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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Today I went over all the candidates whose names will appear on my ballot in two weeks, with the exception of those who are unopposed, those running for Board of Education (I do not vote in those elections, for three reasons which do not need to be explained in this post), and some of the party central committee positions (where I know nothing about the candidates and have no way to get the info I'd need).

I have now marked my sample ballot, and the people I have decided to vote for are also the people I will formally endorse in the name of this blog. For this purpose, candidates who have no web site of their own and have not given their positions to anyone like the Gazette, I assume are not serious candidates, and exclude them from consideration.

For Governor and Lieutenant Governor (you vote for them together, as a team), I have already expressed my support for Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. and Mary Kane. Hopefully, the endorsement of their opponents by Sarah Palin does not sway many Maryland Republican voters. Gov. Palin got my vote two years ago for Vice-President, but as a part of a ticket headed by John McCain, and while (as I've said before) I do not demonize her as liberal Democrats do, I think her endorsement does not count for much in my estimation. I think the most salient fact influencing my vote is that I believe that Bob Ehrlich made a good Governor from 2003 to 2007, and deserves to be returned to that office.

I've tried to find enough information on the three candidates for Comptroller. One of them gives none, so the decision is between William Henry Campbell and Brendan Madigan. Really, both seem to be well-qualified, and it was the hardest of all my decisions to make. The thing that finally made me choose Campbell over Madigan was that Madigan's campaign seemed to be very negative on Amtrak, which is where Campbell was chief financial officer. Madigan's Amtrak-bashing made me choose Campbell.

The United States Senate race is only difficult because there are eleven candidates. I've discussed many of them, and most of the others really had no information about themselves. My being impressed with the moderate stances of Neil H. Cohen is unchanged; all this post does is make it official: he is my choice for the Senate.

The next and almost last race worth discussing is Representative. While Chris Van Hollen will probably win no matter who is nominated, Bruce Stern seems, like Neil Cohen, to be the kind of moderate that the Republican Party needs. Stern, therefore, gets my vote and my endorsement.

The Action Committee for Transit has put out a pamphlet on the positions of the candidates on transit. Most of the candidates on their list are Democrats, and I can't vote in that primary (couldn't even if I were in their district!) but they do cover the race for the Republican candidate for Montgomery County Executive. On transit issues, the best candidate is Daniel Vovak, and he also has a blog that looks like its author is someone worth supporting. So Vovak gets my vote and my endorsement.

Since I've been impressed by Stern and Vovak, I will also vote for them in their campaigns for party central committee. On that one, though, I'm supposed to pick eight candidates out of nine. I won't, though. There is too little info on the other seven.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Modern Whig Party - revisited

Already in June, the Modern Whig Party, which I discovered a few weeks ago, had merged with a smaller but similar group called the American Centrist Party. The party has grown some more this week, as another group, which had called itself simply the Center Party, has decided to merge with the MWP. Although the CP is relatively small, they bring the MWP something it needs, a candidate who has qualified for the ballot in November. For Jeff Vanke, the founder of the CP, is a declared candidate for the Congress in Virginia's 6th District. And one who is actually polling bigger numbers than minor-party or independent candidates usually do. This, of course, is good news for the MWP.

Virginia is, in some ways, a good state to have an incubator for a new party. The ballots do not show party affiliation, so a minor party candidate and a Democrat or Republican are on relatively equal terms. (I'm very familiar with this because, in 1968, I was in graduate school in Virginia and working on behalf of a Republican candidate for Congress, trying hard to make it clear that he was the Republican candidate!) Virginia also does not have party registration. A voter sympathetic to a minor party does not have to deregister from a major party he might have belonged to, as would be the case in New York or Maryland, the two states I've had as voting residences in my life. People can just vote in any primary they choose to. (It's not something I like, because it would enable, say, Democrats to cross over into a Republican primary to vote for the most unpopular candidate, to help assure a Democratic victory! But if I lived in Virginia I could become active in the MWP and continue voting in Republican primaries, as I cannot do in Maryland.) The one thing about the Virginia system that might hurt a new party is that even if they do succeed in electing a candidate of theirs, it doesn't help any other candidate.

The only thing that would bother me, if I lived in the Virginia 6th, is what Jeff Vanke would do (if he were elected) when it came to the vote on the Speakership between Pelosi and Boehner. As a "centrist," this question is worth answering. But otherwise, in an election the Democrats are not contesting, it might be a good thing to elect the Whig. At least one would not have the problem that usually occurs with voting for 3rd party candidates -- that it helps elect the major party candidate you least desire. Good luck, Mr. Vanke.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why do liberal Democrats think all conservative Republicans are stupid?

Today I was reading Sarah Palin's book, "Going Rogue." Now I know that politicans often have ghostwriters help with their books, and in fact John McCain actually has Mark Salter given co-authorship credit, but I venture to think that the ghostwriters don't furnish the ideas: the politicians do that. And Gov. Palin's book is not the work of the idiot that the Democrats make her out to be! She may disagree with me on some issues, and I don't like that she's endorsed the candidate I disfavor for Governor of Maryland, but I expect that people will have differences on political matters. That's the nature of politics. But Gov. Palin does not, as I said, seem to be stupid.

But this seems par for the game. John Kerry, at one point in 2004, said "I can't believe I'm losing to this idiot!" This, referring to George W. Bush, the holder of a degree from Yale (with slightly, though insignificantly, higher grades than Kerry got at the same institution!) and another from Harvard. (How many presidents have had degrees from two of our most prestigious universities?)

The Democrats called Ronald Reagan an "amiable dunce," And other conservative Republican Presidents, such as Gerald Ford and Dwight D. Eisenhower, have had similar estimates made. Eisenhower, whose strategies probably contributed more to defeating Germany and Italy than any other man!

No, it seems that if a person is a conservative Republican, liberal Democrats won't admit that he might be equal in intelligence, or even superior, to a liberal Democrat. A strange phenomenon!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More on the U. S. Senate primary (continued)

I usually do not like doing even two posts in a row on the same subject, but here I'm compelled to do three.

I got an e-mail from Neil Cohen, who took me to task for implying that his candidacy was not serious. The only candidate I had used the word "quixotic" about was John Kimble, however. I certainly did not mean to imply that Dr. Cohen was not running a serious campaign; only that the people who were putting out information on the primary were writing about it as if it were a two-person race between Eric Wargotz and Jim Rutledge, which made it hard to believe that any other candidate was likely to win the nomination. But I have no poll results, and if I had, I'd have a clearer picture of who is leading.

Let me be perfectly clear. There are two reasons I might want to see a candidate nominated. Either the candidate is particularly close to me politically, or he is more likely to win against the Democrat. And on both grounds, Neil Cohen seems to be the one. Anyone who reads this blog knows what I believe in, and that in particular I've been very negative about the "social conservatives" who are taking over the Republican Party. So far, Dr. Cohen seems to be the only one who does not belong to that faction. In particular, Jim Rutledge seems to be so far out that he sees homosexuals under every mushroom, cutting off his right to speak against them. Eric Wargotz does not seem to be so far out, but he has willingly embraced the label of "social conservative." Dr. Cohen has proclaimed himself the only moderate in the race, and his positions, while differing some from mine, are far closer to mine than the others'. (I could not expect a Republican candidate for anything to agree with my position on the Second Amendment, for example. But Dr. Cohen's position, at least, doesn't seem to treat it as the absolute freedom to avoid all regulation that others make it.)

And as for electability, a far-right conservative is much less likely to be able to draw off some of the votes that Barbara Mikulski usually gets every six years than a moderate candidate. And this means any moderate has a better chance than any extremist.

So let me apologize to Dr. Cohen if it seemed I was questioning his seriousness as a candidate. Right now, in fact, I would tentatively endorse his candidacy, and the only reason the endorsement is tentative is that I still have not looked at some of the other candidates.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More on the U. S. Senate primary

I admit that with 11 candidates, I probably will not end up looking at all of them by the time I get to vote. I've seen the information about one more since my posting of yesterday: Gregory Kump. He can't seem to spell, and an interview that he gave to the Gazette does not make me very confident that he has the brains to be a Senator. But, having looked at five of the 11, I'm slowly making my choice. As I hinted yesterday, more and more, Neil H. Cohen looks like the one.

If a Republican has any hopes of taking enough votes away from Barbara Mikulski to win, he'd better not be too far right. Extreme right voters, of course, will probably vote for any Republican. But there aren't enough of those in Maryland to win. Only a moderate has any chance to peel off voters from Mikulski's right flank at all. (Besides, I'd find it harder to support an extremist than a moderate anyway.) So, both on electability and on closeness to my own thinking, Neil Cohen looks like the one to get my vote. He seems to be the only moderate in the race; his campaign literature says he is, and I haven't found anything to contradict this.

Two comments put to my post of yesterday favor Rutledge and Wargotz. But I find neither very convincing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Primary choice

In a couple of weeks, Maryland will have its primary. While I will support former Governor Bob Ehrlich with ease, despite his position on transportation as I mentioned in my post on Aug. 11, for the Governorship, I have a dilemma in trying to pick a Senate candidate. There are eleven running in the Republican primary, none of whom I've heard of except for John B. Kimble, a perpetual candidate who ran four quixotic races against Albert Wynn for the House of Representatives. (He has also run for something just about every two years more recently. But in a Senate primary against Michael Steele 4 years ago, he won 3% of the vote! I must admit that in the more recent elections since he quit trying for the Wynn, now Edwards, seat, I was not aware of his candidacy for these offices.)

The other candidates, insofar as I can find out anything about them, are none of them very attractive to me. There is Jim Rutledge, who has been advertising some online, and so I looked him up. His website talks a lot about "freedom," which looks appealing. But one of those freedoms he's put in bold on his site is the right to bear arms, hardly something that would lead me to support him. And another, which looked a bit more reasonable, was "freedom of speech"; but it seems by his site he means the freedom to make homophobic pronouncements! What a terrible choice!

I have seen some immense campaign posters for another candidate, Eric Wargotz. And he and Rutledge seem to be the most serious candidates, according to the information I can find on the Web. But Wargotz is hardly a better choice than Rutledge. His site talks up his life membership in the NRA and his social conservatism. It doesn't seem to be as much socially conservative, though; no outright homophobia and he does talk a lot about limited government.

Of course, I've ignored 8 other candidates. Nobody takes anyone but Wargotz and Rutledge seriously, though. However, one of the others, a dentist named Neil H. Cohen, describes himself as "the only moderate in the race." And his positions on the issues are more reasonable. Though he probably has little chance, if I were voting today, he'd probably get my vote.

Still, I suppose that in November, Barbara Mikulski will beat anyone the Republicans will nominate. And that is too bad; even the worst of the Republicans would be an improvement over her.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ken Mehlman comes out as gay

Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has come out as gay in an article in The Atlantic magazine. This is an undisputed fact. But what I wonder about is that he says that he "arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently," according to the Atlantic article. I mean, he is 44 years old. He denied being gay four years ago after he was outed on CNN. I can't imagine that at the age of 40 he hadn't figured it out.

But I don't fault Mehlman that much. The fact is that the real villains of the piece are the "social conservatives" who have invaded the Republican Party. Mehlman has stated in the Atlantic article that "it would have been impossible for him to go against the party consensus." And the question is, why was the party consensus so badly aligned against gay rights?

Mehlman has worked in the past for such Republicans as William Weld and Rudy Giuliani, the kind of Republicans that I think merit support. It is too bad, though understandable, that he felt unable to tackle the "social conservatives" head on as RNC chairman. And unfortunatly, having waited so long, he will not have the power he had then to pull the GOP in the correct direction, while gay activists will say that his "mea culpa" is too little and too late. (Sorry to use a Latin phrase from the Catholic liturgy in discussing a fellow Jew, but it was the most appropriate phrasing!)

Democrats like Barney Frank can be openly gay and remain in power. It is very unfortunate that Republicans can't. Gay rights have nothing to do with the economic issues that should be the ones dividing the two parties.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More on Perry v. Schwarzenegger

I keep seeing arguments against Judge Vaughn Walker's opinion in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the Federal court case contesting California's Proposition 8. As I expected, the fact that Judge Walker is gay figures in a lot of the arguments, and probably he should have recused himself, but it is still a good decision which I hope will prevail when it gets to the Supreme Court.

The usual argument against Judge Walker's decision, though, has to do with judicial activism; the people voted to pass Prop. 8, the people should be sovereign, thus Prop. 8 should be allowed to let stand. But suppose this was a case involving segregation in Mississippi in the 1950s. Does anyone believe that the Mississippi voters would not have voted, by a much greater majority than the California voters approved Prop. 8, to retain segregation? And does anyone believe that that vote should have been allowed to stand if it had been taken? Well, where is the difference? There are racists who even today would like to see segregation, but fortunately the courts have ruled decisively in ways that make it impossible for them to get their way. And there are homophobic bigots who so far have succeeded in preventing gay people from having the same rights as straights in most states and in Federal law, and it seems that only court action will make it impossible for them to continue to get their way. I suppose this is judicial activism, but it is the kind of activism that brought about racial equality in the past, and hopefully will bring about equality between sexual orientation categories in the future. This kind of judicial activism we need.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The New York Ground Zero mosque plan

Let us get two things straight here. First, we have freedom of religion in this country, so Muslims and everyone else have an absolute right to put up a house of worship in Lower Manhattan. But the second point is that there are enough people who feel this is offensive, because of the fact that the World Trade Center buildings were taken down by people acting in the name of Islam. And it would seem to me that the imam in charge of this project should realize that, in the current poisonous emotional climate, the last thing they should do is give offense to people who lost loved ones in the attack on the Trade Center. So I agree with many people that the proper thing to do is build the Islamic center, including a mosque, but in another place.

I am certain that there are Muslims, including the imam, who mean no harm to the USA. And I have to point out that many of the people opposing the mosque are Christians, which to me is a far worse religion in the way it has treated others. A case in point. The original plan was to call this Islamic center "Cordoba House." That would have been a great name. When Muslims controlled Spain, and Cordoba was its center, Jews and Christians lived in harmony with them. The moment that the Christians had their reconquest of the peninsula, they expelled all Jews and Muslims who would not convert, and even those who did convert were never thought of as fully equal. (Those who had been Jews were called "marranos," or "pigs"!)

People have said, "Let them build their mosque here when we can build synagogues or churches in Saudi Arabia." But it seems to me that the reason we think our way is better is that we have freedom, and the Saudis don't. Should we get down to their level? Then they have beaten us.

We need calmer heads to prevail. Build the mosque. But not two blocks from Ground Zero.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The free market is not a panacea

Usually this blog advocates free market solutions to most problems. But the free market is not a panacea, and I'm not about to say that government is never the best option. This is where I part company with the libertarian point of view, and why I cannot describe myself as a thoroughgoing libertarian.

A case in point was the situation that led to the 1970 creation of Amtrak. The railroads had decided that they could make more money eliminating their passenger services and concentrating on freight than operating the mixture of the two that had been the case. Free-market economics said "let them." But in this case that was not a proper solution. Obviously, if they raised their fares to a certain point, they might have been happy to continue operating passenger trains. But that point was beyond the point that most people who needed to get somewhere could afford.

The problem is that the basis for capitalist economics is the ability to compete. And the railroads created their infrastructure in the 19th century, under conditions vastly more favorable than would be encountered by someone trying to build a railroad today. Land is more built-up, and consequently more expensive, than it was, and in many cases the railroads were subsidized because the government wanted to fill up unpopulated land in the West. So the conditions for free market economics to work were not present. If they were, someone could easily set up a new passenger railroad to take up the business the other railroads were trying to get rid of. But that was not possible.

I think the key is this: if private enterprise is willing to carry on a particular business, the government should let them. But if they are unwilling to, or unwilling to at a price that most of the prospective customers can afford to pay, then we need government intervention.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What will the Supreme Court do?

It looks as though there are going to be some interesting issues before the Supreme Court in the next year or so. There are the three gay marriage cases (Perry v. Schwarzenegger, challenging California's Prop. 8, and Gil v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, two Massachusetts challenges of the federal Defense of Marriage Act), Ken Cuccinelli (Virginia attorney general)'s challenge to the individual mandate in the Obama health care law, and the Obama administration's challenge to the Arizona anti-illegal-immigration law. Quite a bunch of controversial cases, and it will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court does with them!

It is hard to predict. The California gay msrriage case, for example, had a conservative lawyer on the team representing the pro-gay-rights side. And there are all sorts of issues involved in all these cases, many of which have not been before the Supreme Court before. And of course, the Court has some new justices: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, without much of a judicial history. We just have to sit and wait.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Common sense vs. ideological purity

There have been some primaries this year that have made it seem as if ideological purity has trumped common sense. That Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter had to leave the Republican Party — Crist to run as an independent, Specter becoming a Democrat but ending up rejected in their primary — speaks to the problem of ideological purists taking over both parties.

But we can score some points for common sense. All the polls in Arizona indicate a big win for John McCain in the primary there against J. D. Hayworth, despite the conservative radio talk show hosts' strong backing of ideologically pure Hayworth. This will be a good thing if the polls hold up.

In Arizona, at least, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin stayed true to the man who picked her for VP nominee, McCain. That at least was good. But in my own state of Maryland, where there will be a gubernatorial primary a month from now, she has come out for another ideologically pure conservative, Brian Murphy. Everyone must know that Maryland is a state where Democrats have an edge. But Bob Ehrlich has shown he can get the votes of people who normally vote Democratic. Based on polls, Ehrlich has a chance of winning in November. Murphy would lose to the incumbent, Martin O'Malley, in a walkover. No question that Ehrlich, who still has a lot of support based on his previous term in the governorship, is the more electable candidate. If you are conservative, even if you feel Ehrlich is insufficiently conservative, you should be able to accept him as better than O'Malley. And a vote for Murphy is perhaps not exactly a vote for O'Malley, but that is the likely consequence. I'm sorry, Gov. Palin, but common sense should trump ideological purity here.

Now of course people will say that I should keep quiet, call me a RINO or such, and that my supporting Bob Ehrlich is because I'm too liberal. Well, part of this may be true. I'd rather see an Ehrlich-type moderate than a far-right conservative. But in fact, for me it's more important to get someone else in O'Malley's place. I promise that if Murphy gets nominated, I'll vote for him in November. But I guarantee that he'll lose to O'Malley.

Which is better, O'Malley getting four more years, or a moderate beating him in the vote that counts, this November?

Friday, August 13, 2010

We need Proportional Representation!

The 2010 election is getting closer — less than three months away. But the chances that I will find a person to vote for to represent me in any legislative body are really remote. I live in a district that is represented in the House of Representatives by Chris Van Hollen, one of the most liberal members of the House. The VoteView rankings show Van Hollen as significantly more liberal than Nancy Pelosi! And since last year I have lived in the State legislative district that Van Hollen represented as a State Senator. Lots of luck finding anyone, in Annapolis or Washington, to represent me!

The problem is that our electoral system, known technically as Single-Member Plurality (SMP) generally allows for only one member of a legislative body to represent a whole geographical area. (In Maryland, the lower house of the State legislature, the House of Delegates, is mostly elected from three-member districts. But the voting method there (called block voting) guarantees that the three will be chosen by the same pluralities, so they are going to be ideological clones.) It doesn't have to be done that way. In foreign countries, Proportional Representation methods (PR) are used. A district elects several members, divided proportionally. If a district elects, say, five members, and 60% vote for one party and 40% for the other, then the first party will get three members and the second two. Both sides have representatives they can contact who will speak for them. In particular, it would be very easy for the Maryland House of Delegates to adopt a system called the Single Transferable Vote (STV), since three-member districts are already used, just like the system in Ireland. (Not all the districts in Ireland elect three members; some elect four or five. But for Maryland, the easiest way to go about it would be to use all three-member districts.) Actually, there is a better way than STV that has been proposed by voting methods expert Warren D. Smith, but it is untried, so it would be hard to get adopted: Reweighted Score Voting.

But whatever form of PR is used would give a better result than the way we do it now. The only problem is to convince the powers-that-be in the various legislatures. They got elected by the present SMP method, and many might lose their jobs if a new voting system were adopted.

(You might notice that I've been posting a lot more frequently recently. This is deliberate. Sometimes it's seemed that nobody has been reading this blog, so it's been hard to get the motivation up to post here. But lately, Google has provided stats, so I'm able to see how often people have come here. And it's been a lot more than I thought. Also, it's been said that you get more visits from frequent postings. Looking at July, I got about three hits per day; in August so far, it's been more than 8 — and it's only been the last few days I've really increased my posting frequency, so this is not the full story! That's why you'll be seeing me post a lot more from now on.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I don't understand why they fight it

Why do the homophobes fight gay marriage? That is one point I can't figure out.

The only argument they can raise is that it's against God's will. Some readings of the Bible certainly make that case. However, the laws of the U. S. are not supposed to discriminate between different religions, and it is clear that other readings of the Bible disagree, as there are churches that are willing to perform gay marriages. So that argument loses.

Another argument is that "marriage always has been between a man and a woman." That one has even less chance of being upheld in a court of law. The fact is that "just because it's always been that way" has never been a valid argument in court. Traditionally, women could not vote, own property, etc. Unlil Loving v. Virginia, miscegenation laws upheld the "traditional" view that marriage has always been between two white people. And there are many other "traditions" that restricted people's rights that have been thrown out in court.

Really, the only argument there is against gay marriage is in fact, "I don't like it." And the last time that won a court case was ... never? Actually, the more they fight the concept of gay marriage, the more they advance it. If the homophobes had not bothered to fight it, the gay rights advocates would have to fight in fifty State legislatures, and it would take many years to happen — in some states the gay rights advocates would never get a legislative majority. But because they pushed Proposition 8 in California, there was Perry v. Schwarzenegger (which, ironically, put Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the position of nominally being the one being sued, even though he did not agree with the referendum result!). (See my August 7 post.) The result of this may end up requiring States to implement gay marriage! The case will go to the Supreme Court, since the homophobes will not take this judge's opinion lying down, and the Court will find for the gay couples. (There are 4 liberals and 4 conservatives. Justice Kennedy, the ninth, has in recent years been sympathetic to gay rights. Even if all the conservatives side with the homophobes, which is not guaranteed — after all, one of the lawyers for the gay couples is a prominent conservative, so "conservatives" are not always anti-gay — there are probably five votes to extend Loving v. Virginia to gay marriage.)

I have not, in the past, supported gay marriage in those places where I felt that the gay couples were more likely to succeed by taking the "half a loaf" of civil unions. I have always felt that it was more important to have the rights of a married couple, regardless of what the law called it. But I have also seen no "other side of the coin" — there is really no reason to avoid gay marriage except that using the word "marriage" angers some people — so wherever (whether by legislative or judicial action) gay people get the right to marry, I will view it with favor. It is basically a case of freedom, and I agree with the position (expressed by the Modern Whig Party, which I recently mentioned in this blog) that the government should not be in the business of legislating morality.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A frustrating dilemma

While the issues and candidates I'm discussing in this post are local, the basic nature of the dilemma I'm discussing are not. So I apologize to people in other parts of the country, and even outside, to whom these issues do not mean anything. But it is a serious dilemma, which I need to vent about.

Part 1.

Since the mid-1970s, I have been living in the metropolitan area of Washington, D. C. And since 1984, I have lived in the State of Maryland, specifically Montgomery County, directly north of Washington, D. C. Now if you don't know, Maryland is a rather strongly Democratic state, and most of the time I've been here, the Governor has been a Democrat. However, from 2003 to 2007, we had a Republican Governor, Bob Ehrlich. He gave up a seat in Congress to run for the Governorship, and beat a member of the Kennedy family, in fact, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, which shows you how popular he was. And I think he was, in general, a good Governor. (But see below.) However, in 2006, the state reverted to its normal Democratic allegiance, and though Ehrlich was favorably viewed by a large proportion of Marylanders, he was defeated in his attempt at re-election by the then Mayor of Baltimore, Martin O'Malley.

It should not surprise anyone, knowing me from this blog, that I say that O'Malley has been a much worse Governor than Ehrlich, and I will certainly oppose his attempt to be re-elected this November. And it will be very likely that his opponent will be Bob Ehrlich again. (This is not certain. Ehrlich still has to win his primary. And the likes of Sarah Palin have come out against him in the primary campaign. But the opponent that Palin has endorsed is virtually unknown, and Ehrlich still has a lot of popular support, so I believe that Ehrlich will easily win the nomination.) So I fully expect to be a strong supporter of Bob Ehrlich for Governor against Martin O'Malley.

Part 2.

Now to another point, at first unrelated, but as I proceed you will see what the connection is. Shortly after moving to Maryland I became aware of a movement to establish a light rail transit line which would (at first) run from Silver Spring (right near where I then lived) to Bethesda. (The plan has been vastly extended, and now they are talking about a line, now called the Purple Line, from New Carrollton to Bethesda, passing through Silver Spring, three or more times as long as the original plan.) I immediately became a strong enthusiast for this proposal, and have remained so even though I no longer live that close to the proposed route. But it has taken 25 years, and the line is still only a proposal. There is strong support for it, but opposition comes from two sources: a golf course whose property the line would traverse, and a few property owners who apparently do not want anyone that they consider riff-raff passing so close to their property.

Part 3.

Now here comes the dilemma: Martin O'Malley, as bad as he has been on every other issue that matters to me, has been a supporter of the Purple Line. And Bob Ehrlich, for all I like about him on other issues, opposes it — he worked against it as Governor, and he has made negative statements about it this year. (One reason seems to be that he likes to play golf, so the golf course has a strong call on him.) Just yesterday, at a meeting of the organization that has been pushing the Purple Line and its predecessor plans for the past 25 years, I mentioned I intended to vote for Ehrlich in the primary and general election, if I get the chance. And the (perfectly reasonable) response was "Even with his position on the Purple Line?" I had to say that I am not a one-issue voter, and on many other issues (just about everything except the Purple Line) I find Ehrlich vastly preferable to O'Malley. And at least one bystander understood, and said something like "You always have to make compromises."


But this is the problem. How do you work for a candidate you believe in, and for a cause you believe in, simultaneously, when the candidate is so opposed to the cause? Comments are very welcome.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Modern Whig Party

I have, ever since being old enough to vote, considered myself a Republican, and enrolled in that party both in my native state of New York and my current residence of Maryland. And of the two major parties, certainly the Republican Party is much closer to my political views than the Democratic Party. So I'm certainly not going to emulate Arlen Specter, even though he was very close to me on many issues, and leave the Republican Party for the Democrats. This is so, even though in many ways the Republican Party has moved well to my right. It's hard to be in favor of legal abortion, gay rights, and gun control, and remain a Republican; it would be harder, however, to be in favor of low taxes, limited government, free-market economics, and military preparedness, and become a Democrat! So a Republican I remain.

As I have stated before on this blog, I have some sympathies for the Libertarian Party, and would be happy if they got some seats in Congress, but they have some extreme ideas, even approaching anarchism, that I could not accept, and they are even more ideologically homogeneous than what the Republicans have threatened to become. So at best I could applaud their making some progress, but I could never join them, since (for one thing) joining any third party is senseless in this country. (By remaining a Republican, I get to vote in the Republican primaries, for example, and can help a little in slowing this ideological drift to the right of where I stand. If I left, I would not be able even to vote in a primary, and my November vote would be an exercise in futility. Though, truthfully, for things like the State legislative elections, I'm in such a strong Democratic district that my November vote already is an exercise in futility.)

Recently I was looking at something about third parties, and saw a reference to the Modern Whig Party. I was really curious about what sort of party would adopt "Whig" for a name; after all, the original Whig Party died in the days prior to the Civil War. So I found their Website, and read some interesting ideas:

These principles are critical to the welfare of the country and the Party. They bind us as moderates, unify us as Americans, and serve to exclude extremes.
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY - Any action of the government must respect principles of fiscal responsibility and public accountability.
ENERGY INDEPENDENCE - Develop practical domestic energy sources to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources.
STATE'S RESPONSIBILITY - Each state can generally determine its course of action based on local values and unique needs.
SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE - When the government is compelled to legislate morality, every citizen should be considered as equal.
EDUCATION AND SCIENTIFIC ADVANCEMENT - Increase public and private emphasis on math and science to promote American innovation to compete in the global economy.
VETERANS AFFAIRS - Vigilant advocacy relating to the medical, financial, and overall well-being of our military families and veterans.

I'm not sure how much of this I agree with, but I think the Modern Whig Party may be interesting to look into more deeply. Of course, as I said, joining any third party is senseless in this country, so I would probably not join them. But the Modern Whig Party, rather than the Libertarians, may be the third party closest to my ideals.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The gay marriage decision

I'm pretty happy, actually, with the California district judge's decision setting down Proposition 8. (I've generally favored the "civil union" compromise, but only on the basis of being easier to attain in the near future.) But of course, opponents of the decision may point to the fact that it was issued by a gay judge. (It would have had more convincing effect if the judge were straight.) Nevertheless, it was a good decision in my opinion. (And it is very nice that one of the lawyers for the pro-gay-marriage side was a prominent conservative lawyer! Why political conservatism should get linked with homophobia is beyond me.)

It will, of course, be appealed, almost certainly all the way to the Supreme Court, and nobody can tell, at this point, how that is going to turn out. But that is the way our system works. We now have two recent judicial decisions, one of which I dislike (the one on Arizona's anti-illegal-immigrant law) and one of which I applaud (this one), both of which are really initial steps on a path to the Supreme Court. Both bear watching.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Apropos of nothing...

... but, since it is my blog, I can discuss it!

Back in the early 1990s, before the proliferation of the Internet, I was a member of several online services which provided various types of features, including chat rooms. On one of them, I made an online friend, a 13- or 14-year-old boy. He was truly a friend, staying on my side even when some others had become very nasty to me for reasons I will not go into here. And the friendship has continued. Six years ago, he was the one who sent me the invitation I needed then to get a gmail account, for example.

A lot has happened since then, of course. My friend is no longer a teenager, but in his late 20s. And after some time in college that took more than the usual four years because he was unsure what he wanted to major in, and no doubt a lot of changes of mind on the way (he's told me that his ideas had come close to atheism in those college years), he's recently taken a direction that very much surprised me — this June he got himself ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.

Now I knew he was Catholic — I've known it for most of the nearly 20 years that I've known him — but of all the decisions that anyone I've known (whether my knowledge of them is in real life or online) has made, this has to qualify as the most surprising.

Mind you, I strongly believe anyone has a right to their own religious beliefs. And I'd never engage in proselytization; I think that trying to convince someone to change their religion is futile. I may put forth my own beliefs, and explain why I believe them, but it's always on a "read, and judge for yourself" basis. And there are certainly people I like and respect who are Roman Catholics. But I must say that I find it hard to fathom that an intelligent person would embrace that faith. I really cannot understand, for example, the concept of Papal infallibility. If some person makes a statement of faith — anyone, whether elected to his position or whatever — I think we need to be able to use our own powers of reasoning to see whether it makes sense to us. Resigning this power of reasoning, and simply believing that "the Pope said it, so it's true" is something I could never do, and something I cannot understand why anyone who is as intelligent as my friend would ever do. But in any case, he is still my friend.