Ohhh, war, I despise
Because it means destruction
Of innocent lives

War means tears
To thousands of mothers’ eyes
When their sons go to fight
And lose their lives

I said, war, huh
Good God, y’all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

– Edwin Star, War

I took a two-hour trip to the city recently, and I spotted three cars with bumper stickers that jumped out at me. The first car had “Anti-Bush” on the left, and “Anti-War” on the right. The second car had “War is never the answer.” And the third had “Wage peace, not war!” I wish I could have stopped them to ask them more about the bumper stickers and their thoughts behind them. They were obviously excited enough about the subject to put something on their cars to proclaim their points, so they should be willing to discuss the issue with me. However, people on a highway are not usually willing to stop and chat about politics. And since I had an appointment that I couldn’t miss, I couldn’t stop and chat with them even if they were willing.

If I could have talked to these people, I would have asked more about their anti-war beliefs. Is there anything they would be willing to fight for? Would they fight if someone wanted to take their wallet? Would they fight if someone broke into their home? Would they fight if someone were raping their spouse or child? Would they fight if someone were actively trying to murder them?

I can easily imagine one possible response: “I wouldn’t fight. I’d call the police!” This basically means that they want someone else to do the fighting for them. Being willing to have the police fight their battles means that they would be willing to have someone else do the work to keep themselves safe. But it is also possible that someone who is devoutly anti-war would react to the above hypothetical situations without fighting or calling on someone else to fight in his or her place. The technical term for this type of person is “victim.”

Over two thousand years ago, there were people who were willing to die at the hands of their murderers rather than raise a hand against them. These people had been a bloodthirsty and murderous group, but after their conversion, they turned from their former ways and buried all their weapons as a sign that they would no longer take up arms against anyone else, not even to defend themselves. They stood by their convictions and did not resist an invading force, even though the attackers killed 1,005 of them in one attack, and an untold number in a second attack. The people of peace eventually fled their homes for a new land, protected by the people there, and they never broke their promise to never take up arms again.

About a decade later, the question of war came up again. Moroni, the head captain of the people — their Commander-in-Chief, if you will — had a difficult decision to make. The people’s liberties were being threatened, and he could either submit or lead his people into war. Moroni took his coat and wrote on it, “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.” He placed these words, his “Title of Liberty,” on a pole to rally the people to him. For Moroni, these things were too precious to lose without a fight. He did not make the decision lightly, and the people ended up fighting for their freedoms for the next thirteen years. It was a bloody fight, with many dead on both sides, but in the end Moroni and his forces won and maintained their freedoms.

I believe that there are some things that are worth fighting, and yes, even dying for. I believe this way because the loss of these freedoms would be worse to me than the loss of my life. Christ said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” He was speaking of Himself and His upcoming death, but the sentiment holds true for the rest of us. And if a man is willing to lay down his life for a friend, is it not nobler to lay down his life for someone he doesn’t know? I am saddened at the thought of each and every serviceman and woman who dies in the line of duty, particularly the dangerous duty in the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. But I also recognize why they do what they do.

On Tuesday, June 28th, President Bush addressed the nation to explain the nature of the heroic service of the Armed Forces in Iraq. This address should never have been necessary, but the media has reported practically every American death with breathless glee: “See?! We told you it was a quagmire over there, just like Vietnam!” The primary rule of the media is “If it bleeds, it leads.” It is very rare that anything positive is reported from Iraq or Afghanistan, but this lack of reporting comes not because there is nothing positive happening there, but because the nature of news doesn’t lend itself to reporting good news. So one American’s death by some roadside bomb is a top story, but a discussion of how many other roadside bombs were successfully neutralized is never mentioned on-screen or in print. But laying aside the nature of reporting, the media would not report good things about the War on Terror because they hate President Bush, and they can’t force themselves to say anything positive about him. If you have never noticed this bias before in the media, the way the media and the Democrats seemed to respond to the President’s speech in near-lockstep should dispel any lingering doubts you may have about media bias. And it is no wonder when members of the media voted between 70-80% for anyone other than President Bush.

Here’s an example of the lockstep response I witnessed. President Bush outlined why we cannot announce a specific end-date for our forces to leave Iraq:

I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible. So do I. Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake. Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong message to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed, and not a day longer.

I listened to this speech as I was driving across the state. For hours after the speech, I heard commentator after commentator on the Leftist talk-radio circuit criticize President Bush for not giving an exact date when we would leave Iraq. This is one situation when I regret not having a cell phone. If I could have called in, I would have repeated the paragraph above and asked the commentators what part of it they didn’t grasp. I would have asked how many years it took after the rebuilding of Germany after World War II before the U.S. pulled its forces out of that nation. This is, of course, a trick question because U.S. forces are still stationed in Germany.

Calling for a specific withdrawal date shows both a lack of understanding of human nature and of history, if the desire for withdrawal is genuine, or it underlines the depths to which American Leftists will go in their attempt to harm President Bush. Few things would make Iraq a failure like announcing a withdrawal date before we are good and ready. The military didn’t lose the war in Vietnam; the media won the fight by changing public opinion about the war and pushing for an announced withdrawal.

Jim Quinn of the Warroom radio show finds it interesting and telling how the Leftists in this country are aligning themselves with the very terrorists we are fighting. Who wants an immediate withdrawal of Coalition forces from Iraq? The Leftists and the terrorists. Who points out every death in Iraq as an American failure? The Leftists and the terrorists. And who wants the U.S. to fail in its goal of helping to create a free and peaceful Iraq? The Leftists and the terrorists. I can safely state that Leftist want the U.S. cause to fail because that is the way they have aligned themselves. They have not stood up for the fight, and there will be no political benefit from their opposition views if Iraq becomes a free nation. The only way the Leftists will get any political benefit from this war is if the U.S. suffers another Vietnam-like defeat. That is why they are yammering for a withdrawal plan — because they wish to make this war into another Vietnam.

Whether you agreed with or argued with the reasons that led up to the liberation of the people of Iraq, you have to agree that it has become a very successful hornet trap for terrorists. They cannot allow a free and successful nation to exist in the Middle East because that would erode their power base and show the bankrupt state of their philosophy. That is why terrorists from all over the surrounding nations are pouring into Iraq. It is far better for the terrorists to fight trained military forces in Iraq than to launch their attacks against civilians here at home. Since the devastating attacks of September 11th, there have been no other massive attacks here in the States. In this, President Bush has been successful in drawing the terrorists to Iraq in concentrated numbers where they may be captured and killed.

We are at war, and it is a war to preserve our way of life, our freedoms, and our families. These things are worth fighting for. And it is far better to fight and defeat our enemies away from our shores. Or would you prefer to hunt these murderers house to house, Fallujah-style, in your own downtown?

If you order clothing from catalogues, you usually have to guess at the sizes listed. Sometimes there is a size chart to help you, but is that XL size shirt the same XL size that others use? Knowing the wide range of height and weight variations in people, can we really believe that the phrase “one size fits all” is true? While the manufacturer will make just the one size, the customer often experiences two sizes: too big, or too small. I’ve even started to see some stores print labels stating “one size fits most,” since manufacturers realize that we aren’t all pressed out of the same cookie cutter, as demonstrated by Robert Pershing Wadlow in the picture to the right.

This difference in people is seen in culinary tastes as well. You can see this in the multitude of different restaurants and fast food joints. If our tastes were the same, we could get away with one store offering one kind of food. The one-size-fits-all concept applied to food means everyone gets the bland chicken dinner that is served at catered events. In political circles it is often called the “rubber chicken” dinner, and it will be found in most every dinner get-together where the rule of thumb is “one size fits all.” Pass the Pepto-Bismol and start chugging pink chalk right from the bottle.

It is possible to offer a dinner that will be appreciated by the diners, but only if you offer variety. If there is a choice, some people will want the prime rib, some will want the chicken cordon bleu, some will ask for the salmon, and some will request the vegetarian plate. People with different tastes will be happy if there is a selection from which they may choose.

You can also see this variety of tastes in music. A quick glance at a music store will reveal a wondrous proliferation of genres and titles. My music taste probably isn’t identical to yours, and asking a third person will bring in a third set of tastes. Grab a random sampling of people, and you will be hard-pressed to find something that everyone wants to hear. The most you can realistically hope for is something bland that will offend the least amount of people — the musical equivalent of a rubber chicken dinner.

I am writing this article while eating lunch in the company cafeteria. Looking around at the dozens of people here, I note that no two people are dressed the same way. Obviously, I work at a place that doesn’t require a uniform. For anyone who has ever worn a uniform for work or school, can you honestly say that it was something you looked forward to putting on?

If variety is good in food, music, and clothing, why do we not ask for variety in other aspects of our lives? Some people who demand their own type of music are just as demanding that everyone be educated in one-size-fits-all public schools. Any mention of vouchers, private schools or home schooling is met with resistance. Why is an educational monopoly socially acceptable, while a software monopoly is not?

We live in a republic of 50 states united by a common history and federal government. The Founding Fathers didn’t want an overly-strong federal government calling all the shots. They thought it would be far better to have separate states making their own rules for issues within their borders. This would lead to a multitude of options open to the people. If you don’t like how your state is being run, you can work from within to change it, or you can vote with your feet and leave. A variety of states gives Americans a choice.

Our variety is one reason why our republic is far superior to any socialist or communist government. The one-size-fits-all nature of totalitarianism can never be appreciative or supportive of a society that is composed of a variety of voices and decision makers. No one person, no one group can be as smart as needed to make all the decisions for all the people. It is far better that many, if not most, decisions be made at the local or personal level.

The Soviet Union could not produce the shoes the people needed or wanted because the choice of styles, materials, sizes and amounts were controlled by bureaucrats. Adam Smith’s invisible hand of economics has proven itself far superior to anything the Soviet Union or any other totalitarian state has been able to produce for its people.

One size does not fit all. This is true for one-size-fits-all schools. This is true for Hillary’s one-size-fits-all health care. This is true for one-size-fits-all corporations. And this is true for one-size-fits-all government.

Variety truly is the spice of life.

I love the written word. When I spend the time to think about it, I am amazed at how the written word can transport me into realms of imagination and instruction. But as great as text is at conveying information, it is a slow process. You could use words to describe Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, but why do that in text? Symbols, in this case the musical notation on the score, can convey a richness of information in a way that is both simple and concise.

Look around and realize how many symbols surround you. A symbol tells you it is safe to cross as its color turns green. A symbol identifies the nation where you live as it flaps and flutters in the wind. A symbol tells a military person that the stranger approaching is an officer, another that he is a pilot, a third identifies the group he works with, and a cluster of symbols on his chest lists the awards and honors he has received. All of these things could have been done with words, but we have chosen symbols to convey these meanings.

There is a common phrase uttered today: “words mean something.” Well, symbols mean something, too. Ask any youth studying for her driving test what an eight-sided red-and-white sign means. She should know. If she doesn’t, take the cell phone out of her hand and gently direct her to the driving instructions manual. She needs to do some studying if she expects to pass her test.

We can recognize symbols almost instantly. They seem to reach through our eyes and right to the brain. How often do you consciously recognize that the traffic light has turned green? Or is it just something that you react to instinctively as it changes from red? In the U.S., we commonly see our traffic lights hanging red on top of yellow on top of green, but they hang side-by-side in some European nations. That doesn’t matter because it is the color that is important to the symbol, not the position. As a driver, you could be dropped into any road on the globe, and you would know when to stop and start at any traffic light. The symbol is used practically everywhere.

But what happens when the symbol is something with which we are unfamilar? If the traffic lights were all the same blue color and illuminated a squiggle, a line, and a circle, which one would mean “go”? If we don’t know what a symbol means, we are missing out on a level of communication, just as a deaf person misses the stream of information coming out of a radio. Being an Air Force brat myself, I’m familiar with the American military ranks, but what is the rank of a British officer with three diamonds on his shoulder? What about the other officer with just a crown? Who outranks whom, and who salutes whom? And how do they compare to American ranks? If we don’t know the symbols being used, we won’t know. Fortunately, I’m a computer geek, and I know where to find these answers.

Symbols and symbolism can change over time, but some symbols resist change and stay the same. You can see both examples in the Bible. Christ often taught in parables because a parable is a way for symbolic information to be given. Those who lack the understanding or the background to decipher the symbol will only hear stories about seeds, birds, rich men, and bread. But those who understand the symbols will understand the underlying meaning. Christ’s words about putting new wine in old bottles doesn’t make sense to our 21st Century ears, but the meaning changes if we know that the bottles of Christ’s day were made not from glass or metal but from the skins of animals. These animal-skin bottles would stretch as the wine fermented inside, and if new wine were placed inside to ferment, these old skin bottles would stretch and break.

Some of the symbolism in the Bible is harder to understand, but it is there for those who are willing to dig for it. I remember sitting in a small meeting going over the instruction for pronouncing a leper clean as found in the 14th chapter of Leviticus. The first time I had read the chapter, it was just some bizarre instructions about blood and birds, red cloth and herbs. It was hard to believe that this was something given by God to the descendants of Israel. It appeared more like some pagan ritual than a law of God.

But then the instructor read what Paul had written about the law of Moses being a shadow of things to come and a schoolmaster to bring the people to Christ. It was there as a guide and a shadow of what was to come in Christ’s life and sacrifice. And then we spent the next three hours going over this chapter verse by verse, talking about what each item and action meant, and how these tied into an overriding symbolism of Christ’s then-future sacrifice that would make all men clean who came unto Him.

Since my dear wife has been away from home, I have been doing the laundry. Every time I break out the Shout to do some spot cleaning, I am reminded of the promise in Isaiah: “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” As I put the soap into the wash, the symbolism of being made clean through the Atonement of Christ echoes in my thoughts as I go through the actions.

A powerful message can be given in the smallest of actions, and the symbolism can provide for serious contemplation that could last a lifetime. That is the beauty of symbols.

Much has been ballyhooed recently about the detainees the U.S. forces have been capturing in our War on Terror. If you follow the media, you will hear accusations that the detainees are not being accorded their rights guaranteed by the Geneva Convention. But as I have explained before, these detainees do not qualify for Geneva Convention protections as they are housed in the base at Guantanamo, Cuba, commonly called “Gitmo.” And it has been getting some nasty press recently.

The recent press about Gitmo is not the first time the Left has made an inaccurate and extreme comparison. President Bush is constantly being compared to Adolf Hitler. The Marxist Left is so enamored with this Bush/Hitler comparison that liberals will often turn a simple hand-wave into a Nazi salute. Ludicrous comparisons like Bush/Hitler or other extremes show both a contempt and ignorance of history.

Speaking of contempt and ignorance, here’s a gem of a quote from Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan: “Guantanamo has become the gulag of our time.” When people objected to this comparison, Amnesty International stood by the claim and wouldn’t budge. John Podhoretz did a very good job of comparing Gitmo with the Soviet gulag.

Number of prisoners at Gitmo: approximately 600.
Number of prisoners in the Gulag: as many as 25 million, according to the peerless Gulag historian Anne Applebaum.

Number of camps at Gitmo: 1
Number of camps in the Gulag: At least 476, according to Applebaum.

Political purpose of Gulag: The suppression of internal dissent inside a totalitarian state.
Political purpose of Gitmo: The suppression of an international terrorist group that had attacked the United States, killing 3,000 people while attempting to decapitate the national government through the hijack of airplanes.

Financial purpose of Gulag: Providing totalitarian economy with millions of slave laborers.
Financial purpose of Gitmo: None.

Seizure of Gulag prisoners: From apartments, homes, street corners inside the Soviet Union.
Seizure of Gitmo prisoners: From battlefield sites in Afghanistan in the midst of war.

If it is valid to compare Gitmo with the Soviet gulag and declare them to be equivalent, then we would also be justified in comparing a paper-cut with a beheading, or a sunburn with being burned alive. Paul Mirengoff of Power Line Blog points out that this gulag quote from Amnesty International was merely an attempt to grab publicity:

Now we have the answer — it was a publicity stunt. As the Washington Times notes, Amnesty International’s Executive Director William Schulz basically admitted as much on “Fox News Sunday.” Unable to defend his gulag analogy, Schulz instead observed that if his group hadn’t asserted that analogy, he wouldn’t “be on this station, on this program today.” To which Chris Wallace responded, “So you’re saying if you make irresponsible charges, that’s good for your cause?”

People are free to say what they want, but there is an equivalent responsibility not to mislead. Something happens when the trivial is compared with the tragic — the comparison minimizes the scope of the tragedy. If I had relatives who had died in the Nazi death camps, I’d be spitting mad at the boors who have the temerity to compare the “three hots and a cot” the detainees get at Gitmo with the ovens of Dachau.

Not to be outdone in the rush to be outraged, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) rushed forward to claim his 15 minutes of fame by tearing into the guards at Gitmo:

“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”

What is the torture to which Senator Durbin is referring that is worthy of comparison to Hitler, Stalin, and Pot? Mass graves? Beheadings? Brace yourself for the horror that makes Gitmo equal to these human horrors: detainees in Gitmo are subject to cold and hot rooms, standing, poking in the chest with a finger, water on the head, satirical puppet shows, American flags, and *shudder* Christina Aguilera music. Yeah, I’d rank that right up there with the ovens at Dachau. James Lileks does a grand job of showing just how stupid this comparison is.

Still, Sen. Durbin is a hero to the Marxist Left in the nation. Markos “Screw ‘Em” Moulitsas is trumpeting his support of Sen. Durbin on his well-visited site. He views what is happening in Gitmo as torture. “The torture that was so bad under Saddam, is equally bad under U.S. command. And Dick Durbin had the balls to say it so on the Senate floor.”

Earth to Kos — there is a difference between real torture and what goes on in Gitmo. Let’s compare and see if you can spot the difference:

Torture Not Torture
  • beheading with a knife
  • fed feet-first into a wood chipper
  • hands and feet chopped off
  • tossed off the top of a building
  • acid baths
  • watching wives and children raped and killed
  • poked in the chest with a finger
  • Christina Aguilera music
  • water on the head
  • standing
  • satirical puppet shows
  • pictures of 9/11 victims

As John Hinderaker of Power Line Blog points out, you can tell the real thing from the fake based on the number of people who die. So let’s have one last comparison between Hitler, Stalin, and Pot with what is going on in Gitmo:

Hitler, Stalin, Pot Gitmo
  • Adolf Hitler – About 9 million dead
  • Soviet gulags – About 2.7 million dead
  • Pol Pot – About 1.7 million dead
  • Gitmo – five instances of Koran abuse by prison guards
  • Gitmo – 15 instances of Koran abuse by prisoners
  • Gitmo – zero dead

Not much of a comparison, is it?

[warning: the following links are graphic and disturbing]

To paraphrase Sen. Benson: “Senator, I’ve seen torture. I knew torture. Torture is a horror of mine. Senator, this is no torture.”

Addendum (6/21/2005): Two quick updates: first, Senator Durbin apologized for having crossed the line in his comments last week. If he never intended any disrespect to the soldiers serving in Gitmo, why did he say what he said? And secondly, Cox and Forkum do a good job of showing what Sen. Durbin stands for.

I’m going to do something that I’ve not done before — I’m going to devote this space to quote extensively someone else’s work. The Marxist Left in this country has long said that there have been no Iraq / Al-Qaeda ties. While I have written about this before, I am going to transcribe a news report from 1999, thanks to Jim Quinn bringing this to light. You can download the mp3 here with Quinn’s commentary, or read my transcription of the report below. Any errors are my own fault.


Quinn: This is a tape from ABC News in 1999, before the attacks of September 11th, talking about Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

ABC Reporter: In Germany, Mandu Salim [phonetic spelling - CM], alleged to be a key military advisor and believed to be privy to bin Laden’s most secret projects is also apprehended. The U.S. government alleges he was under secret orders to procure enriched uranium for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons. [male speaking Arabic in background] These are allegations that bin Laden does not now deny.

Male translation of Arabic: It would be a sin for Muslims not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent the infidels from inflicting harms on Muslims. But how we could use these weapons, if we possess them, is up to us.

Quinn: OK, so here you have an ABC report about Osama bin Laden trying to get nuclear weapons for Al-Qaeda in 1999. Now, keep listening!

ABC Reporter: With an American price on his head, there weren’t many places bin Laden could go, unless he teamed up with another international pariah, one also with an interest in weapons of mass destruction.

Quinn: Now my, my! Who might that be?

Male voice: Osama believes in, uh, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend and is someone I should cooperate with.” That’s certainly the current case with Iraq.

ABC Reporter: Saddam Hussein has a long history of harboring terrorists.

Quinn: You’re kidding! You know, after Bush got elected, nobody in the media would admit that. This is before Bush got elected, and so everybody, including the Democrats in the Senate and the Congress, they didn’t have a problem with tying Osama bin Ladin with Saddam Hussein and terrorism to Iraq. No problemo! As soon as Bush gets elected, it goes right down the memory hole. Well, here’s something — here’s a blast from the past, kids. From the groove-yard of golden goodies.

ABC Reporter: Carlos the Jackal, Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, the most notorious terrorists of their era, all found shelter and support at one time in Baghdad.

Quinn: Isn’t that amazing! Gee, the media had no problem with that back then, did they?

ABC Reporter: Intelligence sources say bin Laden’s long relationship with the Iraqis began as he helped Sudan’s fundamentalist government in their efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Three weeks after the bombing, on August 31st, bin Laden reaches out to his friends in Iraq and Sudan.

Quinn: Gee, I thought he didn’t have any interaction at all with Iraq and Sudan.

ABC Reporter: Iraq’s Vice-President arrives in Khartoum to show his support for the Sudanese after the U.S. attack. ABC News has learned that during these meetings, senior Sudanese officials, acting on behalf of bin Laden, asked if Saddam Hussein would grant him asylum.

Quinn: Sudanese officials acting on behalf of Osama bin Laden asking the representatives of Saddam Hussein in Iraq for asylum. Gee, it’s funny now. We’ve got this bright line the Democrats have drawn between Iraq and the War on Terror. [Imitating a pompous Democrat] “Why Iraq is just his … it … I would have made Osama bin Laden the target. Why, this is a distraction from the war.” B. S.!

ABC Reporter: Iraq was indeed interested. ABC News has learned that in December an Iraqi intelligence chief, named Faruq Hijazi, now Iraq’s ambassador to Turkey, made a secret trip to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden.

Quinn: Well, isn’t that interesting?! Now where’s that been, all these years now?

ABC Reporter: Three intelligence agencies tell ABC News they cannot be certain what was discussed, but almost certainly, they say, bin Laden has been told he would be welcome in Baghdad. And intelligence sources say they can only speculate on the purpose of an alliance.

Quinn: Hah!

ABC Reporter: What could bin Laden offer Saddam Hussein? Only days after he meets Iraqi officials, bin Laden tells ABC News that his network is wide, and there are people prepared to commit terror in his name who he does not even control.

Male voice translating Arabic: It is our job to incite and to instigate. By the grace of God, we did that, and certain people responded to this instigation.

Quinn: Uh-hmm. So the next time someone tells you there is a bright line between Iraq and Osama bin Laden and the War on Terror, tell them to go pound salt!

The Supreme Court recently ruled that federal marijuana laws trump state laws, so if a state like California or Oregon passes a law allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for medicinal use, federal agents can thumb their collective noses at the state laws and arrest the medicinal pot-user for violating federal laws.

When I first heard the Supreme Court decision announced on the radio, I nodded my head and agreed with the decision. After all, federal laws do trump state laws. That’s how our system works. But later I read more about the actual case and the judges’ arguments, both pro and con. Armed with real knowledge rather than sound bites, my thoughts on the decision changed.

There are currently eleven states that have medical marijuana laws: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Arizona is unlike the other states in that it doesn’t have a process in place to handle medical marijuana. These laws have either been passed by the state legislature, or were initiatives passed by the voice of the people.

Starting in 2001, federal Drug Enforcement Agency officers started to raid and arrest people in California who had been granted marijuana by doctors. Angel Raich was arrested because she had marijuana to treat her brain cancer, and she sued then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, arguing that the Federal Government had no right to prosecute in this state issue. Federal attorneys argued that the Federal Government did have authority to override state laws. And six of the nine Supreme Court Justices agreed with the federal lawyers.

Now that we know a bit more about the argument behind the case, we have reached the crux of the matter — when the state and federal laws are in conflict, which one has priority? The answer is simple — the federal laws trump the state laws when there is a conflict. But there is one important hurdle that must be crossed by the federal laws before they can push the state laws aside — the Constitution must grant some branch of the Federal Government power and authority over that issue. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution outlines the powers of the Congress and what they may make laws about. Go read that part of the Constitution and find the part that grants the Federal Government the right and authority to trump the states’ medical marijuana laws. Go ahead and read it. It’s only 416 words long. I’ll wait here.

Done? Good. Did you find the part that grants the feds the right to snub the states’ medical marijuana laws? You probably missed it because it doesn’t appear to apply the first time you read it. The key part is known as the Commerce Clause, which reads, “To regulate Commerce … among the several States…” You may ask yourself, “Self, what does Joe Sickly getting marijuana seeds from his doctor, growing some plants for himself, and smoking it at home have to do with interstate commerce?” After all, at no point do money or goods flow across any state lines, and isn’t that what interstate commerce is supposed to be? You may think that, but such a simplistic definition just won’t do if you are one of the six learned masters of the law who sit on the Supreme Court bench and who ruled against Angel Raich.

The majority of the Supreme Court justices in their combined wisdom declared that because Joe Sickly is growing his own weed, he is affecting — by not spending money — the illegal drug dealers who grow and transport marijuana across state lines. So the six in robes said that Joe Sickly’s home-grown leaf is affecting interstate commerce. By this logic, I could claim that my working in one state affects every employer in every other state because I am not working for them. With convoluted logic like this in place, there is no limit to any aspect of your daily life that the Federal Government could not legislate and control.

If the Commerce Clause can be twisted to grant the Federal Government power and authority over something as truly “home-grown” as medical marijuana, then we no longer have fifty states and the old concept of federalism has vanished. The Federal Government could justify writing and enforcing any law about any aspect of our lives, and the Supreme Court could support the federal laws because of a warped reading of the Commerce Clause. If this is the way the U.S. runs now, we have one monolithic Federal Government that can govern every aspect of our lives, and the fifty states are nothing more than dotted boundary lines with no authority any more. This would also mean that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments have been nullified by the Federal Government. Federalism has died, and we have a single centralized government that controls all.

Justice Clarence Thomas spots the monster loophole of the Commerce Clause in his dissenting statement:

Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.

I’ll say it again — we need judges who will judge the law as it is written. We need judges who will not create new and expanded definitions of the phrase “interstate commerce.” We don’t need judges who look to international consensus to tell us what the U.S. Constitution means. We need judges who will look at the Constitution as a document that means what it says, and not what it can be twisted into saying.

I don’t normally watch much TV. I’d rather spend my time watching movies or playing on the computer. But last week I was flipping through the channels, and I caught a short scene from “Hope and Faith,” a comedy on ABC. In this episode, Faith (played by Kelly Ripa) is asked by her niece, Sydney (played by Megan Fox) why she should remain a virgin. The predictable laugh-line came as Faith struggled to give her niece a good reason. If Sydney really wanted an honest answer (assuming she wasn’t just a character in a sitcom), she could have asked me. My response wouldn’t have been funny, but I would have been able to offer some real reasons. Here they are, in no particular order.

First Time

There can only be one “first time” for any activity. It is much better for your first sexual experience to be with your spouse than with the boyfriend or girlfriend of the week. Approaching the marriage bed together as virgins means that this first time will be particularly special and meaningful, shared with your loving spouse. Some people advocate sex before marriage to make sure that the couple is “sexually compatible.” But if you and your spouse come together as virgins, there are no past experiences to cloud your expectations. Sexual compatibility is not likely to be an issue for two persons with no previous sexual experience. You can then spend the rest of your lives finding out ways to make each other happy.

Old Memories

If you choose to have sexual experiences outside of marriage, you will forever keep the memories of those relationship(s) with you. Memories may fade over time, but a simple reminder may serve to send you back to reminisce over a past liaison; whether you choose to or not, you will compare your spouse with your other experience(s). And any such comparison is unfair to your spouse. If you change relationships the way you change your shoes, the idea of commitment may be foreign to you, but a lasting marriage requires a serious commitment from both spouses. Can you be completely committed to your spouse if you have memories of past relationship(s) intruding between you and your spouse? If you are constantly reminded of others, then it will be you, your spouse, and your memories, like a third individual in the marriage. This can be harmful to a lasting relationship if you cannot cast off the past relationships.

Further, even if you consider yourself capable of completely forgetting your past experiences — even if you are so happy with your spouse that you never even give them a passing thought — what about your spouse? Don’t you think he or she will always wonder whether you are comparing him or her to the other person(s) with whom you have shared past intimacy? No one within a marriage should have to wonder whether or how he or she measures up to the competition.

Trust

If you and your spouse come to the marriage as virgins, and you remain faithful to each other thereafter, there will be trust in your marriage. If your spouse is off on some business trip with co-workers, you can trust that nothing will happen if the two of you have no sexual experiences outside of your marriage. On the other hand, if your spouse has had a multitude of sexual partners before you two got married, won’t it be harder for you to trust that nothing will happen when your spouse is away? Do you suppose you might always have a niggling feeling of doubt about what may be happening, knowing that one-night stands have been part of your spouse’s past? You may be the one with a multiplicity of sexual escapades, and you may be completely faithful to your spouse while you are off on some business trip. But won’t it be harder for your spouse to trust you, knowing your past history? Trust is a cornerstone of our modern society, and critical in a lasting relationship.

Health

Now it’s time to touch on the subject of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy. If you think that pregnancy isn’t a health topic, you obviously have never been pregnant. When comparing all the various methods of birth control, there is only one method that has proved 100% effective in preventing pregnancy and the spread of STDs — abstinence. Society may want you to believe that sex with a condom is “safe sex,” but the failure rate for condoms is 11%. Failure, in this case, is determined by the number of pregnancies that result. Are you comfortable with a 1 in 10 chance of getting pregnant? That’s pretty high odds for “safe sex.” And it is far easier to pass or catch an STD than it is to get pregnant. The dirty little secret that you won’t often hear is that condoms are not effective against many STDs. You have a much higher chance of contracting HIV than getting pregnant, and with some STDs such as HPV, chlamydia, chancroid, trichomoniasis, syphilis and genital herpes, condoms provide no protection at all. Still want to take the risk of this not-so-safe “safe sex?”

The best environment for a child to grow up in is a stable, loving marriage with a father and mother who are caring and attentive. If you are having sex before marriage, the likelihood of any resulting children growing up in this optimal situation plummets dramatically. Sadly, when a unmarried teen girl is pregnant, the chance that child will grow up in poverty is 42%. If the mother never graduates from high school or gets a GED, that chance rises to 64%. If the mother is married, older, and a high school graduate, the chance of the child growing up in poverty is 7%. Waiting until getting married to have sex is not only good for you and your spouse, it is also good for any children who come along.

There is also another kind of poverty that many children of single parents face, and it is spiritual poverty. Children don’t stay babies forever, and as they grow up in single-parent households — particularly if they are products of teen pregnancies — they will eventually recognize and internalize that their parents did not want them to be born. Teenage parents are particularly susceptible to resenting their children, subconsciously blaming them for the reduced opportunities and the lost teen years that come with being a single parent. Many of these children grow up with physical and spiritual neglect, perhaps loved, but rarely nurtured by parents who don’t know how to be parents and who don’t want to learn.

So far I have answered this question four ways, without once bringing up religion. Faith could have used any one of these reasons on Sydney, but they wouldn’t have been funny, and not being funny spells death to a sitcom. But since real life is not a sitcom, and as I am a religious man, I will give you a final reason — God doesn’t want you to screw around. God has asked each of us to be completely celibate before marriage, and completely faithful afterwards. If we could only do what God has asked, the spread of STDs and the poverty of single parents would be a thing of the past.

So if you are ever asked the same question Faith was asked, you now have five ways of answering.

We enjoy the freedom of speech in the United States, but like any other right, this one comes with responsibilities. While we are free to speak as we will, there is an accompanying responsibility to say what is true. We have libel, slander, and perjury laws to protect our freedom of speech from those who would destroy it with lies.

We also have a general responsibility as Americans not to offend others because society runs better when people do not go out of their way to stir up hatred and anger. While your neighbor may be both obese and homely, common courtesy dictates that this is no reason to call him a “fat, ugly slob” to his face or behind his back. There is enough strife in the world already without manufacturing more in your backyard.

So there are two competing ideas — we have the freedom of speech and can say whatever we want on the one hand, and we have the need to be courteous to those around us on the other hand. Some people have taken the second part to mean that we have a fundamental right not to be offended. But there is no way to say or do anything without potentially offending someone. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel offended without your consent.”

Recently my wife went to Chinatown in New York, and she picked up some paper money used in Chinese funerals. Paper objects are commonly burned at Chinese funerals, with the idea that the paper item being burned is carried to the dead as a real object to be enjoyed in the hereafter. So TPK picked up a bundle of fake bills marked at $1,000,000 each — a handsome sum for the departed. She explained the use of this money to her sister, a grade school teacher, and her sister thought some of the bills might be fun to use with her fifth grade students during Chinese New Year. My wife then pointed out some tiny print on the fake money which identified them as “Hell Notes,” the traditional name for this fake currency. While most people probably would not notice or care, it would only take a single offended parent to complain and ruin the students’ fun — not to mention endangering my sister-in-law’s job. Fear of possibly causing offense stopped her from sharing a teaching moment with her students.

Our society is becoming more concerned with not offending people, but also concerned with the way a tiny but vocal minority can change how everyone does things. All it takes is a single offended person to cause a traditional and beloved nativity scene to be pulled from the public square. People are reacting to these Offended-Americans by self-censoring what they say, for fear that someone will blow up and be offended over an innocent comment.

Akwana Walker is one of these Offended-Americans who made the news. She was horribly offended when her child’s teacher wrote “niggardly” on the board and explained that this word meant “stingy.” The fact that this word has absolutely nothing to do with race didn’t matter to Walker, who is African-American. She was offended, not because the teacher was racist nor because the word was offensive, but simply because it sounded like something Walker didn’t like, and that was enough for the teacher to receive a reprimand.

This reminds me of something Jesus told his disciples about the end times: “And then shall many be offended…” (Matt. 24:10) My wife had pointed the scripture out to me several years ago, and while I had never looked at that verse in this light, it certainly appears to apply to people today. Why, just quoting the Bible is guaranteed to offend at least one person who reads this article.

It seems silly to me to go ballistic over a word like “niggardly” when the offense is all in the offended person’s head. Words actually mean things. We don’t need to invent new meanings based on the way they sound. When Eason Jordan claimed that the U.S. military was specifically targeting members of the media, his words meant something. And the people who were present recognized exactly what he meant. This is a good example of having the freedom to say what you want, but needing to recognize that you may be called to account for your words.

A lady who made a bomb threat (I’m guessing as a joke, or possibly because she was frustrated by travel delays) was held for questioning in Phoenix while her luggage made it on the flight to San Diego. There the luggage faced the consequence of her words — it was taken out by the San Diego bomb squad and exploded. Next time you feel like mouthing off to the efficient and courteous airline people, remember the fate of this lady’s luggage because of what she said.

Recently Newsweek published an article claiming that a Koran supplied to terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay had been flushed down the toilet by a soldier. Because Newsweek chose to publish this unsupported accusation, riots broke out in Muslim nations, and several people died. To get to the bottom of this, the Pentagon launched an investigation over the flushing of a Koran and other allegations of Koranic abuse. It found that some soldiers had actually mistreated the Koran by *gasp* holding it with only one hand. Investigation did find some intentional and unintentional mishandling of the Koran, but 75% of these mishandlings came from the detainees themselves.

Newsweek has since retracted the story, but even if they were to trumpet this information and apologize into every Muslim’s ear, it would not bring back to life those who died in the riots. To twist a common Leftist slogan, “Newsweek lied, and people died.” Words mean something, and these words led to deaths.

We are free to say whatever we want, but there is a responsibility associated with that right — the responsibility to say what is true. Eason Jordan found that out. Dan Rather found that out. And now Newsweek has found that out.