Monday, March 27, 2006

Fear Itself

TRD101: Fear Itself

by Michael Maynard

March 27, 2006

There are days where I don’t want to read the newspapers or watch the TV news. I force myself to do so because it my job to be informed on current events. But I’m tired of reading a new outrage every day and see nothing being done about it. I can write, I’m trying to develop a forum for myself and others to express their views, but I feel as helpless as you do. Helplessness leads to apathy and depression when you’re trapped in a situation you can’t do a damn thing about.

Today’s outrage is the Bush Administration’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight requirements from the reenacted USA Patriot Act. It’s obvious the contempt in which the Bush Administration holds Congress, especially the Senate. What’s equally obvious is the spinelessness of the Congress, especially the Senators, to do anything about this contempt of them and contempt and blatant breaking of laws.

Back when I was covering the Year 2000 Bug situation (Y2K), I had some access to the federal reports on terrorist threats pertaining to Y2K. There were dozens of very real threats involving blowing up of power grids and other acts to use the alleged results of Y2K. The public only found out about them because the situations were handled legally and quietly. As my friend, Russ Kelly and I said at the time, the biggest Y2K was terrorist attack, not what was going to happen to the computers.

These terrorist events were handled quietly and legally, the perpetrators brought to justice.

But what the many of the “Y2K experts” did was exploit the public’s fear and lack of knowledge of technology and combine it with the basic societal fear of lawlessness and disorder. Many made a lot of money in doing so, and they weren’t the first, nor will ever be the last to make a buck exploiting the fears of others. But it’s different when the President and his administration exploit the fears of the public for their own political and personal gains.

We are not a nation at war, no matter how many times Bush says so. A nation at war unites and makes collective sacrifices to support the war effort. Spending tax cuts is not making a collective sacrifice. What we are is a nation at fear.

Yes, 9/11/2001 changed everything because it meant our country was attacked by non-state actors, i.e. Al Qaeda. That Al-Qaeda are non-state actors makes their fear factor all the greater because they can’t be pinned down to one location which gives the impression “they’re everywhere”. In one sense, this is no different than the Red Scare of the Joseph McCarthy, finding cells of communists trying to bring down the government in government agencies, the artistic community and so on.

We are a nation at fear. Whenever this happens, the executive branch moves to restrict the freedoms that our forefathers sagely decided in the Constitution. These restrictions add to the fear. Your phone calls are wiretapped. Your e-mails are being read. Your ability to meet collectively is infiltrated. Your ability to protest leads to harassment and possible arrest. You're pulled aside at an airport, as I was, just because you’re wearing an all black outfit.

Each incident adds to the fears: I could be killed next. I could be pulled over and held indefintely for a crime I didn't commit. I could be the one accused of supporting terrorism. I could be the one ensconced in this Kafkaesque world.

But what if you’re innocent? You find yourself in an unknown detention center, not allowed to be represented by a lawyer. You’re labeled a terrorist, a threat to society, because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You gave money to a charity whose relief efforts support the suffering in countries that have been deemed enemies. You have a foreign sounding last name. You teach international politics or religion subjects in college and take non-politically correct views of the current war. Most recently, you paid off your credit card bill in full. And you become a suspect.

If you’re a baby boomer, like I am, this should be deja vu all over again - Vietnam and Watergate. Many of the same players involved in both are in greater positions of authority today and are bound and determined to repeat the past.

We are a nation at fear. Whenever the Bush Administration finds itself in hot water, Karl Rove sends out the message to the right-wing minions, play the fear card. The public responds by crawling meekly in their SUV’s to the mall to buy a new foreign-made TV so that they feel safe again.

TRD101 knows this: It’s not there is nothing to fear but fear itself, its when you let those trying to exploit your fear do so without putting up a fight. When you don’t, they’ll push your fear a little farther and a little farther until you’re finally give in to what they want. We're the frogs being dipped little by little into the boiling water.

And that is the Real Deal 101 for today, like it or not.

Send your comments and questions or to be added to TRD101's distribution list to: Please forward th

You can read TRD101's work and participate in a group discussion at and inquire for TRD101 and the blog IMNSHO. Please feel forward to forward this along to others who might be interested in joining our dialogue.

© Copyright Michael Maynard, TRD101, March 2006.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Heart Gets Harder

TRD101: The Heart Gets Harder

by Michael Maynard

March 21, 2006

One of the vagaries of the intellectual property laws is that I can quote freely, with proper attribution, from books and poems, but I cannot quote lyrics from songs without prior permission from the music publishing service. These are also the same intellectual property laws that won’t let me use my public relation pictures, which I paid for, without prior approval of the photographer. The photographer owns the rights to the likeness, even though without me paying him, he would have never have obtained the likeness. The IP laws are whacked.

If you listen to the late Warren Zevon’s album “A Quiet Normal Life” or go to this WWW site:

you’ll understand the reference of the title.

While I followed the career of Warren Zevon and was a fan, I was not as avid a fan as many were. His death affected me a lot more than I expected. The death of Johnny Cash made me sad because of the loss of the man of decency and social conscience. The death of John Lennon affected me, but may be because of my age at that time, it didn’t have as great an impact. Warren Zevon handled his death from cancer publically, but in a very gracious and peaceful manner.

Maybe it’s due to my being of boomer age. His death was a reminder that my own can occur at any time. Maybe it was due to the way he lived his life to the fullest possible until the end. If I remember correctly, Zevon appeared on the David Letterman show shortly before his death. In watching him, I didn’t see a man who knew his time remaining was running out. Or maybe his death served as a wake up call to me that many others are dying, not as gracefully and under much less peaceful circumstances. What Warren Zevon left behind was a great body of musical work and millions of loyal fans who miss him. I hope he is resting in peace. I think he is.

But what of those who lose loved ones under much less fortunate circumstances. You’re Cindy Sheehan and you learn your son Casey has been killed in Iraq. You knew that when he reenlisted that the possibility he would be killed in action existed, but each day was one day closer to when he was going to return home. Your heart is broken, but you live with the knowledge that he was serving his country and doing what he loved.

Then you along with other parents and spouses are invited to the White House for a ceremony to honor those killed in action. The man most responsible for your son being in Iraq treats you dismissively and doesn’t credit your son properly by his name. You begin to feel your son’s life and death didn’t really mean anything to this man. Your hurt gets worse and your heart gets harder.

So you take the hurt and anger and use it to state your opposition to the Iraqi war. You try to confront the man most responsible, but he refuses to see you. You use your energies to help convince and organize others to protest this war to try to stop the killing of other boys, like Casey. You become a media cause celebre and have an international forum to state your views. You have a means to channel the hurt into ways to help others.

But what of all the other parents, relatives, husband, wives and children who don’t have access to the forums that Cindy Sheehan has? Their hurt continues gets worse and their hearts have become harder because of their loss and their seeing losses of others.

We’ve only discussed the Americans. What about the love ones in the UK or Italy or any of the other coalition forces countries? What about the love ones of the Kurd, Sunni or Shiite son or daughter? What if their love ones weren’t killed participating in military action, but being a casualty just be being in the wrong place at the wrong time? What forum do they have? Their hurts get worse and their hearts get harder as they see the losses of others. We don’t see or hear from them on TV, but their loss and pain is just as real.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve been researching two profound questions: When is conducting war legal? When is conducting war just? In the future, I'll share what I've learned.

I’ve reached the conclusion that the Iraq war is neither legal or just. While the Afghan war is legal, how it has been conducted since the formal end of the military battle makes its justness increasingly questionable. I think it’s unfortunate that we’ve become inured from the daily individual tragedies that occur in both countries, so they don’t hurt us or affect our hearts the way that they should. Our hearts maybe harder, but to not let the pain of others in.

TRD101 knows this: When the shell we carry around our hearts becomes a bunker, we not only lost caring, we’ve lost a large part of our humanity as well. Warren Zevon, Casey Sheehan, and the five year old caught in the explosion of an IED have reached the same final conclusion. What differs is the number of people who remember what they’ve left behind.

And that is the Real Deal 101 for today, like it or not.

Send your comments and questions or to be added to TRD101's distribution list to:

You can read TRD101's work and participate in a group discussion at and inquire for TRD101 and the blog IMMNSHO. Please feel free to forward this along to other.

© Copyright Michael Maynard, TRD101, March 2006.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The One

TRD101: The One

by Michael Maynard

March 15, 2006

Now that the Oscars are over, and as of tomorrow morning, you’ll have turned in your “for entertainment purposes only” NCAA college basketball March Madness brackets picks, the collective odds-making punditry will turn its “six will get you five” focus to the quadrennial beauty pageant known as the Presidential elections. We’ve already begun to see the before-conception poll results matching those whom the “Inside the Beltway”self anointed political elite think will be the candidates. The top two names being bandied around and test against each other in the polls are Senators John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Neither will win their party’s nomination, let alone the Presidential election. But, as usual, I’m ahead of myself, so let’s not discuss who will be the candidates at this time, but what is needed in a candidate to be successful in 2008 and in his or her one or two terms in office.

Would I like to be President? Of course! As modest, calm and diplomatic as I am, I’d make a great President and would have wiped out at least 5 countries by this time in the second term. The annexation of Canada and Mexico would be nearing completion. My Vice (ahem) President, Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas-Maynard, would have been put in charge of that program to take her mind off of the unfortunate hunting accident loss of her late husband. The House of Representatives, if ever let back in session, would start running smoothly under the direction of
Speaker for Life, William Belichick.

No, I would not like to be President of the United States under any circumstances. It is the ultimate in high responsibility, low direct authority stress-laden job. You don’t have direct control over the purse strings. You can attempt to develop a strategic plan and direction, but have to get two boards of directors totaling 535 members to sign off on it. Forget planagement because by the time the implementation has gone through all the levels of bureaucracy and agencies involved, you probably won’t remember what you wanted to have done. There’s no direct bottom line and you’re accountable to billions of shareholders.

And that’s the easy part of the job. What would drive me most crazy is the 3 years I would have had to spend on the road giving the same stump speech, hitting up people for money and smiling at some lame joke being made by a local factotum in East Podunk after an already 18 hour day. Then there is the 24 hour news organizations who are sitting on every word you say, waiting for you to screw up or say something controversial so you hear it in an endless 72 hour feedback cycle. No, I wouldn’t want to be President that much to go through this process. The joke about anyone wanting to run for President being disqualified for being crazy appears to me to be prima facie accurate.

Who would want to be President of the United States in 2008? The war in Iraq will likely still be in a deadly stalemate. The US economy will be in the dumper because of the disastrous fiscal and monetary policies of the previous administration. The healthcare crisis will remain unsolved and unchecked. Action on global warming will need to be taken immediately and the list of problems and issues is endless. Global relationships will be at an all time low. The red-state/blue-state culture wars will be in full rampage after the election. You face all of this after being elected with no more than 52% of the 40% of those who could have voted and probably facing a split or dual opposition Congress.

Why would anyone want this job now?

Senators Clinton and McCain are very bright and very capable people. Both might be excellent Presidents under different circumstances. Right now, both are so polarizing because of their legislative and personal views and histories, I doubt either would go far in their party’s primaries. Mrs. Clinton, through little fault of her own, is anathema to the Middle American male voter and Mr. McCain, because of his personal believes, is anathema to a majority of women voters.

What is needed now is a healer, a person of charisma, dignity, intelligence, modesty and humor who can start the slow uniting and refocusing of all the country, especially after an unpopular and costly war. Neither Senator McCain nor Senator Clinton are healers. Neither are Senator Kerry nor Senator Biden, good men as they are. Perhaps Senator Hagel is, but his views on social issues will cause many on the left to tune him out completely. Senator Feingold lost me when he didn’t put up a stronger fight against Supreme Court Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination. Now pushing for the censuring of President Bush strikes me very strongly of grandstanding. What does censuring George Bush now do to change the direction of this country and the world? At best, nothing and more likely, nothing good.

Forget Mitt Romney. Perhaps Governor Warner, Kaine of Vilsack will grow on me, but thus far, they appear to be in critical need of personality implants.

Think back to the person who galvanized the 2004 Democratic convention with his speech and subsequent interviews. He’s the one, he’s the healer - Barack Obama.

TRD101 knows this: I’ve worked with top executives. I’ve run companies. You can’t compare being President of the United States with any CEO position because it’s unlike any other job in the world. You have to be destined, you have to be the one to be an excellent President. Very few of us are so destined and fewer of them can do that job well. Only one can at a time.

And that is the Real Deal 101 for today, like it or not.

Send your comments and questions or to be added to TRD101's distribution list to:

© Copyright Michael Maynard, TRD101, March 2006.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Damage Done

TRD101: Damage Done

by Michael Maynard

March 6, 2006

“We all damaged”. That line was spoken by The West Wing’s Jimmy Smits’ character, Representative Matthew Santos, in the speech Santos gave at the fictional Democratic convention, to win the Presidential nomination. That line hit home with me because it was unexpected that a politician, even a fictional one, would make that remark.

We are all damaged in varying degrees at various times throughout our lives. We are all damaged. Whether by infirmity, age, genetics, personal misfortune, vagaries and vicissitudes of weather or life, social strata, lack of opportunity due to geographic location, heartbreak, poor judgement, whatever, no one of us is perfect. No one of us is perfect

You may think your invincible. You’re not. You lose your job unexpectedly. Your spouse or child becomes gravely ill. Your parent needs to be placed in a retirement facility. A car runs a red light at an intersection and smashes into you. Your child gets caught with drugs. You become damaged and that damage stays with you the rest of your life.

When one of us is damaged so that their life is endangered or lost, by other than by the grace of God, we are all damaged. We are all damaged. Amongst us, somewhere in the world, could be the next Einstein, the next Pasteur, the next Galileo, the next Mozart, the next Rembrandt. If that person is born in Brookline, Massachusetts, they have a good possibility of reaching that potential. If that person is born in Darfur, they have virtually none.

We are all damaged. In the US, our forefathers ventured forth from across the sea, to free themselves from governmental tyranny, so that they, could reach our potential for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which they stated were unalienable rights. We band together as a community, as a state, as a region, as a nation, because together we are stronger and more capable of fulfilling that potential of those rights, than we would individually. We band together because we are all damaged individually and joined together collectively, we become whole.

What the character Matt Santos said was a brilliant statement because not only does it show the humanity of the man, and it reminds us of the humanity in all of us. It also brings into the question the philosophy of the roles of all levels of government in our lives. What are the individual and joint responsibilities of the federal government, the state government, the local government, and ourselves as individuals? In modern times, we have gone from the New Deal era of Franklin Roosevelt, to the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson, to slow dismantling of the New Deal and Great Society programs by the Ownership Society of Newt Gingrich, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Should the social safety net held under us from protection against loss of job, loss of health, low income and aging be pulled out completely or only piece by piece, until so many fall through cracks that the net might as well not be in place at all?

The Democrats, in their infinite disarray and befuddlement, still have an opportunity to engage the debate about the role of government in our lives. What the polls do not show is that the real solid base issue holding up George Bush, IMNSHO, is not terrorism, it’s not directly social issues, it’s taxes. In what has become political policy development these days, right-wing (strategist?, crank? wingnut? all of the above?) Grover Norquist has defined the political debate at every level, but especially national - starve the beast. It is Norquist’s goal to cut the federal government out of all programs, except the most fundamental: national security and military spending. While Norquist thinks he is being smart, what he proposes is really class warfare at its worst and it is hateful.

How the math works is easy. There is X dollars needed top ay for all of the government services the country requires, widely ranging from the local filling pot holes in the road to developing the next generation anti-tank warfare system. What the Republicans have done for political, not public policy reasons, is push the tax base from the greatest tax base, the national income tax system, to the state and then down to smallest tax base, the local, resulting in rapidly increasing property and excises taxes and an expanding variety of service use fees. Ask Governor Mike Riley of Alabama how popular support is for raising the state income tax to provide services to those of us most damaged: the sick, the elderly, the needy, the poor. Ask the victims of Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi who are falsely being told there isn’t enough money available to help them rebuild their lives.

The corollary arguments to the ownership society are that what is lost in taxes will be made up by private generosity through non-profit organizations and that by outsourcing public services to the private sector, those services will be done more efficiently and more cost effectively. Both arguments are prima facie absurd. Those with the mean-spirited, gimme first attitude that begrudges every dollar paid in taxes are not about to turn around and give the same tax-relief amount to charity. There have been many studies, including recent ones on garbage collection and prison management, that have shown private sector service providers are no more, and often less, efficient and cost effective than public sector providers. When these private sector companies are faced with reducing profits or cutting services, they usually choose cutting services, even if the public’s welfare is endangered. I’ve worked and consulted in the private sector way too long to buy into the myth of the superior efficiency of the private sector. Halliburton, anyone?

We are damaged, as a people, as of today. We no longer band together because mindless listening to those who profit from our separation have made us forget that our forefathers came to this nation to get away from those who separated them for craven, power-mad reasons. We no longer band together because of silly political ideological and geographic reasons, using those reasons as false shields to protect our damaged underbellies from exposure to the truth. We no longer band together because we hide in our mini-fortresses, bored with life, but unwilling to engage the world outside. We are damaged because no longer recognize the hand being held out to be helped pulled up is not the one being asked for a hand out. Nor do we recognize it as someday being our own hand.

TRD101's basics know this: Until there is national dialogue about who we are as a people, and what services we want from our governments, gaining control of the damage cannot be done. The question is whether too much damage has been done for that control to be reclaimed.

And that, unfortunately, is the Real Deal 101 for today, like it or not.

Send your comments and questions or to be added to TRD101's distribution list to:

© Copyright Michael Maynard, TRD101, March 2006.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Noses are like opinions

TRD101: Noses are Like Opinions

by Michael Maynard

Even though my home town newspaper, The North Adams Transcript, was not huge in size or circulation, it did have one very good section: the op-ed page. The Transcript picked up in syndication the works of some of the best columnists of all time, such as Jimmy Breslin, Mike Royko, Herb Caen and others. I grew up loving to read good columns and secretly harbored a desire to be a columnist myself. A good columnist’s work inform you about topics that you might never have considered, causes you to think about those topics in ways you haven’t thought about them before and the best, columnists motivate you to action.

A good column is an opinion based upon facts tempered by common sense and fueled with the passion of the columnist to tell you why this subject and his/her opinion on it are important. Writing a column is also a very moral act and a civic responsibility; a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. There are a number of top-notch columnists today who combine all of those traits.

Writing a column is the prose form of haiku. You have a limited number of words, usually 600 to 1,000, to make your case and your points. Each word in the column is precious and deliberate. It takes a skilled word craftsman to write 2-3 columns per week and make them interesting and informative. The words have to flow, they have to have a rhythm and they have to be in your voice and style I think it is a different, and tougher, art than writing a book.

The best columnist in the business is Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Mr. Kristof not just gives his opinions, he takes action upon them. His recent works to raise the level of consciousness and urgency on the massacres in Darfur are brilliant. His adoption of a young women forced into prostitution in Thailand was moving, compassionate and highly moral. I greatly respect Kristof for understanding that he has the greatest forum in the world, the op-ed page of the New York Times, and he understands how to use it for the world’s good.

Close behind Kristof is his fellow NYT columnist, the underappreciated Bob Hebert. Hebert’s work to bring justice for police killing of blacks in Tulia, Texas, and stopping IBM’s dumping of PBC’ used in manufacturing printed circuit boards in rivers and coverage of the subsequent California trial It was Pulitzer Prize level work and unfortunately, I did not, as I promised to Hebert, send in the paperwork to nominate him.

There is the national treasure, Molly Ivins, who is funny, wry, sharp and insightful. Many right-wingers fault columnists for their criticism of George Bush and the Bush Administration, but given Molly Ivins’ long history with the Bush family from Texas to Washington, these wingnuts have a very hard time doing so. There are many other top notch print columnists that I read: Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, and Maureen Dowd of the NYT; Scott Lehigh and Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe, Joe Conason of the New York Observer, and Hendrick Hertzberg of the New Yorker Magazine. If I could write with the passion, majesty and moral clarity of the should be nationally syndicated James Carroll, I’d really be dangerous. For my right wing friends, I do read George Will and Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe, and occasionally agree with them, as infuriating as they can be at times. The Internet has spawned a few top-notch columnist commentators, such as Josh Marshall of Talking Point Memo ( and Professor Juan Cole of Informed Comment (

The commonality of all of the above is not only their commitment and passion for what they do, but the soundness of their opinions. They do their research, they talk with experts and qualified sources, they think through what they write before they write it, and they’re not afraid to push forward or buck public opinion. They’re knowledgeable, credible and likeable. It’s a strong tradition of public instigation of discourse handed down from H.L. Mencken.

But if you look at the list of columnists on the Washington Post Syndicate and Creators Syndicate, there are way too many people claiming to be credible opinionators. It’s isn’t how qualified you are, though qualified experience certainly helps. It isn’t how well you write, though being able to write a declarative sentence is necessary. It’s how well you enjoin the public discourse and writing a column is public discourse. It’s not about which side of the political spectrum you’re on and how you respond to issues of the day by reflex. It’s about how well you’ve thought out what the public ramifications of what you write. People do take action and form opinions based upon what you write. You become a member of the public trust.

Noses are like opinions. Let to run at will uncontrolled for too long, then others become infected by you. Red versus Blue America is really a disease of the public discourse called knee-jerk no-nothingism on both sides. There are too many opinions and opinionators out there, and not enough building understanding through intelligent discourse. Too many noses, not enough well-reasoned opinions.

You may not agree with what I write, and that’s fine. But if I get you to think about why you don’t agree first before your write to me or talk to others, then I’ve done what I’m supposed to do, engage your mind, not inflame it further.

So TRD101's basics lesson is this: the next time you read a newspaper, magazine or Internet columnist, ask yourself these two questions: do they really know what they’re writing about? Are they telling me what to think or enabling me to think for myself? Opinions are also like noses, everybody has one, and most shouldn’t be blown in public.

That’s the Real Deal 101 for today, like it or not.

© Copyright Michael Maynard, TRD101, March 2006.