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This Certainly Can't Be What Democracy Looks Like
Today's Note From a Madman
Monday, March 5, 2007
A "Time to Leave" Quote
"'They don't want us to leave.' It's the tenth time I heard that,"
-Brian Williams, NBC news anchor with General Ray Ordonez and other commanders in Ramadi, Iraq
So how well are we doing in Iraq? There can be no doubt that whatever "Plan 'A'" is, it's simply not working. Where's the Iraqi Army? Aren't they ready yet? Will they ever be ready? If Brian Williams is hearing it ten times in a matter of a few hours, how many times are our troops hearing it?
We have to leave and we have to leave soon. If we don't, the Iraqis will never take responsibility for themselves and their nation.
"I was going to have a few comments about John Edwards but you have to go into rehab if you use the word faggot."
Rehab... Can one Rehab a bitch? I wonder...
Of course Ann Coulter could say whatever she likes. After all, she is the black-leather-clad dominatrix of the "Gay Obsessed Party", isn't she? I wonder if Horse-Face Ann speaks from the hip or if she just speaks whenever she thinks that people are beginning to forget who she is. Hmm...
"Ann Coulter not only once again went out of her way to use a nasty epithet, she pushed her offensiveness up a notch,"
-Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a Conservative group
Conservatives will say that Ms. Coulter is simply pushing the envelop. But even when she says something this stupid, these same Conservatives will jump up to her defense. We know what the real Republicans think... Ann Coulter merely says it out loud.
By the way, when Sean Hannity of Fox News' "Hannity and 'That Other Guy'" was asked about Coulter's comments. he departed from his usual "So do you believe what the other guy said? Yes or No," stuff he usually pulls on Democrats with this gem:
“No other person’s responsible for what a person says except that person… So, you know what, if they have a problem with what Ann Coulter says, blame Ann Coulter,"
Democrats who are still dumb enough to appear on H&C need to keep this one in their hip pockets.
By the way, has anyone ever seen Ms. Coulter with a date? Perhaps she's gay and living in denial. Or maybe Ann Coulter does date men, but like other insects, she bites off their heads and eats them after copulation.
"We conservatives have enough trouble overcoming the false things that are said about us without paying for a platform upon which we shoot ourselves annually in the foot,"
Annually? You're too kind to your GOP brethren, Ms. Ridenour. Lately, it's been daily.
"I believe it is our moral responsibility to speak out against that kind of bigotry and prejudice every time we encounter it,"
-Former Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate John Edwards
If that were true, Senator Edwards, then we'd be devoting all of our time to Coulter's comments.
Coulter is the definition of this nation's Conservative Community. She has volunteered to be their gay-hating, liberal-bashing, freedom-restricting poster child and they have accepted.
Sometimes you get what you wish for.
Canaries in the Coal Mine
Alaska, Australia, Bangladesh, and Iceland are canaries in the coal mine of global warming. Because these climates are at the edge of the biosphere, they will be the first to show the climate changing effects of global warming.
"Because of a 2-degree change in temperature" 134 people in Bangladesh died. In Alaska "Everyone is related to or knows someone who drowned after falling through thin ice." Australia is burning. The old way of life of the Aboriginal people of Australia will be impossible, because the plants and animals are disappearing. And it is not snowing in Iceland.
The dead in Alaska and Bangladesh are mourned by their family and friends. The Aborigines and the ecologists lament the dead and dying ecosystem. And the Icelanders look at the rain and the rocks in the glaciers and worry. But to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine of Casa Blanca, "The problems of 134 Bangladeshis, of Alaskans, Australians and Icelanders don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."
Or do they?
"Casa Blanca" was and remains compelling because Rick sacrificed it all for the woman he loved, killed the bad guys, and disappeared into the night.
Rick's choice was acquiesce or fight back. He chose to fight back.
Will the "Lower 48" rescue the Alaskans?
Will the US support Australia if their crops fail?
What if 147 million Bangladeshis die in the floods precipitated by the next "slight" change if temperature?
While George Bush shrugs his shoulders saying "Global warming isn't proven, and what can I, do, I’m only the President?" Al Gore says "Listen, this is a big problem and we have to act now." Visionaries like Jeff Immelt at GE, and the people at Akeena Solar, Evergreen Solar, First Solar, Sunpower, Marine Current Turbines, Ltd., Vestas Wind, World Water and Power, etc. are looking at the world’s energy needs saying "We can increase shareholder value by building wind turbines, solar panels, and systems that harness the sun, wind, and ocean currents. We can power our world without pollution, without toxic or radioactive wastes, without greenhouse gases.
What are we waiting for?
PS - In the interests of disclosure, I own stock in some of these companies, including Akeena, Evergreen, Sunpower, Vestas, and World Water and Power.
THE LAVENDER TUBE: PATHS OF GLORY
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, Inc.
There we were, watching *The Late Late Show* with Craig Ferguson as we usually do, it being the best show on late night Ferguson being the most interesting and consistently funny host. As he so often does during his monologue, Ferguson referenced a story from a newspaper and the actual story, with the newspaper’s byline, was put up on the screen.
Inevitably these stories are from *USA Today* or CNN online–one of the major news outlets. But then suddenly–there we were: Bay Area Reporter, in all our lavender glory with a story about the gay porn awards, which Ferguson deemed “the real Oscars.”
Coincidence? Possibly. Or–and here we insert some shameless self-promotion–Ferguson’s people are reading us because we are watching him. Not just watching him, but appreciating him for his wit, intellect and nuance. As we have said time and again, if he’s on too late for you to stay up, then Tivo or tape him—he’s that good.
Here’s one of the reasons we like him: He’s smart and fair and funny. Unlike many late night comedians, he doesn’t go for cheap and easy humiliation. Recently, for example, he declared he simply wasn’t doing jokes about Britney Spears. The night after her head-shaving meltdown when she entered rehab for the third time, he devoted his entire monologue to the issue of substance abuse. (Ferguson entered rehab 15 years ago and hasn’t had a drink since.)
This wasn’t a Dr. Phil-style chastisement/lecture: it was about how some people simply can’t drink or do drugs without destroying their lives and the lives of those around him. He acknowledges that he was one of those people. Throughout the entire Spears public meltdown, he has said that she was in trouble and someone should help her, rather than telling jokes about her.
His humanity is just one more reason to watch him.
That, and he has his people reading the Bay Area Reporter.
Meanwhile, over on Letterman, John McCain was proving why he will never be President on the February 28th show.
We know McCain is a certified hero. What he endured in Vietnam was horrific and he deserves credit for his ability to withstand five years of torture in a tiger cage. Too bad he fails to understand that *no one* should be tortured, but that’s what torture sometimes does to people–which is yet another reason why the U.S. shouldn’t be doing it.
That said, McCain is also still fighting the war that the U.S. lost more than 30 years ago. Americans simply can’t afford another president mired in the past.
So what did McCain have to say on Letterman?
First, he announced the worst-kept secret in the country: he is running for president.
“I am announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States,” he told an unsurprised audience. Then he made some blundering comments about the war on Iraq.
“Americans are very frustrated, and they have every right to be,” the man who would be the Republican nominee for 2008 declared. “We've wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives.”
Lest one mistake this comment for McCain taking an anti-war stance, the senator reiterated his position to Letterman that U.S. troops must remain in Iraq rather than withdrawing. McCain’s comments about wasted lives–an utterly true statement in our opinion–caused an immediate furor. A few weeks ago Sen. Barack Obama, himself a candidate for president, had made a similar comment and was forced to apologize. A few hours after McCain’s remarks were aired, the Democratic National Committee demanded that McCain apologize.
The senator did so the next day.
Why? Why is anyone apologizing for a remark that is true? Hasn’t every life lost in Iraq been a waste of humanity? If McCain has something to apologize for, it’s for thinking that sending more Americans to be IED fodder in Iraq is a good idea. At least Obama doesn’t subscribe to that lunacy.
And lunacy it is. If you did not see ABC’s cavalcade of stories on the return of veteran reporter and former ABC evening news anchor Bob Woodruff last week, then go to ABCnews.com and watch the video stream of the reports. They are heart- and gut-wrenching.
Anyone who has had a moment of wavering on the issue of the war, from Hillary Clinton to Andrew Sullivan, needs to see exactly what this war is doing to our soldiers and how little attention has been paid to their agony. Woodruff experienced it first hand. And while we bandy about the term “hero” and even “journalist” these days, Woodruff is that rare commodity in today’s Bush-led media: he’s a heroic journalist, doing his job not for himself, but for others. On January 29, 2006, Woodward was on assignment just outside Baghdad. The convoy in which he was traveling was hit by an IED. He was standing with his head and upper body outside of a moving tank when the bomb went off. He was wearing upper body armor as well as a helmet.
Woodruff said, “When it actually exploded, I don't remember that. I remember spitting up blood. And I do remember immediately at that moment that I saw my body floating below me and a kind of whiteness.”
Those on the scene thought Woodruff had died, but he regained consciousness briefly and asked if he was still alive.
Part of Woodruff’s skull was blown off by shrapnel and he sustained traumatic brain injury (TBI), severe facial lacerations and other injuries. He was in a coma for 36 days.
On February 27th, Woodruff presented the documentary of his experiences of injury and recovery on ABC *To Iraq and Back.* Also on February 27th, Woodruff appeared with his wife, Lee, a magazine editor, and their four children, on Oprah, discussing his injury and recovery. ABC’s evening newscast and *Good Morning America* also spent the week detailing Woodruff’s experiences and those of other Iraq veterans with TBI.
Woodruff is succinct in his detailing of his experience: he’s one of the lucky ones. While *To Iraq and Back* laid out his experience, half the documentary was also devoted to the plight of others with TBI. The Veteran’s Administration now estimates that 60 percent of Iraq veterans have experienced some level of TBI–from severe open-skull wounds to closed skull fractures (no open wound). In the latter, the injuries often go undetected until the symptoms begin to appear. Woodruff’s reports have galvanized efforts to get all injured soldiers tested for TBI, which if untreated can create massive problems in memory, anger-control and personality.
Woodruff’s arduous recovery is charted in all its creepy, graphic detail. Woodruff knows how lucky he is–he says it repeatedly in the documentary and in the subsequent interviews. He had money, he got superb medical care, he had a loving wife and stupendous kids who stood by him and helped him recover. And even though his brain was damaged in the places where language and memory receptors lie, he was able to retrain his brain and relearn how to talk and read.
"I couldn't remember my two young daughters,” Woodruff said, his eyes glittering with unshed tears. “Not their names, but their existence.” Woodruff and his wife have four children: twin six-year-old daughters and a 13-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son.
The six year olds help him with words, occasionally frustrated that daddy doesn’t get what they are repeating so patiently. The scenes of this are heart-rending, even though we know he has recovered about 85 percent of his former abilities. We witness Woodruff–always wearing a helmet to protect the part of his head where the skull was removed (seeing the caved-in side of his head in the hospital was daunting)–in his home looking at flashcards of common objects–scissors, screwdrivers, hairbrushes–and unable to remember what they are. His young children prep him on words. He goes for a cup of coffee and can remember the word “caffeine,” but not coffee.
To those on the outside, Woodruff recovered. Then he goes to the hospitals where men and women like himself are recovering–or not recovering.
Notes the wife of one young man who has yet to wake up from the coma he has been in for weeks: “We hear about how many people are killed every day, but we never hear about the injured. This is what happens with the injured–they just disappear. No one knows about how we are suffering.” The young woman has tears in her eyes and in her voice is a mix of despair and fear and rage. She is not alone in her anguish.
More than 25,000 soldiers have been injured thus far in Iraq in war-related injuries, according to the Pentagon (the Pentagon does not count injuries sustained that are non-combat injuries, such as car accidents or non-combat attacks by Iraqis). Of those injured, more than 60 percent have suffered permanently disabling injury, according to the Pentagon and Veteran’s Administration. Doctors at the much-criticized Walter Reed Medical Center assert that “polytrauma”–more than one severe injury (blindness and amputation, third degree burns and amputation, TBI and amputation, etc.)–is the norm among the soldiers they treat.
In a press conference, Woodruff was asked if he would return to Iraq as a reporter.
ABC News President David Westin answered for him.
“I will not send him,” said Westin. It just would not make sense. He's more vulnerable than he was before. It would be the height of recklessness, from my point of view, to allow Bob Woodruff to go back to Iraq.”
Woodruff doesn’t need to return to Iraq. The story that he has told–of his own injury and those of veterans of the war--may very well be his most important story on the war. Woodruff, with his beautiful wife and rugged good looks, now somewhat marred by the shrapnel wounds on his face, may have finally gotten the attention of America about just how damaging this war has been to so many.
Woodruff has become a celebrity of sorts since his near-death experience. And like the ace reporter he has always been, Woodruff has used his horrific personal tale to galvanize efforts on behalf of those who are merely soldiers—not newsmen, not celebrities.
Perhaps McCain should take a look at Woodruff’s story, as he seems to have forgotten what the wounds of war really look like, even though he sustained so many himself. How dare any of these folks in Washington think that sending more troops is anything but murder?
Speaking of conservatives who don’t know which end is up, there was a remarkable lack of attention paid to Ann Coulter last week when she spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Remember February 21st when the networks were falling all over themselves to report that David Geffen had dumped the Clintons for Barack Obama? And that Geffen had called the Clintons liars?
Well, *we* remember it. So we were surprised–no, actually we were *shocked*–when we heard *nothing* about noted conservative pundit Ann Coulter calling former senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards a faggot.
Yes, she called him a faggot. (You can actually watch the video of it at either The Nation or Crooks and Liars websites.) She said," I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word faggot–so…."
Let’s make a note, now, shall we: When Isaiah Washington called his fellow *Grey’s Anatomy* cast-mate, T.R. Knight, who actually is gay, a faggot, he was nearly kicked off the show, ABC apologized and forced Washington to apologize and he was sent to rehab (albeit for just a week). When NBA star Tim Hardaway made homophobic references to fellow NBA star John Amaechi, who actually is gay (and gorgeous–oh that *voice*), the NBA apologized, forced Hardaway to apologize and refused to allow him to play in the All Stars game.
Rudy Giuliani, who is courting the gay vote, if sotto voce, was in attendance when Coulter spoke. So was McCain. So was Mitt Romney, whom she endorsed (one more reason not to vote for him) and who introduced her with the following: “I am happy to hear that after you hear from me, you will hear from Ann Coulter. That is a good thing. Oh yeah!”
Did we hear any disavowals of her comments from anyone on the right? No. Did we see a piece about it on *Nightline* like we did about Maureen Dowd’s column on Geffen and the Clintons? No. Did we see any reportage anywhere about this? No.
We are supposed to report on TV. But sometimes we have to report on what’s *not*on TV. And wonder *why not?*
We ask questions about what we aren’t seeing as much as talking about what we have seen. Like about the bodies being shipped back from Iraq and our not being allowed to see them. Or why there are no queer characters on TV anymore. Or why there was no reportage of the poster girl for conservative politics calling a former senator and current presidential contender a faggot.
Sure, Coulter is an agent provocateur–it’s her job. But when you watch the video, folks, you will hear no boos or even polite “oohs.” You will hear uproarious laughter and applause.
Is John Edwards a closet queer? No–we would have found that out long ago if her were. So what Coulter means is that her constituency, the right, should think of him as a promoter of the “homosexual agenda” and as fey because he wants to bring the troops home now.
Coulter was at the forefront of the Swiftboat movement against John Kerry in 2004. She promulgated the fiction that he was a coward and a liar about his military service on every TV talk show from CNN to al-Jazeera. (Well, not al-Jazeera, but...) Now John Edwards is, in her words, a faggot.
We know what the swiftboating did to Kerry....
All we can say to this is, stay tuned.
In response to, "Who really supports the troops? We'd find out soon enough," Robert Scardapane writes:
The best way to support the troops is to fund an immediate safe withdrawal from Iraq. We would have more than enough money to improve health care for vets. In fact, we would have more than enough money to start a true single payer universal health care system.
But, will our politicians listen to the voters who put them there in 2006? All indications are that Pelosi and Hoyer are turning their backs on the people who told loud and clear that they want an end to the Iraq occupation. We can't even get a debate in the Senate. This is not going to work well for Democrats in 2008 as the activist base decides to sit it out.
In response to, "Imus stated that he received a phone call from actress Susan Sarandon. who called for the sole reason to tell Imus about those conditions. Imus did nothing with the info and he blames himself. maybe Imus, by blaming all who turned a blind eye to the conditions, has a point in blaming everyone," Robert Chapman writes:
Another example of the biased liberal press and their Bush hating reports.
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