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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

October 1, 2008


Palin Speaks

I haven't seen the whole Palin-Couric interview and am now just reading the transcript. I did, however, get a chance to see the SNL (Saturday Night Live) version with Tina Fey again portraying the GOP Vice Presidential Candidate's satirical answers. The problem is that the round-the-world all-over-the-place answers given by Fey to the Couric stand-in played by Amy Poehler were nearly identical. Here's the exchange that made me shake my head in bewilderment from the REAL interview:

COURIC: You've said, quote, "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business." Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?
PALIN: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie - that, that's paramount. That's more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.
MADMAN: It should be noted here that McCain's comments in 2006 about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - when the GOP still held majorities in both the House and his US Senate - were made after the fact. By the time McCain woke up to make his "accounting scandal," statements, the bus was already rolling and the brakes had failed. McCain has tried to use his feeble attempt at curbing the soon-to-blow-up financial crisis, only after the fact, to hide both his incomprehension of our nation's financial situation as well as his complicity in it: McCain was, after all, Chair of the Commerce Committee when the Republicans had control over the Senate and his friend and financial guru, former Senator Phil Gramm (Dr. Evil), Republican of Texas, was the author of the bill which opened up the barn doors to allow the Wall Street horses to run wild.

COURIC: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.
PALIN: He's also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about - the need to reform government.
MADMAN: Maybe in some parts being known as "The Maverick" actually means something. However, in the real world it means nothing. The McCain scorecard shows an over ninety percent agreement between him and the failed policies of the Bush administration, And even today, McCain has taken up the mantle of even more giant tax breaks for the rich, subscribing to the "Trickle-Down" theory of Economics proved both ineffective and disastrous during the Hoover years, the Reagan years and now the Bush (43) years. McCain originally voted against the huge Bush tax breaks and, after seeing it just about destroy our nation (along with other horrific economic ideals), he now thinks that they're the way to go forward.
What does "reforming government" mean to John McCain anyway? More dollars for the very rich, his McBush "base of haves and have mores" and more hardship for the rest of us.
As noted on yesterday's This Week with George Stephanoplous, guest Robert Reich, President Clinton's former Labor Secretary noted that a full 20 percent of our nation's wealth is now concentrated in the top one percent of our income-earning citizens. McCain and wife Cindy just happen to be in that group.

COURIC: But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you've said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action. Can you give me any other examples in his 26 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this?
PALIN: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.
MADMAN: I almost wished that Couric had continued on the "McCain as a leader" tract. I, for one, would love to know exactly where and when McCain actually led. McCain has never organized anything other than a political campaign, and he has always had backers and consultants for them. The Candidate Formerly Known as The Maverick has never ran a business or held even a low-level executive position.
A quick examination of McCain's career shows capitulation after capitulation with a few, mostly minor disagreements with his party. But once the preverbal crap hits the fan, he is out in front with statement s like the one about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (above) to show his "Maverick" streak.
I don't see it.

COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time - not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.
PALIN: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.
MADMAN: Good luck with that one Governor Palin. There aren't any. I'm certain that Couric isn't waiting by her phone... but her email is always on.

Now onto the Rick Davis-Fannie-Mae/ Freddie Mac lobbying issue. Here's part of the exchange between Palin and Couric:

PALIN: My understanding is that Rick Davis recused himself from the dealings of the firm. I don't know how long ago, a year or two ago that he's not benefiting from that. And you know, I was - I would hope that's not the case.
COURIC: But he still has a stake in the company so isn't that a conflict of interest?
PALIN: Again, my understanding is that he recused himself from the dealings with Freddie and Fannie,
MADMAN: Hope springs eternal and so does the truth. And the truth about Davis is that he, and/ or his lobbying firm, were still receiving up to $30,000 per month from the two-headed lending institutions, and they have been up until as late as last month. Due to lobbying laws, it was easy for any newspaper, or anyone with a computer and Internet connection, to find out exactly the truth about Davis' dealings.
And when the New York Times reported the facts, the McCain campaign's response was to attack the messenger - the New York Times - in an letter of their own titled "A Partisan Paper of Record":

"Today the New York Times launched its latest attack on this campaign in its capacity as an Obama advocacy organization."
-The McCain campaign

The letter went on to state as "fact" that Davis, a partner in the firm of Davis-Manafort, no longer accepted a salary from his old firm. If this line of logic sounds familiar, well, it should - it's the same line of logic used by sitting Vice President Dick Cheney. Most of you will remember that Cheney, although stating that he had no further interest in the doings of Halliburton (the Houston-based military contractor who is still making hundreds of millions of US taxpayer dollars off of the Iraq war), where he was the CEO, was still receiving millions of dollars in "back-owed" money as he occupied an office in the White House. Although technically not an employee any longer of Halliburton, the conflict of interest, much like Davis' today, is obvious.

We've seen this sleight-of-hand for the nearly the past eight years. Do we really wish to see it for another four?

-Noah Greenberg

The VP Debate

With the Vice Presidential debate between Democratic Senator Joe Biden (Delaware) and Republican Governor Sarah Palin (Alaska) just one day away, one has to wonder what tonight's vote in the Senate and tomorrow's probable vote in the House of Representatives will bring to the table as the two take their respective podiums in St. Louis tomorrow evening.

We know by the rhetoric used about the down-but-not-out Wall Street Bailout bill that Senator John McCain's staff must be preparing Palin as their own, personal pit bull (with or without makeup) ready to attack Biden as a "Washington DC insider" while, somehow, discounting her running mate's thirty years in DC as some sort of necessary accident. Certainly we can look forward to hear the term "Maverick" used somewhere around a dozen times or so in her attempt at creating the distinction.

Palin, either with or without the approval of the McCain campaign's higher ups, stated yesterday that the difference voters will have as they view and listen to her and Senator Biden will be a distinction between new ideas and experience. Here's what she said:

"It's my turn now. I'm looking forward to Thursday night's debate. I've never met Joe Biden. But I've been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in, like, second grade,"
-Palin in Ohio

When Palin made the "second grade" comment, and having experienced her lack knowledge on International affairs, I wondered if that might have been the last time the Alaskan Governor read a newspaper or watched a television news program, other than the fishing and hunting report.

When questioned as to what her meaning was of her comment, and how it would play being that McCain is older than Biden by seven years, Palin downplayed the age reference stating that she was actually complimenting Biden's years of experience while noting her youthfulness (for lack of a better word).

But maybe I'm reading too much into it.

I will also be looking forward to see a favorite trick of the GOP and their mouthpieces, a trick we have seen the likes of Ann Coulter use when she was trapped by someone to her Left as he (and it must be a "he") used her own words against her:

"Why so confrontational,"
-Coulter, more times than one might realize

I don't expect Palin to use that exact phrase, but I believe that somewhere in the debate its meaning will be widely felt and directed towards those who it might effect.

I just hope Senator Biden will realize it as it happens so he could counteract its effects.

The question of the debate, no matter how hard the Palin-istas (a term I doubt that Palin, herself, will make the reference to) will try to make it so, will not be "Biden, the Washington Insider" versus "Palin, the Outsider who's going to shake up Washington". The difference is Biden's real experience versus Palin's awakening.

And we need someone who has been paying attention for a long time just a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.

-Noah Greenberg

Re: Bailout

I have mixed feelings about the entire thing. It seems extremely risky to me to hand over $700 billion TO THE PEOPLE WHO SCREWED UP IN THE FIRST PLACE. Who will make them accountable for doing the right thing NOW? I fear Paulson will take the money and RUN. I hated him when I watched him at the hearings. He looked desperate. If he's so smart, how did he not see this coming? Or did he see it coming and just not care. I am for helping the LITTLE PEOPLE who got hurt in this. But for the top 5% of taxpayers in this country who get fat and rich OFF THE LITTLE PEOPLE I feel no sympathy. I agree something needs to be done - heck take the money and pay off the loans for the little people - only the ones who did not commit fraud to get a loan. If we pay off the loans, the banks can start lending money again - this time with REGULATIONS tightly in place. We have been in trouble in this country ever since DEREGULATION of the energy companies, the airline industry, the banking industry. We NEED REGULATIONS because rich people are crooks - all that money makes them crazy. I like Obama's plans. But McSame and Mooselini could never come up with ANYTHING that would make me happy - except disappearing from the planet.


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

The big news on the tube these days is political, but then there *is* an election in a month. Still, the first presidential debate was tedious, if contentious.

We blame the candidates, who left all charisma at the door of Ole Miss, but equal responsibility for the tedium goes to PBS’s Jim Lehrer, who seems to have presided over all the worst debates of the past decade.

It’s not that there weren’t important issues raised. Lehrer raised them and the candidates ignored them–particularly on the current economic crisis. There were vital issues imbedded in the discussion, but they were wrapped in rhetorical flourish and splashed with circular parsing.

Lehrer asked questions in a languid, unfocused manner that managed to never quite elicit cogent answers from the candidates because early on Lehrer ceased to demand such answers, even though that’s the sole job of moderator. We doubt a single prospective voter was changed or decided by the debate.

Obama’s campaign was beaming that their candidate had been boning up at debate camp for weeks and weeks. McCain’s camp said their candidate had been working and campaigning too hard to take time out for debate camp. In our humble opinion the SATs are wildly over-rated, but it never hurts to study before the test. *Never.*

Draw your own conclusions.

Obama managed to irk McCain on numerous issues, trying to goad him to anger–advantage Obama.

McCain dropped tons of names of world leaders and other major figures he had met and talked with. Advantage McCain. (And those asserting McCain=Bush take note: McCain not only knows who’s running other countries, he knows how to pronounce their names.)

The score? Pundits gave Obama an A- to McCain’s B+ on style and content. Obama got a B- on accuracy to McCain’s B. Advantage, Obama.

One surprise: If you stayed awake, you noted that Obama and McCain agree on many issues and were virtually indistinguishable on the economic crisis. We most liked ABC’s George Will on both candidates (like many he thought the debate was a draw, BTW). Will described Obama as the “tweedy professor lecturing America” and McCain as “the national scold.”

The big line of the night? When McCain said Obama shows a “certain stubbornness” that reminds him of George Bush. Yikes.

We’re not sure how PBS drew *two* long straws on the debates, but the much-anticipated vice-presidential debate in St. Louis will be moderated by Gwen Ifill, who can match Lehrer snore for snore. Where’s Tina Fey when you need her? Imagine the *30 Rock* version of the debate. Now *that* would be exciting. (“Gov. Palin, is it true you can see Russia from your house?”)

The second presidential debate will be held on October 7, moderated by Tom Brokaw. If you’ve caught *Meet the Press* since Brokaw took over, you know not to expect much from him, either.

One issue that has not been raised in this campaign but which was a key issue in 2004 is same-sex marriage. In California, Proposition 8, also known as the Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act, will appear on the November ballot. “No on 8" ads are already running on the tube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6dBUCi32c8), just in case you thought this might be the year when same-sex civil rights were not in play.

Speaking of queers and TV, *The Rachel Maddow Show* on MSNBC has been a ratings bonanza. Formerly a frequent guest on Keith Olbermann’s *Countdown,* Maddow so impressed MSNBC honchos that she got her own gig on September 8th, becoming the first out lesbian with her own news/talk show.
But how much of that ratings’ blitz is due to lesbian fans? Our friend Deborah, after seeing an ad for *chainsaws* during the show notes, “I've watched a lot of TV, and I honestly cannot remember ever seeing an ad for chainsaws. So do you think they are expecting a lot of dykes to be watching this show? Dykes, of course, who would just naturally be in the market for a chainsaw?”

She adds, “I'll consider my theory proved if I see an ad for duct tape.”

Well, as the proud owner of both a chainsaw *and* duct tape, what can we say?

Speaking of queer TV appeal, a report from GLAAD last week was good news and bad news, depending on your perspective.

Our perspective is that GLAAD was likely among those who were shocked when Clay Aiken came out.

So what is GLAAD’s big news? That there are more LGBT characters on the tube for the 2008-2009 season than in previous seasons! (We should note that GLAAD doesn’t watch cable, apparently, so they only noted the network shows–ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW. The biggest queer acting gigs are on cable shows like HBO’s *True Blood,* Logo’s *Sordid Lives* or Showtime’s *The L Word.*)

It’s not that GLAAD’s news isn’t accurate. There *are* 35 queer characters on prime time non-reality network shows. (GLAAD also doesn’t watch reality shows, or they would have noted the queers on *Survivor,* *Dancing with the Stars,**Project Runway* and *America’s Next Top Model,* among others.) The problem is that none of these characters is a *major* character and the majority are actually characters who aren’t even regulars on the shows they are on, like Chaz Pratt (Sam Jones III) on *ER.* Chaz is the gay brother of one of the show’s major characters, Dr. Greg Pratt (Mekhi Phifer). But since Dr. Pratt was killed off in the season opener of *ER* September 25th, it’s unlikely Chaz will hang around.

There is really only one major gay character on any network show on the tube and that’s Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys) on ABC’s *Brothers&Sisters.* Kevin was *always* gay, and *always* on the show as the gay son in the Walker clan. It can definitely be claimed that he’s a central character, although he’s not as major as other members of the Walker clan.

But GLAAD’s assertions about other characters is mostly wishful thinking, and we aren’t sure about counting animated shows like *The Simpsons.*

Another problem with the GLAAD list is that bisexual characters are *not* gay or lesbian characters. Yes, we said it. Bisexual characters are bisexual–not gay or lesbian. On the tube bisexual characters–who are almost always women–are practicing Lohanism, not lesbianism. It's about titillating viewers with women who can always go back to being straight next season. You know, like Anne Heche.

Callie and Erica on *Grey’s Anatomy* are *not* lesbians. They are two women who were heterosexual a nanosecond ago–Callie rather dramatically so–and now they have shared *one kiss,* last season.

One. Kiss only. On a show where straight people hop into bed or utility closets together with wild abandon and missing thongs get pinned to the note board.

Yet these women are two of the characters GLAAD calls major queer characters. Major characters on the show, yes. But as queers? No.

The reality is that one of the gayest characters on the tube this season is Lance Bass on ABC’s mega-hit, *Dancing with the Stars.* Now we would have preferred that *Dancing* take a real risk and pair him with one of the gay male dancers that makes up the stable of professionals there, but nevertheless, he’s an out queer celebrity and he’s on the show.

And is there any gayer person on the tube than Tim Gunn over at *Project Runway*? Gunn is proof that high nellie queens with style have not been wholly driven underground by the assimilate-all-queers movement spawned by Log Cabin Republicans and lesbians who don’t own duct tape.

We love that GLAAD still only watches network TV and doesn’t think reality TV counts, even though it makes up more than 40 percent of all TV shows, *but* we do wish someone at GLAAD actually *watched* TV, because we’ve never been convinced that anyone does over there, which is why they keep giving their awards to straight people.

But we digress. The story GLAAD *should* be trumpeting is this: It’s 2008. Same-sex marriage is legal in two states and civil unions are legal in a handful of others. One in ten Americans is queer. Yet despite this, we have*only* 35 walk-on semi-queer characters on network TV and a handful of others on reality shows and cable.

*That’s* the story. Where’s the representation? Why are there *no* queer characters at all on any of the longest running or top-rated shows on TV? Why are there no queers on any of the *CSI* or *Law&Order* shows? Not one. After a collective gazillion years on the tube from these shows.

So before you get all excited about the GLAAD report, put it in perspective. Yes, Clay Aiken came out. But the whole world knew he was gay the first time he appeared on *American Idol.*

We have *one* major queer character on *the entire* network TV landscape. That’s not cause for celebration, that’s cause for marching on the networks.

We know GLAAD is looking at the glass is a millimeter full instead of a trillion millimeters empty. But their job is not to be valiantly optimistic but to take people to task for screwing up. The lack of queer representation is a major screw up. Demand something else.

Finally, our favorite rants not our own for the week were, naturally, political. The pseudo-satirical commentary by CNN’s Campbell Brown on the sexist treatment of McCain’s VP pick, Sarah Palin (“She’s not some delicate flower, for crying out loud!”) is perfect enough to be a good *Saturday Night Live* skit (as opposed to the ones *not* done by Tina Fey). Check it out.(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSNkloIFTQ0)

Then, the always outrageous Craig Ferguson, a new citizen who will be voting in his first election and unlike born Americans is thrilled at the prospect (listen, folks–if there are nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans, why did we have Bush for eight years? Because Democrats didn’t vote.) took a lot of heat for commenting on John McCain’s dissing of David Letterman on September 24th.

Ferguson got a gazillion emails accusing him of media bias. He said in his monologue the next night, “I’m not taking sides. After all, we only know what candidates tell us. Some people are idolizing Obama for his signs: Hope . . . or Change . . . How about Vague . . . or maybe just Obsession.” Ferguson went on to caution, “Be careful who you choose to deify. Whether it be Barack Obama or Clay Aiken.” He went on to say that human beings were bound to defy expectations when deified.

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-Noah Greenberg