Month Archives: May 2010

International Disorder and the Security of the United States: A Response to the Presidents Speech

by Family Research Council

May 28, 2010

President Obamas just-issued National Security Strategy has, like most heavily nuanced Obama documents, something for everyone. What is given with one hand is seized by the other, in near-predictable cyclical fashion.

There are stout affirmations of Americas need for a strong defense extensively qualified by even more dogmatic commitments to a new international order. According to the President, we must (renew) American leadership so that we can more effectively advance our interests in the 21st century while shaping an international order that can meet the challenges of our time.

So … is there ever a time when American leadership means standing alone? Is that not, by definition, what leadership sometimes is?

Mr. Obama says, within two paragraphs, that military force, at times may be necessary to defend our country and that the use of force is sometimes necessary (emphasis mine). Maybe, is, could be, sometimes there might be a certain trumpet in there somewhere, but I have yet to find it.

Mr. Obama then lurches into Wilsonian utopianism: His new strategy reaffirms Americas commitment to pursue our interests through an international system in which all nations have certain rights and responsibilities. This rings of Wilsons infantile Fourteen Points, through which an arrogant American president tried to impose a new international order on a world that didnt want one.

Then: When force is necessary, we will continue to do so in a way that reflects our values and strengthens our legitimacy, and we will seek broad international support, working with such institutions as NATO and the U.N. Security Council.

You tell em, Mr. President. Im sure the worlds dictators are trembling with terror. No doubt Kim Jong-Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have by now jettisoned their nuclear arms programs, Vladimir Putin is relaxing his authoritarian grip on Russia, and China will allow representative democracy - all in light of your vacuous commitment to international bloviation.

Just to be sure theres no confusion, the President then says: The United States must reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend our nation and our interests, yet we will also seek to adhere to standards that govern the use of force.

Got that? First, he has so qualified this assurance through the repetitive emphasis on international order, cooperation and making nice with friends and enemies alike that it is little more than a throw-away line. Still, one inference is clear that at times, we have violated our own principles.

In a fallen world and yes, Mr. President, it really is imperfectable no nation constantly lives up to every one of its principles all the time. America has done so better than any other, and rather than continuously if tacitly admitting our failures, perhaps a word about all we have done to better the life of the world, at great sacrifice of blood and treasure, might be advised. But thats just me.

In a preview of todays statement, the President spoke at West Point this past weekend. There, he said:

So we have to shape an international order that can meet the challenges of our generation. We will be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well, including those who will serve by your side in Afghanistan and around the globe. As influence extends to more countries and capitals, we also have to build new partnerships, and shape stronger international standards and institutions.

Insulting Israel and her Prime Minister, treating Poland and the Czech Republic with contempt by suddenly canceling long-negotiated anti-missile system agreements, giving the Queen of England recordings of ones own speeches is this what Mr. Obama means by strengthening old alliances? Playing-up to the autocratic (and ruthless) bully Vladimir Putin, apologizing to China CHINA! - for Arizonas new immigration law, failing to approve the Columbia free trade agreement: Are these and similar misadventures what Mr. Obama would call shaping stronger international standards and institutions?

This engagement is not an end in itself. The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times - countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; preventing conflict and healing wounds.

Well might Mr. Obama seek this kind of international order, but he will never find it. Such an order implies an overarching international governmental regime to which to belong intrinsically would compromise the independence and security of the United States. And an informal order of this type will never work, because it presupposes that regulatory constraints (e.g., economic sanctions) and enlightened self-interest will drive policy. Consider the United Nations, which has been such a roaring success. Just ask the victims of Pol Pot, the residents of Darfur and the brutalized people of the Congo.

These assumptions are so naive as to evoke visions of sugar-plums. Dictators, totalitarians, oligarchs, and corrupt, venal and creatively evil leaders of all types understand consistency and force, nothing more. The threat of military intervention must always lurk behind any effort to negotiate agreements favorable to the vital security interests of the United States. For such a veiled threat to be realistic, it must also be understood that America will act alone, for its own sake, whenever necessary.

Mr. Obama has taken this option substantially off the table and thereby hobbled the United States with the imponderable burden of international approval for future military engagement.

During his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Mr. Obama said, As a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation … I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people … To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

Amen. But to this should be added, Thus, while we will never act cavalierly, when necessary America will act unilaterally to protect itself from any form of aggression against its people and vital interests.

Mr. Obama has now subsumed Americas compelling and sometimes urgent need for solitary action under the broad umbrella of an amorphous international order composed of who knows what and whom. While he professes to understand the need for force and the intransigence of evil, he fails to grasp something unique and essential: He is the President of the United States, the sole exceptional nation that alone can animate just alliances and confront regional and international evil.

The irony is that for any sustained and honorable order to exist, America must always be willing to stand apart and act alone. Without this underlying commitment, our enemies will not tremble nor our friends be at rest. In denying this principle, Mr. Obama has set in motion the very disorder of which he warns.

George Washington wrote that “There is a rank due to the United States, among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness.

A reputation for exactly that is being hard-won by a President and Administration that disregard our allies, caustically attack our friends and obsequiously fawns over our adversaries.

The rank of which President Washington spoke is diminished. We are at risk of losing it altogether.

Education Items for Home Schools and Private Religious Schools

by Chris Gacek

May 25, 2010

Today, two FRC interns and I attended a legislative briefing on matters that should be of interest to home schools and private religious schools. The event was hosted by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), and the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS). The background is the possible reauthorization of the major federal education statute, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The three associations that held the briefing are concerned that the following sections in the ESEA remain in the reauthorized statute without modification:

  • Section 9506 (20 U.S.C. 7886) (protecting home schools and nonrecipient religious and private schools from any regulation by the federal government) (Will Estrada of HSLDA characterized this provision as the heart of the ESEA provisions that protect home schools and private schools);
  • Section 9527 (20 U.S.C. 7907) (prohibiting federal funds from being used to establish a national curriculum);
  • Section 9529 (20 U.S.C. 7909) (prohibiting federal funds from being used to establish nationalized testing);
  • Section 9530 (20 U.S.C 7910) (prohibiting federal funds from being used for any program of national teacher testing or national teacher certification);
  • Section 9531 (20 U.S.C. 7911) (protecting the privacy of student data by prohibiting federal funds from being used to create a national student database).

The Family Research Council takes the protection of homeschooling and private schooling seriously. Along with HSLDA, ACSI, and AACS, FRC wishes to preserve the statutory language referenced above in order to: 1) preserve the primary role of the parents in educational decision-making; 2) maintain the autonomy of Christian educational institutions; and, 3) and safeguard the possibility that religious parents can educate their children in a manner consistent with their faith.

Emily Ahrens, of Cedarville University, and David Ferkaluk, of Cedarville University, assisted in the preparation of this report.

Transcript: Tony Perkins Interviews Senator John McCain (R-Az) About Dont Ask, Dont Tell on Washington Watch Weekly Radio

by Jared Bridges

May 21, 2010

From the May 21, 2010 edition of Washington Watch Weekly:

TONY PERKINS: Since President Obama announced his plans to force open homosexuality in the military, liberal members in Congress have been chomping at the bit to force the change, even though the military is in the midst of a six month review of how to impellent this change without hurting military readiness, and which numerous studies have shown that it would. Well the study is to be presented to Congress the first of December, but a Michigan senator, Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, hopes to amend the Defense Authorization bill next week. Joining us from Capitol Hill is Senator John McCain who represents Arizona; hes been representing Arizona since 1982. Hes a true American hero, having served twenty-two years as a naval aviator, a survivor of the North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp in Hanoi. I have to tell you his fighting spirit is well known and respected on Capitol Hill Senator McCain, thanks for joining us on Washington Watch Radio.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Thank you Tony, and again thanks for all you do for the men and women in the military, for our nations security and the values that we hold dear.

TONY PERKINS: Well thank you Senator and I didnt mention that youre also the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, so youre right on the front lines of this fight over the military. Now were expecting Senator Levin the chairman to try and amend a military authorization bill which is a spending bill. This gives money to the military is that correct?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Yes, and it does authorize, it would be if you thought it was appropriate it would be a vehicle that would contain a policy change. But the fact is as you mention there is a study going on. The secretary of defense recently openly stated that they should allow the study to be completed before any congressional action should be taken. By the way I have a big problem with the study itself. The study should be on the impact on battle effectiveness on morale in the military if the policy of Dont Ask, Dont Tell the law, not the policy the law of Dont Ask, Dont Tell, were repealed. Instead Secretary Gates, to my great disappointment, is conducting a study as to how best to implement it in other words its a fait accompli because of no other reason than President Obamas campaign promise. The military is at its highest level of effectiveness, morale, equipment, training, professionalism, and why we would want to disrupt that when were in the middle of two wars is something that I find very, very wrong.

TONY PERKINS: Yeah, its a very important distinction to make and you have made that both in committee and in correspondence to the Secretary of Defense, and I think the public needs to be aware that the review that is taking place is how to implement this change, not if the change should be made. However, in the process, and I know this from some meetings over at the Pentagon with those that are doing this review, that theyre uncovering some problems that they did not anticipate. Can not Congress when they come back with this review in December then explore more deeply into these issues that have come up and come to its own conclusion that this is not the best approach for the military?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well, obviously Congress plays a role, but I dont think it should play a preemptive role. We should assess the impact of change in this law on battle effectiveness we have a military for only one reason, and people join the military for only one reason and that is to fight. And its our obligation and defend our nations security and we have an obligation it seems to me to make sure that we dont do anything that would disrupt or diminish that capability, especially when we are in two wars, in order to carry out a campaign promise of the President of the United States, not because there is any movement, any outcry, any request for the change to be made. The Commandant of the Marine Corps has come out flat out saying he opposes repeal in fact the Commandant of the Marine Corps said that they would have to look at living arrangements that the Marine Corps has, so the implications of this change in law has to be assessed carefully. Instead apparently the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who said today, its carried in the news today, that Dont Ask, Dont Tell policy will be nothing but a memory by years end, Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Wednesday. So I think its good that we review every policy no matter what it is from time to time and review of the policy is something that I know, Tony, you and I would agree on, but a preemptive repeal without any study, without any assessment on the impact of battle effectiveness is in my view putting our social agenda, or the liberal social agenda, ahead of national security.

TONY PERKINS: Well Senator McCain that brings up a question, or an observation: those that are really pushing this agenda to essentially use the military to advance their social agenda-

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Thats it-

TONY PERKINS: How many of them have actually served in the military?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: (laughter) I dont know of any. There may be a few Congressman Sestak has, I dont know his position on the issue, I havent heard it yet but the point is that the people that I talk to and know, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, have both come out strongly against the repeal, and certainly even more strongly against a process that would preemptively address an issue which, could, could, I emphasize could we havent done the study could adversely affect the morale and battle effectiveness of the United States military, the by far and head and shoulders above and better than any other in the world today.

TONY PERKINS: Absolutely, without question I know a lot of people point to militaries that have allowed homosexuality within the ranks theres twenty-five of almost two hundred nations but the top militaries in the world do not allow homosexuality to be openly engaged in, in the military I mean, if you want a military that just does parades and stuff like that then I guess thats okay.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Could we also emphasize a point thats lost in this debate sometime, particularly by the liberal media we dont, we do not tell someone who is homosexual that they cant join the military we dont tell them that-

TONY PERKINS: Right.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: We, in fact, we appreciate the fact that all Americans would want to join the military. What we are saying is that that sexual orientation theyre kept quiet about, and they can have the whatever orientation they choose; because in 1993 we passed the Dont Ask, Dont Tell policy because we thought that was the best way to maintain morale and battle effectiveness in the United States military.

TONY PERKINS: The focus-

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: So its not discriminatory and no one forces anyone to join the military and if they wanna have a sexual orientation we dont keep them from having that orientation.

TONY PERKINS: Well its all focused on behavior and the same standards apply to heterosexuals who are-

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Right.

TONY PERKINS: Cannot engage in adultery thats a crime in the military and people dont realize that, that there is a higher standard for the military for the very purposes that you outlined, Senator.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well I hope our listeners will take an interest in this issue. And I know that theres a whole lot of other issues out there, the economy, joblessness, Iranian nuclear buildup, immigration, theres a whole lot of other issues, but this issue has significant long-term implication for our ability to defend this nation. So I hope listeners of this show, Tony, will take an interest. Contact Family Research Council for more information, contact our office and weigh in on this issue because it really does have significant long-term implications.

TONY PERKINS: Senator I couldnt, I could not agree with you more. Senator John McCain, thanks for joining us.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Thank you, Tony.

Listen to the audio:

Goodbye, Arlen

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 21, 2010

So it comes to this: A man whose life has been defined by politics, whose whole identity has been subsumed under the title “Senator,” has been decisively rejected by the voters of his state.

Arlen Specter is 80 years old, a two-time survivor of virulent cancer and a Democrat-turned Republican-turned Democrat. His partisan allegiance was, apparently, animated only by opportunism, and this proved his rightful undoing.

The dubious British politician Stanley Baldwin reportedly once said, “I would rather be an opportunist and float than go to the bottom with my principles around my neck.” Sadly, Sen. Specter is going to the political bottom not with his principles but because of their absence.

It is always easy to kick a dead lion and then roar about one’s bravery. I wish neither to kick nor gloat. Rather, we now all bear witness as Sen. Specter trails away with growing quiet due to his legacy of ideological betrayal and broken loyalty. Believing, evidently, in nothing more deeply than his own wisdom and importance to the Republic, he has proven how empty such hubristic convictions are.

To his credit, there has never been a whiff of moral scandal around Sen. Specter. It is my hope that God will grace Sen. and Mrs. Specter with many years of happy retirement.

But the legacy he leaves will be the memory of his facile commitment to anything other than himself. May it be a warning to all who would, intentionally or otherwise, follow in his stead.

Killing is OK, But Advertising it is Not?

by David Christensen

May 21, 2010

In Jan Moir’s op-ed “I believe in the right to choose, but TV adverts for abortion are simply wrong,” she points out her pro-choice but attacks a new television ad campaign by Marie Stopes International, one of the Britain’s largest abortion providers (and a major proponent of and performer of elective abortion in third world countries). Jan states: “Whatever side of the divide you might be on, the idea of abortion and abortion services - whatever they might be - being advertised on television is a distasteful one.” Why? She explains: “It is the throwaway nonchalance that so offends; as if an abortion was just another lifestyle choice to be pondered over in the commercial breaks..”

I’m not sure if the Marie Stopes ad should be allowed to air, as it might lead to more abortions. In that case, it makes sense for pro-lifers to fight its airing. On the other hand, maybe such an ad might have the benefit of stirring more public debate in a country that is so pro-abortion.

But what struck me most about Jan’s oped is how purely muddled her thinking is. Forget her snide attack’s on pro-lifers and her general support for the great work of Marie Stopes International. Jan simply thinks that killing a human fetus is morally permissible. Moreover, she thinks it’s a woman’s choice and that there is nothing immoral about doing so. But then why is not OK air an ad on the matter? How is “distasteful” or trite? Jan sees more of a moral problem with airing an advertisement on something she thinks is moral. And she thinks the only moral concern here is the issue of taste. How charming.

Jan thinks the moral issue of triteness gets at the fact that the advertisement belittles the seriousness of the choice a woman must make. Maybe it’s like belittling the seriousness of a choice to have sex. Culture may push for sex to be viewed as a lighthearted decision. Jan presumably would also think belittling the seriousness of the decision to have sex is also distasteful.

So what? Of course an abortion is a difficult choice for a woman (or most). But why should belittling this choice be immoral, or why if the advertisement causes young women to be more “trite” about having an abortion, as Jan claims, is that wrong? The question is why? I suppose one could say that putting your pet to sleep is a difficult choice that is not inherently immoral nor as easy as emptying your garbage. It can, and maybe should, be a difficult decision. But the extent to the difficulty in putting your pet to sleep stems from the emotional impact, the difficulty of the choice, for the person making it. It says nothing about the pet, its rights, dignity, worth, etc. This is the problem with her argument about abortion. A person has a difficult choice, and she says it should be difficult. But again why? Jan’s concerns are like the pet example, it’s OK to kill the fetus, just so the person is taking it seriously when making the choice. Obviously, we may find it distasteful for someone to enjoy killing their pets. Tisk tisk. But for most people, the seriousness of this decision stems from a relationship with their pet, and frankly, some idea of worth of their pet. I’m not proposing that animals have the same rights as human (sorry to those who think otherwise). Yet, the point is that if it’s OK to kill your pet, even that this would be considered “humane” in some cases, then the weight of the decision has less to do with the morality of the act and more to do with the emotional struggle with the act. So, killing your fetus is perfectly fine, just make sure you don’t make the decision lightly.

What Jan ignores in her op-ed, and even dismisses, is the fundamental moral question about the nature of the fetus, not just the woman making the choice. It’s not so much that she disagrees with pro-lifers on that question, as much as she despises them for even raising it. Now who is being trite?

Telemed Abortions in Iowa

by Jeanne Monahan

May 19, 2010

A few months ago, I blogged about a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Iowa administering the dangerous RU-486 abortifacient regime via skype. A local news station in Iowa is now providing more information about this story:

The new telemedicine technique allows a doctor to talk to and dispense the pills to a patient in a remote office location using a camera and microphone connected to the Internet, which allows for two-way communication. Officials said the patient is counseled by on-site staff before connecting to talk to the doctor who is at a different location. After talking to the patient, the doctor can then tap a button on the computer to activate a special drawer at the patient’s location that will open and allow the patient to receive the pills. The patient then takes the first pills while the doctor watches.

To be clear, RU-486 isnt considered the safest of drugs.

Due to potential adverse reactions (in particular, excessive bleeding to the extent of needing a blood transfusion or incomplete abortions requiring further surgery), RU-486 can only be administered by a physician who can do blood transfusions or surgical abortions should they be required.

By the spring of 2006 six years after RU-486 was made available in the United States, the FDA acknowledged six deaths, nine life-threatening incidents, 232 hospitalizations, 116 blood transfusions, and 88 cases of infections, with a total of 1070 adverse events reports.*

Once again I wonder how Planned Parenthood, an organization that advocates for womens health, could possibly advocate administering this drug regime with less medical attention and supervision.

*Letter from David W. Boyer, Assistant Commissioner for Legislation, Food and Drug Administration, to the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources (May 2, 2006) (on file with Subcommittee).

Trafficking and Prostitution of Children in the United States

by Jeanne Monahan

May 19, 2010

Television anchor Dan Rather had an interesting piece in the Huffington Post yesterday drawing much needed attention to the growing problem of child trafficking and prostitution in the United States. He writes that throughout his 60 years of reporting, few stories have been more shocking:

How many children are being peddled on the streets of Portland and in other cities and towns, to say nothing of the Internet?…The most conservative estimates are that at least 10,000 American children are being victimized. Many experts say they believe it’s closer to 30,000 or more.

Rather talks with law enforcement to learn how it could be possible that so many young people are exploited in such an atrocious way.

… many of the children caught up in this are middle class kids from the area…The girls, sometimes as young as 12, often 13-16, are lured by a “front man” in his mid-to-late teens. He becomes her “boyfriend,” taking her to dinner, buying her nice things, sometimes meeting her parents. The girl eventually moves in with him. Then he says they need money to continue being together. First, she’s enticed to sleep with his friends to pay the rent. Soon she’s turning tricks for what police say is an endless supply of older men willing to pay top money for sex with very young girls. Other times convincing the young adolescent girls to sell themselves happens very quickly.

The Anti-Trafficking of Human Persons division at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describe the various ways that children in the U.S. are exploited:

In the United States, children are subjected to human trafficking in many different sectors. Examples include prostitution on the streets or in a private residence, club, hotel, spa, or massage parlor; online commercial sexual exploitation; exotic dancing/stripping; agricultural, factory, or meatpacking work; construction; domestic labor in a home; restaurant/bar work; illegal drug trade; door-to-door sales, street peddling, or begging; or hair, nail, and beauty salons. Family members, acquaintances, pimps, employers, smugglers, and strangers traffic children. They often prey upon the childrens vulnerabilities their hopes for an education, a job, or a better life in another country and may use psychological intimidation or violence to control the children and gain financial benefits from their exploitation. Trafficked children may show signs of shame or disorientation; be hungry and malnourished; experience traumatic bonding (Stockholm syndrome) and fear government officials, such as police and immigration officers.

This same US government division provides numerous resources for people who might be victim to these crimes. One such resource is a 24-hour hotline that helps victims of trafficking by connecting them with local organizations that can provide help. The number is 1.888.3737.888. See the HHS website for more information on how to assist someone who could be a victim of trafficking or to learn more about this problem.

I am grateful to Dan Rather bringing this dark issue into the media light. Unfortunately, as pointed out by one commenter, the ad for Rathers story on the network’s website was ironically placed below another ad one with young girls in bikinis — for “Girls Gone Wild.” If nothing else, we can all agree that there is a deep need to continue to fight against the oversexualization of young girls and the many atrocious crimes that can accompany such objectification.

College Applicant Checklist: SAT scores, transcripts, DNA test

by David Prentice

May 19, 2010

Incoming freshmen at UC-Berkeley will be asked to provide more than SAT scores and transcripts with their applications. The welcome package will also have a cotton swab and 2 bar code stickers, and students will be asked to voluntarily submit a DNA sample. Supposedly the DNA will be tested for three genes, showing the student’s ability to tolerate alcohol and metabolize folic acid and lactose. Results will be placed in a confidential database and used to help students make decisions about their diet and lifestyle. Previously students had been asked to read a couple books related to behavior and lifestyle.

According to Mark Schlissel, Dean of the Division of Biological Sciences:

This type of experience is one of the true, unique values of a Berkeley education. We don’t just give you books to read. We involve you in cutting edge issues in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. You won’t see this anywhere else in higher education.”

Not everyone is pleased about having the DNA test, nor about having their DNA information placed in a database. Questions certainly arise about confidentiality, as well as what other information may be gleaned or whether any DNA is stored for future testing.

Mount Saint Helens Erupts: 18 May 1980

by Robert Morrison

May 18, 2010

The phone rang insistently just after 8:32 that quiet Sunday morning in Silverdale, Washington. My wife and I were getting up, planning on going to church in our quiet community. My mother was on the line, calling from Roanoke, Virginia, and quite agitated: Are you alright? Did the blast harm your home? Will you be covered by lava, by ash?

I didnt know what she was talking about. Oh, the mountain has been rumbling for weeks, I told her, trying to assuage her concerns. NO! Its erupted. Mount Saint Helens is all over the news.

I ran to the window, straining to see any evidence of the volcanos dense cloud of ash. I saw nothing. We were about 100 miles north of the mountain.

Turning on the television, we learned that the volcano had indeed erupted, with the force a nuclear bomb, and with devastating results. The top of the mountain was blown away. Volcanic ash rose violently and menacingly sixteen miles into the air. Spirit Lake was destroyed.

Washington States rich agricultural regionsEastern Washingtonwere all in the path of the ash cloud. Soon, pictures on television showed towns and villages blanketed with ash, like some weird blizzard in May. And the TV stations provided maps of the expected path of the ash cloud.

I called my mother and dad back to reassure them. They were more likely to feel the volcanos effects than we were, I told them. And by that time it passed over Virginia, it would mostly have dissipated. Thats because the prevailing winds were carrying the cloud eastward. The ash cloud would have to circle the globe before it dumped any ash on those of us who lived north and west of the destruction.

Our hearts and our prayers went out, nonetheless, to our friends in Eastern Washington. It seemed they were facing an environmental disaster of the first order. The media had been playing up the catastrophic possibilities for plant and animal life for months.

The press was not so concerned about Harry Truman, however. This curmudgeonly old cabin-dwellerno relation to the feisty President of the same name—had been adopted by Seattles TV stations as the hardy representative of the Wild West. Soon, even if Harry Truman had had second thoughts about the rumbling mountain under his feet, he would have faced embarrassment for not sticking it out.

Gov. Dixie Lee Ray, an atomic scientist, had publicly pleaded with Harry to be reasonable. She wanted to send in state troopers to yank the old man out of the path of danger. Mount Saint Helens will erupt, she said, and the results could be devastating.

For awhile, they were. Several dozen people lost their lives, including the redoubtable Harry Truman. Those blanketed towns and farms had a job digging out.

But what strikes us now, thirty years later, is not how fragile the earth is, but how resilient. Trees have come back to the blast area, especially red alder. Fish are back in Spirit Lake. Deer and elk thrive today. Heres what an official U.S. Government website says about Mount Saint Helens:

It wasnt long before scientists working in the area found surviving populations of plants and animals. This was particularly evident in areas protected by snow cover and where erosion had thinned the overlying ash deposits (along streams and in gullies that formed on hill slopes). Plants were observed sprouting from the pre-eruption soil surface and signs of activity by gophers and ants indicated that subterranean animals (living below ground) had survived beneath the volcanic ash.

The survival of plants and animals in the midst of the apparent total devastation was of special interest to the scientific community. Early studies have demonstrated that, even after a large-scale, catastrophic disturbance, recovery processes are strongly influenced by carry over of living and dead organic material from pre-disturbance ecosystems. At Mount St. Helens, ecosystem recovery was influenced not only by the survival of plants and animals, but also by the tremendous quantities of organic material that remained in the standing dead and blown down forest.

What was the most surprising discovery immediately following the eruption?

The single greatest surprise to scientists entering the blast zone shortly after the eruption was the realization that many organisms survived in, what initially appeared to be, a lifeless landscape

Washington State is not only renowned for Boeing, Microsoft, and Starbucks, the Evergreen State is justly famous for her apples, cherries, and blueberries. This rich volcanic ash proved to be a great fertilizer. The states agricultural bounty quickly bounced back.

Lets consider this when we hear predictions of gloom and doom from floods or earthquakes or even oil spills. We dont welcome these events and, where we can, we should take vigorous action to mitigate the effects of these natural disasters.

When Scripture tells us The Earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof, we need to internalize that message, caring lovingly for the great gifts He has given us, but mindful that, in the final analysis, He has the whole world in His hands. Its not in ours.

Check out PBS NOVA, Back from the Dead trailer

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