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This is What Democracy Looks Like

State of the Union Madman

Thursday, January 25, 2007


A Senatorial Admonishment

"The president has made his decision. We need to get the job done."
-Vice President Dick Cheney regarding his and ""The Decider's" decision to go forward with their "Stay the Course" strategy despite the objections of both Democrat and Republican senators alike

In other words, the Bushies don't give a rat's ass about the 535 members elected by the people of the United States and what they have to say. It's the same old strategy of putting our children in danger while making huge profits for their "base" of "haves and have mores". Just calling "The Plan" "The NEW Plan" doesn't make it so.

"There is no strategy. This is a ping pong game with American lives,"
-Sen. Chuck Hagel (REPUBLICAN-NE)

Senator Hagel is the first of the eleven GOP senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to come out and say that the president is wrong. he should have said "Dead Wrong" because every time Bush makes a mistake, a US soldier and dozens of innocent Iraqis die.

But I do disagree with Senator Hagel in one respect. There is a strategy and I believe that strategy is to bleed the American middle class dry of as much money and power as they can while making sure their war profiteering buddies reap the rewards. I believe that part of their strategy also involves stealing as much from the oil rich sands of Iraq at any cost, including those American lives and the families that those lost and damaged lives destroy. I'm sure the Bushies and the rest of the NeoCons feel that the loss of life is, somehow, their sacrifice.

"I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night."
-Bush responding to Jim Lehrer's questioning of the sacrifices not being made by most of the American people

The child of privilege, Georgie-Boy Bush, has never had to make any sacrifice. Through failed business attempts, his incomplete service in the Texas national Guard and almost being the only man ever to lose money owning a baseball team (he even let Sammy Sosa go for what amounted to a bag of socks and a bin of baseballs), his daddy's buddies have always been there to bail him out. Their reward for their Bush-deeds is an easily maneuvered and president who folksy appeal has left him with a lowly 20 percent approval rating.

"This Congress was never meant to be a rubber stamp. Read the Constitution. The Congress has the power to declare war. And on multiple occasions, we used our power to end conflicts."
-Senator Barbara Boxer (DEMOCRAT-CA)

For the past six years, however, this congress has been nothing but a rubber stamp and there are plenty of those stamps still left there. They need to be nullified and those newly elected, plus those sufficiently disgusted, are going to have to stand up and be counted on to provide the oversight that has been lacking.

"Unless the president demonstrates very quickly that he is unlikely to continue down the road he's on, this will be only the first step. ... I will be introducing ... constitutionally legitimate, binding pieces of legislation. We will bring them up,"
-Panel Chairman Senator Joseph Biden (DEMOCRAT-DE)

"We should demand of the president precise explanations of his political and diplomatic strategy. We should conduct what amounts to a continuous audit of our economic assistance, to ensure that we are maximizing results."
-Senator Hagel

In other words, President Bush, it's time for "Plan B".

In much the same way Hagel admonished his Grand Old Party brethren for their rubber stamping the President's policies in the past - and then not standing up to him even now when the nation demands it - the Nebraska Senator advised those who still would rather allow American deaths than to challenge GW and Cheney.

"If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes,"
-Senator Hagel

Somewhere, Al Bundy is smiling.

-Noah Greenberg

The "Plan" - Al-Maliki Style

If Iraqi Prime Minister were the child of George W. Bush, you'd have to say that this nut hasn't fallen too far from the tree. (Yeah, I know it's supposed to be "apple", but "nut" works better here.)

"Operation Imposing Law," is the name of the "secret plan" al-Maliki is going to be put forth to combat the Sunni Insurgency, al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq and Shi'ite death squads in the name of ensuring the human rights of innocent Iraqis. If I were an innocent Iraqi, I'd be worried.

QUESTION: What does this plan entail, Prime Minister al-Maliki?
AL-MALIKI: I can't tell you that.
QUESTION: What does this plan entail, Prime Minister al-Maliki?
AL-MALIKI: I can't tell you that, either.

"There will be no safe place in Iraq for terrorists."

Except, of course, in Anbar Province, Sadr City and in selected areas of Baghdad.

The plan "aims to disarm all groups and only leave weapons in the hands of the government," al-Maliki said, repeating a phrase he has consistently repeated for months. "This plan will not be the last. The battle between us and terrorists is open and continuous."

One wonders if the PM said this with a straight face or a Bush smirk.

If al-Maliki wants to get started on the right foot - and if he really means what he says - then "thing one" should have him marching his troops directly into Sadr City to disarm the 50,000 or so strong Mahdi Army of Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Of course, if he actually does what he proposes, he risks political, if not life threatening reprisals.

Rahim al-Darraji, the mayor of Sadr City is also making promises. He promises to keep the Mahdi Army's weapons off the streets. Something tells me that Sadr City will be looking for a new mayor real soon.

But there is some good news out of Iraq's government. The Parliament is going to organize five - count 'em - five - committees to work with Iraqi and US forces to implement "The Plan" with no details.

QUESTION: What do the following have in common?
-George W. Bush
-Nouri al-Maliki
-The five new Iraqi Parliament committees
ANSWER: They're all obstacles which stand in the way of allowing the US Armed forces to do their job.

Just what the new US leader on the ground, General David Patreas needs: More people to answer to.

I sure hope Gen. Patreas will enjoy his upcoming forced retirement.

-Noah Greenberg

State of Duh Union

President Bush says energy policy is a matter of national security. I agree, and would add that global warming too is a matter of national security. To take serious steps toward energy independence maybe we should put solar panels on rooftops and wind turbines in coastal waters. Should we punish the manufacturers of gas guzzlers, and tax the people who drive them? Should we tax vehicles based on their weight and mileage? Maybe it would be better if we require that cars and trucks are built to get good mileage. But rather than do things that make sense, rather than take action that is good for the economy and the environment; the President wants to double the amount of petroleum the government stores in reserves, which is a government handout to the oil industry.

The President wants to tax health care benefits. Does this mean that if I am hospitalized, that I will pay income tax on the money the insurance company paid the doctors and the hospital? How will this help me?

The President wants to reduce the number of uninsured by shifting federal money away from hospitals. I see how this will reduce the number of uninsured – they will die.

The President wants to let poor children transfer to private schools. Private schools charge tuition. Poor children are poor because they have no money. Or am I missing something?

Has the President been watching Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show or The Colbert Report? Do his speechwriters moonlight for Comedy Central?

And he wants to give his plan for Iraq a chance. You want a game of chance go to Atlantic City. War is too serious to be left to chance.

-Larry Furman

Where is the Iraqi Parliament?

The New York Times reports that, since November, the Iraqi Parliament has been unable to transact the business of governing the country because its members will not attend the sessions. Far more often than not, a quorum was not present. My first supposition is that the $10,000 checks issued every month to members of Parliament are delivered by mail or by courier. Perhaps things would change if members were required to sign for their checks in person.

It annoys me that our soldiers and our money have gone to war in order to support a government that appears to care less whether it governs or exists. I guess I don’t see the rationale of continuing our investment in a government that prefer to live in Europe or Abu Dhabi or to stay home rather than to discharge their duties under the constitution that we fight to protect.

I know that security is an issue. But, why is security an issue when it comes to wealthy and powerful Iraqis and not to American soldiers? Why is it more important to our president that Iraqi parliamentarians be allowed to deposit their checks but not discharge their duties while our American soldiers must not only provide their own security but receive far less pay?

It seems to me that if we are looking for that well known and widely sought commitment by the Iraqis to self government we need look no further than the Iraqi Parliament – or its empty chamber.


by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, Inc.

Some weeks are more exciting than others on the tube. It’s not February sweeps yet, but it sure feels like it.

Feuds are the TV flavor of the month right now. So let’s get right to it.

If you have been off the planet (and who hasn’t wanted to be, with Bush ratcheting up the war under the guise of “troop surge,” slaughter in Iraq, the West Bank, Somalia and Darfur in high gear and global warming wreaking havoc everywhere?), you might not have heard about the latest feud on Grey’s Anatomy.

T.R. Knight is gay. Isaiah Washington is black. In October–October–Isaiah Washington got into a fist fight with co-star Patrick Dempsey after allegedly calling Knight a faggot. Knight had not yet publicly come out, but did so soon after. Then Washington stunned both cast and audience when he decided to use the Golden Globe win for Grey’s Anatomy to grab the microphone and say “I did not call T.R. Knight a faggot.”

Most stations bleeped out faggot. Some did not.

Let’s cut right to the heart of it: if T.R. Knight had called Isaiah Washington a nigger in October, do you think he would still have had his job for the past few months? Do you think the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, who is African American, would have just shrugged it off? Do you think Oprah would have just glossed over the moment when she did her special on-the-set-of-Grey’s Anatomy show as she did the scuffle? Do you think it would have been enough for T.R. Knight to say–four months after the fact–that he has some issues to work on?

Let’s get real, shall we? When Michael Richards used the n word at a comedy club in L.A. in November, his career got flushed down the toilet–and he got sued. When Mel Gibson went on his anti-Semitic rant in July, he was forced into rehab.

Days before Washington finally got around to apologizing, Craig Ferguson was the first non-cast member to comment on the slur. Ferguson, who is still taking jabs at Gibson and Richards, said Isaiah Washington should apologize and then just shut up. That was January 16th, the day after the Golden Globes.

On January 17th, Knight appeared on Ellen and acknowledged that Washington had called him a faggot on the set of the show.

Two days later GLAAD issued a statement and executive director Neil Giuliani said he wanted to meet with Washington. (We recommend meeting with Knight first, and apologizing for taking so long to respond.)

One could ask why it took GLAAD either four months or four days, depending on who’s counting, to respond to the debacle, but some of us are sadly used to the often intolerably slow response of GLAAD to queer issues on the tube, which, we might add, is their job. (The debate on AfterElton.com was going on for a couple of days before GLAAD sent out a statement in response to AfterElton’s prodding.)

The issue isn’t GLAAD, however, although we won’t disguise our disappointment over the fact that they were not on top of this, when it was all over the tabloid TV shows, blogosphere and print media. Doesn’t anyone watch TV over at GLAAD?

At the Golden Globes, after Washington’s meltdown, cast member Katherine Heigl (long a fave of ours since her days on Roswell) said “Shut your mouth!” to Washington. Later, clearly still upset, Heigl told ET and Access Hollywood that Knight was her best friend in the world and that it was not okay that he’d been hurt.
The tabloid TV shows were weighing in all week on the issue (again, before GLAAD). Cutie pie singer and stellar guitarist John Maher told Extra, Grey’s Anatomy should make Washington’s character come out as gay. Extra and The Insider both made whether Washington should be fired their question of the week. More than 90 percent of respondents said yes.

Meanwhile, the tabloids were also taking the pulse of other queer stars. On Extra,

Rex Lee from Entourage expressed his dismay over the debacle and noted that as an openly gay actor he would have a difficult time with homophobic cast mates.

On January 19th–after the outrage had boiled over, Washington first fired his publicist, then apologized.

“I apologize to T.R., my colleagues, the fans of the show and especially the lesbian and gay community for using a word that is unacceptable in any context or circumstance. By repeating the word Monday night, I marred what should have been a perfect night for everyone who works on Grey’s Anatomy. I can neither defend nor explain my behavior. I can also no longer deny to myself that there are issues I obviously need to examine within my own soul, and I've asked for help.

“I know the power of words, especially those that demean. I realize that by using one filled with disrespect I have hurt more than T.R. and my colleagues. With one word, I’ve hurt everyone who has struggled for the respect so many of us take for granted. I welcome the chance to meet with leaders of the gay and lesbian community to apologize in person and to talk about what I can do to heal the wounds I’ve opened.

“T.R.’s courage throughout this entire episode speaks to his tremendous character. I hold his talent, and T.R. as a person, in high esteem. I know a mere apology will not end this, and I intend to let my future actions prove my sincerity.”

Our sources at ABC tell us that ABC forced the statement, although would not address whether Washington had written it or ABC had written it. For their part, ABC released a statement on the morning of January 19th saying that they were “dismayed” by comments the 43-year-old Grey’s Anatomy star made at the Golden Globe Awards press conference on Monday night and that the issue was "being addressed."

Several hours later Washington’s apology was disseminated.

We like soap operas and enjoy Grey’s Anatomy, even though it’s not our regular fare. But as we noted back in October, the ick factor of cast disloyalty is not something to shrug off. Rhimes should also have issued an apology–as a woman and one of the few African Americans at her level in Hollywood, she knows all about discrimination and she knows better than to let something this egregious go unremarked.

Everyone except Heigl and Dempsey dropped the ball on this one. Those two cast mates stood up for Knight from the outset. Rhimes did not. ABC did not. And we have to wonder, if Ellen hadn’t brought the issue out of the tabloid TV setting and into a more queerish venue, would GLAAD ever have responded?

When the tabloid TV shows are doing a better job of addressing a homophobic incident than a queer rights group or a network, that’s bad news for all of us. When straight people–Heigl, Dempsey, Ferguson–make an issue out of a homophobic slur while queers stay silent, that’s bad news as well. Washington needs some sensitivity training, but he is clearly not alone. We’ll stay tuned on this one.

So on queer issues, at ABC it’s the difference between night and day, isn’t it? Because while the Grey’s Anatomy mess was playing out in prime time, on All My Children one of the most stellar storylines about queers was playing out.

We have repeatedly voiced our displeasure over the transgender/lesbian storyline between Zarf/Zoe and Bianca. We disagree with the basic premise–Zarf/Zoe as a MTF transgendered lesbian. We want Bianca to be with a woman (and she did have a one-night stand with Leslie on New Year’s Eve, which has to be a first for a daytime soap). We don’t want her already messy love life in which she has never been allowed to have a fully realized relationship with another woman (her first lover went crazy and was institutionalized, her next was killed, the next was a corporate thief who then had to return to Poland, the next–identical twin of the one who was killed–wasn’t sure she was even queer and then left her for another woman). We don’t want her life complicated with the complexities of a transgender relationship.

That said, we have slowly fallen in love with Jeffrey Carlson’s superb, if mannered, portrayal of the tortured Zarf/Zoe. We have also fallen in love—again–with Babe (Alexa Havins), the Erica Kane in training.

Babe has embraced Zoe and become her champion. While all of Pine Valley has turned on Zarf/Zoe as the likely Satin Slayer serial killer, Babe has been stalwart. The January 18th and 19th episodes in which Zoe was verbally attacked by many of the Pine Valley residents were brilliant scenes, reflecting an amazing level of insight and depth with regard to the transgender experience.

The real revelation in the storyline has been the relationship between Zoe and Babe, rather than Zoe and Bianca. Babe has always been one to see the best in everyone. It has been her downfall on more than one occasion. But her protective care of Zoe–who was physically attacked by Jonathan and then attacked en masse by J.R., Tad, Derek, Zach, Ryan and Kendall–has been amazing to witness.

Also interesting was how Colby, a high school student and fan of rocker Zarf, was utterly down with the revelation (“Cool–trans Pine Valley,” she muttered when she found out and then later–“Hey, those lyrics make sense now. Don’t worry–your fans will be fine with it.”) Colby told older brother J.R. to get with it, into the 21st century. Transgender was part of the sexual landscape for Colby, whose response is reflective of the generational differences regarding the TG issue, something the AMC writers got totally correct.

AMC has been careful to make some characters anti-TG and others supportive. J.R., not surprisingly, has been outrageously bigoted, referring to Zoe as a freak. Kendall has also pulled the freak card. But J.R.’s brother and Babe’s former lover, Jamie, has been more than politically correct. He has tried to explain to J.R. the complexities of the TG experience–that surgery isn’t always an answer, and so forth. He told J.R. he had a lab partner in college who was MTF, living as a woman but deciding not to have the surgery. J.R. said, “Yeah–a man in women’s clothes. A freak.”

It’s heady stuff, and one wonders how the audience is really taking it as this storyline has been hot, hot, hot front burner since before Christmas (in part because of the serial killer link). But one thing is clear, by linking Zarf/Zoe to two of the show’s most popular characters, the writers have integrated the character into the storyline. Also, the sadness and disenfranchisement of the character is typical soap fare: it makes Zarf/Zoe intensely sympathetic, particularly with tiny Babe standing up to all the bullies, putting herself between them and the distraught Zoe.

We have immense regard for the writing and tone of this storyline in the past two weeks. Carlson is doing with Zarf/Zoe what Eden Riegel did with Bianca: He is making the character multi-faceted, eschewing stereotypes and giving a stylized and nuanced performance that bespeaks the torture his character has experienced in her dysmorphic state. Alexa Havins always lights up the screen; here she is doing the best work since the days of the Bianca/Babe friendship, back in 2003.

We are still clear that we don’t want Zoe and Bianca intermingled, particularly since Maggie has arrived back in Pine Valley ready to woo Bianca back to her, but we are equally sure that we want more of Zoe and Babe. And Emmys all around, please.

Just in case GLAAD hasn’t noticed, this crew of writers and actors deserves mention at the GLAAD awards. We hope they will take note.

Finally, our favorite quote this week came from the erstwhile Craig Ferguson. Commenting on Donald Trump’s latest verbal onslaught, this time against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Ferguson opined: “It’s official, first Rosie, now Condoleezza. Donald Trump is waging war against lesbians.”

Hey–you thought it, he said it.

Stay tuned.

In response to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales', "There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there's a prohibition against taking it away," Eddie Konczal writes:

What do you expect from the guy who said George Washington and Abraham Lincoln used electronic surveillance?

In response to President Bush's, "And, finally, to keep this economy strong we must take on the challenge of entitlements. Social Security..." Eddie Konczal writes:

Social Security... is NOT an entitlement! It's OUR money!

In response to President Bush's, "Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America's economy running and America's environment clean. For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil," Eddie Konczal writes:

I said it last year, and I'll say it again this year: Bush saying America uses too much oil is like Dr. Kevorkian complaining that all his patients keep dying.

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-Noah Greenberg