Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paul Ryan and Medicare: Hiring the Fox to Guard the Hen House


Since each of these programs was hatched, the Republican Party has been trying to steal into the hen house and snatch them away.

Now, Paul Ryan says, "Trust me. I can save these imperiled birds."

How smart do you have to be, Farmer Brown?

Live Free or Die. 

Paul Ryan Saves The Drowning Dolphin!

                                   WE HAVE TO SAVE FLIPPER!  HE'S DROWNING!

Paul Ryan and the Republicons are not the first to invent a crisis which requires dire action to remedy.
In the 20th Century there was a little band of merry men who burnt the Reichstag and used that smoking parliament building to win an election and seize power.
So now it's the sky is falling, the dolphins are drowning and we have to save Medicare and Social Security.
Of course, neither is in any real danger from within. 
Both programs are healthy and likely to remain so. 
Social Security has been so healthy the government has been borrowing from it's coffers for years.
But if you hold Flipper's head below the water, you can drown the poor mammal. He's got to come up to air to breathe.
Good going, Paul. You're right there to lend a helping hand.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Republicons vs A Republican

George Bernard Shaw observed, "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it."

Today I heard Mitt Romney say he is convinced of American exceptionalism--that we are different and better than all other countries on earth.

Abraham Lincoln called America the last best hope of mankind, but when he said that he was speaking of a country which was the only true democracy on the planet. England was evolving into a constitutional monarchy, but, for the most part, the American experiment was the first real, large scale effort to forge a republic, "If you can keep it," as Benjamin Franklin said.

Lincoln called himself a Republican.  He would be appalled to see the Republicans of today--John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney. These are men who would say the slaves would free themselves if only government regulations did not constrain them.

But, to go back to GB Shaw, "Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."

And we have been discovering just how little we deserve a good government lately.
What I cannot understand is why we are so undeserving, what makes us so stupid that Rush Limbaugh is a man who commands the attention and adulation of 15 million listeners daily. 

During the Civil War, soldiers who were educated, if at all, in one room school houses looked at their choices, looked back over three years of dreadful carnage and did not choose to vote for the glamorous George McClellan, but they voted for Lincoln. They chose well, but why? How did they reason and reach the decision that saved the Republic?  Could our soldiers, will our citizens be able to see through the wall of lies to the truth?

I am not sanguine.

Part of the argument this time is not about union or slavery or even rape or contraception and abortion. It's about the economy. The Republicans persist in selling the idea that all we need to do is to reduce taxes and, like pixie dust, everything after that will miraculously turn happy.

They will trot out economists to say it's all true.

But, as GBS remarked:  "If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion."  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bad Leaders Matter

Top:  General Ambrose Burnside; Bottom:  General Benjamin Butler

During the Civil War, the Southern insurgents who began with war with not a single cannon factory, with a huge disadvantage in terms of population, economy and political organization (no central government) managed to fight the North to near defeat because they had one form of central government which mattered, an army, and they had excellent generals.

The North had some pretty terrible generals.  Some, like Ben Butler were well connected politically, and really incompetent and some, like Ambrose Burnside, were simply incompetent.  But they did things like sending their troops across a long field in long lines of marching bodies only to have them mowed down because the enemy now had rifles instead of muskets.  In the days of muskets, long lines of infantry marching upright worked pretty well because you could not shoot accurately from half a mile away and you could not reload many times. Rifled barrels changed all that, but the generals either did not realize this or they realized this but were not flexible enough to change tactics. Something similar occurred in trench warfare in World War I, when lines of troops were sent running across fields raked by a new weapon, the machine gun.

In hospitals, the generals, i.e. the chiefs of service, kept on call schedules for interns at the thirty six hours on call rather than instituting a night coverage system whereby interns handed off the baton at night and went home and got some sleep. The chiefs argued this was good for the interns, because they could see a patient from his admission, through his "crisis" and could appreciate the full course of an acute illness.  This may have been true when the chiefs were training, because there was relatively little for interns to do during lose long nights on call.  But by the time the chiefs had become chiefs, the patients were sicker and there was more to do at night.
When the chiefs were interns and a patient went into cardiac arrest, they sent that patient to the morgue and the interns could go back to bed. When electrical defibrillators and a new generation of medications arrived, patients going into cardiac arrest became a new demand for interns' time and energy.  Ditto for patients who went into gram negative sepsis. 

Charles Christian, who was chief of medicine at Cornell once stunned a group of medical residents by saying it was much easier to be on call in the "days of the giants"  when interns were on call every other night, because they slept through the nights most nights and there was so much less the interns could actually do for patients. His generation of doctors had always bludgeoned the current generation who complained about the sleep deprivation and the difficulty of surviving the on call schedule with comments like, "You guys have it easy, every third night on call. We were on every other night."  So don't be so faint hearted, you wimps. This was a revelation. 

Eventually, the system changed and interns were sent home to get some sleep and the number of hours they worked consecutively were limited. And guess what? The interns still got trained as doctors.

So now, we are faced with choosing leaders again. And there are men and women who want to be leaders who do not understand the nitty gritty of what the troops on the front lines have to do and the difficulties they face. These leaders say we can do health care with coupons, and they say we can provide for retirement with the stock market and they say we do not need taxes--all we need is tax cuts. They say government is bad and what we need is less government and more private enterprise to solve the problem of a stalled economy, of business men who destroy banks and business. They say government regulation is the problem, not the solution. 

If we make these people our leaders, our troops will suffer, and the people they serve will suffer. And by our troops, I mean everyone who works in the trenches, providing medical care, putting out fires, policing our towns, building bridges, paving roads. 

In Hampton, the Smutty Nose brewery almost did not get built because there was no sewer hook up. All those jobs would have been lost, all the commerce down the drain because leaders were short sighted, not wanting to spend money to provide infrastructure to bring business to town.

Penny wise, pound foolish. That's the Republican-con.  Bad leadership. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Zombie Tax Deniers: New Hampshire and Reason to Believe

It was hot today in Hampton.  The Hampton Democrats put up a tent in a Mill Road backyard and heard from three candidates for governor and one for US House of Representatives.

The crowd, as usual was compromised mostly of sixty to seventy somethings, but there were younger people as well, and spirits were high, despite the heavy weight of the heat.

The governor of Connecticut showed up, with his security people with the ear pieces and the vigilant looks and the governor gave a stirring speech about how the Republicans are intent on destroying government and all the good things it does in the name of some cockamamie idea of "freedom." 

I met a man running for sheriff, who was a Republican last election but could not abide the government haters, and so he switched parties.

Maggie Hassan gave one of those polished, focus group tested speeches with which I could agree, but somehow I could not see her persuading anyone with that who was not already a solid Democrat.  A man named Kennedy got up and introduced himself as a candidate for governor and said he favored an income tax and legalization of marijuana. You might say he dug in on the left flank. He sort of lost me when he said, "I often shoot from the hip, but always from the heart."  

Then Jackie Cilley got up and really started shooting, not from the hip, but raising that gun to the chin and letting loose with both barrels.  This is the Jackie Cilley who will bar the door against the zombies who keep trying to rise up from the dead and break the house down with their efforts to destroy the tax base of New Hampshire. 

Cilley has refused to take the pledge to never impose an income tax because she thinks it's a cowardly, destructive and ultimately immoral thing to do. What you are doing, essentially, when you grandstand and promise never to approve an income tax is to say, "Okay, I've got this gun, but it's not loaded. So now drop yours."

She identified about a dozen ways other than income taxes you could raise enough revenue to run the state government, but none of these proposals will even get a hearing if you don't have the threat of an income tax to hold against the temples of 425 legislators in Concord.

"We've got t consider what will happen when we actually do win this election," Cilley said. "Then we have to govern."

The Republicons are, of course, only concerned with winning. They have no interest in actually governing. They promise no taxes and then they cannot govern. They replace big government with really bad government.

I spoke with Chris Muns, who is running from Hampton for a seat in the House at  Concord. He'd seen the disaster of the 2010 election, when Democrats were swept from Concord and replaced with people who believe birth control pills cause prostate cancer and vaccines cause mental retardation.

I asked him why he had not given up trying to save this state, which persists in trying to walk back through some time warp, to get back to the 19th century.  He shrugged and said we'd never move forward if we give up.

Carol Shea Porter drifted by and she did not say, "I told you so," when I mentioned Frank Guinta, who beat her for the US House seat last time, has said he wants to destroy Social Security so thoroughly his own children will never learn that it ever existed.  He wants "private enterprise to lead the way," whatever that means. Ms. Shea Porter just smiled and said, "Vote."

So, there are people out there who continue to fight. 
It has been comforting to read A Stillness At Appomattox  which depicts the voting in the Union Army during 1864, when the army had been beaten repeatedly, when the government of the people, by the people, for the people seemed to be to be a ship going down in stormy waters. But the Army, which had loved its little dandy of a general, George McClellan, who was running against Lincoln, lined up and voted overwhelmingly against their darling and for Lincoln.  They sensed, or reasoned, some how concluded, the work they had done together over the three prior years of immense tumult and sacrifice and loss had to be continued.  They were staggering, but they had not given up on the idea of Union, on the possibilities of government and they voted to continue the fight.

And so it was a Southern Cause, the cause of aristocracy, slaves, fairy tales of chivalry which masked the bullwhips cracking and the iron shackles and chains and the fact that less than 20% of the population even owned slaves, that pixie dust monster was finally brought down and a stake driven through its heart.

So, in the end, because it has happened before, maybe there is a reason to believe, it can happen again: Maybe this great experiment of a government of the people, by the people, for the people may not perish from the earth.  

PS: Here's the link to the zombie ad. It's fun.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Kiss of the Spider Wasp

When the wasp larva hatches it begins to feed on the still-living spider. After consuming the edible parts of the spider, the larva spins a silk cocoon and pupates – usually emerging as an adult the next summer. Some ceropalines lay the egg on a still-active spider, where it feeds externally on hemolymph. In time, that spider will die, and the mature wasp larva will then pupate.
                         --Image and text courtesy  Wikipedia

So how is Mitt Romney like a spider wasp? 
As I understand it, and I'm not sure I understand it, Bain Capital functioned by buying up companies, often struggling companies, then borrowing massively using those companies as collateral, not risking their own money, but making the company the borrower. The partners at Bain would pocket large "consulting fees," as board members of the company--now they were attached to the company, not attacking it as a hostile takeover or an outright kill-- like the spider wasp attached to the body of its host, eating away at the still living creature, and, ultimately,  the company would collapse, with all souls lost, but Bain walked away richer.

So, on the face of it at least, Mr. Romney and Bain Capital took it's cue from the spider wasp--very similar strategy, similar life cycle.

And this, we are told by the Republicons, is what qualifies Mr. Romney to run the U.S. government. 

I guess, he has that plan in place--first you plant the egg: Cut taxes!  Then once you've got it growing, you start gobbling up and digesting all those programs like Medicare and Social Security and then when those collapse, you leave those empty shells behind and you go back to private life on Wall Street.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Linda Wendt: The Trojan Horse

Now here's an attractive Midwestern lady, who owns a restaurant in Wisconsin, and she is interviewed on Morning Edition, sounding oh so reasonable and non confrontational,  youbetcha. 
She voted for Bill Clinton twice but will not vote for President Obama because he does not understand the burdens carried by small business owners like her the way Mitt Romney does. She won't say anything nasty about Mr. Obama, but she slips in the knife, with a smile, about how he just doesn't know what hardworking people like her go through, trying to meet a payroll, but of course, Mr. Romney does.
It's no knock on Mr. Obama, personally, she says; he just has never had the experience of working hard to build a business.
But, of course, it is a knock against Mr. Obama, personally.
It's the same knock every person who thinks she pulled herself up by her own bootstraps, without any help from any one, not from the parents who gave her the restaurant, not from the government which paved the roads to the restaurant. She did it all herself, just the way Mitt did and Obama did not.

And, of course, the NPR reporter doesn't ask a single revealing question to unmask the nasty  beneath that smiling exterior.

She does mention she knows Obamacare will be an unreasonable expense for her, although she doesn't know what's in the law. She knows if she has more than 50 employees, she'll have to provide medical coverage for them, so she'll game the system and keep her employees down below 50--playing that Republican tune that job creators like here will pull back because of government regulation.

The last thing a job creator wants to do is to become the parent of her employees, to become responsible for their welfare. If you are a job creator, you want to get labor out of your employee, not an obligation, especially if all they are doing is poaching fish. 

 NPR gave her fifteen minutes to slip her knife in multiple times, without ever challenging where she gets the idea Obamacare will be bad for her. And they never asked her how she knew Mitt Romney had to meet a  payroll. And they never asked how much Bain Capital was  like her fish fry. Is there really anything at all in the experience of running a vulture capital firm which is like running a fish fry restaurant?

She did let slip she did not believe the government should pay for contraception, and in this she echoes Rush Limbaugh's rant about the Georgetown law student who he called a slut for asking for her insurance to cover contraception.

She comes across as very open minded, reasonable person. Of course, she is not open minded, or reasonable, but she is never revealed by any tough questions. She looks like a nice wooden horse you might want to wheel into your city.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Medicare Destroyers, and Social Security: The Republicon Assault

Paul Krugman  is an economist who knows how to look at economic numbers. He writes in today's New York Times about what happens when you look at the numbers in the Paul Ryan budget--the budget virtually every Republicon voted for in the last Congress.  

First you cut taxes to the tune of $4.3 trillion (that's with a T).
These tax cuts are for the rich, of course. 
Then you try make up that $4.3 TRILLION with spending cuts.
Now where do you find $4.3 TRILLION in spending cuts?
Mr. Ryan refuses to divulge. (Like President Nixon's infamous plan to end the war in Vietnam, he's not saying.) It's a  secret.

He does say, with a sly wink, there's lots of money to be saved by cutting Medicaid--which is for poor people, for whom nobody except some touchy feely soft hearted soft headed Democrat has any sympathy. 
That saves $800 Billion. (Remember, a trillion is a thousand billion.) And then there's Medicare, which he'd kill altogether, except for coupon care.  That's another $800 billion.

Still not there, are we?

Oh, then there's food stamps, aid to college students, and all told the stuff he has gotten specific about comes to $1.7 trillion.   
But 4.3-1.7 =2.6, so we've still got to find $2.6 Trillion in spending cuts.

So then there's Social Security.

This is what Republicons call "fiscal responsibility" and "cutting the deficit." 

Remember Reagan? He was a big deficit hawk who tripled the deficit over his 8 years in office. Can you imagine what Ryan/Romney and the Republicon artists would do?  Their deficit cutting plan so far has added $2.6 to the deficit.  But it has cut taxes for the job creators, the upper 1%, the billionaires, so it must be all right.

Krugman points out Ryan/Romney are now attacking  President Obama on the same Medicare cuts which Ryan had in his own budget. 

And this is from the most "serious" man, the biggest policy wonk in the Republicon Party. 

Now there's a confidence, man.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Medicare, Ryan, Romney, Medicare, Medicare

Republicans will try, every day, from now until November, to say they are trying to save Medicare from inevitable bankruptcy and destruction.

They have, of course, invented a fatal disease for Medicare, which does not threaten it. 

As Democrats, we should all emulate Gail Collins, who cannot write about Mitt Romney without including some reference to a dog strapped to the top of a car.

We must always mention Romney/Ryan want to kill Medicare and substitute Coupon Care, as if you can replace a living thing with a dead body and call it life saving.

Romney/Ryan, the Medicare Murderers. Romney/Ryan, axe murderers of Medicare. Romney/Ryan, Medicare killers.

I don't here for your favorite. But this should be not just the lead sentence, but part of their names. 

For Republicans, it's the "Democrat Party."  For Democrats it should be...What? The Medicare Killer Party?  

I'm not much with Marketing Phrases.  Help me out.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan--The Man Who Gave You Coupon Care

Mitt Romney's new best friend, Paul Ryan, tried to kill Medicare in the last session of Congress. 
Remember that American general from the Viet Nam war who, when asked why he napalmed a village said, "We had to destroy that village to save it"--well, his newthink is alive and well with Paul Ryan, who says we have to kill Medicare as a program which covers fully the costs of medical care, but we'll "replace" it with a coupon, say $8000 a year to help you cover your costs, should you need that coronary bypass surgery.  The surgery will run about $180,000, but hey, the coupon will help.

Can't say those Republicans don't know business.

And just wait 'till you hear what they have planned for Social Security!

Can't wait? Look up Frank Guinta on the subject.

Hint to google:  "I hope my children never have to know what Social Security is. We ought to kill it now."

Trickle Down Tax Cut Pixie Dust: How They Do

                                       Rogers--Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jackie Cilley, candidate for governor, shined her high beams on some of the Republican pixie dust last night.

For one thing, she pointed out the obvious truth which Republicans deny that when the Republicans cut taxes, they actually do not reduce taxes--they simply redistribute where the taxes fall hardest. In fact, what the Republicans do is to concentrate taxes in  some areas--property tax and business taxes--while they resist spreading out the tax burden over those who can most easily pay. 

The new Republicans--those Tea Party mutants who have taken a no income tax pledge have simply put off limits any source of taxes which Republicans think will result in votes, while leaving some taxes high.

When you press them, they will say, well property taxes will eventually come down as well, when we reduce government to the size you can drown in your bathtub.

And what does that really mean?  Well, what does government do in New Hampshire? That means reducing police protection, cutting fire and rescue, reducing spending on programs which keep poor and uninsured people out of emergency rooms, and most of all, cutting schools--"government run schools." The Republicans are against public schools--they say you should home school your kid, or send your kid to Phillips Exeter Academy, or to a religious school.

You can understand why Republicans would not want to fund schools where the public just might learn to think critically.

So, you can pay off your mortgage, just as you enter your golden years of retirement, but guess what?  Under the Republican plan, you will still pay a mortgage every 6 months to your town and state--and you'll pay more than you would in 46 other states.

Welcome to low tax Republican New Hampshire.

And now Mr. Romney has shown his hand: Paul Ryan is his new best friend. You remember Mr. Ryan--he's the man who pushed legislation to kill Medicare, to replace it with Coupon Care. The Democrats wouldn't let him do it, but Kelley Ayotte and Frank Guinta were all for it. And Mr. Guinta, being a good Republican wants to kill Social Security--says he doesn't want his kids to ever even learn there ever was such a nasty  program in this country.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are charging hard to crush rampant voter fraud (aka voting while poor, black or Democratic) and their next target, as the man says, is rampant Food Stamp abuse by pixies.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Trouble with Democrats

Here's a case study which may offer some insights to how the Republican party--a party which exists to protect a small elite-- can win elections against a Democratic party which fights for the interests of the 99%.

Here's a case which may illuminate how the small, dedicated group can out maneuver the larger, more unwieldy and less focused group.

Every day I eat lunch with a half dozen  thirty something women at work--women with seven year old children, women who do not watch the evening news, who do not read a newspaper, who listen to music, not news on their car radios, women who refuse to listen to National Public Radio, because it is boring and it carries too many stories about places like Somalia and Syria and Afghanistan which are places these women will never go and do not care about. They care about day care and sales at Kohl's.

But every day at lunch, as they are eating their microwaved meals, and chatting about which teachers they hope their kids will get at various elementary schools in Dover or Newmarket, they also flip open their i phones or i pads and they go on youtube  for the hoot of the day, some posting to which someone sent them a link, because it was funny.

So how to reach these voters? (And they do vote.)

It turns out political scientists are well aware of this group and they have names for these people: The unengaged, the apathetic, the uninterested masses, who get their opinions from talk radio or political ads, which they don't even realize are ads, which they think of as news.
It's fine to do library clean ups and back yard barbecues for the hoi polloi in Hampton, but you won't reach this crowd.
So how do you reach them?
I proposed creating a puppet show, like Sesame Street, with puppets giving voice to the looney things Rush Limbaugh, Frank Guinta and the whole whacko Tea Party crowd say and then have some puppets react in horror to "Abortion causes Breast Cancer," and "Birth control pills cause Prostate Cancer," and "I hope my children never even learn what Social Security ever was, that it ever existed."
But, having written the scripts for these shows, I needed help filming them, putting them on line. I can write scripts, which really write themselves, or actually, are written by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck et al.
But how to get them filmed and put on line?
I started with the local Democrats in Hampton, who were polite, but uncomprehending. They knew about barbecues, but youtube was beyond them. 
They sent me to the Portsmouth Democrats, who referred me to a few seacoast Democrats. One of them played guitar and sang songs at political rallies  but he was "too busy with all I have to do," and he was not of a mind to collaborate. 
Eventually, I got sent to a media group of local talent, actors, film makers, video technicians.  But the actors/film makers  were, mostly,  politically indifferent.  

It was a case, as Dylan would say, of "It was dying and hardly yet been born."

The point is, there was no follow up. There was nobody in the local Democratic Party machine to connect "creative talent" to dedicated, politically motivated citizens and so voice was never given to this project.
Maybe it makes no difference. Maybe it would not have had much effect. But we will never know.

Can you imagine, if I had been a Republican with an idea like quickly I would have been connected to people who would have put this thing into action? 

I have to believe we would have been on youtube months ago, and the project may have been escalated into an ad campaign funded by the Koch brothers.
 I would have heard from the National Party people, once the pilot episodes were on line.
But in the case of the Democratic party, there were people who just murmured, "Oh, that sounds cool," or "That sounds like fun," and they went back to their guitars, their hikes on Mount Major, their local theater productions. 
There was no real passion, no real drive, no follow up and none of the things Mitt Romney talks about as characteristic of the qualities which launch ideas into businesses.
Maybe that's why the Republicans beat the Democrats so consistently: They really are more capable--they have drive where Democrats have dreams; they have organization and connectedness, where Democrats have book clubs and walks on the beach with friends; Republicans know how to take an idea and give it form and punch. Democrats are all talk, no action.