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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt rising?

Very soon now there will be a lot of complaints that the President stayed with Mubarak too long and shortly thereafter a lot of complaints about how he abandoned Mubarak too quickly. How to play this is one of those hard questions which make me glad Barack has the job and I don't.

One of the reasons that we have so much trouble in the middle east is that it is there that one of our dearest values (democracy) is appears to be most clearly in conflict with one of our major national interests (stability i.e. oil).

Yesterday, a young woman appeared on TV. She was one of the many people in Cairo who were cleaning up the streets from the previous nights demonstrations. It was spontaneous, on a volunteer basis.

When asked why she was doing it she said, "Because it is my country."

That seemed like a good sign in a situation that is, as they say, 'fraught with peril.'

The State of the Union - 4

The first job of a leader is to define reality so that his group understands what they are dealing with. It is even more important to do this when the reality includes a major problem because he will have to rally them for the sacrifices that will be necessary to deal with the problem.

Sen. Barack Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2006. "Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally," he said then. "Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership."

On the PBS evening news on Friday Jan. 29 I heard the best analysis that I have heard about the SOTU speech. They (Brooks-conservative and Shields-liberal) agreed: This year the Federal Government will spend 24.7% of GDP and it will collect 14.8% of GDP. That's a 10% defict. You can't do that. We've been talking for 10 years about sacrifice. About George Bush not asking for sacrifice for the war. In the speech Obama mentioned sacrifice as an abstract noun but he did not say here is our problem here is what we are going to have to do about.
The Simpson-Bowles commission set it up for him to go with it. We keep hearing that he is going to deal with the deficit next year. It is getting to be like Lucy pulling away the football. So my reaction to the speech was very positive the first day, but it gets more and more sour as the days go by.

That is about the way it seems to me. It was a good campaign speech, but I was hoping that the campaign would be put off till next year.

On the debt he is like Nixon going to China. He can approach it much easier than the Rs can.

It sounds like there will be no push by him on immigration either. That leaves millions of people in a very stressful position and millions more irritated and confused(by the lack of a real policy).

I was hoping for more leadership. That's what I voted for.

True Colors

A common theme on all of the news channels yesterday concerning Egypt is that we do not want to end up with an Islamic state. Really! A week ago many in the world were busy denying any problem with Islam.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Grant and Sherman

When Sherman told a reporter early in the war that it would take 200,000 men to control Kentucky it was reported that he was crazy. He was out of the war for awhile and many assumed that he was washed up, until Grant, ignoring reports of his insanity, gave him a command.
Grant saw earlier than others how hard the war was going to be and was willing to display the required agressiveness. He was reported (usually wrongly) to be drunk a lot and Lincoln was urged to replace him. Lincoln rejected that advice on the grounds that, "I can't spare him. He fights." At some point an effort was made to enlist Sherman in the anti-Grant campaign. Sherman's response was:

"Grant stood by me when I was 'crazy'
I'll stand by him when he's a 'drunk'."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

2011 state of the union - 3

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: "Soaring rhetoric feels good for a little while, but if there's no follow-through, all that's left is the same problems except bigger because we put them off."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

media bias - a note

So how did I come to believe that the "mainstream" media was biased?

I came of age, politically, in the era of Cronkite. That was when a world view was formed at the New York Times, Washington Post, the three Networks, and the wire services. Everyone else fell in line and agreed that "that's the way it is" every day at 6:00 pm. It was all so very clear. One can see why the left gets misty eyed for the good ole days when the only dissident view was William F. Buckley, who had a very small audience and was, more or less, dismissed as an eccentric.

Then there was this election in 1994 and the Rs won the House for the first time since Hector was a pup. I watched the ABC World News Tonight's Anchor Peter Jennings, who was apparently in shock, say: "The American people have had a temper tantrum."

I was amazed. Was it an editorial? Was it a talk show? No, it was the ABC NEWS ANCHOR.

I remember thinking that that was not a very objective way to report the news and that: 1) it just slipped out, 2) he will later revise and tone that down, 3) he'll still apologize for his blatant bias, and 4) even after the apology he'll probably still get fired.

I was sure that they would have to do something to maintain their credibility as an objective news agency.

Six days later, in his daily ABC Radio show, November 14, 1994, Jennings clarified his meaning:

“Some thoughts on those angry voters. Ask parents of any two-year-old and they can tell you about those temper tantrums: the stomping feet, the rolling eyes, the screaming. It’s clear that the anger controls the child and not the other way around. It’s the job of the parent to teach the child to control the anger and channel it in a positive way. Imagine a nation full of uncontrolled two-year-old rage. The voters had a temper tantrum last week....Parenting and governing don’t have to be dirty words: the nation can’t be run by an angry two-year-old.”

I never heard of any consequences that ABC imposed on Jennings for his abandonment of any pretense of, or aspiration to, objectivity.

I sometimes get depressed with what Rachel Maddow has called our modern "Atomistic Media" where it seems that there are as many sources as there are recievers of the news.

Personally, I follow Real Clear Politics, Daily Beast cheat sheet, FoxNews Special Report, PBS news, Sunday talk shows, NPR in the car (except when Kaci Bolls has a new cd out), and CNN. Occasionally, I drop in on Kos, Slate, O'Reilly, Rachel, and Hannity. It takes more time, but I think multiple sources is(sic) better than being stuck with relying on the likes of Peter Jennings, any day.

I know that there is some far out stuff in FoxNews talk shows and all of Fox is criticized for being right wing. But I've never seen anything in the news part of FoxNews Special Report like what Peter Jennings did that November.

The idea in the ABC Anchor's rant was used last year as a theme by a liberal columnist.


History Note - time to calculate the value of the union

This is the appropriate date for the previous post of 10-14-2010.
Once upon a time there were those in the land who doubted the worth of the American Union. They were displeased with some acts of Congress and were proposing that perhaps it was time to "calculate the value of the union."

What follows is part of Daniel Webster's response on January 27, 1830, which is considered by many to be the best speech ever made in Congress.

I have not allowed myself, Sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counsellor in the affairs of this government, whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union may be best preserved, but how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it should be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that, in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise! God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind! When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted, nor a single Star obscured, bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory as "What is all this worth?" nor those other words of delusion and folly, "Liberty first and Union afterwards"; but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart,--

Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!
click here for more

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The nirvana fallacy

The Nirvana fallacy is the logical error of comparing what is available to some ideal solition that someone would like to see. An example of it appeared on Jan. 25th on CNN, which has apparently started using comedians as a source of social commentary. Wolf Blitzer was talking to Bill Maher who thinks that we have two parties: a center right party and right wing party. He doesn't understand why the debate is about what we can afford since the obvious solution is Medicare for all. The fact that his side would lose that debate is apparently totally lost on him.

Voltaire summed up this fallacy with some French variation of:

"The perfect is the enemy of the good."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 State of the Union - 2

Well he is up for doing most everything I want done. There is no indication about which of them he will focus on, so it is hard to decide whether or not to be pleased with it.

P.S. Apparently John Roberts agreed with those who said it would be bad to have all of the conservatives on the court being absent. There were 6 justices there.

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel is not my favorite person, but this latest thing is silly.

He lived in Chicago, he answered the President's call to work for him in DC. That is pretty much the same thing as being in the military. Now, they are saying that he is not enough of a resident to run for Mayor of Chicago!

The courts need to quickly put an end to this nonsense.

2011 State of the Union

Well what I hear from the media suggests that I am not going to be happy with the SOTU. The focus will be on jobs, jobs, ... (repeat till you get tired) and will not focus on some of the things that would solve some other problems as well.

Two examples:
Even if Keynesian economics does require that we don't raise taxes right now, we could deal with some of the long term debt issues surrounding SS and Medicare.
That would have the immediate benefit of improving our financial credibility.

A serious approach to the immigration problem that would very simply require proof of legal status to be employed, enforced by severe penalties on the employers who violate it, which would require a reliable Government database that the employer could check. This would have to be combined with a serious work visa program which would allow immigrants in to do those jobs that really are jobs that "Americans won't do."
The immediate impact of that would be many of the illegal immigrants would self deport and free up some jobs. If you believe that all of the illegal immigrants are doing jobs that Americans would not take, then ask someone in the construction industry. It would also reduce downward pressure on wages.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

This was in 4 separate posts.

part I
Last year in the State of the Union Address, Pressident Obama said,"With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections. (Applause.) I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. (Applause.) They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems."

Justice Alito appeared to disagree with the President's interpretation of the Court’s Citizens United decision.

The President had accused the Court of admitting foreigners into the funding of our elections.

I thought it was excessive.

Part 2
Will the members of the Supreme Court come to the State of the Union?
After that Presidential condemnation from the podium, some of us wonder which members of the Supreme Court will attend the State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Scalia never attends because he says they “sit there like bumps on a log”, and Thomas thinks it is too partisan. Roberts and Alito have stated their discomfort with the Congressional “cheering and hollering” while they are required to sit there unmoved. Breyer always attends. I would expect that the new ones, Sotomayor and Kagan, would attend. The other two are toss-ups. My bet is Ginsburg will go (if healthy) and Kennedy won’t. It is possible though, that some of the four on the left will also have been offended by the President’s remarks about the Court last year and will not attend.
I agree with those who think that a partisan divide in the attendees is probably not a good idea.
I think that the policy should be changed and both the Court and the Military (the nonpolitical parts of the government) should not participate at all.

Part 3
As to the disagreement between Justice Alito and the President about exactly what the Citizens United decision said, it is worth noting that Pulitzer prize winner LINDA GREENHOUSE, who writes about the court for the NY Times, wrote: “Indeed, Mr. Obama’s description of the holding of the case was imprecise. He said the court had “reversed a century of law.
The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books.”

Using the principle of "statement contrary to presumed bias" we can say that if someone at the NY Times says that Obama was "imprecise" you can read that as: wrong.

Part 4
Media Matters says media conservatives have falsely claimed Obama's Supreme Court criticism was "unprecedented.” For example, MM says that: President Warren G. Harding criticized the court for putting "this problem outside the proper domain of Federal regulation until the Constitution is so amended as to give the Congress indubitable authority. I recommend the submission of such an amendment."
But if you replace MM’s 5 words: “criticized the court for putting” with the eight words that Harding actually spoke you will see that there is no criticism at all. “The decision of the Supreme Court has put this problem outside the proper domain of Federal regulation until the Constitution is so amended as to give the Congress indubitable authority. I recommend the submission of such an amendment.”
He made an observation, not a criticism. He does not even indicate that he disagrees with the Court’s opinion. He notes that the Court has made a ruling and that he favors a constitutional amendment to overturn that ruling. (The rest of this paragraph was revised at 8:20 AM -1-24-11)(I think this was an example of an "activist conservative Court" that was reading into the Constitution something that wasn't there. The issue was whether Congress had the right to write child labor laws. Congress has since legislated on that question without a specific amendment.)
He may have criticized them elsewhere but not there.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

atomistic news media

Rachel Maddow described current news media as atomistic. If it is true that you can tell what someone’s political views are by where they get their news, then where are the viewers of some of the purveyors of news and psuedonews? Here is where I would place them on the spectrum.

Rush and Beck ................. right wingnut
Hannity, Other FoxNews ........ right partisan
FoxNews Special report ........ right folk
WSJ ........................... center right
Real clear politics ........... center
Wash. Post, PBS news .......... center left
Network news, NPR, NYT ........ left folk
Rachel Maddow, other MSNBC .... left partisan
Keith Olberman ................ left wingnut

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger

Go back in time to the summer of 1974 when the country was waiting on pins and needles to see what would be the outcome on the effort that was being made to separate Richard M. Nixon from the Presidency of the US. I was among those concerned about whether he would go quietly. I recall reading a story in the paper that said that the Secretary of Defense, James Schlesinger sent a memo to the Joint Chiefs of Staff directing that no orders should be executed unless they came through the chain of command. That is, through him.

Some folks would say, of course, that is what he should have done.
Some folks would say that he was exceeding his authority.
Some folks would say that he should have counted on the Generals to refuse any inappropriate order.

It seems to me that Secretary Schlesinger acted in an extremely courageous manner with that action.
Perhaps it was not necessary. But that is the kind of thing that you can never be sure was not necessary.
Schlesinger countered any temptation that Nixon might have faced to try to use the military to continue his presidency.
Most importantly, I think, he gave the generals cover in the event they had been obligated to refuse an order from the President.
He took the peril of what might have been labeled their treason onto his own shoulders.

Now, I cannot find a reference to that memo.
But I did find the following, which is close.

August 22, 1974: Pentagon, Joint Chiefs ‘Kept Watch’ on Nixon to Prevent Coup Attempt, Newspaper Reports

The Washington Post prints a small, almost-buried story entitled “Pentagon Kept Watch on Military.” The relatively innocuous headline conceals a potentially explosive charge—that during the final days of the Nixon administration, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and the Joint Chiefs of Staff had “kept a close watch to make certain that no orders were given to military units outside the normal chain of command.” The article, careful in its word choices, says the extraordinary alert was “based on hypothetical situations that could arise during a period when President Nixon’s hold on the presidency was not clear.… Specifically, there was concern that an order could go to a military unit outside the chain of command for some sort of action against Congress during the time between a House impeachment and a Senate trial on the impeachment charge.” Pentagon sources say no one has any evidence that any such action was being contemplated, but steps were taken to ensure that no military commander would take an order from the White House or anywhere else that did not come through military channels. The implication is clear: Pentagon officials worried that Nixon might use certain elements of the military to stage some sort of coup. Schlesinger gives the story “legs” by issuing the following non-denial: “I did assure myself that there would be no question about the proper constitutional and legislated chain of command, and there never was any question.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mike Mansfield

Mike Mansfield (1903-2001) was a member of the US Senate from Montana from 1953-77 and he was the Senate Majority Leader - D from 1961-77. After his time in the Senate he was the American Ambassador to Japan.
He was a man of few, but honest, words. I have a (not completely reliable) memory of him at a press conference responding to three questions in a row with one word answers.
The Senate’s committee structure was totally dominated by the seniority system in those days and there was a movement to reform it. One reporter asked Mansfield what he thought about the seniority system and Mansfield replied, “When I first came to the Senate I didn’t think much of it, but now that I’ve been here awhile, I like it.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sarah slips

I think that Sarah Palin made a mistake after the Tucson shooting. That which she calls the Lamestream Media closed in on her viciously with reproductions of her "target" map. Unless you watch a broad range of media you might never have seen the democratic “target” map with bulls eyes on it or been reminded that Obama once talked about bringing a gun to a knife fight. Then just as it was becoming clear that the shooter was an isolated kook and the Palin critics were looking rather foolish, she made her defense and pulled their chestnuts out of the fire.
How? She used a metaphor. Every good partisan liberal knows that Sarah Palin is not smart enough to use a metaphor. A controversial metaphor, at that. It not only got the egg off of their faces, it gave them another line of attack. The media hounds pounced and they have been baying about it ever since. Even on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS which is generally very calm and illuminating things got out of hand much more than shows up on the rough draft of the transcript.

In case you think that she was completely off base you might be interested in the opinion of Alan Dershowitz who says: "The term “blood libel” has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning in public discourse. Although its historical origins were in theologically based false accusations against the Jews and the Jewish People,its current usage is far broader. I myself have used it to describe false accusations against the State of Israel by the Goldstone Report."

I carry no water for Sarah Palin and I cannot imagine voting for her for president because, as I said earlier, I think she is a lightweight. But I do think that she is mistreated by the media and I don't really understand why. She makes enough errors that I cannot imagine her getting many centrist votes so why is the left so overwrought by her? Why are they beside themselves with what the right calls Palin Derangement Syndrome?

Well President Obama has asked us all to calm down right? On GPS Richard Cohen, a columnist for the Washington Post - a member of the intellectual elite - was asked if he thought that Sarah Palin was so stupid that she didn't realize what "Blood libel" meant. We all know what the civil answer to that is. He replied, "How long do we have,(allowed) to talk about how stupid Sarah Palin is?" A lot of you on the left think that that is hilarious. I don't think that it is in keeping with Obama's exhortation.

But what troubles me is that there are a lot of people who talk only to folks who think that his joke is hilarious and there are a lot of other people who talk only to folks who think that it is outrageous.

Does that increase our chances of solving problems?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


There is a neat card trick here.

The King's Speech

I am one of those "I'm no film critic, but I know what I like." kind of people. I frequently wonder what the award givers saw in a film.

I liked Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice but ... .

The King's Speech is so good that even I could tell that it was good. That is, I could not only see that I liked it, but I could also see that it was a fabulous performance.

Colin Firth, and the others, brought the whole thing completely to life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

second amendment solutions

I think that the second amendment has been seen by different folks at different times as having different purposes. They include people who like guns as 1) toys (target shooting etc.), 2) hunting instruments, 3) a means of personal and home protection, and 4) that other, more ominous purpose, the means of implementing the “right of revolution”. What that Nevada Senatorial candidate called “second amendment solutions”. That is, some believe that one reason for the existence of the second amendment is so that an armed citizenry can resist an oppressive national government.

Now maybe there is something to that. But I just want to point out that it’s been tried. The only major attempt in our history to implement a second amendment solution occurred in 1861, when approximately one-third of the country rose up against a federal government. They were led by a widely praised general and they reportedly fought very well. Afterwards, they called it “The Lost Cause.”

Now to get a good idea of the prospects of someone succeeding with a modern “second amendment solution”, remember that when that first one started the federal army contained only about 16, 000 men. These days almost half of all of the annual military expenditures in the entire world are spent on the US military and they are widely regarded as being somewhat better than pretty damn good. So, if you think that the second amendment is some sort of pathway for someone to successfully rebel against a federal government controlled by whatever group it is you are most worried about, I think you should take a chill pill. Basically, you would have no chance at all. Unless you are going to go guerilla, which is to say, turn terrorists. If that is the case, then you probably shouldn’t admit it.

We have seen the way to resist tyranny in the modern world. It is the way of Ghandhi and Martin Luther King.

So I think that we should just say that, whatever we think its original purpose may have been, we should now think of the second amendment as being for purposes 1, 2, and 3 and forget about number 4.

So why am I talking about this? Because - #4 - is the phony reason that is used to justify the sale of AK 47s, extra large clips, and all that other military paraphernalia whose only purpose is to kill a whole lot of people before you can be shut down. It is time for all of that to go.

Voltaire and Borges

The mathematician Leibniz said that ours was the “best” of all possible worlds, “optimus” in Latin. Voltaire labeled the idea foolish, coined the word “optimists” to describe those who held such ideas, and satirized the notion in “Candide”. Leibniz could have replied that a world which has given us Voltaire has some right to be considered the best.

The last sentence was from Jorge Luis Borges (a 20th century Argentinian writer).
He also described the Falkands War, between Britain and Argentina in 1982, as "two bald men fighting over a comb."

Monday, January 17, 2011


I don't watch the wingnuts much, but, based on the things they say that make it into the mainstream media, it seems like Bill Maher is a sort of left wing version of Rush Limbaugh.

The I Have a Dream Speech

See and hear the I Have a Dream Speech - Martin Luther King - August 28, 1963

Read the I Have a Dream Speech

My favorite line: 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."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

a Texas story

In the main foyer in Love Field Airport in Dallas, Texas there is a statue of a Texas Ranger. The Rangers served as a sort of cross between an army and the state police. There was an inscription at the base of the statue that comes from the following apocryphal story.

It seems that there was a riot in Odessa or someplace. It was in the telegraph days and they sent a wire for the Texas Rangers to come.
The wire came back and it said, "On the way. Meet the 6 oclock train."
The Mayor, Sheriff, and Police Chief met the train and when they saw their first ranger the following conversation ensued.
Ranger: "Howdy."
Mayor:"How many of you are there?"
Ranger: "Just me."
Sheriff: "They only sent one ranger?"
Ranger: "You only got one riot, don't you?"

The inscription on the statue said: "One riot, one ranger."
I think that it is still there. It is probably just as well that it did not get moved over to DFW.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

one sixth of the economy

I'll bet that you have heard that "Obamacare is a government takeover of one sixth of the economy!" This is because health care is about one sixth of the economy. I find it curious how infrequently anyone points out that, what with medicare, medicaid, and military healthcare the government has already taken over half of health care. O K, so that's half of that one sixth of the economy which is .... Oh, now I see now why it doesn't get mentioned much. Wait a minute, I know a math guy. Alright, half of one sixth is one twelth of the economy which was already taken over by the government before Obama arrived on the scene.

But that means that the new program can be taking over at most the remaining half, which is also one twelth of the economy!

Obamacare is a government takeover of one twelth of the economny!

Doesn't sound like nearly as big a deal that way, does it?

I guess they don't teach that kind of high powered math in Journalism School.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Immigration 6

There are two groups that I disagree with on the subject of immigration.
Group one says: stop immigration into the US.
Group two says: if you are against illegal immigration, then you are in group one.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

a centrist's view - 4

In response to an invitation (See comments following my Jan. 11 post.) to identify the nature of the political spectrum, I offer the following as my first try to answer that question. This is how I look at people, place them, and evaluate what they say. It is partly based on the kinds of positions they will take and partly on the way I expect them to approach a question. (Sorry, there is some overlap between this and centrist - 3.)
Of course a model can never be a perfect representation but here it is.


LWN and RWN are the left and right wing nuts. They are committed to their perspectives and cannot be relied on to care about what is true and what is not.
LWP and RWP are the left and right wing partisans (or propagandist). They approach questions like an attorney would for their side. They (may) have respect for the truth but they are, primarily, committed to winning the argument.
LWF and RWF are the left and right wing folks. They arrive at most questions with a predisposition toward one side but are susceptible to reason.
CF are the ones in the middle who may be there because they have not developed many positions or because some of their positions lean one way and some lean another. They are also susceptible to reason. The requested examples are listed below.

Olberman---Paul Begala---Evan Bayh --- Ben Nelson & Scott Brown(?) --- Lindsey Graham --- Karl Rove --- Limbaugh

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

the groups that frustrate me

Those Republicans who regularly exhibit their apparently unbounded confidence in the power of the private sector and their childlike belief that any problem can be solved by identifying the appropriate group to which the government should give a tax cut.

Those Democrats who regularly exhibit their apparently unbounded confidence in the power of the government and their childlike belief that any problem can be solved by identifying the appropriate group to which the government should give more money.

As frustrating as these two are, there is another group, which includes some of each of the above and some Independents as well, that I find more irresponsible than either of the two “principled” groups above. I am talking about those folks who can be described in either of the following two equivalent ways.
a) They are not willing to support the necessary taxes for all they want the government to do.
b) They want the government to do more things than they are willing to support taxation for.
This is the group that is driving us off the debt cliff. That group includes anyone who votes for deficit spending AND does not vote for tax increases.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The charlatans' response to the Tucson tragedy

George Will's column today.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dear President Obama,

I do not believe that the nature of our political discussion was the cause of the carnage in Arizona. However, many people will say that it is and I expect that you will feel obligated to say something about it. Since the nature of our national dialogue is in such a disastrous state, I would like to ask you to help us, all Americans of good will, to raise ourselves up to the challenge of beginning a new day in our national debate.

You, who have been the object of more than your fair share of hysterical and malicious rhetoric, are uniquely positioned to call for an end to this obscene level of discourse. You could begin by pointing to some things by both sides that have contributed to the degradation of our continuing national conversation in the past. However, perhaps it would work better if you took the really high ground. You might point to one or two of your own remarks which have fallen short of the civility test. For example, perhaps you should have exhorted the Hispanic Americans to recognize who their “opponents” (not their “enemies”) were.

To be successful, this effort would have to condemn all those who have staked out the extremes of our disastrous national squabble. In each of the questions we consider there are those, on each side, who try to argue their case on its merits. But there are the others, on each side, who do not. They are absolutely confident that they are right. Therefore, they are certain that anyone who opposes them must be doing so because of motivations that will not stand the light of day. From there, they slide into the mud.

Perhaps there is another class that has even baser motivations than these, but it is not necessary to postulate them. In fact, it is probably best to not even take note of them.

Thank you for reading this and I hope you find some merit in it.

Historical note: Lend Lease Act,

The bill was initiated in the House of Representatives on January 10, 1941. America was not yet in the war but Roosevelt knew it was coming.
The act prompted the following remark from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill:

Then came the majestic policy of the President and Congress of the United States in passing the Lease-Lend Bill, under which, in two successive enactments, about £3,000,000,000 was dedicated to the cause of world freedom, without -- mark this, because it is unique -- without the setting up of any account in money. Never again let us hear the taunt that money is the ruling power in the hearts and thoughts of the American democracy. The Lease-Lend Bill must be regarded without question as the most unsordid act in the whole of recorded history.

notes: The exchange rate was 1£ = 4$ which meant that the amount was $12 billion. The total GDP (GNP in those days) for the US was about $100 billion per year. That is we gave them 12% of our yearly income. A corresponding amount today would be about $1,800 billion or $1.8 trillion.
I am sure that those who ridicule the notion of American Exceptionalism will supply us a few comparable acts by other nations.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

AZ shooting

I wonder if this will slow down the rhetoric on both sides.

Hou Yifan, Chess Champion

Hou Yifan, a 16 year old from China, has just won the Women's World Chess Championship to become the youngest person to ever win a world title that was open to all ages.

Kristof has a story about this.

She is among the 19 people who have achieved the highest chess title of Grandmaster before the age of 15.

This is also noteworthy in that the Chinese are essentially playing a "foreign game" since world chess is significantly different from the traditional Chinese Chess.

Whether Ms. Hou will exceed the achievements of Hungarian Judit Polgar, who has for 20 years been the strongest woman player in the world, remains to be seen. Ms. Polgar is the only woman on FIDE's top 100 players list and has been ranked as high as 8th in the past. Judit Polgar does not play in women's only events.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2012 Candidates January 2011

Here are 12 possible candidates for the GOP nomination for president in 2012. They were selected for spotlight by FoxNews Special Report (their daily news show- which is closer to the center than it is to their star shows – Beck and Hannity et. al.) .
The numbers in parentheses are my wild guesses about the percentage chance that each of them has at this point. My principal reaction to each is listed afterword.

1. Mitch Daniels. (15) I would consider him.
2. Haley Barbour-(0) self removed by his citizens council remarks.
3. Tim Pawlenty- (5) I would consider him.
4. Sarah Palin-(20) A lightweight
5. Newt Gingrich-(4) bad position on Park 51.
6. Mitt Romney-(25) I would consider him.
7. Mike Huckabee-(25) too retro for me
8. Bobby Jindal- (1) possible VP, perhaps more later
9. Mike Pence-(2) Don’t know him yet
10. John Thune-(1) Don’t know him yet
11. Jim Demint (1) Too far right
12. Chris Christie (1) Says he’s not running. I would consider him.

You can find Red State Advocate's review of the FoxNews 12 GOP candidates.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Scalia and Chemerinsky interviews

On September 17, 2010, Justice Scalia gave an interview at the Hastings College of Law in Callifornia.

It includes considerable commentary on what he calls originalism.

On October 8, 2010 the same institution conducted an interview with Erwin Chemerinsky the author of "The Conservative Assault on the Constitution".

It includes considerable commentary on what he calls The Conservative Assault on the Constitution.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lyndon Johnson

The Republicans should allow some of the tea partiers into leadership roles.
That statement is based on the Lyndon Johnson maxim about caucus radicals:
“It is better to have them inside the tent pissin’ out,
than it is to have them outside the tent pissin’ in.”

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Being an academic is frequently viewed as a disadvantange in politics.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was known for his wit, was an exception. His career included diplomatic posts as ambassador to India and to the UN and academic posts at Harvard and MIT as well as 24* years in the US Senate.
In his first race, in 1976, he ran against incumbent US Senator James Buckley of NY.
In a debate Buckley referred to him as "Professor Moynihan" and Moynihan responded: "Ah, the mudslinging begins."

*(corrected from the 18 years in the original post)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The mouse that roared

A 1959 movie starring Peter Sellars based on a 1955 book by Leonard Wibberly. For our purposes the plot is that a tiny (fictional) country decides to declare war on the United States in anticipation of losing and becoming, like Germany and Japan, the beneficiary of American largesse and help.
Ask someone who is old enough to remember the movie if they can imagine any other country playing the role of the US in the film.


The modern filibuster is not what it was in the days of my youth. Then it was basically the right of (almost) unlimited debate in the Senate. That is, a member or group of members could talk a proposal to death. But they could do so only if they were willing to take the floor and hold it continuously while talking about anything they chose to talk about (no bathroom breaks). Strom Thurmond set the record for a single senator filibuster of 24 hours and 18 minutes in 1957.
Debate was not completely unlimited because it was possible for a supermajority (2/3 and then reduced to 3/5 = 6o out of the 100 current senators) to impose “cloture” which set a fixed end to the debate and allowed a vote on the proposal. With the advent of television in the Senate the abuse of this right by a minority was limited because they were forced to actually make those arguments and they would be on c-span. So if you used the old style of reading the Bible or the phone book, then you would start to look foolish pretty quickly.

The rationale for all of this was that it protected the “rights” of a big minority (41 or more). They would have the opportunity to make their case and could not be steamrollered into silence.

I didn’t have too much of a problem with that old style filibuster because the restraints held down the use and abuse of it. Also, they did not use it against nominees for the Supreme Court until the corruption issue with Abe Fortas came up in the sixties. However, I wasn’t enthused about it either.

But then they changed the rule. Now you don’t have to actually filibuster, you can just indicate your intention to filibuster and it will then take 60 votes to bring the bill to the floor. You can hide while you bring the Senate to a halt. That is why they now say, correctly, that it takes 60 votes to pass a measure in the Senate. There are other things along this line but that is the basic issue

I am a firm believer in the rights of the minority.
But those rights should not include setting the agenda.
The filibuster needs to be, at least, restored to its previous form.
Perhaps even revised so that the minority could just slow it down a few days, but not stop it. Maybe on the first attempt at cloture require 60 votes, 3 days later require 55, and then 3 days after that require only 51.

Other opinions on this can be found at:
New Yorker

John Sununu


Monday, January 3, 2011

death panels?

Why do death panels continue to capture peoples imagination?
Perhaps it is because the 2010 Healthcare Bill originally contained something about end of life planning which was later taken out.
Perhaps it is because the Nobel Laureate and liberal economic spokesman Paul Krugman used the term in late 2010.

I think that it resonates with people because they understand, intuitively, that any health care system must include a method for deciding which things the system will cover and which things it will not. That is simple reality.

My favorite example would be one of those procedures that is very expensive and has a very low rate of success.
I saw a television show the other day about a woman whose son was ill with a rare and expensive disease. She explained how happy she was that the lifetime limit on his insurance was $6,000,000. But then she discovered that the first treatment would be $250,000 and she calculated that the coverage would run out when he was about 5 years old. What then?
Of course there is always the issue of elective surgery.

With our present system it is the much demonized insurance companies who make these decisions. You could say that they operate, or that they are, the “death panels.”
Except in the case of medicare, in which case it is the government which is making the decisions about what will be covered and what will not and how much it will pay for various services.

Someone will have to make these decisions. Someone will operate these “death panels”. Why not simply acknowledge reality here? Then give a bit of thought to the political-perception question. Begin by recalling a lesson from the past. Remember how much better it sounds to say that you are pro-choice rather than pro-abortion? Perhaps we could start calling them by some less ominous, and more accurate, name. How about, Coverage Boards.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

a centrist's view - 3 revised

The model of the spectrum is now in a centrist's view - 4

Just outside the centrist are the left and right wing folk and together make up the broad middle of American politics. They believe that it really is true that two honest people can look at the same situation and come to different conclusions. They try hard to be reasonable and among other things they try not to misrepresent the other participant’s position. The left and right wing folk differ from the centrist in that they are generally predisposed to see things one way or the other. The centrist is either not inclined to do that or (as is my case) finds himself sometimes predisposed toward one side and sometimes the other.

Further out are the partisans of each side. Their objective is to win the argument. They range from those who operate like a lawyer, who is making the best case for his client, to those who make arguments that should be embarrassing to them. For an example consider Jonathan Alter: "When it (Obamacare’s mandate) goes to the Supreme Court it's even crazier because you have these judges, these justices, who they've spent their whole career preaching against judicial activism, legislating from the bench. And they're about to be the biggest hypocrites ever to wear black robes." What he is saying is if a justice claims to be against judicial activism, then that justice can NEVER judge a law to be unconstitutional. That is, there is no legitimate position that opposes judicial activism.

Moving further out you get to the wingnuts of each side who basically appear to not understand the concepts that go into making a discussion, things like evidence, argument, etc. For example, if you produced a Hawaiian birth certificate that listed Obama as a Muslim at birth, I know people who would simultaneously see that as being a) reliable enough to prove that Obama is now a Muslim but b) not reliable enough to prove that he was a natural born citizen.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Here's to hoping that the powers that be seriously attack some of our problems.