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

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.