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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, November 13, 2006


The Three Party System

There are three political parties in the United States and there have been since I can remember. Now bear in mind that I'm not going back to the time of Lincoln or Jefferson, just to somewhere towards the end of the Vietnam war.

The South used to be Democratic, but "Bubba's Daddy's" Democratic party was a lot different from the Democratic party of today. Back in those days, there were no "liberals" running for office in the South; there was no way that a Northern Democrat and a Southern Democrat could change congressional districts. Imagine Shirley Chisholm, an African-American congress-woman from New York running in a rural southern Georgian congressional district, or a Strom Thurman trying to unseat New York Republican Senator Jacob Javitz. I don't think so.

Back in those days, the GOP could be identified as a party of mostly conservative economic ideals. 1964 saw the great defeat of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater to Democratic incumbent LBJ in a landslide, almost ending the Republican party.

But the thing was that The South has remained the same. The same families that were conservative back then are still conservative now. LBJ said it best when he said that his policies (mainly his civil rights' policies) have given the GOP The South for years to come. He was right.

By now, we all know that the GOP co-opted The South by defining, and then stealing issues of morality. They took over congressional, senate and state houses by calling their competition the "L" word and telling their electorate that they could bring back the good old days.

Take a look at Northern Republicans of that day. Take a look at Nelson Rockefeller, the former New York Governor and Vice President under Gerald Ford or Javitz. These were centrist politicians who would be Democrats today.

Then take a look at the Southern Republicans of today and compare them to the Southern Democrats of yesterday: No difference.

This election elected a different Democratic party, and it's a better Democratic party. The notion that this nation, even at its most liberal, was actually "Liberal" is just plain wrong. And with all of the chest beating by the religious right, their spokesmen and henchmen, there was never going to be a move as far to the right as they wished. Even in South Dakota, a measure to outlaw abortions fell short by a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent, and it doesn't get much redder than the Rushmore State.

True representation will show this nation as living somewhere in the middle. But what I'm most heartened by, and what I take from this election defeat of Neo-Conservatism is that now, with Democrats in charge (both liberals and conservatives, if you wish to call them that), we can now really move forward and end corporate welfare and war profiteering. we can begin to have a dialogue on national health care.

NeoCons described themselves as "Compassionate Conservatives" which was no more than a lie. Forcing people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps while restricting their liberties, creating a giant national debt and sending their jobs overseas; all the while giving giant tax breaks to the ultra-rich Bush "base" of "haves and have mores" and our hard-earned middle class dollars to global corporations as "Corporate Welfare" is not what the American people wanted and they finally woke up to that fact.

This nation has always had a far left and a far right, but even putting them together, they are still in the minority. Allowing the Bushies to hijack the Republican party for their own self interests and the benefit of their rich contributors was how they fell as a party. The American people now have a more representative government and as long as the American people don't listen to the hate and the hype coming out of Right-Wing radio and Fox News, we'll have a nation that might just be able to start looking toward the benefit of the nation as a whole, not just a small, rich part of it.

-Noah Greenberg


A Vancouver soldier is one of ten killed this week by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Ron Paulson spent 14 years in the Army and then another 13 years as an inactive reservist. At 52 years old, he was called up for active duty.

When Paulson finished his service in 1992, soldiers were given a choice -- take a lump sum of $30,000 and be done, or take an annual payment of $7,000 with a catch.

He said he went for the annual [payment], but that meant he had to stay in the inactive reserve to get it, which is why he ended up getting called back in to service.

Paulson said that roadside bombs were his biggest concern. His family confirmed his death Wednesday. (emphasis added)

We're sending 52-year-old soldiers to die in Iraq. Another reason to be glad of the results on election day.

-Submitted and commented on by Victoria A. Brownworth, with thanks to billmon for info

Right Wing Mind-Boggler

The president of Human Life International, Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, STL, has an unhinged view of who is to blame for the GOP’s meltdown last night. I couldn’t believe what I was reading — it’s so…out there.

“If the Republican Party truly wants to know why they lost, they need only look in the mirror. The most vulnerable seats in both houses were those held by politicians who had abandoned the pro-life and the pro-marriage principles that first brought them to power.

“In many states, voters turned out in large numbers to defend traditional marriage, but voters were not willing to support those who would not support their values. Some so-called conservative senators were all too happy to water down or jettison their ‘unwavering’ defense of the unborn in the name of political expediency and now they have paid the price. Self-described Reagan conservative George Allen bragged about owning stock in Barr Pharmaceuticals-the manufacturer of Plan B-and President Bush’s shameful support of this deadly drug being sold over the counter deflated conservatives’ support of many candidates.

“In Missouri, Sen. Jim Talent fearfully refusal to come out against the state’s cloning initiative not only resulted in its passage, but the loss of his Senate seat. Sen. Rick Santorum’s race in Pennsylvania is also telling. Those who espouse ‘conventional wisdom’ will tell you that issues like abortion never decide a race. That’s a lie, as evidenced by the fact that the Democrats purposely picked a pro-life candidate, recognizing that it would neutralize the greatest advantage Santorum had in his re-election bid.

“The Giuliani-McCain-Romney wing of the Republican Party is responsible for this overwhelming defeat. If the GOP truly wishes to regain the trust of pro-life, pro-family conservatives, then they must look to leaders like Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) – who has never wavered on his principles or his defense of the innocent unborn — as their model.”

If the Republicans keep eating their own, they'll have to run a Democrat in 2008. Should we give them an appetite stimulant?

-Submitted with comments, by Victoria A. Brownworth, with thanks to Pam Spaulding

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

We are spoiled for choice this week about just what to feature. Such a BIG week for the *small* screen.

We could start with the mundane TV news: a new season-within-a-season starts this week. For some reason the networks have decided actually giving new shows a chance to shine and gather a following isn’t such a great idea. So CBS cancelled the slow-building crime drama*Smith,* NBC cancelled the riveting and superbly acted *Kidnapped* (someone *please* give Dana Delaney a show that lasts for more than three weeks!), *Studio 60* and *The Nine* are faltering in the ratings, despite superb casts and scripts and inexplicably, *Men in Trees* is still on the air. (And the networks wonder why we watch cable....)

Into this slash-and-burn atmosphere debut the return of NBC’s former mega-hit *Medium,* now on Wednesdays, CBS’s new series about brain surgeons, the horrifically named *3lbs* (*Grey’s Anatomy* with more blood) and ABC’s new drama *Daybreak,* starring Tae Diggs (*Groundhog Day* with a twist).

Okay, that’s over. Tune in if you have nothing else to watch, like *The Wire* (with not one, but two queer characters) or *The Nine,* before it’s cast into the back lot, or *Heroes,*the show that has *almost* replaced our previous great TV love, *Buffy, the Vampire Slayer* (“save the cheerleader, save the world”).

Now to the real stuff: There was no bigger story–and it was *so* a TV story–than the shift in power in Washington. We have never enjoyed election night coverage as much as we did November 7th. Watching the pins fall one by one was just so satisfying.

The most comprehensive coverage was ABC, followed by NBC and CBS pulling up the rear. We tuned in briefly to FOX, but it was too depressing. And CNN was, well, CNN: all repetition, all the time.

The news coverage deserves comment for what it did and did not bring to the table of media responsibility.

First: The Democrats won. They didn’t almost win, or win because the Republicans decided to give up and let them have a turn. *They won.* But you’d never know that from some of the coverage.

ABC’s George Will opined that the House would look more conservative than it did before the election. Larry Kudlow, that right-wing hound dog from MSNBC, asserted that the "changeover in the House may well be a conservative victory, not a liberal one."

In what parallel universe?

Let’s look at Claire McCaskill, who wrested Missouri out from under Republican incumbent Jim Talent in the show-me state. McCaskill was smeared with the “liberal” label from one end of the state to the other in TV ads. One of the biggest controversies of the election season revolved around her when Michael J. Fox did a commercial supporting her because of her strong stance on stem-cell research. Rush Limbaugh claimed Fox was *acting* like someone with Parkinson’s Disease. (That spurious comment led to a two-week news cycle of Rush Limbaugh versus Michael J. Fox.)

Well, looks like the ditto-heads lost that round, because not only did McCaskill, who has a 98 percent progressive platform win, but so did Missouri’s stem cell research ballot initiative.

Then there was Pennsylvania, now *former* home of Republican golden boy Rick Santorum, the third-ranked Republican in the Senate. Don’t remember Rick? He’s the one who said same-sex marriage was akin to man-dog love and that queers marrying was the greatest terrorist threat in America today. (Take *that* al-Qaeda!) Santorum, a two-term senator, was ousted in a slamming defeat by Bob Casey, Jr., who supports civil unions for queers.

Another Republican taken down by TV was George Allen of Virginia. The former presidential hopeful (if you can’t retain your Senate seat, it’s unlikely you can win the presidency) never was able to shake the “macaca” statement he made at a meeting of his faithful. The racial slur was tossed at a man of Indian descent who was tracking Allen for his Democratic challenger, Jim Webb’s campaign. Looks like he got him, too (Speaking of Webb, he was one of many former military men who ran as Democrats against the war. Webb has more right than most to his outrage. Unlike the chicken hawks on the right, his son is deployed to Iraq.)

Our fave winner was Bernie Sanders, the white-haired socialist who ran as an Independent and won in Vermont (home of the first queer civil unions in the country). He’ll be voting with the Dems in the Senate. Try labeling him something other than progressive. Most of the races looked just like that. But the media continued to spin the notion that the new Democrats were very conservative.

Not exactly, guys. (And we do mean guys. Election night coverage remains a man’s world. Katie Couric put her glasses on, but she was the only woman in the spotlight on election night and was utterly upstaged by sitting with Bob Schaeffer, who was his usual astute self. ABC even brought Peter Jennings back from the dead with some clips that served only to creep us out.)

Perhaps it’s just fear. The mantra has been “the Democrats have no plan, they have no agenda, they are soft on terror and harsh on taxes, blah, blah, blah, for so long that seeing the American people actually *choose* them and think they could do something better was just, well, scary, because let’s face it: the biggest myth in America today is the one of a “liberal” media.

The misery escalated as the hours passed. If TV had smell-surround like some theatres, you could have smelled the fear and blood on George Bush as he staggered out into the press conference on November 8th, looking more dazed and confused than usual. His handlers apparently hadn’t prepared him for a loss.

It was a sad scene. We almost felt sorry for the guy. *Almost.* He was like the Wicked Witch of the West screaming, “I’m melting, melting, melting.”

Every joke fell flat. No one laughed. And then he actually said that he was surprised by the turn of events. Again, just collective discomfort by the media in attendance. Bush was by turns angry and looking like he was going to cry. He didn’t want to answer questions, but did. Reluctantly. And then it was over.

But not completely. There was the return later in the afternoon with the fired–uh, resigning– Donald Rumsfeld. You could almost see the sword he’d fallen on for the team. He quoted Churchill to the group and then Bush introduced Bob Gates as the new flunky.

What was most compelling about these staged TV moments was how they reflected democracy. No coups, even though it was clear Bush would have liked to just refute the reality of, as he said, the people having spoken and asking for change. No deaths–Rumsfeld wasn’t beheaded in the public square, much as many people might have liked to see his head on a pike. And a smooth transition of power.

Say what you will about America. When push comes to shove as it so often has with the Republicans in charge, we manage to hold onto democracy, even if by a thread.

The hero of the piece was a surprise as well: Nancy Pelosi, our San Francisco treat.

While the right was making fun of her, we were reveling in her refusal to back down from her previous statements about Bush. When ABC’s Terry Moran interviewed her on November 8th, he asked about her having called Bush incompetent. She said he was, on the war. She gave no ground on that one, although she did promise to work with the other side of the aisle. Nevertheless, most people know she has an agenda that she intends to muster through the house. And with the 28 seats won by the Dems who only needed 15, it could be a slam dunk.
Finally–a leading Democrat with backbone. We haven’t seen that since Bill Clinton left Washington.

Now the games begin and Pelosi has taken charge. (Everyone seems to know that Harry Reid is Senate Majority Leader, but he just so pales by comparison to Pelosi with her soignee suits and prim good looks. She’s got the stature of Thatcher without the gristle.) We look forward to seeing her again and again on the tube.

The jokes have started as well, of course. Jimmy Kimmel commented on the lunch meeting between Pelosi and Bush. “Nancy Pelosi had chicken Cordon Bleu and asparagus tips and President Bush had his usual meal of Lunchables and a big plastic mug of Sunny D.”

On the topic of Rumsfeld’s dismissal, everyone weighed in. Craig Ferguson said now Rumsfeld would become the angry old man of the neighborhood. He went on to note that if you went into his yard he’d growl and yell, “Get of my yard!” And then he would attack a kid who didn’t come into his yard to show the kid who did he meant business.


There was other TV news of course. Disgraced liar and deceiver and former head of America’s evangelicals, Rev. Ted Haggard is taking the trip so many others of the fallen have taken. He’s going into rehab. But this is a different form than most of us have heard about. It’s spiritual rehab, with the laying on of hands for three to five years from other men in the church. As Jay Leno noted in his November 10th monologue, “If you think having a bunch of guys lay their hands on you for three to five years is going to cure you of being gay, think again.”

And then there was *the* tabloid story of the week: Britney Spears divorcing Kevin Federline. The tired jokes–Fed ex, Fed up, and so forth–abounded, but we did love Rosie O’Donnell’s gleeful shrieking on *The View* about the divorce. As Jimmy Kimmel noted when he replayed the clip of her jumping up and down over it, “Did Britney say she was getting divorced or becoming a lesbian?”

Speaking of lesbians, is it our imagination, or is lesbianism the new black on the tube? We saw no less than five lesbian storylines on various shows this week from *30 Rock* (funnier than it was initially, although sadly, Tina Fey took the funny with her when she left *Saturday Night Live*) to *Close to Home* (yes, *Close to Home*–see what we mean?). There was full-mouth girl-on-girl kissing on the November 10th episode of *Law&Order.* Lesbianism seems to be everywhere except on *All My Children,* where Bianca is back, but naturally unattached. Sigh.

Speaking of gay, Oprah redeemed herself (somewhat–we do hold a grudge) from her Bill O’Reilly gaffe with her November 9th show. Challenge Day at Monroe High School revealed a student body rife with racism, sexism and homophobia. We were incredibly moved by this show which highlighted what kids go through in high school (not like we don’t remember—we just don’t want to) when they are different. By far the kids who were most bullied were the gay kids. And they were wonderfully articulate about that experience and their need for acceptance.

It was a tremendously painful hour–we’re tearing up right now thinking about it–but it was also immensely informative and life-altering for the kids involved who, with the help of tremendous teacher-facilitators and reporter Lisa Ling (who just gets better every time we see her–give that girl an Emmy, already!), realized how their biases were hurting other kids. This is the kind of thing that Oprah has always done well. She should do more of this kind of education. It’s her strong suit.

Speaking of charismatic African Americans who changed TV, the sudden death of Ed Bradley on November 9th was a real loss to TV. He was such a man of firsts and quiet elegance. He spent 46 years at CBS–never changing networks–with 26 of those years at *60 Minutes.* Bradley was the first black White House correspondent and the first black war correspondent for CBS. He was nearly killed in Cambodia during the Vietnam War when he was hit by a mortar and almost lost his arm. During that same war he crossed the line from dispassionate reporter to engaged citizen when he helped rescue some Vietnamese boat people who were drowning. He said it might have made him less of a reporter to do so, but more of a man.

Bradley won 19 Emmys in his long career, many for his hard-hitting interviews on *60 Minutes* where he was always the bull dog who would not back down. He also did a host of other interviews that were less hard news, many related to music. (He was the voice of Jazz from Lincoln Center on NPR for decades.) It was after one of those interviews that Bradley said it was Liza Minelli who talked him into getting his ear pierced–which became a trademark over the years.

Bradley was 65 when he died of leukemia and there was no one who could think of something bad to say about him. Bradley made TV news history–not just because he was black and hip and had an Afro in the sixties and looked like a Black Panther on the news, but because he brought a strength of purpose and conviction to his stories that just gets more and more rare. We still wish CBS hadn’t chosen to scrap his report on the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that was due to air before the 2004 election. If they hadn’t, we might have a different President than we have today.

Bradley was a very private and introspective man; no tabloid exposes for him. He never made much about the racial barriers he broke down, but his colleagues knew that he worked hard to get more blacks into TV and get more black kids out of the ghettoes like the West Philadelphia neighborhood he grew up in. Bradley put hundreds of kids through college on his own money. A real civil rights worker to the end. He will be sorely missed, particularly in these days of no-risk reporting.

Finally, on a much lighter note, the phenomenal Emma Thompson was on Craig Ferguson November 9th, during which she told a story about trick or treaters on Halloween. So, she told Craig, a little boy of about seven (the age of her daughter) arrived on her doorstep all alone. He was dressed in ordinary clothes–button down shirt and jeans–and Thompson, feeling a bit sorry for him, asked what he was dressed as. “I’m a psychopath,” the boy replied. “You know, they always look normal.”

Ah, out of the mouths of babes.

Stay tuned.

Quoting Bush

One freedom that defines our way of life is the freedom to choose our leaders at the ballot box. We saw that freedom earlier this week, when millions of Americans went to the polls to cast their votes for a new Congress. Whatever your opinion of the outcome, all Americans can take pride in the example our democracy sets for the world by holding elections even in a time of war.” (emphasis added)--George W. Bush, 11 November 2006 radio address

We should be “proud” that the federal government didn’t cancel our elections? That the Bush administration didn’t use the war as an excuse to interrupt the democratic process? Since elections weren't cancelled during WWI or WWII or even the Civil War, we should hope not. He really is a self-congratulatory SOB isn't he?

-Submitted and commented upon by Victoria A. Brownworth

In response to, "I have to congratulate the voters. The initiatives described as bans on same sex marriage, which passed overwhelmingly in all states, make a clear statement to religious persons who would claim protection for polygamy, that this will not be tolerated. It is a message to foreign Islamists living in America that having more than one wife is not our way, here. It is a major stroke of respect for women. Marriage, one man, one woman," Victoria Brownworth responds:

Once again, people seem to confuse bigotry with democracy, but with Bush as President, it's obvious that they're just following his lead. Particularly since the Bush line has been to make people fearful of things that don't exist--in this case, rampant Muslim polygamy and other forms of polygamy.

In the U.S. the only places where one finds polygamy are Utah and a tiny portion of Colorado, and in both places it is practiced not by Muslims, but by Christians: Mormons.

The marriage initiatives were specifically to sideswipe the national and international trend toward basic human and civil rights for lesbians and gay men. As the writer knows, same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts for three years, and the state has not imploded, nor have heterosexuals felt they have lost anything from their marriages. What's more, several nations have also made same-sex marriages legal, again with no ill effects. And in seven other American states, civil unions for lesbian and gay men are now the law. Is the world coming to an end? Not from 60 million Americans finally getting equal rights.

It's always difficult for bigoted people to realize that equality under the law benefits everyone. Just ask George Allen, whose "macaca" statements lost him his Senate seat in Virginia.

The codification of bigotry and hatred is never a good thing for a democracy. The marriage initiatives are wrong for women, men and American democracy.

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-Noah Greenberg