Monday, February 28, 2011

A MeanMesa "One Liner"

Hot Chick Stephanie Miller, February 28, 2011

"If you have a one dollar tax bill this year, you are paying more taxes than CitiBank, Exxon and Bank of America combined."

(Stephanie Miller, The Stephanie Miller Show, AM1350, Albuquerque, 7 AM to 10 AM, weekdays)

Think you're pretty well informed? 
Have you heard this on your news source?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Interesting Prospects of Congressional Poverty

Because MeanMesa is located in the beautiful high desert of New Mexico, the announcement that our Senior Senator was resigning this term sent shock waves through our Galactic Command Center.  There is little reason for another effort to eulogize the Senator's contributions.  That task will be well handled in more institutional forums.

Let it be said that Senator Bingaman has been a steady, dignified Democrat for all the terms he has served.  He has been reasonably honorable and reasonably honest.  In a quiet, non-dramatic way, Bingaman has legislated to the benefit of a laudable mixture of New Mexico interests, both the most successful among us and the least.

Now, however, our state faces the task of selecting another Democratic candidate to run in the 2012.  We have already seen the power of out of state (Texas, largely) money during the campaign which elected our new Republican Governor.  MeanMesa cannot avoid assuming that Governor Martinez's political shift --  from the lack luster Democratic candidate in her past to a well lubricated Republican one in the present -- was seriously detached from the new possibilities Citizens United opened to campaign financing.

The new Governor's program since her recent election, one including the dismantling of emission pollution regulation and regulators, a cessation of state investment in the profitable film industry, the revocation of driver's licenses issued to non-citizens and other barely disguised right wing wet dreams, demonstrates the grave necessity of electing a Democrat to fill Bingaman's Senate seat.

With this bit of an abbreviated introduction, let's get right to the title of this posting.

What kind of campaign platform will elect this Democrat to replace Bingaman?

What are the qualities of a Democratic candidate who can perform against a Republican opponent to win the votes?

Citizens United Selling "Up is Down" (image source)

Note:  If we were neo-con wing nuts discussing this topic, our questions would be somewhat different -- a difference which we should, perhaps, consider as something of an early commitment as we consider the design of the platform.  

"Platform?"  Yes.  Neo-cons are obsessed with the design of campaigns.  Since they have a fairly good record of winning elections, but a seriously flawed record of actually being able to effectively govern, neo-cons are inclined to always focus on the "fluff and the fury" of campaigns with little thought to the more enduring task of governing after they win.

"Qualities?" Yes.  The latest crop of Republican candidates, both ossified, traditional GOPCons and the latest lunatic fringe GOPBagCons, who are now seated in governors' mansions across the country as well as nice warm seats in the House and Senate in Washington, D.C., have a deeply resonating, screaming "quality" problem.

They are record breaking Medicare frauds, convicted car thieves, anti-abortion wing nuts, union busters, crooks and a clutch of pseudo-Objectivist government hating saboteurs.

Yet, in election after election, these miscreants emerged victorious.  Worse, unlike the days of the autocracy, most of these losers actually won enough votes to take their seats.  Such a statement is neither wild conjecture nor derived from "secret facts", either.  A realistic appraisal of such an unhappy development must also accompany our issues of candidate "platform and quality."

Oh what can be done?  Well, actually quite a bit.

Because, swamped with a tide of phony promises, the "platform" idea has already been reduced to an appropriately cynical "pile of rags," the "quality" issue seems to be what's left.  Campaign promises seem to mean less and less with every election.

This conclusion leads us to examine the oft touted differences between "politician" and "statesman."  Our candidate needs to honestly face this distinction, openly revealing his "statesman-like" qualities as he campaigns.  The fact that voters may not be familiar with this approach doesn't mean that it isn't the right one.

A Campaign of Personal Quality

Perhaps a good first step would be to address the "millionaire versus non-millionaire" question.  We, as an electorate, have gradually been convinced that "good" candidates have already proved their merit by becoming "successful Capitalists," that is, good candidates have already managed to accumulate -- by essentially any means -- a nice pot of cash.  In selecting our next Democratic candidate for Senator, could we consider a poor man?

If MeanMesa had to run in this election, this is exactly what the first plank of the platform would be.
"I am a poor man.  My entire financial statement is open to the public right now, and it will be open to the public if I  were ever to face the next election.  I intend to leave the Senate as a poor man.  If you want a millionaire to be your Senator, I'm not your guy."

"I am running the campaign of a poor man.  I will not ask for the money to deliver myself or my image with a thousand television ads.  I won't sell my soul or the interests of your state and country trying to raise so much campaign money that I can mask my identity or intentions."

"If you, as a voter, are considering choosing me, the research you need to make such a decision will be left up to you.  Either you care about the country or you don't.  And, when I tell you that, I'm not referring to  just voting for me, either." 

"I am talking about taking the time and making the effort to decide for yourselves how you will make your vote count for more than a pay back for the cost of simply creating name recognition. 
Next, the matter of personal "sainthood versus non-sainthood" should be settled. 

"I have no interest in claiming to be a saint or trying to deceive you into thinking I am a saint.  My history is public record.  I am running for the Senate to do the very best job for you I can.  I pledge to be a smart, competent manager, not your psychiatrist, confessor or baby sitter. I take the role of being a public servant seriously. If my record bothers you, vote for the other guy.  If it doesn't, take a chance and trust me."

"I could promise that I'm the candidate that Washington, D.C. can't purchase, but that promise wouldn't mean any more than other, similar promises have meant when they were made by candidates in the past.  Just remember, if you elect me, I intend to leave Washington just as poor as I was when I arrived there.  That is my promise.  No tricks.  Out in the open.  A US Senator earns a damned good salary compared to what you or I are used to having.  That salary is more than enough, and that's that."

Finally, the personal quality campaign issue should address the "experience" qualification.  

"I have almost no experience at the trade of politics.  Further, I won't debate or hide that fact, either.  I think that the 'experience' brought out to qualify a candidate too often means 'experience' in doing things that voters like the least, especially things which benefit some at the expense of all the rest.  If you insist on voting for a candidate with 'experience,' you probably need to vote for the other guy."

"A Senator must balance the mix of interests.  Not all New Mexico voters are poor, and not all are rich.  Rich supporters would be a great help in a campaign like this one, but that help comes with strings attached.  I claim to be much more like the 'non-rich' voters in this state.  They are the majority here.  They are the New Mexicans who will feel most directly the results of my work as a Senator.  It will be their votes which will either elect me or not."

"Finally, we have all watched members of Congress surround themselves with lobbyists and even become lobbyists when their public service ends.  I can assure New Mexicans that no one in his right mind will be interested in hiring me as a lobbyist when I leave the Senate.  We have all paid too high a price already for what special interests have done in the Senate."


Of course, such a campaign will have many more parts than these.  However, the quality of the candidate should represent the "spine" which holds up the rest of the picture. 

Voters have become accustomed to the idea that elections are decided by how much is spent "force feeding" a candidate's credentials during the process.  Our next Senate election can benefit by publicly displaying the amount of money that  each side has been spent to run it.  Campaigns become so expensive -- and mischievous -- precisely because voters are not expected, or challenged, to handle their side of the work.

Ballots have become a prize which can be taken by the expenditure of enough money.  This is the wrong idea.  Aren't we are hiring a Senator who can be reasonably expected to manage his office at least as well as he managed his campaign?

The voters of New Mexico have more common sense than they have traditionally shown under the heavily moneyed onslaught of recent campaigns.  Our Democratic Senate candidate needs to insist that voters use their common sense  and show their maturity instead of demanding that they be fed mindless -- and incredibly expensive -- campaign drek like children in a high chair.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chrome Plating the False Dichotomy

How Republicans Get Hill Billies to Vote for Them.

A student of modern animal biology sees a common thread which runs through extinctions.  The phenomenon is often, perhaps rather superficially, attributed to overwhelming changes in environment, that is, changes so grave that the extinction candidate can simply not change quickly enough to adapt to its new conditions.  However, a possibly more threatening view of the process is inclined, instead, to focus of the extinction candidate's infatuation with the precise "bad habit" of not changing as its environment changed.

Although the blue berries fit nicely into the nutritive needs of the Bulgarian White Tree Squirrel, the species had always eaten exclusively red berries.  Even after the last of the red berry bushes had expired, the final Bulgarian White Tree Squirrel was still uninterested in so much as sampling one of them.

In the political or social sense, the Bulgarian Squirrel had not noticed that the Earth was moving under its little squirrel feet.  It continued to look for red berries until the very end.

MeanMesa sees, in a case far too similar to our squirrel's, a troubling development in the overly attractive simplification of all sorts of political decisions, both domestically and abroad.  In fact, it is not so much the actual decisions as it is the presentation of gravely over simplified political arguments which are posed as the frame in which those decisions -- and their consequences -- may be considered by under educated and under informed plebiscite.

The primary mechanism of this style of opinion manipulation is the carefully groomed false dichotomy.

The political questions facing the world are not simple ones.  They are also not outright imponderables, either.  However, all manner of social, psychological and cultural deceptions have been "woven into the frock," each one with the single purpose of manufacturing "decisions" based on shockingly destructive, false parameters.

The Foundation of Democracy - "An Informed Electorate"  (image source)
A Few Example Dichotomies

Let's consider a few examples. They are legion.

Gaddafi's Dichotomy

"All you Libyans will have to put up with me or suffer the violence of my carefully crafted tribal chaos. There are no other options."

Mubarak's Dichotomy

"All you Egyptians and foreign investors will either have to contribute to my autocratic fortune and obey my security thugs or the savage Muslim Brotherhood will take over and torture you.  There are no other options."

Walker's Dichotomy

"The citizens of Wisconsin have to crush organized labor or go broke.  There are no other options."

The "W's" Dichotomy

"It's either 'Stay the Course' or 'Cut and Run.'  There are no other options."

There are plenty of other examples running the full course from the Stalinists in the old Soviet Union to the religionists with their "original sin" to Reagan's "supply siders" and their "trickle down" idiocy.  In each case, the false dichotomy is simplified to a point where its consumption doesn't even require so much as chewing before it can be successfully swallowed.  As the process and efforts are meticulously refined, facts mean less and less.

Absolutist Thinking -- Easy, Convenient and Effective

We have to ask ourselves why these essentially insulting simplisms emerge so frequently in the place of more reasoned thoughts.  The superficial answer to our question is clear -- they are employed, over and over, because such dichotomies offer a risk averse population the opportunity to have an opinion absent any unsettling doubt. 

The "opinion product" of such work can rest passively as an unchallenged conclusion, not a dynamic thought product representing a momentary opinion resulting from changing conditions.  Ouspensky, in one his typically overly dramatic explanations, attributed the process in the mind of the "receiver" of such a simplism to be the activity of the "mechanical intellect."  The idea was, roughly, that such "input" was automatically contaminated with subjective thoughts before it was ever even actually considered in the dynamic process of the main elements of a man's mind.

The effectiveness of the approach laid not in its persuasive nature, but rather, in the intellectual ease with which it produced a "pseudo-conclusion" which seemed legitimate.  Persuasion  results from a resolution of the contradictions in an idea, but it remains dynamic.  When the foundational conditions change, the conclusive product may also be subject to change in the thoughts of an energetically rational human.

This environment describes the theoretical system of manipulation found in media reporting, political speeches, debates and the like.  False dichotomies  target the advantage of establishing irrefutable false conditions, not irresistible arguments which might lead to persuasion.  Modern humans have an interesting abhorrence of ever being wrong, an observation not missed by those who would employ false dichotomies in their efforts to deceive them.

What we are describing here is the contemporary phenomenon employed in controlling mass opinion.  More than a theory, populations which have, in the past, garnered some opportunity to rule themselves based on their own interests -- that is, based on their own conclusions after considering the alternatives in any decision -- have, more and more, moved to a new process where those alternatives are presented as simplified false dichotomies rather than robust issues of reality with predictable -- and apparently inevitable -- contradictory possibilities.

The Price We Pay

All this careful work on the part of those who would benefit from such a limited style of personal "self-debate," now inundates our national discourse, and especially, our popular political discourse.  And the discourse which suffers is both external, between ourselves and our countrymen, and internal, that is, between the conflicting possibilities inherent in any decision as we consider it in our thoughts.

"Will yew hurry up, Erma Lee!  We gotta' go vote"  (image source)

Imperfect, intermediate solutions to the challenges we face are swept "off the table.""the two opposing sides" in pre-packaged, carefully manufactured pseudo-paradoxes offered in hopes of better ratings.

The price tag of "fair and balanced" has inflated dramatically while the value of  "fair and balanced" has suffered a miserable collapse.

Worse, our considerations now are plagued with a constant  dereliction of due diligence.  Rather than careful and thoughtful cogitation, we are able to conveniently discharge our human responsibility to complete our own thoughts with a simple "Well, that's all we have time for right now."

Yet, the dichotomies rage on.  And, we keep "eating them up" as if they actually represented something nutritional.

"You have to take what is offered because the issue is simply too complicated for you to understand it."

"There is simply no way to avoid unexpected consequences because people like you can never actually figure this out."

"We have to go back to ideas which have failed before because we are convinced that there aren't any alternatives."


We not only have to take the risk of actually thinking as we arrive at conclusions, we have to pay attention to the process of forming those thoughts as we employ our human assets to reach those decisions.  Laziness, lack of education, lack of effort and the hypnosis of attractive false dichotomies have left us is a terrific bind.  Day by day we are becoming more convinced that we cannot solve the challenges which confront us. 

We have a gnawing suspicion that something about our thinking may not be quite right, but too often, we seek to mollify that unpleasant sensation by mindlessly continuing with precisely the same thought quality which delivered us to this precipice in the first place.

So, that's MeanMesa's "fair and balanced" observation of the problem, and "that's all the time we have right now."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The CIA Profiles World Oligarchy

MeanMesa's on-going penchant for railing about the rise of  the American oligarchy is hardly "late breaking news." Still, some very interesting information surfaced recently on our faceBook account which is important enough to share here on Short Current Essays.

The bumbling MeanMesa communications technology has been unable to provide an operational link directly to the source document, but any visitor who cares to view the original can reach it through this faceBook link to my wall. MeanMesa's thanks to Daniel Secrist who first posted the link.

The sources cited for the information in the chart are interesting.  They range from the CIA Factbook to UNICEF to Kings College, that is, they range pretty convincingly through a robust spectrum of data from both conservative and liberal institutions.  Also of interest is the unique collection of categories for the columns of data presented for each of the countries analyzed in the chart.

Because the actual graphics were not suited for insertion in the blogger format, the chart is regenerated here.  The original column headings had to be abbreviated, but the descriptions provided in the original are provided below.  Please take a look before you try to interpret the chart data.

The following index will explain the labels at the top of the chart.

Income inequality (Gini index)  Higher numbers indicate more income inequality.
The unemployment rate - most recent estimates.
The Level of Democracy -- (Scale 1 to 10, 10 is most democratic)
Well Being
The Gallup Global Wellbeing Index (percentage thriving, 2010)
Food Insecurity "Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed."  Percentage answering yes.
Life Times
Life Expectancy at birth.
Prison population per 100,000 citizens.
Math Grades
Student performance - Math Scale Store
Science Grades
Student performance - Science Scale Score

  • The CIA's "The World Factbook"
  • U.S. unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit's "Democracy Index 2010"
  • Gallup, UNICEF, King's College London's World Prison Brief
  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's  Program for International Student Assessment
The overall picture of global oligarchy profiled in these data is unsettling, indeed.  MeanMesa visitors, stalwart pursuers of media source credibility that they are, are not surprised at the dismal state of wealth inequality around the economically developed nations of the planet.  We have watched the relentless moves to concentrate all "extractable" wealth into the pockets of the ruling class for some years already.

Worse, we have watched this process be cleverly redefined in the oligarchic media, always presented as something besides what the facts might suggest.  We now find ourselves in a world populated with "media consumers" who have  actually believed all this "mouth junk"as it has been trotted out under the disguise of the exclusive truth.

Yet, here are the numbers.

Visitors to this blog have previously been presented with the scope of the radical redistribution of national wealth to our latest crop of well-fed billionaires.  We see more examples of the process with every day's "news."  The example are now legion.

Senator Sanders tells us about the top 400 richest Americans with increases to their personal wealth of $630 Bn during the reign of the autocracy [W].  Hartmann routinely reminds us that the top "earners" in the country enjoy over 80% of the annual total while the lowest 80% share less than 10%.  We watch in disgust as Wisconsin Governor Walker, the product of Koch Brother millions channelled through a Citizens United-style "cash laundromat,"  brazenly lurches forward with his plan to destroy organized labor.

All these outrages which are accompanied by dollar signs are only the "easy part" of the campaign to permanently destroy our democracy.  When we penetrate this swamp only a couple of inches deeper, we see that the destructive effects of this well organized effort creates a literal shocking cloud of even more associated bad results.  These are not nice people.

Perhaps the most puzzling of all the aspects of the scheme is the mysterious willingness of these social and economic psychopaths to risk the violent civil unrest which will be the unavoidable progeny of their "class war."  They are already wealthy and powerful beyond measure, yet their avarice seems to compel them "wring out the cloth" even more.  Apparently it has not yet occurred to them that their parasitic model will fall apart when they have finally starved their victim to death.

Spend a few minutes reviewing the information in the chart.  Spend a few more minutes letting these numbers "soak in."  Make your own conclusions about where this out-of-control Juggernaut is heading.  

If you are willing to ride this thing all the way to the inevitable train wreck, just relax.  If you are not, do something.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Watch Out - They Can't Drive It and They Can't Park It

Rolling along unnoticed at the side of what is unfolding in Madison, the Congressional GOPCon (RINO's - Republican In Name Only) scheme to redefine debt and wealth is churning along under full steam.  The spokesmen charged with the task of selling this train wreck as anything by the direct redistribution of wealth -- upward, ever upward -- are the same schills who created most of the debt in the first place.  "Created?"  Yes, the loudest right wing stooges are exactly the same ones who voted all this di$a$ter into law during the autocracy.

"Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?" (image source)
The strategy so carefully formulated by miscreants such as the national socialist Koch Brothers and the high tech image manipulators at Dick Armey's Freedom Works is to extract the last little dab of cash left in the Treasury, give it to the oligarchs, then leave the bill with lower class tax payers.  Those of us in the lower class are already familiar with this scheme.

"Lower Class?"  What the hell does MeanMesa mean with such an inflammatory term?

Heh, heh, hehMeanMesa said it, and MeanMesa "owns" it.

The top 3% of "earners" enjoy slightly more than 80% of all that's earned.  The lower 80% of earners share 7%.  In "MeanMesa talk," this spells "l-o-w-e-r ... c-l-a-s-s ,"  and it is a "spelling" which requires no hyperbole, either.
The GOPCon tirade has been presented with plenty of hollowed out Tea Bag threats.  The most menacing of these threats is a government shut down unless the Congressional Democrats agree to slash every nickel which isn't bolted down, which, of course, refers to not bolted down to military spending and other neo-con favorites.  You know, stuff like food stamps, heating assistance, pre-school education and stuff like that.

Well, the "shut down the government" threat seems to be gaining traction among the new Congressional GOPConBags.  This isn't too surprising.  The plan has always had disastrous results for the neo-cons in the past, so there should be little surprise that its main features attract them again, today.

Because MeanMesa's neighbors rely on many of these "soon to be eliminated" government safety nets, we issued another index card message a few weeks ago.  The card is shared here with the idea that MeanMesa visitors may wish to use it to warn their own neighbors about this latest GOPCon wealth redistribution attack.

So, download it, change what needs to be customized for your own neighborhood, print up a couple of hundred on 4" x 6" index cards and spread the word!

MeanMesa Neighborhood Alert Card

Glenn Beck - High Command of Freedom Works?

The latest email from Freedom Works turned out to be one of those things which are "just too sweet" not to share.  Imagine, after spending long hours organizing the puppet zombies for an appearance in Madison, the Central Command of Dick Armey's Freedom Works could still find the time to pump this baby out across the internet!

The email:

Dear MeanMesa,

If you had trouble believing our new grassroots networking tool FreedomConnector would take off . . . it's time to come around!

That's because Glenn Beck is now on board, and he's promoting FreedomConnector on radio and TV.
"Find a way to connect without any middle man. I want you to go to right now . . . This is something that I think is absolutely critical." -- Glenn Beck

And he's been promoting it with that enthusiasm -- with that much zeal -- over and over, ALL WEEK LONG.

As you might imagine, an endorsement of that magnitude (to a live radio audience of 9 million listeners!) led to a spike in traffic. And by a "spike," I mean a virtual flood of visitors.

Within seconds, thousands upon thousands of listeners flocked to the site. Now I'm no techie, but I'm told our servers are top-of-the-line and built to handle traffic spikes.

But like I said, this was no ordinary "spike." The enthusiasm is so high, the interest so great, that the site had some trouble handling the traffic for a brief time.

Our web team is working around the clock to make the necessary upgrades, but with Glenn promoting it to the world (and the whole world seeming to join at once), that's no small undertaking. Not in terms of their time and definitely not in terms of our cost.

So we're unloading some goodies in exchange for help to foot the bill and keep this full-scale promotion going. I'm asking for your help.
  • If you can contribute $25 today to become a Sponsoring Member, we'll send you a complimentary "Don't Tread on Me" bumper magnet for your car.
  • For $100, you'll get the magnet AND a copy of our best-selling book, Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.
  • And if you can afford a generous donation of $250 or more, my co-author Matt Kibbe and I will happily autograph your copy of the book.

I'm prepared to sign books until my hand falls off -- THAT'S how important I think it is that we keep FreedomConnector up-and-running for everyone who wants it.

The sky is the limit and we hope to have hundreds of thousands -- millions, even -- of patriots using it. But we really need your help to do it.
Please make a generous contribution of $25, $100, $250 or more -- whatever you can afford -- so Glenn Beck can continue to spread the word and we can meet the growing demand.

I realize times are tough, and not everyone has much to spare. If you can even chip in $10 or $15 to help us, every single penny is important, appreciated, and helps a ton.

The potential for FreedomConnector is really unbelievable, and the skyrocketing number of users prove it. But the numbers also prove that we're gonna need some help to keep it going and keep it growing.

Would you consider helping with a contribution?

If you aren't already familiar with FreedomConnector (I hope that's not the case!), it's our revolutionary new social networking platform developed specifically to connect like minded patriots. Click here to check it out.

Tens of thousands of activists and local leaders are already using it to find new patriots nearby, communicate better with their existing networks, and grow their Tea Party movement.

Please, if you aren't already connecting, I strongly urge you to get plugged in now. Don't get left behind!

And if you can, please also click here to make a contribution of $25, $100, $250 or whatever you can afford, and get some cool stuff along with our deepest thanks.

Nothing like FreedomConnector exists anywhere else, and even Leftist web-giants and Organizing for America are already clamoring to keep up. We can't afford to lose a single step now that we've taken the lead.

Please, help us overcome the (very good!) problem of too much interest in FreedomConnector by chipping in whatever you can, be it $10 or $25, or something more.

I trust you'll help make FreedomConnector everything that it can be, either by using it, supporting it with your generosity, or both.

Thank you in advance for whatever you can do.


Dick Armey
Chairman, FreedomWorks

If you think this is hysterical, take a "trip" to!  Warning:  Associating with this site may degrade your spelling -- and maybe, your IQ.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

MeanMesa Sets the Odds on Madison Tea Bag Spelling

Of course, everyone in Albuquerque was as excited as a three year old on Christmas Even when we heard that the Tea Bags were getting bussed into Madison.  Naturally, Dick Armey's law firm and public relations office wanted this crowd of over weight geriatrics stumbling off the Grey Hounds in Madison's cold winter air to look absolutely, well, "grassrootsy."

"Grassrootsy?" (image source)

Immediately all conversations here in Albuquerque migrated to a single "burning question of the day."  It's seldom that the natural flow of reality presents such an appealing, robust case of "irony deficiency."

The burning question?

Hide Your Dictionary (And Your Atlas)

Just a bit of lead up, if you don't mind.  While the baggers were staggering around during the 2010 campaign season, their signs were predictably grotesque -- especially their "special tea bag spelling difficulties."  However, as they are rushed into Madison in this effort to make the Governor look rational and popular, a slightly different image environment may await them.

Of course the burping bumpkins on the buses won't particularly care how they might appear on their television coverage, but the public relations experts in the "war room" at Freedom Works will.  The image technicians at Freedom Works have probably struggled late into the night debating which "image" might work best.

On one hand, the second grade spelling errors resonate with other hill billies, many of whom still haven't realized that they were being ridiculed during the campaign.  For them, the folksy nihilism of the ultra-superficial "messages" didn't seem all that different from the conversations which they were accustomed to hearing at their  "heartland of America" American Legion bar in Smallville.

On the other hand, Madison might be somewhat removed from the grassy knolls of the campaign's "photo ops."  For one thing, dictionaries may not be so conveniently absent.

See, many of the teachers who have been protesting on the far side of the Capitol can spell.  The signs they are carrying have, generally, been written in simple, yet solid English, complete with adjectives, verbs which match nouns and all "decked out" with all sorts of correctly spelled words.

(All photos from Google Images)

Will the geniuses at Freedom Works risk placing "manufactured" signs in the hands of their imported baggers?  Or, will they simply "man up" and live with the mindless, illiterate drivel their artificial hordes come up with on their own?

MeanMesa supposes that we will just have to wait to see this latest episode of suffocating, manipulated Tea Bag "populism" unfurl its latest effort.

Stay tuned and place your bets.

MeanMesa's compliments to the steadfast Americans facing down their Governor in Wisconsin.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How Republicans Won - New Mexico's Construction "Bonfire"

Although we New Mexicans were supposed to be "shocked, absolutely shocked" by the revelations of the KRQE's investigative reporter, Larry Barker, hardly anyone around here so much as squirmed while we watched.

Now, admittedly, moving a story from the quiet FOX News affiliate (KRQE, Channel 13, Albuquerque) to the postings of Short Current Essays requires a surgical removal of Barker's road weary hyperbole.  However, the story is, well, the story.

New Mexico Legislature Project Planning (photo source)

To begin, three specific examples were covered.

1.The Watrous Community Center, Watrous, New Mexico

4,200 sf
Legislative funding:  $510,000
Estimated cost of completion: $200,000
Project status:  Construction ceased 3 years ago when available funds had been spent.  Building shell and site work are largely complete.  Remaining cost is primarily for interior finish.

2.  Auto Repair Shop/Classroom Building, Luna Community College

5,000 sf
Legislative funding: $300,000
Estimated cost of completion: $300,000
Project status:  Construction ceased 4 years ago when available funds had been spent.  Construction completion includes  site work, building shell and several long lead purchases for auto repair use (most not installed).  The building shell is now used as an open, opportunity storage area.

3.  City Government Center, Mora, New Mexico

44,000 sf
Legislative funding:  $5,000,000
Estimated cost of completion:  $7,000,000
Project status: Construction ceased when available funds had been spent.  The building shell is complete, but the project will require substantial interior finish prior to being usable.  Exterior architectural features and site work are largely completed.

First, let's clear up a bit of MeanMesa business by addressing the following questions.

1.  Was there overt corruption involved in these projects?

Probably a little, but not much compared to state issues such as the Court House scandal in Albuquerque.

2.  Was there undue favoritism in the selection of contractors for these projects?

Probably a little, but also, probably, not much more than average for other  legislative  projects undertaken during the Richardson term.

3.  Was there glaring incompetence involved in these projects?

Probably a little, but also, probably, limited to that of a bunch of lawmakers who both lacked the construction and planning experience to get it done better and the experience which would have told them that they needed a professional to oversee the process.

During the 2010 campaign, MeanMesa, as usual, canvassed our neighbors.  From the most to the least politically informed, the common complaint centered on our state's inability to "get its money's worth" on everything from projects such as these to the simplest provision of state services.  It became clear that New Mexico faced the challenges of all sorts of necessary improvements without the sophistication required to get them "done right."

It would be handy indeed to condemn and criticise these legislative efforts as ugly evidence of conspiracy and corruption, but a more rational criticism would track to simple, repetitive cases of horrible project management.  Making matters worse, solving these disasters before they became "ghost buildings in the sand" would not have required rocket scientists.

Let's take a look at the fairly standard approach to such projects.

(Source MeanMesa)
The largest element which was missing from the projects was the management expertise required to actually build them.  When the "owner" of a project, in this case the legislature, assumes that such endeavors will simply build themselves, we have a situation similar to the serial killer who insists on representing himself at trial.  Legislators were not elected because they were competent program managers.  They were elected because they claimed to have enough common sense to hire a program manager if they needed one.

We see the further question of loyalty and accountability.

There are program management firms running in hordes like cock roaches.  Their common trait is an unusual ability to take clients such as out legislature on a ride.  Unhappily, as was the case with these projects, that ride went no where.  Worse, when things turn South, these same "managers" show their second best quality, that is, assisting the "gun shy" politicians in blaming someone else for the  project catastrophe.

The point?  Easy.  For the amount of tax dollars lost in project failures such as these, the state of New Mexico can own its very own program management capacity.  Whether or not such a venture evolves into a dynamic, efficient force or another lethargic New Mexican bureaucracy is a responsibility for voters and tax payers.

We have a fairly sketchy record as such things.

A Final Note

MeanMesa proposed a program management lab as an addition to the construction management curriculum at UNM several years ago.  At the time, the stimulus money from the American Recovery Act was just beginning to flow into infrastructure projects, and our state seemed to be pretty light on such expertise.  The University was actually warm to the idea.

With the loss of state revenue which resulted from the Republican Great Recession of 2008, the proposition was tabled until better times economically.  News of projects failures such as the ones noted here (there are undoubtedly more than these three...) plays directly into the hands of the neo-con detractors anxious to sabotage the recovery effort.

Nothing helps the incomprehensible political campaigns of the tea bags more than, well, more suffering, despair and disillusionment.

Hey, there's always tomorrow!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Citizens United's Latest Purchase: Governor of Wisconsin

Of course all of us little people have been sitting around wondering just what the Citizens United money would buy first.  Really?  With an nine digit war chest, I suppose we should be able to answer that question.  

Any damned thing they want.

A MeanMesa Math Note 
The "purchasing power" of Citizens United Money:

  • "Nine digit" war chest?  Let's see.  
  • One hundred thousand dollars is a "six digit" war chest -- $100,000 = six digits.
  • One million dollars is a "seven digit" war chest -- $1,000,000 = seven digits.
  • Ten million dollars is an "eight digit" war chest - $10,000,000 = eight digits.
  • One hundred million dollars is a "nine digit" war chest -- $100,000,000 = nine digits.
  • And, by the way, $999,999,000 also = a "nine digit" war chest, even if it is only $1 less than a billion which, would, of course, be a "ten digit" war chest.

Now, back to Wisconsin.  Among the aforementioned "any damned thing they want," will, of course, be the brand new, shiny Governor of Wisconsin, Mr. Scott Walker.  Although Mr. Walker seems, upon closer scrutiny, to be an unlikely sort of fellow to ever become even a nominee, much less a victor, in a Gubernatorial election, here he is.

(image source)
Jean Nicolet, landing at the Bay of Green Bay (Wisconsin area). 
Painted by Franz Rohrbeck (1852-1919) in 1910.

When the man emerged from the neo-con "Tea Bag and Cracker Factory" armed with all the latest -- and, of course, cheapest -- incendiary talking points, his campaign carefully took aim on the information challenged voters of Wisconsin.  The prospect of persuading voters interested enough in the State's future to actually stay informed was nothing more than whimsy, a subtle flatulence drifting in from Green Bay.

Mr. Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin (image source)
After resting for a month in the Governor's Mansion, Mr. Walker, has blossomed into a carefully groomed, well oiled, union hating, budget and services slashing wing nut undoubtedly filling the hearts of his Citizen United funded creators with the timeless pride of unexpected fecundity and parenthood.

Since no one was particularly paying attention to the election, Mr. Walker's evil mentors made the bold decision of a brave -- as it turns out, perhaps overly brave -- plunge into the shallow swamp of meaningless right wing economics and ideology.  In their view, Wisconsin had languished far too long under the comparatively progressive leadership of the long string of sane people who had run the government previously.

Governor Walker's preliminary strategy for the redistribution of the local wealth and prosperity was to breach an interim agreement with the teachers which was agreed upon in lieu of contract negotiations in an effort to manage the state's budget.  Now, the GOPCon Walker has proposed a complete elimination of all negotiating with state employee organized labor.

The attack, although beginning with teachers (Hummmm, Republicans generally don't like education much in general.  It makes their campaigning more difficult.) is already scheduled to expand to all state employees' unions as quickly as possible.  Walker has been dutifully mouthing the "up is down" state budget message assigned to him by his billionaire masters.

For the information challenged Wisconsin voter, Walker has been relentlessly trotting out the "We're broke because of all these greedy working people." line while signing off literally millions to the plutocrats who financed his campaign.

The facts, which apparently mean, as usual, nothing,  amount to a mere "blip" in the drivel oozing forth from big talking point pumps.  The Wisconsin State budget, thanks largely to the work of Walker's predecessor, two term Democrat Jim Doyle, is in the black.

The story is a repeat of what happened to the federal budget after President Clinton ramped the deficit down in 2000, providing a temporary buffer of around $200 Bn or so surplus as an inauguration gift to the little autocrat who was appointed to follow him.  The Republicans, after pausing only a moment to start a war or two, immediately plunged the federal budget to new depths in the red.

It's no secret.  They clearly can't govern the country, and they, just as clearly, can't govern  Wisconsin.

MeanMesa is predicting that Governor Walker will be recalled, but only after one hell of a huge pile of Citizens United money has been invested in protecting him.  During this process, we can watch the level of looting sky rocket just before the Governor's end, making the oligarchs' anti-democracy investment pay back handsomely.

Information challenged Wisconsin voters were deceived into thinking that they were electing some sort of rational conservative who might be able to "manage" their already pretty well managed budget a little better.  With the facts of the matter conveniently set aside for the campaign's punditry festival, they elected a stark ass crazy, medieval wing nut.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

MeanMesa Cuts the Budget

If one could imagine a group of risk averse, codependent doctors circling mindlessly around a dying patient who needed surgery, the picture might begin to resemble the "budget slashing" charade unfolding in Washington.

"I don't want to use up our favorite bandages!"

"I think it's disgusting when all that blood comes out!"

"We shouldn't start until there's someone here to blame if we screw up!"

"We could just give him a haircut.  His insurance will still pay when he dies."

You get the idea.  There are so-o-o many "sacred cows" grazing in the Congress.  Worse, the cow path through the vale where "sacred cows" become "oxen gored," hasn't seen a bovine traveler for years.  The supply side clan continues to rage forward in some kind of hypnotic spell, transfixed with the idea that the whole problem is simply not further lubricating the production of goods which no one has the money to buy.

The handiest of all "talking points" predictably include the phrase "costing jobs."  The least handy of all talking points meticulously avoid the phrase of "increasing consumer incomes."  The worst nightmare of the hypnotists is something which might drift into the question: "After we spent all this money, why is our country still falling apart?"

(image source)
 A "dark humor" cartoon from Think Progress

Well, although the patriots in the House have bravely set their targets on the poor, the sick and the elderly, MeanMesa thinks there actually are  both some political plans and some budget cuts which might make sense.  Let's take a look -- by the numbers -- at a few possibilities.  Many of these ideas have been posted before on this blog.

1.  Social Security

Although Social Security is entirely self-financed and does not manifest itself as an element of the deficit (unless you are a "fact free," wing nut pundit on the radio...), projections of future shortfalls are always added in hopes of further aggravating the deficit's fear factor.  The ultimate aim, of course, is to hand the Social Security Trust Fund over to Wall Street.

Solution:  Raise the cap on Social Security deductions to a level high enough to handle the load.  Social Security Administrators have already -- long ago -- doubled the contribution rates to accommodate the Baby Boomer influx of old people.

2. Medicare

Medicare is a huge problem, but not an unsolvable one.  As an unfunded Republican designed program, what we see before us is little more than an unwanted child.  Even though we see successful health care systems all around us, the wing nuts have invested heavily (for example, $1,250,000 per week since the health care "debate" began two years ago...) to guarantee that absolutely no one can figure out how to do this.

Solution:  Develop a credible revenue source, then design a program which can actually be paid for with the money available.  Naturally, everyone will hate the "final solution," but, at that point, it will at last become a political matter instead of simply a "feeding plan" for insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers.  Further, draw a limit on the medical procedures which will be funded which is consistent with the amount of money we have chosen to spend.

After a few starving old people are seen dying on the side walks, Americans may find the inner strength to demand that we can, finally, buy what we want.

3. Foreclosures, Exemptions and Mortgage Loan Guarantees

There is probably no future in trying to pump money into failed mortgages.  Over priced houses purchased by unqualified buyers producing bogus security mortgage packages sold to under informed investors is a scenario which enters the realm of the "grateful dead."  Both the Americans and the investors need to finally realize that these were bad investments, and that this process was going to cost lots as the full reality of the mess "comes home to roost," even if "home" is Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, however, a new law which requires the holder of any property's mortgage to pay the corresponding property taxes would both decelerate the  ravaging appetite to foreclose everything while limiting the damage to the communities where the malfeasance occurred.  The law?  Simple.  If you hold any portion of a mortgage, you pay the property tax for that part of the property.

Solution:  The Federal Government gets completely out of the mortgage encouragement business.  The tax exemptions on mortgage interest payments ceases.  Fannie and Freddie are privatized for a future existence without loan guarantees financed by tax money.

America is already moving solidly toward becoming  an "apartment dwelling" society.  So be it.

4. Wall Street Speculation and High Speed Trading

Unregulated stock, bond and commodity trading has shown how lethal the practice can be in the last decade.  Still worshipping at the altar of "market self-correction," the U.S. economy has become frighteningly similar to an uncontrollably accelerating Toyota.  Even though the most savage, avarice soaked "capitalists" in the system will scream bloody murder at any effort to rein in the unavoidable damage they are causing, clamping down in this chaos will, in the end, move very positively to sustain the value of the dollars they are extracting in their frenzy.

Solution: Institute a sweeping structure of temporary windfall profits taxes.  Start small, then increase the take annually up to a predetermined level, then begin to gradually sunset them, all based on market and revenue levels, not corrupt politics.  Just like the Peoples Republic, an imposed economic plan.  Corporate oligarchs not wishing to pay the windfall profits taxes will have to reinvest in their companies.  If the idea can survive the Congressional "pirate clan," the re-investment side can be, domestically, heavily protectionist or even tariff driven.

As to Wall Street, a per unit issue stock trading tax can be imposed.  Every stock or bond sold and bought will pay the general fund tax base a fixed percentage of its price.  The rate can start low, incrementing upward annually along a pre-determined schedule.  This will incentivize investment for growth rather than for speculation.

5. Agricultural Subsidies

The existing "patchwork" structure contains almost no plan whatsoever for the support of comprehensive agricultural goals for the good of the country.  If one were to analyze what's currently in place, the conclusion would be that it has been designed to blindly funnel tax money to the "owners" of the lobbyists who promoted each little piece of it.  This is huge federal tax money, and the return on the investment has been a decades long chaotic feeding frenzy.

Solution:  Dump the entirety of existing legislation and start over with a rational, national goal as a guide.  MeanMesa would like to see the annual $250,000 subsidy check to Michelle Bauchman's "farming family" go away on the first day of the debates.  The corporate benefactors of agricultural subsidies have justified their good fortune as a necessary component to manipulating the food market.

This solution continues in the next item.

6.  National Health Food Policy and Tax

The current strategy is that bad food -- sodas, fast food burgers, corn syrup, etc. -- should be subsidized so long as the respective markets for the products are strong and their lobbyists are well paid.  This crazy policy dives directly into the incredibly expensive national obesity, cancer and diabetes problems, much of which are paid for by federal tax dollars.

Solution:  Neither farming, manufacturing, marketing or other support subsidies for any of these products should come from tax dollars.  How can we tell which ones are on the list?  Any food product which costs health care dollars qualifies.

The Military Budget

For this group of budget items, we'll just go directly to solutions.  MeanMesa visitors are already quite familiar with the problems.

7.  Limiting Costly Military Adventures

Institute a new policy of only "declared war."  The country will start saving right away if the decision to spend "war making" money has to face the political liability of requiring a "Declaration of War" before it can begin.  Of the $14 Tn national debt, roughly $4 Tn has been spent in Afghanistan and Iraq.

8.  Eliminating Military Contractors

Although these contractors might possibly make sense with respect to cost effectiveness in combat theaters, the inherent weakness deriving from their manipulation of Congress and the DoD totally outweighs their possible advantages.

9.  Eliminating Useless Weapons Systems

The U.S. military is already a gigantic junk pile full of Cold War systems.  Our latest "adversaries" figured this out quite quickly, designing a military response which could credibly bankrupt our country while costing very little.  We are not talking "a few little tweeks" here.  

The current defense budget is around half a trillion dollars per year.  It needs to be at least a third less than that.  The Pentagon procurement practices, along with the greedy Senators with bomb factories in their states, need to be crushed, exposed, disassembled and totally reorganized.  This is not only a budget issue, we are rapidly arriving at a point where our fundamental military profile is so cost ineffective that we couldn't fight a legitimate war if we had to.


Two political investments can lower the budget deficit by tremendous amounts.

10.  An Open Review of All Tax Subsidies

Dozens of American corporations are wallowing in massive tax subsidies.  These are not subsidies which take the form of actual checks from the government, but rather tax subsidies which eliminate federal revenue by providing exemptions for all sorts of corporate costs which would, otherwise, be taxable.  For example, the poor starving Exxon/Mobile Corporation receives an average of $16 Bn per year to help make ends meet.

This is a gigantic pile of tax money being redistributed from tax payers to stock holders.

Solution:  Even before we begin salivating over tax reform, start a House Committee which will review every tax subsidy on the books.  Further, the conclusions must be public.  Very public.  A rather long list can be prepared of all the revenues the government is failing to collect, and each case will either make sense to tax payers or not.  MeanMesa thinks this would be a great job for the House Republicans if they can find time in between passing bills against Sharia Law in Oklahoma, etc.

11.  Merchandise the Budget

Much of the corruption and other mischief which habitually drives our national budget into the mud survives simply because the American public has been carefully convinced that understanding the thing is beyond our human capacities.  MeanMesa finds this laughable.

Solution: It is high time for the U.S. budget to be honestly condensed, edited and packaged into a form which can sit on the kitchen table of every American family interested in knowing where the money is going.  When House spending comes up, we should all have a chance to understand what is being done.  The Federal version of the budget is eight thousand pages long, and not by innocent oversight, either.  The wing nut version is five sentences of incendiary half-truth, and not by innocent oversight, either.

American citizens and tax payers are supposed to make sense out of this mess so they will be an "informed electorate" when voting time comes around.  Right.  As citizens and tax payers, we are fully justified in demanding significantly better performance.  MeanMesa thinks this would also be a good job for the "deficit hawks" in the House.

As we go to work on our national debt, both progress and failures must be  made very public.  Why would anyone think that we should simply "fly blind" into a multi-trillion dollar project without demanding some very serious, very comprehensible  "progress reporting?" At least enough "progress reporting" to vote a little better -- a lot better -- than we have been doing lately.

For visitors who have threaded through this lumbering post, please accept MeanMesa's gratitude.  If any of these ideas have resonated as solid common sense, add a few more of your own!  Then what?  

Make a clever sign communicating your plan and walk down Central a couple of afternoons when the weather is nice!  Start a blog and show horn your friends into reading it!   Talk to your neighbors about these things!  Read a high school civics textbook!

Most important, start pumping this stuff into your Congressman's office!  Add a few troubling little innuendos about how you plan to vote in the next election!

Enough said.