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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

October 15, 2007


Winter, 07-09

October 8, 2007 sets a new record, and it isn't a record that most of us living in the colder weather areas of the nation are going to be proud of. The cost of heating one's home has always increased along with the price of crude oil, and with the cost of crude skyrocketing, yet again, so will the price we pay to keep our homes, and ourselves warm this winter.

In the U.S. Weekly No. 2 Heating Oil Residential Price (Cents per Gallon Excluding Taxes), published by the US Department of Energy, we'll see that the average household now pays $2.77 per gallon of home heating oil. Conversely, on January 22, 2001, two days after George W. Bush was sworn in as President, the price per gallon was $1.53, and increase of nearly 81 percent.

No matter how much the Bushies say the economy has grown, we all know it hasn't grown enough to make up that difference. And with added costs such as the rise in home prices; health care costs (20 cents on every dollar goes towards health care costs); and just about everything else the middle class pays for or subsidizes the rest of the nation for, home heating costs hurts more than ever.

And it gets worse. In the wake of the Bush election, it appeared that prices for crude oil, and its dependent home heating fuel, actually went down. From that same January 22, 2001 date through March 4, 2007, one will notice a drop in the rate from $1.53 to $1.16, a drop of 25 percent. In was up again to the 2001 rate in a mere ten months and has risen quickly ever since.

The increase from March 4, 2002 to the present October 8, 2007 number is a killer to anyone who has to pay home heating costs: 139 percent. That means that those us paying $200 per month to heat our homes at the end of Winter, 2002 are now paying $478 per month. And with the increases of the other costs mentioned above, car insurance and the loss of middle class programs slashed by the Bushies in favor of Corporate Welfare programs to help the Bush "base" of "haves and have mores", is it any wonder that the economy is in the toilet for the vast majority of us regular Americans?

And don't look for relief from our federal government. they have already shown their distaste for helping us regular people. Sure, President bush will make an appearance or two at an elderly home in Maine while vacationing with Mommy Barbara and Daddy Bush - after all, no sense in wasting an opportunity for a photo-op. And sure he'll talk the good game, as he always does, but in the end nothing for us will get done. (Although I'll bet there will be some Energy Company Welfare plan pushed by the Bushies before the Winter is out.)

We all look at gas prices because just about everyone has to purchase fuel for our cars and trucks. But in Wintertime, there's less driving and more huddling for warmth, and that's just what some will have to do.

Many home owners are already familiar with their electric and home heating "budget plans", which allow home owners to spread the cost of heating and cooling their homes over the whole year. And when that year is over, the gas and electric companies adjust the prices accordingly. And if you're the one writing the checks, you know just how far your dollar isn't going.

And as long as we allow this administration that kind of free hand; and if we allow the GOP another term in the White House, it simply will never change.

-Noah Greenberg

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

There’s something about hoisting and petards that we really like to watch. So naturally the singular moment of our TV week was the middle-of-the-night announcement on our TV news crawl: *Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have just won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and lay the foundations for counteracting it.*

Ah, *schadenfreude.* Or in the case of George Bush, the karmic cycle comes full circle. We’d like to add a few things that the TV news left out, as it is wont to do.

If the U.S. Supreme Court had voted correctly to continue the vote count in Florida, Gore would have taken what has now been determined to have been his rightful place as President in 2000 and America (and the world) would not have spent the past seven years embroiled in a series of catastrophic foreign engagements, culminating in the war on Iraq.

*There.* The news you’re not seeing.

And for all those who said in 2000 that Gore and Bush were “interchangeable”–the evidence kind of proves otherwise, doesn’t it? Seven years spent saving the planet versus seven years spent destroying it. Wonder why we didn’t hear congrats on the Nobel from either Bush or that other guy–Ralph Nader.

So that’s the commentary you aren’t going to get on the Sunday morning shows, sadly. Those shows are spending all their time trying to find something to pin on Hillary Clinton to bring her ever-rising numbers down.

Thus far the all-too-real vast right wing conspiracy hasn’t come up with anything. But as George Will noted last Sunday on *This Week,* every candidate who crested 50 percent in the polls since the taking of polls began went on to become president. And then he wrung his hands.

The October surprises haven’t just been political, however. Learning from past experience, the networks have been continuing to stagger the release of the new shows in an effort to continue to find those elusive viewers straying–but not liking it more–to cable.

Several new releases captured our eye–and then our hearts.

Probably the best new show on network TV is ABC’s wildly quirky and seriously retro mystery *Pushing Daisies.* The show is situated in a “who is the audience for this crazy little show” spot in the utterly inappropriate earliest prime time slot on the worst possible day to catch an audience–Wednesday–opposite the CBS ratings-grabber *Kid Nation.* (We *still* can’t believe they let those kids kill the chickens!)

But trust us–*Pushing Daisies,*a campy 60s-style extravaganza, is worth Tivoing, DVRing, VCRing or just plain watching. It’s fabulous.

First, *PD* has stellar acting with a cast that includes the winsome lead played by Lee Pace, Swoozie Kurtz as a former synchronized swimmer with an eye-patch, the inimitable, Tony-winning Kristen Chenoweth, who bursts into song at the best moments and the ever-versatile Chi McBride (*Boston Public,* *The Nine*) as a burly private eye who knits when he’s nervous (yes, a little like Rosie Grier). The sets are luminously beautiful, the plots are wildly improbable and the hour just flies by. *PD* is heartbreakingly good and leaves one misty-eyed. Don’t miss it.

We’re kind of over the whole *Ocean’s 11, 12, 13, ad infinitum* genre, but then Hugh Jackman and Melanie Griffith star in the debuting *Viva Laughlin* and that just can’t help but be a lure.

The hunky, rough-trade Aussie Jackman steps away from Wolverine to bolster an already impressive cast on the CBS drama, playing Nicky Fontana, mobster et alia. Lloyd Owen plays Ripley Holden, Madchen Amick is Natalie Holden and Griffith is Bunny Baxter. (The promos have shown Baxter being kissed by another woman. The show is definitely going for the adult audience.)

*Viva Laughlin* is sharp and skillfully done. It is *not* NBC’s *Las Vegas,* anymore than Laughlin is Sin City. One could say *VL* is well worth the gamble. It debuts October 18th and then moves into its permanent slot on October 21st.

Every new season has its guilty pleasures. Those shows that really aren’t good for you, but which you just can’t help watching. ABC’s *Dirty Sexy Money* is that show. We love everything about it. Smart, witty and sexy, it just reeks of bad fun.

We are especially loving the antics of Carmelita (Candis Cane) who plays Patrick Darling’s (William Baldwin) transgendered mistress. (Darling is running for the Senate and is, of course, married.) Cane is great in the small but meaty role and is groundbreaking as the first transgendered MTF to be playing an MTF in a prime time show. There have been numerous scenes of the Cane and Baldwin in bed together, naked. And Baldwin has said on the tabloid shows like *Insider* that he hasn’t had any problem with either those scenes or the kissing, of which there is much.

It’s just one aspect of the edginess of this superbly acted and mesmerizingly good soaper. Not to be missed is Donald Sutherland’s nuanced performance as the patriarch of the Darling family. As much as we hated him in *Commander in Chief* we love him in *DSM.*

Meanwhile, on the unpleasant side of the TV/TG controversies, we have GLAAD coming out over a slam from the New York Post.

Now, the Post is a right-wing Rupert Murdoch tabloid so we don’t expect much from them. And GLAAD is always half-asleep, so we’ve learned not to expect much from *them,* either. (Have they even noticed that Isaiah Washington went right from his firing at ABC for his homophobic slurs on the set of *Grey’s Anatomy* into another prime time gig at the very excellent new NBC thriller *Bionic Woman*?)

Nevertheless, even the stopped clock is right twice a day and GLAAD at least had it half-right on the Post. GLAAD objected to commentary in the Post about an upcoming reality show on Fox. The show is sleazy beyond belief, but then it *is* Fox, home of the sleazy reality show.

GLAAD objected to the Post calling the star of the upcoming show–*There’s Something About Miriam*–a “she-male.” The Post then added insult to injury, as it so often does, being a Murdoch paper. When GLAAD contacted Page Six editor Richard Johnson to complain about the description of Miriam, Johnson e-mailed this response: “You're kidding me, aren't you? I would have used ‘chick with a dick,’ but we're a family newspaper.”

Of course the Post is trying to have its cake and eat it too, because Fox owns both the paper and the show.

Nevertheless, we also object to the Post’s characterization of Miriam–on all counts. But we would have liked GLAAD to take their objection further. The show is one more in the growing list of exploitative “let’s use queers to screw with the heads of straight people to the detriment of everyone” shows that have been popping up here and there for the past few seasons. In this one, the catch is that Miriam is MTF and the straight men vying for a date with her don’t know it.

How many ways can you say ick? Is the point to have the men then hurl insults at Miriam? Or possibly punch her? Because that *is* the way most straight guys would respond to being sexually punked. And we just can’t see how that kind of set-up benefits anyone. It just perpetuates the transgendered-as-freak perspective.
GLAAD should have also objected to the sleaze-factor of the show as well as the slur. We don’t care that the show got great ratings when it ran in Britain in 2004. That’s par for the course in the U.K., where racism besmirched the latest run of *Big Brother* and homophobia is rampant.

ABC got it right: they have an actual love affair going on between an MTF and a straight man on *DSM.* It’s not just a sexual fling, it’s an actual *affaire du coeur.* Patrick Darling is risking his career for the woman he loves. That’s cool and edgy and fresh. The Fox stuff is just more of the same–creepy, icky, muck-wrestling.
Oprah also got it right in her October 12th show on MTFs who stay married to their wives after transitioning. The in-depth interviews with two families was both eye-opening and compassionate. We don’t pretend we understand how these families manage, but we were impressed by the integrity of all the people involved and how Oprah asked all the right questions.

Kudos to ABC, fie on Fox.

Oprah also gets kudos for bringing to light a new phenomenon on her October 10th show (if you missed either show, check them out at Oprah.com). “Womb rental” is the term being used for American couples using surrogates in India to deal with their infertility issues. Discovery channel’s Lisa Ling traveled to India with an American couple who have tried to have a child of their own for several years.

The infertile couples are outsourcing to India for the same reason companies are: the labor is much cheaper. Surrogates can be bought for between $5,000 and $10,000. In the U.S. it costs over $80,000.

Meanwhile, the Indian women get money to support their families and buy modest housing instead of a shack.

It was an unsettling show. One could easily see the benefit to the Indian woman who lives on an annual income of $300–$5,000 is a lifetime’s cash and who wouldn’t want these women to have more than they do? Conversely, the exploitation aspect cannot be denied. Women of color in the developing world are cheaper. We applaud Oprah bringing us the story, but we aren’t sure how we feel about it.

Meanwhile, over on CBS,*As the World Turns,* continues to evolve the story of Luke and Noah in daytime’s first real-life gay male love story. (Sorry *Passions* fans–the over-the-top hijinks of the late, great, crazy NBC sudser are in no way real life, even if there was some gay hanky-panky.)

Once again we have to say that the acting by Van Hansis as Luke has been nuanced and ultra-realistic. Give that boy an Emmy, now–not just another nomination. Don’t make him wait like Eden Riegel had to with her portrayal of *All My Children’s* Bianca.

The story took a deadly turn last week, however, when Noah’s homophobic military dad took the two boys on a camping trip and shot Luke, who is now paralyzed from the waist down (of course)—possibly for life.

These two kids just started college. Noah *was* dating Luke’s best friend, Maddie. But then “the kiss” happened between Luke and Noah (check it out at YouTube) and Maddie discovered that her new boyfriend was striving for normalcy–or at least not-gay-ness–with her.

Not enough can be said about how good this storyline has been, once it finally took off. *ATWT* brought Luke out of the closet and then left him dangling for two years. Now the storyline has taken off, and it’s marvelous, putting homophobia, bisexual conflicts and a host of other issues front and center, including the rage Luke’s father, Holden, now feels at Noah for what Noah’s father did to Luke. (You can check out Van Hansis’s blog at CBS.com.)

Finally, our rant of the week actually comes not from us, but from CNBC’s talk show host Donny Deutsch. In the “lie down with dogs, get up with fleas” interview category, Deutsch had the ever-sociopathic Eva Braun of the Right on his show, so why should he be surprised at this exchange between himself and Miss Anorexia, Ann Coulter?

Following nicely on the heels of her comments earlier in the week that suffrage was a mistake and women really are too stupid to vote, Coulter now thinks all Americans should be Christian, too.

Now to be fair to Coulter, as she never is to anyone else, Deutsch *did* ask her what the U.S. looks like in her dreams. Not surprisingly, Coulter said it would look like the Republican National Convention in 2004. You know, white. And, uh, Christian.

“People were happy," Coulter asserted. “They're Christian. They're tolerant. They defend America.”
Deutsch: "It would be better if we were all Christian?"
Coulter: "Yeah."

This is when things got a little dicey, because Deutsch is a Neo Con, but also Jewish. Offense was setting in.
Deutsche: "We should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians
Coulter: "Yeah. Well, it's a lot easier. It's kind of a fast track." {Yes, folks, she really *is* certifiable.}
Deutsche (now not merely offended, but incredulous, as people so often are with Coulter): "You can't possibly believe that. You can't possibly. You're too educated."
Coulter (now in condescending yet incensed mode): "Do you know what Christianity is? See, we believe your religion, but you have to obey. We have the fast track program."

The discomfiture was extended. Deutsch asked Coulter if she wants Jews off the planet entirely.
Coulter: "No, we think - we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say."
Deutsche (blowing a gasket and re-thinking his Republican status): "Wow, you didn't really say that, did you?”
Coulter: "That's what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws. We know we're all sinners."

Deutsch said he was personally offended, which seemed to surprise Coulter, naturally, as she never understands how people get offended by her sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic comments.
Coulter: “I'm sorry. It is not intended to be. I don't think you should take it that way, but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews. We believe the Old Testament. As you know from the Old Testament, God was constantly getting fed up with humans for not being able to live up to all the laws. What Christians believe - this is just a statement of what the New Testament is - is that that’s why Christ came
and died for our sins. Christians believe the Old Testament. You don't believe our testament."

When Deutsch called Coulter's comments anti-Semitic, she was stunned.
Coulter: "No, no, - I don't want you being offended by this. This is what Christians consider themselves, because our testament is the continuation of your testament. You know that. So we think Jews go to heaven. I mean, [the late Rev. Jerry] Falwell himself said that, but you have to follow laws. Ours is "Christ died for our sins." We consider ourselves perfected Christians. For me to say that for you to become a Christian is to become a perfected Christian is not offensive at all."

Another stunning moment in the history of the American Right, replete with the fake blonde Aryan hair. And they wonder why everybody hates them.

Stay tuned.

In response to the Investor Class bubble, Pat Thompson writes:

The only "trickle down" that I can see working is the sales of luxury cars -- my son-in-law works as a salesman for BMW, and they are busy six days a week til 10 pm and later. It's a long day, but no one closes a showroom when a BMW buyer is buying. He makes a good living, and I am sure the Lexus and Mercedes salesmen are also doing well. He's a high school graduate, bringing home a six figure income, serving the people who live in the Wall Street bubble. Sales were really good when bonuses in the investment houses and hedge funds were being given in February.

In response to Rudy Giuliani's statement, "(lawsuits are) 2.2% of our GDP now, is spent on all these frivolous lawsuits. It's double any other industrialized nation. If we don't get control of that, that's another way in which we're going to eat up our future," Pat Thompson writes:

Rudy sure does know all of the GOP talking points! I never thought there could be someone worse than GWB, that I would find more repugnant. Well, Giuliani is it. I would hate him more than Bush, and I think he could be more petty and more ridiculous and more war-mongering.

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-Noah Greenberg