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.

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.