Sunday, July 29, 2012

Upside Down, Inside Out, Over and Over

Cartoon: Pat Bagley (image source)

Fast and Furious Visits Aurora

No matter how politically "meat handed" the Romney Campaign seems to be, when we compare it to the pro's at the NRA, we have to conclude that the handicap hardly runs in the blood of oligarch class politicos.  Two impressive efforts have recently surfaced to sway voter opinion on gun control, and both reveal the long term goals of the gun business and exactly how valuable achieving those goals are to them.

In fact, quite notably, two of these "gun psyche" opportunities have slithered into the temporary limelight astride the recent publicity of current events.  Both have been exploited to the max in an effort to dissuade voters from even so much as a momentary dalliance, much less a full throated embrace, of any aspect of gun control -- and especially gun control which might negatively impact the roaring US export business for assault rifles.

Don't be confused.  The NRA is the heavily soiled hand maid of the domestic gun manufacturers who provide almost all the money to run the burping, beer drinking thing.  The "shock troops" for the NRA all travel in well lubricated circles among the prepaid ALEC legislative anti-democracy festivals and the back rooms of the oligarchs' palatial country clubs.

You know.  "Back rooms" where oligarchs sit, bathed in luxury beyond imagining, and issue what pass for "representational democracy orders" via  their cell phones.  Where to the "orders" go?  Why directly to Congress, of course.  The marching orders NRA gives to ALEC filter down to the "lesser gun loving souls" at the state level.

The "re-imaging" effort is sophisticated, thorough and cravenly pragmatic.  Where even the smallest opportunity exists for the anti-gun control message to be inserted, a massive, well financed, centrally directed organization stands immediately ready and eager.

Making Gun Scandals and Tragedies
 Promote Anti-Gun Control Sentiment

The point of this post has everything to do with the NRA's penchant for "re-framing," "re-imaging," "re-emphasizing," "over simplifying," "over sanitizing" and "selected editing" of news stories which could, should they be given "free rein," possibly undercut the near sacred claims of some legitimate connection between the out of control gun makers and the 2nd Amendment's protection.

The "treatment" is so exhaustively applied that a casual "news consumer," already prey to such grotesquely tilted monstrosities as FOX and PBS, has basically not a chance of making sense beyond the NRA's relentless comic book version of the gaseous dichotomies.  At least, this is clearly the ambition of the gun boys' "trigger finger" think tanks. The gun makers' PR experts sleep on satin sheets with the "Pry it out of my cold, dead hands" maxim embroidered in red silk and black powder on the pillows.

The two scandals which can serve as examples here are, of course, "Fast and Furious" and the massacre in Aurora.  Those who "take the bait" find themselves careening instantly back into the very worst, tediously worn parts of the old hackneyed, "fly by" debates we heard first in the seventh grade.  This has certainly been the treatment for both instances on the country's news and opinion cycles.

One has to wonder if anyone could still possibly need to hear the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" claptrap one more agonizing time before finally creating a single thoughtful spark of individual opinion.  Well, MeanMesa has "stepped up to the plate" with an attempt to untangle the word salad, you know, the suspiciously crafted, media blitz word salad with the testosterone vinaigrette dressing -- a long time, red meat flavored, "menu favorite" for the GOP base.

To begin, let's take a look at the what came down the pike as House tea bag, Darrell Issa, bravely led the House Oversight Committee to places where no man, at least, where no contempt charge, had ever been before.

Now, MeanMesa has always been a fan of the House investigating expensive federal policies which have not particularly produced results and which have cost millions or billions of tax payer dollars.  In this sense, Issa's investigation of the Bush era "Fast and Furious" debacle is perfectly reasonable.  The program cost a lot of money, failed to accomplish its presumed goal and, finally, resulted in placing one of the weapons in the hands of a criminal which led to the shooting death of a US Border Patrol agent.

Predictably, after reviewing the terrible original design of the program and its resulting failure to produce cases which could be prosecuted, the Obama Administration's DOJ quietly ended the wasteful disaster.  In case anyone is wondering how such a "pre-packaged disaster" could have been birthed in the first place, visitors here are reminded that during the Bush autocracy hundreds of "biblical law school graduates" from televangelist Pat Robert's Regent University were permanently embedded in the Justice Department.

Permanently embedded, of course, means that these "divinely inspired missionary lawyers" were hired as civil servants who could never be dislodged during any attempt to rehabilitate the Department.  We must assume that this incredibly conflicted bunch busily continues to create such fatally flawed programs even to this day.

If you think such a complaint is exaggerated because MeanMesa "doth protest too much," consider how you would feel if you were going to trial with a "conflicted lawyer."  These "lawyers" work for you.  These are, for instance, the DOJ "lawyers" which Attorney General Holder must use to turn back the voter suppression crimes for the 2012 election.

One could reasonably anticipate that the House Oversight Committee's work would seem, in the usual lackluster manner we associate with Republicans in general, to be somewhat wasteful, pointless and vindictive.  However, in this case, even that characterization of what actually happened in those Committee hearings would be painfully over generous.

Roughly half of the "players" who designed the program and implemented the thing during the Bush years were not "invited" to testify for the Committee hearing.  The ATF agents who brought the failed charges against the illegal gun exporters were also nowhere to be seen.  And the DOJ prosecutors who ran into a rock wall of state law protecting the arms dealers were not to add even so much as a single word of testimony at the hearing.

Instead, Issa's "dog and pony" show played out as if it had been written by one of the illiterate hill billies it was intended to inflame.  Even Congressman Issa himself stated that the Committee very frankly lacked corroborating evidence to bring  a contempt charge.

Not a problem.  The orders from the NRA lobbyists were clear.  Issa and the rest of the tea bag faithful in what used to be the House of Representatives marched lock step to the tune of trigger housing assemblies clicking.  The goofy "contempt indictment" was proposed and passed in minutes.

This embarrassment becomes an egregious affront to democracy rather easily.  Simply imagine any possibly constructive work Issa's Oversight Committee could have done which might have been, well, consistent with their Constitutional duties.

The Committee could have examined the incredibly wretched, Bush-style decision making process which created "Fast and Furious."  The Committee could have taken a long hard look at the suitability those who initially designed the program.  The Committee could have investigated the cost of the program -- every one of those rifles which wound up in cartel hands had probably already cost us half a million dollars before it was ever even sold.

Instead, the House Committee very predictably dumped everything for even a fleeting chance to discredit the President.

The design and implementation of the "Fast and Furious" program amounted to no more than a cheap, adolescent mouse trap in the first place.  Convicted car thief, Issa, could simply not squeeze out any credible tears of "oversight" outrage sincere enough to carry the day.

Boehner frantically buried the thing under the Supremes' health care ruling news cycle in an attempt to preclude any more embarrassment.  And when Republicans scramble to act like this, it says it all.

If "Fast and Furious" Created This Much Havoc,
Where Will the NRA Go With Aurora?

The fast tactics of a practised tai chi fighter anticipate an opponent's over reach.  When blessed with such an opportunity, he will exact the price which must be paid for an attempt to strike while out of balance.

The NRA and its minions had to take a moment to strategize their best response to what happened in Aurora.  Even before the blood and cartridge shells had been cleaned in the aftermath, it was clear that none of the NRA's standard, road weary, adrenaline eliciting, hill billy baiting rhetoric was really going to work that well this time.

This bunch quickly lurched toward the "over extended, out of balance" idea.  The best place for the gun manufacturers and their admittedly awkward PR campaign, at least for the moment, would be to lie low and just let anti-gun sentiment reach the completely anticipated, frenzied "high point" before striking back.

Happily for the gun lobby and the NRA, there is an additional advantage in the current field.  When the gun control proponents have reached their loudest crescendo, the weapons lobbyists will patiently begin not only their routine 2nd Amendment chorus but also include every possible racial innuendo about the President.  When all this is carefully coupled with a well crafted horror scenario about invasion by wrong colored people and the rape, pillaging and general deflowering of an unarmed public, the NRA presumes that it will be on its way to yet another "glorious 2nd Amendment victory."

Mitt Romney certainly hopes so.  However what Mitt is really after is a solid hit on President Obama.  The NRA strategy continues.

The NRA crowd wants more than anything that the gun control tsunami, which is almost certainly en route as we speak, will become married to the President.  Obama has officially spoken already about the violence -- gun and otherwise -- which is gradually saturating the country, and the "gun boys" hope that just the slightest little nudge will re-frame that message into something that at least looks like a wildly reckless total fire arm ban.

It will be a message without substance, but one which can still recruit highly visible support on both sides.  The President cannot divorce himself from that image, and MeanMesa isn't particularly convinced that he even wants such a separation.  Yet, to the NRA's credit, neither of the respective demographics is enough to decide an election.  Although the President will not be particularly interested in using an "army" of gun control fanatics, he will most likely be saddled with one anyway.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stop Screaming. It's Only An Ice Pick.

(A quick note from MeanMesa:  You may notice the rather awkward formatting in this post.  Although JAVA seems to be in full scale rebellion, the content is fine.  Sorry for the inconvenience.)

You May Have Missed It

In April and May of last year, 2011, the then Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, retired from public service giving the President an opportunity to solve a few political "loose ends" while restructuring the Depart of Defense for what was coming next.  In a nut shell, the rumored war hawk candidate for President, General Petraeus, was installed as probably a very effective CIA Director and the old political heavy weight and CIA Director, Leon Panetta, became the new Secretary of Defense.

At the time all this might have seemed to be fairly routine bureaucratic jumbling, but there was a far larger strategy in play.  Obama, in a manner consistent with his formidable strategic political savvy, was setting the stage for the second phase of his plan to resurrect the nation's faltering economic priorities.  Although the information challenged GOP base couldn't comprehend the gravity of it, on his Inauguration day the US economy was clearly churning through its last chapter.

The lethal extraction which had taken place under the Bush autocracy hadn't hit home yet.  The daily "hair on fire" warnings of economists seemed comfortably remote even though the markets and banks were in a fiscal equivalent of a grand mal seizure. For political reasons, the Obama Administration issued vague innuendos that the seriousness of the impending collapse had "got them off guard," but it turns out that these were slightly disingenuous, yet quite pragmatic, panic control efforts.

Now, three years later, the facts about wealth inequality have been added as a delightful after dinner digestif to the toothache style realization that everyone in the country's middle class had just lost 40% of their wealth to Bush's oligarchs.

Front and center on Obama's desk was an already smoldering, desperate imperative of lowering the country's penchant for borrowing and spending money like a drunken sailor.  Three gigantic "elephants in the living room" were at the very top of his list, and the "elephant" metaphor is not an entirely coincidental one.

1. 1/6th of the GDP -- around $2.6 Trillion -- was being consumed annually by out of control health care costs which were still not even close to actually providing health care.

2.  The Defense Department budget for 2008 was parked at around $1 Trillion dollars.  Hiding behind the official "chart of accounts," the President was staring down the barrel at another $200 or $300 Billion for unreported Pentagon "doodads" which didn't seem to make it onto the budget but had no problem hitting the national check book.

3. The Bush tax cuts, depending on whose figures one uses, amount to about $1 Trillion dollars annually in 2008, representing the accumulated damage of the years under the autocracy which greeted Obama.

This posting is specifically about "item 2" on the list above.  We are already familiar with what's been done with "item 1," and MeanMesa has already posted plenty about it.  The President has already said that the budget busting tax cuts -- "item 3" --  for the "1%'ers" won't be extended on his watch.

Putting the DoD on a Strict Diet

Gates had served as a "shock troop" for reining in the Defense budget, and, in doing so, he had, in a sense, sacrificed himself -- at least a bit of his legacy -- under the cover of his approaching retirement.  The Pentagon was not happy with the prospect of way laying its most recent collection of favorite new, obsolete Cold War weapon systems in exchange for things that were more practical.

The nation's chicken hawks in the military procurement industry were strangely comforted by the apparent superficiality of Gate's "fly by" approach.  Being Republicans down to their last "war making feather," they assumed, as usual, that everything the government was doing was entirely a craven political move which could be undone with a stroke of a pen by their well paid cronies in the Congress.

However, the spastic spending cut penchant of the new House tea bags muddied the water in this previously calm pool of perpetual military industrial prosperity.  As one of the essentially unnoticed, placating narcotics extracted during negotiating through their hostage tantrum with the National Debt, the automatic cuts package was almost invisibly included, passed and signed by the President.

Of course visitors are anxious to read further in this post, but please take just a moment now to re-visit a couple of old MeanMesa posts to refresh your memory about the Gates-Petreaus-Panetta maneuver a year ago in 2011.  It's worth the trouble.

America's Most Serious Military Campaign - Part One


America's Most Serious Military Campaign - Part Two


 Why Call It An "Ice Pick?"

When Norquist ordered the junior millionaires elected to the House in 2010 to "cut everything and run," the command found them not only wordless and breathless in their dutiful genuflection, but also unanimously compliant. Comatose in the narcosis of a media fortified, ideological austerity "feeding frenzy,"  the House tea bags couldn't even so much as reliably tell what day it was through the creamy fog of the resulting grisly "ejacula" of their mind numbing, orgasmic, on-going, hatchet job.

Their plan was that everyone without a lobbyist and a check book would bleed.

However, the inexperienced tea bags didn't notice that among the intended victims one could also find a nasty clutch of very suspiciously plump, over fed defense contractors with already authorized Pentagon purchase orders for yet another zillion dollars worth of obsolete war making junk.

Deciding on Defense Purchases (image source)


2012's tea bags, rosy cheeked Congressional "boys about town," turn out to have this one thing profoundly in common with the old "regular Republicans" they ran out of D.C. in 2010.  Like peas in a pod, they have always sought the company of the ultra-generous, uber-patriotic, military industrialists who prowl the Capitol. The new bunch had no problem eagerly embracing the "slightly used" amors of the old bunch -- particularly if those old amors could already claim their own ex-lovers in the Pentagon.

Even the viciously corpse-like Ryan budget -- and, of course, the Romney Campaign -- predictably proposed increasing defense spending beyond its atmospheric current level, but not everything was "roses, simply roses" with these newly forged romances.

As Ferlinghetti wrote: "In the morning her teeth weren't straight, and she didn't like poetry." 

The tea bags are suddenly discovering that the "passionate flowers" with the ready checks who seemed so dreamy the night before have mysteriously lost that enticing eagerness.  In fact, with sequestration rushing toward their favorite projects, the very same tantalizing military industrial companions these Republicans ferreted out of the ball room in the halcyon nights of 2011 have now become screeching harlots with tear smeared mascara and an attitude to match.

Looking over what appeared to be an impossibly perfect match only a few weeks back, the tea bags now see automatic spending cuts for what they are -- an ice pick ever so delicately plunged into the wrinkled thighs of their previously intoxicating ball room prizes.  Their cozy industrialist donors are suddenly no longer in the mood for anything besides relief from the sequestered deficit reduction spending cuts.

Let's have a look at the "ice pick." Reuters does a fairly even minded job of describing the frightening consternation of both the heavily mortgaged tea bags and the soon to be wounded industrialists. (Read the whole article here. )

January's automatic spending cuts spook US Congress

By Richard Cowan

July 19, 2012

Lawmakers fear $109 billion in indiscriminate reductions
* Some hold out hope for alternative plan
* Pentagon, social programs, economy would suffer

WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) - A meat axe approach to Washington's budget deficit problem that hacks away at nearly every corner of American society - from farmers to weapons manufacturers - is spooking the very U.S. Congress that embraced the idea nearly a year ago.

Barring any decisions to suspend or alter the plan known as "sequestration" in Washington budget parlance, $109 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will kick in on Jan. 2, 2013.

They are an outgrowth of the 2010 elections, in which conservative Republicans swept into power promising to shrink the size and cost of government. Just months after those elections, Congress and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, signed off on nearly $1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, with an iron-clad commitment to follow up with another $1.2 trillion.

Now, as the initial installment of that second round of spending cuts draws near, members of Congress facing re-election this Nov. 6 are beginning to worry that voters will not be pleased when they find out exactly how painful it can be to down-size government, especially if the belt-tightening stalls an already shaky economic recovery.

 On Jan. 2, approximately $54.5 billion in new spending cuts will hit the Pentagon while domestic programs will suffer an equal $54.5 billion in reductions. All of the cuts would be jammed into the nine remaining months of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, 2013, deepening the pain.

The details of how the scalpel is to be applied would be determined by Obama's budget office. The Republican-led House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation demanding those details from the White House and the Democratic-led Senate has approved a similar measure.


But analysts have a good idea of where the cuts - aimed at reducing annual budget deficits of more than $1 trillion - would fall and it is not a pretty picture.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, nearly every domestic program would face the equivalent of a 12 percent spending cut next year. So, for example, grants to help states provide safe drinking water and low-income housing would suffer.

About 700,000 young children and pregnant or nursing mothers would lose nutrition assistance, 25,000 teachers and school aides would be laid off and 100,000 kids would not enter Head Start pre-school programs. The National Institutes of Health would issue about 700 fewer grants to medical researchers, the Bipartisan Policy Center estimated.

Shielded from the "sequestration" are veterans benefits, Social Security retirement checks, Medicare health benefits to the elderly and transportation programs, which are funded through a highway trust fund. Payments to doctors and others treating Medicare patients would see a 2 percent cut, though.



These automatic spending cuts were never supposed to happen.

They were folded into a hard-fought fiscal deal enacted last August as a cudgel. By purposely containing such Draconian actions, congressional leaders reasoned they would force the bitterly-divided Congress into taking a more intelligent approach to deficit reduction.

But by mid-November, the effort to come up with a balanced, targeted array of spending cuts and revenue increases ended in total failure.

Various members of Congress continue to study ways to write a new, more reasonable approach to deficit reduction. Democratic Senator Carl Levin told reporters on Wednesday that "Ninety percent of us want to avoid sequestration" and said a deal was still possible before the November elections.

But privately, many congressional aides say behind-the-scenes talks will not come to fruition until after Nov. 6, if then.

In the meantime, everyone from defense contractors to recipients of social services are beginning to prepare for the worst because of uncertainties over Washington's ability to work out a compromise.

Now that the military industrialists see that the "ice pick" of automatic sequestration is actually headed their way, they are "screaming to high heaven" for their Congressional strumpets to make it stop, but these are exactly the same Congressional strumpets who passed the thing in the first place, inebriated with their typically adolescent, frothy insistence of tormenting the President by any means possible.

Election-wise, the same Congressional strumpets are now realizing that not every voter shares Grover Norquist's wet dream of gleefully decimating the first signs of recovery, either.  

The Perpetual Resistance to Defense Cuts

Here, we must remember that cutting defense spending has always been roughly as unthinkable as passing any kind of gun control.  The very second it's so much as mentioned on the House floor, a thousand horrifying scenarios  begin to gush forth from the well lubricated fear machine.

Massed millions of "wrong colored" invaders are now circling on every border.  According to the pundits, every single one of them is dreaming of "soiling" a white Christian woman left undefended by Obama's military spending cuts. The truly incomprehensible domestic gun confiscating, Muslim conspiracy will, of course, be unfolding at the same time.

When the pillaging and plundering of these first invasions are complete, the Russians, Arabs and Chinese will immediately follow.  Godless atheism and the homosexual agenda will be imposed -- no doubt accompanied with a War on Christmas -- once the nation has become a slave state.

All of this is absolutely nothing new.  These have been repeated every time defense spending cuts have been proposed for decades.  The result was always the same.  In every instance, there would be no spending cuts for the Pentagon.

However, we see Obama in a place where this can simply not go on the same way it always has in the past.  The dilapidated thing is simply sucking way too much money out of the General Fund for the country to be able to sustain it any further -- this is the case even more than ever after the Bush autocracy has already just finished emptying the Treasury. 


The name which cannot be uttered had a great defense budget, right? (image source)

The President has never shied away from making tough choices, and this one fits into that picture with bloody realism.  DOD cuts will create increased unemployment.  The Congressmen with constituencies heavily dependent on local military industrial employment are already refusing calls from the Pentagon procurement contractors -- the ones they were drinking with aboard private jets as recently as April.

However, Obama is unquestionably a "long term thinker."  He's clearly ready to endure this employment downturn -- although, granted, probably after he is re-elected --  in order to move the economy toward some sort of rational state.  His focus has always been on repaired infrastructure, a sensible military budget, renewable energy and the like even though a grotesquely "stone walled" Congress is still obsessed with paving the way for still more looting.

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fixing New Mexico's Budget and Prisons

America's Recession Proof Growth Industry (map source)

Big Players in the State of New Mexico Budget

Election year or not, the State budget should be front and center on the minds of New Mexicans anyway.  The State has a peculiar expertise in wasting money on projects that never happen, spending far too much for services and still failing at the fundamental expectation of citizens.  The "largest ducks in the puddle" when it comes to State spending are easy to identify.

Infrastructure development and maintenance
Public education
State contributions to public health, and,
All aspects of the State judicial system -- but especially prisons

Prisons are noted here because the State of New Mexico's approach to incarceration -- particularly the prevailing levels of recidivism -- is consuming too much money and producing too little in the way of results.  Broadly, the citizens of New Mexico are unsatisfied with the system, too.  MeanMesa suspects that New Mexicans expect the judicial and prison system to produce more rehabilitated criminals, a realistic expectation of justice, including sentencing, to serve as an effective deterrent to crime and a steady reduction in individual recidivism after release.

The estimates for prison population in the State for 2012 are around 6,800, including both men and women. [New Mexico Sentencing Commission - forecast]  The annual cost for incarcerating an inmate in State Prison is around $39,000. [State of New Mexico - Adult Prisons Division]  Although both the estimated population and the yearly inmate cost are reasonable compared to other states, neither one is the focus of this posting.

However, recidivism is.

First, A Quick Note on NM Prison Construction Costs

New Mexico prison construction has basically the same problems with cost over runs, changed plans and plenty of political maneuvering for the jobs a prison can bring to a community.  Improved program management, better facility needs analysis and less politics could recover substantial construction costs.  When these advantages are applied to long term costs of staffing and maintenance, significant further reductions would be possible.

We can look to California for one case study in prison cost management.

For years, "project generous" legislators in California automatically "tacked on" 15% of prison construction costs for architectural design fees.  Each time, the argument was that a state prison needed to be individually designed for a specific site or population.  Nothing against architects, but MeanMesa suspects that a really good prison design package could be used over and over again.

Even when buried in California's massive budget, 15% of prison construction is a lot of money which could clearly be used elsewhere.  New Mexico has the problem to a lesser degree, but it's still here.

But ALEC and the experts told us we were going in the right direction. (image source)

However, cost containment in designing and building prisons is a settled science.  The real money shows up in the year to year operation of the facilities, and that cost is almost entirely a product of prison populations.  This is where inmate recidivism rates "hit the State's check book."


After looking around a bit on the web, MeanMesa came to a page titled The Sentencing Project, Research and Advocacy for Reform, State Recidivism Studies.  Under the recap of New Mexico's record for 2008 the following abbreviated data is found.

The definition of recidivism for the study (source cited: New Mexico Independent) is reconviction within 3 years of release, and the calculated recidivism rate, interpreted using that definition, was 46.7%.  The 2008 statistics haven't changed much to 2012.

The point here is that if the recidivism rate were significantly reduced, the prison population could, theoretically, be cut almost in half.  The budgetary implications of that are immediately obvious.  Already, the State has initiated traditional educational programs in the prisons along with extensive behavior modification oriented programs both before and after release, but the 46.7% rate occurred concurrently to these efforts.

So, is there anything which could be added to the process which could materially affect the recidivism rates? 

MeanMesa would like to propose a suggestion.

The "Social Proficiency" Incentive

Based on the proposition that this stubborn and expensive recidivism rate is, somehow, eluding the expert efforts to moderate it, can something more simple be added which could make the penal system more likely to produce rehabilitated criminals and lower the State's costs?

Inmate education programs undoubtedly "bend the curve" toward recidivism by theoretically making released criminals more employable.  There are a number of educational programs in progress in the State prisons right now.  However, the GED's and high school diplomas being awarded to inmates have the same credibility problems as those awarded in the general population, understandably, possibly even worse.

First, New Mexico education systems function at a very low level in general when measured by national performance.  Those available to inmates generally function even a little more poorly than those outside the prisons.

Second, traditional inmate education does not effectively target the recidivism rate.  Even if post release employment prospects improve, the tendency toward reconviction continues for all sorts of other reasons.

This post is precisely about one of those "all sorts of other reasons."

It's no secret that a GED or diploma implies a certain academic proficiency.  It's also not surprising that "academic proficiency" has been burdened to also account for "social proficiency."  This match-up is deceptive.  In a sense, it asks academic proficiency to embrace responsibilities beyond academic ones.  Looking to academic proficiency to present the central advantage in lowering reconviction rates is a mistake.  It can certainly help, but it cannot "pull the wagon."

So, what can -- or could -- "pull the wagon?"

Social proficiency would encompass some basic knowledge about how society operates.  MeanMesa suspects that these are exactly the basic "misunderstandings" which commonly lie at the root of the recidivism.  Having said that, it would be quite pleasant indeed to instantly offer a comprehensive plan to lay out and implement such a program, however, it looks like the best we might do at this early stage is to propose some suggestions.

The Social Proficiency Profile

What we're "looking for" here is a statistical correlation.  Can some system introduce into the minds of criminals who would otherwise recommit an effective group of new concepts which would reduce the likelihood of so much subsequent crime?

As mentioned before, academic education helps, but such education does not directly influence the probability of recidivism.  In New Mexico prisons are releasing better educated criminals who are still sustaining the 46% recidivism rate which is costing so much State budget money.

Some of this may be accounted for as inmates who pass through the prison system without ever engaging in the academic opportunities, and recidivists are more likely to be inmates who have avoided such self-improvement choices.  The State prisons are a maelstrom of violent, adolescent gang "societies" in which attending an academic self-improvement program may actually be dangerous to an inmate.

Currently, being a gang member in prison is allowed to be little more than an inconvenient part of being a gang member out of prison.    Further, the "social proficiency" of a criminal who is "out of prison," that is, a criminal who has never been convicted, and the "social proficiency" of an inmate who has served a sentence and been released are disturbingly similar.

This is the crux of the high New Mexico recidivism problem.

New Mexico inmates are, generally, not psychopaths or sociopaths, but, clearly, too many of them have never experienced life which might reflect the successful socialization which is presumably the foundation of not recommitting.  Many of them have not only never been "in" such an experience, they never even seen such a state in their families or neighborhoods.  We don't need to quote Camus, but one conclusion is that they are alienated.

Further, that "alienation" is not some sort of wispy philosophical matter only found in old books.  The recidivist hosts a fundamental lack of social values.  Some of these are probably the things which are referred to when some barbershop genius ever so comfortably blames the parents and the upbringing for causing crime.  The lament is grudgingly common. 

If parents had introduced a better value system in their children, the little darlings would be less likely to commit crimes in their future years.  In fact, if these values had been properly introduced, the adults formed in such an environment would be more likely to "learn a lesson" from prison time and not recommit.

That barbershop guy may have over simplified things, but he also may be on the right track with his explanation.  However, his complaint doesn't map any sort of workable path forward.  So, if there is a "path forward" which could reduce recidivism by addressing these issues, what is it?  How could it work?

"Roughing In" the Parts of a Path Forward

Something like this gets far too complicated, far too quickly if we attempt to fully describe every "moving part" from a standing start.  Let's just look at a few of MeanMesa's suggested "moving parts" one at a time.

"Social Proficiency" For Early Release

The "release social proficiency test" would concentrate entirely on what a potential parolee actually knows about the fundamentals of successfully living within society.  The results might or might not reflect the focus of educational programs during incarceration.

At sentencing, a judge includes this provision for the inmate's being considered for early release -- adding this to an inmate's other opportunities such as parole, good behavior while incarcerated, residence in a halfway house, drug and alcohol monitoring and treatment and so on.  The judge's sentencing provision is that, in order to qualify for an early release, a minimum score on a "social proficiency" test will be required.

At this exact moment, we can see the consultants salivating at the possibility of yet another very complicated, very profitable addition to the not particularly effective and ridiculously expensive things they've already created.

"Who will create the questions and answers?"

"What sort of analysis will be required to tell whether or not an inmate is sufficiently "socially proficient" to be released with good results?"

And, of course,

"What will be the cost of all this apparatus, and who will get the checks from the State's court and prison system?"

 The "Social Proficiency" Test

Of course the "gun shy" State Legislators will do everything possible to not be responsible for the outcomes of the program -- again, most notably by instantly descending to their well worn habit of turning the whole thing over to consultants.

MeanMesa says "Stop right there."

The "system," when boiled down to the bones, amounts to a very direct relationship between inmates and the Round House.  The cost of recidivism is the problem and paying for that cost is done by those in the Round House.

So, why wouldn't the elected folks in Santa Fe be willing to write the questions?

Here's how it might work.

If each year every State Representative and Senator were charged with providing, say, one dozen questions and answers, a massive pool of test material would develop rather quickly.  The pool of questions is stored in a computer file, and when an inmate is ready to take the "social proficiency" test, a specific number of questions is randomly gathered from the collection to create each test individually.

Inmates begin taking the test, and more data is collected which correlates test results with instances of reconviction.  When the questions and the reconviction rates begin to correlate, that is, when inmate scores on the early release "social proficiency" scale begin to reflect the likelihood of inmate recidivism -- higher scores suggesting less recidivism, lower scores suggesting that recidivism is more likely -- we will be closing in on the basic, underlying causes of the problem.

This is the "missing piece" in all the things which we currently are doing which have such mediocre results.  The courts, judges and the other "post release" players seem to be both shocked and stoically accepting with the failure rates.  A 46% recidivism rate doesn't just come from no where.

Getting Inmates Ready for the Test

Of course inmates will require some help when they decide to work on their "social proficiency" in hopes of qualifying for an early release option. MeanMesa can offer little beyond the traditional sorts of educational efforts here.  There will inevitably be classes, educational experts and teachers and perhaps text books.

Here, again, the prison education consultants and contractors are already wringing their hands in eager anticipation.  However, this proposal places all that in a totally "performance based" contract schedule, something rather innovative for New Mexico legislative contracting.

If you are a prison education contractor preparing inmates for this test, your performance will be measured by the test scores of the inmates you "educate."  Due to the random process of creating the tests, "teaching to the test" will be impossible.  This will leave you with the challenge of actually increasing inmate "social proficiency" or losing your contract.

The inevitable questions:

1. "Who says that the 'social proficiency' tests actually measure social proficiency?"

2. "Who says that good scores on the test predict less recidivism?"

Happily, with this proposal, these questions are easy to answer.  The State legislators who are paying for everything caused by recidivism -- including both remedy and failure -- have decided that these are the questions which measure "social proficiency" in New Mexico for New Mexican inmates.

The second question's answer will take a little time to prove, but if the proposal can actually lower recidivism rates, there should be some pretty convincing data within a few years.  Start the testing a year or two before implementing the program.  Look at test results and the corresponding outcomes of early release and recidivism.  The correlated numbers would emerge at once.

By that time the nature of the "proficiency" questions will also be fairly well established, and the quantity of questions in the test pool will also be quite healthy.

Is It Worth the Trouble?

A popular summary of the goals of incarceration detail the following four focus points.
  • to isolate criminals to prevent them from committing more crimes
  • to punish criminals for committing crimes
  • to deter others from committing crimes
  • to rehabilitate criminals
These last two, deterrence and rehabilitation, are directly connected to the recidivism rate.

The New Mexico State government is constantly talking about bringing jobs into the state.  However, in 2012 the US economy isn't particularly in need of semi-literate, poorly prepared workers.  With the failed public education system steadfastly protecting its miserable results across the state -- high school graduation rates are around 50% and national state by state comparisons of general subjects place us behind almost everywhere else -- it's a mistake to naively presume "social proficiency" based on GED's or high school diplomas.

However, the "work ready" qualifications of those who have been released from New Mexico prisons adds "social proficiency" to literacy and educational achievement.  For the same reasons that employers are reluctant to hire "educationally challenged" New Mexicans, they are even more reluctant to hire "socially challenged" New Mexicans -- especially those recently released from prison.

If those in the Round House suddenly discovered a big pot full of the cash the State can save by reducing recidivsim, there would be no problem finding a far more constructive use for it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

An Offer to the RNC

How about letting the Romney Campaign buy you a nice cruise? (image source)

A Little Perspective

Just as many other Americans, MeanMesa has watched those with savage cases of ADHD spin through their lives, tragically unable to "attach" to the usual goals and ambitions of steadier souls.  However, rather than track this "fact of life" to some insightful conclusions about psychological matters, we'll move directly to politics.

It's clear that the Mitt Campaign has been frenetically whirling the "Wheel of Fortune" late into the night as they search for any possible issue with traction.  This week, that "frenetic whirling" has, of course, been a relentless search for anything more interesting than the bungled tax return horror the Mittens has hatched in his latest effort to re-define himself.

Pursuing MeanMesa's incredibly optimistic, genetic inclination to always, always, "look for a silver lining in every dark cloud," we must search through this foggy mess for any possible opportunity to both help the Romney Campaign and our personal situation with "one swell swoop."

What emerges from this long suffering, steadfast positivism can be seen in our letter to the Campaign.

MeanMesa's Letter to the Romney Campaign

July 19, 2012
MeanMesa Galactic Headquarters
Revenue Division
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Campaign To Elect Mitt Romney President
Advanced Psychological Warfare Department
Hill Billy, Bigot and Base Management Bunker
Undisclosed Location, Utah, USA

Subject: Public Opinion Polls for Romney Tax Return Disclosure

Dear Sir or Madam:

Please accept our deepest sympathy for your campaign's current difficulty with the voter response to the candidate's refusal to release the tax returns.  We can only imagine the depth of frustration and despair which this completely unfair demand has caused those working so diligently to maintain Mr. Romney's carefully crafted image.

Based on this, MeanMesa would like to present an opportunity to counter these destructive public relations "troubles" at the grassroots level.

Wouldn't it be "worth quite a bit" to have a one of these cruel Democrat Party polling agencies get a solid "I don't care" response to their inquiry when they called MeanMesa about the tax return issue?

This is exactly what's being proposed here.  Of course, while a "direct purchase" of a vote for candidate Romney would be somewhat distasteful, a prepaid guarantee to respond to such a polling call with the message "I don't care," might be considered quite acceptable, not to mention quite valuable in the next network news cycle.

In fact, for very little additional cost to the campaign, MeanMesa could promote this same agreement with the many visitors to the site.

Let's say that a check for $2,500 from the campaign would absolutely "deliver the goods" in this clever approach to counter the campaign's on-going political disaster.  We are certain that the $2,500 price tag will be a very acceptable price for such a service when the value of such polling results are considered.

Make the check payable to:

Revenue Division
Galactic Headquarters

Thank you very much for your business.  MeanMesa is pleased to offer this opportunity to assist the Romney Campaign.


An Invitation to MeanMesa Visitors

If, as a MeanMesa visitor, you would like to have your own $2,500 check from the Romney Campaign, just drop us a line on the comments field.  Remember, you don't have to actually vote for the oligarch candidate, you must only promise to respond to the polling question in this manner, should they call for your opinion.

We will be offering a list of cruises and tours which can be purchased for $2,500 in a later post.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Election Courts

Ignoring the Elephant in the Living Room
even the elephant with a bad case of diarrhea

Our Constitution stipulates a "speedy trial."  The idea was easy enough to come by after the way the British had been treating American Revolutionaries, a good number of whom either starved or frozen to death in prison ships in Boston harbor.  The challenge of "accessible justice" is still showing up in American military adventures in places like Afghanistan and in Rovian anti-democracy adventures in Alabama.  One of the Taliban's "selling points" is the common Afghan's access to Sharia Law.

We have watched "justice" attempt to catch up with the case of Don Siegelman who won an election to be Governor of Alabama only to be "un-elected" at 3 AM that same night by local servants of Karl Rove.  The case was incredibly stinky immediately.  100 state Attorneys General petitioned for judicial intervention.  There was even a rumbling flitting through the House Judicial Committee.  This last week the Roberts Court declined to consider the phony public corruption conviction which Siegelman ran into in Alabama and which resulted in his instant Federal imprisonment in solitary confinement.

In case you're not familiar with this nasty little tale, here are a couple of links.

Siegelman is history at this point.  This posting is about the future, not the past.

Setting aside the anti-democracy outcome we encountered in the Siegelman affair, let's look at the work of anti-democracy forces currently active in our 2012 politics.  There are plenty, and this rich population of insults spreads from state legislatures to the federal system with a very suspicious commonality of both purpose and mechanisms.

This posting is specifically about the lethal injuries to the American electoral system being plied by tea bags in high places.  Inebriated by suspicious election victories in 2010, the tea bags began to believe themselves, their own incendiary rhetoric.  The general strategy which emerged is the typical Republican Party "human wave" approach to undermining the Constitution.  

The crimes are now so plentiful that not even the Federal Department of Justice can respond in time to kill all these rats in time to guarantee the validity of the 2012 election.

From this we see the grave consequences of the DOJ's not having the capacity to deliver "speedy trials" when it comes to enforcing election laws.  As usual, MeanMesa wants to rush into the fray with a remedial suggestion.

A Growing, Tacit Acceptance of Election Crime

The "tip of the spear" is clearly the timing issue although there are plenty more "spear tips" just below the surface.  All these crudely crafted illegalities have a sinister quality of being quite temporary.  The consequences they are inflicting on the voting process will, inevitably, be remedied with the traditionally slow and steady judicial effort to protect the Constitutional guarantees inherent in American elections.

However, it is more than an unfortunate coincidence that all these schemes have suddenly "grown legs" at such a critical time.  Given that all of them enjoy only a fleeting permanence, their "life cycle" before they are officially laid to rest will, very likely, last just long enough to destroy the next election's legitimacy.

The murmurs of the voters already reveal a serious cynicism about elections.  The mischief has been left untended long enough to shake even the most optimistic views with respect to trust, let alone with respect to expectations.  We see evidence of this in the Wisconsin grassroots organization such as Wisconsin Wave -- by lined with "We won't pay for their crisis/No More Stolen Elections."  (Visit the Wisconsin Wave site: )

What does Wisconsin Wave intend to do?

Something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.  They intend to count the physical ballots cast in the unsuccessful recall of Governor Scott Walker.

The point here is pretty straightforward.  Why do the people in Wisconsin Wave distrust the election outcomes?  In fact, why are you reading this and having no particular problem distrusting the election outcomes just the same way Wisconsin Wave does?  For the third "pregnant" question, why isn't the United States Department of Justice all over this?  Isn't it responsible for keeping Constitutional elections somewhat believable?

Answering the last question first, the DOJ probably will get to this sooner or later, except the "later" part of "sooner or later" will probably not be until the crook presently running Wisconsin into the ground will long be retired to his easy chair on a Madison veranda.  If the election fraud in Wisconsin -- or anywhere else in the country -- can be sustained as a fait accompli long enough for the crime, no matter how temporary, to accomplish its goals, the Republican tea bags find it an acceptable exposure to risk.

We've known for a long time that these sociopaths are entirely saturated with the "do-ability" of any sort of short term mischief if the outcomes have even a marginal chance of permanence.  They invest this way; they legislate this way; they even indulge their remarkable hubris for grotesque dalliances of all sorts this way.  

For example, the Idaho Senator who couldn't keep his hands inside his airport lavatory stall at first confessed, pledging to resign from the Senate, then attempted to retract his confession, then withdrew his pledge to resign.  The Senator was following the typical GOP pattern of brazenly enduring the short term "hit" while fortifying every possible advantage for a long term survival.  (Read the WIKI account of Senator Larry Craig's performance here. )

The election crimes follow this same pattern.  Even if they are protested or even legally challenged, the goal is to sustain the fraud's effect long enough to permanently mitigate the possibility of ultimately correcting it.  Sometimes this gambit is successful and sometimes not.

It should never even be considered possibly successful in this Republic,

The mere fact that we have become tolerant of these election crimes suggests that we have been "buffered" into so much more of a casual acceptance of them than makes any sense whatsoever.  

Election Crimes
Constantly easier to swallow

The litany of large and small election crimes is not a revelation to anyone who cares enough to have been paying attention.  We can easily list a few.

Voting in The United States is NOT a well oiled machine! (image source)

Rove's "caging"

Registered voters had their registration challenged in a single, largely incomprehensible letter.  If they didn't respond correctly, they were purged from the voter register.  Many active duty military voters were purged this way because the letter was sent to their home address by registered mail.  The scam had a prohibitively strict response time requirement.

Voter Suppression by Redistricting

Most of the laws and processes for redistricting were penned early in the 1900's.  Every time the census calls t he task for states now, it becomes a political party slaughter of whomever is currently not in power.  Worse, we have come to accept this as, well, acceptable.  The violent political mayhem we see where ever this is occurring is totally NOT the Constitutional intention of the redistricting idea.

Voter Suppression by Additional ID Requirements

Since the steam willowed out of the Jim Crow Laws, there has been a continuous effort to find a way to selectively disenfranchise voters who were likely to vote a certain way.  The latest effort along these lines in the constantly increasing difficulty of attaining "legal" voter identification.  Such programs have been rampaging through two dozen states which presently find themselves under Republican gubernatorial and legislative control.  The DOJ is working diligently on the first few such crimes on a list of 300.

Supreme Court Appointment of An Un-Elected President

Not much need be added to this dismal story of death, looting and  deception.  Notably, the mechanism for this electoral and judicial coup d'etat rested entirely with the physical mechanism of casting a ballot.  We need to remember the "hanging chads" while we visit the war dead.

Non-Compliance With the Civil Rights Voting Act

There are still states which must hold elections under the provisions of the Civil Rights Act.  All of them dependably maintain at each election that this necessity should be vacated.  None of them have demonstrated an ounce of good faith in any effort to rectify the conditions which placed them there in the first place.

False Claims of Voter Fraud

The synchronous, nation wide, entirely gaseous campaign to inflame voters with the threat of illegals casting ballots is, happily, falling apart due to lack of instance or evidence of the pretended problem.  Still, this process represents an excellent example of imposing obviously Unconstitutional obstacles to free voting and then "reaping the rewards" before the court system can throw such reactionary garbage back off the books.

Suspicious Voting Machines

When the local "good old boys" have enough friends in the State legislature to purchase "voting machines" from their friends in the voting industry, it's profoundly foolish to think that something good is about to happen.  Time and again we have watched as hackers effortlessly demonstrate their talent at rigging election results being counted by these machines. 

When the crooked [now, "convicted"] Indiana Secretary of State wanted to throw the local vote to the autocrat, the voting machines were dutifully programmed to transmit the election results to a Republican vote fixing bunker deep in the South, safely protected by miles of "cracker country."  

Yes, he was convicted, but in the meantime the electoral votes of another state flowed into the George W. Bush coffers at the national level.  His trial finally reached a court with jurisdiction in 2007.  Reversing the Indiana vote by that time was two wars, $5 Tn worth of missing borrowed money and an economic contraction at 9+% too late.

There are plenty more of these examples.

One important point here is that this passive acceptance of anti-democracy and anti-voting freedom is new.  MeanMesa has seen the historical alternative.  The question of precisely how this has developed has a depressing answer.

The steps toward today's election mayhem were small ones, very nearly Constitutionally invisible.  When the added advantage of the apparently complete cessation of civics classes in what's left of the public education curriculum is mixed into the recipe, this current fiasco seems inevitable.

So, where can we go from here?  Soulful laments following frothy comparisons with the "good old days" don't hold a realistic key to solve our problem.

Enter: The Election Courts

These courts are the MeanMesa suggestion.  Yes, the very term is reminiscent of the widespread election manipulation of Pakistan or Egypt, but after becoming comfortable with the historically tainted "homeland" concept in the now sprawling Department of Homeland Security, maybe we can get used to it.

The specific benefit sought from the creation of these courts has everything to do with timing.  Judicial expertise in handling election issues can be placed in the second position, and the federalization of such matters can follow up as the third advantage.  We can look at these three individually and then add a few "outliers" to round out the dream.


Election crimes occur very close in time to actual elections. The judicial remedy for the damage of such crimes must be initiated by a "damaged party" by means of a lawsuit.  Immediately, the issue of standing materializes, and this issue materializes directly in the midst of the perpetrators of the election crime.  Further, the judicial process for such a remedy is usually only beginning when the election has already been called, and the miscreants have been handed even greater power to suppress justice from their new elected positions.

Election courts would have schedules which were not hampered by a back log of other cases, making them responsive in a timely way to suits for remedy.  The nature of a Constitutionally guaranteed "speedy trial" can hardly be met with a decision delivered months after an election is settled.

Judicial Expertise

The participants in a typical remedy trial are currently the same folks who participate in a criminal prosecution for a violent crime or a felony.  The knowledge and experience required for an effective trial on election matters are usually absent.  Once election courts were established, the experience needed to try such cases would grow naturally.  

For example, we can see the dismal failure of the current system in cases of state redistricting.  The proposals may begin in a more or less dedicated state legislature -- most of whom also have little or no experience or knowledge themselves -- but it then begins a journey through a legal maze of equally inexperienced judicial players which can take years.  In then end, voters in the electorate expect power to win.

Neither the electorate, the legislators, the press nor the judges have any particularly demanding expectations of how good justice might appear in the end, leaving the process to be essentially a state-by-state, Chamber of Commerce by Country Club "crap shoot."

Federalization of Authority

Perhaps the most egregious of the all the criminal election players enjoy a fortified "home base" where practically "anything goes."  Judicial relief, deserved or not, must fight its way through a maze of friends, acquaintances, interest parties and other political cronies, each one with a "dog in the fight" or a "political favor to collect" from a desirable outcome.

To support the "rule of law" idea in our founding, trials for justice in election law have, basically, no place at the local level.  The "states rights" crowd have permanently soiled any possible legitimacy in such questions.  Generally, they are precisely the perpetrators who covered the outrages in the first place.  A national system of election courts, one where trial could, perhaps, be scheduled anywhere in the country, would eliminate the anti-democracy "good old boys" undue influence [including tactical delay...] in such cases.

The "Outliers"

Once the Congress came to understand that voters were actually aware of this mess and also interested in permanently resolving it, we could expect at least a tepid inclination to found and start the courts.  However, once the courts were beginning to function, it wouldn't be too long until it became clear that national election law would also be required.  Establishing national election law is perfectly within the purview of  Congressional responsibility, although we can anticipate that such a process would be, well, quite dramatic as it unfolded.

Additionally, effectively rehabilitating the national election process would serve our other national interests.  If we were able to "clean house" domestically, our ideals of justice might begin to, once again credible, represent a reachable goal for other countries who are just now struggling to deal with judicial corruption.  Think of the nations of the Arab Spring.

Far in the future, we might dream of being able to provide acceptable assistance in the training of judges, the formation of courts and the establishment of Constitutional protection to not only guarantee the validity of elections, but for the rule of law in general in such countries.  The next great challenge for most of the entire planet will be to develop a capacity to do something about corruption.  

Why wouldn't we Americans want to be able to help such a high borne cause?