Month Archives: October 2010

Vote Yes on Slots? Here are some Why Nots

by Robert Morrison

October 13, 2010

The billboard promised me Better Schools if I voted for Question A. Who doesnt want better schools? Im ready to vote YES on Question A as soon as I get to the voting booth.

But, wait a minute: if Question A is really for better schools, a little homework might be helpful. Ah, so it turns out that Question A will allow the State of Maryland to put slot machines in the Arundel Mills shopping center.

Hmmm. Whats that got to do with better schools? Will the kids be able to play the slots at lunchtime and learn more about probability to improve their math scores? If they really learn about probability, theyll learn that gambling is a tax for people who didnt study math. Maybe the teachers will be able to supplement their income with some one-armed banditry after school hours. That might ease the pressure on the state budget. But well have to lay out more money for police.

This billboard ad is another of the dishonest tactics used to push state-sponsored gambling. I go back a long way with this issue. When I lived in Connecticut 25 years ago, I used to get my coffee in a little town that had a state-run Off-Track Betting (OTB) Parlor. As I ran into the coffee shop for a cuppa, Id be amazed at all the people in the parking lot who were busy trading little slips of paper. The OTB parlor wasnt open before 9 am, but here was a vigorous market in what used to be called the numbers racket. Illegal gambling was proceeding right outside the still-locked doors of the state-run OTB. Does that seem illogical? Werent we told that legalizing gambling would drive the Mob out? Think of it this way: If the state installs a porto-potty, its sure to draw flies.

Connecticut, of course, later became home to Foxwoods, a tribal casino. Thought youd seen the last of the Mohicans? Once the casino was announced, those claiming descent from the famous tribe came out of the woodwork. They promised jobs then, too, but one of the main jobs they hired for was that of seat-cushion changer. It seems that middle-aged ladies got so powerfully addicted to those slots, they would wet themselves. And so, you can work changing their seat cushions for the minimum wage. Nice work if you can get it.

Coming to work in Washington, I used to run down to a Korean-owned deli to get a coke in the late afternoons. But on Fridays, it was a chore to get into the place. Thats when folks lined up to buy their Mega-Millions Lotto tickets. One especially tall fellow standing in front of me had a fistful of slips with numbers and names on them.

Readers of The Autobiography of Malcolm X would recognize this tall fellow as a numbers runner. Malcolm X boasted of a friend so smart he could memorize hundreds of names and their matching numbers. The police vice squad could never get any evidence on this guy.

But here was the tall Mr. Numbers Runner himself, fistful of dollars and all. We were assured that legalizing the Lottery would put the numbers runners out of business. My tall line-standerduring what must still have been the federal work daywas wearing a baseball cap: U.S. Department of Justice Motor Pool was the cap device.

So not only did we not run the runner out of business, he was now working for the government. And if Main Justice needed to get a car quick to run out and arrest someone, theyd have to wait for Mr. Numbers Runner to get back from his other assignment.

I remember catching flak on gambling one time in Grand Rapids, Michigan, of all places.

I was then working for my church body, The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod. I was briefing an audience of our pastors on the work of the LCMS Washington office. In an aside comment, I knocked state-sponsored gambling.

Instantly, a pastor in the front row shot up his hand. Youre a crypto-Calvinist! he said accusingly. Not being a theologian, I wasnt sure what that meant, but I gathered from the pastors vehemence that it wasnt good. (At least, not good for a Lutheran layman.)

He proceeded to tell me that Scripture said nothing about gambling, that this was exactly what his fellow pastors were opposed to in a Washington office. I was about to go off-script just as badly on the right as so many Washington religious types go off on the left.

I was stung and felt really ignorant. I mumbled something about the love of money being the root of many evils, about In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, but I could tell that pastor was unconvinced.

Reflecting on that experience, I remembered what I might have said, with due respect:

Pastor: Do you think when Scripture tells us about the Roman soldiers who cast lots for our Lords garments at the foot of the Cross, that that was a positive reference to gambling? Maybe its just as well that I didnt have the presence of mind to engage in a nasty putdown of a sincere Christian minister.

I appeal to him now, and to all Christians who might be in doubt about state-run gambling. Last week saw the arrest of five Alabama legislators on charges of corruptionin league with gambling interests. Its not new. It happens every day. Gambling breeds such conduct.

Think of it this way: You may have a white rat as a pet. You may let your children play with your pet rat. They may even come to the dinner table, forgetting to wash their hands, and will probably not die.

But if you find a rat in its natural habitat, say, rattus rattus norvegicus, you can be sure that the rat does not carry bubonic plague. It does, however, invariably carry fleasand the fleas are the vector for plague.

Gambling is like rattus rattus. Even when its legal—especially when its legal, it brings corruption, extortion, drugs, prostitution, and violence, just as surely as rats carry the fleas that bring plague.

Ill vote NO on Question A. They say its for better schools. But after doing a little homework, Ive gotten smarter about state-sponsored gambling.

What is the effect of “Ella” on a teenage woman’s body?

by Family Research Council

October 13, 2010

Today Dr. Donna Harrison, OBGYN and president of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) completes our educational series on ella by discussing safety concerns for adolescent women who might take ella.

The FDA issued no age limitations for ella. Dr. Harrison explains that no studies have been completed concerning the impact of ella on a developing female teenager. She explains that adolescent girls require estrogen and progesterone to properly develop, and therefore the impact of impeding this development could potentially be serious. For example, it is not known if a young woman might have difficulty in recovering ovarian activity once it has been intentionally blocked. Dr. Harrison makes the point that more studies should take place to assure ella’s safety for young women.

Watch the video clip to learn more. Please send this to the women in your life. Women deserve to know the truth about ella and how it will work on their bodies and babies.

Geron Begins Questionable Human Experiments

by David Prentice

October 11, 2010

In its usual style, Geron has put out a press release that it has injected the first patient for its trial of embryonic stem cells for spinal cord injury. Of course their main goal is to increase their stock price and cash flow from investment. Not about science, not about helping patients. After all, this is just an announcement that the patient has been injected with millions of cells. No results, no peer-reviewed publication, nada.

Contrary to what most of the news stories report, Geron is not injecting growing embryonic stem cells into a patient. They inject cells made from embryonic stem cells; in this case cells called “oligodendrocyte progenitors”. Oligodendrocytes form a sheath around nerve fibers, like insulation. The injected ESC-derived cells are progenitors or precursors, only partly specialized; theoretically the cells will grow, migrate and specialize around the spinal cord, creating a sheath around nerves and also perhaps secreting nerve growth factors to enhance nerve survival.

From the total of two published rat studies on which the human experiment is based, Geron already knows that their ESC-derived cells will not work on chronic spinal cord injury; patients must be recruited and injected within the first 14 days after their injuries. They also know that the patient must be juiced with immunosuppressive drugs, so that the injected cells are not rejected by the immune system, since they are foreign to the body. And because of the significant possibility that ESC-derived cells can run amuck, growing out of control or forming improper tissues throughout the body, Geron has already said they will have to monitor the patients for 15 years to assess the danger. The danger has made even some proponents of embryonic stem cell research concerned about the risky nature of Geron’s human experiment, instead of making a political point.

The Geron experiment in patients is not blinded, randomized, or controlled, and spinal cord injury patients can show spontaneous improvement within the 3 months after injury, even up to 18 months. It will be difficult to determine whether Geron’s injected cells had any real effect. We wish the patient well, but think Geron is irresponsible for this premature hype.

Of note is that now, a year and a half after approval, Geron has finally listed their experiment, the only approved embryonic stem cell trial, at ClinicalTrials.gov. As of this writing, there were 2,002 adult stem cell trials in patients listed.

Despite the overwhelming success of adult stem cells for patients, few have heard the good news.

Adult Stem Cells have already shown published scientific evidence documenting effective treatment for spinal cord injury.

That peer-reviewed evidence includes not only safety but also improvement of chronic spinal cord injuries, including in patients up to 15 years after their injury. Dr. Jean Peduzzi Nelson of Wayne State University discussed this research in her recent Senate testimony; Laura Dominguez is one of the spinal cord injury patients who has benefitted from adult stem cells.

The Rot at the Department of Justice

by Chris Gacek

October 11, 2010

The two-month deadline for the Department of Justice (DoJ) to file its notice of appeal in the two Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) cases arrives on Tuesday, October 12th. The Departments politicized defense of has been so poor that Representative Lamar Smith has attempted to intervene in the cases stating that DoJs current DOMA defense, which happens to fit no policy preferences, is really no defense at all. See Rep. Smiths memorandum in support of his motion to intervene here (Gill v. OPM) and here (Mass. v. HHS). Well wait to see what happens….

Politicization of the Obama DoJ can also be much more mundane but still vitally important to the proper governance of the nation: that is, it can also be about filling DoJs civil service or career legal positions with Leftist ideologues. Career slots are not supposed to be filled by political operators there are slots for political appointees. Rather, career appointees are supposed to be individuals who can carry out the policies of administrations with differing political perspectives.

The Washington Times has an important editorial telling about sixteen recent hires in Civil Rights Division that were announced this past Friday:

An apolitical hiring process would have included a few random attorneys somewhere to the right of the late Ted Kennedy - but not here.

Among the new hires are: Sharyn Tejani comes from the National Partnership for Women and Families, a hotbed of liberal activism, where she served as one of the lead attorneys filing a Supreme Court brief supporting an explicitly race-based refusal to promote white firemen in New Haven, Conn. Aaron Schuham comes directly from Americans United for Separation of Church and State - a group so leftist, it has argued the Obama administration isnt liberal enough. Audrey Wiggins comes from another liberal bastion, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Right Under Law, which also filed a brief against the white firefighters. Bryan Sells comes from the American Civil Liberties Union, as does Meredith Bell-Platts.

John Bert Russ, promoted to special litigation counsel for the Voting Section, is a frequent contributor to Democratic campaigns, including President Obamas. New Voting Section deputy chief Sarabeth Donovan is known for overseeing the departments responses, or in this case extreme unresponsiveness, to Freedom of Information Act requests involving the New Black Panther controversy. Mr. Perez also made permanent the appointment of Rebecca Wertz as the principal deputy chief of the Voting Section. Ms. Wertzs management of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act has been so lackluster that military-rights groups are screaming about disenfranchisement of American troops.

Once these new hires attain tenure status at DoJ and have successfully burrowed into the department, it will be virtually impossible to get them out.

(Editorial, Obama Justice Department Plays Snooki: On Hiring Practices, Left is the Only Way Up, Washington Times (Oct. 11, 2010): p. B2.)

Are you Up All Night?

by Robert Morrison

October 8, 2010

Laura Blumenfelds excellent story was run by the Washington Post on Sunday, July 4th. Was that a way of burying it? It was, after all, right there on the front page. But there arent many people who race to read the Post on the nations birthday. In her report, Miss Blumenfeld details all kinds of interesting information about our national security team. Its filled with the kind of portentous sentences (Headlights approach on an empty road. A government agent steps out of an armored SUV, carrying a locked, black satchel…) that give Tom Clancy readers their sense of being in on really big events.

Why did this story appear at all? Was it a good idea to splash all over the front pages specific information on who is briefed by whom, where, and about what?

We are led to believe by the weighty headlineUp All Nightthat some very important people are very serious about our security. Why, Attorney General Eric Holder is described as occupying the loneliest perch among the Presidents nighthawks. Here he is at 1 a.m., munching Chips Ahoy and deciding that the 9/11 terrorists should be tried in a civilian court in Lower Manhattan. His late-night deliberations are so important that hes even left his Jay-Z and Tupac music back at his massive office in the Justice Department. Here, we are told in ponderous tones, Holder is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States and the Presidents good friend. The tension is to be independent, yet part of the administration, he says. Chip Chip Ahoy!

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano cant quite get her antiquated FAX machine to function reliably. But shes dead sure that the borders have been secured. Shes depicted fussing in a matronly manner over her midnight cup of tea. Tea party, anyone?

Most indelible of all the impressions in this longish holiday article is the portrait of retired Marine Gen. James Jones. Hes the Presidents National Security Advisor. And he just resigned today.

He should be remembered well. It is with Gen. Jones that we get inside the White House Situation Room. The story is worth quoting here:

12:35 a.m.

White House Situation Room

The night duty officer can’t hear his own voice. A White House maid is vacuuming. “Can you wrap it up?” He plugs a finger in his ear and presses his mouth to the classified, yellow phone: “This is the Situation Room. We are going to try to connect Gen. Jones with his Russian counterpart.”

Yes, sir,” replies a communications officer at the end of the line, cruising with Jones on the C-40 toward Pakistan.

The national security adviser is 37,000 feet over the Atlantic, bunking with Leon Panetta. Jones has changed out of charcoal pinstripes into a Georgetown sweat shirt. He checked an e-mail update about his pregnant daughter-in-law. “No baby yet,” his son said. There are complications, and Jones is concerned.

Before he can sleep, Jones also needs to talk to Kremlin foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko, to help negotiate a tougher stance on Iran’s nuclear program. The Situation Room officer who handles secure calls for the West Wing is trying to locate Prikhodko, who’s traveling in Kiev.

All most impressive, perhaps even reassuring—-if you didnt know anything about national security. While I thank Gen. Jones for his service and revere his Marine Corps, I am not comforted by the fact that he felt the need to connect with his Russian counterpart.

Gen. Jones does not have a Russian counterpart. The general serves a constitutional republic. The leaders of this republic, ever since that first Fourth of July in 1776, have been chosen by our free people.

Segei Phkhodko serves the regime of Vladimir Putin. Putin spent a career in the Soviet KGB before making a quick transition to become Prime Minister to the last democratic leader in the Kremlin, the only freely chosen leader in Russias thousand-year history of tyranny. That was the heroic, but drunken Boris Yeltsin.

It was Putin who gave President Yeltsin the heave-ho on New Years Eve, 2000. While the West was distracted by Millennium celebrations and absorbed with Y2K jitters, Yeltsin doubtless woke up on Jan. 1, 2000 with a hangover, a pension, and a security detail whose purpose it was to keep him closely guarded. Interesting, isnt it, that no one ever saw ex-President Yeltsin anywhere in the West?

President George W. Bush gushed early in his administration met President Putin. It was then that he looked into the Russian rulers eyes, had seen into his soul, and pronounced him a good man.

Nice to hear it. Vladimir Bukovsky, the great Russian dissident, said he had looked into the eyes of many a KGB agent. He didnt find the experience especially souful. Nor did he pronounce any of his jailers and torturers good men.

On the same day Gen. Jones has resigned, the Post reports a memorial service in Moscow. Four years after the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politikovskaya, there have been no breakthroughs in the investigation of her killers. Brave Russians gather to remember this wonderful woman. Does anyone think Sergei Phikhodko would be among her mourners? Or that he and Putin would stir themselves to find her killers? Politikovskaya is one of fifty-two Russian journalists murdered since 1992.

It is deeply depressing to learn that our emperors are naked, that they have no idea what they are doing to render us safe from espionage and foreign attack. I never had the chance to meet anyone so powerful as Vladimir Putin or Sergei Prikhodko. I operated at the lowest level, dealing with Soviets as a Russian language interpreter for the Coast Guard.

We were doing fisheries patrols in the Bering Sea, boarding the floating garbage scows they call trawlers. Very low level stuff. But I learned then not to trust the Soviets. I saw their newly printed postersapproved by the state censors at Glavlit in Moscowthat showed nothing but a violent hatred of the United States of America.

I did not hate the Russians. I felt compassion for them in their cheap, shoddy clothing, their cardboard shoes, and their ill-fitting uniforms. I tried always to respect their human dignity. I could feel their resentment, though, their wounded sense of inferiority that made them a dangerous adversary.

Never for a moment did I forgot that I was a representative of the Great Republic. My authority came from a good and free people whose liberties and constitutional government are the wonder of the world. I never doubted American Exceptionalism. And I had no Russian counterpart.

Gushing all this sensitive information to the Washington Post is unwise in the extreme. Has anyone in this administration ever heard of the spetsnats, the Soviet-era assassination teams whose function it was to decapitate the governments of Western democracies, to render them incapable of responding to a Soviet assault? Do we seriously think that all those spetsnats units have been disbanded? If were not worried about Russians, do we think jihadists in nearby Falls Church, Virginia, cant read the Post?

Winston Churchill explained Russias behavior to us at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, back in 1946. It was that famous speech in which he described an Iron Curtain, giving that phrase currency for the first time. He said the Russians did not want a war. What they wanted was the fruits of war without war.

They wanted all they could get through espionage, deception, and Western naivety. And now, with this administration, they are getting all they want. The Post article, Up All Night, has had me up all night on a number of occasions. I find myself praying late nights that our unprepared, irresolute leaders learn what we need to know before a tragedy strikes.

Robert Morrison served as a Russian language interpreter and Top Secret Control Officer in the Coast Guard, when we had top secrets.

Adult Stem CellsBest-Kept Secret, Treating Corneal Blindness

by David Prentice

October 8, 2010

Corneal disease is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, after cataracts. In September, Dr. Jean Peduzzi Nelson testified to the U.S. Senate about the success that Italian doctors have achieved at restoring sight to patients with corneal blindness, using adult stem cells. The details of the successful adult stem cell treatment are given in a June 2010 paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Italian doctors treated 112 patients who had corneal blindness due to chemical burns. The clinical team isolated adult stem cells from a portion of the patients eye, grew the cells in the lab to create many new corneal cells, and transplanted the new cells onto the damaged eyes. Over 77% of patients recovered normal vision, 13% of patients had partial vision restoration. Patients with superficial damage were able to see within one to two months, while more extensive injuries took several months longer to recover. Follow-up of patients was from three years up to ten years so far. One of the successful transplants was a man who had severe damage in both eyes as a result of a chemical burn in 1948. The doctors grafted stem cells from a small section of his left eye to both eyes. His vision is now close to normal.

The evidence is clearly seen—Adult Stem Cells are helping patients now.

What happens to the babies who survive “Ella”?

by Family Research Council

October 7, 2010

Continuing our educational series on ella, the new FDA-approved “emergency contraceptive” that can also cause an abortion, today Dr. Donna Harrison, OB-GYN and president of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) continues with a short explanation of ella’s potential impact on the small number (approximately 2%) of babies that will survive despite their mother taking ella.

Dr. Harrison explains that when a pregnant woman takes ella, her placenta is altered so that the developing baby is essentially starved of necessary nutrition. The two percent of babies that do survive this trauma will likely be impacted developmentally. Dr. Harrison tells of one such baby. However, no studies have been conducted on the effect of ella on children in the womb.

Additionally, if a woman takes ella while nursing, the drug can cross into the mother’s milk. This could be dangerous for children and the FDA even included a warning on the labeling information that breastfeeding women should not take ella. Yet no studies have been conducted on babies who ingest ella through their mother’s breast milk.

For more information watch the clip below. Please send this information to the women in your life. Women who deserve to know the truth about ella — how it will work in their bodies and on their babies.

A Tale of Two Web Videos

by Rob Schwarzwalder

October 6, 2010

Last night, in honor of our pet cockatiel - creatively named Paulie (he is a male) - my family and I watched some goofy online videos of singing birds. Listening to a bright-green parrot whistling opera is guaranteed to make children, and their parents, laugh.

After one of the videos ended, another came up - this one for what was, evidently, a pornographic short-film. To describe it would be to offend moral decency. We exited the site as quickly as possible.

We had laughter, innocence, togetherness, my little girl scrunched between her brother and me, my other son standing close by and my wife and I seated next to one another.

Love and family, gifts of God. And then the sordid, the crass, the debauched: From one to the other, in a sudden flash of electronic neurons.

This brief episode reminded me of the broader character of life in a fallen world. Beauty marred by the smear of filth. Joy not untouched by pain. The quiet, glad life of a family intruded upon by garish sin.

It is to sustain the family as God intended it, to protect the innocence and thus, ultimately, the character of our children, and to defend and nourish these things as the bedrock of our civilization that the Family Research Council exists. No legislation can substitute for the protection of a vigilant parent, and no law can build a moral wall thick enough to prevent the persistent trickle of sin from seeping through it. Sometimes, that trickle is more like a raging current.

We know that. But we also know that public law and personal character are entwined. That without the protection of just law, families and all private citizens are at the mercy not just of an imposing, threatening state but the creativity of evil in myriad forms. That without personal virtue, liberty descends visibly into license. Personal, private, public: Interrelated, inextricably.

So, Family Research Council makes public arguments about political policy, advances good laws, and seeks a justice system that adheres to the Constitution as it was written. We seek to do this with grace and truth, firmness and patience. And whatever our visible successes and failures, we know Who wins in the end.

To help fight pornography:

It is estimated that one-third of all children are accessing online pornography by the time they are ten years-old, according to a new study in the U.K. By age 16, eight in 10 of them are regularly seeking it out. Unfortunately, children are only part of the pornography puzzle. Men, women, and families are harmed irreparably by the proliferation of these images on the Internet and other media.

What can Congress do about it? Well, it can start by enforcing the current laws, which was the subject of an important briefing on Capitol Hill in June of this year. FRC helped facilitate the event, which featured experts like our former policy fellow Pat Trueman.

In December, 2009, FRC’s own Dr. Pat Fagan released a major paper on the effects of pornography on society, which confirmed that Capitol Hill has a vested interest in protecting Americans against pornography and pornographers. To learn more about what’s at stake in this debate and what you can do to help, click here to watch video from the Capital Hill briefing.

More on Planned Parenthood, Sex Ed, and Government Funding

by Family Research Council

October 6, 2010

As an update to my blog last week, it appears that Planned Parenthood is receiving much more government funding to teach your children about sex than initially obvious from the HHS award announcement.

In fact, Planned Parenthood even seems a little confused internally about how much money they are getting. Their own press releases conflict in terms of the bottom line dollar amount, one claiming $19 million nation-wide and the other claiming $20 million in the northwest alone. Either way it is an alarming figure.

Planned Parenthoods Financial Statements

by Family Research Council

October 6, 2010

An astute constituent recently brought to my attention a mistake concerning Planned Parenthood Federation of Americas (PPFA) fiscal year 2009 Internal Revenue Service 990 tax form.

I wrote recently that Planned Parenthood NETTED an income of $106 million in fiscal year 2009. What I should have said was that according to its 990 tax form, PPFA (headquarters) brought in REVENUE of approximately $106 million in fiscal year 2009. Of course, revenue is not profit. The actual amount the organization claimed as profit is $21,773,569, still a hefty chunk of change and well below the estimated $350 million Planned Parenthood gets annually from various federal, state and local taxpayers.

It is critical to understand the larger context of Planned Parenthoods net profit. The best source for PPFAs annual profit is the organizations annual report (here is a link to the latest). You will notice that the data seem somewhat outdated, with June 2008 being the final date listed.

A lot has happened in the U.S. since June 2008, most notably the election of a President who vowed on the campaign trail to do all he could to expand Planned Parenthoods reach, and has populated his Administration with staff who share that goal.

PPFAs annual report encompasses information on abortions, adoption referrals, government grants, income, revenue, expenses, contracts, etc. The annual report compiles most data from affiliates around the United States, whereas the IRS 990 form details only a small portion of the Planned Parenthood budget. For example, in Fiscal year 2008, PPFAs annual report states that the organization made a profit (excess of revenue over profits) of approximately $85 million dollars. However, PPFAs 990 form for the same year (2008) reads that the profit was only $16,429,108. Why the difference? The 990 form only accounts for a fraction of the entire organizations budget; the amount noted in the 990 is likely only headquarter costs.

So, the mistaken $106 million figure might not be that different from the profit reported in PPFAs annual report. But we wont know for certain until (and if) Planned Parenthood publishes the annual report.

Planned Parenthood typically publishes its annual report in April of each year. Thus far this year, PPFA has not made this information public. The bigger question is why is it taking so long now that they have so many friends in Washington, D.C.

We at FRC always strive to make sure our information is as accurate as current data allow us to be. We are grateful to the constituent who contacted FRC about this matter.

At the same time, it is our hope that PPFA will be forthcoming and fully accurate about its financial status. The taxpayers of our country, who subsidize PPFA to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars annually, deserve no less.

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