Supreme Court was right on gay marriage

The Supreme Court did get it right on the gay marriage issue.  The fourteenth amendment to the Constitution says, “No state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Equal protection of all citizens by government is fundamental. Government must not give favorable or unfavorable treatment in the same circumstances to any individual or group. The right of two people to voluntarily marry is a fundamental right, even if it is not stated in the Constitution.  Remember the ninth amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This ruling does not require any person or church to conduct or participate in a wedding between gay people.  It only requires that state governments not discriminate between heterosexual and homosexual weddings and marriages.  There was a time when  our Constitution was interpreted to not protect marriage between people of different races.  The current situation is very similar.  Even if a majority of people think that gay marriage is wrong, peaceful and honest people who do no harm to others should be free to voluntarily enter into marriage and government should not discriminate against them whether or not they happen to be of the same sex.

University of Iowa – wrong on tobacco policy.

The Des Moines Register recently reported that the University of Iowa (UI) has decided to implement a policy next Fall to prohibit all forms of tobacco anywhere on its campus.  (See link below to Register article.)  UI already has a policy that prohibits all smoking on campus.  The new policy would extend the ban to all forms of nicotine, including vapor and chewing tobacco.  The new policy will apply to students, faculty, staff and visitors.  It covers all university buildings and vehicles, plus all outdoor areas controlled by UI. UI is a government institution, and it is proper for governments to prohibit smoking inside or near entrances to government owned buildings because of the risks associated with second hand smoke.  For the same reason, it also seems proper to prohibit nicotine vapor inside government buildings.  But, smoking outside should not be prohibited.  Our air is not and has never been perfectly pure.  I would guess that automobiles, forest fires, power plants and volcanoes each put much more harmful pollution into our outdoor air than tobacco smokers.  Even worse, prohibiting smokeless (chewing) tobacco is just mean spirited.  It is not the proper role for government to prohibit us from legal activities that clearly harm no one other than ourselves.  Living involves risks.  As a person who does not use tobacco in any form, I have decided to not take those risks. But people who do no harm to others should be free to decide what risks they take with their lives, and neither I, nor any majority, should be able to force our decisions upon them.

Link to article:  http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/local/2015/04/07/university-iowa-go-tobacco-free/25420109/

Not all tax exempt organizations are the same.

The Register still has it wrong. (“Churches cross line with political endorsements”, 4/9/2015 – see link below.)  Churches with ministers who advocate for specific candidates should be allowed to be tax exempt.  But donors who contribute to them should not get a charitable tax deduction.

There are two types of tax-exempt organizations. First, there are the Charitable, Religious and Educational organizations, (tax code 501c3 organizations), that pay no income taxes, (and often don’t pay other taxes), plus donors get a charitable tax deduction on their income taxes for the amount of their contribution.  Second, there are all other tax-exempt organizations that pay no income taxes, (and often don’t pay other taxes), but donors do NOT get a charitable deduction. They are properly classified as tax exempt, since they are organized to not make any kind of profit, but their activities are not charitable, so no charitable tax deduction is given.

There are many tax exempt organizations that do not make any profit, but that are not charitable and whose donors don’t get a tax deduction.  They include Rotary clubs, political parties, country clubs, political issue organizations, chambers of commerce, special interest clubs, etc.  None of them try to make any profit, but they are not charitable.

To the extent that any not-for-profit organization advocates for or against specific candidates, that organization is not doing charitable work. It is doing political work. Under the principle of equal treatment under the law, donors to churches that advocate for specific candidates should not get a charitable tax deduction.  If a church wants its donors to receive a charitable tax deduction for contributions made, then the minister should not advocate for candidates from the pulpit, or through any other communication from the church.

Link to Register editorial: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/editorials/caucus/2015/04/08/rgisters-editorial-churches-cross-line-political-endorsements/25500433/

 

Obama correct on Cuba policy.

President Obama should be commended for opening up diplomatic relations with Cuba.  It is clear that the 50 year old policy of embargo and isolation has not worked to end the communist dictatorship.  Yes, Raul Castro will try to use this change in U.S. policy to his advantage.  If only for practical reasons, the embargo should end and relations should be normalized.  As President Obama paraphrased, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  We need to do something different.
There are also important philosophical reasons why relations with Cuba should be normalized: people who act honestly and peacefully should not be prevented in their actions by the force of government.  Voluntary free trade, including tourism, is the best way to foster good will and build better friendships.  Allowing Cubans to interact more and more with U.S. citizens will ultimately change the opinions of the masses of Cubans. Hopefully, it will lead to a peaceful overthrow of the dictatorial regime similar to that of the U.S.S.R. and of East Germany.

Corporations are people, money is speech.

After witnessing the deluge of outside political advertising that inundated Iowa during this latest election cycle, it’s easy to conclude that our government should place limits on political contributions and political advertising.  But our Supreme Court correctly decided in the Citizens United case that governments should not be allowed to limit the independent political expenditures of groups of people, even if they are organized as corporations.
 
Most of the corporations that make independent expenditures for or against candidates or ballot issues are simply groups of like minded people who have come together to promote their common beliefs.  They are not profit-making corporations that run businesses and sell stock on Wall Street.  Citizens United is a group of people who are organized as a corporation explicitly for the purpose of promoting a political agenda.
 
If contributions are given directly to a candidate, there is good reason for concern about bribery and corruption.  But as long as people or groups are independent of candidates and their campaigns, they should be free to spend as much of their own money as they want, and they should not have to disclose the names of contributors.  Our founding fathers published pamphlets and other communications anonymously when they advocated against their rulers and called for a revolution.  They were very much thinking about political speech when they wrote in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

 

Newspaper should be able to fire editor for expression of religious beliefs

The Des Moines Register reported today (7/24/2014) that, “An Iowa newspaper editor fired after publishing his views on homosexuals is claiming he was the victim of religious discrimination by his former employer.”  He has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Editors of newspapers should not be protected by laws against discrimination in employment based on religious belief.  Newspapers are privately owned businesses that typically express the opinions of their owners.  They benefit our society by their independent advocacy regarding public policy.   They should not be forced by government to employ editors who hold beliefs contrary to their own – especially political or public policy beliefs.  Owners of newspapers should be free to fire editors at will, unless they have entered into an employment contract to the contrary.  For government to force a newspaper to continue to employ an editor is wrong and is bad public policy.

Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2014/07/23/newspaper-editor-fired-gaystapo/13047733/

Hobby Lobby decision correct.

A Supreme Court ruling today (6/30/2014) upheld our fundamental right to use our own private property in accordance with our own moral beliefs.  The ruling gives priority to natural religious and private property rights over the politically created guarantee that private business owners will provide employees with a health insurance benefit that covers certain birth control pills.

The owners of Hobby Lobby objected to the Obama Care legal requirement that they provide their employees with an insurance benefit that covered morning after “abortion” pills.  The law was in direct conflict with their sincerely held, honest and peaceful religious beliefs.  Hobby Lobby has never used force or fraud to get people to either work for or patronize their business.

Governments are the only organizations that can legally use force against peaceful people.  We created our government to use force, if necessary, to protect our fundamental right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.  Government force should not be used to make peaceful people act against their own religious beliefs – no matter how good the cause or the intentions.

By the way, I am a peaceful, honest, pro-choice, atheist, libertarian.

Our government is spying on us.

Should there be some limit to government spying on we citizens?  Remember, we the people created our government to protect our lives, our liberty, and our property.  We granted only limited powers to our government.  We retained for ourselves and the States all powers not specifically granted to the federal government in the Constitution.  We believe that people are innocent unless proven guilty and that there needs to be some “probable cause” before our government is allowed to search our property or intrude into our private lives.  A key question is: Should private data that is held by third parties be subject to search without any probable cause?  Specifically, should our government be able to “scoop up” data related to our phone calls, internet activity, or banking activity without a specific warrant based on probable cause.  Today, the answer appears to be yes, our government can do that to us.  I think the answer should be no.  I understand that if the answer is no, that it will be more difficult for our government to protect us from terrorists.  The price of freedom and liberty is not free.  Along with our freedom, including privacy, comes risks: risks from which our government may not be able to protect us.  At the same time, the history of humankind is littered with oppression of people by their governments.  That is why our founding fathers intentionally made it difficult for our government to expand its powers.

Reduce monopoly protection.

Patents are not natural property rights.  They are government created and enforced monopoly rights.  It is debatable whether patents encourage or hinder innovation and inventiveness. Even if patents promote inventiveness, there is no specific optimal number of years of protection.  In many instances, there is a good case to be made that no patent right,s or very limited patent rights, might spur more invention.  The case of pharmaceuticals and medical devices is more complicated because of government regulations that require much greater spending before a product is allowed on the market.  Even in those cases, we should err on the side of more limited monopoly rights and less use of government force and protection.  Humankind has made tremendous progress by being free to copy the ideas of one another.  What if fire, or the wheel, had been allowed to be patented?  Would that have spurred invention?  Our elected representatives should support shorter periods of time for monopoly patent protection.
Links to Register guest opinions:

Right To Work – amendment proposal is bad.

Both current Iowa law and the proposed “right to work” amendment to the Iowa Constitution prohibit a private business owner from voluntarily agreeing to hire only union members.

In a free society that respects private property rights and freedom of association, business owners should be free to choose whether or not to bargain with anyone or group about any terms of employment.  Government should not get involved either for or against the employer or the employees except to stop either party from using force or fraud against the other.  If an employer wants to hire only union members and bargain with a single group, then government should not prohibit it.  In that case, individuals who don’t want to join the union can simply refuse to work for that employer.

Just as an employer should be free to agree to hire only people who are members of a union, an employer should also be free to not bargain with any individual or group, including unions, regardless of what employees or union members might vote for.  Unless the parties agree by voluntary contract to the contrary, employees should be free to strike, quit, protest, organize boycotts, etc., and employers should be free to fire, lock-out, hire replacements, etc. – as long as neither party uses force.

The whole issue of whether “union certification votes” should be by secret ballot or by a written card check method should not exist.  There should be no law to force employers to bargain with unions, even if 100% of the employees vote for it.  All employment relationships and contracts should be entered into voluntarily by both parties.  The only proper role for government in private business relationships is to stop the use force or fraud against, and to resolve disputes.

In the special case of government as the employer, there should be no requirement that employees join a union, and there should be no requirement that a government bargain with any union.  Government is paid for by all taxpayers under threat of force.  Therefore, government, as an employer, should not discriminate in its employment practices except on the basis of job requirements or job performance.

The proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution should die, and current Iowa law should be changed to reflect the voluntary nature of any employment relationship.