the question that seems to puzzle Greenwald -- the question as to why so many liberals as well as conservatives have condemned WikiLeaks so harshly. The answer is simple: liberals as well as conservatives love our country and want to see it succeed and prosper.

What Greenwald doesn't seem to understand (or care about) is that our country is at war. There is an organization out there called Al Qaeda that wants to kill as many Americans as possible. Al Qaeda is supported and aided by many other radical organizations and national governments around the world. It has been a long time since 9/11, but several recent terrorist attacks and narrow escapes should remind us that this war is still very real. Because our enemies transcend national borders and operate with deception and secrecy, we cannot wage a conventional war against them. We also have to operate with deception and secrecy to track them down and destroy them. We have to take proactive measures such as enhanced interrogations to determine their plans before they strike and kill thousands of civilians. And of course, there is the little fact that we have hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. Classified documents are classified to protect their lives and the lives of foreign individuals and governments who are cooperating with and helping them. When that classified information is released indiscriminately, the lives of our military men and women are endangered and their mission is threatened. Leaking classified information is always dangerous, but especially so during wartime. Perhaps Greenwald doesn't think the wars are just, but is that any reason to put the lives of our troops in danger? They are just following orders and putting their lives on the line to defend us. Must they be sacrificed as collateral damage so Assange and Greenwald can get their kicks from embarrassing the U.S. government?

Greenwald's attitude is sadly typical of a sizable group of liberals and libertarians who think they are being patriotic when in fact they oppose our country at every turn. I am proud of our country and the fact that we have stood and continue to stand on the side of freedom and democracy around the globe while opposing tyranny and aggression (admittedly, this is becoming less and less of the case under Obama). You can argue about whether not the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were worth the cost or whether they made us safer, but you can't argue about the fact that we rescued millions of Muslims from two of the most evil, repressive regimes in the world -- Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. After taking control of Iraq, we worked to create a stable government and transition to local rule instead of exploiting it for personal gain. When we entered Iraq, we were welcomed as liberators, and the Iraqi people willingly tried Hussein for war crimes and executed him. We rescued Kuwaiti Muslims from Iraqi invasion, and Bosnian Muslims from Serbian brutality. We saved Grenada, South Korea, and most of Europe from the evil of Communism. We have spoken out against human rights abuses around the world, stopped genocide in Rwanda, fought the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and stood in solidarity with dissidents in China and Iran. Not every action we have taken internationally has been successful or turned out the way we wanted (think Vietnam War), but I would challenge Greenwald to point out even one example where our intention was not clearly to protect the security of our country and our allies and to promote freedom and democracy. Our international involvement for the past century has meant nothing but good to the world. When our country fails in its international missions and goals, democracy is set back and terrorists and dictators everywhere are emboldened. If we fail in Afghanistan, who wins? The Taliban and the terrorist organizations they support. If we fail to kill terrorist leaders and dismantle terrorist organizations around the world, then the lives of millions of Americans are endangered. Our country is at war, and Greenwald apparently is not on our side.

Some of Greenwald's points are just laughable. For example, he ridicules Wolf Blitzer of CNN for making the obviously correct point that the government should take swift action to keep our national secrets secure. The fact that Greenwald thinks its an outrage for journalists to call on the U.S. government to guard important national security secrets more closely shows just how radically anti-American he is. Sorry, but in wartime every government has the obvious right to keep certain information secret, and if you don't believe that you are either too clueless to be writing a national column or you are actively rooting for our country's military to be defeated. To attack journalists for taking steps to protect sensitive information that could endanger the lives of our troops or our allies is really rather shocking to me. If the New York Times is too hawkish and pro-military for Greenwald, then he truly is delusional. The fact is, even an organization as deeply distrustful of the U.S. military as the Times still has enough moral decency and respect for our troops and our country to not blab every national security secret willy-nilly. The American media has an ethical responsibility to not endanger our troops overseas or to unnecessarily oppose our country's legitimate international objectives. They take that responsibility far less seriously today than they have for most of our country's history, but apparently the fact that they have any moral qualms whatsoever about actively rooting against our country's wartime interests is upsetting to some people.

That doesn't mean that EVERYTHING Greenwald writes is off base. He is right that Assange cannot be tried for treason, as he is not an American citizen. However, the army private that stole the documents for our government IS an American, and he can be tried for treason. He also makes a good point that the U.S. government needs to be very careful about assassinating supposed enemies without due process, including Assange, and that we as conservatives should be careful to be responsible and thoughtful in our comments about the government "eradicating" people we don't like. But overall, I think Greenwald is deeply misguided and is supporting an organization that is deeply hostile and dangerous to U.S. interests.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Update on Yesterday's Prayer Vigil

I wanted to give my readers an update on the press conference and prayer vigil from yesterday. There was a large crowd of people there -- especially impressive given the fact that there was only 72 hours notice. The Washington Post reported 300 people, but I think the number was significantly higher than that. (Remember the big Tea Party protest in Washington DC last year that drew 300,000 - 500,000 or more people? The Washington Post reported that "tens of thousands of people" showed up.) My sister-in-law counted around 600 people during the prayer walk, and a number of people including myself had already left by that time. I saw 30 people from my church there, and there were probably more I didn't see. There were also a few counter-protestors -- probably no more than 30 or so. Many of them were holding signs saying "Pro-Child, Pro-Faith, Pro-Choice. Come on, didn't you know that sending a healthy baby into fatal cardiac arrest is GOOD for the baby?

Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition started the rally by asking everyone to kneel and pray, reminding us that we come in humility to plead for God's mercy. Throughout the event, I was impressed with the spirit of the attendees. There were no violent signs or angry rhetoric. Several of the speakers emphasized God's love for both mother and baby and His offer of forgiveness to women who had had abortions. The event was carefully coordinated with the police to ensure that there were no disruptions and that everything was peaceful. We were there not so much because we are against something but because we are for something -- something precious and valuable. We stand for life and for the protection of innocent children. It was encouraging to stand alongside so many other like-minded people.

Several local pastors, including my own, spoke briefly. Two of the speeches that touched my heart the most were from women. One was a Catholic woman who had held a prayer vigil with her two children outside the Germantown abortion clinic every Friday for four years. She had been toiling alone for years, and you could see how much it meant to her to finally see the Christian community mobilized. Another powerful speech was from a woman who had a late-term abortion when she was 14 years old. Her abortionist was George Tiller, a close associate of Leroy Carhart's. She deeply regrets her decision to kill her healthy baby and has become a pro-life advocate.

After the speeches there was a brief question-and-answer session with the press, and then the crowd walked around the shopping center, praying alone or in small groups. The center was cordoned off with yellow tape, which Mahoney noted was significant. After all, the police use yellow tape to denote a crime scene.

While it was encouraging to see such a large turnout, this rally is just the beginning, as several speakers noted. We had held out hope that the board of directors of the condo association that runs the shopping center would decide to kick Carhart and his clinic out of the shopping center during their emergency meeting yesterday, but apparently they decided they did not have a legal option to do so. We have to continue to keep the pressure on Leroy Carhart and his clinic and make it clear that we are not going away. My pastor said that we have a four-pronged strategy to fight this evil: continuing prayer, continuing protests, opening up a pregnancy center in a vacant building across the street from the clinic, and working to pass legislation to ban late-term abortions in Maryland. It is an uphill fight in a left-wing pro-abortion state like Maryland, but with God all things are possible. To stand by and do nothing while a grave injustice is being perpetrated right in our back yard makes us just as responsible as the people perpetrating the injustice.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Follow-up #2: Late-Term Abortions in Maryland

I wanted to follow up further on A.K.'s excellent postings about Leroy Carhart coming to Germantown, MD. Here are some additional thoughts:

1. It's important to understand that Carhart's specialty is killing babies in the 3rd trimester of the pregnancy--right up to the day before the baby's due date. In a large majority of these cases, the "fetus" that Carhart kills and disposes of like a piece of trash is viable and would survive outside the mother's womb. Operation Rescue describes the method of "late-term abortion" practiced by Carhart here. It is well worth reading the entire article, but a summary of the practice would be that the baby is injected with a massive dose of digoxin directly through the mother's abdomen, which is designed to give the baby a fatal heart attack. A couple days later, the woman gives birth to the dead baby over a toilet. In addition to the obvious evil of killing a living, breathing baby with tiny fingers and a beating heart that is capable of surviving outside of the mother's womb, this barbaric procedure causes pain and suffering to the baby. Massive heart attacks are frightening and painful, and studies have indicated babies as young as the 2nd month of pregnancy are capable of feeling pain. Of course, there have been numerous botched cases of late-term abortions, including ones in which the baby is delivered alive and left to die and ones in which the baby is born alive but severely disabled as a result of the procedure.

Now, I think all abortion is the taking of innocent human life and as such is a moral evil and a deep injustice (excluding those abortions necessary to save the life of the mother). I believe it is a moral issue, not a religious one, and I believe that there is abundant scientific evidence to support the pro-life position. However, I can understand why non-Christian people who do not hold to biblical principles about life beginning at conception might be open to supporting legalized abortions in the earliest stages of pregnancy. After all, the fetus seems quite undeveloped and doesn't look a whole lot like a baby in the first month or two. But it is impossible for me to understand how any person with a functioning conscience could support legalized abortion on demand (that is, abortion not due to rape, incest, or protection of the mother's life) past the point of the baby's viability. This is killing a living human baby capable of surviving outside the mother's womb -- and killing it in an inhumane, brutal fashion. It is infanticide and morally unconscionable by any conceivable community standard, religious or not. Huge majorities of Americans -- including self-described pro-choice Americans -- oppose late-term abortions.

2. If we care about justice and the protection of the most needy and helpless in our society, the slaughter of innocent babies in abortion should deeply grieve and anger us. But what really upsets me is that this is happening in my own backyard, in a town literally 15 minutes from my home. Because Leroy Carhart, one of the few individuals in the whole country brazen enough to perform late-term abortions, is setting up his practice right here in Montgomery County, MD, those of us who live in the area have a unique opportunity to speak out and take a stand on this issue. I am thankful that since the story first broke on Tuesday, my pastor has been at the forefront of the issue. He helped to organize the meeting yesterday with local pastors and activists that A.K. mentioned, and he had a 30-minute interview with a local Christian radio station earlier this evening about Leroy Carhart and the prayer vigil coming up on Monday. He has always been deeply reticent (correctly, in my view) about getting involved in any issue that could be seen as political, but this is not a political issue. It is an issue of life and death, and I think we are failing in our mission to be salt and light if we don't speak out and get involved.

3. So what can each of us as individuals do? The most immediate opportunity for those of us in the Montgomery County area is the prayer vigil coming up on Monday from 11:00 to 1:00 near the location of Carhart's new office in Germantown. The location of the vigil will be at 13233 Executive Park Terrace, Germantown, MD. For anyone interested in coming, there has been a new website set up called http://www.kickoutcarhart.com/ which has a detailed map showing where to park and additional information. There will be a press conference held right at 11:00 am, and we are expecting to have many local and perhaps even national media representatives there. After the press conference, we will spread out and pray. If you are like me and can only come for part of the time, then my pastor is encouraging people to come right at 11:00 for the press conference. We are hoping for a large turnout which will send a strong message that our community does not want Carhart performing late-term abortions here. The vigil and press conference are purely peaceful and we are coordinating with the local police to avoid disruptions; we want our testimony to demonstrate peace and love rather than anger and violence.

Carhart's background is extremely disturbing. He was the abortionist whose negligence apparently contributed to the death of Christin Gilbert, a woman with Down Syndrome who lost her life due to a botched late-term abortion. Also, the radio host who interviewed my pastor last night mentioned that Carhart is apparently moving to Maryland to avoid pending investigations into his practices by other states. It seems the board of the shopping center where Carhart's clinic is located is not too happy about him coming and about the negative response from the community, and they are holding an emergency board meeting to discuss the issue at noon on Monday -- during the prayer vigil! We should pray that the board will deny Carhart and his clinic space in the shopping center. Even if you do not live in the area or cannot come to the press conference and the vigil, you can still stand united with us in prayer. And wherever you live, you can volunteer and offer financial support for crisis pregnancy centers in your area. This is the front line in the fight against legalized abortion -- it offers an alternative to abortion for pregnant women, many of whom are scared and alone and who need love and support.

Follow-up: Late-Term Abortions in Maryland

There was a meeting yesterday at Shady Grove PCA of local clergy, pro-life activists, and the director of the Christian Defense Coalition. The purpose was to pray about this new evil coming into our community and discuss the appropriate response.

Very few doctors in the country perform these types of procedures and there are currently no abortion clinics in Maryland that perform abortions after 19 weeks. LeRoy Carhart is a very prominent late-term abortionist, and will perform the procedure up to the 9th month of pregnancy. He is moving from Nebraska now that the state has outlawed abortions after 19 weeks.

Our pastor forwarded this information he received about late term abortions from Gail Tierney, Director of the Rockville Pregnancy Center: “Late term abortion can be performed up until the day of birth. It involves inserting a needle into the baby's heart, injecting medicine which will produce a fatal heart attack. This is done on viable babies.”

LeRoy Carhart could begin performing late-term abortions at Germantown Reproductive Health Services as early as Monday, December 6. There will be a prayer vigil and press conference held outside the office on Monday from 11am-1pm:
Germantown Commons Shopping Center
13233 Executive Park Terrace, Germantown.
Organizers are expecting that both local and national news will be reporting this event. The event will be peaceful and organizers are working with the police department. The intent is to stand up for these defenseless babies and to publicly show that the faith community and others in Montgomery County are opposed to the practice of late-term abortion in our community. Please come out to the vigil if you are in this area, and wherever you are pray that some change will come out of this event.