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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Justice, Chinese Style

Sacrificial lambs who throw themselves onto the alter (or are thrown onto that alter) for the Bush administration are given pensions, book deals and Medals of Freedom. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for example, lied to the FBI, federal prosecutors and a grand jury; was given a 30-month jail sentence; had a presidential candidate (actor and former US Senator from Tennessee Fred Thompson) arrange his legal defense fund; and then still had his sentence commuted by President Bush. No doubt he will also make millions on the lecture circuit or find his way back into politics once pardoned by President Bush after the elections of 2008.

However, things are just a tad different in Communist China.

In the past few months, imports of farm-raised fish and shrimp, toys and toothpaste have been stopped by the US because of unsafe handling and materials in those items. And the guy that's getting the blame, and the axe (literally) is former State Food and Drug Administration director Zheng Xiaoyu. Mainland China's official news agency confirmed the execution of the former top government official.

Zheng ran the "watchdog" group from 1998 through 2005 as a part of his own, personal retirement fund. Taking bribes for approving six medicines which turned out to be fake and helping cause the death of ten people due to a bad antibiotic seems to be looked down upon by the Communist Chinese. One wonders how that would have been handled here in the US.

And many of these products approved by China's FDA while it was Zheng's agency are on the world market. An antibiotic laced with contaminate diethylene glycol is being used in Chile as I write this. Perhaps we should create our own drugs right here in the USA.

Now I don't know if the late Mr. Zheng was given a fair trial or was simply used as a scapegoat. Likewise I'm not sure that the charges that he put the Chinese people, and the world, in jeopardy for the total sum of $832,000 (peanuts in the world of LEGAL GOP politics) isn't accurate. What I am sure of is that the Bush administration, a.k.a. The Administration of Diminished Responsibility, would have done their best to sweep accusations such as these under the table unless, somehow, someone with a conscience in the media (a dwindling group) found out about it.

I wouldn't even put it past them to have the President claim "Executive Privilege" in such a case. Consider the cases of Libby and Enron as your proof.

Perhaps China's punishment is a bit harsh, but I'll guarantee you one thing: It makes a would-be criminal think twice.

-Noah Greenberg

Scooter Libby and Paris Hilton

In case you lost your playbook, here are the top 10 differences between "Scooter" Libby and Paris Hilton:

10- Hilton is a cute blond girl. Libby is a middle aged blond man his mother thinks is cute.
9- “Scooter” Libby is named after a toy. Paris Hilton is named after a city.
8- Hilton, a socialite, is convicted of drunk driving and driving without a license. Libby, a lawyer, is convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury.
7- Everyone knows Hilton's first name. No one knows Libby's first name. This is because the Vice President recently had it classified "top secret."
6- An ex-boyfriend posted videos on the internet of Hilton having sex. Libby posted the name of a CIA Agent he wanted to screw, but they did not have sex.
5- Hilton served a few days of her sentence and says she is sorry for what she did. Libby didn't serve any time and is sorry he got caught.
4- Libby is an unemployed ‘Chief of Staff’ who's former boss once shot a friend in the face. Hilton employs a ‘Chief of Staff’ but never shot any of her friends in the face.
3- Hilton’s actions – driving while intoxicated – jeopardized the lives of people in Southern California. Libby’s actions – identifying CIA agents and creating “evidence” to wage a war – endanger the national security of the United States.
2- Hilton is like the Princess Jasmine character from Disney’s 1992 animated feature, “Aladdin.” Libby is like Iago, the parrot belonging to Jafar, the evil Grand Vizier.
1- Due to his conviction of Perjury and Obstruction of Justice, unless pardoned, Libby will be prohibited from practicing law in the United States. Even though convicted of drunk driving, Hilton can still become President of the United States.

-Larry Furman

More Bush Family "Sacrifices"

And finally: The Bush twins were out "having fun last week" in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. The girls "had a handful of preppy-looking boys surrounding them." The DC Examiner reports, "Jenna looked great and was enjoying standing outside with her cigarette talking to her tall, country-club-looking friends who appeared to be 35-plus. ... Barbara had a nice-looking black dress on and [had] what looked like a Jager bomb towards the end of the night."
-from Progress report, submitted by Victoria Brownworth with the following comment:

Cigarettes and Jager. Good to know they're sacrificing for the war, just like their Daddy did during Vietnam.

-Forwarded and commented by Victoria Brownworth

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

Just about everything we’ve seen on the tube lately (including things that haven’t even hit the tube yet, but which we’ve previewed and can guarantee you’ll hate as much as we did) has been, well, awful.

There’s the usual, of course: Lots of Bad Stuff Out of Washington. We particularly liked the news item about how Scooter Libby just *wrote a check* for his $250,000 fine after Bush commuted his sentence because Libby had “suffered enough.” (If you can write out a check for a quarter mil without blinking, you definitely have *not* suffered enough.) According to ABC news, supporters of Libby raised $5 million to pay his fines, but he paid them himself.

How very white-collar criminal of him.

Anyway, back to the other drek on the tube. It’s our contention that all that the damage the Bush Administration has done to the country is responsible for the current dearth of anything worth watching on TV.

Here’s our theory: During the Great Depression, Americans were watching the mindless musicals of Busby Berkeley to cheer themselves. Now that we are living in the Slough of Despond under George Bush, game shows have returned to TV because actually thinking might cause mass suicide among the populace.

Now we admit to loving *Jeopardy,* but that *is* a show for smart people. Not so the new slate of game shows flooding the airwaves, each stupider than the next.

We watched Fox’s *Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?* and *we* were, but the contestants weren’t. (If English is your first language–or only language–and you don’t know what a possessive pronoun is, you need far more help than a game show or a fifth grader can give you.) The idea that people are winning money–real money, not Monopoly money or Bush Administration Stock Market money–to prove they are smarter than *a 5th grader* is just sooo pathetic.

The only way this show could be anything but painful is if George Bush were a contestant. But then that would be a Michael Moore short documentary, wouldn’t it?

Apparently the reason Jimmy Kimmel only has re-runs on *Jimmy Kimmel Live* is because his new game show *Set for Life* premieres on July 20th (ABC). We think ABC should just retire the late night show, since we are really, really tired of seeing the same three guests over and over like a demented night-time version of *Groundhog Day.* At least stop calling the show *Jimmy Kimmel Live.* It hasn’t been live since before Paris Hilton went to prison.

Drew Carey’s new game show, *The Power of 10,* debuts August 7th on CBS. We preferred the actual *Drew Carey Show,* which at least had transvestites and Craig Ferguson. This just has questions like “What percentage of Americans thinks they are smarter than George Bush?”

Meanwhile, Fox is vying with NBC for the same lame game show–a karaoke special. Fox debuts *Don’t Forget the Lyrics* with Wayne Brady as host while NBC hits the tube with *The Singing Bee,* hosted by former ‘N Sync member and *Dancing with the Stars* contestant Joey Fatone.

All that effort to get two terrible shows on the air within a day of each other, so that we can all watch people who can’t sing, sing and maybe remember the lyrics and get money if they do.
Now *that’s* entertainment.
Probably because other dreadful game shows are, incredibly, still on the air, both NBC and Fox thought this was a good idea.

Our candidate for the worst new game show was previously NBC’s *National Bingo Night,* but it’s been outstripped by ABC’s ghastly train wreck, *The Next Best Thing.*

This show is not even close to a best thing. The “contest” to be a celebrity look-alike (yes, that *is* the premise) is not even campy. It’s not fun, like the ringers on *American Idol* or *America’s Got Talent.* It just ranges from pathetic to embarrassing to, as Seinfeld would say, cringe-worthy.

Speaking of cringe-worthy, there was the gay San Francisco couple on *American Inventor,* another terrible contestant reality/game show, who invented (if you could call it that) a therapy doll that, when you stroke it, coos “everything will be alright.”

The main inventor, Richard Kopelle, got the sack last season, so he came back with the same invention to be vindicated, as he said about a trillion times in five minutes. Peter Jones, the Requisite Vicious Brit Judge, trashed the invention again. But the other three judges voted it in. Kopelle named his two therapy dolls Peter Jones and Simon Cowell (the show’s producer who is the prototype for the Requisite Vicious Brit Judge on *American Idol*) and then showed their off-spring, a tiny version of the therapy buddy. Oh, ick.

This melding of the game show with the reality show for a truly misery-inducing hour is what’s passing for TV this summer, making the best thing on TV right now the promos for the new fall lineup. September, September, where for art thou, September?

One show that we just don’t know *what* to say about is ABC’s reality show *Shaq’s Big Challenge.* This show is more disturbing than anything else. It’s not so much a train wreck as a human wreck, and unlike ABC’s other reality series *Extreme Makeover,* or NBC’s *The Biggest Loser,* there doesn’t seem to be a happy ending in sight.

Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal has taken on America’s shameful epidemic of childhood obesity. Shaq has trimmed down quite a bit himself. Still gargantuan and freakish at 7"2' and 340 pounds, but trimmer than he was.

So he’s got these six fat kids in tow. Grotesquely fat kids–11-year-olds who weigh 200 pounds, 14-year-olds who weigh nearly 300 pounds. The goal: to get the kids healthy and fit.

Good luck. These kids are, well, kids. They are bratty and self-absorbed and all they do is cram food in their mouths with no intervention from their–surprise–fat families.

We’re of the mind that obesity in children is a form of child abuse. After all, someone is feeding the child that much food. There’s no real accountability on this show and the parents get off unscathed, which we disapprove of, mightily.

We admire Shaq for drawing attention to this issue, but we really don’t see that he’s getting anywhere. He reveals harrowing facts about childhood obesity in America. These kids will be lucky to live to see 40 at the rate their arteries are clogging. And we were stunned to discover that only six percent of American schools have mandatory physical education classes. No wonder kids are fat!

But despite the distressing facts, it’s just not very riveting TV, watching fat kids cram pizza dipped in garlic butter sauce into their mouths. It’s just a combination of disturbing and revolting, without the joy of resolution, like on *Supernanny.* Mostly we come away from the hour wanting to smack the parents senseless and put the kids in isolation tanks until they lose weight.

Speaking of smacking people senseless, we’d like to do that to the folks over at MTV for their unbelievable bad form.

No, it’s not just the usual bad TV, it’s far worse.

On the July 4th episode of *Nightline,* Martin Bashir told the story of Darius Weems, a 17-year-old African American kid with Muscular Dystrophy, the same disease that killed Bashir’s brother.

Logan Smalley, a “punk kid” from Athens, Georgia where Weems lives, was forced to do some community service by his mother. This led to his meeting Weems and embarking on a documentary about Weems, whose brother died of the same disease at 19.

Smalley and ten friends decided to take Weems from Georgia to California to have the MTV show *Pimp My Ride* pimp up Weems’ wheelchair. The documentary *Darius Goes West* is now being shown at film festivals across the nation.

But when Darius and company arrive in California, MTV refuses to pimp the wheelchair (hey–why alter their rep for being self-absorbed, privileged ass wipes?). Then a local auto detailer steps in an does it. Deeply moving stuff. (See the *Nightline* segment at ABCnews.com and then send a nasty email to MTV. *Please.*)
What else do we hate on the tube right now–so much to choose from....

Well, we hate that the soaps have been hijacked for the summer by the teen squad. It’s great if you’re a pedophile, as they are mostly half-naked. No need to get caught in an internet sting a la *Dateline.*

But it’s boring. Particularly as the one token gay teen in soapdom, Luke Snyder (Van Hansis) on*As the World Turns,* has fallen for the new guy in town, Noah (Jake Silbermann), who seems slated to play summer romance with Maddie (Alexandra Chando), despite an accidental hand-touching-hand sequence between Luke and Noah.

Not *again.*

Is it really possible that this is the *second* summer that Luke will *not* be having a boyfriend on *ATWT*? Isn’t it enough that he’s the only queer on a soap since Bianca and Zoe left town on *All My Children*? And on *The Bold and The Beautiful,*really–wouldn’t it be much more believable to have Rick (the hunky Kyle Lowder) and Constantine (Maroulis, from *American Idol*) be lovers than have Rick with the sappy and increasingly insufferable Phoebe (MacKenzie Mauzy)? But then we are expected to have *such* suspension of disbelief with that show, since there isn’t a single gay person in the entire fashion family. Because *that’s* believable.

Come on, folks, take some risks–you know, like *not*bringing someone back from the dead or *not* losing or gaining an evil twin. (Speaking of which–*where* is Phoebe’s twin sister Stephanie?) Or having a gay character *somewhere*–like in the fashion industry where they actually *are* so it’s not like it would be a stretch.

Speaking of stretches, since it’s summer and the tube is in a lull and everyone is especially body conscious, for a while we’ve just been *looking* at people. Looking to see whose face moves, who’s paralyzed by Botox, whose lips are plumped like blowfish. Mostly we have been looking at the differences between men and women on TV, particularly on the soaps where the bodies are the most buff and the most fake.

Pardon us for sounding feminist, as we know that’s passe, but it *does* seem to us that women have to look a whole lot different from men on the tube, especially on the soaps. Which leads us to our Rant of the Week.

Back in 1962, Angela Lansbury played Lawrence Harvey’s mother in *The Manchurian Candidate.* Lansbury was 37, Harvey was 34. In 1991, Kate Nelligan was 42 when she played Nick Nolte’s mother in *The Prince of Tides.* Nolte was 50.

On *B&B,* British actress Lesley-Anne Down, 53, has been playing the mother of Jack Wagner, 48, for the past three years. On the same soap, Emmy-winner Susan Flannery, 61, has played the mother of Ronn Moss, 55, for the entire 20-year run of the soap (which is the most popular in the world).

Now we know that puberty is coming earlier and earlier for girls, but...we’ve checked our Guinness Book of World Records and have found no records of girls giving birth at age four, five and six.
Of course what Down and Flannery (and no, we can’t verify if she’s a lesbian or not, we can only verify that she’s never married and that the rumors have been flying for 30 years) have in common is that they have not had plastic surgery. Flannery looks her age. Down, despite being extremely glamorous, looks her age as well.

But so do Wagner and Moss, who *also* haven’t had plastic surgery. Meanwhile, Hunter Tylo, 45, the actress playing Taylor Hayes, the wife of Wagner’s character, Nick Marone, and former wife of Moss’s character, Ridge Forrester, has had extensive plastic surgery. But rather than it having made her look younger, it has only made her look incredibly freakish. Websites abound with comments about how her plastic surgery has destroyed her previous beauty.

Tylo is not alone, however. Seen Heather Locklear smile or move her face lately? What about any of the women on *Desperate Housewives*? *Brothers and Sisters*? How difficult is it to act only moving your eyes around in their sockets?

Meanwhile, over on *As the World Turns,* we have women who are aging well without surgery. They are also playing age-appropriate roles, like Elizabeth Hubbard and Marie Masters (and no, we don’t have confirmation that either of them is queer either, just more rumors). Both Hubbard and Masters look really good–and really *real.* And Kathryn Hays, who’s been on the soap for 35 years and is a former model, is still quite beautiful at 73 without having had herself nipped and tucked. She looks trim and elegant.

So here’s our memo to the soaps: Less Botox and surgical enhancements and more realism–be it in presentation or in storyline. It makes no sense that the soaps take on some of the riskiest issues in daytime (Erica Kane had an abortion on *AMC* decades ago, as did Ashley Abbott on *The Young and the Restless*; *ATWT* had a gay/AIDS storyline 20 years ago, but can’t get Luke all the way out of the closet now) but still can’t get queer characters or characters of color fully integrated into the shows. It’s 2007–your demographic is no longer just elderly white women.

Finally, one last rant: Since when did former President Bill Clinton become “Bubba” on the *news*? ABC has been a prime offender with this one, referring to Clinton as “Bubba” repeatedly in news segments about Hillary Clinton’s run for president.

We don’t care whether ABC approves of the Clintons or not, but we *do* care that they have spent inordinate hours toadying to the Bush dynasty. So let’s just show a modicum of respect and a little less obviousness, shall we? Don’t call Clinton “Bubba”–unless you start calling the current resident of the White House “Dumbass” or “Killer.”

Stay tuned, or better still, go brush up on your possessive pronouns.

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-Noah Greenberg