Sunday Thoughts

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First things first: there's no evidence John Kerry ever had an affair, or that Bush was AWOL, so everyone please shut up about it.

And even if Bush did have problems with his attendance, I couldn't care less, because clearly the military had no problem with it when they honorably discharged him. I don't second-guess the military unless I have a damned good reason to, and the only reason to second-guess them here is to justify partisan attacks.

Let's talk about real issues, shall we? There's so much going on that matters. And frankly, the best way for the Democrats to lose this election is to make it about Bush's past or his personality. If they call him AWOL or a deserter, if they say he is disengaged, if they chant "Don't Forget Florida" over and over, they will only annoy people.

The only way to beat Bush is to convince people that Kerry will improve trade, jobs, health care, education, homeland security, and national defense. I doubt Kerry can win on the final couple of issues, but he can on the others, but only if that is what the voters are actually thinking about. But hey, don't let me stop you from annoying the voters you want to convince.

It's the same thing with campaign financing. Kerry lies when he says that he doesn't accept PAC money; he does, but only in individual contributions, so they are not filed as PAC dollars. Dean lies when he says Kerry takes more special interest money than anyone in the Senate; he gets more individual contributions, but not overall special interest money. And while Bush's campaign didn't lie about Kerry's record -- and it is valid to show how Kerry misrepresents himself -- it is being deceptive in making it sound like Kerry is somehow owned by special interests, when he gets a lot less special interest money than Bush does.

Again, there's real issues out there. So let's get to them!


A big spending bill is coming before the President soon, and it goes over the limit he set for it. Will he veto it? Probably. He gets to look like a fiscal conservative, and the Senate already has enough votes to override the veto. Oh well.

Ed Gillespie, chair of the RNC, said on Meet the Press, "When the President first put forward the tax cuts, we didn't know we were going to be in a world after September 11, we didn't know we were going to have to have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan ...". The last big tax cut was introduced in February 2003, and signed into law in May 2003. It sounds like Gillespie is admitting tax cuts were the wrong thing to do if you knew about the big budget problems that were coming, but they did know about them for the most recent tax cuts. So ... huh?

John Edwards' witticisms notwithstanding (what does "outsource this administration" even mean? That we will get a President from India?), we clearly have problems with jobs going overseas. George Will on This Week was in fine form as he told us the recent focus on the problem was caused not by job loss, but by who was losing the jobs: the blue collar workers have been "replaced by the articulate." Heh.

I'll give both Edwards and Will a pass on this, and simply note that while Bush clearly is not to blame for the tide of job loss overseas that we're seeing -- he didn't have anything to do with NAFTA or the WTO; he didn't create the tech bubble, nor did he burst it -- he certainly hasn't done anything substantive to help slow the losses, that I can see. His fault is not causing the job loss, but in not doing anything about it.

You could say the tax cuts are slowing the job loss now, which is possibly true, but more direct action could have slowed the losses earlier.

Last week, someone in the Department of Labor said the outsourcing is a good thing, that we'll see 20 million jobs created because of it. Maybe it's true; I'm not smart enough to judge. I am convinced that this is something that we can't stop, and still have successful businesses, and that in the long run we'll be fine; however, I do wish that our government would have taken measures to slow down the job loss, to lessen its impact, that we could change over to this new economy more gradually.


And while we're overseas, let's talk about how we're doing in Iraq. Al Qaeda associate Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi wrote a letter noting that the terrorists are focusing their efforts on Iraq, that they are coming together and doing everything they can to destabilize the country, because they know a stable Iraq is a huge defeat for them.

The main thing this letter does is validate the not-so-eloquently expressed stategy of President Bush when he said, "bring it on." That is, our troops are in Iraq, and more than anything we want to kill the people who want to kill us, so if you're going to attack us, it's best for us if you do it in Iraq.

The terrorists in Iraq have been talked about by some as though any terrorist in Iraq is in addition to ones already elsewhere. No, it doesn't work that way. They are concentrating their efforts in Iraq, which means we are pulling them out of hiding. We want to kill them, and they are coming to us. This is better than them not coming to us.

The letter also validates what I was talking about last week, that Hussein's regime benefitted the Islamist terrorists, even if indirectly, and that his removal is a huge benefit to us in the war on terror.

Gay Marriage

I've been saying since the SCOTUS decisions last summer that the gay rights activists need to be careful not to reach too far too fast, or they will get their hand slapped. We're about to find out if I was right.

Rather than fighting for civil unions or some other means to get rights, in many areas the gay rights activists are attempting to secure marriage rights. But the country isn't ready for it, I think, and so we're seeing states like Ohio and Massachusetts rushing to make laws and amend Constitutions, and even Congress is talking about an amendment. Some activists viewed the Massachusetts court ruling as a victory, but if it ends in the state amending the Constitution, it will ultimately be a colossal failure for their goals. It's a huge risk for them to have taken.

Frankly, I think the Massachusetts decision is indefensibly wrong. I can buy the argument that gay couples should get rights afforded to married couples, but I cannot find how the logic leads them to "gay marriage". The idea that this is similar to "separate but equal" is extraordinarily specious. When a black man had to use a separate drinking fountain, that was a clear violation of his rights. But the whole idea of a civil union is that the exact same legal rights would be provided. There would not be separate water fountains, or lines at the DMV, or ... I don't know what.

And worse is the mayor of San Francisco who knowingly, willfully, violates the law. I don't know what can be done to punish the mayor, but whatever it is, it should be done to him. What if a Massachusetts mayor decided that -- once the court decision goes into effect -- it would refuse to give marriage licenses to gay couples? Would that kind of civil disobedience be acceptable? Not to me, but I strive for consistency.

And many of the people praising the mayor also slammed the Alabama judge who violated the law with his Ten Commandments in the courthouse. This is precisely why we have laws and a system for enforcing, upholding, and interpreting those laws. Civil disobedience may be justified in some situations, but for crying out loud, reserve it for those situations where our political system has failed to produce results, at the very least. To violate what you think is an unjust law while we are in the process of changing that law just makes you look like a jerk. Which, Mayor Newsom, you are.

[As to the potential court stay, I can't see how any rational court could think the harm of granting possibly illegal marriages is not greater than putting off those marriages while the issue is decided; if they can be married, they will be, but if not, then you need to revoke thousands of marriage licenses, annuling them, which will be a chaotic nightmare.]

As I've noted in this space before, I decided some time ago that I am against the government defining marriage at all. This does not mean they would allow anyone to get a civil marriage, it means civil marriage would not exist. It would be replaced by something with a different name that fills a similar function, and keeps marriage as a separate social entity.

Nothing would change, except that people would then be free to define marriage in any way they wish for themselves, and the government would open up civil union contracts to any two people who wanted them, as long as they fit some basic guidelines (perhaps defined by a combination of cohabitation, children ... I dunno, it doesn't really matter right now).

I personally think marriage should be between a man and a woman. I would be adamantly against homosexuals being married in my church. The problem is that most people can't or won't separate civil marriage from social marriage. When you say to someone that you're changing the definition of civil marriage, it says to them that you're changing the definition of the social institution they entered into, and it offends them.

And this feeling isn't entirely irrational, despite civil and social marriage being separate. When marriage became a legal entity, it was not government creating marriage, it was government granting legal recognition to an existing social institution. So of course, the laws about marriage followed the social institution closely, and people don't recognize a significant difference. But today, the nature of our living arrangements has changed from what it was, and a consistent legal policy would adapt to recognize those new institutions.

We need to ask ourselves not whether marriage is or is not something in particular, but in what ways people sharing each others' lives and resources benefit society, and in what ways they have a reasonable expectation of legal protections. That people share a house, food, a car, all benefits society. And that they decide to become a family means they care for each other and have a reasonable expectation to be able to visit each other in a hospital.

These are no-brainers, and we don't need to change marriage -- whatever that means -- to accomplish them. We need to recognize that the government only recognized marriage in the first place as a matter of convenience, and that it is no longer convenient to do so, and that we need to change what it is that government finds valuable in the marriage relationship, and recognize that instead of marriage itself (whatever it is).

The Powell Smackdown

One thing that anyone who's worked in Washington should know is that Colin Powell doesn't take crap. Last week -- after it was proved that Bush was not AWOL, not that it mattered much in how Powell reacted -- Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH), in a hearing about WMD intelligence, attacked the President on the issue. It was completely off-topic to the hearing, clearly a partisan attack, and it is something Powell would never comment on anyway. The exchange was most excellent.

BROWN: We count on you. The President may have been AWOL. The Vice President said he had other priorities during Vietnam, other high administrative officials never served. You understand war, we absolutely count on you and I think a lot of us wonder what happened between that Post interview and your statement the next day when you said the President made the right decision.

POWELL: First of all, Mr Brown, I won't dignify your comments about the President because you don't know what you're talking about. Second, let me get to the points that you were raising.

BROWN: I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean Mr Secretary.

POWELL: You made reference to the President...

BROWN: I said he may have been AWOL...

COLIN POWELL: Mr Brown, let's not, let's not go there. You know, let's just not go there, let’s not go there in this hearing. Do you want to have a political fight on this matter that is very controversial and I think is being dealt with by the White House fine, but let's not go there.

Basically, Powell said, "I'm not stupid, I know what you're doing, and maybe you think you're in control of this hearing because you're on the committee, but I won't let you get away with it." It was a beautiful moment.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on February 16, 2004 11:17 PM.

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