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 10, 2009

Abortion and the health care bill

Interesting that the health care bill may founder on the issue of funding for abortions. Frankly, I don't care much one way or the other on this issue, but if it gets to the point where Ben Nelson won't vote for it because it allows Federal funds to be used in a way that indirectly pays for abortions, and it stops the bill from going through, while other Democrats won't vote for it if the Stupak proviso is added, great! It stops the bill, which is what needs to be done!

The bad things in the bill have nothing to do with abortions, of all — the requirement that you must buy insurance or pay a fine, and the "public option" (which the Senate has weakened so it looks satisfactory, but what a Senate/House conference might do I can't predict): these are the gross evils of this bill. But if it's abortion that kills the bill in its tracks, so be it. I don't really care why it fails, only that it fails.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A broadcasting slip?

Last night I heard two commercials for Meg Whitman, former head of eBay, who is planning to run for Governor of California in 2010. The problem is, I live nowhere near California. What was going on?

I just hope the Whitman campaign wasn't billed for those ads. What kind of slip-up permits an ad for a California electoral candidate to be broadcast on a Washington, D. C. radio station, not once but twice?

Perceived (lack of) intelligence?

One thing I have noticed in my lifetime is that liberals seem to be perceived as more intelligent than conservatives. Way back in the 1952 election, Adlai Stevenson was considered the "intellectual" candidate, though Dwight Eisenhower, after retiring from the Army, had been a university president. And John Kerry, in 2004, was quoted as having said "I can't believe I'm losing to this idiot!" Yet looking at Kerry's college grades and George W. Bush's (from the same institution, Yale University!) it seems that the two were about the same, with Bush's perhaps a bit higher, even!

The examples are quite numerous, extending to Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan as well. And the most recent has been Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice-presidential candidate of the Republican Party.

Well, Gov. Palin recently put out a book. And it may be possible that it was to some extent written by others, but I'm sure it represents her thoughts accurately. And I have to say that despite all the negatives I've heard about Gov. Palin, the book (at least the parts I've read; I have not gone through it all) seems to be a well-thought-out work. As I've said before, she is not my preferred choice for the 2012 presidential nomination, but I have no doubt that if she is the nominee, she would be a better President than the person now holding the job. Yes, in 2012 if the candidates are Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, there is no question that my vote goes to her.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Universal health care?

President Obama says we need "universal health insurance." And he means you buy health insurance even if you don't want it, on pain of a fine! That kind of "universality" we don't need or want.

It would be fine if "universal health insurance" simply meant that if your employer didn't want to provide it, or if you just could not afford it, you got help in paying premiums from the government, the way if you're out of work you can colledt unemployment insurance. And that kind of universality -- without the coercion of a fine -- would get my support. What Obama wants, as I said, is just not right.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Catholic Church, your name is inconsistency!

The Roman Catholic Church has been pushing hard for provisions like the Stupak-Pitts amendment to the health insurance legislation being considered by the Congress. They insist that if anyone gets federal money to buy health insurance, then taxpayers, including of course, Catholics, would be subsidizing abortion if the insurance companies write their policies to include abortion coverage, which of course is anathema to the Catholic Church. Now, in a sense this is true, in a vague, indirect way. But in the past, the same Catholic Church has been strongly in favor of Government money for students to attend Catholic schools, which in the same indirect way means that taxpayers would be subsidizing the teaching of Catholic doctrine, and that is just as much anathema to non-Catholic taxpayers.

After all, if it is against a Catholic's conscience to give taxpayer money to someone who will be using that money to buy an insurance policy that covers abortion, isn't it just as much an affront to the conscience of a Jew like myself to give taxpayer money to someone who will be using that money to send his child to a school where he will be taught that the Pope is infallible, or that Jesus was the Son of God born of a virgin?

I certainly have my problems with the proposed health-care legislation. And in fact the question of abortion coverage is of so little importance to me that the presence or absence of the Stupak-Pitts amendment language will not change my opinion on the bill. But the whole issue is somewhat laughable to me, since Catholics can get so worked up into a lather over Government money going to someone who might purchase an insurance policy that covers abortions, and yet not see how taxpayer subsidies to kids in parochial schools might bring the exact same reaction in others.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Prospects for 2012

The 2009 elections are just over, and the 2010 elections have not yet been held, but it's really time to look toward 2012. Very likely, Barack Obama will be looking to gain a second term as President, and all people who are interested in defeating this attempt must get together on a suitable opponent.

One person who is already being touted as a candidate is former Alaska Governor, and 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, who has just put out a book, which many people consider to be the start of her campaign for the 2012 nomination. One thing she has going for her is that defeated VP canddates are often given a chance to try for the Presidency — look at Walter Mondale and Bob Dole. Another thing in her favor is that history was made in 2008 with an African-American President, and history would be made again if Sarah Palin became the first female President.

But Palin would not get the feminist vote — any more than Clarence Thomas or Alan Keyes gets support from African-American groups. Policy trumps race, and the liberals who constitute the majority of the African-American community consider Thomas and Keyes, if anything, to be traitors. And feminists would consider Palin the same.

Besides, there may by 2012 be two other viable female candidates, if either Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina gets elected next year. Both of them are talking about running next year in California, one for governor, the other for the Senate. If either gets elected — in the biggest state of all, California — she will immediately become a hot item in the 2012 Presidential sweepstakes.

I do not consider Palin, as some did last year, unqualified. She served as a state Governor, probably the best preparation for the Presidency that our political system provides, and did, so far as I can tell, an excellent job (though quitting makes one wonder whether she could take a 4-year term in the White House). And if she does get the nomination, I would certainly vote for her against Obama. But she is hardly my choice; for one thing, there are more experienced and more highly qualified candidates out there; for another; she's more aligned with the conservative extremists in the party than would make me comfortable.

If either Fiorina or Whitman gets elected next year, she will be a good choice; both have run major corporations, but as of 2009, neither has any political experience, and if either one has, by 2012, this political experience, she will be a great choice. Mitt Romney, who was not my choice in 2008, would be a better choice in 2012, though the reasons for my discomfort in 2008 would still apply — his ideas have changed a lot in recent years, and one can not really be sure how conservative or how liberal he is on those issued where he seems to have effected a conversion. But he has the experience of being both a state Governor (and in a much bigger state than Alaska) and a corporate executive, which makes his qualifications pretty impressive.

A name often mentioned is Tim Pawlenty, like Palin and Romney a state Governor. All I can say is I don't know much about him. Possibly if I did, I'd like him, possibly not, but I can't say very much.

One former Governor I could not support — to the point that if he is nominated by the GOP, I vote third party — is Mike Huckabee. He is the personification of just about everything I oppose: left where I'm right and right where I'm left. And he is the most extreme member of the religious Right since the days of Pat Robertson. It really troubles me to see him leading in polls among Republicans thinking about the 2012 election; One can only hope that by 2012 his star fades.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Yesterday's elections

Most of the election results from yesterday make me pretty happy — especially Chris Christie's win in New Jersey, which was not at all certain to happen — but there was one very unfortunate result, which will be the subject of most of this post.

But before I go into the details, it will be necessary to explain some points about New York State's political system, which is rather unusual in some regards. Unlike most other states, New York State has something of a multi-party system, with the two major parties being joined by a bevy of smaller parties. There are two big reasons for this. First, New York's ballot access laws are rather easy to meet. A party only needs 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election in New York State to have four years of guaranteed ballot access, with a line on the ballot reserved for them. In a state where over 4 million people voted in 2006, this is a very easy requirement to meet. Second, New York is one of a small minority of states that have electoral fusion, a system where minor parties can co-endorse major party candidates for many offices, getting their own line on the ballot for the same candidates, and saving their efforts on behalf of their own separate candidates for those limited elections where it is most important to them. (In fact, even two major parties can co-endorse a candidate, but except in races for judgeships, this is pretty unusual.) They can even do this in the gubernatorial election, so that they can get the 50,000 votes needed for the next four years of ballot access without running a separate candidate on their own, and many small parties do this.

This explanation sets the stage for the election I am about to discuss. In the 23rd Congressional District in New York, the sitting Congressman was appointed by President Barack Obama to a sub-cabinet post, one with prestige but no power, in a shameless attempt to give the impression of bipartisanship. This left the sear vacant. In a normal situation, this would be a safe Republican seat, as the Democrats haven't elected a Congressman in this part of New York State since 1870! And the Republicans nominated a State Assemblywoman, Dede Scozzafava, for the seat. The Democrats nominated William Owens, and the Conservative Party nominated David Hoffman.

But here came the weirdness. There are people in the Republican Party who are dissatisfied whenever a person who is, in their eyes, too liberal, and they are willing to let a Democrat take the seat rather than let that sort of a Republican win. And so they poured their support, in dollars and publicity, on Hoffman, despite the fact that this risked electing Owens. I suppose they were happy last year when they caused the Democrat Frank Kratovil to win a seat in the Maryland 1st District by denying renomination to Wayne Gilchrest, a sitting Republican congressman who was another of those "not conservative enough."

Well, that was the first problem. By putting major Republican support on Hoffman's side, they weakened Scozzafava so much that she felt it necessary to withdraw from the race, though her name remained on the ballot. That would not have been so bad — Hoffman could have been elected, and he would have served as a Republican Congressman, even if not elected on the GOP line — but then Hoffman proceeded to make statements insulting Scozzafava, so that she (who had claimed to "remain a proud Republican" when withdrawing) felt obliged to endorse Owens! (I don't know whom to consider the worse villain here: Hoffman for refusing to bury the hatchet with Scozzafava, or Scozzafava for letting her pique at Hoffman overshadow her loyalty to the Republican Party.)

So this is how it ended. The combined vote for the two Republican candidates (Hoffman, who was in fact a Republican, and Scozzafava) would have won the seat for a Republican, but Scozzafava got 6% and Hoffman 45%, so Owens won it for the Democrats with 49% of the vote. And Bill Owens gets a seat that should have been a safe GOP seat, just as did Kratovil last year in Maryland.

Who is the villain of the piece? National GOP conservatives, for building up Hoffman? Hoffman, for refusing to make peace with Scozzafava when she withdrew? Scozzafava, for letting her pique at Hoffman override the need to keep the seat in GOP hands? I think all 3 deserve a share of the blame.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sen. Roland Burris and the "public option"

Sen. Roland Burris, the man who was appointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill Pres. Barack Obama's Senate seat, has said that he will not support a health plan without a "public option."

In a sense, that's good news, though the whole idea of a public option is anathema to me. The reason? Because there are a lot of Senators who won't support a bill with a public option. And so the more who won't support a bill without one, the more likely it will be that no bill will get passed this year. And, really, it would be better to have no bill at all than any of the bills being considered now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More on the Peace Prize

There was a column which I saw today entitled "Nobel panel mad about Bush" (click on the title of this piece to see it) which deserves reading. Its thesis is that the award given to President Barack Obama is just the latest of a series of expressions of the committee's dislike of the previous president, George W. Bush.

I didn't think of this point when I wrote yeaterday's blog post, but that is probably true to more of an extent than I might have thought. After all, the political left really despises Bush. I'm not sure why they do even more than other conservative presidents like Reagan — perhaps because he won on the electoral vote while losing the popular (though that's just the way the Constitution works); perhaps because he had the temerity to insist on playing by the rules rather than letting Gore's people insist on recount after recount until the results got changed to Gore's liking (which Al Franken was able to do because of a sympathetic Minnesota court system let him). But for whatever reason, the left hates Bush more than any political group has hated any president lately. And, as I said yesterday, the Nobel Committee has become the left wing's own property.

Rush Limbaugh and the NFL

It seemsthat Rush Limbaugh wants to buy a team in the National Football League, but the NFL's commissioner and at least some of the team's owners object.

I don't understand what the problem is. I'm not a big fan of Limbaugh— when he's right, I agree strongly, but when he's wrong, I disagree just as strongly. But why is he a bad choice for an owner? One of the owners quoted as opposing him, the Indianapolis Colts' Irsay, thumbed his nose at the fans in Baltimore a few years ago by moving his team out in the middle of the night. Limbaugh— who comes from Missouri— will probably never do that to the fans in St. Louis! Is it a crime to be politically outspoken? Teams in major sports have been owned by Ted Turner, for example. But only right-wing politically-outspoken beliefs seem to be a problem. Apparently Ted Turner's outspokenness is OK because he's of the political left.

Of course, he's been critical of the NFL itself. I suppose that this is his crime.

Well I hate football, really; it's far too violent for my taste. But I thought I had to comment on this.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Nobel Peace Prize

President Barack Obama was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It's a little ridiculous; he hasn't done anything to advance the cause of peace. But RNC Chairman Michael Steele's e-mail to the mailing list has it wrong. He refers to how low a once-honorable prize has fallen. In fact, the Nobel Prize Committee has been a left-wing extremist group for quite a while.

Anyone remember Linus Pauling? He got a Nobel Peace Prize too, for doing nothing but trying to sabotage the war effort in Vietnam. I believe that Pauling's Chemistry Prize was well deserved. But the Peace Prize? Another example of the Nobel Committee's left-wing bias. (See my post on Monday, October 15, 2007 as well.)

No, the prize for Obama was certainly undeserved. But I can't really call it a big surprise.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Abortion, murder, non-kosher slaughter, cruelty to animals, ...

While writing a letter to someone last night, it occurred to me that I had the perfect rejoinder to those who use the "abortion is murder" argument to insist that all abortions be outlawed.

According to the Catholic Church (and some other religious groups as well), a person begins his life at conception. So an abortion, according to those religions, is a murder. But this position is only held by certain religions, and most importantly, not by all. So let us take another example of something which is differently considered in different religious traditions.

One of the justifications given by orthodox Jews for Kosher slaughter is its greater humane-ness. And in fact, the Orthodox Jew would insist that other slaughtering procedures constitute cruelty to animals. So, suppose that orthodox rabbis and others were to insist that all non-Kosher slaughter be banned, on grounds of preventing animal cruelty. How many would support this?

Nobody favors murder, nor does anyone favor cruelty to animals. Where we differ is what constitutes murder, or cruelty to animals. And to ban all abortions on the grounds that it is murder is to establish one religious group's definition of murder, or of a person, at the expense of others' beliefs.

And that brings in the First Amendment, which trumps the "abortion is murder" argument.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

What happened to the First Amendment?

Today I saw a headline in the Washington Times which astonished me.

I am absolutely certain that this family's religious beliefs would appall me, but they certainly have a right under the First Amendment to ensure that the kid gets an education in their religion. How could the judge ignore this?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Health Care Debate -- more on the "public option" question

There are people like Howard Dean and the "progressive coalition" who are taking the position that no health-care bill without a "public option" will get their vote. Since there are others who have stated that no health-care bill with a "public option" will get their vote, the far-out left, by taking this position, may be doing us a favor, even if their position is diametrically opposed to mine. For it looks like a guarantee that no health-care bill, with or without a "public option," will pass this year.

And this may, in fact, be the best way to go. Ideally, we need more discussion. We need a plan that really guarantees people the right to have insurance at least as good as what they have already -- The bills that are before Congress, regardless of what President Obama says, do not. And we need limitations on malpractice awards (alias "tort reform") which Obama has refused to implement -- he's trying to make insurance companies the villains, while the real villains are trial lawyers who force medical doctors to institute all sorts of unnecessary defensive actions to prevent frivolous lawsuits, and who force insurance companies to raise their malpractice insurance rates to cover outrageous awards. But Obama and the Democrats won't do anything to curb those malicious trial lawyers: they are too big supporters of Democratic candidates!

So probably the best thing to do is make sure that no health care legislation gets passed in 2009, so that a real reform can be enacted later! And we can thank the Howard Deans of this country for making this more likely!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The "Public option" -- what a fraud!

President Barack Obama has said that people who are happy with their current health care plan can keep it. But he is also advocating the so-called "public option" -- setting up a government-owned plan which would compete with private insurance companies, and which would be able to operate without paying taxes and would have many other things tilted in its favor. Certainly it's not going to be a level playing field. Saying that people who are happy with their current health care plan can keep it is such a fraud that Pres. Obama needs to have his feet put to the fire about this.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This is not Mayor Daley's Chicago!

President Barack Obama has lately been fulminating about people who want to look at the health care situation before being steamrollered into passing a bill. Ideas like forcing people to buy an approved health insurance plan or pay a fine, for example, are giving some of his supporters heart attacks. And the debate between those who insist we must include a "public option" and those who insist we must not include such an option is certain to prevent a broad agreement.

Well, this is the way things work under our Constitution.We have checks and balances to prevent anyone, including a President hell-bent on changing things, from accomplishing anything unless there is a broad consensus. It is not Mayor Daley's Chicago, where Obama got his political start!

And, really, thank God it is this way. We don't put through serious fundamental changes just because a President wants them. There are over 500 members of two houses of Congress that Pres. Obama will have to persuade (or at least persuade a majority of).

President Obama has to learn that he is not Mayor Daley. Even Lyndon Johnson, probably the most shilled President we have ever had at dealing with the Congress, took time getting his program through Congress, and this with a Congress that was trying to do right by the memory of the then-recently-assassinated John F. Kennedy.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sarah Palin's future (second post by that title!)

Sarah Palin's resignation was, of course, as much of a surprise for me as for everyone else. What does this mean for the future?

In her speech, she said:

...I'll work hard for others who still believe in free enterprise and smaller government; strong national security for our country and support for our troops; energy independence; and for those who will protect freedom and equality and LIFE...

This is pretty important. She is certainly among those who call themselves "pro-life" (which really means "against all abortions," though saying it that way would not sound as good). And on that, she and I differ. But all the other things she mentioned there are mainstream Republican ideas with which I agree, so I can hardly call her the theocrat that I think Mike Huckabee is.

So what I think of Sarah Palin is: She is certainly not my preferred choice for the 2012 presidential nominee. But if she is nominated, and runs against a re-election-seeking Barack Obama, I would certainly vote for her.

And with the troubles that Sen. Ensign and Gov. Sanford have just been going through, she just might be the nominee!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mark Sanford, John Ensign, and Bill Clinton

The recent announcements by Sen. John Ensign and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford are causing many comments, and are considered to be serious scandals, which probably will end both politicians' careers or seriously impair them. Certainly it will mean that neither has much chance to be nominated as the Presidential candidate of the Republican Party in 2012.

Of course, Bill Clinton still retains a lot of popularity. The obvious reason is that ex-Pres. Clinton is a liberal Democrat, and most of his support comes from people who have not been sexually moralistic towards others. By contrast, both Ensign and Sanford draw their support (or much of it) from so-called "social conservatives," who do tend to be overly moralistic about others' sexual conduct. So in a sense the chickens are coming home to roost.

But let us be frank here. Though Clinton's sins have not harmed him the way that Ensign's and Sanford's almost certainly will, it is Clinton who committed the worse acts. Clinton committed perjury (even if he was neither indicted nor successfully impeached for his conduct). He lied to a grand jury, and whether it was about sexual transgressions he wished to keep private or anything else, I maintain that this, not the original sexual escapade, is what the real case against Clinton was. What Ensign and Sanford did may have been a violation of marriage vows, but many other Presidents (certainly FDR, Eisenhower, and JFK) are known to have done this, as well as many lower level politicians. It did not end their careers, nor should it have. Unfortunately, it will hurt Ensign and Sanford because their supporters tend to be moralizers, while Clinton gets away with something much worse.

What would my cure be? Simply this: Let us concentrate on real misfeasance, not on sexual misadventures.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ronald Reagan, as quoted by Newt Gingrich

Truer words were never spoken:
...Mr. Gingrich, as he did several times during the hourlong interview, quoted former President Reagan.
"As Reagan would have told them, 'You can be a majority, in which case you're going to have arguments set inside the room, or you can stay a minority. But what you can't do is have a majority that's only people you understand and agree with.' "
This is the only route the GOP can follow.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran's election

The protests in Iran make it clear. The election was rigged; most Iranians do not believe that two thirds of their number supported Ahmedinejad. Now the only question is, will the riots in the streets bring down the current government, as they brought down the Shah way back when?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The DC court and gay marriage

A court in the District of Columbia has decided that a referendum on a bill that the DC Council had passed recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions could not be held, as requested by petition. The court held that the city's Human Rights Law prevented the referendum. And the petitioners are crying "Save Marriage between a Man and a Woman!"

What puzzles me is the question: How does allowing same-sex couples to marry endanger marriage between men and women? I have never understood what the people opposed to same-sex marriage mean by this claim. And I wish someone would enlighten me.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More on Sotomayor

It is interesting that when Sonia Sotomayor was a prosecutor, she took on a child-pornography case that others in her office would not. Obviously, on First Amendment issues, she is far short of what I consider ideal.

The more I find out about this nominee, the more I dislike her. But that's the cost of electing Barack Obama. He gets to pick the judicial nominations for the next four years.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A choice, or innate?

There seems to be a debate going on as to whether homosexuality is a choice, or is innate. Obviously, the decision depends, in fact, on what one means by "homosexuality."

It is certain that people are born with various characteristics: some people are lactose-intolerant, others go bald at a young age, etc., etc. And being physically responsive to the opposite sex is almost certainly in a similar category.

On the other hand, how one responds to these impulses is a choice. Just as a heterosexual need not give in to those impulses, (think of Catholic priests, for example) so the same applies to homosexuals.

The question of whether they should is another thing.

If you believe, as some do, that homosexual behavior is a sin, then you are obligated to try to avoid it. On the other hand, not everyone believes this; and those who do have no business imposing their religious beliefs on others. You should live according to your own beliefs. But in this country we have freedom of religion, and others must be afforded the right to live according to theirs, as long as it harms nobody else.

Let us compare the attraction to same or opposite sex to, for example, tastes in food. Some are born with a tendency toward lactose intolerance. Others just don't like the taste of milk (myself, for example). Should either be forced to drink the stuff? If you agree with me that neither should be, why does it matter which homosexuality is?

There does appear to be a worry among some heterosexuals that homosexuals will try to engage them in sex against their will. But is every heterosexual a rapist? Obviously not. So why should the same be expected of gay people?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Too liberal, or too conservative?

Sometimes I run across people who are liberal where I think the conservative position is right, and conservative where the liberal position is right. Last year this was exemplified by Mike Huckabee. This year it looks like Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the new Obama nominee for Supreme Court Justice.

It seems that liberals love her, but I've seen at least one decision she made as a judge that could have come from Rush Limbaugh: Take a look at Mehdi v. United States Postal Service.

Two Muslims challenged the constitutionality of having Christmas trees at post offices, but no Muslim symbols. The trial court judge was Sotomayor, and she dismissed the complaint. Exactly what I would have expected of Limbaugh and his "Christian America" types. Do we really want this sort of judicial decision?

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Sonia Sotomayor nomination

President Barack Obama has nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court vacancy that will come about with the retirement of Justice David Souter. An unfortunate, but expected, nomination, and one that appears to be one we'll have to live with.

President Obama, as usual, has made sure his nominee is eminently qualified for the position for which he has nominated her. But unfortunately, the "empathy" which Pres. Obama thinks is a desirable quality in a Supreme Court Justice is just what a Justice should not have. A Supreme Court Justice should be impartial and bound only by the law, and "empathy" is an obstacle to this impartiality.

But yet, there is not much one can do. A President is not going to appoint someone who fails to meet his criteria, and if Judge Sotomayor is rejected by the Senate, Pres. Obama will send up another nominee just like her.

All the Senate can do is reveal just what kind of judge she is, and we can all hope that Barack Obama does not have a lot more Supreme Court appointments.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Colin Powell, Tom Ridge, Rush Limbaugh, and Dick Cheney

The quarrel between (on the one hand) Colin Powell and Tom Ridge and (on the other) Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney warrants comment. While I was very unhappy with Powell's support of Barack Obama for the presidency last year, and said as much, if he says he is still a Republican, we must take him at his word. After all, even Obama is willing to accept Joe Lieberman as a Democrat, and he certainly would have reason to harbor a grudge.

The fact is that there must be room in each party for variation in opinion. Our system provides for only two parties, and there cannot be a monolithic position that all Republicans (or all Democrats) must hold. It was the threats from some Republican circles to remove Arlen Specter, one of the best Republican Senators, that led to his declaring himself a Democrat. And the Cheney/Limbaugh assaults on moderate Republicans can only hurt the party.

If I had to choose between Tom Ridge's brand of Republicanism and Rush Limbaugh's, there is no question which way I'd go. And I disagree with Limbaugh on so many issues that it's hard to be in the same party with him. But yet, of course, I'd have more in common with Limbaugh than I do with Barack Obama, so I stay in the GOP. (Apparently, despite endorsing Obama, Gen. Powell thinks the same way.)

Let us insist on an inclusive Republican Party. Anything else concedes the USA to the Democrats.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The furor regarding Miss California

Carrie Prejean, who holds the title of Miss California, made some comments on the subject of gay marriage that have led to quite a controversy. Now that she is opposed to gay marriage may be a fact, but the important facts are:
  • She is a beauty contest winner, not a politician who may be running the country,
  • She is an American citizen, with First Amendment rights, and
  • She is clearly a homophobic bigot.

Nobody need apologize for calling Carrie Prejean a bigot. She has clearly expressed herself, and demonstrated this. But calls for her to give up her Miss California title, which I saw after she had made the comments, are clearly unjustified. To my knowledge, the only qualifications for the title she holds are beauty and perhaps some entertainment-related talent. That she is a bigot doesn't disqualify her.

On the other hand, this doesn't make her a great person. She is (I hope you do not mind my repetition of these words) a homophobic bigot, and she deserves criticism over this. Anyone criticizing her has, just as much as she does, a First Amendment right to express himself.

This blog has not advocated gay marriage, and in fact I believe that at present a civil-union option is probably the best idea, but not because I oppose the idea of gay marriage. I merely think that the rights and privileges of a married couple are far more important than the actual word you use. And it is going to be easier to get civil unions in a lot of states than marriage by that name. If there are people who (for Biblical or other religious-based reasons) cannot support gay marriage but will accept civil unions, it's better to have them on your side than opposed to what you're trying to do. So this is my reason, and certainly the actual institution of marriage in states from Maine to Iowa gets no opposition from me; if you have the votes to get marriage legalized in your state, go for it. But a lot of effort was spent getting marriage in Vermont, which already had civil unions, and I think it would have been used to better effect getting civil unions in states that had no recognition of gay unions at all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The nanny state?

There's a place I frequently go to on Sunday mornings because they have an all-you-can-eat buffet, with reasonably-priced breakfasts on weekends. I used to be especially fond of their corned beef hash; I really like corned beef hash, and theirs was good, and so many places you can't order hash without getting an egg on top, and I absolutely despise eggs, so this was a big treat for me. But a couple of months ago they stopped having the hash. I asked a manager, and he told me that since the County had a no-trans-fats law, they couldn't serve it; they were hoping they could come up with a recipe without trans fats, but until then, it was off the menu. Another thing I liked there was the hash brown potatoes; they still have them, but not as good -- instead of crispy and tasty, they are soggy-textured and much less flavorful. I didn't check on this, but I suspect the same rule led to this change. The government cares so much about "healthy food" that it mandates food that doesn't taste good. I'm sorry -- for me taste is important. I'm not going to die tomorrow if I ingest some hash with trans fats in them. Why couldn't they leave things alone?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Tom Ridge - contd.

Looks like, despite the stories I'd been reading, Tom Ridge is not going to run for Arlen Specter's seat. Oh well -- it would have been an interesting contest. I suspect Ridge probably would rather see Specter continue in office, but obviously, with the political facts being what they are, he no more could endorse him than anyone active in politics can endorse someone out of party and retain his own party's support.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Tom Ridge

Now that Arlen Specter has become a Democrat, some people have been boosting the idea of Tom Ridge running against him next year. That sounds like a great idea. Ridge would be far more the kind of Republican that I like to see in office than Pat Toomey, and if it's Ridge on the GOP side and Specter on the Democratic, Pennsylvania would be faced with a win/win choice. I'm not living in that state, but if I were, I'd vote for Ridge just to support the GOP; however, Specter (even if he calls himself a Democrat now) is close to me politically, and should he beat Ridge I could not be all that unhappy. Let's hope that Ridge does run!

An evaluation of Obama's first days

The media have decided that Obama's 100-day "anniversary" is the time to evaluate his administration. 100 days is probably not enough time to come up with a real picture of what kind of president Barack Obama is or will be, but I will join the others in evaluating the administration. It started out with some promise, because most of his nominees looked to be at least very qualified, even if further left than I would like to see. But one of those apparently very qualified nominees, Timothy Geithner, turned out to have serious tax problems (not a great thing for someone who is going to be running the department that incluses the IRS!) And just as Bill Clinton needed three tries to come up with an attorney general, Obama needed three tries to come up with a Commerce Secretary (admittedly, not quite as important a Cabinet position).

It is quite clear that Obama is governing not quite as far to the left as I feared, but still pretty far over. He's backed down on some of his more extreme proposals regarding Iraq, for ecample. But his version of the economic stimulus has clearly been a socialist's dream: even governors who stand to benefit have turned parts of it down because it comes with strings attached that they cannot accept.

His foreign policy looks successful at first; we now have more pleasant comments directed toward us than we did under George W. Bush. But this is at the cost of American values. They like us more, because we're deferring to their ideas more. This is a minus, not a plus!

The economy is starting to recover; how much of this is due to anything Obama's done is questionable, though.

All in all, Obama's not done as badly as I feared, but I'd hardly say it was starting well. It looks as though I'll have a lot more negative to say about his administration over the next three years.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arlen Specter's party shift - continued

(this message is being cross-posted to the Range Voting Yahoo group and to my own blog, as it is both a response to a post on the group and a continuation of a post I made yesterday on the blog.)

My initial reaction to Arlen Specter's party change was one of extreme pain. Of all the 100 members of the United States Senate (well, all 99, as one seat from Minnesota is still being contested), Arlen Specter was probably the one closest to my own political ideology. And yet, unlike Sen. Specter, I feel that the Democratic Party is still much further away from all that I believe in than the Republican Party, so there is no way I would ever make the party change that Specter did.

But (particularly after reading more about what has happened) I see the reason behind it. And clearly the whole problem was Pennsylvania electoral law. The situation is obviously the mirror image of what happened to Joe Lieberman in 2006; the Connecticut Democratic Party in 2006 was so dominated by extremists that Joe Lieberman lost the primary to Ned Lamont, though it was clear from what happened in November that more Connecticut voters as a whole preferred Lieberman to Lamont. Exactly the same thing looked to be happening in the Pennsylvania Republican Party, except that Lieberman's option (forming a party to elect him after he lost the primary) was not available to Specter because Pennsylvania law has a "sore-loser" provision (a candidate who loses a party primary cannot run as the candidate of another party). And Specter had to look at the polls which showed him losing a Republican primary, but winning a general election whether he ran as a Republican or a Democrat. So his decision was, I'm sure, a painful one, but a logical one.

Arlen Specter, despite the party enrollment change, is still more a Republican than a Democrat. (According to one chart I saw today, only two Republicans in the Senate voted less with their party than Specter, but Specter's percentage of votes with the Republicans was still 65%!) Perhaps he's still going to vote more with the Republicans than with the Democrats, but it is true that he'll be voting to help the Reid/Pelosi Democrats control the Congress. If I'd been living in Pennsylvania, I'd have a difficult choice in November 2010 (as I said yesterday on my blog). Fortunately, I'm not faced with that choice.

The two-party system has one very negative result. It means that within each party there are fights between those, on the one hand, who want their party to be "pure" and take unified stands, and those, on the other han, who want theit party to reach out to the ideological center. I think that Olympia Snowe (one of the two Republicans who voted less with their party than Specter, according to the article I was quoting!) has it right: the Republican party cannot win without its conservatives, but it also cannot win without its moderates.

I've not agreed with some of the people posting on the Range Voting site that abolishing the 2-party system in the U. S. is a great desideratum; I've felt there are good things about having two parties rather than the weakly bound coalitions of countries like Israel. But the two-party system certainly brought about Arlen Specter's dilemma, and as someone who generally has liked Specter's politics, I have to be more sympathetic to those who would change it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter's party shift

The news is out that Arlen Specter has switched parties. I find it very painful to read.

If there is no place in the Republican Party for Specter, there is no place in either party for reasonability. The Democrats are socialists in fact if they won't admit it and the Republicans, who have been moving so far to the right that their best Senator felt he had to leave, are turning into a hard alternative to accept.

I could never become a Democrat, as Specter has. And if I were in Pennsylvania, I wonder how I'd vote next year. I still like most of Specter's positions, but I'd have difficulty voting for someone who will vote to give theDemocrats control of the Senate.

Fortunately, I don't have that problem. I don't live in Pennsylvania. But my heart goes out to those who do.

Friday, April 17, 2009

This morning I read a comment on the post I made yesterday entitled "What is this fight all about?" It made two points, the second of which could be disposed of rather quickly. But the poster's first point was really a number of points all rolled up into one, and it required some time thinking about it so I could produce a thought-out reply. He said:

The first is adoption. What some don't realize is that Catholic Charities is the largest facilitator of adoptions in the country. Now, in certain states where gay marriage has become legal, CC has been forced to get out of the adoption business because they must - by law - extend adoption rights to legally married couples. It's clear (on religious grounds) why CC would rather fold than facilitate such a thing.

Every study under the sun has concluded the same thing: children do best with a mother and a father, and by politicizing the issue in the name of "rights," I find many wrapped up in a kind of narcissism which disregards the welfare of children. So this points toward your "who would be hurt" concern.

There are so many separate items here that they need to be taken up separately.

  1. Let's consider the remarks that "Catholic Charities is the largest facilitator of adoptions in the country... [I]n certain states where gay marriage has become legal, CC has been forced to get out of the adoption business because they must - by law - extend adoption rights to legally married couples."
    • Should a private organization (particularly a religious organization) have a veto over the laws of a State, especialy inasmuch as they affect people of other beliefs than theirs? If the Union of Orthodox Jewish Rabbis, which certifies that food is Kosher so that those Jews who believe this is important know what they can and cannot eat, were to petition the legislature of any State to pass a law barring the sale of pork in the State, because it means that inadvertent contamination of Kosher food is more likely, what would be the likelihood of its being enacted?
    • Is the Catholic Charities organization really totally unable to use discretion in determining whether a couple is fit to adopt a child? Suppose that a couple whose religious beliefs were about the same as those of Richard Dawkins came to them to get a child to adopt. I suspect that CC would conclude that such a couple might be harmful to the spiritual health of the child, and would probably refuse to help them adopt.
  2. In any case, joining the issue of adoption to that of marriage is something of a red herring. Single people can adopt -- and even unmarried couples can adopt. (Ever hear of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt?) Gay couples -- even in the majority of States, which do not have gay marriage -- do adopt children. It may be difficult, and there are states where they cannot, but they do it in some states. So that's not a major issue.
  3. Furthermore, consider the statement that "children do best with a mother and a father." As compared to what? Have there been any studies comparing families headed by same-sex couples to those headed by heterosexual couples? Are there even enough families headed by same-sex couples to provide statistically-significant results? I believe (give me a citation if you can show otherwise) that any studies that have "concluded ... [that] children do best with a mother and a father" compare them to children in single-parent households. That is irrelevant to the question of whether gay couples should be allowed to marry and adopt.

As I said in my post yesterday, I think that advocates of same-sex marriage would better expend their effort to provide for civil unions or other equivalents to marriage in those states that do not have them, but I see no reason to repeal the laws where same-sex mariage has already been legalized.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What is this fight all about?

Reading about the Iowa court instituting same-sex marriage made me think again about this subject. If I could get people on the various sides of this issue together into a room, and I could ask one question of each side, I know what my questions would be. So I'm asking them here, hoping that someone reads this blog and could enlighten me.

To the pro-gay-marriage side: What is so important about the word "marriage"? In Vermont, which has had "civil unions" for a number of years, they recently passed a marriage law -- what did that actually accomplish? If you have a civil union that is legally the same as a marriage, and you can call yourself "married" in all situations except that the law uses a different word, why isn't that good enough?

To the anti-gay-marriage side: Who would be hurt by allowing same-sex couples to marry? Certainly, not traditional man/woman couples; nobody would invalidate their marriages just because some other couples, who cannot marry now, would be permitted to marry. And you cannot say that the clergy in religions that do not approve of same-sex marriages would be forced to perform them, because even under current laws there are marriages that are forbidden under the rules of particular religions, and nobody forces Jewish rabbis to perform religiously mixed marriages, or Catholic priests to perform marriages involving divorced people.

If someone points to the "abomination" in the Book of Leviticus, the "establishment" clause in the Constitution can be invoked. Putting one group of people's interpretation of what God says is right and wrong is certainly an establishment of religion. (After all, there are Unitarian ministers and Reform Jewish rabbis who perform same-sex marriages, so at least some people believe that God does not disapprove.)

While I have no reason to oppose the concept of same-sex marriage, I just wonder what is so wrong with the compromise of having a status that is legally equivalent to a marriage but calling it by a different name. And since there are some people who are willing to accept civil unions but won't take that last step, it seems a far more profitable use of your effort to push for civil unions or the like in as many States as possible, rather than pushing, in states like Vermont, for this last step of adopting the word "marriage."

So please enlighten me.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Obama and stem cell research

I promised after Barack Obama's election that when he did something right I'd acknowledge it, and even though, in this case, it's a reversal of something George W. Bush did, I have to say I support his action. As much as I generally approve of the Bush presidency, it remains a fact that on issues of interest to the religious right, Bush absorbed their policies. (I don't say he "gave in to them" because I think he genuinely believed they were right.)

So, on this issue, I have to side with Obama. On anything that separates the pursuit of scientific knowledge from the dogmatism of the religious right, I must go with science. And removing the Bush restrictions on stem cell research was the right thing to do.

Friday, March 06, 2009

O'Malley and other death penalty opponents

Recently, Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, tried unsuccessfully to get the legislators in Maryland's General Assembly (what they call the state legislature in this state) to abolish the death penalty. Fortunately he did not get his way; the legislators made it more difficult to levy (with an eye toward preventing executions on insufficient proof of guilt) but defeated total abolition of the death penalty. (See this article.)

Frankly, I cannot understand death penalty opponents. Allowing murderers to live says to the world that the life of the murderer is more valuable than the lives of murder victims. The murderer did nothing to spare the victims' lives; why should he be considered worthy of living, when he gave no such considerations to their lives?

Martin O'Malley is a Roman Catholic, of course, and he echoes his church's position on the death penalty. But just as I oppose having the Government follow the teachings of the Catholic Church (or any other religious group) on such topics as abortion, I must take O'Malley to task for trying to install Catholic Church opinion on the death penalty as State law.

And death penalty opponents who base their opposition on moral grounds, rather than on the teachings of one or another religious denomination, simply cannot explain in any way that will convince me why they consider, as I said earlier in this post, the murderer's life more valuable than the lives of his victims.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Arlen Specter - the Senator I admire most

I must admit that I have long followed the career of Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, though I am not a constituent of his. But I did, briefly, live in Philadelphia, just as Sen. Specter was district attorney there, and I was then impressed by his uprooting of corruption there. And since then, I've seen him as a force for the things I believe in in the Senate seat he's held for many years.

I was recently impressed by his handling (together with the two Maine Senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe) of the "stimulus bill" issue. Rather than just saying "no" as the other Senate Republicans did, he was able to have significant modifications to the bill. It didn't make it a bill Republicans could be really happy about, but it made it a better bill. And it agitated the Pelosi far-left Democrats no end -- that three Republicans could have more input into the bill than the Democratic majority in the House could stomach. It shows how a pragmatic approach can make even a minority a force to reckon with. And I applaud Sen. Specter for it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"First Freedom First" - a comment on a book

Recently I began reading a book entitled "First Freedom First," by the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy and the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the thesis of which is that it is important to maintain the constitutional separation of church and state. And this is a position which merits agreement from me. But in it, the Religious Right is castigated with the following words on p. xxvi of the Introduction:

The Religious Right claims an interest in recovering morality in America by seeking to outlaw all abortions, stem cell research, gay rights, and same-sex unions while advocating the teaching of religious doctrine as sound science. They also advocate, through a system of school vouchers often lauded as a way to help the poor, providing public tax dollars for the funding of public parochial schools. In recent years, the Religious Right has been loud in its advocacy for advancing the president's faith-based initiatives, displaying the Ten Commandments in public buildings, teaching the Bible in public schools, electing "God-chosen" leaders to public offices, and supporting the president of the United States in sopeaking and acting as the chief religious leader of the nation. However, the Religious Right has been strangely silent on the war in Iraq, increases in the numbers of people without adequate medical care and health insurance, the torture of prisoners, ... [I leave out the rest of this sentence, because it is really the part I quote here that I want to address]

When I read the first two of these sentences, I was willing to accept what Gaddy (the author of this introduction) says. But then I hit the third sentence. Obviously, Gaddy (I can't speak for Lynn, as he didn't write these words, but if he is willing to have his name on the book as co-author, I can't imagine he disavows them) seems to think that one of the purposes of his book is to advocate for our having left Saddam Hussein in power to gas the Kurds and threaten Israel with missiles, for our adoption of a socialized-medicine scheme (because most people talking about "increases in the numbers of people without adequate medical care and health insurance" seem to advocate such schemes), etc. And with this sentence he lost me.

What in the name of all that matters in this universe do "the war in Iraq" and "increases in the numbers of people without adequate medical care and health insurance" have to do with religious freedom? And what business do these points have in a book on preserving our First Amendment rights?

Up till that sentence, I might have favorably reviewed this book. But it is clear that Gaddy and Lynn have their own ideology to pursue, not merely advocating a religiously-neutral, even secular, government (with which I concur), but a left-wing, even socialistic political agenda. And with that I take issue.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Intelligent Design and Evolution: Does it have to be one or the other?

Just this morning I was reading a book in which it was clear that the author believes that the only way that evolution can have occurred is by the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection, and derides the concept of intelligent design along with creationism. I believe that it is a grievous mistake to say that you can't have both evolution and intelligent design.

For some reason, the evidence for evolution that we have has been taken to be evidence for the concept that evolution occurred via one specific mechanism: random mutations followed by survival of the fittest (i. e. natural selection). I would like to see any basis for distinguishing this mechanism from an alternative, which I maintain is firmly within the framework of intelligent design:

There is a God who controls this world, but rather than a de novo creation of new species, His mechanism is to see what His creations are like, and make modifications toward a goal. In other words, it is not blind chance, but intelligent tinkering, that drives evolution.

Now, no scientific investigation can prove my hypothesis, but in fact I believe that none can disprove it, either. I would challenge any Dawkinsian atheist to give me one piece of scientific evidence that can be used successfully to refute my hypothesis. I don't think there can be any.

Now the point can be made that science proceeds only by investigating testable hypotheses, and that the hypothesis I have formulated is not testable. I maintain that the real point is that the hypothesis of the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations followed by survival of the fittest is no more testable than mine. So, in fact, science cannot dismiss intelligent design out of hand, and the two hypotheses (intelligent design and Darwin's natural selection mechanism) are of equal status; they both have to be considered speculative philosophy rather than science.

Note that nothing that I have said here denies the factuality of evolution, so do not call me a creationist. My point is that, even given acceptance that evolution has occurred in the past and probably continues to occur, one cannot dismiss the idea of intelligent design out of hand.

So please let us have some sense here. Arguments for evolution (which I accept!) do not prelude intelligent design. And they no more prove the Darwinian mechanism than the fact that 2+2=4 proves that all numbers are even. Let's be honest about this.


A recent comment on my posts regarding Michael Steele referred to him in generational terms, and called for splitting the "baby-boomer" generation, because the generation that Steele (and Obama, Palin, etc.) belongs to is really different in kind from the baby-boomer generation of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. I can't say this surprises me, because I've thought about this classifying of people into generations, though mostly about the earlier era where I belong. And I feel I've also been generationally misplaced.

The classic generation book is a book called "Generations" by William Strauss and Neil Howe. And in Strauss and Howe's book, I'm in the Silent Generation, just before the Boomers (Strauss & Howe just calls then by that name, not "Baby" Boomers) and just after the G. I. Generation, that fought in World War II. But this generation, according to Strauss and Howe, begins with people born in 1925. And I don't think that a person born in the late 1920s (who was a teenager in World War II, just a bit too young to fight, but old enough to be well aware of what was going on) had the same type of experiences as I had (V-J Day, when WWII ended, was just before my 3rd birthday, so I have no memories of WWII, but my teenage years were during the hottest part of the Cold War, with a prosperous economy, but shelter drills in school, and Russian spies suspected of being everywhere. Perhaps the "Cold War Generation" describes my age cohort. But it's certainly not the same as the earlier Silents in Strauss & Howe's classification.

So from right after I read Strauss & Howe's book, I thought that a shorter period, perhaps half of a Strauss & Howe generation, really defined an age cohort. And the comment about Michael Steele and his contemporaries fits my thoughts, so I feel vindicated in my classifications.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Michael Steele, and those who oppose him

Someone posted a comment to my posting about Michael Steele, in which he called Steele a RINO and linked to a site in which Steele was attacked by a certain Steve Deace, a commentator on a station in Iowa, who attacked Steele.

Trying to find out something about this Deace, I found a blog post that said:

Steve Deace, the 1040 WHO commentator, should be donning a "Religious Bigot" t-shirt soon. A few weeks ago, he said that someone should send him a shirt that says, "Religious Bigot" on it because that is what it means today to be a believing Christian.

Back in 2004, as a sports commentator, he argued that Shawn Green (who is Jewish) should convert to Christianity so that he could play baseball on Judaism's holiest day, Yom Kippur.
I don't know if he ever apologized for it. More recently, he has picked most prominently on homosexuals, referring to them crudely as people who "have anal sex."

I don't think Christianity makes anyone a religious bigot, but Deace has certainly shown that a self-described Christian certainly can be one. If Deace wants the moniker, who am I to disagree?

So, I designed and sent him a shirt with the words "Religious Bigot" emblazoned on the front and back in red with red sleeves. He says it "looks awesome." I think it looks embarrassing. If you know a religious bigot who needs one, follow the link below, and you can send them their own Steve Deace "Religious Bigot " T.

If this is Steve Deace, it is clear that he stands for everything I oppose. And if Steve Deace opposes Michael Steele, that's one more reason to support Steele!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Michael Steele - the new Republican National Chairman

Michael Steele was just chosen to be the new Republican National Chairman. And I think it was a good choice.

Two years and some months ago, I voted for Steele to be the United States Senator for Maryland. And he was not elected, which was a disappointment, but not a great surprise, in a rather "blue" state. But I think he was qualified for the Senate then, and he is even more qualified for the RNC position now, since, among his past experiences, he has served as the state chairman of the GOP in Maryland.

In a country where 95% of African-Americans voted for Barack Obama, the Republican Party (which was the party that freed the slaves!) is often alleged to be hostile to anyone that is not a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Christian. This is a fallacy; the GOP believes in equality, and has only been hostile to the idea of reserving certain government positions for specific ethnic/gender people. When African-Americans (or any other people) are good enough for a post, Republicans will endorse such people. They have shown that with such examples as former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, and now once more with former Lieutenant Governor (and candidate for the Senate) Michael Steele. It is not true that the GOP is racist; only that it will not deliberately choose unqualified minority candidates without a reason. Michael Steele is clearly, like Condoleezza Rice, a well-qualified person, whose election will help the RNC.

Choosing someone just for his/her racial/ethnic/gender background is bad. But while I'm sure that Steele got some votes because the GOP was burned by Obama's victory and wanted to appeal to African-Americans, the difference between the parties was shown by the fact that he was chosen because he was qualified. It's not like Bill Clinton's choice of Janet Reno for Attorney General, where he was so eager to choose a woman that nothing else mattered, and as soon as one woman had problems he made sure to nominate another woman.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The new presidential cycle

Today, as happens every fourth January 20, we inaugurated a new President: Barack Obama. Those who follow this blog know that he was not our choice; if we had our way, it would have been John McCain taking the oath of office today. But the people of the United States decided differently, and ours is a constitutionally-governed nation, so for the next four years, Barack Obama will hold the office of President of the United States.

Under our constitution, a newly elected President is given four years to make his mark, and cannot be removed earlier by a vote of no confidence in the way prime ministers are in parliamentary systems. The only way to remove a President is to impeach, and no President has ever been removed that way. (Only one has even been obliged to resign due to the serious threat of an impeachment; sadly, this was someone who had actually been one of our best Presidents). So for better or for worse, the next four years will see our policy decisions made by Barack Obama.

One characteristic of our system, though, is that while the losing side does not have a lot of power, it does have the right to criticize the President. And this we promise. In the next four years, as stated just after the election over 2 months ago, we retain the right to be critical of President Obama's actions, but when he does something good, we will certainly give him the credit.

So far, Obama's done nothing much but make appointments, and he has been pretty good up to now. We will have to follow very closely what he chooses to do in that rĂ´le— we await his actions.