Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dead Cops as Stage Props: Pat Lynch and NYPD Blue Union

The head of the police union, which has been working for some time without a contract with the city, said the blood of the two murdered policeman, shot in their car by a lunatic, is on the mayor's hands, because, presumably, the mayor did not say enough to defend his police officers who were video'd killing a large black man with a choke hold.  The police, some police at least, are also upset about the mayor's ending "Stop and Frisk" procedures, whereby Black and Hispanic men can be thrown up against a wall and searched for weapons, despite the Constitution's constraints about unreasonable search.

If only, Lynch was saying, the police had been able to throw that maniac  up against a wall and search him, they would be alive today, but instead they had to be sitting in their patrol car, looking the other way,  just waiting to be killed.

Or so Mr. Lynch would have us believe.

Mr. Lynch thinks the mayor should ask forgiveness. The police turn their back on the mayor.

Mad Dog, however, believes it is Mr. Lynch who should ask forgiveness, from the families of these two officers, who he has used as a stage prop for his own political agenda. Mr. Lynch is torn from the pages of "House of Cards," as cynical and nakedly manipulative as any character, and once again life imitates art.

Mad Dog is reminded of that famous scene from the Army/McCarthy hearings where the defense counsel, a Mr. Welch, looks Senator Joseph McCarthy in the eye and says, "Have you no sense of decency, at long last? Have you no sense of decency at all."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Biggest Stories of 2014: Labor Unions, Lost in the 21st Century

As the governor of Wisconsin recently demonstrated, running against labor unions is good for the bottom line.
In “Citizen Koch,” a documentary about the Koch brothers, these two concerned citizens loathe labor unions as demons from the darkest pits of hell and they make clear their money sent to the governor of Wisconsin to defeat his recall and to win re election is drawn from the well of their contempt for labor unions.

          Full disclosure: Mad Dog’s grandfather was an ardent union man.  He suffered for his union and one of his favorite quips was that a bayonet is a weapon with a worker on either end. The real struggle in the world, from grandfather’s point of view, had little to do with nations but with classes: workers vs bosses.
           Anyone who has read Howard Zinn knows how ruthlessly captains of industry have fought unions and how they bought all the politicians they needed to do this.
            Ronald Reagan broke the air traffic controllers’ union and Maggie Thatcher broke coal unions and virtually every union she could get her hands on. And it wasn’t just the owners and barons of industry who thanked them: They were hailed by the general public for their efforts.
         But, even Mad Dog’s own father, looking at a strike by professional football players said, “I’m all for the workers. But these guys aren’t workers. They’re millionaires fighting with billionaires.”
         There are some unions which simply fail to win public support.
         On a recent trip to France, Mad Dog heard many stories, from many sources about the evils of unions.  When the lock workers, who operate the forty odd locks along the Seine went on strike, it meant the barge captains and workers could not haul their loads on the river; it meant the cruise boats and restaurant boats and all their workers could not go to work.  When pilots for Air France go on strike, thousands of people sleeping on floors of airports become easy converts to the Koch brothers’ point of view.
            There was once a time when a strike by one set of workers triggered sympathy strikes from other workers; no longer—the workers who are idled by another worker’s strike resent the loss of pay. They see no brotherhood with other workers; all they care about is how much they have been inconvenienced.
           When Market Basket employees went on strike, the customers were not much inconvenienced: They could shop at some other store. The farmers who relied on Market Basket were hurt, but there were not all that  many farmers.
            Union workers can strike without alienating the public at large when they are in manufacturing, when the company they work for produces a product for which there are competitors. If the workers hold up production, then the company suffers, but not the general public. That puts the workers in a good position to pressure the owners without losing public support.
             But in the 21st century increasingly, most workers do not produce a product in a competitive environment;  air traffic controllers, airline pilots, city garbage collectors, river lock operators, city school teachers are in the service economy and often in positions where the strikes they impose create widespread resentment and public antipathy. Members of these unions have shot themselves, not just in the foot, but considerably higher up, and the unions have hemorrhaged crucial public support.

          Union rules, it must be admitted, have too often  thwarted the mission of the companies they work for: when a hospital needs to clean out operating rooms quickly but the housekeepers’ union refuses to allow workers to get the job done in 30 minutes (which is what it takes in non union hospitals) but insists on 60 minutes so only half the number of surgeries can get done daily, that hurts the hospital, and ultimately, if the hospital goes into the red, it hurts the workers.

Unions exist to defend the rights of the workers, but when they forget that the mission of the employer is also important and, ultimately, important for the worker, they wind up hurting everyone, workers included. When a union stage hand has to move a chair on a set rather than allowing an actor to simply pick it up and place it down in a better spot, the definition of work and who can do it reaches absurd proportions.

          Unions have, over decades, done far more good for this country than harm. Safety at the workplace, a fair wage for a day’s work, the emergence of a strong, stable middle class all owe much to union strength.  Structured working groups of workers have identified inefficiencies in production, which would never have reached the managers had the institutionalized system of worker in-put not been forced by the unions—so cars, airplane engines and a whole range of things have been produced better as a result of unions. Even the five day work week, not to mention overtime, has meant workers can actually have enough time to shop, recreate and, by their spending, drive the economy.
      But, philosophically, Americans love to hate groups, and Americans love to believe they can make it on their own. We do not like to think about the idea Elizabeth Warren has emphasized: We are all using stuff made by others,  from roads to education. We are all interdependent. The hard driving capitalist wants to think he is special and he deserves all the money he’s made because he’s worked harder and smarter. Admitting we are all in this together and that even when we excel, we have stood on the shoulders of others to do this--well, that's something we find hard to swallow.

       The welfare queen, that mythical woman who lived the high life without working, by simply exploiting the welfare system remains a fixture in the American mind. When uneducated or less educated people exploit the system, they are reviled. When someone who has graduated from Harvard summa cum laude succeeds, well, he’s earned it. But he didn’t go to Harvard on his own dime. When two engineers invent Google or Microsoft or Apple or Facebook, well they are simply the cream rising to the top. And there is some truth to that. But cream cannot form in a vacuum. You need a pot.

          Mad Dog has no solution to offer, and likely all of the above is well known to union leaders, academics, politicians and corporate boards. It is a rare day when the little guys can win in this environment. The Market Basket story was the exception which proved the rule: Here, an avaricious goon of a corporate oligarch tried to wrest half of the cash reserve of the company for his own bank account, with, predictably, the acquiescence of a board of directors.  But he was opposed by the “good Arthur” who said the money belonged to the workers, to the corporation, and, ultimately to the customers, before it belonged to any stock holders. This was a new idea, that a company has more than a single raison d’etre: That is it exists, yes to make money for the shareholders, but it has other obligationsm  to its workers, to its customers, to American society, to all those who make its continued viability a success.

          Capitalists have successfully argued that the only thing which should matter for every company listed on the NYSE is to generate profit and return for investors. This position has the virtue of simplicity and clarity.  It is an idea which should be dissected and butchered and hung out to dry.

          For Mad Dog’s money, the Market Basket story was the story of the year.
          Long live King Arthur (T).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Torture R US: Who the We Is

In her New Yorker piece, Janet Mayer reviews the 500 page report from the Senate Select Intelligence Committee which details the systematic torture program carried out by the CIA, in the name of protecting the American people from another 9/11.

"Before it was released, [it] came under attack from Republicans, including Dick Cheney, who, although he hadn't read it, called it 'full of crap.' Senator Mitch McConnell, the incoming majority leader, castigated it as 'ideologically motivated and distorted."

Mad Dog well recalls when President George W. Bush responded to the photos from Abu Gharib prison from the oval office saying, "This isn't who we are."

But, in fact, it turned out it is exactly who we are. The question, of course, is who the "we" is.  You and I may be repelled by torture, but the sadists who find work at the CIA are also "we."  So are the Congressmen and Senators who support torture, if not in name, in practice. So is Joe Sixpack, who snarls at the wusses, mostly Democrats, who shrink from doing the unpleasant but necessary thing. 

Now, Mad Dog hastens to add, he knew scores of people who worked at the CIA, although, for the most part, they were not on the "operational" side of the agency. They were analysts, and they were, typically, erudite, analytic, and not, at least overtly, cruel or sadistic.  

But then you have Dick Cheney raising the specter of terrorists setting off a nuclear bomb in Washington, DC or New York every time anyone questions the centrality of torture to protecting the homeland.

What the report shows, in fact, "In all twenty cases most widely cited by the CIA, as evidence that abusive interrogation methods were necessary, the same information could have been obtained, and frequently was obtained, through non-coercive, methods. Further, the interrogations often produced false information, ensnaring innocent people, sometimes with tragic results."

And, forgotten in all this are those people still held at Guantanamo, without charges, without trial, let alone due process. What the Congress has said--and if the Congress isn't a "we" who is?--is that we do not have to honor the principles of the Constitution when it comes to what we do as a government, as a people off shore. The Constitution only protects US Citizens when they are on US soil.

There is something bizarre about the release of Alan Gross after five years in a Cuban prison for the crime of trying to help Jews in Cuba to hook up to the internet. Mr. Gross was abused, lost most of his teeth, and emerged, at age 60 something, just barely alive. We all look at the Cuban regimen which would do this and decry their ruthlessness. But just down the road, at the other end of the island, we have American held prisoners, who have never been charged with a crime, never had the benefit of even a kangaroo court, were just simply imprisoned--oh, excuse me, they are not "prisoners" they are "detainees." Some for more than a dozen years. They are our "guests." We do not believe in due process for these people, because, you know, they were captured in Afghanistan and they must be bad.

So, who are we? 

Who we is, apparently, is a nation of people who can be stirred into a frenzy of fear, and once that happens all restraints are dissolved and we can bring people to near drowning, torture them in other creative ways, hold them prisoner forever, as long as folks in the homeland can sleep well at night, secure they live in the home of the brave, land of the free.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Postcard from France

When people say, "I had never been here before but I felt like I was coming home," what they are really saying is, "I felt very happy just being here."  There are so many places where and people whom you simply have to endure in life, but there are some people and places which make you happy simply by their presence.

For Mad Dog, New York was one of those places, but not London or Rome or even Dublin. Paris is one of those places, for Mad Dog , as it was for Hemingway and for James Baldwin and for David Sedaris and for so many other Americans. Hemingway said, "The only problem in Paris was deciding where to be happiest," and Mad Dog now understands.

Paris has the energy and eccentricity of New York; but it is  as if New York were run by the Catholic Church. France is very Catholic. Mad Dog is not sure how seriously the French take the teachings of the Church, but they do not ignore it. There is no separation of church and state here enshrined in law, and Mad Dog prefers the American approach, but he has to admit, the presence of the Church here adds a creative tension.

France has been a surprise:

French economy: The country looks affluent and well groomed. The roof of every house is so superior to what we have in New Hampshire. No asphalt shingles: Every roof is slate. Along the Seine, in Rouen, is a long asphalt road and it is filled with affluent looking joggers in Spandex, and along the river are one sports club after another, with people jogging on treadmills overlooking the Seine. No jogging in basements in front of TVs running sappy Netflix movies.

French women: Their faces show bones, zygomatic arches. They have great style. They dress in black with spalshes of color. They wear high heeled shoes in the streets of Paris and Rouen, and the streets are cobblestone, which means they have to be determined to wear those heels. They take off the heels when they get to the office, but in the street, they are on display.
In conversation, Parisian women make prolonged eye contact; Mad Dog was thrilled a little by this, until  he realized there was no seduction there--they were simply thinking, "What language is it he is speaking? Certainly, not French."

Normandy:   For an American, this  is different.  Falstaff looking at a soldier's rotting corpse  held his nose and said, "That's glory for you. It stinks." Elizabethan audiences laughed knowingly.  But that would draw no laughs from an American  at Antiem or Gettysburg or at Normandy.
It matters little that most of the American soldiers who died here had no idea what a monstrous evil they were attacking. They were fighting for their friends and, yes, for some idea of country.  They knew they had become part of something much larger, and that ennobled them. 
Have there been any other wars or military deaths like those of World War II, since World War II?  
Most of the American warriors in 1944 could have been at home, did not need the paycheck. 

Food:  The French eat smaller portions. And they have some things we do not have in New Hampshire. His first day, Mad Dog was served some sort of hot chocolate which was heroin in a cup. From that moment onward, all he wanted was another fix. He has yet to discover the name of this stuff, tragically lost after that first sample.  The bread and cheese are also unlike anything we have in New Hampshire. 

French rain: It is the type of rain which invites the use of an umbrella, and couples walk along in a sort of umbrella intimacy one rarely sees in the States.

In New Hampshire, we are comfortable. We walk along the seacoast, and we love it, as we ought to love it. But sometimes, we have to remind ourselves we are part of something bigger. Mad Dog looked out from Omaha Beach and realized, on the other side of that ocean lay Plaice Cove.

Going to France is tame compared to travelling to China or India--there is much more here to give you your bearings. Paris  does not take the same courage as Beijing or Calcutta. But it's a start. It's worth the effort.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Be Thankful: We Live in America, and we vaccinate against Polio

"In July the Guardian revealed that the CIA used a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, in the hunt for Bin Laden. In the weeks before the 3 May operation to kill Bin Laden, Afridi was instructed to set up a fake vaccination scheme in the town of Abbottabad, in order to gain entry to the house where it was suspected that the al-Qaida chief was living, and extract DNA samples from his family members."

There have been 260 case of polio in Pakistan this year; this year 65 anti-polio workers have been murdered in Pakistan. 

Mad Dog was as happy as anyone when they got Osama Bin Laden, but when he heard they had used an anti-polio worker as part of the plot, he thought "Uh-oh."
Of course, this has been used by the Taliban to bolster its contention that polio vaccinations are "dangerous to health and against Islam."

Wait, polio vaccination is "against Islam?"  Remarkable, really,  thinking the Prophet could have been so prescient as to inveigh against polio vaccination as being "against Islam"  so many centuries before the vaccine became available. But if the vaccine is used to hunt down heroes like Osma Bin Laden, okay, maybe this begins to make sense to villagers in Pakistan.

Prevention of polio has been one of major triumphs of 20th century medicine. It is a dreadful disease, a true scourge. A nightmare, really. Paralysis. Children. And even if the child survives, and even if the child is able to recover and to walk and function afterward, there is post polio syndrome which can make life pretty miserable decades later. 

Who could find a dark lining in that story? Militant fundamentalists, apparently.

But before we get too superior about those wacko Islamists, we have to look around at our own well meaning neighbors who refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated against measles, pertussis, tetanus and HPV and yes, even polio.

But we can be thankful our rational citizens can be vaccinated.
And here is another bit of good news to be thankful for: In the first week of open season more than a million people signed up on the government site for health insurance. The Affordable Care Act is actually working. 

But we can be thankful, there's a new Congress on the way, all set to kill Obamacare, castrate hogs (and maybe other species)  and maybe even stop those damn vaccination programs. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

GOP Pick of the Litter Or How I Learned to Love the Tea Party

Mr. Hice, Not Asking His Wife's Permission

Gary Trudeau once bemoaned losing George W. Bush as an inspiration for his daily cartoon.  Now that we have so many Republicans in the House and Senate to entertain us, Mad Dog can appreciate the feeling. They're back! Better than ever. Who needs George W?

What could be more invigorating than to explore the new personalities available to us in Washington, D.C. It's really a wonderful confection shop--so many wonkies and so little time. How to choose among them?

There's Rep. Glenn Grothman from Wisconsin, who informed voters that women should not complain about being paid less than men for the same work because, "money is more important for men."  Mad Dog is sadly lacking in context here, but he can only imagine money is less important for women, because they are, in Mr. Grothman's mind, supported by men, and only working because they want to be able to afford a new refrigerator.  Mr. Grothman is not burdened by a reluctance to tell other people what they can talk or think about, so he would forbid teachers from mentioning homosexuality in the classroom. (Presumably, he does not tape the episodes of "Modern Family" he misses.)  And he is bracing-ly honest about the reasons for his support of voter ID laws. He does not focus on the overwhelming fraud at the polls; his argument is practical--there's more people who believe in what the Democrats say, so we have to limit  Democratic sympathizers from voting if we want Republicans to win elections. Now, here's a man you can understand. 

Alex Mooney, now a Congressman from West Virginia, has demonstrated it doesn't matter where you draw boundary lines on a man, when it comes to running for a seat in the national Congress; what matters is whether you can find a place filled with like minded souls.  He ran for the state House in New Hampshire, unsuccessfully, then moved to one of those parts of Maryland which the people of the Free State have been trying to forget is part of the Free State, and he won a seat in the Maryland State Senate. Now he is representing a hollow in West Virginia in the U.S. House. He hates gays and all those who tolerate them. He rails against those who find his homophobia virulent, claiming the free speech rights of homophobes have been trampled.

But my favorite, thus far, the pick of the litter, is the New Republican Congressman from the 10th District of Georgia, Jody Hice, who believes no woman should serve in Congress without the freely given permission of her husband. (What he thinks about unmarried female candidates is unclear.) Taking a page from the Taliban, he has staked out a courageous stand on the wife-as-property platform and, at least in Georgia, prevailed.

This opens up so many other possibilities: What other things does a wife need to apply for permission to do, in the Georgia 10th? The mind simply runs wild. Georgia Stepford wives. This could spread. This could become a movement.

Mr. Hice's success is understandable: Unlike most Democrats who suffer from that endemic Democratic malady "afraid to offend," Mr. Hice charges right in, saying that Islam is, in truth, not actually a "religion." It's a lifestyle. Mr. Hice edifies, and Mad Dog had not previously appreciated this, that Islam is "a totalitarian way of life with a religious component," which "does not deserve First Amendment protection." Well, talk about a fresh perspective. I feel so much better about Gitmo and Abu Gharib now. 

Oh, and Representative Hice has a sense of history, too. Legal abortion is "worse than Hitler's six million Jews," and he throws in, just for dramatic effect, "or Mussolini's three hundred thousand." (That may have been a pitch to the Italian-American voters in the 10th District.)  It's really striking how often Hitler gets reference by Tea Party acolytes.  Hitler is just never far from their minds.  He was a flamboyant leader, Adolph was, and his followers had a great sense of color and theater--all those scarlet flags and that snazzy Swastika icon, not to mention the SS logo, but really can we not get through one paragraph without lumping Mr. Obama and his merry band of abortionists in the same bag as Adolph Hitler? You know, as the very least, it would make der Fuhrer uncomfortable.

Oh, and did Mad Dog mention Mr. Hice has a radio show? On said show he finally helped us understand the underlying pathology responsible for all the school shootings: It's--and there can be no real surprise here when you think about it--the liberal Democratic demons who are responsible for "kicking God out of the schools and ...kicking God out of the public square." Had God only been permitted to enter these places, then those gun wielding wackos would have fled in fear and never fired a shot. The solution was just so simple, there in front of our eyes all along. Mad Dog is ashamed to have missed it. 

Another thing to consider: Who had the power to kick God out of schools and the public square? This is clearly not the omnipotent God of the New Testament. But then, Mad Dog is no theologian, and Mr. Hice, is also a pastor, so he must be right.

One thing we have to ask about Mr. Hice however, is whether his ambition got ahead of his conscience: After all, Mr. Hice is taking the seat of Paul Broun, who famously informed us that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory were "lies straight from the pit of Hell." 

Mad Dog could not help but think that Mr. Hice should offer Mr. Broun his seat in Congress back. Who could represent the voters of the Georgia 10th better than Mr. Broun? If he decides to keep the seat, I'm sure Mr. Hice will remember where he comes from.

What Mad Dog is still wondering about is how embryology got on that list. Mad Dog studied embryology in college--it's all about how a sperm and an egg develop into a two cell thing then divide and reshape and divide again and finally a little human being emerges. Hardly seems like a hair ball from the pit of Hell.

The Big Bang theory, that Mad Dog can understand. It's sexual double entendre is so obvious and offensive. (Fresh talk, as Maud's mother would say.) Mad Dog, in his dark past netherworld of sinful desire, has to admit, sought the Big Bang for most of his febrile days as an intern and resident, exploring the cosmos of the nurses' residence and the bars in the shadow of the the New York  Hospital with names like "The Recovery Room," and "The Intensive Care Unit" and  "Healing Touch."  And Mad Dog can attest, that experience, with some happy exceptions, was straight from the pit of Hell.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

More Women In Congress

Joni of the Sharp Shears

Even though she is a Republican, I was somehow cheered to see the Castrator made it to Congress.  Joni Ernst ran on the platform that because she grew up castrating hogs, she should would bring something new and valuable to Washington, D.C. I can see her point.  She replaces Tom Harkin in the Senate and she will be a breath of fresh air: She believes states ought to be able to nullify federal laws, an idea which harkens back to what resulted in the Civil War; she has called for arresting federal officials attempting to implement Obamacare; she agrees with Glenn Beck about a world conspiracy centered in the United Nations; she still insists George W was correct about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq--we just haven't found them yet. This is a woman with a fresh perspective on things. The great mystery to Mad Dog is she is from Iowa, not South Carolina, Arizona or Texas. In those states, she is main line.

Fact is, she has got herself a promising career and she is not mired in conventional thought.

When Betty Friedan wrote the Feminine Mystique in the early 1960's her major, breakthrough insight was that women were unfulfilled and unhappy despite having  been told paradise on earth was a home with lots of modern appliances, a husband, children and material wealth. Friedan made it acceptable for women to look at their lives and ask themselves if the conventional life was really as honorable, fulfilling and wonderful as everyone said it was.  Each woman, in the privacy of her home, had to ask herself if one man, one life was enough. She did not have to feel guilty for asking this question. You have everything. Why are you looking for more?
Betty Friedan 

 So women went to work, and found new satisfactions and new frustrations, but who could be as happy as a castrating female Senator?

Betty Ice Princess 

Of course, this was the trap which Betty in Mad Men found herself: Beautiful husband, great house, kids, cars, horses to ride, but somehow, something was missing. In Betty's case, the hole in her life could not be filled by a single liaison in the men's room of a Manhattan bar; eventually she traded for a new husband, which did not seem to solve the problem either.

The problem, of course, was never the golden trap of wealth; the trap was buying into what you had been taught by the prevailing authorities about  what will make you happy.

When Mad Dog was struggling through his adolescence, when his seventeen year old with red lips was not concealed inside, but in full display, he kept running into girls who had been told that happiness was being a virgin on your wedding night. These were mostly the girls with good grades and hot college prospects. He ultimately discovered girls whose grades may not have been as stellar, but who laughed at the idea of restrictions on their sexual appetites or their prospects in life.

"I'll go through men the way men go through razor blades,"  one hotly pursued girl friend told him. "Men are disposable. I'll be a partner in a law firm and I'll command my own destiny."

That was a breath taking notion to Mad Dog in those days, because he did not feel he was at all in command of his own destiny.  In fact, she went off to college, then law school, and now works in Washington, DC in the federal government. She did go through quite a few men along the way.  

Mad Dog has heard, from mutual friends, she's had some rocky times, emotionally, but not because she chose to reject convention.  About that, reportedly, she has never had regrets. She ultimately did one conventional thing: She married the coolest guy in high school. He played football, became a Rhodes Scholar and ultimately a war correspondent. Mad Dog used to listen to him cover Bosnia on NPR. But then a college friend of hers visited them in London and her husband  ran off to Europe with the friend on the back of his motorcycle. So she came home, went to work for the government.   

Mad Dog hopes she's considering a run for Congress.  

As a Democrat, of course.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Republic, Madam, If You Can Keep It

"Consider a pack of jackasses. Now, consider the United States Congress. But, I repeat myself."
--Mark Twain

That sentiment, some have said, is a gross insult to jackasses everywhere.  
Personally, I've known some very intelligent, decent and well meaning Congressmen, but every class, every Congress is different.  This one coming in is a real prize.
From New Hampshire, a Congresswoman who was described by a New Hampshire Republican legislator as "ugly as sin" was re elected, which might offer hope for the judgment of New Hampshire voters had another district not elected Frank Guinta, whose good looks were never at issue, but he does compete for the Jurassic Park Prize for prehistoric thinking:  The man believes life begins at conception, that any limitations on a citizen's individual right to an attack rifle is a violation of the Constitution and God's will, that Social Security ought to be privatized and, you name it, if it's Tea Party, he's just slightly to the right of that. 

Hampton elected Fred Rice to the state House of Representatives. Mr. Rice is revered for his firm belief that building more motorways,( more roads) would be the best way to prevent air pollution in New Hampshire, and clearly superior in environmental impact to building bicycle paths over the same abandoned railroad lines.  

On the other hand, New Hampshire did manage to reject Scott Brown's bid to make New Hampshire's Senate delegation the Senate's most photogenic duo. It had to be difficult for Granite Staters to resist that temptation--Kelly Ayotte and Scott Brown arms around each other's waists--hard to stop fantasizing about how many new HBO programs that one might have inspired. "Scandal" would have simply had to go sci fi to compete.  "House of Cards" has now entered the realm of documentary.  Life is not simply imitating art; art is simply trying to keep up.

Of course, John Kennedy inspired much talk in Washington, when he was in Congress, as he and his wenching buddy, Senator Smathers, a Republican from Florida cut a swath through Washington as swordsmen who never spent a night at home.  Who would have predicted JFK would have eventually settled down and tried to do some good? So, there's hope. Some people will prove pleasant surprises.

 Mitch McConnell, now the Senate Majority leader, has vowed to disembowel Obamacare, but, of course, he'll leave the wildly popular Obamacare program (Kynec) in his own state untouched. That ought to be a nifty trick.  
Prospects for changing the Supreme court got flushed down the toilet: Even if Justice Ginsberg departs the court, no way Mr. Obama will get any nominee short of Robert Bork or Roger Taney through the Republican Senate.
So now the Republicans have the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court. Why would they even want the White House?  As it stands they can blame the Democratic President for not delivering government to the people. If they had Jeb Bush in the White House, they'd have nobody left to blame. 

It's a glorious new day for the Republicans, whoever they may be. They are Tea Party Republicans and a whole melange of folks who may not be quite as mad as hatters, but they are surely not Democrats.  This last election was our very own version of The Red Wedding, and the winners are smirking and very satisfied.

But, as I write this, my train pulls out of New York City, rolls past fields of baseball diamonds filled with players happy in their fall ball leagues, past waterways plied by boaters, past towns with Christmas lights strung from the street poles (and it's not even Thanksgiving) and the country looks to be doing quite well.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Well Kept Obamacare Secret: It's Good for the Deficit

This morning's New York Times signifies a new leap forward in editorial offices: Apparently, the editors have actually been reading one of the Times' own columnists, namely Paul Krugman. 
For some years, Krugman has been delivering a Jeremiad, saying the worst thing governments can do when faced with a recession is to stop spending and start trying to save, to start cutting government outlays.
The European Union did this over the past few years, cutting, singing the austerity song, only to provoke a slide into worse recession. The United States, well not the whole United States but the part of it which is the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, did what it could to imitate the European Union, pushing through a "sequester" and trying to push the country off the fiscal cliff, which hurt the economy some, but not as much as it would had there not been a little item called "Obamacare."
Here's a little secret: Obamacare has resulted in such dramatic cuts in health care spending that $1.6 trillion in budget savings are on schedule and the deficit has actually declined, despite a fall in tax revenues caused by the "sequester" and the Republican attempt at "austerity."
So, here's what the Times' editors have figured out: The Republicans, who are basically the Koch brothers and a lot of oligarchs who are supposed to be good at numbers and money and the economy are actually clueless, and they would shoot themselves not just in the foot, but about three feet higher up, thinking they are aiming the gun at the tax and spend Democrats.
Oh, well.
But keep it a secret, until after the election. Then it won't really matter. We'll have Kelly Ayotte and Scott Brown in the Senate letting the private sector lead the way. Tally ho!

Здравствуйте, Україна, від планети Нью-Гемпшир.
З різних причин відомим тільки Бог і inscrutable і невидимі Інтернет сил, більше поглядів The Phantom говорить і Хемптон Mad Dog демократ ніж зі Сполучених Штатів. У нас також невелика кількість хітів від Франції, Німеччині та Англії. Ми повинні повністю ігнорується Індії і весь субконтиненту. Південна Америка не має інтересу б то не було, але які б фігура, враховуючи закон взаємної незацікавленість. Але...Україна? Якщо хто-небудь в Україні пояснення скажена собака і привид б ціную почути про це.
З повагою
Фантом, esq.
Скажена собака

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Kynec Paradox: Republicans Enter the Orwellian World of Doublespeak

Who would Steve Vaillancourt predict would win this contest?

"McConnell has some difficulty with the Obamacare issue because the Kentucky version, known as Kynect, has been a huge success. About half a million Kentuckians signed up for health insurance, many receiving it for the first time. Fewer than 100,000 joined private insurance plans; that means the bulk of the population joined Medicaid, which was greatly expanded under the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. But at the same time, Obama is deeply unpopular in Kentucky and polls indicate that many Kentuckians do not associate Kynect with Obamacare. So McConnell threads a very difficult needle here, suggesting the Web site can continue while the law that created it must be scrapped"
Here is a place we all love to be:  Have your cake and eat it too. Kynect, the new healthcare system in Kentucky which took form as a result of the Affordable Care Act, is a huge success.  Even those folks down in the hollow can cotton to the idea of better coverage for a lot less money, which Kynect has brought them. 
So they love Kynect in Kentucky.
Trouble is, they hate Obama in Kentucky. So if you ask them if they like Kynect, it's, "Yes, indeed!" But if you ask them whether they like Obamacare, it's "Hell, no!"
And if you point out to them that Kynect is, in fact, Obamacare, they react thusly, "Say, what?"
This is the Kentucky version of, "Keep your damn government hands off my Medicare and Social Security!"
Why the visceral reaction against Obama in Kentucky?  Same reason, Mad Dog suspects, they hate him in Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas and parts of Florida, Georgia and, yes even in some parts of  New Hampshire. You see, pssst...he's Black!
And, of course, he's a Democrat and he's in power. So Reince Priebus, if that is a real name--the guy who heads the Republican National Committee--was explaining yesterday to Robert Siegel, on NPR, the President is a complete failure, and everything he touches goes sour. So, the Ebola infections of those two nurses in Texas,  all those kids streaming across the Rio Grande (or wherever it is they stream across) the ISIS beheadings, the war in Syria, the financial collapse in the European Union (never mind our government kept us going into a recovery here in the USA), the refusal of Republicans to pass a comprehensive immigration package through the Republican House, it's all because Mr. Obama is a catastrophe as a President.  The worst EVER.
And he says it with such fluency and conviction, you just get carried along and you know he must be right, because he sounds so sure. 
Our local candidates are cast from the same agency:  From Fred Rice, who believes the best way to end pollution in New Hampshire is to build more roads, so automobiles will  not have be line up at red lights with their motors idling, to Scott Brown who believes we ought to solve all problems by letting "the private sector lead the way." 
Whatever that means.
If the the private sector were still leading the way in heath insurance, they'd be maximizing profits for their stock holders by excluding anyone with a "pre existing condition" or by charging prohibitively high rates for anyone who is guilty of ever having been sick or being of the female persuasion.  Remember those bad old days before Obamacare?
Edwin Muskie of Maine once remarked there are only really two opposing sides in politics, and they are not Democrat vs Republican, or even conservative vs liberal but of confidence vs fear.  
Franklin Roosevelt knew this, and he used this in his famous, "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."  But somehow, the most vigorous, self assured fearless sounding candidates are the Scott Browns and Fred Rices and Mitch McConnell's who stand up tall and straight and intone the chicken little rap--we are all going straight to Hell behind this man who was conceived on Mars and borne in Kenya.
President Obama's Birth Certificate Ceremony

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ukraine: Mad Dog's New Best Friends



It is a wondrous age we live in. Writing from his shire in New Hampshire, a humble country peasant like Mad Dog can launch his thoughts into cyberspace like one of those rockets with the recordings of Doris Day and Frank Sinatra which the United States launched decades ago into deep space, hoping for intelligent life out there.

For years, Mad Dog has done this and he has attracted a suitably small coterie of respondents, mostly from New Hampshire, but scattered as far as Albuquerque, Seattle, North Carolina to complement the intrepid die hard from Hampton who actually occasionally comments. 

But now, perusing his statistics page, Mad Dog has discovered over the past few months his page views are coming, inexplicably, from, overwhelmingly, Ukraine, of all places. 

These viewers exceed in numbers all those from the United States, Asia, Africa and South America combined. 

You would think Ukrainians would be somewhat preoccupied.  

Mad Dog can only imagine this is some form of escapism.  It may simply be that with all the pressure from that mad dog across the border who seems to think putting on a good show at the winter Olympics is tantamount to a Nuremberg rally, the Ukrainians are simply cheered by the stories of how ridiculous American political figures have become. 

It must be of some comfort to a Ukrainian, when contemplating a Putin who says he is only responding to the pleas of Russian speakers, when he send tanks across the border, when he sucks up a seacoast port, when his surrogates blow a passenger jet out of the air like some modern Lusitania--it may be comforting to know there are jackasses in the public eye, vying for power even in a little Hobbit shire like New Hampshire.

Here, we have a state Representative who claims we elect Congresswomen by their looks and we have a candidate for United States Senate who is running on his own prettiness. 

Here we have the Koch brothers pulling the strings from afar as the puppets dance and gyrate in New Hampshire--In Ukraine, the strings are pulled by the man from St. Petersburg, now Moscow.

Somehow, misery loves company; even if Ukrainian misery exceeds that of New Hampshire, where all we have to suffer is fools, not homicidal fools.   

This is just a guess. It is possible there is an army of hackers in Ukraine who have discovered Mad Dog Democrat and are hoping to use it as a portal to infiltrate the United States strategic air command. 

Who knows?

Ukraine has, apparently, some very beautiful places, but it also has Chernobyl and it has Russia for a neighbor.  New Hampshire has very beautiful places, and it has a crazy man who is the governor of neighboring Maine, but even he has not tried to send tanks across the Piscataqua River to seize Portsmouth.  On the other hand, if Governor LePage is re elected in November, New Hampshire may have to blow up that bridge.  The man is dumb as a stick and if he weren't governor of Maine, he'd be the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.

So, Ukraine, you are not alone. You are just in a deeper hole. 

But if you are out there, intelligent life in Ukraine, and you have heard this latter day Doris Day sing--here's to you. Good luck. Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Steve Vaillancourt & Pretty Candidates: Oh, We Know What We Like In New Hampshire

The Dashing Mr. Vaillancourt: Is He Not Just So Pretty?

Steve Vaillancourt, a Republican member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives tells us that the Democrat, Annie McLane Kuster will not be re elected to the US House because she is "ugly as sin" and she is running against one of the most attractive women in the state. 

And everyone knows, Mr. Vaillancourt assures us, it's the prettiest candidate who wins in New Hampshire. (Presumably, this explains his own success.)

He goes on to elaborate about how the object of his derision looks like a "drag queen," and he knows all about drag queens because he visits drag queen bars, and many of the men who dress like women in those bars are prettier than this Democratic woman, who is ugly as sin, he says. Sounds like he spends significant time in bars.
She is Just Toast In New Hampshire

Wait, did he says he likes to hang out at drag queen bars? This Republican likes hanging out at drag queen bars? Where he sees pretty men? 

I think I got lost for a moment; there was just too much going on in the drag queen digression.

Mad Dog can only remind his many followers, around the world--we seem to have acquired a following in Ukraine, for reasons known only to Ukrainians--that Republicans are the party of "family values" which, apparently, includes those members of the family who like to dress up as women, when they are in fact men, and go hang out at drag queen bars. 

This is, presumably, what political parties are thinking about when they talk about "the big tent." 

In the Republican big tent everyone is welcomed, as long as they are pretty, or at least not ugly as sin.

Can you get elected in Ukraine, if you are ugly as sin?

Well, certainly not in New Hampshire, where the prettiest candidate wins. 

In fact, there is a youtube video about this: "Introducing Scott Brown: The Prettiest Candidate Yet."
Obviously Qualified: A Sure Winner

So there you have it: Once again, Mad Dog Productions has anticipated the most important trends in political thought in New Hampshire, namely, "Pretty Wins."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

ISIS, Ebola, Beheadings, Illegal Immigrants: It's All Obama

Driving home, listening to NPR on my commute, I heard a segment about Rush Limbaugh's latest effort to connect all that is wrong in the world to the liberals, namely the Democrats, most especially President Obama.
It went something like this (and I'm not sure I can ever reconstruct the logic): Mr. Duncan, who flew from Liberia infected with Ebola, is part of a conspiracy of the liberals and Democrats to make Americans feel guilty about our own history of slavery. 
You see, Liberia was set up to receive American slaves, as an effort to rid the nation of the problem presented by slaves. And now, that country is the epicenter of the Ebola infection, so the Obama administration is bringing some Liberian Ebola victims here to die among us and to spread the infection, as a righteous vengeance for America's role in slavery.  This is all part of the liberal doctrine, it's liturgy. 

Follow that? 

I'm not sure I do. But I do understand that any time a Central American child crosses the border, it's Mr. Obama's fault and the fault of all who vote with him (hint: Jeanne Shaheen.)

Mike Huckabee said as much: He said, (same broadcast) that it's totally easy for an Ebola victim to enter the United States, even with this half baked plan to screen people coming in from Africa at airports, because all the Ebola victim has to do is to fly to Mexico and walk across the border, which Mr. Obama has not defended.

And Rick Perry is very indignant about Mr. Obama and the Democrats failing to defend his border with Mexico. He can look out his house and see Russia, Rick Perry can. No, wait, that was Sarah Palin. Rick Perry can see Mexico City, or Juarez or maybe Colombia.  I don't know. But what he can see is all the droves of infected Central American kids walking across the border Mr. Obama refuses to defend, because Mr. Obama wants to make the Texans feel bad about the Alamo.

And don't even get me started about ISIS beheadings.  You know that's Obama's fault, right from the get go. If he had only followed up on George W. Bush's original game plan and kept surging and surging, why ISIS would have had no place to rise up from. 

And George W is looking out his window right now and what do you think he sees? Afghanistan? No, he sees Costa Rica, which doesn't even have an army and what George is thinking is, "If they don't have an army, why didn't I invade Costa Rica?"

And the ISIS militants hacked Morgan bank, and those Democrats just can't keep us safe and the country is going to hell in a hand basket and we need another surge, somewhere. 

Now, about Ebola. We are sending troops to build hospitals in Liberia and you know some of them are going to come home with Ebola and then the Democrats will be happy, because it will make all Americans sorry they ever had slaves. 

What we ought to do is get the Ku Klux Klan to secure our borders. Burn a few crosses down there along the Rio Grande and all those Ebola infected kids will go back home to their families in Honduras or wherever they come from. 

Maybe Costa Rica. What sort of people don't even have an army? Do they even own guns down there?

You know Obama can't even get Ebola, because he was born in Kenya, and he was conceived on Mars, so his blood cells can't be infected by earth born viruses. 

He's just got to be the worst President ever. Just ask Rush.