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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

January 6, 2008


Paying It All - Through a Flat Tax

Okay now... Here's what you're going to tell all of your Psuedo-Liberterian friends (until "Leave me alone" turns to "Oh no! I'm left alone!") when they tell you that the Republican idea of a Flat tax is going to save America. Tell them that you're FOR this new invention of the upper class, providing the following:

-This new Flat Tax, which will represent all income to the federal government will be the substitute for the income tax. This is part of their proposal, and the only part they wish to talk about;

-The Flat Tax has to exclude the all dollars up to and including the poverty level. For example: If you are the head of household of a family of four, you pay the Flat Tax only on income earned above the approximate $24,000 poverty level. In this way, no one gets taxed on their basic necessities and those who earn , but need more after the Flat Tax is assessed, will be able to make ends meet (or get closer to it);

-Capital gains are NOT exempt from the Flat Tax. If Joe Garbageman or Mary Police-Officer have to pay on their earned incomes, then Chip Global-Corporatist III will similarly have to pay on his main form of earned income - those precious stocks and bonds that his daddy's daddy left him;

-If we're going to do a Flat Tax, then we'll also need a balanced budget. For every new dollar we spend a new dollar must be found, and not by some means of fudging the numbers, as the GOP likes to do. No more borrowing from China and Japan to finance wars; no more taking from the Social Security Trust Fund and leaving, as President Bush put it, worthless paper in its place (as President Bush did). Every dollar is accountable and real and if we can't afford it, then we'll simply have to do without it. And as we go through our newly collected Flat Tax dollars, we begin to pay down that very real national debt that has grown so high its ceiling is no longer visible.

-While we're paying that Flat Tax to support everything and everything Senator Ted Steven (REPUBLICAN-AK) can steal, why not add on a quarter percentage point to make sure that everyone has health care?

-And while we're at it, since all have to pay the Flat Tax, wouldn't it make sense that all would have to pay that pesky little 6.2 percent of their income for Federal Withholding tax, a.k.a. Social Security? As in this new Flat Tax, we will have to have no artificial ceiling on the money you pay towards your Social Security Insurance. No longer will you have to pay only on the funds your earn under $97,000 - you will now have to pay that 6.2 percent on every billion dollars (or so) you make. After all, "Flat" is "Flat".

-And finally, what good is a Flat tax without a real monitoring and system of punishment. Fines and jail time for those who steal big; fines in double the amount of the true tax that should have been paid for those who steal a, shall we say, smaller. The time should fit the crime.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 San Francisco bay Area Reporter, Inc.

The WGA strike is entering its third month with no talks since before Christmas, so the TV landscape for the new year looks pretty bleak.

The late night shows came back on January 3rd, but what a mixed bag *that* is. David Letterman and Craig Ferguson are both owned by Letterman’s Worldwide Pants outfit, so Letterman struck a deal of his own with the writers, giving them what they wanted–you know, fair and square, like *all* the producers should be doing. His guests can go on the shows without having to cross picket lines.

But Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel–those shows are owned by NBC and ABC, respectively, so no one on the shows who’s a member of WGA, as Leno, O’Brien and Kimmel all are, can write anything.

This makes for less than stellar comedy at NBC and ABC, particularly as Leno was even cited for having allegedly written his monologue the first night back and was threatened with a fine.

Kimmel is basically having his friends and family over to chat on-air about issues and gossip. This makes the show look even more like cable access than it did before the November 5th strike.

Ferguson’s show has been the best of the lot. His first show back was a series of comedy skits with an edgy Ernie Kovacs feel to it. Ferguson revived all his old characters–Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Prince Charles, Bono–and he was hilarious. Ferguson also hasn’t missed an opportunity to comment on the strike–in support of the writers, naturally–and has done a couple of bits on it.

But TV is going to get pretty Dickensian in a month or so. Some network favorites are coming back–*Law&Order,* *Medium* and *Jericho* have all started new seasons with the new year and the much anticipated return of *Lost* is January 31st. The show one of our close friends calls the best show ever on TV, *The Wire,* returns for a final season on HBO. And for those still addicted to the lusty lesbos, *The L Word* is back with three new girls on Showtime.

There are new (and not-so-funny) sit-coms and a couple of series debuting in early February for what used to be sweeps month. *New Amsterdam,* whose debut had been sidelined in September begins in February on FOX.

But the shows you love on network and cable? Those are in re-run for the duration and one wonders how shows like *Pushing Daisies,* the smash hit of the fall season, or *Reaper*over on the CW or ABC’s addictive *Dirty Sexy Money* will recover their audiences when the strike ends.

On the execrable side of reality, Tila Tequila is coming back for a second season of finding love the smarmy way on MTV with *Shot of Love.*

For those who missed the “charms” of Tila Nguyen, the first time, you have a second chance to watch the train wreck as the alleged bisexual Tila looks for love among straight men and “lesbian” women. We noted last season that real lesbians don’t do men or women who do men, but MTV and Tila and the contestants don’t care.

Now if Tila found love last season with Bobby Banhart (what a surprise–first season she chose a man!), how can there be a second season?

Ah, well, Tila is back on the market, having broken up with Banhart, which–another surprise!–makes a second season possible.

The question is, naturally, why would we *want* a second season? Well, *Variety* tells us “the first season was MTV’s highest-rated series among viewers 12 to 34 since August 2005....The finale drew more than 6 million [viewers], making it the most-watched series on the network since November 2002. Overall, *Shot of Love* was MTV’s top-rated new series among viewers 12-34 in 2007.”

Okay, then. Just remember, this is the same demographic (the over 18s, obviously) that voted for Barack Obama in Iowa.

Now *that’s* something to ponder! (Along with the fact that 12-year-olds are watching this sexualized drek.)

There are some other new shows, like *Cashmere Mafia,*which makes a sudsy twin-set with *Desperate Housewives* for those who don’t want to watch football on Sunday nights and are interested in the ladies who lunch (we aren’t). But the rest is all reality and game shows, just like in Japan. And much as we love the *Biggest Loser,* *Survivor*and *Amazing Race,* there’s only so much reality you can watch.

The biggest game/reality show of all debuted January 3rd. The long-awaited beginning of the presidential primary season kicked off in Iowa with more hyperbole than usual.

The lead-in has been long and disturbing for those of us who take stock of how the mainstream media manipulates the voting public. As one of our friends noted, if people didn’t act like sheep, you wouldn’t be able to herd them.

True enough. But it still is hard to watch–kind of like the kids killing the chickens on *Kid Nation.*

We’ve noted for a long time how the pretense of objectivity on the part of TV news has been foregone entirely. As our friends over at Media Matters note repetitively (check them out as they devote *all* their time to parsing the “news” and pointing out the lies), the media *does* have a bias, and it ain’t liberal. Conservative pundits are weighing in almost five times as often as so-called liberals (if you can call Donna Brazile, Robert Schrum and Cokie Roberts liberals!).

Which explains so much. When George Will and David Brooks look like liberals, you know the nation has taken a giant–GIANT–step to the right.

As we saw in Iowa.

We go to press right before New Hampshire, so we can’t comment on that primary, but Iowa was the same bad accident it always is and presented a scary picture.
Let’s examine the role TV news played in the lead-in to Iowa.

Now, we don’t have the staff Media Matters has (the cats are notorious for not reporting accurately on what they’ve seen on the tube, being easily distracted by birds and sudden movements), nor can we watch the tube 24/7, although we come perilously close in political times. But–in our informal survey, compiled by us and our devoted small cadre, TV news decided about six months ago that Barack Obama was The One.

The polls didn’t matter, the voters didn’t matter. TV news mattered.

Let’s face it–charisma sways everyone. It’s why people still swoon over John F. Kennedy 45 years after the assassination.

But as one of our editors used to say back when we first began our job as a beat reporter, “I don’t care if you fuck the elephants, but then you don’t get to cover the circus.”

That dictate does not apply to TV journalism, alas.

Charisma rules.

So in the news you aren’t seeing plus the news you need deconstructed, this is what we found:

For every minute or two of news attention given to putative front-runner Hillary Clinton, between 12 and 17 minutes was given to Barack Obama and three to eight minutes was given to John Edwards. The prime offender in the Obama worship was ABC, not surprisingly, as it’s the Oprah network, but they made no effort at even a pretense of dispassion. *Nightline* did repeated spots on Obama. The evening news led with Obama. *GMA* did Obama. None, of course, doing critical analysis. Except for a piece over six months ago on *Nightline* about Obama refusing to help a close friend whom he’d mentioned in his autobiography and who was now living in his car, there was no critique.

For example, no mention of the fact that Obama has more abstentions in the Senate, as he did in the Illinois legislature, than anyone else because the hard votes are, well, hard. Or that even though Obama is running as an anti-war candidate, he has voted exactly like Clinton right down the line except when he has voted to the *right* of her. The senator whose voting Obama’s most clearly matches is Joe Lieberman, former Democrat.

None of this has been reported on TV news.

Why not? We heard about Hillary’s breasts and Edwards’ haircut. Doesn’t Obama’s saying one thing and doing another on the war mean something to voters?
That’s the news you aren’t seeing.

Meanwhile, there’s the *candidates* you aren’t seeing. The other Democrats–yes, there *were* other Democrats–got *negative* minutes in coverage. That means that their faces might have been splashed across the screen in a montage, but their names never mentioned. *Ever.* Thus that first Hispanic American running for president–Bill Richardson–was hardly ever seen.

Over on the right, where the media feels much more comfy, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and John McCain ate up the minutes, all jockeying for first place and getting close to equal time, even when Romney led by 15 points over McCain.

Fred Thompson got way more face time when he was a supporting actor on *Law&Order* and Rudy Giuliani, once the media darling, found out once Huckabee’s charisma was discovered, that the old toys really do get tossed to the back of the closet no matter how many times you invoke 9/11.

But back to the Hillary quotient, because this may be the biggest scandal of the news year and new year.

How could it be that the front-runner got so little face time and when she *did* get face time, it was almost wholly negative, like when Rudov over on FOX noted that Clinton “lost the male vote [in Iowa] because of her *nagging voice*?

Here’s an example from that guy we love to hate over at CNN, Chris Matthews, a caricature of what reporters are supposed to be.

Matthews had his predictions for Iowa, naturally. He noted on *Morning Joe* the day of the caucuses that if Clinton were to “squeak out a victory” in the Iowa caucuses, she would still have been “rejected here in Iowa by two-thirds of the Democratic Party.” Matthews went on to note that Clinton would be “lucky to get 33 percent.”

But there was more. Matthews added that a “low 30 percent” result (which is ostensibly what she got) would represent “a resounding rejection” of Clinton.

Okay, then. When a third of people vote for you, two-thirds obviously vote elsewhere. But note that on McCain, Matthews predicted a “resounding 18 percent for the maverick senator.” No mention, however, that this would mean that he’d been rejected by 82 percent of Iowans.

Of course, right before Christmas Matthews had noted–with his terminal lack of irony–that “Clinton’s campaign goal is to smother the young senator [Obama] in his crib.”

Dream about vagina dentata, too, Chris?

Meanwhile, in an interview on CNN’s *Reliable Sources* on New Year’s Eve, Washington Post political reporter, Dana Milbank put it succinctly, as he so often does, in predicting what would happen in Iowa: “The press will savage her no matter what.”

Prescient of Milbank, but then he’s been a participant himself in the past in that game.

NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell said Clinton’s speech after the Iowa results was “like funeral dirge.” Hmmm. We saw that same speech and if we hadn’t know the actual numbers, we would have thought she’d won, not come in a half a percentage point behind Edwards for third place. Her speech was just short of rabble-rousing.

*GMA* weekend anchor Kate Snow at ABC, who has never seemed able to disguise her loathing for Clinton even as she’s had the assignment of covering her campaign for the past few months noted that “it was a predictable mix of dismay and surprise.”

What? Of course ABC is the same network that disallowed anyone who didn’t make the final Iowa caucus cut from participating in the final debate before New Hampshire on January 6th. And who says the press isn’t into king-making?

Meanwhile, the biggest news you aren’t seeing remains this: By February 5th, if not before, the nominees for both parties will have been chosen. That means roughly 180 million voters will have been effectively disenfranchised by Iowa, only able to vote for the nominee, not the entire lineup of the candidates.

Iowa–the 31st most populous state–gets to choose the candidates for the entire country.

Wonder when the media is going to get around to discussing *that.* But then Iowa allows TV news to choose the candidates by noting things like “Hillary’s barely hanging in, now” (George Stephanopoulous, five minutes after the Iowa vote; Clinton got 71,000 votes) versus “McCain really is surging back” (McCain came in fourth and got about 9,000 votes).

So much for fair and balanced, folks.

Stay tuned. If you have the stomach for it.

In response to, "I think if Bush tried to suspend elections there would be full-scale revolution here to depose him. He cannot get away with that. But I wouldn't put it past him to attempt to rig the election and scare more people with fake bin Laden tapes," Pat Thompson writes:

He was not even elected the first time! I am still more upset about the Supreme Court "fixing" the election to make Bush the winner in 2000 -- when he lost by over 500,000 popular votes, and actually did lose Florida under just about any vote recount scenario -- which the AP did under the Freedom of Information Act -- actually counted the hanging chad ballots. The results were going to be issued on September 12, 2001. The events of September 11 blew this really big news out of the water (another reason they let it happen). I know this is old news -- but just proves that the Powers that Be in this country can do whatever they wish. Exit polls in 2004 showed Kerry the winner. Do exit polls work in the Ukraine, and everywhere else in the world, but not here? Not with our black box voting system. I hate to rehash old news, but we will still be voting on those machines, so it won't matter who we vote for. I wonder if Cheney might just get into the fray....

And in response to, "I say Obama," Pat writes:

So do the Republicans; they have supported him, pushed his candidacy, and crossed party lines to insure that he is the candidate. Why? I may be wrong, or so far out of date, having lived through the civil rights movement, but I feel there are a lot of people in Red America, especially the South, and even in cities and suburbs of the north, who will not vote for a black man. It's a shame, but America simply hasn't come that far. I hope I am wrong.

And Pat says to, "ability to raise money (yes, it does matter in the eyes of voters - that's why they publish it),

Most all of the millions they raise is used to purchase TV and other media ads. So the media touts the big money candidates because it is "their" money being collected.

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-Noah Greenberg