2005 letters to the editor

 

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FDR’s FOUR FREEDOMS (1/13/2005)

Sixty-Four years ago this month, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his State of the Union address in which he described his “Four Freedoms” which, he claimed, applied everywhere in the world. FDR was in good company when he listed (1) “freedom of speech” and (2) “freedom of religion.” These, of course, are enshrined in the beginning of our Bill of Rights, and as every schoolchild knows, were key elements in the founding of this nation. But then FDR moved on to a couple of ideological distortions by offering us the woolly abstractions of (3) “freedom from want” and (4) “freedom from fear.”

Our Founding Fathers understood that freedom of speech and freedom of religion were in included in the “unalienable rights” given to us by our Creator; and contrary to FDR’s notion, they also understood that our natural rights did not include freedom from want and freedom from fear. The idea that everyone should be free from want is what has led to our behemoth welfare state and oppressive tax burden, and the notion that everyone should be free from fear is what has led to our having hundreds of thousands of US troops stationed in about 150 countries and territories all over the globe.

It was a mistake to buy into FDR’s propaganda 64 years ago, and it’s a worse mistake to buy into it today. We have a long list of freedoms, but freedom from want and freedom from fear are not on the list. Utopia is not one of the options.

 

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, MEET GEORGE WALLKER BUSH (1/21/2005)

Only twice in our country’s history has the son of a former president been elected president: the honors go to John Quincy Adams, and George Walker Bush. Given this shared distinction, I suppose Mr. Adams groaned & turned in his grave during Mr. Bush’s second inaugural speech yesterday (1/20/2005), especially when Mr. Bush announced: “So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture…” Seek and support? Every nation and culture? Mr. Adams had exactly the opposite view, as he explained in a speech in the House of Representatives when he said, “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” Mr. Bush also charitably announced that “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the US will … stand with you,” and, “For half a century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders.” In contrast, Mr. Adams, eerily citing almost the same relative timetable, reported that, “[America] has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings.” In other words, we had been staying home and had been minding our own business. These thoughts were not original with Mr. Adams. They had been expressed earlier, perhaps most famously by George Washington (“The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is … to have with them as little political connection as possible”), and by Thomas Jefferson (“…honest friendship with all nations,—entangling alliances with none…”). Mr. Adams demonstrated his prescience near the end of his speech when he said, “[America] well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force … She might become the dictatress of the world.” Might, indeed: Mr. Adams, meet Mr. Bush.

 

FLUNKING THE PRESIDENT (AGAIN) (2/3/2005)

Last year at this time I reviewed the 31 initiatives announced by Mr. Bush in his State Of The Union (SOTU) address, to determine how many were legitimate functions of the federal government – in other words, a test of how well Mr. Bush was fulfilling his presidential oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Instead of using the contemporary politicians’ corrupt definition of legitimacy, I used the general definition supplied by James Madison in Federalist Paper 45: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government are few and defined” and elsewhere, “powers vested in Congress are specified and enumerated.” In particular, I used the detailed definition supplied by Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution. That’s where those “few and defined” powers (it’s a short list – only eighteen items) are “specified and enumerated.” I came up with only six out of 31 that qualified as legitimate, so Mr. Bush flunked. In reviewing this year’s SOTU address, I did the same analysis and determined that only five of the 21 new initiatives (as listed at the White House web site) are legitimate functions of the federal government. Once again, Mr. Bush flunked the test. And Democrats inclined to gloat over these low scores, should note that Mr. Bush’s scores are still better than the seven out of 104 which was the score for president Clinton’s last SOTU address. There is no reason for pride in either camp. They both flunked. And we all continue to pay the price: those of us at home pay by giving up bigger and bigger slices of our income and our freedom; and many of our young people in US military uniforms, posted on foreign soil, pay by giving up arms, legs, eyes, and lives. Next time around, the least we should do, is to elect a president who can pass the test.

 

SYMPATHY FOR MARTHA STEWART (3/4/2005)

Now that Martha is out of the slammer, few people will feel sympathy for her as she returns to her multimillion-dollar 143-acre estate in New York. That’s a pity, because anyone - rich or poor – who is the victim of government persecution is worthy of your sympathy. And persecution is exactly what it was. Those people (including jurors and journalists) who believe she was guilty of insider trading and deserved to punished, were victims themselves - of government obfuscation. The truth is, Martha was not convicted of insider trading. Martha was convicted of conspiring to cover-up the crime of insider trading, a crime with which she was never charged! She was convicted of the new crime of “lying” but she was never charged with perjury. She was also convicted of “obstructing justice,” although the only justice that was obstructed was her getting a fair trial. Judge Miriam Cedarbaum made a fair trial impossible when she prohibited Martha’s defense team from mentioning the fact that for Martha to sell her ImClone stock on her broker’s advice was perfectly legal. In fact, Martha was among hundreds of thousands of investors who sold their ImClone stock as the price plummeted. The message here is clear: stay out of the government’s sights. Once they get a bead on you, it’s too late – even if, like Martha, you spare no expense in defending yourself.

 

TERRI: RIP. AMERICA: WAKE UP. (3/31/2005)

Regardless if you are pleased or displeased with the conclusion of the Terri Schiavo tug of war, you should be upset that the Feds (specifically, the US Congress and the president) usurped the power to interpose themselves where the Founding Fathers never intended them to tread. Of course, the Feds are hubristic enough to insist that they had Constitutional authority to intervene. This should not surprise us because these are the same Feds who insist that they have the Constitutional authority to spend $14,000,000 of your tax dollars on the Metro in Philadelphia, plus $1,609,000 for a consortium of grape farmers; and these are the same Feds who have authorized the cops to stop you without probable cause and give you a breath tests; to seize your home and other assets before you’re even convicted of a crime; to jail you indefinitely without a trial; etc. If you find this hard to believe, look at the federal budget (be sure to note that the $82 billion “emergency” supplemental appropriations bill, masquerading as necessary to “support the troops,” enables the District of Columbia to use taxpayer funds to build a new baseball stadium!), and read the PATRIOT Act. The devil is in the details. And if you are wondering what ever happened to the Bill of Rights: the Feds trampled it, we let them get away with it, and their malfeasance and our insouciance continues.

 

SWINE OR SUBS? IT’S YOUR MONEY. (4/16/2005)

Last week, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released their 2005 “Congressional Pig Book” which exposes a record $27.3 Billion in Pork. Even if you haven’t seen it, you can imagine that the list of pet pork projects is quite lengthy. To give you an idea, it includes multi million dollar projects in areas such as shrimp aquaculture, farm safety, an Appalachian fruit laboratory, a life skills training program in St. Augustine, the fund for Ireland, and the Congo basin forest partnership. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I review the types of expenditures authorized by the US Constitution, I can’t find any of those projects on the list. On the other hand, I do find that the US Constitution authorizes Congress to spend money “To provide and maintain a Navy.” That’s interesting because while Congress was busy authorizing funds for shrimp, fruit, Ireland, the Congo, and other pet pork projects, the President submitted a budget request that cut funding for two submarines, despite warnings in recent years from U.S. Navy officials, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Science Board that the U.S. needs MORE submarines. Three Los Angeles-class subs (SSNs) were scheduled to be refueled and overhauled; however, because the President's budget eliminates funding for two of these overhauls, those subs will be lost. During the Cold War, the main job of the SSNs was to track Soviet ballistic missile submarines (prepared to destroy them if necessary), and to collect intelligence. And even though the Soviet Union has disappeared, many of its submarines have not. In addition, China has about 70 operating subs, and more on the way. North Korea and Iran, both on the administrations “Axis of Evil” list, each have submarine fleets, North Korea’s being one of the largest in the world. Add to this the fact that SSNs are playing an increasingly more active role in gathering intelligence and providing firepower in the war on terrorism. In view of all this, spending $28 Billion taxpayer dollars on pet pork projects, but refusing to spend $200 million to overhaul a submarine, sounds like the wrong choice to me.

 

A FORGOTTEN WAR, A LINGERING TAX (5/1/2005)

Beyond “Remember the Maine,” and images of Teddy Roosevelt leading his Rough Riders in a daring charge on San Juan Hill, most Americans do not know much about the Spanish-American war, a conflict which took place more than a century ago, lasted only a few months, and cost the USA only $250 million (for comparison, $250 million would not pay for one day of the war in Iraq). To help fund the Spanish-American war, Congress approved a “temporary” 3% luxury tax on telephones, back in the days when only the wealthiest Americans had telephones. Of course, today everyone has a telephone, or two, or more; and of course, we are still paying the “temporary” tax. It seems that killing a tax, even a temporary one, is as difficult as killing a vampire. We came close in 2000, when both houses of Congress agreed to kill the tax, but President Clinton vetoed the legislation. Well, we are going to get another chance this year: last week, Representative Gary Miller (R-CA) introduced H.R. 1898, which would repeal the 3% federal excise tax on telecommunications, and if it gets past both houses of Congress this time, and if President Bush does not veto it, we will finally, after 107 years, close the last chapter on the Spanish-American war. It’s about time.

 

FEDS QUASH STATES RIGHTS – AGAIN. (6/8/2005)

All three branches of the federal government ignore their Constitutionally mandated limits so frequently that when they step outside the bounds it’s no longer news, and you have to search for coverage among the man-bites-dog stories to keep track of how individual rights and states rights continue to be infringed by the feds. Take, for example, the Supreme Court decision in Ashcroft v. Raich, which was recently announced. You probably didn’t see it on the evening news, so allow me to report on it.

By way of background, you should know that ten states have adopted laws permitting doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for a variety of serious illnesses. For example, marijuana's ability to reduce intra-ocular pressure has saved many glaucoma patients from blindness; marijuana can control the painful muscle spasms associated with spinal cord injury suffered by some disabled veterans; marijuana can reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea suffered by cancer victims. Regardless of its proven medical effectiveness (even the Supremes recognize the “valid therapeutic purposes” of marijuana!), the court decided, in Ashcroft v. Raich, that the federal Controlled Substances Act trumps state medical marijuana laws, authorizing federal drug agents to arrest patients using medical marijuana under state guidelines. Thus, we have come to the point where taking a medication on the recommendation of a doctor for a legitimate illness, as permitted by state law, is a federal crime. Where the Feds get the authority to make such behavior a crime is beyond me, and more importantly, it is beyond the Constitution. But then, as I indicated at the beginning of this letter, I guess that’s just not news any more.

 

SUN TZU, REVISITED. (6/23/2005)

About 500 B.C. a Chinese general by the name of Sun Tzu wrote a military treatise titled “The Art of War,” in which he described how to defeat an enemy without engaging in fighting on the battlefield. Fast forward to 2005 and the EMP (ElectroMagnetic Pulse) weapon. An EMP is kind of a radio signal, super sized and on steroids. If an enemy were to detonate one of these EMP weapons in the right place (say, 200 miles high, over the middle of Kansas), it could knock out every electronic device in the entire USA, without causing direct harm to a single living person or animal. I was careful to write “direct” harm, because the indirect harm would be catastrophic. Imagine the result if, within a matter of seconds, everything containing an electronic chip suddenly quit working: cars would stop running, planes would fall out of the sky, and your computer, digital watch, TV, furnace and A/C, and probably even your clothes washing machine and your toaster, would all stop working – instantly. And so would all the gasoline pumps, traffic lights, and of course the electrical power grid, cell phone towers and the city water, sewage, and gas systems. You get the picture, but maybe you don’t believe it. Well, believe it. The scientific community has known about EMP since 1962, when the people of Hawaii had first hand experience with it: they suffered massive electronic destruction as three hundred street lights blew up, burglar alarms went off, power lines fused, TV sets exploded, etc. All because of a nuclear experiment on Johnson Island, a thousand miles away in the middle of the Pacific. It turns out that if a nuke is detonated at the right altitude and under the right conditions, it unleashes a bunch of gamma-rays and x-rays which spawn the EMP. We’ve come a long way since 1962 and today, for less than the price of a good motorcycle, you can buy your own small (non-nuclear) EMP device for experimentation. Rogue countries and terrorists interested in bringing the US to its knees have the solution at hand. All they have to do is mount a nuclear EMP device atop a single Scud missile (available on the world market for about $100,000) and launch it over the US from a freighter in international waters (al Qaeda probably has about 80 suitable ships). If they detonate it over the atmosphere above Kansas, the war is over, and those who survive the inevitable breakdown of the social order will find themselves in living conditions like their ancestors endured in the 1880s. And now, a special message to those who still think we don’t need a missile defense system – Sun Tzu is smiling at you from his grave.

 

USA PATRIOT ACT – “SUNSET” OR EXTENSION? (7/22/2005)

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) are about as likely to agree on an issue as former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr and the ACLU, but that’s exactly what’s happening with respect to the USA PATRIOT Act, the law passed just 45 days after 9/11 that allows the government to search your home and not tell you; collect information about what you read, what you buy, your hotel visits and your medical history; seize business and financial records; track your e-mail activity and web usage; and in general, to stick its nose deep into your personal affairs, eroding the protections “guaranteed” by the Fourth Amendment, all under the guise of securing us against terrorism. Concerned citizens all across the nation have recognized the government’s violation of our rights for what it is, as evidenced by the 375 communities in 43 states (including the state legislatures of Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont , Maine and Montana) which have passed pro-civil liberties resolutions addressing the matter. Going directly to the heart of the problem, most of the resolutions, which represent over 50 million Americans, call upon Congress to bring the USA PATRIOT Act back in line with the Constitution. Those pleas have fallen on deaf ears in the US House of Representatives, where yesterday (7/21/2005) the vote was 257 to 171 to reauthorize 14 of the 16 provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act which are set to expire at the end of this year. The US Senate will take up the measure in the fall, so there is still hope to force those provisions to die a well deserved death. I’m crossing my fingers, but I’m also writing to Senators Chambliss and Isakson. You might want to consider doing the same. If you need more convincing, check out “Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances” at http://www.checksbalances.org/index.php.


GOP = GROSSLY OVERSPENDING PARTY (8/9/2005)

The party of my Republican friends is looking more and more like the party of my Democrat friends, especially on the matter of the federal budget. Remember 1995, and all the wasteful programs the Republicans were going to eliminate? If you check the status of the top 100 or so of those destined to be axed, you will find they are alive and well, and consuming about a third more tax dollars than they were back then. In fact, Bush43 is responsible for the largest increase in federal spending since LBJ’s “Great Society.” Even if you eliminate expenses for defense and homeland security, Mr. Bush is still the biggest spender in 30 years. The days of Republicans containing non-defense spending are over. Back in 1968 George Wallace’s announcement that there was not a “dime’s worth of difference” between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey was a harbinger of the direction of the two parties. As some of us Libertarians have described it, the US no longer has a two party system: it has a one party system, and that party is the “Demopubicans.”

 

THINK YOU OWN YOUR HOME? THINK AGAIN. (8/19/2005)

In the “Letters to the Editor” section of the 8/17/2005 issue of the NGN a piqued reader lamented the recent Supreme Court decision which allows the government to force property owners to sell out and make way for private economic development. I sympathize with that reader, and others who are under the delusion that we own our homes and other property. We don’t. Oh, we have titles and other bits of paper that make it appear, superficially, like we own it, but in every meaningful sense of the word “own,” the government owns your property, not you. You are merely a tenant, obliged to pay rent (which is disguised as “property tax”) and obliged to follow the rules laid down by the real owner (the government). If you doubt that for one moment, consider what will happen if you refuse to pay the rent (property tax), or if you break the rules by, for example, growing a couple of marijuana plants in your back yard. You might get away with such insolence for a while, but eventually, guys with guns will show up at your door. Guys who may be sent there to take your property and forcibly move you out, or, if necessary, to kill you. So, do you still think you own that property?

 

SENATOR GETS IT RIGHT (ALMOST) (8/25/05)

On June 23, 2005, the Supreme Court issued its 5/4 decision in Kelo v. City of New London - the decision that rewrote the US Constitution and gave governments at all levels the power to seize your personal property for the benefit of private interests. That decision alarmed quite a few Americans from coast to coast, including US Senator John Cornyn from Texas, who decided to do something about it. The good news is that the Senator introduced S. 1313, a bill designed to limit government seizures of private property for private benefit, and for this, he deserves our thanks. The bad news is that S. 1313 is toothless because it lacks a statement of Constitutional authority and an enforcement mechanism. But fear not, DownsizeDC.org, Inc. has prepared an amendment to fix those problems. The full text of S. 1313, along with DownsizeDC.org's amendment, and the reasons for the proposed changes, can be found at: http://www.downsizedc.org/ where you will also find a draft of a letter which they will send, on your behalf, to your two Senators and your US Representative, asking them to please co-sponsor and support the passage of S. 1313 with specific amendments. If enough of us request it, Congress might just get it right this time.

 

WOULD YOU PAY $7 PER GALLON FOR GAS? (9/9/05)

In a recent Letter To The Editor, a reader seemed to be arguing that gas stations were justified in raising retail prices at the pump only when they had to pay higher wholesale prices, but that it was “greed” (others have called it “gouging”) if a retailer raised the price at the pump without being prompted by an increase in wholesale price. This reader appears to be a victim of the notion that our economy operates on the “cost plus” pricing model, which it does not. The only economy in which such a model applies is one where the government has full control of prices (e.g., Cuba, North Korea). The economic model opposite to such government planning and regimentation is laissez faire , or the free market economy, and this is the ideal model we strive for in this country. In simplistic terms, in the pure laissez faire economy the immutable law of supply and demand determines price: as supply diminishes and/or demand increases, price goes up; and conversely, as supply increases and/or demand diminishes, price goes down. The price of most products and services floats between a high of “whatever the consumer will bear,” and a low of “whatever the supplier will bear.” In the case of gasoline, the price is going up because of decreased supply and increased demand; and if the supply and demand trends continue, the price can continue to go up, until it gets so high that consumers are unwilling or unable to pay for it (at which time consumers begin to find other means of transportation). Nobody knows what that price is, but inasmuch as the Dutch are now paying about $7/gal at the pump, I’d say we have a long ways to go. Incidentally, in Holland, there are about three bicycles on the road to every car, so maybe there’s a message here for us!

 

MISSING WORDS FROM BILL OF RIGHTS FOUND IN NEW ORLEANS (9/23/05)

Apparently, the Founding Fathers left half a dozen words off the Second Amendment when they penned it as “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The words they left off are: “except in case of a hurricane.” At least, that is what New Orleans Police Superintendent P. Edwin Compass III, and Deputy Police Chief Warren Riley would have us believe. In interviews following Hurricane Katrina, Compass and Riley, according to the New York Times and ABC news, are quoted as saying, “Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons,” and , “No one will be able to be armed. We are going to take all the weapons.” And they weren’t kidding. Just like in Nazi Germany, arbitrary gun seizures were made without warrant or probable cause; and in cases reported to both the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) , police refused to give citizens receipts for their seized firearms. SAF founder Alan M. Gottlieb observed, “It was bad enough that Big Easy residents were victims of the worst natural disaster in the nation’s history. That they would be subsequently victimized by their own local government, taking their personal property without warrant, being unlawfully disarmed, leaving them defenseless against lingering bands of looters and thugs, is unconscionable. These illegal gun seizures must be stopped, now.” He’s correct, of course, and to that end, SAF and NRA joined with individual gun owners in Louisiana, filing a motion in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana seeking a temporary restraining order to stop authorities in and around the City of New Orleans from seizing firearms from private citizens. SAF has previously funded successful firearms-related suits against the cities of Los Angeles; New Haven, CT; and San Francisco on behalf of American gun owners, and if they do as well with this one, perhaps Compass and Riley will be the first two local dominoes to fall in the aftermath of Katrina.

 

LIBERTARIAN LIFEBOAT (10/13/05)

For those unfamiliar with The Federalist Patriot, it is claimed to be the Internet's most subscribed e-journal, and it is decidedly to the Right of center. Their usual fare is rebuttal of contemporary political, social and mainstream media Leftists and when they get on the case of a politician, that politician is in trouble. Currently, they are inviting folks to sign a petition (over 15,000 signatures so far) attacking several politicians they claim have (in some notable cases) neglected their oaths to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The surprising thing here (for a publication that identifies itself as the “Conservative Record of Journal”) is the list to whom the petition is addressed: President George Bush, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, House Majority Leader Roy Blunt and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist! In the latest issue of The Federalist Patriot the publisher noted that “When it comes to fiscal restraint and many policy issues, Republican leaders in the White House and Congress have shown disregard, if not outright contempt for the Constitutional limitations placed upon the central government. Congressional Republicans have advanced the fastest growth in non-defense spending and regulatory expansion in generations, and President Bush has not vetoed a single bill during his five years in office. Republicans …have failed miserably when it comes to budget constraints, regulation and policy issues like immigration. Enough is enough!” Add to this the diminishing support for Mr. Bush’s Iraq policy and the growing list of prominent Republicans refusing to line up behind his Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers (including the likes of Bill Krystal & Pat Buchanan), and it appears the current crop of Republicans are in real trouble. Will they wake up and get their act together before it’s too late? Or, is it already too late? For Republican voters who are ready to abandon ship - go right ahead. The Libertarian lifeboat is standing by. If you’re interested in returning the federal government to its limited Constitutional functions, instead of suffering the unwieldy, inefficient, intrusive, bloated behemoth it has become, check out the Libertarian Party. About one-third of current Libertarians are former Republicans so you might just discover a new political home for yourself. And by the way, about one-third of current Libertarians are former Democrats, so you are welcome aboard too!

 

SCOOTER MEET MARTHA (10/28/05)

As you may recall, the feds originally tried to get Martha Stewart on “insider trading” but when that wouldn’t fly they found another excuse to jail her: they got her for “lying.” Well, it’s déjà vu all over again now that Scooter Libby has been indicted. The original investigation was into the matter of who revealed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. But, when the Feds couldn’t stick Scooter with that crime, they nailed him for – guess what? “Lying.” I am reminded of the Baloo cartoon in which a defendant addresses a Judge: “Yes, your Honor, I did lie to Congress - but they started it.” The Feds can lie to us with impunity, but if we lie to them, we go to jail. God Bless America.

 

DEFINING MOMENT IN IRAQ? (11/27/2005)

Although Stratfor (Strategic Forecasting Inc.) is not well known among the general public, they may be, as they claim, the world’s leading private intelligence firm specializing in providing critical intelligence and insights on political, economic, military, and security events around the world. In any case, their latest geopolitical intelligence report suggests that we have come to a defining moment in the war in Iraq, and in US policy toward the war. They make the point that doubling the number of US troops in Iraq would not help and reducing them by half would not hurt, because the time for a military solution is long past - Iraq is not a pacified country like post WWII Japan or Germany, where conventional military campaigns created a blank slate on which the US could impose a political and social system. Stratfor opines that it’s now time to admit that forcing the Baathists out of public life in the summer of 2003 drove them closer to the guerrillas and stripped Iraq of what technocrats it had. The result is that the US will not be able, by itself, to conquer the Sunni insurrection. The eventual solution will be through political negotiations, not military actions, and the US will need help from non-jihadist Sunnis – Baathists – as well as the Shia. Accordingly, we will have to get former Baathists into the political process, a move the administration is loathe to admit because it means we will have to make a variety of deals with players we would have regarded as enemies just a couple of years ago. We will know if the administration embraces the Stratfor strategy when former Baathists begin replacing the contractors the US brought in to operate Iraq’s infrastructure, and when our troops start coming home. I, for one, hope that is sooner, rather than later.

 

HE WAS WHAT HE SAID HE WAS (12/01/2005)

"A young man whose father is a carpenter grows up working in his father's shop. He has no formal education. He owns no property of any kind. One day he puts down his tools and walks out of his father's shop. He starts preaching on street corners and in the nearby countryside. Walking from place to place, preaching all the while, even though he is in no way an ordained minister. He never gets farther than an area perhaps 100 miles wide at the most. He does this for three years. Then he is arrested, tried and convicted. There is no court of appeal so he is executed at age 33 along with two common thieves. Those in charge of his execution roll dice to see who gets his clothing -- the only possessions he has. His family cannot afford a burial place so he is interred in a borrowed tomb. End of story? No, this uneducated, propertyless young man who preached on street corners for only three years who left no written word has for 2000 years had a greater effect on the entire world than all the rulers, kings and emperors, all the conquerors, the generals and admirals, all the scholars, scientists and philosophers who ever lived -- all put together. How do we explain that? ...Unless he really was what he said he was." And, much as I would like to claim to have authored this, attribution goes to Ronald Reagan.

 

SAD, BUT TRUE (12/14/2005)

Now is a good time to reflect back on the year and to evaluate how well our federal government has done over the past 12 months in securing “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” which is, of course, a major objective mentioned in the preamble of the US Constitution. I found much fault with the conduct of all three branches of our federal government, especially concerning their disregard for their oaths to “support the Constitution of the US.” I could fill a book with examples, but I’ll restrict myself to one from each branch. (1) It began early in the year during Mr. Bush’s second inaugural speech when he announced: “So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture…” Seek and support? Every nation and culture? The Constitution grants him no such authority; nevertheless, the US now has more than half a million troops overseas, spread over 135 countries, and while we are closing military bases at home, we are constructing new ones abroad. (2) The Supreme Court put what may be the last nail in the coffin of the people’s private property rights with their 5-4 decision in Kelo, when they rewrote the Fifth Amendment phrase “public use” to be “public purpose” and defined it to include enabling the government to take anyone’s property to give to a large corporation if taxes can thereby be increased. (3) Congress, which seems to think they can solve every problem both at home and abroad by funding another program, is on a spending spree the likes of which we have not seen since Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” days, and is sticking us with a 2006 budget of nearly $2.5 trillion. Add to that our $8 trillion debt and looming Social Security and Medicare crises, and the picture is grim. Congress needs to make serious budget cuts and focus spending on domestic priorities, lest we find ourselves in an economic downturn which will cause us more harm than any terrorist group. In May of 1788 Thomas Jefferson lamented: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and for government to gain ground.” Sad, but true.

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