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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

uesday, may 16, 2006

Today's Quote

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
-H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

Just think... Mencken never even met George W.  ush.

-David W.

Yes-Men and Mutes

The Republicans in congress had their opportunity. They didn't have to remain under the thumb of President Bush and his minions for as long as they did. This party is made up of "Yes-Men" and "Mutes". There are no "Good-Ones".

There are two kinds of Republicans in congress today: Those who will side with the president no matter what and those who remain silent. There are none who'll come out and say what they know is right: The president doesn't have the best interest of the nation at heart. And if there were REALLY honest ones, they would say he never did.

Don't the REAL Conservatives and the REAL Republicans want their Bush-Hijacked party back yet?

Personally, I'd like to think that there are many Republicans who put the American people first. But if they refuse to speak up, then they are just as bad as the "Yes-Men". During the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, one of the more outspoken critics of the president was Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT). Although most of the nation felt that these allegations didn't meet the definition of "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" which is required by the Constitution, Lieberman stood his ground and was most vocal about the conduct of the president.

There appears to be not one, single member of the ruling "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party that will stand up and even criticize President Bush for anything he has done. During the Whitewater investigation, which amounted to nothing more than a stained blue dress, the nation told us all that they simply wanted "all of this" to go away. Other than a few nuts in the GOP, no one wanted to see President Clinton removed from office. However, in this time of continuous lies to the American people "for their own good"; spy scandals that could put the personal lives of tens of millions of American citizens in jeopardy; and the treasonous acts of releasing our nation's undercover CIA personnel in order to "get back at her husband"; etc., have made these Republican "leaders" say, "The president can do as he pleases. This is a time of war," or simply make them turn a blind-eye to the events.

Many Republicans are too scared to confront the president. For example (and I have used this in the past), you may look at Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who was outspoken about the funds that the Veterans Administration was loosing in the president's proposed budget. Smith came out against the budget, lost his VA committee chairmanship and has seemingly lost his nerve for any future fights. Anyone who knows how New Jersey's congressional districts are drawn knows that it would be almost impossible for Smith to loose his seat. This could have been a great opportunity for him to get a small group of GOP leaders together and say "This will no fly, Mr. President," but instead he chose to be one of the silent.

When you hear Republican Senators say things like, "This nominee will have to face a lot of questions"," regarding senate confirmation hearings, it's all for show. Today, the man who said "Okay, Mr. President," to the illegal wiretapping scandal is going to breeze through the hearings to confirm him as the CIA chief as if he did nothing wrong. At the end of the day these "leaders" will say things like "He answered all the questions," even if he did leave out certain parts for, as they are sure to put it, "national security reasons". General Michael Hayden wouldn't even have been nominated had their been a Democratic-led Senate, unless Bush wanted to use him as a sacrificial lamb to divide the nation (No doubt Bush would have said something like, "You see? The Democrats are causing gridlock. They don't want to get nothing done."

If you believe anything, believe this: Politicians are in it for themselves first. But it used to be that if they could do something good for most of the people, they would. We no longer even get the scraps.

We need a new congress and a new senate. The GOP needs to be in the minority once again. We need to lose the division in our nation that has brought us to the brink of our own kind of civil war. We need to look at Iraq and say enough is enough. We need to put the good of the majority (the people of the US) over the pleasures of the minority (the ultra-rich Bush "Base" of "Haves and Have-Mores".

We need to realize that a stained blue dress is nothing as compared to thousands of blood-stained American uniforms.

-Noah Greenberg

About Fascism

The most important thing to know about fascism is that it is always the merging of state and corporate power. Sometimes it is brutal. Some times it is peaceful. In the cases of peaceful fascism the population is lulled into apathy by bread and circus while the corporate media fills the airwaves with fluff to distract from a corporate government that is looting the treasury, takes away our rights, eliminates social programs, uses the military for profit, and sells

-David W.

The Sellout Of The American Worker

The sell-out of the American worker continues today. It doesn't matter if it is a Democrat such as Harry Reid and Edward Kennedy or a Republican such as Arlen Specter and John McCain. In shorts, they all stink on the immigration issue. When are Americans going to get through their heads that immigration is being used as weapon to bring in cheap labor and lower our standard of living.

Technical workers in many disciplines had an impossible time finding a job on 2000-2004. I knew one person who was out of work for almost four years.

The reason is in no small part due to the ridiculous number of H1B/L1 professional Visas that were granted in 2000-2003. Americans are told that there is a shortage of skilled workers yet millions of skilled workers could not find a job. There even were ads in newspapers for H1B Visa holders only!

This is a blatant violation of labor laws.

Let's face it - there is NO enforcement of labor laws. There hasn't been since 1980's. I don't believe for a second that either party will crack down on employers who abuse H1B/L1 Visas or hire illegal immigrants. Where is the enforcement going to come from? Will the FBI work on it? Will the local police? The labor department doesn't have any people to do enforcement.

Labor laws are being treated as a big joke by the open border advocates who think that the "free market" solves all problems. But, has it? Our standard of living is disappearing. The middle class is dying. Yet, our politicians propose amnesties and raising Visa limits. There is one politician who is making sense today - namely, Bryon Dorgan.

Senator Dorgan described how, of the 6.3 billion people on the face of the Earth, approximately 300 million live in the United States. He stated that we had worked hard and sacrificed to build "quite a remarkable country."
Yet, he argued, if we suddenly announce that everyone on the planet can come to the U.S. and stay, tens and tens and tens of millions of people would come to the U.S. So, to protect our way of living and jobs we have passed quotas and other immigration laws. Yet, last year 1.1 million people tried to enter the U.S. legally. Approximately 750,000 illegal aliens entered and 175,000 legal aliens were admitted.

Senator Dorgan continued by stating that the exporting of good jobs and the importing of cheap labor is pulling apart the middle class. In 1986, he said, the theory was that to deal with illegal immigration, you had to take care of the jobs--this was the basis of the 1986 Act, referred to at the time as Simpson-Mazoli. He stated that the debate over employer sanctions in 1986 was essentially the same as the current debate, but called the "abject lack of enforcement" "unbelieveable" and essentially an invitation to employers to do as they please. Doing a new immigration bill without addressing the border, he argued, will put us right back where we are in another 20 years. Senator Dorgan concluded by stating he planned to offer an amendment to delete the guest worker portion of the bill.

I am truly appalled by this immigration debate. I ask the same question of Democrats as I do of Republicans - when are you going to do something positive for the American worker? I believe that immigration, trade and labor policies are driving Americans away from both parties. There simply is not an advocate for the people that already live in this country. Open borders is a sham. No one in their right mind believes that there ever will be a border-less world. That is utopian thinking that turns practical people off.

-Robert Scardapane

Open Borders

Who is the biggest advocate of open borders?

Immigrant groups - no!
Republican Party - no!
Democratic Party - no!
Council of Churches - no!
Progressives - no!

The answer is The United States Chamber of Commerce. Think about it. What better way to trash the American work than to have an unlimited supply of foreign workers. In the old days, the unionists would have known exactly what to call this - in one word, scabbing!

That is exactly what is playing out right now with this illegal immigration debate. Along for the ride is massive increases in green cards and temporary work visas. The ultimate goal of the Chamber of Commerce is to eliminate immigration laws completely - it's called open borders.

What sort of future do you suppose our nation will have if these people win the debate? Grim to say the least. There is not one nation in the world that has open borders, not even the socialistic European nations that Progressives admire.

-Robert Scardapane

After the Speech...

After the President's fifteen minute exposition of talking points, C-span carried the Senate discussion of the day. This showed Sen. Edward Kennedy (D. Ma.) discussing Senate bill 2611 at length.

This bill, an actual proposal, in contrast to Bush's statement of intent, met the President's conditions without militarizing the US-Mexico border. However, lest we be overcome with the euphoria of the moment, we must take a moment to reflect. Any bill passed from the Senate would go into conference with the house bill passed several weeks ago criminalizing aiding undocumented immigrants.

In effect, this validates the House GOP majority's position.

Is it worth it? Wouldn't a better strategy be to let the house bill die and resume the entire legislative process in a new session?

-Robert Chapman

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

It's that time of year: finales everywhere. Some series–even bad ones-- will be back, others–some beloved–are ending forever. Soon it will be another loooong real-TV summer in which the most exciting reality show will no doubt be first on FOX, via the Beltway.

Several good series are ending, among them ABC's *Alias,* which we never quite got hooked on, despite the lovely and talented Jennifer Garner. The show's creator, JJ Abrams, got his feet wet on the complicated storylines of *Alias* (a kind of *I Spy* meets *La Femme Nikita*), which led to one of our favorite shows, the multi-faceted *Lost,* which in turn opened the door for our very most favorite drama series, Shaun Cassidy's superb metaphor about corrupt government, *Invasion.*

What we *did* like about *Alias* was that the female hero of the show was strong, smart and independent, right up to and including the point where she gave birth (when Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck had their baby). Alas, there is no show to take the place of *that* on any network.

The two series we will miss most are NBC's *Will&Grace* (which we eulogized last column–could there be a gay *Soprano* without *W&G*?) and NBC's *The West Wing,* which for at least five seasons was the absolute best- acted and best-written drama on TV, network *or* cable (yes, including *The Sopranos*). The series actually ended last season when NBC made the terrible decision to stop playing the drama in real time. Then NBC moved the show from the coveted 9pm Wednesday night slot (where it vied against *Lost* on ABC) to the only-conservative-evangelical-families-are-watching-TV-at-8pm-on-Sunday-night-and-they-are-watching-CBS's- *Cold Case* time slot.

Ratings plummeted because not only did loyal viewers like us simply forget it was on, but when we remembered to watch, we didn't much like what we saw.

Martin Sheen's President Bartlet has been the heart and soul of the show for years, the pivot upon which the ensemble revolved (sort of like what happens when the person in the White House is a true *leader,* rather than a megalomaniacal sociopath). But this season Bartlet became a lame duck doing occasional walk-ons while Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda duked it out across the country for the upcoming election. Even though the dialogue and acting continued good as ever, without Sheen as the nexus and with the sudden death of integral John Spencer as Leo McGarry, the show just stopped being as interesting.

Nevertheless, like *W&G,*which also foundered in its later seasons, *WW* altered the TV landscape. Every episode was a civics or social justice lesson (now we turn to ABC's *Boston Legal* for that, plus the ripostes *WW* was known for), bringing politics front and center and reminding viewers of how much government is capable of when it *chooses* to use power for good, rather than evil or just plain mundanity.

As we noted more than once in this column over the years, the power of *WW* was it could regularly inspire true love of country and desire for justice that brought a catch to the throat and a tear to the eye and made one want to go out and make the world a better place. The writing was *that good.*

Another thing we loved about *WW* was the sharp, smart, rapid-fire dialogue that never waited for the audience to catch up. *WW* writers believed the audience wanted smart and over many seasons they never slacked on smart, never dumbed down.

Years ago, before Bill Maher was canned by ABC for being politically incorrect on his show *Politically Incorrect,* he would regularly refer to *WW* as the "shadow presidency"–the presidency Americans *wanted* to have, the presidency that modeled what *could* be done in Washington if strength of character outweighed fear of the pollsters.

And Maher was right; that was the power *WW* had for season after season: it reminded us of what American government was capable of being and doing. *WW* disclosed the foibles of politicians, but always revealed the antidotes: social and political justice were not just possible, but likely.

*WW* gave us hope and we will miss the show almost as much as we miss the kind of government we witnessed during it's run on NBC.

Bartlet's presidency and Bartlet himself (Nobel Prize winner in economics, happily married husband who actually has sex with his wife who is a smart, independent woman, like their three complicated daughters) were the antithesis of the Bush White House.

Certainly the events of this past week presented a shady presidency compared to *WW.* We never saw a faster news cycle than the one accompanying the sudden resignation of CIA director Porter Goss.
Goss's name has been linked by sources to a series of scandals brewing along the Beltway involving prostitutes of both genders, bribery, money passing hands for a range of things and disgraced California congressman Duke Cunningham and pay-to-play California businessman Brent Wilkes. Goss resigned on Friday afternoon, May 5th while everyone was celebrating *cinquo de Mayo,* but his name was completely out of the news before the Sunday morning talk show circuit opened.

As the kids would say, What's up with *that*?

Yet May12th Goss's underling, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo had a plethora of search warrants issued against him. This item, too, was a blip on the TV news radar. If you missed the CNN crawl midday, you missed the story.

Meanwhile, we couldn't help laughing when the Monkey King brought out his latest bad choice a nanosecond after Goss's resignation. Gen. Michael Hayden, the Harriet Miers option for the CIA, looks so much like the classic TV cartoon character Elmer Fudd that we wonder if that alone (as opposed to his connection to the illegal wiretapping of Americans, cooking the books on wiretapping at the NSA and a host of other unsavory issues) will keep him from being confirmed for the post. Somehow everyone humming "kill the wabbit" when one comes into a room doesn't bespeak gravitas.

Yes, we miss *WW* already.

For example, has there ever been a better press secretary than C.J. Craig (Emmy winner Alison Janney)? We ached for Janney (or even Kristen Chenowith) during Tony Snow's excruciating debut May 12th as Bush's new kid on the chopping block. The former smooth-talking FOX host bumbled and fumbled his way through the 23 minutes press briefing, looking far less *soignee* than he had last week when Bush brought him in. In fact he looked kinda like a prettyboy Bush–unable to get to the end of a sentence without faltering, unable to answer questions with any surety. But unlike his boss, Snow was embarrassed by his blunders: "This is just a mess," he told an irritated press corps. (We recommend he commit those words to memory; they'll cover a multitude of Bush debacles.)

As we said, tune in for a Beltway summer–it oughta be a doozy.

Meanwhile, back in the lavender margins of the tube, there are queer characters you don't want to miss in shows continuing through summer.

Most Americans with cable are tuned to HBO on Sundays: between *The Sopranos* and *Big Love,* why would anyone watch anything else? (Has anyone noticed the tremendous amount of TV coverage of polygamy these days? Is this the flip-side of the same-sex marriage argument?)

So, after waiting more than a year for *The Sopranos* to return (those cast members who aren't in jail for committing real crimes, that is; talk about art imitating life...), return it has and now even the *capos* are queer.

One very closeted captain, Vito Spatafore, was discovered in a gay bar, after which he fled for his life to New England. (*W&G* has *not* moved La Cosa Nostra to embrace their queer brethren.) Vito watches a gay couple enter a restaurant, where they are greeted in a friendly way, as if their being gay was not a disgrace, as if they were actually human beings. Vito is clearly amazed by this unimagined possibility. Back in New Jersey, the mobsters are talking about what a disgrace he is, and about how they will kill him as soon as they find him.

Time passes. Vito gets kissed by a guy he's been flirting with. He responds by yelling, "You think I'm some kind of fag?!" and punches the guy. A fight ensues (which Vito lost), but later, Vito approaches the guy to apologize. He explains that when you've been lying all your life, you don't know when it's safe to tell the truth.

The poignancy was palpable.

A good friend of ours, a*Sopranos* devotee and an astute deconstructionist of all things theatrical, suggests the following scenario: "My guess is that Vito will spend some idyllic time in gay heaven before he's discovered and whacked."

Luke Snyder (played by the extraordinary Van Hansis) is clearly *not* in gay heaven on *As the World Turns.* He finally came out to his parents this week and the *sturm und drang* hit the fan. This storyline has been built very carefully over the past few months and like the previous best-queer-storyline-on-TV, Bianca Montgomery (played with extraordinary nuance by Eden Riegel) on *All My Children,* Luke isn't having some sudden change of heart about his sexual orientation. He's certain he's queer.

What has been most interesting about the story's development is how the writers have handled Luke's fear of telling his parents, mom Lily (Emmy winner Martha Byrne) and step-dad Holden (Jon Hensley). His concerns over disappointing them have led him to make some terrible choices. The evolution of his decision to out himself has run parallel to Holden's intuition that Luke was gay. Holden has battled his own demons (what if he'd been Luke's real father instead of step-father, etc.) as Luke has battled his. It's made for a very rich storyline. Thus, when Luke finally told Lily, Holden was able to be supportive and loving in a way Lily–blind-sided and disbelieving–could not be.

Hansis and Byrne (who is six months pregnant) have also been doing PSAs after the show for GLAAD. *ATWT* has been on the air for more than 40 years. It's obvious why it's the second-longest running soap in history: story and character development are paramount. The stellar, nuanced acting of all the principles (Jon Hensley has never done such fine work) has just served to make the story that much more moving.

Stay tuned.

In response to "Maybe President Bush ought to declare war on Mexico. Then he can do what he wants... Oh, right... he'll do it anyway," Chris Tennant writes:

I have a much better idea. Maybe we should give Texas back to Mexico, along with ALL their residents (and that includes the Bush dynasty). That ought to make a lot of people happy on both sides of the border.

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-Noah Greenberg