FRC Blog

More Gossip

by Chris Gacek

July 25, 2008

Back on May 5, 2008, I posted a blog note about the sleazy TV show - “Gossip Girl.” Well, Gossip Girl is in the news again - see the article in Newsweek. It appears that the geniuses who produce this sleazefest have decided to quote the show’s critics in advertising posters promoting the new season of raunch. So, for example, one ad quotes Parents Television Council which had called the program, “Mind-Blowingly Inappropriate.” If you have the maturity of a 14-year-old boy this is probably mind-bogglingly clever.

I prefer to see these ads as another a piece of evidence that this country needs cable choice (a la carte) more than ever. Parents need to be able to block networks like CW - even though it is a broadcast channel - from entering their home. Perhaps then the folks at CW and Gossip Girl will be less like likely to mock the decent Americans who really do care about the welfare of teenagers and young adults more than the prospect of selling ads and making buckets of money. Oh, sorry, I should have said - producing great art.

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Sitting on the bench (in more ways than one)

by Bill Saunders

July 25, 2008

A week ago, July 17th marked the 365th day that Chief Judge Robert Conrad has been nominated for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and has not had a hearing in the Senate. That is one year, without the basic courtesy of Senate Democrats telling him to his face why they do not want him on court. It is also one year in which the 4th Circuit has languished, short-handed, with over a quarter of its seats vacant. A recent hearing in the Senate, convened by Sen. Alexander of Tennessee, brought a distinguished panel of witnesses to show why this is unfair to Judge Conrad and the American people.

Judge Conrad is eminently qualified to sit on the 4th Circuit. In fact, as recently as 2006 the Senate deemed him qualified to head the Federal Western District Court of the North Carolina, and a year before that appointed him to that court without opposition. As the representative of the North Carolina Bar Association told the Senate panel, Conrad is a superb lawyer who deserves to be put on the court, not left in judicial limbo. (He also noted that North Carolina, the most populous state in the 4th Circuit, has only one judge on the court—a misrepresentation that Judge Conrad’s appointment would help to remedy.)

Perhaps the worst part about what is going on is the dishonesty of it all. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has already unfairly smeared Judge Conrad by wantonly mischaracterizing his religious beliefs. Now he has taken refuge behind the so-called “Thurmond Rule” in holding up the nomination of Conrad and others like him. Leahy alleges that Republicans, led by deceased Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1980, purposefully obstructed the nominations of President Carter’s federal judges since it was an election year, so, in the words of Leahy, they might “remain vacant in order to be filled with the nominations of the next president.” The Congressional Research Service debunked that claim. In fact, in September of 1980 the Senate confirmed 12 judicial nominations. The Senate even confirmed Stephen Breyer (now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court) to the 1st Circuit after Reagan’s election. All in all, of the 14 nominations pending in 1980 12 received hearings, 10 were reported, and 10 were confirmed—71.4%. Compare that to the 35% treatment Bush has received.

Sen. Leahy should be honest about the Thurmond Rule, and follow Sen. Thurmond’s example by holding hearings on 8 more judges—starting with Robert Conrad.

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Gay” Soldiers in George Washington’s Army?

by Peter Sprigg

July 24, 2008

One of the most bizarre aspects of the July 23 Congressional hearing on homosexuals in the military was the effort to read 21st-century political correctness back into American history.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) insisted, “We’ve had gays in the American military from the first unit that was ever formed.” Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) echoed this astonishing claim, saying that “gays have served in every conflict, every war” this country has fought.

In fact, Shays was even more specific, noting a patriotic event in his district at which they read the names of “everyone who lost his life in the French and Indian War—some of whom were gay.”

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) declared that allowing homosexuals to serve would be an expression of the high value Americans place on the principle of equal opportunity. He even claimed the father of our country, George Washington, as an ally who believed that “the way to the top should be open to everyone.” In context, that referred to the respect Washington had for enlisted men in relation to officers—but Sestak apparently would have us believe that Washington felt the same way about equal opportunity for homosexuals.

Actually, though, we have some very precise evidence in the historical record of what Gen. Washington thought about homosexual conduct. It can be found in his General Orders issued on Saturday, March 14, 1778, toward the end of his army’s long, bitter winter at Valley Forge. Like today, his army was at war. Like today, his army had serious problems of recruitment and retention. Perhaps, like today, there might have been some people who would have argued that his army could not afford to lose a soldier over something like his sexual conduct.

But that argument carried no water with Washington. On the 10th of March, a General Court Martial was held to try Lieut. Frederick Gotthold Enslin “for attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier.” Having been convicted, he was sentenced “to be dismiss’d the service with Infamy.”

That may have been the verdict of the court martial, but is there any evidence of what Washington himself thought? In fact, there is: “His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence and with Abhorrence and Detestation of such Infamous Crimes orders Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of Camp tomorrow morning by all the Drummers and Fifers in the Army never to return . . .”

If members of Congress and homosexual activists want to argue for repeal of the existing law in order to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military, let them make their case. But it is sheer nonsense to claim that such an action would be anything but a radical deviation from the unbroken practice of the American military throughout our country’s history.

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San Diego Honors Pedophilia

by Tom McClusky

July 22, 2008

It seems that the San Diego LGBT Pride Parade has a long history of problems associated with pedophilia, including hiring a number of registered sex offenders. However this year they truly crossed the lines to practically endorsing pedophilia by naming pedophilia activist Peter Tatchell as the International Grand Marshal. The fact that such a person even exists, let alone to be endorsed by an organization that also receives taxpayer funded services, is incomprehensible.

Mr. Tatchell’s website (which I won’t link to but which can be found easy enough) includes topic titles such as

  • Lowering the unrealistic age of consent will help teenagers: The criminalisation of teen sex inhibits advice and protection,”

  • SEX RIGHTS FOR THE UNDER-16s, Young people under 16 have sexual rights too,”

  • I’M 14, I’M GAY & I WANT A BOYFRIEND, Fourteen year old LEE tells about first sex, boyfriends, coming out, paedophilia, and why an age of consent of 16 won’t help under-age gays like him.”

  • CONSENT AT 16: PROTECTION OR PERSECUTION, Young people under 16 have a right to make their own sexual choices without being victimised by the law.”

How this man is not immediately arrested instead of being honored at a parade is beyond me.

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Nancy Pelosi: Abstaining From the Truth

by Tom McClusky

July 22, 2008

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke on abstinence programs at the uber-liberal “Netroots Nation” blogger conference (formerly called “YearlyKos”). The Speaker accused abstinence-only programs as being “dangerous” to America’s youth and that the only solution is to elect more pro-choice politicians. She went on to criticize the proposed regulations on conscience protections as also being “dangerous” and that if “you don’t like abortion you should love contraception.” She goes onto say she is speaking as both a mother of five and a “devout Catholic,” despite her beliefs on both abortion and contraception running counter to the teachings of the Catholic Church. This Friday marks the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on human life, Humanae Vitae, which upholds the Catholic Church’s long-standing prohibition on artificial contraception. As a politician Rep. Pelosi has every right to disagree with her Church’s teachings on abortion and contraception (and in the case of criticizing the proposed HHS regulations she is directly opposing the Catholic Church as this letter from the USCCB shows), just as doctors, nurses and pharmacists should have every right to live by their respective church teachings and not be forced to perform abortions or distribute drugs that would violate their beliefs. America does not need more pro-choice politicians - but more politicians that believe people should be able to make choices of conscience without fear of retribution.

Hat Tip: Friend on the Hill

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Adolescent Shoplifting

by Michael Leaser

July 22, 2008

Shoplifting costs American businesses an estimated $16 billion a year, according to the Better Business Bureau. Online Lawyer Source reports that shoplifting causes one-third of new businesses to fail and that adolescents account for about 25 percent of the value of shoplifted goods and about half of all shoplifting cases.

Without costing the taxpayer another dime, there is a way to reduce significantly the incidence of adolescent shoplifting, and that is the subject of the latest edition of Pat Fagan’s Mapping America.

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Batman: The Dark Knight

by Chuck Donovan

July 21, 2008

At one level it’s a bit embarrassing to admit that I regularly watch movies based on comic books. I’m 56 and my youngest is 14, so it’s at least a semi-voluntary endeavor. Nonetheless, I grew up with subscriptions to DC Comics, the “Justice League of America,” “Classics Illustrated,” and an obscure favorite called “Metal Men.” These readings did not replace literature for my siblings and me; they supplemented it, and, with “Classics” especially, helped to pique interest in the real (and even unabridged) thing. It’s hard even now to describe the imaginative windows opened by just a handful of N.C. Wyeth illustrations in the editions we craved as children.

Thus, an invitation to watch a full-fledged Batman movie with today’s technological accomplishment is no bow to my teenage son, it’s irresistible. The new feature, The Dark Knight, is engrossing and visually spectacular. Unlike the comic books, however, it also has psychological depth and is almost unremittingly dark. It is good v. evil, certainly, but it is a troubled good confronting, in the character of the calculating Joker played by the late Heath Ledger, an almost-explicable evil.

The intense scenes of the Joker wielding knives in the face of his victims are stomach-churning to watch (at least one hopes that audiences have not become used to scenes like this that, in Roman Polanski’s 1970’s film noir Chinatown, became an iconic image of sadistic criminality), but it is during these scenes that the character explicates his personal history. He is the tormented product, he seems to imply, of his father’s wanton cruelty to his mother, just as much as Batman, played by Christian Bale, is the product of his father’s heroic effort to save his mother. Role reversals abound in the movie, and the public’s need for heroes it can both treasure and revile supplies the broad dramatic tension, but good fathers clearly matter.

Among the twisted ethical dilemmas the Joker poses to Gotham City involves two ferry boats full of passengers who are challenged to a potentially mutually fatal decision. One boat is full of criminals, the other ordinary citizens, so it is not a “Sophie’s Choice” that is presented. The scene is played out to an extraordinary conclusion. In the murky moral swamp into which Gotham City has sunk, this depiction of “lifeboat ethics” leaves plenty of room for thought. The Dark Knight is overlong and the violence exceeds its prequel, Batman Begins, and there are instances of implied sexuality and some language.

Finally, the film redefines the Batcycle just as Batman Begins redefined the Batmobile. At least a few things in Gotham City have gotten definite upgrades. Now if only my mother hadn’t thrown out a half million dollars’ worth of comics . . .

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A Primer on the European Union

by Bill Saunders

July 21, 2008

Last week’s report by my interns on the talk discussing the reason Ireland voted against the new EU constitution (disguised as the Lisbon Treaty) reminds me that we have a good resource available for those who are not up to speed on the EU and some of the problems it, and related European institutions, pose on social issues. The paper is by my former research assistant, John Henry Crosby.

Follow this link to read “A Primer on the European Union.”

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California Stem Cell Meltdown?

by David Prentice

July 21, 2008

California’s Stem Cell Affordability Bill (SB 1565) has received no mention in the mainstream media, but has caused a tremendous stir. Sponsored by Sens. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, the measure will supposedly ensure equal and affordable access to any products developed through the state taxpayer-funded $3 billion stem cell grant program, give more flexibility for approval of projects by the grants review working group, and provide for an audit of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) governing board. So far no legislator has voted against it, and it will likely soon come to Gov. Schwarzenegger for his signature.

But during the legislative process, it has been attacked relentlessly by some embryonic stem cell advocates and by surrogates of the CIRM, Sen. Kuehl has been personally, viciously attacked by those same forces, and questions about the leader of California’s embryonic stem cell enterprise have re-surfaced. In particular there has been criticism of Robert Klein holding dual, and conflicting, positions as chairman of the state stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and president of the advocacy group, Americans for Cures. With the rather apparent conflict of interest, there were calls for Klein to resign from one or the other position, but despite some reports that he had resigned as president of Americans for Cures, that has yet to be confirmed.

For more stories and details on the histrionics in California, check the California Stem Cell Report.

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Most Scientists Get Along With Journalists?

by David Prentice

July 21, 2008

Scientists and journalists have not necessarily had a good relationship in the past. While scientists like the attention to their work, sometimes they have not been good at explaining their results, its real significance, and the process of scientific investigation, and there have been real fears about being misquoted. But the scientist-journalist relationship seems to be warming. In a report published July 11 in the journal Science, a majority of scientists interviewed said that they were generally happy with their media interactions. The report was by a team led by Hans Peter Peters of the Forschungszentrum Julich, Germany, interviewed more than 1,300 researchers in the fields of epidemiology and stem cell research. The survey found similar results with scientists from the U.S., U.K., Japan, France, and Germany. The study also suggests scientists are becoming more knowledgeable about how journalists work, and are more skilled at working with reporters than in the past.

One German stem cell researcher, Hans Scholer, obviously doesn’t fall in the majority, though. A number of German news stories (sorry, no English-speaking media have picked up the story yet) report that Scholer wants a gag rule for journalists. He even refused to continue a scientific talk recently in Berlin because he detected journalists present. Maybe a little media training is in order?

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