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, August 29, 2011

Where has moderation gone?

When I was growing up (I'm in my late 60s now) both of our two political parties had liberals, conservatives, and moderates. It was common for votes in Congress to have large numbers of both Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the question. But in recent years, this is becoming less and less the case. Why?

Some people cite the McGovern-Fraser reforms of the Democrats' selection of delegates to their national conventions, or the rise of Presidential primaries as the near-exclusive mode of picking delegates (as opposed to political bosses and elected officials, who used to pick a lot of the delegates). But this only affects the choice of Presidential candidates, not the hundreds of members of the two houses of Congress or the thousands of members of the fifty State legislatures. So it cannot be that.

One thing that has had an effect is the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Certainly the Southern political situation has greatly changed because of that. African-American Southerners, newly able to exercise their votes, joined the Democratic Party, pulling it leftward, while former conservative Democrats have moved into the Republican Party, jettisoning a hatred of that party that went back to the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, because the Democratic Party's Kennedy and Johnson were instrumental in pushing through those civil rights laws. (Examples of this abound. Strom Thurmond, the most obvious example, started political life as a Democrat, leading a revolt in 1948, but his States Rights Party still ran as the "true" Democratic Party in those Southern states where it won. By the end of his political career, he was very definitely a Republican. But the clearest example of this influx of conservative Democrats to the Republican party is probably little known. When I was in graduate school, the governor of Virginia was a Democrat named Mills Godwin. Governors of Virginia cannot be re-elected, but they can, it seems, run again after an interval out of office, so I was surprised to find out, years later and long after I had moved far away from Virginia, that the governor of Virginia was again Mills Godwin, but that he was now a Republican.) This has pulled the Republican Party rightward.

But this only affects the South. Most of the liberal-to-moderate Republicans were in the Northeast (and the few that still exist, like Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, still are). Nothing has happened to Northeastern politics like the civil rights revolution in the South. African-Americans could, and did, vote in the Northeast. They even elected officials, like Representative Adam Clayton Powell of New York. I cannot see what has changed.

Perhaps, the association of particular issues with liberalism and conservatism has. Prohibition used to be a liberal issue, if you look at the past (though liberals like Franklin Roosevelt were also responsible for its repeal). Certainly religious fundamentalism used to go with economic liberalism (if you don't believe that, think of William Jennings Bryan, the most outstanding example of both.) That does seem to have some connection with it, but it cannot account for it all — for one thing, this is a much more recent phenomenon than Bryan.

I wish I knew. I'd love to see a revival of "Rockefeller Republicanism." It was Nelson Rockefeller (and Dwight Eisenhower) that made me choose to be a Republican. By contrast, people like Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann make me ashamed to be one. But the absence of moderates in the Democratic Party makes it even more unattractive to me. So I'm really unhappy this year.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Classification can be treacherous

As I have said more than once on this blog, sometimes political classification can be treacherous. On economic matters, I tend toward the conservative end — for lower taxes and lower spending, in general, though I have my causes that I think deserve spending. On social matters, I'm probably very much a liberal. But again, if "liberal" means anti-Israel, as it's coming to be these days, I go back to the right on this issue.

I recently saw a posting on the FrumForum blog by Noah Kristula-Green referring to Jon Huntsman as "More Conservative Than You Think." It bears some quoting:

Ever since Jon Huntsman declared on Twitter that he thinks evolution and climate change are real, he has been identified as the “moderate” candidate in the GOP field, the candidate whose goal seems to be to antagonize the Republican base. Charles Krauthammer described him as “a liberal’s idea of what a Republican ought to be.”

But what if the real Jon Huntsman is actually a candidate with an incredibly conservative record? This is the argument in The American Conservative’s new piece on Huntsman by Michael Brendan Dougherty.

-In spite of his support for civil unions, Huntsman is very socially conservative. His pro-life record is very substantive. Dougherty calls him “the pro-life cause’s most accomplished executive.” In Utah, second trimester abortions are banned and third trimester abortions are a felony because of Huntsman. His gun record includes making it possible to carry concealed guns in Utah.

“In Jon Huntsman’s America, once a child survives the first trimester, he’s well on the way to having a rifle in his small hands and extra money in his pockets,” Dougherty says.

-His economic record is very conservative: $110 million in tax cuts and a flat tax rate state wide. On healthcare, the article refers to Health Exchanges in Utah that he approved, adding that, “Unlike Romney, Huntsman’s state healthcare reform achieved more insurance coverage for residents without resorting to an individual mandate.” Left unmentioned in the piece is that Huntsman is also a strong advocate for the Ryan budget and has made multiple calls for it to be signed into law.

-His foreign policy at times can hit similar to Ron Paul sounding notes without being isolationist. In addition to questioning America’s role in Libya, Huntsman also asks, “why do we have so many military bases in Japan, we’re half a century after World War II? Why so many in Germany? Does it make sense for America to remain in these places?” He wants counter-terrorism in Afghanistan, not counter-insurgency or nation-building, and he wants the US to return to focusing on its long-term growth before going abroad.

Despite this, Huntsman isn’t seen as a conservative at all. He has some of the lowest poll numbers of anyone in the GOP field — he only barely qualified for the upcoming NBC-Politico debate. Rick Perry gets more traction just by calling Ben Bernanke’s actions treasonous and by calling Washington DC a “seedy place”.

Speculating what any of this can mean for Republican presidential nominee, Jon Huntsman is very premature. But during the next debate, it will be important to listen to Huntsman’s answers and keep in the back of your mind this piece of knowledge: whatever Huntsman is, he is not as moderate as you think.

On some of these issues, I'm in agreement with Huntsman. On others, of course, like abortion and guns, I'm not. But this posting deserves some attention.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another voice on the health care law, for the perusal of our readers

The following column by Marc Kilmer, originally published in the Baltimore Sun, was included in an e-mail I received from my local county Republican Party:

MPPI: Make Health Insurance Affordable by Choice, not Mandate

Do you need a mandate to force you to buy something you want or need? This question isn't asked by those who support a health insurance mandate, such as Dr. Edward Miller and Scott A. Berkowitz of Johns Hopkins ("Hopkins leaders support health insurance mandate," Aug. 9). The reason we have so many uninsured Marylanders is that health insurance is either too unaffordable or it doesn't offer a good value to those who can afford it. A mandate won't solve either of those problems.

Responding to self-interested lobbying groups, well-meaning legislators have mandated that any health insurance sold in Maryland must cover over 60 procedures, something that has dramatically raised the cost of insurance in this state. If you want insurance that doesn't cover, say, in vitro fertilization, you can't purchase it. There are also a number of restrictions on the price and type of health insurance that can be sold in the state.

If you want to escape Maryland's tough regulations, too bad. If you live in the Eastern Shore town of Delmar and want to purchase a cheaper policy from a broker across the street in Delmar, Del., you are legally prohibited from doing so. Now, with the passage of the so-called "Affordable Care Act," restrictions like Maryland are in place at the national level. This legislation will increase the cost of health insurance and then use tax dollars to subsidize its purchase for some people.

If we allowed health insurance to be bought and sold like other goods there would be no need for a health insurance mandate. If people could tailor the health insurance policy to meet their needs and desires and if they could buy health insurance across state lines, the vast majority of people could afford a policy giving them what they want. While some people would not have enough income to afford a policy, that's why we have safety net programs like Medicaid.

Instead of supporting a mandate forcing people to buy a product that is too expensive and doesn't offer people what they want, Dr. Miller and Mr. Berkowitz should advocate giving health insurance consumers more power. These consumers, not government bureaucrats, know what they can afford and what type of insurance is best for them.

A very good column, with which I heartily concur.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rick Perry? Oh, no!

Some polls I've seen lately show a surge in the numbers for Rick Perry, putting him in #1 position among Republican candidates for the nomination. I hope that it's just a case of people supporting him because he's a fresh face, the newest entry into the race.

It's clear that Perry is the kind of Republican that Democrats like to paint all Republicans as — pretty stupid. His remarks on creationism, for one, bear this out. And he's taken to comparing himself to George W. Bush by saying "Bush went to Yale, I went to Texas A&M." Nominating Perry almost concedes the race to Obama, unless people are so fed up with Obama's handling of the economy that they'll vote for anyone running against him, and I don't see this yet.

There are certainly problems with Mitt Romney, but so far he seems the best choice. I've seen some mention of former New York State Governor George Pataki as a candidate, and I would — as far as I can tell — be able to support him, but I haven't seen that he was interested in the nomination. I might have really liked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and had a favorable view of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, but both of them have made it clear that they aren't interested. My favorite blog owner, Dennis Sanders, keeps advocating Jon Huntsman, who is probably closer to me politically than Romney, but can he get the nomination in a party where he's polling about 2%? And if he manages to get that nomination, will he be able to make himself known to enough people to get their vote in Nomember 2012 against an incumbent President Obama? So with all these factors, I have to go for Romney.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I really don't understand

In just about a month, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in our military services will end. What I cannot understand was the point in continuing it in place once it was decided that it would go. Why should a gay serviceman or -woman be subject to discharge for revealing, now, something which would have no effect if he/she reveals it about him/herself in another month?

I understand that the service chiefs wanted time to educate people about the new rules — but it still would make more sense to begin this education and immediately state that no further discharges of service personnel who revealed that they were gay would take place, both, upon the decision to end DADT.

If anyone can tell me the justification for continuing DADT once the decision to end it was made, I'd like to know it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and the real reason to oppose them

Two days ago, Cal Thomas posted a column in the Washington Examiner which took "liberals" to task for supposed "bigotry" toward the likes of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, or "evangelicals" in general, with the following words:

In contemporary culture, those who claim to tolerate everything are intolerant of ideas that come from perspectives other than their own, especially when those ideas are rooted in conservative politics or evangelical faith.

Though anti-Semitism and anti-Catholic bigotry sadly are still with us, the new and "accepted" bigotry among some on the left is for those who call themselves -- or are sometimes mislabeled by people who don't know the difference between born-again and born yesterday -- evangelical Christians.

With two evangelicals running for president, the opening salvo in what is likely to be a God vs. government battle has already been launched. A June 22 article in Rolling Stone magazine gives bigots permission for more bigotry. The illustration by Victor Juhasz, which accompanies it, reveals where the writer is headed.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is dressed as Joan of Arc with a Bible in one hand, a bloody sword in the other, a cross on her chest, and the "finger of God" pointing at her from heaven.

In the background, people are being burned at the stake. Father Charles Coughlin at his worst would have had trouble topping this on his bigoted radio broadcasts in the 1930s.

Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi says Bachmann is "a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions." One of many examples he cites is her assertion that China is "plotting to replace the dollar bill."

Recently, China's official Xinhua News Agency editorialized in favor of a new global reserve currency, replacing the dollar. Don't look for a retraction.

There's plenty more in "Michele Bachmann's Holy War" on which the bigots can feast. This is the argument of anyone who has little or no faith in God. They attack people who believe the Supreme Being does not sit in the Oval Office.

The secular left is also going after Gov. Rick Perry's faith. Writing in the New York Times, Timothy Egan refers to the Texas governor as a "biblical bully" and asks, "Is God listening to Rick Perry?"

Ideas that come from the minds of secular liberals are considered right and good, no matter their track record. Ideas from conservatives, be they secular or especially evangelical, are "bat sh*t crazy," according to Taibbi's scatology.

There is a way to blunt this coming tidal wave of anti-evangelical bigotry. Bachmann and Perry -- and any other Republican who wishes to join in -- should not play on the territory of their opponents.

Instead, they should focus on what works and whose lives have been transformed by embracing similar faith and similar attitudes.

When I read this column, I felt like commenting, but while the Examiner used to print letters to the editor from me routinely, they haven't always done so. So I held off. And I was glad to see in today's Examiner, a letter to the editor by David Lampo, which could almost have been written by me. The letter was so good, I want to reprint it as a guest editorial in this blog:

Re: "A new wave of liberal bigotry," Aug. 18

Cal Thomas should receive a chutzpah award for his piece charging "the left" with religious bigotry simply because they are exposing the scary records and statements of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. Anyone who studies these two candidates will find a long list of examples of religious and anti-gay bigotry, particularly in the case of Bachmann, whose long-held religious belief in the views of the radical theologian Francis Schaeffer make her the most extreme major party presidential candidate in generations.

Millions of Republicans, independents and libertarians are deeply worried about the records of these two candidates. They are not being attacked simply for having religious faith, as Thomas states. They are being attacked because their beliefs and statements are so extreme that most Americans will repudiate them at the polls if the country is unfortunate enough to have either one of them as the Republican presidential candidate.

If that happens, the many virtues of divided government will become readily apparent.

David Lampo


Well written, Mr. Lampo!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Do we really need them all?

I'm not one of those anti-military types who want us to limit our military to homeland defense, but sometimes I wonder, Do we really need to have an Army, a Navy, an Air Force, and a Marine Corps as separate services?

The Army is supposedly land-based, the Navy sea-based, and the Air Force air-based. But the Army has airborne troops, the Navy has its SEALs (who often, as in the action that got Osama bin Laden, operate on land), the Navy and Air Force quarrel over the specifications for planes they will both have to use, and the Marine Corps, though technically a part of the Navy, seems to be more a land force than anything else.

Some time ago, Canada merged all its services into Canadian Forces. I think that, just because we're a bigger country with a much bigger military, this doesn't mean we can't do the same. It should be much more efficient to eliminate duplication.

Back in 1947 the Defense Department was created, and the Army and Navy no longer had separate Cabinet secretaries to report to. Yet it was only this year that the two services' Washington-area hospitals were merged. More than sixty years later!

I think Canada did it right. Let's do the same!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pawlenty is out, Perry is in

This past weekend, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty dropped out of the race for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. And Texas Governor Rick Perry joined the race, and immediately became a serious contender in the eyes of the political correspondents. In fact, they are calling it a three-person race, with the only candidates with serious chances at nomination being Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Perry. But I have to say I have great skepticism about Perry's fitness for the Presidency — not as much skepticism about Perry as about Bachmann, but enough to worry me about the chances he might be nominated.

I rather wonder whether Perry is perhaps not intellectually up to the Presidency, as I read that Perry is a creationist. But, the truth be told, I searched for evidence, and what I found was this quote from the "Outside the Beltway" blog. And if you read the quote, what Perry is advocating is not creationism, but intelligent design. And, as I stated about 2½ years ago, they are different. In fact, I am firmly convinced that the evidence of science proves that evolution has occurred, but that there is no way one can tell from that evidence whether the mechanism for the evolutionary changes is the Darwinian one — random mutations plus natural selection — or an intelligent designer playing with his creations to see what he can produce. And I favor the latter, so while I am totally opposed to creationism, and I accept evolution, I also accept intelligent design.

But then, read that quote again. Perry seems to oppose intelligent design to evolution; he talks about teaching one alongside the other as if they are alternatives. So perhaps he is one of those creationists who say "intelligent design" when they really mean "creationism." I'm really afraid this is the case.

More and more, I'm pulling for Mitt Romney to get the nomination.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Scoreboard on the individual mandate

At the District Court level, four courts have ruled. Two say it's constitutional, two say it's unconstitutional.

At the Circuit Court of Appeals level, two courts have already ruled, one remains to be heard from. One says it's constitutional, one says it's unconstitutional.

Whatever the 4th Circuit Court in Richmond, the remaining appeals court says, this is a sharp division. It clearly will have to go to the Supreme Court. I'm not certain why there is so much division among the judges — its unconstitutionality is clear to me. But all bets are off until the Supreme Court actually rules. I'm waiting with bated breath.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Eleventh Circuit has ruled! Now on to the Supreme Court.

A great opinion was issued by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The individual mandate in last year's health care law is unconstitutional.

[T]he individual mandate contained in the Act exceeds Congress’s enumerated commerce power. This conclusion is limited in scope. The power that Congress has wielded via the Commerce Clause for the life of this country remains undiminished. Congress may regulate commercial actors. It may forbid certain commercial activity. It may enact hundreds of new laws and federally-funded programs, as it has elected to do in this massive 975- page Act. But what Congress cannot do under the Commerce Clause is mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die.

This is one more nail in the coffin of the bill that has been called "Obamacare." As I have maintained all along, whatever may be the good features of the bill, the individual mandate clearly has to go.

The Obama administration obviously will appeal to the Supreme Court. This, of course, they have a right to do. But I predict that the Justices of that court will accept the Eleventh Circuit's ruling. The Constitution is clear on this point.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mitt Romney is even more the front runner

Looking at the Examiner coverage of the debate in Iowa, it seems that Mitt Romney has pulled out even more in front as the candidate with the best chance at the 2012 Republican nomination.

The Examiner tends to run far to my right, yet they agreed that the best performance in the debate was Romney's; they gave him a B+ while Newt Gingrich got a B- and nobody else anywhere above a C+. (I can't find a link; this seems to have only appeared in the paper edition of the Examiner.) But if even they admitted that Romney beat their favorites, he seems to be an unquestioned front-runner.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why Michele Bachmann should not be the nominee

This is probably not news to anyone, but it's clear that, on all the issues that she considers important, Michele Bachmann and I are on opposite sides.

In a campaign stop in Iowa, Bachmann said:
"I'm 100 percent pro-life, I'm 100 percent pro-marriage, pro-family, I'm 100 percent on the Second Amendment."

Assuming that "pro-marriage, pro-family" means in fact against allowing same-sex marriage (which would be consistent with her previous stands) her "100 percent" issues are all on the wrong side. Supposedly, Bachmann is the "Tea Party" candidate. The "Tea Party" is supposedly an anti-tax, anti-spending movement, which would meet with my approval, but when Michele Bachmann makes the three things listed here her signature issues, she's lost me.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Moderates? Or not?

As I said in one of my recent posts, Solomon Kleinsmith's comments in his blog took issue with my characterization of the debt ceiling deal as a "compromise." But it seems that the Washington Post characterized it as a victory for "moderates." So was it a "centrist" or "moderate" deal? Kleinsmith doesn't think so. I do, as does the Post.

I don't very often find common ground with the Washington Post, but it looks like an agreement here!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Government foolishness

On July 13, 2006, I went to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration office to get a new identification card. (Why the Motor Vehicle Administration is the place to go is strange enough — but because it's issued in a format based on a driver's license, MVA issues it.) A card was issued to me, with an expiration date of July 13, 2011. Five years was the term, apparently.

Yesterday I attempted to go to a meeting that was scheduled to take place inside a Federal Government building, so I had to show a photo-identification card. At first, the security guard was about to pass me in, but then she said "Let me look at that card again." She saw the date, and I was denied entry.

First of all, why was there a need to put an expiration date on that card, in the first place? If it was valid proof that I was who I claimed to be on July 12, why was it not on July 14?

And why would it be necessary to deny me access to the building, just because my card expired, less than a month ago? I think both the State of Maryland (for setting an expiration date on the card) and the U. S. Government (for caring that it had passed, less than a month ago) were being rather foolish. As I said, it would have been sufficient to let me into the building less than a month ago — why not yesterday?

So I had to head back to the MVA office to get a new identification card. At first glance, I thought that perhaps this was just a scheme for the State to collect more money from fees to issue these cards. But I was charged nothing for the new card — and, surprisingly, the expiration date on the new card was August 6, 2019! If five years was all that a card was good for in 2006, why am I given eight on the new one? All I lost was the chance to participate in a meeting and a bit of time; the processing took perhaps a half hour, but I had to spend some time traveling to the MVA office. The State gained nothing — in fact it lost, since the clerk who renewed my identification card had to be paid. What was the point of all this?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A euphemism that obscures

It is interesting that people trying to get things like the DREAM Act or other laws that make it easy for illegal immigrants to get the privileges of citizens (or residents) never call them "illegal." They always use the euphemism "undocumented." (I just saw an example in a local paper, the Montgomery Gazette.)

You'd think that someone had just forgotten to fill out a form, or lost his papers. But in fact, the correct thing to call them is "illegal." They are here in violation of the laws of this country. If that isn't what "illegal" means, I don't know what the word means!

This country is a nation of laws. The immigration laws are on the books and just as much valid laws as anything in the statute books, whether for murder, theft, or anything else. Anyone in violation of our nation's laws deserves to be punished, not abetted. The states of Arizona and Alabama are doing the right thing — if the Federal Government will not enforce its own laws, the States need to do it for them.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Where is the political center?

There is a blog I read frequently, called "Rise of the Center," owned by Solomon Kleinsmith. He obviously considers himself a centrist, but sometimes I wonder.

Now, I do not claim to be at the dead center of the political spectrum, but I think I'm a relatively short distance to the right of center. Yet Kleinsmith sometimes impresses me as far to my left.

Case in point: the recent debt ceiling/deficit settlement. In comments to his posting on it, he took me to task for referring to the final solution as a "compromise," because in his eye, any refusal to impose a new tax burden on the American people is a "hard right" position. In fact, the Tea Party types gave up quite a lot in order to win a no-new-taxes solution, and many voted against the bill because they felt it did not cut spending enough. I'll admit that if you consider the most extreme positions of the left wing of the Democratic Party and the most extreme positions of the right wing of the Republican Party (approximately synonymous with the Tea Party), the final solution was closer to what the right wanted than to the left. But the right wanted to eliminate several executive departments (Yesterday's Washington Examiner had a column advocating the Energy, Education, and Housing & Urban Development departments; Sen. Rand Paul has proposed a bill to eliminate Commerce as well as those three), eliminate the Medicare drug benefit, and many other reductions in the Federal Government that were not even approached. (Frankly, the department I would eliminate is Agriculture. When it was formed, more than half of all Americans were farmers. Today it is about 3%. Do they really need a whole Cabinet department devoted to their interests?)

Yes, this was a compromise. Both sides gave up something, and members of the two houses of Congress from both ends of the political spectrum refused to vote for it. But yet, Solomon Kleinsmith insists this was "not a centrist solution." I guess to me the center isn't what Kleinsmith thinks it is. But then, nobody has the power to define the center, I guess.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Sore winners?

It is very strange that so many of the "Tea Party" types voted against the budget compromise bill. They may not have gotten all they wanted, but they got a lot.

Yesterday, I saw a post in the Washington Examiner by Susan Ferrechio:

The debt deal President Obama signed into law Tuesday was shaped largely by the Tea Party movement, which propelled dozens of fresh faces into Congress last year only after the candidates pledged to drastically slash federal spending.

While many Tea Party freshmen in the House and Senate ended up voting against the debt ceiling bill because they didn't think it cut deep enough, their fingerprints were all over the measure.

There were historically steep cuts, no tax increases and a commitment to even bigger spending reductions in the near future. In response to Tea Party pressure, the measure also requires the House and Senate to vote on a balanced budget amendment, something that hasn't happened in 15 years.

Yet it wasn't enough for some. In the face of a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate, did they really believe they could avoid all traces of compromise? If I'd been trying to get the Government to do something, and I got as much of what I was trying to get as the Tea Partiers did, I'd have been enthusiastic!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Political posturing

So now the debt ceiling bill was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President, only a few hours before the Government was theoretically to go into default. And yet, all this drama really meant nothing.

I never believed the U. S. Government would go into default; like certain banks, it is "too big to fail." I was totally confident that a solution would be found, and found in time, and the timing confirmed my belief that it would be made at the very last moment, so that nobody could question details. The whole thing was a perfect exercise of political posturing; the most liberal and the most conservative members of each house voted against it, but always making sure that enough members voted in favor to pass it. If there were any possibility of enough negative votes to scuttle it, some fierce arm-twisting would have ensued.

Did anyone really expect anything different? This is the way politicians work. But some people will say, if professional politicians are going to do this sort of thing, the time is ripe to institute term limits and restore amateurism in politics. I do not think that's the solution. You would only replace people who are so familiar with how the system works, and how to game it, with people who are so ignorant of how laws are worded (and how lawyers can game the laws) that they'd pass sloppy laws whose meaning would be uncertain when they were passed and which the legal profession would twist to mean whatever their clients wanted them to. I think the current way is better, but our Congress has not acquitted itself very well.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The debt ceiling vote -- as I expected

Yesterday — after 7 pm — the House of Representatives voted to extend the debt ceiling. A moment of drama was added by having Rep. Gabrielle Giffords return to the House for the first time since she was shot last January.

It will still need to pass the Senate, which is scheduled to vote on it today — the last possible day before a threatened default. I assume it will pass.

As I said in an earlier post, the politicians involved were playing "chicken" to win political points. President Obama got the one thing he desperately wanted — an extension past the 2012 election, so the election would not be fought while the debt ceiling debate went on. The Republicans got one thing they wanted — at least short-term, no new tax increases. The Tea Party got only some of the spending cuts they wanted — but this was a bit of a victory for them, since the Democrats wanted, at first, not to make any cuts, and to do it all by tax increases.

It's a compromise. Everyone got something and gave up something. But as a Republican I have to say that the Democrats, controlling the Senate and White House, had so much in their favor, and yet gave up so much in the end. I have to think that the Republican Congressional leaders worked beyond the call of duty to make this a bill with more Republican input than you might expect with the Democrats controlling so much of the machinery.

Kudos to Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and anyone else I forgot in the Republican Congressional leadership.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Stealing domain names and cheating

The Center for Range Voting is a group that advocates what they (and I) consider a better way of conducting elections: a method that has been called both "range voting" and "score voting." (The latter describes it better, so I prefer it.) They have their own website, with the URL .

A rival group, officially named the Center for Voting and Democracy but now mostly using the name of FairVote, is similarly engaged in advocating changes in the voting system, but mostly favors a system called "instant runoff voting" or "the alternative vote," which has mainly been used in Australia, but in recent years has been tried here. (A couple of years ago it was used to elect the mayor of Burlington, Vt., with disastrous results, showing the weakness of this method, though it has worked fairly well in Australia.) These groups, both advocating different election method changes, find themselves in conflict, with CRV usually having the more logical arguments, but FairVote having the most convincing propaganda machine to many people. But now FairVote seems to have crossed the line and started playing dirty. They set up a blog, with the URL . It has been set up very recently, apparently to hijack people who intend to get to but get the URL wrong. (This was reported on Dale Sheldon-Hess' voting methods blog, "The Least of All Evil.")

Has FairVote no sense of ethics?