Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, August 28, 2011: Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

As some of you Dear Readers may have noticed, Madame L loves children's books. She loves picture books, those little square cardboard indestructible picture books for babies, "Independent Reader" books, chapter books, classics, new titles--- you name it, Madame L loves it.

And Madame L loves plush toys that go with these books. So when she saw a naked mole rat on sale for 75% off its already reduced-to-a-ridiculously-low price, she bought it. 

She felt a little silly, though, thinking, why would anyone make, or anyone even as gullible as Madame L buy, a naked mole rat stuffed plush toy?

But then she found the book that goes with this plush toy: "Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed," by Mo Willems. This is such a charming little picture book that Madame L re-read it three more times, loving the text as well as the pictures. 

Wilbur is unusual among the community of naked mole rats for wanting to get dressed. "Don't you get it?" the other naked mole rats ask. "NAKED MOLE RATS DON'T WEAR CLOTHES!"

Wilbur gets the help he needs from Grand-pah, though, who makes a proclamation and compliments Wilbur on his socks.

And Madame L knows exactly who she will be giving the naked mole rat and book to: a very charming little boy who, unlike Wilbur, loves to take his clothes off.

The picture book is available from for $11.55. 

The plush toy that Madame L bought for about $2.50 is available from for about $29.00 (ouch! --- Madame L would NOT have paid that much for it, no matter how cute it is!). 

Ah, and Madame L sees that a completely different book for a completely different age group is also available: "The Naked Mole-Rat Letters," by Mary Amato. This is a very favorably reviewed book for 4th through 7th-graders, and is selling it for $7.95. Madame L will let you know if she enjoys it. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake!

Dear Madame L,

I get it that people like me don't want to have their taxes raised, and I get it that many of the working poor pay little or no payroll taxes, but what I don't get is why the Republicans are so opposed to getting rid of tax cuts for the wealthy. 

I mean, of course I get one part of it: These politicians depend on campaign contributions and junkets from their rich friends and can't afford to bite the hands that feed them.

I guess what I don't get is the hypocrisy with which they are now calling for raising taxes on people like me.


Can you explain?

Dear Reader,
Yes, unfortunately, Madame L thinks she has an explanation for this hypocrisy: It is the same assumption that we have been seeing so much lately in American politics: that we, the unwashed masses, so to speak, are all fairly dumb or forgetful, or perhaps somewhat hypocritical, ourselves. 

Also, Madame L suspects some Republican politicians would oppose any idea, even an idea they used to support, even an idea they originally proposed, just because Pres. Obama supports it.

Madame L has met people who support so-called "Tea Party" ideas about lowering taxes and reducing government, who have time to attend Tea Party rallies and anti-progressive rallies because they are living on Social Security and who have earned a decent living before retirement because of the advances of the U.S. labor movement. Hypocrisy? Or pure ignorance? Madame L doesn't know.

But Madame L is not surprised to learn that Tea Party Republicans are now calling for increasing taxes on poor people while maintaining cuts for the wealthy. 

Madame L doesn't agree with their argument that low taxes for "job-creators" will spur hiring and increase investment in American companies. And you know why Madame L doesn't agree with that argument? It's simply because it has never been borne out by the facts. Never. And particularly not in the past two years, when tax rates for the rich are low, corporate profits are very high, and job creation has been almost zero.

Madame L would almost call this class warfare. No, Madame L would DEFINITELY call this class warfare.

And Madame L wonders if we deserve to be thought of as ignorant and/or stupid. Madame L hopes the Tea Party and Republican leaders don't really represent the actual views of their constituents. 

Good luck to you and all of us,

Madame L

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do They Think We're Stupid? Or What?

Dear Madame L,

I've been reading about the statements and charges being made by multiple Republican presidential contestants, and I'm astounded at the lies and misstatements they keep making.

Do they think the American public are a bunch of dolts? Do they think we've lost our memory? What's happening here?

Thanks for knowing everything,

Wants to know more

Dear Wants to Know More,

Here's the thing: These politicians themselves have forgotten an important fact: Everything they say and do, along with everything our current Democratic president says and does, is being continually recorded, which means that it's all on record, somewhere. Even if it's just some ordinary person with a cell phone camera, someone is taking their picture and remembering what they said. 

Also, yes, they do think we're kind of forgetful and possibly downright stupid.

So, when candidate Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) says, for instance, that if she becomes president she will immediately lower gasoline prices to under $2.00 per gallon, that's an example of her thinking we're stupid. 

Oh, and when she says prices have gone up since Obama was inaugurated as president in 2009, that's an example of her thinking we're forgetful (or at least selectively memorious) and at the same time stupid, because while gas prices WERE exceptionally low in 2009, it was not because the previous president had done anything to lower them. In fact, quite the contrary, it was because demand had plummeted, which was because of the Bush-caused recession, which made people cut down drastically on all travel and thus fuel.  

Another important point is this: Only one of these candidates will actually oppose Pres. Obama in Nov. 2012, so they can get away with saying some pretty outrageous things. They can make some mind-boggling promises, such as Bachmann's promise to lower gas prices to under $2.00 a gallon, because nobody, not even her supporters, and certainly not the Republican Party itself, really thinks she'll end up becoming president. She doesn't have to face reality now or in the future.

She and the others are counting on our forgetting their most outrageous statements between now and then.

Even those who are or have been state governors (Romney, Huntsman, and Perry) have made some interesting mis-statements about their experience and qualifications. Romney of course is infamous for flip-flopping on every social issue from women's rights to health care. Perry hasn't done one single thing to increase jobs in Texas. And Huntsman, bless his heart, appears to be basing his campaign on being the only Republican smart enough to understand economics and global warming, which is probably true and will probably eliminate his chances to run against Obama.

And so, Dear Reader, Madame L comes back to her oft-repeated request that you study the issues, read many different points of view, and even watch some TV news, to become acquainted with the issues and the candidates.

(Don't spent too much time on it, though. You don't want to raise your blood pressure that much, and you probably have much more important things to do with your time!)


Madame L

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Companies Paid S&P For Ratings?

Dear Madame L,

Did I understand correctly from your recent column about Standard & Poor's that companies actually PAID S&P for good ratings?

How is that not a conflict of interest?



Dear Puzzled,

Yes, they did, and yes, any reasonable person would understand that as a conflict of interest, and yes, that seems to be one of the roots of the problems with the financial rating system, and one that the Dodd-Frank legislation was supposed to address. However, even though that bill passed Congress, the federal regulators charged with enforcing it have been slow to put it into effect.

This article points out, "Before the financial crisis, banks shopped around to make sure rating agencies would award favorable ratings before agreeing to work with them. These banks paid upward of $100,000 for ratings on mortgage bond deals, according to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and several hundreds of thousands of dollars for the more complex structures known as collateralized debt obligations."
Yes, that's correct: Banks shopped around for the best deal in ratings and paid $100,000 or more for good ratings, which S&P was apparently happy to give, money in pocket, even for worthless mortgage bonds.

The same article says that some of S&P's mortgage raters have quietly been shifted to different jobs in the McGraw-Hill company which owns S&P. These include the former head of structured finance, former head of ratings, and former head of residential mortgage bond ratings. 

Also, you may be happy to hear that S&P has just hired a new CEO, Doublas Peterson. According to Bloomberg, the old CEO, Deven Sharma, has (get this!) decided to leave to “pursue other opportunities.”

Several of the people who oversaw S.& P.’s mortgage-related ratings went on to different jobs at McGraw-Hill Companies, including Joanne Rose, the former head of structured finance; Vickie Tillman, the former head of ratings; and Susan Barnes, former head of residential mortgage bond ratings. But many "crucial people" still work at the company.

Remember, you can help light a fire under the reluctant buttocks of the U.S. Department of Justice to encourage it to make the investigation a meaningful one.

And please keep reminding YOUR government to do its job of helping us and protecting us from the rapacious corporations and individuals who see us as peons, workers who exist for their profits.

Go on, do it!

Madame L

Monday, August 22, 2011

Standard & Poor's Blackmail of U.S. (Us!)

Dear Madame L,

Now that Moody's has reaffirmed its AAA rating of the U.S. economy, why won't the folks at Standard & Poor's back down from their ridiculous AA+ downgraded rating?

Also, didn't you write awhile ago that the federal government is investigating S&P for its part in causing our current economic troubles?

Just Wondering,

What's up with that?

Dear Wondering,

Yes, it appears that the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as the U.S. Department of Justice are indeed investigating Standard & Poor's, but also Moody's and the entire credit rating agency industry.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has released a statement welcoming the news of the investigation but warning that "...they'll conclude what a lot of us have long known: S&P made record profits by knowingly handing out sterling credit ratings to complete junk...Until we rein in the corruption of the credit rating industry, we are just asking for another financial meltdown.”

Meanwhile, the city of Los Angeles has decided to decline S&P's ratings of its investment portfolio. L.A. Interim Treasurer told the L.A. Times, "We have really lost faith in S&P’s judgment." Other jurisdictions, including San Mateo County in Northern California and Manatee County in Floriday, have also dropped their contracts with S&P, which has downgraded them because of their large investments in U.S. Treasury notes.

Madame L thinks S&P is attempting to BLACKMAIL the U.S. government along with any entity that supports it by investing in its economy.

Why would S&P do that? Madame L suspects that the company which brought us to the brink of ruin by giving AAA ratings to junk bonds and other useless and toxic offerings is like the old-time school bully who takes your lunch money away and then hits you over the head for not giving him a candy bar, too.

The next obvious question is: Why does anyone put any faith in S&P or any of these agencies any more? They got their profits, while taking actions that have reduced the economic power of 95% of the American people.

Here's the background, from the page:

"First, Standard & Poors threatened to downgrade the US credit rating if cuts were not made to Social Securty and Medicare to reduce the deficit.

"Then, two days after a bipartisan Senate committee found S&P's misleading mortgage ratings to be a 'key cause' of the 2008 financial crisis, the agency issued another downgrade threat.

"A few months later, after the SEC announced they would investigate agencies like S&P for fraud, S&P issued yet ANOTHER downgrade threat, this time with the arbitrary ransom of $4 trillion in deficit reduction which would likely include deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits.

"Is S&P blackmailing the White House into absolving them of any responsibility for the 2008 crash by threatening downgrades every time there's an attempt to hold their feet to the fire? If that's the case, big benefit cuts are on their way."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, August 21, 2011: Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It

Madame L, who is going through a phase of enjoying short stories more than full-length novels, particularly enjoyed this collection of short stories by Maile Meloy: "Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It."

Madame L loves being surprised by good writing. (Also, not coincidentally, Madame L hates the fact that so often good writing is surprising. Ah, but she digresses.)

Madame L loves reading about interesting and sympathetic characters in relationships that cause them conflict or grief --- something like real life --- and she finds such characters in every story in this collection.

The paperback edition of "Both Ways..." is available at for $10.20, but you might find it, as Madame L did, at your local closing-down Borders Books. (Madame L wipes a tear from her eyes every time she mentions Borders lately, but that doesn't stop her from snapping up a few super-discounted books whenever she can.)
Maile Meloy gave an interview which you can read at on her short-story writing. She said, among other things, that she used Salinger's "Nine Stories" as a guide in choosing the stories and the order in which they're presented. That made Madame L feel even better about enjoying Meloy's stories so much. (Anyone who is a fan of J.D. Salinger is a friend of Madame L!) 

("Nine Stories" is available at for the amazing price of $6.99. Dear Reader, if you have not yet read these stories, you must read them as soon as you can. They are about the best short stories Madame L has ever read.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jobs, Not Cuts?

Dear Madame L,

I'm so confused about the debate going on in Congress right now about taxation, the national debt, and jobs. I think we really need more jobs, like, right now, for people like me, because I myself am currently unemployed. But everyone seems to disagree about the way to create jobs.

What do you say about this argument?

Sincerely, Seriously, Really,

Needs An Answer

Dear Seriously Needs an Answer,

Madame L is also having a hard time making sense of this debate, so she (as always) turned to an expert to explain the issues. Here he is, economics professor and former official in the Ford, Carter, and Clinton administrations, Dr. Robert Reich:

Madame L knows Dr. Reich is a progressive, which she doesn't think is an insult. She hopes you'll enjoy this explanation.


Madame L

Thursday, August 18, 2011

School's Starting, and I'm Afraid

Dear Madame L,

When I married my husband, I took his surname as my own (unlike some of my friends), even though it's an unusual name. Now I wonder if I should have done that, because my 5-year-old is going to be starting kindergarten next week, and I'm worried the other kids will make fun of him.

Do you have any suggestions for helping my child deal with these kids?


Scared for my child

Dear Scared,

Madame L feels your pain and that of your innocent son. The world is full of name-callers and bullies, and they do start early, don't they. 

Yet Madame L would advise you to worry less about this specific issue and work instead on preparing him for the general issue of how to get along with the many kids, nice kids and bullies, whom he will be interacting with now. The general people skills your child picks up in kindergarten will help him this school year and next, and continue with him through adulthood, when he will be dealing with adults who will be mostly very much like the kids they are now.

If he can get along with kids in general, then the name issue won't bother him too much. So here are Madame L's suggestions for helping him hold his ground with the mean kids:

---Talk to him, now, and every day from now on, in a positive manner about school, his teacher, and the other kids. 

---You have been involving him with other children already, haven't you --- in pre-school, play groups, and so on? These will have already given him a healthy start. 

---Go to back-to-school night and socialize with everyone there. Get to know the parents and associate them with their children. 

---Meet his teacher, volunteer to be a room mother or assistant (or whatever you have time for).

---When he comes home from school each day, help him settle into a comfortable place and a relaxed mood, and ask how his day went. (Don't interrogate him, though, and be aware of his nonverbal responses.)

---Teach him to be kind and respectful to other children. Model kind and courteous behavior at home and every place you go with your child. (For example, no yelling at a salesclerk or snickering behind someone's back.)

---One thing you can do now to prepare your child for your specific concern is to find out everything you can about your surname. An excellent resource is the Surname Database, which gives the historical background, origin and meaning of the name, and more. If your son knows about his family history, that may help his self-esteem and his ability to deal with bullies. (Research your maiden name and tell him about that, too!)  

Best of luck,

Madame L

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, August 14, 2011: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Madame L doesn't usually enjoy zombie stories, but she recommends this young adult zombie novel, "The Forest of Hands and Teeth," by Carrie Ryan.

Ryan does a great job of dealing with typical young adult issues through her heroine Mary, who has al the usual problems of bad relationships with parents,* alienation from friends and community, a corrupt and oppressive society, and the need to find one's own strengths while dealing with the tumultuous emotions of the teenage years.

*Yes, hard to have a good relationship when your father has become a zombie and your mother longs to join him in that non-life.

The story is set in a small, enclosed, and carefully guarded village in post-apocalyptic America. The village is surrounded by fences to keep the "Unconsecrated" out, and by religious restrictions to keep unconsecrated feelings and behavior from disturbing the order established by an oppressive, if well intentioned, sisterhood.

Madame L is reminded of M. Light Shyamalan's hugely underappreciated 2004 film "The Village,"  in which the people of an isolated village are terrified by the threat of monsters living around them.

In Ryan's book, though, the monsters are real; and they have been created by humankind's own overreaching desire to thwart God's purposes by creating eternal life. It may be that Madame L enjoyed the novel because it wasn't actually about zombies, though zombies play an important role in the story.

The book is available in paperback from for $9.99 or in hardcover at a sale price of $6.80. A sequel, "The Dead-Tossed Waves," is available in paperback from for $8.99. 


Friday, August 12, 2011

Another Tell-All

Dear Madame L,

I heard that Tiger Woods' former caddy, Steve Williams, is planning to write a book about his years as a top caddy, including a "very interesting" chapter on Tiger Woods himself. I heard he's really mad because Tiger fired him over the phone.

What do you think about these kinds of books, Madame L?

As for myself, I'm 

Not Interested

Dear Not Interested,

How on Earth do you think Madame L is going to respond to such an idiotic question? If you, who are dimwitted enough to write a question like that, are not interested in a tell-all book by a nobody in the world of a boring activity which can't even be called a sport, how much interest do you think Madame L might have in said book?

Madame L usually wishes the best for her readers, but for you, Dear Reader, she just wishes you would ask a real, that is to say, an interesting and intelligent, question.

Good luck with that,

Madame L

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Purple Poop

Dear Madame L,

We have noticed bird droppings on the bottom steps of our front porch. It wasn't bad when they were just little white droppings, but now there are big purple splotchy stains on the steps, mixed in with the droppings. I looked up, and, sure enough, there is a nest in the branch that hangs over that place. 

At first I thought the birds had purple poop, but now I realize that there is probably a nestful of baby birds, and the parents are probably feeding their babies mulberries or some other purple berry. Just like human babies who are learning to eat solids, those baby birds are messy eaters! 

I don't know where there are any mulberry trees in my neighborhood, but these splotches look a lot like the splotches I've seen on the sidewalks under mulberry trees before. My question is: what birds do you know of that feed their babies mulberries? Or do you think I'm way off and maybe those birds really do have purple poop?

Sign Me,

Occasional Birdwatcher and Purple Poop Cleaner-Upper

Dear Poop Cleaner,

Ah, Madame L feels your pain! It's bad enough having to clean up bird poop, but when it's purple, it's more than twice as bad, isn't it.

(And Madame L apologizes for taking so long to respond to your question.)

Purple bird poop is, as you suspected, the result of birds eating mulberries --- and/or any other red, blue, black, or purple berries, or pomegranates. And you're right that it's poop, not just messes of berry mash that the nestlings didn't eat carefully.

(You probably noticed the poop still has that whitish pasty bit, uric acid mixed with a small amount of water, which is how birds get rid of urea, the end result of their bodies' nitrogen cycle.) 

Just about every kind of bird that lives in the vicinity of mulberry trees feeds these berries to their babies. The birds also enjoy the mulberry trees for shade, shelter, and building nests. 

Patience, Dear Reader,

Madame L

Monday, August 8, 2011

Crappy Insurance

Dear Madame L,

Perhaps this is more of a vent than a question, but I ask you, why do I even pay for insurance? Let me explain. Recently I went to a health fair put on by the local University to have my blood drawn by lab technician students. For only $35 they did a number of blood tests. When I got my results back they indicated that my thyroid was off so I scheduled a visit to my family doctor. I brought my results and had a nice little chat with him. He looked over my results then decided that he should check my thyroid himself, and of course those results came back exactly as expected. Well, shortly after my visit to the doctor I got an explanation of benefits from my insurance stating that they were not going to cover the blood work my doctor ordered and I would be paying $156.80 for a simple little thyroid test. I was under the impression my insurance did pay for a thyroid test but when I called them to ask they said they only do if it's billed under a yearly wellness exam (which it wasn't). I then called my Dr.'s office to ask if they could bill it like that and they said they could not because it was not a wellness exam, but a visit to talk to the doctor about my thyroid. But here's the catch. If I would have known my insurance would not have covered the thyroid test I could have paid the doctor's office out of pocket and it would have cost around $15. But since I didn't pay out of pocket, they sent the bill through the hospital who demands over 150 bucks from the insurance for a stupid little thyroid test that was completely unnecessary for the Dr. to even order! In other words, if I didn't pay $250 a month for my crappy insurance policy and rather just paid out of pocket for this little visit to the doctor it would have cost me a total of $115 for the visit. But since I do pay $250 a month for crappy insurance then I get to pay $180 (including my $30 copay) for this lovely visit to the doctor. Tell me Madame L, does this make any sense? And this is not the first time something like this has happened! It seems to happen almost every time a member of my family or I visits the doctor. You would think I would have learned my lesson by now, but they are just so darn tricky about everything! I feel like a silly little pawn caught in the middle of a stupid game between the medical industry and insurance company. Should I just cancel my insurance policy and save the $250 a month just in case something catastrophic happens? Your input would be greatly appreciated.


Unsure about being Insured

Dear Unsure,

Madame L thanks you for venting, she she definitely feels your pain! What happened to you did NOT make any sense, unless it were to be explained by greed, lack of care for patients, and/or incompetence. 

Madame L absolutely empathizes with your description of being a "silly little pawn caught in the middle" of this game between the greedy health insurance and health care industries. Madame L knows it doesn't have to be this way, and looks to the examples of other countries (England, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and most every other country in the developed world) which have much more sensible and reasonable health-care systems for their citizens.

Madame L realizes, though, that there are still many Americans who are protesting what they call "Obamacare," really the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the health-care insurance package passed by Congress last year which didn't even include the elements that would have made it half as good as those of every other industrialized country. The government's website,, explains the law.

Madame L hopes that you, Dear Unsure, are writing to your representatives in Congress to insist that health care be improved in the U.S. Repealing our current law, which has great promise for helping you and Madame L and millions of other Americans, would not do it, of course. However, carrying it farther in the direction it started would be a huge help.

Madame L suggests some reading for you on health insurance. These articles, backed by your personal experiences, will make the "arguments" become clear and unarguable for your members of Congress.

1. has links for health care insurance by state, age group, family situation, etc.

2. Here's the White House's own explanation of the act's provisions.

3. The Christian Science Monitor last year provided a very helpful explanation of the aspects of the law and dates for each segment to be rolled out. 

4. The Huffington Post also provided an interesting explanation last year.

5. Here is the actual bill that was passed by Congress and signed by Pres. Obama. 

You may wonder why Madame L has not posted here any of the arguments against the health care law. Here is why: Madame L has never been interested in arguing with people or listening/reading the kinds of arguments that have been presented against this law. She is more interested in helping people go forward with the materials at hand. 

And that is why she encourages you to write to your representatives to ask them to go forward in helping you and millions of others who need meaningful health insurance.

Again, your informed letters and phone calls and email messages will alert your representatives to the needs of the people they should be representing. Madame L knows from personal experience that sometimes it seems that these messages have little effect, but she trusts that your representatives' desires to be re-elected in 2012 will encourage them to take positions that will help their constituents. 

Best of luck, and best of health,

Madame L

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, August 7, 2011: Why I Let my Hair Grow Out

"Why I Let my Hair Grow Out," by Maryrose Wood, is a hilarious story about a 16-year-old girl whose parents send her to Ireland for a little rehabilitation after she hacks off her hair and dyes the stubble orange.

From the back cover: "Okay, I was acting out. But my parents freaked and called the travel agent, and before you could say 'Let's fix Morgan,' I was being sent on a bike tour of Ireland."

Yes, a bike tour of Ireland. Brilliant idea, parents of Morgan! Why didn't *I* ever think of that?

Does Morgan like the idea? Three guesses for the answer. (Hint: No. No. No.)

Does she resolve to make the best of it? Three guesses for the answer. (Hint: No. No. No.)

Does Morgan have a good time after all? Yes! Yes, if "having a good time" includes going BACK in time, where she meets the great Irish hero Cuchulain, helps some star-crossed lovers, wins a game of hurling (which does not involve any puking), invents the Claddagh ring, and lots, lots more. 

Madame L promises you, Dear Reader, that you will LOVE this book!

Happy Reading,

Madame L

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I Know It's True Because....

Dear Madame L,

Just like you said, and I hope you're very proud of me, I've been expanding my online news reading, so now I'm reading Politico every once in awhile. The seems to be a pretty fair-minded and unbiased source of news. For example, I just read that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NE) has announced a deal to end the FAA "impasse."

(By the way, Madame L, will you please sometime write a column about these words that are so over-used by political reporters, like "impasse"? Do you think they are even aware of how self-parodying they sound?)

Anyways, I also just read on Politco that because of the debt ceiling being raised, government debt is going to rise, and more people are going to be supported by our taxes, and we're going to turn into a socialist state of a bunch of loafers and good-for-nothings. Well, that's not exactly what they said, but it amounted to the same thing.

So, if it comes from Politico, do you believe it, Madame L?


You're Busted!

Dear Busted,

Madame L appreciates your going beyond your usual reading! However, Madame L doubts that you got all that far with Politico, for at least these two reasons:

First, Politico is owned by Allbritton Communications, which is owned by the Allbritton brothers, who also owned Riggs Bank (infamous for a bunch of scandals before it became part of PNC Financial Services). This communications conglomerate has been called the "east coast version of Koch Bros."

(By the way, Joe and his wife Barby, who own a horse farm in Upperville, VA, and thus have lots in common with the royal family, were among the very few of the Washington elite who were invited to the wedding of Wills and Kate. In fact, according to the Washington Post, "Charles is flying to D.C. in Allbritton’s private jet for an official visit the week after the wedding.")

(Oh, that reminds Madame L to wonder what kind of tax break Joe Allbritton is getting on his private jet!) 

Second, the writers and editors at that website aren't spending much time checking their facts. Apparently they hash together talking points from Republican Party press releases, and they call that news.

Here's an example: In that article you read, it said, "In the past four years, the average voter has grown more dependent on government for his or her income than at any point since at least 1929, when such numbers were first tracked.This means Social Security, Medicare and unemployment are the big income drivers – not new jobs and bigger salaries."

Most of the rise in spending will be going to "safety-net programs, which spend more in hard times because more people are in distress." Krugman provides a link to the Congressional Budget Office study he cites and then kindly also includes their figures in the form of an easy-to-understand graph, which he goes on to explain in detail.

He concludes, "Now, pointing out the Obama spending binge is a myth generally produces rage: people know that it happened, because Rush Limbaugh and the Wall Street Journal say so. But that doesn’t make it true."

Don't give up, though! Please keep reading, ever more broadly. Perhaps you would like to read Dr. Krugman's regular blog postings at the New York Times. Madame L might also suggest any or all of the interesting blogs at and the news articles and blogs at National Journal. 

(Madame L does not suggest such news sources as the Washington Post or ABC News online only because they plant tracking cookies and demand personal information before allowing the reader to access some articles.)

Madame L

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Dear Madame L,

My two senators and one representative in Congress all voted the way I hoped they would on the bill to raise the debt ceiling.

What's really interesting though is that they all voted the way they did for different reasons. 


What's Up With These People?

Dear 'Sup?

Madame L has had a similar experience. What's important now is to send your members of Congress another letter, email message, or phone call, THANKING them for their work.

Madame L believes in positive reinforcement, especially after all the negative reinforcement she has been applying to these elected officials' hides lately.

Here's an example of what you might want to write:

Dear Sen. (or Rep.) Fill In The Blank,

Thank you for your vote on raising the debt ceiling, and for all your work in D.C. for the people of our great state.

I hope you'll keep insisting that loopholes must be closed and taxes must be raised on those fortunate enough to be wealthy, instead of the rest of us, working and middle-class and poor people, carrying our nation's economy on our backs.

Thanks again,

Your Name Here

Whoops! Madame L used her thank-you message as an opportunity to make another point...And suggests that you do so, too.

Here's where you can find your senators' contact information. (Click on your state's name in the dropdown box in the upper right corner of the page.)


Madame L

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Don't Destroy the American Dream!

Dear Madame L,

After all your preaching about how everyone should support raising the debt ceiling, compromise, and all that, I'll bet you're pretty disappointed at how the vote turned out. It looks like the Republicans got everything they wanted (cuts in social programs) and the Democrats got nothing (no closed loopholes).

What's Next?

Dear Pessimist,

First, Madame hopes you will enjoy this great rap "Raise the Debt Ceiling."

Fun, eh? 

Here's comedian Remy Munasifi talking on CNN about the video:

Second, Madame L is very pleased that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted for the compromise legislation that Pres. Obama and Sen. Reid came up with and House Leader Boehner agreed to.

Madame L understands that compromise often means that neither party is entirely satisfied with the result.

The main goal was to raise the debt ceiling, and that was done, although it was unfortunate that it could be accomplished only with all that sausage-making.

Meanwhile, there is something you can do to ensure that Republicans and Tea Party members all over the country realize that voting members of their districts are not satisfied with their radical stance on taxes and entitlements:

You can go to to sign up to protest at your local politician's office.

Oh, and you can keep writing and calling your senators and your representative to tell them how you want them to represent you.


Madame L

Monday, August 1, 2011

Relax Now? Not Yet

Dear Madame L,

I see on the morning news that Pres. Obama and Congressional leaders have reached a compromise that would allow the debt ceiling to be raised and our country to avoid defaulting on its obligations, and possibly even avoid a credit rating downgrade.

I'm exhausted from all the tension leading to this point, and I'd like to stop writing emails to and calling the offices of my elected officials in Washington.


Tired of Politics

Dear Tired,

Madame L feels your pain and thanks you for taking this opportunity to be active in our representative form of government.

However, Madame L must remind you that the deal isn't done yet. Although the leaders of the Republican and Democratic Parties have reached an agreement with Pres. Obama, the rank-and-file members from both parties and in both houses must also agree, and the deal must be voted into law.

Please continue to contact your two senators and your representative in Congress to let them know how YOU would like them to vote.

As always, Madame L doesn't care if your opinions are completely different from hers. What Madame L hopes we will all do is let our opinions be known so that our elected representatives will be able to represent us.


Madame L