The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Mike Huckabee is unfit to be president. Here's why

Once more, Mike Huckabee is acting in a way that shows his unfitness for the Presidency. In a column entitled Huckabee Takes Aim at Court Activism on Gay Marriage dated May 28, 2015 by Andrew Desiderio on the Real Clear Politics site, we read:

With a Supreme Court decision expected next month on constitutional protections for same-sex marriage, one presidential candidate is not mincing words when criticizing what he sees as judicial overreach.

Specifically, the court is expected to rule on whether the 14th Amendment requires states to authorize same-sex marriages, as well as recognize those already carried out in other states. For Mike Huckabee, this is a clear case of the justices acting beyond the authority granted to them.

“Many of our politicians have surrendered to the false god of judicial supremacy, which would allow black-robed and unelected justices the power to make law as well as enforce it,” the former Arkansas governor said during his May 5 campaign launch.

That was hardly his first comment on the issue. “I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that – the supreme of the court,” he said at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference in April, as the high court was holding oral arguments on the gay marriage case. “It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God.”

It is Huckabee's seeming willingness to make the United States a theocracy that I find appalling. The Supreme Court is not trying to “overrule God”; it is merely interpreting the Constitution. And God is irrelevant. What God believes is unknown to us — I as a Jew of course differ from Gov. Huckabee, an evangelical Protestant, in our beliefs as to what God's laws are; and others of different religious tendencies would have yet other ideas in this direction, but the Supreme Court is supposed to ignore this question. The Court is bound only by the Constitution. If it does violate God's will, God will punish the Justices. Gov. Huckabee has no more right to speak for God than do I or does any individual in the Supreme Court.

Desiderio continues:

Marbury v. Madison, an 1803 landmark case, created the process of judicial review, by which Supreme Court justices are given the power to determine the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress and signed by the president. It allows the judiciary branch to serve as a “check” on the legislative and executive branches. But many conservatives claim the courts have inched into the realm of judicial activism.

Huckabee, the 2008 winner of the Iowa caucuses, reiterated his criticisms during a “Fox News Sunday” interview last weekend. “The notion that the Supreme Court comes up with a ruling, and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it, defies everything there is about the three equal branches of government,” he told host Chris Wallace.

The President and the Congress are sworn to uphold the Constitution. The role of the Court is to provide a definitive interpretation of the Constitution. Gov. Huckabee seems to imply that he would be free, if he were President, to interpret his oath to support the Constitution as one to write his own doctrine of what is constitutional. Since 1803, the nation has accepted Court decisions as the last word on constitutionality. Gov. Huckabee's ideas fly in the face of this agreement. This is hardly a conservative position.

Desiderio's column continues:

Wallace pressed his onetime Fox News colleague further, asking whether he would have approved of Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus’s 1957 defiance of the high court’s ruling on school desegregation.

Huckabee called that comparison a false equivalency, noting that both the legislative and executive branches agreed with the court on desegregation. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Huckabee said, was therefore right in sending the 101st Airborne Division to enforce and carry out the law at Little Rock Central High School.

Huckabee then presented a hypothetical of his own in criticizing those who “bow down” to court rulings that are not backed by the legislature: “What if the Supreme Court ruled that they were going to make the decision as to who was going to be the next president, and save the taxpayers and the voters from all the expense and trouble of voting, and they’ll just pick a president?”

Of course, nobody really believes that the Supreme Court would do such a thing. Even the Gore enthusiasts who would say that the Court came close to such a ruling in the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision have to admit that the Court never eliminated the election, but merely terminated the recount process. So Huckabee's hypothetical is of a piece with “What if the President said the Constitution was henceforth null and void, and his decisions, on all issues, were to have the force of supreme law?”

Huckabee spokeswoman Alice Stewart declined a request to comment on whether a President Huckabee would take any type of executive action if the court deemed all state bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, saying there is “not more to add.”

Both declared GOP candidate Carly Fiorina and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is expected to enter the presidential race soon, have said they would not fight a SCOTUS ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have signaled their support for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit courts from interfering with existing or future state bans on same-sex marriage. It is unclear whether Huckabee supports such a step.

The column then concludes with a summary of other opinions on Huckabee's position, including the two biggest organizations that are concerned with the issue:

But there’s plenty of opposition to this conservative stance. The Human Rights Campaign, a liberal organization that has been pushing for LGBT rights since 1980, says Huckabee’s comments prompt the question of whether Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who are at the top of the RealClearPolitics polling average among Republicans, are on the same page as their rival.

“Another day, another attempt from Mike Huckabee to test-drive a desperate and absurd rationale for denying marriage equality to everyone at a time when more than six in 10 voters support marriage equality and nearly half the country knows an LGBT couple that has gotten married or is in a committed relationship,” JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s vice president for policy and political affairs, told RealClearPolitics.

(Rubio and Bush aides declined to comment on whether either would employ a strategy of denouncing activist courts, but Rubio has said in the past that he does not want the judiciary to “impose” gay marriage on certain states. Bush does not believe the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.)

Meanwhile, the Family Research Council, a prominent social conservative group, did not return a request to comment on whether it would embrace a strategy of running against the courts in an effort to enshrine traditional marriage. The group’s president, Tony Perkins, said during oral arguments before the court that it should not “impose” same-sex marriage on states where bans have been upheld.

One can scarcely think that either the HRC or the FRC would take a position any different from what it has, of course. And the final piece of Desiderio's column continues:

Huckabee has insisted that his appeal is not exclusive to evangelical voters, who are more likely to share his views, and has said he is also vying for the support of working-class Americans.

But will the Republican nominee – whoever that turns out to be – feel pushed to run against the courts in the general election? And prior to that, will any of the primary contenders make this issue a cornerstone of his or her campaign? Those will be tough choices to make, as recent polls show the tide is turning on social ideology nationally, with increasing support for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization.

While social conservatives remain a powerful part of the Republican Party electorate in most early primary and caucus states, the GOP establishment has signaled it does not want to alienate younger voters, who overwhelmingly support gay marriage, by embracing unpopular positions during a general election.

The big problem is that any Republican who makes “social conservatism” the cornerstone of his campaign is going to make the Republican Party a laughingstock and throw away the votes of millions of people who usually vote Republican because it is the party of freedom, by making it instead the party of bigotry.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

More on that Canadian jeweler and the gay couple

I've now read more about that case that I posted about on Tuesday. It is very clear that the lesbian couple did not know about the jeweler's beliefs at the time they ordered the ring. As the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation site says:

White and Renouf visited the store and later gave specifications and a price range for potential rings.

“They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same-sex couple,” White said.

“I referred some of my friends to them, just because I did get some good customer service and they had good prices.”

That was before one friend went in to purchase a ring for his girlfriend — and instead found a distressing sign.

It reads: “The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let's keep marriage between a man and a woman.”

The friend took a picture of the poster, which made its way back to White.

“I had no idea about the sign up until that point,” she said.

“It was really upsetting. Really sad, because we already had money down on [the rings], and they're displaying how much they are against gays, and how they think marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

The couple went to the store the following day, and asked about the sign.

“They just said that that's their beliefs, and they think they can put up whatever they want. I just said it was very disrespectful, it's very unprofessional and I wanted a refund,” White said.
As I said Tuesday, this changes the situation from what Cooke seemed to think. Cooke outlined a scenario where the couple concluded the deal in full knowledge of the jeweler's anti-gay beliefs. But it's clear that this was not the case. They found out about this after the order was placed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

John Kasich?

It seems that Governor John Kasich, of the state of Ohio, is planning to run for the Presidency, adding yet another name to the list of declared candidates. Gov. Kasich might make a very good President. He has experience as Governor — and was overwhelmingly re-elected to his second term after a very close election that put him in originally, which implies that Ohioans thought he did a good job in his first term as Governor. He also has experience in the Congress, which means he needs no schooling in Federal issues, unlike many Governors who may have concentrated on state-level issues. I would say that his only negative is that he is not well known. He would have to conduct an extensive campaign to make people aware of who he is. For myself, I think he would be easy to support.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An episode that anti-gay people seem to think justifies their bigotry

In the online site of the National Review, a column by Charles C. W. Cooke dated May 22, 2015 reads:

In the American Conservative yesterday, Rod Dreher related the following story:

So, a Canadian Christian jeweler custom-made a pair of engagement rings for a lesbian couple, Nicole White and Pam Renouf, at their request. Later, when they found out that the jeweler personally opposes same-sex marriage, they went to pieces and demanded their money back. The couple now believes the rings they ordered will have been tainted by having been fashioned by jeweler Esau Jardon’s hands, given what impure thoughts he holds in his mind.

One could be forgiven for wondering how we are all supposed to keep up. Last month, as Indiana’s rather tame religious-freedom legislation was being torched by the mob, America’s more devout dissenters were informed that the price of participation in the marketplace was the subjugation of one’s conscience to one’s Caesar. “You can’t opt out of the law,” the agitators explained. “This isn’t the Jim Crow South!” Their core message? That if we all keep quiet about our views — and if we treat commercial transactions as commercial transactions — nobody will end up getting hurt. Or, put another way: “Cater my wedding, you bigot.”

In Dreher’s story, alas, the opposite case appears to obtain. “We can’t be expected to honor our contracts with companies that disagree with us,” the outraged couple is arguing, “for that might taint our nuptials.” The new message? That we can’t all get along by keeping quiet, but instead need to positively affirm one another or face the consequences. Or, put another way: “Even if I ask you to, don’t cater my wedding, you bigot.”

Would that the agitators could settle on a strategy.

Being a dastardly free-market type, I have no objections whatsoever if White and Renouf prefer not to use a vendor whose religious convictions they abhor. Choice, not force, is the guiding star of the classical liberal’s ship: If a free person objects to a business because it has a political sign in its window or because its owners are wearing a yarmulke or because its clerk is using a Mac rather than a PC, that’s fine with me. But we ought to be clear about exactly what happened here. As CBC News confirms, White and Renouf did not walk idly past the window and immediately cross the offending jeweler off their list, and neither did they converse with him a little and discover him to be objectionable. Rather, they found him to be charming and pleasant and happy to acquiesce, and, having been suitably impressed by his offering, they happily entered into a contract with him. And then, having later uncovered what was in his heart, they refused to take “Yes” for an answer.

When the couple “found out what he really believed about same-sex marriage,” Dreher writes, they “balked, and demanded their money back — and the mob threatened the business if they didn’t yield.” Which is ultimately to say that White and Renouf sought to break their contract — not, you will note, because he was rude or because he failed to deliver on his promises, but because they made a window into his soul and they did not like what they saw — and then, when he objected, to subject him to bullying and to threats until he caved. Is that “tolerance”?

Wait a minute. It isn't that the couple “made a window into his soul” — The jeweler posted a sign proclaiming his views. Did the couple see that sign before ordering the ring? Probably not. So they ordered the ring, had it prepared, and then saw a sign in the jeweler's shop demeaning their worth as a couple. Suppose a Jewish couple had a ring made, and then discovered a Nazi swastika on display in the store. Should they not have canceled the transaction? I think they'd be right to call it off, even if the ring had already been made.

Cooke's column continues:

I rather think not. Indeed, ceteris paribus, one has to feel extraordinarily sorry for the vendor here, for by the standards that were established during the Indiana debate he did precisely the “right” thing. Carefully putting his religious reservations to one side, the man took on a pair of customers with whose decision he fundamentally disagreed, and he promised to do the best for them that he could. And still, it wasn’t good enough.

Were this a Monty Python sketch and not a horrifying power play, the tendering conversation would presumably have proceeded like this:

Customer: We are a lesbian couple who would like you to make us a wedding ring.

Business owner: Okay. I do not support gay marriage, but I will serve you as anybody else. This, I understand, is how it works.

Customer: You can’t deny me service simply because you hold different views from mine.

Business owner: Indeed. I have no intention of doing so. Society is better off when our differences remain private.

Customer: Okay, let’s do business.

Business owner: Great.

Customer: Your private views are disgusting. You can’t make me do business with you. Give me my money back or I’ll unleash the kraken.

If this is to be our new standard — and time will tell — it would be useful to know what legal protection our recalcitrant firms will reasonably be able to recruit to their side. In both Canada and in the United States there already exists a pernicious imbalance in the supposedly free marketplace. If a browsing consumer doesn’t happen to like the politics or the race or the religion of a given business owner, he is quite free to decline to associate with it. Thus do some progressives like to skip Chick-Fil-A, an openly Christian business; thus do some conservatives prefer to avoid Apple, whose owner Tim Cook irritated them during the Indiana fight. By that very same law, however, it is strictly verboten for a business to discriminate against customers they themselves dislike — even if they feel that by fulfilling their legal obligations they will be violating their consciences. Are we really going to add to this already lopsided arrangement a general right to break contracts after the fact? Are we going to hand the integrity of our signed arrangements over to the whim of the mob? And if we are not, what are we to expect the government to do about those whose consciences now demand that they renege on their word?

I think one question that needs to be answered is “Did the couple know the jeweler's anti-gay-marriage beliefs before ordering the ring?” If they did, Cooke would have a point here. But if not, (and I suspect that was the case) I think they were every bit justified in acting as they did. And by the way, I'm not a “progressive,” but I boycott Chick-fil-A, not because they are owned by a Christian, but because they choose to insist that their franchisees keep the same Christian rules, such as closing on Sundays.

Finally, Cooke continues:

After the pusillanimity that was shown in Indiana, I daresay: not much.

Horrified by the hatred that had been cast his way, the jeweler appealed to what he imagined were the first principles of his adopted nation. “One of the reasons my family chose to come to Canada,” he noted, “was the freedom of rights.… Nothing in that shop or in these posters is against the law.… There’s nothing there that means to discriminate or to hate anybody else.… For the same reason, I ask to have the same respect in return, especially when it’s in my own business.” One is almost touched by the naïveté. This isn’t about respect, friend; it’s about power.

No, it is about the right of people to do business with people that do not think they are sub-human. But Cooke does not recognize this.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Marco Rubio?

I hadn't given a lot of thought to Marco Rubio as a 2016 candidate. But perhaps I should. There is an article entitled “A Hillary Clinton Match-Up With Marco Rubio Is a Scary Thought for Democrats” by Jeremy W. Peters on The New York Times' site which implies that Rubio is very good at capturing his audience's sympathy. And of course, his history of doing so well against the former Governor, Charlie Crist, among Republicans that Crist left the party and still lost when he tried to run an independent campaign certainly points to Rubio's electability, which is an important factor. He may be somewhat more conservative than I'd like, but he may well be a good choice. After all, anyone who scares Democrats interested in putting Hillary Clinton in the White House as much as is implied by that article is worth looking at.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hillary Clinton's supporters see nothing wrong?!!

Hillary Clinton still has supporters who seem to find nothing wrong with the Clinton Foundation's accepting large sums from foreign sources. The article I linked to above has a paragraph:

The Clinton Foundation story is almost perfectly designed to polarize Clinton’s supporters and opponents along traditional lines. Critics say donations from foreign governments and business interests with a stake in administration policy raise conflict-of-interest questions, but even the conservative author leading the charge on the issue, Peter Schweizer, acknowledges there’s no “direct evidence” linking Clinton to any specific quid pro quo deal. Whether you believe there’s more to the story than just bad “optics” mostly depends on whether you see it as merely the latest in a long line of trumped-up Clinton scandals that didn’t pan out or the newest example of those ruthless and corrupt Clintons flouting the rules for personal gain.

But my question — and I asked it of my wife, an enrolled Democrat who would like to see a woman President — is “Do you want a President who might feel herself beholden to a foreign party?” And she was responsive to it exactly the way I am. It is not a minor thing. It's a lot more serious than whether the Governor of New Jersey knew his underlings were going to block a lane on the George Washington Bridge.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ireland's gay marriage vote

Ireland yesterday voted — by a 5 to 3 margin — to legalize same-sex marriage. It's hard to believe that a country which is so dominated by the Roman Catholic Church that abortion is still illegal there would vote so decisively that way. (It's been trumpeted as the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. It is the first to do so nationwide. But in the United States, of course, it's a state issue and several states (including my own, Maryland) did legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.We don't have a national vote on issues like this.

But let's not quibble. Congratulations to the Irish people for their stand in favor of freedom, and to the gay & lesbian community in Ireland for their victory.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thoughts on the Obergefell case

One thing that needs to be noted about Obergefell v. Hodges is that the specific case of Obergefell has been consolidated with three other cases. And this may lead to a finding that legalizes gay marriage nationwide, using Loving v. Virginia as a precedent.

The specific case of Obergefell only involves recognition of out-of-state marriages in other states; this issue is really a no-brainer, because states have always recognized out-of-state marriages as valid, essentially a consequence of Article IV of the Constitution. Hoswever, whether a state can restrict marriages performed within its borders to opposite-sex couples involves a different issue. States have generally had the powers to define who can marry (minimum age and degree-of-relationship limits being common), but the precedent of Loving v. Virginia allows the Court to invalidate such restrictions if they are discriminatory. In that case, it was racial discrimination; here it is sexual discrimination. (As Chief Justice Roberts asked in the course of his questioning, “[I]f Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”) If it is looked at in this way, the precedent of Loving v. Virginia will guide the Court to legalize gay marriage nationwide.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Foreign developments and our 2016 election

During the four months or so that I was neglecting this blog, the foreign developments have been a great thing for the political Right. Both David Cameron in the United Kingdom and Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel won big victories, much greater than the polls predicted. It is to be wondered whether this is a portent for the 2016 election in this country. Certainly, I would like to see that.

Right now, polls show Hillary Clinton winning against many Republican opponents — not all the Republican prospects in all the polls, but generally in most polls that I have seen. But of course, November 2016 is a year and a half away. And a lot can change in that time. Yet what if the polls are as far off as they were in the UK ad Israel? Hillary might be losing even now!

All in all, there is hope for 2016.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Politics and the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia

Democrats are blaming Republican funding cuts to Amtrak for the Philadelphia derailment. While I think that most Republicans are misguided in their desire to cut Amtrak, I think it is an implausible stretch of the truth. Perhaps Amtrak could have worked faster at installing the Positive Train Control that would have prevented the accident if they had had more money, but I don't think that was really likely. And money isn't what made the engineer do whatever he did that made the train speed up.

Amtrak is perhaps 10% responsible — they should have worked harder at installing Positive Train Control. And the engineer is 90% responsible. But don't blame Congressional Republicans for the accident. I agree that Amtrak needs more money than many Republicans want to give it. But this is not the reason.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Philadelphia derailment

The Amtrak engineer on the train that derailed in Philadelphia says he was not using drugs (and offered a blood sample to prove it) and was not using his smartphone. (I had suspected the first, my wife the second.) He does not remember what happened in most of the time around the derailment. Evidence shows that the train was speeding up when it should have slowed down just before reaching the curve where the train derailed.

The train had been inspected by Amtrak not long before, and found to be in good shape. Some action by the engineer, therefore, must have caused the train to accelerate to over 100 mph when it should be traveling 80 and slowing down to 50 as it approached the curve. It certainly wasn't on autopilot!

Right now, my inclination is to blame the engineer. But because he can't remember anything, we will probably never know the true story. However, if I were a juror in a trial, I would certainly find the engineer guilty of negligent manslaughter.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Dzhokhar Tsarnaev death sentence

The jury in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev case has made their decision — and sentenced him to death. I, for one, applaud. I was fearful that in Boston, a city with a high proportionn of the population opposed to the death penalty, the jurors might include some who were sufficiently opposed to it that they could not sentence Tsarnaev to death. But fortunately this did not occur.

There are some who argue that sometimes a person gets convicted who is not truly guilty, and a death penalty applied to such a person is irreversible. I certainly do not deny that wrongful convictions do sometimes occur — there was a case that recently cane to light where a man in Virginia served 28 years for a rape and it was finally established that the perpetrator was a man who looked uncommonly like the prisoner. But nobody claims that Tsarnaev is the wrong man. Not even he nor his lawyer. The only defense that anyone has offered was that Tsarnaev was a pawn of hs older brother. And Tsarnaev's own actions after his arrest make it clear that he mas acting consciously. The jury did not buy that argument.

Giving a murderer anything short of the death penalty, in my opinion, says that the lives of the murderer's victims are less important than the life of the murderer. And I cannot accept such a valuation. So Tsarnaev's sentence is absolutely justified, and, as I said earlier, I applaud it.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Returning to the blogging scene (continued): The Supreme Court cases

Getting back to blogging, there are not a lot of things that can be discussed at the moment, which is part of the reason I have not been active the past few months. There are two pending Supreme Court cases which I think are very important: King v. Burwell, which could throttle Obamacare if it is decided on the plain language of the statute, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which might lead to gay marriage being recognized nationwide. But until June, the Supreme Court is keeping silent on how they will rule. And yet, the Justices have likely made their decisions already, so nothing I say can do much. (Of course, I doubt my blog is being read by any Supreme Court Justices, but one can only hope!). And besides these cases and the 2016 election, which I discussed yesterday, it's hard to come up with a topic to discuss. But I will try.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Returning to the blogging scene: The 2016 candidates

Recently I got a question as to whether I was sill blogging. And that reminded me that it has been a long time since my last post, and that I ought to get back. A lot has happened since my last post, and it will take a bit to get current.

One development that I do not like is that Chris Christie, my preferred candidate for the nomination, seems to have lost a lot of his support, and instead of being at the top (or near the top) in the polls, is somewhere in the middle of the pack. While I still consider him the best candidate, unless he recovers that top position, I suppose I will have to consider other options. There are other candidates, such as Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker, who could be good Presidents, and my only reason for not supporting them for the nomination is that I feel they have less chance of actually being elected, so if they begin to look electable to me, I could certainly support them.

A couple of candidates have been discussed recently who have a number of attractive attributes, but who lack, to my mind, some important qualifications for the Presidency. If Carly Fiorina had won the election for Senator from California when she ran, I would consider her a high-quality candidate for the Presidency. However, as it is, she is totally inexperienced in the ins and outs of partisan politics, and I can't consider her ready for the Presidency. Her executive experience, to be sure, is excellent, and this is an area where the current incumbent's total lack has shown. So perhaps she would not be a terrible choice, and if she should secure the nomination, I would certainly vote for her against Hillary Clinton in November of next year.

The other person I consider attractive in some ways but insufficiently experienced in some areas for the Presidency is Ben Carson. He is certainly an intelligent and thoughtful man, who could be very useful in a Republican administration as Surgeon General, or at the head of a task force on finding a replacement for Obamacare, or as HHS Secretary, but he has none of the political experience I think necessary.

There are also a number of people who are more experienced in politics and who have, specifically, the executive experience needed for the Presidency: such Governors and former Governors as John Kasich and Mitch Daniels. I could easily support either of these two or others like them, but I fear they need to become better known to the public. They suffer the same flaws that Jon Huntsman did in 2012.

There are a couple of people that I could never support, however. If a religious-right extremist like Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum (Is Rick Perry going to run? If so, he falls into this class.) should get the GOP nomination, the GOP loses my vote. I still would never vote for Hillary Clinton, but my vote would go to any obscure third-party candidate I could find rather than one of these men.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

“The first Ferguson indictment”

There was a very nice article published on The Washington Times' website by John Solomon, dated November 24, 2014, and entitled “Analysis: The first Ferguson indictment goes to … the news media.” I would like to quote it, because I think it is spot on:

In the end, the first and perhaps only indictment to emerge out of the Ferguson tragedy went to the news media and its culture of frenzied coverage.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch explained Monday night in excruciating detail why 12 grand jurors chose not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, Officer Darren Wilson in a case that reopened long-simmering racial wounds in America, describing how some of the eyewitnesses quoted by news media and circulated via social media later recanted or were disproven by the physical evidence.

Some of the witnesses “pretty much acknowledged they saw parts and made up other parts of it,” Mr. McCulloch said in disputing some of the early media reports in the case.

To make his point, the prosecutor agreed to release all of the evidence gathered by authorities and presented to the grand jury.

“The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction,” Mr. McCullough said after excoriating news media coverage of the case.

“The most significant challenge encountered in this investigation has been the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything to talk about, following closely behind with the non-stop rumors on social media,” he said.

The prosecutor said the exhaustive review of the evidence identified a “lack of accurate detail” in some of the initial reports that fanned the flames of the local community, including erroneous reports that Mr. Wilson shot the unarmed victim Michael Brown in the back.

The prosecutor said the grand jury sorted through inconsistent and conflicting eyewitness accounts and “interviews on social media” that proved wrong, and it deserved credit for sticking with the evidence.

“They are the only people who have heard and examined all of the evidence of all of the witnesses,” he said.

The media’s performance was put on trial anew at the news conference where the results were announced, when Mr. McCulloch scolded a reporter for suggesting that police could kill with “impunity.”

The announcement proved a cathartic moment for career law enforcement officials, some of whom seethed for months over what they saw as one-sided media coverage and lopsided political sentiments.

“While the legal system has exonerated Officer Darren Wilson for his split-second decision on that August afternoon, he very much remains a victim of a politicized agenda that deemed him ‘guilty until proven innocent,’” said Ron Hosko, a former FBI assistant director who serves currently as the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. “Although he will walk free, his life has been forever changed, as he has been exploited in a cynical effort to turn civilians against cops in fulfillment of an anti-law enforcement agenda.

When all the final details are reviewed and the smoke settles, one question that should be asked is whether the media’s age-old adage to “get it first, but first get it right” has been hijacked by a sentiment of “get it first, and hope it is right.”

I couldn't have said it better myself, so I will let John Solomon speak for me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A bit of a surprise

The decision by the grand jury in Missouri not to indict Darren Wilson somewhat surprised me. My prediction was that Wilson would be indicted but acquitted on trial, because of the difference between the standards for evidence in the two kinds of proceedings. In a grand jury decision, one expects an indictment if there is even a case for the prosecution. In the actual trial, of course, the defendant is “innocent until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” And I was certain, from the evidence I have so far seen, that Wilson would be found not guilty because he clearly acted in self-defense.

Apparently, however, the grand jury did not even think there was probable cause that would justify a trial. The case was even more clearly a case of self-defense than the evidence that had been made public demonstrated.

Of course, there are going to be riots. Some people are still convinced that Wilson shot Michael Brown out of racism. It is a shame that some people see racism everywhere. My wife has heard people (including her) described as racist simply because they would not vote for Barack Obama; it could not occur to those people that she might not be willing to vote for even a white person with Obama's history and qualifications. But here it is quite clear: Michael Brown, a big man, over 6′ tall and nearly 300 pounds, hit Wilson in the face badly enough to injure him and was grabbing for his gun when the shooting occurred. This is about as clearly a case of self-defense as can be imagined. And apparently that convinced the grand jury.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Marion Barry

Marion Shepilov Barry, former mayor of the District of Columbia and still a political force because he has been continuing to serve as a council member, just died. And even publications that are not local have chosen to make this top-level news. (Yes, USA Today is published in this area. But it aspires to be “the nation's newspaper,” not a Washington-area local paper.)

I think the fascination that the rest of the country has with Marion Barry is that he succeeded in getting re-elected over and over, despite a history that would sink most politicians. How many people would be politically alive after being arrested and convicted in a drug bust?

In turn, though, this is why many of us cannot fathom how people can expect the nation to give District voters the chance to elect Senators and Representatives on the same basis as if they were a State. Any place that kept re-electing a convicted druggie is a place whose voters must seem crazy to the average American. Certainly I understand that idea.

Friday, November 14, 2014

My worst fears confirmed

Barack Obama is the man who, shortly after taking over the Presidency, told a group of Republican members of Congress that “elections have consequences.” And he is also the man who, a few days before this year's election, told another group of people, this time prospective voters, that “these policies are on the ballot.” A third Obama quote that needs to be brought up was his remark after this election that “To those of you who voted, I hear you.” It certainly does not appear that the third is true; for in the light of the first two quotes, he should be prepared too make some moves toward Republican ideas. But as I said earlier, this is a President who refuses to compromise.

Everything that President Obama seems to be saying is that he knows what is best for the American people, and if Congress sends him a bill that agrees with what he wants, he will sign it, and if not he will veto it.

So much for hearing the American people.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another sign of America losing its clout

It was recently announced that a space probe has made a landing on a comet, the first ever. And congratulations are in order for the scientists and engineers who put this mission into space.

But they didn't work for NASA, the space agency that has been doing, in fact, very little in recent years to bring us breakthroughs in space exploration. Mission control was not in Houston, Texas, but in Darmstadt, Germany. Yes, it was the European Space Agency that sent this mission into space, and while I'm happy for science, I'm not at all happy that it wasn't our space program that accomplished this mission. One more sign that the USA is becoming a second-rate power.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The two parties and identity politics

One thing that might be noted in the election results in this and recent years is the Democrats' reliance on identity politics. It is not just that Barack Obama got elected by drawing a record turnout among African-Americans and getting a record proportion of the vote among that same group. Rather, if you look at Democratic African-American office-holders, they are nearly all elected from constituencies with majority African-American electorates. (An exception might be Cory Booker, recently re-elected to a Senate seat in New Jersey. But he got his start as mayor of Newark, a largely African-American city.)

By contrast, African-Americans elected as Republicans are elected in constituencies that are not majority African-American — look at Tim Scott, Will Hurd and Mia Love — just to mention three African-Americans who will sit in the next Congress.

Scott was first elected to a seat in the House of Representatives from a majority-white district in South Carolina. When Senator Jim DeMint resigned, Governor Nikki Haley (herself an Indian-American) appointed Scott to the Senate. Tuesday he won a full term — and you can bet that this first African-American to be elected from the South since Reconstruction did not get the office because of African-American votes.

Will Hurd won a race in a basically Hispanic disctrict, running against a Hispanic incumbent. Again, his victory cannot be laid to identity politics.

Mia Love got elected from a district in Utah — and the number of African-Americans in the whole state of Utah is not enough that, even if they were all packed into one Congressional district, they could form a majority! Like Scott, she had to win based on white voters' feeling she was the best person for the job, and she did.

These are examples of the Republican Party's treatment of African-Americans as simply Americans, and it would be great if the Democrats could do the same.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Two years of inaction?

While President Obama's press conference on Wednesday seemed to be positive — and I said so in my post the next day — I fear that we will not see action to help the American people in the next two years. In the press conference, the President was asked some specific questions, and among them was one about whether he could sign legislation that eliminated the individual mandate. He explicitly answered:

“The individual mandate is a line I can’t cross because the concept, borrowed from Massachusetts, from a law instituted by a former opponent of mine, Mitt Romney, [he] understood that if you’re providing health insurance to people through the private marketplace, then you’ve got to make sure that people can’t game the system and just wait until they get sick before they go try to buy health insurance”

Of course, mentioning Mitt Romney was a gratuitous attempt at phony bipartisanship. Romney signed the Massachusetts law as a compromise with a legislature that was 85% Democratic. And it does appear that at the time he was convinced that it was necessary to prevent gaming the system. He has stated that this is an issue that should be addressed state-by-state, and if he had been elected President he would have signed an authorization for any state to opt out.

By making such statements, Pres. Obama has made it likely that there are important areas that he will not compromise on. And some of these will be necessary to compromise if any business can be done.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The Supreme Court will hear King v. Burwell!

The Supreme Court has decided that they will hear King v. Burwell. When two different appellate courts originally ruled in opposite ways on the language in the Affordable Care Act that says subsidies can only be paid in states that have established their own exchanges, it looked as though the Supreme Court would get to rule on it. But then the court that had ruled against the Administration's interpretation, in Halbig v. Burwell reversed itself in an unusual procedure where the decision of a three-judge panel was overruled by the full court, there was no longer a diversity of appellate court decisions, so the Supreme Court might not have heard the case. However, the Supreme Court announced yesterday that the King v. Burwell case will be taken up.

How anyone can believe that words as specific as “exchange established by a State” can include an exchange established by the Federal Government because a State chooses not to do so escapes me. The original decision in Halbig makes sense; its overruling — and the King decision — was simply an attempt by partisan judges to save the Act no matter what. And the Supreme Court is acting sensibly here, and I compliment the Justices who chose to take up the case.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The governors

One big surprise in Tuesday's election was how many Democratic governors were replaced by Republicans, and not just in Maryland where I happen to be located (though that one, as I said, made me particularly happy). Some of the recent polling actually showed the Democrats picking up seats, but in fact it looks as though the GOP gained at least three governorships (a loss in Pennsylvania being balanced by one of the other gains, of course). Hopefully, this will be seen as a triumph for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who as chairman of the Republican Governors' Association had a lot to do with the good performance of the GOP's gubernatorial candidates. Gov. Christie, of course, has been very modest, not claiming a big role. However, the efforts he exerted should stand him in good stead in achieving the nomination in 2016. And I am happy about this, because I still feel Gov. Christie is the best choice for the 2016 nomination.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Will he be willing to compromise?

Yesterday President Barack Obama addressed the nation at a news conference. He said some good things about how he has heard the message of Tuesday's election and how he wants to work with the Republican leaders in Congress to get things done. If he acts as he spoke, good. I wonder, though, whether he will really be able to work with Congressional Republicans. Certainly, he has not shown any willingness to address Republican concerns in the past six years.

One thing that I think was apparent is that Pres. Obama is more willing to work with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell — he even referred to sitting down for a drink of Kentucky bourbon with him — than with Speaker of the House John Boehner. He never issued a word of praise for Boehner, and only referred to him in conjunction with McConnell as leaders of the Congress. It has become clear over the years that both Obama and Boehner dislike each other immensely, and McConnell will have the major role of finding something they all can agree on.

But again, the question is how much common ground can they find. The President already ruled out some of the changes to Obamacare that the GOP obviously wants. How much more has he ruled out? We can only wait and see.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Election results -- I'm very happy

When I went to vote yesterday, I was certain that nobody I voted for would win — I'm in such a blue state that I didn't really think Larry Hogan would win the Governorship even in such a Republican year. But at least it looked good for the chances of people in other states voting in new Republican Senators, and I was eagerly awaiting the Senate results.

I woke up today to find that my expectations for the Senate were fully met — it looks like the GOP will have at least 52 Senators, and the three states which are undecided could all go Republican as well, so we might end up with 55. (In Alaska, though 100% of the votes are in, for some reason they haven't called the state, though Dan Sullivan seems to have a clear plurality there. Louisiana had a plurality for the Democrat, Mary Landrieu, but their law calls for a runoff when there is no absolute majority, and Bill Cassidy could still pull it off. Only Virginia seems a close call, with Democrat Mark Warner leading Republican Ed Gillespie, so that seat was likely to end up with the Democrats.) When all is said and done, it looks like a 53- or 54-member Republican caucus. And the President is forced to settle for only those accomplishments in his last two years that he can accomplish by executive order. Unfortunately, he does have the negative power to veto, so Obamacare will not be replaced by a more sensible approach to health care reform in the short term. But his ability to further wreck the economy and hurt the country's direction will be restricted.

But the icing on the cake for me was that Larry Hogan won! I have been conceding that Anthony Brown would be our next Governor whether I wanted him to be or not, so seeing Hogan win was a pleasant surprise. It seems that whenever the Maryland Democrats nominate for the Governorship a sitting Lieutenant Governor after a Governor is term limited, then the Republicans can win. I strongly supported Hogan's bid, but never expected it to be successful. So this has been a happy election result for me.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Media bias

The writers of so many of the stories coming out about the shooting in Ferguson seem to feel it necessary to add “unarmed” to the description of Michael Brown, attempting to get the reader's sympathy. If instead he had been described as someone who was fleeing a convenience store that he had just robbed, the readers' sympathies might not be so much on Brown's side. Or if he had been described as 6′ 4″, nearly 300 lb., and it was included in the story that he had just slugged Officer Wilson in the face, breaking bones around his eye-socket, before Wilson pulled the trigger!

Clearly, media bias is giving a lot of people a distorted picture of the events in Ferguson. To me it is clear that Wilson did not shoot unprovoked, but in self-defense. And he deserves better treatment than the media are giving him.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The mess in Ferguson, Mo.

It is clear that the media, at least initially, took sides in the Ferguson shooting that made it hard to decide properly what to think. To read the first reports I saw, Michael Brown was an angel, about to start college, shot down for no reason at all.

The first thing I found out that made a difference was when the name of the "college" was put in some story. It was no real college, but a for-profit institution that, I am sure, accepts anyone who can come up with the tuition money. But if it were just that, Michael Brown could at least be favorably viewed as someone trying as best he could to improve himself.

Then along came the news that he wasn't just walking from his apartment to his grandmother's; the last place he'd been was a convenience store, where he had just committed a robbery. Obviously, not such an angel as he'd been presented.

In fact the original story I had seen seemed to imply that it was Brown's friend who got into an altercation with the policeman, and Brown was an innocent victim. Later information puts the friend in a better light than Brown — it seems that when Brown robbed the store, he took some cigars and offered one to his friend, who declined, saying he was no thief. So I suspect that Brown, and not his friend, was the perpetrator of any act that the policeman might have seen as a provocation.

And would it be hard to fathom that a person who had just committed a robbery might act nervous in the presence of a policeman, even so nervous as to move in ways that the policeman might perceive as a threat?

All that said, it does seem that the policeman overreacted. At that point, he did not know about the robbery of the convenience store and all he knew was that these two young men were walking in the middle of the street. This hardly calls for a “shoot-to-kill” action. I am sure there were alternative procedures he could have taken, to protect himself from any perceived threat, without shooting Brown in the head.

Really, there is fault on both sides.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Shifting "progressivism"

When I was younger, I lived in a district that was one of the few in New York City represented by a Republican, Jacob K. Javits. Javits later got elected to the Senate, representing the whole state. And Javits liked to call himself “progressive.” (He eschewed the term “liberal,” though he happily accepted the Liberal Party's endorsement when it was given to him.)

The progressivism of Jacob Javits was something I could easily support. During much of the time I am talking about, I was unable to vote: you had to be 21 then, and I became 21 in 1963. Javits served in the House from 1947 to 1954; when I moved into his district, in 1951, I was 9. He was elected to the Senate in 1956, so even when he ran for re-election in 1962 I could not yet vote for him — I was 20 and 18-to-20-year-olds didn't get the vote until 1971. So it was not until his third term as Senator that I could give him my vote, but I did enthusiastically. I had been supporting him for years before that.

But I doubt that if Jacob Javits were alive today, he would be called, or would call himself, “progressive.” I see the term applied to such Senators as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. I could never imagine Javits, or his political allies like Governor Nelson Rockefeller, supporting the ideas such are espoused by Warren or Sanders. “Progressivism” has shifted a long distance from Javits' day.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts about a candidate: Jeb Bush

I don't know everything that Jeb Bush did as Governor of Florida. I do know that when it looked that Chris Christie was too seriously damaged to be nominated, Bush was the person a lot of his supporters gravitated to, and that is for me a plus: if the kind of Republican who supported Christie also found Bush a good choice, I probably ought to think along those lines too.

At present, Christie seems to be recovering — Bush and Christie were tied in the most recent poll I saw — so Bush becomes more a rival than a fallback candidate, though right now he still seems like my #2 choice.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Thoughts about a candidate: Ben Carson

He is not mentioned in most of the polls I see, but apparently Ben Carson is considering a run for the Presidency. Whether he actually does become a candidate or not, I cannot predict, but I do have some thoughts about him.

First, other than Obamacare, about which he has spoken up loud and clear (even with President Obama in the room!) I don't know where he stands on the issues. It's clear to me that he might make a great Secretary of Health and Human Services in a Republican administration, or perhaps Surgeon General. I'm less sure about what he would be in the Presidency. He has no background in foreign policy, military affairs, or economic policy. Can he lead in those areas? I have no idea.

I'm not excluding him. And it might yet be that once I've heard him campaign I might like him. But right now I have serious questions about his qualification for the office.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Thoughts about a candidate: Rand Paul

It should be clear to anyone who regularly reads this blog that Chris Christie is my preferred candidate for the presidency in 2016. But I thought it appropriate to discuss some of the other possible candidates to express my thoughts about them. And I'll start with one who has led in some of the recent polls and has gotten more attention than most first-term Senators generally do: Rand Paul.

Sen. Paul does not seem to be quite as extreme as his father is, and is therefore a more reasonable choice. I like some of his ideas — it is a good thing to pull both the GOP and the nation as a whole in a libertarian direction, and he is attempting this — but Sen. Paul is certainly not a good friend to Israel, and his foreign policy ideas in general are too isolationalistic for my taste. Still, if he were the nominee against Hillary Clinton, he'd get my vote, unlike Mike Huckabee, who would drive me to a third party candidate.

Basically, I'd rather see him somewhere other than the presidency, where his ideas can help advance freedom in domestic policy, but not affect our foreign-policy activity.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The "Obama was re-elected" argument

I was reading a discussion on the Web today justifying President Obama's failure to enforce various laws on the basis that “Obama was re-elected, so the American people were happy with what he did in his first term.” Let us be honest, rather than politically correct. Obama was re-elected for one reason and one reason only: the fact that he was half African.

Normally, African Americans are strongly Democratic, but still they divide about 83-17. In 2012 they divided 93-7. The turnout was also much greater among African Americans than it normally is. They were obviously simply voting for one of their own, not in approval of Obama's policies. If African Americans had divided along their normal partisan lines, and come out to vote in their normal numbers, Mitt Romney would be in the White House today. And there is no way of challenging this assertion.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A follow-up to yesterday's post

After reading Dean Obeidallah's post that prompted mine of yesterday entitled “The “Palestinians’ — who are they?” I wrote an e-mail to him, challenging his claim that simply because there was, for less than thirty years, a place named “Palestine” on the map (a name given by colonizers and never adopted by its residents freely), there is truly a “Palestinian” people. He actually responded rather quickly, which was perhaps better than I expected. But he seemed to think my note was a joke:

…are you a comedian because you are making me laugh? (or were you being serious - if you were than Im laughing at you) In any event thanks for the laugh. Are you Sarah Palin's foreign policy advisor by any chance?

Perhaps his whole post was a joke, not just the comment about his father being an inventor, which I saw as one. In that case, I apologize for not seeing the humor. My post was intended as serious discussion. If anyone can show any real justification for considering the term “Palestinian” as meaningful, I really would like to see it.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The "Palestinians" -- who are they?

There is a post on The Daily Beast by Dean Obeidallah entitled “Do Palestinians Really Exist?” which attempts to answer this question in the affirmative. But it is clearly based on a fraudulent argument. It starts:

Palestine. My late father, Abdul Musa Obeidallah, was born there in the 1930s. When I say Palestine, that’s not a political statement. It’s just a statement of fact. When he was born, there was no state of Israel. There was no Hamas. No PLO. There were just people of different faiths living together on the same small piece of land called Palestine.

What is true in ths statement is that “When he was born, there was no state of Israel.” What is unsaid is that the Palestine mandate was given that name by British colonizers. And, going back to Roman days, the name was first applied to this piece of land by Roman colonizers. There never has been a group of people living there who, of their own free choice, called this territory “Palestine.”

In the 1930s, the Japanese created a puppet state called Manchukuo, separate from China, which nobody but the Japanese accepted. Did the citizens thereby take on a new nationality, distinct from Chinese? Very few of them would have answered “yes” to that question. The same is true of “Palestine.” The name was an outside creation. People of Arab heritage, in “Palestine” in the 1920s and 1930s, asked their nationality, would certainly not have called themselves “Palestinians” — they were probably “Syrians,” if not merely “Arabs.” Obeidallah can refer to “Palestine” when he says:

When I ask these people what the land where Israel is now located was called before 1948, they tend to stammer or offer some convoluted response. The answer is simply Palestine. Not a big deal, really.

But “Palestine” was not the name anyone would call it as an independent nation. Jews were seeking to create a Jewish State of Israel. The Arab inhabitants wanted a Greater Syria (or in some other cases other names corresponding to neighboring countries, but certainly not a nation of “Palestine”). An interesting article points out that:

The word “Palestine,” originally used by the Romans, had been in disuse for centuries, but the British revived it. “Palestinian” described Muslims, Jews and all others living in the region. And land east of the Jordan River, which they had also acquired, they called Transjordan (to be renamed Jordan in 1949). The word “Arab” referred more to those who spoke Arabic than to people purely Arabic, and included Christians. Previous to the arrival of the British, the Arabs in Palestine had thought of themselves as Arabs rather than as Palestinians.

So when Obeidallah says:

After all, there are more than 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel alone. Of course, that didn’t stop Newt Gingrich from commenting during his failed 2012 run for president that the Palestinians are an “invented” people. Here, I thought for years my father had been a cook, but apparently he was an inventor.

he is clearly joking. Later in the same paragraph, he continues:

he would have found that most historians mark the beginning of the Palestinian Arab nationalist movement as happening in 1824, when the Arabs there rebelled against Ottoman rule.

In fact, I can't find any trace of an 1824 revolt in “Palestine,” but there was one in what is now Saudi Arabia. So I wonder what Obeidallah is talking about. In any case, I am certain that any participants in whatever 1824 revolt he is describing called themselves “Arabs,” and not “Palestinians.”

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Impeachment? Hardly an option

Some people have been talking about impeaching Pres. Obama. But this is totally impractical. And it's not for the reasons that such as Charles Hurt of The Washington Times give. Yes, impeaching Obama is really a scheme that can't be done. And Speaker John Boehner is right to dismiss it out of hand, even if such as Sarah Palin have called for it. (In fact, most of the impeachment talk comes from Democrats these days — trying to use this as a way of rallying their base!) But Hurt's reason — that the GOP is very bad at getting its ideas accepted by the American public — is not the real reason.

The real reason is that our Constitution makes it impossible to impeach a president and win, unless you can get substantially unanimous agreement. To get two thirds of the Senate to agree to convict a president like Obama, who still retains a lot of popularity, is an impossible task. The Senate would not remove Bill Clinton, who lied before a grand jury, and it is very clear that no Democratic Senator (and right now they are a majority, and even the most optimistic polls for the GOP do not expect the Democratic numbers after November's election to be reduced below the middle forties, certainly not below 33, which would be necessary to get an impeachment through!) will vote to convict Pres. Obama.

So even if the House voted to impeach, all that would do is get some Obama supporters to be angry. It would not actually remove the President. So what good would that do?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Walter Russell Mead hits it right on the head

A post dated yesterday on Walter Russell Mead's blog, “The American Interest,” is of great interest. When we compare all the media condemnation of moves by George W. Bush with the absence of comments on Barack Obama, the contrast is amazing:

The reckless and thoughtless Libya intervention just keeps looking worse. But don’t read the critics to see how horrible things are: as the government announces that the U.S. has officially evacuated its embassy in Tripoli this morning, the latest State Department travel advisory for the country says it all:

The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution. Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation. Crime levels remain high in many parts of the country. In addition to the threat of crime, various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests in Libya. Extremist groups in Libya have made several specific threats this year against U.S. government officials, citizens, and interests in Libya. Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially U.S. citizens, in Libya may be associated with the U.S. government or U.S. NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks, or death. U.S. citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately.

Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country and attacks by armed groups can occur in many different areas; hotels frequented by westerners have been caught in the crossfire. Armed clashes have occurred in the areas near Tripoli International Airport, Airport Road, and Swani Road. Checkpoints controlled by militias are common outside of Tripoli, and at times inside the capital. Closures or threats of closures of international airports occur regularly, whether for maintenance, labor, or security-related incidents. Along with airports, seaports and roads can close with little or no warning. U.S. citizens should closely monitor news and check with airlines to try to travel out of Libya as quickly and safely as possible.

The status of the country’s interim government remains uncertain. The newly elected Council of Representatives is scheduled to convene by August 4, but political jockeying continues over where and when to seat the parliament. Heavy clashes between rival factions erupted in May 2014 in Benghazi and other eastern cities. In Tripoli, armed groups have contested territory near Tripoli International Airport since July 13, rendering the airport non-operational. State security institutions lack basic capabilities to prevent conflict, and there remains a possibility of further escalation.

Throw in the resulting civil war in Mali and the scattering of insurgents and weapons to the four winds, and you have a classic exhibition of reckless incompetence—of American arrogance, ignorance, carelessness and moralism combining in a toxic stew to sink a fragile country we never understood.

Luckily for America’s self-esteem, it was liberal Democrats that produced this particular shambles. If Republicans had done this, the media would be on the administration non-stop, perhaps comparing Samantha Power to Paul Wolfowitz—a well-meaning humanitarian way over her head who wrecked a country out of misguided ideology. There might also be some pointed questions for future presidential candidates who supported this fiasco. But since both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have their fingerprints all over Libya, there isn’t a lot of press hunger for a detailed, unsparing autopsy into this stinking corpse of policy flub.

The key to all this ignoring of the foreign policy debacle follows:

If Obama were a Republican, the press and the weekly news shows would be ringing with hyperbolic, apocalyptic denunciations of the clueless incumbent who had failed to learn the most basic lessons of Iraq. Indeed, the MSM right now would be howling that Obama was stupider than Bush. Bush, our Journolist friends would now be saying ad nauseam, at least had the excuse that he didn’t know what happens when you overthrow a paranoid, genocidal, economically incompetent Arab tyrant in an artificial post-colonial state. But Obama did—or, the press would nastily say, he would have done if he’d been doing his job instead of hitting the golf course or yakking it up with his glitzy pals at late night bull sessions. The ad hominem attacks would never stop, and all the tangled threads of incompetence and failure would be endlessly and expertly picked at in long New Yorker articles, NYT thumbsuckers, and chin-strokings on all the Sabbath gasbag shows.

Why, the ever-admirable tribunes of a free and unbiased press would be asking non-stop, didn’t this poor excuse for a President learn from what happened in Iraq? When you upend an insane and murderous dictator who has crushed his people for decades under an incompetent and quirky regime, you’d better realize that there is no effective state or civil society under the hard shell of dictatorial rule. Remove the dictator and you get chaos and anarchy. Wasn’t this President paying attention during the last ten years?

Mead concedes that there is some reason to withhold criticism:

Some of the criticism would be exaggerated and unfair; the Monday morning quarterbacks never really understand just how complicated and tragic this poor world really is, not to mention how hard it is to make life and death decisions in real time in the center of the non-stop political firestorm that is Washington today. And the MSM attracts more than its share of deeply inexperienced but entitled, self-regarding blowhards who love to pontificate about how stupid all those poor fools who have actual jobs and responsibilities actually are.

But the key to the whole point being made follows:

But luckily for Team Obama, the mainstream press would rather die than subject liberal Democrats to the critiques it reserves for the GOP. So instead, as Libya writhes in agony, reputations and careers move on. The news is so bad, and the President’s foreign policy is collapsing on so many fronts, that it is impossible to keep the story off the front pages. “Smart diplomacy” has become a punch line, and the dream Team Obama had of making Democrats the go-to national security party is as dead as the passenger pigeon. But what the press can do for the White House it still, with some honorable exceptions, labors to accomplish: it will, when it must, report the dots. But it will try not to connect them, and it will do what it can to let all the people involved in the Libya debacle move on to the next and higher stage of their careers.

Of course, Hillary's march to the Presidency cannot be impeded. And Obama's greatness must me proclaimed to the world.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Moral equivalence?

Rick Bayan is the owner of a blog called "The New Moderate," with which I often agree and, even when I disagree with him, which I appreciate for his attempts to find a “moderate” position. Today he put out a post entitled “Itching for Another World War” which discusses a number of things, but a large piece of it discusses the fighting now going on between Israel and Hamas. And unbelievably, his conclusion is rather hard to take:

For now, let’s focus on Israel and its implacable adversaries. Both sides have been going at it with alarming gusto, and of course both sides claim to be victims. Hamas militants have been firing away at Israel mindlessly and persistently, like mosquitoes tormenting a sweaty horse, giving Israel a perfect excuse to fire back. Israel, no longer the plucky underdog of its early decades, has been spilling mostly-innocent Arab blood in the Gaza Strip, an Arab-occupied, Hamas-dominated patch of real estate the size of Philadelphia.

So who’s to blame? The obvious answer, at least from The New Moderate’s perspective, is both sides.

He correctly identifies the problem, I think, when he writes:

Hamas, like all Islamic terror groups, is guilty of refusing to accept the validity of Israeli statehood. What will it take for these Muslim militants to stop begrudging the Jewish people, dispersed and oppressed for nearly two thousand years, a New Jersey-sized slice of turf occupying roughly half their ancestral homeland, with a little extra desert thrown in for good measure? Where were the Jewish survivors of Nazi depredations supposed to establish a modern state for their people – Antarctica? The Jews earned their right to Israel through a combination of land purchases, grit and perseverance, and they’ve successfully defended it three times against staggering odds. The people we call Palestinians are simply Arabs who lived in an artificial state created from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, they were free to stay put or find a new home within a vast Arab dominion that stretches from Morocco to the Iranian border. Israelis have only Israel. This much is certain: if terror groups like Hamas stopped putting Israel in their crosshairs, the bloodshed in the so-called Holy Land would stop tomorrow.

He even recognizes the artificiality of the “Palestinian nationality.” But yet, he proceeds to write:

And what about Israel, now widely vilified (especially on the multiculti left) as a world-class imperialist oppressor of indigenous peoples? First of all, Israel must plead guilty to creating a caste system that relegated its resident Arabs to second-class status. Yes, Israel was founded as a Jewish state, and you can’t blame Israel’s Jews for wanting to keep it that way. But Israel can be shockingly, almost gleefully ruthless in lashing back at its enemies; that ruthlessness has been amply displayed during the ongoing blockade and siege of Gaza. You’d think a civilized people who endured centuries of persecution at the hands of ethnic majorities would show a little more sensitivity toward the minorities in their midst – at least toward the civilians who suffer most from Israeli overkill. I’ll never forget the chilling words of an extremist rabbi who declared that “a million Arabs aren’t worth one Jewish fingernail.”

Now first of all, he refers to “a caste system that relegated its resident Arabs to second-class status.” I really wonder what he means there. There are Arabs in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament), and Arabs in the highest court of the land. By what measure are they “second-class”? On all matters where religion matters, the Jews run their own affairs, and Christians and Muslims run theirs. It's not like Saudi Arabia, where public celebration of Christmas can get you in trouble with the law. As for that rabbi who said “a million Arabs aren’t worth one Jewish fingernail,” this was one extremist — it hardly represents the views of the Israeli government.

So how can Rick Bayan say there is guilt on both sides? Hamas is killing innocent civilians, deliberately. Israel is firing back at the enemy, and, yes, killing innocent civilians, but warnings have been given in advance so they could have left, and they didn't. This is hardly a case of equally sharing the blame. I see not a single thing that Israel is doing in this war that they aren't forced to do, and that any other country would do in a similar situation.

How can a “moderate” criticize Israel in this battle?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A great day for foes of Obamacare

The Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit has issued a ruling in the case of Halbig v. Sebelius, which says that the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (a. k. a. Obamacare) can only apply in states that have created their own exchanges, a clear interpretation of the plain language of the Act, which makes total sense. Meanwhile, the 4th Circuit, in the case of King v. Burwell, has ruled the opposite way. When two appeals courts have issued rulings so sharply in conflict, this guarantees that the Supreme Court will get to settle this. If Halbig is sustained by the Supreme Court, many other parts of the Act will fail to apply in all those states which use the federal exchange. So this could send Obamacare crashing down.

It's a case of bad drafting, because the Congress and President Obama were in such a hurry to force this down the throats of the American people. If they had been willing to work things out, and not dismiss the Republicans' efforts to change the plan, perhaps a clearer bill would have passed, but it might not have met Obama's demand to give health care that covers certain things to everyone whether they want it or not. Of course, that would have been a better bill, though Obama would not have liked it as much. But now he may be left with such a mess that the Act will have to be repealed and the government will start over. And that is good news.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Uncertainty is scary

Polls I have seen recently show the Republican Party leading in exactly enough states to win 51 seats in the Senate — a bare majority. But they are going up and down. Just a day or two ago, the total predicted was 52. By November, it could go up and down some more. And if the Senate divides 50-50, Vice-President Biden gets to vote, so the Democrats win on anything that divides strictly on party lines. With a Democratic Senate, President Obama can appoint whomever he wants to courts and other agencies; with a Republican Senate, he can be stopped. So it is scary that the totals are so close. If the polls had predicted a 55-45 Senate, we could know what we might expect — even a couple of states going the other way from the prediction would not make a difference. But we are up in the air for a few more months. (Of course, this is counting as Democrats the two independents who caucus with them. Sen. Bernard Sanders is a self-declared Socialist, so he's not going to come over to the GOP side. But Sen. Angus King might be persuaded. If the Senate does divide 50-50, you can be sure both parties are going to make a big play to get Sen. King to join their caucus!)

I just wish November would come already!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Ukraine war

Unfortunately, with the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukrainian airspace, the Ukraine war is beginning to affect the lives of many people who have no connection with Ukraine or Russia. It is really a senseless war. Ukraine was given a set of boundaries that include a number of people whose language is not Ukrainian, but Russian, and whose cultural loyalties are to Russia, not to Ukraine. There is far less of a difference between Czechs and Slovaks, and they agreed to separate peacefully. It would seem that the same solution should have been pursued in Ukraine. But Ukrainian nationalism, a feeling for “integrity of borders,” and Vladimir Putin's ego have all been allowed to enter into this dispute. Clearly, this war will have to play itself out now. But it is too bad it had to start.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hobby Lobby, mandates, and the right way to do insurance

The big problem that led to the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case is the decision by the authors of the so-called Affordable Care Act, a. k. a. “Obamacare,” to rely on compulsion, rather than assistance, to achieve its goal — and, of course, having the wrong goal: universal coverage, rather than coverage for all who want it. Since it mandated employers’ provision of insurance, it had to determine what was required to comply, and having some people set up minimum requirements that conflicted with others’ religious scruples is what caused the conflict that Hobby Lobby was all about.

Now, suppose that the goal was, as I think it should be, coverage for all who want it rather than universal coverage. Then nobody would be penalized with fines, either for failure to provide coverage or for failure to enroll. If a person’s employer did not provide coverage, or the person was unemployed, the government would provide a subsidy that can only be used to purchase health insurance. The amount of this subsidy could be keyed to income, of course. If a person’s employer provided coverage, but this coverage did not include something the government deemed essential, the government would provide a subsidy to enable the person to buy a supplemental policy that would cover those conditions and products that the government deemed essential but the employer-provided insurance policy did not cover. (Thus none of the Hobby Lobby-type conflicts.)

Some raise the argument that with the elimination of limitations on coverage for pre-existing conditions, people will decline to buy insurance until they are sick. There is an easy fix to this, which does not involve fining people. Simply use a rule similar to the one that parts of Medicare have: If you were eligible for insurance but did not choose to buy it, when you do buy it you will be liable for an increased premium.

Can anyone find fault with this way of doing it?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sarah Palin calls for impeachment

Former Governor Sarah Palin has called for the impeachment of President Barack Obama. It's a crazy call. Yes, if you asked me whether Pres. Obama has done things worthy of impeachment, I would have to say “yes.” But any impeachment can only remove a President if it can get 67 votes in the Senate. And in a Democratic Senate, with only 45 Republicans, does anyone think 22 Democrats will vote to remove Pres. Obama? It just won't happen. The only way to proceed is through the courts, getting Obama's violations of the Constitution and laws reversed by the judicial system, and possibly, with actions like the Boehner lawsuit, invalidating other unconstiutional acts. And of course refusing to pass any legislation that Obama proposes unless it makes some concessions to the views of others than extreme liberals, so nothing gets done to further destroy our economy in the 2½ years remaining of the Obama presidency, until January, 2017, when (hopefully) Chris Christie or another Republican moves into the White House.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The case for Boehner's suit

Ron Christie has written a post entitled Why Boehner’s Lawsuit Against Obama Could Work in The Daily Beast, which is a good summary of the case for John Boehner's suit. It bears repeating:

The Speaker’s suit is not some political stunt, and could actually be successful.

Since Speaker John Boehner announced his intention late last month to sue President Obama for overstepping his legal authority, his supporters have frequently noted how few executive orders he’s actually handed down. To date, Obama has only issued 182, while the predecessor he likes to blame for everything issued 291.

But the real issue, of course, is not the number of executive orders issued during one’s presidency but rather their legality. And it’s here that Boehner and company have a real, substantive case against the president.

Obama has issued at least 32 legislative fixes to the Affordable Care Act, softened laws against illegal immigration, and stripped the work requirement from President Clinton’s welfare reform—all with the stroke of his pen. In 2012, perhaps emboldened by the apparent inability of Congress to stop him, Obama declared the United States Senate to be in recess in order to install three nominees on the National Labor Relations Board.

The Supreme Court recently curbed Obama’s ability to circumvent Congress, and now Boehner is readying a lawsuit to do the same. On June 26, 2014, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Obama had violated the Constitution by naming those three nominees to the NLRB.

On the same day the Supreme Court invalidated Obama’s recess appointments, he doubled down on his vision of executive authority by flippantly dismissing Boehner’s lawsuit. “So sue me,” the president told reporters when asked about the suit. Fortunately, Boehner has elected to ignore this display of petulance and continue with his landmark attempt to sue the president.

While Obama and his cheerleaders in the media sneer at the notion of executive overreach, noted constitutional scholar and George Washington Law School Professor Jonathan Turley believes Boehner’s suit could prevail. “I think there is a case against the president for exceeding his authority…I happen to agree with the president on many of his priorities and policies, but as I testified in Congress, I think that he has crossed the constitutional line,” Turley told MSNBC the day Boehner announced his suit.

“When the president went to Congress and said he would go it alone, it obviously raises a concern,” Turley added. “There’s no license for going it alone in our system, and what he’s done is very problematic. He has shifted $454 million of the ACA from appropriated purpose to another purpose. He’s told agencies not to enforce some laws, like immigration laws. He has effectively rewritten laws through the active interpretation that I find very problematic. While I happen to agree with him, I voted for him, I think this is a problem.”

This from a supporter of President Obama, yet!

While Professor Turley has identified a serious constitutional problem, David Rivkin and Professor Elizabeth Price Foley, the legal masterminds behind the suit, say they believe that the lawsuit has precedent.

They point to a pivotal case brought by five Colorado legislators who sought the ability to challenge a state constitutional amendment in federal court. The case, Kerr v. Hickenlooper, was brought before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals this year and decided in favor of the legislators and their ability to challenge the legality of the executive branch. This, Rivkin and Foley argue, should worry Obama supporters who scoff at Boehner’s impending legal challenge.

Rivkin and Foley also point to Raines v. Byrd, a 1977 Supreme Court decision. In that ruling, the justices held that a prior case before the high court

namely Coleman v. Miller,

… “stood for the proposition that legislators whose votes would have been sufficient to defeat…a specific legislative act have standing to sue if that legislative action goes into effect (or does not go into effect), on the ground that their votes have been completely nullified.”

This, although Raines v. Byrd found that the legislators in that specific case did not have standing.

Memo to White House Counsel’s Office: Boehner and his colleagues in the House can easily argue that the president’s unilateral rewrite of sections of the Affordable Care Act has essentially nullified the votes cast in the House of Representatives to pass the bill.

“Professor Foley and I believe that, consistent with the existing case law, the House of Representatives would be able to gain standing to challenge a number of President Obama’s unconstitutional suspensions of law, which have nullified the House of Representatives’ legislative authority, thereby inflicting institutional injury on it,” Rivkin told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.

He continued: “A lawsuit challenging anyone of these actions by the President and that meets the other three elements of our four-part test — explicit legislative authorization, no private plaintiff available and no proportionate political ‘self-help’ available — would have an excellent chance of success.”

Of course, nobody can tell how the Supreme Court will rule. But I would hope that the Court will see things as Rivkin and Foley have. And Coleman v. Miller, decided by the Supreme Court in the past and interpreted in Raines v. Byrd, seems to make it a reasonable hope.

Boehner will soon submit a resolution to the House of Representatives stating that the president has failed to faithfully execute the law. The Speaker contends that Congress — and by extension the American people — have been harmed by Obama’s unilateral decision to rewrite, ignore or modify laws as he sees fit. And if Obama can act lawlessly and bypass Congress now, the precedent has been set for a Republican president to do the same in future years.

Boehner’s lawsuit is no mere political stunt. Rivkin and Foley have provided a strong legal framework for Boehner to succeed in his lawsuit on the merits. And it will be interesting to see if Obama realizes this and offers a legal defense for unilateral actions, or remains stubbornly dismissive of Boehner and his efforts.

I could not have said it better myself, so I simply repost it.