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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Old News, New News

"old news,"
-Rep. Tom Davis (REPUBLICAN-VA)

Davis was referring to the new House Oversight Committee's hearing and the resulting news that the former "Viceroy" of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, gave out 363 tons of mostly one-hundred dollar bills in bricks of US currency to just about anyone who asked as he left Iraq. What Rep.. Davis doesn't realize is, much like summer reruns, if you haven't heard it, it's new news to you.

"I arrived in Baghdad at a time when much of the city was burning. Looting was still widespread. My responsibilities were to kick-start the economy,"

Someone ought to "kick start" our economy for a change, dont'cha think?

Davis is the former chairman of the House Oversight Committee now run by Democrat Harry Waxman (CA). Waxman wasn't deterred from asking the hard questions that have been lacking since the Republicans took over the planet some six-plus years ago.

"Without strong standards, we have no way of knowing whether the cash could end up in enemy hands,"

Bremer thought otherwise. Negating the fact that handing out money in a manner which we used to call "willy-nilly" could lead to its use against our troops, Bremer and the higher-ups in the Pentagon and Bush administration aided and abetted the enemy. Whether it was their true intention or not, it would be naive of anyone to think that handing out bricks of one-hundred dollar bills to questionable characters is a "good

Waxman's new Democratically controlled Oversight committee will now do the job that same committee hadn't done while Davis ran it: They will ask questions and, hopefully, help put a leash on the Bushies.

The pure funniest moment, however, came as the committee was about to adjourn. With Waxman closing the session advising us all that there will be a way of reporting government abuses to his committee using a new House Whistle-Blower Hotline (http://oversight.house.gov/contact/tiplines/wastefraudabuse.asp), Davis butted in and gave the Republican's oversight web address. Since the GOP failed in their oversight duties when they were in the majority, one has to ask two questions: (1)Why do they need to have their own, party affiliated abuse page when the committee they belong to have one; and (2) Judging from their past performance, is that page blank?

-Noah Greenberg

My Daddy, The Dancer

One day a fourth-grade teacher in Virginia asked the children what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers came up -- fireman, mechanic, businessman, salesman, doctor, lawyer, and so forth.

However, little Justin was being uncharacteristically quiet, so when the teacher prodded him about his father, he replied, "My father's an exotic dancer in a gay cabaret and takes off all his clothes in front of other men and they put money in his underwear. Sometimes, if the offer is really good, he will go home with some guy and stay with him all night for money."

The teacher, obviously shaken by this statement, hurriedly set the other children to work on some exercises and then took little Justin aside to ask him, "Is that really true about your father?"

"No," the boy said, "He works for George Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove but I was too embarrassed to say that in front of the other kids."

-Larry Furman furnished this gem

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

There we were, caught in the plot of a February sweeps soap opera, stuck in a snowstorm back East. Cold, hungry, thirsty, panicked, fearing for our life. Naturally our thoughts turned to torture.

It’s been a few years since we first expressed our revulsion that Fox’s *24* was such a hot commodity, because we just didn’t like the message the show declaims week after week, season after season. *24* first debuted seven weeks after 9/11 and it has been riding the counter-terrorism wave ever since. Much like George Bush.

It’s not that Kiefer Sutherland and the rest of the cast aren’t stellar. It’s not that the writing and pacing aren’t fantastic. It’s not that the tension from season to season (season six just began) doesn’t rival anything on the tube. It’s all good. It’s that watching *24* is like watching a promo for torture every week. Is it any wonder that *24* is Dick Cheney’s favorite TV show?

We celebrate the First Amendment, so we would never do what the Right does when, say, there are queers on TV. We wouldn’t call for the banning of the show. But we can say we don’t like it. And we don’t like it *more* this season than ever before.

What’s the big deal–it’s just TV, right?

Not exactly. The problem of *24* and more importantly of creator Joel Surnow, is that *24,* unlike say *Las Vegas* or *Nip/Tuck,* is a message show. And the message is this: *The means is always justified, no matter what the end.* The means, by the way, in case you don’t watch the show, is torture. Always, always, always torture.

Again–just TV right? Good old fashioned entertainment? What’s a little light electrocution and water boarding among friends? How different is *24* from *Saw* one through ad nausea?
It’s different because it purports to be about rescuing America. Remember that old axiom about making the world safe for democracy? On *24* there’s only one way to stop the bad guys–brutalize them into oblivion or at the very least, pulp.

It’s not like Surnow doesn’t have an agenda. He’s the flip side of David Kelley. Where Kelley simply cannot make an episode of the stellar *Boston Legal* without slamming Bush and Company, Surnow cannot make a TV show without lauding them. But here’s the difference. On *BL,* which is the best written show on network TV, there are *always* two points of view. Kelley presents his anti-Bush, anti-religious right tirades in counterpoint to the opposition. And sometimes the lines are very blurry and very grey.

The landscape is utterly black and white on *24*–them: bad, us: good, torture: the means to discover who is bad and who is good. The end.

*We don’t like it.*

Surnow branched out this week with his new program, *The Half Hour News Hour* on Fox. Surnow said, “You can turn on any show and see Bush being bashed. There really is nothing out there for those who want satire that tilts right.”

We suppose Surnow missed the jokes about Hillary, Obama and Nancy Pelosi. We suppose he also missed that the jokes about Bill Clinton never stopped even when he left office. *Seven years ago.*

Of course when it comes to satire that tilts right, there isn’t much to match the Vice President who couldn’t shoot straight or the continuing episodes of The Decider, but hey–we’re sure there’s something really funny to say about the left--like “What? There’s a left?” (Insert laugh track here.)

Anyway, we caught the first episode to see if Surnow could torture some laughs out of his side of the political divide.

Who says conservatives don’t have a sense of humor? They voted for George Bush didn’t they? Their icon is Rush Limbaugh (who, in the words of Craig Ferguson, proved that all fat people aren’t jolly and all junkies aren’t thin). They had Ted Haggard and Mark Foley in charge of family values.

They *obviously* have a sense of humor.

It just wasn’t evident on *The Half Hour News Hour.*

Before the Log Cabinettes get their asses in a sling (oh wait, they’re assimilated; they don’t do that sort of thing) that we are just spouting the usual liberal cant, let us just note for the record that we can laugh at something that’s funny no matter who it lampoons. (Although we are very over the astronaut in a diaper. That was just tragic.) We were in tears when *SNL* did their S/M debut of Nancy Pelosi. And not just because the slave’s safe word was “Palomino.”

But the Surnow *Hour* just isn’t funny. It’s stupid, sophomoric and overblown–much like the right themselves. First, Rush Limbaugh as president isn’t funny. It’s too much like the real presidency to be a lampoon. Then premiering *BO Magazine* (you know, like Oprah’s magazine, *O,* except *BO,* for Barack Obama), particularly after the scandal caused when Sen. Joe Biden talked about Obama being clean, yeah *that’s* funny. Ouch.

And those were the uproarious bits. Clearly Surnow just can’t get enough of torture. *The Half Hour News Hour,* which debuted February 18th, runs Sunday nights on the Fox News Channel.

Speaking of comedy that tilts right, at a press conference on Valentine’s Day, President Bush was asked about reports that Iran was providing IEDs to Iraqi insurgents.

“What assurances can you provide the American people,” asked the reporter, “that the intelligence, this time, is accurate?”

There was no rim shot accompanying the President’s response: “We *know* they’re there,” he said–not a trace of irony in his voice.

Doesn’t Surnow ever think he might be on the wrong side?

Speaking of apologists, there were so many people who did or should have apologized this week, it was difficult to keep them straight. Oh, except for Tim Hardaway. He’s definitely straight. Not just straight, but he hates gay people. Or so he said, on the radio, but then *what* he said was picked up by every TV show, news and tabloid and late night, on the planet.

The former Miami Heat guard said, “You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."

Hardaway’s comments came after John Amaerchi, another retired NBA star, came out last week in his new memoir.

Hardaway was asked how he would feel if a player came out while still in the game. “First of all, I wouldn't want him on my team,” said Hardaway, who added that the player should not be allowed in the locker room with other men. Then he added, “I think that’s nasty [men having sex with each other]. That’s not what it should be. I’m gettin’ sick just thinkin’ about it.”
Well, as our mother used to say, “Then don’t think about it.”

Hardaway’s former coach, the illustrious Pat Riley, said he was “shocked” by Hardaway’s comments. “That kind of thinking can't be tolerated. It just can't." Go Pat!

Things only got worse for Hardaway. When NBA commissioner David Stern got the transcript of Hardaway’s remarks on Valentine’s Day, he moved quickly: Stern banned the homophobe from the NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas. Stern’s response was succinct:

"It is inappropriate for him to be representing us given the disparity between his views and ours.”

Too bad ABC didn’t respond as quickly to Isaiah Washington’s comments about T.R. Knight.

Hardaway did seem to borrow Washington’s apology virtually word-for-word, however. Is rehab next? Jimmy Kimmel noted, “He will not be guesting on *Grey’s Anatomy* this season.*”

In case your blood pressure is running too low, you can access Hardaway’s full-on rant at ESPN. com.

Meanwhile, some other celebs had some ’splainin’ to do. Like country star Kenny Chesney, who has been battling the rumors he’s queer since his marriage to Oscar winner Renee Zellweger ended precipitously with the actress filing for an annulment based on “fraud.”

On February 18th, Chesney bared all (not really) to *60 Minutes* reporter Anderson Cooper (he’s everywhere, isn’t he? CNN, Oprah, CBS, the National Geographic channel).

Of the rumors, Chesney told Cooper, "It's not true. Period. Maybe I should have come out and said, `No, I'm not (gay),' but I didn't want to draw any more attention to it.... I didn't have to prove to anybody that I wasn't [gay]. I didn't feel like I really did."

Until now, apparently. If you missed it, CBS is running the screaming–oops, we meant *streaming*–video at CBS.com. Zellweger and Chesney got hitched in May 2005. Neither had been married, although Zellweger had been previously engaged to actor Jim Carrey. Four months into the marriage, Zellweger listed fraud as the reason she was seeking an annulment. (An annulment is a judicial declaration that a marriage never legally existed.)

Zellweger recently appeared on Letterman and he asked her about the fraud and annulment. She responded–good naturedly but firmly--that she was not going to talk about that.

Too bad Anna Nicole Smith’s mother never heard of such restraint. In the two-week-long ghoul fest that has surrounded the sudden death of the beautiful and perennially naive Smith, every cretin who ever knew her has crawled out from under her or his respective rocks to slither over her memory and rip their own 15 minutes from her fame.

The Smith story has legs–the tabloids don’t really have another story right now except the rehab shuffle. Smith’s death even lead the national news, proving that some tragedies mimic others in ways we don’t expect. Smith reminded many of Marilyn Monroe with whom America has had a love affair for 50 years. Smith modeled herself on Monroe–in every way, apparently.

Smith always seemed sweet, vapid and delightful. Despite her myriad love affairs, he was no Paris Hilton; she was somehow intrinsically likable. We were very saddened by her death.
And we were outraged for her that her vile mother, from whom she had been estranged for more than a decade, crawled out to bask in the limelight and cast aspersions on her daughter after her death. The thrice married Virgie Hogan Hart has insinuated that both Smith’s partner, Howard K.Stern and Smith herself were to blame for Smith’s untimely death. Drugs or murder, according to Virgie who is now trying to gain custody of Smith’s baby daughter–and, no doubt, her fortune.

The peril of celebrity is that the glare never goes away. Smith, a former Playboy centerfold model, never finished school beyond the eighth grade, but she made a career for herself on magazine covers, TV and in B-movies. There was an air of wistfulness mixed with insouciance about her that was endearing. Her legendary battles with weight made her very human in a world of stick-figure women. Interviews with her in recent months presented a woman who seemed intensely happy with Stern and her baby daughter, Dannielynn.

Smith seemed in many ways to be a creation of the camera–she seemed always to be turning up on the tube in one or another context, her wild and passionate exploits preserved on video forever.

The most memorable and sweetest TV moment of Smith’s life was immediately after the birth of her daughter five months ago. The video of Smith–hair somewhat tousled and sans make up–holding her newborn daughter, was incredibly charming. Although we have always loved the wildness and unpredictability of Smith, this is the way we will remember her. Beautiful and poignant and immensely real.

Speaking of celebrities we love, even though it’s past Valentine’s Day, we want to send special hearts out to Tyra Banks, who has been hounded by the tabloids and everyone else for gaining weight. With headlines like “America’s Next Top Waddle,* tabloids have published photo after photo of the supermodel as purportedly tubby. At 5'10", Banks weighs 161 pounds, the normal weight for her height. She weighs only 20 pounds more than she weighed when she was the first black supermodel to make the cover of the *Sports Illustrated* swimsuit issue in 1997.)

Banks, host of *The Tyra Banks Show* and *America’s Next Top Model*(new season starts February 28th) and heir-apparent to Oprah, told ABC last week, for whom she dressed up in a fat suit to look like she weighed 350 pounds, that not only was she not fat, but that making young girls think that they should be rail thin was causing a multitude of problems from poor self-image to eating disorders. On her own show, when she addressed the issue, Banks said that all those who had pilloried her for her weight gain could “Kiss my fat ass.”

Considering that it was just November when Banks came out in nothing but her Victoria’s Secret underwear and declared on her show “It’s a panty party!” and looked absolutely scrumptious, few would argue with what she has to say–or how she looks.

And speaking of Oprah and role models, tune in to ABC’s special with Oprah inaugurating her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa on February 26th. It’s a tear-jerker, but well worth watching. Once again, Oprah proves that one person can make a difference in many, many lives.

Finally, because we just can’t get enough left-of-center satire, our quote of the week comes from Conan O’Brien: “Ted Haggard, the minister who was caught with a gay prostitute has finished his sex addiction program. He says he is now ‘completely heterosexual.’ Haggard says he will prove he is completely heterosexual by having sex only with men who are completely heterosexual.”

Stay tuned. The next big scandal is as close as your remote....

Regarding the Iraqi debate and the ensuing Congressional votes, Robert Chapman writes:

It is interesting to note that on the cloture vote, Joe Lieberman voted to oppose cloture, i.e., to kill the resolution disapproving the surge.

If this non-binding resolution is so inconsequential, why has the GOP fought it so hard?

Nine GOP Senators, mostly from bright Red Western States abstained or were absent for the vote. Seventeen representatives crossed party lines to vote with the dems in the House and sixteen GOP Senators voted with the dems or were counted as not voting. This is a sizeable block of people breaking ranks with a party known for its iron discipline.

Congressional Quarterly did a little check on the seventeen GOP representatives who voted in favor of the House Resolution to disapprove the surge and 14 of them are popular Representatives from safe GOP districts.

Why are so many individual GOP members of Congress from red states and districts finding it so hard to back the President's plan?

The GOP division on this issue is much deeper and more widespread than McConnell's cheery reprise of the vote let's on.

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-Noah Greenberg