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, 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: ) 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 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!