Dispatches > The Buzz

QuickTakes

Issue: "Rockwell's resurgence," Nov. 24, 2001

SEEING RED: In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the American Red Cross is coming under increasing scrutiny. The Washington Post's Gilbert Gaul and Mary Pat Flaherty write that the charity collected "hundreds of thousands of blood donations after Sept. 11" while knowing those donations could not be used for terrorism victims. Overnight, the blood inventory jumped to a massive surplus. The Red Cross sold some of the blood to hospitals (for over $225 a unit) but may still have to discard up to 20 percent of donations because their shelf life expired. The Red Cross had said that it would freeze the excess, but lacked the resources to freeze it all. The Post article reports that the organization, which handles about half of America's blood supply, was still soliciting donations to help victims two weeks after the disaster. "To much of the blood industry, it quickly was clear that there would be no huge demand for blood: Most of the victims were dead," Mr. Gaul and Ms. Flaherty write. "Yet there were disagreements about how to handle the surge in donations." PULLING IN THE REINS: Is the era of big government still over? Maybe, says columnist Thomas Bray in The Wall Street Journal. He took hope from President Bush's hints about vetoing big spending bills and says the states are still cutting budgets due to declining revenue. Mr. Bray points out that state budgets are facing their worst shortfalls since 1992, dropping about $15 billion in fiscal 2001. Happily, legislators in both parties are more inclined to cut spending than raise taxes even as times grow worse. "States and local governments have no choice but to balance their budgets," he writes. "They can't print money to cover their deficits, as Washington can." QUIETLY TURNING TO THE FAMILY? The home front may be growing healthier, notes columnist Maggie Gallagher. She cites several studies that show America's families are becoming stronger. To wit: The number of children living with single mothers dropped 8 percent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Urban Institute found that the number of African-American kids living with married parents (either natural or step-parents) jumped from 34.9 percent to 38.9 percent from 1997 to 1999. Meanwhile, the research group Child Trends found the overall number of children in single-parent homes fell from 27 percent to 25 percent during that time. These statistics look promising, compared to three decades of sad decline. "Are things still getting worse or have they started to get better?" Ms. Gallagher wonders. She argues that Americans have quietly begun to recognize the importance of family. Both the welfare-reform debate and the conclusions of social scientists in the late 1990s started a shift in public opinion, she argues. The Democrats, for example, started the 1990s crowing for Murphy Brown but by the end of the Clinton administration were publicly praising the two-parent family. But all the news isn't good, Ms. Gallagher writes. "Yes, fewer kids are living with solo moms, but more kids are living with single dads, with cohabiting moms, and (saddest of all) in no-parent families." THE FRUIT OF UNBELIEF: Why would some Americans find Islam attractive? Bill Murchison says part of the problem is the American mainline church, which doesn't offer people much Christianity. The columnist refers to a story in his own Dallas Morning News about Islamic converts. One was an ex-Methodist youth minister who said she "wasn't concerned about heaven or hell" and didn't see "why Jesus had to die for my sins." Decades of liberalism are taking their toll, as churches make Christianity mushier and mushier to fit a social ideology. "Christian leaders downplay notions of Truth; seekers after Truth take their trade elsewhere. Maybe something goes on here-something that should have been utterly predictable in human (never mind supernatural) terms?" Put simply, Islam gives people something to believe in, while the once-dominant mainline denominations offer nothing. "Religion is about betting your life," he said. "Do you bet it on mush, lukewarm and unbuttered, or do you look for something into which you can sink a full set of teeth?"

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