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, September 29, 2010

Am I a Neoconservative?

There used to be only a few labels for different kinds of politics: ones like "conservative," "liberal," and "socialist." But in recent years,they've gotten split up into various subdivisions, like "paleoconservative" and "neoconservative." And I must admit I do not really understand all these subdivisions. The term "neoconservative" has often been used to describe such people as Charles Krauthammer, with whom I frequently agree, so I've often wondered whether I am one. And a day or two ago I was reading a posting on FrumForum, one of the blogs I generally like, called "Barbara Kay to Frum: Come Back to Canada," in which one of the commenters on the post used the same "neoconservative" label to refer to David Frum. In his comment, the person posting it defines what he means by a "neoconservative." Let me quote the commenter precisely:
He’s a neo-conservative, which means, in brief:

1.) foreign adventurism and an essentially unlimited defense budget in the name of “ending evil” or some such grand design;

2.) dramatic increases in government welfare spending, far beyond what even the Clinton and Carter Democratic administrations spent;

3.) an acceptance of European views on climate and energy policy, which is to say, a belief in making energy use far more expensive;

4.) outright liberal social positions on gay marriage, abortion, or any other matter of concern to social conservatives;

5.) a disdain for anything remotely resembling constitutionally limited federal government, a profound ignorance and disdain about the meaning and importance of federalism, and, for that matter, a disdain for even referencing the Constitution in public debate;

6.) a belief that allegedly intelligent “planners” in Washington DC (presumably, especially Mr. Frum) have the mental wherewithal to comprehend how 1/3 of a billion Americans should organize their economic and social arrangements.
Well, if this is what a neoconservative is, I certainly accept part of neoconservative doctrine. Points 1 and 4, especially.

What the poster calls "foreign adventurism" I would rather call protecting us before the enemy hits us at home. We need to recognize that the world does not love us, and although Moscow no longer is a major threat, there remain others who will be. We stayed out of World War II till we were attacked directly on Hawaiian soil at Pearl Harbor; would it not have been better for us to enter before we had that attack?

As to "matter[s] of concern to social conservatives," I must say that "social conservatives," in my belief, are just moralistic bigots who have no business trying to impose their standards on the rest of us. As I state in the header to this blog, I believe that "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." And it is exactly this sort of imposition which "social conservatives" advocate.

The other four points are a different story. But I'm not sure that Frum (or Krauthammer) really holds the views that the commenter charges them with; I certainly do not. So what really is a "neoconservative"? And am I one? That's the problem with labels.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The California elections for Governor and Senator

I just got finished reading this post. I was really heartened seeing the last sentence: "This is a very good sign for Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina." As regular readers of this blog know, I'm something of a fan of both those candidates. Particularly in these hard economic times, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina are exactly the kind of people we need running our state and Federal governments. So I hope that what the writer of that post saw really foretells what will happen this November.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's very clear I'd be hard to collaborate with on a blog

After I finished writing my previous post, it occurred to me that there are a number of positions I hold that would make it very hard to find a collaborative blogger. For example, take the very controversial issue of abortion. It seems that most people hold opinions that I would characterize as extreme on one side or the other. But while I would find myself closer to the group that call themselves "pro-choice," I would hardly embrace the NARAL platform. For one thing, I certainly do not hold that the decision should be the woman's, and the woman's only, as some would have it. When the pregnancy is the result of a voluntary act (i. e. not a rape), I feel that both of the people involved have a stake in this decision. If a man engages in a sexual act with his wife intending to have a child, and she later changes her mind, he should have a say in the matter too. And the various "parental notification" bills have some merit, too. If a teenage girl cannot be medicated without parental authorization, she cannot realistically be subject to an even more invasive medical procedure, namely, an abortion.

On the other hand, on gun control, I have probably a more extreme position than anyone I know. Certainly more extreme than anyone who might agree with me on other "liberty" issues. On this issue, I'm certainly not in the center between two opposed views.

It's very clear that my views are very idiosyncratic, and I'd be hard to collaborate with on a blog.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

An unusual blogger

There is a blogger named Dennis Sanders who has made a number of posts that I strongly agreed with, and clearly considers himself (as I do myself) an example of this rare species called a "moderate Republican." I wanted to find out more about him, and so, as everyone does these days, I did a Google search on him. It turns out he posts to a number of blogs, many of which seem to be run by teams, and what I found out was extremely interesting. Since this is all public information, I know I'm not revealing any secrets, though I think that many of these descriptive categories, if they applied to me, I would keep secret!

Sanders is black, openly gay, and a minister in a liberal enough church that they accept a black gay pastor with a life-partner in their clergy, the United Church of Christ (the same church to which President Barack Obama belongs!). With all these traits, it is rather surprising that he is a Republican! (Now I'm a Jew who was born in New York City, lives in the suburbs of Washington, D. C. and holds a doctoral degree, so I too could be described as an unlikely Republican!)

It is interesting that he has joined with other people to have his posts on multi-person blogs; I've never done anything like that, and I wonder how I could handle that. A blog usually has its own personality, and its own beliefs. Now although Rev. Sanders and I have a lot of common beliefs, especially that the GOP needs its centrists, there are certainly differences. If he, for example, were to talk about religion, I'm sure there would be little in common. (Though, surprisingly, he serves as a minister for a church of one denomination and has another job working for an organ of a different denomination!) I don't know that any group of people would agree with me closely enough that we could share the same blog. I've directed people to his blog called "Big Tent Revue" and he has to this blog of mine. But that does not mean I endorse everything he says, and I'm sure he does not endorse everything I say. But on a joint blog, though each one has his name on each post he does, I think most people would assume that all the members of the team agree on anything posted there (whether this is true or not!) So I wonder how he does it!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gun people - How can they be that way?

In a previous post I referred to the blog entitled "The Voice of Reason." When I referenced it, I called attention to the fact that I generally approved of most of the positions I saw expressed there, except that they very conspicuously supported a pro-gun blog called the "Buckeye Firearms Association." Unfortunately, many people with whom I generally agree on many issues take pro-gun positions, and I just cannot understand it. I really cannot understand any reason that anyone who is not a police officer or in the military would have a valid use for a gun; I certainly could not understand a normal person even wanting one. The only use for a gun is to kill, and I doubt that if I had one I could even bear to pull a trigger. Anyone who would have no difficulty pulling a trigger on a gun must, I would think, have no scruples against killing someone — and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near such a person.

It is absolutely clear to me. Any civilized person could not possibly bring himself to use a gun under any circumstance that I conceive of occurring. I would not be able to do it even in a self-defense situation. So what is up with these "Buckeye Firearms Association" types?

Now the anti-gun-control people point to the Second Amendment, which says "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Now, the militia currently means the National Guard, so a proper reading of the Second Amendment would mean that people who join the Guard should exercise "the right … to keep and bear arms." But to that I have seen a response that, in eighteenth-century America (the proper context for reading the Constitution and Bill of Rights), the "militia" constituted the whole adult male population. So even without joining the Guard, they claim to be exercising their part as militiamen. In that case, however, this would mean they must also include their duties as militiamen, not just their rights. The Constitution also includes Article I, Section 8. This states:
1. The Congress shall have power ...

15. To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.

16. To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States, respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

So if they are part of the militia, they are at the beck and call of the Congress! I wonder if these Second Amendment freaks would also recognize their duties under Article I, Sect. 8, paragraphs 15-16.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Delaware's awful choice

Lately, I have been hunting for other blogs with positions that I (at least mostly) agree with. As I find them, you’ll see them added to the list on the bottom.

One that I generally like is called "The Voice of Reason." (However, on one issue, we will forever be at odds. That blog features links to the "Buckeye Firearms Association," a pro-gun blog that stands for positions which I unequivocally condemn. But this will be covered in another post.) On that blog I was reading an interesting post about Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate for the Senate in the State of Delaware, next door to where I live. It seems that back in 1985, Coons wrote a piece for his college newspaper explaining how he had become a "bearded Marxist." This post was added to by a follow-up, which noted that "People who embrace communism but then truly renounce it generally become passionate rightists. Those who remain leftists usually haven't renounced anything but honesty about their intentions." I know the first of these sentences is true, because I’m familiar with well-known examples such as Whittaker Chambers. And I believe the second sentence is equally true, which implies that the voters of Delaware have a pretty bad choice to make. On the one hand: Christine O’Donnell, something of a weirdo who has weighed in against masturbation and admits to having dabbled in witchcraft; on the other, Chris Coons, who is probably still much more of a left-wing extremist than he lets on.

Certainly, if I lived in Delaware, I’d be pretty unhappy. But as the blog owner of "The Voice of Reason" (who calls himself "Conservatarian") added at the end of the second of those two posts wrote, "Christine O'Donnell may have flaws, but in a race between her and a left-winger, who was an avowed Marxist, I'll take Christine's flaws any time."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Another analogy to laws on Kosher slaughter

Some time ago, I wrote a post on the analogy between people advocating anti-abortion laws and hypothetical laws mandating Kosher slaughter. I just saw a post on another blog making a similar analogy, only with reference to gay marriage. (Actually this is in turn a copy of another blog post.) It's a great post, and I heartily concur.

Actually, I even did make a posting relating to gay marriage and Kosher food. But it's a slightly different point.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A case of déjà vu

This primary reminds me of another one, way back in 1994, so to me it was déjà vu. In that year, just as in this one, I really identified with a particular candidate (in both cases, for the United States Senate). Both lost in a primary. But there are differences.

Ruthann Aron was almost exactly my age, originally from New York City, and in so many ways like me (even if she was female) that I truly identified with her in her candidacy to replace Paul Sarbanes in the Senate. I agreed with her politically as well, and volunteered in her campaign, and it was a heart-breaker to see her lose to Bill Brock, who had been a Senator from Tennessee in the past. But in that case, Brock was a good enough candidate that once the primary was over, I went to work in his campaign. Unfortunately, Sarbanes beat him.

Because I had identified with Ruthann Aron so closely, it really hurt when I heard, a few years later, that she'd been found guilty of trying to kill her husband. Hopefully, that aspect of the 1994 election doesn't have a repeat.

This year, I didn't actually volunteer for the campaign of Neil Cohen, but I strongly identified with him anyway. And I certainly meant it when I formally endorsed him in this blog, and on multiple occasions wrote on his behalf. But, just like Ruthann Aron, my candidate lost in the primary. Unlike Bill Brock, Eric Wargotz, who won the primary, is someone I can only support lukewarmly; there are good things about him, so I certainly will vote for him against Barbara Mikulski, but any candidate who, on the first page of his campaign literature, boasts of being a lifetime member of the NRA is someone I can't be too happy with. As I said, I will vote for him in November, but this may be the last post I will make about Eric Wargotz.

So it's not identical to 1994, but it certainly reminds me of that year.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My take on the Tea Party movement

The Tea Party movement started out, it seems, as the sort of economic conservative movement that this blog would support: "TEA = Taxed Enough Already." But it has morphed into a monster. When it leads to disasters like Christine O'Donnell's defeat of Mike Castle in the Delaware GOP primary for the Senate (giving the seat away to the Democrats) and the somewhat less disastrous (because she still could win!) defeat of Sue Lowden by Sharron Angle in Nevada, the Tea Party movement has gone beyond the bounds of common sense.

In Maryland, we have been more fortunate. Despite Sarah Palin's endorsing Brian Murphy for Governor, common sense (and Bob Ehrlich) have prevailed. But when I look at the candidacies of Angle and O'Donnell, I wonder what is in store. We could have taken over both houses of the Congress and really set the Obama administration back. The House probably still will go GOP in November. But I'm afraid that the Tea Partiers may have given Barack Obama a gift: the Senate.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

On Medicare Part D (the prescription drug plan)

On Primary Day last Tuesday, just after I had voted but before I'd left the grounds of the school which was my polling place, I got into a discussion with a Democrat who was performing some election-related function. He mentioned (of course negatively) President George W. Bush, and I came back saying that he was better than our current President. This led to his mentioning some things Bush had done that, apparently, he did not like, and one was the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. To that I responded, quite truly, "I depend on that; if it hadn't been for Medicare Part D, I wouldn't be able to afford my medications." That surprised him, as typically conservatives (of which I assume he thought I was one, because of my pro-Bush remarks) think this was a bad idea. But since that discussion, I've thought more about Medicare Part D. And I think that, while it has its flaws, it has some very good features.

For one thing, it is the exact opposite of a "single payer" plan. Every year, I have to choose between dozens of plans offered by many different insurance companies, and in fact many of the companies offer a choice of plans, which would cost me different amounts of premium and with different provisions. (Actually, I don't have to choose, but if I don't do anything and just let my current plan continue, this may not be a great choice. Fortunately my County has a group of people [I believe volunteers] who run an organization whose purpose is to help senior citizens choose Medicare options, and they have been very helpful to me.)

The Government has some minimal requirements, but leaves a lot of freedom to the companies to design their plans, so they vary from relatively cheap plans with high co-payments to plans like the one I have (which, for only a bit over $30 a month, fully covers generic drugs with no co-payment).

There are two negatives, and one, the "doughnut hole," where, after a certain amount of drug purchases, you are not covered until you meet a pretty high deductible, was repealed in the Obama health plan, which does seem to be one of the Obama plan's few good points. The one other thing I don't like about the current setup in Part D is that only certain plans are available in certain States; this should have been changed, but I guess there are State laws that make this impossible. (If the Federal Government wants to override State laws, why don't they do it here, where the public is adversely impacted?)

Actually, the Government could do very well by looking at Medicare Part D and applying similar principles to physician and hospital bills.

Friday, September 17, 2010

On the results of Tuesday's primary elections (part 2)

In the District of Columbia, the primary Tuesday will determine the next Mayor, as the Democratic Party never loses there. Even when they ran the druggie, Marion Barry, against a well-regarded Republican council-member, Carol Schwartz, Barry beat Schwartz by a large margin. So one should discuss this primary as if it were a general election.

The new mayor will be Vincent Gray, who beat the incumbent, Adrian Fenty, by a substantial margin. This may be a foreshadowing of Barack Obama's popularity decline, as Fenty was a lot like Obama — a young, biracial man, who came in on a platform of "change." They even both have wives named "Michelle"!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On the results of Tuesday's primary elections

Tuesday's primaries were quite a mixed bag. On the one hand, it seems that Bob Ehrlich won renomination rather easily, with three quarters of the vote. It seems that Maryland voters understood that Sarah Palin's endorsement of his opponent, Brian Murphy, should be discounted because she has little knowledge of Maryland issues. And like the Governorship, the Comptrollership nomination went to this blog's endorsed candidate, William Campbell, who got nearly two thirds of the votes. (Interestingly, 18-year-old Brendan Madigan, whose candidacy impressed me even if I could not endorse him because Campbell was so clearly the best candidate, got a hefty quarter of the vote, so he should be reasonably happy with the results.) But on the other hand, the Senate primary was not so good. If I were a "spin doctor," I could put it in a way that sounded good: there were two candidates that got all the media attention: Eric Wargotz and Jim Rutledge, and of the nine other candidates, our endorsed candidate, Neil Cohen, had one of the two biggest vote totals, coming up to a near tie with the largest one. But that is just spin; the reality is that 6% of the vote is a pretty poor showing, with two other candidates each getting more than five times as many votes. This November, of course, I will vote for Wargotz over Barbara Mikulski, but without much enthusiasm; but I must say that I'm glad that Jim Rutledge did not win.

The race for House of Representatives from this district (Maryland's 8th) was close. But Bruce Stern, who was endorsed by this blog, lost in an extremely close race. The candidate whose signs seemed to be most conspicuous, Bill Thomas, came in last among four candidates. But the winner, Mike Phillips, has to run against Chris Van Hollen in November, a daunting task.

The one position left is that of County Executive. In that election, a candidate who was probably perceived as a joke by many, Daniel Vovak, but had some good ideas in fact and did appear to me to be serious in this election, was running against a candidate who concealed his positions on everything — never put out anything, either in print or on the Web, that I could find, Douglas E. Rosenfeld. To me it was a surprise that Rosenfeld won, with about two thirds of the vote, but I guess that the voters could not take Vovak seriously.

There were primaries next door in Delaware and in the District of Columbia, as well. In Delaware, it seems that Republicans must have had a death wish. I cannot understand them nominating Christine O'Donnell, who has no chance of winning in November, over Mike Castle, who would have been a likely winner in November. But unlike Maryland, in Delaware Sarah Palin's and the "Tea Party" leaders' endorsements counted too much for the GOP's best interests. I'll discuss the District of Columbia vote in another post, because there is a lot I want to say, and this post is getting long.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Health "insurance" isn't really insurance

One of the things that probably causes a lot of difficulty in discussing the whole healthcare business is the fact that people speak of "health insurance." Now, when someone buys fire insurance, one really does not expect that one is going to get paid off out of the insurance; the chance of a real fire is small, so the premium is small. Even for life insurance, while we all expect to die, we probably will not die this year, or even very soon, so the insurance company takes the premium and uses a part of it to cover current liabilities (the people who do die in a given year), but most of it is invested until it's needed.

"Health insurance" is different. Most people will go to the doctor, at least for minor things like checkups, every year. And so every policy pays out something every year. It's really more a prepayment plan than an insurance plan. And if we called it that, it would make our discussioms more relevant to the health care problem.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Are the concepts of "straight" and "gay" meaningful?

There is a lot of discussion, on this and other blogs, and outside the blogosphere, in which we use the words "straight" and "gay" as if it were a meaningful dichotomy. And yet, the more I think about such things, the more it seems to me that the whole concept is meaningless.

Suppose there to be a room full of people, 50% male and 50% female, and you were to test some person by asking him to rate the attractiveness of everyone in the room to him (and, since I have to use some pronoun to describe this person being tested and have already used "him," let us suppose that he were male — if the testee were female, just reverse the roles of the genders in what follows!). If the testee were to rate as attractive to him all of the females and none of the males, he'd certainly be classified as "straight." But so would he be if he were to rate as attractive to him any fraction at all of the females as long as there were none of the males, by our definition. (And this would be more realistic, since I cannot imagine anyone being attracted to every female in a large enough group.) We can also, by the same method, define what it would be for the testee to be "gay" — just reverse the terms "males" and "females" in the previous two sentences.

How, though, would you classify somone who would you classify someone who would select as attractive 60% of the females and 40% of the males? Certainly bisexual, but would you need to add "more straight than gay"? I think so, if you want to be accurate. And then, we would still have a problem distinguishing this person from someone who would select as attractive 70% of the females and 30% of the males (and, for that matter, these percentages do not have to add to 100% — we could find someone who would select as attractive 70% of the females and 60% of the males, couldn't we?) Similarly, we could find bisexuals who were more gay than straight, and even those who were relatively balanced.

Now I suspect that it would be next to impossible to test anyone in this way and get an honest answer. Our society has decided to treat straight attractions as different from gay ones. So a self-described "straight" person would feel a subtle pressure not to include any of the same-gender people in those he reported as "attractive." And a self-described "gay" person would feel a subtle pressure not to include any of the opposite-gender ones! Yet I suspect that nearly all people, no matter how they describe themselves, would, if they were totally honest, be somewhat bisexual, and neither the percentage of males nor that of females would be precisely zero for most testees if they were truly honest.

For any person we might choose to test, there are traits that one might consider physically atractive, or even erotic. But they are not the same even for people who might self-identify in the same "straight"/"gay" category. Gay men may go for "bears" (hairy guys) or "twinks" (relatively hairless ones). Some straight men might find a woman to be a turn-off if she's taller than they are — but my father married a woman considerably taller than himself! Of course, some of the traits that attract a person might be "conventionally masculine" and others "conventionally feminine." But just because one is attracted to people with a particular "masculine" attribute does not make one gay (if one is male). And of course, someone might like some things that are considered "conventionally masculine" and others "conventionally feminine."

What I am driving at is that the terms "straight" and "gay" are not really meaningful. There may be a person who identifies as "gay" who has no need for gay marriage to be legalized, because he has found one woman he loves enough to overcome those percentages. And some anti-gay activists have trumpeted successes in "converting" gay people who probably were never 100% gay to begin with. There are men who, because of their religious background, insist that they are not gay, and even may be reasonably happy dating women, until they meet one man who really turns them on. (Might this account for Ken Mehlman "discovering" he was gay at age 43?) It would really make more sense to consider everyone as bisexual to some extent — where both of those percentages in the test I described could be anywhere from 0 to 100%! And if someone finds, and falls in love with, someone, and wants to establish the kind of relationship that has traditionally been described as a "marriage" with that person, why should the law care whether they are of the same or opposite genders?

And what is the reason that people "defending traditional marriage" have any problem there? How does the fact that John wants to marry Jim, or Mary wants to marry Ann, make it any more difficult for Ed and Joan to have a "traditional" marriage?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Count one FOR Pres. Obama

As I said at the time of his election, I will write in favor of actions by Pres. Barack Obama when I think he did something right. And in the case of Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America, I think Pres. Obama did.

Now, there are "conservative" organizations that are up in arms about it. The
Heritage Foundation
put out a posting by Hans von Spakovsky, with such comments as "One would have to go back to the 1919 World Series to find a Chicagoan throwing a game so flagrantly. The court noted that the Obama Justice Department 'called no witnesses, put on no affirmative case, and only entered into evidence the legislative history of the Act.'" In other words, Von Spakovsky would have wanted the Justice Department to put on a serious defense of a law that Pres. Obama himself thought was wrong!

Yes, the Obama Administration "threw the game." But this was a game that deserved to be thrown. Gay servicemen deserved equal rights; I was surprised to see that the case was decided on First and Fifth Amendment grounds rather than some others — but then the Fifth Amendment actually makes sense, as it has been used as a basis for applying the Fourteenth Amendment's equality provisions, aimed at the States, to Federal laws.

Note that President Obama has taken an oath to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution." Also, at least until the Supreme Court decides otherwise, each President has to decide just exactly what the Constitution says on a particular issue. Just because President Clinton and the Congress felt that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was constitutional, if President Obama felt it was not, he was in fact bound by his oath of office to decline to defend the act. And it is certainly possible that someone like President Obama may have felt that it was unconstitutional — after all, a Federal judge has just stated that she felt that it was unconstitutional!

The Heritage Foundation describes itself as "a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense." I suppose their anti-homosexuality comes under the rubric of "traditional American values." But it seems to me that an organization whose principles include "limited government" and "individual freedom" ought not take such a stand. This is the problem I have with many self-styled "conservatives." When "free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, and a strong national defense." have to be set against "traditional American values," I go with the first group. And the Heritage Foundation, in contrast, is going with the last.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Big Tent Revue

I just discovered a blog called "Big Tent Revue," which defines itself as "A blog about the center right in American politics and how it can become more inclusive and forward thinking." This looks like it is in the same part of the spectrum as my own thinking, and I discovered it because they did a nice post recently on Neil Cohen, the candidate this blog has endorsed for the U. S. Senate.

They are a new blog, just started the end of last month, and seem to have a team, rather than a single person, contributing posts. The posts I like all seem to be by Dennis Sanders, so he may be the one I would like to publicize. In another post he mentioned this blog, apparently with approval. I owe them the same treatment. Please take a look at the blog at this link.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The "conservative lesbian" - so conservative it trumps her lesbianism, and anti-free-speech as well?

Cynthia Yockey blogs under the name "A Conservative Lesbian." And it is, on the one hand, a good thing to have people of other-than-straight identities demonstrating that they don't have to be left-wing politically. But she is letting her right-wing politics go beyond her self-interest, even, backing the extreme homophobe, Jim Rutledge, for the U. S. Senate seat currently held by Barbara Mikulski.

On August 2, she made a post strongly backing Rutledge. I give her the benefit of the doubt: at that time she might not have seen Rutledge's anti-homosexual rants on his website. On September 6, I posted a comment on her blog, in which I expressed surprise that a self-declared lesbian would back a vicious homophobe. Her response was to deny that Rutledge was anti-gay and say that "his opponent, Eric Wargotz" was the anti-gay one. (As is usual, she assumes that nobody but those two are serious candidates.) When I pointed out that I didn't much care for Wargotz either, but that I had seen Rutledge's website both before and after he had removed the words in question, she refused to accept my comments, essentially accusing me of lying or misremembering what I saw, and ultimately deleted my responses to her arguments — the response of someone who cannot make a logically-sound argument but just doesn't want the other side to be heard. (Please look at my earlier post, too.)

I have never deleted a comment that simply disagreed with my positions — the only things I have deleted were spam advertisements — but have instead given my side. Cynthia, apparently, knew my arguments were too powerful to refute, so simply deleted my comments.

When I first posted my comment on Cynthia's blog about Jim Rutledge's homophobia, she could have responded in two reasonable ways: she could have said "I didn't know about this; I'm withdrawing my endorsement of Rutledge!" or she could have said "I will have to continue to support him because of his stands on other issues," as I myself did with regard to Bob Ehrlich despite his positions on some transportation issues. But her response — challenging my honesty — is unacceptable.

One person who was not at all surprised by my catching Rutledge in a sudden change of position was Neil Cohen. When he read my September 8 post, he sent me an e-mail message, which included this paragraph:

I was reading your blog today and I have to tell you that you bring up a significant point about changing the web page. Jim changed his policy on oil drilling after the BP incident so I decided to shoot some screen shots of his pages. Sorry to tell you that part of his free speech page I didn't copy.

So anyone out there who have been thinking of voting for Rutledge, please be aware of his weasel-like nature.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Terry Jones' Quran-burning

There is a Protestant pastor in Florida named Terry Jones, who has announced plans to do a bonfire burning Quran books to commemorate Sept. 11. I wonder how he would react to someone holding a similar commemoration of the Spanish Inquisition by burning New Testaments. It's really about the same thing.

This blog talked about the plans to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero a few days ago. And what I said about that — they certainly have a right under the First Amendment to do so, but in view of the offense it would give to many people, it's in terribly bad taste — applies here as well.

Jones may dislike some of the ideas of Islam, but its adherents have just as much right as those of his own Christian religion to practice it. And there are those of us who find Christianity just as distasteful as he finds Islam. Yet, though it might be a legally permitted exercise of First Amendment rights to conduct a public burning of New Testaments, I think that it would certainly be a bad idea. And his proposal is just as bad.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Let's dump these one-word descriptions of political philosophies

There are a lot of people who call themselves conservatives or liberals, but it's clear that these one-word descriptions don't tell us enough about what someone stands for. In a blue state like Maryland, I'd probably be called a conservative by most people, but some positions of the "conservative" candidates, like the proclaimed (but subsequently removed from his site!) opposition to homosexual rights on Jim Rutledge's site are quite opposed to everything I stand for.

Most of us are "conservative" on some issues, and "liberal" on others. Even Barry Goldwater, the vanguard of the "conservative" movement in this country, was pro-gay-rights, (just see this article, for example) just to name one issue where most 2010 "conservatives" reject Goldwater's position.

This false consistency has led to people who call themselves "social conservatives" thinking it's a betrayal when people like Theodore Olson defend gay rights in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case, though there is really no inconsistency in Olson's thought. A true disciple of Barry Goldwater would be on Olson's side there!

And it's why some people may be surprised to see blogs like "A Conservative Lesbian." But on the other hand, Cynthia Yockey (the owner of that blog) feels it necessary, to bolster her "conservative credentials," to back a vicious homophobe like Jim Rutledge, to the point of denying his hostility toward gay people (and apparently not believing I can remember what I read on Rutledge's site)!

We really need to discuss what people believe on specific issues, and not rely on one-word descriptions. (I have taken that approach in my "About Me" statement for this blog!)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Has Jim Rutledge changed his spots?

Until the last week in August I knew very little about the candidates who were running in next week's Maryland primary election. I knew that Bob Ehrlich was running to regain his old spot as Governor, and I knew his opponent's name was Brian Murphy, because Sarah Palin had conspicuously endorsed Murphy's candidacy. But I knew nothing at all about any of the other races on the ballot. Specifically, I did not know who was running for anything but Governor; I had seen some extremely large banners promoting Eric Wargotz for Senate, but didn't even know whether he was a Republican or a Democrat. And I think I'd seen an online ad accompanying a Google search with the name of Jim Rutledge, but knew no more than his name.

So I spent a lot of time searching out the information. As it happened, once I found out the names of the Senate candidates (the first office I decided to research), just about the first site I looked at was Rutledge's. His site had a number of hyperlinks taking up the issues in several categories; one of those was "freedom of speech." Since I've a very big interest in First Amendment issues, I went to that one first. And most of that section was devoted to a charge that people promoting the "homosexual agenda" were preventing him from being heard on the other side. I must say that the idea that this was the biggest freedom of speech issue in his estimation truly appalled me, and I recalled very little else about Rutledge after that.

A few days ago, I was looking at some blogs and I noticed that the "Conservative Lesbian" blog is supporting Rutledge, which struck me as very weird, given that he was such a vicious homophobe. So I decided to post a comment on her blog, expressing surprise that a self-identified lesbian would support someone like that. And for the purpose of directing her to the proof that he was so bad, I went to look at Rutledge's site in order to get the exact URL for the page where he made his homophobic rant about their interference with his freedom of speech. I could not find it. I guess that since he knew that the "Conservative Lesbian" blog is supporting him, he decided that he could not put his finger in her eye?

Surely Rutledge hasn't suddenly changed his mind about gay people in the middle of an election campaign, has he?

The Conservative Lesbian claims that Rutledge has not changed his site and says in her response to me that it is Eric Wargotz who used to be publicly homophobic in his campaign and has now changed his site to emphasize his economic conservatism. Perhaps so, as far as Wargotz is concerned — but as to Rutledge, I saw the anti-homosexual rant with my own eyes before I made my August 31 posting. Groucho Marx once said, "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?" (I first thought it was Mark Twain; sorry for the need to correct it!) Sorry, Cynthia, if you want to support Rutledge, it is certainly your right to do so, but don't try to tell me he isn't one of the most bigoted homophobes to have ever put out a Website. [She claims, apparently, that Rutledge can not be a homophobe because he has an openly gay (but economically conservative) brother who is supporting him. That doesn't cut much ice with me. Rutledge's brother may be discounting the homophobia because he loves his brother, and agrees with his economic conservatism. I happen to have a very good friend who is gay, but a practicing Roman Catholic. He has no problem, even though the Church condemns him, because he truly believes in Catholic doctrine (and one of his first lovers was a priest!)]

One thing that bothers me about the Conservative Lesbian's response is her refusal to admit that I saw what I did. Obviously, there was no reason for me to do a screen capture at the time, as I was just researching these candidates for my own decision on who to support. I had no idea I was going to run across a self-declared lesbian actually supporting Rutledge! But her response to my comment simply floors me — apparently because I can't show her a screen capture, she doesn't believe I saw what I saw!

All I can imagine is, she is so committed to Rutledge that she can't believe he is that much of a homophobe.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

An unendorsed candidate who still impresses me

As the title says, this posting is about a candidate who was not endorsed by me, but who is, I think, very impressive: Brendan Madigan. I doubt that he will win the nomination for State Comptroller, and even if he does, I am certain he would not be able to beat Peter Franchot in November (though if he does win the nomination, I will vote for him in November!), but I think he has done a creditable job of mounting a professional campaign. If I had not discovered it when I saw a YouTube video of an interview he did for Maryland Public Television, it would be hard to believe that this campaign was being run by an eighteen-year-old. He has done a very professional job.

When I was growing up, one had to be twenty-one to vote. Lowering the voting age to eighteen was a cause I had favored, but by the time it came about, I was already too old to benefit from the change, having reached my twenty-eighth birthday. But I had formed my political opinions pretty completely by an even younger age (around 14). So I am certainly willing to believe that young people are capable of reasoned political thought. But I'm sure I would not have been able to organize a candidacy for statewide office at eighteen. Madigan has done an excellent job in this regard. And I want to compliment him on this.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Back to November

I've been talking a lot about the Maryland primary coming up in a little over a week. But there are interesting developments I want to comment relevant to the general election in November.

In California, most polls show the former head of eBay, Meg Whitman, with a small lead over Jerry Brown, who was a Governor there decades ago and is the son of another Governor. The lead is small: Real Clear Politics still calls the race a toss-up. But things look promising for Whitman. (Disclosure: If you read my posts mentioning Whitman, you'll see I'm a big fan of hers. I won't endorse her on this blog -- I don't take official positions in any election I can't vote in -- but I'm surely hoping she wins. And I will say this: If Meg Whitman is elected Governor of California in 2010, and chooses to run for the Presidency in 2012, unless she makes a total botch of her Governorship, she will have my endorsement for the Presidency.)

There's another election in California I'm watching, too: Carly Fiorina is running against Sen. Barbara Boxer. Unfortunately, the polls lean Boxer's way at the moment, but I'm hoping Fiorina can pull it off: as former Hewlett-Packard CEO, she has the experience we need in our government.

In general, it looks good for the GOP this November. The RCP projections still put the Democrats in the majority in the next Senate, but only 51-49 when you count Lieberman and Sanders, who caucus with them. And with some Democratic Senators not as gung-ho for Obama's "change" agenda as party affiliation might indicate, the GOP might actually be able to win some votes. And the GOP looks to win the House of Representatives. Retiring Nancy Pelosi from the Speakership looks very likely! I think that Pres. Obama is going to have a much harder time pushing his far-left agenda the next two years. Which is great!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

New observations on the candidates

There are, it turns out, YouTube clips on most of the candidates appearing on the primary ballot. These even include some candidates that I could not get any other information on. And now, having seen these clips, I have some further observations.

Of the three candidates for Comptroller, my support still goes to William Henry Campbell. But Armand Girard, about whom I knew nothing until now, actually has one point in his favor. He is strongly committed to the idea of getting the slot machines built that are supposed to reduce our dependence on tax revenues. So am I; and neither Campbell nor Brendan Madigan has really addressed this question. Madigan, the third candidate, has one interesting point in his favor, which might count against him too: he is young: only eighteen. Perhaps we need some new blood. But I think perhaps Madigan needs more experience before taking on a job as big as the state Comptrollership.

I have watched videos, too, of nearly all of the U. S. Senate candidates. Some of the minor ones don't look that bad, and in fact Joseph Alexander's position on mass transit is excellent. But just as a bad position on transit does not count enough to lose my vote for Bob Ehrlich, an excellent position on transit will not get my vote to Alexander and away from Neil Cohen.

No changes, then, in my endorsements, but some interesting illumination.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Glad to see it!

Although most people seem to be treating the Republican primary for U. S. Senator from Maryland as simply Wargotz vs. Rutledge, I was heartened to see, from a bus going home yesterday afternoon, a "Cohen for U. S. Senate" sign on somebody's lawn. Now I have to wait till Primary Day, however.

For more on Dr. Cohen, please look at this YouTube clip. It convinced me even more that I've made the right choice.

Friday, September 03, 2010

A marketing ploy I absolutely hate!

This is sort of off topic, but I need to vent.

I get a lot of e-mail from companies with which I've done business. And one of those companies sends me e-mail just about continuously, with coupons offering deals that are good only for a short time. I just got one, which must be used this weekend, for a pretty good deal. But it's this "use it this weekend" thing that bothers me.

Like most people, my income comes in discrete chunks. When I was employed, it was usually every two weeks; now that I'm retired, it's monthly. (When I was employed, the frequency varied with the company; one paid me weekly, one went from monthly to semimonthly just after I started. But biweekly was usual.) So every month, there may be a period when I'm particularly short of cash, and if I get a good deal like that, I'd like to put it off until I get my monthly deposit. (Other months, I've spent less than my income, so I may have more to spend at this time. Only a few of my expenses, like the rent, are predictable.) This is one of those months when my expenses fit my income pretty closely. But I get paid next week. So I don't want an extra expense this weekend.

It's these short-term deals that really get to me. If I knew I was getting another coupon soon that was equally good, I'd simply pass on this one. But they send different coupons in different weeks. Some are only good on things I never would buy even if they were free. This is a marketing ploy, I know. But it hurts. If the coupons were good for more than just a few days, I'd use the ones I wanted to, but when I had the money. This time, I'm forced to choose: do I pass on this coupon, or do I dig into savings (and hopefully remember to replenish after I get paid)?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The gold standard

From time to time, I see people, particularly of a conservative/libertarian bent, advocating a return to the gold standard, or at least to a precious-metal standard which might include silver as well. My feeling is that the gold standard served a great purpose in its day, but there isn't a snowball's chance in you-know-where that we will ever return to it, so why even talk about it?

First of all, note that people like Justice Antonin Scalia, of the United States Supreme Court, believe that the Constitution must be interpreted in the light of the original intent of the people who wrote the words. And to them, a "dollar" had a meaning that implied a precious-metal standard, and the phrase "coin money and regulate the value thereof" in Article I also implied such a meaning. So one can see that people who believe in "original intent" can be expected to be in favor of such a return to the gold standard. And one thing I grant: Ever since we went off it, and put our money wholly on a fiat money standard, there has been an inexorable inflation that has devalued everyone's savings. For this reason alone, I can see a great benefit in a return to a precious-metal standard. But the main problem is this: The gold standard worked only because the other major countries of the world were also on a precious-metal standard. And an internationally agreed upon return to a precious-metal standard simply won't happen. Countries just like the ability to devalue their currencies at will.

It is really a shame. The resistance to inflation that a precious-metal-based standard conferred on the currency was a good thing. But it bring about a return to such a standard is an unattainable goal. So no profit will come in discussing it. It does make me wonder: is there any way of stabilizing the value of money?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Board of Education elections

As I said in yesterday's post, I do not vote in elections for the Board of Education in my county. There are three reasons.

First, I think boards of education should not be elected in the first place. These are technical positions, not political ones. They should be reserved for people who know something about education. In my native city of New York, the Board was appointed by the Mayor, though there were local boards elected by the people, clearly below the citywide board in rank. And I think that is the way they should be. (In the case of my county, where the school system is countywide, not tied to a city, this appointment would be by the County Executive.)

Secondly, if one feels that the public should have input into the way the schools are run, and so there needs to be an elected board, certainly only people with children in the school system should vote. I can't vote in elections that don't concern me because I'm geographically out of their jurisdictions, like the Governor of California or the Senate race in Florida, though I actually care who wins in those elections. (And the Senate race actually does concern me, because the winner will vote on organizing the Senate!) So why should I be eligible to vote on the membership of the Board, when I do not have now, nor ever have had, a child or children in the schools?

The third reason I do not vote in elections for the Board of Education is simply that they are non-partisan, and I have little use for non-partisan elections. While in a party primary I do not have the guidance of a party label to help me choose who gets my vote, just as in a nonpartisan election, the stakes are higher in an election with no subsequent general election. In a primary I can at least assure myself that regardless of who wins, the winner will be a Republican. I do not want to vote without at least the clue of party label to help me make my decision. (In fact, I did vote once for a Board candidate. He had, years earlier, run as a Republican for County Executive, and my vote was essentially a thank you for running in an election with little chance of winning, in the past.)