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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

September 11, 2007


Just to acknowledge 911 will never be enough, but to forgo all else is simply irresponsible. And although the testimony of both General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker deserves to be more than noted, I feel it's better to put their testimonies in perspective after President Bush speaks on Thursday.


There was an awful report on the economy just released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and to ignore that, in my opinion, would be irresponsible as well. So I won't. -NG

That Sucking Sound is the Bush Economy

Someone - anyone - take a look at the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. The latest numbers coming out of the aren't only disturbing, they're staggering! From July 2007 to August 2007 our nation lost 4,000 jobs, and that's after the spin was put on the numbers. In fact, if one takes into consideration that our population grows by an estimated 150,000 persons each and every month, the loss of jobs is much worse than it looks on the surface.

But when one examines the BLS numbers more closely, one will see an even worse employment climate burgeoning on the horizon, if it isn't here already. According to the numbers, 340,000 Americans are no longer in the Civilian Work Force. That number, down in August to 152,891,000 Americans from 153,231,000 in July is an aggregate of the number of Americans who lost their jobs plus the rise in unemployment.

In other words, the bush administration is attempting to put the spin on once again.

The true numbers show a loss of some 316,000 jobs with an additional 24,000 Americans joining the unemployment rolls. But, somehow, the unemployment rate stayed steady at a "mere" 4.6 percent.

"The national unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent,"
-President Bush in October, 2006

Bush made that statement when the unemployment rate went down by one-tenth of a percentage point in 2006. But even then, the numbers were fudged and not representative of what was really going on with the economy.

While the Civilian Labor force - that's all Americans who are working or are considered want to be working and thus "unemployed" - has dropped that 340,000 people from their ranks, and an additional 24 million joined those on the unemployment lines, an additional 592,000 Americans have decided that they no longer wish to work. They're in the "Not in Labor Force" category.

Does anyone trying to live in this nation while paying top dollar for health care, gasoline, home heating, etc; really believe that almost 600,000 Americans no longer want to work? C'mon!

Maybe all of these Americans are living so high on the hog that they no longer need to work. Maybe they've joined the ranks of the bush "base" of "haves and have mores". Maybe they all won the lottery! But I think that it's more likely that those who've lost their jobs in August still want to - and need to work.

And on further examination, one would see that the field of Education and health services - in other words, teachers - those who are off all summer - have shown their numbers to swell and add an additional 63,000 jobs. August, by the way, is the month when many of America's teachers come back to work. And while that was going on, we lost an additional 64,000 manufacturing jobs.

So much for the Industrial Revolution.

But you don't have to take my word for it, just look at what the BLS said itself:

"Manufacturing employment declined by 46,000 in August. This industry has lost 215,000 jobs over the past year."
-The report

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't 215,000 jobs in just eight months a lot?

And the manufacturing job glut is not particularly unique to any industry.

In August, declines were widespread among component industries. Within durable goods, there were job losses in motor vehicles and parts (-11,000), machinery (-7,000), wood products (-7,000), furniture and related products (-4,000), and semiconductors and electronic components (-4,000). In nondurable goods manufacturing, job losses continued in apparel (-4,000) and in textile mills (-2,000).

In other words, as President Bush so often likes to say, we can't afford to make the goods which we no longer can afford to buy. I wonder what would happen if we started making those goods here and provided the new-jobless a means of purchasing them?

So for all of his bellowing as to how well the economy is doing; and for all of his soapbox chatter on the amount of months in a row that he and his administration have created "job growth"; President Bush, in the end, has yet another failure to recover from. And if he somehow does this, then it'll make one.

-Noah Greenberg

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

When the lead story on the tube for a week is about a Republican, family-values-R-us Senator from Idaho getting caught in a *Dateline*-style gay-sex sting that leads to his on-camera resignation, can anything else on TV be worth discussing?

If we believed in conspiracy theories, which even after a decade of *The X Files* and two Bush terms we do not, we might think that Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales, along with their former boss, Mr. “The-War’s-Going-Great!” Bush, conspired to toss Sen. Larry Craig to the wolves to get the heat off themselves.

Craig’s downfall began with the press conference he held to blame people other than himself for the scandal, in this case the media. Craig introduced his speech with “I want to thank you all for coming out today.” That intro made it onto Jimmy Kimmel’s “Unintentional Joke of the Day” spot later that night. Kimmel also did a hilarious bit about proper bathroom etiquette when seeking anonymous sex in the mode of the old cautionary tale sex videos we were forced to watch in high school.

Everyone–real news and late night jokers–was also eager to replay Craig’s 1999 appearance on *Meet the Press* during the Lewinsky scandal. Kimmel noted it was the gayest thing he’d ever seen on TV and we’re pretty sure he’s right about *that.* If ever someone wanted to take Bill Clinton out behind the woodshed, it sounded like Sen. Craig wanted to. But our Bill doesn’t go that way.

Here’s the exchange between Tim Russert and Craig, *Meet the Press,* January 24, 1999:

RUSSERT: Larry Craig, would you want the last word from the Senate be an acquittal of the President and no censure?
SEN. CRAIG: Well, I will tell you that the Senate certainly can bring about a censure resolution and it’s a slap on the wrist. It’s a, “Bad boy, Bill Clinton. You’re a naughty boy." The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy, a naughty boy. I’m going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy.

*Wow.* The Republican wagons circled to demand Craig resign.

To add to the hypocrisy sweepstakes, the first person calling for the resignation was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) whose own campaign manager in Florida, Bob Allen, was charged with soliciting a plain clothes cop just last month under circumstances similar to Craig’s. Allen said he offered the cop oral sex because the man was the only African American in the bathroom and he was afraid of being robbed. (Too bad he and Craig couldn’t have gotten together and saved their careers while having I’m-not-gay! sex together.)

McCain appeared on CNN with John King.
JOHN MCCAIN: He pled guilty and he had the opportunity to plead innocent. So I think he should resign. My opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime, then you shouldn’t serve. And that’s not a moral stand. That’s not a holier than thou. It’s just a factual situation. I don’t try to judge people. but in this case, it’s clear that it was disgraceful.

Well, we have to agree that Craig’s behavior was disgraceful, but unlike McCain and the Republicans who seem to have the memory span of a gnat, we remember another Republican senator caught in the web of his own perversion in July. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was one of the names in the Washington Madam’s little black book and in the book of another Madam in Louisiana.

Now last time *we* looked, outside of Nevada, prostitution was illegal–on both sides of the bathroom stall. And Vitter, it was alleged, wasn’t just having your run-of-the-mill in and out burger at the brothels. Apparently Vitter liked being diapered. Yes, *diapered.*

So Vitter returns to the Senate unchafed, but McCain rushes onto CNN to talk about Craig’s disgrace? What about Vitter’s? If memory serves (and not being subject to the selective memory faculties of the Republicans, it *does*), the Republicans spent quite a few taxpayer millions prosecuting a case for impeachment against Bill Clinton for his *consensual* oral sex with a *woman* who wasn’t a *prostitute* and wasn’t in a *public, airport men’s room.*

And we would also like to note a few other names on the Republican roster of shame. Our column inches aren’t long enough to mention them all, but we don’t recall McCain on any talk shows discussing the *indictments* of Tom DeLay or Randy Cunningham or...well, you see the point. Apparently, earnest TV discourse is for the queer sting, only.

After ABC and NBC reported that a man came forward to say he’d had sex in the Union Station men’s room with Craig in Washington, the only person who seemed not to realize Craig would be forced to resign was Craig. One does note that Craig never said in his press conference that he’d never had sex with other men, just that he wasn’t *gay.* The videotape of his alleged sex partner is available online.

Craig’s week-long argument against resigning is that he never should have pled guilty. We would have to agree; no other Republicans caught with their pants down either literally or metaphorically have done so, and they seem to skate. A few, like Cunningham, end up in prison, but the majority, like Vitter and DeLay, manage to just go on lying and cheating their way through life unpunished.

DeLay was on *Today* August 30th lambasting the media for its focus on the Craig scandal, and got in a tiff with host Matt Lauer. Without a hint of irony, DeLay insisted that Republicans clean house of their scandalous characters (no mention of himself, here, however) while Democrats “re-elect them.” He also said the media is biased against Republicans in trouble.

Talk about your parallel universes. DeLay continued his rant on the August 31st *Hardball* with Chris Matthews, who, like Lauer, disagreed with DeLay’s fantasy.

Meanwhile, the final nail in the coffin for Craig was when CNN reported the plea agreement in full on August 31st. In the agreement, Craig not only admitted that he had "engaged in conduct which I knew or should have known tended to arouse alarm or resentment in others, which conduct was physical (versus verbal) in nature," but there is audiotape of him arguing with the hunky, blond police officer who caught him in the sting, who accuses him of lying in his explanation. Check it out at CNN or ABCnews.com. MSNBC then reported Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had filed their own complaint against Craig with the Senate Ethics Committee.

CREW executive director Melanie Sloan was pretty unforgiving, as ethics and responsibility folks tend to be: "If pleading guilty to charges stemming from an attempt to solicit an undercover officer in a public restroom is not conduct that reflects poorly upon the Senate, what is?"

Well, we answered that in noting Vitter, Cunningham and DeLay, but we got Sloan’s point.

We eschew schadenfreude because we find it frequently turns into karma. The Republicans who were so hot to fry up Clinton are now discovering this with their monthly sex scandals that so exceed Clinton’s minor infidelity, it’s stunning. That said, we do take a certain satisfaction in seeing these guys who tout family values on the floor of the Senate being hoisted on their own hypocritical petards, diapers and dropped-drawers in hand.

The day the scandal broke (and it did take two full months for that to happen, inexplicably), most Idahoans wanted Craig out.

We assume they meant out of the Senate seat, not the closet.

Here’s the news-you’re-not-seeing: When Craig was repeating over and over that he was not gay, he was equating pervert sex with gay sex. Now some of our best friends are gay and we’ve also known some perverts, but the fact is, pervert sex–sex with strangers in bathrooms, sex in diapers in brothels–really *is* different from the kind of sex most folks engage in, be they straight or queer.

Yet (and *why* are we surprised?) not one TV reporter noted this distinction, including Pete Williams, the token outed gay reporter over at NBC.

This equating of being gay with being a pervert was exacerbated by much of the reporting we’ve seen since the story first broke on August 27th.

The smarmiest came from the *Idaho Statesman.* Their editors and reporters were chatting up the TV media like a Madam with a package of *Luvs* to Sen. Vitter. The sanctimoniousness of these guys when being interviewed for the August 30th episode of *Nightline* was rather hard to take, the homophobia palpable.

If the investigation had been about the hypocrisy of Craig’s family values platform, that would have been one thing, but it was all about whether or not Craig was gay. They believed the voters had a right to know their Senator was a homo. *The end.* They put their call for his resignation on the front page of the August 31st issue and it was about his being gay–they were unequivocal in their comments to ABC’s John Donvan.

Craig may or may not be gay. *He* seems to think he’s not, but he clearly has issues with men and public bathrooms. So get him on the illegality, but don’t equate his behavior with normal gay relationships.

Ironic as the Craig story is in terms of the duplicity of the Republicans and their sycophants, this is really either a story about a closet queer so hopelessly in denial that he can’t think straight (pun intended) or it’s about someone with a serious sexual compulsion/addiction.

There’s a reason why plain clothes cops are in public restrooms for sex stings: it’s to catch the *married men* who think this is somehow a good place to see some free, live cock and possibly get a piece.

Call this one *Dateline: To Catch a Senator.* With the outrage mounting, so to speak, Craig was given the message on August 31st from fellow Republicans: *You are no longer welcome in the Senate.* Even Gonzales was forced to resign eventually, and Al was only caught doing what the Republicans approve of–tampering with the rights of citizens and the Constitution–with his pants *on.*

NBC noted that Craig said he was “stunned” that his friends and colleagues had turned on him so quickly and so violently. Guess he forgot how *he* used to talk about queers.

We almost feel sorry for Craig. His case–like those of Rep. Mark Foley and Rev. Ted Haggard–is another cautionary tale about the perils of the closet *and* verbal gay-bashing.

Meanwhile, the feeding frenzy on Capitol Hill extended to the pundits. Tucker Carlson was over at MSNBC on *Live with Dan Abrams* regaling Abrams and Joe Scarborough about the time he beat up a guy who “bothered” him in a public men’s room in Washington.

Here’s what went down, so to speak: Carlson said, "Having sex in a public men's room is outrageous. It's also really common. I've been bothered in men's rooms." Carlson continued, "I've been bothered in Georgetown Park," in Washington, D.C., "when I was in high school."

Abrams asked how Carlson responded to being "bothered." With the laughter of Abrams and Scarborough echoing behind his words, Carlson said, "I went back with someone I knew and grabbed the guy by the -- you know, and grabbed him, and ... hit him against the stall with his head, actually." The laughter continued.
Carlson went back and the guy was still there? *Really?* And *then* grabbed him by the “you know?” Is this an apocryphal tale?

The rumors about Carlson have been flying ever since he first showed his pink shirts and little bow ties around town, but he does appear to be heterosexual. So why did he feel the need to go get a guy who doesn’t wear a bow-tie and pink shirt and beat the hell out of a guy who made a pass at him?

Men make unwanted passes at women every second of every day. If women had the same overkill response that Carlson had to an unsolicited pass, we’d be living in a nation of *castrati.* GLAAD is asking folks to email MSNBC and complain about Carlson. You can view the clip at MSNBC.com. Then complain.

The story of Sen. Craig is a TV story more than anything–it’s about the power of TV images and videotape, the power of TV news to make or break someone’s career simply by dogging a story to its natural resolution.

We don’t think Craig should have had to resign when none of his fellow Republican sleazes have. We think they *all* should be forced to resign. We are glad Ted Haggard is out of the ministry and glad Foley and Craig are out of the Congress. But we would have liked to see Vitter out, too. And DeLay forced out, instead of being allowed to choose not to run. And Cheney forced out when he shot a lawyer in the face. And....

Soliciting sex in public places is a crime, being queer is not. Craig, Foley, Haggard and others like them built their careers in part on criminalizing gay men and lesbians. There’s a certain rough justice in the way their careers have ended because of their own criminal acts.

Unfortunately, without an appropriate context from TV news, which is where 90 percent of Americans get their news, the Craig story gets presented as the tale of a sex-crazed gay man willing to risk his life for a quickie in a men’s room.

We have said it before and we’ll say it again: There’s always part of the news you aren’t seeing. And *that’s* what GLAAD should be demanding from the networks–the flip side of this story.

If you want to see what a real gay relationship looks like, tune in to *As the World Turns* where Luke and Noah are trying to deal with the restrictions of homophobia on their growing love for each other. Yes, real kisses between two good-looking, not-crazy young men who aren’t in a men’s room. Imagine.

Stay tuned.

In response to Senator Lindsey Graham's (REPUBLICAN-SC) "If politicians in Washington pick an arbitrary date, an arbitrary number to withdraw, it's not going to push Baghdad politicians. It's going to re-energize an enemy that's on the mat," Eddie Konczal writes:

Well, the whole war was arbitrary to begin with, so why NOT set an arbitrary date to end it?

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-Noah Greenberg