Monday, May 18, 2015

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The Republican candidates for President of the United States are being queried a to whether they would have invaded Iraq had they known then what they know today.  Sen. Ted Cruz responded that "Not only would I not have been in favor of it,  President Bush would not have been in favor of it."  Would that we were able to use hindsight in predicting the future.  That is highly improbable, if not impossible.

In fact, predicting today's scenario should Saddam Hussein have remained in power, is mere conjecture.  It is nothing more than fun and games to predict what today's world would look like had 9/11 not happened, or had D-Day (9,000 estimated casualties) failed, or had Henry Wallace, instead of Harry Truman, become president after President Roosevelt died.  (Wallace, Roosevelt's VP, was bumped from the ticket in 1944.)  It is mere speculation to consider the probabilities involved in the "road not taken" - the proverbial "what-ifs."

Decisions bring about results - some anticipated, others not.  These results will lead to new possibilities.  Choices among these new possibilities may lead to another round of possibilities and choices, etc. etc.  Decisions should be made using the best available information from the best available sources.  People can, and will, criticize decisions, but those truly to condemn are only those made improperly.  An error that results from an informed and well-thought out decision is not a mistake - it is an unpredictable error in judgment.

We always assume that a good result was a product of the right decision.  But, in fact, a better outcome may have ensued had another decision been made.

As one brokerage house has cautioned:  "Past performance is not a guarantee of future results!"

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Marriage - Can It Be Legally Limited

Marriage is defined in most (if not all) dictionaries as a "legal union between a man and a woman," with an additional definition in some dictionaries that includes a legal same-sex union in some jurisdictions.

As the Supreme Court argues the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, comments by the Court raised the issue of the definition of marriage.  If marriage is a legal term, then the definition of marriage is a matter of law.  If it is a fundamental right, then the need for legal limits may come into question.   Fundamental rights may have legal limits - free speech does not permit speech designed to incite violence or to instill panic;  the right to bear arms does not include ownership of all forms of weaponry.

Marriage, then, if a fundamental right, may be legally limited.

Can marriage be limited to couples of the same race?
Can marriage be limited to heterosexual couples?
Can marriage be limited to one couple?
Can marriage be limited by age?
Can marriage be limited to couples who are not close relatives?

The interracial couple question is moot - the legal right for interracial couples to marry has been affirmed.

Same sex marriage is presently under review by the Supreme Court.  A significant majority of the people (61% on a recent poll) feel is should be a fundamental as well as a legal right.  Such a right exists in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

Polygamous marriage has not been brought before the Supreme Court.  We know it has historical precedent (both Biblical and otherwise) and continues to be practiced in this country (though illegal in all 50 states) among certain Mormon cults.  Polygamy is legal in 50 countries.

States have defined a lower marital age limit for a man and a woman - an age which may vary from state to state.  South Carolina permits a girl of 14 to marry if she has the consent of both parents.  New York, however, requires not only parental, but judicial approval at that age.  Is the legal marriage of a South Carolina couple, where the bride is 14 years old, legal in New York without judicial consent?

Marriage is denied to first cousins in 30 states.  Six states prohibit marriages between first cousins once removed.  Some states, not all,  that prohibit marriage will recognize cousin marriages performed in other states.  I could find nothing about marriages of siblings.  I don't believe marriage between siblings or parent-child is legal in any state - but, nevertheless, such weddings have taken place.  Incestuous (non-marital) relationships are legal in New Jersey.

Who can and can't get married will continue to be a question.  Will we require a special classification for the legal marriages of the transgender and transexual community? The whole concept of gender identity has become an issue. Should consenting adults be permitted to enter into a legal polygamous marriage?  If not, why not?  If marriages between closely related individuals are presently limited for reasons of potential deleterious effects in offspring, should such marriages be allowed if direct offspring are impossible, such as the sterility of one of the members in a heterosexual relationship, or if the relatives are of the same sex?

If the definition of a legal marriage is to change, should it be changed broadly, or should each step await its turn in court?  If the Court is leaning towards incremental, rather than broad changes in how marriage is defined, these other issues may require future consideration.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Discrimination In the Providing of Services

There is a difference between discriminating against a group of people because of who they are or what they believe, and refusing physically to provide a service at a ritual that one personally cannot support on reasonable religious, moral, and ethical grounds (emphasis on "reasonable").

Although one may not approve of gays or neo-Nazis, one may not discriminate against their civil rights - one may not deny them a product or a service because of a lifestyle that one cannot morally support (one certainly cannot ask a person about his beliefs before serving him, or selling to him), but one should not be legally obligated to take part in a ritual he finds morally offensive.

I have separated services into two categories - "elective" and "mandatory."  "Mandatory" services such as providing medical care, providing legal civil services,  or providing funeral services can be denied to no one.  On the other hand "elective" services -  those that often accompany rituals - are often desired, but are never required.  One does not need photographers, florists, musicians, or food to get married, or to be buried.  Owners of a business must provide the materials or products requested by a couple for its satanic nuptial ritual, but should not be required to actually provide on-site services at the ritual if it is contrary to their moral or ethical (or religious) beliefs.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Dangerous Precedent in Alabama

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

So reads the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Please note that the Founders did not define the meaning, nor give examples, of the adjectives "cruel and unusual."  Interpretation of the Constitution (and these terms) rests with state and federal judges, and for a legal system to function, there is a tier of judicial opinion that must be followed.  When it comes to interpretation of a federal law (The Constitution), it would seem that federal courts override state courts.

Alabama has decided that this is not the case.  The Supreme Court of Alabama has ruled that the decision of a US Federal District Court finding Alabama's ban of same-sex marriage unconstitutional was, in itself, unconstitutional, since the ruling defied Alabama's constitutional right to regulate its own marriage laws.  Alabama's marriage law, then, trumps a federal courts's interpretation of the constitutionality of that law.  At this point in time, the rulings of the Alabama Supreme Court stands, and probate judges are not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Most felonies, including homicide, come under state regulation.  Methods of punishment fall under a state court's jurisdiction as per the laws enacted by the state legislature.  

Using the same argument, Alabama could rule that a hypothetical state law that includes punishment of a felony by water-boarding, sleep deprivation, weekly periods of starvation, or death by beheading, is also not subject to review by a federal district court, since said federal court has no judicial standing in Alabama's determination as to what constitutes "cruel and unusual" punishment under the Eighth Amendment. After all laws providing for punitive measures are left to the states.

The federal government is responsible to insure that Alabama comes into compliance with the rulings   of federal courts

Denying same-sex couples the right to marry may not be unusual, but it can certainly be regarded as cruel! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Saudia Arabia Honors an Islamist

King Salman of Saudi Arabia, one of our staunch "allies" has just awarded Dr. Zakir Naik, a prominent televangelist from India, one of his country's highest awards - the King Faisal International Prize for services to Islam.

I thought one should be made aware of whom Saudi Arabia decides to honor.

Here are some quotes and ideas attributed to Dr. Naik:  (NY Times, March 3)

Re Osama bin Laden:  "If he is terrorizing America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him.  Every Muslim should be a terrorist."

Re the Jews:  "The Jews are a minority less than 5 percent in America but they are controlling the economy, they are controlling America."

Re 9/11:  " is a blatant open secret that this attack on the twin towers was done by George Bush himself."

Re 9/11:  "....the amount of ample evidence, a fool will know this is an inside job."

Re other religions:  Apostates who propagate other religions should be killed.

Re the United Sates:  "Is the US really bothered about human rights? No!"

Re Islamic State:   He was against its actions if the media had reported them correctly, although he had no way of knowing.

The words and thoughts of Saudi Arabia's honoree.

It might also be of interest to readers that Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world (please correct me if I'm wrong) that is named for its founding royal family (Al Saud).  This is said to express the view that the country is, in fact, the personal possession of the family for whom it is named.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Circumcision and Herpes Infection in New York

Flash!! The City of New York has just instituted a new regulation that permits the performance of female circumcision (more-often referred to as female genital mutilation.)  If, however, the procedure results in major genital deformity, pain, and/or permanent painful uro-genital complications, the person responsible for the procedure will be permanently banned from future performance of the procedure.

Of course, female genital mutilation is a banned procedure in New York, as well as in the entire United States, and the above paragraph is total fantasy, but, believe it or not, would parallel what New York City has now decided is the correct way to cope with the issue of transmission of the potentially fatal Herpes virus to orthodox Jewish male newborns undergoing ritual circumcision, including the horror of MBP (metzitzah b'peh) - the oral sucking of penile blood by a Herpes-infected mohel (ritual performer of the circumcision).

The City has decided to permit MBP to go forward unchecked.  If the infant develops Herpes, the infected mohel will be banned from performing future procedures.  The city, then, has decided not to proactively attempt to prevent the infection of newborns, but to allow the infection to take place and  to punish the perpetrator retroactively.

Among radical orthodox Jewish sects, the rabbis have come to play the major role in the health and welfare of the community's infant children.  They are convinced that their religious beliefs outweigh medical risks and will not even permit the screening for the virus among the MBP performers.  It is disquieting to see them play such a negative role in the politics of New York City - and it brings to mind the negative role they exert on the politics of Israel.

These communities vote as blocs and have major political clout in New York City, similar to the  clout they exert in the State of Israel.  The mayor of New York, Bill DeBlasio, has chosen to ignore what is clearly in the best medical interest of these infants and to proceed with what is in the best political interest of DeBlasio and the rabbis.

Netanyahu Addresses Congress - Really??

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, will be addressing Congress next week in order to "enlighten" it on Iranian nuclear development, and the potential effect on its sharing of future developed nuclear weaponry with Hamas and Hezbollah - terrorist organizations dedicated to the elimination of the State of Israel.  Can there be anyone in Congress who is not aware of these potential threats?  Will Netanyahu really be presenting anything new?  Does he really believe that such an address will alter the foreign policy of the United States, which is primarily initiated and 
executed by the President?

He could easily have addressed his views on Iran to the American Israel Political Action Committee (Aipac) or some other such organization.   He could easily have addressed his views on Iran to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and had it telecast world-wide for all Americans to watch.  Instead, in a manner disrespectful to our President, arranged the unprecedented act of addressing the legislature of the United States without the courtesy of proper notification and discussion with the executive.

Diplomacy requires certain behavior, and like it or not, there are reasons for such behavior if human beings are to relate well to one another.  When one dispenses with diplomacy and cordiality, one is either ignorant of proper behavior or unconcerned with the feelings of others.

His speech will change nothing.  Though the safety and well-being of the State of Israel are always considered in the formation of U.S. foreign policy - they will never, and should never, be the sole determinate of such policy

So, fully aware that his address to the Congress of the United States will have no significant effect whatsoever on American policy towards Iran, why does Netanyahu risk the enmity of its most important ally by such a divisive and clearly undiplomatic (even unfriendly and discourteous) approach?  Politics - Israeli and American!!

Not nice, Bibi!