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

Friday, November 30, 2012


This was a very nice movie.  I will leave a real review to others.

I want to disagree with this reviewer who says:

First, in an attempt to set the stage for his audience, Affleck begins the film with a two-minute rough sketch of Iranian history. Presenting centuries of Iranian history in two minutes is of course an impossible task, and the result is grossly oversimplified and ultimately falls short of providing the viewer with much-needed context for the events about to unfold. ...

I agree that the intro was brief.  But I thought it did a very good job of pointing out to an American audience a number of important things about the history of the region that they really ought to know. About how Europe and then America involved themselves there in a very heavy handed way.  I thought that it was done very well.

I think the reviewer has not calculated how short the American attention span is when they are having an example pointed out to them of an occasion when their actions fell somewhat short of their ideals.  It is also noteworthy that, in this case, they came to be entertained and probably would not have responded in a friendly way to an extended criticism.  Perhaps Afleck had to weigh things that were of no concern to the reviewer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Racial Malarkey 2

It has been three weeks since the election and, as I have said here and here, I agree with those who say that the Republicans must revise their attitudes.  However, a lot of folks who talk about that problem the Republicans have end up spreading an awful lot of racial malarkey. 

Fact:  Projections of current trends indicate that whites will become a minority in the US about the year 2050. 

1.  For one thing it is generally agreed that the Republican party is made up of old white men who  are scared about the non white demographic tidal wave that is coming.  The following data is from a national exit poll of the 2012 election by the Sacramento Bee:

A:        15% of those who voted were 65 or older
B:        Those people 65 or older broke 56-44 for Romney. 
C:        47% of all of the voters were male and 53% were female

A and B imply that 8.4% of those who voted were for Romney and were 65 or over. 

Include C in the calculation and you have (roughly) half of those 8.4% were men. (Men are probably overrepresented in the Romney voters)

Therefore, in the real world of data (http://www.sacbee.com/2012/11/06/4966431/2012-election-exit-poll-shows.html) only about 4 or 5 percent of the voters last Tuesday were men over 65 who voted for Romney.  

Fewer than that were white and it is barely possible that not all of them were scared about the coming nonwhite majority. Maybe they know that it is not scheduled to arrive for almost 40 years by which time all of them will be dead or at least 100 years old. 

But even if each member of this group of older male Romney voters is white and scared, this group still contains less than 1 in 10 of the Romney voters.   So this group of less than 10%  of the Romney voters does not seem to me to be nearly large enough to be fairly represented as the “base of the Republican party”. 

But it is good propaganda.

2.  An article in Slate  presents the best representation that I have seen of the Republicans as a racist party.   They have a good graph of the racial breakdown of each candidates votes and how each racial group split.

They describe this as “Romney's narrowly race-based candidacy”. 

It is possible to see it that way.  On the other hand one could also note that each of the identified nonwhite groups voted overwhelmingly for the nonwhite candidate.  Each of those groups cast what could be called “race based” votes.  On the other hand the whites split far more evenly between the two candidates.  So while you can say that the Republican candidate received a lopsided white vote, you can also say that the nonwhite voters cast their votes in a much more lopsided way than the whites did.  In view of that, can you clearly say that one camp is more race-based than the other?  Based on this data, I think that one could argue that the whites are the only trans-racial voting group.

3.  Sometimes the articles are just amusing in that they seem to believe that demographics is destiny:  GOP soul-searching: 'Too old, too white, too male'?.  As I said before I do not think that there is anything in Latino DNA that makes them permanently lean to the Democratic party any more than there was in O’Reilly’s ethnic group.  They generally start to feel at home and divide among the parties.  (Jon Stewart did a good bit on that the other night.)

Republicans face a crisis: The country is growing less white, and their coalition has become more white in recent years.

But the rapidly growing population of minorities is something that looms larger than one flawed candidate.”

4.  Sometimes it is obviously ridiculous  as in this piece in the Huffpost.  She asserts that: 

 Slate (see above)  put it best -- or at least most bluntly: "Only white people voted for Mitt Romney."  Even with some nuance -- "not quite only" -- the reality is that 88 percent of Romney's voter base was the rapidly-disappearing white demographic. (Emphasis added.) The writer then went on to (apparently) misunderstand and misrepresent other data from the Slate article.

5.  The folks on TV who make a living stirring the pot of controversy can - and will - say what ever they like about who was the deciding group.  But the biracial African American candidate Barack Hussein Obama got about 60 million votes.   He got a lot of votes from Latinos and blacks and Asian Americans. They all contributed.  But  the overwhelming majority, fifty six percent, of Obama's votes came from one racial group: white people.  That is what I think is the most striking racial fact about this election.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dear Mr. Rubio,

You were in the news recently and criticized vis a vis your lack of a position on the age of the earth.  I have a suggestion for you that may be worth your having a staff member look into.  The following assumes that it is not one of your objectives to force the the teaching of your religion in the schools.

For a long time now the left and the media have allowed candidates to take the following position:  I am personally opposed to abortion, but I would not allow my personal beliefs to interfere with a woman’s right to choose. 

Perhaps you could take some version of the following variation of that position:  I have my personal beliefs and some of them are based on the Bible. But, like Jefferson, I also believe in the separation of church and state and I would not seek to impose my personal beliefs on the academic world. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


“Today's protests at Walmart stores across the country are a reminder of the enormous power of working people uniting to demand a better future with a living wage, affordable healthcare and respect on the job,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

To fulfill the SEIU’s goal would we need a mirror group that will make the same statement substituting “create” for “demand”?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The Hostess Company is in Bankruptcy court and has asked the Employees to take a wage cut that would allow the company to continue operations.  The Union(s) have declined.  It appears that Hostess will stop operations and liquidate it operations.

On the surface it appears that the Unions have taken a position that “killed the goose that laid the golden egg”.  Not so fast.  The Unions claim that the Company has lost market share due to mismanagement of their product line by not adjusting to health conscious consumers.  I suspect that no one would argue that Twinkies, Ho Ho’s, and Cup cakes are really good for you.

If we assume that the Union’s assertion is correct (and I think it is) that in no way changes the present situation which is that the immediate survivability of the Company is in the Union’s hands. What should the union do?

Monday, November 19, 2012


On Sunday I listened (live) to Obama’s press conference from Thailand.  When asked about the situation in Israel he made the following statement.

"We are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself from missiles landing on peoples' homes."

The choice of words was striking.  Later, in his answer (the same answer), he made the following statements:

“We will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself”
“Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory”

This morning I heard talking heads on ABC, CBS, CNN & Fox state that (in his answer from Thailand) Obama expressed support for Israel and Israel’s actions.  I would point out that supporting a “right” is not the same as supporting a Country or a Country's actions.

Am I being too picky with words?
Video - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/18/obama-israel-gaza_n_2154008.html

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What should the republicans do? a

Governor Romney has, since the election, complained that Obama gave stuff to people to win the election and that the Rs were beat up by the media.

I have some thoughts on these remarks.

I’ll take the short answer first.  Any Republican who doesn’t know ahead of time that 90% of the media is against him is not smart enough to be president, anyway. 

On this giving stuff away, well I thought we all knew that there are two parties.  One of them claims to want to grow the federal government and the other claims to want to shrink the federal government.  It does not take a political wizard to realize that (in our case) the party that wants to grow the government is in favor of that larger government doing things for people.  But if your program doesn’t involve something more than pointing that out, then maybe you should get out of politics.  Which Romney will. 

Most republican leaders are chastising Romney for those remarks.  They’d better.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said that if you want people to like you then you’ve got to like them.  While acknowledging that some people will game the welfare system Lindsay Graham said, “ Most people on public assistance don’t have a character flaw, they just have a tough life.”

And as I said on Nov. 8 what I think the Rs should do is:

1.  Accept that certain things are history and no longer negotiable.  Among these things are gay rights and women’s reproductive issues.  If you keep these items on the menu, then guess who's not coming to dinner.  Leave any  discussions about rape to the women in your caucus.

2.  Push hard to resolve the immigration issue.  Give up whatever you have to for the short term to get a rational long term solution.

3.  Continue and increase your outreach to minorities.

4.  (added 11-15)  Quit appearing to be the advocates of the rich.

I wish you success because the country needs at least two vibrant political parties.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Beware the Big Data Campaign

"And Know They Love You"

Yesterday's post, "Teach Your Children", 
reminded me of a poem from the early eighties.

"And Know They Love You"
            (for  Glenda)

Pregnant at eighteen and then again 
before another year was out,

she told me once
that she had thought about giving her children away 
and joining the Weathermen.

It is a night sixteen years later: 
    we have taken over the stereo 
    and are playing sixties music.
    Crosby, Stills and Nash come on
    and when they get to "Teach Your Children Well" 
    I watch her son reach out and take her hand 
    and hold it while they sing,
    quietly, together. 


Citizens United decision

In case you don't remember, the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which came down in 2010 said, basically, that the 1st Amendment protects your right to spend money on advancing your opinions (including elections) whether you are spending $40 or $40 million.

Obama and the left were outraged.  Obama  very inappropriately (and incorrectly) chastised the Supreme Court during his State of the Union address about it.

We were warned that all of that money would put the government up for sale to the highest bidder.  Whoever put up the money could buy the government.

Well, we've had our first presidential  election since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.

It appears that the plutocrats have bought themselves the following results:

House of Representatives    Democrats gained seats
Senate                                Democrats gained seats
President                            Democrat reelected

PS  I find it passing strange that people can oppose this decision and, simultaneously, support the right of the NYTimes to make 14 Democratic endorsements in a row and Springsteen, Oprah, and Trace Adkins to generate god knows how much support for candidates.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Teach your children

I am choosing my favorite one hundred song playlist.  Why?  I guess because we have ten fingers and use base 10.  I'm having a little trouble getting it down to that so maybe I'll use 100(base 12) and I'll only have to get it down to 144 - that is 12 squared to those of you who do not watch Big Bang Theory.  (Yes, I know that there was a possible alternative question back there, but I don't have an answer for the other one.)
A number of them will be from the sequence Buffalo Springfield - Crosby, Stills and Nash - Deju vu - Harvest from the late sixties and early seventies which (as everyone knows) was the golden age of R&R.

I enjoyed an extended youth and perhaps that is why I appreciate the following description of the hard time on both sides of that transition.

From the album Deja Vu  (1970) by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, 

and Dallas Taylor and Greg Reeves

Hear them sing it here.

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.

Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you'll know by.

Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

And you, of tender years,
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.

Teach your parents well,
Their children's hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you'll know by.

Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lincoln quotes

Today's quote November 15 was:  In early 1861, with the Civil War coming, Abraham Lincoln counted his assets and noted:
 “I should like to think that I have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”

 Dan noted his appreciation in a comment to another post.  I thought I would give him a chance to put it here and add that it is one of my favorites.

Another of my favorite Lincoln quotes is one which is now appearing in the trailer to the new movie "Lincoln." It begins-- " I am the President of the United States, clothed in immense power, and I will have ..."

I have been told that the following distinction is trivial, but I offer it to you anyway.

I think that it is profound that he did not say some variation of  "I am the immensely powerful President of the United States and I will have ...." which would imply that he saw himself as someone who held his own great power.  What he actually said seems to me to suggest that he saw himself as an instrument whom the people had temporarily 'clothed' in their immense power.

To see the difference, imagine which choice would have been made by, say, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, or Lyndon Johnson.
(Slightly modified at 5:58.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The politics of Benghazi II

Upon reflection, I have nothing more to add to what I wrote here on Sunday, October 21, 2012

I believe the President was concerned that the terrorist attack on Benghazi would be seen a harbinger of the collapse of his middle eastern foreign policy.  That is why for two weeks his administration conducted a media campaign to convince us that it was a demonstration that got out of hand and not an organized activity.  Being more clever than most he also made a statement the day after which minimized any mention of terrorism and still included some indirect references that could be used, if needed, to claim that he had said all along that it was an act of terror.  Romney’s ineptness and Candy’s expansion of her role from moderator to active participant in the second debate made that work out for the President temporarily.

Perhaps on Monday we will delve into the broader issues centering on the fact that it was an organized terrorist attack.  I think there are two.

First is the question of whether there was appropriate security.  It appears not.  Biden’s defense in his debate with Ryan was that Ryan had supported a $300 million reduction in funding for Foreign Service Security.  This is a silly argument.  How much they had was not the problem.  The problem was where it was placed and that is a presidential responsibility.

Second is that the entire Obama policy for that part of the world is brought into question.  Whether it should or not it will certainly be part of the campaign. 

I do not believe that the murder of the Libyan Ambassador and others is a particularly important piece of evidence that our current middle eastern policy has failed.  (I hope not.)  However, I believe that the Obama administration thought that it was very important in that regard and that it had major political implications.  To blunt the impact of those political considerations is the reason that they have concealed evidence of the nature of that attack in the hopes of convincing the public that it was only a minor incident that grew out of a demonstration. 

As usual the attempt to cover it up is going to be worse for them than the event itself.  

PS  This was talked about by Tom and Rob in comments on the post on Oct 18.

Monday, November 12, 2012

General Petraeus

I have a great deal of respect for General Petraeus and I agree with the consensus that his situation is very sad.

However, there is one thing that confuses me.

Honor dictated that Petraeus had to resign because of the affair that he had with his biographer.

However, he did not resign until after his affair was exposed by the FBI.


This Article calls for a boycott of Papa John’s restaurants following an announcement that compliance with ACA requirements will add approximately 14 cents to the cost of a pizza.

I have no sympathy.  We were told the ACA would not raise taxes, no one said it would be free.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Time Enough for Love

 “Do not confuse "duty" with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect ... 

         So learn to say No—and to be rude about it when necessary. Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you. (This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don't do it because it is "expected" of you.)”
Time Enough for Love - Robert Heinlein

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Racial Malarky

Across the nation the pundits are telling one and all that the Republicans are history.  A big component of what these commentators see as the problem is racial.  They sometimes throw in “old white men” and other general demographic issues as part of the problem, but basically it is a racial song that they are singing.

It goes like this: blacks vote overwhelmingly democratic and Hispanics voted democratic in the recent presidential elections.  Therefore Hispanics are like blacks and will vote overwhelming democratic.  The percentage of the whole population that is Hispanic is growing.  The white majority is vanishing and therefore the democratic vote is going to grow and the Rs are doomed.    See Juan Williams: Obama's Daunting Demographic Message for the GOP 

I think that this is wishful thinking by the left. 

I do not believe that there is anything in the Hispanic dna that makes them inevitably democratic voters.  The blacks have, of course, voted overwhelmingly for the political party (first the Rs and then the Ds) that has used the power of the federal government to promote their group interests while the other party did not.  If the Hispanics see one of the political parties as being committed to their group interests while the other is not, then they will vote overwhelmingly for that party. 

I believe that, so far, the Ds have played the immigration issue very effectively and the Rs have played it very poorly.  Even in the face of that, the Rs have gotten 30-40% of the Hispanic vote in recent presidential elections.

That being said the Rs do have to review their situation.  As a centrist I would recommend the following:

1.  Accept that certain things are history and no longer negotiable.  Among these things are gay rights and women’s reproductive issues.  If you keep these items on the menu, then guess who's not coming to dinner.  Leave any  discussions about rape to the women in your caucus.

2.  Push hard to resolve the immigration issue.  Give up whatever you have to for the short term to get a rational long term solution.

3.  Continue and increase your outreach to minorities.

4.  (added 11-15)  Quit appearing to be the advocates of the rich.

I wish you success because the country needs at least two vibrant political parties.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


One of the themes that I heard last night in the election coverage was the changing demographics in the country.  Then this morning I learned that Obama actually carried Harris County (Houston) where Republicans have, with few exceptions, ruled since all the conservative Democrats switched parties back in the 70s and 80s.  Chuck Todd predicted on the news tonight that in the next election cycle Texas might actually be in play because of the fast increasing Hispanic/Latino population.  Certainly by 2020.  Other states that have been solidly Republican were also mentioned such as Georgia.  And as I write this the local news is now discussing the same thing.  And they are saying that Texas is turning purple.

It will be interesting to see how the R party is going to adjust to this. If they can no longer take for granted the big chunk of electoral votes from Texas then it seems that they are going to have to change their brand to some degree. It's a tough spot for them.  Their base is clearly older white men.  And if there's one thing that older white men seem to fear it is changing demographics.  I generalize, but that does seem to be the message I keep hearing.  White men my age and older are, in general, afraid of the coming time when they will be the minority.  That time is right around the corner.  When I say I hear it I mean I hear it from other older white men.  It's something that robs some of them of sleep.  They are REALLY WORRIED.  They did not sign up for this.  They fret, "this is not the America I grew up in.  This is not the America of our Founding Fathers."  True enough.  Change is tough, but that doesn't seem to slow it down.  "Oh the tiiiime's they are achaaaangin."


"I never vote.  It only encourages them."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obama will win

Well Dixville Notch in New Hampshire has voted and given each candidate 5 votes.

In view of the fact that historically they lean to the Rs, I will have to make my prediction that Obama will win the election.

PS That was also my prediction before Dixville Notch voted.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Bahá'í faith

I talked to an interesting young man who holds the following belief.  This description is from the BBC.

Bahá'í at a glance

Bahai House of Worship in Delhi, a white building resembling the petals of a lotus flower
The Bahá'í faith is one of the youngest of the world's major religions. It was founded byBahá'u'lláh in Iran in 1863.
Iran was then mainly a Muslim country, and the faith was proclaimed by a young Iranian, who called himself The Báb. He said that a messenger would soon arrive from God, who would be the latest in a line of prophets including Moses, Muhammad and Jesus Christ.
  • Bahá'u'lláh, which means the Glory of God in Arabic, was born Mirza Husayn Ali in 1817
  • Bahá'ís believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the most recent Manifestation of God
  • Bahá'u'lláh himself stated that he is not God's final messenger
  • The Bahá'í faith accepts all religions as having true and valid origins
  • The idea of progressive revelation is of central significance for the Bahá'í faith
  • Bahá'u'lláh taught that God intervenes throughout human history at different times to reveal more of himself through his messengers (called Divine Messengers, or Manifestations of God)
  • The central idea of the faith is that of unity. They believe that people should work together for the common benefit of humanity
The followers of Bahá'u'lláh were descended from the Bábis - believers in the Báb who foretold the mission of Bahá'u'lláh.
There are 6 million Bahá'ís in the world, in 235 countries and around 6,000 live in Britain.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


David Axelrod described the message coming from President Barack Obama days before Election Day as "coming from his loins."

1.   What does that mean and
2.   What demographic is that aimed at?

Actually I had to give the comment a smile when I hear it, but I am truly astounded and mystified that it was actually uttered.  I think I will give Axelrod a pass and just say that if you speak in public long enough you will eventually say something that makes no sense.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Walk softly and carry a big stick.

               I enjoyed the movie The Wind and the Lion  (1975) in which the Raisuli (Sean Connery), a minor Berber leader in Morocco, has taken as hostage a woman named Perdicaris and her two children. (In real life it was her husband that he held.  However, that would not have been nearly as titillating as was his holding of Candice Bergen.)  

The Raisuli then sent his demands to President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) in Washington.   The answer that he got was not what he had expected.

It read: “America wants Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.”

It is good theatre and a good representation of the young republic coming of age and taking its place on the world stage.  It included a display of force to impress the Europeans who were there.  It was what I have called KATN (kick ass and take names) foreign policy.  It was arguably appropriate then. 

However, if you roll the clock forward a hundred years, and use that approach now I do not think that it would work so well.  For most of the last hundred years we have been at the peak of world power.  But we have been at the peak of our power as well.  In the future we are going to have to be more flexible if we want to exercise any leadership in the world. 

Tired of the election?

 There is a video which captures our exhaustion.  One day last week this video from Colorado was the closing item on both the FoxNews Special Report news show and Jon Stewart's daily show.

If you are not, then imagine that you are in a swing state.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Life at the Round Table

I once knew a fellow named Chip Hallinan.  From time to time he lived in Commerce, TX a small town about 50 miles NE of Dallas, Texas.   I did not know him well, he was a friend of a friend.

I spent some time there in the summer of 1971 playing chess in the Round Table Café.  One day Chip was in the café looking for a ride.  His car was broken and he desperately wanted to get to Dallas.  He was asking all comers – Are you going to Dallas?  -- Do you know anyone who is going to Dallas? -- Do you know anyone who might be willing to go to Dallas?

Sometime later a group of very religious types wearing robes and the whole nine yards came in.  They looked like disciples who were going to break into chants at any minute.  Chip didn't bother with them since they did not look like good prospects for a ride to Dallas.  They began their rounds seeking converts and when they got to Chip the conversation went like this:

Disciple:   “Don’t you want to know Jesus?”

Chip:     “Not unless he’s goin’ to Dallas.”