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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Individualism without group purpose

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011


from a friend:

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

Saturday, November 26, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Freedom of Assembly


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

YellowArmadillos Pledge

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pepper Spraying of Protestors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natural Born Citizen

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Entitlements and the genius of FDR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Is it time for ALL OUT?

Sunday, November 13, 2011



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wealth disparity


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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011


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

What past events make anyone think they will not?

Monday, November 7, 2011


I just heard Senator John McCain describing the agreed to consequences of "failure" by the budget supercommittee as being "aspirational". That is, they might not do what they said they were going to do. That is, what was promised to get the debt ceiling increase approved was just another insincere promise.

I am moving closer and closer to believing that we should take everyone of these clowns that are up for reelection next year just vote them ALL OUT.

Herman Cain RIP

Put a fork in him. He's done.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Some nice color pictures from America circa 1940 at this Denver Post blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Americans Elect 3

As I said earlier this is a very interesting idea. I urge you to look at it on their website. You can also look to Rise of the Center.

Mayor Bloomberg on the financial crisis

"I hear your complaints," Bloomberg said. "Some of them are totally unfounded. It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp. Now, I'm not saying I'm sure that was terrible policy, because a lot of those people who got homes still have them and they wouldn't have gotten them without that.

"But they were the ones who pushed Fannie and Freddie to make a bunch of loans that were imprudent, if you will. They were the ones that pushed the banks to loan to everybody. And now we want to go vilify the banks because it's one target, it's easy to blame them and congress certainly isn't going to blame themselves. At the same time, Congress is trying to pressure banks to loosen their lending standards to make more loans. This is exactly the same speech they criticized them for."

Hear it here. Scroll down (there)for the video.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

2012 Candidates - Nov - 2011

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

Americans elect may produce a candidate too.

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

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

Rick Perry (x-x-x-x-x-x-06-22-25-30-25-20) The predicted chance of implosion has been confirmed and recovery is now harder. The main questions now are: Does he pass the yamslt test? Can he become a debater? Is America ready for another brash Texas Governor? Is his jobs record that good? Can he correct his immigration problem? If he does recover it is still a two person race: Romney-Perry. (except see Gingrich)

Newt Gingrich (4-4-4-4-03-03-01-01-1-10-13) - He is starting to seem like a serious possibility. I have not heard him indicate a restored commitment to the 1st amendment. (……… his position on Park 51 not only that they should not, but that Muslims do NOT even have the right to, build there.) He could be the last non Mitt standing.

Herman Cain (x-x-x-x-x-x-01-01-1-5-12) The bloom is coming off of the 9-9-9 rose. I still think he won't last. [Last time I said: Someone will soon point out that if you turn his plan upside down it is drummmrrrooollllll - 666- the mark of the beast. I thought it would be comic not a candidate (Bachmann)].

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

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

Jon Huntsman (x-x-1-1-01-05-06-01-05-0)
Chris Christie (x-x ... x-x-10-0) GWTW
Michelle Bachman (x-x-x-01-01-10-20-13-20-1) A lightweight. Fails YAMSLT. GWTW
Rick Santorum (x-x-x-01-02-01-01-01-1-1-0) - Too far right for me. Fails the YAMSLT.
Sarah Palin (20-20-21-16-16-19-3-01-1-1-0) - She is playing games. Fails the YAMSLT.
Tim Pawlenty (05-07-08-16-14-20-25-15-1-1-0) - GWTW
Gary Johnson (x-x-x-x-01-01-01-01-01-01-0) Will highlight the drug prohibition issue.