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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

July 28, 2008


What I Noticed While Reading HR1955

H.R. 1955: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

For purposes of this subtitle:
(2) VIOLENT RADICALIZATION- The term `violent radicalization' means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.
MADMAN: Welcome the "Thought Police". Not since nazi Germany have such broad words been implemented to define an operation without truly defining it. How will our government use its newfound power over us to deter domestic violence; and what will fall under the flag of this new bureaucracy?

(3) The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.
MADMAN: I FISA doesn't get you and your phone and online records, this bill will.

(7) Individuals prone to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence span all races, ethnicities, and religious beliefs, and individuals should not be targeted based solely on race, ethnicity, or religion.
MADMAN: Doesn't the first part of this section kind of contradict the second part of this section? How are those "Individuals prone to violent radicalization" going to be defined and who will define them? Certainly the arguments which will be used are the same sort of arguments which are used by authorities as they stop "suspicious vehicles" which just happen to be occupied by black men on I-95.
They call it "profiling", and whereas the second part of this section declares its opposition to the practice, the first part seemingly guarantees its use.

(8) Any measure taken to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism in the United States should not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.
MADMAN: See section (7): It certainly seems as if what this section (8) states is exactly what section (7) says will happen.

(9) Certain governments, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia have significant experience with homegrown terrorism and the United States can benefit from lessons learned by those nations.
MADMAN: Funny that the above-mentioned nations (United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia) aren't members of the nations our national intelligence agencies used when we "rendered" those they expected to have information critical to our national protection. Instead of using these nations with the kind of "experience" we are now seeking, we sent these "maybe enemies" to allies(?) with questionable interrogation tactics.

(b) Implementation- To the extent that methodologies are permissible under the Constitution, the Secretary shall use the results of the survey as an aid in developing, in consultation with the Attorney General, a national policy in the United States on addressing radicalization and homegrown terrorism.
MADMAN: What kind of torture do you use?

In the end, this appears to be a bill aimed directly at our Constitutional Rights. But what really worries me is the use of the Department of Homeland Security as the policing agency. The people of the United States simply don't trust this new department with the short, but questionable track record. The opportunity for abuse is all too apparent and could make the department into this administration's very own Secret Police.

And we don't need a new Bush-era Gestapo.

-Noah Greenberg

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

Sometimes TV gets it right. The Emmy nominations came out this week and except for a few glaring omissions (the final season of *The Wire* might not have been its best, but mediocre *The Wire* is still better than 90 percent of what else is on the tube), the Emmy team got it totally right.

The first thing the Emmys got was that cable beats network when it comes to innovation. That’s why shows like *Mad Men,* *Damages* and *Dexter* lead the drama series category. The are just incomparably good.

There were also network series that got nods because they are up to cable standards, like ABC’s *Lost,* which remains one of the best TV shows of all time. Smart, sophisticated, superbly acted, written with a level of brilliance that most TV writers merely pray for, it’s cable-worthy.

While we have mixed feelings about *House,* the final drama series nominee, we cannot dispute how complex the central character is or how good the writing is. That the sweet and amiable British actor, Hugh Laurie, can be re-crafted into the addicted, vitriolic, complicated American Dr. House is tribute enough to both the show and the actor.

One of our favorite performances of the season was Michael C. Hall’s *Dexter.* The show is controversial–serial killing is not, after all, an acceptable life style, even if Dexter *does* only kill evil folks–and that controversy seemed to keep *Dexter* and Hall out of the running last season. But season two was so phenomenal, Hall’s portrait of the tortured serial killer so nuanced and splendid, that Showtime got what it deserved.

It’s hard to know how things would have gone had there not been a writer’s strike, but one of our favorite new shows, ABC’s quirky and brilliant *Pushing Daisies,* got noticed by the Emmy cadre. Lead actor Lee Pace got a nomination for the comedy/fantasy series as did supporting actress Kristen Chenoweth, who already has a few Tonys and should have received an Emmy for her turn on *The West Wing* a few seasons back.

We have a particular fondness for the delightful Chenoweth who has a huge gay fan-base (well, she *does* do Broadway like few others). Chenoweth used to date *West Wing* creator Aaron Sorkin.

In last year’s short-lived but superb *Studio 60,* Sorkin based the character of Harriet Hayes on Chenoweth. (Sarah Paulson, who is a lesbian in real life and the partner of theatre actress Cherry Jones, played Hayes.) Chenoweth said the character was “almost verbatim” herself, specifically the outspokenly Christian but pro-gay part. One of the key *Studio 60* episodes Sorkin wrote was taken directly from Chenoweth’s life. The episode involved Hayes agreeing to speak at a Women of Faith conference, then being dis-invited after making pro-gay statements. This happened to Chenoweth in 2005. Chenoweth has described Rev. Pat Robertson as “scary” for his comments on gays.

And thus art imitates life and gets an Emmy nod. Hurrah! *Pushing Daisies*returns in the fall to ABC.

Another perennial favorite of ours, James Spader, was nominated for his umpteenth Emmy for his continually excellent work on ABC’s *Boston Legal.* The queerest non-gay show on TV, *BL* consistently takes the Bush Administration to task for its many outrages and excesses and Spader and co-star William Shatner have the gayest non-gay relationship on the tube. We love them together. Plus the show features a black cross-dresser, a dwarf and Candace Bergen (who also got a supporting actress nod).

*BL* can be very over-the-top campy and isn’t everyone’s cup of tea–we have tried to get one of our best friends to love it like we do and she just refuses–but it is consistently smart and never backs off the hard politics when so many more serious shows ignore politics altogether.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Emmys was the best actress category: \All the entrants were over 40. Mariska Hartigay, every lesbian’s favorite hard-boiled detective on *Law&Order: SVU*, Kyra Sedgwick, another fabulous detective (*The Closer*is back and excellent as ever), Holly Hunter for her searing performance on *Saving Grace,* Glenn Close for her gritty role on FX’s *Damages* and Sally Field, the matriarch of the gay, bisexual and pansexual family on ABC’s *Brothers&Sisters.*

Apparently there *are* roles for middle-aged women in Hollywood. They just happen to all be only on the small screen.

While *The Wire* was snubbed in the drama category, David Simon, the show’s creator, was not, receiving yet another writing nomination for the show’s finale.
(A quick note toward full-disclosure: We also write for *The Baltimore Sun,* the newspaper for which Simon used to write and which was skewered mercilessly and, most Sun staffers thought, wrongly, on *The Wire.*)

Simon was on PBS’s Charlie Rose on July 17th, talking about his latest HBO foray, *Generation Kill,* a seven-hour mini-series based on the book of the same name.

*GK,* which had it’s first showings on HBO July 19th and 20th, details the story of *Rolling Stone* reporter, Evan “Scribe” Wright, embedded with the 1st Reconnaissance Marine battalion during the first wave of the U.S. “shock and awe” assault on Bagdhad in 2003. The 1st Recon is a highly skilled battalion that was sent to secure one of the most dangerous roads from Kuwait to Bagdhad. *GK* details the first 40 days of the mission.

Simon explained that the show does not take the stance that most Americans have seen throughout the five years of the war on Iraq and will be “uncomfortable” for most viewers.

Anyone who saw even one episode of *The Wire* knows Simon doesn’t do comfortable. In the press notes for *GK,* Simon noted, “I have a certain amount of indifference to the idea of the average viewer.”

Recon Marines have a skill set that has meant they are never deployed for combat. They are stealth ops managers and operators.

But, as *GK* explicates with all the power Simon can muster–which is considerable–the way the 1st Recon Marines were utilized–or misused, depending on your perspective–was the first salvo of the wrong-headedness of the Iraq war. Simon shows us the 1st Recon Marines ordered into combat in open-air Humvees, like lambs to the proverbial slaughter.

The wrongness of the war and how it was fought right from the outset is the foundation for Simon’s gritty drama. As was true with *The Wire,* *Generation Kill* provides characters fighting more than one war: they are fighting the Iraqis but they are also fighting an American-led bureaucracy that traps them as readily as the teachers, police and reporters were trapped in Baltimore in *The Wire.*

Simon does drama like nobody else. Even if you think you are so over the war, watch *Generation Kill.* It will make listening to John McCain and Barack Obama slither around even less bearable than it already is.

Especially because the Iraq war is very much the news you aren’t seeing. *Really.* In January and February of 2007, the war represented just over 20 percent of TV news in all outlets–cable and network. But by the last quarter of 2007, the rate of news coverage had dropped to just nine percent.

In 2008, news coverage of Iraq has never gone above three percent of news stories, and that includes *mention* of Iraq in the context of *other* news stories, like the presidential campaign or the economy.

As Simon told Rose on PBS, “I think people are very alienated from this war. We have opted out from almost any connection to it.” (View the entire interview at PBS.org)

And yet we are still there.

Simon is now working on a series of projects for HBO, including a drama about New Orleans, post-Katrina, another story we’ve blotted from the news landscape. Simon expects to begin shooting in New Orleans in the fall.

Those viewers who enjoy the kind of immersion TV that Simon’s work epitomizes–that is TV that makes you think rather than is merely a backdrop for knitting or reconditioning that table–should run-not-walk to the local video store and take out *Clapham Junction.*

The five part mini-series was made for Britain’s Channel 4. Written by playwright Kevin Elyot, the series details 36 hours in the interconnected lives of several gay men in London. It’s spectacularly good, compulsively watchable and deeply disturbing.

*Clapham Junction* was loosely based on a gay-bashing murder in 2005 in London and was made as part of a 40th anniversary celebration of the decriminalization of homosexuality in the U.K. in 1967.

We viewed *Clapham Junction* at the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival on July 19th where all five parts were shown consecutively and we were absolutely mesmerized by its depth, provocative storyline and accuracy.

We lived for a time in London during the Section 28 controversy and were always stunned at how a nation that seemed almost wholly gay could be so rabidly homophobic. (Section 28 was an amendment which stipulated that “a local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”)

*Clapham Junction* is about the way British society says one thing and does another about gay men. The series begins at a gay wedding and follows several intersecting stories, including a barely post-pubescent immigrant boy learning the violin, a teenager eager for his first gay sexual experience, a gay man from the North of England who has finally realized his dream to live in London and be openly gay, a TV writer, a married father of a young son with a homophobic wife, a closeted gay man who cruises simply to bash his tricks and a gay doctor, who is one of the two men married in the opening scene. It stars veteran British actors like James Wilby (not his first foray as a closet case), Rupert Graves, Paul Nicholls and Samantha Bond and gives an all-too fleeting performance by the gorgeous and gifted David Leon as Alfie.

*Clapham Junction* takes on male desire in all its myriad and often surprising forms (the married and happily straight friend of the TV writer, who has a perfectly gorgeous wife, tells his gay friend he’s just “dying for a fuck”).

The series also juxtaposes male rage and violence and male sexuality and how they intersect. Gangs of queer bashers troll the toilets at Clapham Common (where we once had the worst high tea ever in the history of the Commonwealth, which gave a new meaning to the term “clotted cream”) and Hampstead Heath, looking for victims whom they either anally rape or beat–to death.

*Clapham Junction* is not easy to watch. The violence is absolutely horrifying. This is not the stylized, root-for-the-killer kind of violence of a show like *Dexter,* where we are horrified by the gore, yet somehow complicit in the violence. This is hard-core violence that is brutally realistic and makes you loathe its perpetrators who simply cannot bear the idea of men enjoying other men. Or even enjoying something seemingly unmanly, like playing the violin.

*Clapham Junction* is so far out of the norm of queer TV that it’s positively mind-blowing. Some will no doubt argue that its view of gay male sexuality is too sex-centered and not emotional enough a rendering, but those viewers will have missed the incredibly nuance sensitivity of some of the relationships.

Are all the characters likable? No. But then how many of the characters on *The Wire* or *Lost* or *Damages* are likable? Right, then.

So–get it, watch it, own it. Prepare to be shocked by the open sexuality and the disturbing violence. Prepare to cry at the end. Prepare to want more. You can check out scenes from *Clapham Junction* on YouTube and Channel 4.

Be forewarned, however: *Clapham Junction* will spoil you for queer TV forever. But until that time, keep watching *As the World Turns.* It’s summer, so the kids are filling the screen to draw in new, young viewers. Luke and Noah are back in the saddle at the Snyder farm, so to speak.

We’ve had a *lot* of kissing and hugging and man-handling. But we are tired of hearing the two college boys tell us they want to “wait.” For what? Queer marriage to become legal in Illinois, where the mythical Oakdale is? Or for some other plotline to come along and shunt their relationship aside again?

Procter & Gamble has been very brave with this story line and faced a right-wing boycott, but the time has come to take these boys to bed. We *know* the show can pull it off, as it were. But it’s time. Just do it.

Finally, we want to note that for once we agree with Elisabeth Hasselbeck on *The View.* She and co-host Whoopi Goldberg got into a fight on July 18th that sent Hasselbeck into a torrent of tears.

The argument was over the use of the word nigger. If the word is so taboo that we have to call it “the n word” then *shouldn’t* the word be retired permanently as Hasselbeck argued? Barbara Walters got into it as well, chiding Hasselbeck for not “being in reality.” (As if Walters would know what *that* is.)

Loaded weapons are loaded weapons. It’s difficult not to pick one up if it’s just lying around. Hasselbeck is right on this one and just as Whoopi was wrong about excusing Michael Vick’s torture of dogs, she’s wrong about this.

Stay tuned.

Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com

-Noah Greenberg