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.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Pledge of Allegiance controversy

One of the most internal-conflict-generating issues to me is the controversy on the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. On the one hand, I have no problem saying the Pledge with those words. They do not conflict in any way with my own religious beliefs. On the other hand, it certainly seems that the atheists' fight to avoid saying the words is the same as my fight in the 7th grade to avoid singing Christmas carols, with their explicitly Christian words, and thus my instinct is to support them.

But the atheists' position in many of their legal fights has been grossly intolerant of those who, like myself, firmly do believe in a God, including some ideas that might actually be loosely subsumed under the heading "intelligent design." So I find it uncomfortable to be allied with them. And when we look at the most recent Pledge fight, in which an atheist father sued on behalf of a daughter who did not share his beliefs, it seems to me that the atheists on their part are equally coercive as their religious counterparts, and I cannot accept that.

Is there some way to civilly and rationally discuss this issue? Even more importantly, is there some way of settling this issue that will respect the rights of all people involved?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The stem cell veto

While I'm ordinarily favorably inclined toward Pres. George W. Bush, his alignment with the religious right causes me problems. He seems actually to believe in their positions, so one cannot consider it "kowtowing to the religious right," but it is unfortunate that a President who has been so good on a lot of issues has to be so bad on this one.

Certainly the stem cell veto has nothing to do with "conservatism" vs. "liberalism": Nancy Reagan, certainly one of the most conservative people in recent politics (it is she who turned Ronald Reagan into a conservative, after all! He'd been a pro-FDR union leader in the forties, if you don't know it), supported the bill strongly, as she was aware of the technological gains that could derive from stem cell research. No, what it does have to do with is the religious right's attempt to conform all of us to their ideas of what is moral and what isn't. And that is the way of the Taliban.

If you go back to the very first post on this blog, I said I believed that "[n]o 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." And I believe this firmly. One thing that needs to be done is to reclaim the Republican Party from the religious right. It can't be done by voting for Democrats, who have their own agenda which is even more harmful to the nation. But it needs to be done by moving within the Republican Party to support those who are willing to take on the religious right.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More on Intelligent Design vs. Creationism

One of the earliest posts on this blog had to do with people confounding creationism and intelligent design. It is certainly true that creationists must believe in ID, but not vice versa.

So it is nice to see that a book was recently published by David DeWolf, John West, Casey Luskin, and Jonathan Witt which discusses the difference between the two. I haven't yet read the book, but I've read an interview given by one of the authors in a local Washington, D. C. paper, and it looks like something worth reading.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Giuliani for President?

Recently in a campaign appearance for Robert Ehrlich, running for reelection as Governor of Maryland, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said he was "considering" running for President in 2008. And Ehrlich made some remarks that almost sounded like an endorsement.

I've already said what I think about Giuliani -- he'd make a great President, but I doubt he can get the GOP nomination. I still think the same, though it is beginning to look as if he's becoming a serious candidate. This blog is not ready to endorse him as candidate for the nomination, but if he's nominated, I'd be happy to endorse him for election, and if Condi Rice (or someone else I like equally) doesn't turn into a competing candidate for the nomination, I will endorse him for the nomination.

Monday, July 03, 2006

John Podhoretz and Rudy Giuliani

Yesterday I saw a book by John Podhoretz, the main thrust of which was that Hillary Clinton needs to be prevented from becoming President, and there are certainly a lot of things that the book says with which I agree. But I’m not going to go into what he says about Hillary here. I noted, however, that the book’s cover mentions that in the book Podhoretz makes a surprising endorsement for the nominee to run against her, and I looked inside to see who it was. It turned out that he supports a person who’s been mentioned favorably by me in this blog: former mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York.

But as I read the chapter in question, it became clear that Podhoretz does not understand what makes Giuliani the person he is. Podhoretz makes the mistake that a lot of dogmatic conservatives (and, in mirror image, a lot of dogmatic liberals) do: he assumes that a person who shares many of his ideas with the conservative (or liberal) dogma agrees with all of that point of view. And thus, Podhoretz thinks that Giuliani’s ideas on such topics as abortion and gay rights are not what he has stated, but are in fact the conservative ideas that Podhoretz would like them to be. He seems to think that Giuliani only proclaimed himself on the so-called “liberal” side of those issues to get elected in liberal New York City. And Podhoretz is wrong.

If Giuliani were to take a position opposed to his real beliefs on any issue for the sake of election, it would be on an economic issue, not a social one. New York City is dominated by organized labor, and Giuliani’s real courage was shown by his taking on the city’s unions. That he was willing to do so shows that he really has the courage of his convictions. I think that part of Podhoretz’s error is in his thinking that, because Giuliani took on an “anti-Catholic” exhibit by the Brooklyn Museum, his loyal Catholicism would not permit him to take a position opposed to that of the Catholic Church on those issues just mentioned. And a Giuliani who is willing to fight the labor unions in New York City is certainly strong enough to have his own opinions on social issues, even when they run counter to Catholic doctrine.

Certainly, it is the opinion of this blogger that Giuliani would make a good President. But Podhoretz’s book misstates the case for him.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

One thing to cheer about, anyway...

The al-Qaida leader in Iraq, Al-Zarqawi, has been killed. Not quite Osama bin Laden, but actually at the present, he was in a position to cause more trouble than bin Laden.

Never thought I'd agree with her, but...

Senator Dianne Feinstein was quoted as saying, in regard to the "gay marriage ban" vote in the Senate:

"Why is it when Republicans are all for reducing the federal government's impact on people's lives until it comes to these stinging litmus test issues, whether gay marriage or end of life, they suddenly want the federal government to intervene?"

One must give credit where credit is due; Sen. Feinstein is absolutely right here. But if she is accusing the Republicans of a sort of hypocrisy in their action on this sort of issues, let's look at her own Democratic Party. The Democrats are all for helping the poor, so they say, but if making things more affordable, so that the poor can afford them, means hurting their organized-labor constituency, then suddenly the Democrats can't bring themselves to do what would help poor people immensely. Each party has its own acts of hypocrisy. The Republicans sometimes kowtow to religious bigots, and the Democrats kowtow to labor barons who can control the economy to a greater extent than any corporate baron ever did.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Fallacies of the “Pro-Life” Position

Recently I was reading an article on the Roe v. Wade issue in the “National Review,” a conservative (and Catholic-sympathetic) magazine, and it made me think about the topic.

People opposed to abortions call themselves “pro-life,” and their position seems to rest on a number of fallacies. I think some of these need to be made explicit.

First, one point they continuously make is that “life begins at conception.” Actually, it doesn’t. A sperm cell and an egg cell are “alive,” no less than is a fertilized egg. Biology points out that life comes only from life, and spontaneous generation was disproved many decades ago, even centuries ago.

But even if life began at conception, is it always improper to take a life? We eat meat, which comes from killed animals, and even vegetarians eat food which was produced by killing plants (which are certainly “alive” in any sense of the word)! So the question boils down to whether the taking of a human life is involved. And then the question arises as to what is a human being.

I have seen it claimed that what is created at conception is an “independent genotype.” And certainly it is true that the fertilized egg is different, genetically, from either sperm or egg, and also different, genetically, from either father or mother. But if what makes a separate person is an “independent genotype,” you are denying the personhood of an identical twin! This would mean that killing one of a pair of identical twins is no worse than amputating a leg. I cannot see any argument based on genotypic identity that would differentiate the two. So there is no way that this basis for characterizing personhood can fly.

It is to me quite obvious that the only way to define “a new human being” is to ask if it is capable of surviving without being connected to the mother’s body through a placenta. This is the “viability criterion,” and no other definition makes sense. So let the anti-abortion group assert that the fetus can be delivered and survive, and if this is so, it would be unethical to abort it.

The argument has been made that “what modern medicine can keep alive” continually changes. I do not deny this. But just as we do not try to keep alive someone who is incurably ill when he has passed a certain point, and this point changes as modern medicine improves, the point at which abortion is foreclosed by viability can change with time. This is not inconsistent.

Some people wish to impose their beliefs on others. Whether these are Catholics who want others to deny abortions based on Catholic definitions of “a human life” or others who want Catholic doctors to abort when it violates their scruples, this is wrong. But let the individuals involved make the decisions.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why a libertarian might favor gun control

I hold opinions, as I've expressed here, that are generally quite libertarian. But I believe in very strict gun control, probably stricter than most who do not share my libertarianism would have. How do I justify this?

The libertarian credo is that everything should be legal unless it harms another person. Guns have no purpose except to kill, and so I cannot see any reason that a normal person could have a use for a gun. I would restrict gun ownership to two groups of people: the police and the military. Both of these have a need to be able to kill as part of their official duty, and so they need guns.

Some people say, "When guns are illegal, only outlaws will have guns." Of course; by definition, because those with guns will be outlaws, and mere possession could be an excuse for their arrest and confiscation of the guns. So criminals could be deprived of their guns before they could use them to do anything harmful. Why would an honest person have anything to fear?

Again, some people say, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Certainly true -- I've never seen a gun go off and kill someone without someone touching it. But guns make it easier for people to kill people. If you have to use your own personal strength, or at least a knife, and you have to get to a position of physical contact with a victim, you'll have a harder time accomplishing this deed.

So this is my case for gun control, no matter how much of a libertarian I am.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Candidates for 2008

Some people have been touting Condoleezza Rice or Rudy Giuliani for President in 2008. Both would be great choices, but unfortunately the Republican Party is not going to nominate either. The Religious Right is not going to tolerate someone who won't jam down their ideas about abortion down people's throats (Giuliani) and too many of the Southerners who joined the party around the time that Strom Thurmond did will block an African-American woman (even if she stands for everything that I think is good about the Republican Party) from the nomination.

Too bad. I think either one would make a better candidate than the ones likely to be nominated. I'd once had a healthy respect for Bill Frist, a heart surgeon, not a lawyer, and definitely a person with some intelligence that even the Democrats (who have thought Eisenhower, Reagan, and the current president were dunces) could not denigrate -- but he lost all my respect in the Terri Schiavo episode. For him to go counter to everything that medical evidence dictates really showed that he'd become such a pure politician that he'd do something idiotic just to gain the votes of the right wing of the GOP. And McCain is trying to take up the left flank of the GOP, partnering with Teddy Kennedy on immigration reform as he did with Russ Feingold on campaign reform, even though his actual background is rather conservative. There aren't enough people on the left in the GOP to nominate him, as he should have realized from 2004. Only in states where non-Republicans could vote in GOP primaries did he do well. And this is a small part of the 50 states that will elect delegates to the convention.

Besides Frist and McCain, nobody else seems to even be considered as a GOP candidate for 2008. Perhaps it'll be someone nobody's talking about, the way Jimmy Carter did it on the Democratic side?

The immigration controversy

Why do people seem to act as if the only choices in dealing with illegal aliens are amnesty or deporting everyone? It seems as if requiring them to pay any penalties and to learn enough English and civics to become a citizen would not really be amnesty, which to me means forgetting all their crimes, and yet this is a minimal requirement in my mind. Some people remark about the US being a nation of immigrants, but there is a big difference between immigrants who arrived and obeyed our laws about entry (on the one hand) and people sneaking across the border, in violation of US law (on the other).

But this seems to be as impossible an issue to compromise on as abortion. Heaven knows why.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Feingold's censure motion

Looks as if Feingold is doing his Don Quixote thing again. He probably is the furthest from the mainstream of all 100 of the Senators. Censuring the President for taking a strong security position, at a time when others in Congress are faulting him for insufficient attention to security in the Dubai Ports episode, can only build the President's esteem in the eyes of most citizens. But it might help Feingold in Democratic presidential primaries in 2008, as we see what kind of primary voters the Democrats seem to have from our recollections of 2004.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The South Dakota challenge to Roe v. Wade

The South Dakota legislature is passing a new anti-abortion law to challenge Roe v. Wade. Obviously, how the Supreme Court acts will merit watching. In particular, what will Justices Roberts and Alito do? They were chosen in part because their sentiments were anti-abortion, but both also are highly competent judges who obviously know what the doctrine of stare decisis is all about.

Perhaps some technical reason will be found to deny certiorari after lower courts (that are bound by Roe v. Wade) kill the South Dakota law, but that doesn't look to be in the cards. We really need to watch this one.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Intelligent design and creationism

I've seen a lot of people who accept the pure Darwinian description of evolution refer to "intelligent design creationism." They really need to know that intelligent design and creationism are not the same thing. It is possible to accept all the scientific evidence for evolution, including to accept the vast number of years of time that evolution has had to work its way, while believing that there is some intelligence behind it all. I know it's possible because that is exactly what I believe. Creationists believe that the various forms of life were created exactly as they are now, usually saying it was all done about 6000 years ago. While all creationists believe in ID, it is hardly accurate to say that all believers in ID are creationists.

This being said, it is probably correct to keep ID out of biology classrooms. Speculation on the cause of all this variety of life, which cannot be supported by actual scientific evidence, is not science. But then, the random-variation ideas of Darwin are really speculative too; this raises an interesting question.

The Muhammad cartoons

This brouhaha over the Danish cartoons satirizing Muhammad is interesting, but nobody seems to have acquitted themselves well. The Muslims have a right to be offended, but they really need to understand the concept of freedom of speech and of the press. Of course, these concepts seem to be foreign to the Muslim world. On the other hand, the Danes who published the cartoons, though they certainly had a right to do so, are guilty of bad taste. Bad taste is not illegal, but people ought to have respect for other people's sensibilities and not do things that could be that offensive to others.

Since bad taste is not illegal, the Danish government cannot and should not punish the newspaper publishers and staff. But the newspaper people themselves never should have done it.



This is the start of my new blog, "Opinions and More." I don't know how many people will discover it -- whether it will become too busy for me to handle, or so lonely that I'll be talking only to myself -- but here we go.

Why another new blog? There must be thousands of blogs around, so why another? Well, it just seems that I never see anyone express the ideas that I think make sense, so I thought I'd try.

Some people seen to feel that you have to be a liberal or a conservative; I find myself uncomfortable with both labels, though I'm with the conservatives on most of what I call the important issues. But while I think I can agree with conservatives on economic and foreign-policy issues most of the time, I can't stand the typical conservatives' attitude that they must be able to impose their opinions on religious and social issues on everyone else, and I usually find myself agreeing with the liberals on those religious and social issues anyway. But even if you divide the issues into economic on the one hand and religious and social on the other, I can't go along with either completely. So I give up on a label.

Perhaps you might call me a libertarian. Well, I'm more comfortable with that label than the others. But many people who call themselves libertarians seem to me to be anarchists, saying that even things like schools and police forces should be totally private. I can't agree. The government is necessary to provide those things that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford. Nobody ought to go without an education or protection from crime, even if they are penniless.

So, I'll begin by stating a few principles that will govern my thoughts, and 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. Here are my fundamental ideas:

  1. 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.
  2. Government, as I said earlier, is necessary prmarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  3. 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.

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!)