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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

An asymmetric alliance

There are two groups that are more solidly behind Pres. Obama's liberal agenda than most: African-Americans and gay people. But the relationship between them seems to me to be quite asymmetric.

One can understand the reasons for both. To African-Americans, Obama is "one of us," and this was so strong that even a man like Gen. Colin Powell felt a need to endorse Obama when he was a candidate for the Presidency, despite Gen. Powell's political beliefs, which are normally far to Obama's right. (And as a result, my respect for Gen. Powell has declined considerably.) The case for support by gays is less obvious, but the fact that "social conservatives" have taken over a lot of the power within the Republican Party has had its effect. (And this is one of a number of reasons I feel that something must be done to weaken the power of these "social conservatives": their bigotry drives all sorts of people to the Democrats.)

But the alliance between these is asymmetric. Gay people in their liberalism tend to support the things that aid the struggle by African-Americans to improve their lot, but this assistance is not reciprocated. This can be seen on a State level here in Maryland. The State Senate recently passed a same-sex marriage law. It is interesting to see how the Senators from the two counties bordering the District of Columbia voted. In my county, Montgomery, there has always been strong support for liberal ideas, both gay rights and African-American rights. (My own State Senator, Richard Madaleno, is openly gay; at least one member of the lower house, Heather Mizeur, is a Lesbian. The County Executive, Isiah Leggett, is African-American, and was elected easily in a majority-white county.) So, not surprisingly, there was overwhelming support in the State Senate for the bill. Next door, though, is majority-black Prince George's County. On most issues, politicians from the two counties are indistinguishable in their legislative positions. But here it was different. One Montgomery Senator even remarked that there are Prince Georges Senators with whom he agrees 99% of the time, but on this he has to differ. And many Prince George's Senators voted "no." It seems that many African-Americans in Prince George's County are religiously conservative, and their religious convictions drive them into anti-gay positions.

Why can't gay activists see that the African-American social conservatives in the Democratic Party are just as anti-gay as the white social conservatives in the Republican Party? Perhaps they might become less bound to a Democratic Party that doesn't have their best interests at heart either.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

More and more, Mitch Daniels impresses me

A while ago, Mitch Daniels made a remark that impressed me. Though he is "socially conservative," which is normally a negative to me, he made a statement advocating a "truce on social issues" last year. In other words, he wants to work with those of us who will agree with him on fixing economic problems, even if we disagree with his social conservatism. A big plus for Daniels.

Now, another Daniels statement, this time on an issue on which he and I agree. He wants to put aside the proposed Indiana right-to-work law, because there are more pressing issues. I think he's right.

Contrast this with President Obama, who seems to want to push all the issues at once: economic stimulus, health care, environmental, etc. This simply is trying to do too much at one time.

I think this is a sign that Daniels is a good choice for President in 2012. Perhaps even better than Mitt Romney, whom I've rated #1 in a recent posting. He certainly is looking better and better to me.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Open primaries? No thanks! (But there is a good alternative!)

Solomon Kleinsmith is the owner of a centrist blog: this means, of course, a little bit to the left of my politics, but not so far that I don't agree with a lot of his positions. But one thing he favors that I cannot is open primaries.

You might think that allowing Democrats and Republicans to vote in each other's primaries might moderate their choices, but look what this could cause: Consider next year, when Barack Obama is certain to be the Democrats' nominee. Since a Democrat has no likelihood of affecting the primary process in his own party, he might decide to cross over and vote in the Republican primary, and vote for the Republican that Obama has the best chance to defeat. As a result, the Republicans would have someone like a Sarah Palin nominated, just to make it easier for Obama. (Think of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware last year. She wasn't nominated in an open primary, but open primaries might cause a lot more of this type of nomination.)

Of course, one might argue that this sort of thing hasn't much happened in those States that do have open primaries. Well, let's see what has happened in those States. Virginia is an open-primary state; it has to be, because Virginia law does not allow voters to register in a paty, the way Maryland and New York (to mention the two States where I've been registered to vote in my lifetime) do. Wisconsin is very similar to Virginia in this respect. Now can anyone argue that Virginia candidates have been more moderate, more centrist than, say Maryland candidates? I don't think they have been. And certainly the recent impasse in Wisconsin has shown that in that State, exteremism has not been driven out of local politics.

Now Kleinsmith does agree with me on another proposed election rule change: he strongly opposes "top two primaries." These were adopted statewide in Louisiana and subsequently in a couple of other states; the same system is used in my county for the nonpartisan Board of Education elections. In a "top two primary," all candidates (in a partisan election, all the candidates of all parties) run against each other, and two (who might be both from the same party!) are chosen to run in the final election. In Louisiana, this has led to the bizarre "lizard/wizard" election of 1991. It is clear that it causes all sorts of problems, and a whole chapter was written in William Poundstone's book, "Gaming the Vote" about the 1991 Louisiana Gubernatorial election. Suffice it to say that that's not the answer either.

Is there a solution that will help moderate candidates get elected? Possibly. Poundstone's book suggests that another system would be better: score voting, also known as range voting. In this system, the voter rates all the candidates instead of picking just one. And a moderate candidate might, by getting high, but not maximal, ratings from both left-of-center and right-of-center voters, actually win in a score voting election. Check out the Center for Range Voting site, or Poundstone's book. You might be impressed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Democrats and organized labor

The Democrats have once more shown that they refuse to do anything that doesn't conform to the demands of organized labor. Apparently, even the threat that a bill might come up in the Indiana legislature — note that it hasn't been put on the agenda yet! — reducing the unions' power (i. e., a right-to-work law) has led to Indiana Democratic legislators' emulating Wisconsin's, and fleeing the State.

Frankly, this is one of the reasons I became a Republican even before I was old enough to vote. I'm absolutely disgusted at the power some unions have amassed to control their industries, and as long as the Democratic Party is a puppet of organized labor, I will have to stay in the GOP.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Obama and the DOMA

Supposedly, Pres. Obama is for gay rights. But he has been very slow to take any actions that would prove it. But news has come out today of a change for the better. A New York Times report entitled "U.S., in Shift, Sees Marriage Act as Violation of Gay Rights" announced that "President Obama, in a major legal policy shift, has directed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act — the 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages — against lawsuits challenging it as unconstitutional."

I have said before that when Pres. Obama does something right, I will give him the credit it is due. And this is clearly in this category. But my only question is, "What took you so long?" After all, Obama has been President for over two years. If he agreed that DOMA was unconstitutional, shouldn't this have been his position from the start?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Minority rights

For a short while, between the Minnesota court decision that allowed Al Franken to take his seat in the Senate and the Massachusetts election that gave Ted Kennedy's old seat to Scott Brown, the Senate had a 3/5 majority of Democrats. And this allowed them to pass whatever they wanted if they could get unanimity among the Democrats, with the Republicans unable to carry out a filibuster. This stopped as soon as Sen. Brown was elected, and since this was just before the Obama health care bill was passed (opposition to which was, of course, the main reason Sen. Brown was elected), the House had to adopt the Senate's bill because any change would make it go back to the (now, suddenly, subject to filibuster) Senate, and then use a parliamentary trick to make some changes it wanted. And since then, the Democrats have been wailing that the minority has too much power in the Senate under its rules. They almost tried, last month when the Senate reconvened, to use another parliamentary trick to get a rules change that would make filibustering impossible. But look what happens when the Democrats are in the minority!

A few years ago, back in 2003, a few Texas State legislators left the state to make it impossible to muster a quorum, so that a redistricting bill that the Democrats opposed could not be passed. More recently, we see a situation where the Wisconsin State Senate is having a very similar fleeing of the State by Democrats; because that State's Constitution requires both major parties to have at least one member present for the Senate to do business, and the Democratic Party is in such thrall to organized labor that not a single State Senate Democrat can abide a reduction of the public employees' power of unionization. This is a lot worse than simply a filibuster. Because the Democrats, in Texas in 2003 and in Wisconsin today, will not let one bill go through, they have to totally paralyze their State's legislative process. How's that for excessive minority power?

Friday, February 18, 2011

On political classification

I have, in the past, favorably commented on Dennis Sanders' excellent blog, "Big Tent Revue." His opinions are frequently close to mine, and even when they differ, they tend to be reasonable. But another thing I like about his blog is that, through it, I often find out about other bloggers with good ideas. One example is Sanders' post, "Wheel of Politics, Turn, Turn, Turn." This is primarily a pointer to another blogger's posting, "The wheel of politics," which is an interesting effort to take another stab at political classification. This blogger is unhappy with the diagram used on The Political Compass and similar sites, about which I have remarked before, and proposes his own system. Unfortunately, there are a couple of things I don't like about it.

For one thing, his terminology is awful. He uses the term "corrupt" in an idiosyncratic manner, which tends to charge with corruption all those people in both parties who are interested in finding common ground. Yet while the "progressives" and "conservatives" are divided into "idealistic" and "corrupt," a similar division of the "libertarians" uses the terms "dogmatic" and "pragmatic." To me, the "idealistic"/"corrupt" and "dogmatic"/"pragmatic" distinctions are about the same, except that you use a nice-sounding word for the first one in one case and for the second one in the other. A little bit of prejudice, perhaps?

Another problem is his choice of issues. He seems to think that legalizing mind-altering drugs is a major issue that should be, but hasn't been, taken up by our politicians. I wouldn't agree. And anyway, he doesn't really give a good set of criteria to put us into his six categories. I'm not certain, for example, where I belong.

But it is nice to see another attempt at classification. I'd like to see more. (And if anyone knows of more sites with classifications like these, please let me know!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Medal of Freedom, given to George H. W. Bush

Apparently, it has been known since November that President Obama would award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former President George H. W. Bush. But I must admit that I only found out about it when the actual award was made yesterday.

It's an interesting choice. President Obama has been doing everything in his power to prevent Republicans, in the Congress and elsewhere, from having any input into his programs, such as the health care "reform." Does he think that by giving this symbolic recognition to a Republican President (the father of his predecessor, the man he has been regularly denouncing over the recent years!) he will suddenly be seen as something other than the leftist he is?

It would be more useful if Pres. Obama would actually listen to Republicans, rather than giving them symbolic awards.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Conflicting goals

In the debate over health care reform, the big problem that I have noticed is that there is no agreement on what the goals of the reforms are. Some speak of reducing costs, others of expanding coverage, and other things have been brought in as well, such as making sure that people who are satisfied with their current coverage can maintain it (Pres. Obama claimed his plan would do this, but it quickly became clear that it will not if allowed to continue in the form in which it was enacted.) A goal that has never been explicitly stated is preserving the right to sue for malpractice, which is important to the trial lawyers who constitute a large portion of the Democratic Party's campaign funds, but is certainly responsible for the Democrats' opposition to Republican wishes to introduce tort reform. (In fact, except for labor unions, it would appear that the trial lawyers are the biggest source of funds for the Democrats.)

It would be easy, for example, to expand coverage to all Americans, by simply having the Government buy a health insurance policy for every person in the United States. But this would do nothing toward cost containment. And one could reduce costs by doing what the Cubans do: make all doctors employees of the Government, paid a salary that would be strictly controlled. (I read recently of a tourist in Havana who found that his taxi driver was a pediatrician who was making ends meet by driving a cab and giving guided tours! One could hardly imagine this in the USA, where a medical doctor — especially a specialist — is unlikely to need a second job!) But this solution, unless accompanied by some of the other Draconian aspects of a Communist dictatorship, would lead to a major exodus of people from the medical profession; hardly an acceptable outcome for anyone.

I think the problem is clearly that, in discussing health care reform, there are conflicting goals, and this is not being acknowledged by any of the actors in this debate: the Republicans or the Democrats; the trial lawyers, the insurance companies, or the medical doctors; the President or the various groups within the two Houses of Congress. And until these goals are prioritized, we will never be able to come up with a plan that will not prompt major screams of "foul!" from one or another side.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

On proselytization

This past Tuesday, my wife and I were at a local Panera, where I had a pastry and some tea and she had whatever she wanted. Next to us was a table where a fairly young African-American man took a seat, and at one point, we were engaged in a conversation. When my wife asked if he was studying, and what subjects, he mentioned he had gotten a degree in rhetoric and was now studying theology, so I asked if he was planning to become a preacher, which seemed to be the only thing that those two might mean career-wise; he said he was already a preacher. And further along in the conversation, he gave us both cards from the church where he preaches, though he indicated it was mainly a young adult program, but we were invited. At a later point in the discussion, I told him he wasn't likely to see me (my wife was away at the moment), because I was Jewish. At this juncture, the conversation turned to my belief that he'll never convince me that I'm wrong, and I'm sure I could not convince him. He asked me why I was so sure, and I cited a Biblical passage (Isaiah, chapter 2), which to me proves that Jesus could not be the Messiah. (When the Messiah comes, according to Isaiah, there will be a period of total peace; this has not happened, and in fact more wars have been fought in Jesus' name than in just about anyone else's.) He suggested that perhaps the era of peace will be initiated on the second coming, and I remarked that nowhere in the Bible does it prophesy that the Messiah will come, go, and then come again. That seemed to stop him — the conversation turned to other directions.

I think that anybody needs to believe what seems right to him. If you read the 95th Psalm, it clearly says that God tries to talk to us, and we should listen to him. I believe we perceive God's speaking to us as an internal voice, and we must listen to what He tells us — but, of course, we cannot really tell for certain what is God's message to us and what we are just thinking on our own. So nobocy can convince me, and I don't try to convince anyone else, to change religion. I'll tell someone what I believe, if asked. but that is as far as I will go.

This preacher was not really hostile in his attitude; the conversation was cordial. But it really does not seem right for anyone to proselytize, for the reasons I've given.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A very nice post that I wish to point out

I have often railed at "social conservatives" whose ideas do not really go along with the "freedom" agenda that is usually associated with conservatism in this country. And today I saw a nice posting on a blog called "Right Wing Nut House." The post is called "CPAC Boycott by Social Cons Reveals the Right’s ‘Gay Problem.’" Please read it. I couldn't say it better myself.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Jon Huntsman?

On Dennis Sanders' Big Tent Revue I've seen a couple of posts praising Jon Huntsman as a possible 2012 GOP candidate. Frankly, I know little about him, but if Sanders likes him, that's a point in his favor. A recent post there linked to another blog post, by Solomon Kleinsmith, who also hosts a centrist blog. When center-right and centrist bloggers start pushing a candidate, I need to learn more about him, as my own preference is for the center-right.

Huntsman is a Mormon — so what? So is Mitt Romney, who seems to be the best of the prospects. And long ago I posted that we do not want to impose a religious test on the Presidency, contrary to our Constitution, so this should not be a factor. He's been a Governor, which is a good thing, and he's also been Obama's ambassador to China (and speaks Mandarin fluently!), about which I'm ambivalent — being willing to serve the Obama administration is not so good, but I can't really hold that against him, because he may have only considered it an opportunity to serve his country.

Apparently, according to Wikipedia, he has positions agreeing with mine on taxes and gay rights, and opposed to mine on abortion and gun control. This makes him someone probably as close to my direction as I'll find in the GOP, but I really need to learn more about him. Tune in for more on this potential candidate in the future!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Chick-Fil-A, the New York Times, and Michelle Malkin

Chick-Fil-A is a fast-food chain that has some policies that are rather untypical. The company requires its franchisees to close their locations every Sunday; the president is such a fanatical theocrat that he imposes his Christian Sabbatarianism on everyone who has a connection with his company. And for that reason, I have never bought so much as one bag of French fries from a Chick-Fil-A. The company, as a private company, has the First Amendment right to "free exercise [of religion]." And I have my right to boycott them. My boycott is personal; I have not organized others or put up picket signs; but I certainly would have the right to do this if I chose to, and one would think that anyone would accept this as my right.

And if I were a newspaper, like the New York Times, I would certainly have the right, enshrined in that same First Amendment that gives Chick-Fil-A the right to freely exercise the religious beliefs of its owner, to print criticisms of Chick-Fil-A's bigotry. It seems that, to quote a column by Michelle Malkin, "One of its independent outlets in Pennsylvania donated some sandwiches and brownies to a marriage seminar run by the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which happens to oppose same-sex marriage." In other words, they contributed some support, presumably with the agreement of headquarters (although I do not know this), to a bigoted, homophobic group. Although I was unaware of this until I read about it in a column that I saw in today's Washington Examiner by Malkin that is identical to her blog post, somehow this does not surprise me in the least, that an outlet of a religiously right-wing organization like Chick-Fil-A would take action to support bigoted, homophobic organizations like that. Now, a paper like the Times, as I said, has as much right to publish a denunciation of Chick-Fil-A for such bigoted actions as Malkin does to publish her column. I would agree with the Times and disagree with her, though on other issues where Malkin differs from the Times I suspect I'd be closer to her point of view. But Malkin has no reason to condemn the Times for pointing out that Chick-Fil-A is a bigoted, theocratic organization which seeks to impose its own religious views on others. I'm afraid that Malkin seems to think that opposing opinions to hers should not be expressed. And this is a free country, where Chick-Fil-A has freedom of religion under the First Amendment, but both the Times and she have freedom of the press under that same amendment. She may disagree with the Times, but she ought not to deny their rights to express an opinion.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Judge Vinson's excellent decision

Now there are two decisions by Federal judges that the 2010 health care law is unconstitutional because of the individual mandate. Judge C. Roger Vinson, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, handed down a decision Monday. And ths one, like Judge Henry Hudson's back in December, ruled it unconstitutional. But Judge Vinson's decision went even further than Judge Hudson's. Because there was no "severability clause," Judge Vinson's decision said the whole law has to be thrown out. (Judge Hudson had left room for other parts of the act to stand.)

Two other judges have ruled the other way. So it will take a Supreme Court decision to make the final call. But with two such decisions, there is a much stronger chance that the Supreme Court will agree to kill the individual mandate (and thus, probably, the whole plan). Good work, Judge Vinson. And on to the Supreme Court! It is clear that this, rather than theatrics in the House of Representatives, is the way to go. The House cannot repeal the bill by itself, not as long as the Democrats continue to control the Senate and Pres. Obama has a veto power. So it has to be the judicial branch that we look to in order to kill this unreasonable law.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Middle East - What is our interest?

It would seem that the US has a conflicting set of interests in the Middle East. First, ours is a government which wants to spread its philosophy (expressed by our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln) of "government of the people, by the people, for the people." But we have economic interests (we want oil from that area) and political interests (pro-American foreign policies, and toning down hostilities with Israel). These don't always go together. When Iran was ruled by the Shah, it was friendly to us and to Israel. But it was certainly not ruled by its people. And the current popular unrest in Egypt can lead to President Mubarak's being replaced by an Islamist government, which would be much less likely to promote a peaceful border with Israel. (Note this poll, which I saw referenced in today's Washington Examiner, which shows an Islamist attitude. On the other hand, the poll also shows a support for democracy, which looks better.)

So where does our interest lie in the Middle East? I'm not really sure.