Month Archives: April 2010

The Potential of One Life

by Family Research Council

April 13, 2010

I will never forget my experience visiting an orphanage in Rwanda. Simply put, there were too many babies and not enough adults to adequately care for them. It was a Saturday morning and the babies were lined up in their high chairs all in a row for breakfast. The babies were dirty, crying and hungry. A nun would feed one precious little babe a spoonful and then move on to the next little person. Then she kept moving down the line and then would start again at the beginning. Comparing this (the best the sister could give, without a doubt, given the circumstances) to the care of my beloved nieces and nephews was heartbreaking. I wanted deeply for each of those children to have a home with the love and security they would need for a happy life.

Have you ever considered adoption? Every child is a gift from God. Every person has amazing and unique potential, but they need the love of a mother and father to fully humanly flourish.

If you are at all interested in adoption, I encourage you to learn more. The following websites can help you do just that.

Adult Stem Cells for Vascular Grafts

by David Prentice

April 13, 2010

Researchers have used adult stem cells to create functional blood vessels that can function for bypass surgeries. The work was presented at the American Heart Association’s Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology Annual Conference 2010. For many people undergoing bypass surgery, blocked arteries are replaced using another vessel from a different part of the body. But many patients don’t have a suitable replacement vessel and synthetic grafts are used. However, the synthetic vessels often become clogged within a couple of years. Dr. Stephen McIlhenny and his group at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia have used adult stem cells from fat tissue to create functional blood vessels. Testing the process in rabbits, they grew adult stem cells on human vein scaffolds in the lab. Grafts were prepared using adult stem cells from each test rabbit, then the graft was put back into the individual rabbits so they received grafts containing their own cells, removing the risk of transplant rejection. After eight weeks, rabbits receiving the customized grafts fared better than those receiving synthetic grafts.

Dr. McIlhenny said

We found that using the stem cells as a coating prevented clotting and thickening of the graft wall. I would say those grafts were significantly better. Potentially, patients requiring bypass surgery could receive optimized grafts that would reduce their future complications.”

McIlhenny’s group has previously done work growing smooth muscle from adult stem cells for vascular grafts, and developed a method to prevent shearing of the adult stem cells from the scaffold.

Obama’s Dangerous Irony

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 13, 2010

Two decades after the end of the Cold War, we face a cruel irony of history,” said President Obama today in a major foreign policy address. “The risk of a nuclear confrontation between nations has gone down, but the risk of nuclear attack has gone up.

The President was speaking to the assembled leaders of 47 countries, gathered in Washington, DC to discuss ways of averting nuclear terrorism. His point is a good one: There’s a lot of nuclear material floating around, and it’s imperative that for the security of the United States and our allies America take the lead in preventing it from falling into the hands of terrorists and evildoers generally.

Yet the President, who said last year in Prague and reaffirmed today that he wants to rid the world of nuclear weapons, seems unmindful of two salient facts:

(1) We cannot dis-invent nuclear weapons. The technology exists. It is fairly simple to obtain. Thus, we will never rid the world of nuclear weapons any more than we will rid the world of sin. We must therefore remain vigilant, never - ever - relaxing the exhausting, expensive and intensive efforts of our intelligence agencies and armed forces to prevent the spread and use of nuclear devices.

(2) By cutting too deeply into our nuclear arsenal, we invite the very thing we wish to avoid: Nuclear confrontation. As former UN Ambassador and distinguished security policy expert John Bolton has noted, “President Obama has to date failed to articulate any coherent strategic rationale for the substantial cuts in nuclear weapons and delivery systems he agreed to … with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Instead, Mr. Obama has eliminated the leading-edge F-22 aircraft, limited funds to test our existing nuclear weapons and eliminated the missile defenses both Poland and Czechoslovakia had agreed to host on their soil.

Wishful thinking is no substitute for sound policy. Although Mr. Obamas efforts at this weeks conference might be noble, the extent to which they are uninformed by wisdom makes them all the more dangerous for the security and vital interests of the United States.

Hank Williams Sr.—Special Citation Pulitzer Prize

by David Prentice

April 13, 2010

Mostly overlooked in the Pulitzer Prize announcements, country music icon Hank Williams Sr. received a special citation. The Pulitzer board cited Hank Williams for his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life.

Over at the Cloakroom blog, Tom McCluskey occasionally has some decent picks for his Tuesday Tuneage (today was a good day.) But here at the FRCblog, we’ve got a couple of selections from Pulitzer Prize winner Hank Williams.

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (1949)

I Saw The Light (1948)

Why Jefferson Matters

by Robert Morrison

April 13, 2010

Actor, historical interpreter Bill Barker says its the question he gets at every audience. Barker, of Colonial Williamsburg, plays the role of Thomas Jefferson. The question, of course, is: Didnt Jefferson have children by his slave, Sally Hemings? The answer, in all likelihood, is that some Jefferson sired children by Sally.

Despite the calumnies of two hundred years, it has never been proven against Thomas Jefferson. The 2001 Final Report of the Scholars Commission on the Jefferson-Hemings Matter notes that the DNA testing done in 1998 pointed the finger at Thomas Jefferson no more than it did at any of the other roughly two dozen known male descendants of Jeffersons grandfather present in Virginia at the time.

But, as Mark Twain said, a lie can travel `round the world before truth gets its pants on. Its most unfortunate when today, even Judge Andrew Napolitano takes it as a given that Jefferson was a hypocrite and may even have been a rapist. How could she give consent, the judge asks. The Scholars Commission was composed of recognized historians, political scientists, and lawyers. The 15-member panel concludedwith but one dissentthat Thomas Jefferson was not guilty. Youd think that Judge Napolitano would consider such a verdict from such a distinguished panel before doubting Thomas.

Who cares? All of those spoken of in this story are long dead. What difference does it make? A lot. The story of Jeffersons supposed affair with Sally Hemings gained new life at the very time that William Jefferson Clinton was facing impeachment by the House of Representatives. Clinton had become involved in a sex scandal with a 21-year old intern. Many writers and talkers at the time greeted the news with relish. It was as if they could now say: See, they all do it. Well, no they dont.

The only other Presidents who were seriously suspected of adulterous liaisons while they occupied the highest office were Warren G. Harding, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. FDR was known to have discreetly visited with his former mistress, Lucy Rutherford, during the last year of his life. But it is by no means certain that it was an adulterous relationship at that point. Roosevelts congestive heart failure, his rapidly declining health suggest otherwise. Thats a pretty small number out of forty-four Chief Executives.

The reason why this story is so damaging is that it is a part of the project of contemporary liberalism to denigrate the Founders and what they founded. They held slaves. They denied women the vote. Therefore, we are constantly told, we dont need to pay any attention to what they thought. Our Constitution needs to be a living document, a thing of putty in their hands, they argue.

On slaveholding, why do we think it wrong? In the eighteenth century, most nations in the world held slaves. The horrific Atlantic Slave Trade was deplored by all, but slaveholding itself was defended by many respectable thinkers.

Thomas Jefferson was not among them. He cried out against slavery and the execrable traffic of the Slave Trade. He did more than that. He worked against slavery.

He placed a denunciation of King for protecting the Slave Trade in the Declaration of Independence. It was taken out. Not because the other Signers approved the Slave Trade, but because they recognized their own involvement with it.

Still, Jefferson gave us the ringing phrase All men are Created Equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone knew then that a nation so conceived and so dedicated could not forever countenance human bondage. Abolitionists quoted Jeffersons words from the start. The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time, was another of Jeffersons immortal phrases.

Jefferson, as a member of the Congress, advanced bills to prevent slavery from spreading beyond the Appalachians. One of those bills failed by just one vote. Jefferson cried out in anguish Heaven itself was silent in that awful moment. At least, he could claim some credit for stopping slavery in the territory north of the Ohio River. The Old Northwest Ordinance was one of the greatest accomplishments of the United States under the Articles of Confederation.

As President, Jefferson appealed to Congress to end the Atlantic Slave Trade. He asked Congress to act in 1806, letting the law come into effect on January 1, 1808, the first opportunity afforded under a compromise in the original Constitution. He didnt have to do it. The Constitution said no law could be passed before that date. It did not say such a law must be passed. But President Jefferson pleaded for its passage. In doing so, he used the strongest anti-slavery language of any President prior to Abraham Lincoln.

We all honor Britains great Evangelical anti-Slavery leader, William Wilberforce. And we should. But Wilberforces epochal effort to ban the Atlantic Slave Trade would have come to nothing if President Jefferson had not acted for the United States. Think of two blades of a scissors. How bad was the Atlantic Slave Trade? Horrific. Human beings were crowdedsometimes 600 to 800 to a ship. Naked, chained, fed barely enough to keep them alive, the slaves would be thrown overboard if their ship was approached by a Royal Navy squadron bent on enforcing the ban. Wilberforce once showed fashionable Londoners a slave ship. Six hundred souls departed West Africa. Only two hundred were still alive after a seven-week journey to the British West Indies. The worst Southern plantation in 250 years of unrequited toil never produced such inhuman horrors.

Writing those immortal words to inspire liberty-loving reformers and banning the Atlantic Slave Trade ought to have gained Jefferson gratitude. But he failed to free his own slaves. Unlike Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, he died in debt and was unable to reach their moral heights by providing a powerful example for liberty.

When I took seven different classes of interns to Monticello, I would always stand on Mr. Jeffersons lawn and disagree with the great George Will. Will had written that Thomas Jefferson lived as a free man ought to live. He meant, of course, Jefferson was constantly thinking, constantly writing, constantly creating. No, I told those young students: John Adams lived as free man ought to live. He never freed his slaves because he never owned any.

Still, on Jeffersons birthday we should reflect on what his legacy is. Freedom from monarchy and aristocracy, republican institutions, religious liberty, education open to talented students regardless of their social standing or economic meansall of these are but part of what Thomas Jefferson bequeathed to us. Do we deny the great phrase he employedthe right to life? Endowed by our Creator?

Ever wonder why a man born in Hawaii has just as much right to run for President as a man or woman born in the original Thirteen States? Its because Jefferson led the way in treating new territories as fully equal states, not as colonies. By contrast, only in 1982 was Canada permitted to write her own laws without getting a sign-off from Mother England. Today, when we seem to be giving billions in foreign aid to Muslim-dominated states, supposedly to enlist them in a war on terror, its worth remembering that President Jefferson fought Muslim hostage-takers rather than continue paying tribute to them.

No wonder that Frederick Douglass quoted Jefferson regularly in his own great crusade against slavery. Or that Abraham Lincoln was willing to say:

All honor to Jefferson—to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.

What did these great men, these champions of freedom, born in Jeffersons own time, know about him that too many today have forgotten? I thank God for the life of Thomas Jefferson.

The College Tuition Squeeze

by Chris Gacek

April 12, 2010

Praise needs to go out to the Wall Street Journal for its highly informative article, Why Top Colleges Squeeze You Dry, in its April 9th edition. The author, Andrew Manshel, was a top-ranking college official in charge of finance and administration at a prominent college in the early 2000s. Manshel notes that [t]op private institutions charge what they do because a substantial number of people will pay it. Prestige schools have convinced parents that they hold the key to success for their children.

Manshel does a terrific job of explaining how these schools set tuition levels to maximize the percentage of students who accept college admission offers. He notes that schools do offer tuition reductions for some, [b]ut this pricing system enables elite institutions to charge a premium to those families able to afford it. Marshall describes how these long-term tuition hikes above inflation have led to very high salaries for senior faculty and administrators. Additionally, college building programs have become an educational arms race that waste enormous amounts of resources.

This tuition game might be tolerable if it werent landing recent graduates in mountains of debt. Manshel doesnt make enough of this problem, for he seems to think that financial aid covers the costs except for those at the top of the demand curve. From what I hear it doesnt come close for most. That said Manshel does exhort his colleagues with this closing:

[College] leaders need to take a sharp pencil to their cost structures; raise their endowment payouts; end annual cost increases in excess of inflation; and rededicate themselves to providing opportunity to the talented regardless of means, enhancing social mobility and fostering the production of knowledge.

Amen to that. Costs are out of control. The time has come to re-think the entire education model when we have low cost alternatives being made available through web-education, for example. If the Teaching Company can give me a 24 lecture course on the American Revolution on DVD (video) for $69.95 with a top-ranked professor (Allen Guelzo, Gettysburg College) … something is out of whack.

However, I would add that parents need to reconsider the value of the educations their children will receive. Do you really need to pay Ivy League tuition and costs (approx. $45,000 per year) to study English anymore? The debt loads of the young not including those being created by government entitlement programs are massive. This debt will impair the ability of a generation to attend graduate schools, buy housing, and form families. Its time for a paradigm shift. Washington, are you listening?

New Bioethics Commission Gets Members

by David Prentice

April 9, 2010

The new Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, first announced over four months ago, is finally getting its members. HHS published the official announcement of the commission’s establishment on March 31, and on April 7 ten Members were announced by the White House (the two co-chairs were announced previously; the Executive Order also provides for the possibility of one more member.)

The new commission has its website up.

No meetings or topics have as yet been set, and most are still trying to learn about the backgrounds and positions of the members of the new commission. Stand by.

Out of the Depths: The West Virginia Mining Disaster

by Robert Morrison

April 6, 2010

The tragic news of great loss of life among the coal miners of West Virginia goes straight to my heart. It is one of the most dangerous occupations on earth. Or in the earth. All Americans should pray for those stricken families. Latest reports have 25 miners killed in the blast and four miners remaining trapped far below the earth.

This terrible news brought back many indelible memories. My grandfather, uncles, and cousins were all coal miners.

Shortly after I first began working at Family Research Council, I took a long-scheduled vacation with my family to Nova Scotia. On Cape Breton Island, we came upon the town of Sydney, where they had a coal-mining museum that featured a walk down into an inactive mine.

It was fascinating for my wife, our then nine-year old son and seven-year old daughter, and me actually to see what coal-mining was like. We were guided by a chirpy retired miner named Jimmie. He was a Scots immigrant and cheerful as a cricket. He was only a few inches over five feet. So Jimmie, our son and daughter, and a few others on the tour group could walk into the mine standing erect. My wife and I had to hunch over all the way.

What I thought would be an interesting 20-minute tour became something much more. For hours we followed the merry Scot as he told us more than wed ever dreamed we needed to know about coal-mining.

When we came to the end of our steep downward trek, the mineshaft opened onto an open area with brighter lighting. There, inside a huge tractor tire, was a garden of blooming tulips and other flowers. For hard-muscled miners, Jimmie said, they were the only flowers they would see during their work week. Miners in the early days would see one sunset a week.

Jimmie pointed to where the mineshaft leveled off. It extended, he said, five miles out under the frigid Atlantic Ocean. The very thought of it was awe-inspiring.

We were grateful when Jimmie turned us around and headed back to the mining town on the surface. The smell of that coal mine was unforgettable: dank, decaying, and more than a little menacing. There are poisonous fumes and explosive gases that can seep into those deep mines.

I had grown up on stories of mining disasters—of explosions, cave-ins, fires, and, worst of all, coal-crushing machines that could mean a slow and agonizing death for a miner unfortunate enough to snag a shirt tail or sleeve in the machinery.

I was never so glad to see the sunshine as I was that day. While we were down there I was silently praying. The words of the Psalmist came to me:

I will exalt you, O LORD,

for you lifted me out of the depths

and did not let my enemies gloat over me…

O LORD, you brought me up from the grave.

You spared me from going down into the pit. (Ps. 30:1,3)

It seemed the heightor depthof foolishness to take such a risk, not just for myself, but for my beloved family. On the surface, Jimmie took us through the mining museum. Many a photograph on the wall showed Canadian miners union leaders being entertained by big name Communists in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana.

That scene reminded me that the United States was blessed to have Christians like John Mitchell and John L. Lewis leading our miners unions. Miners throughout the rest of the world are left-wing, if not outright Communists (except in places like Poland and China, where they actually had to live under Communism.)

Six weeks after our return home in June, 1991, we read in the Washington Post a small story buried deep inside the paper. Twenty-six miners had been killed in Cape Breton. A methane gas leak had caused an explosion. It was in an active mine, a parallel shaft to the one we had visited. It was a stark reminder then, as now, of how very dangerous is the life of those who take great risks to bring us the energy we need to survive as a nation. May God bless and comfort the miners and their families.

New Planned Parenthood Strategy: Skyping Abortions

by Family Research Council

April 6, 2010

A number of months ago I saw the movie Up In the Air with George Clooney. While the movie successfully relayed deep truths about the inherent relational nature of human beings, in my opinion it did so in a rather dark and somewhat disturbing way. The major character, Ryan Bingham, played by Clooney, had a chosen profession as a corporate hired gun, i.e., he was hired to fire people. At one point in the movie, a young college graduate convinced the company CEO that firing could be much cheaper and efficient via computer, rather than the status quo in-person firing meetings. You might guess that the outcome was disastrous, deadly, in fact, with one person jumping from a bridge after being informed by the new college grad she no longer had a job.

Not an organization to shy away from dark deeds or cost savings, Planned Parenthood is taking the deadly fiction from Up In the Air up a notch in real life. The nations largest abortion provider is now administering the dangerous medical abortion regime, RU-486, via Skype, instead of in-person consultations with doctors. Follow this link to hear a Planned Parenthood employee describe how the telemed process works.

Regarding the safety of RU-486, did you know that by the spring of 2006, six years after the abortifacient was made available in the United States, the FDA acknowledged six deaths, nine life-threatening incidents, 232 hospitalizations, 116 blood transfusions, and 88 cases of infections, with a total of 1070 adverse events reports? [Letter from David W. Boyer, Assistant Commissioner for Legislation, Food and Drug Administration, to Hon. Mark Souder, Chairman, Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources (May 2, 2006) (on file with Subcommittee).]

If Planned Parenthood really cared about the health of their patients, they wouldnt possibly consider administering a regime as dangerous as RU-486 with less medical attention and supervision. It makes one wonder if Planned Parenthood is more concerned the health of their patients or about monetary gain.

My Capitol Hill Rally

by Chris Gacek

April 1, 2010

This is a short post that discusses my observations at the March 20th Capital Hill rally opposing the Obama healthcare bill. Little did I know that the many thousands of decent Americans who attended the event would be vilified by the national media for 1-2 weeks afterward. With that in mind I want to say a few words about the event specifically, the crowd.

I had missed the two Tea Party rallies held in Washington previously. This seemed like a good opportunity to attend one. I am glad I went. March 20th was a spectacular day in Washington, and at least 10,000 people participated. Not bad given the 48-72 hours notice that the event was being held. People came from all over the United States.

There were hundreds of signs. By and large they were clever; a few crossed the line of good taste. A far lower ratio than I would have expected given the fact that there were no gatekeepers confiscating signs that might offend. (See a few photos that I took.)

The participants were solid Americans who were interested in expressing their political views on an extremely important topic. I didnt hear any racist remarks not even a hint of any. Statists and socialists, however, took a beating.

All in all, it was a beautiful day in Washington, and the rally lived up to the best traditions of Americans petitioning their government.

[caption id=”attachment_3066” align=”alignleft” width=”225” caption=”Dangerous American with Sign “][/caption]

[caption id=”attachment_3067” align=”alignright” width=”225” caption=”"Haters" Opposing Abortion Funding”][/caption]

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