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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

December 17, 2008


Q: What was the Secret Service's response to the Bush shoe-thrower?
A: We could have stopped him if he weren't wearing loafers...



No Interest

The Federal Reserve Bank lowered the Prime Rate to 0.25 percent.

The vote was unanimous.

This means that the money we - the US taxpayer - allow to our various lending institutions to use in order to make more money is virtually free.

In short, we - the American people - are the worst loan sharks ever!

At 0.25 percent, banks can borrow money from the Fed without the encumbrance of nearly any interest payment. This is yet another gift to Big Finance at a time when Big Finance was one of the (if not the main) culprit in the collapse of our economy.

So far, we have lent/awarded Big Finance $335 billion with another $15 billion promised by the time President Bush leaves office. There is another $350 billion promised to them waiting on presidential approval.

Then there's the money we "lent" to the likes of AIG (American Insurance Group) which totaled an additional $150-plus billion. This money, combined with the $45 billion "lent" to Citigroup ($20 billion of which comes from the TARP fund- The $700 billion Troubled Assets and Relief fund) comes out to an almost unbelievable $845 billion. The total effort to save Big Finance from itself is expected to cost somewhere around $1.5 trillion, or about half of what we spend on our entire budget, less discretionary spending (like the Iraq War and occupation) per year. (The 2009 budget is approximately $2.9 trillion.)

As I take a look at the various sources for bank loans and interest rates, I notice something funny: banks and lending institutions are barely loaning the money which we are fronting them to loan. And when they are loaning to those people they're certain aren't going to go "belly-up", they aren't lowering the interest rate.

And that's supposed to be one of the reasons the Fed is loaning them the money in the first place!

Back a few years ago when every bank was loaning money at a record pace, I refinanced my mortgage. I pay 4.75 percent on a 15 year fixed-rate mortgage to Amboy Bank of New Jersey. I received that rate a time when the prime lending rate was in excess of two percent. Today when I checked the web site bankrate.com, I saw that the available fixed rate mortgages range from 5.25 percent (HSBC and Sovereign Bank) to Bank of America's whopping 7.25 percent. But they will let you "keep the change".

The idea of the Big Finance bailout bill was to make dollars available for lending. That idea appears to have fallen by the wayside and in its place is the alternate plan to keep Big Finance BIG. The cost to them is minimal - the cost to us is great.

What many of us who approved of the bailout deal originally feared has come to fruition: Big Finance now views the $700-plus billion as their own, and they have the perfect fund distributor in Secretary Hank Paulson. The oversight is now a joke as is any judicial review. They were good ideas that no longer have any meaning or merit.

Today we hear that Chrysler is going to close their assembly plants for an extended Christmas vacation. Due to close this Friday until January 5, 2009, CEO Robert Nardelli's company is going to close its doors until late January instead...

And they may even keep them closed longer.

Economically speaking, what I fear most over these next four weeks of the Bush administration, is this: What's to stop President Bush, a huge backer of Big Finance, from extorting the balance of the $700 billion from the week pockets Congress with a promise of $14 billion for the Big Three US auto makers? The US auto bailout plan is a Democratic plan which has Presidential support... kind of. And although Bush has stated his preference to "do something" to keep Detroit viable and in operation, he has done nothing to that end so far.

Just what is President Bush waiting for? I'm afraid we all might find out all too soon enough. And when we do, will it be too late?

-Noah Greenberg

Q on the Tube: Wedding Bell Blues
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 PGN, Inc.

There’s been surprisingly little discourse by the TV news media–Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart being merely pundits, if totally supportive of same-sex marriage rights–about Prop 8 and its aftermath.

Thus when Alan and Denny got married on ABC’s “Boston Legal” in last week’s series finale, much of the Prop 8 debate was addressed better on the drama than it has been in the actual news. The issues raised by Denny and Alan’s marriage–they are, despite their deep love for each other, heterosexual–were definitive. Marriage is, in the eyes of the law, a contact. “Boston Legal” has always been a show to take on the complexities of the law vis a vis the society and politics and same-sex marriage was no exception.

That contract, intimate though it may be, is fundamentally about protection of the bond of the married couple. When Denny asked Alan to marry him (same-sex marriage being legal in Massachusetts), he explained why: As someone with Alzheimer’s disease, Denny was concerned about having someone to make medical decisions for him when he no longer could with no interference. He also wanted someone to protect him legally against any actions caused by his Alzheimer’s that might get him into legal trouble. And he wanted to be able to leave his money to Alan, who had expressed the desire to do solely public interest law. (Unlike other relatives and friends, spouses do not pay taxes on money left to them by a spouse.)

A gay group took Denny and Alan to court, arguing that since they weren’t actually gay, they were harming the case for same-sex marriage. Alan defended the couple, noting that the arguments being used against their marriage were actually the same arguments that had been used all along to prevent same-sex marriage.

TV has a mixed history in its presentation of same-sex couples. The vast majority of queer characters on the tube have been solo characters with no on-screen partner. More recently, the issue of long-term gay and lesbian relationships has been raised; several characters have either married or broached the subject of marriage. Among the wed-ees, Scotty and Kevin got married on ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” and Bianca and Reese are engaged on ABC’s “All My Children.” Bree’s son, Andrew, on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” is considering marrying his doctor boyfriend.

It was January 18, 1996 that the episode of “Friends” in which Candace Gingrich officiated as the minister to a lesbian wedding first aired. Ross’s lesbian ex-wife, Carol, was marrying her life-partner, Susan. But same-sex marriage was not legal in America in 1996 and although a few stations refused to air the episode, the controversy over the wedding was minor and ratings actually soared for the episode of the already top-rated sit-com.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut and was legal in California until Prop 8, the question of married queers on the tube was bound to be raised. But the issue is controversial today in a way it was not when the “Friends” wedding occurred for precisely the reasons delineated in the “Boston Legal” finale.

What constitutes a marriage? Why do people choose to marry rather than merely co-habitate? Those were some of the questions raised on “Boston Legal” and the answers were rather declarative and spoke directly to why Prop 8 is such an issue.

Married couples get benefits from the state and society that no one else does. It’s really that simple. Marriage grants privilege. That was why Denny was so insistent on marrying Alan, rather than just making him his power of attorney. It is also why “Boston Legal” creator David E. Kelley, who has always addressed current legal and political issues on the show, raised the question.

Shirley and Carl also got married in the final episode. Shirley had been married six previous times. The juxtaposition was intentional and apparent: straight people can marry whenever and as often as they like as every wedding chapel in Las Vegas attests. But committed lesbian and gay couples cannot. Why not?

The arguments presented by “Boston Legal” made clear why the civil rights of a good ten percent of the population shouldn’t be ignored. Marriage grants a level of safety–legal and societal–for the couple that nothing else does.

On “All My Children,” Bianca and Reese have a daughter together and Bianca has another daughter, as well. Reese’s parents are highly homophobic and won’t even say Bianca’s name. They do, however, want Reese and their granddaughter to come visit–sans Bianca. The implication is that they want to wrest both from the lesbian grasp of their daughter’s fiancé.

On “Brothers & Sisters,” Scotty’s parents are also intensely homophobic and have had real issues with their son’s marriage to another man. (No doubt they were thrilled at Prop 8, but the show has not yet dealt with that issue.)

Conversely, on “As the World Turns,” Brian just got married a second time, to a woman much older than himself. Brian clearly has at the very least bisexual urges, as he has already kissed Luke once and tried to kiss him a second time. So for Brian, heterosexual marriage is a way to protect himself from both his own gay feelings and from society’s disapproval.

The controversy over same-sex marriage is fundamentally about civil rights and about making same-sex coupling “real” to straight people. Like it or not, a majority of Americans get their news and societal cues from TV, which means how TV presents issues like same-sex marriage is defining. Breaking ground on TV is often the first step in breaking down taboos. Same-sex marriage is now a part of American society. How TV addresses the issue–acknowledging the reality of same-sex marriage and how “normal” it is for gay and lesbian couples want to marry by putting a human face on controversy–will be an important step in educating non-queer Americans about same-sex marriage.

In response to Caroline Kennedy's bid to replace Senator Hillary Clinton, Victoria Brownworth writes:

I'm so sorry to see that somehow the Kennedy dynastic mystique has overwhelmed the good sense of Madman on the issue of an interim appointment for Hillary Clinton's (not Robert Kennedy's) Senate seat. New York is in serious trouble. Caroline Kennedy is not running against a Republican--she would be APPOINTED to the seat that everyone else has had to run for and fight for--including both her late uncle and Hillary Clinton. In fact if that seat was anyone's it was Daniel Patrick Moynihan's who was in the position for 24 years, as opposed to RFK who was in it for only half a term--three years. Sen. Clinton filled Moynihan's seat and he held the post longer than anyone else. And she has followed in his footsteps as well as RFK's. New Yorkers are overwhelmingly against Caroline Kennedy being appointed to the post, as well they should be. She has absolutely no credentials for the position and unlike Sen. Clinton who ran for and won the position the old fashioned way, in a hard-fought election, beating out GOP heavyweights like Rudy Giuliani for the post, Caroline Kennedy has done nothing to earn it. Endorsing Barack Obama does not make you worthy of a Senate appointment in the worst economic times in the past 50 years. New York deserves more than revisiting dynasties. Putting Caroline Kennedy against Peter King in your commentary is a false imperative. This would be an appointment--not an election--so King enters into it not a whit. There are scores of exceptional Democrats who should be considered for the position who have actual experience and gravitas and can help the people of New York with their acumen. Caroline Kennedy is trying to force Gov. Patterson into a quid pro quo for 2010. That looks a lot like Blagojevich trying to sell Obama's seat to the highest bidder. If Caroline Kennedy is appointed based on her name and arm-twisting, that would be a sad day for New Yorkers, indeed. They deserve a skilled person of which there are many, not a rich wannabe.

And in response to, "And personally, I like the idea of having a trained attorney, author, activist and mother - yes, mother - in that seat," Pat Thompson writes:

Me too! She's written a lot of books, has gone to law school, and has raised millions of dollars for the New York City schools. I guess you can't say she "deserves" the seat, but losing her father at age 6, and her uncle five years later, and perhaps her brother on "Wellstone Airlines", does give her something. I would love to see her in the Senate. She sort of woke up politically, after a lifetime of not being involved, with her endorsement of Obama. Her children are raised, and she has a lot to contribute. She's not looking for money from lobbyists, that's for sure. I prefer already rich politicians, like our Gov. Corzine, Mayor Bloomberg, and the Kennedys. They aren't using politics as a means to get rich. They want to contribute to society.

In response to, ""Kennedy (her full name is Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg)..." John Lynn points writes:

From Wikipedia: "Although she is often incorrectly referred to as 'Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg,' she did not change her name when she married."

Also, you never even mentioned Liz Holtzman, who is also considered a top contender for the NY Senate seat: http://www.democrats.com/liz-holtzman-for-senate As much as I like Caroline Kennedy, I think Liz Holtzman is the most qualified.

In response to, "Senator Paul Wellstone (DEMOCRAT-MN) was a teacher and a fine Senator not in the usual mode. One wonders what he might have done had he not had been killed just before the 2002 election," Pat Thompson writes:

Yes, but his death handed the majority back to the Republicans. Very strange that the most liberal member of the Senate was the one who had to go.

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-Noah Greenberg