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, June 25, 2010

golf and music

They say I should retire. …
All I do is play golf and make music.
Which one do they want me to give up?
Willie Nelson at about 75

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


John Adams (who would become second president) was first a farmer and attorney. He wanted his son John Quincy Adams to follow in his footsteps at least as far as going to college. In those days that meant learning Latin. Quincy complained bitterly about having to learn Latin. To clarify the issue for him, John offered Quincy the alternative of digging a drainage ditch that was needed on the “back forty”. A few days later they had the following conversation:

Quincy: Father, is there nothing between Latin and the ditch?
John: Not in this world my son.

John Quincy did go to Harvard and became the sixth president of the US and later Speaker of the House.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mediocrates says

Everybody is entitled to the American Dream.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Commitments and Power (on Rob’s 6-13 comment)

Walter Lippman said that Foreign Policy is “bringing into balance, with a comfortable margin of power in reserve, the nation’s commitments and the nation’s power.” At the end of WWII the US was the dominant power. It was the kind of dominance that cannot last long without an outmoded kind of empire that a free nation could not undertake even if it wanted to. We took on extensive commitments, primarily the defense of our side in the Cold War. By the time the Cold War ended we were no longer in that kind of dominant position. Even though (perhaps because) the world had definitely turned our way, the most we could aspire to was to be the first among equals. (For a professional description of this view read Fareed Zakaria’s The Post American World.) http://www.amazon.com/Post-American-World-Fareed-Zakaria/dp/039306235X  This brings me to my main complaint with Bill Clinton. In 1992 the Cold War was over. America’s 45 year long foreign policy had succeeded. NATO’s mission was accomplished. “Done, done, and done. Now what?” What he should have done was get with Congress and formulate a new bipartisan foreign policy. Assess the threats, set the objectives. Most importantly recognize that our new financial position meant that we could no longer do whatever we wanted to. Power is measured in productivity. We produce 20-25 % of the world’s goods and services and we make 50% of the world’s military expenditures. The nation’s commitments and the nation’s power are out of balance, and our reserve (money) is actually negative.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

fiscal therapy

President Obama is asking Congress to spend another $50 billion (which will come from all of us) to bail out certain state governments that have acted irresponsibly. I don’t think that these states are even going to be asked to undergo any “fiscal therapy” of restraints being placed on their behavior like the banks and Greece were. Ask someone who supports this plan the following question: “How will you convince those states that have lived within their means that they should continue to act responsibly?” Or “How will you convince those states that have had others pay for their extravagance that they should start to act responsibly?” The answer will very likely be some form of: “Somehow.” That is a response that will be recognized by the readers of Ayn Rand novels.

Monday, June 14, 2010

clothed with great power

The complaints about the methods Obama used to get the votes needed to pass the health care bill reminded me of a Lincoln quote. The setting was January, 1865. The measure had passed the Senate the previous fall and was before the House of Representatives. The prospects in the house looked bad as they were two votes shy of what was required. Lincoln sent for two of his supporters in the House and told them that he wanted them to obtain those two votes. The members asked him how they were to do that and he replied:
"I am the President of the United States, clothed with great power." He then explained why the measure was so very important and finished with: "I leave it to you to determine how it should be done; but remember that I am the President of the United States, clothed with immense power, and I expect you to procure those votes." --The Prairie and War Years, Carl Sandburg
By 119 to 56 with 8 abstaining they obtained the required 2/3 majority to send the Thirteenth Amendment banning slavery to the states for ratification.
Perhaps Lincoln chose those words because he was engaging in such a heavy handed use of that power. But I like how clearly he expressed that, though the power was great, it was also transient in nature. He did not "possess" power or "have" power but rather he was "clothed with" power.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - was the combination that America and Europe made (after WWII) to promote their interests.
Its first Secretary General, Lord Ismay, stated that NATO's goal (for Europe)
was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down".

Saturday, June 12, 2010


“To look where all have looked and see what none have seen.”
This is the holy grail of mathematics.
The pinnacle of achievement for the research mathematician or scientist.

Those who actually achieve it are often among its more modest practitioners.
I think that the most beutiful of these statements of modesty originated with Bernard of Chartres in the 12th century.
The best version of it that I know is Isaac Newton's tribute to Galileo Galilei and others.
"If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

Another famous statement of Newton's is:
"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mediocrates says

Say what you will, the mediocre are always at their best.
Jean Giraudoux

(You were right about the spelling Rob. Actually it was Mediokrates before I Anglicized it.)

National Health Care 1

I have reluctantly come to support it. By NHC I mean some variation of a single payer plan with the federal government picking up the bill. A simple description of that is: Medicare for all.
The principle motivator for me was that technology has presented or is presenting us with a major problem with respect to the viability of health insurance itself. We are becoming more and more able to predict which diseases that someone is likely to get. What do we do with that information? Privacy concerns will prevent individuals from being required to reveal that information. Therefore, in the face of that deficit of information, the insurance company would have to charge a rate based on the worst case scenario. That will make insurance even more expensive than it already is.
Of course, this would require an increase in taxation. If the choice is between doing it and not paying for it or not doing it, then I choose not doing it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mediocrites* says

"Mediocrity deserves some representation on the Supreme Court, too. Doesn't it?"
A paraphrase of comments by Roman Hruska(R) NE in defense of Nixon Supreme court nominee G. Harold Carswell. Carswell had been criticised as being mediocre.

Hruska's actual words were "Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos."

*Mediocrites was a mythical Greek philosopher who never really got going. I first heard of him from some graduate students in Lubbock, TX in 1964.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Poor S C

"South Carolina is too small to be a republic and too large to be an insane asylum." The quote is from James Louis Petigru (May 10, 1789-March 9, 1863) who was a lawyer, politician, and Attorney General in South Carolina. He opposed nullification and secession. He was a man of some principle which forced him into the unhappy position of opposing his friends and neighbors. The remark was made after SC had seceded from the union.

The sentiment is currently being plagiarized and trivialized as a description of Arizona by those who oppose the state's attempts to control illegal immigration.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Line

Whenever someone talks about any form of amnesty for those folks who are not here legally they always end up saying that those folks will have to "go to the end of the line". Where is that line?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I am not alone.

There is someone else who thinks that perhaps it is not a good idea to be broadcasting into space that we are here – that we are throwing note bottles into the ocean of space – because we are unable to leave this planet – because we are helpless and an easy target for a more advanced civilization. Do a thought experiment. Imagine an American Indian on the east coast in 1400. He has a small light log with some carvings on it. Should he throw it into the Atlantic hoping some friendly European will find it? The superstar scientist Stephen Hawking also thinks that this attempt to tell others that we are here is not such a good idea . http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/space/article7107207.ece .