Monday, February 23, 1998

Week of 02/23/1998

Between Iraq And A Hard Place
Going to war over.. pride?
- by David Matthews 2

As you read this article, troops are being sent to the Middle East, to sit on aircraft carriers and bases in Kuwait. The war of words between President Saddam "Desert Rat" Hussein of Iraq and President Bill "Political Rat" Clinton is on the verge of escalating into actual warfare.

OK, let’s break this down for those of you who have a hard time understanding what this is all about: (Timeline courtesy of Reuters)

  • 1990-91 - Iran invades Kuwait in 1990. The United Nations imposes strong economic sanctions as they consider military options. A US-led attack on Iraq begins with a 40-day air assault, followed by a 100-hour ground assault to liberate Kuwait.
  • February 1991 - The United States and allies drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Later in the year, U.S., British and French planes start patrolling Iraq's northern skies to shield Iraq's Kurds from attack by Baghdad.
  • Dec. 27, 1992 - A U.S. F-16 fighter shoots down an Iraqi MiG in no-fly zone in southern Iraq.
  • January 1993 - U.S. and allied planes blast Iraqi military targets over several days in retaliation for alleged violations of cease-fire terms.
  • June 1993 - U.S. warships fire 23 cruise missiles at Baghdad, destroying Iraqi intelligence service headquarters wing. The missiles kill six people. The attack was ordered to avenge an alleged Iraqi plot to kill former U.S. President George Bush.
  • July and August 1993 - U.S. planes strike at anti-aircraft missile sites in a series of missile attacks in no-fly zones over southern and northern Iraq.
  • October 1994 - Iraqi Republican Guards move into southern Iraq near the border with Kuwait. The United States and Britain send forces toward Kuwait.
  • Aug. 31, 1996 - President Bill Clinton places U.S. forces in the Gulf on alert after Iraqi troops supporting the Kurdistan Democratic Party capture the northern Iraqi city of Arbil from rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
  • Sept. 3, 1996 - U.S. forces fire 27 sea- and air-launched missiles at targets in southern Iraq. Washington says the strikes are a warning to Iraq to comply with the Gulf war cease-fire resolutions. President Saddam Hussein orders his forces to ignore the no-fly zones and shoot down intruders.
  • Sept. 4, 1996 - The United States launches a second wave of cruise missiles at Iraqi military targets in what the United States says is an effort to destroy Iraq's ability to attack aircraft enforcing expanded no-fly zone in southern Iraq.
  • Sept. 11, 1996 - Iraq fires one surface-to-air missile at two U.S. F-16 jets policing the no-fly zone over northern Iraq.
  • Sept. 13, 1996 - Iraq makes the surprise announcement that it would suspend all attacks against allied warplanes patrolling two no-fly zones. The announcement comes as the U.S. military build-up in Gulf gathers pace, including 5,000 troops.
  • Nov. 3, 1996 - The United States says a jet fires a missile at Iraqi radar, but Baghdad denies incident and accuses the White House of spreading "false news" to help Clinton's re-election chances.
  • Oct. 29, 1997 - Iraq, acting in response to a U.N. Security Council resolution threatening ban on travel abroad by Iraqi officials who interfere with weapons inspections, bars Americans from weapons teams on its territory and gives them a week to leave the country. The Security Council condemns decision and the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM), set up after the Gulf war to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, suspends all field operations. A three-week crisis ensues during which United States assembles a force of 30 warships, 250 planes and bombers in the region.
  • Nov. 3, 1997 - Iraq warns it will shoot down U-2 spy planes if the United Nations does not cancel them. Baghdad blocks U.S. members of U.N. team from a weapons site. The United Nations halts three inspections.
  • Nov. 12, 1997 - The Security Council imposes an international travel ban on Iraqi officials impeding U.N. weapons teams and condemns Iraq for blocking American U.N. arms inspectors.
  • Nov. 13, 1997 - Iraq expels American arms monitors.
  • Nov. 14, 1997 - UNSCOM head Richard Butler pulls inspection teams out of Iraq, leaving a skeleton staff.
  • Nov. 20, 1997 - Iraq and Russia agree arms inspectors can return to work. Russia is to promote lifting of sanctions against Iraq once Baghdad complies with U.N. resolutions. Iraq says Russia will guarantee measures, including "balanced representation" of members in UNSCOM, suspending inspection of presidential sites and flights of U.S.-operated U-2 spy planes.
  • Nov. 21, 1997 - U.N. arms inspectors, including Americans, return to Iraq to resume inspections.
  • Dec. 15, 1997 - Butler says Iraq told him it would never allow inspectors to enter presidential sites.
  • Jan. 13, 1998 - Iraq prevents arms inspectors, led by American Scott Ritter, from doing their work. U.S. Defense Secretary Cohen says the Iraq crisis "can't go on indefinitely," but will continue to seek diplomatic solution.
  • Jan. 16, 1998 - Iraq renews an offer of direct talks with United States. Ritter's team leaves Iraq.
  • Jan. 17 - Saddam threatens to halt U.N. weapons inspections and warns Washington against military action.
  • Jan. 18 - Baghdad urges all Iraqis to train against any military threat from United States.
  • Jan. 21 - Washington says an Iraqi proposal to freeze inspection of presidential sites is unacceptable.
  • Jan. 23 - U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warns the face-off with Iraq is unacceptable and cannot continue.
  • Jan. 27 - A Russian envoy to Baghdad vows to make every effort to avert a military solution. U.S. Republican congressional leaders are united against Baghdad despite a sex scandal dogging Clinton. The Pentagon says Defense Secretary Cohen may visit the Gulf region in early February to discuss military action against Iraq.
  • Jan. 31 - Cohen says any U.S. attack would be "significant" but not intending to destroy Iraq or topple Saddam. Albright, meeting with British Foreign Secretary Cook, says the time is fast approaching for decisions as diplomacy seems unable to resolve crisis.
  • Feb. 1 - Kuwait tells Albright it backs the United States if military action is necessary against Iraq, a U.S. official says. The Russian special envoy returns to Baghdad. France and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat will send representatives.
  • Feb. 2 - Iraq denies a Russian report it agreed to allow inspection of presidential sites. Albright claims support from Saudi Arabia for a tough stand against Iraq. But the request to use Saudi bases unresolved.
  • Feb. 3 - British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledges full support to U.S. military action. China reiterates opposition to the use of force. Russia says a special envoy progresses in persuading Iraq to comply with United Nations, with Russian and French foreign ministers in Baghdad to coordinate. The Kuwait military is on high alert. Albright says key Arab leaders agree Iraq is responsible for "grave consequences" if it continues to defy the United Nations.
  • Feb. 4 - Yeltsin says Clinton’s actions in the crisis can lead to world war. CNN says Iraq proposed opening eight presidential sites to inspections for one month. Washington and the United Nations say the offer is inadequate. Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid disbelieves Albright’s comments that Arab leaders are prepared to acquiesce to U.S. military action. France says it and Russia are aiming for a diplomatic solution. Clinton calls for "genuine diplomatic solution."
  • Feb. 5 - China repeats it does not favor force. France will not take part in any military action. Paris says Iraq’s position changed slightly but not enough. Britain says an Iraqi inspection offer is unacceptable. Yeltsin says the worst is over. A third U.S. aircraft carrier enters Gulf.
  • Feb. 6 - Another 2,200 U.S. Marines head for Gulf. Clinton concentrates on the military buildup, working with U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson to gather diplomatic support. The State Department says there are no plans to use nuclear weapons but a response to any germ warfare attack would be "swift, devastating and overwhelming." Saddam tells a Turkish envoy he accepts his fate in a military standoff. "We are complying with the U.N. resolutions but America is distorting this. We are prepared for anything," he said. Israel reserves option to retaliate against any Iraqi attack. United States urges it not to fight back.

Now we are once again at the edge of conflict. And the five-sided "experts" have already given this conflict a name for the press to hype - Desert Thunder.

Let’s get brutally honest here - if this conflict does turn to warfare, it will be nothing but a war for pride for both parties. Like two cheap punks on the schoolyard, these two blowhards are engaging in an endless tirade of saber-rattling, seeing who will back down first. Unlike Desert Shield/Desert Storm, this conflict isn’t even about oil, or the eminent threat to Arabic neighbors. There is no talk about "annexing Kuwait" again, and no Iraqi troops massing towards the borders. This is about two egotistical maniacs in positions of power. (Or three, if you still consider Hillary a "co-president.")

Saddam Hussein has nothing to lose and everything to gain by constantly goading America to war. He knows as long as he’s (1) still alive, and (2) still in power, he’s proven to his Arabic associates that he’s once again thumbed it to the United States. Even if he backs down now, he still wins.

And more importantly, Bill Clinton has EVERYTHING to lose if he doesn’t commit to nothing short of military action now. He’s already mobilized the troops, and is trying to gain support from the international community as well as from home. To suddenly back down now would make America look far worse than its "paper tiger" image from the Carter Administration. The embarrassment from the Iranian hostage ordeal would pale in comparison to a superpower deemed not just impotent, but cowardly.

What’s making matters worse is the attitude from the rest of the international world. France, China, and Russia are playing the three monkeys - see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. They should have realized that sooner or later, Hussein would be challenging the resolve of the United Nations when it comes to lifting sanctions. They signed on to helping resolve the Kuwait matter, and now when it comes to the dirty part of hammering the message home, they turn tail and play critic.

It’s been alleged by the media that countries like Russia are helping Iraq because they are strapped for cash, and that Iraq has amassed a huge uncollected debt. Wouldn’t it be in Russia’s best interest if they told Iraq to get their act together so they can get the sanctions lifted? That way they can get the money they are owed.

Oh, wait a minute, that would be asking something too simplistic out of politicians.. Even in the world arena, the language of 100% pure methane is the preferred discourse.

Make no mistake, the goal of Desert Thunder is simple: to spank Saddam for his repeated tamper tantrum. The "Big Babysitter" model, used to describe other Clinton Administration efforts, is well in effect here. "Big Babysitter" Washington needs to punish an impetuous child in Iraq, and the older siblings (France, China, Russia) are balking at the manner of punishment.

But even military veterans who would otherwise support the action are asking "what then?" People are getting tired of having to rush to action against a two-bit tyrant with delusions of grandeur. Americans have enough of a time dealing with the Gods of Mount Morality running roughshod in Washington, never mind a political wannabe in Baghdad. And while this author believes we have no choice now but to act, lest we lose international integrity, the question remains - what then?

Support in the Gulf War in many areas was under the assumption that Saddam would either be out of office or killed when it was over. The very reason why a country like Israel, known for being pro-active against Arab threats, kept out of the Gulf War even after being attacked repeatedly by scud missiles, was because of the implied belief that we would take care of Saddam. We let them down in that regard. If Saddam decides to attack Israel again, don’t be surprised if the Israelis decide to take matters into their own hands.

On the other hand, Clinton has much to gain by engaging with Saddam now. He gets to diffuse a tense scandal situation that actually has impeachment buzzards circling for the first time since Iran-Contra. Nobody wants to appear they are underscoring the President when leadership is needed the most. And should he win the day, Clinton will give his heir apparent, Al Gore, a big campaign boost for the year 2000 elections, as well as put another stake in the heart of the GOP.

It’s ironic that Clinton, who dodged the draft in the Vietnam War, would be in a position where he would rattle more sabers than a World War I veterans reunion. But he inherited a country that operated on the skewed belief that it was somehow a "world parent" or "global babysitter" and now has to live up to that responsibility.

The really sad part about this is we haven’t learned the lessons from the past. Tyrants don’t care one whit about the people they control. It doesn’t matter if it’s Iraq, Libya, or Panama.. or even here in the good ol’ US of A. It’s only when the threat becomes personal will a tyrant worry.

Monday, February 16, 1998

Week of 02/16/1998

On Government
What is the role of government?
- by David Matthews 2

You know, there’s an old warning I keep hearing every time the state legislature meets - "hide your wallet!" It doesn’t matter which state. I’ve heard the same warning in five states so far. I’m sure many of my Internet fans can tell me via E-mail that they’ve heard the exact same warning as well in their states, or have come across that in other states.

There is only one state that I’ve been to that I haven’t heard that warning. New Hampshire. Maybe it’s because the state legislature is only a part-time occupation there. One of the students who graduated with me in college was elected to the state house while still studying. That should give you some idea as to how casual state politics is up there. Or perhaps it’s because the state has neither a sales tax nor an income tax to collect and exploit. Not having an exorbitant tax fund to play around with sort of cuts out a lot of the political methane other state legislative bodies exude with glee.

As I type this, the Georgia House passed the state’s budget with forty pages of pure pork-barrel programs. No doubt Governor Zell Miller won’t even hesitate in signing it into action. Meanwhile, President Clinton is pushing for his "super-sin" tax on cigarettes. He claims this mega-tax on an ever-decreasing one-fourth of Americans will pay for his planned social programs. Meanwhile, I get reports of taxpayer-funded haircuts for members of Congress who already get paid six-digit salaries, and other cases of government wastes that we’ll be eating without any recourse whatsoever.

If anything, it helped me reflect for a minute as to what the role of government should be.

Clinton would like to have us believe that government’s role is some sort of parent’s parent or big babysitter. While the conservatives would cry out "that’s just pure liberalism," I must point out that the role many conservatives would have government play is no different in action or motivation than their liberal counterparts. They, too, would operate as a parent’s parent, making sure everyone followed some standard of morality that only they could dare define.

One would parent us, the other would preach to us. Which one do you want?

You know, the best definition of the role of government I’ve ever seen was written over two hundred years ago:

"We, the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Let’s break that down so you can get a better understanding of the meaning.

"We, the people.." This means everyone. Ironically, not everyone enjoyed the same amount of freedom at the time. "We, the people," were simply "we, the land-owning, mostly Christian, white males." But now the words "we, the people," does mean everyone.

".. in order to form a more perfect union .." This means it’s not a perfect collection of people. Bear in mind that the original 13 colonies each had different philosophies and different origins. The northern states were mostly founded on religious persecutors who escaped their own persecution from England. The southern states were founded mostly on colonists learning to reap the bounties of crops like tobacco and cotton. They had a hard time seeing straight on several issues, including slavery. All groups shared a common disdain for the tyrannical antics of King George III, which was what brought them together in the first place. The whole purpose of government in this sentence was to create an environment where such differences would be allowed. You might say this was the original "big tent" philosophy.

".. establish justice .." In other words, to right certain wrongs. Contrary to collectivist myths, even libertarians support the need for the courts and a justice system. There are certainly crimes that even libertarians would want enforced.

".. ensure domestic tranquility .." We have so many differences in our society, that another important goal for government is to make sure they all get along without killing each other. That can get difficult at times. The current struggle over abortion is the best example of how those differences can be downright lethal.

".. provide for the common defense .." The threat to America was not just from the various viewpoints, perspectives, and cultural differences, but also from outside threats. America faced many threats to its borders, from the British (War of 1812), the Mexicans (Spanish-American War), the Japanese (World War II), the Soviet Union (Cold War), and now to various terrorist factions. Certainly, the role for government is to protect from threats from without and within.

".. promote the general welfare .." You know, this is the one statement that liberals and conservatives have misused often. For liberals, the very word "welfare" means wealth redistribution, social programs, and the like. For conservatives, it means allowing the merging of church and state, and for things like Prohibition and McCarthyism to occur. So what does this mean? Simply another goal of government to improve society overall, not use their authority to the detriment of the country.

".. preserve the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our posterity.." The founding fathers of America had just freed themselves from a tyrannical monarch, they certainly did not want to form a new country to fall down the same path. So one of the key responsibilities is to ensure the freedom of individuals, not just for themselves, but for all subsequent generations born afterwards. In an era where the "divine right" of kings was a given, to have a country founded on the basis that government’s role is to preserve liberty for its citizens was unheard of!

You’ll notice that there is no mention of government’s role being a "parent’s parent," nor that they are charged with protecting or preserving the moral upbringings of its citizens. In fact, reading over the rest of the document, you’ll find that neither of those things are mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. Most of it is procedural stuff - how the three branches of government should operate, how laws are passed, etc. Only that extremely vague notion of "common welfare" mentioned twice in the Constitution comes close.

Also missing are the means to "preserve the blessings of liberty" anywhere in the Constitution. This was a notion that one founding father, Thomas Jefferson, commented on. No doubt had he been present when the Constitution was being written, he would have made sure little things like the Bill of Rights would have been included from the start instead of adding them on later. Instead, the notion of "liberty" was simply left to the states to determine until the Bill of Rights were written a few years later. But even then, there was no set means of preserving those freedoms once granted. The Supreme Court came close, but they would only provide protections in piecemeal, and only on their terms. For all the bluster of conservatives and liberals, it fell to private groups like the American Civil Liberties Union to carry out the job of "preserving the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our posterity." They may not be 100% accurate in their determinations of those freedoms, but they do manage to fight the good fight when everyone else refuses to.

It’s sort of interesting when specified freedoms can only be defended by private organizations, while it’s the vague notions of something called "greater welfare" are debated heavily by government and take precedence.

But that brings us back to the question at hand - what is the role of government?

Well, what kind of government do you want? A monarchy? An oligarchy? A theocracy? A democracy? Does this government’s power rest with the public, or with a committee, or just one person?

Believe it or not, these are hard questions for some folks to answer. There are plenty of Americans who sing with self-righteous indignation Lee Greenwood’s song about how proud they are to be Americans "where at least I know I’m free," and yet push for censorship legislation that would make George Orwell’s Big Brother look like a traffic cop in New York City.

If anything, the monarchs, tyrants, and the theocrats have it easy. They KNOW what kind of government they want, and the role that government should play. In the case of a monarchy, the government reflects the will, wants, and needs of one person. Even in a theocracy, you already have a set model to base government on - namely religious texts. That’s the appeal for groups like the Christian Coalition. No debate, no arguments, just open up the letters from St. Paul and start follow instructions.

It gets more complicated when you’re dealing with a committee. Lenin’s view of the Soviet Union was far different from Stalin’s view, and from there the view of the communist party hierarchy. That’s really why communism failed in Russia.

America suffers the same problems the Soviet Union did. The definition of freedom as defined by someone like Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson is different from the view of someone like Hugh Hefner or Harry Browne. The only difference is under someone like Hef or Browne, folks like Falwell or Robertson would STILL have a voice. Whether or not the reverse can be said is debatable.

Simply put, the role of government is to apply the principles of that country into action. A country whose principles reflect the concept of freedom for all means just that - freedom for all. Not just for fifty percent plus one of the active voting populace, but for all.

It’s ironic that in the case of the United States, every principle, no matter how vague, is enforced, except the one that matters the most.

Monday, February 9, 1998

Week of 02/09/1998

The Losing Side Of Sweepstakes
- by David Matthews 2

Got some rather boring stuff in the mail this past week. Thick envelopes with some rather loud messages on them.






Now I’m sure a lot of you would be asking what is wrong with this picture. Three envelopes each advertising that I have won between two and ten million dollars and they don’t raise any eyebrows.

Well that’s because I also read the fine print on each of them. Each of them start off the same way: "If you return the winning ticket…"

That’s right, they’re sweepstakes entries! I haven’t won anything. At least not yet. And in all likelihood, not ever. I’ve been playing these games for over ten years now. The novelty of their tactics have long since worn off on me. Now they’re just as much an annoyance as the weekly junk mail I get from discount grocery stores advertising no-name cola for $.69 a six.

Basically, they talk loudly and proudly about the potential sweepstakes winnings. Money, money, money, makes the world go round. And if money isn’t your thing, there’s also talk about trips, cars, stereo equipment, home theatre systems, jewelry. Of course, you don’t HAVE to subscribe to the plethora of magazines these sweepstakes companies are offering. But I often wonder of all the people who do win in these things, how many of them didn’t subscribe?

A few years ago, one particular sweepstakes company made is extremely hard for you to enter their contests without subscribing. Most contests have pre-paid envelopes with little stickers to put on that indicated that a subscription order was included, or separate envelopes that say "order enclosed" or "no order enclosed" in different colors. But with this particular company, you had to send them a postcard with your name, address, age, and the words "SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY" on it. And to do the same thing for the other contests as well. A separate postcard for the car contest. Another separate card for the home entertainment contest. Still one more for the vacation contest. You had to write down basically the same information on four postcards or index cards just to enter in a contest without having to subscribe to it. And it would go to a different address than was printed on the return envelope. Of course, if you wanted to order a subscription, all you had to do was put a little sticker on the entry card and send it in.

After spending so much time entering this particular contest without putting in an order, I sent a letter to the sweepstakes company about this convoluted procedure. This was just after a rival sweepstakes company was caught discarding all of their unopened "no order" entries into the dumpster, so I was curious to know if this company was any different. A few weeks later, I got a reply stating that the entries and subscription orders are at different addresses, thus the entries without orders go straight to the entry division, and the ones with orders go to the subscription department first, then copied to index cards and sent to the entry department. I must say that they had a pretty good explanation for this situation. Whether or not I believe it completely is another matter. I should also point out that the next time I got stuff from them, I didn’t have to fill out a plethora of index cards.

The important thing about these sweepstakes is that you really have to read the fine print on them. Plenty of people didn’t do that with the sweepstakes run by American Family Publishers. You may have seen the commercials with Ed McMahon and Dick Clark on them. Well, that has caused people to mistakenly fly to Tampa, Florida in hopes to collect money they thought they had won. It’s pretty hard to notice, though, when you see an envelope with big words saying "You and one other person in your state were given winning numbers." I don’t know about you, but that certainly sounds like a sure thing on the face of it. AFP is now facing a class-action lawsuit for their advertising practices, and the State of Florida is considering joining in as well.

Another part of the fine print is the odds of you winning the sweepstakes. Forget hearing about who in which state got winning numbers, or what "award level" or "runoff category" you are supposedly in. You have a much better chance at being struck by lightning than winning in these contests. In fact, my father has already been struck by lightning, and he hasn’t gotten any closer to winning a sweepstakes than getting more and more of those "final runoff" envelopes.

While I’m at it, it’s also sort of strange that with all those "final runoff" entries I keep getting in the mail that I don’t even end up getting the tenth place $20 or cheap Rolex watch winnings. Do those prizes even exist, or are they just smoke screens to make you think you’re getting something when all you’re doing is wasting postage?

Look, it’s great to win something in these sweepstakes. But just like the lottery or bingo, the odds aren’t with you on them, no matter how loud and enticing the messages can be on the envelopes.

Here’s something to consider: if you really got the winning entry in a sweepstakes, do you actually think they would notify you by bulk rate mail? The same postal category as all the junk mail you and I get? I don’t think so. Something that important wouldn’t be delivered so cheaply. If you had really won, they would call or knock on your door. They would not have you fly down to their offices at your expense.

We all want to win something in these contests. It would be great if I woke up one day and realized that I had won ten million dollars and I didn’t have to have a care in the world for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, life is never that easy. There’s always some kind of fine print you have to deal with.

Monday, February 2, 1998

Week of 02/02/1998

"Santa Clinton?"
Bill Clinton Offering More Big Government With A Candy Coating
- by David Matthews 2

In watching the President’s State of the Union speech, I was utterly amazed at the amount of pure methane being exhibited from the speaker’s podium. I wasn’t expecting for him to say two words about the present media orgy concerning Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, or Monica Lewinsky, and I’m glad he didn’t say anything about them. The speech was to talk about the state of the country, not the state of the presidency.

No, what really set off the methane alarms was the not-so veiled hints of more government programs.

In the 1995 State of the Union speech, President Clinton told the American people that the era of big government "was over." Much like George Bush and his "read my lips" speech, this was yet another bold-faced lie to the American people. Big government was far from being "over."

Sure, Clinton talked about the much vaunted budget surplus. And to my pleasant surprise, he said he would earmark any surplus monies to Social Security. His call to "save Social Security first" was one of the best choices he could make. But this money shouldn’t be spent on trying to "save" the program as it should be to keep the payments coming to those owed the money, and to find a new program to replace it that doesn’t involve greedy politicians who would use it as a slush fund like they did ten years ago.

However, following that talk about a strong economy, a budget surplus, and some vaguely harsh words about Iraq, we got into vintage tax-and-spend Clinton.

The "spend" part was obvious. Child care, education, crime, more social programs.. more and more money. But little talk about where this money would come from, especially since he prided the federal government to be a "fiscally responsible government." There are only two ways to fund these programs - more federal taxes, or mandate that the states pick up the tab.

The "tax" part wasn’t really discussed, except to say he would favor taxing heavily the EVIL tobacco industry. I have to wonder, though, what will happen when the number of smokers shrink even further? Today, smokers account for only 25% of the populace, and rapidly decreasing. I wonder how they feel about having to constantly bear the wrath of the Gods of Mount Morality? Who knows? Maybe it will make them get off their duffs and VOTE this year!

I also found it curious that Clinton would bash tax cuts as being "reckless" and yet embrace the con job of tax credits as a means of providing "relief" to families. This is a form of relief that is still dependant on Uncle Sam taking tax money out of your paycheck, and then having you beg for some of it back. Why not give the money back in the form of tax cuts? Because then that’s less real money Uncle Sam and his fifty spoiled brats have to play with. But promise a fancy-looking IOU, and they’ll still be able to take money away from you. Your paycheck will not change - only the tax forms will get more and more complicated.

Speaking of taxes, has anyone else noticed that their phone bill went up starting in January? Yes, you’re now paying for the Clinton Administration’s incentive to wire the schools for the Internet. Didn’t know about that one, huh? It’s called transfer of costs. Uncle Sam taxes the phone companies, the phone companies transfer the charge to you. This is what happens when you "tax just the rich." By the federal government’s own information, more than seventy percent of all taxes generated come from the richest ten percent of the population. They, in turn, transfer as much of that cost to you and I, the consumers, in the form of higher prices.

Then there’s Clinton Vatican-like stance on cloning. "No cloning humans!" It’s sort of funny since cloning humans could very well be the best way out for a lot of Clinton’s worries. Then he can stop blaming everything on wrong-wing conspiracies and instead blame it on his clone!

What I really get annoyed about, though, is his claim that the Internet is "first and foremost about education." What hogwash! The Internet is about communication and information. Does our "education president" even KNOW the history of the Internet and why it’s as vast as it is today? Odds are, he doesn’t care any more than the average Joe Six-pack. It’s only a tool for him to exploit.

Oh, and Bill, save your bucks and stop blithering on about developing filtering software for the Internet. It already exists IN SPITE of your efforts to censor the Internet.

Then there’s Clinton’s claim that this is the "smallest government in 35 years." As defined by whom? Only if you define it in terms of federal employees, and that is because of the downsizing of the military. But not by the government’s apparent Pac-Man attitude concerning your money. By the government’s own records in the Department of Commerce, the federal government gobbles up 20.8% of every dollar. That’s higher than in Lyndon Johnson’s "Great Society" in 1969 or the post-Jimmy Carter recession in 1981, which were the previous record setters for government largesse.

In real taxes: Combined between federal, state, and local taxes, the average American loses 35.2% of their money to pay for Uncle Sam and his fifty spoiled brats. Twenty years ago, that number was 33.1%. That’s more than a third of every dollar you and I make!

Like a parent trying to conceal his faults to his children, Bill Clinton is inundating the people with gifts, hoping there is a program or a combination of programs that will absolve him of his past misgivings. Promises that are easy to make when you realize that it is not really his responsibility to foot the bill for them - that’s the role of Newt Gingrich and the GOP-dominated House of Representatives.

In short, the State of the Union speech was Bill Clinton’s attempt at playing Santa Claus to the American people; offering dreams of a government that would be all-encompassing yet wouldn’t bleed the public dry any more than they would have to. In a time and age where government is seen as a crutch at best, and a caning stick at worst, it is apparent that those we elect to Congress still don’t get the point. The problem isn’t not enough government, or even a "fiscally responsible" government. The problem is a government that is trying to be all things to all people and pretending it can be done at minimal cost.