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.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Media bias

The writers of so many of the stories coming out about the shooting in Ferguson seem to feel it necessary to add “unarmed” to the description of Michael Brown, attempting to get the reader's sympathy. If instead he had been described as someone who was fleeing a convenience store that he had just robbed, the readers' sympathies might not be so much on Brown's side. Or if he had been described as 6′ 4″, nearly 300 lb., and it was included in the story that he had just slugged Officer Wilson in the face, breaking bones around his eye-socket, before Wilson pulled the trigger!

Clearly, media bias is giving a lot of people a distorted picture of the events in Ferguson. To me it is clear that Wilson did not shoot unprovoked, but in self-defense. And he deserves better treatment than the media are giving him.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The mess in Ferguson, Mo.

It is clear that the media, at least initially, took sides in the Ferguson shooting that made it hard to decide properly what to think. To read the first reports I saw, Michael Brown was an angel, about to start college, shot down for no reason at all.

The first thing I found out that made a difference was when the name of the "college" was put in some story. It was no real college, but a for-profit institution that, I am sure, accepts anyone who can come up with the tuition money. But if it were just that, Michael Brown could at least be favorably viewed as someone trying as best he could to improve himself.

Then along came the news that he wasn't just walking from his apartment to his grandmother's; the last place he'd been was a convenience store, where he had just committed a robbery. Obviously, not such an angel as he'd been presented.

In fact the original story I had seen seemed to imply that it was Brown's friend who got into an altercation with the policeman, and Brown was an innocent victim. Later information puts the friend in a better light than Brown — it seems that when Brown robbed the store, he took some cigars and offered one to his friend, who declined, saying he was no thief. So I suspect that Brown, and not his friend, was the perpetrator of any act that the policeman might have seen as a provocation.

And would it be hard to fathom that a person who had just committed a robbery might act nervous in the presence of a policeman, even so nervous as to move in ways that the policeman might perceive as a threat?

All that said, it does seem that the policeman overreacted. At that point, he did not know about the robbery of the convenience store and all he knew was that these two young men were walking in the middle of the street. This hardly calls for a “shoot-to-kill” action. I am sure there were alternative procedures he could have taken, to protect himself from any perceived threat, without shooting Brown in the head.

Really, there is fault on both sides.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Shifting "progressivism"

When I was younger, I lived in a district that was one of the few in New York City represented by a Republican, Jacob K. Javits. Javits later got elected to the Senate, representing the whole state. And Javits liked to call himself “progressive.” (He eschewed the term “liberal,” though he happily accepted the Liberal Party's endorsement when it was given to him.)

The progressivism of Jacob Javits was something I could easily support. During much of the time I am talking about, I was unable to vote: you had to be 21 then, and I became 21 in 1963. Javits served in the House from 1947 to 1954; when I moved into his district, in 1951, I was 9. He was elected to the Senate in 1956, so even when he ran for re-election in 1962 I could not yet vote for him — I was 20 and 18-to-20-year-olds didn't get the vote until 1971. So it was not until his third term as Senator that I could give him my vote, but I did enthusiastically. I had been supporting him for years before that.

But I doubt that if Jacob Javits were alive today, he would be called, or would call himself, “progressive.” I see the term applied to such Senators as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. I could never imagine Javits, or his political allies like Governor Nelson Rockefeller, supporting the ideas such are espoused by Warren or Sanders. “Progressivism” has shifted a long distance from Javits' day.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts about a candidate: Jeb Bush

I don't know everything that Jeb Bush did as Governor of Florida. I do know that when it looked that Chris Christie was too seriously damaged to be nominated, Bush was the person a lot of his supporters gravitated to, and that is for me a plus: if the kind of Republican who supported Christie also found Bush a good choice, I probably ought to think along those lines too.

At present, Christie seems to be recovering — Bush and Christie were tied in the most recent poll I saw — so Bush becomes more a rival than a fallback candidate, though right now he still seems like my #2 choice.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Thoughts about a candidate: Ben Carson

He is not mentioned in most of the polls I see, but apparently Ben Carson is considering a run for the Presidency. Whether he actually does become a candidate or not, I cannot predict, but I do have some thoughts about him.

First, other than Obamacare, about which he has spoken up loud and clear (even with President Obama in the room!) I don't know where he stands on the issues. It's clear to me that he might make a great Secretary of Health and Human Services in a Republican administration, or perhaps Surgeon General. I'm less sure about what he would be in the Presidency. He has no background in foreign policy, military affairs, or economic policy. Can he lead in those areas? I have no idea.

I'm not excluding him. And it might yet be that once I've heard him campaign I might like him. But right now I have serious questions about his qualification for the office.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Thoughts about a candidate: Rand Paul

It should be clear to anyone who regularly reads this blog that Chris Christie is my preferred candidate for the presidency in 2016. But I thought it appropriate to discuss some of the other possible candidates to express my thoughts about them. And I'll start with one who has led in some of the recent polls and has gotten more attention than most first-term Senators generally do: Rand Paul.

Sen. Paul does not seem to be quite as extreme as his father is, and is therefore a more reasonable choice. I like some of his ideas — it is a good thing to pull both the GOP and the nation as a whole in a libertarian direction, and he is attempting this — but Sen. Paul is certainly not a good friend to Israel, and his foreign policy ideas in general are too isolationalistic for my taste. Still, if he were the nominee against Hillary Clinton, he'd get my vote, unlike Mike Huckabee, who would drive me to a third party candidate.

Basically, I'd rather see him somewhere other than the presidency, where his ideas can help advance freedom in domestic policy, but not affect our foreign-policy activity.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The "Obama was re-elected" argument

I was reading a discussion on the Web today justifying President Obama's failure to enforce various laws on the basis that “Obama was re-elected, so the American people were happy with what he did in his first term.” Let us be honest, rather than politically correct. Obama was re-elected for one reason and one reason only: the fact that he was half African.

Normally, African Americans are strongly Democratic, but still they divide about 83-17. In 2012 they divided 93-7. The turnout was also much greater among African Americans than it normally is. They were obviously simply voting for one of their own, not in approval of Obama's policies. If African Americans had divided along their normal partisan lines, and come out to vote in their normal numbers, Mitt Romney would be in the White House today. And there is no way of challenging this assertion.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A follow-up to yesterday's post

After reading Dean Obeidallah's post that prompted mine of yesterday entitled “The “Palestinians’ — who are they?” I wrote an e-mail to him, challenging his claim that simply because there was, for less than thirty years, a place named “Palestine” on the map (a name given by colonizers and never adopted by its residents freely), there is truly a “Palestinian” people. He actually responded rather quickly, which was perhaps better than I expected. But he seemed to think my note was a joke:

…are you a comedian because you are making me laugh? (or were you being serious - if you were than Im laughing at you) In any event thanks for the laugh. Are you Sarah Palin's foreign policy advisor by any chance?

Perhaps his whole post was a joke, not just the comment about his father being an inventor, which I saw as one. In that case, I apologize for not seeing the humor. My post was intended as serious discussion. If anyone can show any real justification for considering the term “Palestinian” as meaningful, I really would like to see it.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The "Palestinians" -- who are they?

There is a post on The Daily Beast by Dean Obeidallah entitled “Do Palestinians Really Exist?” which attempts to answer this question in the affirmative. But it is clearly based on a fraudulent argument. It starts:

Palestine. My late father, Abdul Musa Obeidallah, was born there in the 1930s. When I say Palestine, that’s not a political statement. It’s just a statement of fact. When he was born, there was no state of Israel. There was no Hamas. No PLO. There were just people of different faiths living together on the same small piece of land called Palestine.

What is true in ths statement is that “When he was born, there was no state of Israel.” What is unsaid is that the Palestine mandate was given that name by British colonizers. And, going back to Roman days, the name was first applied to this piece of land by Roman colonizers. There never has been a group of people living there who, of their own free choice, called this territory “Palestine.”

In the 1930s, the Japanese created a puppet state called Manchukuo, separate from China, which nobody but the Japanese accepted. Did the citizens thereby take on a new nationality, distinct from Chinese? Very few of them would have answered “yes” to that question. The same is true of “Palestine.” The name was an outside creation. People of Arab heritage, in “Palestine” in the 1920s and 1930s, asked their nationality, would certainly not have called themselves “Palestinians” — they were probably “Syrians,” if not merely “Arabs.” Obeidallah can refer to “Palestine” when he says:

When I ask these people what the land where Israel is now located was called before 1948, they tend to stammer or offer some convoluted response. The answer is simply Palestine. Not a big deal, really.

But “Palestine” was not the name anyone would call it as an independent nation. Jews were seeking to create a Jewish State of Israel. The Arab inhabitants wanted a Greater Syria (or in some other cases other names corresponding to neighboring countries, but certainly not a nation of “Palestine”). An interesting article points out that:

The word “Palestine,” originally used by the Romans, had been in disuse for centuries, but the British revived it. “Palestinian” described Muslims, Jews and all others living in the region. And land east of the Jordan River, which they had also acquired, they called Transjordan (to be renamed Jordan in 1949). The word “Arab” referred more to those who spoke Arabic than to people purely Arabic, and included Christians. Previous to the arrival of the British, the Arabs in Palestine had thought of themselves as Arabs rather than as Palestinians.

So when Obeidallah says:

After all, there are more than 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel alone. Of course, that didn’t stop Newt Gingrich from commenting during his failed 2012 run for president that the Palestinians are an “invented” people. Here, I thought for years my father had been a cook, but apparently he was an inventor.

he is clearly joking. Later in the same paragraph, he continues:

he would have found that most historians mark the beginning of the Palestinian Arab nationalist movement as happening in 1824, when the Arabs there rebelled against Ottoman rule.

In fact, I can't find any trace of an 1824 revolt in “Palestine,” but there was one in what is now Saudi Arabia. So I wonder what Obeidallah is talking about. In any case, I am certain that any participants in whatever 1824 revolt he is describing called themselves “Arabs,” and not “Palestinians.”