The principles that rule this blog

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

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

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

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

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

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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Normally I have no brief for Mike Huckabee, but...

At the convention in Tampa, Mike Huckabee addressed the delegates saying that President Obama is the only “self-professed evangelical” in the race, yet “he tells people of faith that they have to bow their knees to the god of government and violate their faith and conscience in order to comply with what he calls health care. Friends… let me say it as clearly as possible, that the attack on my Catholic brothers and sisters is an attack on me.” Now I've had very little good to say about Gov. Huckabee, but in this respect he's hit it on the head. We have freedom of religion in this country, and this really includes the right to not pay for what your religion considers immoral. Contraception, of course, is not immoral to me — I'm not a Catholic. But I defend Catholic religious institutions' right to hold to their beliefs, and act on them. This time, I applaud Gov. Huckabee's comments.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

An e-mail received

I received the following in my e-mail today, sent by Chip DiPaula:

As members of my party gather in Tampa for the Republican National Convention, I wanted to write to you about an issue that I believe transcends party lines — the issue of marriage equality and fairness for every American.

12 years ago I served as Convention Manager when my party nominated George W. Bush. Later I served as campaign manager and Chief of Staff when Bob Ehrlich became our first Republican Governor in nearly 40 years. As a lifelong Marylander, it was a great honor to serve him and the citizens of the state I love.

I am not alone among Republicans in my support for marriage equality. Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman do, too. Clearly, Republicans and Democrats can agree that equal marriage rights are essential in a free society.

Will you show your support for equality in Maryland and join me in voting FOR question 6 on November 6th?

Whether we are Republicans or Democrats, we can all agree that everyone deserves to be treated equally under the law.

“Like” this post if you agree and help send the message that marriage equality is about protecting all families — regardless of party lines.

Freedom is not a Democratic or Republican value. It is an American value. Freedom means every citizen enjoys equal rights under the law. Please join me and the hundreds of thousands of Marylanders who support this important issue.

Thank you,

Chip DiPaula

I'm glad to see this. Republicans who agree with the need to support marriage equality must not desert this cause just because it was mainly pushed by a Democratic Governor and Democrats in the General Assembly. I do not have a Facebook account, for reasons I wish not to go into, so I cannot “like” this post, as requested in the e-mail message, but I am happy to “help send the message” by relaying it here on this blog; I already indicated my intent to vote FOR Question 6. I heartily encourage Maryland voters who read my blog to do likewise.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Likeable? Obama?

President Barack Obama keeps getting high likeability ratings in polls. I wonder why. I never liked him — getting his start by stabbing Alice Palmer in the back being just one thing about him that I find distasteful. He's always struck me as a cross between a dangerous radical and a Chicago machine politician — and why is such a character deemed “likeable” by so many people?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

“Obama 2016” — the movie to see

Yesterday my wife and I saw the movie “Obama 2016,” which is getting an amazing degree of box-office success for a “documentary.” Our reactions were a little different — it may finally make her decide once and for all to vote for Mitt Romney, whereas for me it seemed to say a lot that I already knew — but the only reason for the difference is that I had been aware of so much that was in the movie, which was in fact based on two books by Dinesh D'Souza. She has discounted some of the information I've given her in the past because it came from me, and she is aware of what I think of President Obama, but the point I made after the movie was that a lot of the reason I oppose the President is because I already knew some of what she learned in the movie.

There are things that even I learned about President Obama: that one of the professors whose classes Obama attended at Columbia University in New York City was Edward Said, the virulently anti-Israel writer (though the movie makes it clear that the anti-colonial point of view Obama inherited from his father is strongly anti-Israel to begin with), that his maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham, was the one who introduced Barack to the Communist Frank Marshall Davis, who became Obama's earliest mentor, which implies that that side of the family (with which he had much more contact than his father's side), must have been pretty left-wing, and that the reason his mother divorced his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, was that Soetoro was becoming less enchanted with left-wing politics and actually interested in getting “in” with the business community — which is even more evidence of how left-wing his mother's side of the family was.

While the movie probably made my wife more likely to vote for Mitt Romney — her remark afterward was that this (Obama) is not the kind of person she believes should be running this country — it only was a confirmation of what I was already thinking for me. So a lot will depend on what you already know. Which is why one reporter said you don't need to see it. But if there is any doubt in your mind that Barack Obama is actually anti-American, pro-extreme-left-wing, and opposed to the ideas that made this country great, you must see the movie. I haven't seen a movie in a decade — even with a senior-citizen discount, it cost me $8 (when I was a kid, adults got to see movies for 40¢, and you saw 2 movies for that price! Nothing else costs 40 times what it did then — for most things it's about 10.) so movies are much too expensive to see very often. But this one is worth seeing.

Monday, August 27, 2012

I guess I was wrong

Two years ago, I was disappointed that Charlie Crist was defeated in the Republican primary for Florida's Senate seat, and I wrote two postings: “I'm glad I don't live in Florida,” in which I hoped for Crist, running as an independent, to win that Senate seat, and “Postmortems - Part 1,” in which I analyzed the results of Florida's election, saying:

In Florida, the "Tea Party" candidate, Marco Rubio, succeeded in gaining the support of the entire Republican electorate. While I might have liked to see a better showing by Charlie Crist, he made a serious mistake. He let himself be painted "blue" (i. e. a secret Democrat). First, when some people were saying he might join the Democratic caucus if he were elected to the Senate, he refused to come out and say he was a Republican who would never support the Democratic leadership (i. e. Harry Reid et al), which lost him voters who wanted to express their hatred for the Obama/Reid/Pelosi agenda. Second, when such as Bill Clinton worked to get Kendrick Meek to withdraw so that the Democrats could unite to defeat Rubio, Crist accepted this role without saying anything that might have inspired Republicans to stay with him. This made Crist seem to be a Democrat while Rubio managed to unite all the Republicans, even those who had originally supported Crist. So Crist and Meek split the Democratic vote, instead of Crist taking both the moderates among the Republicans and those among the Democrats, which would have been the way to win. Too bad. But at least the winner in this scenario was a Republican, though further to the right than I'd like.

I'm sorry to say, I was apparently a poor judge of Charlie Crist. It's clear he was more willing to join the Democrats' fold than I imagined. In fact, he has actually endorsed President Barack Obama's re-election.

I have to apologize for anything positive I ever said about Charlie Crist. Anyone who can endorse Obama does not deserve any respect from me, at least for his political views.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another take on the Missouri Senate election

In the past, I've rather liked a lot of the posts by Washington Examiner columnist Noemie Emery. Friday's paper had an interesting column regarding the Senate election in Missouri, for whom the Republican primary winner, Todd Akin, has gone so off-the wall that the likes of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh think he should give up:

In 2006, unexpectedly bounced from his own party's ballot, Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman decided to run as an independent on a third-party line. The moment he did, he became the de facto Republican candidate, as the GOP decided to ignore its own nominee, neither funding nor mentioning him. Everyone understood what was happening, and Republicans voted for Lieberman. The state was (and is) Democratic, and Lieberman won.

In 2012, the Republicans' best way out of the mess in Missouri, now that they are left with a loon as a candidate, may be to do the same thing: Run a third-party line with the “real” candidate. But this time, actively fund and back him, with rollouts, endorsements and cash. This is because the installed nominee is not merely a blank, as he was in Connecticut, but a full-blown flake and media flame-out who needs to be wholly disowned.

Distance must be put between Todd Akin and the rest of the party and ticket, and this is best done by running against him. Link him to the Democrats and to Claire McCaskill, whose creature he does seem to be. During the primary, Democrats spent at least $1.5 million on television promoting him to Republican voters as the most conservative candidate. They also urged Democrats to go out and vote for him. By defining him now as a Trojan horse figure set to blow up and embarrass his party, Republicans could make the campaign against him appear more legitimate. They could also undermine liberals' efforts to link him to Romney, Ryan and other conservatives. If these are actively running against him, how tied together can they possibly be?

It's an open question who the third candidate should be, but it is one easily solved. Jennifer Rubin has brought up the name of John Danforth. Sarah Palin suggests Sarah Steelman (whom she endorsed), but she ran a few points behind Akin in the primary, and Missouri's “sore loser” law prevents runners-up from running in write-in campaigns. As the National Review's Jim Geraghty notes, a successful write-in candidate needs a simple name that is hard to misspell and a proven appeal to large blocs of voters, traits that he finds in one possible entrant: “If only some figure, well known to Missouri voters… would step forward and declare, “The name's Bond … Kit Bond.”

Other ex-senators are thick on the ground, and if Steelman can't run, she could campaign with and for them, driving a stake through the fake ‘war on women’ that the left wing is trying to wage. Campaigns such as these would give Missouri's voters a choice other than the other two ghastly options, and sever the links the liberals are trying to forge between Akin and saner Republicans. Who knows? They might even win.

Having nothing to say, Democrats are avid to run on distractions, from Seamus the dog to Rafalca the horse to Harvey, the invisible friend of Harry Reid, who keeps feeding him tidbits about Romney's taxes. They will continue to feed such distractions to the public till November, to drown out all talk of real issues like downturns and downgrades and “jobs,” the three-letter word that Joe Biden immortalized. This will never blow over, until it is made to. Unless Akin bows out, there's just one way to do it.

Ms. Emery has an interesting idea. The problem is that it will only work if one alternative candidate comes out. Otherwise, the vote will be split, and Claire McCaskill will still win. So who will do it?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What is a Person?

So much of the disagreement on abortion hinges on one particular issue: When does a person begin to exist, with all the rights of a person? (Certainly, even the “right-to-life” terminology, taking its words from the Declaration of Independence, with its statement that “all men [we would now say ‘persons’] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” depends on this question as to whether a fetus is a person!) Certainly, my leg or my finger is not a person, though it is alive and all of the cells therein are definitely human, so we have never heard of “pro-life” activists protesting surgical amputations. I have heard that the people who insist that a fetus is a person use, as the basis for this claim, that it has a new genome, different from either parent. The problem with this “independent genome” argument is that by this criterion, two identical twins (the technical term, actually, is “monozygotic” twins) are not separate persons. Their genomes are alike. (I have pointed this out in a previous post, which has been read by many visitors.) This is why I have thought that the “independent viability” criterion is the one to use; if a purported person can be separated from any other human being and can survive, then it counts as a separate human being. The only thing, this definition has problems too. Consider “Siamese” twins. They can usually be separated and both survive. But in some cases, they share a vital organ. One could not separate them without killing one. Yet I certainly would admit that these are two separate persons. (The “independent genome” definition, favored by “pro-lifers,” fails just as well; these twins certainly have a common genome!)

I don't know. How do you define a person in a way that would take care of such a case? I'd be interested in others' ideas.

Friday, August 24, 2012

One difference between Republicans and Democrats

Gregory Kane is a columnist whose column I read in the Washington Examiner a couple of times a week. as you might know, sometimes I agree with his columns, and sometimes I disagree strongly. But a column of his that appeared in yesterday's paper pointed out one important point. Most of the column was talking about Congressman Todd Akin's comment on abortion. And while you can read the whole column, I'm not going to quote anything but the one part I want to emphasize, the end of his column:

Finally, Mr. President, although you tried to lump all Republicans into the Todd Akin bin, I feel compelled to remind you that there are pro-choice Republicans. One of them is former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who heads Mitt Romney's campaign in that state.

Mr. President, can you name one prominent pro-life Democrat?

The point is that the Republican Party still has room for a lot of different opinions. The Democratic Party seems not to.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I am so glad I do not live in Missouri!

I would hate to be living in the State of Missouri this year — as I would have hated to live in Delaware two years ago. As Delawareans did in 2010, Missourians have nominated a Republican candidate who is beyond the fringe of acceptability. To have to choose between a weird Republican candidate who deserves to be deprived of any sort of office of importance and a Democrat who would, if elected, help perpetuate Harry Reid's control of the Senate is the kind of torture I hope never to have to endure myself, and I certainly do not have anything but sympathy for Missourians who have to make this choice in November.

Representative Todd Akin seems to think he is being pilloried for using one word — “legitimate” — to describe rape. But in fact, there is more than just this. If it was just the case of his saying “legitimate rape” to mean “true rape,” I do not think it would be that bad. But it was his expressed belief that a woman who is truly a rape victim could not become pregnant — a bit of idiocy that ill behooves a candidate for the United States Senate.

Then, there is one further position which Todd Akin has taken that would make it impossible for me to support him, if I'd been a Missourian. The fact is that Rep. Akin has made it clear that his main issue is abortion. Now I can support a candidate who is anti-abortion, if this is not his main issue and if, on issues that the candidate and I consider more important, we are in general agreement. But if the main issue on which a candidate is basing his campaign is one I oppose, it is clear that I cannot support him. And my position on abortion is clear. I don't believe in unrestricted abortion on demand with the woman being the only one to make the decision. I believe there should be some restrictions — for example, if she is married and her husband wants the child, he should be able to prevent an abortion — but in general, I am much closer to the “pro-choice” side than to the “pro-life” side in this spectrum. And so Todd Akin is outside the pale for me, while Romney-Ryan (who are “pro-life,” but do not make it one of their top issues) still get my support.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Obama can't keep his own stories straight

Nancy Cordes, a CBS News reported, asked President Barack Obama a question about his campaign. “As you know, your opponent recently accused you of waging a campaign filled with anger and hate. You told Entertainment Tonight that anyone who attends your rallies can see that they are not angry or hate-filled affairs. But in recent weeks, your campaign has suggested repeatedly — without proof — that Mr. Romney might be hiding something in his tax returns. They have suggested that Mr. Romney might be a felon for the way that he handed over power of Bain Capital. And your campaign and the White House have declined to condemn an ad by one of your top supporters that links Mr. Romney to a woman's death from cancer. Are you comfortable with the tone being set with your campaign? Have you asked them to change their tone when it comes to defining Mr. Romney?”

To which the president responded: “Well, first of all, I am not sure that all of those characterizations that you laid out there were accurate. For example, nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon.” This is rather strange, as Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, made a conference call, which is on record, to reporters in July in which she accused Romney of “through his own words and his own signature, … misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony.”

Doesn't President Obama know what his own campaign staff has said? Or is this his way of taking the accusation back?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A little bit unusual

The legislature passed, and Gov. O'Malley signed, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, and a petition to invalidate this law was filed by homophobic bigots. So you would think that a "for" vote would be for the petition; namely, to void the law. But in fact, the way the ballot question is worded, a vote "for" Question 6 will be to uphold the law. In fact, as is the case for two other referenda on the ballot, it seemes that when a referendum on a law is petitioned, the ballot will show the question as “FOR the Referred Law” and “AGAINST the Referred Law.” The question is worded:

Question 6

Referendum Petition

Civil Marriage Protection Act (Ch. 2 of the 2012 Legislative Session)

Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.

So a vote FOR is a vote to allow the law to take effect. And I wll be voting that way, and hoping that the majority goes that way.

There will be, as I stated, two other questions, Questions 4 (the Maryland version of the DREAM Act) and 5 (O'Malley's Congressional gerrymander) on the ballot, and I will be opposing both of them: in short, AGAINST Questions 4 and 5, FOR Question 6.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Even a Democrat has to admit it

When I was growing up in New York City, the New York Post, which my parents regularly read, was a liberal Democratic paper, published by Dorothy Schiff and putting Herblock's cartoons from the Washington Post on its editorial page. After a couple of changes of ownership, it is now, under Rupert Murdoch, a solidly conservative and Republican paper; Murdoch may be a lot of things I do not like, but he's well to the right of the ownership of the Post in my youth. But the column from the Post that I saw today, entitled “See no evil,” was by Phil Mushnick, who describes himself as a “registered but less-than-loyal Democrat.” And it deserves quoting, because it really goes to show how biased most of the media are today:

As a registered but less-than-loyal Democrat, I long scoffed at the long-held notion that the news media have a left-leaning, anti-Republican bias.

I didn’t believe it, primarily because I chose not to believe it. Plus, the media confirmed for me that mine was the noble side. Heck, there was no other side.

But I now know — and have for some time — that I was pulling my own leg. The notion of such a bias is not merely a notion; it’s true.

Our news media, especially as seen and heard during nationally broadcasted news, engages in highly selective story-choosing, story-telling and subsequent indignations and outrages that are first weighed on political scales.

After this preamble, Mushnick goes to the specific incident that led to this conclusion:

David Plouffe helped Obama get elected in 2008, and rejoined his campaign this year. In between, he cashed in.

Early this month a spectacular story was given tiny attention, and none, as far as I watched, on nightly national newscasts.

In December 2010, David Plouffe, soon to be reappointed a senior adviser to President Obama, gave two speeches in the desperately poor country of Nigeria.

Speeches for which he was paid a total of $100,000.

Holy moly! What did he have to say in Nigeria that was worth 100 grand? He must have revealed the cure for a country ranked 158th among 177 in economic development, a country in which an estimated 70% of humanity live — barely, and not for long — in severe poverty and in the mortally unhealthy conditions that accompany nothingness.

But, no, that wasn’t it.

Plouffe was invited and paid by MTN, Africa’s largest wireless-phone operator — and a company that does business with nuclear weapons-headed, radical-Islamized Iran.

Oh, so he must be a telecommunications wizard, a guy whose take on tech is well worth, oh, $50,000 an hour, even in Nigeria.

But no, that wasn’t it, either.

So, why was Plouffe paid $100,000? What could he share with MTN and Nigeria? Shoot, for 100 grand MTN could have landed KC and the Sunshine Band!

According to MTN, Plouffe was in demand “because of his expertise and knowledge of the US political scene.”


A penny for your thoughts? For 100 grand, this fella should have been registered as a foreign agent, or at least as a reverse lobbyist for a large international business.

A few months later, Plouffe rejoined the Obama administration as a top adviser.

But MTN wasn’t Plouffe’s only questionable off-season client. In 2009, during his first break from being an Obama adviser — Plouffe managed Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — Plouffe accepted $50,000 to speak to a group in Islamic, oil-rich Azerbaijan.

Turns out this group was connected to Azerbaijan’s occasionally democratic, occasionally despotic and often corrupt government.

When human-rights organizations protested Plouffe’s acceptance of such big dough from such a connected group — as if a senior White House advisor had no idea with whom he was dealing and knew nothing about the country in which he was speaking — Plouffe donated his fee to the purportedly nonpartisan National Democratic Institute.

So, Plouffe floats in and out, in and out: In as a top advisor in the Obama administration White House, out to give big-ticket speeches carrying insights on dealing with US politics and governance to dubious audiences in faraway places. And he’s now back in again.

Incredible stuff.

Yet, nine days ago, White House spokesperson Eric Schultz insisted that any attempt to suggest that Plouffe is not on the up-and-up or that there are any strings attached to the man is “simply misplaced.”


But that’s plenty good enough for the vast majority of the news and political media, as this Plouffe story never generated the attention it deserved — and still deserves. It was dead on arrival.

Now, imagine if a senior advisor in the last Bush administration — either Bush administration — had done as Plouffe has. Imagine if a top, inside Bush operative and persuader had such a résumé, eager for personal foreign business enrichments in exchange for “his expertise and knowledge of the US political scene.”

Woo, boy, fireworks! All over the nightly news! For weeks! Forever! And for good reason!

Nearly everyone, as opposed to just a few, would be familiar with the name David Plouffe — surely the caper would have been branded “Plouffegate” — and Plouffe would be forced to resign.

Take it from a registered Democrat no longer in denial: Fireworks!

And while the Plouffe story was mostly being ignored, Mitt Romney was in Israel, where he had the audacity to note, with gentle yet indisputable accuracy, the “cultural” achievement in that country compared to the rest of that part of the world.

Now that caused fireworks.

TV news and political reporters not only characterized Romney’s truth-telling as “a gaffe” — hard evidence that the GOP presidential candidate speaks first and thinks later — they gathered before him, offering him — shouting to him — an opportunity to “apologize.”

It was the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, stuck to describe pornography, who famously said, “I know it when I see it.”

Similar goes for news media bias in this uninspected, widely ignored Plouffe intrigue: I know it when I don’t see it.

It's a shame that this is so, but when I look at the whole picture, I think Mushnick has something there. I knew about this story, because I read it in the Washington Examiner, which is one of the exceptions to this leftist bias of our newspapers. But as he said, it got little press. Doing a Google search (using "david plouffe" nigeria as my key), I found several stories about this, but none of the top ones were in the sites of well-known publications. All were on relatively little-known sites. So I think Mushnick is confirmed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

More about Obamacare and Paul Ryan

My last post referred to a column by Yuval Levin in which he explained the Ryan-Wyden Medicare reform proposal. It seems that I hadn't noticed until today that he posted another column one day later which is also extremely good.

… I was struck by how even knowledgeable liberals still do not understand what Obamacare has done to them. They have a sense that health care is no longer a good issue for them, that it might have cost them the 2010 elections and will hurt in 2012, but they haven’t grasped that Medicare — which for decades has been a trusty battering ram against Republicans in the contest for the votes of seniors and others — is also no longer their issue.

This becomes evident in part when you consider that the arguments the Democrats naturally fall back upon regarding Medicare are just false now. So for instance David Axelrod on CNN’s State of the Union referred to “Congressman Ryan’s idea that we should turn Medicare into a voucher program, shifting thousands of dollars ultimately onto the backs of seniors.” But that’s simply a lie — Ryan’s actual Medicare proposal (which Romney has backed) simply doesn’t shift costs to seniors.

But it’s even more evident when liberals try to confront what they themselves — the supporters of Obamacare — propose to do to Medicare. Thus we find Rachel Maddow like a deer in headlights when Rich Lowry asked her a simple question on Meet the Press yesterday: “Do you support $700 billion in cuts in Medicare over the next ten years?” Obamacare takes that amount out of the program and spends it on other things, especially its new exchange subsidies. Maddow literally refused to answer the question. At one point she even said she shouldn’t have to answer it because “I’m not running for anything,” even though her occupation, as I understand it, is to express her opinion. And in the end, her defense of the cuts (though she still never said she supported them) was that Paul Ryan’s budget actually keeps them in place, eliminating Obamacare’s spending but not its Medicare cuts.

It’s at least a bit odd for Democrats who say Ryan is the devil to defend President Obama’s raid on Medicare by saying Paul Ryan does the same thing — and what’s more, it’s not true. The Ryan budget puts those $700 billion into the Medicare trust fund, to shore up the program’s future and reduce the deficit, rather than spending the money on yet another new entitlement. And Mitt Romney proposes not to make those Obamacare cuts in the first place — keeping the money in Medicare’s operating budget and so leaving the program simply as it is for today’s seniors and starting his premium-support reform for younger Americans when they retire, beginning a decade from now. Both undo Obama’s raid on Medicare, and both support a plan to save Medicare from bankruptcy in the years ahead.

Interestingly, Levin next says something that I find surprising:

I don’t think Axelrod and Maddow were just setting out to lie exactly — it’s worse than that. Listening to them, it seemed as if they really hadn’t realized until now the situation they were in. They’re used to a certain order of things on Medicare and have not stopped to grasp what Obamacare has done to them. They assume it must be true that Republicans want to cut benefits and Democrats want to preserve them. But it’s not true, not anymore. You could see that panicked realization slowly rising in Maddow’s eyes as she was pressed.

What she was probably recognizing was this: Obamacare changed everything. In the wake of that law, it is now clearer than it ever could have been before that the market solution is also the best one for seniors — that the conservative approach that would dramatically reduce the deficit is also the one that would avoid any disruptions for current beneficiaries and the one that would save Medicare in the longer run without shifting costs to future beneficiaries. And the Left can’t claim any of those benefits for its own approach to Medicare.

Levin's next part is rather interesting, because it makes it clear that both the Left and the Right seem unaware of what Obamacare has done, in his opinion:

Even some conservatives haven’t quite realized this, and have been uneasy about criticizing Obama’s Medicare cuts — after all, aren’t we supposed to be for Medicare cuts? But this attitude fails to consider the nature of Obama’s cuts (an arbitrary raid of the system to fund a new unsustainable entitlement) and the nature of the Romney-Ryan alternative (a market solution that would turn recipients into consumers and make Medicare a model of how competition can create efficiency and reduce costs without undermining value or access). There’s a broad consensus in America that the elderly should have access to highly subsidized health coverage. Cutting the cost of the program does not need to mean cutting the level of that coverage — unless, that is, you think central planning is the only way to run the program. The Left apparently does believe that, and now they’ll have to face the consequences.

President Obama has put Democrats in the position of being the party that seeks to cut current seniors’ benefits (especially those in Medicare Advantage) and access to care (thanks to the IPAB) while still allowing the program to collapse in the coming years and so watching the deficit explode and bringing on fiscal disaster. And Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have put the Republicans in the position of being the party that wants to protect current seniors’ benefits and make them available to future seniors while still saving the program from collapse in the coming years and so dramatically reducing the deficit and averting fiscal disaster.

Whether you’re now a senior and concerned about your health coverage, are younger and worry if you’ll have affordable coverage when you retire, or are most concerned about the nation’s fiscal health and economic future, the Democrats offer you a very bad deal on Medicare and the Republicans offer you a good one.

The Democrats still don’t see that, and think that turning to Medicare in the wake of Ryan’s selection will yield great political rewards. Perhaps Romney and Ryan should inform them of how the two parties actually stand on the issue. And they might think about informing some voters as well.

Well, let us see what Romney and Ryan do have to say about Medicare in the next few months. It might make for an interesting election-year debate.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The real Ryan proposal on Medicare

The Obama campaign is (not surprisingly) trying to scare people with the statement that Paul Ryan's Medicare reform proposals will “end Medicare as we know it.” Of course, “Medicare as we know it” will also end under any healthcare proposals that Obama would support — “Obamacare” diverts funds from Medicare to pay for its own plan. So one wonders, what would replace “Medicare as we know it” under Romney-Ryan?

First of all, note that “Obamacare” was a partisan scheme that managed to gain only one Republican vote in the House of Representatives (and not a single vote from the Republicans in the Senate)! Paul Ryan's plan was a bipartisan plan, jointly designed with Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, thus taking into account ideas which Democrats should be willing to support. (Note that Mitt Romney, while Governor of Massachusetts, had to work with an overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature — so both Romney and Ryan have a record of being willing to work with the other party, unlike President Obama!) And if one looks at the Ryan-Wyden plan, which is described in great detail in a blog post by Yuval Levin, it is hardly the “kill-the-safety-net” proposal that Obama's people claim:

…every senior would be guaranteed to have at least one comprehensive coverage option that cost no more than the premium-support payment he received (and thus involved no more out-of-pocket costs than Medicare does today), and would also have other options that cost more (whether because the offering companies could not manage to be as efficient in working with their provider networks or because they offered more benefits than the required minimum and thus charged a higher premium).

I for one think such a system would be attractive to seniors. And in fact, for most seniors, there is even less worry:

The proposal would also have this reform begin only ten years from now, and affect only new entrants into Medicare, so that all current seniors and everyone now over 55 would be left entirely untouched for the rest of their lives, unless they chose to enter the new system. Thus, today’s seniors have no reason to complain about the proposal, since it would not affect them, and tomorrow’s seniors have essentially nothing to lose by it, since they would still be guaranteed a comprehensive benefit at only today’s out-of-pocket costs.

It is, of course, true that if Romney and Ryan are elected, the plan that would ultimately become passed by Congress and signed into law by President Romney would probably differ in detail from the Ryan-Wyden proposal as it is described in Levin's blog. But it would probably resemble Ryan-Wyden much more closely than Obama's mischaracterization of Paul Ryan's ideas does.

So stop running scared.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What the choice of Paul Ryan means

It is clear that Mitt Romney seriously intends to run on one issue — the economy. If this was not obvious before he chose Paul Ryan, this makes it clear — not only Romney, but also Ryan, has economic strength and is known for little else. While it might have been Romney's decision to pick someone who was strong in areas where he was weak, this was not what he decided.

On the plus side, it meant he did not kowtow to the “social conservative” wing of the GOP. Some people were trying to pull him this way. I'm very happy with that.

Where some will criticize Ryan is his suggestions to reform Medicare. He's made suggestions to turn all of Medicare into something like the way the drug part (Part D) works, where you get a subsidy but the right to choose a plan, and some people think this will ruin Medicare. But, as a retiree myself, I can say that I like the way Part D works. Some people might choose a cheaper-premium plan and pay more in co-payments, while I have chosen a plan which costs me more each month, but where I never have to pay copayments on the medicines I take. I prefer this choice. Giving people the right to choose the plan that is right for them is a good idea. So I — who am on Medicare now — have no fears about Paul Ryan's ideas.

Ryan was not my absolute first choice — but, the truth be told, neither was Romney — but the Romney-Ryan ticket is still so much better than what the other side has to offer that I am totally happy to endorse it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A guest post by my wife

I am “Opinionator's” wife, Deb, and while I am far less conservative than he, in this election I may well vote for Mitt and company. Am I enthusiastic about this choice? No, I am a nominal Democrat but really an Independent. However, I have been looking for a permanent fulltime job in a field I have done well (retail) for over a year and have only found temp parttime work. Is this the “Change you can believe in” promised about 3½ years ago by Barack? Doesn't seem so to me, and at this point I don't think you can blame everything in this area that didn't work out on G.W. Bush!

When I heard about that speech that Obama gave saying that “You didn't build” your business, I carefully got ahold of — well, really “Opinionator” got ahold of :) — and read the complete speech. I still was left with the impression that Obama didn't seem to know much about business at all (I never ran one, but I worked for someone who did — you have to work very hard and be very smart in a stategic thinking way — and you still might not succeed). Despite my reservations about Mitt, I think that at this point he may be the best alternative available. I guess I'll be voting this time for the one who gives me less pause. Maybe we need, indeed, to give this guy a chance and see what he can do.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan

So Paul Ryan is the pick for Vice President. He's not the one I expected — Ann Romney's reference to “a woman” led me to expect Kelly Ayotte — but I can't say there's anything wrong with the pick.

The 2012 election will hinge on economics — and who knows more about Government economics than the chairman of the House Budget Committee? Paul Ryan has been a strong Romney supporter, and Obama will be using Ryan's budget ideas as ammunition against Romney anyway; who can better demonstrate why they are good ideas than Paul Ryan himself?

Now I know that my vote — though it will probably not count, since I'm in so blue a state — will be for the Romney-Ryan ticket. And I hope that others will do the same — especially in states where it will make a difference.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Obama's mischaracterization of Romney's tax plan

President Obama has criticized Mitt Romney's proposed tax plan's as “Robin Hood in reverse,” taking from those less well off to give breaks to the wealthy.:

Obama says Romney's tax plan would give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans while forcing middle-class families to pay up to $2,000 a year in additional taxes.

The president cites a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center that says millionaires would receive a tax cut of approximately $250,000 a year if the former Massachusetts governor gets his way.

“He'd ask the middle class to pay more in taxes so that he could give another $250,000 tax cut to people making more than three million dollars a year,” Mr. Obama said.

The only thing is, that's total nonsense. Romney's plan does not raise taxes on anyone: it lowers them on anyone that would see any change at all.

As I read in Diana Furchtgott-Roth's column in the Washington Examiner:

What's the best way of trashing Mitt Romney's tax plan? In these days of class warfare, it's to say his plan would result in tax cuts for high-income earners but tax increases for everyone else.

That's what the Tax Policy Center, a nongovernmental think tank under the auspices of the left-leaning Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, reported last week.

But here's the trick — the TPC did not analyze the Romney proposal. Instead, it analyzed tax proposals not found at the Romney website. It also imposed its own set of conditions on the tax changes, such as requiring that they be “revenue-neutral.”

As a result of this manipulation, the TPC claims Romney's proposal would lead to tax relief for high-income filers and tax increases for everyone else. In fact, Romney's proposal does not call for a single tax increase.

In most of America, such claims would be dismissed as second-rate political mischief. In Washington, the TPC's claims are cited by leading politicians.

President Obama cited the Center's document last week at Rollins College in Florida, a battleground state. He said, “He's asking you to pay more so that people like him can pay less. So that people like me pay less.”

Donald Marron, director of the Center, told me he assumed the proposal was revenue-neutral because of comments made by Romney in the past, even though he admitted that revenue neutrality is not part of the tax proposal.

However, when the Congressional Budget Office or the Joint Tax Committee analyzes the effects of budget and tax legislation, they use written proposals, not sponsors' comments, taken in or out of context.

Had the Tax Policy Center been more meticulous, it would have noticed the simple description of the Romney tax proposal on his website. After describing the damage that high top marginal rates do to small-business hiring, the site states that Romney's plan would:
  • Make a permanent, across-the-board 20 percent cut in marginal rates
  • Maintain current tax rates on interest, dividends and capital gains
  • Eliminate taxes for taxpayers with adjusted gross income below $200,000 on interest, dividends and capital gains
  • Eliminate the death tax
  • Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax

Most fifth-graders could read this plan and see that it never once calls for raising taxes on anyone. Nor does the Romney tax plan call for giving tax cuts to high-income Americans before there are tax cuts for middle- and low-income Americans, as alleged by the TPC.

In fact, low-and middle-income earners would get tax cuts that upper-income Americans will not enjoy, such as a zero tax rate on income from dividends and long-term capital gains.

After falsely claiming the tax plan must be “revenue-neutral,” the TPC asserts that lower rates must be funded by getting rid of tax breaks such as “the mortgage interest deduction, the exclusion for employer-provided health insurance, the deduction for charitable contributions, and benefits for low- and middle-income families and children like the [earned income tax credit] and child tax credit.”

These draconian provisions are invented by the TPC to make Romney's tax plan look ridiculous. It is impossible to find them in the Romney plan.

Examiner readers can judge for themselves. Read the plan printed above. Does a 20 percent cut in your income taxes rate, and no taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains for low- and middle-income earners, sound like a tax hike to you?

President Obama has no business attacking Mitt Romney for making tax proposals he never made. But he's never cared that much for the truth anyway.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

For Harry Reid, is it 1974 all over again?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to shift the debate in this election from “who is more likely to improve this nation's economy” to Mitt Romney's keeping his tax returns private — a red herring if ever there was one. But apparently this is not the first time he's used tax return privacy as an excuse to make points in an election campaign. It's how Reid got into the Senate in 1974. A posting by Carl M. Cannon that I read yeasterday on the Real Clear Politics site states:

Reid first ran for the U.S. Senate 38 years ago against Paul Laxalt, a former Nevada governor. Laxalt was popular, but 1974 was a terrible year for Republican candidates. Tied in the polls, Reid concocted an October surprise: He handed out to the press a packet of financial statements and tax returns from him and his three brothers — and called on Laxalt, who owned an interest in a casino — and his family — to do likewise.

“Any man or woman who will not be completely candid about his or her finances does not deserve to be in public office," Reid said, according to a contemporaneous wire service account. And he foreshadowed his recent attack on Romney by asserting that Laxalt had paid no income taxes in some years.

This claim turned out to be true, but that was because Laxalt had suffered business losses the previous two years. But Laxalt took Reid up on his gambit, disclosing financial information that not only showed his net worth had decreased while in the governor’s office, but that his family was clean.

“I made a real stink about it, insisting that Laxalt’s whole family disclose their finances,” Reid recalled in his 2008 autobiography. “To my embarrassment, Laxalt complied. Why yes, he said, my sister the nun who had taken a vow of poverty would be more than happy to inventory her meager finances.”

Reid’s self-assessment about leading with your chin when it comes to an opponent’s taxes: “It made me look bad,” he said then.

Nevertheless, nearly four decades later he’s doing it again on behalf of the president of the United States.

Well, let's keep our mind on what is important — our nation's economy and who is best qualified to fix it — not how many tax returns Mitt Romney has made public.

The best summary of what this 2012 election about is what Mitt Romney said this past Sunday on CNN:

The great majority of small businesses pay taxes at the individual rate so as he raises these taxes “on the wealthy” he is raising taxes on small business. That kills jobs.

If your priority in this country is to punish success vote for President Obama; if you priority is to create more success and more jobs vote for me.

Nothing else is more important this year. Nobody cared how much John F. Kennedy or Franklin Delano Roosevelt paid in taxes. They also were rich — and, just as Mitt Romney, or any other rich man, did, I am sure they made use of every quirk in the tax laws that they could use to reduce their tax liability. Even Warren Buffett, whose comments President Obama has used to justify his tax hikes, was not forced to take all the deductions he did. Let's get back to what really matters.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Why this year we really need Mitt Romney

On Sunday, I was discussing the election and the relative merits of Pres. Obama and Mitt Romney. And it dawned on me that Mitt Romney's founding of Bain Capital — something Pres. Obama has tried to use against him — is the biggest reason we need him to be elected as President in 2012. What is our greatest need? Jobs. Where will jobs come? By having America's businesses grow. And who best knows how to make businesses grow than a man who founded a company whose primary mission was to take weak companies and make them profitable.

Barack Obama has never owned a business, or managed one. His first executive position was the Presidency of the United States — talk about “on-the-job training!” Mitt Romney has been executive in charge of a business (Bain Capital), a non-profit organization (the Salt Lake City Olympic committee), and a State government. His business was specifically involved in getting other businesses to be profitable — and he had an 80% success rate at that; pretty impressive.

I can't see why anyone could support Barack Obama, whose 3½ years in the Presidency have been pretty darn awful, against Mitt Romney, who has had such a clear record of accomplishment, and even in the area we need most now — getting the businesses of this country healthy again.

Many small businesses in this country file their taxes as individuals; these include a lot of those “rich” people that Barack Obama is so eager to raise taxes on that he has threatened to veto any bill that fails to raise their taxes. But no big surprise — Obama understands nothing of business and is a Marxist by political orientation, so he looks at them with hostility. Hardly a way to encourage job creation. And more reason to retire Barack Obama in November.

Monday, August 06, 2012

An official Government site?

The full text of President Obama's speech at Roanoke, Va. on July 13 is online at the White House site. That it is there makes me wonder. Isn't there supposed to be a separation between the President's official activities as President and his political activities as a candidate? The speech was certainly a political one, as demonstrated by his comparisons with Mitt Romney's positions. Yet it occurs on the official White House Website.

Seems to me there's something wrong there.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

What will make someone choose a candidate?

Sometimes it puzzles me what will influence someone's thinking in deciding whom to vote for. A case in point: My wife is a nominal Democrat, but more correctly described as an independent, as she has voted for candidates of both parties for the Presidency.

Four years ago, my wife voted for John McCain, primarily on the basis of character; in particular, she recalled that in 1996 she had voted for Bill Clinton over Bob Dole because Dole seemed too conservative for her, but Clinton's behavior in the Presidency had convinced her that character was important. In retrospect, she was sorry for her 1996 vote, and might possibly have (if there had been such a thing as turning the clock back) changed that vote to Dole. The 2008 election seemed even more a case of character counting, since she considered McCain an honorable man (and cited his Vietnam War experience), while Barack Obama was anything but. (I think the Alice Palmer episode was the major factor in her evaluation of Obama's character.) When the economy tanked in 2008, she briefly considered voting for Obama, but in the end, her estimates of the character of the two major candidates won her vote for McCain. (Her mother accused her of being too influenced by me; but I really had no hand in determining her vote except to bring her attention to what Obama had done to Alice Palmer in 1996.)

This year, although Obama was the same Barack Obama as he had been four years ago, and if anything carried more baggage now (she could see the effects of his Presidency: she had a job in 2008, but except for some temporary positions, has been unemployed since Borders closed her store in April 2011.), it has been hard to convince her to vote for Mitt Romney. Romney's favorable comments on Ronald Reagan's downsizing of the Federal Government have scared her. When Reagan did that, she had to compete with many ex-Federal employees for jobs, and it was a hard time for her. She has been afraid Romney might do the same.

It took a Romney television ad featuring Obama's July 13 Roanoke speech to convince her. She never owned a business herself, but she worked in some places where she could see the hard work the business owner was putting in. And she felt that if Obama could not understand this, he was the wrong person to get our economy going again. And currently she is leaning toward Romney. She still hasn't committed. But this one remark by Obama — in a prepared speech, not an off-hand remark to a reporter — has done a lot to convince her.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Please don't blame the whole Republican Party!

As a result of this to-do over Chick-fil-A, some like Mike Huckabee and Rush Limbaugh have proclaimed a “liberal war on Christianity” and the other side has made statements that this is rather a Republican war on gay rights, and all others who do not share the Cathy family's fundamentalist Christian views. It is not the Republican Party that should be blamed. Mike Huckabee does not represent the views of all Republicans. He certainly does not represent my views; I've been boycotting Chick-fil-A for a long time, years before this latest spat over gay marriage came out. And let us face it, the Republican Party includes Huckabee, but it also includes Richard Tisei, an openly gay candidate for a Massachusetts Congressional seat this November. Just like the Democratic Party includes a large range of political opinions — look at former Congressman Bart Stupak, for example.

What really gets to me is the Religious Right's “war on Christianity” claim. The Christians in this country still have too much domination here. The only day I cannot go to the Smithsonian Institution's museums, for example, is December 25th — not because it is Isaac Newton's birthday, but because it is the day Christians celebrate as the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they call “Christ.” Banks are allowed to close on Sundays, and except for the Toronto Dominion Bank's U. S. branches, they do. They can't close on Saturday and stay open on Sunday, even if they have a Jewish CEO. There are still so many ways that Christians can impose their worldview on everyone else. I wish there were a war on Christianity's excesses, at least. I'd join it.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Why can't Israel determine its own capital?

When Mitt Romney said in his visit to Israel that Jerusalem was its capital, he was really stating what should be the obvious. But (despite a Congressional declaration years ago) the United States has refused to recognize this fact, and has put its embassy in Tel Aviv as a sop to Arab sentiment. Still, it would seem to me that openly denying that Israel has a right to put its capital wherever it chooses — a right that every other nation in the world unquestionably has — goes way too far. Yet the Obama White House has done just that: denied that Israel has the right to locate its capital in the city of its choice:

In what marks a decisive difference in the presidential campaign, one day after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Jerusalem the capital of Israel, the White House asserted that Romney’s position was different from that of the Obama administration.

“Our view is that that is a different position than this administration holds. It’s the view of this administration that the capital should be determined in final status negotiations between parties,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Monday.

In other words, Israel's choice of a capital is hostage to “final status negotiations between parties” — it cannot designate its own capital until the Arabs have deemed that negotiations have gone far enough to go into their final phase — something that seems unlikely ever to happen. How would President Obama feel if some foreign country denied that Washington was our nation's capital? Oh yes, he's not all that proud of this country anyway, so he might welcome some foreign country telling us that our capital is where they tell us it is.

Is there any doubt that Pres. Obama needs to be retired this November?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

And now, the First Amendment argument against Obamacare hits the courts

The individual mandate in “Obamacare” survived constitutional challenge by virtue of Chief Justice roberts' ruling that its “penalty” was a tax and thus permitted under the first clause of Article I Section 8: “To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” But further challenges are hitting the courts now. The Catholic Church has long believed that birth control was immoral, and the fact that Catholic institutions (except for those defined by such a narrow criterion as to exclude most of them) must, under Obamacare, provide free contraception, to them constites a violation of the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment. And at least one judge agrees. According to the Daily Caller:

A coalition of civil rights groups has persuaded a Denver, Colo. judge that Obamacare’s preventive care coverage provides a “substantial burden” on a Colorado company’s free exercise of religion.

Judge John Kane, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter, granted a “preliminary injunction” barring enforcement of the law against the family-owned company, pending a full trial.
The judge said, among other things, that the Obamacare mandate “could easily be served by the government providing contraceptive themselves … if there was the political will.” And this is clearly correct. Making observant Catholics pay for something they find morally repugnant is so clearly a First Amendment violation that I cannot see how anyone could think otherwise.