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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

March 4, 2008

 

McCain's Choice

Who will be John McCain's running mate? Or maybe we should ask, who will be the running mate of the oldest man ever to become president should he win the nomination? The age of McCain and his history of his cancer and treatment have to make anyone who is being considered, and wishes to be considered for the number two slot on the GOP ticket, a spot worth thinking about.

One needs to examine the pros and cons of each would-be running mate in order to judge their viability and potential to "The Maverick's" campaign. So now it's time to handicap the candidates, and we'll start with McCain's former foes:

Mitt Romney: The former Governor of Massachusetts' big pros are his relationship with big business and his own personal fortune. Although Romney's another son of a politician (former Michigan Governor George Romney) who was born on third base and thinking he hit a triple, Romney did take that ball and "earn" his fortune. Still he reminds me of the Steve Martin joke:

How does one get and keep a million dollars?
First, get a million dollars.

There is no doubt that Romney, the darling of big business, would bring in those big bucks which McCain might not be able to. But his cons are so much worse. Romney is a Mormon and so many in the Christian Right community think of him as a follower of a cult. Whereas Romney was right in saying that he would never apologize for his religion, it wouldn't help him to get the vote out of that base which voted at a 78 percent clip for George W. Bush in 2004. In that year, 23 percent of the voting population identified themselves as "moral values voters". And since McCain doesn't get those votes either, GOP turnout might be too low for McCain to win.

Mike Huckabee: Certainly Huckabee would bring in that same Christian Right vote that Romney would not. Huckabee, however, is so far and would be so beholding to that base that he might turn some in the center who would otherwise lean towards McCain towards the Democratic nominee.

I don't see the former Arkansas Governor as a big money-maker for a campaign which would require a big money-maker, either. Although he has the charisma which could attract independents, once one gets to know him it becomes all too apparent that Huckabee is just way too off center to keep those voters. However, if McCain thinks that he needs someone to bring out the Religious Right vote, regardless of the downside, Huckabee is the guy.

Rudy Giuliani: Other than "a noun, a verb and 911", as Senator Joe Biden put it, Giuliani brings little to the table and takes too much off. America's mayor might bring in some bucks, but those in the Religious Right base won't be fooled by a man they considered to be too liberal. His former views included Gay rights and abortion rights so it would be hard for him to distance himself from those views, as he had tried in his failed primary attempts. And his three marriages, his poor relationship with his children (his daughter is an Obama supporter and his son seems, at the very least, disinterested), the way his ex-wife (number 2, Donna Hanover) found out about their separation (from the media), the dress he wore on Saturday Night Live, and his "living with" gay male friends while Hanover and their children occupied Gracie Mansion, the New York City Mayor's residence, would no doubt make a difference to that base.

Giuliani does offer McCain the ability to offer up a McCain-Rudy team that would claim the "Keep America Safe" mantle, and they would play it and nothing else. For the next several months, the only campaign ad, and the only topic presented by the duo and their supporters would be, "we're safe and we're the only ones to keep us that way." And there will be some who vote for them just for that reason.

Duncan Hunter: Although not real well known outside of California, Hunter has a claim, albeit a second person claim, to national security: His son serves in the US military. As a US Representative from Southern California, Hunter claimed to be responsible for the 800 mile wall that has helped ease ever so slightly, the influx of immigrants into SoCal. However, and oddly enough, that would not endear him to many in his home state outside of the very, very conservative base in areas such as San Diego and Orange County.

Sam Brownback: I almost forgot about this very forgettable former GOP candidate. Brownback, like Huckabee, is a sweetheart of the Religious Right and might offer the same things that Huckabee would offer. However, his state is a Red state, so he doesn't offer much else.

If McCain thinks that Hunter would bring him California, his logic is flawed, Hunter is just a safe name he could choose and would be a forgotten running mate in the end.

Tommy Thompson: Thompson as a running mate is dead in the water. His comments about the Jewish he was attempting to woo (the "you people with money" thing) takes him off any radar which he might have been on.

Fred Thompson: This Thompson can't get out of his own way on the campaign trail. The only suggestion I have for McCain is do it. It will assure the Democrats a victory in November.

Tom Tancredo: Talk about a guy who offers nothing towards the November election. Tancredo ostracizes the entire Latin American community as he stands as a one-issue running mate - immigration. This is the guy whose parents came over as immigrants from Italy who is the poster boy for hate.

Ron Paul: An interesting choice that could never happen. If McCain would ever serious about Paul as a running mate, he could take his only issue - the Iraq war - away as a benefit. Paul was the only GOP hopeful who openly opposed the war and insisted that the troops come home now. On every other issue this guy is far to the Libertarian Right. He's almost like Joe Lieberman in reverse.

The Others:

Joe Lieberman: Even though he has already refused, the former Democrat is still a Committee Chairman in the Senate and will probably not change his mind. Even though "No-Joe-Mentum" might help in the center with on the fence moderates, his candidacy might actually bring out the left in droves - they just don't like him any more.

Jeb Bush: That's right, I said the "B" word. Jeb, the "smart" brother, could bring in the Bush big business bucks and get the former Florida Governor (and co-thief of the 2000 Florida vote, some might say) back into the public spotlight. His support, even in a losing battle, puts him front and center for 2012. The only problem is that McCain can't even say the name "Bush" anymore. And if you don't believe me, search the text of any one of his campaign speeches.

Colin Powell: Although attractive due to his National Security and Military career, Powell lied about the Iraq war and could (should?) never even be considered by McCain for the number two spot. Prior to that, he would have been the go-to African American.

Michael Steele: A real long shot, the highest office held by Steele was Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. He did, however, give it a good try during his attempt at his state's US Senate seat.

George Allen, Jr: Just one word: Macaca.

Olympia Snowe: A good, moderate choice who won't make the Religious Right base go "Whoo-Hoo". She would be a confirmation of the center if McCain wanted a female version of himself in many a Republican's eyes.

In the end, I think McCain might pick Giuliani. he's going to look at Rudy as the guy who had the lead in the race and blew it and think that his popularity could be resurrected.

There are many, many more I haven't even thought about, and don't want to think about. Please feel free to add some to this list at your convenience.

-Noah Greenberg



McCain's Health Care Plan

I thought everyone would be interested in McCain's health care "plan". The three pillars of McCain's plan:

A modest tax credit.
"Reform the tax code to eliminate the bias toward employer-sponsored health insurance, and provide all individuals with a $2,500 tax credit ($5,000 for families) to increase incentives for insurance coverage."

Robert Laszweski at HealthCareBlog has this to say of McCain's tax credit:

"With the average cost of employer-provided family health insurance at $12,000 a year a $5,000 tax credit will often come up way short--especially for higher age people and those who don't have the benefit of an employer contribution. High deductibles and HSA plans will help but families who don't have employer contributions should be prepared to pay at least a few thousand extra dollars."

Lower costs.
"Bringing costs under control is the only way to stop the erosion of affordable health insurance, save Medicare and Medicaid, protect private health benefits for retirees, and allow our companies to effectively compete around the world. Promote competition throughout the health care system - between providers and among alternative treatments."

This is a riot. So how will McCain do this? Does McCain support Bush's latest budget that has massive cuts to Medicare? Maybe McCain should be put on the record. Alternate treatments? Using leeches again instead of medicines?

Move away from employer based health insurance, and "allow" individuals to get their own health care from wherever they can find it. "Reform the tax code to eliminate the bias toward employer-sponsored health insurance... Allow individuals to get insurance through any organization or association that they choose: employers, individual purchases, CHURCHES, professional association, and so forth.
You mean are not allowed right now to get health care from where they want it. The last I checked I can elect not to get health care from my employer. Get health care insurance from churches? McCain - you really need to get your medicines checked.

With McCain's plan, we would have over 200 million with no health care insurance. So, where did McCain get this plan from? Well, it's basically Bush's plan but both of them are too stupid to even come up with this idiocy. They got from Richard Nixon who was too afraid to propose it. Instead, he floated the idea of HMO's while laughing at the American public that this would increase insurance company profits (Michael Moore has the audio clip in Sicko.).

So, the Obama' and Clinton plan may not be great but at least they do no harm. I can't say the same about McCain's plan.

-Robert Scardapane



Just to add fuel this very hot fire, McCain's health care plan would end up costing over $700 billion each and every year. In a budget of just about #3 trillion, just where is "The Maverick" going to get all of this dough from?

Since McCain has claimed that, now, he wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, the only place that this tax increase could come from is from the American middle class, the same group who is supposed to benefit by his health care scheme.

In the end, all that will happen is a huge chunk of change coming out of our pockets to compensate the smaller sum coming in. And when you realize that many in the lower- and middle-class don't even pay $2,500, much less $5,000 a year in federal income taxes, it will end up costing them more than they get back. In other words, the McCain health care plan will only supplement those who already can pay for their own health care plan - the Bush, now McCain "base of haves and have mores".

And after all of the money changing, there still will be just about the same number, or more, uninsured and under-insured Americans than there is today.

Some plan, huh?

-Noah Greenberg



THE LAVENDER TUBE: ELLEN VERSUS OPRAH
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 The San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, Inc.

No one can deny that Oprah is the queen of daytime, if not *all* TV. Not only is she the wealthiest woman in America, but she’s the most influential. Without Oprah, there would be no Barack Obama. Or certainly not Barack Obama, presidential contender.

It was Oprah who pressed Obama into running for president when he had barely crossed the threshold of the Senate. Obama himself notes that he and Oprah talk “daily.”

Now Oprah, having conquered daytime TV and big-time politics, has entered yet another arena: prime time. Her new show, *Oprah’s Big Give,* debuted March 2nd on ABC after months of intense hype.

There were also a few lawsuits pending about the show, the name of which was borrowed from a U.K. philanthropic agency.

The lawsuits were filed against Oprah and ABC by a mother of four, Darlene Tracy, who proposed a show with a similar theme to Harpo Productions a few years ago called *The Philanthropist.*Tracy’s suit and her injunction against the show were dismissed due to a technicality.

No one stops Oprah.

*OBG* pits ten contestants in a battle to give the most money to the best cause. The contestants all have something in common–they have had some life-altering experience that has made them want to “give back” to the community. One is a paraplegic, another recovered from cancer, another was in Iraq, another had scoliosis, another was simply hitting 40 and thought she’d led too selfish a life thus far. The contestants were culled from thousands of people nationwide who lined up to tell their stories to Oprah’s team.

*OBG*is an awesome set-up and Oprah, as is generally the case when she’s being philanthropic, does not disappoint.

The show’s host is Oprah’s resident gay-boy interior designer, Nate Berkus, so it’s worth tuning in each week just to see him being adorable (those eyes!). There are also several celebrity judges, including that other Oprah fave and cutie pie from the Food Network, British chef Jamie Oliver. (The two were exceptionally fun together when they appeared on the February 29th *Oprah* show and played at flirting. Oliver is straight and happily married with kids.)

The surprise twist on *OBG* is that one of the ten contestants will win the contest–and their own million-dollar bonus.

*OBG* is kind of like NBC’s *The Apprentice* only set in heaven instead of hell. A fabulous feel-good hour of positivity where no one gets fired, just fired up to do good works.

Oprah’s only daytime competition is *Ellen.* Last week Miz DeGeneres was giving the doyenne of daytime a run for her money on politics and her own version of philanthropy.

On her February 26th show, Ellen, whom friends have said has been extremely frustrated by the extremity of the media bias toward Obama in the presidential campaign, used the magic of technology to “drop in” on a Hillary Clinton speech in Texas.

The crowd was thrilled and surprised, as was the candidate when Ellen appeared on the big TV screen above the audience. An exchange that was both banter and hard politics ensued and the primarily student crowd was as wild for Ellen as they appeared to be for Hillary.

Ellen’s outrage at the media bias was obvious in her questions of Clinton, but the senator was diplomatic in her responses. Nevertheless, Ellen’s endorsement was clear, “That’s why we love you, Hillary. You have real solutions for real problems.”

On February 29th, Ellen addressed a bias as challenging as sexism–homophobia–and added a political twist to that as well.

The story prompting Ellen’s earnest talk with her audience was the murder of 15-year-old gay teenage Lawrence King. Here’s what she said: “I need to talk to you about something that’s really serious and really sad. And, if you know me, it’s hard to talk about sad stuff without getting emotional, but this is really important to talk about. On February 12th, an openly gay 15 year-old boy named Larry (King), who was an 8th grader in Oxnard, California was murdered by a fellow 8th grader, named Brandon. Larry was killed because he was gay. Days before he was murdered, Larry had asked his killer to be his Valentine.”

Ellen stopped, looked out into the audience (her own studio audience had uttered a few gasps when she said King had been murdered). Then she continued, “I don’t want to be political. This is not political. I’m not a political person, but this is personal to me. A boy has been killed and a number of lives have been ruined. And, somewhere along the line the killer, Brandon, got the message that it’s so threatening, so awful and so horrific that Larry would want to be his Valentine, that killing Larry seemed to be the right thing to do. And when the message out there is so horrible that to be gay, you can get killed for it, we need to change the message.”
Ellen looked as if she might cry, but went on, her voice getting more intense.

“Larry was not a second-class citizen. I am not a second-class citizen. It’s okay if you’re gay. I don’t care what people say, I don’t care what people think. I know there are entire groups of people who face discrimination every single day and I know we are a long way from treating each other equally.”

She ended with the following dictate for her audience to be aware of discrimination and homophobia in their daily lives and to actively work against it.

“All of it is unacceptable,” Ellen asserted. “All of it. But I would like you to start paying attention to how often being gay is the punch line of a monologue or how often gay jokes are in a movie. That kind of message, laughing at someone because they’re gay, is just the beginning. It starts with laughing at someone, and then it’s verbal abuse, then it’s physical abuse and it’s this kid Brandon killing a kid like Larry.”

She urged everyone to do something. “We must change our country, and we can do it. We can do it with our behavior, we can do it with the messages that we send our children. We can do it with our vote. This is an election year and there’s a lot of talk about change. I think one thing we should change is hate. Check on who you’re voting for. Does that person really truly believe that we are all equal under the law? If you’re not sure, I say change your vote. We deserve better.”

Of course Ellen knows from co-chairing a debate, that Clinton has long been a staunch supporter of LGBT rights, has spoken about the issue throughout her campaign and has intense LGBT support, whereas Obama has traveled for much of the last few months with Grammy-winning gospel singer and self-proclaimed “ex-gay” Donny McClurkin, who has defined his life’s work as “ridding the world of the curse of homosexuality.”

Obama has been asked by African American and other queers to denounce McClurkin but has repeatedly said that his embracing of McClurkin is about “diversity.” But last *we* looked, he wasn’t also traveling with someone from the KKK.

Hate is not diversity, no matter how eloquent the argument for it. Ellen ended her soliloquy, saying, “My heart goes out to everybody involved on this horrible, horrible incident. All the families, even Brandon’s life has changed because he did this.”

It was an impressive TV moment. For years, those of us on the other side of the small screen have urged those on the tube to use their celebrity power for change. Oprah would have called this a lightbulb moment. This was one week the daytime doyennes both had a lot to give, and did. But Ellen truly touched our hearts with her plea for an end to hatred of gays, especially our queer kids.

We were also roused by *Saturday Night Live’s* (*SNL*) return to the tube after missing over three months of the fiercest political season in recent memory.
We discovered the show can still be funny, which it definitively was *not* prior to the strike.

Former head writer Tina Fey, who left to produce, write and star in NBC’s comedy hit *30 Rock,* hosted the return show. Fey is one of the funniest people in America, so it’s not surprising the premiere episode was superb.

And political. *SNL* used to be a bastion of political satire, and it looks like it’s back in the saddle again–finally. (But here’s a query: Why did NBC pull Tina Fey’s *SNL* endorsement of Hillary Clinton from YouTube, which was as funny as it was spot-on? And right after at least six left-wing blogs referred to MSNBC as a 527 for Obama. Coincidence? We hope not.)

Speaking of satire, memo to Jon Stewart: stick to your own show. Stewart’s utterly lackluster performance at the Oscars was a huge disappointment. His humor, when not simply off, seemed more crankiness than anything else. Where was the Stewart of *The Daily Show*? Or even of last year’s Oscars? You’d think the writers were still on strike, the jokes were so flat and unfunny. It was almost as painful as the length of the broadcast.

Is it time to get Ellen back? Or Billy Crystal?

Jimmy Kimmel’s After the Oscars show was infinitely more amusing than the Oscars themselves. Check out Kimmel’s hilarious faux gay affair with Ben Affleck (“I’m F***ing Ben Affleck”), which debuted on the Oscar show. It’s available at both ABC.com and YouTube. With cameos from Don Cheadle, Cameron Diaz, Robin Williams, Josh Groban (yes, Josh Groban saying and singing the F word!), Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Not to be missed.

On a more serious side, *As the World Turns* has taken it’s own political turn–which soaps tend to avoid–and brought Iraq front and center into of all things, the gay relationship between Luke and Noah.

It seems Noah’s father, the homophobic Colonel Mayer, had a softer side. While in Iraq he befriended an Iraqi woman and her daughter, Ameera (Tala Ashe). Ameera is now in America on a temporary visa and terrified about having to go back to Iraq.

The show is exploring the devastation the war has had on its citizens through Ameera. One afternoon she (she dresses in full hijab), Luke and Noah are at the diner when the boiler backfires. Ameera dives under the table, shaking and covering her head. Her reflexes have told her it’s a car bomb.

A shaken Ameera is taken back to the Snyder farm by Luke and Noah, where she reveals some of the trauma she has experienced since the war. (She’s previously told Noah it would not be possible for him and Luke to be open about their relationship in Iraq and also walks behind Noah when she is in public with him, as Muslim women are expected to do.)

Luke and Noah are almost as upset by Ameera’s reaction as she is. They decide they have to find a way to let her stay in America.

Hmmm. Could a fake wedding be far behind? If that’s where this storyline leads, we will *not*be happy. It’s already clear that Luke is torn between a streak of jealousy over how close Ameera and Noah are becoming and his concerns for Ameera’s safety. And Noah’s complicated feelings about his father and his own gay identity may lead him away from Luke and toward Ameera.

Now for our rant of the week. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only six percent of murders are committed by women and girls in the U.S.

But according to Dick Wolf, creator of the *Law&Order* franchise, the number is closer to 90 percent. Nearly every episode of *Law&Order,* regardless of which of the three shows is involved, either has a female murderer or a woman who set up the male murderer for the crime.

Last week’s episode of *Law&Order: Criminal Intent* hit the jackpot with not one, not two, but three female murderers–two of whom were lesbian lovers who set up the third woman to be murdered as well.

Now we love *Dexter* and the ever-quirky original *CSI* and *Medium.* We *like* murder shows. We *know* there’s a willing suspension of disbelief involved much of the time. But where *L&O* differs from those other primarily fantasy shows is in the “ripped from the headlines” premise.

The *L&O*stories are indeed ripped from the headlines–sometimes barely disguised. But the twist that alters them from the actual cases they are predicated on is nearly always the same: the killer is female.

Those still wondering if there’s sexism in America don’t need to ask Ellen or Hillary. They can just tune in three times a week to *L&O.*

*Grrrrrr.* Stay tuned.


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-Noah Greenberg