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, May 19, 2010

End of the line for Arlen Specter, but for moderation as well?

It looks as though Joseph Sestak has beaten Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. And this follows Specter's becoming a Democrat to avoid being defeated by Pat Toomey in a Republican primary. I'm not happy, though obviously if I lived in Pennsylvania it would bring some relief, as I'd have a tough choice in November if I'd lived there and Specter had won. For on many issues I agreed with Specter, but I could not be very comfortable with supporting a Democrat who would vote for Harry Reid's leadership in the Senate.

What really hurts is that Specter, when he was a moderate Republican, was almost my ideal Senator. And seeing that he left the party because he could not win the Republican nomination, and yet, with all his support from both sides in Pensylvania, he could not win the Democratic nomination either, makes me wonder: Is there any place in American politics for someone who is not an extremist? I hope so, but it certainly seems grim. Charlie Crist, in Florida, had to run as an independent; he may be popular enough to win that way; independents rarely do, but Jesse Ventura in Minnesota and Lowell Weicker and Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut have done so. (Though it was years ago for some of these; have things changed?)

I hope that this trend toward extremism can be reversed; I'm not sure my hope will be fulfilled, however.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Elena Kagan

The battle lines seem to be drawn for President Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan for the Stevens seat on the Supreme Court. She is, clearly, a different sort of nominee from what we have had recently; the first nominee who was not a sitting judge for many years. Whether this is good or bad is unclear to me; I've generally believed that relevant experience is important, and if I were President I certainly would not appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who was not an experienced appellate court judge. But some people have made the point that a greater diversity of backgrounds might be a good idea. I'm certainly willing to see this tried.

Of course, conservatives are up in arms about Kagan, because her actions as a law school dean were very liberal (people especially point to her barring military recruiters from the Harvard Law School campus over their "don't ask — don't tell" policy). I probably would be too, if it weren't for the fact that it is Justice Stevens whose seat is being filled.

As I posted a while ago, Justice Stevens has been one of the most liberal ones on the Court. So the court's composition is not going to change that much by her being put on it. The only point some people have made that warrants looking at is that Kagan has had a great ability to convince others of the reasonability of her arguments, and they fear she will do the same. But can they really think that Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito are so weak in their convictions that a Justice Kagan could convince them to change? I do not believe so!

Then there are the allegations that she is a Lesbian. To that I say "if so, so what?" If there is anything that should be irrelevant to this question, this is it! However, of course, there are the so-called "social conservatives," who are so afraid of a "gay agenda" to undermine what they consider our moral fiber that this troubles them. Actually, if she is in fact gay, this might be a point in her favor. The idea that homosexuality is a terrible thing perhaps still needs to be dispelled. But it seems that she really isn't. The real problem is that those "social conservatives," by raising this issue, are creating a diversion from real issues — but then, their whole focus is on trying to force-feed their own (anti-gay) agenda on the American people. So let's forget about that issue.

So, opposed as I am to Obama's hyper-liberalism, I would probably vote (if I were a Senator) to confirm Elena Kagan's nomination. Save the fight for the next Supreme Court vacancy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The new British Government

Britain now has a Prime Minister: David Cameron. It took a while, though less time, of course, than it took in 2000 for us to verify the election of a President. But I still think we do things better.

At least Nicholas Clegg, the leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, did the honorable thing. He had said that if one party got both a majority of seats and a majority of votes, it had the right to try to form a Government. And the party that did, of course, was Cameron’s Conservative Party, So Clegg was right to accept Cameron’s offer of a coalition. But Cameron was forced to accept the idea of a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, though his membership mostly opposes coalition-building with that party. Yet, a coalition is the only way the Conservatives could have a stable government, with majority support in the House of Commons.

But the British Liberal Democrats, it appears, are rather further to the left than the German Free Democratic Party (FDP), so there is more political distance between them and the Conservatives than between Germany’s FDP and Christian Democratic Union (CDU). So while CDU-FDP coalitions have been common in Germany, this will be a difficult coalition to maintain. I suspect there will be another election soon.

And this is one more thing I do not like about the British system. Unlike ours, it depends on a monolithic uniformity of each party’s votes in the House of Commons. While Susan Collins and Richard Shelby both call themselves Republicans (and Bart Stupak and Nancy Pelosi both call themselves Democrats), they are free to vote their conscience and if they differ, no new elections are necessary, in the British system if the Conservative leadership decides the party’s members of Commons should vote a certain way, they all do, whatever the members may think. (I would hate to be an MP in Britain.) And if the Conservative and Liberal Democratic leadership have a falling-out, there will need to be a new British election.

Nobody knows how long this coalition will last. Coalitions, outside of the two World Wars, have never existed in Britain. And this is another problem with the British system. You have to expect that an election could be called at any time. So there is a permanent campaign in Britain. Each of the parties will be trying to position itself for the next election.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Perils of an unwritten constitution

In the US, we have a Constitution that is a written document. While there are a lot of unwritten constitutional rules, the formal written text of the US Constitution sets the ground rules, by which everything is run. And in 2000, when there was some question about the result of the Presidential Election, this fact meant that everything was settled (even if it took some time) in a way that could not be contested.

Contrast Britain, which has a "constitution" that includes some Parliamentary laws (which can be changed, however, by simply passing another law, unlike our difficult amendment process!) but is mostly an accumulation of traditions. Right now they are trying to sort through the results of an election in which their House of Commons (which combines the role of a house of Congress here with that of the Electoral College) is without a majority.

According to one of those traditions, the sitting Prime Minister is given the first chance to try to "form a Government" (he has to put together a Cabinet and first have it approved by the House of Commons, unlike our system, where the Cabinet, though requiring Senate approval for each individual position, need not be in place for the President to take office).

On the other hand, there is the strongly-held belief that the leader of a party which has won the largest number of seats in the Commons, particularly if that party received the largest vote in a general election, should be given the first chance. And in this case, the incumbent Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, leads a Labour Party (that's how they spell it there), which has finished a rather distant second in seats (306 to 258), and was also far behind the Conservatives in votes. Furthermore, the third place (Liberal Democratic) party leader, Nicholas Clegg, is on record as agreeing with ths second proposition, that the leader of a party which has won the largest number of seats in the Commons, as well as the largest vote in a general election, should be given the first chance. And Clegg's position is important, because the Conservatives can get a majority if they join with the Liberal Democrats. So both Gordon Brown and the Conservative leader, David Cameron, believe they deserve the first chance.

Well, the way it works now is that Cameron has sent emissaries to talk with Clegg's people, but Brown's resignation has not taken place. And in fact Brown is fulminating that he deserves a chance first. But in fact, the Labour and Liberal Democratic parties together do not have enough seats (Labour's 258 plus the Liberal Democrats' 57 make 315, and 326 are necessary) to make a majority. So even if Brown could convince Clegg to join him, he would still need support from some small minor party.

And further complications ensue because a lot of British Conservatives feel they should not make any concessions to the Liberal Democrats to make a majority, but should try to govern without a majority. British practice permits such a minority government, but only if enough small parties agree not to oppose the Prime Minister's party to prevent its defeat on a no-confidence vote. And the Liberal Democrats' size is such that this is the only party that could provide this non-opposition in sufficient numbers, and Clegg is not likely to agree to do it without concessions. So that solution is a non-starter.

Isn't it great to have a written Constitution?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Arizona's new anti-illegal-immigrant law

It is interesting to see left-wingers railing against Arizona's new anti-illegal-immigrant law (or as they like to call it "Arizona's new anti-immigrant law," ignoring its direct targeting of illegal immigrants).

Of course, many of the left are simply pandering to Hispanic voters, who sympathize with the illegal immigrants because many of them (even if they themselves have become U. S. citizens) have illegal immigrant relatives).

And in turn those Hispanics seem to feel that this country ought not to enforce its own laws. Though, I wonder what they would think if the country refused to enforce its other laws, and countenanced, say, the discrimination of people against Hispanics in violation of its anti-discrimination laws!

All Arizona has done is to say that, if you're in violation of U. S. law by your presence in this country, and if you're in the State of Arizona, you are also in violation of Arizona State law, as well. And no sensible person should have any objection to this.

But some people say that jurisdiction over immigration law is preempted by the Federal Government under the Constitution. It is true that Article VI Clause 2 of the Constitution establishes the supremacy of Federal law over State law in matters under Federal jurisdiction (and the Federal government, by virtue of the Constitution's grant of power over foreign affairs, has power over immigration, even though immigration is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution), but certainly Article VI would only invalidate Arizona's law if it were in conflict with Federal law. It is not; it in fact, directly incorporates Federal law into Arizona law!

In fact, if anything, those States that have attempted to legalize "medical marijuana" like California, are the ones who should be called on the carpet for trying to nullify Federal law. (I put the phrase "medical marijuana" in quotes, because it is clear that marijuana has no valid medical purpose.) But the leftists who are taking Arizona to task would not do this to those States, because these people approve of such actions.

The facts are these: The Federal Government has refused to enforce its own laws on immigration, and Arizona has seen fit to take the law into its own hands because the Federal Government has abdicated its responsibility. People clain the new law will lead to racial profiling, as though this is worse than the current situation where illegal immigrants are burdens on law-enforcement, public health, and such.

And it is supposed to be so much of a burden to carry identification to prove one's legal presence here. Well, I'm legally in this country (I was born here!) and the number of times I've had to show identification in recent years is pretty large. If I have to carry identification, it is no great extra burden for them to do so.

Actually, there is one clue that should be emphasized more. These people often say that "nobody is illegal." Thus they talk of "immigrants," lumping legal and illegal immigration together, and totally misconstrue the purpose of the Arizona law. As far as they are concerned, the immigration laws of this country do not have any force, but this selective nullification is unjustified, and once more, I reiterate: violation of our anti-discrimination laws would not be so pleasantly received by these people!