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Category: Family and Friendship

“Republican or Conservative, You Have to Choose”

Since I gave Greg Weiner a shout-out for his New York Times piece about what it means to be an American liberal — and since the topic is dear to my heart — I’ll give David Brooks’ take on what it means to be an American conservative equal treatment. It’s worth reading.

For my part, anyone paying attention will know that I made my choice — conservative over Republican — many years and many presidents ago…

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Estate taxes and other tax oddities

I actually think the Estate Tax has a beneficial consequence in preventing the establishment of multi-generational economic dynasties. Apart from the potential detrimental effects of such dynasties on society and the economy, they do spiritual damage to those who inherit them: handing someone “success” without any need for effort or sacrifice is almost always a recipe for intellectual, psychological, and moral dissipation.

My objections to the estate tax — and to other tax policies — are based more on basic ideas of economic fairness and on the cultural ideals of “family”.

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Parental Rights?

In January of 2005, Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe wrote a heartbreaking column about the outcome of a legal case in Florida that elevated the “parental rights” of a birth-couple, who changed their minds years after having given their child up for adoption, over both the “parental rights” of the adoptive parents, who had raised the child from birth, and the emotional interest of the child himself, who was to be taken from the only home he’d ever known and sent away to live with strangers.

It outraged Mr. Jacoby, and it outraged me, that as a society we still allow such miscarriages of justice to happen in the name of some abstract concept of “rights” for parents. Make no mistake: I understand the importance of such abstractions and the dangers inherent in dismissing them in the name of some particular desirable outcome. But where is our compassion and our common sense?

Why do we not have, in the realm of family law, a principle in place that is the practical equivalent of the legal philosophical principle of stare decisis — an automatic deference to prior decisions, a presumption that overturning previous arrangements for children’s lives requires a much more compelling justification than mere adherence to the current letter of the law? Why, when considering the “welfare of the child”, is history rather than current circumstance not the dominant and determining factor?

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Best Interest of the Child

The case of Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old Cuban boy whose mother drowned trying to get herself and her son to America, illustrated both the sanctimoniousness of the American Left in dismissing concerns about political and economic freedom under socialist governments, and the ineptitude of the American Right in articulating them.

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Mark Wu

On August 24th, 1997 one of my oldest and dearest friends was killed in a motorcycle accident in the hills overlooking the Santa Clara Valley south of San Francisco.

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Domestic Partners Benefits

In the beginning of 1997 the government of San Francisco initiated a new policy: henceforth, all organizations which have any contractual relationship with the city must offer the same benefits to ‘domestic partners’ as they do to spouses. For the uninitiated, a ‘domestic partner’ is someone with whom you have a long-term, committed, live-in (but not legally-binding) relationship; in San Francisco this typically (but not necessarily) means a gay relationship for which a formal marriage is simply not available.

The policy is a noble attempt to reward loving, committed, stable relationships, whether or not they fit the traditional mold. It is also an act of hubris, perhaps even rising to the level of cultural imperialism: the law seeks to extend this policy beyond San Francisco to wherever any city contractor operates, from San Mateo, CA, to Atlanta, GA, to every major airport in the world (United Airlines, which has a major hub in San Francisco, is thereby considered to have a city contract, and was notified it must comply across the board), and even to the Vatican (the catholic church, which ducked the issue by offering benefits to “any member of an employee’s household”, operates much of the city’s social safety net). Imagine the citizens of Little Rock or Des Moines trying to enforce a ban on benefits for domestic partners in San Francisco…

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