Friday, October 24, 2003

Lionizing Reagan; Vilifying Clinton

Political parties need heroes to thrive and prosper. For years Democrats have boosted themselves on the memories of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. Republicans had a rougher time of it during this period. They wanted to forget about Herbert Hoover. Dwight Eisenhower was a great war hero, but he was kind of bland as a president. Then they had to try and forget about Richard Nixon.

So it is no surprise that Republicans are working overtime now to promote the idea that Reagan was one of the greatest presidents of all time. Their efforts in this respect have included trying to get Reagan’s image carved onto Mount Rushmore, replacing Alexander Hamilton on the 10-dollar bill with Reagan’s smiling visage, and naming buildings and monuments all over the country after him.

It is also no surprise that this lionizing of Reagan is a two-pronged strategy that also requires tearing down and vilifying President Bill Clinton at the same time. As with most issues, Republicans see this as a black and white issue. Reagan can do no wrong, and Clinton can do nothing right. Reagan is a larger-than-life figure of grandiose accomplishments who merits reverential treatment. Clinton is a despicable character who nearly wrecked the country and deserved to be put in jail.
To counter this kind of political gamesmanship, Democrats don’t have to place Clinton on a pedestal and worship him the way Republicans do to Reagan. But they do need to stand up and defend his policies that helped produce the longest period of economic expansion in U.S. history.
Here are just a few:
* In 1992, the deficit was $290 billion, a record dollar high. In 2000, the projected budget surplus was $167 billion -- the largest dollar surplus on record.
* 21.2 million new jobs created, the most jobs ever created under a single Administration -- and more new jobs than Presidents Reagan and Bush created during their three terms.
* The longest and fastest period of real wage growth in three decades.
* The lowest unemployment rate in three decades.
* Highest home ownership rate in history.
* Lowest poverty rate in two decades.
* Lowest crime rates in 25 years.
* Smallest government workforce since the 1960s.
* Lowest government spending as a share of GDP since 1974.

This isn’t a record that anyone should shy away from defending and compared to the accomplishments (or lack thereof) of our current president during the past three years they look really good.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

I really hate bond elections

San Antonio has several bond elections coming up for a vote on Nov. 4 and I can pretty much guarantee that 99.999 percent of the people who will cast votes in the election won’t have a clue as to what they are voting on.
I admit that I am no fan of direct democracy. I agree with the Founding Fathers who set up a republican form of government with representational democracy at its core. We elect people to represent our interests, study the issues and make decisions that are for the greater good. The average person doesn’t have the time to spend studying all the details of every issue. We depend on our representatives to do that for us.
(In fact, in many cases our elected representatives don’t even have the time to study all the details of every issue and that task ultimately falls to the paid professionals we hire to manage and run our government agencies - while the reps are essentially there to keep an eye on things.)
Everytime I hear about a bond election, a constitutional amendment election or some other ballot initiative - all I can think about is how our form of government is continuing to be subverted. It means that our elected representatives are not taking responsibility and are leaving it up to the ignorant electorate - and I count myself among them.
After 12 years of covering city councils, county commissioners, school boards and planning and zoning commissions in rock-solid conservative locales such as Kerrville and Lubbock - I have observed time and time again where people on the outside come to the meetings to criticize the budget process, then get elected to serve on the same body and the next time around come to the realization that there is nowhere to cut and end up defending the budget against the next group of naysayers.
In every city there is always a group that I call the CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) who can be counted on to come out and oppose any bond election. It’s no different in San Antonio where you have the Homowner Taxpayer Association. In some places these people have held sway for so long that school children are forced to attend classes in overcrowded temporary buildings next to deteriorating schools built in the 1950s.
I don’t understand why these people don’t trust their local representatives to make these kinds of decisions, and yet seem unfazed everytime President Bush breaks a new record in deficit spending without having to seek similar voter approval.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Science and sexual orientation

Here is another study out purporting to show that sexual orientation is based on genetics. I have long accepted this as a matter of fact.
But I’m sure this study will do little to dissuade the legions of flat-earthers out there who are unwilling to accept or consider scientific evidence that does not conform to their predetermined religious views.
My theory on sexual orientation can best be summed up by drawing two concentric circles side by side that overlap by about 10 percent. One circle represents the realm of masculine orientation and the other represents the realm of feminine orientation. The overlapping section represents the gay and lesbian population. I think that sexual orientation is a matter of degree. Depending upon where people fall in each circle is determined by their particular genetic makeup. Some people may be very masculine or very feminine. Others may be less masculine or less feminine, but still definitely heterosexual. Likewise there will be those who are very gay and those who are less gay but still homosexual. Then there are those who fall very close to the dividing line and in these cases I think you find people who can actually “choose” which way they want to go or they can be bi-sexual.
Maybe this is a lot of nonsense. I am only speculating on a theory that makes sense to me. Regardless, I believe it is wrong to discriminate against people of any sexual orientation.
Interestingly enough, if this theory is correct it means that just as conservative fundamentalists fear there is a choice element at work here (although with just a very small percentage of the population) and that means if our society becomes more accepting of homosexuality it could result in more people coming out of their closets and/or choosing one orientation over another. But since I don’t view sexual orientation as a “sin” and because I am not threatened by the prospect of a few more open homosexuals in our society I really don’t see it as any big deal.

But one can’t really address the issue of homosexuality without also addressing the Biblical condemnations of the practice that have turned so many people over the years into homophobic crusaders. Here is where one must determine whether they are going to believe as the fundamentalists do that the Bible is the “inerrant Word of God” or whether it is a divinely inspired work that was still written by men who in many instances allowed their own human faults, prejudices and superstitions to be sprinkled throughout the text. I do not believe the Bible is inerrant. There are too many instances where Biblical text has been used to condone everything from wars and crusades to witch burnings and slavery. Even Jesus did not treat the Bible as inerrant. Quite to the contrary he countered some of its teachings and overwrote it with his own message of forgiveness, compassion and love.
Ultimately, everyone will have to decide for themselves how to deal with the Biblical passages that condemn homosexuals. But for those who opt to follow the condemnation route and believe that God makes everyone with a clearly defined sense of sexual orientation - answer just one question. What about these people who are born with both male and female sexual organs? What is God’s intention there? A cruel joke? I believe God is compassionate, not cruel. We can accept God's creation or we can reject it. That is our choice here.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Shameless Gurwitz

Express-News Columnist Jonathan Gurwitz has no shame. In his latest column, the right-wing pundit-wannabe demonstrates his lack of shame by accusing critics of the pre-emptive invasion and occupation of Iraq of claiming that Saddam Hussein never had weapons of mass destruction - even though he knows this is not true. Gurwitz is being intentionally deceptive and deceitful in this instance.

“Saddam Hussein not only possessed weapons of mass destruction, but also used them against Iran and his own Kurdish population. There are the pictures of mottled bodies; there is the testimony of scarred survivors. Yet the Iraq inquisitors insist that Saddam never possessed such weapons.”

The argument prior to the war - as Gurwitz well knows - was not whether or not Hussein had WMDs - but whether or not this in and of itself posed such a serious threat to world security that it required such extreme measures as a military invasion which has so far cost the lives of more than 200 U.S. soldiers and seriously injured many more. Opponents of the war said that U.N. sanctions and inspections were adequate to counter and contain any potential threat posed by Hussein.
Critics of the war - at least those with half a brain - were very much aware that Hussein had once possessed WMDs - that was back during the Iran-Iraq war in the late 1980s when the Reagan administration embraced Hussein and his Baathist regime as the antidote to the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran. We know very well that he used WMDs at that time because the Reagan and Bush I administrations helped to pay for them and encouraged him to do so. And when he turned around and used those same weapons against the Kurds, we turned our eyes the other way and ignored it.

What the Kay Report demonstrates very clearly - and what Gurwitz refuses to see because of his own blinding dogmatism - is that the U.N. sanctions and inspections were working. Hussein did not have tons of biological and chemical weapons stockpiled or an active nuclear weapons program as the Bush administration repeatedly claimed. It appears now - as Hans Blix has already noted - that Iraq got rid of most if not all of those stockpiles shortly after the first Gulf War and that Hussein’s efforts to restart a WMD program was being stymied by the U.N. sanctions and inspections. There was no imminent or immediate threat.

By ignoring evidence that showed Hussein was not an imminent threat and forcing the U.S. to go to war in defiance of the U.N. and most of our major allies, President Bush has demonstrated a recklessness that should cause even his most loyal followers to question his judgment.