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, January 30, 2012

American Exceptionalism 2

In a 10-31-2010 post I made my case for American Exceptionalism.
Now I would like to say what I believe are some of the consequences of that belief. What you might call the rights and privileges and responsibilities of that status.
Well, let’s start with the part about being a “shining city on a hill” and a light unto the world. I doubt that we were a very bright light when Winthrop was talking about the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 16xx. But if my understanding of history is correct we were such a light (an example of freedom) to some of the world in the late 18th century and to much of the world in the 19th century and well into the 20th century. But now there are lots of places that promote freedom and opportunity. You might or might not think of that as a success of ours, but in any case our special role in that regard is over. There were no rights and privileges that went with the role of “shining city on a hill” other than perhaps an unfortunate inclination to self adulation. But, since we claimed the role, there was a responsibility to live up to its image.

This is incomplete.

Dole on Gingrich 2

I heard a story that when they were in Congress together, Gingrich and Dole once had the following conversation:

Gingrich: " Why do so many people take an instant disliking to me?"

Dole: "Saves time."

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chessmaster Ken Smith of Texas

“It is my belief that chess is an amazingly accurate model for many situations in life. The strategies, the competition, and the challenges of living.” Ken Smith, Texas chessmaster of Smith - Morra gambit fame, 1930 - 1999.

Ken Smith will probably be remembered for the work he did on what was previously known as the Morra gambit which was of sufficient quality and quantity that he felt (as do many others) that he was justified in calling it the Smith - Morra Gambit.

A gambit is the giving up of material (usually a pawn) for space or time. The Smith-Morra Gambit is played by white against black's Sicilian Defense. 1. P-e4 P-c5 2. P-d4 PxP 3. P-c3. If black captures PxP the white replies Nxc3 and white is a pawn down with (most people think) insufficient compensation in space and time.

Smith played the gambit at every opportunity against weak and strong players alike. In one tournament Smith was white against Mario Campos Lopez who played the French Defence, 1...e6 instead of the Sicilian against Smith. This led the world class player Bent Larsen to give Lopez's move a question mark along with the comment "stronger is 1...c5 which wins a pawn", presuming Smith would play his 2. d4 gambit.

When I lived in Texas in the sixties and seventies I had four encounters with Ken Smith which netted me one draw, one loss, one win, and one compliment (sort of). The sort of applies to three of the four occasions. The loss was real. The first was in 1964 when I went to the Texas Open (my very first tournament). Ken Smith was giving a simultaneous exhibition (i.e. he was playing about 30 to 40 players at the same time on 30 to 40 boards). Since I was a newbie he perhaps underestimated me and I managed to get a draw by perpetual check. The next two occurred at the Orin Perry Open in West Texas in 1965. We played in the first round, I was white and played P-e4 he played P-c5. Figuring that it would be an interesting way to lose, I played the Smith-Morra against him and sure enough he crushed me. Later in the day we were between rounds and he decided to show off a bit and offered to play me a blindfold blitz game. I have never seen anyone play a game in 5 minutes in which they did not look at the board. Sure enough he lost. He was a little short on a sense of humor though, because I reminded him of the draw the year before and said, "So I guess we have an even score." He was not amused.

Nine years later at a tournament in Fort Worth I had had unusually good results on Friday and Saturday and in the penultimate round 6 I was on Board 2 against an expert named Babcock who was much stronger than me. But "on any given Sunday" ... I sacked a pawn for position and found some very nice moves and won a pretty little miniature of about 23 moves. Smith had watched the game closely and afterwards he said that it was a very nice game and that it should be published!
I beamed and then he said: "I didn't think that you'd find all of those moves."
Like I said, a compliment, sort of.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dole on Gingrich

Received from a reader:

“I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late. If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices. Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway.

Gingrich served as Speaker from 1995 to 1999 and had trouble within his own party. By 1997 a number of House Republican members wanted to throw him out as Speaker. But he hung on until after the 1998 elections when Newt could read the writing on the wall. His mounting ethics problems caused him to resign in early 1999. I know whereof I speak as I helped establish a line of credit of $150,000 to help Newt pay off the fine for his ethics violations. In the end, he paid the fine with money from other sources.

Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall. He loved picking a fight with President Clinton because he knew this would get the attention of the press. This and a myriad of other specifics like shutting down the government helped to topple Gingrich in 1998.

In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad. He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it, and I’m not certain he knew either.

The Democrats are spending millions of dollars running negative ads against Romney as they are hoping that Gingrich will be the nominee which could result in a landslide victory for Obama and a crushing defeat for Republicans from the courthouse to the White House. Democrats are not running ads against Gingrich which is further proof they want to derail Governor Romney.

In my opinion if we want to avoid a sweeping victory by Obama in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard bearer. He could win because he has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president in whom we could have confidence and he would make us proud.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

state of the union

I'm kinda sickly so I'll not say much.

There are a lot of things that he wants to do. Most of which I would support, if we were in a position to pay for them.

I do find it troublesome that he refers to a reduction in one person's taxes as equivalent to an increase in someone else's benefit. It really does give credence to the Republican's claim that Democrats think that the whole GDP belongs to the government and it lets some people keep what they earn and it gives money to others.

The main thing though is what is he asking of us? He wants more money from the rich. From the rest of us he doesn't ask for any sacrifices. I think that a return to the Clinton tax rates that is limited to those making over 350K will produce 70 Billion per year. That is less than 5% of the short and medium term problem which is a current deficit of 1.3 Trillion per year. That is not a serious attack on our money problem.

I believe that he is doing the nation a disservice by giving all of my liberal friends a basis for the belief that we can get what we need from the rich alone.

BTW I support a return to the Clinton rates for all of us. If you have to implement it in stages (because of the recession) that would be ok but adopt it now.

Friday, January 20, 2012

South Carolina

It appears that Newton Leroy Gingrich will win in SC.

If you do not believe that "the people" are disgusted with "the media" you should find a replay of the opening of 1/19/12 debate and watch it.

If you didn't see it. As the first question John King asked Gingrich about the fact that his second wife had said the day before that Newt had asked her to agree to an open marriage allowing him to continue his affair with the woman who would become his third wife.

Gingrich unloaded on King, the question, and the media. The crowd roared their approval.

More amazing was the fact that King was not willing to defend his question! Which confirmed for the crowd that Gingrich was right.

To win, Romney will need to stay calm until the race moves to an area that is not quite so retro as South Carolina.

I bet you didn't mind my saying Newton Leroy Gingrich.
Would you feel the same about it if I had said Barack Hussein Obama?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


See a description (and/or buy) My Tenure Biennium a memoir by this blogger at this link on CreateSpace.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Labels

Point number 10 on the No-Labels 12 program is bipartisan seating in congress. A small thing.

It is worth a look.


Gingrich is arguing that Santorum and Perry should get out so a conservative (Gingrich)can go head to head with Romney.

He should have, long ago, proposed a criterion by which the conservatives would now have decided who their champion was and have everybody else drop out.

If he were as capable as he thinks he is he would have gotten them to agree (back then) to one that would now make him the choice.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pragmatic environmental proposals

“The beauty of these pollution-control measures is that over five to 10 years they pay for themselves in the developing world,”

The statement above was made by Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies regarding a list of proposed pollution-control measures he and other scientists claim are cheap, practical and easy to implement, even in third world economies. See the article at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/science/countering-climate-change-without-waiting-for-a-payoff.html

Having seen several articles with similar proposals in recent weeks I am encouraged.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New England Patriots 45 - Denver Brocos 10

Apparently God is no substitute for a powerful front four.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

geek joke

A physicist represents the scientific link between the operational perspective of an engineer and the theoretical inclination of the mathematician. This is illustrated by the following story (which makes fun of mathematicians, if not all three) that I have heard for as long as I have been in mathematics.

An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician each notices (in separate places) a fire.

The engineer immediately runs a large bucket of water and pours it on the fire extinguishing it completely.

The physicist examines the fire, does some calculations, measures a precise amount of water, and pours it on the fire extinguishing it without a drop to spare.

The mathematician looks at the fire and says, "There exists a solution." and walks on.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Hampshire Actual

Huntsman did a bit better than I thought he would.

Romney 39.3
Paul 22.9
Huntsman 16.9
Gingrich 9.4 (by 203 votes)
Santorum 9.4
Perry .07

They tell me that the Tea Party runs the Republican party. But I would note that the TWO moderates got a total of 56.2% and the THREE conservatives got a total of only 18.9%.

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Hampshire prediction

1. Romney clear winner (weaker than he was, 30-40 %)

2. Paul clear second

3. Huntsman squeaker third

4. Gingrich squeaker fourth

5. Santorum close fifth

6. Perry

3 PM Monday

Friday, January 6, 2012

Recess appointments

President Obama has just made some recess appointments to the CFPB and the NLRB which will agitate some Republican Senators.

For those who don't carry a copy of the Constitution in your jacket pocket, recall that the President normally makes appointments by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. If the Senate is "not in session" then the President may make "recess appointments" which do not require Senatorial approval (but are also not permanent). To put it in context, I believe that the Senate made it clear to the previous president that they would not approve of the nomination of John Bolton to be the UN representative and Bush put him up there via a recess appointment. Recess appointments are an accepted part of presidential powers.

What is the difference here? The Senate claims that it is "in session". But the Senators have almost all been gone for some time. They have a member come onto the floor every 3 days to have a 5 minute "session". The Senate Democratic majority goes along with this pretense, presumably because they want to retain the right to engage in the same sort charade themselves in the future (as they have done in the past).

If my mother's children had engaged in such silliness, she would have given us a whipping.

Obama rightly claims that the Senate is in a phony session and he went ahead and made the appointments as if they had formally recessed. The Rs will howl that he has crossed the Rubicon and we are now only days away from the final destruction of the Republic.

You can find Lawrence Tribe's piece on this here. It makes me a bit nervous to agree with Tribe, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

Two more points.

1. The Ds claim, and I think I have heard the Rs acknowledge, that the Rs would like to block those appointments (in part) because they don't like a new law that the NLRB is supposed to enforce. It was passed in the last Congress (which was Democratic). Now, let's "pass over and leave unmentioned" the fact that this is not an appropriate tactic by the Rs and ask ourselves this: Do the Rs not know that Obama's campaign theme is going to be that Congressional Republicans are playing partisan games with the country's future? Are they going to fight him on this and make an even bigger issue of it, giving Obama all sorts of ammunition for that theme? As Seth Meyers would say on SNL: Are they going to do that? Really?

2. I am sure that all of the Democrats who hear about this will reflect for a few moments and say, "Now I understand why it was inappropriate for all of those Democratic state legislators in Texas and Wisconsin to go AWOL a while back." (For those who don't remember, those states require a super majority for a quorum which protects a large minority's right to present their case. The large minorities recently prevented legislation they opposed by leaving their states. A lot of folks on the left cheered.) I'm sure the Ds will see the similarities, won't they?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Eight is enough!

So Romney won by 8 votes.

I think he got more than that. The other two of the "three tickets" from Iowa are serious candidates for "Republicans least likely to win the nomination".

He improved his prospects considerably.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Iowa caucuses prediction

Top 3

Mitt Romney Will do well in Iowa. Top 2. Might win.

Rick Santorum [resurrected] Will surprise some folks in Iowa. Top 3 on Jan 3. Might win.

Ron Paul Will disappoint a bit in Iowa. Top 3 on Jan 3.

Also rans

Rick Perry will barely meet his goals.
Newt Gingrich will be unhappy.
Bachman will trail the six and should quit, but may not.

Huntsman is not competing there.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Candidates - Jan - 2012

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.

AmericansElect may produce a candidate, too. This will make the list more interesting.

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

Mitt Romney (25-25-26-24-25-30-30-33-35-35-50-50-60) I would consider him. He continues to run a good solid campaign. Does the right wing want to feel good or have a chance to win?

Newt Gingrich (4-4-4-4-03-03-01-01-1-10-13-33-12) - Newt (with or without the tears) is still Newt. He went way out of bounds on the courts. He fails the YAMSLT.

Rick Perry (x-x-x-x-x-x-06-22-25-30-25-20-10-10) The predicted chance of implosion has been confirmed and recovery is now harder. His wearing his religion on political sleeve is too much for me. He fails the YAMSLT.

Ron Paul (x-x-x-x-01-02-03-05-08-05-04-03-06) The libertarian's delight.

Jon Huntsman (x-x-1-1-01-05-06-01-05-0-3-06) Huntsman has all of his eggs in the NH basket. He is doing what he hoped in New Hampshire but has to hope that Romney stumbles.
May be running for something else- VP or2016 or Americans Elect.(revised Jan 2)

Rick Santorum [resurrected] (x-x-x-01-02-01-01-01-1-1-0-06) - Too far right for me. Fails the YAMSLT.

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
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.