What's All This Then?
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
THE WORLD WAR TWO BATTLES OF 2005
If there’s anything good that can be said about being sick and so not blogging for a while, it is that something that I was about to write about before being overtaken by the miseries, took on some added and interesting dimensions while I was laid up.
I am not a conspiracy theorist. I want to believe there are rational explanations for the most mysterious of things and events. But there are some things that can only be explained by the knowledge and acceptance of the fact that a vast conspiracy exists, the purpose of which is to delude, to distract and eventually to take over our precious American society.
I called attention to one aspect of this conspiracy last March. Almost sixty years after the end of World War ll and what we believed was the defeat of Germany and Japan, I had made the astounding discovery the war was still being waged by one member of the Axis powers, and that, because we didn’t realize that the battle was still ongoing - we were losing!! The Japanese had put in place a program to drive Americans insane, weaken our resolve and ready us for a bloodless coup. Go back and read what I wrote last March 10 and you’ll have to admit that the evidence is incontrovertible.
But if you had any doubts, surely they were swept away last week when the news of SUDOKU broke in the United States. It’s here already of course, but has yet to begin the mind numbing effect that is already taking hold in the United Kingdom. These Japanese learned their lessons well during what history records as the official years of World War ll. They saw how invasions were planned by the Allies to attack at the vulnerable underbelly of the enemy’s defenses and then spread from there to key centers of resistance. They knew it would be futile to launch SUDOKU directly at the United States, so they opted for attacking the weak underbelly of the Atlantic alliance - the British fascination with mind numbing puzzles.
Already stories of widespread addiction abound in the mother country. Industries have been slowing down because of chronic absenteeism. Key military posts have been understaffed and in some cases have had to close down for extra long weekends. Complaints of stiff neck, blurred vision and blinding headaches have overwhelmed the British National Health Service. Clearly, the country has been reduced to a condition that is perilously close to being ripe for the taking. At any moment a strong man could arise claiming to have the formula for solving all SODUKO puzzles and Tony Blair would have no power to stop him from taking over number ten and the rest of the houses on Downing Street. He’d likely need them to house all of the warriors still fighting the traditional battles of World War ll who, presumably having heard of the success of the new weapons that are winning battle after battle without requiring a drop of blood to be shed by a Hari Kiri sword, are slowly emerging from hiding.
Of course the Japanese Generals have gone to great lengths to create a fictional explanation for SUDOKU and its effects - just as they did with the creation of the Sony Company to hide one of their most insidious weapons already at work in the United States but fully revealed by me last March 10 on my ever watchful Blog. But don’t believe the story of a "New Zealander Wayne Gould" who supposedly "discovered" SUDOKU in Tokyo and "introduced" it to British Newspapers. I can’t tell you the real name of this Japanese master spy and tactician, but I can assure you that this weapon was neither "discovered" nor "introduced" but most cleverly LAUNCHED against the western world while we were all busy watching Desperate Housewives and being asked to believe that daily chaos in Iraq is paving the road to a peaceful and democratic Middle East.
But all is not lost. Just as fellow denizens of the blogosphere were able to derail the Dan Rather part of the overall attack - yes, Dan San is one of them - deeply planted decades ago after extensive plastic surgery to disguise his ethnic origins - I shall expose every insidious move of the SUDOKU attack as it gathers steam in this country.. The UK may already be lost but as long as my tired fingers are able to replenish the words of this blog, the United States will continue to resist. Remember the words from the poem "Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth" written in the mid eighteen hundreds by Arthur Hugh Clough and quoted by the great Winston Churchill in 1941 while the "official" war was being fought with traditional weaponry……
In front, the sun climbs slowly, how slowly But westward, look... the land is bright.
You tell ‘em Winnie. England may be lost, but in your own wonderfully inspiring words - we in the westward land shall never surrender!!!!
Winnie would have made a hell of a blogger, don’t you think?
On a brief serious note - what on earth was Larry King thinking, having Dick Cheney as his Memorial Day program guest? Couldn’t he have found someone more representative of what Memorial Day is all about than the Vice President who had "other priorities" than military service when young men were fighting and dying in Viet Nam?
One could only hope that King did this to expose the hypocrisy of Cheney and his ilk, which would include his President. But I doubt it. I think he just didn’t think!!
At least Matthew Hale is in jail. He won’t be available for a Larry King Live interview on National Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
I’m not a fan of Jay Leno. I never thought he was an appropriate successor to the years of Johnny Carson, Jack Paar and Steve Allen. Those were giants. Leno isn’t in the same class. The only time I see anything of him is when I’m flipping from channel to channel if I happen to keep the TV on after John Stewart says goodnight. That’s "The Daily Show" for those of you who watch Fox to get your "news."
I’m not that crazy about Letterman either, but I find it hard to believe that he lags behind Leno in audience size. But my comments today aren’t about the rivalry between these two late night TV hosts. It’s about Leno’s involvement in the Michael Jackson trial.
Leno testified yesterday and said that while Jackson’s accuser did call him on the phone and bug him, he never asked for money. I suppose that could be true. It could be that the kid and his family hadn’t reached the point where they were ready to put the bite on Leno, but I assume that he was interviewed by a defense investigator and I assume that based on whatever he said in that interview, the defense expected Leno to testify that he had been asked for money. So you have to wonder what happened here. For sure Jackson’s lawyers didn’t call him to provide an entertainment break.
But from the reports of his testimony, some of which apparently drew laughs in the courtroom, one might think that’s what Leno believed. I’m usually the cynical one in my house, but it was my wife who suggested that maybe he wanted to testify because of the material he could gather for his monologue and for skits on his show - and so deliberately gave the impression that his testimony would be more than it turned out to be.
From what I’ve heard and read about last night’s "Tonight Show"- taped within hours of his testimony in a case where a man is on trial - virtually for his life, because if Michael Jackson goes to jail, he may well not survive - my wife may be right.
Both Leno and Letterman have been making jokes about Jackson and the trial since it began - as has John Stewart and others in the laugh business. And under our legal system, as opposed to the way they do things in the UK for example - trial testimony is public as it unfolds and is fair game for comedy and for ridicule.
But when you are subpoenaed to be a witness for the defense at a criminal trial and your regular job happens to be that of comedian and late night talk show host on national television, one would hope that instead of using your appearance to gather material to create zingers that you can inject one after another into your opening monologue hours after you’ve finished testifying, a sense of common decency would persuade you to back off on making jokes about the guy who’s on trial. At least for that one day - the day when you were a part of the trial.
How refreshing it would have been for Leno to have walked out on stage and told his audience that though the temptation was strong, he wasn’t going to tell jokes about the Jackson trial or his appearance earlier in the day. That while we may think the trial and Michael Jackson are like gifts from the Gods of comedy, it’s something very different when you’re there in the courtroom, being asked to give testimony that could have some influence on the outcome of the case. That all joking aside, there’s a guy on trial for what may be his life. That there are moments when decency cries out for you to give the jokes a rest - even if it’s just for one night. And this is one of those moments.
Leno didn’t say anything like that. I think Carson would have. And Paar. And Allen. Maybe that’s one of the reasons they were giants and Leno isn’t.
Something Smells in Detroit
If Leno wants a trial to joke about, here’s a suggestion for him. The deejay who lost her job at a Detroit radio station owned by Infinity Broadcasting, sued and got awarded 10.6 million bucks.
Her complaint? She claimed she was allergic to another deejay’s perfume and it made her ill. She lost her voice. She complained of feeling an electric shock "quell through her entire body."
The employers said they asked the other deejay to quit wearing the perfume. She did. They also changed the on-air schedules so the women wouldn’t come in contact with each other. But the allergic deejay didn’t come to work for long periods of time and the station fired her.
Discrimination she yelled. Because of her disability!! Her allergies made her disabled and that disability entitled her to not show up for work for long periods of time without getting fired.
Anyone who knows anything about the radio business knows that a deejay can be fired without notice and at a moment’s notice, and for any reason - as long as his or her contract is paid off - assuming they have a contract. But a six woman jury deliberated for eight days and finished up buying the deejay’s story and figuring it was worth seven million in punitive damages, two million for mental anguish and emotional distress and 1.6 million for past and future compensation.
I’m sure the deejays of the nation are watching this one closely. Specially all who have been fired at one time or another - and that probably covers 95% of all on the air "personalities." Also all persons with lousy allergies, which includes my wife. I’m already trying to figure out what kind of scam we can come up with to get her categorized as a "disabled" person with her disability exacerbated by her work environment to the extent that she needs to stay away from that environment for long periods of time - and of course still get paid her full salary. But if the news of the Detroit verdict gets around, those sneaky people she works for will probably catch on to what she’s doing and refuse to fire her.
Infinity Broadcasting is appealing the verdict, so it may not be a story down the road. Out of the hands of the six lady bountifuls and in front of a somber appeals judge, it may disappear like a will-o-the-wisp. But if it doesn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a flood of lawsuits from fired deejays and laid off allergy sufferers - and that could give Leno and the other late night hosts material for a whole slew of monologues and skits. Maybe enough to forget about Michael Jackson for a while.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Just a short comment on last night’s Senate action. It wasn’t "miraculous" - a word I used in yesterday’s comments. And for the life of me, I can’t see how what happened could be considered a compromise!!
The most common dictionary definition of the word "compromise" is "a settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions."
If what happened in the Senate yesterday was a compromise, Webster et al will have to start looking for a new definition.
The way I read the story, what happened was as follows. The seven Republicans said, we’re going to confirm three of the pending judicial nominations. You won’t try to stop us and for now at least, we won’t vote aye on the "nuclear option." You also won’t try to stop "up or down" judicial nominee votes in the future except under "extraordinary circumstances," but if we disagree on what constitutes an extraordinary circumstance, we’ll just go back to the same old nuclear option. So listen up Democrats. We outnumber you so we’re dictating the terms of this so called compromise But we’re not an unfeeling bunch of bastards, so we’ll help you pretend that with this surrender - I mean compromise, sorry about that - the dignity of the Senate and the rights of the minority have been preserved.
The seven Democrats said, yes sir, yes sir, three bags full, then dropped their pants and mooned each other in triumph.
Of course the "compromise" sounds very much like the offer of surrender that Harry Reid made to Doctor Frist a while back and that the wannabe future President rejected out of hand. Like the allies at the end of World War II, he wanted unconditional surrender. So I guess in one sense, the Democrats accomplished something that could be considered worth while by surrendering to other Republicans. They helped weaken Frist in his race for the 2008 Republican nomination.
But overall, I’m disappointed in the outcome. Mostly I’m disappointed in the seven Republicans who found a way to have their cake and eat it too. Much like the kind of politician that I described on " Friday the Thirteenth" when I was writing about Senator Voinovich. The reason that the "compromise" overrides Frist’s all or nothing challenge to the opposition is that the seven votes of the Republican compromisers, added to 44 Democrats and one independent, is enough to nuke the nuclear option. But if Frist doesn’t try to call their bluff, they’ll never have to cast those votes, so their cake supply will never be depleted. Not by a single crumb.
I’m also disappointed in the Democrats because while there was no way they were ever going to "win" in terms of blocking judges who they deemed to be too politically extreme to sit on the Federal appeals bench , they did have the opportunity to force all 100 senators to vote "up or down" on the question of sustaining or limiting the right of the minority to filibuster on any issue or any nomination. It was a seminal moment in the history of the legislative branch of government and they opted to join with their cake eating Republican colleagues to back away from it. Now the question of what each sitting senator truly believes about the rights of those in the minority to have an input into or to slow down or even stop legislation they deem unacceptable will remain unanswered. And those who will be running for re-election in the future will never have to defend or explain a position they never took. So they gave their Republican friends a double win.
Today, I’m hearing some Democratic Senators on the radio calling the compromise a victory for the American people. I think that’s just an attempt at face saving. It may be some kind of victory for those who believe that Patricia Owen, Janice Brown and William Pryor will make fine Appeals Court Judges, but I doubt that the rest of us feel that the American people had a victorious Monday. Just one that we’d like to put behind us and hope isn’t going to be a harbinger for what to expect from this Senate for the balance of the Bush Presidency.
Monday, May 23, 2005
WAITING FOR THE NUCLEAR OPTION FALLOUT
Unless some miraculous compromise gets worked out today, this week will go down in US history as the week of the "Nuclear Option" - and very likely the week when every serious, semi serious, right wing, left wing, political, apolitical and occasionally political commentary blogger will be writing about it. I like to be different whenever I can, but the lure of this piece of political drama is too strong to resist, so I’ll write about it too.
The way that language shapes our thinking - and how our thinking shapes our language, can at times be truly fascinating. Just think of what might happen ten, twenty years down the road when our children are being taught modern history. A few weeks ago, if a teacher told his class to prepare for a discussion of the "Nuclear Option," all of the research and all of the anticipation would have been about war,. Maybe about attacking Iran before they get a chance to develop nuclear weapons. Maybe about what we could do to close down the threat of nuclear attack by North Korea.
But now and in the future it’s just as likely - maybe more likely to be about debate in the United States Senate. About the week that our government of checks and balances got rid of both. No checks and no balances.
If you’d just arrived here from some other planet and if you listened to Senators from both sides of the aisle arguing about this topic, you’d have to conclude that they are all liars. That none of them tell the truth. From the Republican side, we keep hearing that using the filibuster to prevent federal judges from getting an "up or down" vote, has never been done before and filibustering against judges is "breaking senate rules."
From the Democrat side, we hear that Republicans have used and attempted to use the filibuster, precisely to prevent the confirmation of federal judges - and not just against Abe Fortas, despite Charles Krauthammer’s recent protestation to the contrary. Before my beloved Cody passed away on Monday of last week, I was prepared to take Krauthammer to task for one of the most ridiculous pieces he’s ever written - that the anti Fortas filibuster wasn’t really a filibuster for reasons a,b,c and d ad nauseum. But on reflection, Krauthammer’s rigid partisanship approach to any and all topics isn’t worth the time of day.
Of course we know that partisanship cuts both ways. We know that in the past, Democrats have also decried the attempted use of the filibuster to block "up and down" votes on judicial nominees, but unless a significant piece of history passed me by while I wasn’t looking, they’ve never tried to do away with the filibuster!!
It may well be that using the filibuster to prevent an "up and down" vote on an appointment to the Federal Appeals Court has not been used in the past, but my response to that is so what? It could be that there was never any need to use the filibuster for such a purpose in the past. The Republicans didn’t need to during the Clinton years because they had other methods. The appointment they’re now going gaga about was one that Clinton tried to fill twice!! If he’d been successful, there wouldn’t be this battle over Priscilla Owen’s qualifications for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The position would have been filled long ago.
But maybe the reason the filibuster hasn’t needed to be used to block appointments to the Court of Appeals in the past is that we have never been this close to a total upheaval of the checks and balances that the framers of our constitution envisioned would apply brakes to the kind of political runaway train that is now hurtling its way down the track to who knows what kind of a future United States of America.
We have one party controlling the White House and both houses of Congress. If the President succeeds in getting all of his judicial nominees approved - and remember these appointments are for life - what happens to the concept of checks and balances? If the Republicans hold on to their power through the next national election or the next two national elections, which branch of government is going to provide checks to either one or both of the other branches if they are all of a single philosophical and political mind?
Mr. Bush doesn’t see this danger. His presidency thus far has been marked by smug expressions of righteousness and reckless actions. He thinks he is doing God’s work and that it is his destiny - not just to reshape the world in the image that he envisions - but re-shape his own country as well. The blind Republican partisans in the Senate don’t seem to sense any danger either as they fall in lock step behind the demagogic pronouncements of the politically ambitious Bill Frist. (Could you imagine entrusting your healthcare to this guy)?
It may be a different use of the filibuster to block appointments to the Federal judiciary, but we should be grateful that the filibuster exists and is being used in this fashion. It is being used to block only a handful of judges whose views are way outside of the mainstream and who shouldn’t have been nominated in the first place. But President Bush and the Republicans in the Senate want an unprecedented one hundred percent of all of his judicial nominees approved.
Judicial nominees who have unquestioned legal skills and temperament to preside over Federal courtrooms, traditionally garner strong bipartisan support in the Senate - which is as it should be. It should never be a situation where the vote is divided strictly along political party lines. Although politics obviously plays a strong role in seeking judges to fill Federal vacancies, nominees that evoke the kind of visceral partisan division that we are witnessing at the moment, shouldn’t be sent to the Senate in the first place. And a President who is guided by what is best for the country - instead of his own religious and philosophical beliefs, wouldn’t submit their names.
This President has not only submitted a handful of judges that cannot garner the kind of bipartisan support that would confirm their acceptability across party lines - which at the risk of repeating myself, is as it should be - but has stubbornly re-submitted them, touching off this week of the "Nuclear Option."
To which I say "Go, filibustering Democrats" Unless some Senators with more American than Republican blood in their veins join you, the "Nuclear Option" will prevail. But maybe it won’t be all bad. Maybe it will be a wake up call to American voters - including some not so died-in-the-wool Republicans, who may finally see that depriving the minority party in Congress of its traditional ability to call a halt to recklessly partisan legislation and Presidential appointments, changes the role of the majority from governing to ruling.
Let’s hope that the sound of our nation’s founders turning in their graves at such a proposition, will be loud enough to be heard in the Senate chambers. And let’s hope that what else they hear and pay attention to, will be historian Lord Acton’s ancient admonition - "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
But if that’s really what they want, all I can say is, Lord help us all.
Friday, May 20, 2005
STAR WARS SILLINESS
Still in mourning for Cody and having a hard time thinking or writing about serious and scary stuff, of which there’s enough around this week to make one conclude that the inmates have finally succeeded in taking over and are indeed running the asylum. So instead I’ll talk about something less disturbing but equally silly.
I am sure there are many others like me but for the past couple of day I’ve had the feeling that I’m the only person in America having zero interest in the release of the latest "Star Wars" episode.
I have never seen a Star Wars movie and I doubt that I’ll ever take the trouble to sit through one if it’s being aired on television - which is the only way I would ever get to see any part of any of the films. . And I’m not being snobbish when I say that. I just don’t have any interest in this series which seems to have attracted so many devoted fans.
Some people may find that strange when I tell them that I am a fan of science fiction. A BIG fan. When I was young I used to spend far too much money on the monthly sci fi magazines - which I couldn’t wait to read as soon as they came out. From cover to cover. And I have read all the giants of the genre. Asimov, Henlein, Lieber, Anderson, Herbert, Bradbury - many others. I don’t read that stuff much any more. Just once in a great while I’ll pull out an old book and read something. Maybe my favorite Sci Fi short story of all time - Asimov’s "The Final Question." But I’m always ready to lap up any good science fiction movie that comes along. Nowadays I rent them and watch at home rather than go to a movie theater - so I have to wait until they hit the video stores, even though I’ll admit that some movies cry out to be seen on the big screen.
So why haven’t I rented any of the Star Wars movies? When the first of the series came out , I saw snippets of it on television. It may have been in ads for the movie. I honestly don’t remember. But I do remember seeing who or what some of the characters were, and they looked and sounded like a kid’s computer game rather than a science fiction movie. And I had no knowledge of George Lucas as a writer of science fiction. I guess I still don’t. It just didn’t grab me as what I think of as a sci fi movie.
When I think of great science fiction movies, I think of such classics as The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET, 2001 A Space Odyssey - even Planet of the Apes. The common element of these movies is that they were mostly made as traditional motion pictures. Yes, there were some pretty outstanding special effects in ET and 2001 and Close Encounters, but they were movies that could have held up without the special effects - even without ET’s magical bicycle ride.
They could all have succeeded without heavy reliance on special effects because they had strong, adult story lines, and good acting. By humanoids.
Star Wars it seems to me, represents something else. More of a computer generated entertainment - with all of the visual and audio gimmickry that a computer program can provide. I have read that Lucas delayed making this last - and I guess final episode in the series - because he was waiting for the technology to catch up to what he wanted to do. It’s a good thing DW Griffith didn’t have the same attitude back in 1915 or we might never have had a Birth of the Nation.
I suppose the release of "Revenge of the Sith" is a good thing for the movie theater industry, whose attendance numbers have been falling recently. But I am totally bewildered by the crowds of people gathering outside theaters days before the movie was scheduled to be released, just so they could see the very first showing at their local theater. Why? The movie will be in theaters as long as anyone wants to see it, so why stand in line for 12 or 24 or 36 hours to buy a ticket?
And I am even more bewildered at the decision of TV network news producers to include the opening of this film as an event worthy of inclusion in their evening newscasts the other day. I don’t know if all the networks carried it, but I know it was reported as a news item on ABC because I was watching when it popped up toward the end of their newscast. The only thing that I think I could understand about such a decision would be an ulterior motive on the part of a frustrated news producer. To persuade an ailing Peter Jennings that he’d better bite the bullet, ignore his doctors and retake the reins of his evening newscast before the powers that be decide to replace him with a computer generated anchor team.
Maybe Darth Vador and R2D2.
No, that wouldn’t work. They’re already anchoring over at Fox.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
ISLAMIC MADNESS - NOT NEWSWEEK - IS THE REAL STORY
It’s hard trying to concentrate on the "passing parade" after posting yesterday’s comments. I’m in mourning and will be for a while. I’ve had to say goodbye to four dogs in my lifetime - and each time it’s been like losing a child. That’s how I’ve related to each of them. As a mentor and a friend. And a surrogate father.
It’s particularly hard when much of what passes for the passing parade is nonsense. This week, much of the world of punditry is concerned with the nonsense of what was written in Newsweek, the alleged reaction to it in the Muslim world and in the White House. It’s hard to know which reaction is the most disingenuous.
If ever an inquiring mind sought a perfect example of the meaning of the pot calling the kettle black, the White House has provided it this week with its condemnation of Newsweek’s lack of journalistic standards,
I’ll leave that aspect of the story alone. It’s being written about and spoken about by enough pundits with a sufficiently broad spectrum of opinion to satisfy just about anyone from the extreme left to the extreme right.
But I will talk about the so called Muslim "reaction." Riots, injuries, deaths, destruction. Because of a squib in Newsweek about possible disrespect of their holy book? All of the news media are covering the story as though what I’ve stated is the story. A possible religious insult was reported in a magazine. Followers of that possibly insulted religion expressed their displeasure by going nuts. Action and reaction. Newton’s Third Law of Motion. Quod Erat Demonstrandum.
However from where I sit, only part of the foregoing is true - the part that I think is the real story - if there’s a story at all. And that part rests on the single word that cries out from the page - the word nuts!!
Intertwined with the White House’s hypocritical condemnation of Newsweek, is the protestation that the United States has nothing but the deepest respect for the Muslim religion and would never sanction any act that would demonstrate disrespect for Islam - and most certainly not the Holy Koran. Apart from the fact that this storm in a teacup is a gift to the Bush administration , providing an instrument for diverting attention from that condemning Downing Street memo, that's the kind of sanctimonious and disingenuous crap that you would expect from this White House. There’s no one in the Bush administration who will stand up and say what really needs to be said to the insulted rioters, so I’ll say it.
Are you people nuts? So you believe in your religious faith and someone on the other side of the world from you may have done something disrespectful of your faith. And you think it’s appropriate to riot and kill fifteen people? Whatever happened to writing the angry letter to the editor? Or persuading an official of your government to complain to an official of our government.
People who are at least somewhat defensive of Newsweek are pointing to other things that could have contributed to the anger that erupted in Afghanistan. But none of them can be accepted as a reasonable excuse for the crazed reaction that killed and maimed people. Religions and people of religious faith have been insulted in many ways for centuries. Jews for instance. If the reaction of people of the Jewish faith to every insult directed at them over the centuries had been the same as the reaction of today’s Muslims, the streets of the world would have flowed with blood year round.
The real story here is the madness that is part of every religion. Madness that sends people to war against others who have different religious beliefs. Madness that says that your belief is the one that will get you an entry ticket to "paradise" while people who don’t believe as you do will be condemned to some eternal hell. And of course the other side believes exactly the opposite.
It’s madness that with the Muslim religion, has run amok. These people are just plain nuts. The crazed Muslim believers don’t need to read about insults to their religion to spur them to violence. They’re quite capable of slaughtering each other just because of differences in their Islamic beliefs. And do you really think that the people who blow themselves up in order to kill those they consider to be enemies are sane? How about the spectacle of thousands of Muslims chanting in the streets while they flagellate themselves with chains? Yes it’s part of their religious tradition - but isn’t it a part that reveals them as being nutty as fruit cakes?
Of course we have our homegrown religious nuts, but for the most part they don’t go on murderous rampages every time they feel they’ve been insulted - and to hear some of them complain, that’s almost a daily occurrence.
Go beyond Newsweek. Leaf through news magazines from around the world. Newspapers too. Watch television and listen to radio. Sooner or later, whatever your faith may be, you will read, see or hear something that insults it. . Or maybe says something about it that is just wrong or cockeyed. Unless you’re a crazy person, your reaction isn’t going to be to go on a rampage and kill and maim your fellow citizens.
So if our news media want to report on this "story," maybe they should do some investigative reporting on the deadly religious fanaticism that permeates the Muslim world, and not let the White House and its apologists maneuver you into giving them cover by putting the Downing Street memo on the back burner.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
ON THE PASSING OF A NOBLE COMPANION
I was all prepared to start the week yesterday with a response to the latest Kraurthammer invective, some comments on the idiot child who is trying to besmirch Paula Abdul as an entry ticket to fifteen minutes of infamy and on one or two other annoyances - but events intervened to make them all seem insignificant and somehow not worthy of even passing interest. At least not today. And certainly not yesterday.
Yesterday, I lost a piece of my life. My dog Cody died. Actually, it would be more technically accurate to say she was euthanized. But hours before that act of mercy took place, Cody had decided that she could live no longer. She told us that in the only way she could. She stopped eating. Not just regular food which she would routinely snarf in seconds and then give us a quizzical look as though to ask "is that all there is" - but special treats - including pupperoni and ice cream which she always shared with me when I had some for dessert.
There will be no obituary for Cody in my local paper, which is the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune doesn’t publish pet obituaries. There are obscure pages where you can publish a dog obituary. You can find them on line. But they’re for people who I think had a different relationship with their dogs than I had with Cody. Cody I’m sure would have agreed that this was the most appropriate place to record her obituary.
We’re not sure how old Cody was. We think between 12 and 13. We’re not sure because we weren’t in on Cody’s birth. Some sub-humanoid had possession of Cody before we met her. A sub-humanoid who tied her to a street post and abandoned her. She was rescued by our neighbor - given the name by which she was loved for the rest of her life - and moved in with her dog Annie , who viewed that event with a jaundiced cock of the head. Cody and Annie lived together for three years, visiting with us constantly and getting into vicious fights with each other once or twice a year. Their last fight was the one that separated them and moved Cody to our house permanently. Everyone figured if they fought again, one of them wouldn’t survive. Maybe neither of them.
That was eight years ago.
Cody was described by the vet as "part Pit," but we thought of her as a lovable and loving mutt who was as gentle as a lamb with people - from little babies to doddering old farts. It was her life’s work - to exude love - and she did it with disarming charm and grace.
She got sick suddenly last December - or at least she exhibited the first sign of sickness last December. The day after we’d had our carpets cleaned, we woke to find blood splattered everywhere. On the carpeting, On our bedspread, On wood floors. At first we thought Cody must have injured a foot, but we soon saw that the blood was coming from her nose. The vet’s tentative diagnosis was a tumor or polyp. A fungal or bacterial infection could also cause that kind of nose bleed, but was thought less likely to be the cause. The only way to be sure was to run tests that cost in the many thousands - far too expensive for us to contemplate - particularly because the odds of successfully treating any of these possible ailments was poor.
We never were able to get a definitive diagnosis and though we treated her with antibiotics on the slim chance that her problems stemmed from an infection of some kind, Cody never stopped bleeding from her nose and she slowly went downhill with increasing difficulty in breathing .
So what kind of an obituary can we write for Cody? Loving daughter of so and so? Dear granddaughter of so and so? Devoted sister to so and so? Probably not. She was after all a dog - albeit a dog who was considered a member of our family - and an equal member at that.
But she was loved dearly and will be missed by many, including people whose names are Sherri and Nancy and Scott and Diane and Dee and Karen and Randy and Jill and Jerry and Amanda.
I wrote about dogs last July, and perhaps the best obituary I can offer for Cody are the words of Sir Walter Scott that I included in that piece.
I don’t know about the "Almighty," but just change "him" to "her" and you have a perfect description of our Cody - our companion for the last eight years of our pleasures and our toils, invested with the noblest of natures and incapable of any kind of deceit.
And I’m sure the spirit of Shakespeare won’t mind me paraphrasing his words as we say goodbye to our beautiful friend.
Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight sweet Cody. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Friday, May 13, 2005
WE’VE BEEN "VOINOVICHED."
It isn’t an original thought to say that this Bush administration doesn’t just want to govern - it wants to rule - but it’s worth saying it again to help me - and maybe some who read my blog - to keep what’s going on in our dear land in focus.
It’s there every day in the House and Senate . The almost total refusal to compromise on matters that cry out for compromise and eschewing partisan politics. But it’s not happening. And they’re taking their lead from their President who not only refuses to negotiate with himself but refuses to back away from anyone he nominates for any position no matter how clear it becomes that he might have made a mistake. I’m not so sure he’d have backed away from Bernard Kerik if Kerik hadn’t removed himself from consideration as Homeland Security Chief when all of his personal garbage got splashed across the front pages of the nation’s newspapers.
His insistence upon pushing the nomination of John Bolton for the United Nations is typical of his refusal to ever acknowledge that he might have made a mistake. Some might argue that Clinton was equally stubborn with his nomination of Richard Holbrooke for the same job, but you can’t compare the Bolton situation with the lengthy hold that Jesse Helms and other Republican Senators put on the nomination of Holbrooke for UN Ambassador. There weren’t any Democratic Senators publicly saying that Clinton had made a bad choice - that there were better people than Holbrooke for the job. And when he did get confirmed in 1999, the vote was 81 to 16!!
Any bets on what the final Bolton vote will be?
But what I really w ant to talk about today is a word that I heard someone use - I think it was John Stewart on the Daily Show. "Voinoviched." We’ve been "Voinoviched." On April 22, I was nominating the Senator from Ohio for Person of the Week" because of his refusal to blindly endorse sending the vote on Bolton to the full Senate. And there he was again yesterday, saying that "the United States can do better than John Bolton" and other disparaging things about the man - and then voting to send his nomination to the Senate floor where the disciplined Republican majority will confirm him. Nothing like Holbrooke’s 81 to 16, but enough to send him to the UN where of course the rest of the world is waiting to welcome him with open arms. With him there, they figure there won’t be any chance of anyone knocking off all those floors he said they could do without.
I don’t know if "voinoviched" will stick, but maybe something like "he pulled a voinovich" or "the guy’s nothing but a voinovich" will. I think it might because we don’t really have a catchword or catch phrase to describe the politician who lives his whole political life the way Voinovich performed yesterday.
I’m sure he considers himself sincere and others think of him as being heroic, but his story is a classic case of having his political cake and eating it too.
Members of the US Senate have extraordinary power and influence. A single Senator has the ability to hold up or derail major bills and presidential nominations. Had Voinovich voted not to send the Bolton nomination to the full Senate, the committee vote would have been nine to nine and the nomination would have been dead. But he voted yes while making sure the world knew he would vote no on the Senate floor.
Isn’t that special? A Republican willing to vote his conscience on the Senate floor instead of following the party line. And doing it with total coverage. Knowing full well that the votes are there to confirm, he can vote no boldly - satisfying moderate Ohio voters who agree with his take on Bolton, and maneuvering himself into a position to be forgiven by the extreme conservatives who have been labeling him a traitor for his remarks in committee three weeks ago.
How does a politician live his life "Voinoviching?" I’ll give you the prime example. The anti-tax candidate or incumbent. The guy who proudly proclaims that he has never voted for a tax or a tax increase. He doesn’t vote for new taxes or for tax increases because he doesn’t have to. There’s already a majority that he knows will carry the day and enact those hated tax laws - and he can hide behind that majority, claiming that he was a lone voice railing against the tax and spend juggernaut. And enough suckers buy it and elect or re-elect him.
I’m not saying that Voinovich is someone like that, even though I’m suggesting his name be coined to describe people like that. But he had a chance to be more than an asterisk or an afterthought in the history books and he blew it - using the hackneyed "the President deserves an up or down vote" excuse to allow others to do the dirty work that he could have stopped in its tracks.
I do NOT nominate George v Voinovich of Ohio as this week’s ABC Person of the Week.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
WILL FRANKLIN BE GIVEN THE POLLARD TREATMENT?
People much more knowledgeable than I have said that the Bush administration is the most secretive in history. I can’t quarrel with them because I have no direct knowledge of what goes on in Washington - but I do know, simply from observation, that Washington has an ongoing and long standing love affair with the concept of "classified information."
Just what is classified information? Well, you can look here and read what the 1980 act says. I’m sure there have been modifications or newer laws enacted since, but without question they would all include the basic reason for information being classified - and that is for the purpose of national security.
But boy what a catchall two word phrase that is. And no doubt it has been used to hide billions of documents from the light of day and to make any shedding of light on them a Federal offense punishable by penalties up to and including death.
Last August 30 I asked the question - Should Classified be Re-Classified? I was writing about the case of Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin who had allegedly discussed the contents of a classified document at a lunch meeting with two employees of AIPAC - The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, who in turn might have passed them on to someone in the Israeli government.
Now, nine months later, Franklin has been indicted and I ask the same question I asked last year. Word for word. Why should there ever be any need for someone at Larry Franklin’s level to look for ways to keep Israel informed on issues that could affect its future security, that for reasons that I don’t understand, are stamped "classified - do not discuss with family and friends?"
Israel’s security may not have been the primary motivation for Franklin to have discussed classified information. News reports say he didn’t think his views on Iran were getting the attention they deserved and he was hoping that he could engineer AIPAC to bring them to the attention of the White House.
But no matter what the subject, I can’t believe that any discussion between this career public servant and people at AIPAC could have an adverse affect on the security of the United States or any of our military forces or diplomatic missions abroad. Yet here we go again. Because the information discussed was written down somewhere and stamped "classified" - Mr. Franklin is facing possible jail time.
Does the name Jonathan Pollard come to mind?
Somehow, I think the Franklin case will follow the Pollard routine. There will never be a trial where the specifics of what might have been discussed sees the light of day and the question posed in open court for all to hear - in what way was this conversation a threat to US security?
And if that happens, do you really think we will be a more secure nation, or, if Franklin goes to jail, that justice was served?
The never ending United Airlines debacle
Countless bloggers I am sure are expressing their anger over the court decision to allow United Airlines to dump their pension obligations, slashing the retirement income of thousands of United employees and retirees.
I’ve written about this before and there’s little to add. It’s a disgusting situation - and perhaps the most disgusting thing about is the hiring of Glen Tilton two years ago with , as I recall, a signing bonus!! The guy pulls down over a million dollars a year. He has a guaranteed four and a half million dollar pension after only two years employment. . And he has the balls to say that reneging on the pensions of employees who have spent their working lives with the company is necessary for the airline to survive.
As what? A slave labor airline?
Reading the story in the Chicago Tribune this morning, I gagged on the commentary that the United Board isn’t about to respond to threats of haphazard strikes by dumping Tilton because they think he’s been doing such a good job squeezing concession after concession from the unions - and now dumping the pension obligation. Well worth his big bucks and his guaranteed pension.
I seem to remember a story of another major corporation in big trouble many years ago. They brought in a new CEO to get them out of trouble. He squeezed concessions from the company’s unions and he successfully petitioned the government to guarantee a billion and a half dollars in loans. The company was Chrysler and the new CEO was Lee Iacocca. And his signing bonus and first year salary? A buck. A single dollar. He didn’t take millions out of the pot while asking his workers to sacrifice. When Chrysler was out of trouble and making money, Iacocca pulled in the ridiculous amounts of money that companies pay their CEO’s, but he didn’t do it while the people who did the real work were taking the hits.
If United hadn’t hired Tilton - if they had stayed with Jack Creighton and Rono Dutta and cut the pay of their CEO and all senior management to the same level as say a senior pilot - and stayed at that level until the company was out of trouble, United employees might not have felt as they feel today. Betrayed. Disrespected. Used.
My suggestion to the unions is to go into court and petition for the reduction of all executive salaries to a level no higher than the highest paid non executive employees, the temporary suspension of all bonus payments and the cancellation of guaranteed executive pensions. And then to present their own plan for saving the airline, though at this late date, it may be beyond saving as an independent company.
The saddest part of this mess and others like it - and make no mistake, United is now the poster boy for more horrors to come - is that the people who do all the manipulating and wheeling and dealing in these situations, never get hurt. Whether the troubled companies go under or survive as skeletons of their former selves, the management suits take no hits. They continue to draw their humungous paychecks while their golden parachutes sit quietly in silk lined cabinets.
And that’s part of the wonderful system of freedom that we want to spread around the world. To which all I can say is - look out world.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
IS THIS THE IRAQ INVASION SMOKING GUN?
Ever since May Day I’ve been waiting to see the headlines in my morning newspaper and to follow the lead story on network news programs - that there was proof that Tony Blair had lied to the British people about the reasons England joined with the United States to invade Iraq. The "proof" came from a secret memo of a Prime Minister’s meeting that took place on July 23, 2002 and it was the basis for a story published in the London Sunday Times on May 1, 2005.
Obviously the story was of interest to the British public, but what is revealed in the memo is also of vital interest to the American public - that the decision to invade Iraq had already been made by the time that July 23, 2002 meeting was held and that support had already been sought from the UK - and this was before Mr. Bush sought authorization for military action from Congress. The memo reveals that the purpose of the proposed invasion was "regime change" rather than deep concern over "weapons of mass destruction."
For reasons that I do not understand, the Times story has been ignored by our media.
Here’s the story as it appeared in the Times - and here’s a more elaborate version of the story by reporter Michael Smith.
And here is the text of a letter to President Bush, signed by 88 members of Congress, asking for an explanation.
Here’s the memo. It seems pretty clear that the President had already made the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein. And that the decision had nothing to do with the reasons that were presented to the American and British publics.
This is something that I’ve said here more than once and now an official document right out of Ten Downing Street seems to confirm what I had long ago concluded. Bush came into the White House determined to overthrow Saddam Hussein and in the post 9/11 atmosphere, he was able to persuade Congress and the American people that there were legitimate reasons to do so.
That there has been no response from the White House so far can be interpreted in different ways - the most damning of which would be that they’re hoping the story won’t be picked up and will go away. Because if true, it might be interpreted by some as an impeachable offense. You read the material and decide for yourself.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
WHAT TO DO WITH WAYWARD CYCLISTS
One thing about being a commentary blogger - or any other kind of blogger for that matter, is that after you’ve been at it for a couple of years - as I have - and after you’ve published a few hundred commentaries, without the benefit of an editor or an assistant, you’re liable to forget some of the topics you’ve covered and come back to them as though you were doing it for the first time.
Of course there are some prolific bloggers who post comments all day - but they are less likely to be commentaries devoted to specific topics. More like one liners and links to other sites
I do have archives, but don’t have the time or patience to check through all of them every time something I’m typing has a familiar ring to it, so instead I’ll just beg forgiveness if you spot something here that you’re sure you’ve read before. Chalk it up to advancing age. Mine, not yours.
I do remember listing words that I decreed should be banned back on April 24, 2003, when I’d just changed the title of this blog from If I Were King to What’s All This Then. They were;
Twenty Four Seven!!!!!
Please listen carefully as our menu has changed
God Bless America
Weapons of Mass Destruction
And I commented on the last two.
But I don’t remember if , in the intervening couple of years, I wrote anything about what I’d like to see happen to cyclists who pedal on our city streets - in my case, that would be Chicago and its suburbs - or about athletes who broadcast reporters corner to make post game comments. But even if I did, anything I may have said is worth repeating.
Usually, when I see a road accident that looks like it resulted in someone being injured, my reaction is one of sympathy for the injured party or parties. Unless one of the injured is a cyclist. I have reached a point where I not only have no sympathy for cyclists who become embroiled in traffic accidents - I’m often pulling for them to break their silly necks. My sympathy would be reserved for the unfortunate car driver who gets victimized by one of these crazed two wheel jockeys smashing into them
What is that happens to perfectly sane adults when they get on a bicycle and venture onto city streets? I’m being kind and assuming that most of them are sane. Do they suddenly assume that (a) they are immortal and (b) that the rule of law no longer applies to them? You know what I mean because you’ve seen them and cursed at them as often as I have.
To a cyclist, traffic lights are decorations to be observed or not as you wheel through intersections. The colors mean nothing to the two wheel jockeys. Neither does the shape of stop signs or the lettering that spells STOP. Assumptions a and b pertain as they speed past cars waiting patiently for their signal or their turn - and go barreling through intersections - often without looking to see if there is cross traffic approaching or actually in the intersection. If they get hit and thrown twenty feet into the air, I applaud - but feel sorry for the driver who hits them because he or she will have to pay a price of some kind, even though they are completely blameless.
But on the off chance that an officer of the law might be present and observes this crazed two wheel behavior and grabs the nut from his saddle perch, my solution would be the death penalty. Execution on the spot. No trial. No waiting years through endless appeals. One appeal only. To the drivers stuck in the intersection while the officer makes his collar. By a show of hands. Or maybe like the Romans did it for the gladiator battles in the ancient coliseum. A show of thumbs. Up or down.
Just off one of them in that fashion and I guarantee the problem would be solved for ever. And just to make sure that they understand that it could happen to them, put a new sign at every intersection. A great big picture of a human thumb. Turned down of course.
Let’s ban post game comments by athletes
I’m not advocating instant death sentences for athletes who exceedingly annoy, but I am advocating eight week reeducation camps for all radio and television sports producers, directors and reporters who are responsible for corralling a member of any sports to give a post game comment on the outcome of the event.
You’ve heard these people. You’ve heard them for so many years that they’ve become part of the background noise of life. You don’t necessarily listen to what they say but you’ve accepted the fact that they are part of any post game wrap up on radio and television and part of the sports news segment of radio and television newscasts.
It wouldn’t be so bad if they ever had anything to say other than one of the "two hundred and fifty standard post game clichés for inarticulate athletes." You know them when you hear them.
"I had my good stuff working today." "I didn’t have my good stuff working today." "We’ve just got to get more runs." "We’re taking it one game at a time" "We’re a better team than that." "We’ve got to quit making mistakes." "I, he, was in the zone today." "I just go out and give a hundred and ten percent." "We came to play today." "Turnovers killed us."
Actually, there are some books that list sports clichés - some with a lot more than my imaginary 250 post game clichés. Like this one. I don’t know if it includes clichés uttered by athletes, but it boasts 1,771 sports clichés culled from a list of more than 4,000!!
I don’t want to hurt the author’s sales, but why anyone would ever buy a book like this is beyond me. It’s bad enough to have to listen to them being spoken Reading them strikes me as being an exercise in masochism.
Then again, if you’re one who actually pays attention to anything an athlete says in a post game interview, you’re at least a closet masochist. And if I had my way, I would outlaw the broadcast dissemination of post game comments by athletes who were involved in the competition and restrict their use to dominatrices in the pursuit of their profession.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
JACKSON TRIAL TV ANALYSTS AND DEFENDER - AN ANNOYINGLY UNPLEASANT BUNCH
If there’s one thing the legal profession doesn’t need, it is to have lawyers make spectacles of themselves on the public airways day after day - providing ammunition for those who maintain that there is substance at the heart of all those demeaning lawyer jokes.
But that’s what’s been happening with CNN’s coverage of the Michael Jackson trial, via the Larry King show and the newly inaugurated Nancy Grace show. And it’s not just that we’ve been subjected to the sleaze that we all knew was somewhere in the heart of ALL lawyers - it’s that CNN in its wisdom, decided to do it with female lawyers!!
If I had to pick the worst of them, it would have to be Nancy Grace. This lady is a former prosecutor who it seems no longer practices law. I wasn’t familiar with her until the Jackson trial began. Apparently, she left her job in the Atlanta Fulton County District Attorney’s office to become a commentator for Court TV. I never watched Court TV so I didn’t know of her existence before I saw her as an analyst on other cable programs covering the trial. I don't recall where I first saw her but I know she's been a frequent guest on Larry King Live - and now she has her own cable show.
According to her biography, furnished online by Court TV.com - Ms Grace never lost a case during her tenure as a prosecutor. Nearly 100 cases tried and not a single loss!! Having watched her perform on television, I can understand that record. She must have scared jurors half to death. They likely figured if they didn’t vote her way she’d come after them!! And let me tell you - I think I’d rather be chased by Genghis Kahn!!
If I had to pick one word to conjure up a vision of this lady lawyer, I think it would have to be venom!! On her new show, her role is that of host. On the trial re-creation show on which she appeared, it was that of analyst - and I gather that was what she was supposed to be on Court TV. But what comes across is prosecutor!! It’s as though she can’t leave her past life behind. Her "analysis" of the Michael Jackson trial has been prosecutorial throughout. She not only doesn’t try to hide her belief that Jackson is guilty, but she also makes it pretty darned clear that she doesn’t like the guy.
Having watched her enough times now, this isn’t any kind of surprise to me. My impression of the lady is that she doesn’t like anybody and she has little time for anyone who disagrees with her. If I couldn’t use the word "venom," I’d be happy using "nasty" as a substitute. I can imagine myself having sat through one of her trials as a member of the jury and having to go home and take a long hot shower at the end of each day’s proceedings. To stop the shudders from running up and down my back.
A couple of other ladies who at least appear to be practicing law when they’re not appearing as "analysts" on CNN are Stacey Horrowitz, identified as an assistant States Attorney in Florida and Susan Filan, also identified as an assistant States Attorney, in her case from Connecticut. Both were on with Larry King a couple of nights ago and both came across as budding disciples of the Nancy Grace school of trial analysis for TV.
Stacey Horrowitz has to be grateful that jury members in cases that she prosecutes, don’t get to see what we see at home - a close up of a face that appears to be contorted in anger whenever she is trying to make a point. And her voice doesn’t detract from her facial expressions - except perhaps that she sounds as annoyingly angry as she looks. The woman sneers, With curled lip yet.
Susan Filan wants to talk over other people, often with innocuous points that have little to do with substance but with some obscure point of law that the average viewer - and juror - could care less about.. Her facial expressions aren’t quite as bad as Horrowitz’s, but it’s obvious that she didn’t grow up practicing in front of a camera.
I’m about as far removed from being a misogynist as one could be. I like women. I like them more than men. I don’t agree with Professor Henry Higgins when he asks
But I must say that the demeanor of the male lawyers who have appeared on these programs, have, in stark contrast to their female counterparts, appeared to be more reasonable and fair minded.
But I regret to say that it’s not just the lady lawyers who come across so badly. There is a woman who appears on these Jackson trial analysis programs who is identified as a Michael Jackson "spokesperson." Her name is Raymone Bain and if you check her name on line, you find that she is a principle of Davis, Bain & Associates, Inc - a Washington DC based PR firm and that she has been a spokesperson for several high profile clients including tennis star Serena Williams and recording artists Babyface and Boyz II Men.
We can thus assume that she was hired by Jackson and is being paid to make him look good on these television programs and elsewhere. He’s not getting his money’s worth.
Ms Baine doesn’t convey the sense of nastiness that exudes from the lady lawyers, but as a defender of Jackson, she is a one trick pony who can’t even perform that trick at a professional level. No matter what questions are put to her, her answers are pretty much the same. Michael is innocent. He would never do the things they say he did. He’s saddened by all these people that he helped and was nice to, turning on him like this. And she insists that if Jackson testifies, he will be a fine witness -focused and articulate. Only she pronounces it a-ticulate - an indication that she is not.
I can’t begin to imagine what she has been able to accomplish being a spokesperson for Serena Williams and others. Maybe they really didn’t need explaining to the public at large and all she did was issue written statements. But in a TV panel setting where she is representing one of the world’s oddest entertainers whose very life is on the line, and where sharp lawyers are challenging every aspect the way he lives and questioning his relationships with children - she is totally ineffective. On the odd chance that jurors on the case who are not sequestered, may be watching programs on which Ms Baine appears - Jackson has to hope that she will bore them to tears and they will switch to watching a different soap opera. They are not going to be influenced positively about her client by what they hear from her. No matter how many times she insists that he is a-ticulate.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
DELAYED REACTION TO THE LATEST SS PROPOSAL
A temporary slow down in blog postings while I wrestle with some nasty health problems.
I’ll still be spending some time at the computer and I’ll still be posting - just not every week day.
I guess I can use that as an excuse for not making any comments about last week’s Bush press conference. As a serious (most of the time) commentary blogger, I suppose I should be expected to say something about a Presidential press conference - considering how seldom they take place. But I didn’t even watch this last one. And I have to admit, that was a deliberate act. I have come to the point where I find it difficult to watch the man perform. The constant grinning and grimacing facial expressions and the body movements have become like the sound of a thousand forks scratching on a thousand plates. They distract so much from whatever it is that the man is saying, I find it easier to read a transcript or a news summary later on - which is what I did this time.
And that turns out to be more revealing than watching and listening "live" because I can stop and check on things that interest or amaze me. On the "new" social security plan for example - "progressive indexing" - a kind of "means test" approach to social security.
Turns out to be a "board game" kind of idea of one Robert Pozen, an investment executive who served on Bush’s Social Security advisory commission in 2001. I call it a "board game" kind of plan because I visualize someone like Pozen, hunched over six sets of calculators and a slide rule, crunching numbers far into the night - and figuring out who would have to make what sacrifice to make the numbers work - with the "who" being more like ciphers than flesh and bone Americans. As it is, if the plan ever went into effect, it would be the lower and middle middle class wage earners who would be taking the biggest hit.
I think of those with grandiose ideas of re-shaping the world through military action as the same kind of "board game" planners. Those who will need to make the sacrifices - including the supreme sacrifice - to accomplish the re-shaping, are little more than checkers on a checker board when the calculations are being made. When you’re not among those who will be directly affected by the plans you dream up, the planning takes on an aura of the unreal as you move the circular chips back and forth to postulate a variety of outcomes.
I find it kind of ironic for Mr. Bush to be pushing this kind of plan. The President, like so many of his predecessors, has expressed his unhappiness with the unwieldy and convoluted Internal Revenue Service rules, regulations, tax rates and tax shelters - and wants to simplify them. I agree wholeheartedly that the Federal tax laws are convoluted and unwieldy and I’d like to see him succeed in getting them simplified, though not with something like a flat tax - which would be nice and simple for the rich - they’d pay less - but no big help to the rest of us.
But when it comes to Social Security - which is a relatively simple insurance plan - he’s suggesting changing it to some kind of means tested welfare plan, with all of the complications that would bring . New sets of rules and regulations and a new industry for tax lawyers who would extend their practices to advising how to get the most from the redesigned program.
I suspect that Mr. Pozen’s plan won’t get very far. Unlike its author, the members of Congress who would need to carry it forward, are a lot closer to reality. They have to deal directly with people who will be affected by the suggested sacrifices - and I imagine what they are hearing from those people isn’t a round of applause for the President.
That outcome of the President’s first concrete suggestion for "fixing" Social Security is refreshing. Members of his own party who usually put an automatic stamp of approval on anything their leader says, aren’t rushing to endorse the idea of reducing anyone’s Social Security benefits. They want to get re-elected - and running on a platform of taking money out of constituents’ pockets doesn’t strike most of them as a winning campaign strategy - even for deeply entrenched incumbents.
There will be a "fix" for the future problems of Social Security, but I predict that none of the "ideas" floated so far will be any part of that fix. And once the "fix" has been arrived at, I’ll remind readers of my prediction so that they can send me their congratulations for being a latter day Nostradamus. If I’m right that is. And if I’m still here.
That’s a 30 for May 3, 2005