Saturday, January 14


Oh, crap.

Does Bush expect widespread violence in American streets? Does the administration really suppose that there is a greater threat of terrorists destroying multiple U.S. cities and threatening our institutions than there was formerly of a global power such as the U.S.S.R. doing so? Yet in those years we made significant progress towards human rights, we lived our lives and celebrated our accomplishments, we enjoyed our days without a constant shadow of doom eclipsing them. We recognized the threats and took action to allay them. We had confidence, though not blind faith, that our government could conduct foreign affairs competently, protecting us from any external enemies, and at the same preserve the freedoms and advance the well-being of our populace. We faced threats "like a man" (excuse the retro phrase) and refused to let any external or internal menace hinder our march towards progress as a nation. We held our Constitution sacred, our Declaration of Independence defined us -- and we believed that adherence to their principles was our source of national strength.

I've lived through the Cold War, was a small child during and still have vivid memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis (I lived in Florida within a triangle of three strategic military bases), came to adolescence through the late Vietnam era and witnessed in my young adulthood countless incidents of terrorism, the Iran hostage crisis, etc. None of these events altered our national character.

Now we are being told by the Bush administration that we are in an unprecedented state of danger, one so grievous that we must consider suspending our historical uniqueness in order to preserve our physical security. And all this was because of a single event, 9/11, a terrible day and a horrific attack, but nonetheless a single event, not perpetrated by a nation with a mind and the resources to invade and destroy the United States, but by a small band of terrorists whose mission was to make a statement about our Middle Eastern policies and a name for themselves.

How on earth have Americans come to such a pass that we are buying into such a manufactured environment of hysterical fear? Bin Laden must be laughing in his cups.

Am I a loony conspiracist? I don't think I'm loony, but I've thought for a long time that nothing is beyond the Bush-Cheney cabal.

President George W. Bush has signed executive orders giving him sole authority to impose martial law, suspend habeas corpus and ignore the Posse Comitatus Act that prohibits deployment of U.S. troops on American streets. This would give him absolute dictatorial power over the government with no checks and balances.

It's not so far-fetched. After all, his brother did it in Florida. The neocons have not hidden their strategy of using whatever opportunities present themselves to advance their strategy of permanent global (and domestic) domination.

So where's the conspiracy theory?

It's not theory. It's fact.

9/11 "changed everything." You bet it did. But not in the way Americans take that to mean.

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I'm aware that the levels of CEO compensation in American corporations is absolutely shocking to most people. I live with it all the time, but it still hits me in the gut when I think about it. For instance, the CEO of my own company made something over $23 million last year, and that doesn't include any profits from stock options that he exercised. The president of one of our subsidiaries exercised half his accumulated options shortly before the holidays, netting $50 million. I'll say it again, that's HALF his outstanding options --

And these are guys I see and talk to most every day. They wear buttoned-down plaid shirts and deck shoes to work when they're not expecting to meet with analysts or bankers. They're as approachable as anyone I know and honest to the core, not exactly the picture of the high flyers involved in the corporate scandals. In fact, I have great affection and appreciation for my company's leaders -- they're civic-minded, philanthropic, and they care about their employees' needs. We have one of the most generous profit-sharing plans in the nation, and one of the best benefits packages. So I have no axe to grind, no harbored resentments when I say the following.

It's absurd to believe that anyone is worth that kind of money. The justification, in the case of our Board, is that we made $1 billion in profits (yes, PROFITS) last year. And yes, just as in the sports and entertainment industries, it takes a similar level of compensation to keep that kind of management talent in the current environment.

What's wrong with this picture is the environment, the culture. And that's something that I have no idea how to fix. When the ratio of CEO compensation to average worker spirals to such astronomical levels at a time of stagnant wage growth for average Americans, there's obviously something wrong.

In 2004, the ratio of average CEO pay to the average pay of a production (i.e., non-management) worker was 431-to-1, up from 301-to-1 in 2003, according to "Executive Excess," an annual report released Tuesday by the liberal research groups United for a Fair Economy and the Institute for Policy Studies.

That's not the highest ever. In 2001, the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay hit a peak of 525-to-1.

Still, it's quite a leap year over year, and it ranks on the high end historically. In 1990, for instance, CEOs made about 107 times more than the average worker, while in 1982, the average CEO made only 42 times more.

It may not be a remedy, but it is a moral imperative: increase the minimum wage. A number of states are currently considering such a move. This should be a top-tier Democratic issue. And it shouldn't be relegated to the states. It requires national party leadership. It should be our war cry. If Bush and the Rethugs try to battle it in the face of their massive tax cuts for the uber-wealthy, they can only be perceived as what they truly are, the party that only cares about millionaires and corporate executives and has no care for the vast majority of Americans whatever.

I know polls demonstrate that Americans consider our most important problems the war in Iraq and the war on terra. They also indicate that the citizenry isn't giving Democrats much of a premium on caring for the average Joe. 2006 is the time to strike on both foreign policy issues and domestic ones. The Bush administration has given us a plethora of evidence of their incompetence at both. The Medicare drug benefit program is a fiasco, a giant deficit-builder designed as a payoff for insurance and drug companies with little benefit to the seniors for which it was presumably intended, FEMA's an ongoing story of failure, deficits are soaring, public services continue to be cut in Bush budgets, and the populace is starting to grumble.

The Bush blunders and scandals are so vast and numerous, though, that if Dems try to run on every single issue, we'll lose. Bush has proven the efficacy of a simple strategy: a few select themes hit on hard and continuously are all the public can ;process.

So here are ours:
1. Raise the minimum wage (and get minimum-wage workers out to vote!)
2. Restore competency and integrity to government.
3. Get out of Iraq and apply our resources to hunting down and prosecuting the real terrorists and securing our borders.
4. End the tax cuts to the wealthy and apply those revenues to fixing the real problems of Americans such as healthcare.

That should be enough if we stick to it and don't let ourselves get diverted by some kind of red herring like abortion or a flag-burning amendment. The Republicans are masters of distraction -- Democrats have to adhere to our own game plan this time and not spend all of our time responding to theirs.

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This story brings back memories.

What is it with Republican administrations and their paranoia, anyway? Back in my student protest days during the Nixon years it always struck me as ludicrous that the government should be so terrified of honest, peaceful dissent. Do they really think terrorists would be as open and transparent as citizen dissidents? To the contrary, I imagine them trying to identify with average citizens to disguise their intentions and remain under the radar of law enforcement authorities.

And anyway, it's the American way to stand up and speak one's mind. "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." I remember reading in a Leon Uris novel (Armageddon) one time where an American was debating post-WWII a German who accused the U.S. of harboring the same kind of conformist tendencies as Nazi Germany saying something like, "If the president of the United States stood before the Lincoln Memorial on the Fourth of July to read the Declaration of Independence, there would be someone in America to protest."

After all, our country was founded by patriotic protestors. The Declaration of Independence even insists upon the right of continual revolution: "Whenever any form of government is found destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to order or abolish it, and to institute new governments." The framers made provision for peaceful revolution, impeachment, in the U.S. Constitution.

On second thought, maybe THAT'S the administration's problem. They're identifying with the king and not the colonial rebels.

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Thursday, January 12


What a week. I've finished up editing two film projects and made major progress towards a complete redesign of our company's web site (10 million monthly visits, believe it or not). I haven't had a whole lot of time for posting and anyway, others have said most of what I wanted to, better.

But I've just sat down to watch Hardball, and I'm getting nauseous hearing Chris Matthews and his two guests creating an idol from Lindsay Graham's performance at the Alito hearings, and then worshipping it. Graham Cracker was "statesmanlike" -- "like John Danforth, he got above the sweat of politics." He defended Mrs. Alito's husband "masterfully" and brought her to tears in doing so.

By the way, they agree that after she cried, the hearings were over, that ended it. I'm so pleased to see such compassion for a wife whose husband is being questioned about his own lack of compassion, after the noticeable lack of any such tender mercy for past Democratic wives such as Hillary Clinton.

But I digress. Sen. Lindsay Graham, who briefly showed a spark of decency in challenging the president's secret NSA spy program and thereby angered the wingnuts, has "masterfully" reversed that threat to his political ambition by demagoguing ("Sir, are you a closet bigot?") and is the media's new hero.

So here, in honor of Sen. Lindsay Graham, is my quickly composed version of a familiar song:

(sung to the tune of "The Tracks Of My Tears")

People say I'm the star of my party
I evoked a tear or two
Oh baby, now I'm laughing loud and hearty
My ambitions are renewed
Just take a good look at my face
It shows my glee at scoring an ace
My new success will follow the pace
Of the tracks of her tears.

It's so neat that I'm now being lauded
And the Dems are demonized
I love the way they're blamed and scolded, shamed
When I'M the one who made her cry.
And now they're deep in public disgrace
And I'm the one with media grace
I'm in the right-wing's tender embrace
It's the fact of her tears.

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Clearly the nation is threatened by peaceniks and the balloons they wave:

During a trial for arrests at NSA on October 4, 2003, an internal NSA email was given to the defendants from the Pledge by an NSA witness. The email showed that the NSA had been physically spying on the Pledge as it prepared to depart on July 3, 2004 (the trial for the 10/04/03 arrest was in 8/04) from the American Friends Service Committee on York Rd. in Baltimore to the NSA. The email is time chronological and details the Pledge's activities as it assembled in the parking lot of the AFSC, number of people, who is going in which vehicles, what vehicles were being used, their make and license plate numbers, what signs we were carrying, the helium tanks (for balloons) we were bringing and also recognizes and names Max Obuszewski as one of the protesters. The email then details, with specific times, our progress on the road from Baltimore to the NSA. It goes on to describe our demonstration and subsequent arrests. The email begins at 9:40am, prior to our arrival at the NSA at around 12 noon, and proceeds through the day.

We were also given during the same trial, an "NSA Police Action Plan" to "effectively respond to the threat of a demonstration hosted by a group known as Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore on October 4, 2003. It goes on in GREAT detail to outline the NSA response to the protest. It mentions counter-surveillance by the NSA during the demo, obviously different from being spying upon at the AFSC in Baltimore.

The Pledge believes the NSA must be spying on us from the federal post office right across a small street from the AFSC. It's the only place that gives them enough of a view to see our cars/license plate numbers. They are, no doubt, using sophisticated equipment to do so. It's entirely possible this spying occurs via satellite or some other such instrument. But spying on us they are.

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Wednesday, January 11


Oh, this is rich. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is saying on Hardball that Roe v. Wade is driving the partisanship in Congress and it's all the fault of the Supreme Court because they decided the case instead of letting the Congress legislate the issue. Hatch thinks that if 30-40 states voted in abortion bans and let the few true-blue states like Illinois and New York allow abortion, all would be well. (The fact is, all polls indicate that an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose making abortion illegal.)

It's his contention that Brown v. Board of Education, the Court decision that declared the principle of "separate but equal" unconstitutional and precipitated the end of racial segregation in the United States, created all kinds of civil strife and it wasn't until Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and what Hatch characterized as the "most important civil rights legislation in our history," the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that the people accepted integration -- because it was the people's representatives, the U.S. Congress, that spoke, not the Court.

So all would be well and we'd all be united if we just let the people decide what is good and right and constitutional, which they, of course, will always do, without any bogus leadership from the SCOTUS.

He neglected to note, of course, that if left to the states we'd still have a whole region of the country that would uphold and enshrine their own version of apartheid.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution, as a result of their experience and knowledge of history, were wise enough to create a structure that not only recognized the dangers of excessive executive power but also those of an unbridled popular will; i.e., they had witnessed the excesses of both king and rabble-rule, in Britain and France. Their genius was in formulating an instrument that balanced those powers, guaranteed certain human rights, and also included an agent for protecting that very instrument (the Constitution) -- the Supreme Court.

Demagogues like Hatch who denigrate the role of the Court and cry "let the will of the people rule!" would have us plunged back into the dark days of disunion, when the principle of states' rights was viewed as tantamount to a right to secede from the nation. Next thing you know, we'd have counties seceding from states.

What, then, does Hatch think is the role of the Supreme Court?

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The Pew Research Center is not my favorite polling center. They often ask the right questions in the wrong way, which leads to skewed results. But their most recent results do offer some interesting insights on American opinions.

1. Bush's approval ratings remain at 38% (54% disapproval).

2. Democrats have made significant gains in being perceived as the "party better able to handle" major national problems, excluding security/terrorism. Americans see the war in Iraq as the nation's single most important problem, although in diminishing numbers from last year.

3. A huge majority of those polled oppose government monitoring of their phones and e-mails (73%) and credit card records (68%)

4. The country is pretty evenly divided as to whether the use of force in Iraq was the right decision (45%) or the wrong decision (47%), and on what to do now (keep the troops in Iraq, 48%; bring them home, 48%). The results are similar when measuring the perception of whether the war has hurt, or helped, the war on terrorism. 48% say it has helped; 46% say it has either hurt or had no effect.'

5. Clear majorities think we "are making progress" in training Iraqi forces, establishing a democracy, rebuilding roads, power plants, etc. (what universe are THEY living in?), and preventing a terrorist base for attacks. Majorities also believe we are NOT making progress in defeating the insurgents, preventing a civil war, and reducing civilian casualties.


Bush's new budget will call for "sacrifices."

Yeah, like the ritual sacrifice of the poor, the struggling middle class, students, the elderly, emergency first-responders, healthcare, public education, honor, integrity, a sense of American fair play, etc.

You can bet that there will be no sacrifice required of the uber-wealthy, politically connected corporations, the military budget (except items benefitting veterans and currently serving military), or Republican legislators.

Snow said the budget that the administration will present to Congress in early February will continue to make progress on the president's pledge to cut the deficit in half as a percentage of the overall economy by 2009.

It will accomplish that by containing government spending while maintaining Bush's other goal of making permanent his first-term tax cuts, which are all due to expire at the end of 2010.

To achieve the twin goals of reducing the deficit and maintaining the tax cuts, Bush's proposed budget for 2007 will show the administration "pressing awfully hard to control spending," Snow said in an interview with a small group of reporters.

"This will call for sacrifices, no doubt about it," Snow said.
[Emphasis mine]

The Bush people are so precise, and so revealing, in their language. Consider the definition of sacrifice:

a. The act of offering something to a deity in propitiation or homage, especially the ritual slaughter of an animal or a person.
b. A victim offered in this way.

a. Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.
b. Something so forfeited.

a. Relinquishment of something at less than its presumed value.
b. Something so relinquished.
c. A loss so sustained.

We know what Bush, and the Republicans, value. Tax cuts for the super-rich uber alles.

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Great close to a National Journal essay comparing the executive powers exercised by previous U.S. wartime presidents and Bush:

The notable exception among wartime presidents was James Madison. Though the War of 1812 was a dire crisis (New York was invaded, New Orleans was attacked, Detroit fell, the White House itself was burned), Madison undertook no extra-legal maneuvers. Toward the end of his long life, he reflected that the American Framers were distinguished not by their understanding of rights but by their appreciation of institutions. "The rights of man as the foundations of just government had been long understood," he said, "but the superstructures projected had been sadly defective." Structure, Madison understood, was the key to sustainability.

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Tuesday, January 10


It's not just Abramoff and DeLay.

A recent story in the San Diego Union-Tribune asserts that Rep. Lewis, as Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has approved hundreds of millions of dollars in federal projects for Mr. Lowery’s clients. In apparent return, Mr. Lowery, his partners, and his firm’s clients have donated 37% of the $1.3 million that Rep. Lewis’s political action committee has received over the past six years.
Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, urged Attorney General Gonzales and Public Integrity Chief Noel Hillman to immediately commence an investigation into the Lewis/Lowery relationship, stating, “it is a little Duke Cunningham mixed with a lot of Jack Abramoff: Rep. Lewis doles out earmarks a la Cunningham and Mr. Lowery plays Abramoff, offering an unending stream of campaign contributions.”

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Monday, January 9


My alma mater, Florida State University, reviews research that demonstrates conclusively that Al Gore won in Florida in 2000.

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