Friday, August 31, 2012

Last Day of Republican Convention

Dear Madame L,

I think I can predict what you'll say about the final evening of the Republican National Convention. I think you'll say it didn't move you, didn't change your mind about Mitt Romney, and so on.


Am I Right?

Dear On the Button,

You should be out there making money off your predicting skills! 

Madame L loved the talk by Grant Bennett, who sounded just like the faithful Mormon leader he is, talking about the "wonderful, even glorious hours" he spent together with Mitt Romney in service and how they "embraced Christ's admonition" to take care of the least of those among us.. I loved how he quoted James, too, on what true religion is, to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction.

Madame L also loved the parts of Mitt Romney's acceptance speech where he talked about his family and about what's important to him.

But here's what Madame L did not like:

Madame L did not like the joint speech by Newt and Callista Gingrich about Ronald Reagan, full of the usual lies and demagoguery.

Madame L did not like Clint Eastwood's ridiculous speech, talking to an empty chair and pretending that Pres. Obama would use the f-word like Mr. Eastwood apparently does.

Madame L did not like Mitt Romney's use (again) of the dog whistle, saying we need a "real American," as if Pres. Obama is somehow not as much an American as Mitt Romney is.

Madame L did not like the war talk at the end of Mitt Romney's speech, the way he called out Vladimir Putin (no, Madame L isn't a fan of Putin, either, but that was off message and struck the wrong note) and his threatening war on Syria and Iran, while not even mentioning how we need to get our troops back home from Afghanistan.

Madame L did not like the fact that Mitt Romney did not talk about the need for the two political parties to work together. 

Madame L did not like the way that the entire Republican Party does not talk about the fact that they, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell, made it their main goal, beginning on Pres. Obama's Inauguration Day in 2009, to get him out of office, and the fact that they have opposed every legislative initiative he has brought before Congress since then, even initiatives they themselves had voted for in the past.

Madame L did not like the way Mitt Romney acted like he, and only he, would be able to promise 12 million new jobs in the next 4 years---the exact number of jobs projected by non-partisan wonks to be created in the next 4 years no matter who is in office.

Madame L did not like to hear Mitt Romney tearing down the Affordable Care Act.

Madame L did not like the wild way the audience applauded when Mitt Romney made fun of the idea of man-made global climate change---and the way the audience did not applaud at all when Mitt Romney talked about taking care of the sick and the needy among us.

So, you're right. Madame L still thinks Mitt Romney is a nice guy, even though his proposed budget has been called "mathematically impossible" by every non-partisan economics/policy group that has studied it, and even though his running mate lied and lied and lied again in his speech earlier in the convention, and even though the entire Republican Party seems to have moved so far to the right to accommodate the Tea Party that they're not even on the same planet with their supposed hero Ronald Reagan any more.


Madame L

Thursday, August 30, 2012

WHO Is Lecturing On Foreign Policy?!?

Hi Madame L,

It's me again. Just read your rant about Ryan and Santorum, and wondering what you think about Condolleezza Rice's speech at the convention.


Me Again

Dear Me Again,

Here's what Madame L thought about the outrage of anyone believing Ms. Rice, co-author of the Bush administration's outrageous and idiotic and, ultimately, failed, foreign policy, would have anything valid, worthwhile, or even vaguely interesting to say about the Obama administration's foreign policy:

Ms. Rice has nothing to say to anyone about foreign policy, unless she wants to apologize for helping Bush and Cheney ruin our relations with foreign countries, fail to catch Osama bin Laden, and lower our standing in the world.

And the very idea that Mitt Romney, now the leader of the Republican Party, could have any valid criticism of Pres. Obama's foreign policy is a joke. 

Look at how Romney did on his world tour last month: he insulted the mayor, city, and people of London while accepting huge donations from Barclays officials who will soon be investigated by the U.S. government; showed a willingness to go along with millionaire and money-launderer Sheldon Adelson's terroristic support of Israel; and in Poland couldn't control one of his aides who began cursing at reporters.

No, Madame L thinks that when the Republicans trot out the Condolleezza Rices and Mia Loves and Artur Davises and Marco Rubios at the convention, no matter what they say, their message is in the appearance alone. The Republicans seem to be saying, "See, we have some people of color, too, and some of them are women!"; while if you look at the delegates, people of color are few and far between.

(See this article for an analysis of the attempted "rainbow coalition" appearance at the convention. Here's a quote from the article:

    ("Still, keeping up appearances is a ritual. Go to a conservative event and there will always be at least one black person on the stage, visible in every photo op of the candidate or speaker, as there was at a recent Romney-Ryan event in Mooresville, N.C.

   ("What usually happens to me happened there, when a reporter, looking for a black Romney fan, started asking me questions. It’s always the same, whether it’s at the national Tea Party conference in Nashville or an NRA annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C. — a hopeful look of discovery followed by disappointment when I reveal I’m just a reporter, too.")


Madame L

Weird Word of the Week: Chirurgeon

"Chirurgeon" means, according to Samuel Johnson's dictionary, "One that cures ailments, not by internal medicines, but outwards applications. It is now generally pronounced, and by many written, 'surgeon.'"

The word comes from "hand" and "work." So, a surgeon uses his hands to work on a patient. In medieval times, surgeons were often barbers and butchers and learned their "trade" by hands-on experience. After the Restoration, though, according to "The Chirurgeon's Apprentice," their advocacy of "practical" medicine---cutting out the infections instead of treating them with medicines of questionable efficacy, elevated them within the medical community to be more equal with physicians (who got their name from their use of "physics," or emetics).

At The Chirurgeon's Apprentice, you can read more about "the horrors of pre-anaesthetic surgery." However, Madame L warns her Dear Readers, most of the stories told there are gruesome and should not be read on a full or squeamish stomach.

Ryan and Santorum at the Convention

But what about the other speakers at the Republican convention, Dear Madame L? What did you think about Mitt Romney's vice-presidential running mate, Paul Ryan? He seems to have some firm ideas that he hasn't waffled all over the place with.


Just Wondering

Dear Wondering,

First, a warning: Madame L abhors Paul Ryan and couldn't actually watch or even listen his speech; she had to read it online, later.  (If you want to read it and/or listen to it online, it's available here.)

Madame L doesn't think it's enough to have "some firm ideas" if they're based on lies and misunderstandings and misinterpretations of economic theories and hypocrisy and pure and unadulterated greed.

And that sums up Madame L's interpretation of Paul Ryan and his speech at the convention.

To quote from another observer,'s Joan Walsh, who is also one of Madame L's all-time-favorite political and social writers, and was also, like Paul Ryan, raised as a Catholic:

   "His most brazen lie accused President Obama of “raiding” Medicare by taking the exact same $716 billion that Ryan and the House GOP notoriously voted to slash. It was stunning. (emphasis added by Madame L)

   "But that’s not all. He attacked Obama for failing to keep open a Janesville GM plant that closed under Bush in 2008. (emphasis added by Madame L) He hit him for a credit-rating downgrade that S&P essentially blamed on GOP intransigence. (emphasis added by Madame L) He claimed that all taxpayers got from the 2009 stimulus was “more debt,” when most got a tax cut (and the stimulus is known to have saved between 1.4 and 3.3 million jobs).  (emphasis added by Madame L)  He derided the president for walking away from the Simpson Bowles commission deficit-cutting recommendations when Ryan himself, a commission member, voted against those recommendations. (emphasis added by Madame L)

   "He blamed Obama for a deficit mostly created by programs he himself voted for – from two wars, tax cuts, new Medicare benefits and TARP  (emphasis added by Madame L) ....

   "...Finally, the man chided by the Catholic Bishops for his anti-poor budget (emphasis added by Madame L)  had the audacity to say, 'The greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.' Ryan’s budget decimates programs for “those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” (emphasis added by Madame L)

   "The sanctimonious V.P. nominee seems to have forgotten the Ninth Commandment: 'Thou shalt not lie.' Ryan believes he can say anything and get away with it."

Madame L is going to start referring to "Lyin' Ryan" from now on if she's ever required to speak or write about him again.

Here's another reporter's listing of Paul Ryan's "false or misleading statements":

  • The GM plant in Janesville. Ryan mentioned it in a pretty effective section on the Obama-induced pangs of his hometown. But as Matthew DeLuca explained two weeks ago, GM announced the closure during the Bush presidency. Ryan hustled to save it. He voted for the GM bailout, in another attempt to save it. You can call that proof of government's failure, sure, but Obama didn't force it on the city.

  • "The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst." That's extraordinarily hard to argue, and Ryan's office lobbied effectively for some stimulus grants that went to his district.

  • "$716 billion, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama." Not really true, either. The Medicare spending "cuts" are of the sort that Ryan defended when he was rising through the House—reductions in future reimbursement rates.

  • "A downgraded America." S&P's rationale for downgrading the United States from AAA to AA+ "assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place." This was "because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues." Ryan's promised to keep those tax cuts for now, then try and flatten the code into two low rates, and we don't know what the S&P Tiki Gods think of that.

  • The "bipartisan debt commission" Ryan referred to was Simpson-Bowles. He served on it, and voted against the report, because it didn't tackle Medicare costs—which sort of brings us back to the "$716 billion funneling" issue.

Wait, I think you may say next, but what about Rick Santorum, another Catholic who spoke at the convention! What about his speech? 

Madame L believes Rick Santorum comes as close as possible to Lyin' Ryan for lies and hypocrisy, and he managed in his speech to add some pretty obvious race-baiting.  

As Joan Walsh wrote about Santorum's speech (which, again, Madame L did not watch or listen to), "And in case anyone was in danger of missing the racial subtext, Santorum linked Obama’s waiving the work requirement (he didn’t) to 'his refusal to enforce the immigration law.' Welfare recipients and illegal immigrants, oh my! Santorum made sure to scare the white working class with the depredation of those non-white slackers and moochers. It’s 1972 all over again." (emphasis added by Madame L)

In case you have wondered who believes this kind of stuff,  Madame L has seen the answer when she has talked to conservative friends who aren't paying attention. The "dog-whistle" nature of these kinds of speeches works on them. They don't bother to check the facts, and Lyin' Ryan and  the rest of the Republican "base" know that. 

By the way, bragging about your grandfather the coal miner, as both Rick Santorum and Ann Romney did,  is not a real substitute for having worked hard yourself, and it does not resonate with Madame L, nor, she thinks, does it resonate with many others who have had equally poor and hard-working grandparents and parents and who have themselves had to work hard, even if not in the coal mines. 

So Madame L hopes all of her Dear Readers are paying attention to the text, the subtext, the dog-whistles, and the hypocritical lies of the convention. 


Madame L 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Republican Convention: Who Cares?

Dear Madame L,

Are you watching the Republican Convention in Tampa at all this week? Or do you even care about what the Republican Party is doing?


Watching Avidly

Dear Avid Viewer,

Madame L is not watching the Republican Convention in Tampa much, as she regards political conventions as huge wastes of her valuable time. She did watch Ann Romney's speech on Tuesday night, and thought Mrs. Romney did a great job of showing how much she loves her husband. Madame L was reminded of some of the best church talks she has heard in her lifetime, full of love and warmth and commitment. And Madame L was impressed with Ann Romney and happy to hear about what a great guy Mitt Romney is. 

But did that talk persuade Madame L to vote for Mitt Romney? 

No, it did not. 

Madame L knows a lot of great guys, guys like Mitt Romney, guys who are good husbands and fathers and nice to other people, full of charity and love, leaders in their community and/or church, and all that. But that's not what we need in a president of our country. 

(And if it were, Barack Obama qualifies on all those same points.)

Here's who we need: 

---Someone who is honest (for example, someone who isn't afraid to reveal his tax returns....What is Mitt Romney afraid of? Is he afraid the Mormons who love him so much will be outraged to find out he didn't pay a full 10% tithing? Is he afraid the non-Mormons who love him so much will be outraged to find out he DID pay a full 10% tithing, and less than that in taxes? And, by the way, Madame L notes that while a bunch of Republicans are accusing Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) of lying for calling Mitt Romney out on his tax returns, the one Republican leader who has actually seen those tax returns, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is NOT calling Harry Reid a liar.

---Someone who relates to and sees the needs of real people (which Mitt Romney appears to be incapable of doing)

---Someone who hasn't changed his position back and forth, as blown about on the winds of Tea Party opinion, on birth control, women's reproductive health care in general, overall health care in general, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and every other important policy (how can we trust Mitt Romney at this point, when we don't know what he really believes about anything at all?)

---Someone who has actually struggled for four years for all of us, making every advance he has made in spite of the Republican leaders who have made it their goal for the past four years to ensure that Barack Obama won't be re-elected, voting against legislation they themselves supported earlier, taking outrageous stands that hurt their constituents, doing everything except passing laws that would actually create jobs or help anyone in any way 

---Someone with an actual vision for the future, for getting jobs, for cutting waste and abuse in government bureaucracies without cutting the social safety net that will keep our Middle Class strong instead of turning us into a third-world country where the rich supporters of Romney et al. will continue to get richer while the rest of us get poorer and poorer

---We need Barack Obama to continue for four more years as president, and we need a Democratic majority in the Senate and increased numbers in the House. 

---We need to start doing all those things the Republican Party is talking about at their convention in Tampa but has no intention of actually doing.


Madame L

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lance Armstrong: Guilty or Not?

Dear Madame L,

I was sad to read that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has imposed on Lance Armstrong a lifetime ban from professional cycling and erased 14 years of his career.

That's supposedly because they have more than 12 witnesses who will testify that they saw Armstrong using performance-enhancing drugs. 

Do you believe this?


Should I Keep Wearing My Live-Strong Bracelet?

Dear Believer,

Madame L is not very up on bicycling, Lance Armstrong, or the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). But, thanks to your question, she has read a little on the subject of Mr. Armstrong's years-long battle with the USADA. A lot of analytical articles have been published online and in the print media on the subject. Here's one which Madame L found illuminating. 

And, as Madame L followed the lead about the many objections to many in the cycling community to the USADA and its methods in general and its pursuing of Mr. Armstrong in particular,  Madame L is even more inclined to give Mr. Armstrong the benefit of the doubt.

From this article, for example, Madame L learned that even the judge who ruled for the USADA recently objected to some of the USADA's methods, writing, "[T]here are troubling aspects of this case, not least of which is USADA's apparent single-minded determination to force Armstrong to arbitrate the charges against him, in direct conflict with UCI's equally evident desire not to proceed against him." 

The judge also wrote,  "Among the Court's concerns is the fact that USADA has targeted Armstrong for prosecution many years after his alleged doping violations occurred, and intends to consolidate his case with those of several other alleged offenders, including - incredibly - several over whom USA Cycling and USOC apparently have no authority whatsoever. Further, if Armstrong's allegations are true, and USADA is promising lesser sanctions against other allegedly offending riders in exchange for their testimony against Armstrong, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that USADA is motivated more by politics and a desire for media attention than faithful adherence to its obligations to USOC." (Emphasis added by Madame L)

Madame L still doesn't know whether Mr. Armstrong broke the rules or the USADA did. But she also read this article, "The Long Ride," which reports on a journalist's experience with Mr. Armstrong and his team in 2002.

Madame L knows she is naive and too trusting about her heroes, but these two articles make her think Mr. Armstrong is not guilty as charged by the USADA, which is notorious itself for cheating and hounding athletes who don't deserve that treatment.

Here's a bit from "The Long Ride":

   "In all, during those three weeks in July, Armstrong spent eighty-six hours, seventeen minutes, and twenty-eight seconds on the bike. “Lance almost killed himself training for the last Tour,” Bruyneel told me. “This year, he is in even better shape. But the press still wants to talk about drugs.”

   'It is, of course, hard to write about cycling and not discuss performance-enhancing drugs, because at times so many of the leading competitors seem to have used them. Strict testing measures have been in force since 1998, when the Tour was nearly cancelled after an assistant for the Festina team was caught with hundreds of vials of erythropoietin, or EPO, a hormone that can increase the oxygen supply to the blood. But the changes have brought only limited success: just this May, Stefano Garzelli and Gilberto Simoni, two of Europe’s leading cyclists, were forced to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia, Italy’s most important race.

   'Because Armstrong is the best cyclist in the world, there is an assumption among some of those who follow the sport that he, too, must use drugs. Armstrong has never failed a drug test, however, and he may well be the most frequently examined athlete in the history of sports. Whenever he wins a day’s stage, or finishes as one of the top cyclists in a longer race, he is required to provide a urine sample. Like other professionals, Armstrong is also tested randomly throughout the year. (The World Anti-Doping Agency, which regularly tests athletes, has even appeared at his home, in Austin, Texas, at dawn, to demand a urine sample.) Nobody questions Armstrong’s excellence. And yet doubts remain: is he really so gifted that, like Secretariat, he easily dominates even his most talented competitors?

   '“It’s terribly unfair,” Bruyneel told me as we drove through the mountains. “He is already winning, and is extremely fit. Still, people always ask that one question: How can he do this without drugs? I understand why people ask, because our sport has been tainted. But Lance has a different trick, and I have watched him do it now for four years: he just works harder than anyone else alive.”"

Did you catch that last sentence? "But Lance has a different trick...he just works harder than anyone else alive." (Emphasis added by Madame L)

Also, from that article, Madame L was impressed to learn that Mr. Armstrong's heart is almost a third larger than that of an average man and that his resting heartrate is about 32 beats per minute. There are more fascinating details about Mr. Armstrong's upbringing and early life in sports and about how his fight against cancer helped turn him around, the kinds of details that may convince you, too, that he is an honestly exceptional athlete.
Madame L recommends highly that you read the whole article. And Madame L is going to fish out her own yellow Live-Strong bracelet which she put away in a drawer somewhere a few years ago when someone gave her a new bracelet, and start wearing it again.


Madame L

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Sunday Book Review, August 26, 2012: Reaching the Animal Mind

At the county fair earlier this month, Madame L saw the Pirate's Parrot and "Pirate" Chris Biro's many parrots, conures, and cockatoos (all of which of course are included in the biological order Psittaciformes). She was amazed at how the pirate let the birds fly freely out away from his pirate ship, trusting that they would come back, which involves not only their wanting to come back to him, but also their being able to find their way back and their not being attacked by predators on their flight out and back.

Madame L talked to Mr. Biro, who gave her some advice on how to train her own birds as well as her beloved grand-dogs, so Madame L found this book, "Reaching the Animal Mind," by Karen Pryor. Ms. Pryor has written many books about how to train animals using the "clicker" method, which Madame L will be using. One of Ms. Pryor's first books on the topic was "Don't Shoot the Dog!" which Madame L didn't get because she wasn't focused so much on dog training, but which Madame L will try to check out from her local library.

Meanwhile, she has been thoroughly enjoying this book, "Reaching the Animal Mind." And one reason she's glad she bought it (used, from, for $4.00) is that she can, and has been, underlining and highlighting furiously. There is so much good information in this book that Madame L will have to read it a couple of times, at least, and it's so well written that Madame L will not mind having to read it a couple of times, or more.

Another thing that recommends the book to every reader who is interested in training any animal (and many humans---more about that later) is that key points in the book have links where you can actually see the training method being discussed, or the incident being described.

For instance, have you seen the famous video of the dog dancing merengue with the man? Here it is, just in case you've missed it:

How does he do it? Well, Madame L doesn't know about this dog and its human, but she does know, from reading "Reaching the Animal Mind" and watching Karen Pryor's video (in the online chapter 4) on the dog that performs a Charlie Chaplin routine, that it's done with the clicker training method.

For information about the Parrot's Pirate and avian training, check out 

Ms. Pryor started by training dolphins, a story which in itself is fascinating. But she has also trained dogs, wolves, parrots, rats, even various fish and crustaceans (don't knock it till you've tried it, or read about it!)...and has trained people to train their various pets.

And, since Madame L mentioned training humans, here it is: Ms. Pryor isn't talking about how to train your husband or wife to pick up his/her socks or whatever. She's talking about helping people figure out what they need to do to improve their gymnastics routine, for instance. This is done, obviously, with their consent and at their request. And it works.

And that's what works about the clicker training, as opposed to traditional training methods, for all animals, too. The Aha! moment for the trainer comes when the animal gives a little leap of joy, or lick of thanks, and when the trainer sees the Aha! moment, the gleam of understanding, in the animal's eyes, when it figures out how to do what it needs and wants to do.

Madame L cannot recommend this book too highly. As she already noted, Madame L will be re- and re-reading this book. And she'll report back to you, Dear Readers, how the clicker training goes.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Is Romney Really a Birther?

Dear Madame L,

I heard that Mitt Romney said something to a crowd in his home state of Michigan about how everybody knows he was born there.

Everybody laughed. Like it was funny to be jabbing again at Pres. Obama, digging into the garbage heap of people who still believe or pretend to believe in that birther nonsense.

What do you think?


Not a Birther

Dear Not a Birther,

Madame L thanks you for changing the tone of her recent questions. 

Madame L is also most definitely not a birther, and Madame L thinks that Mitt Romney's passing off his comment as if it were some kind of joke is a disingenuous, dirty, low-down, dastardly, and devious device for trying to have it both ways, as he does with most every issue in this campaign.

Mr. Romney, Madame L wishes you would stick to the program you keep saying you're interested in, and at least pretend like you have an actual plan to help Americans get jobs.

Oh, that's right, Mr. Romney, your plan is probably actually to send more jobs overseas, as your pet company, Bain Capital, is still doing.

But at least have the honor and dignity of using real "humor," not lying jabs, when you want to win over an audience. And maybe not invite more birthers to speak at your convention? Oh, please, come clean!


Madame L

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Irish President Calls Out Tea-Partying Radio Host

Dear Readers,

You may enjoy listening to this radio interview with the President of Ireland, who has a clearer view of current American politics than many of us have. Maybe his having studied and taught here, but now having some distance, helps give him his perspective.

(One thing Madame L got out of it is the firm desire never to do or say anything that would lead to this man thinking she's just "a wanker whipping up fear.")

From Wikipedia: "Michael Daniel Higgins is the ninth and current President of Ireland, having taken office on 11 November 2011 following victory in the 2011 Irish presidential election. Higgins is an Irish politician, poet, sociologist, author and broadcaster."


Madame L 

Will the Real Objectivist/Libertarian Please Stand Up?

Dear Madame L,

It seems like all the conservative Republican politicians who don't identify outright with the Tea Partyers are calling themselves libertarians, but they are all so deeply in debt to the federal government, I don't see how they can really think they're libertarians. Isn't there a whole Libertarian Party? Why don't they join that, if they're such libertarians?


Confirmed Big-Government Socialist

Dear Comrade,

Madame L likes your style! Thanks for your question, which has given Madame L a chance to research the Libertarian Party and some pseudo-libertarians in conservative Republican politics.

Madame L thinks that anyone who has ever voted for, or accepted, or accepted funds on behalf of constituents, for any government program (Social Security, Medicare, government-subsidized loans of any and every kind, bailout funds, disaster relief funds, ANY program at all) is not really a libertarian. In fact, they are all, like you, and like me, confirmed big-government socialists, even though they can't admit it because they know no one will ever vote for them again if they do.

That said, Madame L has just found an article indicating that the "father of libertarianism," Robert Nozick, eventually lost his own faith in the philosophy.

Madame L thinks life is too short even to discuss Ayn Rand's idiotic, sophomoric, puerile, [insert favorite demeaning adjective here] so-called philosophy of libertarianism. But Madame L brought it up so she could mention that the only people she has ever personally known who admired Ayn Rand or her philosophy were adolescent males. FWIW.

Now, as to the Libertarian Party. Yes, it does exist, and it has a presidential candidate, Gary Johnson.

Gary Johnson: Ryan's no libertarian
Gary Johnson(Credit: AP/Damian Dovargenes
According to Alex Pareene at, "The Libertarian movement has been working for years to infiltrate the GOP and basically what they have accomplished is getting a bunch of Republicans to pay lip service to certain tenets of Austrian Economics."

However, the truth is, Pareene asserts (and Madame L agrees), that these people are only interested in keeping tax rates low for the 1%. If it takes increased taxes on the rest of us 99% (which it does), and if it requires the government using our tax money to bail them out when they ruin the auto industry or banking industry or whatever their next scam will be (which it does), that's just fine with them.

And here's what Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson says about Paul Ryan, the latest and famousest Republican to proclaim his loyalty to libertarian philosophy: "He voted for the Patriot Act, he voted for the National Defense Appropriation Act, he voted to ban online poker, he’s proposing a budget that gets balanced in thirty years. He is anything but a libertarian, anything but." Pareene notes that Gary Johnson also pointed out that Ryan, a social conservative, also voted against marriage equality and against women's reproductive rights.

Look at Paul Ryan's voting record. Again, Madame L thinks life is too short to go into all the details here, but here's one item: the fact that he has accepted government bailout funds for his district.  
At first he said he had never accepted the money: "I'm not one [of those] people who votes for something then writes to the government to ask them to send us money. I did not request any stimulus money." He also said, later, "I never asked for stimulus. I don’t recall…so I really can't comment on it. I opposed the stimulus because it doesn't work, it didn't work."
He apologized for that when it was pointed out he'd lied about it, and "accepted responsibility." (That's a cool trick, isn't it, accepting responsibility retroactively! I wonder if he learned it from Mitt Romney. Nah. All politicians know that trick. They're born knowing that trick, or they would never make it in politics.) 
Later, he said in a statement: "After having these letters called to my attention I checked into them, and they were treated as constituent service requests in the same way matters involving Social Security or Veterans Affairs are handled. This is why I didn’t recall the letters earlier. But they should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that."
(Please note that he really thinks Social Security and Veterans Affairs are acceptable---something a true Libertarian would never do.)

Madame L thinks "hypocritical" is too polite an adjective to use for this kind of slimy, wriggly, deniability-based, gutter-living political behavior.


Madame L

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Weird Word of the Week: Javelina

A javelina (pronounced "hav-a-len-a") is a wild pig, as in peccary or skunk pig. It's not the same as a domestic pig, though feral domestic pigs apparently can also become as wild and vicious as javelinas.

Some environmentalists are now suggesting that you can help save the environment by shooting wild pigs.

Madame L thinks that makes as much sense as shooting English sparrows and starlings. 

The Republican Party Vs. Women

Dear Madame L,

Why can't people just get over Rep. Akin's remark about "legitimate rape" and abortion? He apologized for mis-speaking, and he won the primary election in his state, so why can't people just get on with the election?



Dear Puzzled,

Are you a man or a woman? Are you a Republican, Democrat, or Independent --- or with no declared party affiliation? Are you pro-choice or anti-choice? Do you think science has generally correct facts about the human reproductive system? 

Madame L asked all those questions not because she thinks they will make a difference in how you think, just as she doesn't think Rep. Akin's so-called apology should make a difference in how anyone thinks about him or any middle-aged white male Republican politician. Because here's the fact: 

What Rep. Akin said about women who have been raped was not a misstatement. It was the truth about how he feels about women. He feels that they are trying to pull something over on men, get something out of the government, and escape responsibility for pregnancy. He really believes the nonsense about how the body of a woman who has been raped can somehow sense that the "product" of that rape should be naturally aborted. 

(For just one of many examples of the untruth of that assertion, please read this article by a woman who was raped. For the fuller picture, please read this abstract of this scientific article on statistics of pregnancy as the result of rape.  Or, if you don't want to follow the link to that abstract, Madame L provides it at the end of this post.)

And what Rep. Akin said about women is a reflection of the Republican Party's position toward all women. One of the official "planks" of the Republicans' platform for the 2012 election is to ban all abortions, for any reason, including rape and incest. 

All the talk about love of family and respect for life are just a screen to hide the Republican Party's war on women. Yes, Madame L used that expression. It's a war on women: on equal pay for equal work, on efforts to end discrimination, and on their own bodies and rights over their own bodies.

Is Madame L pro-abortion? No, she is not, and nor does she know anyone who is. Nobody Madame L has ever talked to, especially women who have had an abortion, thinks abortion is good. It may be the only choice, though, for a woman who has been raped or whose pregnancy is the result of incest. 

And that is why Madame L is pro-choice. And, because she believes women are intelligent and capable of making sound decisions about their lives, their work, their families, and everything they may ever have the opportunity to make decisions about, she believes women are the ones to choose. 

Certainly who is NOT capable or choosing for any individual women or for women as a whole is Rep. Akin or any other privileged conservative male who has never faced the possibility or consequences of being raped.

Does Madame L's pro-choice stance make her un-Christian or a bad member of her own church? No, it does not. Her own church preaches the virtue of "free agency," a right given all humans by God from before the earth was even created.

What about other Christian denominations, or the general American public? Quoting from this article by Mary Elizabeth Williams on Christianity and abortion: " Bill Clinton helpfully once explained, “I have never met anybody that was pro-abortion. That is not what pro-choice means. It just means we don’t want to criminalize the choice.”

Also from Ms. Williams' article: "Christian Barack Obama, who supports upholding Roe v. Wade and says that “A woman’s ability to decide how many children to have and when, without interference from the government, is one of the most fundamental rights we possess. It is not just an issue of choice, but equality and opportunity for all women.” Even Catholic Vice President Joe Biden, who has said that he believes “as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception,” has a consistent record of supporting a woman’s right to choose."

Madame L also notes that some of the conservative Republican men's arguments against abortion may be changed when one of their own family members is raped. For example, Dan Quayle, a firm opponent of abortion, said what he would do if one of his own daughters became pregnant as a result of rape: “My position is that I understand from a medical situation, immediately after a rape is reported, that a woman normally, in fact, can go to the hospital and have a D and C.” (From "Akin is the GOP") 

(Note to Mr. Quayle and all men whose daughters may ever be in this "medical situation": a D and C performed in these circumstances is an abortion.)

Madame L was going to quote Mitt Romney here about sauce for the goose and the gander, but decided against it because his own opinions on these issues seem to have swung from one end of the spectrum to the other, depending on who he's currently courting. And since he's now courting conservative Republican men, he doesn't think women can/should make their own choices.

Sincerely, and also puzzled,

Madame L

* * * * * Abstract of article: Rape-related pregnancy: estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women. Holmes MM, Resnick HS, Kilpatrick DG, Best CL. Source:Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston 29425-2233, USA.

OBJECTIVE: We attempted to determine the national rape-related pregnancy rate and provide descriptive characteristics of pregnancies that result from rape.


STUDY DESIGN:A national probability sample of 4008 adult American women took part in a 3-year longitudinal survey that assessed the prevalence and incidence of rape and related physical and mental health outcomes.


RESULTS:The national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0% per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45); among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. Among 34 cases of rape-related pregnancy, the majority occurred among adolescents and resulted from assault by a known, often related perpetrator. Only 11.7% of these victims received immediate medical attention after the assault, and 47.1% received no medical attention related to the rape. A total 32.4% of these victims did not discover they were pregnant until they had already entered the second trimester; 32.2% opted to keep the infant whereas 50% underwent abortion and 5.9% placed the infant for adoption; an additional 11.8% had spontaneous abortion.


CONCLUSIONS: Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency. It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence. As we address the epidemic of unintended pregnancies in the United States, greater attention and effort should be aimed at preventing and identifying unwanted pregnancies that result from sexual victimization.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand, and the Budget

Dear Madame L,

I don't know why you dismiss Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's co-candidate. He has proposed a cost-cutting plan for the federal budget that would get our country back to being debt free. And even though he has said one of his influences is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, he has since gone back to citing his Roman Catholic upbringing as the major influence on his own philosophy.

So, what do you say about that?


Still On the Fence

Dear Fence-Sitter:

Madame L thinks you should get off that fence before it jumps up and bites you on your you-know-what.

Paul Ryan's budget is a joke, and so is his so-called philosophy. It has nothing to do with the virtue of Christian compassion he should have learned as a child in the Catholic church, nothing to do with the virtue of looking out for his fellow humans he should have learned as a college student who could afford to go to college because of the Social Security payments his family received after his father died, and in fact nothing to do with anything except the usual politician's incredible narcissism and self-regard.

Madame L thinks you may want to read what a real economist says about Paul Ryan's budget, and so she provides you with this link to an article by Paul Krugman in which he dissects Ryan's so-called policies.

Here are three paragraphs from the article:

    "On the spending side, Mr. Ryan proposes huge cuts in Medicaid, turning it over to the states while sharply reducing funding relative to projections under current policy. That saves around $800 billion. He proposes similar harsh cuts in food stamps, saving a further $130 billion or so, plus a grab-bag of other cuts, such as reduced aid to college students. Let’s be generous and say that all these cuts would save $1 trillion. 

    "On top of this, Mr. Ryan includes the $716 billion in Medicare savings that are part of Obamacare, even though he wants to scrap everything else in that act. Despite this, Mr. Ryan has now joined Mr. Romney in denouncing President Obama for “cutting Medicare”; more on that in a minute. 

    "So if we add up Mr. Ryan’s specific proposals, we have $4.3 trillion in tax cuts, partially offset by around $1.7 trillion in spending cuts — with the tax cuts, surprise, disproportionately benefiting the top 1 percent, while the spending cuts would primarily come at the expense of low-income families. Over all, the effect would be to increase the deficit by around two and a half trillion dollars."

Madame L recaps here: Paul Ryan's proposals would 

INCREASE THE DEFICIT by $2,500,000,000 while 


How can anyone even begin to think Paul Ryan is serious about these proposals?

Again, quoting Mr. Krugman:

    "If this sounds like a joke, that’s because it is. Yet Mr. Ryan’s “plan” has been treated with great respect in Washington. He even received an award for fiscal responsibility from three of the leading deficit-scold pressure groups. What’s going on? 

    "The answer, basically, is a triumph of style over substance. Over the longer term, the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it — and in Washington, “fiscal responsibility” is often equated with willingness to slash Medicare and Social Security, even if the purported savings would be used to cut taxes on the rich rather than to reduce deficits. Also, self-proclaimed centrists are always looking for conservatives they can praise to showcase their centrism, and Mr. Ryan has skillfully played into that weakness, talking a good game even if his numbers don’t add up."

Are you paying attention? Please start paying attention to the real facts of the various proposals and policies being floated by Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney, not their TV coverage.

These things will make a difference for our future and the future of our children. If someone is just playing grownup, as Paul Ryan seems to be doing, then they're to be dismissed.

Pay attention, please,

Madame L, Still Dismissing Ryan

Monday, August 20, 2012

Witches Vs. Rape Victims

Dear Madame L,

I don't understand why people are so upset about a statement from Rep. Todd Akin saying that women who are really raped legitimately don't end up pregnant because their body rejects the product of that rape.



Dear Sincerely Sincere,

Thanks for giving Madame L a chance to clear this up, even if you could not possibly be seriously serious or sincere about this. Right? Please tell Madame L you're joking!

At any rate, here's the thing, Mr. Sincere. (And if you're not a mister, please let Madame L know that, too.)

Rape is ALWAYS forcible, by definition. When a person is raped, whether it's by someone she or he knows or is married to or by a complete stranger, no matter what kind of clothes she was wearing, no matter how drunk or sober she was or where she was walking, it is rape. 

And saying that if a woman was really raped she wouldn't become pregnant is simply ridiculous. That's like the old people in Salem who said if a woman wasn't really a witch, she would drown. Talk about a lose-lose proposition for vulnerable women! 

If Rep. Akin is still running for the Senate in Missouri by tomorrow, it will be a triumph of stupidity and ignorance over decency.

And if you have any more stupid and/or ignorant questions like the one you asked Madame L today, please take them someplace else.

Sincerely, seriously,

Madame L

The Sunday Book Review, August 19, 2012: "Dear Gangster"

Subtitle: "Advice for the Lonelyhearted from the Gangster of Love"

Sample question: Dear Gangster: I've done a couple of things in the past that I'm certainly not proud of but my partner uses them on me every chance he gets. I tell him the past is the past and those things don't matter any more but I guess if they matter to him they matter, right? --- Past Lives

Sample answer: Dear Past Lives: You can tell yourself the problem is the past and agonize over it and think about what you could have done differently or what you could have denied or kept secret or pinned on somebody else. Or you can tell yourself the problem is the present and get rid of the guy.

Madame L's opinion: Best love advice ever written!

If you want this book: You can get it from, new for $20, or in the Kindle edition for $16.99, or used starting at $0.01. 

How to know if you want this book: If you've ever been in love with someone who didn't love you back equally, if you've ever been loved by someone you didn't love equally, if you've ever wanted something you couldn't have, if you've ever been alive and you have a sense of humor, you'll enjoy it. 

How to know if you don't want this book: Even if all the above apply, but you're a very busy person with a very busy life and you only read histories and biographies, you may not want the book...but then that may be a sign that you need it.

Who *IS* the Gangster of Love, anyway? Dave Barry?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Weird Word of the Week: HiPPO

Of course we all know the word "hippo" is short for "hippopotamus," which is Greek for "water horse," which is weird enough.

But today Madame L wants to mention the word "HiPPO," which is short for "highest-paid person's opinion," which is the way decisions are often made in many organizations, from small families to large businesses. 

And this way of decision-making is often counter-productive, as Madame L learned from this article in the May 2012 issue of "Wired" magazine: "The A/B Test."

Instead of having the "top" person make a decision, it works better --- that is, it makes more money and achieves other goals better, while making the non-"top" people happier --- than the HiPPO way. Here's a bit from the article itself:

     "As Google analytics expert Avinash Kaushik declares, 'Most websites suck because HiPPOs create them.'

     "Tech circles are rife with stories of the clueless boss who almost killed a project because of a 'mere opinion.' In Amazon’s early days, developer Greg Linden came up with the idea of giving personalized 'impulse buy' recommendations to customers as they checked out, based on what was in their shopping cart. He made a demo for the new feature but was shot down. Linden bristled at the thought that the idea might not even be tested. 'I was told I was forbidden to work on this any further. It should have stopped there.'

     "Instead Linden worked up an A/B test. It showed that Amazon stood to gain so much revenue from the feature that all arguments against it were instantly rendered null by the data. 'I do know that in some organizations, challenging an SVP would be a fatal mistake, right or wrong,' Linden wrote in a blog post on the subject. But once he’d done an objective test, putting the idea in front of real customers, the higher-ups had to bend. Amazon’s culture wouldn’t allow otherwise." 

Madame L recommends the entire article, which is full of Ah-ha! moments and useful principles.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Sunday Book Review, August 12, 2012: Madame L Waxes Snarketic About Some Magazines

It's not that Madame L isn't still reading books, but she has recently come into some free magazines, and will make just a few snarky comments before going on to do everything else, too, a day late this week.

---O, The Oprah Magazine, September 2012 issue: Great article called "The Promised Land," about a woman who is saving thousands of acres of dead earth in the American Southwest, restoring it so that migratory birds and amazing wild animals are now returning, from javelina to ring-tailed cats and black bears, bobcats, coyotes, ocelots, and bobcats. And not a mention is made in the article of the woman's clothing. 

---Outside, September 2012 issue: Completely uninformative and boring article about Sun Valley, Idaho, with stupid photos of a bunch of people who live and work there. The guys are all sitting around talking to each other, and the lone woman is in one photo lying down on the ground like she's asleep, and in the only other photo in which she appears sitting on the tailgate of a station wagon showing how pretty and un-busy she is. (Leave that to the men!) And not only her clothes but all the clothes being worn by all the men, too,  have shopping information. SHOPPING INFORMATION! Because, you know, when you read Outside Magazine, you mostly want to know where to buy your jeans and denim jackets for when you're sitting around with your friends (or, if you're a girl, where to buy your expensive corduroy jacket and color-block sweater vest for when you're lying down on the ground pretending you don't care what the men are talking about or pretending you don't have to have a single thought in your pretty little head, anyway).

---Time, August 20, 2012: A picture of Mars and our newest rover, Curiosity, on the cover. Thank you, Time Magazine!

---The New Yorker, Aug. 13 & 20, 2012: The cover has a very cute picture of Santa on a very small ice floe leaning against a barber's-red-striped North Pole, showing that The New Yorker people agree that global warming is a problem. Inside, the usual comics, which of course demand to be read first. Next, "The Mail," unintentionally hilarious, with letter-writers slapping the reader in the face with their intellectual superiority ("For Joyceans, the greatest moment in forensic linguistics occurred..."). 

Then, the usual articles, where the reader gets to guess what the writer is really trying to say ("In Beijing, Phelps did win gold in the morning. That's how important swimming had become" --- or this one, "Noah remained interested in hallucinogenic drugs." Dear Readers, you should have seen Madame L's double-take when she read that!).

Then, this issue has an actual article meant to be read and understood!---this time it's an article by Atul Gawande, who generally delivers.  

Then, an extended Interview and Visit with an Important Person, this time Imran Khan, so we can Understand how Very Important he is and How Extremely Privileged the Reporter is who traveled around Pakistan with this Former Cricket Star and Heart-Throb and Sympathize with his Very Important and Sincere Conversion to Islam and the Pakistani People while of course feeling a certain degree of Awe and Envy toward Said Reporter. An incomprehensible book review ("My Struggle"), followed by a singularly misguided movie review (the new Bourne movie), both of which remind Madame L that she doesn't give a rat's hind-quarters what the New Yorker reviewers think about anything, anyway. 

Oh, and in this issue, an eight-page review of several histories and reviews on Mormonism. Madame L read this whole article, something she usually can't force herself to do, given the usual pretentious and pseudo-intellectual self-congratulatory tone of the New Yorker's critics. She read the whole thing this time because Mormonism is a subject Madame L actually knows a little bit about, and she was hoping the critic this time would have something useful, interesting, or insightful to add to her store of knowledge about Mormonism. 

Sadly, he did not. He did add to Madame L's store of knowledge about critics of Mormonism. On second thought, not so much. They're really all the same, aren't they, with that very thin veneer of intellectual superiority covering their complete and total ignorance of the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and practices of its members, while performing nobless oblige duty for other critics, agnostics, and atheists, of holding each other up on scaffolding so rickety it's collapsing under the weight of its own ignorance, superciliousness and misguided arrogance. 

Madame L would write more about this issue, but it has left her with a bad taste in her mouth, which she may rinse out with a dose of political news on MSNBC. That should do the trick.

Reading this many magazines in a day is a soul-killer, and Madame L has promised herself not to do it again for a very long time (she knows you, Dear Readers, don't care how many magazines she reads!). Or, at least, not to read an entire "New Yorker" magazine this intently. Or maybe she just won't read "Outside" ever again, because what has she ever learned from it, anyway? Oprah, yes, and Time, probably.