As introduction, I must say that Paul Newman's passing has saddened me profoundly, not because of any of his movies, but because of a personal memory which stirs up in me now, as I write this, a few profound thoughts from the political and governmental realms.
In the late 70's, Jimmy Carter appointed Paul Newman as a Personal Representative or Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations. I was privileged to attend the United Nations First Special Session on Disarmament, and in a thrilling moment on the General Assembly floor between speeches, I met and talked with Newman for about ten minutes about my view that the Special Session was like Theater of the Absurd at the peak of the Arms Race, in which Nations sent their Ambassadors and Foreign Ministers to give speeches decrying the buildup of nuclear arsenals, and the big guys, the Superpowers, would make minute carefully calibrated offers to deescalate a tiny bit here or step one infinitesimal step back from the brink there, in an elaborate charade reminiscent of Japanese Noh theatre, lots of gestures and rehearsed protocol, but no words, just like at the UN at such a conference, there would ultimately be no real progress.
Paul Newman listened, said a few things, then agreed, and added this: "WE HAVE TO KEEP TRYING."
My condolences go to his daughter, Nell, with whom he developed Newman's Own, starting with Italian Tomato Sauces made with all organic ingredients, moving on to, among other products, one of the best selections of organic dog foods on the American market, plus snacks like organic chips. Everytime I shop for groceries, I see Paul and Nell on the labels of their products, dressed up like the Iowa Dentist and the Artist's sister Nan, from Grant Wood's American Gothic, and I recall my brief conversation with Paul on the floor of the UN General Assembly.
Among the conversations with luminaries I met back then at that UN Special Session, Newman's words, plus those of Pierre Trudeau, Canada's Prime Minister, as well as Pete Seeger, were what stuck with me the most over the past 30 years, because each of them took the time to share an extended and profound dialogue with me.
Carter's Presidency was in retrospect a time of great idealism, coming on the heels of the Nixon/Ford years. Jimmy has ripened into even more of a sterling idealist and humanitarian than he was back then; my friend from Redlands High School in California, James Fallows, was his Chief Speechwriter, starting at the young age of 27, and is now National Correspondent for Atlantic Monthly and author of the best book I know of on the US in Iraq: BLIND INTO BAGHDAD.
Idealism does blossom on the vine, off and on, depending on who is in power and the general Climate of Opinion, and the Zeitgeist, as Historians like to call it. Idealism also can dry up, wither, and seem to die. Every American knows that our Nation's idealism and capacity for reform have taken side-by-side back row seats during the past 8 years in these United States, maybe even much longer, and both Idealism and Reform have even taken frequent beatings out behind the Neocon woodshed.
These guys have basically succeeded in turning over the functioning of government to corporate power; the Religious Right was just a backdrop, a kind of smoke and mirrors, a superficial philosophical facade and ideological skirmishing compared to what was really going on vis-a-vis the massing of corporate power throughout all phases and branches of government, especially in the regulatory realms.
I am not an economist, nor was meant to be, so all I will say here about the proposed Wall Street Bailout is that it seems an enormous fraud to me, perhaps the largest in American history. I can't and won't even try to venture any pontification in any macroeconomic discussion, except to reiterate my long held view that Government Economics is not rocket science at all, and that clarity must be accessible the majority of Americans, since we are being asked to pay for this Bailout.
In Northern New Mexico, farmers have constructed centuries-old irrigation ditches, directed by the majordomos of each small village, most of whom I would more trust with the flow of government monies than a lot of these guys in Washington.
Historically, these "ditch masters" controlled the indispensable vital flow of water to the various fields as a kind of bequest allowing the farmers to survive. In Spanish, this is called the "mother ditch," or Acequia Madre, and the ditch master is called the Majordomo. He is far more important to his village and ultimately deserves much more trust than any of the elected officials like the Alcalde, or Mayor.
The government sponsored economic fields which have been watered so generously by Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld since 2000 have been those of Military, Security, Weapons, "Defense," Blackwater, Kellogg Brown and Root, and (we can't forget Cheney's fiscal backyard) Halliburton!
What were the fields that didn't get watered? Oh, just about everything else: Education, Inner Cities, Scientific and Medical Research, Stem Cell Research (and I don't mean the kind of Stem Cell Research that depends on destroying fetuses), Agriculture, Infrastructure basics like highway repair, Alternative Energy, Sustainability----you name it, just about everything else.
This means that most of the Bushite cronies after January 2009 will retire obscenely rich with their ill-gotten gains, and this wholesale theft is leading to a culmination in the Wall Street Bailout, largely blessed as sanctimonious by the Religious Right. Suffice it to say that seven members in total of the G-8's Finance Ministers have all unanimously rejected any kind of Bailout for their nation as either unnecessary, or as fiscally stupid and/or dangerous.
Leaving Economic discussions aside, I have been perenially much more focused deep down on Consumer Protection and Reform of the FDA, because real consumer protection could prevent so many needless early deaths.
When (or must I say "if"?) Obama wins, he will appoint a new FDA Commissioner, who will oversee the 25% of the US Economy that is either drugs or food. The present Commissioner, Andrew Von Eschenbach, M.D. Urology, will pack up and head back to Houston, I am guessing, to the Anderson Cancer Center where he was head honcho before his current appointment, or maybe he has lined up a far better paying bunch of corporate boards to "serve" on; after all, he has been such a good old boy to most of the Big Pharma corporations.
Since Andy is a cancer survivor himself, I initially held high hopes that he could and would do something about the massive amount of carcinogens added by industry to our foods, like Aspartame, the neurotoxic and carcinogenic artificial sweetener added to 8000 products.