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

Sunday, June 30, 2013


The AMA has classified obesity as a disease.  With the move from private insurance to universal government sponsored health care in the US it seems inevitable to me that the definition of disease will devolve to include anything that remotely resembles a health issues.  Which, being covered by the ACA, is then (by definition) a public issue.

I predict that under the guise of protecting us (the citizen flock) a crisis mentality will be generated in Washington that will insists on government sponsored research to identify the health benefits or effects of almost everything.

Currently the NIH spends over 1B annually to study the cause and health effects of obesity.  I am pretty sure weight gain is caused by putting too much food in your face.  I suspect the obesity studies are merely the tip of the silliness health studies to come that will protect us from “disease”.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Death of Doma

Our opinions on this can be found here on

March 29, 2013 .

A prediction of what the court would do on

March 31, 2013.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Affirmative Action 3

If I understand the PBS news description of it, the court ruling in Fisher v UT Austin yesterday says the following:

They overturned the circuit court decision supporting UT and supported Fisher's claim which was that she was wronged by UT's affirmative action against her - she is white.

They went on to say:
1.  Yes racial diversity is a compelling government interest so affirmative action lives.
2.   Yes UT can use AA, but the circuit court should have used a "strict scrutiny" test to support it.
3.   Which means, UT can use race as a factor in admissions only if there is no other way to obtain diversity.

Which means that affirmative action lives, but it will be harder to use.

Over the past 50 years I have supported AA reluctantly, then strongly, then more reluctantly.   At this point the question in my mind is how long should it continue.  In 2003 Justice O'Connor suggested that in 25 years we would no longer need affirmative action.  That sounds about right.  Three years ago I suggested that perhaps we should replace racial AA with an AA program based on class - i.e. giving advantage to those who come from poor families.

I like this decision.  It means that we are moving slowly in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Snowden 2

The following is from empty set:

If this is true, it changes the whole complexion of this matter from whistle-blower to espionage.

Here is an excerpt from the article in the Wash. Post. " The South China Morning Post, which has interviewed Snowden, reported Monday that he had taken a job with Booz Hamilton Allen earlier this year with the express purpose of being assigned to the NSA and accessing classified documents. "

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Complete World of Human Evolution

The Complete World of Human Evolution  by Chris Stringer and Peter Andrews and published by Thames and Hudson, second edition, 2012.  It presents an overview of primate and human evolution.

The presentation seems scientifically sound and accessible to the interested reader.  It is very well done and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the subject.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A country with a fence around it.

In a clip from Foxnews Kirsten Powers says  "I don't want to live in a country with a fence around it."

In this context a trigger is a requirement of 90% border security before certain steps are taken in the path to citizenship for the current illegal immigrants.

Ms. Powers says that the people who want a trigger are just using that idea to keep all immigrants out.  I have heard it said that people who assume that other people --- fill in the blank --- are themselves inclined to do   that which they accuse others of doing.  Ms. Powers made no distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.  That suggests that what she really favors is open borders.  But it wouldn't do to admit that would it?

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Choices" by Alan Jackson

This is my favorite George Jones song in which he argues for responsibility over self indulgence.  
Apparently he inspired Alan Jackson to make a choice as well.

The following was taken from the first website below:

Published on Apr 10, 2012
At the 1999 ceremony, George Jones, just months removed from a near-fatal car accident, was nominated for Single of the Year for his autobiographical ballad "Choices." When CMA executives asked for Jones to sing a shortened version of the nominated song, he opted to stay home as a sign of his irritation at their request. Jackson, prompted by his admiration for Jones and his frustration with the CMA, quietly but rebelliously shifted into "Choices" halfway through his scheduled performance of his current single, "Pop A Top."

After finishing the song, he silently walked off stage while and industry executives and artists alike rose to their feet with a standing ovation. Jackson would exit the Opry house and not return for the rest of the evening. When asked later about Jackson's decision, Jones said, "What he did [at the CMAs] meant more to me than I could ever say. I was watching the show, and when he began singing 'Choices,' it moved my wife Nancy and me both to tears. He made a huge statement on my behalf, and on behalf of traditional country music, and didn't worry about what the consequences might be." In the war of art and commerce, Jackson chose to honor the humble beginnings of the genre when those values were compromised, and was justly rewarded with positive press as a result of his indignant, yet popular, actions that evening.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Landay

The following is an example of a Landay - a type of sharp tongued poetry that can cost a Afghan woman her life.

       When sisters
                sit together,
  they always praise

    When brothers
                sit together,
     they sell their 
                            to others.

"A landay has only a few formal properties. Each has twenty-two syllables: nine in the first line, thirteen in the second. The poem ends with the sound “ma” or “na.” Sometimes they rhyme, but more often not. In Pashto, they lilt internally from word to word in a kind of two-line lullaby that belies the sharpness of their content, which is distinctive not only for its beauty, bawdiness, and wit, but also for the piercing ability to articulate a common truth about war, separation, homeland, grief, or love. Within these five main tropes, the couplets express a collective fury, a lament, an earthy joke, a love of home, a longing for the end of separation, a call to arms, all of which frustrate any facile image of a Pashtun woman as nothing but a mute ghost beneath a blue burqa."

Poetry Magazine

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Snowden and civil disobedience

Some of his admirers describe Snowden as being engaged in civil disobedience.

He is not.

Civil disobedience requires that you stand in place and face the consequences.  It does not include running to one of the places most likely to use the info against your country.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Obama and Syria

On June 15 we considered the possibility that:  ...Obama has lost his way and perhaps is not even up to the job.  For example with all of the tough sounding talk about Syria, he placed himself on the horns of a dilemma.  Either he gets us involved in another war or else he makes the U S President (and therefore the U S) look foolish.

Now, with this tepid response, it looks like he will get us in another war and make us look foolish.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The tragedy of life

I would like to get reactions to the following quote by Jean Renoir: 

The tragedy of life is that everyone has his reasons.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Two reactions to the Obama Scandals

It is interesting to watch the reactions to the current scandals.  Here are two examples from two people who both voted for Obama both times.  Here are their reactions to two of Obama's actions:

A.  The first is worried that Obama has lost his way and perhaps is not even up to the job.  For example with all of the tough sounding talk about Syria, he placed himself on the horns of a dilemma.  Either he gets us involved in another war or else he makes the U S President (and therefore the U S) look foolish.
B.  The second is also troubled by this.

A.  The first finds this outrageous.
B.  The other Obama supporter has reacted to this situation in a manner that seems quite different and out of character.   For example the fact that the power of the IRS has been used to single out one political philosophy (Tea Party etc.) and make it more difficult for them to function effectively in the political arena did not elicit the outrage that I expected to hear from this person.  What I did hear was:
a)    It is the IRS's job to check out such organizations,
b)    those are fascist education organizations, and
c)    the government used the IRS to get Al Capone.
All of this from an avid supporter of the ACLU -- well most of the time.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Edward Snowden Is No Hero 2

Please correct me if I am wrong.

1.  I thought these things that the NSA is doing (collecting phone calls etc, but normally only examining data about phone calls etc) were authorized by the Patriot Act, reauthorized under Obama, and had passed the constitutionality test by the Supreme Court some time ago.

2.  (Completely independent of 1.)   A Fourth Amendment search warrant requires the specification of items to be searched for.

3.  If the govt wants to examine the content of the phone calls themselves, then they must get a 4th amendment warrant.

Like Michael I am a bit uneasy with the govt doing 1 even if they are  also bound by 3.  If they are not bound by 3, then I am very concerned.

Serious Congressional oversight of 1 should do two things:
a) make the program more acceptable, and
b) give a whistleblower a place to go.

There are a sufficient number of people in Congress that are opposed to this kind of thing and to this president, so that, if it were the country that Snowden cared about he could have gone to one of them and gotten a hearing.  By running to China, our primary competitor in the world, I would say he marks himself as closer to a traitor than a hero.

On a more personal note what exactly are we protecting here.  Suppose you were wanting to talk to someone about something that you didn't want the world to know about (either criminal or just personal).  How many of you would do it over the phone or by email?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Edward Snowden Is No Hero

Here are, more or less, my thoughts on the NSA stuff. As usual I d"on't have much to say but am interested in what the YA community thinks.

"What, one wonders, did Snowden think the N.S.A. did?"

"The question, of course, is whether the government can function when all of its employees (and contractors) can take it upon themselves to sabotage the programs they don’t like. That’s what Snowden has done."

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Emperor Federal Reserve has no clothes - updated

The following was posted on May 31.

This interview with David Stockman was pointed out to YA by emptyset.

The below was added June 6:

Some of Krugman's responses to Stockman:



0.  Stockman believes that the government is "printing"  too much money and carrying too much debt,

I believe that
1.  the government must incur some debt and print some money,
2.  there must be a limit to how much of that the government can do without ruinous inflation,
3.  Krugman says he would be a deficit hawk at some level of debt,
4.  but he never tells us how much debt and what interest rates would move him to it, and
5.  he never tells us how much debt is reasonable.

So is Stockman playing chicken little or is Krugman burning our candle at both ends?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

race and Obama

If you think all of the crazies are on the right try this article MSNBC's Martin Bashir: "IRS" Is New Way For Republicans To Say "N***er" and you will understand why any criticism of this president is racist.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Education vs Job Training

 "To get a good job, get a good education."

I remember this slogan from the sixties: It was the mantra under which the American school system changed its function from education to job training.  

Those chickens are now coming home to roost.

The article Why does France insist school pupils master philosophy?  was brought to our attention by emptyset.  
It is from the BBC News and describes one alternative to American practice.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bacevich, Niebuhr, and Dylan

Andrew Bacevich is a Professor of History and International Relations at Boston University and a retired Colonel in the U S Army.  He has written a little book entitled The Limits of Power, The End of American Exceptionalism, Henry Holt, 2008.  In it he argues very convincingly that the reason that we continue making foreign policy blunders is precisely because we do not recognize that we are subject to those limits.  I recommend it strongly.  It is not just another diatribe about George W. Bush.  It is much more.  See it on Amazon.

Bacevich led me to the renowned theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971.   In 1952 Niebuhr wrote a little book entitled The Irony of American History,  University of Chicago Press. Bacevich wrote an introduction to this edition.  It is a more philosophical approach to a broader variation of the same question.  I had some difficulty at the beginning of the book,  but it was worth it.  Among other things, the book anticipates some of the philosophical problems that would arise during the then recently begun cold war.  See it on Amazon.
Since there are an ample number of reviews on Amazon I will not write one and avoid the risk of coming up against the limits of my own power. 

 I don't know if there is a "Cliff Notes" (abreviated) version of these books.  However, it would not be too far wrong to say that the following song (hear it here) serves that purpose:
With God on Our Side
Bob Dylan
Oh my name it ain't nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And the land that I live in
Has God on its side.

Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side.

The Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I's made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side.

The First World War, boys
It came and it went
The reason for fightin'
I never did get
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side.

The Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And then we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.

I've learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war comes
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.

Through many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
That if God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.