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

Monday, May 31, 2010


My friend the retired Methodist minister asked me how my positions compared
to libertarianism.

As they say, Wikipedia is the place to start: Libertarianism is a political theory that advocates the maximization of individual liberty in thought and action and the minimization or even abolition of the state.

I would certainly support the liberty part and even a minimal state as long as it does the things that I think a state should do. Probably a lot of people (including many who don’t think of themselves as libertarian) would agree with that. The thing that really classifies you is which things you think the state should do – and if possible – can you define the criteria by which you would determine those things.

So the first criterion is protection. From foreign enemies (military), criminals (police), the unscrupulous (regulators), and the irrational (civil rights laws).

The second criterion is promoting equal opportunity. So in here you get public education (It doesn’t have to be government schools - I would like to see some state try full scale vouchers.) and public health.

Finally I am not as much concerned about how big the government is as I am about how responsible we are about the size that we choose. The American people should choose to tax X% of GDP give it to our governments and then have our governments spend X% of GDP on our behalf. What worries me is that we seem to want to give our governments X% of GDP but we want the governments to spend X+10 % of GDP.

The extra 10% plus interest will come from our grandchildren who (mostly) are unborn and/or cannot vote. That is “taxation without representation”, an expression that sounds familiar!

Precision Speech and the Arkansas River

I like rivers and streams. When driving I am a road hazard around bridges because I want to see the flowing water. Once in the eighties I was driving through Arkansas on the way from Texas to Kentucky. The Arkansas river runs through Little Rock where I stopped for gas. I had been daydreaming and was not sure of exactly where I was. In particular I was not sure if I had crossed the Arkansas river or whether it was still further down the road. Without choosing my words carefully I told the attendant which way I was going and asked: “Is the Arkansas River still up ahead?” He looked at me and without a hint of a smile said: “Well, it was when I came to work this morning.”

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Veto power

The President has a constitutional veto of legislation but was not given a line item veto and, by Supreme Court ruling, cannot be given one by Congress.
The Supreme Court was not given a veto by the constitution but, by Supreme Court ruling, does have a veto and a line item veto.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The stasis fallacy

If you change the rules of an activity and do NOT consider the possibility that this will cause a change in the behavior of the players, then you have made a logical error. I am going to call this the stasis fallacy. For example: Bankers were long known for being hard-nosed and careful about lending money. The reason was simple: they were responsible for the outcomes. Suppose you change the rules and allow them to make loans and arrange a buyer so that they can immediately sell those loans. Suppose I then assume that that same banker will, in this new environment, operate with the same vigilance about those loans that he did previously. Then I am making the stasis fallacy.

Lincoln on Kentucky

Lincoln saw Kentucky as crucial to winning the coming struggle to save the union. He was reported to have said “ I should like to think that I have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Laffer Curve

see also this

Intro: The "Laffer curve" argument says that if income tax rates are lowered then, paradoxically (because of increased economic activity), the amount of revenue will be increased. You can see the curve at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laffer_curve . (rates below refer to the highest marginal rate)
After a bit of thought (and looking at the extreme rates of 100% and 0%) the basic idea is credible. If you have a very low rate you can increase revenue by increasing rates and if you are on the high rate side then you can only increase revenue by lowering the rate.
In the media it is usually presented by conservatives as an argument for "cutting taxes". It is frequently accompanied by a reference to the Kennedy tax cuts of the mid sixties and the Reagan tax cuts of the early eighties. It is stated that both worked. The conclusion is then drawn that a tax cut now will also work and that a return to the “high rates” of the nineties would actually reduce revenue.
I wish we had a media which would:
1. Point out that the Kennedy reduction of the top rate was from 91% to 77% and Reagan's was from 70% to 50%.
2. Ask: Why do you think it will work on the current rate which is only 35% or the “high” rates of the nineties (always under 40%)? (http://www.taxfoundation.org/files/fed_individual_rate_history-20091231.pdf)
3. Ask: What is the rate on the curve that would yield the maximum revenue? Do you have any reason to believe that it is lower than 35% or not higher than 40%?
4. Ask: If (as the argument claims) a reduction in the tax rate would increase revenue, then isn't what they are calling a TAX CUT actually a TAX (amount) INCREASE?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Draw Mohammad day

Today was “Draw Mohammad day” on Facebook.
I am not participating.
I don’t really see what is gained by doing something solely to offend someone.
On the other hand, any “freedom of speech” worthy of
the name must include the right to offend, even gratuitously.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Two from Terry's door long ago

It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Work flows to the competent man - until he submerges.

I have no idea if he originated them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Rumpelstiltskin for Treasury Secretary.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Immigration 1

Did Jack Paar really say "Immigration is the sincerest form of flattery."?

Who said: "Our problem is that we have two signs on the border: one says
'Help Wanted' and the other says 'No Trespassing' "?

Monday, May 10, 2010

What blood are Americans?

Talat, a 16-year-old Turkish boy, kept asking me the question. He lived in Istanbul when I met him in June of 1983. I told him about the indigenous population (I have a bit of their blood) at the time of the European discovery of America and the successive waves of immigration that came: the Northern Europeans, the Southern Europeans, those who were stolen from Africa (and from themselves). Later they came from all over the world. I mentioned the melting pot (denied by some).
But his question does not have an answer.
Americans are not defined by blood. 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”. I don’t believe that I succeeded in explaining it to Talat.
Twenty seven years later I got a census form with ten questions on it. Two of them were about race. Like Talat, they wanted to know what blood I was. They offered the usual choices.
I thought about it for a while and then checked the box for “other” and wrote: American.

services and taxes

About 60% of us want more government services and
About 60% of us want lower taxes.
The problem, of course, is the 20% that want both.