Friday, October 31, 2008

Studs Terkel

Legendary historian, writer, foot soldier for labor, and a man who refused to betray his friends when called before Joe McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee, Studs Terkel, is gone.

Studs Terkel is dead---long live Studs Terkel!

from Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

The Sounds of Voting – and Check Writing

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Our Manhattan offices are in a building that also houses the New York City Board of Elections. So this is the season when we hear above our heads the sounds of heavy objects rolling across the floor into freight elevators. The moving men have arrived – and what they're transporting are voting machines being carted off to polling places.

It's reassuring, the sound of those big metal boxes being rolled out so we can cast our votes, but all too often in our fair city (as no doubt where you live, too) we are confronted by an end run on the part of a political elite, many of whom don’t really trust what comes out of the ballot box on Election Day unless they’ve fixed what goes in.

For some weeks now we’ve watched our mayor, Mike Bloomberg, maneuver to undermine the will of the people. Once upon a time the mayor supported the rule that city officials can only serve two terms.

But then someone pointed out term limits applied to him, too, and that he couldn’t run for a third term. So he set out to change the rules. But instead of asking the people to vote on it in a public referendum, the mayor decided he couldn’t risk his ambition on a fickle public.

So he turned first to his fellow moguls who own the city’s major newspapers – Murdoch, of the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal; Zuckerman of the Daily News, and Sulzberger of The New York Times.

Then, according to the Times, with his considerable philanthropic clout – before the financial meltdown, his worth was some $20 billion dollars – the mayor leaned for support on the community and arts groups that depend on his charitable largesse.

Then he dodged the public referendum process by jawboning and cajoling the city council whose members, lo and behold, would also enjoy a chance at a third term just by giving the mayor what he wants.

By just about all accounts Mayor Bloomberg has been a fine mayor, and there are good people arguing that Gotham City needs his unique experience during a financial crisis that not even Batman or Spiderman can untangle.

But New York said no to Rudy Giuliani when he tried to pull the third term hat trick in the aftermath of 9/11, and under other circumstances it’s likely Bloomberg, too, would have been told, “No, thank you. We prefer due process.”

The mayor’s ploy has the odor about it of Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s perennial plutocrat. But even Silvio’s forebears, those Roman emperors who similarly ruled by decree, had a minion standing behind them whose sole job was to whisper, “Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.”

We tell ourselves that no one is above the law, but that seems hard for some politicians to grasp.

So now we also have the spectacle of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, 84 years old, who likes to wear a tie emblazoned with the visage of that popular anti-hero, the Incredible Hulk. Convicted this week on seven counts of lying on financial disclosure forms, Stevens declared, “It’s not over yet.”

Then off he headed back to Alaska where the state’s Republican Party said voters shouldn’t be denied the services of one of the country’s most successful pork merchants just because he’s a convicted felon.

That’s the kind of argument we’ve always heard in Washington, and you have to wonder if Barack Obama or John McCain really think they can deliver on their promises to change that culture.

Special interests are entrenched and incorrigible, and they’re spending the money to keep it that way.

This year’s will be the most expensive federal elections in history – the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics estimates that the presidential and congressional candidates will spend more than $5.3 billion.

Among incumbents in the House of Representatives, 79 percent of their campaign funds come from beyond their home districts – of the top 20 zip codes making those contributions, 15 are in Washington, DC, and the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs – home base for lobbyists and lawyers, corporate PAC’s, unions and other special interests whose money buys access you don’t have as a citizen.

Nearly two and a half billion dollars are being spent for the presidency, twice what was spent four years ago and triple the amount in 2000.

The Obama campaign has boasted how it’s the average citizens who have been funding him – small contributions made over the Internet and such. But Senator Obama has no shortage of high rollers – he’s received more than 37 million from lawyers and lobbyists, 21.6 million from the communications and electronics industries, 16 million from health care interests.

While fewer than 2,600 contributors to John McCain list their occupation as “chief executive,” nearly 6,000 of Obama’s contributors are CEO’s. If you don’t think any of these donors will be hoping for at least a little something in return I’ve got a Bridge to Nowhere I’d like to sell you.

How can there be change when so much money is coming from the usual big business suspects?

Hedging their bets, many of them are giving more money to Democrats this year than Republicans – Democratic congressional candidates are receiving more from corporate political action committees than Republicans, the first time that’s happened since 1994.

The drug company lobbyist PhRMA – the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America – is prescribing more than $13 million worth of advertising for 28 members of Congress, 25 of whom are Democrats.

Democrats also hold a slight edge in money coming from the finance sector. Finance, insurance and the real estate industries – combined, they’re the biggest players of all in this election cycle, contributing more than $373 million to Democrats and Republicans. That’s on top of the $288 million they’ve spent so far this year on lobbying.

Is it any wonder that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is so freely donating banks and financial institutions the $700 billion financial bailout with so few conditions?

As Time magazine reported, “Uncle Sam has a new name on Wall Street – Sugar Daddy.”

So can change happen in Washington when the usual suspects are piling up money like sandbags to protect against the public’s clamor for a better deal?

We’re about to find out

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS. Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

Bandwagon Effect

On my way to work in the morning, for the past few weeks, I've amused myself by keeping track of McCain and Obama bumper stickers in a nearby parking lot. I was conducting my own informal poll.

Until today, I'd seen only one bumper sticker on a Volvo, and it was for McCain.

Thrilled to report now, four days before the election, there are many more bumper stickers, and Obama outnumbers McCain 3-1!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

1960 Revisited?

The race is very close, but Obama's lead is consistent! As long as he maintains a steady lead, however small, the White House is his.

Remember, in the 1960 election, JFK won 49.7% of the vote, and Nixon got 49.6% of the vote, hence Kennedy won the popular vote by 1/10 of 1%. With regard to the electoral college, in 1960, it was JFK--303 to Richard Nixon--219. Obviously, the electoral college map will be what clinches this election. Pennsylvania is the crucial state to watch, as is pretty evident.

But, apart from the math which would be daunting to JFK were he to be subjected to the same trial by mainstream media, efforts at disenfranchisement, and voter nullification, is the fatalism with which many approach not merely the polls, but the underlying premise of race, or religion, as a disqualifier.

Think we've come a long way since 1960? Well, think again. If a Muslim or Jew were to run for president, he or she would face the same bigotry Kennedy did back in 1960---so much for the information superhighway, and evolution. So much for intelligent design, too. Only a sadist would allow anything it created to remain stupid for this long.

As for JFK, he knew he had an uphill battle because he was a Catholic, but he was confident that, in the end, his religion would not stand in the way of his election to the highest office of the land. Can we assure the next generation of presidents of this?

If we've learned nothing else from the ugliness of this election, religious intolerance, and bigotry, in this country, is as much a part of the equation as race.

Just as the Constitution holds that there can be no religious test for office, there can be no racial test, either.

Thomas Jefferson, who once said "Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies," was right about something else, too. "The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights" as he told the Virginia Board of Visitors back in 1819.

John McCain's concept of a "Christian nation" is almost as reactionary as his running mate's feigned red scares. Palin may be proud she can handle a polysyllable like "socialist" without screwing it up, but the rest of the world is terrified to think that she may have any input, at all, in shaping our foreign policy, and we should be, too.

Obama will prevail---not by much. He'll get the electoral college majority, and do slightly better than JFK on the popular vote. As long as he maintains a consistent lead, victory will be his on election day.

But, to the victors go the spoils. It will be up to Obama to work with Congress, and the Supreme Court, to take the Bill of Rights off life support, affirm the separation of church and state, and immunize the Almighty from charges of corrupting the morals of a country by taking us to war.

Ultimately, too, it's up to the next president to show that, in the final analysis, the White House belongs to us!

Quote of the Day

Today's quote comes from Republican presidential candidate John McCain:

"But I am totally convinced that 99 and forty-four-one-hundredths percent of Americans are going to make the decision based on who is best to lead this country."

Let's prove him right----go Obama!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Triage 101

In the last gasp of their campaign for the presidency, and to save their stranglehood on Congress, the controlling fringe of the Republican party has been practicing the kind of triage we haven't seen since World War I with McCain/Palin working their way around the country turning embattled red states into so many wounded soldiers to be sorted out for treatment based on medical necessity.

But if the way John McCain has waged his campaign for the White House is any indication of how he would wage war, you can bet we'll spend another 100 years in Iraq.

And, while I sat transfixed earlier today watching footage of a television anchorwoman in Orlando, Florida quote Marx to Joe Biden, insisting that the quote provides further evidence that Obama is a "socialist," it was hard to forget which party gave us progressive income taxes, as well as the earned income credit.

It is hard to forget, too, whose idea it was to nationalize the banks, which party has given us record deficits, and the greatest income disparity since the 1920's. It's hard to imagine a candidate who probably thinks Karl Marx is "the one with the curly hair" twisting Economics 101 such that Obama is the one who raises taxes, not McCain.

Well, read my lips----if elected, John McCain will raise taxes, and not on the folks earning more than $250,000 a year, like Obama plans to do, but on the 98% who make less.

Somehow, I suspect that suggesting to Sarah Palin that she bone up on economic theory would be like telling Napoleon to take a water pill.

But, make no mistake, the Republican party has it all wrong this year if they think that they can win the White House, and the Senate race, by triage in key states. It is the issues that they need to triage, not the states. It is the values that folks like John McCain are running on that are in are in need of urgent care---the illusion that the former prisoner of war's policies will ensure that returning veterans will be better off in four years from now than they are today; the illusion that his sidekick, the Alaska governor, is a proponent of ethics reform, and a maverick.

Palin's attempts to usurp her power as governor to fire her brother-in-law were in violation of law, and ethics. Charging the state of Alaska for five days in a New York hotel for her daughters when she attended a four hour conference isn't my idea of ethics reform.

Tell me, what kind of maverick suggests that her opposition is a socialist, un-American, and consorts with "domestic terrorists?" If that kind of rhetoric qualifies one to be a "maverick," then Joe McCarthy got there first. More importantly, with this kind of fear and hate-mongering, is it any surprise that the feds stopped today what was the third plot to assassinate Barack Obama ?

So, what needs triage here? The red states that are hanging in balance for McCain, or the ugly truth that race is still a four letter word in America, and the one that is insulating itself with terms like "socialist," and "un-American." Yes, we not only have racism, in this country, we have career racism. We have people who have devoted their lives to seeing to it that diversity is something that happens behind closed doors.

Anyone who thinks, for a minute, that questioning Obama's patriotism has anything to do with Bill Ayers, or the Reverend Wright, is kidding themselves. It's about race, plain and simple. The irony, of course, is that it's not like we don't have prominent African-Americans a heartbeat away from the presidency----Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell.

Nobody ever questioned Powell or Rice's worthiness to be third after the vice president in the line of succession. While many may have found their position on key issues like weapons of mass destruction, and detainee interrogation techniques to be less than wholesome, nobody ever questioned their policies based on the color of their skin. But, then, of course, they were Bush appointees.

No one, for that matter, brought up race as an issue when Powell and Rice were nominated. Why would anyone want to make it an issue now?

Is it more acceptable to citizens of a country that has survived not merely the bombing of the World Trade Center, but slavery, lynch mobs, and segregation before that, to have a person of color as secretary of state than as commander-in-chief? Remember, too, that in addition to giving us progressive taxes, a Republican administration gave us our first black secretary of state, and these are the folks playing the race card to get elected?

But, now the party of Abraham Lincoln has stumbled on a major fault line. The party that has pulled off the biggest bloodless coup since Stalin took the reins in Moscow has been blind sided into devoting its limited resources into trying to resuscitate the neo-conservative agenda, as well as trying to secure those states that once waved the confederate flag, only to find that the flag proudly displayed throughout the south, the midwest, to the north, and the east, has been triaged, and no longer exists in black or white any more than it consists, as Barack Obama says, of red states or blue states, but only the United States.

Few will have...

"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation."

Robert F. Kennedy

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Top Cover"

Don't expect the earth to move on the morning of November 5th if, as we hope, Barack Obama wins this election, unless you happen to live in Northern California where it's been moving a lot lately. The work begins with his election, and doesn't end there.

An Obama win will mark the beginning, not the end, of the work that needs to be done. Undoing the damage of the Bush administration will not only take time, but resolve.

The election has managed to provide cover for Mr. Bush, and eclipse an outcry after revelations, by The Washington Post, more than a week ago, that his administration issued a pair of classified memos to the CIA, in 2003 and 2004, that "explicitly endorsed" so-called enhanced alternative interrogation techniques.

The officials who divulged the fact that the Bush administration gave the green light to torture came forward anonymously, and said that their primary reason for talking now is to avoid ramifications, and allegations that they took it into their own hands to waterboard detainees, and use other interrogation methods traditionally considered torture.

As these memos still remain classified, the agents, in question, want to come clean now before they are made public to insist that they had "top cover," that is, to insist that the executive branch signed off on their activities, and would immunize their actions.

The CIA has done nothing less than provide proof that this administration lied to the American people when it said "we do not torture." And, it is up to us, each and every one of us going to the polls on November 4th, to see to it that no president again gets to provide "top cover" to actions by our intelligence agencies and military that are in direct violation of Geneva and international law.

It is up to us to ensure an end to the practice of classifying, and declassifying, information to avoid prosecution, an end to abuse of signing statements, national security letters, and turning law enforcement into terror specialists. The practice of breaking the law then making it law, which has shattered our moral credibility both at home and abroad, must stop.

Any president who hopes to end the economic misery in which we find ourselves today must recognize the need to move from a wartime to a peacetime economy. It is not enough to create green jobs, but instead engender a vision that will ultimately lead, as JFK once said, to "complete and total disarmament" through dismantling the big business of independent military contractors, and wartime manufacture. A government that makes peace more profitable than war is one that provides the leadership needed to move us from a state of continual peril.

If all the major superpowers of the world can meet in a summit, and agree to work together to end the global economic crisis, then they can agree to work together to end war, and eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

Moreover, those who committed war crimes, during the Bush administration, must be held to account, and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which renders them immune must be overturned. The new administration must work to recover some of the 5 million "destroyed" White House e-mails which prove the deliberate pattern of deception in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, just as it must undo the Patriot Act, and restore dignity to the First and Fourth Amendments.

An Obama administration must keep its word, and be one that commits to peace through negotiation, not bloodshed through bullying, and troop withdrawal not redeployment.

As president, Barack Obama will have a lot on his plate, and will need our support, but we must ensure that he's not distracted, and compromised, by those mega special interests who will, no doubt, slip gold into his pocket in order to ensure his allegiance, and protection.

Wall Street, credit card companies, and other usurers, require regulation, as do employers who skirt the law by discouraging union participation, and creating a climate of fear in which workers eat lunch hunched over their desks. Sweatshops that exploit so-called "illegal immigrants," pay them well below minimum wage, force them to live in subhuman conditions, and subject them to dreadful conditions must be stopped. Those who deliver drugs to our inner cities, and profit off the downward mobility of youngsters of color must be stopped.

The great civil rights struggle, of our times, is for economic equity as the Rev. Martin Luther King observed. A Democratic president must pledge continued support for affirmative action, and an infrastructure that builds opportunity. The politics of privilege must end with the Republican revolution, and be relegated to the era of the dinosaur where it belongs.

The days when any president gets to provide cover for subordinates who commit war crimes must end on the night of November 4, 2008 when we elect Barack Obama as our 44th president.

But, keep in mind that Obama is one man, and one man only. The framers of the Constitution never intended all that power to be in the hands of one man. They left England to get away from a monarchy.

The idea of "unitary executive" was chiefly engineered by the same fellows who tried to slip torture through the cracks. Ultimately, the power rests not in the presidency, but in us.

Si se puede means yes WE can; prepare to roll up your sleeves, and get to work as the work begins with an Obama victory. We don't need revolution, in this country, so much as resolution.

To paraphrase another much loved president: "Ask not what Obama can do for you, but what you can do for Obama."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

by Mike Farrell

The Ugly America

By Mike Farrell

"You really do hate America!" This was the parting shot from a man I had just debated on a television show shortly before the invasion of Iraq. Because he's a notorious right-wing blowhard, I laughed it off as the ravings of a crackpot in extremis.

Little did I know...

Soon, those of us who opposed the Iraq war, torture, "extraordinary rendition," Guantanamo, spying on innocent Americans and other illegal tools in the Cheney/Bush black bag began to hear variations on that theme from people one would have expected to know better.

And it's gotten worse as they've become more desperate... or do the depths to which we've fallen suggest a fault-line in America's culture?

Only a short time ago we dissenters were called "Saddam-lovers," "America-haters" or, when they really wanted to cut deep, "French!" But that usually came from the relatively unhinged, like my debate-partner. Today, similar imprecations fall readily from the lips of media bloviators while the hoi polloi moves toward lynch-mob tenor with screams of "traitor," "terrorist," "kill him," and "off with his head" - these not aimed at lowly actors but rather the next President of the United States. Worse, it is winked at and ignored, then defended and embraced by some of those from whom we expect better.

As one in the crucible of this volcanic yet potentially transformative moment, John McCain, who claims to put "Country First," should re-read "The Ugly American." Sarah Palin can watch the movie.

Fifty years ago, Eugene Burdick and William Lederer's book exposed the boorish behavior of some of our citizens when abroad, warning that a "mysterious change seems to come over Americans..." when amid people and cultures seen as 'different.'

While the ensuing half-century proved those in developing countries to be neither less intelligent, less capable, nor less interested in improving their lives than human beings anywhere, this breed of Americans, inclined to "isolate themselves socially," per Burdick and Lederer, seems to have turned inward, chanting "USA, USA!"

As the world prospered behind their backs, this insular strain of American metastasized into swaggering jingoes full of Cold War machismo, content to wave the flag and "Go for the gold." For them, the collapse of the Evil Empire proved the world's sole Superpower could do as it damned well pleased: "We're Number One," baby! Anybody who doesn't like it should get the hell out of the way.

"[L]oud and ostentatious," per the book, this parochial group bequeathed its "mysterious change" to generations of Know-Nothings who stuck to their own, seeing 'difference' as a threat. Dumbed-down by television and wary of anyone lacking sufficient fervor for their triumphant "Christian nation," they made those of different color, heritage, or belief into "the other," a practice encouraged by coded appeals to racism from would-be leaders. With Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and "silent majority" setting the stage, Reagan's "Welfare Queens" and Bush the First's "Willie Horton" spread the contagion while conferring it legitimacy.

Embraced as true conservatives and stoked by hate-radio millionaires, these changelings seduced the Republican Party, laid claim to the flag and launched a "culture war." Adopted by anti-government hucksters, empire-seekers and profligate free-marketeers, they divided the nation with a 'God and Country' ethos that declared the Bible inerrant, reviled homosexuality, "permissiveness," liberalism and critical thinking, denied women equal rights, children any at all, and cowed the media into submission.

For them, the horror of 9/11 lay at the feet of the enemy within - the ACLU, abortionists, pagans, gays and lesbians, secularists. And a stunned public, reeling from the assault and sinking into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, was led into a flag-waving frenzy of revenge-seeking and other-hating that targeted "Rag-heads" and "sand-niggers."

Drunk with power, this mob took heart from W's "you're either with us or with the terrorists," their malignant hostility dividing us more sharply at each iteration, until the enemy became the world of Islam and anyone who disagreed. Forsaking constitutional freedoms in favor of "security," they turned our very nation inside out, with Americans pitted against one another in states red and blue.

And today, while some dream of change, a perfect storm of cultural division, failed leadership, lost principles, military disaster and economic collapse have ripped the mask away, exposing a virus that has undermined and rendered quaint American values of tolerance, generosity, equality and fairness, replacing them with chauvinism, avarice, confusion, fear and despair.
But struggles that have trampled the principles urging America toward greatness are not new. That they have not destroyed us but rather helped us grope toward maturity is due to some who have called on our better angels and re-inspired the triumph of decency that ennobles our promise. Even with chaos at the doorstep people look for hope, for change, for reason to believe that the America of song and story persists.

Yet today, unable to rise to the challenge of hope, would-be-president McCain chooses expediency over country, placing the priestess of parochialism, a barb-tongued, inanity-prone neophyte, a heartbeat away from his Oval Office. Schooled in "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" and "American Idol," she energizes the pitchfork mob, dividing "real America" from the rest, reviving faint echoes of white superiority and "manifest destiny" as her sponsor deafens himself to it all.

This failure of leadership affirms the ugly America, the misanthrope nation. Yet the heartbeat of promise persists. There is hope. There is truth. If the people demand them.

Mike Farrell, co-chair emeritus of the Southern California Committee of Human Rights Watch and President of Death Penalty Focus, is the author of "Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist."

Courtesy of Mike Farrell; published on The Huffington Post, 10/25/08.

Next Door

want to
but it's

by Jayne Lyn Stahl



Cries of "he's a socialist, he's a socialist" rang out in the crowd today at a John McCain rally. My father once said that everything is cyclical. Even my father couldn't have predicted the fear-trotting, and sophistry, that is the radical right.

Somebody coached Sarah Palin to think that by invoking red fright the unprecedented number of red states leaning towards Obama would come to their senses.

Fear is McCain/Palin's lifeline. They are invoking the days when government routinely stuck its head not only into our bedrooms, but into our political activities.

And, if Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann gets her way, the House Un-American Activities Committee will be born again, along with Stalinist purges.

Whatever remains of the moderate wing of the Republican party is now a fringe group, eclipsed by Mrs. Rapture Dude. That was Colin Powell's message on "Meet the Press." Yes, yes, he endorses Barack Obama, but, importantly, Powell is disgusted to see that thanks to the neo-conservatives of his party moderates have gone the way of the middle class.

By throwing his hat, along with his running mate's $150,000 pair of boxing gloves, into the ring, McCain's campaign proves one thing, and one thing only: even ignorance can be recycled.

Friday, October 24, 2008

by Michael Winship

Courtesy of Bill Moyers Journal, and Public Affairs Television:

For Whom the Bailout Tolls

By Michael Winship

During the Stock Market Crash in 1929, that curtain raising overture to the Great Depression, stories abounded of Wall Street brokers rushing to their office windows and leaping to their deaths.

But according to the late John Kenneth Galbraith and other economic historians, those accounts of suicide were, by and large, fairy tales.

Perhaps they were more dark-hearted, wishful thinking than reality -- revenge fantasies on the part of those whose real life savings had been wiped out by ravenous speculators.

Nonetheless, the myth of those fatal plunges, like so many urban legends, is hard to shake. With more than a drop of cold blood, some have asked why, during this current fiscal crisis, we haven’t seen similar tragedies in the ranks of high finance.

A close look at the recent government bailouts may explain why. The fat cats at the top had nothing to worry their pretty little whiskers about. Not only have most of their businesses been saved, for now at least, but they’ve already been pretty successful at protecting their high rolling lifestyles, and finding bailout loopholes that allow them to keep hauling in the big bucks.

To that ancient business axiom, “Buy low, sell high,” add this amendment: When you get into trouble, beg for a bailout. Then, new money in hand, continue to act with the rapacious greed of Caligula or the Sun King.

You may already have heard how AIG, the insurance giant, after being saved to the tune of $85 billion, threw a $440,000 shindig at a California spa and then blew another $86,000 on a hunting trip to the English countryside, picking off partridge just as they were asking the Feds for an additional $38 billion. Bit of a sticky wicket, that.

Caught red-handed, AIG canceled plans for another 160 sales and promotion events that would have cost a cool $80 million AND – get this – agreed to stop spending millions of their newly gained tax dollars on lobbying efforts against increased government regulations -- this after being rescued from extinction by that very same government. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is demanding that AIG get back from its execs millions of dollars the insurer paid out as the company neared collapse, and on Wednesday, the insurance giant agreed to freeze $600 million worth of deferred compensation and bonuses for its top brass.

There are “claw back” provisions in the big $700 billion bailout passed by Congress three weeks ago, requiring that financial institutions get money back from their senior executives, if the payments were “based on statements of earnings, gains, or other criteria that are later proven to be materially inaccurate.”

But the executive pay limits in the legislation apparently have so many loopholes you could fly a fleet of Gulfstream corporate jets through them. Oregon Congressman Peter de Fazio caught at least seven, “that will protect their outrageous paychecks and golden parachutes,” he wrote fellow Democratic House members, adding, “Imagine how many more loopholes the Wall Street lawyers will find.

”No doubt the nine banks into which the US is planning to inject billions in capital – again, all taxpayer dollars – have their lawyers searching for those escape hatches.

Writing in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Sarah Anderson and Sam Pizzigati of the Institute for Policy Studies calculated that last year the CEO’s of those nine banks took home “on average, $32.2 million each, nearly triple the average CEO pay at the 500 biggest US companies.

This is more than $600,000 a week.” A piece.

Bloomberg News columnist Jonathan Weil figures that since the start of fiscal 2004, the once mighty five of Wall Street – Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns – lost around $83 billion in stock marker value. But they reported employee compensation of around $239 billion. In other words, the engineers who dug this disastrous hole paid themselves almost three dollars for every dollar they lost.

The cost of all the bailouts to the taxpayer, as calculated by the internet investigative newsroom, is a whopping $8,750 per household, more than two and half times what lucky us got to fork over 20 years ago during the savings and loan crisis.

But the masters of the universe are just fine, thank you, in no small part due to the tolerance and largesse of their guru Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, late of Goldman Sachs, where Forbes magazine reports that during a 32-year-career he accumulated more than $700 million. He said limiting compensation too punitively might prevent some institutions from participating in his plan to save the economy.

No, the people suffering are the nearly 800,000 out of work so far this year. More families with children are homeless. Delinquencies and foreclosures are at their highest in nearly three decades, and the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that, “Worries about home foreclosures, job losses and plunging stock prices have sparked a surge in mental health problems.” Including suicide.

In California, recently, where professionals say mental health referrals have tripled in the last year, unemployed financial advisor Karthik Rajaram killed himself and four members of his family, including his wife, children and mother-in-law. In two suicide notes, he said he was broke and had run out of options.

Variations of his story are appearing all over the country, from Colorado to Tennessee.There are some happier stories. Tom Dart, the sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, suspended all foreclosure evictions because they were throwing into the street tenants of buildings who had nothing to do with their landlords’ inability to make payments.

Or Jocelyn Voltaire, an immigrant from Haiti, about to lose her home after the death of her eldest son, a Marine in Iraq who had been sending her money to help meet the mortgage.

After seeing a report produced by the American News Project, members of the antiwar group CodePink raised $30,000 to save Voltaire’s house.

Testifying before the House Budget Committee this week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke agreed that homeowners in jeopardy of foreclosure need help. “I agree that stopping preventable foreclosures is extremely important,” he said. “I hope we continue to look for ways to do that.”

But so far the government and the businesses bailed out haven’t looked very hard. They’ve done little or nothing and it’s every man for himself, devil take the hindmost.

In his history of the 1929 market crash, John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, “The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.” In other words, virtually non-existent, somewhere around zero.

In other words, my fellow Americans, look out below. Do not ask for whom the bailout tolls. It tolls for thee.

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs programBill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

Ten questions to ask Joe Biden

by David Cay Johnston:

The above is a link to a sister piece, "Ten questions to ask Sarah Palin," which appeared here yesterday, written by Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston.

The companion article is posted here in the interest of fairness, and evenhandedness, with the understanding that I unequivocally, and enthusiastically, support the candidacy of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

This blog endorses Barack Obama for president. That said, it is essential to acknowledge that both the Democrats and the Republicans have been infected by the viral spread of the American Dream free market mentality, over the past 50 years, that has succeeded only in stoking the fires of war to line the pockets of
those whose finances have traditionally been recession-proof.

It is imperative that the next president, whoever that is, address, and correct runaway, unregulated free market fundamentalism, not just for the benefit of our own economy, but that of the whole world.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Death Threats Against Italian Author

Roberto Saviano, Italian author, and journalist with "La Repubblica," whose bestseller nonfiction novel, "Gamorra," details the activities of the Neapolitan mafia, has been threatened with assassination by Christmas.

The release of the film version of "Gomorra" is said to be the catalyst for this recent death threat.

According to International PEN, the book, and film, denounce the activities of the Camorra, a Napoles mob family, which has led to their declared intention to kill Saviano before the holiest day of the Christian calendar.

The 28 year old Italian writer has had the constant protection of Italian police for two years now, but he feels sufficiently imperiled to flee his homeland. What's more, as he told the British press, he would like to be able to have a life again, to go to the movies, to date, to walk down the street without fear. Rightfully, Saviano doesn't want to spend his days like a recluse because he upset some powerful crime figures.

That any artist, anywhere, should be forced into exile for the simple crime of exposing corruption and abuse of power, of any kind, is an insult to civilization, and a threat to us all.

In 2008 alone, more than 30 writers, and reporters, worldwide have been murdered for little more than describing the world around them. It was two years ago on October 7th that renowned Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, was gunned down in the elevator of her apartment building in Moscow. She had been reporting on the war in Chechnya, and was in the midst of doing a major investigative piece on the Russian government's collusion in human rights violations in the breakaway republic.

Any government, whether it be Russia or Italy, that allows those who engage in the free flow of information to be targeted, and forced into exile is in collusion with those who pose a menace to the life of authors, and the written word.

This is not the first time we've seen a prominent journalist be slated for assassination, or assassinated nor is Italy the only country. Journalists have been killed everywhere from Mexico to Pakistan, from Tehran to Moscow.

All artists, as well as all those who support freedom of expression, must not only condemn the actions of the cowardly few who try to silence opposition, but demand accountability from those governments who harbor them.

One of the newspapers which regularly features Saviano's work, "La Repubblica," has posted a petition to their Web site for those who wish to speak out against this egregious threat:

Ten questions to ask Sarah Palin

by David Cay Johnston:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pre-Election Jitters?

Some words of advice:

When life hands you a gulag, make gulag soup.

Her Own Party?

Since Sarah Palin has been doing such a stand-up job, no pun intended, of distinguishing her platform from that of John McCain when it comes to ANWAR, and her latest plan to endorse a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, she might as well follow Dick Cheney's example, and secede from the executive branch.

Why not secede altogether before you're even in the executive branch? How's that for the Palin doctrine of preemption. Remember the days when vice presidents quietly connived behind their bosses backs like the puppet masters they really are?

It might look to some like Sarah Palin is Dick Cheney on steroids. Somebody ought to tell her that it's okay to play contrarian with a running mate, but it will cost you when he's your boss. Guess it's not called insubordination when Sarah Palin does it.

Palin is so good at striking out on her own that she might as well start her own party, or maybe even her own country? Best not to give her any more ideas. She has more than she can handle right now.

Tommy J. on banking institutions and liberty

"I believe banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies!

If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, 1st by inflation, then by deflation, the banks & corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."-

Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Arthur Rimbaud

Bon Anniversaire, Arthur Rimbaud:

"Le Prince et le Genie s'aneantirent probablement dans la sante essentielle. Comment n'auraient-ils pas pu en mourir?"

"The Prince and the Genie annihilated each other probably in essential health. How could they have helped dying of it."


"La musique savante manque a notre desir."

"There is no sovereign music for our desire."

from "Illuminations"

by Jean-Arthur Nicolas Rimbaud

Oct. 20, 1854

Frankie and Sylvia

Another colorful story from my 92 year old Aunt Sylvia who, with her 96 year old husband, Ellie, lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida:

"I noticed you use Sinatra stamps. I have to tell you my memories of him.

When I was a teenager in high school, a group of us girls decided to go to see Frank perform in N.Y. The theater was packed with Beeny Bopers (teeny bopers) screaming.

I expected to hear the greatest. Out comes this ugly, skinny performer who looked like he needed a good meal.

He started to sing to the squealing audience. I thought he was awful. He was a skinny guy with a big hat, and a small voice. How could they compare him with Bing Crosby--Russ Columbo, etc.?

He has changed my mind over the years. I love his voice now."

What is it about legends that disappoint; maybe that they're so---well, legendary? Somehow, I think, should he hear Sylvia's story, Frank Sinatra would look up from his poker game, and give her a big smile.

Bill Ayers or Bel Air?

Republicans are right to focus on college professor, and former 1960's radical, Bill Ayers, and not on the nation's disintegrating economy, but rest assured that their dangerous game of bait and switch will backfire just as their vice presidential nominee has.

Whether he's channeling Joe the Plumber or Joe McCarthy, John McCain is simply not the right man for the job, and neither is Sarah Palin.

This last ditch desperate emphasis on Bill Ayers is, in the best sense of the word perverse, and will do nothing to deflect attention away from the wrenching fact that only those in Bel Air will benefit from McCain's tax cuts.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

McCain/Palin: Economics 101

The McCain camp's latest tactic is to insinuate that Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes only for people making over $250,000 "sounds a lot like socialism."

Fast rewind to ten days ago or so when McCain flew back to the Senate to vote in favor of the government bailout of Wall Street arguing only that legislators should change the name from bailout to "rescue."

Joe the Plumber's starring role was to woo the red states by implying that the Democrats are a bunch of Reds, and if there is any more mention of "socialist" from McCain, or his sidekick Palin, another Joe will have to be called back to active combat duty---Joe McCarthy!

Notably, the Republican nominee for president also endorses infusing $250 billion of the proposed $700 billion bailout money into the nation's troubled banks, and doesn't, for a moment, consider that "another government giveaway."

Economics 101 according to John McCain: raising taxes on those who are in the upper 2% of the population is "socialism;" nationalizing banks isn't.

Sen. McCain is right--rescue will be in order should we awake, November 5th, to find not just our military, but our economy in his inept hands.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Michael Winship on ACORN

Courtesy of Bill Moyers Journal, and Public Affairs Television:

A Mighty Hoax from ACORN Grows

By Michael Winship

ACORN and election fraud. Hang on.

As soon as I can get the alligator that crawled out of my toilet back into the New York City sewers where it belongs, I can turn my attention to this very important topic.

You see, the ACORN “election fraud” story is one of those urban legends, like fake moon landings and alligators in the sewers, and it appears three or four weeks before every recent national election with the regularity of the swallows returning to Capistrano.

First, the basics: ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is an activist group working with low and moderate income families that, among many other things, registers voters. To do this they hire people to go around signing up the unregistered, killing two birds with one stone – giving employment to people who need it (some with criminal records) and providing the opportunity to vote to members of minority communities whose voices all too often go unheard.

What happens is that some of those hired to do the registering, who are paid by the name, make people up. As a result, you’ll discover that among the registrants are such obvious fakes as Mickey Mouse and the starting line-up of the Dallas Cowboys, among others.

This is where the Republican meme kicks in. As they have in past elections (although now louder and more angrily than ever), the GOP has made ACORN the red flag du jour as the party tries to mobilize its conservative base and, allegedly, attempts to suppress the vote and distract attention from accusations of election tampering made against them, too.

The charge is that these fake registrations will create havoc at the polls. On Tuesday morning, former Republican Senators John Danforth and Warren Rudman, chairs of Senator McCain’s Honest and Open Elections Committee, held a press conference and described the results of the bad seeds in ACORN’s registration program as “a potential nightmare.” Danforth said he was concerned “that this election night and the days that follow will be a rerun of 2000, and even worse than 2000.”

John McCain raised it at Wednesday night’s final debate and went further, adding, “We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama's relationship with ACORN, who [sic] is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy…”

Obama replied, “ACORN is a community organization. Apparently, what they have done is they were paying people to go out and register folks. And apparently, some of the people who were out there didn't really register people; they just filled out a bunch of names. Had nothing to do with us. We were not involved.”

Which is not to say Obama has not been associated with ACORN in the recent past. He has. As he said in the debate, as a lawyer, he joined with the group in partnership with the US Justice Department to implement a motor voter registration law in Illinois – allowing folks to register to vote at their local DMV.

His work as a community organizer bought him into contact with ACORN, the organization received money from the Woods Fund while he was a board member there and his presidential campaign gave ACORN more than $800,000 to help with get out the vote campaigns during the primary season – but not, apparently, for registration drives.

All of this distracts from several important points. ACORN has registered 1.3 million voters, and maintains that in virtually every instance they are the ones who have reported the incidents of fraud.

As the organization asserted in a response to Senator McCain, “ACORN hired 13,000 field workers to register people to vote. In any endeavor of this size, some people will engage in inappropriate conduct. ACORN has a zero tolerance policy and terminated any field workers caught engaging in questionable activity. At the end of the day, as ACORN is paying these people to register voters, it is ACORN that is defrauded.”Arrests have been made, as well they should be.

Add to this the simple fact that registration fraud is not election fraud. Seventy-five made-up people who are registered as, say, “Brad Pitt,” are not likely going to show up at some polling place on November 4 to vote in the election. Because they don’t exist. (Besides, Angelina would never give them time off from babysitting duties.)

Granted, there are ways to mail in an absentee ballot under a fake name and, too, from time to time some joker is going to come to the polls and try to bluff his or her way in. But despite the charge that thousands and thousands of fakes will flood the machines and throw the count, it does not happen very often.

And according to ACORN, “Even RNC [Republican National Committee] General Counsel Sean Cairncross has recently acknowledged he is not aware of a single improper vote cast as a result of bad cards submitted in the course of an organized voter registration effort.”

Not that this has stopped the GOP from banging the same drum every national election. And amnesiac members of the media and some government agencies from buying into it every time.

Last year, The New York Times reported that the federal Election Assistance Commission, created by the Help America Vote Act, legislation enacted after the Florida debacle, was told by a pair of experts – one Republican, the other described as having “liberal leanings” -- that there was not that much fraud to be found. But their conclusions were downplayed.

As per the Times, “Though the original report said that among experts ‘there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud,’ the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that ‘there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.’”

Which raises the ongoing investigation of the Justice Department’s firing of those eight US attorneys shortly after President Bush’s re-election. It shouldn’t be forgotten that despite official explanations, half of them were let go after refusing to prosecute vote fraud charges demanded by Republicans.

The attorneys had determined there was little or no evidence of skullduggery; certainly not enough to prosecute.

(In an interview with Talking Points Memo on Thursday, one of those fired, David Iglesias, reacted to reports that the FBI has launched an investigation of ACORN: "I'm astounded that this issue is being trotted out again. Based on what I saw in 2004 and 2006, it's a scare tactic.")

What’s equally if not more scary are continued allegations of Republican attempts at “caging” minority voters – making challenge lists of African- And Hispanic-Americans registered in heavily Democratic districts.

Just this week, a Federal judge in Michigan ruled that voters could not be purged from the rolls in that state simply because their mailing address was invalid – this followed a failed attempt by a Michigan Republican county chairman to use a list of foreclosed homes as the basis of voter challenges.

This comes on the heels of a recent report from the Brennan Center at New York University documenting how state officials -- often with the best of intentions -- purge huge numbers of perfectly legal voters from the rolls.

As my colleague Bill Moyers reported, “Hundreds of thousands of legal voters may have been dumped in recent years, many without ever being notified.”

The report describes a "process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation."

Hardly reassuring words if you want democracy to work, and sadly, not an urban legend, but the simple truth.

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs programBill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.

Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde

"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between."

"Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much."

Oscar Wilde

born October 16, 1854

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Plumbers Again?

We may not come away with much that's different after this debate, but there is a new character, at least John McCain would like us to think so---Joe the Plumber. Joe was the guy who appeared at an Obama rally, (probably a plant), and was resurrected by Obama's rival for strictly rhetorical purposes.

And, while McCain came across loud and clear tonight wanting to distance himself from the President, he made no attempt to distinguish himself from other Republicans like Ronald Reagan, or Richard Nixon.

Instead, whether unwittingly, or otherwise, his repeated references to Joe the Plumber couldn't help but conjure up others who worked overtime to contain leaks like the infamous White House plumbers whose efforts to get Richard Nixon re-elected led to the break-in at the Watergate Hotel, and what would have been the biggest voter fraud scandal in history. It also led to the repudiation, and ultimate resignation, of the man history will someday record as America's meanest President.

Given John McCain, and Sarah Palin's elusiveness with the press, and penchant for secrecy, it would be wise for the McCain camp to lay off Joe the Plumber instead of evoking memories of another irascible, and cranky, commander-in-chief whose strong suit was not only hubris, but manipulation.

While Obama came across like a breathless statesman, McCain came through like the bull in a china shop that he is---incendiary, competitive, and humorless making it hard to accept his premise that he will use the military option as a last resort. Indeed, the military option may be his only option. One can no more picture a President McCain sitting across the table from Hugo Chavez, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than one could imagine Richard Nixon singing "On the Good Ship Lollypop."

Some are calling McCain's performance tonight his best yet. Yet, while he showed that he's been working out, he also showed that he just doesn't have the mettle to meddle in foreign affairs, so much for his national security credentials. And, more importantly, haven't we had enough plumber imagery to last the next couple hundred years?

Diplomacy is a foreign word to John McCain--not Islamofascism, mind you, but diplomacy. Tonight's debate only confirms what we already know about Barack Obama---he's a born statesman.

What's more, we can't really afford any more cheerleaders for lost causes. The devil is not in the details; the devil is in the vision. The Republican notion of free trade is as dangerous as it is obsolete. We're seeing now that free market fundamentalism is about as effective as a wartime economy. McCain promises more of the same. With Obama, we have leadership that can at least envison peace.

Should we make the mistake of handing the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to the senator from Arizona, not only is Washington guaranteed to see more rancor, and recycled plumbers, than we've seen since Tricky Dick's swan song, but the national anthem will be replaced by "hasta la vista, baby."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Open Letter to Barack Obama on the Eve of the Last Presidential Debate

Dear Senator Obama:

You already know me to be a supporter of yours--not for weeks, or months, but for years. Today, arguably, on the eve of your most important presidential debate, please keep the following things in mind before your face-off with Senator McCain.

First and foremost, what distinguishes your campaign from that of your opponent's is that you see the world in three dimensions, and understand the importance of nuance. The world, to you, is not black or white, but gray. For a decade or more, indeed stretching back to the 1950's, this capacity would be viewed as a curse more than a gift.

Those of us for whom the economy has been the hot button issue throughout this Republican regime admire the facility with which you've not only grasped, but elevated the economic issue, but as Arianna Huffington, and others are suggesting, the next presidency will be decided not only economic issues alone, but on matters of national security, and it is this issue, principally, that requires your attention now.

If, as you say, a President must be able to do more than one thing at a time, we need you to focus on the bogus claims of McCain/Palin to be the patriots, and the ones who are better positioned to keep this country safe.

It simply isn't enough to prop Joe Biden up as the antidote to the reckless, and insubstantial claims of foreign policy inexperience, or ineptitude, brought against you by the McCain camp. The false logic that simply because one has spent decades as the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one has the expertise to handle Al Qaeda is, in the end, not altogether different from the assertion that experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam makes one better equipped to be commander-in-chief. It is ugent for Joe Biden to come up with a concrete vision for how he sees foreign policy will progress under President Obama.

What's more, the American people want to hear what you think about NSA unwarranted surveillance on ordinary citizens, and service members, as well as whether you think it is right to grant immunity from prosecution on war crimes charges to members of any administration that sanctions torture.

We also want to hear you say that, while you're a Christian and not a Muslim, the Constitution guarantees that there will be no religious test for seeking office in the United States.

It's not enough to say that, while the surge may be working, we don't belong in Iraq in the first place any more than it's enough to argue that you had good judgment because you were among the few originally opposed to the war. While this is true, it is more important tomorrow night, than ever before, that you clarify your worldview, with respect to future military engagements, and how it is different from that of your opponent.

In these last few weeks before Election Day, it's more important now than ever to expose the fraud that is the faux national security stance of John McCain, as well as ongoing Republican efforts to privatize the military, and to question whether contractors, or shadow soldiers, do a disservice to those in uniform.

We must ask members of the military, law enforcement, and public servants the same question we ask other Americans: are you better off today than you were eight years ago? Have the Republicans in the White House, and Congress, treated you fairly? Does John McCain promise a difference? Clearly, not, as it was Senator McCain who voted down expanding an enhanced GI Bill sponsored by Senator Jim Webb.

With all due respect, Senator Obama, Joe Biden is not your safety net. You need to repeat General Petraeus' words that talk is more effective than preemptive attacks over and over again. You need to come to the table with more testimony from Bush generals, and military officials, that exposes the Republican claim of prowess in national security to be what it is: two-faced, and bogus.

You need to get law enforcement in on the act, too. The last eight years haven't been any better for members of our nation's police force than for our service members. One has only to look at the gang warfare in our nation's inner cities, and the inability of major cities to even recruit police officers. The only reason why anyone in uniform would vote Republican is because the Democrats aren't making a strong enough argument exposing the fact that, under Republicans, police budgets, nationwide, have been slashed, and their lives endangered.

Most of all, it is encumbent upon you, Senator Obama, to show that the policies of Bush/McCain will not make us any safer on Main Street, Wall Street, Baghdad, Karachi, or the South Bronx. In fact, military expansionism, and corporate gluttony, have increasingly led us to the brink of disaster.

These are extraordinary requests, but you are an extraordinary man. We'd like to believe you will not disappoint us.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Washington, D.C. Relocating?

Did you happen to catch Sarah Palin tell the Associated Press how "thankful" she is that panel findings show "there weren't any ethics violations, and no laws were broken."

If nothing else, the past thirty-odd years of American history have shown us that sociopaths have found a home in our nation's capital. Look at Richard Nixon who would be the first to tell you sociopaths have more fun.

Sarah Palin's not inventing the wheel; she's just picking up where Dick Cheney left off.

Thanks to Palin, and George W. Bush's outgoing mantra, "We do not torture," as well as John McCain's absurd, and memorable, insistence the economy is basically sound, it looks like we may soon expect Washington, D.C. will be moving to Egypt, so it can be closer to Denial!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Panel Findings

"Panel Finds Palin Abused Power," or so one headline reads, but who cares? So, she broke the law, so what? It's not as if she's setting a precedent. George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney abuse power, too, and that's not breaking news on CNN, or at the dinner table.

Why is everyone getting so exercised about a little lawbreaking, a few million deleted executive branch e-mails, some abuse of power, an invocation of executive privilege here and there to get out of testifying and, more importantly, a couple of stolen votes?

For that matter, who gives a flying fajita about the firing of nine U.S. attorneys who refused to play ball, and go after a certain demographic for election fraud, or the violation of employment discrimination laws for new hires in the Justice Department?

How cynical have we become, as a society, when we realize that the current attorney-general, Michael Mukasey, is only pursuing an independent prosecutor, so he doesn't have to hire an attorney himself when his time is up like his predecessor Alberto Gonzales did.

So what if the candidate whose claim to fame was ethics reform gets caught throwing her weight around, and acting more like J.R. in Dallas than the Mata Hari she was groomed for?

And, those of us who think she's going to step down---really. She's not going to step down any more than she is going to dress up as Joan of Arc to go out trick or treating on Halloween. Expecting contrition from Sarah Palin would be like expecting Mt. Rushmore to evacuate its bowels.

Apart from hearing yet another headline roar, the only thing this little piece of "news" proves is that Obama is right to say that a vote for McCain/Palin is a vote for Bush/Cheney.

Quote of the Day

from Paul Krassner:

"That’s the trouble with a police state. The cops think it’s a good thing."

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Various Reports

You've, no doubt, read various reports of the Bush administration's preparation for imposing martial law, and the migration of troops from Iraq to the U.S. in case there is a national emergency like another stolen election.

Rest assured, if McCain/Palin prevail, in November, you can count on Palin changing the books to read "Marshall law" instead because Marshall's is closer to Target.

Norman Mailer

Below are excerpts from an extraordinary collection of about 50,000 of Norman Mailer's letters which is slated for publication next fall. Some of these letters appear in the October 6th issue of The New Yorker:

"The McCarthy hearings are being televised these days, and I catch them from time to time. If you've never seen McCarthy you'll have a surprise when you do. What all his critics fail to admit is that he has enormous charm and sex appeal, and a characteristic man's man way of talking which dominates everyone around him, so that to a person ignorant of politics, he would seem just wonderful. The result is that it's truly terrifying to watch him work because you wonder how can this man be stopped?"
April 30, 1954

"I want to be a great thinker without doing the work."
September 25, 1957

"I suppose the real reason I favor (Ezra) Pound's release is that the same kind of government mentality which prosecutes, incarcerates, etc., a Pound also sets up Loyalty Boards, and what have you."
December 30, 1957

To the Editor of Playboy
December 21, 1962

Dear Sir,

I wish you hadn't billed the debate between William Buckley and myself as a meeting between a conservative and a liberal. I don't care if people call me a radical, a rebel, a red, a revolutionary, an outsider, an outlaw, a Bolshevik, an anarchist, a nihilist, or even a left conservative, but please don't ever call me a liberal.

Norman Mailer

Wherever you are now, Norman Mailer, here's hoping you're still raising hell!


The Dow Jones lost one-third of its value in the past year alone.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Say Anything," by Michael Winship

Courtesy of Bill Moyers Journal, and Public Affairs Television:

Say Anything

By Michael Winship

And so it has begun. The final month of the presidential race, the campaign that feels as if it commenced sometime during the Coolidge administration. And as we slide into these last weeks, what we all feared is coming true. Just when you thought the bottom of the swamp had been scraped, sludge gurgles up from the primordial ooze.

This is the endgame, the ugly stuff, meant to assassinate character and distract the electorate with foolishness as our financial house of cards flutters away into the uncertain winds of whatever’s left of the global economy. “It’s a dangerous road, but we have no choice,” a “top McCain strategist” told the New York Daily News. “If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we’re going to lose.”

Another GOP operative was quoted by the Washington Post: “There’s no question we have to change the subject here.” Change the subject, turn the page, sling the mud.

For several days now, Governor Palin has impugned Senator Obama’s patriotism and accused him of “palling around with terrorists” – specifically, William Ayers, a founding member nearly 40 years ago of the radical and violent Weathermen, now a prominent educator and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Obama was chair of a school reform project, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, and Ayers briefed board members on education issues. They both served on the board of a Chicago charity and Ayers and his wife hosted a coffee when Obama first ran for office.

Governor Palin cited The New York Times as backing up her accusations, despite that publication’s previous characterization by the McCain campaign as a biased, inaccurate rag somewhere to the left of the Daily Worker.

In fact, the Times reported, “A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people who know both men, suggest that Mr. Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with Mr. Ayers, 63.” But, the paper continued, “…the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called ‘somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.’”

The whole thing is reminiscent of the desperation move of the other President Bush, running against Bill Clinton in 1992, when he implied darker ulterior motives to Clinton’s 1970 student visit to the Soviet Union.

For Obama’s part, his campaign released an ad characterizing John McCain as “erratic,” and a thirteen-minute video revisiting the “Keating Five.” Sen. McCain, the Obama folks would like you to recall, was one of five United States senators accused in 1989 of using their clout to help bail out Charles Keating, chairman of the failed Lincoln Savings and Loan. All had received campaign contributions and other perks from Keating.

The collapse of Lincoln Savings cost the American taxpayers $2.6 billion. Charles Keating went to prison. Mr. McCain got off with a mild rebuke for "questionable conduct" from the Senate Ethics Committee, and vowed that from then on he would be above reproach.

So both sides are at each other, hammer and tong. But to suggest there is an equivalency in the attacks, as many in the media have done, is debatable. That McCain has a past history of stumbling into financial poo (although $2.6 billion seems a pittance in comparison to the mega-sums being gambled away now) seems on point, relevant at a time when the economy is the most important issue in the land.

Not to mention that he had a far deeper and more personal relationship with Keating than Obama ever had with Ayers – including nine trips on the Keating dime (a few on Keating’s private jet), some of which weren’t reimbursed until the scandal erupted, and $112,000 in campaign contributions from Keating and his associates, more than any of the other four senators.

And not to mention McCain’s relationship with Phil Gramm, his economic guru, the former senior senator from Texas via Wall Street who called us “a nation of whiners” and who manipulated Congress to open the door to many of the excesses that have led to our fiscal downfall -- a man who, as American Prospect editor Harold Meyerson wrote, “has diminished American solvency and power beyond the wildest dreams of anti-American terrorists.”

By comparison, the charges made by the McCain-Palin camp are scattershot and approach demagoguery, hurled primarily by Palin, who has been cast as designated, campaign pit bull, the customary role given to a party’s vice presidential candidate.

But Governor Palin has skated onto the ice with a rare vengeance, not so much fiercely protective hockey mom as a political version of figure skater Tonya Harding, kneecapping the opposition and crying foul when caught in a media mess of her own making.

This leads from bad to worse. In Tuesday’s Washington Post, Dana Milbank described a Palin rally in Florida, “In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric’s questions for her ‘less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.’ At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew.

One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, ‘Sit down, boy.’”

Thus, behind the candied incandescence of the Palin phenomena, behind the shoutouts to Joe Six Pack, and third graders at the Gladys Wood Elementary School, behind the darn right’s and the coy winks is perhaps something scarier – a rank appeal to our baser instincts at a time when nationwide fear can be manipulated to overrule basic common sense.

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs programBill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

Domestic Terrorism or Dissent?

During the vice presidential debate, Sarah Palin couldn't resist showing off her knowledge of a new term: "domestic terrorist" any more than she could refrain from slapping that term onto those Barack Obama is said to have known 40 years ago.

Well, we have breaking news for Governor Palin, and any other candidate for elected office, now and in future. Those of us who were at Kent State, and others, like myself, who protested the war in Vietnam at universities in Buffalo, who staged sit-ins at administration buildings that included, but were not limited to, the likes of current Nobel Laureates like J.M. Coetzee, didn't think of ourselves as "domestic terrorists," but as citizens exercizing our constitutional right to dissent, a right which police in Maryland recently put on life supports when it classified more than 50 members of nonviolent protest groups as "terrorists" while listing not just their names, but all their personal data, into state and federal databanks.

As The Washington Post reported, a police superintendent, Terrence B. Sheridan, exposed the covert military action which placed not just those opposing the war in Iraq, but those opposing capital punishment, under surveillance from 2005 through 2006. Mr. Sheridan told the Senate that those 50 odd names have no place in Maryland police databases: "It's as simple as that."

Pity Joe McCarthy because nobody seems to have told him he's dead, or maybe he has better things to do than rest in peace, and is out haunting not just Maryland, but the US Patriot gangbangers who want to put dissent on perpetual hold.

Apartheid isn't just about race. Ideas can be subdued, too. Likewise, free speech isn't rocket science, but someone will have to explain that both to Ms. Palin and her sidekick, Mr. McCain, who by merely evoking the term "domestic terrorist" intend to draw blood more than votes.

Indeed, in what historians may someday look upon as a last ditch act of desperation, Ms. Palin's labelling of now professor, but one-time Weather Underground radical, Bill Ayers, as a "domestic terrorist" says a whole lot more about her worldview than his.

We simply cannot let a term like "domestic terrorist" slip through the cracks unnoticed, and unchallenged, especially from one whose intent is to occupy the Oval Office.

When Senator Obama becomes our next President, we must insist that, along with Congress, he acts to reverse this dangerous trend, as well as euthanizes that pernicious piece of legislation, the USA Patriot Act, which will someday be known as the great purge of the U.S. Constitution

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

One Coup Over the Cuckoo's Nest

If the Democrats play their cards right, the foxes may now guard the chicken coup instead of the other way around; no malapropism intended. Yes, Martha, there may yet be a cure for Gingrichitis, and the chicken shit shenanigans of the folks who brought us the so-called Republican revolution of 1994.

And, the mindset that led to the precedent setting cancellation of the Republican convention may be the last shot these chicken hawks have to recoup their losses. Despite all the muscle flexing, they don't have the cojones to pull off the kind of coup the Soviets did, or the Cubans, or the Venezuelans. Instead, we're treated to Sarah Palin's rendition of "One Coup Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Had enough of back door revolutionaries? Think about this: if we see a re-run in November of the 2000 election, only with Obama getting the 270 electoral votes needed to declare victory while McCain takes the popular vote, you can bet that John McCain, unlike Al Gore, won't look to the Supreme Court for resolution, but will instead call in the national guard!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Martial Law?

Now that Congress has passed the largest bailout measure in U.S. history, it's more obvious every day that the American taxpayer has been sold a bill of goods. How has the passage of this obscene $750 billion bill helped to stabilize the stock market, here or abroad? Thanks to us, Europe now knows where to find the panic button.

The more we find out about what happened behind the scenes, and what some, like Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman, call an atmosphere of "fear-mongering," the more evident it becomes what led many to push the panic button more as a reflex action than a reasoned thought.

All the best economic minds, in the country, advised against the transfusion of billions of dollars of consumer capital into the accounts of investment giants. The most astute economists suggested that, at best, the rescue plan was tantamount to putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound. Still, it was the kind of climate, in Congress, in which talk of the imposition of "martial law," and other equally dire consequences, that produced results which may, at best, be seen as a placebo. And, to paraphrase a great American patriot, "Give me placebos, or give me death."

Lest you think the only patriots left are dead guys, you may recall, last week, a Democratic congressman from California, Brad Sherman's, startling revelation that a few of his colleagues in the House were warned that if they voted down the bailout measure, martial law would be imposed in America.

Now a San Diego private attorney general, Paul Andrew Mitchell, intends to pursue a criminal investigation into whether the implied threat of martial law constitutes conspiracy "to engage in a pattern of racketeering activities," or extortion. Whether this lawsuit has teeth, or is found to be frivilous, in the end, isn't really what's important here. One cannot, after all, yell "fire" in a crowded movie theatre, with impunity, so why should anyone be allowed to yell "police state" in the halls of Congress without consequence?

As you know, the power to suspend habeas corpus is a legislative one, and the President must be authorized by legislators to remand that right. A state of martial law, however, would mean the suspension of all civil liberties, giving the military direct rule. Martial law can result from war, social calamities, natural disasters, stolen elections, but when private citizens (lobbyists?) threaten members of Congress with the possibility that troops will be redeployed from Iraq to Main Street if certain preconditions aren't met sets a dangerous precedent. Why would a private citizen, or lobbyist, make this kind of threat?

Obviously, for the answer, we have to look to those business monoliths who most directly benefit from a $750 billion so-called rescue package. Which entities are among those listed as so-called owners of the U.S. Federal Reserve? For openers, there's the Rothschilds of London and Berlin, Lazard Brothers of Paris, Israel Moses Seaf of Italy, Kuhn, Loeb & Co. of German and New York, Warburg and Company of Hamburg, Germany, Lehman Brothers of New York, Goldman, Sachs of New York, Rockefeller Brothers of New York. Can we see now why this latest magnitude 8.0 earthquake on Wall Street shook up the financial markets from Tokyo to Berlin?

While most of the companies named are overseas ventures, a couple of hundred people, mostly relatives, hold domestic shares. To many working American families, the concept of hundreds of billions of dollars is inconceivable, but it's petty cash to owners, and stockholders, of the Federal Reserve. So, for that matter, are our annual salaries when compared with those of chief executives at firms like Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch, and these are the companies that are in trouble! Imagine what payday for Blackwater, and Halliburton CEOs looks like.

Nevertheless, I wouldn't turn down the $71 million earnings of Lehman Brothers' Richard Fuld, last year alone, or those of John Mack at Morgan Stanley who earned more than $17 million in 2007, or Lloyd Blankfein--more than $43 million; Henry Paulson earned nearly $164 million, in 2006, his last year at Goldman Sachs, while E. Stanley O'Neal, of Merrill Lynch, combined wages for 2007 were more than $161 million.

If nothing else, these mind boggling numbers tell you that kidnapping billions of taxpayer dollars to rescue mega goliaths drowning in their own toxic assets is nothing more than the biggest bait and switch swindle that has ever been perpetrated on the American taxpayer.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"the ultimate weapon"

"The U.S. government executed two people for stealing the secret of the atomic bomb -- a crime it knew they did not commit... Those in power targeted our parents, making them the focus of the public's Cold War-era fear and anger. They manufactured testimony and evidence. They arrested our mother simply as leverage to get our father to cooperate.

They used the ultimate weapon -- the threat of death -- to try to extort a confession. They created the myth that there was a key "secret" of the atomic bomb, and then devised a strategy to make it appear that our father had sought and passed on that "secret."

They executed our father when he refused to collaborate in this lie. They executed our mother as well, even though they knew that she was not an active participant in any espionage activities.
This case provides a crucial warning about the tendencies of our government to manufacture and exploit public fear, to trample civil rights and to manipulate judicial proceedings. In our current political climate, the targets being vilified have changed, but the tactics of those in power remain much the same."

By Michael Meeropol and Robert Meeropol
(sons of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg)

as published in The Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008

An Open Letter to Congress

Dear Elected Officials:

I acknowledge the need for an economic recovery plan with the implicit understanding that some drastic action needed to be taken, as well as therecognition that what happens on Wall Street affects what happens on Main Street.

That said, the provision which boosts FDIC coverage on individual, and small business, bank accounts is little more than a placebo, and a dangerous one at that when considering that the U.S. Treasury will have to make good on any default over the roughly $45 billion currently in theFDIC fund. Thanks to the Iraq war which costs, in 5 months, what the FDIC now has in its fund, the Treasury is depleted, and we are experiencing record deficits.

As far as I understand the proposal, now passed, which is designed to impact executives' golden parachutes, it appears to me to be little more than a slap on the wrist in that executive severance packages will merely be deferred, and not denied.

Most importantly of all, it's time for our government to overcome its addiction to the concept of immunity which is implicit in the bailout. The idea that banks and mortgage companies, stock brokers, and entrepreneurs, should be saved from the same dire fate as the average working family who lose their home when they default on a bank loan is one that is offensive to those who still hold to the illusion of economic opportunity in America.

That a plan like this, which won such ardent support from a President who insists that he supports what he calls "free enterprise," was allowed to pass Congress shows just how high octane fear can be. Indeed, this President does not support "free enterprise." Enterprise under George W. Bush has been a very costly affair. Is it any wonder that three quarters of Americans disapprove of leadership that rewards what Franklin D. Roosevelt called the "banksters" while, at the same time, turning the working class into the working poor.

Financial security is a crucial issue in this age of global instability, but economic equity will prove to be the core issue of our era. It's time that Congress, and our leaders, rescue the American Dream which is currently on life support.

Never trust anyone who tells you that greed comes with an expiration date.

Channeling Ronald Reagan

An editorial in Friday’s New York Times suggests that we have set the bar so low for our politicians that we are satisfied with Sarah Palin’s debate performance simply because there were no substantial gaffes. Is this where dumbing down has taken us? Indeed, we have set the bar so low, the governor of Alaska may look to it for a libation.

Given that she made not one, but two references to Ronald Reagan, during the debate, it’s time to put her pretentions that she is channeling the gipper to rest. Only her script writers could think she might squeak by on that smile, that wink, and “Gosh darn it,” or “Come on, Joe” schtick, and her faux attempt at Reagan charm.

But, whether we agree with Reagan or not, Sarah Palin is no Ronald Reagan. While Reagan had speechwriters; all presidents do, Reagan only needed to read from a script when he was in Hollywood. He didn’t need to go to a summer camp for future presidents.

Reagan courted the press, and didn’t hold it in contempt. Sarah Palin repeats the phrase “mainstream media” as if it’s a mantra, but it’ll take more than a mantra to convince her audience of her authenticity.

Palin’s idea of folksy is a euphemism for trashy. Her nomination was intended to pick up the sixpack, redneck, trailer vote that was swaying towards Hillary; the Second Amendment boys and their Second Amendment toys.

Those who coach Palin may think it wise to play the Reagan card, but the only way in which Sarah Palin resembles Ronald Reagan is when it comes to economics, and while Reagan could dodge a bullet better than almost anyone; make no mistake, he knew the answer.

Palin has turned evasion into an artform. That she knows little about the subjects that most concern us these days is only part of the problem. A greater issue is that she’s so damn happy with the little bit that she does know. She isn't even aware, for instance, that it's not the vice president's place to challenge the decision of her prospective boss as she recently did when McCain decided to pull up his tent, and drop out of the race in Michigan. This should be an embarrassment even by maverick standards.

But, more importantly, if given the chance, she will embarrass this country with her intellectual agoraphobia when it comes to foreign policy; with her deliberate mispronunciation of words like Iran, Iraq, and what she calls nu-cu-lar power.

Remember, Reagan started out as a Democrat. It was only as he was approaching his later years that he switched parties. Some might argue that Reagan’s switch to Republican was evidence that he was in the first stages of Alzheimer’s, but no one would argue that Ronald Reagan had a heart. The governor of Alaska has a Ford Explorer.

Sarah Palin’s pathetic attempt to channel Reagan does a disservice not just to her party, not just to history, but the truth of who Ronald Reagan was. Her attempt to feign tolerance, despite her record of intolerance when it comes to choice, gay marriage, and animal rights, shows contempt for the audience at which she repeatedly winks. It’s the kind of grizzly contempt that only someone heartless enough to shoot wolves from 20,000 feet can display.

Whether you agreed with him or not, Ronald Reagan wasn’t an embarrassment to his country when it came to foreign policy.

So, while Tina Fey, and others, entertain with a terrific parody of her, anyone who finds Palin’s winks, nods, and references to six pack soccer moms charming, or amusing, is in for a big surprise come November if she is, gawd forbid, second in command of our military and our country.

Ronald Reagan is, no doubt, rolling over in his grave from this comparison and, if Palin really wanted to “score one for the gipper,” she’d exit stage right.

Those who call Palin “feisty” can’t distinguish between feisty and arrogant.

While there are some who might find her ignorance and contempt for history quaint, the prospect of somebody like Sarah Palin ever finding her way to the Oval Office should trigger outrage from anyone with a pulse, and a passport.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Something to think about...

when watching tonight's one and only vice presidential debate:

If fate lands her in the driver's seat, will there be a camp to send Sarah Palin so she can be coached on how to respond to questions when an international crisis develops, and she is called upon to meet with world leaders?

Maybe she thinks that because Ronald Reagan started out as an actor, it's okay for the executive branch to be scripted, too.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

At Great Cost

Back in the early 1930's, another president had a word for the honor society that has run off with our savings, and stock options: "banksters," that's what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called them.

I'm sure Roosevelt would have a thing or two to say about those in public service nowadays who have betrayed the public trust, and figured out a way to immunize themselves in the process, a kind of corruption that would inspire a Shakespearean tragedy.

But, the trick is to connect the dots, and recognize that the difficulties of our financial market are inextricably bound to the disintegration of the social, political, and moral fabric of our society. So far, none of the candidates for president is doing this.

"We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer," Franklin Delano Roosevelt said.

President Roosevelt was right. America is an experiment in democracy that was hijacked by a gang of free market capitalists whose ultimate intention was to institute a monarchy of means, a hierarchy of income, and a class system unparalleled since feudal times. In this, they have succeeded, at great cost to us all and, ultimately, to themselves, too.