Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ohio's Two Ballot Issues

Blatantly false advertising has characterized the campaigns for Ohio's Issue 1, on victim's rights, and Issue 2, on drug prices.

Opponents of Issue 2 have claimed that passage of the issue would  "threaten the benefits veterans have earned." This is a blatant falsehood. There is no reason to believe drug prices charged for veterans would be affected. The VA negotiates these prices on a national basis, and one state's passage of a law like issue 2 is not likely to affect it.

But beyond that, the prices at issue are not paid by veterans anyway, they are paid by the VA. So the idea that any veteran would pay a single dollar more is just plain wrong.

 A similar pattern of lies is seen in Issue 1 advertising. Our Attorney General is falsely claiming that the issue would give crime victims enforceable rights. Again, this is blatantly false, as issue 1 by its own terms provides no enforcement mechanism whatsoever.

I don't presume to tell anyone how to vote, but I do presume to ask you to reject advertising that is blatantly false.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

On Kneeling for the Anthem

A letter-writer to "The (Toledo) Blade" asserts that NFL players "have not earned the right" to protest by kneeling for her national anthem. This is so wrongheaded and unAmerican as to be unworthy of a response, but the huge number of Americans who hold to this view necessitates a response.

The right to protest is what our country is all about. It is what separates us from almost every other country in the world. In many countries you protest and you get jailed, often without charges and often for years at a time.

The letter-writer's thesis is that if you haven't served in the military, then you don't have the right to protest during the playing of the anthem. The basis for this seems to be that we have freedom only because of past wars fought by the military. This is demonstrably false, as an examination of our past wars reveals that only the Revolutionary War, waged more than 200 years ago, was fought to preserve our freedoms. All other wars have been wars of choice, mostly fought in faraway places in which our freedom and way of life was in no way threatened.

Our anthem is unworthy of support purely from a musical standpoint. It is practically unsingable. Over the years I have heard many national anthems, and ours is by far the worst. Much better choices would be "America the Beautiful", "My Country Tis of Thee", or, my personal favorite, Woody Guthrie's "This "Land Is Your Land". The anthem should be protested from a musical standpoint alone, if for no other reason.

We denigrate sports stars for not "remembering where they came from", for being silent on important social issues, for not speaking out when they have the forum to do so. Now that athletes are getting this message and speaking out, they are condemned. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Americans need to understand what patriotism and love of country really looks like. It means wanting what is best for our country. It means honoring the things that have made our country great, such as its immigrants, its innovations, and the concepts of liberty enshrined in our Constitution. Idolizing the flag does not contribute to our national health as a people, and has nothing to do with true patriotism.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Gay Rights "Cake" Case

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case out of Colorado in which a baker refused to bake a cake for a same sex wedding. I predict that this will be a setback for the gay rights movement, as the baker in this case is a very sympathetic figure.

The baker was perfectly willing to sell a cake already made to the couple, he just refused to bake one specially for the wedding. Common sense would dictate that he should have this right. Initially his legal basis for this was said to rest on religious grounds, as well as on first amendment grounds of self-expression. However, it seems that more recently the focus has shifted away from the religious grounds, which are weak, to the right of self-expression. After all, how in the world can a government have the right to dictate to an artist what kind of art he should be making?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Gerrymandering Case

The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a gerrymandering case from Wisconsin. The Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature was so effective in gerrymandering when it redrew the districts after the 2010 census, that the GOP was able to win 61% of the seats in the legislature, even though it got only 49% of the votes.

This is obviously not right, but the Court will have to come up with a principle to base its decision on, if it wants to overturn the gerrymandering, which has become worse and worse with the new computer technologies now available. Kennedy, widely assumed to be the swing vote, indicated in a 2004 case that he felt it should be reined in, if a suitable test could be articulated.

A somewhat humorous statement was heard from Chief Justice Roberts, who, according to a news report, "said the social science metrics would be hard to explain to average people who might assume that the court made a partisan ruling. Such an assumption, he said, could harm the integrity of the court."

I will grant that Roberts has been trying hard to restore the integrity of the Court since he became chief justice in 2005. However, the ridiculous and totally partisan decision in the 2000 election case has ensured that the court will never again command the respect it once had. It is widely recognized now that the Supreme Court is a partisan institution, and nothing Roberts can do will overcome that.

I hope the Court will do the right thing and strike down this blatant gerrymandering, which denies voters their rights. The case seems quite similar to the famous "one man, one vote" case, Baker v. Carr, decided in 1962. I would like to see the Court come up with a persuasive rationale for the decision, one powerful enough to stem the tide of partisan gerrymandering in the state legislatures.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi: From Nobel Prize winner to Fallen Heroine

The case of  Aung San Suu Kyi is extremely sad. She was revered as a human rights advocate in 1991 when she won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now, the Oxford college which she attended in the 1960's has removed her portrait from public display and put it in storage, due to universal disgust over the way she has tolerated the persecution of Muslims in her native Myanmar.

Apparently she functioned better as an anti-government dissident than she has as the de facto leader of Myanmar. She has turned a blind eye to the ongoing tragedy of hundreds of thousands of Muslims being forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. When interviewed about this, she gave cold and callous answers, and afterwards angrily complained that "I didn't know I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim".

The sad lesson from this is that she is as filled with ethnic and religious hatred and intolerance as anybody else. If it is possible to do so, her Nobel prize should certainly be revoked. A woman of peace she is not.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hillary's New Book

It has become customary in our society to blame somebody else whenever anything goes wrong in our lives. We never want to say it's our own fault; or, even if not our fault, we rarely put as much energy into working hard to do better in the future, as we do into assigning blame.

Hillary's new book on her failed campaign, called "What Happened", blames everybody and everything but herself for running such a dismal campaign. It is the fault of the misogyny of the voters. It is the fault of Bernie Sanders running against her in the primaries. It is the fault of ..., well, you get the point.

The fact is that Hillary was a horrible candidate, and ran a horrible campaign. She was stiff, stilted, dull, boring, robotic, unspontaneous, uninspiring, lacking in passion, uncomfortable in her own skin, and unable to think on her feet. Some, like the infamous Stephanie Krehbiel, call this sort of criticism misogyny. I think people like Stephanie Krehbiel need to get off their high horse and realize that equality means being judged by the same standards that everyone else is judged by.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Menendez Case

For the first time in 36 years, a sitting U.S. Senator is facing a federal bribery trial. The trial of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez begins today in a Newark courtroom.

The prosecution will need to show that this case is different than the McDonnell case. In McDonnell, the Supreme Court unanimously threw out the conviction of the former Virginia governor, holding that the meaning of "official act" does not include merely setting up a meeting, calling another public official, or hosting an event.

Menendez went far beyond that, doing numerous favors for his friend and benefactor, a wealthy Florida eye surgeon. Members of Congress have for many years been little more than administrative aides, constantly doing favors for their constituents, and constantly having to engage in fund-raising activities to finance their next campaign. The Menendez case should help to draw the line between which activities are normal and legal, and which cross the line and become bribery.  Stay tuned.