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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Jefferson and Lincoln and King

Some see in Thomas Jefferson only a hypocrite who owned slaves.

I see Jefferson as a man, admittedly flawed, who lived in a world not of his making which he could not change.

But I will also say that he did not simply "accept that which I cannot change" as in the cleric's serenity prayer. He contributed to the eventual solution in the only place where it could happen: the future. He placed in the hands of, then unknown, leaders a powerful weapon that could be wielded when the time came that it was possible to "change the things they could".

Lincoln: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
Gettysburg, November 1863

King: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”
Washington, August 28, 1968

Friday, December 30, 2011


"Religion is man made. All gods found so far are man made.

But that is not to say, at all, that there may not be a prime mover or higher intelligence.

But I say that no one has yet earned any claim to act in the name of that entity."

A comment presented on ABC's This Week.

Christopher Hitchens - April 13, 1949 – December 15, 2011 - thinker, writer

Though Hitchens retained his British citizenship, he became a United States citizen on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial on April 13, 2007. It was his 58th birthday and the 264th anniversary of Jefferson's birth.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Islamic dress code

On a trip to Texas we stopped in a Waffle House in Arkansas and saw what I assumed to be a Muslim family of father, mother and 3 children. The mother and teen daughter were carefully scarfed so that only their faces and hands were visible. Not even their hair showed.

Well sort of.
The scarves were very colorful almost form fitted so that one could see that underneath was a lot of flowing hair. The slacks that they were wearing were also form fitted and very colorful .

While they appeared to meet the requirements of "covering" I expect many of the mullahs in the more backward parts of the Islamic world would have been shocked at the sight.

Like all of the other threads that make up the fabric of America, Islam will change what we become.

But America will change Islam too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Midlife Crisis Economics By DAVID BROOKS

When the administration came to office in the depths of the financial crisis, many of its leading figures concluded that the moment was analogous to the Great Depression. They read books about the New Deal and sought to learn from F.D.R.

But, in the 1930s, people genuinely looked to government to ease their fears and restore their confidence. Today, Americans are more likely to fear government than be reassured by it.

According to a Gallup survey, 64 percent of Americans polled said they believed that big government is the biggest threat to the country. Only 26 percent believed that big business is the biggest threat. As a result, the public has reacted to Obama’s activism with fear and anxiety. The Democrats lost 63 House seats in the 2010 elections.

Members of the administration have now dropped the New Deal parallels. But they have started making analogies between this era and the progressive era around the turn of the 20th century.

Again, there are superficial similarities. Then, as now, we are seeing great concentrations of wealth, especially at the top. Then, as now, the professional class of lawyers, teachers and journalists seems to feel as if it has the upper hand in its status war against the business class of executives and financiers.

But these superficial similarities are outweighed by vast differences.

First, the underlying economic situations are very different. A century ago, the American economy was a vibrant jobs machine. Industrialization was volatile and cruel, but it produced millions of new jobs, sucking labor in from the countryside and from overseas.

Today’s economy is not a jobs machine and lacks that bursting vibrancy. The rate of new business start-ups was declining even before the 2008 financial crisis. Companies are finding that they can get by with fewer workers. As President Obama has observed, factories that used to employ 1,000 workers can now be even more productive with less than 100.

Moreover, the information economy widens inequality for deep and varied reasons that were unknown a century ago. Inequality is growing in nearly every developed country. According to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, over the past 30 years, inequality in Sweden, Germany, Israel, Finland and New Zealand has grown as fast or faster than inequality in the United States, even though these countries have very different welfare systems.

In the progressive era, the economy was in its adolescence and the task was to control it. Today the economy is middle-aged; the task is to rejuvenate it.

Second, the governmental challenge is very different today than it was in the progressive era. Back then, government was small and there were few worker safety regulations. The problem was a lack of institutions. Today, government is large, and there is a thicket of regulations, torts and legal encumbrances. The problem is not a lack of institutions; it’s a lack of institutional effectiveness.

The United States spends far more on education than any other nation, with paltry results. It spends far more on health care, again, with paltry results. It spends so much on poverty programs that if we just took that money and handed poor people checks, we would virtually eliminate poverty overnight. In the progressive era, the task was to build programs; today the task is to reform existing ones.

Third, the moral culture of the nation is very different. The progressive era still had a Victorian culture, with its rectitude and restrictions. Back then, there was a moral horror at the thought of debt. No matter how bad the economic problems became, progressive-era politicians did not impose huge debt burdens on their children. That ethos is clearly gone.

In the progressive era, there was an understanding that men who impregnated women should marry them. It didn’t always work in practice, but that was the strong social norm. Today, that norm has dissolved. Forty percent of American children are born out of wedlock. This sentences the U.S. to another generation of widening inequality and slower human capital development.

One hundred years ago, we had libertarian economics but conservative values. Today we have oligarchic economics and libertarian moral values — a bad combination.

In sum, in the progressive era, the country was young and vibrant. The job was to impose economic order. Today, the country is middle-aged but self-indulgent. Bad habits have accumulated. Interest groups have emerged to protect the status quo. The job is to restore old disciplines, strip away decaying structures and reform the welfare state. The country needs a productive midlife crisis.

The progressive era is not a model; it is a foil. It provides a contrast and shows us what we really need to do.

For NYTimes reader's comments got to the NY Times site

Monday, December 26, 2011

the debt and the left

E.J.Dionne has found a way to describe the election of 2012 in a way that completely ignores the problem of the debt. As Paul Samuelson notes, that is consistent with the left's refusal to consider it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lie of the year

Politifact comes under fire from the left for judging the "pushing little old ladies over the cliff" add by the left as Lie of the year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


National Popular Vote is starting to get some push back.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gingrich and the courts

One of the two things that I am furthest to the right on is the role of the courts.
I believe that the courts should stick to what the constitution says, not what they wish it said.
Pretend for a moment that you agree with me. What is the solution to this problem?
Elect people who will select judges that agree with that view of the role of judges.
Problem solved.

With that in mind, I want to express my dismay at what Speaker Gingrich is saying about the courts and what he would “do about them”.
"I was frankly just fed up with elitist judges imposing secularism on the country and fundamentally changing the American Constitution," Gingrich told reporters, adding that "it was clear to me that you have a judicial psychology run amok, and there has to be some method of bringing balance back to the three branches."

Well, no, they haven’t “run amok”. They are perhaps stretching their power to the limits just like any institution is inclined to do.

One of the main decisions that Newt has complained about is the 9th circuit court’s decision about the unconstitutionality of “one nation under god” being in the pledge of allegiance. There are two very important facts about that decision. One, the pledge wasn’t adopted by Congress until 1942 and the phrase “under God” wasn’t added to the pledge until 1954 and therefore its presence there has absolutely no support by the founders. Two, the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court! That is to say, (if it is a problem) the judicial branch itself provided an internal solution to this particular issue that he is so overwrought about!
Now that he has exaggerated this problem to the level of a constitutional crises, he offers his equally exaggerated “solution” :

“In order to restore balance between Congress, the White House, and the courts, Gingrich recommended ignoring rulings, impeaching judges, subpoenaing justices to have them explain their rulings and, as a last resort, abolishing the courts altogether.”

It's breathtaking. It is hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the balance between the three branches and this idea that the Supreme Court is the most powerful of them. The Judiciary is totally dependent on the Executive to implement its decisions. The courts are totally dependent on the Executive and the Senate to staff itself. The Congress has the power to remove any member of the judiciary. The fact that Congress does not exercise that power should lead a rational person to assume that they do not believe that things are that far out of balance.

What kind of person turns a small problem into a big problem and then proposes a radical solution to it?

Has Gingrich even thought about how he will maintain an independent judiciary and the rule of law while he has Congress sending subpoenas to judges?

In the monthly report I expressed my distress with Newt when he indicated that he had abandoned the first amendment,
but God-Lordy he has really lost it now.

Reading List

Neil deGrasse Tyson, full-time astrophysicist and part-time actor (usually playing himself) recently held an interview on the news aggregator website Reddit.com starting with “I am Neil deGrasse Tyson -- AMA [Ask Me Anything]”.

Responding to the questions “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on planet?” he answered:

The Bible, The System of the World (Newton), On the Origin of Species (Darwin), Gulliver's Travels (Swift), The Age of Reason (Paine), The Wealth of Nations (Smith), The Art of War (Sun Tsu), The Prince (Machiavelli).

If read all of the works above, you will have profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.

Any additions? Subtractions? Comments?
I would also recommend reading the entire interview, and his previous interview here, if only for the comments about education and his very simple debunking of the "Ancient Aliens" myth.

Friday, December 16, 2011

the opinion of David Brooks et al.


"The people who have worked with Romney and know him well, want Romney to win.

The people who have worked with Gingrich and know him well, want Romney to win."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

When will Armey speak?

Richard K. Armey (R) Texas was in the House for 16 years and was the House Majority leader for half of those years. They included the years of Gingrich's Speakership.

I don't think we have heard from him about Gingrich's candidacy. That should be interesting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rick Perry

Rick Perry says that when he's elected he will end Obama's war on religion.

There you go.

Monkey Butts

Monkey Butts: In one of the more vivid illustrations of the political landscape in some time David Axelrod had this to say about Newt Gingrich today, Devin Dwyer reports: Â "Just remember, the higher a monkey climbs on a pole, the more you can see his butt," Axelrod said, citing a piece of political wisdom he said he learned from a Chicago alderman. "So, the speaker is very high on the pole right now and we'll see how people like the view."

Chess in School

"The exciting part, educationally, is the discovery that children who learn chess at an early age achieve more in the traditional math and sciences. Chinese, European, and American research all find significant correlational values after just one year of systematic chess exposure. The most striking benefits of chess are those associated with problem solving and creativity. A four-year Pennsylvania study compared the effect of various enrichment techniques on student scores on standardized tests. On the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, non-chess enrichment showed an average annual increase effect of 4.56%. Chess groups' annual increase effects weighed in at 17.3%. The York Board became the first English board in Canada to add chess to the curriculum. In December, New Jersey became the first US state to legislate chess into the curriculum starting in 1993. The United States now joins Quebec and New Brunswick and 29 other countries in the world in deploying chess systematically to develop thinking." –

Canadian Education Association Newsletter: June 1993

Monday, December 12, 2011

Two or three notes

Sorry I'm not getting much up lately I've been kind of sickly.

1. “The first job of a leader is to define reality.” – Max Depree
Are our candidates, including O, telling us about the hard times ahead or are they pandering to our wish that it be easy?
Have you heard anyone say that serious sacrifice is needed from the middle class (as well as the rich)?

2. Some potential irony. Wouldn't it be strange if the post-mortem of next year's election showed that Obama had beaten a weak republican candidate, and that the tea party was the reason that stronger candidates had fallen by the wayside? Meaning that the tea party had reelected him.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pragmatic Chaos

Hi. I'm Diogenes. I will be the psuedonym for all of the people who don't want to put up things on their own but, instead, send things to Wayne that he thinks that you might like.
Try this

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trumped update -(12/13 Cancelled)

I don't remember where it came from, but I heard that this is just an SNL scam. They won't have to parody this debate. They can just run excerpts from the original.

We will update this and I will include my predictions:

Candidates attending: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum,

Candidates attending and moderating: Donald Trump

Candidates predicted to attend: Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry

Candidates not attending: Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney

Belief in Science and Religion

This is a prelude to a post on Climate Change and Capitalism.

Those who are familiar with the topic of belief will find nothing new here. This is a note for those who, like most of the reporters that I see on TV, could not pass the science part of Jeff Foxworthy's ten question test to decide if one is Smarter Than a Fifth Grader.

I come from the math-science side of Academia. I believe in science (thank you Aristotle, Roger Bacon, et al.) I believe scientists in general, even those whose work I know nothing about. That is because I know how they decide what they claim is true. That is, I believe in the scientific method and I think that those who have not practiced it may not understand that, inherent within science, are two of the most charming devices for the prevention and correction of errors.

The first is that your evidence must be reproducible. If you get results and someone else performs the same experiment and doesn’t get those results, then there is a problem and you basically start over. This is quite different from the way disagreements in religion have been handled. When Jesus and Mohammad have different visions then you had a very long religious war. Then of course there was the Pope and Martin Luther.

The second involves the difference between scientific and faith based belief. Faith based belief is often absolute – the expression that comes to mind is “written in stone”. Scientific belief is very tentative and can perhaps best be described as a belief that the position in question is the “best explanation available” at the present time. It may give way to a better or more complete theory at any time. The example that comes to mind is Newton’s mechanics which stood for 300 years before the arrival of Einstein's relativity. Those who are familiar with (or should I say committed to) faith based belief often imagine that the practitioners of science meekly accept its current beliefs as if they too were written on stone tablets. (I think I have seen this argument used by the intelligent design folks.) This is a more profound question because it speaks to the possibility that the whole enterprise may become biased in favor of its current beliefs. (The claim currently made about global warming.) In fact, it is true that errors have, in the past, been allowed to linger too long, the Piltdown Man comes to mind.

The corrective for that is, I think, one of the most profoundly delightful aspects of science. It is this: far from worshiping the pedestrian follower of the current perception, the scientific community reserves its highest accolades and greatest honors for those individuals who shake the very foundations of the current “best available explanation.” Carl Sagan is very well thought of as a presenter of science, but he will never compare to Albert Einstein or Charles Darwin in the pantheon of scientific stars.

Science saves its loudest applause for those who “look where all have looked and see what none have seen.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


So Donald Trump is going to hold a debate for the R candidates.

I've heard some pretty silly things in my time so I'm reluctant to say that that is the silliest, but it is a contender. Ron Paul and Huntsman have, to their credit, announced that they will not come.

And Gingrich is going to go.

So here is a test for the rest of them.

Capitalism vs Climate

KW introduced us to the article Capitalism vs Climate by Naomi Klein in two earlier posts A and B .

He then makes a statement and asks the question:

"Will the private sector be able to deal with the massive climate changes bringing rises in sea levels, increased flooding and drought and widespread population movements? I would like to see someone on this blog try to answer this question in the affirmation, without simply writing off the coming crisis as a plot by leftists who want to destroy capitalism."

I want to try to give my answer to the question in a day or two. But first I want to respond to the statement by KW.

I think that it is relevant that her article is a criticism of a Heartland conference of Climate Deniers. Her arguments seem to be against this omnipresent conference. In the world of this article there is no reasonable person who agrees with her objective, but disagrees with her methods. These characters are convinced that climate change is a plot to destroy their way of life. They are the tools of the corporations who place their profits above the existence of our species or any species. In short, she has selected a perfect straw man.

Now to KW's statement:
I had said, "It seems that Ms. Klein arrives pretty quickly to her solution to the environmental problem – get rid of capitalism."

KW stated: "Wayne, Ms Klein does not say we should "get rid of capitalism" but only that it needs to be regulated and controlled because of the amount of planning necessary to deal with climate change."

I am going to offer some excerpts from her article first noting that the title is Capitalism vs Climate. To facilitate checking the context I will note where they are in the document (My copy is a word document in Times New Roman 12 pt font. It runs 19 pages.) Bold type is my emphasis.

page 5: "The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system. As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.
Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong."

page 6: "It is true that responding to the climate threat requires strong government action at all levels. But real climate solutions are ones that steer these interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, whether through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.
Here is where the Heartlanders have good reason to be afraid: arriving at these new systems is going to require shredding the free-market ideology that has dominated the global economy for more than three decades."

page 12: "So let’s summarize. Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency."
"But for progressives, there is responsibility in it, because it means that our ideas—informed by indigenous teachings as well as by the failures of industrial state socialism—are more important than ever. It means that a green-left worldview, which rejects mere reformism and challenges the centrality of profit in our economy, offers humanity’s best hope of overcoming these overlapping crises."
"Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests."

So, I (of course) agree that she did not actually use the words "get rid of capitalism" But based on her words, I don't think that I have misrepresented what she did say. I believe that KW advocates "regulation and control", but detonation is more than regulation and 'shredding the free-market ideology' and 'breaking every rule in the free-market playbook' are well beyond control of the free-market.

Monday, December 5, 2011

If not now, when?

I don't remember who said this but it goes something like this:

If you have a declining infrastructure, high unemployment, the availability of money at 2% fixed for 10 years, and you don't rebuild your infrastructure then when are you going to do it?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

nearly a free lunch

I heard Bill Clinton describe what he called "the closest thing to a free lunch" that we have. It seemed reasonable to me. It goes like this.

Adopt a bond issue to retrofit public buildings for energy savings. Let the owners of the buildings pay off the bond issue with the energy savings.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

2012 Candidates - Dec - 2011

Perhaps it it time to drop this feature. My predictions have been so accurate (see recent Gingrich rating string) that readers have known the outcome of the election for some time now.

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 (25-25-26-24-25-30-30-33-35-35-50-50) 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?

Newt Gingrich (4-4-4-4-03-03-01-01-1-10-13-33) - He is seeming even more like a serious possibility. He could be the last non Mitt standing. We need a person of big ideas and he has always tried to be that. Unfortunately one of those big ideas was to take $1.6 million from Fannie and Freddie. He is an experienced professional politician. But he is also Newt Gingrich. [Also, I would like to hear him reaffirm his 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.)]

Rick Perry (x-x-x-x-x-x-06-22-25-30-25-20-10) The predicted chance of implosion has been confirmed and recovery is now harder. The main questions now are: Does he pass the yamslt test? [ all of those questions that were asked before seem to have the same answer-no. 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? ] His recovery seems less likely every day.

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

Jon Huntsman (x-x-1-1-01-05-06-01-05-0-3) Huntsman is resurrecting himself. He is doing what he hoped in New Hampshire and the rise of Gingrich could slow Romney.

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

Herman Cain (x-x-x-x-x-x-01-01-1-5-12-0) GWTW
Chris Christie (x-x ... x-x-10-0) GWTW
Michelle Bachman (x-x-x-01-01-10-20-13-20-0) 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.