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.

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.