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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

January 19, 2009


Happy Inauguration Day!

It feels like the day of New Year's Eve - like an additional December 31st after the toughest year of one's life. All you want to happen is for it to end and the new year to begin.

That's what these final few hours before Barack Obama is sworn in as the forty-fourth President of the United States (POTUS) and the people of the United States (also POTUS) get to plant a Bush in Texas.

The potential energy is staggering as are the expectations. But make no mistake about it - it isn't going to come fast and it isn't going to come easy. Destruction is easy - Building is hard.

There are two stories to be written about the upcoming inauguration: The first is the beginning of hope; the second is the end of despair. They both, we hope, begin at the same time.

Watching the seemingly never-ending coverage of the talking head cable channel news shows as they lead up to "the moment", one wonders when the ball is going to drop and people are going to begin kidding in Times Square... or around the Reflecting Pool.

It feels longer than two months and a few days since we elected then-Senator Barack Obama as POTUS 44. Whereas time flies when you're having fun, the past two-plus months have been anything but. If "Change" was the one word term that helped make President Obama, it's "hope" and "anticipation" that has to guide him for our sakes.

As President Bush tries to change history and re-write his legacy, President Obama will take the oath and begin what Bush promised eight years ago. Some of what Bush said back in 2001 sounded so well, but in the dull light of eight hard years, those empty words are just sour noises:

"This is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity,"
"If we permit our economy to drift and decline, the vulnerable will suffer most,"
"All of us are diminished when any are hopeless,"
"Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do,"
"I will live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility and try to live it as well,"

There was no justice; there was little opportunity; our economy isn't adrift, but it has sank. Most of us are hopeless and the pain of poverty inflicts many more today than when he took office eight years ago. No one who needed to listen actually listened and responsibility was, and is a foreign word to the Bush administration, a.k.a. The Administration of Diminished Responsibility.

Here's an interesting thought as the final hours of President Bush's pardon powers disappear into the night. Surely the thought has crossed his mind that both his former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales; and near-done Vice President Dick Cheney might have to come out in front of Congress and defend the decisions that led us to become a nation which tortures, exposes its undercover operatives and allows a place like Guantanamo Bay to exist.

With hours left in his presidency, one wonders if President Bush could offer up pardons for anything done by the pair, and anyone else associated with the lies and bad deeds done in the name of "freedom" during his time in office.

What would the new Congress do if that were to happen? Regardless of what President Bush decides to do (or not to do) about pardoning those at the top of his administration for their misdeeds, Congress has the responsibility to find out the truth. Calling Gonzales and Cheney before them via subpoena must be the path they choose to get there.

And if they refuse, arrest them like the criminals they are.

President Bush will go down as the worst President in my lifetime. His incompetence makes Richard Nixon's paranoia look like palpable by contrast while his intentional ignorance leaves Bill Clinton's libido as the joke it should have been.

It's time for actions to take precedence over rhetoric, and that is the promise of January 20, 2009.

-Noah Greenberg

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

The inaugural extravaganza is over. Now it’s a whole new mini-series. We’re pretty sure we’ll like this one a lot more than the last.

Of course, a new president doesn’t really change the TV landscape, unless President Obama actually delays the digitalization set for Feb. 17, as he is trying to do.

A new president does alter the tone, however, but what does that mean for comedy? Where will Jimmy Kimmel be without YouTube clips of George Bush walking into things and making up words? David Letterman’s “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches” was only funny with Bush juxtaposed to, well, real presidents.

Of course, it will be nice to have a president who isn’t a running (or walking, or bicycling or eating pretzels) joke. Jimmy Kimmel summed up his thanks to Bush for the laughs of the past eight years in a video tribute. (Check it out at YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfwjnpRKKjI )

Bush himself had a different take on his presidency, as his farewell address (13 minutes–think that number just came out of a hat?) and his final press conference attested. If ever there were a man who just didn’t get it, that man is Bush. Apparently he lies as much to himself as he has to the rest of the country.

The final ABC and CBS news polls on Bush’s approval ratings were out Jan. 16: Only 22 percent of the nation approved of Bush. We did wonder who those people could be, since his family isn’t *that* large, but then we saw one of his apologists on David Letterman.

One wouldn’t expect PBS’s Gwen Ifill, now touting her book about Obama, to be a Bush fan. Which is why we were absolutely gob-smacked to hear her version of the Bush presidency in relationship to Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Letterman noted that Clinton was possibly the smartest person he had ever met and added that whenever the former president had been on the show he was blown away by his brilliance. Ifill made a face.

Later, in discussing Bush, Ifill said “to be fair” Bush had had a series of terrible problems to deal with, while Bill Clinton had presided over an economically prosperous and peaceful administration.

“To be fair?” To Bush? Who had problems to face during his administration while Clinton did not?

As Homer Simpson would say, that’s not how we remember it. We remember Clinton inheriting the worst deficit in American history prior to the current one. We remember Bush inheriting the economic prosperity the Clinton Administration created, as well as a semi-stable Middle East and international good will, then trashing all of it.

Perhaps Ifill is so used to parroting the lies promulgated during the Bush Administration that she doesn’t actually remember the facts. Let’s hope that she gets help for that problem before she starts reporting on the new administration, otherwise Obama might find himself being blamed for the mess the Bush II folks left him just as Clinton was blamed for the mess from Bush I.

That blame-the-new-president show is not a rerun we want to see.

Speaking of reruns we didn’t want to see, albeit a lot less serious, we were very disappointed to discover that “Grey’s Anatomy” has once again dumped a lesbian/bisexual character. Sadie (Melissa George) was set to become the new love interest for Callie (Sara Ramirez) after the show unceremoniously fired Brooke Smith (Erica), her previous lesbian lover.

Although George has done a more than creditable job at infusing a high level of sexual energy into the show and definitely made us believe she was interested in Callie, for reasons undisclosed by the show, she is out. Immediately. Like Smith.

George said it was her idea to leave the show. The show says her story line “came to a natural end.” A natural end? She was signed for three years and ended up with a handful of episodes. She never got past the hair-twirling stage with Callie.

Allegedly it’s not homophobia. As it wasn’t with Smith or with Isaiah Washington. And yet, three strikes tends to look a lot like an out. Just stop watching this show. Really.

Speaking of homophobia, we liked the exchange Wanda Sykes had with Craig Ferguson on his Jan. 16 show. Ferguson said, “I heard you got married.” Sykes, who married her lesbian partner in October in California, said she had and noted that Ferguson had also married over the holidays.

“Are they trying to overturn *your* marriage?” Sykes asked. Ferguson replied, “Just to be safe, I got married in Vermont...I married someone from the other side.” Sykes replied, “Oh, you went old school.”

The always acerbic Sykes queried why people didn’t focus on breaking up their own marriages instead of hers. Sykes also suggested that capitalizing on the revenue from gay weddings would be a good way to save the economy. “Especially with gay men–we’re talking millions of dollars in ice sculptures alone.” Speaking of gay men, we were *so* disappointed that Luke and Noah finally slept together on “As the World Turns.”

Yes, disappointed. Why? Because after a two-year courtship that would have put a purity circle to shame, when the two finally got back together after undergoing endless misery over the holidays, their big love scene was....off-screen.

It began with lots of kissing and then the ritual stripping off of the shirts and the subsequent bare-chested hugging. When next we see the pair, they are fresh from the shower and toweling off, talking about how they were glad they waited. That’s the only way we know they had sex.

“ATWT” has done a good job of making Luke and Noah a realistic couple. The writers even added some gay infidelity. But to cheat loyal viewers who have been watching this romance for two long years of the consummation is simply wrong. Or it’s bowing to homophobic pressure from sponsors. The same show has lots of sex between heterosexual couples. But for the gay couple, “ATWT” seems to have stopped breaking ground after the full-mouth kissing.

The kissing has been fabulous, but we deserved the full Monty for the actual consummation of this long affair. Or at least to see Luke and Noah in bed together. Like a couple in love, which they are.

Another reason we’d like to see charming and very normal Luke and Noah together is to off-set the number of freakish gay men we are seeing on other shows. Last week’s “Criminal Minds” featured two men married to women but in love with each other who were serial killers. Their foreplay was torturing and killing young women.

Then “Law & Order” had an obvious gay man as a killer attorney who was taking victims of an airliner crash for all they were worth.

And even “ATWT” has had the closeted Brian, who married Luke’s grandmother while actually being in lust with Luke. Brian has since come out–thanks to Luke–but for months he was just another sleazy, down-low, screw-over-your-wife closet-case weasel.

Of course when shows like “Dr. Phil” insist on promoting the idea that homosexuality can be “cured” and that it’s something that should be, it’s not surprising that there’s a twisted perspective about gay men on the tube.

Last week “Dr. Phil” did a follow-up show about transgendered and gay kids. His “experts” included a researcher from Focus on the Family–the same Focus on the Family that helped fund Prop 8–and a psychologist from Focus on the Family who specializes in sexual repatriation–that is making queers think they are straight.

The therapist explained how the “problem” is often that mothers are suffocatingly close to their sons and thus gayness or transgender identity happens, but is really a false identity caused by the mothers’ smothering.

How very 1950s.

This approach was presented as real alternative therapy and given the majority of time on the show. There were two accredited psychologists who were brought on in the last ten minutes, but by that time the damage was done.

There may be a new administration in Washington, but it’s the same old homophobic nonsense on the tube. Gay men are portrayed as twisted and pervy while lesbians aren’t really lesbians at all, but bisexuals just waiting for the right man, as on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House.” The only real lesbians on the tube seem to be the ones on “The L Word,” which just opened its final, shortened season.

The perils of homophobia and how homophobia impacts gay men and lesbians cannot be overstated, which is why shows like the “Dr. Phil” episode are so dangerous.

On Jan. 24, Lifetime premieres “Prayers for Bobby,” a made-for-TV film starring Sigourney Weaver as Mary Griffith in a tale about the tragic suicide of Griffith’s son, Bobby. Griffith was a fundamentalist Christian who told her gay son that he would burn in hell for the sin of homosexuality. The pain of trying to pretend he was not gay became so great that Bobby finally jumped off an overpass onto a highway and was killed. His suicide transformed his mother.

Weaver, who co-produced the film, told reporters, “There’s still so much ignorance about what homosexuality is, and such a lack of compassion for young people who are making these very difficult decisions about what to tell a family.”

That lack of compassion is still evident on top-rated program like “Dr. Phil” and clearly influences the writing on other TV shows. How many queer viewers, especially younger ones, are confused to the point of despair by these mixed messages on the tube? How damaged are they by the negative portrayals of gays and lesbians on TV and how many more Bobby Griffiths are being created?

Stay tuned.

In response to, "Miracle on the Hudson was more of a response to training, design and planning than miracle in the end," Dorothy Schwartz writes:

I am guessing that additional planning in the future will include all passengers peering out their windows looking for geese. And I for one will pay closer attention to those instructions about where my life vest is.

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-Noah Greenberg