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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Alter Egos

So I'm sitting around thinking, "Which television personality or sitcom star reminds me of Mitt Romney?" That was an easy one for me. Ted Baxter, of course. All that fluff on the outside hiding an empty center. Come to think of it, Romney could have been a Chocolate Easter Bunny! So I figured, "Let's see if I could match the other dozen-and-a-half Presidential candidates from both parties to someone on the small screen which most of us would know. Here's what I came up with:


Candidate Show Character or Personality Comments
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (DEMOCRAT-NY) Everybody Loves Raymond Debra - Raymond's Wife You have to think that Hillary called bill "Idiot" once and a while
Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (REPUBLICAN-NY) Seinfeld The whole cast Narcissism dominates! The same all-for-one and that-one-is-me attitude which permeated each character on one of the greatest sitcoms of all times is the rule by which Rudy lives his whole life. Not that there's anything wrong with that. (Or is there?)
Senator Barack Obama (DEMOCRAT-IL) The Wonder Years Kevin Arnold Needs his future self to narrate his present self's life so we may all learn something new about him. Like the young Kevin Arnold, we do learn something new every day. But unlike Arnold, we're still unsure what he's learned about himself.
Senator John McCain (REPUBLICAN-AZ) South Park Jimbo Kern (Stan's Uncle, former Viet Nam Helicopter pilot)) Crazy and getting crazier. Will do and say anything to get ahead. Like Major Burns, McCain can't believe he isn't running things. I was going to equate McCain with Frank Burns from MASH. Burns (played by Robert Duval in the movie) was taken away in s straight jacket. I believe they're fitting one for McCain as I write this.
Former Senator John Edwards (DEMOCRAT-NC) Night Court Judge Harry Stone Even with everything going on around him, things always seem to work out in the end.
Former Governor Mitt Romney (REPUBLICAN-MA) Mary Tyler Moore Show Anchorman Ted Baxter C'mon. This guy doesn't even know the name of his own  favorite book! Lots of polish on the outside, but no substance once you get the package open.
Governor Bill Richardson (DEMOCRAT-NM) Taxi Alex Reiger Seems smart enough; has all the qualifications; so why does he look so good in a taxi? Maybe a nice change of clothes will do the trick.
Former Governor Mile Huckabee (REPUBLICAN-AR) NBC Today Show Al Roker Like Roker, I liked him better when he was fat.
Senator Christopher Dodd (DEMOCRAT-MA) I Love Lucy Fred Mertz Great number 2 and a great friend to have, but I wouldn't build a whole sitcom around him
Senator Sam Brownback (REPUBLICAN-KS) The Simpsons Ned Flanders Seems nice enough, until you actually speak to him. Ned and Sam do, after all, have they same views on evolution.
Senator Joe Biden (DEMOCRAT-DE) Frasier Martin - Fraser and Niles Father Can't understand why nobody's paying attention to him. Thinks everybody else's opinion doesn't count.
Rep. Tom Tancredo (REPUBLICAN-CO) All in the Family Archie Bunker Who else is this guy gonna be? (Maybe Michael Kramer?)
Rep. Denis Kucinich (DEMOCRAT-OH) Bewitched Darren Stevens Has all of these great ideas but things just keep on happening around him that just can't be explained. Would somebody start listening to this guy before they turn him into a toad?
Former Governor Jim Gilmore (REPUBLICAN-VA) Cheers Cliff Claven Every time I hear this guy speak, you'd swear he either knows everything or he's making it all up.
Former Senator Mike Gravel (DEMOCRAT-AK) Everybody Loves Raymond Frank - Raymond's Father Sure, we all know this guy. He's the big mouth who says what's on his mind. And sometimes, it's what's on our minds, too.
Former Governor Tommy Thompson (REPUBLICAN-WI) Sanford and Son Fred Sanford Says what he thinks even before he thinks it.
Rep. Ron Paul (REPUBLICAN-TX) Arrested Development The whole show The best candidate no one ever hear of… maybe.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (REPUBLICAN-CA) Seinfeld George Costanza Always looking for the a scheme to get ahead. Just a little more effective at it than Jerry Seinfeld's buddy.


What are your thoughts?


-Noah Greenberg

See No Evil, Hear No Boom-Boom

So the Iraqis are now working well with the Americans... sort of. In an effort to make things better in their war-torn nation, the Iraqi government has decided that no more pictures will be allowed of bomb sites for at least one hour after an attack. And in an effort to enforce this new law, the Iraqi army took time away from their busy schedule, which includes NOT helping American troops from being kidnapped and NOT stopping convoys of militants from speeding through checkpoints, they guarded one of these bomb sites and fired shots over the heads of journalists looking to get a story.

It's like closing the barn door after the horses leave, then watching as the horses get blown up, followed by shooting the vultures circling overhead.

In a similar move, the Bush administration has decided that our troops in Iraq and elsewhere will no longer be allowed to go on the Internet to view or upload images or videos to YouTube. As Jon Stewart stated on The Daily Show, these mine-sweepers. after a full day of clearing mines aren't going to be allowed to play mine-sweeper on their computers.

Additionally the Bushies are no longer allowing pictures of wounded soldiers to be taken, without the wounded soldier's permission. As Air America Radio's Young Turks asked: Are they supposed to get permission up front or wait until after they lost a limb? In truth, the news agencies, with all of their problems, have been policing this particular thing pretty well.

We have already seen the wrath of the Bushies when a Seattle photographer took pictures of the coffins on a troop transport coming back from Iraq. I wonder how much she now charges to do a whole bar-Mitzvah?

It may come to pass that no pictures at all will be allowed in Iraq. Just today, a parked bus blew up in Baghdad killing at least 22 and injuring at least another 58. Where can one go to take a picture? well one might try the Green Zone in between mortar attacks. Even those who wander in that impenetrable area now are required to wear flack jackets as they take their morning constitutionals.

In other words, as we used to say. it ain't safe no place.

But the Bush administration and the Iraqi government, before they take their two month summer vacation, have a plan. If no one is allowed to see it, then it never happened, unless, of course, it's you, your loved one or someone else close to you who happens to die pr is disfigured.

Like the tree falling in the forest, it doesn't make a sound unless you're in earshot.

Think of these bans as the "see-no-evil" monkey.

-Noah Greenberg

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

Did anyone wonder why there were more news minutes given over to the death of Rev. Jerry Falwell, a life-long racist, segregationist, homophobe and all-around hatemonger than to the deaths of Americans in Iraq? Or why we have to depend on Rosie O’Donnell to raise the question of the war on TV?

According to CNN, at press time there have been 3,452 Americans killed in Iraq. The Pentagon acknowledges at least 25,478 U.S. troops have been wounded in action and another several thousand injured in non-combat related incidents. Two-thirds of injured soldiers and Marines have permanent injuries, from amputations to TBI (traumatic brain injury).

While Bush was laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for Memorial Day, the Pentagon was announcing that it was restricting use of MySpace and other online message sites for troops. Apparently the “raw” footage that soldiers are sending home contradicts the censored-for-prime-time commentary the Pentagon is trying to promulgate in restricted video footage from news reporters (U.S. command in Iraq has begun censoring video footage and is using Iraqi police to enforce the ban) and in their own YouTube videos about the happy, shiny troop surge.

So–you aren’t going to see anything about the war on the tube–except YouTube.

Once again we are forced to query: Why is network TV saying more about the war than the news? The *ER* season finale last week proved a case in point. Neela (Parminder Nagra) lost her doctor husband at the end of *last*season to the war on Iraq when he–a medic–was killed by an IED. *This* season ended with her being trampled at a peace march in Chicago that was being tear gassed by police in 1968 DNC fashion.

The main patient storyline in this finale episode followed a young man–an Army translator–who had come to the ER with a wound incurred in a strange accident stateside. He was demanding pain medication and when it was discovered he had a Veteran’s Administration notation of drug abuse following his discharge for severe injuries, the new ER chief, Kevin Moretti (played with incredible verve by Stanley Tucci who joins the cast next season in earnest), gave him a nerve block instead. But the young man continued to insist he was in agony and finally broke into a drug cabinet and took every pill he could lay his hands on.

As the ER docs were trying to save his life, he kept yelling in Arabic. It was revealed that he had been a military translator for interrogations. And had witnessed torture and translated for the victims.

Cut to last week on *The View.* Everyone knows that Rosie O’Donnell is an outspoken critic of both the Bush Administration and the war on Iraq. So it wasn’t unusual when she got into a heated discussion about the war with Elizabeth Hasselbeck, the former *Survivor* contestant who has been the youngest member of *The View* team for some time now. Hasselbeck is a staunch conservative and a supporter of the war.

But just like the war itself, the debate escalated and the two got into verbal fisticuffs over the war in a scene that lasted over five minutes–an interminable amount of time in TV world–before Joy Behar finally called for a commercial break. Hasselbeck insinuated that Rosie had called American troops terrorists, Rosie called Hasselbeck a coward for not defending her against right-wing pundits like Bill O’Reilly who had called Rosie unpatriotic and demanded her ouster from *The View.*

Rosie was scheduled to exit *The View* at the end of next month, but after the blowout with Hasselbeck, she decided not to return to finish out her contract.

This exchange wasn’t exactly Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley on *The Dick Cavett Show* during the Vietnam War, but it was certainly similar in passion and tone (minus the expletives). And there’s another salient difference. Rosie and Hasselbeck are, despite their celebrity and TV roles, quite ordinary Americans with average American lives: spouses, children, and so forth, and they play to an audience of women who are much like themselves, sans the multi-million dollar salaries.

So when, might we ask, will the folks in Washington understand that Americans are upset over the war? Or will they just continue to try and change the subject? Like to gas prices or immigration?

Rudy Giuliani was on Letterman last week plugging himself for president and also trying to change the subject.

Letterman is usually pretty tough on these guys. We’ve seen him clean the clocks of the likes of Bill O’Reilly, for example. But he seemed genuinely stunned by Giuliani, who said of the gas crisis, in his weird, half-sentence manner of speaking:

“The situation in the Middle East is, you don’t have enough refineries. We haven’t pursued ethanol the way we should, we haven’t taken advantage of the oil that's within our control. We need as much energy diversity, as much energy independence as we can.”

Okay, so to recap: ethanol is the new black. Somehow diverting America’s corn-basket to the SUV crowd will solve all our energy problems. And when Giuliani talks about “the oil that’s within our control,” that’s code for drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge.

Don’t these guys have *any* good ideas?

Giuliani on gas prices was nothing compared to Giuliani on the war, however. In case you didn’t know it, the war on Iraq was actually Bill Clinton’s idea.
Stunned, are you? Letterman certainly appeared to have been. According to Giuliani, Clinton was the one who was demanding regime change in Iraq. Bush was just following Clinton’s bidding.

Okay, now we know that there were sanctions against Iraq during the Clinton Administration, just as there had been against South Africa and other nations that were treating their people miserably. But just as Clinton didn’t invade South Africa or North Korea, he also didn’t invade Iraq. In fact *we* remember Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on *60 Minutes* discussing why the U.S. was *not* invading Iraq.

So apparently Giuliani is simply insane. Or he has what we like to call OJ Syndrome: lie about something often enough and you begin to believe it is true. The Republicans have used Clinton as their excuse for everything from global warming (oops–not that, since they don’t believe in it) to 9/11 to, now, the war on Iraq.

Well, all we can say to this propaganda from Giuliani is: Clinton left office January 20, 2000. Bush invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003.

Enough, already.

Speaking of insanity, there we were watching *BBC World News* on the morning of May 26th, because if we didn’t, we’d have no idea what’s *really* going on in the world since Hugo Chavez isn’t the only one radically curtailing the free press these days. The topic was the World Bank fiasco starring Paul Wolfowitz, whose *last* fiasco was being one of the architects of “Clinton’s” war on Iraq.

Anyway, apparently one of the names being floated to replace Wolfowitz is Bill Frist. As some might recall, Frist, former senator from Tennessee, was Senate Majority Leader a nanosecond ago. He was also a proposed candidate for president in 2008. But a series of errors led to his choosing not to run for president nor in the November 2006 election to retain his Senate seat. He left office in January 2007.

We can certainly think of worse choices to run the World Bank, but why would the Bush Administration, with all its current problems–the war, immigration, Gonzales, Goodling, McNulty and so forth–proffer Frist as its choice for World Bank prez?

Forget the Terry Schiavo debacle which should disqualify Frist from making any decisions of import. Frist has a very sketchy financial history, which would seem to preclude his heading the *World Bank.* When Frist ran in 2000 for the Senate, his campaign organization was fined by the Federal Election Commission. Apparently the campaign failed to disclose a $1.44 million loan. Oops.

Frist *is* a money man, however. Frist was the one who pushed through the Bush tax cuts for the rich. He’s the one who tried to cap all awards to plaintiffs in catastrophic health claims. (He’s also the one who invented the term “partial birth abortion” and the one who worked tirelessly to keep openly gay James Hormel from becoming Ambassador to Luxembourg, but those are different ideological complaints.)

One reason Frist’s name is being pushed is that he has wads of money. Frist's 2005 financial disclosure form lists blind trusts valued around $45 million. Most of this personal fortune comes from stock in Hospital Corporation of America, the for-profit hospital chain founded by his brother and father. But his trusts and stocks caused a ruckus in 2004 and he was threatened with indictment. Washington insiders believe this is why he chose not to run for office.

The U.S. stranglehold–as it is perceived not just by BBC, but by the whole of the EU–over the World Bank may be at an end. As the BBC report indicated, if the U.S. is foolhardy enough to suggest Frist for the position just vacated by Wolfowitz’s disgraceful exit, then the other World Bank members might just revolt and oust the U.S. from it’s supremacy altogether.

Speaking of mutiny, *Pirate Master* debuts this week and we won’t be watching, nor should you. This is *Survivor* with pirates, in the Caribbean. And–hard to believe–even more irritating and unlikable contestants. And absolutely no Johnny Depp in eyeliner, more like the folks from *Lost’s* the Others.

We give National Bingo Night one more week–maybe. It’s worse than we could have imagined and we said it would be bad.

But stay tuned–*America’s Got Talent* (June 5th) should be fabulous this season. Not just The Hasselhoff, but Sharon Osbourne. Can’t wait. Also–NBC is finishing up their ill-fated, but wonderfully acted and written *Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,* for the next six weeks. In case the three month hiatus hasn’t made you forget all about it.

ABC also has a terrific new conspiracy thriller, *Traveler,* which debuted May 30th in the *Lost* spot for the summer. The show stars three incredibly cute guys, frat boy friends. Matthew Bomer as Jay Burchell, Logan Marshall-Green as Tyler Fog, Aaron Stanford as Will Traveler. If you missed the first episode, catch up at ABC.com.

Remember the dreams Will (*Will &Grace*) would have featuring NBC anchor Stone Phillips coming into his bedroom naked? Well, it looks like come June, Phillips will have some time on his hands as NBC is not renewing his contract due to budget cuts. Phillips has anchored *Dateline* for the last millennia, initially with Jane Pauley. But now *Dateline* belongs to Chris Hansen, host of the *To Catch a Predator* shows in which he catches (or sets up in sting operations, depending on your perspective) suspected pedophiles attempting to hook up with teenaged girls and boys.

Phillips was gracious. In a statement issued by NBC, Phillips said, “It’s been a wonderful 15 years. I'm profoundly appreciative of the many friends and colleagues, past and present, who have been a part of the *Dateline* family. This is a great news division with a bright future. I wish the people of NBC News all the best.” Ann Curry, Phillips’ co-anchor apparently doesn’t make nearly as much money, so she will be staying on.

*Dateline* will continue to air three times a week until Phillips leaves. Come fall the show will be relegated to once a week, in the Saturday night wasteland slot. Does this mean they’ve caught all the predators?

We’d just like to point out that NBC is cutting the white guys and keeping the people of color. In April, NBC cut long-time weekend anchor John Seigenthaler, whose contract they also didn’t renew to cut costs. Seigenthaler was replaced by Lester Holt. So, just to underscore: Seigenthaler (white and from a well-pedigreed news family) cut for costs and replaced with Lester Holt, African American. Phillips, white, cut for costs and replaced with Curry, Asian.

We guess this is one way to get more people of color in high profile jobs at a network, but, how about just adding people of color and paying them the same as the white guys?

Speaking of high profile money drains at networks, CBS is reeling at the all-time ratings low for Katie Couric’s evening news. Maybe they should get a woman of color for the slot?

Not that we really care about this, but is it possible for a woman to win *Dancing with the Stars*? Because we certainly thought Laila Ali was better than Apollo Ohno (and does he spell his name with one “l” because he *knows* he’s not a god?). And she had way more to overcome, like height and weight and wearing high heels. Plus she’s five years older than he. But then if your judges are two gay guys and a fag hag...may the best ass win. Hmmm.

Then Jordin (spelling your name wrong does *not* make you a star, btw) won on *American Idol.* Yes, she’s pretty and svelte and can sing better than Sanjaya. But she certainly is not Melinda. Did the audience and judges learn nothing from the Jennifer Hudson debacle?

Speaking of also-rans, Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie have plighted their troth for another round of *The Simple(minded) Life.* At least until Paris goes to prison. As Roseanne Barr noted this week, “It’s so good, it almost makes up for OJ.”

And finally, we have no room for a rant of the week, so our quote of the week comes from Jay Leno, who had this to say about the immigration plan being proposed by Congress: “Under this new congressional plan, illegal immigrants would be able to live in the United States if they pay a $5,000 fine. *$5,000?* So, that would rule out working people or parents trying to support a family. However, you would get to keep all the drug dealers.”

*Ay carumba!* Stay tuned

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-Noah Greenberg