Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Red Light Cameras and Big Brother

My local metropolis is Columbia, Missouri. Last week, Columbia’s city council voted to pursue using cameras at traffic intersections to ticket cars running through red lights. Columbia became Missouri’s fourth city to do so, following the lead of the St. Louis suburbs of Arnold and Florissiant and the big city of Springfield. Nationally, 110 cities in 20 states have red light camera programs. The plan is designed that once a traffic signal changes to red, any cars entering the intersection will be photographed. The license plate will then be traced and the owner ticketed.

I love this progressive intrusion of government into the lives of private citizens. This move will increase government’s power and its ability to control our lives. Cameras have been installed all over Columbia and most other towns throughout the United States. Presumably, these cameras were to help with traffic flow, not traffic control. They were supposed to alert municipalities of any irregularities, high peak traffic, etc, et al, baloney. The Columbia city council approved cameras at only 5 intersections. Can I make a prophecy? About 6 months after the launch of the “pilot” program, red light cameras will be at every intersection with cameras.

National data isn’t overwhelming. Statistics seem to indicate that right angle crashes do decrease with the program, but that rear end crashes increase. I would assume there are fewer serious injuries from rear end collisions than with t-bone crashes. Traffic statistics from the Columbia Police Department reveal some 10,000 traffic accidents reported since January 2004. Of those, only 404 were a result of traffic signal or sign violations. No one knows how many of those were violations caused by running a red light. So again, without conclusive evidence of the need, government bureaucracy has still voted to extend itself and increase its powers to monitor the lives of its citizens.
The Bible reveals that anti-Christ, the end-time world leader, will have enormous power. With the increase of technology, it isn’t hard to understand how he will accomplish his sway over mankind.

The Federal Highway Administration has had a “Stop on Red Week” for over ten years to raise awareness of the dangers of running red lights.

A 58 question telephone survey done in the summer of 1999 of over 5,000 respondents revealed that the typical red light runner is younger, is driving alone, has no children, and is in a rush to work or school in the morning hours on weekdays. If a parent, they most likely have children less than 20-years-old. They are employed in jobs requiring less education (i.e., blue collar, lower technology), or are unemployed; are more than two miles from home and are more likely to have been ticketed for red light running (although, the rate of receiving tickets is low); and are NOT necessarily frustrated.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Illiteracy of American History

A few short years ago, some of our nation’s most esteemed colleges and universities decided to take a look at how well their students knew American history. The results were alarming.

For instance, only 34% rightly identified George Washington as the leader of America’s revolutionary soldiers at the Battle of Yorktown. Only 22% knew that the phrase “government of the people, by the people and for the people” was from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. And only 23% of those elite students correctly identified James Madison as “the father of the Constitution.”
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni bemoaned: “How did seniors from our nation’s top colleges and universities do? They flunked. Four out of five — 81% — of seniors from the top 55 colleges and universities in the United States received a grade of D or F. They could not identify Valley Forge, or words from the Gettysburg Address, or even the basic principles of the U.S. Constitution.”

And far worse than not recognizing the trivia of our heritage—names, dates, documents, etc., is the failure to recognize the concepts of America. In a survey commissioned by Columbia University’s law school, over two-thirds of those polled believed the maxim “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” was or could have been penned by our founding fathers. Actually, the phrase is from the radical communist, Karl Marx.

The American Council’s report summarized: “Our future leaders are graduating with an alarming ignorance of their heritage – a kind of collective amnesia -- and a profound historical illiteracy which bodes ill for the future of the republic.”

The Bible often calls us to remember. The fourth commandment exhorts us to “remember the Sabbath day” (Exodus 20:8). We partake the Lord’s Supper because Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The psalmist said “I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old” (Psalm 77:11).

I believe one of the reasons modern Americans are reluctant to study and know American history is because it points us to God. No knowledgeable person can deny our founders had a thoroughly Christian world-view. Talking about the founders of America necessarily requires us to talk about God, and that’s a conversation many, especially in elite academia, avoid like the plague. Also, American history requires a Providential understanding. There are too many “miracles” in our nation’s legacy to deny—to use a term our founders were so fond of—“the hand of Providence.” America’s successes cannot be interpreted as a string of coincidences, but can only be understood from a vantage point of God’s governing hand.

Isaiah 51:1 says “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, you who seek the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.” This Independence Day, let’s take a renewed look at how we have arrived at this point. And let’s give thanks to God for carving out a unique story. We are doubly blessed. We are Christians and we are Americans.

Thomas Jefferson said it well: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Our liberties as Americans will not survive in ignorance. Nor will our liberties as Christians. Let’s be vigilant to remind ourselves of the great spiritual and national legacy we have.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hank Waters and Stem Cells

Hank Waters is the editor of my local newspaper—the Columbia Daily Tribune. In his editorial of this past Sunday, he wrote about the Coalition for Lifesaving Cures rally in Jefferson City. In it, he made several surprising and troubling statements.

First, Waters wrote “Let us freely admit that the procedure used to produce human stem cells for research is cloning, but not in any way part of a process for creating human babies.” The first part of the sentence was the most surprising because the pro-amendment 2 advocates, including supposedly “un-bias” media persons like Waters, have taken every precaution to give a wide berth between the amendment’s language and cloning. Waters was definitely going off the script. Such honesty isn’t suppose to happen it Missouri’s current climate of propaganda and medical hype.

So, to hear Waters “freely admit that the procedure used to produce human stem cells for research is cloning” is quite a breakthrough. It is what my side has been saying all along and it’s what every thinking person in Missouri knows. So it gives me a wee bit of hope that supporters of Amendment 2 are at least coming back to some degree of honesty and reality. Missouri’s Amendment 2 WILL legalize cloning. Even liberal supporters like Waters are finally agreeing with the truth.

The second part of Waters sentence is confusing. Does he want to draw a dis-connect between human stem cells and human babies? That’s very popular in the propagandistic lying machine of the pro-amendment 2 crowd (which I will now start calling PA2). Their mantra is that this isn’t human. They say it is a glob of cells in a Petri dish that suddenly became human if and only if they are implanted into a woman’s uterus. Is Waters advancing that position? It seems so. That position is ludicrous because of two reasons. First, we would need to know what is cloned. Obviously, it is human, so how could the stem cells be anything but human stem cells. Of course, they are not ‘advanced’ stem cells. That’s why we call them embryonic. It’s a title we use to describe a human being in a certain phase of development.

That brings us to the second reason it would be so ludicrous to argue that “produc[ing] human stem cells for research is cloning, but not in any way part of a process for creating human babies.” PA2 folks are using a descriptive term of humanity to now say the human is not human. Because they are against allowing a human embryo to be given the right environment to develop further, they say the embryo isn’t human. That logic really causes me to think of scrambled eggs. Could you imagine them being consistent? They’d have to say, “Look, a newborn really isn’t human if left outside on the doorstep in the middle of Missouri’s winter.” They’d defend it by saying “the newborn baby needs the right environment of warmth and milk, and because we refuse to give that newborn baby that environment, she is not human.” Most of us would be rescuing the baby from the cold and calling the police at that point. But that is exactly the argument being made by the PA2 crowd.

Let me state it again just so you don’t miss it. Their position is that a cloned human embryo needs an environment beyond a Petri dish to continue its developmental journey into a fully developed human; they will deprive that human embryo of his needed environment; therefore, the human embryo is not human. Wow! Which award do you give out—the brainless logic award or the cold, heartless morality award? Please realize denying humanity to the embryo because it has been deprived of a needed environment can easily be extended to other phases of human development. That is why we must engage our state in this issue.

Secondly, Waters wrote of the rally “critics were there, too, saying the new law would legalize human cloning. They should not be allowed to demonize the word.” There’s another WOW statement. Now I realize Hank Waters may easily rank in Missouri’s Top Ten Liberals. Still, it is a remarkable statement. I knew I’d encounter it, I just didn’t think it would be this soon. Did you get it? Regarding cloning, we “should not be allowed to demonize the word.” The paraphrase: Cloning isn’t all that bad. Danforth and Company know Missourians disagree. That’s why they used some 2000 words to complicate this amendment and redefine standard and widely accepted scientific terms. Robin Carnahan knows cloning is bad. That’s why our Secretary of State has deceptively stated the amendment will “ban human cloning or attempted cloning”. And now here’s a prominent Missourian, a newspaper editor of one of our largest cities arguing that cloning isn’t such a bad thing after all. My! How far we’ve already come in a few short months! Waters statement reveals the slippery slope argument. He is ready for cloning. I wonder how many other prominent Missourians are ready for it as well, just reluctant to be as honest about it as Waters. Amendment 2 will legalize cloning but unlike Hank Waters, I’m not ready for that. Cloning should be a “demonized” word because it is a demonized practice.

Third, I found his statement “Today, thousands of organic elements available for creating stem cells are routinely destroyed. To clone them for research is just as legitimately called God’s work as that of the devil” very troubling. Hank Waters is typically very clear and very pointed. You may not agree with him (I typically don’t) but you usually know what he’s said. Here however, I’m even confused. I think he is referring to human embryos created through the in vitro fertilization process. It appears he has combined “cloning” and “in vitro embryos” and if so, notice these troubling elements.

First, he has extended dehumanizing language from cloned human embryos to fertilized human embryos. Embryos created by sperm and egg union in a laboratory dish are only “organic elements” in Waters vocabulary—not human embryos as recognized by science. Second, you do not “clone” embryos created through in vitro fertilization. Cloning is not the same as extracting stem cells. You can harvest embryonic stem cells from a human embryo created through the in vitro process or you can harvest embryonic stem cells from a human embryo created through the Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (cloning) process. Both end the life of the developing human embryo. Third, the idea that “thousands of organic elements…are routinely destroyed” is exaggerated and irrelevant. Most in vitro embryos have not been slated for destruction. Many couples are preserving their embryos and giving them over for adoption to other infertile couples. Also, just because some inmates have been given the death penalty (“slated for destruction”) does not give us the right to use their bodies for medical research. To clone human embryos for the purposes of killing human embryos is horribly immoral.

Let’s help our fellow Missourians to see these things. Currently blinded by promises of cures, our neighbors are friends need help in seeing the total picture. Let’s be faithful to show it.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Gone fishin’ is as much a euphemism for taking a break as it is a statement of reality. Both apply for me. I’m going away for a couple of weeks and intend to do some actual fishing. Fishing will actually play a very limited and miniscule role in my siesta. I hope to start blogging again the week of August 20.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mel Gibson's Crime

Mel Gibson’s drunken tirade this past weekend drew the ire of many in the media. In no way do I want to be misunderstood as supporting or minimizing racial slurs. Gibson’s admitted anti-semitism should be condemned. However, two things are being missed by the media.

First, Mel Gibson was driving drunk. Sadly, DUI violations are far too common in our society and Gibson’s crime is hardly being mentioned. When he entered his 2006 Lexus LS and started driving home, he truly was a threat to society. The arresting deputy clocked him speeding at 85 mph. Jewish bigotry we can overcome. Drunks behind the wheel of a lethal weapon is truly a threat to society.

Second, Mel Gibson is a family man. Why is he carousing at 2 am in the morning? While several of his seven children are grown, his youngest children (ages 7, 16 and 18) and his wife need his focus and attention. That he is at a bar, stone drunk (his blood/alcohol level test at .12) at 2 am is problematic.

Had Gibson not lashed out with racial slurs, this would be a non-story and I find that a sad commentary on our society.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Cloning Amendment

The Christian community has publicly launched its counter-offensive in Missouri's cloning wars. Vision America organized a rally at Concord Baptist Church on Monday, July 31, of which the Missouri Baptist Convention was glad to help sponsor. Vision America's plan is to encourage pastors to address this issue within their respective congregations.

The Columbian Missourian carried the Associated Press story on the rally and quoted Donn Rubin, chairman of the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures. He's quite a master of misinformation. Questioning why we would bring in non-Missourians to speak to this issue (Keyes and Scarborough), he stated, “These are people who don’t work here, they don’t live here, they don’t vote here and they and their families don’t get health care here. It’s not clear why Missourians should care about what they have to say on these issues.”

Humm...a gander over to Mr. Rubin's propagandistic website and one finds a host of non-Missourians. Rubin and company have tried tirelessly to garner the support of every disease fighting and patient advocacy group in the nation. After pouring a ton of money into this recruiting effort, they've only been able to enlist about 60 organizations from America. To be sure, some are big name organizations. But it's really ironic that Rubin blasts non-Missourians while proudly touting them on his organization's website.

Some of the better known groups Rubin lists on his website include the American Diabetes Association based in Alexandria, Virginia; the Lance Armstrong Foundation based in Austin, Texas; the Christopher Reeve Foundation based in Short Hills, New Jersey. You get the picture.

It's just another example of how proponents such as Rubin will fully embrace hypocrisy and deception to achieve their goal of reducing human embryos to objects of science and research profit.

May God deliver us from their vision for Missouri. To learn more go here.