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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

August 18, 2008


The Politician Formerly Known as The Maverick

This past weekend, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain had a semi, sorta debate California. The moderator/ questioner was Rev. Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and much of the chat was centered around issues the Religious Right deem the most important. Each candidate was interviewed separately by Rev. Warren and in front of a huge, mostly pro-life, mostly Religious Right audience.

One wonders if McCain, the Right's choice, would meet in front of such a courteous but otherwise hostile crowd of Moderates and Liberals as Obama did in front of this group.

I was originally going to compare and contrast the two candidates, but the statements and the manner in which Rev. Warren allowed Senator McCain to use his pulpit as his (McCain's) own made me think better of it. I decided, instead, to look only at McCain's interview.

What aided my decision to look at McCain, only was a new ad by, as he terms himself, "The Original Maverick". Certainly this "Original" has been replaced by the same old Republican we have seen these past seven-plus years in DC. In the ad, McCain voice-over announcer states, "America's broken, and John McCain knows it." The first thought out of my head was, of course he knows it - he helped break it.

The ad goes on to paint McCain as an outsider in DC politics, but nothing could be further from the truth. Senator McCain has become one of the wealthiest politicians in Washington since his indoctrination into the fold (and that doesn't even count his new wife, Cindy, heir to a beer distribution fortune).

Never has an "outsider" been so favored by being "inside" as McCain, a founding member of the Keating Five - the five legislators who helped Charles Keating and his Lincoln Savings and Loan bilk millions from many an American's retirement account.

So many things McCain said during his interview - the second of the two - that it was hard to choose what to concentrate on. But I persevered:

The first question to McCain was who were the three people who would influence him the most during his presidency. McCain's answer including the first bit of pandering by selecting the Bush administration's go-to General, David Petraeus. Petraeus' name is being bandied about as some sort of fix-all for all that ails the wounded GOP and their failed war in Iraq. What General Petraeus has done is to give the Bushies, and now the McBushies the pass the buck guy they want and need to Stay the Course in Iraq. Others who led the forces successfully have been put asunder by the Administration of Diminished Responsibility. They include: General David McKiernan who led the forces swiftly though Iraq as the commander on the ground; General Eric Shinseki who told the truth about how many troops would be needed and was relieved of his duties as the army's Chief of Staff; and so many others who had the temerity to tell the truth that listing them all would be lengthy and redundant.

Petraeus, the man who allowed some thousands of US armaments to be released without record while he was in charge of our weapons has been elevated to deity in the eyes of the new McBushies because they simply need him, and he is willing. Certainly its a good career move, especially if McCain wins.

An injured soldier was named as McCain's second most influential person, and perhaps that's a good thing. we know that no Democrat, moderate or anyone with a view other than "Stay the Course" will have their voices muffled by a McBush administration so we may as well have someone with actual battle experience be giving McCain advice. Perhaps a real soldier would be a voice of reason and be able to show McCain the errs of his ways.

But I doubt it.

And, finally, number three was Meg Whitman of EBay. McCain's logic is that dotcoms are good for America, no matter how much money thy loose in reality. Sure eBay was a great online invention, but do really want to run our nation as an auction via the web?

Actually, EBay is the McBush model already: A Government available to the highest bidder.

During the Town Hall style meeting, which is McCain's preference, "The Politician formerly known as The Maverick" McCain invoked the Reagan legacy to the receptive crowd. Although stating that he was against Reagan's putting troops into Beirut, Lebanon as a freshman Congressman because he thought they would be killed (and stating to the crowd that he was right), I couldn't help but notice that it might have been the last big issue which he took the side of right versus stupidity on.

But the moment which made me raise an eyebrow was this:

"We've got to do everything: Wind, tides, solar, natural gas, hydrogen cars, hybrid cars, electric cars, and we have to have nuclear power in order to reduce greenhouse gases and save on our energy costs"
-McCain as part of his response the Warren's "What was the most significant position you held ten years ago that you do not hold today?"

Similar statements have come from the McCain campaign through his web site and TV ads as well. McCain's voting record on energy issues shows a completely different candidate than the one showing his green side. The Campaign for America's Future (CAF) "Energy Independence: Record vs. Rhetoric" report which, in part, rated our legislators on energy issues rates McCain's score at 17 percent. Anything under 30 percent represents the 206 members who are in "opposition of energy independence," as defined by CAF. Here are key votes which McCain has cast as reported by www.ontheissues.org:
-Voted NO on $3.1B for emergency oil assistance for hurricane-hit areas
-Voted NO on reducing oil usage by 40% by 2025 (instead of 5%)
-Voted YES on defunding renewable and solar energy
-Sponsored bill for greenhouse gas tradable allowances

And if all of this weren't enough, McCain, in another moment of separating himself from his DC colleagues argued this:

Two things (members of Congress) never miss: A pay raise and a vacation,"

hey Senator Hypocrite - Aren't you a member of Congress? Did you object when the vote came to adjourn? Oh, wait - you weren't there. In 2007 alone, Senator "No-Show" missed fifteen of the last 25 votes in the upper chamber of Congress (according to the American Conservative Union.

McCain is a legislator who voted in lock-step with almost every bill signed by President Bush. And even the ones he voted against, McCain managed to flip-flop on. Today, for example, McCain wants to make the Bush tax breaks for the very wealthy his own. If given his way, today, McCain would make them permanent. Even his pseudo-hero, Ronald Reagan, raised taxes when his tax breaks did nothing but break our treasury.

And that brings me to the gig question by Warren. The Reverend asked McCain to do something simple: "Define 'Rich.'" It stammered McCain After a little hemming and hawing, the former Maverick came out with this:

"Let's give every family in America $7.000 for every child that they have. Let's give them a $5,000 refundable tax credit to go out and get the health insurance of their choice. Let's not have the government take over the health care coverage in America."

There are about 150 million American families. In McCain's new world order, only those rich enough to pay taxes are going to get that big $7,000 tax give-back for each child. Look at your taxes; count your children; how much did you pay and how much are you going to get back? Many of you receiving this newsletter probably don't even pay seven thousand dollars a year in federal taxes (excluding payroll taxes - a.k.a. Social Security Taxes).

"They want to raise your payroll taxes,"
-McCain, in another "fear them" moment

Talk about fuzzy math.

McCain's right here. We do want to raise your payroll taxes. Senator Obama's plan calls for the very rich to pay their fair share. After all, we in the middle class earning less than about $100,000 per year pay 6.2 percent of our salaries in "Payroll Taxes". Those earning over that amount only pay on the first $100,000 - the rest is tax-free. McCain likes the Social Security system the way it is and wither doesn't want to fix it or give the money to bankers to invest - for you. Obama's plan calls for those earning over $250,000 per year to pay on the amount over that figure. It wouldn't only fix Social Security - it would make it fair.

Finally McCain did answer Warren's question: "Define 'Rich.'"

"Five Million Dollars,"

And to The Politician Formerly Known as The Maverick, that is rich...

But just barely.

-Noah Greenberg

Anger Face

I went from Case Western to U. of I. and back this week end. At one of the stops I saw a picture of the USA Olympic swimmer celebrating with a very angry face. You know the one: take that you SOB’s. How awful. At whom is he angry? Everyone in this country was on his side. He had thousands of fans. Just an opposite example: Brady won his first Super Bowl and was humble and had a happy face. Yet, he was the underdog and maligned for even being there. He did not put on the ‘in you face angry look.” I believe this swimmer did a disservice to the USA, and is a bad person.

-Keith A. Dewey

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

Only a few more days before the Olympics end and the Democratic National Convention begins and soon after that, the Republican National Convention. (About the latter–John McCain’s favorite song is Abba’s *Dancing Queen,* a tidbit too delicious to ignore. Will they play that when he walks on stage?)

Anyway, we can hardly contain our excitement.

No, really. As much fun as the Olympics have been on the tube 24/7 (is it *only* 24 hours coverage a day? It seems like so much more....), the Democratic National Convention is going to be even better. And it, too, will be 24/7 for the duration. The cages for protestors are already being built and the plastic handcuffs being readied. We aren’t quite sure what all the protests are going to be about in the Mile High City, although we’d love to see Nancy Pelosi burned in effigy next to her BFF George Bush, but we can’t wait to have whatever the protests are *not* reported by the news when they happen.

Of course we are *aching* for a fight in Denver on the scale of Manila 1975. We so don’t want a reprise of the big snorefests of 2000 and 2004. Instead we are hoping for a Democratic Smackdown, although we know it’s more fantasy than reality, but then that’s what TV is all about, right?

*Please note: the following is our personal fantasy TV sequence and does not reflect the fantasy TV sequences of this newspaper or its publisher, although we know enough of our readership to know it is by no means a singular fantasy.*

Here’s what we’d like to see on night two, August 26th, when Hillary Clinton takes the stage. (The date is symbolic: August 26th is Women’s Equality Day, designated in 1971 to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.)

We’d like to see TV news all a twitter covering a mutiny on the floor of the convention of the sort that got Franklin D. Roosevelt the nomination in 1932 instead of Alfred E. Smith. We’d like to see the floor vote for Clinton turn more than symbolic, with the cameras zooming in on the action. We want to see all the delegates that voted for Hillary, plus the super delegates, actually take a moment and think about the nomination sans celebrity and kool aid, Berliners and Paris Hilton. We’d like to see the big three anchors explain how Hillary did win the popular vote and Obama has turned Republican since June, they just forgot to report that fact.

We’d like someone to register the following comment we heard on ABC news on August 16th: “Bush, McCain *and Obama* are united in issuing warnings to Russia” that the “full force of American outrage” will be felt if Russia does not withdraw from Georgia.

Then we’d like to see someone like ABC’s senior political correspondent, Jake Tapper, remind the audience that the self-described anti-war presidential candidate has so far suggested military action against Iran, Pakistan and now Russia. Not your father’s anti-war candidate, for sure.

We want to see Chris Matthews, he of the amazing Obama man-crush note that since the primary ended, Obama has run, not walked, to the right and voted with Bush as often as McCain, while Clinton has consistently voted against Bush. We’d just like even one member of the TV media to stop masturbating over Obama long enough to report any facts. Then we’d like someone at the Democratic Convention to enter the facts into the record. *Then* we’d like to see it on the tube, since it is *soooo* the news you’re not seeing.

That’s our fantasy for next week’s TV mini-series: *Democratic Smackdown in Denver: Watch as the little lady reminds the crowd, a la Norma Rae, that the Democrats are supposed to vote for Democratic ideals, not cave cravenly to the Bush crowd and their ilk on everything from energy to telecom immunity to faith-based initiatives to a third war.*

Call us one of those folks looking for catharsis. Or integrity. Whatever works.

Speaking of integrity, there seemed to be a (so not) surprising lack of it among the Chinese at the Beijing Games, which have been, except for the integrity issue, pretty mesmerizing.

So we get the whole “put your best face forward” concept that was the *raison d’etre* of the Chinese for the games. But having one eight-year-old sing the national anthem and then have a prettier one lip-synch it for the crowd? As Craig Ferguson noted, “The big news from China is that the adorable little girl who sang the national anthem for the opening ceremony was lip-syncing. This is outrageous. If you can't trust an oppressive, totalitarian dictatorship...”

Then there was the controversy over the Chinese women’s gymnastic team. How old were they really?

First, can we just stop calling it *women’s* gymnastics when everyone is between the ages of 16 and 16 and a half, with the exception of the Chinese team which was on average, eight? It’s girl’s gymnastics, not women’s.

The IOC rules are specific: No one under 16 in gymnastics. If you missed the performance, check it out on the endless replay loop at NBC or MSNBC.com. There you will see girls with no breasts at all, even for female gymnasts who are traditionally breastless, tiny little girls, girls with missing teeth (not from hitting a balance beam on the way down, either, but from leaving them for the tooth fairy). If these girls are 16, then there is a serious hormonal problem in China. But we don’t think so.

Late night comedian Craig Ferguson had his own take on the Chinese gymnast scandal, noting that if your complaint is that you lost because the other team played like ten-year-old girls, then perhaps it’s not really a sport.

“When was the last time you heard an NFL coach say, ‘Okay, I want you all to go out there and play like ten-year-old girls!’”

It’s not that the girls weren’t good. They were phenomenal. They just weren’t 16–not one of them. And last we checked, breaking the rules is called cheating.

Speaking of breaking the rules, Michael Phelps seems to have broken every rule of aerodynamics. Has there ever been a greater swimmer in the world? It seems not. Not only does the skinny Phelps eat 500,000 calories a day to keep up his super-human strength, but he seems incapable of losing. He has broken every record there is to break and brought his relay team into world history by shaving an incredible five seconds off the time.

There are other great athletes in the world. They lose once in a while. But not Phelps. He is the world’s undefeated champion in his sport.

He’s a phenomenon. Maybe even a freak. But he is unbelievably amazing to watch and we have been absolutely stunned by his performances, which bring out the flag-waving in us.

Speaking of freaks, while we think a lot of the so-called sports at the Olympics are crap, like beach volleyball, there are others that are throwbacks–literally–to the original Olympics that just are, well, bemusing yet mesmerizing.

Take shot put. First of all, what does shot put mean? There we were on August 16th, watching the men’s shot put and thinking that most of these guys looked like unneutered bison. If your head and your neck are the same thickness, perhaps you should cut back on the steroids. The U.S.’s Christian Cantwell, who looks like the largest animal in North America who eats Chinese girl gymnasts for breakfast, won a silver medal, a rather dramatic feat, given the Eastern bloc has had a lock on this sport since before they started making the shot puts themselves out of bits of the Iron Curtain.

Cantwell superseded all but one in the long list of Balkan and former Soviet leaders in this crazy sport which involves slapping your neck with chalk, sticking an iron and lead weight there and then whirling around in a circle until you let it fly and see how far it goes.

We’re not sure how this is a sport, but we couldn’t stop watching it. It’s positively medieval and just makes us yearn for a truncheon of our very own. But can we just say for the record, if we were going to pick a place in the Olympiad to do chromosomal testing, women’s shot put is where we would begin. Just saying. Age testing (let’s start by checking the baby teeth of the athletes) for “women’s” gymnastics and the old X and Y check at the shot put. And maybe check for bison DNA in the men’s shot put.

The Olympics do tend to bring out the jingoist in everyone. As Craig Ferguson called the Olympics, “Fascism in spandex.”

Speaking of spandex, there’s hot trannie news on the tube for those who are so over the Olympics and have no desire to watch the Conventions. *America’s Next Top Model* will have an MTF trannie in the lineup this season (which starts September 3rd, set the DVR).

Isis is a 22-year-old from Prince George’s County, Maryland. She describes herself as “a woman born physically male.”

*ANTM* hostess with the mostest, Tyra Banks, who we adore, said “ 'this girl,' and my staff said, 'Tyra, there's something a little different about that girl.' So what's different about that girl?"

Tune in to find out. You can check out the contestants online at *America’s Next Top Model.* We’d like to see how far Isis gets and what that means for the biological women.

Speaking of trannies, over at VH1 on Sean “Diddy” Combs’s reality show, *I Want to Work for Diddy,* the gorgeous MTF Laverne Cox is heating things up *Mahogany* style (La Ross would be jealous if she recognized anyone else’s talent other than her own). Cox–a performance artist, singer, actor and general talent–has taken it to the small screen. Since there are few more blatantly hetero men we can think of who would best Combs–Christian Cantwell, maybe, but we think he’s part bison–we’re kind of chuffed to see the lovely Laverne in the competition. And here’s the plus–Laverne’s a politically astute out queer, too. Check her out at LaverneCox.com and on YouTube.

Reality seems to be the place for queers on the tube these days, since TV writers seem to have forgotten how to write queer characters into the storyline. But we’ve been less than thrilled by some of them, like Steve Daigle, gay rodeo champion and beefcake who was one of the big ten on the latest installment of CBS’s always irritating *Big Brother.* Daigle is from Texas. Just like Dubya.

Daigle just appeared on August 16th and 17th in San Francisco at the gay rodeo, which seems the best place for him. Because he should definitely be seen and not heard.

Daigle was the second houseguest voted out of the Big Brother House because he was so unbelievably obnoxious. Gorgeous, but obnoxious.

Here’s what we want to say about queers on reality TV. We love the idea of reality TV actually branching out into the real world. But we wish some of these folks never hit the airwaves because they are as stupid, ill-informed and vapid as most straight people and pardon us, but we like to keep up the fiction that queers are superior to straights, particularly intellectually.

Not Daigle. Here’s a guy who managed to offend everyone, including his own kind. Afraid to come out at first until he was pressed by one of the houseguests, this is what Daigle had to say about being gay on *Big Brother.*

“I wanted to come across as a guy from Dallas who rides bulls, and that's all I wanted them to know.” What, no shot put?

Then once he *was* out, he calmly explained that gay men were promiscuous and “had a lot of sex.”

Stereotypes, anyone?

But as if that weren’t bad enough, he also called the African-American woman contestant “that colored girl” (what decade is this?).

We understand the whole point of shows like *Big Brother* is to make people look like idiots, but it is so much easier when they are idiots to begin with. What we’d like to see is a boycott of idiocy. Don’t turn Daigle into a celebrity just because he’s hunky and has been–briefly–on bad TV.

Kind of like we shouldn’t choose a presidential nominee just on Oprah’s say so.

Speaking of tough girls, we have to say we are soooo liking the new CBS summer show *Flashpoint,* which has a very tough girl in its otherwise testosterone-heavy cast. Amy Jo Johnson plays Jules Callaghan, a wiry commando who is destined to be the pin-up girl for young lesbians everywhere.

*Flashpoint* is an excellent police procedural. Realistic, gritty and with solid characters and believable plots. Not as over-the-top fun as the *CSI* franchise, but definitely worth watching.

Finally, we must end our Olympic viewing with a few of our favorite Olympics jokes heard on late night, because they so sum up our disgust with how NBC ignored the news aspect of the Olympics–the protests, the arrests, the shunting of the poor out of Beijing–and just got all caught up in the jingoistic fervor.

At least the comics found time to make some political statements.

Conan O’Brien said, “Today in Beijing, a small group of demonstrators gathered to protest China's repressive government. Funeral services will be held on Friday.”
Jay Leno noted, “The official motto for the Olympics is 'One World, One Dream.' Restrictions Apply. Tibet Not Included."

Craig Ferguson commented, “The skies over Beijing are very smoggy. The government says the pollution is just a harmless mist. They made a similar statement about the treatment of prisoners--it's not torture, it's Pilates.”

And finally, David Letterman, talking about President Bush’s visit to the games: “President Bush, he doesn’t know what he’s doing over there. He turned to the president of China, and he said, 'General Tso, I love your chicken.’”

It would all be really funny, of course, if it weren’t all so true.

The fun comes back Stateside next week. Stay tuned.

In response to, "Perhaps Senator Obama will have to have a great lead to get elected over the racism which is sure to come," Pat Thompson writes:

With the voting machine system still not much changed from 2004, and if the race is "close", we will have another four years of Republican mismanagement to look forward to.

Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com

-Noah Greenberg