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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

 

This Space For Rent: The New York Times

As for being a tool used by Liberals, the New York Times sucks. Although some may argue, there is no bigger issue to most liberals than health care. Most

Americans have grown tiresome of the bills adding up, the constant worrying about if they have enough health care, how to pay for it if they don't, and what to do if they lose their jobs and, consequently, their health care coverage, no matter how meager it might be.

But the New York Times, A.K.A. "The Paper of Record" refuses to talk about health care as a crisis in this country.

Why?

Does the fear that a poor American may die while a rich American may live, even though both suffer the same disease, make them wince? Do they really believe that some deserve better health care than others? Maybe they simply don't want to piss off their advertisers, such as the health care industry and pharmaceutical companies. Whatever it is, the New York Times is certainly not liberal on this matter.

And when an independent state tries to make a difference, the New York Times is all over its problems. Take for example the last Health care Plan article the Times did print. One might think it was about the choices we have in possible universal health care plans; or maybe they wrote about private versus single payer ideas. You would be wrong.

"As Health Plan Falters, Maine Explores Changes"
-The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/30/us/30maine.html?ex=1179374400&en=c8ddca240f917080&ei=5070)

Viewing that headline, one gets the idea that Maine's health care plan (named DirigoChoice, with Dirigo being from the Latin "To Lead") to cover those uncovered, or paying too much for their current health care coverage, isn't working. In fact, a headline like that is fodder that opponents of a Single Payer Universal health Care System would use to bolster their case against such a program.

The article starts with the pratfalls and problems with the plan. It tells how it isn't meeting the goals which it set for itself at the outset. It isn't until the second page (online page) that we notice that the plan is actually working.

"The state’s current program, which has added 5,000 people to Medicaid and enrolled 13,800 people in DirigoChoice, has made progress. Even though the enrollment goal has not been met, the insurance plan has grown faster than any in Maine’s history, the governor said. And although about 60 percent of its enrollees were previously insured, some were paying what state officials deemed was too high a percentage of their income, said Trish Riley, director of the Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance."
-The Times

Sounds like it's working to me, even if it isn't working for everybody.

Almost 19,000 more people in Maine have health care today who didn't have it yesterday. There is the story of the family who said they couldn't afford the $300 per month cost that their plan costs. Of course, the Times fails to mention that many of us in states without a public offered option are paying as much as one thousand dollars and more for their employee participation contribution to their plans. And if you happen to have a chronic illness, or have a sick child, get ready for your big deductibles, high co-pays and hearty fights with your carrier as they pay your out-of-network doctor pennies on the dollar while you're stuck with the overage of the "usual and customary" charge they allow.

If newspapers like the New York Times fails in their job at beginning a debate about health care, then other newspapers will do the same. Before they can walk the walk, they really do have to at least talk the talk.

-Noah Greenberg



Asked to "Get Out"

"We’re not leaving so long as I’m the president."
-President Bush

So all that stuff about "When they stand up, we'll stand down," and "if the Sovereign Iraqi government asked us to leave, we would leave" and the ever famous "it's their country" is basically a bunch of bull. It appears that we'll stay in Iraq as long as they ask us to stay AND we'll stay in Iraq as long as they ask us to leave as well.

The duly elected Iraqi government - with supposedly 72 percent of all eligible voters showing up at the polls - are now asking us to leave. Things are going so well there that they duly elected Iraqi government is planning to take a two month vacation! What are we still doing there?

“Iraq is a sovereign nation, and we stay because they have asked us to be there,”
-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, October, 2006

“Iraq is a sovereign nation which is conducting its own foreign policy,”
-President Bush , November, 2006

“It’s a sovereign nation; it’s their system, they make those decisions,”
-Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American command’s chief spokesman in Iraq , at the beginning of the year

Maybe the Iraqi government thinks that we're doing more harm than good in Iraq. Maybe it's their opinion that, if we leave, their army, police and citizenry will, indeed, stand up. We all know by now that as long as we stay there we're no better than a crutch and possibly as bad as a common target of Sunni insurgents, Iranian-backed Shi'ite death squads and al-Qaeda in Iraq.

And the worst part of all is how diminished we've become. In fact, the way the Bush administration has prosecuted this war, we no longer strike fear into the hearts of our enemies and possible enemies.

The government of duly elected Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has asked us to leave. If the Bush administration doesn't believe that the Iraqi government can get the job done, then they need to get a real Marshall Plan (as in General Marshall's Post World War II Plan) as the occupying force that no one in our nation wants us to be. If President Bush was truly a man of integrity, he would do just that. If Iraq is our war, then it needs to be fully prosecuted by our troops and those of our allies. We can't just fight wars half-hearted, as we did in Vietnam. If the President truly believes that Iraq can be a "model of Democracy in the Middle East", then he needs to put our forces in there and convince our allies, especially those other Middle Eastern nations we call "allies", that they need to put their people on the front lines as well.

If the President wants to "win" this war, as his statements such as "stay the course" and "there is no 'Plan-B'" lays out , then he has to put a substantial force on the ground; he has to finally really listen to his Generals; and he has to realize that his mistakes are truly mistakes.

-Noah Greenberg



Some note from the 2nd GOP Debate

"We will win if we pull together. We can win this war,"
-Senator Sam Brownback (REPUBLICAN-KS), still pushing a military solution in Iraq. Note to Sen. Brownback, one of three GOP Presidential candidates who still doesn't believe in evolution: Denial (as in "The Nile") is not just a river in Egypt. I get the feeling that if Sen. Brownback lived among the caveman, he would have opposed the invention of the wheel.

"Are you running for the nomination of the wrong party?
-Fox News' Chris Wallace to Rep. Dr. Ron Paul, because he voted against the war in Iraq. If anyone showed his mettle it was Sr. Paul. He stood up for what he believes and refused to back down, even when verbally assaulted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. If there is one Republican who really believes in his party's historical significance, it is Paul. If you're a true Republican, or you have friends that are, they should be aware of the only man who actually believes in the Grand Old party principles from when it was a Grand old party.

"They come and attack us because we're over there,"
Paul, stating the obvious. This was also noted by the 911 Commission in their report and by anyone in the Western World who happens to be paying attention and isn't pandering to the far right in order to get elected.
There was a heated debate between Paul and Rudy, which followed one of the three Fox moderators question to Rep. Paul if he was suggesting that we asked to be attacked. Rudy ordered Paul to take it back. Paul, unafraid of "America's Mayor Bully", flatly stated that we have to keep out of other nations' affairs.
It should be noted that every time Paul was to make a comment, the bell rang noting that his time had ended. The same wasn't true for the others. Maybe Paul just speaks too slow or maybe he actually thought about his answers rather than attempt to insult the audience.
Again, the Fox Newshounds repeatedly "advised" Paul that he should be running as a Democrat

We have a congress that spends money like John Edwards at a beauty shop
-Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee
Hmm... And who was in the majority of that congress with the holes in their pockets anyway? Oh yeah... The GOP led the109th and 110th US Congress.
Huckabee, the man who thinks that losing 100 pounds qualifies him to become President, might want to answer the question "How did you lose all that weight?" Mike swears that his weight loss wasn't medically enhanced, but I think that in order to lose that kind of mass in the amount of time Gov. Mike says he lost it, one would either need medical help or would have had to have been in a coma.

When asked how they would balance the budget, all of the GOP candidates said they're going to cut the government. Funny how far government has grown while Bush was in office and most of them were signing the checks.

"...so we're not held hostage by... a guy like Ahmadinejad in Iran,"
-Brownback, referring to alternate means of energy and "finding" more fuel right here at home, as he intimated
Note to Sen. Brownback: We don't purchase order from Iran. Here are the top fifteen nations we import from, in order, as reported by the Energy Information Administration:
Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Angola, Algeria, Iraq (excluding what Halliburton has stolen), Ecuador, Kuwait, United Kingdom, Brazil, Chad, Columbia and Libya (yes, THAT Libya).
(To view a list of all nations who export oil to the US, follow this link http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_impcus_a2_nus_ep00_im0_mbbl_m.htm)

Here's how Senator John McCain explains away his flip-flopping on whether the Confederate flag in should fly above the statehouse in South Carolina"
"It does not fly atop the state capital"
That's correct, Sen. McCain. It flies on its front lawn instead.

"I want them in Guantanamo where they don't have access to lawyers,"
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, in response to the torture question
Be careful if this guy gets into office. GITMO will turn into a missing persons depository. With logic like that, one wonder what else Mitt would be willing to compromise.

-Noah Greenberg



THE LAVENDER TUBE: HELTER SKELTER
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, Inc.

May is the beginning of the End Times of TV. Which dovetails nicely with feeling like it’s the End Times elsewhere.

It does appear the Republican candidates for president are all traveling on the End Times Express. For those who missed it (and *who* watches MSNBC?)–and because we just can’t stop being godsmacked over it–at the first Republican debate May 3rd, half the candidates made it clear they don’t believe in evolution. This, coupled with Mitt Romney declaring that his favorite novel (you know, as in *literature*) is the Scientology hit *Battlestar Galactica,* and the mantra of Ronald Reagan being invoked 85 times by the contenders, was enough to make *our* head spin.

What year is this again? Is the earth still flat?

So, May ends the “real” TV season and swings the election season into higher gear.

Sweeps have pretty much swept by now. The season and series finales are nearly finished. *Heroes* and *Lost* air their final shows next week, as does *ER,* the network drama that never dies. (Stanley Tucci was a seriously excellent choice for the new head guy–no wonder that show is still on the air!) But after these blockbuster finales, the long, hot summer of our TV discontent will begin in earnest.

At least we have *The Sopranos,* *The Tudors* and *The Riches.* All on cable, of course. All stellar. (Good news–FX has renewed *The Riches* and the really trashy, but truly compelling *Dirt.*)

And it’s not all bad news–after all, Paris Hilton is going to prison and Nancy Grace is leaving Court TV. See–there *is* a God!

Speaking of carrion eaters, there we were on May10th, watching Rudy Giuliani try to talk his way out of yet another snare set by the anti-choice set–his would-be base–and mumbling and bumbling his way through it.

And *he* is the Republicans’ *top candidate.* Good to know the right isn’t bothered by either his mob ties or his many divorces, just his stance on abortion.
When we stopped being giddy about Giuliani’s fumble, we remembered that half their candidates don’t believe in evolution.

Then we thought about why and started giggling again.

See what happens when there’s nothing good on TV?

Meanwhile, over on the Other Side–you know, the liberal Hollywood pinko side–there were problems, too. There was that little gaffe of Barack Obama’s where he repeatedly told an aghast group of supporters that 10,000 people–not *ten*–had died in the Kansas tornadoes. A few days later his people said he’d been tired. Hmmm. Isn’t that the excuse Dubya uses when he gets the numbers wrong?

Meanwhile, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) stood in the midst of the devastation–Kansas got 137 tornados in four days--chiding the President. On CNN, Sebelius said that “the state is missing vital National Guard equipment because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Usually Kansas has approximately 80 percent of its equipment available at any given time, but it currently has just 40 percent. Sebelius said that these shortages “will just make it [recovery] that much slower.” (You can see the video at CNN.com or thinkprogress.com)

But back to the candidates and more news you haven’t heard.

Richard Ryan Wargo was arrested May 6th for plotting to kill Hillary Clinton when she went to speak at LSU last week. Yet despite the $1 million bail set for the culprit, who had a floor plan and bomb recipe in his dorm room, it apparently didn’t warrant any news coverage. Bill Clinton was going to be there, too, and Wargo told a friend he thought he could take both of them out in a “terrorist act of national proportions.”

Tell us why this wasn’t headline news, again? Oh right–because the Republicans would like the Clintons wiped off the face of the earth.

Who says the right wing can’t hold a grudge?

Meanwhile, over at NBC, Dick Wolf finally found himself a target that wasn’t women and queers and we are very pleased to note it. In the May 11th episode of *Law&Order,* the target was the U.S. military and their treatment of wounded Iraq vets.

Both the victim and the killer were veterans of Iraq and Wolf took inordinate care to set up the picture nice a large for the audience.

The victim had gone through two tours in Iraq (three is the average, now–and soon it will be four or five tours, since we have no draft and we are just recycling the same soldiers, sailors and Marines over and over). After his second tour, his PTSD (which now impacts close to 60 percent of returning vets) had worsened. But the way the military now avoids taking care of these vets is by giving them a different form of discharge–on the basis of “personality disorder.” That way–no benefits for PTSD which can require life-long care, as our sister the trauma therapist explained to us in detail (she treats victims of torture from Africa, so she has some idea about this stuff).

So–the victim had been living on the streets–crazy–after returning from Iraq. When his sister came to claim his body, she said, “He said he’d have been treated better if he’d died over there.”

The victim met up with the killer–another vet–on the streets. The killer had been in a VA hospital for treatment of TBI–traumatic brain injury–which has impacted close to two-thirds of veterans of the Iraq war.

He had seizures. Fits of violent behavior, which often follows these injuries because the temporal lobe of the brain has been forever altered. People with such injuries must be carefully monitored and take powerful drugs to keep them from flipping out and assaulting other people because they no longer have the impulse control mechanism the rest of us have.

In investigating the case, ADA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) goes to the VA hospital.

The scene was grotesque–and populated with real-life amputee vets, we might add. Patients in the halls on gurneys. Men in all states of physical injury. And then the coup de grace–the Walter Reed-style mold, roaches, rats and peeling paint in one ward.

A federal gag order was put in place; McCoy was not supposed to mention the place, nor the vet’s treatment nor the conditions in his case.

But McCoy has integrity. So he did. And as he grilled the Army doc in full dress uniform, he posed the question, “Is this how we treat our soldiers–strike that—*kids*–who have been wounded serving our country?”

He went on to describe the conditions and ask the doc what his answers were. To which the doc replied, “We weren’t prepared for so many wounded.”
McCoy, stunned, said, “In a war *of choice* we weren’t prepared to treat the wounded?”

L&O debuted in September 1990. Over the years we’ve had many a disagreement with the “ripped from the headlines” premise of the Dick Wolf franchise, mostly due to his treatment of women and queers who disproportionately represent killers on the show.

This episode, however, should be shown at the White House, to the Congress, to the 18-year-olds joining the military straight out of high school, to all the people who think there’s no cost to this war. If you missed it, watch it at NBC.com.

At the end, DA Arthur Branch, played by former Sen. Fred Thompson, who is currently second in the polls for the Republican race for president, even though he has yet to formally declare, castigated McCoy for defying the federal order. But said he’d represent him. Which does beg the question of just who Fred Thompson is, if he can recite these lines. Is he thinking about what they mean in the context of the job he might be running for?

To say we were moved by the *L&O* episode would be to understate it–we wept through much of it. But then it’s difficult for us not to weep when we think about the 18,19 and 20 year olds that we see listed at the end of the PBS *News Hour* every night–the dead of this war with their too-young faces and big ears under the military caps. Remember when CBS ran the dead, too? But that was back when Dan Rather was anchor.

We’re not supposed to see our dead–3,393 at press time.

And as Wolf pointed out so poignantly, we’re not supposed to see our wounded, either–close to 40,000 at press time.

Think about it. Then go watch the episode.

Meanwhile, VoteVets.org will be debuting a series of ads featuring two retired Army generals who commanded U.S. forces in Iraq. The ads “are airing in states and districts of those Members of Congress who are very close to breaking with the President on Iraq and joining the troops and American people.”

Over at CBS, one of these generals–John Batiste (who commanded the Army’s First Infantry Division in 2004 and 2005)–was hired by the network as a consultant and after the VoteVets ads began appearing last week, was fired.

Why? According to the PTB at CBS, “When we hire someone as a consultant, we want them to share their expertise with our viewers. By putting himself front and center in an anti-Bush ad, the viewer might have the feeling everything he says is anti-Bush. And that doesn’t seem like an analytical approach to the issues we want to discuss.”

Oh, okay. Did CBS forget that Nicolle Wallace is also a consultant to CBS? Wallace just happens to be former White House communications director for the Bush Administration.

So much for fair and balanced. Dan Rather would be turning over in his grave if he had one.

Speaking of fair, we would like to note that the most execrable new show comes, naturally, from NBC. *The Real Wedding Crashers* is repugnant on so many levels, but it irks us *particularly* because it turns marriage into a big joke.

The premise of the show is to screw up a real wedding. The funny part? The bride and groom are in on it.

Still not laughing? Perhaps that’s because you have taste, which the producers did not? Excuse us, but isn’t the right wing screaming from one part of the country to the next about how legalizing same-sex marriage will destroy the sanctity of marriage? So where are the right wing family group boycotts of this show? Or are they too busy doing damage control for all the gay evangelists getting caught with their pants down?

If straight people think marriage is such a joke, then why can’t queers be in on it?

Speaking of jokes, *Saturday Night Live* is in a quandary.

The show has one of the best casts in years, and several of *the* best comedians in America among them (Darrell Hammond, Amy Poehler, Kenan Thompson and Maya Rudolph). But as the race for the presidency takes (literally) center stage, the PTB at *SNL* are concerned. *Who will play Barack Obama?* Their one black guy–Thompson–is too fat and too dark. That leaves....no one.

Well, not necessarily. Hammond has played Jesse Jackson for years now–in black face–with, inexplicably, no objections. (Of course Hammond is one of the best impressionists in the business, so his Jackson is perfect. Except for the black face.)

We suggest two things. One, stop having such a white cast. But if that message doesn’t get through, use Maya Rudolph. With a little breast-binding she could do a fabulous Obama. There simply is no more versatile comedian on that show than her (Oprah *and* Donatella Versace?). We can *so* see her as Obama.

But they have the whole summer to remember that New York is almost half black and there just might be a few black comedians there to tap. Which brings us back to the depressing void of summer viewing. Here’s what we *won’t* be watching, coming June. We *won’t* be watching *National Bingo Night* on ABC. We knew there was something worse than golf. This would be it.

However, we *are* looking forward to the new season of *America’s Got Talent,* which gave us some of the kitschy-est acts in wannabe show biz last season.

In the “think fast” department (the season finale is tonight), the resident homophobe on *Grey’s Anatomy,* Isaiah Washington, is slated to film some PSAs for GLAAD. We wonder about the scripts–“Hi, I’m a raging homophobe who regularly uses the term ‘faggot’ in public and on-camera. But I spent eight days in rehab and since I want to continue to collect my $250,000 per episode paycheck, I’m here to tell you don’t do as I do.”

Yes, that should work nicely to assuage the consciences of Washington, *GA* creator Shondra Rimes and ABC. Was this *really* the best GLAAD could come up with?

Speaking of hypocrisy, our Rant of the Week comes from televangelist Bill Keller, host of the Florida-based *Live Prayer* TV program and LivePrayer.com. (*Do* check out the website.)

In discussing Mitt Romney and Mormonism last week, Keller said this: “I have been warning you for years now about this cult born out of the pits of hell and responsible for sending millions of souls to eternal damnation. For the nearly 200 years this cult has been in existence they have strived for mainstream acceptance. They are the most devious of all the cults since they have always tried to portray themselves as ‘just another Christian group’ when in fact, they are no more Christian than a Muslim is!”

Well. Dare we ask what Keller thinks about evolution or Romney’s choice of reading material?

Looks like the Republicans have a long haul to November 2008. It’s the Democrats race to lose. Let’s hope Obama learns to count, Hillary doesn’t get blown up by the lunatic fringe that still blames the Clintons for *everything* and the media starts focusing on the numbers in Iraq, rather than the numbers at John Edwards hair salon.

It’s gonna be a long hot summer, kids. Stay tuned.

(Thanks to Pam Spaulding and Deborah Peifer for the delicious tidbit on Keller.)


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-Noah Greenberg