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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, April 17, 2006

Another Republican in the Klink

For those who are the subject of Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's inquiries, I have just one question:

How good do you look in stripes?

While at the same time he is investigating the likes of soon-to-be former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), Mr. Fitzgerald has been very busy on another affair: The investigation, trial and conviction of former Illinois Governor George Homer Ryan (R-IL).

Ryan, not to be confused with Jack Ryan, the ex-husband of Jeri Ryan of Star Trek fame, and former opponent of Freshman Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) for a vacant Illinois senate seat, was best known for commuting the death sentences to life imprisonment for every death row inmate in Illinois before he left office a couple of years ago. He will now be known as inmate Ryan. (The latter Ryan was best known for trying to get his ex to "do it" in front of strangers in a sex club.)

What is it with guys named Ryan anyway?

"I believe this decision today is not in accordance with the kind of public service that I provided to the people of Illinois over 40 years, and needless to say I am disappointed in the outcome,"

In other words, "You owe me!"


However, I believe it is. If you steal from those who entrust you, you ought to be held responsible. Maybe Ryan commuted these sentences so the guys in the Joliet would treat him nice. He can get up to 20 years for his crimes, which include Racketeering, fraud, lying to the FBI and obstruction of the IRS. His Co-defendant Larry Warner, a businessman and friend of Ryan was also found guilty on several charges.

There were seventy-nine others indicted for various charges which all stemmed from a van-truck crash in 1994 that claimed the life of 6 children. It seems that the truck driver had paid a bribe for his license.

The corruption is now epidemic. I guess it is easier to steal when you're in office, but this is getting out of hand. Are these honest and good men who have been corrupted by the power that comes with position? Are these the spoils of victory that they feel is part of their jobs, sort of like honorariums? Or are they the product of what lobbyists expect and receive? If you're stealing a little, why not steal a lot, I guess.

We thank Patrick Fitzgerald for his service and look forward to seeing the prosecution and defense of Tom DeLay.

I want you all to remember this: This batch of corrupt politicians all seem to be coming from the "Right" side of the aisle. It's obvious that the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party have no plans to start policing themselves. The GOP congress has met many fewer times than any other congress in recent history and ethics' violations have become the expected norm, with no consequences. Executive oversight has become a thing of the past, and the result is a president, and policies, run amok. But worse than all of this is the Republicans total disregard for this nation's values and wishes. It all comes down to greed. There is a lack of respect for the middle class American and they... we... are the people who built this country, made it great and will continue to keep it great. The GOP just doesn't seem to get that, or they don't care.

If we let them, the legalized bribery that they call lobbying will continue to grow and infect our society. It might even be too late now, but it's something we, the middle class voters on America, have to fix. Look at all of the Republican scandals that are landing GOP staffers and GOP elected officials, alike, in jail, or making deals to save their skin. It's all due to greed.

We need to get rid of the greed and the rest will follow.

-Noah Greenberg

Bombs and a Missed Opportunity

I guess there is no such thing as going forward when you're a terrorist. Today a bomb exploded in Tel Aviv, Israel killing 9 civilians and injuring many more. Of course the Bush administration came out and "condemned" the attack (way to take a stand, boys), but, as usual, rhetoric is their only style. What did you think they were going to do? Issue a Fatwa or something?

(Note: A Republican friend had asked me, right Al Gore threw in the towel in 2000, if there were anything that George W. Bush, as president, could do to make me vote for him in 2004. I thought about it for a few moments and said "Yes, there was." (Forgive me now for paraphrasing myself.) The second thing I wanted a GW presidency to do was help keep jobs in this country. I felt that there was an opportunity for the right man to make a stand at jobs being lost to outsourcing and it was in his power to make that stand. The first thing I wanted to see was real strides to be made for peace between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and those who still haven't accepted Israel's right to exist. I feel that President Bush and his administration not only failed on both goals, but made them worse.)

This was a test and an opportunity for the new Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority to make a stand. All they had to do was come out and say the same thing that GW's boys said: "We condemn this attack." It wasn't even their own terrorists that perfomed to homicide act. The bombing was the work of a group named Islamic Jihad, so it would have been easy for them to come out against it. This would have shown the world that they were serious about joining the world community. Instead, they chose to pander to the far right of their supporters.

"We think that this operation ... is a direct result of the policy of the occupation and the brutal aggression and siege committed against our people,"
-Spokesman for the Hamas-led Interior Ministry, Khaled Abu Helal

As they used to say on Family Feud, "Bad Answer".

Just think what a statement of sorrow and condemnation would have done for the reputation and viability of the new government of the Palestinian Authority. Imagine if their leaders would have shown Israel and the world the kind of response that they should have. Statements like this from an Israeli official would never had been made:

"From our point of view it doesn't matter if it comes from Al Aqsa, Islamic Jihad or Hamas. They all come out of the same school of terrorism led by Hamas,"
The Hamas-led Palestinian government is "giving support to all the other terrorist organizations."
-Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Gideon Meir

The poor response by the Palestinian Authority validates those statements.

Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, did the right thing in condemning the acts, but his position and power have diminished to the point of making his presidency anemic, at best, and impotent, at its worst.

"These kinds of attacks harm the Palestinian interest, and we as an authority and government must move to stop it. We will not stop pursuing anyone who carries out such attacks."

Nice words, but with the blessing of the majority party (the terrorist Hamas), does anyone think that will happen?

Just to add fuel to this already blazing fire, Iran is a financial supporter of the terrorist group, Islamic Jihad and they have decided to give the new Palestinian government $50 million in support. One can't help but wonder where the orders for this attack came from and if the Palestinian statement of justification was made at the request of Iran.

Hamas could have stood up with an outstretched hand for peace, but instead they chose the fist of hate.

-Noah Greenberg

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

Are we alone in hating the new ABC show *The Evidence*? Apparently not, because thankfully, it will be replaced with the much adored and oh-so-smart *Invasion* this week as new shows premiere and old ones (*Commander in Chief* is, regrettably, back) return for May sweeps.

Speaking of invasions, Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has become a regular on late night comedy routines in addition to the evening news. Rumsfeld's *bon mots* and hyena-like laughter in press conferences have made him the man late night loves to spoof. Jimmy Kimmel has a little play on *Seinfeld* that he does with outtakes from Rumsfeld speeches and Craig Ferguson does a bit where he queries first "Is Donald Rumsfeld taking his job seriously enough?" and then says, "Let's take a look. Then a clip of a Rumsfeld rejoinder in a press conference follows–except the Ferguson team has photo-shopped Rumsfeld's hands doing something else–playing cat's cradle (our favorite) or cards or knitting.

Rumsfeld got a lot of TV face time last week when several high-placed former military men, doing a short tour of duty on the morning shows, called for Rummy's resignation for mismanaging the war on Iraq.
Rumsfeld was succinct and dismissive in his response; he commented almost off-handedly in a press conference April 14th that if every time a few military men complained about a Secretary of Defense the SoD was replaced, the job would "look like a merry-go-round." Rummy added that he had proffered his resignation to President Bush several times and been rebuffed.

We particularly liked the BBC World News reporter who read Rumsfeld's statement that night. His tone of incredulity (which, like everything else, sounds so much better delivered in a British accent) was, as the MasterCard ads assert, *priceless.*

Meanwhile, although Rumsfeld *is* the designated scapegoat for the Administration since Colin Powell was dismissed, others were taking hits all week as well. We never know *what* to make of Chris Matthews from *Hardball.* One week he sounds like a point man for the White House, the next he's dissing all and sundry.

This week it was the latter. On the *Today* show he was telling Matt Lauer that on a scale of one to ten, the story of George Bush being the progenitor for the leak in the Valerie Plame case "is heading toward ten." Apparently as much as the President wants this story to go away, and as assured as he and Vice President Cheney were that Scooter Libby was willing to fall on his sword for the good of the Bush-Cheney dynasty, that apparently isn't happening. Libby is singing like Tweety-bird and names are part of the trill. (Judy Miller must have told him prison wasn't as fun as it looked on *Oz.*)
Thus despite Bush's playing "the best offense is a good press conference in which I act surly and frustrated with the stupid inept media, especially that old witch Helen Thomas, " the story just won't go away. The White House's gambit in admitting to what is now Libby's on-record statements indicting Bush and Cheney, is to say that it's a time of war and the President can leak any information he chooses in order to help the war effort.

Uh, okay. So *don't* leak the information that there were *no* WMDs. Leak Valerie Plame's name to Swift Boat her husband instead. Got it. So no wonder the story won't go away. Not on *Saturday Night Live,* Leno's and Letterman's monologues or *Hardball.*

Matthews was also gunning for Cheney last week. In a spot on Jimmy Kimmel, he lit into Bush and Cheney on a host of things including the war, but the coda was his trademark screaming at the end of his rant. Kimmel brought up the shooting of Harry Whittington and Matthews went off like a cannon, noting that the White House tried to spin it every way they could. "Look, if I were the President I'd say to the Vice President, it's okay if you lie about WMDs that don't exist, but if you shoot somebody, let me know." Matthews went on to note that his favorite spin was the part about the shotgun pellets traveling to Whittington's heart from his face.

"They didn't travel from his face to his heart," screamed Matthews," they traveled down the barrel of the gun to his heart."

As we said, *priceless.*

Speaking of priceless, those familiar with this column know we worship at the altar of Oprah. Not only is she the most influential figure in America–based on merit, not on fake sales of yellowcake–but she gets stuff done. We were all prepared to chat about Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira and the bad moves being made by CBS and NBC, but why bother? Couric and Vieira will sink or swim depending on the whim of viewers. We think Couric lacks the gravitas to be an evening anchor (she's no Barbara Walters–she's not even Elizabeth Vargas or Cynthia McFadden). Likewise we think Vieira lacks the niceness required for a morning show. NBC had two people who would have been perfect for Couric's position: Ann Curry, who is delightful, smart and drop-dead gorgeous and who has been Couric's sidekick for lo these many years, or NBC weekend anchor Campbell Brown, also quite personable and charming. They chose neither. Stupidly.

As for CBS–this move just proves once again how lost that network is when it comes to anything but *CSI* and *Survivor.* They never should have let Dan Rather go. The way to raise their news ratings is *not* to put a perky face on the news, but to have some, well, *news.* Why didn't CBS just choose Oprah? That would have gotten their ratings out of the toilet.

Oprah deserves her ratings. Twenty years of proving lives *can* be made better through TV and that all celebrities are not self-absorbed lunatics like he silent birthing team of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. (No wonder Nicole Kidman adopted.)

This past week was vintage Oprah, a series of shows that define why we love her. (After all, we lost 30 pounds on her diet program and we are cleaning up our messy finances on her Debt Diet program, both of which can be accessed at Oprah.com and both of which can change your life–easily!)

So this week Oprah did a show on how young girls are following the cult of celebrity to their mental and emotional detriment. The show featured Pink talking about her music video "Stupid Girls" as well as a group of teens who worship at the altar of the Hilton sisters (which makes Scientology look like a good choice by comparison).

Then she did two shows back-to-back about education in America, followed by a show on the minimum wage. In other words, life-altering TV, all in one week. *And* she's provided more housing and services for Katrina victims than the federal government. But then, well, she's Oprah!

So there she was outlining what's wrong with the American education system with the wealthiest man in the world, Bill Gates, and his wife Melinda, who have dedicated themselves to improving America's education system. (In just 20 years the U.S. has dropped from first to 24th in education worldwide, according to Oprah's stats.)

The picture Oprah presented wasn't just bleak, it was terrifying. When people are grousing about taxes for their school districts, do they realize that the kids in school today will be running the country tomorrow? Look at George Bush, for goodness sakes–see what happens when a C student takes the helm? (Speaking of Bush, didn't he run as the *education* president?)

Oprah borrowed ace reporters Anderson Cooper from CNN and Lisa Ling from National Geographic (it's hard to imagine Ling was *ever* on *The View*–she's just *so smart*) to investigate, as she had previously done about the aftermath of Katrina last month. What Cooper and Ling found were schools that are basically warehouses for kids. Not just schools with no computers, no libraries, no musical instruments, no decent gyms, but schools without enough desks for their students or enough textbooks. How exactly are kids supposed to learn in these environments?

There was also a classic Oprah exercise: kids from a dilapidated inner-city Chicago high school traded places for a day with kids from an elite suburban high school. Everyone was appalled. The inner-city kids, many of them the best and the brightest in their schools were aghast at how they floundered in the suburban school's classrooms. The level of education was much higher than at their school. One African-American girl noted, near tears, that she was getting As in trigonometry at her school but couldn't understand the problems in the trig course at this school. "It's like a foreign language," she lamented. "I'm going to be lost when I get to college."

Likewise the suburban kids were appalled by how little was offered at the other school. Music classes with no instruments. A swimming pool that hadn't been filled in ten years because of a leak. Computers missing keys and switches and programming. No textbooks.

Segregation is alive and well in America, these shows indicated–and it's in our schools where poor and black kids are getting a substandard education, where the dropout rate among the poor is 60 percent and among students of color overall, about 40 percent.

These shows were followed by one on the minimum wage and how it is not a living wage. In San Francisco minimum wage has been raised from the federal level of $5.15 an hour to $8.70 an hour, but as one woman's story illustrated, that is not enough to have an apartment, afford public transportation and have enough money for food and other bills. The show was done in tandem with Morgan Spurlock (*Supersize Me*) and his partner Alex Jamieson, who together lived for 30 days on minimum wage and found themselves constantly tired, out of funds and at each other's throats over the smallest amount of cash. Neither had health care under the month-long *Survivor* situation and both ended up in the emergency room for illness–to the tune of several thousand dollars.

More than 30 million Americans are working full-time and living below the poverty level. Ten percent of Americans. It's a national disgrace, Oprah declared.

Wonder if the boys in Washington will get her message.

Finally, the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies to TV and we are *highly distressed* at the turn *As the World Turns* has taken with their up-till-now *primo* queer storyline featuring Luke Snyder and Jade. These two had been wonderful friends and we were *so* liking the way the story was unfolding. But *ATWT* has changed Jade (who is, we might note, the only black character on the show) into an evil, conniving thief who lied about her parentage and is now basically blackmailing Luke about his sexuality. She convinced him to let his parents find the two in bed together (a fake job, but still) to make them to let her stay. And now she's threatening to out him if he doesn't help her.

We are voicing our displeasure. *Loudly.* This shift has made the storyline both racist (the *only* black character is a thief and a liar) and tinged with homophobia (Luke is pussy-whipped by Jade).
Boo, hiss. Luke is a major player and isn't turning straight, either, so if *ATWT* doesn't fix this soon, we see him taking the same route Bianca took on *All My Children*–a plane out of town for good.

Stay tuned.

Some "General" Quotes

“It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it.”
“What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.”
-Robert E. Lee, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, Class of 1829

“I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.”
“I think I understand what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers.”
-William Tecumseh Sherman, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, Class of 1840

“There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword.”
“Let us have peace.”
-President Ulysses S. Grant, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, Class of 1843

“The powers in charge kept us in a perpetual state of fear – kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor – with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.”
“Our country is now geared to an arms economy bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and an incessant propaganda of fear.”
-Douglas MacArthur, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, Class of 1903

“I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
“If men can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war include almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man's intelligence and his comprehension would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”
“There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs.”
“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
“If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They’ll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government.”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, Class of 1915

“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war that we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living.”
“Wars can be prevented just as surely as they can be provoked, and we who fail to prevent them, must share the guilt for the dead.”
“With the monstrous weapons man already has, humanity is in danger of being trapped in this world by its moral adolescents.”
-Omar N. Bradley, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, Class of 1915

-Forwarded by Jenny Hanniver

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-Noah Greenberg