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July 28, 2006

The Mounting Human Cost of a Single Abortion

The ills that abortion is known to cause, outside of the obvious death of a child, continues to either mount or be reinforced.

A new report from a committee of the National Academies of Science finds that a first-trimester abortion, the most common abortion procedure, is linked to an increasing risk of premature birth. The report comes from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a NAS organization.

The IOM published a report this month titled "Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention."

In the report is a list of "immutable medical risk factors associated with preterm birth" and "prior first-trimester abortion" is listed third among other risk factors that increase the risk of having a subsequent premature birth.

The report has huge consequences for abortion because premature birth can lead to a host problems, including cerebral palsy for the child and breast cancer for the mother.

Teenagers are at higher risk due to higher risk of infection and an immature cervix.

This also bolsters the abortion-cancer link.

The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, a group that monitors the link between abortion and breast cancer for women, says the "IOM's findings provide further support for an abortion-breast cancer link."

"If, after having had an abortion, a childless woman is unable to carry subsequent pregnancies, then she could remain childless for the remainder of her life. Cancer organizations say childlessness (nulliparity) is a risk factor for breast cancer," the group said in a statement provided to LifeNews.com.

Other research shows that a premature birth before 32 weeks gestation increases the mother's breast cancer risk, including articles in the British Journal of Cancer and Lancet, both in 1999.

Even though the pro-abortion forces continue to deny that there is any link between the two, the evidence continues to come in. The reason is simple biology.
The biological reasons for this are the same as for the abortion-cancer link, the Coalition explained.

"Breast tissue is only matured from cancer-susceptible tissue into cancer resistant tissue during the last eight weeks of a full-term pregnancy. During this time, women receive protection from estrogen overexposure experienced during the first two trimesters of pregnancy," the group said.

So not only does an abortion kill a child, it can permanently harm the mother, and hurt or kill subsequent children. If someone really is concerned for women, they ought to be concerned for them more than just for the here and now; more than the time it takes for the check to clear.

Posted by Doug at 01:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Thomas Sowell on Cease-Fires

Here's an interesting thought from Thomas Sowell.

People are calling for a cease-fire in the interests of peace. But there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else. If cease-fires actually promoted peace, the Middle East would be the most peaceful region on the face of the earth instead of the most violent.

This is not to say that cease-fires are useless. But it depends on the parties involved. Henry Kissinger was on Fox & Friends this morning, and he mentioned that in his day, he didn't have to deal with these types of groups; he just dealt with countries that had land and people they were responsible for. Hezbollah's just a group all willing to die for their cause, and in today's climate they know how to play the game.

There was a time when it would have been suicidal to threaten, much less attack, a nation with much stronger military power because one of the dangers to the attacker would be the prospect of being annihilated.

"World opinion," the U.N. and "peace movements" have eliminated that deterrent. An aggressor today knows that if his aggression fails, he will still be protected from the full retaliatory power and fury of those he attacked because there will be hand-wringers demanding a cease fire, negotiations and concessions.

That has been a formula for never-ending attacks on Israel in the Middle East. The disastrous track record of that approach extends to other times and places -- but who looks at track records?

It's that history repeating itself thing the people ignore at their peril, or the peril of others. Actually, that's why I think that most of the rest of the world is telling Israel to stand down while the US isn't. It's because they don't remember relatively recent history. Don't forget that most of the world was unwilling to confront Hitler head on ("Peace in our time", anyone?), or afraid to appear strong and resolute against the Communist threat. Both those enemies took full advantage of that timidity. For Hitler, it took America to come in and defeat him, not ask for a cease-fire. For Communism, it took so many proxy wars, but the political climate kept us from defeating it, and people in Korea and Vietnam and Cambodia and many other places paid, and are still paying, the price for it.

If the world considers Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations, then leaving them alone when they kill Israelis is not an option. Well, it shouldn't be. As it is, Hezbollah can launch hundreds of rockets without much of a peep at all from the international community, but Israel is considered too aggressive when it tries to stop those shooting the rockets. Make no mistake; Hezbollah's charter does not allow it to negotiate a permanent peace until either Israel is gone, or they are gone. Which would you rather have win?

Posted by Doug at 02:35 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

July 25, 2006

Codes Within Codes

Codes within the code of life - "Researchers believe they have found a second code in DNA in addition to the genetic code."

The genetic code specifies all the proteins that a cell makes. The second code, superimposed on the first, sets the placement of the nucleosomes, miniature protein spools around which the DNA is looped. The spools both protect and control access to the DNA itself.

The discovery, if confirmed, could open new insights into the higher order control of the genes, like the critical but still mysterious process by which each type of human cell is allowed to activate the genes it needs but cannot access the genes used by other types of cell.

Here's a very interesting paragraph at the end (emphasis mine).
In the genetic code, sets of three DNA units specify various kinds of amino acid, the units of proteins. A curious feature of the code is that it is redundant, meaning that a given amino acid can be defined by any of several different triplets. Biologists have long speculated that the redundancy may have been designed so as to coexist with some other kind of code, and this, Dr. Segal said, could be the nucleosome code.

Yes, I'm sure that they're intending to refer to blind chance over millennia being some sort of designer. But the more they find codes within codes, one wonders how long they'll stretch believability in that regard.

Posted by Doug at 01:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 24, 2006

Da Vinci Part Deux

"The Da Vinci Code" was just fiction, right? No harm done. No one would actually act on it, right?

A California woman publishing a novel similar to "The Da Vinci Code" claims she is a direct descendant of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Kathleen McGowan of Los Angeles is making the statement as her work, "The Expected One," becomes available this summer.

"I don't want people to think I'm claiming to be some elitist figure in the [Jesus] bloodline," McGowan told the Sunday Times of London. "But what I'm saying is that Mary and Jesus had children and after 2,000 years of procreation there are probably millions of descendants around the world. I believe I'm one."

This would never have been published if not for Dan Brown's success.

McGowan submitted her proposal to publishers in 1997, and says, "I was laughed out of New York City. ... I was told nobody would ever publish a book claiming Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene."

Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" asserted that after the crucifixion of Jesus, Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus' child, moved to France with the help of Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus' uncle. She purportedly lived among local Jews and gave birth to a daughter named Sarah.

A former editor for the Irish News in Belfast, McGowan originally published her version herself last year after selling shoes on eBay to pay for research. Though it sold only 2,500 copies, the rights were snagged by Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

The publishing house has already spent seven figures acquiring the rights to the story, and will spend another $275,000 on marketing.

The book is based on a prophesy that Ms. McGowan considers true, and in a Rev. Moon-like move, sets up the prophesy in such a way that she possibly is one to fulfill it.
She says the book's title refers to an ancient prophecy about a woman chosen by divine providence to bring the real story of Mary Magdalene's life to the world. But she won't say whether or not she considers herself "The Expected One."

"I'm not grandiose about this, and it concerns me a lot that I could be portrayed that way," she told USA Today. "I don't want it to appear that I'm standing up and saying I'm the expected one. That's a dangerous, ego-driven kind of thing."

(As I understand it, Rev. Moon prophesied about a coming prophet of God that was rather specific, and that he himself fulfilled.)

So now, in addition to the many fooled by Mr. Brown's book (a book that, while fiction, he claimed was mostly the truth), we have another book and possible movie that may bring in more, and confirm the "faith" of those already in that camp. The church needs to speak with a louder voice on this, lest we give up the saving of the gullible and the ignorant. I understand the reluctance of some churches to deal with transitory pop culture fads and deal more with the eternal. I hear the best way to learn to spot counterfeit money is to educate yourself primarily on what a good bill looks like, but this phoniness is being passed around at an alarming rate.

Posted by Doug at 02:33 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

Heat Wave in England

England in a heat wave! Record 92 degree temperatures. Wildfires springing up spontaneously. Deaths from the heat. Weeks without rain. Farmers having to harvest their crops at the earliest time in 46 years. News reports describe a paucity of songbirds; quiet in the countryside.

Click here to read how bad things were in England...in 1911! Indeed, the record temps have been broken this week, but if today's records are due to man-made reasons, how to explain records from 100 years ago? If you can explain those records, could not those explanations apply to today as well? If you can't explain those records, can you really explain today's?

And the globe has indeed been hotter. Wheat farming in Greenland, anyone?

Posted by Doug at 11:39 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Vacationing in Lebanon?

Rich Galen has a great column today on the 25,000 or so Americans who are stuck in Beirut and waiting for the U. S. Government to come rescue them.

One question: why are they there? Sierra Faith has some answers.

Honestly, would you want to spend your vacation in a war zone? Personally, I prefer Walt Disney World.

Never mind the fact that the State Department has had warnings posted for six months about the dangers of travelling to Lebanon.

Mike Gallagher's analysis of the situation is right on the mark:

Once more, we’re confronted with the ugly image of people shirking their personal responsibility and wanting to blame everyone else for their decisions. If you make the choice to take a holiday in a place like Beirut, it sure seems like there’s a possibility that you might not enjoy it when the terrorists get antsy. At the very least, you might want to hold your tongue and not complain, gripe and moan about your country when it comes and rescues you.

These people likely learned a thing or two from the reaction to flooded New Orleans. Sure, there were some people who couldn’t leave when Katrina was on its way. But let’s face it, there were many people who became victims because they made a choice to stay in New Orleans despite being warned to get out of town. Their bad decision became the government’s fault.

Just once, I’d like to see an American on TV express some appreciation for their country during times like these. What a joy it would have been to turn on the television and see an evacuee from Lebanon say something like, “Boy, was I ever dumb for deciding to take a vacation in Lebanon. But thanks to the United States, I’m now safely sitting in the Baltimore airport and am I ever grateful. Thanks to the brave men and women who helped rescue my family and me, and God bless America. It sure feels great to be home.”

No, that wasn’t what these people said. Not even close. Their sense of outrage and entitlement is slowly but surely becoming the American way. And it’s positively disgusting.

Posted by Tom at 09:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 20, 2006

Not So "Disproportionate" After All

So much for the criticism that Israel's response to Hezbollah has been "disproportionate" (hat tip: Mark Levin):

Israel has been willing to give up the element of surprise in its battle against Hizballah to warn civilians that they should flee areas where the Air Force is planning to attack, an army official said on Thursday.

Israel has been accused of using disproportionate force in its response to Hizballah attacks on Israel, and in some cases, of deliberately targeting civilians.

For the last eight days, residents of northern Israeli communities, including Israel's third largest city, Haifa, have stayed in bomb shelters and security rooms as more than 1,600 Hizballah rockets have crashed into the country. Twenty-nine Israelis have been killed and hundreds more wounded.

Israel has launched massive air strikes on what it calls Hizballah targets, including weapons caches, trucks that may be used to transport weapons, and other infrastructure that may be of use to Hizballah. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Wednesday that more than 300 Lebanese civilians have been killed in the last eight days.

But Israel said it is going to great lengths to prevent civilian casualties by warning civilians of impending attacks.

"We've taken numerous actions telling civilians to leave, [even] losing the element of surprise trying to not injure civilians," said Army Capt. Doron Spielman.

"[Hizballah] is imbedded within densely populated areas. We're losing [part of our] military might [by dropping fliers]," said Spielman in a telephone interview. "We're not always able to drop fliers," he added.

The Israeli army has dropped fliers in many areas where it intends to bomb Hizballah targets, warning residents -- sometimes hours in advance -- that they should leave the area because it will soon be attacked, said Spielman.

The fact that Israel is willing to sacrifice the element of surprise is amazing. It's no secret that Hizbollah imbeds their personnel among civilians making it extremely difficult to separate the terrorists from the innocent bystanders. Perhaps critics of Israel's tactics will think twice and realize who are the real villians.

Posted by Tom at 04:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Comments from Blogspot'ters Working Again

I found out today that if you left a comment recently where either the URL field or a link in the text was to a blogspot.com address, you were getting rejected for "questionable content". During one of my spam elimination sessions, I apprently blocked the whole domain. My fault, and it was entirely accidental. (I try to specifically avoid doing that, actually, but I must've been sloppy one day).

So if you got censored, please try again.

(Thanks, Dan, for pointing this out.)

Posted by Doug at 04:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Did God Create Oil?

Jordan Ballor of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty brings together the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a disconnect in environmentalism's disdain of nuclear energy, his answer to "Why did God create oil", and Mr. Fusion. If we want cleaner sources of energy, we need to be willing to accept them. It's not enough to be against a particular means of energy; you need to be for something to replace it.

Posted by Doug at 09:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2006

It's About Time, Mr. President, but Good Call

Veto Pen: found.

Embryonic stem cell bill: vetoed.

Lives to be saved: priceless.

It's sad that it took Bush this long to veto anything, but it's a fine one to start on. Morally and financially, this was the right call.

(More at Redstate.)

(And thanks for stopping by Townhall blog readers. Thanks for the mention, Mary.)

Posted by Doug at 02:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How to Liberate Lebanon and Help Secure Israel

Charles Krauthammer once again nails it. The Lebanese, regardless of religion, don't want Hezbollah to continue to own south Lebanon. But Lebanon itself is too weak to evict them.

The road to a solution is therefore clear: Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese.

It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. But if all that happens is the air campaign, the result will be failure. Hezbollah will remain in place, Israel will remain under the gun, Lebanon will remain divided and unfree. And this war will start again at a time of Hezbollah and Iran's choosing.

And a cease-fire at this point in time may embolden Hezbollah in the same way that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon did. Land for peace simply does not work with these guys. It never has.

Posted by Doug at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cat, Meet Dog. Dog, This is Cat.

Brent Bozell, President of the conservative Media Research Center, is calling Oliver Stone's World Trade Center move "a masterpiece".

Posted by Doug at 12:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

McKinney Faces Runoff

After thinking she could coast to a win in the primaries, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) instead faces a runoff.

Incumbent Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was forced into a three-week runoff campaign after drawing less than 50 percent of the vote in her first re-election bid since her scuffle with a Capitol Hill police officer.

McKinney only edged former two-term DeKalb County commissioner Hank Johnson by fewer than 1,500 votes -- 28,507 to 27,049. The two will pair off again in an Aug. 8 runoff for the Congressional 4th District.

In Georgia, if you don't win your primary with >50% of the vote, there's a runoff between the top 2 contenders. Given McKinney's antics in and out of Washington, I'm dismayed that so many in her district still support her. There was the whacking of a Capitol Hill police officer back in March, of course, but she even failed to show up, with no advance notice, for 2 scheduled televised debates for this election. And even with all that she still picked up 47% of the vote.

Talk about taking your constituents for granted. (And talk about constituents who don't really care about the issues.) Hopefully, the supporters of John Coyne, the 3rd place finisher, can rally with Johnson supporters and rid Georgia of this embarrassment.

Posted by Doug at 12:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2006

With an Eye to History - The Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Israeli-Palestinian situation is not--or I guess I should say "should not"--be a matter of left/right, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, Muslim/Judeo-Christian or whatever divide you want to put forth. It's a matter of history, and sadly the reaction to it does seem to generally break into all of those two camps. Typically it's that the former generally leaning towards the Palestinians (with some added generalities about stopping "all" violence, though they find their voice more often against Israel) and the latter leaning towards the Israelis. But if you look at history, it really shouldn't be an ideological issue.

Charles Krauthammer has an article today that seeks to answer the question "Who is at fault?" Some folks think that trying to assign blame and figure out who started it is an exercise in futility. Often that's true. However, there is a generation of history to look back on and see that the causes of this conflict can far more often be laid at the feet of those who break their promises, target indiscriminately, and twist history to try to gain an advantage.

Next June will mark the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War. For four decades we have been told that the cause of the anger, violence and terror against Israel is its occupation of the territories seized in that war. End the occupation and the ``cycle of violence'' ceases.

The problem with this claim was that before Israel came into possession of the West Bank and Gaza in the Six Day War, every Arab state had rejected Israel's right to exist and declared Israel's pre-1967 borders -- now deemed sacred -- to be nothing more than the armistice lines suspending, and not ending, the 1948-49 war to exterminate Israel.

That's just for starters. From day 1, Arabs have been the ones who did not want to live in peace. Israel has been in a defensive war since its birth. Any ground taken was to create a buffer zone between its enemies and the thin sliver of land they were given. If you attack from point A, don't complain when you're pushed back to point B by the nation you attacked. This isn't a liberal/conservative issue; it's a matter of history.
But you don't have to be a historian to understand the intention of Israel's enemies. You only have to read today's newspapers.

Exhibit A: Gaza. Just last September, Israel evacuated Gaza completely. It declared the border between Israel and Gaza an international frontier, renouncing any claim to the territory. Gaza became the first independent Palestinian territory in history. Yet the Gazans continued the war. They turned Gaza into a base for launching rocket attacks against Israel and for digging tunnels under the border to conduct attacks like the one that killed two Israeli soldiers on June 25 and yielded a wounded hostage brought back to Gaza. Israeli tanks have now had to return to Gaza to try to rescue the hostage and suppress the rocket fire.

The Palestinians vowed land for peace. Israel exited Gaza completely. And what has Gaza turned into? A new and closer launching pad for rockets and new and closer bases from which guerillas can operate. This is a matter of history, not ideology. The "cycle of violence" is heavily weighted on one side. Yes, sometimes Israel responds with force, but many, many times it gives land-for-peace a chance. It allows its adversaries the opportunity to do the right thing. It is always disappointed.
Exhibit B: South Lebanon. Two weeks later, on July 12, the Lebanese terror organization, Hezbollah, which has representation in the Lebanese parliament and in the Cabinet, launched an attack into Israel that killed eight soldiers and wounded two, who were brought back to Lebanon as hostages.

What's the grievance here? Israel withdrew from Lebanon completely in 2000. It was so scrupulous in making sure that not one square inch of Lebanon was left inadvertently occupied that it asked the U.N. to verify the exact frontier defining Lebanon's southern border and retreated behind it. This ``blue line'' was approved by the Security Council, which declared that Israel had fully complied with resolutions demanding its withdrawal from Lebanon.

Grievance satisfied. Yet what happens? Hezbollah has done to South Lebanon exactly what Hamas has done to Gaza: turn it into a military base and terrorist operations center from which to continue the war against Israel. South Lebanon bristles with Hezbollah's ten-thousand Katyusha rockets that put northern Israel under the gun. Fired in the first hours of fighting, just 85 of these killed two Israelis and wounded over 100 in Israel's northern towns.

Instead of land-for-peace, Arabs occupy the land and do not change the game plan. Each step closer to Israel is one step further in their mortars and rockets can penetrate. And when they attack, they target civilians. These are terrorists. This is a matter of history, of fact. This is still not, or should not be, an ideological debate.

The issue has never been occupation, all their talk to the contrary. If it was, the Gaza that had been asked for would be a place where Palestini

Posted by Doug at 09:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Highlights from the SCO Blogroll

Here are some notable posts from the group on the SCO blogroll:

  • Captain's Quarters - "The Vatican finally issued a statement on the conflict in Lebanon, and Catholics around the world -- including yours truly -- will wish that the Holy See had remained quiet. Despite the attack on Israel by Hezbollah, a member of the Lebanese government, the Vatican blames Israel for defending itself militarily." Indeed, one wonders why the vast majority of condemnations, from the Vatican or the UN, are aimed at Israel, and not that the many groups who daily attack them.
  • Mere Comments - "If a young man were to ask me how he should prepare for pastoral ministry, close to the top of my list of advice would be, “Get and maintain--especially if you plan to marry and have children, and are not of independent means--a skill for which there is a ready market, for which you could leave the pastorate and quickly begin to support your family.” I am deadly serious about this."
  • Power Line - "It seems clear that Iran has not only encouraged but ordered the latest terrorist outrages against Israel." They point to a report that Iran plans to rebuild any war-damage in Lebanon.
  • Parableman - A rather extensive review of a number of commentaries on the book of Leviticus. It's part of a larger project of reviews on commentaries for each book of the Bible. Pretty ambitious, if you ask me.
  • Mark D. Roberts - Part 5 in his series of What's So Good About Denominations.
  • La Shawn Barber - "There is a growing movement in the United States to mainstream mediocrity and define deviancy down. All cultures, ways of life, or however you want to define the ideals under which we live, are not equal, nor were they meant to be. American culture, for lack of a better term, is far better than any other on earth, including its diverse subcultures."
  • The Evangelical Outpost - "The writings of Michael Kinsley, former editor of Slate and The New Republic, are often intelligent, insightful, and invariably, incorrect. His latest article for Slate, Science Fiction: What pro-lifers are missing in the stem-cell debate, is a prime example."
  • The American Mind - "UK Banning Sex-Selection Abortions"

Posted by Doug at 03:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stem Cell Roundup

With the debate over embryonic stem cells heating up again, and the President threatening to dust off his veto pen for this (if he can find it), here's a list of SCO posts about the issue over the past year.

Adult Stem Cells Further Prove Their Worth

Big Promise from Adult Stem Cells

Avoiding Ethical Complications in Stem Cell Research

Ethical Sources of Embryonic Stem Cells

Embryonic Stem Cell Research: A Done Deal?

Frist v Embryos

One less bonus to embryonic stem cells

Posted by Doug at 11:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Diplomacy and Christianity in North Korea

Rick Warren has accepted an invitation from North Korea to speak there. According to writer Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, in an interview printed yesterday in Christianity Today, this is most likely just a propaganda play and a possible diplomatic connection. He'll preach to a pretend church to help the North Koreans "prove" they have religious freedom. But supposedly this is one of the only real channels the North Koreans use with the West. Boyd-MacMillan says that Billy Graham did this for years, so let's hope this is some way to ratchet down the tensions.

Boyd-MacMillan talks mostly about what it's like for Christians in North Korea in this interview and some of the challenges in doing evangelism there. Very informative

Posted by Doug at 01:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2006

Fast-Forward Considered Harmful; Hollywood Stifles Viewer Choice

You are not allowed to choose what you will and won't watch in a movie. So says Hollywood and the courts.

A federal judge in Colorado has handed the entertainment industry a big win in its protracted legal battle against a handful of small companies that offer sanitized versions of theatrical releases on DVD.

The case encompasses two of Hollywood's biggest headaches these days: the culture wars and the disruptive influence of digital technologies.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch came down squarely on the side of the Directors Guild of America and the major studios in his ruling that the companies must immediately cease all production, sale and rentals of edited videos. The summary judgment issued Thursday requires the companies -- Utah-based CleanFlicks, CleanFilms and Play It Clean Video, Arizona-based Family Flix USA and the separate entity CleanFlicks of Colorado -- to turn over all existing copies of their edited movies to lawyers for the studios for destruction within five days of the ruling.

Utah's CleanFlicks, which describes itself as the largest distributor of edited movies, through online sales and rentals and sales to video stores in Utah, Arizona and other states in the region, said it would continue its fight against the guild and the studios. CleanFlicks and the others make copies of official DVD releases and then edit them for sex, nudity, violence and profanity.

Yes, I know you could spend the time yourself recording the DVD to video tape and try to hit pause/play at just the right times (though the point was not to have to view the objectionable material, even once). Yes, I know you could possibly load up the movie on your computer and, with some expensive DVD editing software cuts out all the parts you want, down to the words. Yes, I know you could spend all that time and/or money doing that yourself.

Or you could pay someone else to. Well, not according to the courts. No, all the gratuitous sex and violence is, not just artistically, but legally required for the story to be told. And no, the studios don't lose a single penny, and yes you can view the original if you really want to.

The mainstreaming of sophisticated digital editing technologies has fueled the cottage industry of movie sanitizers. CleanFlicks and others purchase an official DVD copy of a film on DVD for each edited version of the title they produce through the use of editing systems and software. The official release disc is included alongside the edited copy in every sale or rental transaction conducted. As such, the companies argued that they had the right on First Amendment and fair use grounds to offer consumers the alternative of an edited version for private viewing, so long as they maintained that "one-to-one" ratio to ensure that copyright holders got their due from the transactions. Matsch disagreed.

"Their business is illegitimate," the judge wrote in his 16-page ruling. "The right to control the content of the copyrighted work ... is the essence of the law of copyright."

Careful now, because this statement makes it sound like I can't make my own, edited copy of a movie that I legitimately purchased. If I can't have someone else do it for me, can I legally do it myself? Even if, in both the court case any my hypothetical, an original copy of the movie was legally purchased and is available with the edited version? Don't I have a choice what part of a purchased movie I choose to see? This ruling teeters on the edge of making me a law-breaker for essentially hitting the Fast Forward button on my remote.

This sort of mentality almost occurred with DVD hardware, in the ClearPlay situation. This is a device that allows you to play your DVD and it takes care of filtering it as you watch the movie. What parts to skip are download to the player, and you just hit play.

Early on, the legal sparring involved Salt Lake City-based ClearPlay, which offers video filtering software that allows for home viewing of cleaned-up versions of Hollywood titles.

ClearPlay offers software programs developed for specific titles that users can run on their computer or ClearPlay's proprietary DVD player along with an official copy of the DVD. With this technology, a nude shot of an actor can be altered to show a silhouette, or profanity can be bleeped out. Because ClearPlay's technology does not involve making an altered DVD copy, it has been shielded from the copyright infringement claims. The debate over movie content filtering activities made its way into Congress, which passed the 2005 Family Movie Act that protects ClearPlay and other software-based filtering companies. Matsch noted that Congress at that time had the opportunity to also carve out legal protections for CleanFlicks and its ilk, but chose not to.

The result is exactly the same as watching a pre-edited movie; you own the original, and you watch what you want to. It took an act of Congress to protect your right to skip parts of a movie via a hardware device. It looks like it'll take another one to protect your right to allow a 3rd party to edit it for you (or possibly to protect you from doing it yourself), even though the results of the two technologies result in exactly the same output. The fact that you can obtain a permanent copy of that output shouldn't matter and is a transparent fig leaf to hide behind.

Posted by Doug at 01:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 06, 2006

To Uganda

We leave tomorrow to visit the children of war and those who care for them in northern Uganda. We’ll spend the next two weeks in Kampala and in remote towns in the north that have suffered much at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

With peace talks possible this next week, it is a good time, it seems, to visit. We go with a group from ChildVoice International, which is seeking to respond to the horrific brutality of the LRA. The group has terrorized the nation of Uganda for 19 years and has abducted children to serve as child soldiers.

ChildVoice wants to raise awareness in the international community about child victims of war. Currently, the organization is planning to build a village in Uganda where children can live after escaping from their LRA captors.


I hope to write along the way and to report when I can on the road, or when I return.

In addition to being beaten, raped, and forced to march until exhausted, abducted children are routinely forced to participate in the killing of other children who attempt to escape. In addition to the thousands who have been abducted, thousands more have been killed, maimed, brutalized, and used to undertake the worst atrocities imaginable, including murder, rape, theft, and the like, and often on the very communities from which the children had lived.

Children who succeed in escaping from the LRA find their ordeal far from over. Fearing rebel reprisals against themselves or their families if they return to their villages, most escaped children are afraid to go home. Many others have nowhere to return to, as their villages have been decimated and are left abandoned when inhabitants are forcibly evacuated and sent to internment camps.

Posted by Jim at 09:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Georgia Same-Sex Marriage Amendment Upheld

The constitutional amendment stands.

The Georgia Supreme Court's decision Thursday upholding a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage capped a two-year battle that mobilized the gay community, brought conservative voters to the polls in 2004 and threatened to become a politically charged issue in this year's election.

The state's highest court unanimously affirmed the constitutional amendment - approved by 76 percent of voters in 2004 - that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

The amendment was appealed on the grounds that it violated Georgia's rule that constitutional amendments must deal with one topic only; the "single subject rule". Opponents said it dealt with both marriage and civil unions, thus more than one subject. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled, rightly in my opinion, that there truly was one subject.
But Justice Robert Benham, who was appointed to the court in 1989 by then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris and wrote the short, six-page opinion, refuted that claim. He wrote that the objective of the amendment is "reserving marriage and its attendant benefits to unions of man and woman."

He went on to say that the prohibition against civil unions was not "dissimilar and discordant" with that objective.

The decision ends the opponents' appeal process on the "single-subject rule" issue.

The single subject rule was to keep unrelated items from appearing in the same amendment, but this was a single subject--marriage--dealt with on two fronts, not two subjects.

As has been the case all over the country, same-sex couples have been using the courts to get their way rather than using the legislative process. (See here for another example of some courts rightly pushing this to the legislature, and Democrats reliably upset that their hopes of ruling by judicial fiat have been dashed. Legislation has become the fall-back position rather than the front line.) This is why an amendment was necessary; to meet them on the playing field of their own choosing.

Both gay marriage and civil unions were already illegal in Georgia. Supporters of the amendment said that defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the state Constitution would make it harder for judges to overturn the law.
Not impossible, for a judge enamoured with the whole "it's a living document which means what I want it to mean...today" mentality, but certainly harder. Opponents of the amendment have no one to blame for requiring this step but themselves. Some people, however, either still don't get it, or are playing things up for their own base.
Chuck Bowen, executive director of Georgia Equality, a political advocacy group dedicated to gay rights, said while he is disappointed with the decision, he is pleased that gay marriage most likely will not be a big election issue this year.

"Our families and our lives should never be used to pander for votes," Bowen said.

This had absolutely nothing to do with pandering. Sure, it revved up the conservative base, but again that was a response to legal moves being made by same-sex marriage proponents. They forced the issue, not conservatives or Republicans or the Religious Right.

Here's an interesting line in the story:

The constitutional amendment banning gay marriage first came before the General Assembly in 2004 and immediately became the most controversial and emotional issue debated by lawmakers that year.

"Controversial" only in the sense that it brought rather loud opponents out of the woodwork. Those were the folks stirring controversy. Something that passes with 76% of the vote is hardly controversial.

This sums it up well:

"Today's decision by the Supreme Court was the correct one," state Attorney General Thurbert Baker said in a statement. "The people of Georgia overwhelmingly ratified the constitutional amendment stating that marriage should be reserved for a union between a man and a woman. I am pleased with the court's ruling respecting the voters' choice."

That difficult fact is why same-sex marriage proponents have decided to do an end-run around the people's representatives and shop for a small group of favorable judges. And that is why this amendment became necessary. Alleged "pandering" had nothing to do with it. If you want to debate in the legislature, that's where the debate will take place. If you try to sneak it in via some sympathetic judges, don't be surprised or upset in the slightest when you're met on that field as well. That is where the Left is taking the cultural and social issues, and that's where we have to deal with them, even if, as I believe, this isn't the place for them. They chose this venue, so they better learn to live with the outcome.

Posted by Doug at 09:34 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Serve God, Save the Planet

Former emergency room doctor J. Matthew Sleeth has seen much trauma and heartache in his day, but if you want to see him get really agitated, tell him that the environment is not a valid topic of concern for evangelical Christians.

Dr. Sleeth is bold about his Christian faith and sees as his primary responsibility to bring others to faith in Jesus Christ. He is also one of the emerging leaders in the creation care movement, a position that is growing with the publication this month of his new book Serve God, Save the Planet(Chelsea Green).

On the heels of the Evangelical Climate Initiative that came out with its statement on global warming in Feb. - a statement signed by 86 prominent evangelical leaders - Sleeth's book provides an alternative to big-government "solutions," and shows how voluntary, reasonable creation care can save money in the family budget (Sleeth's monthly electric bill is around $20), limit environmental damage, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Sleeth also takes to task hypocritical environmentalists whose actions do not match their words.

He writes in Serve God, Save the Planet:

“There is plenty of hypocrisy among environmentalists. I was invited to visit a woman who writes about the effects of fossil fuel consumption. I pulled up to her rural Maine home one day. Two SUV's were parked in the drive. The Maine house is one of three that she owns. All are heated year-round...As we talked, I thought to myself, 'May the Lord save us from well intended, wealthy environmentalists who want to save the planet.'"
Serve God, Save the Planet is not about politics or the political battles over global warming. It is a deeply personal book with far-reaching ramifications for evangelical Christians and all those who take their devotion to God seriously. A moving personal story that is practical, the book presents a gripping account of Dr. Sleeth’s personal and spiritual journey to creation care. It lays out sobering rationale for life changes, a “how-to” guide for lifestyle adjustments that will help protect God’s creation, and a greater understanding how creation care serves others whose life and health are affected by our pollution.

Sleeth’s unique book tackles this divisive issue from a conservative evangelical perspective – one that urges the reader to focus on small changes each person can make that will have a substantial impact on the environment, rather than waiting for the government to devise “solutions” that intrude on personal freedom.

Ø "It's tempting to point to a self-serving lobbyist or a power-hungry elected official and blame him for one of the sixty-four thousands annual deaths from airborne soot,” Sleeth writes. “ But what about me and what about us? By changing light bulbs,... carpooling, and owning more modest homes, Christians can save lives."

Earlier this year, 86 evangelical leaders released a Call to Action on climate change, signaling a notable shift in the Christian community and a growing concern among evangelicals about the moral questions surrounding environmental stewardship. A poll released in Feb. 2006 by Ellison Research showed that 84% of evangelicals agreed that reducing pollution is a form of obedience to the biblical command to love your neighbor.

Now, they have a handbook they can trust to guide their steps.

Rather than using the environment as an excuse to increase government's role in our lives, Sleeth discusses how reasonable measures taken by each of us can help us practice good stewardship of the creation God gave us as a gift. In the process, Sleeth’s solutions save money in the family budget (Sleeth's monthly electric bill is around $20), limit environmental damage, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Five years ago, Dr. Sleeth and his family lived in a big house on the Maine coast, had two luxury cars and many material possessions. As chief of the medical staff at a large hospital, Sleeth was living the American dream. As he saw patient after patient suffering from cancer, asthma, and other chronic diseases, he began to understand that the earth and its inhabitants were in trouble. Feeling helpless, he turned to his faith for guidance, and he discovered how the Scriptural lessons of personal responsibility, simplicity, and stewardship could be utilized to help alleviate these health problems. The Sleeths have since sold their big home and discarded more than half of what they once owned.

Sleeth writes:

"The changes we have made [in our lifestyle] will not earn our way into heaven, but they do two important things for our souls. They connect us with the family of man around the world, and, more important, they bring us closer to God. If he asks us to give up everything we have and follow him, I now know with certainty that each member of my family would gladly do so."

In Serve God, Save the Planet, Dr. Sleeth shares what was easy and what was hard about the changes his family has made, and how material downscaling led his family to healthier lifestyles, stronger relationships, and richer spiritual lives. He writes: “Serve God, Save the Planet is meant to elicit personal accountability rather than political change. Its lessons are meant to teach individuals, families, and communities not much larger than a congregation; and yet it looks at larger issues because they profoundly affect each of us.”

Posted by Jim at 03:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 05, 2006

North Korea's Fireworks

North Korea has indeed launched, not 1, but 7 or more missile tests into the Sea of Japan. According to the news article, more could be on the way. Fortunately, the longest-range one, the Taepodong-2, failed shortly after take-off, which is no doubt a setback for their missile program. It happened quite a bit later than previously thought, but it did happen.

Some folks thought we were being played for fools. Truth is, we were played almost 30 years ago when Jimmy Carter trusted a tyrant to keep his word. Some folks think that if we just speak more nicely to them, they'd calm down (see the comments to a cross-post of that same SCO post at Blogger News Network). Carter, too, put the lie to that by being non-confrontational to a sworn enemy (or, as Jim put it below, we were nice to them and met their needs) and allowing missile tech development to continue unabated.

North Korea has come (further) out of the closet, so to speak. Since they have to go back to drawing board on the long-range missile, we do have more time to deal with this, though it's only because we got lucky. Do we need direct talks with North Korea? Possibly, but only if there's some sense that it could be constructive and that it wasn't just a delaying tactic on their part. Carter-esque appeasement, with non-verified agreements on their side, have obviously not worked. If we aren't allowed to verify compliance, there really is no point in talking; we know what the result will be.

Posted by Doug at 09:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 03, 2006


Freedom isn’t free, the now common slogan says, and true freedom isn’t just physical freedom. As we celebrate 130 years of American independence, it is good to remember these principles.

Our freedom has been costly, but the price has been paid, and is being paid daily. That is true spiritually and politically, although humanists and many liberals will deny both.

To the humanist, people are inherently good unless driven toward bad or deprived in some way, and people are naturally free from sinfulness. As Christians, we understand that people are inherently sinful, even depraved, and that freedom from the oppression that comes with sin has to be purchased. Our souls must be purchased, but we have nothing to pay the price. The only currency that God will accept is the blood of the lamb without blemish, the Lamb of God. The price of spiritual freedom is the blood of Christ.

Politically, liberals believe that if we are nice to everyone and meet their needs, everyone will get along and all the people of the world will be free. The price of freedom, they say, is for people to give up their selfishness and be good to each other. The only reason there is war, the liberals say, is because nations such as the United States are selfish bullies that want to impose themselves on others.

Those who understand human nature recognize that we can never give enough away to deal with the evil in the dark hearts of the world (and in our own country). Freedom has to be protected, at times at a heavy price of blood and life.

In our free nation, however, we are surrounded by people who are not free. Walk through the mall and count the people who appear to have free spirits, who demonstrate joy. Turn on the television and watch for people who appreciate a free nation. Consider your family and think about relatives who are free in the midst of the burdens of life.

Freedom is not a physical position as much as it is a spiritual condition. This came to mind again during Sunday services yesterday when a soloist sang the great song “Free,” by Steven Curtis Chapman. One of the joys of my career was working for and achieving an agreement between Chapman and Prison Fellowship—where I was an executive at the time—for Chapman to visit prisons and promote Prison Fellowship’s ministry, and for PF to help support his Heaven in the Real World album and tour (1996). As a result of this agreement and after one of Chapman’s visits to death row, he wrote Free. It reflects the truth you see often among death row inmates—they are free while under the sentence of physical death.

FREE, by Steven Curtis Chapman

The sun was beating down inside the walls of stone and razor wire
As we made our way across the prison yard
I felt my heart begin to race as we drew nearer to the place
Where they say that death is waiting in the dark
The slamming doors of iron echoed through the halls
Where despair holds life within its cruel claws
But then I met a man who's face seemed so strangely out of place
A blinding light of hope was shining in his eyes
And with repentance in his voice he told me of his tragic choice
That led him to this place where he must pay the price
But then his voice grew strong as he began to tell
About the One he said had rescued him from hell, he said...
I'm free, yeah, oh, I have been forgiven
God's love has taken off my chains and given me these wings
And I'm free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom I've been given
Is something that not even death can take away from me
Because I'm free
Jesus set me free
We said a prayed and said goodbye and tears began to fill my eyes
As I stepped back out into the blinding sun
And even as I drove away I found that I could not escape
The way he spoke of what the grace of God had done
I thought about how sin had sentenced us to die
And how God gave His only Son so you and I could say...
And if the Son has set you free,
Oh, if the Son has set you free
Then you are free indeed,
Oh, You are really free
If the Son has set you free,
Oh, if the Son has set you free
Then you are free, really, really free
Oh, we're free, yearh, oh, we have been forgiven
God's grace has broken every chain and given us these wings
And we're free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom we've been given
Is something that not even death can take from you and me
Because we're free, yeah, the freedom we've been given
Is something that not even death can take from you and me
Because we're free, oh, we're free
We are free, we are free
The Son has set us free
If the Son has set you free
You are free indeed

Posted by Jim at 10:11 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 01, 2006

The Southern Baptist’s Lame Statement on the Environment

I was perplexed by the resolution passed by the Southern Baptists in Convention earlier this month on the environment. It is not unusual for me to be perplexed by the odd resolutions that are the usual gurgitation of these conventions, but because I’ve been active on the issue of evangelical environmentalism over the last year, I was particularly interested in the 2006 SBC Resolution No. 8 on environmentalism and evangelicals.

Apparently the resolution is attacking the Evangelical Climate Initiative, of which my firm was a part, but I can’t say for sure because there is too much nuance in the document for the actual purpose to be understood (perhaps someone who attended the conference would know if the floor discussion clarified this), and climate change or global warming isn’t specifically mentioned.

But the climate change politics aren’t interesting to me anyway, because I know where the conservative leadership of the SBC stands. While I think the SBC’s previous statements on global warming demonstrated an antiquated pack mentality, the question of the personal, moral responsibility of the follower of Christ is much more important. That’s what I’m most interested in now.

The Resolution acknowledges sinful man’s culpability when it comes to environmental degradation:

“WHEREAS, Since the fall into sin, humans have often ignored the Creator, shirked their stewardship of the environment, and further defiled the good creation.”

And the Resolution calls on Southern Baptists to protect the environment.

“RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, renew our commitment to God’s command to exercise caring stewardship and wise dominion over the creation (Genesis 1:28); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge all Southern Baptists toward the conservation and preservation of our natural resources for future generations while respecting ownership and property rights; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage public policy and private enterprise efforts that seek to improve the environment based on sound scientific and technological research.”

OK, that’s all good, in my view. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the Resolution is encouraging SBC adherents to do.

Let’s summarize: Baptists should.

1. exercise caring stewardship and wise dominion over the creation
2. conserve and preserve natural resources for future generations
3. encourage public policy and private enterprise to improve the environment.

I just don’t understand what any of this will mean to the Baptists in the pew without more specific directives.

To the drafters, what is caring stewardship? Does that mean establishing habits in your home that will use less non-renewable energy, or carpooling to the Golden Corral after church on Sunday?

How are Baptists asked to conserve or preserve natural resources? What is step one? And is it conserve or preserve—two very different approaches (there was argument between John Muir and Ansel Adams on this point). Do the Baptists really support any significant preservation?

And what legislation will the Baptists now support to improve the environment? What will they encourage private enterprise to do? Could they give us one clue?

The Resolution is useless because it is so vague. The criticisms are lame and the instructions are simply nice words.

There is one other point in the Resolution:

“RESOLVED, That we not only reaffirm our God-given responsibility of caring for the creation, but above all, that we continue to commit ourselves to the Great Commission to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to people of every tribe, tongue, and nation thus bringing glory to the One who will make all things new at His coming (Revelation 21:1).”

So the bottom line for the Baptists on the environment is for us to get more people saved. That’s wonderful; it really is. But when it comes to the environment, what good are more Christians who don’t know how to live their lives in a way that will truly care for God’s creation.

The Southern Baptists don’t know or they can’t say.

In another post I’ll tell you about some folks who can help.

Posted by Jim at 08:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Most Christians Consume Some Christian Media, Just Not Much of It

Christian clergy and laypeople tap into a fair amount of Christian media, but it is a minor part of their daily intake, and the mostly commonly accessed Christian media are music and radio (actually music radio). This, according to a new study by Ellison Research.

The study doesn’t reveal anything particularly surprising. Why would Christians, or anyone, rely on Christian media for news and information when Christian media don’t follow the minimal standards for journalism. Exclusively Christian media are advocates, not journalists, with very few exceptions. World magazine and Christianity Today have laudable journalistic standards, and there may be a few others.

So Christians turn to mainstream media for most of their news, and these days they turn more and more to Fox News Channel, talk radio, and the blogs.

There is no such thing as Christian journalism. There is journalism practiced by followers of Christ. And journalistic treatment of the Christian world. And journalism that exhibits Christian virtues. But news reporting and writing that tries to advocate for the faith isn’t journalism, although it may pretend to be.

Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, points out that although the numbers for Christian media are limited, they are still great enough to get the attention of the business community, which has begun putting big money into Christian films, books, and music.

“Although Christian media of some type reaches the vast majority of Protestants,” Sellers wrote, “for the average person it still represents a fraction of the media they consume.”

Posted by Jim at 12:26 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack