Sunday, June 29, 2014


Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times, notes the Republican song of the great disastrous failure of Obamacare turns out to be wrong. In fact, by most measures, Obamacare has worked quite well, much like the system it was based on, the system Governor Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. Fears that individual premiums would skyrocket have not come true. Nor have fears that only the desperately ill and the very old would sign up for it--young people have signed up in substantial numbers so the "payer mix" has proven to be quite profitable for the insurance companies it was meant to enrich.

The Republicans, of course, cling to the belief if you say something often enough, it will become accepted as received wisdom, and they may be right about that, but they are wrong about Obamacare.

Another Republican article of faith is that cutting taxes will increase employment. The story goes like this: Take money away from the government and give it back to "small businesses" and those entrepreneurs will use it to hire new employees, who will then pay more taxes and everybody lives happily ever after. 

But as Josh Barro points out in today's New York Times, "Yes, if You Cut Taxes, You Get Less Tax Revenue,"  the Republican canard that cutting taxes increases job growth and ultimately fattens tax collections,  has been put to the test in the state of Kansas and has been discovered to be, you guessed it, dead wrong.   

What happened in Kansas is tax revenues, projected to bring in $651 million arrived at $369 million. It turns out, when you cut income taxes for "businessmen" most of them do not hire more workers. Some of this happens because a "businessman" may be nothing more than a contractor, who has been hired by a company trying to avoid having to pay him benefits, and because they issue him a 1099 instead of a W-2, he gets to avoid paying income tax on that income, but he does not hire anybody. He just gets the tax break. 

Most of the "small businesses" which Kansas stopped collecting taxes from actually did not generate new jobs, and in fact the main beneficiaries of the cut in income taxes were wealthy businessmen who simply used Kansas without giving anything back.

Of course, no Republican will ever agree these numbers. Paul Krugman may be an economist who analyzes numbers for a living, but no Republican will accept anything he says because he is so clearly a Democrat, and so cannot possibly know or speak the truth. And Josh Barro writes for the New York Times, so he cannot be believed. When he quotes Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas, a Republican, saying the cut in income taxes will "create tens of thousands of jobs" and when Barro points out since the income tax cut was signed into law in 2012 Kansas job creation has been in the pits, the Republicans will simply close there eyes and shake their heads and raise their chins and chant, "No, no, no!"  

Carl Rove, on election night, faced with the numbers coming in from all the key precincts did the same thing: He denied what the numbers were saying, until one of the news broadcasters literally walked him through the rooms and screens which showed Mr. Obama being re elected quite comfortably.  But Rove looked at the numbers and said, "No, this cannot be happening." As the lady told him: Your not wanting this to be true, does not make it untrue."

And that's what's the matter with Kansas, with the Republican Tea Party and the Congress they control. Heaven help us when they get the Senate as well.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Justice Scalia's Knobby Hobby Lobby Problem

May we have the envelope please?  The judges' decision has already been made and we need to know the verdict.

Here we have a severe test of Mad Dog's theory of Supreme Court jurisprudence:  If, as Mad Dog has postulated,  the votes of Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts can be predicted from a one paragraph summary of any case using the simple formula:  
Outcome =Scalia's imperative to rule in favor of authority (commercial,  religious or class)  x   Mr. Scalia's own religious convictions x his resentment of women who want to have sex, taken  to the power of 4 (the sum of votes from the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse) times the right to free speech for those who agree with Mr. Scalia, times  the libertarian belief government should not be allowed to do much, divided by the argument that the Constitution is scripture.

Using this formula,  the ruling in the Hobby Lobby case has got to be in favor of Hobby Lobby and against the Obama administration's rule that if you are a for profit enterprise required to provide health insurance, you must provide benefits for contraception as part of Obamacare.

Here's the case: the owners of Hobby Lobby refuse to pay for contraception benefits including IUD's and the morning after pill because they consider these forms of "contraception" to be backdoor abortion, and their religious beliefs would be violated if they had to pay for their employees' choice for abortion.

This is the old Rush Limbaugh argument to the Georgetown Law student who argued her birth control pills ought to be covered under her health insurance: You want me (as a taxpayer) to pay for your contraceptive pills? You want to be paid for having sex?  That makes you no more than a slut! 
Except for the Eyebrows--but eyebrows are easy--It's possible

So, this should be easy, right?  Scalia abhors abortion (and some would say he bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Limbaugh, and the fact is, they have never been seen in the same room together, in the flesh) and this is a case of people who agree with him. 

Ah, but Mr. Obama argues:   if anyone, a citizen or a company,  can assert the right to decide whether or not to comply based on their own religious rules, then what stops the owners of a company whose faith tells them income tax is a violation of their faith,  because those taxes support spending on weapons of death?  Any  company, in fact any individual can claim it or he or she  does not want to comply with laws against sexual discrimination or racial discrimination because these laws violate some particular religious belief.  My religion says homosexuality is an abomination against God, therefore I do not have to employ homosexuals.  My religion says Blacks carry the stain of Cain, (see Church of Latter Day Saints) and therefore I do not have to employ African Americans, or, if I do employ them, I can pay them less because they are Black. My religion says vaccinations are an abomination against God. Mine says blood transfusions are an abomination. 

You see the problem. 

This is, in essence, a case of whether individual belief can trump the law of the land.  This is a case of whether or not any individual can claim he hears the voice of God and everyone else must listen to what he hears.

Then there is the whole issue of whether or not the government can violate the religious practices or beliefs of a corporation. This Court has has said corporations are people. Justices Scalia et al really do love corporations dearly and would not want to do anything to upset them.   So frame the case as a case about offending corporate rights, and you've got a winner.   

This is what Ted Cruz would say is the tactic for victory. If you can frame the argument differently, if you can chose the ground on which the battle is fought, you can win the battle. It's like slavery was not about the slaves, their bondage and suffering, it was all about States' Rights! You can't come down here and tell us not to whip, rape and brutalize our slaves because this is a case about STATE'S RIGHTS! Change that frame of reference, you can use the law to slip right by what is actually happening in real life. 

So, one battleground which would allow Justice Scalia to win would be  to make this  a case about whether a corporation can be granted the rights heretofore granted only individual citizens.  Good ground on which to fight.

But even better, and this was the tactic of the lawyer arguing Scalia's side:  If the government can mandate contraception, why not abortion? If that what's this case is about, then Scalia's side has staked out an unassailable ground, and Mr. Obama has to charge uphill without cover and sharpshooters firing away. 

This has got to be the winning strategy: What if the government said it wanted corporations to provide for ABORTION? If the government can mandate contraception, why not abortion?  Why not sex with barnyard animals? See how this works?  We thought we were talking about contraception coverage, and now we are talking about abortion. We are hearing God's voice as the owners of Hobby Lobby hear it. We have the Ted Cruz effect--the battle is now being fought on different terrain entirely.

Of course, what this case is really about is whether or not you can force people to do something they find objectionable. The fact is, they need employees to do their Hobby Lobby business, and the fact is they owe to their employees what all business owners owe, according to law, even though they may not like the idea of their employees having sex outside marriage, even though they may not like certain forms of contraception or whatever you want to call the IUD. Their perceptions trump the law.

If any ethical analysis begins with establishing "the facts" of the case, we may have more problems for Justice Scalia.  The "fact" is the IUD MAY prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg into the lining of the uterus,  but it may be some or all IUD's actually prevent the sperm from traveling  to find the egg in the first place, in which case there is no fertilized egg to worry about.  As for the morning after pill, same thing. It may be the morning after pill  prevents implantation, but it may work entirely differently, preventing the egress of the egg and thus prevent fertilization from ever occurring. So, we just don't know. The science is not settled.  The perception that the IUD and Plan B work after fertilization (conception) may be fundamentally wrong.  

Ah, science is so full of doubts.  The Hobby Lobby folks will argue, well, until we know, we cannot take a chance on a fertilized egg being thwarted by an IUD or Plan B. 

When  Native Americans, as individual people,  wanted to use Peyote as part of their religious ceremonies, as they had for centuries,  the Court said, no you cannot violate the law in the name of your religion. You cannot use a religious belief to violate the law of the land.  Of course, the subtext here was the Native Americans wanted to use a hallucinogenic drug and the justices do no like hallucinogenic drugs, so ipso facto, a priori, the Native Americans lose. 

In the case of the owners of Hobby Lobby, well the justices like these two God fearing, white capitalists, so they are halfway home, maybe more than halfway, from the get go.

But Mr. Obama persists, arguing, you cannot say, "I hear God's true word, and the government and the Congress and the law do not hear God's true word, so I am entitled to listen to God as I hear him speaking to me personally." 

So, what is in that envelope?  Mad Dog can only imagine. Let's see: Why should contraception be considered "health care?"  This is not a medical practice but a social and ethical choice. Pregnancy is not a disease. You cannot say preventing pregnancy is a medical practice. Preventing pregnancy is a distinctly different realm. There may be social reasons for a government to want to prevent pregnancy, but these are social, not medical reasons and you cannot contaminate a healthcare bill with contraception.  

You can argue that the Constitution grants the government the right  under the" promoting general welfare," but that's all a legal trick, and the justices do not like legal tricks, except when they work to support their own prejudices. They can see right past all that to a   governmental policy allowing women to have unfettered sex and to support that activity with taxpayer dollars. Why, that's abominable.  What sluts!

So, you heard it here first:  The Court has to rule against Mr. Obama and for Hobby Lobby. Mad Dog cannot be sure what path the inventive Mr. Scalia will find to this end, but that is the place he wants to go, and according to Mad Dog's formula, he will find a way. 

Have faith in Justice Scalia. All he has to do is sell Justice Kennedy on this. Do we really want to turn American women into sluts?  This should be a slam dunk.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Let's see if I understand this: The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, that being the most fundamental freedom of any democracy. 

But what is speech?  And to whom among all those living on this continent is that right actually guaranteed?

Well, speech can be someone planting his body in the path of a woman who is trying to walk into a planned parenthood office and screaming in her face, "You are about to commit murder!" as she is on her way to get her birth control prescription refilled, her breast cancer screening and her screening for sexually transmitted diseases. 

She's a tart, anyway, and deserves a little dose of free expression slap in the face.

Or speech can be a corporation spending billions on TV ads to defeat certain political candidates it finds it cannot bribe into submission.

But if you are a teenager who is appalled by the whole, perverse "Olympic movement" with it's pervasive jingoism, it's debased commercial essence, masquerading as the thrill and purity of "sport" and you find yourself ordered by your high school principal to stand along a road as the Olympic torch is borne by someone in an  open convertible, and you are supposed to cheer wildly and wave your little American flag but you feel more like puking, so you unveil your protest banner for the TV cameras, "Bong Hits For Jesus" well, that speech is NOT protected. That is speech by a child and heaven knows American children, especially American children in school,  are not entitled to free speech. 

Which is to say, you are free to express yourself in this United States of America, as long as what you express meets with the approval of Justices Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Roberts, and, most importantly, Kennedy. 

If you are expressing opinions which challenge authority, which undermine the financial dominance of those in power, well, that is not free speech, that is obscenity.  But if you express an opinion against abortion, contraception or anything Judge Scalia agrees with, well the Supreme Court has got your back. 

Congratulations! You live in the land of the free and the home of the knave. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Americans in the Middle East

When George Bush reacted to the September 11th attack, there was something refreshingly simple about his approach. Everyone knew the Middle East was a cauldron, a riddle within a riddle, a miasma, but he took the Alexander the Great approach: Just cut through that Gordian knot with a swift stroke of the sword and let the pieces fall where they may.

For George Bush, it didn't matter we really did not know who attacked us on 9/11; he just wanted to kick someone's ass. He chose Saddam Hussein, because he was, as Bush put it a bad man, someone "who tried to kill my dad."

So that made it all very simple: Just roll our Army over Iraq.

Saddam replied, presciently, as it turns out, once you get rid of me, you'll have worse people to deal with.  But Saddam imprisoned his enemies, tortured some, ruled his country with an Iron hand, so we did not like him. As it turns out the people now closing in on Baghdad do not torture prisoners because they do not take any; they just behead those they don't like, including women who have the nerve to venture outdoors un-escorted by a male relative or without a head covering.  They are very unappetizing,  these nasties from the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham. They are Sunnis and they don't like Shiites much, so they just behead them. 

Talk about "bad" men. George, you had no idea how bad men can be. We had our own, Christian, bad men in the American Army and CIA, at the Al Ghrarib prison, but they were just sadists, not head choppers, as far as we know today. 

From an American point of view, we have two choices: Become an Imperial power, taking John McCain's advice to simply conquer the region and install an army and keep it there, to enforce a  Pax American for a few centuries--or... get the Hell out.

Fact is, Americans for all their manifest destiny history,  really do not like being imperialists. We just want to live in our towns and cities and enjoy America.  When Lyndon Johnson spoke on the phone to his good and trusted friend, Richard Russell (D-Georgia), Johnson asked Russell what he ought to do about Vietnam. Russell said, well, you know Lyndon, we don't want to stay in Vietnam. Yep, Johnson agreed. We want out. Well, Russell said, the Viet Cong know that, too.

All the Vietnamese or the Sunni radicals or the Afghans or the Pakistanis or the Somalis need to do is wait for the Americans to go away, and we inevitably will. Then the radicals can crawl out from under their rocks and get down to the business of conquering whatever unpopular, weak kneed government the Americans left behind.

So why did all those Marines die in Mosul?  Same reason Marines died in the Mekong Delta and all over Vietnam: Stupid old men sitting behind polished desks in Washington needed to feel powerful and important. 

President Obama was smart enough to see all this in Iraq, but he's been remarkably obtuse about Afghanistan, buying into the notion we needed to clean Afghanistan out so those terrorist sanctuaries would not give rise to crazies intent on launching the next 9/11.  As if you can clean out one rats's nest and never have to worry about the rats finding a new home. Right now, the whole swath of land between Syria and Baghdad is one big terrorist sanctuary, not to mention Somalia, villages in Indonesia, Yemen, and Heaven only knows where--Berlin, London, Detroit, Toronto likely.

What would Mad Dog do? 
1. Close Gitmo.
2. Keep  ears open --yes even NSA ears--and keep those drones flying.
3. Close our bases in Germany, and anywhere we really do not need them.
4. Fly our SEALS and Delta Force guys in when we need to, but fight these head choppers with intelligence and stealth, not with large armies and big vehicles.

In short, treat these guys we are looking for not like enemy soldiers, but as crazed serial killers who have patterns and vulnerabilities and do our police work relentlessly. We will never kill them all, any more than you can kill every rat on earth. You can simply try to find them and kill them when you can, and resolve this is not a war, with an end point, but a continuous effort at public hygiene. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Robert Kagan, Brookings et al: Do The Word "Effete" Come To Mind

Mr. Kagan Tells Us How The World Ought to Be
The New York Times tells us  Robert Kagan has spoken. And we should listen, because, well, Mr. Kagan's father was a professor of ancient Greece at Cornell, and his brother was a professor at West Point and his wife is a career diplomat, and Robert himself holds degrees from Harvard and Yale and has briefed a congressional delegation at Davos and he is at the Brookings Institution and he writes articles with snappy titles like, "Superpowers Don't Get to Retire."  
And his father, Donald, calling President Obama's remarks at West Point, "pathetic" also said of the President:  "We should not underestimate the possibility of extraordinary ignorance."

So there you have it: a family anointed by the New York Times as "cerebral" and ultimate sophisticates,  is compromised of sons and relations who are superior in understanding, depth and breadth of knowledge to mere presidents and soldiers.

It might be noted all the Kagans urged a "muscular" American military response to the problem of Iraq and now urge us to again use our military muscle there to...well, it's not exactly clear to do what, but surely to get some boots on the ground and to flex some muscles.  We should get in the fight and show those Islamic fundamentalists,  who want to draw new map of the Middle East down lines with Sunnis on one side and Shiites on the other,  just who exactly is in charge over there.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Times is an article by the former Private Bradley Manning, now Chelsea Manning (having decided he is now a woman), which outlines in some detail exactly how the Army censored and created the war news it thought was fit to print, and how most of it was a lie. Ms. Manning may have her problems, but clarity of expression is not one of them.

All this, Mr. Kagan's know it all pose and Pvt. Manning's reality check,  reminds anyone who has seen "Full Metal Jacket" of the meeting of the "Stars and Stripes" newspaper meeting in Vietnam, where the captain in charge of managing the news lays down the law about what can and cannot be said, and how the world ought to be seen, how it ought to be, how it damn well would be if only we believed in the power and the glory of the United States and its military.  The general idea is "When we have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow," but of course, you can never say that.

Editorial Session: How the War Ought to Be, Most Rickie Tick 
So there we have it, once again, a country where we have freedom of speech and open access to information, but in this land where all animals are equal some animals are more equal than others because they have access to microphones, widely distributed newspapers, institutions which fly them to Davos and give them offices on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC,  because they come from such good families and because they went to Harvard and express themselves forcefully in nifty, quotable phrases. 

And you think back on the gulf between what we saw in the room filled with word people in Full Metal Jacket and what we saw in the field, and  you realize, there is actually a real world out there which operates by rules of its own and it does not care what the smart boys from the good schools say, or how the Brookings people want the world to be. The guys with the guns who are living on a little rice and rat meat have a logic of their own. And the real power in the world flows from the barrels of their guns. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Eric Cantor Defeat: Making It Up As We Go Along

David Brat, Republican
Sergeant at Arms, Republican caucus

Eric Cantor loses his seat in Congress to a Tea Party professor of economics at Randolph Macon college and suddenly it's a movement. All the pundits had been saying, just a week ago, the Tea Party was history because Mitch McConnell and others had beaten back their Tea Party challengers and now mainstream, establishment Republicans did not have to worry but could turn their attentions to beating Democrats and not have to move so far to the right.
Now all that talk is forgotten. 
Such is the short memory of TV punditry.

Will Brat Serve His Constituents Well?

What is forgotten in all this is Eric Cantor is just one of 435 members of the House. 
Apparently, Mr. Cantor did not pay close attention to the House of Cards.  He did not remember that his people are a proud people and that humility is their source of pride. Humble yourself before them and they will do anything for you. 
Mr. Cantor was not humble enough.

Of course, there is always the question: Who would really want to represent this constituency?   King of Knaves.  Champion of half wits.  They sent him to Congress to vote against raising the debt ceiling, to vote against government and he became government.  Well, good riddance. 
Don't Forget Where The Capital of The Confederacy Was

There are candidates out there who are not humble, who nevertheless win. Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona is anything but humble. He struts about with his guards, dressing prisoners (some of whom have not yet even been tried or convicted of anything) in pink and stripes and parading them through the streets to humiliate them.  He has a tank which he has painted with flames, to show how tough he is. He has never been defeated for re election. His people love him. 

Republican Assault Vehicle 

So, okay, one Right wing congressman has been defeated for not being right wing enough.
 Must be the end of the Republic. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Scott Brown: How the Money Speaks

Mr. Brown's Company: There's no light on upstairs. 

How does a Cosmopolitan sexiest-man-alive cash in on fame? Well, it helps to have a truck.
Once you have a truck, you can win a Senate seat, especially if you are running against Martha Coakley.
And once you have been a Republican U.S. Senator from a New England state, you can attract money from the Koch brothers and friends of Carl Rove. You can use that money to run for U.S. Senate from New Hampshire, or you can simply keep the money and buy a much bigger house in Rye.
But who actually gives you the money and how is that money cleansed of taint?

Well, you can be named to the board of directors of a start up company, Global Digital Solutions, Inc.,  which once made hair spray and shampoo. 
You can see right away why'd they would want advice from Scott Brown. 
(I bet you thought of a data or software company when you heard that "Digital" part of the name, but obviously that had to do with fingers running through scalps and hair follicles...)until the company, which owns no patents or manufacturing facilities, re imagined itself as a data company, and then, most recently a firearms manufacturer. 

Guns! That should play well in New Hampshire. (Did you know in New Hampshire there are only 6 roads you cannot shoot across, if you are hunting on one side of the road and you see a moose on the other side?  One of them is Route 95, another is and Route 101 is another, and Rte. 93.  I forget the others, but, for the most part, if you have a gun and you see a moose standing on the other side of the road, go for it. New Hampshire has got your back. You can hunt in the "Urban Forest" in Portsmouth, by Route 1, as long as you fire your gun more than 100 yards from the road. Think about that next time you drive past the McDonald's, across the street, on your way into town.)

GDSI "does not have significant operations at the point, " Mr. Brown's mouthpiece said this weekend.  In fact, the company has only 4 employees, $270 thousand in cash and nearly $20 million in losses. It does have a "virtual address" in a very fancy building in Florida, but there is no GDSI listed in the lobby directory and a secretary at the address listed on the website says, "They're not here. It's by appointment only." Which leaves the matter in doubt. You can make an appointment, but they are not at home. 
     I read about this once, in Catch-22, where you could make an appointment to see Major Major Major, but only for times when he was not in the office.
    Not to worry, this company which has lost $20 million dollars,  gave Scott Brown $1.3 million worth of its stock when he agreed to become an "adviser" or a member of its board of directors. 
    Ah, a board of directors, the place where money from sources like, say, the Koch brothers, can be funneled to worthy citizens who have advice to give about hair spray or firearms.
    Remember that final scene in Animal Farm, where the animals, who have fomented a revolution and suffered through the iterations of a more just society on the farm look through the window at the pigs feasting with the human beings and they look from face to face and they cannot tell the pigs from the people?
    Well, that's where we are with Mr. Brown, now. He was once a man of the people, having been sexually abused by a camp counselor, arrested for shop lifting, shuffled back and forth among a slew of step fathers and broken homes, but somehow going to law school, joining the National Guard and serving heroically for 10 days in Afghanistan, and now he is risen from that Cinderella childhood in pursuit of the great American dream,  to a position of leadership, sitting on the boards of fancy companies like GDSI, and when he sits on a board of directors,  you can look from Koch brother to Koch brother, from Senator to business scion, and not be able to tell one from another.

And what about this phantom, this Parallax View company, which has a virtual address and website and a board of directors but no physical office, no products and only the vaguest description of a business plan?
When reached for comment, Mr. Brown said only, "I have a truck. A very big truck."

And a gun rack, too.