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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Olympia Snowe's retirement

News has come out that Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine will retire rather than run for re-election when her term is up. While this is certainly her decision to make, it saddens me. Sen. Snowe was one of the few voices of moderation in the Congress, and she will be missed.

Maine, for some reason, has sent more than its share of outstanding women to the Senate, going back to the days of Margaret Chase Smith. And one will still remain when Sen. Snowe retires: Susan Collins. But the Republican Party does not have many good, moderate Senators left, and even the loss of one is a major setback.

It was great having you in the Senate, Sen. Snowe. As I said, you will be missed.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

And two more states have spoken

Well, now we have heard from Michigan and Arizona. And the news is good from my point of view: Mitt Romney won both.

Of course, in Arizona, the results are not a big surprise. The state has a lot of Mormons, for whom Romney's religion — which counts against him in some states — is a plus. And both Governor Jan Brewer — still very popular in Arizona, even if (or perhaps because) demonized by President Obama — and Senator John McCain of that state have endorsed him. But the size of that victory is a good sign: Romney won nearly as many votes as all the other candidates combined.

Michigan was closer. Once upon a time, this State was expected to be solid Romney territory — it was where he was born, and his father was a very popular governor there. But there were some polls recently that showed Rick Santorum winning the State. However, clearly, as they got a better look at what Santorum stands for, they began to reject him. Romney's margin over Santorum is only about four percentage points, but since Santorum was leading in some Michigan polls by as much as 15 points earlier this month, this is a good showing for Romney.

Hopefully, this is a forecast of more to come. Mitt Romney is clearly the best hope to replace President Obama in November's election, and it is important that he be the nominee.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Every cloud has a silver lining ... and vice versa!

I certainly cannot be unhappy that the economy is finally starting to improve. But one consequence of this improvement is not so good: People are increasingly approving of President Barack Obama.

Just as “every cloud has a silver lining,” (even bad occurrences can have good consequences) the reverse can also be true. One of the worst Presidents we have had may be re-elected because, in the last few months before the election, the country's economy finally starts to improve.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and November, even if the economy continues to improve. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Obama health-care law in March, and issue its ruling in June. Military actions in the Middle East may make Obama's withdrawing of troops from the area look as bad as it really was. I cannot predict the happenings of the next 8½ months. But, at least for now, this silver news on the economy has a cloudy lining of increases in Obama's approval.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The prospect of a Santorum nomination

There are polls that say that in Michigan — the state where Mitt Romney was born — the primary might be won by Rick Santorum — a man who stands 100% against most of what I believe in. And this causes me to contemplate — with fear and loathing — the prospect of Santorum's actual winning of the Republican nomination this year.

This poses a severe problem to me. I cannot support Santorum; as I said, he and I are diametrically opposed on many important issues. And I certainly cannot support Barack Obama; he and I are opposed on about as many important issues. So what will I do in November, if it is Santorum vs. Obama? Well, the first thing is: Neither of these two will get my vote. I will look to see who the Libertarians nominate — if they are on the Maryland ballot, since Maryland makes it well-nigh impossible to vote for a write-in candidate. If it is someone like Gary Johnson, I might consider voting for him. And I will look to see who Americans Elect nominate (if they actually nominate someone and make it onto the Maryland ballot), and whatever other third parties are on the ballot here in Maryland. My last resort is to do what I did in 1964 — vote for nobody for President, but in order to be counted, vote straight Republican for all other offices on the ballot. In none of these cases will my vote help to elect someone to the Presidency, but I am resigned to that, since Maryland will probably be won by Obama anyway, and my vote cannot help elect someone to the Presidency anyway because of our electoral college method of choosing the President.

Any of these is an unpleasant alternative, but that's where I am left if the GOP nominates Santorum.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Maryland's gay marriage vote

And now, on this Friday, the Maryland House of Delegates (the lower house of the State legislature) voted to permit gay marriage. Last time, it passed the Senate but failed in the House, so (since no Senator has voiced any intention to change his vote) it will pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley, who this year has gotten behind the bill as he did not last time. The forces of bigotry will try to put it up for a referendum, and I don't know how successful they will be, but since they will at least try, it will probably hold up the effective date of the law. But there is a good chance Maryland will be the next state to permit it.

This time, what got the bill through the House was two Republican Delegates' changing their votes — a good thing, because it means that what I consider my party is moving toward the right side of this question. The Democrats have far more delegates than they need to pass any legislation, but in this case there are a substantial number of African-American members who seem to believe, as I mentioned recently, that discrimination is only discrimination if it's directed against African-Americans. They should be ashamed about themselves, but until they understand that anti-gay discrimination is as bad as anti-black discrimination, it is necessary to make progress within the Republicans who are not Religious Right fanatics. And some progress has been made, as shown by this vote.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

An interesting blog post

The Urban Right is a blog by an African-American Republican named D. R. Tucker. I do not always agree with what I have seen him post, but a posting dated Thursday takes a position which I would like to echo.

What do Republicans say to their gay friends?

How do they explain the fact that so many in the GOP’s base seem to be enthralled by Rick Santorum, who has never said one positive word about an LGBT person in his entire political career?

How do they justify the party’s history of denigrating the gay rights movement and characterizing same-sex marriage in apocalyptic terms?

How do they excuse the talk-radio tirades, the religious right’s ridicule, the punditocracy’s prejudice?

I can’t speak for every Republican, but I know I've made plenty of excuses for the GOP’s homophobia. My logic was pretty simple: to denounce GOP gay-bashing would be to help “the left,” and helping “the left” was simply out of the question.

So I didn’t complain when George W. Bush exploited fears about same-sex marriage to renew his lease on the White House. I didn’t speak up when self-righteous senators and reactionary representatives made noises about passing a Federal Marriage Amendment. I didn’t turn the dial when conservative radio and television personalities insisted that gays and lesbians were grotesque and loathsome.

I kept my mouth shut. For the team.

I am convinced that there are millions of Republican voters opting to keep their mouths shut for the team despite knowing in their hearts that homophobia is not morally right. They are so fixated on having Republicans win federal elections that they have chosen to ignore the reckless rhetoric those Republicans are relying on to win.

They need to speak up. Right now.

Ignoring homophobia is a fundamentally senseless act. Think about it: the Republicans who kept their mouths shut about Bush’s gay-bashing and supported his re-election effectively gave Bush the opportunity to thoroughly wreck the GOP, thus clearing a path for Barack Obama. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to speak out before it was too late?

There’s no downside to standing up against Republican homophobia—but the pain of remaining silent is tremendous. The hurt of conscience is more intense than any physical suffering. It’s a hurt I feel every time I recall the days when I said nothing as Republicans came after gay and lesbian families and denounced them in the cruelest terms possible.

Republicans of conscience—the ones that are still left, that is—must stand up now and call out Santorum and every other Republican who refuses to give the minimum standard of respect to gays and lesbians. The hatred must stop, and it must stop today.

The ends of an electoral outcome cannot justify the means. When a Republican pundit or politician opens his or her mouth to denounce gay rights, they should immediately hear millions of voices responding, “Stop it!”

By doing so, we will hasten the day when openly homophobic figures like Santorum won’t even think of running for President. We will hasten the day when both political parties recognize the importance of appealing to gays and lesbians. We will hasten the day when equality is the guaranteed winner of every election.

I will die regretting the years I declined to speak out against Republican homophobia. I should have realized that any GOP victory dependent on the denigration of gays and lesbians will go down in history as a stolen victory.

I can’t change the past, but I can certainly learn from it. The most important lesson to be learned is the moral necessity of calling out homophobia and opposing the vicious vision of those don’t believe in treating gays and lesbians as equals. Thus, let me be the first to say: “Rick Santorum, shut up already!”

I think we need people to speak up within the GOP who are willing to express sentiments like these.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chris Christie's bad decision

Generally, I like Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. But nobody is perfect. And Christie seems to have caved in to the social conservative wing of the GOP. Perhaps he wants to run for President in 2016 and figures he needs their votes, perhaps he's really anti-gay (though I doubt it). But he's decided that he will veto a bill on gay marriage that just passed the New Jersey Senate. Obviously, the people of New Jersey want this bill. A Senate that turned it down the last time passed it, with the votes of some Senators that had been negative last time. The only thing that can reverse votes on such a hot-button issue as this is the perception that the people of New Jersey do want it.

I guess even someone like Chris Christie cannot fight the social conservatives and still expect support from the party. Too bad.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Marion Barry, Dave Catania, and the District of Columbia electorate

Today, have to apologize to those who look to this blog for observations of nation-wide import; I'm dealing with a very local thing. But it actually has national relevance, so read on.

David Catania is gay. Marion Barry is African-American. Both are Council members of the District of Columbia. Catania's sexual orientation, and Barry's race, should not matter. But they do — as was shown in a recent event. The D. C. Council has 12 members — usually 13, but one, Harry Thomas, has resigned over a criminal indictment (which in itself helps to make the point that this post will get around to!) There was a retreat for Council members, at which Catania and Barry got into a shouting match. Barry suggested that Catania was prejudiced against black men, something for which there is absolutely no evidence. (But it seems that many African-American politicians cannot accept that there are groups, such as gay people, who also have been the targets of discrimination. For them, discrimination against African-Americans is an evil that must be stamped out, while discrimination against anyone else is a fiction that doesn't exist. So Barry — as well as many African-American members of the Maryland General Assembly [State legislature], voted against gay marriage when the issue came up before them.) And Catania, who might have been excused for losing his cool, still went, in my opinion, too far, shouting, “F— you, Marion!”

What a dysfunctional legislative body! Yet Marion Barry — who was caught in a crack sting while he was Mayor — gets elected time after time to the Council. And it's not just the current members of the D. C. Council. Shortly after I first came into this area, a Council member named Douglas Moore got upset at a truck driver who parked in an area reserved for Council members, and ended up biting the driver!

Yet the voters of the District keep voting for people like these. And they complain that they do not have the political rights that residents of the 50 States do. Well, when the Senators and Representatives look at the kind of people that D. C. voters elect to office, it does not surprise me that they do not consider the District of Columbia as worthy of giving full and equal political rights to. A voting public that elects people like Thomas, Barry, and Catania, and has elected Moore in the past, has not shown their worthiness.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gregory Kane, gay marriage, and religious freedom

A column appeared by Gregory Kane in today's Washington Examiner entitled “No reason to trust Maryland liberals on marriage.” In it, Kane seems to think that even though Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has promised clergymen who would not preside over same-sex weddings that they would not have to, they will have to in the end. He says:

I have the sneaking suspicion that the forces hankering to legalize same-sex marriage won't rest until pastors like Hickman and Coates are compelled, by law, to perform same-sex marriages in their churches. Here's the plan I see developing.

The CMPA passes. Within a year, maybe two, maybe three, a same-sex couple or couples challenges that portion of the law that lets pastors like Hickman and Coates decide if they want to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies or not. That part of the law will be challenged because it's "unconstitutional."

The lawsuit winds its way through Maryland's courts, where it would take only one activist judge to rule for the plaintiffs, nullify the clause protecting churches that choose not to perform same-sex marriages and thus compel them to do so.

And yes, call me a cynic, but I do believe that the same-sex couple or couples who will make the challenge have already been selected.

But Kane is having unnecessary nightmares. There are clergymen now, this very day, who will not conduct certain kinds of marriages sanctioned by law: rabbis who will not conduct a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew, Catholic priests who will not officiate at a marriage where one of the parties involved is divorced, etc. And if Kane has one example he can demonstrate that a clergyman has been forced by a court to conduct a marriage that he will not sanction for religious reasons, I will accept his argument. But I believe I am safe in saying that this has never happened — in Maryland or any other State. So why is Gregory Kane worried?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Obama and the contraception mandate

Well, President Barack Obama thought he could make a compromise with the Catholic Church on the contraception mandate. And the Catholic bishops have spoken, and to a man, they have said it was unacceptable.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there is a First Amendment issue here. I don't agree with the Catholic Church's position on contraception, or for that matter on abortion. But they have a right to their beliefs. And forcing Church-related employers to pay for insurance to cover what they believe is against God's will is a violation of their beliefs. And disguising it by saying the employer will not be paying for it doesn't cut it. Somebody is going to pay for it, and if it's not the employee, the insurance company is going to factor it into the premium, so the employer is paying for this coverage.

President Obama calls it a compromise — the bishops obviously do not. And while I find myself usually opposed to Catholic bishops on lots of issues, and indeed on the underlying issue here — the sinfullness of contraception — I defend their rights to hold their beliefs and not be forced into subsidizing that with which they disagree on religious grounds.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Conservatives can support Romney

It was nice to see the news that the Conservative Political Action Conference, being held now here in Washington, D. C., took a straw poll and the results were Mitt Romney 38%, Rick Santorum 31%, Newt Gingrich 15%, and Ron Paul 12%. It shows that, although some conservatives consider Romney too moderate for their tastes, enough will support him that the recent Santorum wins in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri will not sidetrack Romney's course to the nomination. Maine, today, also gave him some good news, though, since neither Santorum nor Gingrich even bothered to campaign there, and Romney is from nearby Massachusetts, it is not an unexpected win. (Also, Maine, like Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, did not really choose any delegates at its caucuses today.) But the CPAC straw poll is big news. It demonstrates that even conservatives will vote for Romney. And well they should. If a far-out conservative like Santorum would be nominated, he would certainly lose to Barack Obama in November. And I am certain that conservatives would prefer a Mitt Romney who beats Obama to a Rick Santorum who loses to him. Electability is important!

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Defense of Marriage" -- how does it defend? And WHAT does it defend?

Opponents of same-sex marriage often couch their opposition in terms which imply that they are “defending” traditional marriage — in fact, one piece of anti-gay legislation has been entitled the “Defense of Marriage Act.” But how can they make this claim? I simply do not understand how expanding the right of marriage to same-sex couples in any way negatively impacts the marriages of opposite-sex couples. This is one point that has never been explained in any way that I can find.

Marriage has sometimes been tied to procreation, and it is true that science has not yet found a way to combine two sperm cells to create a new human being. But not every opposite-sex couple is capable of procreation either. I have never heard of an opposite-sex couple being denied a marriage license because the woman has had a hysterectomy, or the man a vasectomy; nor has any law been enacted that would restrict marriage to couples in which the woman has not yet reached menopause. So there is certainly no reason that lack of the ability to procreate can be cited as a reason to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

I have held the opinion in the past that “civil unions are enough” — and I still think that this is so if a civil union carries all the privileges of a marriage. But in states like Virginia, those opposed to same-sex marriage also oppose civil-union legislation, so that, if the purpose of instituting civil unions is to quiet those who are upset with calling it a “marriage,” it has failed that task. Therefore, since no concessions can be obtained from the opposite side, pro-same-sex-marriage forces can hardly be faulted from seeking the whole deal. And once more I pose the question: “What are anti-gay-marriage forces ‘defending’?”

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The 9th Circuit Court's ruling on gay marriage

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an opinion (Perry v. Brown) on California's Prop. 8 anti-gay-marriage vote. In keeping with a Supreme Court doctrine that judicial rulings should be as narrow as possible, covering only what is absolutely necessary, the ruling didn't try to establish a Constitutional right to marriage — which supporters of gay marriage would have liked to see — but merely stated that Prop. 8 was invalid simply because it took away rights that had already been possessed by gay people (as a result of a California court decision). And they referred to another decision, Romer v. Evans, by the Supreme Court, that prevented Coloradans from voiding already-passed anti-discrimination laws affecting gay people. And therefore it applied to California, but no other state.

The Religious Right will, of course, appeal, but even assuming they lose and the 9th Circuit Court's decision stands, nobody outside California can gain much from it. But it is an incremental win for equality. And that's a plus.

One thing is clear: By citing Romer v. Evans, the Court has made a clear appeal for the support of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He is often the deciding Justice in 5-4 decisions, and he wrote the opinion in Romer v. Evans.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Is Newt Gingrich's star falling?

The results of Minnesota's caucus show Newt Gingrich dead last: Rick Santorum won his second state (like Iowa, it seems to show he seems to do better in caucuses than in primaries), and Ron Paul did well there too (though not as well as one prediction I saw, which said he might actually win Minnesota). It was not a good state for Mitt Romney, either: he finished a poor third, with only 17%. But Gingrich got only 10%.

There were also caucuses in Colorado, and Santorum won those caucuses as well, although beating Romney more narrowly: 40% to 35%, with Gingrich and Paul far back, both only a bit over 10%.

And in Missouri, Gingrich was not even on the primary ballot. Santorum got an absolute majority — this clearly was a good day for him, with Missouri joining Minnesota and Colorado. (However, the Missouri primary chooses no delegates, so it only got Santorum some bragging rights.)

All in all, this was, I have to admit, not a great day for Mitt Romney. But it was an even worse day for Newt Gingrich. It will certainly energize Santorum — an unfortunate thing, as Santorum represents the worst of the Religious Right. It is certainly turning out to be a long primary/caucus season.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Obama administration, the Catholic Church, and contraception

Normally, I'm not very much in favor of the ideas put forth by the Catholic Church on things like abortion, contraception, and such. But let's face it — they have a First Amendment right to believe as they choose. And certainly the Obama Administration's decision that unless they serve only Catholics, the Church's institutions have to cover contraception in any health insurance they provide to their employees violates that First Amendment right. As much as I disagree with the Catholic Church, I have to admit that their rights are being trampled on by the Administration.

Now, some time ago someone claimed, in a comment to this blog, that, by recognizing gay marriage, the State of Massachusetts was also interfering with the rights of Catholic institutions. In particular, he pointed out that many of the State's adoptions were facilitated by Catholic Charities. But that was a different story, as I see it. A person who wants to get married has no alternative but to be married under State law. He (or she) ought to be able to get married to anyone he desires to, without considering the wishes of someone else who might not want to allow that couple to adopt a child — the couple does not need to go to Catholic Charities to adopt; they can take another route. (And, as it turns out, Catholic Charities had placed children with gay couples in Massachusetts. So their position seems to be that it's OK for a gay couple to adopt a child, as long as they don't claim the title of “married.” I cannot understand this position at all.) On the other hand, a person who wants to get contraceptives does not need to work for a Catholic Church-related organization. And such a person perhaps should not work for such an organization. He (or she) is obviously at odds with Catholic doctrine here. It's just like the fact that someone like me should not try to get a job working for the Democratic Party. (Or, for that matter, for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, the anti-meat-eating, anti-pet organization.) I would never want to work for an organization whose core principles I oppose. It's entirely a different question.

So here, I defend the Catholic Church's position. They have their First Amendment rights, and the Obama Administration needs to recognize this.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Nevada caucuses

Nevada's caucus results are in, and almost a carbon copy of the Florida primary result: Mitt Romney won big, with more votes than any two of his competitors combined, and only a few percentage points short of an absolute majority. Once more, Romney has gotten the votes of people who see the 2012 nomination fight as a contest to determine who will be more likely to defeat Barack Obama, as do I.

So far, none of the other candidates seems ready to drop out, though — those who were going to if they saw they could not win have already dropped out. So it looks like a long wait until we get to the Tampa convention to ratify the GOP primary/caucus voters' decision to nominate Mitt Romney. But that's the way it is going.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Indiana's right-to-work law

Yesterday, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed a right-to-work law for that state. Hurray for Indiana, but we really need a national law.

Years ago, Federal law outlawed the “closed shop,” where a worker had to be a member of a union to be hired, but allowed “union shop” contracts, where a worker might be forced to join the union after he was hired. Unions love these contracts, because workers can be forced to pay dues to corrupt unions that do nothing worthwhile for their workers. (Any union that really serves the workers it supposedly represents should be able to convince the workers to join voluntarily.)

Typically these days, the only workers who benefit by union contracts are the ones who do a substandard job — because any worker who wants to do a good job gets harassed by the union (since he's showing up the others!) Good workers, as well, are prevented from having their talents recognized, because union contracts typically require a worker to be paid the same whether he performs well or not: either all the workers get the same pay, or their pay is only dependent on seniority. In non-union shops, by contrast, workers get evaluated as individuals, and their pay depends on the job they do. A good worker will not be underpaid, because the employer wants to keep him.

Once upon a time, unions performed a necessary function — there were sweatshops, and workers needed the unions to make their jobs safe and adequately compensated. Those days are gone, at least in the USA. And this is shown by the precipitous drop in union membership — in the 1950s, unions enrolled more than a third of all workers, while now it is only slightly more than 10%. And in the private sector, it is far less than that — less than 7%. Clearly, most workers only belong to a union if they have to. And this is why we need a national right-to-work law: a law that will clearly state that nobody has to belong to a union unless he really wants to.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Newt Gingrich - a strange candidate

Newt Gingrich puzzles me. On the one hand, he seems to characterize Mitt Romney as a liberal, and says he will win the nomination because the GOP will not nominate a liberal Republican. but if he is the conservative alternative to Romney, why is he acting like the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd, between attacking Romney for outspending him 5 to 1 in Florida and quoting the “of the people, by the people, for the people” line of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address? You can almost hear him saying “I am of the 99%!”

Sometimes he appeals to the memory of Ronald Reagan, forgetting that Reagan was the originator of the “big tent” philosophy and created the “Eleventh Commandment”: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” His attacks on Romney would certainly not have been approved by Reagan.

And how can Gingrich think he will win, if he blames Romney's win in Florida on outspending him 5 to 1? Does Gingrich think that Floridians are more susceptible to advertising than people in other states? If it was really because Romney outspent him that he lost Florida, how can he ignore the fact that that Romney can equally well outspend him in every other state? And can he really believe that the “people” are on his side, when Floridians voted for Romney over him by a 3 to 2 margin? And even if Santorum's votes were added to his, to produce a total “conservative” vote, Romney still beat their total.

Gingrich earlier ran a “high road” campaign, not attacking the others. Now he is getting down in the gutter to attack Romney. Isn't he afraid he will give Barack Obama some ammunition to use against Romney in the general election campaign?