Some stray thoughts
Published October 21, 2003

Today Iíd like to ruminate on a few different things that have been bouncing around in my head for a while, looking for a way out. Here it is. Your regular column will return the next time around, but I hope you find this at least a little entertaining.

California has gone down the path to political madness. Itís not so much that Arnold will make a terrible governor; Ronald Reagan managed, and itís quite likely that Schwarzenegger has a firmer grip on reality that the Gipper. Iím more concerned with the precedent. As I said in my column a few months ago, we may be entering an age of political instability marked by a staggering polarization of the electorate and strategic efforts on both sides of the fence not to reach a reasonable compromise but to dominate the system. That may sound good if youíre on the winning side, but itís a terrible prospect for the future of our county.

Iraq is going to continue to be a problem for us, but the people who are arguing against funding the reconstruction efforts there are deeply mistaken if they think thatís a good idea. Itís the worst idea. We need a Marshall Plan program for Iraq, one that also doesnít leave the country in deep debt when the job is done, or the whole thing will just blow up in our faces. The problem with the Bush plan is that it is inefficient and prone to accusations of profiteering; bidding and contract allocation should be done as they were for the Marshall Plan: by an independent organization that has total control over the money, not by the President and his cronies.

Thinking of Iraq, it would be nice if the Bush Administration stopped trying to alienate the entire world. Theyíve done a pretty good job so far, and they show only limited signs of reforming. Letís be serious about this: the rest of the world cannot match our military might, at least not without ganging up on us, which is highly unlikely, but they can still hurt us in many interesting and unfortunate ways. I see no reason why strong American foreign policy cannot coexist with a reasonable effort to maintain friendly diplomatic ties with other countries. Iím not asking for all of them to like us, but itíd be nice if some of our allies did.

That, of course, leads us right into French-bashing. Without arguing the merits of debts from previous wars, letís just say weíve helped them and theyíve helped us. Weíre probably about even. So, to insist that our allies always toe the line and never disagree with us is not very realistic. Weíre all out to get our own way, not just the US. We should no more punish French restaurants (most of them owned by American citizens) and French wine producers than we should Iraqi citizens for living in the same country as Saddam Hussein. You are proving two points when you run a bulldozer over cases of fine French wine: one is that you donít much like wine, and two is that you have the maturity of a two-year-old throwing a tantrum when you donít get your own way. Grow up.

While Iím haranguing people about what they should and shouldnít do, letís talk about SUVs and gas-guzzling cars. Itís time for everyone to stop pretending that they need SUVs and admit that they just want a big, big truck so they can lord it over the rest of the road. I admit that some people need pickup trucks, and some even need SUVs, but weíre talking something like 50% of new vehicles sold; thatís silly. Itís also wasteful. We spend a lot of foreign policy effort on keeping gas prices at ridiculously low prices to slake our national fuel thirst. The auto manufacturers could produce cars with double the average fuel economy of the current fleet. All we have to do is tell them to do it and suck it up; with a few exceptions, we could all trim a few horsepower from our belts.

Being realistic is quite refreshing, isnít it? Hereís another one for you: David Coy wrote not long ago about abortion and a womanís right to choose. I agree with him, but I think weíd all be happier with fewer abortions. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration is doing its best to increase the number of abortions in the country by its irresponsible approach to contraception.Itís time for a wake-up call: kids are having sex all the time. Teaching them how to properly use a condom isnít going to make them more likely to do it; it will, however, make them a lot more likely to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Teaching abstinance only is not a sound policy; it breaks down quickly when faced with raging hormones. We should give our kids another choice, or the choice will eventually be abortion or some other heartbreak.