It’s not about marriage

Gay marriage is the big cultural issue of 2004 — and everyone’s got it wrong.

Since Valentine’s Day (a holiday wasted on the foolish), more than 4,000 gay couples have devoted their lives to each other in holy matrimony in San Francisco, New Mexico, New York and now Oregon.

The debate is not about the sanctity of marriage. Despite what the religious right tells us, allowing gays to get married is not going to destroy the institution of marriage. And, despite what the gay lobby tells us, their battle is about more than gaining legal recognition from the state — and it has very little to do with civil rights.

First, the argument that sending gay couples down the aisle will ruin the “institution of marriage” in this country is laughable. Gay people cannot do more to harm marriage than straight people already have. Depending on the data source, somewhere between 47 and 50 percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. That’s half of all couples who have committed themselves to each other for life calling it quits.

Before Pat Robertson & Co. start preaching about the ways homosexuals will tear down the sanctity of marriage, they need to start cleaning the straight house. It’s ironic really, for the self-proclaimed leaders of the segment of society that has ripped marriage to shreds and thrown it down the garbage disposal to suggest anything else could ruin the institution of marriage.

The debate is not about our rights. It’s a little unclear where everyone has the right to marry in the Constitution (then again, the right to privacy isn’t there either). There are many things in this country that are legally recognized that we don’t have “rights” to — rather, we must meet the qualifications. You can’t drive unless you’re of a certain age and you can actually see the road. You can’t vote until you’re 18. You can’t apply for student loans unless you are actually a student. And, you also can’t marry unless you wed someone of the opposite sex.

Though the gay lobby likens its cause to the Civil Rights Movement, barring same-sex couples from the altar isn’t a civil-rights issue. Gays are defined by their lifestyle, not by their race or their genetics. In fact, when the U.S. Supreme Court voided the ban on interracial marriage in 1972, it specifically upheld the ban on same-sex marriage.

The debate is not about the definition of marriage. The judges who upheld the same-sex ban did so not because they were bigotted, or even because they hated gays — they upheld the ban because marriage, by definition, is between a man and a woman. People may argue that our definition of marriage is rooted in Judeo-Christian beliefs, and should be thrown off.

But our definition of marriage is really rooted in nature. It is based on the ability of men and women to procreate — to have children. Not to brag, but that’s something gay people are not naturally able to do.

Of course, the next line from the gay crowd is that marriage is NOT about children, but it is about a personal committment. If that’s the case, then what are we doing with laws that ban brothers and sisters from marrying, or mothers and sons? They haven’t been allowed to receive marriage licenses because their children would have birth defects. But, since marriage is not about creating children or raising a family — who cares?

Or what about polygomy laws? If it’s discriminatory to bar gays from marrying, isn’t it also discriminitory to prevent men from taking second or third wives.

The gay marriage debate is about recognition.

Those in the homosexual community want the government to not only give them the priviledges that go along with marriage, but to recognize their lifestyle as normal. That’s evidenced by their outright rejection of civil unions, and their stampede to break current law — their demand to be married.

The religious right, on the other hand, wants the government to continue to recognize heterosexuality as the preferred lifestyle for raising children and families and to reject homosexuality as acceptable.

So it’s a battle of wills over who gets to be called “normal.” If the government is in the business of giving lifestyles such labels, we should let nature decide.

But really, at its core, marriage should be handled by churches, and the government should stop recognizing any kind of union. That would eliminate the need for this gay-straight pissing match, and would take the wind out of the election-year sails — but we’ll be landing men on Mars long before it ever happens.

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Ode to the white guy

You know your race or special interest group has earned its place in history when schools close, special events are held and holidays are named in its honor.

There’s Black History Month, Asian-Pacific Islander Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Gay Pride Month, Women’s History Month and a myriad of others — but somewhere the calendar makers left out the white guys.

Sure, you may say, “Well, white guys don’t need a month,” but that’s not entirely true. The white male’s holiday status is quickly slipping away. Not to take away from the other races or suggest that they don’t deserve to be recognized, but pretty soon there won’t be any open days left to honor our accomplishments.

We have a few days — but no one recognizes them anymore. When was the last time you took the day off for Columbus Day? What about Washington or Lincoln’s birthday?

In fact, the trend now is to attack the white male. If you listen to some people, you would think white men have done nothing but bring about destruction and despair. We’re “responsible” for bringing disease to the American continent, perpetuating slavery, denying rights to women, raping the land of its resources, starting history’s most horrendous wars — it’s amazing white guys don’t have a complex.

The truth is, white men have done some pretty amazing things, and in the interest of equal time, we shouldn’t keep them as skeletons in our closet.

The first person in space and the first to touch foot on the moon were both white guys. A white guy invented the telephone, automobile, airplane and the printing press.

Electricity, gravity, and penicillin were all discovered by a white guy. The first to climb Mt. Everest, reach the poles, circle the globe, break the sound barrier and gaze through a telescope — white guys.

Wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Emancipation Proclamation — white guys. Launched the Protestant Reformation and the scientific revolution — white guys.

Developed the Theory of Relativity, the small pox vaccine and modern medicine — white guys.

The list could go on and on. We can’t spend all our time focusing on the failings of white men, and really, it’s time we stopped the constant bashing and honor the white man’s contributions to this world. Are there any months free for White Guy Month?

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Answers after the firestorm

It’s unfortunate that it takes a major disaster to awaken our elected officials. It happened after Sept. 11, when our leaders finally realized the United States should “do something” about terrorism — and it’s happening now in the aftermath of the firestorm that swept our county in late October.

At least two investigations have been launched to explore why the fires, which destroyed more than 2,300 homes and ate up nearly 400,000 acres, weren’t put out sooner. A state “blue ribbon” commission has been formed, the county board of supervisors is investigating and many leaders are calling on the grand jury to use its subpoena power to get to the bottom of the “why did it get out of hand” question.

You don’t have to spend taxpayer dollars and countless hours investigating to find an answer. Just ask a firefighter — he’ll tell you.

San Diego County, for too long, has been the bastard child of the state when it comes to fire protection. Every other Southern California county, with the exception of the sparsely populated Imperial County to the east, has a fleet of firefighting helicopters. San Diego only has one such copter during the “fire season,” which the state declared over days before the largest wildfire in California history broke out in Ramona.

Once it started, the Sheriff’s Department, California Department of Forestry and the military got caught in a jurisdictional battle that possibly delayed stamping out the first blaze.

It’s easy, afterward, to point fingers and lay blame at someone else’s doorstep. You can hear our elected officials each day, promising to fix the problem.

The problem lies with them.

Lack of adequate fire protection is nothing new. Look at press releases and news reports of previous fires and you’ll find the same response — our county needs better fire-fighting air power, and it needs to upgrade its equipment in rural areas.

Yet, nothing was done about it.

More than 20 people had to lose their lives and hundreds more their homes for our elected officials to wake up.

We don’t need more investigations. We need our leaders to accept the fact that they are the ones responsible for mishandling fire protection long before the October fires. We need them to stop pointing fingers, and finally spend the money to protect us from flames.

Otherwise, when the next disaster comes, they will be the ones to blame.

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The recall and higher education

For college students who don’t usually pay attention to politics — now’s a good time to start.

In fact, you’re a few months behind. You’ve already felt the effects of California’s inept politicians. For community college students, your fees rose from $11 per unit to $18 this semester. At Cal State and UC schools, your fees jumped 40 percent higher.

School budgets also were slashed — by $842 million total from the state’s colleges and universities.

Fortunately, one of the major issues in the election to recall Gov. Gray Davis is what to do about higher education. And, with so many candidates on the ballot, the one chosen to replace Davis will likely win with less than half the vote — giving those college students who vote a bigger piece of the pie.

It’s hard to imagine a California student attending a state school in 2003 still supports Davis, but surely you’re out there. Let’s recap what the governor has done for college students.

His lack of foresight and planning of any kind — even during robust economic times — have left the state’s colleges and universities begging for money.

Under Davis’ watch, and with his signature on the budgets, fees increased, services dwindled, budgets were hacked away and now enrollment is being capped.

Davis, even now, claims to be the “education governor,” repeating his mantra that his top three priorities are “education, education and education.”

Students shouldn’t buy it. If Davis miraculously survives the recall, expect more fee increases and even slimmer college budgets.

What college students need is someone to replace our incompetent leader, and we need someone who won’t balance the state’s budget problems on our backs.

Many education types are looking to Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the only prominent Democrat to jump the Davis ship. Cruz says he would reverse the fee increases and compensate for them with bonds and tax increases on cigarettes and tobacco.

Bustamante, a product of the state’s community college system, this year finished his bachelor’s degree at Fresno State. That’s all fine, but the problem with Cruz is his attachment to the status quo.

He may stand for reducing fees, but he doesn’t offer a solution to the millions of dollars in cuts to colleges in recent years.

Bustamante’s platform is nearly a carbon copy of the Davis agenda that got us here in the first place.

That’s not going to work for the state’s higher education system, which expects record enrollment growth in the next few years. If the state is running huge deficits, it’s not going to have enough money to pay for education. Any plan to stabilize funding for colleges and universities must include long-term financial solutions.

The entry of Arnold Schwarzenegger woke up some college students to state politics. Also a former community college student, Schwarzenegger hasn’t said he would role back the fee increases, but he does “regret” them. The actor hasn’t said much about higher education beyond saying the state needs a stable and predictable fee schedule so students can plan, instead of being hit with 40 to 60 percent fee increases in one semester.

The words “fee schedule” are frightening. Sounds more like a plan to raise fees incrementally — not reduce them.

The third candidate of the front runners may be the most promising — for the state and for colleges and universities.

Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock has been one of the lone voices in Sacramento decrying the state’s lack of planning. He is also the only major candidate to put forward a realistic plan to address our higher education needs.

Against the fee increases, McClintock says bureaucracy overburdens our colleges — a fact any student who has ever tried to transfer or order a transcript knows all too well. McClintock says he would cut fat from college administrations to lower fees.

He also has plans to save millions cutting state waste — money that could be used to lower college fees and restore the nearly $1 billion in cuts.

Students should get out and vote Oct. 7. We can have more influence on the political process than we’ve had since the 1960s. When you vote, punch the box to fire Davis and the other box to elect McClintock — he’s the only major candidate with a sound plan to save our schools.

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Send Davis packing

If you haven’t come to grips with it already, there’s going to be a referendum to recall Gov. Gray Davis. The signature gatherers say they’ll have 2 million signatures by the time the Secretary of State gets around to certifying the petitions — far beyond the 900,000 or so they need. Even Davis conceded he’s going to be the first governor to run three times for two terms. Except, during this third election, he should lose.

This isn’t just sour grapes. Davis and his buddies in the legislature have grossly mismanaged California’s finances. When he took office, California boasted a surplus of $15 billion a year — that’s larger than the budgets of some states. Now, California is running a deficit of $38 billion — larger than the budget of every state in the Union except New York.

The anti-recall crowd likes to blame the state’s budget fiasco on a “failing economy,” “the terror attacks of Sept. 11” and the burst of the dot-com bubble that created the surpluses to begin with. That sounds good on TV, but none of it’s true.

Here’s the facts:

During the last four years, California’s combined rate of inflation and population growth was 21 percent. During that same period, state revenues grew — that’s right, grew — by 28 percent. That’s seven points ahead of population and inflation. But we still find ourselves with a huge deficit because government spending increased 36 percent — a full eight points ahead of revenue growth and 15 points ahead of increases in population and inflation.

And the whole “failing economy” line is the most misleading of the bunch. The United States pulled out of the recession — which was the smallest since before World War II — more than a year ago and has shown consistent growth by at least 3 percent.

The problem in California is not a lack of revenue. It’s too much spending that generated this huge deficit. Instead of using the surpluses of the late ’90s to pay for one-time projects — such as building new freeways or schools like he promised — Davis increased annual spending on things like Medical at an enormous rate. The number of people working for the state ballooned by more than 30 percent since he took office.

Some might say that’s not enough reason to send Davis packing. Well, when he was running for re-election last fall, Davis hid the enormity of the state’s budget problem from voters. With the cooperation of the Democrat-led legislature, he pushed through a bogus budget, called it balanced and then sailed to victory.

Before Election Day, he said the budget deficit would be around $10 billion — an amount that could be recovered through small cuts and “creative accounting.” But before the confetti fell to the floor at his victory party, Davis called state lawmakers back to Sacramento to deal with what he then called “the budget crisis.”

Oh yeah, “crisis.” A term Davis loves to use to label situations he’s let get out of hand. Remember the “electricity crisis?” And how Davis sat on his hands until the last hour when he brokered a secret deal locking California into the highest electricity rates in the nation’s history? Same word, same story.

Now the state is running without a budget, losing $30 million each day, and our bond rating is in the tank. Davis calls his latest crisis the “biggest challenge California has ever faced.”

Actually, it’s not that challenging. Balancing a budget is like balancing your checkbook at home — the only difference is the number of zeros. When you overspend and find yourself in the hole, you cut expenses. If each state department took just a 9.5 percent cut for 18 months, the budget would balance itself. If we went back to 1998 spending levels, California would once again boast record surpluses.

But that’s not in Davis’s plans. Like a college student who’s spent beyond the limit on his first MasterCard, Davis is crying for mommy and daddy to pick up the tab.

His current budget proposal includes $8 billion in tax increases and a tripling of the car tax. He also wants to drastically increase fees at Cal State and UC schools by more than 30 percent and from $11 per unit at community colleges to $24. And the schools aren’t going to see one dime of that money — it’s all going into the general fund to pay for Davis’s spending binge. His cuts to K-12 education are even more drastic.

Recalling Davis won’t make the state’s financial problems magically disappear, but it will give Californians the chance to change course — and that’s the purpose of a recall.

Davis supporters say the governor hasn’t done anything illegal, and therefore, we should stick with him. They obviously haven’t read the state constitution. Any elected official can be recalled at the whims of the people, that’s what populism is all about.

Besides, recalling Davis will sound a warning for other elected officials in this state who don’t handle our finances well. In fact, we should probably be recalling more of them. Those who mismanage other people’s money — like the cronies at Enron — don’t usually get to keep their jobs.

If you’re not convinced, imagine for a moment you landed a job as the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company — we’ll call it West Coast Fruit Cakes, Inc. Upon arrival, you find the company in a strong financial position: posting record profits and increasing revenues annually. There’s enough money to grow the business by 30 percent, or so you think.

Four years later, you had squandered it all, running the company into the ground. Despite increasing revenues each year by nearly 25 percent, West Coast Fruit Cakes is about to start posting major losses, and your contract is up for renewal. You start cutting costs a bit and tell the stockholders the current year’s budget is balanced and downplay the grim picture of the future. You lie.

After your contract is renewed for another four years, the truth comes out. The budget wasn’t balanced, and West Coast Fruit Cakes is about to be hit with the largest loss in the company’s history.

Now, what do you suppose happens to you? Yeah, the shareholders meet and you get fired. So should Gray Davis.

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