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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ben Carson, Sharia, Kim Davis, the Bible, and the Constitution

First, Ben Carson said he does not believe a Muslim should be President. Subsequently he backtracked, saying he “can support a Muslim who denounces Sharia law.” Apparently, his professed belief is that the Constitution and Sharia are incompatible, and this is his basis. And of course, he has some supporters in this belief, such as Rush Limbaugh. But in fact there are disagreements among Muslims as to what Sharia actually calls for.

If Carson would quit at the point where he said that only a Muslim who is willing to govern according to the Constitution of the United States is qualified to be President, I would agree. And some of what he says is of that nature. Just as I feel that Kim Davis forfeited her ability to serve when she let her religious beliefs trump the Constitution, so would a Muslim who held that he had to observe some aspect of Sharia that contradicted our Constitution forfeit his right to serve. Yet many of the people who applaud Kim Davis's actions agree with Carson's statement — and these are totally inconsistent!

The Constitution clearly states that “…all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Clearly a Muslim who supports the Constitution has a right to serve, and a Muslim who places Sharia above the Constitution does not. Similarly, a Christian who supports the Constitution has a right to serve, and a Christian who places the Christian Bible above the Constitution does not. The two are opposite sides of the same coin.

One person who sees this clearly is, of course, Mitt Romney, a member of a minority religion which has also been condemned by certain people. And his comment is well called-for, as has the comment by one of the current candidates, Rand Paul. I'm glad to see these two prominent Republicans speak up.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Returning to posting

I haven't posted much for a while, because I was hoping that the Republican candidates' standings would coalesce about something reasonable. It is still astonishing that Donald Trump maintains so much support, though he is also opposed by so many that I doubt that he will actually get the nomination. But right now, nobody else seems to be emerging as a plausible candidate.

There is a strong freeling that a non-politician should be nominated. Besides Trump, the names that show highest in a lot of polls are Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. I don't agree with this idea — I think (as was enunciated by Scott Walker in a recent debate) that “we don't need an apprentice in the White House” — although he was specifically talking of Trump, it really applies to all the non-politician candidates.

Although Walker himself has dropped out, it seems (How the mighty have fallen! Just a few months ago he was at or near the top in many polls.), there are other governors who might make good Presidents: I've written favorably of Chris Christie and John Kasich, but I could easily see Jeb Bush as a good choice, too. But if we must have a non-politician, the best of the lot seems to be Fiorina. In debates and interviews, she has shown that she does her homework. If there's an area which her background does not provide her with the knowledge, she studies it. She wouldn't be my first choice as a presidential candidate, but she's the best of the ones who do not have what I consider the necessary experience.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Comments on Thursday's debate

First of all, I have to confess that I did not watch the debate. I do not, these days, like to stay up late, and I decided to spend my evening going early to bed. So these comments are based, not on observation of the debate itself but on others' comments on the debate.

The consensus was that three of the candidates helped their cause. Of the candidates considered “major,” the winner seems to have been Marco Rubio; however John Kasich seems to won a new-found attention (about which I am, of course, very happy, as can be evinced by my comments of a few days ago), and one candidate who was not even in the main event, Carly Fiorina, has impressed a lot of people. In addition, my actual favorite (though Kasich is becoming something of a “co-favorite”), Chris Christie, seems to have done well. And the beginning of Donald Trump's fall from the top seems to have occurred.

Since Christie and Kasich appear to have both improved their positions and Trump has hurt his own, I think the debate has helped in the struggle to winnow down the candidates. Such candidates I really dislike as Mike Huckabee do not seem to have changed anyone's opinion, which on balance is probably good. So all in all, I'm happy. But the biggest surprise is Carly Fiorina. As I've said, the biggest flaw I see in her is a lack of political experience, but after this debate, it seems she is being considered more seriously. To me, she and Ben Carson form a matched pair — brilliant exemplars of what they are good at, but simply not experienced in the specific needs of political leaders. But their performances were dead opposite in this debate. Fiorina has made people wish she had been in the main debate; Carson has prompted comments as to why he was on the debate stage at all.

Before the debate, I was of the opinion that Scott Walker was the eventual nominee, and I could certainly support him in November 2016 if he were the nominee, though Christie and/or Kasich ranked much higher in my preference list. Now I'm not so sure. I'm more optimistic about the chances of my two favorites, less certain that Walker will pull it out, but even less certain that if it's not Walker, it'll be Jeb Bush. Both Walker and Bush seem to have turned in disappointing performances. But what will happen next? Will Fiorina move into the top ten? Will Trump decide he's an independent and quit running for the Republican nomination? (This would scare me a bit, because it could take just enough votes from the actual Republican candidate to throw the election to Hillary Clinton.) I guess all I can do is wait and see.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Going into the big debate

In a couple of days, the first big debate of the 2016 Presidential campaign will take place. And this time around, more controversy has been attached to the question of who will participate than what will be discussed, because the networks have decided that there is room for only 10 candidates, and already 17 have announced. We've never seen anything like this crowd before. But I breathed a sigh of relief to see that both Chris Christie and John Kasich will qualify, because I think these two are the best choices of all.

Of course, polls now show Donald Trump, who is not really a serious candidate but, as most sensible people rightly have noted, not much more than a clown whose knowledge of the powers and duties of the Presidency is negligible (as shown by his statements!), in the lead. But in previous campaigns, equally big leads have been shown by such candidates as Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain — whose nomination would have been disasters — and Rudy Giuliani, who I would have liked to see nominated. None of those four lasted when the actual primaries began to winnow the candidates down. I am sure the same will happen to Trump.

Hopefully, either Kasich, whose greatest handicap is that he is unknown to most non-Ohioans, will show people his value in this debate, or Christie will show people why he was for a while the favored candidate. Or even both. In any case, I can't see Trump improving his standing among the people who have already dismissed him as not a serious candidate; and most Republicans already have an unfavorable view of him. It is simply that everyone else is splitting the vote of those who want a serious and well-qualified candidate.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

An interesting discussion

It is so nice when you can argue with somebody on the basis of their principles without compromising your own beliefs. Such a discussion happened this afternoon.

My wife and I were sitting at a long table in the café area of a supermarket (with a Starbucks inside, so the café was jointly used for both sets of customers), and a woman sitting a couple of seat-lengths away started a conversation.

She began by asking whether we were Christians, to which both of us replied in the negative; then “Are you Jewish?” getting this time a “Yes” from both of us. She then went on to say that her mother was Jewish, but she now “follows Christ.” To which I simply responded, “We don't.”

At this point I expected to get a long sermon on why one should follow Jesus' teachings, but fortunatey this did not happen. Instead the next thing that came from her mouth was “What do you think of all these homosexual laws?” Obviously that, rather than a defense of Christianity, was her main point. And I simply answered “Well, they deserve their rights.” Her response was “God created men and women.” And this really totally opened up the discussion to my own answer, which she, obviously, had no basis to refute: “God created, among all of us, those homosexuals you don't seem to like.” She was simply reduced to “If that's what you believe…” — and she fell silent.

I was actually expecting her to make some remarks about the Book of Leviticus — in which case I would point out that she probably violates a lot of those commandments too, like eating pork — But from this point on she had nothing more to say.

Basically, I believe there are two sorts of commandments: those that are universal, like those directing us to be ethical towards our fellow humans, and those for a specific time and place. God (or His prophets) could not tell a people who had neither clocks nor thermometers that they needed to cook pork at at least some minimum temperature for at least some minimum time, so He simply said not to ever eat it. And the anti-homosexual commandment — like the one against “spilling one's seed” — was in the same context as “Be fruitful and multiply” — to ensure that the Jewish population would grow in a world which was underpopulated. So I don't think God meant those commandments to be universal. I didn't, however, need to go into these principles in this discussion.

All in all, an interesting discussion.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Scott Walker as candidate

So now Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has announced his candidacy for the Presidential nomination for next year's election — not a surprise, really; it was expected by most people. And while a few months ago I would simply have added Gov. Walker to the list of candidates I could support if New Jersey Governor Chris Christie can't make it, now I have a little more to pause about regarding him.

Gov. Walker has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision. He's even proposed a constitutional amendment to revoke it. Now, he has not the slightest chance of actually getting such an amendment through — it would require 67 Senators to support it, and then 290 Representatives, and even if it got those, which is rather unlikely, 38 State legislatures would have to approve it — there is a chance that Gov. Walker, as President, would take some seriously anti-gay action. So this counts against him. On the other hand, I'm very happy with the way he's taken on Big Labor as Governor. I think we need people with that kind of courage. Organized Labor has far too much power.

So my feelings on Gov. Walker are quite mixed.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Religious freedom and gay marriage

According to a post by Rachel Lu on the Federalist website:

By decree of the great state of Oregon, the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa must pay $135,000 to the lesbian couple whom they “mentally raped” by refusing to bake their wedding cake. This was expected, but the final judgment, handed down last Thursday, came with another twist. Aaron and Melissa Klein have also been given a “cease and desist” order, which effectively decrees they must refrain from stating their continued intention to abide by their moral beliefs.

Let’s be clear on why this is so sinister. There are times when speech rights conflict with other legitimate social goods. The public’s right to know can conflict with individual privacy rights. Sometimes threats to public safety warrant keeping secrets. There can be interesting debates about intellectual property rights. These cases can get tricky, and we should all understand that speech rights necessarily do have certain pragmatic limits.

None of those concerns apply here. The Kleins did not threaten public safety. They violated no one’s privacy or property rights. Rather, the Oregon labor commissioner, Brad Avakian, wanted to silence them because the content of their speech. Presumably he was angry that the Kleins’ defiant stance had earned them a potentially profitable reputation as heroes for religious freedom. They were meant to be humiliated and cowed; instead there was a real chance they would land on their feet. So they had to be gagged to prevent that from happening.

If the First Amendment doesn’t apply to a case like this, it is meaningless.

Now if this is true, the judge (or the labor commissioner, if he was able to get the cease and desist order without a judge's action) has gone too far. Yes, the bakers are a public accommodation, and refusing to grant service to the lesbian couple is an offense that deserves punishment. Even though the size of the award ($135,000) would seem excessive to me, the damage can be evaluated and if a court thinks it appropriate I would not quarrel with that. However, if the Kleins are forbidden even to speak out and state their religious beliefs, I agree with Rachel Lu that this is beyond the pale, in light of the First Amendment's freedom of speech and religion clauses. While I believe that freedom of religion does not justify a company refusing to serve an intending customer, it certainly must be the case that the owners of the company do have the right to state their religious beliefs. And the customers (as in the case of the jeweler in Canada) must decide whether they still want to use the firm's services.

I have said that Obergefell does not infringe on religious freedom. And insofar as it makes bakers like the Kleins serve people, I still believe this. But actions like that of the Oregon judge seem to make the issue of religious freedom come in, despite what I said.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

More comments on John Kasich

There's a column by a Cincinnati journalist entitled “How John Kasich could win.” And the more I learn about John Kasich, the more I like him as a Presidential choice. But he has one major problem. Certainly the author of that post knows a lot about Kasich; after all, he writes for a newspaper in Cincinnati, in a State where Kasich has been Governor for over 5½ years. But who, outside the State of Ohio, knows much about him? I had been aware of his work with Jack Kemp in 1997 to balance the Federal budget, but most people are not as politically aware as I am (and even I had to look up the information to determine that this was in 1997). To most people in 49 states, the name “John Kasich” draws a blank. In Ohio he's popular. He was first elected Governor in a squeaker of an election, in 2010; four years later, he won all but two of the 88 counties in Ohio in his re-election fight. His approval is even now at 60% in Ohio. (Chris Christie, who also won re-election big after a weak beginning, seems to have lost the support of a lot of New Jersey residents, though I do not know what happened between 2013 and now to cause this.) I would say that if Kasich can make himself and his accomplishments known to the public, he could be an excellent candidate for the presidency. The things which have led me to support Christie mostly apply to Kasich as well.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

A thoughtful article by a Senator

Ben Sasse is a Senator from Nebraska, but not one of the Senators one hears a lot about; I had barely heard of him. But a column he wrote on the online Web site of the National Review, entitled “The Three Republican Camps after King v. Burwell,” is so good that I need to display it.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s disappointing King v. Burwell decision, many are asking what comes next for those of us who have opposed Obamacare as a disastrous federalization of American health care.

I predict that the Republican party will quickly divide into three camps on health-care politics:

1. There are those who will want to throw in the towel. They will say it is time to move beyond the fight for repeal and admit that Obamacare is here to stay. They will condescendingly shake their heads at us unsophisticated conservatives, claiming that the only constructive path forward now is to make our peace with Obamacare, and to try to make it 12 percent less bad.

2. At the other extreme, there will be those who remind the first camp that no voter sent us to Washington to be slightly more efficient central planners than the Democrats. We are not here to sweep the floor of the Titanic by modestly adjusting Democrats’ unaffordable entitlement expansions. They will insist that we should invest 100 percent of our efforts in repealing Obamacare, and stop there. Even though the president would veto all repeal attempts (presuming such efforts could even clear the Senate), forcing such vetoes is necessary to remind voters where each party stands and thus why the 2016 presidential election is so crucial to America’s future.

3. Finally, there are those who — while remaining committed to full repeal — believe that there is no viable political pathway to repeal without simultaneously outlining our replacement plan. And then actually winning voters to support that vision. This group recognizes that it has a harder messaging job than the other two camps but believes that actually getting rid of Obamacare — rather than just romantically fighting lost causes — requires admitting that you cannot beat something with nothing. I propose that we name these three camps: the Fix-It Caucus; the Repeal-Only Caucus; and the Replacement Caucus.

Actually, I do not know of many Republicans that will join Sen. Sasse's “Fix-It Caucus.” But this is, of course, the direction that the Democrats are trying to push the Republicans to go.

To the Fix-It Caucus, I say: There is no way to sufficiently improve the command-and-control foundations of Obamacare, because it starts with the flawed (and unconstitutional) demand that Americans buy only the full-service insurance-and-redistribution products that Washington’s empowered bureaucrats compel us to buy. If the Beltway class’s Greek-style overspending is ever to be restrained, it will be accomplished only by giving the central planners even more power over rationing access and setting prices for drugs, devices, and procedures. The central planners’ answer to imperfect central planning is always more power for the central planners. Their answer is never more freedom. We ought not go down this road with the Washington-always-knows-best authors of Obamacare.

To the Repeal-Only Caucus, I agree that we should indeed use every available means — including reconciliation — to fully repeal Obamacare. But we must admit something else as well: American health care wasn’t healthy before Obamacare. And thus that even though the public disapproves of Obamacare (by an average of eight percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics), large portions even of Obamacare’s opponents are not persuaded by a repeal-only message. A family’s desire to be able to keep its health insurance when changing jobs or geography (a problem that Obamacare doesn’t make any better, by the way) is perfectly reasonable. We should acknowledge it and advance that cause.

So count me in the third camp.

And I would say the same for myself: “count me in the third camp.”

We must make the 2016 election a referendum on Obamacare vs. an understandable, common-sense, patient-centric alternative. We need a 2016 presidential nominee who can not only prosecute the case against Obamacare, but who will also enthusiastically champion the conservative cause of putting families in control of their own health futures. An exclusively negative set of talking points is a path to a dead end, both on Obamacare and in the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats have long held an advantage over Republicans on health care, mostly due to a perceived empathy problem in my party. But Obamacare has been such a train wreck that this Democratic advantage is mostly gone today. Obamacare is not popular. It’s going to be less popular than ever by Election Day 2016.

So here is the good news: The American people might finally be ready to listen to Republican ideas on health care. But they’re not looking for us to only say no to Obamacare — although that remains part of our task. They want us also to be for actual health-care reform that empowers families, expands choices, and comes with an honest budget.

We owe them that much this time.

Let’s remember how we got here: It was not simply that President Obama had a bad idea on health care and Democratic majorities in Congress. Obamacare arrived also because Republicans failed to persuade the public that we could address the avalanche of problems government had already created by decades of interfering with the health-care market. As a result, Obama filled the vacuum while Republicans appeared not to care. We cannot make that mistake again.

Beginning now, presidential contenders must present a constructive vision for health-care reform. It should be a minimum requirement that any candidate worthy of consideration must have a coherent plan for the voters. The primary election for Republicans is partly about what vision of a replacement for Obamacare we think our nominee can sell to voters in the general election — and then successfully implement in 2017. If Republicans fail to offer compelling alternatives to Obamacare in the 2016 campaign, we will lose — and we will deserve it.

The only point where I might differ from Sen. Sasse is that he says “The primary election for Republicans is partly about what vision of a replacement for Obamacare we think our nominee can sell to voters in the general election — and then successfully implement in 2017,” and I might say that “The primary election for Republicans is mostly about what vision of a replacement for Obamacare …” Obamacare is, I think, the #1 issue on which we need to fight the 2016 campaign.

The danger for Republicans over the next year is that the circular firing squad so dominates the conversation that the media latches on to a “There they go again, Republicans infighting” narrative, and then the third group — the Replacement Caucus — is never heard.

There’s an election here to be won, but there are no shortcuts. We have to do the hard work of making the case one voter at a time. Fixing Obamacare certainly is not the solution. And neither is being the “Party of No.” That will simply turn off the swing voters we need in order to put a conservative in the White House who can repeal and replace Obamacare.

We have an opportunity here, but let there be no more talk of waiting until some future date to produce the Republican health-care alternative. Now is the time.

Your move, 2016’ers.

I like what Sen. Sasse says. I would nearly totally agree with his points. And in particular, the Republicans need to come up with ideas for a better way to do health care.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Christie finally officially enters the race

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie just announced that he is officially a candidate for the nomination as President in the 2016 election. And to me, he is still the best candidate for the job, though his standing in the polls has taken a hit since I first started commenting on Christie with an eye on next year's election.

The best reason to support Gov. Christie is exemplified in a comment he made in April, a couple of months ago. A Girl Scout had asked him what he would change in Washington, and his reply was:

I think in Washington what's happened is everybody goes to their separate corners. They don't talk to each other anymore, they don't deal with each other anymore on a regular basis. They don't get to know each other. And so then if you have differences of opinion it’s much harder to hate if you don't know the person. And so I think one of the things that has to change in Washington, whether I run for president or I don't, is that the president and the Congress has [sic!] to work with each other more and has to get to know each better cause it’s harder to hate up close and that applies to anything, right, whether it’s politics, whether it’s your friends at school.

And in his announcement of candidacy, Gov. Christie struck a similar note:

Both parties have failed our country. Both parties have led us to believe that in America, a country built on compromise, that somehow compromise is a dirty word.

Christie's position — that the President needs to work with Congress and that Republicans need to work with Democrats if anything is to be accomplished — is identical to my own beliefs. His comments to this effect are my reasons that I still prefer him over all his rivals.

Now this does not mean I totally dislike Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Scott Walker, and such. Should they get the nomination, I would certainly support them over Hillary Clinton without hesitation. (There are other candidates, like Mike Huckabee, that I could not support; Huckabee in particular seems to be against almost everything I stand for!) But for now, and unless Christie's chances become so small that it is useless to support him, Chris Christie is my preferred candidate, and I repeat my earlier statements to that effect.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Obergefell has nothing to do with freedom of religion

It puzzles me that “social conservatives” are attacking the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision as a blow to religious freedom. The States, by this decision, are required to accept marriage of some couples that would be barred from marrying under many religions' rules, to be certain. But there are also religions whose clergy will willingly perform such marriages, and Obergefell gives them the freedom to do so. And I do not see any possibility that a priest, minister, or rabbi who believes it is against God's law to perform such marriages will be forced to do so. It will come under the same reading of the laws that allows a rabbi to refuse to perform an interfaith marriage, or a Catholic priest to refuse to marry a couple, one of whom is a divorcee.

The argument seems to involve people (not clergy, but ordinary businesses!) refusing to serve gay couples. And why should they be allowed to discriminate “for religious reasons” any more than a restaurant whose proprietor claims to believe that the Bible says that blacks are subhuman can refuse to serve them? A business open to the public must serve the whole public.

I am a strong supporter of religious freedom. I have to be, as a believer in a minority religion whose adherents have been victims of discrimination in the past. But I cannot see “religious freedom” being used as an excuse for discrimination. And it is this that we see being done by the opponents of same-sex marriage.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Is there any coherent argument against same-sex marriage? I don't see one!

There are a lot of comments I have seen by opponents of same-sex marriage in the light of the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision, and others that I had seen even before that, attacking the very idea of same-sex marriage, but none of these arguments makes very much sense. It is obviously the case that the people making the arguments against same-sex marriage are simply trying, lamely, to find ways that do not fall afoul of the First Amendment to say “my religion does not accept it; thus it's wrong.”

The most common, but stupidest, argument I have seen is “We are ‘redefining’ marriage, an institution that has remained unchanged for thousands of years.” First of all, I cannot accept that this is a “redefinition of marriage.” If we define marriage as “two persons who love each other agreeing to form a single household” (which to me seemns the fundamental purpose of a marriage), the definition has not changed. All that has changed is that the right to marry has been extended to couples that had not this right in the past. And as I have said in earlier posts, when the right to vote was extended to eighteen-year-olds, nobody considered this to be a “redefinition of voting”! So how can this be a “redefinition of marriage”?

In addition, marriage has been redefined in much more radical ways over the 200-plus-year history of this nation. In the 1700s, being married meant a woman gave up her right to own property, and in fact was considered the property of her husband. This has long since ceased to be the case; and I hope nobody wants to restore that “traditional” definition of marriage.

Some opponents of same-sex marriage make the point that “children who grow up with both their mother and their father in an intact family are most likely to develop into well-adjusted, productive citizens able to sustain and provide for themselves. In contrast, when marriages break down or disappear, economic troubles all too often surface.” But this is really totally irrelevant to the issue of same-sex marriage. A same-sex couple, to be sure, can only have children by adoption; it cannot create one. But the children that couple might adopt would have been given up for adoption in any case. The “family” into which they were born did not break up because the same-sex couple had married; it was broken in any case. And many anti-same-sex-marriage people (probably the overwhelming majority, in fact) are opposed to abortion and favor adoption as a solution. The only way one can reduce the number of children who do not “grow up with both their mother and their father in an intact family” would be to forbid giving up one's child for adoption. And I have not seen anyone favoring such a law.

But how about the argument that “children who have both a mother and a father are better adjusted than children in single-parent families”? This argument could only make sense if there were enough male-female married couples desiring to adopt to take care of all the adoptable children there are, and nobody, I think, believes this is the case. The alternative, for those children who were not adopted by a same-sex couple, is probably not to grow up in a family at all. And I am sure that children with two adoptive fathers or two adoptive mothers are still better off than children with no adoptive parents at all.

So what argument can an opponent of same-sex marriage make? I do not think there is any.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Supreme Court's decision on Obergefell

Immediately after the Supreme Court's ruling on King v. Burwell, which I had to grudgingly admit has to be accepted because the Court is the final arbiter, has come another ruling about which I am much happier. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has written the decision, as he has in just about every decision affecting gay rights. And as one would expect of a Kennedy decision, it was forthrightly in defense of gay couples' rights:

No longer may this liberty be denied. No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.

Both this decision and the previous one in King v. Burwell, of course, can be considered “liberal,” which clearly shows why I cannot really consider myself to be either “conservative” or “liberal.” I see the King decision as misguided, while the Obergefell decision as a positive step forward in granting rights to an often-denigrated group of people. So my reaction to these two “liberal” decisions is quite different.

I would like to say two things to people opposing this decision:

First of all, this decision does not — as many opponents claim — “redefine marriage.” Marriage is still the union of two people who love each other into a household. All that changed is that couples who were denied that right now have it. It no more changes the institution of marriage than extending the right to vote to 18-year-olds (when the minimum age had traditionally been 21) redefined the act of voting, and I see no difference between these as a simple extension of rights to those who did not previously have them.

And second, this decision does not infringe on anyone's religious freedom. A Catholic priest has not ever been required to officiate at the wedding of a divorced person, counter to his religion, nor has a Jewish rabbi ever been required to officiate at an interfaith wedding, and nobody will require either to perform a same-sex wedding if he believes his religion does not permit it. (Many rabbis, of course, do perform same-sex weddings, as well as interfaith ones; Jewish positions on both of these vary. But those who will not, may continue to refuse.) As to bakers, florists, etc., I wonder how many of them insist even now that the people to whom they provide services be legitimately married. Do they check the marriage licenses of the couples? If anyone wanted to order a wedding cake from a baker, would the baker refuse to provide one if the customer is not really getting married? I doubt it. The baker who opposes gay marriage on religious grounds is not facilitating the wedding of which he disapproves; he is just baking a cake in a design which is regular for wedding cakes and selling it to a couple of people that he doesn't consider should be married. I doubt that he would even check if a couple that happens to be too closely related, in violation of the Bible, ordered a wedding cake, or even if a man and woman who really do not seriously intend to marry do so.

Friday, June 26, 2015


Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled on King v. Burwell, and all I can say is that, since they are the final arbiter, their decision has to be accepted as law. Apparently, Chief Justice John Roberts has decided that the Court will not decide on the basis of what is actually written in the law, but rather on what the apparent intent of the majority of the members of Congress who voted to pass it was.

Since ruling the other way would have made “Obamacare” unworkable, the Court has kept it alive for now by its ruling. And this means that it certainly will be alive for the remaining year and a half of Barack Obama's term as President, since he will veto any attempt to revise it. Which makes the election of a Republican in next year's election even more important than it would have otherwise been.

This is not the worst decision ever made by the Court — that would probably be Plessy v. Ferguson or Dred Scott v. Sandford — but certainly, I think it is one of the bad ones. But this is a nation of laws, and the Supreme Court is the supreme interpreter of what the laws mean, so for now we have to live with it. And since it is not a Constitutional decision, but only a ruling on the meaning of an Act of Congress, it can eventually be changed by a new act; it doesn't require amending the Constitution, as the Fourteenth Amendment was the only way to counteract the Dred Scott decision.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The right not to bear arms

I rarely agree with columnist E.J. Dionne, of The Washington Post. But his column entitled “The Right to be Free From Guns,” dated June 25, 2015, is one I can heartily endorse:

Advocates of a saner approach to guns need a new strategy. We cannot go on like this, wringing our hands in frustration after every tragedy involving firearms. We said “Enough” after Sandy Hook. We thought the moment for action had come. Yet nothing happened. We are saying “Enough” after Charleston. But this time, we don't even expect anything to happen.

What's needed is a long-term national effort to change popular attitudes toward handgun ownership. And we need to insist on protecting the rights of Americans who do not want to be anywhere near guns.

None of this should mean letting Congress off the hook or giving up on what might be done now. So kudos to Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., for saying on Tuesday that they are looking for ways to bring back their proposal that would require background checks for gun sales. In 2013, it failed to get the needed 60 votes and won support from only three Republicans besides Toomey.

And it is really unfortunate that members of the Republican Party, with whom I agree on most issues, are so overwhelmingly on the wrong side of this issue.

Lest anyone doubt that gun-control measures can work, a study released earlier this month by the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University found that a 1995 Connecticut law requiring a permit or license contingent on passing a background check was associated with a 40 percent drop in gun homicides.

But as long as gun control is a cause linked to ideology and party — and as long as the National Rifle Association and its allies claim a monopoly on individual rights arguments — reasonable steps of this sort will be ground to death by the Washington Obstruction Machine.

That's why the nation needs a public-service offensive on behalf of the health and safety of us all. It could build on the Sandy Hook Promise and other civic endeavors. If you doubt it could succeed, consider how quickly opinion changed on the Confederate flag.

And now comes the meat of Dionne's column, the part I think is really important:

My friend Guy Molyneux, a progressive pollster, laid out how it could happen. “We need to build a social movement devoted to the simple proposition that owning handguns makes us less safe, not more,” he told me. “The evidence is overwhelming that having a gun in your home increases the risks of suicide, domestic violence and fatal accidents, and yet the number one reason given for gun purchases is ‘personal safety.’ We need a public health campaign on the dangers of gun ownership, similar to the successful efforts against smoking and drunk driving.”

The facts were on the side of those who battled the tobacco companies, and they are just as compelling here. When we talk about guns, we don't focus enough on the reality, reported in the 2015 Annual Review of Public Health, that nearly two-thirds of the deaths from firearms violence are suicides. Yes, people can try to kill themselves with pills, but there's no coming back from a gunshot to the head. Those in the throes of depression who have a gun nearby are more likely to act on their darkest impulses.

Nor do we talk enough about accidental deaths when children get their hands on guns, or what happens when a domestic argument escalates and a firearm is readily available. The message is plain and simple: Households that voluntarily say no to guns are safer.

“The best way to disarm the NRA rhetorically is to make the Second Amendment issue moot,” Molyneux said. “This is not about the government saying you cannot own a handgun. This is about society saying you should not have a gun, especially in a home with children.”

Molyneux says his approach “does not imply giving up on gun control legislation.” On the contrary, the best path to better laws is to foster a revolution in popular attitudes. And this approach would finally put the rights of non-gun owners at the center of the discussion.

“Those of us who want to live, shop, go to school and worship in gun-free spaces also have rights,” Molyneux says. “In what way is ‘freedom’ advanced by telling the owner of a bar or restaurant they cannot ban handguns in their own place of business, as many states now do? Today, it is the NRA that is the enemy of freedom, by seeking to impose its values on everyone else.”

The nation could ring out with the new slogans of liberty: “Not in my house.” “Not in our school.” “Not in my bar.” “Not in our church.” We'd be defending one of our most sacred rights: The right not to bear arms.

I think Dionne has a good point. I don't want to be forever risking the possibility that I might be hit by a stray bullet. (Once, when I was working in Alexandria, Va. — of course, Virginia is one of those states where the NRA point of view is particularly strong — a bullet, probably not fired at our building but faultily aimed, went through the window of my workplace. It is just fortunate that nobody was standing in the path of that bullet!)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

South Carolina — the good points

I posted a few days ago about South Carolina's unfortunate attitude toward guns and our shameful Second Amendment. But I think it would be remiss if I didn't point out some of the good things about South Carolina:

They have elected an African American to the United States Senate — the first in the Old Confederacy since Reconstruction. This in the State that started the Civil War — after all, South Carolina is where Fort Sumter was.

Their Governor may not be African American, but she is certainly not “white”; she is one of two State Governors whose ancestry derives from India (and the other one, Bobby Jindal, is interestingly also a Republican from one of the former Confederate States!)

It looks as though they will remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of their State Capitol, and one of the leaders of that move, interestingly, is the son of former Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.

So let this not be a total condemnation of South Carolina; but it would be fervently desired that they renounce their gun culture.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

If I were a Supreme Court Justice, how would I rule on Obergefell?

I have several times thought about the question: If I were a Supreme Court Justice, how would I rule on Obergefell v. Hodges? And one part is easy. A marriage contracted in one State has always been considered as valid in all others oven where the other State would not perform the marriage. First cousins cannot marry in Ohio (one of the states involved in the Obergefell case!) but it was noted in a lower court's decision that first cousins' marriages in other States have been honored in Ohio. This is a general rule, and clearly derives from Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

The other question before the Court is more difficult. Does a State have to allow same-sex marriages to be performed? And the normal rule is that each State sets the rules there. One State may allow 13-year-olds to marry; another may set the minimum at 16, and the Constitution has always been held to permit such differences. The only case I know of where the Court has invalidated a State law restricting marriage is Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated anti-miscegenation laws. Is this a case like Loving? It would only be so if one answers Chief Justice John Roberts' question in the affirmative:

I’m not sure it’s necessary to get into sexual orientation to resolve this case. I mean, if Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?

And based on Roberts' question, perhaps likening this case to Loving isn't so far-fetched. So perhaps if I were a Supreme Court Justice, I could rule that way. But I'm not sure. And we certainly do not know how the nine people who actually sit on the Court will rule.

Friday, June 19, 2015

South Carolina's gun culture and our unfortunate Second Amendment

Seldom do I agree with President Obama, but I think he was exactly on point with his comment:

We do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it.

But unfortunately, South Carolina is a state where gun culture rides rampant. The news has come out that Dylann Roof's father actually gave him a gun as a 21st birthday present. And this seems to be the norm in South Carolina. I remember many years ago we had a neighbor, a woman who had grown up in South Carolina. And she gave a BB gun as a present to her then-nine-year-old son! (This was nearly 20 years ago; that son is now an Army military policeman, but at nine he hardly could be trusted with a gun, even a BB gun!) At one point, my wife was babysitting at that neighbor's apartment, and she was afraid he might put a BB in his younger brother's eye. She took the gun from him and put it up on a shelf too high for the boy to reach.

But in South Carolina, it seems that giving BB guns to 9-year-olds and real honest-to-God guns to 21-year-olds for birthday presents is a normal thing. And in states like that, there will be enough votes that we can never repeal the unfortunate Second Amendment, the worst blemish in our generally-admirable Constitution. So we need to find ways of getting around that amendment. I just wish I knew how.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Donald Trump, Presidential candidate

Donald Trump has declared his candidacy for the nomination for the Presidency in next year’s election. Nobody was sure he would, but I doubt that anyone is surprised that he has done so either.

I saw a part of his declaration speech on a television set where I was having lunch this morning. And my conclusion is that many of his ideas are good — and in agreement with my own — but I cannot see him as President because — exactly like our current President! — he seems not to understand the limitations of the Presidency in a system with a Constitution like our own.

He said that he would immediately kill President Obama's executive order on immigration, and, since it is an executive order, as President he would have that power. But he also said he would call the President of Ford — whom he says he knows, and I do not doubt that — and tell him that if he built a new plant in Mexico instead of Tennessee, he (Trump) would impose a 35% tariff on all cars and trucks built there. However, if he becomes President, he cannot unilaterally change our tariff laws. He needs to work with Congress on those. His ignorance of this simple Constitutional point is troublesome; this alone disqualifies him for the Presidency.

But another problem arises. Just suppose that Trump makes it to the nomination. Remember the 2012 election? A lot of people would not vote for Mitt Romney, even if they agreed that Barack Obama’s Presidency had, to that point, not been a positive factor, because they thought he was so rich that “he could not understand the concerns of the average American.” If they thought this of Romney, how much more would they think so of Trump?

Friday, June 12, 2015

If Rachel Dolezal Isn’t Black, How Is Caitlyn Jenner a Woman?

A rather nice article entitled “If Rachel Dolezal Isn’t Black, How Is Caitlyn Jenner A Woman?” by Sean Davis, dated June 12, 2015, has come to my attention:

Spokane NAACP president Rachel Dolezal, a professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University, was outed earlier this week by her parents as being white.

In what has to be one of the more bizarre news stories of 2015, Dolezal pretended for years to be black. Social media accounts posted pictures of a black man who she said was her father (he’s not). She regularly wrote about her black son Izaiah (he’s actually her adopted brother).

It also appears as though she repeatedly lied about being the victim of race-based hate crimes. She claims to have been the victim of at least nine separate hate crimes.

As you might expect, this story has gotten a lot of attention, namely because Dolezal isn’t black. She’s white. Very white. According to her parents, her heritage is primarily German and Czech. Naturally, people are a bit shocked that a white person would so brazenly pretend to be black for so many years.

There seems to be little argument, on both the Right and Left, that Dolezal appears to have some serious psychological issues to sort out. Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post tweeted that he agreed that she is “mentally disturbed“:

Jonathan Capehart @CapehartJ

After reading this, I have to agree ---> … …

He’s not alone. Just search for “dolezal crazy” or “dolezal nuts” on Twitter for a sampling of the near-universal opinion that she’s nuts. Try as I may, I can’t find any person of any notoriety defending Dolezal’s bravery or courage.

Which of course brings us to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner.

Now he gets to the main point of his argument, and one with which I thoroughly agree:

How, exactly is what Dolezal did any different than what Jenner is currently doing? Rachel Dolezal is not black, and Caitlyn Jenner is not a woman (putting aside the basic biological facts of how sex-selection and chromosomes work, Jenner’s not even undergone the so-called sex change surgery; by all accounts, his equipment is still intact). Rachel Dolezal changing her wardrobe, her makeup, and her hair do not make her black. Pretty much everyone seems to agree on that, for obvious reasons. You don’t turn red into blue by magically declaring that red is now blue.

And yet, the Left and the media would have us believe that Bruce Jenner can become a woman by…changing his name, his wardrobe, his makeup, and his hair. How can you logically square the belief that Jenner is a hero while Dolezal is a mental case? Well, you can’t.

And it is interesting to see how many people do not see this, and argue as though there is a difference!

Take Jonathan Capehart, for example, who’s outraged by Dolezal’s con job:

Jonathan Capehart @CapehartJ

White person running chap of NAACP? No problem. White person pretending to be black and running chap of NAACP. BIG problem.

I agree with him. The whole thing is bonkers, and there’s something just not right about Dolezal’s long-running race hoax. So I asked Capehart if he’d be bothered if Jenner took over the Girl Scouts:

Sean Davis @seanmdav.


Would it be a big problem if Caitlyn Jenner ended up running the Girl Scouts?

Jonathan Capehart @CapehartJ

FTLOG, Caitlyn Jenner is not "pretending" to be a woman. Move along... …

Wait, wait? How can anyone with even the most tenuous grip on reality possibly argue that Jenner, who’s undergone zero surgery (not that that can change one’s chromosomes, which are entirely responsible for determining one’s sex), is not pretending to be a woman? How can you not see the glaring similarities between Jenner’s shtick and Dolezal’s? Nearly overnight, it would appear that the long-standing ideas of race as a social construct and gender as a biological construct have been flipped on their heads.

In a 2013 essay for The Atlantic, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates explained the social, not biological, foundation of race in the modern age:

Our notion of what constitutes “white” and what constitutes “black” is a product of social context. It is utterly impossible to look at the delineation of a “Southern race” and not see the Civil War, the creation of an “Irish race” and not think of Cromwell’s ethnic cleansing, the creation of a “Jewish race” and not see anti-Semitism. There is no fixed sense of “whiteness” or “blackness,” not even today.

He makes a great point. We know precisely the definition of male (an X and a Y chromosome) and female (two X chromosomes)–or at least we did before society lost its collective mind–but is it possible to give a precise, quantifiable definition of black or white? Coates argues that you can’t, because so much of it depends on the social and historical context of a given culture:

Race is no more dependent on skin color today than it was on “Frankishness” in Emerson’s day. Over history of race has taken geography, language, and vague impressions as its basis.

Which brings us right back to Rachel Dolezal. She’s no hero. She’s a fraud, and likely one in need of serious mental help. She deliberately lived out a charade. At least in this instance, society seems to recognize that you cannot change who you are merely by playing dress-up and declaring that white is now black.

There will be no reality shows for Rachel Dolezal. No prime-time interviews. No photo-shopped magazine covers. Nobody will declare that Dolezal is brave, courageous, or worthy of being placed on a pedestal as a heroine. She will not be lauded by ESPN during its annual gala. There will be no Arthur Ashe Courage Awards given to Rachel Dolezal.

This is America in 2015, and the Dolezal and Jenner cases teach a valuable lesson about media relations: if you want to be celebrated for identity fraud, stick with gender and leave the race card at home.

I have to agree with Sean Davis. Bruce Jenner's calling himself a “woman” and Rachel Dolezal's calling herself “black” are exactly the same thing. And I challenge anyone to demonstrate the difference to me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

An on-point evaluation of President Obama

There used to be a newspaper published in Washington, D. C., The Washington Examiner, which I enjoyed reading. Some time ago, the paper ceased publication, except for an online presence that still continues. Recently I saw a column by Noemie Emery on the Examiner's site, which I found quite interesting. Her columns in the Examiner when it was in print often reflected my own thought, and I think this column also shows a great insight, so I would like to reprint it.

President Obama, wrote the Washington Post's Greg Jaffe in a recent story about the president's view of his country, articulates “his vision of a nation that can acknowledge and, learn from, its mistakes.” Would that this vision applied to himself.

Now comes the main point, one that I think characterizes this President above all things that have been written about him:

Not only does Obama never learn from mistakes, he doesn't think that he makes them, and he denies that they even exist. Any regrets for the way he passed healthcare? Not that you'd notice. Any regrets about leaving Iraq? Nope — he still thinks he “ended two wars,” which the other side keeps on fighting.

The conventional view of what has gone wrong — that Obama lacked experience, and that first-term senators should be viewed with suspicion — is undercut by the fact that he has had six years of experience, and failed to learn from it. At home and abroad, Obama makes mistakes over and over, with the same result, and takes nothing from them. He disses his friends, placates aggressors and seems surprised that aggressors advance and whole regions catch fire.

He refuses to bargain with Congress, insults opponents, imposes unpopular policies by fiat and seems surprised when his measures result in court challenges, when polarization increases, opposition solidifies, divisions harden and gridlock prevails. Deal-making is the essence of politics, but Obama finds it demeaning, so he resorts to brute force when he has the means to (as in the still-festering matter of healthcare). Alternatively, as with immigration, Obama resorts to executive actions that stir angry resistance and are frequently halted by courts.

This has gone on since 2009, but Dana Milbank noticed only when Obama began slighting Democrats, whereupon he began taking offense. “Rather than accept that they have a legitimate beef, he shows public contempt for them,” the Washington Post columnist complains, writing that Obama dissed fellow Democrats to friendly reporters as being short-sighted and dense. (Of course, he's done that for years to Republicans, but they seem not to matter.) If Franklin Roosevelt was described as having a commonplace intellect but a brilliantly tempered political character, Obama seems to be his ultimate opposite: A man with an intellect that delights the elite but a temperament that is counterproductive in matters of government. This combination seems to work much less well.

A comparison with his predecessors is instructive.

Presidents can sometimes repair their mistakes, but only after they realize they've made them, which is something Obama can't do. George W. Bush stayed with his failed Iraq strategy until a bloody year followed by a political bloodbath in the 2006 midterms forced him to change course dramatically. John Kennedy failed in the Bay of Pigs and then in his first face-to-face meeting with Nikita S. Khrushchev, when he compounded his first bad impression by seeming irresolute.

Sensing at once that he had made a grave error — “He savaged me,” Kennedy said later of the Russian leader — he doubled the draft, increased defense spending and took Dwight Eisenhower's advice to have his councilors argue their cases before him and each other (instead of one at a time and in isolation), which led to the peaceful solution of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

But admitting mistakes — and taking advice — are not the skill set of the current incumbent, who finds them demeaning. The learning curve of the 35th president between l961-63 had been exponential, while, as Josef Joffe recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “the 44th president's learning curve has been flat for six years.”

It's not lack of experience that hampers Obama; it's his refusal to learn a thing from it. That's the trait we can't have in the 45th president — and the one we must strive to avoid.

A valuable observation, and one with which I heartily concur.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

President Obama has no right to control what cases the Supreme Court considers!

According to a report by The Associated Press,

President Barack Obama says the U.S. Supreme Court probably shouldn't have taken up the latest challenges to his signature health care law.

Obama says there was no reason for the health program to end up in court, maintaining that “it's working.”

The high court is expected to decide soon whether Congress authorized federal subsidy payments regardless of where people live, or only for residents of states that created their own insurance marketplaces.

The decision could have far-reaching implications because millions would lose their insurance if the court said people who enrolled through the federal site couldn't get the subsidies.

Obama says it has been well-documented that Congress never intended to exclude people who went through the federal exchange.

Obama commented Monday in Elmau, Germany, at the conclusion of a summit.

The President seems to feel that any challenge to the way he does business to accomplish his goals is unjustified. Well the news for President Obama is that thuis is a government of laws. The President does not have the power to rewrite a law, just because it is worded in such a way that the President's goals atre not met, in order to make it work the way he wants it to.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Obamacare's failure

A column on the Real Clear Politics site, by Jack Kelly, dated June 7, 2015, entitled “Spare Us From Obamacare,” makes very interesting reading. So I reproduce it here.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t.

Some major health insurers seek eye popping rate increases for 2016 — such as 25 percent in Oregon, 30.4 percent in Maryland, 36.3 percent in Tennessee, 51.6 percent in New Mexico.

Insurance commissioners won’t approve all companies ask for. Rates will rise modestly in some states. But the odds are your premium will cost a lot more next year.

Premiums for non-group policies rose 24.4 percent more last year than they would have without Obamacare, said the National Bureau of Economic Research. Premiums in this market rose more after two years of Obamacare than in the eight years preceding, said eHealth Insurance, a private health exchange.

Despite subsidies for the industry of at least $16 billion, many insurers lose money. Far fewer individuals signed up for Obamacare than expected (and the administration claimed). Those who did are older and sicker.

“Only about 40 percent of those eligible eventually signed up after two full open-enrollments,” insurance expert Robert Laszewski told the Washington Examiner. “Carriers need more like 75 percent.”

Subsidies for insurance companies mask the true cost, said Stephen Parente, director of the Medical Industry Leadership Institute. Unless reauthorized in 2017, premiums for the cheapest plan could rise nearly 100 percent for individuals, 50 percent for families, he said.

That’s on top of sky-high deductibles. The average deductible for the cheapest Obamacare plan is about $5,180 for individuals, $10,500 for families — four times the IRS threshhold for a “high deductible” plan.

The column then cites an example of why Obamacare hardly qualifies as useful insurance:

Patricia Wanderlich, who suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2011, skipped the brain scan she should have every year because her Obamacare policy has a $6,000 deductible.

“To spend thousands of dollars just making sure (her aneurysm) hasn’t grown?” Ms. Wanderlich told The New York Times. “I don’t have that money.”

The column then goes on to cite some interesting statistics:

About 25 percent of non-elderly Americans with private insurance can’t afford to pay a mid-range deductible ($1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for families), The Wall Street Journal said in March.

People with a policy they can’t afford to use are no better off than the uninsured. Which may be why — despite the threat of fines — so few without insurance signed up for Obamacare.

About 75 percent of those who did are subsidized. Subsidies could end for people in 36 states if later this month the Supreme Court rules for plaintiffs in King v. Burwell.

We have, of course, already discussed this case, but the column makes a good reminder of what it entails:

As written, the ACA permits subsidies only for insurance purchased on exchanges “established by the state,” plaintiffs note.

That was a drafting error, politicians told New York Times reporter Robert Pear. Not true.

The words “established by the state” appear nine times in the ACA. No “drafting error” is repeated that often.

And finally, in summary:

Nearly every promise Democrats made has been broken. The average family pays more (some much more) for insurance, not $2,500 less. About 9 million Americans (so far) have learned they couldn’t keep the health plans they had if they wanted. Or some of their doctors.

Federal spending for health didn’t go down. It’s zoomed upward. So have emergency room visits. Overhead costs are exploding.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obamacare will lower full-time employment by 2.3 million in 2021, compared with what might have been without reform.

The ACA has hurt millions more than it’s helped. The worst is yet to come. President Barack Obama delayed or altered (mostly illegally) unpopular provisions at least 50 times. If they’re implemented fully, up to 100 million who get insurance from their employers could have their policies canceled, the American Enterprise Institute has estimated.

As premiums and deductibles rise, and the job-killing employer mandate goes into effect, a “death spiral” — begun because so few healthy people have signed up — will accelerate. If the Supreme Court rules the ACA must be enforced as written, it would be a mercy killing.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Why so many?

There certainly seem to be a lot of Republicans contending for next year's nomination for the Presidency. Some people are expecting as many as twenty to declare, and already there are so many it's hard to keep track. While the polls seem to give the edge to either Scott Walker or Jeb Bush, a lot can happen between now and next year's convention. But why so many? I can't recall there ever being such a large field of contenders.

It's not that hard to figure out. Barack Obama has become one of the most unpopular Presidents in history. While a popular President can anoint a successor (witness the fact that Ronald Reagan was able to pull in enough voters to the Republican side to elect George H. W. Bush, even though Bush was not a very charismatic campaigner), an unpopular President serves to recruit votes to the opposite side. Many people will be voting Republican just to say we need a change from Obama. So a prospective Republican nominee has a good chance to win the Presidency in 2016.

And that's a good thing. It is really necessary to undo the damage that the years of Obama's Presidency have caused — to our economy, to our foreign standing, and in other ways. And certainly Hillary Clinton would not undo that damage; her proposals in the health care area, for example, out-Obama'd Obamacare. (As a candidate, Obama opposed — and Clinton proposed — some features that are the most objectionable in Obamacare, like the mandates.)

Friday, June 05, 2015

Michael Bloomberg? As a Democratic nominee?

On June 2, 2015, Michael Goodwin, of the New York Post, posted an article entitled, “NY Dems push Bloomberg to run for president.” It raises an interesting possibility; Michael Bloomberg, former Democrat, former Republican, (and former Mayor of New York), now an independent, is being considered by some as a possible Democratic nominee for President. He was a good mayor of New York City; he mostly carried forward the policies of Rudy Giuliani, who I would have liked to see as President, if you go back to look at my posts of a number of years ago. And Bloomberg's nomination as a Democrat is almost the only thing of which I could conceive that could get me to consider voting for a Democrat for the Presidency. But can Bloomberg be nominated?

I do not think so. First of all, the fact that he governed New York City as a Republican, and even after changing his registration to independent was re-elected mayor on the Republican line, would probably make him anathema to too many Democrats. Second, he's too centrist for most Democrats these days anyway. When those Democrats who oppose Hillary Clinton are attacking her for being insufficiently “progressive,” Michael Bloomberg certainly would fall short of their criteria. (Look at what happened to Arlen Specter, who thought the Republican Party had drifted too far right for him to win a primary in that party; he found that the Democratic Party had drifted too far leftward for him to win it either.)

So it's a nice dream. But Bloomberg has no chance of being nominated by the Democrats.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

What is a fair Congressional districting?

We haven't heard a lot about a Supreme Court case called Evenwel v. Abbott, but it raises an important question. What is a fair Congressional districting? Should Congressional districts have equal populations (the way they have been drawn ever since the “one-man, one-vote” decisions of the 1960s? Or should they have equal numbers of eligible voters? After all, if a district has half of its population composed of non-citizens, the remaining people have twice the voting power of the citizens in a district that has no non-citizens.

Making the districts equal in number of eligible voters seems logical, but it has political consequences. Because many of the districts that have large numbers of non-citizens are majority-Hispanic, and strongly Democratic. So redrawing districts to have equal numbers of eligible voters would make the House of Representatives more Republican (a result I would not mind, of course). But the question is, is that fair? I would say yes — after all, it is only citizens who vote, and so equality of numbers of eligible voters is more consistent with “one-man, one-vote.” But it is clear that the Constitution apportions seats by population, not by number of eligible voters, as the Fourteenth Amendment states:

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.

Yet that same amendment also states:

But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

If course, both the “male” and the “twenty-one” parts are presumed to be changed in consequence of the Nineteenth and Twenty-sixth amendments, but isn't it clear that citizenship is a qualification for voting? And a districting that gives some citizens more voting power than others, because their district has a lot of non-citizens, seems to go against the spirit of this part of the amendment.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

I'm sorry, but I just don't understand "transgender"

If you read my posts related to the subject, you realize that I'm all for equal rights for gay and lesbian people. But one group that is usually grouped with them I can't understand. When someone like Bruce Jenner says he is now a woman, and wants to be called “Caitlin,” it just puzzles me. I am certain that every cell in his body still has the same XY chromosome inventory it did when he was “Bruce.”

Now I think Mike Huckabee's comment, as reported by CNN, is a little nasty:

Mike Huckabee says there's a time he wishes he could've been transgender: When it was time to hit the high school showers.

If he “could have felt like a woman,” the Republican former Arkansas governor joked earlier this year, then he could have seen his female classmates without their clothes on.

“Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE,” Huckabee said.

“I'm pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I'd rather shower with the girls today.’ You're laughing because it sounds so ridiculous doesn't it?”

I think Bruce Jenner must have more serious reasons than to be able to see naked women in a shower — after all, he's been married and fathered children! — but I cannot figure out what he hopes to gain by being considered a female. He cannot function as a biological female, bearing children and such; even if they cut off his genitalia they cannot implant functioning ovaries into him. If he wants to marry a man, there are a lot of states (not all 50 to be sure, but the majority, by now) which would let him do so, even as a man; I suspect the others would not, even if he calls himself a female. If he just prefers dressing like a woman and using make-up — as he does on that magazine cover, I think he's free to do so, though I think it's weird.

But I guess he'd still have the right to do so — not all crossdressers even want to be called female — and so I can't really understand what is in his head. And you will notice that (as in the case of Bradley Manning) I still refer to him as “him.”

Friday, May 29, 2015

Mike Huckabee is unfit to be president. Here's why

Once more, Mike Huckabee is acting in a way that shows his unfitness for the Presidency. In a column entitled Huckabee Takes Aim at Court Activism on Gay Marriage dated May 28, 2015 by Andrew Desiderio on the Real Clear Politics site, we read:

With a Supreme Court decision expected next month on constitutional protections for same-sex marriage, one presidential candidate is not mincing words when criticizing what he sees as judicial overreach.

Specifically, the court is expected to rule on whether the 14th Amendment requires states to authorize same-sex marriages, as well as recognize those already carried out in other states. For Mike Huckabee, this is a clear case of the justices acting beyond the authority granted to them.

“Many of our politicians have surrendered to the false god of judicial supremacy, which would allow black-robed and unelected justices the power to make law as well as enforce it,” the former Arkansas governor said during his May 5 campaign launch.

That was hardly his first comment on the issue. “I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that – the supreme of the court,” he said at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference in April, as the high court was holding oral arguments on the gay marriage case. “It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God.”

It is Huckabee's seeming willingness to make the United States a theocracy that I find appalling. The Supreme Court is not trying to “overrule God”; it is merely interpreting the Constitution. And God is irrelevant. What God believes is unknown to us — I as a Jew of course differ from Gov. Huckabee, an evangelical Protestant, in our beliefs as to what God's laws are; and others of different religious tendencies would have yet other ideas in this direction, but the Supreme Court is supposed to ignore this question. The Court is bound only by the Constitution. If it does violate God's will, God will punish the Justices. Gov. Huckabee has no more right to speak for God than do I or does any individual in the Supreme Court.

Desiderio continues:

Marbury v. Madison, an 1803 landmark case, created the process of judicial review, by which Supreme Court justices are given the power to determine the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress and signed by the president. It allows the judiciary branch to serve as a “check” on the legislative and executive branches. But many conservatives claim the courts have inched into the realm of judicial activism.

Huckabee, the 2008 winner of the Iowa caucuses, reiterated his criticisms during a “Fox News Sunday” interview last weekend. “The notion that the Supreme Court comes up with a ruling, and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it, defies everything there is about the three equal branches of government,” he told host Chris Wallace.

The President and the Congress are sworn to uphold the Constitution. The role of the Court is to provide a definitive interpretation of the Constitution. Gov. Huckabee seems to imply that he would be free, if he were President, to interpret his oath to support the Constitution as one to write his own doctrine of what is constitutional. Since 1803, the nation has accepted Court decisions as the last word on constitutionality. Gov. Huckabee's ideas fly in the face of this agreement. This is hardly a conservative position.

Desiderio's column continues:

Wallace pressed his onetime Fox News colleague further, asking whether he would have approved of Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus’s 1957 defiance of the high court’s ruling on school desegregation.

Huckabee called that comparison a false equivalency, noting that both the legislative and executive branches agreed with the court on desegregation. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Huckabee said, was therefore right in sending the 101st Airborne Division to enforce and carry out the law at Little Rock Central High School.

Huckabee then presented a hypothetical of his own in criticizing those who “bow down” to court rulings that are not backed by the legislature: “What if the Supreme Court ruled that they were going to make the decision as to who was going to be the next president, and save the taxpayers and the voters from all the expense and trouble of voting, and they’ll just pick a president?”

Of course, nobody really believes that the Supreme Court would do such a thing. Even the Gore enthusiasts who would say that the Court came close to such a ruling in the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision have to admit that the Court never eliminated the election, but merely terminated the recount process. So Huckabee's hypothetical is of a piece with “What if the President said the Constitution was henceforth null and void, and his decisions, on all issues, were to have the force of supreme law?”

Huckabee spokeswoman Alice Stewart declined a request to comment on whether a President Huckabee would take any type of executive action if the court deemed all state bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, saying there is “not more to add.”

Both declared GOP candidate Carly Fiorina and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is expected to enter the presidential race soon, have said they would not fight a SCOTUS ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have signaled their support for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit courts from interfering with existing or future state bans on same-sex marriage. It is unclear whether Huckabee supports such a step.

The column then concludes with a summary of other opinions on Huckabee's position, including the two biggest organizations that are concerned with the issue:

But there’s plenty of opposition to this conservative stance. The Human Rights Campaign, a liberal organization that has been pushing for LGBT rights since 1980, says Huckabee’s comments prompt the question of whether Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who are at the top of the RealClearPolitics polling average among Republicans, are on the same page as their rival.

“Another day, another attempt from Mike Huckabee to test-drive a desperate and absurd rationale for denying marriage equality to everyone at a time when more than six in 10 voters support marriage equality and nearly half the country knows an LGBT couple that has gotten married or is in a committed relationship,” JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s vice president for policy and political affairs, told RealClearPolitics.

(Rubio and Bush aides declined to comment on whether either would employ a strategy of denouncing activist courts, but Rubio has said in the past that he does not want the judiciary to “impose” gay marriage on certain states. Bush does not believe the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.)

Meanwhile, the Family Research Council, a prominent social conservative group, did not return a request to comment on whether it would embrace a strategy of running against the courts in an effort to enshrine traditional marriage. The group’s president, Tony Perkins, said during oral arguments before the court that it should not “impose” same-sex marriage on states where bans have been upheld.

One can scarcely think that either the HRC or the FRC would take a position any different from what it has, of course. And the final piece of Desiderio's column continues:

Huckabee has insisted that his appeal is not exclusive to evangelical voters, who are more likely to share his views, and has said he is also vying for the support of working-class Americans.

But will the Republican nominee – whoever that turns out to be – feel pushed to run against the courts in the general election? And prior to that, will any of the primary contenders make this issue a cornerstone of his or her campaign? Those will be tough choices to make, as recent polls show the tide is turning on social ideology nationally, with increasing support for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization.

While social conservatives remain a powerful part of the Republican Party electorate in most early primary and caucus states, the GOP establishment has signaled it does not want to alienate younger voters, who overwhelmingly support gay marriage, by embracing unpopular positions during a general election.

The big problem is that any Republican who makes “social conservatism” the cornerstone of his campaign is going to make the Republican Party a laughingstock and throw away the votes of millions of people who usually vote Republican because it is the party of freedom, by making it instead the party of bigotry.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

More on that Canadian jeweler and the gay couple

I've now read more about that case that I posted about on Tuesday. It is very clear that the lesbian couple did not know about the jeweler's beliefs at the time they ordered the ring. As the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation site says:

White and Renouf visited the store and later gave specifications and a price range for potential rings.

“They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same-sex couple,” White said.

“I referred some of my friends to them, just because I did get some good customer service and they had good prices.”

That was before one friend went in to purchase a ring for his girlfriend — and instead found a distressing sign.

It reads: “The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let's keep marriage between a man and a woman.”

The friend took a picture of the poster, which made its way back to White.

“I had no idea about the sign up until that point,” she said.

“It was really upsetting. Really sad, because we already had money down on [the rings], and they're displaying how much they are against gays, and how they think marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

The couple went to the store the following day, and asked about the sign.

“They just said that that's their beliefs, and they think they can put up whatever they want. I just said it was very disrespectful, it's very unprofessional and I wanted a refund,” White said.
As I said Tuesday, this changes the situation from what Cooke seemed to think. Cooke outlined a scenario where the couple concluded the deal in full knowledge of the jeweler's anti-gay beliefs. But it's clear that this was not the case. They found out about this after the order was placed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

John Kasich?

It seems that Governor John Kasich, of the state of Ohio, is planning to run for the Presidency, adding yet another name to the list of declared candidates. Gov. Kasich might make a very good President. He has experience as Governor — and was overwhelmingly re-elected to his second term after a very close election that put him in originally, which implies that Ohioans thought he did a good job in his first term as Governor. He also has experience in the Congress, which means he needs no schooling in Federal issues, unlike many Governors who may have concentrated on state-level issues. I would say that his only negative is that he is not well known. He would have to conduct an extensive campaign to make people aware of who he is. For myself, I think he would be easy to support.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An episode that anti-gay people seem to think justifies their bigotry

In the online site of the National Review, a column by Charles C. W. Cooke dated May 22, 2015 reads:

In the American Conservative yesterday, Rod Dreher related the following story:

So, a Canadian Christian jeweler custom-made a pair of engagement rings for a lesbian couple, Nicole White and Pam Renouf, at their request. Later, when they found out that the jeweler personally opposes same-sex marriage, they went to pieces and demanded their money back. The couple now believes the rings they ordered will have been tainted by having been fashioned by jeweler Esau Jardon’s hands, given what impure thoughts he holds in his mind.

One could be forgiven for wondering how we are all supposed to keep up. Last month, as Indiana’s rather tame religious-freedom legislation was being torched by the mob, America’s more devout dissenters were informed that the price of participation in the marketplace was the subjugation of one’s conscience to one’s Caesar. “You can’t opt out of the law,” the agitators explained. “This isn’t the Jim Crow South!” Their core message? That if we all keep quiet about our views — and if we treat commercial transactions as commercial transactions — nobody will end up getting hurt. Or, put another way: “Cater my wedding, you bigot.”

In Dreher’s story, alas, the opposite case appears to obtain. “We can’t be expected to honor our contracts with companies that disagree with us,” the outraged couple is arguing, “for that might taint our nuptials.” The new message? That we can’t all get along by keeping quiet, but instead need to positively affirm one another or face the consequences. Or, put another way: “Even if I ask you to, don’t cater my wedding, you bigot.”

Would that the agitators could settle on a strategy.

Being a dastardly free-market type, I have no objections whatsoever if White and Renouf prefer not to use a vendor whose religious convictions they abhor. Choice, not force, is the guiding star of the classical liberal’s ship: If a free person objects to a business because it has a political sign in its window or because its owners are wearing a yarmulke or because its clerk is using a Mac rather than a PC, that’s fine with me. But we ought to be clear about exactly what happened here. As CBC News confirms, White and Renouf did not walk idly past the window and immediately cross the offending jeweler off their list, and neither did they converse with him a little and discover him to be objectionable. Rather, they found him to be charming and pleasant and happy to acquiesce, and, having been suitably impressed by his offering, they happily entered into a contract with him. And then, having later uncovered what was in his heart, they refused to take “Yes” for an answer.

When the couple “found out what he really believed about same-sex marriage,” Dreher writes, they “balked, and demanded their money back — and the mob threatened the business if they didn’t yield.” Which is ultimately to say that White and Renouf sought to break their contract — not, you will note, because he was rude or because he failed to deliver on his promises, but because they made a window into his soul and they did not like what they saw — and then, when he objected, to subject him to bullying and to threats until he caved. Is that “tolerance”?

Wait a minute. It isn't that the couple “made a window into his soul” — The jeweler posted a sign proclaiming his views. Did the couple see that sign before ordering the ring? Probably not. So they ordered the ring, had it prepared, and then saw a sign in the jeweler's shop demeaning their worth as a couple. Suppose a Jewish couple had a ring made, and then discovered a Nazi swastika on display in the store. Should they not have canceled the transaction? I think they'd be right to call it off, even if the ring had already been made.

Cooke's column continues:

I rather think not. Indeed, ceteris paribus, one has to feel extraordinarily sorry for the vendor here, for by the standards that were established during the Indiana debate he did precisely the “right” thing. Carefully putting his religious reservations to one side, the man took on a pair of customers with whose decision he fundamentally disagreed, and he promised to do the best for them that he could. And still, it wasn’t good enough.

Were this a Monty Python sketch and not a horrifying power play, the tendering conversation would presumably have proceeded like this:

Customer: We are a lesbian couple who would like you to make us a wedding ring.

Business owner: Okay. I do not support gay marriage, but I will serve you as anybody else. This, I understand, is how it works.

Customer: You can’t deny me service simply because you hold different views from mine.

Business owner: Indeed. I have no intention of doing so. Society is better off when our differences remain private.

Customer: Okay, let’s do business.

Business owner: Great.

Customer: Your private views are disgusting. You can’t make me do business with you. Give me my money back or I’ll unleash the kraken.

If this is to be our new standard — and time will tell — it would be useful to know what legal protection our recalcitrant firms will reasonably be able to recruit to their side. In both Canada and in the United States there already exists a pernicious imbalance in the supposedly free marketplace. If a browsing consumer doesn’t happen to like the politics or the race or the religion of a given business owner, he is quite free to decline to associate with it. Thus do some progressives like to skip Chick-Fil-A, an openly Christian business; thus do some conservatives prefer to avoid Apple, whose owner Tim Cook irritated them during the Indiana fight. By that very same law, however, it is strictly verboten for a business to discriminate against customers they themselves dislike — even if they feel that by fulfilling their legal obligations they will be violating their consciences. Are we really going to add to this already lopsided arrangement a general right to break contracts after the fact? Are we going to hand the integrity of our signed arrangements over to the whim of the mob? And if we are not, what are we to expect the government to do about those whose consciences now demand that they renege on their word?

I think one question that needs to be answered is “Did the couple know the jeweler's anti-gay-marriage beliefs before ordering the ring?” If they did, Cooke would have a point here. But if not, (and I suspect that was the case) I think they were every bit justified in acting as they did. And by the way, I'm not a “progressive,” but I boycott Chick-fil-A, not because they are owned by a Christian, but because they choose to insist that their franchisees keep the same Christian rules, such as closing on Sundays.

Finally, Cooke continues:

After the pusillanimity that was shown in Indiana, I daresay: not much.

Horrified by the hatred that had been cast his way, the jeweler appealed to what he imagined were the first principles of his adopted nation. “One of the reasons my family chose to come to Canada,” he noted, “was the freedom of rights.… Nothing in that shop or in these posters is against the law.… There’s nothing there that means to discriminate or to hate anybody else.… For the same reason, I ask to have the same respect in return, especially when it’s in my own business.” One is almost touched by the naïveté. This isn’t about respect, friend; it’s about power.

No, it is about the right of people to do business with people that do not think they are sub-human. But Cooke does not recognize this.