Friday, January 28, 2011

Remembering Fallen Explorers

NASA is observing the anniversaries of its human losses in spaceflight: Apollo 1 (forty four years ago yesterday), Challenger (twenty five years ago today), and Columbia (eight years ago next Tuesday, February 1).

Today's twenty fifth anniversary of the loss of the Challenger crew brought back particular memories of that day when I was working in California in support of operations of the primary payload mission. We'd gotten to meet some of the crew during preparations for that mission.

Clark Lindsey has some Challenger anniversary links. Below are videos of the launch as covered by CNN and of President Reagan's moving address from the Oval Office that day.

March for Life 2011

It's been a hectic week including a couple of evenings without power due to a winter storm, but the big story this week is still the March for Life and it's not too late to blog about it. While no one officially counts crowds at these events in DC, there easily may have been several hundred thousand participants in town to stand for life.

Thousands pour onto Constitution Ave. and ascend Capitol Hill.

Sign depicts a famous mom nurturing her special needs child, while post abortive women declare they are silent no more.

A clear agenda priority is brought by citizens to Congress to deny taxpayers dollars to the abortion industry giant.

The threat of the abortion crisis is not just a US concern.

The diversity of the prolife movement on display in front of the Supreme Court. The Secular Prolife web site provides prolife info for those of any faith or no faith.

Events prior to the March included a Sunday prayer walk in Germantown, Maryland in opposition to the late term abortionist Leroy Carhart doing operations there.

A large crowd opposes Carhart's late term atrocities in Germantown, as a friend of mine displays the message of the prayer walk.

Sunday evening, I went to the always powerful (and packed) Vigil Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and Monday morning before the March was the ProLifeCon social media conference.

Abby Johnson describes her book exposing Planned Parenthood while other advocates explain how to use social media to turn the tide for life.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why We March

This is a slightly revised and updated article I first wrote and posted in 2004 at this time.

Today, January 22, marks the 38th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions which imposed abortion-on-demand in the United States. Once again, concerned citizens will gather on Monday, the 24th, for the annual March for Life, which in recent years has usually drawn more than an estimated 200,000 participants. Now, why do so many people consider it so important to take time on a weekday to come to Washington, DC at the coldest time of the year to make their voice heard on this matter?

Before I go on any further, I need to say a couple of things. First, nothing in this article is meant to condemn anyone who has had an abortion or has been involved in abortion in some way. Far from condemning those with an abortion in their past, the people in the prolife movement are about healing and forgiveness, and want it to be clear that there is hope after abortion. Post-abortion counseling can be found through many church denominations and pregnancy counseling centers.

And second, while the prolife movement consists largely of people with strong religious convictions who feel called by God to defend the defenseless, that doesn't make the protection of human life a narrow, religious issue. The facts that the defenseless exist and that they deserve protection in the human family can be persuasively advocated by non-religiously reasoned arguments.

First, let's start with a little scientific background (from the Science for Unborn Human Life website) about how each of us began our lives as unique human beings. A new human being is conceived when a sperm fertilizes an egg. The sperm has 23 chromosomes and so does the egg. But the fertilized egg has 46, half from each parent, and is genetically unique. These 46 chromosomes, which are fixed at conception, establish the child's sex and are a blueprint for how it will develop, both during pregnancy and after birth.

Blood vessels start to form very early, about 13-18 days after fertilization. Then, on about the 20th day - nearly the end of the third week - the foundation of the brain, the spinal cord, and the entire nervous system is established. The heart begins to beat on about the 22nd day after conception, circulating blood throughout the child. The arms begin to form on about day 26, followed by the beginnings of the legs on day 28, the same day that the mouth opens for the first time.

Both the eyes and ears are developing rapidly during the seventh week after conception. At this time, the thumbs, neck, heels of the feet and all of the fingers are also present. Taste buds begin to form during the eighth week after conception. All parts of the limbs are apparent at this time. In addition, the fingers and toes have lengthened and are completely separated.

By the end of the eighth week the overwhelming majority (several thousand) of the body's organs, structures and systems have already begun to develop. Few, if any, new structures begin to form after this time. During the remainder of the pregnancy, development consists mainly of growth and maturation of the parts of the body that are already present.

Isolated arm, leg and backward head movements begin at about 7 to 10 weeks after conception. During the ninth week, a regular pattern of breathing movements is observed, with a median frequency of about 30 breaths each hour.

These are just the highlights of how you developed during the first 2-3 months of your life. Now consider that a majority of abortions are performed during the tenth to twelfth week of gestation. Some are performed much later in the pregnancy, when the child has grown larger and any unbiased observer would recognize a baby when they see one.

So why if the evidence so clearly indicates that a unique human life begins at conception, how did the deliberate and violent destruction of that life come to be imposed as a 'constitutional right'? Time does not permit describing the whole history of abortion or the intertwining influences of the eugenics and population control movements. Let's start with the socially turbulent late sixties when a growing pro-abortion movement subversively exploited the legitimate aspirations of women for greater rights and participation in society.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist and co-founder of the pro-abortion group NARAL, has since changed his mind and heart and is now a leading prolife advocate. He points out the disinformation at the heart of the pro-abortion campaign.
- "The statistics that we gave to the American public about illegal abortions annually; the statistics we fabricated regarding the number of women dying from illegal abortions annually; all of these matters were pure fabrication and still persist to this very day."

- "We spoke of 5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year. I confess that I knew the figures were totally false. It was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?"

- "We in NARAL were in the business of coining slogans principally for the media . . . we scattered catchy slogans for them . . . to use . . . in their stories. Slogans like "reproductive rights", "freedom of choice", "pro-choice". For many years we've known them to be hollow and meaningless. They're just catchy and, essentially, without substance."

The movement made rapid progress. California, New York and a few other states passed 'liberalized' abortion laws (though some other states rejected them). But what imposed abortion on American law were two Supreme Court cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, pronounced on January 22, 1973. The combined effect of the two decisions was to effectively impose abortion-on-demand throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Since that time, over fifty million human beings have been exterminated by abortion in the United States.

Aside from the grave issue that was decided, the finding that abortion is part of a constitutional 'right of privacy' is considered an overreach of judicial power even by some legal scholars who describe themselves as 'prochoice'. The 'reasoning' was based on 'penumbras' the justices claim to have seen in the constitution.

Did you know that the two plaintiffs in the Roe and Doe cases, Norma McCorvey and Sandra Cano, have filed affidavits to the effect that they were manipulated into their roles and that the decisions should be overturned? You would think that this development would be considered unprecedented in Supreme Court history, but I guess Chris Matthews, Katie Couric, the New York Times, etc. forgot to inform you.

One fact that is becoming evident that abortion-on-demand is not such a great thing for women. Abortion has left many women emotionally and sometimes physically scarred. Campaigns such as Silent No More and Women Deserve Better are tapping into this hidden anguish.

Also evident is the effect on our society, with conflicting attitudes on how we treat not only the unborn, but also the sick, disabled and elderly. Consider the heart wrenching case of the judicially imposed death of Terri Schindler-Schiavo in 2005. Abortion has torn marriages and families apart, and led to a hardened and increasingly violent culture. The raging debate over embryonic stem cell research and human cloning shows the growing risk posed by a disregard for the dignity of every human life.

So, we have had for the past thirty eight years, a culture that in some ways has grown cynical, forgoing the promise of a hopeful future for instant gratification, or more often, the resignation to unimaginative 'solutions' that pit mother against child or people against the planet. One is reminded of a quote from the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats:
"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere a ceremony of innocence was drowned."

These Supreme Court abortion decisions were assumed to have 'settled' the issue in our society. Yet much to the consternation of the pro-abortion establishment, the movement of concerned citizens to protect life has only grown in strength over the past thirty eight years. The prolife movement has pursued multiple paths: educating the public, lobbying and litigating for change, participating in politics, and especially reaching out to help women with unplanned pregnancies. On the political front, abortion Continues to play a pivotal role in the debate over health care and other public legislation. Polling data consistently indicates that, even when economic or other issues determine the outcome of an election, those voters that consider abortion decisive in their voting swing overwhelmingly for the prolife candidates. Presidents, economic cycles and other national controversies come and go, but the struggle for life goes on.

Particularly significant is that the change in public attitudes on abortion is most striking among young people (who've lost peers they've never met). This is manifested in polling results and an upsurge of prolife activism among teens and college students, much to the consternation of their professors and, in some cases, their parents. Sort of adds a new twist to some lyrics from the sixties by Buffalo Springfield:
"Young people speaking their minds, Getting so much resistance from behind."

So the buses are starting to roll, as thousands from distant states once again journey to Washington, where many will gather in prayer the night before or the morning of the March. Then we will rally and march, knowing that those we are trying to defend would some day defend our nation, write great literature, cure disease, compose stirring music, and explore and begin to settle the Solar System.

But more than for their potential accomplishments, we speak out for them simply because of the inherent dignity of each of their lives. In so doing we are responding to a great calling as individuals and as a civilization. And we'll continue to speak and march and work and pray, confident in the hope that, one of these years, we'll no longer face the cold winds. Instead, we'll gather on a warm spring day to celebrate the inclusion of the youngest in the human family within the protection of the law.

MSNBC Comedy Show Abruptly Ends

Well, I would occasionally turn on Keith Olbermann's show, which ended tonight, for comic relief, but could only stand to watch for a few minutes at a time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

House Votes for Repeal!

The House of Representatives voted today to repeal the ObamaCare debacle. While it is seen as unlikely to pass the Senate (but not without a fight) or survive a presidential veto, the repeal measure is a crucial first step in an extended struggle over the future of health care in our country.

During today's debate, some Democrats engaged in some pretty hysterical rhetoric (prime examples here and here.). So much for all that civility we've been hearing about.

R. Sargent Shriver, RIP

Sargent Shriver, who had a long and distinguished career of public service, passed away on Tuesday. According to, he was the last prolife candidate (for VP) on a national Democratic ticket (in 1972).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Historic Words Inspired on the Spot

Along with the usual tributes for this year's Martin Luther King Day, a column by Clarence B. Jones, who was tasked to draft Dr. King's speech to the 1963 civil rights march, reveals how the most famous words from that speech were inspired on the spot.
Martin was essentially reciting the opening suggestions I'd handed in the night before. This was strange, given the way he usually worked over the material Stanley and I provided. When he finished the promissory note analogy, he paused. And in that breach, something unexpected, historic and largely unheralded happened. Martin's favorite gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, who had performed earlier in the day, called to him from nearby: "Tell 'em about the dream, Martin, tell 'em about the dream!"

Disconnected Media

Jonah Goldberg describes in a NY Post column how coverage of the Tucson shootings is just the latest example of how much of the conventional media are so totally out of touch with much of the American public and the rising grassroots movement.
And this is hardly an isolated incident. It’s understandable that journalists would want to set the national agenda by providing new information. That’s their job. But sometimes the press just won’t take no for an answer, when the public refuses to see events the same way. For instance, last summer the Times worked valiantly to cast the Ground Zero mosque controversy as a symptom of Islamophobia sweeping the nation, even though the data on anti-Muslim hate-crimes undercut the claim entirely. The press routinely floats the idea that the country needs a "frank" or "honest" "national conversation on race" but viciously punishes anybody who says something they don’t want to hear. It seems every week there’s another thumb-sucking seminar on public radio about how dismaying it is that the public doesn’t share the elite press’ global warming hysteria. Despite the fact that ObamaCare was persistently unpopular, it seemed news reports often focused on how the public didn’t understand what’s good for them. Last month, The Washington Post refused to print the results of its own poll, showing that ObamaCare was at an all-time low in popularity. And, right now newspapers are debating whether they should adopt "undocumented immigrant" instead of "illegal immigrant" not because the latter term is inaccurate but because they think their readers will fall for the subtle manipulation.

Friday, January 14, 2011


The annual Blogs for Life conference held in Washington, DC on the morning of the March for Life (this year on Monday, Jan. 24) has been renamed ProLifeCon in recognition of the growing array of social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) being used for the cause of life. I've just registered and look forward to this gathering of prolife new media activists.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tonight's Memorial Service

The memorial service was held tonight in Tucson in the wake of Saturday's terrible shootings. The "pep rally" atmosphere of the event seemed awkward, though maybe after a time of sadness, the people there were trying to express hope.

President Obama spoke and, to his credit, rejected the frenzy of blame engaged in by some in recent days and hopefully has helped defuse the angry debate that followed the terrible events on Saturday.
But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

And later (with a crucial addition that wasn’t in the prepared text in bold):
The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives - to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, (it did not), but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

Rich Lowry succinctly sums it up here.

Circus on the Severn Opens Its Tent For 2011

The Maryland General Assembly convened for its 90 day 2011 run today. The Baltimore Sun captures some moments in pictures while the Gazette examines the looming huge budget gap. J. Doug Gill previews some of the acts likely to occur under the Big Top this year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More on Tucson

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, while remaining in critical condition, is thankfully making significant progress in beginning to heal from the brain injury caused by the heinous shooting attack on Saturday. It will still be a long road to recovery as any injury to the brain is is a serious and delicate situation. We must remember to pray for Rep. Giffords and the other survivors, those who did not survive, and their families.

While I don't want to dwell on it, it is necessary to respond further to those who are shamefully trying to exploit this tragedy to save their failing agenda. While there is a lot of good commentary out there, I'll simply link to a list of some of the incidents that some of the left and the Media have tried to falsely blame on conservatives and a compilation of the expressions of violence and hate from those who think that they are so much more "enlightened", "compassionate" and "forward thinking" than those of us who disagree with their agenda.

I'm not claiming that there has never been violence or vitriol from some on the right. There has. But the exploitation of this violent act has gone beyond trying to score political points to trying to stifle free speech. Thankfully, the American people are apparently not buying this nonsense.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Tucson Shootings

Once again, a terrible violent tragedy struck yesterday in Tucson, AZ, with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords critically injured, six others dead and a number of other injuries. I learned of the shootings while attending a Maryland Conservative Action Network conference where the news was announced and we took a moment of silence to pray for the victims. Any attack like this is appalling and always raises the question of how this could happen.

The shootings have, not surprisingly, generated a round of charges about political debate and rhetoric. David Gergen and Jennifer Rubin point out how pointless and counterproductive that is. The suspect in the case appears to be as mentally off-base as were the shooters of John Lennon and President Reagan. This tragedy should not be used as an excuse to intimidate the political debate that is essential to our free society. Paul Mirengoff says more.
We can all wish for more reasoned discourse, just as we can all wish for milder weather. But complaining about the nation's discourse is probably a waste of time except as a method of attempting to advance the interests of a particular faction. And that itself can be viewed as an example of unreasonable discourse.

The shooting of Rep. Giffords has a not only affected the world of politics but also the space community, as she has played a key role in space policy as chair of a House Science and Technology subcommittee. Her husband. Mark Kelly, is scheduled to command a Shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS) where his brother, Scott, is currently commanding the ISS mission.

Finally, Katherine Jean Lopez reminds us of the youngest victim of the shootings, nine year old Christina Green. Let's remember all the victims in our prayers and remember to be kind to those around us.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Welcome Change

The 112th Congress opened for business today with the election of John Boehner as Speaker of the House. The climactic visual moment was when prior Speaker Nancy Pelosi handed over the gavel, once again demonstrating the peaceful transfer of power.

Important issues are at stake in this change. The Republican majority will move right out of the gate with a vote next week to repeal the contentious "Obamacare" health plan enacted last Spring. While the out-right repeal measure is not expected to pass the Senate or survive a presidential veto, it will set the stage for ongoing efforts to limit or neutralize the plan via funding cuts and other constraints.

Federal spending and debt and the economy will be another driving issue in the new Congress. Republicans have ambitious plans to cut back on massive federal spending and eventually bringing down the huge debt.

The new congressional leadership is emphasizing a rededication to legislating in adherence to the US Constitution (what a concept?) by conducting a reading of the constitution during tomorrow's House session, hopefully reminding many of the Washington powers-that-be of the foundations of our nation.