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Preview: DIGGING DEEPER, By Ivan G. Goldman

DIGGING DEEPER, By Ivan G. Goldman

My fifth novel The Debtor Class (Permanent Press, April 2015) is a 'gripping ...triumphant read,' says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with 'howlingly funny dialogue,' says Booklist. Available wherever cult classics are sold.

Last Build Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2018 11:25:12 +0000


Tue, 01 Dec 2015 06:43:00 +0000

Here's a podcast interview about The Debtor Class conducted by savvy interviewer Stephen Campbell. Great questions. You have to pick it up and put it down in the address bar.


Sun, 15 Nov 2015 10:30:00 +0000

My publisher Martin Shepard of the Permanent Press asked me to describe our experiences that terrible Friday night in Paris, where my wife Connie and I were on vacation. This is that letter, written the next morning.By Ivan G. GoldmanMarty,I want to make clear that Connie and I have no complaints. Any minor inconveniences we experienced are nothing in the face of such tragedy, but I will try to clue you in a little as to what it’s been like to be in the city at this terrible time. We were out and about when all this happened Friday night. First, we saw no panic. Confusion yes, but no one running around in hysterics. The mood has been somber. There are few roadmaps to follow in such cases. We’re staying in an Airbnb apartment in the 6tharrondisement on the Left Bank. The shithead perpetrators mounted their attacks on the Right Bank, where we happened to be Friday night. We were trying to choose between two restaurants for dinner. One was a little place in the Place Republique area where much of the horror unfolded, but finally we settled on the other place near Place Madeleine, not as close. After a nice dinner we strolled around absorbing the Friday night excitement of life in this great city. I recall passing Harry’s New York Bar on rue Daunou, a place that used to be so thick with cigar smoke it reminded me of Army gas mask training. Now all of indoor Paris is smoke-free. But Harry’s is still someone’s crowded, obnoxious idea of what a New York bar is supposed to be. Anyway, we kept moving, and at some point noticed one of those beautiful old four-star hotels we can’t afford to stay in. Called the Westminster or something. We ducked in and found the bar. It was suitably swanky and moderately filled with smug, skinny hotel guests. Lots of polished old wood and books on the shelves. Kind of like the British Library with an expensive menu. Great jazzy piano and bass combo in the corner. I find it’s usually better to sit at the bar in such places, and that’s where we headed. The round-faced, middle-aged barman wore an expensive suit and spoke British English but was Parisian down to the ground. No, that doesn’t mean impolite. I like Parisians, big-city folks who don’t suffer fools gladly. He served Connie a fantastic red wine and found me my scotch, pouring generously. We discussed booze habits in Asia and the Middle East. Later, as we were finishing our drinks his face took on a peculiar mien and he told us terrorists had just gunned down 26 young people in a Paris restaurant around Republique. That’s how the news streamed all night. It would spill out in new chunks of horror, numbers and details changing.You could see most people in the room didn’t know yet. They still wore smiles. The barman, as I paid him, seemed to blame Obama. Complained that Obama said it would take 10 years to defeat Isis. I felt sorry for this poor dumb bastard but told him immediately and heatedly that Bush, Rumsfeld, & Cheney created Isis when they invaded the wrong country, that I didn’t mind him blaming Americans, but he was blaming the wrong American. What about the confessed torturers? He apologized and I did too. “You’re a Parisian and your city has been attacked,” I said. “If you weren’t upset you’d have to be nuts.” I always admired the French for not following us blindly into Iraq like Tony the Poodle Blair. The Brits are our friends and would follow us into hell, but we should also value the friendship of someone willing to warn us against making a terrible mistake.We knew the authorities were closing up the city. The barman told us we’d never find a cab, assuming that if we were rich enough to drink in that bar we wouldn’t ride underground with common folk. Anyway, we all figured the Metro would be shut down as authorities tried to close off a getaway for the shitheads. Connie and I decided to start walking toward the river. We were staying a good two miles away. When we got to Opera, a busy hub with a big Metro station underneath, Connie wanted to see if t[...]

Novelist Ivan Goldman talks dialogue writing - Palos Verdes Peninsula News : Peninsula Newspaper - Lifestyle

Fri, 22 May 2015 19:51:00 +0000

Novelist Ivan Goldman talks dialogue writing - Palos Verdes Peninsula News : Peninsula Newspaper - Lifestyle


Thu, 14 May 2015 17:46:00 +0000

From Easy Reader NewsMay 14, 2015By Bondo WyszpolskiBOOK REVIEW: Rich Man, Poor ManTalking dollars and sense with writer Ivan GoldmanIvan Goldman has a new novel, and here’s how it begins: “When they brought out the sidewalk chicken costume, Liz hoped they were pulling her leg, but every passing moment chipped away more of this hope. It was a one-piece outfit–bright yellow with red highlights and a gap-toothed smile sewn permanently into the chicken face.” And a page or two later: “Only one thing to do in an outfit like this–dance!”“The Debtor Class” is Goldman’s fifth novel (he’s also authored two nonfiction titles). He resides in Rancho Palos Verdes and the other day we sat in the quieter corner of a shopping center while his dog, Daisy, napped in the bushes nearby. Goldman has been a local resident for quite some time, and “The Debtor Class” takes place largely in the South Bay. Which is where the girl in the chicken costume comes in.Some years ago, and on a couple of occasions, Goldman noticed a young woman near the corner of 190th/Herondo and Pacific Coast Highway as he drove by. She was holding a sign–condominiums for sale, something like that. However, “She was always dancing; I’d never seen that before,” Goldman says. One guesses she had a Sony Walkman or other musical device. In case you’re wondering, no, she wasn’t dressed like a rooster or a hen: “That’s what I like about fiction; you can lie.”Sometimes a chance occurrence or just an image can stick in the memory of an artist, and then later on it nudges up to the surface (“Make way, look out, coming through!”). That’s what happened here, and along the way there were other recollections that came to the fore as Goldman was plotting and writing his latest book.ON THE MONEY“The Debtor Class” is an intriguing story that follows several characters (I’d call them marginal characters in that on the margin is how most of them live) who work for a collection agency run by the curiously named Philyaw, which is located in a ratty warehouse in downtown El Segundo. There are lots of plotlines that–like eels in a basket–wiggle back and forth. It’s a bit like Thomas Pynchon’s “Inherent Vice,” but more comprehensible. As the inner flap of the book jacket warns us, “All bought the American dream but couldn’t pay the price.”“It didn’t start with the young woman dancing,” Goldman explains. “The idea for it came from many years ago when I was a reporter on the Washington Post. I did a series on a collection agency. It was a good series, and I made the front page with it.“I remember I was very surprised,” he says. “It was my idea: let’s go to a collection agency and see what they do. I didn’t know what I was going to find, but I think like most of us I expected to find some pretty negative stuff–I didn’t expect to find nice people.“The two guys running it were brothers. They were Korean War vets, educated, college grads, intelligent, a sense of humor. They weren’t cruel, bloodsucking scumbags. They were pretty nice guys. And the whole office was like that; they weren’t putting on a show. So it mixed me up; it surprised me. That’s not what I expected, and so it was very interesting. And over the years I remembered it.”As he remembered the girl dancing on PCH in Hermosa Beach.Well, and that’s another thing, our perhaps very selective memories.“That collection agency,” Goldman says, “I remember whole conversations. At some point, after I became a novelist, I realized there’s a reason why you remember this. It’s because it’s interesting.” He  laughs. “And that was the springboard for the book.”Okay. But why is that important?“Because a collection agency gives you kind of a front row seat to the American opera. As we all know, money isn’t just about money, and it’s not just about possessions. It’s about experiences, it’s about vacations to Disney World or whatever[...]

Wed, 13 May 2015 22:38:00 +0000

First Reader Reviews for The Debtor Class, by Ivan G. Goldman (Permanent Press, April 2015) (Reviews from Amazon & review (5 stars)1 of 1 people found the following review helpfulDark, quirky and laugh out loud funnyBy Stephen Campbell on May 12, 2015Format: HardcoverA dark, quirky and laugh out loud funny book that beautifully captures the effect the recession has had on so many Americans. The author has put together an unforgettable cast of characters in what is one of my favorite books of 2015. Debtor Class goes directly to the "I'll want to read this one again" shelf in my bookcase. Highly recommended.Goodreads reviewSheila rated it 5 of 5 starsShelves: cultural, current_issues, humor, relationships, self-helpBento lost it all when he went to jail. Sussman almost loses his life. Philyaw loses his temper and finds a new employee. The rich have fame and fortunes. Drug-dealers have hard-earned cash. And the cop has blue skin! But it all makes perfectly believable, imperfect sense, as author Ivan Goldman collects an unlikely group of characters together, and the Debtor Class begins. Unspooling lives weave together in unexpected ways, and the color blue can be sadness, survival, beauty or even folly, depending on your point of view.The Debtor Class centers around the modern world’s most unlikely heroes—its debt collectors. The novelist peoples their world with fine characters, colors them deeply in shades of genuine humanity behind wholly believable bantering, and sets them loose on a rich man about to lose his fortune. But loss can be faced in many different ways, and Job’s patience combines with the Buddha’s serenity as these characters face their tragedies and learn to hold more loosely to their dreams. Perhaps that was Job’s problem in the end—that he held on too tight and needed to be freed to be redeemed.In the Debtor Class, readers can smile, laugh, frown and weep; they might even feel blue. But hope springs eternal when humanity runs deep, and the sort of faith that friends have in each other might one day even move mountains. It’s an enthralling read, that really doesn’t want to let go when the last page is turned.Disclosure: I was given a free preview edition and I offer my honest review.[...]

Mon, 11 May 2015 20:49:00 +0000

Ivan G. Goldman
The Debtor Class is moving onto store shelves and now being shipped from sites such as Amazon. It's also on Kindle and Nook. It has a much-prized starred review in Booklist, published by the exacting American Library Association. And Publishers Weekly called it a 'gripping ... triumphant read.' If you read it, please write a short review for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and/or Goodreads. It helps. I feel like a clown putting out this marketing message, but selling books is hard, and I promise you this one is worth a look. Please help spread the word. Booklist predicted this could become a cult classic. Here's the Amazon link. If The Debtor Class isn't at your local bookstore, ask the store to order it.

Fri, 08 May 2015 19:22:00 +0000

My friend Tom Dworetzky showed me where I could find some of my old blogs that died when the host site suddenly went under. I think this one from July 9, 2012 held up well - about a NY Times reporter who thought he was 'lucky' because a man set himself on fire. It reminded me of my days as a general assignment reporter.Tunisian on Fire Spelled ‘Luck' to NY Times ReporterBy Ivan G. GoldmanEmergency personnel and journalists all chase tragedy. The difference, I can tell you from personal experience, is that medical technicians, firefighters, and cops, for example, respond by fighting whatever dark force they’re responding to. The journalist is just there to record it. If someone’s on fire you don’t smother the flames with a blanket. You snap a picture.            There’s a conflict of interest between the journalist’s career and his/her humanitarian instincts. Because the journalist essentially chases the news that sells, and that is in almost every instance bad news of one sort or another -- fire, flood, murder, mayhem, poverty, disease, disillusionment and death. You want to get ahead? You find yourself some horror. This was artfully portrayed in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, whose paparazzi were odious locusts burrowing deep into the victims' suffering in the hell beneath the façade of postwar Rome.            I know a fair number of journalists who quit the business over this inescapable set of circumstances, over the continuous chase after whatever is ugly. They understood they weren’t the cause. There’s something within the human psyche that lusts for bad news. But at some point they just couldn’t take it anymore. Journalists at prestige media -- The New York Times comes to mind -- tell themselves they’re above the race to bad news, that they pursue greater ends and seek to get at the heart of things. But do they? In the car yesterday I tuned into NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross. Gross’s guest was David Kirkpatrick of the Times Middle East bureau in Cairo. As the interview began she recalled that when he was a Washington reporter she’d interviewed him on a wide array of topics prior to his overseas assignment. Did he, she wondered, get ordered to the Middle East? Or did he volunteer?            This was his answer. I couldn’t believe I was hearing what I was hearing so I went home and replayed it off the Internet. Yes, there it was.            Kirkpatrick:  “I volunteered and now I probably am the luckiest journalist working today. I arrived, I was on duty in Egypt beginning in January, I think January 9, 2011. January 10 I arrived in Tunisia where someone had killed himself by burning himself alive and January 14, four days later, the president of Tunisia fled and then the whole region was up in flames.”            Let's be frank. The answer was hideous, curiously devoid of introspection and reeking of the most simplistic analysis possible. He thanks his lucky stars that someone torched himself just as arrived and then, oh what a gift, the whole region went up in flames. Apparently looking any deeper than this was just not part of his job description and something he preferred not to do. He never seemed to examine the true nature of hiw work or how he viewed it. Dealing only with surface realities, his answer was downright creepy. Apparently if two people had set themselves on fire he'd have been twice as lucky. I have nothing personal against this Kirkpatrick, but if he ever comes to my town I fervently hope he has a run of bad luck. htt[...]

Mon, 16 Feb 2015 23:57:00 +0000

By Ivan G. Goldman

The Debtor Class, a novel coming in April from Permanent Press, is "gripping," a "sobering and triumphant read about the recent recession’s effects on average Americans," says Publishers Weekly. see full review at

Wed, 11 Feb 2015 07:17:00 +0000

(image) Fear: A Novel of World War I by Gabriel Chevallier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I give this a five-star review with no hesitation. Its depiction of World War I from the perspective of a young, aware French soldier is brilliant, gripping, raw, and poetic. There are passages of such brilliance, honesty, and dark beauty that you don't know whether to fly through them or read the sections over and over because you don't want to leave them behind.

First published in 1930, it had been out of print for years. It deserves to be ranked with All Quiet on the Western Front and Red Badge of Courage.

View all my reviews

Tue, 02 Sep 2014 05:45:00 +0000

Dear Readers, I apologize for all the posts I submitted over the last few years through links to my Redroom blog because Redroom no longer exists and all those blogs are lost in some twilight zone within cyberspace. Damn, that'll teach me.

The Ring is Counted Out: Boxing’s duplicity devours an honest magazine

Wed, 15 Feb 2012 17:14:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPERBy Ivan G. GoldmanMy story about the alien spore of Golden Boy Promotions eating the brain of Ring magazine, a triumph of capitalism over sport, is now online & fully accessible to all at the Columbia Journalism Review site. Here are the first few paragraphs, followed by a link to the entire article.Let’s get two things straight. One, last September I was fired from The Ring, the venerable boxing magazine, along with editor in chief Nigel Collins and most of the editorial staff. Two, I had it coming.So I’m not as bitter about my dismissal as you might expect, even though no one from the company told me I’d been canned or even informed me that my next column and a scheduled feature were no longer welcome. As a non-employed contractor in our brave new world of semi-employed twenty-first century servitude, I had to perceive I was fired. We all know how these arrangements work. Non-employees float in an opaque legal gelatin that can wash out from under us at any time. But remember, I had it coming.Who killed Davey Moore …“Not me,” says the boxing writer …No, you can’t blame me at all.—from “Who Killed Davey Moore?” by Bob DylanThe brain damage detected in so many ex-fighters makes the sport basically indefensible. I didn’t wait until I was fired to say that. My Ring column pointed out for years that basic safety rules were routinely ignored without consequence to presiding officials. I issued anti-awards, called Magoos, to dangerous twits like Arthur Mercante Jr., the New York referee who stood in the ring and watched George Khalid Jones methodically beat twenty-six-year-old Beethavean Scottland to death in 2001. Mercante and others like him earned Magoos over and over. Nothing changed. Most fans get angry when a corner or a referee stops a fight. They want to see losers punched unconscious. If a guy’s eyeball is hanging from a string, heck, it’s still attached, isn’t it?[...]


Fri, 24 Jun 2011 17:02:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPERBy Ivan G. GoldmanOne thing we didn’t hear in the president’s Afghanistan speech is the fact that when he took office there were 32,000 U.S. troops there. He’d already more than doubled their number before the surge. His speech was a masterful costume designed to cover up his nakedness. We “will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point,” he said. Exactly. But not recovering the approximately 35,000 troops he added in his first escalation. The speech was a deft bait and switch, using the old debating trick of debating a fact that’s beside the point. In the photo above, notice the middle finger of the soldier in the foreground. An eloquent response to U.S. strategy as it translates on the ground. He was photographed in Iraq, but the sentiment encompasses Afghanistan too, the other morass of choice. A more germane point than the one Obama tried to make is that he escalated the war in Afghanistan before the "surge" and will sustain that escalation. And the real point is that the war is pointless. The speech had nothing to do with formulating any kind of rational policy because there isn't any. The 65,000 troops that will be stuck in the graveyard of empires at the end of his term (after that the number becomes really murky) will be ordered to tell Afghans over and over that we won’t quit, we won’t let them down. But of course we will pretty much quit eventually, we will let them down, just as they’ve let us down. They failed to welcome our occupation. Imagine that. We’ll let them down mostly by not quite leaving. Not exactly. The oligarchs who run our war policy from stations inside and outside the government are against leaving any of our war theaters. We’re still in Japan, Korea, Germany, etc., etc. And we’re building permanent bases in Iraq and Afghanistan as we speak. We will leave these places only when we get a president who has the courage to lead us out, because it takes far more courage to take out the trash than it does to let it sit there for the next president. So our soldiers and Marines patrolling these villages, under orders to lie and say we’re really committed to Afghanistan's welfare, will know that what they're saying makes no sense at all and isn't true. Bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda is in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and elsewhere. The 9/11 attacks were launched mostly from cells in Germany, not Afghanistan. We have a broken infrastructure and Americans lack jobs and die for lack of medical care. We have no good reason to try to remake Afghanistan into Nebraska. The villagers know this too. They know they're being lied to. We know it, and the president knows it. So it was a clever speech, but cowardly and ultimately untrue.[...]


Mon, 30 May 2011 20:10:00 +0000

By Ivan G. Goldman
The policy of never-ending war and occupation waged in the name of the American people is not without consequences.


Fri, 29 Apr 2011 17:44:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPERBy Ivan G. Goldman“I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” --Donald Trump in an Associated Press interview It’s at that point where the interviewer is supposed to stop the interviewee and ask him, “You hear? Hear from where? What is your source?” News isn’t unsubstantiated rumor and it isn’t gossip. Also, interviewers who know what they’re doing take into account what’s known about the person making the comment. You don’t treat the statements of a habitual liar the same as those of a source that’s been one hundred percent credible in the past. Trump is, in fact, a habitual liar. When he’s caught he goes on to another lie and stops talking about the last lie. Here’s something else he said about President Obama in an interview last month: “The reason I have a little doubt, just a little, is because he grew up and nobody knew him. You know? When you interview people, if ever I got the nomination, if I ever decide to run, you can go back and interview people from my kindergarten and they remember me. No one ever comes forward. Nobody knows who he is until later in his life. It’s very strange. The whole thing is very strange.” How can such comments be taken seriously by a responsible news media? They can’t. At the very least a real interviewer would have to ask Trump the nature of his effort to find people who knew Obama when he was a child because in fact there are hundreds of people who have come forward to share their memories. If Trump actually looked for them, he’s an awfully bad investigator. If he didn’t look – and very clearly he didn’t – why isn’t he directly challenged on it? Evidently when you don’t grow up in exclusive circles surrounded by fabulous wealth – as was Trump -- then “nobody” knows you, and there's no reason to question the reliability of the conclusion. News media need to understand their mission, and it's not to treat garbage with the same seriousness as the results of a competent study. When they behave otherwise we need to hold their feet to the fire. Also, it's worth asking why Trump, thanks to a long history of this kind of behavior, leads Republican polls for the presidential nomination. Partly because he’s enabled by an incompetent, unscrupulous news media. Partly because this is the kind of guy so many Republican voters are looking for. Eventually they’ll settle down and find a smoother liar. That may or may not be an improvement.[...]


Wed, 27 Apr 2011 17:10:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPERBy Ivan G. Goldman Eight NATO troops and a contractor, probably all Americans, according to the British press, were shot to death today by an Afghan pilot at the Kabul airport. These ghastly murders are made even worse by the fact that they won’t be reported properly. They won’t be brought into their rightful context by NATO, the Pentagon, or the “journalists” in charge of delivering our information. Repetitious stories of Afghan police and soldiers turning on our troops are reported as isolated incidents even though they’ve become almost routine, part of a pattern that tells us a great deal about our mission over there. We've learned to forget about finding stories that place these events alongside questions about why these NATO troops must serve in Afghanistan in the first place. The mission, after all, ended nearly ten years ago, when Osama Bin Laden escaped across the border into Pakistan. The present mission, which is to make Afghanistan into a kind of Asian Nebraska, is so excruciatingly stupid it defies serious analysis. Meanwhile, here are some events I Googled up in a hurry. I assure you there are more to be found: *Oct 3, 2009, An Afghan soldier on guard at a joint base with U.S. troops shot dead two U.S. servicemen and wounded two others as they slept. *July 23, 2010, Two U.S. contractors were killed and one U.S. soldier wounded in a shootout with Afghan soldiers during a training exercise. *July 25, 2010, an Afghan soldier shot a rocket-propelled grenade into a building, killing three British soldiers. *August 25, 2010 An Afghan police recruit killed three Spanish soldiers. *March 23, 2011, an Afghan soldier shot and killed two U.S. soldiers and fled. *January 20, 2011, An Italian soldier was shot to death earlier in the week by an Afghan soldier, not by insurgents as originally reported, NATO said. *April 20, 2011, An Afghan policeman shot and killed two Americans soldiers. If I can find this stuff on my laptop in California, where are The New York Times, Reuters, the AP, CNN, and all those other news organizations with casts of thousands? Why aren’t they adding two and two and asking questions about the total sum?If you seek fairness, a battle zone is one of the worst places to look, but beyond the elementary unfairness of sending troops to fight in a war because we don't have the gumption to end it, there's a nagging murder factor in Afghanistan, making it astronomically unfair to send troops into this pit of betrayal. I suppose I could be cruel and suggest that supporters of our perpetual Afghan war consider doing a one-year tour themselves, not out on patrol, just hanging around with Afghan police officers and soldiers back behind the lines to help them with the worthy cause of propping up the regime of our crooked, crazy Pashtun pal Hamid Karzai. They'd find there’s lots to do around a military base in Afghanistan. Growing eyes in the back of your head, for example.[...]


Thu, 14 Apr 2011 16:34:00 +0000

Posted on Apr 13, 2011 By E.J. Dionne, Jr. President Obama has finally decided to take his own side in the philosophical struggle that is the true engine of this nation’s budget debate. After months of mixed signals about what he was willing to fight for, Obama finally laid out his purposes and his principles. His approach has difficulties of its own, and much will depend on execution. But the president was unequivocal in arguing that the roots of our fiscal problems lie in the tax cuts of the last decade that we could not afford. And he raised the stakes in our politics to something more fundamental than dry numbers on a page or computer screen. “We are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government,” he declared. “But there has always been another thread running throughout our history—a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. We believe, in the words of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.” There are at least four things to like about his approach. First, without mentioning Rep. Paul Ryan by name, he called out Ryan’s truly reactionary budget proposal for what it is: an effort to slash government programs, in large part to preserve and expand tax cuts for the wealthy. “That’s not right,” he said, “and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.” Second, he was willing to speak plainly about raising taxes, and he insisted correctly on restoring the Clinton-era tax rates for the wealthy. Tax reform, which he also proposed, is a fine idea, though there is ample reason for skepticism as to how much revenue it can produce. It would be far better to return to all of the Clinton tax rates and then build tax reform on that base, in particular through higher taxes on investment income. Third, he was right to focus on the need to cut security spending. Any serious effort to reduce the deficit cannot exempt defense. It’s laughable for Republicans to criticize defense cuts and then be utterly unwilling to increase taxes to pay for the defense they claim we need. Finally, he was eloquent in defending Medicare and Medicaid. He proposed saving money by building on last year’s heath reform law. There are two ways to reduce the government’s heath care expenses. One is Ryan’s path, which, Obama said, “lowers the government’s health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead.” The alternative, which the president rightly embraced, “lowers the government’s health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.” But a good speech is only a first step. For his allies, the president’s negotiating method has been, well, petrifying: concede, concede and concede again—and then compromise from an already heavily compromised position. That’s why his promised cuts in domestic spending straight out of the box are worrying. This problem will be even worse if the Obama plan comes to be defined as the “left” pole in the negotiation. It’s not. A truly progressive budget would include more revenue raised in more progressive ways. And contrary to what you might hear on Fox News, the established media wisdom on budget issues is center-right, and Ryan’s extreme budget has pushed the perceived center still further right, aggravating the tendency to locate Obama’s plan far to the left of where it is. And there is something fundamentally wrong about making the deficit the central issue in our politics. Here’s a little secret: The deficit[...]

Media Files:


Tue, 05 Apr 2011 19:42:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPERBy Ivan G. GoldmanThe civil war in Libya is particularly attractive to the media because thanks to the simple terrain there, the conflict is very much like a football game. The two sides advance and retreat on a level that’s easy to digest. The situation is nothing like the one in Afghanistan, with its tangled zones of control and where Americans are routinely crippled and killed in a war no one wants to think about anymore and no one in power has the guts to end. With the owners’ lockout threatening the next NFL season, Libyan developments are viewed as a particularly apt filler. The fact that Khadafy is a maniac makes the story that much better. And speaking of crazy tyrants, Donald Trump has learned that if he occasionally hints he might run for president, he reaps tremendous publicity for his reality TV show, and it’s all free. But now that he’s joined the birther crowd he’s going to have a hard time out-sensationalizing his most recent pronouncements. Maybe he’ll have to publicly consider opting for a sex change. He’ll just have to decide whether he’s more interested in running for president or ratings, although these days the two missions are remarkably similar. Look for Charlie to decide he wants to be somebody’s running mate so he can lead us from chaos. We’re also being told that Sheen’s traveling one-man tantrum show is somehow improving. But no one asks just who are the people making these pronouncements? If they’re dumb enough to purchase a ticket to one of these hideous events they’re probably about as sensible as snails in heat. As stupid stories maintain their position at center stage, America quietly returns to Hoover economics, along with the UK and other panicked countries operated by floundering politicians trying to explain why they’re plunging us into deeper mud without admitting that they’re basically just doing what global corporations tell them to do. At least we’re not stuck with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who, following Hoover’s program to a T, is fiercely digging a deep, deep grave for his nation’s economy with the help of the “Liberal” Nick Clegg. The program is to cut government spending wherever it threatens to pull the country out of the morass. So Cameron/Clegg cripple public education as they prop up the immensely wealthy in hopes they’ll buy an apple from the makeshift corner stands set up by desperate citizens that have no serious education to fall back on. Allow me to mention down here at the bottom of this column that the Republicans in Congress have introduced a measure to kill Medicare. In ten years’ time their program would dole out some small sum to the elderly that they could present as a sort of coupon to private insurance companies. It’s rather an important story, don’t you think? So the news media gatekeepers don’t know what to do with it because Libya, football, and Charlie Sheen beat the hell out of it ratings-wise.[...]


Mon, 21 Feb 2011 01:05:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPERBy Ivan G. Goldman“We’re broke.” The House speaker says it, the Wisconsin governor says it. In fact, Republicans and their Blue Dog pals use these two words as an excuse for everything from depriving babies of their formula to punishing NPR for occasionally reporting facts. Once they get a slogan working for them, these people stay with it. After all, repeating slogans is so much easier than making sense. And this time, oddly enough, the slogan is true. Government’s broke, along with at least half our citizens and most of the world. But just how did government get so broke? Well, let’s look at Medicare, for example. The Republican-Blue Dog Coalition passed a Medicare prescription bill that made it illegal for government purchasing agents to bargain with drug companies. They publish their prices, government pays them. But wait, the same drug companies sell their wares for half-price in Canada and still make a profit. That meant the government must be prevented from making an end-run at the border and re-importing drugs from Canada. So the drug companies that wrote the legislation made that illegal. Their excuse for this was so impossibly stupid I can’t bear to repeat it. Let’s just say it makes sense if you accept the proposition that Canada is an undeveloped country whose products are probably swarming with rat feces. Some other things that wrecked our finances: Two useless, multi-trillion-dollar wars. In one of them we continue raining billions of dollars on the bandits in the Afghan government and they divvy up the loot with the enemy, so we end up paying both sides. How can anyone as smart as Obama be so frightfully dumb? Meanwhile we keep raising the Pentagon allotment even though we’ve been the only superpower for two decades.Our pals in Washington cut taxes for super-wealthy folks and made sure they stayed cut, no matter what. At the same time the banks were deregulated and they promptly created packages of worthless mortgages. They managed to sell them by paying off the ratings agencies. When their whole stinking garbage heap collapsed they got away clean. No one went to jail, but millions of homeowners who bought at the wrong time lost their life savings. Because the value of real estate dived, so did property taxes, putting unsustainable strain on local and state governments. See a pattern? The formula is simple. 1. Perverted thieves pass laws that prevent us from putting locks on the doors. 2. They burglarize us. 3. They complain that “we” are broke. 4. They find patsies that include schoolchildren, disabled people, and organized labor and make them pay the price. This isn’t Egypt. Not yet. But give the Egyptian demonstrators credit for not only knowing they were getting screwed but also knowing who was screwing them and why they were so broke.[...]


Mon, 07 Feb 2011 23:16:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPERBy Ivan G. Goldman Petitions to impose term limits circle the Web like mindless birds. Maybe you’ve seen them, maybe you’ve even signed them, which doesn’t make you mindless. It just means you probably haven’t thought this thing through. We’re frustrated that government doesn’t seem to work in behalf of the people anymore. Health care works for insurance and drug companies, and foreign policy is crafted in favor of global corporations that see America as a farm field growing them dollars. When they’ve picked them all off the stalks they’ll just move on to another field. We also continue fighting wars that few of us believe in, but we can’t seem to get them stopped. We don’t even have an energy policy. Extended political terms for office-holders won’t solve any of this. Stopping them from taking bribes would sure help though. The bribes I’m talking about are often legal because the lawmakers made them so. They come in many forms -- not just campaign contributions. They’re jobs, financial opportunities, you name it. Shut down one source of income and twelve more pop up. Here are some you might know about: * A congressman sponsors a Medicare prescription bill and the very next year goes to work for the corporations that wrote his legislation. * The federal budget director quits and goes straight to Citi, which pays his salary, bonuses, stock options, and other perks with some of the billions it got from the government in zero-interest loans. * The wife of a Supreme Court justice openly hangs a red light outside her home and invites in weasels desiring her favors. The justice-pimp fails to recuse himself from any of the cases involving her clients. * In Los Angeles the mayor recently agreed to rent a huge swath of valuable real estate to a corporation that wants to build a football stadium there. Terms of the lease? The corporation pays a dollar a year. Oh, one more thing. The city’s convention center sits on part of the property. The mayor promises to tear down part of the building and put it on the other side to make room for the stadium. He’ll borrow $350 million to get that done. Incidentally, an NFL team plays about 10 home games a year. The rest of the time the land will be a closed-off, concrete wasteland. Last year he closed down summer school. Lack of funds, he said. People are so desperate for a cure to these ills that they sign silly petitions, figuring any change has got to be for the better. Not so. Some changes make things worse. California already has term limits and it has one of the worst Legislatures around. The lobbyists who run the capital have no term limits, and their superior knowledge and experience give them even more leverage over legislators still trying to find the restrooms. Why worry about how long politicians stay on the job? We could change them every month and still be in the same mess. Let’s stop the bribery. Then if we get a good office-holder, let’s hang on to her.[...]


Fri, 04 Feb 2011 21:55:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPERBy Ivan G. GoldmanNo, Social Security isn’t doomed. That’s just junk put out there by an army of reactionary Rasputins who want all New Deal programs rolled back so we can go back to the good old days when John D. Rockefeller and Herbert Hoover had everything under control.If we fail to tinker with it, Social Security would run out by about 2041. But why would we be that dumb? We’ve tinkered with the program since its inception. Social Security is a live, successful entity that evolves with our society. Goofballs on the right want us to think the sky is falling so we should go live in caves. But if we didn’t look for ways to make things better, physicians would still be bleeding patients.The Rasputins tell us we have to reduce benefits, make the retirement age much higher, or do both because they don’t want us to notice that Social Security taxes top out after you’ve made $106,800. Corporate kingpins making $20 million annually pay no more into the program than your average pharmacist. But the Meg Whitmans and Robert Rubins of the world don’t make their serious money in salary anyway because it’s too easy to tax at the maximum rate of 35 percent. They go for stock options and other accounting tricks that allow them to pay no Social Security or Medicare taxes on their earnings and a maximum rate of only 15 percent in income tax.Incidentally, the maximum tax rate during the Eisenhower and Kennedy years was 91 percent, but that was before politicians began altering campaign financing regulations into a witches’ brew that allowed them to take much bigger tips from wealthy contributors. As these tips got bigger, the tax rates got much, much lower for the wealthiest 1 percent. And it's not over yet. Today’s youth believe Social Security won’t be there for them. That’s not solely based on the belief that America will go broke. It also rests on the savvy understanding that we’re getting screwed, and based on their experience, young citizens see no reason to believe it will stop. After all, it’s all they’ve ever known.Meanwhile we have polluted air and water, crumbling bridges, no high-speed trains, anemic schools, and an obscenely structured medical care system that even with the new reforms will provide maximum profits to insurance and pharmaceutical suckfish. And now they’re coming for our Social Security. Not long before he died George Carlin, probably the best political scientist we’ve produced in the last century, predicted they’ll get it. Maybe they will. But if we understand it a little better we can make it a lot harder for them. There’s no reason capital gains have to be treated so much better than wages and there’s no good reason to top out Social Security taxes at absurdly low levels.Obama’s deficit commission recommended that we raise the retirement age to 69 and apply means testing. The Rasputins know that if we turn Social Security into a welfare system it will lose its popularity and eventually they can starve it out, making it a fond memory, like justice and fair play.[...]

Cow Most Sacred: Why Military Spending Remains Untouchable (Guest Post)

Thu, 27 Jan 2011 20:38:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPERIvan G. Goldman[Astute analysis of Pentagon's place in our society by Andrew J. Bacevich, retired Army colonel and professor of history and international relations at Boston University] Andrew J. BacevichIn defense circles, “cutting” the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation. Americans should not confuse that talk with reality. Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth. The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history. The Pentagon presently spends more in constant dollars than it did at any time during the Cold War -- this despite the absence of anything remotely approximating what national security experts like to call a “peer competitor.” Evil Empire? It exists only in the fevered imaginations of those who quiver at the prospect of China adding a rust-bucket Russian aircraft carrier to its fleet or who take seriously the ravings of radical Islamists promising from deep inside their caves to unite theUmma in a new caliphate.What are Americans getting for their money? Sadly, not much. Despite extraordinary expenditures (not to mention exertions and sacrifices by U.S. forces), the return on investment is, to be generous, unimpressive. The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields of the post-9/11 era is this: The Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate “military supremacy” into meaningful victory.Washington knows how to start wars and how to prolong them, but is clueless when it comes to ending them. Iraq, the latest addition to the roster of America’s forgotten wars, stands as exhibit A. Each bomb that blows up in Baghdad or some other Iraqi city, splattering blood all over the streets, testifies to the manifest absurdity of judging “the surge” as the epic feat of arms celebrated by the Petraeus lobby.The problems are strategic as well as operational. Old Cold War-era expectations that projecting U.S. power will enhance American clout and standing no longer apply, especially in the Islamic world. There, American military activities are instead fostering instability and inciting anti-Americanism. For Exhibit B, see the deepening morass that Washington refers to as AfPak or the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations.Add to that the mountain of evidence showing that Pentagon, Inc. is a miserably managed enterprise: hide-bound, bloated, slow-moving, and prone to wasting resources on a prodigious scale -- nowhere more so than in weapons procurement and the outsourcing of previously military functions to “contractors.” When it comes to national security, effectiveness (what works) should rightly take precedence over efficiency (at what cost?) as the overriding measure of merit. Yet beyond a certain level, inefficiency undermines effectiveness, with the Pentagon stubbornly and habitually exceeding that level. By comparison, Detroit’s much-maligned Big Three offer models of well-run enterprises.Impregnable DefensesAll of this takes place against the backdrop of mounting problems at home: stubbornly high unemployment, trillion-dollar federal deficits, massive and mounting debt, and domestic needs like education, infrastructure, and employment crying out for attention.Yet the defense budget -- a misnomer since for Pentagon, Inc. defense per se figures as an afterthought -- remains a sacred[...]


Sat, 08 Jan 2011 23:08:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPERBy Ivan G. Goldman Last April Gov. Jan Brewer signed loony legislation making Arizona the third state to allow people to carry a concealed weapon without requiring a permit. Proponents claimed this would make everyone safer. No operator’s license, no sanity test, no rules. Before the last election Sarah Palin's Facebook page carried a map featuring 20 gun sights, one for each of the Democrats targeted this year by her political action committee. The committee also circulated a matching poster. One of those targeted was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, shot in the skull today by one of those lone gunmen enabled by Brewer, Palin, and other lesser lights of their ilk. The geek shooter was aided and supported by the wide-open gun laws demanded and secured by the cowardly gun freaks who dictate our laws on firearms, such as they are. Brewer said she was shocked, saddened, etc. by the events at a Tucson shopping center. Apparently her brain is unable to process two thoughts simultaneously, so she’s unable to see any connection between the maniacal wide-open gun legislation she so joyously celebrated and this event. House Speaker John Boehner, another friend of gun crazies, issued a statement saying he was “horrified” by the shooting. As I write there are six confirmed deaths and 13 confirmed wounded, Giffords among the latter. When Lee Oswald assassinated John Kennedy in 1963 he got off three shots with a bolt action rifle. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons were much harder to get in those days, but now you can find them at any gun show, and the gun shows are protected from any meaningful supervision. Although selling fully automatic weapons remains illegal, sleazy geeks behind the tables at those "shows" will gladly show you how to easily convert their semi-automatic weapons to fire on full automatic. If you’re not familiar with such weapons, a semi-automatic requires you to pull the trigger for each shot. When you press the trigger on an automatic it will pour out rounds until you run out of ammo. And if you have spare magazines you can quickly slip in another clip and resume murdering innocents. Such weapons have nothing to do with hunting. They are designed to kill lots of people. The bolt action weapon used by Oswald required the shooter to manually reload the chamber for each shot by pulling back the bolt. Guns are getting much better, but people aren’t, and gun laws are much, much worse. In fact, our Roberts Supreme Court told us in a landmark ruling against the city of Chicago, that it’s unconstitutional for a local government to ban firearms. Possibly this new bloody spectacle will spark sanity in our gun laws, but we’ve already had dozens and dozens of students gunned down by crazies inside their schools, and if those very preventable tragedies can’t make a difference, it’s difficult to see why this one would do the trick. Gun loons still sit on the Supreme Court, and politicians know that they can support gun insanity at no cost, but if they oppose it they will be handing a ton of money and votes to their opponents. At this point we don’t know the details, but with so many wounded we can assume some of the Tucson victims will be crippled physically, and more than a few will be badly injured emotionally. Those flesh wounds from the old cowboy movies are rarer in real life. Bullets shatter bones, create blood poisoning, and ruin organs, making them never quite work the [...]


Sat, 04 Dec 2010 19:46:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPER By Ivan G. Goldman Sending the President out to make a deal is like telling Lady Gaga to fix the trade deficit for you. The results won't be pretty. Though he’s erroneously been portrayed as a master Chicago-type fixer, he’s proved over and over again that he’s one of the very worst negotiators west of Iraq. If Obama were haggling for a forty-dollar rug it would cost him ten thousand plus tax, carrying charges, and the shopkeeper’s serving of lukewarm tea. Recently he froze the salaries of federal workers for the next two years, giving Republicans something they wanted and screwing a lot of Democratic union members in exchange for . . . nothing. He and his advisors apparently never stopped to think that if they really wanted to do this thing it could be part of a deal that would, say, help him extend jobless benefits for the millions who’ve already started to lose them. If LBJ were around to see this he’d ask to return to hell. Not extending these benefits has already started working its way through the economy like a giant dust storm. It’s hard to find sane economists who think it was a good idea, but Republicans and their blue dog allies don’t listen to economists, scientists, and the like, who have a pernicious habit of trying to warn them about facts. Obama and his people have already signaled he’s ready to cave and let Republicans and conservative blue dogs who claim to be concerned about the deficit to extend tax cuts for millionaires and cost the treasury $700 billion over the next ten years. Don’t expect him to get much out of the deal. If you sent him out to sell your cow he’d probably trade her for a few beans. We know all abut his quickness to cave on the public option in the health care bill, which meant greed-o-maniacal insurance thieves would be free to continue slicing off their huge mob-sized vigorish from chunks of funds supposed to go toward medical care. When Obama does try to act like a wheeler-dealer the results are even worse than when he surrenders before sitting down to the table. He owed Janet Napolitano a favor when she campaigned for him against Hillary so he made her Homeland Security secretary. This was wrong for two very big reasons. One, she stinks at the job. When they caught the underwear bomber already on the plane with the explosives she said it shows the system “is working.” Under her wise stewardship we continue frisking elderly white women at airports. But more important? When Democrat Napolitano joined the Cabinet she stepped down as Arizona governor with two years still left on her term, handing the baton to next-in-line Jan Brewer, a tea party Republican maniac who sees invisible heads in the Arizona desert, who wages personal war on busboys and housemaids, who thinks it’s a good idea for rednecks to carry concealed firearms into bars and churches, and who lately ruled that a 32-year-old father will have to die because the state can’t afford a liver transplant. Remember when the Republicans warned us about death panels? Well Brewer is a one-woman death panel. Obama appointed a deficit commission loaded with weasels and let ex-Senator Alan Simpson, a vicious lap dog for the financial oligarchy, take center stage to preach in favor of adding additional financial burdens on the bottom 99 percent while corporations and the fabulously wealthy are handed even more breaks. Those who oppose his plan, he said, are the force[...]


Mon, 15 Nov 2010 21:05:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPERBy Ivan G. GoldmanPresident Obama could learn a valuable lesson from Manny Pacquiao, a member of the Philippines Congress and also of course the best fighter in the world. The lesson would be the art of the counterpunch. All great fighters counterpunch. Just as the opponent tries to throw something, they slip in their own shot first. If it’s executed properly, the counterpunch will come in so fast and hard that the opponent’s punch, even though it went out first, will freeze before it lands because his neuro-biological structure couldn’t handle what struck him. And an opponent is never so vulnerable as when he’s punching. With a fist out there on the attack, he has to be wide open somewhere. And that’s precisely where the counterpuncher lands -- sometimes two, three, four shots. This isn’t chess. You don’t have to wait your turn. Often the opponent learns, like Pavlov’s dogs did, what sort of reaction follows a certain action. When he throws, he gets punished, so he pulls in and pretty much stops putting out punches. Antonio Margarito, desperate to prove his mettle, didn’t do that. He kept trying, which is why his face turned to dogfood. Pacquiao’s previous opponent, Joshua Clottey, was quickly tamed and basically just tried to survive, covering up, retreating, and throwing few shots. Now what does this have to do with Obama? You already guessed. He doesn’t hit back, so opponents have nothing to lose by insulting him and his policies and opposing and lying about them. Also, Obama doesn’t, as so many other presidents have done in modern times, send his vice president out to slam the opposition. Obama gives fighters what they call a free lunch, making him, unfortunately, a chump. In fact, he begins to surrender as soon as the opponent threatens to punch. It’s happened again and again, on the public option part of the health-care plan, for example. Without it, insurance companies can careen down the price road without braking, and if they run over somebody, tough luck. The plan that got passed was an improvement over what we had, but it should have been better. Now there’s early Obama surrender on the tax cuts for the super-rich doled out by Bush the Second and his compliant Congress. And the counterpunch is so obvious. It’s like an uppercut begging to be thrown underneath a lazy hook, but it doesn’t happen. The Republicans’ main complaint is the deficit. So how do they solve it? By running it up higher to do favors for the people who least need them. The Republicans vow to repeal “Obamacare,” but the health-care plan cuts the deficit too -- you know, that thing the Republicans claim to despise so much. Then there’s their cure for banks. Deregulation. A powerless, stupid jab just aching for a right hand over the top. There should be no argument about any of this because there are facts on one side and lies on the other. No economist who isn’t a crackpot will tell you that cutting taxes for the super-rich is a good way to stimulate the economy or be fair to the public. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office states flatly that the health-care act will pare the deficit. Incidentally, it's true that families making $250,00 and living in big metropolitan areas aren't super-rich. We need more tax brackets. People making $5 million should pay a stiffer rate than those making $250,000. As for personal attacks, it’s correct just to ignore s[...]


Sun, 26 Sep 2010 22:55:00 +0000

DIGGING DEEPER By Ivan G. Goldman You’d think some of these cold-blooded toads running global corporations would have at least an elementary understanding that causes will produce effects, but no, now they’re complaining they can’t find workers with elementary math and reading skills. Greed-head companies hand billions each year to political prostitutes in Washington and state capitals to keep their taxes low. Then they’re surprised that public schools, community colleges, and universities starved for cash can’t provide them with an educated work force. Also, when you strip funding from social service, health, and parks and recreation agencies, you end up with more kids joining gangs and doing crack. Such children don’t generally grow up to be model employees. But corporations can’t seem to make that connection either. The National Association of Manufacturers, one of the most rabid anti-tax lobbying groups on the planet, recently griped to The New York Times that in one of its surveys, 32 percent of companies reported “moderate to serious” skills shortages despite our republic's teeming population of unemployed workers. That percentage jumped to 45 percent for energy-related firms and 63 percent for companies making life science products. Because manufacturing has become more complex, companies say they can’t find people to read instructions or blueprints or to operate machinery. The hypocrisy gets worse. In many cases the firms making these complaints put together lobbying groups whose job is to deliberately mis-educate the public so its members will swallow ignorant concepts -- to believe, for example, that polluting activities have no effect on the climate. They also align themselves with anti-science forces that reject evolution, stem-cell research, and even research in general, backing ignorant hacks like Sarah Palin who slam government funding of fruit fly research -- research that’s already reaped enormous benefits to humankind in fighting disease. You can’t get informed voters to support, for example, an altogether crazy Republican Pledge to America that seeks to keep taxes low for the rich while raving about cutting government debt. So you try to get yourself an uninformed, uneducated populace incapable of the most elementary critical thinking. Then what do you do? Why you complain that employee applicants are uneducated louts incapable of the most elementary critical thinking.[...]