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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

December 8, 2008


Obama's Quandary

What's a President-Elect to do? Certainly our nation is screaming for the kind of leadership promised by Candidate Barack Obama when he becomes the President of the United States (POTUS), but can we wait until PEOTUS (President-Elect of the United States) Barack Obama actually becomes POTUS? More importantly, can President-Elect Obama wait?

Obama has said that there can only be one President at a time, but when that President is George W. Bush, that time's end might just be too far away.

PEOTUS Obama's choices are these: If he steps up and tries to take complete charge now, he can anger his predecessor and put him (Bush) into a state where he's forced to take the kind of action similar to what he's taken since he took office in 2001. The good news is that the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress certainly won't allow this lame-duck to get away with those same lame policies that he was able to get away with for so much of his two terms in office. The bad news is that this lame-duck President is known for his attitude against doing the right thing versus doing things that benefit his true "base of haves and have mores".

How can PEOTUS Obama step up without stepping on W's big old clown feet? He can do so by doing just what he's done so far. By picking the right people for key positions and getting them set in place early, no doubt President Obama will hit the ground running.

It also appears that PEOTUS Obama has a sense of what to keep and what to throw away in relation to the Bush administration.

Some will remember the calls for keeping Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Defense Secretary Robert Gates for the sake of continuity. And while many on the Left aren't happy about Gate's reappointment in the Obama administration, including some Democrats who thought that the position should be theirs, Obama's choice is the right choice.

In similar fashion, Obama's choice to throw Paulson out on his rear is also the right thing to do. Keeping Paulson on would be the kind of continuity we could all do without. The person scheduled to take the place of Paulson, the former Chairman of Goldman-Sachs (and the man who rules the Treasury Department as one who is going back to Goldman-Sachs) is Timothy Geithner and he is considered such a good choice by all in the know that even the market responded with a rally on his nomination.

What makes Geithner such a good fit is exactly what makes Paulson suspect. His (Geithner's) experience comes from government and oversight without the ties to executive boards at any financial institution. His last job was a Chairman of the New York Fed and he received high marks there and in his past jobs in Bill Clinton's Treasury Department and the International Monetary Fund where he was the director of the Policy Development and Review Department from 2001-2003. In other words, Geithner's resume shows that he owes no one other than President-Elect Obama.

With the news today that Merrill Lynch's CEO John Thain seeking a $10 million bonus - a cut right off the top of the bailout money - we need someone to put a stop sign up. Geithner appears to be that guy.

Today's addition to PEOTUS Obama's team has to be a slap in the face to POTUS Bush, however. Today Obama selected General Eric Shinseki to be the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs. If the name doesn't sound familiar, it should. General Shinseki was Bush's Army Chief of Staff who called for an Iraq invasion force of half a million soldiers back in 2003. For his sound advice - advice most see today as the best offered to President Bush at the beginning of the Iraq quagmire - Shinseki was given a gold watch and a "don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out" farewell by the Bush White House.

Even naysayers such as Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby said that Shinseki was a great choice to lead the VA calling him "superb". And that comes from the guy who wants to allow the US auto industry, with its union labor; health care and retirement packages; and millions of direct and indirect employees to lose their jobs.

PEOTUS Obama has been using his Chicago office as his transition home in what appears to be an endorsement of the one-president-at-a-time theme. Some have looked upon it as a mistake. They want him to take charge now and bully his way past the sitting President, George W. Bush. If we've learned anything about Bush(43) over these past few years we've learned this: He's stubborn, never can admit when he's wrong, and when backed into a corner will do harm to all in an effort to get his way.

Obama's leadership, however, is already paying big dividends. With the news that he will pursue the biggest public works project since the Eisenhower administration's road bills and his support of an US auto industry bailout loaded up with regulations and oversight, even the stock market appears to be happy. The last eleven sessions of the New York stock Exchange have seen nine increases with about a four percent gain today after the public works project was announced.

I believe that Obama's leadership is being processed by his staff and himself the best way possible, and when he gets into office they'll truly be able to hit the ground running. Not having to do so with the Bushies poking them in the sides is the only way to go.

And PEOTUS Obama knows it.

-Noah Greenberg

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

The end of the fall TV season is upon us. Soon it will be all holiday specials (and reruns) all the time from now until January.

So break out the egg nog and shake off the inner Grinch. It’s not all bad. After all, there’s still Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow and Stephen Colbert to keep you warm at night. And queer soaps by day, if you were one of the half million people laid off last month due to the Bush economic collapse.

The good news is, it’s less than six weeks until Barack Obama’s inauguration–an interdenominational holiday we can all celebrate. It’s also our pick for best TV special for January.

Speaking of upcoming holidays, nothing will get you feeling joyous faster than a marvelous clip starring some of our favorite queer and queer-friendly TV stars.

The hilarious, totally rocking and politically superb “Prop 8: The Musical,” was making the rounds this week and if you didn’t catch it on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," you must. (http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/c0cf508ff8/prop-8-the-musical-starring- ) Although Neil Patrick Harris stars as the Lothario bed ’em and leave ’em Barney on CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother,” in real life he’s *tres* gay and comes out with a Lance Bass-style dancing bang in “Prop 8: The Musical.” Others in the Broadway-style skit include Oscar-nominee John C. Reilly and Emmy-winner Allison Janney as the evil pro-Prop 8 Mormon types. Jack Black plays the best gay-friendly Jesus since Tab Hunter. Other cast members from our favorite shows include Kathy Najimy, the always wonderful “SNL” alum Maya Rudolph and Andy Richter. Not to be missed.

Whether or not the next item deserves a miss depends on your personal voyeuristic pleasures.

Last year Clay Aiken was just another former “American Idol” star singing holiday tunes at Rockefeller Center. This year he’s the topic of his own E! Special.

According to E!, "Clay Aiken: The E! True Hollywood Story” will “uncover the inside story of the quirky ‘American Idol's’ rise to super-stardom and recent revelations about his personal life.” That would be the reveal the rest of us already knew–he’s gay!

The special hits the high notes after Aiken’s loss to Ruben Studdard (who?) in season two of “American Idol.” According to E!, Aiken’s first album, "Measure of a Man," became the number-one-selling solo debut from an artist in a decade. Then Aiken’s memoir–which never mentioned he was gay–became a best-seller. He also worked as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and went on Broadway in “Spamalot.”

When he revealed that he’d fathered a child with his 50-year-old record producer, Jaymes Foster, it was time to come out, which he did in September.
E! calls the reveal “shocking,” and no doubt there were people who were shocked to discover Liberace was gay, too.

This being E!, there has to be dirt, so included in the fun-filled hour is “an exclusive interview with former Army Green Beret John Paulus, who claims he was romantically involved with Clay for one night in 2006.” (Is it romantic if it’s just one night and you aren’t a character in “West Side Story”? Or is it just sex?)

There's also an interview with Clay's alleged number-one fan, comedian Kathy Griffin, who explains she was afraid she would run into Clay after joking about him mercilessly during her stand-up act. (And considering Aiken turned her down when she asked him if he would appear on her show, “The D List,” apparently that fence has not been mended.)

Other interviews include: actor/director Terrence Mann, who directed Clay in regional theater when he was just starting out, Rickey Smith, a finalist with Clay on "American Idol," who shares his opinions of Clay because his own 15 minutes are already up, GLADD President Neil Guiliano, who comments on Clay coming out and devoted Clay fans at a performance of "Spamalot."

In addition, the special contains video of Clay from his early years, including footage of him performing as a wedding singer and appearing in a local stage production of "Oklahoma!" (Now *that* we’d like to see.) Friday, Dec. 12 at 9 p.m. EST/PST on E!

From the ridiculous to the sublime: ABC’s “Boston Legal” ended in a two-hour series finale this week, taking with it scathing indictments of right-wing politics and the best bromance on the tube.

The show debuted as a spin-off of David E. Kelley’s “The Practice” in October 2004 and garnered multiple and well-deserved Emmy nominations as well as awards for everything from its lead actors to the always excellent writing.

James Spader and William Shatner headed the star-studded cast, along with Candice Bergen and John Laroquette. Spader and Shatner developed a relationship almost never seen on series TV–a true male love affair. Non-sexual (sort-of), but deep and emotional. Each episode ended with Spader’s Alan Shore and Shatner’s Denny Crane sipping scotch and recounting their experiences together. Each expressed their love for the other.

We loved it.

“Boston Legal” also starred Gary Anthony Williams as a black transvestite. He was a main character for two seasons. Christian Clemenson played an attorney with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. Meredith Eaton-Gilden, an actress who refers to herself as a little person, played a recurring role as a "dwarf" attorney and love interest for Shatner for two seasons. Rev. Al Sharpton played himself in several cases involving racial discrimination.

Some dismissed “BL” as over-the-top dramedy. But each week “BL” took on politics in America with a vengeance, both in the courtroom and out. Spader’s character sued the government for wrongful death in several Iraq War cases. The death penalty was addressed on numerous occasions as was torture. While civil liberties were being trounced and trussed by the Bush Administration, “BL” was taking them on in court.

Social issues were as much the purview of “BL” as political issues and clarified how the two blur in the realm of the courts. Michael J. Fox had a recurring role as a character with a terminal illness. Henry Gibson had a recurring role as Judge Clark Brown, who was gay.

Alan and Denny were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but in one of the more touching final scenes in November, Denny obliquely acknowledged having voted for Obama.

The show also never failed to take on queer and queer-related issues. But it was its consistent smack-down of the Bush Administration and all its myriad ills that was most appreciated in the darkest periods of the past eight years. “BL” will be missed. All five seasons are available on DVD.

When we finished wiping away the tears from the finale of “BL” we moved on to the season cliff-hanger over at “Grey’s Anatomy.” (The show returns Jan. 8.)

We never wanted to even *like* this show, let alone feel compelled to watch each week. But the ongoing furor over whether or not Callie (Sara Ramirez) will continue to be bisexual/lesbian-leaning has brought us back week after week. We never liked the character of Erica Hahn, but we thought the way “GA” just dumped her and the relationship between the two women without, literally, a backward glance, was appalling.

Grudgingly, we continued to watch and find we are irritatingly susceptible to lesbian romance on the small screen.

Callie is still more than a little bi-curious. Her latest interest is Sadie (Melissa George), a new intern who is also an old friend and classmate of Meredith Grey. Sadie’s British, sexy and clearly ready for anything–or anyone.

As George told “Grey’s Anatomy: Insider,” “Sadie just takes anything–whatever walks in front of her. [Laughs] If it's a male, she'll go for it. If it's a female, she'll go for it. She doesn't think attraction should be [limited] by gender. I sort of look at people and go, ‘Wow, how do you live like that?’ But she seems to get a thrill out of shocking people.”

Last week, Sadie got a thrill out of giving Callie the once-over and “the look.” Callie ran to Sloane (Eric Dane) and asked him questions (because at Seattle Grace, Dr. Mark Sloane is the one who answers all the lesbian questions) about what it meant.

Meanwhile, the hint is pretty dramatic that there was something that went on between Meredith and Sadie back at school. Will it be uncovered? Will it unsettle Meredith and McDreamy?

As George noted in her interview, “Bisexuality exists. It's common. I guess they're [“Grey’s Anatomy” writers] experimenting.”

Indeed. Stay tuned come January for some hot lesbian looks and possibly more between Callie and Sadie and some revelations regarding Meredith’s past. Or just read about it here and forego the melodrama. Because we’ve already set the DVR.

We doubt there are any similar hopes for lesbian exploration by Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) over on FOX come the new season, even though she’s an increasingly center-stage character. “House”opened the door to the budding doc’s bisexuality with some rip-roaring sex scenes a few weeks back that showed infinite promise. But after an episode of humiliation by House, and some of the most insidiously anti-queer inferences on prime time, we never saw another woman in Thirteen’s bed.

Of course none of House’s other team members have personal lives, either, but the show opened the door to the issue and then slammed it shut. What’s up with that?

The door has now been opened very wide on “As the World Turns” for a gay male love triangle.

Yes, for the first time in American soap history, three men are in romantic competition. It’s a bold step, even if you aren’t a soap devotee. Soaps never take a hiatus, so expect the drama to heat up over the holidays.

Luke (Van Hansis) and Noah (Jake Silbermann) are on the skids–again. Luke is drinking–a bad idea for a recovering alcoholic with only one transplanted kidney. And Luke cannot get the image of his grandmother’s new husband, Brian (Lawrence Lau) kissing him out of his head.

Nor can we, but that might be the flashbacks.

Luke has uncovered some secrets about Brian, but Brian is more in control that Luke might know.

Can the holidays bring Luke and Noah back together? Or will visions of Brian take all of Luke’s attention? It’s an intriguing storyline and one in which we can’t predict what will happen, especially since Lau just signed a three-year contract with the show.

We’d like to note that on World AIDS Day, the second annual “Project Holiday Spirit” officially launched. “Project Holiday Spirit” is a campaign in support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS established by “Nuke” fans in honor of “As the World Turns” stars Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann who play Luke and Noah. Now *that’s* a fan base!

Meanwhile, over in Pine Valley, Bianca (Eden Riegel) and Reese (Tamara Braun) are looking like the kind of lesbian couple we’ve never actually seen on network TV. They’ve got two kids, including newborn Gabrielle, and they kiss constantly, which makes quite the change from Bianca’s previous relationships. They also lounge around in bed and Reese has made comments about Bianca’s breasts.

Of course Bianca’s mother, Erica, just got stabbed at a fund-raiser and her sister Kendall is in a coma, but that’s soap world–the rest of us are dealing with economic recession, “All My Children” is dealing with the aftermath of the tornadoes that hit in October.

What does make us nervous is the way Reese and Kendall’s husband, Zach, who was the sperm donor for the couple’s baby, keep ending up together. We know Reese is desperately in love with Bianca, but we also know that she was sort-of straight prior to meeting Bianca.

All we can say to the “AMC” writers is–give Bianca a break. She’s never been allowed to have a real relationship. It’s time. Don’t let Reese’s pining for her real-life Daddy send her off to sugar daddy Zach while he’s pining for his comatose wife.

First, it’s too soapy. And second, Bianca simply deserves better.

Finally, kudos to “All My Children” for its other ground-breaking storyline. Brot and Taylor have finally found their way back to each other and are dealing with their wounds of war–the Iraq War. Brot was nearly killed and horribly burned and permanently disfigured. Taylor suffers from PTSD.

The show has real-life Iraq vet J.R. Martinez playing Brot and the non-actor is doing stellar work. The shock on Talyor’s (Beth Ehlers) face this week when she first saw her previously handsome (the show has used real photos of Martinez pre-injury) fiancé was a five-hankie moment.

This storyline is cutting edge and a real-life reminder for an audience often far removed from the war just what the costs really are. Lives continue to be lost and damaged irreparably, as “All My Children” shows with great poignancy.

Stay tuned.

Responding to the US Auto Industry, Robert Chapman writes:

Madman wrote a very good piece on the problems the Big Three have with their cars, their marketing and their business plans.

I was nearly convinced by Barack Obama's pitch on Meet The Press that the auto bail-out is needed and that the economic effect of their failure is too horrible to contemplate.

Your article pushed me back off the plate, so I need to take another swing on the theme that the auto bailout is bad for us.

I have three reasons for this line of thought:
First the bailout maintains the Detroit culture of business guys rather than car guys running our car companies.
Second, the bailout might have ramifications on our exports or operations in foreign countries.
Third the bailout definitely rewards bad behavior.

Car guys vs. business guys.

Barack mentioned that in his interview with Brokaw yesterday, but I still find it hard to believe that DC will do better at picking a good car strategy than Detroit has.

Nevertheless, Detroit has failed so miserably on that one that I am still open to the idea that DC may be able to come up with a better car manufacturing strategy than they have.

Second, the foreign ramifications of the bail-out. I fail to see how a government backed, low interest loan of a bankrupt and unfungible company differs from a government subsidy to the bankrupt and unfungible company.

It may well be that China and other developing countries may take the same view.

This matters because GM currently has a ten percent market share in China.

If GM becomes a player over there, China may well hit us with an unfair trade practice stemming from the bail-out.

The bail-out may well kill the auto industry as an export earner, even if we get them to make internationally competitive vehicles.

Finally, GM and Chrysler are not in trouble because of current economic conditions.

GM and Chrysler are in trouble because they have a decades long history of declining business stemming from weak business plans.

We might save them from this crisis, but how can we save them from their own stupidity?

Why should we bail them out?

And Keith A. Dewey adds:

I worked as a front person at a full service gas station in NH, before I could even drive, in 1958. Back then a new Chevy, in 6 months, would need a new battery, new chocks, and new brakes at a minimum. The replacement parts lasted longer then the original. If you had to panic stop at 50 mph or more you did not have any braking for a second stop until cool down. The steering was so sloppy you continually were moving the steering-wheel. I could go on. And it was not only Chevy, all US cars were like that. Those chrome magnet boom-buzzards were pretty though. Oh yes and lest I forget you could throw your hat through the floor board by the end of the second winter. And don’t get me started on BMW cycles vs. a Harley.

I asked the owner of the station if any car would last longer and perform better. He said in general foreign cars would. Fifty years later they still do.

... and Anonymous follows up with this:

Has no one figured out that the Bush bailout plan for the auto makers is really an effort to support his buddies? The Congress last fall forced him to accept language that provided $25 million to underwrite projects to develop "greener" cars. We know that Bush, Cheney and the rest of the oil barons who remain in the administration really don't support electric cars, hydrogen cars or, in fact, any kind of car other than one that runs on the sbstance that generates revenue for them. So, then the automakers need help, and the Democrats get on board, what is an oil-money president to do? Simple, force the Democrats to reallocate the R&D funds, thereby protecting the oil industry for at least another few months. Maybe, then, Bush and his oil buddies can find 41 Republicans in the Senate who will filibuster the bill that was signed into law this past fall. Along with the other regulation changes that the administration will implement before January 20, the goal is to set things back so that President Obama must work hard just to get back to where we are now. What a bunch of greedy weasels.

In response to, "Foreign manufacturers don't use union labor and they don't have the legacy responsibilities which out home-grown automakers do," Robert Scardapane writes:

In some cases that's true. But, what they all have is a solid national health care and retirement programs. The problem with American auto companies is not the unions; it's people such as Wagoner who sucked inherently wasteful product ideas dry and a nation that lacks the vision to provide for it's common good.

Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com

-Noah Greenberg