Let’s not stay together. There’s an old saying in Washington that if the president asks you to do something, you can’t say no. Soul legend (and now pastor) Al Green apparently hasn’t heard that saying. The president asked Green to sing during Monday’s inaugural events, but Green said thanks but no thanks. In a statement to The Associated Press, a representative for Green said scheduling conflicts prevented him from attending Monday’s festivities. The AP report also said the Presidential Inaugural Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Jennifer Hudson sang Green’s classic “Let’s Stay Together” at the inauguration instead. You may recall that Obama sang a snippet of the song himself at a fundraiser in New York last January that Green also attended (see video clip below). Maybe imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery.
Mixed messages. A new poll from The Wall Street Journal and NBC says about 70 percent of Americans believe Roe v. Wade should stand. That’s the highest number since 1989, when polls started asking the question. But an almost equal number say we should have at least some restrictions on abortion. About 31 percent say it should be legal without any exceptions, and about 9 percent say it should be illegal without any exceptions. These numbers are a bit of a surprise because other polls show a growing number of Americans calling themselves “pro-life.” How should we reconcile these paradoxical polls? Americans remain deeply troubled over the issue. That’s in part because the 50 million abortions of the Roe era mean most adults alive today have either had an abortion or know of someone close to them who has. Abortion in America is not something “they” do. It is something “we” do. This reality has created a profound confusion in our national culture. Thomas Jefferson once said of the practice of slavery that it was like holding a wolf by the ears: You can’t hold on forever, but you dare not let go. In the minds of many Americans, so abortion has become. We will commit suicide as a culture if the practice continues, but ending the practice requires a national repentance most Americans are not yet ready to face.
Fleeing California? Pro golfer Phil Mickelson said Sunday that high taxes are forcing him to make what he calls “drastic changes” in the way he manages his money. Some are suggesting the 42-year-old golfer may retire or move out of California. Mickelson lives in Rancho Santa Fe, near San Diego, and in November, California voters approved Proposition 30, a major statewide tax increase. Michelson told reporters, “If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate’s 62, 63 percent. So I’ve got to make some decisions on what I’m going to do.” But on Monday Mickelson pulled back a bit, saying, “Finances and taxes are a personal matter, and I should not have made my opinions on them public. … I apologize to those I have upset or insulted, and assure you I intend not to let it happen again.”
Vaccine scare. Vaccines have saved tens of millions of lives. Nonetheless, a small movement that includes evangelical Christians opposes them for a variety of purported health and ethical reasons. The anti-vaccination movement is getting a shot in the arm with the news that approximately 800 children in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe have developed narcolepsy, an incurable and debilitating sleep disorder, after being immunized against swine flu with a vaccine made in 2009 by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline. According to Reuters, “Finland, Norway, Ireland, and France have seen spikes in narcolepsy cases, too, and people familiar with the results of a soon-to-be-published study in Britain [say] it will show a similar pattern in children there.” Europe’s drugs regulator has ruled Pandemrix, the vaccine in question, should no longer be used for people under age 20. The chief medical officer at GSK’s vaccines division, Norman Begg, said the company is “absolutely committed to getting to the bottom of this.” He also said the available data do not suggest a causal link.