Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Unreconstructed Liberal

Boys in the Hood: It will take more than cash to help these guys

Mad Dog has been taken to task by none other than Ms. Maud for suggesting we "throw up our hands" at the idea of spending money to improve the lot of the Children in the Basement, the dispossessed, the struggling, the underprivileged, the most vulnerable who face hopeless lives of deprivation while corporate profits soar to record highs and the 1% get richer and laugh all the way to the bank.

This really set Ms. Maud off, and evoked such an inspiring outpouring of indignation, it set Mad Dog dreaming about setting up an exploratory committee for Ms. Maud in her run against Kelly Ayotte. Wouldn't you just love seeing Senator Ayotte having to respond to this? It would be one of those, "At long last, Senator, have you no sense of decency?" moments. But Mad Dog digresses.

Surely, we can spend money in a constructive way to better the lot of the most needy.
Paul Krugman has suggested as much, in a way, by saying virtually any government spending in a recession helps lift the economy, and a rising tide lifts all boats. You could bury money in a mine and there would be jobs created just to dig down to it.

But that technique has been tried, back in the 1960's, to try to change the fate of inner city lives, and it was ineffective. 

Mad Dog  does agree we ought not give up. 
Ms. Maud is correct: there is no such thing as "benign neglect."  Mad Dog does agree that:
1. We should do whatever we can do to effectively raise the poor into the middle class and beyond. 
2. Throwing up hands in frustration or despair will never help. You can only hit what you aim at, for the most part. As FDR said: better the occasional faults of a government which lives in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of  a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.
3. Government can be at least part, maybe the major player, in accomplishing the goal of helping those who dwell at the bottom or who struggle to remain in the middle.

What affects Mad Dog's thinking, however, is the memory of the last great effort to do all this, the "War on Poverty." Lyndon Johnson set as a goal ending poverty in America in 1964 and from his efforts Congress funded the Office for Economic Opportunity and many other agencies and programs directed at the inner city poor.
Many were the voices which warned against raising unreasonable expectations, which, when dashed, who cause more unhappiness than if we had just left well enough alone. These voices mostly had Southern accents.

Today, of course, different voices, with the same message howl that any effort to spend taxpayer or(Heaven forbid) corporate money to help the less fortunate is doomed to be money poured down a black hole to no effect.  Only trickle down from the top 1% can help create real jobs, they say. They always point to the fruitless efforts of the War on Poverty. These voices emanate from people like Paul Ryan, who believes the reason for inner city poverty is the "laziness" of inner city people. And there are other voices, emanating from people who bear a striking resemblance to turtles. The turtle, you will recall, can retract his arms and legs and head into his shell and seal himself off from the world.
Fear the Turtle

 In 1964, Martin Luther King, who had needed Johnson to pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, began speaking out against Vietnam, which struck many of his supporters as biting the hand that fed.
But King saw clearly it was all part of a larger picture:  Penniless Black kids from every inner city ghetto saw every opportunity closed to them and they had no other viable option but to join the military, or at least allow themselves to be swept up into the military. King saw the great American war machine as somehow being part of the reason Black people were kept down.
Now, Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate, a retired soldier and  a professor at BU, writes about the Breach of Trust between citizens and the soldiers they hire to fight an eternal war, putatively in "service to their country," but actually in service to their own financial security, their own families, and, ultimately, to  corporate bonanzas and to moneyed interests. 

Whereas in the past, service in the Army actually provided some legitimacy to the claims of Black citizens to reap the benefits of the American economy, once they came home,  in the new, all volunteer (i.e. mercenary) Army, this is no longer true. The only claims the Black youths have now is to an artificial arm or leg at the VA Hospitals. That's part of the contract. And "service" has been reduced to contract work. All that talk about "Duty, Honor, Country," has been displaced by talk about better housing, better pay and scholarship money. Part of the payout is a certain claim to social respectability, but we no longer have an army where rich boys serve with poor boys, where the rich defer their entry into upper class pursuits while they "serve their nation" as JFK did on his PT boat, as Oliver Wendell Holmes did when he served in the Union Army.  When you have people who are clearly not improving their own finances in the service, it really is a "service."

Bacevich ties many ills you would not think related to the way we have constructed our military, and while his screed is clearly a polemic, written in white heat rather than cool remove, he does marshal enough thought, if not evidence, to be persuasive.

Essentially, what he is saying, is the Child in the Basement argument: When you have something very rotten at the core, the whole foundation of society is weak and the superstructure totters.

If you have slavery at the core of the Southern economy, eventually that structure will fall.

When you have corporate profit driving the disposition of armed intervention and when you have Congressional districts depending for their wealth on military bases and munitions plants, as directly as the cotton farms depended on slaves, then you have some serious structural problems for the whole society.

Spending money is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to lift all boats. This goes back to George Bernard Shaw and "Major Barbara. " There is no such thing as "clean money" or "dirty money" in a society which prints its money in ink made of blood.

Mad Dog believes we do not actually benefit our economy or protect ourselves effectively by sending only 1% of our population (and not the 1% that owns this country) who comprise our military, off to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq or Ukraine. But the infrastructure which supports this so corrupts Congress and our priorities that this rotten core begins to affect the rest of our society and damages prospects for those at the bottom of the heap.  

So, to address the needs of the underclass, good intentions are not enough. We need to figure out what ails the patient first, and then fashion therapy.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lessons from Arachnids

Female Coin Spider: Many Suitors

Male: The Ultimate in Self Abuse

Yep, And I won both those elections. Eat Your Hearts Out

Mad Dog and his sons are addicted to nature shows, but the lessons learned there can be disturbing or dangerous.
After watching the spider wasp devour its host spider from the inside, leaving only a husk as it departs, Mad Dog's older son remarked, "This proves there is no God."
To which his brother replied, "Well, at least not a benign, forgiving God. Maybe an Old Testament God is still possible."

Now we have the coin spiders.

Female coin spiders may be impregnated by several males, but males mate only with one female.The male mates only once, because in the process he loses his male reproductive organs, some parts of which remain embedded in the female, and the remaining parts, he chews off himself.

This is a behavior familiar to any observer of Democratic candidate behavior. It turns out, Democratic candidates have been emulating, either consciously or unconsciously, the mating habits of the coin spiders for years now.  Eating their own testes. Any Democratic candidate can feature that. 

Mr. Obama finally displayed some testosterone driven behavior last Tuesday, and departed the stage at the Capitol Building fully intact.  but the Republicans responded, significantly, with Ms. Ernst, who has a long history of scissors wielding effectiveness at removing dangling appendages.  The brilliance of the Republicans in coalescing around Ms. Ernst's theme of scissor driven management of Democrats is remarkable.

The one Democrat who seems to be unfazed by Republican tools of appendage paring is Elizabeth Warren. Which just goes to show...I'm not sure, actually. Nothing good, probably. I do like Ms. Warren, however.

I  also know once Ms. Maud gets certified, I will be looking over my shoulder in Hampton. 
Gas Prices At Hampton Hess: Thank Anyone but Obama

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Obama In Full: The Man We Thought Might Be In There, State of the Union

Returning each summer from my infamously monastic sojourn at the university, I would pursue what any hot blooded twenty something would among the fields of romantic  play in my hometown. But I approached my desired goals incrementally, cautiously, not wanting to push too hard, dating some likely object of desire, and not wanting to get ahead of her responses,  I did not reveal my desires and intentions and feelings until about two weeks before I had to leave and go back to the monastery. The pattern emerged, every summer, in which by mid August the young lady in question would say, "I wish you had said all  this sooner. But now you're almost gone." The revelation of inner self had occurred too late.

I had much the same feeling listening to the President last night.  Why did it take him this long to be the man we thought he could be? The man I liked so much when he first appeared in 2004, the man who spoke plainly, confidently, who was challenging but reasonable has been missing in action.  Why has it taken him so long to reveal that inner Obama?

Last night, he went back to the theme from his seminal 2004 speech, that we are not Red or Blue or Purple Americans, and we ought not divide ourselves. He spoke of making the rich pay for what all of us have provided. He sought common ground: Surely we can all applaud the falling teen pregnancy and we can applaud falling abortion rates--and the implication was "pass the over the counter birth control pill law." He spoke of the injustice to young Black males harassed (without mentioning stop and frisk) and he spoke of the fear of the wives of policemen for their husbands' safety.

Of course, the Republican response was instant rejection, and the messenger was none other than Maud's favorite Senator from Iowa, the master castrator-in-chief, Senator Joni Ernst. And, as is typical of Republicans, they all read from the same book of Hymns and Verses, obviously handed out before the speech so they could read from the same page in the interviews which followed.

The best part of the speech was unscripted, when Obama said he was no longer running for anything--and some Republicans applauded. President Obama did not miss a beat:   A sly smile crossed his face, and he said, "That's right. And I'm not running because I won both of those elections." Thunderous applause from the Left and sour looks from the thoroughly outclassed Republicans.

There were many good lines--we can do more for our infrastructure and energy economy than build a single pipeline.  Nice zinger.

Unfortunately, a single speech might catapult you into the race for the Presidency, but it cannot change the direction of governance. As Mr. Obama said, governing wisely is not done in headlines or single moments.  He slammed his predecessor by remarking the response to a terrorist attack should not be bluster and an intemperate headlong rush into military action. "That's what our enemies want us to do." I do wish he had said, "So when George W. Bush rushed to send American youth to die in Iraq, he provided Al Qaeda just what they wanted--easy targets."

His presidency has been the slow and deliberate response--to the border crisis, to the problems with the roll out of Obamacare, but the problem with that slow and deliberate approach is that, while it solves problems, everyone has forgotten about the problem by the time it's solved, so the accumulation of effect is--oh, Obama, he can't do anything. Which is to say, he can't solve each problem in each news cycle instantly, so he must not be solving any problems.

As Paul Krugman has pointed out in recent columns, the Obama presidency has been remarkably successful--the economy was saved from the banking crisis which the Republicans created with deregulation; health care has been finally, if imperfectly extended to the masses, Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. By every reckoning, by every measure, the man has had a very good run. Except for perception. 

You get the leaders you deserve, most of the time. Sometimes--Lincoln, Roosevelt and now Obama--you get better than you deserve. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

David Brooks: The Child in the Basement

David Brooks writes of Ursula Le Guin's parable, the child in the basement, about a community whose prosperity depends on keeping a single child locked in a basement, sitting in its own excrement and starving. The villagers all know about this child and its suffering and some even visit it but none will act to rescue the child because, for unstated reasons, the suffering of the child is essential to the welfare of everyone else.

Now, Mad Dog is as much a fan of parables as anyone else, but usually with parables one can say, "Oh, that is like..." but for the life of him, Mad Dog cannot conjure up a situation in which the suffering of a very few is so directly and inexorably tied to the welfare of a larger society. Ordinarily, the Phantom would have ignored this column, but it was recommended by an impeccable source, so the Phantom will struggle with it.

Brooks says the analogy is with the child laborers who make the world's cell phones. But this fails because the fact is their exploitation is not necessary to world prosperity. In fact, if they were paid a living wage everyone would pay more for cell phones but the world economy would grow and prosper even more because you'd have wage earners in those factories spending and building economies.  The excuse from the factory owners and the stockholders that we "have" to keep costs down is bogus.  Those workers could be paid more and the stockholders may make less profit but they would still profit--prosperity does not depend on worker exploitation.  And, in fact, in the case of workers producing products, it's not a case of the suffering of the few benefiting the prosperity of the many; it's just the opposite--the many (working class people) suffer for the benefit of the few (the factory owners.)

This has always been the conservative argument: To make the production of goods work, we must starve the workers. In fact, as non other than Henry Ford demonstrated, to make the production line work, you pay the workers better.

Another analogy Brooks suggests: To kill the terrorists, you have to kill a few children, so everyone can live in safety. But it has never been demonstrated the "collateral damage" of killing innocent civilians  with drones has ever really resulted in greater safety for the masses of Americans back home. That is what the guys pushing the drone buttons tell themselves. Don't you believe them.

And then there is the rejection of qualified applicants for spots at highly selective colleges--but there the few are benefited while the mass suffers. Not a good fit.

One might have argued the best fit would be the Third Reich's murder of Jewish children and Roma children to "cleanse" the Fatherland of the pestilence of impure races. A "few" die so the many can prosper. But we all can see the problem with that thinking. 

Had Mad Dog had to propose an analogy, it might be the killing of severely deformed babies so the huge expense of their care might free the great number of citizens to live free of that burden. But the problem here is there have never been enough of these infants to actually threaten an economy the size of the American economy. These infants may bankrupt their parents, but not the whole economy.

So, Mad Dog has to say, he cannot see this parable having any real merit, in the real world. It is not a parable of allowing the distressing suffering of the few for the benefit of the many as a practical solution because, practically speaking, raising up the suffering almost always benefits the many. Abolishing slavery did not bankrupt the South; in fact, it benefited the South. Abolishing slavery actually freed the many (the slaves) while bankrupting their owners (but not in all cases), who were in fact, a small minority of the Southern population.

The only example Mad Dog can conjure up is the American military: They are the injured small number, sitting in their own excrement and in Bethesda Naval Medical Center without arms or legs and by their suffering, they assure prosperity for the rest of us (a debatable point.) As Andrew Bacevich has so clearly explored, we have mistreated our military and broken faith with them "Breach of Trust." They suffer so we may shop and have our feel good moments at stadiums and public gatherings.
Funny that did not occur to either Mad Dog or Brooks immediately, but it does fit the suffering few and the prospering many living well because of that suffering. Likely this did not come to mind because the young who are our military are so invisible and forgotten, trotted out only like a circus act, at Fenway or the Super Bowl, so we can all feel warm and virtuous and then go back to ignoring them.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie: Free Speech and Violence in America and the World

Southern Senator Defends the "Honor" of the South from Insult

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.
--The First Amendment, U.S. Constitution

American Bar Association on “Hate Speech”:
Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits. Should hate speech be discouraged? The answer is easy—of course!....In this country there is no right to speak fighting words—those words without social value, directed to a specific individual, that would provoke a reasonable member of the group about whom the words are spoken. For example, a person cannot utter a racial or ethnic epithet to another if those words are likely to cause the listener to react violently. 

The ACLU position:
If we do not come to the defense of the free speech rights of the most unpopular among us, even if their views are antithetical to the very freedom the First Amendment stands for, then no one's liberty will be secure. In that sense, all First Amendment rights are "indivisible."... We should not give the government the power to decide which opinions are hateful. At the same time, freedom of speech does not prevent punishing conduct that intimidates, harasses, or threatens another person, even if words are used. Threatening phone calls, for example, are not constitutionally protected.

What are the limits of free speech in America?

What do we do when people use their free speech to deny that other people have a right to free speech?

How do we accommodate a  group  which cleaves to the idea of "blasphemy" and baldly states it will not tolerate the free speech of those who live around them in their adopted countries? At what point does this presence of an intolerant cohort in a tolerant land constitute an invasion or a threat to the existence of the free state?

Oliver Wendell Holmes famously limited the right to free speech with his remark: “The right to free speech does not extend to the right to cry ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.”  (When there is no fire.) In this case, speech is a form of action which results inevitably, in physical consequences.  Crying fire means, inevitably, a stampede. Shouting “nigger” does not mean a response in action is inevitable, however much that action may be probable.

When you start down that road, what of the man who stands up on a platform and exhorts a crowd: "Kill all the Niggers!" when there are colored people in the crowd?  The ACLU would say he has that right—it’s the people he’s exhorting who do not have the right to respond with violence. Only if he points to a specific Black man in the crowd and says, "Kill that particular Nigger!" does his speech lose protection.

The ACLU achieves consistency in its absolutulist opposition to any form of restriction of free speech, but absolutism—for all its virtues of consistency—fails in the face of the tangled woof of reality, as is the case for the theater or the crowd with the rope.
Western Europe and America are now faced with the quandary of not wanting to limit the individual  his freedom to express himself, but facing the paradox of having to deal with an individual who wants to express the idea that other people cannot express their own ideas--who rejects free speech as a condition for discussion.

And what is “speech”? 

If burning a flag on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, DC is an expressive act of free speech, what of the man who riddles with bullets the building which houses Charlie Hebdo in Paris but causes no bodily harm to any person?  Or, how about the man who throws a pitcher of blood on a Planned Parenthood building? If no person is harmed, if the act is “symbolic” then is it “speech”? In the case of Bong Hits for Jesus, unfurling a banner, wordlessly, was not considered protected speech because of who did it,( a student), who, the Supreme Court said, has no right to free speech. So in this country, we say only some people have the right to free speech.

It is probably not a coincidence the right to freedom of religion is juxtaposed with the right to free speech, in the First Amendment. It is, and has been, religion, which has fostered the idea of “blasphemy,” i.e. speech which contradicts Gospel or the official party line of the Church, or, as the religious would say, "God's Will." (Nifty trick that, knowing "God's Will.") Some religions have attempted to restrict not just free speech but free thought: Having "impure thoughts" is something you have to go to confession for and be absolved of.

So now we have crowds in Pakistan rioting over cartoons, after Charlie Hebdo replies to violence with a multi million issue of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammad.  Of course, angry crowds are exercising free speech, until they do more than talk.
The problem here, at core, is a war of cultures. You have one culture, that of the fundamentalist, which says free speech is not as important as righteousness. The fundamentalist says, if you draw a cartoon, write a novel or an article which insults Islam, then taking violent action against you is justifiable, escalating from words (or drawings)   to the bullet or the bomb is justified by the Word of the Prophet and of Allah.

In this case, we have no basis for discussion—they are advocating the overthrow of not our government, but the most essential pillar on which our government stands, the tolerance of hearing opposing opinions.  How can you have democracy without hearing all sides? The jihadist with the gun says, “No, you may not say what you are thinking.”

In that scenario, then freedom as it is defined in the American Constitution, ceases to exist. As basic as the right of free speech may be to Liberty, without a government to enforce it, without existence of that government and its values, there can be no Liberty, only the rule of the sword. 

It is, to Mad Dog’s understanding, still illegal in the United States of America to advocate the overthrow of the United States government. (Smith Act US Code 2385) In a sense, to advocate the abolition of free speech is to advocate the destruction of the government which is grounded on free speech. In that sense, the ACLU is dead wrong. A sect which claims it can silence all those who disagree with them is advocating the destruction of the government, the Constitution and all that goes with it. To say we must accept those who advocate against the First Amendment is to say we must meekly accept a beheading of our most fundamental right. Sorry, ACLU, you lost Mad Dog there.

Here in the USA, we have laws against “hate speech.”  In those laws, we have the ascendance of concern for preventing violence over the concern for free speech. But we must realize the power of words to provoke violence is only potent in  people who are not sophisticated enough to simply let words drift off into the air.

Sophisticated Laddies 

How many times has Mad Dog seen “fighting words” escalate in heat and intensity until blows were exchanged?  Often enough, but mostly this happened when the people involved were young and/or unsophisticated greasers. 

Well educated people simply have more training and more options; the ignorant, the untrained simply grow tongue tied and frustrated and lash out with fists, knives, whatever is available. 
The ABA’s position, that “fighting words” ought to be banned is sophomoric. The fact is, every citizen has to be educated in one basic principle: You cannot meet speech with violent physical action. An insult cannot justify a shove, a punch, a knife thrust or a bullet. That is a line even the most simple minded American child must be taught, and that is a line which cannot be crossed, no matter what that kid says about your sister or your mother.("Sticks and stones"...) And the ABA is foolish enough to define “fighting words” as being “without social value.” And then compounds the idiocy by adding that such words would be expected to “provoke” a “reasonable person” into violence. Provoke into violence? A reasonable person? Now that is the definition of a non sequitur: If he is provoked into violence by words, he is by definition, not reasonable.  This comes from a group of lawyers?

You don’t see fist fights in the British House of Commons, because angry M.P.’s have the verbal tools to skewer their opponents, and the training to restrain physical confrontation. Not true of the United States Congress, where an inarticulate, hot blooded, Southerner beat a Northerner into a blood pulp for “insulting” the South. Right on the floor of the Capitol. 

The truth is, the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo looked to Mad Dog’s eye, not all that different from the cartoons published by the Nazis in the run up to Kristallnacht. The Nazi cartoons were part of a program to stoke up hate. 

Would Mad Dog have allowed them to be published in the USA? 
You bet. 

It wasn’t the cartoons which threw bricks through windows.  Outside of the world of “Roger Rabbit,” cartoons cannot heave bricks, or drop safes on people’s heads.

But that is not to say the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were artful, effective, or anything other than peurile. Mad Dog has not seen a single Charlie Hebdo cartoon which could hold a candle to anything by Herblock. The cartoons Mad Dog has seen are more Three Stooges than Thomas Nast.
Well, at least we spread the hate equitably 

There is, of course, the issue of self censorship. We all engage in this daily, when we avoid using certain four letter words and we we exercise what we think of as "good taste" in polite company to keep the discussion going, rather than derailing it. For Mad Dog's money, that is exactly what Charlie Hebdo does not do: Their cartoons do not stimulate discussion but derail it.  And by evoking stereotypic images which had once been used in the past to stoke hatred, Charlie Hebdo does not bring light, but only heat to the discussion of the role of religion in a civilized society.  

The French have a very different history with respect to church and state. There was Joan of Arc, and the deportations of Jews to the concentration camps, and there is the Catholic Church, which is so important ceremonially, if not psychologically in France, and there is the law which forbids Muslim girls from wearing head scarves in school. 
So maybe this is simply a case of culture gap, but Mad Dog is not a fan of Charlie. Je ne suis pas Charlie, c'est tout.
Was This Hate Speech or Free Speech, Nazi Style?

And now we are going to have New Hampshire legislators packing guns on the floor of the New Hampshire legislature.
That ought to expand the meaning of free speech in the Granite State and give new meaning to Live Free or Die.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Thank You Jesus: Now They Have to Govern!

It's a very hard choice: Who should we root for in the race to become Speaker of the House?

My long running favorite has been Louie Gohmert, who famously said about the adolescents streaming across the Texas border as refugees from the murderous gangs in Honduras, "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! By the hundreds of thousands!"
When that border with Texas was roiling, Mr. Gohmert was there to sound the alarm:  "We all know Al Qaeda has massed on the Mexican border. We have people that are trained to act Hispanic when they are radical Islamists."

I know every American woman, at least every white American woman, felt safer just knowing Mr. Gohmert had their backs (perhaps a poor choice of phrase).

But, how can one not root for a man named Ted Yoho?  (It is so tantalizingly close to Yahoo, it's just not even worth mentioning, really.) 
And the man does not disappoint. 
Decrying the Food Stamp program as an unwarranted waste of taxpayer money, Mr. Yoho said, "I think there are 330 million people starving, at least three times a day: we call it breakfast, lunch and dinner."
Which is to say, everyone is hungry in America, why should taxpayers coddle those hungry people who are hungry because they cannot afford food?
From the look of Mr. Yoho's belly, it is clear this is a man who knows a thing or two about hunger.

It's a tough choice. 

But, for Mad Dog, the tipping point has to be Mr. Gohmert is from Texas, which ought to count for something. And how can you not vote for a man who knows where the real strength of this great nation resides?  
"We've got some people who think Shariah law oughta be the law of the land; forget the Constitution."
And we know to whom Mr. Gohmert is referring (Remember Mr. Obama's middle name is Hussein.)
"But the guns are there, the Second Amendment is there, to make sure all the rest of the amendments are followed."

And don't forget Justice Scalia. He is there with that Second Amendment, just in case there's a jam in the firing chamber of that M-16.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Facing Forward: 2015. Perception, Image, Reality

This time of year brings families together (for better or for worse), evokes joys of Christmases past, kindles fires at office Christmas parties and hangovers after the ball drops in Times Square.  But for Mad Dog, the event he most looks forward to  is the arrival of that distinctive brown calendar in his mailbox. 

You know the one--from the Seabrook nuclear power plant. 

It is one of those reassuring constants in an ever changing world. With the closure of the Vermont nuclear power plant, and with Europe reacting to Fukishima by turning away from nuclear power, it is an anchor in stormy seas to get that calendar.

Chocked full of needed reminders like, "Owners of household pets should make a list of places outside of the emergency planning zone that would accept your household pets, such as boarding kennels, friends and relatives outside the affected area, or pet-friendly motels."  Wouldn't have thought of that. But what I really would not have thought of: "Proof of current rabies vaccination will be required for admission to any shelter."

Other points to review: "If you must go outside (for example to bring in a child playing outside) cover your nose and mouth with a folded, damp cloth. Go back inside as soon as you can."  Why the cloth should be folded is not entirely clear. This also leaves unclear whether to bring a cloth for the child, but some things you just have to figure out for yourself. The calendar people cannot do all your thinking for you, and there is only so much space in the calendar.

So, now we have children and dogs taken care of, so let's be optimistic. If we have time to evacuate rather than "shelter in place" (remember to close your windows!), we have this handy list of things to bring: First on the list--this calendar--which tells you just how important the calendar people think their work is.
Also, "personal items" (and we are reminded eyeglasses and dentures are personal), medical equipment including life support equipment--without this calendar you would have never thought of that--and your checkbook and credit cards. (You may need money to cover expenses not covered by the Seabrook station, like movies at your motel room.)

The one glaring omission, especially in New Hampshire, is "and don't forget to bring your guns." It may sound like carping, but really, how could you forget the most important household item in any New Hampshire home?

Just to fill the void, Mad Dog posts this heart warming Christmas theme image:

Mad Dog is sure this is what your Christmas morning looked like. He certainly hopes so.

Looking forward to "sheltering in place" or evacuation in 2015 is so invigorating, but first, we must remember the past is prologue, so we have to review 2014, which surely has got to be the year of grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.

2014 should have been a great high bubble of good feeling, but there was that one thing--the midterm elections, which served as a concrete example of how perception can trump reality.

The Democrats, and their President, having saved General Motors from collapse, (with all the tidal wave of consequences that would have generated,) having spent enough money to keep the economy rising, if not surging, having finally got Obamacare online and working so people from Kentucky to New York City now can go to doctors and dentists, having presided over a stock market boom, having seen gasoline and heating oil prices fall, having all that good news, the Democrats fled like lemmings racing head long over the cliff, and Democratic candidates refused to admit they had even voted for President Obama. 

What that got us in New Hampshire was this:
Would you go to prayer breakfast with this man?

Frank Guinta, New Hampshire's very own entry into the Senator Joseph McCarthy look alike and reincarnation contest. Mr. Guinta wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare and he is going back to Washington to deconstruct government with his fellow Tea Party Republicans, to vote for the pipeline and to vote to kill Obamacare just as soon as he can.

That effort may not be necessary, as there is a Supreme Court case now which seeks to overturn Obamacare on the basis that the federal subsidies which make it work were not actually part of the law and by invoking them, President Obama exceeded his executive powers. As one of the Republican analysts noted on NPR, this would mean millions who just got insurance will lose it, that pre existing conditions rules will return, that the cost savings to the medical system which have already been seen will all be lost, but all of that is less important than the compelling principle that this President, and future Presidents (but most importantly THIS President) will learn the lesson you cannot over step your bounds. This is a country of laws, after all.

Mostly, the lesson Mad Dog takes from this last election is that Democrats lose when they are too meek, when they fail to state the obvious: Medicare and Social Security are not about to collapse, will not bankrupt the country and in fact work quite well. The federal government can be and often IS part of the solution, not the problem. Obamacare, even in Kentucky, has worked well, better than expected in fact. That government spending in a recession is more important than worrying about a deficit and in fact that our government here in the USA saved us from going over all sorts of cliffs, fiscal and otherwise, while European governments, determined to cut spending when Paul Krugman warned them not to, failed their people and their people paid the price.  

Voters, citizens, need to hear this. Sometimes they figure it out--they did reject Scott Brown, after all. 
And that must have been difficult. They could have perceived him as:
But, instead they saw him as:
And, so at least in New Hampshire, and, unfortunately almost only in New Hampshire, the perception caught up with reality, for reasons unknown.

The most important thing, Mad Dog learned in 2014 is we must extirpate Senator Kelly Ayotte from Washington, and to do that, we have to start in 2015. 
I look so cute in red, and Sarah Palin is teaching me to shoot.

What we found in 2014 is it takes time to change perceptions, and it takes organization and nerve and analysis and it may take new people who can think differently.  Mad Dog was privileged to work with a small group of dedicated, talented people led by a relentless, brave and effective general who tried to change perceptions about Scott Brown, but they were, in the end, unable to bring much firepower to bear. Entrenched party officials among New Hampshire Dems got weak kneed. Oh, we can't say THAT. Oh, we'd stir up things too much. We cannot present something which might be seen as salacious, not to mention, seditious, before a gathering attended by a former President, even if that President is Bill Clinton. Can you imagine offending Bill Clinton with salacious?

So Rush Limbaugh went unanswered and the public's mind was left awash in a tide which swept in from the right.  Perceptions were not managed.

And perception is a mutable thing.
This is how Republicans perceive the leading Democratic contender for 2016:
This is how her supporters see her:
But this is the person Mad Dog would like to see in 2016, mainly because his perception of her is she is a fighter who is not afraid to state the bald truth forcefully, without running every sentence past a focus group. But who knows what any of these people are really like?
Don't know her, but she really looks so decent

But this is the person we may get. And, from what Mad Dog knows of him, while he might be able to win, we may ultimately regret that. It must be admitted, Democratic Presidents do have this thing for getting seduced into long wars. For this guy, that's something he thinks is in the American genome, and he's happy about that. 
James Webb, Who Channels Warriors
Having said all that, Mad Dog has to admit, his own self perception is as rife with fantasy and delusional thinking,  as detached from reality,  as any.  When he looks in the mirror, when he tries to sprint 90 feet, when he whiffs at a slow curve ball, he knows what he really is.  But when he flirts with the fetching blond female canvasser at Democratic headquarters, who is trying to send him out to cover Seabrook in Democratic paper, in a snowstorm, he sees himself thusly:

We all have our blind spots.