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, November 26, 2014

“The first Ferguson indictment”

There was a very nice article published on The Washington Times' website by John Solomon, dated November 24, 2014, and entitled “Analysis: The first Ferguson indictment goes to … the news media.” I would like to quote it, because I think it is spot on:

In the end, the first and perhaps only indictment to emerge out of the Ferguson tragedy went to the news media and its culture of frenzied coverage.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch explained Monday night in excruciating detail why 12 grand jurors chose not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, Officer Darren Wilson in a case that reopened long-simmering racial wounds in America, describing how some of the eyewitnesses quoted by news media and circulated via social media later recanted or were disproven by the physical evidence.

Some of the witnesses “pretty much acknowledged they saw parts and made up other parts of it,” Mr. McCulloch said in disputing some of the early media reports in the case.

To make his point, the prosecutor agreed to release all of the evidence gathered by authorities and presented to the grand jury.

“The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction,” Mr. McCullough said after excoriating news media coverage of the case.

“The most significant challenge encountered in this investigation has been the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything to talk about, following closely behind with the non-stop rumors on social media,” he said.

The prosecutor said the exhaustive review of the evidence identified a “lack of accurate detail” in some of the initial reports that fanned the flames of the local community, including erroneous reports that Mr. Wilson shot the unarmed victim Michael Brown in the back.

The prosecutor said the grand jury sorted through inconsistent and conflicting eyewitness accounts and “interviews on social media” that proved wrong, and it deserved credit for sticking with the evidence.

“They are the only people who have heard and examined all of the evidence of all of the witnesses,” he said.

The media’s performance was put on trial anew at the news conference where the results were announced, when Mr. McCulloch scolded a reporter for suggesting that police could kill with “impunity.”

The announcement proved a cathartic moment for career law enforcement officials, some of whom seethed for months over what they saw as one-sided media coverage and lopsided political sentiments.

“While the legal system has exonerated Officer Darren Wilson for his split-second decision on that August afternoon, he very much remains a victim of a politicized agenda that deemed him ‘guilty until proven innocent,’” said Ron Hosko, a former FBI assistant director who serves currently as the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. “Although he will walk free, his life has been forever changed, as he has been exploited in a cynical effort to turn civilians against cops in fulfillment of an anti-law enforcement agenda.

When all the final details are reviewed and the smoke settles, one question that should be asked is whether the media’s age-old adage to “get it first, but first get it right” has been hijacked by a sentiment of “get it first, and hope it is right.”

I couldn't have said it better myself, so I will let John Solomon speak for me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A bit of a surprise

The decision by the grand jury in Missouri not to indict Darren Wilson somewhat surprised me. My prediction was that Wilson would be indicted but acquitted on trial, because of the difference between the standards for evidence in the two kinds of proceedings. In a grand jury decision, one expects an indictment if there is even a case for the prosecution. In the actual trial, of course, the defendant is “innocent until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” And I was certain, from the evidence I have so far seen, that Wilson would be found not guilty because he clearly acted in self-defense.

Apparently, however, the grand jury did not even think there was probable cause that would justify a trial. The case was even more clearly a case of self-defense than the evidence that had been made public demonstrated.

Of course, there are going to be riots. Some people are still convinced that Wilson shot Michael Brown out of racism. It is a shame that some people see racism everywhere. My wife has heard people (including her) described as racist simply because they would not vote for Barack Obama; it could not occur to those people that she might not be willing to vote for even a white person with Obama's history and qualifications. But here it is quite clear: Michael Brown, a big man, over 6′ tall and nearly 300 pounds, hit Wilson in the face badly enough to injure him and was grabbing for his gun when the shooting occurred. This is about as clearly a case of self-defense as can be imagined. And apparently that convinced the grand jury.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Marion Barry

Marion Shepilov Barry, former mayor of the District of Columbia and still a political force because he has been continuing to serve as a council member, just died. And even publications that are not local have chosen to make this top-level news. (Yes, USA Today is published in this area. But it aspires to be “the nation's newspaper,” not a Washington-area local paper.)

I think the fascination that the rest of the country has with Marion Barry is that he succeeded in getting re-elected over and over, despite a history that would sink most politicians. How many people would be politically alive after being arrested and convicted in a drug bust?

In turn, though, this is why many of us cannot fathom how people can expect the nation to give District voters the chance to elect Senators and Representatives on the same basis as if they were a State. Any place that kept re-electing a convicted druggie is a place whose voters must seem crazy to the average American. Certainly I understand that idea.

Friday, November 14, 2014

My worst fears confirmed

Barack Obama is the man who, shortly after taking over the Presidency, told a group of Republican members of Congress that “elections have consequences.” And he is also the man who, a few days before this year's election, told another group of people, this time prospective voters, that “these policies are on the ballot.” A third Obama quote that needs to be brought up was his remark after this election that “To those of you who voted, I hear you.” It certainly does not appear that the third is true; for in the light of the first two quotes, he should be prepared too make some moves toward Republican ideas. But as I said earlier, this is a President who refuses to compromise.

Everything that President Obama seems to be saying is that he knows what is best for the American people, and if Congress sends him a bill that agrees with what he wants, he will sign it, and if not he will veto it.

So much for hearing the American people.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another sign of America losing its clout

It was recently announced that a space probe has made a landing on a comet, the first ever. And congratulations are in order for the scientists and engineers who put this mission into space.

But they didn't work for NASA, the space agency that has been doing, in fact, very little in recent years to bring us breakthroughs in space exploration. Mission control was not in Houston, Texas, but in Darmstadt, Germany. Yes, it was the European Space Agency that sent this mission into space, and while I'm happy for science, I'm not at all happy that it wasn't our space program that accomplished this mission. One more sign that the USA is becoming a second-rate power.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The two parties and identity politics

One thing that might be noted in the election results in this and recent years is the Democrats' reliance on identity politics. It is not just that Barack Obama got elected by drawing a record turnout among African-Americans and getting a record proportion of the vote among that same group. Rather, if you look at Democratic African-American office-holders, they are nearly all elected from constituencies with majority African-American electorates. (An exception might be Cory Booker, recently re-elected to a Senate seat in New Jersey. But he got his start as mayor of Newark, a largely African-American city.)

By contrast, African-Americans elected as Republicans are elected in constituencies that are not majority African-American — look at Tim Scott, Will Hurd and Mia Love — just to mention three African-Americans who will sit in the next Congress.

Scott was first elected to a seat in the House of Representatives from a majority-white district in South Carolina. When Senator Jim DeMint resigned, Governor Nikki Haley (herself an Indian-American) appointed Scott to the Senate. Tuesday he won a full term — and you can bet that this first African-American to be elected from the South since Reconstruction did not get the office because of African-American votes.

Will Hurd won a race in a basically Hispanic disctrict, running against a Hispanic incumbent. Again, his victory cannot be laid to identity politics.

Mia Love got elected from a district in Utah — and the number of African-Americans in the whole state of Utah is not enough that, even if they were all packed into one Congressional district, they could form a majority! Like Scott, she had to win based on white voters' feeling she was the best person for the job, and she did.

These are examples of the Republican Party's treatment of African-Americans as simply Americans, and it would be great if the Democrats could do the same.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Two years of inaction?

While President Obama's press conference on Wednesday seemed to be positive — and I said so in my post the next day — I fear that we will not see action to help the American people in the next two years. In the press conference, the President was asked some specific questions, and among them was one about whether he could sign legislation that eliminated the individual mandate. He explicitly answered:

“The individual mandate is a line I can’t cross because the concept, borrowed from Massachusetts, from a law instituted by a former opponent of mine, Mitt Romney, [he] understood that if you’re providing health insurance to people through the private marketplace, then you’ve got to make sure that people can’t game the system and just wait until they get sick before they go try to buy health insurance”

Of course, mentioning Mitt Romney was a gratuitous attempt at phony bipartisanship. Romney signed the Massachusetts law as a compromise with a legislature that was 85% Democratic. And it does appear that at the time he was convinced that it was necessary to prevent gaming the system. He has stated that this is an issue that should be addressed state-by-state, and if he had been elected President he would have signed an authorization for any state to opt out.

By making such statements, Pres. Obama has made it likely that there are important areas that he will not compromise on. And some of these will be necessary to compromise if any business can be done.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The Supreme Court will hear King v. Burwell!

The Supreme Court has decided that they will hear King v. Burwell. When two different appellate courts originally ruled in opposite ways on the language in the Affordable Care Act that says subsidies can only be paid in states that have established their own exchanges, it looked as though the Supreme Court would get to rule on it. But then the court that had ruled against the Administration's interpretation, in Halbig v. Burwell reversed itself in an unusual procedure where the decision of a three-judge panel was overruled by the full court, there was no longer a diversity of appellate court decisions, so the Supreme Court might not have heard the case. However, the Supreme Court announced yesterday that the King v. Burwell case will be taken up.

How anyone can believe that words as specific as “exchange established by a State” can include an exchange established by the Federal Government because a State chooses not to do so escapes me. The original decision in Halbig makes sense; its overruling — and the King decision — was simply an attempt by partisan judges to save the Act no matter what. And the Supreme Court is acting sensibly here, and I compliment the Justices who chose to take up the case.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The governors

One big surprise in Tuesday's election was how many Democratic governors were replaced by Republicans, and not just in Maryland where I happen to be located (though that one, as I said, made me particularly happy). Some of the recent polling actually showed the Democrats picking up seats, but in fact it looks as though the GOP gained at least three governorships (a loss in Pennsylvania being balanced by one of the other gains, of course). Hopefully, this will be seen as a triumph for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who as chairman of the Republican Governors' Association had a lot to do with the good performance of the GOP's gubernatorial candidates. Gov. Christie, of course, has been very modest, not claiming a big role. However, the efforts he exerted should stand him in good stead in achieving the nomination in 2016. And I am happy about this, because I still feel Gov. Christie is the best choice for the 2016 nomination.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Will he be willing to compromise?

Yesterday President Barack Obama addressed the nation at a news conference. He said some good things about how he has heard the message of Tuesday's election and how he wants to work with the Republican leaders in Congress to get things done. If he acts as he spoke, good. I wonder, though, whether he will really be able to work with Congressional Republicans. Certainly, he has not shown any willingness to address Republican concerns in the past six years.

One thing that I think was apparent is that Pres. Obama is more willing to work with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell — he even referred to sitting down for a drink of Kentucky bourbon with him — than with Speaker of the House John Boehner. He never issued a word of praise for Boehner, and only referred to him in conjunction with McConnell as leaders of the Congress. It has become clear over the years that both Obama and Boehner dislike each other immensely, and McConnell will have the major role of finding something they all can agree on.

But again, the question is how much common ground can they find. The President already ruled out some of the changes to Obamacare that the GOP obviously wants. How much more has he ruled out? We can only wait and see.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Election results -- I'm very happy

When I went to vote yesterday, I was certain that nobody I voted for would win — I'm in such a blue state that I didn't really think Larry Hogan would win the Governorship even in such a Republican year. But at least it looked good for the chances of people in other states voting in new Republican Senators, and I was eagerly awaiting the Senate results.

I woke up today to find that my expectations for the Senate were fully met — it looks like the GOP will have at least 52 Senators, and the three states which are undecided could all go Republican as well, so we might end up with 55. (In Alaska, though 100% of the votes are in, for some reason they haven't called the state, though Dan Sullivan seems to have a clear plurality there. Louisiana had a plurality for the Democrat, Mary Landrieu, but their law calls for a runoff when there is no absolute majority, and Bill Cassidy could still pull it off. Only Virginia seems a close call, with Democrat Mark Warner leading Republican Ed Gillespie, so that seat was likely to end up with the Democrats.) When all is said and done, it looks like a 53- or 54-member Republican caucus. And the President is forced to settle for only those accomplishments in his last two years that he can accomplish by executive order. Unfortunately, he does have the negative power to veto, so Obamacare will not be replaced by a more sensible approach to health care reform in the short term. But his ability to further wreck the economy and hurt the country's direction will be restricted.

But the icing on the cake for me was that Larry Hogan won! I have been conceding that Anthony Brown would be our next Governor whether I wanted him to be or not, so seeing Hogan win was a pleasant surprise. It seems that whenever the Maryland Democrats nominate for the Governorship a sitting Lieutenant Governor after a Governor is term limited, then the Republicans can win. I strongly supported Hogan's bid, but never expected it to be successful. So this has been a happy election result for me.