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, December 31, 2011

Jefferson and Lincoln and King

Some see in Thomas Jefferson only a hypocrite who owned slaves.

I see Jefferson as a man, admittedly flawed, who lived in a world not of his making which he could not change.

But I will also say that he did not simply "accept that which I cannot change" as in the cleric's serenity prayer. He contributed to the eventual solution in the only place where it could happen: the future. He placed in the hands of, then unknown, leaders a powerful weapon that could be wielded when the time came that it was possible to "change the things they could".

Lincoln: "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."
Gettysburg, November 1863

King: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”
Washington, August 28, 1968

Friday, December 30, 2011


"Religion is man made. All gods found so far are man made.

But that is not to say, at all, that there may not be a prime mover or higher intelligence.

But I say that no one has yet earned any claim to act in the name of that entity."

A comment presented on ABC's This Week.

Christopher Hitchens - April 13, 1949 – December 15, 2011 - thinker, writer

Though Hitchens retained his British citizenship, he became a United States citizen on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial on April 13, 2007. It was his 58th birthday and the 264th anniversary of Jefferson's birth.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Islamic dress code

On a trip to Texas we stopped in a Waffle House in Arkansas and saw what I assumed to be a Muslim family of father, mother and 3 children. The mother and teen daughter were carefully scarfed so that only their faces and hands were visible. Not even their hair showed.

Well sort of.
The scarves were very colorful almost form fitted so that one could see that underneath was a lot of flowing hair. The slacks that they were wearing were also form fitted and very colorful .

While they appeared to meet the requirements of "covering" I expect many of the mullahs in the more backward parts of the Islamic world would have been shocked at the sight.

Like all of the other threads that make up the fabric of America, Islam will change what we become.

But America will change Islam too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Midlife Crisis Economics By DAVID BROOKS

When the administration came to office in the depths of the financial crisis, many of its leading figures concluded that the moment was analogous to the Great Depression. They read books about the New Deal and sought to learn from F.D.R.

But, in the 1930s, people genuinely looked to government to ease their fears and restore their confidence. Today, Americans are more likely to fear government than be reassured by it.

According to a Gallup survey, 64 percent of Americans polled said they believed that big government is the biggest threat to the country. Only 26 percent believed that big business is the biggest threat. As a result, the public has reacted to Obama’s activism with fear and anxiety. The Democrats lost 63 House seats in the 2010 elections.

Members of the administration have now dropped the New Deal parallels. But they have started making analogies between this era and the progressive era around the turn of the 20th century.

Again, there are superficial similarities. Then, as now, we are seeing great concentrations of wealth, especially at the top. Then, as now, the professional class of lawyers, teachers and journalists seems to feel as if it has the upper hand in its status war against the business class of executives and financiers.

But these superficial similarities are outweighed by vast differences.

First, the underlying economic situations are very different. A century ago, the American economy was a vibrant jobs machine. Industrialization was volatile and cruel, but it produced millions of new jobs, sucking labor in from the countryside and from overseas.

Today’s economy is not a jobs machine and lacks that bursting vibrancy. The rate of new business start-ups was declining even before the 2008 financial crisis. Companies are finding that they can get by with fewer workers. As President Obama has observed, factories that used to employ 1,000 workers can now be even more productive with less than 100.

Moreover, the information economy widens inequality for deep and varied reasons that were unknown a century ago. Inequality is growing in nearly every developed country. According to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, over the past 30 years, inequality in Sweden, Germany, Israel, Finland and New Zealand has grown as fast or faster than inequality in the United States, even though these countries have very different welfare systems.

In the progressive era, the economy was in its adolescence and the task was to control it. Today the economy is middle-aged; the task is to rejuvenate it.

Second, the governmental challenge is very different today than it was in the progressive era. Back then, government was small and there were few worker safety regulations. The problem was a lack of institutions. Today, government is large, and there is a thicket of regulations, torts and legal encumbrances. The problem is not a lack of institutions; it’s a lack of institutional effectiveness.

The United States spends far more on education than any other nation, with paltry results. It spends far more on health care, again, with paltry results. It spends so much on poverty programs that if we just took that money and handed poor people checks, we would virtually eliminate poverty overnight. In the progressive era, the task was to build programs; today the task is to reform existing ones.

Third, the moral culture of the nation is very different. The progressive era still had a Victorian culture, with its rectitude and restrictions. Back then, there was a moral horror at the thought of debt. No matter how bad the economic problems became, progressive-era politicians did not impose huge debt burdens on their children. That ethos is clearly gone.

In the progressive era, there was an understanding that men who impregnated women should marry them. It didn’t always work in practice, but that was the strong social norm. Today, that norm has dissolved. Forty percent of American children are born out of wedlock. This sentences the U.S. to another generation of widening inequality and slower human capital development.

One hundred years ago, we had libertarian economics but conservative values. Today we have oligarchic economics and libertarian moral values — a bad combination.

In sum, in the progressive era, the country was young and vibrant. The job was to impose economic order. Today, the country is middle-aged but self-indulgent. Bad habits have accumulated. Interest groups have emerged to protect the status quo. The job is to restore old disciplines, strip away decaying structures and reform the welfare state. The country needs a productive midlife crisis.

The progressive era is not a model; it is a foil. It provides a contrast and shows us what we really need to do.

For NYTimes reader's comments got to the NY Times site

Monday, December 26, 2011

the debt and the left

E.J.Dionne has found a way to describe the election of 2012 in a way that completely ignores the problem of the debt. As Paul Samuelson notes, that is consistent with the left's refusal to consider it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lie of the year

Politifact comes under fire from the left for judging the "pushing little old ladies over the cliff" add by the left as Lie of the year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


National Popular Vote is starting to get some push back.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gingrich and the courts

One of the two things that I am furthest to the right on is the role of the courts.
I believe that the courts should stick to what the constitution says, not what they wish it said.
Pretend for a moment that you agree with me. What is the solution to this problem?
Elect people who will select judges that agree with that view of the role of judges.
Problem solved.

With that in mind, I want to express my dismay at what Speaker Gingrich is saying about the courts and what he would “do about them”.
"I was frankly just fed up with elitist judges imposing secularism on the country and fundamentally changing the American Constitution," Gingrich told reporters, adding that "it was clear to me that you have a judicial psychology run amok, and there has to be some method of bringing balance back to the three branches."

Well, no, they haven’t “run amok”. They are perhaps stretching their power to the limits just like any institution is inclined to do.

One of the main decisions that Newt has complained about is the 9th circuit court’s decision about the unconstitutionality of “one nation under god” being in the pledge of allegiance. There are two very important facts about that decision. One, the pledge wasn’t adopted by Congress until 1942 and the phrase “under God” wasn’t added to the pledge until 1954 and therefore its presence there has absolutely no support by the founders. Two, the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court! That is to say, (if it is a problem) the judicial branch itself provided an internal solution to this particular issue that he is so overwrought about!
Now that he has exaggerated this problem to the level of a constitutional crises, he offers his equally exaggerated “solution” :

“In order to restore balance between Congress, the White House, and the courts, Gingrich recommended ignoring rulings, impeaching judges, subpoenaing justices to have them explain their rulings and, as a last resort, abolishing the courts altogether.”

It's breathtaking. It is hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the balance between the three branches and this idea that the Supreme Court is the most powerful of them. The Judiciary is totally dependent on the Executive to implement its decisions. The courts are totally dependent on the Executive and the Senate to staff itself. The Congress has the power to remove any member of the judiciary. The fact that Congress does not exercise that power should lead a rational person to assume that they do not believe that things are that far out of balance.

What kind of person turns a small problem into a big problem and then proposes a radical solution to it?

Has Gingrich even thought about how he will maintain an independent judiciary and the rule of law while he has Congress sending subpoenas to judges?

In the monthly report I expressed my distress with Newt when he indicated that he had abandoned the first amendment,
but God-Lordy he has really lost it now.

Reading List

Neil deGrasse Tyson, full-time astrophysicist and part-time actor (usually playing himself) recently held an interview on the news aggregator website Reddit.com starting with “I am Neil deGrasse Tyson -- AMA [Ask Me Anything]”.

Responding to the questions “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on planet?” he answered:

The Bible, The System of the World (Newton), On the Origin of Species (Darwin), Gulliver's Travels (Swift), The Age of Reason (Paine), The Wealth of Nations (Smith), The Art of War (Sun Tsu), The Prince (Machiavelli).

If read all of the works above, you will have profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.

Any additions? Subtractions? Comments?
I would also recommend reading the entire interview, and his previous interview here, if only for the comments about education and his very simple debunking of the "Ancient Aliens" myth.

Friday, December 16, 2011

the opinion of David Brooks et al.


"The people who have worked with Romney and know him well, want Romney to win.

The people who have worked with Gingrich and know him well, want Romney to win."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

When will Armey speak?

Richard K. Armey (R) Texas was in the House for 16 years and was the House Majority leader for half of those years. They included the years of Gingrich's Speakership.

I don't think we have heard from him about Gingrich's candidacy. That should be interesting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rick Perry

Rick Perry says that when he's elected he will end Obama's war on religion.

There you go.

Monkey Butts

Monkey Butts: In one of the more vivid illustrations of the political landscape in some time David Axelrod had this to say about Newt Gingrich today, Devin Dwyer reports: Â "Just remember, the higher a monkey climbs on a pole, the more you can see his butt," Axelrod said, citing a piece of political wisdom he said he learned from a Chicago alderman. "So, the speaker is very high on the pole right now and we'll see how people like the view."

Chess in School

"The exciting part, educationally, is the discovery that children who learn chess at an early age achieve more in the traditional math and sciences. Chinese, European, and American research all find significant correlational values after just one year of systematic chess exposure. The most striking benefits of chess are those associated with problem solving and creativity. A four-year Pennsylvania study compared the effect of various enrichment techniques on student scores on standardized tests. On the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, non-chess enrichment showed an average annual increase effect of 4.56%. Chess groups' annual increase effects weighed in at 17.3%. The York Board became the first English board in Canada to add chess to the curriculum. In December, New Jersey became the first US state to legislate chess into the curriculum starting in 1993. The United States now joins Quebec and New Brunswick and 29 other countries in the world in deploying chess systematically to develop thinking." –

Canadian Education Association Newsletter: June 1993

Monday, December 12, 2011

Two or three notes

Sorry I'm not getting much up lately I've been kind of sickly.

1. “The first job of a leader is to define reality.” – Max Depree
Are our candidates, including O, telling us about the hard times ahead or are they pandering to our wish that it be easy?
Have you heard anyone say that serious sacrifice is needed from the middle class (as well as the rich)?

2. Some potential irony. Wouldn't it be strange if the post-mortem of next year's election showed that Obama had beaten a weak republican candidate, and that the tea party was the reason that stronger candidates had fallen by the wayside? Meaning that the tea party had reelected him.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pragmatic Chaos

Hi. I'm Diogenes. I will be the psuedonym for all of the people who don't want to put up things on their own but, instead, send things to Wayne that he thinks that you might like.
Try this

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trumped update -(12/13 Cancelled)

I don't remember where it came from, but I heard that this is just an SNL scam. They won't have to parody this debate. They can just run excerpts from the original.

We will update this and I will include my predictions:

Candidates attending: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum,

Candidates attending and moderating: Donald Trump

Candidates predicted to attend: Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry

Candidates not attending: Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney

Belief in Science and Religion

This is a prelude to a post on Climate Change and Capitalism.

Those who are familiar with the topic of belief will find nothing new here. This is a note for those who, like most of the reporters that I see on TV, could not pass the science part of Jeff Foxworthy's ten question test to decide if one is Smarter Than a Fifth Grader.

I come from the math-science side of Academia. I believe in science (thank you Aristotle, Roger Bacon, et al.) I believe scientists in general, even those whose work I know nothing about. That is because I know how they decide what they claim is true. That is, I believe in the scientific method and I think that those who have not practiced it may not understand that, inherent within science, are two of the most charming devices for the prevention and correction of errors.

The first is that your evidence must be reproducible. If you get results and someone else performs the same experiment and doesn’t get those results, then there is a problem and you basically start over. This is quite different from the way disagreements in religion have been handled. When Jesus and Mohammad have different visions then you had a very long religious war. Then of course there was the Pope and Martin Luther.

The second involves the difference between scientific and faith based belief. Faith based belief is often absolute – the expression that comes to mind is “written in stone”. Scientific belief is very tentative and can perhaps best be described as a belief that the position in question is the “best explanation available” at the present time. It may give way to a better or more complete theory at any time. The example that comes to mind is Newton’s mechanics which stood for 300 years before the arrival of Einstein's relativity. Those who are familiar with (or should I say committed to) faith based belief often imagine that the practitioners of science meekly accept its current beliefs as if they too were written on stone tablets. (I think I have seen this argument used by the intelligent design folks.) This is a more profound question because it speaks to the possibility that the whole enterprise may become biased in favor of its current beliefs. (The claim currently made about global warming.) In fact, it is true that errors have, in the past, been allowed to linger too long, the Piltdown Man comes to mind.

The corrective for that is, I think, one of the most profoundly delightful aspects of science. It is this: far from worshiping the pedestrian follower of the current perception, the scientific community reserves its highest accolades and greatest honors for those individuals who shake the very foundations of the current “best available explanation.” Carl Sagan is very well thought of as a presenter of science, but he will never compare to Albert Einstein or Charles Darwin in the pantheon of scientific stars.

Science saves its loudest applause for those who “look where all have looked and see what none have seen.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


So Donald Trump is going to hold a debate for the R candidates.

I've heard some pretty silly things in my time so I'm reluctant to say that that is the silliest, but it is a contender. Ron Paul and Huntsman have, to their credit, announced that they will not come.

And Gingrich is going to go.

So here is a test for the rest of them.

Capitalism vs Climate

KW introduced us to the article Capitalism vs Climate by Naomi Klein in two earlier posts A and B .

He then makes a statement and asks the question:

"Will the private sector be able to deal with the massive climate changes bringing rises in sea levels, increased flooding and drought and widespread population movements? I would like to see someone on this blog try to answer this question in the affirmation, without simply writing off the coming crisis as a plot by leftists who want to destroy capitalism."

I want to try to give my answer to the question in a day or two. But first I want to respond to the statement by KW.

I think that it is relevant that her article is a criticism of a Heartland conference of Climate Deniers. Her arguments seem to be against this omnipresent conference. In the world of this article there is no reasonable person who agrees with her objective, but disagrees with her methods. These characters are convinced that climate change is a plot to destroy their way of life. They are the tools of the corporations who place their profits above the existence of our species or any species. In short, she has selected a perfect straw man.

Now to KW's statement:
I had said, "It seems that Ms. Klein arrives pretty quickly to her solution to the environmental problem – get rid of capitalism."

KW stated: "Wayne, Ms Klein does not say we should "get rid of capitalism" but only that it needs to be regulated and controlled because of the amount of planning necessary to deal with climate change."

I am going to offer some excerpts from her article first noting that the title is Capitalism vs Climate. To facilitate checking the context I will note where they are in the document (My copy is a word document in Times New Roman 12 pt font. It runs 19 pages.) Bold type is my emphasis.

page 5: "The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system. As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.
Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong."

page 6: "It is true that responding to the climate threat requires strong government action at all levels. But real climate solutions are ones that steer these interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, whether through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.
Here is where the Heartlanders have good reason to be afraid: arriving at these new systems is going to require shredding the free-market ideology that has dominated the global economy for more than three decades."

page 12: "So let’s summarize. Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency."
"But for progressives, there is responsibility in it, because it means that our ideas—informed by indigenous teachings as well as by the failures of industrial state socialism—are more important than ever. It means that a green-left worldview, which rejects mere reformism and challenges the centrality of profit in our economy, offers humanity’s best hope of overcoming these overlapping crises."
"Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests."

So, I (of course) agree that she did not actually use the words "get rid of capitalism" But based on her words, I don't think that I have misrepresented what she did say. I believe that KW advocates "regulation and control", but detonation is more than regulation and 'shredding the free-market ideology' and 'breaking every rule in the free-market playbook' are well beyond control of the free-market.

Monday, December 5, 2011

If not now, when?

I don't remember who said this but it goes something like this:

If you have a declining infrastructure, high unemployment, the availability of money at 2% fixed for 10 years, and you don't rebuild your infrastructure then when are you going to do it?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

nearly a free lunch

I heard Bill Clinton describe what he called "the closest thing to a free lunch" that we have. It seemed reasonable to me. It goes like this.

Adopt a bond issue to retrofit public buildings for energy savings. Let the owners of the buildings pay off the bond issue with the energy savings.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

2012 Candidates - Dec - 2011

Perhaps it it time to drop this feature. My predictions have been so accurate (see recent Gingrich rating string) that readers have known the outcome of the election for some time now.

An interested citizen's view of the possible candidates for the major party nominations for president in 2012.
The sequences in parentheses are my wild guesses about the percentage chance that each of them had monthly, Jan-current month, of getting the nomination.
My principal reaction to each is listed afterword. If you will point out stuff to me I can improve this description over time.
The YAMSLT test can be found here.

Americans elect may produce a candidate too.

Barack Obama (99) I will consider him again, but he is worrying me.

Mitt Romney (25-25-26-24-25-30-30-33-35-35-50-50) I would consider him. Some say he has a problem in that the Romney health plan in MA is similar to Obama’s national plan. Some say that it is therefore a contradiction for Romney to oppose Obamacare. I think not and I now think he can make the case. Does the right wing want to feel good or have a chance to win?

Newt Gingrich (4-4-4-4-03-03-01-01-1-10-13-33) - He is seeming even more like a serious possibility. He could be the last non Mitt standing. We need a person of big ideas and he has always tried to be that. Unfortunately one of those big ideas was to take $1.6 million from Fannie and Freddie. He is an experienced professional politician. But he is also Newt Gingrich. [Also, I would like to hear him reaffirm his commitment to the 1st amendment. (……… his position on Park 51: not only that they should not, but that Muslims do NOT even have the right to, build there.)]

Rick Perry (x-x-x-x-x-x-06-22-25-30-25-20-10) The predicted chance of implosion has been confirmed and recovery is now harder. The main questions now are: Does he pass the yamslt test? [ all of those questions that were asked before seem to have the same answer-no. Can he become a debater? Is America ready for another brash Texas Governor? Is his jobs record that good? Can he correct his immigration problem? ] His recovery seems less likely every day.

Ron Paul (x-x-x-x-01-02-03-05-08-05-04-03) The libertarian's delight.

Jon Huntsman (x-x-1-1-01-05-06-01-05-0-3) Huntsman is resurrecting himself. He is doing what he hoped in New Hampshire and the rise of Gingrich could slow Romney.

The candidate's below are (I think) out of the running and barely possible (altogether 1%).

Herman Cain (x-x-x-x-x-x-01-01-1-5-12-0) GWTW
Chris Christie (x-x ... x-x-10-0) GWTW
Michelle Bachman (x-x-x-01-01-10-20-13-20-0) A lightweight. Fails YAMSLT. GWTW
Rick Santorum (x-x-x-01-02-01-01-01-1-1-0) - Too far right for me. Fails the YAMSLT.
Sarah Palin (20-20-21-16-16-19-3-01-1-1-0) - She is playing games. Fails the YAMSLT.
Tim Pawlenty (05-07-08-16-14-20-25-15-1-1-0) - GWTW
Gary Johnson (x-x-x-x-01-01-01-01-01-01-0) Will highlight the drug prohibition issue.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Individualism without group purpose

What follows is a my own assessment of our politics, our society, and our economy. It is probably short-sighted in a number of areas, and certainly dark. I hope that you all can pick it apart so that you can give me hope.

Politics: This begins with the current state of affairs in Washington. The vast majority of the politicians seem to have no overall compass guiding them, and so when they find themselves lost in partisan rhetoric they can't find their way out and they don't even seem to realize that their statements are irrational. I believe that the Peggy Noonan article (The Divider vs. the Thinker) that was posted awhile back contained a compass for them and for us all, and I wish that Washington and the country were introspective enough and honest enough to read an article like that and take some guidance from it. Unfortunately they are neither. Our pendulum (between the individual and the collective) has swung so far to the individual side, that too many people don't consider anything but what they consider to be their own ideal state. Four years ago, I thought that Obama had the charisma to pull a critical mass of people together to work for a common good, but he wilted. Now the next person to come along to lead has to overcome not just the problems we have but also disillusionment over what happened with the promise of Obama.

Society: Why should we expect much of our politicians: they are only a reflection of ourselves, since they sculpt what they say so as to get us to vote for them. We're without a compass ourselves. We know something is lacking, but we can't quite put a finger on it. We do seem to remember that our country seems to hold the individual as important, and so we take a certain part of that to an extreme. We now seem to be a country of individuals who are concerned with others mostly to the extent that it affects *me*. Moreover, for some reason many people seem to need to express their status/importance by getting the newest-greatest thing that money can buy or by standing out in some other way. I have a theory that so many people do things just to be 'in' and attract notice (including multiple earrings-and-tattoos-who-knows-where) because they do not invest enough effort anywhere to stand out by achieving something...anything. I think we all have a need to have something to be proud of, and being able to plumb a house well is something to be proud of; however that requires substantial effort and time investment which won't pay off for years. In my father's generation, that was what it meant to 'discover who you are', although he remarked that he didn't understand the phrase. Did you ever notice that the intersection of the crowd that accomplishes things and the crowd that shocks others is mighty small?

Economy: Globalization might have its advantages, but I think that some disadvantages are: (i) the resource waste by shipping things across the world that could have been produced a few hundred miles away, (ii) we've given up so much manufacturing in this country that (a) we'll be in a fix if we have to pull another WW II-like armament build-up and (b) a lot of the good blue-collar jobs are gone and replaced by jobs like serving coffee and lattes [not only do they not earn much, but at the end of the day, what do you have to show for your day's work]. Our economy and the world economy are built on spending. From media accounts, it seems that the economy has to grow at close to 2% a year or we feel that something is wrong and that our standard of living is dropping. Various events of the last decade have put a real strain on the economy, but even if these events had not happened I think that things would have faltered sooner or later. In order to continue to grow the economy at this rate (or to continue to bolster our standard of living with the new and trendy), we would have to burn through resources faster and faster; faster than can be maintained for long. Once the economy couldn't keep pace any longer, then all the rest of the toothpicks we were using to balance our elephant would no longer be able support its weight and it would come crashing down. We're burning not only our grandchildren's money, but their natural resources as well.

I think that the real individualism of this country was tied to self-actualization. We all need to be able to pursue certain occupations such as meet this need and simultaneously support ourselves and contribute back to society. Globalization for the sake of the economic engine has made it difficult for many to realize their potential, a compass that used to be a good guide. Without this, we are a society that lacks group purpose or direction...except to keep earning more and buying more. However, now our economic future looks dark and we need statesmanship to lead us out of this difficulty. Unfortunately, the society fractured by a hollow and extreme individualism seems incapable of either following or rewarding such statesmanship.

Monday, November 28, 2011


from a friend:

Subject: Traffic Jam
A driver was stuck in a traffic jam on the beltway around Washington,DC.
Nothing was moving. Suddenly, a man knocks on the window. The
driver rolls down the window and asks, "What's going on?"
"Terrorists have kidnapped Congress, the man replied, and they are asking for a $100 million dollar ransom.
Otherwise, they are going to douse them all in gasoline and set them on fire.
We are going from car to car, collecting donations."
"How much is everone giving, on average?" the driver asks.
The man replies, "Roughly a gallon."

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I have friends who disparage the notion that there is anyone who favors "open borders" by which I would mean someone who believes that anyone who wants to come here should be allowed to come here and stay.

I have not seen anyone acknowledge that they support open borders. But there are keys that appear in the discussion of those who are very close to it. Here are a few:
The fact that there is a law against hiring people who are not here legally is not mentioned.
The notion that if they could not work, then they would self deport is not mentioned.
The statement that You can't deport 11 million people. is accepted as an obvious fact.
The persons in question are referred to as residents or immigrants.
The words illegal and unlawful are never used. The closest that they come is undocumented worker.
The fact that at some time ago someone broke the law in coming here is referred to euphemistically as "something in their past".
There will not be a question such as:"Do you believe that a nation has a right to determine who can come into their country?"

Last night I saw a show on PBS's Need to Know series which was, more or less, an infomercial for amnesty for the "undocumented immigrants" that are here now and coming in the future. It was mostly about the recent Alabama law. (I don't think much of these state laws either.) Someone mentioned a friend who was a naturalized citizen who didn't have a driver's license. It was noted that she couldn't carry her naturalization papers as ID because they are way too valuable and must be kept in a lockbox. The speaker doesn't indicate whether copies might work.

One of those interviewed was New York University Law Professor Alina Das.

When asked about improving the laws she answered with:
"The laws do have to recognize the reality of the way people come to this country ..."

In her view we do not set the law and aspiring immigrants follow it. It goes the other way:
First comes the reality of how people come into this country and then the law recognizes that.
She does not say the words "open borders", but her statement sure does sound like it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Freedom of Assembly


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So what does that mean? I think it means the right to have a parade or a demonstration or a large congregation like the "Million Man March" a few years ago. You get to interact, speak your piece, send'em a message, etc. That means for a short period you get to disrupt other people going about their business.

It does not mean that you have the right to use occupation to force other people to bring their lives to a halt until you get what you want. It does not mean that you get to coerce people to do what you want them to.

Some people are confusing this with civil disobedience as in the civil rights movement. But a fundamental part of civil disobedience is accepting the consequences of the law. If you go to jail, then you get the appropriate amount of added publicity. The current crop of occupiers seems to be outraged at the idea that the law should be applied to them.

I would encourage those who support the occupiers as they are camping out and preventing other people from carrying out of their business to give it some thought. For example, the Supreme Court long ago determined that freedom of assembly does not allow a right to life group to close an abortion clinic by occupying it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

YellowArmadillos Pledge

Grover Norquist has a lot of Republicans taking his pledge and swearing that they will not raise taxes.

I understand there is a group of Congressional Democrats who are formulating an analogous pledge for the left that they will not vote for any entitlement cuts.

I'm taking the YellowArmadillos Pledge: I will not vote for anyone who has taken a pledge that will keep them from being part of the solution to our fiscal problems.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pepper Spraying of Protestors

On November 18th protestors at UC Davis were pepper sprayed by Campus Police. The protestors were intentionally blocking the Campus Police from exiting the school quad and refused to follow the officer’s orders. Two officers and the Police Chief have been placed on administrative leave. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2011/1121/UC-Davis-police-chief-on-leave-after-pepper-spraying

UC President Mark G. Yudof has stated that he is “appalled” at the spraying. Here is what I think he should have said.

“On November 18th protesters on this campus were pepper sprayed by Campus Police. Member of my administration firmly hold that free speech is part of the DNA of this University and we will make every appropriate effort to ensure that it remains so.

I have ordered a full investigation of the incident to determine whether the Police acted appropriately and determine, in the end, whether they used appropriate force. I have also placed the Officers involved on administrative leave until our investigation has been completed.

Inherent with the privilege of being on this campus is the obligation to follow instructions given by our Campus Police. In the future all student protesters that refuse to follow instructions from our Police will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal from this school. All non student protestors on our campus that refuse to follow instructions given by Campus Police will be subject to arrest and prosecution under the appropriate civil law”.

Here is my bottom line. I think the protestors were wrong to intentionally block egress for the Campus Police and to not follow the Officer’s orders. On the other side I think that in the absence of a true emergency or pressing need for the Officers to exit the quad the tactics seem harsh.

Natural Born Citizen

This just might make your day a little brighter!! You, who worry about
democrats versus republicans -- relax, here is our real problem.

In a University classroom, they were discussing the qualifications to
be President of the United States . It was pretty simple. The candidate must
be a natural born citizen of at least 35 years of age. However, one girl in
the class immediately started in on how unfair was the requirement to be a
natural born citizen.

In short, her opinion was that this requirement prevented many capable
individuals from becoming president. The class was taking it in and letting
her rant, and not many jaws hit the floor when she wrapped up her argument by

"What makes a natural born citizen any more qualified to lead this country
than one born by C-section?"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Entitlements and the genius of FDR

I promised a nephew of mine that I would give a response to one of those irate emails that you get from time to time. It was similar to that geezer group that was in that commercial recently threatening any politician who touched "his" entitlements.

I will omit most of it and just give you one paragraph which will give you the drift:

"I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into Medicare from Day One, and now you morons propose to change the rules of the game. Why? Because you idiots mismanaged other parts of the economy to such an extent that you need to steal money from Medicare to pay the bills."

Now it may be that they have mismanaged it. But it is certain that we have not paid in enough to get back what we are scheduled to get back. Of course people who write these letters never tell you what they paid in. But I know one geezer of 68 who retired to half time at 62, got on medicare at 65, and began drawing SS at 66. I suspect that his facts are not much different from hers.

So here are the numbers from our geezer's SS report: SS 71,080 from him + 71,080 from his employer. That is a total of $142,160 from his compensation. Now if you assume some reasonable rate of growth, say 6%, then(the miracle of compound interest being what it is) that comes out to (roughly) $300,000 today. This geezer is scheduled to get about $24,000 a year for the rest of his life. That is probably not too far off the mark. That is why they say that SS just needs a bit of tweaking.

Now his Medicare coverage is worth about that much too. What does full scale healthcare cost for someone who is in the Medicare range? But how much does that SS schedule say our geezer paid for his Medicare? The total is ($16,345 +$16,345 =) $32,690. That was over time so we apply the miracle of compound interest again and come out with about $65,000. That is the approximate net present value of what this guy paid into medicare. His wife has paid almost nothing but she is covered too when she hits 65.

Now imagine that you are running a health care service. Would you agree to provide these old folks all the health care that they want for the rest of their lives in return for that 65 K?

This is the real genius and horror of entitlements. Someone proposed to Franklin Roosevelt that it would be better if people got SS without having to pay for it. Franklin said no! "If the people pay for it, then just let someone try to take it away from them." He understood people well enough to know that they wouldn't actually calculate the value paid as against the value received.

I wonder if he would be surprised at how far his successors have taken his idea.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


It is all over the news that the Supercommittee is about to make its report. There is great fear that the task is so daunting that even these giants of the congress may be stymied by it. Nevertheless, they are nobly doing what is, unfortunately, probably their best.

Critics should keep in mind the enormity of the task. They are being asked to propose a plan that would, if followed for ten years, reduce the cumulative deficit by 1.2 trillion dollars!

When you factor in the fact that the current one year deficit is 1.3 trillion you can fully appreciate how far into the theater of the absurd we have come.

They hope to plan to promise to reduce the total ten year deficit by less than the amount of the current one year’s deficit!!

and these clowns don’t seem to be able to do it.

Is it time for ALL OUT?

Sunday, November 13, 2011



There has been a bit of discussion about the YAMSLT from April 2, 2011.
Or you can see it below:

For more on the Laffer Curve go here.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
This is the Yellow Armadillos Math Science Literacy Test. Revised August 18, 2011

I expect political candidates that I support to be able to pass this test.

Q.1. If the annual budget for program X has a built in annual bump up of 11% per year and you reduce that bump up by 3%, then the change in the amount spent for program X is most accurately labeled as:
a) an 8% decrease, b) a 3% decrease, c) a 24% decrease, or d) an 8% increase.

Q.2. Can we eliminate the deficit by returning to the Clinton tax rate for those making over 250,000?

Q.3. Do you believe that, regardless of what the income tax rate is, cutting that rate will stimulate enough growth in the economy to increase revenue?

Q.4. Do you oppose teaching religious belief in science class?

Desired answers are in comment 1.
Posted by Wayne Bell at 11:18 AM
Labels: politics

YA said...
Desired answers: 1. d, 2. no 3. no 4. Yes .
August 18, 2011 12:28 AM

tryanmax said...
I don't understand the point you are trying to make with question 3. Are you saying that regardless of any specific, the tax rate has no effect on economic production or that production has no relationship with tax revenue? Because that is the meaning that I take away.

But to paraphrase Buckley, you strike me as someone too intelligent to believe that.
October 14, 2011 7:12 PM

Wayne Bell said...
No. The negative of a universal is not another universal.
A 'yes' answer to 3 would mean that
the candidate believes that "regardless of any specific" lowering the rate will change behavior enough to increase revenue.
My 'no' answer to 3 means that I believe that there is at least one example where lowering the rate will not increase revenue.

To listen to the Rs talk you would think that they believe that reducing tax rates ALWAYS increases revenue.

My point is that their universal (the one in my question) is false.

If you find the rate at 91% (as Kennedy did) or 70% (as Reagan did), then a reduction apparently changes behavior and perhaps increases revenue.

If you find the rate at 10%, I don't think a reduction in rate will change much behavior. I expect that Buckley would agree that changing the tax rate from 1% to 0% will not increase revenue.

The really interesting question is: "What is the revenue maximizing level of taxation? That is, what is the high point on the Laffer curve? The taxation level that is such that any change, either an increase or decrease, reduces revenue.

The fact that the Clinton taxation level put us in the black in the nineties and the lower Bush level put us in the red in the oughts seems like a good indicator that the Bush rates are on left side of the Laffer Curve high point and raising rates from the Bush level would raise revenue.

PS However, perhaps the recession prevents raising tax rates now.

PPS The fact that I think the revenue maximizing taxation rate is interesting does not mean that I am advocating that the govt should maximize revenue.
November 11, 2011 3:12 AM

tryanmax said...
Ah, I understand now. Though I might suggest that the question is deceptively loaded in its brevity (as indicated by the length of the explanation).

That said, while clever, I think #3 is the wrong question to be asked. Sure, it's a quick and dirty way to judge the depth of a candidate's fiscal acumen. But for the vices that grip Washingtonians, I'd be satisfied if any candidate could demonstrate a grasp of kitchen table economics. That alone is a rarity.
November 11, 2011 9:18 AM

Wayne Bell said...
As to length, Q 3 seems very similar to your follow up question.

In my case I'm getting old and don't have much time left!
November 13, 2011 12:25 PM

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

For those cynics among you who claim that you don't know what the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about I give you Jim Oliver of Occupy Portland who was on the PBS evening news Friday, November 11, 2011. He made a clear and ringing statement:

"The goal of the Occupied Movement is to make systemic changes to the economic and political systems in this country that are failing the 99% of Americans who see our wealth decreasing as the wealth of the point zero one percent of Americans who control policy in this country increases."

So now you know. They want to take our country back. No wait. That's the Tea Party.

PS The mathematically literate will note that he left out 99% of the top 1 percent. He thinks that things are controlled by just .01% that is to say 1/100 of 1 percent. Oh well ...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wealth disparity


There is much talk these days about the growing disparity between the rich and the poor.

I find it worrisome as well. I have two questions;

1. Do you think that it is a bad thing? and
2. If you think that it is a bad thing, then what should be done about it?

Thursday, November 10, 2011


This morning I heard a commentator ask the question “If other countries do not intervene do you think Israel will attack Iran to prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon?”

What past events make anyone think they will not?