Monday, November 14, 2005

The Dangers of Relying on the State

Watching the victims of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans stranded by their government yet demanding help from another layer of government, and now seeing Islamic kids in Paris rioting against the unfulfilled promises of liberal socialism, I am again reminded why citizens must rely on themselves first, their families second, their friends and community (churches, Rotary, etc.) third, and their government least of all.

The danger of the welfare state is most nakedly exposed when its promises inevitably cannot be kept, when expectations are not met. Then the only one to blame is not yourself, but the government, someone else, "them." Your only recourse is panic, riot. It is dangerous for citizens to rely on promises of politicians. It is dangerous for the state to create false expectations with promises that cannot be kept.

Where were the citizens of New Orleans when decisions about their levies and city planning were made? They were on Bourbon Street, figuratively or literally. Where were their families with places to stay or the know-how to get things done? Casual sex is more fun than commitment and marriage. Where were their friends with the means to get them out of town? They hadn't bothered to meet a broad array of friends. Where were their church busses to evacuate the infirm and those without transportation? They didn't care to join a church. What were the citizens of New Orleans to do when community and government leaders abdicated at every level? They were to panic. Where was the basic comprehension of "citizenship" that should have deputized new leaders to control looting and equitably distribute perishables, or to police the toilets at the shelters? That was not something they were taught, nor cared to learn. That was something "other" people do.

Government simply cannot hope to plan a modern economy, nor provide jobs for all who desire one. Government can only hope to tame the tiger, not control it. Government must ensure equality of opportunity, then get out of the way. It's not up to the French government to give its citizens jobs. That is up to French business. But when you can't fire an employee, you simply won't hire her in the first place. When you would be forced to overpay for work locally, you source that work elsewhere. Eurosocialism's pop-economics oversimplifies promises and burdens its subjects with rules that make market flexibility impossible. That brand of liberalism fails to appreciate feedback loops, the laws of unintended consequences, human nature.

There is a place for government in all this, but that place is last. No man is an island, but the government is not the closest shore.

Un-intelligent Non-design

Proponents of Intelligent Design (or ID, the assertion that God designed all the details of life) miss the single most important goal of science: to identify patterns that can be projected into the future to usefully predict the outcome of actions taken today.

While I don't deny the existence of a Designer, I do not find the Intelligent Design proposal compelling.

Scientific theories like general and special relativity, F=ma, Newton's laws of gravity, molecular dynamics, recombinant DNA, quantum mechanics, etc. are mere estimations or representations of an infinitely more complex reality. Scientific laws or theories are useful because they tell us how to accomplish space travel, power generation, television, white paint, medicine, etc. Scientific theories are testable and independently reproducible, otherwise any proposed theory is not accepted.

ID can not be tested, nor can it be used to predict any useful information. It is therefore useless. The theory (or laws if you prefer) of evolution, on the other hand, are useful. Studying how ecosystems have reacted to environmental changes in the past inform us on how ecosystems might react in the future to changes today.

An example often cited as proof that life was designed is the miracle of the eyeball. How could something so complex and useful just pop into existence without a designer? Intelligent Design proponents fail to appreciate the huge relative competitive advantage the ability to merely sense light and dark (such as the euglena) has on any creature. Relatives that can't sense the shadow of a predator quickly die out. Further changes that, say, allow an organism to detect which direction light is coming from (such as in planaria) have an additional advantage. These incremental advantages easily build up over billions of years (truly quite a long time) to create the eyeball. Voila!

In fact, proof that eyeballs offer a huge competitive advantage can be seen in the number of organisms that have similar eyeballs: from humans all the way back to fishes and invertebrates. The fact that different types of eyes evolved independently in insects and vertebrates is more proof of their evolutionary usefulness. Eyes must have been one of the first organs to develop, they are so darn common and useful!

Another Intelligent Design concept that is irreducible complexity: the notion that the sum of the parts is so much greater than the parts themselves, that those parts must have been assembled by a Designer. An example given in an article in today's Wall Street Journal uses a mousetrap as an example of irreducible complexity: remove any single piece of a mousetrap, and the whole thing ceases to function. Similarly, remove any bit of a cell's mechanism, and the cell will cease to function. Mousetraps have designers, therefore a cell must also have a Designer. This is a flawed metaphor. Do trees create wood solely so some designer can build a mousetrap? Does wood have no other use? Can wood exist outside of a mousetrap? Were springs developed solely to build mousetraps? Does humanity itself exist only to build mousetraps?

Certainly most cells as they exist today could not suffer the removal of any constituent part. But ID proponents fails to mention that there are many kinds of cells in existence today, not all with the same components. Flagellae, cilia, hard-walled cells (such as in plants), soft-walled cells (such as in amoebae or animals), solitary single celled organisms, organized colonies of single celled organisms (notably sea sponges), and complex multi-celled organisms all exist today. Not all components necessary for one type of cell to survive are present in the cells of other organisms. Some non-living natural compounds can even demonstrate self-organization into things that look like components of cells, such as cell walls. The building blocks of life may be more commonly available than guessed.

ID ignores the Darwinian corollary called co-evolution: evolution of one group of organisms may be influenced by evolution in another set of organisms. For example, if a predator kills all its easily caught prey, and only hard to catch prey is left, the predator population eventually drops. Now hard to catch prey can proliferate. Only the few predators capable of killing hard to catch prey survive, but eventually prosper as their food supply rebounds. If you were only seeing the aftermath of this process, you might incorrectly guess that the predator has always been able to catch its prey the same way. The same thing has apparently happened to cells. Mitochondria, the parts of cells that convert RNA into proteins, has its own DNA, causing some researchers to theorize the mitochondria once existed as an independent organism itself. Certainly if you remove all the mitochondria from a cell today, that cell wouldn't live much longer. But there certainly was some proto-cell that didn't have mitochondria that still survived. But that proto-cell certainly wasn't robust enough to create today's complex organisms.

Intelligent Design proponents also fall into the common trap that most non-rigorous students of Darwin's theory leap to: anthropomorphism. Evolution does not have a "goal." Even science teachers and certainly journalists fall into this trap. How many times have we heard something like, "The dolphin developed sonar so it could see underwater." Bullcrap. The dolphin didn't develop sonar. Sonar happened: Rudimentary echolocation gave some ancient dolphins a slight advantage over their cousins. Slight improvements over the eons, and perhaps some catastrophic die-offs, have allowed today's sophisticated dolphin sonar to persist.

Evolution simply happens, and the resulting organisms either survive, or don't. External factors determine the ultimate utility of any random mutation. Sometimes mutations are so detrimental the individual organism dies quickly. Sometimes mutations simply appear and fade in a general population of organisms. Sometimes large scale environmental changes, such as mass extinctions seen throughout geological history, weed out all but the few organisms most capable of surviving the change. Even tiny competitive advantages can, thorugh the generations, become dominant.

What God probably designs is more along the lines of an infinite number of universes with an infinite number of scientific laws. Or He designs the mechanism that allows universes to exist. Or he designs the mechanisms that allow those mechanisms... ad infinitum. At any rate, only a tiny fraction of those universes where the rules and timing are just exactly right produce organisms capable of recognizing God's wonders. Other universes just don't - no love lost, no tears shed. Everything in nature is a result of the design of those laws. The Designer is an indirect designer. He simply sets up the conditions and lets everything else flow from there. Our living God is probably more interested in how we morally relate to other results of His creation, including to each other; not in determining if this fish or that toad develops a tumor or a third eyeball. The higest praises we can give are continuing to delve deeper into how God's universe works, and respecting how we relate to God's universe.

An interesting article: Fact and fiction on evolution by Cathy Young at The Boston Globe.

Update, 11/21/2005 - Charles Krauthammer - Phony Theory, False Conflict

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Wow! An update and a link!

This cross-linking thing is sometimes gratuitous, and I imagine it's for folks with a lot more time on their hands than me. But anyway, here it is:

Proudly Neocon

Monday, June 13, 2005

Supporting the Liberation of Iraq

In the pursuit of a safer world where citizens determine their own government and destiny, some ask, "Why Iraq? Who's to say where we start? What about North Korea? What about Iran? What about Syria?" They've got the right list. We had to start somewhere, so why not Iraq?

Saddam for decades showed a willingness and propensity for depriving and murdering hundreds of thousands of his own citizens. In a country that is one of the world's richest in history and oil, the cultural infrastructure was destroyed instead of improved. Physical infrastructure was addressed only where it benefited the regime. Yes, even while Saddam had America's realpolitik support in his war against Iran, a country newly dangerous to us, he continued to gas his citizens rather than recognize their God-given right to determine their own fate.

Saddam was a monster that someone had to stop. I require no other reason to support his demise. His neighbors, in the name of Arab Identity and from fear of their own repressed citizens, refused. Europeans, who suffer a lack of moral clarity, couldn't. Russia, just recovering from the death of Soviet communism, could not be trusted nor showed a desire to solve the problem. Only America could stop Saddam.

In 1988, I voted for President George H. W. Bush. Then in 1992, for two reasons, I did not. One reason I didn't vote for President Bush's re-election was his inability to effectively address the recession in either real or bully pulpit cheerleading terms.

The other reason was Bush 41 did not have the balls to finish the fight during the Gulf War. Ejecting Iraq from Kuwait was an honorable mission expertly executed. Colin Powell's coalition was masterfully constructed. But not marching to Baghdad and capturing Saddam in 1991 with or without Arab support, allowing Saddam's army access to the air by deadly helicopter, then failing to support the native revolt against the Baathists sentenced tens of thousands more innocent Iraqis to death, and prolonged the struggle in Iraq right through the present day.

The war we are fighting in Iraq today is an honorable mission of utmost importance, but it is a war only made necessary by Bush 41's failure. Though I have significant disagreements with the current president, I am glad George W. Bush has the balls his father lacked to finish the job in Iraq.

Marijuana is not Medicine

The US Supreme Court recently rejected California's "medical marijuana" law. Some have argued that this oversteps states' right, others that it's insensitive to people who are suffering illness.

Idealists worried about federal meddling in local drug laws have years of regulations, case law, and precedent to fight. The federal government has been involved in regulating both legal and illegal drug use for more than a century. That involvement does not need to end.

The true ulterior motive behind "medical marijuana" laws is the surreptitious legalization of recreational drugs. The claim that marijuana smoke is the only substance that increases appetite for patients with AIDS or on chemotherapy is specious. Some claim a pill would be immediately regurgitated if swallowed without a bong hit. They conveniently overlook the success of inhalers and nebulizers to effectively administer medicines. The attempt to legalize pot on the backs of the terminally ill is crass.

I am a federalist, but I am also a conservative. Governments at the state and federal levels do have a role in regulating drug use.

I am also a libertarian. Those who want recreational drugs legalized should simply be honest about it and work to change state and federal laws. The government could license, tax and regulate recreational drugs with laws similar to those that apply to alcohol, tobacco, or prescription drugs. Drug manufacturers would turn illicit growers, traders and vendors into industry assets overnight. Drug companies would make the content and acquisition of recreational drugs safer; police, prisons and the courts would be able to better focus on fighting violent crime; and the profit motive would reduce potencies to the level of a smooth buzz, no more addictive or impairing than alcohol or nicotine. Recovery services such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous already exist to deal with substance abuse and dependency.

I don't use illegal recreational drugs, so I'm not motivated to be active in legalizing them other than to say I believe the rule of law is one of the most important aspects of our culture: as long as something is illegal, it should not be done. Breaking the law is not an acceptable tactic in changing the law.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Blogging Hiatus

I haven't posted for a while. Here's my explanation: blogs are getting out of control with personal attacks, piling on, and basically not adding to a constructive conversation.

Sure blogs have introduced much needed media criticism, and have been responsible for exposing some important bias that would otherwise be whitewashed over: Raines at the NY Times, or forged memos from CBS. But other topics border on talk-radio bitterness. Who cares if a bald, gay hustler is also a reporter for a conservative web site? Why does the whole nation need to beat up on him? Who cares if some stupid, obscure professor (who even I have commented on below) is an offensive, stark raving mad Marxist poser? When the president of an ivy league university (who I've also commented on) suggests that we should be open to any and all reasons why women aren't in more science and math roles, why does immediate knee-jerk opposition to even thinking about the issue need to be heard around the world?

Blogs that allow reader comments on their stories are the worst perpetrators of the personal attack piling on. Just try wading through the conspiracy ravings at the Democratic Underground, the me-too-ism at Lucianne, the personal attacks on AmericaBLOG, the invasion of privacy at BlogActive. Yahoos simply want to pile on and post rants that generally run counter to a sane discussion of any issue. In those comments you'll find the worst of personal attacks, posting personal information, and harassment. It's just useless noise.

I started this blog not to rail against the idiot of the day, but just to put out ideas I'd been thinking through for a while. That's why I don't typically link to other news stories. That's why I intended this to be a low-volume blog. That's why I don't let folks comment on my posts via machine. I would love to hear constructive feedback about my ideas. But sorry dear reader, the signal to noise ratio is too low on the internet.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

On Election Financing

Election finance "reform" attempts to reduce the influence of special interests on elections. I'm all for that, but I also recognize that water will seek its level. Money will find a way. In addition, artificially controlling donations to any political candidate, campaign, party or cause is a clear infringement on the right to unfettered political speech guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. I reproduce that Amendment in full here.

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

My proposal for election financing includes no artificial, anti-market controls and employs full transparency to enable political market forces to control who gives how much to whom.

1. Only eligible human voters may donate to candidates for election, political parties, or campaigns that attempt to influence public policy.

2. Donations may be in any amount, and made as frequently or seldom as the donor may wish.

3. No non-human entities (corporations, etc.) may donate any amount to any candidates for election, political party, or campaign that attempts to influence public policy.

4. All donations, no matter how small or frequent, will be reported in a public forum, such as the Internet, as they are received.

Item 1 excludes donations from foreign sources, or those who have not attained full citizenship, or have had their civil rights revoked (for committing a felony, as an example.) However, I am open to the idea that any law-abiding resident of this country, not just citizen voters, could legally donate.

Item 2 eliminates the need to shuffle money to employees or family members to increase a donor's total giving potential.

Item 3 addresses concerns about undue influence by lobbyists. However, a CEO, board members, or other officers and employees would still be able to donate any amount, somewhat limiting the benefits of this restriction. I am open to removing this rule.

Item 4 is the key to accountability for this whole scheme. It's based on the expectation that a candidate or party will research the opposition's donors and donations, bringing potentially embarrassing contributions to light. For example, a populist candidate running on the "little guy" platform could embarrass an opponent who takes large contributions from wealthy donors. A party that emphasizes cultural values could point to a preponderance of donations by Hollywood producers and celebs to the opposing party or candidates.

Unlimited donation amounts and full transparency are the keys to creating a public market for political finance.


Here are some web sites that already use FEC or public disclosures to help voters see who's getting money from whom:

  • Change Congress - Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School

  • Fundrace - Look up who your neighbors are donating to, from the liberal Huffinton Post site

  • Opensecrets - Center for Responsive Politics' site

Monday, March 7, 2005

On a Flat Tax

The current US income tax code is bloated and filled with money for special interests, within and outside of the government, and must be simplified. Taxes are necessary for a government to administer its functions, but that doesn't mean they should be onerous or seemingly arbitrary.

Some components of the tax code have unintended consequences (well-meaning child tax credits that get spent on big screen TVs rather than food, clothing, and education), have unfair inconsistencies (the marriage tax, where couples filing jointly pay more than if they filed separately), or intentionally kick families while they're down (by the inheritance or "death" tax). The escalating scale that increases taxes on those who work diligently to improve their lot in life and earn more is immoral.

Other tax policies attempt to reinforce beneficial behavior (for example, the mortgage interest deduction that encourages home ownership). Special dispensations written into the current code are misplaced. Beneficial behavior should be encouraged on its merits, not encouraged by bribery.

A predictable tax environment is necessary to efficiently run any business or plan any family's budget. At the same time, liberals exert pressure to raise federal, state and local minimum wages with willful disregard for the laws of the marketplace and the long term effects on labor flexibility.

Something must be done to simplify the US income tax, and control the upward pressure on mandated minimum wages.

Sales taxes affect people unequally based on their consumption, and have the effect of discouraging purchases, thereby reducing the velocity of money through the economy. European value added taxes (VAT) are similar to a sales tax added at each stage of production, with the added insidious nature of being hidden from view: out of sight, out of mind. Hidden taxes such as VAT, or gasoline taxes included in advertised per-gallon prices, are too easily raised.

As sales taxes are often the only source of income for local municipalities, cities and towns too often resort to the tactic of increasing sprawl to create new opportunities for retail which can be taxed.

I also recognize that some folks need to be helped along as they start careers, or in times of need. The tax code should still account for some amount of welfare, or remittances to low income families.

Here's my proposal for a fair tax system for individuals. This could be extended to corporations (though I'll save the discussion of double taxation and whether companies should be taxed at all for a later time).

1. No sales taxes, no VAT. No hidden taxes!

2. Revenue from each taxpayer is shared proportionately at all political levels the taxpayer inhabits: federal, state, county, city. To collect more money, governments must help their citizens earn more money

3. A flat income tax is based on all income from all sources, with no deductions. And no loopholes!

4. The poverty level is defined as a typical annual salary (2080 hours) at minimum wage. This amount is subtracted from total income.

5. A low fixed percentage (defined either constitutionally or legislatively) of the resulting adjusted income becomes either the tax owed (positive amounts), or the welfare received (negative amounts).

6. The tax (or welfare) could be collected (or paid) in quarterly, monthly, semi-weekly, or weekly installments to simplify financial planning.

Here are some example:

- If minimum wage were $6.00 per hour, the poverty level would be $12,480 per year.

- A person who earned $46,000 at a 10% flat tax rate would owe $3,352 in taxes.

- A person who earned $1,000,000 at 10% flast tax would owe $98,752.

- A person earning minimum wage would pay no taxes.

- A person who earned $5,000 at a 10% flat tax rate would be paid $748 in welfare.

This system is fair to the aspirations of all earners, while not burdening those making minimum wage with any taxes whatsoever. It has an added benefit of eliminating tax loopholes, with the effect of keeping down the tax rate.

(Note to those who are stuck on unfair, "progressive," increasing-scale tax rates: even this flat tax is ever so slightly progressive due to the fixed deduction. The million dollar earner actually pays at a 9.8752% rate, while the $46K earner actually pays at a 8.38% rate. The same relationship is true for any given nominal flat tax rate, though exact resulting rates will differ.)

Catching Up: On Larry Summers

Lawrence Summers is a former Clinton administration official, and the current President of Harvard University, a private school. Summers has come under fire for suggesting at a recent conference that physiological differences between men and women may somehow cause women to be less successful in maths and sciences. Summers has apologized time and time again to the politically correct police, seemingly to no avail.

My view on his comments is that, at worst, they are a waste of time. Summers' suggestion has likely been disproved or minimized by research.

There can be no doubt about actual physiological differences between men and women: just drop the pants or lift the skirt for evidence! However, as someone who had to struggle with the difficult coming out process which requires you to readdress accepted gender roles, it is also obvious to me that men and women are subtly (and not so subtly) expected to fill certain roles from childhood by their parents, friends, and every other human on earth.

The human mind excels at categorization. Cultures around the world have found benefits in efficiencies created by allowing assumptions about the roles of strangers and friends alike. For some reason, Western culture has generally found an efficiency in something as analytically arbitrary as men wearing pants and women wearing skirts, or driving on the right side of the road. As with any rule, these assumptions will have any number of exceptions, may be counterproductive, or even proven wrong.

The subtle nature and constant reinforcement of cultural roles can make them feel as if they are actually laws of nature, rather than nurture. Though physiological differences between the brains and bodies of men and women do exist, culture cannot and should not be discounted. Women should be encouraged to excel in traditionally male enterprises, and men should be encouraged to excel in traditionally female enterprise. We've got plenty of work to go around.

This is not to argue that any cultural norm should be arbitrarily discounted or discarded just because it is widely or narrowly held, or even truly useless. The social contract we enter into in order to make sense of our world requires that we maintain mores, taboos, laws, and even presumptions about our relationships with the people around us. But on matters of whether men or women can apply themselves to various areas of endeavor, we should expect only the best.

Larry Summers should not be fired for simply wasting time.

Catching Up: On Ward Churchill

Ward Churchill is a professor at the University of Colorado, a public school, who has recently come under fire for comparing victims of the 9/11 World Trade Tower victims to Nazis in a 2002 essay. Churchill continues to defend his position. Recently, the University president has resigned under stress.

Some have argued that Prof. Churchill was simply making a statement on the complicity of some fictional "common American" to policies Churchill violently disagrees with. His statements have also been defended as simply "controversial" and a matter of free speech (regardless of whether free speech requires public funding by way of the professor's $96K annual salary).

Those arguments miss a fundamental truth that I haven't seen noted anywhere else. The basic truth is: the professor's statements are simply factually wrong. Try this comparison: if a math professor claimed 1 plus 1 was 5, insisted on teaching his students this lie, and continued to defend the lie when it was brought to light, that professor should be fired.

Similarly, Ward Churchill should be fired.

The Year of the Vote

Though March is too early to start declaring 2005 the year of anything yet, I hope this year will be remembered as the Year of the Vote in the Arab world.

Last October saw national voting in Afghanistan, a country previously invaded by the Soviets, then oppressed by theocratic thugs the Taliban.

Early January saw Palestinians voting in the first truly free election made possible by the death of the most significant block to peace with Israel: Yasser Arafat.

Late January saw hugely successful voting across an Iraq free from Saddam's threats of torture and death, contrary to the dire predictions of those who wanted to delay that vote and give terrorists more time to consolidate their reign of fear. (Interestingly, the Iraqis actually voted for their representatives to a constitutional convention. The product of that convention likely will call for a new vote to elect the actual representatives of the government it defines.)

The Saudi ruling family even allowed limited, male-only voting in February local municipal elections.

Egypt's Mubarak has loosened his restrictions on allowing political opposition in his country's upcoming elections.

The Lebanese have found a new assertiveness, calling for Syria to evacuate its occupying troops. The Syrian puppet regime in Beirut has resigned.

None of these advances for democracy were even thought possible by proponents of the old status quo, never-ending negotiations approach to Middle East peace that had failed the region for more than 35 years. Despots understand only one language: the language of force. It was high time that we quit pussy-footing around the true impediments to progress in the Middle East. It was time that the leftist racism of low expectations that considered Arabs not ready for democracy was finally disproven. It was time that the aspirations of regular folks trying to make ends meet while staying below the death squad radar was recognized.

The Bush doctrine of domino democracy (and the fortuitous death of Arafat and it's flawless handling by the Israelis) has provided the tipping point to a lasting, peaceful realignment and redevelopment of the region.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Catching Up: On the Mainstream Media

I started this blog late in the game, so I'll post a few of my opinions on recent happenings in the blog world. My first is on the mainstream media's (MSM) response to the blogging phenomenon.

The mainstream media for decades has had a gentlemen's agreement that one media outlet not criticize another. I suppose this stems from the 'glass houses' aphorism. That lack of criticism has allowed the quality of the media and journalism to fall. Press releases are published verbatim, stories are not fact checked or simply made up, critical thinking has simply become a knee-jerk reaction against any authority. The media has come to think of itself as a political party.

For years, car makers, movie studios, book publishers, software products, and other industries have had to content with critics and consumer protection groups. And now, popular blogging has essentially become a form of media criticism. That change has been very difficult for old media owners and managers to handle. Protected from criticism for so long, the MSM now lash out at the new media rather than realizing that they must hold themselves more accountable.

The Internet and blogging are making information more transparent, and increasing the sophistication of media consumers. The mainstream media must come to accept critics and bloggers as necessary for improving the reprehensible state of today's journalism.

On Santorum's CPAC Comments

I caught a few segments of CSPAN's broadcast of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC this past weekend.

Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania gave a short talk on the importance of excluding gays from marriage. He basically argued that gays should be denied marriage because unmarried poor straight fathers abandon their children. Huh? That's an important problem that should be addressed, but how does denying the benefits and responsibilities of marriage to committed gay or lesbian couples affect the marriage rates among poor heteros? It doesn't. Sen. Santorum seems to want to require by law that the very tragedy he cites is forced on the children of gay or lesbian couples. This is yet another case where gay marriage should be encouraged, not discouraged.

Sen. Santorum did attempt to throw the gay community a bone when he noted that gays have suggested that divorce is a bigger threat to marriage than gays or lesbians. He is right to want to reduce the divorce rate. Let's do that for everyone, not just heteros.

In a separate segment of CSPAN's CPAC coverage, the Ohio Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who opposes gay marriage, responded to a question about the possibility of dialog with Log Cabin (a group of gay Republicans) on the issue of banning gay marriage. In his contradictory response, he basically said that the Republican party was open to dialog, but that he would not entertain any other position on the issue. Does the Secretary know what 'dialog' means?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

On marriage

I believe marriage is a wonderful tradition and institution that should be encouraged and strengthened. Marriage creates a partnership of mutual support that removes burden from the state. Marriage reinforces monogamous relationships. Marriage is a commitment that is not entered into lightly, nor exited easily. I believe that the responsibilities and benefits of marriage should be extended to gay couples. Marriage is the truly conservative solution.

The slippery-slope argument against gay marriage leading to polygamy, bestiality, or incest is a disgusting red herring. That false argument could even be construed to argue against straight marriage: If a man and a woman are allowed to marry, what's to prevent a woman from marrying her grandfather? What's to prevent a man from marrying a female animal?

Various states set different ages of consent. Some states allow first cousins to marry, some don't. No states allow polygamy. No states allow humans to marry non-humans. Family law already delineates responsibilities and rights for siblings, children, parents, and grandparents. Marriages between other than consenting adults are wrong, not because of the gender of the spouses, but because of the inequality of the relationship. A child does not have the emotional maturity to consent to a marriage. An animal cannot consent to a marriage. Polygamy has inevitably resulted in abuse. Multiple spouses will by definition be treated unequally. No respectable person or group is asking to change the age of consent, closeness of kinship, number of spouses, or other limits on marriage.

Some argue that civil unions are the right path. Civil Unions are untenable mainly because they are not already defined in the law. Adding the term "Civil Union" to the law as an equal alternative to marriage would require new individual votes to change every one of the thousands of federal and state laws that concern marriage or married couples. Any one law that is not changed denies full equality to gays or lesbians who would marry.

Others argue that the issues still need to be worked out, but that in the meantime, marriage should not be permanently denied with a Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA). Additionally, the proposed FMA includes language that can be interpreted to not only deny marriage, but potentially any other recognition of the protections and obligations gay couples deserve. It could even be interpreted to nullify any contractual agreements between gay couples, as Virginia is now experiencing with their new anti-marriage amendment. The FMA language under consideration the US Senate (SJR-1) reads:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

The option of marriage or other type of union for gay or lesbian couples must not be denied forever in a document so fundamental and dear to our hearts as the US Constitution. Indeed, the FMA is not even necessary: the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 already defines marriage as a man and a woman for purposes of federal law, and allows states to decline to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. Several state courts have upheld the constitutionality of DOMA. Many states have also implemented their own versions of DOMA.

Even states that already have DOMA laws on the books are considering amending their constitutions to deny not only marriage, but to further deny any recognition of committed gay couples' rights and responsibilities. Take for instance the Utah constitutional amendment:

Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.

I and most gays who support marriage are not asking that the government define religious marriage, or require any religious institution to sanctify gay religious marriages. However, I also respect the few denominations, such as the mostly-gay Metropolitan Community Church, which already bless gay marriages. The government should not interfere with those religions or denominations who choose to marry gay couples. Many religions already freely refuse to marry certain couples, for reasons of past divorce, differing faith of one or both of the couple, or for other reasons. In fact, I would support any religious organization facing government requirements to recognize or perform a marriage that ran counter to their teachings.

President Reagan's last wish was, "Whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears." However, exclusionary far-right activists have made a cold, calculated decision to use voters' fear of gays or gay marriage as a wedge issue to drive fair-minded people from the Republican party, attack my family, and divide Americans. Fear does not win elections. Despite what the left would have you believe, most good Christians are tolerant of gays and lesbians. The American voter is a fair-minded person.

I firmly believe in the basic values of the Republican Party: limited government, strong national defense, personal responsibility, free markets, lower taxes and fiscal responsibility, equality of opportunity, etc. But when the Republican party acts in intolerant, exclusionary ways, voters will eventually recoil from it. The culture wars launched at the 1992 GOP convention elected President Clinton as Republicans defected to Ross Perot. Pat Buchanan eventually left the Republican party in defeat.

During a CNN Larry King Live interview on August 12th, 2004 President Bush supported the rights of states to decide to offer some type of recognition of gay unions short of marriage.

KING: What about the union of gays?

G. BUSH: Well, that's up to states, you know. If states choose to do that, in other words, if they want to provide legal protections for gays, that's great. That's fine.

Speaking on August 24th, 2004 in Iowa, VP Cheney also re-iterated his 2000 statement from a debate with Sen. Lieberman supporting recognition of gay unions:

Historically that's been a relationship that's been handled by the states, states have made the basic fundamental decision what constitutes a marriage. I made clear four years ago when this question came up in my debate with Joe Lieberman that my view was that that's appropriately a matter for the states to decide and that's how it ought to be handled.

The 2004 Republican platform went far beyond simply endorsing the FMA. It ignored President Bush's and VP Cheney's remarks supporting other forms of gay unions, and ignores the plight of children of gay or lesbian parents.

[A]nd we believe that neither federal nor state judges and bureaucrats should force states to recognize other living arrangements as equivalent to marriage. We believe, and the social science confirms, that the well being of children is best accomplished in the environment of the home, nurtured by their mother and father anchored by the bonds of marriage. We further believe that the legal recognition and accompanying benefits should be preserved for the unique and special union of one man and one woman which has historically been called marriage.

The FMA failed in both the US House and Senate in 2004. Since the election, President Bush has recognized the continued lack of support for the FMA. The Republican Party must support the President and remove the non-conservative denial of marriage from its next platform, and its candidates must stop alienating moderates and conservatives who support the benefits and responsibilities of marriage for gays or lesbians. Continued attacks on segments of the American family will make Republican candidates unelectable for a generation. Democrats will gain control over the levers of power, destroying the basic principles that make this country great. All for what? Because a few voices of intolerance in the Republican party are attempting to deny a few thousand loving, committed couples the legal recognition they deserve.


I decided to start this blog because I'm tired of seeing liberal gays and straight paleocons screwing up the world!