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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

November 13, 2007


HD for Everybody!

Good news, everybody. Effective 2009, all television stations will be required to broadcast in High Definition. No longer will the masses have to huddle together and watch made for the Big Screen movies and miss the extra standing off to the far left or right.; no longer will one have to strain one's eyes to see if the girl-extra on CSI Miami has an innie or an outie as she passes by the camera in the gratuitous bikini shot.

Saints be praised! Boy that Bush administration FCC is doing a great job, isn't it?

In the last of the no-health-insurance-for-you western world nations, the Bush administration has decided to take a stand: Those without health care will now be watching ER in HD!

As Motl the Taylor sang in Fiddler on the Roof:
Wonder of Wonders,
Miracle of Miracles...

So as the SCHIP gets vetoed again and again and again by the agents of Big Health Care, a.k.a. the Bush administration and the Republican Party, fear not - the broadcasting part of Bush's "base" of "haves and have mores" will be getting their due in expanded fees for the extra "services" they'll be providing. I can't wait to get my new bill with the new "fees" that they'll be able to charge for in the future. Don't think so, huh? have you taken a good look at your telephone bill lately?

-Noah Greenberg

Purchasing Love

“This place is about all kinds of agreements. The central government right now is too far removed. I mean, if these people were to rely on the central government, they don’t see any hope there. So what we are doing is bringing government from the ground up.”
-Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage, commander of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment

The area which Col. Balcavage is speaking of is the are just southwest of Baghdad formerly known as the "Triangle of Death". In the town of Jurf al-Sakhr, the McClatchy news agency reports that blast walls at a water treatment plant are no longer necessary and a "newly opened clothes shop" is now open for business. All good things, right?

Yep. And all it took was good old, cold hard, US Middle Class earned tax dollars to do it.

Who care if the Iraqi Central Government, the Purple Finger regime boasted about by the Bush administration is anemic? Who cares that this war, which was supposed to cost the American taxpayer - you and I - a mere $1.6 billion dollars is funding it with no end in sight? As long as we can purchase a tenuous peace, even as our soldiers there are still losing their lives, who cares the cost, right?

I certainly do.

The lowered death toll in Baghdad and the decrease in mortar attacks has the Bush administration showing their plumage. And the death toll of service men and women have dropped from a whopping average of 4.23 deaths in May of this year to, what the Bushies wish they could say is "just" 1.29 in October. Of course the President won't put it that way, but dont'cha think he "just" wished he could?

The real good news is that Sunni's - yes those same Sunni's who no longer have control over the infrastructure of their nation which they once ran - have rejected al-Qaeda in Iraq's influence. You see, the less secular Sunni's don't appear to want to live by the Taliban-like rule of a group such as the one led worldwide by Osama bin-Laden. They want to be able to truly live their lives free of the influence of both their own religious extremists... and ours.

However, make no mistake about it, the Bushies will credit any loss of violence to "the Surge". I hope that maybe they're just all tired of killing each other.

"But the surge's success was also due to a revolt against al-Qaeda by some Sunni Arabs — first in Anbar province and later in Baghdad. Fearing al-Qaeda's brutal tactics, many fighters from rival insurgent groups such as the Islamic Army in Iraq began cooperating with U.S. forces to drive the extremists from their neighborhoods and villages."
-The Associated Press article, ANALYSIS: Violence down in Baghdad by Robert H. Reid

Whatever the reason, less violence is a good thing.

But in the end, the American taxpayer has to foot the bill. As was suggested by the then-Ambassador to a newly free Iraq, former US General Jay Garner, the American troops are finally employing those who can aid in a new Iraqi peace. Too bad it's just four-plus years too late.

In the are just south of Baghdad, Sheik Sabah al Janabi has been employed, along with many of his loyal tribesmen, as the buffer between what was and what is. According to the AP, "the US... agreed to employ Sheik Sabah’s fellow tribesmen and former insurgents as concerned local citizens, as the U.S. calls the local security forces it’s been creating."

Of course, don't expect the Bushies to say "former insurgents" in their praise of any peace in Iraq. After all. many of the now "good insurgents'" comrades are, no doubt, guests of the bush administration in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba's Marine detention facility.

Luck of the draw., I guess.

"When the money was doled out, the violence dropped immediately. The U.S. military had offered the residents a better deal than the Islamists had. The former insurgents were now paid to be the town’s guardians."
-the analysis

Loyalty: Up for the Highest Bid. Ya' gotta love capitalism, dont'cha?

-Noah Greenberg

Ron Paul--after listening to the speeches

My comments after having to hear all the Ron Paul speeches, songs and noise all day Saturday at the Liberty Bell lawn, while we were TRYING to display the first full day of the Sea of Tombstones. Paul's group had been awarded the back (north) portion of the lawn, thus cutting the number of our memorial tombstones down to less than 2,000, although as of Saturday there were 3,860 dead in Iraq.

1. The National Park Service should NEVER permit a partisan political rally to occur within the same space as a previously-booked nonpartisan memorial service--no matter who the candidate is, whatever his/her viewpoint. I intend to write to them about that--please join me. Write to: Independence National Historical Park, 143 S. Third Street. Philadelphia, PA 19106. Many neutral visitors, some of whom came to see the tombstones, some to pass out anti-Ron Paul literature (including local ACLU reps) believed that we were veterans supporting Ron Paul!! This confounding of purposes was personally embarrassing and potentially dangerous to our non-profit status.

2. The crowd was not especially big, but very noisy. As expected, 99% were white and too many were young--evidently thinking that the antiwar issue is the only one that matters--and I don't even believe the truth of that one. Paul is on record as stating that we could win if we had gone in with adequate military power. Huh? His anti-war stance is either extremely naive considering the other issues he puts forward, or a bit of demagoguery about as true as Joe Sestak's Anti-war claims or Dubya's Compassionate Conservatism. Ron Paul CAN'T be anti-war ultimately, since the deeper message he carries is consistent with imperialism--however he may try to disguise it. He would either have to give up hatred and fear of foreigners, or an isolated peace. Can't have both. Altogether it was a good education to be exposed to this guy, who uses the John Birch Society as a propaganda mill online. (He gets a 100% rating from them.)

3. We vets had thought, "At least Ron Paul and his followers would want to honor the fallen"--but very few acted that way. Not many were looking at the tombstones, almost none were getting flowers or flags from us, or doing more than breezing by and cluttering up the area. In fact, aside from the Rolling Thunder pro-war fanatics, I never saw a ruder bunch, and would almost rather have Rolling Thunder since at least they don't pretend to be anti-war. Some rudeness examples: Carrying two wobbly plastic hats full of water outside to the flower cart, I expected one of the five or six Ron Paul-capped college age kids hanging around the side door of the Visitors Center to say, "Let me help you, ma'am," and open the door for an old woman dressed in a veterans' cap and jacket, hauling two slopping buckets of water. I waited. Did they open the door? Nope, they just stood there pontificating to each other, now and then glancing at me. When I finally had to shove the door open with my butt and go out backwards, I told them angrily, "Now I can see how much you really 'respect' military veterans!" We had the same problems all during the rally. Their mostly C&W loudspeaker music drowned out Bill's bugle playing taps. They were yelling and screaming--in a temporary cemetery--an outrageous dishonor to our dead troops. Many of them were hiking through the rows of tombstones to get back to the speakers' podium, some were running without any thought or respect, and very few paused to look at the names and faces of the dead soldiers, even after the rally was over. After I got fed up with them I became rude, too, and whenever a Ron Paul supporter passed by I shook my head, looked stern, and gave him thumbs down. (Never "the bird". Let's leave that level of rudeness to fanatics.)

4. Paul tries to come across as some kind of populist libertarian. He isn't. He's a dualist, majoritarian, laissez-faire, flag-waving Ayn Randian demagogue, with the added danger of being a religious fanatic. His tax notions are Nineteenth Century, utterly ludicrous, and would do nothing but enhance the trend toward separating the very, very rich from the rest of us. His supporters in the crowd were "America-First" cult-of-royal-hero fanatics who WORSHIP him. That, alone, would make me suspicious that they are suckers. I tried talking to some of them but gave up when all the ones I spoke with were either know-nothings who "never heard of" Dennis Kucinich, or in the small minority who had, were telling lies about him evidently circulated by the Ron Paul handlers. One lie is that Ron Paul is the ONLY anti-war candidate, when clearly Kucinich and Gravel are two others--whose views seem much more compatible with the Constitution, genuine checks and balances, and true liberty that protects the rights of minorities. I suggested that they examine the Kucinich and Gravel websites, and tried to explain that graduated progressive income taxes kept America prosperous through the booming late 40s, 50s and 60s, and reduced the differential between rich and poor--and that even Medieval people benefited from early attempts at graduated progressive income taxes that soaked the rich and excluded the poor, along with government control over merchant monopolies, cartels, product dilution & inferiority, etc., but I doubt that anyone believed me. I said that we were all immigrants or descended from immigrants--even Native Americans--and this country became great because of the diversity of our opinions, religions, skin tones and backgrounds, while his supporters on stage were screaming fear (hatred) of Hispanics (of all people! they got here before any other whites!), the elderly, the poor , religious liberty--in favor of creaky old Ricardian economics, U.S. isolationism, English-only in schools, and of course no money for public schools. Talk about inconsistency! They are dead set against a national ID chip (me, too) but would put law'n'order controls on immigrants. They seem to be for free circulation of marijuana but would end government control over prescription drugs. And so on. Demagogues say anything and everything to win popularity. Paul reminds me of his fictitious preacher "Nehemiah Scudder" in Robert A. Heinlein's warning of a right-wing religious, isolationist tyranny, "If This Goes On". It's worth attaching Heinlein's introduction to that story, once again.

5. The following site is the best summary I've found on Ron Paul's stance on issues, and some are scary, especially to women, the middle class, senior citizens, the poor, and persons of even slightly dark skin color. http://activote.ontheissues.org/AVA/House/Ron_Paul.htm. If you want further info on his alarming stand on church-state issues, see http://atheism.about.com/b/2007/08/06/authoritarian-or-libertarian-ron-paul-on-churchstate-separation-secularism.htm. It's a biased website, but I perused the article and saw nothing in it I'd disagree with.

-Jenny Hanniver

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

*Imagine there’s no TV, I wonder if you can...*(to the tune of John Lennon’s *Imagine*)

The strike by the Writers Guild of America will definitely alter your viewing habits as of, well, *now.*

The strike had originally been planned for spring and was due to be a more comprehensive strike that included actors and directors. But the WGA decided to strike early in an attempt to force the hand of the studios on the issue of royalties for shows broadcast over the internet which all networks and cable stations now do. It was a bold move for WGA, particularly coming at the beginning of November sweeps.

But it’s already been devastating to the TV lineup, affecting network and cable. With no new talks scheduled, the strike is slated to last and last. The strike before this one, in 1988, lasted 22 weeks and cost the industry over half a billion dollars. And that was 1988 dollars.

From a simple cost-effectiveness standpoint, the studios should settle *now.*

As Republicans keep noting, Hollywood is loyal to its vanguard (so is the New York branch of Hollywood). This means people are loath to cross picket lines. Many notables have been seen supporting the picketers in the past week. Jay Leno was out there on the second day, with doughnuts. Most of the cast of TV’s top-rated *Grey’s Anatomy* actually joined the picketers. Emmy-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus (*The New Adventures of Old Christine*) was also on the picket line. Her husband is a WGA writer. Ellen DeGeneres was not on the line herself, but her publicist said she took off the first couple of days of the strike in support of the WGA strikers. It’s not clear if she will return immediately.

If you think this strike is going to end as quickly as the ones in Detroit, think again. The studios think writers don’t matter, or they wouldn’t be screwing them out of royalties on internet, DVD and other sales to begin with. The studios seem to believe that all those people out there with a screenplay to show *somebody* might be able to fill the shoes of folks like Tina Fey (*30 Rock,* *SNL*), Larry Wilmore (*The Daily Show*), Diana Son (*Law&Order*) and Robert Port (*Numbers*) who were all seen picketing last week.

Guess again. We teach college courses in screenwriting and....

Shows are already shutting down production. The biggest and most immediate loss is all the late night programming. Leno, Letterman, Conan, Kimmel, Ferguson and Daly are all in rerun. Other comedy programming has also taken a hit. *The Daily Show* and *The Stephen Colbert Show* are both off. Considering that *all* the non-mainstream media commentary on politics comes from these venues, it’s a ghastly turn of events.

Who will dis Bush? Who will make jokes about Cheney’s lack of heart? Who will make us laugh?

Meanwhile, on prime time, at ABC*Grey’s Anatomy,* *Desperate Housewives,* *Brothers & Sisters* and the upcoming*Lost* were the first to suffer. On FOX, *24* and the new sitcom with Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, *Back to You* are now on hiatus. CBS has lost the incredibly funny *Rules of Engagement,* one of the keystones of its Monday night comedy lineup, which is the best on TV. NBC has lost *Scrubs* and *The Office*; the *Law&Order* franchise, which is shared with USA Network, is next. But other shows are definitely going to follow. NBC’s *Heroes* producer and writer Tim Kring noted that he was prepared to re-write the 11th episode and stop production there.

Pickets have already disrupted shooting of other shows, though, like the CW’s *Gossip Girls* and CBS’s *Cane.*

And worse--for former *Buffy, the Vampire Slayer* fans, of which we were among the top five diehards (and yes, we *do* know the other four), creator and genius Joss Whedon was/is set to do a new series, for Fox, as Buffy was. The new show, *Dollhouse,* would star former Buffy alum Eliza Dushku. *Be still our heart* (no, not permanently). End the strike now! Bring back Whedon!

Okay, so–in the domino effect of the strike, what *will* we be watching?

Well....there’s news and more news, which would be a good thing. But then there’s reality shows and daytime TV dramas neither of which is effected by the strike.
Now we love soap operas as much as the next daytime maven, but a steady diet would be like bonbons all the time. We might forget that we *don’t* have an evil twin out there who was separated from us at birth.

TV really is our main form of entertainment, since we are not a reading culture, although we have always loathed those “I don’t watch TV, I *read*” snobs, as if there weren’t great TV as well as terrible books out there.

But as a culture, we really do get all our prompts from TV. It’s our cultural life-blood.

So: Here’s your strike prep. The reality shows that are still worth watching are: *Kid Nation,* which–despite its terribly disturbing concept of 40 kids left to their own devices for 40 days in the desert Southwest in an old ghost town with outhouses, no electricity and no running water–is probably the best reality show ever created. *KN* proves that anarchy can work. (That’s real anarchy, not the faux kind.) These kids work together unbelievably well. They have learned to care for their weakest members and pull together to get things done. This could have been *Lord of the Flies.* It’s not. The two oldest boys, Greg and Blaine (who dressed in drag last week and did Romeo and Juliet for a variety show the kids put on, which was both surprising and touching), seem like tough little bastards who would beat the crap out of the little kids. But instead they are hard-working, if blustering guys who do everything they can to make things work.

If only the Bush Administration could take a page from this group of kids who solve all their arguments with discussion, who have genuine concern for each other, who despite manifold religious, ethnic and other differences have worked to find common ground....

Our next favorite reality show is Fox’s dastardly *Kitchen Nightmares.* World-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay goes to failing restaurants and fixes them, but not without lots of four-letter words. The Brit is a bastard you love, despite his brutality and the show is the guiltiest of pleasures. You may, as we have noted before, never want to eat out again after seeing this show, but it is one of the most entertaining hours on the tube.

We also continue to be a big fan of CBS’s *Amazing Race,* which has its first lesbian couple, Episcopal priests (yes, they are priests, too!), this season. Kate Lewis, 49, and Pat Hendrickson, 65, hail from Thousand Oaks, California. (Read more about the couple at CBS.com.). *Amazing Race’s* 12th season debuted November 4th after the network pulled the ill-fated *Viva Laughlin*after two shows for lack of audience.

What we love about *AR* is the trip around the world. It’s just stupendous to get this whirlwind view of some of the greatest vistas on the planet. And it’s also good to see how people do and do not manage under pressure. (The lesbians are hanging in there, despite being the oldest couple in the race.)

There are other fun reality shows, of course. We love NBC’s *Biggest Loser,* which, like *KN,* is a feel-good hour (and always makes us feel positively thin, seeing the 250 pounds and up folks working out). *Extreme Makeover, Home Edition* is also a feel-good hour. And then there’s the bitchy *America’s Top Model,” which proves that brains and looks are rarely in the same package.

We are, of course, hoping for more news in the wake of the strike. More *real* news, as opposed to the stuff passing for news that we get every day.
For example: Remember the war on Iraq? Yes, well, that’s still going on, even though you never hear anything about it any more.

And here’s our news tidbit of the week, which got barely a mention on the network news and thus is *almost* the news you aren’t seeing: A study released on Veteran’s Day noted that one quarter of America’s homeless are veterans, although they are only 11 percent of the nation’s population.

An MSNBC report (available at MSNBC.com) details that homelessness is not just a problem among America’s elderly and middle-aged veterans, but is increasingly a problem among returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. These vets are turning up in soup kitchens and shelters at an alarming rate, begging the question of why the government isn’t caring for these men and women who have served their country in wartime and peacetime.

More than 1,500 veterans of these two recent wars have been identified by the Veterans Affairs Department at the Pentagon.

*Wow.* And you thought those spots with ABC’s Brian Ross about Iraq vets sleeping in their cars was hyperbole. *Think again.*

Has this Administration done *anything* right?

Data from the latest U.S. Census report in 2005, released in this study noted that 200,000 of the *acknowledged* 800,000 homeless in America (homeless advocates put the numbers much higher) are veterans. California had the highest number of homeless veterans, according to MSNBC: 50,000.

The study noted that the latest round of homeless vets from Iraq and Afghanistan have the same issues: their training in the military has not prepared them for jobs in civilian life.

Gee–that’s not what the promotional commercials for the Army and other branches say. Could the military be misleading kids enlisting right out of high school?
Meanwhile, speaking of misleading and news you aren’t seeing: Can anyone explain why *not one* of the Senators running for president voted in the Mukasey nomination?

Now we certainly appreciate that they didn’t vote *for* his approval, like Sen. Dianne “torture has its place” Feinstein did, but for Obama, this means he has abstained in every difficult vote to come his way.

And forgive us for having a memory, unlike so many Americans, but it seems that John McCain (R-AZ) actually *was* a victim of torture. Can *anyone* explain why *he* wouldn’t vote against the “waterboarding doesn’t seem like torture to me” Mukasey for AG?

Integrity sure ain’t what it used to be....

Speaking of integrity, we were proud of Oprah for stepping up in the sex abuse scandal at her school for girls in South Africa. Unlike, say, the entire Catholic Church, Oprah took full responsibility for the situation in which a dozen girls were allegedly sexually abused by a headmistress at her Leadership Academy.

Although Oprah is far from hands-on with the school, as she is based in Chicago and the school is literally at the other end of the world, she gave a press conference last week acknowledging that the buck stops with her (if only Oprah were president!). A full investigation of the allegations is happening, but Oprah, who was sexually abused as a child, does not take sex abuse lightly.

Perhaps because the prospect of our favorite shows going off the air distresses us greatly (how *will* we manage without *Pushing Daisies,* *Dirty Sexy Money*–can’t get enough of those transgendered sex scenes–and *Bionic Woman*?), we have more rants than usual this week.

First, can someone please just get rid of Tim Russert? Since the Bush Administration turned him into their shill, everything he says sounds stupid or wrong or both. And please–just stop talking about Hillary Clinton. Please. You have no idea what you are saying. Ever.

NBC really needs to get it together. *Really.*

Speaking of NBC, we have loved *Saturday Night Live* through it’s many incarnations. We grew up with this show. But since Tina Fey left last season and took the funny with her, the stellar cast, which is one of the best in *SNL* history, has just been groaning under the weight of stale jokes, unfunny bits and bathroom humor.

Trying to spark interest in the flagging show with surprise hosts is not the way to go. Good writers is.

Last week the host was NBC news anchor Brian Williams, who is actually pretty funny and did well and we enjoyed him a lot.


We have trouble with news folks doing stand up. It just, well, *looks wrong.* It sends the message that the news is a joke, which under the Bush Administration has been sadly true, but let’s not make it even more obvious. After all, we have Russert for that.

NBC has a solid anchor in Williams. Just because he is also a funny guy doesn’t mean he should be doing *SNL.* Either bring back Tina Fey or get some writers who are funny. But relying on your news anchor is *so* not the way to go.

Did we say end the strike now? *End the strike, now!*

Stay tuned while you still can.

Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com

-Noah Greenberg