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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Barry Goldwater, racism, and the Republican Party

About fifty years ago, a Republican senator, Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, voted against a civil rights bill. I don't agree with Goldwater's position, and (as most Republicans at the time) I supported the bill, but it is a mistake to say that Goldwater was a racist because he opposed the bill. In fact, Goldwater believed, as many libertarians do even today, that it was Government interference in something that should be left alone. (Last year, then-candidate, now Senator, Rand Paul got into political trouble for expressing similar opinions.) But it led to a number of unfortunate results: first, Southern conservative white people, who had been Democrats, flocked to the Republican Party, which in itself was not bad because it made the party bigger and viable in an area where it had not been, but also moved the party rightward (and meant that the party became associated with some real racists like Strom Thurmond), and second, the exodus of African-Americans from the Republicans, which began in the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt because many of the African-American citizens were poor and perceived FDR's policies as helpful to them, accelerated and became almost total — with the African-American vote for President being in some years around 90%. Only a few African-Americans remained in the GOP — the party can boast of such names as Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and more recently we have seen Herman Cain. Recently we have even seen people claiming that the Republican Party (or its economically conservative, "Tea Party" wing) are institutionally racist, and three years ago people were insisting that anyone who opposed Barack Obama's bid for the presidency were "racist." (My wife, a nominal Democrat who was supporting McCain, but who before she met me had even had African-American boyfriends, heard such criticism!) It isn't racism to oppose a President, who just happens to be African American, because his policies seem to be wrecking this country's economy. It isn't racism to oppose a President, who just happens to be African American, because he does things like forcing through a healthcare bill that most Americans oppose. It isn't racism to oppose a President, who just happens to be African American, because he does things that scare our only sure ally in the Middle East, Israel.

One might think that a party who has elected officeholders like Allen West (and decades ago elected the first African-American Senator since Reconstruction, Edward Brooke), that chose a President who appointed the first two African-American Secretaries of State, and which now has a candidate for nomination for the President, Herman Cain, who is considered a serious contender, could be considered immune from accusations of racism. But the world doesn't seem to work this way.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The hypocrisy of the Congressional Black Caucus

Allen West is an African-American member of the United States House of Representatives who happens to be a conservative Republican — more conservative than I am, in fact. Herman Cain is an African-American candidate for the Presidency of the United States, who recently won a straw poll for the Republican nomination in Florida. The Congressional Black Caucus claims to be representative of African-Americans trying to get a “piece of the pie.” So you'd think that Allen West and Herman Cain would be shining examples to the CBC. But clearly, they are not.

Obviously, the CBC's approval goes only to liberal Democrats. Even African-Americans, if they happen to be Tea Party conservatives, are considered examples of white racism.

Of course, the CBC isn't racist — yeah. Stephen Cohen, a white Congressman who tried to join the group in 2007 because he sympathized with their goals was refused membership. But this isn't racism. Yet the Tea Party, which supported Herman Cain, is racist. Please explain this to me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How left-wing is Obama, really?

On Sunday, David Frum posted on his blog the question "How Left-Wing is Obama?" He points out that the far Right has been categorizing President Obama as a socialist, even a Maoist, while the far Left has been criticizing him for selling out. Yet Frum fails to answer his own question, so I think I ought to do so.

President Obama is a man who starts out on the far left on most issues. He was talking about pulling out of Iraq when he was not yet President, and he was for a "public option" on health care, as well as positions that can be considered "left" (even though I agree with them, at least to an extent) on such issues as gun control and abortion. But when push comes to shove, he has one agenda: the centralization of power in Barack Obama. So he gives in to Republicans when he has to, in order to get a bill passed, and the Left thinks he's selling out. He doesn't know how to create jobs, so he lets the Democrats in Congress write a jobs bill; he doesn't have the votes to pass a public option on health care, so he lets the Democrats in Congress write a health bill (and ends up with one that neither the Left nor the Right can abide!); and now that the Republicans control the House of Representatives and the Democrats control the Senate, he finds himself unable to do anything because he is totally unable to lead and both houses of Congress are pulling in opposite directions. If Hillary Clinton (at least as far left in spirit, but with a pragmatic streak) were President, she'd probably be able to achieve a consensus in the Congress and get bills to do something — Obama doesn't know how to do anything, and is simply concerned with making himself look good while Congress tears itself to bits.

So the answer is: Obama is very far to the left in his thoughts, but the Obama presidency is ending up with a relatively centrist record. Not because Obama wants to be a centrist, but because he is devoid of leadership skills.

Monday, September 26, 2011

When "Right Wing" really meant it

Reading Dennis Sanders' excellent blog, my attention was called to a blog by Walter Russell Mead called “Via Meadia,” in which a post appeared (dated September 20, 2011) called “The ‘Christianist’ Nightmare: It’s Just A Bad Dream.”

The gist of this article was that if it looks as though the Bachmanns, Perrys, and Santorums of today's Republican Party are leading to a “Christianist” take-over of the country, one needs to realize that over the past 60 or more years, there has been so much improvement in people's freedom that the worst of the things that they advocate is still so much milder than what things actually were like in his (and my) youth. The post is so long that, rather than quote it here, I recommend that you read it on his blog. But it reminds us not to worry so much.

Mead, according to his post, attended a segregated school — I did not, because I grew up in New York City. But I was certainly aware of segregation in our Southern States. And back in 1952, a music teacher that I had considered friendly to me turned viciously hostile — because I refused to sing carols with words like “O come let us adore him, Christ the lord.” (She actually conspired with another teacher to try to keep me out of my own graduation ceremony — which, thankfully, failed.)

Mead is responding to other, younger, bloggers who are afraid of the future; his point is that the trends toward freedom are so strong that we shouldn't worry about “Christianism” taking over. I share his memories; I suspect we are about the same age. And I thank him for reminding us of these facts.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What do moderates want?

What do moderates want? An interesting posting by that name appeared in a blog run by Rick Bayan called "The New Moderate." I don't necessarily agree with everything he says in this post, but I think it's worth reading. I commend it to you, though careful readers will note that Bayan is probably a bit to the left of my own positions. And I do recommend his blog in general, if you aren't reading it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

On the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

While my previous post was critical of the position taken by Dennis Sanders on his blog, I certainly concur with him in his celebrating the end of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Of course, as a publicly declared gay man, Sanders has more reason to celebrate it than many other people, but I think that all people who believe in the concept of equal rights should be happy in this — but yet it is not quite a total victory for equal rights. As long as the ironically mistitled "Defense of Marriage Act" is still on the books, gay military personnel cannot provide their spouses with the same benefits that straight ones can. However, that bill will hopefully be declared unconstitutional — the Obama administration has refused to defend it, one of the few things this president has done right.

It is a good feeling to see pictures like the Navy lieutenant who went up to Vermont to marry his partner. It will be interesting to see the outcome of legal cases where expelled gay ex-servicemen and -women are suing to get equal treatment (they were only granted half the standard severance pay, for example).

I can't really see the point of view of people who want to be in the military — I did everything I could to ensure I was not drafted, back when I was called! — but certainly, if someone wants to be there, a simple concern for equality has to say that this is a positive step.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On the death penalty

Dennis Sanders is a blogger I often agree with — probably, in fact, one I usually agree with. But in two recent posts he takes a position I really cannot accept: perhaps because he is a Christian minister I can understand it (after all, their Bible has "turn the other cheek" in it, as mine does not).

In a posting entitled "Death Penalty PR", Sanders says, regarding recently executed murderer Lawrence Brewer:

But the fact is, most of the folks that come before the electric chair or lethal injection are more than likely guilty as sin like Brewer was. Davis makes people wonder about the legitamacy of the policy. Brewer confirms in the minds of many that this is the right thing to do.

In the end, I still can’t support the death penalty. One reason is that we can never be totally certain that someone is guilty. But another reason is that I think killing by the state is something that has to be done sparingly (such as war or law enforcement). I would rather take away someone’s liberty than take their life even if they are reprehensible.

And in an earlier post entitled "On Troy Davis" he writes:

Clive Crook sums up my view:

The strongest case against the death penalty, I have always thought, is simply that it is irreversible, and criminal justice is prone to error. The thought that an innocent man might be put to death is appalling. I don’t know whether Troy Davis, scheduled to be executed tonight, is innocent, but according to what I read about recanted testimony and questionable physical evidence it I cannot believe he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt–let alone beyond all doubt, which is the standard that ought to pertain in death-penalty cases. In 2007 the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles appeared to uphold that more demanding standard. Nonetheless yesterday it ruled the execution should go ahead.

And it did go ahead tonight.

Well, in these posts, Sanders clearly puts forth his opposition to the death penalty. but I certainly cannot agree. Allowing a convicted murderer to live, even as an incarcerated prisoner, cheapens the lives of the victims of murder. These lives are deemed to be worth less than the life of the murderer. And for this reason alone, I firmly support the death penalty — but only for murder or those other crimes that cause the death of innocent people. Making other crimes, like rape, capital is not something I would support. But I firmly believe in "eye for eye, tooth for tooth," and thus, "life for life."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Well, my previous post is confirmed

As I said two days ago, It appears that President Obama doesn't seriously want a bill to reduce the deficit; he merely wants a campaign issue. His comment that he will veto a bill unless it raises taxes proves that. Even liberals seem to see this, as the cited blog post (from Mother Jones, about as liberal a source as one can imagine) shows.

The problem is, as a result we will have gridlock, and nothing will be accomplished unless a new President is elected, and that won't happen for more than a year, or a new Congress is elected, which will take just as long.

Unfortunately, Obama does not care about the economy as much as he does about scoring political points and fomenting class struggle — his socialistic point of view is quite clear now. Too bad people, who seemed to take him for a centrist, elected him in 2008, but we are stuck with him until January 2013.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Again -- please not Rick Perry!

Rick Perry is now a front-runner in the race for the 2012 GOP nomination for the Presidency. Such a nomination would be, as Stephen Richer posted in the FrumForum blog, anathema to many more Jews than simply me.

Please read the post; I'm not going to reproduce it here, but it makes great reading.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is Pres. Obama looking for a bill? Or a campaign issue?

“Politics is the art of the possible.” So said Otto von Bismarck over a century ago. And to a great extent, this is true. But it looks as though President Barack Obama doesn't believe so.

He is still insisting that a bill to improve our economic situation must raise taxes, though he has been told by Speaker of the House John Boehner that such a bill cannot pass the House of Representatives. In fact, even the Democrats in the Senate are not united behind it, so the Senate, no less than the House, will reject his plan.

The only possible motive for Obama's making this proposal is that he's not really looking to get a bill through the Congress that he can sign, but instead he is hoping that he can harness class warfare to ensure his re-election, since there are more poor voters than rich. But hopefully, even those who are not rich will realize that those “rich people”that Obama wants to strangle financially are the people who create the jobs we need. Obama wants to kill the golden goose. And he's encouraged by such as Warren Buffett, who have so much money that they can easily spare the tax money Obama would take from them. But a lot of people are not in Warren Buffett's class, and will not be so eager to support Obama's programs with their money.

President Obama's bill is dead on arrival at the House, and I'm sure he knows it. So unless he's only building up a campaign issue, what is the sense of proposing such a bill?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Was the New York Congressional vote a referendum on Obama?

Some people are claiming that the election Tuesday which elected Republican Bob Turner to Congress was not a referendum on President Obama's administration. Well, listen to the comments of 61-year-old Linda Goldberg after she cast her ballot in New York City's borough of Queens: “I am a registered Democrat, I have always been a registered Democrat, I come from a family of Democrats — and I hate to say this, I voted Republican. I need to send a message to the president that he’s not doing a very good job. Our economy is horrible. People are scared.” Anyone who would say she “hate[d] to say” that she voted for a Republican is a pretty firm Democrat. When people like Linda Goldberg vote as she did — and say that the President is “not doing a very good job,” that is a pretty bad sign for the President.

In this election, even a Democratic colleague of losing candidate David Weprin's in the New York assembly, Dov Hikind, endorsed Turner. When fellow partisans in office back your opponent, that says something. Assemblyman Hikind suggested that the deciding factor in the race was the economy. “People want to go back to work,” he said. “They're sick and tired of speeches.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

The arrogance of… Barack Obama

Some years ago, now-President Barack Obama wrote a book entitled "The Audacity of Hope." Well, I don't know about how much audacity hope may possess, but President Obama's audacity is so great as to be better described as arrogance, to a seemingly unbounded degree.

The President submitted a request to Congress during the debt ceiling debates to raise certain taxes. (Robin-Hood-like, he seemed to think that taxing "rich people" more would get support from the American people.) The Republicans, quite naturally, balked. They also were very unhappy with the "stimulus that didn't stimulate," which Obama pushed through when the Congress was in Democratic hands. So what did the President propose for his "jobs" plan? A rehash of the "stimulus," to be paid for by the very tax increases which he could not get the GOP members of Congress to sign on to. And he has the gall — the audacity — to accuse the Republicans of excess partisanship, and beseech them to cooperate!

If he wants a less partisan response from Republicans in Congress, it is up to him to come up with a less partisan program — no repeat of the "stimulus that didn't stimulate," no more "robbing from the 'rich' to give to the poor," and at least some concession to Republican ideas like lowering business taxes and deregulating those businesses.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A referendum on Obama?

Tuesday, a special election was held in New York City to fill the seat vacated by Anthony Weiner, the discredited member of the House of Representatives. And guess what? In a district with ¾ of its registered voters enrolled as Democrats, an area that has not had a Republican Representative since the days when Calvin Coolidge was President, the winner was Bob Turner, a 70-year-old retiree. Turner has never been elected to public office; his opponent was a sitting member of the New York State Assembly (lower house of the legislature). Turner ran, and lost to Weiner last year.

This is as big news as Scott Brown winning Ted Kennedy's Senate seat when Kennedy died. It means one thing: Voters, even in a strongly Democratic district spreading through two of New York City's five boroughs (it is mostly in Queens, with a piece in Brooklyn), are so fed up with President Barack Obama that they have elected a Republican to fill their seat in the House. Given that on the same day, six Democratic state legislators also won special elections, this had to be nothing less than a referendum on Obama.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of the Obama administration.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Maryland's DREAM Act fixation

One of the editors of the local Washington Examiner, Barbara Hollingsworth, writes a column with which I often disagree. (Among other things, she is bitterly opposed to mass transit, except possibly buses, and I've personally exchanged e-mail with her over this.) But today, she wrote a great column, which I will happily quote:

Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Marielsa Bernard's abrupt dismissal last month of a lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch against Montgomery College's Board of Trustees for granting discounted tuition to illegal immigrants is not the end of the discussion. Judicial Watch plans to appeal the ruling, which could spark the beginning of a re-examination of sanctuary policies nationwide.
The Judicial Watch case was not even on Bernard's docket when she inappropriately intervened and took it away from another judge to whom it had been assigned. A founding member of the Hispanic Bar Association with close ties to CASA de Maryland, a tax-funded advocacy group for illegal immigrants, Bernard ruled that the three plaintiffs — all Montgomery County taxpayers — had no legal standing to sue the college because financial aid is supposedly the sole province of the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

And how's this for unintended irony?

In order to qualify for the in-county rate, students must prove they either live in Montgomery County or that they graduated from one of the county's public high schools within the past three years. In other words, the tax-supported community college imposes its own residency test to determine how much tuition to charge students — but somehow feels free to ignore legal residency requirements under existing federal and Maryland state law.

The community college allows illegal immigrants to enroll at the in-county rate of $107 per credit, about half of the $219 per credit charged for in-state Maryland residents and a third of the $299 paid by out-of-state students. All else being equal, an undocumented Guatemalan living in Silver Spring would pay half as much tuition as a U.S. citizen from Upper Marlboro.

Maryland Del. Patrick L. McDonough, R-Baltimore County, agreed to audit the college when Montgomery state legislators and County Council members refused a request to do so from their constituents. The audit found that the college's long-standing policy, which has apparently been in place for at least a decade, may have cost Maryland taxpayers as much as $10 million, McDonough told The Examiner. "Maryland taxpayers must pay for this deficit."

"They know they're wrong," said McDonough — who helped spearhead a successful citizens petition drive to suspend implementation of the controversial Maryland Dream Act, which grants in-state tuition to illegal immigrants statewide, until a 2012 voter referendum. "Public officials do not have the right to violate the law and use tax funds — including the $147 million Montgomery College gets from the state — any way they want. If that right already existed, why was the General Assembly required to pass SB 167, the Dream Act, which would have allowed it?"

In Montgomery County, the law has been twisted so far that it is now used as a vehicle to reward and protect illegal immigrants while law-abiding citizen taxpayers are forbidden from challenging the misuse of their own money in court. This is supposed to be "fair."

"It's unbelievable that the biggest community college in Maryland is proudly and publicly admitting that it is misusing tax dollars, that members of the County Council and the county executive all think this is a good idea, and that a judge has now inappropriately issued a decision that upends 150 years of legal tradition and says that Maryland taxpayers do not have the right to sue public officials. This will not be tolerated or ignored," McDonough vowed.

If he's right, and this sanctuary college in a sanctuary county in a sanctuary state is finally held accountable for its illegal use of tax dollars, there's no telling how far this could spread.

Now, this time, I think Hollingsworth is right, and I applaud her raising these points.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An interesting comment on organized labor

I don't always agree with Bill O'Reilly, especially when he writes on issues like separation of church and state. But he wrote a column, which I read in the Washington Examiner, which I like enough to reproduce here. (I can't find it on the Examiner's site, but only on O'Reilly's own, so I do not give a link.)

There's lots of angst in the air after Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa called Tea Party people SOB's and urged voters to "take them out." Immediately, voter registration jumped among members of the Gambino family. Apparently, Mr. Hoffa is angry that some Americans want to put a lid on public sector pensions and perks which are bankrupting municipalities all over the country. Old Jimmy believes this is "taking the bread out of the mouths" of American workers.

For decades, union power has intimidated politicians in both parties. I mean, if you were running for office, would you want big union money flowing into your opponent's campaign? Would you want organized demonstrations at your rallies? How about work slowdowns, sudden mass worker illness, or anti-you phone campaigns? Unions have power and power rules.

Thus, many American unions have secured lucrative benefits for their members—benefits that have drained treasuries. The Post Office, for example, is on the verge of bankruptcy, not able to repay $5.5 billion in loans from the Treasury Department. The huge cost of postal retirement benefits is one of the main reasons an American institution may collapse.

All of this is not the fault of the workers. They did their jobs and are entitled to what was negotiated. But public money has run out, and going forward, big changes will have to be made if the American economy is to expand. Jimmy Hoffa can huff and puff all day long, but if he succeeds in blocking economic reform, he will indeed blow the entire house down.

President Obama needs union votes to win reelection. Therefore, he did not condemn Hoffa's over-the-top rhetoric even though he campaigned for verbal restraint in his Arizona speech. Mr. Obama will also not go up against the unions and demand fiscal reform. He will position himself as the champion of the working stiff, even if it means more disasters like the Post Office.

Previously in this space, I discussed my membership in AFTRA, a union that represents TV and radio people. When some greedy suits tried to con me and my colleagues at the syndicated program "Inside Edition" out of pension money, AFTRA fought them and won. So, unions are needed, but they should be optional. No American worker should be forced to pay union dues. Employees must weigh self-reliance against union protections.

With union power in decline, Jimmy Hoffa needs an enemy to rail against, and the Tea Party provides him that. But if he were honest, Hoffa would see the Tea folks simply want financial responsibility and fairness in the public sector. Living within your means is a key to economic success. Gaming the system through intimidation and threats is not.

Hoffa's not looking out for his country on this one.

This time, O'Reilly has it exactly right. I fully agree.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Social Security -- a Ponzi scheme?

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, one of the candidates for the Republican nomination for the Presidency, recently called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. He's been criticized for this. But the real point is not whether Social Security is or is not properly described as a Ponzi scheme. It is, according to the definition, much like a Ponzi scheme because money from later "investors" is being used to pay off earlier ones. But unlike a true Ponzi scheme, there doesn't seem to be any plan by the U. S. Government to take the money and run. Rather, it is able to use its taxing power to force people to put money into it, which Carlo Ponzi could not do.

The real question is what to do about it? Canceling it is out of the question — so many people have paid into it all the money that might have gone into retirement savings, so canceling it would make it a Ponzi scheme, complete with the "take the money and run" aspect. It might be true that the program should not have been started in the 1930s on the basis it was, but it's too late to change that aspect of it. What we need to know is what Perry would put in its place. Anything that replaces Social Security has to take care of current retirees — people who didn't get a chance to invest that money in a better alternative — as well as current workers, many of which have already put in much of the money that could have been invested. Perhaps new workers could be put into a better program, more like what an IRA is, but anyone who has already been working and put money into Social Security needs somehow to be helped to compensate for his lost opportunity to invest that money. Perhaps the only fair thing would be to keep all retirees receiving money on the current plan and return, with interest, all money that current workers have paid into Social Security. But where would that money come from?

Ponzi scheme or not, the real question is how Social Security will be changed, and what it means to current retirees and current workers. Perry's criticism of the program does not serve a valid purpose, unless he presents his alternative.