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.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Obama (surprise!) follows the Constitutional rules

I was surprised to see that, after having his spokesmen proclaim he had no need to, President Barack Obama has changed his mind and indicated that he will in fact go to Congress for authorization to take military action against Syria.

Of course, after he saw the developments in Britain, perhaps he realized he had better. Unlike a President of the United States and Congress, a British Prime Minister usually can get his way with Parliament. He is elected by a majority of the House of Commons (though in this case, David Cameron needed to cobble together a two-party coalition to gain the office) and members of Parliament almost never vote against the wishes of their party leader. (Imagine how much happier John Boehner would be if we had that tradition!) But this week, the House of Commons voted Cameron down when he asked for authorization to join us in military action against Syria. And Cameron had to admit that “the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action.” He added, “I get that and the government will act accordingly.” Obviously, President Obama took a lesson from what happened to David Cameron. He is bound by a Constitution in a way that Cameron is not. The British Constitution is not a written document, but an accumulation of traditional ways of doing things, and can be changed quite easily. Ours cannot. Finally, President Obama seems to have learned that he cannot flout it, at least in this instance.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Another victory for gay marriage

The Treasury Department yesterday ruled that same-sex couples who were married in a state or country where it was legal and subsequently moved to a state that does not recognize that marriage will be considered married for income-tax purposes. They can file as single people until Sept. 12 of this year if they choose to, but afterward will have to file either as married filing separately or as married filing jointly.

It's probably a good thing, but will lead to some interesting complications. Before the Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional, same-sex couples had to be treated as single individuals under Federal law, so they'd have to file Federal returns as single even if their state permitted them to file jointly. Now, the reverse is true: same-sex couples whose state does not permit them to file jointly can do so on their Federal returns.

Of course, if couples like John Arthur and Jim Obergefell, whose Maryland marriage had not been recognized in Ohio, succeed in their suits (Arthur and Obergefell did get a judge to rule in their favor, though Ohio may appeal), based on Article IV of the Constitution, this anomalous situation where couples can file Federal returns as a married couple, but not state returns, will eventually fall. That is, obviously, the best solution: in states like Virginia they may yet be unable to get married, but by crossing over to another state, they will marry, and their states will have to recognize it. Eventually a Loving v. Virginia sort of ruling will come, even though in 2013 it's too early for that.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Apparently, presidential power (vs. Congress) depends on who exercises it

Back in 2007, a Presidential candidate named Barack Obama filled out a candidate questionnaire for the Boston Globe and, as reported by John Fund in a column in the National Review Online entitled “Obama Embraces the Imperial Presidency,” he wrote:

The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

He added that the president can only act unilaterally in “instances of self-defense.” Also in 2007, Senator (now Vice-President) Joseph Biden was quoted as saying:

The president has no constitutional authority to take this nation to war… unless we’re attacked or unless there is proof that we are about to be attacked.

Fast forward to 2013. Vice-President Biden is calling for an immediate strike against Syria. President Obama, it would seem, feels no need to defer to Congress' warmaking powers; he is able, in his estimation, to order us into war, in the words of his spokesman Mary Ann Marsh, acting unilaterally:

The president of the United States cannot be handcuffed by the same Republicans that are holding the rest of the country hostage on every other issue. That is wrong.

Apprently, the Constitution confers powers upon a president named Barack Obama which it does not on a president named George W. Bush. Or so believe Obama and Biden.

I don't think so.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Where are the moderates … in either party?

In the Providence Journal, there was a column, dated today, by Froma Harrop, which she entitled “We All Need Moderate Republicans,” but which was indexed by Real Clear Politics as “Where Are the Moderate Republicans?” But it's not just in the Republican Party that moderates seem to have vanished. I can't name a moderate in the Democratic Party in the Senate, with the exception of Joe Manchin. So the better question is “Where are the moderates in either party?”

Perhaps I have the answer. There is no more segregation in the South. With the end of Jim Crow, Southern Democrats, who formed a party of their own within the Democratic Party, mostly became Republicans. Their conservatism moderated the Democratic Party when they called themselves Democrats, but it has pulled the Republican Party rightward. And the northeastern Republicans, no longer able to play off northern and southern Democrats against each other in Congress, lost power.

Partially, too, it represents the decline of the rural areas (whilch were largely Republican) in the North. In a state like New York, the Republicans could win statewide office because New York City, which was 60-70% Democratic, had about 50% of the vote, while the rest of the state was 60-70% Republican, and also had about 50% of the vote. The suburbs used to be part of that 60-70% Republican “rest of the state,” but it seems that when a lot of urbanites moved out to the suburbs, many retained their Democratic allegiance. New York State is now reliably “blue.” I can't speak for other Northeastern states, but I suspect something similar happened, with cities like Boston and Philadelphia sending Democratic voters to formerly reliable Republican suburban and even rural areas.

So that's the probable answer. The end of segregation in the South, and the combination of rural areas turning into suburbs with “white flight” into those suburbs by urban Democrats who continued to vote Democratic, killed moderation in both parties. How do we revive it? Beats me!

Monday, August 26, 2013

On Martin Luther King Jr.

A lot of news sources are spending a lot of time on commemorating the March on Washington of 50 years (less two days) ago, at which Martin Luther King Jr. made his "I Have a Dream" speech. Martin Luther King is someone I have great conflicts about. In the beginning, he was an important civil rights leader, and certainly deserves praise. But the freedom he sought for his fellow African Americans was something he wanted to deny to the Vietnamese, and he was one of those whe worked to derail our fight for that freedom. That he could not see the Vietnam War as just as much a fight for freedom as his own fight for civil rights detracts from my view of King, and is why I cannot get as excited about him as many others do. Martin Luther King may be a civil rights hero, but in the case of the Vietnam War, he was close to a traitor. So over all, he does not compare in my mind to, say, Thurgood Marshall — just as much a civil rights hero, but one who did not turn on his own country in time of war.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bradley Manning wants to be called "Chelsea"

A post entitled “He Is Not Bradley Manning. She Is Chelsea Manning. Deal With It,” by Ryan Kearney on The New Republic's site says that Bradley Manning, the WikiLeaks leaker, wants now to be called “Chelsea.” Kearney, of course, has the right to call him anything he wants to. But he will always be Bradley Manning on this site.

I have no problem with people being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. We don't know how much is heredity, how much is environment, or even if there is some third cause, but whatever it is, people feel attractions to different people, and regardless of the Religious Right's railing about “unnatural” sexualities, it is truly natural for them. I'm willing to accept even stranger sexualities, though I can't fully understand them; I won't go into all the details. But the one group I can never understand or make sense of is that of the transgendered: men who think of themselves as women or vice versa.

A man who falls in love with another man just has his sense of what he finds attractive different from the majority. We are all programmed to eat, but many people eat, every morning, foods that it disgusts me just to contemplate. Sex is like food — the species could not survive without each of them, but how desires manifest themselves in different people varies. (Yes, gay sex does not procreate; but people have been known to eat non-nutritive foods as well!) And now, as gay people are getting more and more accepted (a lesbian has a good chance at being the next Mayor of New York!), there is less and less reason to consider a same-sex attraction as “unusual.” People can simply love whomever they want to love.

But transsexualism is another story. Bradley Manning will never be able to have a cell in his body (other than the sperm cells in his testicles) that has anything other than an XY chromosome type. Even if they cut off those testicles and his other male organs, and give him all the estrogens he asks for, he will still be genetically male, and he will never be able to function sexually as a female. He will simply be a castrated male, dressed in woman's clothes. No act on earth is possible that will make him anything other than that. So what does he get by adopting a female identity? I suppose, the right to go around in a dress. It's not the right to marry a man — twelve states already give him that, and more will follow, while the others probably would not even if he undergoes the sex-change operation.

Kearney's policy is “call someone what they want to be called.” Mine is “call them what they really are, if I know it.” And what they really are is in their genes.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Obamacare and the First Amendment

The Obamacare assault on our Constitutional rights has not been settled by last year's Supreme Court decision that the penalties under the individual mandate were constitutional because of Congress's taxing authority. The next front is posited on the First Amendment — can someone be forced to provide coverage that runs counter to their religious beliefs? And a post dated August 22, 2013 by Sam Baker on the site of “The Hill,” entitled “ObamaCare birth control mandate on fast track to Supreme Court,” shows what is coming up:

ObamaCare's birth control mandate is putting the president's signature legislative issue on a fast track back to the Supreme Court.

Lawyers on both sides of the issue say the high court will almost certainly have to rule on the controversial policy, possibly as early as its next term.

Two federal appeals courts have come down with opposite rulings on an important question related to the policy: whether for-profit businesses and their owners have the right to challenge in court the requirement that businesses provide contraception as part of their insurance coverage.

“I think it’s likely the Supreme Court is going to end up deciding this thing, and the question is when,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has organized many of the 60-plus lawsuits challenging the contraception mandate.

The different rulings by the two federal appeals courts significantly increase the likelihood the mandate will end up with the Supreme Court, possibly with a ruling just two years after the justices ruled ObamaCare’s insurance mandate was constitutional.

Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, which supports the contraception mandate, said it’s “likely” the Supreme Court could hear oral arguments in its next term, depending on the timing of appeals.

“I would anticipate, when there’s this much activity … that the court will hear one of these,” Melling said.

Last month, a panel of judges on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the owners of a for-profit corporation who sued to block the mandate.

Members of the Hahn family, which owns a cabinet-making firm called Conestoga, said complying with the contraception requirement would violate their Mennonite faith.

But the 3rd Circuit said the family could not sue over a policy that applies to its company.

“Since Conestoga is distinct from the Hahns, the Mandate does not actually require the Hahns to do anything,” the court said. “All responsibility for complying with the Mandate falls on Conestoga.”

The owners’ religious beliefs do not “pass through” to the corporation they own, the court said in its ruling.

“The Hahn family chose to incorporate and conduct business through Conestoga, thereby obtaining both the advantages and disadvantages of the corporate form. We simply cannot ignore the distinction between Conestoga and the Hahns,” the court said.

The ACLU’s Melling said the 3rd Circuit got it right. The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to individuals, she said, not businesses.

“Corporations don’t pray and have values,” Melling said.

Alliance Defending Freedom, the group representing Conestoga and the Hahns, has vowed to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Matt Bowman, the alliance’s legal director, said the group will file its appeal as soon as possible.

“We are hopeful that the court will take this because whether families can exercise religion in their daily lives is an extremely important issue, and it can’t be an issue that has a different answer based on what part of the country you live in,” Bowman said in an interview.

ObamaCare’s birth control mandate requires most employers to include contraception in their employees’ healthcare plans without charging a co-pay or deductible.

Churches and houses of worship are completely exempt. Religious-affiliated employers, like Catholic schools and hospitals, don’t have to offer or pay for the coverage themselves, but their insurance companies still have to make it available without cost-sharing.

Most lawsuits against the mandate have been filed by religious-affiliated institutions, but some for-profit corporations without a religious mission have also sued, citing the religious beliefs of their owners.

Critics of the mandate won an important victory in June, when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June that the owners of Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts-and-crafts stores, could sue to block the mandate from applying to their company.

“Would an incorporated kosher butcher really have no claim to challenge a regulation mandating non-kosher butchering practices?” the 10th Circuit asked. “The kosher butcher, of course, might directly serve a religious community … But we see no reason why one must orient one’s business toward a religious community to preserve Free Exercise protections.”

It’s possible the court could simply agree to hear the Conestoga case, but legal experts said they’re primarily keeping an eye on the Hobby Lobby suit.

How quickly the mandate makes it to the Supreme Court will likely depend on whether and when the Justice Department files an appeal in the Hobby Lobby case, they said.

“I assume they are eager to get this thing resolved,” the Becket Fund’s Rienzi said. His organization represents Hobby Lobby.

Justice could forego a quick appeal and let the issue continue to play out in lower courts. Neither the 3rd Circuit nor the 10th Circuit actually ruled on the merits of whether the contraception policy is constitutional, and similar lawsuits are still pending in two more circuits.

For either case to make it onto the docket in the court’s next term, Justice would need to file its appeal by about Sept. 25, legal observers said.

If the court agrees to hear the case, oral arguments would likely take place early next year and a decision would come by next summer — about two years after the court’s landmark ruling upholding the law’s central provisions.

“I’m just assuming that the court is going to hear one of these cases,” the ACLU’s Melling said.

Obamacare is so complex and involves so many convoluted relationships that it may end up with enough pieces ruled unconstitutional that enforcing it will be impossible. And that may be the path to repealing it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The irony of it all!

I received an e-mail message today. It purported to come from our execrable Governor, Martin O'Malley, though I imagine it was actually written and sent by some staff person. The burden of the message was that Chris Christie is a terrible person, and an appeal for funds to support his Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono.

I don't know how I managed to get on that particular mailing list — I presume because I signed a pro-marriage-equality petition — but the irony of this is amazing. First of all, Martin O'Malley's support for any candidate is hardly a positive, in my opinion. Governor O'Malley has done only two things I liked in the term and a half of his administration: supported the so-called “Purple Line” (a mass transit proposal that's been in the works for 25 years) and pushed for marriage equality. I've been against just about everything he's put through, except for those two. Almost the first thing he did on taking office was to raise the sales tax by 20%. He's also pressed to have illegal aliens given resident status in paying tuition at state institutions, and to end the death penalty. So an endorsement by O'Malley is reason for me to go the opposite way anyway. But Christie is a favorite of mine. I want to see him win big this year, so he will be in a good position to win the nomination for the Presidency in 2016. I don't have the money to give to campaigns, but if I did, and if I gave to anyone in the New Jersey election, it would be to Christie, not to his opponent!

That e-mail went, of course, into the trash folder. But I wish I could send something back to whoever put me on that mailing list, laughing in his face. (Hitting "unsubscribe" got me a screen that says “Forbidden.” Could this be a violation of the law?)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Wishful thinking

A post on the USA Today website quotes Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as saying that “[t]he fight over the future of the 2010 health care law has moved from repeal… to how to make it work in time for the opening of health care exchanges Oct. 1.” Secretary Sebelius is engaging in wishful thinking. There will continue to be pressure to repeal the bill. And since President Obama will veto any repeal legislation (assuming a newly constituted Senate, after next year's elections, goes along with the House and passes it), the fight to repeal will continue until a new President is elected in 2016 (hopefully, Chris Christie).

There is no way the bill will work as promised to the American people… by Oct. 1 of this year, or ever. And Secretary Sebelius will eventually have to admit this.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cory Booker

The results of yesterday's New Jersey primary show that Newark Mayor Cory Booker is the Democratic nominee, and given that he is running in an exceedingly blue state, almost certain to be the next junior Senator from New Jersey. Mayor Booker will sit in the Senate, in the city of his birth, shortly after the October special election. And already he is being described as destined for bigger things. (Hopefully, however, they do not choose to nominate him for the Presidency after less than one term in the Senate, as they did another African-American senator by the name of Barack Obama!)

I see no likelihood of my actually voting for him for the Presidency — he is still a liberal Democrat. But should he run, he is already, at this time, a better choice than our current incumbent. He has been a competent mayor of one of the more difficult cities to govern. Newark before Booker was much like Detroit. Under his mayorship it has greatly improved. And he has shown a willingness to give credit to people that liberal Democrats usually do not — to Republicans like Governor Chris Christie, and to Wall Street financial types, as during the last presidential campaign — far more than our current incumbent.

If I were a New Jerseyite, I would vote for Booker's opponent, Steve Lonergan, in October. But I'd be far less agitated when Booker won than I am by the two Senators I actually have, Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Now he admits it

It seems that Harry Reid has let the cat out of the bag. When the bill that became Obamacare was being written, people like Sen. Joe Lieberman were opposed to a “public option,” which was obviously a foot in the door for Canada-style “single payer“ health insurance. So Obamacare was deliberately intended as a temporary stop-gap, and such people as Harry Reid intended all along that a “single payer” plan is the ultimate goal for them. He's now admitted as much.

More reason we need to fight tooth and nail to turn bach this move. Canada's single-payer plan is not what we want. It causes long delays for people wanting medical treatments. It leads to hospitals having insufficient facilities. (For example, Canada has only ¼ as many MRI scanning machines per capita as the USA.)

Do we want Canadian-style single-payer health care here? I'm sure most of us do not. And with Harry Reid's remarks showing what the Democrats really have in mind, we need to block Obamacare as firmly as possible.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Filling in the details

Yesterday I said that the amount of money Jeff Bezos paid for The Washington Post was unknown. It has now been disclosed: $250 million.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Two major newspapers get new owners

Yesterday I read that The Boston Globe, which had been owned by The New York Times since 1993, had been sold to John Henry, who currently owns the Boston Red Sox and a soccer team. And today I read that Jeff Bezos (the founder of, has bought The Washington Post. These are major players in the United States' newspaper business; what do these sales mean?

For one thing, it has been noted that when the Times bought the Globe, they paid over a billion dollars, while John Henry paid only $70 million to purchase it. This is a sign that the Globe, at least, has lost over 90% of its value; many people point to this and say that the newspaper business is in general a dying one. But I can't imagine that John Henry would pay $70 million just to fold the Globe; he must expect that he can do something with it. And Jeff Bezos certainly must feel that The Washington Post is viable; he is not accustomed to throwing money down the drain, but he is known for nurturing an unprofitable company for years in the hope that he can make it profitable.

The amount that Bezos will pay to buy the Post has not been divulged, and since it was last sold in the 1930s, there is no easy comparison, as there was for the Globe, of past and present values. But in both cases, it is clear that the new owners have gambled that newspapers can still function. It will be interesting to follow both papers' fortunes.