Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Morality and the Law

We live in a society where morality has been defined downward for years. Many people, elected officials included, believe that the law only applies to others. For example, Republican Senator David Vitter and Democratic New York Governor Eliot Spitzer were both implicated in prostitution scandals. Various other elected officials and businessmen have been implicated in everything from sexual harassment to bribery to tax evasion.

In truth, society is held together by morality. When morality fails, it is necessary to pass laws to resolve issues that good ethics would have prevented. The finance industry is currently in a state of chaos at least in part because mortgage companies loaned money to people who could not pay and then sold the bundled mortgages to other companies. Other companies have normal business practices that include denying legitimate claims, submitting false billing, and the old fashioned bait and switch.

The law is a good place to start in determining morality. It has been said that morality cannot be legislated, but nothing is further from the truth. Our laws reflect our national morals. When we pass laws against murder it is because we, as a republic, have respect for the sanctity of life and believe that it is wrong to deprive another of their life. When we pass laws against robbery, burglary and theft, it is because property rights are strongly ingrained in the American morality. If a limit on carbon emissions is enacted, it will be because we, as a republic, have decided that we believe that it is wrong, immoral, to allow unrestricted emissions of carbon.

What is legal and what is moral are not always the same, however. Some things are legal, but not moral. Others are not immoral, yet are still illegal.

It would be a stretch to argue that driving 56 miles per hour is immoral, but doing so in a 55 MPH zone is illegal. A law in Georgia made it illegal to buy alcoholic beverages by mail order. A similar law made it illegal to buy a car over the internet without involving a local dealer. Neither of these laws is grounded in morality or ethics, instead they were passed to benefit specific industries.

Similarly, what is legal is not always moral or ethical. One of the best examples of this is Nazi Germany. In the 1930s, Hitler’s government passed laws stripping Jews of their rights and property. These laws, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Jews, were both immoral and unethical, even though they were totally legal under existing German law.

Slavery is another example. Keeping human beings in life long, involuntary servitude was once the norm around the world, including the United States. Doing so was legal under national and international law of the times. A growing number of people around the world became convinced of the immorality of slavery and eventually eradicated it in most countries.

Today, there are several moral issues that face the United States and the world. Among these are abortion, gay marriage, pollution, terrorism, and genocide. We must decide what we believe is the moral answer to these issues and then determine what action should be taken, if any.

To lead the way, we need leaders who share our morals. Our leaders should be held to a higher standard of behavior and not given a pass based on the office they hold or which party they belong to. These leaders should set a positive example for the rest of society and initiate a return to ethical behavior from the boardroom to the classroom and beyond.

If we do not return to a moral and ethical society, the very foundations of our country will continue to erode as politicians pad their pockets at the expense of taxpayers and corporate executives sell out their employees and stockholders. The race will not be to create wealth, but to find someone from whom to take it. The resulting morass of legislation will eventually strangle more and more of our freedoms.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What Does Hillary Want?

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been running virtually neck-in-neck through much of the Democratic primary season. I say “virtually” because, at this point, Barack Obama has enough of an edge to almost mathematically eliminate Hillary from contention. Because of the peculiar rules of the Democratic Party, neither candidate has been able to score a full victory over the other. The existence of superdelegates that can overrule the popular vote is Hillary’s only chance to win the nomination at this point.

So Hillary cannot be counted completely out, but her chances of winning the nomination are currently nestled somewhere between slim and none, with slim rapidly leaving town. The big question is why Ms. Clinton continues to stay in the race, and spend millions of dollars on the campaign, when the odds are so heavily against her. The most likely possibility is that Mrs. Clinton is positioning herself for an Independent Democratic campaign for the presidency.

An independent campaign is not without precedent. In 2006, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to radical leftist, Ned Lamont. Lieberman continued his re-election campaign as an Independent Democrat and eventually won the election with 50% of the vote.

Like Lieberman, Hillary Clinton is losing the Democratic primary to a much more radical leftist. Obama’s radical connections and far-left platform, which help him in the Democratic primary, are likely to make him unpopular with moderate American voters in the general election. His inexperience and foreign policy gaffes will make him vulnerable to Republican nominee John McCain, especially as the war in Iraq winds down toward an American victory.

Hillary began preparing for her presidential campaign as shortly after leaving the White House in 2001, if not before. Her successful Senate campaigns in 2000 and 2006 were dress rehearsals for her run for the presidency. She did not expect serious opposition in the primary, especially from a political unknown. Her lack of preparation is the reason for her early losses and Obama’s early momentum. Recent primaries have been closely contested as Hillary fights for political survival.

Hillary realizes that her time is now. She knows that if Barack Obama is elected, it will be eight years before she has another chance at the presidency. Obama would be certain to run for re-election in 2012 and it is unheard of for a sitting president to lose the nomination. She also realizes that after eight years of Obama’s neophyte foreign policy and economic socialism, the country would be unlikely to elect another Democrat. If Obama loses the nomination, she stands to take a large share of the blame from Democrats because of her persistence in the divisive primary campaign. Therefore, she would be an unlikely choice for the nomination in 2012.

Mrs. Clinton’s continued participation in the primary is an attempt to build justification for her attempt to mount an independent campaign. She is attempting to show that she, and not Obama, offers the Democratic Party the best opportunity to win the swing states that are necessary for a successful White House run. Any Democratic candidate will win states like California, Massachusetts, and New York, but Hillary’s point is that she is more likely to win states that might fall into either column, such as West Virginia, Florida, and Ohio.

On this point, Mrs. Clinton is correct, and not for racial reasons. Swing state voters like moderate candidates and Barack Obama is no moderate. Obama was ranked the most liberal member of the US Senate by National Journal. Mrs. Clinton ranked 16th on the list. In 2006, her rank was a very moderate 32, while Obama never got higher than 16th on the list.

Additionally, Obama has just started to feel the effects of his associates. His relationship with Jeremiah Wright, which had little effect in the primary, is likely to hurt him in the general election. Michelle Obama, Barack’s wife, has also made statements that many interpret to be, if not anti-American, definitely out of the American mainstream. His association with Bernadine Dohrn and William Ayers, Weather Underground terrorists and bombers, has not been widely reported, but may become and issue later. Similarly, the fact that his mentor and father figure was Communist Party member, Frank Marshall Davis, has also not been widely discussed yet.

Finally, Obama has his own ideas and statements to overcome. His statements about “bitter” people clinging to guns and Bibles offended many of the voters that he needs to win the presidency. His comment that “I won’t wear that [American flag] pin on my chest” likewise offends many moderate Americans. Obama’s anti-war views may also be an increasing liability as an American victory draws nearer. His plans to talk directly with Iranian and North Korean leaders seem na├»ve to many in light of the continued work on nuclear weapons by both countries in spite of years of negotiations.

In spite of his success in the primary, Barack Obama faces an uphill battle in the general election. Hillary Clinton is a more moderate candidate who would be more likely to win the swing states so important in a close election. By running an Independent Democrat campaign, she would offer an alternative to moderate voters who are uncomfortable with Obama’s radicalism on the left and John McCain on the right. She would be able to draw a significant amount of Obama’s leftist base as well as moderates from the center. If her bid is successful, she would be able to position herself as the person who rescued the Democrats from another presidential defeat.

Remember: You heard it here first.

Monday, May 26, 2008

If My Son Was Going to War...

There are probably not many parents who would want their children to go to war. We all want our kids to have happy, healthy, prosperous and peaceful lives.

If a child elects to go to war, we have to hope that we have taught them well. If we have, then we can be assured that they will go to war for the right reasons and act honorably.

Volunteering for war is a selfless act. When our children volunteer for combat duty, they do so because they realize that preservation of the United States as a whole is more important than their individual life. This may be hard for us as parents to accept, but it is something that parents have had to deal with since before the American Revolution. Our soldiers fight to preserve our country and to maintain the peace and security of their homes.

Our sons and daughters in America's military also fight to protect innocent people in far off lands under the thumb of brutal dictators and murderous terrorists. They fight for the freedom and safety of people whom most of the world doesn't know exists, people who the world would not care about even if it knew of them. Those poor, those tired, those huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

American soldiers are among the few in the world whom children can come to for candy and rations without fearing for their lives. American soldiers build schools and hospitals instead of concentration camps and murder factories. The American army is unique in taking drastic steps to reduce ENEMY casualties when planning campaigns. American soldiers have been welcomed around the world as they provided relief to millions in the wake of earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, and other disasters.

I pray that my son will never have to fight in a war. I would gladly pick up a rifle and fight if I thought that it would mean peace for him. If he ever makes the choice to become an American soldier though, you can bet that I'll be damned proud of him.

Happy Memorial Day to all of our Veterans and their families.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Captain Kudzu's Letter in USA Today

On May 16, I had a letter printed in USA Today. The printed version was edited by the newspaper. Here is the full, unedited version:

DeWayne Hickham underestimates white voters. The willingness of white voters to vote for a black candidate has been shown time and time again, both in this and other campaigns.

The problem that Obama faces is not the color of his skin, but his Marxist political philosophy and his radical associations. Obama is calling for a US surrender in Iraq, massive tax increases, new regulations on business and industry, and would roll back gains in civil liberties such as second amendment rights and the right to life. Most Americans will find these positions far out of the American mainstream. Obama is dogged by his record, not as a uniter, but as the most liberal senator in the entire US Senate.

The people with whom he chooses to associate are also out of the mainstream. Jeremiah Wright, his pastor of twenty years, is virulently anti-American. William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, Weather Underground terrorists from the 1970s, helped kick off Obama's political career. Communist Frank Marshall Davis was Obama's mentor as he grew up in Hawaii.

Equally disturbing is the Obamania from dictators around the world. Anti-American leaders from Hugo Chavez to Daniel Ortega and countries from Russia to North Korea have indicated that they prefer an Obama presidency. A Hamas representative said, "We like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election."

There are myriad reasons for Americans of all colors not to vote for Barack Obama in November. To suggest that race is the dominant factor, either for or against any candidate, is itself a racist proposition. The American people, as Martin Luther King suggested, as judging Obama, not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

The link to the letter is :

Monday, May 12, 2008

Obamania Around the World

Barack Obama is proud to trumpet many of the endorsements that he receives in his campaign for president of the United States. Among his supporters are celebrities, soldiers, and politicians of all stripes. There are several prominent Obama supporters from around the world that Barack Obama would probably prefer the average American voter to remain unaware of.

Hamas has been classified as a terrorist group for years. The group was a prime force behind the Intifada against Israeli occupation of Gaza and Palestine. One of the main weapons in their struggle was the suicide bombing of civilian targets. Hamas’ political wing won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, and ultimately took control of Gaza after winning a civil war with Fatah in 2007. The Hamas charter states, “There is no solution to the Palestinian question except through jihad.”

Knowing what Hamas represents, Obama should cringe when Ahmed Yousef, a ranking Hamas official, released a statement that said, “We like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle…” The response of the Obama campaign was that it was “flattering” to be compared to John Kennedy.

Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua, gushed that Obama is “laying the foundations for revolutionary change” in the United States. Given the nature of the communist Sandinista revolution that Ortega led in Nicaragua, his excitement over a similar revolution coming to the US should alarm most Americans.

Gleb Pavlovsky is an advisor to Vladimir Putin, former president and current prime minister of Russia, as well as Putin’s successor, Dmitri Medvedev. Putin has led a resurgence of nationalism and nostalgia for the Soviet Empire in Russia. Under his leadership, the Russian military has rearmed and become leaner and more efficient. Putin formed a military and economic alliance with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran, a terrorist state. Putin’s Russia also has also strong-armed neighboring countries by threatening to shut off an oil pipeline. Pavlovsky said that John McCain is the worst choice for president and that Barack Obama, who is “less tied” to the Cold War, is the best.

President Ahmadinejad has not specifically endorsed Obama, but Iranian television featured a fictional John McCain in an animated television show. The fictional McCain meets with spies and dissidents to try to plan a regime change for Iran.

President Hugo Chavez has nationalized segments of Venezuelan industry and is attempting to consolidate more power for himself, including a failed referendum to remove presidential term limits. Chavez is known for referring to President Bush as “the devil.” Chavez has not specifically endorsed Obama, but has said that McCain is a “man of war” and that he hopes the next president “will be open to improving relations with Venezuela.”

North Korea’s government-controlled newspaper has accused John McCain of trying to mount “a base and ridiculous challenge” to North Korea in an attempt “to strangle it.” North Korea is in violation of a 1994 agreement to dismantle its nuclear weapons program and allow inspections. They have also threatened to discontinue the armistice that ended the Korean War. The North Koreans have also been implicated in a project to build a nuclear reactor in Syria. This reactor was destroyed by the Israelis in 2007.

Why are so many world leaders, especially anti-American world leaders, friendly towards Obama and hostile to John McCain? The answer can be found in Barack Obama’s statement that he would meet with leaders of rogue nations without preconditions. His plan for removing US troops from Iraq without winning the war also plays into the hands of our enemies. He would also jeopardize the relationship with US allies, such as Pakistan, by initiating unilateral military action inside their borders.

These leaders recognize that Obama would be weak and ineffective on foreign policy. Obama would give our enemies in Iraq what they cannot win on the battlefield. These leaders realize that, while America would remain a powerful nation, President Obama would be unlikely to be willing to exercise that power. North Korea and Iran would engage in meaningless negotiations to buy time as they build their arsenals of WMDs.

Additionally, Obama’s economic policies of heavy taxation and income redistribution would hurt the American economy. This would, in the long run, make the US less likely to intervene against these rogue leaders in the future.

For Americans who believe that the United States is an “arsenal of democracy,” Obama’s support from anti-American leaders around the world should raise a red flag. While Barack Obama probably does not support these leaders, or want support from them, their statements reveal that they believe that an Obama administration would be beneficial to them and their nations. What is good for anti-American dictators around the world is not necessarily good for Americans.

“Our Enemies and the Election,” Wall Street Journal, May 10-11, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tort Reform: The Mississippi Miracle

Tort reform has long been touted as a way to help reduce rising healthcare costs in the United States. Opponents belittle the effects of tort reform and claim that the right to bring almost unlimited lawsuits actually helps society by making products safer.

“Tort” is a legal term for a wrongful act that causes an injury to a person, their property, or their reputation. If a tort is committed, the injured person may be entitled to compensation. To obtain compensation, it is frequently necessary to file a lawsuit. The lawyers who represent plaintiffs in these lawsuits often work on a contingency basis, which means that they are paid a percentage of the money that the jury awards if they win the case.

Tort cases are a major source of income for personal injury lawyers. Consequently, the trial lawyers lobbying groups are major opponents of tort reform. Trial lawyers are second only to unions in providing contributions to the Democratic Party.

In 2004, the trial lawyers lost a major battle in Mississippi. Before 2004, Mississippi was a state known for frivolous lawsuits. Lawyers came from all around the country to file class action suits in Mississippi. Insurance companies were fleeing the state and those that remained were raising premiums or refusing to write policies. The US Chamber of Commerce rated Mississippi 50th in every judicial category. The state was referred to as “the jackpot justice capitol of America” and a “judicial hellhole.”

In 2004, Mississippi passed a tort reform package that resulted in a drastic change in the state’s legal landscape. After five years of political warfare, Mississippi’s legislature passed venue reform, which prevents lawyers from shopping for sympathetic courts, and limits on subjective and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. During the same period that tort reform was being passed, Mississippians also elected more judges that limited class action (multiple plaintiff) lawsuits and out-of-state plaintiffs.

The result was dramatic and rapid. Prior to the reform, medical malpractice rates had risen by 20-25%. Many doctors stopped practicing or moved out of state. Some areas were left without obstetricians within 100 miles. Since the reform, rates have not risen at all, and have even decreased by 30-45%. The number of medical malpractice suits has fallen by 90%.

Mississippi’s business-friendly climate has also attracted investment and jobs to the state. Approximately 60,000 new jobs have been created in the four years since the tort reform was passed compared to 30,000 jobs lost in four years before reform. Textron has invested $35 million and Kingsford Charcoal $20 million in the state. Winchester Ammunition returned to the state with a $3.5 million payroll. FedEx built a $1 billion dollar facility. Toyota even built a $1.2 billion, 200,000-worker plant. The Toyota plant is contingent on tort reform remaining the law of the land in Mississippi.

Overall, Mississippi is better off than before tort reform. Unemployment is down to 6% from a high of 9% prior to reform. In 2007, Mississippi’s per capita income growth was 6.7%. This places Mississippi third out of the fifty states.

Tort reform is a proven economic winner. Tragically, due to Democratic election victories in 2006, many states are repealing business-friendly laws and passing new laws, such as a patient bill of rights, that give people additional rights to sue. More lawsuits would have the effect of increasing costs to consumers and contributing to stagnant economic growth.

Tort reform is not about eliminating the right to sue. It is about eliminating outrageous damage awards and frivolous lawsuits. Tort reform does not prevent the recovery of legitimate damages, but it does prevent people from winning a legal lottery over a minor wrong. Tort reform prevents lawyers from looting a company of its hard-earned profits for a minor mistake or technicality.

The US legal system is estimated to cost each American family about $7,000 annually. One Mississippi CEO reported that his company saved $70,000 monthly on its legal bills after the passage of the reforms. Tort costs are spread through society by higher prices for consumer goods, higher insurance premiums, and more expensive health care. Tort reform in more states and at the federal level would save American families thousands of dollars and help to spur economic growth.

“Mississippi’s Tort Reform Triumph,” Wall Street Journal, May 10-11, 2008