I disagree with Hightower.

What you will find here is: a centrist's view of current events;
a collection of thoughts, arguments, and observations
that I have found appealing and/or amusing over the years;
and, if you choose, your civil contributions which will make it into a conversation.

He not busy bein' born, is busy dyin'. - Bob Dylan

Please refer to participants only by their designated identities.

suggestion for US citizens: When a form asks for your race, write in: -- American

Friday, December 31, 2010

a centrist's view - 2

Some would say that a position on a particular issue can be labeled “centrist” based entirely on the balance between number of people would disagree on one side of the issue versus how many people would disagree on the other side of the issue. One problem that you would have with such a definition would be with “when” and “where”. That is to say, when do you hold up your finger to check which way the wind is blowing and from where do you get your sample of opinion? I would not agree with a definition that was based on that kind of simple arithmetic. Consider the following example of a centrist position on which the public breaks very unevenly: the Muslims have a right to build Park 51, which would contain a mosque, near ground zero. (See elsewhere in this blog for further details.) That is a position that would not meet the split down the middle, but I think that it is a centrist position because the right to do so is clearly protected by the first amendment, Newt Gingrich to the contrary notwithstanding.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Charlotte Church

Before the holiday season is completely over try Charlotte Church's version of What Child is This?

NPR again

I routinely listen to and support NPR. How much longer I'm not sure.

They are supported by public funds as well. It seems to me that they should, therefore, be politically unaligned.

The other night I saw Garrison Keillor on TV explaining that about half of all Republicans were racists.

Fifteen months ago he offered this jewel: "... one starts to wonder if the country wouldn't be better off without them and if Republicans should be cut out of the health-care system entirely and simply provided with aspirin and hand sanitizer. Thirty-two percent of the population identifies with the GOP, and if we cut off health care to them, we could probably pay off the deficit in short order."

That is taken out of the following context.

You can hear him on NPR.

You can hear Nina Totenberg there, too, (she imagined the grandchildren of one of her Republican targets getting aids.) See "equal treatment" on 10-22 and 10-24-10.

But you can't hear Juan Williams there. His crime was to say that seeing Muslim appearing people in airports made him nervous.
Clearly much more inappropriate that either of the other two.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

a centrist’s view - 1

In his December 16th post, KW led me, as he often does, to rethink what I mean by something I have said. In this case the word centrist.

Perhaps I have misled the reader into thinking that I believe that I hold some “centrist position” on every question, the collection of which amounts to a well defined “centrist dogma.” Surely finding such a thing is even less likely than locating a single “left position” or “right position” on every question, because in the latter two cases one has, at least, the positions of the two major political parties that could be used as a base starting point.

I do not believe that there is an organized centrist position.

However, I do believe that there is such a thing as a centrist type person. To make it clear that I am using centrist as a noun and not as an adjective, an ’s has been added to the word centrist in the header.

The fair question then is, what do I mean when I describe myself as a “centrist”? The reason that I began, in the early nineties, to think of myself as an independent or centrist was that I started to notice that all of my liberal friends seemed to think that I was a conservative and all of my conservative friends seemed to think that I was a liberal. It seemed that in almost every discussion I ended up arguing that “the other side has a point, too”.

So this is part one of my effort to say what I mean when I use the word centrist. I will add to it regularly until I get it to look like I want it. Your comments and suggestions are invited.

Sorry Rob, I cannot bring myself to call it the Yellow Armadillo Way.


A lot of what the young do to make themselves attractive is not appealing from my point of view. Specifically, piercings and droopy pants.

But, you have to keep your eye out for the brighter side and remember that it is all OK, because it is not me that they are trying to attract.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I always thought that law was meant to be interpreted in a lenient manner,
and that's what I try to do.
Sometimes I lean to one side of it,
sometimes I lean to the other.
Paul Newman's Hud Bannon


Monday, December 27, 2010


A liberal friend sent me note about how (some people think) Oklahoma has gone crazy.
OK passed a law banning the use of Sharia in the state courts.

For the record I favor secular law (duh). All of you folks need to leave your gods and related accouterments in their proper place. Which isn't the court rooms.
Sharia is a system which, as I understand it, treats men and women dramatically differently in direct conflict with the 15th amendment's requirement of equal protection of the laws. I would think that the left would dismiss it out of hand. But apparently, in this case they have deferred to their obsession with tolerance (of some things).

This is seen by some as the end of the first amendment

Recently, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction banning implementation of the OK law. The ruling came in response to a suit filed by Muneer Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, alleging that the law would violate his First Amendment rights.
Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange appeared to find that argument compelling. "Plaintiff," she wrote, "has sufficiently set forth a personal stake in this action by alleging that he lives in Oklahoma, is a Muslim, that the amendment conveys an official government message of disapproval and hostility toward his religious beliefs that sends a clear message he is an outsider, not a full member of the political community, thereby chilling his access to the government and forcing him to curtail his political and religious activities."

The Federal Judiciary tells the states that they MUST say no to the 10 commandments being posted as a symbol on the courthouse lawn.

The Federal Judiciary tells the states that they MUST NOT say no to Sharia inside the courthouse as an integral part of decisions.

I find that passing strange.

The supporters of this say that it is silly for Oklahoma to worry about it.

The map above has England as a country using some of Sharia.

If it can happen in England, why is it silly for Oklahoma to worry about it?


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kicking the can

They call it kicking the can down the road. Unfortunately each time you kick it down the road it gets heavier and harder. Eventually it is gonna cause you a lot of grief.

The scenario is as follows:
1. a government entity cannot pay its employees as much as they want,
2. the government entity offers the employees large pensions,
3. the employees accept the deal
4. the government entity does not set aside enough to pay the pensions
5. the employees do not have what they contracted and planned for.

Can it happen here?

It is already happening here.

The result is illustrated in the following article.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Next year

OK I'm going to be an optimist.

I am hopeful that the Ds and Rs are going to get serious about at least two topics next year.

Debt and deficit situation and then immigration.

OK, OK, I know. Maturity is a slow process.


Friday, December 24, 2010

the court

A few days before it happened a liberal was contemplating the prospect of Congress's repeal of DADT with some sadness because, "Probably repeal won't pass the Supreme Court."

I offer this as an example of how deeply ingrained in the psyche of the left is the idea that the Supreme Court is, as one reporter called it, "the highest lawmaking body in the land."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Rs win in AZ

They say that unless the Republicans recognize that Hispanics are the fastest growing minority they are going to lose a lot of elections.

In this argument "recognize" means vote for whatever "pro-Hispanic" legislation is being pushed at the moment. If it encourages illegal immigration well then that is just what the Rs are going to have to accept in order to woo the Hispanic vote.

In Arizona the Rs have not been doing that and they just won big in the 2010 elections.

Maybe "they" are wrong. Maybe being an Hispanic American does not necessarily mean that you support every proposal that comes down the line that promotes more illegal immigration.



Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The Ds are making much of what is called the Rs hypocrisy as exemplified by Senator Cornyn, R-TX placing earmarks in a spending bill and then voting against the bill because he is opposed to earmarks.

I am curious as to what your left leaning friends think of this proposal.

This idea has shown up here before in the comments to Dan Runnels Nov. 22, 2010 post.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

that's different

Julian Assange (Wikileaks) turns on the Guardian newspaper for its “disgusting” decision to publish details from the police report detailing claims of sexual assault against him.

compromise tax bill

For some time now I have heard each party claim that the other party was the one that was refusing to compromise.

The Ds said the Rs are just saying no to everything.
The Rs said the Ds were excluding them from everything.

I wondered which one it was. The answer you heard depended entirely on who you listened to.

Then we had a pretty decisive election which increases the Rs power.

Now comes the lame duck, after which the Rs will receive their new power. Which party is it that has the increased motivation to compromise in that environment?

Perhaps that is an indication of which party it was who was holding things up all along.


Monday, December 20, 2010


Today, December 20th, is the 150th anniversary of the first secession of a state from the Union. Which state? Why South Carolina of course. Prompting one of their politicians, James Petigru to say:

"Poor South Carolina, too small to be a republic, too large to be an insane asylum."


wingnuts and no-labels

In KW's post a couple of days ago and comments afterwards we were talking about whether IN SOME CASES it is difficult to identify a centrist position.

There really are some people who want us to believe that there is no center.
You can guess who they are.

Rob pointed out to me an article on the subject by John Avlon author of the new book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America, and the founder of nolabels.

Dan adds the following link.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The center under attack!

So it has come to this.

The wingnuts of the right and left say, "There is no center!"

Away with this open minded stuff!

You are either with us or against us!

Well, you've unleashed those old dogs from the dark side: the masters of the midway.

Hah! Be prepared!! They are coming!!!

Now you will see a militant-multi-partisan centrism that will make Keith Olberman and Glenn Beck look like
mild mannered middle school math mavens.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

When the middle isn't the middle.

E.O. Wilson, the Harvard biologist, expert on ants and species destruction generally, was interviewed by Elizabeth Kolbert, science writer for the New Yorker, in the Winter issue of onearth, magazine of the Natural Resources Council. Wilson, who is very concerned about the disappearance of species (and the rate at which this is currently happening) sees this problem as more crucial to human survival than any other issue, including climate change, pollution, etc.

He told the following story which might amuse the mathematicians who frequent this blog as well as folks who think that a moderate or "middle of the road" course on issues affecting the human future on this planet is possible. [I realize that moderate and middle of the road are not synonymous--but many understand them to be.] The story is called "the French riddle of the 29th day of lilly pads" and goes like this: "There is a pond with one lilly pad. The number lily pads doubles every day. The pond will fill up by the 30th day. On what day is the pond half full? (Ans: the 29th day)"

The rate at which the lilly pads grow, says Wilson, corresponds to the rate at which species on which we depend and on which the biological life of the planet depends, decrease.

What then is the "middle of the road" position on planetary displacement of homo sapiens?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Northwest Ordinance 2

For the ordinance see Dec 10.

A few months after the Northwest Ordinance, in the Constitutional Convention there was a hard fought compromise about slavery. Later the Civil War was fought, not over maintaining slavery in the 15 states where it existed, but over the right to extend slavery into the territories.

Two months before the Constitutional Convention that whole proposition was given away by the south when they agreed to no slavery in the Northwest territory. That passed the Confederation Congress. The amazing thing is that the votes in that congress were by states and unanimity was required!

Not a single southern state voted against the ordinance.

That is what seems to me to be really profound about the Northwest Ordinance. It was easily passed in July but slavery was a big deal just two months later in Philadelphia.

There is a story in here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Justice Breyer

I am generally very impressed with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer he leads me to entertain beliefs in things I am predisposed to doubt. He is a persuasive supporter of the principle of a "living constitution" and by that he does not mean "it can be amended". (added 12/15 - he did NOT look good in this interview)

In an interview with Chris Wallace on FoxNews Sunday on Dec. 12, 2010 he explained why he had voted with the dissenters in the 2008 case “D.C. v. Heller” which dealt with the Washington, D.C. handgun ban which the majority struck down as being in violation of the second amendment.

Breyer's argument was this: When Madison wrote the second amendment he was trying to get "that document" ratified by the states. The states were worried about the power of the federal government. The Congress might nationalize their militias. To show that that could not happen, Madison wrote the amendment to satisfy the states.

Amendment 2
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Breyer apparently believes that James Madison, who was at least a fair to middlin' writer, wrote an amendment to prevent the Congress from nationalizing state militias, and in that amendment he did not mention either Congress or nationalizing militias.

In at least two different places in the constitution there is a provision for doing exactly that which Breyer says the states were afraid of: nationalizing of the militia. The states had already approved that constitution. On June 11, 1963, President Kennedy nationalized the Alabama militia which ordered Gov. George Wallace to step out of the schoolhouse door. Breyer apparently believes that that was a violation of the second amendment.

Now if you, in your childlike understanding, are having difficulty with his reasoning, perhaps it is because you have limited experience with "living documents."


Monday, December 13, 2010

website property

So Paypal and mastercard and others shut off wikileaks (good I think) and now all sorts of folks are attacking their sites because of that.

1. The government leaned on pp and mc to do that, right?

2. A website is something that is owned and is therefore property, right?
Is it not against the law to "attack" someone's website?

3 If not. Shouldn't it be?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Changing the tone in DC

Changing the tone in Washington was one of Obama's objectives wasn't it?

Now he is calling the people with whom he just made a deal "hostage takers."

If this is what he is changing the tone to, I wonder what he thought he was changing the tone from?


Well the DDC made its recommendation and within a week the political class announced that they were adding another trillion to the debt over two years.

The Northwest Ordinance

The Northwest Ordinance is a serious contender for being one our founding documents. Its purpose was to determine how the country northwest of the Ohio river (roughly the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin) would be administered, developed and brought into the union.

It was adopted by the Confederation Congress on July 13, 1787. With minor modifications it was adopted again in the first congress under the new Constitution and signed by G. Washington on August 7, 1789. Why should anybody care? Well below is a list of some of the things that it did either through the force of law or the power of precedent.
1. It established the principle that new states would be admitted into the union on a completely equal basis with the original states! That is, the new American nation would not treat acquired lands as colonies (as the Europeans did), provinces (Rome), or soviet republics (Russia). Shortly thereafter the Constitutional Convention wrote this principle into the fundamental law. (See the next installment of American exceptionalism.)
2. It provided for an orderly transition from territorial status to statehood through a process which followed the nation across the continent in the next century.
3. It specified certain rights of habeas corpus, freedom of religion, and due process (before the Constitution and Bill of Rights).

But the most important thing is that it prohibited slavery in those territories!

When the civil war came these 5 states had a population that was approximately the same as the white population of all 11 of the seceding southern states.

That is why July 13, 1787 was the day that the South lost the war.

Well, enough about these little games about when the South lost the war.

Tomorrow we will go to something much more profound about this event.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

When was the war lost for the South?

Most folks say it was in early July, 1863 when Lee lost at Gettysburg in the east and the next day Vicksburg fell in the west.

Some say that it was before that because, "The South never smiled again after Shiloh." That battle was in early April, 1862.

I offer another answer: July 13, 1787. The argument will come tomorrow.

Lasker and Nimzovich

Dr. Emmanual Lasker a mathematician by training was the chess champion of the world from 1894-1921.

His most famous saying about chess was that, "A threat is more powerful than its execution." The idea is that if you are threatening to do something on a chessboard, then your opponent has to worry constantly about that threat and devote attention to it.

His doctorate was in mathematics which he was encouraged into by David Hilbert. His main contribution to mathematics was a theorem in algebra which was later generalized by Emmy Noether.

Aron Nimzovich was a nervous excitable chess player who was at the top rank of the chess theoreticians and close to the top rank of the players. His book My System should be in the library of every aspiring chess player.

In those days smoking was generally allowed in chess tournaments which was always a problem for Nimzovich who found it very irritable. Lasker, in particular, smoked large black cigars, but Lasker was a great gentleman and agreed not to smoke during a game that he and Nimzovitch were about to play.

Before six moves had been made Lasker pulled out a big cigar, bit off the end and put it in his mouth.
Nimzovich jumped out of his chair and protested to the umpire: "Lasker agreed not to smoke and now look what he is doing!"
The umpire said: "He is not smoking, the cigar is not lit."
Nimozovich replied, "But he THREATENS to smoke, and everybody knows that he considers a threat stronger its execution!"
You saw that coming, didn't you?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wanted, dead or alive

"A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit that had sought to block the American government from trying to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen and Muslim cleric in hiding overseas who is accused of helping to plan attacks by Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen."

It is a bit puzzling that we have not heard more from the political and chattering classes about this. Particularly the left which, you will recall, went berserk when W engaged in scanning the nature of someone's email traffic. At least the ACLU stepped up here to question whether it is appropriate for the Ex. Branch to just put an American citizen on a kill or capture list.

Basically, I think I'm OK with it. I am assuming that the President has a very serious procedure for putting someone on such a list and doesn't just wake up some morning and say you know that guy really got on my nerves. I would think that it should involve some sort of self proclaimed identification with our enemies.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I like the DDC = debt-deficit commission and its realistic proposals.

I'll start with defense.

If we are going to move toward taking a realistic view of our role in the world (one based on our 25% of World Production down from the 50% we enjoyed immediately after WWII) then that will involve reducing our military expenditures to considerably less than half of the total world expenditures.
They were right on target on that.

I don't say that lightly as I think many people have in the past.
I don't think we should kid ouselves with talk about fraud and waste ... . It means that we will have to say that some areas of the world are beyond the pale. We will have to withdraw from some areas. Obviously those decisions will have to be mades at the highest level and should require a bipartisan effort. We can't have the areas that we are involved in change with every election.

So if someone is going to support this position then they have to be willing to say yes such and such area is not going to get as much attention from us in the future as it has in the past.

For starters I would suggest the question: "Why should we consider N. Korea to be our problem?"

Day of Infamy

"Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy ..."

Monday, December 6, 2010

“Dandy Don” Meredith

Joseph Don "Dandy Don" Meredith (April 10, 1938 – December 5, 2010)
A moment of silence for a fine fellow.
Don Meredith was a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-1968. He was quite successful and much loved. In one game the Cowboys were 4 or 5 points behind and it was near the end of the game. He was facing a 1st down and 45 yards to go. Incredibly, he threw three consecutive 15 yard passes, made the first down, the touchdown, and they won the game.

Afterward a reporter talked to him about that sequence and then asked

“Don did you know at that point that it was 1st and 45?”

With what I thought was admirable restraint Meredith replied,

“I try to stay as close to the game as I can.”

today's quote

I want to put "today's quote" onto some kind of wheel which will automatically show the appropriate day's quote and let me choose them and put them into any day on any other day.
Anybody know how to do that or know where I should go?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

DDC = debt-deficit commission

I like the DDC and its realistic proposals.
I'll start with defense. If we are going to move toward taking a realistic view of our role in the world (one based on our 25% of World Production down from the 50% we enjoyed immediately after WWII) then that will involve reducing our military expenditures to considerably less than half of the total world expenditures.
They were right on target on that.

Yellow Armadillos

So let's collect a list of politicians who might qualify to be centrist kind of folks. Lets say that they have to come in pairs one red and one blue. Mix them together and get some Yellow Armadillos as it were.

I nominate Evan Bayh and Lindsey Graham.
Rob nominates Jim Webb and Olympia Snowe.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

national popular vote 5

As advertised (in 8-7-10) here is my other main argument against the NPV Compact. See 8-6-10 for a brief intro and some links. The one line version of this objection to the NPV Compact is that it could put the election method itself into play every time. Leave aside court challenges for a moment and remember that July 20 is the magic day. If the compact states have 270 electoral votes on July 20 then we use NPV. If not, then not. We could easily find ourselves in the spring of an election year without knowing what method was going to be used that year. What if the total electoral votes in states that have adopted the Compact is close (either way, just over or just under) to having the 270 needed to implement the program. Then the parties and candidates are going to be doing a lot more calculating than normal. In addition to the regular things they will be calculating which system would give them the best chance of winning. If A thinks that NPV gives him the best chance, then A might try to get states that support him to join the NPV Compact before July 20. If B thinks that the EC gives him the best chance, then B may try to get NPV Compact member states that support him to leave the compact before July 20. That would be a fine stew.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Laffer Curve 3 - Buffett's view

see also this

On May 26 of this year we talked about the Laffer Curve which is a, if not the foundation stone, of the Republican theory that cutting taxes is a panacea. If you have too much revenue - cut taxes. If you have not enough revenue - cut taxes. If we are spending too much - cut taxes.

He pointed out that during his life, capital gains taxes had been at 39.6% and taxes on earned income (highest marginal rate)had stood at 70%. (These are rates that are much higher than now and rates that the Republican true believers think would devastate the economy.)

Warren Buffett's recollection of those days is that:

“our economy did just fine.”

(As noted before it may not be possible in the middle of a recession.)

That's one

When we first got married I wanted to explain to my wife how things were going to be. So I told her this story. The farmer and his new wife were headed home in the wagon (it's an old story) when the mule stumbled and the farmer said that's one. This happened again and he said that's two. On the third time the farmer got out of the wagon and pulled out a pistol and shot the mule dead. His wife freaked out (but it has modern language) and chewed him out up one side and down the other.
When she got through he said "That's one."
I smiled at my charming wife and said "And they lived happily ever after."
She looked very sternly at me and said, "That's one."
And we lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NPV 4b Is NPV Compact the best alternative? 2

This appeared originally on Sept. 25.
The last comment on this thread was by Wayne at 9:30 Pm Sept23 as follows:
Each and every one of those elections mentioned in toto’s 9-23-6:15 note as well as all of the other 48 presidential elections that we have held have one thing in common. Winning of the popular vote was not the candidates’ primary objective. Whether we like the structure or not the name of the game was electoral votes. In each and every case the winning candidate won a majority of the votes that determined the election. (That includes the 1800 and 1824 in the House of Representatives.) The popular vote data begins with 1824, because until then they didn’t even record the popular vote. Popular vote is a wonderful thing. But when looking at elections which did not use that system it is strange to talk about those elections as if they did use that system. So perhaps Americans do not view the absence of runoffs as a problem in the present system because the present system always gives a winner who has a majority of the determining votes.

But NPV would change what the determinative votes are. In their system it is popular votes that count. OK but isn’t NPV then obligated to provide a method for dealing with a situation in which the votes are scattered among several candidates? The Bayh-Cellar amendment gave a way to do that. It required that the plurality winner have at least 40% of the vote or hold a runoff. A system doesn’t have give us a majority winner but please spare us from a 27% president (see 8-7-10 post).


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bush v Gore - 10 years after

So many lovely memories.

The stories about how the "Republican" Supreme Court stopped the vote count and foiled the will of the people.

Not so many stories about how the overwhelmingly "Democratic" State Supreme Court had come up against the fact that the State law provided certain time lines for "contesting" or "challenging" the election. Gore had chosen badly and wanted a redo but there wasn't time. Solution: The court just shredded the statute and rewrote the rules on the spot AFTER the election was over.

NBC's best, Tim Russert, provided top quality political analysis: "If one side wins the electoral vote and the other wins the popular vote, then it goes to the House of Representatives."

Early in the evening of election night it looked like Gore was going to win the electoral vote and lose the popular vote. A Bush supporter asked "What do you call someone who wins the electoral vote and loses the popular vote?" He sadly answered his own question: "Mr. President".

When the result went the other way the Democrats did not take it so well.

Of course, all of those "intended" votes. Gore's people argued that it was not what the voter did that counted, but rather what they had intended to do. This led me, in the spring, to play a round of "democratic golf". I would hit the ball and go down to where the ball was. But then, instead of hitting it from there, I would pick it up and take it over to where I had "intended" for it to go. I then hit it from there. My score improved dramatically.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Why is nothing being done about Wikileaks?
If you make public a country's military secrets
are you not engaging in warfare on the side of their enemies?
What is a CIA for?


From a recent survey:
Almost 1 in 4 Republicans suspects Barack Obama is the Antichrist, one of the most astounding findings from a stunning new online poll from Harris Interactive. Majorities of Republicans also believe that Obama is a socialist (67 percent) and that he wants to take away Americans’ guns (61 percent), is a Muslim (57 percent), has done "many" things that are not constitutional (55 percent), and wants to turn the country over to a one-world government (51 percent). In fairness to the GOP, the poll indicates that the country generally seems to have become a bit unhinged. Overall, 40 percent of Americans think Obama’s a socialist, 32 percent think he’s a Muslim, and 1 in 4 thinks "he is a domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitution speaks of." As noted small businessman and family values maven Norman Bates once said, "We all go a little mad sometimes." But it’s clear that the right wing is the anchor pulling the country toward loonyville in this data set.

This is very interesting. Someone on the right needs to do a study of some analogous foolishness on the left.
For some possible questions consider what % of democrats would agree with:
1. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn 's statement that "every American will benefit from this healthcare bill."
2. The healthcare bill will cost less than $1 trillion.
3. Taking $500 Billion out of medicare will strengthen medicare.
4. No one with an income of under $250,000 will have any kind of tax increase during Obama's administration.
5. I don't care about any of that, I have faith in Obama.

PS That thought came from a single payer advocate who voted for Obama.
Remember there are wingnuts on both sides, and apparently none of them can do arithmetic.

Is it time for a new party?

If the two parties do not show some ability to work together during the next year, then we might see some real movement in the direction of a serious new party.

Friday, November 26, 2010

not quite 3 bad predictions

LeRoy Pope Walker, from Alabama, was the first Secretary of War of the Confederate States of America. After the initial secession of seven states, he was a commissioner to Tennessee to urge them to withdraw as well. In denigrating the possibility that the Union would attempt to coerce the South as a result of secession he stated that,

“All of the blood shed in the (threatened) Civil War could be wiped up with a pocket handkerchief.”

The death toll was over 600,000 from a country of about 30 million.
A comparable death toll in the country today would be 6,000,000.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Open Question to the group – If Congress passes a law (health care for example) by what authority does the executive branch have the power to say that some entities do not have to follow the law?

Monday, November 22, 2010


I think this is pretty clever, although it almost certainly won't gain much traction.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Airline security thought experiment

Suppose you could offer people a choice. For each flight there would be two planes. One plane would use the new method of airline security and the other plane would use the old system.
Which airplane do you think would fill up first?

Or let us say which one we would choose.

New style or old style? I'll start.

New style.


"I am an American" video

In one of his comments earlier Rob mentioned that ad council video about "I am an American" that came out after 9-11. I really liked that too.

One of the commenters there makes a point that I have heard many times before. He is caught up on the technicality that everybody who lives in N and S America are on the American Continents.
However it is worth noting that the United States of America is the only country in the world that has America in its name.

A Spanish friend of mine and I once pondered the possibility of calling citizens of the USA by the name of Usantes. But we decided that since the whole world called them Americans we would too.

Punctuated Equilibrium

Punctuated Equilibrium – Our approach to security at our airports has and continues to evolve. We go through periods of status quo tranquility until a happening wakes us up again. Consider how airport security changed after Lockerbie, 9/11, the “shoe bomber”, and the “underwear bomber”.

The question is – what will airport security look like on the other side of the public outcry against the TSA’s new (current) screening methods? Will the new imaging technology be ditched? Will we simply accept the new procedures? Will we revive profiling and remove it from the dirty word bin?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Closing of Gitmo

Well, it is November 20, 2010, which is 22 months after Obama's inauguration. That means that Gitmo has been closed for 10 months.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Historical note: The Gettysburg Address

At the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863 a hundred and seventy thousand men launched thenselves at each other and suffered almost 50,000 casualties. Lee was repelled and returned to Virginia. At the site on this day, later that year, the noted orator, Edward Everett, held forth for over two hours on this momentous occasion.
Abraham Lincoln was there too, and before the photographers had finished setting up for him, he had completed the following remarks. In C-span fashion we note that his remarks lasted for about two minutes.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln - November 19, 1863

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Just a couple of YouTube things from the math club:

The Zero Matrix

A little math ditty


Michael's remark earlier today on Krugman's death panels reminded me of:
Once upon a time my young son came to me and said that he had decided that there was not a Santa Claus. There followed:
"That's too bad because your mother says that if you don't believe in him he won't come to our house."
After a long pause he said, "Oops."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

the war on Christmas

I think that there is something to this “war on Christmas” thing. It is an inappropriate name for what is happening, but it is real. As we all know (and if you don’t, then look at “a Christian nation” below) freedom of religion in this country has generally meant that you could adopt whatever form of Christianity you like. But we are currently taking the next giant step and extending that wondrous principle to ALL religions. [It is very unfortunate that the next religion (both in time, numbers, and in its religious proximity – monotheism - to Christianity) has a strain that thinks murdering us is a wonderful thing to do. But that is a temporary problem.] The trend is toward opening up America to all of the other peoples and granting “free exercise” to all of the other religions of the world. That is where Christmas comes in. It is a religious holiday. It is hard to say that you have religious freedom if you don’t have religious equality, and it is hard to say you have religious equality if some of the religions have governmentally recognized holidays and others do not. What would you think if May 15 was a national holiday to celebrate the day on which John the Baptist visited Joseph Smith in 1829 which led to the creation of Mormonism. Would you consider a country which had Ramadan – the Muslim holy month – as a national holiday, but did not have Christmas, to be practicing freedom of religion?
So how does this shake out? Well I don’t know. Probably you don’t suddenly quit having the Christmas holiday. (Although we did get along without a Federal Christmas Holiday for almost a hundred years. It did not start until 1870.) One possible solution would be to secularize the religious holidays that you have. As I understand it, the Catholic Church chose the time to celebrate Christmas, because it coincided with certain pagan holidays. Perhaps that process could be reversed. How would you do that? Well you could start by having people say “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas. If you want to call it Christmas fine, if you don’t, then that is fine too. Well the more non-Christians we have the more our institutions will try to accommodate them. If there are two stores in front of you and one of them is flaunting a religion that you do not believe and the other is celebrating a nondenominational holiday, then I think you would be inclined to go with the one which is not pushing a religion at you. So in a sense it will be a process of reducing the role of Christianity in the country. We have for some time been reducing the role of Christianity - in the schools for example. The process continues toward a broader freedom of religion. But war is such a harsh word. Perhaps the “secularization of the holiday season.” Nah, Huckabee will never go for that.
So should a thoughtful Christian be concerned about what O’Reilly sees as a War on Christmas?
Not if they believe in the first amendment.
Merry Christmas

a Christian nation

In the beginning, in Massachusetts, freedom of religion meant that you were free from the Church of England and the Catholic Church. In return what you had to do was whatever the local church leaders and the local political leaders wanted you to do. To make this easier for you, the two groups were one and the same. By and by, freedom of religion came to include all sorts of different “religions” and, quite profoundly, it came to mean freedom FROM the government as well: “Congress shall make no law …”. Baptists, Methodists, Quakers were included and finally even Catholics and Jews. To hear some folks tell it you would think that that was the end of it. Now I know almost all of us are ready to tolerate Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist, Confucians, Hindus and atheists. But we do expect them to understand that this is a Christian nation. Now, of course, that expression is part of the problem. What does it mean to be a “Christian nation”? If it means that Christianity is the most common religion in the country, then we are a Christian nation. But that is not what a lot of folks mean when they say “Christian nation”. They believe that there is strong legal connection between Christianity and the government of the country. Now have a little empathy. Imagine what it is like for them when they first encounter someone who doubts this. To demonstrate their view they get a word copy of the Constitution and search for “Bible” and get back the message: “Word has finished searching the document. The search item was not found.” Then they try commandment, Jesus, and Christ. Finally they might go for god with a little g. Each time the message is the same. At this point the rational person reconsiders his belief about what it means to say that this country is a “Christian nation”.

Leaning ?

It has been suggested that this blog is not centrist at all.
What do the readers think?
Vote at the left.
I'm new at this so I hope it works.
You can vote for a week.
I think you can only vote once.
Let me know if I have something to learn here.


Bob Herbert's column on Sat. Nov 6.
My column on Tuesday incorrectly described the situation of the small group of Americans earning $50 million or more annually. Their incomes declined by 7.7 percent between 2008 and 2009; they did not quintuple. The incorrect information came from a report based on flawed Social Security Administration data. An inspector general is investigating after two individuals filed false W-2 forms that led to the skewed data.

The point is how much credibility do you give to someone who believed that the very rich, as a group, multiplied their incomes by 5 in ONE YEAR.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Oracle of Omaha

From the NY Times
DEAR Uncle Sam,

My mother told me to send thank-you notes promptly. I’ve been remiss.

Let me remind you why I’m writing. Just over two years ago, in September 2008, our country faced an economic meltdown. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the pillars that supported our mortgage system, had been forced into conservatorship. Several of our largest commercial banks were teetering. One of Wall Street’s giant investment banks had gone bankrupt, and the remaining three were poised to follow. A.I.G., the world’s most famous insurer, was at death’s door.

Many of our largest industrial companies, dependent on commercial paper financing that had disappeared, were weeks away from exhausting their cash resources. Indeed, all of corporate America’s dominoes were lined up, ready to topple at lightning speed. My own company, Berkshire Hathaway, might have been the last to fall, but that distinction provided little solace.

Nor was it just business that was in peril: 300 million Americans were in the domino line as well. Just days before, the jobs, income, 401(k)’s and money-market funds of these citizens had seemed secure. Then, virtually overnight, everything began to turn into pumpkins and mice. There was no hiding place. A destructive economic force unlike any seen for generations had been unleashed.

Only one counterforce was available, and that was you, Uncle Sam. Yes, you are often clumsy, even inept. But when businesses and people worldwide race to get liquid, you are the only party with the resources to take the other side of the transaction. And when our citizens are losing trust by the hour in institutions they once revered, only you can restore calm.

When the crisis struck, I felt you would understand the role you had to play. But you’ve never been known for speed, and in a meltdown minutes matter. I worried whether the barrage of shattering surprises would disorient you. You would have to improvise solutions on the run, stretch legal boundaries and avoid slowdowns, like Congressional hearings and studies. You would also need to get turf-conscious departments to work together in mounting your counterattack. The challenge was huge, and many people thought you were not up to it.

Well, Uncle Sam, you delivered. People will second-guess your specific decisions; you can always count on that. But just as there is a fog of war, there is a fog of panic — and, overall, your actions were remarkably effective.

I don’t know precisely how you orchestrated these. But I did have a pretty good seat as events unfolded, and I would like to commend a few of your troops. In the darkest of days, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner and Sheila Bair grasped the gravity of the situation and acted with courage and dispatch. And though I never voted for George W. Bush, I give him great credit for leading, even as Congress postured and squabbled.

You have been criticized, Uncle Sam, for some of the earlier decisions that got us in this mess — most prominently, for not battling the rot building up in the housing market. But then few of your critics saw matters clearly either. In truth, almost all of the country became possessed by the idea that home prices could never fall significantly.

That was a mass delusion, reinforced by rapidly rising prices that discredited the few skeptics who warned of trouble. Delusions, whether about tulips or Internet stocks, produce bubbles. And when bubbles pop, they can generate waves of trouble that hit shores far from their origin. This bubble was a doozy and its pop was felt around the world.

So, again, Uncle Sam, thanks to you and your aides. Often you are wasteful, and sometimes you are bullying. On occasion, you are downright maddening. But in this extraordinary emergency, you came through — and the world would look far different now if you had not.

Your grateful nephew,


Warren E. Buffett is the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, a diversified holding company.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Krugman's death panels

On ABC's This Week 10-14-2010, Paul Krugman said: "Some years down the pike, we're going to get the real solution, which is going to be a combination of death panels and sales taxes. It's going to be that we're actually going to take Medicare under control, and we're going to have to get some additional revenue, probably from a VAT. But it's not going to happen now."

Somebody does have to decide which things Medicare will pay for. So in that sense he is right, but his timing might be a bit off and it is not just a question of timing. There is also the issue of labeling.

Someone should mention to the Nobel Laureate how much more successful the reproductive rights advocates were once they escaped from the "Pro-abortion" label. Perhaps they could also mention how much better it has worked out for gay rights groups since they dropped the language of "sexual preference" in favor of "sexual orientation".

Perhaps the left should not accept the right's "death panels" label.
Maybe they should think of another name.
How about: Quality of Life Commissions or just "Life Panels," but "pro-choice" is already taken.

David and Michael

Welcome to the conversation.

Monday, November 15, 2010

10 centuries in 5 minutes

I reveal my total geek nature by saying that I have been waiting a long time for videos like this one.

It needs dates and something like this should be made for the whole world.
With stopping and drilling down etc.

It is delightful. Bye I have to go and watch it again.

added Nov 19: They had to take it down becuae of copyright infringement.

Centennia software has a better version but of course it cost money.

The Founders

Only a fool would disagree with a Supreme Court Justice about the Constitution.
As Will Durant once said in a similar situation: we proceed.
Elena Kagan’s confirmation brought up a lot of discussion of one of her mentors, Justice Thurgood Marshall. On the occasion of the bicentennial of the Constitution, Justice Marshall gave a speech which contains several ideas that I have heard from my liberal friends over the years.
The New York Times selected this as a summary of his remarks. ''I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever 'fixed' at the Philadelphia Convention,'' the 78-year-old Justice said. ''Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today.''
This seems to me to be a bit like criticizing Isaac Newton because he wasn’t Albert Einstein. Newton said, and I’m sure Einstein agreed, “if I have seen further than others it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” Marshall seems be of the opinion that he sees further than others and it is because they were too short.
I can certainly understand that American History would look different to a black person than it does to me. But I think that Justice Marshall constructed a pretty weak straw man when he set out to prove that the constitution that they wrote in 1787 was not perfect.
Marshall is correct that it was “defective from the start.” Did they claim that it was free of defects? Well, let’s see, did they include a process for amending it? Yes, and it has been used twenty seven times – so far. Clearly they never intended that the meaning of the constitution should be “forever ‘fixed’ at the Philadelphia Convention.”
Apparently Justice Marshall thinks that their great crime was allowing the continuation of slavery. It seems to me that a legitimate criticism should include an alternate pathway that would have gotten us here quicker or with less pain. He doesn’t actually propose how they might have done it otherwise. But like a lot of other people he seems to think that the founders chose between having the Constitution that they made and having another one which abolished slavery. But that wasn’t their choice. Their choice was between having the Constitution they made - which included structures that led to the abolition of slavery “four score and seven” years later - and NOT HAVING the imaginary one that abolished slavery immediately.
He goes on for a long time about how inadequate their work was. They left slavery in place, no vote for women, … and he says that, “While the Union survived the civil war, the Constitution did not. In its place arose a new, more promising basis for justice and equality, the 14th Amendment, ensuring protection of the life, liberty, and property of all persons against deprivations without due process, and guaranteeing equal protection of the laws.”
Justice Marshall saw the 14th amendment as replacing the Constitution. I see it as part of the continuing development of the Constitution. Certainly the 1787 document did not put in place what we have now. Nothing could have then. The 14th amendment is a very good thing, but by its very nature it is a modification of, not a replacement for, the Constitution.
I am unabashedly impressed with the founders. I do not think that my appreciation of them justifies the epithet I once received from a liberal friend that “I was always kissing their …”. But I do think that they produced a really fine piece of work. (I realize that that is not a very risky position to take.) I see the Constitution as the instrument which gave form to the nation and, among other things, held it together long enough to allow it to develop those “mystic chords of memory” that Lincoln called on to win the civil war and abolish slavery.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

the new capitalism

(This is a previous post renamed.) So the Cold War was over and democratic capitalism defeated communism (=1 party dictatorship +socialism).  All the world (almost) is clamoring into developing capitalism.  Is there any reason to believe that our version of capitalism will continue to be dominant or even successful in this new world?  I hear a lot about China not playing by the rules (trade and environmental) and a new state capitalism.  I'll bet the Chinese believe that they have just as much right as anyone else to write the rules.  Remember, there is no referee.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

fighting words

I just got another of those emails from an Obama person telling me about how much they had been FIGHTING for me. Obama also made a reference in the recent campaign to some ethnic group recognizing who their ENEMIES were and voting accordingly. (that one is also borderline racist) I hear it from the other side, too.

They all need to stifle that imagery when talking about domestic affairs. You fight against your enemies. You work against your opponents.

The arrogance of the assumption that if someone disagrees with you, then it must be because they are out to destroy the Republic is just insufferable.

Did we not learn anything from Nixon?

Ode to America

by Cornel Nistorescu, Roumanian Newspaper editor, post 911 editorial

Why are Americans so united? They don't resemble one another even if you paint them! They speak all the languages of the world and form an astonishing mixture of civilizations. Some of them are nearly extinct, others are incompatible with one another, and in matters of religious beliefs, not even God can count how many they are. Still, the American tragedy turned three hundred million people into a hand put on the heart. Nobody rushed to accuse the White House, the army, the secret services that they are only a bunch of losers. Nobody rushed to empty their bank accounts. Nobody rushed on the streets nearby to gape about. The Americans volunteered to donate blood and to give a helping hand. After the first moments of panic, they raised the flag on the smoking ruins, putting on T-shirts, caps and ties in the colours of the national flag. They placed flags on buildings and cars as if in every place and on every car a minister or the president was passing. On every occasion they started singing their traditional song: "God Bless America!".
Silent as a rock, I watched the charity concert broadcast on Saturday once, twice, three times, on different tv channels. There were Clint Eastwood, Willie Nelson, Robert de Niro, Julia Roberts, Cassius Clay, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Silvester Stalone, James Wood, and many others whom no film or producers could ever bring together. The American's solidarity spirit turned them into a choir. Actually, choir is not the word. What you could hear was the heavy artillery of the American soul. What neither George W. Bush, nor Bill Clinton, nor Colin Powell could say without facing the risk of stumbling over words and sounds, was being heard in a great and unmistakable way in this charity concert. I don't know how it happened that all this obsessive singing of America didn't sound croaky, nationalist, or ostentatious! It made you green with envy because you weren't able to sing for your country without running the risk of being considered chauvinist, ridiculous, or suspected of who-knows-what mean interests. I watched the live broadcast and the rerun of its rerun for hours listening to the story of the guy who went down one hundred floors with a woman in a wheelchair without knowing who she was, or of the Californian hockey player, who fought with the terrorists and prevented the plane from hitting a target that would have killed other hundreds or thousands of people. How on earth were they able to sacrifice for their fellow humans? Imperceptibly, with every word and musical note, the memory of some turned into a modern myth of tragic heroes. And with every phone call, millions and millions of dollars were put in a collection aimed at rewarding not a man or a family, but a spirit which nothing can buy.
What on earth can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their galloping history? Their economic power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases which risk of sounding like commonplaces. I thought things over, but I reached only one conclusion.

Only freedom can work such miracles!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fischer - Spassky match

"I am the best player in the world and I am here to prove it." -- Bobby Fischer

Chess is like life. --- Boris Spassky

Chess is life. --- Bobby Fischer

Fischer 12.5-Spassky 8.5

deficit commission 1 - Hope For A Big Check

I knew a young woman, whom we will call L H, in Denton, Texas in the early seventies. She worked for the International House of Pancakes and had to struggle to make ends meet. She had trouble keeping track of how many hours that she worked each week and was frequently surprised by the size of her pay check. On many occasions, when she was calculating how she would get by during the next week, she would say, "Well, I guess I'll just hope for a big check."
Last night on PBS nightly news hour, I watched Jeffrey Brown interview three people about the deficit reduction preliminary report. On the left was Damon Silvers from the AFL-CIO who said the proposal will kill jobs, that we just needed to tax the rich, and not cut anything. In the center was Maya MacGuineas of the New America Foundation who argued for the new proposal. On the right was Grover Norquist who said that we did not need the 1 trillion in increased taxes over 10 years. He said that if we would just increase the growth rate of the economy from 2% to 3%, then that extra 1% would cover the trillion and we wouldn't need a tax increase. Silvers then agreed with Norquist that, if we were just willing to have the economy grow at 3% a year instead of 2%, then that extra 1% would solve the problem. But, said Silvers, this document is not a starting point.
So if one thinks of the GDP as the country's check, then these two bird dogs on the extremes ended up agreeing that we should go with the growth approach. Don't do that belt-tightening thing.

Just hope for a big check.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Historical note: Martin Luther

Martin Luther was born on this day in 1483. Luther was the father of the protestant reformation. He disputed the validity of "indulgences" in his most famous act of nailing his Niney-Five Theses to the church door in 1517. He also broke with the Catholic church on marriage by priest and translated the bible into German. He is a serious contender for Man of the Millenium.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Has anyone suggested that Nancy Pelosi may have indicated she will seek the position of Minority Leader in January only to maintain her power over the lame duck session?

Added 20101110 8 PM. Apparently not, since the selection is going to be Nov. 17th.

this post will self destruct on December 11.

Monday, November 8, 2010

the unionization of Walmart

How do you determine the value of work? Perhaps “the market” works pretty well at the top but I don’t think it does so well at the bottom. It is my understanding that the broad middle class that was built in this country in the 20th century was based on the unionized labor in the area of manufacturing and some services. What makes someone doing a very repetitive task on an assembly line more valuable than someone working in Walmart? There is nothing inherent in either of these activities that make one of them more valuable than the other. The difference is simple, it is economic power in the form of an organization.
Now comes globalization and the manufacturing worker’s job can be done by someone in another part of the world who will work for a lot less. We should of course continue to maintain whatever manufacturing where we can and a lot of other things in technology. The information people here are still doing great. But the income disparity in this country is growing and the question is where is one going to look for a way to rebuild the middle class. If you try to do it in manufacturing only, then, in most industries, the employees will not be able to receive any more (or not much more) than their counterparts in the developing world. It seems to me that we should look to the service workers. In particular, the ones who cannot be “outsourced”. The work these people do, would receive as much respect as those union workers did in the 50’s and 60’s if they had the power to get their share. Then those jobs would be just as desirable as the manufacturing jobs of an earlier era were. (Obviously the auto workers, like a lot of other people, went crazy later. Even there, though, it was the people in charge who hold the primary part of the responsibility.) That is why I favor the unionization of service workers in general and Walmart in particular.
When I say that I favor that result I, of course, mean that I accept the consequences. Only foolish liberals and small children would expect that the increased employee costs that would follow unionization of the employees would come from the profits of their employers. (I am quite confident that the 140 billion that the big boys got in bonuses alone last year will not be available for raises for any wage earners anywhere.) Of course, all of us would have to pay more for the stuff we buy from Walmart and elsewhere. I think that it would be worth it to help maintain the broad middle class that I think is necessary for the maintenance of our society.
I do not think that the country can sustain itself as a free society with a lot of very comfortable people (including the rich) on one hand and a broad collection of desperate poor on the other.
If the people who work hard for a living can’t make a life, then we have lost America.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

International economics

A friend suggested this story by Bill Moyers about the economic state of the Republic.

In connection with this I wonder:
It seems that no one discusses the question:
What did you think would happen when the rest of the world started to catch up with us?

That being said it does seem that the thing to do is recognize that we have an income disparity problem and decide how to deal with it.

I do not want to just take the money away from the well off and send it to the poor. That will make one side mad and undermine the confidence of the other.

I, for one, want to unionize the service workers industry, starting with walmart.
That could achieve the same result as the previous without the bad sideeffects.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Headline: A Yemeni judge ordered police Saturday to find a radical U.S.-born cleric "dead or alive" . The man in question, Anwar al-Awlaki, is already on the CIA's kill or capture list.

Those on the left will say Obama's rapproachement with Islam works.
Those on the right will say Bush's attack on the Taliban (the Afghan government which protected Al Queda) was noted by the Yemeni govt.

Perhaps the combo works well.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wilhelm Steinitz

Chess players are not known for their modesty.
Wilhelm Steinitz was the first official Chess Champion of the world.
Before one tournament he said: I have an advantage here because all of the other players have to play Steinitz.


Fiscal responsibility proposal
Dear well off Social Security recipient,
Last year your income was over $50,000, therefore you will not get a cost of living index increase in your SS payments for next year or thereafter as long as your income remains above $50,000 (adjusted for inflation).

If you would like a calculation that demonstrates that SS has “been bery, bery good to you” go to the website xxxx.

Thanks for playing,
Social Security Administration.

How hard would it be to create the website xxxx above? or Does there exist one that would let you put in the payments made to SS by you and your employer, subtract what you have taken out and give you a networth of what would be left right now and a projection of what kind of annuity that it would pay in the future?

Friday, November 5, 2010


John was the smart one.
Paul was the cute one.
George was the quiet one.
And Ringo was the luckiest SOB that ever lived.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


We do not have to allow them to slice and dice us into racial and ethnic categories for whatever their purposes are.

When a form asks for your race or ethnicity write in: American

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Where to now? 2

Some good advice for Obama from the YA Democrat Evan Bayh.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Where to now?

So if you accept, as I do, that the Keynesian requirements will not allow a tax increase immediately, then what can this divided government we have given ourselves do in the next two years that will contribute to fiscal responsibility.

Well they could work on some of the long term problems which would give we the people and the money people confidence in our long term seriousness.

Here are two examples that would be major contributions to solving the long term problem and involve very little immediate pain.

Make Medicare benefits taxable with the income from it devoted to Medicare payments. Those of us who have medium to high incomes would pay a medium to high tax on that. Our poor mothers living on SS would still not owe any tax. Phase it in if you have to to sell it.

Use the higher of the wage inflation index and consumer price index for SS increases for lower income people and the reverse for higher income people.
(The reason that you cannot just eliminate SS for the wealthy is that it would "make it into a welfare program" and reduce support for it.)

Another long term thing that would cost very little is to get serious about immigration. See Immigration 2 on 7/6/2010 for more on that.

The next steps would be harder. They would require some maturity in Congress so it is less likely. Have the Ds recognize that you cannot greatly increase government programs (like healthcare) without raising taxes and quit kidding us. Have the Rs realize that you cannot restore fiscal sanity without some tax increases and quit kidding us.

Once the recession is over, then you can construct a tax structure that
raises enough revenue to pay for whatever level of spending that you have chosen.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

american exceptionalism

I think it is time for this topic.
Some define American exceptionalism as a belief that this country is ordained by God to lead the world. This version goes from John Winthrop's "City Upon a Hill" in 1630 to Ronald Reagan's use of that symbolism in the 80's.
This is the favorite definition of those who are opposed to the concept.

Wikipedia opens the topic ("neutrality disputed" -as I expect it always will be) with: "American exceptionalism is an American theory that the United States occupies a special role among the nations of the world in terms of its national ethos, political and religious institutions, and its being built by immigrants.
This is pretty close to the notion of American exceptionalism that I am going to argue for.

I believe that America is exceptional. By that I do not mean what Obama apparently meant when he said that he thought America was exceptional and he was sure that everbody else thought that their country was exceptional too. That is called uniqueness. And every country is unique.

I mean that America is very different in several substantive ways. (I cannot use the expression “very unique”.)

As de Tocqueville noted it was the first working representative democracy. But that facet has lost its significance.

For a half century after WWII it stood astride the world like a colossus with (for awhile) a GDP greater than the rest of the world combined while holding only 6% of the population. But probably England did that in the century before and Rome 2,000 years earlier. Besides those days are gone, anyway.

I. It was built by immigrants. Although one could say, “Well it has been built now, so that goes by the board.” But this is one of those substantive ways in which America is different. At its founding America was overwhelmingly northern European in ancestry and protestant in religion. WASP - White Anglo Saxon Protestant. But they accepted those Catholics and Jews and freed their slaves and gradually the complexion of the country changed. Now they come from all over the world. Has any other nation ever done anything like that? Willingly allowed their racial composition to change so much that the current predictions are that in a few more years those whites will be in a minority? If we want to we can make it so that each of our foreign ambassadors arrives at their assignment and finds himself in a country from which some of his ancestors came. We are the world’s laboratory experiment to see if “we can all just get along.” We certainly have more experience with it than anyone else does. I remember in the sixties some folks in European countries looked down their noses at us because of our racial problems. They now understand that it was not as easy as they thought to deal with racial minorities of a significant size. What about religion? Well we are now in the process of expanding that freedom of religion beyond the Judeo-Christian tradition and making it truly universal.

II. The Civil War is part of that history, too. Lincoln saw the war as penance for the crime of American slavery. Has any other country ever engaged in a slaughter of 2% of its own population in order to free an oppressed minority? To compare that to modern pain, 2% of our current population would be 6,000,000 Americans.

III. But the main thing is that to be an American is not simply a matter of geography or blood (see Monday May 10) or ancestry. As many have noted an American is defined by location and the acceptance of the creed: the "self-evident truths” of the Declaration; the Constitutional restraints that begin with things like “Congress shall make no law …” or “No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.

So, yes, I believe in American Exceptionalism.

Some will say, “Yeah but look at all of the bad stuff that America did.” OK, look at it. We’ve got it. In that we are not exceptional.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

faith in america

Although I'm not sure that his use of the expression "bad faith" is appropriate -it seems like what he is talking about is "lack of faith"- I think he may be onto something. This piece by Shelby Steele may be about what is troubling this Obama voter.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

equal treatment 2

you should go to this link to hear the rambling justification of the firing of Juan Williams. It is here that she says that his opinions "are between him and his psychiatrist ...".

You can see Nina Totenberg's response to Krauthammer about this here

"Those who disagree with us are crazy."
Has that theme ever been seen before?

Friday, October 22, 2010

equal treatment

October 20, 2010 Juan Williams is fired from NPR for saying on another network:
“If I am in an airport and I see people in Muslim garb who identify themselves as primarily Muslim then I get nervous.”

Nina Totenberg was not fired from NPR for the following remarks:
July 8, 1995 On "Inside Washington"
I don’t think I have any Jesse Helms defenders here, Nina?
Nina Totenberg: Not me. I think he ought to be worried about the - uh - about what’s going on in the good lord’s mind because if there’s retributive justice, then he’ll get aids from a transfusion or one of his grandchildren will get it. (laughter)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Muslims attacked us on September 11, 2001. True or False

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I am not a witch

Fall brings its special days … Halloween and election day.
Even though its getting harder and harder to tell which is which,
both are still worth doing.
Bob Schieffer, CBS News,Sunday Oct. 17, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why? (a question for my liberal friends)

Suppose you were a Democratic Congressman who had voted for the stimulus bill to fund all of Obama's "shovel ready projects".
What would you think of Obama's recent statement that "there is no such thing as a shovel ready project"?
(David Brooks said on the PBS evening news that O had told him that - not for attribution - almost a year ago.)
It is not just one slip.
Biden says that people don't like the Health-care bill because it is too complicated.
The old "call the voters stupid" plan.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Not quite 2 John Kennedy

I don’t know if he was the originator of it but John F Kennedy said to a distinguished group at the White House one day.
"I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
It is a cute idea but as a saying it doesn’t really work. Obviously you would have a greater collection whenever TJ had Secretary Madison and the rest in for a cabinet meeting.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sexism to elect Democrats

I can appreciate an intellectually honest liberal, like Kirsten Powers, who wrote this article and appears regularly on Fox News Watch. For a similar and more provocative take on this issue, I highly recommend this article.

I don't know when this trend started -- perhaps with Bill Clinton's frequent use of the sluts-and-nuts defense -- but it is now an accepted tactic of the Left to villify and demonize its female opponents with sexist slurs. Sexism is evidently perfectly acceptable to many, if it is deployed to elect Democrats or help them stay in power. An intellectually honest liberal -- that is, one who is genuinely concerned about rooting out sexism -- should share my sadness about this development.

Friday, October 8, 2010

temporary note

I haven't had much time for this lately. I will be back in a 2 days.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Park 51 – 8 - Is that a threat?

In his interview with CNN’s Soledad O'Brien, Imam Rauf said: “If we move (Park 51) from that location, the story will be that the radicals have taken over the discourse. The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack.” Like a lot of other people I wondered whether that second sentence was a threat or an observation. It seems like that is not a simple question and may depend on who says it, what their interest is in the outcome, whether and how they are connected with the “Muslim world”.
Here are several things in this category. I would say that 1 is an observation and 6 is a threat but where in between it shifts is not clear to me.
Please note that I am not saying that all of these things have occurred or will occur.

1. If someone burns a Quran.
The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack.

2. If someone publishes a bombhead cartoon of Muhammad.
The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack.

3. If someone recommends the publishing of drawings of Muhammad.
The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack.

4. If we move from that location, the story will be that the radicals have taken over the discourse.
The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack.

5. If we are not allowed to obtain funds for Park 51 from Iran.
The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack.

6. If some American government will not pay for Park 51.
The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Freedom of Speech

(an embryonic thought)
Has any one seen any discussion of the Snyder v. Phelps SCOTUS case (about the military funerals)which took the following approach:

The funeral is in some sense a private event which has some aspects of property. The Phelps are exploiting some other peoples property to advance their otherwise allowable speech.

One can make an analogy: You have a right to burn the American flag.
But you do not have the right to burn MY American flag! That is one that happens to belong to me!

Monday, October 4, 2010


"Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity."
- Lao-tzu

Friday, October 1, 2010

limited government

George Will - paraphrase - If the federal government can require you to buy something that you may or may not want to buy, then in what sense do we have a limited government.

When asked by a reporter where in the constitution was the authority to do what is mentioned above (in the Health care bill) Speaker of the House of Representatives Pelosi's response was - "Are you serious? Are you serious?" (A spokesperson for the Speaker later confirmed that the speaker did not take such questions seriously.)

We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force. Ayn Rand 1905-1982

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

TARP accounts status

One of the things that the Democrats ought to do is make up something as simple as a TARP accounts status website that gives a simple balance sheet on the status of the TARP funds. Something like the debt clock does for the national debt. I think that most people think that our costs on that program have been enormously greater than they have been.
The media has been very helpful in that particular misinformation. If you recall they made no distinction about whether the TARP funds were:
1. given to some corporation or
2. loaned to a corporation or
3 used to buy part of the corporation.
Just call them all bailouts.

If there is one already would someone let me know. I couldn't find it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Credit Crunch?

“Ninety-one percent of small business owners surveyed in August by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said all their credit needs were met. Only 4 percent cited a lack of financing as their top business problem. Plans for capital spending were at a 35-year low.” http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100925/D9IEME2G0.html

A common amateur mistake is to solve the wrong problem. The quote above from an NFIB survey would indicate that the problem is not that banks lack funds to lend, but that too few want to borrow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

"Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins."

"A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.(March 8, 1841 – March 6, 1935)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

The US has placed Anwar Awlaki on a kill or capture list. His father is sueing to have him removed from it. Obama's people will probably use a variation of the title in their arguments in court.
The expression "suicide pact" was first used by Justice Robert H. Jackson in a dissent in Terminiello v. Chicago, in 1949.
The sentiment had been expressed earlier but not that concisely.
Thomas Jefferson: Changed his mind about how much power the Federal Government had when he got the chance to make the Louisiana Purchase. In justifying his actions, he later wrote: "[a] strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means."[1]
Abraham Lincoln: Suspended habeas corpus (a congressional power) as a wartime measure to maintain order and when criticized he responded: “ … Are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?"
Later in the war, after being criticized for the arrest and detention of Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio, Lincoln wrote that he was arrested "because he was laboring, with some effect, to prevent the raising of troops, to encourage desertions from the army,. . . Must I shoot a simple-minded deserter, while I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert?"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

NPV 4b is NPV Compact the best alternative? 1

The last comment on this thread was by Wayne at 9:30 Pm Sept23 as follows:
Each and every one of those elections mentioned in toto’s 9-23-6:15 note as well as all of the other 48 presidential elections that we have held have one thing in common. Winning of the popular vote was not the candidates’ primary objective. Whether we like the structure or not the name of the game was electoral votes. In each and every case the winning candidate won a majority of the votes that determined the election. (That includes the 1800 and 1824 in the House of Representatives.) The popular vote data begins with 1824, because until then they didn’t even record the popular vote. Popular vote is a wonderful thing. But when looking at elections which did not use that system it is strange to talk about those elections as if they did use that system. So perhaps Americans do not view the absence of runoffs as a problem in the present system because the present system always gives a winner who has a majority of the determining votes.

But NPV would change what the determinative votes are. In their system it is popular votes that count. OK but isn’t NPV then obligated to provide a method for dealing with a situation in which the votes are scattered among several candidates? The Bayh-Cellar amendment http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_College_(United_States)#The_Bayh-Celler_Amendment gave a way to do that. It required that the plurality winner have at least 40% of the vote or hold a runoff. A system doesn’t have give a majority winner but please spare us a 27% president (see 8-7-10 post).

NPV 4a - keep or drop the electoral college

This is one of the continuations of the comments on the 9-22-10 post National Popular Vote 4. This one concerns whether we should keep the electoral college. The other continuation deals with whether, if we change, the NPV Compact is the best way to go.

The last comment on this aspect of the thread was by toto on 9-24 at 4:27 PM as follows:

In FairVote's study of 7,645 statewide elections in the 26-year period from 1980 through 2006, the average change in the margin of victory as a result of a recount was a mere 274 votes. The original outcome remained unchanged in over 90% of the recounts.

A recount is not an unimaginable horror or logistical impossibility. A recount is a recognized contingency that is occasionally required (about once in 332 elections). All states routinely make arrangements for a recount in advance of every election. The personnel and resources necessary to conduct a recount are indigenous to each state. A state's ability to conduct a recount inside its own borders is unrelated to whether or not a recount may be occurring in another state.

If anyone is genuinely concerned about the possibility of recounts, then a single national pool of votes is the way to drastically reduce the likelihood of recounts and eliminate the artificial crises produced by the current system.

The U.S. Constitution requires the Electoral College to meet on the same day throughout the U.S. (mid-December). This sets a final deadline for vote counts from all states. In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court has interpreted the federal "safe harbor" statute to mean that the deadline for the state to finalize their vote count is 6 days before the meeting of the Electoral College.

Rules of engagement

My understanding of the rules of engagement in Afghanistan is this. To have a chance to succeed we must have the support of the people. To get that you have to keep civilian casualties low. That means that you have to have very restrictive rules of engagement. That is, you must limit our people’s responses in various situations. That increases the chances that our people will get killed. What it would come down to is deciding how many American lives you would give up in order to keep the collateral damage (= civilian casualties) low enough to have a chance for success. That would be a tough decision.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cuban layoff

Apparently there is trouble in the Socialist Paradise, too.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

debt and taxes

I think it is generally agreed that if the tax rate is too high then it will be a growth killer. Sometimes reducing the rates can be stimulator. Kennedy reduced the highest marginal rate (from 91% to 70%)and Reagan reduced it again to about 50. In both cases it spurred growth. You hear a lot about that from the right side tax cutters. But they usually don't mention what the numbers actually are. So what happens when you get down into the thirties? Will things go better with an even lower rate? On Sunday Sept. 19, I heard Bill Clinton say on Meet the Press that in the 12 years before he took office they (Republicans) quadrupled the national debt. His tax program eliminated the deficit and reduced the debt by about 700 billion. After he left office they lowered taxes and doubled the national debt. I think that that was roughly true.
PS The highest marginal income tax rate under Clinton's tax regime was just under 40%. Given how well the economy performed in the nineties and how not so well it did in the next 8 years perhaps we can conclude that that 40% was not a high enough rate to be a disastrous drag on business.
PS (15 hours later) Leaving them down for awhile may still be necessary because of the "great recession". But long term I think that is not too high.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

National popular vote 4

In the post number 3 on this topic (8-7-10)I promised another argument against NPV. This is not it. This is a response to one of the main arguments in favor of NPV. That argument goes like this: Most states know which candidate is going to win the electoral votes of their state because each state runs a plurality winner take all system. That is, Texas will vote Republican and California will vote Democratic. So the election will come down to a few close battlground states like Florida and Ohio which are tossups. Everybody else is "left out".
The problem with this argument is that it is not the electoral college that causes a state to be taken for granted. It is the way the state chooses to assign its electoral votes. Most states use a "winner take all" method which assigns the electoral votes of the state to whoever gets the most popular votes - regardless of how close the outcome is. To become battleground states all Texas and California have to do is allot their electoral votes proportionately based on the split of the vote. That is, if you get 43% of the popular vote then you get 43% of the electoral vote. That will eliminate their being taken for granted. If they want to they can choose to become a battleground state.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Freedom of Speech vs Religion

Most of us in what is called the West have agreed that a religion has the right to demand a code of conduct and behavior by its followers. For about five centuries we have also agreed that a religion does not have the right to impose its code of conduct and behavior on those who do not follow that religion. In this country this is enshrined in the first amendment to the US Constitution.
Suppose we have a religion that is outside of this tradition and in certain foreign countries has (in varying degrees) merged itself with the power of the state which it uses to force all persons in those counties to abide by the code of that religion.
As long as these two principles are operating in different areas of the world, then the problems are resolvable.
What happens if some of this other religion’s practitioners decide that they have the right to demand that nonbelievers “respect their religion”? What if “respect their religion” means following a part of their code? What if they decide that this applies to Americans? What if that part of their code is in conflict with another part (speech) of that first amendment?
Even without going any further it seems to me that there is a real problem here.
But there is more. What if there is an element in that religion that is prepared to enforce that part of the code by assassination?
Does that religion have the same rights as other religions?
Do the adherents of that religion have a responsibility vis-a-vis the new Assassins?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Islamic dna

Norman Benotman is a former associate of Osama bin Laden who published an open letter (9-10-2010) urging Osama bin Laden to call off his attacks. His perspective was that of a Muslim who believes that the attacks have been harmful to Islam. He said "‘Your actions have harmed millions of innocent Muslims and non-Muslims alike. How is this Islam or jihad? For how much longer will al-Qaeda continue to bring shame on Islam, disrupt ordinary Muslims’ lives, and be the cause of global unrest?"
I particularly liked an expression that he used in his interview with Fareed Zakaria which aired on CNN's GPS Sept. 19, 2010. To underline his point he said:

"Al-Qaeda is messing around with the dna of Islam itself."

Sunday, September 19, 2010


If you ask what caused the current financial breakdown you will generally get two answers: deregulation and subprime mortgages. If you ask which was the more important problem you will still get two answers: those generally tending to the left will say deregulation those generally tending to the right will say subprime mortgages. Is this an objectively answerable question and if so where do you go to find that answer?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

First Amendment

I did not participate on Draw Mohammed Day - see 5-20 but I think that we need another presidential speech on the 1st Amendment.
Note: Awlaki, who put Molly Norris on their assassination list, is himself on America's kill or capture list.

Molly Norris goes ghost

begin Jim Miller post:
My Sympathies To Molly Norris
For the record: I published two of the Danish cartoons, and would do so again. (One interesting detail about that controversy: The Danish imams who were trying to stir up violence against the cartoonists had little luck in the Middle East until they added some fake cartoons, fakes that were almost as bad as the cartoons that the UK Guardian routinely ran against George W. Bush.)
Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.
Since the last thing Norris wants now is more publicity, I have closed the comments.
Posted by Jim Miller at September 16, 2010 09:01 AM | Email This
End of Miller post.

See also the WSJ article on this.

Friday, September 17, 2010


You may add the term De-developed to your vocabulary - According to White House Office of Science and Technology Director John P. Holdren the U.S. needs to be de-developed. Here is the CNS article http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/75388

p.s. He also wants you to say “Global Climate Disruption” instead of “Global Warming"

Park 51- 7 – advertised review

Well I have had time to think it through. I think that these are hard questions and I don’t guarantee that I will still hold these views a year from now. We’ll see.
a) I still think Park 51 can be a good thing. If one really gets a bunch of interfaith folks to participate in it.
b) I will give Imam Rauf the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is not making the remarks in Park 51 – 6 as a threat. (The remark was that if such and such happened, then “The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack.” ) However, it is so near to being a threat (see Park 51 – 8) that I don’t think it should be used as an argument. Even if Rauf is not the one who moves them to action (and it is not clear that he is not the one) his remarks would certainly be considered by the “Muslim radicals”
c) I do not think that those who worry about the possibility of Park 51 becoming some kind of “point of triumph” in celebration of the “Muslim Victory” on 9-11 are out of bounds. That is, I think that it is a valid position. Given a) I obviously disagree (I don’t think it likely.) but it is not irrational and it is not an indication of Islamaphobia.
d) Islamaphobia is likely to become the next ridiculously overused word. I expect it will continue to be used to attack anyone who “disagrees with any Muslim position”. Notice that the media has not coined an expression for Christianophobia or Americaphobia.
e) I think that the position that Park 51 ought not be built close to the former site of the WTC is reasonable position with which I disagree. I think we all agree that as a matter of law all religions are and should be treated equally. But when you are talking about the site of a horrible crime and the perpetrators committed the crime in the name of religion X, then, as a matter of civility, religion X should not claim the same access to the site of the crime as other religions could. Now, before you conclude that I’m equating the criminals with the religion that they were acting in the name of (which I’m not) I ask you to read about the convent at Auschwitz and then read this paragraph again.
f) Pastor bookburner (Why should we give him fame?) was going to burn the Quran to show that Islam was a violent religion. We implored him not to do it because it would surely “cause” death and destruction. Does that mean he won the argument? (Also see the last two comments to Liberty's Response on Sept 9.)