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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

March 19, 2008


Funny, Huh?

What's funny about the Bush economy - if anything about it could be considered funny, that is - is the way in which the President and his merry band of "I-got-mine" band of pundits spring into action when it's their dollars on the line. It's been more than seven years since Bush's predictions about our strong economy have turned into our present middle class nightmare and, with the exception of making his true "base of haves and have mores" even richer, very few of us have benefited in the least.

So now we have the Fed, again, is going to lower rates to "battle the credit crisis", as they put it, in what will no doubt be another futile attempt to make the Bush economy stronger.

As they say, fifteenth time's the charm, isn't it?

But the funny (there goes that word again) is that even as the Fed lowers the rate at which we, the American people, loan money to gigantic corporate banks and such, those same banks come back to us - the American middle class - and charge us exorbitant rates for our credit card debt and such.

Miss just one payment, or simply make it late, and the credit card companies jump all over you, raise your rates and destroy your credit rating.

As I have reported about my own situation previously, a bank card company claimed that I had paid my bill late, even though I sent it in with plenty of time for them to post it, and they told me that they had no choice but to raise my rate to near forty percent!

I paid the bill off and cancelled the card, despite their pleas of "Wait! We can work this out!"

Just how will a rate reduction to those banks and other credit card companies help the regular American who can't afford to pay off their debt? How will a family who've put their sick child's medical expenses - a really bad idea, by the way - on their credit card pay off that debt when the bank raises their rate because they can't pay?

Amazing, isn't it?

And as Bear Sterns' stock price dropped from $58 a share to two dollars, the Federal government - the Bush Federal government - is going to help out by giving them a few billion dollars to get them by. That's billions of dollars which comes from the pocketbooks of the very same people which they wouldn't lend ten cents to unless they could get by fourteen cents on that dime.

"The Fed is doing what it can to come to rescue an economy that faces potentially a huge meltdown in financial markets. The Fed is acting as a lender of last resort and being very aggressive and innovative."
-Lyle Gramley, a former Fed governor now with the Stanford Financial Group

President Bush will hop on his white horse for a fallen comrade but not for us regular Americans.

And because of the housing market meltdown, now other investment companies who need cash are going to be allowed to borrow from that same pool of money which was reserved only for commercial banks - the Fed itself. So we - the American middle class - will be financing even more bad investments from the Bush base.

"There is no reason for the Fed not to be aggressive. The economy is in a recession, the financial system is in disarray and inflation is low."
-Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com

What Mr. Zandi, and most of the rest of those who call themselves economists don't realize is that the American middle class can't afford to keep financing the Bush base's greed and consumption. That same falling dollar which the upper-crust is looking to get rid of in favor of new get-richer-quick schemes is all we have. We can't put our money into foreign markets or speculative investments because we don't have that extra income to do so. And as so many more of us fall onto the "Out of Workforce" group of the unemployed (except in the Bush definition of the word), we see our future, and the futures of our children, vanish right before our eyes.

And, yet, we're still charged with financing the debt of the very rich.

we've don't it before. If you can remember the great hurricane seasons of the past few years, we financed the insurance companies who, after taking billions upon billions of dollars from their customers, claimed poverty.

When do we stop rewarding bad judgment and greed? When do those in power realize that the only way to save the economy is to save the middle class? When do these charlatans realize that the middle class is the only group who ca=n, in turn, truly save us all?

In relation to this group? Never. Trickle-down still stinks, no matter what you call it.

-Noah Greenberg

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

So much TV, so little time!

Let’s go directly to the celebrity scandal du jour, Eliot Spitzer’s fall from grace.

It’s not so much that we love seeing politicians take the hit for being hypocrites (okay, we *do* love that part). Rather, we like watching the after party on the news. The deconstruction of Spitzer’s tryst with the now-famous-for-all-the-wrong-things “Kristen” aka Ashley Alexandra Dupre (yes, she did make that name up, too) on the various tabloid shows and news networks was an event, to be sure.

The big question for everyone (after finding out that the big kink Spitzer demanded was merely bare-backing. He didn’t want to use a condom.) was “Why do women stand by their men?”

Now *there’s* an question no one could figure out without an expert! Why do wives of 20, 30 or 40 years stand by their partners of decades, the fathers of their children? Our wild guess would be that despite the humiliation of the moment, they still love the guys. But if that question weren’t asked, would the various news and views shows be able to include repeated shots of Bill and Hillary Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal? No. So that became the focus–the wives. Spitzer himself–boring.

Our favorite discourse on this query came from our old buddy, right wing radio talk show host and anti-gay demagogue, Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Yes, she’s still around and still pretending to be a psychologist despite her Ph.D being in physiology. (Yes, that *is* a Ph. D in P.E.)

So here’s what Dr. Laura had to say on NBC’s *Today* show on March 11th in a segment titled “Why Do Men Cheat?”

Dr. Laura said Spitzer cheated because his wife failed “make him feel like a man.” (Hey–we just report the news, we don’t work for FOX and make it up as we go along.) Dr. Laura noted, with her characteristic acerbic intensity: “When the wife does not focus in on the needs and the feelings--sexually, personally--to make him feel like a man, to make him feel like a success, to make him feel like her hero, he’s very susceptible to the charm of some other woman.” (We would add, or other man, given some of the recent political sex scandals.)

We liked this part best, though: “The cheating was his decision to repair what’s damaged and to feed himself where he’s starving. But yes, I hold women accountable for tossing out perfectly good men by not treating them with the love and kindness and respect and attention they need.”

Okay then. Just so you know: If your man cheats, it’s your fault. Dr. Laura has spoken. Now go do something sexy and make him feel like your hero, before he goes and “feeds” himself elsewhere.

On March 21st, ABC is taking a more serious look at the other aspect of the scandal, doing a special on prostitution from the perspective of the working girls themselves. Diane Sawyer reports in a two-hour event in the *20/20* time slot called *Prostitution in America: The Working Girls Speak.” Seems perfect for Good Friday. Check listings.

Speaking of sexuality, it looks like Ellen really is turning into Oprah. There she was on March 14th, taking on Rep. Sally Kern, a Republican member of the Oklahoma State Legislature.

Kern’s been making waves with her comments on homosexuality. Speaking at a function last week in her capacity as not only State Rep, but also as chair of the Education Committee, Kern had some interesting–and wildly inaccurate–things to say about homosexuality, among them “Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than a few decades.” Oh my. But then they have different kinds of textbooks in that part of the country where creationism and the “theory” of evolution are taught co-equally.

Kern continued, asserting, “So it’s the death knell in this country. I honestly think it’s the biggest threat, even, that our nation has. Even more so than terrorism, or Islam. Which I think is a big threat, okay.”

Now as if these comments weren’t scary and wrong-headed enough, Kern goes on to say, “Cause what’s happening now, they’re going after, in schools, two year olds. You know why they’re trying to get early childhood education? They want to get our young children into the government schools so they can indoctrinate them. I taught school for close to twenty years, and we’re not teaching facts and knowledge any more, folks, we’re teaching indoctrination and they’re going after our young children, as young as two years of age to try and teach them that the homosexual lifestyle is an acceptable lifestyle.”

Ellen played a tape of Kern’s speech to her audience. The camera panned the room and the responses ranged from dumbfounded and concerned to uncomfortable laughter.

After the tape, Ellen paused, looked at the audience and then said, “I think we have some misinformation here.” The audience giggled. Then she said, “I think I need to call her.” The audience responded by clapping and cheering.

While Ellen dialed Kern and the phone was ringing, she continued to banter: “Clearly she’s confused” and “I’m wondering what societies have disappeared that we don’t know about.”

Ellen got Kern’s voice mail, which was full. “I guess she’s getting some calls.”

Ellen then proceeded to give her message to Kern via her audience. “Hi, it’s Ellen DeGeneres. The gay one.” She told Kern she could be reached at the show and then added, “later I’ll be at the Dinah Shore Golf Tournament [the major lesbian event of the year]. If it doesn’t interfere with the women’s basketball games I’m going to.”

Ellen’s audience is 99 percent straight, so we appreciate her efforts–funny and non-threatening–to teach her viewers about bigotry and its perils.

We’d like to see Kern respond to Ellen, but we have a feeling she has her hands full. She and her Baptist preacher husband whose son Jesse is apparently not only gay, but was allegedly infamous while attending Oklahoma Baptist University for trolling the men’s rooms in true Larry Craig fashion may be causing some consternation in the family values circuit.

Didn’t Sally Kern say it was at “government schools” indoctrination occurred? Jesse attended only Baptist schools. Hmmm. Puts a whole new meaning to “spare the rod and spoil the child,” now, doesn’t it?

Thanks to Ellen for another smackdown of the homophobic right.

Speaking of the homophobic right and all it does for us as a nation, we would like to note that Easter Sunday will mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

So since no doubt this will fall under the heading of “News You Aren’t Seeing,” we’d like to remind you of some stats:
*4,000 American soldiers killed (there were also several hundred private contractors killed, but those deaths don’t count, according to the Pentagon, because civilian deaths are not recorded).
*Close to 40,000 have been wounded and injured. About two-thirds of the wounded have life-altering injuries: amputations, third degree burns, blindness, traumatic brain injury. ABC has done some remarkable specials on the injured with Bob Woodruff, who himself suffered severe TBI after being hit with an IED while covering a story in Iraq. *By the time the election rolls around the U.S. will have spent $1 trillion on the war.
*According to Reporters Without Borders, 210 journalists have been killed since the start of the war. Two are still missing and 15 have been kidnapped. This is more journalists than were killed in all of World War II.

Here’s a tidbit from the forgotten war: On March 14th we recorded the following: In Iraq, two bomb attacks killed eight U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter. Four soldiers and another interpreter were also wounded. The AP reported that a concurrent suicide bombing in Baghdad, which killed five soldiers, “was the deadliest single attack on American soldiers in the capital since the height of the troop buildup here last summer.”

Civilians–you know, the deaths that don’t count–fared even less well than U.S. soldiers. Also on March 14th, violence killed 42 people. According to the AP, civilian deaths hit an average low of 20 per day in January, but so far in March, that number is up to 39 daily.

Five years in, that’s where we are. Happy Anniversary, Iraq!

Now on to plain old TV gossip. Two tidbits caught our eye.

The first was a comment from gorgeous British actress and *Underworld* vampire Kate Beckinsale, reported to the BBC and passed on to our own tabloid TV outlets. On her favorite foods, Beckinsale admits, “I can’t do raw. I can’t do sushi, even. Anything that has that vaginal quality to it. I’d rather an actual vagina than that, honestly.”

Perhaps Ellen can have Beckinsale on to discuss food?

The second little morsel involved former *ER* star turned Oscar-winner, George Clooney. We remember reporting a decade ago on the rumors that the unmarried star was gay. Well, the rumors have not abated. In fact they continue to be so predominant that the tabloid TV shows were reporting about a moment during an interview for the April *Esquire.* The interviewer and Clooney were Googling the actor. When an item popped up that said Clooney was "gay, gay, gay,” Clooney told the interviewer, "No, I'm gay, gay. The third gay--that was pushing it.”

Gotta love it. Allegedly Clooney’s very involved with former Las Vegas waitress, now up-and-coming model Sarah Larson. But check her out. She’s so thin and breast-less, she makes Kiera Knightly look positively meaty.

Did anyone ask if Clooney likes sushi?

Speaking of gay, did we not predict that Noah would marry Ameera on *As the World Turns* so that she would not be sent back to Iraq? Did we not predict that this would create problems for Luke and Noah? Is this not going to happen this week on *ATWT*?

For the record, the scenes between Luke and Noah continue to be off-the-charts moving and sexy. So Ameera will have to find herself a straight guy. Soon.

Speaking of captivating, if you aren’t watching*Dexter* and *Lost,* why not? These are the best shows on TV. Best, best, best.

Finally, Dick Wolf had two more female murderers this week on the *Law&Order* franchise. Ripped from the headlines or just personal fixation?

Stay tuned.

A Story for St Patrick's Day
(An Old Legend of Kildare)

This is an old, old story about St. Brigid, Abbess of Kildare. Now, the King of Leinster in St. Brigid's time was very miserly, and Brigid could not persuade him to contribute to the needs of the poor. All she asked were a few acres of farmland where the poorest folk could grow their own food, but he kept refusing. One day when the two of them were standing together on a high hill near the royal palace -- the royal retainers behind the king, Brigid's nuns standing near her -- she said as if making a joke, "Well, at least you can grant me as much land as I can cover with my cloak." She removed the cloak from her shoulders and flapped it in the king's face.

It was only an ordinary cape. "Of course I could give you that much," he said, chuckling. Then Brigid directed four of her nuns to take the four ends of the cloak and run apart from each other. The sisters took up the garment and each began to run swiftly downhill. The cloth stretched and grew larger and larger! Poor peasants ran to join them, seizing edges of the cloak and running away with it until it was a mile across at least, then two miles, then three and four, and growing.

Brigid said to the king, "My cloak is about to cover your whole country, to punish you for your mean treatment of the poor folk of Leinster."

The king turned pale. "Stop, Lady Brigid! I promise that I'll give you all the acres you've been asking for."

"They'll need farm tools, buildings and oxen, too," she said cannily.

"Yes, yes, I'll dip into my purse and pay for those!"

The saint nodded and called back all the people. As they ran toward her, the cloak shrank and shrank until it was the size it was when it began.

The king kept his word, although grudgingly. The poor obtained their acres, their barns and silos, rakes, hoes, winnowing fans, plows and oxen. After that they could care for themselves, and they prospered until they could sell the fruits of bountiful harvests and pay their share of tax into the king's treasury. So in the long run the whole Land of Leinster gained.

And whenever the king was tempted to fall back into his miserly and greedy ways, St. Brigid had only to flap her cloak to frighten him to his senses!

-Jenny Hanniver

In response to, "The economy is good according to Bush?", Robert Scardapane writes:

If the economy is so good, I wonder if the Boy Blunder Bush can explain this:

IMF tells states to plan for the worst
By Krishna Guha in Washington
Published: March 13 2008

Governments might have to intervene with taxpayers' money to shore up the financial system and prevent a "downward credit spiral" from taking hold, the International Monetary Fund said yesterday.
John Lipsky, the IMF's first deputy managing director, said: "We must keep all options on the table, including the potential use of public funds to safeguard the financial system."


The IMF is talking about bailing out the United States because they fear we will destabilize the entire world. Once the IMF bails a nation out it isn't pretty - they can privatize everything, shut down social security, etc...
The Boy Blunder Bush and the GOP are living in a fantasy world where they think borrowing is limitless. Indeed, the "chickens may have come to roost"
in more ways than one.

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-Noah Greenberg