In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Monday, August 31, 2009

One Victory for Religious Liberty

A couple of weeks ago I reported on the case of three public school employees at Pace High School in Milton, Florida, who were being hauled before U.S. District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on contempt-of-court charges for allegedly violating the judge's standing order in an ACLU lawsuit barring school personnel from promoting or sponsoring prayers during school-sponsored events or otherwise promoting their religious beliefs. The contempt charges were based on the defendants' conduct in asking for and saying a prayer at two separate school-related events, one off campus involving clerk Michelle Winkler--who asked her non-school-employee husband to to read a prayer blessing that Mrs. Winkler had written for the noninstructional employees of the school district being honored at the event--and one on campus at a lunch for school employees and booster-club members, where Principal Frank Lay asked school athletic director Robert Freeman to offer a prayer before the meal.

I'm happy to report that after a 7-and-a half hour hearing before Judge Rodgers on August 24, Ms. Winkler was cleared of the civil contempt charge against her. The judge concluded that a prayer offered by Mrs. Winkler’s husband, at a voluntary gathering outside of school, did not violate the court’s order. In particular, the judge ruled that Winkler was not one of the parties in the original lawsuit against the school district, and that she did not know that the event where she asked her husband to pray was covered by the settlement in the ACLU lawsuit.

A news report detailing some evidence presented at the hearing suggests that Mrs. Wheeler may have taken a conscious chance on the "legality" of her action in having her prayer read at the event, after school district officials asked her not to include a prayer in her remarks and assumed that she would withdraw from speaking if she could not offer a prayer. Mrs. Winkler reportedly replied in an email that “I’m still on, and be unfearful of the current events, with your ‘off the record’ permission, I would like to use the prayer that I had prayed about and received from God and will suffer whatever consequences for . . . I cannot be silent as God is my very life and Christ is who I am.” According to the story, this is the prayer recited by Mr. Winkler (and if I may say so, it's beautiful and touching):
I love the way You have created each of us with a purpose which includes the need to serve one another in ways that bring encouragement and inspire each of us to help one another to excel.
Tonight we celebrate some of those who are an inspiration to us and in whose deeds we have been blessed.
There is a Tree (Christ), on which grows the fruits of life: love joy and peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
May we each eat freely from that tree and thereby extend that same grace and mercy to one another as You have faithfully committed Yourself of lavish on us.
Thank You, Father God - in Jesus’ holy and precious name - Amen.
In light of the foregoing, Judge Rodgers may have bent backwards, at least a little, to reach the conclusion she did. If the report above is correct, Mrs. Winkler's conduct seems sufficiently conscious and overt that it would have violated the settlement order had it occurred on school grounds during school hours, with students present. That the judge determined the order inapplicable to Ms. Winkler and the event where the prayer was given, despite the deliberate expression of her Christian faith on that occasion, suggests to me that the judge was careful not to let the order impinge on school personnel's personal religious liberty more than strictly necessary to serve the order's purpose.

It's encouraging to see judicial restraint exercised in a case like this. It's bad enough that an organization of arrogant, self-serving secularist fanatics like the ACLU, which does not represent the values this country was founded on nor those of ordinary Americans, is able to bully and threaten school employees and dictate their own terms to public school districts. In Mrs. Winkler's case, they overreached and had their hands slapped, ever so gently. But two victims remain in their cross-hairs. Principal Lay and Athletic Director Freeman must face the court on September 17 on charges of criminal contempt--for which they could be jailed and fined for invoking the name of God on school grounds during school hours, while some students may have been present. We can only pray--silently, if we happened to be public school employees--that Judge Rodgers will, or can, similarly restrain the atheo-fascists in their case.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Battle Hymn of the Republic

This should have been the very first post on this blog, the title of which--Marching On!--is taken from the lyrics to the great Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe. But I just lately discovered the most breathtaking video/musical presentation of the hymn, and decided to make this post "Battle Hymn Central" on the blog. From now on, clickinig on the link "BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC" below the blog title graphic will take you to this post.

Herewith, the video--the site doesn't identify the chorus or orchestra, but they're magnificent! And so is the visual presentation.

A complete and fascinating history of the hymn can be found on Wikipedia.

Finally, the incomparable lyrics (my favorite stanzas are the fourth, fifth, and sixth):

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

I'll post a suitable presentation of Dixie in the near future, so as to be equable to all sides in the Late Unpleasantness.

Opening Salvo on a Great New Blog

. . . and the blogger is none other than my elder son, Rob (or "R.F.", as he goes by on his blog) Fleming. The name of the blog is Life, Liberty and Property, and the first post is titled The Bedrock of America. The future of our country and the civilized world will soon be in the hands of his generation, and it's most encouraging to see more of them coming to the realization that America is now confronting the most important crossroad in its history, at least since the Civil War--a choice between the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, or the Land of the Bound and Home of the Helpless. God--and young people like Rob--help us to make the right decision!

Rob actually made his first foray into the world of online commentary in a post on Facebook a day or two before opening his blog. Just to display the sharpness of his insight, here is that post in full, courtesy of Rob:
Retrench America
by Rob Fleming

So as an engineering student I tend to spend at least 75% of my study time just doing math. Since I have been without class for a few weeks I thought I would brush up a bit and do some simple algebra. In 1965 the national debt was $317,273,898,983.64, and we had national revenue of about $650,000,000.00. So to make things easy the national debt roughly equaled 1/2 of the national revenue, not great but manageable. In 2009 the national debt is set to top $12,000,000,000,000.00, and national revenue is estimated at $2,200,000,000,000.00. Roughly said the national debt is 6 times the national revenue. It is estimated that the Federal government will spend roughly $500 billion on interest payments (roughly 25% of its income), this equates to an average interest rate of 4.17%. This being said if national debt and national revenue continue to rise at their current rates sometime in the mid 2060's interest payments on national debt will be larger than national revenue.

Not to worry though, the point when interest payments are higher than income will never happen. Why? The same reason I cannot afford a million dollar house, I couldn't possibly even make the interest payments. Lenders and investors will stop supplying money to the Fed long before this happens. Generally speaking we all like to point a finger at the guilty party, but unfortunately it’s not just one person or even a handful of people, its nearly ALL politicians. Our society thinks so much of itself that we forget there are limits. Maybe our congressmen don’t need to tour foreign countries to understand their problems, maybe understanding our own problems is more important. Maybe we don't need to fund that new football stadium, or the new mega mall. Maybe people who make bad financial decisions will have to learn from their mistakes the hard way, and stop trying to play the victim. Maybe we just cannot afford to overhaul health care right now, or to bail out every failing company with good lobbyists.

I think one of our biggest follies right now is trying to care for everyone. We have become the caring mother who is always doing for others, but stresses herself to death by age 40. We need to eliminate the notion of "credit" from politics, and instill the idea of "savings." Sooner or later we will have to pay back our debts, and yes we will have to make huge changes to do so. We will have to do without many things, but it is an unfair to place an insurmountable burden on future generations (as it is we need to spend no money for about 8 years to pay off our debt). This country has grown used to the government caring for us, some more than others. We need to look back to the days when hard work and Industry were the only ways to survive. You don't work, you die. You can't work, you do what you can and rely on the grace of others. We need to stop asking what can the government do for me and ask what can I do for myself and others. God gave us the ability to do amazing things, and I for one think it is time that we stand up and take care of America for a change!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

One Victory for Life

Something exciting and hopeful happened this past Thursday: a federal judge in South Dakota ruled that doctors and abortionists in that state must tell women seeking abortions that the procedure terminates the life of a human being.

The ruling was issued in a lawsuit filed several years ago by Planned Parenthood to enjoin the enforcement of an informed consent law passed by the South Dakota legislature, which required the following matters to be disclosed to women seeking an abortion

• That the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being;
• That the pregnant woman has an existing relationship with the unborn child, and the relationship is protected by the Constitution and the laws of South Dakota;
• That by having an abortion, the existing relationship and constitutional rights with regards to that relationship will be terminated; and
• That the abortion will cause the woman to be subject to significant risk factors, including depression and other psychological stress, and an increased risk of suicide (including suicidal thoughts)

Reportedly (I haven't yet been able to locate a copy of the court's order yet, if it's even been released), U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier upheld that part of the South Dakota law requiring women to be told that abortion ends a human life, reasoning that such a statement can be expressed and interpreted in a biological rather than an ideological sense. However, the judge held unconstitutional provisions of the law requiring disclosure that an abortion increases the likelihood of suicide and that the mother has an existing relationship with the fetus.

The decision has been acclaimed as a victory for a woman's right to know the consequences of an abortion procedure, and as a devastating blow (see here and here) to the main pillar supporting Roe v. Wade. I'm not aware of any other federal judge or judicial panel making a substantive determination, as here, that human life begins at conception. Could this be where science and faith begin to intersect and undermine the narcissistic, nihilistic, anti-life ideology undergirding today's depraved secular culture? Could it be the seed of ultimate recognition by our legal system that unborn children are human beings with constitutional rights to life and due process? If so, abortion defenders may rue the day that they took this matter out of the hands of the several states, where it was determined before Roe v. Wade, and made it a federal constitutional issue.

It took hundreds of years and a civil war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives before people of African descent won nationwide legal recognition as human beings with fundamental legal rights. Let us pray that Judge Schreier's ruling is the opening salvo of the last battle in the quieter, but no less important, war to win such protection for the unborn.

Appeals by either side in this case are still a possibility, so we'll have to wait and see what fruit the judge's ruling bears. But it's such a heartening step in the right direction!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Inspiration Archive

Now you can browse a collection of all the Bible verses I've featured at Marching On! as "Words of Inspiration": just click on Inspiration Archive at the end of the passage, and you'll be directed right to this post. The verses are arranged in the same order as the books of the Bible in which they appear (unless I've slipped up somewhere). So, if you see a verse you like but find that it's been changed by the next time you visit my blog, just go to the Inspiration Archive and browse, or run a word search. You're sure to find some inspiration for your day!
Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever. ~ Deuteronomy 4:40

Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations. ~ Deuteronomy 7:9

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. ~ 2 Chronicles 16:9

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. ~ Deuteronomy 31:6

My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. ~ 1 Samuel 2:1,2

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. ~ Joshua 1:9

One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he [it is] that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you. ~ Joshua 23:10

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth . . . ~ Job 19:25

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? ~ Job 38:4-7

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. ~ Psalms 4:8

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. ~ Psalms 8:3-5

And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. ~ Psalms 9:8-10

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. ~ Psalms 16:11

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? ~ Psalms 27:1

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." ~ Psalms 37:4

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and [why] art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him [for] the help of his countenance. ~ Psalms 42:5

Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. ~ Psalms 42:8

He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. ~ Psalms 46:9

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. ~ Psalms 51:17

O God, thou [art] my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is . . . ~ Psalms 63:1

Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. ~ Psalm 73:25-26

For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. ~ Psalms 86:5

With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King. ~ Psalms 98:6

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's. ~ Psalms 103:1-5

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, [so] great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth [his] children, [so] the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we [are] dust. ~ Psalms 103:10-14

But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children' children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. ~ Psalms 103:17, 18

Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind . . . ~ Psalms 104:1-3

O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. ~ Psalms 104:24

I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. ~ Psalms 104:33

Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance. ~ Psalms 106:4,5

Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. ~ Psalms 107:8,9

[S]etteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock. The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord. ~ Psalm 107:41-43

Who [is] like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high, who humbleth [himself] to behold [the things that are] in heaven, and in the earth! He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, [and] lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; that he may set [him] with princes, [even] with the princes of his people. He maketh the barren woman to keep house, [and to be] a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD. ~ Psalms 113:5-9

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. ~ Psalms 119:9-11

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them . . . ~ Psalms 127:3-5

Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. ~ Psalms 143:8

Blessed [be] the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, [and] my fingers to fight . . . ~ Psalms 144:1

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God: which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever . . . ~ Psalm 146:5,6

Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. ~ Proverbs 3:3, 4

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. ~ Proverbs 3:5, 6

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. ~ Proverbs 3:13-17

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil. ~ Proverbs 4:25-27

Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not [in him] the lips of knowledge. ~ Proverbs 14:7

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death. ~ Proverbs 14:12

He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour. ~ Proverbs 21:21

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee. ~ Proverbs 25:21-22

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. ~ Proverbs 28:13

Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. ~ Isaiah 1:17

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! ~ Isaiah 5:20

Woe unto [them that are] wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! ~ Isaiah 5:21

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. ~ Isaiah 12:2

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. ~ Isaiah 40:8

Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. ~ Isaiah 40:28,29

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:30,31

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. ~ Isaiah 41:10

Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away. ~ Isaiah 51:11

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! ~ Isaiah 52:7

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. ~ Isaiah 53:4,5

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee. ~ Isaiah 54:10

In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee. ~ Isaiah 54:14

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. ~ Isaiah 55:6,7

[Y]e shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. ~ Isaiah 55:12

And [if] thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness [be] as the noonday: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. ~ Isaiah 58:10,11

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. ~ Isaiah 60:1

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. ~ Isaiah 61:1

Let not the wise [man] glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty [man] glory in his might, let not the rich [man] glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I [am] the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these [things] I delight, saith the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 9:23,24

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity . . . ~ Jeremiah 29:13, 14

It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22,23

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. ~ Hosea 6:6
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for [it is] time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. ~ Hosea 10:12

And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. ~ Joel 2:13

Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. ~ Micah 7:18, 19

The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. ~ Zephaniah 3:17

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. ~ Titus 3:5

Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? ~ Malachi 2:10

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. ~ Matthew 5:3-5

[L]ay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. ~ Matthew 6:20, 21

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. ~ Matthew 7:7, 8

I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. ~ Matthew 28:20

Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. ~ Mark 10:14-16

For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy [is] his name. ~ Luke 1:49

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. ~ Luke 2:29-32

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. ~ Luke 2:34,35

They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. ~ Luke 5:31, 32

For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. ~ Luke 8:17

[W]hen the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? ~ Luke 19:8

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. ~ John 10:14, 15

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. ~ John 15:12, 13

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. ~ Romans 8:35,37

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:9

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. ~ Ephesians 4:32
[B]e strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. ~ Ephesians 6:10,11

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. ~ Philippians 4:12, 13

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

He [chastens us] for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. ~ Hebrews 12:10, 11

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. ~ James 1:12
[B]e ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. ~ 1 Peter 3:8,9

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:6, 7

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. ~ 1 John 3:2

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. ~ Revelation 14:6, 7

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. ~ Revelation 21:4

It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. ~ Revelation 21: 6, 7

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Baby Steps to Socialized Medicine?

The current buzz on health care/insurance reform, as reported by, is that the Obama administration may be stepping back from including a "public option"--that is, a government-run insurance program to compete with private companies--in reaction to widespread popular resistance to such an approach. According to the story, "the Senate Finance Committee is discussing cooperatives, or networks of health-insurance plans owned by their customers, that would get started with government funds as an alternative to the public plan." However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a number of the more liberal Senators, Representatives and Democratic leaders (Maxine Waters, Jay Rockefeller, Howard Dean) still strongly favor government insurance, and have said that they won't support a reform package that doesn't include it. Nor has the President clearly endorsed any other approach.

Wavering on this issue among reform supporters shouldn't be cause for celebration by conservatives, at least yet. The "public option" is still backed by the Democrat party establishment, and it's doubtful they would seriously consider anything else unless and until their backs are pinned to the wall and the political futility of government-run health care is made plain to them beyond rational denial. At the same time, the somewhat more palatable alternative of federally subsidized cooperative networks may still, depending on how the system is set up, provide an infrastructure and incentives that could extend government influence into, and eventually control over, private insurance and health care (not to mention taxpayer-funded coverage of abortion). An Associated Press analysis based on interviews with several authorities indicates that it would be years before the federal government could relinquish control of start-up co-ops to their governing boards, while some critics charge that taxpayers and politicians might be too invested in co-ops to ever agree to eliminate the government's role in them. In the end, this approach could turn out to be a "foot in the door" for socialized medicine, a tactic its advocates have used for decades to advance their goals.

PLEASE listen to this 10-minute discussion by the late President Ronald Reagan, who provided a compelling description, all the way back in 1961--long before he became President--of how this indirect approach may eventually bring us to the point of no-choice, government-controlled health care (this is a longer version of a clip that appeared on my sister's blog a couple of weeks ago). Then think again about what level of federal involvement in providing and insuring health care, if any, that you'd be comfortable with.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Don't Post This In Your Public School

. . . unless you want to go to jail. Not only would it be "unconstitutional" for a public school employee to put something like this on a school wall, he or she can be prosecuted, fined, and imprisoned simply for praying out loud on school property, if the district is under a court order not to allow such conduct.

That's precisely the threat faced by a principal, an athletic director, and a clerk employed by Pace High School in Milton, Florida. Their crimes? According to a story in the Washington Times, Principal Frank Lay asked school athletic director Robert Freeman to offer a prayer at a lunch for school employees and booster-club members who had helped with a school field-house project. A month later Michelle Winkler, a clerical assistant who was attending a school district event with other school employees at a local naval base, asked her husband--who is not a school employee--to offer a blessing for a meal served during the event. In both instances, some students may have been present.

How can saying or asking a prayer over a meal--especially in America--be a crime? In this case, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had sued the Santa Rosa County school district on behalf of two students who claimed that some teachers and administrators were allowing prayers at school events such as graduations, among other expressions of religious belief. The district settled out of court with the ACLU, agreeing to a court order barring school employees from promoting or sponsoring prayers during school-sponsored events or otherwise promoting their religious beliefs. According to the school employees' attorney Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, "the ACLU [was] sending people to school to monitor things happening on campus and see if there is anything encouraging religious activity, then running to the court if they see anything." Apparently they discovered the prayer-mongering of Lay, Freeman, and Winkler and ratted on them to U.S. District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers, who issued a contempt order for all three. If found guilty of contempt of the court's settlement order with the ACLU, they could be fined up to $5,000 and jailed up to six months. Ms. Winkler's hearing is set for August 21st, and Lay and Freeman go before the court on September 17th.

"I have been defending religious freedom issues for 22 years, and I've never had to defend somebody who has been charged criminally for praying," Mr. Staver observed.

That public school employees could be criminally prosecuted for asking a blessing on food, even at a non-student event, shows the utter depths to which we have sunk as a nation. Did you ever think you'd live to see the day when you could be sent to jail for praying--in America? When that can happen, Satan is truly in power, and the darkness of the End Times is surely upon us. And remember, if it can be done to these folks, it can be done to you, if you have the temerity to utter anything reflecting your faith in a public venue which the ACLU thinks is pristine secular territory off limits to religious expression.

This criminal ban isn't limited to prayers consciously directed at students and intended to influence their minds. Almost certainly it never occurred to the defendants in this case that they were breaking the law; the blessings asked for were clearly natural, spontaneous expressions of simple faith by people who always do this at home before a meal. Nor was the court's order against religious expression at Pace High School limited to prayers by school employees: according to the Times story, "the district also agreed to forbid senior class President Mary Allen from speaking at the school's May 30 graduation ceremony on the chance that the young woman, a known Christian, might say something religious." Indeed, how could law-abiding school officials allow a known Christian (kind of like a known pedophile, except that even they have legal rights) an opportunity to speak in public? God knows--oops, who knows--what she might say?

Fortunately, Pace High students and the local community aren't taking this lying down. The Times story notes that many members of the student body taped crosses to their mortarboards and stood for an impromptu recitation of the Lord's Prayer during their graduation ceremony this past May. Here's some video coverage of the "free speech" portion of this controversy (including the demonstration):

Also, people from all over the United States and even in foreign countries have donated more than $13,000 to the school employees' legal defense fund. But no one, including public school employees, should have to worry about having a "legal defense fund" if they do something so innocuous as ask for a blessing on food.

Here is all that the United States Constitution has to say on this subject:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .
That's right, our Constitution says nothing about public school districts--only about Congress. And all it says to any ordinary, common-sense person is that Congress may not establish an official religion (as Henry VIII did in the 1500s by setting up the Church of England). The phrase "separation of church and state" likewise appears nowhere in the Constitution, but is a concept invented by the federal Supreme Court. The Constitution does, just happenstantially, say something negative about "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion . . .

Neither I, nor any right-thinking person, desires that a particular religious creed be imposed or even affirmatively espoused and taught by public school officials to young students. Up to a point, "separating church and state", as a general POLICY, may be a wise approach in many contexts. But it is clearly being taken by a small minority of faith-haters far beyond the borders of necessity into the realm of the absurd, and toward a starkly atheist vision of America in which any reference to a Higher Being is forbidden and rigorously scrubbed out of public discourse. This is supposedly all to protect someone's freedom of choice not to have a faith, but it seems that theirs is the only "choice" allowed. And why is it always Christians whose "free exercise" of faith is restricted for the sake of "separating church and state"? Has the ACLU led a crusade against taxpayer-funded accommodation of Muslim religious practices (e.g., footwashing basins) in schools and other public facilities?

Threatening school personnel with jail for a casual invocation of God's grace upon a meal is nothing but a legally-sanctioned pogrom against people of faith. Is a new Kristallnacht looming for Christians, as it was for Jews in Germany in 1938? I fear that it is (if you doubt it, read some of the venomous anti-religious comments to the video above here), and that the ACLU are the new Brownshirts.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Movie Review: Julie & Julia

If you love to cook, this movie is for you. If you love to eat, this movie is for you. If you love to write, this movie is for you. If you're simply passionate about anything or anyone, this movie is for you!

It's called Julie & Julia, and Melany and I caught it over this past weekend. I hadn't even heard of the film until I saw a commercial for it during a TV movie Melany was watching Thursday night. She showed some interest and I nobly offered to go see it with her, as a birthday present. It looked like a thoroughgoing chick flick, and I didn't really think that I would get that much out of it. But I did, in spades!

Here's the intro to the film from Internet Movie Database:
Based on two true stories, Julie & Julia intertwines the lives of two women -- master chef Julia Child [played by Meryl Streep], who arrives in post-war Paris with a passion for food, and modern-day frustrated secretary Julie Powell [played by Amy Adams], who decides to cook her way through Child's classic cookbook -- who though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends... until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible.
To be more specific, Julie commits herself to prepare every one of the 524 recipes in Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 365 days. She intends this initially as a release from the relentless pressures of her temp job with a 9/11 claims agency, but ultimately as a way to make herself follow something through to the end, and hopefully grow in the process. An aspiring writer with one half-finished novel to her credit, she also decides to write a blog about the experience (called The Julie/Julia Project; read it here), and labors through weeks of her Herculean task waiting for a comment (other than her mother's) to indicate that anyone at all is paying attention. Through it all she has only her easygoing, encouraging husband for moral support. Despite repeated setbacks, distractions, and disappointments, she finally completes the challenge she had set for herself and emerges with greater confidence and conviction of self-worth.

Through flash-backs and -forwards (which are clear, logically placed, and not confusing), Julie's story is woven with that of her inspiration Julia Child, who finds herself in post-war Paris with her diplomat husband Paul (played masterfully by Stanley Tucci), and nothing much to do. With his gentle encouragement, she finally decides to indulge her fondness for food by taking some cooking classes at the prestigious Cordon Bleu. Despite some amusing (to others) early foibles, she surprises her instructor, classmates, and herself with remarkable aptitude and enthusiasm for the work, and the beautiful loving relationship between her and Paul grows ever deeper. She makes friends with a pair of "real" French cooks (chefs?) who ask her to help them "Americanize" the cookbook they're working on, and she eventually becomes the driving force behind what would become, years later, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The viewer shares with her and Paul the disappointments, trials, and ultimate triumph of Julia's struggle to keep the cookbook project going and get it published. The final scene between them is as amusing and touching as I've ever seen in a movie.

Julie & Julia is beautifully filmed, dripping in warm, rich colors befitting a tribute to great food and great cooking. You feel personally present in the Paris buildings, streets, homes, shops, and restaurants where most of the Childs' story takes place. The kitchens depicted in the film--even the tiny, worn-out one in the Powells' walk-up apartment--are classic and inviting. The food being prepared and savored before your eyes is beyond description; you can practically taste it through the screen. Go see the movie BEFORE dinner; you'll enjoy your meal, whatever it is (ours was hamburgers and fries--at least they were French), that much more with such a magnificent "appetizer"!

But this film is about much more than just food. It's almost as much about the trials and tribulations of writing, blogging, and publishing--things I can relate to quite personally! On a deeper level, it's about the search for meaning, confidence, and fulfillment in one's life. Perhaps without intending, it's also about love--of food and cooking, of course, but especially about love between men and women who are "there" for each other through every moment of adversity, doubt, discouragement, and elation. The film makes clear that neither Julie nor Julia could have accomplished what they did without their patient, encouraging, loving spouses (the relationship between Paul and Julia Child, which began in middle age, is depicted with special warmth and grace, and should become a cinema classic).

So, enjoy Julie & Julia with your significant other and a hearty appetite. You won't go away hungry!

P.S. Be forewarned: there is one gratuitous "F" word in this film, and a couple of "S" words. I simply don't understand why such things are done in a movie like this. Is Hollywood so terrified of PG and G ratings (Disney excepted) that they have to make an otherwise beautiful film inappropriate for viewing by anyone under age 14? Are they afraid that adults won't think it's a "serious" movie unless it contains obscenities? Is foul language what makes something "sophisticated"? Anyway, if you can handle this relatively modest amount of bad language, Julie & Julia is still delicious!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More Bad Medicine

Guess my sister and I are on a roll regarding "health care reform" this week. Bring it on!

Today's installment is prompted by a story from the Associated Press describing how health insurance bills now before Congress would allow federally-subsidized coverage of abortion, even outside "public" plans:
For years, abortion rights supporters and abortion opponents have waged the equivalent of trench warfare over restrictions on federal funding. Abortion opponents have largely prevailed, instituting restrictions that bar federal funding for abortion, except in cases of rape and incest or if the mother's life would be endangered.

A law called the Hyde amendment applies the restrictions to Medicaid, forcing states that cover abortion for low-income women to do so with their own money. Separate laws apply the restrictions to the federal employee health plan and military and other programs.

But the health overhaul would create a stream of federal funding not covered by the restrictions.

The new federal funds would take the form of subsidies for low- and middle-income people buying coverage through the health insurance exchange. Subsidies would be available for people to buy the public plan or private coverage. Making things more complicated, the federal subsidies would be mixed in with contributions from individuals and employers. Eventually, most Americans could end up getting their coverage through the exchange.

The Democratic health care legislation as originally introduced in the House and Senate did not mention abortion. That rang alarm bells for abortion opponents.

Since abortion is a legal medical procedure, experts on both sides say not mentioning it would allow health care plans in the new insurance exchange to provide unrestricted coverage.

* * * *

In the Senate, the plan passed by the health committee is still largely silent on the abortion issue. Staff aides confirmed that the public plan -- and private insurance offered in the exchange -- would be allowed to cover abortion, without funding restrictions.

Under both the House and Senate approaches, the decision to offer abortion coverage in the public plan would be made by the health and human services secretary.
The story also notes that a compromise approved by a House committee last week would allow the public plan to cover abortion but without using federal funds, only dollars from beneficiary premiums, and that private plans in the new insurance exchange could opt to cover abortion, but no federal subsidies could be used to pay for the procedure. As pointed out by Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, "It's a sham. . . It's a bookkeeping scheme. The plan pays for abortion, and the government subsidizes the plan."

One comment to this story is especially apt:
One of my fears about this whole health care bill is that it would allow the administration to add new social spending under the guise of health care. Abortion, public funding of drug treatment etc could all be added by presidential fiat. I envision liberals will want to add all manner of social education programs and call it health care. With government mandates on what must be covered no one could escape paying for whatever the administration deems is necessary. Congress isn't going to run this, it will all be done by regulators. We could end up with enormous health care costs that don't end up benefiting the majority of people who lead responsible lives.
This is indeed "nightmare legislation." When abortion advocates can't accomplish taxpayer-funded infanticide directly, they go through the back door to enable it in the guise of sweeping "health care reform." As I noted in my an earlier post, perhaps the most insidious aspect of the various proposals now being considered by Congress is that they insinuate government influence, policy preferences, and ultimate direction into the means by which we care for our own and our families' health and lives. At what point will especially young, old, or ill mothers be forced into abortions because bureaucrats or "plan administrators" decide that giving birth to their babies is too expensive or too risky (in other words, a poor policy choice)? With the government holding the purse strings and having the power to determine coverages, directly or indirectly, it could happen. God forbid.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Health Cares

An insightful post on my sister's blog about the health care debate grabbed my attention today. We've been so inundated with rumors, rancor, news, and views on this issue lately that it's no wonder many want to take refuge in a quiet cave somewhere, and come out only when the brouhaha is over. I'm one of them. But we must force ourselves to pay attention to this and learn all we can about it, as "health insurance reform," "public health care," or whatever you want to call it may be the most revolutionary and personally invasive government program ever to issue from Washington.

I'm not thoroughly versed in all the details of all the bills now circulating on Capitol Hill, nor have I read even a few hundred of the thousands of pages they take up. That puts me on about the same level as most of our Senators and Congressmen--a sobering thought in itself, since they bear the heavy responsibility of determining, very soon, whether this monumental package will become national law, and in what form. They will be doing so under enormous pressure from the White House, lobbies, interest groups, and even the news media--who all want "something done NOW"--without benefit of detailed knowledge or careful study of the legislation's provisions, or of its probable and possible effects. The very size and density of the legislation, and the desperate haste with which the Obama Administration is demanding final action on it, raise suspicion that there is much in its provisions that they do not want you (or your representatives) to know or think about.

A recent Associated Press article explores some of the more questionable claims made by both sides about the new health care legislation. It's said that "the bill would require Medicare to pay for advance directive consultations with health care professionals [about end-of-life issues], but it would not require anyone to use the benefit. . . Patients and their families would consult with health professionals, not government agents . . ." The problem is that when the government foots the bill, it can call the shots even for private parties. How long will it be before officials require health care professionals to certify that they have discussed end-of-life issues with their elderly or seriously ill patients, or require patients to have such consultations as a condition of public payment, in order to serve what the officials deem to be the best policy? The article also explains that health care revisions would not necessarily lead to government-funded abortions, but also notes proposals that each region of the country have at least one plan that does, and that "a health care overhaul could create a government-run insurance program, or insurance "exchanges," that would not involve Medicaid [but] whose abortion guidelines are not yet clear." Again, regardless of whether public coverage of abortions is mandated at the outset, the proposed reforms put in place the means (government-operated plans and certification of private plans) through which government-dictated policies can be forced on the private sector, at any time officials deem it desirable.

Perhaps even more ominous, the article acknowledges that "Denying coverage for certain procedures might increase under proposals to have a government-appointed agency identify medicines and procedures best suited for various conditions. . . . Obama says the goal is to identify the most effective and efficient medical practices, and to steer patients and providers to them." It's unfortunate enough when a private insurer denies coverage of a vital medical procedure to individual patients. But we are now confronted with the specter of enabling government boards to deny such coverage to entire classes of sufferers, on grounds that the procedures are too expensive or that the need for them is unproven. Just consider what the London Telegraph reports is happening in Great Britain's nationalized health care system at this moment:
Patients forced to live in agony after NHS refuses to pay for painkilling injections
By Laura Donnelly, Health Correspondent
Published: 7:45AM BST 02 Aug 2009

The Government's drug rationing watchdog says "therapeutic" injections of steroids, such as cortisone, which are used to reduce inflammation, should no longer be offered to patients suffering from persistent lower back pain when the cause is not known. Instead the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is ordering doctors to offer patients remedies like acupuncture and osteopathy. Specialists fear tens of thousands of people, mainly the elderly and frail, will be left to suffer excruciating levels of pain or pay as much as £500 each for private treatment.

The NHS currently issues more than 60,000 treatments of steroid injections every year. NICE said in its guidance it wants to cut this to just 3,000 treatments a year, a move which would save the NHS £33 million. But the British Pain Society, which represents specialists in the field, has written to NICE calling for the guidelines to be withdrawn after its members warned that they would lead to many patients having to undergo unnecessary and high-risk spinal surgery.

* * * *

Iris Watkins, 80 from Appleton, in Cheshire said her life had been "transformed" by the use of therapeutic injections every two years. The pensioner began to suffer back pain in her 70s. Four years ago, despite physiotherapy treatment and the use of medication, she had reached a stage where she could barely walk. "It was horrendous, I was spending hours lying on the sofa, or in bed, I couldn't spend a whole evening out. I was referred to a specialist, who decided to give me a set of injections. The difference was tremendous"; within days, she was able to return to her old life, gardening, caring for her husband Herbert, and enjoying social occasions. "I just felt fabulous – almost immediately, there was not a twinge. I only had an injection every two years, but it really has transformed my life; if I couldn't have them I would be in despair".
Such a development is perfectly predictable and normal for a government agency managing a health care system--they simply aren't going to cover things that agency officials don't feel are "cost-effective," and they aren't going to allow choices that they don't believe, in the professional judgment, are the "best" ones. And don't expect this state of affairs to be foreclosed by the maintenance of a "public option" plan in competition with private plans. Government by its nature and very purpose is about control, not competition, and will exert itself politically or by certification or other private-plan approval mechanisms, if not directly. In any case, it's become quite clear that the intent of health care reform's most active supporters--including the President--is to supplant, not supplement, private health insurance.

I'm concerned enough about what shape health care reform might take upon its emergence from Congress. I'm even more anxious about what it could easily become after a few years, when our attention has turned to other crises. Once government insinuates itself so deeply into the most personal aspects of so many people's lives, the tentacles of coercion are likely to become irremovable and inescapable.