This is What Democracy Looks Like

President's Day Madman

Monday, February 20, 2006


A Correction: There were some quotes from Victoria Brownworth's column used in Rhian's article the other day. I missed the reference.
Sorry about that Victoria.

Dubai, Our Protector?

The following are quotes that have resulted from the sale of six US ports to the United Arab Emirates. In case you were unaware, the UAE harbored terrorists; helped Osama bin-Laden hide his terrorism money; was the home country of two of the 9/11 hijackers; refused to help with investigations after the 9/11 terrorist acts; was one of the few countries to recognize the Taliban in Afghanistan even after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"Outsourcing the operation of our largest ports to a country with long involvement in terrorism is a homeland security accident waiting to happen,"
-New York Senator Charles Schumer (D)

"We certainly should investigate it,"
-Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

"Ensuring the security of New York's port operations is paramount and I am very concerned with the purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam by Dubai Ports World,"
"I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them in regards to this transaction,"
-New York Governor George Pataki (R)

"very troubled"
-Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich (R)

"We needed to know before this was a done deal, given the state of where we are concerning security,"

"We wouldn't turn over our customs service or our border patrol to a foreign government. We shouldn't turn over the ports of the United States, either."
-Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

It was a "very extensive process" "takes into account matters of national security," "takes into account concerns about port security."
-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

"I believe that President's Bush's decision to turn over the operations of any American port is reckless. We are not going to turn over the Port of Baltimore to a foreign government."
-Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D), the challenger for the Maryland state house (he will oppose Ehrlich)

“I hope the people of the United Arab Emirates and the government will understand that in a democracy, there is a process of debate.”
-Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes to the Khaleej Times (the UAE newspaper)

According to Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Secretary who is under fire for his pitiful response to Hurricane Katrina, there were no less than twelve federal agencies that oversaw and approved the sale of the most important US ports that connect us to the outside world. Let's not forget that these ports are also connected to some of the most populated cities in America and that any incident would have a wide-ranging effect on millions of people. Let's face it, these freighters are pulling into Manhattan, New York, not Manhattan, Kansas.

The bottom line is this: We, the people of America don't want supporters of terrorism to be in charge of our ports. As I write this, ships that come into our ports are only inspected at a rate of no more than five percent, and most experts think that that number is inflated.

In the name of the global economy, the administration of "G"lobal "W"arming Bush will sell anything that says "Made in the USA" for a foreign label. even our safety. Even Rep. Peter King (R-NY), a Fox News favorite and Bush rubber-stamp had something to say about the sale of our security:

"In the post-9/11 world, there should have been a presumption against this company,"

There is more reason than an upcoming election why even the Republicans are running away from Bush on this topic: It even scares them. you see, these guys and gals live and work only about 45 miles from one of the ports (Baltimore, MD) and they don't want a "mushroom cloud" any more than we do.

Scared... and they ought to be.

-Noah Greenberg

Paying For It

The Republicans need a kick in the can.

When TEFRA (
The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act) was passed in 1983 or so, my cousin was thrilled because his marginal tax liability went from 50% to 38%.

Back then we were talking about earnings over $ 150,000 per year being affected by this change in the tax code. The way they calculated the taxes was more complicated than my example, but I will stick to my example to make my point.

When my cousin's tax liability dropped, his taxes paid dropped from $ 50,000 to $ 38,000 on his income over $ 150,000- in 1983 dollars. That left a $ 12,000 loss in treasury revenue that was supposed to be made up by economic growth a la supply side economics.

The stimulatory effect to the Reagan tax cuts was strong, but not strong enough to compensate for the loss of revenue and we had huge deficits and a roller coaster ride of growth, recession, recovery and growth.

Clinton established fiscal responsibility by raising taxes sufficiently to pay for governmental expenses and used tax cuts selectively to stimulate nascent industries with high growth potential.

We experienced the longest, biggest period of economic growth in American history as a result.

GW has gone back to defunding our governmental revenue stream and has begun a huge military spending program that is wasteful, unproductive and has extremely serious and bad moral effects.

The middle class taxpayer is in the position of paying the taxes that rich have been exempted from and being exluded from participation in the weak stimulation that the Bush tax cut package has produced.

People need to start demanding that the rich resume paying their fair share of the cost of government. They reap most of the benefit, it is only fitting they should pay proportionately.

-Robert Chapman

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006 San Francisco Bay Area Reporter

Gee whiz, do we love TV!

All these years we didn't know Dick Cheney could aim and shoot a gun at another human being! After all–five deferments for Vietnam. That kinda makes one think guns were anathema to the VP.

Apparently not. Apparently the VP likes killing. So much so that if a friend gets between him and his quail, well LOOK OUT!

Apparently guns and pacemakers do not strange bedfellows make. (Speaking of bedfellows, can we note that most guys don't go hunting with women who aren't their wives, like the VP and Harry Whittington did with Miz Armstrong and the Swiss Ambassador. To borrow from the Carpetbagger Report, can you imagine the scandal had this been the Clinton Administration? But we digress...)

Yes, the case of the gun-toting VP certainly made this week's TV a little more frolicksome, deflecting attention away from the escalating violence over the Mohammed cartoons, the horror of the mudslides in the Philippines and Oprah's disturbing revelations about just how little has been done to revive and rebuild New Orleans.

But even we were unprepared for Mr. Whittington–his face bruised and full of birdshot–standing before the TV cameras upon his release from the hospital on February 17th, some surgery and a heart attack later, *apologizing* for all the trouble he caused Cheney by *getting shot by him.*

No need to Swift Boat Whittington–he did it to himself.

You gotta love this Administration. They can spin *anything*–even the first shooting of another human being by a sitting Vice President since the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton 200 years ago. Of course that was over honor and integrity....

So why isn't Cheney over in Torino (you say Torino, we say we never heard of the shroud of Torino) winning some gold for the ill-fated U.S. Olympians? (Our favorite late night bit on Cheney was from the *Jimmy Kimmel Live* show: TV footage of Michelle Kwan's disastrous series of falls that precipitated her with drawing from the Olympics, cut to Kwan sprawled on the ice and then cut to Cheney holding a shotgun. *Sweet.*)

We'll come back to our incredulity over the Cheney-Whittington Incident later, with some of our favorite late-night comments so you can keep them for posterity, because we guarantee all trace of this event will disappear faster than you can say Bush-photo-op-with-Jack-Abramoff. Our favorite line about the Cheney incident did not come from late night, however, but from FOX news, which complained that no one was considering Cheney's feelings: "He's a human being, too, after all."

Really? Do we have *proof* Cheney's a human being? Or is this just another Bush White House/FOX news conspiracy like WMDs in Iraq?

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, back in Torino, the fur continues to fly. Johnny Weir, the oh-so-queer contender for the Men's Figure Skating medal for the U.S. blew it in his long program (perhaps if his outfit hadn't been borrowed from Cher's farewell tour?). The top-ranked U.S. male figure skater, who describes himself as "princessy," stated in a press conference after he decimated his program on the ice, "Who I sleep with doesn't affect what I'm doing on the ice or what I'm doing in a press conference."

Well, let's hope he [blank's] better than he skated his long program.

But after former figure skating champion and out queer Rudy Galindo demanded the media out Weir, the question was posed in the press conference. Appropriate? In the queer press, perhaps, but not in Torino. We didn't see that other obvious queen, speed skater Chad Hedrick, whose "best friend" was crying in the stands when he won the gold being asked the queer question. But then he's from Texas and *all* the speed skaters are wearing spandex.

We thought former Olympian Scott Hamilton (who *is* straight but *looks* incredibly queer) pushed it a bit in a conversation with Bob Costas (the best thing at the Olympics–whatever NBC is paying him, it isn't enough) and that other sweetheart former Olympian Dick Button (he is so kind in his commentary about the skaters; you gotta love him, 50 years since he won gold skating and he still can feel their pain).

There was no mistaking Hamilton's intent when all three were referring to Weir's *persona* and Hamilton noted, "He's saying ‘I'm Weir, I'm here.'"

Get used to it.

Weir does a *very* gay performance and it makes the judges uncomfortable, that's obvious. *Princessy* is an apt description all around.

We loved Weir's short program, we like his uber-queer *persona.* We'll enjoy seeing him at nationals later this year, but we really would have liked to see him on the podium in that swan outfit. Move over Bjork....

Meanwhile, it's the stoner snowboarders who are bringing home the medals for the U.S. team. (But please, stop interviewing them. Except for Shaun White, the Flying Tomato, who has some control of the non-slang English language, they are really too out-there for conversation.) We still aren't sure that skateboarding on snow is a sport, but if it weren't, the U.S. Olympic team wouldn't have much to write home about.

It isn't just the U.S. team that's suffering, however. NBC, already the lowest ranked network in the ratings, has seen the worst ratings of any Olympics ever.

We're not sure why. We have found the coverage as interesting as any sports coverage can ever be. Most of the events are fabulous to watch. But if you don't like skates and skis (and our favorite winter sport, luge) well, you are out of luck.

But we found the carping by Bryant Gumble (known for his carping, if anyone remembers him from the *Today* show) rather brutal. Gumble, who hosts *Real Sports* on HBO, skewered the Olympics in his closing editorial the other night.

"Count me among those who don't care about them and won't watch them," he asserted. "In fact, I figure that when Thomas Paine said that ‘these are the times that try men's souls,' he must've been talking about the start of another Winter Olympics. Because they're so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Like, try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the winter games look like a GOP convention. Try not to point out that something's not really a sport if a pseudo-athlete waits in what's called a kiss-and-cry area, while some panel of subjective judges decides who won."

The rant went on a bit longer.

Here's *our* response: We don't hear Gumble complaining about the unbearably tedious summer games. (The Greeks also didn't have diving, swimming or volleyball on the beach, summer Olympic staples. They might have had discus, but who wants to watch it? And, we might add, the Greeks hadn't heard of *blacks,* either.)

Plus it's difficult for us to imagine that there would be no furor if the color difference at the summer games (overwhelmingly black) were pointed out by a white broadcaster. Let's face it: snow and ice are the purview of Europe, Canada, a few American states, Asia and the former Soviet bloc. This does mean that there will be a "paucity of blacks" in the winter Olympics, just as there aren't any white African runners and jumpers in the summer Olympics.

It's called balance.

Somehow we don't think Gumble will be complaining about the dearth of white players in the NCAA during March Madness. But we *could* be wrong.

Didn't Jimmy the Greek get canned for making this kind of statement? Didn't Rush Limbaugh get pilloried (not that we ever object to *that*) and canned when he trounced Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb for getting a pass at being second-rate because he's black? Gumble shouldn't grumble: given the rate at which the Greenland glaciers are melting, there won't be any winter games in another 20 years because there won't be any snow and ice.

If Gumble's complaint is really a veiled one about economics, then that statement should be made about sports across the board, not just the winter Olympics. Sports are overpaid and overblown and not "real' in any sense of the term. But if Gumble *had* been watching this week he would have seen some amazing feats: like the Norwegian cross-country skier who managed to go from 78th place to second after a terrible fall and a broken ski, through sheer determination and skill. Or the Chinese skater who went back on the ice after a violent fall that literally knocked the breath out of her and bloodied her leg; she skated the rest of her pairs program, ending in fourth place. Or the other Chinese pairs skater who ended in fifth place despite just recovering from a year of surgeries for a torn Achilles tendon. Or the Russian team who won pairs even though she had had been slammed head-first into the ice last year by her partner in a competition seen round the world.

These seem to *us* to be Olympic moments. And frankly, we like seeing a little beauty, strength and excellence, just like the ancient Greeks did.

Which brings us full circle to the Cheney biathlon (shoot a quail, shoot an attorney, avoid police and media questioning, run to the bunker, hide, speak exclusively to FOX news and the Wyoming legislature, receive imprimatur of victim and President). Here, in closing, are a few of our favorite comments on the Cheney-Whittington debacle.

We liked David Letterman's top ten list of "Excuses Why Cheney Shot Whittington," our favorites were: #9: wanted to get Iraq mess off the front page, #4: I thought the guy was trying to go "gay cowboy" on me, #3: Excuse? I hit him, didn't I? and #2: Until Democrats approve Medicare reform, we have to make some tough choices for the elderly.

We also loved Jon Stewart's response to Armstrong saying Whittington had been "pretty well peppered with birdshot": "There you have it: Harry Whittington, seasoned to within an inch of his life."

Jimmy Kimmel quipped: "Luckily, the guy he shot was wearing the body armor that never got shipped to the troops." and "You know what they say, if Dick Cheney comes out of his hole and shoots an old man in the face, six more weeks of winter."

Finally, our favorite line came from Letterman: "We can't get Bin Laden, but we nailed a 78-year-old attorney."

Stay tuned to the spin and the Olympics.


Evangelical greed mongers always rise up among us when they smell the suckers lining up. Jingoism and materialism were common evangelist sucker pitches in the mid-1950s while I spent two years as a Born Again. Billy Graham was a master at the materialist message disguised as "spiritual" and "Christian", and he wasn't the worst of them. Some of you may remember the Moral Re-Armament movement of the 1950s--what a hideous name!--and those bumper stickers reading "Better Dead Than Red" and "Kill a Commie for Christ." There's always an enemy: Commies, uppity blacks, uppity women, Ay-rabs, gays who want to get married. Whatever.

Until now, the worst offenses against the messages in the Prophets & the Gospels occurred during the Roaring Twenties, when evangelists like Father Divine and Aimee Semple McPherson built their megachurches to sell Christianity as a commodity, former salesman Bruce Barton wrote do-it-yourself guides to the gospel of capitalism and material success through prayer, Catholic anti-Commie jingoists like Father Coughlin and "Liberty Bell" Lemke ("yeah, he's cracked, too," my dad said) ranted and raved on the radio, and plenty of others made millionaire livings out of phony religion while suckers poured their tithes into the collection plate.

That decade was eerily like our own. Despite massive scandals like Teapot Dome and the deaths & displacements of blacks & poor whites from the 1927 Lower Mississippi flood, openly greedy and bigoted Republican and Democrat NeoConfederates kept getting re-elected and stayed in command of Congress and the presidency. The prevailing anti-culture was that of public apathy, government Red hunts and armed militias out to get dissenters and minorities, runaway jackboot capitalism, apologies for fascism and war profiteering (remember "Daddy Warbucks"?), shrieking right wing radio commentators, the rich getting richer, the poor--rural and urban--foreclosed, and the middle class so dazzled by all the pitchmen that they went deep into hock for the pursuit of materialism, thought it would never end, and paid no attention to the stinking crookedness and downhill slide of the entire society.

Remember how it ended on a certain day in October, 1929? At least those fools weren't able to wreck the entire world, although when you consider the causes and results of WWII, they came close. The scary things is that the damnfools nowadays are even more outrageous and to end the world they only need to press a button. At least there were still some honest news media back then. Our mass media wouldn't even notice--until it's too late.

-Jenny Hanniver

In response to Rhian's "Muslims and Hatred", Billie M. Spaight writes:

Christians and Jews and people of other faiths do not follow every word of their holy books literally either. If they did, there would be a lot of strange things going on, such as people digging holes to bury their feces and people marrying their relatives' widows. Just because the Koran has some nasty material in there that does not mean ALL Muslims follow it. Many moderate Muslims (and that is NOT an oxymoron!!) do not believe in killing people who aren't Muslims any more than the Christians still have the Crusades!

It's true that, the more I read about these cartoon riots, the more I feel like there are a LOT of crazy Muslims out there. But that does not, cannot, mean ALL of them. I think we should feel some kind of compassion for the more normal ones who DO want to live in peace.

Rhian says she believes in family. Well, I say it depends on the family. I have enough people filled with hate in my family to prefer my friends! And I sure would not want her in my family. She hates too many people!

Enough of fanning the flames of hate! Some idiots in Denmark started it, more idiots in various places are overreacting to it, and the rest of us had better stay sane or we will JOIN the idiots and we WILL have World War III started from a damn cartoon! Oh please! Can you imagine how historians of the (hopefully more enlightened) future would say after they finished laughing so hard that their guts burst? (That is if there are any people left after the war.) Let the idiots carry on and cause their own destruction. We don't need any part of it.

I'm taking my Muslims on a one to one basis. It's that or head for the nearest looney bin.

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-Noah Greenberg