The principles that rule this blog

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

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

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Reforming health care

Of course, in his State of the Union address, President Obama touted his signature health care plan. And he even pointed to one of its successes: a woman who was uncovered until January 1, and shortly afterward was able to have a serious surgical procedure that was covered because of an “Obamacare”-based policy. He didn't mention its much larger failures: millions of people who had been covered, but lost their coverage because their plans were not in compliance with requirements put in place by “Obamacare” to cover this or that or the other thing. One person that often has been cited is retiring Senator Tom Coburn, of Oklakoma, who is retiring in part because of a cancer he has, and no longer has insurance that covers his cancer specialist — though, a physician himself, he is rich enough to continue to pay this doctor out of his own pocket!

Mentioning Sen. Coburn is particularly apropos, because he is one of three Senators (the others are Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Burr of North Carolina) who have come up with a plan they would like to see replace “Obamacare.” There is a column by Avik Roy on Forbes Magazine's site which advocates the Coburn/Burr/Hatch plan as the best alternative to replace “Obamacare,” and, while I'm not certain I approve of all its provisions, it deserves consideration.

I think that the CBH plan does not go far enough in keeping the “Obamacare” ban on denial of insurance for pre-existing conditions, for example — this is one of “Obamacare's” good points — but just because it's not exactly what I would propose would not make me turn it down entirely. However, I think that something like it might be the basis for a Republican alternative.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Trying to take down Chris Christie

Liberal Democrats seem to be as convinced as I am that Chris Christie is the best hope for the GOP to regain the Presidency. But while in my case, I believe it's a good thing, the liberal Dems are so fearful of it that they are doing their darnedest to keep alive all the things they think can derail Christie's move toward the White House. Case in point: an article by E. J. Dionne, a Washington Post columnist. He purports to be reviewing Gov. Christie's “State of the State” speech, but it is clear that he wants to interject the old business about the George Washington Bridge jam-up and Dawn Zimmer's ridiculous charge of coercion:

The New Jersey governor gave the speech he would have given had there been no George Washington Bridge scandal and no allegations about the use of Hurricane Sandy relief money to pressure a local official on a development project.

Dionne can't really fault Christie's speech, so he simply brings up this old business. Nobody has as of yet proved that Christie inspired the closing of those bridge lanes, or even that he knew about it before the recent surfacing of the details. And nobody but Dawn Zimmer seems to have any evidence of the supposed coercion. But Dionne cannot wait until the New Jersey legislature does its investigation of the bridge closing — it might actually show that Christie is telling the truth! So Dionne needs to keep repeating the unproved allegations, so that they can have maximum impact.

But we all need to know about E. J. Dionne. He published a column last October which began with the words “Obamacare is working.” He unashamedly praises the President for all his wrecking of this country's health care system, and in general backs him to the hilt. So naturally, he would want to derail the hope of reversing this egregious blunder.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kim Guadagno and Dawn Zimmer

Lately we have been seeing an exchange of charges by New Jersey lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno and the mayor of Hoboken, Dawn Zimmer, with each implying that the other is lying about a meeting that they had, and in Zimmer's case, implying that Governor Chris Christie was pressuring her to approve a real estate development in Hoboken by withholding some of the relief money for Hurricane Sandy. Reading both sets of claims, it looks like “Alice in Wonderland.” And yet, I think I can figure out what happened, that could lead each of the two to say what she has on this subject.

Guadagno has recused herself from all matters involving Hurricane Sandy, because she herself owns a property that was damaged by the storm. However, Zimmer was probably unaware of this, and headed into the meeting in question, with her mind mainly on the Hurricane Sandy relief, assuming that this was what she would be discussing with Guadagno. I assume that Zimmer brought up the Sandy relief question immediately, and was told by Guadagno that this was not the place to discuss it, that she should talk to someone else. And Zimmer immediately assumed that she was being told that the Sandy relief money was being conditioned on her going along with whatever Guadagno was advocating — namely, the redevelopment plan. Guadagno probably did say, as Zimmer says she did, that the message was to be considered as coming from Governor Christie, but the message was not that the Sandy relief funds were being held up until Zimmer approved the redevelopment plan; simply that this plan was something the Governor wanted to see approved. Yes, Governor Christie was pushing hard for the redevelopment plan, but the idea that the money for Sandy was being conditioned on this was in Zimmer's head. In short, Dawn Zimmer went into the meeting with Sandy on her mind, Kim Guadagno tried to tell her that Sandy was not to be discussed, and Zimmer read it incorrectly as a signal that the Sandy relief was conditioned on her going along with Christie's demands.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Martin Luther King

Tomorrow is a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, and it got me thinking. It seems that (although nobody wants it to happen to them) getting yourself assassinated is a sure road to becoming a hero in many people's eyes. John F. Kennedy would, on the basis of his accomplishments, be considered a rather inconsequential president — it was Lyndon Johnson who actually pushed through the civil rights legislation that Kennedy had proposed — if it hadn't been for the shooting in Dallas in 1963. And Martin Luther King was only one of many civil rights leaders — Thurgood Marshall certainly accomplished more, for example — and he tarnished his own record by taking a near-treasonous attitude on the Vietnam war. Yet some people idolized both, to the extent of a song having been written about “Abraham, Martin, and John.” (To me this is profaning the memory of Abraham Lincoln, who was one of our greatest Presidents, perhaps our greatest, shepherding our nation through its only civil war.)

John F. Kennedy was one of our nonentity Presidents — the country would have been better served if Richard M. Nixon had won in 1960 — and Martin Luther King was one of our less important civil rights leaders, yet both are honored far beyond what they deserve. And far beyond what would have been the case if neither had been shot. It seems that Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray, by prematurely ending Kennedy's and King's lives, caused both to be more important than they would have otherwise been. Another case of “unintended consequences”?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Overzealous underlings

It seems that one of the problems that a good leader has is subordinates who are so loyal to him, they will do anything to ensure he stays in office, including illegal actions and others that may be technically legal, but unacceptable to the American public.

I am old enough to remember the 1972 Presidential election. Living in New York City at the time, perhaps I even thought that George McGovern had a chance at the Presidency; in retrospect, it is obvious that he did not. But apparently some staffers in the Richard Nixon campaign thought McGovern had a chance, too, and feared — as I did myself — that a McGovern Presidency would be disastrous for the Free World, so they went about trying to ensure Nixon's re-election by means that were frankly illegal. There is no evidence that Nixon wanted these illegal activities to take place, much less ordered them, but out of loyalty to the men who had tried so hard to help him, President Nixon tried to cover up the evidence, and this brought about his downfall, ending up with a resignation by one of the most productive Presidents in United States history — certainly, the best President, I believe, in the last third of the Twentieth Century. It is a big shame — and only because people under Nixon were trying to help him.

Forty-one years after that 1972 Presidential election was a gubernatorial election in New Jersey. The Governor, Chris Christie, was seeking re-election after a very productive first term, and apparently some of his subordinates thought they were working on his behalf by trying to embarrass the Mayor of Ft. Lee, a Democrat who they thought should have endorsed Christie (as did a number of other Democratic officeholders in New Jersey), but who did not. What they did, tying up traffic on the George Washington Bridge, was not strictly illegal, but certainly unethical. And again, political opponents — particularly national Democratic politicians — are trying to put the blame on Governor Christie, as they did on President Nixon, though the fault is clearly further down the chain of command.

Both of these unfortunate attempts were really unnecessary, as it happened — Nixon certaingy would have beaten McGovern by a big margin even if the Watergate actions had never taken place, and certainly, Chris Christie won re-election by a heroic margin without getting the support of Ft. Lee's mayor.

Governor Christie, certainly, is aware of the history I cited earlier in this post. And he is not going to handle it the same way President Nixon did, because he knows what happened to Nixon. So he is firing those people who directly worked under him, apologized to the Mayor of Ft. Lee, and is engaged in damage control every way he can. It is a shame that he has to do this, but the history of what happened to President Nixon is on the books.

Hopefully, Governor Christie will succeed at damage control. I think he's been a great governor of New Jersey, and I think he will be a great President of the United States. It will be a tremendous shame if overzealous underlings derail him from the path to the Presidency. Fortunately, he has two years before the Iowa caucuses, and so time for people to forget about this scandal and concentrate on the bigger issues, like the disaster known as “Obamacare.” My support for Christie has not been diminished, and one person I've spoken to actually said she was favorably impressed by Christie's handling of the situation. It must have been painful to him to fire people who had been personal friends and close political allies, but he saw it as necessary.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A chance to set back Big Labor

Although the case has been pending for some time (the Supreme Court granted certiorari some months ago) I just today was reading about it: there is a case before the Supreme Court called Harris v. Quinn which has some possibilities that look good for setting back Big Labor. It involves home care workers who have been classified as state workers under Illinois law, apparently just in order to put them under a collective bargaining agreement which has set up an “agency shop,” a contract where even if a person does not want to join a union, he is forced to pay the union dues. This is one of the most evil things ever worked into a contract — you must pay someone, allegedly for providing a service, but the service is one you never asked for nor want. And the money, of course, goes in part to political candidates you might oppose.

Of course, the unions are upset that anyone would challenge these “agency shop” provisions; they say that the unions have to negotiate for all the workers and so even the non-members benefit, so they should help support the union. In fact, the union often negotiates contracts with provisions that are directly against the interests of these non-members, but union apologists refuse to see this, and that is why many people do not want to be a part of the union.

But a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in this case would not actually kill “agency shops,” as all it would do is to say that they are not in fact state employees. It would be nice if it did, of course, but that is not what this specific case is all about. It will not release unwilling people who are state employees from these burdensome “agency shop” contracts. Yet some columnists have claimed it would provide a “right-to-work” law for all public employees. Would that this were so!

Still, it's a move in the right direction. The only thing that would really provide equity in this issue of “right-to-work” laws would be a national “right-to-work” law that would apply to everyone. Nobody should be forced to pay dues to an organization he perceives as working against his interest. But let us hope that Harris prevails in this case, and others follow to push the issue a little farther in the future.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A big surprise

It does not surprise me that courts are issuing injunctions against enforcement of the “Obamacare” requirement that religious organizations violate their own religious scruples and provide coverage for things that they deem immoral. But that one of the injunctions was issued by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor does. For she is an appointee of President Obama, and a known liberal.

It seems that even someone like Justice Sotomayor understands the importance of the First Amendment issue at stake — and that bodes well for people who are raising this issue.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The new year

This will be about the only time, for a while, that you will see a post that is neither about Chris Christie nor about “Obamacare.” But I got to thinking about how New Year's Eve and New Year's Day have changed over the years for me, and I thought I'd share my memories and recollections with my readers.

In the family in which I grew up, we had a New Year's tradition which might seem very calm and subdued to most of you, but year after year we did the same thing. We gathered around the radio, with potato chips and/or other snack foods, and listened to Guy Lombardo, who every year did a New Year's program from some hotel, I think always in midtown Manhattan. The Big Band era was over — this was the early 1950s — but Lombardo still had his band, and its theme was “Auld Lang Syne” (which raises a chicken/egg question: did Lombardo choose “Auld Lang Syne” because he liked to play New Year's Eve parties? Or had he adopted “Auld Lang Syne” as his theme, and because of that he was popular as a New Year's act?). There was always some station that carried Lombardo, and we'd listen to him. The before-midnight part of the show featured a song from each year (Starting when? I don't recall.) ending up with a prediction of a likely big hit for the coming year (which never came true — I never recall hearing his predicted big hit of the coming year again after that night!) Always, of course, there was a countdown to the new year at midnight, with “Auld Lang Syne” the first song played after everyone shouted “Happy New Year!” Every year it was the same. It wasn't always the same hotel, but it was the same program. Eventually, Lombardo migrated to television, and the midnight countdown was not in his hotel, but at Times Square, where the famous ball drop took place on camera. (For a while, he did a simulcast, and we continued listening on the radio.) At home, we had champagne — for all except my father, who was a recovering alcoholic, but yes, including me and my brother, as it was not considered criminal to offer wine to kids in a family setting! Glasses were clinked together, and “Happy New Year!” was shouted by us in synchrony with the radio.

A little departure from discussions of New Year's party tradition is in order. In the 1960s I got into a certain circle of friends. One was a fellow I'd actually known since we were both in high school in the late 1950s (and still count as a friend); the others were people who shared some common interests with both of us. One of the others had put on, at his home, a summer party (a Fourth of July party? I can't recall for certain) which I attended, (and discovered that another friend, though nine years younger than I was, knew my favorite music and liked it, which made a strong bond between us). Apparently someone liked the format of the party, which included a prepared tape with an eclectic variety of songs on it, and my circle of friends started a tradition of New Year's parties structured after this summer party; I could not, at first, attend those, because I felt loyalty to my own family tradition.

But my father passed away in 1966, and my brother moved to California, and a New Year's party that consisted of just my mother and me didn't seem right; eventually I got to join my friends' party. The group developed its own traditions: eventually the audiotapes were replaced by videotapes, but since an audiotape held less material than a videotape, pauses were built into the videotape, corresponding to the interval when the audiotape had to be changed on the machine in previous parties! I moved out of New York to the Washington, D. C. area, but tried to make it back “home” to New York around New Year's Day so I could attend the party.

This ceased for me about 15 years ago — I had a life crisis that made coming to New York impossible. Shortly afterward, the man who had become the music selector for the parties (the same nine-years-younger-than-me person I'd mentioned earlier) died at a premature age of 49. And various other people, for different reasons, dropped out of the circle of friends, so the New Year's parties ceased, and even if I had been able to get up to New York, there would have been no party to go to.

In recent years, I have not done anything special at the turn of the year — staying up to midnight was something I did only because that was when the action was, so now, with no party to go to, I'm normally fast asleep in bed at “the moment.” But I still have happy memories of past New Years.