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.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Huckabee threat to the Republican Party

The more I contemplate the possibility of Mike Huckabee being nominated by the Republican Party, the more it troubles me. First of all, Huckabee represents the exact opposite of the kind of Republicanism I consider my own political direction. He is socially conservative (favoring policies that tend to establish Christianity as official policy, and intolerant to such people as the gay population) and economically liberal (someone who raised taxes in his home state, and seems to favor using taxation as a redistributive policy). I have always maintained that the kind of direction the Republican party should take is the reverse: socially liberal (inclusive toward all kinds of religions and social lifestyles) and economically conservative (reducing taxes and taking the government out of the economy except as necessary).

I would, of course, most prefer a Giuliani nomination. I could certainly live with McCain, who is a little further from me politically, but close enough for comfort. Even Mitt Romney – someone I wonder about, sometimes, because of his reversals on key issues – would get my vote against any Democrat who could be nominated. But if Mike Huckabee gets nominated, I can only hope that another Mike, Mayor Bloomberg of New York, makes the independent run some people think he has in mind. In a three-way race with Huckabee, Bloomberg, and any Democrat, Bloomberg gets my vote. In a two-way race with Huckabee and any Democrat, who knows what I would do? I certainly dread the prospect.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The institutionalization of Christmas

Tomorrow is the day when those of us who are not Christians really see ourselves as a minority. The rest of the year, we are Americans, just like all the other citizens of this country. But tomorrow, the celebration of the birth of the founder of the Christian religion, we are outsiders, our sensibilities being ignored by everyone in power.

Libraries, museums, and all other city, county, state, and national Government buildings (except for emergency facilities) will be closed. The post offices will have been selling Christmas stamps for the past few weeks; postal clerks may even be shocked if you tell them you don't want Christmas stamps (I remember one year going to a post office which had nothing but Christmas stamps! I had to settle for lower-denomination stamps that I could combine to make the then-current postal rate!) Oh yes, they have had, in recent years, Chanukah and Eid stamps as well, but there are never enough variations to account for all the various religious beliefs in this pluralistic country, not to mention atheists and agnostics. Why not just let the Government ignore all the various beliefs and keep to its secular business?

One runs into people who claim that “no establishment of religion” in our First Amendment means the government cannot favor one Christian denomination over others, not realizing that Christianity is just one religion among many. I can not fathom this point of view. Giving special preference to Christianity over Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, or even atheism is just as much establishing a particular religion as taxing us to support the Episcopal Church would be.

Fifty-five years ago, I was subjected to a humiliating treatment by my own teachers in public school as a 10-year-old boy because of my religion. I declared that I could not sing songs with words like “Oh come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” Up until that time, my music teacher had treated me as a “teacher's pet” because I had a good singing voice. From that point on, she conspired with another teacher to make things as hard for me as possible. So I say what I am saying here from a basis of experience.

Nobody is advocating a policy such as that in Saudi Arabia where a person can be criminally prosecuted for selling Christmas cards. Rather, let Christians freely celebrate Christmas in their homes and churches (and other religions' adherents freely celebrate their own religious holidays in their own homes and places of worship) but let the Government stay out of these celebrations and be resolutely secular and neutral.

A happy December 25th to all. But please don't wish me a “merry Christmas.” Please don't wish anyone a “merry Christmas” unless you know they are a Christian.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I wish I could believe Mitt Romney!

Today the New York Times published an interview with Mitt Romney, in which he tries to describe himself as a "George Romney Republican." Would that this were so! George Romney, Mitt's father, would have made a great President; I supported him many years ago. But George Romney was a clearly moderate Republican, opposed to the right-wing extremism that captured the nomination for Barry Goldwater. Mitt Romney, by contrast, seems bound to woo this year's right-wing extremists, even rejecting moderate, pragmatic positions he claimed to have when he was running for office in Massachusetts. Now, whatever Mitt Romney's positions are, we can't be clear; he's been on both sides of a lot of issues. If he's really a George Romney Republican, he should repudiate the hard-right positions he's been taking recently; he won't do that, however, because that's where his support is coming from, it seems. So what is Mitt Romney, really?

New Jersey and the death penalty

In New Jersey, they just signed into law a new bill, ending the death penalty in the state. Obviously, those people who feel the death penalty is inhumane are applauding. I do not join them. Of course, in practical terms this act does nothing — New Jersey has not executed anyone in years, and Governor Corzine recently commuted the sentences of everyone on New Jersey's death row. But what this tells the world is that the lives of convicted murderers are worth more than those of their victims.

I feel that punishment should be commensurate with the crime. I would never wish to see the death penalty meted out for any crime short of murder. But no punishment short of the death penalty is appropriate for anyone who deliberately takes the life of an innocent person.

A definite condemnation of the New Jersey legislature and governor is in order.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Are Mormons Christians? Should anyone care?

Lately, people have been raising the question, “Are Mormons Christians?” Obviously, this really depends on what your definition of a “Christian” is. Many Protestants do not consider Roman Catholics to be Christians. On the other hand, I've seen Catholics consider themselves the only true Christians. Obviously, if you define a “Christian” as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth (termed “Christ” by his supporters) then it comes down to your own definition of what Jesus' religious beliefs were. And certainly, by their lights, Mormons are Christians; they actually call their church “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”

But then, my question is “Should anyone care?” After all, we have a Constitution which clearly states (Art. VI): “... no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” And therefore, whether Mitt Romney (for he is the only Mormon being considered by people asking that question) is qualified for the Presidency cannot be related to the answer to this question. And I say this, despite the fact that I'm rather cool to Romney for other reasons (see earlier posts, specifically my July 14 post).

Really, the people raising the question “Are Mormons Christians?" are bigots if they mean to imply that only Christians can be President, and irrelevant if they do not.

Thus my response: “Should anyone care?”

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Panic among Giuliani's "social conservative" opponents?

Today I saw a newspaper article talking about "panic" among the "social conservatives" afraid of a Giuliani nomination. (See http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071201/NATION/112010053/1001.) Nothing could make me happier. It is "social conservatives" whose control of the GOP has distressed me in recent years, and taking the party away from them is the greatest need that Republicans like myself see in our political situation.

Let's face it. "Social conservatives" is just a code word for religious bigots, who have nothing in common with the kind of freedom of religion that this blog supports. And the sooner they can be evicted from positions of power in the Republican Party, the better it will be for all of us.

Let us just hope that the Giuliani supporters can hold their grounds. Rudy Giuliani will be the greatest thing that has happened to the Republican Party in many years, if we can get him nominated.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Supreme Court will be heard on gun control

The question of whether the Disctrict of Columbia can enact and enforce it's extremely strong gun control regulations will now go to the Supreme Court. (See, e. g., http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/20/washington/20cnd-scotus.html?ref=us)

It's hard to tell how this will end up. The Court's conservative justices are sympathetic to the NRA's crazy view of what the Second Amendment means, but they also believe in stare decisis. And they don't have a total majority anyway.

Naturally, if you have read my earlier posts, I would hope that DC's laws are upheld. But I can't predict what the Court will do.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Mukasey nomination

Well, the Senate confirmed Mukasey, 53-40. Nobody doubted that he was qualified for the post, and Sen. Schumer of New York ad even suggested Mukasey as a good choice in the beginning. But 40 Senators just had to vote no to make some stupid political point. None of them really had an objection to Mukasey except that he wouldn't take a position on whether or not a particular interrogation procedure (which, because it involved classified information Mukasey had not been cleared to receive, he didn't even know if it was in use!) constituted illegal torture.

It seems that the Senate needs to learn that the U. S. is not a parliamentary system. The executive does not fall if the legislature votes no-confidence. The Senate is not supposed to refuse Presidential nominations to Cabinet posts just because they have policy disagreements with the President, or because they want to pressure the nominee into making statements that they might use against the President. The Senate's only reason to refuse a Presidential nomination to an executive office is lack of qualifications. (It might be in order to give more input on nominations to judicial offices, though even there they have no business trying to force the President to nominate someone that does not meet with his approval.)

This is the most belligerent Senate in recent history, and I think they need to read the Constitution and learn the difference between our system and parliamentary ones. Their duty is to legislate, not to try to control the Presidency.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Harry Reid just doesn't understand!

I saw this quote today in a newspaper (it can be seen online at the Fox News site at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,306178,00.html ):

"[I]f Congressional Republicans would stand up to the President and demand a change of course in Iraq, we could spend less time working to fix this failed war policy and more time focusing on other threats we face around the world."


Well, I have a news flash for Sen. Reid: Congressional Republicans don't want to stand up to the President, because they (and I) think that his is not a "failed war policy."

Way back in the long-gone days of World War II and immediately following, it was the Democrats who were unified in fighting the enemies of our nation and the Republicans who had isolationists, people who felt we should ignore the rest of the world and concentrate on domestic affairs, in their number. Now these are reversed.

The Democrats were right then. And the Republicans are right now. Sen. Reid should emulate the good Republicans like Sen. Vandenberg of that era and give up this isolationism for the good of the world.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Children's Health bill

Obviously, the Democrats in Congress care more about confronting the President than actually passing a children's health bill. The President vetoed their earlier bill and the Dems couldn't find the votes to override, so Pelosi et al., instead of trying to put through a smaller bill, want to repackage the bill slightly, but without reducing the amount. It seems she's never heard of "half a loaf is better than none." But of course, she doesn't want her loaf, or even half a loaf: all she wants is to draw another veto so she can paint the President as insensitive to children's needs.

She clearly doesn't want to help kids; she only wants to get into a fight.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More on the Turkey/Armenian genocide resolution

It seems that others agree with me on the post I recently made. Yesterday there was a nice column by Jay Ambrose (a man whose columns sometimes coincide with my thinking and sometimes do not). He said (http://www.examiner.com/a-993792~Jay_Ambrose__Political_opportunism_explains_bad_timing_of_Turkish_resolution.html):



WASHINGTON - It’s hard to imagine a congressional action more pointlessly provocative than passing a resolution that Turks committed genocide against Armenians some 90 years ago. But here come House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, many of her fellow Democrats, and some Republicans with an ironclad determination to do just such a detrimental thing to their country.


The cost could be high. The Turks don’t like this idea one little bit, and warn they may just quit letting the United States and its allies use Turkey as a crucial transport avenue for military supplies in Iraq if the condemnatory declaration gets majority votes in the House and Senate.


This Muslim democracy, which has itself been a vital ally in multiple respects, may also refuse to cooperate in other ways. One example: Our leverage in keeping Turkey from going to war with our Kurdish friends in northern Iraq could be lessened as a result.


And what exactly would the resolution achieve? Nothing, of course. No one can possibly think that a congressional vote will make this atrocity any more real or true, or alter an understanding that is dependent on witnesses, evidence and scholars, not elected officials.


It’s not as if the judgment of humankind is dependent on majority votes in the U.S. Congress, or as if anyone alive in Turkey today had anything to do with what happened then. The thought that a condemnation now might help dissuade others from repeating such vileness is an extraordinary stretch.


Why on Earth should it be the job of Congress to go around saying what it thinks on this or any other distant historical event? How about Congress paying more attention to current events and leaving assessments of past iniquities to historians, as critics have suggested?


Considering the disadvantages such a futile resolution would heap on us during our present, perilous struggle with Islamic fascists, you begin to wonder what’s up with Pelosi and friends. Utter, total, half-crazed incompetence, maybe, or could it conceivably be a traitorous hatred for their own land?


Surely not. It’s got to be something else. And so you read more on the subject, and you find the answer: a Reuters story reporting that something close to 2 million Armenian Americans have been lobbying for years for a resolution of the kind recently approved for floor consideration by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


“U.S. representatives in Congress and state governments now realize the Armenian community has a lot of political power and they can make contributions to political causes and various parties,” Armenian American filmmaker Michael Hagopian told the Reuters reporter.


In other words, U.S. representatives - mostly Democrats - shrug their shoulders when a Turkish military leader warns of an irreparable tear in U.S.-Turkey relations or the Pentagon notes how logistically dependent we are on Turkey in the Middle East, but they do multiple bows when some slight political opportunity shows its face.


Democrats aren’t alone in their frequent obeisance to anyone and everyone who might do them a favor, of course. When they had control of Congress, Republicans had a hard time refusing favors for special interests at public expense, giving us spending records at variance with both their enunciated principles and the common good. For that and other reasons, they ultimately paid a steep electoral price.




That probably says it better than I could. And it seems that some of the Democrats have begun to recognize this. (See http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gWW8WW0xt_U4Iqg30uuw23lBuEvgD8SB6NNG2, where we see that the sponsors of the resolution are pulling out.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On Turks and Armenians

The Turks and Armenians are squabbling about a Turkish massacre of Armenians that happened over 90 years ago. Neither side is exactly covering itself with glory. The Turks refuse to accept that this massacre can be characterized as genocide, and are threatening to retaliate if the U. S. Congress passes a resolution declaring it to be such, even though it's a toothless resolution that commits us to nothing in response. Contrast this with, say, the Germans, who accept the fact that the Nazi regime was guilty of unspeakable crimes, and simply have taken it upon themselves to commit no more.

However, the Armenians are not without their faults. After all, what is gained by getting Congress to pass this resolution? It is, as I said, totally toothless, and accomplishes nothing except getting the Turks mad. The Ottoman Empire, which is the real guilty party, is long gone. And the current republic of Turkey certainly has no obligations.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gore's Nobel Peace Prize

Once more, the Nobel Committee has proved that they give out Nobel Peace Prizes for political correctness, not for really furthering peace. I should not have been surprised that they gave one to Al Gore... but rather than expostulating myself, let me simply quote Charles Krauthammer, who had this to say on Fox News Sunday (I didn't see it on TV, but I read it in the paper):


Look, let's remember what the Prize is about. Al Gore now joins the ranks of Yasser Arafat, the father of modern terrorism, Le Doc Tho, who signed a treaty on behalf of a government that two years later invaded and extinguished the country it signed that treaty with, and the most disgraceful ex-president of the United States Jimmy Carter, who, forget about Iraq -- I'll remind you in the Gulf War, actively lobbied other countries to oppose his country in helping it in going to war. So, look, this is a treaty that is, has nothing to do with peace, it's about politics. It's the...I'm sorry, the award.


The Nobel Peace Prize is about politics. It's the Kentucky Derby of the world left, and it gives it to people whose politics are either anti-American or anti-Bush, and that's why he won it.

I usually agree with Krauthammer, and I'm happy to let him speak for me. So take this as my own comment too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Civil unions and gay marriage

In the state of Maryland, where I live, both the Governor, Martin O'Malley, and the speaker of the House of Delegates, Michael Busch, have come out in favor of civil unions, so I think that Maryland will join Vermont and Connecticut. And though I generally do not like anything associated with O'Malley, I think he is probably right. Civil unions are the best compromise between the religious right (who want to preserve "traditional marriage") and the gay friendly part of the public (who want equal rights).

Frankly, I see no harm in gay marriage. I cannot see how it even affects the people who are so opposed to it; if same-sex couples can get married, it certainly doesn't prevent opposite-sex couples from doing so. But if some people object to it being called a "marriage," then certainly giving them all the rights of a married couple without the word seems a good compromise.

Of course, the problem is that some people are (based on religious background) simply opposed to homosexuality. You can't show me anything that is not based on religion, and in fact on a specific religious belief, that makes homosexuality per se undesirable. And because we have a Constitution that forbids an "establishment of religion," no religious argument can hold water as a basis for our law.

So for once, I think O'Malley is right.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Politics at its worst

The Democrats have insisted on including a hate-crimes provision in a defense authorization bill. This is one of the worst examples of Congress trying to engineer legislation, not to make it conducive to accomplishing something good, but to try to embarrass the President. Either he signs it and puts into law something he feels is a bad provision (I might actually favor it, but it still doesn't have anything to do with defense funding, and many of the President's allies certainly don't) or he vetoes it and risks not having the military properly funded.

This is the sort of political behavior that gives politics a bad name.

Undeserved criticism

Yesterday's Washington Post contains an article by Jonathan Capehart taking all the Republican candidates to task, but particularly Rudy Giuliani, for not being willing to publicly discuss gay issues with him. (See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/30/AR2007093001043.html )

Why should Giuliani, at this moment, call attention to the fact that he's been more gay-friendly than most Republicans? At least he hasn't reversed himself like Mitt Romney. But he's trying to get votes from Republicans who are not as tolerant as he. He's going to scare them off if he does what Capehart wants, without winning over enough gay Republicans (how many gay Republicans who will be eligible to vote in a GOP primary are there?)

Capehart shouldn't be criticizing Giuliani -- before Giuliani can do anything helpful to gay causes, he needs to get nominated, and elected. He should be working to help the only possible nominee who might be favorable to the causes he espouses get nominated.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

How great is the Canadian style health plan?

Obviously, not very. I just read today that Belinda Stronach came to the United States for medical treatment. (many sources; here is one: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070914/belinda_Stronach_070914/20070914?hub=Canada ) Now you may ask, who is Belinda Stronach? She's a Canadian member of Parliament and former Cabinet member. And she came to the US because the medical care is better!

People who say we ought to emulate the Canadian "single payer" plan want us to imitate a system that is so bad that top government officials admit we have better medical care than they do? Really!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Mukasey nomination

Looks as if some extremists on the right want to block the accession of Judge Mukasey to the attorney general's post. It always puzzles me why some people, supposedly on the President's side, insist that if he nominates someone who might get some votes from the liberal Democrats on the Senate, he's selling out. (Harriet Miers was another case in point!) In Miers' case, they managed to succeed, getting an Alito in her place, but at the cost of heightening the tension between the Senate and the White House. I just wonder whether the extremists would rather have a fight than getting someone who they can work with into office without the acrimony of a confirmation hearing.

On the other hand, there are some Senate Dems who have no reason to oppose Mukasey, but want to pick a fight, so I've seen the word that they might just use the confirmation hearing to raise -- once more -- the issue of trying to get information that the White House deems to be covered by executive privilege. Just goes to show that both left and right in Washington, these days, seem more interested in making points than in making government work. No wonder the public approval of our governmental institutions is at an all-time low!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The parties on Iraq

It seems that each party has solidified its position on Iraq. Democrats think it's already lost; so they feel all we can do is get out as soon as possible. Republicans realize that it's going to be a long haul, so they are backing the generals: even such dovish Republicans as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has said this.

I'm with the Republicans, naturally.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Did we really need a report?

The Petraeus/Crocker report is in, and as expected, it reported some progress but not total victory. Except for the details, this could have been predicted when Gen. Petraeus was told to poduce a report. And the Congressmen who have been opposed to the Iraq war have used the report to proclaim that everything is a failure (since we have made only a little bit of progress, and not won it outright!) while those who have supported the war have used the report to support the current efforts (because progress is shown). Both these reactions could also have been predicted. In other words, the report really changed nobody's mind, and it was always the case that nobody could expect otherwise. Was this report necessary? I think not.

Friday, September 07, 2007

On gun control, continued

Yesterday's post dealt with the right of governments like D. C.'s to pass gun control legislation. Today's deals with the desirability of such legisltion. For it's certainly constitutional to pass a lot of laws that make no sense, and many gun nuts attack gun-control laws on various grounds purporting to show that they are undesirable. On the other hand, I feel that we need gun control, probably stricter controls than anything on the books now, but certainly not the lax laws in, say, Virginia.
  1. First we have the "If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns" argument. When I first saw this one, I was inclined to simply dismiss it, saying, "Of course. They'll be outlaws because they have guns." But of course, what they mean, and I do need to address the point, is that criminals will find it easy to get guns and circumvent any laws. My position is that criminals can get guns by one of two means: by buying them and by stealing them. If guns are not available to the public, but are only sold directly by the manufacturer to police departments and the Army (or other branches of the military), then criminals cannot pretend to be legitimate purchasers and buy firearms. And if there are no privately-owned guns, who are criminals going to steal them from? Certainly, a police department or military base that is so incompetent that they cannot guard their firearm storeroom against theft has no business existing.
  2. Second, we have the "If a criminal attacks us, we need guns for self-defense" argument. I've seen this put forth by people after the Virginia Tech shootings, where they actually claim that the killer would not have been able to take out so many victims if some of the students had been armed. First of all, does anyone really think that college students (known for binge drinking, fraternity hazing, general prank-playing, and the like) could be relied upon to restrict their gun usage to legitimate self-defense? Second of all, how many of them have the knowledge to use a gun properly, and not hit fellow-students or their professor while attempring to shoot at the attacker? Getting away from the college situation, if people have guns lying around their home, do they really have the self-control to make sure that someone is really an intruder before shooting? I shudder to think of a case where someone hears a noise in the house in the middle of the night, gets out his gun, goes to confront the "intruder," and shoots his kid getting in from a late date, or his wife going to the kitchen for a midnight snack. These scenarios are far more likely than the noise being from a real criminal entry.
  3. Finally, we have the extreme libertarian argument that "We need to protect ourselves from a government that wants to enslave us, and so we can't rely on the government police to be our servants." I say, if you're really bent on a revolution, no laws enacted by the government matter, so this argument is not worth trying to counter.

I favor freedom, but not anarchy. And I really don't think anyone needs a gun (except if he's in the military or the police).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The challenge to the DC gun-control law

Normally I am of a rather libertarian bent, but I seriously part company with people who are usually allied with me on one issue: gun control. I fail to see any reason why an ordinary law-abiding citizen would have reason to own a gun (and unless he/she was in the army, where they would even have learned to use one!) and so I fail to see any reason to allow anyone privately to own one. (The military and police, of course, need them.)


But before getting into this issue in depth, I want to address the issue that is really at hand: Washington, D. C.'s right to enact its strict gun-control laws. Some people appeal to a misguided reading of the Second Amendment. Let me quote the Second Amendment in its entirety: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Note the first first 13 words. No other freedom guaranteed in our Constitution has a qualifier: not a single one! Obviously this is a clue to the intent of this amendment. "The right of the people to keep and bear arms" is only guaranteed in order to provide for "a well regulated militia" and not for any other purpose. (For more details see http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/secondam.pdf where this is discussed at some length.)

So now we get to people who claim that, under common law, the militia consists of all able-bodied citizens. (Mostly this is to deny that "militia" now means the National Guard.) Well, if you claim to be part of the militia, you are obligated to put yourself under Congressional control. After all, Art. I, Sect. 8, clause 15 states: "[The Congress shall have Power] To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions" while clause 16 adds: "To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress" -- a pretty clear grant of power to the Congress.

There is no way of getting around this language. If you want to claim that the militia is everyone, then you cannot be armed except by Congressional provision; if you accept, as I do, that the militia is now the organized National Guards, then you do not have "the right ... to keep and bear arms" except if you are a member of the organized Guard. Any other reading of the Second Amendment is a perversion of its intent.

Now the question arises: is the District of Columbia entitled to pass these laws? Obviously, by my reading, a State has the power; the Second Amendment doesn't apply to the states anyway, and the Bill of Rights freedoms only apply to the states because of a judicial reading (probably justified) of the Fourteenth Amendment, but even if you apply the Second Amendment to the States in this way, it still grants "the right ... to keep and bear arms" only to people organized in militias, not to the public at large. But the District is not a state. It therefore gains its powers from Congress, under Article I, Section 8, clause 17, just as any city government gains its powers from the laws of the state in which it is incorporated. And Congress has not challenged that the home-rule charter granted to DC allows it to pass this legislation; it has been on the books for decades.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Arlen Specter and Larry Craig

The news over the weekend was that Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said that Craig shouldn't resign if he thinks he's innocent, but should fight the charges. Specter is a former prosecutor, and his claim that the charges might not stand up comes from a source that ought to know what is, and what isn't, a strong legal case.

And before proceeding in this discussion, I want to say that I have the utmost respect for Sen. Specter. A number of years ago, when he was contemplating a run for the Presidency (which he gave up on because he'd seen the power of the extreme right within the GOP), I was a strong supporter, and even wrote a letter to Specter encouraging him to run and offering to help in any way I could. And Arlen Specter's positions on critical issues are closer to mine than perhaps any other member of the Senate. So any criticim I give to Specter is to be considered as coming from a friendly direction.

But Specter seems not to understand one thing. Larry Craig represents Idaho, a very conservative state. Arlen Specter represents Pennsylvania, a quite liberal state with two cosmopolitan cities in it. Specter doesn't realize that Craig has decided that someone who is suspected to be gay has no chance of winning a high political office in Idaho. On the other hand, in Pennsylvania that would be much less of a problem. And Specter is attuned to Pennsylvania politics, not Idaho.

I just feel that the thing we need to note is that Craig's comment, "I'm not gay and I don't do such things," not just "I didn't do it," shows it's more important for him to come out as not gay than as innocent!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The politics of sex

Larry Craig, a senator from Idaho, recently got arrested in a police sting in a men's restroom and charged with disorderly conduct in a plea bargain. The big headline on the paper I saw this morning was Craig's proclaming he wasn't gay.

That this should matter is really a shame. But Craig is a conservative Republican, and as I mentioned in my Aug. 15 post, some people think that conservatism on some issues means you have to be on all issues, and anti-homosexualism is considered a necessary part of conservatism in many people's eyes. So a liberal like Barney Frank or former governor McGreevey of New Jersey can be gay, but not a conservative senator from Idaho.

That's really stupid. Why a person who is gay can't be a conservative (or vice versa) escapes me. What sexual orientation has to do with economics (or gun control, or almost any other issue in politics) escapes me.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A blog I found

Today I just found http://americasmayor2008.blogspot.com/ (A blog specifically about Giuliani!) While this blog supports him, I don't intend support for Giuliani to be its only raison d'ĂȘtre. But I'll be happy to plug other blogs that I like!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

An insoluble problem?

There seems to be a clash of values among our citizens on the illegal immigration issue, which seems beyond reconciliation -- it's almost as bad as the abortion issue, which I am certain is beyond reconciliation.

Some people are so imbued with the spirit of compassion and sanctuary that they even refuse to use the word "illegal" in describing these immigrants, which of course obfuscates the issue, because to fail to distinguish legal from illegal immigration denies the actual existence of what, to their opponents, is the principal issue: people entering this country in violation of our nation's laws. As a result, pro-illegal-immigrant groups can paint their opponents as xenophobic and racist, which is a false characterization for many. (I have no intention of denying that there are some among the anti-illegal-immigrationists who are xenophobic and racist, but certainly many, probably most, are not.)

On the other hand, on the other side are folks who insist that any action short of mass deportation constitutes an amnesty. It offends me to see the McCain-Kennedy bill characterized as an "amnesty" bill, since the illegal immigrants would have to pay penalties before being granted legal status. A true amnesty would mean automatically granting them this status.

Since the positions are so far apart, with the pro-illegal-immigrant groups apparently insisting on nothing short of a true amnesty and the anti-illegal-immigrant groups calling any attempt at compromise an amnesty, I cannot see any solution.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Karl Rove vs. Hillary Clinton

Yesterday Karl Rove was on such interview programs as Meet the Press, and he had a bunch of negative things to say about Hillary Clinton. Some of the news community seemed to wonder whether he was doing that because he wanted to energize the anti-GOP Democrats to vote for her in the primaries, because he (and Republicans generally) thought she would be the easiest Democrat to beat. Others thought he was doing it for exactly the opposite reason: that Republicans were scared of Hillary. I wonder why they didn't just take Rove at his word: he believes she is the person the Democrats will nominate. Given that belief, there is no reason to attack Barack Obama, or any other also-ran Democrat: it will be Hillary that the Republican nominee will have to run against next year, and so it is Hillary that any Republican will have to put in a bad light. (I hope the GOP nominee is Giuliani, of course, but any Republican has to think the same way: it is Hillary who will be the competition in 2008.) I think Rove's action is totally logical.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Academic freedom and political correctness

Today I read something in the paper that made my blood boil. A clerk at the co-op at the University of Maryland (OK, not an official University organ, but one that gets support from the University) refused to serve a student who was wearing a "We Stand for Israel" shirt. (See http://www.examiner.com/a-883729~The_speech_police_at_Maryland.html ) While the student eventually did get served, after much argument, the student apparently found it necessary (or was convinced) to apologize to the clerk! Apparently it's just fine to be an anti-Semite; I'm sure that no clerk could have gotten away with that kind of behavior to a customer wearing a "Black Power" shirt.

As the editorial shows, political correctness has trumped academic freedom.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Why do they have to go together?

It seems to me that there is too much of an assumption that "if you believe in X, you must also believe in Y" around, where X and Y are two totally unrelated things. There are people who might be described as "economic conservatives" (I count myself among them) and people who call themselves "social conservatives" (I am certainly not among them!) and a lot of people seem to feel that if you are one, you are the other (which obviously is not true for me).

Case in point: There are two radio stations in the Washington, D. C. area which, I believe, are owned by one company and which have been advertising, "You're sure to hate one or the other" -- one, WTNT, is full of conservative talk radio, and the other is its liberal counterpart. I occasionally listen to WTNT and sometimes agree strongly with opinions expressed there, but the other day I was listening to one of the regularly featured broadcasters, Michael Savage. He was going on and on about "perverts," by which he meant homosexuals looking for their rights. I don't know what makes Mr. Savage have such a vigorous hostility to homosexuals; perhaps he's afraid of being confused with Dan Savage, a sex-advice columnist who is gay. But it just seems to me that, whatever your sexual orientation, nobody else's sexual orientation really concerns you unless they try to seduce you, and in that case, it's the unwanted attention, and not the sexual orientation, that is the problem.

Now some "social conservatives" might say it's condemned in the Bible -- and, of course, many people's reading of the Bible would agree with that, though there are obviously some very religious gay people who read that same Bible differently. But we're in a country with a pluralistic religious composition, and nobody has a right to let his religion dictate his politics to the point of banning people whose religion differs from theirs. An interpretation of "conservatism" consistent with my own economic conservatism would be to keep government out of our private business unless it damages someone, and in that case, why get involved in anyone's sex lives unless it negatively affects someone who isn't involved.

Similarly, "social conservatives" try to impose the beliefs of particular religions on areas like abortion on others who do not believe that way, and in general seem to be convinced that their own religion's views on anything trump all others. What this has to do with the essentially "laissez faire" view of economic conservatives escapes me.

Hence the title of this post: Why do they have to go together? In other words, what do they have in common that justifies the word "conservatism" being used for both?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Who's picking fights?

Senate majority leader Harry Reid is quoted as saying, of President Bush, "His comments today once again made clear that he is more interested in picking fights than problem-solving. Our differences amount to less than one percent of the budget..." This quote is even reprinted in the Democrats' own site, http://democrats.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=280358 -- so they seem proud to proclaim this. Well, if I were in some sort of an argument, and I thought that the difference was so insignificant, I'd give in! Obviously, Mr. Reid isn't about to give in -- so I'd say he is the one who is only interested in picking fights!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

And about the Democrats...

Gee, I'm glad I don't have to choose one of the candidates running for the Democratic nomination. They have to appear moderate enough that they don't scare the voters the way George McGovern did in 1972 or Michael Dukakis did a few elections later. Yet they know that only the extremists will control the nominating process. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama is really anywhere near the center, of course, so it's easy for them to please the extremists, but if they really said what they honestly want to do, it would be Dukakis all over again. So they tack toward the center, but they can't go so far away from the left wing extreme that they alienate their base. It is so nice to watch from the outside!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Intelligence

A couple of days ago I was in a meeting of a bunch of people and talking about James Garfield, whom I described as "one of the smartest Persidents we've ever had." The person I was talking to remarked "as opposed to the present one." For some reason, it seems that liberal Democrats in general downgrade the intelligence of conservative Republican presidents; I've heard Eisenhower, Reagan, and our current Pres. Bush described as idiots. (John Kerry once said, according to quotes I've seen, "I can't believe I'm getting beaten by this idiot!" Yet when they were both students at Yale, Bush's grades were slightly higher than Kerry's, which seems to give a different picture.)

Obviously, anyone who can earn degrees from two of the best-reputed universities in the US (Yale and Harvard) is no idiot, and is likely pretty smart. And Pres. Bush is just such a person. Dwight Eisenhower was the general in charge of the World War II effort. And I'm quite sure Ronald Reagan was no idiot either, though I cannot point to specific intellectual accomplishments.

What it seems to be is that anyone who, looking at the facts of the world today, comes to conclusions different from those reached by our liberal Democratic commentators, cannot possibly be intelligent. What a bunch of garbage!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mitt Romney, "social conservatives," and pornography

Today I saw a headline on a local newspaper: "Romney plans attack on pornography to try to woo social conservatives." (The online version of the paper puts it slightly differently: http://www.examiner.com/a-836030~Romney_plans_attack_on_porn_to_please_conservatives.html leaving out the word "social," but obviously it means the same.) I had originally, on seeing this headline, planned to write a post on how "social conservatives" are a cancer infesting the Republican Party and how Romney is turning me off more and more; I think that pornography is hardly the crowning issue of this campaign, but cracking down on it is as stupid as cracking down on alcohol in the 1920s was, and pornography actually has its good points; a person who might be impelled to commit a rape might be more harmlessly able to give vent to his feelings by looking at it, and certainly if Bill Clinton had looked at porn instead, he might not have wrecked Monica Lewinsky's life, to give two examples.

But on reading the article, I saw more reason to sympathize with Romney's position. He was not talking about porn in general, but about porn directed toward people's e-mail boxes against their wish. Just as I feel people should have the right to look at porn -- no matter how disgusting others might find it -- I also feel people should have the right to control what they look at in a negative way: to decide what they do not want to look at. And on that point I fully agree with Mitt Romney.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dishonest terminology

As I was sitting in a Starbucks this morning and noticing that "tall" is the smallest size they offer, and "grande" (which means "large") is really their medium size, it occurs to me that people seem afraid to use honest terminology. (Of course, Starbucks' competititors do use "small, medium, and large," so not everyone is afraid to be honest. But Starbucks is by far the biggest in the business.)

Nobody is "pro-legalized-abortion" or even "anti-legalized-abortion"; they are "pro-life" or "pro-choice." As if the only thing alive is a fetus; "pro-life," after all, could mean "anti-euthanasia" or "anti-death penalty," of course. And as if the only choice anyone makes in life is whether or not to abort an unwanted fetus; "pro-choice" could mean "anti-affirmative action," "anti-union-shop," or "anti-compulsory-anything," for Heaven's sake!

Recently pro-labor-union Congressmen introduced something called "the Employee Fair Choice Act." What it really meant was to make it easier for labor unions to intimidate workers into voting for a union, by depriving them of a secret vote in labor representation elections. But obviously, to them a choice to unionize is fair, while a choice not to unionize is unfair!

Obviously, I could multiply cases of dishonesty in terminology, but these examples make it clear that nobody has a monopoly on such dishonesty.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Names!

Seems like there is a New York Times blog called "The Opinionator." Just discovered it today. Well, just to keep things straight, I have nothing to do with The Times. (As though you couldn't tell, given the great divergence in our positions!)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The other candidates

I have already indicated that my favorite among the candidates for the 2008 Presidential election is Rudy Giuliani. But what about the others?

John McCain seemed at first to be the likely GOP nominee. But he's fallen victim to the problem that he had been all things to all people. He had a lot of support from independents and Democrats who had mistakenly thought he was less conservative than the typical Republican -- not being familiar with his record. And when he became more hawkish than even President Bush, that lost him most of the support he had from those independents and Democrats. Meanwhile, his positions on campaign financing and immigration kept him from getting support from the Republican right wing. So he had neither the left nor the right, and his campaign seems to be spent. In a sense, that's a shame; I like a lot about McCain, but really, one fewer serious rival to Giuliani is probably good for my own wishes.

Mitt Romney, like Giuliani, has going for him the fact that he can win in liberal areas, a good thing for a Republican candidate. But unlike Giuliani, he seems to feel he has to recapture the right and thus disavow all his previous positions where they are not sufficiently right-wing for them. Giuliani has not reversed himself on anything; he just has felt it necessary to show where he is truly conservative, and has made these issues salient. I think that (unlike his father, who I eagerly supported for President several election cycles ago) Mitt Romney is someone who can't totally be trusted politically. I'll support him if he gets nominated to run against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, but without a lot of enthusiasm.

None of the other Republicans has a chance. Fred Thompson seems to be the current choice of the Religious Right, which makes me doubt him, but he doesn't really have all that much support (and, while he has more experience than Barack Obama, it isn't very much!) Ron Paul brings a lot of libertarian fresh air to the House of Representatives, but he's too dogmatically extreme in his libertarianism to be President, and I think most Republicans know this. Brownback, Tancredo, Hunter, and the like are not names most people recognize, and that even the extreme religious Right has abandoned Brownback (one of their own!) for Thompson makes it clear that none of them has a chance.

On the Democratic side, there are two serious candidates, Obama and Hillary Clinton. Both try to talk like centrists, but their votes have been extremely left-wing in the Senate. No way I could support either of them. And none of the other Democrats has any more chance of getting the Democratic nomination than Tom Tancredo on the Republican side, so there's no sense even discussing them.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I suppose I should make it official

Some time ago I discussed the possibilities of nominating Rudy Giuliani and Condoleezza Rice, and at that time I thought that either of them would be a favorite choice; but Rice didn't want it and Giuliani's chances of nomination seemed minimal because the religious Right had so much influence in the GOP. Well, things have worked out differently than I expected, and Giuliani seems to be in good shape for the nomination. So I might as well make it official: this blog is supporting Giuliani for the nomination.

He doesn't agree with me on everything, but he is closer to me on all the major issues than any other announced candidate of either party, so I'm happy to declare my support.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Why I am a Republican

Last night I was at a meeting of an organization I belong to, and afterwards another regular mentioned to me that he had wondered why I was a Republican. There were a lot of others there and I didn't want to spend a lot of time discussing the matter because I knew that others might break in and the nature of the group meant I'd probably be so grossly outnumbered that it would be an unpleasant experience, so all I did was repeat a line I'd put into a letter to the editor of a local newspaper; "...the Republicans are the party of freedom, and the Democrats are the party of 'socialism light.'" This led to further arguments afout "Star Wars" and President Clinton, as I feared, and I never got to say much more on the "why" question.

But it seems to me that there are two parts to the answer: why I became a Republican, and why I remain one. The first is so easy: I grew up when New York City, my birthplace, was dominated by the Democrats and under the thumb of a corrupt Democratic machine (popularly called Tammany Hall) while both the President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the Governor, Nelson A. Rockefeller, were in my mind doing a good job of running their respective governments. Comparing the two parties' records left me a clear decision to make, and I joined the Republican Party in my mind well before I could in fact -- you had to be 21 to register and vote then, so I could not officially join the party till I was 21, but I've been a Republican in fact since I was in my early teens.

Now, I find myself in agreement with Republicans on some issues and with Democrats on others. (For a good summary of my beliefs, see my first post on this blog, back in February 2006!) But it seems to me that on the issues I consider most important, I'm with the GOP, and that is why I am still a Republican.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A view on Iraq

Right now the most divisive issue in the country seems to be the Iraq war. It is becoming another Vietnam, and unfortunately people derived the wrong lessons from Vietnam. The biggest lesson we should have learned from Vietnam is that if the people do not back the U. S. military effort, we will lose.

In Vietnam, we were winning. The Tet offensive was a desperation move by the other side, and all military people who have evaluated the situation in retrospect agree that it was a major defeat for the North Vietnamese. But because Communist sympathizers in the U. S., as well as pacifists who saw no reason to maintain the struggle against world Communism, prevailed upon the Congress to withdraw support for our military efforts, we gave up, and today Vietnam is one of four countries in the world (the others being China, Cuba, and North Korea) still under Communist domination, even after Communism has been erased in the country where it first took power (Russia) and everywhere else where it had taken over except for those four.

We did one thing very right in Iraq -- removed the genocidal dictator, Saddam Hussein, from power. We did one thing very wrong there -- refused to accept that Iraq is an artificially-united country, which should have gone the way of Yugoslavia, divided into a number of smaller, more homogeneous nations. A Kurdish state in the north, a Sunni Arab state in the center, and a Shi'ite state in the south would make more sense than a united Iraq. But once we got in there, it is imperative that we not give al-Qaeda the satisfaction of knowing they could drive us out. They would certainly impose a Taliban-style theocratic dictatorship there, where even most Sunnis could not feel at home.

What we need to do now is to try to establish some sort of order in Iraq, while building up the pro-democracy forces in all three communities. I do not know how we can back out of our support for a single united Iraq, though we need to find a way to do so. A multi-ethnic federal state can only work if all parties want it to: Switzerland is a successful example; Yugoslavia an unsuccessful one; Belgium is a question right now.

But withdrawing now, or even promising to withdraw by some specified date, is simply a recipe for insuring a Vietnam-style failure. If we say we will withdraw by some specified date, al-Qaeda's leaders only have to sit tight till one day after that date. This is not the way to go.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Cindy Sheehan's delusions of grandeur

Cindy Sheehan must really think she's something really big. Now she says that if Nancy Pelosi doesn't file an impeachment motion against President Bush, Mrs. Sheehan will run as an independent against Mrs. Pelosi in the 2008 Congressional election. Does she really think she can unseat her?

I have no great love for Nancy Pelosi -- in fact she's probably, of all major politicians in this country, the most antithetical to everything I'm for -- but in her San Francisco district, she is extremely popular. And as Speaker of the House, a position that an independent Cindy Sheehan could never hope to get, she brings an importance to that district that probably would gain her some votes that go beyond her personal popularity.

Just what does Cindy Sheehan think she can accomplish by this threat?

Reviving this blog!

It's been about a year since I last posted on this blog. I guess it's hard to keep up the enthusiasm when there's no sign that anyone's been looking at the blog. But I'm going to try to revive the blog now, and post more frequently. If anyone is looking at the blog, I hope they'll comment on a post!