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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, September 5, 2006



Just what does our "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party-led Bushie government do when that can't read the polls on an issue? They table it. Yes, rather than tacking a difficult subject, they're just not going to vote on it or even merely discuss it. Immigration has become the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

It was just a scant few months ago that the GOP couldn't wait to open up the immigration can of worms. But they got more than they gambled for. The Republicans wanted to, and were using the illegal immigrant issue in two parts: As an issue to shore up their base and as an additional Weapon of Mass Distraction. It hasn't been all they hoped it would be. In its stead, the GOP leadership in congress will discuss making legal the President's illegal wiretapping and a host of other terror-related issues. They feel that they still have an edge on terror.

"We Republicans believe that we have no choice in the war against terror and the only way to do it is to continue to take them head-on whether it is in Iraq or elsewhere,”
-Representative John A. Boehner (R-OH), the senate majority leader

What! Is there no brain dead woman who needs a special vote in the middle of the night to keep her on life support, against her husband's wishes to exploit (again)? Has Natalee Haloway been found?

The problem with immigration reform is that both parties have members that have conflicting views with other members of their own, respective parties. And, let's face it, the GOP can't show divisiveness amongst themselves and actually have a bi-partisan discussion about a real issue. It seems that President Bush's Amnesty Program isn't the vote-getter that the Greedy Old Party thought it was going to be.

“Every day, people around the country recognize that this is a failed administration. If Republicans want to spend the whole month on nothing that is relevant to the American people, we are happy to do that.”
-Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the senate minority leader

I disagree, Senator Reid. Democratic leaders should be screaming that we need to get something done. Take a look across the capital at the House. When the GOP leadership there, led by Dennis "Do Nothing and say less" Hastert and Tom "Boy Did I Screw It All Up" DeLay wouldn't even discuss the trashing of Americans' right to vote in Ohio, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) took on the subject himself, with the help of eleven other Democrats. Even without subpoena power and a chamber in the House to hold these meetings, headway was made, headlines were written and people took notice.

“I expect minority obstructionism to be at an all-time high.”
-Senator Bill Frist (R-TN)

No need for minority "obstructionism", Senator... You're party is doing fine all by itself. The GOP leadership has invented the term "Self-Obstruction".

"If there’s not legislation with Republicans in charge, there's going to be blame here, and justifiable blame, if we do not produce (an immigration) bill.”
-Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee

Big words from the Pennsylvania "moderate". Too bad that every time it came for you and your committee to stand up, speak up and take a stand, you stayed attached to your seats as if Velcro held you down and there was tape over your collective pie-holes.

In the end, these last five-plus years have given us two types of GOP House and Senate members: Those who are holding the president's water and those who are slipping in the puddles as they feign opposition, but in the end, fall "Right" in line.

-Noah Greenberg

Pentagon Propaganda Now Official
by Robert W. Barker • Eureka CA USA • September 1, 2006

When the Constitution was designed and written our founders found that a republic requires a font of truthful information. An informed citizen makes better choices and critical thinking skills are developed as a natural process of education through our media and news services. Truth in the Media is tantamount to the viability of a republic and therefore is the strength of a free and open democracy. Without truth and critical analysis of the data and words we read we become sheep that are easily led down the wrong road of political manipulations. Any government that admits to Propaganda and media censorship as a tool against its own citizens can no longer be considered a free and democratic society.

Today as I read the morning news an article hit me like a ton of bricks dropped from the highest building in NY, NY. The headlines read:

“US Pentagon seeks to monitor Iraq coverage.”

“Monitor” I screamed aloud. “That's Soviet type news control straight out of the old Soviet Union.” Even the words were chosen carefully like the old Soviet State Planners use to use, instead of saying censored or controlled news they say monitored it sounds so much less intimidating.

The Pentagon wants to control the information and bad news coming out of Iraq, they want it glossed over made benign and fairy tale stories for children substituted for the real facts.

The Pentagon has already started to fill the Iraqi news with stories from Troops stationed there, the Pentagon actually pays local papers to run pro American stories for the political clout. Now they are suggesting a complete control over the US press and Iraqi press when it comes to the reporting of all Iraqi news.

When one’s government admits in public that they are attempting to control our information on any subject we need to pay attention. When it involves our tax dollars and children's blood as well as the future of the Republic we need to act.

With the onslaught of attacks on individual freedoms and the sacred Constitution it becomes obvious to me we are under the auspice of treasonous and dangerous people. Corporate controlled Media and the White House now work hand in hand to keep us misinformed and ignorant. They use diversions, lies, propaganda and now openly controlled media to keep us in an ignorant state or in denial of the real facts.

Ignorant constituents are far less dissident and truculent towards the powers that be, and so much easier to walk on.

Are we becoming the old Soviet Union with its censorship and lack of freedoms to control the population?

Read, react and complain to all media outlets governmental agencies and representatives now or we will be just like the German people previous to W.W.II a bunch of sheep willing to do whatever the twisted leadership requires.

-Send thanks & comments to: BDozer1947@aol.com

By Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

Remember AIDS?

On August 18th, the XVI International AIDS Conference ended in Toronto. Among the speakers were former President Bill Clinton, whose charity, The Clinton Foundation, helps provide ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs) for people with AIDS in Africa and other countries, and Bill and Melinda Gates, who have made AIDS treatment a top priority of The Gates Foundation.

Also speaking at the conference, Julian Bond, renowned civil rights leader and chairman of the NAACP, who was unequivocal in his statement that African-Americans must “face the fact that AIDS has become a black disease.”

Bond is one of only a handful of black leaders who have spoken out about AIDS among African Americans. On August 21st Bond wrote an Op-Ed piece for The Washington Post about the impact of the disease on black Americans, calling AIDS “a major civil rights issue of our time” and “we cannot wait for the government to rescue us.” Strong words from a man who 40 years ago was marching with Rev. Martin Luther King, but Bond has never shirked his responsibility to the black community.

Bond is correct about the government not proffering help. Since George Bush took office, HIV/AIDS has been discussed almost solely in the context of Africa, where nearly one in five people has the disease, millions are infected and millions more have died. People like Clinton, Bill and Melinda Gates, Bono, Alicia Keyes and other AIDS activists have also focused their attention on Africa, in part because the poverty there is so overwhelming and the disease so prevalent: AIDS in Africa demands attention because AIDS has claimed whole generations. But while activists have focused on AIDS in Africa, AIDS has been growing–silently, lethally–among blacks in the U.S.

Last week, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) visited Kenya, the birthplace of his father. While there he took an AIDS test to help promote such testing and to show that there should not be stigma attached to being tested for the disease. Sen. Obama’s AIDS awareness action was important, but it’s equally necessary in Chicago and other Illinois cities with large black populations. HIV/AIDS isn’t just killing blacks in Africa, it’s killing blacks in America, too. Julian Bond took an AIDS test at the conference—another important statement. But those in attendance at the conference already understand the necessity of testing. Where we need this kind of statement is out in the inner city where AIDS runs as rampant among young black women and men as guns and drugs.

In recent months, much attention has been paid to the rise in gun violence among blacks in urban areas in the U.S., particularly in Philadelphia where gun violence is the worst in the nation. But HIV/AIDS is killing as many African Americans as gun violence. We just aren’t talking about it or about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted, who is doing the transmitting and to whom the disease is being transmitted. Yet this discussion must begin before we can stop the impact AIDS is having on our black communities.

A vacuum of silence surrounds the ever-rising rate of HIV infection among black Americans in the U.S. Unfortunately, that silence resounds most intensely in the black community itself where the failure of black leadership to address what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has called a “monumental health crisis,” has been astounding. Bond is one of few voices acknowledging the epidemic among black Americans which is radically disproportionate to the population of African Americans in the U.S.

On August 24, ABC addressed the epidemic of AIDS in black America with a special prime-time news report. Senior correspondent Terry Moran acknowledged that white America had ignored AIDS during the past decade after ARVs made AIDS manageable. Moran also noted that as a news organization, ABC had failed by not reporting the increasing number of cases among African Americans in the last decade when rates of HIV infection among other racial groups were steadily declining.

Moran’s report highlighted alarming statistics about the rise in HIV/AIDS rates among African Americans and why AIDS has become so prevalent. ABC interviewed numerous black health care workers, people with AIDS and community leaders. It all added up to a stark picture of silence and death in the black community. The demographics begin to tell the story, but other factors are important as well. As Bond noted in his editorial, black Americans have bought into the concept of AIDS as a white, gay disease–an idea promoted for years in the mainstream media. But since 1990, the majority of new cases of HIV/AIDS in America have been among African Americans. And since 2000, half of all new cases of HIV/AIDS have been among blacks, with 68 percent of new cases among black *women.* Since African Americans are only 12.3 percent of the total population, the rate of infection is astronomically higher than the actual demographic of African Americans.

Why are these rates so high?

Several factors. Nearly one in three black men under the age of 35 is in prison. Prisons are a breeding ground for HIV infection. Most men in prison, regardless of their sexual orientation outside, have sex with other men. Many also use illicit drugs in prison–and use dirty needles. The main sources of new HIV infection in the black community are IV drug use and men having sex with other men and then having sex with women, what is commonly called “the down low.” (According to the CDC and the Black Health Report, more than half of African American men with new HIV infections acknowledge having sex with other men while identifying as heterosexual, but only six percent of black women believe that their partners are bisexual.)

HIV transmission in the black community is impacted by the percentage of black men in prison. First, testing in prison is expensive and prisons don’t want to do it and for the prisoner it means ostracization. So men do not get tested. Condoms are not available in prisons, so all sex is unsafe–making transmission easier. In addition, rape is common in prisons. Anal transmission is the easiest route to HIV infection. In addition, the rate of other STDs among black men in prison and outside of prison is very high. The presence of an existing STD–gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes–makes transmission of HIV more common as well.

So: men go in and out of prison, not knowing they are HIV-infected. They return to the outside and once there, return to having sex with women, thus spreading the disease. (As a commercial for Trojan condoms notes, one in four people with HIV doesn’t know they are infected.)

Other behavioral risk factors for HIV infection in the black community include the ratio of men to women. Because of the high death rate among young black men due to drugs and violence, there are only about 82 black men for every 100 black women in the age range of 19 to 35. This means men are more likely to have multiple partners. Having multiple partners puts people at greater risk of contracting HIV.

Poverty is also a factor. In the U.S., one in four African Americans lives below the poverty level, and more than half of all African Americans are either uninsured or under-insured for health care. All of which means being tested for HIV or being treated for other STDs is less likely than among middle class Americans.
The resultant level of infection is nothing short of catastrophic. AIDS is now the leading cause of death among black women between the ages of 19 and 34. It is one of the top two causes of death among black men and women between the ages of 25 and 54.

AIDS is epidemic in the black community.

As one young woman who works to promote HIV/AIDS education in the black community said: “If this were happening to young white women and men, our leaders would be talking about it every day. But no one even knows about this.”

Why *are* leaders in both the black community and the larger community ignoring the topic of HIV/AIDS in black America while focusing so intently on the disease in Africa?

Philadelphians might ask Lynn Swann, former NFL star and Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania. Swann, a fundamentalist Christian, has been, like so many other black church leaders, silent on AIDS in the black community. Swann has spoken out about abortion, Plan B and numerous other health issues affecting Pennsylvanians. But although there is an escalating rate of AIDS among black Pennsylvanians, and among Philadelphians in particular, Swann has not addressed that issue.

Swann’s silence underscores Bond’s points. The powerful black clergy has always been in the forefront of every serious issue involving the black community from civil rights to gun violence. Has *led* the black community. But AIDS is *not* being discussed in the black churches and in fact, black churches continue to preach vehement homophobia that has driven the AIDS epidemic underground, creating the down-low culture and inadvertently urging men to lie to their wives and girlfriends about their sexuality.

More than 80 percent of black Americans assert that the churches are where they turn for guidance, which means the lack of responsiveness from the black clergy has become part of the problem of AIDS in black America.

One only need listen to the comments of another black Republican gubernatorial candidate to understand why. Ken Blackwell hopes to be the next governor of Ohio, and like Swann is a fundamentalist Christian. But according to an interview by black journalist Keith Boykin (keithboykin.com), former president of the National Black Justice Coalition, Blackwell recently compared lesbians and gay men to “arsonists and kleptomaniacs who can be changed” and cited the problem of HIV/AIDS as concomitant with “bad lifestyle choices.”

Conversely Bond, who has been a civil rights leader for decades, highlighted homophobia as a key reason for the silence over HIV/AIDS: "Part of our response must be to eliminate the rabid homophobia that lives in our schools, our homes and, especially, our churches. Our inability to talk about sex, and more specifically homosexuality, is our greatest barrier to the prevention of HIV transmission." (Bond, despite his long-standing friendship with Coretta Scott King, did not go to her funeral because of the anti-gay attitudes of the preacher, Bishop Eddie Long. Bond believes such attitudes are helping to spread AIDS in the black community.)

The perils of the down-low lifestyle cannot be overstated. Men who have sex with other men–unprotected sex–and then go back to their wives and girlfriends, are putting the whole community at risk. But the onus is not completely on these men–lack of education about HIV transmission and about homosexuality and bisexuality is to blame. But without strong leadership, who will do the educating?

The black clergy must take a stand. Renowned author, Rev. T.D. Jakes, has appeared on *Oprah* discussing incest, rape and other taboo topics in the black community. But while he acknowledges AIDS as an issue, he has yet to bring it to his huge audience. Why not?

Bond’s must not be the only black voice raised to save black lives. If people can congregate on street corners or hold church services to protest gun violence, why can’t they do the same about AIDS? The issues are similar: young men and women are dying senselessly. AIDS can be prevented with education and safe sex practices–a much easier task than getting guns off our streets.

So why aren’t we doing it?

If, as an African American, Swann wants to represent Pennsylvania in the state’s highest office, he has to represent *all* Pennsylvanians–including other African Americans to whom he has thus far turned a blind eye. There is no more pressing health issue for our black community in this and every other state. Fully eighty percent of AIDS cases among children are in the African American community. That’s no “lifestyle choice”–that’s the same death sentence as a stray bullet in a playground.

We have to urge our black leaders and black clergy to stop the silence. Several black candidates are currently campaigning to be the next mayor of Philadelphia. What do they say about AIDS? What have they done about AIDS?

We deserve answers. Silence equals death, and our young black women and men are dying. Needlessly. It’s time for our leaders to step up and take control of this epidemic and stop the dying.

(For information in Philadelphia on HIV/AIDS and the black community, contact BEBASHI–Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues.)

A Plea From Mr. Blue-Sky

On September 10 and 11, ABC Television is planning to air a program called "The Path to 9/11." Though ABC claims that the program is based on the facts, the truth is that it distorts the facts and the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission. The ABC program, written by avowed conservative Chris Nowrasteh, goes out of its way to place blame on the Clinton administration for 9/11 and whitewash the failures of the Bush administration. That simply isn't true.

Help me do something about it.

Visit this website and send a message to ABC:

-Sean (Mr. Blue-Sky)

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

The new fall season is replete with the usual escapist fare, but mostly this season it’s a case of art imitating life. It begins, alas, with the five-year anniversary of 9/11. The worst single terrorist attack in world history has, necessarily, spawned many TV shows that will air in the next few days. Some are worth watching, others are definitely to be avoided.

The one that infuriates us most has been promo-ed exhaustively on ABC: the six-hour mini-series *The Path to 9/11.* (Sept. 10th and 11th)

We have been a fan of Harvey Keitel for decades, but we question his politics after his major role in this re-writing of American history. ABC promos tell us over and over that *Path* is “based on the *9/11 Commission Report,* thus solidifying its *presumed* basis in fact. But the so-called facts are squarely inventions of a pro-Bush, anti-Clinton bias. (Hillary may have been correct about that vast right-wing conspiracy after all. This series certainly makes *us* believe in it.)

Just in case you *didn’t* read the 9/11 report (we did), the report does *not* say that President Clinton was some kind of sex-crazed Nero who diddled on terrorism while America burned. Nor did the report say that Clinton ignored the threat of Osama bin Laden because he was spending all his time getting blow jobs in the Oval Office. Nor did it say that Condoleezza Rice made it her solemn duty to endlessly tout the memo *from* President Clinton to President Bush that informed the new prez that an attack was imminent.

In fact, Clinton went after bin Laden repeatedly, it was the Republican Congress who focused all their attention on Monica Lewinsky and accused Clinton of “wagging the dog” for trying to shift attention to the threat of terrorist attack and Rice not only did *not* make any effort to get Bush to attach significance to the Clinton memo, she stated in her forced testimony before the Commission (she repeatedly refused to appear), that the memo was insignificant.

*Path* tells us that Clinton caused 9/11. Throughout the promos, there is an ominous intoning of the same line, again and again: “For eight years the threat was building and ignored....” It’s a translation even the most dull-witted of Bush supporters can discern: 9/11 was Clinton’s fault because for the eight years of his administration he ignored everything but sex.

The promo intimates it, then one watches the mini-series and *voila!*–9/11 *was* Clinton’s fault! The series makes it clear that Clinton (the Rhodes scholar), was too stupid and sex-crazed to notice and/or care that a major attack on the U.S. was being planned and the amazingly smart and savvy new President, George Bush, was doing everything in his power to stop the terrible event from happening but Clinton had already done too much damage.

We are all for the concept of the parallel universe and since January 20, 2000 we have really wished we could project ourselves into one. But the *reality* is, *The Path to 9/11* has about as much to do with the actual path to that hideous event as does the yellow brick road. It takes about as long to read the actual 9/11 report (which does not let the Clinton Administration entirely off the hook, we might add) as it will to watch this piece of vilely revisionist history. We could have sworn that Leni Riefenstahl directed, but we know she’s dead.

Avoid this one unless you are among the only 21 percent of Americans still in love with George Bush. Frankly, we find it a terrible insult to the 3,000+ people who died that day, to so re-write the history of *why* they died. There was a good deal of blame to go around in the lead-up to 9/11, not the least of which was a faulty and negligible system of intelligence. *Path* makes clear intelligence was indeed a problem–it just got *whose*intelligence utterly wrong.

A couple of 9/11 pieces *are* worth seeing. *Inside the Twin Towers*aired on Sept. 3rd and will replay throughout September (check listings) on the Discovery Channel. It’s hyper-realistic and thus acutely painful and stomach-churning, but *Inside the Twin Towers*is not voyeuristic or even really sensationalistic. The film utterly approximates the terror, unimaginable errors (that cost hundreds of lives, like fleeing workers being sent back to their offices to die) and also amazing heroism that occurred in New York that day. Tales from actual survivors are juxtaposed with re-enactments based on phone transcripts from that day. It’s perilous viewing, but perhaps the best story of what we can take from that awful event: that government can and should learn from its mistakes and that in the worst of circumstances some people rise to unimaginable heights of heroism that should be an example for us all. Breath-taking (literally–you will find yourselves on the edge of your seats, even though you know the ending).

Another superb piece is *Dust to Dust: The Health Effects of 9/11.* (Sundance Channel, Sept. 11th; also available on DVD) In case the title of this amazing and tragic documentary makes you want to skip ahead, stop. The dying from 9/11 is still going on, and we are not referring here to the deaths of our soldiers in the misbegotten war on terror. We are talking about first-responders, rescue workers and volunteers in the disaster of the WTC attack.

Just as the Bush Administration has ignored those maimed by the war on Iraq, so has it ignored the first responders to and citizens living near Ground Zero.

When the twin towers collapsed, tons of debris were scattered over miles in downtown Manhattan and dispersed into the air over the entire city. No one who saw the footage will forget the actual blackening of the area with thick layers of dust and debris. Workers and survivors alike were covered in the stuff–centimeters thick on their skin and clothing, all of which they took home with them, regardless of whether home was a borough away from Ground Zero.

For months, rescue workers and volunteers were sifting through that morass, first for signs of life and then for bodies, body parts and evidence. People who lived in the area were effected on 9/11 itself, and then in the days and weeks afterward as they returned to reclaim their property and their homes, which were themselves thick with the dust.

The cloud of dust that hung over the lower end of Manhattan for weeks was filled with such dangerous particulate matter that it’s a wonder that thousands didn’t just drop dead on the spot.

Alas, as this stunning documentary explains, people are sickening and dying now. All the toxic and carcinogenic bits in the dust cloud emanating from Ground Zero were breathed into the lungs of anyone and everyone who was either there on 9/11 or returned to the site. No one should have been allowed near the place for weeks, possibly months. But the Bush Administration revised the findings of danger from the EPA (much as they have since revised the findings on global warming) and just let people in–in to breath a toxic mix of asbestos particles, benzene, gypsum, mercury, lead and a host of other things that none of us is supposed to be near if we expect to escape dying of suffocation from lung disease.

According to *Dust to Dust,* not only have people died outright, but many more are sick and dying. Asthma, bronchitis, chronic pneumonia, mesothilioma (a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to things like asbestos) and lung cancer are all being found in those who worked at or near the site, or lived near the site. Now, with the insult to injury that the Bush Administration is so good at delivering, these workers have been denied benefits or medical assistance and have been virtually ignored by the government they served so arduously and well.

What’s more, as *Dust to Dust* so graphically illustrates, the cronyism the Bush Administration has been known for, had a clear foothold back in 2000: James Connaughton, then-newly appointed chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, was the “heckuva job Brownie” of the 9/11 clean-up. His resume? Helping corporations weasel out of settlements with folks who were dying from whatever hellish environmental disaster had been wreaked on them in the name of big business.

Don’t miss this one. Not only is *Dust to Dust* riveting viewing, it’s enraging, activism-engendering viewing. The men and women who risked their lives to help give peace and some measure of closure to the families of the victims were abandoned from the outset by the Bush Administration and then have suffered concomitant indignities at the hands of that Administration since. There’s one word for what those men and women–heroic–and another for how they were treated: despicably.

(Also worth watching: Cinemax’s *Brothers Lost: Stories of 9/11*, Sept. 11th. We did not preview this, but heard from a trusted colleague who did that it is a poignant and understated tribute to men who lost their lives in the WTC by their surviving brothers. Available on DVD.)

The tragedy of 9/11 is only the opener to the new season, however. Other shows are sure to be differently mesmerizing. One of the first shows to debut in the new fall season (Sept. 14th, CBS), *Survivor: Cook Islands* is the most controversial round of the reality show to date and it hasn’t even started yet.

Why all the buzz? Well, we call this one *Survivor: Helter Skelter.*Declining ratings pushed the ever-inventive Mark Burnett to try something different. Divide the 20 survivors by race: whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians.

Not *quite* a new idea, but an idea that in 2006 has certainly raised some eyebrows. According to various sources, GM pulled sponsorship (and they usually provide cars as prizes), and other sponsors followed suit. (CBS declined comment.)

But as they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity and the hype has made this *Survivor* the most anticipated since the first round, which landed winner Richard Hatch–the self-proclaimed “fat naked fag”–in prison for tax evasion. (Not to get off-topic here, but explain to us again why Hatch got four years and Enron’s satanic leader, Ken Lay, got to go skiing in Vail after his conviction?)

Columnists have lambasted Burnett for making the decision; some have demanded that CBS pull the show. We have mixed feelings about the concept. We like the idea of more people of color on CBS, not exactly known for having much color in its casting. What we don’t like is the idea of race war as game show.

In all rounds of *Survivor,* the teams eventually have to blend together and this one will be no different. So people of different races will be forced to get along and create alliances. We’re not sure that’s how it will work out, of course (history is, regrettably, on our side), but it *could* end up being a feel-good social experiment. It’s what happens *prior* to everyone becoming one team that concerns us. *Survivor* has consistently drawn blood, sometimes literally, so we’ll have to stay tuned.

Likewise the tenth season of CBS’s *The Amazing Race* has profiled the controversial in *its* cast: a queeny gay couple, Tom and Terry, two Muslim brothers, and Barbie look-alike beauty queens Miss New York and Miss California 2005. There’s also a one-legged Iron Man triathlon participant (in a team with her athlete husband) who is definitely going to be a heavy favorite, especially since she *also*looks like the blonde Barbies.

There are six other teams, but we haven’t seen them and won’t until the show debuts Sept. 17th. However, we *love* the idea of dual beauty queens vying with queer queens on the same show as Muslim brothers who want everyone to know that just because they dress like what Bush calls “Islamo-fascists,” they’re just plain folks (in intense Muslim gear, replete with caftans, skullcaps and amazingly long ZZ Top beards).

Stay tuned on this one, too. Queer couples have done well on *AR* in the past and *AR* always has an intriguing set up (plus the world travel is just fabulous).

Speaking of queer, on the sit-com side, CBS debuts *The Class.* Think *Friends* meets *The Big Chill.* (The show is actually from the producers of *Friends* and *Mad About You,*which pretty much guarantees it being hilarious.) A bunch of twenty-something's who were all in third grade together have an intense bond that we doubt many viewers will relate to, but suspend disbelief for the laughs, which look superb. One of the characters decides to throw a reunion for his fiancé (20 years since third grade) and *voila*: the buddies come together, for good and ill, to see what everyone grew up to be (or if they indeed grew up at all) and what the group has in common (we *told* you about the suspension of disbelief part). Starring Jason Ritter, David Keith and a cast of relative unknowns (remember when we said that about the *Friends* crew and Jennifer Aniston was just the daughter of a long-time soap star?). Sean Maguire plays the fab-looking, happily boyfriend-ed queer character that all the girls had crushes on. This one is worth a look. (Sept. 18th)

One of the glitziest shows debuting this season is also one of the all-star vehicles. *Smith* has a clutch of high-caliber con men led by the mysterious “Smith” of the title (think *Charlie’s Angels* meets *Sexy Beast*). A chameleon named Bobby Stevens (played with alacrity by the always superb Oscar-nominee, Ray Liotta) decides to run a few more jobs as the FBI begins to close in before he retires to–what else?–spend more time with the family (Oscar-nominee, Virginia Madsen, plays his wife). Other players include the sexy Simon Baker, as well as Franky G. and Amy Smart.

John Wells, who produced longtime hits *ER* and The West Wing,* seems to have another hit on his hands, as does CBS. (September 19th.)

CBS has pretty much of a lock on the best new shows. Another we previewed and *love* is *Jericho,* which will have to serve as a replacement for our ill-fated fave of last season, ABC’s *Invasion* (available on DVD with the ending episodes that never aired because ABC canned it when viewers said the plot was “too complicated to follow.” And we wonder why Bush is president?).

*Jericho* has a premise that melds the war on terror with *Survivor: Helter Skelter.* CBS’s promo queries: “What if you lived in a small town and suddenly the entire town is cut off from the rest of the world? When a nuclear cloud is spotted, the town of Jericho, Kansas is led to believe the worst has happened and that they may be the only people alive. Complete chaos ensues and puts the entire town in danger, not from the threat of the possible nuclear explosion, but from each other.”

Yep, that sounds a *lot* like *Invasion* to us. It also sounds a lot like what’s going on right this instant (what we said about art imitating life) as fear is drummed into us daily by President Bush touting the threat from “out there” where the amorphous axis of evil characters live.

*Jericho*stars the ever-sexy/mysterious Skeet Ulrich, and Gerald McRaney, Pamela Reed and others. (Sept. 20)

There are many other new shows worth watching debuting slightly later. Look for NBC’s *Studio 60* and sit-com *30 Rock* as well as ABC’s *The Nine.* And don’t forget to check out Rosie O’Donnell on the new version of ABC’s *The View* where she promises, according to TMZ, to never “have a scary gay haircut” again. Stay tuned!

In response to Senator Rick Santorum's (R-PA) appearance on Meet the Press, Robert Chapman writes:

Senator Santorum told Mr. Russert on Sunday that Iran is central to the battle in Iraq. Reading into this a little, Santorum believes the Bush Administration's propaganda that Iraq is a terrorist magnet and that by fighting the terrorists in Iraq we won't have to fight the terrorists in America.

OK then why wouldn't Afghanistan, the country to the right of Iran on the map, have served equally well as a terrorist magnet?

Apparently, Mr. Santorum and the GOP believe terrorists can only make left turns.

Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com or comments@nationalview.org

-Noah Greenberg