Women who abort aren’t victims

Hate to say it, but Donald Trump was right: Yes, women who get abortions should be punished.

The billionaire-turned-presidential candidate ignited (another) firestorm last week when he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews “there has to be some form of punishment” for abortion, even for — gasp! — the woman obtaining one. The backlash came from all sides: Democrats, Republicans, pro-choicers and pro-lifers denounced Trump’s comments in unison. He later walked them back, saying the abortionist should be punished if the U.S. were to outlaw the procedure, “not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”

All sides appear to agree with this sickening meme. March for Life released a statement calling Trump’s original comment “completely out of touch with the pro-life movement.” As did National Right to Life, the Susan B. Anthony List and his opponents for the Republican nomination.

“Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision. No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion,” March for Life’s Jeanne Marcini said.

The woman is a victim? Desperation?

That notion falls into the narrative the left has been force-feeding us for years. The picture of a young pre-teen who’s been raped by her uncle and has nowhere to go except the nearest Planned Parenthood (which will gladly harvest her baby for parts). Or of a poor, pregnant woman, hopeless and afraid, who turns to a wire hangar in a back alley to solve her “problem.”

But the facts don’t paint such a portrait.

Let’s be honest. The vast majority of women getting abortions in this country are doing it for one reason: birth control. They aren’t victims of some evil abortionist forcing them to kill their babies. And this isn’t the ’30s — condoms are given out like candy and birth control is readily available.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adolescents account for a mere four-tenths of 1 percent of the more than 1 million abortions performed in the United States each year. Less than 1 percent are the result of rape or incest.

As for the rest, 75 percent of aborting women say the baby would interfere with work or school (shocker) and more than half of women getting their first abortion say they aren’t ready to be a parent (who is?).

Nearly half have already had their womb vacuumed out, so they’re repeat “victims” in our national dialogue. What’s more, 61 percent of abortions are obtained by women who already have children. Hardly women who don’t know about contraception.

We should feel no sympathy for these women, regardless of how much they “regret” the decision. No one is forcing them into the clinic. They should regret it — that’s part of taking responsibility for your actions. Your “right to choose” is not as easy as taking a pill or putting on a condom. It comes with consequences.

They are not the victims of the horrific act of abortion. The “unborn person” — as Hillary Clinton defines it — is.

If (Lord, let it be so) the United States were to ban the procedure, both the woman and the doctor deserve punishment for killing what would be a protected human life under the law. They are both accomplices to murder.

We don’t let the mob boss off the hook for hiring a hit man to kill his rivals. Why, then, would a woman who hires a doctor to scrape the life out of her uterus go scot-free?

Which is what makes the “mainstream” pro-life position so baffling. If we truly value human life, then, yes, those responsible for killing innocents deserve punishment — whether they wield the scalpel or not.

Inoculating women from personal responsibility might make a ban easier to swallow in our abortion-on-demand society, but that changes nothing. Thwarting responsibility is the reason we’ve killed more than 57 million unborn babies since 1973. If women aren’t held accountable, a ban would have no effect on the demand for abortion, and underground doctors would meet that supply.

Under the “mainstream” position, John Gotti should have never gone to prison.

Cross-posted at the MilitaryPress.

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Dirty politics? Get over it

Ahhh, the good ol’ days.

Remember back when politics was clean and candidates ran campaigns based on the issues? When our leaders were true statesmen, dedicated to the debate of ideas and not smearing the other side?

If you claim you do, you might want to jog your memory.

In the ever-more confusing battle for the 50th District congressional seat, both candidates — and their supporters — are crying fowl that the TV ads are getting a little bit nasty. “Negative ads” they sneer, as if uttering curse words under their breath.

This back-and-forth whining about candidates “going negative” has somehow become a staple in every politician’s game plan.

C’mon. You’re running for Congress in a special election that’s being watched by politicos across the country. Expect to get a little mud thrown at you.

And we are talking about a little.

Sure, there’s an ad linking Republican Brian Bilbray to Ephedra deaths, and another implying Democrat Francine Busby supported a teacher convicted of owning child pornography, but the rest are pretty innocuous.

In the latest round, the Republican Party is calling Busby a liberal who wants to raise taxes. The Democrats are calling Bilbray a lobbyist. Both, though “attack ads,” are true.

Since he left office after losing in 2000, Bilbray has been working as a lobbyist. Lots of former congressmen do.

While running against then-Congressman and now-prisoner Duke Cunningham, Busby said she would repeal the Bush tax cuts and raise gas taxes. Lots of Democrats say that (well, maybe not raise gas taxes this year, but look for it two years from now).

“Denounce those ads” some on both sides demand. “Get back to the issues” others say. Yes, it’s easy to attack one’s opponent, but it’s even easier to call your opponent out for “going negative.”

Here’s a concept: negative ads work. If they didn’t, politicians wouldn’t run them. They also serve a purpose. We can’t count on a politician to “run on the issues” and enlighten us about each one of their shortcomings. Campaigns are about issues, yes, but they are also about fettering out candidates that shouldn’t be holding office.

Besides, attack ads are as old as American politics. Those statesmen we revere so much were master craftsmen at “going negative.”

Thomas Jefferson was accused of all kinds of sexual scandal, and threw his own mud back at his opponents. He and Alexander Hamilton even ran their own newspapers by proxy for the purpose of attacking their political opponents as our nation formed.

Andrew Jackson was called a murderer and cannibal in 1828. His wife was dubbed a whore.

In the election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln was referred to as stupid and called an ape (“he looks like an ape, smells like an ape and is an ape” was the exact terminology).

Harry Truman compared Republicans to the Nazis. And we can’t forget the Lyndon Johnson mushroom cloud commercial implying Barry Goldwater would start World War III.

Ahhh, the good ol’ days.

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Airports and stadiums; our march to L.A.

With the city of San Diego letting the Chargers bail on their lease at Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley, the team has started shopping around the county for a new home — starting with Chula Vista, National City and possibly Oceanside — before wandering beyond our borders.

Why on earth the city would willingly let go of an NFL franchise is beyond this columnist, and I don’t even like football. Questionable decisions from our elected officials, unfortunately, have become part-and-parcel with living in San Diego County.

The big question for Chargers owner Alex Spanos is where does one find enough land for a football stadium in San Diego County (apart from that ideal spot in Mission Valley the city has its claws buried so deep in)?

Turns out, an extraneous level of government bureaucracy has already done much of the work for him.

The San Diego Regional Airport Authority has found nine locations large enough to be home to a two-runway, 3,000-acre international airport to replace Lindbergh Field. Since Qualcomm only takes up 166 acres, any of those sites have more than enough room for a new Chargers stadium, and could easily hold Spanos’ condo and shopping complexes, too.

Miramar, anyone?

Probably not. The military brass has said time and again that everyone else should keep their hands off their land. Even though, like Mission Valley is perfect for a football stadium, Miramar is perfect for an airport. It’s centrally located, accessible by major freeways and there’s plenty of land.

The military also shuts the door on the airport authority’s sites at North Island, Camp Pendleton and March Air Reserve Base.

So where do we stick the Chargers?

Just as with the airport, Chargers fans could take a high-speed train out to Borrego Springs, Campo or Imperial Valley to watch games. Sure, it’s kind of far out there (as if Chula Vista isn’t for most of the region’s residents), but we’re told Maglev technology is ready to go, and for $20 billion we can have our own, designated football train to a stadium nearly 100 miles away.

We can learn to live with it, right? If business travelers can make the trek to the middle of nowhere there’s no doubt football fans can do the same for the eight home games each season.

Shoot, those sites might be better used for a stadium. Where’s Rep. Bob Filner clamoring to bring the Chargers to his precious Imperial Valley? Surely there are economic benefits to be had. That burgeoning (hmph) area might just be where the NFL wants to host the next Super Bowl.

Unlike the airport, we don’t have other football options. There is no nearby team, whereas there’s always John Wayne in Orange County, LAX and Ontario for flight alternatives.

Los Angeles can’t keep — or gain — a franchise, and all those pesky Raiders fans head south to watch their team play ours.

That could make the Maglev ride unbearable. Who wants to be trapped in a train surrounded by goons in black and silver moaning “Raaaaaaiders” over and over?

The point is, just as with the airport, we are being saddled with the results of years of incompetence and poor planning on the part of our elected officials.

It was clear Jack Murphy was on its last leg in 1997 when the city spent $18 million upgrading it to gain another Super Bowl.

It was clear back then, too, that Lindbergh was too small to serve our needs, yet massive upgrades and remodeling projects have taken place in the terminals serving our one runway. In fact, voters chose Miramar as a preferred site back in 1994 — when the military was more willing to talk.

In both cases city and regional leaders fumbled the ball. Perhaps they were too busy bankrupting pensions, getting free lap dances and taking millions in bribes.

How much time, energy and taxpayer dollars have been wasted during the last 10-plus years because our leaders failed us?

Part of our region’s charm, and draw, is that we are not L.A. It’s doubtful, judging by our current course, that soon we’ll be able to tell the difference.

San Diego residents are going to have to take a train 100 miles to catch a flight or head to the border to watch a game because our leaders can’t, well, lead.

At that point, we may as well drive to L.A., because that’s what we will have become.

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Candidates get a pass when focused on ethics

Ethics is the fool’s gold of the 2006 campaign. It’s the desert mirage. It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

And everyone’s falling for it — from the candidates to the pundits and, possibly, the voters.

Listening to the conventional wisdom one would think that after the fall of Congressman Duke Cunningham and the Jack Abramoff scandal, we’re about to see a revolution — of voters about to switch parties and demanding ethics reform.

Funny how conventional wisdom is so often off the mark.

Campaigning on ethics is too easy — especially in the special election for California’s 50th Congressional District. Sure, it’s mildly entertaining to know that Richard Earnest has about $55,000 in his checking account, according to his recent voluntary disclosure. But where does Earnest, or the other 20-plus candidates running to fill Duke’s seat, stand on the issues? What are they going to do for me?

That’s what people gauge when they pick a congressman, and as voters we should expect the candidates to move beyond bellowing about ethics and other easy topics.

Saying “I’m for ethics reform,” or “I will come out strong on illegal immigration,” or “I can’t be bought,” is like saying, “I support education” and “I like to breathe oxygen.” Give us voters a break.

Watching two dozen wannabe politicians stumble over themselves to prove their integrity gives voters nothing as they weigh who should be our next representative.

We’ve heard it all before. We’ve been promised “the most ethical administration in American history” (Bill Clinton) and been given a pledge to “restore integrity to the White House” (George W. Bush). What did those guarantees get us?

Of course the folks running to fill scumbag Cunningham’s seat are going to declare their honesty. That’s a given. We expect our elected officials to be honest.

Duke’s and Abramoff’s problem was not a lack of lobbying regulations or ethics rules. They broke the law. Cunningham’s a crook, and adding more rules, penalties and measuring sticks wouldn’t have stopped him from disgracing himself, our district and Congress.

Sure, we can follow the ethics gravy train to the finish. But reactionary politics doesn’t solve problems. The U.S. created the Department of Homeland Security in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, even though we already had a Defense Department. Ask the former residents of New Orleans how that one worked out.

And let’s not forget the campaign finance reforms pushed by Keating Five member John McCain and his buddy Russ Feingold. Moveon.org and the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth loved it, but did they really give American’s more honest political campaigns?

We’ve got to stop allowing lawmakers to enact reforms for the sake of doing something.

Voters in the 50th District should demand that the candidates campaign and debate the real issues affecting San Diego’s mid and North County. Voters need to know which candidate is going to have what Abramoff would call the “juice” to address our issues here at home.

As we sit in some of the worst traffic in the country, we should be asking which candidate is going to squeeze the most dollars out of Washington for our freeways — earmarks or not.

We should know how they plan to convince the military to give up some land at Miramar for our new airport when voters pick that as the preferred site in November (and they will).

We should be asking them how they feel about protecting the tremendous natural resource that is our beaches and whether they support the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to build seawalls along bluffs in Solana Beach and Encinitas.

The candidates need to stop wasting time proclaiming their moral fiber and tell us what they will do to ease the burden of federal mandates on our cities. They need to clue us in on their thoughts on a bloated housing market that’s showing signs of leveling off and possibly dropping.

When we get duped by the fool’s gold of 2006, the candidates for the 50th seat get a pass. They can placate us with a few sound bites about restoring integrity to Congress while avoiding taking a stance on the issues that matter to the district’s voters.

The candidate that gives a real — and not easy — campaign will get our attention and our votes. Let’s not fall for the mirage.

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It’s your credentials we question, Mr. President

Don’t be shocked, Mr. President, that many of us on the right scoffed at your nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

“Trust me,” you say. “I know her, and she’s conservative,” you plead with the constituency that has stood behind you for the last five years.

You shouldn’t be shocked by our apprehension.

It’s not that anything about Miers sets off alarm bells — we don’t even know her. It’s that we don’t completely trust you, Mr. President, and would rather you nominate a judge with a known record of conservatism.

While the left and the media paint you in deep red conservative hues, you’ve yet to prove your conservative credentials to us. And perhaps that’s what’s so shocking. No one has dared to question your conservative creed until now — and the questions are coming from the right.

But let’s look at your record.

Once you took office, you cut our taxes. A good step right out of the Ronald Reagan playbook, but from there your conservatism dissipates like San Diego’s morning fog that burns off at midday.

How can we trust you that Miers is conservative when you allowed Ted Kennedy to co-write your education policy?

What are we supposed to believe when you supported and signed into law the largest new entitlement since Lyndon B. Johnson with the prescription drug benefit for seniors?

Where are your conservative merits when you’ve overseen a massive ballooning of the federal budget — driving up the largest deficits in our history and pushing the national debt near the $8 trillion mark?

Are we really supposed to “trust you” when you’ve made national security a major plank in your rhetoric, yet our borders are still largely unguarded and you’ve proposed a guest-worker amnesty program for illegal aliens.

Hardly a conservative’s record. But it’s not just what you’ve managed to do that has your political portrait turning purple. Much of your conservative agenda has all but stalled.

Your push for Social Security reform has dwindled to a small nudge. You’ve yet to veto any of the massive, pork-barrel spending bills to cross your desk. In fact, you’ve yet to veto any legislation. And you’re allowing the agenda, and nominations, to be controlled by a group of 14 spineless senators.

The Reagan revolution that began in 1980 was spurred by the 1994 takeover of Congress, and continued with your election, Mr. President, wasn’t fought for you to cower from one of your most important duties. The work of the last 25-plus years — which brought about a majority in Congress and a Republican White House — shouldn’t be wasted on your fear of a fight over the highest court in the land.

Many of us supported you early in 2000 because you were talking about a conservative domestic agenda — Social Security reform, tax cuts, fiscal responsibility, judges, etc. Only tax cuts have shown themselves so far, and that was five years ago.

Conservatives in this country have done you well. We’ve supported you unwaveringly on tax cuts, foreign policy and the war on terror. But you shouldn’t take us for granted. Just because there’s an “R” next to your name doesn’t automatically make you conservative, and it doesn’t give you the blind trust of the conservative movement.

Perhaps if you had been more faithful to your red streak instead of clouding it with shades of blue we would trust you when it comes to Harriet Miers. But you’ve yet to prove to conservatives that you’re worth trusting absolutely.

Your record and your willingness to shy away from a fight all-to-quickly inspire just the opposite. Your inabilities to push a conservative agenda and fight for conservative fiscal policies make us question your credentials.

Don’t be shocked, Mr. President.

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More than anything, disappointment from Duke

I was 16 years old, the year was 1994, and I had just spent the preceding campaign season volunteering at street fairs and other events handing out pamphlets for Randy Duke Cunningham to earn extra credit in high school.

I didn’t get my license until I was 17, so my father drove me all over North County — to spots in Encinitas, Escondido, San Marcos and Carlsbad — from our home in San Marcos so I could do my part for our local congressman.

Heroes are difficult to come by, and Duke, at that point, was one of mine.

He was a Vietnam flying ace (the first ace of that war), high school athletics coach (whose swimmers went to the Olympics), pilot in the movie “Top Gun” (the first flick my father and I owned on VHS) and U.S. congressman (in the only district I’ve lived in while a resident of California).

Duke was larger than life.

That election night, we were all at Duke’s campaign headquarters on San Marcos Boulevard (next to Submarina). I was asked to go to downtown San Diego, to Election Hall, so I could march in with the rest, carrying signs for the congressman as part of the entourage. My father, who was with me and is slightly uncomfortable in a crowd, was wary of allowing his teenage son (who wasn’t an inch taller than the 5 feet, 8 inches I am now) to go gallivanting downtown with a bunch of strangers and said no to my participation — until the congressman walked up.

Duke told my dad that he would look after me and make sure I made it back to San Marcos in one piece.

As my father puts it, that night Cunningham won a voter for life, which makes the current situation with the Duke all that much more disappointing.

Whether you agree with Cunningham or not, he hasn’t done our district disservice. Staunchly defending San Diego’s connection to the military, he helped maintain our economy. He secured funding for programs at Cal State San Marcos (my alma mater) and toiled to get as much federal funding for our roadways as possible.

Some say Cunningham was a Republican hack, always walking the party line. But that’s not true. Sure, he always sponsors the constitutional amendment to protect the flag (with which I proudly part ways with the congressman), but hearing him tell the story of how Newt Gingrich convinced him that funding for the National Institutes of Health was in the nation’s interest truly renews one’s faith in bipartisanship. Duke also has split with the GOP on stem cell research.

That wasn’t the only year I walked the pavement for Duke. In 1996, as a high school senior, I volunteered again. I know I didn’t make that much of a difference. Incumbent congressmen have a re-election rate of better than 90 percent, and Duke always trounced his token opponents by more than 60 percent. A solely North County district has never seen a state or federal representative from the Democratic Party — never. I distinctly recall the opposition’s mailers, describing Cunningham’s votes in Congress, and how they acted more as a pro-Duke mailer than they helped the Democrat.

Duke didn’t even have to show up to win.

But given the opportunity to participate was enough for me — an idealistic child watching with awe the electoral process. Having a congressman whom I can watch tear up on C-SPAN whenever he spoke of patriotism was always endearing.

It was Duke, along with my grandfather and Ronald Reagan, who spurred my interest in politics and led me to study political science in college.

Sitting at Cal State San Marcos listening to Duke’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election amid a scandal involving him and a defense contractor didn’t force my idealism to come crashing down. In the years since 1994, I’ve learned that politics is a game and that politicians, in general, make for poor heroes. I’ve also learned that ethics isn’t so much about wrongdoing as it is about appearances. The appearance of impropriety is more damaging than actual wrongdoing.

I admit I’m slow to judge Duke. That a congressman on a powerful appropriations committee has connections to a defense contractor — or even that he’s friends with a defense contractor — doesn’t surprise me. Members of the media like to think that they are the fourth branch of government, but we all know the truth. It’s the lobbyists — they write their own bills, take congressmen and senators to lunch, befriend those in power and gain much more access than we could ever hope for. If you think lobbyists with business before Congress only hobnob with Republicans, you’re in for a big surprise. Just look up the campaign finance disclosure forms — all lawmakers are in the thick of it (it gets even worse when you take a closer look at the California Legislature).

But I always expected more from Duke. Like former Congressman Ron Packard, I wanted to wait and see, give Cunningham the chance to prove to his constituents that he had done nothing wrong. Surely, if John McCain can weather the Keating Five scandal and still be the darling of the media and campaign finance reform (what a joke that was), Cunningham could clearly survive this storm surrounding the sale of his home to a “friend.”

I also expected Cunningham, after originally defeating an incumbent Republican congressman caught up in the House banking scandal, to know that he should always conduct himself aboveboard — to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

None of that matters now.

After 15 years in Congress, Duke has decided to retire at the end of his term — to step aside and let another Republican carry on the torch. That’s probably smart, but it’s still disappointing.

Cunningham admits that the entire situation looks bad. A defense contractor with business before his committee buys the congressman’s house at what looks like a $700,000 loss. “Poor judgment” doesn’t even begin to describe the appearance of impropriety here.

I expected better.

San Diego County is in need of political heroes right now. With headlines about the mayor of “America’s Finest City” stepping down while two councilmen are convicted of bribery, we can only hope that our other elected officials would at least try to live up to the standard.

The jury (well, grand jury) is still out on Cunningham’s dealings with Mitchell Wade. And I’ll reserve ultimate judgment for when, if ever, an actual conviction is handed down. Regardless of the outcome, Duke inspired me to be involved in politics, and to hold our representatives’ feet to the fire — and I won’t forget that, even when it comes to Cunningham.

As someone who grew up in his district, looking up to the Duke, I’m disappointed. North County is ill served by men who allow the appearance of impropriety to ruin their political careers. The 50th District is going to lose all the clout Cunningham accumulated in Congress during the past 15 years and we’ll be stuck with a junior congressman — all because Duke allowed himself to get caught in an ethics game that cannot be won.

It may be politics as usual, but as voters in what nearly everyone calls a “safe” district, we should expect — and demand — more from Duke’s successor.

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Banning nudism for bare ambition

Apparently there’s a rash of North County residents ripping off their garments willy-nilly and brandishing their bare skin to the rest of us.

At least, that’s what we can gather from the reactionary efforts to stop a nudist group from renting a swimming pool and skating rink for their undressed activities.

The group, Naturally California, has been around for years, but was exposed by James Hartline, a Catholic newsletter writer from Hillcrest who began contacting ambitious politicians in the cities that Naturally California holds its events. Those politicians quickly put a stop to the activities, which have been going on without incident for more than five years.

According to Hartline, who has been described in Catholic publications as an “ex-gay suffering from HIV,” Naturally California’s 100-or-so members are damaging their children by letting it all hang out. The mere sight of skin-sans-cotton warps the minds of young nudists, sending them into a sexual frenzy — at least that’s what Hartline and the rest say.

The nudist group operates throughout the county, holding swim nights in Escondido, pizza gatherings in Rancho Bernardo, roller-skating parties in Santee, whale watching trips in Oceanside and smaller get togethers in Carmel Valley.

They’ve got us surrounded.

When you take into account that San Marcos recently banned public nudity (Speedos and bikinis are OK), nudist yachters in Oceanside are running into clotheslines and students at UCSD are broadcasting their naked bodies on the campus’ closed-circuit TV channel, you’ve got an epidemic.

What’s more, the Legislature will soon consider a bill that would allow women to go topless (GASP!) at all state beaches. What is the world coming to? What are we going to do with all this skin?

I know we toppled the Taliban so Afghani women wouldn’t be forced to wear the burkha, but letting them go topless or roller skate in the buff after the rink has closed? Too much freedom for me.

Hartline and his buddies need to get a life. In this time when the nation is at war, our state is facing massive budget deficits (the feds, too), we sit in traffic for hours at a time and our schools are in dire need of help, the last thing I’m worried about is some people defrocking — especially if they choose to do it in private.

Someone needs to expose Hartline for what he really is — an uptight, self-righteous, moral policeman who has nothing better to do than take on the role of school principal. He’s using his moral superiority to scare city council members into banning groups like Naturally California from practicing their right to peaceably assemble.

What also needs to be uncovered is our politicians’ inability to set their raw ambition aside and stop playing Hartline’s game.

Don’t we have better things to do with our time than act as the chaperone at the school dance, ruler in hand and (in the case of Poway Unified) inspecting the girls’ underwear? (It’s unclear whether thongs are OK in San Marcos, by the way.)

Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families — the group fighting the topless beach proposal — said that “if the state encourages women to show their breasts to men and boys at public beaches and parks, inappropriate treatment of women and girls will only worsen.”

Discounting the fact that there is no real evidence of a link between the sight of a bare nipple and sexual assault, Thomasson is just playing the slippery-slope game of nudism. I wonder if Thomasson and Hartline change clothes in the dark for fear of being overtaken by the natural impulses that come with being naked.

That’s like saying the mere presence of playing cards encourages gambling addiction and that cars that drive faster than 65 miles per hour cause us to speed.

I once stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, gazing at the beauty of creation and all its wonders, completely exposed to the elements — not that it was very cold. Many upon hearing the story think me odd (what took them so long?). Some make uneasy faces, as if my bare ass is somehow offensive, and others ask to see pictures. It just seemed like something to do at the time, and I’m glad I did.

The point is, there was nothing remotely sexual about it — and anyone who thinks so either overestimates my workout routine or is overcompensating for their own puritanical shame.

Anyone who has wandered down the cliffs at Torrey Pines State Beach knows that there is nothing inherently sexual with the practice of nudism. It’s nothing like “Girls Gone Wild,” as many a pubescent teen has found when he wandered to Black’s “for the waves.”

Sure, we’re still stuck on the “red-state” kick and overreacting to Janet Jackson’s bare breast in January 2004 — but let’s get over it. Leave Naturally California alone. The group isn’t hurting or threatening anyone and, in fact, we could all use a little of their live and let live style.

We’ve got more important things to worry about than some skin.

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Dare we say, ‘Merry Christmas?’

Whoever makes the rules on political correctness needs to be taken out and beaten with a wet hose — preferably while wearing a Santa hat and being serenaded by carolers singing “Silent Night.”

And the rest of you need a little more rum in your egg nog.

All of this “happy holidays,” “season’s greetings” and non-Christmas Christmas celebration malarkey has gone too far.

Now, don’t worry. This isn’t a tirade about the ways our pagan society has turned its back on Christ and the religious overtones of the “holiday.” Frankly, it’s doubtful he really cares about whether we celebrate his birthday, and Christmas has become so secularized over the years that we can hardly call it “religious.”

The battle over Christmas isn’t anything new — but this year it has taken a particularly vitriolic tone. Some blame the “red states” — the color not only means Republican but also represents Santa’s suit, apparently — and their new-found energy after clobbering the blue states in November.

Others blame the militant left and its need to deny the rest of the country of anything coming anywhere near Christianity — all that “faith, hope, love and peace” Jesus preached is just too dangerous for mass consumption.

But it’s not the crazy Christians or the pagan left that deserves credit for this angry debate over lumping Dec. 25 with all the other holidays. No, it’s the rest of us — who have fallen into the P.C. trap of sacrificing truth to appease worries that we might (gasp!) offend someone.

Humbug to that.

Apart from the typical controversy over nativity scenes at City Hall and Christmas carols in public schools, retail stores such as Target and Macy’s have opted out of using that “C” word.

Target has gone so far as to ban the Salvation Army bell ringers from its storefronts (and you can bet your Christmas bonus it’s not the word “army” the retailer fears). Of course, the stores are still decked out in “holiday” faire — presents, lights, trees and lots of red and green.

But retail outlets aren’t the only places where the over-sensitive have won the day. How many company Christmas parties are now “holiday” parties? On TV, stations (save Fox News) don’t wish us a “merry Christmas,” but “happy holidays” — with poinsettias, wreaths and, presumptively, “holiday” trees on the screen.

Humbug to that, too.

Some 80 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, and no matter how many “season’s greetings” and “happy holidays” you send to us, we know the secret code. What you mean is, “Merry Christmas,” and that’s what you should say.

The vast majority of this country shouldn’t be held captive to some semantic fascism because a small minority of the 20 percent that doesn’t use the “C” word is offended by it.

Humbug, again.

“Separation of church and state,” cry the multicultural weenies. But don’t include Christmas shopping and the company Christmas party as the “state” (on last check, ours was not a communist society where the lines between “state” and “company” are blurred). And don’t sit all high and mighty while you embrace the minor Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and the made-up Kwanzaa and can’t utter that “C” word. (Note that the branches of the San Diego County Library are having 85 Kwanzaa events this month — apparently “cooperative economics” beats out “peace on earth, good will toward men.”)

Another humbug.

Christmas is, without a doubt, the largest, most celebrated Western holiday. In this age of multiculturalism, it’s regretful that we can’t keep some of our own culture — a culture 2,000 years in the making.

It’s even more regretful that we so easily begin to allude to it in euphemism, like the jailbird uncle the family doesn’t talk about — just so we don’t offend the ultra-sensitive, politically correct nincompoops.

This has just gone too far, and some are seriously fighting back.

Voters in Mustang, Okla., rejected an $11 million school bond measure this month because the superintendent pulled a school nativity scene and deleted “Silent Night” from a “holiday” performance while leaving all references to Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Merry Christmas to the voters in Mustang, Okla., for beating back our overblown politically correct obsession and standing up for truth in holidays.

And merry Christmas to you.

Use the “C” word freely. That’s the “holiday” we’re all talking about, anyway.

We shouldn’t shy away from it, and we shouldn’t let society shy away from it either.

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Lessons and the politics of Sept. 11

Saturday marks the three-year anniversary of one of the worst days in American history. Three years is just enough time for politics to permeate discussion of and our nation’s response to Sept. 11.

It seems almost inappropriate to associate the two — politics and Sept. 11 — but this is an election year, and the direction the United States goes in fighting the “war on terror” is a political decision — one that pits the policies of America’s past against the policies of President Bush.

Before Sept. 11, the American response to terrorism was reactive. When our barracks were bombed in Beirut, we left. When our embassies in Africa were bombed, we launched a few tomahawks into a couple of camps. When the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, we put the terrorists we caught on trial. When the U.S.S. Cole was attacked in Yemen, we did nothing.

Our “war on terror” was much like the “war on drugs” — shortsighted, naive and ineffective. The American ethos on terror was to go after the individuals.

From Sept. 12, 2001 and throughout that fall, the United States awoke to the gruesome truth that our policy of the decades before was not working. Despite our best efforts to keep terror “contained” and to put terrorists on trial, the Middle East was still producing mad men. It seemed clear that the United States needed to do more than just treat terrorists as international criminals — that we needed to “take the war to them,” instead of waiting for them to come to us. The nation was unified in its response.

That was then.

As we head into the fall of 2004, it’s not so clear. Sept. 11 is now framed within the confines of Kerry vs. Bush. After toppling the fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan and the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, American voters are faced with the question we are faced with every four years — which direction do we want to take now.

President Bush’s overall response to the attacks is as much a uniting factor as it is one that divides us.

Sen. John Kerry’s response, difficult as it is to nail down on any given day, is just as polarizing.

The question for us, three years later, is whether we’ve learned the lessons of Sept. 11. Whether we want to fight a “war on terror” that is shortsighted, naive and ineffective, or whether we will wage a war that not only eliminates the terrorists who planned the Sept. 11 attacks, but that will transform the region from which terrorists sprout.

John Kerry has had a hard time finding his voice on the issue, but when says that he would fight a more “sensitive” war on terror, that the battles we’re waging in Iraq are “reckless and irresponsible,” and that the W in George W. Bush stands for “wrong,” what he means to say is that the United States needs to shift back to its original ethos.

When Democrats, and a few Republicans (Pat Buchanan among them), say that American efforts should be aimed at Osama bin Laden and that the war in Iraq is a distraction from the “war on terror,” what they mean is that they would rather we go back to the failed reactive policies of the past — back to the days when the United States treated terrorists as criminals rather than men with which we should be at war.
That’s a policy we cannot, and should not, return to.

The “war on terror” encompasses much more than just Osama bin Laden, and it cannot be won by just focusing on him and his band of fundamentalists. To win this war, if it can be won, change must be brought to the Middle East.

Hopeful as it is, investing in democracy in the region is our best response — and that is going to require a lot of time, effort and, yes, American lives.

It is shortsighted to believe that we can quickly leave our posts in Iraq and call the job done. It is shortsighted to name a date of withdrawal. It is shortsighted to say that because we’ve lost 1,000 soldiers in Mesopotamia after 18 months of fighting that we are losing or that we are caught in a quagmire. Democracy is not built in 18 months, wars are not won in that time, and change in the Middle East will not come overnight. Imagine if the politicians during World War II had felt the same about Bastone.

It is naive to believe that once we capture or kill bin Laden that the terrorist threat will simply vanish. It is equally naive to believe that al-Qaida is the only terror organization in the world. We cannot win the “war on terror” if our sole focus is on bin Laden and al-Qaida. We must, as the president says, be in it for the long-term, rout out terror where ever it is bred and bring fundamental change to the Middle East.

It is ineffective to treat terrorists as criminals — we learned that three years ago at the unimaginable cost of nearly 3,000 lives on our own soil. No matter how much we reinforce and reform our intelligence agencies and no matter how many terrorists we condemn for crimes against the United States, they will still attack, they will still slip through the cracks and they will still hate the freedom that comes with being an American.

As another Sept. 11 comes around on Saturday, we should not only mourn the dead of that day and the days following. We should also reflect on what that day taught us about the failures of our past, and renew our resolve to not repeat those same mistakes.

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Political nothingness

Every election cycle includes the usual moaning about the nastiness of politics — candidates “go negative,” mud is thrown and people long for the days of distinguished debate.

Though there never was an election cycle that didn’t include mud slinging, it’s hard to imagine an election year as vapid as the one we are in right now.

For those that didn’t renew their student subscriptions to the L.A. Times during the summer, you didn’t miss much.

This has been the summer of sound bites filled with political rhetoric dominated by … nothing.

Sure, there were a lot of “events,” but no substance.

First, “Fahrenheit 9/11” was released and quickly became the liberal cult-flick of the century. Unfortunately, in place of debate, Michael Moore’s film asked more questions than it answered and was rampant with conspiracy-theory B.S.

There was the release of the much-hyped Sept. 11 Commission report which told Americans that our nation didn’t do enough to combat terrorism before that fateful day three years ago. Yeah, like we didn’t figure that out when jetliners began crashing into skyscrapers.

There was the Democratic convention, which produced the most obscure party platform imaginable and featured Candidate John Kerry as a man who fought in Vietnam that is now running for president — no mention of the years in between.

There was the failed Republican attempt to stick a gay marriage ban in the Constitution all for the sake of forcing Kerry to take a position (haven’t they learned? He has no position).

The political debate has been boiled down — by the candidates, mind you — to sound bite attacks against President Bush like “American shouldn’t be going to war alone,” and similar attacks against Kerry’s “flip-flopping.”

Absent in all of that is any real debate. While the United States is faced with dilemmas such as which way is best to wage the war on terror and when should we launch a pre-emptive war, our leaders have chickened out.

They’d rather argue about Vietnam and if Kerry actually earned his medals and if Bush ever showed up for duty.

While it’s amusing to watch Democratic talking heads say they would “rather have a war hero in the White House than someone who chose not to go” (do they even remember Bill Clinton?), that’s really not the point.

Our candidates, President Bush and Senator Kerry, don’t have the backbone to stand up to each other. Both seem satisfied to focus on the four months Kerry spent in Vietnam and the seven minutes Bush spent in a classroom after the Sept. 11 attacks because as along as the so-called debate is diverted they can play it safe — they don’t have to tell us anything of substance and they don’t risk offending anyone.

Kerry doesn’t have to nail down his position on the war in Iraq as long as the Republicans keep hammering him over Vietnam and calling him the “most liberal member of the Senate.”

Bush doesn’t have to explain his plans for a second term as long as Democrats continue conjuring up conspiracy theories.

And neither side has to own up to its positions as long as the pundits keep comparing John Edward’s hair and smile to Dick Cheney’s gruffness and use of profanity.

It’s no wonder most American’s tune out.

The level of debate this year has not only sunk to the usual negative low, but it has gone beyond mudslinging and down to the safe realm of nothingness.

Politics is, and always has been, a game. It’s fine if the two want to call each other names and throw some mud — that’s all part of the contest.

But we deserve more from the men running for the highest office in the land. We deserve to have candidates who don’t hide behind moronic accusations about the past.

We deserve to hear about Bush and Kerry’s designs for the future. Instead, they’re playing it safe by giving us a strong dose of … nothing.

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