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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Division of labor

My wife and I have worked out a nice process for decision making at our house.

She makes the small decisions and I make the big decisions

She decides where we are going to live, what kind of cars we will drive, where we go on vacation, and things like that.

I decide when we should get out of Iraq, how we should balance the Federal budget, and things like that.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What President Obama Needs To Do About the Debt Crisis

Thanks to Yellow Armadillos for inviting me to blog here! I hope your readers will be interested in this:

Jackie Salit, President of independentvoting.org, appeared on Fox and Friends July 27, 2011, to give an independent perspective on the budget negotiations.  Salit says 'I'm a member of the Anti-Party, which is what about 40% of the country is today' -- most Americans don't like parties, partisanship, and Americans will come together around structural political reform. There is no middle ground, but there is a way to bring Americans together.  President Obama is trying to play to the center when there is no center. Obama needs to come out strongly in support of political reform and indies will support him.

Click for VIDEO

You can read more news by, for and about independent voters at The Hankster

Friday, July 29, 2011

Papers Please

Well we have just returned from 6 weeks in Europe.

One of the things that we did there was, at all times, maintain identification on our persons including passports. On several occasions we were asked to produce them. For example we bought a cell phone and were required to show a passport.

Twice when we were being stopped for possible traffic violations (one warning, one fine) we had to show who we were. Papers Please! As Rachel Maddow would say in her imitation Nazi voice. Thank God the ACLU is working to prevent that kind of police state activity in Arizona.

Seriously, I did not feel at all put out that those countries felt that they had a right to expect me to stand and identify myself as a legal resident.

I agree with them and I think we should exercise the same right with respect to anyone seeking employment in this country. That would, of course, require everyone (including citizens) to demonstrate legal status when applying for work.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

internet taxes

Apparently CA is going to try to collect its sales tax on anyone who sells stuff to people who live in CA. And they want to include people who sell on the internet!!! According to Steve Forbes this is an outrageous, criminal and unconstitutional idea.

It seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Even if it is not a good idea Forbes's language is so sad and so like Heuvel's in the previous post.

voter ID

I guess I am in favor of requiring people to prove that they are eligible to vote in order to vote.

In a post article Katrina vanden Heuvel argues against voter identification laws. Her approach is to attack the motivations of the advocates for the laws.

One of her techniques is to assume that the only cases (of voter fraud - added 7-28)that exist are the ones that have been formally proven.

PS One of the prominent experts that she quotes does not know the difference between effect and affect. (Nobody told him to just switch to "impact".) Whether that affects the credence that should be given to his views is for you to decide.

Friday, July 22, 2011

lesser of two evils

I think that it is clear that the long term solution to the debt problem requires a revision of entitlements and an increase in taxes.

In my own middle class case (and those wealthier) it will require both a reduction in entitlements and an increase in taxes. I believe that it can be done so that those who are poor through no fault of their own will not have to "suffer" either.

It would be nice if the two sides could agree on an appropriate balance. That seems unlikely.

So what is the best we can hope for? If there is no compromise then one side or the other will win. Whichever it is we can expect serious consequences which will propel the other side into power and reverse some of what had been done and perhaps we can get a balanced solution that way. Which way would be best? I would say the way that produces the least long term harm.

If the Ds win then we will have continued excessive spending (= more than we take in) even if taxes rise. If the Rs win we have continued inadequate taxation (= less than we spend) even if spending is cut.

If the Rs win the pain will fall on the people, us. (If they win in the form of Ryan’s plan for drastically revising medicare, then the pain would be far enough into the future that there would be ample time - 10 years – before implementation that one could build a consensus for cancelling it by increased taxation.) In any case this route will land on us.

If the Ds win then we will continue the slide into insolvency and the consequences of that will be dramatic. At some point the world will move away from the dollar. Some will say it has already started. When that happens the 3 trillion in American debt that is foreign owned will go on the market. At that point the price of our borrowing will go up. Then our debt will really drag us down.

So if there is no compromise then I would prefer that the Rs win because the consequences seem less severe.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


This cute little article about time reminds me of a very bad joke.

Put on your imagination cap.
A man named Stein robbed a bank of $1,000,000 in 1985. He placed the money in US Treasuries at 16% per year and then stepped into a time machine that he had borrowed from an elf. (The elf is not really part of the story, but I had to have a source for the time machine and I am fond of elves.) Stein came out of the time machine in 1992, sold the treasuries for approximately $4,000,000 gave the bank $2 million for their original loss + interest, and turned himself in. At the trial he claimed that he could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run out.

The judge agreed in a one line decision: "an itch in time saves Stein".

I apologize.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Reckless Endangerment 3

A critique of the book in this title (see July 5 post) can be found here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

testing students

Testing students is very widespread by those of us in (or formerly in) teaching. We use the results to measure how well our students have done their job and learned what we were teaching them. However, as a body we have vehemently opposed using the results on any standardized tests as an indication of how well WE were doing our job.

It appears that that has changed.

The NEA has finally come around to the view that how much your students learn might be a legitimate measure of how well you are teaching.

The next step is to get them to agree that those who do it better should get paid more and those who don't do it well should be removed from the classroom. (or do it without their agreement)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Global Temper Tantrum

In The Global Temper Tantrum Niall Ferguson pretty well nails the childishness which seems to dominate the money discussion these days. From the Republican assertion that even removing the most egregious tax breaks is a tax increase to Obama's "Don't call my bluff!"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Napoleon’s March

In the early seventies, my work on a PhD required that I demonstrate a reading knowledge of two foreign languages. The University of North Texas provided a course that was specifically designed to prepare the student to pass a test to demonstrate that knowledge.
The course was taught by a exquisitely well-dressed middle-aged man named Dr. Richard(?) Crowder. He was an outstanding teacher who treated our lack of interest in French as perfectly normal and made the course interesting for us and (presumably) bearable for him. He discussed concepts and French verbs in delightful terms. The subjunctive meant “might could”. “Sauter” meant “to jump” and therefore when the cook sautéed mushrooms he “jumped them in the skillet”.

The thing that I remember most was his telling us of Former French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s escape from Elba (a small island off the western coast of Italy) to which he had been banished by the victorious English and their allies. It was believed that the restored monarchy would crush Napoleon’s little revolt, because he had only a few dozen supporters when he started.

The Paris newspaper Moniteur covered the story in 1815. Excerpts from their headlines include:

March 9 The Monster has escaped from his place of banishment.

March 10 The Corsican Ogre has landed at Cape Juan

March 11 … Troops are advancing on all sides to arrest his progress.

March 12 The Monster has advanced as far as Grenoble

March 13 The Tyrant is now at Lyon.

March 18 The Usurper [is] within 60 hours' march of the capital.

March 19 Bonaparte is advancing by forced marches, ….

March 20 Napoleon will arrive … .

March 21 The Emperor Napoleon is at Fountainebleu.

March 22 Yesterday evening His Majesty the Emperor made his public entry [into Paris]. Nothing can exceed the universal joy.

The story is that when Napoleon met the National Army he told his little band to wait and he went on alone, saying that if even one of his former soldiers was willing to shoot him then that was the way it should end. Instead, they fell upon him and wept for joy at his return.

The result of his little revolt was that he ruled France a few more months and caused the slaughter of many thousands in one more battle - Waterloo. For his second exile the British changed his status to closely watched prisoner on the remote island of St. Helena where he died in 1821.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What would Andy do?

Suppose that in 1833 Congress had adopted the following:
1. a tax measure that provided for not more than $80 million in revenue,
2. a budget that provided for at least $100 million in expenditures, and
3. a directive that the President not borrow any money.

What would be the proper response by President Andrew Jackson?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Truman and the bomb

From the movie "Truman" (1995) (TV)
Harry S. Truman: If I don't drop the bomb, so many more of our young men will die in the invasion of Japan. Their men, too, and women and children. How can I face the people when it's finally over, and say that I had the power to possibly end the war, long ago, spare the lives of their loved ones, and I chose not to use it?
Harry S. Truman: How could I look them in the face and tell them that?

Charlie Ross: Harry, you didn't come to me for common sense, you came to me for forgiveness. Do what you have to do. I'll still be your friend. But this is changing the course of history. You clinch the victory in the Pacific, but you sow the whirlwind.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hidden Meanings

.(This was revised 10 am CST.)
Some students have trouble understanding that the beauty of poetry includes the subtle use of language and are in danger of believing that it is all a bunch hooey concocted by English professors. One such professor of my acquaintance used to introduce the poetry section in his general education literature classes by playing off of that attitude and (perhaps) putting the students at ease. He began by acting as if poetry was indeed a bunch of hooey. Day one began something like this.

“This here’s your poem.
The purpose of your poem is to obscure meaning.
To find the hidden meanings there are hints at the bottom of the page.
These hints are numbered.
One, two, three are your little numbers.
Seven, eight, nine are your big numbers.”

Probably, like most of these little maneuvers that we come up with, it works better sometimes than others.

I’m sure that you have seen articles from the right about how Obama is not merely wrong, but what he really wants to do is … list your method of choice … and destroy the Republic. Here is another hidden meaning example, this time from the other side wherein Michele Bachman does not merely want to do what she says she does, but really plans to destroy any semblance of social justice in America.

In modern American politics these presentations serve to demonize the opposition and make them appear outside the mainstream and therefore unacceptable. They also contribute mightily to the current sorry state of our politics where winning is more important than governing.

Perhaps these two things are connected by Mario Cuomo's observation that, "You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose."

But now we don't govern at all, we just win elections.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Reckless Endangerment 2

The housing bubble mentioned yesterday has provided us with another example of the stasis fallacy. Again, we assumed that changing the rules (home mortgage regulations) would not have an impact on the individuals who were involved in the process.

My first encounter with the stasis fallacy was the flawed welfare system as described recently by Barack Obama : "Well, you know, here's what I would say. I think we should acknowledge that some welfare programs in the past were not well designed and in some cases did encourage dependency. As somebody who worked in low income neighborhoods, I've seen it, where people weren't encouraged to work, weren't encouraged to upgrade their skills, were just getting a check, and, over time, their motivation started to diminish. And I think even if you're progressive you've got to acknowledge that some of these things have not been well designed."

I am impressed by that straight forward acknowledgement.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Reckless Endangerment

"Put on asbestos mittens and pick up “Reckless Endangerment,” the scalding new book by Gretchen Morgenson, a New York Times columnist, and Joshua Rosner, a housing finance expert."

From a review by George Will of a book on the current unpleasantness that one might say "resonates with reality".


Sunday, July 3, 2011

playing chicken

Fareed, whom I like, seems to be moving to the left.

Fareed Zakaria says: But as you watch the dangerous game of chicken in Washington, it is easy to conclude that the U.S. has lost a serious governing class and has become a place where ideology and talk-radio rhetoric have replaced the business of governance. That Republicans would consider playing games with America's creditworthiness is not simply terrible public policy but also, as Richard Stengel pointed out in the previous issue of TIME, almost certainly unconstitutional.

Fareed apparently doesn't know that it takes two to play chicken.

One characteristic of current liberals is the belief that if the debt limit is not raised, then the things that don't get paid must be our loans and interest. They apparently cannot concieve of not paying something else - like say - part of the SS for people whose incomes are over 50K; subsidies to oil companies, farmers etc.; payments for medicare for people whose incomes are over 50K.

I am liberal enough to not want to do those things, but rational enough to recognize that those possibilities do exists and might be better actions than defaulting on debt.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

North Carolina redistricts

Regardless of whether you like this particular example of it, I hope you would agree that we need to put an end to political redistricting. There are programs in use which would do these redistricting things based on whatever criteria you choose, for example governmental substructures- counties, cities, precincts etc.
To really find out about it google computer redistricting.

By: Michael Barone
North Carolina is unique among the states in that under the state Constitution the governor cannot veto a redistricting plan passed by the legislature. This means that Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue cannot veto this congressional redistricting plan produced by the Republican-controlled Senate and House redistricting committees and likely to be passed by both houses.

Currently the North Carolina House delegation is made up of 6 Republicans and 7 Democrats. The redistricting plan creates 3 overwhelmingly Democratic districts (the 1st, 4th and 12th) and 10 districts in which Republican Senator Richard Burr received at least 59% of the vote in November 2010 and in which John McCain received at least 55% of the vote in November 2008. This puts in jeopardy the seats of the 7th district’s Mike McIntyre, the 8th district’s Larry Kissell, the 11th district’s Heath Shuler (who reportedly is weighing an offer to become athletic director at the University of Tennessee, where he was a football star) and the 13th district’s Brad Miller (who was on the redistricting committee 10 years ago). Republicans have the potential, but not the assurance, of gaining 4 seats.

In the 7th district—previous version 52% McCain, new version 55% McCain—Democrat Mike McIntyre beat Republican challenger Ilario Pantano 54%-46% in 2010. The redistricting removes most of Robeson County (with its large population of blacks and Lumbee Indians) and the Democratic area around Fayetteville and adds Onslow County, home of the Marine Corps’s Camp Lejeune. This could help Marine veteran Pantano.

The 8th district goes from 52% Obama to 55% McCain; Democrat Larry Kissell won 53%-43% last time after a controversial Republican primary. The district no longer contains black precincts in Charlotte.

The 11th district loses the increasingly liberal city of Asheville and adds four heavily Republican counties. In the process a 52% McCain district becomes a 58% McCain district, with the second highest McCain percentage of any of North Carolina’s 13 districts. It’s rumored that incumbent Heath Shuler is weighing an offer to become athletic director at the University of Tennessee, where he was a star quarterback. That looks like it would give Shuler more power and tenure; in the House he’s on the outs with the Democratic leadership because of his open opposition to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The 13th district has seen the sharpest transformation, from a 59%-40% Obama district to a 56%-43% McCain district. The Supreme Court recently ruled that states are not required to create near-minority-majority districts (i.e., those with large numbers but not a majority of blacks or Hispanics) to comply with the Voting Rights Act. This was one such district; the Republican redistricters clearly placed many of the old 13th’s blacks in the heavily Democratic 4th district.

Read more at the Washington Examiner.

Friday, July 1, 2011

2012 Candidates - July-2011

Sorry I let this get up here before I was able to update it.
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-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.

Remember I am not a professional at this, just an interested citizen.

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

Mitt Romney (25-25-26-24-25-30) 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 and I now think he can make the case.
Tim Pawlenty (05-07-08-16-14-20-25) - I would consider him. A serious person. The most likely replacement for Daniels.
Michelle Bachman (x-x-x-01-01-10-20) A lightweight. Fails YAMSLT
Jon Huntsman (x-x-1-1-01-05-06) As I know him more, I like him more. I would consider him. Seems like serious people take him seriously.
I don't see how he wins the nomination though.

Rick Perry (x-x-x-x-x-x-06)Would be a serious candidate. But is America ready for another brash Texas Governor? Is his Jobs record that good?
Sarah Palin (20-20-21-16-16-19-6) - She is playjng games. Fails the YAMSLT.
Ron Paul (x-x-x-x-01-02-03) (sorry I forgot him before)
Herman Cain (x-x-x-x-x-x-01) Has a long way to go to be a serious cand.

Newt Gingrich (4-4-4-4-03-03-01) - 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-01-02-01-01) - Too far right for me. Fails the YAMSLT.
Gary Johnson (x-x-x-x-01-01-01) Will highlight the drug prohibition issue.