The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good news for Mitt Romney from Florida

Well, though only about 2/3 the votes are in as I write this, it really seems that Mitt Romney's win in Florida is decisive and substantial. Even if Rick Santorum's votes were added to Newt Gingrich's, they would not have exceeded the Romney vote. Clearly, Florida Republicans have gotten the message: A Republican president can only be elected if he is the kind that will appeal across the board, so that he will outpoll Barack Obama in November.

It's going to be a while before the next primary, which will allow Romney to consolidate his support. It is very clear: Mitt Romney will be the nominee for 2012.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Newt Gingrich's resignation as Speaker

There was a column I saw today that took to task the writer of a Romney ad in Florida for coupling the ethics problems that Newt Gingrich had in the House of Representatives with a reference to Gingrich's resigning the Speakership in disgrace a couple of years later. The columnist pointed out that the occasion for Gingrich's resignation was not a development in the ethics problems, but rather, poor GOP showing in the elections for Congress. But even so, does not this make this a bad sign for Gingrich? The Republicans made a bad showing in an election that should have been their year — Bill Clinton was President, and in off-year elections, the President's party usually does badly. And Clinton was hardly a dream President — his ethical problems were legion. The fact is that Bill Clinton got reelected by campaigning, not against Bob Dole, his actual opponent, but against Gingrich. Do the Republicans want to nominate someone who is so unpopular that he can single-handedly lose them an election? I certainly hope not.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Will Florida decide it?

For a while, Newt Gingrich was leading in some of the Florida polls. But the most recent ones show Mitt Romney with a substantial lead. If Romney wins in Florida, many are saying that he has the nomination sewed up.

And, of course, anyone who is anybody in the GOP wants Romney to be the nominee. People like Bob Dole and John McCain, who were past nominees. People like Tim Pawlenty and Chris Christie, who might have been a lot of people's choices themselves. And George H. W. Bush, who has actually served in the White House. Also, almost nobody who served in the Congress when Gingrich was Speaker seems to want him — and a lot of them have come out for Romney. Among non-politicians, people like Ann Coulter have declared themselves — certainly not for Gingrich. So hopefully, Gingrich will, after Florida, realize his is a lost cause and fall in line behind Romney — as Romney fell in line behind John McCain when his cause was lost, four years ago.

Let us face it. The only thing that really matters is defeating Barack Obama in November. And clearly, Romney has the best chance in November — all polls show that. So let's get this business over with.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Noemie Emery, Chris Christie, and wishful thinking

Yesterday I opened my copy of the Washington Examiner to see a column by Noemie Emery entitled “Why they still pine for Christie.” I will not post the entire column here, but you can read it by following the link. And her main thrust is that Chris Christie would be a better nominee for the GOP than any of the current contenders.

Well, I'm not going to say anything negative about Christie here. Those of you who have read my earlier posts know I like him, and would happily support him — even in preference to Mitt Romney — if he chose to run. But he does not want to run for the Presidency this year!

So it is simply wishful thinking for Emery to build up Christie as the best candidate. The day is long past when a candidate could be nominated without seeking the nomination and getting delegates pledged to him elected by the primary voters. This could be done in 1940 for Wendell Willkie. It cannot in 2012. So, writing about how great a nominee Christie would be is a waste of effort. Sorry, Noemie Emery!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

And another old corporate name dies: Goodbye, Eastman Kodak

And now, another long-famous corporate name has filed for bankruptcy. One far older than Borders, or Blockbuster, or Syms, or any of the other companies that have filed in the past few years. Sad to say, it seems that Eastman Kodak can no longer continue its existence and has filed. And while some people might say that Kodak was the equivalent of a buggy-whip company after the rise of the automobile, this really was not true. In fact, one of the few assets that Kodak brings to the bankruptcy proceedings to pay off its creditors is a collection of digital imaging patents that have substantial value.

So what did Kodak do wrong? For one thing, it did not, apparently, fully exploit those patents it had. Many of the Japanese camera makers, such as Nikon and Canon, seem to have made the transition to digital cameras work. (So did Fuji, whose background is in film, the other major product for which Kodak was known.) Was it poor management? Or the weak Obama economy? We will never, I fear, know for certain. But it's sad to see an old name like Eastman Kodak go.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

After South Carolina, where do we stand?

It is clear that Newt Gingrich has won the South Carolina primary — not a surprise that he won it, but really surprising that he won it so big. But there are special factors. Apparently, there was a debate just before the primary in which Mitt Romney didn't do very well, and South Carolina is a hotbed of Tea Party sentiment, and those factors both counted for a lot. Gingrich won't do as well in Florida, the next state, though. Mitt Romney is leading the polls there by more than 20 percentage points. And so the effect of this primary will only be to make things a bit more exciting, and less predictable. It is getting more and more a two-man race, but neither Rick Santorum nor Ron Pail is quitting, and that makes for a very complicated picture.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Things are moving fast and furious

Yesterday, two new developments occurred in the race for the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination. First, the Iowa results were recounted; it seems that Rick Santorum actually won by 34 votes (but this will yet change; eight precincts haven't been heard from), instead of Mitt Romney winning by 8. But this is not an actual vote that decides the Presidency (or even the nomination) the way a few votes gave Florida (and ultimately the White House) to George W. Bush in 2000. It's basically a tie, and Santorum and Romney will probably both get about the same number of delegates from Iowa that they would have gotten if the original result stood. All that means is that Santorum can now claim to have won Iowa — a state where he had campaigned hard for months, and which Romney had essentially ignored until two weeks before the caucuses. If Santorum points to this and minimizes Romney's win in New Hampshire (which he is doing now, on the grounds that Romney “almost lives there”), the real comparison is this. Romney won New Hampshire decisively, as he was expected to; Santorum, by contrast, got what was really a tie in Iowa, a state where Romney was given little chance.

The second development was Rick Perry's departure from the contest, endorsing Newt Gingrich. This probably means that Gingrich will win South Carolina today. But how keen will the “values voters,” who support Perry, be for a man who cheated on his first wife with the woman who then became his second, and then cheated on his second wife with the woman who then became his third? I think this stalls Romney's quest for the Presidency a bit, but it will resume.

Friday, January 20, 2012

And tomorrow it is South Carolina

Tomorrow, it is South Carolina's turn to hold its primary — one of the few cases in this country where any election, primary or general, is held on anything other than a Tuesday. The polls in the most recent days are mixed; they show Newt Gingrich ahead in some and Mitt Romney in others. (Rick Santorum, who was ahead of Gingrich just a short while ago, seems to be fading; the latest polls show him fighting Ron Paul for third place, a long way behind the top two.) The polls are so indecisive that it looks as though we will have to await the actual results tomorrow night or Sunday.

And this is closer to what I might have thought — Gingrich should be very popular in South Carolina, given that his political career was made in neighboring Georgia, and his Southern type of conservatism should resonate there. Of all the non-Romney candidates, he has the best qualifications — but yet, so much controversy surrounds him that I cannot see him winning in November; and, of course, the puropse of these primaries is to pick a nominee who has the best chance to win, against President Barack Obama, in November. So I still feel the party has to pick Mitt Romney.

Some people are using Romney's wealth as a reason not to support him. Surprisingly, nobody seems to think that John F. Kennedy or Franklin D. Roosevelt could not do right by the “little man,” yet they cannot visualize Mitt Romney as understanding people who don't have a lot of money. I don't think that the fact that someone is rich should be held against him, but apparently some people do. But fortunately, this argument is coming out now, in January, so that President Obama cannot suddenly spring it in the heat of a general election campaign. It will, by the time of the conventions, be old hat.

So, as I said, now we need to wait till South Carolina's votes come in.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Wikipedia strike

Anyone who wanted to look up something on Wikipedia, the Internet encyclopedia, yesterday, was out of luck. The powers-that-be had shut it down (and several other sites such as Reddit had done likewise, but Wikipedia is the most important of the bunch) as a protest against a couple of intellectual-property-rights bills being considered in the Congress. I have not looked closely enough at these bills to say how I feel about them — I suspect that I agree with the people who shut Wikipedia down on the substance of the bills, but I cannot be certain — but I think it was a sublimely silly thing to do.

Usually, a strike is an action by one party to exert pressure on another, where the second directly benefits by the activity of the first and is harmed by the first party's failure to perform. But in this case, the “second party” that they are trying to influence — Congress — can function very well without Wikipedia. They have their own research organization — the Library of Congress — which has direct access to a lot of the material which anyone might have gone to Wikipedia to look up. So shutting Wikipedia down for a day does little to advance their cause. In fact, the public that uses Wikipedia billions of times a month can only become angry at its not being there, and rather than petitioning Congress, they are more likely to turn against Wikipedia.

Several other Internet-related entities — in particular, Google and Yahoo! — have taken the more conventional step of lobbying Congress. And they appear to be — at least, to some extent — successful. Even before the Wikipedia shutdown, key Senators and Representatives had moved into opposition. Even Senator Ben Cardin (from my home state, Maryland), who had sponsored legislation of this type in the past, has moved into opposition.

So did they really need to shut Wikipedia down? I believe not.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rick Santorum, gay marriage, love, and hate

Looking around the Web, I spotted this posting on a blog, with reference to candidate (and former Senator) Rick Santorum:

At a campaign stop in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina today, a woman told Rick and Karen Santorum that she's trying to reconcile her support for him with the fact that her son is gay and he and his friends react poorly at the mention of Santorum's name because they think he hates gay people.

Replied Karen Santorum: “I think it's very sad what the gay activists have done out there. They've vilified him and it's so wrong. Rick does not hate anyone. He loves them. What he has simply said is marriage shouldn't happen. But as far as hating, it's very unfortunate that that has happened. And a lot of it is backyard bullying.”

Said Rick: “This is a public policy difference. And the problem is that some see that as a personal assault.”

He went on to reply that children deserve a mother and father and unless that is promoted there will be less of it, adding: “… There's all sorts of other relationships that people have, and they are valuable relationships — whether they are amorous relationships or friendship relationships or familial relationships — they're all important, they all have value they all should be affirmed. But that does not mean that we should change the laws to order — to create an atmosphere where children and families are not being promoted.”

Karen Santorum's saying “He loves them,” I suppose, is consistent with the Catholic Church's policy (and that of many other Christians, but I mention the Catholic Church because that is Santorum's religion) of "love the sinner, hate the sin." But I, for one, find it ridiculous. A person is the sum total of his beliefs and actions, nothing more, nothing less. I cannot love someone who does hateful things — at least fully; I can certainly love the person in those aspects that are not hateful to me. But in any case, to put myself in the position of those “gay activists” to which Karen Santorum referred, I would rather be hated, but left alone without interference, than loved, but prevented from doing something that I feel necessary to my life's fulfillment.

The position that “children deserve a mother and father and unless that is promoted there will be less of it” fails to consider what children without “a mother and father” would have instead. A child with two parents, even if both the same sex, is still better off than one with one, or even none, because they have been abandoned. Nobody is advocating that one (or both) parents of a child who has “a mother and father” should abandon that child, so what point is Santorum trying to make?

I strongly believe that laws should prevent something only if somebody would be harmed by the act they would prevent — and nobody has pointed out to me anybody who would be hurt by allowing two men, or two women, to assume the status of a married couple. So the only harm that anyone can argue is to God's order — if one assumes that marrying someone of the same sex is a sin. And violations of God's order should be left to Godnot the State — to punish. The Catholic Church may believe homosexual activity is a sin; certainly there are religious communities that do not. (The Episcopal Church has chosen a homosexual bishop — though this has led to a split within the church.) In the spirit of the First Amendment, if something is considered wrong by one religious group, but not by another, the Government has no business banning it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One more candidate drops out in favor of Mitt Romney

And now, the Republican field has narrowed again. As some other people who might have been candidates, but decided to stay out (namely, Tim Pawlenty and Chris Christie) have already done, Jon Huntsman has decided that the way to win this year is to unite behind Mitt Romney. And yesterday, he withdrew as a candidate.

As one of his aides told CNN,“Governor Huntsman did not want to stand in the way of the candidate best prepared to beat Barack Obama and turn our economy around. That's Mitt Romney.” Or in Huntsman's own words, as reported by Fox News, “Today, I am suspending my campaign for the presidency. I believe it is now time for our party to unite around the candidate best equipped to defeat Barack Obama. Despite our differences and the space between us on some of the issues, I believe that candidate is Gov. Mitt Romney.”

Now, what is necessary is for the rest of the candidates to realize that this is so.

Monday, January 16, 2012

On Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is being celebrated as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Now, I understand that the African-American community feels the need to commemorate one of their own, but I have to say that King is hardly one that I would want to honor with a national holiday. (And this doesn't make me a racist, though opponents of the King's birthday holiday seem to get automatically tagged as such.) While, in the early days of his adult life, he was a positive force for civil rights, he eventually ended up taking a position that I cannot call honorable: while he spent so much of his life trying to gain rights for his own fellow African-Americans, he stood in the way of this country's effort to gain freedom for people in Vietnam. Certainly not a person worth honoring.

I suppose that African-Americans should get to choose their hero, but wouldn't Thurgood Marshall have been a better choice? Marshall was the primary advocate for the side trying (successfully) to end segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education case, and argued for civil rights in a number of other cases, and eventually ended up as the first African-American Supreme Court justice. I don't know when Martshall's birthday was, but I'd sooner make that a national holiday than King's.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

And the polling continues

I have looked again at the Real Clear Politics polling data in South Carolina, the next state to have its primary. Mitt Romney is still holding on to a narrow lead, but second place is back in the hands of Newt Gingrich, who I might have thought more likely than Rick Santorum to carry the bulk of the anti-Romney sentiment. And the surprising strength of Ron Paul is continuing — he is now in a virtual tie with Santorum for third. (Though each has only about half Romney's support.) Meanwhile, Rick Perry is far back in the pack; with just over 5%, it looks likely that if these numbers hold up, he will follow Michele Bachmann's lead and fold up his campaign after the South Carolina primary.

Gingrich is someone who built his political career in the South — in fact, in Georgia, the state neighboring South Carolina — so he should get the “favorite son” vote that Romney got in New Hampshire. If the polls hold up, he will simply come in a fairly close second, unlike Romney's decisive win in New Hampshire. And this will solidify the Romney claim to the 2012 nomination.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

And now... South Carolina

Mitt Romney has now won Iowa (barely) and New Hampshire (rather decisively). Now the scene shifts to South Carolina.

I would have thought South Carolina a bad place for the Romney candidacy. It's Southern and conservative, so it might be Perry or Gingrich country. But I just looked at the polls on the Real Clear Politics site, and all the polls listed there have Romney in first place — in one case, only by three points, but in another, by 18. And — surprise! — neither Perry nor Gingrich is in second place, but rather Rick Santorum — who, until Iowa, tended to be an ignored candidate. But he is a candidate strongly aligned with the Religious Right, which I suppose makes his cause resonate with a lot of South Carolinians.

If the polls hold up, and Romney comes in first even in South Carolina, nobody can stop his nomination. And that is a good sign. If Romney can win as decisively as this, he can devote his energies to the fight against Barack Obama, which is where they need to be directed. We need someone who can defear President Obama this November. And more and more, that “someone” is Mitt Romney.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

And now, New Hampshire has spoken

New Hampshire has spoken — a lot more decisively than Iowa last week. Some people said that (because Mitt Romney had been a Governor of next-door Massachusetts, and had a residence in New Hampshire) if Romney won less than 40% in New Hampshire, it would not be a convincing victory: his percentage was just short of 40%, but that seems to have been close enough for the analysts, considering that second place went to Ron Paul with less than 30%. And since neither second-place Paul nor third-place Jon Huntsman is considered a major threat to the nomination, and people like Newt Gingrich (despite his endorsement by New Hampshire's most influential newspaper) could not even make 20%, this has to be considered a significant win for Romney.

What this means, of course, is that Republicans want someone who can run a credible campaign against Barack Obama, who will of course, as a sitting first-term President, get his own party's nomination. Even self-identified conservatives (and they form a majority of New Hampshire Republicans, according to polls) realize that a Romney, impure conservative that he is, will be better for conservative ideas in the White House than a far-left Obama, and this is governing their votes.

As Rick Santorum almost won Iowa by staking out there and campaigning in one state while the others traveled about, Jon Huntsman did the same in New Hampshire. And this got him, as I said earlier, third place, with a lot bigger share of the votes than he is likely to get in any other state. But New Hampshire has only a small number of delegates, and he will only get a fraction of those. So, though this is likely to be the high water mark of his campaign, I suspect that in a month or two, Huntsman will withdraw. Ron Paul, the second-place finisher, is likely to soldier on till the convention. He may actually be the second-place candidate on Convention Day. But no matter how devoted his supporters may be, they do not represent the bulk of Republican identifiers, and he has no chance at the nomination. And Paul and Huntsman are the only two (other than Romney) who can call the result in New Hampshire positive for them.

Rick Perry, of course, wrote off New Hampshire, so his low finish is not surprising. He is staking everything on South Carolina. And he might do well in that bastion of Southern conservatism. But the November election will not be fought in places like South Carolina, and Republicans in general know that, which is why most of the party is going to fall in line behind Romney.

New Hampshire does not always pick the eventual nominee. And it tends to pick Massachusetts people even when, like Henry Cabot Lodge or Paul Tsongas, they have no chance at their party's nomination. But combined with Iowa, the results point to a Romney candidacy. And I am happy to support that candidacy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

And now, New Hampshire

Today, folks in New Hampshire are voting in the first primary of 2012. Like the Iowa caucus, if it has any effect it will only be to winnow the field down. Mitt Romney is expected to win, so even if he wins big, nobody will concede him the nomination; after all, they know him well in New Hampshire; he was Governor of next-door Massachusetts, and has a residence in New Hampshire. Rick Perry, who had decided to rethink his options after losing big in Iowa, decided not to try in New Hampshire. His appeal is to Southerners, not New Englanders, so he's putting his eggs in a basket called South Carolina, whose primary is later this month. But this may be the end of the line for Jon Huntsman. He did not bother to compete in Iowa, preferring to try in New Hampshire, which he perceived as more akin to his brand of politics. Unless he does well in New Hampshire, he'll probably give up.

Another person who will have to make a decision is Newt Gingrich. The most influential newspaper in the state endorsed him, but his star started to fall when he came out below Rick Santorum and Ron Paul in Iowa. Unless he does well in New Hampshire, I think he's out of it.

Unlike Iowa's caucus, New Hampshire has a real primary. It's very hard to vote in a caucus; you have to be at the right place at just the right time, but in a primary, you have hours to cast your vote. So New Hampshire, proportionately to population, should have a much bigger turnout. But it's still a very small state. It does not have a lot of people, so it will not have a lot of voters, and so it still cannot have a big effect on the result, except by convincing some candidates to drop out.

Well, let us see what happens. Tomorrow we will know.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

President Obama's "recess appointment" trick

There are some provisions in our Constitution that made sense in 1787, when it was first written, but do not in today's world; yet, it is unlikely that there will ever be an amendment to change them, because there are no people around who feel it in their interest to change them. In particular, there are two provisions that made sense when, back in the eighteenth century, it took many days for a Congressman from Georgia to get to the capital and back home, so when Congress adjourned, it would adjourn for months, and could not easily be reconvened. Today, when even Hawaii is only a few hours away by jet flight, and anyone can be summoned back to Washington by a telephone call, neither of these two provisions really makes sense. The first of these two is the “pocket veto” provision, where a President who does not sign a bill in 10 days (actually, a little more, because Sundays are not counted in the time) normally lets it become law, but, if Congress has adjourned, so that he could not send it back with a veto message, it is deemed to be vetoed. (Today, if he really wanted to veto the bill, he could send a message to the Speaker of the House and the Vice-President, as President of the Senate, asking them to reconvene their chambers, and they could do so in a day or two!) The other one of these anachronistic provisions is the “recess appointment” provision, whereby, if the Senate has recessed, the President can make a temporary appointment without getting Senate approval. The appointment expires after the Senate reconvenes and adjourns for the session without considering it, but this could last over a year.

This “recess appointment” provision rarely makes much difference, but President Obama has chosen to abuse this power in order to skirt the Senate confirmation powers and appoint a consumer affairs chief and fill some vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board, the latter, not surprisingly, with people who will solidify labor unions' control over the board. He has claimed that the Senate was in recess, giving him the right to utilize this provision; some Senators maintain that this was not the case, and I have seen, in the Washington Examiner, columns pointing out that up to now, it has been understood that the Senate had to adjourn for at least three days to trigger this provision. I am sure that other columnists besides the Examiner's are making this claim; I just have not seen other papers discussing it. (The “three days” comes from another provision of the Constitution, that says that neither house can adjourn for more than three days without the other's consent.)

The only problem is, who can challenge the President here? Columnists say the Courts will find these appointments unconstitutional, but in the federal court system, you can only bring a suit if you have “standing,” and who would have standing to sue? These appointments will undoubtedly stand, though it sets a bad precedent. We will see Presidents, in the future, wait to make other appointments that they know could never survive a Senate vote until something they can claim is a Senate recess has occurred.

The Constitution really does not define what constitutes a “recess” for this purpose. And nobody, as I said, will have standing to challenge these appointments. So I have to concede that a case can be made that the President is constitutionally permitted to make the appointments. But it is clear that he was extremely unwise to do so. And one day they will come back to haunt the Democrats, when a Republican president does likewise.

Friday, January 06, 2012

2012: a repeat of 2008 with new characters?

On the Republican side (but not the Democratic side, where the presence of a sitting president makes things totally different), this year's nomination campaign seems like a repeat of what occurred four years ago, but with different characters playing the same roles.

This year's Mike Huckabee is Rick Santorum, the darling of the Religious Right (though Catholic, not Evangelical Protestant). Huckabee won Iowa, but faded when things went to states which were less dominated by the Religious Right; Santorum didn't quite win Iowa, but came pretty close, and will probably not so as well as Huckabee all around, but he's clearly fitting into the same role.

This year's Rudy Giuliani is Chris Christie, a candidate who would suit a lot of us (including me) very well, but who simply does not accord with enough of the Republican electorate to win the nomination. Giuliani actually tried to run, but after a few primaries bowed out and threw his support to John McCain, Christie saw the situation from the beginning and strongly backed Mitt Romney.

And as the previous paragraph hints, Mitt Romney is this year's John McCain. So much of the "conservative" part of the party does not consider him conservative enough, though he's about as conservative as the nation will vote for, in fact. McCain could have beaten Obama except that the economy took a dive just a few weeks before Election Day; he was leading in the polls, actually. But this year, the weaknesses in the economy will help the GOP, not the Democrats, because the sitting President is not George W. Bush, but Barack Obama.

McCain and Romney do not really like each other, but when Romney saw he could not get the nomination four years ago, he conceded to McCain; McCain has just rewarded Romney, in turn, by endorsing him for this year's nomination.

The only candidate from four years ago who has no corresponding one this year, interestingly, is Mitt Romney. Since he's playing John McCain's role this year, he obviously can't play himself!

But if this is really 2008 with new characters, clearly the nominee will be Mitt Romney — and perhaps this time our November will see the Republicans (with “change” on their side this time!) recapturing the White House. I certainly hope so.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

We don't need to be Canada, or Belgium

Yesterday, my wife went down into the District of Columbia to straighten out some problems involving her unemployment insurance benefits, and I accompanied her at her request. (There had been some problems that could not be handled by phone or online, and she was advised to come in and take care of the situation in person.) After we found the correct office, we waited while a clerk there dealt with the two persons ahead of us, in Spanish, which was evidently a language she was fluent in. When it got to my wife, we went in and it was absolutely clear that she was somewhat short of fluent in English. There were a number of points in the discussion where my wife had difficulty in communicating some point to her; fortunately, perhaps because I have had somewhat more experience trying to communicate with people whose English was weak, I was able to facilitate the communication, and my wife, afterward, thanked me effusively for making things work so she got the benefits due her. (The problem was not the usual bureaucratic problem of someone who insists that if you don't follow the letter of the procedures, you're out of luck; this clerk genuinely seemed willing to help once we could get across the information we were trying to provide.)

But then I was surprised to hear my wife complain that an employee of the Government of the District of Columbia, a subdivision of the United States, ought to be able to work with clients in English. She didn't like the idea that she might have lost money she was entitled to just because she could not express herself in Spanish, making her feel like a foreigner in her own native country. I could hardly disagree with her. She was expressing opinions I have held for decades, but which she had tended to disagree with — she had, for example, not agreed with my support for the group, started by S. I. Hayakawa many decades ago, called “U. S. English,” which advocated making English our official language.

I guess it took exposure to the consequences of U. S. English's not accomplishing their program to make her see why we need to do something. Seeing what has gone on in countries like Belgium and Canada brought me to these beliefs, but it took the fear of loss of money she was entitled to to make her see the point.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Iowans have spoken, but what did they say?

The Iowa caucuses were held yesterday, and the results bore out the recent polls that pointed to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul as the leaders. Between Romney and Santorum, the results were a near-tie: Romney's margin over Santorum, according to the results I saw on the Web, was only 8 out of over 60,000 that the two candidates got. And the top three candidates together got over 70% of the total, so it is likely that some of the others will drop out soon. (It has been reported that Rick Perry, for example, is going back home to Texas to consider his options.)

The biggest winner might be said to be Santorum, who was at the bottom of the pack a few weeks ago, and yet got almost as many votes as Romney did. But this is Iowa. Four years ago, Mike Huckabee won Iowa, getting nearly half the vote. Iowa is a state with a lot of right-wing evangelical Christians, who might be even more up for this one since Iowa became the first Midwestern state to legalize gay marriage. (And who more clearly symbolizes the anti-gay position than Rick Santorum, whose position so angered Dan Savage — see my previous posting)? So Santorum might have been expected to win Iowa; the fact that he only essentially tied Romney — after campaigning harder in Iowa than any other candidate, while Romney mostly ignored Iowa until very recently — really means that Santorum did not meet expectations. But it does mean that the evangelical religious Right has settled on him as their candidate. (And if anything makes me more hostile to him than any of the other contenders.)

Ron Paul has to be happy about his third-place finish, though some polls had him winning Iowa. But in fact, most of his support came from independents, not Republicans, and he will not be able to transfer this strong Iowa showing to the nationwide party.

So I think that the result of the Iowa caucuses points to Mitt Romney being the 2012 nominee. (One anti-Romney blog I read denigrates Romney as the 2012 McCain. Perhaps he is, and that, despite that guy's comment, is a good thing. Who, after all, did the GOP nominate in 2008?) And I'm not complaining.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy new year -- and get ready for the start of the election process!

Yesterday was New Year's Day — the start of the year 2012. And, as every year that is a multiple of four, the beginning of both a leap year and a Presidential election year in the United States. (Yes, 1900 was not, and 2100 will not be, a leap year. But I doubt that any of the people reading this blog was alive in 1900, and I suspect very few, if any, will live to see 2100.) And tomorrow, the first event that actually does something in the 2012 election process, the Iowa caucus, takes place. Up until now, there have been polls, but all they have done is recording opinions, and not actually affecting the result except in that other people have been relying on them to decide who they want to support.

I've seen polls saying that Mitt Romney will win in Iowa tomorrow, others saying Ron Paul will win, and yet others pointing to Rick Santorum — who was an also-ran so very recently. Obviously, Romney's supporters have the good of the Republican Party (and I think the nation!) in mind — only he, it would appear, can possibly defeat President Obama in November, and this is the real goal. Santorum's supporters are mostly “social conservatives” (who are taking down the Republican Party because of their stupid ideas) plus a few bigots who can't support a Mormon for the Presidency (and the less said about them, the better). These people started off backing Michele Bachmann, then switched, when her craziness came out, to Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and more recently Newt Gingrich. Each in turn showed their flaws, so now they turn to Rick Santorum, who comes off as a somewhat smarter and saner version of Bachmann, but so similar that gay-rights advocate and columnist Dan Savage decided to use his name to denote a certain unpleasant bodily exudation that I choose not to describe more fully here.

Santorum cannot win the Presidency, even if he wins in Iowa, and even if he does win Iowa, he probably will be unable to win the nomination, but then, most recent Iowa caucus winners have failed to win the nomination. So enough said about him. But what of Ron Paul? Well, as one out of 435 in the House of Representatives, I think he serves a useful purpose. He brings libertarian ideas to the American people. And that is a good thing. But he goes so far in his libertarianism as to make a caricature, and in the Presidency he would be a disaster. (Not to mention his anti-Semitism, about which I commented a few days ago)

So I'll be awaiting tomorrow's Iowa caucus results, of course, hoping that Romney wins. But since Iowa is not the final answer (as I said, Iowa winners do not usually go on to the nomination), I won't lose too much sleep if Santorum or Paul wins.