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.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why should anyone care about the "birthers"?

Recently Rick Perry made some statements that seemed to put him in the camp of the “birthers” (people who don't believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States). There's been enough evidence that he was born in Honolulu that one would think nobody could doubt it, but suppose he really were not? What difference do you think this would make? Does anyone believe that the Supreme Court would invalidate the laws that Obama signed in his capacity of the Presidency? Perhaps Joe Biden might serve out the last few months of the term Obama was elected to. But would this in any way change the current dynamic of a Republican House of Representatives and a Senate which has a narrow Democratic plurality, with enough Republican votes to prevent action on anything they unanimously oppose?

Those who feel President Obama has been a bad President, and I count myself among them, need to concentrate all efforts on nominating a Republican who can defeat him November next year. Trying to attack him on the “legitimacy” issue won't really accomplish a thing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why there is no credible "social conservative" Presidential candidate

I've been getting some amusement from the machinations of “social conservatives” trying to come up with a candidate this year. They've had a really hard time, because it's just not possible to find a credible Presidential candidate who is also a “social conservative.”

First, there was Michele Bachmann. A member of Congress, a former state treasurer, and certainly a “social conservative.” But when she began to campaign for the Presidency, it became obvious that she was only a slightly more intelligent version of last year's Christine O'Donnell. She had never given much thought to some of the major issues confronting the country, and was positively crazy when it came to some matters. The “social conservatives” abandoned her in droves as this came out.

So next, they turned to Rick Perry. The problem with Rick Perry is that he isn't really a traditional Republican, but rather an unreconstructed Dixiecrat. The Dixiecrats, for over a century, stayed in the Democratic Party, not because they agreed with the rest of the Democrats on any important issues, but because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, and they had never conceded that the Civil War was won by the North under his leadership. When the Supreme Court decisions of the 1950s and 1960s made it clear that the Dixiecrats would never prevail, they looked at the fact that, on many economic issues, they had more in common with the Republicans than the Democrats and gradually moved into the Republican Party — Perry did so only in the 1990s! But Perry got tripped up on the “Niggerhead” issue — to him (as I said, really a Dixiecrat), a camp with a name like that was not particularly offensive, so he never considered that, once he put his political ambitions on a national stage, there are people out there who would find it so.

Now, the current “flavor of the month” is Herman Cain, who would obviously never be caught up on the “Niggerhead” issue. But while Cain has certainly been a competent executive (with a substantial record in the pizza business) he is not a politician. He got himself tripped up on the issue of the “Palestinian ‘right to return’” because he never understood that this really meant the extermination of Israel — he'd never been concerned with issues like that. And his credentials with the “social conservatives” have been seriously compromised by his waffling stand on abortion, the issue that “social conservatives” live and die for. He has proclaimed himself “pro-life,” but basically he is a “laissez-faire” businessman and opposed to government intervention in people's private lives, and this is exactly what the “pro-lifers” want. And so he's finding himself forced to contradict himself.

I believe it is truly impossible for an intelligent person to believe in the premises of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States and also be a “social conservative.” They are simply incompatible. And it is in this that the “social conservatives” have their problems. How can one believe in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and interfere with others' liberty to live as they choose, in the pursuit of what makes them happy? And imposing one's own religious beliefs on others is certainly incompatible with the First Amendment to the Constitution. This is why anyone intelligent enough to be a credible Presidential candidate is bound to reject the “social conservative” doctrine. And it is why the “social conservatives” have found it such tough going to find their candidate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The myth of “medical marijuana”

I should note that this post was inspired by reading a column by Joseph Summerill in yesterday's Washington Examiner, but it is not simply a repost of his column, because I have been thinking along similar lines for a long time. Some of the facts, however, are taken directly from the column, since I do not want to have to spend the effort digging up the primary sources.

Marijuana is a dangerous drug. It has been classified as a Schedule I drug inder the Controlled Substances Act, a classification which applies to substances that “exhibit a high potential for abuse or dependency, have no accepted medical value, and are unsafe to use, even under medical supervision.” Note the last two of these. They imply that there is really no such thing as “medical marijuana,” despite the propaganda by drugheads who have succeeded in getting sixteen states and the District of Columbia to pass laws purporting to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. It might additionally be noted that the Food and Drug Administration has definitively stated that there has not been a single scientifically valid study that has supported the medicinal value of marijuana, and FDA's statement confirms the ridiculousness of the term “medical marijuana.”

Some people point to the fact that the FDA has approved a drug called dronabinol (sold under the proprietary name Marinol), which contains synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive substance found in the cannabis plant. Dronabinol is prescribed for the relief of the adverse side effects of chemotherapy and as an appetite stimulant for AIDS sufferers. It is available legally in pill form, and accepted by the medical community. But marijuana, as smoked, contains more than four hundred chemicals, including some of the same carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. It is not a pure substance, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (a unit of the National Institutes of Health) has stated that marijuana in smoked or vaporized form is unlikely to be used as a medicine because of its lack of purity and often unpredictable side effects, pointing out that it may cause cognitive defects that reduce its usefulness.

Years ago, people used to point out that marijuana is a “gateway drug,” opening the way to more dangerous drugs. A lot of pro-marijuana people have propagandized extensively to the point that you do not hear this much now. And yet, scientific studies show this to be true. The Harm Reduction Journal has published a study of 3000 “medical marijuana” users and found that, of the Caucasian subjects in the study, nearly 75% have used cocaine and over 50% have used methamphetamine. Another study, of teenagers who smoke marijuana, done at Columbia University, found that teen-age marijuana smokers are 85 times as likely to use cocaine than non-marijuana smokers.

And the psychoactive properties of marijuana are known. Washington state has legalized “medical marijuana,” and a study in that state showed that about one in every eight fatally injured drivers tested positive for marijuana. There is more evidence, but this is the most prominent study.

So, clearly, “medical marijuana” is a myth.

Monday, October 24, 2011

An example of unions' extortion of the public

This posting, on the FrumForum blog, by Howard Foster, caught my eye. It's another example of contemptible behavior by the labor unions of this country.:

Last year I moved my law firm from one high-rise building in downtown Chicago to another one a few blocks away. Because the move was a short one, I shopped around for a mover who could get the job done for under $500. And there were small movers in the suburbs willing to do the job at that cost.

Yet I discovered a problem when I attempted to obtain permission from my new landlord for the suburban mover to use the loading dock. The mover was non-union, and the building would not allow any non-union contractor or subcontractor into the building.

I checked my lease to see if there was any such restriction on my ability to hire independent contractors of my choosing. And sure enough, there was. The lease requires tenants to obtain permission from management for any independent contractor.

It does not expressly provide that such permission shall only be given to unionized contractors, but the building manager made it quite clear to me that indeed was the unwritten policy. If someone tries to bring in a non-union electrician, the building owner will order the electrician to leave, and if that doesn’t work, the building staff will walk off their jobs, effectively shutting the 40 story structure down.

So the building is colluding with the union to keep out non-union workers even though the result of that conspiracy is to jack up the price of labor for the building’s tenants. Why would the building agree to enforce this rule? At first blush, it would seem not to be in the building’s interests. It wants to keep its tenants happy.

The reason is big cities operate under union control. Union members tend to live in these cities. They are rewarded with vastly supra-competitive (overpriced) wages in exchange for which they pay hefty union dues. These dues flow to politicians who pressure big businesses to pay extortionate wage rates in exchange for barriers to competition. So a big employer in Chicago’s Loop will have to pay enormous labor costs, $30-70/hour for contractors plus generous benefits, but the City will steer contracts to that company. Additionally, sky-high labor costs keep out competitors. So big landlords and big construction firms and big hotel chains and big restaurant chains tend to dominate the downtown market. We consumers lose at every turn.

So I was compelled to hire a union mover on the “approved list” maintained by my new building at a cost of $1200, an act of extortion. In labor law terms I was the victim of a “secondary boycott,” the threat of a work stoppage by the building employees. Labor law allows employees to boycott or strike their own employer but not anyone else. They can’t take action against me in order to coerce me to keep non-union contractors out of the building. This is an “unfair labor practice” under the National Labor Relations Act (and it’s also an antitrust violation if done with the approval of the employer, here the building, which it was).

But the only remedy Congress provided for such a violation is a federal suit for money damages. So I could sue the union for $700 in federal court. But no rational litigant would sue for such a small sum even if the prospect of an award of attorney’s fees is promised to the winner, which the law provides to the victims of unfair labor practices. A more appropriate remedy would be a quick action for an injunction prohibiting the union and my building from excluding the non-union mover before my move so the damages could have been avoided. But the law does not provide for injunctions in such cases.

What happened to me is not unique to Chicago. Unions dominate virtually every construction job in every major city in the North and the West. (The South, which has historically been anti-union, is more competitive.) Union labor is significantly more expensive than non-union labor. Non-union workers would do the same jobs just as well (although the unions dispute this), for at least 30% less. One unintended consequence is that the unionized contractors will by necessity hire fewer workers, thereby increasing unemployment.

Let’s hope Mitt Romney will become president and propose long-needed labor law reform. Quicker relief from secondary boycotts by unions and their management collaborators (like my building) is long overdue. Ideally, the National Labor Relations Board should be able to hear such cases and issue injunctions against such boycotts, which are already illegal, before the damage is done, in a matter of a few weeks.

And in the case of a someone with a big construction job, the damages, the difference between union and non-union wages, can be enormous. Secondly, we need to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires the federal government to pay union wages for construction projects. The result is that federal highway and construction jobs always go to unionized employers. This costs the taxpayers billions of dollars per year. If our high level of unemployment and low growth persist into 2013, and a Republican is elected president (presumably Romney), then there will be propitious time for labor law reform.


This is why we need laws to take out these greedy unions. Once upon a time, they served a useful purpose. Now, they don't.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The trouble with Herman Cain

There are two groups whose allegiance to the Democratic Party has been overwhelming: my own group (American Jews) and, in the last few decades, and even more monolithically, African-Americans. So it is heartening to see a few Jewish Republicans coming into prominence (like Eric Cantor, the #2 Republican in the House of Representatives), and the same can be said of African-Americans like Herman Cain. But Cain poses one big problem.

Yes, it would be nice to have an African-American candidate opposing President Barack Obama to take the "racism" accusations off the table. And unlike President Obama, Mr. Cain has excellent credentials as a businessman in the real world, having been the CEO of a well-known corporation making pizzas for the public. Being a businessman is something that teaches you a lot about economics, which will be a major issue, perhaps the major issue, in next year's Presidential election.

But Mr. Cain has one major problem. He has never held any political office. And this means he has never had to engage in the give and take that a President (or any politician) needs to immerse himself in. No President, no Governor, no mayor, ever gets his way 100% — he has political opposition to work with (even the Mayor of Chicago has some, though it's pretty weak!) and this matters. We have just seen how practical politics is making Herman Cain rethink his catchy-slogan "9-9-9" taxation plan. One of his talking points has been the simplicity of his plan. No exemptions — all people are treated alike and all income is treated alike. Well, when he sees the real world, he sees you can't do that. All of a sudden, his plan has grown exemptions.

Had he some political experience, he probably could have seen from the beginning that his original 9-9-9 plan would never fly.

One of the problems we've had with President Obama is his need for "on-the-job training." He has had some political experience, but not enough (before becoming President, he had a couple of years in the Senate and a few more as an Illinois State Senator). Can we really afford to have a President with none at all? (Even if he has the business experience that President Obama lacks!) I don't think so.

We need a President with both experience running a business and experience in a high political office. That is why Mitt Romney is such an attractive candidate.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A good idea, which is unfortunately not likely to come about right away

Although the bill was introduced back in August, it was only yesterday (as a result of an editorial in the Washington Examiner) that I found out that Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Tim Scott introduced a bill, under the name of the Employee Rights Act, to make fairer the process of determining whether workers are represented by unions or not.

If enacted, the bill would:

• Mandate a secret-ballot vote in every union representation election, regardless of whether an employer opts to voluntarily recognize the union.

• Require union representation to be recertified via a secret ballot election every three years following initial certification.

• Allow employees to collect any lost wages or unlawfully collected union dues resulting from a union’s interference with their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, including the right to petition for union decertification.

• Impose a procedural penalty on unions that unlawfully interfere with an employee’s filing of a decertification petition.

• Prevent the National Labor Relations Board from implementing its proposed “quickie elections” rule change in order to ensure that employees are able to have full and complete information before deciding whether to join a union.

• Conform and make equal the definition of an unfair labor practice on the part of union with that of an employer under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

• Prevent a union from ordering a strike unless they first obtain the consent of a majority of the workforce via a secret ballot election.

• Allow all applicable employees — union members and non-members alike — to have the same rights as union members to vote to ratify a collective bargaining agreement or to engage in a work stoppage.

• Prevent an employee’s union dues or fees from being used for purposes unrelated to the union’s collective bargaining functions — including political contributions and expenditures — without that employee’s written consent.

• Strengthen prohibitions against extortion and the use of force or violence or threat thereof for achieving objectives relating to union representation, compensation, or conditions of employment.

Right now, the playing field is tilted in favor of organized labor — if the employees vote once to certify a union, it remains certified for all time; the workers have no chance to reconsider this decision, ever! This bill would create a more level playing field.

Unfortunately, it has little chance of passing the Senate — because the Democrats control that body and most Democrats are the stooges of organized labor — and would certainly be vetoed by President Obama even if it passed, again because the Democratic Party is totally beholden to organized labor and Obama has never shown any desire to offend those union bosses. Right now, all we can hope for is a debate that will bring out the issues, but perhaps after the 2012 election, the political balance will have changed so as to make passage more likely. As should be clear, this blog is 100% behind the Hatch-Scott bill. Too bad there is no hope of passing it right now, but let us work to get a bill like this in the future.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and church-state separation

I have not been watching the debates among the GOP hopefuls, mainly because my mind is pretty much made up already, but also because there are too many candidates that haven't got a chance included in the field to be able to concentrate on the significant ones, because I don't have the time, and because I'll find out if anything important came out of them from newspaper or blog articles anyway. And the last point was borne out by my seeing a post by David Frum in his FrumForum blog:

On the Las Vegas stage, Anderson Cooper asked the candidates about the role of faith generally and then specifically to the disparaging comments about Romney’s Mormonism by the pastor who introduced Rick Perry at the Values Voters Summit.

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich used the opportunity to describe religious faith as a bona fide job qualification for the presidency.

Gingrich: “And how can I trust you with power if you don’t pray?”

Perry unpleasantly tried to play it both ways, both edging away from the disparaging remarks while refusing to criticize the pastor for making them.

I have said I didn’t agree with that individual’s statement. And our founding fathers truly understood and had an understanding of — of freedom of religion.

And this country is based on, as — as Newt talked about, these values that are so important as we go forward. And the idea that we should not have our freedom of — of religion to be taken away by any means, but we also are a country that is free to express our opinions. That individual expressed an opinion. I didn’t agree with it, Mitt, and I said so. But the fact is, Americans understand faith. And what they’ve lost faith in is the current resident of the White House…I have. I said I did not agree with the — Pastor Jeffress’s remarks. I don’t agree with them. I — I can’t apologize any more than that.


Now Romney:

What I actually found was most troubling in what the reverend said in the introduction was he said, in choosing our nominee, we should inspect his religion. And someone who is a good moral person is not someone who we should select; instead, we should choose someone who subscribes to our religious belief.

That — that idea that we should choose people based upon their religion for public office is what I find to be most troubling, because the founders of this country went to great length to make sure — and even put it in the Constitution — that we would not choose people who represent us in government based upon their religion, that this would be a nation that recognized and respected other faiths, where there’s a plurality of faiths, where there was tolerance for other people and faiths. That’s a bedrock principle.

And it was that principle, Governor, that I wanted you to be able to [say], “no, no, that’s wrong, Reverend Jeffress.” Instead of saying as you did, “Boy, that introduction knocked the ball out of the park,” I’d have said, “Reverend Jeffress, you got that wrong. We should select people not based upon their faith.” Even though — and I don’t suggest you distance yourself from your faith any more than I would. But the concept that we select people based on the church or the synagogue they go to, I think, is a very dangerous and — and enormous departure from the principles of our — of our Constitution.

That may have been the most full-throated defense of religious separation on a Republican platform these past 30 years – and we owe it to Rick Perry’s weasely attempt to “disagree” with Rev. Jeffress’ anti-Mormon animus while still profiting politically from that animus.


More reason to support Mitt Romney. He actually knows the content of the portion of Article VI, ¶ 3 of the Constitution that says:

no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Is Pres. Obama already a lame duck?

Sometimes, as I look around the blogosphere, by following links I come to some relatively old posts that I think deserve reading. In particular, the FrumForum blog has a number of people besides David Frum who post there, and usually when you look at a post, there are links to other posts by the same person, some of which may be months old. With that by way of explanation, I saw this posting by Zac Morgan, dated this past August 4. It makes fascinating reading.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Romney a "Rockefeller Republican"?

Newt Gingrich recently called Mitt Romney a “Rockefeller Republican.” And I suppose, to Gingrich, this is bad. To me, this is a good reason to support Romney. For, I'm proud to say, I'm also a Rockefeller Republican. Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller was one of the two people whose handling of an executive position inspired me to become a Republican — I was too young to vote, of course, but as soon as I turned 21 (the minimum voting age back in those days) I registered as a Republican, coming from a strong Democratic family. (The other person, besides Rockefeller, was President Dwight D. Eisenhower.)

Of course, I think what Gingrich was trying to say is that Romney could not be nominated because he is too moderate. This may have hurt Rockefeller, but it will not hurt Romney. The fact is that most Republicans are more interested in defeating Barack Obama than in ideological purity this year. And a moderate is exactly what the GOP needs to do this.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Can we do something to advance the moderate cause? Yes!

Regular readers of this blog know that I generally take positions that can basically be described as right-of-center, and many of my posts have been in advocacy of moderate Republican candidates. But I think that the cause I am about to put forth in this post is one that moderates of both parties and independent centrists should embrace, however we might differ on individual candidates. The thing is: we need to change the way we elect people to office.


The system we use for nearly all elections is called plurality. You can vote for only one candidate, and the one with the most votes wins. If there are three acceptable candidates, you need to pick one, and if some of your allies pick a different one, the vote for the good candidates is split, so that a candidate that you really don’t want gets elected. Because of the results of such a split, we need primary elections to pick one candidate of each party, and it is in these primaries that moderates are getting crushed by extremists of both the left (in the Democratic party) and the right (in the Republican party).


We have seen this over and over. Arlen Specter, who had served with distinction in the Senate as a moderate Republican representing the state of Pennsylvania for many years, figured he could not win a Republican primary – the last time he had run, he came perilously close to defeat at the hands of Pat Toomey, who was going to run in the primary again. So he switched to the Democratic party, where he thought his chances might be better. That did not help; he was beaten by a left-wing Democrat, Joseph Sestak, in that party’s primary. Polls showed that Specter might have won an election in which all Pennsylvanians could vote, but at the primary level, Toomey would beat him among Republicans and Sestak among Democrats. So the Senate was deprived of a voice for moderation.


Last year, at least two Democrats, Chris Coons in Delaware and Harry Reid in Nevada, were elected although the polls showed that both could be defeated if the Republicans had put forth moderate candidates. And there were available candidates: Mike Castle in Delaware, a very popular member of the House of Representatives, who had had to run statewide since Delaware had only one Representative, and Sue Lowden in Nevada, a State Senator and former state Republican chairwoman. But Tea Party extremists in the Republican primaries forced the nomination of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada, both of whom were guilty of such political gaffes as to make them objects of ridicule by the time of the November election.


Some have said that the solution to this is opening up primaries to voters who are not members of the party in question. But that would be a case where the cure might be worse than the disease. Democrats might vote in a Republican primary to pick the candidate who would most easily lose to a Democrat. So a better solution is needed. And that is to have a better voting system. There are two broad types of solution. One is to have proportional representation, where a party that gets 25% of the votes in an election gets 25% of the seats in the body being elected. This is, of course, not possible in an election for an office like a mayor, governor, or president, so for such offices it is necessary to have a system where vote splitting cannot hurt a candidate as it does in plurality voting.


Some people say that proportional representation leads to instability, because it leads the way to the representation of lots of third parties that cannot form majorities; it has in such cases as France and Italy shortly after World War II and Israel more recently. But there are ways of setting up proportional representation that do not lead to this instability; in Germany and, in recent years, New Zealand, a system has been adopted that works and allows third parties to exist without the unstable governments that were seen in those other countries.


But as stated before, there are offices like mayor, governor, or president, which cannot be divided proportionally. So single winner methods need to be devised where a voter can vote his conscience without worrying that splitting the vote would elect his worst choice. There are systems that will do this. A site, which I created, that compares voting systems is available at http://important-information.net78.net/vote/. There is an excellent book by William Poundstone called Gaming the Vote, which also discusses this problem. And Poundstone, as well as I, has concluded that the best system to use is one called “range” or “score” voting, in which you rate all the candidates, so you can (in one version) give a 10 to the candidate(s) you like best, a 1 to the one(s) you like least, and intermediate values to others. So conservatives might give 10s to the most conservative candidates, 1s to the most liberal, and 4s, 5s, or 6s to moderates. Liberals would do the reverse, and moderates might give 1s to the extremists and 9s and 10s to moderate candidates. You would not need primaries, because if there were five Republicans in an election, they would not split the Republican vote, but Republicans could give high ratings to all of them. And the winning candidates would be the ones who got the most support all along the spectrum, leading to many more moderate victories.


An alternative system, known as Instant Runoff Voting, has been proposed by a group known as FairVote. It is essentially the system that has been used in Australia for many years, and proponents of this system have actually gotten it adopted in places like San Francisco; Aspen, Colorado; and Burlington, Vermont. In a few of those places, it was adopted, and has since been rejected, because it can lead to such bizarre results as in the Burlington, Vt. mayoralty election of 2009, where the candidate who might have been a good compromise, receiving support from nearly all the voters, was actually eliminated in the course of the counting, because he was the first choice of comparatively few. In such an election, some candidates who might be the most acceptable to the voters at large get eliminated, and usually the result is as much polarization between extreme candidates as the worst cases we have seen in plurality voting, so moderates, particularly, should resist the propaganda for instant-runoff voting.


You can read more about range/score voting at http://rangevoting.org – a very useful site.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and qualifications for the Presidency

The Washington Examiner carries a regular column by Byron York, who, like many of the Examiner's columnists, tends to be a little more right-wing than me, so sometimes I agree and sometimes I disagree. In yesterday's paper I read York's column, which read:

What's wrong with Rick Perry? How did the successful, well-liked, long-term governor of one of America's largest states enter the Republican presidential primary race with great fanfare, zoom to the top of the polls, and then slide almost as quickly back into the pack?

Blaming the Texas governor's problems on a lackluster debating style — as Perry himself has done after a number of poor performances — answers only part of the question. Yes, debates are particularly important this campaign season. But debates are more than just style and popularity contests. They reveal deeper things about candidates; voters watching debates can learn not only how a candidate handles tough questions but whether he is really, truly prepared to run for the White House.

Early in Perry's candidacy, there was a spate of stories suggesting he's not smart enough to be president. They weren't subtle; one was headlined “Is Rick Perry Dumb?” But even Perry's critics could look at those stories and say: Here is a man who has successfully governed a large and complex state, presided over prosperity and growth, dealt with the political challenges that go with it all, and won re-election repeatedly. Successful governorships don't just happen by accident; Perry's results in Texas show he is a smart, competent executive.

But the debates have revealed a different problem. The Rick Perry who has taken the stage in four Republican debates so far is a man who, for all his governing success in Texas, appears not to have thought enough about why he wants to be president of the United States and what he would do if he achieved his goal. When critics gently say that Perry's presentations have been “light on details,” they're really saying Perry doesn't seem to have thought things through.

More than anything else, a lot of thinking should precede a run for president. There's no time to think about much of anything once the campaign begins, and there's no way a candidate can collect and organize a lifetime of experiences into a coherent approach to national issues once he's flying from stop to stop. A candidate has to have done his thinking long before he hits the road or steps on a debate stage.

Think back to a different example from a different time. In 2005, President George W. Bush nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Miers was a perfectly fine White House counsel, but she clearly had not spent a lifetime doing the kind of legal thinking that prepares one for the highest court. The White House assured doubters that Miers planned to study really, really hard in preparation for her confirmation hearings.

But it doesn't work that way. Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito didn't have to cram at the last minute for their hearings. Each had a lifetime of experience and thinking at the highest levels of the law, and their task was to organize the knowledge they already had to prepare for confirmation questioning. But the important thing was, the knowledge was there. The thinking had already been done. Miers, on the other hand, wasn't prepared and finally dropped out.

There's no doubt former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has thought a long, long time about being president. Romney can tell you, at any level of generality or detail you want, why he is running and what he would do if he won. He adjusts to new issues and questions by building on all the preparation he's already done.

For Romney, debate preparation involves taking all the things he has already thought through and finding the most effective way to present them in one-minute answers. For Perry, debate preparation is trying to learn new stuff about national issues that he should have been thinking about a long time ago.

It's often pointed out that since Perry entered the Republican race late, on Aug. 13, he had little time to build a campaign organization and hone a campaign pitch. That's true, but the fact is, if Perry wanted to be president, he should have been thinking seriously about the substance of national issues — not just money-raising and state chairmen — years before he declared his candidacy.

Now Perry is paying the price for that lack of preparation. And if that, in fact, is the real problem behind his poor debate performances, then he's not going to improve as a candidate in the next few weeks. It's far too late for that.


I don't think York goes quite far enough. When he says that “[t]here's no doubt former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has thought a long, long time about being president. Romney can tell you, at any level of generality or detail you want, why he is running and what he would do if he won. He adjusts to new issues and questions by building on all the preparation he's already done,” he's conceding, as well, that Romney, if he is elected in November 2012, will be able, right on Jan. 20, 2013, to move into the Presidency, knowing what he wants to do and how and why he wants to do it. Contrast the current occupant of the White House, who let Congress write his health care bill because he wasn't quite sure what he wanted, and who has in general been pretty slow on the uptake in just about any way you can imagine. This is a good reason to elect Romney, not just a reason he will win debates — whether with Perry now or with Obama in 2012.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Occupy Wall Street" vs. the "Tea Party"

There is a man up in New Hampshire who does a blog called “Libertarian Leanings.” I don't always agree with him, but it usually makes good reading. And yesterday, he posted this comparison between the two movements called “Occupy Wall Street” and the “Tea Party.”

For some time now Democrats have wanted their own version of the Tea Party, and now they think they have it with Occupy Wall Street. Good luck with that. As Karl Rove observes, there are differences between the two.

The tea party is a middle-class movement of people who want limited government, less spending, less debt, low taxes, and the repeal of ObamaCare. Occupy Wall Street isn't a movement. It's a series of events populated by a weird cast of disaffected characters, ranging from anarchists and anti-Semites to socialists and LaRouchies. What they have in common is an amorphous anger aimed at banks, investors, rich people and bourgeois values.

The tea party reveres the Constitution and wants to change laws to restore the country to prosperity. Occupy Wall Street started by occupying a New York City park and then blocked the Brooklyn Bridge, sparking the arrest of hundreds.

The tea party files for permits for its rallies and picks up its trash afterwards. Occupy Wall Street tolerates protesters who defecate on police cars, allows the open sale of drugs at protests, and features women walking around rallies topless.


Somehow differences like that haven't registered with progressives like Nancy Pelosi.

“God bless them,” Pelosi said, “for their spontaneity. It's independent ... it's young, it's spontaneous, and it's focused. And it's going to be effective.”


Effective? Yes, if the plan is to destroy any chance for Democrats to hold the White House and the Senate in 2012. Their embrace of the Occupy Wall Street movement will prove toxic to Democrats, especially in light of Barack Obama raking in near record setting amounts of Wall Street campaign money. Which raises one notable similarity between the Tea Party and OWS. Both will effectively drive Democrats from office in 2012. Go team, go!


This time, I think he's hit the nail on the head, so I quote his post in its entirety.

Religious fervor about political issues

In Dennis Sanders' blog, “Big Tent Revue,” he references a column by New York Times columnist David Brooks, and makes the valid point that policy has become subordinate to symbolism, causing our political system to founder. I advise people to read both posts, and I think Sanders has a lot of truth in what he says. Certainly, whether it's taxes, gun control, or any of a number of issues, it looks like just what he talks about has happened.

The only question is, how can we change this trend? I'm not certain this can be done without great changes in our political establishment. Sanders seems to think that there was hope that Barack Obama might be the one, and he seems to be disappointed that he wasn't. I never saw Obama in that light, and my posts prior to the 2008 election should make that clear. But who can be the one?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A senior living facility that should be ashamed of itself

It seems that in Reston, Va., just outside Washington, D. C., there is a living facility for senior citizens called Hunters Woods Fellowship House. Its site proclaims: “Hunters Woods Fellowship House is a government–assisted apartment complex, located in Reston VA, designed for individuals of limited income who are over age 62 or are handicapped or disabled.” Note the words “government-assisted.” Therefore, it ought to be a non-discriminatory facility. But the facts, as opposed to the “ought to be”s, are quite different. According to an article in today's Washington Examiner, a group of Jewish seniors wishing to have a Rosh Hashanah celebration party were denied the opportunity. They were refused the option of renting a common room that is available for activities, and when they took some chairs outside for the party, the Hunters Woods management called the police (who determined that no law was violated, and left without making any arrests). Apparently a similar occurrence happened last year at Chanukah, when residents were told that they could not have their party and should consider a Christmas party as enough.

If this doesn't confirm Hunters Woods as grossly anti-Semitic, I don't know what it is. They, according to the Examiner article, deny being discriminatory. Of course, on their Web site, the organization says it operates “out of an abiding sense of Christian mission.” So are they a religious organization, which figures they're like a church and have no need to accomodate non-Christians, or a Government-funded charitable organization, with an obligation to serve all regardless of religious preference? They can't be both.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A follow-up to yesterday's post

Yesterday, I made a posting on this blog in which I referred to sources that predicted that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey would officially endorse the candidacy of Mitt Romney for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. It has now happened. And what a ringing endorsement it was. Gov. Christie went up to New Hampshire, where former Gov. Romney was preparing for the debate, to stand beside him and proclaim:

“I'm here in New Hampshire for one simple reason: America cannot survive another four years of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's the man to lead America and we need him now.”

This is no wishy-washy, half-hearted endorsement. Chris Christie is a man who speaks his mind, and this shows it. And I heartily concur with Gov. Christie's words. That is why I put them on this blog, larger than normal. Romney has shown he can manage a business, and also manage a state. None of the other candidates (except Jon Huntsman) can claim this experience. And Romney has done it in a state dominated by the opposite party, which Huntsman cannot claim. Romney also, unlike such extremists as Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, has the appeal to moderates that is needed to prevent their going to Obama. For all these reasons, I, along with Gov. Christie, believe that “Mitt Romney's the man to lead America.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An endorsement that makes a lot of sense

Since Chris Christie has decided he's not running for next year's GOP Presidential nomination, a lot of his supporters are going to look to him as to where to go. His biggest backer, Kenneth Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot, has already said he's going with Mitt Romney. So will Christie himself endorse Romney? Some news sources say he will, today.

It makes sense. Chris Christie is a Republican governor of a normally-Democratic state who has shown he can get his program through a Democratic state legislature. Both he and Romney are relatively moderate conservatives who eschew the craziness of the extremists. So I am sure that he sees a kindred spirit in Romney. And I certainly think it's appropriate. Readers of this blog may have figured out that my position for some time has been "I really would prefer Christie, but of those who are actually interested in running, Romney is clearly the best." So I applaud Christie's decision to endorse Romney now, before all the jockeying for position. It will help Romney get support from others besides just Langone who have been in the "draft Christie" camp.

I think this proves once more that Christie is the kind of person who does things that make sense. And it confirms my good feelings about both men. Just as, three years ago, when Romney saw he was not going to win the nomination, he buried the hatchet with John McCain for what was obviously the good of the Republican Party, Christie is doing what he (and I) believe is the best thing for the Republican Party and for the USA: encouraging us all to unite behind Romney as clearly the best hope to end the Obama Presidency.

Friday, October 07, 2011

What's wrong with deflation?

Lately I have been seeing posts and articles in which the writer gets all hot under the collar about the threat of deflation. Frankly, after living my whole life under inflation, worrying about whether my savings, even with interest, will be worth less than when I put the money away, I welcome deflation — if it will really occur. I've seen the 3¢ stamp of my youth go to 44¢ — and it's probably going to go even higher. I don't ever go to the movies — $10 a pop seems fantastic when, as a kid, I paid 25¢, and adults paid 40¢ — and got to see two movies for the price! Yes, my first job paid $6500 a year, and I had a Master's degree; and now even the guy at McDonald's makes a heck of a lot more than that. But I think I'd rather make the wages I made in the 1960s and 1970s — if prices were also at that level — so I knew that if I put away the money in savings I'd still have its value when I needed it.

People argue that, with deflation, people would never buy anything — they'd forever be waiting for prices to come further down. But you have to eat every day, and things wear out, so you'd need to replace them. And look at the one part of our economy that has been deflationary: electronics. The Commodore 64 I bought in the 1980s cost more in current dollars (not inflation-adjusted dollars!) than the laptop I bought in 2008. And the laptop is vastly more powerful! And even a calculator that I can buy for $10 does as much (or more) than the one I paid $80 for in 1973. Yet people buy computers, and calculators, and don't wait for prices to come further down. They want the items now, and will upgrade in the future. So this is a fallacy.

So, I repeat, what's wrong with deflation? I would be happy to see it!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The passing of Steve Jobs

At least three of the blogs I look at had posts about Steve Jobs, who passed away yesterday, so I guess I ought to put in my own 2¢.

Jobs was, like Howard Schultz at Starbucks, the man who made his company go. In both cases, when they left their companies, the companies tanked, and only when they came back, their companies revived again. Perhaps Jobs' successor as Apple CEO, Tim Cook, can keep the company going, but at one time before, Jobs left and Apple foundered, so we have to see.

But there are some misconceptions as to what Jobs actually did. Some people believe that Jobs invented the easy interface, sometimes called the WIMP interface (Window/Icon/Mouse/Pointer). But in fact it was developed by the Xerox Corporation at its Palo Alto Research Center. The thing Jobs (together with another Steve, Wozniak, who seems to be forgotten these days) did at Apple was to make it a marketable product. Xerox never figured out how to market, or at least how to market anything but the copiers they grew famous on. That was Jobs' real contribution: making computers something that anyone could use was part of it, but making computers something that everyone wanted was the bigger part. And later on, he continued with these products that caught people's fancy: the various “i-P's” (iPod, iPad, iPhone). (I must admit, I have none of these three, though this makes me a distinct minority!)

Unlike Bill Gates, Jobs never made lots of enemies. He found a way to make you want his products without resenting it — while Gates made people feel that he was bullying people into buying his products. And this was Jobs' real genius.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki

President Obama has been criticized for ordering the killing of al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki. In my book, however, the President did right.

Awlaki was born in the U. S., and under the 14th Amendment is a citizen of the U. S. So in theory, this is the assassination of a U. S. citizen. But in fact, Awlaki, by his words and deeds, renounced his citizenship. In exactly the same way that my grandfather, when he became a citizen of the U. S., renounced his Russian citizenship. Unfortunately, the 14th Amendment does not address the issue of renunciation of citizenship, so it could be argued that "once a U. S. citizen, always a U. S. citizen," under the terms of that amendment. But in that case, if Awlaki was still a citizen, his actions constitute treason, a capital offense. And his killing is simply an act of punishment that fits the crime.

But then, some might argue that he deserved a fair trial. My response is, what is the purpose of a trial? It is to afford the prosecution a chance to prove its case. Is there any person who can deny that Awlaki's actions, if he was still a citizen, constituted treason, while if he was not, he was an enemy soldier and his killing was simply a normal act of war?

In either case, the killing of Awlaki was justified. This time, Obama did the right thing.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Chris Christie won't run

Apparently New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has decided he won't run. Too bad. He would have made a great President, I think. But, as it said in the New York Times:



After a kinetic month in which some of the biggest names in American industry and Republican politics urged him to run for president, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey spent a quiet weekend at home, coming to a sobering conclusion on Tuesday: “Now is not my time.”

“New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with me,” Mr. Christie said at an afternoon news briefing in Trenton in which he appeared to be reveling in the national attention his deliberations had drawn, while at the same time showing relief.

And so ended what Mr. Christie’s closest aides and associates described as a heady roller-coaster ride during which he discussed the perils of a national campaign with former President George W. Bush during a Sept. 11 Jets-Cowboys game, received a private hourlong foreign policy briefing from former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, and dined with Nancy Reagan.

But he found himself dreading the prospect of winter in Iowa, conjuring an image of campaign misery at a forum two weeks ago as he imagined himself at a hotel room in Des Moines, “and its 5:30 in the morning and it’s 15 below, and it’s time for me to get up and go shake hands at the meatpacking plant.”

Mr. Christie’s decision — reached Monday night — means the Republican field is now essentially set, forcing the party to focus on those already in the race and give up on the idea that an ideal candidate continues to sit on the sidelines.

And it gave Mitt Romney in particular an opportunity to win over donors and
other potential supporters who have been waiting to see how the race takes
shape. Within hours of Mr. Christie’s announcement, Mr. Romney, the perceived front-runner, had won a commitment from Kenneth Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot, according to two people with knowledge of the decision. Mr. Langone, a high-profile donor, had taken a leading role in urging Mr. Christie to run.

It was just three weeks ago that Mr. Christie’s wife, Mary Pat, gave him the green light for a presidential bid. But as he consulted with his top aides, his wife, and his longtime confidant, William Palatucci, the stark realities of a national campaign were coming in to sharp relief: An unsuccessful bid could make a re-election campaign for governor that much harder.

Getting a campaign together relatively late in the election season was made even tougher when Florida announced last week that it was moving its primary up to Jan. 31, prompting Iowa and New Hampshire to likely leapfrog ahead of it. That meant even less time to prepare for the first contests. But Mr. Christie’s top political aide, Michael Duhaime, was said to be confident that a campaign could be set in motion overnight and was not daunted by the logistical challenges.

And aides and friends said, beyond the challenges of a national run, the
governor was simply unable to abide all the unfinished business he would have to leave behind after less than two years in office.

As Mr. Christie said Tuesday, “I could not get by, in my mind, in my heart, the idea that I was going to leave here 20 months into my term. I just couldn’t get by that.”

The high-level campaign to persuade Mr. Christie to run came to typify the
unease that the party’s establishment and donor wings still have with the slate of candidates in the running. And Mr. Christie’s quasi-public deliberations had frozen many of the Republican Party’s most important financiers as they waited to see if he would get in.

As he deliberated, there were emotional pleas from captains of industry and
finance such as Mr. Langone and the investor Carl Icahn, as well as from voters, like a farmer from Nebraska who sent a FedEx to Mr. Christie’s home over the weekend, addressed to his children, the youngest of whom is 8. It contained a letter telling them to urge their father to make a bid and that doing so would give them a place in history, Mr. Christie said.

Mr. Langone had been among the leaders of the effort to get Mr. Christie to
enter the race, holding a meeting with the governor and dozens of other major party donors at the New York Health and Racquet Club in the summer at which Mr. Christie was said to have been taken aback by the passion of their pleas.

Aside from doubts about the Republican field of candidates, they were impressed with Mr. Christie’s public tangles with Democrats, teachers and state workers as he sought to cut state spending, not to mention his theatrical approach at public events.

But aides said the campaign to enlist him started its climb to fever pitch after former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota announced in mid-August that he was dropping out of the race, and then more so after Gov. Rick Perry of Texas received poor reviews at a Sept. 22 debate in Orlando, Fla.

But it appears she was ahead of Mr. Christie himself. Three people close to Meg Whitman, the new chief executive of Hewlett Packard, said that when she spoke with the governor in early September about holding a fund-raiser for the New Jersey Republicans in California — which she did last week — she received assurances from him that he was not running for president. Mr. Christie’s assurances to Ms. Whitman were first reported in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

Bob Teeven, a friend from Mr. Christie’s student government days as an
undergraduate at the University of Delaware, said the governor had not indicated he was leaning toward a White House bid when he saw him in Wilmington on Sept. 20, when Mr. Christie received the Freedom Award from former Gov. Pete du Pont.

Mr. Perry’s poorly received debate performance came two days later, and
afterward Mr. Christie and his aides were deluged with new requests, from
powerhouse donors and voters alike, to enter the nominating battle.

His polite responses to their calls left some with the impression that he was leaning toward a run. And while his representatives denied that to reporters, it is clear that his resistance to the idea was, at the very least, softening.

Already scheduled to speak at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in
California last week, his address there — in which he called President Obama “a bystander in the Oval Office” — took on new resonance. Combined with a series of fund-raisers across the country, the trip — and the boisterous reception he received from crowds — made an impression on him, and caused him to begin reassessing his denials one last time, aides acknowledged in interviews.

As Mr. Christie said on Tuesday, “When you have serious people from across the spectrum, not to mention from all across the country, passionately calling on you to do something as consequential as running for president of the United States, I felt an obligation to earnestly consider their advice.”

Also, friends said, he no longer seemed to have the same misgivings about his own readiness for the Oval Office. Jerry Zaro, a friend of Mr. Christie’s, said that a half-term on the job, and one legislative victory after another, “It’s taught him — it’s shown him — that he’s got the goods.”

Yet even now, there are no reports that Mr. Christie ever came very close to deciding to plunge in. During a fund-raising event in Louisiana on Thursday with Gov. Bobby Jindal, he made it clear that he did not have an appetite for the long stretches of time on the road that would take him away from his children, said Jason P. DorĂ©, the executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party. He said Mr. Christie spoke about “his son missing him after being gone for the three days on the road, and that he needed to get back.”

Mr. Christie said his family was prepared to support a White House bid and
insisted on Tuesday that the decision was his alone. “I came back to the same place that I was in the whole last year when everyone was asking me, which was I don’t want to leave this job,” he said. “And it’s just never felt right to me to leave. And so I didn’t.”


As I said, too bad.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

More on Governor Christie

Yesterday I said that if he ran for the Presidency, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would be my first choice. So it is an interesting coincidence that on the same date, Dennis Sanders' "Big Tent Revue" blog also discussed Christie, but in the context of another opinion, a September 29 column in The Washington Post by Eugene Robinson, and a rebuttal in The New York Times by Frank Bruni.

Dennis Sanders agrees with Bruni that just because Christie is seriously overweight, that does not make him any less qualified to be President. And I certainly agree. If being unable to control one's appetite is a sign of inability as a leader, what about President Obama's inability to control his tobacco habit?

I think Robinson just doesn't like Christie, and has found a convenient excuse.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Another candidate?

Right now, of those declared candidates for the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination, my favorite, as I've stated on this blog before, is Mitt Romney. He's the best of the ones who have said they want to run, for a lot of reasons — he's not the extreme right-winger that most of his competitors are, he's proved that he can run both a business and a state, and other things. But it's clear that many Republicans are uncomfortable with him. Why else would Herman Cain — politically inexperienced, and all along running only a few percent in the polls — suddenly vault to the top in the Florida straw poll? And even to me, Romney has his flaws — the main one being his reversing his positions on a number of issues. In this respect, though I hate to admit it, Texas Governor Rick Perry was right. But although Perry is more consistent on the issues, he's more consistently on the wrong side as far as I'm concerned, so I certainly wouldn't prefer him to Romney!

There are two men who, if they decided to run for the nomination, would easily get my support for the office. One is Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels — the man who put the "social conservatives" in their place by saying that in these hard economic times there needs to be a setting aside of the social issues. The other — my absolute first choice if he ever chooses to change his mind and run — is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has taken on powerful teachers' unions and won, who has resisted the effort to make “social conservatism” a badge of the party, and has worked with a Democratic legislature to get his programs through. This last shows his superior leadership abilities.

Of course, both Daniels and Christie have said they aren't running. So I'm stuck with Romney for the time being, given the alternatives. But sometimes I just wish that Christie, particularly, would change his mind. (Latest flash: A report on Fox News says Christie is "reconsidering" his decision not to run, and may decide to change his mind. I hope he does.)