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).