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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

November 3, 2008


SNL and New Media

Saturday Night Live has been reborn with the elections season of 2008. From a show which cut its teeth on characters such as Chevy Chase's Gerald Ford and Dan Akroyd's Jimmy Carter the show which always seemed to have a good time with presidential caricatures seemed to have gotten a little bored with politics in recent years opting instead for sophomoric humor and long tedious skits undeserving of the original Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time-Players.

Until this year, that is.

Sarah Palin has been the catalyst of a new SNL season and former head writer Tina Fey's portrayal of her has been nothing less than hysterical. Thanks to Fey, with help form a supporting cast such as Amy Poehler's Hillary Clinton and Darrell Hammond's John McCain, SNL is relevant again as political satire.

But make no mistake about it, it is Fey's Palin which is the show's star and has made it ready-for-prime-time.

And the Internet(s) is making its case as the second most important medium in presidential politics as well. After television (still number one), more people appear to be getting their information from the e-media via web sites and blogs and are more involved than ever before by an inclusive, immediate satisfaction and readily available means. They can even Google their names and find their own ideas with a simple check of their favorite blogs for their very own ideas. Many, especially younger voters, get their news from the Internet(s) and no place else and it shows. There can be no doubt that the candidacy of one Barack Obama doesn't exist without it.

Fey and Poehler's initial SNL skit (where Fey's almost-too-scary Palin says all you have to do is "want it" and Poehler's Clinton returns that incredulous, nervous cackling laugh) was the beginning of a new SNL that reminds us all of the original. More importantly, it's helped include many in the political process who normally wouldn't care.

And that's a good thing.

Anything that brings more people to the polls is a positive, and if it makes us laugh in the process, so much the better.

-Noah Greenberg

Endorsements and Endorsements(?)

"I believe the right leader for this moment in history is Sen. John McCain. John is a man who understands the danger facing America. He's a man who has looked into the face of evil and not flinched."
McCain has "chosen a running mate with executive talent, toughness and common sense, our next vice president, Sarah Palin."
-Vice President Dick Cheney

Cheney gave his endorsement of Senator McCain in his (Cheney's) former home state of Wyoming, a Republican "safe" state. There are but a few places which would have been acceptable places for probably the most hated political figure in our nation today to make such an endorsement, without a series of boos and cat-calls and Wyoming is on top of that list. Others include Idaho (a former Sarah Palin home), Alaska (the current Palin home) and a handful of others.

McCain nor Palin showed up on stage with Cheney. McCain has been too busy distancing himself from anything Bush (and there's nothing more Bush-like than Cheney) while Palin didn't even bother to comment. After all, in the event of a loss, she still has a political future (thanks to McCain).

"I'd like to congratulate Senator McCain on this endorsement because he really earned it,"
-Barack Obama

In the wake of Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama last week, President Ronald Reagan's former chief of staff Ken Duberstein had this to say to CNN's Fareed Zakaria:

"Well let's put it this way - I think Colin Powell's decision is in fact the good housekeeping seal of approval on Barack Obama,"

CNN, which has been putting Democrat against Republican in their hopes to come up with some fireworks, got some in the impromptu Duberstein endorsement. Duberstein was playing the GOP expert part opposite Bill Clinton's former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's Democratic expert when, to everybody's surprise, he told the half-dozen people watching that he was going to cast his vote for Obama.

Although Duberstein's endorsement came as a surprise to everybody except Duberstein himself, former George H. W. Bush Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, in response to a question asking him to "make the case" for a McCain presidency, came out with this striking, unintentional rebuke of Palin:

"I don't think at the moment she is prepared to take over the reins of the presidency,"

But that wasn't all. Eagleburger then explained the remark further:

"I can name for you any number of other vice presidents who were not particularly up to it either. So the question, I think, is can she learn and would she be tough enough under the circumstances if she were asked to become president, heaven forbid that that ever takes place?"

Heaven forbid is right. McCain is 72 years old, the oldest ever to become President if he were to win; and has had the worst kind of skin cancer (melanoma) there is. Surely even Eagleburger could see that his worst fears might actually come to fruition. But even that wasn't enough for Larry:

"Give her some time in the office and I think the answer would be, she will be [pause] adequate. I can't say that she would be a genius in the job. But I think she would be enough to get us through a four year... well I hope not... get us through whatever period of time was necessary. And I devoutly hope that it would never be tested."

Stop it! You're killing me! Never has an endorsement been so destructive as this one.

Eagleburger did come on a day later to explain himself on the "safe" Fox News Channel the next day to debunk himself and fall on his own sword. But it's hard to put words like his back into his mouth, especially when they ring so true.

Although McCain earlier this year told us all that he would ask President Bush to campaign for him throughout this election, the two haven't been seen palling around like they did as the waters were still killing people in New Orleans and elsewhere on the Gulf Coast.

I guess not all news is good news.

Good luck to all of us tomorrow. Let's hope that these McCain endorsements click.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

Philadelphia was in the news this week with two big stories: The Phillies won the World Series and a federal health report declared Philadelphia has the highest rate of new HIV infections of any major city in America.

It was fantastic to see nearly two million Phillies fans line five miles of Broad Street on Halloween to cheer the team that played so brilliantly throughout the season, bringing the city a much-needed and long-deserved win.

If only all those people could have been tested for HIV, however, Philadelphia might lose our other, far less admirable new title, because according to a report last week, as many as a fifth of Philadelphians could be infected with HIV without knowing it.

In 2008, AIDS is no longer the death sentence it was 25 years ago when HIV/AIDS was first being fully recognized as an epidemic in the U.S. But treatment for the disease has led to complacency among many groups of people who represent the newly infected, particularly teenagers, adults between the ages of 25 and 45 and people over 65.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has given Philadelphia a title no city wants to claim: Of all major cities, Philadelphia has the highest rate of new HIV infections–five times the national average and nearly twice as many as New York City which has nearly five times as many people as Philadelphia.

Philadelphia has the largest African-American population of the top ten largest cities in the country: 48 percent. Not surprisingly, African Americans in Philadelphia are great risk of HIV infection and in keeping with the national trend, their rate of transmission is disproportionately high.

The national rate of transmission for African Americans is already far greater than their demographic: 45 percent of new cases are among African Americans, even though African Americans are only 11 percent of the overall population.

In Philadelphia, the numbers are also staggering: 67 percent of new cases of HIV are among African Americans.

More than one-third of African Americans with HIV also have syphilis, which means they are far more likely to transmit HIV and will also get sicker from HIV much faster than people without syphilis as a factor.

The CDC has more bad news for people of color: Latina women are four times more likely to contract HIV than white women and African-American women contract the disease a staggering 15 times more often than their white peers. These statistics are alarming. According Public Health officials in Philadelphia as well as the CDC, the majority of new cases are among people who do not consider themselves at risk.

These numbers are based on the recent data released by the CDC in August before the international AIDS conference. That data signaled a 40 percent rise in new HIV infections in the U.S., with the majority of those new cases being heterosexual transmission or transmission by men having sex with other men. In the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was predominantly a disease of gay and bisexual men and IV drug users, with fewer than ten percent of cases caused by heterosexual transmission.

In 2008 in Philadelphia, more than 55 percent of cases are transmitted through heterosexual contact compared to the national rate of 31 percent. Transmission by men having sex with men is 32 percent in Philadelphia, while it is 53 percent nationally. This means the majority of transmission in Philadelphia is through heterosexual contact.

Cases caused by IV drug use are only marginally larger in Philadelphia--13 percent of cases versus 12 percent nationally.

Thus the new face of HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia, according to public health officials, is heterosexual and of color.

How are city officials planning to address these new and alarming numbers?

Only about 30,000 HIV/AIDS tests are being performed in Philadelphia annually. City AIDS czar John Cella hopes to double that number in the next year by expanding the number of testing sites in the city and making testing more accessible to a greater number of people.

Previously HIV testing was only available through private doctors’ offices and clinics, and patients had to request the testing. In August, however, the CDC recommended a new approach to HIV testing–the test would be included in any blood work up in annual physicals, emergency room visits and other health testing unless the patient specifically declined the test. It is hoped that this approach will lead to more people becoming aware of their positive status and thus being able to access treatment and use preventative safe sex practices with their partners.

According to the CDC, when people become aware of their HIV status, the vast majority alter their behavior to avoid spreading the virus.

One of the biggest challenges facing AIDS workers in Philadelphia is the hidden nature of HIV in communities of color where HIV/AIDS is severely stigmatized.

Many African-American and Latino men are having sex “on the down low,” which means they are having sex with other men while also being married to or living with women with whom they are also having sex. The highest rates of new infections among women are among black and Latina women who were either married or living with men they believed were monogamous and solely heterosexual.

One of the reasons the CDC devised the new terminology “MSM” or men having sex with men, was because the terms “gay” and “bisexual” were so stigmatized in communities of color that using those terms had been found to be an impediment to getting information on risk factors among black and Latino men.

The city plans to expand testing to include emergency rooms, city prison intakes (a significant percentage of men contract HIV while in prison) and homeless shelters. In addition, mobile units are being organized to go to different neighborhoods throughout the city. Those mobile units will also be sent to city events, such as those on the Parkway.

Meanwhile, AIDS groups are trying to enlist churches and community centers in testing drives.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has stated it will “aggressively target prevention services in minority communities” to address the epidemic of new cases.

For years the city has organized needle exchange programs in an attempt to combat the rate of transmission among IV drug users. The city estimates it exchanges 100,000 needles per month, but the needle exchange has greatly diminished the rate of new infection among IV drug users.

Addressing the confluence of poverty, race and hidden sexuality is the biggest problem facing city officials in dealing with the rise in HIV/AIDS cases. Education and awareness programs are one way to address the growing epidemic, but reaching the communities most impacted by the disease has always been difficult and there are no new ideas for how to implement changes that will have the same impact as the needle exchange program.

Epidemiologists agree that it is more difficult to control the spread of HIV/AIDS once it becomes a mainly heterosexual disease, as it is now in most countries. When the disease was predominantly within the gay male community in the 1980s, educational and outreach efforts were targeted to the specific demographic.

The majority of Americans identify as heterosexual, yet among heterosexuals most still believe HIV is solely a disease of gay men and IV drug users.

Getting tested is the first step toward controlling the disease. Although you might believe you are not at risk, the face of AIDS in Philadelphia is a heterosexual African-American man or woman between the ages of 25 and 44. AIDS is the leading cause of death among African Americans in that age range.

HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through oral sex as well as vaginal and anal sex. Statistics show teenagers are engaging in oral sex to “prevent” HIV infection, but are also increasing their rates of other sexually transmitted diseases in the process.

There are test sites in every neighborhood in Philadelphia and all results are confidential. Knowing your HIV status means you can access treatment sooner. The later the diagnosis, the sooner the infected person will die. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS and the disease is fatal, but people are now living much longer with HIV/AIDS due to a range of treatments.

The test is simple, confidential and painless. To get tested in Philadelphia, call HIV/STD Testing (888) 732-2348 or (800) 854-7008.

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-Noah Greenberg