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October 31, 2003

Tax Cuts as a Diet Plan

In reading Peggy Noonanís fine book, "When Character Was King," I suddenly realized the truth of something I had been told but doubted. I had heard it said that the main reason for Reaganís tax cuts (sold as supply side economics) was to put congress on a diet. Reagan realized that big government was becoming ever more intrusive into the lives of citizens and that it needed to be curtailed. He came to this realization before he ever entered politics. At the same time he realized how difficult it would be to change the trend. When I read this, I realized that there might indeed be some truth in the statement about Reaganís tax cuts. They werenít so much "Reaganomics" as they were the Reagan Diet for Congress. Congress couldnít spend money they didnít have, or so the theory went.

The problem was that Congress didnít stop spending and consequently gave us what has been inaccurately termed the Reagan deficit. But in spite of everything, the tax cuts did help the economy and set the stage for the strong economic years of the 80's.

One wonders if President Bushís current round of tax cuts may be round two of the Reagan diet. In this case, he is spending just like congress did in the Reagan years running up a significant deficit while stimulating the economy. Seems crazy for a man who says he is a conservative, but I suspect he is crazy like a fox. In running up spending now to stimulate the economy, he is hoping to ensure, not only his own reelection, but the election of an even stronger Republican congress.

Why is that important? Because the biggest political issue this country faces right now is how to take government back from the courts into the hands of the people. The Democrats see this more clearly than a lot of Republicans and are fighting it tooth and nail. This is what is behind the outright filibuster of strong minority judicial appointments. Democrats are press ganging minority lobbyists to fight the nomination of minority judges. Why? To give cover so the white liberal senators can oppose them without being accused of racism.

Robert Borkís most recent book, "Coercing Virtue," is a hard read, but it lays out the problem of judicial activismĖa world wide phenomenon. The judges are slowly taking over the government of country after country, and there is little that can be done about it. It was shocking to me, because I was taught in 8th grade civics that we have checks and balances in our system of government. Now I realize that once the Supreme Court has written a new law, there is not a thing we can do to change it.

The first term of George Bush may end without a single veto of a bill that comes to his desk. The second term is likely to be very different. As Ann Richards once said, politics is not for the faint of heart.

Sealing off Saddamís birthplace

I have been wondering when U.S. forces would start cordoning off some of these trouble spots. Looks like the effort has begun. What is interesting is the people of the village seem to be happily cooperating. Read the story.

Halloween, Good or Bad?

A new Essay by Allie Dart

My opinion column has been on hold through my fall break, but I hope to be more regular starting now.

October 1, 2002

1 Thessalonians

Chapters one and two now available in Reflections

September 30, 2003

Time Comes Out

Time Magazine this week puts its Democratic Party credentials right there on the cover for all to see. As we approach the election year silly season, Time adopts the current party line, "Mission NOT Accomplished," complete with a picture of the president on the deck of the aircraft carrier Lincoln. Never mind that the event is out of date. It is the line of all the Democratic candidates at this point that the president has failed in Iraq.

It is true that no weapons of mass destruction have been found. It is true that there is no provable connection between Iraq and the events of 9/11. It is also true that the links between Iraq and terrorism have been firmly established. And it is true that the President is succeeding in Iraq. In the end, he may fail, but not yet. And the American news media need to help be sure he doesn't. Even the diehard Democratic Candidates know we have to succeed in Iraq.

What the Democratic candidates need to show is what, six months after the crushing defeat of the Iraqi dictator, Iraq should look like and what they would have done differently to make it look that way. It is no good saying they wouldnít have gone to war in the first place. Few now are criticizing the president on that issue. What they are saying is that the president had no plan for post war Iraq.

In these days when we are used to instant gratification, it is hard for us to understand why Iraq isnít already pacified and holding democratic elections. But if one has any grasp of history at all, and any sense of what that society was like, he has to know that we couldnít expect to be any further along at this point. I donít recall the administration ever telling us that we would be.

Itís politics, folks, pure and simple. Beat down the president, beat down his poll numbers, go negative and maybe, just maybe heíll stumble and the opposition will be electedĖread that, get hold of the reins of power. Actually, there is nothing particularly unusual about this. It is what happens in democratic societies where we are used to adversarial governance.

But it is all highly problematic when we are at war, and we are at war. The problem is that in beating down the president, especially relative to the war, you automatically give aid and comfort to the enemy. The whole world reads our news magazines and listens to our political speeches. And when the criminals who run Terror Inc. read this stuff, they make terrible miscalculations that eventually cost American lives.

The saddest thing about this war is that by not supporting the U.S. and British resolutions in the U.N., France and Germany caused Saddam to think we were running a bluff. If they had stood four square and supported a resolution for the use of force, it is entirely possible that Saddam would have folded his hand.

And even now, all the unrealistic carping about post war IraqĖdone for political gainĖis going to cost still more American and Iraqi lives, because it makes the criminals think they might just win after all. Keep bleeding the Americans and they will go home. We need to make it abundantly clear that there is no way we are going home until we have finished what we came to doĖno matter who is in the White House.

The Democratic Ten, all capable, intelligent, experienced men, are causing me to see them as venal power brokers who are more interested in their own careers and their own party than in the lives and well being of the American people. I could forgive them if they were idiots. They are not.

And note that I called the "terrorists" criminals, not terroristsĖalthough there may not be much between the two terms. When the story is finally told, I think we will learn that the people behind all of this, the people who finance and encourage it, are motivated by greed and the lust for power. They are criminals. Religion has nothing to do with it. For the criminals behind all this, the suicide bombers are just useful idiots. So are some Americans.

September 26, 2003

Box Cutters?

Why is everyone so exercised over the obvious fact that weapons can smuggled onto airplanes? The only thing that shocks me is that people are shocked that box cutters can be brought on board. Doesnít everyone realize that we canít make airplanes safe from hijackers and bombers?

What makes me feel safe when flying is not the inspectors at the gate, it is the passengers on board the plane who will never be intimidated by any weapon again. The 9/11 hijackers rendered the box cutters forever irrelevant. The only reason they worked was because no one knew what was at stake. Now we all do.

Sky marshals are a good idea, but letís serve notice on all hijackers. We the passengers arenít going to sit still for it ever again. I think the terrorists know that. Thatís why they are trying to get shoulder fired missiles into the country. Even this will probably be up to alert citizens to catch. The government can never put enough men on the ground around airports.

Itís up to our national neighborhood watch folks. Be alert.

September 23, 2003

A Personal Obituary

Several have come here or have written asking for a statement regarding the recent death of Evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong. What follows is a statement I made for the Tyler Church of God and CEM's tape program regarding his untimely death.

I think everyone knows by now that Garner Ted Armstrong died last week and was buried on Thursday afternoon near Gladewater. He canít be ignored, because he lies directly in the path of the lineage of this church and of my own ministry.

I first met Ted in 1958 when I was a freshman in AC. I was 24, he was 28, a faculty member, and sharing the radio program "The World Tomorrow" with his Dad, HWA. He was young, good looking, and extremely knowledgeable of the Bible for a man his age. All of us who attended AC in those days were intense in our Bible study. It was one of those true values we were pledged to seek.

I began to become personally acquainted with Ted after an illness sent me back to college to recuperate. I was a minister by then. Ted and his buddies often needed a fourth for a game of cards, and I was elected. We became friends over the years that followed, and while I was in England, he always sought out Allie and me to go to dinner while he was there.

In 1969, he brought me back to Pasadena to act as his assistant over the foreign offices, and I was later made Vice President over that field. From that date forward, we became very close friends.

There have been those who wondered about Ted, about his sincerity, even his conversion. I never did. I had first hand knowledge of his acquaintance with the Bible. For one thing, I have seen his personal Bible which was worn out from study, well marked with underlines and notes. But apart from that, I know about it from endless conversations over every kind of beverage, meals in every kind of place from Quaglinoís in London, to the Criterion in Johannesburg, to a bowl of venison chili in hunting camp. I know about it from conversations in a bass boat, in the cockpit of an airplane, in the cab of his pickup. Ted Armstrong knew the Bible as well as any man I have ever known. And he was converted, and he had the Holy Spirit, and was gifted of God.

I have little doubt that he grieved the Holy Spirit many times in his life. I know he grieved me more than once. But I never stopped loving him, and I can trust that God didnít stop loving him either.

I think there were times in his life when he did positive harm. That said, he still managed to turn the hearts of no small number of people to Jesus Christ. He didnít do that by his person. He did it by pointing people to the Bible, and to Jesus Christ. His book, "The Real Jesus," was easily his most often requested work.

And if I start walking back down my path to find my spiritual roots, I am bound to stumble over Garner Ted Armstrong. He was my friend. I will miss him. I am sorry he is gone. I am terribly sorry for his wife Shirley and his family.

My sermon that followed, "The Indispensable Man," is available from the CEM office on request.

September 22, 2003

The Mystery of Arafat

For the life of me, I cannot understand why this killer of babies and women is still alive. I have heard people say that killing him will make him a martyr. So what? How could life be any worse for Israel with posters of Arafat in Palestinian towns than it is with him sitting in Ramallah asking senior Palestinian officials, "Why donít the Israeliís have more dead?" As Mort Zuckerman wrote in this weeks U.S. News, "Arafat is not just a terrorist...but one of the inventors of terrorism."

Zuckerman observes that the Israelis could kill Arafat with every bit as much justification as Americans can kill Usama Bin Laden. Why donít they? Because the U.S. government and European leaders keep pressing Israel for more restraint. Meanwhile more Israelis die in the streets and the busses. Maybe itís time for a litmus test for American politicians. Maybe reporters should start asking them if they are willing to put an end to American support for Palestinian terrorism by allowing the Israelis to deal with Arafat once and for all. He is a criminal, a murderer, and a liar. There will be no peace in the Middle Easy while his hoary head is still in Palestine.

Be sure and catch Zuckermanís clear headed analysis of what must be done.
Click here to read it.

Terrorism and the Black Death

Over a five year period, from 1347 to 1352, one third of Europeís population died of Bubonic plagueĖthatís 25 million people. The plague slowed down in the winter, but then exploded in the Spring. No one knew at first that it was a flea borne disease spread primarily by rats.

There was no negotiating, either with the fleas or the rats. They just kept on doing what they do. Whether you think the terrorists are like the fleas or the rats, it still seems plain enough that negotiation is a waste of valuable time. Sanitation is the solution. That, and the killing off the carriers of the disease.


September 21, 2003

A new topical Bible Study is now online: The Hatred of God.

September 19, 2003

Hardwired to Connect

George Will today points to an important study just published that suggests human beings are designed to be in "authoritative communities."

In an era of increasing prosperity, the evidence of children's failures to thrive -- depression, anxiety, substance abuse, conduct disorders -- is also increasing. Pharmacological and psychotherapeutic responses to such deteriorating mental and social health are necessary but insufficient. Also needed is recognition of how environmental conditions -- the social environment -- contribute to childhood suffering.

The problem is a deficit of connectedness. The deficit is the difference between what the biological makeup of human beings demands and what many children's social situations supply in the way of connections to other people, and to institutions that satisfy the natural need for moral and spiritual meaning.

This new report could turn out to be of enormous significance for families and churches. George Will does a good job of outlining the significance of the study. Read his analysis here.

Topical Bible Study

Today, I try a little experiment in creating a topical Bible Study on line. All you have to do is follow the links. To do the study, just read along until you find a blue link. Click on the link to study the page of reference. When finished, just click on "back" on your browser and you will be right back where you left. The study was developed from the notes of a recent sermon. A cassette tape of that sermon is available from CEM. It has the same title, "Disappointed with God." To take a look at the study, just click here. When finished, I hope you will let me know what you think of the study and if it has raised any question in your mind.

September 17, 2003

Mort Zuckerman notes in this weekís U.S. News that, while we are in the early stages of an economic recovery, we are still losing jobs. He does a good job of laying out the problems and then concludes:

"What's to be done? Not much, for now. No fiscal stimulus is possible, and the administration has already overdone its tax cuts. The only source of macroeconomic support will come from the Federal Reserve Board. It should keep short-term interest rates low and make sure rates for 10 years and longer don't spike any more."

Maybe everyone will finally come to see that there is only so much the government can do to control the economy. Boom and bust is the story of all free economies since there were any. The whole idea of government involvement is to act as a buffer, slowing things down when the economy is overheated and then loosening up when the economy is slowing. But in the end, the whole thing depends on us.

That said, I couldnít help wondering if the huge boom of the 90's might have been overdone, and we are now paying for government laxity in keeping the lid on. I am no economist, but it seems plain to be that credit has been far too loose for far too long. But wait! Now is not the time to tighten credit. I just hope someone remembers when the money is flowing free that easy credit will have to be paid for someday.

It all came home to me when the wife of the tenant in a house I own declared bankruptcy. She (not to be confused with he) had run up 41 thousand dollars in credit card debt. How many people did this all through the 90's and who now have to pay it off in one way or another. Did we hit a wall in our ability to borrow? Is that why we are in so much trouble today?

I remember a time when the law said you had to have 30% down on a new car purchase and you could not borrow for more than 36 months. Maybe that was a bad idea. But how many people do you know who could not sell their car for what they owe on it?

Do yourself a favor. Donít borrow money for anything beyond essential housing and essential transportation. You can thank me later for the advice.

September 12, 2003

Psalm 22

This is one of the first truly Messianic psalms. It prefigures Christ so profoundly that it has often found its way into music. Reflections on the 22nd Psalm are now available.

September 9, 2003

What Islamists Fear Most

No, itís not the Third Infantry Division, although that is not something they want to see on the horizon. Tom Friedman told us in his landmark book, "The Lexus and the Olive Tree." They fear the democratization of information and communication that is slowly but surely eroding the old order. Friedman gave us an update last week when he cited an Arab version of the popular TV show American Idol. What he found so fascinating was that, in a land where most elections are decided by 99 to 1, the winner in this contest won 52 to 48. Read his interesting analysis of what this sort of thing means in the Arab world by clicking here.

In his book, Friedman demonstrated clearer than I had ever seen the power of the Internet and technology to change the world, threatening old power structures and undermining the traditional elite of backward governments. He also warned about the possibility of a backlash, something we now identify as 9/11. Big things are happening in the world and God only knows where they are leading us. Stay awake.

September 8, 2003

How to Look at the War on Terror

If you think I only read conservative columnists, you are wrong. I read the New York Times and The New Republic. If you think I am a Republican, you are wrong. But it is a fact that the people I find making the most sense these days are conservatives of on stripe or another. I am not sure why this is so, but I hear a lot of people complaining that the Democratic party is not what it used to be. I read and hear a lot of spin on both sides of political and national issues, but there are still voices out there that tell the truth in simple termsĖsometimes because they simply can no longer ignore it.

Today found a remarkably clear column by David Horowitz (How to Look at the War on Terror) which reflects a viewpoint that I have been coming to myself. I was watching what they loosely call debate on television a night or so ago and two antagonists were exchanging views on the obvious fact that Iraq is now the "front line" in the war on Terror. The view from the left was that, true enough, Iraq is the front line but only because we made it so by going to war there. No one asked at that point where the front line would be if the President had not made his move on Iraq. It seemed obvious to me, and others have made the same point, that it is better to fight these people on the soil of Iraq than on American soil.

So the political opponents of the administration have to find something to criticize. Last night a general who is getting ready to run for president complained that we had no plan for postwar Iraq. No one asked him what a good plan would have looked like by now. Does anyone really think that we should be all finished and ready to pull our troops out in four months?

Iraq is a long term commitment and it seemed obvious to me that it was from the start. I canít recall the President telling us it would be otherwise. Looking at the war on terror, anyone should be able to see that this will exceed the thirty years war in length. It will probably be the second "Hundred Years War." I canít see that the U.S. has any option but to fight that war for as long as it takes. And I, for one, am glad the front lines are in Iraq.

Donít miss Horowitzís column. Click here to read it.

Liberationís Children

Be sure and catch Thomas Sowell today with a short book review of "Liberationís Children," a new book by Kay Hymowitz.

We may become the first society destroyed by its own experts -- especially experts in fields where there is no expertise that can be verified by facts. Over the past several decades, no one has been victimized more by so-called experts than parents and children. And no one has done more to expose the frauds of "experts" in child-raising and education than Kay Hymowitz.

September 5, 2003

What Terrorists Want

Cal Thomas put his finger on something today. It is not what most want to hear, but it is true.

President Bush should stop saying the terrorists hate freedom. They do not think that way. They believe their twisted religion and evil application of it are true freedom - for them and for all who worship their angry and hard-to-appease god. They see us as living in decadent bondage.

He was dead right, but they do hate our freedom. But Cal Thomas said something even more important. He said that the terrorists are not our greatest enemy:

There is a greater enemy than terrorism facing the United States and the West. That enemy is lack of resolve, which has little to do with money and weapons and everything to do with motivation and focus.

Later, talking about why the president is having so much difficulty persuading other nations to join and help us, he offered a reason:

The reason is that too many governments fear what might happen to them if they give aid and comfort to what the radical Islamists see as the Great Satan. These governments have stupidly and dangerously let too many of the extremists into their countries and, in doing so, have clutched fiery coals to their chests.

We are going to have to be very careful not to make the same mistake. To read Cal Thomasí column, click here.

September 4, 2003


Read Allie Dart's latest thoughts on how to protect your kids from poverty. Click here.

September 3, 2003

John Kerry for President?

Iím indebted to Jonathan Cohn (The New Republic), for catching a line in John Kerryís speech announcing for the presidency. Kerry said, "I voted to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations." Mr. Cohn thought this was a curious turn of phrase because the resolution John Kerry voted for was not for the threat of force (does the president need congressional approval to make a threat?) but for the use of force. Cohn wondered if maybe Kerry believed that the vote was actually one of those wink-wink, nudge-nudge sort of deals.

I think that is exactly what Kerry believed. I think it is what the United Nations means every time it passes a resolution. More important, because of past actions of the UN and the US, thatís what Arab leaders think it means. And those people who allowed Saddam Hussein to think it meant something else during the lead up to the war did the world a grave disservice.

A threat doesnít mean a thing unless you are prepared to back it up. And fail to back up the threat one time, and no one will ever take you seriously again. John Kerry is playing the weasel on his vote to use force against Iraq. This sort of thing has cost a lot of lives in the past and we canít afford to have it again.

Ronald Reagan made a big mistake when he pulled out troops out of Lebanon after the bombing that killed so many marines. That, coupled with Clintonís withdrawal from Somalia after the loss of life described in Blackhawk Down, encouraged Americaís enemies to think we couldnít take casualties. Bloody Americaís nose, and she will back down every time, they thought. Reagan should have sent in a couple of Marine divisions after the bombing. Clinton should have done the same thing in Somalia. The Islamists are never going to love us, but they need to learn to respect usĖto fear us, if thatís what it takes.

After 9/11, Bush had no choice. And Afghanistan was not enough. Even Iraq may not be enough. The American people need to stop whining about the costs of this war. The whining may well make it cost more.

September 2, 2003

1 Thessalonians

Is it hard to be a Christian? I suppose it depends on where you are and what you are doing. There are people in the world, right now, who are being shamefully and brutally treated because they profess the name of Jesus. But you are probably not one of them. I certainly am not. Who do you know, personally, who has been killed because of his belief in Jesus Christ? Do you know anyone who has been beaten? Do you know anyone who has been jailed because he refused to dent the name of Jesus? I donít.

I think there are a lot of saints who will laugh at us if someday we meet them and claim it was hard for us to serve Jesus. When the church was new, it was worth your life in some places to admit your Christianity. There were times and places where you were relatively safe if you didnít do anything. Some of the early churches were born in trouble and never had peace. One of these was the church in ThessalonicaĖthe people to whom Paulís  letters to the Thessalonians were written.

Paul wrote this letter a few weeks after he left Thessalonica, because he had heard what had happened there after he left. Paul had only been in Thessalonica three weeks when the Jews from the synagogue there prompted a bunch of ruffians to make an assault on the house where Paul had been staying. Paul wasnít there at the time, and the disciples hustled him out of Thessalonica by night. Reading between the lines of Paulís letter, we know that the disciples there had been the object of a lot of violence. Some of them had even been killed in anti-Christian rioting. The people were really discouraged.

This word came to Paul in Corinth, not long after he wrote his letter to the Galatians. The year appears to be A.D. 52. Read to get the tone of Paulís letter as he tries to encourage these embattled saints. Now beginning, Reflections on 1 Thessalonians.








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