Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tuesday, October 18th

The first weekend of the show is behind us and it's going pretty well. Audiences are enjoying it and it's gelling into a rather interesting musical melodrama with a lot of audience response/participation happening. Four more performances to go. Lloyd Schwartz, the author, is up in Nashville for a few days talking to folks up there about getting the Grand Olde Opry to pick it up in some way. It would be a hoot there or in Branson or Gatlinburg.

Spending a couple of days vegetating outside of work responsibilities as I try to catch up on sleep and rest. Then there was the two and a half hours of tap class last night which I am definitely feeling today in my knees and hips. I will never be a good tapper, but I am learning some rudiments so if I have to look like I know what I'm doing at the back of a chorus someday, I might be able to fake it.

I don't usually plagiarize as shamelessly as I'm about to in the next section but this article puts my thoughts about our current political system better than I ever could so I've decided to lift it and drop it in here.

October 18, 2005 · Never in the 229 years of United States history has this government "of, by and for the people" been in greater peril. Not during the Civil War, not during the great depression, and not during the Second World War or the Cold War which followed. By Ernest Partridge
Until today, gross incompetence, abuse of power, corruption, corporatocracy, and federal insolvency could be checked and reversed by balanced and separated governmental powers, and at the ballot box by a citizenry informed and provoked by an alert and independent media. Now all branches of government and the mainstream media are dominated by the wealthy elites in control of a single political party.

Can you believe this? If not, you are in the company of a majority of Americans who might respond to the above jeremiad with "Oh c'mon now, it can't be as bad as all that! We've always had incompetence, corruption, waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government, and stolen elections are as old as the republic. It's no different now."

So long as that majority of Americans believes this, the rule of the Busheviks and its successor oligarch regimes will be secure. Thus Bush, Inc. and its obedient mainstream media are desperately endeavoring to nourish and sustain this "illusion of normality."

The illusion has many facets.

Elections? Get over it!
The refusal of the public to believe that national elections can be stolen validates the claim of the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress to political legitimacy – that they "derive their just powers from the consent of the governed" (Declaration of Independence). The evidence clearly indicates otherwise. (For an excellent summation of this evidence, see Dennis Loo's "No Paper Trail Left Behind." See also The Crisis Papers pages on "Election Fraud, 2004" and "Electoral Integrity.")

On the other hand, the evidence for the legitimacy of the elections is virtually non-existent, due to the secrecy of the software and the absence of paper validation. So all that the defenders of the legitimacy illusion have is ad hominem insults of the challengers – "conspiracy theorists," "paranoid," "get over it!"

The mainstream media's response is no response, with the apparent hope and expectation, so far successful, that if it is ignored the ballot fraud issue will go away. The primary aggrieved institutional victim of the fraud, the Democratic Party, simply won't touch the issue, which can only serve to strengthen "the illusion of normality." Thus allegations that the elections were stolen and thus that the government in power is illegitimate are confined to the alternative media and the Internet.

And so the Democrats carry on as if the upcoming elections of 2006 and 2008 are "normal," as they diligently solicit more votes and cheerfully look forward to taking back the Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008 – as if the same "normal" rules and conditions apply as they have before. Those poor, naive saps! Don't they realize that once again, Republican operatives will count the votes? And that the results will be just what the GOP wants them to be, regardless of the wishes of the electorate? Unless, very soon, the people demand reform and restore the integrity of the ballot box.

The media are biased in favor of liberals.
The right-wing talk-merchants who, until Air American Radio came along had the AM dial pretty much to themselves, complain constantly that the mainstream media has a left-wing, anti-Bush bias. So too the cable news chatterers. Much of the public believes this myth because it is repeated so often – not, to be sure, on the strength of the evidence which clearly proves otherwise.

Two brief examples: in October, 2004, immediately before the presidential election, the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) released a report that among Bush supporters, 75% believed that Saddam Hussein's Iraq government supported al Qaeda, and 72% believed that Iraq either had weapons of mass destruction, or active WMD programs. In addition, the Bush supporters said that the US should not go to war if it were known that Iraq had no WMDs.

Which means, to put it bluntly, that Bush owes his election to this WMD lie (among other lies, but those require separate arguments). Now where did the Bush voters get this misinformation if not from the mainstream media, which obviously passed it on uncritically from the Bush administration?

Example two: On CNN's "Crossfire, Paul Begala reported the following results of a Nexis-Lexis Search:

"There were exactly 704 stories in the [2000] campaign about this flap of Gore inventing the Internet. There were only 13 stories about Bush failing to show up for his National Guard duty for a year. There were well over 1,000 stories - Nexus stopped at 1,000 - about Gore and the Buddhist temple. Only 12 about Bush being accused of insider trading at Harken Energy. There were 347 about Al Gore wearing earth tones, but only 10 about the fact that Dick Cheney did business with Iran and Iraq and Libya."The advantage of the myth of the liberal media to Bush and the Republicans is enormous. To those who believe it, if a story favorable to Bush and the GOP appears, the response is "it must be true, since even the liberal media reports it." And critical stories? "Don't believe it, it's just the liberal media dissing our President again." Conversely for stories about the Democrats and progressives. (For more about right-wing and pro-Bush media bias, visit the website of FAIR).

Torture? It was just a few bad apples.
Few Americans appreciate the depths of moral depravity that are are plumbed by this administration's justification of the use of torture of prisoners captured in this "war on terror," and by its official violation of the Geneva accords – ratified treaties that have the status of US laws. Nor are many of our fellow citizens aware of the disgust and hatred of our country's government engendered throughout the world as a result of these policies.
And why not? The mainstream media do not accurately report the tortures, assess the treaty violations, or inform the public of international opinion. Attorney General Gonzales has effectively "abolished" torture by defining it out of existence, yet the tortures still go on. The Geneva conventions are evaded by the invention of a category of prisoners, "enemy combatants," that is unrecognized by international law. In effect, the government of the United States of America, our country, is an international outlaw.

The Busheviks do not care. And sadly, the American people, by and large, do not know. They believe that our treatment of prisoners is justified, and that the opinions of us abroad are "normal."

It is an illusion.

The president, his cabinet, and the Congress will not, as they have all sworn, "protect and defend the Constitution." In fact, American citizens are now being held indefinitely, without charge, without counsel, without trial, in violation of four of the Ten Amendments to the Constitution (The Bill of Rights). The president claims the right to designate any American citizen as a "terrorist suspect" and to arrest and confine that citizen in similar violation of law and the Constitution.

The same Constitution stipulates that Congress declares war, yet this "war on terrorism" is undeclared. This is but one of many clear violations of law by the Bush Administration (enumerated in my "The Bombs in the Basement"). The conventional attitude that "they all do it" just doesn't begin to excuse the unprecedented lawlessness of this regime.

The policies of this administration are based on "sound science."
The term "sound science" and its antithesis, "junk science," are inventions of that semantic genius of the GOP, Frank Luntz. So too those Orwellian names, "Healthy Forests," "Clear Skies Initiative," and "The Death Tax."

The conclusion of more than 2,000 world scientists concerning global warming? "Junk science." So too the warnings of geologists that the world is approaching peak oil production. Industry sponsored reassurances that mercury emissions from coal-fired plants are not harmful? "Sound Science." The fact that virtually all peer-reviewed scientific studies disagree seems not to matter.

For every Ph.D there is an equal and opposite Ph.D – if the price is right. The public believes the "news" it is given, and does not pay attention to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, or other professional scientific journals and associations. Nor is the public much concerned with the fact that this administration's "war against science" is costing us our long-established lead in scientific research and development – a foundation of our economic prosperity.

And the list continues: record federal deficits, a widening income gap between the very rich and the rest of us, corruption – personal enrichment at public expense, corporate purchasing of legislation and regulatory relief through campaign contributions.

Massive. Unconstrained. Unprecedented. Unbelievable. And so most of the public is unwilling and unable to believe it.

Add to this the enormous stake that the Administration, the Republican Party, and their corporate patrons have in perpetuating this "illusion of normality." Billions of dollars of public funds have been snatched from the federal treasury and billions more from the investments, retirement funds, health benefits and social services of private individuals. Add to that the deterioration of educational facilities and public infrastructure.

Some of this has been done through the cover of "legitimate" congressional legislation, and some of it through outright criminal activity. Remnants of our criminal justice system are pushing back. Today, David Safavian, Jack Abramoff and even Tom DeLay are under indictment. Soon Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury will hand down their indictments which, it is likely, will reach into the White House. Hopefully, that will be just the beginning.

In short, the malefactors are facing not only the loss of their ill-gained wealth but perhaps federal prison cells. And don't suppose that they don't know it, and that they are not prepared to take extreme measures to avoid it. The injured and cornered beast is the most dangerous, and these critters have some fearful resources at their disposal.

But they are up against the most formidable and unyielding of adversaries: the truth – an adversary that they have abused and repressed throughout their reign of error. And as they must eventually discover, reality bites. "Truth crushed on earth," wrote William Cullen Bryant, "will rise again," and it will rise, no matter how many millions are poured into the budgets of think tanks or into the pockets of whore-"scientists." "Truth will rise again," if not here, then abroad, and if not now, then eventually.

If we are to restore our democracy, truth must rise again soon and here.

But how?

Foremost among the objectives of the progressive resistance must be to disabuse the public at large of its "illusion of normality." We must attack the widespread but understandable unwillingness of that public to face up to the enormity of the crimes that have been perpetrated upon the body politic.

Fortunately, events are at last coming to the aid of the resistance. A perfect storm is descending upon the White House and Congress: the innocent lives sacrificed to the Iraq disaster, the Katrina catastrophe and the evident inability and unwillingness of the Bush Administration to attend to the business of protecting the public, the aforementioned criminal indictments – present and forthcoming. Looming ahead is a collapse of the economy as the housing bubble bursts, consumer spending crashes because the American consumer maxes out his credit and faces unemployment, and our international creditors decide they've had enough, and decide to invest in other currencies.

Public opinion polls (if we can still trust them) are reporting plummeting approval ratings for the president and the GOP, along with a loss of confidence in the direction that the country is taking, and a loss of credibility of the mainstream media. The "fear factor" is losing its potency. It's beginning to dawn on more and more of our fellows citizens that they have been suckered and lied to, and they don't like it.

Trouble is, they don't at the moment have any place to turn. The opposition party, the Democrats, don't fare much better in the opinion polls than the Republicans, and for good reason. The are dumb-struck, incoherent, and impotent.

The time is right for forceful, inspired and articulated leaders of the opposition to emerge. Where are they? Who are they? Who dares step forward, speak out, and take the lead? What individuals, what organizations, what factions will put aside their differences and unite in common cause?

On these questions, the issue of the restoration of our liberties, our welfare, our republic, will turn.


And on that note, I need to start thinking about the next edition of Politically Incorrect Cabaret to debut in January sometime.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Friday, October 14th

Another opening, another show...

'Phantom' opens tonight. Final dress was there performance wise. There are still a few technical glitches that need to be worked out but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the people responsible will spend the day perfecting those issues. We've got a big crowd coming tonight (first performance of a world premiere). I hope the word of mouth is good and we can keep people coming in all run. We need the box office revenue. It's been a lot of fun to work on and I will always be the first person to have performed my role - wonder if the show will have any legs?

I made the national 'Best Doctors in America' list for the first time. I'm not sure if it really means anything, but for $200 I can get a commemorative plaque for my office wall.

Not a whole lot else going on at the moment. Between tech rehearsals and the usual work stuff I'm zonked and haven't had time to pay attention to anything else for a while. I'm looking forward to a slower paced November and December.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Monday, October 10th

Onwards and upwards to another exciting week. The weekend was devoted to things theatrical - Tommy backstage at 'The Lion King' washing the hyenas (one more week to go), me doing some prop shopping and getting into technical rehearsal for 'Phantom of the Opry'. Lloyd Schwartz, the playwright, arrived on Friday (best known as son of Sherwood of 'Gilligan' and 'Brady Bunch' fame and an accomplished producer and writer in his on right). The pieces are starting to fall into place. It's interesting working on a new work where we have to create each and every little bit as there's nothing to model after. We're all starting to get excited and we open on Friday, ready or not.

On the real work front, not a whole lot of excitement. All of the clinical programs seem to be running pretty smoothly with minimal oversight at the moment. It won't last, but it's nice to have a week or two where the world isn't caving in around you. The powers that be seem to be very happy with geriatrics as our numbers are beating projections by between 15 and 30% (depending on whom you listen to) and we're getting the go ahead to start expanding programs in some new directions. Most of these won't involve me directly (as there's enough on my plate) but it should fill in some holes in our service lines, especially in the inpatient arena.

Tommy and I are taking the middle two weeks of November off and will be in Florida as I have some meetings. We're still in the process of figuring out itinerary but it's likely to take in the gulf coast, Tampa, Orlando and Miami for Thanksgiving. Any Floridians that have an interest in getting together, drop me a line. We're going to stay in Birmingham for the Christmas holidays, however.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tuesday, October 5th

My body and brain are both a bit fried today after my usual West Virginia jaunt the last few days. Drive up on Sunday, drive back on Tuesday with an all day meeting on Monday and a Tuesday morning lecture thrown in for good measure. Add in to that a really bad night's sleep Monday night at the Princeton, WV Hampton Inn. One of those nights where I woke up every hour... All of the good folks at the West Virignia United Mine Workers Funds Geriatric Case Management Program are well and the weather was lovely. Early fall sunny and warm with just a touch of cool in the evening and the foliage just starting to turn.

Got back just in time last night to see 'The Lion King' with Tommy so I could get a sense of what he's been doing all day the last few weeks. (This is week 4 - finish this week out and then one more.) Julie Taymor is a genius in terms of the direction and visual look. I'm still not sure about Timoun and Pumbaa and Zazu who remain awfully Disneyfied where the rest of the show has this healthy respect for African cultures and art form. The plot remains Hamlet on the Savannah with a happier ending.

The last crunch for 'Phantom of the Opera' starts tonight. Missed a few rehearsals due to the business trip and will have to get all the last minute changes in blocking into my brain tonight. We open a week from Friday for nine performances. I'll post a photo or two when they're available. I think I have all my accoutrements taken care of. Now if I can just be sure I get my lines in the right place.