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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

February 19, 2008


Go On... Ask the White House
(I Dare You)

It's always good to delve into the White House's web site (www.whitehouse.gov) to see just what piece of yarn the Bushies are spinning on any given day. Today, I decided it was time to check in with my absolute favorite area of Whitehouse.gov called "Ask the White House." It's an area which allows - sort of - us regular Americans an opportunity to ask a member of the Bush administration some hard questions. Of course, most they won't answer and most others they simply say "Thanks for the questions", and spin the question to fit their rhetoric.

The next "Ask the White House" is a Q & A with none other than First Lady Laura Bush. Mrs. Bush, who is still seen as popular with the American people, has been asked to come to the aid of her husband in many instances lately, and is being passed of as - get this - an "expert" on the Continent of Africa. I encourage all of you to log onto the White House web site and submit questions to the former Texas librarian and ask her what you want to know about Africa. All questions must be in by Wednesday morning (as she will be answering them at 1:30PM). Here's the link:


In the most recent "Ask the White House" segment, Management and Budget Director , Jim Nussle, is put on the luke-warm seat. His opening remarks include this:

"On Monday, for the first time the President submitted his Budget to Congress electronically. It is posted at www.budget.gov. We at OMB are excited to lead this effort for a few reasons: 1) it allows us to utilize technology to provide information in a user-friendly, fast and public way; 2) if others follow our lead, this step will result in conserving 20 tons of paper—saving over 480 trees; and 3) we finally have a clean desk."

What a card! They have time to destroy the economy and joke about it too. All of a sudden, the administration of "Environment? What Environment?" is taking on the reduction of trees and the rest of the environment. Better late than never, right? I wonder how many trees might have been saved had we not had so many wildfires on the west coast just this past year alone?

The first question is from Fred of Irvine, California. He asks, in part: When I look at the President's budget actions, I feel depressed. Depressed because when the President took over, there was a $160 billion surplus. A tax cut that was supposed to use only 13 of that, used up more, and a recession made it a huge deficit.
We were told by you and others the budget would be in balance by 2009. Now, it seems our leaders are always telling us budget balance is around the corner. Now, you have moved the marker to 2012. Should we believe you?

And here is Nussle's answer: Actually, last year, the President proposed a budget that would reach balance by 2012. The marker is the same – and we’re continuing to take steps that will help achieve this important goal of balance by 2012. Continued economic growth is the most critical element in reducing the deficit, getting back to balance and addressing our long-term challenges. Both Republicans and Democrats have joined together and rightly decided that preventing a slowdown in the economy is a top priority, even though this $145 billion growth package will result in an up tick in the deficit for the next couple of years. However, this up tick in the deficit can be temporary and manageable. We can balance the budget by 2012, provided we keep taxes low, accelerate economic growth, and keep spending in check.

So, just to get this straight, the ever-expanding budget deficit, which doesn't even include the monies we're spending in Iraq and Afghanistan (they call that "discretionary spending"), according to Nussle is going to be balanced by 2012. And if that isn't far-fetched enough for you to believe, the OMB Director is even predicting an "uptick", or "temporary" increase in the deficit while it straightens itself out. Of course there is no explanation of how the budget deficit crisis - and it is a crisis - will "fix" itself.

There can be no doubt that this - the Administration of Diminished Responsibility" - still is pushing their own version of "trickle down" upon us. And surely they still want us to believe that giving more and even more money to the Bush "base" of "haves and have mores" will solve all of our problems.

The funny thing about this is when (and if) a Democrat gains the White House in November (January 21, 2009), and that new President, should actually relieve us of this Bush-administered debt, the then-former President will be able to stand up and say, "See? I told you so," forgetting that it was he and his administration who put us in this bad economic place in the first place.

And if that new President should not be able to fix Bush's economy, then-former President Bush, the Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of the gang will all be yelling, "If President (Clinton? Obama?) just kept up the great economic plan left to them by President Bush, we'd all be bathing in gold by now."

Talk about a win-win. That'll give 2012 Presidential candidate Jeb Bush something to run on, won't it?

-Noah Greenberg

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

Your prayers worked.

The three and a half month WGA strike is finally over.

Well, almost hallelujah. The presumption is that when the writers weren’t walking picket lines, they were home writing shows. Some were, some weren’t. The questions now: were they writing shows we like, or ones we hate? What can we look forward to and how quickly?

First, the soaps will not be disrupted. This probably doesn’t impact a lot of our readership, but given that the best-ever gay storyline on daytime is currently running on *As the World Turns,* it does matter to some of us. (More on that later.)

Second, sit-coms will come back first because they are both shorter and static, and thus easier to shoot. For those of us deeply depressed about the state of the union, from the economy to the race for president, this is good news. Because lord knows, we need some laughs. Really.

Expect to see the truly funny shows like NBC’s *30 Rock* or CBS’s *Two and Half Men* return within a couple of weeks. *Saturday Night Live* will be debuting its first show on February 23rd. (Hope they find a black actor to play Obama.)

NBC also noted that *The Office* will be coming back almost immediately and with about ten episodes. But since we never thought a second of that show was funny, we don’t really care.

Third, *Grey’s Anatomy* will be the series starting up first. It’s already back in production.

Okay, there had to be a down-side, right? That’s it. The network shows you *really* want to see, like ABC’s *Dirty Sexy Money* or *Pushing Daisies* or even *Brothers & Sisters* will take longer. At least till April. But more likely all the shows that aren’t older and established will be left until next fall for a full season. For the new shows, even ones that had a huge cult following as *Pushing Daisies* did, this could mean not regaining the audience after what would then be a full ten months without a new episode.

Other shows might not get back at all, because their ratings were just too iffy. The word is still out on whether pre-strike faves like *Bionic Woman,* *Cane* or *Journeyman* will be back before fall, if then, because they were already on the line, needing consistent play to push the ratings up.

That’s another concern: Shows that had marginal, yet promising ratings, may never be able to re-start, given the big gap in time from when the fall season ended and the truncated new season will begin. How will they recapture an audience? The three afore-mentioned shows are typical: they each had creditable ratings, but hadn’t been on the air long enough to establish a loyal audience.

As for the biggest ratings grabbers, like *Lost,* which is having its best season *ever,* it’s likely the show will be tabled after only half the season. Which, given that we waited till January for the show to begin again after the show was in hiatus since last May, is a huge disappointment. *Huge.*

Another disappointment: *Heroes.* The top-rated series was due for its second “book” to begin, but now NBC is suggesting it will be set aside totally until fall. *What?*

Meanwhile, Fox announced that it is simply tabling the new season of *24* until January 2009. We know that there’s a cult following for the show, but the last programs to wait a full year for a new season to begin were *The Sopranos* and *The Wire,* and even those stellar, landmark shows lost viewers in the gap. Can a show from Fox hold people until then? Even one that has torture in every episode?

The consensus, no matter how you look at it, is that series just won’t be able to bounce back the way sit-coms will. Sit-coms have a built in audience. Most networks have a sit-com night–CBS has Mondays in a lock, NBC has Thursdays. Sit-com viewers are utterly loyal, unlike series viewers, who are extremely fickle.

What the networks really should do, especially now that the strike is over and agreements have been made, is to run the season as if the end of March were January. Just run it out through June. The old saw that no one watches TV in the summer is nuts. People *always* watch TV. If they were still watching while the strike was on, they will always watch, and especially if they have quality programming to view. People have TIVO, DVR, VCR and online options to catch up with episodes of favorites shows if they happen to be on vacation. It would be a win-win for the networks and for cable.

It’s not all bleak, however. Almost everything you want to see that’s been on air for more than a year will be back in the spring with between five and eight new episodes. Look forward to the CSI and Law&Order franchises to be returning with new shows in March–which means they haven’t lost that much time. It will be March sweeps instead of February. The phenomenal *Boston Legal* will be back in March as well.

*ER,* *Criminal Minds,* Without a Trace,* *Medium,* *Supernatural*—these will all return in early April and pretty much run through till June. The Monday and Thursday night comedy line-ups will also be back in early April and run through June. (Those crazy *Office* aficionados will *not* be getting those promised 30 new episodes, however. Try ten.)

The fallout will continue, but it could be a lot worse. The strike could still be on. But did anyone *really* think that the strike would cancel the Oscars? The 80th annual Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 24th. Or as Craig Ferguson calls it “the gay Super bowl.”

Speaking of gay, *As the World Turns* is doing something so very different with its queer storyline, that we’re officially in a swoon.

For years we thought the *All My Children* storyline of Bianca Montgomery, daughter of Erica Kane, was the best queer storyline to hit daytime. And it was, truly, and for many of the same reasons the *ATWT* storyline is so good now. The character was central to the landscape of the soap–was in fact one of those soap children who had grown up there. The actress portraying Bianca, Eden Riegel, was stellar. She added nuance and depth and humanity to the character.

But ultimately Bianca’s story suffered from what most queers on TV (with the exception of all-queer shows like *The L Word* or *Queer as Folk*) suffer from: singularity. Bianca never really had anyone to be queer with. Her first girlfriend wasn’t gay, her second was murdered, her third moved back to Poland, her fourth was the bi-curious identical twin sister of her murdered girlfriend and then her final relationship before she exited the show last September was a man–or rather a transgendered man who was a lesbian but hadn’t had the surgery. In between lovers number three and four, Bianca was brutally raped and bore the child of her rapist.

Got all that?

So it was a lot of soap and mirrors and Bianca had more kisses with her TG partner than she ever did with her lesbian ones. Riegel won a well-deserved Emmy for her portrayal, but the character also was never allowed to grow beyond the limitations of what the producers thought the audience could accept.

Being the only queer in Oakdale was the fate of Luke Snyder (Emmy-nominated Van Hansis) when he came out to his parents, Lily and Holden Snyder, on *As the World Turns* in 2005. Like Bianca, Luke was a high school student when he came out. Lily (Emmy-winner Martha Byrne) was so convinced her son could be “cured” that she tried to send him off to an ex-gay clinic to “fix” him. Fortunately, Luke’s father (Jon Hensley) was more open and saved him.

Luke had the obligatory crush on a straight classmate that ended badly with that guy nearly being murdered. Then Luke was solo for a very looooong time.

Then he met Noah Mayer (Jake Silberman). At first Noah was involved with a girl, Luke’s best friend, Maddie. But then, one day, they were swimming at the Snyder pond and fireworks began to fly as tends to happen when two young men are nearly naked, wet, one is gay and the other suppressing it.

But on soaps, true love never runs smooth. Noah’s military man father tried to kill Luke, but only succeeded in paralyzing him. From the waist down, naturally.

This being a soap, however, Luke recovered, just in time for Christmas.

Between Christmas and Valentine’s Day, Luke and Noah have been living together at the Snyder Farm. They have to follow Grandma Emma’s rules about not sharing a bedroom, but it is obvious they are getting *closer.* Then the two were invited to a gay weekend house-party, but when they discovered it would be a swinging party, they declined. These boys are *in love.*

Valentine’s Day brought the soaps first ever gay spot, with Luke and Noah in a fantasy sequence. The writers and producers at *ATWT* are obviously deeply committed to this storyline and to making these two into a soap super couple.

Hansis is a superb actor and he gives a depth to the couple’s intimate moments that is incredibly compelling. Silberman is a good foil for Hansis–his restrained, not-quite-sure-how-to-be-gay affect really works. A fabulous storyline. Youtube has numerous videos from the show with the couple’s kisses and other close moments, including the wet pond scene.

From the sublime to the slime and the news you aren’t seeing. Throughout the week of February 11th, NBC’s Ann Curry was in Congo reporting on the horrors of the ongoing war there that has taken thousands of lives and made rape a way of life for women and girls.

Curry’s harrowing accounts of how women and girls are being destroyed piece by piece, as well as her reports on child soldiers can be seen at MSNBC.nightly.com. It’s well worth a look. Congo is at least as awful as Darfur, but no one ever talks about it.

No one also ever talks about the fact that Barack Obama has been getting a free pass from the press for over a year, either. Oprah’s presidential pick may finally be coming under the same kind of microscope Hillary Clinton has been under as long as we’ve been alive.

NBC did the first ever investigation of anything Obama on February 15th. Senior correspondent Lisa Myers investigated Obama’s connections to Exelon Corporation.

Obama has been touting his anti-corporate stance in all his Ted Sorenson-authored speeches. But Exelon, one of the top corporations in Illinois, is also one of the top contributors to Obama’s campaign, having donated more than a quarter of a million dollars thus far.

But huge campaign contributions from corporations to candidates isn’t a big deal. It’s commonplace. What isn’t so commonplace, is that Obama has been spinning a story on the campaign trail about legislation he “passed” regarding nuclear regulation of leaks by corporations like Exelon.

According to Myers, not exactly.

Exelon had leaks in Godley, Illinois. Citizens and activist groups turned to Obama for help, but Obama, on the campaign trail, didn’t have much time for his constituents.

The leaks turned out to be just below the levels that were too high for comfort. Or breathing.

A Senate bill, S. 2348, which was supposed to require Exelon and other similar companies to reveal information about leaks to the local citizenry when they happened, was, according to Obama, passed–and by him.

But the bill was never passed. Instead an agreement was made that corporations like Exelon would police themselves.

Obama disputes he was influenced by Exelon, and perhaps he wasn’t. But for the guy who is constantly talking about lobbyists, the appearance of a quid pro quo is problematic. Or should be.

Finally, our TV moment of the week came when Jane Fonda was on the Today show February 15th. Fonda was on with Eve Ensler, author of *The Vagina Monologues.*

Fonda was talking about Ensler asking her to be part of the play. She noted, “I live in Georgia. I was asked to do a monologue called ‘C_nt.’ I said, ‘I don’t think so. I have enough problems.’”

Yes, she did say the “C” word. But she didn’t *call* someone the “C” word. This wasn’t like David Shuster calling Chelsea Clinton a whore on MSNBC. This was a reference to a part of a play.
Meredith Vieira was forced to apologize for Fonda’s “slip of the tongue.”

Grow up, people. We have a president who has started two wars, invaded Haiti and caused a free fall of the American economy. An actress referring to the title of a part of a play she’s starring in is hardly the worst thing you’ll hear on the morning news.

In any case, stay tuned.

In response to "Rendell Says What Many Think," J. Matkowski1 writes:

The writer presents herself as an expert on Pennsylvania without knowing that both Harrisburg and Pittsburgh have Democratic mayors and congressmen.

Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com

-Noah Greenberg