Balls, Balls, Balls…

Ok. I am not a huge sports fan, which is to say that I don’t know a lot about football. My thinking and interests tend to be more…shall we say…logic based.  I don’t understand the appeal of the game, I don’t understand the idolizing of players who, more often than not, are undeserving of such adulation and hero worship. I don’t understand the fanaticism and I sure as fuck don’t understand the ridiculous salaries. That said, this “crisis” about the balls is, in the context of a game and a mindset that is utterly mystifying to me, a real riddle wrapped in an enigma…

12.5 to 13.5 psi

That is the proscribed pressure for league regulation footballs. Apparently 11 out the 12 balls belonging to the New England Patriots were found to be 2 pounds under that parameter and that deviation from the regulation has fueled allegations of cheating.

OK, so here I find myself even more confused. Why is this a problem? To be more specific; why does anyone care what the inflation psi of the balls is? I understand that a ball that is slightly under-inflated is easier to grip and easier to throw. To that I say, great! Seems like better and longer throwing and a ball that is easier to catch would make for a better game. So why not tell the NFL that monitoring the psi of the balls is their responsibility if it matters so much or better yet, forget all of that nonsense and just tell both of the quarterbacks to inflate the balls to whatever psi that pleases them and play the fucking game. Cause here is the thing: at some point in this “soft ball” controversy it all becomes moot. Eventually, at some point in all of this ball “softening” the ball changes from being an actual football and slowly becomes a dog toy. So unless you are signing Golden Retrievers and Border Collies into the league (which now that I think about it, might actually make me a fan…) it is really just a question of a pound or two…

Or better yet; just toss the damn footballs into the nearest dumpster and use a Frisbee instead. Now there is a dog toy worth chasing and Bill Belichick can’t alter it.

OK, I think we’re done here…Problem solved. Pass the nachos. Are the burgers done yet?

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Je Suis Charlie

Charlie Hebdo:

January 6th, 2015: Circulation: approximately 50,000

January 8th, 2015: Circulation: approximately 5,000,000

“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

“Si vous me frappez avalez, je deviendrez plus puissant que vous pouvez probablement imaginer.”

 Obi-Wan Kenobi
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No Virginia, there is no war on Christmas…

Only a lack of Christmas in the narrow minds and narrower hearts of men.

Christmas is perhaps the most misunderstood and misrepresented holiday in the entire panoply of top-tier American Holidays (nobody seems to know what the hell Cinco Di Mayo is all about either, but that’s another blog…).

Maybe it started out as Christians commemorating the birth of their messiah. But we are way past that now, because, just like Country music, if you want it to go “mainstream” then you gotta market to the masses (and I’m not talking about Midnight Masses…). The early Christians understood that. Basically, to enlarge their numbers and broaden their influence, Christians absorbed, Borg-like, the celebratory traditions of those that they wanted to “convert” to Christianity.  So, to keep all the new recruits placated, you align your celebration with the Winter Solstice and Saturnalia ( a Roman week-long time of lawlessness and good-natured carnage that took place in late December ), You borrow a tree from the Druids, you take some mistletoe from Norse mythology. How about a wreath from the Roman God Apollo, bring in Nicholas, stage left. He was taken from the Turks ( he wasn’t actually made a saint until the 19th century ). What’s that you say? You like to strip naked and go singing in the streets? Uhhh…OK, sure, why not…We’ll call it…hmmm…Hey Carol, what do think we should call this singing thing that these guys like to do?… Really? Whatever…

Here’s the thing: If you want something to be accepted “universally” then part of the price that you pay for that universal acceptance is “homogenization”. You lose specificity in favor of generality. In other words, at least in America ( and most of the free world…), Christmas is no longer the sole province and property of Christians ( if it ever was…).

But if you are going to keep harping on about “Jesus being the reason for the season” then you need to play it like Jesus.

You my friend, can save Christmas in four easy steps:

Step one: Stop whining about the Secular Conspiracy to Destroy Christmas being waged by Socialist, Marxist, Obama-Huggers. Nobody under the age of sixty with a functioning frontal lobe is buying into your right-wing, paranoid, self victimizing, Tea Party fever dream that there is a war on Christmas. War is a serious and dreadful thing. People die in war. People lose limbs and blood and friends and fathers and mothers and children in war. Stop demeaning the immensity of that truth with your bitter, petty, self-centered diatribe.

Step two: Turn off Fox and Friends and go out and actually help some people. People less fortunate than you are not lazy, takers that lay about on sidewalks and alleyways conspiring to take more of your hard-earned tax dollars by being homeless and hungry. If you spent even a little bit of the time that you waste listening to the miserly rantings of Bill O’Reilly et al and actually engaged with the world outside of your bubble, you would be forced to recognize the truth; that by lifting up the least of us you raise us all and enrich the whole of society. Don’t believe me?  Just ask Jesus.

Step Three: Open your mind and your cold little heart and accept that the true meaning of Christmas is about kindness and caring and a generosity of spirit. It is about finding the common thread of goodness that exists within all of mankind whether they are Christians or Muslims or Jews or Atheists or Buddhists or Shinto or Hindu or Wiccan or those guys that like to dress up like Star Trek characters. Christmas is not about making the world see and think as you do. It’s about recognizing the Universal Godliness in all things and bringing goodness and kindness and charity to those places where it is lacking. Even and especially within your own heart.

The simple truth is that the only battle being waged against Christmas is in the closed and narrow minds of those that honestly believe that Christmas is about having a Christmas party instead of a Holiday party, that you must say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” that seeing a nativity on every corner is more important than the homeless man or woman or child that is standing on that same corner.

Step four: Do something nice for animals. They are the true innocence that is left in this world.

If you need evidence as to the rightness of this philosophy then consider the writings of one Charles John Huffam Dickens. That’s right; put down that tattered, sweat-stained copy of Atlas Shrugged and pick up a copy of A Christmas Carol. Because Dickens knew that in the end, Christmas is about nothing more than the renewal and redemption of the Human Spirit through selfless acts of kindness and love.

“Business!” cried the Ghost [of Marley], wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Peace on Earth, good will towards men.

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Personal (safety) Shopper: Bring a White Guy

I’m an American, which means that deep inside me beats the heart of an Entrepreneur, an innovator, a craven opportunist. And no time of the year brings out the “true American spirit of Git’ er done.” more than Christmas.

That’s why I am offering a new service for the holidays. No, not hanging lights around the house, not gift wrapping, not even dressing up like a character from a Dickens’ novel and singing Christmas carols at your big Holiday party.

No, I am offering a service that is much more innovative, much more entrepreneurial and much more…shall we say…niche. After all this is the age of specialization. Now days if you want to make your mark in the service industry you must zero in on your target demo. So, ladies and gentlemen (or should I say brothers and sisters) I present BaWG (Bring a White Guy) “Your Personal (safety) Shopper.” (TM)

People of Color: Are you concerned about being able to make it safely out of the department store after making a high dollar purchase without going through a strip search ( or what we in the industry like to refer to as an “exit interview” )? No problem. Just bring me along. I’m an old white guy. Crow’s feet and a muffin top may not pull the ladies at the local nightclub, but it will imbue you with the consumer legitimacy that you will need to safely navigate a shopping spree at Barney’s.

For a small percentage of total purchases successfully made without a single 4th amendment violation, I will show up at your door with gray hair, wearing Dockers and a pair of beige Rockport “Mall Walkers” and escort you safely through your shopping experience.

Don’t spend another shopping season being chased down by Paul Blart. Call BaWG and “shop like a white guy!” (TM)

 

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If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

…then chances are that it’s a duck murdering, racist, homophobic redneck.

“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!…”

Not since Claude Rains’ uttered those transparently hypocritical words in the smoke filled halls of “Rick’s Café Américain” as the waiter handed him his winnings, have I laughed so hard at the manufactured outrage (and quiet money counting…) that is being pantomimed by the folks over at the Arts & Entertainment Network (apparently it isn’t necessarily in that order…).

Here’s the thing:

You can say a lot about Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Louisiana family depicted on the so-called reality show ( how many families do you know that do table reads of their daily lives? ) Duck Dynasty. You can call him a redneck, you can call him a religious fanatic, you can call him a racist homophobe. You can even say that he has poor personal grooming habits and a highly questionable fashion sense. But the one thing that you cannot call Phil Robertson is a hypocrite. That is an accolade reserved for the network execs over at A&E and perhaps for a large portion of the marketing barnacles that have ridden the red-eyed gravy train all the way to the bank. Now that the old mallard has shown his true colors for the world to see, suddenly everyone is holding their head and running around like they just fell off of an Edvard Munch painting (too obscure? OK, Google “The Scream” – 1893 and you will know what I’m talking about…).

You didn’t really have to be a bloodhound to smell this one coming around the corner. Robertson has never pretended to be anyone other than who he is. Sure, the show is scripted but they didn’t find this guy over at central casting. The beard and the camouflage jacket and the confederate mindset all came with the package.  The only thing that I’m actually surprised about is that it took this long for people to pull their heads out of their duck blinds and smell the dynamite.

My guess is that there is a lot more interview gold to be mined by the folks over at GQ (or Esquire, et al) by simply playing a quick game of Duck, Duck, Goose with most of the current lineup of reality show stars. And it will continue to be so as long as production costs are low and the viewing numbers are high. And make no mistake, those numbers are high. Duck Dynasty is sitting at the top of a very large, very smelly pile of cable refuse. Indeed, can a show involving Seagulls be far off?

It makes me wonder why there are no finger-pointing bloviators ranting about the dumbing-down of American viewing standards. I mean if violent video games are responsible for the apparent increase in wild-eyed AR 15-toting lunatics shooting school kids and theater goers, then why aren’t prurient reality shows responsible for the apparent increase and acceptance of bigotry, intolerance and fanaticism? Maybe it’s because there is no percentage in trying to create an informed and questioning viewing demographic. If you offer them stale bread, the ducks will come flocking to you. Never mind that a steady diet of bread crumbs will make them fat and shorten their lives. There are always more ducks. Trolling for bottom feeders seems to be the main attraction for the guilty-pleasure seeking demographic that apparently can’t find any more car wrecks to drive by slowly.

But you have to keep that observation sotto voce, because if you start talking too loudly then all of those ducks might fly away. So before you can say “contract negotiation” the meetings are called and lunches are canceled and the flying monkeys of Fox News punditry are sent forth to shriek their outrage at this infringement of the first amendment, and throw their feces at those elite, socialist, limp-wristed, “outside-agitators” in the “lame-stream media” that would dare to raise an eyebrow or ask a question about the intelligence of providing a microphone and a spotlight to the worst of our tendencies and least of our possibilities. At this very moment, there is a whole flock of PR execs slamming the lid on unfettered journalistic access to their various and sundry alternative programming golden geese, because they know that once those loose, collagen-filled lips start flapping, the ratings and the sponsors and the audience could head south faster than a duck in winter. If you don’t believe me, just ask GinaMarie Zimmerman, or Aaryn Gries, or Spencer Clawson.

Who???

Exactly…

Stay tuned.

 

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Mitt Romney’s “to do” list for 2013 – REVISED

  1. Publish transition web site thingy. (note: Ask Paul how that thing works)
  2. Order new car elevator for White House Garage.
  3. Also talk to architect about fixing that weird oval room. ( WACKY?! )
  4. Talk to Ann about which house we should pack up. (maybe Boston?)
  5. Boston! Call campaign HQ and tell them to let George Bush out of his undisclosed location.
  6. Oh, and while I’m on the phone with campaign HQ, tell them to put John Sununu back into his undisclosed location.
  7. Call Dick Cheney and tell him to have Halliburton call me about the FEMA thing.
  8. Take Paul and his “little missus” out for a milkshake to celebrate. ( note: Ask Ann what her name is…again )
  9. Call “The Borkster” and set up a meeting to chat about “the Supremes”
  10. Chris Christie: Off the Inauguration Ball guest list!!! Take that fat boy!
  11. Call tax attorney and have him claim the rest of that damn deduction! ( 9%! YES! )
  12. Talk to Shelly A. about that “Ambassador to Israel” gig that he’s been squawking about.
  13. Figure out what to tell Meatloaf about why he won’t be performing at the Inauguration Ball… (YIKES!)
  14. Call Stuart Stevens and tell him that the next empty seat that Clint Eastwood will be talking to will be the one that he used to be sitting in…

Caymans! Caymans! Caymans! –  I need to just sit in the vault and stare at the money until the pain stops. After all, it’s always worked before…

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FEMA

and the real danger of “For Profit” disaster relief.

The recent weather related disaster that has devastated a large portion of the eastern seaboard has underscored a matter that has largely been ignored in the maelstrom of the Presidential Campaign; FEMA and whether or not it is viable as a federal agency.

Mitt Romney was asked a very simple question by a moderator during a presidential primary debate; “Should FEMA be done away with as a federal agency?” Mr Romney responded by saying that  “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

That is an absurd notion and here is why:

The primary purpose of FEMA is to coordinate the response to a disaster that has occurred in the United States and that overwhelms the resources of local and state authorities. The governor of the state in which the disaster occurs must declare a state of emergency and formally request from the President that FEMA and the federal government respond to the disaster. The simple truth is that FEMA does not initiate any action or spend any tax payer money until the states ask the president for help.

Origins of FEMA and why it was created:

First let me give you ( and more importantly give Mitt Romney…) a little history lesson about the complex origins and more importantly, the reasons for creating FEMA ( the acronym of which stands for the Federal Emergency Management Agency);

OK, this part is admittedly really long and kind of boring. I don’t expect you to read every word of this dry historical account, but it is here for anyone that actually cares about such things and wants to gain some perspective, or perhaps for kids that are doing some lame book report and are looking for a quick data source to help them finish it because they have been putting it off for three weeks and now it is due tomorrow and if they get another D in this class they are going to be grounded…

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Prior to the 1930’s:

A series of devastating fires struck the port city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, early in the 19th century. The 7th U.S. Congress passed a measure in 1803 that provided relief for Portsmouth merchants by extending the time they had for remitting tariffs on imported goods. This is widely considered the first piece of legislation passed by the federal government that provided relief after a disaster.

Between 1803 and 1930, ad hoc legislation was passed more than 100 times for relief or compensation after a disaster. Examples include the waiving of duties and tariffs to the merchants of New York City after the Great Fire of New York (1835). After President Abraham Lincoln‘s assassination at John T. Ford‘s Theatre, the 54th Congress passed legislation compensating those who were injured in the theater.

1930’s to the 1960’s

After the start of the Great Depression in 1929, President Herbert Hoover had commissioned the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in 1932. The purpose of the RFC was to lend money to banks and institutions to stimulate economic activity. The RFC was also responsible for dispensing federal dollars in the wake of a disaster. RFC can be considered the first organized federal disaster response agency.

The Bureau of Public Roads in 1934 was given authority to finance the reconstruction of highways and roads after a disaster. The Flood Control Act of 1944 also gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authority over flood control and irrigation projects and thus played a major role in disaster recovery from flooding.

Over the years, Congress increasingly extended the range of covered categories for assistance, and several presidential executive orders did the same. By enacting these various forms of legislative direction, Congress established a category for annual budgetary amounts of assistance to victims of various types of hazards or disasters, it specified the qualifications, and then it established or delegated the responsibilities to various federal and non-federal agencies.

In time, this ever expanding array of agencies themselves underwent a fractal-like reorganization. At this point you should take a deep breath and focus, because this is gonna get a little complicated. Ready? OK, here we go…

One of the first such federal agencies was the Federal Civil Defense Administration, which was created in 1950 and operated within the Executive Office of the President (EOP). That President being Harry S. Truman (the agency actually distributed posters, programs, and information about communism and the threat of communist attacks).

Functions to administer disaster relief were then taken from the EOP and given to the President himself, who delegated it to the Housing and Home Finance Administration.

Subsequently, the Office of Defense Mobilization was created.

Then, the new Office of Defense and Civilian Mobilization, which was, once again, managed by the EOP;

after that, the agency was renamed; the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, then, the Office of Civil Defense, which operated under the Department of Defense (DoD); the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW); the Department of Agriculture; the Office of Emergency Planning (OEmP); the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (replacing the OCD in the DoD); then it came under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the General Services Administration (GSA) (upon termination of the OEmP).

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I will stop here for a moment to allow your head to stop spinning… Just sit down and put your head between your knees… Better? OK, moving on…

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1973 to 1979 – “The HUD Years.” ( Actually this part is really kind of important to know…)

In 1973, federal disaster relief and recovery was ostensibly brought under the umbrella of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This was accomplished by Presidential Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1973, and the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration was created as an organizational unit within the department.

Prior to this reorganization plan being put into effect, more than 100 separate agencies, at any given time, might be jockeying for control and jurisdiction of a disaster.

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Confused yet? Yeah, now try sorting through that level of bureaucracy after your home and the homes of all of your neighbors and all of the roads and bridges that you would normally use to escape, have just been washed out to sea…

Who ya gonna call?

That’s a really good question, and finally in 1978, someone named Jimmy Carter answered that question;

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A good idea: In an effort to simplify and consolidate the bureaucratic minefield and the mountain of red tape and the inevitable turf wars, that constituted what passed for disaster response and relief, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was created. It was implemented by two Executive Orders in April 1979. The new agency initially incorporated the organizations that were responsible for civil defense and disaster preparedness under one roof.

A good idea gone bad: Ronald Reagan, while caught in the midst of a Cold War fever dream, decides to arbitrarily reinterpret FEMA’s original purpose to fit what he sees as it’s new role in fighting the Cold War, granting it power to cope with a nuclear attack and even, reportedly, implement martial law, and in doing so, prompting clashes over jurisdiction with the Justice Department. Meanwhile, the nascent, under-funded, agency is staffed with under-qualified and corrupt, political appointees; in 1985 FEMA Director Louis Giuffrida steps down amid allegations of fraud.

A good idea gone bad, and then left to rot out in the sun like your Aunt Bessie’s potato salad at that last family reunion picnic: Then, under the feckless and CIA-jaundiced watch of George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) FEMA’s lackluster response to 1989’s Hurricane Hugo prompts Senator Fritz Hollings to denounce it as the “sorriest bunch of bureaucratic jackasses I’ve ever known.” Yet nothing is done to improve the effectiveness of the agency. It remains a waste dump for political cronies. Then the agency is caught flat-footed again when Hurricane Andrew overwhelms southern Florida in 1992, leaving 160,000 people homeless and probably contributing to Bush’s loss in the next election.

A good idea when reconsidered by someone with a functioning brain: In 1993, President Bill Clinton appoints James Lee Witt as FEMA Director. In 1996, the agency is elevated to cabinet rank. Mr Witt initiates reforms that help to streamline the disaster recovery and mitigation process. The machine of bureaucracy becomes leaner and runs much more smoothly and effectively.

Which is why the Republicans decide that they needed to change things…

A good idea when reconsidered by someone with a non-functioning brain and who has absolutely no business being the President of the United States: The organizational and structural powerhouse that had run so well under FEMA Director Witt, during President Clinton’s Administration, was not continued by President George W. Bush. Following the September 11, 2001, attacks, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to better coordinate among the different federal agencies that deal with law enforcement, disaster preparedness and recovery, border protection and civil defense. Cause, you know, adding insurmountable layers of faceless bureaucracy always makes things run so much more smoothly and efficiently.

President Bush appointed Michael D. Brown as FEMA’s new Director in January 2003, however, as a result of the Homeland Security Act that had already been enacted in the previous year during the flurry of political tap dancing that was meant to show the public that Congress was “On It,” as of March 1st of 2003, FEMA was relegated to a “cog” in the wheel of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Department of Homeland Security under Director Tom Ridge.

Unfortunately Mr Ridge had prioritized the DHS and its wobbly “Jenga” tower of sub-agencies, to focus their various, limited resources almost entirely on the specter of terrorism and as a result, decided to move some of the FEMA’s preparedness functions to an office that was less than one-fifteenth of its original size.

To his credit; Mr Brown warned in September of 2003 that FEMA’s absorption into and dilution by, the DHS would make a mockery of FEMA’s new motto, “A Nation Prepared”, and would “fundamentally sever FEMA from its core functions”, shatter agency morale and break longstanding, effective and tested relationships with states and first responder stakeholders.” The inevitable result of the reorganization of 2003, warned Brown, would result in “an ineffective and uncoordinated response” to a terrorist attack or a natural disaster.

Ridge saw Brown’s memo as nothing more than a bureaucrat’s self serving turf war and ignored it.

CUT TO:

Hurricane Katrina…

Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that the vision of further unification of functions and another reorganization could not address the problems FEMA had previously faced.

The “Final Report of the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina“, released February 15, 2006, revealed that federal funding to states for “all hazards” disaster preparedness needs was not awarded unless the local agencies made the purposes for the funding a “just terrorism” function.

Emergency management professionals testified that funds for preparedness for natural hazards were given less priority than preparations for counter terrorism measures. Testimony also expressed the opinion that the mission to mitigate vulnerability and prepare for natural hazard disasters before they occurred had been separated from disaster preparedness functions, making the nation more vulnerable to known hazards, like hurricanes.

There were other errors as well; the Buffalo NY snowstorm in 2006 in which they did not reach stranded victims for three days, and the tornadoes in Arkansas in 2007 in which their rescue and recovery efforts were sub-par at best.

But then there was California and the wildfires:

2007 California Wildfires:

FEMA came under intense criticism when it was revealed that a press conference on the October 2007 California wildfires was staged. Deputy Administrator Harvey E. Johnson was answering questions from FEMA employees who were posing as reporters. Many of these questions were “soft ball” questions (i.e., “Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?”), intentionally asked in a way that would evoke a positive response giving the impression that FEMA was doing everything right. In this way, any scrutiny from real reporters would have been avoided. Fox News, MSNBC, and other media outlets aired the staged press briefing live. Real reporters were notified only 15 minutes in advance and were only able to call in to a conference line, which was set to “listen-only” mode. The only people there were primarily FEMA public affairs employees

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A casual reading of this account might make one wonder if I was not actually making the case for those that would like to do away with FEMA. Nothing could be farther from the truth. What history is showing us is that:

1. FEMA is not inherently bad or inept. It has only suffered from bad and inept management.

2. FEMA is critical to the health and welfare of the people that have been devastated by calamity and that are beyond any capacity to help themselves or their community to recover from that calamity.

3. The concept and impetus that created FEMA was and is good and right. It just needs to be managed and executed by the right people and with the proper goals in place.

Under President Obama FEMA has been systematically restored and reorganized. On March 4, 2009, President Obama nominated Florida’s state emergency management director, W. Craig Fugate ( a Republican ), to lead FEMA. He has a solid history of success and by all accounts he is making a serious effort at restoring the image and the track record of FEMA. When the chronicle of Hurricane Sandy and the hard work of the recovery is written, I believe that FEMA will have provided a good accounting of itself in that effort.

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Why in the world then would Mitt Romney ever consider illiminating FEMA as a federal agency?:

Romney was the Governor of Massachusetts during the Mother’s Day Floods” of 2006 and is no doubt familiar with the dynamics of how FEMA operates. Here is an interesting article that was posted in the Lowell Sun as a result of his complete abdication of leadership or concern for those affected:

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“We find it inconceivable that Gov. Mitt Romney claims the state can do nothing to help those residents still struggling to rebuild homes and businesses after the May flood. Massachusetts is sitting on millions in unspent emergency funds from Hurricane Katrina and more than $1 billion in cash reserves, yet Romney has failed to even respond to the Lowell delegation’s requests to discuss additional aid for victims. The governor’s spokesman — since Romney can’t be bothered to comment now that the photo opportunities have dried up even though some residents’ basements haven’t — said the state will not consider spending its own money for flood victims until it’s clear how much cash the federal government will give.”

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Governor Romney’s somewhat ironic behavior in the midst of a natural disaster that happened in his own state shows clearly that he was more concerned about having a budgetary bottom line in his record that he could point to during his Presidential run, than in helping the people of his state.
This also leads us to one possible reason for the response that he gave during the primary debate and that is that his intent, if elected, would be to sell off the job of disaster response to the highest bidder in an effort to, once again, do what he has always done; put dollars and the bottom line ahead of any concern for the health and welfare of people.

The “highest bidder” in this scenario would have to be a corporate giant that is large enough to give the appearance of being able to handle a job of those immense proportions and of course, it always helps if they are a campaign contributor of equally massive proportions; A company roughly the size and shape of Halliburton…

OK, Let’s leave that hypothesis alone for a moment and just look at this issue without faces or names.

If we do that then the shorter and more obvious answer to the question is that this is just one more in a long line of moves to systematically hobble, then denigrate, then legislatively undermine, a federal agency in an effort to move it into the private sector. It’s a little thing that I like to call “The Privatization Game.”

Hey kids, gather the whole family and let’s all play… but first I will lay out the rules for you.

There is a clear and defined pattern to the privatization game. Here is a basic outline of how the game is played:

Step one: A big corporation wants to gain control of a thing that is currently being done by the government such as; running prisons, or providing material support to the military while they are fighting an unfunded and unnecessary war in the Middle East, or running a chain of charter schools, or hospice and rehab facilities, or delivering the mail, or even handling the clean up and lucrative construction contracts for rebuilding homes and infrastructure in a storm ravaged area or rehabilitating natural resources after some huge oil spill, or…well, you get the idea.

Step two: That big corporation finds a willing congressional partner; someone that is willing to work for their interests in congress.

Step three: Fund that congressional partner’s election campaign.

Step four: Once elected, that Congressman or Senator achieves a valuable seat or even control of a committee that has oversight of the thing that the private corporation wants to take control of.

Step five: That Congressman or Senator, by means of his committee position, orchestrates a severe reduction in the funding for the thing, agency or the government service in question.

Note: Just for bonus fun during this step you could fabricate some crazy conspiracy theories about the agency to foster suspicion and mistrust within the general population, like for instance; You could say that they are secretly constructing concentration camps to put us all in when they take over the government during some pre-designed national emergency, or that they are the secret government being run by the;  a) Freemasons, b) Illuminati, or c) Gay Freemasons ( I mean, think about it, who else could come up with those funny little hats that the Shriners wear…)

Step six: That agency suffers from underfunding, under-staffing and eventually, low morale. Consequently it performs poorly and supports the argument that the Congressman or Senator is making that the government can’t do that thing as well as a private company could do it.

Step seven: After months of meaningless committee hearings, a lucrative government contract is awarded in a “no-bid” fashion which results in that thing or service being done for three or four or five times the cost of the Federal Government doing it, and that big corporation’s investment in the election campaign of their congressional partner provides its return.

Step eight: The unsuspecting public foots the bill for all of this through loss of government services and loss of revenue as a result of subsidization and huge tax breaks for the corporation which eventually monopolizes and controls all aspects of an industry.

Wasn’t that fun? Great! Now, who want’s to play for control of the EPA and the lucrative Fracking rights on Federally held lands and make some backroom deals that create loopholes in existing legislation that would exempt them from disclosing what hideously toxic chemicals they are pumping into the ground to exploit and plunder our natural resources?

Anyone? Anyone?

OK. I know that sounds oversimplified and really cynical but I mean, come on… Did you really think that guys like the Koch brothers or Foster Friess or Sheldon Adelson are contributing hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to defeat President Obama and Democrats in all fifty states because they are just really, really patriotic?

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Imagine for a moment the basic concept of monetizing the work of disaster relief. In other words, making disaster relief a “For Profit” business model. The very thought is rather sickening, but lets consider exactly who would be paying for such services;

The government would have to sign-off on a contract well in advance of said disaster, with some private company which would hopefully come in when the inevitable disaster finally hits and then everyone that is now without power, or shelter, or food, or adequate sanitation, has to wait around while this private corporation is able to somehow implement and coordinate the rescue and relief efforts. It would take a massive company to handle such a monumental task. A company like, oh gee, I can’t imagine…unless…maybe… Oh, I don’t know… let’s just go with Halliburton.

Which is very convenient because Mr Romney already has a very comfortable relationship with Halliburton in the person of Dick Cheney, who, coincidentally, held a fund raiser for him near his home in Wyoming. From 1995 until 2000, Dick Cheney served as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Halliburton. Gee, I wonder if any representatives of the company were at the fund raiser? Naa. Probably not. I mean what would Halliburton possibly want from a Republican Presidential Candidate.

OK, look, I know that it sounds like I am just dumping on the private sector and portraying them as all the same. The truth is that I am not. I actually believe that there is a place for the private sector to contribute in a very constructive way, to the process of prevention and preparedness, which, if you think about it, is much more productive that simply reacting to the aftermath of a disaster; That place is in building and improving our infrastructure. And doing so is a win for everyone.

OK, kids. Now finish that book report and get to bed. I promise not to tell your mom that you waited until the last minute… again.

 

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Hurricane Sandy

There is a lot to say about this storm; the human tragedy, the cost of the clean up, the epic and stunning level of damage that was inflicted to the North East and to a lesser extent, the entire eastern seaboard…

But for now, this is the most important thing that you need to know:

Much of the Hurricane Sandy relief effort is being conducted by the Red Cross. Please use this link to go to their web site and make any donation that you can.

 

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ALEC

~think of it as that dark, damp, corner of your basement that always has that bad smell…

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Bad law, like black mold, needs a dark place to grow and eventually become toxic and dangerous. Legislatively speaking, that dark place is called ALEC;

ALEC is an acronym for The American Legislative Exchange Council. It is a 501(c)(3) organization that was started by the Koch brothers who remain its primary source of funding. It is composed of conservative legislators, businesses and foundations which produces model legislation for state legislatures and promotes so-called Free Market and conservative ideas.

ALEC currently has more than 2,000 legislative members representing all 50 states, amounting to nearly one-third of all sitting legislators, as well as more than 85 members of Congress and 14 sitting or former governors who are considered “alumni”. The vast majority of ALEC’s legislative members belong to the Republican Party.

ALEC also claims approximately 300 corporate, foundation, and other private-sector members. The chairmanship of ALEC is a rotating position, with a new legislator appointed to the position each year. The current chair of ALEC is David Frizzell, a member of the Indiana House of Representatives.

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BusinessWeek wrote that “part of ALEC’s mission is to present industry-backed legislation as grass-roots work.” ALEC’s role in drafting and distributing model legislation through its lawmaker members became public knowledge as the result of a Freedom of Information Act filing and a leak of ALEC’s internal library of model legislation,resulting in scrutiny and controversy over the group’s role in the legislative process.

The New York Times wrote that “special interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote, and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues like school vouchers and tobacco taxes.

Progressive advocacy groups such as Common Cause questioned ALEC’s non-profit status, alleging that the Council engaged in lobbying. ALEC responded by denying that it engaged in lobbying, and arguing that liberal groups were attacking ALEC because “they don’t have a comparable group that is as effective as ALEC in enacting policies into law.”

Many legislators would then have to tell their constituents what they’ve mostly been able to hide up till now – that via ALEC they’ve been wined and dined by high-powered corporate lobbyists who took a hand in shaping laws in the state where you live.

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Here’s an example of what’s at stake. The American Chemistry Council – that’s the trade group for the chemical industry – has used ALEC to press for changes in health and safety rules on toxic chemicals. Earlier this fall the council poured nearly 650,000 dollars into supporting Wisconsin republican Tommy Thompson’s bid for the U.S. Senate this November.

By now it won’t surprise you to learn that Wisconsin’s former governor has been a friend of ALEC going all the way back to his days as a state legislator, when he himself was an ALEC member. Take a listen to a speech Thompson made at an ALEC conference in 2002: “I always loved going to those meetings because I always found new ideas. Then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare that’s mine.“—Tommy Thompson

A local newspaper in Bettendorf, Iowa cited bills submitted by local legislators regarding illegal immigration, voter identification and the XL Pipeline as unrelated to the needs of Iowa, but were important to ALEC’s corporate leaders:
Similar legislation was introduced in other states across the county, and in some instances the more restrictive voting law was passed and signed into law. When legislators represent ALEC initiatives, rather than their constituencies, the constitutional framework of the nation and the states becomes corrupted and leads to a decay of our representative form of government. The run for the presidency is interesting and exciting, but the general direction of America’s political, economic and social path depends more on who controls America’s legislatures. The decisions made in the U.S. Congress and in state capitals around the country are much more important than who will become America’s next president. And, at this juncture, the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council is exerting its will on the nation’s future path.
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An April 2012 article in the New York Times entitled ”Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist” stated that ALEC promoted so-called public “right to know” laws regarding what fluids are used in “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing), but with substantial loopholes for oil companies to withhold the names of certain fluids used, including for reasons of trade secrets. Within ALEC, this bill was sponsored by ExxonMobil but this fact was often withheld when ALEC lawmakers introduced their bills back home.
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The best way to stop this toxic fungus that is currently infesting the dark corners of our Democracy, is to expose it to as much sunlight as possible.

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“…And one ring to rule them all…”

 ~ the nine ring wraiths…um, I mean policy advisers, that are shaping Mitt Romney’s policy positions. _______________________________________________________________ My father had a saying; “You can judge a man by the company that he keeps.” He would pull that one out and … Continue reading

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