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, May 31, 2013

Scott Walker in 2016?

Today I saw a column by Byron York in the Washington Examiner called “Looking to 2016, Iowa GOP gets jazzed about Scott Walker of Wisconsin” in which York mentions that lots of people, both those who supported Mitt Romney last year and those whose choice in the GOP nomination contest was “anyone but Romney,” are becoming enthusiastic about Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin for the 2016 nomination. While I have said, and I still maintain, that the best choice for the nomination would be Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, I would not be unhappy with Walker as a nominee. He is rather more conservative than I am, but he's gotten his programs — including the well-known reforms that got organized labor so hot under the collar that they mounted a recall campaign against him — through and written into law in a very blue State. And that counts for a lot. Anyone who could survive the viciousness of that recall campaign as Gov. Walker did deserves credit. So, while I prefer Christie, I would certainly be willing to support Walker if he were the nominee, and I would not want to work against him while he pursues the nomination, if he does, any more than any other rival of my preferred choice. He's not like Bachmann or Perry in 2012, who were anathema to me.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Points about abortion

One reason that, although I am closer to the so-called “pro-choice” side in the debates on abortion than the so-called “pro-life” side, I still cannot accept all the ideas of the former, is that to me the primary issue is not “a woman's right to choose,” as most “pro-choicers” make it. For me, in fact, the big issue is a First Amendment freedom-of-religion issue.

The Catholic Church (and some Protestant groups) wants to impose its view of “personhood” on others. The idea that “human life begins at conception” is clearly the tenet of a particular religious community. (In Judaism, for example, there is a point — not clearly fixed in time — when the neshama [approximately translated as “soul”] is put into the developing fetus by Divine intervention; prior to that it is not considered human.)

Because I see this as a religious freedom issue, I am perfectly willing, say, to accept laws that forbid the State from forcing Catholic hospitals or Catholic medical doctors to perform abortions, because they too have First Amendment rights. Because I see this in other terms than “a woman's right to choose,” I am willing to allow some people other than the pregnant woman to be involved in the decision. (I have no problem with parental-consent laws when the pregnant “woman” is in fact a girl who would not herself be empowered to consent to some other forms of surgery on her body. I honestly believe that, when a married couple conceive as a result of an act entered into voluntarily, if the husband wants the child he should be able to insist that the birth take place.) So I feel uncomfortable with both sides' positions in the abortion debate.

While we have no way of knowing when the neshama enters the fetus, I feel that the best clue to when to consider it a new human being is the viability criterion — if you could deliver it, and it could survive outside the uterus, then it is a new human being; not before. Some argue that technology changes; we could deliver a baby in 2013 that would not have survived in 1963. I say “so be it.” We do not judge the doctors who attended Pres. Garfield as murderers, because they did not conform to modern standards of antisepsis, although it is clear that their filthy hands were actually the cause of his death. Since, at that time, the role of infection was becoming known, they come in for some criticism. But not what doctors in 2013 would incur if they did as those doctors did. The standards of any particulat time must apply.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Virginia's governorship race

Only two states elect governors in the immediate post-Presidential-election years: New Jersey and Virginia. While New Jersey is likely to be a rout (some polls put Chris Christie more than 30 points ahead of his Democratic opponent!), Virginia is going to be close, if appearances bear out. And it's a terrible dilemma for Virginia's voters.

Virginia Republicans have held their convention and picked Ken Cuccinelli, the current attorney general. The main reason they had a convention, rather than a primary, is that moderate lieutenant governor Bill Bolling might have won a primary, and diehard conservatives wanted to ensure Cuccinelli's nomination. While I applaud some things Cuccinelli has done, like fighting Obamacare, he is a strong “social conservative,” and I thing the Republicans will only be a constructive force in this country if they abandon “social conservatism.”

But then I look at the Democrats. They haven't had their primary yet, but Terry McAuliffe seems to have no serious challengers. (In fact, he has no challengers, period! Nobody else has filed for that primary.) And McAuliffe is best known for heading Bill Clinton's re-election campaign. He's strongly allied with the whole Clinton family — he was a big supporter of Hillary Clinton's bid for the 2008 Democratic nomination. That alone hurts him in my eyes.

If I were a Virginia voter, I'd be stumped. Cuccinelli is more extreme than I'd like, and McAuliffe is actually fairly moderate for a Democrat. But I'd hate to see any Democrat win in an election where it might be construed for support for the Obama Presidency — and to the extent it's not so construed, it helps set things up for Hillary in 2016.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A lull in the posting rate

I've not been posting much lately — only once a week or less often. And I notice that most of my favorite blogs, like Dennis Sanders' “Big Tent Revue” and Tom Bowler's “Libertarian Leanings,” have also slacked off. I wonder if this is because Barack Obama's Presidency is going to last till 2017, and nothing we say can change that? (And of course, even Congressional elections are 1½ years away.)

Next month, the Supreme Court will probably issue its decisions on Hollingsworth v. Perry (the California Prop. 8 case) and United States v. Windsor (the case challenging the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act”). I will certainly post comments on these decisions once we know what they are. But until then it is mere speculation. I know how I would rule. On Windsor, it is clear to me that DOMA is unconstitutional, because it conflicts with the Tenth Amendment-based right of States to define “marriage.” On Hollingsworth, my feeling is more nuanced. Because of that Tenth Amendment argument, it is not appropriate to declare same-sex marriage legal everywhere in the 50 States. Appeal to the precedent of Loving v. Virginia is attractive, and probably if there were more than 11 states with same-sex marriage on the books, would make sense. But clearly there is not a nationwide consensus on this issue. I think, if I were a Supreme Court Justice, however, the precedent I would follow is Romer v. Evans. Basically, to take away rights that people already have is unconstitutional, and this is what Prop. 8 did. And on this basis, the Court would, in my opinion, be right to invalidate Prop. 8, while not forcing those states without laws authorizing same-sex marriage on the books to institute it.

But this is my position. i cannot get inside the heads of the nine Supreme Court justices. So I cannot comment on their decision until they issue it, probably next month.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's rather amazing

It should not be too surprising that the way the media cover a political story depends on their own political orientation. But how severely it does is amazing. There were three different stories about the Obama administration's actions that monopolized the headlines in recent weeks: The IRS' interference with “Tea Party” groups (but not similarly situated groups on the left) in their quest for tax-exempt status, the harassment of the Associated Press, and the Government's attempts to mischaracterize the Benghazi attacks in order to minimize its security weaknesses. In each case, papers such as the Washington Post and New York Times took the positions that there was really no scandal, that the only thing wrong was that Republicans in the Congress were making it one. Their attitude was that “Watergate” was a real scandal; this was nothing even resembling it. Well, to my way of thinking, if there is any reason to say that the two things were qualitatively different, it was the opposite. “Watergate” was nothing but a couple of overly zealous people doing a burglary attempt on the Democrats. yet it forced a President to resign — a far better president, I believe, than the current occupant of the White House. At Benghazi, four Americans died, including a highly respected ambassador, because of lax security precautions; nobody died from “Watergate.” The IRS business could legitimately be characterized, as was “Watergate,” as a few overly zealous people trying to help the political chances of the President. But in “Watergate” it only involved the offices of the Democrats, and hardly prevented them from doing their business. The IRS actually held up the tax-exempt status of some of these organizations so long that they folded! And as for the AP — well, freedom of the press is what one part of the First Amendment is all about; it's considered one of our primary liberties. The left-wing press says it's ridiculous to compare these scandals to “Watergate”; I think, if anything, they, especially taken together, make “Watergate” look like small potatoes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Kermit Gosnell decision

Kermit Gosnell has been convicted of murder. And the anti-abortion (or as they would have it, “pro-life”) people are happy with the results. But in fact, the Gosnell verdict was totally in conformity with what I, who oppose them, have maintained. A viable fetus is a real person. Some of these babies were, in fact, already born, not just “viable.”

My reply to the anti-abortion crowd has always been “if this is a baby, deliver it, then see if you can keep it alive.” In this case, several deliveries had been done, and then the babies were killed. So obviously, what Kermit Gosnell did was murder, under my own definition. And I agree with the verdict. But this says nothing about Roe v. Wade. Gosnell's attorney tried to invoke Roe, but the jury didn't buy it. And I think that no appeals court would, either.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

More progress on the "marriage equality" front

In the last few days, Rhode Island and Delaware have passed marriage equality bills. Of course, this makes it even more the case that geography is the big divide. Nearly all the states north and east of the Potomac now have marriage equality (calling the District of Columbia a “state,” which for this purpose it in effect is). Just south of the Potomac you have states like Virginia and North Carolina, which have shown open hostility to the concept. And heading westward, most states haven't really done anything one way or the other. (Iowa has, and Illinois is probably about to, institute same-sex marriage. Colorado just started civil unions, which ultimately seems to lead to marriage, as it did in the state that invented the concept of civil union, Vermont. And the big one, California, is the subject of the big Hollingsworth v. Perry case, which the Supreme Court will rule on, probably in a month or so, so supporters of marriage equality are awaiting this decision with bated breath. (Of course, the Court might rule on Hollingsworth v. Perry in a way that brings about marriage equality nationwide. I doubt that they will. I don't think it's time for a ruling like Loving v. Virginia involving sex instead of race, yet.)

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Why Matt Lewis could never be a liberal, and my own (general) agreement

Today I saw a post by columnist Matt K. Lewis of The Week's site, entitled “Why I could never be a liberal.” And, although I don't consider myself a “true conservative,” I align myself with conservatives on enough important issues that I estimate my position as more conservative than not. And much of what Lewis said resonates with me.

He begins with a comment, just below the title, but above the column itself:

I get in fights with my fellow conservatives all the time. But I'm not about to switch sides.

I'm not about to quote the entire column (please follow the link if you want to read it) but there are specific points he makes that I would echo:

…though my friends on the activist Right may sometimes drive me nuts, I've never ever entertained the thought of going over to the dark side of the Left. David Brock might have garnered a lot of attention and publicity by switching sides, but for me, the Left is never an option.

This isn't just because I believe conservatism will lead to a more prosperous and virtuous society, but also because — in the unlikely event either side were to obtain carte blanche authority — the Left scares me more than the Right.

There's no shortage of examples. Melissa Harris-Perry, for instance, recently revealed a terrifying tenet of the Left, which says our children belong to the collective, not to parents or families. As I wrote, this sentiment was so feared by George Orwell that he included it in both 1984 and Animal Farm. I should have also mentioned Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

Look at extremists abroad: From Stalin to Castro to Chavez, some on the Left have consistently displayed not just a tolerance for heavy-handed authoritarian regimes (as the Right has admittedly sometimes also done) but also an admiration of them.

In recent weeks, some on the Left have mourned the death of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, even while cheering the death of Britain's Margaret Thatcher. And a similar sentiment was on full display when Jay-Z and Beyonce, perhaps naively, enjoyed Cuban hospitality — without noticing the dissidents or the gulags they conveniently avoided on their vacation.

I will skip a couple of paragraphs, with which I don't really agree, about liberals' disregard for the Divine and about abortion, and resume with his next paragraph:

We live in a fallen world. I do not expect any party — or any ideology, for that matter — to have all the answers. I don't put my faith in politics. There will be no utopia on earth. We cannot immanentize the eschaton.

Neither side of the political spectrum has all the answers — and both sides have fringe elements they'd rather not highlight, as well as moments in history they'd rather leave unspoken.

I've probably had more public fights with my friends on the Right than with my adversaries on the Left in recent years. This is probably natural. As Anthony Trollope wrote, "The apostle of Christianity and the infidel can meet without a chance of a quarrel; but it is never safe to bring together two men who differ about a saint or a surplice."

I get in fights with my fellow conservatives all the time. Immigration is but one example. But still, for me, the Left is never an option.

There are specific points where I differ with Lewis. But by and large, I approve this column.