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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Immigration 5

It’s gonna’ have to be bipartisan for it to be effective and the trade off is gonna’ have to be improved security of our borders at the same time allowing those who are already here to reach out for that American dream.
Barack Obama 2004 Senate campaign radio interview


Daniel Runnels - welcome to the conversation

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fiscal Therapy 2

About the June 15 entry, Fiscal Therapy, a friend asked “Don’t you also have to consider what would happen if you don’t bail out California and those other (similarly situated) states?”

Fortunately, there are more than two choices here.  We are not limited to a) send them a check or b) turn a deaf ear.   We should take a third way which would be that they should be rescued by Federal loans but those loans should be tied to very strict fiscal therapy that those states should be required to go through. That would involve putting their house in order. This is similar to what the IMF requires of wayward countries in order to get their help. If there is no price for irresponsibility, then we will simply continue until the last bailout agency collapses. The comment to that original post is also very interesting.
PS There are some signs that California is getting serious with cuts and revisions of pension plans etc.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Race or poverty?

Shirley Sherrod said: “It is not about race, it is about the haves and the have nots.”
A lot of people have said: “Why should the daughter of a wealthy black couple have a legislated advantage over the son of a poor white couple?
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts has said: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
Attorney General Holder has urged us toward a national conversation about race.
Perhaps the following questions should be in that conversation.
Regardless of its original value, are we committed to the eventual end of racial affirmative action?
Is it time to replace racial affirmative action with poverty affirmative action?

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Laffer curve 2

see also this

The Laffer enthusiasts (see Wednesday, May 26, 2010) say that you should "cut taxes". They argue that if you cut tax rates then you will actually increase revenue to the government. That is taxes ( = money received) will be increased. If that is true, then in what sense are they “cutting taxes”?

Sunday, July 25, 2010


not to defeat an opponent nor to win a prize, but to emulate the best
The mantra of the Murray High School Speech and Drama program under the leadership of Mark Etherton.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Luxemburg Gardens

If you are in the Luxemburg Gardens in Paris you may, as I did, turn a corner and see one of the original copies (life size) on which the Statue of Liberty was based.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Science and Religion

One of the things that makes those religion-science discussions so hard is that the two sides have a different meaning for a very important word that they both use, the word believe.

In religion believe frequently means knowing something with absolute certainty with or without evidence. The belief may be absolute. If one encounters a view that is contrary to that absolute belief it can be frightening because there is no procedure for reconsidering one’s beliefs.

In science one believes that for which there is significant evidence. Such belief is inherently tentative: the greater the evidence the stronger the belief. New evidence may throw the previous belief out the window or simply reduce its scope. The Copernican system completely replaced the Ptolemaic view of the solar system, but Einstein’s relativity left Newton’s mechanics intact for most considerations because it is only in the extreme that the differences become significant.

There is encouragement to be had in the fact that a lot people are attempting to reconcile these two ways of perceiving the world.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Harry Truman

After listening to one too many economists hedge his advice by saying: "On the other hand ... ", President Harry Truman demanded that his staff find for him "a one armed economists."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Immigration 4

So who do I blame for this wretched immigration mess?
It is usually not appropriate to blame the individual for playing the system. This would apply especially to the IIUW (= illegal immigrant-undocumented worker). These folks are just trying to get ahead and they are in fact victims of the system. But the employer who sees his competitors getting an advantage by hiring IIUWs and also sees the government doing almost nothing about it is also a victim of the system. Eventually the real enforcement has to focus on the employer who hires IIUWs and require that he pay a heavy penalty. But until the government gets serious, the employer is trapped in a system that is dysfunctional because those in authority are not meeting their obligations.

The people who created the system and those who do not enforce it deserve the blame. This is another example of how we sometimes deal badly with the following dilemma: some people want this law and some people don’t. To please one group we will pass the law and to please the other group we will not enforce the law. That is not compromise. That is a grotesque betrayal of the rule of law. Then you follow that with several presidents who think that whether or not they enforce the law is a bargaining chip in some political game. To paraphrase a participant in this blog: If you have millions of people in your country without legal status who are working contrary to the laws of the country, then can you seriously claim that you are a nation of laws?

I believe that any country has an absolute legal right to limit immigration into that country. The fact that at some times in the past we did not limit immigration into the US has absolutely nothing to do with it. We did it one way then and we can do it another way now. It is our choice.

I would continue the current high level of legal immigration into the US. I would prefer that it favor people from countries which are currently underrepresented here: that would be Asians.

I support a zero level of illegal immigration.

If we need workers (and apparently we do), then we should create a very broad visa program to regulate the influx of workers and make them legal.

One more thing and then I’ll stop on immigration.

All of the above is about our legal right to control residence in our country. However, there is also a moral dimension to this question. If you have to bring in people from outside of your country, then, in some sense, your country does not have enough people in it. That is the justification for allowing more immigration. I don’t think it is morally right to bring people in on work visa and then just pay them for their work and feel like you have done them justice. The longer a person works here legally, the greater is their moral claim to access to citizenship, if they want it. The work visa program should include a structure for dealing with this.

I want to be clear that I do not think that the last paragraph is a proper approach to the 12 million IIUWs who are here now. They worked here illegally therefore their claim is significantly weaker. However, they are here illegally, in part, because we don’t have our act together. Therefore they do have some claim. That claim should be resolved in a way that is consistent with the work visa program but not until after the long-term solution to immigration is in place.


Integrity is the thing. If you can fake that you’ve got it made.

Variation of a remark by Groucho Marx

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fiscal Responsibility

On domestic affairs in my lifetime the conventional wisdom says that the most successful liberal was Lyndon Johnson and the most successful conservative was Ronald Reagan. I think that there is a major problem with that view. I think that if you advocate a major change and you do the easy part and ignore the hard part, then you can’t call that success. If Jefferson had signed that deal he made with Napoleon and then not gotten Congress to put up the money the whole Lousiana Purchase thing would have fallen through. Not a success.
Of course now we have a lot of sophisticated devices to put off paying the piper.

Johnson was able to convince Congress to pass Medicare and Medicaid. But he was not able to convince them to pass the taxes that would be necessary to fund it properly and we have an impending disaster in entitlements. That was the point at which the Democratic Party gave up any claim to fiscal responsibility.

Reagan was able to convince Congress to cut income tax rates but he was not able to convince them to reduce spending. There followed a dramatic increase in the deficit ( = the amount by which the government lives beyond its means.) The result was to end the post WWII decline in the national debt (as a percentage of GDP) and to begin a striking increase in that debt. That was the point at which the Republican Party gave up any claim to fiscal responsibility.

It would be nice if the left would acknowledge that their programs would require new taxes.

It would be nice if the right would acknowledge that their tax cuts would require program cuts.

But it ain’t gonna happen any time soon.

traditional wisdom

"The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head."

-- Aristide Briand (1862-1932) Prime Minister of France and Nobel Peace Prize winner

There are many variations of this perhaps the first was by Francois Guizot (1787-1874) French historian and politician.

Scottish Generals

Lincoln had McClellan, Truman had MacArthur, and now Obama has McChrystal.
What is with these Scottish generals?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Immigration 3

Arizona passes a law that requires that their police to assist in the enforcement of Federal immigration laws and the Executive Branch announces that they will seek an injunction against the Arizona law. The proffered reason is that we can’t have 50 different immigration policies.
A number of "sanctuary cities" adopt policies designed to oppose the enforcement of the immigration laws.  Obama's press secretary cannot answer (July 7, 2010) a question about why the target is Arizona and not the sanctuary cities.
Obama’s predecessors were also negligent about enforcing the immigration laws. But apparently Obama has decided to go them one better. He is going to make sure that nobody enforces the immigration laws.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Immigration 2

The first thing to do about the immigration problem is to deal with the source of the problem. The IIUWs (illegal immigrants - undocumented workers) do not come here because it is fun to risk their lives crossing the border. They come for work. Therefore the focus should be on employment not the border. (The border should be secured but that should be done because of drugs and terrorists not IIUWs.)

Step one is to require employers to confirm the legal status of new employees. This requires that new employees prove their legal status when they take a job. It does not require that they carry “papers please” or any of the silly claptrap that you will hear from Rachel Maddow and Glenn Beck. More importantly new IIUWs will not have any reason to come.

Step two involves taking down those two signs that we have on the border: “help wanted” and “no trespassing”. Replace them with one sign that says “help wanted apply at the front door”. That is, in addition to regular immigration, we need to establish an expanded and accessible “work visa” program. Apply, pass a background check similar to what is done for immigrants and receive a work visa. Perhaps for 3 years with an option for 1 renewal.

With those two things you have dealt with the essence of the long term problem. Now for the folks who are already here illegally. If you want to allow them to stay put them into the visa program. If you want them to leave, then look to why they came. Expand the requirement that new employees prove legal status and require that all employees of less than, say, two years service prove legal status, then 4 years and then 6 etc. Take away what they came here for and they will self deport. You do not need to “round up 11 million people”. This is scare talk by people who are either silly or else have an agenda that will not stand the light of day.

Of course we can just continue what we are doing now and let their employers use these folks to keep wages low and our politicians use their situation to incite our Hispanic citizenry.