Tea Party wants to control the message; Society ahead of the high court on gay marriage…

March 26, 2013

On the local scene in my neck of the woods the Tea Party is trying to control the news. Our local U.S. congressman was holding what was billed as a town hall meeting, but members of the Tea Party kicked out the reporter from the local newspaper. And I thought the Tea Party supported the Constitution. But I guess they never heard of freedom of the press. They only want positive coverage.

Now if this were truly a private meeting with a group I could see restricting attendance. But like I said it was billed as a town hall meeting.

Some members reportedly said they wanted to be free to say what they wanted and would not be if the whole thing was public. Yes, hard to get your politician to give you special favors when everyone is listening.

On the national level I keep reading about how the automatic spending cuts are doing away with various services and programs the public likes.

The only positive to come out of all of this is that people might finally realize that you cannot have it all and there has to be choices — by people I mean both politicians and the electorate at large.

What is given can be taken away but it can all be given back again (within financial limits and the willingness to accept taxes). It’s really up to everyone to make up their minds. Of course not everyone will agree, but that is why we have elections and that is why sometimes opposite sides compromise, somehow hoping that they get the better end of the bargain.

And the Supreme Court is listening to arguments over same-sex marriage today. But maybe society at large is ahead of the court on that one. Even the Republican Party is beginning to see reality with some of it’s own children turning out to be homosexual (or gay and some call it). If God created everyone, then he created homosexuals too. We all just have to live with the reality of nature. In saying that I in no way believe nor would I ever believe that it is right to promote homosexuality. And I think that some public school texts may do that under the guise of just informing children about various lifestyles. There is a fine line.

And I will leave it at that today…

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Expand Medicare, stop bailouts, reinstate draft, support science, admit that to be gay is genetic…

May 18, 2009

Some more public policy suggestions from Tony Walther’s Weblog:

HEALTH CARE:

Expend a lot fewer resources and energy on the subject. Simply expand Medicare by extending it to those who cannot afford or are not eligible for private insurance, regardless of age. There of course would have to be a strict means test for this. And I don’t mean to suggest that it would be inexpensive to do this, but it might be no more or even less expensive and more practical than what we are doing now or what is being proposed (which is not clear at all). And it could be all done so much quicker (how long has congress faced the health care issue? Decades now).

It occurs to me that health care could be seen as a personal right in our modern society, but it might also be seen as a personal responsibility at the same time. I don’t think those two conditions are mutually exclusive. While it is a personal responsibility, if you cannot afford that responsibility, you need help.

And I realize we read that both the Medicare and Social Security trust funds are fast running out. But something will have to be done about that. I doubt that either program will be cancelled, so our elected representatives will have to, dare I say it, make some decisions and the electorate itself has to accept certain priorities. But it would seem that a secure and stable retirement system and some form of universal health care (I refer to a system in which no one is denied health care simply on the basis of cost) would be at least near the top of those priorities. 

ECONOMIC STIMULUS:

Give business back to business for the most part. Stop all bailouts. Let failing enterprises, banks included, go bankrupt. But at the same time offer incentives, such as tax breaks, to businesses that create American jobs (and these need to be jobs that don’t require further government subsidy to workers – such as the old Walmart approach of handing out how-to-get-government-assistance flyers to employees). At the same time apply penalties to businesses that ship jobs overseas, such as high tariffs on products being imported back in. And I was going to write simply, enact penalties for outsourcing (maybe a penalty tax on outsourcing). But I don’t know how practical or practicable that would be. But if there is enough incentive for hiring American, then maybe that would not be necessary.

Our government should encourage a return to the production of manufactured goods and consumer products, again through incentives such as tax breaks.

Also, renegotiate our so-called “free trade” agreements with other nations so that we are all playing on a fairly level field. Other nations subsidize industries and/or have labor forces that work at extremely low wages. We need “fair trade”, not so much “free trade”.

Instead of bailing out failing businesses, divert some of that funding to help displaced workers, but do not make this commitment open ended. The ultimate goal for able-bodied people should be new jobs.

DEFENSE:

Make our policy one of defense rather than offense. While I don’t think the United States, even under George W. Bush, has been an imperialist nation, we have long held the belief that we have to exert our influence all over the world. I think we should promote our form of democratic government by example more than by force. We should be supportive to the extent we can of nations who would model themselves after us, but leave it at that.

I do, though, realize that in some situations we may find that the best defense is a good offense. This would be in cases of true emergency when it comes to our attention that, say, a rogue nation or rogue regime in a nation might come within grasp of having the means along with the aim of destroying us. Strangely, that last sentence sounds like Bush 2’s rationale for going into Iraq. So, if he and Cheney had been honest about such, that is if Iraq would have really been in the position to attack us or supply weapons of mass destruction to our enemies, I might have seen the Iraq invasion as the necessary choice (although a more surgical choice might have been wiser). But the information that has come out points the other way (and some of this info was at least hinted at even before we went into Iraq). I believe Bush and Co. have even admitted they were wrong (if not that they knew they were wrong at the time). They had a predilection, that is they were predisposed to go into Iraq and then they manufactured an excuse.

Iran’s (reported) continued development of nuclear weapons capability might someday require an offensive, pre-emptive reaction, and perhaps more urgenty, the possibility of Islamic militants getting hold of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. But let’s hope none of that becomes necessary. But let’s also hope no potential adversary doubts our resolve to defend ourselves.

MILITARY SERVICE:

I think the all-volunteer professional military has big advantages and that we should maintain a large and highly-trained and motivated professional cadre, or really a permanent professional force that would be larger than the word cadre connotes. But along with that professional force I would be supportive of a mandatory military service of youth, beginning at age 18. Two years of active duty would seem appropriate, if a little bit arbitrary. There of course would probably be provision for conscientious objectors with some type of compulsory public service. I think with a new military draft or compulsory service you would find that we would be a lot more thoughtful and careful about using military force. We might also have more resolve once we did commit force. And why is it not everyone’s duty to defend the nation?

My reading of recent history is that the so-called neo conservative movement was disappointed with the nation’s lack of resolve in Vietnam and thought it endangered us by making us look weak. The liberals who had pushed for ending the draft got caught in their own trap. The neocons decided that the all-volunteer force would leave so many off the hook that it would be easier to commit forces where they desired. And I think it did make it easier.

But it seems to me we are all in this or should be all in this together. Not everyone serves on the local police force and that is understandable. But too many have come to view the military as a police force that they can simply expect to “handle it”. When only a minority is left with the responsibility to protect a nation I think we lose our sense of nation and one day might be in jeopardy of losing the nation itself.

 ENVIRONMENT:

We need strong public investment in science more than anything else. And it is the government’s job to protect the environment and to enact laws that support that. Environmental regulation needs to be based on science and not politics. We cannot afford to cut off our nose to spite our face by enacting unreasonable and over-reactive environmental regulations that stifle commerce, but at the same time we do not want to destroy our planet or our quality of life.

THE MORAL QUESTIONS:

Societies have rules, often called “morals”. The United States has been unique in that we are a blended society whose members may have similar, but not necessarily the same moral code. We are not all of the same religion and we are indeed not all religious, although for the most part our laws regulating social behavior are I suppose based on Judeo-Christian principles.

For the most part there is not a problem. We virtually all agree, for example, that it should be illegal to murder someone. We don’t all agree on the proper punishment, though. There has been a continuing debate over capital punishment. I think I am correct in saying that the anti-capital punishment forces seem to be holding the edge on this one. I have my own opinion, but I think this has to be left to voters and legislatures, and to some extent the courts (who seem to be frequently confronted as to the question of the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment – you can execute someone as long as it is not cruel? Unusual?).

Abortion and gay (or homosexual) marriage seem to be the hot moral topics now.

As to these two subjects, I have to ask whether there is a rightful governmental interest.

Abortion is a far more complicated topic than those on both sides of the argument make it out to be. But under current law, based on the Roe Vs. Wade decision, the Supreme Court has held that the intent of the constitution was to in the name of individual liberty leave such a personal decision up to the individual. The justices at the time had to reach for that decision by finding it based in part on what was not explicit but what they felt nonetheless was implicit in the constitution. But that is really often the case with decisions in courts. If literal meaning was always evident we probably would not need justices to render decisions (think about it).

As to gay marriage, the only government interest is that marriage is a contract and the government has oversight of contract law. As to the religious aspects, the government has no rightful role. It’s all more a problem of terminology and context and tradition. We have simply called these government-sanctioned contracts between, yes, what have been traditionally men and women, “marriage”. We might have been better off to call all of them “civil unions” from the beginning. Some religious people object to gays forming unions with each other and calling them “marriage”. They have been willing to compromise by accepting “civil unions” for gays. But civil unions are not always equal to marriage and not equally recognized within the 50 states. And if you legislate that only heterosexuals can have “marriages” and homosexuals must have “civil unions”, even if those civil unions were supposedly made equal to marriage, I think you would have something equivalent to the “separate, but equal” doctrine that was used to justify Jim Crow laws that forced black people to be discriminated against. Separate but equal was originally recognized by the Supreme Court, but decades later was struck down by the high court.

Those who oppose gay marriage argue that homosexuality is anti-social behavior. Most everyone else has come to realize by simple observation that homosexuality is apparently genetic and has come to accept it even if they are not always comfortable with it.

One solution would be to take the government out of the marriage business and have it issue civil union contracts to all, straight and gay. The churches could handle marriages as a religious and symbolic ceremony. That seems an equitable approach to me, but might be socially confusing (how would we refer to a couple now joined? they’re married, no they’re “civil unioned”, and how would you refer to already married people under the old rule, and it’s a whole can of worms).

As to the implications on our society moving forward if we fully accept the gay lifestyle under the law by granting gay marriage or unions, I actually think there is a question, but I do not think it is one government can resolve.

One of the problems is that government itself may have lost some of its moral authority.

Just some ideas.


Gay marriage ban separate, but not equal…

November 6, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Today my wife and I celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary, proving that all teenage marriages don’t end in failure. And they said it was only puppy love.

And now that I’ve been sweet by starting off my blog on that note I will no doubt make the other half of this long-lasting marriage shake her head as I go into my near daily political thing:

So Proposition 8 in California that bans gay (homosexual) marriage has apparently passed, and this only months after the state Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was allowed under the state’s constitution. Proposition 8 amended that constitution.

There was a split in my household over the voting on that one.

It is not in my usual character to be a champion of so-called gay rights. But I did some study of constitutional law in obtaining a BA degree in political science and it seems to me that to deny a class of people rights that all others have is a violation of equal protection under the law.

Of course, I suppose, the first challenge to that in most people’s minds might be whether homosexuals are truly a different class of people in the sense that, say, black people have been considered a different class, a class that in the past was heavily discriminated against.

Black people were born with a darker skin pigment. Society as a whole – not everyone – I think has come to the conclusion now into the 21st Century that homosexuality is a natural condition some people have at birth (and while I understand there is still some division of thought on this in the scientific community, don’t most of us have gay people in our families and realize they were born that way and did not just hang out with the wrong crowd?). A homosexual can no more help his or her condition than a black person can help his or her condition, and I quickly add that I do not mean that either class of people should want to change their condition. But both have and do suffer discrimination from society as a whole.

Now the favorite argument as to whether gays should have a right to marry is that no they should not, that marriage by tradition, primarily religious tradition, but also by secular tradition, has been considered to be a union of a man and a woman, and that if gays are concerned that they are being  discriminated against they can have so-called civil unions or domestic partnerships, which are supposedly to take the place of marriage.

The problem with that is that civil unions are not marriage in name and do not necessarily carry the same status as marriage. They are not recognized in all jurisdictions and I am not sure that even under the best of circumstances they offer the same protections as marriage.

And the very idea that you can get around the tag of discrimination by offering one brand of something to one class and another supposedly separate but equal brand to another was shot down in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. the Board of Education (1954). That ruling directly dealt with discriminating against black people by making them attend separate public schools. But the ruling covers all such supposedly separate but equal practices. That ruling overturned the Supreme Court’s Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling (1896) that held separate but equal was permissible. In that one the issue at hand was whether blacks could be made to ride in separate passenger railway cars.

Now this is not a lawyerly analysis, but basically we all know that separate is never equal, otherwise there would be no need for being separate. The fact is that in the case of schools, black schools were almost always starved of funding and maintenance. In the case of separate passenger accommodations, the idea was to shun black people from the rest of society, due to white prejudice of the time.

So, I have a problem with all of that. But moreover, I think what galls me are the single-issue people. I read in my local newspaper about one 34-year-old guy who voted for the first time in his life just so he could vote yes on Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage. So, no other issues – war, the economy, taxation, health care, etc. ever mattered to him, but by gosh running other folks’ lives, imposing his morality on someone else, that mattered. And if he felt a religious compulsion to do so that only indicates that such measures violate the First Amendment which forbids government intrusion into matters religious.

Having said all the above, I am not totally comfortable myself with gay marriage. I think I just see the idea of banning it to be a conflict in my sense of personal liberty. Personal liberties sometimes are restricted if they can be construed to hinder the personal liberties of others, but how that applies in this case I am not sure.

In California the status of current gay marriages is in limbo. That issue will probably go to court. As I understand it, civil unions are still allowed.

And now, the rest of my blog:

A parting shot I just can’t resist: let’s hope that Sarah Palin is put back into the Alaskan deep freeze where she belongs.

We might see her again for 2012, but she’s no doubt going to have some hefty competition from the likes of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee (who now is a talk show host on FOX – makes sense, there is a pattern: preacher, politician, talk show host). Maybe by that time she can learn a little more about basic civics and world events and how to answer questions in hardball as well as softball interviews.

But now in a pause from writing this blog, I just watched a Sarah Plain interview on CNN and was impressed with how humble and sincere she came across. She said she doubted that her candidacy trumped the major economic crisis that surfaced just before the election. But she said that if she cost John McCain “even one vote” for that, “I am sorry…” She promised to “work with” Obama on energy issues (uh, sure Sarah, have your people get in touch with my people).

See how gullible I am? I fell for her humbleness. But how is it in politics that you can say such terrible things about someone one day – he pals around with terrorists who want to destroy our nation or he wants to take away our freedom and make us share our hard-earned money or he is not a leader. And then the next day you are willing to work with him.

Thanks to the endless talk on TV we can watch and listen to the experts tell us how they are crafting the messages that are full of lies and distortions designed to fool us and then we are supposed to listen to those messages as if we did not know we were being taken in. Ah politics. No wonder some folks say they can’t stand it.

As gracious as John McCain himself was in defeat, the boos from the sore losers during his concession speech are emblematic of the attitude among much of his support group that turned the majority of the voters off. That attitude has been turning a lot of folks off for some years. The GOP finally got a taste of what that attitude can mean (they got their first hint during the last midterm elections – they just wouldn’t shape up).

And just what was that sour grapes assessment of the Obama win by no. 1 Obama basher Charles Krauthammer I saw late Tuesday night on FOX all about? I know he wanted the other guy to win, but why couldn’t he have just admitted that if nothing else Obama made a lot more folks more comfortable in voting for him than the other guy? Krauthammer complained that Obama really never presented a program. Oh really, well maybe not, but what was the program presented by McCain – wait don’t tell me, leave the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in place (the one’s he originally opposed because we needed to pay for the war directly rather than borrow from China – you know, support the troops as they say). Oh and make sure we don’t tax Joe the Plumber, who is not a real plumber, whose name I understand is not really Joe, and who would in all likelihood, I just have a hunch, would be the first in line to take unemployment, disability, medicare, Social Security, or any kind of public assistance if he felt he needed it (or run for congress or cut a record or book deal or run for vice president).

— I thought my local newspaper was localcentric, as I like to call it, emphasizing local news over national and world, but the Manteca, Ca. Bulletin (7-day per week) Wednesday edition has all kinds of election news (local), but nary a word or picture of Barack Obama on its front page. Maybe they could have at least had local reaction story.

Print media is dying. As I stated in a previous blog, I had no sooner got interested in U.S. News and World Report news magazine, thinking that it seemed newsier than Time or Newsweek, only to find it was dropping from once per week to once every other week. Now I read that just as the daily Christian Science Monitor newspaper is doing, they are getting out of the print editions altogether and going to online, except I think they may be doing some kind of monthly not real news editions or something.

Yes I love the instantaneousnous (did I make up that word?) of the world wide web, but where is the news for posterity that a print edition provides? And as much as I use this contraption nowadays, I still can’t figure out how to comfortably sit back and read my computer. On the other hand, the keyboard sure beats those manual Royal typewriters I used in more than one newspaper job. How I ever banged out my stories I can hardly imagine (and you should have seen all the pencil self-corrections in my copy). Spell check was looking it up in the dictionary or being ridiculed by the proofreader. And the instant access to fact checking on my computer can’t be beat.


Gay Marriage

May 16, 2008
The WALTHER REPORT
By Tony Walther
(Copyright 2008)
 
The California Supreme Court has ruled in favor of so called gay marriage, but voters could overturn that in the fall in a constitutional amendment. This is how I see the hot button issue:
 
There is supposed to be a separation between church and state in this nation, at least that is the way legal scholars have interpreted the First Amendment. So why should we care if religious groups object to marriages between homosexuals (I prefer that term over “gays”)?
 
Now there could be an argument over whether society, irrespective of religion, wants to accept marriage as not only a contract between a man and a woman, but also two members of the same sex.
 
We have, as a society, I think, come to the acceptance among most, not all, that homosexuality is something one is born with and has little to no control over. Some people have even argued that God created man (and woman) and God does not make mistakes. That would imply that homosexuality is a natural thing. We know it exists in other forms of life.
 
The fact is, many straight folks find homosexual practices abhorrent, even many of those who accept the condition as natural (kind of a contradiction, I suppose).
 
But if we accept homosexuality as natural, then it seems hard to discriminate against a couple who want to take the vows and have a state sanctioned contract to allow themselves the protections and benefits of marriage. One of the biggies would be health insurance spouses take out on each other and community property is another one, tax advantages are still another, and so on.
 
The argument that the Bible condemns homosexuality or even homosexual unions can be debated, but it should have no weight in public policy. Remember, separation of church and state.
 
Homosexual marriage may offend some portion of society. Certainly it has not been accepted until relatively recent times, and the debate goes on.
 
But again, if homosexuality is natural, then it would seem hard to discriminate against a certain class of society. Providing a two-tier or dual system of marriage (man and woman) and civil unions (homosexuals) seems attractive to some, but that’s kind of like the old race discriminatory theory of separate but equal, accepted in the 19th Century under Plessy vs. Ferguson and rejected in the 20th Century in Brown vs. the Board of Education.
 
And it causes confusion. Some employers or even levels of government might provide one set of protections for marriages and an altered one for civil unions.
 
Also, I think marriages or civil unions should be uniform and accepted by all states, but that is not the case.
 
Maybe marriage should be a religious ceremony and civil unions a legal contracting device for both straights and homosexuals. In other words, you can get married, but in order to have the legal protections you have to enter into a contract called a civil union. Maybe you could get married in the traditional ceremony and then sign on the dotted line for that legal contract (don’t forget to read the fine print).
 
Now I have tried to be reasonable and fair in all of the aforementioned writing. But to be painfully honest, I am uncomfortable with making homosexuality an accepted practice in society. That is to say, I object to publically funded textbooks that depict it as just the natural thing, like “I have two mommies” or “two daddies.”
 
That may be something I have to work out personally. I have come to the conclusion through observation that homosexuality is a natural condition, and I suppose there could be degrees. Some folks are bisexual.
 
But, I do believe in equal protection under the law.