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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note from a Madman

Monday, April 30, 2007




"Nobody felt like we felt that day,"

"It was personal,"

-Former CIA Director George Tenet on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001


I bet you're wrong, George. I bet the families of some 3,000 people who lost their lives that day felt like it was "personal" to them. But Tenet, despite his "Don't cry for me, but cry for me" tell-all on CBS' 60 Minutes last night did make some noise and did take his share of the responsibility of 911, something the Bushies have still not done.


For example, Tenet said that he had opportunities to kill Osama bin-Laden prior to 911, but, due to political reasons, he couldn't.


"Neither President Clinton nor President bush gave me the go ahead,"



Of course, referring to President Bush, that "go ahead" could have come even after the PDB (President's Daily Briefing) just one month before 911 which was titled "Osama bin-Laden Determined to Strike in US". I'm surprised that CBS' Scott Pelle didn't ask that as a follow up question. But what Tenet did say about his warning the Bush administration was stunning. When Tenet and a subordinate got to then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and told her that an attack was "imminent", she delegated the info to a third tier official.


In other words (as President Bush is so fond of saying) Condi Rice, OUR NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, put the info that bin-Laden was about to launch an attack on US soil ON THE BACK BURNER. And, somehow, Tenet didn't follow up! From the head of the CIA to the head of the NSA to the head of our nation, no one followed up and it might just have cost the lives of some 3,000 people.


Regarding torture, Tenet assured Pelle that "We don't torture." Pelle was intense on his follow up, centering his questions on water-boarding (the act of pouring water on the face until the "detainee" gags) until this exchange:


PELLE (After the lengthy exchange): Have you ever seen one of these interrogations done?



Huh? Perhaps Tenet's mindset might have changed had he actually seen the CIA's and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' new water park. Maybe they could call it "Water-Board USA". Catchy, isn't it?


Tenet did bring the Bushies to task about Iraq, albeit four years too late. Saying that he was "mystified" that the administration had turned their attention toward Iraq, one wonders why Tenet didn't bring his concerns right to the top. Surely the head of the CIA, upon requesting a one-on-one meeting with the President, couldn't have been turned down... could he?


And it started on September 12, 2001. Tenet cites a chance meeting "the day after" with Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle in which Tenet realized that the Bushies had an obsession with Iraq and Saddam Hussein.


"Iraq has to pay a price... they were complicit" in the 911 attacks,

-Perle, according to Tenet


"Iraq wasn't complicit in anything operation in America,"

-Tenet to Pelle


Then why was Tenet so quiet? Was it his job he was afraid of losing? Others came out, in spite of their position and told the truth... Why not Tenet?


About the "16 words" in the President's 2003 State of the Union GW stated “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .” Tenet said that those words were put into various Bush speeches before, and the CIA always removed them. The reason it got though this time was that Tenet was too busy to read it, and left it to subordinates. When Pelle asked if Tenet had read the speech, the CIA Director said simply "No."


But my favorite (as in infamously so) part of the interview is when Pelle cornered Tenet and asked about the National Intelligence Estimate, parts of which were declassified by President Bush to make his case for war. The NIE stated that there could have been up to 700 tons of Chemical and Biological weapons in Iraq.


TENET: Scott, you don't make this stuff up.

PELLE: You did make this stuff up.


Tenet made the case that, if this were a court case, he had enough for a civil suit, but not a criminal case. After hearing his answers to some of Pelle's questions, it appears that there was enough criminal activity from Tenet, President Bush and the rest of the White House circle to go around.


Tenet became truly riled up when he spoke about Valerie Plame and her outing by the Bush administration for retaliation purposes against her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson.


"She's one of my officers. That's wrong - Big-time wrong."

"The country's intelligence officers are not fair game. Period."



Finishing up, Tenet spoke about his "Slam Dunk" comment, the one he attributes to his real downfall. He blamed the Bushies for taking it out of context, stating that the words referred to making the case for war, not the reasons for going to war itself. And he knows who did it, too. At that meeting were Bush, Cheney, Rice and his "friend", Bush's Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Telling Pelle that the President was visibly unhappy about the lack of evidence against Iraq, which would make it harder for his administration to make their public case for war, Tenet reassured Bush that the case could be made. It was "A Slam Dunk." When it was presented to the public. Tenet said he called Card to advise his "friend" of his displeasure. It was then that Tenet knew he was being thrown "under the train", as he put it.


Tenet had opportunity to come clean. He had the opportunity to tell the President that he wouldn't accept the Medal of Freedom. He could have even rejected it on the podium to make a bold and lasting statement. Instead Tenet chose to wait for profit before making his case. he had an opportunity to step up. His choice, in the end, was mere opportunism.


The Bushies lied and formed their evidence around their case for war against Iraq. We all know that by now. Tenet could have been the difference-maker. Too bad for those three-thousand four-hundred dead soldiers; too bad for their families; too bad for the wounded; too bad for the Iraqi people who, en masse, want peace; too bad for the people of Afghanistan who now have to contend with the Taliban again; too bad for the people of England and Spain who lived through their own terrorist attacks; and too bad for us.


-Noah Greenberg


Creating a Democratic Middle East


The President envisions (or say he says) a middle east that is free of tyrannical rule; a middle east where Democracy reigns, freedom is everywhere and those who oppose the will of the people are ousted. The President and his minions say that the war in Iraq is the first step toward that end and that anyone who stands in the way stands in the way of progress. I say poppycock!


700,000 protesters in Istanbul have said that they don't want their Democratic Freedoms taken away by a more Islamic government. This is on the heels of an earlier protest in Ankara. What's so striking about this is that those cities lie in Turkey, a Democratic, secular nation populated by a Muslim majority.


While President Bush says he is pushing for Democracy in the Middle east in nations that clearly aren't ready for Democracy, the one nation that should  be held up as a beacon - an example of everything that "could be" is being taken in the other, much more extreme direction.


And don't stand there and tell me that our failing (failed?) occupation of Iraq isn't helping the Islamic extremists, bent on taking over as much of the middle east as possible, job easier. George W. Bush and his uncompromising and linear "Plan-A" have contributed to the strife that is leading to this new Islamic surge.


And it's the last thing we need.


Just what would happen if Turkey, a real ally of the United States and other western nations, were to keep moving to the right (their own religious right, not to be confused with our own religious right)? It certainly wouldn't make our world a safer place.


Think of another one of our new allies, the Kurds of Northern and Northeastern Iraq. How hard would their job be and how safe are they going to feel? The Kurds, who are Sunnis, will be surrounded by the Turks, who aren't so crazy about them to begin with on one side, and Iran and the new Shiite Iraqi leadership on the other


Tell me just how your efforts have made us safer President Bush and tell me just why we should trust you now and in the future?


-Noah Greenberg



by Victoria A. Brownworth

copyright c 2007, San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, Inc.


 Some weeks the tube is a huge yawn, other weeks there’s so much happening we’re in a veritable hi-def swoon.


 As the French would say, *Quel*week!


 The biggest news outside of the Beltway is that Rosie O’Donnell, America’s dynamic dyke-next-door is leaving *The View.* The daytime diva exits in June; her agents and ABC could not reach a mutual agreement on salary and length of contract.


 The leave-taking is amicable, yet this didn’t keep Donald Trump from insisting that it was all about him.


 Trump’s statement also made for the best Freudian slip of the week. The real estate mogul said, “I was very happy to see that ABC fired her. In my opinion, they fired her because of a statement she made about me....When referring to me she grabbed her cock–*crotch*--and she said ‘Eat me!’ in front of a group of people at the Waldorf-Astoria, many of whom were young, aspiring women. It was a totally inappropriate statement, a statement that in light of the Don Imus situation and other things, I think ABC felt they couldn’t live with. I’m sure that’s why ABC fired her. For her to grab her crotch and say a thing like that in front of young, aspiring wonderful people is absolutely disgusting.”


 Trump bitching about someone being disgusting–with his Freudian slip hanging out–is like George Bush complaining about rogue leaders. Perhaps the Donald doesn’t remember that the feud between him and Rosie began because she called him a hypocrite.


 Meanwhile, back at *The View,* Rosie was her usual boisterous no-holds-barred self, utterly unruffled by any of the tabloid TV discourse around her. She snagged an exclusive interview with Alec Baldwin that garnered huge ratings and TV critics all over the country seemed sad she’s leaving.


 Everyone appeared a little in awe of Rosie, whose controversial presence on *The View* ratcheted up the show’s ratings by a whopping 17 percent in six months.


 At MSNBC, still a little gun-shy (well, maybe not *gun*shy) over the Imus debacle, Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman and host of *Scarborough Country,*put the Rosie controversy in perspective. (Scarborough had previously called on ABC to fire Rosie in early April.) 


  “Not only did she talk about Gitmo,” Scarborough noted, “she talked about Khalid Sheik Mohammed, she talked about 9/11, she talked about all of these issues in a daytime news format–well, not a news format, but on a woman’s talk show, *a gabfest!* And she somehow managed to get the ratings up. Why is that?”


 Hmmm–why indeed? Could it be that Rosie--overweight mother of four and much like any other mom watching the tube at 10 in the morning while taking care of kids and house–talked about the things important to her: the war, Bush, corruption in Washington, health care, gun control (don’t forget Rosie co-organized the Million Mom March for gun control in 1999).


 In short, Rosie was both the mom next door *and* Everywoman with a political point of view. During the hostage crisis between Britain and Iran, Rosie suggested it might be a backdoor way into war with Iran–something every serious journalist in America was saying.


 Rosie put a little brio in the morning gabfest cycle. It may have enraged some–Trump, mostly–but it also made quite a lot of women watching her feel included. Rosie didn’t condescend to her audience. She may have been vulgar, but she was never smug. She won her 11 Emmys for making it seem like she was no different from the people in her audience.


 Should anyone think she’s gone from the tube, think again–she’s already been offered several possible shows and is likely to have her own daytime talk show again by the end of next year. Just in time to take on the election.


 Speaking of daytime talk show hosts, Tyra Banks was on *The View* after the big announcement. We unabashedly adore Banks for taking on the tabloids with their “America’s Top Waddle” headlines after Banks put on a few pounds over Christmas.


Banks–gorgeous, funny, smart and poised–has been unequivocal on the skinny model issue (she now includes plus-sized models on *America’s Top Model*). She’s also been unequivocal that she has not had breast enhancement.


 So there she was on *The View,* feeling Rosie’s breasts after Rosie quipped that she hadn’t had breast enhancement, either. Not just a light squeeze, but a veritable kneading. Gotta love that Tyra. And no one’s going to sign an arrest warrant for her feeling Rosie up, either.


 Which would be the difference between America and India. Richard Gere and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, who recently won the British version of the TV series *Big Brother* despite major racial controversies, are now embroiled in an international scandal because Gere tried to reprise his sweeping kiss move from his film *Shall We Dance.*


  Gere and Shetty were hosting an HIV/AIDS fundraiser and Gere swept the gorgeous Shetty off her feet and kissed her several times–all on the cheek. Public displays of affection are *verboten* in India and within 24 hours there was a veritable fatwa out on the two. On Gere for “molesting” Shetty and on Shetty for “not putting up a fight.”


 Gere was on *The Daily Show* the day after the imbroglio, trying to play it down, but it’s been a top story on BBC TV.


 The scandal has raised discussion about women and sexuality in India, which is good, but the calls for the arrests for both actors have not ceased. No doubt Gere, who’s fought queer rumors for decades, is in shock.


 Meanwhile, the main TV season is winding down with shows building to their inevitable summer hiatus after May sweeps. *Heroes*–the biggest new series of the 2006-2007 season–came back with a vengeance last week. And with it’s return, sans a few characters, came the revelation of what happened to Claire’s best buddy, Zach.


 At the time Zach’s mind was wiped by The Haitian, we commented that he seemed to no longer be gay. As it was during the whole Isaiah Washington scandal we queried if the show–despite its wide-ranging multi-culturalism–feared having a queer character, even in a minor role.


 Here’s the scoop according to *Heroes* exec producer Bryan Fuller about why Zach (Thomas Dekker) exited stage straight (with thanks to the website popgurls for the skinny): Apparently Dekker's manager was concerned that Dekker-playing queer would affect another network's decision to hire him.


 Fuller asserts: "[Making Zach gay was] absolutely was a path that we were going to take. In the first meetings when we were sitting down and talking about the show, one of the things about the show that Tim [Kring, creator of Heroes] said that he wanted all these characters to represent different people in the world and we had an Asian guy and an Indian guy and a whole bunch of white people. He just wanted it to be a united Benetton cast. I said that's fantastic, but if we have this many people, then we need to have a gay character. If you want to represent the world, that's certainly a demographic that we need to hit. [Tim completely agreed and] was thinking Claire's best friend might be a good person. So we were definitely going down a route of making [Zach] the gay character and having him have a big role in her life and sort of teaching her to come out about her ability and embrace herself and actually using the coming out metaphor and the gay metaphor in that instance as a fun piece of storytelling."


Fuller explained, "There was an unfortunate miscommunication and when the script arrived that had the line in it, 'I would take you to homecoming but you have to know that I don't like girls that way,' the actor 's manager threatened to pull him from the show because he was up for [a major role on Fox] and she didn't want him playing a gay character because it might affect Fox's interest in hiring him. It got really ugly...It's unfortunate and really. We only took one line out of the script. In all of our minds, the character was still gay but we couldn't say it explicitly. I was very upset by it. There were times I had to avoid talking about it because we didn't want to have a negative reflection on the show. The show's been such a positive experience for so many people, we didn't want to get hung up on the fact that one actor's management felt that it was a career killer for him to play a homosexual which, as a gay man, I found incredibly insulting. We had episodes planned for him to be in, and she pulled him from the show altogether. So that's why he sort of disappeared."


 *Ugh.* Now you know and wish you didn’t.


 Speaking of things we know and wished we didn’t, we wish we hadn’t had to watch the lovely Pvt. Jessica Lynch (she really is a knockout) telling Congress how she was forced to pretend that the incident in which she was almost killed (and permanently disabled) was not the way the Pentagon portrayed it.


 "My parents were hearing the story that I was this little girl Rambo from the hills of West Virginia who went down fighting. But it wasn't true.


"The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes and they don't need to be told elaborate tales.


"Why did they lie when the real heroes were my fellow soldiers who rescued others or fought to the death?"

  We also wish we hadn’t had to watch Pat Tillman’s family’s grief as they explained how the Pentagon lied repeatedly about the real cause of the death of their son in Iraq.


 And we certainly wish we hadn’t seen Sen. John McCain, for whom we once had a modicum of respect, joke about IEDs on *The Daily Show* (see the whole ghastly exchange on YouTube) then refuse to apologize for it while being interviewed by Diane Sawyer on *GMA* after Rep. John Murtha excoriated him. McCain told a fairly stunned Sawyer that people needed to “lighten up” about it. Apparently he’s so out of touch with reality he doesn’t understand that 85 percent of American soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq were hit by IEDs.


 Lighten up, indeed.


 And McCain wonders why his numbers are plummeting. It’s the war, stupid!


 But to be fair, the day after McCain’s latest gaffe, Fox News’s John Gibson had this to say: “The U.S. invasion ‘unmasked’ Iraqis ‘as knuckle-dragging savages from the 10th century.’” And they’re going after Richard Gere for a kiss on the cheek at an HIV/AIDS benefit?


 Meanwhile, over on PBS, Bill Moyers outlined the entire mess of Iraq in *Burying the War.* If you missed it, you can–and must–see it online at PBS.org under MoyersonAmerica. Have the blood pressure medicine handy.


 A tough week on the tube, so here is our truncated Rant of the Week: The Virginia Tech tragedy once again pointed out the best and worst of TV in news versus voyeurism. We mourn the deaths of the 32 people murdered and the suicide of the mentally ill man who killed them, but we would like to remind our audience of all the thousands killed each year by guns in America that are *not* wielded by madmen.


 In addition, American men and women are being killed each day in Iraq and no flags are at half-staff nor is there a national day of mourning nor bells tolling in somber remembrance. What is their sacrifice for, exactly? (Check out former CIA director George Tenet’s blistering assault on the Bush war plan at CBS.com under *60 Minutes.*)


 What’s more, McCain and Bush and Giuliani and others continue to pretend the war is going well. TV news does not take them to task for these lies the way they took Cho Seung-Hui to task for his mass murder.


 TV is wildly inconsistent, of course. But TV news is factual and thus should have a standard of consistency. If network and cable news had spent as much time investigating the war as they spent doing their psychological autopsy on Cho, perhaps we wouldn’t be in our fifth year in Iraq.


 Something to ponder as you watch the Moyers investigation. Stay tuned.


Regarding the issue of  impeachment, addressed today by Larry Furman in Weekend Madman, Kelly Taylor writes:


I heard Kevin Phillips (author of book "American Theocracy") speak several weeks ago in NYC - introduced by Paul Krugman of the NYT.


When asked about impeachment, Kevin Phillips suggested the idea of the American people pushing for the 25th Amendment which provides for removal of a President in the case of MENTAL ILLNESS which he strongly feels Bush is suffering from.  Phillips went on to say that in the case of Nixon, we as a country were lucky in that we had  1. A bi-partisan Congress and 2. The hard evidence of the Whitehouse tapes which led to Nixon's resignation. He does not feel that the present political climate - with all the right-wingers in government and suppression of evidence - will ever lead to impeachment, unfortunately.


And I must add that Phillips - a Republican and former Reagan adviser - stated, "George Bush is the worst President in US history."  (I bought his book - a fascinating writer who is truly repulsed by the Bushies and finds them terrifying.  His book tracks the history of the evangelical right since the 70's - and how it has sought to subvert the U.S. Constitution.)


In response to George Bush's career choice, Eddie Konczal writes,


That's a monumental "if" (if GW had won a World Series, he wouldn't have moved over to politics)... Bush has been a failure at every job he's had, what makes you think he could have won a World Series?


I just hope the country recovers from Bush better than the Texas Rangers did... they STILL haven't won a World Series nor have they even been to one.


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-Noah Greenberg