Thursday, November 3, 2011

This is Just Too Rich







I know, I know. I've taken a vow of silence.

But, I'm not saying anything.
Really.
This video speaks for itself.
This is a Republican star.

Link to these youtube videos of Rick Perry. The first is unexpurgated and is a single click; the second, with the brevity of wit is Jon Stewart, requires a right click and open.

Do not deny yourself this pleasure.

You cannot make this stuff up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLi83CSaNBA

or the Daily Show:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-october-31-2011/indecision-2012---ruh-roh-edition

Okay. enough.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Speakers' Corner: On Conversation in the Digital Age


At Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park I once heard a man, standing on a box: He held forth on the topic of what could induce him to speak about important topics of the day. He said, "I refuse, on principle, to stand here on the cusp of one of the world's foremost exchanges of ideas and speak tofewer than 100 people." He carried on like this, with great earnestness, for some time, and I listened, enthralled, until I finally caught on to the joke. Nobody gathered a
crowd of 100 at Speakers' Corner. There were a dozen speakers that day, none of whom had more than a dozen listeners. This speaker was a street performer, with no real intent, other than to entertain, and that he did well, holding me for a good twenty minutes, while he elaborated on the lack of value of speaking to small gatherings.

Another story, this one likely apocryphal, from medical school. A four year old child was brought to New York Hospital and admitted for aphasia, inability to speak. He had hit his developmental milestones normally, and spoke quite normally until he stopped, and this turned out to be an important point, nobody in his family could quite agree or date exactly when he stopped talking.

He came from a family of eight children, a boisterous, rollicking Irish family, and he had three younger siblings, age 1, 2 and 3 and four older sibs, the oldest 12 years old. He was evaluated by a medical student, an intern and finally a neurologist, who could find nothing amiss on the neurological exam, all reflexes and findings normal.

Toward the end of an hour, the neurologist asked him why he thought he could not speak. The child shrugged. Would you like an ice cream from the cafeteria? The child nodded. What flavor? "Chocolate chip," the child replied brightly. The jaws of the medical student and intern dropped and the neurologist smiled and asked the child, "Why have you not been speaking?" The child did not look up from his shoe tops, and just shrugged.

"Does any one ever listen to you?" The child shook his head.

And that was the diagnosis. This was a well loved child. His mother was, as you can imagine, quite distressed, but the child stopped talking simply because he had concluded there is no point to talking in a family where everyone is always talking and nobody listening.

Which brings me to the point of whether or not it is sheer petulance to refuse to continue to post diatribes, if the free market of ideas has shown no indication these ramblings are of any value to anyone. One or two random comments from kind readers are simply not enough.

Mad Dog has heard from editors of magazines, political scientists, relatives, friends with words of encouragement and their kindness has been appreciated, but that is not, Mad Dog has finally realized why he writes. The point of a blog is conversation. Mad Dog says A, and some person in Indiana says, well yes, A, but really not A so much as B, and then Mad Dog says, "Ah, you have enlightened me. I had not thought of that."

But postings, even the 300 postings on the Gail Collins Opinionator blog do not constitute a conversation. Perhaps there is no way to have a conversation among 300 people.

I do not understand what "Followers" are. I suspect they somehow get Mad Dog's posting automatically and are perhaps more likely than others to respond.

But as a Mad Dog, I have certain rights. And one of them is to say: I have, what? Over 50 posts to this blog and I refuse to speak to less than 25 people. If I have fewer than that many followers than the blogosphere has voted with its feet, or it's keyboards or whatever the appropriate image is for cyberspace.

I am at Speakers' Corner and I refuse to speak to fewer than 25 people.

So there.

Of course, if one of them is Gail Collins or Stephen Colbert, that is quite enough.

But, failing that, you have heard the last from Mad Dog.

All those of you who have come to Church and not put anything in the tray, well you can just go home and watch the Republican debates, heaven help you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blogoshere Instructs Mad Dog









I am new to blogs and, some would say, a neophyte in the new world of on line exchange.

But I do have this blog, so I'm trying.

Yesterday, I discovered Gail Collins has a blog with David Brooks and the way they do it is to post a back and forth between them and then you, as the reader can respond in this little box called "Comment."

I typed in my comment and used a friend's name and then...nothing. A little pop up said I'd get an email about my comment having been accepted. Nothing, so I typed in my comment again and seeing nothing in my email, gave up.

Later, I checked and found my two identical submissions among 90 others. A day later there were almost 300 comments, most of which made exactly the same points. There was no real exchange of ideas, no back and forth among the respondents.

But there is voting!

This confused me mightily. The first comment got 400 votes. You vote by checking a box called "Recommended." By around comment 100, nobody was getting any votes; Presumably very few people were reading past comment 100.

But then, a new discovery: One reader's comments were highlighted in blue as being judged particularly thoughtful, the explanation said. Who thought it was thoughtful was never explained. Gail Collins? David Brooks? Or some intern assigned to blog management?

The comment did seem to summarize many of the points made in about 200 of the submissions.

Yes, I did read through all the comments.

It was an mind numbing experience.

It has made me wonder: Why are we all doing this?

We are talking at each other, not with each other.

It reminded me of Samuel Johnson's question: Why is it there is so much writing, and so little reading?

I will have to think again about my own blog.

Is It The American Spring Yet?















From left: Ellen Schultz, Mad Dog, Gail Collins







"Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men...Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers."

--Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address

"Corporations are people, my friend."
--Mitt Romney

"I'll believe corporations are people when they execute one in Texas."
--Sign in the Occupy Wall Street crowd


For change to come in a republic like ours, enamored of the illusion of the independent man, living off the land, dependent on no man, we need a strong dose of truth and reality to slap the dreamers in the face and get them to open their eyes.

For years now, Joe Sixpack and countless of his fellow citizens have been working two jobs, telling themselves and their buddies they are going to make it, because in America all you have to do is work hard, play by the rules and if the government doesn't give it all away to undeserving welfare queens, why then, you will get rich; you will ascend to that promised land where the 1% live.

Gently, for some time, Gail Collins has been shaking them by the shoulders, trying to get them to see the full package of dreams the Republicans sell is simply the opiate of the masses. She has been telling them about Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann and each of the Republican snake oil salesmen, and most especially about Mitt Romney and his unfortunate wind whipped dog.

Here I must take the time to digress--you will allow me a personal note. As you can see from my updated picture, I have a personal stake in the discussion of crates strapped to the tops of cars, and, by extension, water boarding and other forms of abuse, and I can only thank Gail Collins for keeping this important issue front and center.

But back to the illuminators. Ms. Collins has given us some unsettling details about who these Republicans really are, but we needed details on how their patrons have amassed the wealth to pay for these Republican office holders.

Now, Ellen Schultz has detailed the ways in which companies like General Electric built up huge funds of cash which was held in accounts which the companies initially said were for the pensions of their employees, but which executives depleted and diverted into their own personal accounts. This allowed these executives, who walked away from their companies with tens of millions of dollars to divert half a million here and there to buy elected represenatives to pass the legislation they needed to stay out of jail.

Of course, all this robbery was perfectly legal--the one percenters made sure the congressmen and senators they owned took care of that with legislation--but that does not make it right.

So now we have pie charts which show 80% of the American population as such a thin slice you can hardly see it. And in that 80% are the policemen, the soldiers, the teachers, the pediatricians and primary care doctors, the air traffic controllers, the Coast Guard guys who jump into perfect storms to rescue fishermen, the guys who weld steel girders thirty stories above the ground, the steel workers, the people who build cars and bridges.

In the upper 1% are the people who move money, the "money changers" as Roosevelt called them.
Roosevelt chose that language deliberately. These are the money changers in the temple against whom Jesus raged. And what is the modern version of the temple? I would submit, the hospital, the factory, the roadways and bridges, the steel mills, all the work places where fruitful, necessary work which benefits the community is done. We are told none of these places could exist without that top 1% arranging for the financing. I have no way of knowing whether or not this is true, but I suspect those money changers could do their work for 1/10 of what they pay themselves and still live very well.
And standing steadfastly for this 1% are Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly.


If the best disinfectant is sunlight, then someone has to shine that disinfectant on these guys, individually, systematically, until people even in New Hampshire know their names and why they should resent what each of these guys is doing.

Right now, from my own informal survey, which, if I called it a poll David Brooks would no doubt accept instantly as received truth, New Hampshire folks by and large do not know the Republicans in Washington; we do know Rush/Glenn/Sean and Bill because they are on the radio up here.

But it's time we shined the light on those guys and Washington who are hurting us. And while we are at it, let's include Kelly Ayotte and Frank Guinta, two soul mates of the Republican choir.

Let's take one small step for New Hampshire, and, hopefully, a giant leap for mankind.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ellen Schultz and Class Warfare





Double click on the Green chart to enlarge.

Do not double click on Ellen Schultz( She looks good enough already.)






Every time Democrats have raised the idea of taxing millionaires. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and all the Republicans raise the cry "Class Warfare!"


Of course, the Democratic response has been, the only class warfare has been by the rich on the poor, trying to kill Social Security and Medicare and every program Republicans say we cannot afford and the poor do not deserve any way.

But now we have an unlikely knight in shining armor, a woman who is clearly outraged, but not raising her voice, just telling us the facts, just the facts ma'am.

She is a Wall Street Journal reporter, and she's written Retirement Heist, in which she documents just exactly how the rich have pilloried the poor. There has been, she says, a massive transfer of wealth over the past two decades from the great mass of retirees to a small number of executives, who have enriched themselves, all apparently quite legally by helping themselves to the accounts which had been set up to pay retirees pensions.

The rich simply helped themselves to the pensions of the less rich, and left the average workers to fend for themselves, stripped them of the pensions they though they had worked for all those years.

Schultz says, "The plans were in fact significantly overfunded. They had more than enough to pay every dime for every person employed and already retired." But those funds were looted by executives for their own golden parachutes or their own retirement funds at blue chip companies like General Electric.

The result is the re distribution of wealth evident in the green pie chart. Republicans have been chiding Obama for wanting to have the government redistribute the wealth, and now we can see why they were so irate about the prospect of social engineering. They have been doing some secret social engineering of their own, and they have been laughing at the poor suckers who put in years at all those wonderful companies to fund the retirement and grand life styles of the rich.

Think the 99% would be interested in this story? Isn't that what those incoherent crowds have been shouting about? The underlying complaint is that they believe the rich have gotten their gains as ill gotten. "Behind every great fortune, there is a crime," sort of thing.

Or as someone holding a sign on Wall Street said, "I'll believe corporations are people when they start executing them in Texas."







The Difference Between Fair and Just







DOUBLE CLICK ON PIE CHART TO ENLARGE





Judge Learned Hand (his actual name) bid good-bye to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. as Judge Holmes left New York to take his new job on the United States Supreme court.

"I wanted to provoke a response," Judge Hand said, "So as he walked off, I said to him, 'Well, sir, goodbye. Do justice!"

Holmes replied, "That is not my job. My job is to play the game according to the rules."

This distinction between what is legal and what is moral has arisen in sharp relief throughout our nation's history. It was once legal to forbid Black Americans from using a Whites Only drinking fountain, or a Whites Only bathroom or Whites Only swimming pool. Legal but immoral. It was illegal to refuse to be put in a position where you had to kill Vietnamese peasants. The war in Vietnam was legal binding on every draftee, but that didn't make it morally correct to fight there.

Now Ellen Schultz, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal,( that's right, Rupert Murdock's right wing rag,) has written a book, Retirement Heist, in which she documents how large corporations have raided their employee's retirement funds, which only two decades ago, in aggregate, had a trillion dollars excess, to pay for golden parachutes and severance pay and retirement boondoggles for their chief executives, or to pay for mergers and acquisitions, all perfectly legally, all within the rules.

So the little guys at General Electric discovered their pension plan had evaporated. GE had not put one red cent into its pension plan since the mid-1980's; it used assets from the plans to pay for other things.


"The plans were in fact significantly overfunded," Schultz says. ""They had more than enough to pay every dime for every person currently employed and already retired." Meanwhile, the companies were crying Wah Wah, they didn't have enough to pay unexpectedly high health care costs or pensions for all those undeserving retirees, who had planned for, paid into and expected support from these pension plans.

So, the private sector, the great white knight on the stallion of economic drive and innovation, our only hope for the average American in this recession, as the Republicans remind us ad nauseum, the entrepreneurs and captains of industry who are the only people we can rely on to save our nation from its financial quagmire, have been robbing the average American blind all these years.

And the Republicans point their fingers at the government as the source of all misery and wrong doing. Oh, the nasty government with all those regulations!

Wouldn't those GE workers have been happy for a little more government regulation?

Just look at that pie graph. See how, playing by the rules, the rich in this country have raped the other 80% of this nation.

The rich can play by the rules, because they've bought and paid for those rules, bought and paid for Congressmen and Senators, who were either alseep at the wheel and did not know what they were voting for (the generous reading of history) or happily complicit in the rape, because they were getting paid, kept in office and flown around on private jets to nice golf courses.

The New York Times this morning has an article about President Obama's new strident, or as they put it, "caustic" tone, saying he risks alienating the part of the public which looked to him to end the partisan bickering in Washington, but instead he is playing Harry Truman and running against Congress and sounding all angry.

As if anger is never appropriate. As if moral outrage is somehow a disqualifier for public office. As if our delicate psyches just cannot take so much discord.

One might ask the New York Times, what do you think is the appropriate response to the vitriol which daily spews from Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, virtually every Republican on Capitol Hill?

Bickering is a tango; it takes two.

Yesterday, Mitch McConnell in explaining why he was voting down the jobs bills used one of those h down home quips, "There's no education in the second kick of the mule." By which he meant, if you didn't learn the first time you were kicked, you're not going to get much more enlightenment from the second. He was saying the first stimulus package Congress votes through did not help, why try again?

Of course, what he didn't say is actually the first bill would have worked, had the Republicans not wounded it so badly by cutting it down from a size which would have had the power to jump start the economy. The battery needed 400 volts and the Republicans would allow only 100 volts.

But even as diminished as that first try was, a lot of economists believe had it not been for that first stimulus bill and some other maneuvers by the Fed, we would not be mired in a recession today, we'd be in full blow Depression.

So maybe Mitch McConnell needs that second kick in his behind.

And when President Obama delivers it, I hope he is not smiling and cooing and sounding non partisan. I hope President Obama is channeling Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt. Neither of these guys were afraid of a little outrage.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The 99%













Some weeks ago Mad Dog wrote about some really amazing pie graphs which showed in a very visually striking way the astonishing reality of wealth distribution in the United States.


Now we have the 99% crowd, apparently motivated by the same images, in streets from New York to Boston and beyond. What exactly brings them to the streets is not so easy to discern, but clearly, a common theme appears to be outrage at the few how have so much, while the many have no jobs and no prospects.

Last night, on The News Hour, a man from a "conservative think tank" said that if you really think about the 99%, they are objecting to the fact that some people make only $500,000 a year, by which he meant in the upper 10-20% of the wealthiest Americans there are people making that much but they do not make it into the upper 1%.

Nicholas Kristoff floated another figure in the New York Times: the 400 wealthiest families in the USA own more wealth than all the wealth owned by 90% of the population.

Different ways of looking at who owns how much.

For the conservative think tank guy, he is very smug about how you slice and dice the numbers, but if you look at those pie graphs, there is no real argument. This looks worse than the distribution of wealth in Marie Antoinette's France, and smug rich conservative Republicans can say "Let them eat cake," all they want to, but they ignore what everyone else can see and they do it at their own peril.

Those pie graphs ought to be printed on T shirts and handed out at super markets by Democrats here in New Hampshire and everywhere around the country. They ought to be on bumper stickers. Don't explain too much, just put up those pie graphs and let people ask you about them.

And while we are printing up T shirts, let's print a few with Got Medicare? Thank Democrats on the front and Got Social Security? Thank Democrats on the back.

And when we get closer to November 2012, Frank Guinta, Medicare Killer. Kelly Ayotte, Medicare Killer. (I know she's not running but maybe we can shame her into resigning. Hey, Republicans live in a dream world, why can't Mad Dog?)

If the 99% movement means anything, it's that class warfare should be alive and fed and nurtured. The only class warfare we've had thus far has come from the rich against all the rest of us.

FDR, Obama and the Tearful Wah Wah Republicans


One important quality of leadership is the ability to recognize when you can reason with your opponent and when you cannot, when you have to stop talking and hit him between the eyes.

Even our greatest President was guilty of not realizing when his opponents had stopped listening. Listen to his first Inaugural Address given when seven states had already seceded. No cannon had fired on Lincoln's Fort Sumter, but every Southern voice was rife with rancor. And Lincoln's response? "Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection." And he appeals to "The better angels of our nature."

Sounds like President Obama appealing to John Boehner to come by and play a round of golf, to Mitch McConnell to drop by the White House, while McConnell, lips dripping with the venom of contempt, says from the floor of the Senate his first priority is not healing the nation's economy, but his first and highest and only mission is to remove President Obama from office.

Consider how another great President began his First Inaugural Address: "Our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts...The rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence...Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men."

Was this President Obama speaking? If only. No, this was Franklin Roosevelt.
Look how skillfully he alludes to the Bible, the plague of locusts, the money lenders in the temple. He doesn't have to thump his Bible, he knows his Bible, and he brings the weight of morality into play.

Oh, the class warfare!

"Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers."

Again, look at the imagery of these phrases. The Republicans are tearful, weak, wringing their hands, sobbing that there is nothing they as elected government officials can do--only the private sector, those mysterious, fabled, unseen captains of industry and commerce can rescue us; we cannot take action ourselves to help ourselves. We need to await the arrival of white knights on horseback to slay the dragons of recession and unemployment. This describes John Boehner and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor as clearly and precisely as it described their Republican ancestors. They are all cut of the same pin striped cloth.

"Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This nation asks for action and action now."

Well, here we do hear something familiar. Finally, Obama begins to echo Roosevelt. Pass my jobs bill and pass it now.

"It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources."

Hear an echo in this chamber? Has Obama not re invented this particular wheel with his hope for jobs in the green sector, jobs in clean energy, jobs to rebuild infrastructure?

"Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order; there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people's money."

No, that is not Obama speaking. Were it only. That's Roosevelt in 1933.

If those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, have we not found ourselves sliding down that path to a repetition of the Great Depression, with the Wah Wah Republicans crying great howls of protests about government Regulation, Roosevelt called it "supervision." Regulation got us into this horrible Recession the Republicans all wail, from Susan Collins to Olympia Snow to Rick Perry, they all read from the same hymn book. Oh, government's the problem.

But listen to FDR, and let us hope, President Obama catches some of his fire.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Numbers Don't Lie










I'd like to know where Nicholas Kristoff gets his numbers.
He says:
1. The 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the 150 million Americans who make up the bottom half.

2. The top 1 % of Americans possess more wealth than the folks who make up 90% of the nation.

I've tried finding this from the IRS website, but the IRS is more concerned with income, which, of course, especially in the case of the really rich, does not tell you much about "net wealth," which includes things like the value of stocks held, real estate and other stuff I can hardly imagine.

But if it's true, that should make quite a pie chart. That pie chart should be printed on T shirts and handed out by Democrats at super markets.

It might make some sense of the Wall Street protesters, or maybe not. Right now, I can't really quite understand those protesters. I remember protests from the sixties which looked a lot like this Kumbya crowd, but there was never any doubt what brought all those people to the national Mall in the 1960's--there was this thing called the Vietnam war. There were always people in the crowd who were vegetarians, save the planet, save the tiger, save the whales , but there was one unifying theme: Get out of Vietnam. These guys, not so much.

This protest of the "99%" reminds me of the guy in that movie who throws open a window and leans out and shouts, "I'm mad as Hell, and I'm not going to take it any more."

He could be a mad as hell Tea Party guy. You have to say what you want changed.

A depression era fighter (Raging Bull?) was asked about the pounding he took in the ring, and why he went back in, time after time. He couldn't make a living outside the ring, given the massive unemployment, but making a living in the right was brutal. Didn't he feel it was ultimately pretty discouraging, and he replied, "At least in the ring, I know who I am fighting."

Which was the problem in the Depression and now, you cannot understand who is hurting you. At least in the ring, there is clarity.

But if you have 1% or even 10% owning as much as everyone else combined, no matter how they got that wealth, something is wrong, big time.

Elizabeth Warren, Bless her, is saying what Democrats should all be saying--Okay rich guys, you 1-10% you got your wealth through a system the rest of us gave you, with our sweat. You transported your goods using our roads; you found your customers on the internet the government provided; you used the money our government prints, for Pete's sake.

Pay your share.

And, oh yes, remember it was the Republicans who repealed all those laws which were passed after the Depression to prevent another Depression, and they damn near succeeded in causing another Depression. You know who to punch out for that.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wah Wah Republicans Enter the Twilight Zone










This is really getting fun. Rick Perry just came out with his plan to revive the ailing American economy: It turns out the disease is a pestilence called the Environmental Protection Agency and all we have to do is to kill the EPA and look right below our own feet for the wealth which lies there to make us all rich.

And, Governor Perry tells us, this plan of his, drilling in the Artic, drilling offshore, drilling baby drill will create 1.2 million jobs! Yikes. Why didn't anyone else think of this?

Actually, his job plan will create only 9,432 jobs.

How do I know? Where does that number come from? I know that number because I just now made it up, just like Rick Perry did.

These Republicans, they always have some number, usually a very big number, to throw at you. Where do they get those numbers from? I used to wonder. I don't wonder any more. I know. They get it from where they live--in La La land. They live in Fantasyland.

As T.S. Eliot observed: Humankind cannot stand too much reality.

The other problem with reality is it's damn hard work figuring out how it really works. Engineers know this. Doctors learn it, in spades, because when they don't understand reality, they watch people die right in front of them. If you are a doctor, it just doesn't work to just claim something is true and to really really have faith in it. If you are wrong, all the faith and dreaming in the world won't help.

Now, you are wondering when I am going to get to Herman Cain. He at least presents a real plan: He's going to tax your groceries at 9%, which will be added to any local tax. In New Hampshire, that's usually zero. But it means that a sales tax finally will come to New Hampshire after all we've sacrificed to avoid one. So you go spend $100 at Shaw's and your bill is $109. You buy a $1000 TV and you give the government an extra $90, a $10,000 car and you throw in $900 for "Tax and Tags," in addition to whatever you pay your state.

This actually does not bother his Republican audience, because, let's face it, for most of them, those 9% add on's are chump change. And if they see their income tax go down from 34% to 9%, they come out ahead.

It's only the family trying to live on $40,000 who really feels that hit. David Brooks says that Herman Cain's 999 plan raises taxes on the middle class by 32%. There you go with those numbers again. Trot out a number and everyone nods his head, docilely. Oh, you have a number, must be true.

Give me that old time Fantasy any time.

I could learn to love Republicans. It's like going back to the sixties, smoking hallucinogens, feeling really groovy.

Now, if they could just come up with some good music.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Romney and the Dog












It may not be the most pressing question of the 2012 campaign, but I have to ask: Just how did the story about Romney tying his dog to the roof of his car come out?

Gail Collins, who is reliably droll, sane and a writer of great restraint, cannot restrain herself. It just keeps bubbling up from her primative cerebral centers, and it seems to come out of nowhere and she just cannot stop it. It appears in nearly every column, no matter how unrelated to dogs or cars or travel or even taxes or the economy.

I mean, there is only one possible source I can imagine, unless a policeman stopped him and created some sort of record.

But short of police involvement, or a some really improbable person with a cell phone camera, the only source for that story could have been Romney himself or someone in his family.

Any way you slice it, the fact the story came out at all is the really bizarre part.

I know I could look this up on the internet, and likely, some day I will. But right now, reading Gail Collins about this is just too much fun.

In fact, every discouraged Democrat ought to simply link to Gail Collins and Paul Krugman and start each day reading them. It's almost enough to make one believe there are well springs of truth, virtue and reality still percolating up through the scum and muck of the Republican vituperation and disingenuousness which passes for thought on the right.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wah Wah Republican Follies


I missed the candidates' debate last night. Detroit was playing Texas. But I heard the headlines and the sound bites this morning.

It seems they all agreed on the big issue: The economy is in the doldrums because--one guess now, and remember these are Republicans talking: Oh, yes! It's the government!

Not just the government, the federal government.

Forget about those bankers making loans to deadbeats and people who were well meaning but incapable; forget about those Wall Street sharpies who were selling securities using those really worthless mortgage loans as security; forget about the European union implosion; forget about, most of all, those two big whirlpools over there called "Iraq" and "Afghanistan" where we spent in one week what it would cost to fund healthcare for every American for about a year.

Naw, none of that even exists--can't hear about it, can't see it and sure cannot talk about it, because Republicans stick to the script. Have been doing that since they discovered a guy named Reagan who was just great as long as he stuck to the script. And ever since then, they all do.

Except maybe for Chris Christie, who is, as Mara Liasson tells us is, "Authentic." Which means he does stray from the "Government is bad. Government is the problem not the solution. Government regulations are the problem killing the economy. Government is discouraging the almighty Job Creators." Sometimes he says something that doesn't sound as if it came out of the Republican/Fox News word processor, something you haven't heard on Rush or Glenn or Sean.

Speaking of which, did you know Elizabeth Warren is a parasite who doesn't care about her host?

That is, as opposed to all those parasites who are quite considerate of their hosts.

And here I thought Ron Paul was the designated authentic Republican.

But I'm not done with Mara Liasson. During the last presidential campaign I listened to NPR every day and whenever Mara Liasson came on I kept thinking my radio had somehow jumped the dial to Fox News. Her reports had sixty second sound bites from Sarah Palin (you remember Sarah) and a three second snippet from Barack Obama sounding as if he was choking on a biscotti. She is the great stealth bomber of the Fox News crowd. Apparently, she has the zealotry of the convert: In high school, growing up in Scarsdale, New York (fertile Fox News spawning ground) she helped form the Scarsdale Alternative School, which sounds like some kind of Hippie response to the button down privileged elitist environment of Scarsdale, but what's in a name? Then, after Brown, where they actually have a transgender dormitory, she shipped out to San Francisco, where she was, one can only imagine, traumatized by the liberal scene in Haight Ashbury and so flipped out she ran right over and joined Fox News and hasn't looked back since. Somehow, I suppose in some guilt ridden attempt to add "Balance" to NPR news,NPR hired her back which is like Abraham Lincoln hiring Jefferson Davis as his press secretary after the war, in an attempt at "Balance." Anyway, Mara thinks Chris Christies is "Authentic." That's like calling snake oil "Natural," and you know, natural is always healthy and good for you.

One thing which was really fun was hearing Michelle Bachmann tell Herman Cain that a 9% sales tax would lead to a value added tax, which came out of the same orbit as her friend who told her HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. Mitt Romney, ever the centrist, said the simple 9-9-9 formula is, in fact, simplistic, and simple answers to complex problems are often ineffective. Now that, coming from a Republican, is news.

How about the simple answer: The problem with the economy is the government. Just get the government off the backs of the people and we don't have to do anything else. Is that not the Republican line? Very simple. Joe Sixpack can learn that right quick. We don't want to stray to that Democratic quamire called "Complexity," now do we?

Here's a simple formula: Vote for Brain Dead Republicans, they may be zombies, but there is very little batch to batch variation and you know what you are getting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wah-Wah Republicans: Given 'Em Hell, Barry














Here among my friends in New Hampshire precious few know the name Eric Cantor. Which means, of course, too few follow Jon Stewart or the essential Stephen Colbert.

So, I will have to make an introduction: Mr. Cantor is a Congressman from Richmond, Virginia--you remember Richmond, capital of the Confederacy, then once the feds regulated them out of slavery (the 13th and 14th amendments), they turned their entrepreneurial spirit to the cultivation of tobacco--anyway, he is the latest attack dog for the Republican party.

Yesterday, on the Squawkbox, an insufferable morning show with an officious right wing host who has all the qualifications of a right wing agitator, good hair and a pugnacious style, Mr. Cantor inveighed against President Obama's road trips around the country during which the President brings attention to Republican senators and congressmen who refuse to tax millionaires and who have targeted Medicare and Social Security as public nuisances.

"Stop the campaigning. City after city, yeah. Listen, there's no question that that's what happened. Immediately, the next day after the speech was given, he came to Richmond, my district, and then that bridge in Ohio. Right. It's like somebody going around the country picking a fight. The country doesn't need that. I mean people are angry in this country. Middle class does need to see leadership in Washington. It's not inflaming division but instead focusing on solutions, that's what we're trying to do."

This amounts to what Paul Krugman has called, "The Panic of the Plutocrats," i.e. the politicians and right wing talk show hosts who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent. Mr. Cantor has attacked the Wall Street protesters as mobs who are "Pitting Americans against Americans," and he invokes, as do all Republicans any complaint about not taxing millionaires as "Class warfare."

Stephen Schwartzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, compared an Obama proposal to close a loophole that lets some millionaires pay absurdly low taxes to Hitler's invasion of Poland.

And George Will inveighed that Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic contender for the current Republican senate seat in Massachusetts, has a "collectivist agenda." Rush Limbaugh went one better, as he called her "a parasite who hates her host. Willing to destroy the host while she sucks the life out of it."

I defer to Mr. Limbaugh and his Republican cronies, who are the experts on sucking the life out of their hosts.

These are the people, Krugman observes, who are not Steve Jobs. They invented nothing, made nothing. They got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that brought us the wonderful world of financial collapse, and they paid no price. They are like the spider wasps, who suck their host dry, then move on. "Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers...They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees--basically they're still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose...This special treatment can't bear close scrutiny--and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage...So who's really being un-American?"

Monday, October 10, 2011

Honor, Duty, Country










"Stand with anybody that stands right, stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong."

--Abraham Lincoln

"My country...right or wrong."
--Stephen Decatur

"A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it."
--Henry David Thoreau

"You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it."
--Malcolm X


So, I have opposed these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, just as I opposed the war in Viet Nam, and for many of the same reasons: A war fought for a bogus reasons, with a "Mission" at best ill conceived and at worst, phony.

Actually, I was less adamantly opposed to Afghanistan at first because I was willing to suspend judgment given there was a plausible, if not fully believable story that Osama Bin Laden, who may well have been the instigator, if not the operational commander of the attack on 9/11, may have been sheltered there.

But once the man was killed, I saw, and still see no reason to risk the loss of a single American life in that land.


Certainly, we have no business trying to build a single school or library, no business trying to change those people in any way. They live by their own rules and they suffer the consequences, and we have no business trying to whip any American values on them.

I can understand the psychology of winning. But that does not mean I'm blinded by it. In a previous posting I said my brother was not downhearted about our loss in Viet Nam, having served there. He has since corrected me. He was unhappy about that outcome. He developed no abiding affection, apparently, for the Cong, who fired rockets at him. It's tough, apparently, to remain objective about the motivations of someone who tries to shoot you. He knew and served with people who had died there and it disturbed him their deaths were in a losing effort.

I was arguing however, about Marvin Kalb's punditry in which he echoed that absurd narrative that our country behaved as a defeated man, confidence shattered, head down, never the same man again. Baloney. Our country is too big, and there were as many reactions to that outcome as there were people. Fact is, there were never any vital American interests in Viet Nam and we could simply walk away from that bad mortgage with no damage to our credit.

One of my best friends--I was best man at his wedding--is a career naval officer and he's done several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can't really talk to him any more about my opposition to those wars. He thinks the effort is FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.) He has the grunt's eye view: Stupid orders from stupid people who don't understand as the grunts on the ground what needs to be done. But he wants to continue the fight. Because, as Slim Charles says in The Wire, "That's what war is, you know. Once you in it, you in it. If it's a lie, then you fight on that lie. But you got to fight."

I don't feel that way. I never got my own nose bloodied in Viet Nam or Iraq or Afghanistan, and that gives me, I submit, an opportunity to be a little more objective. I can understand once you are bloodied, you have to be pulled off your adversary. You are no longer thinking dispassionately. In fact, you stop thinking, once your blood is up.

But somebody has to pull Sonny Corleone off the guy he's wailing on. Someone who has a cooler head has to be in charge. Sonny flies off and gets ambushed at the toll booth. He's volatile. He's easy to predict, and thus easy to defeat. A leader has to remain cool, to calculate, to be subtle, when it's necessary.

For me question is, how does this war help America?


The answer, once Osama is dead, is then there is no way anything else over there should interest us.

We should be out of there, yesterday.

And don't give me that stuff about denying "them" a safe haven. We could wipe Iraq and Afghanistan off the face of the earth and there would still be Somalia, and Indonesia and some apartment in Berlin or some hotel in Florida or some farm in Oklahoma where Al Queda can train and plot and launch an attack.

Beyond the loss of life, beyond the ruined lives of the amputees and the brain injured, there is the cold hard calculation of the damage these wars have done our economy.

That is where Osama had his real success. He may have killed three thousand on 9/11, but his greatest victory would be he knew his adversary. He knew George II would come out with both guns blazing and George would shoot his own country not just in the foot, but in the gut, and send the economy to the intensive care unit on life support.

We have to be smarter than that.

We have to serve our country with our minds, not as wind up wooden soldiers, but as thinking, smart grown ups.

Or, as Stringer Bell would say, "We got to start acting like businessman. Sell the shit. Make the profit. And later for that gansta bullshit."

Eric Cantor: The Aroma of the Right


"What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself."

--Abraham Lincoln








Eric Cantor was on Squawkbox this morning. They asked him about his opposition, the opposition of every Republican from Kelly Ayotte to John Boehner to the tax on millionaires.

He said, "We've got a terrible wealth disparity situation in this country we have to address."

Hey, I'm with him so far. He can say things like that and then smile brightly as if he just got made Speaker of the House. Yes, I agree with this Republican, we do have a huge wealth disparity in this country. One percent of the people own 20% of all the nation's wealth, and 20% own 80% of all the wealth. I'm with this guy for even acknowledging this as a problem. Haven't heard any Republican do this before.

But wait. He kept talking: "The answer is not to go and take from the one who is successful and give it to everybody else. We want everyone else to be successful."

Well, yes Congressman, we would all have to agree we want everyone to be successful.

"Republicans are for both the man and the dollar, but in case of conflict, the man before the dollar."
--Abraham Lincoln

And then the Congressman swings into why we should not tax the millionaires:
"Here's my response to that. We've got to fix the problem on the debt. We've got a debt crisis. And we know what the problem is. The party and the president refused to do that. So now you have a situation where you want to raise taxes and haven't fixed the problem, much. It's like throwing good money after bad."

I must have missed something. I was looking for the part where he explains why it is a bad idea to tax millionaires. If we have a debt problem, by which I think he means a deficit problem, that would mean to most people, we need to find some money to fix it, and as Willy Sutton once said, you go where the money is, But then Cantor flies off, saying we cannot go where the money is, but we ought to go back to blaming the Democratic party and the president for refusing to fix the deficit. But the President says we are going to find money to fix the problem, and some of that money should come from millionaires.

Am I missing something?

And how did he get from taxing millionaires to throwing good money after bad. That expression usually has to do with investing money in a business which is going to fail anyway. The next cliche which usually follows is, "Cut your losses," which is clearly what Mr. Cantor should have done.

But no, he continues, "What is the point of bringing it up other than demagoguing the issue for electioneering and political purposes to start 2012 early in November?"

Oh, those Democrats, trying to get a jump on the political process early in November. We've had what? A hundred Republican debates ever since the fires started burning in Texas, but that was just honest discussion, not politicking.

And he is most indignant about the President giving the Republicans Hell about their unwillingness to tax the millionaires. "Stop the campaigning. City after city, yeah. Listen, there's no question that that's what happened. Immediately, the next day after the speech was given, he came to Richmond, my district, and then that bridge in Ohio. Right. It's like somebody going around the country picking a fight. The country doesn't need that. I mean people are angry in this country. Middle class does need to see leadership in Washington. It's not inflaming division but instead focusing on solutions, that's what we're trying to do."

Oh, I must have missed that, too. I kept seeing the Party of No. Every single Republican stamping his or her feet, saying, "NO! There is nothing the government can do to help the economy or create jobs. Only the small businessman can do that. The job creators! And the government, oh the government and the president, they are so bad and nasty."

So, I would have to infer Give 'Em Hell, Obama has got their attention. Maybe doesn't have the attention, yet, of Joe Sixpack, but one thing you know about the Republican Party, they all attend the same meeting and they speak the Party Line, from Mitch McConnell to Olympia Snow, they use the same phrases, "Anti-business, Tax and Spend Democrats, regulatory burdens, Job Creators. "

So when you hear Eric Cantor complaining about Obama attacking Republicans for being in the pockets of millionaires, you know the whole Republican clique has got together and fumed about it. Wah, wah, wah. These Republicans, they can dish it out, but they cannot take it. What wusses.

Or, as one Republican President once said, "These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people."

Abraham Lincoln, in case you did not guess.

Not hard to guess how Honest Abe would react to what he hears from today's Republicans.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Shadow and the Tree


"Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."
--Abraham Lincoln





There's a wonderful story line in The Wire, which concerns the newly elected Mayor of Baltimore, Tommy Carcetti, who has to choose between getting five million dollars for the crumbling Baltimore schools, which would come at the price of personal humiliation, because he would be taking it from a Republican governor, who would free the funds but only on the condition the state would control their use, saying the Democratic city government could not be trusted to use it wisely. Carcetti spurns the money, to the disgust of his most valued aide, Norman Wilson. Later, Wilson drinks in a darkened bar with the former chief aide to the mayor Carcetti and Wilson had defeated. Wilson finds a sympathetic audience in his former rival and counterpart. "No matter how good they look at first," the aide tells Wilson, "They never stay that way." Wilson agrees, "They will always disappoint you."

Life is imitating art with the presidency of Barack Obama, as he has to make choices which disappoint his followers.

You can hear Lyndon Johnson on the phone if you listen to the Johnson tape explaining to his good friend, Georgia senator Richard Russell, why he is pushing so hard on the Civil Rights Act and on Medicare, so early in his term.

You're going to burn out, Russell tells him. Let things build naturally.

No, Johnson tells him, he's seen this in presidents before, when you are new to the job, you haven't made all that many enemies, but with each decision, you lose more and more friends. You have to get the most important things done first, because each thing becomes harder and harder, as you pile more boulders on your back with each new decision.


Bill Clinton should have listened to Johnson--he started with gays in the military. A just cause, no doubt, but not the most important thing he had to accomplish.

Obama began with heath care, which showed great judgment. He might be a young president, but he got the most important decision right: Start with the most important thing. Health care costs are dragging down American industry. Other countries take that burden off the backs of their private sector companies. General Motors runs its race with Toyota carrying a hundred pound back pack of health care costs for its workers.

Eventually, you have to get to the other things on the list and Afghanistan and Iraq are not even in second place. In terms of getting re elected, it's the economy, stupid. And in terms of remaining a military power, it's the economy.

But eventually, you have to deal with Afghanistan and Iraq. It's not urgent, true, but it's important. It's not urgent because politicians learned the Viet Nam lesson: You can rape another country, and you can send your own youth off to die, but you cannot do it with a draft. As soon as you involve the uninterested, parochial, ignorant folks who live in all the villages across the land, once you start reaching into the homes of mothers whose only real interest in life are their own children and homes, well then you unleash the furies.

The best way to wake insular American citizens to the harm their country is doing in some far off place is to pluck American children from American homes, from their automobiles, their first jobs, their girlfriends (and now boyfriends) and to send them off and return them in flag draped coffins. Then, those mothers who could not name the speaker of the house, or the senate majority leader, or the secretary of defense, then these blissfully ignorant people become a force and a movement.

So, the government has done the shrewd thing: They've made patriotism a financial proposition--fight for your country, join the military and you've got a steady income, the GI bill for education and housing once you're out, and all you've got to do is take a risk, a big risk, the risk of death in the field, but the body counts have been low. Ten years in Afghanistan and we've lost only a tenth of what we lost in five years in Viet Nam.

According the Marvin Kalb, in today's New York Times, Obama "would occasionally slip into an aide's office, lean on his desk and wonder aloud whether he was making the same mistakes Johnson had made."

As well he should.

A recent National Public Radio piece on girls in Afghanistan prisons brings home the problem. A thirteen year old girl's brother runs off with a neighbor's daughter. The neighbor is outraged, fires shots into the girl's house, stalks the family of this boy who ran off with his daughter. The girl's father offers the girl in marriage to this irate neighbor. The neighbor is placated. He may have lost his own daughter, but now he can acquire a sprightly young wife. But the girl runs away with her boyfriend, not wanting to marry a man who has grandchildren, a man who has terrorized her family, not exactly a potential soul mate. The girl is captured, and sent to prison. Her father shows up and tells her she has disgraced her family by refusing this husband who was selected for her. But she has a surprise for him. She has given birth, in prison, to her boyfriend's baby. He replies, she can still come home, but only if she kills the baby.

There's honor for you, Afghan style.


This is but one of many stories which illuminate why the United States of America has no business in Afghanistan. Maybe we did once, to seek out Osama, but that was a mission we could have done without building schools and libraries for the Taliban to blow up. And once Osama was dead, then we should pull out that strike force and come home and do it within weeks not years.

So why does Obama not do that? Why is he keeping our troops in country at a rate of 70,000 still in Afghanistan even after the 30,000 scheduled for withdrawal in December?

It can only be the Tommy Carcetti calculation. He does not want to be humiliated. Lyndon Johnson said he would not be defeated by a "Raggedy-ass, little fourth rate country." What he did not realize is you cannot bomb a country back to the stone age when they are already living in the stone age.

You have as a mission remaking a country in our own image, whipping a little American industry on them, as George Carlin would say. Problem is, you can build schools and other buildings, but you cannot change culture; you cannot change values for all the money and bombs in the world.

Obama and our generals now talk of "The Mission" in Afghanistan. Well, sure go ahead and tell us what that mission is. Do you re-educate that father about what he ought to do with his daughter? And are the lessons given in English?

Kalb tells us of Viet Nam "The defeat was a humiliation, and it stripped the country of its illusions of omnipotence. From boundless self-confidence, Americans descended into self-doubt."

I know history is one long argument, but I lived through those years, and so it's not history book history to me. I remember all that. I did not feel at all humiliated. I did not see America slink off in a funk and not go to work or not create an Internet or computers or a satellite system or GPS. I went on with my medical training, with great relief. Like all doctors in 1973, when I graduated I knew it didn't matter what my lottery number was. They drafted every single intern the day his internship finished and sent him off to Viet Nam. I was, with all my friends, on the launching pad.

But then the whole thing collapsed. The nation building was wrecked by the invading North Viet Namese army and helicopters lifted the last Americans off the Saigon embassy roof and I jumped for joy. I would not have to go to Viet Nam. My self confidence took not a blow. I never felt omnipotent.

Who are these people who lost self confidence? My brother served in Viet Nam. He never struck me as someone who felt omnipotent. When he returned, and Viet Nam collapsed, he did not skulk around. He was delighted. He was delighted to be home, alive, all limbs intact. He went out and led a very productive life.

In The Way We Were Robert Redford talks about how the passions of the moment wash away, once economies start asserting themselves. "Twenty years from now, we'll be giving them jobs and money and they'll take it because they will need or want the money, and nobody will even remember the way we were."

Our military may have felt humiliated, but I was, at best, just a fan. I was not in that fight. I had no dog in that fight. Like Muhammad Ali, I could say, "I ain't got no fight with them Cong."


Whenever you see words like "Humiliation," or "Honor" or "Self confidence," or "Reputation," your antenae ought to start flashing like a neon light: Bogus.

Nobody ever died of humiliation or lost honor.

Listen to those Lyndon Johnson tapes sometime. Johnson on the phone with Richard Russell, who sounds like a true Georgia cracker, accent so thick and slow he sounds brain damaged to the average New Englander. And Johnson asks his old, best friend, what he ought to do about Viet Nam. He doesn't want to be the first president to lose a war. And Russell, drawls, "Well, you know, Mr. President, them Cong is going to be there forever. They ain't got nowhere else."
"I know, " Johnson says.
"And we got to come out of there, eventually. We don't want to stay there."
"I know."
"Well, thing is, Mr. President," Russell drawls. "They know that too."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dead Seals

Every morning, at first light, my dog and I walk and run along the beach at Plaice Cove. For the past few weeks dead seals have been dotting the sand. At first it was small seals, infants, I guessed, less than two feet long. There were also more dead gulls, five or six every few days, washing about in the surf.

Today, we found a four foot long adult seal, halfway down the beach. It was high tide, and he had washed up right next to the big boulders protecting the houses above, and he was the color of the boulders, and it was still dark, so when Tug sniffed at him, I thought it was just a boulder some dog had marked. Then, I realized it was a full grown seal, his coat dappled like the rocks around him.

We walked down toward North Hampton, and near the North Hampton line, beyond that last flagpole, lay a six foot fish, at least 250 lbs, I don't know what kind of fish. Tuna maybe. It's fins and body had been chewed. Birds, maybe. Maybe sharks, but smaller bites, birds more likely.

Seals have been washing up from Maine to Massachusetts and the New England Aquarium is doing necropsies to figure out what is killing the mammals. So far, no answers.

This being a political blog, I suppose I should point out that citizens at times like these, turn to their government for answers. There's no profit in doing the labor to figure out what is happening to the seals. But as citizens, as human beings, we want to know. and personally, I'm happy to think of my tax dollars going to pay for some marine biologists to figure out these things. But this is a digression, really. This event transcends the Tea Party dolts and the right wingers who bleat daily about what is wrong with the world. This is so much more important than their stupid, ignorant anger. The seals don't care about Job Creators or big government. They just live their lives out there beyond the surf, not bothering us or even letting us know they are out there.

It's depressing, but why is it depressing?

Drowning polar bears are depressing, but that you can say is depressing because we can feel guilty about the polar bears if we, as human beings have played a causative role in their demise.

The seals, so far, are not our fault. It's possible, like the dead birds Rachel Carson tied to insecticide in The Silent Spring, mankind may have played a role in the death of the seals, but so far we are not prime suspects.

The seals are just washing up with no explanation.

Whatever it is, it's not just mammals affected. Those dead gulls and that enormous fish attest to a cross species event. I thought it might be something to do with a bad storm at sea, but my wife assures me fish do not die in ocean storms, seals maybe, if they cannot catch a breath, but not fish. Maybe she's right.

There is always the possibility they are a harbinger--like the dead rats which precede outbreaks of the plague, the Black Death, Yesina Pestis.

But even if it's not anything ominous for humankind, the dead seals thing feels wrong. It's as if nature is out of whack.

I don't know why I don't like it. But I don't like it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

QED: Republican Voodoo Economic

"These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people."
--Abraham Lincoln





This morning the Portsmouth Herald carried a letter from Patrick Abrami who is a delegate to the New Hampshire House of Delegates for Stratham, Exeter and North Hampton. Mr. Abrami argues to over ride a veto of a bill called "Right To Work," saying that the American People have voted with their feet, by leaving states which do not have a Right to Work law and resettling in states where such laws exist. He then spiffs up his otherwise lame argument with a Latin maxim: Quad erat demonstrandum, which means "We have proved the proposition we set ou to prove."

I am guessing he's a Republican.

How could I know he's a Republican?

Because he engages in that pathognomonic (from the Greek) behavior of Republicans to draw their conclusions not from whence their data leads them but from their own fantasy of how life should be and then to search out data, however bogus or irrelevant to "prove" they are right. (Pathognomonic in medicine is a sign or symptom of the disease so characteristic, it makes the diagnosis.)
This is the classic case of True/True/Unrelated.
But first, let me digress. One thing you have to admire about Republicans is their capacity for naming. The tax on the wealthy which claims back for the society a portion of wealth which society helped the individual create is not called "The Estate Tax, "but Republicans call it "The Death Tax," as in, "This tax is the death of the economy," or the "Death of the Republic tax."
Now to Mr. Abrami's argument: He sets out in detail which states lost population and thus Congressional seats in the last census, and because 11 states with a Right to Work law gained seats and only one state which had rejected this type law gained, while 10 states which reject the law lost seats.

Then, triumphantly, Mr. Abrami exults: QED, I have proved my point! People moved from Non Right to Work States to Right to Work states and voted with their feet.

Of course, he makes the classic mistake the uneducated man makes: He fails to look at other possible explanations for the migration. He so badly wants the reason each of those families migrated to be his reason, he is blind to all other explanations.
Let's look at those states: People moved away from Louisiana, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio.

Can you think of any other reason people might have left Louisiana? Can you spell Katrina?
Michigan, well there's this thing called the auto industry which, had the Republicans had their way, would have totally imploded, but for the action of the Democrats (which gave rise to the Republicans derisive name Government Motors--oh they are so good at names.)
Then there are those "rust belt" states, which have been ravaged by the shift of manufacturing from the USA to China, well before the economy tanked, a trend which dates back decades through good times and bad.

And, oh yes, there's Massachusetts, which, if anything should give Mr. Abrami pause, it's a state where the economy has been relatively untouched by the hard times, but people are still fleeing pockets of poverty.


Let's look at the states which are growing: Texas, ah yes, Texas. Rick Perry is currently claiming his shining state is drawing in workers like a giant job magnet. Of course, 25% of Texans have no health insurance and most of the jobs there are low wage jobs for the desperate, many of them the flooded out victims from New Orleans.

Then there are the rest of the states, all Sun Belt states in the South or Southwest, to which people have been streaming dating back to the Carter administration and beyond. The reasons for this migration have been the subject of academic theses and fodder for PhD's for decades. Explanations have ranged from the better weather to places with low cost of living and attractiveness to retired people, who are not likely to be much concerned about whether or not unions or Right to Work laws exist there.


Fact is, some people do follow jobs, but the reason jobs went to the Sun Belt is the factories in the North and Midwest closed down as America lost manufacturing to Asia, not because unionized workers made companies uncompetitive but because nobody could compete with the slave wages paid in China, India and Indonesia.

What Mr. Abrami does not touch upon is what exactly the Right to Work law means: I cannot claim to know its details. I have to confess to judging it mainly by knowing Republicans like it so it's probably bad for the common man. I suspect it's an attempt to eviscerate the unions, probably by saying to prospective employees, well you don't have to join the union, we have both types of workers in this factory. But, of course, you know which type of worker we want to hire.

What really strikes me is the nature of Mr. Abrami's mind, as revealed by his argument. New Hampshire is a state of roughly 1.3 million people. For this small state, there are 460 members of the House of Delegates, who represent roughly 3,000 citizens each. One would think those 3,000 citizens of Exeter, Stratham and North Hampton could have come up with someone better educated than Mr. Abrami. Someone who has some clearer understanding of cause and effect.


Then again, I live in Hampton and our House of Delegate representative once explained at a meeting of citizens his plan to solve the budget crisis in New Hampshire: He would lower the cigarette tax. See, what this would do is it would lower the cost of a pack of cigarettes, so people would buy more cigarettes and the state would make more money. Why, he exclaimed, people from Massachusetts and Vermont would flood across the border to buy our cheap cigarettes and we could solve our fiscal crisis quickly.

Then someone asked: So you want to solve our money problems by exporting cancer to Vermont and Massachusetts? And what about New Hampshire smokers? Don't we have to pay for their lung cancer? Well, no he explained, only in Massachusetts does the state have to worry about paying for its citizen's healthcare. But, he responded brightly, what's the problem? Cigarettes are legal. We might as well profit from the trade.

Talk about having lost a moral compass. But then again, in the world of commerce, where the Republicans live, maybe a moral compass is not something they much need.
In the end, this Republican said, "Look the voters have spoken. They sent us to the legislature to cut taxes, pure and simple and we are going to do that."

There you have it: cause and effect. He knew what those votes meant. Everyone else is still trying to figure out what that vote meant, but he knew what he wanted that vote to mean and that's his story and he's sticking to it.

Pathognomonic.