Thursday, November 29, 2007

Stem Cell Update

Political setbacks for stem cell advocates will not destroy or harm medical research efforts because successful efforts have not relied on embryonic stem cells in the first place. For those who wish to pursue embryonic stem cell research, there are other sources of embryonic stem cells.

A fact that is not commonly heard in the debate on embryonic stem cells is that medical advances based on stem cell research have not been based on embryonic stem cells. These advances have been made exclusively by research using adult stem cells. Use of adult stem cells has proved beneficial in over seventy different diseases ( m) while embryonic stem cell research has led to no treatments thus far. On the contrary, embryonic stem cells have been known to cause tumors in adults and be rejected by the body ( m).

Additionally, embryos are not the only source of embryonic stem cells. These cells can also be found in umbilical cords, placentas, amniotic fluid, and cadavers. Many of these sources of stem cells cause no disruption of a pregnancy and no loss of human life. These nonlethal sources of stem cells should be sufficient for research.

Finally, over the past few months, scientists have made advances in creating artificial stem cells. Scientists have already succeeded in turning bone marrow cells into stem cells ( em-cells-turned-into-primitive-sperm-cells.html). Just a few days ago, scientists announced that they are now able to convert adult skin cells into cells that behave like embryonic stem cells ( e/archive/200711/CUL20071120d.html).

The political setbacks for stem cell advocates only focus on government funding for stem cell research. Private research using embryonic stem cells is legal. We should ask ourselves, if embryonic stem cells hold so much promise for miracle cures, then why can the research not be done by private companies? These companies should be willing to invest in research and development of stem cell therapies that would earn massive profits. If private companies don't see that embryonic stem cells hold the promise of cures and profits, then why should the government pursue this research with taxpayer dollars?

There is no longer any reason to destroy living human embryos for research. Adult stem cells provide the greatest success for medical treatments, but for those who wish to continue research using embryonic stem cells, there are several artificial alternatives. If their research is promising, private funding can easily be found on the capital market due to the huge profits to be earned from successful therapies.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Eagles-Long Road Out of Eden Reviewed

I am a big Eagles fan and have been ever since I discovered the band when I was in high school back in the '80s. At one point or another, I think that I have owned all the classic Eagle albums on either cassette or CD. I even had some in both formats.

I was in college when the long awaited Eagles reunion tour happened in the '90s. I managed to get out to see the band live on two occasions. Both shows were great crowd pleasers.

I was pretty excited when word of the new release, "Long Road Out of Eden," was announced. With the release so close to my birthday, I even had a good excuse to drop a hint for my wife to pick it up.

Having said all that, it really pains me to say that the one word that comes to mind when I listen to "Long Road Out of Eden" is "depressing."

The Eagles' most popular songs were an upbeat fusion of rock and country such as "Take It Easy," "Already Gone," and "Lyin' Eyes." They also mastered ballads and slower songs. "Take It To the Limit," although slow in tempo, was a powerhouse. "Desperado" and "Hotel California" were probably the best known Eagles songs.

I'm sorry to say that there is very little of the old Eagles on the new album. The album moves about as fast as a funeral and is just as cheerful. Close to half of the tracks beat you over the head with a leftist, anti-Bush, anti-war message.

I've always been of the opinion that music and politics don't mix well. Movies and comedy lend themselves to political messages much more than music. "Schindler's List," for example, vividly portrayed anti-Nazi themes by showing a tiny fraction of the brutality of the Nazis to a widespread audience. Various politicians are easy fodder for comedians. With music, however, I don't want to be talked down to. I want to sit back and listen, lose myself in the beat, maybe dance a little.

In the United States today, we are constantly bombarded with political messages, particularly leftist ones. We hear them on the news. We see them in the movies and on television. You can't hear a comedian on Comedy Central or HBO without being forced to listen to repeated Bush jokes. The left is finding out that there is oversaturation of the message with the poor results of Robert Redford's new movie, "Lions for Lambs." I think that "Long Road Out of Eden" may suffer a similar fate, once word gets out.

After the break up of the Eagles, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, the two most prominent Eagles had successful solo careers. Henley's work delved into politics and got slower and slower, while Frey's remained more upbeat. Henley did score a few hits, notably "Dirty Laundry" and "Boys of Summer." Frey tackled politics in a more upbeat manner with his hit "Smuggler's Blues." If you like Henley's solo work, you will like the new Eagles, otherwise you will be disappointed.

The album is not a total write-off, however. "How Long" is easily the best track. It is a fast paced, country style song. Instead of politics, it deals with a man thinking about his lover as he runs from prison. This is like the best of classic Eagles and a sure hit. Actually, this isn't really new Eagles, reportedly they used to do this song live in the old days.

Another decent song is "Somebody." This is slightly slower than "How Long," but still fast paced. It deals with the guilt that one feels when they've done something wrong and feel that someone knows. This may have been intended as political, but it isn't overtly so.

The remainder of the songs are slow and forgettable. While they are okay, they really aren't what I would expect from the band that gave us "New Kid in Town" and "Heartache Tonight." Even the effort by Joe Walsh, "Last Good Time in Town," feels more like a hangover.

There are an assortment of love gone bad songs. The best of these is Don Henley's best song on the album, "Too Busy Being Fabulous." It has a good beat and deals a wandering lover, something most people can identify with on some level.

Too much of the remainder is diatribes against Bush ("and when El Jefe talks about our freedom, here is what he really means, business as usual, how dirty we play"), patriotic Americans ("Good old boys down at the bar, peanuts and politics, they think they know it all, they don't know much about nothing"), and the American lifestyle ("music blasting from an SUV, on a bright and sunny day... having lunch at the petroleum club, smoking fine cigars and swapping lies"). If a poltical song is to be successful, it had better have plenty of saving graces, like "Dirty Laundry," which employed humor, a catchy tune, and a good beat. Unfortunately, these songs lack both sublety and entertainment value.

I would recommend that Eagles fans, unless you happen to be die hard leftists, spend their money on the "Very Best of the Eagles," which is also on sale at Walmart. This is another two CD set of classic hits that includes the popular Eagles hits as well as some lesser known, but great, songs such as "Midnight Flyer," "In The City," and "Please Come Home for Christmas." Hopefully, if they make another album, the Eagles, as well other entertainers, will get back to the basics, in other words, songs that people like.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On Being A True Christian

On a very basic level, a true Christian is simply someone who believes that Jesus rose from the dead and who has made Him Lord of their life (Romans 10:9), but in practice being a Christian means much more than that.

The first step to becoming a true Christian is to realize that we have all sinned and done things that are wrong (Romans 3:23). Unfortunately for us, any sin, from a white lie to mass murder, is unacceptable to God because He is Holy and sinless. Each of us is living under a death sentence because of our sins (Romans 3:23). This death refers to an eternal punishment.

Fortunately, God provided a way out. God first sent His Word in the form of the books that make up the Bible. They told people to expect a Messiah (Savior) who would save them from their sin-induced death penalty. Next, God sent His Son, Jesus, to take human form and take our punishment for us (Romans 6:23, 5:8).

Now it is up to us. God has offered His forgiveness. We only have to accept it. We must believe that Jesus rose from the dead and make Him ruler of our lives (Romans 10:9-13). Becoming a true Christian does not stop there, however. Our faith in Christ saves us, but our faith must lead to action. Faith without action is useless (James 2:17). What kind of action should Christians take?

There are several paths of action that true Christians should take. The most important is following the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Non-Christians who resent it when people tell them about Jesus commonly misunderstand this doctrine.

Christians have the one truth about spirituality and life. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Jesus commanded us to spread this gospel (good news) throughout the world. If people do not the truth, then their souls are in danger of Hell.

The important thing to remember about spreading the gospel is that people cannot be saved by force. Christianity is a religion of free will. People have to choose to accept or reject Christ. Failing to choose means a choice to reject. The Christian's mission is merely to inform people of the truth and let them make up their own minds.

Evangelism, the spreading of the gospel, is the most important action of a Christian for two reasons. First, Jesus specifically commands it. Second, it is a matter of eternal life or death.
As a second course of action, Christianity has a long tradition of helping the poor and sick. This tradition goes back to Jesus' day and before. Its roots lie in the fact that Christianity teaches that all life is valuable and should be treated with respect and dignity.

Christians are responsible for many of the great charities of the world. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross both have Christian roots. Christian relief agencies provide food for the hungry and medicine for the poor around the world.

A third course of action is the most controversial today. Christians have a duty to affect positive changes in the world. Throughout history this has been done several ways. Christians in scientific fields have given the world many technological advances. Indeed, modern science can be said to have Christian roots due to the fact that Christians were the first to combine scholastic observations with practical engineering to effect change on the environment.
Christians are also responsible for making education accessible to the masses. Many of today's colleges and universities started out as Christian seminaries. Harvard and Yale are two examples of formerly Christian schools.

Christian political activism has also changed the world for the better. The abolition of slavery was largely the result of Christians who believed that all men are created in God's image. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was also largely the work of Christian activists. Even the foundation of the United States was made possible by the belief that all men are equal at the foot of the cross. This belief allowed political philosophers to question the divine right of kings and pave the way for democracy.

Today, Christian activists are fighting multiple battles. Christians are being persecuted around the world from Darfur to Iraq to Burma. The Christian belief in the sanctity of life leads us to oppose the killing of unborn babies. The Christian belief in the importance of stable families leads us to protect the sanctity of marriage.

In general, the US and the world are moving away from a moralistic culture to one of moral relativism. As Clarence Thomas put it, people believe that you can choose right and wrong instead of choosing between right and wrong. This leads to a situation where everyone does what is right in his own eyes. This leads to anarchy and a breakdown of society. It also means that Christians have their work cut out for them.

In summary, a true Christian is one who has faith in Jesus and follows the commandments of Jesus. Faith is the key to salvation, but to be a true Christian, your faith must lead to action.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Life as a Fractional Pilot

If you have paid attention to the aviation industry over the last few years, you have heard about the rise of the fractional aviation companies. As the airline world hemorrhaged money, the fractionals gained market share and grew in numbers of pilots, aircraft, and revenues. Today, many misconceptions remain about what fractional companies do and what fractional flying is like.

For pilots, one benefit of fractional companies is that fractional growth has continued, even while the airlines downsized in the years following the September 11 attacks. Today, only one fractional company, Flight Options, is reducing the size of its fleet. Most other companies are actively taking deliveries of aircraft. Fractional hiring has driven much of the commercial pilot job market over the past five years.

Fractional companies can best be described as time-share companies that deal in corporate jets rather than real estate. The concept is simple: When a client buys a share (fraction) of a jet, they become entitled to a specific number of flight hours in their jet. In addition to their purchase price, the owner also pays a monthly maintenance fee that covers items such as insurance and crew, and an hourly fee that includes fuel.

Buying a share of an airplane, rather than the whole thing, allows an owner to share costs with other people, just as a flying club allows private and recreational pilots to reduce their costs for a Cessna 172 or Piper Cherokee. The concept of sharing costs makes private jet ownership more affordable for more people.

Shareowners prefer flying their own airplanes to the airlines for many reasons. They can avoid the hassle of government security checkpoints and long lines. Private jets allow travel on the owners schedule rather than an airline schedule, making it possible to travel out of town for a meeting and then back with minimum lost time. Many owners also travel to small airports that are not served by the airlines. Airline service is limited at best to airports such as Houma, Louisiana, Findlay, Ohio, or Key Largo, Florida.

The stability of the fractionals is a big reason that these companies find it easy to attract pilots. Most fractionals have large companies as their backers. Net Jets is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, which also owns Flight Safety International. Citation Shares is owned by Textron, owner of Cessna, and Tag Aviation. Bombardier, the manufacturer of the Challenger and Lear Jet, owns Flex Jet. Avantair is partnered with Piaggio Aero, manufacturer of the turboprop Piaggio Avanti. Flight Options is a subsidiary of Raytheon, which builds the Beechcraft and Hawker corporate jet lines.

Even manufacturers of smaller aircraft are getting into the fractional business. Alpha Flying operates Plane Sense, a fractional operator of Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprops.
Additionally, many pilots find the fractional work rules and quality of life to be superior to that of the traditional airlines. Fractional pilots are typically paid a salary instead of an hourly wage like their airline peers. Fractional pilots typically earn significantly more money than equivalent pilots, particularly those in the regional airlines. Per diem, a daily allowance for expenses while traveling, is also paid at a higher rate for fractional pilots.

Fractional pilots also have more days off than most airline pilots. Most fractional companies use a "seven-on, seven-off" schedule. Pilots are on duty for seven days in a row, then get seven days off. This means that the fractional pilot will get at least fourteen days off each month. Airline contracts typically call for a minimum of 8-10 days off. To get fourteen days off, an airline pilot would have to be very senior in his aircraft and seat.

Additionally, airline pilots have to bid for their schedules each month. This can make it hard to schedule very far in advance, especially if you are junior. The fractional seven-day schedule can be projected far into the future.

A fringe benefit that is not available to airline crews is participation in hotel and airline points programs. Fractional pilots get to keep their airline miles, and they get plenty since they normally are fly as passengers on the airlines to and from their aircraft at the beginning and end of each workweek. Fractional pilots typically pay for their hotel rooms with a credit card and are reimbursed by the company. Therefore, they also get to keep their hotel reward points, as well as any points that their credit card company offers.

Even with these benefits, many pilots are unsure of what the fractional lifestyle entails. It is a very different world from airline flying and most of unsure of what to expect when they make the transition.

Even from the interview, you will notice that fractional companies are different from the airlines. Fractional companies are much more interested in customer service skills than are the airlines. This is because most fractional aircraft do not carry a flight attendant. Therefore, the flight crews are the employees with the most direct contact with the fractional owners. In addition to the normal questions about your flight experience, you are likely to be asked about your customer service background and what you would do if you had an unhappy owner in your aircraft.

Training is not as long as airline training. Indoctrination (Indoc) takes about a week. At Indoc, new hires learn about the company culture, operations rules, and procedures. This week you learn about everything from filling out expense reports to inflating the emergency life raft.
Aircraft training is typically done through a company such as Flight Safety International or CAE Simuflight. Most companies give First Officers, as well as Captains, a type rating in their aircraft. In the airlines, an FO would not normally get a PIC type rating. A type-rating course in a corporate jet typically takes about two weeks, although some aircraft, such as the Citation Sovereign, take longer. Unlike airline ground schools, you can expect to go straight through the course with few, if any, days off. You will probably even have some days with sessions scheduled in both the simulator and the classroom.

After completing initial training, a new hire will go through Initial Operating Experience, or IOE. IOE is actually flying the airplane on the line with a company Check Airman. IOE is typically two tours, or workweeks. While simulator training is good, any jet pilot can tell you that you learn only the basics in the sim. The real learning occurs flying the airplane in the real world under real flight conditions.

Fractional flying is much different than airline flying. A large part of airline flying is to and from central hubs. You see the same airports over and over. Often, you repeat the same three or four day trip every week for a month. In contrast, fractional flying constantly offers something new. I fly into at least one new airport every tour. While we often fly into small reliever airports, I have flown into nearly every major airline airport in the country in my fractional jet.

Fractional pilots also see airports that few, if any, airline pilots ever see. Teterboro, New Jersey is general aviation's answer to La Guardia. Both Teterboro and La Guardia are very high-density traffic airports with complex approach and arrival procedures. Teterboro is the GA gateway to New York City and easily one of the most demanding airports from which I have ever operated. Teterboro is a place that every fractional pilot gets to know well.

Challenging in a different way are the Colorado airports, Aspen and Eagle. These are mountain airports with one way in and out. There is high terrain on all sides and the Rocky Mountain weather can change rapidly.

Fractional airplanes have no real base. They simply float from one airport to another. When one crew goes home, they leave the airplane and another arrives to pick up the plane. Therefore, a fractional tour normally begins with a trip to an airline airport. The company buys the pilot a ticket to wherever their airplane happens to be. Rarely, you might be driven to a local airport if your airplane happens to be nearby.

Since fractionals are not scheduled airlines, there is no typical day. Even if you think you know is happening, your schedule for the day might change if there is a pop-up trip, or if another airplane breaks. The company has notified me via the satellite phone while in flight to change my destination on several occasions.

The crew normally starts the workday with preflight duties. As at most airlines, the FO is responsible for the preflight checks, as well as obtaining the ATIS and clearance. At my company, the captain files the flight plans (since we don't have true dispatchers), checks the weather and NOTAMS, pays for the fuel and FBO fees, and obtains the flight release and paperwork from the company. Additionally, the FO has the very important "PIC" duties of stocking the airplane with papers, ice, and coffee.

Our first flight today is a "position leg," which means that we will not have passengers on board. We will be departing from Fulton County airport on the west side of Atlanta and will pick up our passengers to Orlando Executive airport in Florida. We depart FTY in late afternoon in order to arrive at ORL an hour before our "live leg" with passengers. We even leave a little early because thunderstorms are forecast in the Orlando area. Over half of all fractional flights are position legs with no passengers aboard.

The flight to Orlando takes 1.7 hours. The thunderstorms cost us time, so it's a good thing we left early.

We arrive in Orlando on schedule and start to refuel the airplane. The FO gets local newspapers while the captain orders and pays for the fuel, then calls our dispatcher to get a release for the next leg. The FO also gets the new ATIS and clearance to Tallahassee, Florida. It's a good thing that we are early because our passenger arrives early. The FO loads the passenger's bags while the captain gets the flight release.

Bags loaded, the FO steps into the cockpit to conduct the safety briefing, a flight attendant duty on all but the smallest airliners. At the same time, the captain is starting the engines. When the FO steps into the cockpit, both pilots complete the after start checklist and the FO calls for the taxi clearance.

Like the airlines, fractional pilots take turns flying. Since the captain flew the first leg of the day, the FO flies now. Unlike airliners, which have tillers for ground steering, the Cessna Citation Bravo we are flying is steered with rudder pedals on the ground. Therefore, after completing the taxi checklist, the FO can take control of the airplane and continue the taxi to the runway. Since First Officers do not taxi in the airline world, you might go years without controlling an airplane on the ground.

After waiting a few minutes for our IFR release, we are airborne and on our way to Tallahassee. This flight is planned at 0.9 hours. Since the thunderstorms are mostly east of our route, we will probably be close to an on-time arrival.

As we get the Tallahassee ATIS, we find that the field is IFR due to smoke from forest fires. We set up for the ILS and conduct our approach briefing. In addition to normal items, the captain, the non-flying pilot, calls the FBO with our fuel order and checks on the passenger's ground transportation, a chauffer driven SUV. With visibility at 2 miles in smoke, the approach is uneventful and we land in Tallahassee. The captain completes the after landing checklist while the FO taxies to the FBO.

Upon reaching the FBO, the FO hops up and opens the door. He then runs around to the baggage compartment and offloads the bags. The chauffer drives the SUV up to the airplane and the bags are transferred. The passenger shakes hands with the crew and rides away as the fuel truck pulls up. While the airplane is fueled, the FO restocks the galley with snacks, cleans the passenger cabin, and dumps the trash. The captain pays for the gas and gives the FBO both pilots fuel reward program information.

Our next and last leg of the day is another position leg. This time we are going to Teterboro to position for a flight tomorrow morning. This leg is scheduled at just over two hours. It's our last leg and we are flying for ourselves, so we gas up, get the release, and go.

By the time we get to Teterboro and secure the airplane, it is getting late. We grab a ride in the FBO van to the hotel. Our minimum rest is longer than the minimum airline rest, so we have time to eat and get a good night's sleep. The captain gets a fax from the company with tomorrow's tentative schedule and starts the flight planning after dinner.

Fractional flying is not for everyone, but for those who choose this career path, life is definitely better than at the regional airlines. Company stability, better pay, more days off, and more challenging work are only a few of the reasons that the fractionals are forcing airlines to become more competitive for pilots. While no one knows what the future holds, it is a safe bet that more and more passengers, tired of bad airline service, inconvenient schedules, and long TSA screening lines, will choose to buy a share of their own private aircraft and join other jet-setting fractional owners.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

UFOs Identified?

UFOs are fact. By definition, a UFO is any flying object that is unidentified. The real question then, is what are UFOs?

The vast majority of UFO sightings have rational explanations. Experimental military aircraft are probably responsible for a large number of sightings, especially in the western US. Natural phenomena explain many more. Meteorites, planets, atmospheric reflections, and the classic "swamp gas" could explain many sightings. Other man made objects like balloons, airplanes, and hoaxes round out some common explanations for UFO sightings. Hypnotic suggestion casts doubt on witnesses who only remember their UFO sightings when under hypnosis.

But if 99.9% of all UFO sightings can be explained, the 0.1% left over still results in hundreds of unexplained cases. What could be responsible for all of these mysterious sightings, many of which involve face-to-face contact with "extra-terrestrials. "

One of the most compelling explanations that I have heard can be found in the book, "Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men," by Dr. Hugh Ross ( Dr. Ross is a Ph. D. in Astronomy who also has degrees in physics. Dr. Ross' theory is that unexplained UFOs may be inter-dimensional travelers that we would be more likely to call angels and demons.

Dr. Ross begins with an analysis of the likelihood of life existing in other parts of the universe. The odds for life arising elsewhere are astronomically (pardon the pun) low. Even if life did arise elsewhere, the odds that they could overcome the difficulties of interstellar travel are even more remote.

The book also notes that the majority of UFO witnesses are people involved in the occult or who are close to people in the occult. Dr. Ross also notes that people being harassed by aliens have often called on Jesus for help. When the name of Jesus is used, the aliens left immediately. Calling on other religious figures such as Mohammad, Buddha, etc., has no effect. The Bible repeatedly shows that Jesus has authority over demons and evil angels.

As Ross points out, if UFOs were a real, physical phenomenon, people who spend a lot of time in the sky would see them more often than other people. Statistics indicate that is not true, however. Links to the occult is the most important determining factor. (As a professional pilot with more than 5500 hours, many of them at night, I have never seen a UFO.)

Additionally, the "aliens" offer religious information that conflicts directly with the Bible, which is the inspired word of God. They often preach Eastern style universal consciousness or deny the fact that all humans will face judgment before God. They have even provided an alternative to the Bible in the Urantia book. Ross notes that evil spirits appear as an "angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14-15), they perform counterfeit miracles and signs (2 Thess. 2:9-10), and inspire "antichrists" to deceive and lead people away from the one true God and ultimately to eternal damnation (Matt. 24:24, 1 Tim. 4:1, Rev. 12:9). There are many UFO cults that do just this.

The inter-dimensional theory would also explain how UFOs seemingly defy the laws of physics. Often they make rapid accelerations to very high speeds and then stop suddenly. The "aliens" reportedly walk through solid objects. They disappear suddenly and leave no trace. Jesus himself could appear suddenly (Luke 24:36-37) and pass through a locked door (John 20:19).

If you are seeing UFOs and aliens, the best advice that is found in 1 John 4:1-3. Test the spirits by asking them whether Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth as a man. If they deny this, then you are dealing with an evil spirit. Seek help from Jesus Christ.

There is much evidence that UFOs are more than a myth. The question is whether they are a help or a hindrance, good or evil. Don't believe everything you hear, even if you hear it from an alien.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Power of Tax Cuts

Tax cuts are commonly misunderstood. Many new commentators and politicians refer to tax cuts as "costing" the country money or say that the country is not able to "afford" tax cuts. This view is overly simplistic and is not supported by economic data.

First, the money from the tax cuts is viewed as government money being given back to the taxpayers. In reality, tax cuts allow taxpayers to keep money that they government would have otherwise appropriated. People get to keep what they earn instead of giving it to the government.

Second, it is usually not realized that tax cuts often generate more revenue that tax increases. Presidents Reagan and Bush (41) both cut taxes. In both cases, tax revenues increased. Also in both cases, the economy grew much more strongly after the tax cuts than before. During both periods, inflation and unemployment fell to very low levels and the economy recovered from recessions.

To understand why tax cuts work, consider a tax as a punishment for something. For example, a tobacco tax is a punishment for smoking. It is assumed that if the price of tobacco rises, then fewer people will smoke. While that theory does not take addiction into account, it is true to some limited extent.

Taxes on income work the same way. If the government takes an increasingly large share of your take-home pay when you earn more money, some of the incentive to earn more money is lost. Similarly, dividend taxes encourage people to do something other than invest their money in stocks and mutual funds. Capital gains taxes discourage capital investment and entrepreneurship.

On the other hand, if taxes are decreased, then you keep more of the money that you make. By keeping more of every dollar that you earn, you have the incentive to work more to earn more. Low dividend taxes encourage more savings and investment. Lower capital gains taxes encourage people to invest in the economy.

Increased investing is probably one of the most important facets of tax cuts. Investing isn't just for the wealthy. If you have a 401k or a mutual fund, you are an investor. By putting more money into the nation's businesses, the economy grows. As businesses grow, they earn more profits and have to hire more workers. The government reaps the benefits of taxes on the profits and the income of the new employees.

If this doesn't sound right to you, ask yourself what a local government does when they try to attract a business to their area. Often they give the business a package of incentives that includes a lower tax rate. When a business pays lower taxes, they have more money to hire workers, research new ideas, market new products, pay their stockholders, or give to charities within the community.

Tax increases do the opposite. Money that could be invested in private industry is instead sent to the government. This causes the economy to contract and growth to slow. An example of this was when President George Herbert Walker Bush agreed with Congress on a tax increase in 1990. This led to a recession and ultimately cost the first President Bush his re-election campaign.

Does that mean that the rich and the corporations are not paying their fair share of the nation's tax burden? Not at all. According to the most recent data available (2005), the top 1% of taxpayers pay 39% of all taxes. The top 5% pay 59%. The top 10% pay 70% and the top 50% of taxpayers pay over 96% of all taxes. That means that the bottom 50% of taxpayers pay only slightly more than 3% of taxes.

History has proven time and again that raising taxes slows the economy and can often lead to a recession and lost tax revenues and jobs. Cutting taxes does the opposite. It spurs the economy and helps create jobs. Most importantly, tax cuts keep more money in our pockets instead of the government's.

Our tax code is complex and badly in need of a complete overhaul. Until it can replaced with something simpler, easier to understand, and more friendly to business and investment, and ultimately, the taxpayers, keeping the tax cuts in force is the next best thing.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Is the US Destined for a Nuclear Attack?

The odds are that not in our favor when it comes to the possibility of a nuclear attack on the United States. The bottom line is that with nuclear weapons technology becoming more and more common, sooner or later it will end up in the hands of the wrong person or group.
The US has a longstanding policy of enforcing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and attempting to keep the technology out of the hands of countries that may supply it to terrorist groups. However, it is increasingly difficult to prevent nations such as North Korea and Iran from building nuclear weapons. Short of war there is simply no way to force a sovereign nation to do something that its leaders do not want to do.

Sanctions may be used to try and persuade leaders towards our point of view, but they have weaknesses. First off, even if sanctions are successful, they make take years to work. Before they have time to work, it may be too late. Sanctions are not likely to succeed if other nations do not join them. Frequently, our adversaries in Russia and China thwart our attempts at successful sanctions and negotiations. Finally, even if sanctions are imposed, despotic governments are insulated from economic pressures and public opinion. All too often, the people suffer but the government and military do not.

If we cannot prevent rogue nations from arming themselves with nuclear weapons indefinitely, then our second line of defense is to prevent them from using them on US soil. We should immediately step up efforts at border security to ensure that foreign agents are not able to enter the US with a nuclear weapon illegally. Increased efforts at radiation detection in our international ports and airports is also necessary to ensure that a nuclear weapon is not smuggled through customs.

North Korea and Iran are also pursuing research projects to create ballistic missiles that could reach the friendly nations of Europe, East Asia, Israel, and possibly even the United States itself. For that reason, we must proceed with research, development and deployment of an anti-ballistic missile defense system. Anti-military groups have long opposed such systems, but to be secure against a missile attack from a suicidal national leader they are an absolute must. Such systems will not be 100% effective at the outset, but will become better and better as the technology matures.

All the planning and preparations in the world will not guarantee that a nuclear attack will never take place. Therefore, every American must be prepared to survive the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Emergency supplies such as food, water, batteries, battery powered radios, and first aid kits are valuable for both nuclear attacks and natural disasters. Recent disasters should teach us that we must be prepared to save ourselves for at least a short time.