Politics: March 2004 Archives


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Q Is the sky blue?
MR. McCLELLAN MCCLELLAN: The sky is, using the colors of the rainbow, between indigo and green.
Q Are you saying the sky is blue?
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't say that.
Q If you were to actually give a name to the color of the sky, would it be blue?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have not discussed that as a possiblity.
Q What do you think? Is it blue?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it is just what I said it is.
Q Can you just tell us if the sky is blue, or not?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look Ed, I've given you the answer. I don't know what other way I can say it.
Q You can say the sky is blue.
MR. McCLELLAN: I've described it as best as I can, and I wish you'd just print it how I say it.
Q I think the American people want a straight answer.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the American people are less concerned with what light wavelengths the atmosphere reflects than it is about the President's plan that has given us the greatest economic growth in 30 years.

Bonus: name that politician!

  1. If the question is, literally, "is the sky blue?," the answer is why, no! Of course not! The sky doesn't actually have any color, and it depends on how you, the subject, is looking at it, not to mention what time of day it is, what sorts and sizes of clouds, and that sort of thing. If the question is, normally, does the sky appear as blue to most people, then golly, of course it does!
  2. We have reason to suspect the sky is mauve.
  3. The sky is not blue.

Sunday Thoughts

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Really, the only thing that happened last week worth talking is Richard Clarke. But I don't want to really talk about it. It's becoming so annoying. It's not that I am tired of it because Clarke is proving Bush did all of these horrible things before 9/11. Look, the guy lacks a lot of credibility:

He says Rumsfeld "looked distracted" in a meeting on September 4; but actually, Rumsfeld wasn't even there.

He says Rice's "facial expression gave me the impression she had never heard the term before", but she gave an interview in late 2000 where she mentioned them by name.

He says Bush was intimidatingly ordering him to fabricate a link between al Qaeda and Iraq on September 12, but Bush flatly refused Wolfowitz's urgings to attack Iraq a mere three days later, on September 15. I suppose what Clarke said about it is possibly true, but what is absolutely clear is that Bush was not as gung-ho about attacking Iraq in September 2001 as Clarke wishes us to believe, because Bush didn't attack Iraq, and shot down those in his administration who wished him to.

Clarke has a lot of interesting things to say about what happened before 9/11, but his insistence that Bush failed where Clinton did succeed, or would have succeeded, seems to be colored by his hatred of what Bush has done with Iraq.

I really don't want to get into a point-by-point discussion of who said what and when. The three points I made above are designed not to say everything Clarke said is a lie, or even that his main points are wrong, but just to show why I have doubts about the unverifiable parts of his stories, and his conclusions: that is, to show you faithful believers of Clarke that he isn't the Ultimate Purveyor of Truth. I am far more interested in what the bipartisan 9/11 commission has to say than I am in what Richard Clarke has to say, because he is a man with a grudge, an axe to grind, and isn't being objective.

What seems clear to me is that Clinton and Bush both failed to take the threat seriously enough. What is also clear is that both took it very seriously. Clinton tried many times to kill or capture Bin Laden, and Bush's people had a plan ready for implementation in early September 2001 that would have aimed to eliminate al Qaeda altogether. Surely mistakes were made, but the reason Clarke is so angry with Bush about 9/11, and so conciliatory toward Clinton, has little to do with the leadup to 9/11 itself, and has mostly to do with Clarke's feelings about Iraq.

Please feel free to vent for and against Clarke in the space below. Get it out of your system. :-) slashdot.org

Money and Mouths

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You don't like the Presidential debates? Did you know the political parties secretly collude with the Commission on Presidential Debates to exclude third parties, in violation of federal law? Did you know that since the CPD took over the debates, viewership has consistently declined? Have you read my previous journal entries?

Don't like it? Put your money where your mouth is, and donate to Open Debates. Also, watch the news conference, if you have some time. It's a Real stream from C-SPAN, so it might be busy today, though. Something is sorta going on that a lot of people are watching. slashdot.org

Sunday Thoughts

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Political Politics

I've talked about this before, but it is an issue again, largely because of Bush ads, so I'll say it again: John Kerry would not have allowed the troops to not get their $87 billion. Assertions or implications to the contrary are made out of ignorance or attempts to decieve.

I am not going to vote for Kerry. I like him, basically, as a man, but I disagree with him. He does annoy me greatly in his campaigns, because he is so nasty and hypocritical (like most of the rest of them). But I get even more annoyed at constant charges that are clearly false.

And how about all the nonsense where people thought John McCain was going to run as Kerry's VP? McCain simply said the truth: Kerry is a friend of his, and if asked, McCain would entertain the possibility. I disagree with Jamie McCarthy on many things, and if he ran for office I might campaign for the other side; but if he asked me to serve with him, I would certainly consider it, because he's a friend and a good man. But McCain is the co-chair of Bush's campaign in Arizona, for crying out loud.

There was a resolution on the floor of the House recently (H. Res. 557) that said, essentially, the war on Iraq has made the U.S. a safer place. If you vote for it, then you agree with the war; if you vote against it, you're unpatriotic. Someone needed to just stand up at the mic, say, "This is a transparent attempt to trap people, and rather than play this game, I think I'll go do some real work," and then just leave, and encourage others to do the same.

Kennedy slammed Bush on Meet the Press this week for "bribing" Turkey (our ally); I only wish Russert would have asked Kennedy if it was wrong for Clinton to bribe North Korea (our enemy).

Kennedy was asked about which world leaders support Kerry, and he dodged by saying Cheney hasn't given names of the energy task force, and then said "the CIA knows [the names of all of those countries] ... all you have to do is look at what happened yesterday in the demonstrations all over the world." The CIA knows which world leaders told Kerry they support him? How would they know that? And demonstrations in a country mean the leaders support Kerry? So Bush supports Kerry? Too bad Russert didn't ask those questions.

Somebody Call 9/11

Richard Clarke's book comes out this week. From what I've read and heard, he is an angry man writing an angry book, and much of it is mountainous molehills. For example, he tries to use an exchange with President Bush to show that Bush was trying to mislead people into thinking Iraq was behind 9/11/2001: shortly after the attack, Bush tells Clarke to see if there is anything to show Iraq was behind it, Clarke says they don't have anything like that, Bush says look, Clarke says OK, we'll look again.

How is this supposed to prove anything? Bush wanted to know if there was a link, he wanted him to doublecheck. This is bad? How? Three days later, Bush refused to take military action against Iraq, despite Wolfowitz's urging, so clearly, Bush was not prepared to strike Iraq without evidence they were involved with 9/11. Bush just wanted information, and finding there was none, acted appropriately. Where's the problem? It's much ado about nothing.

Bush-haters tell us that this is evidence Bush wanted Clarke to manufacture a link between al Qaeda and Iraq. But there is no reason for us to believe this, except that Clarke says he felt it. That's not good enough, unless you are a Bush-hater; but if you are a Bush-hater, then you don't really need any evidence of any kind anyway: of course Bush wanted to manufacture links, because he is Bush! And if you don't see it, you're naive! Yawn.

It is possible Bush intended to order Clarke to fabricate a link. Of course. But Clarke's recalling of the event does not come close to showing it, and it is irresponsible -- at best -- to say it does. Clarke's feelings about what was inferred do not constitute proof of what was implied. This is a fundamental truth.

Clarke does make some reasonable charges. Clearly, Bush did not do enough against al Qaeda. Clearly, the administration was more concerned with states than individual terrorist groups, thinking that the source of the power of terrorists was the real problem, not the terrorists themselves.

The question is not whether Bush failed; of course he did, because we did not go after al Qaeda, and they attacked us. But in this political season, the question -- raised primarily by the Bush-haters -- is whether someone else would have done it differently. I don't know if Clarke thinks Clinton would have done better, but that's what many people are saying, and it's not supported by the evidence.

First, let's note that it is a lie to say al Qaeda was ignored, as many do. Clarke himself notes several meetings he was a part of that focused on al Qaeda. However, al Qaeda was not enough of a priority. But did Clinton make it enough of a priority? Would Gore have?

Following the attack of the USS Cole in October 2000, Clarke was at a meeting with Secretary of Defense William Cohen, CIA Director Tenet, Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Attorney General Janet Reno, and others, and only Clarke was in favor of going after bin Laden, according to a 2003 book by Richard Miniter, Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror, a book for which Clarke was a primary source.

According to many Bush-haters, Clinton's only reason for not attacking al Qaeda at the time was to not step on Bush's toes. Even if that were true, it doesn't mean much: if al Qaeda were really thought to be a threat to the U.S. homeland, there is no way Clinton, or any President, would hesitate to strike.

The point is that the Clinton administration did not go after al Qaeda following the USS Cole attack because they did not think al Qaeda was a clear and present danger to the security of the people of the United States. The arguments Miniter says were provided by the Clinton administration against attacking al Qaeda, treated al Qaeda like they were criminals that should be brought to justice, not people at war with the United States:

Reno thought retaliation might violate international law and was therefore against it. Tenet wanted to more definitive proof that bin Laden was behind the attack, although he personally thought he was. Albright was concerned about the reaction of world opinion to a retaliation against Muslims, and the impact it would have in the final days of the Clinton Middle East peace process. Cohen, according to Clarke, did not consider the Cole attack "sufficient provocation" for a military retaliation.

And then twice, Clinton rejected Clarke's attack plan.

This was not about whether or not al Qaeda did it, or whether they should act in the late days of the administration. SecDef Cohen thought what al Qaeda did didn't warrant military retaliation. And apparently, Clinton agreed, as he did not take military action.

Prophetically, Michael Sheehan, counterterrorism coordinator for the State Department, remarked to Clarke later: "What's it going to take to get them to hit al Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon?"

Clarke has reason to be angry with both Clinton and Bush. We all do. Both of them failed to get al Qaeda, despite numerous warnings and opportunities. But the contrast of Bush to Clinton, as though Clinton recognized the threat and was prepared to do something about it, is false.

U.S. First

I am getting tired of Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation -- he often says stupid things, some of which I've mentioned in this journal before (he was the first I heard in the press to criticize Kerry for voting to leave the troops without funding) -- but he spoke to an idea I favor in his closing statements yesterday: Bush and Kerry should have a joint news conference affirming their common committment to the war on terror, to bringing down terrorists who want to bring us down. slashdot.org

Useless Protests

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Today, many people protested against the Iraq war with the stated goal of ending the American occupation of Iraq. But it already will end, on June 30. The occupation is scheduled to die in three months, and there is no indication whatever that it will get a reprieve of any kind. This has to be the most useless large protest, ever. "End the occupation!" "Um, OK." slashdot.org

Political Songs

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Big, Warm, Sweet, Interior Glowing

from the album "Kalhoun"
Words by Terry Taylor
Music by Terry Taylor, Tim Chandler and Greg Flesch
Copyright 1991 Twitchen Vibes/ Brainstorm Artists Int'l.. ASCAP/BMI

He will always trust his own vision
Could be a dangerous man
He's guided by no one
Attracted to the sound
Of the interior voices
He will not listen hard enough
To any other man

He gets a big warm sweet interior glowing
He gets a grand elitist superior knowing
This convinces us he's infallible - yeah

By sheer force of will
He leaves a deep impression
Self-confidence persuades us that he is a saint
Then we watch him tear apart another city
Turns it to dust and ash
A mighty nation's falling


He downs another coffee
And the feeling grows
He's building monuments so high
In his expanding mind
He eats a six course dinner
And hears the voice of the spirit
This voice says
"Well done my very good and faithful servant"

(Chorus) slashdot.org


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I went to the Republican precinct caucus tonight in Washington. Only three people showed up in my precinct, and one was the daughter of the other guy, there for research for a homeschool project. Because of the low turnout expected, a few dozen precincts all met in the same room, and most precincts had no one show up at all.

My precinct gets three delegates (and three alternates) the county convention in April. Of the approximately 1,500 delegates to the district caucuses (presuming all the precincts send the maximum number of delegates, I presume), 129 will be chosen to go to the state convention. There, the party nominee will likely be chosen (WA has been having issues with primaries this year; it's unclear how the nominee will be selected right now), and the 11 delegates to the national election will be chosen.

The delegates to the district caucuses are also delegates to the county convention, which happens on the same day and adopts the county platform. At the state convention, the state platform is adopted.

At 8 p.m., the woman leading the night explained most of this to us. We filled out questionnaires (mostly regarding the party platform) and waited until 8:30 p.m., when we could begin electing delegates. At 8:31 p.m., I wrote down my name, and asked the other eligible candidate if we wanted to be a delegate too. He declined.

And thusly I elected myself to the county convention and legislative district caucuses.

I also nominated myself as a candidate for delegate to the state convention. I don't expect to be selected, but on the other hand, if the other precincts are like the ones I saw tonight, it is quite likely that it will be closer to 150 than 1500 actual delegates who show up at the county level. slashdot.org

Sunday Thoughts

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Bush Campaign Ads

It's amazing to me not that the Democrats are playing hardball (OK, that is a little bit strange), but that anyone cares about this. The only people -- literally, the only ones -- who are in the news complaining about using images of firefighters and 9/11 in the Bush campaign ads are people who don't like Bush anyway. The attacks are clearly partisan and lacking in substance, and yet many people give this "story" time. I guess I shouldn't be amazed at a news media that enjoy a good row.

Anyway, I've heard lots of Bush-haters complain about Bush "exploiting" victims and firefighters in his ads, but where is the outcry about the DNC expoliting the victims' families in order to criticize Bush? One man said he was upset that his son was being used as a campaign prop: the fact is, of course, that no such thing happened. His son was not in the ad in any way. This father is not thinking clearly and his grief is being exploited in order to attack Bush. Is this somehow acceptable, whereas showing a few short, respectful, images is not?

The basic principle here is that people are not upset by the ad. People are upset by Bush, and because of that, are attacking his ad.

The other side of this is that the Bush team should have anticipated the attacks of the ads, despite there being nothing untoward about them, and that shows they've got some tightening up to do.

9/11 Commission

Speaking of 9/11, many people are criticizing Bush because he will only give an hour to the 9/11 Commission. Rudy Giuliani -- former New York mayor, longtime federal prosecutor -- was on Meet the Press and said the reason is because an hour is all they need, and if they are given more, they will use it, and waste the President's time. The same thing goes for the restriction to him meeting only with a couple of members of the commission: if he met with everyone, everyone would would want to ask him all the same questions, and waste his time.

Giuliani seemed certain that if more time is really needed, Bush will accomodate the commission, but seemed even more certain that an hour is plenty of time.

Blix Speaketh

One of the greatest criticisms of Bush and the Iraq war is that Bush should not have believed or argued that Iraq had WMD, despite the fact that the previous administration believed it, despite the fact that the CIA believed it, despite the fact that many European intelligence agencies believed it, despite the fact that the UN Security Council affirmed it as a matter of fact in Resolution 1441.

Now, according to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, chief UNMOVIC inspector Hans Blix "says in a new book that he believed, at the time of the war, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction." (I've not found any direct quotes or other references online.)

That's not to say all these people believed all the specifics that Bush and his people said and believed about the weapons (e.g., the mobile weapons labs and the aluminum rods). But all of them believed that Iraq possessed WMD, and it is increasingly clear that a belief that Iraq had WMD was not in the least bit unwaaranted, unreasonable, or radical.

Of course, the devil is in the details, and Bush can certainly be criticized for things like what tactics were used to convince people that Iraq had WMD, how reliable the specific claims were, and whether force should have waited for better evidence. But much of the criticism has been levelled on Bush simply because he thought Iraq had WMD, which is something that almost everybody else thought too, including, it appears, Hans Blix himself.

Not that I personally care what Blix thinks. He thinks the terror threat in this world has been overestimated, which to me is ludicrous. I think we are still understimating it, because I think someone could still hijack a plane and ram it into an American building pretty easily. I think we still have a lot of work left to do before we can possibly overestimate the threat. Many people thought we were overestimating the threat before 9/11 too, and they were clearly wrong; to make the same mistake again would be horribly foolish.

He also thinks the Iraq war was illegal, using a reasoning which would make any war not authorized by the UN an illegal war, which is a position that has never, since the beginning of the UN, been accepted by the international community (except to selectively discredit wars that people don't like, such as Blix is doing here).

But as to the specifics, he said that the UNSC was a party to the ceasefire, not the US and UK individually; that's a valid argument, but the problem -- as I've been arguing for over a year -- is that the US only gave the UNSC control over the process because it promised in 1991 to hold Iraq accountable, and since the UNSC would not do so, the US -- in its sovereignty -- chose to take matters into its own hands in 2003. This really is not a matter of legality, but of credibility, and the UNSC lost a lot of it when, for 12 years, they refused to act on the pledge they made in Resolution 687 (the ceasefire), where they said they would take whatever additional steps may be required to secure peace and security in the area.

Blix says if the US and UK had waited a few more months, war might have been averted. That ignores two other truths: if the UNSC had done more to prevent the Iraq situation from devolving, then we might never have gotten to this point; and further, that this war was not merely about WMD (as I've mentioned many times previously), but about transforming the region into a peaceful one.

Blix said, "Perhaps Blair and Bush, both religious men, felt strengthened in their political determination by the feeling they were fighting evil, not only (arms) proliferation." Perhaps Blix and most of the UNSC forgot that they were supposed to be securing peace and security in the area, not merely fighting the proliferation of NBC weaponry.

Kerry's Flip Flops

I won't deny that Kerry changes his mind on issues. The most clear example, to me, is NAFTA and trade policies. But most of the attacks on Kerry are unwarranted. In the RNC website, several of the 30 issues listed are dishonest fabrications; most of the time, they take a complex position with subtleties and make it sound like he is opposing himself instead. Before you believe Kerry flip-flopped on something, do the research. For example:

  • 1. Support for war: Kerry was always against a "rush" to war and was always apprehensive about using force, evidenced by his first supported the Biden-Lugar resolution, and his statement on the floor when he voted for the resolution that passed. He was never a full-throated supporter of unconditional force against Iraq.

  • 2. Marriage Penalty: I don't know the details, but I have no reason to assume Kerry didn't support the same bill in an alternate form, or opposed the bill because it included some other things he was against; I can't find the bill in question in Thomas, but I won't believe the GOP without understanding the full picture.

  • 8. No Child Left Behind: I do think Kerry's assertions against Bush's handling of NCLB are weakened by his support of the bill, but his criticism is more against Bush's handling of the bill than against the bill itself.

Also, some of the issues compare his views from 30 years ago to today; are people not allowed to change their minds over 30 years?

Not that the Democrats are much better. The Kerry people are as bad on defense as Bush's have been, counter-attacking Bush as a flip-flopper, quoting his pre-9/11 positions about deficit spending and nation building. What a shock that 9/11 made Bush reevaluate and change some of his positions.

Final note: former Clinton comedy writer Mark Katz said, on This Week, that Kerry might want to take a cue from "another craggy, Lincoln-esque leader from another deeply divided political era: when accused of being two-faced, President Lincoln quipped, 'if I were two-faced, would I have chosen this one?'"

New Paltz Redux

Since last week's events, the mayor of New Paltz has now been banned for a month from performing any marriage ceremonies, because the court recognized he was -- despite his insipid denials to the contrary -- clearly violating state law by solemnizing marriages without licenses.

More gay couples were married in New Paltz this weekend, by ministers, on private property, but once again without marriage licenses. If these ministers were, as they said, performing civil ceremonies by the power granted them by the state of New York, then they too will be subject to criminal charges. If not, then they were just participating in utterly symbolic performances without any legal meaning.

Aristide Redux

Last week the cries came out strong that Aristide claimed to have been kidnapped. No one backs up his story, save for his wife and a few people who worked for him at his palace. The Americans, the French, the private security firm from San Francisco whose guards were with him the entire time, and his current hosts in Central African Republic (CAR), all deny his claims in one form or another.

He claimed to have been kidnapped, forced onto the plane at gunpoint. His security detail denies this. He claims to have been a prisoner in CAR. The French troops protecting him and his CAR hosts deny this.

Not that it is proof he is lying, but his CAR hosts have revoked his telephone privileges in the palace, because he was only causing political problems for them with his claims, and it seems clear they don't really want him around anymore.

Even Charlie Rangel -- one of the most prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who had been pushing this story most of the week -- backed of from the assertion that Aristide has been kidnapped. On Wednesday, he tried to pressure assistant secretary of state Roger Noriega into admitting that the US would only "allow" Aristide to leave if he resigned, which -- if true -- would prove that Aristide was not kidnapped at all, unless you dare take the word "allow" literally (i.e., that we would have prevented him from leaving the country by his own means), which is unreasonable.

What happened now seems clear, considering Rangel's change of tune: Aristide wanted a bus out of town, the US would provide one for him, but made it clear they wanted him to resign first, because they wanted a "sustainable political solution" to the problem: Aristide leaving while still claiming his position would not do anyone any good, except Aristide himself. Noriega said the US "probably" would have helped him leave even if he did not resign.

But what is also clear is that the US had no obligation to do anything, and that Aristide could have secured his own transportation if he didn't like the terms being offered. He went with the US and France because the US and France could help guarantee his safety and would give him greater flexibility in final destination. It was his choice, and he chose wisely, and the US were suckers for trusting that he would be grateful.

Dean Redux

On CNN they had a very interesting documentary, "True Believers: Life Inside the Dean Campaign." It shows pretty clearly how you can have a lot of support and money and attention and that at the end of the day, if the candidate is not well-liked by enough people, he has no chance of winning. I believe now more than ever that Dean would have meant an easy victory for Bush in November, and that Kerry makes a Bush victory far less certain.

The volunteers and staffers were asking, "what did we do wrong?" You chose a loser, that's what went wrong. Joe Trippi -- campaign manager, and star of the documentary -- liked to say, "it's the people, stupid!" But the problem is that the people need someone to vote for, and while many people liked Dean, many more disliked him.

"The Scream" may have had an impact on New Hampshire, but it happened after Iowa's caucuses, so it was not a factor there. And in Iowa, Dean spent over a month campaigning, spent tens of millions of dollars, had more campaign workers than anyone else, and came in third with less than 20 percent of the vote.

Some would claim it is because the media killed Dean, but every candidate gets attacked by the media; in December and early January, the media was writing off Kerry as an also-ran, attacking his finances and organization. Yet Kerry came in first.

And even in New Hampshire, Dean's poll numbers up to the last minute looked like he and Kerry were about even, but in the end, he lost by 13 points. This means the polls were not very accurate, so to say Dean "dropped" from a certain percentage in the polls to his final result is ridiculous.

The reasonable explanation for Dean's loss in Iowa is that the voters did not like Dean. All the money and organization in the world can't help you if your candidate is a loser. Yes, I know, it is heresey to say the voters actually chose their candidate, but I call it like I see it. As the voters do.

A-caucusing I Go

I will attend my first caucus tomorrow, the Washington State Republican Precinct Caucuses on March 9. The suspense of which Republican candidate will win is killing me! slashdot.org

Gay Marriage In New Paltz

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It took me awhile to find it -- after reading a dozen stories and even watching an interview by Katie Couric of the New Paltz, NY mayor this morning, this important detail was not mentioned -- but the criminal charges against the mayor have nothing directly to do with marrying gay people, they have to do with the fact that no marriage licenses were granted.

Most stories mentioned the charges were for performing marriages without a license, but they didn't explain what it meant; I assumed, incorrectly, it meant that gay marriage licenses were invalid. But what it meant is that the town clerk did not issue licenses. They never existed in any form. When this mayor said he did nothing wrong -- as he has been doing -- he is either incompetent, or lying.

You can make the argument that gay marriage in NY is legal; I don't know if that's true or not, I've heard opinions both ways, with no facts to back it up (facts with links are welcome!). But that isn't the issue here.

You could also try to say the clerk should have issued the licenses, but that doesn't take away the mayor's culpability in his illegal acts; further, the clerk -- according to the story -- didn't issue the licenses because the clerk believed to do so may violate the law. Until such time as the state makes a definitive ruling, a clerk choosing to not take action which may violate the law is perfectly valid and reasonable. It would be different if this were May in Massachusetts, where the state's highest court has ruled that gay marriage licenses will begin to be issued. There is no such ruling here, and while you can make the case that such licenses in NY are legal, it's harder to make the case to a public official that they are not illegal, that the clerk is taking on no liability for themselves.

Bottom line: the state of New York has not, and should and at some point will, clarify the state law on this matter; in the meantime, forcing clerks to issue such licenses is unreasonable; and in any event, marriages without licenses are illegal.

Oh, and reporters who left out the part about the town clerk are stupid. slashdot.org


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I went to the doctor recently and I was asked to sign a form saying I had read and understood the privacy form that I could request. So I requested it. It took them 5 minutes just to find a copy, because they normally don't have them our, or give them out, and weren't even sure where they were located. I am not sure whether to be more disturbed by the fact that there are a great many patients who perjured themselves, or that the doctor's office didn't even really prepare for that ONE PERSON who wouldn't do so. slashdot.org

CPD Collusion

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In my column column a week ago, I offered one of my quadrennial rants about the CPD, and noted, "The two major political parties are in collusion with each other to exclude third-party candidates from public exposure."

Aaron Swartz alerted me to Open Debates, which four days earlier had a press release saying: "Today, Open Debates filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). The complaint contains previously unreleased, secret documents that reveal how the major party candidates collude with the CPD to dictate the terms of the presidential debates and exclude third-party and independent challengers."

Sweeeeeet. slashdot.org

Sunday Thoughts

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Lessee ... gay mariage, check; Haiti, don't care; Nader, check; Super Tuesday, don't care. Blah.

All of these things are interesting, I suppose, but most of them have been done to death for now.

Well, at least there was Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times. In yesterday's debate, she proved to be -- bar none -- the worst panelist in a presidential or primary debate that I've ever had the misfortune to witness.

She interrupted candidate and fellow panelist alike, multiple times. She was browbeating Kerry over whether or not he was a liberal, without defining what the term even meant. She actually took personal offense when Sharpton went on his regular "you're not giving me as much time as the top two candidates" rant, and responded with, "Well, I'm not going to be addressed like this." Yes you will, Ms. Bumiller, and what's more, you'll like it!

She was utterly ridiculous, and I expect CBS (co-sponsor of the debate with the Times) will ask that she not participate next time.

Speaking of Kerry being a liberal, when I heard he was the "most liberal" Senator according to National Journal vote rankings, my first and immediate thought was: on what basis is a given vote judged to be liberal? And sure enough, Kerry noted in his answer to Ms. Bumiller that his vote against the Medicare bill was "liberal." Kerry also complained his vote against tax cuts was "liberal."

I think voting against the tax cut was liberal. But who am I to say that? There's certainly a fiscally conservative case to be made for Kerry's vote. And even moreso for the vote against the Medicare plan: I have absolutely no doubts that if the Congress and President were Democrats, and the exact same bill were voted on and signed, that it would have been called a liberal bill (of course, I also have no doubts that Kerry would have voted for it, and many Republicans who voted for it would have voted against it).

Similarly, many people call Bush a far-right conservative, yet his steel tariffs, high spending on social programs, immigration reform, and more simply aren't right-wing policies.

In summary, I'd like to thank Ms. Bumiller for demonstrating -- unintentionally -- how inane political labels usually are.

While we're on voting records, Kerry's continues to be distorted. I said long before Iowa that it was ridiculous to say Kerry was against funding for our troops in Iraq just because he voted against the actual bill that was eventually signed by the President: Kerry said at the time he wanted the funding to go through, but wanted to pay for it in another way.

When asked on Face the Nation would he have voted for it if his vote had been the deciding one ... it became obvious the interviewer didn't really understand the point, which is sad for a journalist who had been covering DC politics since before I was born. If Kerry had been the deciding vote, then he would have had the power to change the funding to make it acceptable to him, and he would have then voted for the modified bill. That's how legislatures work.

Similarly, Kerry's been slammed all over the place for voting against this weapons program or that one. I'd wager a lot of fiscal conservatives voted against some of those too (setting aside, for a moment, the fact that many of those no votes were on one bill).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: a no vote does not mean you disagree with the principles of a given bill. Legislators vote against bills all the time, for many reasons, such as -- but not limited to -- too much pork, too much in one bill (you like part of the bill, but not all of it), improper or insufficient funding, favor of a different bill that does the same thing but in a better way, etc.

When you vote for something, you throw your complete support to it. You may have other reasons for voting for it, but in the end, it is your name on the bill, and you own that action. It is unacceptable to say later, "I voted for it, but I didn't like it." If you don't like it, don't vote for it. Edwards does a good job of owning his vote, and I respect him for that.

But while you still own your vote if it was No, that doesn't mean you were against what's in the bill, and to assume that is about as nonsensical as assuming that someone is liberal just because a vote is characterized as such by a DC insider's journal.

That said, I do think Kerry is a fancy-pants liberal, but I wouldn't dare try to quantify that. I have too much interest in being not stupid. 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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