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, October 31, 2011

The Divider vs. the Thinker

While Obama readies an ugly campaign, Paul Ryan gives a serious account of what ails America.


People are increasingly fearing the divisions within, even the potential coming apart of, our country. Rich/poor, black/white, young/old, red/blue: The things that divide us are not new, yet there's a sense now that the glue that held us together for more than two centuries has thinned and cracked with age. That it was allowed to thin and crack, that the modern era wore it out.

What was the glue? A love of country based on a shared knowledge of how and why it began; a broad feeling among our citizens that there was something providential in our beginnings; a gratitude that left us with a sense that we should comport ourselves in a way unlike the other nations of the world, that more was expected of us, and not unjustly—
"To whom much is given much is expected"; a general understanding that we were something new in history, a nation founded on ideals and aspirations—liberty, equality—and not mere grunting tribal wants. We were from Europe but would not be European: No formal class structure here, no limits, from the time you touched ground all roads would lead forward. You would be treated not as your father was but as you deserved. That's from "The Killer Angels," a historical novel about the Civil War fought to right a wrong the Founders didn't right. We did in time, and at great cost. What a country.

But there is a broad fear out there that we are coming apart, or rather living through the moment we'll look back on as the beginning of the Great Coming Apart. Economic crisis, cultural stresses: "Half the country isn't speaking to the other half," a moderate Democrat said the other day. She was referring to liberals of her acquaintance who know little of the South and who don't wish to know of it, who write it off as apart from them, maybe beneath them.

To add to the unease, in New York at least, there's a lot of cognitive dissonance. If you are a New Yorker, chances are pretty high you hate what the great investment firms did the past 15 years or so to upend the economy. Yet you feel on some level like you have to be protective of them, because Wall Street pays the bills of the City of New York. Wall Street tax receipts and Wall Street business—restaurants, stores—keep the city afloat. So you want them up and operating and vital, you don't want them to leave—that would only make things worse for people in trouble, people just getting by, and young people starting out. You know you have to preserve them just when you'd most like to deck them.

Where is the president in all this? He doesn't seem to be as worried about his country's continuance as his own. He's out campaigning and talking of our problems, but he seems oddly oblivious to or detached from America's deeper fears. And so he feels free to exploit divisions. It's all the rich versus the rest, and there are a lot more of the latter.

Twenty twelve won't be "as sexy" as 2008, he said this week. It will be all brute force. Which will only add to the feeling of unease.

Occupy Wall Street makes an economic critique that echoes the president's, though more bluntly: the rich are bad, down with the elites. It's all ad hoc, more poetry slam than platform. Too bad it's not serious in its substance.

There's a lot to rebel against, to want to throw off. If they want to make a serious economic and political critique, they should make the one Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner make in "Reckless Endangerment": that real elites in Washington rigged the system for themselves and their friends, became rich and powerful, caused the great cratering, and then "slipped quietly from the scene."

It is a blow-by-blow recounting of how politicians—Democrats and Republicans—passed the laws that encouraged the banks to make the loans that would never be repaid, and that would result in your lost job. Specifically it is the story of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage insurers, and how their politically connected CEOs, especially Fannie's Franklin Raines and James Johnson, took actions that tanked the American economy and walked away rich. It began in the early 1990s, in the Clinton administration, and continued under the Bush administration, with the help of an entrenched Congress that wanted only two things: to receive campaign contributions and to be re-elected.

The story is a scandal, and the book should be the bible of Occupy Wall Street. But they seem as incapable of seeing government as part of the problem as Republicans seem of seeing business as part of the problem.

Which gets us to Rep. Paul Ryan. Mr. Ryan receives much praise, but I don't think his role in the current moment has been fully recognized. He is doing something unique in national politics. He thinks. He studies. He reads. Then he comes forward to speak, calmly and at some length, about what he believes to be true. He defines a problem and offers solutions, often providing the intellectual and philosophical rationale behind them. Conservatives naturally like him—they agree with him—but liberals and journalists inclined to disagree with him take him seriously and treat him with respect.

This week he spoke on "The American Idea" at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. He scored the president as too small for the moment, as "petty" in his arguments and avoidant of the decisions entailed in leadership. At times like this, he said, "the temptation to exploit fear and envy returns." Politicians divide in order to "evade responsibility for their failures" and to advance their interests.

The president, he said, has made a shift in his appeal to the electorate. "Instead of appealing to the hope and optimism that were hallmarks of his first campaign, he has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment."

But Republicans, in their desire to defend free economic activity, shouldn't be snookered by unthinking fealty to big business. They should never defend—they should actively oppose—the kind of economic activity that has contributed so heavily to the crisis. Here Mr. Ryan slammed "corporate welfare and crony capitalism."

"Why have we extended an endless supply of taxpayer credit to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, instead of demanding that their government guarantee be wound down and their taxpayer subsidies ended?" Why are tax dollars being wasted on bankrupt, politically connected solar energy firms like Solyndra? "Why is Washington wasting your money on entrenched agribusiness?"

Rather than raise taxes on individuals, we should "lower the amount of government spending the wealthy now receive." The "true sources of inequity in this country," he continued, are "corporate welfare that enriches the powerful, and empty promises that betray the powerless." The real class warfare that threatens us is "a class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society."

If more Republicans thought—and spoke—like this, the party would flourish. People would be less fearful for the future. And Mr. Obama wouldn't be seeing his numbers go up.

This came to me from Adam Madison.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Perry's Flat Tax 2

Whether Perry's proposal is actually more regressive than the current would depend on what percentage of their total income the wealthier people actually pay now. It is certainly true that with their deductions what they pay now (as a percentage of total income) is less than their marginal rate. Probably, with Perry's plan, their taxes as a percentage of total income would go up for some (those who have a lot of other deductions) and down for others.

One note the Rich Family E in the post may have to pay a bit more (than indicated there) because Perry would disallow deductions for those with income over 500K.

As Tom noted (in his comment to the previous post on this topic) this is not progressive enough for some.
Presumably one could add an extra tax for those whose income is over some amount X.

Finally, I like the flat tax but I think it will have to be higher to obtain the income that the government now gets from the income tax.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Juan Williams Firing

To see how it looks to him one year later go to
One Year Since NPR Fired Me -- What Are the Lessons Learned?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Perry's Flat Tax

I like the flat tax idea with large individual deductions(otherwise, the fewer deductions the better) which will keep it progressive. In this case the individual deductions are $12,500 per family member and, in addition, mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable contributions are also deducted. Your income minus all of those deductions is your taxable income. The tax rate is 20% of that taxable income.

Let me point out a few things about it that get lost in the propaganda from those who want to use the tax code to promote whatever it is that they want to promote.

The flat tax in general and this one in particular is not regressive. Consider a few examples for a family of 4 with this flat tax.

Family A makes 50,000 and pays no income taxes because their deductions are 4 x 12,500 = 50,000 leaving no taxable income.
They actually pay 0% of total income.
This applies to any family of 4 with income (after deductions) of less than 50,000.

Family B makes 70,000 and has a total St and local taxes, charitable contributions, and home mortgage interest of 10,000. They would have 60,000 in deductions and would pay 20% of the remaining 10,000 in taxable income which would be 0.2 x 10,000 = $2,000 in taxes.
They actually pay 2000/70,000 or 2.86% of total income.

Family C makes 150,000 and has a total of 20,000 in deductions. Their remaining taxable income is 80,000 (=150,000 - 50000 - 20,000) on which they too will pay 20% which is $16,000.
That is 16000 / 150000 and They actually pay 10.667% of their total income.

Richer family D makes 400,000 and has 40,000 in deductions. Taxable income is 310,000 (=400,000 - 50,000-40,000). (Notice that a much bigger share of their income is taxable.)
20% of that is .20 x 310,000 = 62,000.
That is 62,000 / 400,000 = .155 and they actually pay 15.5% of their total income.

Rich family E makes 1.5 million and has 70,000 in other deductions. Their total deductions are 120,000. Therefore their taxable income is 1,380,000. 20% of that is 276,000.
That is 276,000/1,500,000 = .184 and they actually pay 18.4% of their total income.

Notice that as income goes up so does the amount of taxes and the rate of taxation of total income. The more you make the higher your actual tax rate is with an upper limit of 20%.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Perry's "Grand Bargain"

As you would expect his proposal is leaning to the right. But it is a "Grand Bargain" proposal. If somebody on the left would put one out there we would have a starting point.

Although he still has a long way to go he just improved his stock with me.
At least he is thinking big.
None of the others (including Obama) seems to be doing that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gadhafi’ death

For six months NATO conducted a mission to strategically protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi’s troops. A mission which required the expedient tactic of backing a ragtag group of anti-Gadhafi rebels and a mission that was obviously going to continue until there was a regime change.

Now there are those who are indignant about the way Gadhafi was killed post capture. I will grudgingly concede their right to be indignant but, in my opinion, they have no right to be surprised.

Friday, October 21, 2011


A couple of days ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said we hoped that they would capture or kill Qaddafi. Then when she got word that he was dead, she said, "We came, we saw, and he died."

Perhaps Bill Clinton may have been luckier than we knew in the Monica tale.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Republican debate 10-18-11

Long story short: Romney holds his own, Perry improves his performance and stays in the hunt,
Cain is, in Joel Sappenfield's description of one of my long ago chess moves, "preparing to lose".

Cain's 999 would shift the tax burden down the income scale.

He argues that it is not so because his whole program will eliminate a lot of hidden taxes that we are now paying, but don't know about. When presented with "studies that show" that it will raise taxes on the poor he says that people should do their own calculations and they will see. Hmmmmm I wanted to do my own calculations, but I had this very real problem: "How much do I save from not paying those hidden taxes that I don't know about?"

Next he will say that when he cuts those taxes on the producers, transporters, and retailers, then they are just naturally going to pass the savings onto us.

Monday, October 17, 2011


In the Oct 2 monthly candidate’s report I wrote that someone would turn the 999 upside down and connect it to the Biblical "mark of the beast". I was expecting that to come from a comic, but it was actually Michelle Bachman who sprang it on the world in the Tues., October 11 debate. Well maybe I wasn’t wrong about what the source would be.

So what about the 999? Well, it was funny watching David Gregory on Meet the Press attempting to “explain” to Cain that his 9% sales tax would come on top of state taxes!!! Apparently David thinks that the current federal taxes do not come on top of state taxes.

Seriously though, the idea of replacing a very progressive income tax, which almost half of the people do not even have to pay, with a flat rate sales tax is considerably more regressive than I would like to see us go for. Cain is apparently betting that he can sell this as an approach that does not shift the burden of taxation from one group to another. Perhaps Cain should be forgiven for believing this since the public accepts so much mythology these days. But I think that this is a fairy tale too far.

I expect that when people understand it better they will not like it either. But the people who really won’t like it (the left) will, I expect, never have the chance to vote for it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I give them an A+

HHS has announced that the long term disability program (part of health reform) referred to as CLASS will be suspended indefinitely because it is not financially sustainable. This post is not about whether I like or dislike the proposed CLASS program. It is about applauding the HHS for the candid admission that, no matter how well intentioned the program is, the numbers don’t work so they are not going to do it.

You may see the details at the URL below



The Solyndra loan is starting to look really bad.

The situation: The "green" company Solyndra got into financial trouble. The government gave them a loan guarantee of 500+ million dollars. The company went bankrupt anyway.

So far that looks a little bit like croney capitalism. But it will probably be alright. It was a big company and of course, in the bankruptcy, the government will have priority over the private parties who, after all, were being saved by the government loan guarantee. Right?

Wrong, it turns out that the agreement provided that: To get our money back the government has to get in line BEHIND the private people that the government had been trying to help!!
This is pretty bad.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


With respect to the NPV program to replace the Electoral College with a plurality election by a backdoor "amendment" to the Constitution.

After you consider the program on its merits (which I think are not good) you might want to consider how this would affect presidential elections.”

Here are 2 facts that might be a hint: Eight states and DC have adopted the NPV compact (CA, IL, MA, HI, WA, MD, NJ, DC, VT). In the last five elections every one of those 9 have voted for the same political party.

That is a highly unlikely coincidence. If it were a random choice of (5 times 9) = 45 selections of a binary choice the chances of them coming out the same in all 45 events is less than one in 16 trillion. That is 1 in 16,000,000,000,000.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fairy Tales

Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil;... Exodus 23:2

In this case the evil is that each side imagines that there is a simple solution if "they" would just do what "we" know that everybody should.

The Tea Party thinks that it is "over taxed." In response to the taxation question ("How much of one's earnings should a person be able to keep?), one of them recently said that you should be able to "keep all of what you earn". Zero taxation! Next they will ban death.

The Occupy Wall Street group apparently wants free stuff. (A sign said, "Free Health Care.") How to get it? Take it from the rich. I asked a liberal friend, "If you took all of the money the rich people had and gave it to the poor, then who would the poor work for?" You know the answer that I got: "If they had all of the rich people's money, then they wouldn't need to work."

Another group, another fairy tale.

Fairy tales are why we don't have compromise. Each side is so convinced of its own fairy tale that it is certain that, in the next election, the rest of us will finally wake up and realize how stupid that we have been all along not to see things as they see them. Then of course we will give them enough power to fully implement their "dream scheme".

Have you noticed how the right's description of the OWS is eerily similar to the left's description of the Tea Party? Substitute mob for racist and you have updated the complaint.

Monday, October 10, 2011



From the Daily beast: Illegal immigrants in California will be eligible for financial aid now that Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Dream Act. But at the same time, Brown vetoed a controversial bill that would have let public universities consider an applicant's race and sex in admission decisions. "I wholeheartedly agree with the goal of this legislation," Brown said in his veto message, but he thought that the courts, not the legislature, should decide on the affirmative action law. Brown is sifting through a flurry of legislation that passed the legislature at the end of the session; he must sign or veto 142 more bills before midnight on Sunday.

Read the entire article in the SF Chronicle.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wanted, dead or alive

Here is some more on the Wanted Dead or Alive business.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The filibuster in winter?

It wasn't mock shock in the Senate last week. It was real.

It wasn't really dumping the filibuster itself, but it was a serious step in that direction.

They have a rule in the Senate (the filibuster) which makes it necessary to have 60 votes to do anything. To change a rule in the Senate requires a two thirds vote (at least it does if you are in the middle of a session).

But there is another way to change the rules or at least suspend them. It goes like this. In a certain situation the rules allow the minority to propose amendments from the floor. The Senate majority leader simply asserts that the rule does not apply. Someone appeals for a ruling from the chair. The chair rules that the leader is wrong, thus upholding the rule. So who has the final say? The whole body - the Senate. (It would be hard to argue against the right of any such body to decide the meaning of its own rules. In this case we also have Article I section 6 of the Constitution: "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings") The leader then appeals the decision of the chair to the whole body. The body then decides whether to uphold the chair (maintain the rule ) or support the leader (overturn the rule ). And THAT decision is by majority vote. When the Senate voted by 51-48 to uphold Leader Reid's "interpretation" of the rules they changed that rule by a simple majority.

But it did more than that. This kind of thing has been proposed as a method of shutting down a actual filibuster by a simple majority vote. It has been called the "Nuclear Option" because it is such a big change in the way the Senate operates and people have shied away from it before. The Republicans are outraged and if, as many expect, they have the majority in 2013 then they will presumably resort to this method with much less hesitation than has been exhibited before.

So maybe the filibuster is on its way out. I hope so.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A proposal for the Democrats

I received a blurb from Nancy Pelosi today. It seems that the Rs are trying to destroy Social Security and Medicare again and the Democrats have sworn to protect those "initiatives." (They just stay in that mode don't they. SS is 75 years old but she still refers to it as an initiative rather than a program. Presumably focus groups show that "program" does not poll well right now.)

Of course they were Democratic initiatives when they were begun and the Ds can properly take the credit for them (or blame if you see the world that way). I wonder if the following wouldn't be a better approach right now:

My Fellow Americans we have a problem with the financing of Medicare and to a lesser extent with Social Security. We are going to have to make some combinations of reduced services and increased revenues. What you have to decide is who do you want to trust to make those changes? The Democratic party which brought these programs into existence or the Republican party which has not been so supportive all along the way.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Confederacy Rising

This article is a very interesting attempt to associate the GOP with the old Confederacy.

What was to me the most interesting pair of paragraphs were:

For the pragmatic and progressive America that grew out of secularized higher education, truth has a provisional, this-worldly orientation. It’s more evolutionary than eternal in character—a fluid body of knowledge and interpretation, subject to revision and expansion.

For the Confederacy that now dominates the GOP, truth is solid and fixed and divinely embedded in the structure of the universe. Humanity’s responsibility is to accept and believe the truth rather than test ideas against actual experience. The Confederacy’s obsession with “originalist” interpretations of the Constitution—a twin of biblical literalism—is the classic example: truth must be eternal, universal.

I find this very interesting but I have to dwell on it a bit before I comment on it beyond asking: Is searching for truth in the sense of the scientific enterprise the same kind of endeavor as interpreting a legal document such as the Constitution? I think not.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cruel America

Cruel America by Jonathan Schell
This article "appeared" in the October 17, 2011 edition of The Nation.

Mr. Schell talked about Gov. Perry, the death penalty, Republicans and other cruel people, Iraq, Bush and Cheney, and torture.

He criticized Obama too - for not holding Bush and company accountable for their crimes.

Funny though, he apparently hasn't heard about Obama's assassination of American Citizen Awlaki.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Rebel Without a Cause?

I was looking for a definitive news story that explains what the “Occupy Wall Street” protest is all about. I did not find one but I did find the article at the following URL (and link in the heading)


I sincerely hope the protest has more substance than simple inflammatory language. Does anyone know what “Occupy Wall Street” is really about?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

2012 Candidates - Oct - 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-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 (25-25-26-24-25-30-30-33-35-35) I would consider him. Some say he has a problem in that the Romney health plan in MA is similar to Obama’s national plan. Some say that it is therefore a contradiction for Romney to oppose Obamacare. I think not and I now think he can make the case.
Rick Perry (x-x-x-x-x-x-06-22-25-30-25) The predicted chance of implosion seems confirmed. He can recover though. The main questions now are: Does he pass the yamslt test? Is America ready for another brash Texas Governor? Is his jobs record that good? Can he correct his immigration problem? If he does recover it is still a two person race: Romney-Perry. (except see Christie)

Chris Christie (x-x ... x-x-10) He is thinking about it more than he lets on. He would make it a 3 person race. He might be strong. But, as Perry has demonstrated, you need what someone has called a long entrance ramp into a presidential race.

Newt Gingrich (4-4-4-4-03-03-01-01-1-10) - He has moved up a bit. 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.

Herman Cain (x-x-x-x-x-x-01-01-1-05) Still has a long way to go to be a serious candidate, but he does have a "program" - 9-9-9. Someone will soon point out that if you turn his plan upside down it is drummmrrrooollllll - 666- the mark of the beast.

Ron Paul (x-x-x-x-01-02-03-05-08-05)

Jon Huntsman (x-x-1-1-01-05-06-01-05) 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. His plan is to put it all on New Hampshire. It might work.

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


Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Death of Awlaki

A search of this blog for Awlaki produces a short list of entries beginning with this one so you will have to scroll down.

I don't have much to add to that, but I will repeat (more or less) this:

"Basically, I think I'm OK with it. I am assuming that the President has a very serious procedure for putting someone on such a list and doesn't just wake up some morning and say, 'You know that guy really got on my nerves.' I would think that the procedure should involve some sort of self proclaimed identification with our enemies."

and I will add that:

I am still amused that some people think that it is totally outrageous that W's people poured water in the face of a known foreign terrorist and, simultaneously, are not troubled when O's people cross into a foreign country and assassinate an unindicted American citizen.

You will generally find those people among those who say that they believe that we should deal with terrorists in the same way we deal with other criminals.