Every death is a tragedy. While I was typing up today’s comment, I heard the announcement that Odai and Qusai Hussein, Saddam Hussein’s two sons, were confirmed killed in a firefight in Iraq. My initial reaction was a mixture of happiness and sadness. I was happy while thinking of those people who will now be able to sleep better tonight knowing that these two thugs will never torture or kill another Iraqi, and I was sad because their acts were so heinous that they had earned their deaths. Unlike some people, I do not rejoice in the death of others even when their death is more than warranted because I mourn the loss of opportunities in their life to do good for others. I see what they could have done, and I am saddened that their lives were cut short either by accident, disease, acts of others, or by their own acts bringing down the full judgment of law upon themselves.

If you have been watching the nightly news recently as I have, you can’t have missed the almost nightly reporting of another soldier killed in Iraq during that day. This steady death toll has been termed by Jim Quinn, a morning talk show host out of Pittsburgh, as the “Vietnamification of Iraq.” During the Vietnam War, the nightly news often reported the number of US servicemen killed or wounded that day. This constant drip drip drip of death turned around the public opinion of the war, and this loss of will eventually led to our loss of the war. You can see how this same drip drip drip of death in Iraq is starting to do the same thing now. Each of these deaths is a tragedy, and they are mourned by family and their fellow servicemen. There is no denying the anguish the families go through with each death, but are these deaths really all that newsworthy beyond their families?

I did a quick search on the Center for Disease Control’s website, looking at the latest record of US fatalities. I then changed these from yearly totals to an average daily death rate. Here is how the year 2000 data breaks down: each day we averaged 11 drownings, 11 deaths by fire, 33 suffocations, 38 deaths by falling, 55 poisonings, 119 fatalities in traffic accidents, and one or two deaths in Iraq. OK, so the last didn’t happen in 2000, but you can see how small the number is when compared to the average death toll here in the States. This is why I am puzzled sometimes at the hand-wringing I see at times over these deaths. If you want to compare this to a war, we averaged almost 220 deaths per day during World War II, but the U.S. was more determined and driven in that conflict than we are today. Most people saw the real need for fighting then, and they were willing to do what was needed to rid the world of the Axis powers. We are currently faced by a new Axis, but I fear that we as a society do not have the strength of will to do what is needed to rid the world of the Axis of Evil today.

My father served 21 years in the U.S. Air Force, and I grew up understanding that my father could die in service. But I also understood from an early age that there were things well worth dying for, as one military commander put it: “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.” In addition to watching reports of the death of Saddam’s sons today, I watched the homecoming given to Pfc. Jessica Lynch. She was glad that some of the soldiers with whom she served made it home alive from Iraq. She was also hurt that some of her company didn’t, but she never questioned the need “when free-men shall stand / Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation . . . “

But there are three groups who do question this need, and they are easy to spot. First is the Democratic Party. Almost to a one, they have opposed this war and have questioned the need for us to even be in Iraq. Not even the heart-wrenching images of the freed children or the opening of mass graves appears to have validated this war for them. And with each soldier slain in Iraq, their voices grow louder, demanding we pull out. The second group is the major media. These print and television giants have been loud bullhorns proclaiming each death as proof that we should not be in Iraq. Each death is used by them to hammer home their leftist agenda of discrediting the President and his plans during this war on terrorism. And the third party involved is the scattered remains of the Baathist party in Iraq that is causing the deaths of our servicemen. It is clear that their goal is to slay an American each day to produce the drip drip drip of death needed to sap the will of America. Quinn has identified the common thread that runs through these three groups: they have all lost power, and are desperate to get it back. The real tragedy here is the way the Democrats and the major media are willing, if unwitting, accomplices in the Baathist party plan to use the tragedy of each death to attack the President. I hope that the death of Odai and Qusai Hussein will fortify the people of Iraq and help them to stand up to the horrors hiding in their midst. When the day comes that the Iraqi people justly rule themselves in peace, then the deaths in Iraq will have been worth the cost.

There are times when our legal system just doesn’t make any sense. Part of this confusion comes from my ignorance of the complex legal language, and partially because of the official rulings handed down from the bench. In a two week period this summer, three rulings came down from the bench that are making me scratch my head in confusion. These three rulings came from two courts: the Nevada State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.

First, we need a little background information on the Nevada case, Governor v. Nevada State Legislature . Back in 1996 the people passed an initiative amending the Nevada Constitution stating the Nevada legislature may only pass a tax hike with a two-thirds majority of both houses rather than the previous requirement of just a simple majority. This year the Nevada budget was passed with the simple majority needed for such a bill even though not a single Republican voted for it. The crisis arrived when the bill for hiking taxes to pay for the large budget didn’t pass with the two-thirds necessary. In this type of situation, reasonable people sit down and hammer out a compromise. Dan Burdish, Chairman of Nevadans for Tax Restraint summed up what happened with an open letter to Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins: “Your idea of compromise is for anyone who does not agree with you to relent and agree with whatever dollar amount you want. That is not compromise, it is capitulation.”

So Nevada was stuck. It has the constitutional responsibility to fund education, but it also has the constitutional mandate of passing tax hikes with a two-thirds majority of the legislators. Rather than working this out, this was taken to the Nevada State Court. The Nevada Supreme Court should have tossed the responsibility right back to the Legislature to fix their problem and stay within the requirements of their State Constitution. Treasury Secretary John Snow has identified the root problem in a different venue that fits here, “We don’t have a revenue problem. The government gets plenty of revenue. What’s wrong is that the government spends too much money.” Rather than turning the issue back to the Legislature to fix, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional requirement to fund education was more important than the constitutional two-thirds majority rule. So with that decision, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that it was just acceptable to ignore parts of the State Constitution. In fact, they ruled that the Legislators must ignore that part of their Constitution. So with the bang of a judicial gavel they invalidated the will of the people who voted in this change to the Nevada State Constitution. It is the height of judicial arrogance to pass judgment on the Constitution of their own State. After all, the Constitution is the law of the land, and the Nevada Supreme Court should know that and rule accordingly.

But that isn’t the only Supreme Court that has been thumbing its nose at the Constitution. Less than two weeks after the Nevada Supreme Court’s ruling, the United States Supreme Court issued two rulings of its own, both dealing with admissions policies for the University of Michigan. The first case, Gratz v. Bollinger, deals with how the University admits undergraduates. It does so by awarding points to the applicants and admitting the highest scorers. In this system, someone with a perfect SAT score is awarded 15 points, and someone who is Black, Hispanic, or Native American is awarded 20. Clearly, skin color is more important to the University of Michigan than academic achievement. In the second case, Grutter v. Bollinger, the Law School of the University of Michigan isn’t clear on how race is a factor in admissions. It doesn’t use the clear-cut point system of the undergraduate admissions, but rather employs vague guidelines such as “a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity” with an eye to including people who have been “historically discriminated against, like African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.” The Supreme Court ruled the undergraduate point system unconstitutional because the use of race was not “narrowly tailored” to achieve the University’s goal of diversity, but the Law School admissions were acceptable because the need for diversity is so great. Now I ask you, since when did diversity become such a virtue that it trumps the United States Constitution?

Now I’m not a lawyer, but these Supreme Court rulings seem to be backward. The 14th Amendment was passed to force the States to treat all people equally, including the recently freed slaves. That is the law of the land. But the Supreme Court ruled that being racist and discriminating is fine, just as long as you do it in a non-specific way. And all this under-cover racism is allowable and desirable because the nebulous goal of diversity is just so important. More important than what the Constitution says? Apparently the Supreme Court thinks so. They took something that is not in the Constitution and ruled it to be more important than something actually in the Constitution. It makes more sense to me to rule the vague Law School admissions policy unconstitutional because of it vagueness, and to allow the undergraduate policy of scoring which, while also being racist, has the benefit of being known and measurable.

Here we see the rulings of two courts that have looked at the Constitution and ignored it. In the case of Nevada, the Court said one part of their State Constitution was more important than the other, so it was not only acceptable to ignore it, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature must ignore it. In the case of the United States Supreme Court, the need for something not found in the Constitution was deemed more important than what was actually clearly stated in there. In both cases the courts felt justified in ignoring the same Constitution that granted them power and authority. This shows the clear need for justices that both know and love the Constitution.

Have you been hearing the Democrats beating their chest and calling the President a liar? I find it ironic that they are so very shocked and incensed by lies now, when we had eight years of lies from Pres. Clinton, but I’ll let that slide for the nonce.

Recently the Democrat National Committee released an ad that started off with “In his State of the Union address, George W. Bush told us of an imminent threat” and then it cut to a shot of the President saying, “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” This, the Democrats tell us, is the big lie. They said that this information was proven false a year earlier, and that the Bush administration knew that this was the case. But there are a few problems with this claim from the Democrats. For one, the full text says, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” I bolded the part the Democrats conveniently left out. So, is this a lie by the President as the Democrats claim? No! This statement is accurate, and Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, is standing behind this information. While it is true that some of this information was based on forged documents, Mr. Blair has stated that they have more verified intelligence that backs this claim.

I assume most people don’t realize that the President’s major speeches are vetted by many people to make sure that they are as accurate as possible. And this State of the Union speech, because of its nature, was vetted and passed on by the CIA. That is why CIA Director George Tenet took responsibility for vetting the speech, saying, “The president had every reason to believe that the text presented to him was sound” and that it “should never have been included in the text.” It is interesting that Tenet, a Clinton appointee, is taking the blame for this, and the White House is standing behind him, even while many Democrats are calling for Tenet to be removed from office.

The Democrats would have you believe that this information completely invalidates our reasons for invading Iraq. After all, didn’t the President tell us that Iraq was pointing nuclear weapons at us? I’ve heard people claim they heard Mr. Bush say that very thing. But he didn’t. In his speech on Oct. 7, 2002, he said, “[Iraq] possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people.” Let’s break that down a bit. He said they possess and produce chemical and biological weapons. This has been proven true since Iraq has used chemical and biological weapons agaist its own people and others. And Iraq was “seeking” nuclear weapons, he tells us. This is also true. Saddam has been seeking for some for quite a while. Recently Mahdi Shukur Obeidi, an Iraqi scientist, presented some clear evidence of this “seeking” by producing a gas centrifuge that was buried in his garden. He had been told to hide this piece of uranium-enriching equipment from UN and US eyes. What about the claims about terrorism? Saddam routinely paid the families of Palestinian suicide bombers for the acts of their murderous sons, and now that Salman Pak training facility is out of Saddam’s hands, it will no longer be a training camp for terrorists. With the closing of the prisons and torture chambers, Saddam cannot terrorize his own people anymore.

So we can see that President Bush’s reasons for going into Iraq have been validated, but this doesn’t matter to the Democrats. They have been screaming that since the US troops haven’t yet found any weapons of mass destruction, this invalidates our entire reason for invading Iraq. I can only assume they didn’t see the video of the children released from prison. The only crime committed by these children was not joining the youth version of the Baath party. Some of these had been imprisoned for over five years, but their freedom isn’t reason enough for Democrats to accept the war. Unless the US finds some weapons of mass destruction, they won’t accept any good results coming from Iraq. The Democrats must think that a little over three months is more than enough time to inspect a country the size of California for hidden equipment and weapons. But do you remember their rallying cry from before the war? That’s right, “Give the inspectors more time.” They were more than willing to give Hans Blix and his group of Keystone Cops over 11 years to inspect Iraq, but they haven’t been able to wait a few months for our troops to hunt for these things. Why the change in attitude?

I said I found it ironic that the Democrats are so very shocked and incensed by presidential lies, but it’s not really all that surprising. Since they aren’t in power, the Democrats will use any means possible to smear and besmirch the President and tear down his actions. What you see here is just Democrat politics in action.

The Declaration of Independence acknowledges that we have been endowed by our Creator with rights, and it is the responsibility of the governments which we form to ensure that we may freely exercise these rights. It states that among these unalienable rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When Thomas Jefferson initially drafted the Declaration, these rights were listed as life, liberty and property, but even though the latter was changed, it is clear from the writings of the Founding Fathers that property was likewise considered a vital God-given right.

These God-given rights are currently under attack, and they are under attack because God is under attack. If atheists had their way, the word “God” would be scoured from every part of our land, and this action justified under the catchphrase “separation of Church and State.” Never mind that this often cited phrase never appears in the Declaration or the Constitution. This phrase has entered the public conscience and is often granted greater weight of authority than the actual text of the First Amendment, which states that Congress shall make “no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Having broken with England, the Founding Fathers didn’t want to establish a state church like the Church of England. Rather, they wanted the government to step away from religion and neither help nor hinder.

If atheists get their wish, and God is removed from our land, expect our rights to be removed shortly thereafter. I’ve seen some puzzled looks when I state that to friends, so let me explain that clearly. Our founding documents acknowledge that our rights come not from government, but from God. We grant the government authority to act in our behalf, and government exists only to serve and protect us. In other countries, the government itself bestows rights upon the people. And because the government gives these rights, the government can also take them away. You need only read Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution to see this in action. It states, “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” I’m sure you noticed just how well these rights of the people were protected at Tiananmen Square.

If there is no God, then who or what grants us our rights? They can’t be “God-given” if there is no God to give them, right? Then this implies that the rights must flow from the government. And what the government gives one day, it can easily remove the next. You can see how this has happened in the People’s Republic of China, and I do not wish to see it happen here in the United States. So I’ll be keeping both my God and my God-given rights, thank you very much.

Addendum: Imagine taking a large multi-story house and removing the steel reinforced concrete foundation and replacing it with massive wood beams. You could say that the foundation is just as strong, and you could be right. But by changing the materials of the foundation to something intrinsically weaker, you have entrusted the stability of your fine edifice to a material that will rot and be eaten by insects. Do you really want to do that? If you aren’t willing to do that with a house, why would you do that with our nation?

There are some things in life that are worth fighting for. In some cases, this means doing the fighting yourself, but in others, it involves calling in someone with a gun to do the fighting on your behalf.

If someone tells you that he wants to kill you and your family, picks up a large knife, and starts marching toward your spouse and kids, would you be willing to shoot that person if you found a loaded gun in your hand? If you are unwilling to protect your family personally, would you summon some armed police officers to stop that madman before he slaughters your family? I certainly hoped you answered yes to at least one of those questions, because this means that you agree with me that life is worth fighting for. And it doesn’t have to be your own life, or the life of your family. I would be willing to fight and cause others to fight to save the lives of strangers if I saw them being attacked on the street. Most people would. Life is just that important.

Would you do the same if a criminal threatened to kidnap you or your family? Let’s say in this case that your lives are not at risk, but your liberty certainly is. Would you be willing to defend yourself and your family from such criminals, or summon armed police if you are unable or unwilling? If yes, would you also be willing to do the same for some faceless nobody on the street that you see being forcibly tossed into a car? Most people would. Liberty is just that important.

What would you do if you saw a known arsonist march into your empty home with a box of matches and a can of kerosene? Would you stop him or summon armed police to stop him? Sure you would. Since the house is empty, you know he won’t harm you or anyone else in your house, and he’s not taking away your liberty, but he is certainly threatening your property, and that is worth defending. Now what would you do if this guy were marching into a stranger’s home? Would you stop him yourself or call the police? Most people would. Property is just that important.

Life, liberty and property are cornerstones of our society. Take away any of these, and we lose God-given freedoms. Each one is worth defending from all those who would attack them and take them away. If we are unwilling or unable to defend them personally, we certainly will call upon our armed police officers to defend them for us. And if life, liberty and property is threatened by armed thugs or enemy states, then we have every justification to call upon our armed forces to do the protecting. And this applies whether we are being threatened, or others are being threatened.

Case in point: the people of Iraq now have the God-given freedoms denied them for decades. With the closing of the torture chambers and the freeing of the innocent, we see the justification for the military action taken.

I recently realized that there are two methods of making decisions in our lives that I see as being on opposite sides of a spectrum.

On one side is Knowledge. This requires researching out the decision at hand and learning all that is possible about the good and bad aspects of the decision. You can see this in action when someone compares two items in the store that are the same, but packaged in different-sized containers. Is it better to buy the 10 oz. package at $2, or the 48 oz. package at $8.50? Well, define “better.” If you are looking for best value, then buy the larger package since it costs less per ounce. But value may not be the only thing at issue. What about the size of the package or the amount of money in your pocket? Are there any other factors that will influence this choice? Most likely, there are.

The better we understand the issues at hand, the better we may make an informed decision when faced with a choice. But in our society, we are confronted with a growing level of complexity that makes fully understanding the issues and items around us an increasingly more difficult task to perform. Do you prefer that a nuclear or coal-burning power plant be set up in your state? Do you understand the differences, benefits, and drawbacks of each? Fully? I know I don’t. And this brings up another drawback of using knowledge for decision-making: the length of time required to make an informed choice. We are so often caught up in a multitude of activities that we may not have the time or the inclination to learn what we need for a informed decision.

On the other side of the spectrum is Emotion. There is no logic in picking a green dishwashing liquid over blue, other than preferring one color over another. Making decisions based purely on emotion is much faster than using knowledge. Does it really matter which shirt you wear today? If not, then just wear the one you like the best and get on with your day.

Yet making decisions based solely on emotion can be dangerous, too. Because we make them based on our gut-feelings, we may be easily led by someone whose products are specifically designed to play on our emotions. You can see this in action in government by the names placed on bills and programs. After all, who could vote against the Clean Air and Water Act based solely on its snappy name? Don’t we all want a clean environment? But if we base our judgment on the name alone, then we have been manipulated into accepting all the fine print in there that we didn’t bother to read.

So we have two ways of making decisions, but we don’t use exclusively one or the other. Instead, we will often use a mixture of the two. That is why I said these two are on the opposite sides of a spectrum with a blending of them lying between the two extremes. People are free to decide how to choose, but I prefer to choose things based more on knowledge than emotion. And the more important the decision, the more I try to base that decision on the best information I can find.

Yeah, just what the ‘Net needs: yet another opinion page.

But I know that this will be worthwhile, even if nobody likes it, mainly because I’ll be doing the writing. So if no one reads this stuff, I will still count it as time well spent because the very act of writing down my thoughts, beliefs and ideas will help solidify them better in my mind.

So, welcome to this window into my mind. I hope you don’t mind the mess, but I suspect that will improve as I write.