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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Wednesday Madman

December 26, 2007


My daughter Bonnie and I wish to thank all of you who offered nice words and comments towards her article (Final exam) about children and video games this past Thursday. -NG

A Presidential Press Conference
But don't ask me about the CIA

PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm also disappointed that Congress failed to pass legislation to ensure that our intelligence professionals can continue to effectively monitor terrorist communications.

So, after berating the Democrats even after they gave The President just about everything he asked for, President Bush decided to answer a few questions - or at least a few that he wanted to answer. And those involving the destruction of tapes showing (or not showing?) torture by some of our very own CIA agents, fell into the "no answer" category.

The above statement wasn't intended to as a message to Congress to get things done. Let's face facts here - there has never been a Congress that has gotten so little done in so much time with the thanks of an administration designed for the very, very, very rich as the two fully Republican majority Congresses which preceded this one. In fact, the Democratic Congress - THIS Democratic Congress - has acquiesced to this morally corrupt (morality = REAL morality, not that fake stuff the GOP and The President speak about) more than most of us think that they should have and had they given into the Bushies on every turn (instead of just most turns), GW and his cohorts would still blame them for everything under the sun.

As the Congress votes to do its best; and as The President does his best to make sure his "base" of "haves and have mores" become the "never have enough"; and as he vows to veto, and then keeps his vows, any bill which would benefit the good of the American people as a whole, GW will continue his "stay the course" policies regardless of the will of those same American people. Even as he spews his venom at anyone who has the audacity to disagree with him, the main stream media - HIS man stream media - ignores those barrages and innuendos and, sometimes, as him a tough question or two.

QUESTION: Mr. President, there's ambiguity in the statement that you have no recollection about the existence and destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes. Why can't you say yes or no about the tapes and their destruction? And regardless, do you think the destruction of the tapes was a responsible thing to do?
PRESIDENT BUSH: It sounds pretty clear to me when I say I have -- the first recollection is when Mike Hayden briefed me. That's pretty clear. Secondly, I am confident that the preliminary inquiry conducted by the AG and the IG of the CIA, coupled with the oversight provided by the Congress, will end up enabling us all to find out what exactly happened. And therefore, over the course of these inquiries and oversight hearings, I'm going to reserve judgment until I find out the full facts.
I know I'm going to be asked about this question a lot as time goes on. I'm just going to prepare you; until these inquiries are complete, until the oversights are finished, then I will be rendering no opinion from the podium.
MADMAN: And so, let the Executive orders and intentionally ambiguity begin! With that statement, the President has, once again, set the stage for another No-Down (not Showdown) with Congress. There will, as promised, be subpoenas and there will also be, as predicted, White House lawyers arguing that no one should be permitted to talk to wither House of Congress for "National Security Reasons". And when, as just happened, the courts say, "No, Mr. President - We must find out the truth and Congress does have the right to ask questions," the White house lawyers will file in and say offer up their own "No's" in protest.
As The President looks forward to "the oversight provided by the Congress," which he has shown his distaste for up to now, we have to wonder why such simple questions as those above will not be answered, especially the latter. Mr. Bush, "do you think the destruction of the tapes was a responsible thing to do?" It's a simple "yes" or "no" question, and one that reminds me of the earlier Valerie Plame scandal. One might remember in that "Spygate" affair, President Bush stated that anyone involved in releasing the name of a CIA operative would be fired. Then, when it was presented to him that many in his administration were offered up as, at the very least, of suspicion, he said that those "found guilty" would be punished. And finally, when I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff was convicted of lying in relation to the scandal, Bush all but pardoned him!
So much for oversight.
President Bush is attempting to wait judgment until all the facts are in, something he never does when it comes to us ordinary Americans and our needs. But the question of "right or wrong" posed above is only subject to his own judgments and morals. But I guess he has to confer with his lawyers, advisors, Cheney and a few others in order to get that done as he, the President of the United States, has none of his own.

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you. If I could return a minute to the CIA tapes. I realize you don't want to discuss it at this point, but given your remarks about the struggle against ideology, how concerned are you that your administration once again faces criticism, questions from people around the world about the handling of a terrorist suspect?
PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, you're trying to get me to prejudge the outcome of this inquiry. And let's wait and see what happens. Let's wait and see what the facts are. And -- look, we get criticized a lot for a variety of reasons. We're asking people to do hard things, for starters, which is intercept and find terrorists and to spread freedom.
MADMAN: Yeah... That's it... We're all against "freedom" and support "terrorism" and THAT'S the reason why we want to know what your intentions are in relation to the newest "Case of the Vanishing Tapes" escapade. Perhaps. Mr. President, we're merely looking for a reassurance that this won't happen again. Perhaps we're looking to the man behind the big desk in the Oval Office to step up and take responsibility for once in his life.
Just how does "Daddy" keep getting his "Boy" out of trouble all the time, any way?
PRESIDENT BUSH: And there's isolationist tendencies in this world. People would rather stay at home. People would rather not aggressively pursue people overseas, and aggressively pursue freedom. I understand that. We got people like that in our own country. That's why, in my State of the Union address a couple of years ago, I talked about the perils of isolationism and protectionism. And the fundamental question facing whoever sits in the Oval Office is, will you use the influence of the United States to advance a freedom agenda to help others realize the blessings of liberty and yield peace?
MADMAN: "FREEDOM, FREEDOM, FREEDOM... Get it? It's all about "FREEDOM", and anyone who wants to know the real reason why the CIA destroyed tapes, or anything else, is standing in the way of it.
PRESIDENT BUSH: So I don't want people to get the wrong impression of our country, but I'm not surprised we get criticized on a variety of fronts. And -- on the other hand, most people like to come to our country, and most people love what America stands for. And so, it's like I say about the presidency, people in America like the presidency and sometime they like the President. Get it? (Laughter.)
MADMAN: Funny stuff, huh? Maybe President Bush wouldn't laugh so hard if he knew the truth - that today, "most people" outside of our country actually don't like what "America stands for", at least not since "Mission Impossible". Since then, the "good feelings", which nearly the entire planet extended to the US has waned, shall we say. But living in the "FREEDOM BUBBLE", which has the address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC, President Bush and those still drinking the Kool-Aid, are immune from seeing, or at least, stating the truth. Rhetoric is nice for those handful of people who still support you, President Bush, but the other seventy percent of us Americans, and the rest of the world really want to know the truth.

And when this weekend it came out that those very same tapes had been asked for by the 911 Commission during their investigation, former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, now a CNN "expert", told the anchor that: (A) The Commission's request wasn't specific, and even if it was; (B) It wasn't pertinent to their investigation.

Pardon me? I guess the Bushies and the CIA have forgotten that it's up to the investigators to determine what is, and isn't pertinent to an investigation. Who are these guys? They're like an eight year-old child who's told by his teacher to spit out that bubble gum; then, as the teacher turns back around to the student and sees him still chewing, the child responds, "I did spit out the bubble gum. This is CHEWING gum."

Responsibility, at least in some measure, used to live in DC. This administration, and all of the agencies under their auspices, have taken removed it completely from their game-plan. If it goes wrong, delay. When delaying ceases to work, blame someone else. And if all else fails, stay the course and leave it for the next guy to clean up.

-Noah Greenberg

Funny, Funny, Funny

Dumbest remark of the last weekend was made by the CNN morning anchors. While discussing the "funniest" quotes of the year, quotes which included an Alberto Gonzales' "I don't recall" montage and Miss Teen America's South Carolina's contestant that "Some people don't have them" remark in relation to American children not being able to find America on a map, their response directly after showing the number one quote, "Don't taze me, bro," was astonishing.

Some of you will remember that moment at the University of Florida: As Senator John Kerry was taking from the audience, a student, who overstayed his microphone's welcome, was taken down by University guards. The quote, "Don't taze me, bro," was followed by a round of screams as the electrical current went through the boy. Most showings of that "funny" moment ended there.

CNN reported the five most famous quotes of 2007 as "The Funniest Quotes of 2007". The quotes showed then-Attorney General Gonzales' lying to Congress; Don Imus' racial moment of monumental stupidity and the embarrassment of Miss Teen South Carolina (Sorry, I forgot number three). And whereas the poor girl from South Carolina's embarrassment was fun for all (except her, of course), I thought that the "at least she's pretty" remark made earlier in the week on American Morning by the "as-pretty" Veronica de la Cruz was a bit over the top (chuckle, chuckle). But that isn't what bothered me.

The weekend program showed us the five clips in reverse order with the "Don't taze me, bro" following Miss Teen South Carolina's fifteen seconds of fame. After the quotes, one of the anchors said, "Aw, isn't that cute," and something like "that poor girl." When I heard "Isn't that cute," after the tazer piece, I really thought they were talking about that. But when I realized that they speaking about Miss SC and ignoring "funny quote number one", my astonishment came out.

Are they nuts or just stupid? There was nothing funny about a young man attempting to ask a few question of one of our leaders, even if he was "rude", being taken down by University of Florida guards and tazed while pleading with them not to do so. Maybe I'm just one of those bleeding-heart Liberals, but I still don't believe that it was necessary. We all saw that moment: The boy was already on the ground and contained when, for fun(?) a guard took out his tazer gun and decided it was time to restart the boy's nervous system.

For CNN to consider this moment, as well as Imus' and Gonzales' as "funny" is beyond comprehension. But in this day and age of anything for a "laugh" and ratings, why not present it that way?

Seen any good executions lately? Too bad there weren't any screams from the insurgents held at Abu Ghraib in Iraq recorded. That would have really been a SCREAM, huh?

-Noah Greenberg

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

Can 2007 really be at an end? How times flies when so much of it is spent in stunned disbelief at how the Bush Administration is destroying the country.

What does that have to do with TV, you ask? Much of what we’ve covered in the past year has been the ever-more-shocking news we see–and don’t see–on the tube, so we begin our list of bests with the Bush team, who brought us more incredible–and we *do* mean incredible–TV moments than Jerry Bruckheimer, David Kelley, David Chase or Dick Wolf could possible have envisioned. Bush and Company provided the most entertaining as well as scary and disturbing TV of the year.
On the flip side–or maybe not–our ultimate worst for the year on the tube has to be the WGA strike.

A month from now the writers strike could be over. But the TV landscape is already irrevocable altered for at least a year, the latest casualty being the 2008 pilot season which is now going, going, gone.

When we think of shows we have loved over the years which came out of the pilot season, it’s difficult to imagine what we might have lost through this strike.
But it’s not the writers’ fault, folks. Remember why they are on strike: to remind the producers who are trying to hold onto every penny from DVD and internet sales that without writers, there is no TV.

Hey, guess what? The writers are right. Without them there *is* no TV. Anyone who has been watching reruns of the late night comedians for the past two months can see *that.* Some of us really need that comedic take on the day’s news that Letterman, Leno, Kimmel, Ferguson and O’Brien give us. Without the writers, there’s nothing but a vast wasteland of the day’s real news.

Here’s what the writers *did* give us this year on TV.

Our favorite new shows of the year were ABC’s *Pushing Daisies* and *Dirty Sexy Money,* AMC’s *Mad Men,*FX’s *Damages,* the CW’s *Reaper* and CBS’s *The Big Bang Theory.*

Without writers, would we have had these impressive, witty, smart, poignant, hilarious and engaging shows?

There was no show we enjoyed more than *Pushing Daisies,* which is up for a well-deserved Golden Globe award. Smart, lush, sweet-but-not-treacly, tremendously innovative, snappy dialogue, stellar acting, amazing quirkiness–everything one looks for in that one truly special TV show is there in *Pushing Daisies.*
*PD* is the campiest show on TV, with a retro feel, sumptuous sets and the incomparable Kristen Chenoweth tearing up the show. If you haven’t seen it, put watching it on your list of New Year’s resolutions.

We loved Glenn Close’s bitchy, arch captain on HBO’s *The Shield,* which was, tied with *NYPD Blue,* the best cop show of all time. Her role this past season in *Damages* as attorney Patty Hewes made her turn on *The Shield* look like an afternoon with Hello Kitty. Close was *amazing,* as was co-star Ted Danson, who proved he’s far more than a *Cheers* leftover.

*Mad Men* brought the world of 1960s advertising–the world that changed the American landscape–front and center with bullet bras, scotch lunches and five-pack-a-day smoking habits. This show is a period *tour de force.*

Since *Buffy, the Vampire Slayer* left the airwaves, we have longed for something like it: smart, funny, sharp, other worldly. We have yet to find it, but *Reaper* is a fair stand-in while we wait for the perfect reprise of the best supernatural show ever. Tyler Labine as Sock and Ray Wise as the Devil make this show about retrieving souls that have escaped from hell well above the average supernatural fare and deserving of honorable mention on our list of bests of the year. If you want demons and gore mixed with witty dialogue and great acting, watch.

We are not sit-com oriented. We admit it. We like humor, but our standards are high. Very high. So we were *thrilled* when CBS added *The Big Bang Theory* to its already impressive Monday night comedy line up. *TBBT* is, well, hilarious. The premise of two science geeks who are roommates, their two nerdy science geek friends and one attractive dumb blonde may seem so done, but the Chuck Lorre team has made it fresh and spanking new. Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons, as the primary geeks, Leonard and Sheldon, are superb with about the best timing and delivery in TV comedy. Kaley Cuoco is surprisingly original as Penny and everybody’s favorite lesbian comedian, Sara Gilbert, does frequent and marvelous guest spots on the show.

This show makes us laugh till we cry, it’s that good.

We aren’t sure why queers love soap operas, but, there was no better soap opera to enter the TV landscape in 2007 than ABC’s *Dirty Sexy Money.* Sure, we like looking at all the fabulously attractive Latinos on CBS’s *Cane,* and we admit that *Cane* is more thriller-y and has that mafia-meets-Shakespeare feel to it that every good soap opera has.

But *DSM* has got that extra over-the-top-ness that makes it a true soap, through and through, while *Cane* can pass for “mere” drama.

Here’s what we love about *DSM*: Donald Sutherland, doing a masterful job as the patriarch of New York’s wealthiest family. He’s *perfect* as Tripp Darling. Peter Krause plays a not-dissimilar role to the one he played so well for years on *Six Feet Under* as the earnest and forthright protagonist, Nick George.

William Baldwin, the least crazy of the Baldwin brothers, is great as up-and-coming politician Patrick Darling who has a small secret: he’s married to a woman but in love with his mistress, Carmelita–a MTF transsexual (played by real-life MTF Candis Cayne). Patrick has tried desperately to break it off with Carmelita, but can’t. It’s one of two key love stories on the show.

Baldwin and Cayne have been seen tearing up the sheets, kissing full-mouthed and lying naked in each other’s arms all season. Surprisingly, the religious right has not gotten their hooks into this one, which is a shocker in itself.

*DSM* wins our vote for best soap opera and best queer-ish storyline. It has all the verve we so wished the tepid queer storyline on ABC’s other soaper, *Brothers & Sisters* could muster, but has never been able to pull off.

And now to daytime, which in 2007 broke down all the biggest barriers to queer story-telling that have plagued it for decades.

For all the years we have been writing this column, we have had precious few moments to comment upon when it comes to queers on daytime. There was Ellen, of course, and Rosie. But they are real people.

NBC’s ratings loser *Passions* had a series of queer characters–all of them over-the-top and most of them murdered–but the show never reached a core audience and was cancelled by NBC early this year and sent to the limbo of Direct TV in December.

Other networks have had more success with their daytime queer storylines this year. Bianca Montgomery was the character who changed the face of queers on daytime when *All My Children* cast Eden Riegel as the lesbian daughter of the show’s diva, Erica Kane (Susan Lucci).

Bianca and *AMC* moved daytime into the 21st queer century, featuring the Emmy-winning Riegel in her biggest story yet.

Bianca falling for Zarf/Zoey–a transgendered rock star played with inestimable skill by Jeffrey Carlson–was *the* queer daytime event of 2007.

At first it seemed the show was turning Bianca heterosexual. But then all was revealed and *AMC* even took Zoey into a real live TG support group. Poignant, ground-breaking and compelling. Alas, both actors declined to renew their contracts as they pursued other projects and the characters left *AMC,* but with the door open.

As dramatic as the *Passions* and *AMC* storylines were, nothing tops CBS’s *As the World Turns* for this year’s most compelling queer storyline.

The line that has never been able to be crossed by daytime has always been the one where boys kiss on screen. *ATWT* changed all that with the love story of Luke and Noah.

Like Bianca, Luke is the child of one of the soap’s central characters, and thus primed for front-burner attention. As the son of Lily and Holden Snyder, Luke was one of the central teen characters on *ATWT* and this year found himself in a love triangle between Noah and Maddie, his two best friends. (Soap Opera Digest voted the threesome the best triangle of 2007.) But Noah’s seeming bisexuality was revealed to be homosexuality after all: Noah couldn’t force himself to be straight, despite his father’s efforts (which included shooting Luke and temporarily paralyzing him). Like so many heterosexual soap couples before them, Luke and Noah were destined for romance.

And romantic it has been and continues to be. On the December 21st show, Luke proclaimed to Noah, who is spending the holidays at the Snyder farm: “I am so in love with you.”

Perhaps it is Van Hansis’s stellar acting as Luke (which has already won him several Emmy nods). Perhaps it is Jake Silberman’s restraint and shyness in the role of Noah. But the sizzle in this couple is so realistic, the kissing so tender, the moments of sexual tension so intense, it feels as if we are watching a real couple fall in love. (All these scenes can be viewed on YouTube, where Luke and Noah have become an amazingly popular item.) It’s awesome.

It would be so sad if this storyline were cut short by the looming inevitabilities of the writers’ strike, which threaten soaps come January.

There were other bests on the tube in 2007–our favorite TV couple is still James Spader and William Shatner on the always political, always damning of the Bush Administration, always engaging *Boston Legal.* HBO’s marvelous *Big Love* continued to keep us riveted with its often hilarious and just as often poignant look at polygamy. *Kid Nation* proved to be the best reality series ever, showing that kids often really *can* do better than adults because they are more loving, more forgiving and just don’t have the baggage. *KN* gave us hope for the future.

In the world of news, BBC continued to tell it like it is, while C-SPAN–a so-called public service news organization–was revealed to use right-wing think tanks 51 percent of the time and left-wing think tanks just18 percent. So much for fair and balanced. If you want the antidote, see Keith Olbermann, who consistently told it like it is.

So–stay tuned to us for the TV you should see and the news you aren’t seeing in 2008. Happy New Year!

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-Noah Greenberg