As a rule, I don’t sound off on issues without first thinking them through carefully. I have my snap-judgments on issues, but I try to ponder the sides of any argument before sounding off on it. Yes, this means that many times the news and novelty of the issue have faded by the time I type up anything about it, but it also means that I’m rarely stung by jumping on an unsubstantiated urban legend.

With that said, I’m going to do what I rarely do: discuss a breaking issue. Today Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California ruled that Prop. 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.

Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

The judge is saying that California, and all the U.S. by extension, has the constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis to all people. So does this “obligation” include allowing a brother and sister to marry? How about someone marrying a minor? How about Mike and Mark marrying Mary, Marcy, and Maggie? How about Matt and Spot? And if marriage has become a right, could Moe sue Mindy for turning down his proposal?

And if this ruling is upheld by the Supreme Court, how long do you think it will take for a gay couple to sue some church that teaches homosexuality is morally wrong, and therefore refuses to solemnize gay marriages?

Stem cell research has been a big deal during this political season. Actor Christopher Reeve was a proponent of stem cell research before his death earlier this month. Senator Kerry and others have used it as a tool to beat on President Bush, who supposedly banned stem cell research. Of course, that’s a lie — President Bush never banned it, as I’ve pointed out before. The topic simmered in this year’s political soup, occasionally rolling to the top like a carrot in boiling stock. Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post wrote of this latest burst on October 15th:

It turned out days later that the Kerry campaign has a plan — nay, a promise — to cure paralysis. What is the plan? Vote for Kerry.

This is John Edwards on Monday at a rally in Newton, Iowa: “If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.”

In my 25 years in Washington, I have never seen a more loathsome display of demagoguery. Hope is good. False hope is bad. Deliberately, for personal gain, raising false hope in the catastrophically afflicted is despicable….

As a doctor by training, I’ve known better than to believe the hype — and have tried in my own counseling of people with new spinal cord injuries to place the possibility of cure in abeyance. I advise instead to concentrate on making a life (and a very good life it can be) with the hand one is dealt. The greatest enemies of this advice have been the snake-oil salesmen promising a miracle around the corner. I never expected a candidate for vice president to be one of them.

Recently, stem cell research hit the news again with California’s Proposition 71. This proposition would take $3 billion from Californians ($6 billion after interest kicks in — yes, that’s billion with a b) to fund embryonic stem cell research. The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is backing Prop. 71, but not all Republicans are equally in favor of it. Actor and director Mel Gibson has come out publicly against Prop. 71.

In an October 28 appearance with Diane Sawyer of ABC’s Good Morning America, Mel Gibson had this to say:

I’m very concerned with, with, with the stem cell question. I’m for stem cell research. I think it can do a lot of good. When I heard about Proposition 71 to sort of promote stem cell research, I was overjoyed, you know, because it can do so much good. But then I began to look further into the proposition and I found that the cloning of human embryos will be used in the process, and that for me, I have an ethical problem with that.

Here is another exchange from the same show:

[Diane Sawyer] One challenge that is raised is this is not a human being. This is a group of cells clustered in a petri dish, barely visible …

[Mel Gibson] Well, I was never in a petri dish, but at one stage, I was that little cluster of cells myself, as were you, as was the doctor, as is everybody. Tell me anybody who wasn’t that at some point in their development and I’ll give you a cigar.

You can read the whole transcript from this show on LexisNexis. In addition to this show and other media interviews and radio guest spots, Mel Gibson recorded a short ad speaking out against Prop. 71. The transcript is below; you can listen to the original on www.NoOn71.org:

Research on adult and umbilical cord stem cells have led to cures in 300,000 cases. But that’s not what Proposition 71 is about.

This is Mel Gibson. I’m concerned that people aren’t fully informed about Prop 71. We’ve got a lot of questions to ask, like, “Why are we being misled into thinking Prop 71 isn’t about cloning, when it is?” That’s what it says. “Somatic cell nuclear transfer,” and that’s a scientific term for cloning.

If cloning human embryos for destruction is so promising, why aren’t private companies paying the six billion dollars? Because in 23 years, embryonic stem cell research has not produced a single human cure. All it’s yielded is tumors, rejection and mutations.

See, bad science doesn’t attract venture capital, so why should the taxpayers be bled dry?

This is Mel Gibson. I’m voting No on Prop 71. Creating life simply to destroy it is wrong, particularly when there are effective alternatives readily available.

Why should the public be forced to fund something that could be handled by private industry? If this really is the end-all, be-all cure of the century, wouldn’t you expect wise-minded investors to toss a few dollars toward embryonic stem cell research? Of course they would. But they don’t, because the interesting research is coming from adult and umbilical cord stem cells. Heck, they have even found adult stem cells in fat, and if there is one thing the adults in this country have in good supply, it is fat.

There is no need to push embryonic stem cell research while adult and umbilical cord stem cells are available. And it certainly should not be achieved at public expense.

Addendum (11/3/2004): Well, Californians passed it. I hope they don’t mind ponying up the six billion dollars.

Have you ever noticed that there are places where you feel free to just walk on in, and other places where you always knock first? When I visit my Grandma, I never knock; I just walk on in and give her a big hug. I also learned that I could just walk into my mom-in-law’s house with a shout of “Who’s naked?” to let people know I was there. But when I visit my parents, I always knock first, and I don’t really know why. I certainly feel perfectly accepted in my parents’ home, so it is not as if there is some barrier of unkind feelings in place. The only thing I can possibly think that would explain the difference is the newness of my parents’ place. I guess it just does not feel like home to me.

In the not-so-distant past, people used to know their neighbors more than we do today. It was no big deal to pop over to the next-door neighbor to ask for a cup of milk or some eggs. But I think those days have passed us by. Do you have that type of relationship with your neighbors, or are you like most of us–too busy to just sit down and get to know them? There is something sad about how the times have changed this way. If you are like most people, you might recognize your neighbors, but you would be hard pressed to remember their names. And like most people, you probably keep the house locked up tight while you are home and away.

Would you mind if your neighbors felt comfortable enough in your home to just walk in uninvited? Would you care if they brought their friends with them or showed complete strangers how easy it was to waltz on into your unlocked home? If you are like me and a product of our times, the idea of someone unknown having access to the house gives you the heebie-jeebies. Now imagine that some nutcase has issued death threats against you and your family, and he has already been caught once burglarizing your home. Would you ever leave the doors unlocked? No! You would buy some extra deadbolts and install a potent security system. After all, we are talking about your family!

Right now, our nation is like an unlocked house. Every day illegal aliens cross the porous borders into our national home. If everyone were kind and thoughtful, then we would not mind them dropping by to say hello. But since there are people out there whose primary goal in life is to kill us, it is foolhardy to leave the doors open and let everyone into our nation. Before you think I am anti-immigrant, let me clearly state that I am not. I am all in favor of legal immigrants, as I am a descendant of legal immigrants. If you are a foreigner and you want to become a law-abiding citizen of the United States, I welcome you with open arms. But if you start off by breaking the law as you illegally sneak into this country, I do not have much faith that you will improve your outlook on our country and our laws. And if you are someone who has illegally crossed these borders, then I do not want you to remain in this country. I do not care whether you came from Mexico or Canada, Hong Kong or England. If you did not get here legally, then you are persona non grata, and I want you gone.

Is this harsh? No harsher than calling the cops to boot out someone who has broken into your home. I do not see a difference between the protection I want surrounding my home, and that which I want surrounding my nation. But not everyone sees it this way. My mom-in-law teaches grade school, and she knows which families are here illegally, but she cannot ask the parents or the kids if they are. If she did, she would be sued and possibly fired. Apparently this question violates their civil rights, but how does anyone have the civil right to do something illegal? This must somehow make sense in the minds of the liberals who drafted these laws and the loony ACLU who fought for these “rights.”

I once stood on a bridge crossing the Rio Grande, right on the painted line marking the border between the U.S. and Mexico. In the fifteen minutes I stood there and watched, I counted eight people wading through the low-running river and passing through a fence into the United States. One lady paid a kid to push her across the river in a little raft so she would not have the tell-tale wet pants of someone who had just waded the river. Multiply this scenario by the long length of the U.S.-Mexico border, and you may begin to get an idea of just how porous our borders are.

Governor Gray Davis of California signed the Illegal Alien Drivers’ License bill on Sept. 5, 2003. At that time he said, “They deserve the right to drive.” No, Governor, they do not deserve that right. They are not here legally, so they should not enjoy the privileges that come with legal status. Gov. Davis knows that this is a terrible idea, since he vetoed the bill twice already, but now that he is desperate to keep his governorship, he is blatantly catering to the Latino vote. And since the Motor-Voter laws make it simple to register to vote if you have a driver’s license, this opens up California to massive voter fraud. For this act alone, Gov. Davis should be removed from office. Harsh? Yes. But anyone who is this willing to throw open the doors to illegal aliens has violated his oath of office to defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And this law makes it ridiculously easy for foreign enemies to gain a valid driver’s license in California and spread out through our home–the United States–to do their work of evil. I think it’s high time that we called the cops to kick them out of our home.