The grandma who brought down Blagojevich

The Washington Post has a good article on how the unbelievable political corruption in Illinois–which culminated in its governor getting caught trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat–came unraveled. It all began with a grandmother refusing to let the politicians shake her down:

The wide-ranging public corruption probe that led to the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich got its first big break when a grandmother of six walked into a breakfast meeting with shakedown artists wearing an FBI wire.

Pamela Meyer Davis had been trying to win approval from a state health planning board for an expansion of Edward Hospital, the facility she runs in a Chicago suburb, but she realized that the only way to prevail was to retain a politically connected construction company and a specific investment house. Instead of succumbing to those demands, she went to the FBI and U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald in late 2003 and agreed to secretly record conversations about the project.

Her tapes led investigators down a twisted path of corruption that over five years has ensnared a collection of behind-the-scenes figures in Illinois government, including Joseph Cari Jr., a former Democratic National Committee member, and disgraced businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko.

On Dec. 9, that path wound up at the governor’s doorstep. Another set of wiretaps suggested that Blagojevich was seeking to capitalize on the chance to fill the Senate seat just vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

A big way to combat official corruption is for citizens who see it to call the F.B.I. And if our officials start to fear that their subjects will react in that way, they may become fearful of being corrupt.

Mrs. Davis was fulfilling her vocation as a citizen. That most emphatically does NOT just mean supine obedience, even to those officials who are violating THEIR vocation to serve their subjects. Mrs. Davis was performing her civic duty and deserves the commendation of all her fellow citizens.

Unsung heroes

You want great athletes? Try these guys. R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. tells about some exploits that, strangely, do not make the headlines:

Yet my enthusiasm for the NFL stars’ athleticism has been overshadowed this year by reports of far more prodigious athleticism demonstrated last April by the members of something called Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 of the 3rd Special Forces Group. Their contest took place in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, far from the television cameras and the garrulous commentators. This twelve-man Green Beret team fought a seven-hour battle uphill in a freezing mountainous valley after being pinned down by a couple of hundred or more insurgents. They and a few dozen Afghans, whom they had trained, got out after killing between 150 and 200 of the enemy. Half of the Green Berets were wounded – four critically. This past week 10 of these men received Silver Stars, the largest number of Silver Stars distributed to such a unit for a single battle since the Vietnam War.

“We were pretty much in the open,” Staff Sergeant Luis Morales of Fredericksburg, Va., told The Washington Post. “There were no trees to hide behind.” In the course of the battle he was shot in the thigh while tending to a wounded team member. Then he was shot in the ankle. He kept on fighting. They all did, even Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding, of Groesbeck, Texas, who saw a bullet nearly amputate his right leg below the knee. Walding is quoted, “I literally grabbed my boot and put it in my crotch, then got the boot laces and tied it to my thigh, so it would not flop around. There was about two inches of meat holding my leg on.”

Readers might want to review Staff Sgt. Walding’s statement a couple of more times. These men are not only very tough. They have a presence of mind that is incomparable. I submit they are our greatest athletes. What is more, they perform not for money or celebrity but for love of country and, surely in some cases, to fulfill their historic role as soldiers, ideally as the greatest soldiers. The politically correct might wince, but the heroism of such soldiers adds to life’s meaning for them and for those of us who believe there is more to life than the hum and the drum.

Read the rest of the account, which details just what all Special Forces guys are able to do. Did you know about these exploits? Why don’t the newspapers tell about these stirring victories, rather than just try to make us feel sorry for our troops?

Why Protestants should attend to Vatican’s pro-life guidelines

The Vatican has released a new, authoritative document on the ethics of in vitro fertilization techniques, stem cell research, genetic engineering, and related subjects. For background and the controversy it is stirring up, read this.

We non-Catholics tend to not care about pronouncements from the Vatican, but this is one we could find useful. Interestingly, Roman Catholic ethics these days is based not on supernatural revelations from the papal authority but on reason and the natural law.

This document works from the two moral principles that human life begins at conception and that procreation should only take place within marriage. It then studies which fertility-treatment procedures, for example, are in accord with those moral truths and which are not.

Those who struggle with these issues, especially pastors of any tradition who may have to counsel people confused about such things , would benefit from reading this document, which is entitled Dignitas Personae; that is, “The Dignity of the Person” (click the link for the full document).,

An abortionist goes to jail

From Abortionist faces nine years in prison (

California abortionist Bertha Bugarin is going to prison.
For at least five years, Operation Rescue has been working to shut down 11 abortion clinics owned by 48-year-old Bertha Bugarin in Los Angeles and San Diego. According to an Operation Rescue press release, Bugarin preyed on the Hispanic community and endangered women’s lives by posing as a doctor.
She was finally indicted and has pled guilty to nine felony counts of performing abortions without a medical license. Troy Newman who heads Operation Rescue, says eight of her staff abortionists have been impounded as well.
“Every single one of these abortionists has lost their [sic] medical licenses. A couple of them are in jail,” he contends. “And the abortion clinic owner, because she was forced to go out and try to find another abortionist and couldn’t find one, she was actually doing abortions herself even though she didn’t have a medical license.”
Bugarin faces up to nine years in prison for her convictions.

And yet, I find it twisted that a medical license has become a license to kill. The calling of a physician, which the state confirms by bestowing that license, is to heal their patients, not kill them. Abortion, among its evils, is a sin against vocation.

My rare Art Book for sale cheap

I have come into possession of some extra copies of my book Painters of Faith: The Spiritual Landscape in 19th Century America, and I thought I’d make them available to you, the members of the global Cranach community. The book was published by Regnery in a limited edition, so it’s gotten quite rare and in demand, selling at Amazon currently for $275. I’ll let you have it for list price plus postage, a total of $50. (Then you can turn around and sell it on Amazon, making $225 profit.)

The Newington-Cropsey Foundation, which is dedicated to America’s first artistic movement, the Hudson River School, commissioned me to do a study of these artists’ religious beliefs. I had always assumed they were just romantics or transcendentalists, such were their stunning depictions of awe-inspiring natural vistas, but to my surprise I found that Thomas Cole, Jasper Cropsey, and Frederic Church were, in fact, dedicated Christians who had thought long and hard about how their faith related to their seemingly secular art. My book puts them in the context of the tradition of Protestant art (most Protestants today not even realizing they have a tradition of art), explores the influence of John Ruskin’s distinctly Christian aesthetic theories, and offers close readings of some amazing paintings. The publishers designed it as a coffee-table book, with huge, gorgeous reproductions of the paintings that I discuss. If you don’t care about what I have to say about them, the pictures alone will give you great pleasure. I’ll also sign your book.

HT: my daughter Joanna Hensley, who, with her Pay-Pal account, is handling the business side. To buy, just click the button below.

Painters of Faith cover

I am thankful for other people’s vocations

Remember the part of the doctrine of vocation that stresses how God is present in vocation. That means that when people serve us, in the course of everyday life and everyday economics, God is serving us through them. We should be grateful to those–in farms and factories and stores and in the family kitchen–who make our Thanksgiving feast. And we should be grateful to God who is providing for us through them and for giving them to us. And God looms behind all of the other people and institutions that bless us.