Monday, December 22, 2008

The Star of Bethlehem

Some two thousand years ago, a group of wise men from an eastern land journeyed to the Roman province of Palestine. The men followed a star that led them to Bethlehem where they found a young child who was to be King of the Jews.

In the years since the journey of the wise men, readers of the Bible have wondered what kind of star would have led them east to Jerusalem and then stopped over the home of the young Jesus. Now, thanks to modern technology, a law professor from Texas A&M University may have found the answer.

On his website,, and in a companion video, Frederick Larson details his search to find the meaning of the Christmas star. Using computer software that incorporates the mathematic equations representing Johannes Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. This software can rewind the motion of the stars and planets so that we can view the same night sky that the ancients saw.

From a close reading of Matthew chapter 2, Larson lists nine points that must be satisfied by any legitimate candidate for the Christmas star. The star signified both birth and kingship. The star symbolized the Jewish nation. The star rose in the east and appeared at a precise time, yet Herod did not know about it. The star also endured over a period long enough for the wise men to travel to Bethlehem. Finally, it was ahead of the wise men when they traveled from Jerusalem, Herod’s capitol, south to Bethlehem, and then stopped. Most theories about the Christmas star fall short in one or more of these categories.

One candidate for the star would be the planet Jupiter, which represented kings to the ancients. When Larson looked more closely at Jupiter, he found that in 3-2 BC, the King Planet began to exhibit the characteristics of the Christmas star. At that time, an earthly observer would have seen another heavenly object move so close to Jupiter that they appear as one. To astronomers, this is known as a “conjunction.”

In September 3 BC, Jupiter moved close to the star Regulus, which is known as the star of kings. The Babylonians called the star “Sharu” and the Romans called it “Rex.” Both words mean “king.” Jupiter and Regulus normally come into conjunction every twelve years, but the one in 3 BC was unusually close. This, in itself, was not unusual enough to warrant an expedition to Jerusalem.

Additionally, in the 3 BC conjunction, Jupiter exhibited what astronomers refer to as retrograde motion. This means that, because of the earth’s motion through space, Jupiter appeared to move backward in the night sky. According to Larson’s observations, Jupiter entered a conjunction with Regulus, and then went into retrograde. At this point, it reversed course again for another conjunction. Jupiter then went into retrograde again for a third conjunction with Regulus. Larson refers to this as having the “Planet of the Kings dance out a halo above the Star of Kings. A coronation.”

The symbolism of Jupiter and Regulus goes even further. In Revelation 12:1-5, John describes the birth of Jesus. The mother is clothed in the sun with the moon at her feet. In September 3 BC, the constellation that rose behind Leo was Virgo, the virgin, representing, in this case, the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. At the time of the first conjunction, Virgo rose, clothed in the sun. A new moon was at her feet. These symbols indicate a birth. Taken together with Regulus and Jupiter, they indicate the birth of a king.

Jupiter’s conjunction with Regulus also provided a link to the Jews. Larson discovered that Jupiter’s triple conjunction occurred within the constellation Leo, the lion. The lion is the symbol of the Jewish tribe of Judah. Judah is also the tribe that from which the Messiah was prophesied to come (Genesis 49:9-10).

Larson takes his stargazing a step further. He reasons that if conception is the true beginning of life, then maybe there would be additional signs in the sky nine months later. To find out, he looked at the night sky of June 2 BC.

In June 2 BC, Jupiter and Venus, the Mother Planet, formed a conjunction. The two planets passed so closely to each other that they appeared as one, although in reality one sat atop the other forming an eight. The two planets formed the most brilliant “star” that man had ever seen in the night sky. A wise man from the east, such as Babylon, would have viewed this spectacle while facing Jerusalem to the east. The two planets then moved apart, as if one had given birth to the other.

Larson believes that the wise men started their journey after viewing this Jupiter – Venus conjunction. The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem would have taken several months in ancient times. If Jupiter and its consorts were truly the Christmas star, then, several months later, it would have to be in the southern sky when viewed from Jerusalem. As Larson “fast forwarded” the celestial motion, he found that in December 2 BC, if you looked south from Jerusalem, the star was there.

By this point, most of Matthew’s requirements for the star had been met. It signified birth and kingship. It was linked with the Jews through the constellation Leo. Jupiter rises in the east and the conjunctions were identifiable at precise times. Herod was unaware of these signs in the sky because they would have been noticed only by expert astronomers. The time period of the events allowed the wise men to travel to Jerusalem, and the star would have been before them as they traveled to Bethlehem.

The biggest question that remained was how Jupiter, a planet in constant motion, could stop over Bethlehem. What Larson found as he looked further astounded him. On December 25, 2 BC, Jupiter again entered retrograde. To an earthly observer in Jerusalem, it appeared to stop in the sky above Bethlehem. In a shocking coincidence, the wise men may have viewed the Christmas star over Bethlehem on the exact date of the modern Christmas celebration.

That is not the end of the story, however. Larson examined clues in the Bible to determine the exact date of Jesus’ crucifixion. All four Gospels tell that Jesus was executed on a Friday, the preparation day before the Jewish Sabbath (Matt. 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19:14). John also tells us that it was the day before the Passover (John 13:1). The Passover begins at dark on Nisan 14. Larson looked at the Jewish calendar to see in which years during the reign of Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36) Nisan 14 fell on a Friday. It happened twice: April 7, AD 30 and April 3, AD 33.

Larson believes that the key lies with a Roman official named Aelius Sejanus. Sejanus was a regent under Tiberius Caesar. Sejanus ruled much of the Roman Empire and made many political appointments, including that of Pontius Pilate as Procurator of Judea. When Caesar discovered that Sejanus was plotting against him, Sejanus was executed on October 18, AD 31.

Larson notes that early in Pilate’s career, he had dealt harshly with the Jews. Historians of the day write that he placed images of Caesar in the Jewish Temple as well as killing Jewish worshipers (Luke 13:1). Something happened to change his attitude to one of conciliation with Jewish leaders who wanted him to have Jesus killed. Larson believes that after Sejanus’ death, Pilate began to fear for his life as Caesar ordered the execution of many of Sejanus’ appointees. At the same time, Caesar also issued a directive countermanding Sejanus’ anti-Semitic orders. The statement of the Jews in John 19:12 that sparing Jesus’ life would mean that Pilate was “no friend of Caesar” is life-threatening in this context.

In Daniel 9:25, an angel told Daniel that the Messiah would be cut off after “seven weeks and sixty-two sevens.” The “sevens” are seven-year periods, which render a total of 483 years. The timeline begins with the command to rebuild Jerusalem. Nehemiah received this order in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, 444 BC on the modern calendar. When we apply conversions to account for differences in old and new calendars, the year the Messiah is cut off is revealed to be AD 33. Thus, Larson believes that Jesus’ crucifixion can be conclusively dated to April 3, AD 33.

Larson then goes to Pentecost, shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection. First Peter quotes the prophet Joel (Acts 2:17-21) speaking of “wonders in heaven… blood and fire and billows of smoke” and the moon turning to “blood.” Then Peter says that the people present know themselves of these things, as if they have already come to pass.

When Larson looked at the sky of April 3, AD 33, he found a blood moon. The term “blood moon’ means a lunar eclipse. The moon is in the shadow of the Earth and receives no direct sunlight, causing it to appear a dull red. According to Larson’s research, the only lunar eclipse viewed from Jerusalem on a Passover during Pilate’s reign occurred on April 3, AD 33.

Mark wrote that Jesus was crucified at the third hour (Mark 15:25). At that time, the clock started at 6 am. The third hour would have been 9 am on our clock. Matthew 27:46 tells us that Jesus died at the ninth hour, 3 pm. During the six hours that He suffered on the cross, the sky turned black for three hours, there was an earthquake, the Temple veil was torn, tombs were opened and people rose from the dead (Matt. 27:45-54). As the moon rose, it turned to blood around 3 pm (below the horizon and invisible to people in Jerusalem), the precise time that Jesus died. Larson says, “the moon had returned to the foot of the virgin. But now it was a full moon. A life fully lived, blotted out in blood.”

Larson’s discovery shows the intricate detail of God’s handiwork. He set the stars and planets in motion in the very first verse of the Bible. These celestial bodies moved with mathematic precision for thousands of years. Their appointed journeys through the sky record the celebration of the heavens at the conception and birth of Jesus, then weep at His death on the cross. As you celebrate the birth of Christ this year, remember that the God who set the stars in motion, the same God who sent Jesus to take our place, still sits on the throne of Heaven. The God who is capable of such a masterpiece is certainly deserving of our trust and worship.

For a limited time, copies of the DVD version of The Star of Bethlehem are available without charge at
I am not affiliated in any way with this site.

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 8, 2008

Listen to the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

A classic Christmas carol that is now seldom heard is I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day. The song was written by the famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1864. Many Americans will remember some of Longfellow’s works, such as “the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” “the Song of Hiawatha” and “the Village Blacksmith,” from American Literature classes.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It is not as well known that Longfellow was a staunch Christian. His works included Christus, a trilogy detailing the history of Christianity. When Longfellow listened to the church bells ringing on Christmas day, they spoke to him the song the angels sang at the birth of Christ. This song has been repeated for the two thousand years since Jesus’ birth.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

In the midst of Christmas joy, Longfellow suddenly hangs his head in despair. In spite of the angel’s proclamation of peace on earth, he realizes that the world is far from peaceful. This song was written in the midst of the American Civil War (or to those of us from the South, The War Against Northern Aggression).

1864 was one of the darkest years of American history. The war had dragged on for three long years. Families were split apart as brother fought brother. Hundreds of thousands on both sides had been killed and wounded. Farmland and cities had been ravaged. Political opponents of President Lincoln attempted to force a negotiated settlement to end the war short of victory. For most Americans in 1864, there was no end in sight. Longfellow’s despair can be more clearly seen in two “lost verses” that are not typically printed in most songbooks.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

For Longfellow, the war was not merely a question of nationalism. Longfellow’s Christian beliefs led him to oppose slavery. In fact, many abolitionists of the era based their view of the evil of slavery on their Christian belief that all men are equal in the eyes of God. Longfellow, who along with Union General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a Bowdoin College professor, viewed the possible victory of the Confederacy as a triumph of the evil of slavery. Longfellow’s despair was due not only to the large numbers of casualties of the war, but the thought that their sacrifices might have been in vain; the Union might not be preserved and thousands of slaves might remain in bondage.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Finally, the bells speak to Longfellow through his despair. The last word has not been written. God is aware of what is happening. He has promised us that, in the end, evil will be defeated and righteousness will be victorious. Peace on earth, good will toward men is not a statement of current conditions. It is a promise of things to come.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is a song that holds a message for us today. It is easy for us to despair as our nation is engaged in a long war against terrorist fanatics. We see dictators rising to power around the world. Other radical nations are growing closer and closer to the possession of weapons of mass destruction. At home, our economy is a shambles. Many of us are unemployed or in fear for our jobs and our livelihoods.

If we listen to the message of the bells on Christmas day, we will find assurance that God is in control and promises peace on earth and goodwill to men. God is just. Evil will not be allowed to flourish forever. Justice may be completed now, in the future when Christ returns, or in the next world, but justice will be done. Jusice delayed is not justice denied.

The fact is that justice is only denied because of the goodwill of God Himself. God’s patience and desire that we should become men of goodwill and seek His forgiveness for our own evil actions leads Him to delay administering our ultimate sentence of death for our crimes against God. We must realize that, in God’s eyes, little evils are just as evil as big evils, and just as deserving of divine justice.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day tells us that peace on earth and goodwill towards men are a future promise to be fulfilled by God. To reap the benefits of that promise, we must heed God’s call to turn from our own wicked ways and seek salvation through the baby in the Bethlehem manger. Our hope for peace on earth and goodwill towards men will be fulfilled through Jesus, who is the real hope of Christmas.

Complete Lyrics:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Prayer for My Children

My son often wants me to help “get him started going to sleep” by lying down with him. I usually take the opportunity to lie next to him and pray for his, and my baby daughter’s, future. This is my prayer for Ethan and Sarah Beth.

Most importantly, I pray that they will listen and respond to God’s call for repentance and trust in Jesus Christ. My personal belief is that the most important thing that a parent can give to their children is a solid spiritual foundation that will eventually point them towards receiving Christ as their personal Savior. Without safeguarding their souls, all else, health, education, possessions, is ultimately meaningless.

I pray that God will bless their lives and protect them. I pray that they will be happy and healthy and that God will send His angels to protect and watch over them. Growing children face many dangers, both internal and external. I pray that they will be protected from their own curiosity and lack of judgment as well as from more human dangers such as child predators and drug pushers.

I also pray that God will continue to watch over them as they grow up. I pray that He guides their choice of friends. I have realized that friends provide both positive and negative influences. The negative influences are much harder to resist. I pray that Ethan and Sarah will choose friends that will positively impact their lives.

I pray that as they grow, they develop the wisdom to avoid trouble. In cases where they make the wrong choices, I pray that the Lord will discipline them and call them back before they go too far and make choices that cannot be corrected.

I pray that both Ethan and Sarah will intelligent and successful. I pray that they realize that success in life most often comes from hard work and preparation. I pray that their work in school leads them to a career that is stable and financially, as well as emotionally, rewarding.

I pray that they are wise enough to realize that they should work to live and not live to work. I pray that they find a job that they enjoy, but realize that work is simply a means to an end and not an end in itself. Life is meant to be enjoyed. It is important to find a balance between the responsibilities of your job and the responsibilities to those you love.

I also pray that their success is moderated. Unbridled success can breed arrogance and greed. Failure can be valuable because it teaches. As their grandfather recently said, learning to cope when things don’t go your way is one of life’s most important lessons.
I pray that they learn from their failures and are not discouraged by them. I pray that they do not take their accomplishments and possessions for granted.

I pray that they learn both compassion and discernment. I hope that they do not look down on people who have less than they do. I hope that they will use their talents and possession to help these people when possible. I hope that they also learn that some people take advantage of this compassion. I hope that they learn to tell the difference.

I pray that God will pick out future spouses for both Ethan and Sarah. I pray that even now He is preparing Ethan’s wife and Sarah’s husband for their future lives together. I pray that He will give them a match that is literally made in Heaven and they will be as happy with their families as I am with mine. I pray that that one day, not too soon, after they are happily married, that I’ll have grandchildren to spoil.

I pray that when they grow up, they will still live in a country with the same freedoms and opportunities that citizens of the United States have enjoyed in the past. I pray that they will have the freedom to worship God and Jesus openly and without fear. I pray that they will want to worship openly and without fear.

I pray that they will enjoy freedom and speech and thought. I pray that they will still be free to buy a gun if they choose, but will not feel that they need to have one for protection. I pray that they will have the freedom to spend their money and time as they see fit and not have to work long hours to pay onerous taxes.

I pray that my fellow countrymen will not trade away their freedoms for the illusive security offered by government bureaucrats. Many today seem more than willing to make such a bargain. If Ethan and Sarah Beth grow up in a country that is not free, we will have only ourselves to blame. Once surrendered, freedom is hard to regain. As a founding American once said, “Those who would trade freedom for security deserve neither.”

My further prayer is that Ethan and Sarah will grow up in a world at peace. Even though the lights of freedom seem to be winking out around the world, I hope that the United States and other defenders of freedom will stand strong. Standing strong today will hopefully prevent Ethan and Sarah’s generation from having to face the same evils that are in the world today.

I pray that God will give me the wisdom and the strength to be the best parent that I can be. I also offer up a prayer of thanks that God would entrust me with such wonderful children as well as a fantastic (and beautiful) wife.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Father's Lullaby

Lullaby and goodnight, pleasant dreams ‘til tomorrow
Lullaby, now sleep tight, it’s time to close your eyes.
Lay you down, close your eyes; time to go to sleep.
Lay you down, close your eyes; time to go to sleep.

Lullaby and goodnight, you know you should be sleeping
Lullaby and goodnight, Daddy's really getting tired.
Lay you down, close your eyes; how can you be awake?
Lay you down, close your eyes; how can you be awake?

Lullaby and goodnight, I have to work in four hours
Lullaby and goodnight, my alarm goes off soon.
Lay you down, close your eyes; I really need to sleep.
Lay you down, close your eyes; I really need to sleep.

Lullaby and goodnight, it’s almost sunrise
Lullaby and goodnight, I’m feeling half-dead.
Lay you down, close your eyes; maybe I'll wake up mama
Lay you down, close your eyes; maybe I should wake your mom.

Lullaby and goodnight, I think your eyes are closing
Lullaby and goodnight, now I’ll just put you down.
Lay you down, don’t wake up; now I’m off to bed
Lay you down, don’t wake up; now I’ll rest my weary head

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Who Is Gog of Magog?

2 "Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, 3 and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. 4
Ezek 38:2-4 (NKJV)

Ezekiel prophesied of Gog, of the land of Magog, a future leader who will one day lead a coalition of nations against Israel. The Bible tells us that Gog will be destroyed by divine intervention just before the moment of his triumph. Magog is not found on any modern map, so how will this prophecy be fulfilled?

A clue to the whereabouts of the land of Magog can be found in the story of Noah in Genesis. In Genesis 10:2, Magog is listed as a grandson of Noah (and a son of Noah’s son, Japheth). Meshech and Tubal, whose names were also mentioned by Ezekiel, have the same lineage.

Scholars believe that Magog and his descendents moved north and eventually settled in what is now Russia. According to the historian Josephus, Magog’s descendents eventually became known as the Scythians. The Scythians were a warlike people who were one of the first groups to master horseback riding and the use of horse drawn wagons. The Tartars, another warlike Asian people who settled in modern Russia, may also be descended from Magog.

Similarly, Meshech is believed to have founded northern peoples. Ethnic Georgian tradition is that Georgia was founded by descendents of Meshech. The Russians believe that the city of Moscow (Moskva) was founded by King Mosokh, another descendent of Meshech. They believe that the name of the city is a combination of Mosokh’s name and that of his wife, Kwa.

Tubal is the third son of Japheth identified by Ezekiel. Tubal’s tribe is believed to have settled south of the Black Sea and eventually moved further into Asia. The city of Tobolsk, situated on the Tobol River in Siberia, is believed to refer to Tubal.

Two other grandsons of Noah are also listed by Ezekiel. Gomer, another son of Japheth, was progenitor of the Cimmerians, a people who settled north of the Black Sea. The Cimmerians are believed to have been ancestors of the Celts. Togarmah (Genesis 10:3) is a son of Gomer. Ezekiel refers to Togarmah “from the far north” (38:6).

Likewise, Ezekiel 38:15 says that Gog will come “out of the far north.” When Ezekiel speaks of the north, he uses Israel, and more specifically Jerusalem, as a reference point. One far northern country would be Turkey, and some scholars do believe that Ezekiel’s references do point there. However, beyond Turkey, Moscow lies the far north of Israel and Jerusalem. Given Soviet support for Israel’s enemies over the past few decades, as well as Russia’s support of Iran today, Russia seems to be a much more likely candidate for the country of Gog.

The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) refers to “Rhos” instead of “Rosh” (Ezekiel 38:2). A tribe of Scythians in Crimea used this name, and the inhabitants of Russia may have taken their name from them. Additionally, the Araxes River, which flows through Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan, has also been called the Rhos. An alternative explanation for “Rosh” is that it refers to the Hebrew word for leader and is thus a title.

Finally, the meaning of the word “Gog” remains mysterious. Gog may refer to the name of an individual who will lead the latter days Russian army against Israel. Another possibility is that Gog is a title bestowed upon such a leader. One suggestion is that it may be a contraction of “Chakan,” a Northern Asiatic term for a king.

The clues that the Bible gives about the leader of the coalition can be viewed in terms of modern geopolitics. Two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia is once again resurgent. Oil wealth has provided Russia with the means to revitalize its military.

Vladimir Putin, a former official of the KGB and the FSB (Federal Security Bureau), succeeded Boris Yeltsin as Russia’s president in 2000. He was reelected in 2004, but had to step down in 2008 due to term limits. His handpicked successor, Dmitri Medvedev, immediately named Putin as his prime minister, where he continues to wield considerable power.

Putin’s administration has been characterized by crackdowns on democracy and murders of dissidents. Putin strengthened the power of the Russian executive during his time in office. He has also made numerous veiled and blatant threats against former Soviet republics and, in 2008, was instrumental in Russia’s invasion of Georgia.

Under Putin, Russia and Iran have grown closer. Russia is supplying Iran with nuclear reactors and modern air defense systems. Russia has also interfered with UN and NATO efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Russia and Iran have formed an economic alliance and are very close militarily as well, for the first time in history. Iran, of course, was traditionally known as Persia.

Vladimir Putin may or may not eventually prove to be Gog of Magog. Currently, he is a likely candidate as the de facto ruler of Russia. His entreaties toward Iran, a traditional enemy of Israel, also match Ezekiel’s prophecy and give him a motive to lead a joint attack on Israel at some point in the future.

Epicenter: How the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future, Joel C. Rosenberg
Schofield’s Study Notes, Bible Explorer 4.0, Wordsearch, 2004.
Jamieson-Faussett-Brown Bible Commentary, Bible Explorer 4.0, Wordsearch, 2004.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change Is Coming

Last night Barack Obama made history by becoming the first black man to be elected President of the United States. For better or for worse, it is a historic moment. Americans did not so much put aside racial differences as embrace them. According to Fox News coverage of exit polls, most voters who said that race played a role in their vote actually voted for Obama.

Obama won by promising change. This promise capitalized on the resentment that many hold for the Bush Administration and the sluggish economy. Many felt that things could not get any worse. To them, let me say that change is not inherently good.

Many of the policy proposals that Obama has laid forth would definitely result in change, but not the type of change that people would like to see. Obama’s plans to raise taxes and restrict free trade through a unilateral renegotiation of NAFTA are strikingly similar to steps taken by Herbert Hoover at the outset of the Great Depression.

In a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Obama talked about his cap-and-trade plan, which amounts to a huge new tax on energy: "Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I'm capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it -- whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers." (Chronicle Vol. 8, No. 45, Nov. 5 2008,

Obama’s capital gains and dividend tax increases would place further pressure on the already strained 401(k) and retirement plans that most Americans hold. Many of these plans have already taken losses of 40-50% due to the Wall St. crisis.

President Obama will also have to contend with congress. Even though the Democrats have majorities in both houses of congress, some parts of Obama’s platform might be difficult to pass. Obama’s tax plan is based on allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, which will happen easily, and then adding tax credits for low- and middle-income taxpayers. Passing new tax credits might be more difficult, especially as congress looks at paying for the many proposed government programs that will cost trillions of dollars.

A lasting impact of the Obama Administration will be his appointment of federal judges. Obama has said that he will appoint judges who are “sympathetic enough to those who are on the outside, those who are vulnerable, those who are powerless, those who can’t have access to political power and as a consequence can’t protect themselves from being — from being dealt with sometimes unfairly” ( All Americans should be concerned if Obama appoints judges who decide cases based on your social class rather than written law.

The world will not get any safer with President Obama in the White House. Recent reports from Israel indicate that Iran may have already tested two nuclear weapons ( While this has not been verified, it is certain that nuclear proliferation in Iran, Syria, and North Korea will be an issue that the next president will face. Doubts about Obama’s support for Israel may convince Israel that the best course is a pre-emptive strike before Obama takes office in January 2009.

A convergence of Bible prophecies also points to the likelihood of another Middle East war. Joel C. Rosenberg, author of Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future, says that Ezekiel 38-39 foretells of a coalition of nations led by Russia and Iran that oppose Israel. Rosenberg points out that Russia and Iran have an alliance now for the first time in history. Rosenberg further points out that two nations conspicuously absent from the coalition are Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, and Iraq, which is rebuilding its military and dealing with an insurgency. The attack is ultimately defeated by divine intervention. If Obama is secretly pro-Arab, as many of his backers believe, then the time could be ripe for a fulfillment of this prophecy, which may then usher in further end-time events.

It has been suggested that Obama’s election may be God’s will. That is possible. It is also possible that Obama’s election is a repudiation of God’s will. At this point, it is impossible to know. Those of us who are concerned by Obama’s record and associations can take comfort in two Bible verses. The first is that “all things work together for good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). The second is “by their fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). God’s will soon be apparent.

Obama’s first actions as president will likely signal the priorities of his presidency. While there has been no indication from the Obama team as to what his first priorities will be, some other Democratic politicians have indicated what they would like to see. There has been much talk about the Employee Free Choice Act, or the Card Check bill. This misnamed bill would actually deprive employees of the right to a secret ballot election in choosing whether to unionize. Another commonly discussed piece of legislation is the Fairness Doctrine, which would curtail the freedom of speech of radio stations and talk show hosts in an attempt to muzzle conservative radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh. Enacting gun control legislation is another rumored priority of the new government. If any of these limitations to freedom are pushed by the new Obama Administration, Americans should be rightly worried.

America should rightfully be proud that a member of a once oppressed minority can rise to the highest office in the land. We should be less proud that in doing so we paid so little attention to the man himself, his record, and the people who surround him.

It has been suggested that Obama is the John F. Kennedy of our generation. Based on his policy proposals, I fear that he may be our generation’s Herbert Hoover, who tax and regulatory policies turned a recession into the Great Depression, or our Jimmy Carter, whose dictator-friendly administration saw a dramatic expansion of Soviet influence around the world. I pray that he is not our generation’s Lenin.

I will pay close attention to President Obama. I will give him a chance to prove that he is working for the good of the United States as a whole. I pray that he will be a wise and fair leader who stands by his oath to uphold the Constitution. If he doesn’t, I’ll work extra hard to find a replacement for him in 2012. I urge all Americans to do the same.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama vs. McCain: Whose Economic Plan is Best?

Currently the United States is undergoing one of the worst financial crises of the last hundred years. Since the crisis is occurring in the middle of a presidential election, it is undoubtedly helping the opposition party challenger, Barack Obama. Obama and McCain have both presented strikingly different plans for recovering from the crisis.

Obama’s plan is centered on a middle class tax cut with increased taxes for taxpayers earning more than $250,000 for couples or $200,000 for individuals (according to Americans for Tax Reform). This plan is the wrong prescription for the economy and is likely to make the problem worse.

In fact, Obama’s income tax hikes are only the starting point for his tax increases. He would increase the capital gains tax by 13%, which could affect people who own stocks in their 401(k) plans or who sell their homes. Obama would also increase the dividend tax on stocks, which also affect 401(k) owners. While McCain would phase out the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which snares increasing numbers of middle class taxpayers, Obama would leave it intact. Obama would also reinstate the Death Tax, which under current law will be reduced to zero by 2010 and then jump to 55% in 2011. Obama also supports increasing Social Security taxes on higher income taxpayers. Obama would also leave the US corporate tax rate at 35%. This is one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world; only Japan and Germany are higher. Additionally, Obama has also proposed a cap-and-trade tax system on carbon emissions and a windfall profits tax on oil companies. Both would lead to higher energy prices for consumers.

While Obama does propose cuts for the middle class (many in the Democratic congress do not agree with this aspect of his plan), his tax increases would affect the segment of the population that drives the economy. The top 5% of taxpayers includes many small business owners. Over half of the nation’s workforce is employed by small businesses. If these companies have to pay more in taxes, they will have less money to pay employees. That will translate into fewer jobs. Additionally, the top 5% of taxpayers already pay 60% of all taxes. This figure is up from 56% before Bush’s tax cuts.

History shows us that low tax rates typically lead to economic growth. In the United States, there have been four cuts in tax rates over the past one hundred years. These cuts took places during the administrations of Coolidge and Harding, Kennedy, Reagan, and George W. Bush. In each case, the economy grew, jobs were created, and tax revenues actually increased. This can also be seen around the world. When Ireland cut its corporate tax rate to 15%, it became one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. Eastern European nations such as Russia, Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine, Romania, and Georgia have all used low flat taxes to stimulate their economies.

On the contrary, increasing taxes slows the economy and actually leads to a smaller Gross Domestic Product and fewer tax revenues. FDR’s tax increases and regulation in the 1930s made the Great Depression in the US last much longer than in many other countries. In 1920, a severe depression had lasted only a year due to President Harding’s cuts to federal taxes and spending. George W. Bush got similar results with tax cuts in 2001.

A more recent example of the folly of tax increases can be found in the state of Michigan. In 2007, Governor Jennifer Granholm enacted the state’s largest tax increase in generation in order to make up a budget shortfall. The taxes were planned to generate about $1.3 billion in new revenues. Instead, tax receipts are far below projections and Michigan entered a statewide recession two years before the rest of the country.

The other side of the coin is that Barack Obama has proposed numerous new spending programs. These costly programs include massive expenditures on healthcare, the environment, a national service plan, college tuition assistance, and many other programs. The total for Obama’s new spending is close to $300 billion per year according to the National Taxpayers Union. Such massive new spending programs would rapidly expand the deficit and increase the federal debt.

Obama and the Democrats are also unlikely to make serious reforms to the nation’s mortgage markets. Many of the problems that we face today can be traced to the Community Reinvestment Act of the Carter era, which required banks to loan money to low-income borrowers. The program was expanded under President Clinton, who directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to increase their holdings of subprime loans.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made large campaign contributions to congressional Democrats in exchange for thwarting Republican attempts at oversight. The two top recipients were Senator Chris Dodd, now chairman of the senate committee that oversees banks, and Barack Obama, who received more money in four years than most members received in twenty. Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson, former CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have worked extensively on Obama’s campaign.

In contrast, John McCain plans to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax and reduce corporate tax rates. McCain wants to simplify the tax code so that both individuals and companies will save on accounting costs. John McCain also cosponsored legislation to increase oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2005.

McCain also has a long record of opposing government waste and pork barrel spending. This makes him an ideal candidate to tackle the growing problems of Social Security and Medicare. Medicare is projected to be bankrupt by 2019 and Social Security by 2050. Changes must be made immediately to avoid massive new taxes or draconian benefit cuts to save both programs later.

Barack Obama’s economic policies take the United States in precisely the wrong direction. His numerous tax increases and expensive new spending programs have been proven to restrict economic growth in the past. To further restrict economic growth when the country is already in a recession would almost certainly prolong and deepen our current economic crisis.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Visions of Isa: Muslim Converts to Christ

"And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.
Joel 2:28 (NKJV)

Since the time of Mohammed, there has been unease between the great religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Wars have been fought between surrogates of the great faiths and they have historically remained ethnically distinct, with few exceptions.

That is now changing. Even though Christian missionaries have preached the Gospel to the Muslim world for hundreds of years, they have had few converts. Over the past twenty years, that began to change.

Over the past few decades, increasing numbers of Muslims have begun to have supernatural dreams and visions of Isa, as Muslims call Jesus Christ. These dreams affect a cross section of Muslims. Young, old, men, women, and even fanatics have reported the dreams. In one survey of Muslim converts to Christianity, 25% of respondents report having dreams or visions of Christ before their conversion. Interestingly enough, 45% report having dreams or visions after their conversion.

Bill Bright, director of Campus Crusade for Christ’s evangelism efforts is the Middle East and North Africa, reports that the group has received thousands of letters from Muslims telling of dreams in which Isa appears and tells them “I am the way.” They then contact Campus Crusade, which broadcasts a radio program throughout the area, to find out who this Isa is.

One member of the Campus Crusade staff is a woman who was a former Muslim radical. While in prison for her activities, Isa-Jesus appeared to her and explained redemption and the Gospel to her. She became a Christian and now spends her time working to tell other Muslims about Isa.

While there are a wide variety of these dreams and visions, most seem to fall into two categories. The first is preparatory dreams and visions. These might instruct the dreamer to visit a Christian or seek out a copy of the Bible. Some dream of Isa telling them how to obtain forgiveness and redemption. In some dreams, Isa saves their lives or frees them from bondage. Some even dream of Hell.

In one case, an Indonesian imam made a hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. While on a bus tour in Mecca, he talked with the driver, who told him that Allah wanted to have a relationship with him and that he should not focus on rituals such as the hajj. After a stop, he returned to the bus to find a different driver.

After returning to his home in Indonesia, the man was still perplexed by his encounter with the bus driver. One day, while visiting the home of a local Chinese Christian, the man noticed a picture of the bus driver on the wall. The picture was Isa-Jesus. The man became a Christian. (

The second broad category is that of empowering dreams and visions. These dreams give the dreamer strength to endure persecution and trials. When Muslims convert to Christianity, they are often disowned by their families and friends, beaten, arrested, tortured, and sometimes even killed. These empowering dreams and visions help them to cope with these trials.

It is hard to determine just how many Muslims are converting to Christianity. In some countries, the number of believers in Christ is still in the single digits. In others, they number in the hundreds of thousands. In Iran, there were about 200-300 Muslim converts when the Islamic revolution took place in 1979. Today, Iranian Christians International estimates that there are more than 70,000 Iranian Christians, not including secret believers. Morocco had only 400 Christians in the 1990s. Today that number has more than doubled to 1000.

One of the most prominent Muslims to convert to Christianity is Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son a leader of the Hamas terrorist organization. Yousef, while not reporting any dreams or visions, was troubled by many aspects of the Islamic religion. When he spent time in an Israeli prison, he became disillusioned by the harsh treatment and torture that Hamas members inflicted on their own Palestinian people. Yousef studied the Bible and became convinced that it was the word of God.

As noted earlier, dreams and visions play a role in the conversion of only about 25% of Muslim-born Christians. What convinces the other 75% that Isa is the Christ? The most common answer is the lifestyle of Christians. Many note that there is no gap between the morality that Christians preach and the lifestyle that they live. Others noted that Christians treat women with respect and do not practice violence as many Muslims do.

Next, Muslim converts say that the power of God in answering prayers, healing, and driving out demons was important in their conversions. There are many cases of healing following prayer after the failure of other methods. In one case, a Nigerian witch doctor reportedly cursed a man considering converting to Christianity. The man became insane and was deserted by his family, but after praying to Jesus he was healed.

Many converts, such as Yousef, were also dissatisfied with the brand of Islam that they experienced. They note that the Koran focuses on punishment and lacks a message of love and forgiveness. Many also point to harsh Islamic law and Islamic militancy as pushing them towards the loving God of Christianity. Some Muslims are attracted to Isa before they know of Christianity since the Koran teaches that Isa is a prophet and healer.

Christian missionaries, such as Brother Andrew of Open Doors, say that one of the most important things that Western Christians can do for the emerging Muslim-convert church is to pray. These Christians are under constant pressure and many are attacked by local mobs or harassed by authorities. In addition to adding souls to God’s kingdom, they note that, as a growing Christian church in Eastern Europe played a central role in the fall of communism, a growing church in the Islamic world may help bring peace to the Middle East.

The unprecedented conversions, dreams and visions that the Islamic world is experience may be hard for jaded westerners to believe. Unbelievable or not, God is actively working around the world. The Christian church of the free world should join in his work.

"Look among the nations and watch-- Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you.
Hab 1:5 (NKJV)

Testimonies and Stories of Muslim Converts:


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Should You Vote for Obama?

If you believe that the United States can tax itself into prosperity, vote for Obama.

If you believe that we can simultaneously create jobs while heavily taxing those who create jobs, vote for Obama.

If you believe that a person can associate with a seemingly endless stream of anti-American activists over the course of twenty to thirty years and not only not be affected by their viewpoint, but not even be aware of it, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the 40% of Americans who already do not pay taxes should get a tax cut (translation: a bigger tax refund), vote for Obama.

If you believe that banning the private use and ownership of firearms is a “reasonable restriction” on the second amendment, vote for Obama.

If you believe that abortion should be legal with no restrictions, vote for Obama.

If you believe that you don’t pay enough taxes, vote for Obama.

If you believe that a senator can take over $125,000 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (more than any other member of Congress save one, even though he has only served four years in the senate) and it will not affect his objectivity on reforming and overseeing these mortgage companies, vote for Obama.

If you believe that most traditional Americans are bitterly clinging to guns and religion, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the government should force banks to loan money to people with poor credit, vote for Obama.

If you believe that opposing same-sex marriage is akin to racism, vote for Obama.

If you believe that we can solve the problem of international terrorism by opening a dialogue, vote for Obama.

If you believe that America wasn’t great until you decided to run for office, vote for Obama.

If you believe that gas will be cheaper if we tax oil companies more, vote for Obama.

If you believe that increasing oil supplies will have no effect of the price of gasoline, vote for Obama.

If you believe that taxing carbon will have no effect the economy, vote for Obama.

If you believe that experience and knowledge don’t matter as much as charisma and hope, vote for Obama.

If you believe that making students into political radicals (through programs such as the Annenberg Challenge) is more important than teaching them subjects such as math and science, then vote for Obama.

If you believe that the government can run the healthcare industry more cheaply and efficiently than doctors and insurance companies, vote for Obama.

If you believe that Jesus was a community organizer, vote for Obama.

If you believe that Iraq is not important in spite of what Osama bin Laden says, vote for Obama.

If you believed that the surge wouldn’t work in Iraq, but is needed in Afghanistan, vote for Obama.

If you believe that Al Qaeda or Iranian radicals wouldn’t fill a vacuum left by the US in Iraq, vote for Obama.

If you believe that healthcare is a constitutional right, vote for Obama.

If you believe that it is ethical to take money from other people to pay for your health insurance, vote for Obama.

If you believe that a trillion dollars worth of new spending is a good thing, vote for Obama.

If you believe that ACORN is a valuable resource in spreading political awareness, vote for Obama.

If you believe that banks should be pressured by community groups such as ACORN to loan money to people with poor credit, vote for Obama.

If you believe that ACORN should receive federal money even though they have perpetrated voter fraud on a massive scale in the last several elections, vote for Obama.

If you believe that more government regulations are the answer to most of our national problems, vote for Obama.

If you believe that our economic problems are caused by corporate greed and not government intrusions into the market or massive deficit spending, vote for Obama.

If you believe that social programs are more important than defense spending, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the US should borrow more money from nations like China to fund entitlement programs, vote for Obama.

If you are reassured by the phrase, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” vote for Obama.

If you believe that the Democratic Party can suspend the laws of economics, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the US can make socialism work where all others have failed, vote for Obama.

If you think that Truth Squads, which intimidate media outlets that present information unflattering to Obama, are a good idea, vote for Obama.

If you think that America needs a domestic national police agency with a budget similar to that of the military, then vote for Obama.

If you agree with the political views of most Hollywood celebrities, vote for Obama.

If you enjoyed the Carter years and would like to revisit them, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the government’s plan to increase bio-fuels, which also increased food prices by 75%, worked well, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the government should tell you what kind of light bulb to use, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the government should force the auto companies to produce cars like the Prius, which are smaller and more expensive than comparable cars, vote for Obama.

If you believe the government, not private companies, creates jobs, vote for Obama.

If you believe that we should have judges who rule based on their personal beliefs rather than written law, vote for Obama.

If you believe that our judges should apply the laws of other countries to American courts, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the most leftist member of the US Senate is capable of forging bipartisan unity, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the government can spend your money more wisely than you can, vote for Obama.

If you believe that next year, your income level won’t be considered “rich,” vote for Obama.

If you believe that character is not important, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the party of higher taxes can suddenly become champions of tax cuts, vote for Obama.

If you believe that allowing tax cuts to expire is not a tax increase, vote for Obama.

If you believe that giving tax refunds to those who don’t pay taxes is not welfare, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the government should be involved in wealth sharing, vote for Obama.

If you believe that the government bureaucracy is more efficient than private enterprise, vote for Obama.

If you believe that Barack Obama is your new bicycle, vote for Obama.

If you believe that any change is good, vote for Obama.

If you believe that Iran armed with nuclear weapons is not a problem, vote for Obama.

If you believe that we should invade Pakistan, vote for Obama.

If you believe that liberal Democrat control of the presidency, along with filibuster-proof majorities in both houses of Congress, is a good thing, vote for Obama.

If you believe that more government is the answer, vote for Obama.

If enough people vote for Obama, you’ll get the government that you deserve.

If, on the other hand, you believe that, as President Lincoln said, “America is the last, best hope of mankind,” and that the founders of our country were wiser than our current crop of politicians, don’t vote for Obama.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

1970s Déjà vu

The political and economic situation of 2008 resembles that of the 1970s in several respects. From an unpopular president to an oil-induced recession to a national malaise, the resemblances are uncanny. We should take care to learn from the past in order to avoid the same mistakes.

The most obvious similarity between 2008 and the 1970s is the comparison between the wars in Iraq and Vietnam. In both cases, we aided a domestic government in fighting off an insurgency. In both cases, we used the same ineffective search-and-destroy strategy for years while protests mounted at home.

Also in both cases, the US shifted to a strategy of clear-and-hold. In Vietnam, General Creighton Abrams replaced General Westmoreland as commander of US forces in Vietnam in 1968. Under Abrams’ strategy, US forces cleared areas of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars, and then South Vietnamese Territorial Forces then garrisoned the liberated territory.

By 1972, John Paul Vann, a senior US official in Vietnam, was able to say “We are at the lowest level of fighting the war has ever seen…. The program of Vietnamization has gone kind of literally beyond my wildest dreams of success.”

When the North Vietnamese Army launched a conventional invasion of the south in what became known as the Easter Offensive, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), with US assistance, was able to hold back the NVA. When South Vietnam signed the Paris Accords in 1973, President Nixon promised that the US would intervene if the north resumed the war, that the US would provide material assistance to South Vietnam, and that the US would provide financial assistance to the south.

When North Vietnam launched a second invasion in 1975, none of these promises were kept. On June 14, 1973, Congress had passed the Case-Church Amendment. This law barred any future use of US forces in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia without the authorization of Congress. In 1974, Gerald Ford became president after Nixon’s resignation. Also in 1974, Congress sharply cut funding for South Vietnam. When the north invaded, the US offered no assistance and South Vietnam fell to communist forces, amply supplied by China and the Soviet Union, in 55 days. Following the end of the war, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese became refugees, were sent to re-education camps, or were executed by the victorious communists.

General David Petraeus has successfully used the Abrams strategy in Iraq. Violence in Iraq is at its lowest point since 2004. Presidential candidate Barack Obama says the surge strategy has “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams” even while he continues to call for the withdrawal of all US troops. Obama is determined to end the war in Iraq the same way his Congressional forebears ended the war in Vietnam.

A second parallel to the 1970s is the current sad state of the US economy. In 1973-1975, the US suffered its worst recession since the 1930s. Several factors that are being replicated in 2008 played a role in the recession of 1973.

One of the causes of this recession was Nixon’s attempt at price controls. In 1971, in order to fight inflation and unemployment, Nixon enacted a 90-day freeze on wages and prices. After 90 days, a Cost of Living Council took charge of the controls, which were gradually relaxed. However, they were reestablished in 1973.

The result of Nixon’s price controls was predictable. Farmers stopped selling their produce and shortages resulted as consumers bought the last items off of supermarket shelves. George Schultz, head of the Office of Management and Budget, told Nixon, “At least we have now convinced everyone else of the rightness of our position that wage-price controls are not the answer.” The controls were removed in 1974, except for those on the oil and gas industries, which lasted several years longer.

Nixon was also responsible for a large increase in government regulation. Numerous government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, date from the Nixon Administration. By some estimates, more regulation was passed by the Nixon Administration than any other presidency since FDR.

The other major cause of the 1973 recession was the Arab Oil Embargo. In response to western support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War, the Arab members of OPEC launched an embargo against the United States and the Netherlands and raised the prices by 70% for other western European nations.

Oil prices immediately spiked. The price of a barrel of oil eventually went higher than $5 and gasoline prices increased to more than $1 per gallon. Gas stations ran out of gasoline and people had to wait for hours at stations that still had supplies.

President Nixon called for voluntary conservation of oil. Congress passed a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit to decrease fuel consumption. When OPEC resumed supplying oil to the US, it was at greatly increased prices. The high price of oil led to more inflation, more unemployment and a recession. The recession, in turn, led to a decrease in oil consumption.

The embargo also spurred construction of the Trans-Alyeska Pipeline (TAP). Environmental groups had sued to stop construction of the TAP in 1970. On November 16, 1973, President Nixon approved construction of the pipeline as a response to the oil crisis. The TAP was completed in 1977 and Alaskan oil played a role in keeping prices low in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 2008, proposals have been discussed for new price controls on oil, gasoline and healthcare. Wage controls have also resurfaced as limits on pay for corporate executives. There is no reason to believe that economic realities of enacting new government controls in the marketplace would have a result that is different from the problems they caused in 1973.

Oil prices have fallen recently, largely due to the deepening worldwide recession, but previously reached record highs in 2008. The problem is similar. In 1973, the shortage was artificially induced by OPEC. The current oil shortage is one of increased demand and limited supply.

Today, as in the 1970s, environmental groups resist drilling for oil domestically even though the US has large reserves in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and off the US coasts. Utilizing these oil reserves would bring more oil to the market just as the construction of the TAP increased oil supplies in the 1970s.

A third similarity is the unpopularity of the President of the United States in the 1970s and today. Richard M. Nixon had to deal with an unpopular war in Vietnam as well as a weak US economy. The death knell of his administration was sounded by the Watergate scandal in 1973 and he resigned in 1974.

Gerald Ford, who had replaced Vice President Spiro Agnew after his resignation in 1973, became president upon Nixon’s resignation. While he lowered inflation and unemployment through deregulation and tax cuts, the brief Ford Administration is remembered mainly for his pardon of Richard Nixon, the fall of Saigon, and his seeming clumsiness.

In 1976, the country was ready to put the Nixon years behind it. Jimmy Carter was virtually unknown outside of his home state of Georgia. In the 1976 campaign, he won media support with his message of hope and change, which enabled him to win the Democratic nomination and then the presidency.

In reality, the Carter presidency was a time of high inflation, high unemployment, and a renewed energy crisis. In 1978, the Iranian Revolution caused oil prices to double within a year, this time to $39 per barrel. Carter’s energy policy focused on increased conservation and gasoline rationing was seriously considered. There was no actual shortage of oil in 1979, and this Second Oil Shock was resolved by increased oil production in Alaska and the Gulf Coast. By 1986, after the oil industry deregulation took effect, oil prices returned to $10 per barrel.

Rising oil prices during Carter’s administration led to a return of high inflation. A slowing economy caused an increase in unemployment. By the end of Carter’s term, the misery index, inflation plus unemployment, approached 21%.

Carter’s sole foreign policy victory was the Camp David Accords, a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that has held to this day. While Carter correctly deemed human rights to be important, his emphasis on human rights in Iran under the Shah helped pave the way for the revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power and ushered in a much more abusive regime. Carter’s lax attitude towards Soviet expansion led to the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Ironically, a final response of President Carter to the oil crisis was the introduction of the Carter Doctrine. The Carter Doctrine held that “an attempt by an outside force to gain control in the Persian Gulf” would be regarded as “an assault on the vital interests of the US” and would be “repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” This policy set the precedent for the Persian Gulf War as well as the Iraq War.

In the election of 2008, Barack Obama proposes to repeat many of the same mistakes of the 1970s. His attempts to prematurely remove US troops to force an end to the Iraq War would put the gains of General Petraeus’ surge at grave risk. His reticence toward domestic oil drilling would lead to further supply problems and, ultimately, a return to higher prices as the economy recovers. Obama’s calls for heavier regulation and wage controls for CEOs in the wake of the Wall Street crisis would strangle the free market just as they did for Richard Nixon. Obama’s plan to increase taxes would also prolong our current crisis.

American voters should consider the mistakes of the 1970s when voting for a presidential candidate in 2008. A return to those failed policies would further damage the US economy as well as leading to increased instability abroad. A diplomatic failure with Iran in the next presidential term could lead to a nuclear-armed terrorist state whose reach could extend past Israel all the way to the United States. The next president should enact positive market-based reforms and negotiate from a position of strength to avoid the mistakes of the past.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Why the Wall Street Bailout Is a Waste of Money

On October 3, 2008, President Bush signed into a law the Economic Stabilization Act. This $700 billion law was touted as the only way to rescue the US economy from certain collapse. Instead, President Bush and Congress have likely only delayed the inevitable. The law does nothing to resolve the underlying problems that are threatening our economy.

Candidates from both parties have been quick to condemn Wall Street greed for the implosion of a growing number of banks and investment firms. These companies made billions of dollars in the subprime lending market for years before the bubble of inflated real estate prices began to burst. If we look deeper into the history of subprime lending, an industry in which I worked at one time, we find that while greed certainly played a role, it is not the only factor in the crisis.

Subprime lending as we know it today did not exist prior to 1977. In that year, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act, which was signed into law by Jimmy Carter. The law was intended to prevent racial discrimination in lending and to prevent the “redlining” of low-income neighborhoods. Activist groups used the law to challenge regulatory approval for new bank ventures when banks did not comply satisfactorily with the CRA.

The act was significantly strengthened by President Bill Clinton in the 1995. His administration stepped up enforcement of the act by setting performance-based goals. The Clinton Administration also encouraged banks to relax rules for income verification of borrowers and provide for lower down payments. The new CRA also allowed banks to bundle mortgages into securities, which could then be sold to other banks instead of being held by the original lender.

The Clinton Administration also pressured Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, quasi-governmental companies, to buy more of these mortgage backed securities. In 1999, Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines, now an Obama advisor, told the NY Times “there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.'' Fannie Mae further reduced the credit requirements of the mortgages that it purchased as it increased its share of the mortgage market.

The US government directly encouraged the banks to make risky loans with the implicit guarantee that they would be bought by Fannie Mae and backed by the government. Community groups pressured banks to lend more money to low-income borrowers under the threat of bad publicity. Banks did not resist when they found that money was too easy to make in the subprime market in a time of rapidly rising real estate values. By 2007, Fannie and Freddie owned or guaranteed about 40% of the US home loan market. Many banks were heavily invested in Fannie and Freddie stock as well as mortgage backed securities.

The fundamental flaw of the Economic Stabilization Act is that while it includes money for the US Treasury to buy bad mortgages from troubled banks. What it does not do is to remove the impetus that sparked the subprime frenzy in the first place. The Community Reinvestment Act is still law and many of the same people, in both government and banks, are still wielding power.

The Democratic Party is heavily involved in the crisis due to their goal of providing more affordable housing for low-income families. Chris Dodd, chairman of a senate committee that oversees banks, resisted attempts to reform Fannie and Freddie in 2003 and 2005. Dodd also received the most money of any congressman from Fannie and Freddie employees and PACs. Barack Obama, the second highest recipient, includes former Fannie and Freddie CEOs, Jim Johnson and Franklin Raines, among the economic policy advisors to his presidential campaign. Obama also worked with ACORN, one of the community activist groups that pressured banks to lend more money in low-income areas or be harassed under the CRA.

On the other hand, the Republicans did halfheartedly attempt to reform the system. President Bush noted as far back as 2001 that the size of Fannie and Freddie was “a potential problem.” In both 2003 and 2005, Republicans introduced the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act. In both cases, Democrats threatened a filibuster over the ability of the GSEs to contribute to groups like ACORN. In spite of a Republican majority in both houses, the bill went nowhere.

With the Democrats virtually certain to regain control of both houses of Congress and likely to capture the White House as well, it is highly unlikely that there will be any meaningful reform to the CRA. If the government continues to pressure banks to make loans to people who cannot repay them, then we will certainly revisit the mortgage crisis. More bailouts will be required until the Treasury has no money left. Higher taxes to generate revenues would likely cause the economy to slow further.

As in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, the government and the community activists essentially became parasites that attached themselves to the financial sector, which willingly went along with the scheme. Money was sucked from the banks until the bubble burst and they started to fail, resulting in the present crisis.

To further complicate the situation, two other bailouts are already appearing on the horizon. Medicare is projected to be bankrupt by 2019. Social Security will follow it into insolvency in 2041. Either large tax increases or large benefit cuts will be required to keep the programs solvent. These bailouts will be on top of additional spending proposed by congress for programs such as universal health care.

If we are to avoid an economic collapse, there must be fundamental change in the attitudes of Americans. We should, to paraphrase a great president, ask not for handouts from our government, but ask that our government put a stop to spending on programs not authorized by the Constitution. We must return to the days before the New Deal and the Great Society when Americans did not look to the government to provide for their financial security.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Origins of the Subprime Crisis

Over the past few months, America’s financial sector has been hit with its largest crisis since the Great Depression. The crisis began with a rise in foreclosures and the failure of some small banks. The problem spread to investment company Bear Stearns failed in May 2008. Liquidation was avoided by a government-orchestrated takeover of the company by JP Morgan. Bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac followed. Over the past week, two prominent companies failed. Lehman Brothers, another investment bank, was liquidated, while American International Group (AIG), an insurance conglomerate, was judged by the Federal Reserve to be too big to fail. This prompted the government to bail out AIG by purchasing an 80% interest in the company with taxpayer dollars.

As the crisis grows, there are more and more calls for increased regulation on Wall Street. To determine whether regulation will solve the problem, the cause of the problem must first be determined. If the source of the problem is not simply short selling, fraud, or basic greed, then new regulation might cause further problems instead of resolving our current ones.

When we delve deeply into the causes of the crisis, it is soon apparent that lack of regulation is not necessarily the problem. Along with healthcare and commercial aviation, finance is one of the most heavily regulated sectors of the US economy. The law of unintended consequences states that any purposeful action will produce unintended consequences. An example of unintended consequences is the passage of the Renewable Fuels Standard in 2007. This law was intended to lower fuel prices by mandating increased production of ethanol. Instead, the net result was that food prices almost doubled while oil prices kept rising. With that in mind, we should look at some of the regulations that the government has enacted on the banking industry.

Many point to the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977. This Carter-era law was intended to combat the practice of “redlining,” denying credit to people who live in certain areas. The law’s language was originally so vague that it only required banks to show a good faith effort. This began to change when the law was strengthened in amended in 1989 to grade banks on a four-point scale and to make these reviews public. In 1991, Congress passed the FDIC Improvement Act, allow regulators to consider a bank’s CRA performance when processing applications for FDIC services.

The law was strengthened yet again by President Clinton in 1995. The Clinton Administration changed compliance of the law from a matter of making an effort to one based on hard numbers of specific loans and specific levels of service. It also significantly stepped up enforcement of the law.

Since the passage of the CRA, the purchase of mortgages by minorities and in minority neighborhoods has risen sharply. The problem is that the underlying assumption that minority loans were denied on the basis of racism rather than credit turned out to be erroneous. According to a 1999 report by Freddie Mac, one of the mortgage companies now in dire straits, revealed that African-Americans have disproportionately large number of credit problems. For example, the report states that on average blacks with incomes of $65-70,000 per year have more credit problems than whites with an income of under $25,000. Consequently, as banks were pressured to make more loans to minorities and low-income borrowers, they were also making more loans to people who were poor credit risks.

A second possible root of the current crisis is the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. The Glass-Steagall Act was passed in 1933 during the height of the Great Depression. The banks of the era were accused of speculating in unsound investments. Banks would make loans to companies that were shaky, and would then recommend the same company’s stocks for their investment clients. The GSA established a wall between investment banks and commercial banks. The law was intended to prevent the use of deposit accounts to cover a bank’s investment losses.

In 1999, President Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act into law and repealed the GSA. This was done to make banks more competitive with foreign companies that offered a broader range of financial services. In addition to removing the barriers between banking and investing, the GLBA also allowed banks to offer insurance-related services. The predictable result of an increase in the number of sellers in the marketplace was more competition for the available investors.

At the same time, the United States was experiencing an economic boom. The Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan was aggressively cutting interest rates. The inexpensive cost of borrowing money combined federal pressure for banks to lend to low-income borrowers. As the competition among lenders became fierce, banks began issuing loans that were more and more risky. Loans were made to borrowers without down payments, without income verification, or with poor credit records.

Borrowers who wanted more house than they could afford were sold Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs). These loans had low interest rates and payments at inception, but since interest rates were at historic lows, both the rate on the mortgage and the mortgage payment had nowhere to go but up. In some loans, teaser rates were artificially low at first, and then adjusted sharply upward. In any case, as payments rose, borrowers found that they could no longer afford their homes. Tightening credit made it impossible to refinance into a fixed rate loan and falling real estate prices made it impossible to sell the home for enough money to pay off the loan. For many, the result was foreclosure.

Yet another commonly cited source of financial problems for companies is a change to arcane accounting rules that occurred over the past fifteen years. In the past, companies used cost accounting, which applies historical costs to a company’s their assets. More recently, the SEC and the Financial Accounting Standards Board have changed accounting rules to a method known as Fair Value Accounting. Assets are now valued at their market price. In other words, assets are valued not by their true economic value, but by what they can be bought or sold for on the current market.

The obvious problem is that when a market suffers a sharp decline, so does the value of the company’s assets. It doesn’t matter that the decline may only be temporary or that the company had planned to hold the assets for the long term. In effect a company’s holdings are required to be valued at an unrealistically low price. When the market was high, fair value accounting was one of the tools used to artificially inflate Enron’s bottom line.

In aviation, there is the concept of an accident chain. There are few instances in which an accident is caused by only factor. In most cases, there are multiple factors that link together to form an accident chain. If any of the factors are missing, the chain is broken and the accident does not occur.

The subprime mortgage crisis is also the result of numerous factors. Government pressure convinced banks to make risky loans. Low interest rates, deregulation, and increased competition all combined to fuel a housing bubble that eventually burst in 2007. When the bubble burst, fair value accounting principles exacerbated the problem by magnifying the decrease in value of the securities held by banks.

Old-fashioned greed also undoubtedly played a role. Some companies, such as Countrywide Financial, focused almost exclusively on the subprime market. Many of these companies did not service their loans, but instead immediately bundled them into mortgage-backed securities and sold them to other companies, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In this way, the cancer of failing mortgages was metastasized throughout the financial community.

Some lenders engaged in predatory lending practices. Likewise some borrowers defrauded banks. For whatever reason, many borrowers were either misinformed or failed to care about the terms of the loans that they obtained. Bad loans were either sold off to other companies or the homeowner simply walked away from the house, leaving the bank to foreclose.

Hedge funds, aggressive funds that catered to limited numbers of ultra-wealthy clients, snapped up risky financial products in their attempt to boost returns. Naked shorting, selling short without having stocks to cover the position, occurred even though the SEC considered the practice fraud and attempted to rein it in.

The greed and fraud did not stop within the bounds of the financial community. Countrywide made loans with generous terms to VIP borrowers. The list of Friends of Anthony (Mozilo, Countrywide’s founder and CEO) is long and distinguished. Democratic Senators Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Kent Conrad received favorable loans from Countrywide. So did numerous members of the Clinton Administration such as cabinet members Alphonso Jackson and Donna Shalala, staffer Paul Begala, and Postmaster General John Potter. Henry Cisneros, Clinton’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development was a former Countrywide director. Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson, former CEOs of Fannie Mae as well as fundraisers and advisors to Barack Obama, also received preferential loans from Countrywide.

In 2003, three years before the crisis broke; President Bush did make an attempt at reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The housing industry and realtors opposed the plan, which went nowhere.

Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, now chairman of the House Financial Services Committee said, “These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”

In 2005, John McCain sponsored the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act. This law would have established a new independent regulatory agency to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Unfortunately, the bill was allowed to die in committee; the same committee headed by Friend of Anthony Chris Dodd.

There is another saying in aviation: “Don’t just do something. Sit there.” Hastily doing the wrong thing is often worse than doing nothing at all. Government pressures and corruption were largely responsible for the unfolding financial crisis. Hasty and ill-advised additional regulation is more likely to make the problem worse instead of resolving it.

“How To Save the Financial System,” William M. Isaac, Wall St. Journal, September 19, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Economics of Oil Prices

This past weekend oil prices shot to near-record highs again after several months of decline. While on a weekend trip to visit the grandparents, we were unpleasantly surprised to see gas prices climbing as quickly as the gas station attendants could change their signs. Even at high prices, many stations were selling completely out of gasoline.

To understand the reason for the fluctuations, we must first see the big picture. Oil prices have been increasing over the last few years for a number of reasons. More demand is one of the most important factors. The United States has been using more oil every year. The demand of other countries is increasing as well. China and India are both becoming industrialized nations. As they industrialize, they use vastly more oil than they did in the past.

Additionally, much of the easily tapped oil has already been drilled. Oil fields are increasingly difficult and expensive to tap. Even nations like Saudi Arabia have already pumped much of their easily accessible reserves. New oil fields are often found far out to sea or in very inhospitable areas, such as the arctic. There are new sources of oil, such as Colorado’s oil shale, but many of these are also more expensive to produce. Many oil-rich areas are also politically unstable, which makes the supply of oil uncertain.

Furthermore, oil prices have also been affected by the weak US dollar over the last few years. When the dollar is weak relative to other currencies, it takes more dollars to pay for the same barrel of oil.

Over the summer, oil prices have been driven down by several factors. First, high oil prices did what global warming alarmists were unable to accomplish: They persuaded people around the world to use less oil. Oil demand declined in the first half of 2008 and is forecast to continue falling in 2009.

Basic economic theory is that as prices rise, demand will fall. This has been true in other oil spikes as well. When oil prices increased sharply in the 1970s and 1980s, they led to economic slowdowns, which, in turn, caused the price of oil to drop. In the 1980s, the price of oil not only dropped, it collapsed and didn’t recover for about twenty years.

The dollar also gained over the summer of 2008. As the dollar grew stronger, the relative price of oil decreased. As the dollar increased in its value, it took fewer dollars to buy each barrel of oil.

A final factor in the oil price decline was President Bush’s decision to repeal the presidential ban on offshore oil drilling in mid-July 2008. Conservative estimates are that there are at least 18 billion barrels of oil off the coasts of the United States that are currently off limits to oil companies. Drilling will still not be allowed unless the congressional ban is allowed to expire, but President Bush sent a clear message to oil producers that the supply of oil might increase dramatically in the next few years. The effect was an almost immediate decline in the price of oil.

Many people place the blame for high oil prices squarely at the feet of the oil companies. While the oil companies once had the ability to set prices, that is no longer true. Most producing countries nationalized their oil fields and facilities in the 1960s and 1970s. They then formed OPEC, a cartel tasked with organizing oil production and stabilizing prices. Currently oil-producing countries set the price for their oil and buyers simply choose whether to buy or not. Given the high demand for oil, usually the choice is to buy regardless of price.

There are few cures for high oil prices. One is to reduce demand. This can be accomplished through alternative energy sources. One of the most practical solutions is to shift to electrical power. Electricity could be supplied cheaply through nuclear, wind, and solar power. All of these energy sources require large capital investments to start, however. Costs to consumers for new cars and home heating systems would also be significant. Conservation is promising way of reducing demand as well.

Increasing oil supplies is the other way to reduce oil prices. Billions of barrels of domestic oil reserves are going unused because of environmentalist-inspired bans on drilling. These oil reserves could be used to buy time to shift to other energy sources. Because much of the pre-production work has already been done, these oil reserves could be brought to market in as little as two years.

Supply could also be increased by new sources of oil. A process to turn coal into gasoline was invented by the Germans in WWII. Since the US has some of the world’s largest reserves of coal, this process holds much promise. Due to large investments for facilities to process the coal, this is not cost effective when oil is cheap, but is being considered now.

A common question is why retail gasoline prices rise faster than oil prices. The answer can be found in how gas stations are supplied. Over the past few years, gas stations have only been making a few cents profit on each gallon of gasoline. When gas prices rise, the station owner knows that his next shipment of gasoline is going to be more expensive. He raises prices so that he will be able to pay for the next shipment of gasoline. If he doesn’t increase the price immediately, he knows that he will lose money.

Conversely, when prices fall, the gas station owner sees an opportunity to make a little more profit for a short time. As he loses customers to gas stations with lower prices, he will eventually have to lower his own prices or be stuck with a large inventory of gasoline.

Last weekend, the run on gas stations had several factors. One is that the newest refinery in the US is over thirty years old. Due to government restrictions and costs, refinery capacity has not kept pace with increasing demand. As a result, US refineries are operating at about 97% capacity. When there is any interruption, such as that caused by Hurricane Ike, there is the possibility of an interruption of supply and a resulting shortage.

Another factor is that the public was panicking. Even though news reports were saying that there was no possibility of a shortage, as prices rose, the word went out among friends and families that it was time to fill up, before prices rose further. This created an artificial surge in demand. As economic law tells us, when demand rises, price follows. As station owners saw that they were going to sell out, it was obvious that it was better for them to sell out at a higher price than a lower one.

This may strike some as price gouging, but it can actually be a good thing. Rising prices prevent hoarding by those who don’t need the product. If someone doesn’t need gas, they won’t pay the higher price. Therefore the gas will be available for someone who does need it and is willing to pay the higher price. If the price stayed low, then hoarders would quickly snap up all available supplies.

Oil prices will probably decline again in the next few weeks, but $100 per barrel oil is likely here to stay. As long as demand remains high and supplies are constrained with no slack available at the production facilities, we should prepare for price spikes every time there is an interruption, whether real or perceived. The only real answers are to reduce demand through conservation and alternative energy sources, while simultaneously boosting supply and production in the short term.

The Prize, Daniel Yergin, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1991,-2009-oil-demand-forecasts/

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Palins Choice for Life

Recently a media firestorm was introduced around Republican Vice President nominee, Sarah Palin, regarding abortion. On one front, Palin’s seventeen-year-old daughter Bristol was revealed to be pregnant outside of marriage. On another front, Palin recently gave birth to a son, Trig, who was diagnosed in the womb with Down’s syndrome. Governor Palin, who is pro-life, or anti-choice in the parlance of most media outlets, was roundly criticized for opposing abortion in both areas.

More than almost any other issue, Governor Palin’s response to these family crises highlights the difference between conservatives and liberals. In the decades since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, the answer to both problems from the political left has been to turn to abortion.

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama made it clear what his choice for his daughters would be if they were in Bristol Palin’s position. While campaigning in Pennsylvania in March 2008, Obama said, “…I’ve got two daughters, nine years old and six years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby. I don’t want them punished with an STD at the age of 16.”

That Obama equates a baby with a disease is telling and highlights the difference between the two positions. The left views an unborn baby as nothing more than an inanimate lump of cells that has the potential to become a baby if left unchecked. Since the baby is not human, they reason that abortion is no more a moral issue than removing a tumor or some other unwanted growth.

Abortion advocates argue that unwanted and disabled babies should be aborted. They believe that children with disabilities or who are born to parents that did not want children have no chance for happiness, and are better off not being born.

Sometimes even being born is not enough. Barack Obama helped to kill the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in the Illinois legislature. The bill would have allowed infants born alive in botched abortions to receive the full protection of a human person under the law. Fortunately, a federal version of the law was passed by Congress in 2002 without dissent.

The right views an unborn baby as a human that simply has not been born yet. Since the unborn baby is a person already, it should be protected by the same laws that protect all other people. Abortion kills a living person and thus is murder and immoral.

Pro-lifers also argue that allowing abortion ultimately cheapens all life. Since 1973, euthanasia and suicide have become increasingly acceptable. In 1997, Oregon became the first US state to pass a law permitting assisted suicides. In 2005, Terri Schiavo died after her husband had her feeding tube removed against her family’s wishes. In Holland, infants can be euthanized, even without parental consent, if the baby is determined to have “an unlivable life.” Princeton professor Peter Singer, viewed in many circles as a leading philosopher, also espouses infanticide of disabled babies, even after they are born. The next step will be to euthanized the elderly who are terminally ill in order to save resources for the young.

One problem with aborting, or euthanizing, the disabled is that while most healthy people imagine that they would be miserable with a severe disability, in reality, disabled people are just as likely to be happy as healthy people. People with a severe illness or disability adapt to their condition and often become stronger mentally and spiritually. In fact, a group of disabled activists called Not Dead Yet has arisen to oppose Peter Singer and his ilk. The list of disabled people who have made significant contributions to society is long and includes such names as Helen Keller, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Stephen Hawking. Disabled children often have a profound impact on their family and friends even if they do not achieve notoriety.

Most American women (75%) who have abortions say that the baby would interfere with caring for dependents or that they cannot afford to care for a baby. Many of these women are young (50% are under 25, 17% are teenagers) and poor (over four times as many women who live under the poverty level obtain abortions as do women 300% above the poverty level). While carrying a child under these circumstances can be daunting, there are options that women can consider.

The first option is become a single parent. While parenting alone is a difficult prospect, it is also rewarding. Financial assistance from the government, religious groups and family may make the job easier. Additionally, the baby’s father may be legally obligated to provide child support. A disadvantage to a single-parent family is that it can be extremely challenging financially.

Another option is marriage. If the woman is already in a serious relationship, it might be relatively easy to take the next step and get married. Marriage provides a supportive and stable family environment for raising children. An important advantage is that both parents can provide incomes or one can work while the other keeps the children. The responsibility for everything does not fall onto one person. Additionally, there are tax advantages to marriage as well.

An underutilized option is to place the baby up for adoption. No child is truly unwanted. Many couples who have difficulty in becoming pregnant would like to adopt a baby. The birth mother can choose which family will adopt her baby and can even choose to have further contact with her child as it grows up.

To help women overcome the basic human instinct to not kill another human being, abortion advocates devote considerable time and energy to proving that unborn babies are not human at all. They conspicuously avoid discussing babies and instead speak of “fetuses,” “embryos,” and “choice.”

Scientific evidence gives lie to the claim that unborn babies are not human. Even at very early points in its gestation, the unborn fetus takes on the appearance of a tiny person. The heart starts beating as early as the fourth week of the pregnancy, likely before the mother even knows that she is pregnant.

New 3-D ultrasounds provide a new window into the baby’s life inside the womb. It is not known at exactly what point an unborn baby can start to feel pain, but it is generally accepted even by abortion opponents that the fetus can feel pain by twenty weeks. Many scientists believe that even abortions done much earlier cause the fetus to die a painful death. The film Silent Scream ( offers haunting, but inconclusive evidence of the consciousness of an unborn baby at twelve weeks.

There is virtually no doubt that partial birth abortion, which are commonly performed at twenty-six weeks or later, cause excruciating pain for the baby. In a partial birth abortion, also called dilation and extraction (D&X), the child is partially delivered. While the head remains in the womb, the abortionist sticks a set of surgical scissors into the baby’s skull, and then spreads them to enlarge the opening. He then sucks out the baby’s brain with a suction catheter. The head must be crushed with forceps to be removed.

A similarly brutal method of late term abortion is dilation and evacuation (D&E). In this procedure, the abortionist grasps the child in the womb with a clamp, then proceeds to dismember its body and remove the pieces. Again, the head, referred to by the abortionist as “number one,” must be crushed with forceps to be removed

One of the most dramatic pieces of evidence that point to life inside the womb was a photo taken in 1999 by Mike Clancy. Clancy actually photographed two separate pre-natal surgeries to treat spina bifida in unborn babies. The photos of Samuel Armas and Sarah Marie Switzer show the unborn babies reaching out of the womb to grasp the surgeon’s finger. Samuel was at twenty-one weeks when his photo was taken. The picture can be seen at

If abortion opponents deny that life begins at conception, they must determine an arbitrary point at which life does begin. Some options for the beginning of life could include the first heartbeat, the first trimester, when the baby can live outside the womb, or when the baby is finally born.

The problem with most of these points of view is that they are arbitrary. Science has shown us that the baby is very much alive and active inside the womb long before it is born or can survive on its own. Scientific advances allow babies to live outside the womb with the help of medical technology at increasingly early stages of development. A baby that needs an incubator to live is no less human than an adult who needs a dialysis machine or a pacemaker.

Because sperm can live in the female body for up to five days, conception can occur several days after intercourse. Conception occurs twelve to twenty-four hours after the woman ovulates. The body will not know that it is pregnant until the egg implants itself on the uterine wall. This occurs between five and twelve days after conception.

If conception is allowed to occur, the unborn baby will grow according to a clearly defined schedule. The gestation period continues for forty weeks, until the baby is mature enough to live outside the womb. At that point, birth occurs. If the baby is healthy enough to prevent miscarriage and its growth is not artificially inhibited, conception results in the birth of a full-term baby forty weeks later. Therefore, it is evident that life begins at conception. It follows that if that life is artificially terminated, a living human being has been killed.

There are several medicines, referred to as morning after pills, which can prevent conception. Because these pills prevent, rather than terminate, a pregnancy, they escape most of the moral problems of abortion. A morning after pill must be used quickly after intercourse, before the woman is actually pregnant. To that end, women should be educated in the use of these contraceptive pills.

If it were as simple as educating women to use contraceptives though, abortion would be an almost nonexistent problem. Over the past few decades, sex education classes have been taught in more and more schools across the country, both in order to reduce unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. In spite of the increased education, almost fifty percent of women who have abortions did not use any contraceptives. Of those who did, most (76% of pill users) did not use their birth control consistently.

The effects of abortion on the mother are not often discussed, but they can be significant. Abortion is touted as an easy solution, but there are real physical, emotional, and psychological risks. In most states, abortion clinics are not required to meet the same standards of cleanliness as hospitals. Many women report that abortion clinics are dusty, smelly and generally unclean. These conditions can cause women to develop infections that can be life threatening. Infections might also result in infertility and disease.

An emerging problem with abortion is that numerous studies are finding strong links between abortion and breast cancer. In the early stages of pregnancy, the woman’s estrogen level increases dramatically. This leads to the growth of undifferentiated cells, in the breast that would ultimately help the body produce milk. In an abortion, the woman is left with abnormally high numbers of these cells that are never differentiated. Scientists believe that these cells are very vulnerable to carcinogens and lead to an increased likelihood of tumors later in life.

Psychological and emotional damage often last longer than the physical effects of the abortion. Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS) is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. Many women experience feelings of guilt and anxiety that sometimes leads to depression and thoughts of suicide. In other cases, the guilt leads women to become obsessed with becoming pregnant again. Some women turn to alcohol, drugs or self-punishing behaviors as a means of coping.

All of these thoughts might not have been explicitly discussed by the Palin family as they dealt with Bristol’s pregnancy and Trig’s disease; they were already predisposed to err on the side of life. Although as many as 80% of unborn children who are diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted, but the Palin’s strongly held pro-life views influenced them to allow Trig to be born. Similarly, Bristol Palin chose life for her as yet unborn child. With her family’s help, she will be able to raise a well-adjusted child regardless of whether she eventually marries the baby’s father.

By sticking to their principles and standing up for their pro-life beliefs, both Gov. Palin and Bristol are changing the way America looks at the choice of abortion. If Gov. Palin becomes our next Vice President, American’s will be able to see the childhood of both children. They will see that raising a disabled baby or an unplanned child is not as bad as it might seem. That, in turn, might help to further reduce the number of abortions in America and around the world. That would be a beautiful thing.


Posted in Winner, South Dakota