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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

March 31, 2008


Another Al

Break out the Medal of Freedom and the gold watch once again. HUD (Housing and Urban Development) Secretary Alphonso Jackson, a Bushie who is actually under criminal investigation, is resigning his post on April 18. Of course, Jackson isn't citing his legal problems as his reason for leaving his cushy post within The Administration of Diminished Responsibility. His reasons are more "pure", shall we say:

"There comes a time when one must attend more diligently to personal and family matters. Now is such a time for me."

Any time with which one can deflect problems away from President Bush and his failed policies is a good time, right Secretary Jackson?

"Al" Jackson becomes the third "Al" to join the ranks of the unemployed during the Bush administration. Big Al (Alan Greenspan) had enough of the Bushco roller coaster ride through the economy and called it quits; and Sleazy Al (Alberto Gonzales) had to sacrifice himself as the goat-du-jour for the good of the administration, much in the same way New Al (Alphonso Jackson) is doing today.

Whether his resignation is coming following a Congressional investigation or by his own hand, New Al just had to go.

Here's what happened and what New Al's being investigated for, according to the Associated Press:

"Jackson, 62, has been fending off allegations of cronyism and favoritism involving HUD contractors for the past two years. The FBI has been examining the ties between Jackson and a friend who was paid $392,000 by Jackson's department as a construction manager in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina."
-The AP article by Marcy Gordon

Jackson, like so many other members of the Bush "base" of "haves and have mores", simply saw an opportunity to make a buck for a pal in the wake of the worst natural disaster in American history.

"I have known Alphonso Jackson for many years, and I have known him to be a strong leader and a good man,"

Did someone say "And Jackie here - you're doing a heck of a job?"

Jackson took the opportunity of his departure announcement to toot his own horn. He told of thirty years of good works in the housing industry and how he "transformed public housing". Of course, that makes me wonder if New Al actually has ever been inside a public housing complex like the one in New York City's Coney Island where I grew up. I sincerely doubt it or he wouldn't have been seeking credit for it.

Setting aside Jackson's silence during the housing debacle of the past year (after all, the "H" in HUD does stand for Housing), his record in "helping" (another "H") after Katrina hit New Orleans is even worse. Although he treated his friend's company well in the aftermath of the hurricane, making sure that his company "earned" nearly $400,000, New Orleans itself hardly benefited from his leadership.

Although Jackson is still being investigated, President Bush is sure that his soon-to-be former HUD guy will be proven innocent of all charges. He has to be if for no other reason than Bush Picked him.

President Bush "expects that the investigation will clearly establish that he did nothing improper or unethical,"
-A White House statement

Not only is one innocent until proven guilty in the President's eyes, but one, if he (or she) is a loyal Bushie, is innocent even after being found guilty. Scooter Libby comes to mind here.

But the Katrina windfall (alleged windfall, that is) and the current housing crisis aren't the only problems facing Jackson. The Housing Authority of the City of Philadelphia is suing New Al because they wouldn't allow another of his friends to get his way in the City of Brotherly Love. Their claim is that HUD, under Jackson, punished them for their disloyalty. Jackson, much like so many other Bushies who are called in to face the music, refused to answer Congressional questions about the affair.

And in other New Al Jackson news, in 2006 the HUD Inspector General investigated money which he blocked because the applicant said he didn't like President Bush. The IG found that Jackson denied the money "for a significant period of time" and, in true Bushie fashion, blamed his underlings. he later admitted that he lied.

Surely, as the President said himself, Jackson is "a great American success story." That is under his definition of success, after all.

-Noah Greenberg

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

There’s excitement in the air these days. This week marks the return of all our fave shows. It took a few weeks, but the writing and shooting have been done and now we can all breathe more easily: into the vast array of game and reality shows will finally come some fine-tuned comedy and drama.

One little benefit of the writer’s strike, however, was the decision by some cable networks–notably Showtime and USA–to trend over to network with some of their more popular items. Showtime has long been an expensive premium cable channel which many folks simply didn’t pick up. Which meant there would be a whole new audience for shows like *Dexter* on network.

*Dexter* is one of the five best shows on the tube, so it was a smart move. *CSI* is still quirky and fun, and April 3rd marks the return of that top-rated show on TV, but CBS was incredibly smart to pick up *Dexter,* a showcase for the *CSI/Criminal Minds* coterie that CBS has wooed for years.

If you aren’t watching *Dexter,* with the superb Michael C. Hall, you are *truly* missing something.

Meanwhile, speaking of criminal minds, is there a better show on cable right now than *The Tudors*? The epic series returned last week with–what else?–a vengeance. There *may* be a sexier man on the tube than Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as King Henry, but who would that be? Those full lips, that perfectly waxed and toned body, that voice? Rhys-Meyers makes it easy to see how women (and men) could lose their heads over Henry.

And of course there’s the wonderful addition of the estimable Irish actor Peter O’Toole, who at 75 is still in peak form. As Pope Paul III, O’Toole delivers his homilies with a quiet murderousness. If anyone doubted the complicity of the Church in Henry’s exploits, O’Toole’s portrayal of the Pope puts those doubts to rest.

There are many reasons beyond the oft-naked Rhys-Meyers and splendid O’Toole to watch *The Tudors.* In this election season, much can be gleaned about the rise and fall of powerful men. Something to think about when you tune in. Not much has changed over the centuries, it seems.

Speaking of change, it does seem that every time we surf the tube we see presidential hopeful Barack Obama on one or another show. His appearance on *The View* on March 28th was, well, creepy.

One of the perils of celebrity TV is that not everyone fits the dynamic. We have long wondered if politicians belong on entertainment shows. It’s one thing to see a presidential bidder on CNN, MSNBC, PBS or the Sunday morning shows. But *The View*? We understand Obama is trying to shed his stiff image and look more comfortable with fewer than 10,000 people at a time, but *The View*? *For the entire hour?* (The show was billed as “the drama of Obama”–which made it sound like something on the WWF!)

And we *must* note for the record that it’s definitely time for Barbara Walters to retire before she loses *all* her dignity. *All.*

There is something unseemly about the once-dignified Miz Walters oozing over the staid Obama and saying, “You’re very sexy.” Especially as it was followed by the peripatetic and right-wing Elisabeth Hasselbeck cooing, “I’m interested!”

As we said–creepy. Really creepy. Obama looked *intensely* uncomfortable surrounded by the *View* women.

Obama discussed many of the pertinent issues that have been raised in recent weeks, notably the controversy over Obama’s mentor and pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
New allegations have been raised about the Pastor and his questionable characterizations of ethnic groups, Hillary Clinton and other issues. Obama continued his defense of Wright on *The View.*

“I never heard him say some of the things that have people upset,” Obama asserted

Pardon us, but this seems so unbelievable. Obama was in Wright’s church for 20 years. There are no less than 50 videos on YouTube of various ontoward comments in sermons by Wright–all videotaped because Wright runs a megachurch and sells his sermons. So either Obama wasn’t the church-goer he asserts he is, or Wright managed to only say these things when Obama wasn’t there.

And while we understand most of America seats their outrage at Wright’s racist, ethnic and sexist slurs and seemingly anti-American diatribes, we would like to add how disturbed we are by Wright’s homophobic rhetoric, which includes AIDS.

Obama said on *The View* that if Wright hadn’t retired, he would have left the church. Wright just resigned last month. *After* the controversy erupted.

When Hasselbeck queried whether Obama’s judgment might be questioned because of his fealty to Wright and his statements, which include claims that the U.S. government invented AIDS to kill off the black community, Obama responded: “Part of what my role in my politics is to get people who don't normally listen to each other to talk to each other, who [say] crazy things, who are offended by each other, for me to understand them and to maybe help them understand each other.”

This was the same excuse Obama rendered for his close association with ex-gay minister Donny McClurkin, with whom he spent months traveling to black churches last fall. McClurkin, as we reported here months ago, believes homosexuality is the “worst scourge against humanity” and *McClurkin* asserted that it is through homosexuals that AIDS has been unleashed in the black community.

*We* wondered if Obama had asked his mentor, Wright, why tapes of the offending sermons were being sold by the church–avidly. We also wondered why any candidate claiming to be building a bridge between various groups would be raising his children in a church that is actively racist and homophobic and hanging out with people like Wright and McClurkin. Somehow we think that if Hillary Clinton were hanging out with David Duke, an assertion about trying to have disparate groups understand each other wouldn’t be an excuse anyone would buy. Even the women on *The View* among whom *two* do not believe in evolution....

We checked in with *The View* to see when they would have Obama’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, on the show for a corresponding hour of free publicity. We were told “There are no plans for such a show at this time.”

Hmmm. The show for women not hosting the *female* candidate for president? Well, *The View* *is* on ABC, the Oprah network.

Still. A bit unseemly, isn’t it?

Speaking of unseemly, the news you’re not seeing, as the nightly news focuses *all* its myopic attention on the presidential race is that the war in Iraq has intensified in recent days. The passing of the horrifying milestone of 4,000 dead American soldiers last week barely netted a mention. But the killing is up–a lot. There have been attacks on the Green Zone and throughout Basra.

Check out *BBC World News* on PBS if you want to see the actual news from Iraq. The networks and CNN seem to have made a collective decision to ignore the war in Iraq in favor of the minor tensions between Clinton and Obama.

PBS’s presentation of “Bad Voodoo’s War” on *Frontline* is not to be missed. The show will air on April 1st and 8th, but is also viewable online. Don’t miss this incredibly compelling documenting of one National Guard platoon’s harrowing time in Iraq, the perils of stop-loss, the failures of the war to achieve the goals set forth by the Bush Administration and every other horror you’ve heard about the war. Unforgettable.

Most TV shows have studiously avoided discussing the war, with a few notable exceptions: *Boston Legal,* which never fails to insert some diatribe against the Bush Administration into each episode. Go David Kelley! *Law&Order,* which also has addressed the war regularly. *ER* was the first series to factor the war into its regular plotline, followed by *Brothers & Sisters,* which returns this week and continues its war-related storyline.

But *As the World Turns* is a soap opera, and those, as we know, are given to fantasy more often than reality.

Yet soaps have been known to break ground on social issues. The telenovellas on Telemundo and Univision have been a showcase for storylines about AIDS awareness, for example. In the U.S. soaps have addressed compelling social issues like rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence, abortion, HIV/AIDS, cancer, drug and alcohol addiction and mental health problems.

Dealing with overtly political issues has always been a sketchy area, however. Yet years ago, *ATWT* had a storyline with a central character–Tom Hughes–who had been a Vietnam veteran. One day Hughes’ daughter–fathered while in Vietnam–appeared in Oakdale.

That storyline created quite a bit of controversy (and also launched the career of Ming-Na, the then-girl who portrayed Hughes’ Vietnamese daughter and
went on to star on *ER* for several seasons).

The current war storyline involved Noah and Luke, the gay college couple, who have added Ameera to their relationship–unwillingly, but then the path of queer love never runs smooth on a soap. Ameera was about to be sent back to Iraq when Noah decided to marry her to keep her safely in America. (Did we not predict this more than a month before it happened?)

Now the Iraq war and its consequences have been placed on the front burner on *ATWT,* if not on the nightly news.

Tensions are heating up between Noah and Luke–not to mention the ever-watchful feds–over the faux marriage. Let’s hope the boys can make it all work. They continue to generate an amazing chemistry on screen, in large part due to the stellar acting of Van Hansis (Luke).

Nevertheless, we are pleased to see the war coming home to small-town America, like Oakdale, Illinois. Sometimes art imitates life better than the news portrays it.

Stay tuned.

In response to, "One wonders if big Bush supporter and pitcher on the Boston Red Sox Curt Shilling would pitch to Lo Duca if they were teammates," Robert Scardapane writes:

You mean the White House doesn't have a fake catcher ready to go for these sort of events? Can't they get Jeff Gannon Guckett to "step up to the plate"? By the way, Chimpy McFlightSuit (that would be Bush) got booed by the crowd.

In closing of the current sexism vs. racism debate, Victoria Brownworth writes:

People seem to have this delusional idea that Jeremiah Wright is some storefront pastor, instead of being the head of a multi-million dollar megachurch whose famous millionaire congregants have also included Oprah (wealthiest woman in America and the person who initially funded and persuaded Obama to enter the presidential race), hip hop mogul Common, Michael Jordan and others.

I'm not sure how white women---or which white women--have profited from racism in the 20th or 21st century. Women of all races got the vote 50 years after black men. Women of all races continue to make two thirds of what men make for the same work. And the sexism of this election has been so flagrant and hideous, that it begs the question of not when but if we will EVER address what has been done to women and girls in this country and continues to be done every single day.

I suggest the writer read my column on what we cannot say in America--and then read it again.

I live in a 95% black neighborhood in Philadelphia, a city that is in the top ten poorest cities and is also 65% people of color. It is also 60% female. All those factors contribute to the poverty because it is WOMEN who most frequently live in poverty---women of all ages and all races.

This isn't a question of dueling oppressions. It's a question of oppressions, period. No one--save perhaps Obama--is saying that we actually live in a "post-racial" society. We CLEARLY do not. But we are so far from even addressing the issues of sexism--we aren't even at the lunch counter stage. That's the reality. Denying it won't help anyone.

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-Noah Greenberg