Next time you have the dubious pleasure of hearing some liberal rant about gun control and the need to get rid of all the evil guns in the U.S., don’t sit back and just let it go. Speak up and stop an echo.

Yeah, you can get into all the nitty-gritty of the actual numbers of murder weapons, or what an “assault rifle” is versus an “assault weapon”, and even dance about the “why would a person need [some evil gun] to go hunting?” until the cows come home. Very little of what you say will affect their anti-gun emotions, but here’s an interesting way to give them an emotional moment of clarity:

Ask them to post a sign in their yard proudly proclaiming that theirs is a gun-free home.

Gun-Free Zone Sign for the yard

The above sign comes from a Project Veritas effort to have people put signs in their yards declaring that theirs is a gun-free zone. You can watch the video here. Bottom line is nobody accepted the free, pre-printed signs they offered. One person said (at about the 2:30 mark), “I agree with you, and I am on your side on this, but I’m just wondering if that’s not an invitation to someone with a gun!”

Exactly.

I won’t put up a gun-free zone sign on my property — partially because my property isn’t gun-free, and partially because I don’t want to invite thugs to invade my home by advertising my defenselessness. Instead, any sign I’d put on my property would look something like this:

Gun Sign for the yard

I keep hitting just a little bit high and to the left. Need to work on that.

So Pres. Obama has been getting some flak for recently saying, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” So let’s look at how somebody else – say, somebody in government – made it happen. First up is a report from Georgia.

Police in Georgia have shut down a lemonade stand run by three girls trying to save up for a trip to a water park, saying they didn’t have a business license or the required permits.

Midway Police Chief Kelly Morningstar says police also didn’t know how the lemonade was made, who made it or what was in it….

The girls needed a business license, peddler’s permit and food permit to operate, even on residential property. The permits cost $50 a day or $180 per year.

This is not an isolated event. Reason.TV awarded lemonade stand crackdowns the Nanny of the Month for June 2011.

And did you hear about 13-year-old Nathan Duszynski’s entrepreneurial efforts?

This summer, 13-year-old Nathan Duszynski wanted to make some money to help out his disabled parents—his mom has epilepsy and his dad has multiple sclerosis. So he decided to open a hot dog stand. He saved $1,200, mostly money made by mowing lawns and shoveling snow. He checked with the city to make sure he didn’t need any licenses or permits, even going to city hall in person with his mom. And then he bought a cart….

He arrived to set up shop on his first day and 10 minutes later, a zoning official arrived to shut him down. The problem: The cart, which is in the parking lot of a sporting goods store, is on the edge of official downtown commercial district of Holland, Michigan. The city bans food carts in that area in order to minimize competition for the eight tax-paying restaurants a couple of blocks away.

The Mackinac Center produced the following 4 minute video about this story.

Which brings me to the garbage strike. My garbage didn’t get picked up this week, thanks to a strike in my area:

Garbage, recycling and yard-waste pickup for most of Waste Management’s 220,000 customers in King and South Snohomish counties stopped Wednesday when Teamsters went on strike against the region’s largest refuse service over wage and benefits issues.

Teamsters Local 117, which represents 153 recycling-route drivers, walked off the job at 10 a.m. and was joined by Local 174, the garbage-truck drivers, who signed a contract with Waste Management a few months ago.

So 153 pissed-off drivers have affected hundreds of thousands of people, and our trash now sits, uncollected, in the hot Northwest sun. Thankfully, the Northwest sun isn’t all that hot, even in July. We’re barely hitting the low 70s, so it’s not as bad as it could be, but given an extra week, local trash is going to start smelling really special.

A lot of people are complaining about the strike, but think about it: this could be a prime opportunity for an entrepreneur. Once I realized that trash wasn’t going to be picked up, I could have printed up some flyers and hit all the houses in the neighborhood. The local dump charges $20 for a car to drop off garbage, so that would be the price I’d set per can for my trash-removal service. If my neighbors don’t want to wait for the striking collectors to pick up the trash next week (or possibly the week after that, depending on how long this strike drags on), I’d be there to do it for them at the same price it would cost them to do it themselves. But they’d get to skip the bother of carting it to the dump, and I would add the additional service of power spraying out their garbage cans to sweeten the deal. That’s a service Waste Management doesn’t offer.

I’m guessing a friend and I could do a good Saturday’s worth of work helping out the neighborhood, and I could pay a local kid to do the power spraying. But I’m not going to do this. First, I don’t have a truck, nor do I know someone who has one. But even if I did have a truck, I’d not do this because I know local government would try to stop me at every turn. I’d probably make multiple trips to the local dump, and that many visits would most certainly attract the attention of the “helpful” people at city hall. They’d want to see my business license, and who knows what else. I’ve dealt with the joys of obtaining a local business license before, and I have no desire to repeat the process. I might discover that there’s a local ordinance against individuals collecting other people’s garbage and taking it to the dump. Government will make sure that this attempt to make a little money becomes a huge headache, a bother, and more trouble than it’s worth. Consequently, this potential service will die before it even gets off the ground.

And that’s the point. Our local, state, and federal governments have gone from encouraging small businesses to actively discouraging them with punitive regulations and fees. It’s not because the government doesn’t want people to make money. After all, people who make money pay taxes. The government specifically discourages entrepreneurship and subtly encourages working for big business, partially because of the way governments collect taxes. When you start working for someone else, you sign a W-4 form stating that your boss will withhold taxes from every one of your paychecks and duly send it off to Uncle Sam. You cannot opt out of this automatic taxation, even if you would be scrupulous in paying all your taxes every April 15. The government wants a steady influx of tax money. But if you opt to start a small business, you get the thrill of paying your own income tax four times a year, plus the increased likelihood of an IRS proctology exam. Bureaucrats aren’t stupid. They’d rather receive sure, steady tax revenues, collected automatically and painlessly from docile workers who aren’t even sure how much they’re being milked, than wrestle with uppity entrepreneurs who know exactly how much they’re being taxed, who hate punitive taxation and who will fight to keep more of the money they make.

President Obama has no personal experience starting a small business or reaping the rewards of his efforts. In fact, throughout his life he’s been surrounded and supported by people who helped “make it happen” for him, so perhaps his outlook is understandable. But those of us who have always had to work for a living, who pay taxes to support the very infrastructure that gives us a measure of success, may be excused for questioning the President’s judgment. And those of us who have struggled to start a small business and grow it to any measure of success recognize President Obama’s speech for what it really is: a load of garbage.

I’ve written before about President Obama’s birth certificate issue, but it’s hit the news again this week when the White House finally released a more detailed certificate. And now that it’s been released, several things struck me.

* I find it strange that the title of the document is “Certificate of Live Birth” instead of the “Birth Certificate” that I have on mine. But apparently that’s a Hawaii thing, based on another certificate signed on the same day as Pres. Obama’s.

* Why release it now? People have called to see the certificate for more than three years, so what is so special about Wednesday, April 27th, 2011, that merits releasing it now? Pres. Obama explained the reason this way:

“We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers,” Mr. Obama said. “We’ve got some enormous challenges out there. There are a lot of folks out there still looking for work… We do not have time for this kind of silliness.”

Later that day, Pres. Obama took advantage of having put this kind of silliness behind him and appeared on the Oprah show and attended three fundraisers. Serious presidential stuff, that. I’m glad it’s now behind him.

I can find only one reason why the certificate was released: instead of being a fringe subject for “birthers,” more and more mainstream people have been paying attention to this issue, thanks mostly to the way presidential-hopeful Donald Trump has talked about it. It had gotten to the point that a poll showed only 38% of Americans believed Pres. Obama was definitely born in the U.S. Pres. Obama can lay the the blame for those poor numbers at his own feet. He could have resolved this issue years ago, if he had wanted to.

* Since Pres. Obama only had to ask to get the birth certificate, why release it now when it could have been really useful at Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin’s court martial? When he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, Lakin refused to comply, reasoning that if Pres. Obama were not legally the Commander in Chief due to his citizenship doubts, he couldn’t legally issue orders to the military. Col. Lakin was convicted in his court martial and is currently serving his six month confinement in addition to being dismissed from the U.S. Army. His military career would not be in shambles if Pres. Obama had seen fit to release his birth certificate earlier.

* Why spend over a million dollars to the Perkins Coie law firm to squelch lawsuits asking for Pres. Obama to confirm his natural-born U.S. citizenship status? Why spend gobs of cash to hide something if there is nothing there to hide? Sure, it could be a rope-a-dope to tar people as loonies for bringing up the subject, but is that really worth the money?

* For an administration committed to being “the most open and transparent in history,” the Obama White House has been mighty closed. It took years to get this certificate released; now people will continue to ask about Pres. Obama’s school records and other records that haven’t yet been released to the public. Donald Trump is calling for them, and since he was successful in getting the birth certificate, will he also be successful in freeing up Pres. Obama’s school records from “the most open and transparent” administration in history? Time will tell.

* Will this convince all the people who believe Pres. Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.? Of course not. Some people will never accept any level of proof. Looking at the PDF file the White House released, I have to wonder why they monkeyed with the document before sending it out. The funky green and white background can’t be on the original document. I took the PDF file that the White House released, zoomed in to 600% on the top-left of the document, and added blinking lines to show the way the horizontal lines don’t curve on the image as you’d expect if they were part of the original document.

blinking Obama certificate

So someone edited the document before it was officially posted. I have to wonder why. And others have pointed at oddities of the image, too. Since the White House knew that people would be scrutinizing this document, why has it so obviously been doctored?

What we do have is Pres. Obama telling us that we should trust him. I am left to wonder what it is about Pres. Obama, his current actions, and his past that would engender such trust.

In the Sherlock Holmes story “Silver Blaze,” there is an excellent bit of dialogue between Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Gregory of Scotland Yard, beginning with the Inspector:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

The curious incident of the quiet dog indicated that the mysterious man who stole the prize racehorse, Silver Blaze, was known to the dog, explaining why it didn’t bark.

In other news, I filled up the car and dropped over $50 to do so. As you can see from the photo I took at the time, the price for regular unleaded was just shy of $4 a gallon at the pump. Right now oil is above $110 a barrel. I remember when gas prices last spiked in the summer of 2008, when then-candidate Barack Obama stated that he would have preferred a gradual adjustment to higher gas prices over the quick rise that happened. Here’s a clip of him talking about this in 2008, with some other news commentaries mixed in.

Did you catch the female reporter around 10 seconds in, stating that the Energy Department was forecasting $4/gallon gas prices for the rest of 2008 and into 2009? Do you remember paying that much? I don’t. I remember oil prices dropping like a stone about a month after this video was posted.

The graph on the top right was generated at metalprices.com showing the price of crude oil for the past five years. See that monster spike in the middle? That’s the same 2008 oil spike that drove up gas prices. Do you see how the price quickly dropped, ending up even lower than the previous low point on the chart? Just what could have caused that drop? Oil hit its highest price on July 14, 2008, the very same day that President Bush announced that he would, by executive order, lift the ban on offshore oil drilling. Beginning the very next day, oil prices began to drop and continued to do so for several months as the market reacted to the news of increased future oil supplies.

Now look at the graph on the bottom right, listing the crude oil prices since President Obama took office. Notice a trend? This is what the market looks like when the President reimposes a ban on offshore oil drilling less than a month after taking office, then places a moratorium on all oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The market reacted to the news of decreased future oil supplies by raising the price of crude oil.

Certainly there are other factors that also play into the rising oil prices, the biggest among them being the increased instability in the Middle East and the increasingly weak U.S. dollar in international markets. There’s no need to blame Pres. Obama for political instability in the Middle East (although others have done so), but I will lay the blame for a weakening dollar solidly at his feet. Pres. Obama and his fellow travelers on the political left have trashed the foundation of our currency with their prolific spending and inability to seriously handle the rising deficit.

As long as our dollar continues to weaken because of shortsighted policies made by liberals in government, and as long as Pres. Obama prevents us from accessing our own energy supplies, the price of crude oil and gas will continue to go up and up and up. In 2008, and in the previous years when gas prices soared, there were multiple news stories each day about rising gas prices and the people affected by them. But this year the same news stories have been few and far between. So what is the difference this time? Why the strange silence from the barking dogs of the news media?

It’s simple. The media is too busy wagging its collective tail at its master, Pres. Obama, to bark at him. And when you understand that, the silence is far from curious.

Aren’t you glad that today is April 15th? Have you paid your taxes yet? The answer to that is yes, you have paid your taxes. Every time you got your paycheck, you were also paying your taxes since they were withheld from you automatically. But have you filed your tax return yet? The good news is that the due date for tax filing this year is April 18th. TGIF!

For your entertainment, here are two videos. The first comes from ReasonTV about why you should pay your taxes.

Failure to pay taxes leads to Obama!

The next comes from Disney Studios as part of the war effort. Can you spot what really dates this cartoon? Hint: it’s not the anti-German or anti-Japanese stand.

What dates this cartoon is the discussion of saving money so taxes can be paid four times a year: March 15th, June 15th, September 15th, and December 15th. Because of the need for ready cash, tax collection was changed during World War II from quarterly payments to automatic deductions from the people’s paychecks. There is an unfortunate side effect of automatic payroll deductions, as explained by a government article:

Another important feature of the income tax that changed was the return to income tax withholding as had been done during the Civil War. This greatly eased the collection of the tax for both the taxpayer and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. However, it also greatly reduced the taxpayer’s awareness of the amount of tax being collected, i.e. it reduced the transparency of the tax, which made it easier to raise taxes in the future.

The top income tax rate rose from 68% in 1940 to 88% in 1942 to an astounding 94% in 1944. What sort of incentive does a hard-working business owner have to spend more time in the office or expand his business if his reward is the joy of being allowed to keep a mere six cents out of every dollar he earns? “But the rich should pay more than they already do! After all, they can afford it!” Yes, I have heard this cry from liberals. And most of the time they demand that “the rich” should pay more taxes. Rarely do liberals call for their own taxes to go up, but sometimes it happens. Author Stephen King asked a rally in Florida, “As a rich person, I pay 28 percent tax… what I want to ask you is, why am I not paying 50?”

That’s a good question. Why isn’t he paying more? If he really wants to pay more in taxes, nothing’s stopping him from voluntarily giving more money to the government. Does he need the heavy hand of government to force him (and everyone else, regardless of their personal inclinations) to pay more taxes?

Based on his own words, I guess he does. But he certainly doesn’t speak for me.

The turkey has been well brined, and now it’s in the oven. I’ve also assembled a green bean casserole with fried onions. The rest is up to the wife, because that’s the way I roll. [And I didn't poison him because that's the way I roll. --TPK] It should be a good Thanksgiving for us here, but we almost didn’t have a first Thanksgiving. John Stossel does a good write-up of these circumstances at RealClearPolitics:

Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. But the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn’t happen.

Long before the failure of modern socialism, the earliest European settlers gave us a dramatic demonstration of the fatal flaws of collectivism. Unfortunately, few Americans today know it.

The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally.

That’s why they nearly all starved.

When people can get the same return with less effort, most people make less effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. This went on for two years.

“So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented,” wrote Gov. William Bradford in his diary. The colonists, he said, “began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, (I) (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land.”

In other words, the people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic.

“This had very good success,” Bradford wrote, “for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many.”

Because of the change, the first Thanksgiving could be held in November 1623.

It’s a simple element of human nature that people have a strong drive to work hard when they benefit from their labors. It’s been proven over and over again. People can either accept this fact and tailor their lives around harnessing that power, or they can try to work against it and be perpetually disappointed at the results. Whenever leftists propose another communal system, the fact that such a system has failed every time it has been tried does not appear to faze or deter them. THIS time it’s going to work because they’re in charge. But it will fail, just as it has failed every time every hubris-soaked powermonger has stepped up to the plate to change history.

I don’t care how smart or talented or thoughtful or powerful you are; you can’t alter human nature to suit your system. At best you can tailor your system to suit human nature, and harness the raw potential of every human being.

So happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Even in the darkest of times, we have so much to be thankful for. And today, among many other blessings to count, I’m thankful that I will have a yummy turkey feed in about 2 hours.

If you give your money to a cause or to someone in need, you have engaged in an act of charity. On the other hand, if I take that same money from you and give it to the same cause or person in need as you would have, I have engaged in an act of theft. The same money is given to the same recipient, but the nobility of the act is severely compromised. Charity is a wonderful thing, but theft is reprehensible, even when the point of the theft is to do good to others. Everyone on the same page? Good, let’s press on.

The ONE Campaign has publicly stated a number of noble goals such as eliminating poverty and global diseases like AIDS, but it is a failure as a charity organization. A recent news report out of England explains the problem:

Bono’s anti-poverty foundation ONE is under pressure to explain its finances after it was revealed that only a small percentage of money it raises reaches the needy.

The non-profit organisation set up by the U2 frontman received almost £9.6million in donations in 2008 but handed out only £118,000 to good causes (1.2 per cent).

The figures published by the New York Post also show that £5.1million went towards paying salaries.

Just over one percent of its money was donated to some charity cause. I guess I now know why it’s called ONE. And if more than half the money paid the salaries of ONE employees, where did the rest go?

ONE spokesman Oliver Buston has now defended the way the organisation is run, insisting the money is used for promoting its campaign and raising awareness rather than being given straight to those who need help.

He said: ‘We don’t provide programmes on the ground. We’re an advocacy and campaigning organisation.’

Ah. Raising awareness. Yeah, that’s certainly helpful. We should all spend a night in a cardboard box to raise awareness about the plight of the homeless. Not that it would actually do anything to help the homeless, but we could feel good about our ineffectual efforts later.

This isn’t the first time ONE has come to my attention. Back in 2007, I noticed ONE’s website and celebrity endorsement, and I wrote about it then. Their tagline back then was “We’re not asking for your money. We’re asking for your voice.” When I visited the ONE website after reading the Daily Mail article, I noticed that little had changed in the past three years. They are still asking for your voice, and they are still not asking for your money. Well, not directly.

But they are asking for your money. They just don’t want to deal with the piddling amounts given out by individuals. Instead, ONE wants to go after the big bucks that can be provided by governments. One of the causes on the ONE website is a petition to be sent to Pres. Obama, urging him to fund the effort to stop the spread of HIV from mother to child. That’s a wonderful goal, and I would applaud anyone willing to voluntarily contribute to such a cause. But ONE doesn’t want your voluntary charitable giving, they want forced charitable giving from all Americans in the form of $5 billion in U.S. government taxation. That works out to about $16.67 from every man, woman and child – taxpayer or not – living here in the States. I’m sure most Americans wouldn’t miss it, since we could provide such funds by going without snacks for a week or two. But the amount of money per capita isn’t the point. Taking money from one person to give to another isn’t charity. It’s theft.

And theft is wrong, even when it goes to a good cause or if the government is doing it.

Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit blog has long been using a graphic showing the deficits (and a few surpluses) of the last five administrations. Since the graphic only had the projected budget deficit for Pres. Obama’s first year, I decided to update it with more recent numbers. Taking the numbers from the Whitehouse Office of Management and Budget itself, I have updated the graphic with the announced 2009 and 2010 deficits, as well as the deficit the OMB is projecting for 2011.

Here are six variations graphing the current numbers, as of October 2010 February 2011 July 2012 [Now with updated 2013 numbers! -- CM]. Feel free to copy them and use them on your own blogs.

Obama's Deficit

I decided to call out Pres. Obama’s deficits in shades of red. You can also get this in in a much larger size (2250 x 1690 pixels).

Question: where to you get the numbers for the graph? I go to the Office of Management and Budget site and download Table 1.1. I then look at the column D (Surplus or Deficit) to get the numbers for the graph.

Question: how do you convert the surplus/deficit numbers from the table into bars on the graph? Table 1.1 comes down as an Excel file, so I continue to use Excel to convert the surplus/deficit numbers into a count of pixels for each bar. I go to a blank column, like M, and enter the following formula “=D119/8310″. That takes the contents of cell D119 (surplus or deficit for that year) and divides it by 8310, since each pixel represents $8,310,000. Since I can’t have a fraction of a pixel, I format the entire column as a Number with 0 decimal places. Excel does all the rounding up from me. I then take the number of pixels, positive or negative, and draw a bar that many pixels up or down. Once that information has been updated in my master file in Paint Shop Pro, I save out a small and large versions of the image and post them.

UPDATE (2/15/2011 12:26:09 PM): With a new revision of the OMB numbers for 2011 raising the estimated deficit to $1.645 trillion, I have updated the graphics to show the new OMB projection. I have also made two other changes based on feedback. The Bush years text now uses bars rather than arrows (h/t Irene), and I have given Pres. Bush eight years of budgets instead of nine and adjusted all the rest by one (h/t bridgeman).

If you have been using these images, please download and use the current versions. If you want to access the old ones, you may download them all as a single zip file.

UPDATE (7/26/2011 6:00:00 PM): I have updated the images with the finalized 2011 numbers (down 345 billion) and added the projected 2012 budget deficit. I changed from using .jpg to .png for smaller file size and less fuzziness. Based on feedback, I created a large version of one of the images at 2250×1690 pixels that prints better. I also added a credit to this website.

UPDATE (3/2/2013 1:00:00 PM): Since it was requested, I have updated the graphic with the current numbers from Table 1.1 from the Office of Management and Budget site. 2012 is still listed there as an estimate, so I have left it in the graph as pink. I also added the estimate for 2013 to the image. The deficit is projected to go down in 2013, not from lack of spending but from an estimated increase in taxes. We’ll see how that goes.

The image is available in regular (450px x 338px) or large (2250px x 1690px). I have removed the other versions since there has been no demand for them.

UPDATE (5/9/2013 11:07 AM): I just checked the Table 1.1 spreadsheet at the OMB site, and they have published the official 2012 numbers. I’ve updated the graphic with the new numbers and changed it from estimate pink to official red. I also added two questions with answers about where I get the data and how I make the image.

It’s time again I addressed a number of commonplace beliefs held in the United States which, while they often sound great in sound bites, are almost always based on flawed reasoning. I call these beliefs “American myths.”

And here is the sound bite that echoed around when President Obama addressed the nation’s students on Sept. 14th, 2010:

Nobody gets to write your destiny but you. Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it. And nothing — absolutely nothing — is beyond your reach, so long as you’re willing to dream big, so long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education, there is not a single thing that any of you cannot accomplish, not a single thing. I believe that.

Pres. Obama says that if you have a dream, you can achieve it through hard work and study. On a simplistic level, it sure sounds good and conveys a wonderful message of hard work and education to students. But in reality, it’s not true. Telling kids that “nothing — absolutely nothing — is beyond your reach” with the panacea of hard work is actually doing some of them a disservice. Not all human beings possess the gifts and talents necessary to achieve equally well in any field. While hard work will certainly help the students succeed in their goals, hard work and education alone will not make “nothing — absolutely nothing” beyond their reach. Some goals require physical and mental abilities far beyond that which studying and hard work can provide.

You agree with Pres. Obama and don’t believe me? Fine. If I study and work really hard, will I ever succeed in flying F-22s as a fighter pilot for the Air Force? Nope. I’m too old to successfully compete with fighter pilot hopefuls two decades my junior, and my imperfect eyesight also disqualifies me. Hard work and study will not succeed in landing me that job.

Likewise, my almost 14-year-old niece will probably never become an Olympic-level gymnast, even if she puts in 18-hour days of training. She certainly could improve whatever natural ability she has, but she doesn’t have the right body type to be a world-class gymnast, and she would be starting far too late. Looking at the U.S. women’s gymnastic team who won the team silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, I notice all the team members started studying gymnastics or dance by age 4 or earlier, so they were able to be world-class a decade later because of their hard work. But starting at age 14 is just too late.

My mother-in-law once taught a student with an IQ of 85. He once told her that he wanted to be a teacher when he grew up, but his low native intelligence made that impossible. No amount of studying would bring his IQ up to average. Another guy I met told me how he was studying to become a doctor, but after taking Biology 101 for the third time, he still only managed to scrape up a C. Neither student had the mental candlepower sufficient to make his worthy goal a reality. Hard work and education will take these two only so far, but some things are just beyond their reach.

And then there’s this interesting poll by Marist:

Nearly one-third of U.S. residents — 32% — say they would like to be an actor or an actress. Following closely behind are 29% who dream of becoming a professional athlete. 13% report they would like to list 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as their working address and be President of the United States. An additional 13% say they could see themselves as a rock star. 13% are unsure.

So hard work and education will make 32% of Americans into successful actors? Will hard work and education make the 29% who want to become professional athletes successful? Will the 13% who answered that they wanted to become President all succeed with just hard work and education? It should be pretty obvious that hard work and education, while very important, are not sufficient to place “nothing — absolutely nothing” beyond their reach. Certain physical and mental qualities, age, luck, and other assorted issues or events may be critical necessities in achieving some dreams.

Sure, it sounds great to tell school kids that they can succeed at anything they wish if only they work hard enough to get it. But reality shows us that success comes from more than just desire and study. Physical and mental abilities are important. Kids may dream about becoming astronauts, but unless they have the physical and mental capabilities as well as the desire and hard work — not to mention some kind of working space program when they’re adults — it’s not going to happen. And that’s why I label this idea as one of America’s myths.

You can't be an astronaut