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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

January 7, 2009


A Very Complicated Mess

I've heard the arguments and they are somewhat persuasive. "Israel is overreacting."

But what is the right amount of retaliation for bombs, with no other purpose than to kill/destroy anyone or anything, for Israel to take? What is an appropriate response from a nation - any nation - whose borders are regularly being broken by crude, yet effective bombs hurled at them as deep as twenty-eight miles into their territory? What should the response be when those bombs are being lobbed in with the guidance and encouragement of a duly elected party (Hamas)?

When nazi Germany reigned terror over Britain during their Blitzkrieg, should they have sat down and made a list of what is and isn't appropriate as their response?

What would those who put all of the blame on Israel say if Israel, as their only response, was to lob the same type of crude bombs, with the same type of accuracy (none) from their side of the border with Gaza? Certainly that would be responding in kind...

Wouldn't it?

There is a reason why Hamas' popularity has been diminishing rapidly in polls, and it isn't because they forgot to pick up the garbage. Most of the people of Gaza do want Peace, much in the same way most of the people of Israel want it.

The latest opinion poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah shows that voters in Gaza would overthrow Hamas in favor of Fatah, who they felt was corrupt enough to throw out in favor of Hamas just a few years ago in the first place.

By a tally of 43 to 29 percent, the more secular Fatah is more favorable than Hamas to Gaza's residents while former Palestinian Authority leader and current President (sort of), Mahmoud Abbas, would get a nod from 53 percent of voters as compared to only 39 percent from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Granted, these aren't quite George W. Bush poll numbers, but they're getting there.

Yesterday, I heard on SuriusXM Satellite Radio's POTUS Politics (former POTUS08) the opinion of an on-air guest who suggested that Hamas wanted to begin firing missiles into Israel as soon as the cease-fire ended. The reason was that due to their failing popularity in Gaza, they needed something to rally support. Before dismissing that sentiment out-of-hand, however, it pays to recall this:

“...The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor?”
-Project for a New American Century (PNAC)

PNAC, whose members became the "inner circle" of the Bush administration; which included Jeb Bush and was led by Bush's first Chief of Staff Andrew Card, apparently wished for some kind of cataclysmic event to be used as a means in which to control the people. And that cataclysmic event - the 9-11 terrorist bombings - helped Bush and Company set an agenda which took them to a second term and helped put the US - and the world - in the mess we are today.

Certainly comparing the what PNAC's successful objective (by their standards) and the immediate bombings into Israel by Hamas were designed to do is eerily apropos.

Can there be any more effective and insidious way to rally the troops around an existing enemy? I don't think so.

It could be that just by merely stopping the bombings Hamas would force Israel into removing their troops from Gaza. But certainly, Israel moving their troops out of Gaza without any concessions by Hamas won't end the bombings.

And the cycle will continue.

I have previously suggested an International force set up in a DMZ, part in Israel and part in Gaza, centered around the borders of the two combatants. It's been suggested that Israel will never go for such an idea. By putting that out there, both sides would have to justify their respective refusals on the world stage and in front of a world audience eager for change.

And I don't think they can refuse do so.

To that end, this news out of Turkey was reported today by the Associated Press:

"In Turkey, meanwhile, a diplomat said that country will be given the task of constructing an international force for Gaza,"
-The Associated Press (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090107/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians)

I've read in many of the online groups which I belong to that the hatred by the Palestinians comes from years of Israeli abuse on the people of Gaza. Whether you say Israel was originally to blame by entering the area as a nation-state after World War II; or whether you believe that the Jews of Europe have a right to the area they were awarded so something like the Holocaust never happens again isn't important.

That's right - I said it isn't important.

What is important today is to stop the violence immediately. What is important today is to open the doors and begin real negotiations. And if one side or another doesn't want to participate, those who refuse must be removed and others with the stomach for Peace must be allowed to take over.

-Noah Greenberg

The Leadership in, and of Gaza

Hamas' leadership and its behavior since winning the Palestinian elections has been deeply disappointing.

Despite the electoral support of almost 2/3 of the Palestinian voters, Hamas has never shown the basic requirement of a legitimate government: willingness to let its neighbors and its own people live in peace.

I am referring to Hamas' dedication to the destruction of the State of Israel and its mobilization of its own people for this evil end.

Whatever humanitarian and governmental functions Hamas has undertaken have been subordinated to the goal of total war against Israel. This in the face of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and ongoing Israeli- Palestinian Authority negotiations to develop a two-state peace treaty.

The regrettable and terrible loss of property and civilian lives in the current conflict clearly stems from the Hamas decision to deploy its forces in heavily populated areas and cynically use its population as a shield from IDF.

It is a sad statement of cravenness and depravity on the part of Hamas that their armed wing depends on the proximity of defenseless non-combatants for safety. This stands on its head any notion that Hamas is a protector of Palestinians.

One can only hope that public opinion, rightfully repulsed by the bloody pictures of wounded children, will powerfully push Hamas toward a more conciliatory role with Israel and other neighboring countries.

-Robert Chapman

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2009 San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, Inc.

There’s nothing like a new year and a new TV season for starting fresh. But with TV, everything old is new again, so expect a bit more of the same in 2009. It looks like the new year is going to be all about the reality–as if we don’t have enough of that in real life!

But more on that later, because the better news is that some of the dramas that made 2008 a great year for well-written and well-acted TV despite the writers’ strike are coming back this month. “Big Love” returns after a long hiatus to HBO for a third season on Jan. 18 (catch a trailer for the new season at HBO.com). Someone should send the DVR to Pastor Rick Warren so he can see that there really is a difference between polygamy in the name of God and same-sex marriage in the name of love. Bill Paxton continues his awesome run as polygamist Bill Henrickson.

ABC’s “Lost,” the best drama series on network TV, returns for its fifth season with a three-hour premiere on Jan. 21. Expect more surprises as the Oceanic Six find ways to return to the island and rejoin–or not–their compadres. “Lost” never fails to provide intriguing new twists on the original plotline (as if anyone, including the writers, can remember what that was) and viewers who complain that the show is too complex (the biggest complaint about “Lost”) should probably be watching “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” more often.

Also returning is FOX’s “24," back on Jan. 11 with lesbian actress Cherry Jones as the new prez, Allison Taylor (be still our hearts). Jack Bauer takes on Washington the way we all had hoped Barack Obama would. Just as thrilling as last season, but hopefully with a lot less torture. (Kind of what we are hoping for with the new Obama Administration.)

“Grey’s Anatomy” starts up again Jan. 8. We are hoping the rumors about queer-friendly Katherine Heigl and queer T.R. Knight are false and that neither is leaving the addictive soaper. But regardless of that possible plot changer, it’s clear that Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Sadie (Melissa George) are heading toward coupledom. While we certainly thought Brooke Smith (Erica) got a raw deal from the show when she was dumped last season as Callie’s first girlfriend, we really like the pairing of Callie and Sadie. Melissa George is omigod sexy (if only “The L Word” had such sexy lesbians) and that there’s real chemistry between the two.

“Desperate Housewives” came back after a brief hiatus on Jan. 4 with a strong queer storyline that might actually stick this time. Bree’s son, Andrew is getting married. To a man. A man who is now a doctor, but was once a gay male porn star. (Of course we now wonder where Wisteria Lane is located, as same-sex marriage is only legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut and it is always green on the Lane, but it *is* a fantasy show.)

Meanwhile, since Sunday night is queer night on ABC, “Brothers & Sisters” is also back and Kevin is going nuts about being Elizabeth’s biological father and giving her part of his liver. He feels they are connected in ways that Elizabeth’s father, Tommy, can never be. Whether or not Kevin’s going to try to take the child away from her parents and raise her with Scotty is definitely a question. There is serious conflict between Kevin and Tommy over who is “really” the child’s father. And since Balthazar Getty (Tommy) is rumored to be leaving the show, we have to wonder. This shift would turn the nice-nice Kevin into a villain, however, so we can’t imagine how that twist would work out well for the queer couple on the show.

The even bigger news on “Brothers & Sisters” is that Saul is getting a boyfriend. A real live boyfriend. Whom he’s mentoring. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Or introduce them to new tricks?

Speaking of tricksters, FX brought back Glenn Close this week as killer shark attorney Patty Hewes in the mesmerizing “Damages.” (If you missed the first season or the first show of the second season, you can view them online.) Close is known for her strong characterizations; she was terrific in “The Shield,” for which she was nominated for an Emmy.

What’s great about Close is that she is always playing radically different characters–she’s no cookie-cutter cookie. In “Damages,” her Hewes is deft, deceptive and downright terrifying. But Rose Byrne’s Ellen Parsons is no shrinking violet, either–although we are led to believe she might be. (She tells the Feds, in reference to Patty: “I want to destroy her!”)

These may be the two best female characters on the tube, which makes “Damages” worth watching for that, alone. Plus this season has Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden in the cast as well as Oscar winner William Hurt. Can it get any better?

“The L Word” returns for it’s sixth and final season on Jan. 18 on Showtime. It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Jenny (heart and other throb, Mia Kirschner) is dead. The promos for the show tell you so. Of course “The L Word” is a prime time soap and in soaps–prime time or daytime–the dead are not always dead. But we think Jenny is really dead, because that will mean that there are myriad suspects. Like the whole cast. Because let’s face it–who didn’t want to see Jenny dead?

We’ve always really wanted to like “The L Word,” but it’s never quite lived up to our or even its own expectations. Previews of the early episodes of the sixth season say that this may be the season where the show finally finds its footing dramatically. Which means we will hate to see it go, but love how we get there. (Kind of the opposite of the final season of “The Shield,” although Jenny does have a little of the Vic Mackay in her.)

There are only eight episodes this season, so be sure to set the DVR. One question we hope gets answered: What happened to Papi? Because it’s just not the same without her.

One reason we will miss “The L Word”–it gave some of the best actresses around who seem to have nowhere else to go a place to act. Let’s hope Ilene Chaiken uses the success of “The L Word” to do another “girl show” really soon.

Speaking of girl shows, one of the big disappointments for queer fans of FOX’s “House” has been the plot twist that has Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) shedding her lesbian persona for abject heterosexuality. At least that’s where she left us at the end of last season. Some Christmas present! After witnessing her hot lesbo bed-hopping, we are now expected to believe that was just a phase and she’s now totally into men–starting with her colleague/doctor, Eric Foreman (Omar Epps).

We’ve noticed that some things never change, year to year, season to season on the tube: Women are bisexual (except on “The L Word” where lesbians stay lesbian) so that they can titillate straight men. Apparently that was the only rationale for making Thirteen “bisexual”–because she’s never been allowed to have an actual relationship with a woman outside of the sexy bedroom scenes viewers have been privy to. But her kiss with Foreman at the end of last season–that was real love. Sigh.

We’d really like to see strong women be a TV draw in 2009, so we recommend watching Tina Fey’s “30 Rock,” which is the best sit-com nobody’s watching. We’re not sure why the low numbers, especially after Fey’s fabulous 2008, but we have a feeling it has to do with the show’s time slot–opposite CBS’s “CSI” (which now has Lawrence Fishburne in a terrific performance that may make the exit of Gil Grissom [William Petersen] acceptable) and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” two of the week’s top-rated shows. Maybe NBC could move “30 Rock” to a different slot? After all, it’s not like they haven’t trashed most of their decent programming anyway.

We were hoping to run out of space before we had to discuss the meat of the new season–reality programming–but alas....It could be the impending actors’ strike, or it could just be economics and laziness, but the tube looks very reality- heavy this season. Another reason to watch the dramas still on the tube.

One of the disturbing things about reality shows is how addictive they become, mostly due to our voyeuristic love of battering others.

We adore FOX’s “Kitchen Nightmares” (even though we have to not think about it when we go out to eat) because Gordon Ramsay is such a m***erf***er. We love “Survivor” because we like to see people voted off the island and our alliances shift as readily as the contestants’. We love “Amazing Race” because we like to see the duos stab each other in the back.

We are currently in love with Bravo’s “Top Chef” and hope the remaining queer contestant, San Franciscan, Jamie (she of the many tats and obsessive love of scallops) is able to hang on. But we also love NBC’s vile “Momma’s Boys” because it’s such a train-wreck and we really didn’t know that every third woman was a Playboy model. We also are surprised by how the women (referred to only as “girls” by both the mothers and the men) all band together.

We also have a lot of fun with CBS’s “Password” and the new Howie Mandel franchise, NBC’s “Howie Do It,” but find CBS’s “Game Show in My Head” cringeworthy. Perhaps we are just over the whole punked thing. But then eight years of the Bush Administration *will* do that to you.

A disturbingly addictive new reality show is ABC’s “True Beauty,” produced by Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher. Good-looking but soullessly vapid men and women are judged on their inner beauty–and of course, have none. Cynically, we think this show is meant to make not-so-good-looking people feel better. But actually, the vile behavior of the lookers does indeed make them less attractive. Really. It does.

Finally, in the new year daytime does seem to be holding tight to its queer storylines. CBS’s “As the World Turns” is maintaining the gay triangle of Luke, Noah and Brian and in the process delving into the panoply of problems that ensue when men lie to themselves and others about their sexual orientation, as Brian is married to Lucinda while lusting after Luke. Talk about down low!

Meanwhile, over on ABC, “All My Children” is keeping Bianca and Reese on the front-burner. We are a tad concerned that Reese’s bisexual past will come back to bite Bianca, however, since Reese’s former fiancé, Simon, has shown up and Zach, who provided the sperm for Bianca and Reese’s baby, is getting more and more attached to Reese as a surrogate for Kendall.

One sad note from the old year--John Costelloe, who played the gay cook, Johnny Cakes, on "The Sopranos" killed himself over the holidays. He was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound a few days before Christmas. He was 47.

We else can we say? Happy New Year and stay tuned!

In response to "Gaza and Israel," Robert Scardapane writes:

Madman, concerning the terrible situation in Gaza, I have one question. Is it true that both Israel and Egypt still had a partial economic blockade of Gaza even during the truce? The Palestinians consider themselves as forcefully segregated from the outside world. This gives the Islamic radicals an excuse to carry out attacks. To have peace in the region requires all parties (Palestinians, Israeli and Arab neighbors) to act in good faith. Here is one reference on the economic blockade:


And Victoria Brownworth writes:

A few things are significant that have not been mentioned in the discourse here about the current war being waged on Gaza by Israel. One is that the Bush Administration, amidst all its many lamentable failures, had failed most miserably with regards to MidEast diplomacy. Why was it left to France--one of the most anti-Semitic nations on the planet which has also consistently oppressed its own large Arab minority--to step up in a way the Bush folks couldn't be bothered to do to try and facilitate a much-needed cease-fire? That's egregious. If France succeeds, that will be excellent, but will be yet another blot on the Bush record.

A second issue worth noting in all the castigating back and forth--and there's more than 60 years of that to go around--is that for decades the Palestinian leadership has done next to nothing to advocate on behalf of the actual Palestinian citizenry. If anything, they have made it more difficult for their own people to get aid and achieve self-determination. Much like the IRA in Northern Ireland, there has been far more concern for the self-promotion of the leadership itself than for the actual needs of the Palestinians, no matter how basic--food, water, health care, fuel. It's significant, for example, that Gaza now leads the world in honor killing of women per capita.

I think we must put the entirety of the MidEast tragedy in perspective. Israel has indeed been oppressive and repressive of the Palestinians; it would be difficult to find an argument around that reality and my family members and friends who live in Israel and work in the peace movement will attest to that. But alas for the Palestinian people, their own leadership has been repressive as well, leaving the average Palestinian desperate. To be a Palestinian in Gaza is a lose-lose proposition. All the humanitarian aid in the world will not help if there is no effort made by the Palestinian leadership to aid their own people in the quest for self-determination in a manner that is not wholly predicated on the destruction of Israel. And just as I see little hope for Israel lessening its stranglehold on Gaza, I see even less for the Palestinian leadership making a true effort to aid its own people. Which is sad for all concerned.

And Bob Driscoll writes:

Kevin O'Brien of the Plain Dealer of Cleveland writes, "Talk in the middle of last week turned to a cease-fire - which will, of course, come when Hamas wants it and last not one second longer than Hamas desires, after which we'll play out this same maddening drama again. Because Israel, sufficiently provoked, will be accused of "overacting" again."

Robert Zelnick, in his book Israel's Unilateralism Beyond Gaza, offers his own conclusion that, in all dealings with Hamas, Israel must take the group at its word: "Its very charter commits the organization to Israel's destruction and the creation of a single Islamic state with nothing but dead Jews commemorating the former state of Israel. It explicitly endorses the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, blames Jews for both world wars, and celebrates the day when, in a final climactic battle, the Muslims will slaughter the Jews."

Hamas has asked for this and now parades the bodies of innocent women and children through the streets. How do you engage peace-hating jihadist murderous thugs in any kind of meaningful dialogue? When you find a way, let me know!

Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com

-Noah Greenberg