Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Honor Roll

Here is a list of the states with the highest rates of child poverty, in order:

1. Mississippi
2. New Mexico
3. Arkansas
4. Louisiana
5. Alabama
6. Georgia
7. Arizona
8. South Carolina
9. Kentucky
10. North Carolina
11. Tennessee
12. Texas

The 13th state is Florida, the 14th Michigan.

Notice anything about these places? (Hint, consult the map above, which is a map of the districts which sent Tea Party Representatives to Congress.) One other connection you might make is every Confederate state is listed, save Virginia. Florida of course, would have made it had it not been for New Mexico grabbing a spot.

And New Mexico is the anomaly. One might think New Mexico made it because of "Breaking Bad" but Mad Dog's guess is there are a lot of impoverished Indian reservations in New Mexico.

Arizona, of course, was not in the Confederacy, but only because it was not a state at the time. With Sheriff Arpaio driving the streets in his customized tank, looking for dark skinned people who must be illegal aliens, Arizona is at least an honorary member of the Confederacy.

Is it not remarkable that those places represented by Tea Party fanatics are the most backward, impoverished, uneducated, underachieving parts of our country? We don't need no help from Washington, these districts say. Well, maybe you might ought to think again about that, pardner.

Think of Texas Representative Pete Olson, who spoke into the cameras at a recent Congressional hearing on the troubles with the Obamacare roll out and said, ever so modestly, "Being a computer science major from Rice University and a former naval aviator who could not afford to have my computer drop off line as I'm rolling my plane to drop a torpedo to stop a Russian submarine from launching a ballistic missile, a nuclear missile at our country..."

Wow! There's a lot going on in that little tirade. What a man! He has been saving our country, ever since he went to a FREE university, and worked for the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT to protect our nation using the flawless technology aboard his United States Navy, federal government made and maintained airplane. And he has nothing but scorn for the federal government, which just cannot do anything right, and ought to be defunded, shut down and put out of business, even if kids in his own state are starving, uneducated and think school is about marching bands and Friday night football games. 

It has struck Mad Dog nearly mute when he realizes that many of the most vehement anti government, free market, Ayn Rand, frothing, self made men have been government employees (often military) state employees or employees of big corporations which fed on the government teat, their entire careers.  They have never been out there in that vaunted "free market" risking their own financial fate at sea. They have always had a W-2 form and a steady paycheck. (Mad Dog was self employed for most of his career and can smell a salary man from way off.) Mr. Olson, one might note, currently gets his 6  figure pay check, his health insurance and his gym and franking privileges courtesy of the federal government he so reviles.

Was Mark Twain being overly generous when he said, "Consider our Congress. Now, consider a pack of jackasses. But then, I repeat myself"?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Website Debacle: Oh, Government Just Can't Do Anything Right

Gleeful Republicans, Eric Cantor most vociferously, have pointed to the frustration experienced by millions trying to sign up for Obamacare and failing to get past the first screen. 
What this signifies, you see, is:
1. Government cannot do anything right.

2. Obamacare is a big government program that doesn't work right. That cannot work right. That will never work right. Because government is the problem, not the solution. (This being the only Republican zing phrase which has ever really had mass appeal and it is beloved of the Tea Party, having been coined by Ronald Reagan. Reagan should have known, since, in his hand, that was very true.)

3. When government does not work right, the only reasonable response is to abandon the whole idea of government and to eliminate government programs, in this case, Obamacare.

On the other hand, when the Republicans attempted to dis-enfranchise millions of voters with their voting place laws, restricting hours, eliminating mail in ballots, eliminating early voting (all in the name of preventing "voter fraud) well, that was just fine.  Long lines and frustration there meant everything was working as planned, no problems.

Do John Boehner, Eric Cantor and all the other Tea Party losers really think this line is going to sell?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Arthur Herman and Nuclear Bomb Blindness

Reviewing Eric Schlosser's excellent book, Command and Control, Arthur Herman writes in the Wall Street Journal that Mr. Schlosser's Jeremiad is based on an irrational fear which is belied by the evidence at hand.

Herman asks: If having 10,000 nuclear bombs on missiles, in airplanes and in submarines is so dangerous, then why have we not have more accidents?  
Mr. Herman finds the very fact that there was only one case where a nuclear bomb blew up in a silo (in Arkansas) and the nuclear part of the bomb did not detonate-- because safety systems worked--very reassuring.   Having large number of bombs, any one of which could level a state and contaminate the entire East Coast in a way which would make Fukishima look like a garden party, is no problem for Mr. Herman.

Reading this review, from a conservative professor (a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute) in a conservative newspaper (WSJ) says all that needs to be said about the capacity of the human mind to use the mechanism of denial to achieve a sense of comfort and to validate dearly held beliefs.

For any normal human being reading this book, with its long list of accidents, and narrowly avoided catastrophes, this catalog of near catastrophes is a cautionary tale--this would be a cautionary tale, for anyone not welded to an ideology, an ideology which says private enterprise and big corporations feeding on the government teat are--not just works of man but works of God.

For anyone who works in medicine, or in any of a  variety of technical or engineering realms, the experience of things going wrong is very familiar. Things go wrong on the ward, doing procedures, doing surgery, all the time. It's part of the experience of working with mechanical things. Things happen. 

 In the case of surgery, you inadvertently nick an artery and you put your finger on the punctured artery, hold it, maybe throw in a suture to stop the bleeding, and you move on. In the case of nuclear bomb, not so easy. Things go wrong there, it's not so easy;  the consequences are large. The chance to correct, to retrieve, to adjust is simply on a different level, when it comes to a bomb which can level the state of Arkansas. In the case of the Arkansas missile, they knicked a missile fuel tank and they put the entire state of Arkansas at risk and there was precious little they could do to avert catastrophe. They quite literally flew on a wing and a prayer.

For the Wall Street Journal, for Professor Herman, this book is a screed, a polemic and a call for fuzzy minded liberal efforts to reduce the number of nuclear bombs around the planet, and that would be bad for business.

From the point of view of an engineer or a surgeon, this is a simple document of numbers:  You have a certain number of bombs and things go wrong with those bombs at a certain rate, an incidence, and if you multiply out risks and incidence, you get a certain rate of occurrence. We haven't reached that occurrence quite yet, but it's coming.

Any one can see this. Only the willfully blind cannot.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ted Cruz and Joseph McCarthy

But Jane Mayer reports today that it wasn’t too long ago that Cruz delivered a speech at a Fourth of July weekend political rally, sponsored by the Koch brothers’ political group, accusing Harvard Law School of harboring secret Communists on its faculty
Cruz greeted the [2010] audience jovially, but soon launched an impassioned attack on President Obama, whom he described as “the most radical” President “ever to occupy the Oval Office.” (I was covering the conference and kept the notes.)
He then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”
A Harvard Law spokesperson told Mayer the school is “puzzled” by Cruz’s accusations.

One of the many humbling thing about the blogosphere is the realization it forces on you that your voice is one of millions, and whatever brilliant thought you may have had, whatever insight, others have likely already noticed the same thing.

All this is by way of saying, when Mad Dog ran photos of Senator Joseph McCarthy and Senator Ted Cruz on a recent post, he was not the only one or possibly not even the first to notice the eerie resemblance.  Try googling "Ted Cruz and Senator Joseph McCarthy."

But, if great minds think alike, then so be it. If many people see the same thing, maybe, and only maybe, there is something to it. A demagogue in search of his own personal enrichment and fame, fueled by vainglory, is a demagogue.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

High Tea at Dewey LeBoeuf: The Rich, The Entitled, The Foul

In the midst of the acting out of Tea Party Congressmen and Senators, we must always remember these Washington clowns are only part of the circus which has become America.

Pictured here are various lawyers who were part of the law firm Dewey LeBoeuf, which failed and collapsed into bankruptcy last year.

The New Yorker article, by James  Stewart,  detailing the collapse in this week's issue is astonishing for the simple, unvarnished portrayal of rapacious avarice which characterized every one of the lawyers mentioned. 

Mitt Romney became infamous for his portrayal of the "takers" who, with an outrageous sense of entitlement make demands on the federal government food stamp programs, on Medicaid and on a wide variety of "safety net" programs which Tea Party Congressmen claim are the bleeding this country dry.

The most egregious welfare queen cannot hold a candle to any of these entitled graduates of prestigious law schools whose sense of entitlement does not extend to a food stamp or a free visit to the emergency room:  These guys feel mortally offended if someone suggests they should be paid less than $6 million a year, before their bonuses.  One still claims the now defunct law firm owes him $60 which he richly deserves. 

And what makes them so valuable and so deserving of this sort of salary?  They bring in clients like Disney and they negotiate deals with other people's money, at no personal risk to themselves, their families. No lives are at stake.  They play with the big dollars of big corporations, which, if things fall apart, will simply invest in new ventures.

Mad Dog is profoundly depressed reading about these people, just to learn how very loathsome human beings can become.  He is currently trying to figure out how he would design a law to strip them of their huge, undeserved wealth.

After the Civil War, Thaddeus Stevens wanted to strip the plantation owners of their slaves, their estates, their wealth and make them get back to the soil and to a life of humble labor, to strip these arrogant aristocrats of their imperiousness and restore them to the life and virtues of a humble Republican.

Of course, "Republican" had an entirely different meaning in those days.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Live Free or Shut Up: New Hampshire License Plates Captivate Us Again

The most dramatic one of all has to be New Hampshire's, which says Live Free or DIE!
A little harsh, don't you think?

Well, I'm certainly not going to move there.I get just a little  nervous in any state where they mention death right on the license plate.
--George Carlin

 A man who has changed his name to Human (from Montenegro) has sued the state of New Hampshire because he wanted a vanity plate that read:COPSLIE. Or it may have been COPS LIE, but you get the idea.  His request was denied and he submitted a variety of alternatives but the only one accepted by the  New Hampshire DMV was "GR8GOVT."

Mr. Human argued the state had selected the only positive statement about government from a list of submitted plates with negative things to say about government, and thus had denied him his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.

The judge and the New Hampshire state DMV fell right into the trap by making the astonishingly stupid argument his criticism, denigration, accusation plates were in poor taste.

Later, in his opinion, the judge noted you cannot put "DRUNK" on your plates, or, he  might have added, "KDDEPORN" or "SHIT" but he did note you can speak freely by applying a bumper sticker to your car. You just cannot ask the government to print up your speech for you without allowing the government to censor your remarks.

New Hampshire's license plates have made it to the United States Supreme Court before, in Wooley v Maynard, a case in which a Jevohah's Witness taped over the Live Free or Die and was arrested.  The Supreme Court ruled that freedom to speech included the right to not speak and found the citizen had acted within his rights. Justice Burger argued the state had compelled the citizen to attach to his private property (his automobile) a mobile billboard stating the state's message. Justice Rehnquist argued against this, saying the citizen was free to attach a bumper sticker below the license plate disagreeing with the license plate message. The majority voted with Justice Burger. (How do you think Roberts/Scalia/ Alito/Thomas will vote in this case of the citizen against the powers that be?)

Now, the ACLU has taken up Mr. Human's cause.

Mad Dog has not been able to find how much the state of New Hampshire makes from the sale of personalized license plates, but clearly, the state has entered a marketplace, and this takes the license plate out of an inarguably government product restricted to identifying and certifying vehicles and into a realm of the marketplace, which might be reasonably assumed to include the world of free expression.

In Tennessee, you can have a license plate called a "specialty" plate with the logo of an anti abortion organization and the words "Choose Life," but you cannot have an alternative plate which was rejected, which said, "Freedom of Choice."   Like New Hampshire, the government claims to not support any particular point of view, but by eliminating statements or logos for opposing points of view, it clearly has taken a position, and asserted a particular position as a government endorsed position.
The judge in New Hampshire who supported the DMV's rejection of COPS LIE, said making the DMV print up this plate would be an insult to police, an irrelevant consideration, but he apparently also got to the more germane point,when he finally noted that by making the government print his opinion, Mr. Human had virtually compelled the government to put its seal of approval on his opinion.
That is a more interesting point.
But then, what about all those plates which say LUVWINE or SKINAKD or SURFTPLS?
If the government makes enough money, it is willing to wink at some plates but it draws the line at others. Which means it places the government in the position of constantly censoring content deciding what is "good taste" and what is "offensive."
One thing you have to like about New Hampshire is its willingness to enter the fray. No state which puts Live Free or Die on its plates can be accused of being boring.
But once you decide to embrace controversy, you cannot hide behind "good taste."

Friday, October 11, 2013

Susan Karpatkin: Let the Hoi Polloi Speak

All Mad Dog knows about Susan Karpatkin of Bethesda, Maryland is what he could find by googling her, but her letter to the New York Times came as breath of fresh air amid all the hot air and flatus emanting from the Washington, DC area:
Susan Karpatkin, Chair, Math Dept, National Cathedral School

"I am one Democrat who would be happy to negotiate with the Republicans in Congress. The Republicans have stated their opening position for negotiation. They are ready to reopen the government if we defund the Affordable Care Act. Here is mine.
  I am ready to reopen the government if we add a public option to the Affordable Care Act. And while we are negotiating, I also demand a raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, a law that restricts chief executives and other managers to no more than 100 times the wage of the lowest-paid person in their company receives, public financing of campaigns and longer hours at polling places. "

Mad Dog would like Ms. Karpatkin negotiating for him. She may be the daughter of a famous ACLU lawyer, or maybe not. She is a product of Oberlin, and she teaches math at the National Cathedral School, a very exclusive private school in Washington, D.C. She is married to an Arnold and Porter lawyer. So she has been admitted to the upper reaches of privilege, sees the upper 1% and their offspring daily, but she has not been seduced by it.   Whatever her background, she can see the truth and state it boldly.

Other fine letters from Joshua Hill of New London, Connecticut, Michael Kraft of Silver Spring, Maryland, David Maynard of Portland, Oregon appear, all from unsung citizens, living their un-famous lives across the country, all of whom make far more sense than a single Republican Congressman.

Cowards Cut and Run. Real leaders never do. That is what you said, isn't it, Dick?
But good sense has rarely prevailed in our public life.  Mad Dog remembers the days when George W. Bush decided to put American boots on the ground in Iraq. Mad Dog thought, "All he is doing is providing a more accessible target for those mad dogs in Baghdad, so they won't have to come over here and blow up targets in New York City."  That sentiment was reflected in the un-famous cartoon of the time (above.)

These truths are evident to the viewers at home.  Just as we could once see for ourselves the truth about our war against Communist aggression in Vietnam, every night when we watched Walter Cronkite, we can now see the truth about the Tea Party Rats' Nest in Washington.

Not that it seems to affect those in power in Washington, but it is a comfort.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Government Shut Down: No Pain, No Gain

Mad Dog was interviewed as a man on the street by somebody with a camera recently, and he was asked how the government shut down was affecting him. Mad Dog had to admit:  Not at all. No personal pain. But what about the shipyard workers, what about the NIH medical researchers, what about the FDA inspectors not screening food?

Mad Dog had to admit--none of it touched him personally. Mad Dog tried to say he was outraged about the government sort of shutting down, as a matter of principle. 
But the interviewer kept pressing--how does it affect you personally?

Like so many TV reporters, he was looking for the answers he wanted to hear, not the answers Mad Dog wanted to give. 

The fact is, President Obama and the Democrats have a big problem here: By trying to protect vital government functions, by being responsible leaders, they insulate the American public from having to face the question: What if there were no functioning federal government?

By protecting the public from the more dire consequences, by keeping "essential" government employees at work, the Democrats are helping the Tea Party make its wacko point: We don't need no friggin guv'ment.

Mad Dog would like to see President Obama send home the FAA tower controllers: Ground the entire US air fleet, all 3000 flights a day. That'll get the attention of an indifferent public.

Mad Dog invites his vast legions of readers to append their own suggestions for government functions which would, if stopped tomorrow, grab the attention of the narcotized American public.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The People Who Really Run this Country

The Koch Brothers
Ed Meese
Mad Dog's grandfather, on his mother's side, was a devout Communist, it must be admitted 
It affected his grandfather's perceptions.
But that does not mean he was unable to see certain things with a certain clarity. 
He loved to say this country has the best Congress money can buy. 
He really loved that joke.  

But, the fact is, he likely missed the point, in that, it is not really Congress, or even the Presidency which is all that important in this country. The people who really control things are not widely known, don't want to be. We focus on John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, the stooges who are out in front of the cameras ever day, but they are not pulling the strings.  The men who make the puppets on stage dance and twitch are the Koch brothers, Ed Meese (Ronald Reagan's old attorney general) who can spend the money on the advertisements which mold public opinion, slowly, inexorably, even as we do not realize our opinions are being molded. 

It is these men who have turned the statement:  "Obamacare is unpopular:The nation hates Obamacare," into an article of faith. 
Of course the public has no clear idea what Obama care is, what it will mean, but they know they don't like it because the Koch brothers have spent the money to convince the public they don't like it.

It's the men with the money who wield the power, who pull the strings. We hold elections, and we elect a smart man to be President, but that doesn't matter. The rich boys are still rich and they make sure their money buys them what they want.
Mario Puzo put that idea front and center in The Godfather, the mob bosses spoke of having judges and politicians "in their pocket," because it was money in the pocket which allowed you to own politicians and judges. This is fiction based on real life perceptions and experience.
Read the New York Times today, Sunday, October 6, the lead article about how Ed Meese and the Koch brothers conspired to bring about the government shut down, how red state gerrymandering and money spent paid off to allow a few men, got control of a few politicians--likely as few as 50 Congressmen--to control the fate of 300 million American souls. 

It's the story of a revolution undone. We had an American revolution, in part at least, because people living on this continent resented being under the thumb of rich aristocrats across the sea, in England. It has been said it was a revolution of rich American aristocrats against rich English aristocrats, and that may have been true, in the South, but in New England, it was peasant farmers, humble country lawyers and shope keepers who revolted against  arrogant moneyed gentry and royalty.  But now, in America, we have our own, new aristocracy of big money.  It's Animal Farm for our current age.
And you look from pig to man, and from man to pig, and you cannot tell one from another. 

Oh, Jefferson, Adams and Madison would just groan to see what we've done to their idea.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Being Fair to Republicans: Or How Dancer's Image Taught the GOP to Whine Effectively

Have you noticed how the "liberal media, "e.g. Judy Woodruff on the "News Hour," and others who Fox News consider hopelessly biased against conservative causes, have questioned Republican Congressmen and Democratic leaders during this current Government Shutdown and  approaching default storm? 

Judy Woodruff has been falling all over herself  trying to appear fair minded.  She actually asked a White House spokesman the other night why the Democrats cannot be more accommodating to the Republican demands--why not concede a little something, like the medical device tax--just to throw a bone and gets things moving?

Of course, the Democrats sputter and do not have the smarts to say something like:  "Hey, Judy, I love dogs and little children, but if a man passes a note to a teller saying he's going to blow up the bank unless she stuffs his suitcase full of cash, so he can give money to dogs and little children, I'm not going to negotiate with him." 

Or words to that effect.

Jon Stewart, at least,  has been clear headed enough to say there is no way we can be balanced and even handed in this case,  when one party is so clearly out of its frigging mind.  

It's the problem of the Big Lie. Where do you begin, when the whole premise of the Republican party is so wildly absurd?  

He was reduced to dealing in analogies.  Okay, the Giants lost Sunday. They did not then turn around and demand the NFL suspend the rest of the season unless the Giants can be given a little something, say 21 more points so they win the game they have already lost. After all, it's a fairness to the American people thing.

You see, what the Republicans are doing: They lost the vote on Obamacare; they lost the Supreme Court case on Obamacare. They played their hand. And now they want to have a post loss victory handed to them.

Actually, this is not unprecedented in American history:  In 1968 a New Hampshire horse, Dancer's Image, won the Kentucky Derby, fair and square. But the owner of that horse was a friend and admirer of Martin Luther King, and when he gave the purse to Martin Luther King's widow, to continue the great man's work, the folks at the Kentucky (you remember, Kentucky?  Where Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are from) Derby went back and "found" a urine sample from the winning horse and found an illegal anti inflammatory drug there and stripped the horse of the title. 

Loser's justice. 

So now, the Republicans are saying the words: "Constitution," and "fairness," "American people," and  "free market." They are throwing them all together in every sentence to show how reasonable they are being, shutting down the government, wrecking the economy, because, well, any reasonable, patriotic person would do the same. It's those rigid Democrats, who cannot accept what the game provides, who are the bad guys here.

It reminds Mad Dog of when he was a medical student on the psych wards, and someone would come in saying the Communists were controlling his brain with radio waves and if we could just help him, he would cleanse the world of Satan and all his works if we would just blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and decapitate all the fish at the Futon Fish Market. And we would say, "Just come into the room and sit down, so we can talk about it." 

Now, Judy Woodruff would ask President Obama why he didn't at least offer to decapitate some of the fish at the Fulton Fish market, just to be reasonable and to meet at least some of the demands.

Luckily, for the Republicans, the "liberal media" they so revile, cannot find the balls to nail the Republicans to the wall for what they are saying and doing.  And the spokesmen for the Democrats, with the possible exception of President Obama himself, are too toothless, inarticulate and unimaginative to respond effectively.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tea Party Makes Shocking Discovery!

These Guys are Crazy, Ted! They Just Won't Negotiate!

Obamacare Websites in New York City Stagger  As 2 million Hits Flood Website at 9 AM Monday, October 1: NY Times

All the polls indicate overwhelming public disapproval of Obamacare--now all those disgruntled customers are breaking down the doors to buy into the insurance programs they are supposed to hate, like some Black Friday sale.

Must be all those  2 million deathly ill citizens with pre existing conditions who are so desperate for health insurance. Obama is forcing the insurers to cover these deadbeats.
                  --Fox News 

They're all the takers, trying to sign up.
                    --Mitt Romney

Health Insurance is the opiate of the masses.  They'll be sorry.
                     --Ted Cruz

This is the next worse thing to Medicare. Americans will grow to love it and they'll grow soft.
                     --Rand Paul

I know nobody in the state of Virginia will be foolish enough to want health insurance, when they can pick cotton.
                   --Eric Cantor

This is an abomination forced down the throats of those two million people.
                  --John Boehner

This is the end of the free market society, which reached its purest form in late 20th century America. All gone now. We're a second rate civilization.
                 --Newt Gingrich

New Yorkers aren't real Americans, anyway.
                 --Mitch McConnell

Ain't nobody dumb enough to call no health insurance exchange down here in South Carolina.
                --Lindsay Graham 

Maybe we're on to something...
                    --President Obama