Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kelly Ayotte: What a Peach

Don't you just want to hug her?

Doesn't she look cute? Mad Dog can see her as the girl next door, mowing the lawn, taking her little brother to his soccer games and doing the pep team thing.

But she is Senator for the state of New Hampshire now  and Senator Ayotte voted against background checks for gun buyers.

Ms. Ayotte says she does not think the evidence is conclusive, for human activities being responsible for global warming. Mad Dog has to agree. It is rare scientific evidence is ever "conclusive." Beyond the idea the heart pumps blood to the brain, there are not all that many examples of received truth in science.

Senator Ayotte opposed the confirmation of Justice Elena Kagan, saying Justice Kagan was "unqualified," because she held some liberal opinions.

Ms. Ayotte opposes same sex marriage saying, "I absolutely support  marriage as between a man and a woman."  Now there is a bold position. She is for marriage. Next week she'll come out for apple pie. Can a big stand on motherhood be far behind?

Mad Dog, of course, is disappointed in this marriage stance. Mad Dog, personally, does not support homosexual marriage because he does not support heterosexual marriage. Mad Dog thinks the government has no business getting involved in marriage. 

While she opposes government spending, on principle, Ms. Ayotte wound up costing the state of New Hampshire $300,000 by fighting Planned Parenthood over the Parental Notification Act all the way to the Supreme Court of New Hampshire and a Federal District Court judge ordered New Hampshire to pay Planned Parenthood for attorney fees and court costs because Ms. Ayotte's case was so clearly ill founded, noting that every level of court found against her, for good reasons she refused to accept.

Mark Connolly
But none of this would make Ms. Ayotte particularly notable as a Tea Party zealot. What really raises Ms. Ayotte's star rise above the rest is her refusal to pursue or prosecute the miscreants who stole $100 million dollars from unfortunate New Hampshire Investors in a Ponzi scheme called Financial Resources Mortgage (FRM). 
As Mark Connolly, who was a state official heading a board of review, has documented in detail in his book, Cover Up, Ms. Ayotte was so determined to say nothing about this fraud her silence became more than suspicious.  When the crime was exposed Ms. Ayotte insisted she knew nothing, should have known nothing and had nothing to do with anything. After all, she was merely Attorney General of the State of New Hampshire, and she had ignored all the complaints pouring into her office because nobody had pinned her against a wall and shouted in her face. She blamed every other conceivable state agency and organization. But her hands were clean and pure as the driven snow.

Mr. Connolly is not a lawyer, he is careful to say. When asked whether or not Ms. Ayotte could be considered an "accessory after the fact" in the case of FRM, he looks down at his shoe tops and murmurs, "Well, I'm not a lawyer, as I've said."

Ms. Ayotte, of course, is hot on the trail of culpability in the Benghazi attack, looking for guilt anywhere she can find it. She is relentless in her investigation of the alleged linkage between IRS agents and agents of Obamacare to murder conservatives in their hospital beds.  That linkage was first exposed by, of course, Michele Bachmann.

We can feel for Ms. Ayotte because Michele Bachmann, her Doppelganger, has decided to leave Congress. Ms. Ayotte must feel bereft. How many fine afternoons she spent with Ms. Bachmann down at the K Street office of Grover Norquist, munching caramel covered apples and telling tales of their girlhood adventures. Ms. Bachmann regaled all with stories of time on the kibbutz in her wild youth, when she wore those shorts which make all the kibbutz girls look so fetching, and Ms. Ayotte told her own tales about working for an enviornmental law agency. Can you imagine? 

Well, both women tried things in their youth and they learned their lessons without compromising their core values.

So many of Ms. Ayotte's friends are looking for joy outside Washington.  Joe Arpaio, the self proclaimed toughest sheriff in America, an old buddy, is staying in Arizona, for now, looking for illegal alien wetbacks among the cactus. Rush Limbaugh is making too much money on radio to join Ms. Ayotte in the Senate. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) still ask her to their offices for pulled pork sandwiches, but she has been so busy flying back to New Hampshire to deny her vote on the gun background check bill, she doesn't have  time for lunch anymore.

We really have to do something for Kelly. Maybe, we should bring her home from Washington. Everyone would feel better.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Judge Shira Scheindlin, Stop and Frisk, Strip Searching

Judge Sheila Scheindlin

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures , shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

--Fourth Amendment, Constitution of the United States of America. 

In lower Manhattan, Judge Shela Scheindlin is about to rule on two cases which will offer at least a first opinion about the limits the Constitution places on the practice of New York City police--and if it goes to the Supreme Court of the United States--on policing throughout the land.  

Many police chiefs aver the practice of stopping citizens who are walking down the street, throwing them up against a wall, emptying their pockets, searching them is "the most fundamental practice in American policing," according to The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin in the May 27th issue.

The argument from the police is that this practice is effective. The police contend it is this practice which detects guns, and prevents shooters from killing and it is this practice which has reduced the murder rates in big cities, like New York.

Sociologists, economists and others have argued the drop in the murder rate and in violence throughout the country has nothing to do with police tactics but is a result of the aging of the population.  Young men perpetrate the vast preponderance of violent crime and the reduction of the proportion of young men in the population has been the single most important factor in the falling crime rates, some contend. Others have pointed to a variety of other causes, but the police want to claim credit for the drop in crime, understandably.

If police executing a "Broken Windows" strategy, are responsible for the happy result of low crime rates, that makes the police important, justifies salaries, promotions, jobs, careers, esteem, prestige, budgets, pensions and all sort of goodies.

Broken Windows refers to the theory that if you jump out of your car and arrest a youth who is throwing bricks through windows, you put someone in jail whose next act would be to shoot somebody.  Round up the people who commit small violations--public urination, public drinking--and you remove the junk from the streets and put it in jail and you maintain order and discipline in society.

Judge Scheindlin says,  "Do not make that argument" about efficacy in her courtroom. If all we were concerned about were efficacy in the law as it applies to arresting people, nobody would be read their Miranda rights.  If efficacy were all we cared about we could round up all the 14 to 25 year old males in the South Bronx and cart them off to concentration camps until they were 40. We could erect walls around Bedford Stuyvesant and lock everyone in at night. 

But the reason we have a constitution is once upon a time in America we had these guys called Redcoats, and these Redcoats could break down doors, could stop and search and imprison citizens without reason, without charges, just because they had the power of the government and orders from the king saying, "Keep order, above all else."

And you can see in the words of the 4th Amendment exactly what got the American colonists so angry. When Jefferson writes of "a long train of abuses and usurpations" in the Declaration of Independence, he was talking about things like Stop and Search. And if those English soldiers had done strip searches on American citizens, especially women and girls, one can imagine the American Revolution would have occurred far sooner.

The Stop and Frisk cases are separate cases from the strip search cases, but they are of a whole when it comes to what we are becoming in this country, when it comes to the distance between a police state and a state of laws and rights. That the American public is not outraged by strip searching in American jails is worrisome in and of itself. That every day and any day in this country an American teenaged girl can be hauled from her automobile for running a stop sign or for driving around with a six pack of beer in the back of her car--or for any of a laundry list of misdemeanors--and she can be dragged into a station house and stripped naked and have her vagina probed, all in the name of law and order, and this does not provoke dismay or outrage among the apathetic, incurious citizens who are sitting at home in their recliners, munching on nachos, watching NASCAR races or the Red Sox on TV, that is an appalling indictment of what we have become. 

"Oh, she probably deserved it," the voice from the recliner says. And the hand reaches for another slice of pizza.

When the 4th amendment was written, there were still American citizens threatened with aboriginal natives (Indians) in the forests. We had militias and people who kept and bore arms to protect themselves against natives, brigands, a whole variety of threatening human beings.  Law and order were as or more imperative in 1780 as they are today, and yet the authors of the Constitution wrote with anger about what they did not want to empower agents of any American government, local or national, to be allowed to do.  They feared unbridled government power because they had felt its lash and it still stung.

Judge Schendlin has ruled police were not to be believed in the case of a man who was arrested and searched by police on a playground, where they discovered a small amount of marijuana and brought to the police station, where he was frisked again and a .38 caliber gun was discovered. "It is extremely difficult to believe that the same officer could have missed a bulky .38 caliber revolver hidden in Defendant's pants." Ya think?  The first frisk is careful enough to detect a teabag size marijuana packet but misses a .38 caliber revolver?

It is true,  Judge Schendlin describes herself as "gutsy"  which is not what Mad Dog would like to hear from the bench as a characterization of self. But her heart and mind appear to be in the right place.

Mad Dog has seen all this before, on The Wire.  Kima shakes her head at two male colleagues who have beaten up a suspect. "There you go, fighting the war on drugs, one brutality case at a time."

In the real world the only thing standing between brutality and strip searching and beat downs on the street are the judges. 

Let us hope enough lower court judges pass the test.  We have to hope, because once these cases get up to the four horseman of the Scalia-Roberts-Alito-Thomas court, there will be no sympathy for anyone but the ruling class and their hired men. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kelly Ayotte: The Company She Keeps

New Hampshire has sent to Washington, D.C. one of the most right wing Tea Party Republicans in the Senate, in the country, for that matter.

As a state, New Hampshire has sent Daniel Webster to the Senate, has sent regiments to fight for the Union and against slavery during the Civil War. New Hampshire has much to be proud of. Kelly Ayotte is a blight on the bright fabric of New Hampshire history.

She appears with Lindsey Graham and John McCain frequently because she is, philosophically, aligned with them. She has endorsed Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the neo Nazi goon of Maricopa County, Arizona, who believes in humiliating and torturing anyone arrested in his county before, not after they have had the benefit of trial. He also believes in rounding up any darkies who look Mexican to his eyes and throwing them into jail until they can prove they are proper American citizens. And Kelly loves the guy. 

Listen to Kelly and you can hear the rhythms and melodies and phrases and concepts of Rush Limbaugh. She is of the same cloth.

She will run for re election in 2016. We must begin now to work toward expunging this stain from Washington.

Mad Dog developed a series of puppet skits based on what New Hampshire Republicans had said in the State House, which he had hoped to develop into videos posted on youtube. But, fun as this undertaking was, time ran out before they could hit the internet. The election was won without help from Mad Dog's puppets.

Once again, it is time to develop this program and Mad Dog needs help--technical help with the filming, performance help with the puppets and voices.  

Mad Dog wants you for the effort. Sign up now!  Either here or at the Hamptondems website. If we are  to be there in 2016, we need to be here now.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Psychology of Being Wrong

Belief: If the Redskins lose their home game immediately prior to the Presidential election, the party in power loses the White House. Except in the case of President Obama last time, and in the case of Gore vs Bush. Despite the failure of the belief, some people still believe in the Redskin Rule.

Eduardo Porter writes in the New York Times an intriguing article about economists who have been shown by events and analysis to be wrong who cling to their wrong headed views and politicians who cleave to these same discredited views, despite all the evidence.

"That's my story and I'm sticking to it," is the Republican cry.

There are two Harvard economists (Reinhart and Rogoff) who  published a paper which said that economic growth stalls once government debt reaches 90% of GNP. When a graduate student took the time to comb through the numbers however, the professors were forced to recant and finally wound up saying, "Indebted nations grow more slowly." Not to admit wrong, just slide by the wrong as if we didn't really get anything wrong.

Beyond academia, the experiment in fiscal austerity playing out in Europe has convincingly demonstrated cutting back on government spending simply makes economies worse--as America surges ahead while Europe crashes and burns. 

Why do politicians stick with this intellectual garbage?  Why does David Cameron continue to say, "We will not be able to build a sustainable recovery with long term growth unless we fix this fundamental problem of excessive government spending and borrowing which undermines our whole economy"?

As Porter puts it:  "What explains the gap between theoretical victory and policy defeat?" The Keynesans demonstrate the correctness of their analysis time and again, but the politicians continue to ignore all that and press on with counter Keynesan claptrap about the dangers of government spending and debt.

One explanation, as Porter notes, goes back to the fabled grasshopper and the ants. We all learned it as kids. In the US, we all saw the Disney cartoon.  The ants work and save and do not spend without a thought about the future, and they are virtuous. The grasshopper is a wastrel, thinks not about tomorrow, only about today. "The world owes me a living," he sings in the Disney version, and he comes to grief for it, while the head down, don't live high ants are the virtuous ones who rescue everyone in the end. 
We think it morally repugnant to borrow and spend our way out of a recession.  

Another Harvard economist asks, "If the goal of government is to express the collective will of the citizenry, shouldn't it follow the lead of those it represents by tightening its own belt?"

The problem is the premise. The goal of even a representative republic is not primarily to express the will of its citizenry. The goal of a government is to provide for its people, to lead them to a better life and a more vigorous economy even if the citizenry is misinformed and wants to do the wrong things to get there.

Porter notes, "The other argument derives from a seemingly myopic conflation of the short and the long term: worried about the scary rise of Social Security and Medicare spending in future decades, voters demand budget cuts now."

The fact is our ability to predict economic future is demonstrably poor. If you are old enough, you remember all the talk about budget deficits in the past which evaporated with subsequent budget surpluses--especially during the Clinton years--and the cyclical nature of economics seems entirely forgotten whenever we find ourselves in a valley. The strange thing is even when we reach a peak, we seem incapable of looking back to all those valleys and remembering: Hey, next time we think we are stuck in the valley, just remember the view from up  here."

The fact is, the best solution to the long term viability of Social Security and Medicare is getting the economy rolling now, even if that means more government spending. 

The other fact is neither Social Security nor Medicare is really at risk. We have been borrowing from Social Security for years, it's been doing so well. These two programs are and have been strong for their entire history. The only time they are threatened is when Republicans start crying "The sky is falling" and causing financial panic.

Which in this country, does not take much.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tim Cook Testifies: Apple Games the System, Or How The Rich Stay Rich

Let's talk about taxes.
No, not those taxes, not the taxes the Tea Party doesn't want to pay because it is an educational institution which spends only 49% of its time on politics.

Not the exemption to taxes.

Let's talk about the taxes Apple, Inc. did not pay.  
Apple did not pay taxes to either Ireland or the United States for its Irish subsidiary, a shell company it set up to evade taxes.  

Here's how the game is played: Ireland taxes corporations only if the the corporation is managed and controlled in Ireland. The USA taxes corporations based on where the company is incorporated.  So Apple incorporates (a subsidiary)  in Ireland (not taxed by the US) and controls that subsidiary by having board meetings in California (not taxed by Ireland) and thus avoids being taxed on earnings of billions (millions in taxes) in either country.

Oh, and it gets better: Apple sells it's subsidiary company in Ireland some products, like iTunes or whatever, and the Irish Apple sells that stuff abroad, so there is no profit in the USA to tax. Apple files to pay taxes in neither country. Apple is laundering money, legally. If a drug lord sends money abroad to a bank to spend it through that bank, that is a high crime. If Apple does it, it is a brilliant business strategy.

You've got a phantom company paying nobody taxes.

Now, it gets way better: Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, goes before a Senate committee and holds up a scolding finger and proclaims Apple has paid every dollar it was legally required to pay (which is to say, none) and that it also complied with not just the letter of the law but with the spirit of the law.

Mad Dog particularly liked that spirit of the law bit. He is still trying to figure out what exactly that spirit is. The spirit of not paying taxes? The spirit of gratitude to the country that provided you with skilled, educated employees, infrastructure and sustenance? Mad Dog likes that spirit thing.

And, oh, yes, Apple informed the Senators you don't want to tax Apple anyway, because if Apple gets to keep all the money it makes, it will make better decisions about what to do with that money than the government ever could. 

To which, Rand Paul swoons. 

You got to give Cook credit. The man has chutzpah. He tells the United States Senate Apple is not above the law, but outside it, and having managed to evade the law, he makes a virtue of that tax evasion.  You wouldn't want that money anyway. You wouldn't really know what to do with it. You want us to keep the money and spend it on things which we know are good to spend money on. 
 And Rand Paul says, "Amen."

Is this an amazing country?  Or what? 

Here's what Mad Dog wishes the chairman of the Senate committee, Mr. Levin, had said:  "Mr. Cook, thank you for your comments today.  I understand you feel very virtuous. I, on the other hand, think you belong in jail.  I will go back to my office now and I will consult with my staff to see if we can think of a way to tax Apple in the future in a way to recoup some of the millions of dollars you have evaded paying.  Until now, you have slipped through one loop hole or another, but we ought to be able to construct a net with mesh fine enough to catch even as slippery a worm as you."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tar and Feather The Tax Man

Don't we all hate the tax man?
But we want our exemptions from the tax man, because we hate the tax.
 And Congress, having wrought an exemption to taxation based on the simple premise that if an organization does "education" 51% of the time and politics only 49% of the time, oh, Congress bears no blame at all for the mess which ensues.

Remember those shrimp fishermen along the Gulf of Mexico who faced the loss of an entire season's income when BP fouled the Gulf waters?  So President Obama sends a man down from Washington to hand out money to compensate the fishermen for their losses.  And the man from Washington says, "Okay, it's this simple. We will give you the same number of dollars you made last year. Just bring in your income tax forms so we can get the number of dollars from that record and we can cut you a check tomorrow.

Problem was, lot of these fisherman never paid any friggin income tax. Never filed. No records of what these guys made because everything they made was under the table, off the books, untaxed, unseen, unrecorded.  

Since they never paid the government a thing, they were in a pickle when it came time for the government to help them. 

They didn't want anything to do with the government, until it came time for the government to send money their way.

Well, all those thousands of  Tea Party groups were all anti tax and antigovernment, until it came time for claiming their exemptions, so they could keep their donor lists secret, so they could get foundation money, so they could suck on the teats of all those organizations tax exempt status would confer.

And now Michele Bachmann is saying conservatives will be targeted for death by the IRS operating through Obamacare.

Can the black helicopters be far behind?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ah, Gail Collins and Charles M. Blow

Here's what Gail Collins had to say about the Congressional hearings on the IRS: 
"They were working at the Determinations Unit of the Rulings and Agreements Office of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service. Spending their lives trying to clarify the 501 (C) (4) status. You try that for a while and see how you like it.
   If Congress wanted to help, the members could simplify the law so IRS minions aren't trying to figure out which groups spend only 49% of their resources on politics as opposed to 51 percent...
   The IRS employees were stuck with a pile of 70,000 applications for the tax-exempt status that's awarded to organizations engaged in social welfare issues. Recently, political groups have been gaming the system, announcing they're just do-gooders with a minor political sideline in order to qualify. When they succeed, the get to keep their donors secret."

Charles M. Blow amplified:

"The Congressional Tea Party Caucus founder, Michele Bachmann, who never misses a chance to say something asinine, suggested to the conservative web site that it was 'reasonable' to worry that the IRS might use Obamacare to kill conservatives...
'Reasonable and 'Bachmann' don't even belong in the same conversation, let alone the same sentence, and yet she remains one of the most visible spokes-women for the movement."

Ah, finally, some actual pith from the un Republicans.

Ye, Gads. Why are all the Congressional Democrats running for cover?  Where is Barney Frank when you need him?


Susan Collins: Airhead Republican

Today's Portsmouth Herald has an op ed by Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, about the IRS "scandal" over the IRS's Exempt Organizations Division, which "targeted" organizations with "Tea Party" or "Patriots" in their names for special examination to insure these organizations, which claimed their contributors should be able to claim their contributions as deductions to their own personal income taxes and which claimed their organizations should be exempt from paying taxes.

Ms. Collins is irate, irate, I tell you about the abuses of these patriotic citizens by "the most powerful and feared, federal agency in Washington." 

And she wants to tell you something else:  "The American people cannot, and will not, tolerate the abuse of power to erode their most fundamental rights."

And, she warns darkly, "Some believe that the abuses that are now making headlines appear to be part of a larger pattern of questionable activity by the administration that seems intended to hinder or chill the expression of views critical of the president's policies."

Oh, there it is, the paranoid style in American politics.
And all this from the prototypical "bipartisan" and "moderate" Republican.

Of course, this is not about the violation of free speech by organizations with "Tea Party" in their names. This is about money. 

These organizations came to government attention because they were, in essence, asking the government to subsidize their activities by tax write offs.

This same sort of argument comes up all the time with respect to churches which have a role as a religion but which also become involved in political speech and activity to influence elections, to advocate for candidates either by name or by clear implication, in the real world of policy and politics.

When it is a liberal church advocating for liberal causes the Republicans become irate, irate I tell you, about the government legitimizing their opinions by granting these churches tax exempt status.

In perhaps the most clear cut and egregious example of the trouncing of freedom of speech, Frederick v Morse, otherwise known as the  "Bong Hits for Jesus" case, Chief Justice Roberts dismissed arguments the case was about free speech because the plaintiff had asked for monetary compensation. "That means this case is not about freedom of speech. It is about money." 

But now that the right wing finds itself asked to pay for its own organizations, we have the bogey man, the IRS trampling on free speech.

Well, speech is anything but free in these 21st Century United States of America. It costs money. And what really appalls the Tea Party and its Republican mistresses and shills in Congress and the Senate is the idea any right winger should have to pay his fair share of taxes. 

It's not surprising a Republican like Senator Collins is in the pocket of the right wing party which paid for her election; but it is disappointing Democrats have allowed the Republicans to become the most outraged people in the room. Collins with her "cannot, and will not" blather and, of course, Michele Bachmann with her, "The power to tax is the power to destroy" quote. 

Yes, Chief Justice John Marshall did make that observation, Ms. Bachmann, in the 18th century when government did more taxing than spending and supporting.But it is also true, in the 21st century, exempting you from the burden of paying your fair share is a burden on every other taxpayer, and an exemption is a subsidy.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The IRS Got It Right: To Hell with The Tea Party

No analysis can be on safe ground until "the facts" of a controversy are known and Mad Dog does not pretend to have all the facts about the IRS investigations of organizations applying for tax exempt status as "educational" organizations which had "Tea Party" or "Constitution" in their names.

Was this shameful "profiling" of conservative organizations as the Republicans would have us believe or simple vigilance?

Mad Dog heard some of the Congressional hearing testimony today and an IRS man, already fired and humiliated explained there was suspicion that some groups which claimed to be "educational" were actually political.

Now, how do you draw the line?  Do Tea Party people and Republicans and Democrats not routinely say they need to "educate" the public to "understand" the issues, when what they really are up to is persuasion and, when possible, indoctrination?

If you advocate for the election of leaders who will fight for "limited government"  and "cutting taxes" and shrinking the government to a size where you can drown it in the bathtub, are you not advocating against President Obama and the Democrats?

When does "education" become political speech?

Mad Dog is only sorry President Obama did not react thusly: These Tea Party thugs routinely tried to use the laws intended to protect universities and non political advocacy groups to funnel money and contributions into their phony "educational organizations." Well, the IRS was doubtful, as they well should have been.  This was not some Nixonian "enemies list." This was simply healthy skepticism: IRS agents were saying--show us what makes you an educational group rather than a political group.  For all the IRS knew, these groups were no more apolitical educational groups than the Westboro Baptist church is an apolitical local church. Whenever an educational group or, for that matter a religious group attempts to influence public policy it becomes an interest group, a lobby if you please and it loses its immunity to scrutiny and should lose its immunity to exemption from taxation."

That's what Mad Dog wishes the President had said.

But the President instincts are audi alteram partum--there are two sides to every argument. Hear the other side.

And, of course, there is an other side here: The IRS demanded all sorts of lists of members, minutes of meetings and all those aggravating, irrelevant, intimidating records few people keep. They wanted a summary of books read in book club groups. The head of book club sent in the book and said, "Read it yourself." As well she should.

So, it's hard to love the IRS. They are not always very bright. But, if you are President Obama, use this flap to your own advantage. Attack. Attack. Attack.


In this case, he ought to have presented his side, the government's side with more vigor and backed down those howling hyenas of the Republican right.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Republicans: Feeding at the Trough

Republicans are defined by many things:  Bible Thumping, opposition to  abortion, endorsement of gun rights, sanctimony, a tendency to demonize and vilify their opponents, resentment of people who sport brand name educational institutions in their resumes, resentment toward government in general, but not, in specific.

Republicans love government when it comes to bringing government power to bear on people who speak in opposition to prevailing dogma (see Bong Hits for Jesus) or when it comes to supporting police intimidation, as in strip searching persons arrested for rolling through stop signs or for walking down the street while Black, or when it comes to defense contracts,  or when it comes to preventing local governments from passing strict gun ordinances or when it comes to preventing a fourteen year old girl who has just had unprotected sex from buying and using Plan B, so she does not get pregnant.

Republicans hate government, until the point they want government to do something for them or to other people.

In that, they are not all that different from John Q. Citizen.

When you look at the pie graph of government spending, it strikes Mad Dog, there are surprises, pleasant surprises, in the way our federal government chooses to spend dollars.  Republicans, of course, think we spend too much money on everything, except for the things they want to spend money on--like weapons. 

But look at that pie: We spend only about 14% on Defense, roughly what we spend on "welfare.'  Of course, how you define "Defense" is crucial. If spending on the Veterans Administration, with all those prosthesis for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan comes under "Health Care" then the small slice of the pie for Defense is misleading.

If we spend roughly 20% on healthcare Mad Dog would say that's money well spent, although it should be noted, Europeans, who in general have better health care than Americans spend only about 10% of their budgets on healthcare.

Roughly 20% on "pensions" which likely includes both federal government pensions and social security is money well spent because it keeps senior citizens out of poverty, off the bread lines and out of the emergency rooms. It probably saves money in the long run, and it certainly prevents much misery.

But look at that "interest" slice: If that 6% is all we spend on servicing our debt, I'd say we're doing pretty well. Republicans will tell you our deficits are killing us. Paul Krugman says they are paranoid schizophrenics on this score. Mad Dog tends to believe Professor Krugman on this one.  They are paranoid because the threat they perceive is non existent. and they are schizophrenic because they are split personalities, of two minds. Spending 6% on debt is intolerable but spending 14% on defense, including spending on weapons systems and ships and airplanes which make us no safer, make corporations richer as a form of corporate welfare, that is just fine with our Republican friends.

With friends like these, as the saying goes, we don't need enemies.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Olympia Snow and The Absent Congress

A seat in the United States Senate is something many men and some women are willing to spend millions for. Of course, most of them are spending other people's money, but still, they want to be there.

Olympia Snow recently decided it was not a job worth having. 

Now, she is hawking her book about the dysfunction in Congress and she is associating with some organization which is supposed to be dedicated to improving the function of Congress.

Among her recommendations is Senators should actually stay in Washington and work with other Senators, rather than flying home Thursday morning and not returning until Tuesday. 

The advent of air travel has meant Congressmen and Senator can go back to their home states, and many argue this is desirable, so the elected can stay in close touch with those whom they are supposed to be representing.  But the problem with Congressmen and Senators who are so tightly joined to their home constituencies is these elected few do not spend enough time in Washington to get anything done in the city they were sent to do battle in.  When a Senator spends only 2 1/2 days in Washington, he or she cannot become part of a functioning governing machine in Washington, cannot get to know other representatives, cannot form working relationships, cannot get seduced by the comraderie of the governing class.

Some would argue this is a good thing, but having seen the other side of this coin, Mad Dog can say one reason for gridlock in Washington is the absence of the Representatives and Senators who are supposed to be doing the work of Washington. They are simply missing in action. 

It's all good and well to stay in close contact with them what's sent you thar, but if you don't engage in the organization and the process you can't very well help the government do much for the folks back home.

Of course, there are all those T Party, Rand Paul types who argue we should push things exactly in the direction of an absent government in Washington, D.C.

But if you are interested in effective, competent government, then you have to keep the elected representatives in their offices in Washington, or, at the very least, in the bars and restaurants and swimming pools of Washington, where they can wheel and deal and horse trade so government can actually accomplish something.

If it were up to Mad Dog, he would require all Senators and Congressmen remain in Washington, even (and especially) on weekends and not be allowed to leave the District of Columbia, until the Congress adjourns. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

New Hampshire: The Shire Looks at the World

Mad Dog once had a photo of a group of children of different races, arms around each other, smiling into the camera in his office.  This was some years ago, and things may have changed, but it struck Mad Dog that whenever an American adult looked at that picture, the American would smile back at it.  But when a German or Frenchman or Italian or often, a Brit would look at it, not so much. People from these places, when they looked at the picture at all, often did so with knitted brow, narrowed eyes, and did not look pleased, much less smile back.

Not exactly a controlled experiment. Just an impression. 

But it did strike Mad Dog as a sort of gut check, unvarnished study. In Mad Dog's warped mind, it seemed Americans had internalized the Star Trek ideal of a multiracial society working together in harmony on the same spaceship earth, whereas Europeans may not have, or at least some Europeans.

Like many studies, this one may have returned the results Mad Dog wanted to see, rather than the more complex truth of what is actually out there.

Mad Dog has just returned from two weekends "abroad," one in New Orleans, one in New York City.   These quick visits drove home a point he had not thought about for some time:  New Hampshire is a very white place.

In fact, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, in that order, are the three white-est states among all 50 states. Utah and Rhode Island, once among the most white are no longer, with only 80-85% whiteness, presumably, in the case of Utah, owing to Hispanics and in Rhode Island's case, more research needs to be done.

But as Mad Dog walked around the streets, through the parks of New York City, and felt the vitality, the energy, the sheer exuberance of the place, he realized a very strange thing--something he would never have expected he would have even given a thought: Mad Dog missed seeing colored folks, missed just saying hello to colored folks, missed their presence. 

He also realized that in every society he has ever lived, somebody occupied the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder.  When he was growing up below the Mason Dixon line, that place was mostly occupied by African Americans, but AA's are no longer in that position. In Washington, DC and in New York City you see plenty of affluent minority folks.

In New Hampshire, Whites occupy the bottom rungs. They tend to be people from large families, often broken homes, and they tend to be under educated. They are straight out of the pages of Grace Metalious and Peyton Place.

Mad Dog is not suggesting New Hampshire import colored folks. But, if this observation means anything for our state, perhaps it means if we are homogeneous in some ways, perhaps we ought to make a special effort to reach out to the rest of the world, and to be sure we hear other opinions, and we ought to make an effort to explore the world beyond our cozy little shire.

We already do this, of course, with the Music Hall, the nearby Ogunquit Playhouse, and by going to movies and by watching cable TV, those of us who can afford cable TV.

And it must be remembered, New Hampshire voted for a Black man (mixed race actually) twice. Mr. Obama took every town on the seacoast (save New Castle) in the first election and did almost as well in the second.  There were racial epithets, snide banners, nasty bumper stickers, but ordinary, white, New Hampshire tradesmen and housewives, who Mad Dog met while canvasing during the weeks running up to the election, made no mention at all of Mr. Obama's race, only his policies. Many, if not most of them, thought he had tried to do the right thing, and been thwarted by stubborn Republican resistance. 

But when Mad Dog talks to his co workers, he is struck by how little interest they have in the world beyond the shire.  He tried to get them to listen to National Public Radio, but, as one commented, "I tried, but it was always about news from some place in Africa or some country I'd never heard of and will never go to."

One of my co workers has never been on an airplane. Her husband has only been out the the states of New Hampshire and Vermont once, to fly to Wisconsin. (Another very white state.)   

These people show no sign of overt racism. They simply have no opinion of or experience with people of different races, people who come from different cultural backgrounds.  When they go to college, traveling to Keene or Plymouth, New Hampshire seems a long haul. Somethings they consider Maine or Rhode Island. 

One wonders when this will change, and when it does, how, and in what direction?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Benghazi: The Movie. The Hearings. The Witch Hunt.

So the Republican leading the ongoing, interminable hearings in the Republican House of Representatives has released his movie poster for the hearings. Can an i Tunes release be far behind?

The big star most recently was a State Department official, Gregory Hicks, who was demoted afterwards. Knowing a little something about bureaucratic vindictiveness, it is not hard to believe Hilary Clinton might just stick it to anyone who was not Hilary Clinton who had the temerity to speak to the press.

And so, we have begun to discover, what?  Did Mr. Obama launch the attack on Benghazi to cover up the secret files housed there which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was born on Mars? Did Hilary Clinton launch the attack because she was having an affair with Ambassador Stevens and he was about to pull a Monica Lewinsky?  Did Hilary and Mr. Obama arrange for the hit on Ambassador Stevens because he was actually their love child and they could not afford for that news to get out? 

Or, did Hilary Clinton send the ambassador to a poorly defended outpost and then try to cover up the report she had been negligent in protecting her own staff by demoting Mr. Hicks and by ordering her underlings to report this was a spontaneous, thus unpredictable act of violence?  And if this is so, should Ms. Clinton be scratched as a potential Presidential candidate because, obviously, she is not great at responding to the totemic 2 AM phone call?

Or, did Mr. Issa have a love child with Ms. Clinton, i.e. Mr. Hicks, and Mr. Issa is very indignant Ms. Clinton laid the heavy wood on Mr. Hicks and demoted him?

The plot lines are legion.  This soap opera could go on as long as "As The World Turns."
Stay tuned. Brought to you by the RNC, The Rush Limbaugh Show and the Watch-out-for-those-black-helicopters .com blog.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mark Sanford: He Is Risen

There are no second acts in American lives.
                            --F. Scott Fitzgerald

One might argue Mark Sanford's election to his old House of Representatives seat is not a second act but just a continuation of the first.

One might argue this is simply the second act of "House of Cards."

Mad Dog would argue, Mr. Sanford's election is no surprise. The surprise would have been if he had been defeated.

What were his offenses? 
1. He cheated on his wife. No disqualification there: JFK, Clinton,Henry Hyde,  you name him.
2. He lied about cheating on his wife, about where he was when he was not on the Appalachian trial. Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky.
3. He flew down to Argentina and to various assignations on  government money.
Now, that might matter, but the man is all about saving the government money, and about not being Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama, so we can forgive him that youthful indiscretion.

The misperception of the Bible thumping voter is that he or she could never forgive a man who violates his sacred marriage vows, said before God, on the wedding alter. But the South Carolina voter is not the New England Puritan. The South Carolina voter knows he's a sinner. He's embraced a culture and a history of slavery. He's happy to sell tobacco to Asians.  He can forgive a lot. 

What he cannot forgive is being Barack Obama, being judged by sanctimonious Northerners and a federal government which wants to take his money, or tell him what he is doing is immoral, injurious or wrong.  

As that great South Carolina Representative to the Congress of the United States, Francis Underwood, once said, "What you have to understand about my people is that they are a noble people. Humility is their form of pride. It is their strength; it is their weakness. And if you can humble yourself before them they will do anything you ask. "

Monday, May 6, 2013

Niall Ferguson, John Maynard Keynes and the Homosexual Hypothesis

Niall Ferguson: Wishful Historian

"During a question-and-answer session after a prepared speech at the Altegris Strategic Investment conference in Carlsbad, Calif. on Thursday, Ferguson was asked to comment about Keynes, an influential 20th century British economist who advocated government spending as a way to make up for lagging demand in a down economy.
Ferguson suggested that Keynes philosophy was shaped by his homosexuality. Keynes, therefore, had no children so he wasn't as invested in future generations as others might be, Ferguson said."
--from the Internet

If history is just one long argument, then we might judge the history offered by any author as a wish list of the way he thought the world ought to have happened.

This is no where more apparent than in the pronouncements, writings and expostulations of Niall Ferguson, Oxford PhD, professor of history at Harvard and gadfly about the nation, who created a dust up recently attacking not just the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes, who had the temerity to suggest that when free market, capitalistic economies were tanking, the government might do some good by rescuing the capitalists from their own folly by pumping money into the economy. Ferguson, a disciple of Margaret Thatcher and other right wing ideologs, thought this heresy unconscionable and offered a psychobabble historical explanation for Keynes's theory--saying that anyone who wanted government to ride to the rescue in the short term, could not possibly care a whit for the long term consequences, which would ultimately be doom and gloom, and anyone who had no concern about the long term must not have children, because, of course, only people with children could possibly care about the long term. 

And since Keynes was homosexual, and had no children, he could not possibly care about the future.

Whew! Got that?

Of course, Keynes may well have been a homosexual, but he was also married, had a wife and his wife lost a child in a miscarriage, so we might further conclude, having lost his own individual genetic contribution to posterity, Keynes had no further use for the future.

Ferguson really does  not like Keynes: Feruguson suggests elsewhere the main reason Keynes was dismayed by World War One is it swept away all the young men Keynes liked to pick up for sexual adventures, and sent them off to the trenches, where they died in heaps, and so Keynes had a personal stake in the war.

One wonders how Ferguson and historians like him get that sort of insight. Do they prowl through diary entries?  "No young men on Picadilly Street today. All off at the war. Damn this war! No gay escapades this week! Damn this war!"
Or, perhaps, Ferguson interviewed old friends and acquaintances of Keynes:  "He was all in a snit about the war, don't you know? Took the cream of the crop. Meant he had to go home to his proper wife. Didn't like that one bit."

Or, perhaps Ferguson simply had a graduate assistant plow through biographies of Keynes.

The fact is, Ferguson has been adviser to John McCain's campaign, and the professor is a member of the Hoover Institute--ah, now there's a fine, upstanding trickle down hero, Herbert Hoover--and wherever you see a gathering of right wingers drawn together, you are apt to find Mr. Fergusson writing history for them.  

Stella Tremblay has been drinking from the same cup as Professor Ferguson, as every right wing whacko must.  The gospel according to...Ms. Tremblay, Mr. Ferguson, and every telling of the way things happened somehow bolsters the view of the current world held by the right wing.  Even today, former Senator Jim Demint (R-SC),  who now heads the Heritage Foundation, brings forth a "study" which shows exactly what the conservative Heritage Foundation suspected all along:  That immigrants cost the nation more than they contribute. Those derned immigrants, showing up at emergency rooms, getting hospitalized, getting welfare, a real drag on the federal treasury and on the economy. We told you so! And now we have a study to prove it! And it's all true. We know it's true because we did the study our own selves!

Actually, you have to give the right wing some credit for breadth of personality. They range all the way from Lindsey Graham who says really absurd things while sounding like an idiot, to Niall Ferguson, who says really absurd things and sounds oh so British and intelligent. 

So Ferguson says history shows us government spending leads to long term financial collapse. It's been 80 years since The Great Depression which was ended by government spending. 

Paul Krugman:  Substance Over Style

"Krugman argued that Ferguson's view is "resurrecting 75-year old fallacies" and full of "basic errors". He also stated that Ferguson is a "poseur" who "hasn't bothered to understand the basics, relying on snide comments and surface cleverness to convey the impression of wisdom. It's all style, no comprehension of substance."
--Wikipedia article on Ferguson

But in the end, it's the substance not the style, as Mr. Krugman reminds us. Lunacy riding about in an aristocratic hat and cloak is still lunacy.

The old ditty, the first casualty of war is the truth.
Same can be said of the right wing historian.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Stella Tremblay: New Hampshire's Very Own

 Thank God we have at least ONE state representative from the state of New Hampshire who is willing to stand up for justice in defense of truth, and to face the powerful NWO sellouts who will pillory and vilify her without mercy, until she is driven from office, Mark my words, her removal is already being planned. Soon, Zionist dollars will flow prodigiously in an attempt to to create a ruse to push her from office with a recall election, or failing that, they will insure her defeat with unlimited funding to back a suitably compliant opponent in the next election. Tremblay, first elected in 2010, was born in Italy .Maybe that's why she's willing to speak her mind and do the job she was elected to do. Thinking Americans, who realize the grave danger we now face, need to rally to the support of any state or federal politician who is willing to speak the truth and stop this treasonous sedition in its tracks....] By Jim Haddadin

Where is Gail Collins when the Granite State needs her?
Or The Onion? Or Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert?

Really, does any state, even South Carolina, have anyone to match the Republican Representative from  Auburn, New Hampshire?

Ms. Tremblay recently made a name for herself on national websites by claiming the Boston bombing was actually a federal government black ops plot, that one of the victims, shown in a wheel chair holding what was left of his left leg (the fragment of his tibia clearly visible), did not look to be in pain, which was, Mad Dog can only guess, meant to suggest his injury was bogus, despite the photographic evidence, and that those victims who wound up in various Boston hospitals were all part of some grand government plot, a grand fiction, like the moon landing and President Obama's Hawaiian birth.

The website, "Granite State Progress," lists Ms. Tremblay's votes in the legislature and there are no surprises here:  Votes to require the University of New Hampshire to investigate every student who might be an immigrant to be sure they are not illegal, votes to endorse the Arizona immigration law--with its racial profiling--votes to de-fund Planned Parenthood, votes to de-fund any hospital which is in any way connected to abortions, which would cost New Hampshire billions in federal matching funds.

She is the genuine Tea Party, frothing Free Stater, on-what-planet-do-these-people spend-the-majority-of-their-time article. 

And she's all ours. Actually, if Mr. Haddadin is correct, she was born in Italy, but she is as American as apple pie and Olive Garden.

Mad Dog has been moved to pick up that splendid volume by Richard Hoftstader, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, which demonstrates, if nothing else, that Ms. Tremblay is nothing new, only freshly amusing. 

She is also a prodigious historian, who has rendered opinions about Frederick Douglass and his opinion of the allusion to slavery in the U.S. Constitution, and opinions about Woodrow Wilson, who, she says, believed with Hitler in the destiny of the Aryan race to rule the world. Actually, if you read Howard Zinn, you might find something to this portrait of Wilson the racist.  It is curious how often the Tremblay sort of mind alludes to history.  It is as if by talking about a version of history which is different from what we all learned in high school she can make claim to an insight the rest of us lack, an insight which should inform our understanding of where we are now.  So, if we know that Frederick Douglass actually believed slavery, then we can believe what the government and the media are now telling us about the Boston bombings is untrue.

Ms. Tremblay informs us, in somber and pregnant tones, that we really need an independent inquiry into the so-called Boston bombing, because we cannot believe what we've been told thus far, and it really was, presumably, all staged on a back lot in Los Angeles, and nobody was actually blown up, and all those hospitals and doctors are just actors or part of a vast conspiracy.

Can you imagine what her living room must look like? Can you imagine what Auburn, New Hampshire must be like?  Mad Dog may have to drive out there and spook around.  It's probably crawling with federal agents on their cell phones to the black helicopters circling overhead. 

Can you imagine how much fun it would be to simply follow her around with a microphone?  Why hasn't anyone done this?  

Where is Michael Moore, when you need him?

Richard Hofstader, Columbia University