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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

April 22, 2008


Tonight, George and Laura Bush appeared on American Idol's elimination show. Last night President Bush made showed up on Deal or No Deal. One wonders if Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader is next.


Wait a sec - we all know the answer to that one already.


-Noah Greenberg

Carter Vs. Rice: No Contest

I don't write much about the conflict between Israel and Palestine for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it takes attention away from those domestic issues which need the spotlight shined upon them. And today's article isn't going to lecture on who is right or who is wrong or who has to do what in order for their to be peace in that region.

I have been accosted by Republican friends recently complaining about former President Jimmy Carter and his meeting with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. They complain to me, using the Fox News as their muse, by saying, "How dare Carter go to on these holy days (Passover). He should be ashamed of himself." And they continue to berate me for not accepting their view of the circumstances, even thought it comes right from Fox news, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Right Wing Nuts whose sole purpose is to attack and influence, regardless of the facts.

Jimmy Carter remains the only president in recent history to accomplish anything, as it relates to peace, between Israel and her neighbors. Certainly we could point to the willingness of Anwar Sadat (Egypt's president who was assassinated for his good deed) and Menachim Begin (Israel's Prime Minister at that time) as the real heroes of a Peace which has lasted for more than a generation now. But it was Carter who referred those Camp David Accords and was the man in the middle as the two former foes shook hands.

As a Jew, I can tell you that Jimmy Carter will always get the benefit of my doubt.

Even though President Bill Clinton attempted to get a real peace accomplished between the Palestinian Authority and Israel before leaving office in 2000, his effort ended up as a failure. Carter's did not.

And so far, other than a few photo-ops and $65,000 trips (each time Air Force One takes off it is estimated to cost $65,000) to the middle east, President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, nor any of the other various Bushies who have traveled to the region have accomplished a thing.

So it came as a surprise that when President Carter decided to offer a helping hand by meeting with Hamas and then the Israelis, that no one in the Bush administration had anything to say... until after he actually did it.

"We had certainly told President Carter that we did not think meeting with Hamas was going to help,"
-Secretary of State Rice

Although Carter did make a call to Rice about his trip prior to his leaving, the call was returned only by an underling. According to Carter, there was no warning made by Rice, the underling or anyone else at the Department of State regarding the trip.

"President Carter has the greatest respect for ... Rice and believes her to be a truthful person. However, perhaps inadvertently, she is continuing to make a statement that is not true,"
-a statement issued by the Carter Center

See? Carter must be wrong. After all, how can anyone have the "greatest respect" for anyone who lies with the consistency and determination the way a Bush can? Here is some more from the Carter Center:

"No one in the State Department or any other department of the U.S. government ever asked him (Carter) to refrain from his recent visit to the Middle East or even suggested that he not meet with Syrian President (Bashar) Assad or leaders of Hamas,"
"They had (Rice's underling) a very pleasant discussion for about 15 minutes, during which he never made any of the negative or cautionary comments described above. He never talked to anyone else,"
-the Carter Center

Maybe Rice's deputy misspoke, or whatever word the Bushies are using instead of "lie" these days.

Although Carter's trip ended up with an offer of land for peace, providing that Israel give back all of the land it gained from the1967 war in exchange for a ten-year truce, Carter's trip didn't seem to gain a thing. But it was a real attempt, something which hasn't been seen since Hamas became the ruling party in the Gaza Strip in 2006.

"I just don't want there to be any confusion, the United States is not going to deal with Hamas,"

But why won't Rice meet with Hamas? One would think that the lesson of not meeting with our enemies is one we would have learned by mow. Hamas is the ruling party in Gaza. Mahmoud Abbas, the "other" Palestinian leader is in a semi-exile in the West Bank and certainly holds no power over the small strip of land (Gaza) which should be the focus of attention. Does Rice think that by not meeting with Hamas that anything will be accomplished?

No matter what your personal opinion is of Jimmy Carter, at least he made an effort. He certainly did no harm. It's certainly more than anything the Bush administration, The Administration of Diminished Responsibility, has done.

-Noah Greenberg

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

Spring has indeed sprung. Not only are the old pre-strike shows finally back this week, but the crap shows that were clogging up the airwaves during the strike–game shows and reality shows–are now, finally, wrapping their season finales.

Could it mean good TV is back to stay? We doubt it.

Nevertheless, it was a delight to see *Boston Legal* again–we miss those weekly diatribes against the Bush Administration that should be being delivered by the news media and yet–seven years and counting later–still aren’t.

Speaking of the lack of TV news criticism of the Bush Administration–did you see the naked woman reflected in Dick Cheney’s *Cool Hand Luke*-style sunglasses? This was right after the interview in which he said, basically, that he didn’t give a [fill in the satanic expletive] what the American people thought about the war in Iraq.

One thing we’ll say about Cheney, he’s consistent.

We did wonder, however, as we watched late night comedians running with the naked woman reflection if these were the same glasses he was wearing when he had that unfortunate hunting accident with his attorney friend. Fie on us for wanting some substance to our news!

Meanwhile, ABC’s senior correspondent Martha Raddatz, who is constantly striving to actually report on things that are happening, as opposed to wish-fulfillment, did an interview with George Bush on April 11th that was pretty revelatory. Which would explain why it got absolutely buried. The interview was a follow-up to her interview with Cheney on March 24th, which is where Cheney basically told Americans against the war–that would be two out of three Americans–to go hunt with him. In the interview with Bush, Raddatz tried to get yet more information on where the war is going. Can’t blame a girl for trying. Bush acknowledged that when the war was going really badly, he felt compelled to continue to stump for it even when he himself wasn’t sure if he was right because he didn’t want to undercut the morale of the troops.

Okay, then. And your excuse now is what?

Raddatz made reference to Cheney’s comments and Bush noted that his administration doesn’t “govern by changing polls.” Raddatz very carefully and politely noted that the polls hadn’t changed in two years; the majority of Americans consistently have been against the war since 2006. That was when the President employed the famous Bush shrug. Although he was adamant about one thing: Troop levels will be maintained throughout the remainder of his presidency.

So much for the “surge.” Watch the whole interview as well as the one with Cheney at ABCnews.go.com. Just be prepared - it’s upsetting.

Speaking of upsetting, CBS aired *The Lord’s Boot Camp* on April 12th, in its *48 Hours Mystery* slot, about 700 pre-teen and teenaged kids enrolled in a missionary boot camp training to be evangelicals in Africa. CBS has done a series of documentaries in the style it refers to as “experiential journalism”–a kind of *cinema verite* look from the inside of various issues. (It previously dealt with crack addiction in this style.) *The Lord’s Boot Camp” explores the overall program then follows three teenaged girls as they prepare to be evangelical missionaries. It’s disturbing, compelling and raises serious questions about inculcating kids into the work of fundamentalist religious groups. The piece was done collaboratively with CBS and Loki Films. Loki produced the Oscar-winning *Jesus Camp.* View the video online at CBS. com, click on *48 Hours.*

Speaking of edification, we were *stunned* by ABC’s *Human Footprint,* which aired on April 13th as a two-hour documentary hosted by news anchor and *20/20* host Elizabeth Vargas. A collaborative effort between ABC and the National Geographic Channel, the show tracked what we use in a lifetime–food+energy=waste–and what it does to the environment. Between the 4,000 disposable diapers *per child* to the 43,371 soda cans per adult, we were very disturbed to see that *each American* would create *64 tons* of *unrecycled* and *unrecyclable*waste in his or her lifetime. One of the shockers of the documentary was the visuals: 24,000 rubber ducks used to represent the baths/showers each American will take, the image of what more than 43,000 soda cans looks like, that stack of diapers, the 13,000 pints of milk we drink and so forth.

Vargas takes an alternately bemused and stern tone in the piece which also includes tips for reducing our waste production. One tip not included: write to your favorite companies about reducing the packaging on products. Note how the generics reduce package content in order to reduce costs. Why can’t every product do the same thing? And what *are* we doing to reduce the unrecyclables like refrigerators, washers and dryers and TV sets? (Each of us will have an average of seven of each item in our lifetimes.) And then there’s the clothes and the furniture and the toothbrushes and....If the rest of the world consumed the way Americans do, we’d be out of space on the entire planet in five years.

April 22nd was Earth Day. Make a resolution to use less, waste less, recycle everything possible and not buy unrecyclable products.

The graphic and subtly horrifying *Human Footprint* follows a short, but oh-so-disturbing segment on *Nightline* last week about the oceans. Focusing on Captain Charles Moore, a marine biologist who has dedicated his life to saving the world’s oceans from pollution, the *Nightline* team took a trip through the Pacific to see what was beneath the still blue waters. In a word–a nightmare of unfathomable proportions. Plastic has now filled a continent-sized area of the Pacific and threatens our entire ecosystem.

So what’s a little plastic? Well, the biggest issue–aside from the disposal issues–is that plastic items don’t bio-degrade quickly as do paper products. But plastic *does* break down: into tiny bits, a kind of plastic gravel which is filling the ocean and disrupting the creatures who live there. Whales mistake it for krill (the tiny plankton that they skim from the ocean to feed on), smaller fish mistake it for even smaller fish. It’s killing the ocean, slowly but surely. And since humans depend on the oceans for half of their food source and increasing amounts of water, this presents one of the scariest of the global environmental issues.

As we said: Earth Day - April 22nd. Avoid plastic!

Speaking of avoiding plastic, we were wondering–yet again–what is up with the women of *The View.* Last column we reported on the strange hour devoted to Barack Obama. This week we report on the strange hour devoted to John McCain (and continue to wonder when the show will invite the *only woman in the race* to be on the *show for women,* but ABC says “no plans at this time” blah, blah, blah). It’s difficult to say whether this episode was more or less disturbing than the “drama of Obama” as it was dubbed. McCain didn’t hug everyone like Obama did and the “girls” scolded him for that. So then he *very awkwardly* twitched his way through the group hugging.

Difficult for us to imagine which is worse–being hugged by McCain or being hugged by the women of *The View.*

No one called McCain sexy: that was good news. And there was a moderate attempt at being political. Moderate. Unlike in her unadulterated swoon over Obama, Joy Behar actually grilled McCain about the war and abortion rights. And Whoopi Goldberg suggested that McCain call himself “Jack Mac” to appeal to the “youth vote.” (McCain has a youth vote? Of course we think if he trotted out his *teenage kids* instead of his *96-year-old-mother* he’d have more of a pull with “youth.”)

Flash: In a CNN quick vote question, “Do you believe there is a media bias against Hillary in favor of Obama?” The yes vote was 72 percent and the no vote was 28 percent. Interesting. Especially since 28 percent is the same number that still thinks Bush is doing a good job. Clueless all around, it seems.

Hillary did appear on *Ellen* on April 7th–Ellen seems determined to attempt to balance the TV scales for her candidate of choice. Clinton spent about half her time on *Ellen* talking about LGBT rights and telling a story about her parents’ queer next door neighbors who sat by her comatose father’s bedside when he was dying. It was touching and passionate and made us wish once again for a president who will give a — about queer lives and queer rights. Clinton’s appearance on *Ellen* was followed by Elton John doing a benefit for her campaign. Clinton’s super-pro-queer stance may be fueling the Right’s rumor mill that she’s a lesbian, but those rumors are not forcing her to back down. (Return of the Conservatives blog, which has been working non-stop spreading the rumor that Hillary has a young, Muslim, Pakistani lover, splashed the Ellen event all over its purple pages and came up with the idea that Hillary touching Ellen made her girlfriend jealous. Somewhere McCain is laughing and twitching.)

Speaking of queers on TV–and there are so few–the only person we are seeing more on the talk circuit than Barack Obama is Christian Siriano. Now we do–or did–have a soft spot for the crazy-haired little queen from *Project Runway,* but–he’s bloody everywhere. And his rag-tag fashion is wearing as thin as is his whiplash humor. When he turned up on Craig Ferguson, we knew it was enough already. Bring us a new token queer. Please!

Meanwhile, we are constantly in a state these days over the new triangle on CBS’s top-rated soap, *As the World Turns.* While we are pleased about the Iraqi refugee storyline and how it brings the war home, we hate the turn it’s taken. This week Ameera and Noah moved in together. Then Noah and Luke got together over at the new place to try and actually “be together” (have sex). Then came the pounding of the feds on the door, checking on Noah and Ameera’s fake marriage. Scramble, scramble. (Damn the Bush Administration and their keyhole peeking!)

The cold shower of the feds–Noah and Luke were shirtless and kissing on the bed–led to Noah saying he would have to cool things down for a while. Luke stormed off–who wouldn’t?–and headed back to the Snyder farm. There he saw his father, Holden, who has been having marital trouble with Luke’s mother, Lily. Luke said, “You’re so lucky you can be with the person you love.”


We know it is in the nature of soaps to tangle up relationships. The mess over at *All My Children* with Ryan, Annie, Greenlee, Aiden, Kendall and Zach is proof of that. But couldn’t the boys be allowed just one consummation of their love? The straight couples always get that much before complications ensue. And the sexual tension between Luke and Noah is so intense–we’ve just never seen anything like it on TV before. Not even on *The Wire.* It’s time to write to CBS and request that they turn Ameera’s sights to Casey, who likes her a *lot* and away from Noah, who really is confused enough without guilt taking over. Let the boys be boys–together.

Finally, in the news you’re not seeing, a teensy weensy mention on the middle of the night news (insomnia does have its perks, apparently) of a murder trial in Michigan noted that 22-year-old Steven Scarborough was convicted of manslaughter, not murder, for killing 62-year-old Victor Manious. Scarborough invoked the “gay panic” defense and the jury agreed. The fact that Scarborough beat Manious unconscious and then stuffed the man in his trunk–still alive–and never called police to report what had happened, seemed not to faze the jury.

Sigh. Again.

And you wonder why you need a president who is adamantly for LGBT rights?

As they say on *Boston Legal,* asked and answered.

Stay tuned.

In response to two columns, Victoria Brownworth writes:

I read both Madman's and another's column with interest and some distress. It remains incomprehensible to me how the latter can remain so willfully ignorant of who either Obama or Clinton are as candidates. Every issue he has another "Fie Clinton, fie!' comment that ignores Obama's record--and lack of record--and presents what can only be described as nonsense about who Clinton is as a person and candidate.

Obama no corporatist? In what parallel universe? The list of lobbyists both working for and contributing to the Obama campaign is the reason Edwards has refused to endorse him. And as a former Edwards supporter, I know that matters to some.

I understand the depth of the sexism in America runs far deeper even than the racism, so I do "get" that the "girl" was supposed to drop out and shut up and not do the superb job she's been doing in the race.

Which goes to Greenberg's commentary.

I know that Madman says he supports Clinton, but as some might say, with friends like these....Every column is one more nail in the coffin of Clinton's presumed demise and more suggestions for who Obama should choose for his vice president.

Well, the likelihood of Obama being the nominee gets slimmer with each successive and massive loss. I'm not sure how the news media counts, but that ten percent win Clinton got? That was also 20 percent of the popular vote. Obama received one million votes and Clinton got one and a quarter million. By any math that's a 20 percent lead.

Obama has not been able to close the deal since Iowa. He has consistently lost every big state and the media has pretended that states like Wyoming are comparable to California. Pundits have consistently predicted her demise. Well, she seems to continually win, despite having less money and no Oprah and no free ride from the media.

Obama gets weaker as the race goes on and Clinton gets stronger. Charlie Rose and crew were actually saying election night in Pennsylvania that he lost the Philadelphia debate and the Pennsylvania election because he was "tired."

Obama is the youngest person in the race. Thirteen years younger than Clinton and 25 years younger than McCain. It looks like Clinton is right--Obama can't stand the heat. So maybe he's the one who should drop out of the race.

And Madman responds:

Seeing things the way they are and telling the truth have become so much a lost form of journalism that when one does so they are condemned for it. As I had said before, had Hillary Clinton won by less than ten percentage points in Pennsylvania yesterday, it was my belief that she should then step out of the race and endorse Barack Obama rather than keep up a battle lost.

As for my opinion that Obama shouldn't choose Clinton as his running mate, should he get the nomination, I stand by it. My feeling is that someone with military experience rather than political experience; or someone with cross-party appeal would be a better choice.

And sometimes it's true - "with friends like this..." - but at least "friends like this" tell the truth. We have had way too many politicians taking advice from "Yes-Men" and "Yes-Women" for too long and it's time for those with real opinions and advice to come forth and tell it the way they see it, regardless of their own personal interests. -NG

Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com

-Noah Greenberg