Month Archives: February 2009

All human beings are persons

by Bill Saunders

February 24, 2009

Earlier this week North Dakota passed a bill to recognize the “personhood” of the unborn embryo or fetus. Several other states are considering similar measures.

Such laws, among other things, seek to correct a philosophical mistake. That is, they seek to correct the dis-unity between “person” and “human being” that philosophers such as Peter Singer make. There is no difference. All human beings are persons. Creating a distinction between some human beings, who are persons, and some who are not is a dangerous game.

It is the powerful, after all, who will decide which human beings are persons, and you can bet your last dollar they won’t leave themselves out. But, as history proves, they will leave others out - the weak, the voiceless, the outsiders. The whole history of our United States may be understood as a struggle to recognize, and to guarantee in law, that all human beings are equal. State “personhood” laws are well within this tradition.

Repeat Church, Not School

by Michael Leaser

February 24, 2009

In the latest Mapping America, the National Survey of Children’s Health shows that children who attend religious services at least monthly are much less likely to repeat a grade in school than those who attend religious services less frequently.

Blogosphere Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

February 24, 2009

Here’s some of the buzz from the blogosphere today.

When can we end the Experiment?

by Robert Morrison

February 24, 2009

Our Navy chaplain told us last Sunday about a most interesting psych experiment from his college days. Student volunteers were given special goggles. These goggles blocked out the students’ peripheral vision and turned everything they saw upside down—a full 180o. At first, of course, the students stumbled around, as if hopelessly uncoordinated and incapable of movement. Gradually, however, they began to accommodate themselves to the new view. In a surprisingly short time, the students, their upside-down goggles firmly attached and without peeking, found they could negotiate with ease. Apparently, some volunteers for this upside-down experiment have become so proficient they can actually pilot airplanes.

I feel like those student volunteers. I remember when the world was right side up. In the 1960s, I did not take psychology in college, but biology. In that class, we dissected a fetal pig. I can still smell that formaldehyde and see the odd smile on my fetal pig. You can imagine, then, how strange, how upside down it seemed to me when I heard people in that era begin to talk of the unborn child as a fetus.

We had never spoken of our fetal pigs as porcine fetuses. The adjectival form of the word—fetal— affirmed even as it modified the pigness of our little porkers. One would have been thought crazy not to recognize the pighood of our dissection subjects.

In that same decade, in 1965, LIFE magazine gave us stunning pictures of unborn children. Lennart Nilsson’s amazing photographs showed the development of the child before birth. The text used that word—fetus—but the pictures showed an unmistakably human being. The child looked so vulnerable, but the text soothingly spoke of the “protective” environment of the amniotic sac. Cushioned and sustained by amniotic fluid, the child floats undisturbed, safe. Although we were being told it was a fetus, our eyes told us it was a child. LIFE magazine seemed to be asking us, like Groucho Marx: “Who are you going to believe, me, or your own eyes?”

My French prof, in those same years, gave us an idiomatic phrase-en ventre sa mere-to translate. It literally means “in his mother’s womb.” As an idiomatic expression in French, it means safe, secure. It’s rather like our less poetic “snug as a bug in a rug.”

Only later did I learn that en ventre sa mere was also a legal term of art. It has been since the Normans came to England. It refers to the ancient principle that the child in the womb has rights, that injuries done to that child can be the basis for legal action. That unborn child also had the right to inherit.

It’s hard to imagine that Justice Harry Blackmun ever saw the LIFE Magazine series or encountered the term en ventre sa mere at Harvard Law School. At a time when the world seemed to be acknowledging what everyone always knew—that the child in the womb was unmistakably human, that it had rights which had been recognized for centuries, Harry resolutely affixed those upside-down goggles. That’s how he wrote the infamous Roe v. Wade opinion. Then, it seems, he put them on almost everyone you meet.

My favorite goggle-wearer was the late ABC News anchor, Peter Jennings. During one evening broadcast, Jennings described a stunning new advance in pre-natal surgery. He told how a fetus had been diagnosed with hydrocephaly. Without mentioning abortion, or how the doctors may have pressed the mom to have one, Jennings spoke of the surgeons going into the mother’s womb. They took the fetus out, he intoned, still attached by its umbilical cord. Then they operated, placing a shunt in the “child’s” skull and sealing the surgical opening in the head. They returned the “child” to its mother’s womb. She then carried the “fetus” to term, delivering a healthy child, the suave Jennings reported. 

With perfect precision, Peter Jennings had adapted his vision to the upside-down world, court-ordered by Blackmun and Roe. When the fetus was within its mother’s womb, Jennings never erred by calling it a child. Removed from that almost holy haven, it could be acknowledged as a child-if only so briefly. Fetus-child-fetus-child-never a slip of that famous professional tongue betrayed the brave new upside-down world of Roe v. Wade.

I thought of that goggle experiment when I read this eye-popping phrase from our new President, Barack Obama. He told the Congressional Prayer Breakfast attendees: “There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know.” It was a wonderful statement. Can he mean it? Can this be the same President who had just revoked the Mexico City policy, an act that will take the lives of thousands of innocent human beings? Or, has he simply grown up in the upside-down world of goggle-wearers bequeathed to us by Roe? One thing is clear: Such questions can no longer be above his pay grade.

Our chaplain described the end of the upside-down goggle psychology experiment. The adjustment is not instant. Once fully accustomed to the upside-down world, it takes a while to readjust to the world as it truly is. But first, you must take off those goggles. Then you must want to see the world as it truly is.

Change Watch Backgrounder: Peter Orszag

by David Prentice

February 24, 2009

POSITION: DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT and BUDGET

 

NOMINEE: Peter R. Orszag

BIRTH DATE: December 16, 1968 in Boston, MA

EDUCATION:

A.B. summa cum laude in Economics 1991, Princeton University

M.Sc. in Economics 1992, London School of Economics

Ph.D, in Economics 1997, London School of Economics

FAMILY: Divorced, lives with his two children, Leila and Joshua

 

EXPERIENCE:

Jan. 2007-Nov. 2008 Director, Congressional Budget Office

2001-2007 Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of Economic Studies, Brookings Institution

1999-2000 Lecturer in intermediate macroeconomics, Univ. of California-Berkeley

1997-1998 Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, National Economic Council

1995-1996 Senior Economist and Senior Adviser, President’s Council of Economic Advisers

1994-1995 Professional research staff, Centre for Economic Performance

1993-1994 Staff Economist, President’s Council of Economic Advisers

1993 Economic adviser, Macroeconomics and Fiscal Unit, Ministry of Finance, Russian Government

1992-1993 Research officer, Centre for Economic Performance

 

Clinton White House:

1997-1998 Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy

1995-1996 Senior Economist and Senior Adviser, President’s Council of Economic Advisers

1993-1994 Staff Economist, President’s Council of Economic Advisers

 

ON HEALTH CARE

This (the rising cost of health care) is the central problem facing the budget in the long term and that we need to start moving aggressively toward trying things and seeing what works.”

[Source]

 

ON THE STIMULUS PACKAGE

The package is about the right size and I think it has the right balance between investments in infrastructure that will help promote future economic growth, tax provisions, assistance like unemployment insurance and food stamps and other provisions that spend out fast and help to bolster the economy immediately.”

[Source]

 

ON SOCIAL SECURITY

The Social Security deficit can be eliminated only through different combinations of politically painful choices: tax increases and benefit reductions.”

[Source]

 

ON ECONOMIC POLICIES

A progressive tax system can help cushion income fluctuations, since it takes less in bad years than good. We could make the tax code both more progressive and more efficient by reforming the way we provide tax incentives.”

[Source]

 

ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Orszag called climate change one of the nation’s most serious long-term problems. “Think of this as an insurance issue,” he said. “By taking action today, we can reduce the risk [in the future], but we have to pay a premium up front to do that.”

[Source]

Reducing the risks associated with climate change requires trading off up-front costs in exchange for long-term benefits.”

[Source]

Global climate change is one of the nation’s most significant long-term policy challenges. Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions would be beneficial in limiting the risks associated with climate change, especially the risk of potentially catastrophic damage. Reducing those emissions, however, would also impose costs on the economy.  Our political system arguably has difficulty addressing this type of issue, in which there are short-term costs required in order to reap expected long-term benefits.

[Source]

Given that climate change is a global problem, effective solutions will require care toward not only these domestic design issues but in coordinating efforts with other major emitters. Whereas timing flexibility and the use of revenue from allowance sales can be legislated, such coordination is difficult to legislate — but may be easier to negotiate the more credible the U.S. effort.”

[Source]

Global climate change is one of the nation’s most significant long-term policy challenges. Human activities are producing increasingly large quantities of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2.”

The accumulation of those gases in the atmosphere is expected to have potentially serious and costly effects on regional climates throughout the world.”

[Source]

Daily Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

February 24, 2009

Here’s what we are reading today.

Hurray for Gollyvood!

by Robert Morrison

February 23, 2009

You Commie homo-loving sons of guns! I did not expect this, but I - and I want to be very clear that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me. Often. But I - I am touched by the appreciation and I hoped for it enough that I scribbled down - so I have the names in case you were Commie homo-loving sons of guns.”

In case you were trapped in an elevator during the Academy Awards, or landing in a USAir Jet on the Hudson River, you doubtless know by now that the above quote was part of Sean Penn’s acceptance speech for his Oscar in the film, Milk.

For once, let’s not focus on homosexuals. Or even on guns. Let’s consider instead that toss-away line about Commies. The Hollywood glitterati cheered and laughed to have themselves so described by one of their favorite bad boys. And maybe, with Penn’s blessing, we can use the Russian pronunciation-Gollyvood.

Was Ronald Reagan the last American concerned about Communism in Gollyvood? Reagan’s gripping story of facing down the post-WWII threat of Communist infiltration in the movies is something all Americans should know. Gollyvood, when it responds at all, lionizes the blacklisted writers and stars. But it was Reagan who, as President of the Screen Actors Guild, had to face anonymous threats of acid being thrown in his face. Reagan had to sleep with a pistol under his pillow. Reagan knew the Communists’ bid to shape Americans’ ideas was serious business.

I often encounter conservative friends who deplore Gollyvood’s anti-American turn. It’s not like the good old days, they say, when Gollyvood churned out patriotic films like Yankee Doodle Dandy and Casablanca. Maybe not, I answer, but can you point to an American war that Gollyvood supported that Joe Stalin did not support first?

Conservative film critic Michael Medved explains that 1992 was the first year when Gollyvood began to make more money overseas than at home. I caught up with Michael last fall and asked him if this was still the case. No, he said, today, Gollyvood makes three-quarters of its money from outside-the-U.S. ticket sales. This explains a lot.

The problem is a very old one. In the 1930s, as ex-Communist Ronald Radosh writes in Red Star over Hollywood, Stalin made a concerted effort to penetrate the U.S. film industry. It wasn’t hard. One of his top agents joked: “Columbus may have discovered America, but I discovered Hollywood.”

The fact that Sean Penn can jokingly refer to his fellow actors and producers as Commies is disturbing. Gollyvood once gave Oscars to The Killing Fields, the film version of the mass murders that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge inflicted on Cambodia after the collapse of South Vietnam. There, everyone who had a drivers license, or even one who wore spectacles, was subject to being killed because he or she was seen as fatally infected by Western ideas. Except when Gollyvood got around to making the movie version, viewers were given impression that it was Nixon’s fault.

It was French Leftists-the kind of folks normally embraced by Gollyvood-who have given us The Black Book of Communism. There, these philosophical Marxists document the killing of 100 million people in the 20th Century by their own Communist governments.

Compare the rollicking reception Sean Penn got with the international uproar when Britain’s Prince Harry showed up in a Nazi uniform at a private costume party. The dim-witted Harry was quickly hustled off for sensitivity training. One assumes he might have shown up in Gollyvood as a kahgehbeest-KGB agent—replete with sky-blue shoulder boards, and it would have been laughed off.

Gollyvood has made some excellent movies about World War II and the Holocaust. And it keeps making them. Sixty-four years after Hitler shot himself, Gollyvood can be relied upon to keep shooting Nazis. Long-dead Nazis are so much easier to fight than former bosses of the Gulag. Or today’s Al Qaeda terrorists. It feels so morally right-and it’s a lot safer, too.

Blogosphere Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

February 23, 2009

Here’s some of the buzz from the blogosphere today.

Change Watch Backgrounder: Ray LaHood

by David Prentice

February 23, 2009

POSITION: SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION

 

NOMINEE: Ray LaHood

BIRTH DATE: December 6, 1945 in Peoria, IL

EDUCATION: B.S. in Education 1971, Bradley University, Peoria, IL

FAMILY: Wife Kathy; four children: Darin, Amy, Sam, and Sarah

FRC SCORECARD:

110th Congress: 64%

Lifetime Average: 78%

 

 

EXPERIENCE:

1995-2009  Member of the U.S House of Representatives, Illinois, 18th District

1983-1994  Aide to U.S. Representative Robert Michel of Illinois

1982-1983  Member of the Illinois state House of Representatives

1977-1982  Aide to U.S. Representative Thomas Railback of Illinois

1974-1977  Chief planner, Bi-States Metropolitan Planning Commission

1972-1974  Teacher, director; Rock Island County Youth Services

 

Member of the Republican Main Street Partnership

One of only three Republican candidates in 1994 who did not sign on to the Contract with America

 

ON OBAMA’S STIMULUS PACKAGE

LaHood supports Obama’s stimulus package and urged other Republicans to vote for it.

[Source]

 

ON TRANSPORTATION ISSUES

Voted YES on expanding fund for passenger rail services.

Voted YES in favor of the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008, a bill that promoted public transportation.

[Source]

 

His most recent approval rating from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the transportation construction industry’s representative in Washington DC, is 66%.

[Source]

 

ON GLOBAL WARMING and ENVIRONMENT

Had 25% rating on critical environmental issues from League of Conservation Voters for 2006.

[Source]

 

First Steps:

Legislatively provide the EPA with a clear mission statement

Simplify environmental reporting requirements to focus on results, not regulations

Establish environmental improvement pilot programs at the state level

Devote increased resources to researching the causes and effects of global warming

Better understand — and begin addressing — the causes of and remedies to global warming

[Source]

LaHood told a Senate panel that all transportation, from roads to rails, must be “sustainable” to “acknowledge the new reality of climate change.”

[Source]

 

ON EARMARKS and PORK SPENDING

Received a 0% rating from the anti-earmark Club for Growth 2007 RePORK Card

[Source]

 

Received an 11% rating from Citizens Against Government Waste for 2007 and holds a lifetime 49% rating from the group

[Source]

 

ON ABORTION

Voted YES on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. (Apr 2005)

Voted YES on making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime. (Feb 2004)

Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother’s life. (Oct 2003)

Voted YES on forbidding human cloning for reproduction & medical research. (Feb 2003)

Voted YES on funding for health providers who don’t provide abortion info. (Sep 2002)

Voted YES on banning Family Planning funding in US aid abroad. (May 2001)

Voted YES on federal crime to harm fetus while committing other crimes. (Apr 2001)

Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortions. (Apr 2000)

Voted YES on barring transporting minors to get an abortion. (Jun 1999)

[Source]

 

LaHood co-sponsored granting the pre-born equal protection under 14th Amendment.

Bill would implement equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution for the right to life of each born and pre-born human person. The Right to Life Act declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and defines “human being” to encompass all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization or cloning.

[Source]

 

ON CLONING

Voted YES on forbidding human cloning for reproduction & medical research. (Feb 2003)

[Source]

 

ON STEM CELLS

Voted NO on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)

Voted NO on expanding human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)

[Source]

 

ON GAY MARRIAGE

Voted YES on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (Jul 2006)

Voted YES on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Sep 2004)

Voted YES on banning gay adoptions in DC. (Jul 1999)

[Source]

 

Glamour Article Strikes a Chord: New Outreach Offers Hope of Healing

by Moira Gaul

February 23, 2009

Last week, Glamour magazine published an unusually candid article on the topic of abortion and women’s mental health: “Abortion: The Serious Health Decision Women Aren’t Talking About Until Now.” Surprisingly, the article conceded that women’s abortion experiences can carry with them the long-lasting burden of psychological harm and mental health morbidity. Illustrating several women’s real-life personal struggles with the aftermath of their abortion decisions, which left them depressed and traumatized, the article undermines the myth that abortion is a non-event in women’s lives. But the article neglects to mention the very real dilemma that there is an utter lack of resources on a public health level available to women and individuals devastated by their abortion experience and in desperate need of help.

The significant gap of resources for women experiencing psychological toil following abortion represents a largely unmet need in women’s mental health care today, particularly given the statistic that one in three women will have an abortion by the age of 45.  Directly following an abortion, women are often unable to make sense of the emotional fallout, the impact of the abortion upon their lives - past, present, or future - even the effects upon their relationships with others.  Not being at a level of readiness psychologically or emotionally to enter a recovery program, but rather at a very elemental level needing to accept that the experience is affecting her, she must adjust to that reality. Women who have successfully emerged from faith-based recovery programs have shared that it took them years, even exceeding a decade, before realizing that healing from their abortion experience was critical and necessary to address adverse mental health outcomes.  During the interim period though, there is a flagrant lack of connections to ample and effective resources to offer hope and aid in the recovery process.

The absence of clinical guidelines — more aptly, a complete non-recognition by the professional mental health field of the psychological sequelae or adverse effects from abortion (as publicly decried by two practicing psychiatrists, Dr. Miriam Grossman and Dr. Martha Shuping — is the root cause of the scarcity of resources. Given the high prevalence of women affected by abortion, how can there be such silence in the professional mental health field?

A fairly new outreach, Abortion Changes You (“ACY”), offers a unique setting for women and individuals seeking help following abortion.  Abortion Changes You is “a safe, anonymous space for women, men, and family members experiencing reproductive grief and loss through abortion.”  It provides a non-judgmental space in which to read and connect with others’ similar abortion experiences as well as to find assistance in identifying feelings and emotions.  The fact that an individual is not alone is enforced as well as the hope of “healing pathways” from which to move forward.  This initiative for women, men and family members allows them to explore their grief and emotions, and to discover the availability of recovery care.  The inclusion of links to multiple recovery programs both nationally and internationally is a salient feature of Abortion Changes You and represents the bridge to care.  While ACY’s primary focus is connecting women and men of faith to healing programs, it also provides awareness and validation of the reproductive grief and loss following abortion to all who encounter the outreach.

With input and expert review by two psychologists practicing in the area of reproductive grief and loss, Abortion Changes You is a necessary and welcome resource.  Women’s health clinics would do well to provide information about Abortion Changes You to help fulfill an unmet need in women’s health care.

Additionally the book Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One’s Abortion Experience, an extension of the Abortion Changes You outreach, provides a very similar format to the web site with a complete listing of recovery program resources.  The Family Research Council endorses Abortion Changes You as a significant women’s health resource for aid in healing from abortion experiences. [Source].

While a vociferously guarded right by advocates, abortion has been a topic which has effectively muted and bound so many who experience it, leaving them alone and trapped in a mire of emotional toil and despair.  The body of scientific research showing an association between past abortion history and subsequent mental health morbidity is extensive and growing. [Source]   Women must be apprised of the psychological harm and mental health morbidity risks of abortion prior to making a decision as a function of clear and accurate informed consent.

In addition, a crescendo of women’s voices that were once bound by the abortion tragedy (http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/resources/ and http://www.operationoutcry.org/) is at last being heard.  These women are determined to break the silence and free kindred souls through a new dialogue.  But far more needs to be done.  

In the meantime, vital outreach through Abortion Changes You, linking women and men to committed and strong recovery programs in the country, is fulfilling a need to effectively minister and provide help and hope to hurting souls.  In doing so, the well-being of women and families will only grow.

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