Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Kerry concedes, Bush triumphs

This may have been one of the most exciting and dividing polls in the history. Let's state some basic facts:
  • Nima Arkani-Hamed and other people around don't look desperate, in fact they laugh, which is a very nice picture to see. Yesterday they truly believed that Kerry's victory had been programmed...
  • Kerry may have surrendered too early - I thought that there was still a mathematical possibility that most of the ballots in Ohio voted for Kerry, and they would be enough for him to win the state. But something may have changed recently. Perhaps, they realized that the missing ballots couldn't be overwhelming pro-Kerry...
  • Nevertheless, Kerry has proved that he (with Edwards) was a very realistic alternative that had a significant chance to win. He also seems to be a realistic politician, and unlike Al Gore, he avoided the painful process of questioning everything and everyone. In my opinion, Kerry deserves respect for that, especially because the Democratic Party hired thousands of lawyers and paralegals whose task was to question every vote they could...
  • Nevertheless, what Kerry has shown was not enough. Bush has convinced most of the voters that he is the right man for the White House. He is the guy whose acts agree with his beliefs. He is the guy who looks better and whose way of thinking is more transparent and comprehensible for the people. He is the man you can rely upon. He is the right man to continue the War on Terror (plus other related mess) that he was forced to start on 9/11. He knows in which way the taxes should move for the people to feel richer and more free. We know better what to expect from him...
  • I also understand that Kerry did not come to greet his fans in Boston during the rainy night. He probably realized at that point that his chances were not too high. On the other hand, the fans who waited in the rain were most likely left-wing fundamentalists who would have little understanding for Kerry's growing decision to surrender...
  • Bush has clearly won the popular vote, roughly by 3 million votes, if I remember well. Because a large part of the left wing has criticized Bush for not having won the popular vote in 2000, those arguments made them much weaker in 2004 because now they would need to argue that the popular vote does not matter at all, even if the difference is 3 millions. Bush's victory in Florida was much more decisive than in 2000...
  • Those 11 states that were deciding about the consistency of the term "gay marriage" showed that this topic is not too controversial in these states, and all of these states decided that the marriage is a union between one man and one woman, and to avoid misunderstandings, the definition should become a constitutional law. Of course, this success of the traditionalists does not mean that it could be repeated in all other states of the USA...
  • The turnout was amazingly high - which is connected with the fact that the US society is very polarized. George Bush has not been successful yet to become a "uniter", as opposed to "divider" as he promised in 2000 - but of course, it is mostly because of the difficult tests that made his job much harder...
  • In my opinion, the American people feel that the politicians really represent them, and they are positively excited about their candidates, and they understand that the politicians fight for specific issues: this connection is much weaker in Europe, I think, much like the turnout (for example, the disastrously low turnout in the polls for the European Parliament)...
  • All formal and technical procedures went smoothly, it seems. The USA were slower in reporting the final results than Botswana, a country in the southern part of Africa, and this fact is related to the lack of unified technical rules how the votes should be collected and counted. In the European Union, I am pretty sure that they would try to introduce unified hardware and software for all countries, and so forth. In the USA it's not the case. It is not such a big problem - nevertheless, the superslow results from Ohio should mean that the Ohio system of collecting and counting votes will be banned, and replaced by a system from another state (or county). I encourage the people in Ohio to realize that their current system is pathetic...
  • The GOP strengthened in the Congress and the Senate, and probably also with the number of its governors. Tom Daschle (D) was the first speaker of the house in the last several decades who was not re-elected. A Republican from South Dakota will replace him...
  • George Bush is a winner, but the Left has its winners too - for example, Hillary Clinton is one of them. I am sure she can't wait until 2008 anymore...
  • My guess is that Osama bin Laden is among the losers because his recent video looked like an attempt to prevent Bush from being re-elected. This strategy may have worked in Europe, but it is not enough for America. Although Osama is just one of the most obnoxious killers in this world, he would love to take credit for the destruction of the Soviet Union and other events in the history. He's definitely less important than he tries to show...
At any rate, it seems that George Bush is going to stay in the White House, and now his presidency seems to be more legitimate and justified than four years ago. He may be a slightly different president in the second term - the changes may go in both ways. I wish him (and all of us) less tough tests - such as 9/11 - in the second term; the right decisions to avoid serious problems (casualties; potential problems in the economy; anger of other people). I wish him to have the opportunity to become a uniter after all.

If you compare 2000 and 2004, many things are different. In 2000, when Bush was elected for the first time, the US economy was just ending a period of impressive growth, budget surpluses, and so forth, but the bubble had already collapsed, and people knew that they would be entering a less shining period. However, almost no one realized how easy it was for an Arab jerk to destroy the skyscrapers in Manhattan, with thousands of lives in them. Also, no one realized that there is a lot of dirt and fraud waiting in companies such as Enron.

Today, we know a little bit more. We know that the terrorist attacks may take place in the Western countries. We were reminded that large companies may become messy, and they may go bankrupt. There are many new policies to prevent the terrorist attacks and corporate fraud - and there are new chances that these policies might be effective. On the other hand, all the people in the world may be luckier this time. The frequency of terrorist attacks could decrease, and the world may be entering a happier and more peaceful era. Moreover, the first derivative and the second derivative of the economy looks better than in 2000.

All these things seem promising. Will Bush be able to avoid disasters in his second term? Will Iraq become stabilized after the elections in January 2005? Will most of us agree, in a couple of years, that the war in Iraq was a good idea in the long term? Stay tuned...

12 comments:

  1. Your post is inaccurate in an important respect, the question of 'gay marriage' is not simply a matter of verbal definition. Marriage is a legal contract involving the state and grants important legal rights such as hospital visiting rights, automatic inheritance rights... and may even have some financial benefits. Therefore people in some states have voted to ensure that gays have less rights under the law than other people.

    This sex discrimination is of course unconstitutional, but it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will uphold equal rights under the law: and even less likely if Bush gets to appoint more Supreme Court justices.

    I do like your phrasing: Bush's tax cuts are designed to make people *feel* richer. But many, many people are not richer at all. For example, their federal tax has only decreased a tiny amount, but their state taxes are significantly bigger because the federal money to the states has been cut in order to finance tax cuts which have mostly gone to those earning over 100,000. Median household income is simply not increasing. And many people have lost jobs.

    I would like to know what will happen to the deficit and to federal government spending, since they both have been growing at an enormous rate, and not simply because of the cost of Iraq. This is not a sustainable situation and not consistent with continued tax cuts.

    I would also like to know what will happen with abortion. I believe a lot of Bush voters want big changes on this. And if Bush has the opportunity to choose 3 SCOTUS justices?

    And I want bin Laden, al-Zarqawi, al-Zawahiri, etc. to be caught, which Bush has not been able to achieve, along with stability and security in Iraq.

    And I don't want nuclear weapons in the wrong hands in Pakistan, North Korea, or Iran, and I don't know how Bush can achieve that.

    So, we know that we can expect Bush to say many hundreds of times that he is resolute, relentless, etc. etc., but not whether we can expect him to ban abortion, create permanent deficits, go to war with Iran, institute a draft, etc.

    TD

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  2. Hi TD. That's right! "Gay marriage" is not just a matter of terminology.

    But the people in these 11 states would surely disagree with your statement that declaring "gay marriage" to be an oxymoron reduces someone's rights.

    Everyone has the right to get married, and everyone who is married has the same rights with respect to the hospitals, taxation, and so forth. No doubt, many gays have decided to get married. By "married", I mean the conventional meaning - i.e. to join a union with a person of opposite sex.

    If someone likes her cat more than anyone else, but she is not able to guarantee that the cat will inherit a company and the chair of the CEO - because other people won't accept the union with the cat as a marriage - it does not mean that her rights are reduced.

    No one - neither gays, nor straight people - can marry a cat or a person of the same sex in these states, and there is no discrimination simply because marriage is a union between one man and one woman, and everyone has the right to become married.

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  3. Well, to quote Bill Maher -- "Regarding that civil war thing - you red states, you're *welcome* to create your own union."

    I respect the opinions of others - I find you to be a completely educated, intelligent person, with a very different opinion about the elections as I. I do not believe Bush is a leader, I do not believe Bush or his (and his party's) policies are good medicine. I do believe Bush excels at leading the simple-minded. I do believe Bush went to war in Iraq for very different reasons that what he originally stated.

    I am saddened - deeply saddened - that the younger voters did not turn-out as expected. Of those registered in the U.S. between 18 - 26, only 13% actually cast their ballots. Of those registered in the US between 18-26, 84% were democrats, or wanted to vote Democratic. Had we (the U.S.) done a better job of getting the young vote (a.k.a. slackers) out to the polls, I feel he would NOT have been re-elected.

    I'm also coming from the standpoint that Kerry was not a good choice either - rather, he was just "not Bush." A terrible platform indeed - but in my eyes, a necessary one.

    Regarding the issue of "gay marriage," the ability for 2 men or 2 women being able to be legally and contractually married isn't really the fundamental core issue here; rather, the issue is discrimination. For states to write into their lawbooks the definition of marriage as being a union between a man and a woman is discriminating against good-willed Americans who cannot (because of their sexual orientation, such as myself (a gay man with a life partner)) get married under those terms. People call this a false analogy but it really isn't - the majority of Americans not-too-long ago felt that interracial marriages were an abomination, and several states wrote such laws in their books. Eventually, however, the minority proved that the laws were discriminatory in nature and they were eventually overturned. Banning gay marriage will also be overturned eventually - but not yet, it seems.

    We have to live with Bush for 4 more years - it is unfortunate. However, I can feel fortunate enough that the Republican party, thank god, does not have more than 60% of the house and/or senate and cannot get away with huge cuts in essential services, mass discrimination, appointments of conservative judges, or their other goal - writing discrimination into the constitution based on the fears of a large majority of uneducated middle-Americans.

    Thank you for the opportunity to reply in your blog, as you have done in mine :)

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  4. Hello Michael!

    Thank you for your highly cultivated reply on my blog. Of course that I don't intend to criticize you for your opinions because there are just too many - millions - of people who think much like you and I can't quite stop you :-) and don't want to do it, in fact.

    The people in the Red States (by the way, in Europe, we would definitely exchange the colors - the left is RED like the commies and the right is BLUE!) may be simple-minded in some sense, but I am sure that you strongly underestimate their common sense which is often a better guide than some seemingly complex and intellectual positions.

    Some things in the world are just not TOO complex, and some people - especially on the left side - love to fool themselves into thinking that some simple things are actually difficult.

    My guess is that Bush went to the war because he believed that Iraq was really dangerous. I might agree that now it seems that it was not quite a correct belief. Other people may have had different reasons to promote the war in Iraq, but Bush is an honest believer, I think.

    I don't believe that only 13% of the voters below 26 voted. You must have misinterpreted a number, or can you give us a link? Also, I don't believe that you might have found a canonical way to save the elections for the Dems. It is reasonable to expect that all people who hate Bush went to vote. Others are just not like you, and it is absolutely clear that Bush has received a lot of votes from these new people that have been decided to vote.

    His support between women, Hispanics, blacks, Jewish, and so forth increased, too.

    There's nothing wrong about not being married. No doubt, there are a plenty of straight people who are not married, too.

    As discussed on Jacques' blog, pedophiles and other people with unusual sexual orientations will have similar problems anyway, and there will never be a way how to avoid it. It's simply unacceptable for the society to admit sex with children, and in the same way, it seems unacceptable for two thirds of Americans to give the official government's support to homosexual contacts, and to teach children that this is an example of marriage. I fully understand them.

    Of course, I can also imagine that the gay marriage ban will eventually be overturned. Many things like that may happen. It's also possible that sex with children or animals will become legal one day, and the future people will look back at us as a generation that did not respect some human rights, much like we look back to the era of slavery. ;-) All these issues are matters of social consensus, and the social consensus today is that the homosexual contacts are NOT on equal footing with the heterosexual contacts.

    Well, my guess is that Bush will try to spend the political capital he has gained. My private opinion is that he should try to push his big conservative plans on the economy, social security and so on, and allow Democrats to create bipartisan politics in the international relations.

    All the best
    Lubos

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  5. By the way, only now I was realized where you belong. ;-) As you may know very well, I have no problem with you and Jim, but it's really not an attractive idea that you will get some tax breaks that the single people don't have! It would also be a complicated issue whether it is reasonable for you to adopt children, for example.

    Such children must have a very difficult life, would you agree? It has been enough problems just because my parents were divorced. The idea of having two male parents looks much tougher.

    The modern world is very tolerant, but it is just a big error for a gay to fight against some big traditions or even some moral aspects of religion that are shared even by many atheists. This is a war that can't be won in near future. On the other hand, there are many realistic goals that the gays *can* be achieved.

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  6. Let me first correct an analogy you made above - gay marriage = children/animal marriage. There is a single HUGE difference you should take note of between the two types of sexual acts: one of them is always consensual between 2 (or more) loving adults, and the other tends to take advantage of or rapes the other. Animals cannot speak and cannot say "no" or "yes." Children require life experience before they really know how to perceive and/or interpret their sexual feelings. The analogy - while well intended - is a bit on the demoralizing side.

    A better analogy would be thus: where do we stop? First gay marriage, then marriage between 3 people? 4 people? How far would it go?

    I would like to point out that a marriage in the U.S. is nothing more than a community property contract. In the U.S. Contract Law, a contract may only be drawn up between 2 (and no more than 2) parties. Period.

    Not to say 3 (or more) people shouldn't be able to own community property (a.k.a. marriage) some day. But that's just contract law at this point in time.

    Another misperception about marriage in the US is the "tax breaks." In the past, men (generally) would go to work and women (generally) would stay at home. In this scenario, you have 2 people living from 1 income and therefore that "family unit" would have lower taxes as a result of more deductions from that single income. However, nowadays most households have 2 working members, bring in 2 incomes and therefore more money. That couple, generally, now pays *more* taxes. Straight, or gay. Gays would only benefit from a marriage "tax break" if one of them stayed home. But that is rarely celebrated these days.

    The reason why the LGBT community wants equal rights access to marriage contracts is one of compassion. As you know, HIV infection is rampant among the gay community (and also the straight community, but without as much virulence). If two men, for example, were married under community law, and one of them were to die, the other would inherit the community property. He would also be able to direct the death benefits, the burial ritual, carry out final wishes, etc.

    However, right now, the partner (unless under civil union by only *two* states, CA and MA) has ZERO rights. How fair is that?

    Children? Well, that one I would have to agree with. Jim and I have talked about the possibility, but really, children require male and female influences. We've discussed bringing in my best friend as a mother and having a 3rd person within the household (though not part of any kind of relationship). However, this kind of arrangement would, in fact, be strange to a child growing up in a world of 1 mom and 1 dad. (although, in San Francisco [my home], what I described is quite common). I'm also not ready to think about children. :) But, there are couple's who are ready - and the government should NOT dictate the best way to raise a child - as long as that child is not being abused sexually or physically.

    The figures about the election came from our political news correspondent from my work, and I can give you a better reference to those figures on Monday. However, I've also seen them posted throughout the news outlets.

    Do you live in the states, or in Europe?

    Take care.

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  7. On closer inspection of your profile on blogger :) - I see that you're in Cambridge, MA... theoretical physics. Wow.

    I thought string theor(ies) were being replaced by M-theory. (?) I'm a novice at the subject matter, but somewhat well-read. I'm also a buddhist and spend quite a bit of my meditation within these areas of thought. It's amazing that physics at this level is almost beginning to look, from a lay's perception, a lot like metaphysics.

    Anyhow - I will definitely be reading your blog regularly - hope you don't mind. And may comment on posts that lose me :).

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  8. Hey Michael,

    thanks for your new comments. Still more reasonable than to talk with many radical left-wing straight people! ;-)

    You brought a new twist to the discussion - zoophilia. Wow. ;-) I wonder whether you really believe what you say. Do you really think that the main reason why having sex with dogs is usually viewed as not-quite-great is that the dogs may dislike it and they cannot say "yes/no"?

    It's hard to believe that you're serious. ;-) Most dogs probably like it. But if you wish, we can "improve" your example even more. Consider sex with *dead* dogs whose owner agreed with the sex. This is not painful for the dogs at all. Is it then fine? Well, decide in any way you want.

    I don't see the difference between love-to-children and love-to-the-same-sex you discuss so sharply. Michael Jackson probably loves children ;-) - perhaps too much. In some sense, I would also feel some compassion, especially if he did not have the millions of dollars. And in some sense, imagining what Michael Jackson may have been doing looks "more tender" than if I were forced to imagine you and Jim, sorry. ;-) And maybe the children agreed, and it would have no adverse effect on their lives. We don't know for sure, but there are some preventive rules - you can call it prejudices - that lead us to believe that it's not right.

    It's just hard to see why Jackson should be jailed until the end of the time, while you should enjoy reduction of tax returns to one half, and so forth.

    As far as the contract between two of you goes, I have no serious problem with that. What I have a slight problem with is the way how you want this contract to be presented to the society - e.g. children at school.

    "Tax breaks" is my shortcut to denote various administrative advantages - filling one tax return is certainly one of them. I don't understand community law, but by seeing that you must discuss "community law", your problems won't be that serious.

    As you say correctly, we in MA have civil unions.

    Good that you partly agree with my children comment, and I am not ready to analyze your new proposed format of a 21st century quasifamily. ;-) Let's say that it is interesting...

    It's not just about physically abused children. Giving a child somewhere is a nontrivial decision.

    I am in Cambridge, Massachusetts - at Harvard.

    ...

    Yes, M-theory is our new unifying framework that generalizes and unifies all versions of string theory - that's M-theory in the broad sense. M-theory in the narrow sense is an 11-dimensional theory (one dimension above usual superstring theories) that has the 11D supergravity as its low energy limit.

    Yes, Maharishi Mahesh-Yogi (due to John Hagelin) studies unified field theory, too - although probably less seriously ;-) - and buddhism is not far.

    You're of course welcome to visit my blog.

    Best wishes
    Luboš

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  9. Haha, okay. Obviously, the fact that a dog cannot say yes or no is NOT the only reason it is wrong :). I'm just bringing it up as a really big point that its really not fair - or accurate - to compare gay marriage to zoophilia or pedophilia. Other than the really gross aspects of the two latter, they are also in a sense *rape*. I don't rape Jim. I love him. Tremendously. And I would never want to see him hurt; i would never want to see him suffer; I live my life for the both of us, as does he. This is the essence of the love and compassion that two people in our crazy world can have for one another. My point? Just because we're both men, why are we denied the right to community property so that if/when one of us were to die (hopefully when we get VERY old :) ), the other would be secure?

    And like I said - the tax breaks are irrelevant. We both work so we would actually be penalized in the current tax system.

    "It's just hard to see why Jackson should be jailed until the end of the time, while you should enjoy reduction of tax returns to one half, and so forth."

    Well, because Jackson is allegedly molesting children. Surely you see that offense as being magnitudes more serious than two adult men who love each other? :)

    Speaking of tax breaks - the Republican party is contemplating a new system that my party - Democrats - abhore. I, on the other hand, feel it to be much more fair and progressive than a straight income tax - FairTax (www.fairtax.org). I think it's one of the few Republican issues I agree with. What do you think?

    You'll probably find me to be more centrist than anything - I am fiscally conservative, and socially liberal. Where's MY political party?

    Take care --

    -Michael

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  10. Hey Michael,

    very good. Well, let me describe the difference between being gay and being something else in this way:

    Gays are much more lucky because it is conceivable that the society can afford to tollerate virtually everything they do and want to do, while it seems much harder to imagine for the other "deviations" (or just "deviations", if we don't count being gay).

    Jackson and gays. No, definitely not magnitudes of difference. What I think happened was that the child(ren) - including their families - were quite happy with Michael, whatever he was doing. Some of them may have been happy because they were getting money for it (well, the parents). Eventually, they decided to sue him because this was a chance to get much more money. I am highly suspicious about these people.

    But I am mostly saying it to emphasize that the pedophiles have much harder life because you don't seem to allow them anything, am I wrong? And is this thing fair? There does not seem to be any "scientific" (well, and no religious) difference between these different orientations, is there?

    Wow! You like fairtax.org - that's kewl. I've studied it a month ago. Of course that as an anti-bureaucratic libertarian/conservative, I like flat tax or replacing IRS by a federal sales tax, even if it became slightly regressive - one can always try to compensate it by something else. Those 60,000 pages of tax code (and Bush himself added 20,000, despite being a conservative) just scream: we must be reformed! On the other hand, I know that virtually all left-wing people around hate fair tax and flat tax and every tax that is not hugely progressive.

    Where's your party? I don't want to sound weird, but because of the tax comment, your party is GOP. It's a task for people like you to reshape the opinions of GOP in whatever way you want. You know, politics is not "mostly" about being gay or not. It's just one of tens of topics - and I think that even for gays it must be just one of very many topics if they are supposed to live full life like others, as opposed to permanent self-defense. If you were otherwise a conservative - assuming that you would have another orientation that fits the traditions more smoothly ;-) - then I believe that in the modern world, you should be a conservative regardless of the orientation.

    Do you realize that it cannot really happen today that a fellow conservative ;-) of yours would *demand* that you break with Jim?

    You know, this is also about the referenda etc. Being a republican, for you, also means that you can show that homosexuality does not prevent one from having some opinions - and be sure that the republicans are not Nazis! They're very tolerant, in reality. Just count the difference that these - often radical and obnoxious - Democrats are able to do for you, and compare it with the situation in which you are a more or less a problem-free GOP member and there are things like fair tax. ;-)

    As you know, I believe that the GOP people have more political common sense than the radical Left, and the indications that gays are unable to be efficiently right-wing suggests that there is still something wrong with the society, or with themselves.

    We've had a friend gay here at Harvard - now in Europe - whose political orientation is certainly very different from yours.

    Best
    Lubos

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  11. Botswana in NOT a country in South Africa. South Africa is in fact a country of its own. And Botswana is a country bordering South Africa.

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  12. The text now says 'Botswana, a country in the southern part of Africa', is it OK with you?

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