Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hostage of the Idiom? - Today's Tom DeLay and the "New" GOP

What's to be done with an old exterminator when the parade has finally ended?

Unemployed Texas Exterminator, Tom DeLay (image source )
Well, to get things rolling with this bitter sweet posting, MeanMesa temporarily relinquishes command to our favorite dictionary.  

  • idiom: a style or form of artistic expression that is characteristic of an individual, a period or movement, or a medium or instrument

One of the many "rancid threads" which delivered the country into the larcenous grip of the autocracy originated, predictably, in Texas.  The mechanism of this particular insult to American democracy was what may be over generously referred to as "redistricting."  

In this process, those in power (power resulting from whatever scheme) redraw the lines of what are called "districts" in a manner which re-organizes voters into favorable, new electoral blocks.  The new "district" boundaries are craftily 

  • craftily: marked by subtlety and guile
derived from an intricate examination of previous election demographics.  Once in place, voters from opposing parties are concentrated in "sacrificed districts," while more mixed demographics are "shoe horned" into districts where the mix will be, at a minimum, "just barely" tipped to the advantage of those in power.  The result will be an increase in the number of House members from the party in power and a decrease in the number of House members elected by the "sacrificed districts."

The comedy is revealed when the new "district" boundaries are displayed on the actual land where they have been so cleverly imposed.  The new "boundary lines" run along abandoned sidewalks and between old trees, splitting trash cans and swing sets along the way.  Meanwhile, at least "meanwhile in the case of Ex-Exterminator, Tom DeLay in his medieval Texas," furious flocks of new, gum chewing Republican House members were dispatched to Washington to assist in the oligarchic plan to loot the Treasury.

This isn't funny.

However, this was precisely the ante coughed up by the Exterminator which so deeply endeared 

  • endeared : to cause to become beloved or admired

him with the not only the autocrat but with the other cronies and crooks who were in power at the time.  In no time, the Exterminator had become House Majority Leader.  Normally, this would have been an unavoidable scandal given the precarious history of Majority Leader DeLay, but the disgrace was gracefully re-framed and rehabilitated by the comparisons of the moment.

The position directly above DeLay during his tenure as House Majority Leader was, of course, Speaker of the House, and for the Republicans during the autocracy, this job of being Speaker amounted primarily to being the "head crook" during the process of "emptying the Treasury."

The Republicans had already thoroughly "shown their colors" with House Speakers such a Newt Gingrich and Denny "Mr. Sausage" Hastert, so the addition of a stinky little fellow such as the Exterminator caused little public angst or disruption.
Once comfortably situated in this position, the Exterminator launched his self-enrichment program with full fervor.  He was sleeping the lobbyist/crook Jack Abramoff, screwing Indians out of their casinos, zipping off to St. Andrews for a high cost golf adventure and generally squeezing every dime he could find into his own pockets.

Tom "The Exterminator" DeLay gradually forsake his previous resume as a bug-killer to take a new title: "The Hammer."  He gleefully coerced, threatened and assaulted other House members -- always under the full protection of the autocrat and his cronies -- to channel ever more tax money into his "conservative," Texan political coffers.

The troubling "idiom?"

Constantly, during this time of raping, pillaging and plundering, the already heavily soiled Republicans were vomiting forth a relentless stream of "Constitutionalism," "Family Values," "Real Americans," and so on, "talking points" in an unending campaign to inflame every hill billy and bigot across the country from Kentucky to Arizona.  Under cover of the politically distracted frenzy of gastric nationalism which followed, the Republican "money bins" grew to the point of bursting.

The "neo-con game" of the moment was simple.  It amounted to a three part scheme:

  • a. commit every possible crime as brazenly and rapidly as possible
  • b. accuse the other side of committing the very same crimes, and,
  • c. keep the hill billies and other bigots, although in descending poverty, inebriated with the idea that they were, in fact, flourishing.

Well, The Exterminator finally got nailed with a little money laundering.  It rings in resonance with the demise of the Late Al Capone.  Although dozens of murdered corpses littered the man's wake, the Justice Department's first -- and lasting -- success in Al Capone's prosecution derived from tax evasion.  The same may be true with the conviction of Mr. DeLay for money laundering.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen...

It'll do.

MeanMesa quotes the now historically revered and, finally, otherwise famous, Mullah Nassr Edin; Prison is prison.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Alternate Life of Muhamed Osmond Muhamud

MeanMesa must assume that, by now, most visitors are familiar with the news reporting on the latest FBI sting in Portland, Oregon (a NW US state for our foreign visitors).  The "cash flash" part of the story (if it bleeds, it leads...) has already been successfully marketed by the national "media fraud;"  the Christian troglodytes have already ejaculated their ultra-compassionate demands for rapacious, blood drenched revenge and the TSA groping committee is already in a chorus of "We told you so!" 

Still, MeanMesa has no problem with a quick, abbreviated recap of events.  Right here, we have to thank Thom Hartmann (The Thom Hartmann Show, 1350AM, KABQ, Albuquerque, 10 AM - 1PM weekdays) for the "heads up."

Muhamed Muhamud is currently 19 years old.  Two years ago, his father, a respected engineer employed by Intel, found his son "interfacing" with extremist Islamic sorts via the internet.  Most likely there were some "father to son" talks in the home, but anyone who has had direct experience "talking" to a seventeen year old can correctly estimate the results.

As Muhamed Muhamud became more and more involved with the extremist ideas of Jihad, his father became more and more concerned.  Finally, when the prospects of setting the young man on a better course continued to dim, the father had to take action.  He called the FBI and "asked for their help" with his son.

What followed, although some Americans would consider it to be nothing less than good security policy, amounted to FBI undercover agents moving in close to the boy with offers to assist his plan to make a bomb.  To establish credibility, they provided a sample of explosives and helped Muhamed Muhamud detonate them in a parking lot somewhere.  After that, these FBI's went on to provide Muhamed Muhamud with fake explosives, some blasting caps and other "necessities" for making his "big bomb."

(image source The Hindu )
Not surprisingly, after all this "prep," the bomb plot was stopped and 19 year old Muhamed Muhamud was arrested before any damage was done.  

Hartmann makes two important points, both worth noting here.

Hartmann's first pointEntrapment

The idea of an entrapment defense in a trial arises from an especially critical, pivotal question.  That question is "Was the 'entrapped' defendant offered a legal alternative to the criminal action."  In other words, did this defendant volitionally choose to commit the crime when a legal alternative was clearly also made possible by the "entrapping" lawmen?

FBI attorneys, being no slouches themselves, were already sensitive about where this question could go as they reviewed their case against Muhamed Muhamud after his arrest.  What emerged was that the FBI "entrappers" had, in fact, offered up such an alternative, thus making their participation legal and valid.

However, although the FBI had its thorough, traditional video tapes of everything criminal that their suspect had committed, they seemed to be missing the critically important video tapes of the part where they offered the teenager the legal alternative.

To make up for the missing video evidence, the FBI promised that they had it, but that it was permanently lost.

Hartmann's second pointThe "Help" Sought by the Father

We don't even need to ask ourselves if this concerned father had in mind no other outcome than life in prison when he asked for help for his son.  The father had in mind some form of far more positive intervention.  Granted, his efforts to persuade his son to "switch tracks" away from the extremists had clearly led to a state of monumental frustration, but he was hoping that, well, "something could be done."

This story has an unsettling similarity to the tale of the "underwear bomber."  In that case the bomber's father had also reported his son, most likely in hopes of intervening before tragic consequences ensued.  In that case of course, the "tragic consequences" did ensue.

In the matter of Muhamed Muhamud  the "help" provided by the FBI led directly to this latest version of "tragic consequences."  It was as if an out of control locomotive was careening down the tracks to an inevitable destiny.

The MeanMesa "third point:" Was There An Alternative?

For this, we will offer a short fiction.

One afternoon when school was out, Muhamed Muhamud  was on his way home with a few of his friends.  A black Suburban stopped suddenly, and a man in a suit emerged.  Walking purposefully toward the teenager, he asks,  "Muhamed Muhamud?"

The surprised boy nods, "Yes?" 

The agent identifies himself, showing the teenager his badge.  "You need to come with me.  Get into the Suburban."
Muhamed Muhamud  asks "Where are we going?  Am I under arrest?"

The agent replies with predictable soul searing calm, "Not yet, but we have to talk."

After an endless, wordless cross town trip, the pair walk into the district FBI headquarters.  After another moment, Muhamed Muhamud  finds himself in an interrogation room facing the FBI agent across the table.

The agent begins.  "Just listen.  We know all about you.  Your father told us what you are doing.  You haven't broken the law yet, but we have been watching you.  We will be watching you every day from now on.  We know all about your emails.  We know where they went.  We know what came back."

"You can either quit this nonsense or you can spend the rest of your life in prison if you're lucky enough not to get killed before you even get there.  If you understand what I am telling you, say 'Yes.'  We aren't interested in messing around with you.  If we have to stop you, we will."

Thirty minutes later, the Suburban dropped Muhamed Muhamud  off in front of his house.

Does anyone agree that this might have been a better outcome?  At the very least, a far more cost-effective outcome?

MeanMesa's conclusion?  We are missing an important piece of solving this puzzle.

Friday, November 26, 2010

De-Incentivizing Home Foreclosures

MeanMesa has posted on this idea before (see: A MeanMesa "Quickie" - Still In Love With the Bankers? - April 6, 2010).  However, the foreclosure attack has, since that posting, simply raged forward unchecked.  It now appears that the mortgage schemers intend to own every house in the country, even if it means taking a hit from their own reckless practices.

The idea in that old posting is that local property taxes should be "joined at the hip" with the ownership of local property.  Home owners are going to pay these taxes in any event so long as they are able to own and occupy their residences.  However, once the property descends through the foreclosure "meat grinder," the burden of paying property tax on it ceases.

Property taxes are for the little people -- not us bankers.

Back to the "burden of paying property taxes ceases" idea, the central concept is that property taxes pay for the commons of the community.  The list of commons may include items such as public schools and civic projects -- museums, treatment centers, court houses, you name it.

The community assets paid for by the property taxes support the value of living in the community, and, in a serious way, support the desirability -- and hence, the value -- of the property being taxed.  Further, the flow of property tax revenues is collective.  Property taxes from home owners without children are still funnelled into the school budget.  Property taxes from home owners who aren't interested in art or antiquities are still funnelled into museums.

"Boiled down to the bones," the idea is that anyone who holds property will pay the property taxes.  There is, however, one glaring exception to this rule.  That exception is the banker or security fund which holds the mortgages.  Although "holding a mortgage" amounts to "making an investment" in the community, the bankers have never felt obliged to "participate" in paying for community enhancement projects.

This should change.  In fact, it should have changed long ago.  It has never been much of an issue until recently when foreclosures mushroomed after the Republican Great Recession hit full swing.

Of course, bus loads of professional screamers -- all hired by the bankers and mortgage schemers --would immediately arrive at City Council meetings and State Legislatures to decry the prospect.  But, on the brighter side, the damage to these "Captains of Industry" wouldn't have to be so great.

Property tax liabilities could be seamlessly injected into the responsibilities of the mortgage holder.  Most of the time, that is, in the majority of cases where mortgage holders simply pay their mortgages and their property taxes, the new proposal would be revenue neutral to both the bankers and the home owners.  However, just when these same "Capitalist eager beavers" rushed to foreclose a home, they would have to include in their cost estimate for that foreclosure the prospect of paying the property taxes until it was resold.

Aside from the benefit of "slowing down" the bankers' foreclosure frenzy, the true benefactors would be local governments.  When property taxes were included in the monthly mortgage payments -- always based on the share of the property held by each partner each month whether in foreclosure of not -- city governments would be more confident about their income stream.  The onus of rectifying unpaid property taxes would become joined with the onus of collecting the mortgage payments.

However, after a foreclosure, the city would continue to receive its property tax revenue from the "new owner" of the property -- the bank or mortgage company which had foreclosed it.  With the number of foreclosures being executed in today's market, this would be a great way to keep municipalities "in the pink" for the duration of the economic disaster.

MeanMesa also thinks that when bankers have more "blood in the dirt," both municipal policies and national politics -- not to mention house prices -- would benefit.

Well, some State Congressmen from Rhode Island are having similar ideas.  Take a look at the following form October, 2009.

The Hive - The Modesto Bee

3/10/2009   Bill makes banks liable for property tax on foreclosed homes

STATE HOUSE – Central Falls had the highest property foreclosure rate in southern New England in 2008 (57 foreclosures for every 1,000 residential properties), with Providence not far behind in third place (45.8 per 1,000). 

In total numbers, Providence led the region with 1,447 foreclosures, ahead of Boston and Worcester. During that year, Pawtucket had 384 foreclosures, Cranston had 293, Warwick had 184 and Central Falls had 125.

“There is enormous pain and suffering in our state as a result of all of these foreclosures,” said Rep. John M. Carnevale (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston), “but the suffering is not restricted to the individuals whose properties have been foreclosed upon, or tenants evicted from these homes. Cities and towns are losing vast sums of property tax revenue despite the fact that the property still exists and some entity – a bank or other mortgage lender – holds the property.”

To help ease the strain on city and town budgets, Representative Carnevale has introduced legislation to require “a bank or other mortgagee commencing a foreclosure process to pay the city or town the outstanding property taxes on or before publishing the first foreclosure notice.”

“Despite a foreclosure, there is still real property with a real value located in the community,” said Representative Carnevale. “The bank or other mortgage company foreclosing on the property controls this asset and should be liable for the property tax encumbrance on it.”

“I know the banks will argue they should not have to pay,” he said, “but let’s be blunt. When the bank moves that property – at a foreclosure sale or some other transaction – the bank can easily recoup any amount they have paid to the municipality in property taxes on it.”

“There is no loss here for the bank. It is cities and towns that are the big losers because of the decreases in property tax revenues, which plays havoc with municipal budgets and ends up hurting every citizen of that community,” said Representative Carnevale.

The bill, (2009-H5295), has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. Co-sponsors include Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly), Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton), Rep. Roberto DaSilva (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Rep. Peter F. Martin (D-Dist. 75, Newport).

Representative Carnevale has introduced a second piece of legislation dealing with mortgage foreclosures and sales. That bill, (2009-H5123), would require a mortgagee to notify municipal tax collectors of any pending mortgage foreclosure sales and dates within the community and to maintain a public list of the property scheduled to be foreclosed upon.

“Banks have their businesses to run and municipalities have their duties to do,” said Representative Carnevale. “But the current foreclosure crisis has a wide impact, and there needs to be better sharing of information and cooperation between the private and public sectors to help us all – our cities and our state – get through this.”

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Municipal Government, which has held it for further study. Co-sponsors include Rep. Karen L. MacBeth (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland), Rep. Michael A. Rice (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown) and Representatives Edwards and DaSilva.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Naked in Leviticus, Over Weight in America and the Body Scanners

(image source Terry Gilliam: BRAZIL, 1985 )

MeanMesa has watched with amusement as the latest "burning question of the day" has emerged from the nation-wide chorus of complaints about the full body scanners now guarding the boarding lines at our airports.  Of course, even beyond the incomprehensible "feather ruffling,"  the true mysteries of the phenomenon are nothing less than another, rather plump, elephant in the living room.

A few easily verified bits of news

Literally moments after Homeland Security Chief, Michael Chertoff, stepped aside from his position of power, he co-founded the now, ultra-smelly Chertoff Group, a risk management and security consulting company. He's not alone in those new, fancy offices, either.  A nice "clutch" of other senior Homeland Security types made the jump with him.  Just down the hall we find Mr. Hayden, the old Director of the National Security Agency (Remember?  He's the one who was a little shaky on the 4 Amendment...) and the CIA.

That's the first story prep.

Our tale begins with a recap of the rather dated story of last year's underwear bomber.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was flying with a "special surprise" under his belt.  MeanMesa has nothing particular to add to that old, road weary tale, but still felt we should revisit a few points.  Perhaps the only fresh part of the mystery is the youngster's remarkable turns of "good fate" which made his failed terrorism possible in the first place.

His family ratted him out to everyone who would listen -- the Embassy in Nigeria, the CIA and a few others, but -- somehow -- the plot was, mysteriously, not investigated, much less foiled.  MeanMesa has to wonder how that happened.  In fact, Umar actually boarded his flight without a passport!  MeanMesa has to wonder even more how that happened.

The old "conspiracy allergy" starts acting up just about now.  You know, that nagging itch which torments MeanMesa when generally indigestible "news" is being presented as fact by the corporate media frauds.

That's the second story prep.

Next, we must return to the Chertoff tale.

(image source Terry Gilliam: BRAZIL, 1985 )

Because of the innovative design of Umar's boxer shorts terror bomb, it turns out that there is absolutely no possible way to detect such miscreants other than to purchase  a zillion very special x-ray machines. Yup, the very same devices which we now call, "full body scanners."  However, this story's altitude seems to keep descending along with its overall credibility.

Where, oh, where can we possibly buy these machines we need so-o-o-o very badly?  Not a problem.  The Chertoff Group happened to have a whole barn full of them in India where the manufacturing task had been outsourced.

That's the third story prep.

BTW, we all have to thank Randi Rhodes (The Randi Rhodes Show, AM 1350, Albuquerque, 1 - 4 PM weekdays) for the "heads up."  The other little item Randi brought out is that the "full body scanners" don't seem to actually work very well.  The $2+ billion dollar contract with their Indian manufacturers did not include much testing for effectiveness.  That issue became, well, a trust matter between the parties on the contract.

The only hard fact around here is that the machines were "deployed" to counter any future underwear bombs.

That's the fourth story prep.

You're simply not going to be able to get through the rest of this posting if you can't stop laughing so hard.  Try peeling an onion...

Next, we have to address the question of just exactly why would Americans be so "turned off" by the prospect of some minimum wage TSA employee gazing at an x-ray image of them without their clothes?

To answer this part of the mystery, MeanMesa will introduce two streams of evidence.  The first has to do with exactly why we Americans are so gun-shy about being seen naked in the first place.

Yup. You guessed it.  Sunday School.

It turns out that the latest, hybrid version of the Old Testament happens to include dozens of dire warnings not to ever be naked.  Not to be seen naked; not to see someone else naked and not to do any of the fun things which are possible to do while naked.

Leviticus Chapter 18:
6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their NAKEDNESS: I am the LORD.
7 The NAKEDNESS of thy father, or the NAKEDNESS of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her NAKEDNESS.
8 The NAKEDNESS of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's NAKEDNESS.
9 The NAKEDNESS of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their NAKEDNESS thou shalt not uncover.
10 The NAKEDNESS of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their NAKEDNESS thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own NAKEDNESS.
11 The NAKEDNESS of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her NAKEDNESS.
12 Thou shalt not uncover the NAKEDNESS of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman.
13 Thou shalt not uncover the NAKEDNESS of thy mother's sister: for she is thy mother's near kinswoman.
14 Thou shalt not uncover the NAKEDNESS of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.
15 Thou shalt not uncover the NAKEDNESS of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her NAKEDNESS.
16 Thou shalt not uncover the NAKEDNESS of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's NAKEDNESS.
17 Thou shalt not uncover the NAKEDNESS of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her NAKEDNESS; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.
18 Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her NAKEDNESS, beside the other in her life time.
19 Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her NAKEDNESS, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness. 

and, for good measure,

Leviticus Chapter 20:

11 And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's NAKEDNESS: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
17 And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her NAKEDNESS, and she see his NAKEDNESS; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister's NAKEDNESS; he shall bear his iniquity.
18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her NAKEDNESS; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.
19 And thou shalt not uncover the NAKEDNESS of thy mother's sister, nor of thy father's sister: for he uncovereth his near kin: they shall bear their iniquity.
20 And if a man shall lie with his uncle's wife, he hath uncovered his uncle's NAKEDNESS: they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.
21 And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother's NAKEDNESS; they shall be childless. 

That's the fifth story prep.  There's only going to be one last piece -- promise.

For the final "nut in the soup," we can provide evidence so obvious that it can hardly even be called evidence.

Lots and lots of Americans, being 20 or 50 pounds overweight, absolutely shudder at the prospect of appearing "naked" on the full body scanners.  However, instead of simply "kissing the girlfriend," and saying honestly, "I am just too not ready to handle that much exposure," these overly robust Americans immediately grab hold of whatever little snippets of Leviticus they can remember and justify their their modesty as nothing less than a devout compliance with the Old English King's (James) book of tricks with respect to nudity.

(image source Terry Gilliam: BRAZIL, 1985 )

Now, MeanMesa is certainly no longer the sveldt young Tarzan of decades past, and, in his company, there is no shortage of gracefully aging ladies who no longer resemble Marilyn Monroe.  Yet, being a bit more frank, how many of us actually believe that a casual observer, seeing us fully clothed, cannot fairly accurately imagine how we would appear naked?  This grotesque denial of our true appearance would be comical in itself if didn't simply represent another "laugh line" in this crazy spectacle.

That's the sixth, and final story prep.
For the final note in this posting, we will have to imagine a "pretend" visit to Osama bin Laden.  Yes, the old man is shivering in his Pakistani cave somewhere in the Swat, but when we are announced, we don't hear the groaning arthritic complaints  about the cold which we expected.

No.  Not at all.

Instead, sitting there in front of an 8" black and white, battery operated television, we see an old Arab laughing his ass off.

Post Posting Script:  Are the images accompanying this posting confusing?  If so, this may mean that you have not yet enjoyed Terry Gilliam's fantastic 1985 movie BRAZIL.  If you plan to understand what this latest TSA policy actually means, watch the film!  You'll feel much better after a good belly laugh!

Finally! Tea Baggers Attack Light Bulbs! Uh, right.

MeanMesa received the following little snippet from Freedom WorksNews-wise, it doesn't, of course, amount to much, but the content is hilarious!  More than just that, it has all the bells and whistles of being their version of a full  operatic production -- it would have been totally unfair not to pass it along.

Yes, the freak show seems to be moving into "Cannibal Phase."  It's MeanMesa's view that they have already begun to eat their own. But, as always, MeanMesa visitors can form their own opinion...  (The links are all enabled.)

Enjoy!  There's lots more where this came from!  In fact, two more years' worth!

BTW, the header of this letter reminds us of, yup, "Up is Down!" or maybe, "Down is UP?" or, uh, "Down with Upton?"  Gag.....
The new Republican majority is in the process of selecting its leaders for the next Congress. This is the time when the Tea Party movement can use grassroots activism to shape what policies are pursued in Washington, D.C.

Fred Upton, currently considered the front-runner for chairmanship of the critical House Energy and Commerce committee, is far out of step with the Tea Party movement, the GOP and the American people as a whole. You may have heard Glenn Beck talking about Fred Upton introducing a bill to ban incandescent light bulbs in favor of so-called "environmentally-friendly" alternatives. The truth is, Fred Upton has a Big Government record a mile long, and light bulbs are just the beginning.

The Tea Party movement must strongly oppose his candidacy. Please visit DownWithUpton.com to find out more about Upton's poor voting record and sign the petition.

You can also click here to call members of the GOP Steering Committee to urge them to oppose Fred Upton for chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Read More >>

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winning Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan

The Story of the Good Ship, "Relentless"

This catchy phrase has lubricated the relentless appropriation of million after million, billion after billion of our tax dollars as a sort of "icing on the cake" in the constant redefinition of our involvement in Afghanistan.  

Oh yes, NATO has been dutifully -- and relentlessly -- training the locals in the fleeting hope that they might, one day, support the government we have installed so carefully once we are gone.  

Oh yes, 15 cents of every dollar we have relentlessly allocated for infrastructure has "hit the dirt" before even this last little bit was stolen.  

Oh yes, the poor, bomb blasted wreck of a country has been relentlessly exploited for the extraction of the relentless stream of half-baked "talking points."

Now, the Americans are as tired of this rolling disaster as the Afghans are.  But wait, how could all those Afghans be "tired" of our relentless, high priced effort to, uh, modernize their country and establish democracy there?

From DEMOCRACY NOW: ( source link )

Poll: 92% of Young Afghan Men Don’t Know About 9/11 Attacks

In other news from Afghanistan, a new public opinion poll of young Afghan men in Kandahar and Helmand provinces has been released by the International Council on Security and Development. The poll founded that 92 percent of young men in those regions knew nothing about the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States; 40 percent think NATO forces are there "to destroy Islam" or Afghanistan itself; 61 percent believe that Afghan national security forces will not be able to cope without international support; and 56 percent suspect that Afghan policemen are helping the Taliban.

Surely, after 9/11 they can understand our motivation.  Right?  And, since they understand our motivation, they should be able to understand our relentless execution of "everything necessary" to, well, oh whatever...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another Fun Little Personal Blog

MeanMesa can recommend Left Wing Liberal Commie Agitator for our visitors.  It is well written (complete sentences, punctuated and literally riddled with Capital Letters in all the right places! In fact, they tend to be exactly where that old, ultra-dominatrix third grade teacher said we should find them...)

Jump "through the link," and take a quick taste!

What Part of Single Payer Don't You Understand?

Republicans and Medicare: The Final Solution

Now, MeanMesa realizes that there is no shortage of content criticizing the overall make up and performance of Medicare.  Every voice from disgruntled senior to "ideologically paralyzed" neo-con has taken a turn at the wheel when it comes to lambasting the plan.

Although not the case that it couldn't be, this posting isn't simply another one of those rolling "bitch sessions."

Instead, this little article is more of an NPR-style, "flannel shirt," Sunday morning commentary.  MeanMesa had been "putting it off" for long enough.  The more or less complete stack of information required to re-enlist for next year's Medicare plan had been building up in a pile of unopened mail for a couple of weeks, and now it was, grumble, grumble, time to figure out just what was to be done.

However, rather than simply "jumping into the fray, whole hog plus the postage," MeanMesa was suddenly -- and unexpectedly -- cast into an unanticipated reflective moment.  That pile of stuff was, well, one hell of a pile of stuff, indeed!

(image source: MeanMesa )

So, rather than simply demand that MeanMesa visitors just mindlessly subject themselves to yet another gaseous, detail-starved tirade, the idea arose that a  more meticulous account of just what was "on the table" might be in order.  Let's take a look.

137 pages - Medicare and You 2011:  This publication from the US Health and Human Services Department presents a basic outline of the law.  The content has been carefully "dumbed down," making it not only somewhat narcotizing, but, theoretically, intellectually available to geriatrics with early on-set dementia and other Americans who are -- or have become -- educationally challenged as a result of age.

1 page - "Personal" Cover Letter from Presbyterian Senior Care (PSC):  The "letters" must be counted with the total pages because, although form letters, they contain vital information about the rest of the stuff, including a description of exactly what actions will be required from those "served."

40 pages - PSC Summary of Benefits:  This booklet presents the specific parts of Medicare which are provided through the HMO.  Most of this content duplicates what is presented in the US Health and Human Services catalogue, but there are important exceptions.  The implied message is that the additional monthly premium cost of the HMO provides additional services, but "on the ground" experience suggests otherwise. 

The "persuasion" campaign details why the HMO is justified in charging an additional 15% or so above what raw Medicare would charge.  The actual facts suggest that HMO doctors are willing to provide services for the HMO compensation, but that they wouldn't be so agreeable if they received only the Medicare payments.  The argument is a bit "too light on facts" for MeanMesa to totally buy into the idea.

105 pages - PSC Formulary:  This is a reference document which lists which medicine will be covered by the HMO's repackaged version of Medicare Part D.  MeanMesa's experience suggests that most of the HMO doctors have not ever looked at this document.  They seem to have no problem continually prescribing medicine which is not covered in the formulary list.  These prescriptions become impossibly expensive when they are not covered by the insurance.

169 pages - PSC Evidence of Coverage:  This contains primarily a more carefully constructed explanation of exactly why the HMO's policies are legal in the sense that they comply with Medicare laws and regulations.  Although a little more "legalese" than most folks have any appetite for, this booklet more or less represents the actual contract which describes what is insured and what isn't.

The Evidence of Coverage manual is most likely the one which MeanMesa will store away in a safe place for future reference.

8 pages - The PSC Summary of Ratings of Health Plan Quality:  This is a "representative summary" of client opinion polls dealing with satisfaction levels of people using this health plan.  Of course, the questions tend to be a little "leading," and the "results" have a suspicious "cherry picked" quality to them.

9 pages - PSC Annual Notice of Changes:  Digesting this little jewel might produce some fleeting coherency if the reader were intimately informed about  the details in last year's form of the policies which were now being changed.  However, absent that awareness, the document amounts to little more than new policies for coverage which are being instituted for this plan period.

The main reason for such "changes?" 

Limiting payments for previously covered costs and adding to the "non-profit" PSC's revenue stream by cutting liabilities, in other words, "Because we can."

1 page - Cover Letter Invitation to (Annual Notice of Changes) ANOC Explanation Seminars:  At the last ANOC "convention" MeanMesa attended, there were around 1,200 PSC subscribers.  Everyone attending got a Presbyterian Senior Care umbrella, a small bowl of "breakfast fruit," and half a dozen marginally relevant lectures by PSC executives.

The "breakfast fruit" was to encourage better eating habits among those of us still able to digest fresh fruit.   Only about the first 800 got a chance at the free pancakes and sausage.

The "cover letter" includes an RSVP for this year's event.  MeanMesa says, "No thanks."

2 pages - Invitation to join Silver Sneakers:  This is an exercise program offered through a deal with several local fitness centers.  Old people are supposed to attend low impact "arm moving" and "waist turning" groups.  The big attraction?  It's FREE!

1 page - Getting Help with Your Premiums:  This letter details ways for seniors to get discounts or subsidies for their PSC premiums.  The US Health and Human Services booklet describes a Federal program which covers this for straight Medicare recipients, but the Federal program also includes ways to get help paying for services and pharmaceutical co-payments.  This is another case where the extra 15% you pay for the HMO actually provides less benefit than what you would get from straight Medicare.

142 pages - PSC Provider Directory:  This reference book provides lists of the doctors who work with the Presbyterian (PSC) plan.  During the time that MeanMesa has been covered by the plan, approximately one third of the doctors seen have not been listed in this Provider Directory.  This is caused primarily by by high rate of turn-over the plan experiences.  MeanMesa has to assume that this is the result of low payments to plan doctors.

2 pages - Invitation to Join Free Dental Source Plan:  This is the equivalent to a CostCo discount group.  MeanMesa tried this plan a few years ago, but found that most local dentists won't even touch it.  Medicare does not, generally, include dental coverage.  This phony discount scheme is one of the "additional benefits" the HMO uses to justify it's 15% high rates.

This posting is not about whether or not MeanMesa is grateful for Medicare health coverage.  MeanMesa is incredibly grateful!

( image source: MeanMesa )

However, when the sheer volume of the required details is considered, most of which have arisen from irritating little caveats injected into the process by Republicans serving their corporate insurance company sponsors, the single payer idea gains some real traction.  The coverage dollars unavoidably consumed by each claim trying to swim through such an immense bureaucratic swamp tells us that we made the wrong choice when we obliterated the single payer idea.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

An Afternoon at Tea Bag Headquarters

The group of young reporters around my office had selected me -- granted, an otherwise unlikely candidate -- to slip into the Tea Bag Headquarters and extract some useful clues about what was going on there.  I was glad to help.

The details of the Tea Bag story at first had seemed to be purposefully obscured by a carefully orchestrated series of rather professional feints and dodges.  However, when conclusion after conclusion had simply collapsed at our editorial desk, it became clear that the mysterious phenomenon, although certainly a news item, was so chaotic that not even the most perceptive commentator could actually weave it into any kind of factual reportage.

So, here I was, a modestly overweight, heavily bespectacled, poorly dressed desk jockey being foisted into the maelstrom of the Tea Baggers.  The selection made sense.  I was unquestionably the single employee in all the office who looked the most like the folks at the Tea Bag rallies or the Glen Beck fiasco.  I would, indeed, fit into the crowd.

Off I went in a rusty old, borrowed pick up truck.  Although I had been a bit nervous on the journey across town to the industrial park, when I actually arrived, the bottom of my stomach dropped.  The lot was packed with cars. 

Streams of Tea Baggers, all quite outwardly similar to myself, were threading their way into one section of the park.    I seemed to itch uncontrollably from the four micro-video cameras mounted along my belt and the silent, high gain tape recorders strategically hidden around my clothes.

Nonchalantly, I stumbled into the nearest line.  A rather innocuous fellow next to me burped loudly, scowled at me suspiciously, then began what, I  discovered later, would pass for a "friendly conversation."

"Yew here to see the Commander showin' up t' take charge of the Command Chamber?" he grumbled.

"Yup, shore am. A'hm plumb 'cited 'bout it, too." I chortled in response.

"This here's it.  We gonna show them bastards once 'n fer all.  Thu' shock troops done hit 'em in the 'lections.  Raght now's time fer thu rest o' th' plan to git inta' gear."  he continued through a toothless grin.

As we approached the immense building, the pathos of the crowd was intimidating.  There were hundreds of Tea Baggers lumbering around uncontrollably, obviously the green recruits for the next "push."  Scattered amid them were a dozen armed "security guards" dressed all in black with some indiscernible logo stitched into their collars.

Their tiny, paranoid eyes seemed to dart back and forth over the crowd relentlessly searching for a possible assassin or other trouble maker.  Clearly,  they intended that the much anticipated arrival of the "Commander" would proceed smoothly.

Suddenly, an impressive limousine slid through the crowd to park a few feet from the door to the place.  I decided that I needed to get inside to really have a chance to register what was happening.

Surprisingly, I slipped through the open door without being challenged.  The atmosphere was, at least so far, remarkably egalitarian.  Some of the crowd were being allowed to enter the formal "Command Chamber."

The "Commander" stepped in majestic victory from the giant car with the California "Freedom Works" vanity plate at its rear.  Over each of the front fenders a tiny flag fluttered in the breeze.  Sewn from a gaudy, clashing set of olive and magenta panels, the crudely embroidered words "Don't Dreat On Me" formed an arch on each one.  Obviously, the insignia was meant to say "Don't Tread On Me," but apparently no one had noticed the misspelling in time to make a correction.

The Tea Bag Commander was a nondescript mid-forties, but the "nondescript" part ended there.  Massive, reflective sun glasses seemed to cover most of his face, and a thin mustache bravely emerged just beneath the shadow of a great Napoleonic bicorne, the tips of which jutted menacingly into the crowd of "baggers" which had now clustered around him.

He wore a cape with stars and stripes over the back of a military tunic reminescent of Muammar Gaddafi, his breast cluttered with unrecognizable medals and accented by a garrish red sash.  However, below his coat, the pant legs of worn coveralls descended to a pair of heavily worn opera slippers.  The toe of each of the tiny loafers sported a set of red, white and blue LED's which blinked in sequence.  The man wore no socks.

His feet had only touched the parking lot when a mariachi band -- each waving an American flag -- emerged from the shadows at the far side of the crowd, blaring a horn rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

Once inside, the "Commander" roared into action immediately.  Pointing at a large banner with a stylized Republican elephant hung at the far end of the room, he barked an order.  "Rip that there rag down.  We done with them 'Publicans.   Don't need theeer sorry asses no more!"

The crowd in the room screamed with delight as the banner was ripped from the wall.  I quietly migrated closer to the man in charge with the hope of picking up his conversations on my microphones.  The video cameras were being blocked by the throng of Tea Baggers packing the room.  I was certain that the only video feed coming out of them was of  retreating levi's, ass cracks and giant bellies.

The "Colonel" himself acted more thuggish rather than military.  A very rotund, middle aged man, he presented -- for no particular specific reason -- the image of a farm pig in an explosive frame of mind.  He was surrounded by "staffers," and although every one of them was dressed in an ill fitted Sears suit, each one presented an individual personage suspiciously similar to that of the Commander.  I found myself close enough to be privy to almost all of the conversation.

(image source)

A furtive, uncertain sense of order soon settled in the main room of the Command Chamber.  Once the rabble who had entered from outside had withdrawn to places around the walls of the place, the organization of the Command Chamber subtly became visible.  One of the Commander's personal cronies offered him a cheezy, battery operated megaphone while another held an open cell phone aloft.  The aide with the open cell phone called over the crowd to his boss, "Boehner's on lahn one.  He wants ta' talk t' yew."

At once, the Commander screamed back, this time over his new megaphone.  "Jest tell his ass t' wait!  N' thet don't mean call back.  Thet means t' WAIT!"

Swirling around to face yet another of his close aides, the Commander demanded "Whar's them experts on governnin' thet Koch sent us?  DeMint sez we gotta' cook up some kind'a plan fer the news tonaght on Fox."

Quaking ever so slightly, the aide answered.  "We still got 'em locked up in thet bus out to thu' parkin' lot, sir."

"Well, git theeer butts in here, n' have 'em figger out how t' cut thu  dammed budget, fer Chrissake!"  the Commander boomed back.  "Whar's mah dammed 'money desk' in this outfit?"

His aide answered, pointing across the mayhem once again growing in the room. "We got yer Uncle Hiram from off his farm.  He's settin' raght over thea' at thu' Money Desk." 

The restive crowd of baggers had parted enough for a video shot of an older man sitting at an empty table with an ancient ten key calculator.  Scotch taped to the front of the table was a doggerel sign saying "Money Desk."  The word "Money" had been misspelled, but then crossed out and replaced in smaller letters.

"N' zackly whar's them corporate check writers?  We gonna hef ta' git them mixed in with the govment experts to figger out how we gonna divahd everthin' -- ooops, Ah' mean cut thu budget!"  The Commander muttered to his aide.

"Them guys ain't done nuthin' but bitch since they got here.  Ah had securrity lock 'em up in the back room."  the aide responded.

"Thet's good!  Them billyonaires need t' lean thet they ain't in charge no more.  We're here 'cause the voice of the people done spoke, 'n we heeard 'em loud 'n clear!"  By this time the Commander was beginning to slobber a bit.  Another aide quietly offered him a flask of bourbon.

"Now, git them TV camras goin' -- A'hm 'bout reddy to 'dress thu nashun.  Whar's mah medya guy?"  the Commander boomed.

The Fox cameraman sheepishly rose from his seat, offering a few protocol suggestions.  "Will you be wanting the teleprompter?  We haven't got a copy of your speech yet."

The Commander's head turned threateningly to face the Fox man.  "Ah don't need no damned writ out speech, 'n Ah shore as hell don't need no tellprempter." he roared.  Immediately the crowd of tea baggers in the room cheered again.

"It don't matter whut Ah say now." the Commander continued.  "Mah fellow citzens so terrifahd alreddy, they gonna jest go with thu flow."  As the camera lights went on,  he growled to his aide.  "S'bout tahm them losers figgered out jest who's in charge!"

 (image source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Capitol )

Thursday, November 18, 2010

MeanMesa's Annual "Christmas Gift"

Well, the holidays are approaching and it's clearly time for Short Current Essays to pony up our annual "Christmas Gift!"  Each year around this time MeanMesa tries to add a little levity to an otherwise dismal political environment by providing a downloadable bumper sticker.

In case you missed last year's ( 2009 Christmas Gift ), you can catch up and get last year's bumper sticker by following this link.

Now, those visitors who have the habit of campaigning for progressive candidates  all know that every vote counts!  This means that any voter who is willing to cast a ballot for your candidate is just as good as any other voter who willing to cast a similar ballot.  A ballot is a ballot.

When we move around our neighborhoods knocking on doors, we encounter the wonderful variety of citizens and attitudes which makes our country unique.  Many of these supportive acquaintances have pretty much the same political ideas that we have.  However, we also run into those who have quite a different idea, yet still support the particular candidate we support.

We must offer those folks something, too!  So, as we fire up for the 2012 election, MeanMesa is supplying the following bumper sticker for those "special neighbors" with political or social ideas which would be difficult to address otherwise.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coming of Age: "Growing Up" With Barack

MeanMesa knows that every Inauguration Day includes some form of the promise made in January 2008.  On that wintry day in Washington, the President told us that "I will be President for all Americans -- including the 48% who didn't vote for me."

Of course, our first thought was that the special interests so dear to the hearts of the less-than-loyal opposition would be spared, a few, select oxen would go un-gored and a few ear-marked "Bridges to Nowhere" would still see the concrete dribbling into their foundation forms.  Such ideas arose in us -- that is, in the expectations of voters from both parties -- because our fundamental understanding of a New President pictured, ultimately, a man in charge of where the money would be spent.

It turns out that Barack Obama's ambitions ran a bit deeper, in fact, a few furlongs beyond that overly simplified assessment. Obama very conscientiously embraced some rather more difficult necessities which he correctly surmised as a unavoidable appendages to his chair in the Oval Office.  In addition to all the highly visible challenges with the economy and the disastrous wars in the Middle East, the new President was firmly convinced that the American electorate had grown far too lax to effectively meet what was now facing us.

Obama's new job included a painful rehabilitation of what the Founders had optimistically assumed would be an "educated electorate."  To further complicate matters, the "uneducated electorate" who would comprise the class in this re-development project were fully empowered with ballots.  Whatever tact he might take as he pursued this necessary correction would require a "soft touch" indeed if the preoccupied and distracted "students" were not to simply replace their teacher out of hand for some less demanding choice.

Those "students" had grown quite accustomed and comfortable with being manipulated by those with the ambition to replace the President.  Obama found himself responsible for a nation driven by fear.  Everything from "godless Communists" to the ossified, tedious "death fear franchise" of the religionists now chimed the tune which had replaced the old, more elevated, more legitimate song of national idealism.

Reduced to a faux desperation, the voters would run like lemmings at the latest construction of easily digested threats.  Only the outrages of the autocracy had been a strong enough shock to even consider electing someone like our new "teacher."  Nothing else, it seemed, could have penetrated the hazy cloud of terror so meticulously crafted by those with the dream of riding national division to the seats of power.

Barack would need to reconfigure the electorate in a way which might still serve to save the country.  The "ship of state" can hardly be expected to "weather the storm" with crew and passengers who are driven exclusively by an endless series of false fears, each one designed to exploit another one previously exploited.

Among this repertoire of "newly discovered nightmares," the only faux-nightmare to be avoided, it seems, is that the "storm" the ship is "weathering" originated from precisely the same process and not from the rain and wind of unpredictable squalls, but rather from the ambitions of the least developed among the ship's inhabitants themselves.

A Little History

The story of people on the planet includes plenty of instances where some ancient state was "suddenly" confronted with an adversary from which it had no defense.  The Zulu faced Lord Kitchener's colonial army with spears.  The Eskimos faced the influenza of the Russian sailors without anti-bodies.

In some cases, those so challenged rose to the "terror of the moment," reconfigured themselves and prevailed.  In other instances, the rout was complete, a pogrom not the result of a lack of bravery or commitment, but more conveniently defined as an "unfortunate clash" between two worlds.

Barack Obama encountered his own, contemporary version of such a challenge.  Many see his election as, in fact, an effort at such a reconfiguration.  However, although it may have been the beginning of such a process, it was little more than a beginning.

Our nation's literacy peaked around the 1950's.  Those times introduced a nuclear threat so grave that even the slightly less interested were compelled to be at least somewhat interested.  Books and newspapers were routinely consumed by truck drivers and plumbers.  High school civics classes were very directly dedicated to establishing a fundamental understanding of "why it was worth it" to remain in such a fearsome "fight to the death" with the Soviets.

Being placidly uninformed, uninterested or simply detached from the information of the moment amounted to something conceptually similar to being suicidal.

However, as the world softened a bit, that is, as the "other side" faltered ever so slightly, a new, detached kind of indulgence became a respectable new alternative.  The previous horror subsided a little, making the previous infatuation with the nuances of foreign policy more comfortably distant.  Good times -- at least better times -- once again reintroduced the subtle narcotic of effortless oblivion, that is, once again, "the livin' was easy."

And it wasn't just the "war business" which enjoyed this growing complacency. A dutiful attention to other matters -- especially domestic ones -- soon joined the optional "reading" list.  By the mid-1960's a new metric for literacy had been devised.  It was "voluntary illiteracy," and the definition was based squarely on the premise that, although a survey subject could read, he was choosing not to.

This phenomenon signalled the start of a serious dilution of our traditional reliance on the good decisions of an "informed electorate."

The Nature of the "Oblivion"

What exactly were all these domestic areas of information which grew to be so dangerously neglected and precisely how did that happen?

These developments were not without sponsors.  In every case, fear became the refinery of new public opinions advantageous to those in charge of the redefinition.  Ideology had served well during the era of "mutual assured destruction," but it had required a preparatory education.  The new "products" required nothing more than a popular presence of unexamined certainties, relics of religion, tradition and a poorly understood national history which could be wonderfully exploited by just the right "triggers."

It turns out that newly stupefied Americans could be manipulated by race fears, an incomprehensible economy, the vagaries of religionist prophecies, family values and so on.  The new "currency of the day" consisted of vast, threatening , ever darker clouds of "attacks" on each solitary thread in the fabric of previously "never questioned" societal norms.

As the electorate painfully realized that it was unprepared to consider such matters based on a rational, educational data base, the fear level increased.  After all, when confronted with a challenge to one's certainties in a vacuum of factual information or understanding, even an opinion presents a better possible basis than nothing.

When we find ourselves "flying blind" information-wise, we may as well start lending credence to how we feel.  And, if we are feeling constantly fearful, who does that leave "at the wheel?"

There is little refuge beyond the "fear response" for the citizen allergic to facts. This reality, not missed by those who intended to exploit it to its fullest, began to produce results which were more and more grotesque and less and less understandable in the context of our national history.  The information starved descent into the panic of "survival mode" set the stage for a cultural , economic and spiritual exploitation previously beyond the dreams of even the worst among us.

Obama's Challenge

Compared to the case of the British arsenal of Martini-Henry's of the Zulu War against natives with spears, Obama's America was facing a slightly more serious imbalance.  The challenge facing Obama's new charge evolved from reality itself.  However, unlike the technological disadvantage which had suddenly faced Kitchener's Zulu opponents, our own nation had not been suddenly disadvantaged by any unforeseen consequences.  Instead, Americans had disadvantaged themselves with decades of neglect with respect to staying educated and informed -- or even particularly interested -- in the affairs of the nation.

The priority previously given to education and involvement was forsaken.  The self-destructive phenomenon had now risen to such a serious level that Americans simply no longer chose to be involved at all with the fate of the nation if it involved keeping track of trends and events.  Inebriated by everything from "super power" status to poorly understood nationalistic "exceptionalism," they had become gloriously irresponsible, that is, happy-go-lucky, uninvolved, "voluntary illiterates" with respect to the most basic duties of their citizenship.

Some "Not Too Tasty" First Results of the New National Kindergarten

To save the nation, the President had to reinvigorate this lagging interest in what the country was facing and what could be done about it.  The electorate would have to become re-involved.

Given our recent "track record" on such an involvement, hardly anyone could expect that the "first fruits" of Teacher Obama's efforts would be "roses, simply roses."  That very limited expectation has been robustly realized in the preliminary results of the effort.  A very predictable freak show of "Senate Witches" and other denizens of medieval politics emerged in full force.

However, on the brighter side, even the lumberjacks and football fans now enjoyed a growing understanding of terms such as "deficits," "national debt," "unemployment rates," and "trade agreements."  And, not only had the understanding been increased, the policy interest in such matters had begun a period of reinvigoration, too.

Granted, much of what has been accomplished so far amounts to little more than a wide spread, sinister attraction to the ramblings of the likes of Beck and Limbaugh, but it is a start.  Positively, there seems to be a growing appetite for fact and information and a waning infatuation with sheer, inflammatory opinion.

No parent could lovingly expect his second grader be overly eager to devour Schopenhaur after only a week in school.

The education of this electorate seems to still depend too often on violent incentives.  However, this new thirst for knowledge sprouted under the boot of the autocracy for some.  For others among us, it has not yet emerged from the dubious region of self-suffocation and remains a "garden of horrors," a relentless exploration and exploitation of simply more fears and threats.

A "happy ending" for President Obama will be a return to our traditional two party system with educated voters, a media determined to educate not persuade, and citizens caring enough to labor over good decisions for our country.