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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

December 30, 2008


The Big Story

There are many web sites, newspapers and other media-type outlets talking about the big story, and the lesser stories of the year. Certainly Story Number One is the election of the first African-American President of the United States Barack Obama (not to mention Time Magazine's Person of the Year). And in relation to Story Number One, Story Number Two would have to be the collapse of our nation's financial institutions, which had helped to create Story Number One.

But what about 2009? What will be Story Number One when 2009 ends? Had we asked that same question in 2000 after it was apparent George W. Bush would take the helm of our nation, certainly no one would have predicted the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 as being That Story.

Had someone tried to make that prediction eight years ago, those on the Right would have predicted a flourishing economy after the giant tax breaks Bush promised were enacted with huge job growth numbers and a stock market setting record numbers. Certainly Time Magazine's Person of the Year (2001) would have been "W" himself.

(Note: 2001's Person of the Year was controversial. The magazine was accused of practicing political correctness when it named New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani - by then replaced by Michael Bloomberg - instead of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden.)

On the Left, predictions of political and economical disasters like job losses were, unfortunately, realized.

It's just too bad that "I told you so's" don't fix anything.

During the Bush years, many different stories took their turn as Story Number One. Some, such as Job losses and the Economy had legs because they were of importance to all of us and couldn't be ignored. Others were brought forth by the Bush administration and others on the Right due to their ability to divide and conquer us. And they were used masterfully by the likes of Bush's Brain Karl Rove, Fox News Channel and Right Wing Radio to drive a wedge in between those of us who were paying attention and those of us who were looking for an opinion to adopt.

The latter group - the easily manipulated - lined up behind such causes as hate for slightly darker people, disguised as Immigration Reform and Morality, which hid behind the opposition against stem cell research and, my personal favorite (with all sarcasm intended), the fight to "save" Terry Schiavo.

So, in the spirit of the season, I'm going to take our my crystal ball and make my prediction for what will be The Big Story at the end of 2009:

The Economy: As long as the Republican minority in the Senate doesn't continue to offer up filibuster after filibuster, the Obama Incentive Package should come through at about $800 billion initially and somewhere between $1 and $1.25 trillion by the end of 2009. However, we all know that just throwing money at a problem isn't necessarily the answer to all of our financial woes. I believe that our new economy, centered around its biggest providers - the US middle class - will show real signs of recovery when the 2009 Holiday season rolls around.

What makes me point to the end of 2009 as the beginning of our full economic recovery are the promises made by the President-Elect. By providing a cash release in his Incentive Package and new jobs in a jobs program designed around rebuilding America, the new administration is attempting to tackle the two main problems which are facing our economy today. They are putting money into the hands of the people who will spend it: the US middle class. The Trickle-Down economics of Reagan and Bush(41) couldn't spark the economy then and the Bush(43) Trickle-Down policies couldn't spark or save his economy now.

The topper will come if - and it is an "if" - President Obama and the Democrats in Congress can get health care reform passed and enacted. Taking the specter of losing everything due to medical bills off the table can do nothing but help our economy in the end.

And won't it be nice to see our economy advance for a change?

-Noah Greenberg

Q on the Tube: Hate TV
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008, 2009 PGN, Inc.

Majority America gets their news and ideas from TV. This has been true for decades. Americans want products because of TV, adopt certain styles because of TV, are interested in celebrity gossip because of TV, decide who to vote for because of TV–or at least they have since the debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960 where JFK looked young and virile and Nixon’s flop sweat and five o’clock shadow turned viewers off.

This is why it’s so necessary to have positive and varied depictions of LGBT characters on the tube in series and sit-coms and why it’s vital to have LGBT people on talk shows and the news. Most people get their cues from TV.

Millions watch “Ellen” every day. Ellen De Generes has used her position as comedian and talk show host to raise issues of LGBT civil rights. She discussed her own wedding to Portia de Rossi on her show. She invited Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain on the show–and they came–and discussed LGBT issues with all of them. She’s done programs on bullying of LGBT youth and made it clear to her varied–but largely middle class straight–audience that homophobia kills.

Rachel Maddow is the other out lesbian with a TV talk show, but hers reaches a different audience in prime time, on cable (MSNBC) with the focus on politics.

Maddow hasn’t shied away from LGBT topics, either. Last week she took on the subject of Rick Warren.

The outrage over Barack Obama’s choice of a known hatemonger to give the invocation at what will no doubt be the most-watched presidential inaugural in history has been growing. But that outrage which is all over the blogosphere and in the queer media has been largely unreported in the mainstream media and ignored by prime-time network and cable TV with very few exceptions (the usual suspects like Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart).

Yet it has been through TV that Rick Warren has garnered such a vast audience for his perspective on queers and women, which include equating homosexuality with bestiality, incest and pedophilia and calling women who have abortions–legal under the law–Nazi perpetrators of a Holocaust against unborn children.

It seems unlikely that President-elect Obama will re-think his terrible choice for the invocation. Like most politicians, Obama is intransigent on issues once he’s decided he’s right. Even when he’s dead wrong, as he is for having this hatemonger lead the nation in prayer, implicitly giving Warren’s hate message his blessing.

TV has allowed Warren the edge–he goes on talk show after talk show (in addition to being a regular speaker on Christian cable and network programs) and repeats the same outrageous hate speech about LGBT people and women. There is no opposing voice to speak for our side of what is being called an “issue” but which is actually our lives.

Warren used TV to promulgate his message on Prop 8 that same-sex marriage would weaken heterosexual marriage and also damage the First Amendment rights of Christians. Warren has used TV since the controversy over his being chosen to give Obama’s invocation to spread more of his hatemongering views.

But where is the LGBT voice in all of this?

Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” is one of the shows most likely to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. During the primary his non-stop sexist assault on Hillary Clinton was so egregious, the network forced him to apologize–not once, but twice.

Last week the even slimier and aptly named Mike Barnacle was filling in for the vacationing (and prepping for Arlen Specter’s Pennsylvania Senate seat which he so does not deserve to get) Matthews.

Barnacle reduced the Warren controversy to a queeny tempest in a handful of “gay cities.” His guests were Rev. Eugene Rivers for homophobia and Capitol Hill Democratic gay activist Mike Rogers for the defense of queer lives.

Rivers declared that the outrage of tens of millions of Americans over the Warren choice was a “pseudo controversy,” which is like saying outrage over slavery and lynching was a pseudo-controversy, since the controversy is about the denial of civil rights for millions.

Rogers, as he so often does on his BlogActive website, knocked it out of the park. No hysteria, no name-calling, no viciousness. Just the facts and a twist on the way the argument was supposed to go. (Check out the interview at MSNBC.com)

Rogers declared victory–something neither Rivers nor Barnacle was expecting. Rogers noted that Warren’s Saddleback Church website had taken down its stipulation that homosexuals could not be members of the church unless they repented their sin of being queer.

Obviously, asserted Rogers, the “angry gay protesters” had impacted Warren.

Rivers could only sputter in response.

Rogers also demanded a sit-down between Warren and LGBT leaders. Rivers again protested, to which the very cool and calm Rogers simply said leader to leader they should talk, if Warren wanted to defend his perspective.

No defensible protest to that.

The exchange between Rogers and Rivers delineates why the voices of LGBT people must be heard on TV. When we get to speak, we get heard; our “life style” is no longer an “issue”–it’s our lives on the line. We become real people, like Ellen and Maddow–not the faceless statistic of one in ten Americans.

In the new year the LGBT community must make one of its goals getting our faces and voices on the tube. It’s how America learns about difference. It’s increasing clear that it’s how we ourselves can make a difference.

In response to, "My main issue now is COAL. There is no such thing as "clean coal". It's a dirty medieval fuel. Men are trapped and killed underground mining it, and whole mountains are taken down to get out the coal with big machinery, which pollutes the creeks and rivers, and then pollutes the skies when it is burned to create electricity," David W. writes:

I remember, back in 2004, my neighbors told me in all seriousness that John Kerry and his wife Theresa were sitting on top of huge reserves of clean burning coal. Yes, the Kerry's were Liberal hypocrites because they wanted everyone to abandon coal simply because they had all the reserves of clean burning coal themselves.

Conservatives get to hear the most outrageous crap and the best part is, they BELIEVE it so strongly. Anyone else hear anything about that?

In response to three separate issues, Lew Warden writes:

You’re half right on the Big Money Bail Out. But Congress should be passing laws to make the rascals disgorge what they stole, but it won’t because Obama’s boys were right in there grabbing too.

You’re wrong about Fey hurting Palin. It was the biggest boost she could have had for a fair shot at middle America. The big mistake was in selling out to the Religious Right. If he would have gone for it, nominating Lieberman, the guy who kicked your Left Wing asses in his senate race, would have shattered the extremists’ strangle hold on both parties.

You’re wrong about coal. Coal is just energy, energy which some day you’ll be crying for to warm your backsides, if Al Gore’s global warming gets much colder. Coal can be cleaned up, but, of course, this raises its cost. The Nazis seemed to do alright with coal produced diesel when their Me 109s were shooting down our B-17s in bunches and their tanks were rolling. If we hadn’t knocked out their oil refineries and transport systems, our invasion of Europe might have been a major disaster.

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-Noah Greenberg