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.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The debt ceiling debate

What I've been saying for some time, I truly believe. All the public posturing is just a bid to score points before November 2012's election. Booth sides are in a game of "chicken." But I'm sure a deal will be reached, behind the scene where we can't tell who twisted whose arm about what. It certainly makes one wonder how anyone can stand being a politician — I certainly couldn't.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Strange reasoning on DOMA

There are hearings going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee about repealing the unfortunately-named "Defense of Marriage Act." And the people opposed to this have brought forth an argument that, on its face, looks reasonable: for example, Rep. Steve King, Republican of Iowa, cited a 1947 Supreme Court case that declared, "Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race."

If same-sex marriages are to be denied because they cannot procreate, however, why are marriages not immediately annulled when the wife gets a hysterectomy? Or when the husband gets a vasectomy? Why are postmenopausal women allowed to marry?

When the opponents of same-sex marriage explain why they oppose it, but not marriage of a man and a woman where a hysterectomy, a vasectomy, or simply menopause has occurred, then I'll believe their argument. Until then, it is clear that they are simply trying to impose their idea of morality upon others.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

President Obama still doesn't get it!

President Barack Obama is quoted as having said, after another breakdown in the talks over the debt, "Can they say yes to anything?"

It is clear that he still hasn't gotten it. No, they aren't going to say yes to tax increases, particularly in the midst of a recession. And if you keep insisting on raising taxes, you will not get an agreement. The reason that John Boehner, not Nancy Pelosi, is Speaker of the House, is that the American people, last November, spoke out. And they embraced the idea that the way to fix this economy is not "tax and spend," but "give the people their own money, to spend."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Goodbye, Borders

My favorite blog (other than this one!), Dennis Sanders' "Big Tent Revue," has in the past week done two posts on the demise of the Borders bookstore chain. I suppose if he can do so on his mostly-political blog, so can I. He comes originally from Michigan, so I suppose his contacts with Borders go way back. I first discovered them in the 1980s or 1990s, when a Borders store opened in the Washington, D. C. suburbs. I'd never seen a store with so many books on some of the topics I liked, all in one place! (Barnes & Noble, which goes back a long way and which I knew back in my college days, the late 1950s, was primarily a place to buy used textbooks; eventually, of course, they turned into the same sort of big-box general bookstore that Borders became. But that wasn't the Barnes & Noble I remember.) The Borders store in question got bigger, outgrew their original space, and moved into a big shopping mall a block or so away, and other Borders stores opened in the area until, at one point, there were 3 stores in D. C., and a fair number in the suburbs. Most of them have now already closed; the two remaining ones will close soon as the chain dies.

I could see it coming. Though I actually worked at Borders for a while in 1998, and my wife actually worked at a different Borders store for 12 years and a few months, until her store closed earlier this year, it has become clear that the wave of the future is This became obvious in recent years, when I found that even though, as the spouse of an employee, I had a 33% discount on all books I bought at Borders, I could still get some cheaper on Amazon. It is just too expensive to maintain a brick-and-mortar store.

When my aunt died and left me an inheritance (she died many years ago, but the inheritance became available only last year), I put a sizable chunk of the money into Amazon stock. It has done amazingly well. Obviously, there is money to be made from selling books — but not in the type of store that Borders represents. Borders, like Tower Records a few years ago, is a store I'm sorry to see go. But you cannot expect a company to stay in business if they cannot make a profit. Goodbye — I loved you when you were here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Another unreasonable Gregory Kane column

Gregory Kane, the columnist at the Washington Examiner, who has been the cause of some previous posts on this blog, did it again today. He wrote a column excoriating fellow conservative Ann Coulter because of some favorable remarks she wrote about the late Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, in her new book, "Demonic: How The Liberal Mob Is Endangering America." Now, it is fair game for conservative Kane to say, as he does, that current Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas is closer to his ideas of what a Justice should be. But Coulter makes some valid points in comparing Marshall to Martin Luther King.

My bone to pick with Kane is where he says:
Coulter's thesis is that mob action is inimical, even dangerous, to a republic and that throughout history it's primarily the Democratic Party that has supported, encouraged or even benefitted from what Coulter derisively calls "the mob."

In Coulter's eyes, the street demonstrations that Martin Luther King Jr. led to end segregation were mob actions. Marshall, a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People during the civil rights era, was anti-mob. Here are some passages where Coulter talks about Marshall, King or both.

"[John] Locke was concerned with property rights. His idea was that the government should allow men to protect their property in courts of law — as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall realized — rather than have each man be his own judge.

"One man who didn't like mob action even on behalf of civil rights was Thurgood Marshall. A skilled lawyer, he was redeeming civil rights for blacks the American way — by bringing lawsuits, making arguments, and winning in court.

"Thurgood Marshall had always disdained King's methods, calling him an 'opportunist' and 'first-rate rabble-rouser.' Indeed, when asked about King's suggestion that street protests could help advance desegregation, Marshall replied that school desegregation was men's work and should not be entrusted to children. King, he said, was 'a boy on a man's errand.'

"Redeeming blacks' civil rights could have been accomplished without riots, marches, church burnings, police dogs, and murders. Except the problem was, Democrats were in the White House from January 1961 to January 1969 and only Republican presidents would aggressively enforce the law.

"If Nixon had been elected in 1960, instead of Kennedy, we could have skipped the bloodshed of the civil rights marches and today we'd be celebrating Thurgood Marshall Day, rather than Martin Luther King Day."

My dear Ms. Coulter, I'd much rather celebrate Martin Luther King Day. Even if I agreed with your assessment of the relative worth of King and Marshall, the fact remains that, as Supreme Court justice, Marshall damaged the nation in ways King and his "mobs" never did.

It's as if Coulter never heard of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. Marshall was one of the seven justices who voted to overturn every state anti-abortion law in the nation. And he was one of the seven who presumed to tell a nation of then nearly 200 million people exactly when life does or does not begin.

It definitely does not begin in the first trimester of a woman's pregnancy, this less-than-magnificent seven concluded, kind of does in the second and definitely does in the third. I have grandkids that can cobble together a better definition of when life begins than that.

And Marshall was one of the justices who voted to overturn, temporarily, every death penalty statute in the land. One result of the noble intentions of Marshall and his cohorts was that a man named Kenneth McDuff, then on death row in Texas for multiple murders, was eventually paroled. McDuff went on yet another killing spree before he was convicted a second time and eventually executed.

A Thurgood Marshall Day? I'm sure the murderers of the country would love that one.

Of course, his first objection to Marshall is his support for Roe v. Wade which he, like many conservatives, thinks is a terrible decision; I think it a good one, because in "overturn[ing] every state anti-abortion law in the nation," he made it possible to save some real human lives. Kane, of course, agrees with the Roman Catholic Church in defining human life as beginning at conception; I've posted a few reasons why I think that is ridiculous.

But even someone who agrees with Kane on the Roe and McDuff decisions can hardly believe that King would have taken the opposite side. And we're not talking about comparing Marshall with Clarence Thomas here; we're talking about Marshall compared with Martin Luther King.

I think Ann Coulter is right on target in the comparison she makes. And let us remember King's near-treasonous stand on the War in Vietnam.

No, I've always considered Marshall a better representative of African Americans than King, and I applaud Coulter's comments which so appall Kane.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Republican Party and the tax impasse

Both of our two major parties are broad coalitions. Cerainly it is hard to find an issue on which all Democrats agree, or an issue on which all Republicans agree. (I will speak mainly of the Republicans, because it is to that party that I belong.)

The Republican Party includes the Log Cabin Republicans and viciously anti-gay Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. It includes isolationist Ron Paul and hawkish John McCain. It includes Sarah Palin, so anti-abortion that she bore a child she knew would have Down's Syndrome, and it includes pro-abortion former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But one thing unites most of these disparate Republicans: economic policies favoring allowing more of our nation's taxpayers to keep more of their own money. So is it such a surprise that this tax impasse is occirring?

Certainly, there are Republicans who would accept the need to raise some taxes, but when it comes down to this sort of showdown, given the other issues that divide the Republican Party, it is safer, for someone like John Boehner, whose job is to lead the party in its negotiations with President Obama, to be hard-line on taxes, and keep all the Republicans in your camp, than to concede on the issue and lose the support of many who are crucial to the success of the Republican Party.

How will this impasse be settled? Your guess is as good as mine.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Is President Obama really pro-gay-rights?

A reader named William Hart posted a comment to yesterday's post. In it he expresses the opinion that President Obama should be re-elected in 2012 to ensure progress in gay rights. I think Mr. Hart is totally misinformed, and I think that more than a response to a comment is called for, so I'm making a full post.

President Obama talks the gay rights line. But has he done anything he could to further the cause of gay rights? On Jan. 20, 2009 he became President. That very day he could have issued an executive order repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He could have done so at any time since that day — but he has not. It took a court order to repeal DADT.

True, earlier this year he (or his Attorney General, but this is really the same thing) said he will cease fighting to uphold the "Defense of Marriage Act." But it took him two years to get to this point. Why did the Obama Administration fight to uphold DOMA for the first two years of its existence?

Among the people fighting to replace President Obama, the most anti-gay are probably Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. Does anyone really think that Barack Obama will speed the progress of gay rights any more than Bachmann or Santorum? What might he do to help -- and why hasn't he done it already? Please answer, in specifics.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- finally!

Through the Frum Forum blog, it has come out that the military has finally complied with the court order to accept openly gay recruits. The order was issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Funny, President Obama was elected with so much gay support, but it took the judiciary to end DADT. If Obama were so pro-gay, he could have issued an executive order.

In this, as in the gay marriage controversy, the President talks as if he is sympathetic to gay equality, but look at his actions! Yet the majority of gay activists remain firmly behind him. It's not really justified, but you can't convince them.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Reliving the O. J. Simpson case

I notice that on another blog, there is a post by Marcia Clark, who was the prosecutor in the O. J. Simpson trial, in which she describes the Casey Anthony verdict as "Worse Than O.J.!" This, of course, implies that the O. J. Simpson verdict was wrong. Now I want to say this: I am definitely not a football fan, so in my mind O. J. Simpson was hardly the "American hero" that, to some people, he was. And I am absolutely convinced that Simpson murdered those two people. Yet, had I been on that jury, I would have had to vote to acquit. Why? Because in our legal system, the accused is presumed to be innocent, unless guilt can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. And the prosecution failed to make that kind of a case. With the possibility of evidence tampering by a racist policeman, the procesution's case was definitely one that could engender doubts.

I haven't followed the Casey Anthony case that closely. I don't know whether the not-guilty verdict there made sense — what I've seen implies she was, in fact, guilty, but read what I said about Simpson above. But I think Marcia Clark, who couldn't get a conviction herself in a case where the defendant was clearly guilty, because her side botched the case, is not the one to comment!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Gregory Kane and the Kennedys

I have on several occasions referred to columns I have read in the Washington Examiner, a local edition around here of a national paper. They are a rather conservative paper, and most of their columnists are well to my right, so I sometimes find myself in agreement, and sometimes in disagreement, with the columns in the Examiner. But today I saw a column where my disagreement stemmed, not from the Examiner columnist's being too far right, but from his praise of a liberal Democrat for whom I have little but scorn.

I suppose it is a conscious decision by the Examiner, but I don't know for sure: it features a number of African-American, but well to the right of center, columnists, perhaps to show that you don't need to be liberal if you are an African-American. And one of those African-American conservative columnists, Gregory Kane, has been the author of columns I have criticized in the past as far more conservative than I consider sensible. But today's column by Gregory Kane errs in the opposite direction, as I said above. Today's Gregory Kane column was entitled, "Six heroes to visit on the Fourth." Apparently there are six people whom he considers heroes to such degree that he visits their graves, and theirs only, each Memorial Day and Independence Day. And while nobody would challenge his selection of Medgar Evers as his #1, highest ranking hero, I certainly have some qualms about some of the others.

I'm not quite sure what qualifies boxer Joe Louis as his #5 choice, or actor Lee Marvin as his #6. His other actor selection — #2 Audie Murphy — makes sense, as Murphy was, in Kane's words, "America's most decorated soldier in World War II."

But it's his third and fourth choices that give me a pain. #3 was Robert F. Kennedy, and #4 his brother John. He puts Robert above John because "it was Robert Kennedy who got on board with civil rights long before his older brother did." But he concedes that

In the early 1960s, neither Robert Kennedy nor his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was very adept at handling the nation's civil rights problems.

They completely botched the crisis at Ole Miss when rioters protested James Meredith's admission to the law school. They even acquiesced to the resegregation of an integrated military police unit in an attempt to appease racists.

So why do they deserve such heroic ratings from Kane? Of course, I have particularly bad feelings about Robert; John was a mediocre President who failed to accomplish much on his own, but got much of his program enacted into law through the skills of President Lyndon Johnson. But Robert was positively bad. First of all, it was the Robert Kennedy Attorney General's Office that sponsored more illegal wiretaps than any other administration in history, and people who criticized President Richard Nixon for illegal wiretaps usually fail to have the same animus toward RFK — because they're liberals? because RFK was the victim of an assassin's bullet, like his brother 4½ years earlier?

My biggest gripe about RFK was his coming into New York State to take a Senate seat from the man I feel represented me best of all the Senators and Representatives who have represented me in my life — Kenneth Keating. RFK had no connection with New York State (except for having spent a short time in school there) and yet, because the Constitution does not specify a minimum length of time as a resident of a State, RFK was allowed to move to Long Island in New York State a few months before the election. (This provided a precedent, decades later, for Hillary Clinton, but she actually did a reasonable job of representing New York State in the Senate!)

The reference to RFK's (and JFK's) graves at Arlington Cemetery reminds me of something that happened quite a few years ago. Two or three friends of mine from New York came down here, and wanted to go to Arlington to see the two Kennedy graves. I stayed away from those two graves, because I felt that one should show a certain amount of respect for a grave, which, in the case of the two Kennedys, I could not honestly do. So I stayed some distance away, out of sight of the graves, but one of my friends, on the way back to join me, spotted another headstone, which he called my attention to, and which did merit my respect — the name on the stone was Kenneth Barnard Keating! Oddly, Keating's and RFK's graves are not far apart.