Thursday, January 25, 2018

Remembering Fallen Pioneers

NASA, the nation and the world are observing this and next week the anniversaries of human losses in spaceflight: Apollo 1 (fifty one years ago Saturday, January 27), Challenger (thirty two years  ago Sunday, January 28), and Columbia (fifteen years ago Next Thursday,  February 1).

I still remember all too well that Friday night in 1967. I was at home with my brother watching a science fiction show on ABC called Time Tunnel when the first news bulletins started coming over about the catastrophic fire. It was a terrible shock to an eleven year old boy caught up in the excitement of the space age,. It was most unexpected because it came not during flight but during a ground test that I was not even aware was happening that day.

For the 1986 Challenger mission, I was working in California as part of the flight operations team responsible for the delivery of the primary payload, a NASA TDRS communications satellite, to its final orbit. It was the darkest day of my career in the space industry.

I heard about the Columbia loss while I was driving and heard a news bulletin on the local news station saying that Columbia had lost communications and was "overdue". At the word "overdue", I immediately knew that it was going to be a bad day, as the Shuttle was a glider with no powered engines during approach and landing. If they didn't return on time, obviously something had gone terribly wrong.

May they be always remembered, along with the four Russians, the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo pilot and all those who have or will give their lives in the future as humans expand outward to explore, develop and settle new places in the cosmos. May God grant them all eternal rest.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Marching for Life, 2018

Hundreds of thousands of people in the March for Life surging toward the Supreme Court.

I participated on Friday, January 19th in the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, DC. This year's March, commemorated the infamous 1973 Supreme Court abortion decisions that imposed abortion on demand in the United States and the over sixty million abortions occurring since then.

Marchers came to DC in an environment of new hope and with determination to see real progress toward the protection of human lives in the womb. Still, it was important for the people to come and both encourage and hold accountable our new leaders, and to be a witness to the nation and the world. And come we did, with estimates of up to several hundred thousand participants.

I started the day at an 7:30 AM Mass at St. Mary's Church, attended by locals and others from distant states. Then it was over to join the Family Research Council's ProLifeCon social media conference (video replay available), featuring some key leaders and other amazing people in the prolife movement.

From there, I headed to the March for Life Rally on the Mall at 12th St. The crowds around there were large, but I got close enough that I could hear the start of the Rally proceedings and see the Jumbotron screen where Pres. Trump was visible, addressing the crowd via video from the White House Rose Garden. I then made my way several blocks east along to Constitution Ave. to be at the front of the March to take some good pictures.

After joining some other photographers near the top of Capitol Hill for a while to capture the huge oncoming March, and then spending even more time in front of the Supreme Court, I eventually went to end this awesome day joining friends and other marchers in celebration at DC's famous Irish pub, The Dubliner.

President Donald Trump addressing the March for Life Rally from the White House Rose Garden.

Science clearly indicates that human life begins at  conception. (

 March for  Life ready to step off.

March arrives at Supreme Court. May justice soon shine for human life at every stage and condition.

Those suffering from past involvement with abortion are Silent No More.

Me with Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.

Students for Life of America representing the Prolife Generation.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why We March

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

March for Life 2014 ascending Capitol Hill on the way to the Supreme Court

On Friday, January 19, the 45th  annual March for Life will mark the anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions which imposed abortion-on-demand in the United States on January 22, 1973. Once again, concerned citizens will gather for the annual March, which in recent years has usually drawn an estimated several hundred thousand 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.

The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist and co-founder of the pro-abortion group NARAL, since changed his mind and heart and became a leading prolife advocate. He pointed 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, at least sixty 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, the late Norma McCorvey and the late Sandra Cano, 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 apparently Chris Matthews, Diane Sawyer, the New York Times, CNN, 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 Awareness 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 forty five 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 forty five 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 national and state elections and in the debate over health care and other public legislation, and is becoming increasingly intertwined with issues of religious and personal liberty and freedom of speech. The abortion conflict has recently ramped up with the release of Investigative videos revealing the hideous practices of Planned Parenthood exploiting their unborn victims and the women they claim to serve in order to harvest unborn human body parts. The powers-that-be and others who want to silence the prolife movement are terrified (even if subconsciously) that the brutal reality of abortion will be exposed. Presidents, election campaigns, economic cycles and other 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, college students, and new media savvy activists who are exposing the dark side of the abortion industry. This is 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 speakin' their minds, A-gettin' so much resistance from behind."

This year, with a president and congress more disposed toward protecting life than we've had in many years, and the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice and numerous lower court judges who may be more inclined to question whether the Roe and Doe decisions are really consistent with the Constitution, there is renewed hope. The Administration and Congress have, within the constraints of the current political situation, taken decisive action on several fronts. Still, we must be there to both encourage and hold accountable our leaders, and to be a witness to the nation and the world.

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.

Friday, January 12, 2018

New Blog Format

Prior to posting my recent "Circus On The Severn" article, I finally gave in and replaced my original blog template and format with a more current version available from Blogger. For one thing, it gets Life at the Frontier past its original '2003 look'. More important, it makes it more compatible for posting blog content to Facebook and other social media.

One drawback has been that the list of links on the right do not automatically transfer over to the new version. I did copy the HTML from that section of the old template into a MS Word doc so that I would have a list of all of the links I had posted in the old version. I did some research to try to find out if there is a straightforward way of importing a list of links into the "gadget" that Blogger now supplies for such content. If there is, it's still eludes me. I've begun adding links individually starting with ones that I refer to daily, using a little trickery to create spaces between subject matter categories. I will continue to gradually add more links, both from the previous version (leaving out those that are defunct or that I no longer refer to) plus links I did not have before. Adding links one by one is a time consuming process, so it will take time to build up content.

BTW, the background image in my new format is of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014. For the scientific background for this image, start with this NASA press release. For a transcendent impact of this image, consider this verse from Scripture"The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands" Psalm 19:1

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Circus On The Severn Convenes For 2018

The Maryland General Assembly convened on Wednesday for its 2018 ninety day run as this year's election for Governor and other executive offices and the whole Assembly looms large. Taxes, transportation, crime and other issues will be prominent issues of contention. Here's more on what to expect from this session. Also, persistent vigilance is required to thwart another attempt at legislating physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in Maryland this year.

While legislators and other officials are prohibited from fundraising and certain other activities during the session, party officials and grassroots activists across the spectrum are already gearing up for this year's contentious and pivotal election. Governor Larry Hogan is standing for reelection and will be contested by one of the numerous Democrats contending for their party's nomination. Meanwhile, candidates are filing and additional candidates are being sought to fill the ballots for legislative districts across the state. The outcome this year will shape redistricting based on the 2020 census which will set the direction of Maryland politics for the next decade.