Saturday, February 12, 2005

I thought he took a break

Obviously, Andrew Sullivan's book isn't going too well, or isn't interesting enough, cause he's blogging again kinda regularly. I'm glad in one sense, because I've enjoyed reading him for over a year now, but I think he's unable to break away.

Of course, after I'd managed to divorce my laptop for a while, I'm now back addicted, but thankfully not to instant messaging, which is the worst of addictions, and one I'm glad I've kicked for good. But Andy really needs a true break, even if it's at the price of not being able to read a talented, sometimes emotional, intelligent writer.

Gay marraige and equal rights

This is something I've considered for a long time. It hasn't come easy, but for months now I have believed this is the right course of action, and I hope to explain it in a manner that makes sense to everyone. As a centrist, I've been asked, "Aren't civil unions enough?" I once thought that way too, but there is a difference, and that too shall be explained.

Gays are the new (fill in the blank) persecuted minority. 11 states passed an amendment to ban gay marraige. The President is again pushing for the Family Marraige Amendment to federalize a ban on gay marraige through the Constitution, making the "living document" not-so-powerful. These moves are wrong; they reek of prejudice, and they risk the idea of federalism and the First Amendment.

Homosexuals are the way they are because of nature. It has been proven quite reasonably and scientifically. Many feel guilt, shame and shunned for the way they feel because society teaches us that we should all be heterosexual. It's not a choice for them, just as heterosexuals don't have a choice in their instinctual behavior.

I am a Catholic, I observe religious holidays, I pray to God regularly. Despite my teachings and indoctrination, I refuse to believe that A: evolution never happened, and B: that homosexuals are sinners. Yes, I know full well the passages cited as God's will that homosexuality is a sin. I also know that we all learn that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that he is loving and forgiving. The Old Testament is stern, harsh God. The New Testament is loving, caring God. I believe God kickstarted the universe, then sat back and has watched it grow, and yes, EVOLVE.

The point that I am coming to is that I believe homosexuality, which has existed for a very long time, is a genetic shaping, not a choice, not a sin. And so this brings us to the marriage issue.

Homosexuals are human beings. They aren't animals. All that crap that Rick Santorum spewed about man with man leading to man with dog is ridiculous. We are talking about human beings, loving, wanting to get married.

Marriage began as a religious function, and was that way for many years. I could be wrong, but I believe the U.S. Constitution was the first document making marraige a civil function, decided by the states. All 50 states allow you to get married by a justice of the peace. You don't have to be married in a church. You don't need a preacher to do it. All you need is a civil official and the marraige fee.

So why do we push a religiously based view into this debate while not allowing homosexuals to marry? Some, like I did before, argue for civil unions. Others say give them nothing (the Dobson-Robertson-Falwell-Santorum faction). Let's make a couple of things clear here.

First of all, civil unions are gay marraige without the word. That word means everything, and it means a lot to homosexuals as well as heterosexuals. It means legitimacy in the eyes of the law. It has a sacred meaning. Marraige bestowes rights upon people. It matters.

Colbert King wrote a great column about how interracial marraige used to be considered a great taboo, not wanted by God, and yet today it is seen as normal. Religion is often used as a reason to prevent something from changing. Religion was once a driving force for change, now it is used to always prevent change. Moreover, America, like it or not, does not rule by religious fiat. Most of us are religious; I am in that category. But we are a nation that welcomes everyone and everyone's contributions, whether they worship God, Buddha, Zeus, whoever. Why, then, should we allow religion to define what is right?

Several nations have allowed homosexual marraige within the past year, or are working on it right now. This includes our neighbors to the north in Canada, who despite two consecutive Catholic Prime Ministers, passed legislation to legalize it. Those two PM's, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, supported the legislation.

Chretien, who took major criticism from Canadian bishops over the law, said that his first duty was to serve the entire public. This is quite similar to our own situation here. The fact is, marraiges already have a 50% chance of ending in divorce. Isn't expanding the pool of people who can marry an important lifeline to a failing institution? Aren't people who are in love and want to get married the type of thing we should be encouraging?

"Majority rules, minority rights." That's the famous line. And this is a case of rights, not of law expressed by popular opinion. Interracial marraige wasn't popular, but it was a case of rights, and blacks and whites should have the right to marry. Homosexuals, too, should have that right. Is it popular? Not really. But what is popular isn't always right, and what is right isn't always popular. It's the right thing to do, period. It shows that we are a people who are committed to ending prejudice in the world, and it gives a class of people the same rights that everyone else has, which is all anyone can and should ask for. Let's continue aspiring to what we started in 1776, the idea of freedom, liberty, and civil rights for ALL.

and he does it again

Thank you, David Brooks, for another wonderful (and in this case, funny) column. That's two in a row. You should be proud of yourself.

If you believe me, read it here.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Social Security flimflam

Well, the President has officially done it. He has said that the Social Security trust fund doesn't exist. He said that it is pay-as-you-go, which it is to some degree, but more importantly, as Josh Marshall has said (rather correctly, by my account), Bush basically announced that the government is going to default on its bonds.

This comes on top of a budget that Paul Krugman writes, "One of the proposed spending cuts would make it harder for working families with children to receive food stamps, terminating aid for about 300,000 people. Another would deny child care assistance to about 300,000 children, again in low-income working families." Yeah, nice job of showing the compassion in your CONSERVATISM.

But back to the Social Security issues. The government defaulting on the Trust Fund means that the economy would collapse. Quite simply, there are no limited defaults, or defaults to ONE customer. And in any case, any default, even if, say, a Republican government did try to claim that it was only a default on domestic T-Bills, would cause a worldwide run on the dollar, causing unemployment as far as one can see and the dollar turning into the Mexican peso of a decade ago, or Russia's old Comecon rubles, worthless paper. Only those with precious metals would have any real wealth.

David Brooks, a conservative whom I respect and agree with a good portion of the time, wrote this a few days ago. The money quote: "We'd have to take care of today's 20-somethings, who are already too old to benefit from the new [KidSave] accounts, but this proposal would lead to less red ink than the president's current plan. And let me commit an act of heresy: it would be smart for Republicans to forgo making the Bush tax cuts permanent in exchange for these kinds of accounts. The Bush cuts are going to be repealed by the next Democratic president anyway, but these accounts, once created, would be forever."

Brooks says that either A: people could divert a portion of the payroll taxes into these accounts, or B: invest their own money to supplement the [likely] reduced Social Security benefits. Not only is Brooks saying we don't have to tear down Social Security, he is being realistic, and wants to revoke the tax cuts, a great budget hawk idea that I like a lot. The article is definitely worth reading and an option both parties should consider. Personally, I think B is a better option, but this truly doesn't hurt the system. If people invest their own money to supplement the existing safety net, it will encourage a savings atmosphere, kind of like UPromise, the college savings fund. In short, this beats the hell out of the reckless, coldhearted budgets of our President.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

random news and thoughts

So, I wrote a letter to Jeff Gannon, the Talon News/GOPUSA correspondent at the White House who resigned after Kos and the gang went after him for being a Bush plant in the briefing room. While I thought his questions were sarcastic, partisan, and sometimes just plain unnecessary, I was respectful to him, pointed out how he could have been a better example and offered him advice on how to conduct oneself as a journalist. I also empathized with the threats and harassment he's recieved.

While Mr. Gannon should not have been in the briefing room given the nature of his questioning, I think that Kos and the others who went personal on him were being somewhat out of line. It's perfectly fine to question his professionalism or lack thereof, but his family and personal life should be off limits. Reporters aren't really public personalities. If he set up gay porn sites several years ago, it makes him a hypocrite, perhaps (this depends on your point of view), but it really has no bearing on his professional work, such as it is. If he was a web developer before becoming a conservative writer, the two aren't linked. They are wholly separate professions.

My Super Bowl/FCC roundup will happen, probably next Sunday. I have had a new work project take up much of my time, preventing me from doing the proper research, so hang tight.

More to come in the next post.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Cole v. Goldberg, part 1,276,459

The esteemed professor Juan Cole seems unable to let go of Jonah Goldberg's insults. Granted, Goldberg has made an ass of himself by insulting a real expert, and by continuing the insults, but then again, I can't blame the good professor, since my integrity was challenged last year by a Goldberg clone on campus who heads the College Republicans, and I had to keep firing back. Similar situation, as the moron had no idea of what it's like to be a journalist, beyond watching Fox News.
There was a great article by John Dean recently about what it means to be a conservative. Dean postulated that conservatism has become such a big tent that it encompasses a ton of people and has no meaning. And to my way of thinking, it'll collapse like the Democratic Party did in 1994. Perhaps as early as 2006, maybe 2008 with the presidential election. See, the problem is that the far-right of the party is pushing so many social agendas that the general public, which really is moderate, is going to rebel.
The Social Security reform attempt is being balked at by so many Republicans because they are scared to death of losing reelection over this issue. President Bush is doing what Clinton did and putting his whole party at risk over this issue, part of the reason that the Democrats fell in 1994. Josh Marshall does the status updates of all the Congress, and currently has about half the GOP caucus opposing, at least in part, the Bush plan.
Furthermore, the gay-marraige issue is eventually going to offend a lot of people, because people like James Dobson, emboldened by their "success" in the election, are targeting anything homosexual, trying to relegate them to near-slave status in our nation. Not everyone likes the idea of gay marraige, but they don't all hate gays either.
I know, this is kinda wandering, but I'm tired, so oh well. I guess the point I'm trying to get to is that Bush may have won reelection, but like Nixon, he is going to have to pay up for all the moves he made in the first administration. No, I doubt Bush will ever be impeached, but Iraq is still up in the air, the military stretched to a breaking point, and despite public pronouncements to the contrary, we are not secure, not by a longshot. And people like Jonah Goldberg are going to have to face the fact that they were wrong in the way they pushed the war and defended the understaffed occupation. I look forward to the return of rational Republicans to the head of their party. It will help save our country from the anachronistic, misogynist, bigoted politics of those in the Falwell/Robertson/Dobson/Coulter camp.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

I like George Will....usually

George Will is an outstanding writer, a conservative who isn't too far right and isn't too crazy. However, this statement annoyed me. "Woodrow Wilson, with his obnoxious penchant for drenching everything with moralism, said paying taxes is a 'glorious privilege," he writes in tomorrow's Washington Post. Um, George, I just have one question for you. Have you met President George W. Bush, the master of inserting moralism into everything?

The future of Iraq

First, this note. I will be blogging after the Super Bowl about the FCC and where we're at a year after "Janet." Ahead of time, I thank Jeff Jarvis for all his work in this area, which assists my own research. Now on to today's topic.

Juan Cole, a professor at my esteemed institute of higher education, the University of Michigan, and National Review's Jonah Goldberg, are battling it out in the blogosphere over Iraq. Goldberg wrote this article, to which Cole posted a response on his own website, with the main part reproduced here and also here.

Now, this is an area where I think both left and right have some work to do. I studied Middle Eastern politics under Ron Stockton, another esteemed professor and authority at U-M's Dearborn campus, and so therefore have some idea of what I'm talking about, I believe.

We can't run. Ted Kennedy and the Kos crew are wrong on leaving, because, honestly, it's hard to set a timetable on such an issue. We don't know when it will get better, and the only way to start figuring out how to leave is to do a comprehensive training of Iraqi soldiers and policemen, in Jordan or Egypt, a country where they can be safe during their training. Furthermore, we need to arm them for real. Too many police are getting killed because their attackers have better weapons. That has to stop. How do we expect people to keep volunteering for a dangerous job if they can't defend themselves?

We may not be liked, and our presence may be despised, but our undermanned soldiers are the only thing stopping total anarchy from breaking out. Government institutions in the Mideast are totally alien to what we believe in the U.S. They have been ruled by religious leaders, murderous thugs, and kings for centuries. They know what democracy can bring them, but they have no idea how to really run it. The idea of a Constitution and respect for the RULE of law, not the WHIMS of a ruler, is in short supply.

Once these elections are concluded, a workshop would likely be a good idea. Give them books, let them mingle with other elected leaders, conduct forums where they can ask questions and get an idea of what they need to do. It can't be us telling them what's good, they have to ask and search and find it themselves, or it will never take. We are trying to bring democracy to people who haven't ever experienced it. Even our founding fathers had some sort of experience with the rule of law and representative government.

So, in short, we can't run, we can't leave, not until there is a more solid foundation underneath the future government. Sorry, Teddy, it's rough, and I know it, because I have friends there, but they are committed to it and seeing it through, and we here should be too. When the soldiers start rebelling, then we should start worrying.

Now to Jonah. Mr. Goldberg says, and I quote, "A foreign policy realist might have said, 'Oops, no WMDs' — and then bugged out. We called Saddam's bluff, which was our perfect right given the stakes, but it's not in our interests to stay. That's realism. And it's funny to hear Ted Kennedy, Michael Moore et al. keep invoking it. Bush decided to stay partly out of a different realist analysis of our national interest: A democratic Middle East, he believes, is the best chance for stopping the production of terrorists. "

Okay, all well and good. However, it is no small matter that we did indeed go to war, made our case to the world, and insisted upon the premise that WMD's existed in the nation of Iraq, that one Saddam Hussein was getting ready to unleash holy hell on his neighbors and the world. The problem is, we were really dead wrong. Incredibly wrong. No slam dunk....more like an airball.

While I supported the war, I did so based on the fact that I know Iraqis, in fact watched many of them passionately argue to Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) at a town hall that I covered, and know of their suffering. These people almost begged to be armed so they could fight Saddam and his henchmen. I was concerned after Colin Powell's infamous U.N. presentation, but my main concern was to see these people free.

That's not the case we made. We made a case based on our safety, something most of the world wouldn't agree with. Our coalition was a joke compared to the first Gulf War coalition. We sent in less troops because Donald Rumsfeld wanted a test of his theorem that high-tech=less soldiers needed. We pissed off the world. We didn't secure arms warehouses. We didn't secure borders. We disbanded the Iraqi Army, a group that left alone could have handled security in the outer provinces while we handled the key areas, such as Baghdad. By disbanding the army, we created an insurgent army, who then teamed up with outsiders such as Zarqawi for the purpose of regaining the power they once had.

In short, Jonah, you damn right it matters what we said when we went in. And we didn't even apologize to those who opposed it. Standing firm may gain you respect, but sometimes it takes a bigger man to say "I was wrong" or "I'm sorry." Those words may have gotten us the support we needed to stabilize a nation that is in desperate need of it. We have discovered a hard lesson: we really CAN'T do it all alone. The word of the United States has been gold in the world for over 200 years, because we have almost always been able to back up our words with deeds.

In this case, much of the world distrusts our leadership, and while that may not upset Mr. Goldberg or his compatriots on the right, one day that sort of thing will matter. We are too globally connected to afford pissing off everyone. I wrote about our economic dependences last year in this posting and what that means to us. Our security isn't just military, it's economic, and all the tax cuts in the world won't save our economy if the world freezes us out. We can't run from Iraq, but the president and his party can't run from the consequences of their own political failures either.