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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, June 11, 2007


Immigration? Whoops!

Does anyone remember what actually started the whole immigration thing that's now sweeping the nation? Allow me to refresh your memories. President Bush, in another attempt to divide us Americans and solidify the GOP's perceived base (because we all know their real "base" only contains the "haves and have mores") put immigration reform on the table.

Prior to the Bushies wanting to use this issue as an additional polarizing issue no one was really talking about immigration at all. We all knew that illegal immigrants were here. We saw them on the street corners of Suburbia looking for day work; we saw them in our restaurants clearing tables and washing dishes; and we saw them in our gardens mowing our lawns and pruning our trees. They weren't exactly a secret.

But President Bush needed, or wanted, another wedge issue and he chose poorly. With good jobs being outsourced to places like India (How many of us have called Dell, Microsoft or even any one of a thousand other companies and heard a heavily accented Indian - from India - voice say, "Hello, this is Bill - How may I help you?") and manufacturing jobs being lost to every third world nation with a near-slave labor force, the President and his advisors didn't see that this particular Pandora's box contained immigration, jobs and the average American's wallet.


There is no right side on the immigration issue, as is evidenced by the strange bedfellows which this new bill has created. Both the Labor Left and the Protectionist Right hate the plan and they have the troops to follow them into battle. The bill itself calls for things which could never, ever happen. Just how are you going to finance the removal of some 12 million people? How are you going to force them to leave then say "Okay, come back in now?" How are you going to make sure that for every one illegal immigrant who leaves there aren't two more who sneak back in? And how are you going to collect back taxes from people who have been earning, in some cases, less than minimum wage and don't have two nickels to rub together? The rhetoric is deafening.

When Bush chose this issue it was meant to show Americans that the Democrats wanted to let everybody in unconditionally. But the plan which he endorsed is nothing short of an amnesty-slave hybrid which keeps these "illegals" in the shadows while allowing them in to take "the jobs Americans won't do", as President Bush puts it. In the end, it was the middle - a group of Democrats and moderate Republicans - who the President had to deal with to get this bill negotiated. His support, including those who have voted with him near 100 percent of the time, had no choice but to abandon him on this issue.

Immigration reform was supposed to help President Bush solidify his presidency, take the eye off His war in Iraq and make the nation hate the Democrats. Instead, what he got was a bill that isn't going to make it though the congress and leave him holding the bag.

-Noah Greenberg

...And How Will He Spin It?

"If they don't pass my immigration bill, they don't support the troops,"
"If they don't pass my immigration bill, the terrorists win,"
"If they don't pass my immigration bill, then they're just obstruction--- 'obtusive'--- then they're just in the way,"

I wonder which way President Bush is going to go. Right now, anyone paying attention knows that the only reason he wants to get this particular immigration bill passed is because it will bring cheap labor into businesses owned by his "base of "haves and have mores" while, at the same time, reducing the wages which the average American makes. That rate has gone down (according to real wage statistics) steadily since GW began taken up space at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The bill, as it stands now, would allow 200,000 immigrants to enter our nation as a "guest worker". Then, after a stay of two years, they have too leave for a year before being approved to come back for an additional two years. And they won't be able to bring their families with them. So, as they come here to work, they'll get to live five, six, ten to an apartment whjile they send their American dollars home to feed their families which they aren't allowed to see.

Let's call it what it is" Near-slavery. Maybe their US employers could "finance" the immigrants trip into the US so they can "repay" them in some sort of forced-labor/ indentured-servitude deal. That would really help business, wouldn't it?

The original bill would have called for 400,000 guest workers, a number which US industry feels is too small as well. I guess if they had their way Bush and his "base" would allow an endless stream of these "guest workers" to come into our nation to do the "jobs Americans won't do."

I was against NAFTA. I thought it was a bad deal for the US and, in the end, I was right. But the idea to lift a third-world nation (if that's what Mexico really is) up so their people won't want to - or have to leave is a good and noble idea. Just how is anything which allows for the exploitation of a neighboring nation's people by allowing their family unit to dissolve and forcing them to leave their homes supposed to help them anyway? Wouldn't it make some real sense to make our neighbor, our ally, into a place where its people would be able to stay?

"I'll see you at the bill signing,"

I hope he shows up and is there alone.

-Noah Greenberg

Are We Safer Now?

After passing the New York City Immigration office I started screaming as to why our government, led by President Bush, who claims to be so intent on protecting our safety, especially at airports, have once again relaxed the restrictions for traveling without a passport. If the reason is because there are long lines, then they have missed the point. This president is forgoing safety for convenience and it is he who undermines our safety.

They told us all from the beginning that if you wanted a passport, it would take extra time and a few extra dollars. Give me a break - this is ridiculous!

Similarly, upon entering an airport someone with many travel points or who is willing to pay a little more might get an easier time getting through airport security. Aren't we afraid of the terrorists any more?

-Jeffrey Wurmbrand


While most observers are focused on the U.S. Congress as it continues to issue new rubber stamps to legitimize Bush's permanent designs on Iraq, nationalists in the Iraqi parliament -- now representing a majority of the body -- continue to make progress toward bringing an end to their country's occupation.

The parliament today passed a binding resolution that will guarantee lawmakers an opportunity to block the extension of the U.N. mandate under which coalition troops now remain in Iraq when it comes up for renewal in December. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose cabinet is dominated by Iraqi separatists, may veto the measure. The law requires the parliament's approval of any future extensions of the mandate, which has previously been made by Iraq's prime minister. It is an enormous development; lawmakers reached in Baghdad today said that they do in fact plan on blocking the extension of the coalition's mandate when it comes up for renewal six months from now…

I am astounded at the lack of coverage in the mass media. Our media is truly useless. Keep in mind that one of the benchmarks passed in the emergency supplemental is that the US will leave Iraq if asked to leave. This appears to be a likely outcome. Will Bush and the GOP once again welsh on that benchmark? If they do, the GOP will have to live with that choice in 2008.

-Forwarded and commented by Robert Scardapane

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

If you were wondering what that high-pitched keening noise was coming from your TV set it could have been:
a) the sound of Paris Hilton being taken back to prison
b) the sound of the s*** hitting the fan in Washington as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace was forced into retirement
c) the sound of Carmela in the final episode of *The Sopranos*
d) the sound of the *Grey’s Anatomy* door hitting Isaiah Washington on his way out
e) all of the above.

Ah yes, weeks like this one remind us that even in the dog days of global warming spring, there are plenty of reasons to stay tuned.

So, it’s sizzling like pan-fried catfish in *Hell’s Kitchen* all over the country, but that didn’t keep Mr. Bush Goes to G8 from turning down the suggestions of his right-wing host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to try and stop global warming *now.* Would it *really* have been such a stretch to have the U.S. sign on with the entire EU to a plan to cut carbon emissions in half by 2040? It’s not exactly next week, after all.

Let’s review: The French, known for cheese, wine and collaborating with the Nazis, warned us not to go into Iraq in 2003. That led to Freedom Fries, a few thousand dead and maimed Americans and civil war in Iraq.

Now in 2007, the same folks (or is it *volks*?) who tried to take over the world and who annihilated six million Jews and ten million other people in the process, are warning us to do something about saving the planet and...we just won’t (insert foot stamping here).

Hmmm. Anyone care to guess how this mini-series will play out, or are those images from the BBC series *The Living Planet* of dying polar bears not vivid enough for you? Pardon our national pride, but is it possible for us to look *worse* as a nation than having the *French* and *Germans* as our moral superiors?

Here’s a question: Would it be *possible* for the media to actually report on the arrogance and stupidity of the Bush Administration, like with this latest gaffe at the G8? Or is real reporting just too, well, *declasse* among TV journalists? After all, when the Pentagon suddenly announced on June 8th that Pace was going to be the latest casualty of the Iraq War, the networks cut away from the press conference to report on the *real* news of the day: Paris Hilton going back to jail

Now we were as happy as the next paparazzi to see Paris burning, but nevertheless, the demotion of Pace was actual news. *Important* news. That impacts the country. Paris being taken back to jail, herpes or no herpes, was simply justice (finally) being served. (As George Lopez noted on *The Insider,* there were lots of Latino prisoners who might like house arrest also.) How exactly do *real* reporters justify pushing Pace aside for Paris?

We had been wondering this a few days earlier when Brian Ross, Chief Investigative Correspondent at ABC, broke his latest story on the sabre-rattling of the Bush Administration over Iran. And again, Paris going to prison the first time took center stage.

Ross has won an impressive five Peabody Awards for his journalistic expertise and a few Polk Awards as well. He was the guy who broke the story about the Bush Administration and “extraordinary rendition” (a really cool euphemism for sending people to countries that torture so that they can be tortured there while keeping the *actual* blood off your own hands). Ross was also the reporter who broke the story about Mark Foley, the sleazy Republican Congressman who was touting family values and burning queers at the proverbial stake by day for the Bush team and then trolling for hot male pages by night.

And now, Ross has broken the story about Bush signing on to the CIA destabilizing Iran from within.

So why isn’t this story a head-liner? Why did Ross break the story and then...poof! It just died in a news-cycle death while the Paris Hilton story sucked all the oxygen out of the media?

Except this isn’t Paris Hilton crying for her mother. This is the President of the U.S. setting in motion what the conspiracy kids like to call a “black ops” run at a foreign government.

Another tidbit that failed to catch fire was that the Pentagon thinks it’s a bad idea. Even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who’s rattled a few sabres herself now and again, is for diplomacy with Iran.

But Darth Vader, aka, Dick Cheney, is of course sounding the drums of war–because it’s worked so well for him thus far. And the Republican candidates for 2008 think a war with Iran is a pretty swell idea, according to the debate on June 7th. If that doesn’t give you pause, nothing will.

Speaking of pause: Must we reiterate in *every* column that it would be nice if *governments* could do the work of celebrities?

There we were, watching *Nightline* on June 7th, and Bono, replete with the requisite sunglasses (these were red) and earring, talked about his latest venture with Cynthia McFadden. Bono has just guest-edited the latest issue of *Vanity Fair.* It’s all about Africa. Celebrity (lesbian) photographer Annie Leibowitz shot 20 different covers for the issue, a first for the magazine. Of course, Bono *went* to Africa *again* to talk about the issue and why it was important.

Here’s what Bono had to say to McFadden: It’s criminal that we have extreme poverty in the world, that families are dying for lack of a few cents for mosquito netting and pills for diarrhea.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Perhaps because it is. Malaria kills 3,000 children a day, according to the U2 star. All for want of five cents worth of mosquito netting.

Can anyone find a compelling reason why this cannot be fixed? And easily? Check out ABCnews.com and click on *Nightline* for the full interview.

Another little celebrity cadre–the cast of our fave show, *Boston Legal–just put together enough bucks for Habitat for Humanity to begin construction on some houses in Los Angeles’ Elysian Park. The show’s Emmy-winning star, the inimitable and always hilarious William Shatner, also contributed the $25,000 he raised auctioning off the kidney stone that nearly killed him a few months ago.

Speaking of contributions to humanity, a recent episode of *Nightline* took on the state of women in Afghanistan. Afghan writer Khaled Hosseini was discussing his latest book, *A Thousand Splendid Suns,* in which two Afghan women are the wives of the same brutal husband and begin to love each other.

We recommend the book, but we also recommend catching the playback of the interview at ABCnews.com, because Hosseini really put the lie to the image of all Muslim men as vicious, cruel subjugators of women. He talked about the debasement of women through the institutionalization of the burka. He said he wished every woman in Afghanistan could remove their veils *en masse.*

Hosseini is an amazing man–honest, self-deprecating and compassionate. He cannot be the only man from the Islamic world who thinks and speaks as he does. But the interview with him certainly provided an impressive antidote to the usual representations of Islamic men we see on the news.

Speaking of news, we were pretty excited to see that ABC and *Grey’s Anatomy* creator and producer Shondra Rhimes have decided, months after they should have done, to show Isaiah Washington the door.

Washington was officially fired on June 8th, but a set-side source said the show had been trying to work things out to keep other high-profile characters on the show and Washington’s presence has been a “continuing source of conflict,” according to the source.

Washington got into a brawl with cast-mate Patrick Dempsey (Dr. McDreamy) back in October 2006 on the set of the hit series. It was revealed that Dempsey clocked Washington after the actor allegedly called another cast-mate, T.R. Knight, a “faggot.” The incident led to Knight coming out publicly on the *Ellen* show.

Then in January, when *Grey’s Anatomy* won an Emmy, Washington grabbed the mic and told the audience “I did not call T.R. a faggot!”

That incident created such controversy that Washington fled to rehab for eight days. Last month he made a PSA on hate speech for GLAAD. But apparently it was all a little too little, a little too late. Set-side sources have said the tension among Washington, Dempsey and Knight is “intense” and that Rhimes was concerned about retaining Knight and his cast mate and good friend, Katherine Heigl (currently starring in *Knocked Up* to rave reviews), so Washington’s contract was cut.

We’d just like to reiterate what we wrote here last October and again in January: if Knight had called Washington a “nigger,” does anyone think it would have taken eight months for him to be fired?

Meanwhile, Washington’s agent, Howard Bragman, suggested in a June 9th statement, that Washington might sue. Stay tuned.

Speaking of prima donna behavior, we were watching the debut of *America’s Got Talent* (it doesn’t seem to have much, this season) and new judge Sharon Osbourne stormed off the stage in a tantrum, ripping off her false eyelashes and dropping them on the floor as she went.

The tiff was over fellow judge Piers Morgan’s utterly appropriate (in our estimation) critique of a tarted-up nine-year-old’s weak gymnastic performance. Osbourne went back to the stage and Morgan apologized to the child, but we were left wondering if this would become *de rigeur* as the show went on over the summer. Morgan tends to be tough (there seems to be no dearth of bitchy British guys to judge on these reality shows), but unlike *American Idol’s* Simon Cowell, he’s also fair.

The show *does* premiere some interesting antics, however–like the Pec Brothers, two guys who flexed their pecs to the banjo music from *Deliverance.* The performance prompted Osbourne to comment to the hairy twosome “Have you considered waxing?”

The reality show we’re in love with for the summer, however, is Fox’s *Hell’s Kitchen.*

Chef Gordon Ramsay, another Brit with attitude to spare, takes on two teams of male and female chefs, one of whom will win the opportunity to run his or her own restaurant.

It’s like *The Apprentice* meets *Survivor.* You might not want to eat out for a while after watching it, and it’s pretty intense viewing, but unlike just about every other reality show in the reality summer viewing spectrum, it’s immensely addictive. On Mondays. You can catch up with the first episode at Fox.com.

Finally, two good-byes fill our usual Rant of the Week slot. Bob Barker filmed his last episode of *The Price is Right* this and after 50 years in show biz and 35 on the tube as the host of *The Price is Right,* he’s exiting with humor and grace.

We have never been a fan of game shows, but millions are and Barker was the all-time great populist host. He also never ended a show without reminding his audience to spay and neuter their pets to prevent pet over-population which is rampant in America (more than three million domestic animals are euthanized each year simply because they have no homes).

Barker was a fixture for many TV viewers. It’s difficult to imagine who could replace him. But at 83, he deserves a rest. Barker will be devoting his time to animal welfare causes. We wish him well.

It’s difficult to know what to wish for Tony Soprano, but few TV shows have done what David Chase’s runaway HBO hit did.

Some TV shows reshape the landscape of television. Stephen Bochco did it with *NYPD Blue,* and David Chase did it with *The Sopranos.* Chase said in an interview on *Nightline* June 8th, right before the June 10th–and final–episode of *The Sopranos* aired, that sometimes “Words kill art.”

Chase reinvented the pregnant pause and the meaningful stare, elevating them to their own art form.

It’s difficult to imagine another program that the audience would wait 18 months for, and yet they did. Tony Soprano may be gone, but his legacy as the depressed mobster who always–well, almost–played by the rules, lives on. Dr. Melfi might have dropped Tony, but we won’t.

*The Sopranos* joins the all-too-short list of the best TV shows ever. If for some reason you missed it, all but the final season are available on DVD and Christmas 2007 will bring the full set release. Don’t faggedaboudit.

Stay tuned.

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-Noah Greenberg