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.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Both sides are doing it

There are now conservative sites like The Washington Times, who put out an editorial with the title “For left, it’s tolerance and diversity for me, but not for thee,” attacking the lberal press for a double standard. And there are liberal sites like Mark Stern's blog on Slate, that accuse conservatives of the same thing. Really, though, they are both cases of the pot calling the kettle black.

Liberals like Mark Stern like to accuse conservatives of refusing to allow companies like Mozilla their freedom of association — the right to get rid of someone who they find to be against their values — while those same conservatives insist that the Boy Scouts should have the same right they deny to Mozilla. And conservatives like the Washington Times point to the Hobby Lobby case, where liberals want to deny a company the right to exercise its owners' values, while those same liberals cheer Mozilla's doing the same thing.

I think we should be consistent. If Hobby Lobby can run itself according to its owners' values — and I think they should — so can Mozilla. But how this relates to the Boy Scouts is somewhat different. The Boy Scouts are not a company whose shareholders oppose gay rights. They are a membership organization. I can't really equate the Scouts' desire to purge themselves of gays to Mozilla's wanting to avoid having a homophobe as the face of the company.

Friday, April 04, 2014

A boycott that worked

OKCupid is an online dating site. It is firmly committed to the idea of equality of gay couples and has facilitated gay as well as straight matches. Brendan Eich was an officer at Mozilla, the company that produces the Firefox browser, and in 2008 donated $1000 to the campaign to take away marriage rights from gay couples in California (Proposition 8, which passed in a referendum, but has since been overturned by judicial action). Recently Eich was promoted to CEO at Mozilla, and OKCupid chose to act — by telling Firefox users who connected to their site about this and suggesting that they switch to another browser. If this is not the first case that a Website has recommended to users that they change browsers because of the social policies of the browser maker's CEO, I would be surprised.

And it worked. Eich resigned as CEO. Mozilla officers indicated that the company supports equality. It looks as though at least in this case, the boycott accomplished its purpose.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More on Ukraine

Let's be fair. While the 93-7 margin of votes in favor of leaving Ukraine was distorted by Russian military presence and Tatar boycotting the referendum, I am certain that the majority of the Crimean people prefer to be Russian, not Ukrainian. And if it is fair to let majority-Albanian Kosovo leave Serbia, and Slovakia to part with the Czechs, the will of majority-Russian Crimea should be respected too. Certainly, for us to go to war over “the territorial integrity of Ukraine” is unthinkable.

Besides, the resulting Ukraine is more homogeneous having Crimea secede. We need to get out of this thing. Give some aid to Ukraine to compensate it for the loss of territory, perhaps. But let the ethnic Russians in Crimea be. Let them join the country they belong in.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What is the Republican Party?

I look at the polls that are being conducted, even now, two years before the nomination process begins, and I see three names at the top of the Republican list: Christie, Huckabee, and Paul. It would be hard to find three more dissimilar people to carry the banner of the party. And this shows the nature of the problem. The Republican Party is a coalition of several factions. And each of the top three is a representative of a different one of these factions.

Chris Christie is a pre-eminent example of what I would call the “pragmatic” wing of the party. He knows that “pure” Republicanism will not be imposed on a public that is (in his state) majority Democratic; therefore, he has found ways to make common cause with Democrats to get as much of his program through. It is this “pragmatism” that suited him well. His first term was so successful that he was re-elected with a landslide majority last year.

Mike Huckabee is what his followers choose to call a “social conservative”; a better term for the faction, however, is “moralist.” He is guided by the principles he believes come from God; as a result, he favors making the tenets of his religion supersede even the principles of the Constitution. I have to say that having these people in my party scares me; I am, certainly, willing to accept their votes when they go to the candidate I favor — no matter whose votes go to my candidate, it's a good thing! — but they are not people whom I want to see running the country. Their Bible is not my Bible, and their interpretation of that part of their Bible which is also in my Bible is not my interpretation of those Scriptures, but first and foremost, their insistence that they are to follow the Bible, rather than the Constitution, is what really scares me. I don't want to live in a Christian theocracy, any more than I would want to live in a Muslim theocracy like Iran.

Rand Paul does not scare me, the way Mike Huckabee does. His followers would say that they belong to a “libertarian” wing of the party, and libertarianism is a philosophy that, to a large extent, I share. However, Paul is not just libertarian, but also isolationist, and while I had thought isolationism, as a movement in the Republican Party, had died out in 1941 when the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor, I am surprised to see it revive after more than a half century. Rand Paul has become the spokesman of this “libertarian-isolationist” wing; and as I've implied, while I share a lot of its libertarianism, I cannot accept its isolationism.

So we are not just looking at the fortunes of three candidates, but rather we are looking at the struggles of three groups of Republicans to forge a party that reflects their philosophies. And that is why I am so strongly behind Chris Christie for the nomination.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Vladimir Putin and Ukraine

I don't like Vladimir Putin. And I don't like his expansionistic activities. But I have to say he has some justification for his position on Crimea and Ukraine. There are a lot more ethnic Russians than Ukrainians in Crimea (though the Tatars pose a problem). And if they feel that they do not belong in Ukraine, their feelings need to be taken into account. And in fact, the Crimea was part of Russia until 1954, and simply taken from Russia and given to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev (who in fact was a Ukrainian himself). So I can see the feeling of wrongdoing that Russians might harbor.

So we really should let the Crimea secede from Ukraine. And I say this out of no love for Vladimir Putin, or his policies. But on this issue, he's right.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The news from Florida… and what it means for Obamacare

Tuesday there was a special election in Florida. A Republican member of the House of Representatives, Bill Young, had died and his seat was being filled, but the district in fact had been trending Democratic. President Barack Obama had won the district twice, as had the most recent Democratic candidate for Governor of Florida, Alex Sink. And this same Alex Sink was the Democratic candidate for the House seat to be filled, so she didn't need to build name recognition. And the Republican candidate, David Jolly, was a former lobbyist (a fact that his opponent used against him) with no history in politics, and who had weathered a divisive primary. So by a lot of lights, Sink was favored to flip this seat and turn it “blue.” This in fact was predicted by such as Sean Trende, even though he considers this a Republican year, and has predicted that the Republicans will take over the Senate.

So what should we conclude? Trende had said before the election was complete that this single election means little, and afterwards has not changed that point of view. But really, given all that was going in Alex Sink's favor, I think one thing is certain: it is poisonous to be associated with “Obamacare.” She was not even there to vote for it, but merely defended it in her campaigning. And David Jolly made attacking “Obamacare” the cornerstone of his campaign. This has to mean something. And certainly in the elections where Democratic incumbents are up for re-election, who actually voted for “Obamacare” in Congress, this will be used against them. I think this Noveber will be a good day for Republicans.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What to do when constitutions conflict?

There are people who take Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to task for declining to defend a Virginia state constitutional ban on gay marriage. I think he did the right thing if, and that's an important if, he truly believes that the Virginia provision is contrary to the United States Constitution.

Article VI of the U. S. Constitution states:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Thus in cases of conflicts between the U. S. Constitution and a state constitution, the state constitution is invalid. And if an attorney general of a state truly believes that a state constitutional provision conflicts with the U. S. Constitution, he has no duty to defend it. If Virginia's people ratified a Constitutional provision reinstituting slavery, or denying the vote to all but white males, would Mark Herring be duty-bound to defend it? I think not.

A constitional-law scholar like Curt Levey must know this — and in fact, though his post is entitled, “An attorney general's job is to defend the law — no exceptions,” if you read it, he clearly accepts at least one exception. For he says that an attorney general would not be required to defend “a law requiring the arrest and imprisonment of all members of the opposition party without trial.” So it is a matter of where one draws a line. And unless there is a clear Supreme Court decision, each attorney general, and in fact each citizen, has to interpret the U. S. Constitution as he sees fit.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Split up Ukraine!

It is clear to me that Ukraine ought to be two countries. The eastern and southern parts of the country are more oriented toward Russia, and now-ousted president Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych is popular there. People are agitating there for Yanukovych's restoration. In the western part of the country, the people are more European in their orientation, and it was from there that the calls to oust Yanukovych came. Both groups will not be happy, however this turns out. Unfortunately, it's like Czechoslovakia — there may be good reasons to keep the pieces together, but the people don't want the same things for their country's government to be doing.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French President François Hollande, and other national leaders have issued calls to preserve Ukraine's territorial integrity. They are simply mistaken.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

More on health care reform

Democrats have assailed Republicans for wanting to “repeal and replace” the so-called “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” usually known as “Obamacare,” but not having any plan for the replacement: in other words, Republicans are accused of being willing to “repeal” but only giving lip service to “replace.” Well, a couple of weeks ago, I read of a plan by Republican Senators Richard Burr, Tom Coburn, and Orrin Hatch that would replace “Obamacare.” As described in that article (see my January 29, 2014 post entitled “Reforming health care”) the Burr/Coburn/Hatch plan had some flaws, but recently I saw an editorial in The Washington Post that gave a description that differed from the one I saw last month. (The Post did not like the Burr/Coburn/Hatch proposal; it called it “a starting point for a conversation, not a replacement”; but that's another matter — for one, the Post seems to think that mandates are a good idea!) The original article I saw last month said that Burr/Coburn/Hatch would not require insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions, but only grant the companies incentives, while the plan described in the Post editorial would require this coverage; and there was no mention in the earlier posting of replacing the individual mandate by a plan similar to what Medicare Part D has — allowing the insurance companies to charge a higher premium to people eligible for coverage who chose not to buy insurance (which I think is the best way to sove the problem of people signing up only after they become sick), but the Post editorial says that Burr/Coburn/Hatch has such a provision. I don't know whether the first posting was in error, or the Senators involved modified their proposal, but if the Post editorial is correct about those two provisions, Burr/Coburn/Hatch becomes a plan I can support pretty much unreservedly.

It is going to be a major slog trying to get something like Burr/Coburn/Hatch passed, of course. The Senate is still dominated by Democrats, though in November an election is coming up that may — probably will — change that; and President Obama is on track to veto any bill that destroys his “masterpiece.” But this blog will favor the implementation of Burr/Coburn/Hatch or something like it, and you are likely to read more here in the future.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Virginia gay-marriage decision

Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen issued an opinion voiding Virginia's ban on gay marriage. And while I approve of the decision, I wonder how ignorant a judge can be of our Constitution, as in her decision she stated that “Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal.” Surely it would be incumbent on a Federal judge to know that those words are nowhere to be found in the Constitution, but come from the Declaration of Independence, a document written by a prominent Virginian, Thomas Jefferson.

In fact, Judge Allen issued a revision of her opinion correcting this mistake afterward, but only after the error was pointed out to her by commentators. The basic idea of the opinion is right, of course. And it's fitting that the decision be made in Virginia, the state whose ban on interracial marriage was overridden by the Supreme Court in the Loving v. Virginia case. And in fact, Judge Allen began her decision with a quote from Mildred Loving, the wife in the marriage that was upheld in Loving v. Virginia. This, of course, is not a Supreme Court decision, but hopefully it will lead to one.

So, I view the decision favorably, but it gives me great pause that the judge that issued it could make such an egregious error as to the contents of our Constitution, which governs our laws.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The REAL effect of “Obamacare”

The Congressional Budget Office just came out with a report on the effects that “Obamacare” will have on the economy and on the health insurance status of the American people. As reported by John Podhoretz in the New York Post, it's not so good. On page 111, it says:

As a result of the ACA, between 6 million and 7 million fewer people will have employment-based insurance coverage each year from 2016 through 2024 than would be the case in the absence of the ACA.

That's fewer! So, people may say, “That's not so bad; people will pick up their insurance on the exchanges, and this will lead to more coverage altogether.” But the report also says:

About 31 million nonelderly residents of the United States are likely to be without health insurance in 2024, roughly one out of every nine such residents.

Now note that when President Obama was selling “Obamacare” to the American people in September 2009, he said:

[T]here are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage.

So in 2024, we will have approximately the same number of uninsured Americans as we has in 2009! All this tampering with the health insurance of millions of Americans, merely to tread water?

Read Podhoretz's column. It's illuminating.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Not a good sign

A poll by CNN just showed the Republican leader to be… former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, an extremist of the Religious Right. If I were faced with a choice in November 2016 between Huckabee and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, I'd have nowhere to go — I might even vote for Clinton, though more likely I'd vote for the Libertarian. Apparently the media's attacks on New Jersey governor Chris Christie have had some effect (though Christie was only 4 points below Huckabee, and all these candidates are below 20%) which shows that their indirect strategy (hurt the most qualified Republicans' chances, so they nominate someone who will be a pushover for Hillary) is working. However, it's still two years before 2016. We will see what happens in the interim.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Reforming health care

Of course, in his State of the Union address, President Obama touted his signature health care plan. And he even pointed to one of its successes: a woman who was uncovered until January 1, and shortly afterward was able to have a serious surgical procedure that was covered because of an “Obamacare”-based policy. He didn't mention its much larger failures: millions of people who had been covered, but lost their coverage because their plans were not in compliance with requirements put in place by “Obamacare” to cover this or that or the other thing. One person that often has been cited is retiring Senator Tom Coburn, of Oklakoma, who is retiring in part because of a cancer he has, and no longer has insurance that covers his cancer specialist — though, a physician himself, he is rich enough to continue to pay this doctor out of his own pocket!

Mentioning Sen. Coburn is particularly apropos, because he is one of three Senators (the others are Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Burr of North Carolina) who have come up with a plan they would like to see replace “Obamacare.” There is a column by Avik Roy on Forbes Magazine's site which advocates the Coburn/Burr/Hatch plan as the best alternative to replace “Obamacare,” and, while I'm not certain I approve of all its provisions, it deserves consideration.

I think that the CBH plan does not go far enough in keeping the “Obamacare” ban on denial of insurance for pre-existing conditions, for example — this is one of “Obamacare's” good points — but just because it's not exactly what I would propose would not make me turn it down entirely. However, I think that something like it might be the basis for a Republican alternative.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Trying to take down Chris Christie

Liberal Democrats seem to be as convinced as I am that Chris Christie is the best hope for the GOP to regain the Presidency. But while in my case, I believe it's a good thing, the liberal Dems are so fearful of it that they are doing their darnedest to keep alive all the things they think can derail Christie's move toward the White House. Case in point: an article by E. J. Dionne, a Washington Post columnist. He purports to be reviewing Gov. Christie's “State of the State” speech, but it is clear that he wants to interject the old business about the George Washington Bridge jam-up and Dawn Zimmer's ridiculous charge of coercion:

The New Jersey governor gave the speech he would have given had there been no George Washington Bridge scandal and no allegations about the use of Hurricane Sandy relief money to pressure a local official on a development project.

Dionne can't really fault Christie's speech, so he simply brings up this old business. Nobody has as of yet proved that Christie inspired the closing of those bridge lanes, or even that he knew about it before the recent surfacing of the details. And nobody but Dawn Zimmer seems to have any evidence of the supposed coercion. But Dionne cannot wait until the New Jersey legislature does its investigation of the bridge closing — it might actually show that Christie is telling the truth! So Dionne needs to keep repeating the unproved allegations, so that they can have maximum impact.

But we all need to know about E. J. Dionne. He published a column last October which began with the words “Obamacare is working.” He unashamedly praises the President for all his wrecking of this country's health care system, and in general backs him to the hilt. So naturally, he would want to derail the hope of reversing this egregious blunder.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kim Guadagno and Dawn Zimmer

Lately we have been seeing an exchange of charges by New Jersey lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno and the mayor of Hoboken, Dawn Zimmer, with each implying that the other is lying about a meeting that they had, and in Zimmer's case, implying that Governor Chris Christie was pressuring her to approve a real estate development in Hoboken by withholding some of the relief money for Hurricane Sandy. Reading both sets of claims, it looks like “Alice in Wonderland.” And yet, I think I can figure out what happened, that could lead each of the two to say what she has on this subject.

Guadagno has recused herself from all matters involving Hurricane Sandy, because she herself owns a property that was damaged by the storm. However, Zimmer was probably unaware of this, and headed into the meeting in question, with her mind mainly on the Hurricane Sandy relief, assuming that this was what she would be discussing with Guadagno. I assume that Zimmer brought up the Sandy relief question immediately, and was told by Guadagno that this was not the place to discuss it, that she should talk to someone else. And Zimmer immediately assumed that she was being told that the Sandy relief money was being conditioned on her going along with whatever Guadagno was advocating — namely, the redevelopment plan. Guadagno probably did say, as Zimmer says she did, that the message was to be considered as coming from Governor Christie, but the message was not that the Sandy relief funds were being held up until Zimmer approved the redevelopment plan; simply that this plan was something the Governor wanted to see approved. Yes, Governor Christie was pushing hard for the redevelopment plan, but the idea that the money for Sandy was being conditioned on this was in Zimmer's head. In short, Dawn Zimmer went into the meeting with Sandy on her mind, Kim Guadagno tried to tell her that Sandy was not to be discussed, and Zimmer read it incorrectly as a signal that the Sandy relief was conditioned on her going along with Christie's demands.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Martin Luther King

Tomorrow is a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, and it got me thinking. It seems that (although nobody wants it to happen to them) getting yourself assassinated is a sure road to becoming a hero in many people's eyes. John F. Kennedy would, on the basis of his accomplishments, be considered a rather inconsequential president — it was Lyndon Johnson who actually pushed through the civil rights legislation that Kennedy had proposed — if it hadn't been for the shooting in Dallas in 1963. And Martin Luther King was only one of many civil rights leaders — Thurgood Marshall certainly accomplished more, for example — and he tarnished his own record by taking a near-treasonous attitude on the Vietnam war. Yet some people idolized both, to the extent of a song having been written about “Abraham, Martin, and John.” (To me this is profaning the memory of Abraham Lincoln, who was one of our greatest Presidents, perhaps our greatest, shepherding our nation through its only civil war.)

John F. Kennedy was one of our nonentity Presidents — the country would have been better served if Richard M. Nixon had won in 1960 — and Martin Luther King was one of our less important civil rights leaders, yet both are honored far beyond what they deserve. And far beyond what would have been the case if neither had been shot. It seems that Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray, by prematurely ending Kennedy's and King's lives, caused both to be more important than they would have otherwise been. Another case of “unintended consequences”?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Overzealous underlings

It seems that one of the problems that a good leader has is subordinates who are so loyal to him, they will do anything to ensure he stays in office, including illegal actions and others that may be technically legal, but unacceptable to the American public.

I am old enough to remember the 1972 Presidential election. Living in New York City at the time, perhaps I even thought that George McGovern had a chance at the Presidency; in retrospect, it is obvious that he did not. But apparently some staffers in the Richard Nixon campaign thought McGovern had a chance, too, and feared — as I did myself — that a McGovern Presidency would be disastrous for the Free World, so they went about trying to ensure Nixon's re-election by means that were frankly illegal. There is no evidence that Nixon wanted these illegal activities to take place, much less ordered them, but out of loyalty to the men who had tried so hard to help him, President Nixon tried to cover up the evidence, and this brought about his downfall, ending up with a resignation by one of the most productive Presidents in United States history — certainly, the best President, I believe, in the last third of the Twentieth Century. It is a big shame — and only because people under Nixon were trying to help him.

Forty-one years after that 1972 Presidential election was a gubernatorial election in New Jersey. The Governor, Chris Christie, was seeking re-election after a very productive first term, and apparently some of his subordinates thought they were working on his behalf by trying to embarrass the Mayor of Ft. Lee, a Democrat who they thought should have endorsed Christie (as did a number of other Democratic officeholders in New Jersey), but who did not. What they did, tying up traffic on the George Washington Bridge, was not strictly illegal, but certainly unethical. And again, political opponents — particularly national Democratic politicians — are trying to put the blame on Governor Christie, as they did on President Nixon, though the fault is clearly further down the chain of command.

Both of these unfortunate attempts were really unnecessary, as it happened — Nixon certaingy would have beaten McGovern by a big margin even if the Watergate actions had never taken place, and certainly, Chris Christie won re-election by a heroic margin without getting the support of Ft. Lee's mayor.

Governor Christie, certainly, is aware of the history I cited earlier in this post. And he is not going to handle it the same way President Nixon did, because he knows what happened to Nixon. So he is firing those people who directly worked under him, apologized to the Mayor of Ft. Lee, and is engaged in damage control every way he can. It is a shame that he has to do this, but the history of what happened to President Nixon is on the books.

Hopefully, Governor Christie will succeed at damage control. I think he's been a great governor of New Jersey, and I think he will be a great President of the United States. It will be a tremendous shame if overzealous underlings derail him from the path to the Presidency. Fortunately, he has two years before the Iowa caucuses, and so time for people to forget about this scandal and concentrate on the bigger issues, like the disaster known as “Obamacare.” My support for Christie has not been diminished, and one person I've spoken to actually said she was favorably impressed by Christie's handling of the situation. It must have been painful to him to fire people who had been personal friends and close political allies, but he saw it as necessary.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A chance to set back Big Labor

Although the case has been pending for some time (the Supreme Court granted certiorari some months ago) I just today was reading about it: there is a case before the Supreme Court called Harris v. Quinn which has some possibilities that look good for setting back Big Labor. It involves home care workers who have been classified as state workers under Illinois law, apparently just in order to put them under a collective bargaining agreement which has set up an “agency shop,” a contract where even if a person does not want to join a union, he is forced to pay the union dues. This is one of the most evil things ever worked into a contract — you must pay someone, allegedly for providing a service, but the service is one you never asked for nor want. And the money, of course, goes in part to political candidates you might oppose.

Of course, the unions are upset that anyone would challenge these “agency shop” provisions; they say that the unions have to negotiate for all the workers and so even the non-members benefit, so they should help support the union. In fact, the union often negotiates contracts with provisions that are directly against the interests of these non-members, but union apologists refuse to see this, and that is why many people do not want to be a part of the union.

But a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in this case would not actually kill “agency shops,” as all it would do is to say that they are not in fact state employees. It would be nice if it did, of course, but that is not what this specific case is all about. It will not release unwilling people who are state employees from these burdensome “agency shop” contracts. Yet some columnists have claimed it would provide a “right-to-work” law for all public employees. Would that this were so!

Still, it's a move in the right direction. The only thing that would really provide equity in this issue of “right-to-work” laws would be a national “right-to-work” law that would apply to everyone. Nobody should be forced to pay dues to an organization he perceives as working against his interest. But let us hope that Harris prevails in this case, and others follow to push the issue a little farther in the future.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A big surprise

It does not surprise me that courts are issuing injunctions against enforcement of the “Obamacare” requirement that religious organizations violate their own religious scruples and provide coverage for things that they deem immoral. But that one of the injunctions was issued by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor does. For she is an appointee of President Obama, and a known liberal.

It seems that even someone like Justice Sotomayor understands the importance of the First Amendment issue at stake — and that bodes well for people who are raising this issue.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The new year

This will be about the only time, for a while, that you will see a post that is neither about Chris Christie nor about “Obamacare.” But I got to thinking about how New Year's Eve and New Year's Day have changed over the years for me, and I thought I'd share my memories and recollections with my readers.

In the family in which I grew up, we had a New Year's tradition which might seem very calm and subdued to most of you, but year after year we did the same thing. We gathered around the radio, with potato chips and/or other snack foods, and listened to Guy Lombardo, who every year did a New Year's program from some hotel, I think always in midtown Manhattan. The Big Band era was over — this was the early 1950s — but Lombardo still had his band, and its theme was “Auld Lang Syne” (which raises a chicken/egg question: did Lombardo choose “Auld Lang Syne” because he liked to play New Year's Eve parties? Or had he adopted “Auld Lang Syne” as his theme, and because of that he was popular as a New Year's act?). There was always some station that carried Lombardo, and we'd listen to him. The before-midnight part of the show featured a song from each year (Starting when? I don't recall.) ending up with a prediction of a likely big hit for the coming year (which never came true — I never recall hearing his predicted big hit of the coming year again after that night!) Always, of course, there was a countdown to the new year at midnight, with “Auld Lang Syne” the first song played after everyone shouted “Happy New Year!” Every year it was the same. It wasn't always the same hotel, but it was the same program. Eventually, Lombardo migrated to television, and the midnight countdown was not in his hotel, but at Times Square, where the famous ball drop took place on camera. (For a while, he did a simulcast, and we continued listening on the radio.) At home, we had champagne — for all except my father, who was a recovering alcoholic, but yes, including me and my brother, as it was not considered criminal to offer wine to kids in a family setting! Glasses were clinked together, and “Happy New Year!” was shouted by us in synchrony with the radio.

A little departure from discussions of New Year's party tradition is in order. In the 1960s I got into a certain circle of friends. One was a fellow I'd actually known since we were both in high school in the late 1950s (and still count as a friend); the others were people who shared some common interests with both of us. One of the others had put on, at his home, a summer party (a Fourth of July party? I can't recall for certain) which I attended, (and discovered that another friend, though nine years younger than I was, knew my favorite music and liked it, which made a strong bond between us). Apparently someone liked the format of the party, which included a prepared tape with an eclectic variety of songs on it, and my circle of friends started a tradition of New Year's parties structured after this summer party; I could not, at first, attend those, because I felt loyalty to my own family tradition.

But my father passed away in 1966, and my brother moved to California, and a New Year's party that consisted of just my mother and me didn't seem right; eventually I got to join my friends' party. The group developed its own traditions: eventually the audiotapes were replaced by videotapes, but since an audiotape held less material than a videotape, pauses were built into the videotape, corresponding to the interval when the audiotape had to be changed on the machine in previous parties! I moved out of New York to the Washington, D. C. area, but tried to make it back “home” to New York around New Year's Day so I could attend the party.

This ceased for me about 15 years ago — I had a life crisis that made coming to New York impossible. Shortly afterward, the man who had become the music selector for the parties (the same nine-years-younger-than-me person I'd mentioned earlier) died at a premature age of 49. And various other people, for different reasons, dropped out of the circle of friends, so the New Year's parties ceased, and even if I had been able to get up to New York, there would have been no party to go to.

In recent years, I have not done anything special at the turn of the year — staying up to midnight was something I did only because that was when the action was, so now, with no party to go to, I'm normally fast asleep in bed at “the moment.” But I still have happy memories of past New Years.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's crazy!

On the one hand, there are online posts like Lanhee Chen's on the Bloomberg site, entitled “If 2013 Was Hard on Obamacare, Just Wait for 2014,” giving us the news that “Obamacare” is on its way down the tubes, and giving us some hope that this colossal mistake will be repealed soon. On the other hand, there are also posts like Jonathan Cohn's, on the New Republic site, entitled “We Don't Know if Obamacare Is Working Well. But We Know It's Working.” This post seems to imply that things are back on track with it, that we just have to let it work out some rough spots. They can't be looking at the same facts.

I wish I had all the facts. But what I've seen mostly confirms the first position. “Obamacare” is a disaster, and needs to be put out of its misery — quickly. But how to do so, with Obama in the White House? I do have to admit, I don't really know. Until President Obama is replaced by a competent chief executive, like Chris Christie, it looks like “Obamacare” will limp along, with temporary postponements of its worst features. And the United States will limp along too, with nobody knowing what will be the rules in a month. A shame, but too many people were dazzled into electing this total incompetent — people said Sarah Palin was inexperienced in 2008, but she was a seasoned veteran in gevernment executive experience compared with Barack Obama!

All one can do is hope that a Republican Senate will be elected in the coming year to go along with John Boehner's Republican House, and between them, as much of President Obama's agenda as possible will be frustrated.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

As the year approaches its end...

…there has been good and bad news.

For people who believe that anyone should be allowed to marry whoever they want to, it has been very good. There are now 18 states and the District of Columbia where marriage equality is the law — and who would have thought Utah would be in such a short list? — up from 10 at the start of the year. That is certainly good news.

The start of “Obamacare” is mixed news: it is certainly unfortunate that so many people are finding they can't keep the insurance they like, despite President Obama's promise, but the good thing is that even Democratic poluticians are having second thoughts about the law, and there might be enough delaying of its provisions that by the time they are ready to take effect, President Christie might be able to sign a repealing act.

Speaking of Chris Christie, more good news is that his re-election by a landslide, in a very blue state, shows that a Republican can win Democrats' votes while governing according to his own values.

The other gubernatorial race, in Virginia, has to be considered bad news, though Ken Cuccinelli is hardly the one I would have liked to see win. His nomination, of course, was really bad news, because it gave the GOP another candidate in the Todd Akin/Richard Mourdock/Christine O'Donnell mold, someone who drove away a lot of voters that a more moderate Republican could have won over. But the fact that Cuccinelli came as close as he did goes to show how poisonous “Obamacare” is. If the Republicans had nominated a Bill Bolling, they would certainly have won this election.

We will have to see what 2014 brings. I think we have to prepare for anything.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The biggest reason to nominate Chris Christie in 2016

There are a number of recent polls that show that in a race with Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie would win, and every other likely Republican nominee would lose.

Please, let us keep that fact in mind. We need to have a new President who would turn this government away from the direction which Barack Obama has chosen. If this is so, we need to have a GOP nominee who can win in 2016, not one who will lose to Hillary. We need to be sure that the GOP nominates a proven winner: Chris Christie.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The right to marry advances

Six days ago, a Federal court forced the state of Utah to legalize same-sex marriage, a day after another court decidid the same issue for New Mexico. There are now eighteen states, more than a third of the fifty total, with legal same-sex marriage.

Utah is a major surprise. It is a very conservative state, heavily Mormon, and the Mormon church has strongly opposed the right to marry for same-sex couples. A poll in 2011 found Utah citizens strongly opposed to same-sex marriage. If a judge can legalize same-sex marriage in Utah, it may well be the case that nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage will follow sooner than I would have thought.

The division among the people will still persist, and this may well become as divisive an issue as abortion has become since Roe v. Wade. Yet there is really less reason for that. In the case of Roe, I can really understand some people's conviction that a fetus is a person and abortion is murder — I can understand it, though I think they are totally wrong! But I do not understand how allowing John and Joe (or Jane and Joan) to marry affects anyone else's marriage. No clergyman is forced to perform a same-sex marriage, any more than a rabbi who will not perform an interreligious one is forced to, and if a florist or a baker is made to provide his product for use at such a marriage, he is not being called to recognize such a marriage as a marriage,: he is only selling a bouquet or a cake to some people having a party. I can't see how his religious freedom is being impacted, as some conservative columnists have intimated.

But things are moving faster than 'd expected!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A note to Christians reading this blog

While I am on many points in agreement with those on the political Right, there is one point on which I find us at serious odds. I recall having read Rush Limbaugh complaining about an “assault on Christmas,” and as far as I'm concerned, I'm proud to join that assault.

Now get my point correctly. I have no problem with your celebrating the birth of the founder of your religion privately, at home, or in your churches. Where I object is your attempting to make those of us who do not share your religion take part in that observance. I don't want to be wished a Merry Christmas — how would you appreciate being given some other religion's equivalent? I don't mind the idea of you having a Merry Christmas, or wishing it to each other — but can you take the trouble to find out whether someone celebrates Christmas before wishing someone a Merry Christmas?

Christmas is a time of sadness for me. I think of the time I was, at age 10, suddenly ostracized by a music teacher who had liked me enough to teach me songs to sing outside of class, simply because I refused to sing carols with words like “O come let us adore him, Christ the lord,” as contrary to my own religion. I think of the time, many years later, when in graduate school in Charlottesville, Virginia, I could eat, on one December 25, only what I could get in vending machines because not a single restaurant in that city was open. (At least, here in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D. C., I know of some places that will remain open; I think I'll be eating Chinese food this year.)

So please let alone those of us who are not Christians. Let me try to make this just a plain old Wednesday, not a festive day at all. We have our rights too.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A bad year for President Obama?

People are saying that this is a bad year for President Obama, with the botched rollout of Obamacare, various setbacks abroad, and such. But (unfortunately for the American people) it's not bad enough, and will not become bad enough. He is protected by the provisions of our Constitution that fix the term of office of the President. He has a sympathetic Senate, so he will not be removed by impeachment, despite the unconstitutionality of the way he's run his office. So he will serve until January 2017, more than three years from now.

I love our Constitution. It's survived longer than any other written constitution in history, and generally served us well. But once in a while, it leads to unfortunate consequences. And right now, we're in such a time. A president who, whether through incompetence or sheer malice, is wrecking the country, but who cannot be restrained. And three years more remaining in his term. It may have been a bad year for President Obama, but it's also a bad era — not just one year, but eight, of which we're only in the middle — for the American public.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Yet another Obama suspension of Obamacare

President Obama has suspended for one year the individual mandate in Obamacare — for some people. He will not allow the Congress — which the Constitution says has this responsibility — to delay or repeal the worst of the Obamacare disruptions, but he feels he has the power to make such delays unilaterally. Just one more case where the President thinks he is the Mayor of Chicago, who operates under a charter which provides for a weak mayor but actually exercises almost the power of an absolute monarch, rather than a Constitution-bound chief executive.

Yet it is senseless to try to impeach him. Because impeachment requires the agreement of two thirds of the Senate to remove a President, and there just won't be that two-thirds vote. Sad news for those of us who believe in our Constitution.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Polarization and divisive Presidents

Before George W. Bush was elected President, he remarked “I'm a uniter, not a divider.” Yet the country was more divided and polarized during his Presidency than it had been for a long time. And his successor, Barack Obama, had also expressed similar rhetoric:

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.

There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states.

But under this same Barack Obama, the polarization increased even more, to the point that it is hard to believe that it can ever be repaired. The United States Senate, for example, recently adopted a change of rules to throttle the minority's ability to filibuster executive nominees for some positions.

George W. Bush believed he could unite Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D. C., because he had done so as Governor of Texas. But Texas Democrats are a different breed from the Democrats he faced in the Nation's Capital: conservative enough that Bush could work with them without compromising his principles. In fact, George W. Bush's lieutenant governor during much of his service was a Democrat, Bob Bullock, and yet they were able to work closely together. But Bullock was not the vicious partisan that Bush faced in Nancy Pelosi in Washington, D. C. So he could not unite the parties in D. C.

And similarly, Barack Obama didn't understand the task when he became George W. Bush's successor as President. He had never been a chief executive. And his experience in south-side Chicago politics had never exposed him to the principles that Republicans hold dear. He assumed they shared his values, and tried to sell them his plans based on those values — which of course failed utterly.

So what would it take to be a unifying President? For one, someone who has been a chief executive in a state where the other party has a lot of power — a Democrat in a red state, or a Republican in a blue; and it would also take someone who has actually worked with the leaders of the opposite party to accomplish what he set forth as his program. Mitt Romney would have been someone who had a chance to fill that role; unfortunately, he faced an African-American opponent who brought out his co-race voters in 93% proportions, and with historically high turnouts. In the absence of this factor, he would be President now, and we would not be going through the throes of agony over “Obamacare's” launch. But we can't turn the clock back to 2012 and rerun it, and it is obvious to me that this nation's most likely path toward unification is to have Chris Christie as the next president. It is devoutly to be hoped that the hard-line conservatives in the GOP do not thwart the nomination of the one Republican who seems likely to win in 2016. And if the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial election is any clue, if the Republicans do nominate Christie, he will win, getting a lot of votes from people who normally support Democratic candidates.

And that is the path to a united Unoted States.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Competence - sorely deficient in the Obama administration

Peggy Noonan runs a blog on the Wall Street Journal’s site which posted, on December 17, 2013, a column called “Incompetence.” It is really worth reading.

Everyone is doing thoughtful year-end pieces on President Obama. Writers and reporters agree he’s had his worst year ever. I infer from most of their essays an unstated but broadly held sense of foreboding: There’s no particular reason to believe next year will be better, and in fact signs and indications point to continued trouble.

I would add that in recent weeks I have begun to worry about the basic competency of the administration, its ability to perform the most fundamental duties of executive management. One reason I worry is that I frequently speak with people who interact with the White House, and when I say, “That place just doesn’t seem to work,” they don’t defend it, they offer off-the-record examples of how poorly the government is run. One thing that’s clear this holiday season: New York’s Democrats, to the degree they ever loved the president, don’t love him anymore, and have moved on. They are not thinking about what progress he might make in Washington next year, they’re talking about what Hillary might do the year after that.

My worries came home with a certain freshness after the Mandela memorial, where the United States Secret Service allowed the president of the United States to stand for 19 minutes next to the famous sign-language interpreter who, it was quickly revealed, was not only a fraud but a schizophrenic con man who is now said to have been involved in two deaths. In fairness, the event was in another country and the Secret Service wasn’t strictly in charge. That said, it still looks like very basic negligence, as if no one is keeping enough of an eye on the Secret Service, no one’s checking the quality of the advance or sending emails asking: “Hey, what do we know about the sign language guy—any chance he’s a mentally ill criminal?”

It all looks so lax, so loosey-goosey. In the place of the energy and focus that would go into the running of things, the administering and managing of them, we have the preoccupation with spin, with how things look as opposed to how they are. The odd thing still is that the White House never misses a speech, a list of talking points, an opportunity to shape the argument on TV. They do the talking part, but the doing? They had 3½ years to make sure ObamaCare will work, three years to get it right top to bottom, to rejigger parts of the law that they finally judged wouldn’t work, to make the buying of a policy easy on the website. And they not only couldn’t do that, which itself constitutes an astounding and historic management failure, they make it clear they were taken aback by their failure. They didn’t know it was coming! Or some knew and for some reason couldn’t do anything.

And it’s all going to continue. One reason this scandal isn’t Katrina is that Katrina had a beginning and an end. The storm came, the storm left, the cleanup commenced and failed and then continued and succeeded. At some point it was over. ObamaCare will never be over. It’s going to poison the rest of the administration. It’s the story that won’t go away because it will continue to produce disorder. Wait, for instance, until small businesses realize it will be cheaper to throw their people off their coverage and take the fines than it will be to reinsure them under the new regime.

I’m worried, finally, that lines of traditionally assumed competence are being dropped. The past few weeks I can’t shake from my head this picture: The man with the football—the military aide who carries the U.S. nuclear codes, and who travels with the president—is carrying the wrong code. He’s carrying last month’s code, or the one from December 2012. And there’s a crisis—a series of dots on a radar screen traveling toward the continental U.S.—and the president is alerted. He’s in the holding room at a fundraiser out west. The man with the football is called in and he fumbles around in his briefcase and gets the code but wait, the date on the code is wrong. He scrambles, remembers there’s a file on his phone, but the phone ran out on the plane and he thought he could recharge in the holding room but there’s no electrical outlet. All eyes turn to him. “Wait—wait. No—uh—I don’t think that’s the code we use to launch against incoming from North Korea, I think that one takes out Paris!”

I have to say, I’ve never worried about this with any previous administration, ever.

“They mistook the White House for the government,” said an experienced old friend, a journalist and Democratic sympathizer. We were having holiday dinner and the talk turned to White House management. His thesis was that Obama and his staffers thought they could run the government from there, from the White House campus, and make big decisions that would be executed. They thought the White House was the government, but the government is a vast web of executive agencies that have to be run under close scrutiny, and within their campuses, to produce even minimally competent work.

I have come to see this as “West Wing” Disease. Young staffers grew up watching that show and getting a very romantic and specific sense of how government works. “The West Wing” was White House-centric. It never took place at the Agriculture Department. But government takes place at the Agriculture Department.

Anyway, my friend made me think of a story about Harry Truman. On leaving the White House after the 1952 election of Dwight Eisenhower, Truman made a small prediction about the general and his presidency. From memory: Eisenhower, Truman said, will pick up the phone and say do this and do that, pull this lever, and he’ll be shocked when nothing happens.

Ike was a general used to giving orders within an organization that takes the order and executes. But a government has to be leaned on every day, through management talent earned by experience. Generals can issue orders but federal agencies must be gently guided and clubbed around the head, every day.

People who run big businesses learn these facts of executive leadership early on. So do leaders of small businesses and great nonprofit organizations, and local political leaders in charge of local agencies whose success or failure can be charted.

Most of the Obama people just don’t have a background in executing. They have a background in communicating, not doing. That’s where their talent is—it’s where their boss’s talent is—and it’s a good talent, but not one that will in itself force a government to work well.

Whatever we look for from the Administration, we would like to see competence. The President may not agree with us on the direction the Government should go, but it’s particularly bad when it cannot even lead us in the direction they want us to go.

That’s just one more reason we need for Obama to be replaced in 2016 by the likes of Chris Christie. We need a competent President.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Obamacare -- a backward step?

Supposedly, the reason for implementing “Obamacare” was to expand health insurance coverage for Americans. But it looks as though it’s been a backward step in this direction, too. A post by Megan McArdle on the Bloomberg site, dated December 17, and entitled “Is Obamacare Really an Improvement on the Status Quo?” makes interesting reading. It begins:

By Jan. 1, fewer people may end up having insurance than before Obamacare.

Bob Laszewski, an insurance industry expert who has become the go-to guy for the news media on the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (because the insurance industry is extremely reluctant to talk), tells the Weekly Standard that he thinks come Jan. 1, more people will have lost private insurance than gained it:

"Insurers privately tell Bob Laszewski that they think more people will have lost insurance by January 1 than the number who have signed up for Obamacare by January 1.

“‘I was out making some client calls this week with a number of different carriers and they know exactly how many policies they canceled and how many who reupped. And they know how many people have come in through the exchange,’ says Laszewski. ‘And I didn't find one of them who thought they were going to be net ahead on January 1. They all think they're going to net behind on January 1. That's where it's trending so far.’

“So far, at least 4.8 million Americans have received insurance cancellations notices, but Laszewski predicts that the total Obamacare enrollment will be less than half that number on January 1.“‘My guess is that we'll have somewhere around a million and a half people signed up for Obamacare on January 1 in the states and in,’ he says. The big question then, he adds, is 'why have we gone through this whole dislocation of the American health insurance system if only a million and a half to two million buy health insurance?’”

This is, of course, pretty bad news. And the post then continues:

Maybe we’ll make up some of the gap with Medicaid. But at the current pace of enrollment, it would be a big hurdle to make up all the losses. Which means that we may well start the year with fewer people insured than we had in January 2013. There’s reason to think that that may be what the administration is seeing in the latest enrollment numbers.

Get that? “[W]e may well start the year with fewer people insured than we had in January 2013.” If that isn't a backward step, I don't know what is!

One of the major defenses being offered for Obamacare — botched rollout and all — is that the status quo was so awful. Obamacare may have its issues, but at least it’s not the bad old days.

The problem with reformers is rarely that they’re wrong about the status quo; there are a lot of awful things in the world that could use fixing, and the reformers have usually correctly identified at least a few of them. The problem with radical reformers is that they tend to forget that things can get worse, as well as better.

That's one thing that the Obama campaign, with its “change” theme, refused to admit, but let me repeat it: “[T]hings can get worse, as well as better.” Conservatives understand this; radicals don't.

If I’d sketched out the current scenario last summer — computer systems don’t work for months, millions lose insurance, and by the beginning of December, only 1.2 million people have picked up coverage from the exchanges and Medicare combined — the law’s supporters would have rolled their eyes and shaken their heads at the wishful thinking of the law’s critics. And now they generally assume that it will of course get better — that by March 31, if not sooner, we will see a measurable and substantial reduction in the number of uninsured.

But while that’s certainly very possible, it doesn’t exactly seem inevitable. To be sure, I myself find it hard to believe that the number of uninsured people will actually rise, even temporarily, as a result of the law. On the other hand, the administration has been pretty quick to leak whenever they had good enrollment numbers, and we haven’t heard a peep since the beginning of the month. So however incredible, it’s at least a real possibility that we’ll see a net decline in coverage on Jan. 1 — or even on April 1.

That has implications beyond just the people who would be uninsured next year. A lot of these insurance pools are already pretty small. If enrollment is much lower than expected, many markets may not have enough customers to make a viable pool. Even if the insurance pool isn’t older and sicker than expected, a pool that is too small can be wiped out by a couple of unlucky and expensive illnesses.

If the December numbers show a net decrease in enrollment, the administration will probably offer reasons to hope that we’ll see a late influx of young, healthy customers by March. Or maybe they can argue that this is a down payment on the future, and things will really get going in 2015. If they can keep premiums low heading into Obamacare’s second year, then it’s probably reasonable to think that more people will sign up.

But you can’t just keep making down payments on the future forever; at some point, you have to close the sale. If the administration can’t deliver a substantial net enrollment expansion by winter’s end, Democrats are going to have a very hard sell with voters come next fall. And that, in turn, is going to make it harder for Democrats to actually build Obamacare into the coverage-expanding, cost-lowering, voter-pleasing program they thought they passed in 2013.

Of course, one thing I've been hoping is that “Democrats are going to have a very hard sell with voters come next fall.” That way, perhaps a Republican Senate will join the Republican House of Representatives in making it hard for Pres. Obama to continue his assault on the American people. But of course, unless Obama is replaced in 2016 by the likes of Chris Christie, we can't hope this mess is going to be cured.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Let’s help people, not force them!

Supporters of “Obamacare” take the Republicans and, in general, opponents of the act to task for trying to “sabotage the act rather than making it work better.” But there is a long and honorable precedent for this kind of activity, trying to sabotage an undesirable law rather than simply acquiescing in it and making it “work better.” Back in the early 19th Century, there was a Fugitive Slave Law, requiring people to turn over escaped slaves to their masters. But people who did not believe in slavery did not acquiesce — they actively worked to “sabotage” the law, by operating the “Underground Railroad” to get escaped slaves to Canada and freedom. “Obamacare” may not be quite as evil as the Fugitive Slave Law, but it is still bad law, and sabotaging it is a good end to strive for.

The goal of “Obamacare” is supposed to be universal health insurance, where everybody is insured — whether they want to be or not! And yet, even so, it is conceded by even its most fervent supporters that this goal will not be attained. I say that this is probably a good thing — it’s not a desirable goal in the first place — and a far better goal is to make sure that everyone who wants it can afford health insurance, while allowing those who don’t think they need it to “self-insure.” As I say in the title of this post, “Let’s help people, not force them!”

The guiding premise of “Obamacare” seems to be that the American people are like children, unable to figure out what is in their best interests, who need to be forced to do what is best for them. Not only the individual mandate, but even the rules that say that policies must cover thus-and-so, the ones that are forcing cancellations because existing policies (which their policyholders thought were right for them, but which the Obama administration has decided are “inadequate”) do not meet the standards, evince this philosophical attitude. A sensible plan would scrap this attitude and instead let the people decide what sort of health insurance plan is appropriate for them.

I am not going to write a total replacement law for “Obamacare” — I am not a Congressman, and my own Congressman is so strongly pro-Obama that I would never be able to get him to introduce a law on my behalf. But I have a few ideas which I think need to be expanded on.

The idea of “exchanges,” basically, is a good one. But it never should have been a state-by-state thing. Why can a resident of one state not be able to buy a policy that another person a few miles away can? While it might make sense for one state to establish a law that companies may not market a policy within a state if it fails to meet state standards, health insurance should be more like other commodities. If I see something I like that is only sold in one place, I can go there and buy it, and even, these days, buy it online from the place where it is sold. The exchanges — or rather, a national health insurance exchange — ought to work that way.

It has been stated that the requirement that preexisting conditions not preclude coverage requires an individual mandate. People, supposedly, will put off coverage until they are sick, and only enroll then. However, there is a better idea — which is already part of the way Medicare Part D (the prescription drug part of Medicare) works. You are not required to enroll in a prescription drug plan, but if you do not when you are eligible, then when you finally do, your premiums are raised, in proportion to the number of years you have not taken advantage of your eligibility. This is a far less coercive idea than making people pay a tax — and avoids the IRS being involved.

These are just a couple of the ideas that a replacement for “Obamacare” ought to consider.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

The world is mourning the death of South Africa's Nelson Mandela. And he deserves to be considered among the great.

In so many cases, the leader who brings a country to independence becomes a dictator. In the African continent alone, we have seen people like Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah and the still-serving Robert Mugabe of South Africa's neighbor, Zimbabwe. In the world's history, there have been very few George Washingtons — leaders who brought freedom to a colonized people and then showed, when the people brought them to power, that they truly believed in freedom and ran their governments appropriately. Nelson Mandela was one of the rare ones. And this despite being treated by the former governing class of his native land as a traitor, sentenced to life term in prison (though eventually freed), which could have made him extremely vindictive (once again, look next door, to Mugabe).

All one can say is that Nelson Mandela was one of the people that one wishes more would emulate. He was one of the great ones.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Thanksgiving note

Today is the day set aside for Americans to give thanks. And with our great divisions, one might wonder what to be thankful for. My thoughts are that we can be thankful that ours is a nation that finds, no matter how deep our divisions, a way to settle them peacefully. Only once have we had a civil war, and that ended almost a century and a half ago. We have had presidents elected against the wishes of a majority of people, and laws enacted which others have thought to be contrary to our founding principles, but we have always figured out how to get back to a peaceful polity. Even our current divisions over President Obama's policies, as unconstitutional as many of us (including myself) feel some of his actions have been, will be repaired. Of that I am certain, and for that I am thankful.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Too bad the election is still a year off

The Real Clear Politics site shows the generic Congressional vote being slightly in favor of the Republicans. It's just too bad that it's almost a year before an election takes place. Harry Reid still owns the Senate, and may yet make more mischief like what he just did in killing the filibuster rule. There are Senate rules that require unanimous consent for a lot of actions — but will Reid get those rules changed too?

Reid said that Congress was broken, and particularly the Senate was broken. But what is really broken is that Congress is not representing the people — and Reid's nuclear bomb makes it less so. President Obama is doing everything possible to frustrate the people's will, and the Senate is helping him.

What will fix the Senate is making Mitch McConnell the majority leader. And — unfortunately, that won't happen until an election next November and the installation of a new Senate in January 2015.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It still puzzles me

Why do people keep posting statements that “The Republicans should try to make the ‘Affordable Care Act’ (aka Obamacare) work better, rather than trying to sabotage it”? I would love to be able to get their answer to a question: Suppose the Republicans, in a majority, passed a bill that you thought was an utterly bad thing for the country, and the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. Would you think it your duty to “make the law work better and more efficiently”? Or would you work to repeal it, all the while putting up whatever barriers you had the power to create to prevent the law from going smoothly into force? Please answer that question, before you accuse Republicans of something unconscionable.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Let's pull together

When this blog was started in 2007, I was favoring a potential candidate for the 2008 Republican nomination, Rudolph W. Giuliani. I still think he would have been an excellent candidate, and an excellent President. But forces within the Republican Party decided he was not conservative enough for them. The candidate who was nominated, John McCain, was certainly good enough to get my support in the 2008 election, and I am sure he would have been a much better President than the man who actually won the office that year. But McCain was probably just too nice. He was not able to fight the Obama juggernaut. Would Giuliani have been able to win against Obama? Nobody really knows.

But the Republican Party needs to nominate a winner. Rudy Giuliani was able to win in strongly Democratic New York City, and McCain, for all his admirable qualities, had never been tested in such circumstances. By losing, the GOP found itself meekly standing by while the “stumulus that didn't stimulate” and the disaster known as Obamacare were unleashed on the American public.

Now we are looking forward to another chance, though it is three years away. The GOP has a chance to pull together behind someone who can win the Presidency. And we have a chance to pick another chief executive who has been shown able to win in a strongly Democratic jurisdiction. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is, like Giuliani, being dismissed by some as insufficiently conservative. My question to all those who want a Marco Rubio or a Rand Paul or the like is, do you want to cede the presidency to Hillary Clinton in 2016? The first task is to win. Even a Christie Administration is going to be better, even if you'd prefer Paul or Rubio, than one run by Hillary Clinton. Let's all get behind someone who can win — and nobody has shown this ability better than Chris Christie.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The relativity of politics

The Senate has changed its filibuster rule. Under the new rule, President Obama can appoint anyone he chooses to to a Federal judgeship, a compliant Democratic Senate majority will ratify it, and nobody will be in a position to prevent him. And Harry Reid is gloating: “The American people believe Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is broken. And I believe they are right.” And President Obama has said, “A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to refight the results of an election is not normal. And for the sake of future generations, it cannot become normal.”

Of course, the shoe was on the other foot in 2005, with a Republican president and a Republican Senate. At that time, when a similar change was under consideration, a Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama said, “I urge my Republican colleagues not to go through with changing these rules. In the long run it is not a good result for either party. One day Democrats will be in the majority again and this rule change will be no fairer to a Republican minority than it is to a Democratic minority.” And the Democratic minority leader, a certain Harry Reid, said, “The threat to change Senate rules is a raw abuse of power and will destroy the very checks and balances our founding fathers put in place to prevent absolute power by any one branch of government.”

Interesting. But it shows how all is relative in politics. What was a “raw abuse of power” in 2005 when it might have been done by Republicans is now fixing a “broken” Senate when your people run it? It will all come around. The next time the Senate is Republican — in 2015? in 2017? — the Democrats will come to regret what they just did.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The "settled law" argument

Liberals like to say that “Obamacare is a law passed by Congress, signed by the president, and upheld by the Supreme Court.” The arguments by “Sundance” on “The Last Refuge” blog should dispose of that. But in any case, any law Congress can pass, Congress can repeal. In 1798, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. There was no Supreme Court test of these, because prior to 1803, the Supreme court had not declared an act of Congress unconstitutional, but these laws were certainly as much settled law as Obamacare is now. Yet people as high as the Vice-President of the United States at the time, Thomas Jefferson, were so strongly opposed that Jefferson helped author state legislative resolutions against their enforcement. (Jefferson was the author, not publicly acknowledged at the time, of the Kentucky resolution, while another future President, who is acknowledged as well as the author of much of the Constitution, James Madison, had a similar rôle regarding the Virginia resolution.)

No law is ever totally settled. And anyone who thinks a law is a bad one certainly has the right to work for its repeal. If Thomas Jefferson and James Madison could take the actions they did on the Alien and Sedition Acts, no Republican should be considered unreasonable for opposing, by all means possible, Obamacare. (Even a Constitutional amendment is not beyond repeal. Look at the history of the Eighteenth Amendment, and the Twenty-first.)

You are also invited to read posts by Nick Gillespie on the blog, and by Noemie Emery on the Washington Examiner's site.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why should they do anything different?

Liberals are continually sniping at the Republicans, both in Congress and in the states, for “sabotaging the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare).” But why should they do anything else? The bill was written without the slightest bit of input from any Congressional Republicans — it's been called a “Republican bill” by some Democrats because some of its ideas were bruited by the conservative Heritage Foundation back in the 1990s, but these ideas were never accepted by anyone in the Republican establishment in Washington, D. C. — and passed with the vote of only one Republican Representative and no Republican Senators. It is clearly a bad bill in the eyes of all Republicans, so why should any of them lift a finger to help it work? It is in the interest of those of us who believe that it is a job-wrecker, an assault on our liberties, and such, to do all we can to make it fail, and fail so badly that the law will be repealed and a new law passed that accomplishes whatever is good in the bill, in a way that does not wreck the economy and our freedom. So there is nothing dishonorable in “sabotaging” Obamacare — and the Democrats would do exactly the same thing, the truth be told, if the Republicans were rolling out a bill that they felt to be as harmful as Republicans feel Obamacare is.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Social conservatism: the curse of the GOP

When we look at the recent elections in New Jersey and Virginia, one factor is inescapable. The embrace by many Republican politicians of a hard right social agenda is empowering Democrats. Look at what Terry McAuliffe did in Virginia. It was by calling attention to Ken Cuccinelli's policies on abortion and such that he built up a 10+ point lead in some polls — and it was only because Cuccinelli managed to shift the dialog to the Obamacare disaster that he made the final result much closer. Imagine what would have happened in Virginia if McAuliffe had not been able to attack the Republican on the social issues? If a moderate were to have had the Republican nomination, and so only the Democrats' weaknesses (especially on Obamacare) had been before the public, we'd have seen a GOP win the Governorship — this is certain to me.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, we had a Republican nominee who was conservative — but not an in-your-face sort of conservative. Chris Christie was not in favor of gay marriage, but when the court said New Jersey had it allow it, he decided not to appeal. He's worked with a Democratic legislature, yet managed to get them to approve a program that is economically (not socially) conservative. That's really the way to get Republican ideas into force — and it's why I have supported Christie for years, even before this month's big election win. He may have some trouble getting the nomination — I saw a headline on a post comparing Christie to “President Giuliani,” and it is this hurdle that worries me, because I think Giuliani would have made an excellent President, but simply could not get through the Republican primaries — but if Republican primary voters want to be able to win in November 2016, they will realize that nobody is better to getting Democrats and independents to vote for a Republican than Chris Christie. And you can't put your prograns through unless you win the election.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The lesson from yesterday's elections

Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle in 2010. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock in 2012. And now, Ken Cuccinelli. All have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Every one of these lost to a Democrat, in an election that the Republicans could have won with a better candidate. And yet, I wonder whether the extremists of the Right have learned the lesson: A less-than-pure conservative can win (see Chris Christie) where a perfect, give-no-quarter conservative will not.

Virginia's gubernatorial election was an even sadder story than most. Ken Cuccinelli lost by only around 56,000 votes (Note: In my original post I said 30,000 votes, but later results call for a correction), out of about 2 million cast. It is almost certain that a more moderate candidate would have won. After all, even the outgoing Republican lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling, refused to endorse Cuccinelli — and some believe he actually supported Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat who will be Virginia's next governor. When your candidate for governor is opposed by one of your own top state officers, that is a sign you've done something wrong.

Meanwhile, Gov. Christie was re-elected with a fraction of the vote that appears to have topped 60%. Several Democratic office holders openly supported him. You can't implement your programs without being elected to office, and while Christie may not be as conservative as some Tea Party types might like, he will definitely be more conservative than anyone the Democrats might put up. Supporters of other GOP hopefuls ought to realize this.

New Jersey is a liberal state. In the same election, yesterday, they passed a liberal referendum question on the minimum wage. Yet Christie got more than 3 votes for every 2 that went to his Democratic opponent — a proportion of the vote that hasn't been reached by a Republican statewide candidate in New Jersey since the 1980s. It is clear that New Jersey's citizens appreciate his first term as governor. He probably will not get 60+% of the New Jersey vote in a presidential race in 2016, but he can carry some states that no other Republican is likely to. And carrying states means winning electoral votes. And electoral votes are what you need to win the Presidency.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

What's happening in Virginia?

Some of the polls in Virginia seem to show the race tightening. Perhaps some Virginians are thinking the same sort of thoughts that I expressed in my Friday post, that as bad as Ken Cuccinelli is, it's more important to defeat Terry McAuliffe than to make some sort of statement about Cuccinelli's extremism.

Of course, the only poll that raally matters is the official one that will take place in two days. I can't wait to see how that turns out.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Two gubernatorial elections

In the years directly following Presidential election years, only two states choose their Governors: Virginia and New Jersey. And this year, the two could not be more different in how the races are developing.

In New Jersey, the Republicans have a perfect candidate: Chris Christie, who has run a State government with such a degree of competence that even Democratic office holders are backing his re-election. It is clear that the people of New Jersey are happy with him, and if I were in that State I would vote for his re-election with no qualms at all. I am certain that three years from now I will be supporting him for the step up to the Presidency.

In Virginia, a governor cannot succeed himself, so they are not dealing with a re-election campaign, but both major parties have selected atrocious candidates: On the one hand, the Democrats have Terry McAuliffe, whose only distinction is that he ran the DNC for a time. He's got no experience in state government, no real ties to Virginia, and had talked of bringing a business involving “green” automobiles to the State, but they ended up in Mississippi, and aren't making any cars yet, anyway. On the other hand, extremists in the Republican Party forced the Lieutenant Governor, Bill Bolling, to abandon a run for Governor by making the nominating process hostile to his chances, and the nominee is the Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, as extreme as they come in the GOP. There is a third candidate, Robert Sarvis, a Libertarian, but of course, he has no chance to win. If he had the slightest chance, I'd think Sarvis the best choice — a National Review posting that attempts to deny that Sarvis is a real libertarian only convinces me that I like him. (According to Charles C. W. Cooke in that post, Sarvis is a “social liberal” — but libertarians are socially liberal and economically conservative! Cooke tries to claim that you can be a libertarian and support the Religious Right's attempt to jam their ideas down other people's throats — hardly in conformity with what is, at least in my eyes, a libertarian stance.) Cooke cites some interviews by Sarvis that, in my mind, simply show that Sarvis is not as extreme a libertarian on economic affairs as he (Cooke) might like. But there are degrees of libertarianism, and such as Ron Paul take libertarianism to the point of caricature.

So while Robert Sarvis would be the best choice for Governor of Virginia if he really had a chance, if I were living across the river in Virginia, I'd be voting for Ken Cuccinelli. Perhaps holding my nose while doing so, but defeating Terry McAuliffe is more important than making an empty statement, which is what a vote for Sarvis would be. Get me right: I prefer Sarvis, but would vote for Cuccinelli if I lived in Virginia, and advise Virginians who read this blog to do the same.