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, March 29, 2011

Libya and Iraq

President Obama is getting a lot of criticism, from both the Left and the Right, for his actions in Iraq. I'm going to be different: I think he's basically doing the right thing, but I'm going to criticize him for being inconsistent. Barack Obama was elected to the Presidency, in part, because of his opposition to the war in Iraq. And yet I see little difference between Iraq and Libya:
  1. Both Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi posed little direct threat to the United States,
  2. Both, however, were vicious dictators who killed large numbers of their own people, and
  3. Both were significant threats to their neighbors and to the stability of the Middle East.

The only differences I can see are that
  1. French Presidant Nicolas Sarkozy seems to be firmly supporting action against Libya, but France was not willing to act against Iraq, and
  2. Obama was the beneficiary of money from Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He has no connection to Qaddafi. That seems, to me, to be the main difference.

Whether Obama is simply refusing to accept that the US should act in its own interests and we must only do what the French will accept, or it's Saddam Hussein's money, in either case, it does not put Barack Obama in a good light.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The (partial) reversal of the parties

When I was a child, the South was the most solidly Democratic part of the country. In fact, one State, Georgia, had never voted Republican in a Presidential election, and most of the Southern States were solidly in the Democratic column at least since the end of Reconstruction. The most solidly Republican part of the country was New England, and in fact Vermont had been solidly Republican as long as Georgia had been Democratic. Vermont was also one of the only two States that had voted Republican in the 1936 Roosevelt landslide (the other, Maine, was also in New England).

How different the electoral map looks today. New England is heavily Democratic, perhaps the most solidly Democratic part of the country, though it elects some Republicans (like Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins to the Senate, and a string of Republicans to the Massachusetts Governorship — though Massachusetts currently has a Democratic Governor, Deval Patrick.) And the South is the most reliably Republican part of the nation, except possibly for the Mountain West.

It would seem that the end of segregation is partly responsible for the South's transformation — without the racism that characterized Southern Democratic politics, the South, more conservative than the rest of the country, found its proper home in the GOP. And Barry Goldwater, though his vote against civil rights legislation was due to libertarian principles rather than racism, attracted some of the Southern racists — it is clear from the fact that, except for his home State of Arizona, Goldwater's only State victories in 1964 were in the South.

It is harder to see why New England has moved the other way. But in the mid-20th century, New England Republicans were more libertarian than conservative, and the influx of Southerners into the Republican party, and the persistence of Westerners there (both being very conservative socially), has made the Republican party less attractive to New Englanders whose Republicanism meant something less conservative. (I would say that the Democratic Party was not really a great fit for them, but in an electoral system in which only two parties can compete, perhaps that did it.)

A great example of what has happened is in the State of Virginia. In the mid-1960s, I was in that State for educational reasons, and I saw a Governorship election in which the two candidates were Democrat Mills Godwin and Republican A. Linwood Holton. Godwin won, but four years later Holton became the first Republican Governor since Reconstruction. A number of years later, Godwin had become a Republican, and won the Governorship again for that party. (He is the only person in U. S. history to win Governorships under both the Democratic and Republican label!) In another election, I was working for the election of Richard Nixon against Hubert Humphrey, and calling people for the Republican Party; most of the people who answered were happy to support Nixon but we could not get them to abandon the local Democratic Congressman, John O. Marsh. Like Godwin, Marsh also became a Republican, serving in a sub-cabinet position in the Noxon administration.

I do not know of many New England Republicans who have become Democrats in the same way — they have generally become Independents supporting Democratic candidates instead (examples are James Jeffords, Lowell Weicker, and Lincoln Chafee).

But the parties have not totally reversed. Organized labor is still heavily Democratic, and (despite such Democratic supporters as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates) businessmen are mostly Republican. That is part of what keeps me in the GOP — I am still repelled by the influence of organized labor in the Democratic Party, as I stated in an earlier post. But I have to admit, I'm not very happy with what the GOP is now; I felt a lot more comfortable in the party of Dwight Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller then I do now in the party of Mike Huckabbee and Rick Santorum.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Who should be allowed to vote?

Shortly after I posted my piece on Fred Karger, I looked him up on Wikipedia. Not surprisingly, the biggest piece on his opinions given in the article referred to his positions on gay rights, but there were two other things given: his stance on Israel, which seems not too far from my own, and his advocacy of an amendment to grant the vote to sixteen-year-olds, the most radical of his positions I've seen so far. My own position on that point is ambivalent. When I grew up, you had to be twenty-one to vote, and I was a big advocate of lowering it to eighteen. By the time that it happened, I was too old to benefit; I was already older than 21. But is 16 too young? I'm not sure. I am aware that I had mostly formed my political opinions by the age of fourteen, so I could have voted intelligently at 16. But I'm not typical. I really don't know. The few places that I've seen that give the vote to under-18s are not very likely to inspire confidence. Two if them are Iran (with a fifteen-year-old voting age) and the former Italian neo-Fascist party which allowed twelve-year-olds to vote in party questions! (On the other hand, the only other party I know of to have such a rule was the Canadian Liberals, certainly a democratic enough organization. I don't know if this is still the rule, but at one time their rules allowed fourteen-year-olds to vote. At least some of their local organizations still do.) For me, the jury is still out.

It is interesting that States are no longer permitted to require literacy tests; when I was growing up, my then-home-state of New York did, but because some Southern states used literacy tests unfairly administered to disenfranchise nonwhites, the Voting Rights Act prevented all states from using literacy tests. I cannot see a justification for allowing illiterates to vote. If they cannot read the campaign materials, and they cannot read the ballots, they have no right to be allowed to vote, in my opinion. But because some Southern states used the tests in a way that deprived college professors of their votes, the Feds made it impossible to use literacy tests. That, I think, is a shame.

The biggest variation in the voting rules of different States is how criminal backgrounds are handled. In the State where I now live, Maryland, because two different laws which were passed at different times are involved, criminals with only one serious conviction can vote as soon as they are released from any parole/probation obligations, but criminals with more than one serious conviction can only vote after a three-year waiting period. This is a middle-of-the-road rule; on the one hand, in Maine, criminals can still vote while serving time; on the other hand, in Virginia and Florida, one conviction on a felony charge means no vote ever, unless you get the governor to restore your rights. Both of these seem pretty extreme, though I'm not sure whether Maryland's is the best compromise.

There are even some places (the city of Takoma Park, not far from where I live in Maryland, for example) that don't even require you to be a citizen to vote in local elections. Now that is going too far, though.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fred Who???

On another blog, "Race 4 2012," I see that yet another person has introduced himself into the 2012 race: Fred Karger.

You will undoubtedly ask: "Fred Who????" I certainly never heard of him. But the post says:
Openly gay, Republican Presidential candidate Fred Karger to formally file the documentation necessary to be a Presidential candidate. Here’s an excerpt from his press release:

Today is a very significant day for my community and me. I have just submitted my papers to the Federal Election Commission, making me the first candidate to file for the 2012 Republican nomination for President.

I am also the first openly gay person, in a major political party, to ever run for President of the United States...

Well, you've got to give him credit for courage. I would be surprised for an openly gay candidate to have much of a chance in the Democratic Party for the Presidency. In the Republican Party, the religious Right has so much influence that it's unbelievable that anyone would try.

But the big question is: who is he, other than being gay? What does he stand for? What are his qualifications? Until I hear more about him, I will not say that I can support him, or that I can't. I would not let sexual orientation dictate my position on a candidate; all I can say is, it's an interesting development.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Open primaries, "top two" primaries, and other ballot reforms

Last month I made a post in which I indicated my objections to "top two" primaries, as well as to the more traditional type of "open" primary used in states like Virginia. In this, I differ from Solomon Kleinsmith, who likes open primaries, though agreeing with me about "top two" primaries. Now again I see a posting — by Dale Sheldon-Hess — which points out the problems with "top two" primaries, a point with which I concur, but makes other suggestions I cannot endorse.

Dale Sheldon-Hess makes one point of terminology that needs making: open primaries are not necessarily top two, though some people seem to conflate them. And one of his suggested reforms in his post is one I like as well: score voting. But in the same sentence in which he proposes score voting as a way to improve our voting methods, he groups with it approval voting — a system that can be viewed as a simplified version of score voting, but without its good points and with some serious bad points. (I'll get on to my objections to approval voting in another post.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

A response to a comment

Normally, when a comment is made to a post of mine, I reply to the comment directly. But this comment, posted by Solomon Kleinsmith to my post on centrism and term limits deserves more attention than just a comment-on-a-comment:
Term Limits don't have anything to do with ideology. There is no conservative, liberal or centrist position on term limits...

And there is a actually quite a bit of cohesion on the issues among centrists. The defining characteristics of centrists is NOT that they take from both sides, its that they stand between the two sides. People can be liberal on some issues, and conservative on others... that doesn't make them a centrist. For example libertarians are more conservative than most conservatives on government spending, and are more liberal than most liberals on keeping government out of our personal lives... and they are in no way shape or form at all centrist.

First, on the first paragraph, while I agree that "[t]here is no conservative, liberal or centrist position on term limits," there does seem to be more support for term limits among "Tea Party" type conservatives than anyone else. That being said, of course Kleinsmith himself is one big exception.

Now to the second. Certainly, I do not maintain that everyone who takes ideas from both the left and right is a centrist — the implication of Kleinsmith's example of the libertarians. But he is refuting the converse of my claim. Not everyone who takes ideas from both the left and right is a centrist, but everyone who is a centrist, of necessity, takes ideas from both the left and right. That is not the same thing. And my point in my original post is that there are people who call themselves "centrists" who still differ greatly on which ideas of the left and which ideas of the right they favor. I do not think that Kleinsmith can make a good case that I'm wrong.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

There is no single "centrism."

Sometimes I see the argument that the Left is united and the Right is also, and centrists are weak because they do not support each other. But "centrism" cannot be a united movement. The only thing that unites centrists is that they are willing to take ideas from both left and right. But you can have two people who both call themselves centrists, and wherever one has a "right" position, the other could have a "left" position, and vice versa. They would both be "centrists," but scarcely allies.

Of course, the differences do not need to be as complete and total as that. There is a blog I have sometimes followed called "" which is now called Americans United to Rebuild Democracy. One of the first things they have done now is to come out in favor of Congressional term limits. Well, as I have stated, I think term limits — Congressional or otherwise — are a terrible idea. So while I generally like a lot of the "centrist" ideas of that blog, here is one I feel is really bad. I think that as a step to "rebuild democracy," it is totally backwards, and in fact it is desctructive of democracy. So here is an example of two "centrists" with diametrically opposed opinions on an important issue.

And that's an example of why there can not be a single "centrism."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Don't kill the elephant!

A Rasmussen poll shows that Scott Brown is hugely popular in Massachusetts. But Olympia Snowe might lose a Republican primary, although she would win as an Independent next year in Maine. Of course, Lisa Murkowski had that very scenario in Alaska last year. The nomination of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada last year gave those two Senate seats to the Democrats; polls showed that in both cases, a moderate Republican could have won. It would seem that conservative ideological purists are willing to sacrifice the Republican Party rather than defeat Democrats. Somehow this needs to be stopped.

It is eminently obvious that the way for the Republicans to win elections is to run moderate candidates, not ideological purist extremists. So don't let them kill the elephant!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A tale of two lands in the Eastern Mediterranean

This posting refers to two areas which, at the start of the 20th century, were both parts of the Ottoman Empire. They were both taken from the Ottoman Turks at the end of World War I by the British, but their subsequent history is rather different.

The first is the island of Cyprus. Because it is an island, there is no question as to what its boundaries are, so there will be no question as to what area I am talking about. It is populated with a mixed population: one group, the majority, speaks Greek and belongs to the Greek Orthodox Christian religion; the other group is Turkish-speaking and Moslem by religion. After World War II, both groups agitated to get the British colonizers out, but with very different goals: the Greek speakers wanted the island to be transferred to Greece: their cry was "Enosis (union [with Greece])!" The Turkish speakers wanted a partition ("taksim") into Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking areas, though I'm not certain whether they contemplated union of each part with Greece and Turkey respectively, or separate independence of two states. Neither got their way, but an independent Cyprus, whole (except for a few military areas that Britain retained) and unattached to Greece or Turkey, was created. The Greek-speaking majority showed their power: the first president chosen for Cyprus was not just a Greek-speaker, which might be expected, but an archbishop of the Orthodox Christian church, Makarios. The Turkish speakers were, not surprisingly, not too happy with the situation where they would be outvoted on every important issue; they had a revolt and established an area in the northeast part of the island that they call the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. They now govern themselves peacefully, but pressure by Greece has led to a situation where no country in the world, except only Turkey, recognizes TRNC as an independent state.

The second area I am about to describe is harder to name. It was once called Judea, but after the Romans conquered the area, they named it Palæstina, which we Anglicize to Palestine. It eventually, like Cyprus, came under the control of the Ottoman Turks, who never considered it one single unit, so they did not give it a specific name, but divided it into a number of administrative districts, and, after World War I, the British and French divided up the territory in that part of the Middle East and Britain took it over, restoring the Roman name of Palestine. The League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to govern it, with the ultimate goal of giving it to the Jewish people as a homeland, but about 60% of the territory was given to an Arab king in the 1920s and established as the Kingdom of Jordan. In 1948, the United Nations approved a plan whereby the Jewish people would have one state, and the Arabs another, in the 40% that was left, though both proposed states were a patchwork of disconnected lands; the Jews accepted this but the Arabs did not, and a war began. In 1949, when fighting temporarily ceased, an armistice line was created, similar to that now existing in Cyprus, though, unlike the one in Cyprus, the world generally decided to recognize this one as an international boundary. No Arab state was ever created in the remainder of the former Palestine Mandate; Jordan took the eastern part (sometimes called the "West Bank," though Israelis tend to call it by the historical name of "Judæa and Samaria"), and Egypt the much smaller part around the city of Gaza (the "Gaza strip"). Subsequent fighting in 1967 and 1982, however, gave the Israelis control of the entire area and even a bit more. (A large area to the southwest, the Sinai Peninsula, was also taken from Egypt in the wars, but as part of a treaty agreement with Egypt, they returned it. Egypt did not, however, include the Gaza strip in the area they took back.)

After many years, many of the Arabs in the area decided they did want an Arab state in the area, though to this day there are others who insist that the whole area, including all of Israel, must be an Arab state. The rest of the world, which was so indifferent to the cause of the Turkish Cypriots, is clamoring to have the 1949 armistice line declared the boundary between Israel and an Arab state of "Palestine," though such a state has no historical basis. There never has been one, the Arabs rejected the idea in 1948, and the Israeli army took the territory only after the Arabs attacked Israel in 1967 and 1982.

I don't know. It seems to me the Turkish Cypriots have more of a claim to a state than the Arab "Palestinians." Yet the world denies them recognition as a state, and pushes for an Arab "Palestine." Can anyone explain this to me?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Organized labor - part of why I'm a Republican!

There is a union — the Bakery and Confectionery Workers' union — which has a large headquarters building in Kensington, Maryland. Back in 2000, I remember passing that building, on the bus, almost every day; on Election Day, I actually had to walk by that building en route to my polling place. And there was, on the side of the building, a gigantic Gore sign. I used to say that that sign was an almost-daily reminder of why I had to support Bush. This year, the shennanigans of the Wisconsin Democrats in their State Senate, similarly, remind me of why my loyalty has to be to the Republican Party.

I don't mean to say that organized labor cannot be right about anything. And I don't mean to say that they are worse than, say, Muammar Qaddafi or his ilk. But I think that a large amount of the damage that has been done, over the past few decades, to the United States has been due to organized labor. And the Democrats' fealty to organized labor makes them my political enemies.

I remember when New York City had eight newspapers. When one of them folded, there were seven remaining, but three of those seven, because of economic hardship, wanted to merge. The unions opposed this merger because some jobs would be lost, and went on strike for a whole year; in the end, the merged company published for a few months after the strike ended, but went under quickly, and more jobs were lost as a result than would have been if the original merger plans had been allowed. And we have seen recently how both Chrysler and the once-mighty General Motors had to go through a bankruptcy; obviously, they could not compete with foreign companies. Some people have pointed to foreign automakers' use of labor at wages no American could live on, but it is funny: Toyota makes cars in the USA with American workers, but makes a profit while the workers receive wages they seem to be able to live on.

Unions like to prevent workers from being judged on the quality of their work: workers' pay is to be based on seniority, not merit, which means there is incentive for workers not to do their best. They also require firing to be on a seniority basis, so when a company has to downsize, it can't keep the best workers, but must keep the longest-serving. In general, unions treat the workers they represent as interchangeable parts, and this makes it impossible for a company to try to use them where they can best fit in.

People say that the Republicans are in just as much fealty to "big business" as the Democrats are to organized labor. Funny: both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are Democrats. It seems that both parties have policies that attract some "big business" types. But big labor is solidly behind the Democrats. They know who will do their bidding. And that's a big part of the reason I'm a Republican.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Zoning and people

Tuesday I went to a meeting of a group which was addressed by the head of the local planning board, which is in the process of rewriting the County's zoning regulations. One thing that struck me was that he mentioned that 44% of the County's land is zoned for single-family homes (and 33% is reserved for agricultural purposes!) And he remarked that this figure is unlikely ever to be decreased, because of protests that would ensue. It really seems that the County is listening only to land owners and not to the people in general. I suppose that one could argue that these are the people who are paying the property taxes that support the County. But I think that in a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" those of us who merely rent our habitations should count as well. And those people who work in the County but cannot affort do live there ought to be considered, although, of course, they are not County voters.

Why is it that only the land-owning public is listened to? The "taxpayer" issue is part of it, of course. But it also seems to be that they are the vocal ones. There is a man named Robin Ficker, who continually runs for whatever office is being contested on a "property tax relief" platform. But there seems to be no comparable advocate for the little people who rent, and will never own real estate.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wisconsin's impasse

Apparently, I didn't realize that the Democrats in Wisconsin were able to prevent a vote on the union-weakening bill only because it was in the budget. It seems that Gov. Walker was able to get his bill by simply moving the anti-union provisions into a normal bill, which has different quorum requirements. And Democrats are really fuming. But I think it is about time that someone stuck it to the unions. Wisconsin's impasse is over. And the Democrats have nobody to blame but themselves. If they'd pursued more reasonable policies, thet would not have become so outnumbered in the Wisconsin Senate that they needed to paralyze the Government to prevent the bill.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The psychological effect of inflation

Those of us who are older than your average Internet surfer made our associations of "what a dollar is worth" under different conditions than those occurring today. I've learned to divide everything I see by 10 to assess whether something is expensive or cheap, and that seems to be a slight overcorrection (the BLS inflation calculator says that $1 in 1951 money is equal to $8.47 in 2011, a 3.6% per year increase, compounded annually). So when I look aghast at movie admission prices of $10, I'm right. Those $10 tickets are $1.18 even deflated back to 1951, and that's a lot of money! (I remember that movie tickets were 40¢ for adults and 25¢ for kids back then.) So that's a good reason I haven't seen a movie in almost a decade. Stamps are another major increase — the 3¢ stamp of 1951 is now 44¢, which is more than 5¢ in 1951 money (almost double!) or putting it the other way, that 3¢ stamp should have only gone to a bit over 25¢ in 2011.

Still, making those conversions is hard on the mind, and I don't always remember to do it. I don't own a car, but $4 a gallon gasoline looks like a lot to me. I used to pass a gas station every day when I walked to school in 1951, and the price for gas was 27.9¢ for regular and 29.9¢ for hi-test. (There were only two grades of gas at most stations then, not 3!) Nowadays, that would be $2.36 and $2.53. Yes, $4 is expensive!

But I wish a dollar would stay constant. I guess that's the appeal the gold standard has for so many people. Prices stayed a lot more stable. A hundred dollars in 1913 (the earliest date the BLS calculator provides) equaled $131.31 in 1933 (the year we went off the gold standard), only a 1.4% annual increase (compounded). People in those days had no need to keep adjusting their psychology.

When I was a kid, my goal was to earn $100 a week. That was what a "good salary" meant. Now, I'm collecting Social Security, not working at all, and getting more than three times that. But I don't feel rich! I'm getting a lot more than the average Social Security payment, because I was, for a few years, doing really well, and that's factored into the payment. But let's be real! The $55,000 (roughly) I was making in 1994 was really $9,650 (again, rounded off) in 1951 dollars — yes, a pretty good salary, almost $186 a week where I thought $100 was a goal. But it was hardly the princely sum it might have appeared to me if I'd been told in 1951 that that would be my peak income! And the $1400 a month (again, rounded) that I'm getting in Social Security benefits would be about $165 in 1951 dollars — that's per month, not per week, so I'm subsisting on a pretty skimpy amount! But I am getting by; there are a lot of people getting much less than I am. So I can't really complain. I don't have to work any more, and yet I'm not starving. Still, it's hard to look at a price and understand whether it is high or low.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Déjà vu on Rudy Giuliani

Recently I saw a blog with a surprising poll result. Though the poll was taken in Israel, not here, so perhaps it is not worth considering (for Israelis, of course, do not vote in United States elections), it still struck me as peculiar that among the candidates for 2012 considered in the poll was Rudy Giuliani.

Now don't get me wrong. In my belief, Giuliani would make an excellent President. All the factors that influenced my decision to endorse him in the previous election cycle still operate in his favor. But it has become obvious that the Republican Party would never nominate him. (And he's not going to run as anything but a Republican.) I don't want to see Giulani become the 21st-century Harold Stassen, running every 4 years but becoming increasingly ridiculous in everyone's eyes. And it is a distraction from other, more electable candidates, to have Giuliani's name included in such polls. It's a shame that it's come to this; if there were any reasonable chance of Rudy Giuliani's becoming the President in next year's election, I'd happily endorse him again. But let's not chase rainbows.

Monday, March 07, 2011

A most unusual turn in the health care law's progress

It isn't often that a judge issues a stay on his own ruling. But Roger Vinson, who ruled the health care law unconstitutional back on Jan. 31, has just done so. It seems that the normal procedure would be that the Federal Government would request a stay, but instead the Obama Administration dithered about for 2½ weeks and finally issued only a "motion to clarify." Judge Vinson treated it as a request for a stay, granted the stay, but gave the administration only one week to file its appeal. While, on its face, the stay is a (temporary) victory for the Administration, in fact most people see this as another nail in the coffin of the so-called "Affordable Care Act." (For example, see this post.)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

More on the Snyder v. Phelps case

About five months ago I posted a discussion about the case entitled Snyder v. Phelps. The case has finally been decided. And I said in that post, "No matter how the Supreme Court rules, there will be people who will bitterly protest the decision. And no matter which way the decision is, these protestors will have a valid point." I'm sure that this is going to be the case, now that Phelps won the case.

It's a very hard decision to evaluate. The church that Phelps heads is causing a lot of grief to people who are already grieving over the loss of their loved ones, and doing so by spreading nasty, homophobic remarks. One could easily wish they could be silenced. But there is also an important First Amendment issue, and eight of the nine Supreme Court Justices have decided that the First Amendment trumps Snyder's grief. I find it hard to take sides in this case, as I already said last October. And yet, the 8-1 margin seems to imply that the Court found it a relatively easy decision. Or did they? This is probably one of a very few cases which find Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito on opposite sides. Alito had been called "Scalito" by some who thought him to be a clone of Justice Antonin Scalia, but this case divided Alito from Scalia, as well.

As one who considers the First Amendment the most precious part of our whole Constitution, part of me cheers this decision. But another part of me is sympathetic with Justice Alito's dissent.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Cal Thomas, President Obama, and DOMA

Yesterday, in the Washington Examiner, I saw a column by Cal Thomas entitled "Obama's duty is to enforce the law." (This column appears to have been syndicated to a lot of other publications; a Google search found multiple copies online.) Anyway, Thomas' position is that President Obama has no right to decide which laws he will enforce. And I suppose (although he does not mention it) Thomas' position is rooted in Article II, Section 3, Clause 4 of the Constitution: "he [the President] shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed," which would in fact be a valid argument, except for one thing.

The President has taken an oath of office, which binds him to "preserve, protect, and defend" the Constitution. The Constitution is superior to all ordinary laws (see Article VI), and if DOMA is unconstitutional, the President has no obligation to defend it. And this is the point at issue.

Until the Supreme Court has ruled on the constitutionality of DOMA, Pres. Obama is bound by his oath of office to consider its constitutionality as open to determination. And if he truly believes the act to be unconstitutional, he is under no obligation to defend it. I'm sorry, Mr. Thomas, but here you are wrong, and the President is acting constututionally correctly.