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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


The 28th & 29th Amendments

"...to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. "
-the last remark of the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution

In this day and age of the Far Right Wing-Nuts wanting to create Constitutional amendments against gay marriage, flag burning (which I'm not against, but am in no rush toward) and restricting a woman's choice, I have better ideas. Putting what really needs to be done, now, on the front burner, I would make amendments to the US Constitution that, not only would pass, but would never be repealed.

Amendment 28
The Right to Remain Healthy
No person shall be excluded from obtaining medical care when ill. No person can be turned down for emergency medial care. Every person shall have to option of seeking medical advice and care as needed. The government shall pass laws to pay for medical care for all persons living legally in the United States.

I sure hope I covered everything on Amendment 28. After all, there are deep pockets that will look for ways around an amendment which assures that every American has the right to see a doctor when they are sick, which is the spirit of an amendment such as this.

It's true that there will never be a more people-friendly, corporate-hating (assuming the corporations are medical insurance companies and exclusive medical practices) amendment to the US Constitution than this one. After all, a single-payer universal health care plan doesn't necessarily put health care companies out of business, but it certainly will put a strain on their bottom line. They will say things like "We'll have to lay off people," or "This will effect the quality of care." It's all crap. Sure, many people will lose their health care related jobs, but those people will be able to get new jobs in a rejuvenated private sector which will no longer have to worry about paying health care bills. New jobs will be created by the small business owner who now can start that new business without the fear of a calamitous illness wiping out their whole savings and causing them to sell their home.

Doctors who have established, higher-priced businesses will be against this as well, But, much the same as lawyers they will realize that they, too, can benefit from less paperwork and more actual medical practice. After all, doctors should focus on the patient and medicine, first.

Amendment 29
No Pay-to-Play
The practice of pay-to-play, in all forms will be punishable by a sentence of not less than one year in prison and a fine at least equal to the illegal payment made. No corporations shall contribute to any political party or individual running for any municipal, county, state or federal office. No potential candidate will contribute more than $50,000 to their own campaign ($20,000 for primaries and $30,000 for the general election - on a sliding scale, as compared to the Consumer Price Index). No one shall contribute funds in excess of the legal limit in cash, trips or by any other means. Corporations engaged in lobbying are deemed illegal.

In other words, NO MORE LOBBYING. A bribe is a bribe is a bribe, no matter what you call it. The elimination of lobbyists is the only way to make government fair to all.

These are amendments that no rational person could disagree with. They are also amendments that, once passed, won't be easily rescinded, Ask any politician if they want to be the guy (or gal) who wants to be remembered as the guy (or gal) who voted against health care and fair politics. then ask them if they're going to be the one who introduces an amendment to rescind 28 or 29.

-Noah Greenberg

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

It was the best of TV, it was the worst of TV. We presented the tube to you throughout the year, but as 2006 draws to a close, in the spirit of those bests and worsts, we wanted to list the TV moments that impressed us the most and outraged us the most.

One of the interesting things about TV is that often our worst moments can translate into our strongest moments on the tube. This was certainly the case in 2005, when the nation’s darkest hour–the Katrina tragedy–translated into the best and most informative news coverage since 9/11.

On TV as well as in the Gulf (if not Washington), Katrina spilled over into 2006 (the St. Charles streetcar, the oldest continuously running line in the nation just started running again on December 20th). And where the Katrina spillover happened, TV once again presented its finest hours.

In columns like this, we are supposed to save the best of the best for last. However, TV has tainted us–immediate gratification is the watchword of the tube. *Ipso facto*....

We have several bests of the best for 2006. HBO has long been the place to turn for TV we should be seeing everywhere. This season Showtime tried to edge HBO out of the top spot and nearly succeeded with shows like *Dexter.*

Nearly–but not quite.

The HBO documentary, *When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts,* directed by Spike Lee was not only Lee’s best work, it was HBO’s best presentation of the year. If you haven’t seen this brutal glimpse at the destruction of one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the country, see it. Lee addresses not just what was lost, but the compounded tragedy of how it will never be regained because President Bush and his cohort simply turned their backs on New Orleans. The underlying racism and classism are unmistakable and reflect an ongoing chasm in this country between black and white, rich and poor.

The extraordinary complement of people who stayed to rebuild are the heroes of the piece. It’s gut-wrenching and anger-inducing and just plain fabulous. Lee’s *Requiem* does what all requiems do: it elegizes and it mourns. But it also proffers hope in the people of New Orleans. It was *the* best offering on cable TV in 2006.

Katrina also provided the best moment on network TV in 2006.

Aaron Sorkin wowed us for five unforgettable seasons with *The West Wing,* which weekly allowed us to imagine what it would be like to have a thoughtful, humane president in the White House again. (You know, a President like say, Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter, who would have been in New Orleans with the Katrina victims, not playing X-Box and reading the sequel to *My Pet Goat* while a city drowned and people wallowed in their own excrement screaming into the TV cameras for help that never came.)

Aaron Sorkin debuted one of the most anticipated and little-watched shows of the 2006 fall season: *Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.* Every week as we caught the smart dialogue, the political undercurrent, the stellar acting (give Matthew Perry his Emmy *now*–he is so past *Friends*), we never failed to ask ourselves “Who is watching this show?”

Not too many people, as it happens. But *Studio 60* clings to life and may very well be the best show you are not watching. So tune in. And check out the Christmas episode, which is still available at the *Studio 60* website in its entirety (episode 11/titled the Christmas episode) and will make a devotee out of you, too.

This was our very favorite TV program of the year. Not only does Matthew Perry make the best case for Christmas ever, not only does Ed Asner give the cameo of his life, but the show’s finale, with New Orleans musicians playing over a montage of the city then and now is so extraordinary, so deeply, un-manipulatively moving, it will take your breath away. (Because you will be sobbing, unabashedly, as we were. But then we used to live in New Orleans. In the Ninth Ward.)

There were other extraordinary TV bests. Every episode of *The Wire,* another reason to watch HBO. (And the only queers of color on TV, apparently.) *The Wire* is available on DVD and is worth the price tag. *Deadwood* was another best.

We had our network faves, as well. We adore *Heroes,* a show we previewed half-heartedly pre-season and with which we fell instantly in love. For fans of *Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,* who have yet to find a place to light, this is it. “Save the cheerleader, save the world” is the mantra for 2006-2007.

There were the oldies but forever goodies, as well. *ER* came back. Strongly. Beautifully. John Stamos gets the same Emmy as Matthew Perry for his role as Dr. Tony Gates. He too is so past his sit-com days. We have also loved the low-key story line with Dr. Greg Pratt’s (Mehki Phifer) brother being gay. Pratt is such a homophobe and the episode where he comes home early to find his hunky brother wrapped in only a towel with another young man, also only in a towel, was excellent. Nothing was said. Pratt just ordered his brother out. Then ran after him and brought him back, suitcases and all. No dialogue, just music, because these are guys who can’t talk to each other. Superb.

We had other loves: Craig Ferguson, the guy whose humor and intelligence keeps us up at night to watch him on CBS’s *Late, Late Show.* Jimmy Kimmel, whose humor often lolls in the gutter, but we don’t care. (His clips of the year in review alone were priceless.) Keith Olbermann, another reason to have cable (if only as an antidote to FOX news). ABC’s *Boston Legal,* which has the best writing and acting on network prime time and also has the best couple on prime time: James Spader and William Shatner. *BL* also has the best and most consistent commentary on the Bush Administration. And Candace Bergen. And regular queer storylines. We *adore* *BL.*

And no best-of list would be complete without the most influential woman in America, Oprah. We just can’t help wondering why she has managed to do more for Katrina victims than the federal government. Not only donating $10 million of her own money, but building homes and continuing to highlight the issue by sending her reporters Lisa Ling and Anderson Cooper to reveal what was unknown to the rest of the nation. The shame of it all.

One of the things Ling revealed was that trailers Rosie O’Donnell had provided and fully outfitted for children to learn in–with computers and books and the like–were not allowed to be used because of some FEMA rule. Oprah, Ling and Rosie got that fixed in a hurry. Despite FEMA. They are among our TV bests. How could we not love Ling’s bravery in going to some of the most dangerous places on earth to get stories about women’s lives for us? And how could we not love Rosie for turning *The View* into something to watch?

Oprah continues to enlighten her audiences about issues that matter. She hasn’t forgotten AIDS–either in America or Africa. She hasn’t forgotten violence against women, here and abroad. She hasn’t forgotten how kids get bullied in school, or molested. She hasn’t forgotten queer kids. She has brought each of these issues to her vast audience this season. She is a perennial best.

The worsts are another story--both easy and problematic. The absolute and tragic worst on TV in 2006: news coverage of the war on Iraq. Neither network nor cable was up to the job of calling it like it is: “grave and deteriorating.” What TV news did with Katrina they have utterly failed to do with Iraq.

Sure, there were the heartwarming stories on NBC about the families of soldiers in Iraq. There were the heartwarming stories on ABC’s *Nightline* about the injured coming back from devastating amputations, shrapnel wounds, head injuries and burns. There were the heartwarming stories by Katie Couric on CBS about the wives of soldiers.

Memo to the networks: War is not heartwarming. It’s bloody. It’s revolting. It’s stomach churning. It’s harrowing. If you aren’t presenting it that way, then you aren’t doing your job. If you aren’t asking the hard questions in the press conferences, you aren’t doing your job. If you don’t call the politicians on their fouls, then you shouldn’t be covering the game.

Why are we still not seeing the coffins of the dead?

There was a sad passing this season on TV: Ed Bradley, stalwart figure on CBS for 40 years, died of leukemia. Bradley was a reporter in Vietnam (as was his colleague, Dan Rather, given the unceremonious boot from CBS for trying to oust Bush from the White House). Bradley told the story of the real war and got wounded in the process. No sugar-coating. No nonsense. No pandering. He was one of the bests of any given year on the tube. But he also stands as a reminder to other correspondents of what reporters *should* be doing about Iraq. Bradley never backed down. He took people to task. Somebody send some old tapes of his interviews around to all the networks so they can see how it’s done. Better yet, get Lisa Ling and Anderson Cooper out there.

Far and away, TV news coverage of the war on Iraq was the worst of the worst in 2006.

Other worsts are unsurprising, yet despicable, nonetheless. There was Mel Gibson, who although he provided unlimited fodder for late night jokes with his anti-Semitic tirade, got an easy pass when grilled by Diane Sawyer and Jay Leno, who both deserve slaps for not calling him out. Michael “Kramer” Richards, whose meltdown on David Letterman might have surpassed his original racist rant, also hasn’t had his feet held to the fire. George “Macaca” Allen, whose career rightly went up in flames when YouTube and *Nightline* showed his racist ranting up close and personal, lost more than the election–Gibson and Richards should be held to the same standard.

Another worst: The endless attention to Britney’s underwear and K-Fed’s being dumped.

Then FOX sank to an all-time low by touting a reality show starring O.J. Simpson, titled “If I Did It.” (When Geraldo Rivera and Bill O’Reilly threaten to quit over the sleaze factor, a new bottom line has been reached.)

Sadly, Oprah made our worst list for her pandering to Bill O’Reilly when she had him on her show and for her lack of support for Frank Rich when she had *him* on her show.

Also on our worst list: Series cancellations by networks that leave the viewer hanging. We loved NBC’s smart and complex *Kidnapped.* After a few episodes, viewers complained that the show was too complicated (don’t even try to watch *The Wire,* then). NBC pulled the show from its weekly prime time slot and dumped it in the Saturday night graveyard. Then NBC decided even this lowly TV hell was too exalted and suggested that viewers watch the wrap up online. Boo, hiss.

ABC did the same thing with *The Nine,* another superb show with great acting, but too complex for most viewers. Now ABC claims it will be back to wrap the show up, but we’ll believe it when we see it. If the shows are already in the can, preview them. Stick them on

Saturday night if you must, but there viewers can access them and complete the cycle started. Watching TV online or via podcast is not a fun experience for most of us.

We hate to mention our final worst, because it’s so painful: the Bianca/Zarf storyline on *All My Children.* We love Bianca, daytime’s only dyke diva. We love how *AMC* has developed her character over several years and kept her a primary figure, even after Eden Riegel left the show for year to pursue other career opportunities. We were overjoyed when Riegel finally won a much deserved Emmy. Most of all we loved how she never played straight. Ever.
We like Jeffrey Carlson’s portrayal of Zarf, the bizarre 21st century version of Ziggy Stardust who is *AMC*’s soon-to-be-revealed-to-be transgendered character.

What we do not like–*really* do not like–is Bianca and Zarf as a couple.

Many viewers think *AMC* is jumping the shark with Zarf’s character. We agree. But more’s the point, we find the storyline offensive.

Here’s why: Most transgendered folks are not gay or lesbian–they are transgendered. It’s different. It’s being one gender in the body of another. While it is true that some transgendered people become queer when they reassign their gender, it’s not the norm.

So: this means that the average non-San Franciscan viewer will see the Bianca/Zarf relationship as an effeminate man with a woman. Period. Not two women together, but a man and a woman together. *A straight couple.* Not queers.

We resent *AMC* taking daytime’s only lesbian character, a character who has never been allowed to have a girlfriend for more than five minutes, and having her kiss a man on screen and deliver lines like “When I look at you I see myself.”

No, you don’t, Bianca. You see a British rock star who looks like Michael York in *Cabaret* with eyeliner and pink lip gloss. (And can someone explain to us why Zarf is British and has a British accent when he told Bianca he grew up in Indiana with a steelworker father?) Plus, Zarf is now a suspected serial killer. Can you say *Basic Instinct*–emphasis on the stink?

This was the worst queer storyline on TV in a season when there were a lot of bad queer storylines and closeted queer characters.

This storyline makes us unhappy. Give Bianca a girlfriend. Give Zarf a sex change. And then, maybe, talk to us about a love affair. But not before.

Finally, the best TV feud of the year evolved out of the Miss USA flap last week. Miss USA, Tara Conner, was caught drinking and “lustily” smooching with Miss Teen USA, Katie Blair. Donald Trump fired Conner. (For the drinking, not the smooching.) Then he let her come back if she cleaned up her act, but not before publicly humiliating her.

Rosie took umbrage with the Donald’s sanctimonious behavior on *The View* (doing a hilarious imitation of Trump) and Trump fired back calling her fat and ugly and attacked her for being a lesbian.

We love Rosie and we loathe the Donald. (How many millions did *he* donate to Katrina recovery?) We love that she took him on and has become the self-proclaimed protector of queer closet cases (first Clay Aiken, now Miss USA). We knew when David Letterman quipped, “President Bush acknowledged that the war in Iraq is not going well. It looks like Miss USA isn’t the only one who’s sobered up” that this one had legs. The Donald says he’s suing Rosie. Rosie says bring it on. Round two is in the offing since Miss Nevada was just caught smooching girls as well. (Who knew the pageants were a hotbed of lesbianism?)

Happy New Year! And do stay tuned...

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

-Noah Greenberg