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.