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 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.