Politics: November 2003 Archives

Sunday Thoughts

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Gay Marriage

On This Week this week, a somewhat interesting discussion was had about gay marriage. Commentators George Will and Andew Sullivan were joined by U.S. Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO).

First: Musgrave came off as a big moron. Maybe she isn't, but she sure seemed like one. Sullivan asked her about her proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage, saying it was not conservative, because it didn't leave the issue up to the states. For awhile, she didn't seem to understand the question, as she said it would be put up to the voters of the United States. Fine, but what about Massachusettes voters, what if they want to allow it, in their state alone?

Later, the issue came back again, and Frank read the text of her proposed amendment and said it said nothing about the right of states to define marriage as they saw fit, internal to the
states. "It says nothing about states' rights," Barney Frank said. "Thirty-eight states get to decide," she responded. Wha ... ? So since 3/4 of states decide something for all fifty states, that equates to states' rights?

I swear, I want to have a litmus test for admission into the Republican Party sometimes. Or maybe just a class on what it means to be a conservative, or at least what the party platform contains. Hell, even basic defintions of things like "states' rights".

Moving on, Sullivan said something odd: he said a majority of Massachusetts residents support the court decision of last week, and asked, "How can it be judicial tyranny when a majority of the people in that state support what the court has done?" But "Judicial tyranny/activism" is not about what the people support, it is about what the law supports. Sully, this is going on your permanent record, don't let it happen again.

At the end, Will asked an excellent question. Based on the two most recent court decision -- the SCOTUS decision over the summer nullifying anti-sodomy laws, and the MA decision recognizing a right of homosexual people to marry one another -- he said, "give me a principle -- not arbitrary reason -- for banning polygamy."

I was shocked at Frank's answer. He said, "the difference between two people and three people is almost always clear," and then described the differences as a "three-way operation" being more likely to cause difficulties with property distribution, more friction with children, less social stability. "It's logical to say that two people with one set of children is a preferred status rather than three people with two sets of children," he said.

What he didn't say is how that is different from, "It's logical to say that a man and a woman with their own biological children is a preferred status rather than two men with adopted children." Next thing you know, he'll be quoting studies that show three-adult households are less stable, that polygamists are more promiscous, are more subject to substance abuse, etc. All the same sort of arbitrary things Will said he did not want, that have been used against gay marriage. The question of where the line is, was not answered by Frank. I don't know if there is an adequate answer.

I suppose property rights is less arbitrary than his other reasons, but our government is quite proficient at dealing with property rights where there are more than two parties. It happens all the time. All of those reasons are arbitrary in the sense that whether they are true or not, 1. they are subject to change and 2. there are ways to deal with them so as to mitigate their effect. They don't directly speak to any principle of law or rights.

Anyway, I think this is an important question to be asked, and it demonstrates, in a way, my -- and many other people's -- biggest problem with how this is going down: it seems the public debate is in some ways being short-circuited by the courts, so we won't have an opportunity to fully explore the issue before directing our legislatures, such as what happened in the abortion debate. What is marriage? Why does the government define it? Why should it continue to? What is its purpose? I have my own thoughts, as do the lawyers and judges. I hope the people as a whole get to think about these things and come up with some answers on their own. We'll see.

Bush, Britain

There was quite a bit of talk about how much the British people hate Bush or America, which they really hate, what the difference is, and how much it is. It reminded me of something I read in the upcoming issue of National Review:

"London was altogether beside itself on one point...it created a nightmare of its own, and gave it the shape of Abraham Lincoln. Behind this it placed another demon, if possible more devilish, and called it Mr. Seward [William Seward, Secretary of State]. In regard to these two men, English society seemed demented....Mr. Lincoln’s brutality and Seward's ferocity became a dogma of popular faith." -- Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, writing about London during the Civil War

It was a nice reminder that we all have a tendency to rush to judgment. Maybe history will bear Bush out as a hero, as Lincoln. He'd have to suspend writ of habeas corpus first, though. ;-)

The Rest

Pretty much the rest of the talk this Sunday was about the looming Medicare and Energy bills. I'll just repeat what I said before about wanting to do something to remove or educate Republicans. These are huge bills that will increase spending even more. Last year spending increased in the federal budget like 12.5%, with a Republican congress and Republican President. The GOP is supposed to be the party of small government, of states' rights, of free trade, and Bush and the Congress are abandoning it all. It's quite depressing. I feel like many African American Democrats must feel: I know my party is screwing me, but what am I gonna do, vote for the other guy?

(Jamie, and I figure you're probably thinking about Lucky Ducky right now. Bite me. I am just saying the party principles have been betrayed, not that my life is being ruined. :-) slashdot.org

Sunday Thoughts

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Senator Tom Daschle

Sen. Daschle was just full of lies in regard to the judicial nominees on Fox News Sunday this weekend.

He said that the 6 nominees were being fillibustered because all of them were more interested in pushing their own views than following written law. Alabama AG Bill Pryor has, time and time again, upheld and defended -- vigorously -- laws that go against his own personal beliefs. His record is unblemished in his upholding of the law, despite signficant effort in the judicial committee to prove otherwise. They came up empty. Daschle lied.

He said that Miguel Estrada refused to turn over a lot of documents -- at best, a mischarcterization -- and that other justices, including Bork, have turned over documents on such requests. That's false: Estrada was asked for ALL of his documents when working at the solicitor general's office (something every living solicitor general, from both parties, strongly opposes), and previous justices only turned over specific documents related to specific issues. Daschle lied.

He said that the Republicans fillibustered 63 nominees "in the judicial committee." There is no such thing as a fillibuster in committee. Daschle lied.

Daschle is just such a tool.

General Wesley Clark

Gen. Clark wasn't bad on Meet the Press, but he gave up ground on two big potential arguments against Bush.

First, Clark admitted in another interview this weekend that the war in Kosovo was "technically illegal" because it did not get UN support. He said it was OK, though, because another legitimate body supported it (NATO) and because it was a legimiate threat. But the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq is -- quote technically -- no less legitimate than NATO, and "legitimate threat" is in the eye of the beholder.

So Clark has entirely forfeited to Bush the "legitimacy" argument in regard to Iraq. He can still argue on the basis of faulty intelligence, even on motive, but not on legitimacy, because his main difference between what is and is not legitimate is something that has no actual bearing on legitimacy -- the existence and level of "threat" -- because it is subjective.

Second, Clark admitted he misled the American people in 1995 when he said the troops in Bosnia would be home in a year. He said he had reservations about the timeline, but stated it unequivocally to put pressure on the Bosnians to speed things up. So now, he cannot condemn Bush for misleading the American people if that misleading was for some "greater" good.

Then Clark went on to attack Bush on misleading the American people on intelligence in Iraq. Hold on there, pal. You concede that there were many good reasons to go into Iraq, and then say that it is bad to mislead the American people about those reasons, when you did the same damned thing in Bosnia?

I should also add that while everyone agrees Iraq posed some sort of a threat to the U.S. and its interests, even if not a direct security threat on U.S. soil, the same cannot be said of Bosnia and Kosovo. They had very little, if anything, to do with the U.S. We helped because we are a part of NATO and because, apparently, they wouldn't/couldn't do it without us.

But it wasn't our direct business, unlike -- as Clark and most everyone concedes -- Iraq, which was destabilizing the entire region, which was threatening Kuwait and Israel and Saudi Arabia, which was making the life of terrorists from Syria and Iran and Turkey and the Palestinian territories easier. I can't see how Bosnia or Kosovo posed any threat at all to our interests, and I can't see how Iraq wasn't a threat.

Does that de facto make the war in Iraq legitimate, in his view? Does that make the misleading OK? I don't know what is going on in Clark's head, but he surrendered quite a bit of ground today.

One last interesting note on Clark: he said, in reference to the election next year, "This is not about the economy, it's about jobs." I know he was trying to say that the issue is not GDP, but jobs, but his phrasing make him sound dumber than he is. Also, I am unimpressed with the sentiment: jobs won't turn up until GDP and other leading indicators turn up. Now those things are turning up, so give jobs a little bit of time.

Representative Dick Gephardt

Gephardt, when asked about the steel tariffs on This Week, said Bush should have lowered the steel industry's health care costs. How's that for a spin?

But then he did say he thinks the tariffs should remain in place until the steel industry can be protected. In fairness to Gephardt, he opposed NAFTA and is probably in favor of the tariffs in large part because of the damage NAFTA has done to the steel industry in the first place, which is an opinion that, while I disagree with, I can respect. At least he is consistent and mostly principled on this issue.

George Will asked Gephardt -- someone who has talked about reducing the amount of money in politics -- about George Soros giving $15 million to oust Bush. Gephardt eventually said, when pressed, it is legal, but against his ideals of campaign finance reform. I guess it's not too interesting, except in that Gephardt had to be pressed to come up with the answer. Maybe he hopes to accept the money, but doesn't want to seem too eager for it?

George Soros

As to Soros himself, I really have little comment. He has an unreasonable hatred toward Bush and wants to see him gone. I can't fault the latter, but his rhetoric in the former is extremely tiresome: "The proposition that the United States will be better off if it uses its position to impose its values and interests everywhere is the misconception. It is exactly by not abusing its power that America attained its current position."

Right, so the Bush doctrine you define should be abandoned, and Bush should, instead of imposing its values and interests everywhere, should leave Iran and Syria alone (like it is doing), it should use multilateralism in North Korea (like it is doing). It is truly nonsensical rhetoric. It's one thing to attack Bush's position on Iraq, but to magnify that to a general doctrine that simply doesn't exist according to the facts, makes it unreasonable.

President George Bush

There's something I've been hearing myself say a lot lately: there are so many things to complain about in regard to Bush: his lack of communication, his poor communication, even amounting to misleading; his policies on protestors and free speech; the Patriot Act; how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terror have gone.

So why the need to make things up? Why attack Bush on whether or not the "mission" was "accomplished," or whether "major combat operations" were over, when in those contexts, those things were clearly true, as intended? Why attack his views as a general doctrine for the world, when there's no significant evidence that it extends beyond Iraq?

I know Bush brings some of it on himself with his extremely poor communication to the American people: when he is communicating, he often contradicts himself, if not in word, then in tone or emphasis (was the war about terrorism, or liberty, or UN resolutions, or weapons? the correct answer is "all of the above and more," but you get a different message each time).

But -- and this is a tip for all you Bush-haters out there -- just because Bush leaves himself open for attack on these things doesn't mean you will benefit by attacking him there. It wouldn't entirely surprise me if Bush left himself open for attack on such things on purpose. You attack him on these minor issues (what did he mean in this speech or that one, who leaked what to whom) while he succeeds on the big issues (no major terrorist attacks, rebuilding Iraq [we'll see], improved economy), and Bush beats you. It very well could be a clever ploy to distract his opponents.

I don't think it is, but even if not, the effect is the same. Once again, people are underestimating Bush, hoping they can make him look bad while he is actually doing well overall, and the more they do it, the less chance they have of beating him, because all of these issues are things most voters don't give a damn about. slashdot.org


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It had to happen eventually: I'm writing about abortion.

Today, President Bush signed a ban on partial birth abortion. Yes, it is true that in some sense this is the beginning of an assault on "a woman's right to choose." But the opposition to this bill is almost entirely a reaction not to the bill itself, but to that assault it represents.

Tonight on News Hour, a doctor, Paula Hillard from U. of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said this bill is "chilling" because it represents the government getting in between a doctor and patient. "The law will limit the physician's judgment in an individual situation, a situation in which they might judge this particular procedure, or any other abortion procedure, potentially, to be appropriate for that individual woman, and I think that's a chilling effect on the practice of medicine, and I think that effect is and should be viewed as chilling to American women."

OK, let's start with the easy part first: this bill does not potentially have any effect on any other abortion procedure. The opponents of this bill say this, but it's a lie. The bill outlaws one abortion procedure, period.

But more outrageous than that lie is the proposal that this is chilling because the government is taking away a choice from a doctor and patient. This is said as though the government doesn't already have hundreds, thousands, of laws that take away choices, whether they are doctor-assisted suicides, or types of medicine, or types of medical procedures. The medical industry is very highly regulated by the government, and to say that it is chilling because it does something -- takes away choice from doctors and patients -- that is done all the time, in the same way and in different ways, is absolutely ludicrous.

There's only one other argument I've heard against this bill, and it is that there is no provision for the "health of the mother." That argument is a non-starter. The proponents refuse to define what "health of the mother" is, and they could easily say the mother needs to have an abortion for her mental health, thereby making the bill absolutely useless, which is the point of having that provision. And the bill does have a provision for the threatening of the life of the mother. But since that doesn't make the bill useless, it is not good enough for opponents.

When asked when this procedure is necessary, Hillard would not answer. She said, "that is between the doctor and the patient." She couldn't even provide a hypothetical example, or a past actual example.

It's a shame that the opponents of the bill will not argue the text of the bill itself, in an honest way, and instead argue lies. I understand it, as they are reacting to the assault on abortion itself. But I guess that there is no real argument against the text of this bill says something about how good the bill is. slashdot.org


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Howard Dean is taking a lot of flak for his statement that he wanted to be the candidate for people who have the Confederate flag on their pickup trucks. What resulted was a discussion of whether or not Dean should be courting the votes of racists.

The Confederate flag is not, in any absolute sense, a racist symbol. The Confederate flag has many meanings, to many people. To some people it is a racist symbol. To others it is a symbol of secession. To others, a symbol of the South, just as a state flag is a symbol of a given state. To others, it is a combination.

What is often lost in discussions like this is that symbols have no inherent meaning. Meaning does not exist in symbols, it exists in people. YOU have a meaning for the Confederate flag, but IT has no meaning in itself. And your meaning for the flag might be different than mine.

So fine, you may be offended by the Confederate flag, either because to you it is racist, or because it is a symbol of secession. Both are fine reasons to be offended. But do not assume that everyone who flies that flag has those meanings. The Dukes of Hazard had neither meaning to the flag, and most people I've met who display the Confederate flag have neither meaning for it, as well. And when you tell them "that flag is bad" you are simply incorrect, unless you qualify it with "to me."

In this sense, I will defend Dean (*gasp!*): he was not talking about racist people, he was not talking about secessionists, he was talking about people with Southern pride, who are often poor, who often do display the Confederate flag, and who often vote Republican. And Al Sharpton and John Edwards took offense, because they say that is stereotyping poor whites in the South, because it is calling poor whites in the south racist, because they either cannot understand that to them race and the Confederate flag are not tied together, or they do understand that, and are merely pandering. slashdot.org

(Don't) Rock the Vote

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I don't understand the purpose of getting people interested in voting. It makes no sense to me whatsoever.

I believe strongly that the more people engage in the political system, the better. But if you don't know what you are voting for, how is that engaging? How is that participating in any useful way? You're just causing noise. You are not participating in representative democracy, because you are not selecting the candidate who best represents you.

Let me be very clear: if you are not interested in politics, in understanding the differences between the candidates, then your vote is worse than no vote at all, and I would therefore strongly prefer you don't vote.

So I would prefer rule by the educated? Well, yes. But I would prefer that the majority of Americans were well-educated. I want everyone to vote, but I want them to be educated before they vote. The emphasis behind actions to increase participation should not be "vote." The emphasis should be "learn."

I know that people behind Rock the Vote say that is what they are doing. But I don't believe it is. I believe that is what they are trying to do, I just think they are doing a very poor job. Check out the home page. How many of those links actually educate?

And now that I look at it, the web site is especially partisan, too. It should be the "Rock the Vote against the Republicans" web site. That's not education, that's indoctrination. But that's really beside the point, because they don't educate anyway. They are nothing more than cheerleaders who say "yay, vote!"

The only thing worse than people not voting is people voting igorantly, which is what Rock the Vote is trying to do.

You think I'm making too big a deal out of this? If so, then was the last time you saw a political debate that informed, instead of attempted to sway via mere rhetoric or entertainment? slashdot.org
<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 is a archive of entries in the Politics category from November 2003.

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