MayerBlog: The Web Log of
David N. Mayer

 

Thoughts for the 2006 Summer Hiatus - May 30, 2006

 

Thoughts for the 2006 Summer Hiatus

 

 

MayerBlog will be on hiatus for the next two and a half months, while I devote my energies this summer to a major scholarly writing project:  the manuscript of my book on the U.S. Constitution.

Before going on hiatus, however, I could not resist the temptation to comment on a number of important issues in public policy and popular culture – issues that are in the news today and are likely to remain in the news throughout the summer.

 

  

 

n    Gas Price Demagoguery 

Two things are sure to happen this summer:  first, gasoline prices will increase (that’s the natural consequence of the economic law of supply and demand); and second, demagogues (both politicians and political commentators) will blame the high prices, erroneously, on “oil company profits” and on so-called “price gouging” (that’s the natural consequence of the laws of human nature, on the dark side).  Politicians, by demonizing “Big Oil,” are attempting to create a scapegoat for their own bad policies; in reality, it’s “Big Government,” not “big oil,” that’s responsible for high gas prices. 

Typically, gasoline prices rise over the summer, as people drive more and demand increases.  This natural consequence of economic laws has been exacerbated this summer by bad government policies that have foolishly restricted gasoline supplies:  particularly last summer’s energy bill, which included a sop to Midwest corn farmers in the form of a huge new ethanol mandate that began this year and requires drivers to consume 7.5 billion gallons a year by 2012.  The problem is that the mandate is beyond the capacity of ethanol producers, thanks to another action taken by Congress:  its refusal to include liability protection for producers of MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether), a fuel additive that enables gasoline to burn more completely, and thus more cleanly, but which has become the target of tort suits and thus is no longer economical to produce.  Energy analysts say it’s unclear whether ethanol producers can manufacture and distribute enough supply to offset the phase-out of MTBE, let alone to meet the new Congressional mandate.  As a result, wholesale prices of ethanol have surged, more than 50 cents per gallon higher than usual.  As the Wall Street Journal editors noted this spring, “[a]s it is, the U..S. already produces more ethanol than Brazil, and even today’s four-million-gallon requirement is clearly straining the industry.  Increasing ethanol use much beyond the 2012 mandate is going to require that entire states be planted with corn and sugar. . . . This ethanol-MTBE fiasco is just the latest example of what happens when Congress holds energy markets hostage to narrow special interests.”  (“The Gasoline Follies,” March 28.) 

Ominously, Congress has reacted in its typically misguided and irresponsible way:  instead of repealing its bad laws that caused the problem, it’s considering passing more bad laws, imposing a special “windfall profits” tax and/or increasing criminal penalties for “price-gouging.”  As Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder noted in an op-ed this spring, a windfall- profits tax would not only hurt the oil industry, distorting the allocation of resources away from needed energy investments, but also hurt all Americans, by causing a multiple decline in stockholder wealth.  (For example, the Senate’s proposed Windfall Profits Rebate Act, if it became law, would cause savings and retirement holdings to decline in value by as much as $50 billion.  As Professor Vedder notes, with more than 40 percent of oil-company stocks held in retirement accounts and pension funds, “that could mean significant losses for millions of Americans.”)  “If Congress really wants to do something about the high price of oil,” Professor Vedder concludes, “it would remove expensive and cumbersome regulations that effectively prevent building new refineries, allow new drilling to occur on federal lands, or streamline mandates for boutique fuels.”  (“Windfall-profits tax is counterproductive,” Colubmus Dispatch, March 25.) 

Neither will new laws against so-called “price gouging” do anything other than exacerbate the problem.  Notwithstanding the rhetoric of demagogues, there’s absolutely no evidence that oil companies or gas stations are in any way “gouging” – that is, extorting or swindling – consumers.  Indeed, in late May, FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras testified to the Senate that her agency’s nine-month investigation found no evidence of widespread price-gouging, or of a conspiracy to keep prices high, in the wake of hurricane Katrina.  Notwithstanding this clear evidence (or lack thereof), demagogues in Congress intend to push for more anti-gouging legislation.  “Gouging” is, in fact, a myth, based on ignorance of basic economic (and moral) principles.  In a marketplace with prices set free of government intervention, the sales price is established through transactions by willing buyers and willing sellers; and when, due to either natural disasters or other emergency situations, supply drastically drops, it’s right and proper that sellers adjust their prices upward accordingly.  In a competitive environment, service stations that raise their prices when supplies fall or their costs rise are in no way “extorting” or “swindling” motorists at the pump:  consumers who think the cost of gas at a given station is too high can either buy gas elsewhere, from competing stations that are selling it less, or do without, if they’re unable or unwilling to shop around.  As the Wall Street Journal editors noted earlier this month, “if there is any extortion or swindling going on in the oil marketplace, Congress is the guilty party,” not only because of its ethanol mandate but also because Congress, together with state governments, “take 59 cents a gallon on average of fuel taxes at the pump – almost six times the average of 10 cents per gallon profit that the oil companies make.”  As the editors note, the proposed “gouging” legislation is the first step back toward the disastrous oil and gas price controls of the 1970s – which, like all kinds of government price controls throughout human history – led inevitably to economic distortions, shortages, long lines; in short, the government-created “energy crisis” of the late 1970s.  “If Congress thinks that voters are in a foul mood now, wait until their price-control scheme offers them no gas at `non-gouging’ prices.”  (“The Real Gas Gougers,” May 11.)  

In the long run, if the United States does not increase its oil supplies, prices are bound to increase because of the growing world-wide demand, particularly coming from the growing gigantic economies of China and India.  The rising global demand for crude oil is the most important cause of increased gasoline prices:  the cost of crude oil makes up about 55 cents of every dollar consumers pay on gasoline.  The good news is that, contrary to popular myths, there’s still plenty of “fossil fuel” to be exploited.  As I noted in my previous entry, “The Merchants of Fear” (in the section on “Eco-Hysteria,” citing data from Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist),  “we have oil for at least 40 years at present consumption, at least 60 years’ worth of gas, and 230 years’ worth of coal.  At $40 a barrel (less than one-third above the current world price) [and now far below the current world price], shale oil can supply oil for the next 250 years at current consumption.  And all in all there is oil enough to cover our total energy consumption for the next 5,000 years.”  But if we are to exploit these resources, Congress must cease pandering to special interests, including the radical environmentalist lobby which has interfered with the construction of new refineries and blocked efforts to drill for oil in the vast reserves offshore and in Alaska.  As George Reisman notes in his excellent blog essay “`Price Gouging’: Setting the Record Straight” (May 8), “If Congress were serious about rising prices, . . . it would eliminate the obstacles it has placed or allowed to be placed in the way of expanded oil and gasoline production.  And rather than investigate oil companies, it would investigate the environmental movement and its policy of operating as a persistent pest, which uses the judicial system and government regulatory agencies to come between man and the actions he needs to perform to support and promote his life.” 

  

 

n    Demopublican/Replicrat Politics 

Partisan politics during the summer will continue to build up to the November mid-term Congressional election, as well as anticipating the 2008 presidential election – two elections that will mean very little to the future of the United States, given the sad reality that there’s essentially very little difference between the two major American political parties today.  (See my previous entry, “Demopublicans and Replicrats,” Nov. 17, 2005.) 

As a radical individualist who has become disenchanted with the Republican Party, it’s hard for me to choose which group of Republican politicians I detest the most:  the social conservatives (like Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum), who are collectivists of the right, or the so-called “moderates” (like virtually the entire Republican Congressional delegation from the New England states) who support regulatory/welfare state policies virtually indistinguishable from those of the damn Democrats.  Ohio’s Senator Mike DeWine is among the latter – a RINO (Republican in Name Only) who’s up for reelection this year and is already running campaign ads.  (He faced two opponents in the Republican primary election.)  One DeWine ad actually touts his authorship of legislation expanding FDA control over children’s drugs – the kind of record that any Democrat would brag about.  Without the Ohio Libertarian Party offering a real alternative to DeWine and his Demopublican/Replicrat opponent, that’s one office for which I plan to vote “None of the Above.”  Another statewide office for which I may vote for no one is that of Ohio’s governor.  Republican candidate Ken Blackwell has abandoned his support for TEL, a constitutional amendment limiting taxes and growth in state and local government spending.  By abandoning TEL, Mr. Blackwell has left only his overt homophobia (his opposition to same-sex marriage) as an issue distinguishing himself from his Democratic opponent. 

As I noted in my New Year’s essay this year, “Looking ahead to the 2008 presidential election, if the pundits are right in their prognostications, the Demopublican/Replicrat race will be between Hillary Clinton and John McCain – in other words, a power-hungry bitch versus a megalomaniacal bastard, each of them equally an enemy of liberty.  Such a contest, too, will be irrelevant to individualists, one that will arouse little emotion other than nausea.” 

 

 

n    Congressional Contempt for the Constitution 

The latest political scandal in Washington is that involving Congressman William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson, Louisiana’s only black congressman and a fixture in New Orleans politics since the 1970s.  The Democrat’s career epitomizes the truth in old maxim that power corrupts; he also may be regarded as a poster-child for term limits.  The eight-term House member is suspected of taking money to help a Kentucky technology company called iGate, Inc. win lucrative contracts in Africa.  (In other words, he not only took a bribe to help a company; it wasn’t even a Louisiana company!)  According to numerous press accounts, after videotaping Rep. Jefferson receiving a $100,000 bribe from a FBI informant, the government executed a search warrant of his home and found $90,000 of that money hidden in his freezer (which, I suppose, gives a whole new meaning to the term cold cash!)  Meanwhile, a Kentucky businessman has pleaded guilty to paying Rep. Jefferson $400,000 in bribes for official favors, and one of the congressman’s key staff members has plead guilty to aiding and abetting the bribery of a public official.  Based upon such evidence, as well as Rep. Jefferson’s refusal for eight months to comply with a subpoena to surrender key documents, the FBI obtained a search warrant from a federal judge and, pursuant to the warrant, searched and seized documents from the congressman’s Capitol Hill office in late May. 

Representative Jefferson’s case illustrates many interesting things about Washington politics, particularly about how politicians “inside the Beltway” have become detached from the rest of the country – and from reality.  First, the case bids fair to shatter whatever hopes Democrats may have had that they could cruise to electoral victory in November by tarring Republicans with the so-called “culture of corruption.”  As this case shows, the “corruption” is bipartisan.  So, too, is the arrogance of power – which was illustrated several weeks ago by Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D.-Ga.) and her notorious run-in with Capitol Hill police. 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Rep. Jefferson’s case is how it has exposed the true nature and the sources of Demopublican/Replicrat corruption.  One telling illustration of this has been the way leading Republican and Democratic politicians in the House – both Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) – have joined together in advancing the ludicrous argument that the FBI violated the Constitution in searching and seizing documents from Rep. Jefferson’s office.  Specifically, they accused the Justice Department of violating the constitutional principle of separation of powers and the “Speech or Debate” clause of the Constitution.  Neither argument is valid, as Robert F. Turner (co-founder of the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia School of Law) shows in his splendid op-ed. “Congress Isn’t Above the Law,” published in Wall Street Journal on May 28 (but, unfortunately, only in the online version, available only to subscribers).  As he shows, neither the “Speech or Debate” clause nor the general principle of separation of powers insulates members of Congress from the law (in this case, from executive-branch investigation of legislators who betray the public trust, and who violate the law, by taking bribes).  What the Demopublican/Replicrat leaders of the House are really claiming, with their specious “separation of powers” argument, is a form of Congressional privilege – a claim that members of Congress are above the law, immune from criminal investigation – which is no less audacious than the claims of so-called “executive privilege” advanced by Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, in their attempts to make the president above the law. 

What really contributes to political corruption in Washington is the modern regulatory/welfare state, which pervasively intrudes on all Americans’ lives and thus has created, in effect, a protection racket -- an inherent problem, regardless which faction of the Demopublican/Replicrat monopoly “controls” Congress.   Members of Congress will always be susceptible to bribes (either in the overt form that Rep. Jefferson apparently took or in the subtler forms of receipt of campaign contributions or other favors that virtually every member of Congress routinely takes), so long as the “era of Big Government” persists. 

Meanwhile, those 535 or so idiots on Capitol Hill continue to demonstrate their contempt for the Constitution by approving legislation that clearly violates it (and their oaths to support it):  for example, the bill recently passed by both houses that increases tenfold the penalties that broadcasters must pay for violating FCC “indecency” rules – a bill that clearly violates the First Amendment prohibition of all laws abridging freedom of speech.  (For more on how FCC censorship violates the Constitution, see my essay “Abolish the F*CCing FCC,” February 8, 2006.)

  

 

n    Between Iraq and a Harder Place (Iran) 

As I’ve previously maintained here, the continuing U.S. military involvement in Iraq, whatever its initial justification, not only has negatively affected the presidency of George W. Bush but also threatens to make it difficult for the United States to respond as it ought (and eventually, must) respond to an even greater danger:  the challenge posed by Iran, with its fanatic president and its developing nuclear-weapon capability.  The war in Iraq, unfortunately, because of the controversy over it, has prompted many Americans to forget that we are in the midst of an unavoidable military conflict with radical Islamic terrorists – evil people whose interpretation of Islam means that they are hell-bent on the destruction of Western civilization, evil people who can be thwarted in their aims only by the use of military force – in other words, a war against radical Islam in which the recent U.S. military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq are but the opening chapters.  Iran, inevitably (unless it has a “regime change” that wrests control away from fanatical Muslims), is the next chapter in what may prove to be a decades-long state of war. 

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, isn’t just a tyrant and an unabashed anti-Semite; he’s also a nut – and a dangerous nut!  Arguably, he poses a greater danger to the United States and our allies than did Saddam Hussein:  he’s demonstrably just as lawless – just as contemptuous of international law – as Saddam was, but moreover, his lawlessness is especially dangerous because it is coupled not only with nationalism but also with religious fanaticism. 

In a thoughtful May 30 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Echoes of Barbary,” Richard Brookhiser compares the problem posed by Iran today with the problem posed by the “Barbary pirates,” North African Islamic rogue nations, 200 years ago.  Just as Thomas Jefferson, “the most pacific of the founders” (as Brookhiser aptly characterizes him), realized that nothing short of war would effectively deal with the problem of these early 19th-century terrorists, so too must modern American policymakers realize that military force is ultimately the only effective way to deal with the Iranian regime.

 

  

n    Sudan-ly Interventionists 

Celebrities like actor George Clooney and political activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton were among the speakers at a May 1 rally on the National Mall in Washington, demanding that the Bush administration do more to end the ethnic and political conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.  It’s more than a little hypocritical for the same left-liberal critics of U.S. military intervention in Iraq – the same folks who have been demanding that the Bush administration withdraw U.S. troops from that country – to suddenly (or should I say, “Sudan-ly”?) favor military intervention in Darfur, on the grounds that we need to act in order to stop the slaughter of innocents.  After all, dictator Suddam Hussein slaughtered thousands of persons before we removed him and his regime from power.   

Whether or not U.S. military intervention in Iraq was necessary in 2003 – in other words, whether the Hussein regime truly posed a threat to the security of the United States or other nations – may be a debatable question, but it’s clear that the U.S. has no vital interests in Africa.  It’s sad that thousands, if not millions, of persons are dying, in various places on that continent, because of civil war, starvation, AIDS and other epidemic diseases – but the problems of Africa, as I have previously discussed (see the discussion of “Misguided Fools and the `Dark Continent’,” in my July 18, 2005 entry, “Midsummer Musings”) cannot be resolved by military intervention.  Africa is suffering from the twin evils of collectivism, Islam and Marxism.  The only real solution for the problems that plague the people of Africa is a political revolution of their own making:  a revolution, to bring to the continent the keys to economic prosperity and human flourishing – free-market capitalism, and limited constitutional government that guarantees the rights of all individuals.   

Those keys depend on the principle that ought to keep us out of the Sudanese civil war:  Mind your own business.  In other words, people ought, first, to be responsible for themselves. 

 

 

n    Borderline Lunacy 

Congress continues to struggle to pass an immigration bill, with the prospects (as of this writing) unlikely that the divergent bills passed by the House and Senate can be reconciled.  Behind the political posturing of those calling for a “tough” approach to illegal immigration lies the unsavory policy of protectionism, using the coercive power of government to shield certain groups of people in society – in this case, U.S. laborers – from competition.  All the professed concern for protecting U.S. borders – and the entire attempt to demonize foreign workers in the U.S. as “illegals” – is, at best, disguised protectionism; at worse, it’s racism and jingoistic lunacy. 

As a radical individualist who agrees with Thomas Jefferson’s view that emigration is a natural right, I support a policy of open borders:  we don’t need walls, fences, border patrols, or even checkpoints; people should be free to come and go across the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada.  Although Congress has the legitimate constitutional authority to pass naturalization laws, defining the process for foreigners to become U.S. citizens, Congress abuses that authority – as well as its power to “regulate” commerce – when it attempts to control the labor market, by restricting non-citizens’ rights to travel to and, yes, to reside and to work in, the United States.  The case for “open immigration,” in both moral and practical terms, is a strong one, as Harry Binswanger argues in his April 2 essay in  Capitalism Magazine, “Immigration Quotas versus Individual Rights.”  

Finally (and in my opinion, the essential point), employers should be free to hire whomever they want, regardless whether the prospective employee is a citizen or non-citizen, or a “legal” or “illegal” alien.  Among the fundamental rights that the Constitution ought to protect (and which the Constitution, as interpreted by the courts, did in fact protect, until the late 1930s) is economic freedom, including freedom of contract – which embraces the freedom of both employees to offer their labor and employers to hire that labor, at whatever price and under whatever conditions both parties freely agree to, for their mutual advantage.  Those who complain that “illegal immigrants” from Mexico or elsewhere are “taking away our jobs” overlook the fact that no one has a legitimate “right to a job”; all that the law ought to protect is the equal freedom of everyone (foreigners, resident aliens, and U.S. citizens alike) to compete for jobs, on whatever terms they can freely bargain for with prospective employers.   Similarly, those who argue it’s “unfair” for non-citizens to receive government services and “benefits” are ignoring the essential injustice of the welfare state:  that it takes wealth earned by those who produced it and forcibly transfers it to those who did not earn it.  Whether the “beneficiaries” of such government programs are citizens or not is irrelevant, in comparison with this fundamental injustice.

  

 

n    The Battle Over Same-Sex Marriage 

The most interesting constitutional and political issue of our time is likely to continue to be a matter of conflict:  the question whether the traditional definition of marriage should be expanded to include same-sex couples.  As companion articles in USA Today reported in March, on the one hand, gay-rights activists are pushing to legalize same-sex marriage with an unprecedented wave of lawsuits in state courts in California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Washington state.  The lawsuits, backed by the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and other gay rights groups, seek courts to declare that same-sex couples have a right to marry based on state constitutional protections for equality and due process of law.  Meanwhile, the Alliance for Marriage and other conservative groups against same-sex marriage hope to win legislative ballot initiatives this year in several states – Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin – that would amend state constitutions to ban same-sex marriages.  Nineteen states have such bans, most adopted since November 2003 (after  Massachusetts’ highest court declared that same-sex couples had the right to marry under the state constitution); and in June, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to begin debating a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.  (See “Same-sex marriage battles escalate” and “Wave of lawsuits targets bans on same-sex marriage,” USA Today, March 23.) 

Although public-opinion polls show strong opposition to same-sex marriage (according to most polls over the past five years, about 60 percent of Americans oppose legalizing same-sex marriage), the issue – like other questions involving fundamental constitutional rights – ought not to be decided according to majority opinion.  As I have discussed here previously, the case for expanding the definition of marriage is a good one, based on fundamental American principles of equal protection of the law and the natural rights of individuals to pursue happiness.  Against these principles, opponents of same-sex marriage offer spurious arguments that the institution of marriage somehow would be threatened by its expansion to include same-sex couples – arguments that fail to withstand rational scrutiny and which, ultimately, amount to nothing more than homophobia, the irrational fear that many people (unfortunately) have of homosexuality.  .  (For more on this, see my essays on “Marriage, American Style,” May 19, 2004, and “In Defense of Sex,” May 16, 2005.  As I argue in those essays, among other things, the real threat to the institution of marriage today comes from heterosexuals who do not take the commitment seriously enough, and not from homosexual couples desiring legal recognition of their romantic commitment to one another.)  

As with so many other questions in law and public policy (other issues in which, similarly, American principles of individualism clash with paternalistic governmental policies), unfortunately, irrational emotions may trump rationality and justice – at least in the short run.

  

 

n    Holding Politicians Accountable 

Another fundamental right – one that is frequently ignored, if not derided, by many self-professed civil libertarians – is the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and similar provisions in state constitutions: the right of people to possess firearms.  The right, which is based on each individual’s natural and inalienable right of self-defense, is no less fundamental a right than, say, the First Amendment freedoms of expression and religion.  It recognizes a basic American founding principle, that individuals do not give up their natural rights to government; they retain fundamental rights, such as the right to possess and use guns to defend themselves, because, in a free society, no one should be dependent upon government for their survival. 

The vital importance of gun rights to a free society was underscored last year, in the wake of hurricane Katrina and the floods that devastated the city of New Orleans, when government officials in the city – the same officials who refused to protect the public from criminals – turned on the law-abiding citizens themselves and began a concerted effort to confiscate their guns.  On the orders of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, the New Orleans Police Department, the National Guard, the Oklahoma National Guard, and the U.S. Marshalls Service broke into homes at gunpoint, confiscating lawfully owned firearms, and evicting the residents.  (For more on this, including the NRA’s successful challenge to the gun confiscation, see my discussion of “The Value of Gun Rights,” in my previous entry, “After the Flood,” December 7, 2005.) 

America’s largest civil-rights organization, the National Rifle Association (NRA), citing New Orleans gun confiscation, has called on all police chiefs and mayors to sign a pledge that they won’t forcibly disarm law-abiding citizens.  “Never again should individual gun owners be criminalized and forcibly disarmed at the whim of local officials,” the NRA statement reads.  “Whatever the circumstances, lawful gun owners have the right to possess their firearms in their homes.  And if forced to evacuate, they have the right to transport their firearms to a safe place.”  

All Americans who profess concern for civil rights ought to pressure their local government officials to sign the NRA pledge.  As NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has said, mayors and police chiefs have already sworn to uphold the Constitution, “so signing this pledge should be just as effortless.”  If only that were so!

 

  

n    The Dangerous Religious Left 

It has become commonplace for the left-biased news media to demonize religious conservatives – the so-called “Religious Right” – when covering issues like the debate over same-sex marriage, or abortion, or other “social” or “moral” issues of concern to conservatives.  What the media largely ignores, however – as a result of the left-wing political bias that pervades virtually the entire journalism profession – is the growing political influence of leftist-oriented Christian clergy, the Religious Left.   As this fall’s concerted effort to expand government control over wages will show (see below), religious left-liberals (who include evangelical Protestants as well as Catholics and other “mainline” sect clergy) will become increasingly politically active over issues about which they’re passionate – poverty, third-world hunger and disease, sex trafficking, the environment, and the war in Iraq – and will be pushing their left-wing agenda, which generally speaking, will seek to expand the paternalism of the 20th-century regulatory/welfare state, in those areas that left-liberals want more government control as a “solution” to perceived social problems. 

Like the “Religious Right,” the Religious Left is motivated by collectivist premises that are at odds with the individualism on which American society is based.   This is yet another reason why everyone who cares about reason, individual freedom and responsibility, ought to be alarmed at the continuing influence of religion over public affairs.  

 

  

n    Wages of Sin 

A dangerous coalition of Big Labor (principally the AFL-CIO), the Religious Left (principally the National Council of Churches), and Democrat political operatives will campaign in a dozen states this fall (including, it appears, Ohio) on behalf of measures to raise the minimum wage.  (In Ohio, the effort currently underway would put on the fall ballot an amendment to the state constitution that would mandate increasing the state minimum wage, now $5.15 an hour, to $6.85, with adjustments annually thereafter.  In addition to Ohio, initiative campaigns to ask voters to approve minimum-wage increases are under way in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, and Montana.  Voters in Nevada previously approved an increase, but state law requires two votes for enactment.  Legislative action is being considered in several other states, and a number of state legislatures – including Ohio’s – recently raised their state’s minimum wage in an effort to forestall the ballot initiatives.) 

Currently, nineteen states, plus the District of Columbia, have minimum wages higher than the federal level ($5.15).   A number of cities, including San Francisco and Santa Fe, New Mexico, also have minimum-wage, or so-called “living wage,” ordinances that mandate higher wages than the federal minimum.  (Santa Fe has the dubious distinction of having the highest minimum wage in the USA, since pegging the rate at $8.50 an hour in July 2004; its city council recently raised it to $9.50 an hour and is planning to raise it again to $10.50 an hour in 2008.  Not surprisingly, Santa Fe is an expensive place to live, with a medium home price for the last quarter of 2005 of $470,000, more than double the U.S. median of $213,000.  According to a recent feature story in USA Today, while some Santa Fe residents seem to have benefited from the recent minimum wage increase, others have been hurt – such as dishwasher Marcelo Martinez, whose take-home pay hasn’t increased and in fact has dropped in some weeks, after his boss cut back on offering overtime because of the higher hourly pay.  See “Santa Fe’s higher wage rate cuts both ways,” May 10.)  Although economists may disagree about the effect of increasing minimum wages, it’s common sense that an increase in minimum wages adds to employers’ costs, forcing them to cut back in other ways, particularly with the number of employees.  Thus, as most credible economists realize, an increase in the government-mandated minimum wage inevitably results in either higher prices for consumers or greater unemployment for those workers – the young and/or unskilled – whom minimum-wage laws allegedly were designed to protect. 

But the laws of economics are irrelevant to those pushing for minimum-wage increases.  Democrat political operatives see the issue much as Republican political operatives see other ballot initiatives that appeal to conservatives (such as a ban on same-sex marriage):  as a so-called “wedge” issue, which (they hope) will help motivate voter turnout, increasing their chances to win control over the government.  Democrats hope that this fall, as campaigns for governorships and congressional seats heat up, the minimum-wage issue could attract left-liberal voters in November, just as measures outlawing same-sex marriage galvanized conservative voters in 2004.  “That kind of effort can really draw voters out to not only support the minimum wage but to support the candidates who support the minimum wage” – in other words, Democrats – said Oliver Griswold of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a left-liberal advocacy group based in Washington.  And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) has unabashedly declared that raising the federal minimum wage will be a top priority for Democrats if they regain control of the House of Representatives after the November election. 

Minimum-wage laws are based on not just bad economics or sleazy politics, however; they’re also unjust, an abridgment of the legitimate rights of both employers and employees.  The essence of a minimum-wage law is that it makes it a crime for a willing employer and a willing employee to agree on a wage rate lower than the government-mandated minimum.  Not only does it thus deprive both parties to the labor contract of their basic right to bargain over the terms of the contract, but it deprives certain workers (generally, young or unskilled workers – those whose value of labor, on a free market, falls below the government-mandated minimum – again, those very workers whom the advocates of the law claim to be “protecting”) of their right to work, of their right to use their labor to earn what it’s worth.  In this sense, minimum-wage laws are among the most egregious deprivations of Americans’ “privacy” rights – their right to control their own bodies, including their labor – that exist in modern society.  At one time, prior to the late 1930s (when the courts abandoned their protection of economic liberty as a fundamental right and instead embraced the “social legislation” of the 20th-century welfare state), minimum-wage laws were regarded, properly, as unconstitutional.  They’re still unconstitutional, even though the courts now fail to recognize them as such.

 

  

n    The Unhealthy State of Massachusetts 

In a famous dissenting opinion, the early 20th-century U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted that “one of the happy incidents of the federal system” of government in the United States is that “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”  Of course, such single-state experiments might be either good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, a positive model for the other 49 states to emulate or a negative model of a mistake they should avoid.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, arguably, has now supplanted California as the nation’s boldest “laboratory” for experimentation:  it was the first state to recognize same-sex marriage (a positive development that the rest of the nation should follow, as I’ve noted above).  Now, it is also the first state to attempt to provide “universal” health-care coverage for all its residents:  a tragic mistake that the rest of the nation should avoid. 

The Massachusetts experiment has been called “RomneyCare,” named after its chief proponent, the state’s Republican governor, Mitt Romney.  (The passage of this legislation by a Democrat-controlled legislature and a “social conservative” Republican governor illustrates two truths that I’ve frequently mentioned here:  that some of the worst laws are passed with bipartisan support, and that there’s little essential difference between the two major parties today.)  The Massachusetts law is more aptly described as a universal health-insurance mandate, for it requires all individuals in the state to carry health insurance (“just as motorists in many states are required to carry auto insurance,” as its proponents like to say) and imposes an annual $295 per worker assessment on employers who do not provide it.  In a series of insightful editorials, the Wall Street Journal has given the reasons why the scheme will not work:  among them, that the scheme preserves all existing state insurance coverage mandates and regulations (which already have made Massachusetts one of the most expensive states in which to buy insurance); that the $295-per-employee annual penalty is not only sure to grow over time but also hides the truly onerous real costs to employers, who are liable for the major medical bills of employees they don’t insure; and that the scheme offers little choice to consumers, giving only to individuals under age 27 the option to buy basic, high-deductible insurance without costly extras.  (See “RomneyCare,” April 12; “Mitt’s Market Misfire,” April 24; and “Mitt’s Non-Miracle,” May 2; see also the op-ed by Betsy McCaughey, “Romneycare’s Fine Print,” May 5.) 

The analogy to the state mandate for auto insurance is not apt, as the author of a thoughtful letter to the editor in The Wall Street Journal pointed out (Gerald P. Hanner, “Mandatory Health Care? Hold On, Governor,” April 25, 2006).  State financial responsibility laws require people who operate motor vehicles to carry liability insurance, of at least some state-mandated amount, to provide some protection to people who may be injured or have their property destroyed by the acts of careless drivers.  People who don’t operate motor vehicles are not required to carry car insurance; moreover, states do not require drivers to carry collision or comprehensive coverage insurance, to protect their own motor vehicles from damage or destruction.  RomneyCare, in contrast, requires everyone in Massachusetts to have health insurance.  In other words, it aims to protect individuals from their own folly, by making health care no longer a matter of individual responsibility.  Rather, it collectivizes the responsibility and passes the costs on to employers: in short, it’s truly a form of socialized health care. 

The essential problem with the Massachusetts scheme is that it is based on the false premise that health care is a “right” that government ought to provide – by forcibly taking wealth created by one group of citizens, those who are responsible enough to provide for their own health-care needs, and redistributing it to others, those who are irresponsible.  Thus, it violates the authentic right of individuals:  to be free to choose whether or not to have health insurance, and if they so decide, to choose whatever health insurance plan best meets their own individual needs.  If America has a “health care crisis,” it is because government mandates have distorted the free market for health care and insurance.  The only true solution to this problem is not to impose additional mandates, as Massachusetts now does, but rather to remove the mandates and to let the free market work. 

The Massachusetts experiment is doomed to fail.  As Arnold Kling (an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute) has pointed out in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (“Bill of Health,” April 7), the Massachusetts scheme comes into conflict with the laws of arithmetic and thus is bound to result in higher costs (meaning higher taxes for Massachusetts taxpayers and/or bankruptcy for Massachusetts businesses), as the true costs of the universal mandate spiral out of control.  As Kling notes, the Massachusetts scheme “is a perfect illustration of what happens when politicians approach a problem unconstrained by reality.”  And as Sally Pipes (president of the Pacific Research Institute) has pointed out in an op-ed in USA Today (“Massachusetts will fail,” April 10), the end result of the state’s scheme will be a total government take-over of health care:  as costs explode, the state will impose price controls, more regulation, and rationing – and ultimately impose single-payer health care, or Medicaid, for all, with all the problems of government-run single-payer health care (see Canada, for example).  “An innovative approach would deregulate the individual market and allow insurance companies to design policies that are attractive to the non-needy insured,” Pipes notes.  “In a blast from the past, Massachusetts law does just the opposite.”  It’s a further illustration of another truth I’ve discussed here:  that those programs or policies described by leftists as “progressive” are really reactionary; they’re repackaged versions of the failed paternalistic policies of the past.  (See “Reactionary `Progressives’,” March 16.)

 

  

n    One More Cheer for Federalism 

Two other illustrations of the benefits of federalism concern efforts in two states, Texas and New Jersey, that will affect motorists this year.  Both were reported in separate articles in the May 17 USA Today.  One article reports that the nation’s top legal driving speed soon could rise to a long-forbidden 80 mph, as Texas officials (the five-member Texas Transportation Commission) consider a proposal to increase the speed limit on parts of two interstate highways, I-10 and I-20, in West Texas.  The other article reports that New Jersey’s governor Jon Corzine has backed off his proposal to allow self-service at some stations along the New Jersey Turnpike, thus keeping in place the state’s ban on consumers pumping their own gas. 

Predictably, national traffic-safety advocates oppose the proposed speed limit increase in Texas, arguing that speed contributes to many fatal car crashes.  Contrary to what these “experts” say, I think it’s fairly obvious that the leading cause of traffic accidents is not high speed per se but rather drivers traveling at variable speeds, as well as driving carelessly – particularly by driving too closely to the vehicle ahead of them.  (Isn’t anyone taught in drivers’ ed what I was taught: that you should keep sufficient stopping distance – one car length for every 10 mph of speed, even more when roads are slick?)  In states like Texas, it makes perfect sense to have a speed limit of 80 mph (or even higher), along the lonelier stretches of interstate highways.  As the USA Today editors noted in a May 18 editorial, those safety advocates who oppose the increase “do not fully appreciate how different life is in the remote corners of this country than in the big cities.”  For remote corners, read “big and sparsely populated”:  places like not only Texas, but huge portions of the United States west of the Mississippi River, where higher speed limits would make perfect sense.  “For drivers in Texas, Austin knows best,” the USA Today editors note.  (“States of Mind,” May 18.)  The same applies to every state – underscoring the folly of nationally-imposed speed limits, another unfortunate legacy of the artificial “energy crisis” created by Congressional price controls over oil and gas in the 1970s. 

With regard to the New Jersey situation, the USA Today editorial blithely regards New Jersey’s nearly unique ban on self-service at gas stations (New Jersey and Oregon are the only states that outlaw self-service stations) as a kind of quaint throwback to “the customer service of yesteryear,” when full-service was the norm.  (The editors suggest that maybe New Jersey officials in search of a new state slogan might adopt, “New Jersey: You won’t have to pump for yourself.”)  In reality, though, the New Jersey ban on self-service isn’t quaint:  it’s an example of government paternalism and elitism at its worst (for it assumes that consumers aren’t smart enough to safely pump gas for themselves – as they do in the other 48 states).  And, of course, it interferes with the property rights of station owners, who ought to be free to decide for themselves how to deliver their product to their own consumers.  Like all other kinds of government interference with freedom of the marketplace, it’s an unjustifiable abridgment of persons’ fundamental right to economic freedom.  Thankfully, such nonsense as New Jersey’s and Oregon’s policy, is confined to just those two states.  Again, that’s the fortunate consequence of federalism.

  

 

n    Three Cheers for Blasphemy! 

Robert Bidinotto, who has written eloquently about the dangers to freedom of expression posed by the Islamic world’s reaction against the Danish cartoons of Muhammad (see my previous entry, “The Jihad Against Free Speech,” April 6, 2006), reports that now some Roman Catholic leaders are calling for boycotts and even legal action (i.e., government coercion) against author Dan Brown, his controversial novel The Da Vinci Code, and the movie inspired by the novel, on the grounds that they disrespect Jesus and/or the Catholic Church.  Bidinotto observes in a recent  blog entry that Western capitulation to radical Islamist demands for censorship in the Muhammad case would set a dangerous precedent; and sure enough, 

“Now, as predicted, we aren't just hearing demands to censor Danish cartoons mocking Muhammad; we are hearing demands to stop bestselling books and movies that are even fictionally critical of Christianity.”

 

(Bidinotto, “Now that we have the Muhammad precedent . . . “ (May 10).) 

For those, like me, who haven’t read The Da Vinci Code, the plot of both the book and movie can be readily discerned from the many media reviews that appeared at the time of the movie’s release:  what many Catholics and other Christians regard as “blasphemy” is its basic premise, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, and they had a child, thus creating a bloodline that still exists.  The “Holy Grail,” according to the story’s premise, is thus not the wine cup at the Last Supper bur rather Mary Magdalene’s womb, fertilized by Jesus’ sperm – in other words, Jesus’ blood line.  The story, in both the book and movie, also portrays some members of Opus Dei, a conservative Roman Catholic group, as murderous villains (which looks like defamation, as well as blasphemy).  Of course, it’s pure fiction; but to a rational, thinking person, it’s no less unbelievable than the dogmas of Christianity itself.  (See my previous entry, “Why I Am Not a Christian,” April 20.) 

What I call “Juchrislam” – the combined influence of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – arguably is responsible for much of the misery, and certainly much of the violence, in the world today.  More foolishness has come out of the Middle East than any other part of the world, precisely because it’s the center of  “Juchrislam.”  The world would be far better off without any religion at all, certainly without these divisive Middle Eastern-based religions.  Indeed, arguably the only chance mankind has for a future of peace, happiness, and individual flourishing would be for reason to displace faith and superstition as the basis for man’s values. 

Indeed, it seems to me, the greatest “blasphemy” in The Da Vinci Code is how it defames Leonardo da Vinci – with its notions that the great Renaissance artist and scientist was “grand master” of some secret group called “The Priory of Sion” and that he portrayed Mary Magdalene as one of Jesus’ disciples in his Last Supper – notions that are not only wholly fictitious but also make the great Leonardo seem like some sort of mystic rather than the Aristotelian man of reason that he truly was.

  

 

n    Double Lacrossed 

One case that will remain in the news, not only throughout the summer but also likely for the next year or more, is the Duke University men’s lacrosse team’s “rape” scandal.  “This case is not going away,” declared Durham (N.C.) County District Attorney Michael Nifong, who has obtained indictments against three Duke lacrosse players – Reade Seligmann, 20, Collin Finnerty, 19, and team co-captain David Evans, 23 – who have been accused of raping a woman who had been hired as a stripper to perform at a team party in March.  All three are currently free on bond, but Judge Ronald Stephens has warned that the case “is not going to jump ahead of the line and be handled any differently” from other cases – meaning that a trial is not expected before next year. 

The case reeks with politics – racial politics, sexual politics, and class-envy politics – because the alleged victim was a black woman and the players accused of raping her are white males from affluent families.  It’s fairly obvious that Mr. Nifong, a politically-ambitious officeholder, brought the case in order to help court the black community’s vote – which helped him win the recent primary election and no doubt will get him reelected this fall (he’s a Democrat, and there are no Republicans running in the general election).  Nifong has shamelessly politicized the case, among other things, by appearing at a “forum” held in the gym at North Carolina Central University, the predominantly black university where the alleged victim was enrolled as a student.  Notwithstanding many holes in the prosecution’s case (including apparently unreliable identifications by the alleged victim, major problems with the state’s timeline, and the lack of DNA evidence), Nifong has pledged, as noted above, that the case will not go away (and he made the pledge at the NC Central rally) – creating the impression that the defendants are being prosecuted precisely because they’re white male jocks from affluent families. 

While it’s p.c., as well as f.c. (factually correct), to observe that rape is a serious crime and that all allegations deserve a thorough, professional investigation, it also should be noted – as libertarian feminist Wendy McElroy discusses in a recent op-ed for the Independent Institute, "False Rape Accusations May Be More Common Than Thought" – that false accusations in rape cases are not rare.  Indeed, “they are common,” she notes, estimating that approximately 25%, or one-quarter, of rape accusations are false.  (That doesn’t necessarily mean that the alleged victim wasn’t raped; rather, it means that the person accused was not the culprit, whether or not the crime actually occurred.)   In another op-ed, McElroy discusses the political circumstances of the case, emphasizing Mr. Nifong’s bid for reelection as the probable motivation for his drive to prosecute (“Did Justice or Politics Drive Arrests in Duke LaCrosse Case?  April 18). 

In a laudable show of support for the Duke men’s lacrosse team, the Duke women’s lacrosse team has worn sweatbands with the word “innocent” written on them at last weekend’s NCAA Division I Final Four in Boston.  Not only has Mr. Nifong’s politically-motivated prosecution damaged the lives of the three young men who are the defendants, it also has all but destroyed the Blue Devils’ men’s lacrosse program, once the premiere program in the country.  The university’s associate athletic director Chris Kennedy said in a recent interview, “It used to be you’d say, `I play lacrosse at Duke,’ and there was a double wow.  You went to Duke.  And you played lacrosse there.  Now there’s a different kind of wow.”

  

 

n    What Ohio Could Learn from Michigan 

Originally a native of Michigan who still owns property there, I frequently travel between that state and Ohio, its neighbor to the south, which is now the state in which I principally reside and work.  Spending time in both states has led me to realize that there’s a lot that policy-makers in Ohio could learn from the experience of “that state up north,” among them: 

·        lower taxes on business

(Both Michigan and Ohio suffer from “rust-belt” economies exacerbated by high taxes and high levels of government spending, but the Republican-controlled legislature in Michigan – even with a Democratic governor – has been more successful in reducing the tax burden on businesses, especially small businesses, that’s been driving them out of the state.) 

·        legalized gambling

(Although neither state has adopted the most sensible policy, of completely decriminalizing gambling and other so-called “moral” offenses, at least Michigan policymakers have permitted some casinos on Indian reservations and in downtown Detroit, while Ohio policymakers continue to insist that only the state government – through the Ohio Lottery Commission – holds a monopoly on legal gambling in the state.) 

·        more sensible highway rules

(Michigan has a 70 mph maximum speed limit on its major expressways, while Ohio has an unreasonably low maximum of 65 mph on all its highways.  Michigan also has blinking red left-turn lights at intersections, a sensible device that would improve traffic control at many Ohio intersections.) 

and last but not least,

·        a better official state motto

(Michigan’s Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice – Latin for “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you” – has a secular message that appropriately defines the state of Michigan; Ohio’s motto, “With God, All Things Are Possible,” in contrast, is an underhanded attempt by some Christian zealots to have the state government endorse their religious beliefs.)

 

(I should hasten to add that I’m not suggesting Michigan’s laws are perfect; far from it.  Indeed, there’s much that Michigan policymakers could learn from other states, including Ohio.  Among the many bad Michigan laws that ought to be repealed are its foolish law requiring consumers to pay a deposit on bottles and cans, in an effort to mandate recycling (one of those “feel-good” environmentalist-inspired laws that’s based on popularly-held myths about the supposed benefits of recycling, which actually wastes energy and resources rather than saves them), and its unique law – Michigan is the only state in the Union with such a law – requiring retailers to individually label items in their store with price tags.  That law doesn’t “protect” any consumers, except those who are too stupid or irresponsible to read price labels on the shelves; and in fact it actually harms all consumers by imposing unnecessary added costs on businesses, such as the $1.5 million fine recently levied against Wal-Mart.) 

 

  

n    Gambling Fever 

One of the hot political issues here in Ohio is whether the government should expand legalized gambling (which currently is limited to the state-run lottery), to include such things as slot machines at race tracks and/or casinos.  Personally, I do not gamble and I consider anyone who does to be an idiot.  The Ohio state lottery has as its slogan, “Odds Are You’ll Have Fun”; a more honest slogan would be, “Odds Are You’re Throwing Away Your Money.”  But the critical question is whether the state’s criminal laws should be used to protect adults from their own folly (or whether the state should continue to hold a monopoly on the business of pandering to the gambling “vice”).  

It’s simply not the government’s business how individuals spend their own money, with only one exception:  protecting individuals against fraud.  Absent outright fraud, however, anyone ought to be free to open a gambling casino, run their own lottery, install slot machines and other games of chance in their business establishment, and generally offer for sale whatever their customers are willing to buy.  (Note that this argument for decriminalizing gambling equally applies to the repeal of all other laws against “vices” – laws that go beyond the legitimate power of government to protect people from harming each other and instead try to protect people from their own desires or follies – including laws against prostitution and drugs.)  That’s what living in a “free society” ought really to be about.

 

  

n    The Independence Day Holiday 

As Thomas Jefferson wrote about the Fourth of July on June 24, 1826, in the last letter he ever wrote (just ten days before his death on the 50th anniversary of Independence Day), “Let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections” of the rights of man, “and an undiminished devotion to them.”  Accordingly, I repeat what I wrote last summer, on “The Meaning of Independence Day” (June 30, 2005).

 

  

n    Summer Movie Blues 

Generally I enjoy new movie releases during the summer, because summer movies normally are light fare, fun and entertaining (without the heavy “message” films that Hollywood releases during other seasons).  I still fondly remember movies like “Jaws,” in the summer of 1975, or “Breaking Away,” in the summer of 1979 – movies that nicely epitomize the genre.  The prospects for a fun and entertaining summer at the movie theaters this year, however, are rather bleak.  With a few notable exceptions, this summer’s offerings will be a plethora of sequels and remakes, demonstrating perhaps why Hollywood’s box office receipts have been declining in recent months – the appalling lack of originality in most of the new movies being made. 

Perhaps the most enjoyable movie this summer – the one that best fits my model of good summer “fun” movies – is a sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (July 7), which looks like it might be almost as fun as the first film, with Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp reprising their roles.   Another comedy that looks like it will be fun – and which has an intriguing premise – is Click (June 23), in which Adam Sandler plays a man who discovers that his “universal” remote control actually can influence the world around him, from lowering the volume of a barking dog to fast-forwarding through unpleasant parts of his life. 

Other “action” movies this summer will probably be rather disappointing, for they again tend to be either sequels or remakes:  Mission: Impossible III (May 5: like its predecessors, it lacks the suspense of the original TV series, in part because Tom Cruise is no Peter Graves); Poseidon (May 12: it wasn’t just in the title of the picture that “Adventure” was dropped in this remake of Irwin Allen’s classic 1972 Poseidon Adventure, the grand-daddy of modern disaster films); X-Men III: The Last Stand (May 26, which just broke the record for Memorial Day weekend box office take); The Omen (June 6 – that is, 6/6/06, get it? – a useless remake of the 1976 horror flick, with the same mystical nonsense but no doubt more graphically violent special effects); The Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift (June 16:  do we really need a third, especially without either Paul Walker or Vin Diesel?); and Superman Returns (June 30, with a new actor, Brandon Routh, taking over the role of the Man of Steel). 

What is particularly disappointing about the movies coming out of Hollywood in recent years has been the trend to do unnecessary – and usually dreadful – remakes of beloved television series.  It was an unfortunate trend that began several years ago, with remakes of such programs as The Beverly Hillbillies and Lost in Space, and which has continued recently with such remakes as The Honeymooners (with a black cast), Bewitched (with Nicole Kidman and Will Farrell), and The Dukes of Hazard (with Jessica Simpson).  The trend, sadly, continues this summer, with the aforementioned third Mission: Impossible film and with Miami Vice (July 28, starring Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett and Jamie Foxx as Ricardo Tubbs). 

Finally, nearly five years late, Hollywood finally has begun acknowledging the events of September 11, 2001, with the release of two feature films this summer.  United 93, the story of United flight #93, the fourth plane hijacked by Islamist terrorists – the plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field, after its passengers and crew fought back – opened in theaters the last week of April.  It was a moving story, although its focus on the air-traffic controllers (with some of the real-life participants in the events of 9/11 playing themselves in the film) strangely detracted from the story of the passengers and crew and, perhaps most poignantly, their families.  That story was the focus of Flight 93, a made-for-TV movie broadcast on the A&E cable channel earlier this year and, in some ways, more moving than the feature film, despite the latter’s higher production value.   

And, near the end of summer, theaters will begin showing Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center (August 9), which stars Nicolas Cage and focuses on the inspirational story of two New York Port Authority cops who are trapped in the WTC on 9/11.  (Fortunately, based on advance reports, this will not be marred by conspiracy theories or the paranoia that typified such Oliver Stone films as JFK and Nixon – films that might have led to audience expectations that Stone’s Alexander could have ended with the suggestion that somehow the CIA was involved in the death of Alexander the Great!) 

Contrary to those pussies who whine that it’s “too soon” to dramatize the tragic events of 9/11, I think these films are long overdue as a much-needed reminder to Americans that we are at war with fanatical Islamic terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying our civilization.  Just as it was important during World War II that Americans “remember Pearl Harbor,” Americans today ought to keep seared in their memory the images of the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, of the attack on the Pentagon, and, yes, of the burning remnants of United flight 93, with its heroic passengers and crew, in that Pennsylvania field.   As the lyrics to country singer Darryl Worley’s song Have You Forgotten declare,

 

“They took all the footage off my TV, said it’s too disturbing for you and me;

It’ll just breed anger, that’s what the experts say, [but]

If it was up to me, I’d show it every day. 

Some say this country’s just out looking for a fight. 

After 9/11, man, I’d have to say that’s right!

 

“Have you forgotten how it felt that day

To see your homeland under fire and her people blown away;

Have you forgotten when those towers fell,

We had neighbors still inside going through a living hell. 

And we vowed to get the ones behind Bin Laden,

Have you forgotten?”

 

     | Link to this Entry | Posted Tuesday, May 30, 2006 | Copyright © David N. Mayer