Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mr. Gohmert Instructs: A Page from the Republican Primer

Do you think this man may have a problem?
"And they’ve committed at least 7,695 sexual assaults.  You want to talk about a war on women? This administration will not defend the women of America from criminal aliens! By the thousands, and hundreds of thousands!
Well, we know thousands.And we know people are coming in by the hundreds of thousands illegally. And this administration wants to talk about other people having a war on women when they will not defend the women that are being sexually assaulted by illegally aliens in this country!"
           Louie Gohmert, U.S. Congressman, First Congressional District, Texas (Where else?)

I'll protect you. Just move a little closer. 
No, that is not Rush Limbaugh. That's a United States Congressman. Granted, he's from Texas, but still.
If he had just thrown in that one word--"White"--it would have been a complete throwback to the 1950's.  We have to defend the White women of our country from the sexual depravities these dark skinned aliens who want to ravage them.  
Oh, Deacon Gohmert, please protect me! I need you, so big and strong, to protect me against these sexually avaricious adolescents from Honduras, who are stalking me, hiding behind every cactus, every pick up truck, just pulsing with sexual intent!

Don't you love the specificity:  down to the final 5? 7695 sexual assaults by illegal alien men on white Texas women. I've investigated each and every one, my very own  self, and kept a log. And, Lawdie, Lawdie, some of those women were hot!
The problem for Mr. Gohmert and his fellow Tea Party Republicans is the images of these refugee kids are just so ...cute. Trying to ship off  those kids off is something akin to bludgeoning  fur seal pups over the head with truncheons.  
So let's put on our thinking caps, Republicans: How do we transform these kids into something threatening?   Why, they look innocent and all, but they carry disease!
No, wait, disease is too...invisible and the Democrats might bring on some lefty doctors saying they've examined the kids and no disease.  

This guy might be from Honduras!
Ah, but let's say, I'm just saying, that some of these kids are randy adolescents. Dark skinned, randy adolescents with eyes for white women as these women pull up in their vans at the super market. Ohhhh...yeah.  

Why they haven't hit upon the zombie angle, I do not know. After all, you cannot kill these kids,  and they just keep coming back.  But that may be a fall back. For now, we just need a simple, straightforward, specific warning. 
Thanks Louie, for your concern. We know where it's coming from.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Scott Brown Defends Our Borders

Adam, Kwasman, Fine Upstanding Republican Defender of our Border

 Scott Brown has joined hands with Adam Kwasman, that crusading Republican candidate for Congress (with the license plate LMTDGOV) who confronted a school bus full of children rumored to be pulling into the Arizona town of Oracle (great name for this story) headed for a youth home refuge. Kwasman was there with other adult patriots, determined to turn back that bus. And this he did, and he saw "fear in their eyes," which, he implied, would motivate them to run screaming back across the border to tell all their friends not to come to America.

Scott Brown's new state also has an international border (with Canada, near Pittsburg, New Hampshire) and he is equally determined to show any kids contemplating jumping the gate what's right.  He has a new ad out, blaming those kids on President Obama and his nefarious sidekick, Jeanne Shaheen, who practically invited all those kids to come stay up here.

Standing before a TSA security line at the airport,  former (and future) Senator Brown jerks a thumb over his shoulder at all those Americans wending their tedious way through the security check point, saying that real Americans have to wait in line for security's sake every day, 

"But folks who come here illegally, they just walk across the border. That's just wrong."

Then, once he's got us nodding in agreement, he launches into the next step:

“Thanks to the pro-amnesty policies of President Obama and Sen. Shaheen, we have an immigration crisis on our hands.We respond with compassion, but it’s time for us to secure the border once and for all.”

Which left Mad Dog wondering, just how do we "secure the border, once and for all?"

Mad Dog knows that President Obama knows exactly how to secure the border once and for all--he just doesn't want to do it. And he knows Scott Brown knows how to secure the border once and for all, but he's not telling, because, well,  you can't run a campaign without a tantalizing secret.

Richard Nixon once told voters he had a "secret plan" to end the war in Viet Nam, but he wasn't telling until after the election.  Turned out, it was evacuation of all American troops, which was something we did not need any cooperation from anybody other than the American military to accomplish. Remember that scene of the helicopter on the roof of the American embassy?  

But this secure the border Final Solution thing could not be evacuation of all American troops--the National Guard just only got there. 

So what do you do with people who simply refuse to leave?  Well, you need a Final Solution. A once and for all thing. 

Thing about final solutions is, they are rarely final and most usually, no solution at all.
Funny: Our kids look a lot like their kids

Which brings me back to that school bus:  They weren't illegal immigrants. They just looked Hispanic. They were American kids trying to find their YMCA.  That is YMCA, as in young men's CHRISTIAN association. You remember...the One who told us to take the shirt off our back and give it to our brother, and all like that. But that was a different time and a different place. 

Scott Brown really does look sharp, though, doesn't he? He was Cosmopolitan's Sexiest Man Alive once. Did you know that?

What happened to his barn coat? 

Monday, July 28, 2014

George Packer: The Dark Side of American Democracy

Beach reading for Mad Dog, with one eye on the pelicans, was rewarding this weekend. 
It was an odd confluence, vacationing down South, among the upper 1% of the upper 1%, and hearing off hand stories about people who worked for organizations which are not Goldman Sacks or Morgan, but "non profit" corporations in healthcare, who were given going away presents by boards of directors--a million dollars a year for life
Hey, you did a great job, here's a million a year for life. Open ended. Nice retirement plan, don't you think? Of course, nobody else in the organization even has a retirement plan. But you do. Nice pat on the back. I know you'll do the same for me some day, when you sit on the board of my corporation. 

Not my money.  Corporate money. Enjoy.

In an organization with a budget north of half a billion a year, this may not seem like a break the bank proposition, but the idea that idea would even occur to anyone on the board of directors, much less be approved,  floored Mad Dog. 

What that says about the sense of entitlement of the very rich speaks volumes--and these are the very people who would be quick to speak in deprecating tones about welfare queens with a "sense of entitlement."

Against this backdrop was George Packer's odd Jackson Pollack style book--in which he splatters a bunch of stories against the wall and something more or less coherent emerges about the unraveling of the "American dream,"  whatever that is--mostly the sense that if you work hard and "play by the rules" you will prosper in this country. 

Among the people whose stories he tells are a longtime Democratic party yeoman who works for Joseph Biden off and on, who witnesses the criminal greed of big wall street operatives go unpunished, and who is disappointed in President Obama for having no appetite for going after these miscreants who would have brought the entire economy down in the process of getting their own pots of gold.  Mr. Obama is painted, likely accurately, as someone acutely aware of his own lack of economic experience, and he does not have enough of a moral compass or deep seeded confidence in his own outrage to spurn the Larry Summers, the Timothy Geithners, the Robert Rubins, the guys who in some measure got us into the mess of 2008. So Mr. Obama simply does not have the balls  to go after the men on Wall Street who should have been thrown in jail.

Or maybe Mr. Obama made the simple calculation if he went after Wall Street scions, he would be a one term President.

But really, these guys make Bernie Madoff look like a piker. 

Packer tells the tale of a Florida lawyer who uncovers the depths of the incompetence, gross negligence, unconscionable indifference of Florida judges, prosecutors and sheriffs who foreclose on people who were more innocent victim than intemperate borrower. If anyone had listened and believed this lawyer in 2006, 2007, when he was screaming his Jeremiads, the crisis might have been averted and a lot of deserving billionaires at Goldman, Lehman, Morgan and Citibank might now be in jail. 

The whole  zoo of wheelers/dealers who packaged rotten mortgage backed securities were guilty of enough malpractice to transform the word "malpractice"  into a euphemism --we would really have to invent a new phrase--"criminal negligence" does not begin to describe what these rich men did because it does not include the aspect of how these guys sold snake oil they knew was worthless and should have known would eventually be poisonous. 

Not that this is anything new in American history--Huckleberry Finn depicts snake oil salesmen--but those were small time grifters who only poisoned a townsman or two--these 21st century Wall Street hucksters poisoned the entire economy and the body politic to boot.

And still the rich pay 15% income tax while the 99% pay more than twice that.

It's a bracing read. It even has a part on Elizabeth Warren--one of the best hopes for a brighter American future.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Make Way For the Ducklings New Hampshire Version or Tone Deaf Police

Wood Ducks

This morning the Portsmouth Herald carried a story about a woman, Hallie Bibeau,  who stopped on the median strip of Route 101 in an attempt to rescue wood duck ducklings whose mother had been killed crossing the highway and the ducklings were still trying to cross.  Ahead of her, she saw a car swerving to avoid something and she realized it was ducklings. Two were killed before her eyes. She was able to rescue two others. How many were left behind is not reported. WMUR says these were the only two survivors. 

The woman was accosted by a New Hampshire Highway Patrol detective and given a ticket and summons for reasons which are not entirely clear, but apparently it had to do with some law which says you can only stop on the median for "emergencies."

The tone deaf New Hampshire state police spokeswoman is heard on WMUR saying this was not an "emergency."

The woman later delivered the two ducklings to a rescue organization--in Maine.

The facts of the case are unintelligible (a frequent problem with the Herald) but  from the WMUR report, it appears the ducks tried to cross from the right hand side of the East bound road toward the West bound side of the road, across a broad median strip of grass, but the mother was killed on the right hand shoulder and some of the ducklings (number unknown) were killed crossing the road but two made it to the median strip where Ms. Bibeau rescued them. Why she was there for more than few minutes is not clear. Was she looking for others?  The median strip is no "strip" at that point of Route 101 but is at least 30 yards of grassy knoll. 

The woman apparently remained long enough for a passing ambulance to stop and inquire after her and leave. She was still there when the policeman arrived and apparently ordered her to move on. 

Trying to imagine why the policeman would give her a ticket rather than try to help, one can think he might have said to himself, this woman can get killed out here trying to save a bunch of ducks and cause an accident in the process. 

The woman claims cars were swerving trying to avoid hitting ducklings and that collecting the ducks was probably better for public safety.  Where the ducks were exactly, where they were headed, how many were out there are not stated.

What did strike Mad Dog, as he drove along Route 101 East bound this morning, was that police cars are often parked in that grassy dividing strip, talking to each other and sometimes they park at the turn off to Route 95, between Exit 12 and Exit 13 and they pull cars over to the shoulder or the dividing strip because the speed limit drops, for no discernible reason, from 65 to 55 at that point and many motorists continue blithely on and are easy pickings. 

So when the police stop their cars or stop "speeders" that is not a safety risk to the public. When the police sit in their cars in the same strip, that does not put anyone at risk, but when a citizen stops her car on that strip, well...

Was this a matter of control or a matter of concern for safety?

All we can be sure of is Hallie Bibeau will not have be out  that $44 fine--actually WMUR says it's $100.  She will likely get lots of dollars from the public to do that. 
Hallie Bibeau

Clearly, we don't want citizens lolling along the median strip. Highway 101 is not a place to dawdle. But one has to ask who was minding the Public Relations office at the New Hampshire State Police when they responded like so many mindless robots, both at the scene and in the police station later, when they were questioned about this story, which has been played as police against mothers, mindless, ruthless, heartless police indifferent to life and death, bureaucrats mouthing empty bromides about, "our concern is always for safety," or better yet, "we did not want this new mother to make her new child motherless." As if this mother was such a complete moron or so emotionally overwrought (as women are apt to be, we must infer from the policeman) that she was about to run out in front of a car, attempting to save ducklings. 
Boston Commons

Of course, there is a statue in the Boston Commons based on the book which shows with a kindly policeman holding up traffic so a mother duck and her ducklings can cross the road.  Here in New Hampshire the statue would likely show the policeman with his hunting rifle, picking them off. 
Three Ducklings 

The bigger questions are who controls the median strip and who controls the police?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Atlanta Teacher Test "Cheats": Trying to Find Humanity in Bureaucracy

Mad Dog has been thinking more about those teachers at Atlanta's Parks Middle School, who tried to save their school, cynics might say, tried to save their own jobs, by changing wrong answers to right answers after the students had handed in the answer sheets.

Yesterday, Mad Dog compared the teachers to Schindler, who rescued children from death in the concentration camps by cheating the system. The system in that case was so manifestly horrific any undermining of its implacable process seemed heroic--so why not see these Atlanta teachers as heroes?

On the other hand, the system of schools in Atlanta, which attempts to teach math and writing to students who are in no way prepared to learn is not a system designed to destroy the students. It is simply designed to help them in a very limited way.

What the teachers were saying is you can't teach these kids algebra if they are living in shattered homes, hungry, up all night slinging drugs on the corners, escaping abusive parents, dodging bullets on the street and unable to see what you are teaching them has any relevance in their lives. They simply do not have the faith in the adult who stands before them, at the head of the class.

What the teachers tried, at least what some of the teachers tried, was doing the laundry, literally, of their students, tried to build relationships, trust, tried to be surrogate parents, tried to do all the things parent should have been doing.  

The school system, unconsciously was saying, "We don't care about all those warm and fuzzy things. We care only about the test result numbers. We don't care whether or not those kids are abused at home or on the streets. We care only about what happens in the classroom. That is our job. All the other stuff belongs to social services. There is a fracture. I must fix it. If the school cannot function as a learning factory, it should be closed down and the kids sent to a school which does function as a learning factory.

The teachers say, then No Child Left Behind, is an oxymoron--it means that all these children will be left behind. Not in school, because they will, none of them, continue to go to school. 

Of course, there was more venality there--careers were built on phony "success" as test scores soared, when any fool could see there is no way those improved test scores could have been honest. 

At Parks Middle School, a teacher  pointed out a vicious teenager in the hallway, who was a chronic truant, in and out of jail, disruptive in class, dangerous to teachers and students alike. That teenager's test scores were exemplary, really high. "Some kids just test well," the administrator shrugged.  That, or somebody made sure that kid tested well. Hear no evil; see no evil.

None of the administrators whose job it was to measure success or failure wanted to see failure. 

When a system is broke, can you blame the people on the front line from choosing to do the job the way they think the job ought to be done?  

No system tolerates a Jimmy McNulty, but many systems depend on people like him.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Atlanta Test Score Scandal

Mr. Prezbo Instructs.  "The Wire"

If ever there was an example of unintended consequences in the passage of a law, No Child Left Behind and the disaster it unleashed,  has got to be it.

It may be argued that it wasn't the law,  but the mindless application of its principles and the utterly inane application of "statistics" and meeting the numbers which were the problems.

Metrics have been used by lazy executives and administrators to ruin police departments, businesses, medical care delivery systems and military efforts . But the metrics which NCLB spawned  were used to injure millions.

Michael Lewis glorified Billie Bean, who used metrics intelligently to revolutionize the assessment of talent for baseball players. But what Bean did was to recognize that certain numbers, like batting averages and runs batted in and runs scored,  can be very misleading and beyond the control of the player.  He came up with more meaningful metrics.

In her article in The New Yorker , "Wrong Answer," Rachel Aviv quotes John Ewing, the executive director of the American Mathematical Society who said he was perplexed by the infatuation with data by educational authorities, who placed faith in data rather than probing what that data actually meant.  Here is a numbers guy, who knows how numbers are derived, saying you have to understand "garbage in garbage out."

Mad Dog wonders how anyone reading "Wrong Answer" can really appreciate why those teachers doctored up the answer sheets of their students' exams,  without having seen the fourth season of "The Wire."  

One of the most telling remarks in Aviv's piece was from the mother of Damany Lewis, the first teacher to be fired for changing students' wrong answers to correct answers--the mother said when she read what the teachers had done,  she knew immediately her son must have been involved because it was, to her, plainly an act of "civil disobedience."
Damany Lewis :  A latter day Schindler?

Mad Dog thinks of teachers in public schools who were entirely incompetent, who sat behind their desks, happy and secure in their jobs and determined to do nothing, to learn nothing, to teach nothing--not because they were bad people but because they had been produced by the same environment their students now were drowning in and the teachers could not imagine anything better.  You had the blind leading the blind in Washington, D.C. schools--teachers who might have meant well, but who simply were not themselves well educated enough to help their students.

Not meeting the goals of percentages of students scoring high enough gave license to fire these inadequate teachers, but it was not used to get rid of just the hopeless cases--it was applied so blindly it threw the babies out with the bathwater. Smart, well educated, emotionally involved, highly ethical teachers were fired because their students did not, could never (as long as they lived in the ghetto) pass the tests.

The moral dilemma here was this:  In a hell hole of a neighborhood, the school became the only refuge for children who had no fathers, whose mothers were high on drugs, children who worked on the corners slinging drugs. These children floated in a sea sea of despair and deprivation; in that living hell, the school provided meals, some modicum of safety, sometimes clean clothes.  

This school was not a school, in the sense of being able to teach kids algebra, so much as an institution of a safe harbor for the refugees of a failed economy and a shattered social structure.  The "school" would be closed down if the test scores were not high enough. The lifeboat would be scuttled. The teachers saw all this and they knew that all they had to do was to violate that measurement tool, for the school to remain viable.

Suppose you had a concentration camp staff which falsified records of the number of inmates received and killed?  Supposed those camp guards conspired to make this a camp where inmates would be protected and spared?  Would you condemn those guards as unethical for falsifying reports?  Suppose each month, the guards sent back to Berlin reports of increasing production of war implements and increasing numbers of killings of received "unproductive" Jews, the elderly, the weak, children who could not produce water materiel and by doing this, the camp was praised, the safe-house preserved?  Would you condemn this collusion for a benign purpose?

Of course, the teachers at Parks Middle School were ultimately found out. And the school was closed and the children "transferred" to other middle schools, where their presence would lower tests scores, but their low scores might be diluted in the new schools. 

In a sense, the system worked: The school was not a school, but a social service facility and it was closed down for being a fraud. 

The empty building was not reopened as a refuge, of course. That refuge is gone. The children are now adrift at other buildings, where, perhaps, other students are actually going to school and learning,  and the kids from Parks are sinking beneath the waves, likely leaving "school" altogether, which is fine with the new schools,  who don't want these under-performers dirtying up their statistics. 

Schools have to be schools, not refugee centers. Ruthless? Yes, but at least consistent. No child was left behind in the Parks Middle School, once it was closed--children were simply expelled from the one institution which provided a safety net. 

Not the school system's  fault.  the school system is focused only on what schools are supposed to do: teach the subject matter, demonstrate this has happened with testing.

Safety net is somebody else's problem. We are here to teach and test. Or to test and teach. 

The problem,  of course,  was the superintendent of the system was like that orthopedic resident in "There is a fracture, I must fix it,"  who is so focused on one narrow problem--the fracture--he completely misses the fact the  patient is already dead. 

There were other, nastier people along the way: The superintendent could not possibly have been unaware of the fraud in testing throughout the school system, at least on some level. If she did not know about it, it was because she did not want to know about it. Those rising test scores were just too beautiful.  Don't destroy the  fantasy--it feels too good.

If ever there was an example of what can go wrong with public policy, with national goals visited like a plague upon local people,  this law with its accompanying distortion of data was it. Of course, it came, so predictably, out of Texas, and was visited upon the rest of the nation, from Baltimore to Atlanta. 

Stupidity institutionalized.  "Government" living up to Ronald Reagan's quip about, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."

It is a cautionary tale, which progressives ought not forget--every time you push for a "reform," remember what damage has been done in the name of reform--when it gets into the wrong hands.

It's things like this which give government-- the whole idea of government as an instrument for social good--a bad name. Small wonder people who have seen No Child Left Behind would be cynical about the possibility any other government project--like health care--could do more good than harm.

And, much as Mad Dog celebrates the joy of an Obama presidency, it has been a great disappointment to see Mr. Obama embrace the idea that poor performance of ghetto children ought to be laid upon the heads of schoolteachers in these combat zones, who are just trying to provide a safe house,  while the neighborhood around them burns.

Mr. Obama is said to be a fan of "The Wire." Watch the 4th season, Mr. President, then tell us what you think about judging the teachers by the test scores. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Children Crossing Illegally: Nothing Left to Lose

An NPR reporter  remarked this morning she had interviewed the parents of children who were deported back to Nicaragua from the USA. This was the much bally hooed event of "send them back on the next plane" strategy all the Republicans are screaming will end this crisis.  Just send a few planeloads of kids back and they'll stop coming. 

When they arrived at the airport in Nicaragua  what the kids said and what the parents said, pretty uniformly, was: "We'll try again."

So much for the Republican plan to, "Just send back a few planeloads of kids and their parents will get the message. That'll stop this thing in its tracks."

Of course, what the Just Send 'Em Back crowd is engaging in is wishful thinking.  They purport to know how other people, people in Central America think and from there, how to predict what they will in response to what we do.

Americans have never been very good at this sort of thing.

From the infamous "They will welcome us with open arms" assurances coming from Cheney and Rumsfeld when they were asked about what they expected when American troops rolled into Baghdad, to the "win their hearts and minds" in Vietnam, Afghanistan, you name it... we just do not understand other cultures very well and we do not put ourselves into  other people's minds very well.

Mad Dog is the first to admit, he has no good idea about what to do with 60,000 kids and who knows how many more to come.  But what irks Mad Dog is listening to all those Republicans like John Boehner, the editors of the Wall Street Journal, Rush Limbaugh,  who are so sure they do know what needs to be done. Of course, these Tea Party savants  are even more sure this is all, very simply, Mr. Obama's fault. 

Basically, people who don't like Mr. Obama are shamelessly using this. It's a bad thing and ipso facto, it has to be Mr. Obama's fault. If Democrats had reacted this way on September 11, 2001, how the Republicans would have reviled them for being unpatriotic at a time we needed to all come together. 

One can only imagine what the Republicans would say if the lunatics manage to pull off another big, high profile attack: It's definitely Mr. Obama's fault.  The fact we have paralyzed the government leaves us blameless.

Listening to a CNN call in show this morning, Mad Dog was surprised to hear a Black man from Chicago allude to that ship with people fleeing Hitler, who we sent back to Germany, where all aboard died in concentration camps.  Cordell Hull, the Secretary of State, refused to allow the ship to dock in the USA, pointing to the flag by his desk, saying he would have violated his sacred oath to defend that flag if he had allowed the ship to dock. The problem was each passenger, according to US law, required a letter from his local police chief attesting to his good character and for most of the passengers that letter would have had to be generated by some Gestapo official. The Gestapo writing letters of recommendation for Jews. Somehow, didn't happen.

 So, Secretary Hull did his duty by his flag and  sent men, women and children back to the gas chambers.

We do not have information to suggest what these kids face in Nicaragua or Honduras is the equivalent of annihilation in concentration camps, but what do we really know about what is going on down there in Central America?  

Could be pretty horrific. Maybe, maybe not, but the sudden influx must mean something. 

Mad Dog is humble before his own ignorance. Would that he could say the same for John Boehner and his entire cohort of Republican hyenas. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

John Boehner and the Ultimate Con

"This is a problem of the President's own making," the Ohio Republican thundered on Thursday. "He's been President for five and a half years! When is he going to take responsibility for something?"

Another Republican, hearing the President had declined to travel to the border for a photo op, looking sternly South, accused the President of not caring about this problem, as evidenced by his refusal to see the problem "first hand." The President replied, cooly as always: "This is not about theater. This is about real people."

Well, folks, you heard it here first:  Almost 60,000 children have managed to sneak across the border and present themselves, like so many foundlings, from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua and points south,  and now we know whose fault it is.

It's not that thousands of parents have decided the terror of living in these places is so bad whatever risks their children face trying to get into the United States are worth the near certainty of a short, brutish life at home. It's not that the Republican Congress has refused to act on any sort of immigration plan. It's not that the Republicans have refused to fund judges and all the government nuts and bolts required to process this tidal wave. It's not that, like the rich European countries which have attracted similar tidal waves of immigration, the USA, being rich,  has discovered it is a magnet for poor neighbors. 

It's not that the Republicans, having told us time and again we do not need government and having set to the task of if not dismantling government, at least paralyzing it; it's not that Mr. Boehner and his Republican cronies bear any responsibility.  Oh, no. They have always known exactly how to deal with immigration, but nobody in the Democratic White House would listen! Now, what was it, exactly, they proposed doing about all these illegals crossing the border?

Ever notice how people often criticize in others what they secretly know they are guilty of themselves? Oh, the President. He refuses to take responsibility for anything! We know all about people who hide from their responsibilities. 

It's all Obama's fault. And likely it's Obamacare, the lure of free medical care, drawing all those children north,  like flies to honey.

Why can Obama simply not admit his culpability?

He should have done what I told him to do: Call out the National Guard! That would've fixed the problem. Built a great wall,  like the Chinese once did. Build one straight across the southern border and sink steel plates down half a mile so they can't tunnel under it and put up drones to hover over it and string nets out along our entire seacoast, so they can't come in by boat. 

And cut taxes to pay for it. And do not even think of paying for contraceptives. Oh, sorry, that's another rant.

Or, maybe, we could build big camps and put all those kids in them. Put them down at Guantanamo! Don't ask us what to do about it. It's the President's responsibility! He should know! He's President!

And why does he just not admit what a complete failure he has been as President and resign?

And if we say this often enough, and if the Koch brothers give us enough money to buy enough air time to repeat this often enough, why then, eventually, it will be like, conventional wisdom. "Everybody knows" it's true.

Why hasn't anybody said, "Mr. Boehner, have you, at long last, no shame?"

Well, Boehner knows all about that warm medium--just look aggrieved and nobody listens to the cool, reasoned response from the President; they just respond to the emotion.

But,  even given the Republicans' mastery of the airways, have we not, at long last, reached the point where we can see through all this bluster,  to the truth? 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ten Thousand Illegal Immigrant Children: Yikes!

What do you do when children are loaded into vans, boats, whatever conveyances the imagination can provide, shipped from desperate poverty, violence, lives of no promise other than "short, brutish and sad" variety and they wind up in the custody of adults, across the border in the United States?

The first thing is to pick the right spokesman, and Cecilia Munoz, President Obama's White House czar of immigration,  is clearly not that. She uses phrases like, "We are taking this very, very seriously" and speaks in legaleese and sounds like the right wing's send up of  a fuzzy minded liberal bureaucratic. "Well, we don't want to deny any of  those children who qualify as asylum seekers, so we have to respect the process and the law." 

Then she is followed by some Congressman from Arizona saying, "Look, the way to stop this is to send a planeload of these illegal kids back to Guatemala, another to Brazil, and another to Nicaragua,  three days after they cross the US border, and that'll stop this flood."

As is true for so many Republicans, the answers are always simple. 9/11? Just load up the troops and blow Sadam Hussein out of Iraq, that'll learn 'em.

But there is a certain truth in what he is saying: When we are confronted with a tidal wave of children, we cannot proceed with business as usual. Our rules were never meant to deal with this.  If we have to send back some deserving children with the "undeserving" then we will, just to get the contagion under control.

The fact is, they are all deserving. We are making distinctions which are game playing. No kid deserves to be raised in squalor and desperation. Trouble is, we cannot just adopt every desperate kid. We had foundling hospitals in this country once, but we had to devise better solutions than that when the numbers overwhelmed them.

But this problem has clearly caught President Obama unprepared and he needs to think about how to communicate with his countrymen about the problem and its solutions.  And don't sound too concerned about sending home the twelve kids who, by law, should really be granted asylum,  when you've got 10,000 kids to deal with. Even in medicine, you have to do the greatest good for the greatest number:  Quarantine sacrifices people,  so the general population is protected. If you have to send back a dozen deserving kids so 10,000 more kids don't wind up on their way to our shores, so be it.

One thing which really inflames white Americans is the idea that people will come here and "freeload," live off welfare, not work, simply ask to be given a handout. Children are always "freeloading" even white children. You have to support them until they can become independent. So, in a sense, it is a very clever idea to send children, if you are a desperate parent in Bolivia. Nobody can really blame the kids. Your heart has to go out to them. 

But if we throw open our doors to the world's children, what are we taking on? 

Sound tough. Sound reasonable. Do not sound like a lawyer.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Mr. Ted Cruz vs Mr. Paul Krugman: The Knowing Crowd vs A Voice in the Wilderness

Green Eggs and Ham School of Economics
 Everyone has a theory.  The dynamic duo from the Lone Star state share the same theory of macroeconomics, which is not really a great surprise since that theory was handed out in the welcome boxes at the Republican Party barbecue. It goes like this: Economics is really very simple--it's just like sitting around your own kitchen table at home. You can't spend more than you get in income because then you go into debt and debt is BAD!
This means any time the Democrats suggest spending on anything you can say whatever it is they are hoping to spend money on will cost too much, send us into debt our grandchildren--don't forget to mention grandchildren; everybody worries about the grandchildren--will struggle to pay for years to come.
So there is this big, nasty dragon, "The Deficit" and another cousin drag, "The National Debt," which just get fed irresponsibly by those idiotic Democrat (NB: not Democratic, always Democrat, sounds more like "rat") politicians.
Economic Stimulus Is Not Pornographic 
Ah, but then there is Paul Krugman.  Mr. Krugman has two strikes against him: he was on the faculty of Princeton for many years, and he won a Nobel Prize in economics. These are two reasons, Mad Dog admits it, not to like Mr. Krugman. There is something so smug about Princeton.  And a Nobel Prize, with the queen of Sweden on your arm, all blonde and fairy tale like and white ties and music and it could just make you puke, being so ultimately establishment. If you are a good ol' boy from Arizona to South Carolina, you just know you will hate anything this guy says.

But, okay, we can get past all that. What Mr. Krugman says, frequently and at length, even today in the New York Times, is that sometimes debt is a good thing.

Like when you go into debt to buy the house your family will grow up in and which you'll live in for 30 years, until you sell it and move to Florida, or, Heaven forbid, to Arizona.

Walking around my college campus in the 1960's I noticed most of the buildings had cornerstones with the date they were built and most of those cornerstones said "1932" or "1934" and when I wrote my father and told him about this, I said I thought the 1930's were bad times, the Great Depression, how could they have built so many buildings if times were so bad. And he wrote back, "They built those buildings because times were bad: cheap labor, cheap materials, cheap loans."

Now Mr. Krugman is saying the same thing. Now, when interest rates are low, is the time for the government to borrow to rebuild bridges, roads, electric grids, water lines and all like that.  If the government does that, since nobody in the private sector is much interested right now, the government will not be competing with the private sector, and in fact, it will be throwing some business to the private sector and it will be hiring and those construction workers will be going out to eat, buying stuff and the economy will come back and more people will pay more taxes and the deficit and the debt might go down. 

But Mr. Cruz and all his Republican party clones will not hear it. They have their own faith. They hear God talking to them. And God is saying, "Do not do government. And, oh yes, do not let Obamacare pay for contraception."

Thursday, July 3, 2014


You are Not Free to Object 

Have At It 

The First Ammendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So here's how freedom of speech works in these United States, according the Scalia court:  
1. If you are an 18 year old boy who is offended by being roused out of his school, told to stand and cheer for the Olympic torch as it is borne by you on the street you are not allowed to speak your mind. You may believe the "Olympic movement" is nothing more than a shameless, corrupt, commercial enterprise masquerading as a lofty idea of worldwide brotherhood, but you cannot say that in public, or at least during the school day, when, presumably, your speech is controlled by your teachers, your school principal or some other adult who agrees with Justice Scalia. 

Your case is not a case of freedom of speech but is a case of a child being appropriately constrained and silenced by some authority figure. Even if you have shown yourself to have adult perceptions and maturity enough to engage in political speech, your case is lost.

2. If you are the owner of a business which makes a profit on the backs of its thousands of employees, you can impose your "religious" ideas on them by refusing to pay for what every other employer, similarly situated,  has to pay for, to wit, health insurance which includes insurance for IUD's and Plan B. Your religious belief trumps the law of the land.

3. If you are a person who believes abortion is murder because your religion tells you so, because you hear the voice of GOD, then you can stand nose to nose with any woman who attempts to walk into a Planned Parenthood office, even if she is there for contraception, so she will not get pregnant, and you can block her way, scream in her face, tell her she's a murderer. No boundaries need apply.

So what this comes down to: If you are espousing something Misters Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Roberts believes--you've got no restraints at all. If you are someone who espouses something the "justices" abhor--independent thought--your free speech is nothing more than unruly behavior which deserves to be suppressed.

Got that?