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, October 31, 2013

The Affordable Care Act

I urge you to watch the news and recall the quote from Nancy Pelosi:

"We'll have to pass the bill, in order to find out what is in it."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Big Government vs Small Government (2)

In the first part of this discussion of Big Government vs Small Government I mostly talked about our need for, yet fear of, government in general.  I talked about the fact that the fundamental differences between liberals and conservatives can, in some ways, be boiled down to this one concept.

Now let's take a look at this concept of small government and the benefits thereof.  The first problem in trying to discuss this is one of definition.  What qualifies as a small government?  I'm sure one could write a book on that subject, but not this one.  It would help if we could look at examples of governments that are clearly small.  It seems to me, looking around the world, that small governments are found in countries that could best be described as third world ones.    And in those countries it appears to me that government is largely ineffectual and corrupt, benefiting a relative few.    I generalize, but I can't really think of a country, that has what all would agree is a small government, that doesn't show those attributes.

Perhaps an example that we would be most familiar with is Afghanistan.  The long running war we have been fighting there keeps developments in our news.  It is apparently a small government fan's paradise.  Not much government interference.   But the drawbacks of having an ineffectual government there are clear and well known.

I don't tend to worry much about "big government".  Nor am I a proponent of "big government".  I am a proponent of "big enough government".

Lone Survivor by Chris Stringer

Have you ever looked at one of those charts that represent the precursors of our species and some lines in our species that didn't make it and feel like it was just a jumble of unconnected short  lines?  Lone Survivor attempts to remedy that.  The book is by Chris Stringer one of the authors of The Complete World of Human Evolution and is published by Henry Holt and Co, 2012.  It presents a view of most likely connections among our ancestors.  It is subtitled - How we came to be the only humans on earth.

Like The Complete World .. 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.

I enjoyed the book very much.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Big Government vs little government

“A government that is big enough to give you everything you want,
 is big enough to take from you everything that you have.” 
The above quote was used in an earlier post by Wayne to point out the dangers of  the government forcing us to do something "for our own good".
1.  What else does a government do besides force us to do things that are for our own good?  Why else was government even invented?  Nobody likes it but the reasonable person can see the reasons why it is absolutely necessary.  Even our little Home Owners Association has, as reason for existence, that "everyone cannot be trusted to do what ever they want without doing harm to the others in the subdivision".  Eventually someone is going to, just for example, paint their house a color that everyone else agrees is horrid and brings down the average property values just by its presence.  So while "forcing us to do things that are "for our own good"" sounds absolutely unAmerican and indefensible, in fact that is what government is for.  Basically there is no other reason to have it and it speaks to the fact that when you get right down to it people will not agree on what is "for our own good"...not even on the simplest of things.  If one wants to never have any other force them to do something for their own good then they should, from a practical standpoint, live the life of a hermit.  Kind of like the uni-bomber without the bombing.  But that's not really practical for the sane person.
2.  There has never been a government that has been big enough to give everybody everything they want.  I guess ours is big enough to give a small few everything they want, and them some, but not everybody everything they want.  Will there ever be a government big enough to do that? I don't know?  And if a government was big enough to give everybody what they want would that necessarily mean that that government would take everything that everybody has.  I don't know that.  It's an interesting discussion.  Some would say that since the government could, they would.  Others would say that it depends on the government.
3.  This may be the most important point.  There is not one government in the industrialized world that is not big enough to take everything that their citizens have.  So we are there already.  The question is, is that automatically a bad thing.  This seems to be where the conservatives and liberals often clash.
I have spent most of my life as a conservative Republican and I bought into all of Ronald Reagan's criticisms of "Big Government" and even Government in general.   "The biggest lie you can hear is 'hi I'm from the government and I'm here to help you'."  Hahahaha.  so true, so true.  Or... is it?  If I need a fireman, don't I call the government and I hope to hear very quickly "hi I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."  Well Yipee!! Get with it!  If I am a farmer and I'm having some trouble with my crops that can be very serious to my livelihood I will likely speak to the local Dept of Agriculture rep at some point and it is my understanding they can be quite helpful.  It doesn't take much thought to come up with endless examples of needing something from the government that is a good and reasonable expectation.  It's easier to think of it in the negative if you think of the government as some generic negative cloud that hangs over everything sucking the economic life out of everything else.  For example, many criticize the postal service as being the ultimate in inefficiency and bloat.  But it is my understanding that we have had the most desirable postal system in the world for a long long time.  The current transition we are in to electronic communication from physical paper delivery is most definitely a genuine hurdle which I see them working on even now.  But, what is their national calling as the nation's postal delivery service?  I would not want to go forward at this time without one.  So I say they should carry on, losses and all.  We citizens need that service to be there.  The country needs that service to be there.  I hasve been receiving my mail everyday but Sunday, including hurricanes, for my whole life.  If it can be made more efficient then do so, but let's not pull the plug on it just yet.
Those who are still in that groove where they think "small government" is better than "big government" have every right to believe that, of course.  But I would urge everyone to think about what parts of the government specifically you feel comfortable getting rid of.  Generally what I get from people when I ask them that, if they haven't already walked off in disgust at such a stupid liberal question (I do live in a very conservative district in Texas) , is "there's a lot of waste in the government", although they don't name the specific waste they are referring to, or criticism of some study they heard about where some scholastic types were trying to find out what the warthog does on its day off or some such nonsense.  Then of course I get the attacks on the government giving money to people who don't try to do for themselves.  I don't know anyone who thinks that is a good thing, liberal or conservative.  It's a red herring that gets thrown a lot!  I will work side by side with anyone who wants to come up with a system that no one can cheat.  and short of that I will work side by side to punish those who do cheat.
But think about all the things the government does that allow us to just walk around feeling safe pretty much 24 hours a day.  I don't think much about what's in my water or my food or underground or next door or in the air, or whether my purchased products are safe.  I feel fairly safe that our justice system will treat me fairly if I get involved with it.  Our government supplies us with so much freedom.  Yeah, it sounds weird but it's accurate.  It is that freedom from so much worry that we would otherwise be saddled with that benefits every American that is one of the reasons that our enemies hate us.  We, generally speaking, are so comparatively worry free while so many people in the world have to worry about so much every day.  I have more to say on this later.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Voter Fraud

Full disclosure:  I believe that you should have a picture ID to get any of the things that we get  from the government including access to the voting booth.  The government should provide an easy and cost free way of getting  a working ID for voting.

Now how many times have you heard or seen the following argument:
Voter fraud is a fake issue because there have been only a small number of prosecutions for voter fraud.

Here are two more arguments using this reasoning.

You can count the number of drinkers by counting the number of prosecutions for drunkenness.


You can count the number of young women who are engaging in sex by counting how many of them are getting pregnant.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tea Party and Science

Those who are open to evidence about the Tea Party might be interested in the following article

Tea Partiers Score High on Science Literacy

in the Cultural Cognition Project from Yale Law School.

The Cultural Cognition Project is a group of scholars interested in studying how cultural values shape public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs. Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether global warming is a serious threat; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities. Project members are using the methods of various disciplines -- including social psychology, anthropology, communications, and political science -- to chart the impact of this phenomenon and to identify the mechanisms through which it operates. The Project also has an explicit normative objective: to identify processes of democratic decision making by which society can resolve culturally grounded differences in belief in a manner that is both congenial to persons of diverse cultural outlooks and consistent with sound public policy making.

Friday, October 18, 2013

enslaved persons

A few years ago I took a trip around the US and went to several historical sites in the east. 
 I noticed that in many (I think all) of these locations the word “slave” was not used.  In its place was the expression “enslaved person”. 

My initial reaction was, “Well there is another example of politically correct nonsense.”

But the expression hung around in the back of my mind and finally I felt the need to analyze it.  What do the two terms say about the individuals who wear them?  How is the word whose root word is slave, used?  In the first case “slave” was a noun.  The individual was a s-l-a-v-e.  In the second case “enslaved” was an adjective.  It described the individual’s condition, not his essence.  The individual was a p-e-r-s-o-n (who had been enslaved).

Now, I know what you’re thinkin’.  To the slave it is a distinction without a difference.  Maybe. But even in the hardest of times perhaps the most important thing of all is how you think of yourself.  Frederick Douglass may not have made the verbal distinction, but I believe that he did make the psychological one.

Be that as it may, a modern American who wants to understand his country and how the reality of its history correlates with the exceptionalism of its vision ought to consider the distinction above to be about a very significant difference. 

PS  The term enslaved person also implies the existence of an enslaver.

Default 3

The saddest part was the name calling.  Extortionist, hostage takers, and even terrorists.  Apparently this disturbs me more than most people.  I generally assume that people who stoop to name calling don’t have a very good argument.  But in this case everyone says the Ds won and the Rs will pay a heavy price.  But I wonder.   In the next few years the younger folk are going to figure out how badly they are being served by our particular version of the welfare state which is very biased toward the old folks who are immediate spenders and biased against the young and investment. (Its advocates are not biased against the word “investment”.  They love the word.  They will call a hip replacement on an 80 year old man an investment.)

When the young figure this out, it is possible that they will become interested in a more fiscally responsible government.  At that point they may remember who was on which side of the fiscal responsibility ledger.

Default 2

The word default got a lot of interesting usage in the discussion.  If we do not raise the debt limit then we will be in default - we would not be able to meet all of our obligations.  That would be bad.  But there is bad, worse, and worst.   In this case, the worst would be not paying the interest on the national debt.  That would roil the international markets and put the “full faith and credit” of the USA in question.  With a quick flip of the tongue Democratic speakers (including Obama) would switch and act as if not paying the interest on the debt would be the FIRST default on the list and that it would ruin the “full faith and credit”.  This fear mongering caused the short term treasuries interest rate to go up to – are you ready – almost one half of 1 percent.  There followed a “panic” and a flight to safety!!!  Where did they go to feel safe about the location of their money?  They bought US Treasuries.  Perhaps the more astute of them, or their advisers, had read the 14th amendment to the US Constitution which says in part: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, …, shall not be questioned.”  That overrides any regular law about debt limits or otherwise.  It would also put debt payment at the head of the line.  

Default 1

I found several things interesting about the recent shutdown of the government – debt ceiling crisis.

As noted here some time ago, I am opposed to the debt ceiling.  I assume that it was a well intended proposal to hold down the growth of government or the debt.  The Congress and President pass laws without adequate funding and therefore, without admitting it, they raise the debt.  The debt ceiling is, I suppose, intended to lay in the background and control the growth of the debt. It doesn’t work.   Partly because the propaganda around holding fast to it is just too great.   Partly because the argument that when a bill is passed that itself suffices to raise the debt if the bill is not paid for in some other way.  What might work would be  to require that a newly passed bill must include a funding provision specifying how the bill will be paid for before it takes effect.  This would have to be done a)  regardless of actual cost or else they would just claim that it would cost very little and b) even if debt was the way it would be paid for.  This  wouldn’t hold down debt, but it would be more honest.

The ridiculous right with its attempt to delegitimize Obama – eg birthers - has now been joined by the lunatic left in its efforts to delegitimize the Tea Party with references to the Confederacy - Andrew Sullivan, Jesse Jackson, and Eleanor Clift.   Ms. Clift based it on seeing someone with a Confederate flag.  I do not recall hearing a similar response when immigration marchers waved Mexican flags some time back.  Bill Maher thinks Obama is so tentative in his governance because of a fear of assassination.   Before next year is over I expect that these four will view any opposition to Obama as simple racism.

Friday, October 11, 2013

No Comment

Dear Senate Judiciary Committee members,

Every time there is a Supreme Court Justice nominee they come before your committee and you ask them what they think about this or that and they say: “I can’t comment on that because it might come before the court.”

And you then say, “Oh yes.  I forgot about that.”

Why don’t you consider the following.  Well ahead of time of the hearings, give the nominee 2 or 3 recent Supreme Court cases and ask them to study the transcript of the case and render an opinion in the same way they would have done if they had been on the court at the time the case was heard.  

They may object that the matter might come before them if they are on the court. 

Explain to them that that is true and that if it does then it will also come before all of the other justices who rendered a real verdict.  Therefore the nominee (if confirmed) will be in exactly the same position on this case as all of the other (current) justices.  

On what basis will they then object to indicating what their verdict would be?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Political Tactics

Jeff Greenfield says in this column what I have been feeling better than I have or could.  I still can't shake this feeling that the subject tactics are something new and heretofore unthinkable by American politicians.  Mr. Greenfield has been reporting on Washington politics for a long time and seems to agree.  Of course not everyone likes him and I haven't always agreed with him.  But he does always seem to be reasonable, rational, thoughtful and knowledgable.


Monday, October 7, 2013

comment on Bruce's comment of October 7, 2013 at 5:57 PM

Bruce's comments are in black my remarks are in red.

If the Rs trying to force a person (the President) by force, intimidation or undue power It is not undue power.  I know from your previous posts that you do not like the fact that the Congress has the power of the purse – in fact the HR has the power of the purse - but there it is, in Article one of that pesky Constitution.  (not only shutting down almost the entire government, not anywhere near the entire federal government much less the states but blaming it on Obama because he won't capitulate...oh, I mean "negotiate") I have seen Obama on TV saying repeatedly that he will not negotiate on this or the debt limit. doesn't meet the definition of extortion as posted above, then I don't know what to say. What would they have to do to meet the definition in your eyes? Is there anything legal that they could do that you would call extortion? I would love to read what that would be. 

Since extortion is a crime it will be hard to arrange .  I gave Wikipedia’s definition before:       Extortion (also called shakedown, outwresting, and exaction) is a criminal offense of obtaining money, property, or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion.

 Also see merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extortion:  ex·tor·tion noun \ik-ˈstȯr-shən\ :            the crime of getting money from someone by the use of force or threats

 If they are committing a crime, then Obama should have Holder arrest Boehner. There's a headline for you.  That is where you end up if you follow the logic of this kind of rhetoric. The real question is: does this kind of rhetoric improve your argument?  I would think only with those who are already in your choir.

But I feel that we are drifting off into semantics now. Precisely. What the Rs have done in shutting down the government, and soon holding the debt limit and the country's credit rating hostage (yeah, I said it...hostage), is wrong no matter what you call it. The monthly income of the Feds is about 10 times the interest on the national debt.  The Full faith and credit business is a straw man, issued by people who believe that there should be no limit to how much debt that we run up.  I don't care if its a political tactic practiced by everyone including all of my friends and my entire family, it's still not right. Shutting down the government is just too much, too painful for too many. It's way off balance. It's bringing a bazooka to a knife fight. Its having your Dad beat up the elementary school bully. It's putting a yacht in a stock pond. Its fishing with dynamite. All over one law.  Will they try to change the law to make it better? Nooooo. It's got to go or nothing. I've heard some of their ideas about changing it, but that's just gutting it and taking the teeth out of it. If Obama drops the employer mandate – no problem.  If the Rs insist on dropping the individual mandate – then all the above slurs apply.  I understand about the Peter and Paul stuff. But frankly, that's the way that insurance works too.  If you think that “that Peter and Paul stuff” is the way insurance works, then I’m not sure that you have got a handle on the one very large difference between "the stuff" and insurance.  In our society the government uniquely has the right to the initiation of the use of force.  A regular insurance company cannot force you to buy their product.  The government can, eg SS, ACA, Medicare.  That is the real and substantial difference: force.  The insurance companies want Peter to pay for Paul   that is if they have to have a Paul. They would really rather keep Paul out of the system so that Peter is actually paying for nothing at all. Does Peter like that better?  That is why this Peter supports the ACA and the eventual implementation of national health insurance.  But I believe in looking the downside straight in the face and not pretend that it doesn’t exists.  This is another example of the Government forcing us to do something “for our own good”. 
Those things are very dangerous for two reasons. 
1.  It is hard to honestly finance them (see medicare). 
2.  If I may borrow from Thomas Jefferson Gerald Ford (corrected - 10-09-13):
“A government that is big enough to give you everything you want,
 is big enough to take from you everything that you have.” 

So I say again that in view of the fact that it is our side of this debate that is supporting a program that involves force, it seems passing strange that some on our side should accuse the other side of extortion.  Perhaps we hope that if we assert loudly enough the claim that they are doing it, then no one will notice that we really are doing it.  I prefer straight forward argument and I think we have a good case.  I think name calling makes us look like we have a bad case. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Current Language of Politics

Apparently I am not (in the last two entries) communicating well in the exchanges in the posts of Oct. 3 and Oct. 4.  Whether we continue them or not I want to try again to state what  I think about this and some things that I don’t think about this. 

1.  I am with the supporters of the ACA on the issue.  However, the Republican general position (smaller government) is a legitimate position and they have a right to use all legitimate methods to pursue it.  One is to use the rules of the House to prevent a vote on "the Senate Bill".  They can do that - and Obama can get on TV and say: "Just have a vote!" and make them look bad.

2.  I am offended by the tactics that my side (let’s call them the Ds) is using – in particular the name-calling.

As was noted in one of the posts "extortion  does have a definition": 

Extortion is a criminal offense of obtaining money, property, or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion.  

Please note the word criminal.

3.  It seems to me to be particularly offensive to call the opponents (let’s call them the Rs) “extortionists” when the Rs are using the same tactics that the Ds have used in the past (when the Rs and Southern Ds held a majority in one body or the other of Congress).  This kind of hyperbolic language was not used.  You can say that it is because our politics was not so bitter then, and I will say sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between cause and effect.

4.  Since a basic principle of the ACA is that the government will “rob Peter to pay Paul” by forcing the payment of a fee or a tax or a premium by Peter. (I agree with C J John Roberts that a rose by any other name …)  The money will be used to provide “affordable” health care for Paul.  Does that sound like any criminal activity mentioned above?  I would agree that the operation of the ACA is technically not extortion.  But I agree only because it is the government which is doing it and it is done according to law.  Still, it seems to me to be spectacularly ironic for the Ds to say that the opponents of the ACA are engaging in – extortion.

5.  Consider the following two things in connection with Obama’s sudden adoration of “the law”.
1. a) About the ACA's health care individual mandate Obama says: “It’s the law we can’t delay that.”
b) About the ACA's health care employer mandate Obama says: “We are delaying that.”
2. About the “Dream Act” (which did not pass and change the immigration law) Obama said I’m not going to enforce that part of the immigration law. Poof

This is not a minor irrelevant discrepancy from out of the blue.  Obama makes 1.a)  the justification for calling the Rs extortionists.  Because “the ACA is the law and therefore I can’t negotiate about that”.  The other two are the evidence that he doesn’t take that argument seriously.

6.  I support the ACA and I think the Rs are messing up bad on this and that they will pay for it.  I think the arguments that can be brought to bear against their position are strong and persuasive.  Instead the Ds have chosen a type of name-calling that leaves their defenders making arguments like, “Well, I don’t really know what the president meant by that.”

I support Obama, but I am depressed about him. In general, I believe that we should not have to wonder what the President intended to say and, especially, the world should not have to wonder whether or not he meant it.


Friday, October 4, 2013


Andrew Sullivan calls it “Racist vandalism”, Friedman says “Our democracy is at stake!”, and everybody calls it extortion.

This language is so childish.  Is that really the level the “majority” is operating on?   It is also inaccurate.  I am among those who want the well off to foot the bill for healthcare for all through a single payer system.  It is my side of this argument that is using this extortion language.  But let’s examine it for a moment.  We are saying that we want Peter to pay for Paul’s healthcare.  AHA is a step in that direction.  Affordable means that someone else is paying for it. That is we advocate using the power of the government to force Peter to pay for Paul’s healthcare.  Peter gets himself some Congresscritters elected to oppose this plan of ours for FORCING Peter to hand over his money to pay for Paul’s health care.  The Congresscritters engage in perfectly legal efforts to do that and our side calls that extortion.  You gotta have a lot of gall to do that.

Or maybe you thought that it wasn’t Peter it was the government that was going to pay the bill.

In the next to the last line gall was originally spelled gaul which was wrong.  Thank you, Honoria.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rule by Minority

I just don't get it.  Granted, I have been busy and not able to listen to all of the talking heads about the government shut down or read many articles.  But I work with numbers for a living and the math of this seems wrong to me.  Maybe my assumptions are wrong.  From what I understand a minority in the House is responsible for what everyone else says is crazy (the shut down).  In the House, again as I understand it, a simple majority is all it takes to pass a bill.  So, if the problem here is a minority in the House then I don't get it.  The majority should tell the minority to take a hike and get on with the business of governing.  Perhaps the majority is afraid of the minority because of the Tea Party effect on primaries which are always just around the corner for the House members.

Another thing I don't get...if a law is defunded by Congress leaving the government unable to enact that law, isn't Congress breaking the law or at least obstructing the law?  Even if a law is defunded, the law is still a law.  Doesn't Congress have a legal obligation to fund the laws on the books?  This tactic of trying to extort what the minority wants by holding the country's purse strings hostage leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.  We now have rule by minority if this is a successful tactic.  Law enforcement warns that if you allow yourself to be a victim of extortion, the extortionist will just keep coming back for more.  If this is a successful tactic it most likely will become the norm and will be used by members of both parties, whichever one is the minority at the time.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Sorry I've been very  busy lately.

Be back soon.