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, December 27, 2011

The mischief that open primaries bring

There are a number of “centrist” bloggers, such as Solomon Kleinsmith (whose blog I generally like), who believe that our political system would be improved by opening up primaries to non-members of the party involved. I've never agreed with this, and a column in today's Washington Examiner by Byron York, entitled “‘Mischief’ voters push Paul to front of GOP race” caught my eye, making it clear that my reasons are correct. Now I know that when I cite one of York's columns in this blog (as I did very recently), it is usually to disagree with an opinion of his. But this time, he is not so much expressing an opinion as reporting facts. And his facts give me cause for concern:

Ron Paul is surging in the Republican presidential race. Just not among Republicans.

The Texas congressman is leading some polls in Iowa and is in a tie for second in New Hampshire. A candidacy once dismissed as sideshow is now being taken very seriously; the front page of Monday's Des Moines Register featured a huge spread under the headline “COULD RON PAUL WIN?”

Given Paul's views on the Fed, the gold standard and social issues, not to mention his isolationist foreign policy, the polls have left some politicos wondering whether Republican voters have somehow swerved off the rails. But there's another question that should be asked first: Who are Ron Paul's supporters? Are they, in fact, Republicans?

In an analysis accompanying his most recent survey in Iowa, pollster Scott Rasmussen noted, “Romney leads, with Gingrich in second, among those who consider themselves Republicans. Paul has a wide lead among non-Republicans who are likely to participate in the caucus.”

The same is true in New Hampshire. A poll released Monday by the Boston Globe and the University of New Hampshire shows Paul leading among Democrats and independents who plan to vote in the January 10 primary. But among Republicans, Paul is a distant third -- 33 points behind leader Mitt Romney.

In South Carolina, “Paul's support is higher among those who usually don't vote in GOP primary elections,” notes David Woodard, who runs the Palmetto Poll at Clemson University.

In a hotly-contested Republican race, it appears that only about half of Paul's supporters are Republicans. In Iowa, according to Rasmussen, just 51 percent of Paul supporters consider themselves Republicans. In New Hampshire, the number is 56 percent, according to Andrew Smith, head of the University of New Hampshire poll.

The same New Hampshire survey found that 87 percent of the people who support Romney consider themselves Republicans. For Newt Gingrich, it's 85 percent.

So who is supporting Paul? In New Hampshire, Paul is the choice of just 13 percent of Republicans, according to the new poll, while he is the favorite of 36 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats who intend to vote in the primary. Paul leads in both non-Republican categories.

”Paul is doing the best job of getting those people who aren't really Republicans but say they're going to vote in the Republican primary,” explains Smith. Among that group are libertarians, dissatisfied independents and Democrats who are “trying to throw a monkey wrench in the campaign by voting for someone who is more philosophically extreme,” says Smith.

Paul tops the field when pollsters ask Republicans which candidate they are certain not to support. “When you ask people which candidate they are least likely to vote for, Ron Paul is pretty high, because most Republicans here really don't want to vote for him,” says Smith. “His support is not coming, by and large, from Republican voters.”

What's true in New Hampshire is also the case in South Carolina, where Paul is 28 points behind Gingrich in the most recent Palmetto Poll. “The economic positions of libertarians are popular here, but Paul's positions on gay marriage, abortion, illegal immigration, and national defense are all antithetical to South Carolina's conservative culture,” says Woodard. “About 13 percent of the GOP primary electorate are military veterans, and they don't want to bring everyone home. We have a strong pro-life network, and it is knit into the Republican Party at its roots, and the amendment declaring marriage to be something between a man and a woman won with over 70 percent of the vote in South Carolina.”

Non-Republicans are sure to vote in all three early GOP contests. Iowa requires that caucus participants be registered Republicans, but anyone can show up on caucus night, register, and vote. In New Hampshire, so-called “undeclared” voters of any stripe can participate in the GOP primary. And South Carolina's GOP contest is open to all. Wherever Paul's final total, it will reflect lots of non-Republican votes.

Of course, next November's general election is open, too, and the Republican nominee will needs significant non-GOP support. But if Paul were the nominee, he would likely lose lots of Republicans, along with independents, and all of the Democrats who cast mischief votes on his behalf. Even his own supporters don't view him as having the best chance to beat Barack Obama.

There will be a lot written in coming weeks about Paul's role in the Republican Party. It's important to remember that a large part of his support isn't coming from Republicans.

This shows what can happen with open primaries or caucuses. And that's why I favor the kind of closed primaries we have in my current state of residence, Maryland and had in the state I grew up in, New York.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

And now, I suppose, the Iowa home stretch

Though Christmas is a “nothing” event to me, I suppose that to the majority of Iowa voters it is. So between now and the caucus day (just over a week away!) the candidates will probably be working hard to convince last-minute deciders in Iowa to choose them — since they have finished concentrating on getting ready for Christmas. It's going to be a concentrated campaign for all of them.

A couple of days ago, Byron York wrote a column in the Examiner blaming Florida for this crazy schedule. Florida moved its primary up to the end of January, so Iowa and New Hampshire had to move theirs up even earlier to be sure they were first. I disagree with Byron York. Who says that Iowa has a right to be the first state to vote on a nominee? Or that New Hampshire has the right to have the first primary? If they weren't so insistent on being first, Florida could move their primary up and Iowa and New Hampshire would just stay at the dates they'd originally chosen. No, don't blame Florida — the real culprits are the people in Iowa and New Hampshire that refuse to let anyone hold a primary before their choices are made.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Obama is good at one thing: propaganda

You have to hand it to President Obama. He managed to convince enough people that the Republicans (or at least the ones in the House of Representatives) were opposed to keeping down the Social Security payroll tax deduction, despite the facts — that the Democrats were insisting on a two-month extension of the tax reduction, while the House Republicans were pushing to extend the cuts for a whole year. Such is the Obama/Reid/Pelosi propaganda machine.

In the end, of course, the House Republicans had to cave: it was two months or no extension at all, and the Democrats had the upper hand. But I find it amazing that the public fell for this. The majority of the people seemed to accept President Obama's characterization of the Republicans. It just goes to show how good his propaganda machine is. I just hope that the people can be led to see through this propaganda haze next year, and reject the Obama administration and replace it with someone like Mitt Romney, who might be able to fix what's wrong with the economy.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Even good guys can do bad things

The motto “Don't Be Evil” of Google is well known. And in general, I think that Google is a good company. I use their Gmail mail service, and I'm impressed with their excellent spam-filtering and I enjoy the fact that since they introduced large amounts of storage, others, like Yahoo!, have had to follow suit. But even good guys like Google can do bad things.

Recently, the fellows at Google seem to have decided that they want Gmail to look better, and they upgraded their interface. The new version does not work with older versions of the web browsers people use to access the Internet. I suppose that the folks at Google figured that the newest versions of most major browsers are free, so there is no barrier to installing them. What they did not allow for is that not everyone uses their own computer to access Gmail.

Most of the time, I read Gmail on my own computer, which has on it the latest version of Internet Explorer. (I will not get into the discussion as to the merits of IE versus other browsers like Firefox, Chrome, etc. I have IE on my machine as my only browser because I've gotten used to it, and none of the alternatives is enough better for me to bother downloading it and learning to live with its quirks — and no piece of software is without its quirks that anyone needs to learn about.) But there are times when I will want to read my e-mail on a computer that is not mine — at a public library, for example. And in my county, the libraries are hurting for money. Many branches only open their doors, on some days, at 1:00 PM, and all branches have shorter hours than they did a couple of years ago. They just don't have the money to pay someone to install the latest versions of software such as IE, especially since most sites work just fine with the version they have. Some people have to use library computers as a matter of necessity, as they can't afford their own. In either case, whether it's just because I don't want to wait till I get home to read my e-mail or because someone has no alternative, I think cutting them off from the ability to access the latest version of the mail system is not a good thing. And this is why I have a bone to pick with Google.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cal Thomas and Christopher Hitchens' death

Yesterday there appeared a column in the Washington Examiner by Cal Thomas, on the death of Christopher Hitchens. The first words in this column were “Perhaps not since Madalyn Murray O'Hair and Carl Sagan has there been such an ‘evangelical’ atheist as Christopher Hitchens, the writer and social commentator who died last week after a long and public battle with esophageal cancer.” I suppose Thomas has not heard of Richard Dawkins, certainly at least as ‘evangelical’ an atheist as Hitchens. But the bigger problem I have with Thomas' column is that he seems to be trying to convince Hitchens, who is obviously incapable of reading Thomas' column.

It might make sense for Thomas to explain his beliefs, and why he holds them. Bur when he quotes Biblical passages as if they are likely to convince the atheists among us, he seems to be totally unaware of the unlikeliness that they will do so. For his column to contain statements like:

To object to God is to create morality from a Gallup Poll. In Gallup We Trust doesn't have the same authority.

Hitchens was a gifted writer, but who gave him the gift? Why was he not a gifted actor, surgeon or athlete? Why was he not talentless? Was it an evolutionary accident, which would mean his gift and his life were meaningless and merely a “chasing after the wind”? (See Ecclesiastes.) Apparently he thought so.

An atheist will tell you he doesn't need God in order to be good, or perform good works. Maybe not, but the very notion of “good” must have both a definition and a definer. “Only God is good,” said Jesus. (Mark 10:18)

clearly assumes that quotes from the Bible alone will convince someone. But an atheist like Hitchens clearly considers the Bible to be simply the work of men, with no more authority than “Das Kapital” or any other propaganda piece.

Now I write this as a believer in God, who however (as a Jew) rejects the Divine origin of such works as the Book of Mark, which Thomas quotes. (Ecclesiastes, of course, is a different story.) But I certainly cannot see a thing that Thomas says in his whole column that is likely to change the view of a convinced atheist. I am certain that Hitchens would maintain that his talent was “an evolutionary accident.”

No, I think that the world shows the hand of a Divine Guide. But I also believe that it is impossible, by any means I can imagine, to change the mind of someone who believes otherwise. So I will explain my beliefs, and my reasons for holding them, to anyone who inquires. But I cannot condemn those who come up with different ones, based on what they see in this world. And I think Cal Thomas is totally wrong to say what he does about Hitchens.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another person realizes Romney is our best hope.

Tom Bowler writes a blog called “Libertarian Leanings,” in which he describes himself as “a New Hampshire Republican with decidedly libertarian leanings.” As one might guess, many of his posts strike a responsive chord with this “Maryland Republican with decidedly libertarian leanings” (though not all). And particularly, Tom Bowler's blog post, dated December 15th, entitled “Another ‘Not Romney’ Begins To Fade” is worth reprinting — at least this part:

I think what we've been witnessing over the last several months — what with a new front runner every few weeks — is the hope in Republican hearts for more substantial reform succumbing to the dread that Barack Obama will be re-elected. Each “not Romney” front runner stokes the fires of our hope. But then there is the fatal gaffe or a past indiscretion comes to light and fear takes over. Fear that we won't be able to stop Obama from dragging America into stagnation and mediocrity. Fear that the American way of life will be crushed under the weight of an ever more intrusive federal government, a government whose resources are devoted more and more to insulating the governing class from the voters who put them in office.

I'm settling in behind Mitt. This is no time for Republican or Libertarian purity and no time for tossing away the good in a futile quest for the perfect. Mitt Romney isn't perfect, but he will be very good for America. But most important, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid must be stopped.

This is an important point. Perfection is not the goal. Getting someone in the White House that will take us in a different direction from the one charted by President Obama is. Like Tom Bowler, I am certain that that “someone” is Mitt Romney.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Anti-Semites: Ron Paul, and Pat Buchanan -- does the GOP want their kind?

The Washington Examiner has formally endorsed Mitt Romney, but clearly some of its columnists have different ideas. Today I saw a column by Timothy P. Carney, a columnist who has a twice-weekly column in that paper, and who seems to be favoring Ron Paul. Carney refers to Paul as “[t]he principled, antiwar, Constitution-obeying, Fed-hating, libertarian Republican congressman from Texas,” and while his libertarianism has much to recommend him (though it goes to a far-too-extreme degree, by my standards), there is one particular aspect of Ron Paul that Carney seems to deny: Ron Paul's anti-Semitism.

Of course, in that same column, Carney seems to deny that Pat Buchanan was anti-Semitic. And Buchanan has made some statements that cannot be construed any other way. For example,

Indeed, of the last seven justices nominated by Democrats JFK, LBJ, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, one was black, Marshall; one was Puerto Rican, Sonia Sotomayor. The other five were Jews: Arthur Goldberg, Abe Fortas, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats.

Is this the Democrats' idea of diversity?

But while leaders in the black community may be upset, the folks who look more like the real targets of liberal bias are white Protestants and Catholics, who still constitute well over half of the U.S. population.

And there is quite a number of other quotes by Pat Buchanan that can be found, such as (in 1990):

After denouncing a group of commentators with Jewish names, including Abe Rosenthal, Richard Perle and Henry Kissinger, Buchanan wrote: “If it comes to war, it will not be the civilized world humping up that bloody road to Baghdad, it will be American kids with names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales and Leroy Brown."

And, (in 2007):

“If you want to know ethnicity and power in the United States Senate, 13 members of the Senate are Jewish folks who are from 2 percent of the population. That is where the real power is at…"

If Buchanan is not an anti-Semite, Hitler was a rabbi! But we are really talking about Ron Paul. And it doesn't take much digging to find quotes by him that demonstrate his anti-Semitism. In fact, the same Examiner that featured Carney's column recently carried a column by Philip Klein, with such notes as:

Nearly three years ago, Israel launched a counterattack on Palestinian terrorists in Gaza who had been firing thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians. In early January 2009, Paul released a web video in which he charged that Israel was launching a “pre-emptive war,” that Palestinians were living in a “concentration camp” and that they merely had “a few small missiles.”

He then repeated this claim on Press TV — the state-owned propaganda channel of Iran's Islamist government. “To me, I look at it like a concentration camp, and people are making homemade bombs,” he said of the situation in Gaza, adding sarcastically, “like they're they aggressors?”

Not only did Paul inaccurately portray Israel as the aggressor, and ignore the Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks, but he also played into the global propaganda campaign to delegitimize Israel. Israel's enemies think that Jews have exploited global sympathy for the Holocaust, so they routinely liken Israelis to Nazis with phrases like “concentration camp.” That isn't an isolated instance of Paul employing the term. He also used it in 2010, when the Israeli navy blocked a flotilla funded by a group with terrorist ties as it attempted to break the blockade of Gaza — a blockade designed to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza terrorists. Nine of the “activists” aboard one ship were killed in the act of attacking the Israeli commandos who intercepted them — an event well documented on video. In response, Paul again condemned Israel, reiterating his claim that Palestinians were living in “concentration camps” in Gaza.

One can accept Paul's desire to avoid foreign wars as a product of his desire to reduce the role of government in general. But his desire in particular to avoid wars in support of Israel is not just that. It is clearly a sign of an underlying anti-Semitism.

Friday, December 16, 2011

An endorsement that makes sense

I don't always agree with the positions taken by The Washington Examiner, and many of my posts on here have documented my disagreements, but I was very happy to see yesterday's paper, with a headline proclaiming their strong endorsement of Mitt Romney's bid for the GOP presidential nomination, and, on page 2, the whole page taken up with an editorial explaining their reasons for their support.

Their primary reason, of course, is my own as well. It is simply that Romney has the best chance to beat Barack Obama in the election next November. And whatever the flaws that Romney has (and in enumerating these, the Examiner and I certainly differ: some things they consider bad, I'd favor, and vice versa), they cannot compare to the flaws of our sitting President. The Examiner's editorial states that:

…our country simply cannot afford four more years of Obama's record-setting deficits, willy-nilly spending and soaring national debt. His re-election would mean continuing the policies that have brought economic stagnation and high unemployment, and putting federal bureaucrats between Americans and their doctors under Obamacare.

So on this point, the Examiner and I certainly concur, and just because of this need to replace the man in the White House, we must all pull together for Mitt Romney's nomination.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A tale of two predatory companies: Please excuse the rant, but I need to vent

For this post, I guess I should apologize to those of my readers who read this blog with the expectation that I'll be discussing “important” things like the 2012 Presidential campaign. For once, I'm mostly venting about my own frustrations. It just seems that once upon a time, retailers took pride in the things they sold, and manufacturers took pride in the things they made, but those days are gone forever, and people like me have to suffer.

The two culprits in this story are a retail chain called FYE (For Your Entertainment) and a manufacturing company called Digital Products International (DPI, Inc.) making MP3 players (and other devices) under the brand name of GPX. The story actually begins a couple of years ago when I bought an MP3 player from FYE — not a GPX device, but someone else's — and got burned in the racket called “mail-in rebates.” (I wish those would be made illegal — but that won't happen. I sent in the coupon, and in due course got a check for $5. Since that was too small an amount to make a special trip to the bank to deposit, I put it aside, and only discovered it again months later — after it had become stale, so I was simply out the $5. I'm sure the company made lots of money from people like me that never got around to cashing or depositing those rebate checks!) But the MP3 player was a nice thing to have, and when I misplaced it I wanted to get another, so I went to FYE again. (Actually, a different FYE store; the one I had bought the first MP3 player from had closed.) I saw one there, marked down from $19.99 to $12.99 (no “mail-in rebate”! Just marked down, so I was sure to get the reduction.) that actually had a couple of features that made it better for me than the old one, so even if I found the old one, this one would still be worth having. I bought it, and at first I found it seemed to work OK, so there was no reason to hold on to the receipt — as it turned out, a big mistake!

After a couple of days, however, some things weren't working quite right. I couldn't put the device into “random” mode, so I wrote an e-mail to DPI to find out if I'd read the instruction sheet wrong, but this I could live with. But then the machine locked up; it wouldn't play past a particular song, and when it got to that point, I couldn't even turn it off — except by opening it up and taking out the battery! So I wrote another e-mail to DPI.

As it happened, the second one was the first one that got answered. The guy at customer service wrote me a nice friendly note, advising me to reformat the device, and even reminded me to copy the data to a backup so I didn't lose the files. I thought I was dealing with a good company in terms of having professional customer service people, but after following his instructions and reformatting the device, it turned out that it still locked up, only at a different song. So I wrote yet another e-mail. And this one was not answered, so two weeks later I wrote my fourth e-mail (the third on this particular problem — remember that my very first e-mail, about putting the device into “random” mode, hadn't yet been answered!) reminding them of my problem. I got back an e-mail, suggesting I call the company up and saying that this way we could get to the bottom of the problem. Well, as I've said before, I don't like using the telephone, but he gave me a free 800-number, so I made the call, and got to speak to two people — the one who originally answered the call and, as it turned out, the man who had sent me the e-mails — and it was decided that the particular MP3 player I had was defective, so I was advised to return it to the store where I got it for an exchange. I said I no longer had the receipt, so they might not replace it, and they said, “You have a 30-day warranty. They will replace it.”

So off I went, the next time I was in the shopping mall that had that FYE store, to that store, only to be told that without the receipt they could not do a thing. The store manager called another manager, who verified that she could not even give me store credit. Finally she called a general manager, who said that she could replace the device, but only if they had another of the same model in the store. Guess what! They'd sold them all, so there wasn't a single one. So I was out the $13 plus tax, with no recompense! I threw the MP3 player and all the packaging material on the counter, told them they could dispose of it anyway they chose, and left.

Last night, I finally got an e-mail from DPI responding to my first e-mail. Interestingly, the solution was the same as the earlier one: reformat the device. I responded that by this point, this advice was useless. I no longer had the device, and explained what had happened, and told the responder that I would never buy another DPI product again!

I'm still out the money, of course. And I'm no closer to having an MP3 player than I was three and a half weeks ago. But all I can do is make this posting, to warn my readers about predatory companies I've dealt with, so you can avoid them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Newt Gingrich - my evaluation

Since Newt Gingrich is now leading some polls on the GOP nomination race, I think he deserves a longer discussion of what I believe is good and what I believe is bad about him.

One of the things that puzzles me is that many of the people who have problems with Mitt Romney because he changed his mind on so many things have flocked to Gingrich's cause. One thing that cannot be denied about Newt Gingrich is that his own reversals on the issues have been as big as Romney's. (Actually, although I have frequently remarked that nobody's religion should be held against him, I might be faulted for pointing out that Gingrich is a fairly recent convert to Catholicism. But it points out another inconsistency in Newt Gingrich's thoughts. In 2008, Gingrich decided that he wanted to be a Roman Catholic, being officially received into that church in 2009.) I cannot imagine anyone, after reaching his sixties, to decide that the religion he has believed in all his life was wrong and that he belonged in a different one. (Actually, this is his second change — in college he converted from Lutheranism to the Baptist church. Now frankly I find Roman Catholicism an extremely unappealing religion — anyone who can accept that one person is infallible on matters of faith, surrendering his own judgment to that of one man in Rome — or anywhere else — seems to me to be denying his own ability to think straight. But I am not holding his Catholicism against him; it is that, after attaining an age of over 65, he suddenly decided to change his religion.)

Of course, it surprises me that “family-values conservatives” would prefer a twice-divorced, three-times-married man over a man like Romney who has been married to one woman for all his adult life — over 40 years — but this is not really something that matters to me, although I don't see why it doesn't matter to people who keep proclaiming the importance of the family.

My biggest gripe with Gingrich is that — while, on some issues, like the Middle East, I agree with him — he seems to be advocating some strange, even unconstitutional, ideas on other issues, like changing the terms of federal judges so as no longer to be lifetime. (Note: while I firmly agree with Gingrich's position on the Middle East, in a discussion I had with my wife yesterday, she said her position would make her less likely to vote for him — she believes a president who is so firmly on one side of the issue cannot serve as a broker between the two sides. I concede that, but I feel that no American President or anyone else, can achieve peace in the Middle East at this time — the parties are so far apart that compromise seems impossible.)

I do need to say that, if next November I find myself in a voting booth with the names of Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama in front of me, I would have no qualms about voting for Gingrich. Obama's presidency has been so bad that I cannot imagine Gingrich being any worse. In this, Gingrich differs from such as Michele Bachmann, who could not get my vote — not that I would vote for Obama, but Bachmann on the ballot would drive me to vote for a third-party candidate in protest.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Newt has it right in one place, the Middle East

Well, I have to say one thing good anout Newt Gingrich: he has the facts right on the Middle East. A posting by Muriel Kane says:

In an interview with The Jewish Channel released on Friday, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich called the Palestinians an “invented” people and suggested they have no right to a state of their own.

“I believe that the Jewish people have a right to a state,” Gingrich told the interviewer. “Remember, there was no Palestine existing as a state. Part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs … and they had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons, we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s.”

Reuters points out that Gingrich’s remarks run counter to official United States policy, which does view the Palestinians as a people with the right to a state of their own.

Gingrich, who said his worldview was “pretty close” to that of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also described the Obama administration’s Middle East diplomacy as “out of touch with reality.” He inisted that Obama and his aides “lie to themselves” about the conflict, which he portrayed as one “between a civilian democracy that obeys the rule of law and a group of terrorists that are firing missiles every day.”

I don't like a lot of what Newt Gingrich has been saying, but on this issue, I agree completely.

Friday, December 09, 2011

One person's take on the GOP nomination prospects

My wife is nominally a Democrat. In fact, she's better described as an independent, though she is enrolled in the Democratic Party, and rarely votes in Democratic primaries. She is significantly to my left, though well to the right of much of the Democratic Party; she voted for McCain in the most recent election. (Though she considered him somewhat too right-wing, she considered Obama too left-wing, and mostly made the decision based on character. She'd found out about Obama's early history, especially the business about Alice Palmer, and she remembered that in the Dole-Clinton election, she thought Dole too right-wing, voted for Clinton, and was sorry about her decision.) At one point, because the economy soured, she had considered Obama's “change” agenda somewhat attractive, and considered voting for him, but character won out in the end. But her attitude has always been more generous toward Obama's attempts to fix the economy than my own attitude. (For more about her, see my earlier post dated November 7.)

She had been employed by Borders for 12½ years, and they closed her particular store in April; since then, she's been looking unsuccessfully for a new job. Finally, last week, she got a “yes”— from Target, for a part-time seasonal job. This week she started, and celebrated, by having a little fancier dinner than she normally considered affordable. And afterward she authorized me to quote her in this blog: “It's a sign how bad this economy is, when getting a part-time seasonal job is cause for celebration.”

She is probably willing to vote for Mitt Romney, if he is the Republican nominee. She is somewhat less likely to vote for Newt Gingrich, though she's looking more favorably at him than she had been. None of the other GOP candidates is likely to get her vote against Obama.

It's people like that that the GOP needs to win next year. One more reason I think Mitt Romney is the only nominee the GOP can choose, if they want any chance at taking over the White House.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

What planet is she on?

In yesterday's Washington Examiner I read a column by Janine Turner that blew my mind. She wrote

Warning: I am going to write something radical.

Merry Christmas.

There I did it.

During the holiday season whether I am at work, at school, at a mall or the grocery store, I am reduced to feeling like a zealot when I utter those two words. As I scurry out the door, I have to resist the impulse to hide like a prairie dog before I am caught by the holiday Political Correctness police.

Though, who needs the police? The look of fear in the eyes of the clerks and other patrons speaks volumes. It's as if at any moment the emergency alarm will be pulled and pandemonium will ensue.

Like a siren in a nuclear power plant, I am exposed. I am a traitor to the New American Way. What is the New American Way? Intimidation. Conformity. Muzzling of free speech. Denial of religion.

As I journey home and put up a Christmas tree, my traditional warm and fuzzy religious experience is disturbed by an annoying angst that a Christmas tree is offensive. If I am a comrade to the cause and following the New American Way, my Christmas tree will now be a "Holiday tree."

As I stand back and admire the twinkling lights, I experience a nagging guilt that I am somehow a religious extremist.

Christmas is under attack. Christians are being silenced by the code of Saul Alinsky, an insidious intimidation creates a new pattern of thought, like a river creates a canyon.

Liberals have perverted the First Amendment to meet their agenda denying others the true intent of its meaning. It's no wonder that they consider the Constitution an ugly word. The Constitution holds them accountable. The New American Way works only by denying it or distorting it.

The First Amendment restricts the government from mandating a religion but it also guarantees the free exercise of religion, not to mention, freedom of speech. Does this only apply to atheistic liberals?

Christians are being denied freedoms to experience Christmas. This is the black and white of the issue.

If children are caught mentioning Christmas in school, they become outcasts, a disturbance, an obstacle to the New American Way. Children who are Christians are being shamed into submission.

Yet, the liberal elite has it all wrong. We are not a country of clones. We are a country of individualism and independence and uniqueness.

Is this not the true intent of the First Amendment? The liberal elite is getting away with blatant attacks on individual freedoms.

The irony is that the liberals pride themselves on their right to provocative uses of freedom such as immersing a cross in urine. Yet Christians can't say, "Merry Christmas" and children can't hand out Christmas cards in school.

All children of all faiths should be allowed to exchange greeting cards that honor their religion. It is the restriction of this freedom, or the mandating of one religion over another, that is wrong.

Things are frighteningly askew in American culture. This has occurred because by nature conservatives are reserved, respectful. Meanwhile, the loud, liberal and loquacious Left have dominated the dialogue.

Christians, and anyone else who holds religious freedom sacred, need to step up to the Christmas tree this year and embrace it for what it is: an expression of the Christian religion. This act does not deny other religions. It merely is an expression of one of many. Should we not be tolerant and respectful of all religions in America?

Christians, or any religion, should not be denied this right anywhere - in the workplace, in the school, in the mall, in the town square.

As Christians uphold their constitutional rights, they also honor other religions. It is our distinguishing quality that make us America. It is our acceptance of these that makes us Americans.

Merry Christmas.

When I read it I thought, “What planet is she on? She can't wish people ‘Merry Christmas’?” I can't get away from Christmas stuff. Yesterday I went into Barnes and Noble and the overhead speakers were playing “Oh come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.” Who is preventing her from doing Christmas things — while I want to have them put out of my life completely, and I can't avoid them? Really!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Romney's Mormonism

Sunday, I was in a Panera or Starbucks (I forget which) having a tea and pastry, and talking to a young student who was becoming interested in politics after having been mostly indifferent. He'd asked me my opinions, and I was explaining that I really wanted to replace President Obama with someone like Mitt Romney, and when he asked why, I started to give my reasons — beginning with the fact that Obama has shown no leadership (allowing Congress to write the health care law, for example) while Romney showed that he could even get his proposals through, even when he had to work with a Massachusetts legislature heavily dominated by the opposite party. The student listened to me and agreed that this was an important point, and a nearby woman interrupted to say, “You know, I totally disagree with you. Isn't he a Mormon?” I said, certainly he was, and then she railed about how only a Christian could have the necessary morality to be President.

Well, first of all, being non-Christian myself, that comment was exactly not the sort of thing that I could accept, and I told her so, adding that the writers of our Constitution were smart enough to put into Article VI the prohibition against any religious test for any public office under the Constitution. As I put it to her, “I don't care whether a Presidential candidate is a Moslem, a Hindu, or even an atheist: and we have a Constitution that says the same thing.” She kept insisting, and I pointed out that probably the most convinced Christian we ever had in the Presidency was Jimmy Carter, but he was not a very competent President. (And at this time, the student commented that Obama was in some ways like Carter, someone who seemed like a nice person, but unable to handle the Presidency.)

Actually, of course, as far as I am concerned, Mormons are Christians: the name of their church is the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” and any church that claims to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and calls him the Christ is, according to my definition, Christian. I have seen too many cases of Protestants and Catholics each denying the other the right to the term “Christian” to say that anyone who claims to be a Christian has to be accepted on his word as one, despite the claims of any other Christian that he is not. But, as it was clear that this woman had her own ideas as to what constitutes a Christian, there was no sense arguing that point with her.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Another one bites the dust

Well, now Herman Cain has withdrawn from the race for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Whether the allegations of sexual harassment lodged against Cain are true or not, enough people will believe him that it is clear his presidential hopes have been shot down. And though some sites say that Cain will endorse Newt Gingrich, the person most helped, of course, is Mitt Romney.

The more conservative elements in the GOP seem to be trying to find someone they like better than Romney. And then one after another either gives up, or botches things so badly that nobody can picture them in the Presidency. It is clear that whatever Romney's flaws (and I admit he has some; I would perhaps have preferred Chris Christie, but he doesn't want to run!) he is the best hope of the Republican Party. And does anyone think that those right-wingers would, faced with a choice between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, vote for anyone but Romney?

Let's face it. Mitt Romney will be the nominee. And those who are trying to push anyone else, deal with it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A blog post that surprised me

We are familiar with the Obama administration's push to raise taxes on “the wealthy,” and specifically his insistence on repealing some of the income tax cuts instituted in George W. Bush's Presidency. So I was surprised, in the process of looking at other blogs this morning and following links from blog to blog, to find a blog called “,” on which a posting, by Rob Port, appeared today called “Social Security And Medicare Doing More To Promote Income Inequality Than The Bush Tax Cuts.” In it I read that:

…House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, in a 17-page paper based largely on a Congressional Budget Office analysis of income trends between 1979 and 2007, has [made the case that the Republican proposals would better address income inequality than the Democrats'].

Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, makes the point that the government redistributes income not only through taxes but also through transfer payments, including Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, and unemployment benefits. The CBO study helpfully measures income, adjusted for inflation, after taxes and after such transfer payments.

Many may find the results of the CBO study surprising. It turns out, Ryan reports, that federal income taxes (including the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit) actually decreased income inequality slightly between 1979 and 2007, while the federal payroll taxes that supposedly fund Social Security and Medicare slightly increased income inequality. That’s despite the fact that income tax rates are lower than in 1979 and payroll taxes higher.

Perhaps even more surprising, federal transfer payments have done much more to increase income inequality than federal taxes. That’s because, in Ryan’s words, “the distribution of government transfers has moved away from households in the lower part of the income scale. For instance, in 1979, households in the lowest income quintile received 54 percent of all transfer payments. In 2007, those households received just 36 percent of transfers.”

In fact, the blog post summarizes this effect:

In effect, Social Security and Medicare have been transferring money from low-earning young people (who don’t pay income taxes but are hit by the payroll tax) to increasingly affluent old people.

Interesting. Now I am one of those “old people,” receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits, though I am hardly affluent. (The Clinton presidency impoverished me — he canceled the Strategic Defense Initiative, alias “Star Wars,” which funded the job I was working at in 1994; from 1994 to 1998 I was unemployed, unable to get a job, and since then I've never had the kind of good jobs I'd had in the years prior to 1994, though I've managed to get out of total poverty into a more “normal” existence.) But I imagine there are “affluent” Social Security and Medicare benefit recipients, so I cannot argue with Port's posting. Do you think anyone can enlighten those Democrats who insist that “the ‘Bush tax cuts’ must go”?

Monday, November 28, 2011

A continuation of yesterday's post

Yesterday I made a post that left out one point that I meant to make, but forgot when I entered it into the system.

Certainly one person who has been given license to do “Christian things” is S. Truett Cathy. To those who do not know the name, he is the founder, and still in charge, of Chick-fil-A restaurants. He has steadfastly maintained a policy that not only the locations he owns, but all his franchisees, close on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. His company's web site says it is because “He believes that all franchised Chick-fil-A Operators and their Restaurant employees should have an opportunity to rest, spend time with family and friends, and worship if they choose to do so.” But what if one of his franchisees is Jewish, and worships on Saturday? Mr. Cathy does not contemplate this.

Since Mr. Cathy is a private citizen, of course, he has every right to impose such a condition on his franchisees. And I, in turn, have every right to personally boycott Chick-fil-A. As I do.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What threat?

My blog, for some reason, gets very few comments posted, though I certainly would be happy to see more of my readers comment on my posts. One person who has commented in the past uses the pseudonym Asclepius, and he recently posted a comment on my recent post on separation of “church and state.” You can read his entire comment, but the most important point I think to consider in his comment was the following:

So your experience justifies what most Christians would contend: there should be no compulsion to participate in x, y, or z; but at the same time, that acknowledgment should not serve as a threat to those who do wish, in some way, to participate in Christian things, public or otherwise.

I wrote a reply to his comment, but I thought it really ought to be expanded upon, and this post is intended as a follow-up to my reply to Asclepius' comment as well as an extension of the ideas I expressed in my original posting.

I would not challenge Asclepius' statement that “there should be no compulsion to participate in x, y, or z; but at the same time, that acknowledgment should not serve as a threat to those who do wish, in some way, to participate in Christian things,” but I do not see where any such threat exists. In fact, if anything, “those who do wish… to participate in Christian things” are granted more license than necessary. Many public ceremonies begin with an invocation, generally given by a Christian clergyman. Our coinage and currency bears the motto “In God we trust,” which I as a Jew find acceptable, but which offends my atheistic friends. Back when I was in grade school, they added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance; again, I as a Jew have no problem with these words, but my atheistic friends have different thoughts on the matter. We have elected a black President, but we have never elected a Jewish (or Muslim, Hindu, or atheist) President.

Whenever a court has blocked “participat[ion] in Christian things” it has been because these “Christian things” would involve non-Christians as well, and would involve “compulsion to participate in x, y, or z,” which Asclepius admits is undesirable. School prayer, for example, has been abolished, a good thing because even if some students were able to opt out, the peer pressure against “being different” is great in school-age children. Sitting down when everyone in class is standing up (or leaving the room) calls uninvited attention to the child, and this alone serves as “compulsion to participate in x, y, or z.”

So I wonder what Asclepius really meant by his comment. Perhaps he sees some of these things differently from me, but I'd love to see where.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It is just not going to happen!

Although the post was made ten days ago, I just read it today. Michael Medved wrote a posting on The Daily Beast blog, entitled “Obama Should Name Unity Government to Tackle Financial Crisis.” Really, what he advocates is that President Obama should replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner by someone who might be respected by the Republicans, someone like Steve Forbes or former New Hampshire senator Judd Gregg (who was actually offered a Cabinet post by Obama, but at the far less prestigious Commerce Department). Well, Mr. Medved might be right in that such appointment would signify that President Obama would be willing to abandon hyper-partisanship in favor of problem solving. But the reason that won't happen is that this is not true: President Obama is not at all willing to abandon hyper-partisanship. It is his stock in trade. It would be the equivalent of Nancy Pelosi, two years ago, offering to share some of the Speaker's prerogatives with John Boehner. It has about as much likelihood as that of Obama resigning as President, or declining to be nominated in favor of Hillary Clinton, even though I've actually seen suggestions that he do the latter.

Barack Obama is the most egotistical President we have had in my lifetime, probably the most egotistical President we have ever had. He simply believes he is certain to find, on his own, the solution to all our money problems, and he is not about to show a trace of compromise here. Michael Medved obviously does not understand what makes Barack Obama tick, if he makes a proposal like the one he made.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A personal story, to explain my vehemence on the "separation" issue

One thing I consider very important, and which colors a lot of my attitudes toward specific politicians, is the issue of “separation of church and state” eapecially in its relationship to “freedom of religion.” And behind this is my own experience, so I think I should supply a personal self-portrait as this issue relates to me.

At the age of nine, I moved to a new home in New York City, at the opposite end of the Borough of Manhattan from where I had been living for the preceding few years. I had to start in a new school, of course, and there were two factors that affected my situation at that school for the three years that I went there.

First, I was something of a “brain” — I was nine, but I was in sixth grade, among mostly 11-year-olds. And second, I was a good singer. I had a boy soprano voice, and I sang well enough that I was in demand at the school to sing before other classes than my own. Perhaps if YouTube had existed in those days, I might have become the Justin Bieber of the 1950s (though, actually, years younger than Bieber was when he was discovered!), but in those days, I was only a celebrity at Public School #7 in the Bronx. (Yes, I lived in Manhattan, but so far north that my local school was over the line in the Bronx.) My singing made me an instant favorite of the school's music teacher, and in seventh grade a year later, I was in her official class and she took a special interest in me, teaching me a number of songs on a one-to-one basis.

Then, along came Christmas. I balked at singing songs with words like “Oh come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.” And this got me in trouble with my official-and-music teacher, an Irish Catholic who failed to see that, to a Jewish boy like me, these words were blasphemy. (I don't know if, at age 10, I knew the word “blasphemy,” but you get the idea.)

From that point on, I went from being a favorite of my teacher to being dirt. She and my eighth-grade official teacher actually conspired, in my eighth-grade year, to try to keep me from graduating! (The problem with the eighth-grade teacher didn't involve religion. I simply didn't like history, and history was her favorite subject!)

With this kind of background, I almost became strongly prejudiced against Irish Catholics. The only thing that prevented that was another teacher, clearly just as Irish (his name was McCarthy!) who I had for science in seventh grade. He was really not a science teacher: he was a gym teacher who was also pressed into service as a science teacher. And he knew that I actually knew more science than he did, so the classes were usually something like Mr. McCarthy starting the class with a general mention of the topic, and then I was pitched questions and really this 10-year-old, whose voice hadn't changed yet, conducted the class! It was Mr. McCarthy who suggested I apply to a special scientific high school when I was in eighth grade, and when I did, my eighth-grade official teacher ridiculed me. She conducted special sessions for the kids in her class who had applied to the specialized high schools, and I was not permitted to attend. But I got my revenge. I was the only person in her entire class who passed the entrance examination!

But that is a digression. The point is that my refusal to sing Christmas carols jeopardized my graduation. And so my sympathies automatically lie with those who would challenge Christian domination of the rest of us. I hope this explains my stance on this issue.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

David Frum's interesting ideas

I often read David Frum's FrumForum blog. AS lot (not all, mind you) of his ideas, I share, and so I have marked his blog on this one as one warranting your reading. But the latest posting by Frum is not on his blog. It is on the New York magazine website.

The article is too long to quote, so I suggest you read it via the link I put here. I certainly no more agree with everything he says than I do with everything he posts on his blog (or everything posted on his blog, since he uses a number of guest writers as well as himself to post there). But I think it is certainly a worthwhile read, and very thought-provoking, and I really think all who read this blog should read his posting.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Another “front runner”?

Well, now there are polls that say that the #1 contender for the 2012 GOP nomination, at least in Iowa and some other States, is Newt Gingrich. Will he bite the dust, now that Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain have, each in his/her turn, crashed?

Gingrich is rather too conservative for me — but so were Ronald Reagan and the younger President Bush. And yet, both of those Presidents had pretty good presidencies, I have to admit. So Gingrich might fill the bill.

I've already posted some comments on Gingrich, so you know how I feel. I would say, however, that of all the candidates, he ranks #2 to Mitt Romney. But four years ago, I considered John McCain as ranking #2 to Rudy Giuliani. And yet there's a difference. Yes, I rated Giuliani higher than McCain, but I liked a lot about McCain, so he was a close #2. Gingrich is currently #2 on my list behind Romney, but far, far back behind him in my estimation. I would happily vote for Gingrich over Barack Obama a year from now, if it came to that. But that is not because Gingrich is so good — rather, it is because Obama is so bad. I don't like Bachmann at all, for example, but I'd probably even vote for her over Obama.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The supercommittee fails

It looks as though the debt-reduction supercommittee has failed to reach an agreement. And the reason is clearly this: Nobody is willing to compromise. The Democrats insist on a “soak-the-rich” policy. They cannot realize that in a recession, raising taxes is not going to help. And the Republicans, not surprisingly, are not going to accept a Democratic insistence that new taxes are a sine qua non of the deal.

The Republicans, of course, have the better of the argument. But with a Democratic President in a position to veto any pure Republican bill, they probably needed to accept some revenue enhancements.

I don't know how this will end. The automatic across-the-board budget cuts which will follow this are sure to get some negative responses from those whose pet areas are going to be cut. The question is, will the across-the-board cuts trigger some real efforts to look at where money is needed and where it is just somebody's pet project? The answer to this question is the key.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

One county's war against rich pre-teen kids?

This summer, I saw a story about an unbelievable action taken by the county in which I live. The United States Open golf tournament was held in this county. A group of pre-teen kids operated a lemonade stand near the tournament grounds. Because the kids had not gotten a permit from the county, their parents were fined $500!

I just received some more unbelievable information about this case. (Though, I suppose, one might say that it means that money can't buy special treatment.) It turns out that these kids were the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the CEO's of Marriott and Lockheed Martin, the largest private employers in the county! So the Marriott and Augustine families had kids who wanted to open a lemonade stand to raise money for charity, and the county would not let them. Strange!

And obviously, the county didn't care who they offended. Can you imagine what these families must think of this county's government?

Friday, November 18, 2011

An interesting coincidence

After posting yesterday's post, I read a post on Dennis Sanders' “Big Tent Revue” blog entitled, “Losing Our Way.” And, though he posted it before I posted mine, I hadn't yet read it until afterward. So it is interesting to see the overlaps between our posts.

I think that both of us are concerned that, in the name of conservatism, the Republican Party is in danger of moving so far rightward that it jeopardizes its hopes of winning the votes of the majority of the American people. It's even interesting that we both (although, in Sanders' case, he was quoting another writer, Ramesh Ponnuru) cited the same issue, the Medicare prescription drug plan!

It might be noted that Ponnuru, as described on the Bloomberg News site where his post occurs, is a senior editor at National Review, which should eminently qualify him as a conservative. So the fact that a moderate like me should find a Ponnuru column (even if quoted by an ideological ally of mine like Dennis Sanders) striking a responsive chord makes it seem like there is something there.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Conservatism: what is it?

Recently I saw another column in the Washington Examiner that I thought a bit puzzling. This one was written by Gene Healy and entitled “Newt Gingrich is no conservative.” Among the things that Healy uses to characterize Gingrich as “no conservative” include his support for the Medicare drug plan. I suppose Healy favors a cruel, extreme-libertarian kind of conservatism that decrees that if you can't afford to pay for your prescription drugs, you should just die and leave the world to the next generation! For to my way of thinking, the way the Medicare drug plan is structured, it's a good way of introducing conservative ideas into a Medicare-type program.

Rather than a one-size-fits-all sort of “insurance” plan, it fosters competition. Different private insurers (and I emphasize private) compete for the senior citizen's premium. When I got my booklet, it gave me choices between insurers who had lower monthly premiums and higher co-payments and others who had higher monthly premiums and lower co-payments. And various in-between combinations as well. I think this is a good idea. The government helps the insurers provide their plans at an affordable rate, but it doesn't, as “Obamacare” does with basic health care costs, force identical coverage by all companies. It seems to me this is exactly what a conservative wants. But I wonder what Gene Healy would require of someone to be called a “conservative.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It is now official! The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the health care law

The Supreme Court has finally agreed to something that most of us have known for some time: The “Obamacare” health care law raises serious constitutional questions, important enough for the Court to decide. Yesterday,
the Court agreed to take up three cases challenging the Constitutionality of the law.

The Court has allocated five and one-half hours for discussion, far more than usual; in recent years the Court has limited arguments to one hour on most occasions, and never more than four (on the campaign finance law in 2003) in quite a long time.

There is a blog post by Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, entitled “How ‘Obamacare’ Could Lose in the Supreme Court.” And this makes it clear that the big issue is Does Congress have any limits on what the Commerce Clause of the Constitution empowers it to do? And Winkler feels that the Court may well find that these limits exclude such things as the “individual mandate,” which would invalidate ‘Obamacare.’

The Court will take up these arguments in March, and probably issue its ruling in June, right in the middle of the Presidential election campaign. It will be very interesting to see what they decide, and how the candidates respond.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The most annoying time of the year

Two songwriters, Edward Pola and George Wyle, once wrote a song entitled "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," about the Xmas season. To me it is better described as "the Most Annoying Time of the Year." As I've actually said in a number of posts, I hate it.

Normally I would wait to post this until it got closer to that day. (Although one of my earlier postings was also in early November.) But as it happened, over this past night, I had a dream. Now I don't usually put out my dreams on this blog for the whole world to see, but in the dream I was telling a friend (and, strangely, this friend was one who, in real life, passed away over 10 years ago!) that I wished that Christmas were treated, in this country, like Purim, a Jewish holiday that usually is celebrated in late February or March. And that's about how I feel for real.

Nobody who wants to celebrate Purim has any difficulty. There are stores where you can buy noisemakers and the other things one uses to celebrate the holiday. And it probably gets a mention in the newspapers a day or so before the actual date. But we are hardly bombarded with Purim songs, Purim cards, Purim decorations, and the like for the entire months of January and February! Anyone who wanted to ignore Purim would find it as easy to do so as anyone who wanted to celebrate it.

Contrast this with Christmas. It is impossible, beginning in late October or early November, to get away from Christmas decorations, Christmas music on the overhead speakers in department stores, and the like, and on the day itself, everything is closed. (Except, in the more urbanized areas, a few Chinese restaurants!) The Smithsonian museums (one of the few places one can go for an enjoyable time that don't cost a lot of money) are open every day of the year — except Christmas. One year I was in graduate school in a relatively small city — Charlottesville, Virginia. I could not find a single open restaurant — the only way I could get anything to eat (I was living in a single room without kitchen facilities) was by getting candy bars out of vending machines. I would gladly ignore the fact that December 25th is a holiday for many people — but I simply can't. There is simply no way to lead a normal day's existence on that day.

Now, this will put me at odds with such as Rush Limbaugh, who believe this country should be a Christian theocracy. But so be it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Musical chairs for second place?

First there was Michele Bachmann. Next came Rick Perry. Then Herman Cain. Then, briefly, Perry seized the headlines again, but mostly because of a negative incident, his not being able to remember his own plan to eliminate the Energy Department! Most recently, the name of Newt Gingrich has surfaced — and, as I posted earlier, in a sense he's the best of the choices of those who would nominate “anyone but Mitt Romney.” It looks like a game of musical chairs for the 2012 nomination — or rather, for second place, because most people are pretty certain that Romney will be the nominee.

One of the interesting things that happened recently is that Gingrich, invited to criticize Romney in a recent debate, refused to do so. I think that this is a sign that he, the most intelligent of the anti-Romney candidates, realizes that Romney will be the nominee, and the best that anyone else can do is use his second place to get the Vice-Presidential nomination. This actually worked well for George H. W. Bush, who finished second to Ronald Reagan, became Reagan's VP, and moved into the Presidency after Reagan was term-limited!

Meanwhile, of course, the Democrats are stuck with President Barack Obama. Nobody wants to challenge a sitting President in his own party. And unless the economy improves, particularly the unemployment situation, in slightly less than a year from today, we may yet see Mitt Romney elected President. But who as Vice-President? Perhaps Gingrich. And I think that at least Gingrich is looking for that slot!

Friday, November 11, 2011

You have to understand the rules!

As I mentioned yesterday, the centrist blogger Solomon Kleinsmith is starting a new website called “,”. One of the things that I saw when I looked at that site Tuesday is a plug for the hopeless organization called Americans Elect, a group of centrists who are following in the footsteps of the Unity '08 group who tried to produce a centrist ticket for the last Presidential election. And the fact is, people who want to advance the centrist cause and try to do it in that way do not understand how our system works.

Over two hundred years ago, in 1800, Anthony Lispenard was a Presidential elector from New York State. In those days, the electors did not, as they do today, cast a differentiated vote for President and Vice-President. Instead they simply cast two votes, ostensibly for the Presidency; the candidate with the largest number, if it was at least a majority of the number of electors, got the Presidency, while the candidate with the second-largest number got the Vice-Presidency. So supporters of the Democratic-Republican ticket of Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr simply voted for both. In previous elections, and among the rival Federalist Party even in 1800, a small number of electors (even just one!) would vote for the party's Presidential candidate, but vote for someone else, who was not a real candidate, with their second vote, so as to assure that their Presidential candidate got more electoral votes than their Vice-Presidential candidate. (In 1796, however, too many Federalist electors did this, so that Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic-Republican candidate for the Presidency, outpolled the Federalists' Vice-Presidential candidate and became the Vice-President!)

Lispenard, in fact, preferred Aaron Burr, the Democratic-Republican candidate for the Vice-Presidency, to Thomas Jefferson, who was again the Democratic-Republican candidate for the Presidency, and tried to accomplish this by voting for Burr but not for Jefferson. But he didn't understand the system! He cast two votes for Burr. Now if he had voted for Burr and someone else as long as that someone else was not a New York State resident (the rules stated that an elector's two votes had to include one who was not a resident of his own State), Lispenard could have elected Burr President, with 73 votes to Jefferson's 72. Anthony Lispenard was one of the few people in history who could have, by one act, changed the course of history! But he didn't understand what he needed to do, and voted twice for Burr. Now this would not work. An elector could not vote for one person twice. And certainly if he was a resident of your own State, as Burr was in Lispenard's case, even if an elector could vote for one person twice, he could not vote for that person twice because one of the votes had to be for a candidate from a different State! So Lispenard's vote was changed to a vote for Jefferson and Burr, and he did not get his wish simply because he didn't realize how simply he could have assured Burr the Presidency!

What does this have to do with Americans Elect? Simply, in the system we have, which is Plurality Voting, any candidate other than the top two simply hurts the candidate who is closer to him. If a “centrist” candidate appeals to more Republicans than Democrats, he is likely to cause the Democrat to be elected. And if he appeals to more Democrats than Republicans, he is likely to cause the Republican to be elected. So unless he is truly dead center, which is pretty unlikely, he's going to have the effect that the people who voted for him will feel they've shot themselves in the foot. (Probably the reason that Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992 was that more Republicans were impressed with Ross Perot than Democrats were.)

As I have previously said, the way to get centrists and moderates elected, which is what ostensibly wishes to accomplish, is to change the voting system, not start a quixotic third candidacy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

There is a blogger named Solomon Kleinsmith who hosts a "centrist" blog and is starting a new site called “,” intended as a forum for “centrists and moderates,” to which I recently received an invitation. Now I suppose that the fact that I received this invitation qualifies me as one of those “centrists and moderates.” Yet I am not so sure. A moderate I think I am, but I can't really consider myself a centrist, as I think Kleinsmith defines it. As I've stated it, my positions include some that are generally considered “left” and others that are generally considered “right”: my position is that it is not whether a position is “right” or “left,” but rather whether it furthers the best interest of all of us (meaning maximal freedom, subject to not infringing on others' freedoms), that governs my attitude toward the idea. When I read Kleinsmith's blog, or Rick Bayan's (another “centrist” blog) I don't always find myself agreeing with them; yes, sometimes I do, but sometimes I agree with people like Rush Limbaugh! I certainly will look at, and when I find myself in agreement I will applaud, but I don't guarantee that I will agree with most of the positions it takes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

What about Gingrich?

Readers of this blog know that I get a lot of my material from columns I read in the Washington Examiner. This post is no exception.

Yesterday's Examiner had a column by Byron York entitled “Gingrich's wonkish, unconventional campaign.” The main burden of York's column is that “If either of the current frontrunners, Herman Cain or Mitt Romney, were to falter, Gingrich is in a position to benefit greatly.” And I think this really means that York is saying that, with all the missteps made by first Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, and more lately Herman Cain, Gingrich may well be the one for Republicans who cannot reconcile themselves to Mitt Romney.

Well, I have to say this about Gingrich: He is, I believe, a lot more intelligent than Bachmann or Perry, and he certainly has Government experience, unlike Cain. So he makes a lot more sense as a candidate than any of those three. (Disclaimer: I still think Romney is a better choice!)

One point that could be made against Gingrich is that he has been rejected by his own party in the past. But after the 1962 California Gubernatorial election, everyone thought Richard M. Nixon was finished. Even Nixon did — after all, he said on that occasion, “You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore…” But this was not so. Six years later, Nixon was elected President. (Another disclaimer: As far as I am concerned, despite a lot of negative opinion by others, Nixon was still the best President, in my opinion, in the past fifty years!)

So maybe Gingrich deserves looking at. As I said, Romney is still my #1 choice among those actually running. But Gingrich isn't a bad alternative, in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Herman Cain's defects

Yesterday's Washington Examiner contains an interesting column by Ken Klukowski entitled, “Four 'Cs' of why Cain is unelectable”:

Catchy alliterations — starting with the same letter or number — are popular in politics. Herman Cain's “9-9-9” is a perfect example. Republicans need to consider another alliteration involving Herman Cain, however. One that could give Barack Obama a second term.

Many men learn the four “Cs” when they buy a diamond ring to propose marriage: carat, color, cut, clarity. Another four “Cs” could mean a short marriage between Republicans and Cain: competency, consistency, character, crisis management.

First, competency. We already elected one president with a scant record of public service, allowing him to base his candidacy on rhetoric. Once elected, his rhetoric was miles removed from his policies.

Instead of a short record, Cain has no public record. Although he's a very successful businessman, you can expect Obama to point out that this nation has never elected a president without any record of serving as a government officer (since Army generals are officers of the United States, and we've only elected commanding generals who saved this nation in war).

Cain's unawareness that China has had nuclear weapons for decades makes easy attack ads. Millions of Americans who don't know much about foreign policy know China has nukes.

The fact that Cain didn't will worry “security moms” and veterans. While jobs are important, any president's highest responsibility is as commander in chief.

A Palestinian right of return would destroy Israel as a Jewish nation. Cain voiced support, then later reversed, explaining that he knew nothing about this basic Middle-East issue and instead supports Israel. In other words, he bluffed his way through the interview to hide his lack of knowledge.

This is also an example of the second “C,” consistency.

His 180-reversal on abortion raises eyebrows. Last month he said it was a woman's choice, which is what pro-choice politicians say. John Kerry said he was personally pro-life, but didn't think government should impose his view on others.

To undo this damage, Cain made passionate pro-life statements, with no exceptions for rape and incest. Expect those video clips in Obama attack ads next fall targeted at suburban and single women.

Cain's 9-9-9 plan was supposed to be simple. Now he says for some people it would be 9-0-9, that there will be economic development zones with different tax structures, and that all this is a transition to a 30 percent national sales tax.

Third, character. Even baseless sex-harassment allegations can sink candidates. Cain's accusers are now free to speak, but eschewing public attention for the moment.

Don't speculate on nameless, faceless allegations. Cain deserves the presumption of innocence. No facts have been publicly revealed to suggest otherwise.

But if these women support Obama, they could drop a bomb on Cain before the general election if he wins the nomination. Assuming the accusations are false, with enough money and press attention they could cost Cain millions of moderate votes by raising serious doubts about his character right before Election Day, capitalizing on the fact that Cain hasn't been vetted through years of public service.

Fourth, crisis management. Presidents are beset with crises, one after another. Effectively responding in a disciplined manner is critical to maintaining public confidence and marshaling support to respond.

Cain's unfocused and now flailing response to the sex-harassment scandal is painful to watch, especially since he knew this was coming. His whipsaw reversal on abortion confuses people. And his unawareness on basic issues like China and Israel could slow and muddle situations requiring quick and decisive action. He's failed the test of deftly handling bad news.

Cain might beat back all these issues in the primaries. But each of them costs him votes with swing voters, making him less electable. Is Cain becoming the candidate President Obama wants to face next year?

Many of Klukowski's comments are points I share. And I worry that too many people, because they have problems with Mitt Romney, may push the party into nominating Cain, which, for the reasons Klukowski gives, would be a disaster for the party. Let us remember that the goal is to defeat President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012, not to nominate the purest conservative. And this is why we need to unite behind Romney

Monday, November 07, 2011

Change who can believe in?

My wife and I do not live together any more, but we are still on friendly terms. Politically, she and I are quite distinct: she is at least nominally a Democrat, though she has, on a few occasions, voted for Republicans, including the 2008 Presidential election, when she felt that John McCain's experience was helpful, and thought he was far more honorable than Barack Obama. (The information about Obama's treatment of Alice Palmer, which I had read and posted in this blog, had helped her make this decision, and the experience of 1996, when she had thought that Bob Dole was too far to the political right and had voted for Bill Clinton, only to be treated to the spectacle of an embarrassing President, has convinced her that character counts even more than political orientation.) Anyway, the shambles that the economy has turned into (she had worked for Borders, and when her store closed in April had to start looking for work; she still has not found it) makes her very critical of Pres. Obama's “changes,” and she'd been remarking about his “change you can believe in” slogan. In fact, she said to me yesterday that if Mitt Romney is the GOP nominee next year, he could use that slogan! (Though, of course, he's not likely to.)

It looks as though Romney could possibly get her vote, though she's not sure — she wants to look more closely at him. But none of the other GOP hopefuls has a chance at it: she sees Perry (much as I do) as a medieval anti-science type, and we agree that Cain's total lack of political experience ill equips him for the Presidency; though either of the two might get my vote against Obama, it looks as though they would drive her to vote for Obama.

This is why we need to nominate a Mitt Romney type. Romney can get the moderate independents' vote; none of the others can.

Friday, November 04, 2011

What is right, is right, even if Obama does it

Ever since Barack Obama became President, I've been saying that whenever he does something right, I'll accept it. I can't condemn something just because Obama does it. And so, I have to differ with Gregory Kane, who wrote a column that appeared in Wednesday's Washington Examiner entitled “Obama becomes 'Silent Cal' on Libya, sharia.

President Obama has been backing (I think not forcefully enough!) the rebels who deposed Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. And now that they have won, they want to put forth a constitution that recognizes Sharia (Islamic law) as the “basic source of Libyan legislation.” Now, there are certain aspects of Sharia that I don't like — cutting off the hand of a thief, for example. But Libya is a majority-Moslem country, and if the majority wants their laws to be compatible with Sharia, that is only democracy. The question is, will the rights of non-Moslems be respected? So far, we don't know. Until we do, we cannot condemn Libya, or Obama's support for the Libyan rebels.

This stance is particularly galling coming from Gregory Kane. He has sometimes written things that seem, in my eyes, to favor a Christian theocracy in this country. Certainly, he wants to make the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion into law. And he ridicules the concept of separation of church and state regularly. Apparently, it's ok for the majority religion to impose its views on the minority if that group is Christian, but not if it is Moslem. As a member of a non-Christian, non-Moslem religious group, I can say that neither is anything different from the other. Both Christians and Moslems have, at different times, had horrible human rights records regarding nonmembers of their own religious groups.

So don't trash Obama for this position. This time he is right. Getting rid of Qaddafi was a service to the world.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why should anyone care about the "birthers"?

Recently Rick Perry made some statements that seemed to put him in the camp of the “birthers” (people who don't believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States). There's been enough evidence that he was born in Honolulu that one would think nobody could doubt it, but suppose he really were not? What difference do you think this would make? Does anyone believe that the Supreme Court would invalidate the laws that Obama signed in his capacity of the Presidency? Perhaps Joe Biden might serve out the last few months of the term Obama was elected to. But would this in any way change the current dynamic of a Republican House of Representatives and a Senate which has a narrow Democratic plurality, with enough Republican votes to prevent action on anything they unanimously oppose?

Those who feel President Obama has been a bad President, and I count myself among them, need to concentrate all efforts on nominating a Republican who can defeat him November next year. Trying to attack him on the “legitimacy” issue won't really accomplish a thing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why there is no credible "social conservative" Presidential candidate

I've been getting some amusement from the machinations of “social conservatives” trying to come up with a candidate this year. They've had a really hard time, because it's just not possible to find a credible Presidential candidate who is also a “social conservative.”

First, there was Michele Bachmann. A member of Congress, a former state treasurer, and certainly a “social conservative.” But when she began to campaign for the Presidency, it became obvious that she was only a slightly more intelligent version of last year's Christine O'Donnell. She had never given much thought to some of the major issues confronting the country, and was positively crazy when it came to some matters. The “social conservatives” abandoned her in droves as this came out.

So next, they turned to Rick Perry. The problem with Rick Perry is that he isn't really a traditional Republican, but rather an unreconstructed Dixiecrat. The Dixiecrats, for over a century, stayed in the Democratic Party, not because they agreed with the rest of the Democrats on any important issues, but because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, and they had never conceded that the Civil War was won by the North under his leadership. When the Supreme Court decisions of the 1950s and 1960s made it clear that the Dixiecrats would never prevail, they looked at the fact that, on many economic issues, they had more in common with the Republicans than the Democrats and gradually moved into the Republican Party — Perry did so only in the 1990s! But Perry got tripped up on the “Niggerhead” issue — to him (as I said, really a Dixiecrat), a camp with a name like that was not particularly offensive, so he never considered that, once he put his political ambitions on a national stage, there are people out there who would find it so.

Now, the current “flavor of the month” is Herman Cain, who would obviously never be caught up on the “Niggerhead” issue. But while Cain has certainly been a competent executive (with a substantial record in the pizza business) he is not a politician. He got himself tripped up on the issue of the “Palestinian ‘right to return’” because he never understood that this really meant the extermination of Israel — he'd never been concerned with issues like that. And his credentials with the “social conservatives” have been seriously compromised by his waffling stand on abortion, the issue that “social conservatives” live and die for. He has proclaimed himself “pro-life,” but basically he is a “laissez-faire” businessman and opposed to government intervention in people's private lives, and this is exactly what the “pro-lifers” want. And so he's finding himself forced to contradict himself.

I believe it is truly impossible for an intelligent person to believe in the premises of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States and also be a “social conservative.” They are simply incompatible. And it is in this that the “social conservatives” have their problems. How can one believe in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and interfere with others' liberty to live as they choose, in the pursuit of what makes them happy? And imposing one's own religious beliefs on others is certainly incompatible with the First Amendment to the Constitution. This is why anyone intelligent enough to be a credible Presidential candidate is bound to reject the “social conservative” doctrine. And it is why the “social conservatives” have found it such tough going to find their candidate.