Friday, September 30, 2005

Live Patients & Dead Mice - Christianity Today Magazine

That's the verdict from David A. Prentice, MD, adjunct professor at Georgetown University Medical School and consultant to the President's Council on Bioethics. In short, this man knows what he's talking about.

The subject is stem-cell research, and specifically a direct comparison between embryonic and adult stem cells. Here is the score:

  • Number of diseases treatable with adult stem cells: 65.
  • Number of diseases treatable with embryonic stem cells: zero.
You at the Christopher Reeve Foundation, I hope you caught this. Adult stem cells are far and away ahead of embryonic stem cells--which haven't even gotten out of the gate--in the actual healing of real patients. Dr. Prentice also addresses the old chestnut that only embryonic stem cells are pluripotent--able to change into any kind of tissue you want. Not true. Adult stem cells from a wide variety of tissues are just as changeable as are embryonic stem cells. And they are easier to control. All that embryonic stem cells have done is produce choristomas (tissue growing outside of its normal place) or worse, carcinomas and sarcomas (malignant tumors) in rats and mice. I don't know about you, but I would never accept embryonic stem cells in any attempt to heal me of any particular ailment!

Why should we talk about this now? Because certain people want unlimited federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, that's why. To begin with, no Constitutional warrant exists for this kind of research. Furthermore, you're talking about killing some people to save others. And finally, embryonic stem cells are worthless! We have given them a chance, and they have failed--failed absolutely, in that we have no therapies from them, and failed competitively, because adult stem cells beat them to the punch years ago.

Only one reason remains for supporting embryonic stem cell research, and that is this: some people don't want to recognize a child as a person until the mother brings him or her home. Follow the link--a United States Senator actually said that. That is what this argument is all about.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

WorldNetDaily: Dan Rather unrepentant: Story on Bush 'accurate'

You read that right. And though he acknowledges that "one supporting pillar"--specifically, the Killian Memoranda--was "called into question," he still refuses to acknowledge the obvious: that the Killian Memoranda were forged. As he has done at every turn, he still stands by the basic premise: that George W. Bush failed to report where he should have for key assignments, medical examinations, and the like for the Texas Air National Guard.

As Rush Limbaugh asked yesterday: what was Marvin Kalb, who heard this from Dan Rather on C-SPAN, to do--summon the men in the white coats to bring a straitjacket? Will this poor, deluded man go to his grave insisting that George W. Bush was guilty? Is he really that deluded--or does he still think that he can pull a fast one on the American public, including viewers who deserted him in droves?

And what the WorldNetDaily piece does not mention is that Dan Rather openly wept in front of Kalb when he basically said that his bosses hung him out to dry--this although they allowed him to hang on as anchor through the election (which he then, shamelessly, tried to influence on the very day of the election) and still have him on as the chief correspondent on that old rocking horse, Sixty Minutes Wednesday. (Or, as the late L. Ron Hubbard might have called it, "Fifty-nine-and-a-half Minutes Too Late on Wednesday.") If anyone was hung out to dry, it was Mary Mapes, who produced the offending segment. She got what she richly deserved. Dan Rather did not. So for him to shed his crocodile tears on a taxpayer-supported cable television channel is worse than embarrassing--frankly, I am furious.

Space does not permit me to go over all the contrary evidence turned up by Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs, or by Scott Johnson (no relation, as far as I know), John Hinderaker, and Paul Mirengoff at Power Line. With one exception: the most damaging witness against Dan Rather and his crew was Charles Johnson's correspondent who actually owns a working IBM Selectric Composer. That was the only piece of stand-alone office equipment from the era that could possibly have produced anything resembling the Killian Memoranda in the form that we all saw. And not only is it a bulky and expensive machine, but its owner also reprorduced the memos with great difficulty, and not by what we would call "default settings" today. And those memos were supposed to include the private jottings of an officer with a conscience, who by all accounts didn't know how to type? Ridiculous doesn't half say it.

I agree with Rush: Dan Rather is just upset that, in sharp contrast to the situation during the Tet Offensive when Walter Cronkite could misrepresent victory as defeat, Dan Rather could not, in 2004, publish crude, amateurish forgeries and expect no one to expose them for what they were. But I go further: Either Dan Rather knew that those documents were forgeries, or he didn't--and if he didn't, then he's as incompetent as he is dishonest, because he made a cub reporter mistake. That a "citizen journalist" like Charles Johnson could make a jackass of a "veteran professional" like Dan Rather ought to be the final indictment of a mainstream press that still thinks it is the be-all and end-all of what is, and what is not, fit to tell the American people. And that Dan Rather refuses to concede defeat shows him to be crazy, mendacious, or both.

WorldNetDaily: Oil analysts foresee record-high prices

The article is unusually disjointed for WorldNetDaily. The bottom lines:
  • Several oil rigs were severely damaged or even sunk. They won't be replaced soon.
  • Multiple refineries in Texas and Louisiana remain shut down. (Details later.)
  • Crude oil is actually declining in price, prompting OPEC to cut its output in October.
  • And once again we hear from those who insist that oil is a product under continuous production deep within the earth's mantle, brought to drilling range by sheer momentum from the earth's rotation--also known as "centrifugal force."
All right, let's try to make sense of this, shall we?

First, whether crude oil would go up or down would depend on two things: how fast could anyone pump it out of the ground, and how fast could refiners take it to turn it into something else. Right now, with twenty percent of our refining capacity shut down, and likely to stay shut down for awhile, refiners can't refine the crude as fast as it gets pumped out, even with so many Gulf of Mexico rigs sunk or otherwise knocked out. Result: prices are falling. That situation is temporary.

More to the point, the spot prices of refined products are continuing to rise. Gasoline, both premium and regular, went up six cents a gallon in one day of trading yesterday (Tuesday, September 27). The reason is the same reason, ironically, that oil prices are falling: twenty percent, give or take one, of our refineries are shut down. Nor are they likely to come back online any time soon. Those who haven't sustained severe damage that will take weeks to repair, don't have electricity--because they never bothered to build independent, back-up power plants with a supply of fuel to fire them until the refinery stream came back online. So in addition to this country not having built a new refinery in thirty years (thanks a lot, NIMBY screamers!), the refiners made themselves dependent on energy from an outside source. Doh! The juice sometimes blacks out, and that's what's happened to you now!

And then come the proponents of the "abiotic theory" of oil production, who say that even though oil is a continuously generated commodity (though they never explain the nature of the original sources of carbon and hydrogen), the prices of crude oil and gasoline will continue to rise, hurricanes or no. Such monumental inconsistency should make them ashamed of themselves.

Nevertheless, I would have to agree: the era of cheap gasoline is over. Something's got to give. We can and should build new refineries as a stop-gap, but we also need to use whatever techniques are scientifically feasible to achieve energy independence.

OpinionJournal - The Real Debate About Iraq

David Frum's point is simple: conservatives have conducted the only meaningful debate about Iraq, the War on Terror, and the whole Middle East. Liberals just want to cut and run, because any military that they do not control is an institution they fear. But we conservatives ask one another the really difficult questions:
  • Why are we there?
  • What do we hope to accomplish?
  • Who benefits from our activities there?
Frum's piece is a review of the latest and best book on the subject thus far: The Right War?, by one Gary Rosen (Cambridge University Press, 2005). The list of contributors, to use an already shopworn phrase, reads like a Who's Who Among Conservatives, if Elsevier Publishers actually produced such a tome.

I do have one comment that I hope will encourage people to read this book. Patrick J. Buchanan lays it on the line, as David Frum reveals: in his mind, the Republic of Israel is the only real beneficiary of our activities. Mr. Buchanan has been anti-Israel for years, and while I can only speculate as to his reasons, I have a pretty good guess: Israel produces no goods for export, while the Arabs have oil, which we need and which, he says, they need a continued market for. I will assume that Mr. Buchanan, if he has thought about theology at all (which he might not have), would belong to the Reformed/Covenantal school of eschatology (literally, the Famous Last Words of the Bible), which holds that God is through with national Israel. But worse than that, Mr. Buchanan fails utterly to understand the roots of Islam, and its dark purpose.

Mr. Buchanan would have you believe that all America has to do is get out of the Middle East and leave it to the Arabs, and they'll let us alone. Wrong, Pat. The founding documents of Islam command its followers to wage unrelenting war and impose Islam on the entire world. Recently a number of Muslims have begun to realize their obligations, if you can call them that, under the Koran and the Hadith. Their names are Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (caught with his pants down in Pakistan with an unsecured laptop in 2003), Muhammad Atta (died in a blaze of infamy on 22 Jumada t'Tania 1422 AH--excuse me, September 11, 2001), and many others.

Sadly, Mr. Rosen's book reveals that Mr. Buchanan is not alone in his thinking. Fortunately, he is not unopposed, either. I can only hope that someone, somewhere, will start educating people on what the Koran really says, so that we may at last realize the nature of the enemy. In the meantime, Rosen's book is a good start for asking, and answering, some hard questions.

WorldNetDaily: Panhandle broadcasting: Air America crumbling?

And what would make anyone think that? Simply this: Air America has now started asking its listeners to support it directly, since advertisers won't.

Rush Limbaugh commented on this a few weeks ago, when a California station pleaded with local advertisers to support Air America. And now Air America's troubles have only gotten worse.

Say, doesn't that remind me of another largely listener-supported network? Oh, yeah...National Public Radio! And the Public Broadcasting Service! Great. As if we didn't already have programming "made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the annual financial support of Viewers Like You."

To be fair, the listener-supported broadcast model does have its place. Family Stations, Inc. has been operating that way for years. They know they're not selling a product. Rather, they are serving a cause--in their case, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to as many as will tune in. They are, in effect, a church (mostly a Dutch Reformed church, but that's another topic), and Harold Camping, President and General Manager, is the senior pastor (or presiding bishop). And while I certainly have my quarrels with some of the details of their content, I generally prefer Family Radio's schedule to that of most other FM or AM stations today.

The point, however, is that Family Radio has never pretended to be anything but a listener-supported network serving a cause. Air America has tried to pretend that it is selling something of value. Well, as it turns out, people will not pay to have their names mentioned on a network that hardly reaches anyone, and those they do reach will not even be in the market for their products, for commercial, political, or other reasons. Result: no advertising--or insufficient advertising.

I wish Air America all joy in their attempt to become a listener-supported network like Family Radio. Then we shall see whether Air America really has as many devotees as they claim. I would advise them, however, to drop all pretense to being a viable commercial network and rely totally on listener donations. That might help them untangle the mess they have made of their finances--not to mention their relations with relevant authorities.

Or it might not. It all depends on how many people are devoted to the cause they espouse.

Monday, September 26, 2005

WorldNetDaily: Homeschool your kids and save the planet!

Doug Powers would have a hit on his hands even if his premise were no more than this: that a busload of children, homeschooled instead of riding that bus on 180 round trips a year, would save anywhere from 150-200 gallons of No. 2 Diesel fuel a year, on average--assuming that the bus gets about twenty miles per gallon and has to drive a ten-mile route to pick up all those children. And that is just one bus.

Think that's crazy? Then consider this: schools are actually taking measures, from early snow days in Georgia to four-day school weeks in Jackson County, Kentucky, to avoid buying Diesel fuel at a high price-per-gallon in the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Powers' point: a lot of good the schools are doing if the kids aren't even going to school! What are they supposed to do in the meantime?

Go to school all the way through June and into July, I suppose. Those districts can't hope to save a dime unless motor-fuel prices dive as quickly as they rocketed up--and how often does that happen? The reason: 180 days is 180 days. Every day those kids miss, they'll have to make up in the summer--and motor fuel is even more expensive in summer than in winter. That's enough to make the schools hold Saturday school as other than a punishment detail. (Someone should tell my old classmates. Once, my school held Saturday school for everybody. So the boys all showed up in their pajamas. Of course the head of the upper school told them that they'd had their little joke, and would they all get into their regular clothes to go through the day--which they were prepared to do. But I digress.) Or maybe the schools will cancel Christmas, as some of the atheistic organizations would rather see them do anyway.

More to the point: if State governors and Boards of Education can't solve a simple administrative problem any better than that, and are so shortsighted, what kind of example are they setting for their pupils? Powers is right--time to homeschool, if only to end yet another source of dumbing down. Because if even the school administrators are that dumb, what kind of education are those kids going to get?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Christianity Today Magazine on Video Games

In their excellent editorial, Deadening the Heart, Christianity Today takes resounding issue with Steve Johnson's latest pronouncement: that violent video games, like the Grand Theft Auto family, can serve as "safety valves" for pent-up frustration--with what, CT doesn't quote him as saying. CT then cites the American Psychological Association, who clearly believe otherwise. I quote, as CT does: that the time that young people spend playing these games "increases aggressive thoughts, aggressive behavior, and angry feelings among youth."

Let's back up a minute. What do we mean by "youth" anyway? We mean human beings between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one, give or take a year on each side. Up to four hundred years ago, we used to train such people to be responsible adults. But in the 1950's, a generation of fathers came back from the Second World War and did not supervise their children as they ought to have done. The result was the creation of the first "youth culture" and the concept of "teen-ager."

Ironically, to judge from motion pictures like Blackboard Jungle and The Wild One, adults knew that their young people were running wild. (Indeed, The Wild One had its basis in a real and tragic series of events in a small California town.) And yet the adults didn't do anything about it--except to lavish vast sums on the gratification of the young people's every whim. Those teen-agers became the current generation of adults, and many of them are not even growing up. They're trying to be "pals" of their children--with results that, in some cases, are actually trying their children's patience.

That is the point that the APA has missed. Video games like Grand Theft Auto glorify everything that two generations of adults have allowed to go wrong.

I can only ask those of the current generation who have not gone permanently wild, to step away from the brink. The "youth culture" has no redeeming features whatsoever. Video games are only part of the problem. Television carries programming that is at least as bad--and today the original Three Networks don't even bother with such quaint old-fashioned courtesies as advising parents to exercise judgment and discretion. The movies are getting worse all the time, and even when they don't have overt (and pointless) sex and violence, they explore patently unedifying themes. Some of my fellow churchmen don't even bother going to the movies; others run TV-less households. I can't blame them. And I certainly would never advise allowing any video-game hardware into your house.

And if anyone tells you about needing a "safety valve," I would suggest that the best "steam control" is self-control--taught the old-fashioned way, with hands-on supervision.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Muslim-on-Muslim Strife in Stockholm

From MEMRI comes two articles detailing a hot controversy among Muslims in Sweden. A key high cleric in Stockholm says that the British were absolutely right, and in the right, in expelling what he called "preachers of hate" from their country. And then another Muslim, a journalist, charged that the leadership of the Great Mosque of Stockholm was in sympathy with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

This is the weirdest pot-calling-the-kettle-black story I've heard in a long time. And that this is the kind of tale they tell, clearly shows that at least some Muslims in Europe are worried about being painted with the same (camel's hair) brush with Osama bin Laden's "Base."

Friday, September 16, 2005

WorldNetDaily: Storm-relief money spent at strip clubs

And Louis Vuitton purses, and other luxury goods. Specifically, holders of Red Cross and even FEMA debit cards have used them to make these highly dubious purchases.

And why am I even surprised? The merchants will accept any form of payment that works. Some of the Louis Vuitton store associates told of the pricking of their conscience--but the store keeper still processed the card. And, of course, the sex workers at Caligula XXI in Houston never care where the money came from, so long as it flows.

Blame the Red Cross for this, and FEMA, too. They should never have handed out cash. Cash is fungible--a fancy Latin word meaning that you can change it into anything you like. If you're going to help someone out, you buy the sort of goods that people will need, and then allow them to pick up $2000 worth of "merchandise." You don't give them $2000 and allow them free rein to spend it anywhere they please. Anyone who understands the fallen nature of man could have predicted what people would do with free money, handed them on a silver--or a platinum--debit card.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

WorldNetDaily: Big Oil's secret strategy to gush profits exposed

Frankly, I don't know why WorldNetDaily has bothered with this. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has all the look and feel of a 527 organization having the usual socialistic agenda. Their latest charge is that they have "internal memoranda" from ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Texaco executives, suggesting that they not build any more refineries if they want to increase profit margins.

Now if--and I repeat, if--anyone in the motor-fuel sector of the petroleum industry is thinking in those terms, then the next question needs to be, "But how could they get away with it?" Because--contrary to the impression that the socialists try to give--if any player or group of players in any industry tries to limit output deliberately to raise their price, then sooner or later someone is going to find a way to do without their product. The socialists--some of them, anyway--act as though we can't get away from gasoline. So what do they propose? Freeze the price of gasoline!

Well, I was around the last time the government pulled that stunt. I remember standing in line for gasoline, being turned away at the pump, and having to limit myself to a purchase of ten gallons at a time. Who do you think put a stop to that behavior? Ronald Reagan, that's who--Ronald Reagan, who removed all price controls and let the market do its job. Which it did.

So what's happening this time? Terrorism, that's what's happening. Raw, pure unadulterated evil, that sometimes flies a green crescent-moon-and-star flag and at other times flies a red flag with a gold star and a hammer and sickle in the upper left corner. That, and a hurricane that shut down eight refineries--four of which might come back on-line sooner than anyone expected. Those internal memos look more like outright lies every day.

But let's suppose those memos were true. Well, some people are looking for a way to do without gasoline, and they might have found the answer--or part of an answer. Fuel cells, running on hydrogen, will allow the greatest flexibility ever in the use of energy in all fields, including transportation. Fuel cells are not a primary energy source; they're just a battery. But they're the best battery ever invented. Couple that with more nuclear generators, or perhaps with gigantic solar-power satellites that beam their energy to earth-bound receiving stations, and you have your primary source. The only things getting in the way are relative cost and red tape. But if the oils really are trying to gimmick up supply, then they'd be digging their own graves. And I would say, "Keep it up. Keep it up. And you can all share a crater on the moon!" (Apologies to Jackie Gleason.)

But will someone tell me why British Petroleum has a division trying to install solar panels on people's houses right now? In some areas, homeowners can build a solar power system that, with a good battery backup, will let them give power back to the Great Grid by day and take it back by night, and even strike a net balance between what they give to the Grid and what they take back. And if certain highly promising techniques for making solar panels come on-line, then that will drive down the cost-per-watt even further, and make the proposition even more attractive. Watch out, all you oils! Maybe you shouldn't try to play such games.

Or maybe some think-they're-smart second-guessers owe us all an apology--to the oils for conduct tantamount to libel, and to the rest of us for an insult to our intelligence.

Monday, September 05, 2005

WorldNetDaily: Celine Dion: Let 'em loot!

So now another celebrity gets into the act. Celine, your pledge of a million dollars (I assume US, since she lives in the USA full-time) is much appreciated. But your latest pile-on of our President--now your President, too--is not. And deliberately inciting lawlessness certainly is not. You ought to pay a $10 million fine for saying a thing like that.

I am very disappointed. I expected as much from Randi Rhodes. I didn't expect it from Celine Dion.

The celebrities of the World War Two era, like Kate Smith and James Stewart, are lucky not to be alive to witness such disgraceful behavior. This would break their hearts.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

WorldNetDaily: Chief Justice William Rehnquist dies

Several weeks ago, he had been loudly insisting that he would never leave the Court.

Now his life--and whatever game he was playing--are over.

And the Senate will positively explode; mark my words.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

WorldNetDaily: Fundies' flawed Katrina theology

In his column today, Kyle Williams takes "fundamentalists" to task for suggesting, as some apparently did, that God sent Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans to forestall a major convention, if you will, of homosexual activists.

No, Kyle. God didn't do any pre-emptive strike. God doesn't do things that way. If anything, God struck New Orleans as a punishment for being the most corrupt city in America. New Orleans was Party Town USA, especially on the occasion called Mardi Gras (literally, Fat Tuesday), where partygoers routinely would do things they'd never want printed in the papers under their own names. (Maybe that's why the Masked Ball was so popular.) Worse yet, the citizens of New Orleans kept electing Mayor after Mayor and Council after Council who tapped from the city till. New Orleans didn't get the "Big Easy" nickname for nothing. Easy as in easy virtue.

None of this is to suggest that, now that the big stroke has come, the rest of us should not help those people. Furthermore, Jesus Himself told us not to measure our place before God simply on not having had a tower fall on us--or one of our cities destroyed.

But Kyle, if you think that what happened to New Orleans was a mere coincidence, then you're wrong. And you are just as wrong to imply, as you do, that New Orleans' detractors somehow don't have their facts straight.

And if I were you, I'd lay off Michael Marcavage. He has a reason for acting as he does, and it goes back to his experience at Temple University. There, he protested the production of a play suggesting that Jesus and His Apostles might have been homosexuals. For that protest, University officials personally manhandled him, put him in a straitjacket, and hauled him kicking and screaming to the psych ward at Temple Hospital--where the shrinks released him with an attitude that maybe some other heads needed to be shrunk. Now maybe you think his head needed to be shrunk. Not unless we woke up in a Russia that once again calls itself a Soviet Union, he doesn't. OK, so he made a mistake in thinking that God hit New Orleans pre-emptively. But that doesn't make New Orleans' past sins any less real--nor does it make God any less Real.

Finally, compassion and reverence do not tell us to "keep quiet." Concerning some things, you don't dare "keep quiet." This especially includes attitudes and behaviors that make preparation difficult to impossible, and make an already bad situation ten times worse.

WorldNetDaily: Radio host urges poor to loot

The host, or rather hostess, in question is Randi Rhodes of Air America Radio, who not once but twice asked on her show why someone didn't assassinate the President.

This goes beyond wondering why the FCC doesn't enjoin all radio stations from carrying Air America. Why doesn't the FBI march to Air America's broadcast center and arrest Ms. Rhodes? Charge her with inciting people to riot and steal--and possibly to take up arms against the United States government, as a number of people did earlier in the week, halting evacuations from the Superdome.