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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a good movie.  As Wiki notes, it is somewhat predictable.  Probably would not appeal to the younger set.  (In this case, that means anyone not eligible for Medicare.)

For reasons mostly financial, a group of English "seniors" head out to retire in India.  Mostly we see their frustrations with dealing with the Indians.  However, one of them uttered a line that I found quite thought provoking:  (it was approximately)

"What I like about these people is that they view life as a privilege and not as a right."

My  first reaction was to wonder how would that affect one's attitudes?  I supposed that it would make you much  more appreciative of whatever you have, even if it is not as much as you would like.  I then supposed that it would make you more open to new experiences.

Suddenly I was overcome by a feeling of philosophical shame.  What would Jefferson say?  Life is not a right to which I am endowed by my creator (either aninmate or inanimate)?  Life is a privilege for which I am to thank whom?  Lord Krishna? 

I think I will be able to work this out, but I'll have to think about it some.  

Maybe life is a privilege and the ability to live it as one chooses is the "right".

Or maybe I'll just go with Jefferson.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"to skyfall"


It seems clear to me that we need a new verb.  It describes a well known operation, but as far as I know there is no word for it.  It happens in any organization which receives an order to cut some of its operations.  There are (at least) two ways to deal with such a requirement.

"to skyfall" - Definition:   If one is called upon to make budget cuts, then to skyfall the response is to claim that if the cuts are made, then "the sky will fall" and "armageddon will be upon us".

For example suppose you are the police chief and you have been asked to prepare for a 10% budget cut.

The first method, which might be called the honest one, is to propose cutting those things that you would actually quit doing if the reality of the cut comes to pass.  This would mean cutting the things that you do that you consider to be the least important.
In our example you might say well we will not get those new police cruisers that we were planning to get and we will make do with the ones we have for another year.

The second method is to "skyfall" it.   In our example, you might say that without that last 10% you will not be able to buy bullets for your guns and you will therefore not be able to  protect the city.  You might estimate the death of 12-15 police officers and 50 - 100 of the local citizenry.   You might say that, when you skyfall it, the sky is the limit because it is all BS anyway.

If you think that people who oppose budget cuts would not engage in such blatant dishonesty, then turn on the TV and watch your president try to stop a budget cut that he earlier proposed and signed into law.  It is embarassing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sequester: cuts in spending versus projections



You have at hand an opportunity to compare 
a)  real cuts in government spending and 
b) phony cuts in "projections" of government spending.

The Democrats and their friends in the media say that Obama has cut 2,200 billion (AKA 2.2 trillion) from the budget.   They are quite proud and calm about this huge amount that they say they have cut. The Republicans are unimpressed. Even if Obama has "cut 2.2 trillion" what he has cut is a projection of how much will be spent.  He offers up a projection of the total that will be spent in the next 10 years (40-50 trillion).  Then they write another projection which has 2.2 trillion less in "spending" than the original one.  They then announce that they have cut 2.2 trillion in spending, but in reality they have cut nothing but a projection.  In addition to all of that, any part of the cut can be added back in at anytime during the 10 year period.

However, the sequester is about actual cuts in spending.  Those cuts are much smaller - 85 billion in the next year - but they are real money and begin the next day.  You can watch the news to see the difference in how the Democrats react to real cuts as opposed to fantasy cuts in projections - for one example try Chris Matthews on the $85 billion

"It's a down and dirty world when you decide chopping down the government and hurting the economy is the smart move. But bring it all down is now the hard right battle cry. Slash spending, short the pentagon, screw up traffic control, whatever raises the noise level, bashes Democrats and lowers hope. Is this the tea party dream? Is this John Boehner's version of feeding time at the zoo, giving the crazies what they want so they will sit in their seats and behave? Is this final payment to insanity the last vestige of what calm Republicanism is ready to cough up? But how else can you explain the readiness of the GOP leadership to let this Frankenstein's monster, this doomsday machine, this sequestration go all out berserk?  How else can we understand the party of Lincoln doing such economic damage to the Republic, such damage and moral(e) to the people?"  

I don't think that Chris has complained about the 2.2 trillion that Obama has “cut”.  I put it to you that Chris knows the difference between cuts in spending and cuts in projections.For another try Eugene Robinson here.

Taxes on the other hand begin immediately and are for real as all of you who are either "Obama-rich" or pay SS know.   That is one reason why those Republican candidates did not want to accept $10 in cuts in “spending” for $1 in tax increases.  But why those Republicans and their friends in the media continue to acquiesce in referring to these things as cuts in spending rather than cuts in projections is beyond me.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

What’s good for the goose


Is good for the gander.  At least according to the list of companies on this web site.  http://www.thepoliceloophole.com/

The subject is firearms and here is a policy quote from the 1st manufacturer/supplier on the list.

If a product that we manufacture is not legal for a private citizen to own in a jurisdiction, we will not sell that product to a law-enforcement agency in that jurisdiction”.

At the risk of using up my quota of clich├ęs for the day it strikes me as both “cutting off your nose to spite your face and “sticking to your guns”.   While I don’t see Remington or Smith & Wesson on the list, I do see 37 for profit companies that are willing to put principle over profit just as the OWS people advocated.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Athenian Decline



(from the) KEYNOTE ADDRESS OF DR. CONSTANTINE W. CURRIS 
PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF STATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

to the 
Benchmark 3 Conference on Nonprofit and Philanthropic Studies 
Arizona State University 
March 17, 2006

[In connection with the Universities obligation to teach social responsibility.]
...
I recall the great historian Edward Gibbon’s observations on the demise of Athenian Democracy:   

“In the end,” Gibbon wrote, “the Athenians more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, freedom.”

“When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility – then Athens ceased to be free.”
...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Diamonds and Rust


A beautiful love song from Joan Baez to Bob Dylan.

Diamonds and Rust

Well I'll be damnedHere comes your ghost againBut that's not unusualIt's just that the moon is fullAnd you happened to call
And here I sit, hand on the telephoneHearing a voice I'd known
A couple of light years agoHeading straight for a fall
As I remember your eyesWere bluer than robin's eggs"My poetry was lousy", you saidWhere are you calling from?A booth in the Midwest
Thirty years agoI bought you some cuff linksYou brought me somethingAnd we both know what memories can bringThey bring diamonds and rust
You burst on the sceneAlready a legendThe unwashed phenomenonThe original vagabondYou strayed into my arms
And there you stayedTemporarily lost at seaThe Madonna was yours for freeYes the girl on the half-shellWould keep you unharmed
Now I see you standingWith brown leaves falling aroundAn' snow in your hairNow you're smiling out the windowOf that crummy hotel over Washington Square
Our breath comes out white cloudsMingles and hangs in the airSpeaking strictly for meWe both could have died then and there
Now you're telling meYou're not nostalgicThen give me another word for itYou, who are so good with wordsAnd at keeping things vague
'Cause I need some of that vagueness nowIt's all come back too clearlyI once loved you dearlyAnd if you're offering me diamonds and rustI've already paid.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spending is not the problem



Senator Tom Harkin D IA says we don't have any financial problems and we are rich.  

on the other hand:

"The deficit is not an invention of ideology, but a fact of arithmetic."  Paul Martin, Canadian Federal Finance minister in the 1990s.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Friedman nails it


I have not offered an opinion of the SOTU address because it seemed like just a bunch of wishes together with a promise that they wouldn't cost anything.

I believe that the President should seek the grand bargain.  If it fails he will still have time to beat up on the Rs before the next election.

In this piece in the NYT Tom Friedman offers the president some much better advice, the center piece of which is below.
...
"TO have any effect, though, the president can’t just say he is ready for “tough” decisions. He has to lead with his chin and put a concrete, comprehensive package on the table, encompassing three areas. First, new investments that would combine immediate jobs in infrastructure with some long-term growth-enablers like a massive build-out in the nation’s high-speed broadband capabilities. That would have to be married with a long-term fiscal restructuring, written into law, that slows the growth of both Social Security and Medicare entitlements, along with individual and corporate tax reform. Obama has hinted at his willingness to do all of these. They should be agreed upon in 2013 and phased in gradually, starting in 2014. There are a lot of good bipartisan packages out there to choose from; we just need one that puts us on a trajectory to shrink our ratio of debt to gross domestic product over time. Otherwise, we will have little in reserve to fight the next economic crisis or 9/11 or Hurricane Sandy.
Our choice today is not “austerity” versus “no austerity.” That is a straw man argument offered by both extremes. It’s about whether we phase in — in the least painful way possible — a long-term plan that balances our need to protect the most vulnerable in this generation while funding the most opportunities for the next generation, and still creating growth. We can’t protect both generations in full anymore, but we must not sacrifice one for the other — favoring nursing homes over nursery schools — and that’s what we’re on track to do."
...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What if?


Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination (including hiring practices) based on religious beliefs and the US has a strong history of separation of Church and State. 
 
What if a candidate for a high Government position belonged to a religion that made no distinction between religion and Government (a belief in theocracy)?  Would it be inappropriate, in the hiring process, to consider the individual’s political views since they are also religious views?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Erewhon


Erewhon: The 1872 Fantasy Novel that Anticipated Thomas Nagel's Problems with Darwinism Today


This book review comes from Terry and contains the following paragraph:

Nagel's argument is that the mechanics of natural selection can't answer one of the most crucial questions of our existence: how living, reasoning creatures emerged from insensate matter. Although he himself is an atheist, Nagel says he shares the theists' conviction that the appearance of such creatures strongly suggests that the universe has, from the beginning, evolved teleologically, meaning it's moving purposively, toward ever-higher levels of consciousness.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rubio's Response


Rubio gave a good response to the State of the Union with at least one point that was brilliant.

His message was clear and articulate, it dealt with the problems that the Dems refuse to deal with (eg. fiscal responsibility), it was different from the 2012 campaign, and it was in English and Spanish.

Of course he recognized that in order to get serious media attention he would have to include something for them to ridicule. The brilliancy was to hit on something to serve that purpose which would, simultaneously, delight the media and other democrats while appearing to the rest of us as being totally normal for that situation.

For those who didn't see Marco Rubio give his speech you may have heard that, right in the middle of it, (gasp) he took a drink of water!!!

Wolf Blitzer is already calling it Watergate.

correction

Wolf Blitzer said that some people are already calling it Watergate.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Robert Reich on the Federal Budget Deficit



For the view of one of those who (apparently) believes that there is no limit to how much debt we can carry.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Race Card


Some say you should be very careful when talking about race or you'll be acused of racism.
Others say that it doesn't make any difference if you are careful or not you will be accused of racism.
Here is an example in support of the second statement.

In primary campaigns for president you are going to win some and lose some.  Whenever you lose a state you try to minimize the importance of that particular competition. If you are from New York and you lose a primary in Alabama to a candidate from Georgia you talk about how those states are neighbors and you never really had a chance.  If you lose Utah to a Mormon then you point out how heavily Mornon Utah is.  It is standard practice in politics.

In 1984 and 1988 Jesse Jackson ran for president. Although it was generally accepted that he had no real chance to win the nomination, he did win the democratic primary in South Carolina.   It was the state in which he was born and raised and blacks form good majority of the SC Democratic party.

In 2008 Hillary Clinton ran against Barack Obama for president and Obama won the South Carolina Democratic Primary.   One of Hillary's supporters, Bill Clinton (widely renowned as a friend of blacks) was discussing the primary with the press.  As one does in that situation, Bill was trying to minimize the significance of his candidate's loss and he made the statement:  "Even Jesse Jackson won in SC."

He was pilloried in the press.   I have friends who consider it to be a racist remark.

That is the treatment that was received by someone who had a long and strong antiracist history.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bill Gates on the world


Try this for an interesting article in which Gates offers his thoughts on the world's problems.  Here is a sample quote:  "despite innovation in measuring teacher performance world-wide, more than 90% of educators in the U.S. still get zero feedback on how to improve."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Beyond the Pale with Obama


I have for some time intended to compose a list of those things that Obama is doing that are beyond the pale.
That is, not just things that I disagree with, but things which are beyond his legal authority to do.  This may  be a good time to begin this since one of them is in the news.

1.  Obama is using drones to kill American citizens without benefit of trial or any other judicial protections.  If you doubt it check out the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.  Persons selected for this fate are reviewed by a group in the Executive Department.  The president has quoted a congressional statute to justify this. The administration's response to the question of what protected the target's constitutional rights was that these were always considered in the meeting in which the target was designated to be killed!!  Those acquainted with the ACLU will not be surprised to learn that they have a problem with this.

I support Obama's extensive use of drones.  Al-Queda has stated that it is at war with us.  I accept that and therefore I believe that we are at war with al-Queda.  Therefore, I do not have any objection to members of al-Queda being targeted for killing without Constitutional considerations.  That includes American citizens who have clearly signed on al-Qaeda.  The president can do this based on war powers.

Now I understand that this may sound a bit contradictory.  It is not.  The difference is that I believe that this "interaction that we are having with al-Qaeda" is a war.  But for curious reasons the President does not want to call it a war.  Therefore he is not able use that justification.

What I believe is beyond the pale is not the targeted assassinations, but the claim that this is being done within the Constitution and without the use of war powers.  Based on previous comments to that effect, the President's position on this is ludicrous.

We will see if the current hearings on the new head of the CIA forces a change in his position.

I  believe that it will.


Obama Exceptionalism


During his first term, Obama seemed resolutely opposed to supporting the concept of "American exceptionalism."   Did anyone else find it strange that, he then said in his second inaugural address:

What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

It seems almost as if he believes it but, before his last election, he did not want to sound jingoistic.

Friday, February 1, 2013

An Interesting Rant

It's sort of lengthy...

http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2012/11/hipsters_on_food_stamps.html

ACA 2016 Penalty


I clipped this from the IRS regulation - Internal Revenue Service, 26 CFR Part 1, [REG-148500-12], RIN 1545-BL36.  http://www.irs.gov/PUP/newsroom/REG-148500-12%20FR.pdf   It is an example of how the IRS will calculate “shared responsibility” under the ACA in 2016. For a family of 5 WITHOUT insurance.

Example 3. Family without minimum essential coverage.

“(iii) The sum of the monthly penalty amounts is $2,400 ($200 x 12). The sum of
the monthly national average bronze plan premiums is $20,000 ($20,000/12 x 12).
Therefore, under paragraph (a) of this section, the shared responsibility payment
imposed on H and J for 2016 is $2,400 (the lesser of $2,400 or $20,000).”

The bronze plan is the minimally allowable plan under the ACA.  The math is simple and so is the choice.