A few weeks back, someone made a comment that boggled my wife. For convenience’s sake, let’s just call this speaker Ann. Ann and my wife were driving around town when they passed a tax preparation business. A guy in front was holding up a sign that read, “Honk for Tax Cuts.” Quite a few people were. This prompted Ann to comment, “Oh, yeah, that’s really smart. How is our economy ever going to get back on its feet if you take your tax cuts?

Ann is not alone in the idea that tax cuts are bad for the economy. While speaking to George Stephanopoulos on World News Tonight, Peter Jennings said of then Treasury Secretary-designate John Snow, “He is said to be in favor of further tax cuts but against deficits. Doesn’t one lead to the other?” No, Peter. Adjusting tax rates adjusts the income the government receives from taxes. Deficits are a result of spending. If I spend more than I earn, it doesn’t matter how much I earn; I am still spending too much. This is exactly what happened during the Reagan administration. About four months later, Matt Lauer said, “A lot of people say, ‘Why are you cutting taxes now when you’re increasing the deficit.’ Shouldn’t this be a time when you’re increasing taxes?” Matt, rasing taxes would only make sense if you honestly believed that it would increase the money the government brings in. But does it?

The Heritage Foundation has a clear write-up of just how the government and the rich are affected by tax rate cuts. Previous to our current administration, there have been three periods of large cuts in the federal tax rates. These happened during the 1920s, 1960s and 1980s.

In the 1920s, the top tax rate went from 70% to less than 25%. During this time, personal income tax revenues paid to the federal government rose 61%. Then-Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon summed it up this way:

The history of taxation shows that taxes which are inherently excessive are not paid. The high rates inevitably put pressure upon the taxpayer to withdraw his capital from productive business and invest it in tax-exempt securities or to find other lawful methods of avoiding the realization of taxable income. The result is that the sources of taxation are drying up; wealth is failing to carry its share of the tax burden; and capital is being diverted into channels which yield neither revenue to the Government nor profit to the people.

During the Depression, President Hoover increased tax rates, and President Roosevelt raised the top tax rate to more than 90%! It’s no wonder that the Roosevelt administration had no beneficial effect on the national economy. If it hadn’t been for World War II and its increased productivity, this nation would have suffered even longer from the massive hike in taxes. President Kennedy asked for a reduction in these rates, and the top rate went from 90% down to 70%. During the next seven years, the economy grew and federal tax revenues grew 62%. President Kennedy said of this tax cut:

Our true choice is not between tax reduction, on the one hand, and the avoidance of large Federal deficits on the other. It is increasingly clear that no matter what party is in power, so long as our national security needs keep rising, an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenues to balance our budget just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits… In short, it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now.

About 20 years later, President Reagan proposed dropping the top income tax rate from 70% down to near 20%. Contrary to what many revisionist historians say, taxes brought in by the government climbed an amazing 99% during the 1980s. The deficit grew during the 1980s not because the government failed to bring in taxes; rather it grew because the government proceeded to spend even more than it brought in. If you fail to live within your means, doubling your salary will not help if you continue to spend more than what you bring in. Then-U.S. Representative Jack Kemp spoke of the Reagan tax cuts:

At some point, additional taxes so discourage the activity being taxed, such as working or investing, that they yield less revenue rather than more. There are, after all, two rates that yield the same amount of revenue: high tax rates on low production, or low rates on high production.

So here we are, over a decade after the Reagan administration, and the people still have not realized that tax rate cuts are beneficial to both the government in the form of more tax revenue, and to the people in the form of a stronger economy. After the devastating attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the resulting losses in the airline industry and economic confidence, the tax cuts proposed by President Bush have started to have a good result for the nation. In the last six months of 2003, real GDP grew at an annual rate of 6.1%, the fastest 6-month growth rate in nearly 20 years. Isn’t it interesting that if we subtract 20 years from 2003, we get 1983? To compare the growth brought by this tax cut, we have to go back to the last major tax cut.

So you see, Ann, tax cuts will get our nation back on its feet faster than any other government program. And it has worked every time it has been tried. On the other hand, at no point in history has any nation taxed itself into prosperity.

I have written about illegal immigration in the past, but the time has come to revisit the subject. Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge said before a town meeting in Florida, “The bottom line is, as a country we have to come to grips with the presence of 8 to 12 million illegals, afford them some kind of legal status some way, but also as a country decide what our immigration policy is and then enforce it.” I agree 100% with his last part. We do need to decide what our immigration policy is and enforce it. Currently, the federal government and many states turn a blind eye to the problem of illegal aliens. In my mother-in-law’s school, there are many families that she is certain are in this country illegally, but she is prohibited from asking them for proof of citizenship or immigration papers. This is a kind of stupidity only the government could create: make a show of guarding our borders from aliens, but ignore them when they get inside.

This new proposal on immigration by President Bush is based in legislation already drafted by three Arizona Republicans : Rep. Jim Kolbe, Rep. Jeff Flake, and Sen. John McCain. The first part of this legislation would make it easier for businesses to bring in an unspecified number of aliens for low-wage jobs, and the second part would allow illegal aliens and their extended families who are already hiding in the U.S. to remain here legally. The administration claims this isn’t an amnesty plan because the illegal aliens would need to wait for some time and pay a fee before obtaining legal permission to stay, but if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and shouts “AFLAC!” like a duck, then it’s a duck, President Bush. And this is an amnesty program, regardless of what political verbiage is used.

What would happen if you announced to the community at large that the Krispy Kreme donut shop would be giving away boxes of donuts to everyone who drops by before midnight? Before the announced deadline, people would be rushing through the doors to get their hands on the free food. This is human nature. Now that the administration has announced a general “Ollie Ollie oxen free!” for illegals, what do you think has happened to the rate of illegals pouring across our borders? If you said the rate has gone up since the announcement, give yourself a gold star on the forehead. And if you think that we have lots of people pouring across our borders now, just wait until the legislation passes and the cutoff time for free entry draws close. Our borders will show just how porous they really are. And here’s the big worry: mixed in with the floods of decent people looking for a new and better life for themselves and their families, how many evil-minded terrorists will also pass through our borders? In a time when our nation’s safety is considered so important that a new cabinet-level post was created – the Secretary of Homeland Security – why is the administration proposing a plan that will raise the illegal immigrant rate in the same manner as actress Charlize Theron raised her weight for the movie Monster, by binging on Krispy Kreme donuts?

I am strongly against illegal immigration and the government’s approval of it, but I am very much in favor of legal immigration. Now before you get your undies in a bunch, let me clarify that I am not a racist. I do not care what country you come from, your age, race, sex, or ethnic background. I do care if you will be a honest and law-abiding visitor or aspiring citizen-to-be. As long as you enter the country legally, then I welcome you with open arms. If you cannot be an honest and law-abiding visitor, then I don’t want you even to think of heading toward the U.S. If you enter illegally, then I want the screen door to hit you on the butt hard as you leave this nation.

And don’t ever come back.

“My message to you concerns inciting and continuing to urge for jihad to repulse the grand plots that have been hatched against our nation, especially since some of them have appeared clearly, such as the occupation of the Crusaders, with the help of the apostates, of Baghdad, the house of the caliphate, under the trick of weapons of mass destruction. There is also the fierce attempt to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and destroy jihad and the mujahideen in beloved Palestine by employing the trick of the road map and the Geneva peace initiative.”

What we have here is yet another tape from Osama bin Laden. In this case, it came out early in January. Let me give you a quick summary of the message: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Have you ever noticed that the pedantic tone of Osama’s taped messages sounds similar to Hitler’s Mein Kampf? Oh, no! I’ve invoked Godwin’s Law by mentioning Hitler; therefore, this message is over.

 

 

 

 

 

Still with me? Good. There are some pretty striking similarities between the two. Both have a hatred for Jews, and both went blah blah blah. Let’s look at some of what Osama said in that paragraph.

“…grand plots that have been hatched against our nation…” What nation would that be, Osama? The nation of Iraq? The nation of Afghanistan? But you are neither Iraqi nor Afghani, Osama. Could it be that you are talking about the whole Islamic nation? Who selected you as the spokesman for the billion Muslims on Earth? As President Bush has made clear, this is not a war against Islam; this is a war against cowardly thugs like you who hide behind the robes of Mohammed and pollute the words of Allah on their lying lips.

Why do Osama bin Laden and other terrorists hate America so? We would have been content to ignore his wide-eyed rantings in the Afghani mountains if he had not raised his hand against others. So why does he hate America? Steve Den Beste has written a fantastic treatise on why these terrorists hate America on his site:

It’s really difficult to exactly delineate who our enemies are, but they number in millions. They’re Arab and Muslim, but not every Arab is among them, and most Muslims are not….

[O]ur enemy is trying to compete in the 21st century footrace with both feet cast into buckets of concrete. They are profoundly handicapped by the very values that they hold most dear and that they believe make them what they are.

The nations and the peoples within the zone of our enemy’s culture are complete failures. Their economies are disasters. They make no contribution to the advance of science or engineering. They make no contribution to art or culture. They have no important diplomatic power. They are not respected. Most of their people are impoverished and miserable and filled with resentment, and those who are not impoverished are living a lie.

They hate us. They hate us because our culture is everything theirs is not. Our culture is vibrant and fecund; our economies are successful. Our achievements are magnificent. Our engineering and science are advancing at breathtaking speed. Our people are fat and happy (relatively speaking). We are influential, we are powerful, we are wealthy. “We” are the western democracies, but in particular “we” are the United States, which is the most successful of the western democracies by a long margin. America is the most successful nation in the history of the world, economically and technologically and militarily and even culturally….

We’re everything that they think they should be, everything they once were, and by our power and success we throw their modern failure into stark contrast, especially because we’ve gotten to where we are by doing everything their religion says is wrong. We’ve deeply sinned, and yet we’ve won. They are forced to compare their own accomplishments to ours because we are the standard of success, and in every important way they come up badly short. In most of the contests it’s not just that our score is higher, it’s that their score is zero.

They have nothing whatever they can point to that can save face and preserve their egos. In every practical objective way we are better than they are, and they know it.

Steve points out that these militant groups have three options: 1) they can stagnate, ceasing to wield power and influence in the world, 2) they can reform and turn their backs on militant Islamic ideas, or 3) they can lash out against America specifically and Western culture in general.

If they chose either of the first two options, we would not lift a hand to harm them. But since they have chosen to lash out in anger against us, America cannot allow them to stand, and their days are numbered. Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and al Qaeda have already learned this lesson.

I strongly suggest visiting Steve Den Beste’s site. While I don’t agree with everything he writes, he is one of the best-thought-out writers I have encountered in a long time. In addition to the article above, I suggest reading the following articles:

The 108th Congress convenes today, and once it starts up our pocketbooks are no longer safe from federal filching of funds. Already President Bush has presided over a federal budget growth of over 7% for the last two years. Republican president or not, this growth is causing fiscal conservatives to see red. Whatever happened to fiscal responsibility? Every time the government votes to pay more for a program, it is declaring open season on our wallets. Government doesn’t produce wealth; it can only tax and take the money from the people who do produce wealth in the country. And what does the government spend our taxed money on? Frivolous things that the government has absolutely no right to spend money on!

The Constitution is clear about what Congress can do. Article I, Section 8 outlines exactly what the duties of Congress are. If it ain’t in this list, Congress can’t do it. But that hasn’t stopped members of Congress from doing it anyway. Look carefully at Section 8 and tell me where Congress received the authority to spend money on the arts, Social Security, prescription drugs, Medicaid, Medicare, and the myriad other programs where our taxes are spent.

Article I, Section 8

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

The federal government would not have the gut-busting budget of today, over 2 trillion dollars, if Congress had restrained itself to the duties outlined in the Constitution. But it should be pretty obvious that Congress has no intention of following the Constitution. You know it. I know it. The American people know it. Well, Americans may not know it – or if we do, we’re apathetic to care. After all, isn’t it time for American Idol?

In addition to the federal legislature convening today, the various state legislatures are starting up this week, too. If you think your pocketbook is looking threadbare from federal pilfering, then get ready for the states to get their share of your money. When I lived in Washington, I was glad to see that there wasn’t a state income tax, but the state still got its money out of me in the form of numerous taxes and fees. One way or another, government will vacuum your cash.

What are we to do? First, we need to pay attention to what the government is doing, both local, state, and federal. And when we notice they are doing things they shouldn’t, we need to become loud and boisterous in our complaints. A general distrust of government is healthy — it keeps them on their toes and their hands out of the cookie jar. On the ride home today, I heard a paranoid talk-show host wonder if the government was actually bussing the homeless out of Washington D.C. down south where it is warmer, or something else. (Insert your own paranoid pause here!) If I could have called in, I would have yelled, “Soylent green is made of people!”

Be concerned, but don’t be paranoid.

In a previous Captain’s Comment, I mentioned the turmoil in Texas over redistricting. The law allows for voting districts to be redrawn after each national census, and it has traditionally been the perk of the party in power to draw the new district lines. During the decades of Democrat control of Texas, the Democrats exercised their majority power in configuring the districts as they saw fit. But now that the Republicans are in power, the Democrats are having fits.

After angry words and an attempt to run away, the Democrats in Texas have finally realized that they don’t have the majority power any more, so they can’t ram through the bills that they want. They have already shown themselves to be spoiled children who will take their ball and go home (or to Oklahoma) if things don’t go their way, and this tendency hasn’t changed much in the last little while. Granted, the Democrats are no longer running away to Oklahoma and hiding out there as they did last year; instead, they are going to the courts to stop the Republicans. It just isn’t right that the Republicans get to have the same fun that Democrats had, and the strong arm of the judicial branch is just what the Democrats need to rein in the fun. Only it hasn’t worked.

Many different Democratic groups have filed lawsuits in an attempt to stop the redistricting of Texas, claiming that it harms minority voting rights. A widespread collection of groups has come together to champion the “little guy” in Texas: the Texas Democratic congressional delegation, mental powerhouse Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, fellow Democratic Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Coalition of Black Democrats, and various other Democratic groups. Actually, they aren’t that widespread after all — they are all liberals. Surprise, surprise!

On January 6, 2004, a three-member judicial panel upheld the redistricting plan put forward by the Republicans. In an amicus brief, the liberals asserted the Republicans were trying to “redraw the state’s congressional districts solely for the purpose of seizing between five and seven seats from Democratic incumbents.” In their finding, the justices responded, “It was clear from the evidence that this assertion is true.” It is true, but that doesn’t invalidate the action. This is the normal “spoils of war” for the winning party. Sour grapes if you ask me, since the Democrats were happy enough to do the very same thing in 1991 when they controlled redistricting.

If things go well in the 2004 Congressional elections for the Republicans, they will pick up a large majority of the Texas seats and strengthen their control of the state. But this is not a foregone conclusion. The Democrats configured their boundaries in 1991 to suit their needs and make control easier, but they lost control all the same. This idea is reflected in the judges’ comment, “In Texas, redistricting advantages can be overcome through the political process. The exchange of political advantage between the Democrats in 1990 and the Republicans in 2000 demonstrates this reality.”

While it is true that the Republicans drew up the new map to benefit themselves, this action was not racially motivated. Contrary to the Democrat claim that redistricting would harm minority voting rights, the court sided with the Republicans and said that the current plan would not harm minority voting rights, nor was the plan crafted with racial bias in mind. In examining the action of placing a large Democratic area of southeast Tarrant County into District 26, the judges said, “The actions were not taken because of race; they were taken in spite of it.” Judges Patrick Higginbotham and Lee Rosenthal said, “We are compelled to conclude that this plan was a political product from start to finish. The myriad decisions made during its creation were made in spite of, and not because of, its effects upon blacks and Latinos.”

I find it very interesting and telling that liberals look at people as groups, not as individuals. To a Democrat, you are Black, Latino, Gay, Female, or some other easily-pigeonholed group. And you had better go along with their idea of how this group should behave and think, or you are an “Uncle Tom” like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, or “not Latino enough” like former judicial nominee Miguel Estrada. If you stray from the Democrats’ idea of how your group should think, act and vote, then you cease to be Black, Latino or any other minority group to which the Democrats pander.

This viewpoint is clear when you hear the comments and arguments put forth by Democrats against this redistricting. Judging by their rhetoric, you’d guess there were churches and crosses burning all across Texas. U.S. Representative Martin Frost, a Democrat from Dallas, said, “By judicial fiat, a three-judge federal panel has effectively repealed the Voting Rights Act and turned back the clock on nearly 40 years of progress for minority voters.” Is a person’s right to vote restricted or repressed if that person is part of a minority group in any given area? While I lived in Washington, I was very much in the minority as a conservative. Did that mean my right to vote was somehow thwarted since none of the senators, representatives, or governors I voted for were ever elected? Who said I had the right to elect a person? I don’t. I have the right to vote for someone, and if that someone gathers sufficient other votes, then that someone is elected.

Let’s imagine a ludicrous example: suppose the boundaries for a district were changed in such a way that each district were filled with Republican voters and one lone Democrat. Has the voting right of the Democrat been violated? No. He is still able to cast his vote for the candidate of his choice, just as everyone else can. But to hear the Democrats go on about the Texas redistricting, they seem to think that a liberal candidate failing to be elected to office is somehow an infringement of their rights. And the Democrats will march out of state and launch lawsuits to make sure none but their favorite minorities get to elect their chosen candidates.

But don’t make the mistake of being a minority who doesn’t kowtow to the liberal notion of how a minority person should behave. Then these champions of race and equality will turn on you faster than you can say “Oreo” to Condoleezza Rice.

I tend not to just quote someone and have done with it, but in this instance I’m going to be guilty of doing exactly that. Jim Quinn is the host of a newly syndicated talk show out of Pittsburgh. If you have the good fortune to hear him live as his list of stations grows, count yourself very lucky. Otherwise, if you are like me and most of us, you can download his show later that day to listen at your leisure.

Since his show is newly syndicated, he has announced his Quick-Start guide to his morning show:

  1. We believe the solution to the human condition is liberty. Three hundred years of the most successful country the globe has ever seen is proof enough. No government program created this country; God did.
  2. The unspoken Bush doctrine is the decades of the dictators are over! We had a parade of them for a hundred years, and they killed 100 million of us. We’ve learned our lesson.
  3. America is not an imperialist nation. We are not shoving our way of life down other people’s throats. We are shoving freedom down the throats of tyrants, so other people can choose their own way of life. That is the answer to the question “What is the role of the worlds only super power?”
  4. Marxism is the greatest threat to human freedom and growth. It has never worked anywhere it has been tried, but it is still taught in every college. It’s time to drain the swamp of these 1960s reprobates and charge them with selling a defective product.
  5. America is not the world’s largest polluter because
    1. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant; it’s a plant food.
    2. In terms of wealth versus tons of pollution, we are the cleanest country on earth because we are free and have the disposable wealth to clean up after ourselves.
  6. The environmental movement uses the environment and animal species as an excuse for putting the means of production (i.e.: Land) off limits to the citizen. This putting the means of production off limits to the citizens is called Communism.
  7. We have a highly progressive income tax. Russia has moved to a 13% flat tax, so we have Karl Marx’s tax system, and Russia has Steve Forbes’ tax system. If you don’t see a problem here, you are probably a registered Democrat.
  8. Abortion is the sacrament of the feminist church. It is the ultimate expression of separation of women from her nature. Feminists like this and will go to any lengths to protect this so-called right. There is no pro-abortion argument that is not routed in feminist rage or personal convenience.
  9. The fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives is liberals see every new life as a potential problem, while a conservative sees every new life as a potential solution–a gift.
  10. There is no conclusive evidence that a human caused global warming. ZERO! It’s the hoax of the century and makes a lot of people a lot of grant money and makes a convenient excuse for putting a “Global Governor” on Capitalism. So why not teach it to our kids, and pretend it’s true?
  11. No one has ever died trying to paddle a rubber boat from Miami to Cuba.
  12. Racial profiling is what groups call common sense when they have a problem they don’t want to talk about. When they say they want to discuss it, they don’t. They just want you to shut up.
  13. To a Conservative, adversity is indistinguishable from opportunity.
  14. The UN is an expensive farce that allows tyrants to park free and pretend they are legitimate world statesmen, which they are not.
  15. Wahabbist Islam is a mental illness.
  16. There is such a thing as evil, and you cannot negotiate with it.
  17. Common sense and government are mutually exclusive. You cannot have both.
  18. Reaganomics is the only economics that works. Lowering tax rates increases wealth to everyone including government because there is no limit to wealth. New wealth is created when a human acts on a resource. Humans can only do that when they are free. Taxes are restrictions on freedom.
  19. The Second Amendment is the essential counter-balance to the deadly power of law-making, and it means exactly what it says!
  20. In our republic God is a necessary legal concept. When God is removed from our public life, our rights will flow from men instead, and they will change those rights.
  21. QUINN’S FIRST LAW: Liberalism always generates the exact opposite of its stated intent.

Some of these topics have been commented on by me before. (1, 2, 3, 4) And some others will be covered later as the muse strikes me. My challenge to you is to find one of the items above that you disagree with, and write a coherent explanation as to why you disagree with it.

Come on! I triple-dog dare ya!

On Christmas Day 2003, famed singer and song-writer Willie Nelson penned a protest song. According to his wife, Annie, Willie complained that there were “a lot of babies dying and mothers crying” on the TV news. She replied, “That sounds like a song.” And so he penned the song “What Ever Happened To Peace On Earth.”

I first heard these lyrics while driving to lunch one day. The host of the radio show read the lyrics of Willie Nelson’s song aloud in all seriousness. Not being the long-haired liberal type myself, I recognized the sentiment, but not the facts behind the holiday lyrics. And since this is my place to do so, I’m going to spend a bit of time hashing out his words. You can read them in full, and a brief article about the song here at CommonDreams.org.

Before I jump into the actual lyrics, here is the last paragraph from the website above: “Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March saying that Saddam Hussein threatened U.S. security by possessing weapons of mass destruction, but no such weapons were found.” Nice ending line, Anonymous Reuters News Person, but you missed a word. It should read “no such weapons were found yet.” That would be more honest, but to fully cross the line from biased news spinner to a factual reporter of the news, it should have said that the U.S., Britain, Russia, Iraq, Iran, and the U.N. claimed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. In fact, the Danes are reported to be investigating several mortar shells found in Iraq for a liquid blister agent. People often say that Saddam didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, but the Kurds and Iranians would disagree. They experienced Saddam’s chemical weapons firsthand, and it is believed that these mortars date from the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s.

Anyway, what about Willie’s protest song? In the very first stanza, we get the tried and trite phrase “How much oil is one human life worth?” Earth to Willie! This war is not about oil. If oil were our only goal, why have we not already annexed Kuwait as the 51st State of the Union? That would have been so much easier. But rather than a grab for oil, the war to liberate Iraq from Saddam’s control is very much a part of the United States’ war against terror. I already posted about how Mohammed Atta was trained in Iraq for the September 11th attacks. But Willie says this war is about oil. And as a singer, he has really kept himself abreast of current events. That’s why he can state this with such authority.

“They’re gonna’ kill us / So we gotta’ kill them first” Since Willie has obviously forgotten, the United States was attacked on September 11th, 2001. Atta was trained to do this in Iraq. Are we trying to kill them first? No. We toppled Saddam from power and routed al Qaeda from Afghanistan so they could not hit us again. “But I remember a commandment / Thou shall not kill” This commandment does not make sense if you read it that way. Is it against this commandment to defend yourself by killing your attacker? This commandment is often translated from the Hebrew as “Thou shalt not murder.” A ban on murder is different from a ban on all killing, and Willie should be smart enough to know the difference.

“Hell they won’t lie to me / Not on my own damn TV / But how much is a liar’s word worth” This is a common attack on President Bush — “He lied to us!” Really? Where? Contrary to what many people say, President Bush did not claim that Saddam was an imminent threat. He said, “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.” But this does not stop people from changing President Bush’s words and then claiming that he lied.

“So I guess it’s just / Do unto others before they do it to you” Here’s a short list for you, Mr. Nelson: the World Trade Center attack of September 11th, 2001; the World Trade Center bombing of 1993; the attack on the USS Cole; the 1998 American Embassy bombing in Nairobi; the 1998 American Embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam; the attack on Pan American Flight 103. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it should indicate the type and number of attacks leveled against the United States by terrorists. Since we kept shrugging these attacks off, al Qaeda decided to launch an attack that we could no longer ignore — the attacks of September 11th.

“But don’t confuse caring for weakness / You can’t put that label on me” Do you care, Willie? Really care? I guess this caring is what prompted you to put on those USO shows for the troops overseas serving to rid the world of terrorism. Or are you so caring that you feel you have done your part by writing a song filled with mistaken ideas and twisted words?

“The truth is my weapon of mass protection / And I believe truth sets you free” Mr. Nelson, if you had been at the top of One World Trade Center or Two World Trade Center on that clear morning in September, the truth would not have protected you from death. Nor did the truth protect 3,000 innocent people from the hate-inspired actions of terrorists. The truth, Mr. Nelson, is that little of what you say makes a difference in this world. It is what you do, or choose not to do, that will have a greater impact. President Bush decided that we could no longer turn a blind eye to terrorists, and he has laid out a plan to make the world safer. While these actions are painful to us as a nation generally, and to the families of our brave men and women in the armed services specifically, these actions are reaping benefits.

“And whatever happened to peace on earth” Peace — long-lasting and enduring peace — comes from complete victory, not appeasement and token resistance. President Clinton spent eight years tossing a few cruise missiles at empty camps and aspirin factories, or completely ignoring the actions of terrorists. The country of Sudan offered up Osama bin Laden to President Clinton, but he turned the offer down. How well did these actions bring peace on Earth? A few years later, the repercussions from these acts of weakness were played on TVs around the earth as scenes of death and destruction were broadcast to a horrified world.

What happened to peace on Earth? It is being earned day by day by servicemen and -women who are putting their lives on the line fighting terrorists while you, Willie Nelson, sit comfortably at home penning songs about things you don’t understand. Peace will come when those brave men and women finish their jobs despite, and not because of, what you do.

There is a reason why I don’t listen to the opinions of actors and singers. Willie Nelson typifies this reason. In the words of the song, “How much is one picker’s word worth”? Not too much.

The Bill of Rights outlines many, but not all, of our rights. And as important as these rights are, the Fifth Amendment explains that these rights and the basic rights of life, liberty, and property may be denied us through due process of law. One of the controversial rights debated by many people in this country is the right to bear arms. Based on the intent of the original framers of the Constitution, this is an individual right, but regardless of what you think of the Second Amendment, there are some restrictions placed on this right.

Project Safe Neighborhoods is a website that outlines one of the government’s responses to gun crime. I firmly believe that we have the right to peacefully possess firearms for our own enjoyment and protection, but people do not have the right to use firearms to intimidate or assault others in a criminal way, and the government agrees with me. Federal prosecutors are ready and willing to bring armed lawbreakers before federal court and put these lawbreakers away if convicted. If these miscreants are convicted, they are looking at years in jail with no chance for parole, and if they have three or more prior violent felony or serious drug offense convictions, they face a minimum of 15 years in prison without parole.

Here is a list of people who are prohibited from possessing any kind of gun or ammunition, as outlined on the Project Safe Neighborhoods site:

  • Convicted felons (convicted at state or federal level)
  • Fugitives from justice (interstate flight to avoid prosecution or testimony)
  • Drug users or addicts
  • Aliens in the U.S. illegally or on temporary status
  • Mental defectives or persons committed to mental institutions
  • People who have formally given up their U.S. citizenship
  • People who have been dishonorably discharged from the armed services
  • People involved in committing domestic violence
  • Anyone subject to a court order (protective order) forbidding him or her from stalking, harassing, or threatening an intimate partner or that partner’s child
  • Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime involving violence or a threat with a deadly weapon if the convicted person was the victim’s current or former spouse, live-in boyfriend or girlfriend, parent, or guardian

Utah has been active in cracking down on people using guns in the commission of a crime. In an article published in the Salt Lake Tribune, Matt Canham outlines how these laws and their enforcement have affected the State of Utah and its people. 25-year-old Wally Martinez was sentenced to 65 years in jail without parole for the armed robbery of a credit union, shoe store, and pizza place. His words to his mother after hearing his sentence were “Mom, they killed me.” While that sounds dramatic, it is not true. Wally brought this sentence upon his own head by breaking the law with the use of a firearm. The responsible party for this long jail time is Wally himself. Yes, jail time will be long and harsh, and he will most likely die there unless he lives past the age of 90. While I do feel sorry for him, I feel better knowing that a thug who proved three times that he was a threat and danger to the people of Utah is now off the street.

Wally’s case and his mother’s words are being used in radio ads recorded for Project Safe Neighborhoods. Hopefully people who are tempted to break the law with firearms will think twice if they realize just how hard the government will land on them. And Utah will. In 2003, Utah processed 400 indictments, up from 300 the year before. Utah is handling this differently than other states because the entire state of Utah is involved, rather than just a major city or two. People may not yet know the seriousness of breaking these laws, but steps are being taken to change that. The U.S. Attorney for Utah, Paul Warner, appears in a video that is shown to felons leaving prison. “I’m a prosecutor. I’m not a social worker, and as such, if you violate federal gun laws, you will be prosecuted. There will be no leniency,” he says. If Benjamin Jorgensen had paid attention on August 12th, 2003, he could have avoided being picked up two days later for possession of a handgun. He now faces 10 more years in prison for this act. Dumb, Ben. Real dumb.

Incarcerating repeat offenders like Wally and Benjamin lowers the crime rate in an area by the simple act of removing from the population the people who habitually break the law. But there is another factor that can dramatically drop crime in an area: an armed populace. John Lott, Jr., author of the books More Guns, Less Crime and The Bias against Guns, shows that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens have a dramatic effect on lowering crime. But you won’t hear this information on the nightly news.

In an article published on the Fox News website, Lott demonstrated the silence coming from news organizations about lawful use of firearms in the prevention of crimes. He explained how, in 2001, “the three major television networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — ran 190,000 words’ worth of gun-crime stories on their morning and evening national news broadcasts. But they ran not a single story mentioning a private citizen using a gun to stop a crime.” Were there no instances of a law-abiding citizen stopping a crime with a firearm during 2001? In newspapers, this same bias is also evident: The New York Times ran 50,745 words about gun crimes compared to only one 163-word story about “a retired police officer who used his gun to stop a robbery.” In USA Today, it was 5,660 words about gun crimes and zero words about lawful citizen use.

Could it be that there really aren’t that many defensive uses for guns? I strongly doubt that is the case. I remember reading the NRA monthly magazine outlining self-defensive use of guns. And this site catalogs some of these same occurrences. Lott points out that it is most likely the nature of the news. “If it bleeds, it leads” is a common phrase that typifies news reporting. Death, crime, and accidents are much more interesting to reporters than news of good things happening, or bad things being prevented from happening.

Basically, good news is no news. This is why there is so much more reporting on the illegal use of firearms over the legal, lawful use of firearms. But it is the latter use that has a greater effect on our society, and an effect for good. As Robert Heinlein wrote, “An armed society is a polite society.” This is self-evident; anyone who wasn’t polite wouldn’t last long. And many would-be muggers, rapists, burglars, and murderers have found this out to their detriment.

I like watching movies. If I could, I would go out and see a movie several times a week (assuming anything worth watching was in the theaters), or curl up under my blue blanket with a big bowl of garlic popcorn and pop in a DVD. My reading preference leans to science fiction with a nod to fantasy. About the only non-SF/F fiction reading I enjoy is Tom Clancy–I guess it is the military brat in me shining through. I bring up my reading preferences because I would like to see more well-thought-out science fiction movies make it to the big screen. In this day of fully computer-crafted movies like Shrek and Final Fantasy, it is possible to translate some of the classic sci-fi books into well-created movies.

I would love to see several Robert Heinlein books turned into good movies. Time for the Stars would be a great film. In this story, two telepathic twins are used to bridge the distance between Earth and outwardly-exploring starships. One twin stays home and ages, while the other stays young due to the relativistic effects of traveling close to the speed of light. Farmer in the Sky, Tunnel in the Sky, and Have Space Suit – Will Travel would all make excellent movies. If you have not read them already, go and do so now!

Of all the Heinlein novels and stories, only a few have ever been made into movies. Destination Moon came out in 1950, and it was regarded as one of the very first realistic movies about space. I watched it for the first time a few months ago, and I was surprised at how well it has aged over 50 years. Granted, we know much more about space after the success of the Apollo missions, yet there is very little to nit-pick. Project Moonbase came out in 1953 and ran just over an hour long. Originally at 47 minutes to fit an hour timeslot for TV, it was extended to its current length without Heinlein’s knowledge or consent and was quickly disavowed by him.

The Brain Eaters was released in 1956. It was so obviously based on Heinlein’s novel The Puppet Masters, yet produced without his consent, that Heinlein received an out-of-court monetary settlement and was able to pull his intellectual property from the movie. In 1994 Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters was released, this time with permission from Heinlein’s estate. While the first half of the film closely followed the novel, it departed significantly in the second half. This is one novel that could not be anything but an adults-only movie if it were done properly. Since the novel deals with alien parasites controlling people, the only way the characters could really verify someone was not controlled was to remove all clothing that could hide the parasite. Complete nudity, such as that discussed in the book, could not be part of a film with anything less than an R rating, if not NC-17. I do not foresee this story being filmed “by the book” any time soon.

Robert A. Heinlein’s Red Planet was released in 1994 as a three-part cartoon miniseries. This series only loosely follows the novel and is not really recommended by or for any Heinlein fan. I am curious to see if this series handles the gravity on Mars correctly, or skips over it since animating low-gravity effects may be difficult do properly by artists who are unused to it. Any of the novels and stories that take place off Earth would probably be achieved easiest through animation, whether drawn by hand or computer-assisted.

Starship Troopers has been made into a film three times now — once in 1989 as a Japanese production called Uchu no senshi, again in 2000 as a collection of half-hour CGI episodes, and worst of all, a big-budget movie in 1997 directed by Paul Verhoeven of Robocop fame. I usually call it “The Abomination.” While Verhoeven’s version had some of the flavor of the novel in his action scenes, the movie completely failed to understand the purpose of the novel. What can you expect from someone who never read the book?

Do not bother to see Starship Troopers unless you can enjoy the cool CGI bugs without noticing the incredibly stupid plot holes. I knew this would be a bad movie that would not follow the book even before I went to see it, but I claim temporary insanity due to my wife being out of state at the time. I noticed that the movie had a Fascistic flavor that was not in the book, which must have come from Verhoeven’s influence. In the movie, the military had become stupid and outright sadistic. Again, this had to have come from Verhoeven’s mistaken “vision” of a book he had never read. Christopher Weuve does a great job of dissecting this movie while comparing it to the book. If you’re interested, I strongly suggest that you read his “Thoughts on Starship Troopers. I will point out one last thing from “The Abomination” that pretty much sums up Verhoeven’s sloppy direction. In one news scene, “Mormon extremists” were shown in their city, “Fort Joe Smith,” with a temple-like central structure topped by a trumpet-blowing angel. First, no Mormon would refer to the first latter-day Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as “Joe.” He is always referred to as “Joseph Smith” or “Joseph Smith, Jr.” Second, while every LDS temple has a trumpet-blowing angel on top, he is not female. This poor attention to detail conveys as much respect for faith as would a movie referring to Pope John Paul II as “Johnny P.”

Several new films are coming out in 2004 that I hope will be good. Spider-Man 2 looks very good from the previews I have seen, but I have a hard time calling that a real sci-fi movie. Speaking of sci-fi movies, I, Robot is scheduled for a summer release, and is based on Issac Asimov’s robot stories. Also slated for a summer release is The Chronicles of Riddick. This is a sequel to the earlier film Pitch Black, and judging from the imagery in the preview, it looks to be visually stunning. But films have to be more than visually stunning. Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers was also visually stunning — stupid and uninformed, sure, but it looked good as it went nowhere.