Friday, January 27, 2006

Yep Steve Colbert really is a devout Catholic

The Stabosz family loves The Colbert Report. It's hard to know what Stephen Colbert is serious about and what he is mocking, so I wondered if he really was a practicing Catholic like he often says on the show. Yep he is. He's also the youngest of 13 children.

TONY: You created The Daily Show religious-satire segment, "This Week in God." How do you square your Catholicism with comedy?

SC: I love my Church, and I'm a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals, who were very devout. I was raised to believe that you could question the Church and still be a Catholic. What is worthy of satire is the misuse of religion for destructive or political gains. That's totally different from the Word, the blood, the body and the Christ. His kingdom is not of this earth.


Read the interview.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Yes, we really did win a victory

Just got an email from fellow Catholic Scholar of Delaware Kate Rogers, who said she didn't quite believe my assessment of the gutted SB80 because it sounded too good to be true. So she emailed our own diocesan bioethics expert, Fr. John Grimm, and his assessment of the amended bill was like my own. It really was a significant victory. Kate apologized for doubting me. (It's okay, Kate, I sometimes think half my life is spent being a Cassandra for both weal and woe).

One thing I have learned in my foray into politics is that sometimes what emerges from a battle over legislation makes no sense whatsoever. The sensible thing to do would have been to either renumber the bill, after it was amended -- which is what Rep. Joe Miro wanted to do -- or to just drop it when it was apparent that it was not going to fly. The best guess I can make is that one or more of its sponsors wanted to claim some kind of victory, after putting so much effort into it.

The News Journal is still printing letters from folks who are outraged that the excess embryos (aka "medical waste" by pro-ESC supporters) cannot be donated to science. In point of fact, they can. The status quo remains. Embryos may be adopted, implanted and brought to birth; embryos may be donated to science.

What happened was that the state did NOT set up a regulatory mechanism for donating them to science, as the original SB80 wanted to do. The state did NOT set up a regulatory mechanism for research cloning. Anyone wanting to do either of those things, or wanting to adopt and implant an excess embryo, must do so under existing laws. While existing laws are probably good enough for the continuation of embryo adoption -- we had a local "snowflake" baby and her mom at the SB80 hearings -- they are not good enough for biotech companies to start any big push for research cloning or ESC research using frozen embryos.

Meanwhile, Dr. David Weir is telling folks that Delaware gave up a chance to become a national leader. According to the News Journal:
Although no companies or hospitals are conducting embryonic stem cell research in Delaware today, executives in the state's biotechnology industry said companies considering using stem cells as a source for possible new medical treatments won't locate in Delaware if the bill becomes law.

The House version of the bill will have "a chilling effect on how people perceive the environment in Delaware for this kind of research," said David Weir, director of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. "Delaware has sent out a message that this kind of research won't happen here."


The sad thing is that companies considering using umbilical cord blood stem cells and other adult stem cells as a source for medical treatments would be very, very welcome in Delaware by myself and other opponents of SB80. We have contacts now in South Korea with Dr. Hoon Han's group doing clinical trials in some exciting regenerative medicine with umbilical cord blood stem cells, including treatment of spinal cord injuries. I hope to see the Delaware medical community pursue an investigation of the work being done overseas.

But yes... it was a victory. The gospel promises of Christ once again proved to be trustworthy.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rejoice!

Folks,

It is with great joy that I announce that the state of Delaware has dodged
a bullet and will not be conducting destructive embryonic stem cell
research any time in the near future.

Senate Bill 80, for the defeat of which many of you joined in intercessory
prayer, was passed yesterday by the Delaware legislature. However, the
bill that finally passed was amended in the last 48 hours by its sponsors
to the point that it was essentially gutted. The bill's sponsors were able
to save face and claim a hollow victory.

"We were ambushed," said one of SB80's supporters.

Here is how one of the bill's staunchest opponents, Mary McCrossan,
summarized what happened:

"I want to make sure I have this all straight. It's been changing at a
dizzying pace and I feel a little dizzy.

The other side wanted a bill authorizing embryonic stem cell and human
cloning research to replace our current situation of no legal status one
way or another.[They wanted] a governor-appointed committee without
accountability [that] would have kept us from having a hope of real
regulation and would have given an endorsement and a victory to the other
side.

But we stopped all that with lobbying and prayer. And we almost got
a real cloning ban. So, now we work on getting protective laws by
educating our fellow citizens, and continuing to pray. This will probably
take a while but we bought a lot of time today."

The "real cloning ban" she writes of refers to a negotiation that took
place between the bill's sponsors and the Diocese of Wilmington's
lobbyist late in the game:

"Last night, Chris DiPietro, diocesan lobbyist, was pulled in to the
Republican caucus meeting and made an offer. In exchange for dropping all
references to stem cell research and strengthening the anti-cloning
provisions in SB 80, would the Diocese support SB 80?

I've attached their proposed amendment. It guts the bill. However, it
still does not ban research cloning. It does ban fetal farming, because a
cloned embryo may not be developed to the fetal stage, but it is still not
a bill we can endorse.

The Diocese will not support the new amendment in its current form. Chris
will counter-propose an amendment by Steve Jenkins that is a true cloning
ban--banning all asexual reproduction of humans for any reason. By
changing only a few words in their amendment, Steve has crafted a bill
that will truly make a difference. Fr. John Grimm consulted with national
legal and bioethics experts on the amendment, as well.

Apparently, the Senate has agreed to pass the gutted bill--they don't want to go down in
voters' memories as having supported the original SB 80.

The sponsors will continue to try to build support for a new ESC bill. We
can fight them as we go on. I'm pretty sure that they'll have to
demonstrate extremely strong support before their caucus will let them run
the bill again--the whole topic is radioactive now. It's hard to describe
just how much they all want this to go away."

As Mary McCrossan went on to observe this morning:

"It's still sinking in that I think we really accomplished something here.
The other side isn't quitting. But they are some pretty heavy hitters and
we kept them from getting what they wanted. Lots of talented folks worked
to stop the passage of the original SB 80. But we are pretty much
amateurs and volunteers.

It had to be the prayers."

I thank the good Lord, and I thank you who prayed.

Let us not be like the ten lepers who, once cured, neglected

to return to Christ with their thanks.



Deo gratias! The Lord is powerful and comes to the aid of His people.

May He receive glory, and honor, and praise, now and forever!

Rae

Monday, January 16, 2006

Newark (Delaware not NJ) gets another bookstore.

Saturday I went to a book signing at Lieberman's Bookstore in my home town, Newark. Lieberman's is trying hard to let folks know they are not just a textbook store, after years concentrating on textbook business. I would not have thought to stop in to Lieberman's if I had not been in Rainbow Books and Records, just across Main Street in Newark, when the owner or manager came by to talk with the manager at Rainbow. I learned there and then that Lieberman's has remodeled, restocked, and turned itself into a nifty little college town bookstore. Mostly new books, a few used, with textbooks still sold in the back.

So when my partner in the Pious Ladies business, Debbie, told me that Terri Brisbin, whose historical romances she has reviewed online, was coming to Lieberman's, I had to go. Accompanying her was Mary Kennedy, YA author of 30+ books, many for Scholastic.

The two were delightful. They weren't familiar with the SF and Fantasy market but gave me a lot of insight into how things work in Young Adults and in Romance. The best of it? The best was to learn that the publishing industry was the same across genres. The love of books and the love of the deal go hand in hand. Publishers want solid sell through numbers; editors love the written word, are swamped by manuscripts, and live lives that are both more and less romantic/lucrative than would seem from the outside.

The pleasures of reading/writing and the pleasures of publishing/editing are connected and cannot be separated, despite the scorn some folks have for "filthy finances" and want it all to be about the LITERATURE. We baby boomers took a long time to come to appreciate the virtues of good business. But if everyone to whom money allegedly does not matter leaves it to those to whom it does, how much more rapacious will our industries become than they already are?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Let us not set Delaware down the path of destructive embryonic research

“Be not afraid,” Pope John Paul II reminded us over and over again during his papacy. His words echoed the message of the angel Gabriel first to Zechariah and then to Mary, as these two saints confronted the news of two out of the ordinary conceptions. Yet when it comes to our children, and out of the ordinary conceptions, we are still afraid.

I know a Catholic woman, a generous-spirited wife and mother, who is afraid to let go of her fears in the matter of Senate Bill 80 (SB80). Her child has juvenile diabetes and she is afraid to embrace the gospel of life developed so beautifully by our late Holy Father during his many years of teaching. She would like to think that JPII knew what he was doing when he asserted the inviolable rights of the human being from conception “on behalf of all the embryos which are often subjected to freezing (cryo-preservation), in many cases becoming an object of sheer experimentation or, worse, destined to programmed destruction backed by law.”

But her son has juvenile diabetes, and her heart is fearful. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) of Delaware supports SB80 in allowing the experimental use of “embryos that would be thrown out with the trash”. How can she believe that her own Church is a beacon of light on this issue, when the foundation that has given her the most help for her son in his illness tells her otherwise?

“Be not afraid,” the angel told Joseph when he discovered that his betrothed was pregnant with a child not his own. “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” How could he believe the whisper of an angel in a dream, when the best lights of his religious tradition told him to divorce her privately?

We live in a world of a thousand conflicting voices. Blue state and Red state quarrels slash through our body politic and set neighbor against neighbor, church against state. How difficult it is to hear the voice of Christ -- and of Mary, of Joseph, of all His saints -- exhorting us to look beyond our fears and trust the soundness of His teaching.

Isn’t it time we put our political divisions behind us and listen to the voice of the Lord as He speaks through our Catholic wisdom? Nobody who trusted in God has ever been put to shame.

On Thursday, January 19 the Delaware House of Representatives will vote on SB80. Call your legislator. Tell him or her that you do not support the destruction of human embryos, even for noble purposes. God is already guiding our scientists to cures for diabetes, Parkinson’s, and other diseases that cause us to watch our loved ones suffer. Nobody can outdo the compassion and generosity of our Lord. He bled his life out on the Cross to win our joy and our trust.

Be not afraid.

Friday, January 06, 2006

My year to date

Today is January 6 of the New Year, 2006. To date, this year, I have:

1. Thrown my first press conference. I am alive to tell the tale. I remember a conversation once with my mother. We were watching Barbara Walters on early morning television. "How horrible it would be to have her job," I said. "To have that pressure every day, of speaking in front of people, moving around so visibly in the world." My mother was shocked. "Why wouldn't you love it!" she said. Mom was an extrovert, as I am an introvert. She flew airplanes in WWII, and could have been Barbara Walters if she had had the chance to go the college. She always thought the six of us, her children, would grow up to be important leaders of our community, because we were so smart and so idealistic, and because we got to go to college like she did not. Towards the end of her life she said to me, "I finally realized why you kids didn't make something of yourselves in the world. You just didn't want to."

Mother, I think I get it now. Nobody intimidated you. You realized the world is just made up of people like me and like you, no matter how rich or famous or powerful they are. We're all in this together. And none of us gets out of here alive.

2. Finished a later Daphne du Maurier novel called The House on the Strand. A time travel novel, a historical novel, a true science fiction novel -- fascinating. I may read more of her. I sold a three-novels-in-one-volume of hers at Philcon, in a delightful sale where the buyer had obviously stumbled over a treasure in an unexpected place. "I never thought I'd see a Daphne du Maurier at a Philcon dealer table," he said as he picked the book up with pleasure. It is for moments like those that one sells books.

3. Played host to Mr. Kye Yung-Su, the delightful Vice-President of a leading biomedical company in South Korea, Histostem. They do marvelous work in umbilical cord blood stem cells, including helping paralyzed Virginian Michelle Farrar move her feet again for the first time since her accident two years ago. Mr. Kye knew his subject and spoke knowledgeably about their success with stem cell therapies, without the arrogance and hype of American stem cell lobbyists I know.

4. Made it halfway through Peggy Noonan's book "John Paul the Great", which is a revelation about a man I already loved for his intellect and holiness. One story I had not heard. St. Faustina Kowalski, a Pole herself, in one of her conversations with Christ was told of the coming of a Slavic pope who would be a "beacon of light preparing the way for my second coming" (from memory, may not be exact.)

5. Drank a ton of water, a ton of tea, and buttery amounts of plum wine and champagne. Oddly enough I have had a total of one soda this year. I stopped drinking it in September for health reasons, to drink more water. Now it kind of repulses me. I drink the water with lemon or lime added in healthy amounts. Makes for a refreshing drink, more sustainable day after day than plain water. Lots of anti-oxidants in the citrus as an added bonus.

6. Met in person someone I've had a fair amount of email communication with. This of course happens all the time at a distance over the Internet, but this gentleman, Alan Muller of Green Delaware, is local. Alan is challenging and reminds me of my brother Mark. A person to whom truth is well, truly important. I have, I believe, met two men of integrity already in 2006. That warms my heart and gives me hope.

It's been a busy year. So far.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

Happy new year!

New Year's resolutions typically fade by the end of February. Should I be realistic then? Nah, let's go for broke & be idealistic.

For 2006,

I RESOLVE to start each day off with a prayer of thanksgiving to our good God.
I RESOLVE to think one good thought about work each working day.
I RESOLVE to open every piece of mail I receive on the day I receive it.
I RESOLVE to meditate regularly on gossip & act on the fruits of that meditation.
I RESOLVE to drink 64oz. of water a day.
I RESOLVE to record expenses for the Pious Ladies Bookmobile on the day they occur.
I RESOLVE to throw away 10 pieces of rat-packed trash a day.
I RESOLVE to just say no to one extra helping of food each day.
I RESOLVE to shop for fresh fruit and vegetables once a week.
I RESOLVE to clean up my home office.
I RESOLVE to make one inquiry for the Pious Ladies Agency each week.
I RESOLVE to [ this space left intentionally blank ]