Monday, June 27, 2005

Corporate Welfare for the Rich, As Usual

Yes, at the risk of sounding tiresome, AnonymousIsAWoman is going on yet another rant about the the corporate class and their promotion of corporate welfare for the rich and class warfare against their own employees. The reason it's not more readily apparent is because the same newspapers that report on the perk-laden compensation packages of CEOs on their business page and the benefits cuts and givebacks of ordinary workers on the front page seldom connect these two phenomenon in the same article. Nor do they connect the business news to the political page despite the fact that the high rollers of both parties, but especially of the Republican Party, are often the same corporate moguls and captains of industry that you read about on the business page.

Most people are familiar with the plight of workers in the airline industry who have had wages cut practically in half and lost pension plans they were counting on for retirement due to the business problems of their industry. But rarely do those articles mention how much the various airline CEOs have made in wages, benefits and extra perks on top of the benefit packages, even while their own investors were losing money.

Some of those additional perks include corporate box seats at expensive sporting events (I've been in some of those party rooms and they are luxurious), use of corporate jets, corporate cars with drivers, expensive apartments and homes, maid service, etc. Of course, most of these CEOs, and even other top officers in companies, can well afford to buy these services with the stunning salaries they make. But they feel entitled to letting their companies foot the bill instead because this has become the industry standard, even in companies that are losing money.

And these perks add up to big bucks too. So when you look at the sky high salaries that CEOs and other top executives make, you have to also factor in all the standard retirement benefits, generous pension plans, golden parachutes (yes, they're still around) and also these additional perks.

Today's Washington Post has an article describing some of these perks and explaining why most Fortune 500 companies' top executives get them, even when their companies' stocks are plunging downward and investors are losing money. Although the article doesn't include the salaries and benefits of the CEOs of some of the most notorious failures, those in the airline industry, the Post does name other names in other companies that have failed to be profitable.

At the same time, it's useful to remember that wages for ordinary workers, including middle management, have remained flat in virtually all industries. Many of the same companies that are rewarding their top management for basically not performing well in the market are cutting jobs on the front line. In addition, they are cutting salaries and benefits for those who remain employed.

When so many jobs are either being eliminated due to automation or being shipped overseas to sweatshops, it's hard to object to these cuts, even though you know your top boss certainly isn't sharing the pain.

Which raises several questions.

The first is what happened to leading by example? When a company is losing business, losing profit and losing market share, most sensible people would be willing to sacrifice to turn around the business losses. Back in the old days, company loyalty would be a strong motivator to do this. So would rational self-interest. Nobody benefits when a company goes belly up.

However, when a company starts to improve, why is it that only upper management reaps the rewards and is so unwilling to share them with their fellow employees?

When did we as a society decide it's okay for the top one percent to be so greedy that they grab all the perks without acknowledging that they - or any company - would be successful without all of their employees performing at a peak level.

When a company has a profitable year, it's a given that its upper management will get the largest share of the resulting bonuses. And nobody begrudges it to them. But just as their efforts contributed to the success of an enterprise, so did every other worker who showed up on time every day and did their job effectively. Success should be seen as a joint endeavor where everybody gets rewarded for his or her contribution. Yes, even the janitor who keeps the plant or office clean so other employees have better morale and safe and sanitary working conditions.

Obviously, the CEO, the Vice President, etc., will get a more generous reward than a janitor or factory worker. Most Americans are remarkably free of resentment and are okay with this. As long as they have decent health benefits and make enough money to afford comfortable homes, food, clothing and an education for their children and have some money left over for modest entertainment, most people don't resent it when others have more or fancier items.

In other words, if our needs are met and we are comfortable, we are happy to work and to contribute to the success of our bosses and see nothing wrong with their having more. We accept the reason for such inequity, which is that theirs is a proportionally greater contribution to the overall success, or that they are subject to a greater risk. We understand the greater monetary risks of investment so we don't resent its greater rewards

But when the economy goes bad, when companies are not performing successfully, and when workers are losing their livelihoods, the formula goes awry. If the average working person is asked to sacrifice in hard economic times, they should be invited to share the rewards in the good times. And surely, in hard times, the top executives should share some of the sacrifices. That's what is known as leading by example.

It's also known as accepting personal responsibility for the consequences of one's actions, something the rest of us are frequently urged to do by both business and political leaders. After all, if the reason that executives get such generous benefits and perks is because of their contribution to the success of a business, then surely when that same business fails to thrive, the same executives should bear the biggest burden of responsibility for that failure.

You really, really can't have it two ways. If you are a CEO and you are the major reason why your company succeeded, so you get the most perks, then you are also the major reason when it doesn't thrive and so should give back the most perks. But that's not done.

In fact, even as US Airways recently was forcing more and more cutbacks from its employees, it's CEO went into the very same bankruptcy court that extracted those givebacks from the workers and successfully defended his right to retain his contract for millions of dollars of compensation, benefits and perks. Why?

Because he had a legally binding contract. So did the union workers, but somehow the courts thought the CEOs contract was more binding than the contract of the employees, which the court abrogated to save the airline from bankruptcy.

Yet, a more responsible, more decent CEO could have given back a few mil in perks and benefits and maybe ameliorated some of the harshness of the cuts his employees were enduring. He might have led by example and shown that he too understood the spirit of sacrifice that was required. Instead, he chose to create lasting bitterness by defending his contract and his millions of bucks at others' expense.

By the way, need I mention that this is as much what the continuing judicial battles are about as the so-called culture wars? It's easy for Republicans to misdirect average citizens with battles over abortion and gay rights. But many of the same judges they are fighting so hard to put on the federal bench are dangerous for reasons other than their views on individual liberties. They also hold views that are inimical to workers, such as the right to collective bargaining and to organize and join a union, the right to overtime pay, and other worker justice issues. And as we have seen in the bankruptcy courts, they will take away pension plans from workers while upholding obscenely extravagant perks for top management every time.

Big business probably doesn't care whether a gay couple lives together. But they care very much if they have to pay overtime or honor pension commitments that they made and then underfunded. And that's why they've invested in the Republican Party and the judicial process.

Once again, I am sorry to be tiresome but I have to say, as I always do, it's not the culture wars, it's the class wars you gotta watch to know what's really going on and how to vote.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Yeah, The Adams Principle Indeed

John Tierney has an interesting op ed piece in The New York Times today. It seems he already wrote an essay previously, where he suggested that the retirement age be raised as one way to cut Social Security benefits by simply delaying the payment of benefits for a few years. I'm not sure of the dollar amount, but most experts who write about saving Social Security, even some liberals, cite raising the retirement age as a way to save money for the system.

In fact, John Tierney points out that, except in the case of blue collar workers whose physical labor would legimately qualify them for retirement by 65, most workers today use brain power and skills that don't require hard physical labor. He points out that John Quincy Adams, when he retired from the presidency at 63, went on to serve as a senator until he was in his 80s. That's why Tierney called today's op ed piece The Adams Principle.

Well, Tierney may be right but he got an interesting response to his first article, which is what led to his writing this new essay. Many seniors wrote him to say they would be willing to work but no employer will hire them. Age discrimination is very real and it actually starts at about age 50.

As Tierney recognizes, in this article, why would an employer hire somebody older who is more expensive than an inexperienced and younger employee. And if a 35 year old proves to be incompetent, he could be fired much more easily than an older worker who might try to sue for age discrimination. It's much harder to prove age discrimination at time of hiring than when an employer tries to fire a worker. So employers tend to avoid the whole problem by bypassing the older job applicant in the first place.

I've personally witnessed age discrimination with several of my older friends who are out looking for jobs. So, I can vouch for its existence.

However, there's another reason I don't agree with Tierney.

I think that many pro-businesess writers who are suggesting raising the retirement age, whether it's deliberate or not, are shilling for businesses who want to glut the job market. Right now, because of record productivity and outsourcing, the job market has been sluggish. Wages have remained flat even as profits in some industries are soaring.

As long as there are workers out there who need jobs, wages will remain low no matter how high profits go. In the past, productivity ultimately benefitted both worker and employer because as the business became more profitable, it grew and added more workers. Hence, the demand for labor grew and pushed wages up. But that dynamic no longer seems to operate. Record profits and record growth have not produced greater demand for American labor.

Instead, skyrocketing growth has created greater demand to move overseas to hire cheaper labor or to replace labor altogether with machines. The aim seems to be to keep driving the cost of labor down and squeezing expenses lower to drive profits still higher.

Many forward looking businesses, however, are worried about the looming retirement of the baby boomers. It's not just because payroll taxes may go up and there may be a strain on the Social Security system as all those baby boomers begin to cash in on their retirement benefits. Businesses are also very worried that all these retirees will, for the first time in years, create a genuine worker shortage.

If that happens, labor will indeed become more expensive. Companies that got by on the cheap will actually have to begin handing out raises to loyal employees. They will have to start once again offering benefits including health insurance, competitive pension plans and even perks like child care and gyms, which were so popular in the 90s, the last time there was a labor shortage.

The ramifications of such a situation will be felt across corporate America. Greedy CEOs and top executives who have been routinely bleeding their companies by voting themselves huge bonuses and extravagant contracts will have to once again begin sharing the wealth and profits with those on the front line who actually earned the profits for them. Investors, too, will have to learn to share and play nice with those who made their investments pay off so handsomely, that is the workers whose toil built the company.

But if the retirement age can be raised, it could keep the labor glut going and lower the demand for workers just enough to keep all employees scared of losing their jobs. In a scarce job market, people are grateful to have employment, any employment, even a job cleaning bathrooms at Wal Mart.

But if corporate America loses the baby boomers as a captive workforce, they might have to pay the rest of us what we're really worth. It's called the law of supply and demand.

That's also a principle worth considering. I think the law of supply and demand trumps the Adams Principle every time.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Maybe It's Something They Put In The Water

Back in the mid-1980s, Florida adopted the following slogan as part of a successful ad campaign: "The rules are different here."

Of course, what they were trying to illustrate was that in places like Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale the lifestyle was so laid back that you didn't have to dress up to go to a fancy restaurant. You didn't need to wear a tie, attend business meetings, get uptight about status, etc. You could lie on a beach, relax, and enjoy. It was sort of like the current "what happens here stays here" ad that Las Vegas is using to attract tourists.

However, given that South Florida, at that time, was the cocaine capital of the world and that the cigarette boat, shaped like a Marijuanna joint, and used for drug smuggling, was practically the state's official symbol, the ad campaign was greeted with much hilarity by South Florida residents. We thought it was not exactly the message we should be sending to the rest of the country.

Unfortunately, the rules are still different in Florida, but for a much different reason. In this Republican-controlled state that has flipped to red, with its influx of Evangelicals, the rules of common decency no longer apply.

Jeb Bush, not content to have overstepped all bounds of common sense and common decency when he interferred in a family's personal tragedy, is now calling for still another investigation of Terri Schiavo's death. The New York Times carried this article.

According to the story, Bush wants a district attorney to investigate an apparent discrepancy in Michael Schiavo's account of when he called 911 the night Terri collapsed. At various times, Michael Schiavo has said that he found Terri at 4:30 in the morning, or at 5:00 in the morning. According to the official record, the 911 call was made at 5:40 a.m.

Schiavo has also admitted that he is not very good at remembering dates and times. However, he has always insisted that he called 911 immediately after discovering Terri's lifeless body.

I have to interject a personal note here. Terri's heart stopped and she collapsed sometime in the very early morning hours. Actually, many people would consider it still the middle of the night. My own mother had her stroke at 3 a.m. Or so my father thinks. The truth is that if he had to make a sworn statement as to when exactly my mother collapsed and what he did first and when he actually called 911, he'd be no more accurate. The thing about emergencies is that you don't look at your watch to determine the exact time that you did what.

I can't even tell you the exact time I woke up this morning because it's the weekend. And in the shock and confusion of discovering a loved one collapsed in the middle of the night it would be absurd to expect them to remember things like the time or sequence of events clearly.

Bush seems to think Michael Schiavo should have exactly that kind of total recall because such an incident is "so memorable." Well, I'm happy for Jeb Bush that he's never experienced so traumatic a crisis or he'd know that while it is indeed memorable, it's also shocking and confusing.

Jeb Bush also made the implication that because the autopsy has not adequately explained why the heart of a healthy 26 year old stopped suddenly, there is still suspicion of foul play. In fact, throughout the whole 15 year period, the Schindlers and their supporters have accused Michael of abusing Terri. The autopsy flatly disputed that. And while it's true that the reason that Terri's heart stopped is not known, it's also true that it may never be known. Unfortunately, healthy people, even young ones, do occasionally experience untimely heart attacks. A good friend of mine keeled over and collapsed several years ago. With no previous history of heart problems, his heart stopped suddenly. Unlike Terri Schiavo, his heart attack was fatal and the doctors never discovered the cause. Life just happens and so does death. Medical science sometimes just doesn't know the reason why. There are, after all, medical mysteries that are unsolvable. Any doctor will admit as much.

But I don't think that matters to Jeb Bush. I think the real reason that Bush is doing this is to regain credibility with his right wing base, which criticized him for failing to seize Terri's body when the feeding tube was removed. To have done so would have been a flagrant violation of a court order and it would have created a true constitutional crisis. But that's not why Jeb failed to act as his base wished he would. It wasn't that he respected the U.S. Constitution. It wasn't moderation. It certainly wasn't respect for the law.

It was cowardice. Like so many bullies, when confronted with the power of an authority stronger than himself, he caved. But as governor of Florida, he does have the legal authority to initiate a state investigation. However, in this case he is abusing his power. And worse, at a time when his state is in fiscal crisis and is cutting social services for the mentally ill and the disabled, he is wasting the taxpayers' money on a witch hunt.

The simple and frustrating (for the Religious Right) truth is that absolutely none of the claims of the the Right to Lifers or of Terri's parents have been borne out. The autopsy proved beyond doubt that Terri could not see them, despite the eye movements that were shown on the now infamous videotape. She was blind. Her brain had shrunk to half the size of a normal brain, so she could not be relating to her family, as her parents claimed. There was no hope of her recovering. And there was no proof that Michael had ever abused her, which became a popular claim by the wacky Right.

They lied. They lied through their teeth, every one of them. They've been caught red-handed in their lies. The only way they can deflect it is by starting still another investigation that casts more doubts on Michael Schiavo. They are using misdirection to put suspicion on him so that people won't focus on their own false claims which have been exposed by this autopsy.

Indeed, when the autopsy first was released, the media went after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who is also a heart surgeon, for offering a diagnose that Terri Schiavo was not in a persistent vegetative state, based on the video tape. How convenient that now the spotlight is on what Michael Schiavo did or did not do while in a state of confusion and panic in the middle of the night and not on the professionally unbecoming behavior of a licensed physician. This is the medical equivalent of the Swift Boat slurs and falsehoods against John Kerry during the presidential elections. When their own falsehoods are discovered, these are the type people who attack and sling mud and vicious lies every time. It's simply their modus operandi

So, in Jeb Bush's Florida, unfortunately, the rules are still different. However, in the rest of the country, the rules of common decency still apply. And Jeb Bush and his right wing Evangelical supporters have violated every one of them.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Religious Warriors on the Left

Here's an interesting article from Beliefnet that analyzes the demographics of religious voters and their role in the last Presidential election. Beliefnet's surprising conclusion is that the Religious Left was almost as active and decisive a force as the Religious Right. According to their statistics, both groups are roughly 15 to 17 percent of the populace (for exact figures, just surf on over to the article).

The Religious Right was a slightly larger group, but not by that much. Where Bush really gained strength was with a group that the article called "The Heartland Cultural Warriors." These are traditional, Mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics who voted for Bush based on the abortion and gay marriage issues. Although they are not Evangelicals, they consider cultural issues the most important ones and voted accordingly.

However, the Democrats have a good block of Religious Leftists, which includes Latinos, Black Protestants, and non-Christian members of minority religions such as Judaism, Islam, Hindusism, and Buddhism. Probably more work could be done to mobilize this base.

There are also Mainline Protestants, Liberal Catholics, and even a small percentage of Evangelical Protestants who voted Democratic. They identified the economy or foreign policy as their most important issues.

I would guess that in the next election, the Democrats could peel off a portion of the Heartlanders by avoiding some of the culture war baggage and, even more importantly, stressing the economy not just as an issue of self-interest, but by framing it in moral terms. It isn't, after all, just about the individual voters economic well-being, it is also a social justice issue.

Democrats need to compete for religious voters in the morality and values arena by stressing the social justice and environmental stewardship themes. The truth is the Democrats are never, never going to get that segment of the Religious Right that identifies abortion and gay marriage as their most important issues. They shouldn't even try. Some groups just arent' our consituency.

But that does not mean Democrats should turn their back on all people of faith. There is a Religious Left and it is alive and well and waiting for a political party to stand for social justice, world peace, respect for diversity, care of the environment, and compassionate family values that include help for working mothers, support for families of gay people, and assistance to end poverty and HIV/AIDS.

There are people out there waiting for the Democrats to frame their platform in the moral language of faith. And I am one of them.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maximus Culpa for Sloppy Blogging

A thousand apologies for the sloppy post the other day, and for not even putting up a link to the second article, the one in USA Today about Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Although high speed Internet access and complimentary use of the computer at the Hampton Inn is a great perk, it did, unfortunately, have its limits. And the fact that they ask you to keep your usage to only 15 minutes is that limit.

I thought it was more important to get the thoughts out about the greed that is overtaking corporate America and how that is hurting their own employees, than it was to have a perfect post.

But I did double back to put up the link to the entire USA Today article and to clean up some of the sloppy grammar and to make the writing more clear. But I didn't do a major overhaul because it is in the past. I don't think I need to belabor the point.

Tomorrow and the next day, I'll probably be busy. Virginia has one of its interminable elections. We have a major election every year and a scattering of special elections in the summer when nobody is around to vote. And then the powers that be wonder why our election turn out is always so abysmal. It's called voter fatigue, people. Get a clue.

Anyway, I'm a political junkie, so I'll be voting. And I'll probably be at a victory party somewhere tomorrow night. Since it's a primary, some Democrat, whom I support, somewhere, will win at least one of the spots up for grabs, so I'm assured of celebrating an actual victory at one the parties, even if it's at the governor's spot - Tim Kaine is running unopposed so he has to win his election and, yes, I actually will feel like celebrating his victory because he's an exceedingly good guy. I will be writing more about him as Virginia's elections heat up in the coming months.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

I am blogging on the run. Hint to reader: if you ever need a reasonably priced motel while on the road, choose Hampton Inns. No, I'm not being paid for this plug. But their rooms are clean, roomy and comfortable, they give a complimentary breakfast buffet, and - best of all, if you're a computer nerd like me who has to check their email and gets withdrawal from not blogging - they've got high speed internet, and they provide the computer in their lobby.

Their breakfast bar is mostly simple cold foods like cereal and bagels - no omlets made to request or anything. And you only get 15 minutes on the computer. But it's all free.

Anyway, 15 minutes is about all I have since I'm here to visit my parents. My mother is doing very well for a month after a stroke and my father is handling it beautifully. I am so proud of them both.

Anyway, with only 15 minutes, let me get started:

Here's an article from Paul Krugman, in The New York Times. His basic point is that while the wealthy special interests groups have benefitted immeasurably from Republican policies, not just under the present Bush Administration, but under nearly all the recent Republican presidents (Bush I and Reagan), the ordinary working person has been in a free fall out of the middle class. The same policies that have favored the very wealthy one percent have also destroyed pensions, job security, and flattened wages. And, as Krugman also demonstrates, to point out this simple fact brings accusations of class warfare from the very entrenched special interests who have indeed manipulated this country's economic and political system in their favor.

Krugman also mentions that one of the factors that used to keep the middle class secure and that contributed to a more egalitarian society where the wealth and success of the business class was shared by the workers was a strong labor movement.

There is another article, which I ran across in USA Today the other day. It's about about California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenneger, who is making war against labor unions.

Currently, he is also getting ready to have a special election in California to make an end run around the legislature to get his legislation passed. It's basically bills that would favor the special interests that have given, and keep giving, to his campaign or the Republican Party. It's the usual litany of Republican favorites: tax breaks and more tax breaks for the wealthy.

At the same time, as I mentioned above, Schwarzenneger has declared virtual war on the state's unions. He wants to cut the pension programs of first responders such as fire fighters and police officers, and make it harder for teachers to get tenure. He blames all of California's economic woes on the unions because they dare to fight for decent wages, job security, and a decent retirement for their members. Somehow, in Republican world, millionaires must have tax breaks to buy bigger, fancier and lots more mansions while ordinary middle class workers are greedy for wanting to keep up with inflation and provide a decent life for their families.

But the key point is that Schwarzennegger is going after the unions because if he can bust the municipal unions, he will have broken the back of the entire union movement. In private industry, unions are incredibly weak. So, if he succeeds in destroying the municipal workers' unions, there will be nobody left to stand up for workers' rights anywhere.

The Republican Administration in Washington, DC has already gone after workers' rights, chipping away at the 8 hour day, overtime pay, the minimum wage, and other laws that protect working people.

What's going on in California is about whether there will be a middle class or a tiny class of the very wealthy and a very large group of serfs who do their bidding. This is not true capitalism. It is crony capitalism, which is the very wealthy stacking the deck in their own favor to the disadvantage of everybody else. And it's done because true competition and truly independent workers with the right to sit down at a bargaining table robs these greedy people of some of the profits of their companies. These profits, however, could not be earned without the valuable contribution of their employees.

Believe it or not, angry as I am at the crony capitalists, I don't want to take away their wealth. I don't want them to have one less mansion or one less great killing on the stock market. Far from it. I want them to prosper, to invest more in the market, make more money and build more large and small businesses. That's the way to prosperity for everybody in the country. Socialism, unfortunately, for all it's good intentions doesn't produce wealth. Only capitalism does.

But, but there's no reason why employees should not be recognized and rewarded for their role in the production of prosperity just as the CEO, the Board of Directors and the investors are. When a CEO gets a bonus and a corporate board of investors, and their stockholders get the dividends and reap the profits, the worker who toiled to produce the success should get a raise in pay and better benefits too. That's the way it used to work. Everybody shared in the same success and had the same goals. That was Krugman's point in his article.

Now, rampant greed has taken over. Some people - specifically, the business class - are doing very well. High end stores, such as Niemen Marcus, have posted great profits this year, while the low end discount stores, including even the mighty Wal-Mart, have experienced declines in profit and flat sales. That's because while the investor class has benefitted enormously from the recent economic growth in the U.S., ordinary working people have not shared in the general prosperity. In fact, they've seen their lifestyle, their wages, and their security decline.

And that's plain wrong. Just as it's wrong that Governor Schwarzenegger is leading the vanguard in the fight to destroy unions and the middle class way of life that they protect.

California, please curb your governor.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Going Away Again

I will be away for a few days as I head back down to Florida to check on my mother and father. My mother is doing well after her stroke. She's back home and I want to make sure that both she and my father are settled into a routine that they can handle and that they have adequate care and assistance.

I hear that a storm is brewing there, the first tropical storm of the season. Not a hurricane, yet; but a reminder of why I was so happy to leave "the Sunshine State," where there's sometimes more annual rainfall than Seattle. And it's stormier and nastier - hey it's really a tropical rainforest down there.

Ok, it's sunny and beautiful lots of times. And no, I don't complain about the gorgeous Florida weather when I make my semi-annual escape there in February. It's preferable to icy Washington, DC then. But winter isn't their rainy season. Now is. June 1 begins hurricane season in Florida And as Miami Herald writer and novelist Carl Hiassen once pointed out, in the novel Stormy Weather, "hurricanes are God's eviction notice."

Like many who care about Florida's fragile environment, I agree with Hiassen that it would be better if a few others decided they had enough of the storms, heeded the eviction notice and left the overcrowded and resource-challenged penninsula. Hey, I did my part.

Except for now. I do have to head back to see my folks, who went there long before the natural resources got so strained. I think they're entitled to stay, and I pray they'll be safe for as long as they do.

See you all soon.

Here's To You Anna Louisa Italiano

Of course, the public knew her as Anne Bancroft and she died of uternine cancer the other day. She was born Anna Louisa Italiano in 1931 in the Bronx. Her parents were working class Italian immigrants. She traveled a long way from the streets of the Bronx. And yet ended up only a few miles away, with a home in Manhattan. She passed away in New York's Mount Sinai Hospital

Tonight, the lights on Broadway have been dimmed in memory of this magnficent actress. Her memorable roles include Annie Sullivan, the beloved teacher of Helen Keller, in both the Broadway play and the movie, The Miracle Worker, for which both she and Patty Duke won Oscars. The role of Gittel Mosca, in the Broadway play Two For The Seesaw, for which she won her first Tony. She also won a Tony for The Miracle Worker. And, of course, her iconic role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate.

As she matured, she went on to play a mother superior in Agnes of God and a former ballerina who gave up her career for motherhood in The Turning Point.

She played so many challenging and wonderful roles. And equally important, she had that one extemely rare extra that few in Hollwyood or Broadway managed to achieve, a happy marriage of 40 years to comic genius Mel Brooks.

I once wanted to be an actress and Anne Bancroft served as a role model and inspiration to me because of her talent, genius, and dedication to the art and craft of acting.

Rest in Peace Anna Louisa.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Class Warfare for Capitalists

Although I don't have much time to post lately, here is a beautiful piece by New York Times columnist Bob Hebert. So many people are so afraid to call it what it is, but, as I've maintained for a long time, we in America are already in a class war and the middle class is losing. That's because the very rich have always known it's war. And the rest of us have been cowed into thinking that it makes us Marxists to point it out.

Not so. I am a capitalist. But not a crony capitalist. For an excellent critique of the greed of the priveleged classes and how it's endangering real capitalism and meritocracy, an excellent author to read is Kevin Phillips who used to be a Republican White House strategist.

As a one-time traditional conservative Republican - now reviled as a "country club Republican - by the new breed of Evangelicals, Phillips is not shy about taking George Bush and his greedy buddies to task for killing the American Dream for millions of ordinary people. And Phillips freely admits that he was one of the inventors of Nixon's Southern Strategy back in the 70s.

So, read Hebert's insightful article, linked to above. And if you can, try to find any of Phillips's books, especially American Dynasty, The Politics of Rich and Poor, and Wealth and Democracy. They're well worth perusing.