“President Obama is too Intelligent for Republicans to Understand”: Revisiting Bad Assumption 1

I have a friend who is a delightful person and highly intelligent.  That being said, she constantly bombards Facebook with far left wing links.  I often look at these.  As I have said before, if you can’t argue the other side of an issue, you don’t know enough to argue your own opinion.  Frequently I see the bad assumptions I talk so much about permeating these articles.  The other day I saw one such article that stood out by the audacity of its title:

The Simple Truth: President Obama is Too Intelligent for Republicans to Understand.

I highly suggest you click on this link for a moment and read this article.  I also suggest you revisit my previous blog post:

Top Ten Bad Assumptions: 1 – If we disagree, you are either mean or stupid.

I would now like to analyze this article.  The author, Allen Clifton, provides three examples which “prove” how much smarter Obama is than the Republicans.  I would like to take a close look at each of these examples.  I would then like to talk a little about how intelligent Obama really is.


Obamacare is Clifton’s first example of the “big picture thinking” that Republicans are too stupid to grasp because “Republicans seem unable to understand anything beyond the spoon-fed bumper sticker talking points they’re given by the GOP and the conservative media.”  Clifton states that in the long term medical rates will go down because increased preventative care will cause a reduction in more expensive treatment down the road.  Let’s assume that Clifton’s premise is true that increasing preventative care is a force that will drive down healthcare costs.  The “big picture” piece that Clifton is missing is that there are many, many forces at work in the market.  Some of the forces push costs down and some push costs up.  For example, Obamacare reimburses doctors at a significantly reduced rates compared to private insurance.  As a result, many doctors are refusing to accept patients with Obamacare.  At the same time, Obamacare enrollment is increasing.  With supply going down and demand going up, this inevitably is a force to either push costs up, or if costs may not go up because of regulations, it will cause a shortage in medical care.  Here is an article from USA Today titled “Some doctors wary of taking insurance exchange patients” explaining the situation.

I am not expert enough to say whether the forces pushing costs up or those pushing costs down will prevail.  This certainly is a subject for reasonable debate.  Clifton, however, looks at one small piece of the overall “big picture” and makes a definitive statement while ignoring the rest of the picture.  At the same time he derides Republicans for being too stupid to look at the big picture.  Ironic, isn’t it?

The Minimum Wage

Clifton’s second example of Republican stupidity is the minimum wage.  He notes that Republicans call it a job killer and refute this with this powerful argument:   “It’s not.”  I’d like to refer here to Dr. Thomas Sowell about the minimum wage:

Minimum Wage Madness:  Part 1

Minimum Wage Madness: Part 2

Minimum Wage Exploitation (if you prefer audio)

Dr. Sowell is basically stating that a minimum wage job is the bottom rung on a career ladder.  A person with no skills works for a low wage.  In the process, the person gains skills that allow him or her to earn a higher wage.  A company will only hire a worker, at minimum wage or any other wage, if the company expects that the value received from the person exceeds what it costs to employ that person.  As the cost rises, fewer people will be hired.  This is basic economics.  When we raise the minimum wage, we are cutting off the bottom rung of the ladder.  As a result, some people will never, ever climb that ladder.

This does not mean we should not raise the minimum wage.  In any policy, there are winners and losers.  There are trade-offs.  If we raise the minimum wage, the clear winners are people who now have a job at the new higher wage.  It is very easy to see that they are better off, and they know it.  There are losers too, but they aren’t so clear and the losers may never know they are losers.  The primary losers are people who never get hired who would have gotten hired if the minimum wage had not risen.  If the employers have to raise prices to pay for the higher wages, the consumers who pay the higher prices are also losers.  The companies who have to pay hire wages without getting more for their wages are also losers, although I am sure that this would be unimportant to Clifton.

Clifton also claims that the workers will make more money, spend the money, and this will help the economy making everybody a winner.  This would be true if the higher salary was due to increased productivity, to the worker earning more because the worker is worth more.   When productivity increases, the pie gets bigger. If, however, this is just an arbitrary raise without any productivity increases, the pie isn’t getting better.  It is just being cut differently.  This means that every extra dollar that the higher minimum wage worker spends, somebody else is spending a dollar less.  There is no spending boost in the economy.

The key point here isn’t to say that the minimum wage shouldn’t be raised.  The key point is to say that it is complicated, that there are trade-offs that should be weighed.   Clifton is denying the complexities of the issue and proposing a simple answer.  Remember that Clifton’s whole point was to say how stupid the Republicans were and how Republicans didn’t understand the issue.


Clifton states, “When it comes to ISIS,Republicans just want to send in troops and ‘crush the terrorists’.”   Note that Clifton put “crush the terrorists” in quotes.  I am not sure who he is quoting.  I have not heard a single reputable Republican advocating sending American ground troops to fight ISIS.  Clifton is raising a straw man argument.  He is saying his opponents are for a position and then ridiculing the position, when his opponents don’t have that position.  Clifton states:

When it comes right down to it, I really do believe a huge part about why so many of the non-racist Republicans are against President Obama is because many of them are simply unable to grasp his “big picture” thinking that drives a lot of his policies. That requires intelligence and far too many conservative would rather just be told what to think by Fox News. They want their policies to be so simplified and catchy that they fit on bumper stickers.

He is clearly stating that Obama has a “big picture” policy, that Obama’s understanding is so much better than the Republicans’.   Is he referring to the same Obama who over a year ago scoffed at ISIS as a threat calling it the “JV team.”  Here is a link to a Politifact article which shows Obama’s statement and stating that his later denial of referring specifically to ISIS is false.  Obama also removed all troops from Iraq, overriding his top advisors who wanted him to leave behind a residual force.   This Time article “Leon Panetta: How the White House Misplayed Iraqi Troop Talks” references former Obama CIA leader and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on this subject.  On the way to taking over major Iraqi cities, such as Mosul, ISIS had to cross a wide open desert which would have made them sitting ducks to an air attack if we had kept a residual force.

Why therefore should anyone believe that Obama has this “big picture” view of ISIS  that the Republicans are just too dumb to understand?

Obama:  The Super Genius

In addition to saying that all Republicans are idiots, Clifton is stating that Obama is such a genius that his detractors, idiots such as Dr. Thomas Sowell, can’t keep up with his intellect.  I ask where is the evidence that Obama is such a genius?  I am not saying Obama is stupid.  After all, he graduated from Harvard Law School.  What about Obama though should make us think he is that much more intelligent than his opponents?  Obama still has not authorized the release of his grades in college.  Does anybody really think that if his grades were exemplary, he wouldn’t release them?

I will tell you what shocked me more than anything else when it comes to realizing Obama’s understanding of policy.  In 2011, in an interview with NBC’s Ann Curry, Obama blamed unemployment on advances in technology:

There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.

By Obama’s logic, we never should have invented the plow.  For example, lets say we have an agrarian society where it takes everyone’s efforts to grow enough food to feed the society.  Then somebody invents the plow.  Now only half of the people are needed to do the farming.  We can say that the plow made half of the society unemployed.  Now, however, the labor that has been freed from farming can do other things.  People can be blacksmiths, shoemakers, merchants and artists.  Overall, the society is wealthier than it was before.

The concept here is that technology increases productivity.  Productivity is the total value of goods and services produced divided by the costs of providing these goods and services.  Productivity from labor can be thought of as the total value of goods and services produced per working hour.  A person’s productivity represents the most somebody is willing to pay that person.  When we increase productivity, we can pay the person more.  New technology may cause some people to lose jobs in the short-term.  The proverbial buggy whip employees were put out of work by the invention of the automobile, but overall society was better off.

This is something that they teach in Economics 101.  It is simple, basic economics.  When Obama blamed unemployment on ATM machines and other technology, he showed he did not understand the basic facts about economics.  This is the man who is in charge of the economic policy of the United States.  This is the super genius whose knowledge leaves everybody else in the dust.

I don’t think so.

Bad Assumption 1 Revisited – If we disagree you are either mean or stupid.

I don’t know Allen Clifton. I think he is probably a fairly intelligent person.  Like my friend who posted this article on Facebook, he is also probably a nice person.  I think he is also totally blinded by bad assumption 1.  By demeaning his opponents, by saying they are all stupid, this means he doesn’t need to seriously look at their arguments.  This also means, he doesn’t need to examine his own arguments, his own views.  As I have said previously, just about every issue has two sides.  If you can’t argue the other side assuming that your opponent is a well-meaning, intelligent person, that means you don’t really understand the issue.  I think we are all much better off if we can jettison this bad assumption.

The Most Memorable Movies of All Time – Part 5: the 90s and 00s

Today I continue my series on memorable movies by looking at the movies of the 90s and 00s.  In particular, I think it is interesting to compare the most memorable movies with the movie selected as the best picture of the year.   At the end of this list I pick the most memorable movie of this time period.  In my last segment, I will pick the most memorable movie of all time using the finalist from each time period.  Of course, any list compilation is made to be disagreed with so I welcome other views on these movies.

To recap, here are the criteria for choosing the most memorable movie from each year:

  • Memorable movies become part of our culture.  They may directly become part of our culture, showcase stars who become part of our culture, or launch a genre that becomes part of our culture.
  • Sequels of memorable movies are not eligible.

To update my comparison of memorable movies versus Oscar winners, in the nineties and zeroes four of the twenty Oscar winners I named as the most memorable movie of the year.  An additional six were on my honorable mention list.  In total,of the 80 years I have examined so far, only nine of the Academy Award winners made my list as the most memorable movie of the year.  An additional twenty-two made my honorable mention list.  So 49 of the 80 Oscar winning movies during this period did not meet my criteria for being memorable.

In my next segment I will look at the most memorable movies of each twenty year time segment and give my choice for the most memorable movie of all time.

1990 – Ghost (Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg)

Non-Quotes – Sultry Pottery Scene

Comments – I was wavering back and forth here between Pretty Women, Goodfellas, and Ghost.  Then I thought about which quote or scene I would choose from each of the movies.  That was the tie breaker.

Honorable Mention – Home Alone | Pretty Woman | Misery |Goodfellas | Dances with Wolves

Best Picture – Dances with Wolves

1991 – The Silence of the Lambs (Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins)

Quotes I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” 

Comments – There are some movies that I just assumed would unquestionably be the most memorable movie of whatever year they came out in.  I assumed that Beauty and the Beast, arguably the best movie ever made using conventional animation, would definitely be the most memorable movie of its year.  That was before I realized it debuted in the same year as The Silence of the Lambs.  Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter was a character for the ages.  Recently Silence! The Musical appeared Off Broadway and the prequel television show Hannibal is still on the air.

Honorable Mention – Beauty and the Beast | City Slickers

Best Picture – Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Basic Instinct (Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone)

Non-Quote Sharon Stone Crossing Her Legs during Interrogation

Comments – Sharon Stone’s performance as a sultry suspect made Basic Instinct a sexy thriller for the ages.

Honorable Mention – Aladdin | A Few Good Men | Sister Act | Buffy the Vampire Slayer | A League of their Own  | Scent of a Woman | Sister Act

Best Picture – Unforgiven

1993 – Schindler’s List (Liam Neeson)

Non-Quote Whoever save’s one life, saves the world entire.

Comments – In 1993 we had a fascinating face-off for most memorable movie.  You can still ride the Jurassic Park theme ride at Universal Studios.  Jurassic Park was not only an action adventure movie that nobody forgets, it also the trailblazer in realistic computer animation.  Schindler’s List, however, is an incredibly powerful movie.  Many people will say it had more impact on them than any other movie in their life.  As a side note, I would not have thought to put The Sandlot on this list, but I have heard younger people tell me that this is the most quoted movie they know,

Honorable Mention – Jurassic Park | Mrs. Doubtfire | The Firm | Incecent Proposal | Sleepless in Seattle | Free Willy | Groundhog Day | Rudy | The Sandlot

Best Picture – Schindler’s List

1994 – Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks)

Non-Quote Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you are going to get.

Comments – Forrest Gump is one of my favorite movies ever.  I liked the movie so much that afterwards I read the book it was based on.  The book was one of the worst books I ever read in my life.  For example, in the book Forrest becomes an astronaut who goes into space with an ape.  The spaceship crashes and he is on an island with cannibals.  Although Forrest is an idiot, he is also a chess genius.  Every day he has to play the cannibal king in chess and if he loses the game the king will eat him.  From this mess they sifted out a great idea to make one of the most memorable movies ever.

Honorable Mention – The Lion King | The Mask | Dumb and Dumber | Four Weddings and a Funeral | Ace Ventura: Pet Detective | Speed

Best Picture – Forrest Gump

1995 – Toy Story (Tom Hanks, Tim Allen)

Quote To Infinity and Beyond

Comments – Toy Story would be the most memorable movie in almost any year, both in its own right as a beloved and delightful move and by its historical, groundbreaking technical achievements as the first fully computer animated movie.

Honorable Mention – Apollo 13 | Braveheart | Clueless | Babe

Best Picture – Braveheart

1996 – Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise)

Quote You had me at Hello.

Comments – In a light year for memorable movies, Jerry Maguire edges out Fargo.  It is both a classic love story and a biting commentary on sports and sports agents.

Honorable Mention – Twister | Scream | Fargo | Mission: Impossible

Best Picture – The English Patient

1997 – Titanic (Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio)

QuoteI’m the King of the World

Comments – Prior to Titanic’s release. I had decided that I had no desire to see it, that it would be too depressing.  After its release, with all of the buzz, I changed my mind and saw it, then saw it again, and saw it again, along with everybody else in the world.  Titanic became at the time the biggest hit ever by excelling both as a big budget disaster spectacular and a classic romance.

Honorable Mention – Men in Black | The Full Monty | Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Best Picture – Titanic

1998 – Saving Private Ryan (Kate Winslet, Tom Hanks)

Non QuoteOmaha Beach Scene

Comments – In my opinion, Saving private Ryan is memorable not for the heart of the movie itself but for the opening sequence showing the D-Day invasion of Omaha Beach that is the greatest war sequence ever depicted in a movie.

Honorable Mention – Shakespeare in Love | There’s Something About Mary | The Truman Show | The Big Lebowski

Best Picture – Shakespeare in Love

1999 – The Sixth Sense (Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment)

Quote– I see dead people.

Comments – The Sixth Sense is remembered both for Haley Joel Osment’s classic line and for what I would deem as the best surprise ending in movie history.  Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is not eligible as sequel (well prequel) but Jar Jar Binks deserves special distinction as the most ridiculed movie character in history.

Honorable Mention – The Matrix | American Pie | The Blair Witch Project

Best Picture – American Beauty

2000 – Cast Away (Tom Hanks)

Quote– Wilson!

Comments – Cast Away gained eternal fame for its searing portrayal of the friendship between a man and a volleyball.

Honorable Mention – Gladiator | Meet the Parents |The Perfect Storm | X-Men | American Psycho |Scary Movie

Best Picture – Gladiator

2001 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Daniel Radcliffe)

Quote– Wingardium Leviosa

Comments –This was another great year for memorable movies.  The Lord of the Rings or Shrek would have been the most memorable movie in almost any other year.  Both of them however fall short of the impact made by the boy wizard with the lightning shaped scar.  When a memorable movie is an adaptation of a highly memorable book or play, it can be difficult to separate how much of the memory stems from the original source and how much stems from the movie.  I think that the movie is memorable if  when people think of the book, they visualize the movie.  For example, Gone With the Wind was one of the best selling books of all time, but when people think of Scarlett and Rhett they think of Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.   In contrast, there was a 1970’s animated adaptation of Lord of The Rings that nobody remembers, at least not fondly.  Now when we think of Gollum, we think of the CGI-Andy Serkis Gollum from the 2001 movie and its sequels.  Likewise, Harry Potter will always look like Daniel Radcliffe.

Honorable Mention – The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring | Shrek | Monsters, Inc. | A Beautiful Mind | Bridget Jones Diary | Legally Blonde | Zoolander

Best Picture – A Beautiful Mind

2002 – Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire)

Quote– With great power comes great responsibility.

Comments – Tobey Maguire perfectly captured the angst of a normal person who gains extraordinary abilities.  Spider-man’s extraordinary success was the true catapult for the wave of Marvel super hero movies to follow.

Honorable Mention – My Big Fat Greek Wedding | Chicago

Best Picture – Chicago

2003 – Pirates of the Caribbean:  The Curse of the Black Pearl (Johnny Depp)

Quote– The code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.

Comments – Johny Depp’s creation of Captain Jack Sparrow turned an ordinary movie into a memorable movie.  In my opinion, Depp has tried since this movie to make more memorable quirky characters such as Willy Wonka and the Mad Hatter but he has never come close to repeating his magic from the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  As a side note, the Academy Awardsd got it right this year by giving the best picture to The Return of The King.  Unfortunately by my rules this movie is ineligible as a sequel for the title of most memorable movie. Fortunately, from his perspective,  I don’t think Peter Jackson cares.

Also, I talked in the 2001 section about how a memorable movie based upon a memorable book makes people think of the movie whenever they picture the book.  The 2003 dud Cat in the Hat is a good example showing the contrary.  Everybody knows about the Cat in the Hat.  Nobody envisions Mike Myers as Cat in the Hat.

Honorable Mention – Finding Nemo | Bruce Almighty  | Seabiscuit | Kill Bill Vol. 1

Best Picture – The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King

2004 – Mean Girls (Lindsay Lohan)

Quote– She made out with a hot dog.

Comments – The year 2004 was the year of the sequel with Shrek 2, Harry Potter 3, Spider-Man 2, Meet the Parents 2, and Oceans 11 2 (some actual names slightly different) ruling the box office.   Of the original movies, Mean Girls stood out.  It took a cliche and became the cliche.  Now when people think of vicious high school girls, they think of this movie.  It was funny and original.  It was grool.

Personally, The Incredibles is one of my favorite all-time movies and one that I think should rank with the most memorable movies.  The fact, however, that it seems that nobody but me ever talks about it unfortunately makes it not make this list.

Honorable Mention – Napoleon Dynamite | The Passion of the Christ

Best Picture – Million Dollar Baby

2005 – Batman Begins (Christian Bale)

Quote It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.

Comments –Batman Begins is eligible.  It is a reboot, not a sequel.  Christian Bale’s powerful performance at Batman made the character relevant to a new generation.

Honorable Mention – Madagascar | Brokeback Mountain | The 40-Year Old Virgin

Best Picture – Crash

2006 – The Devil Wears Prada (Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep)

QuoteYou have no style or sense of fashion.

Comments – Conspicuously absent from this list is Casino Royale, the Daniel Craig reboot of James Bond.  As a reboot and not a sequel, it is technically eligible and my first inclination was to rank it as a memorable movie.  After contemplation, I decided it just wasn’t that memorable.  Even though it was technically a reboot, actually it was just another James Bond movie that wasn’t that distinguishable from the other James Bond movies.  This contrasts to the 2005 movie Batman Begins which I believe was memorable in its own right.

In The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep’s performance as Miranda Priestly forever defines the boss from hell.  All future bosses from hell will be forever compared to Miranda.

On the continuing theme of memorable book vs. memorable movie, although The Da Vinci Code did very well at the box office, I  think that it was quite forgettable.  The book will be remembered; the movie will not.

Honorable Mention – (none)

Best Picture – The Departed

2007 – 300 (Gerald Butler)

Quote– This is Sparta

Comments – This truly was a miserable year for memorable movies as once again sequels ruled the box office.  One movie that did stand out was 300, a stylized comic book retelling of the historical battle between Sparta and Persia.  It has become a symbol of heroism against impossible odds.

Honorable Mention – Transformers

Best Picture – No Country for Old Men

2008 – Twilight (Kristin Stewart, Robert Pattinson)

Quote– I’m on a special diet.

Comments – It seemed that the biggest debate in 2008 was not Obama vs. McCain; it was Team Edward vs. Team Jacob.

Honorable Mention – Iron Man | WALL-E

Best Picture – Slumdog Millionaire

2009 – Avatar (Sam Worthington)

Quote– (absolutely none)

Comments – I hated Avatar.  The plot was Dances With Wolves in space.  The characters were unappealing.  So why then did I see it twice?  This otherwise terrible movie had the greatest special effects in any movie ever.  It provided a breakthrough in 3D technology that is still being felt today.   For special effects alone, it became the top grossing movie of all time.  For every other most memorable movie in this list I provided either a famous quote or a famous scene.  Showing the special effects from Avatar on a small computer screen would not do it justice, and nothing else is worth showing.

Honorable Mention – Star Trek | The Hangover | The Blind Side

Best Picture – The Hurt Locker

1990-2009 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Post 2009 

In baseball, a person is not eligible for the hall of fame until five years after their retirement.  I believe the same rule should hold for memorable movies.  I have had favorite movies (The Incredibles) that I would have been sure at the time would be memorable that weren’t.  There have been other movies (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) that I could not have imagined anybody would remember that became part of our culture.  With this in mind, these are my quick picks for the most memorable movies from 2010-2014.  In five years we can see if anybody remembers them:

2010 – Despicable Me

2011 – The Help

2012 – The Hunger Games

2013 – Frozen

2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy

Indiana and Shades of Gray

Most of the time when politics and morality combine, it doesn’t take me too long to decide where I stand on the issue; however, sometimes an issue arises where two important values seemingly collide.   The controversy over the Indiana Religious Freedom law is in one of these grey areas.  Basically, the law was in reaction to the uproar caused when a bakery, citing religious values, refused to make a cake for a gay wedding.  The law led to a furor of opposition and a boycott of Indiana saying that it legalized discrimination of gays.  This resulted in a counter-furor from those saying the law did not discriminate and is being unfairly maligned and it just protects the rights of people to exercise their conscience.

It is not my intent here to debate the Indiana law itself.  I am not a lawyer and I make no claim either way on the merits of the law.  What intrigues me is the underlying issue.  Should government require the bakery to make the cake for the gay wedding?

Let me preface this by saying that I personally support gay marriage.  I have stated repeatedly on this blog that I believe that adults should be able to engage in any voluntary interaction, whether that be business or personal, without government interference.  Gay marriage certainly fits this criteria.

The grey area results from the apparent conflict in two values I hold deeply:

  • I believe that discrimination is reprehensible.
  • I believe that people should be free to live their lives as they see fit unless their free choices interfere with the rights of other people to live their lives as they see fit.

In the simplest case, there can be a conflict if, for example, a person says that it should be his freedom to not serve gays, or blacks, or Jews, or people with red hair in his bakery.   I don’t want to take the time to argue this out here (perhaps in a future post), but to keep it short, I feel that the value against discrimination is stronger than the value for personal freedom.   Why then is my gut instinct to say that while the bakery should be required to serve gays who show up to buy a cake, the baker should not be required to make a cake for a gay wedding.  Why is there a difference?  They both appear to be discrimination.

First, I want to say more about what this issue is not about.  In many discussions of discrimination, one can  argue if there really is discrimination.  If a police department does not hire many black policemen, is it discrimination against blacks or is it because there aren’t enough qualified black candidates?  In this case the baker clearly stated that the reason was because he did not want to cater the wedding because it was gay.  This is clearly intentional discrimination.  Second, in many instances of discrimination there is a question of public vs. private.  It can be legally acceptable to say you will not invite a minority to join a private club, but you can’t refuse the minority entrance to your business.  In this case, it is a business and clearly it is public and not private.

So this brings me back to my gut instinct.  My first thoughts were that I cannot morally justify this instinct.  Refusing to cater a gay wedding isn’t substantially different than refusing to sell a gay person a cake.  There are a couple of techniques I use when I am trying to battle a moral gray issue.  The first technique is that if I am not the aggrieved party, I try to come up with a comparable situation where I would be the aggrieved party and then see if my reaction would be the same.  I am not gay but I am Jewish.  If my son was having a Bar Mitzvah and the baker told me he refused to cater Bar Mitzvahs, how would I feel then.  I believe I would be angry, but I would certainly not hire a lawyer and try to force the baker to cater the Bar Mitzvah.  I would not be happy, and I would probably tell everybody I knew to never go to that baker, but I wouldn’t think there should be a law forcing the baker to do the catering.

My other technique is to reverse the situation and see if it changes the way I feel.   If the baker strongly supported gay marriage and was asked to cater a convention dedicated to banning gay marriage, should the baker be forced to cater the convention?  Should a strong Democrat be forced to cater a Republican event?  Should anybody be forced to cater a Ku Klux Klan rally?  Reversing the situation didn’t change my views on this issue.  It actually made them much stronger.  So I decided I was right in my views.  I just still had no understanding of why I was right.  What is the moral distinction between saying that the baker must serve gays and not saying the baker must cater a gay wedding?

I finally found what I believe is the answer.  Before stating it, I think it is important to broaden the issue.  First, while the Indiana law cites religious concerns, I think that religion is much too restrictive in discussing this issue.  I would like to say that the issue involves someone who has any type of moral concern, whether it stems from religion or a deeply held conviction that is not based on religion.   The opposition of an atheist to catering the Ku Klux Klan should bear no less weight than the opposition of a Catholic for example.  Second, my opinion on the actual issues should not matter.  The rights of a Democrat to refuse to cater a Republican event or a Republican to cater a Democrat event should be the same.  Finally, of course, we are talking about much more than serving customers or catering.  The issue refers to any form of public interaction.  For example, should a politician be required to speak at a pro-choice or a pro-life organization?

I finally decided that the difference is that if the baker refused to serve gays, he is refusing to serve people based upon who they are.  When he refused to cater a gay wedding, he refused to support the statement they were making.   A wedding makes the statement that two people love each other.  A gay wedding makes the statement that two people of the same gender love each other and that this is good.  Refusing to support a statement is exercising first amendment rights for free speech.  Refusing to serve a person just because of who they are is not free speech.  It is just discrimination.

When I have a Bar Mitzvah for my son, I am making a statement that I think that the Jewish heritage is good.  When someone holds a political event, the event is clearly making a statement.  In every instance where I felt that the government should not force the business to serve the customer, the event was making a statement.   In the instances where I felt the  business should be forced, there was no statement.  While it can be argued that, for example in the famous civil rights lunch counter protests, the blacks who showed up at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in North Carolina were certainly making a statement, the general behavior of people showing up at a lunch counter is not a statement.  They are just hungry.  Once again, it shouldn’t make a difference on which side of an issue I lean to in determining if the person should be forced to do something he or she does not morally agree with.  The operative philosophy can be paraphrased by the famous quote,  “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

One argument against what I just stated could be that by participating in an event that makes a statement, you are not inherently supporting that statement.  For those who make this argument, I would like to refer them to the recent event where the Republican House Majority whip Steve Scalise was castigated for speaking to a white supremacist organization and he finally apologized for it.  People may associate you, rightly or wrongly, with any statement made by any event you participate in.  By participating, you may not be actively supporting the statement, but you certainly aren’t opposing it enough to refuse to participate.  Even if others don’t think that, you might think that yourself.  That should be enough.  Therefore I believe that forcing a person to support a statement is a violation of the person’s right to free speech.

One might also argue refusing to cater the event is not speech, it is actually non-speech.  Clearly though non speech is a form of political speech.  Frequently in history tyrants have required subjects to say loyalty oaths.  Failure to say the oath could result in execution, torture, or imprisonment.  Certainly the tyrants thought that non-speech was a form of political speech.  So should we.

I think that this key distinction helps clarify the issue.  This may not remove all of the shades of grey from the discussion, but to me at least it adds a framework for looking at a difficult issue.  I would be interested in how others look at this.

Top Ten Bad Assumptions: 8 –The enemy of your enemy is your friend.

Alternate Assumption:  The enemy of your enemy may also be your enemy.

This was actually next on my bad assumptions list, even before Netanyahu gave his speech before Congress highlighting this point.  In Netanyahu’s speech he stated that even though ISIS is our enemy and Iran is fighting ISIS, that does not make Iran our friend.  Both ISIS and Iran want an Islamic Caliphate to rule the world.  Their fight is over who is going to rule over the caliphate.

The thought process behind this assumption is that we have a black and white world, that every issue has two sides.  In actuality, an issue may have many sides.  Just because we both oppose a solution, that doesn’t mean we agree on the same solution.  I see this a lot in the common poll question, “Do you think the country is on the right track?”  Very seldom does the majority of the country think we are on the right track.  Typically the party out of power uses this as evidence that the majority of the country supports them.  This is just silly.  If 60% of the country think that we are on the wrong track, that could mean that half of them think we are too liberal and half might think we are too conservative.

This assumption has its biggest implication in foreign policy.  It certainly did not start with Iran.  Many people in World War II thought that Stalin was our friend because he was fighting Hitler.  Both Hitler and Stalin wanted the world to be ruled by an iron-fisted dictatorship.  They just disagreed on who should be the dictator.  The United States just agreed on a new treaty with Iran, and now many are saying that we are really allies.  For example, Slate.com ran a column titled “Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit it Yet.”   This is at the same time that Iran’s religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is shouting “Death to America!”  Iran and the United States may have a common enemy, but they are certainly not our friend.

While this assumption is most obviously seen in foreign policy, it rears its head in many places.  For example, two of the American left’s most fervent issues are gay rights and women’s rights.  They were furious when a baker wouldn’t bake a wedding cake for a gay marriage.  Certainly any candidate who is not pro-choice has no chances of winning the Democratic nomination for any significant office.  At the same time the left wing has been fervent supporters of Muslims, even radical Muslim groups such as Hamas.   These same Muslims often brutally suppress women and they kill gays.  Am I the only one who sees something unusual in this?  Why does the left so fervently support Muslims?

I have tried to figure this out for a while.  This is my current theory.  The radical Muslims state that the United States is an evil imperialist country.  The far left believes that the United States is an evil imperialist country.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.   Therefore the left supports their friends, the Muslims.  Note that I don’t believe the radical Muslims have the same false assumption as they would be more than happy to remove the head of any American, regardless of political affiliation.

Now I realize that I certainly don’t have the evidence to support my theory.  I am offering it as a possible explanation.  I could be totally wrong.  If you think I am wrong, then don’t just say so.  Offer me a better explanation for this gaping contradiction.  I’m waiting.