I disagree with Hightower.

What you will find here is: a centrist's view of current events;
a collection of thoughts, arguments, and observations
that I have found appealing and/or amusing over the years;
and, if you choose, your civil contributions which will make it into a conversation.

He not busy bein' born, is busy dyin'. - Bob Dylan

Please refer to participants only by their designated identities.

suggestion for US citizens: When a form asks for your race, write in: -- American

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


This story is perhaps apocryphal.
President Truman was urged to leak an FBI file containing dirt on his political nemesis Joseph McCarthy. He was assured that he could do it anonymously and that it wouldn't be traceable to him. He would, they assured him, have deniability.

Truman's response was: What the hell kind of word is "deniability"?

He did not release the documents.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

comments problem

There appears to be some problem with the comment function.

It is a general problem. I cannot comment either.
It asks me to sign in and then throws me into a loop.

"Contributors" can put new stuff in like this.

someone suggests that it is in Internet explorer 9.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

the individual mandate

The argument about Obamacare seems to center on the "individual mandate".

I mentioned to a friend that they say it is unconstitutional for the federal government to require an individual to buy health care insurance.

My friend responded: "OK. Now tell me again what Medicare is?"

He's still waitin' for an answer.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Newsweek, Sean Hannity, Lawrence O'Donnell, Bill Maher and Bill O Reilly are in the process of trying to change the meaning of this word.

Maher's argument in O'Donnell's piece above is a fitting example of his nonthinking: In Europe Socialism is "just" another political party he says. "Socialism doesn’t mean that we’re against making a profit; it just means that government takes over certain things like hospitals, the prisons and the military and schools that shouldn’t be run for profit."

I think that most Americans would have trouble making a good definition. They know that it is related to communism but are not sure how but they are sure that they don't want either. The big difference is that Socialism is an economic system only. It can be combined with various kinds of political systems. You can have democratic socialism (I believe that Sweden is the closest that the world has to this.) or you can have a one party dictatorship plus socialism (= communism in practice). That last system, communism, was tried out in the Soviet Union. You probably know how that worked out?

Socialism is an economic system in which the means of production are publicly or commonly owned and controlled co-operatively, or a political philosophy advocating such a system.

So the first simple fact is that O'Donnell, Hannity, and Newsweek and the others are simply liars or fools (I always use the mathematical “or” which is inclusive, i.e. it includes the possibility that they are both liars and fools.)
I think that those on the right are lying because they know about the aversion Americans have towards even the word socialism. and they are trying to hang the label any of their opponents who want to have a government that is larger than the one that they want.
It is not as clear to me why the left is coming on like this. I suppose it is to make what they are doing seem less ominous. They want an even larger government (" = more socialism”) and perhaps they think if we believe that we are already socialists then we won't be as bothered by the growth of government. If Newsweek is right and whether you want 20% of GDP or 40% of GDP to go to the government you are still a socialist, then we are just quibling over numbers. No big deal.

It seems to me that it would be much more accurate to identify what percentage of the GDP you would advocate being collected by the governments and used to pay bills or distributed to the populace. Ayn Rand would say 5 or 6% to pay for the military plus a little bit. I suppose that a true socialist would advocate almost 100% (from each according to his ability – to each according to his need).

My percentage would be about 40. So I will call myself a 40% socialist.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ride the River

In the old American west the toughest and most dangerous activity was taking herds of animals or wagon trains of people across a river. According to Zane Grey the highest compliment you could pay to someone in those days was to say that, "He will do to ride the river with." It meant that he could be relied on to do what was necessary in the most difficult of situations.

I don't know of many people in the modern world who would generally qualify for that accolade. But occasionally someone will take an action that seems, at least for a moment, to put him in that category. Such acts will be classified here by placing them in the new label: ride the river.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Where are the grownups?

I believe that we need both benefit cuts and tax increases to solve our problems.
Each of these is the kind news that politicians don't like to deliver.

I expect the Republicans to tell us the truth about benefit cuts but not about taxes. Paul Ryan has put something drastic on the table. I give him a lot of credit for being a "truth teller". Will the Rs presidential candidates Pawlenty or Romney or Huntsman or … be as forthcoming about the real problem?
So far they have not. (Added later: perhaps one will.)

I expect the Democrats to tell us the truth about taxes but not about benefit cuts. What we have seen from the President is a proposal to make a modest tax increase on the very wealthy. It raises $70 B per year, in the face of a $1400 B deficit. (That is for just one year.) That solves 5% of the problem. Will O offer a serious proposal?
So far he has not.

I was told by an ardent democratic friend that it was ridiculous to expect Obama to propose raising taxes. He might not get reelected. At the time of his proposal Ryan said that he knew he would be savaged for proposing a serious solution. (You should see the Ds video of "him" pushing grandma off a cliff.) Ryan said then that the problem is serious enough to lose elections over.

I agree with Ryan about how serious the problem is and it will be a major factor in my voting next year.

Does Obama think that it is serious enough to lose an election over?

Last time I voted for change. This time I might change my vote.

PS (10:30 PM)Even the Socialists in Spain are cutting back.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A prediction

The Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote ordered California to release 32,000 or 38,000 or 46,000 or some other number of prisoners because California is not providing enough facilities for them.

The whole thing is a problem. If the state doesn't deal with it then the Court must, although I'm not sure I agree with how far they went. The US has the highest incarceration rates (or one of them) in the world. A lot of them are victimless drug crimes. (Incidentally doing drugs was not illegal during the administrations of Washington, Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln.)These things need to be reviewed.

Seriously, the prediction is: One of these released prisoners will commit some grim crime and, in next year's campaign, someone will point out who appointed those justices.

Semi-seriously: There is a citation in the story of one toilet serving 54 prisoners. This would mean that each prisoner would have access for less than 20 minutes per 16 hour day. I wonder what the constitutional limits are in this case. Fifty four people to one toilet is apparently too many. Probably 5 would be within bounds. What number would this court majority calculate to be the maximum permissible prisoners per potty?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bye bye mitch.

I really hated to see Mitch Daniels leave the race for the R nomination.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Fountain of Youth – Last Friday while viewing the latest
adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow as he searched for the “Fountain of Youth” I
had an epiphany. Somewhere around the
7-8th grade a teacher told me that Ponce De Leon was searching for
that same fountain when he explored Florida.

Now, I never believed that there was a “Fountain of Youth”,
but sadly, until 2 days ago I believed that Ponce did.

Rahm's quote

I remember a quote by Rahm Emmanuel that I thought was cute at the time. Now I don't. Now I think it represents an attitude that is damaging us.

The other day a friend wondered whether the Tea Party would continue to be as interested in the deficit-debt if the Republicans took over the whole government in 2012. That is to say, he believes their concern over finances is just a cover for disassembling the government.

I know others who are firmly convinced that the concern that the left expresses over the environment is just a cover for expanding the government.

Everyone is distrustful of their opponents’ motives. That is fine and is warranted by a general caution. However, we have gone beyond that. Nowadays assuming that your opponent has a hidden agenda has come to be viewed as an argument in and of itself. That is the case because it is widely believed that today’s politician’s first reaction to a problem is to think – how can I use this to promote my agenda.

I don’t mean to blame this on Rahm Emmanuel, but he was the one who famously expressed the philosophy of those politicians. Remember that quote?
“Never let a crisis go to waste.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

the castouts

Glen Beck believes that Obama is not merely wrong, but wants to destroy the country. I have a relative who believes that too. Then of course there is also Olberman and Limbaugh.

Let's create a class of people who have gone so far out of bounds that they should be ignored in the political discussion. By that I would mean we would not quote them or use them in any way in the political discourse of the country. Now this is more than just, "I don't like them." This is basically people who say that the folks on the other side from them are not just wrong, but are actively evil and seek the destruction of the courntry.
The two right wingnuts and one left wingnut above could be a start.

To add a second from the left try Robert Shrum, the Democratic operative who has lost more presidential elections (eight)than anyone in history, demonstrated it in a recent article.
He says that the Rs are out to destroy the economy. Here is a choice quote: Any Republican maneuver to provoke default, no matter how disguised, could be unmasked. "This could jeopardize his speakership ... and Boehner may calculate or miscalculate that the controversy can be manipulated to brand the president with the scarlet letter of default."

His view of checks and balances - Governmental action requires the approval of both houses of Congress and the President- goes like this: "The House GOP is abusing the budget and debt process to circumvent constitutional assumptions and impose minority rule by misusing its control of only one house of the Congress. Instead of decisions made by majority vote on both sides of Capitol Hill, ratified by the president or rejected by his veto, the chamber without a filibuster and, according to its new class of fervent anti-government firebrands, should blackmail the Senate, the White House, and the nation into specific, historic and devastating cutbacks that Americans adamantly oppose." The House that Shrum condemns is the one which has the most recent mandate of the people. The entire body was elected a few months ago.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

B Russell 1872-1970

Bertrand Russell was born this day in 1872.

At one point he was so despondent that he considered suicide. He spared himself in order to study mathematics.

During WWI Dr. Russell was an antiwar activist. For this he was sent to jail.
As he was being processed into the facility, one of the questions the lady asked him was: religion?
He replied: Agnostic.
The lady then said, "Oh, there are so many new religions these days, but I suppose they all worship the same God."

Russell said that that encounter kept him amused during his confinement.

Russell's Parodox is one of those exquisitely delightful moments in mathematics.

The barber's paradox is a layman's variation and the simplest version I've ever seen is Tom's handicapped parking paradox.

Bertrand Russell, Philosopher

The Prologue to Bertrand Russell's Autobiography
What I Have Lived For
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.
I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness--that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what--at last--I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

debt ceiling "hostages"

As part of their effort to improve the nature of political discourse the Ds have been labeling the Rs as "hostage takers". For example Paul Krugman sees the Rs efforts to use the debt ceiling to force drastic cuts in spending as the taking of hostages. He has a point. He says they are saying, "Cut spending or the house will burn down around us all.

Except for the fact that the Ds are the ones using this rhetoric I don't see how the two sides are really that different. Isn't the Ds position the opposite side of the same coin? They agree that the spending rate is "unsustainable" (the new buzz word). But aren't they saying, "Let us continue to spend at this rate or the house will burn down around us all?"

Monday, May 16, 2011

Here one year ago this month

see also this

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 Laffer curve

Sunday, May 15, 2011

You can tell one at 200 yards.

In the summer of 1983 I got a backpack and a Eurail pass and set out to roam around Europe. I spent several days in Istanbul and returned to Thessalonika, Greece from where I went (not on the pass) through Tito's Yugoslavia to Bregenz, Austria. (Tito was dead but the Yugoslavia that he created was still in existence.) While I was in Greece a tall, blond fellow came over to the table where I was drinking my beloved chocolate milk which had been unavailable in Turkey.

He looked at me and in a very friendly voice said, "Where are you from?"

I said, "The United States."

In congenial chastisement he exclaimed, "Well, I can TELL that, I mean where in the United States."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

contributions and contracts

My liberal friend, Honoria, and I agree that requiring bids on government contracts to include a list of political contributions by the applicant is a very bad idea.

Even suggesting it was a bad idea.

Here is one of those curious things that come up from time to time. Requiring all those who contribute money and kind to the political process to make those things public, would seem OK to me.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

legal vote buying

I think many have said this, I chose the following version attributed to Benjamin Franklin: When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. I know a lot of people scoff at that idea.

It is true that almost all of us would view with contempt the idea that the government should send each of us $10,000 ever year. McGovern actually offered a variation of that in 72 and he got crushed.

However, a small fig leaf is sufficient.

Many of those same people will view it as quite appropriate that they should give the government a few hundred in payments and then get back $10,000 a year in medical insurance in return.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We are all immigrants?

Eliot Spitzer has a M-F show In The Arena (7 PM CDT on CNN) which leans left. It is a pretty interesting show, however, last nite Spitzer said: "As Eleanor Roosevelt said, 'We are all immigrants in this country.'"

I don't know whether she said anything so obviously and blatantly false or not, but it does seem to be consistent with the level of discussion on the issue of immigration.

Is it no longer true that making false statements undermines your argument?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Here, one year ago today.

What Blood are Americans.


Today is the first anniversary of this blog.

Executive order on torture

I was chastized for the content of the May 8 post. I believe that the feeling was that our current president was going to go strictly by the book, as he promised.

As my chairman used to say, "Maturity is a slow process."

It is all there in Obama's Executive Order abolishing torture (its not too long).

Torture is forbidden. You can see for yourself.

Be careful to note section 5 wherein is created the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies Issues to consider whether the Army Field Manual is sufficient in all cases.

The Special Task Force made a report can be seen at the DOJ website here.
Notice in particular under
After extensively consulting with representatives of the Armed Forces, the relevant agencies in the Intelligence Community, and some of the nation’s most experienced and skilled interrogators, the Task Force concluded that the Army Field Manual provides appropriate guidance on interrogation for military interrogators and that no additional or different guidance was necessary for other agencies. These conclusions rested on the Task Force’s unanimous assessment, including that of the Intelligence Community, that the practices and techniques identified by the Army Field Manual or currently used by law enforcement provide adequate and effective means of conducting interrogations.

The Task Force concluded, however, that the United States could improve its ability to interrogate the most dangerous terrorists by forming a specialized interrogation group, or High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), that would bring together the most effective and experienced interrogators and support personnel from across the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense and law enforcement. The creation of the HIG would build upon a proposal developed by the Intelligence Science Board.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Maureen Dowd column in the May 7, 2011 NY Times was good in that it jumped on the inclination of some to find moral equivalence in our killing bin Laden and his killing on 9-11. That's good.

But she opened her piece with: I don’t want closure. There is no closure after tragedy. I want memory, and justice, and revenge.

Well I don't really see the point in revenge.

I would say, and I bet Obama would agree:

If I could eliminate terrorism by killing all of the terrorists, I would do it.
If I could eliminate terrorism by killing none of the terrorists, I would do it.
If I could eliminate terrorism by killing some of the terrorists and leaving others alone, I would do it.

(Thank you, Abraham Lincoln.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Shooting bin Laden and all that

I just heard a story that Churchill and Roosevelt composed a list of about 50 Germans who were to be shot on sight as WWII was coming to an end. They dropped the plan because, when they showed it their ally Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, Uncle Joe wanted to raise it to 5,000.

You have to exercise some restraint, but I am willing to support giving the American president pretty wide latitude in dealing with bin Laden, al Awlaki, etc.
One can support:
a) using EITs on random suspects in the conflict.
b) using EITs on those known with certainty to be among the enemy.
c) killing,without warning, those who have "joined in the war on us"
and, occasionally, some innocents around them.

I haven't met anyone who supports a).

This whole question exposes some strange attitudes of some folks.
They will support c) but not b). It seems to me that, for the terrorist, b) is a better outcome than c). I think it seems that way to at least some of the terrorists, too. In particular, those who surrender rather than "fight to the death" may perhaps be said to prefer b) to c).

I agree with Sherman: War is hell.

They need to reconvene at Geneva.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

malum in se

This morning it was reported that the UN wants to determine if the raid on Bin Laden’s compound was conducted legally. In this case legally can be defined as following UN guidelines for addressing terrorism.

As irritating as that news was (at first) I will freely admit that I am an adamant believer that if we agree to rules (laws) we should obey the rules. That having been said, I expect to be entirely dismissive of the UN findings or to state if differently I am glad we did, period.

There is obviously a chink in my resolve to consistently follow my beliefs on enforcing rules at all times. In this case I make no apology, but here is my question. Can a deed or action ever be so monstrously wrong “in and of itself” that it is justifiable to not consider the rules when addressing that action?

not quite 4 - Robert E. Lee

There is a quote attributed to Robert E. Lee who fought for the U S in the Mexican War of 1845 and the Confederacy in the Civil War 1861-65. He was a highly respected General who won (among many others) the the Battle of Fredericksburg (13th December 1862) by placing his men in fortified positions and slaughtering the Yankee troops that Union General Burnside sent across an open field.
Afterwards he said: "It is well that war is so terrible - otherwise we would grow too fond of it."

Seems to me that this is one of those quotes that doesn't quite work because if it wasn't "so terrible", then there wouldn't be any problem with "growing too fond of it."

PS Eight months later on the 3rd day at Gettysberg Lee repeated Burnside's mistake and had Gen George Pickett launch thousands of Rebels across an open field against a greater number of men behind a stone wall. When the Yankees drove the surviving Rebels back across the field they banged on the wall and chanted: "Fredricksburg! Fredricksburg! Fredricksburg!"

PPS I suppose that you would have to say that Lee's decision was worse than Burnside's since it came later. But surely the worst would be those WWI generals who had fifty years to study that war and even greater firepower and still they issued those orders to go "over the top" and across those open fields. Apparently, they had never taken notice of what had happened in "the colonies".

Thursday, May 5, 2011

If the president does it ...

One president has his subordinates capture some of the enemy and pours water in their faces to get information and the left calls him a war criminal and bewails the abandonment of the Geneva Conventions.

Using that information another president sends an armed force into a country with whom we are not at war and without their knowledge (much less consent). They crash into a home, kill a several people, take a body and some stuff and leave.

None of my friends on the left have complained.

I think we need to reconvene at Geneva.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama is dead - first reaction

It may be that this is an opportunity to get out of Afghanistan. The theme being:
We came over here because this guy attacked us and your previous government was protecting him.
You've got a new government now and we got the guy.
We're leaving now.
We tried to do minimum damage to your country this time.
Don't make us come back over here again.

tax policy reversals

The VAT or Value Added Tax is a glorified sales tax that is added on for wholesale as well as retail transactions. It would generate a lot of income for the government and be less visible than most taxes.

George Will noted on Christiane Amanpour's show why we don't have one.
The The Ds see it is a regressive and the Rs think of it as a cash cow.
He then noted that we will get one in a minute as soon as:
The Rs see it as regressive and the Ds realize that it is a cash cow.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

2012 Candidates - May-2011

Here are some 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-May, 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.

Remember I am not a professional political observer, just an interested citizen.

Obama (99) I would consider him.

Mitt Romney (25-25-26-24-25) 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 is. I think not. But I don't know if he can make the case.
Mike Huckabee ( 25-20-21-18-18) - Fails the YAMSLT. Is he running?
Sarah Palin (20-20-21-16-16) - A lightweight. Fails the YAMSLT.
Mitch Daniels (15-15-16-16-16) - I would consider him. A serious person.
Tim Pawlenty (5-7-8-16-14) - I would consider him. A serious person.

Newt Gingrich (4-4-4-4-3) - I would have considered him but he abandoned 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 Santorum (x-x-x-01-02) - Too far right for me. Fails the YAMSLT.
Michelle Bachman (x-x-x-01-01) A lightweight. Fails the YAMSLT.
Bobby Jindal (1-1-1-1-1)- Fails the YAMSLT.
Jim Demint (1-1-1-1-1) - Too far right for me.
Jon Huntsman (x-x-1-1-01) Don't know him.
Gary Johnson (x-x-x-x-01) Will highlight the drug prohibition issue.
Ron Paul (x-x-x-x-01) (sorry I forgot him before)
Donald Trump - (x-x-x-x-00)- Will not be a credible candidate.

Haley Barbour –(0-0-0-0-out (as predicted here in February)
John Thune -Says he’s not running.
Mike Pence – Says he’s not running.
Chris Christie – Says he’s not running. I would have considered him.