THE NEWSLETTER

Today's Note from a Madman

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

 

 

Media Madman Quotes in the Lead

Fox News asked "Is Hollywood snubbing our troops?


I'd like to ask the same question of President Bush.

-Noah Greenberg



"With 95 percent of a preliminary tally from the Dec. 15 vote now completed, Chalabi remained almost 8,000 votes short of the 40,000 minimum needed for him or his bloc to win a single seat in the 275-seat National Assembly, according to election officials. Without a seat in the assembly, Chalabi would presumably be unable to obtain a post in the resulting government [...]

"Chalabi's supporters here had hoped he would do well among exile voters who were allowed to cast ballots overseas. But results announced Monday showed he received just 0.89 percent of the "special vote,'' from Iraqi citizens in foreign countries, hospitals, the army and prisons."
-Ellen Knickmeyer and Naseer Nouri of The Washington Post report:

At least the Iraqi people can recognize a scoundrel. Unfortunately, our President couldn't do the same or just didn't care.



The Two Americas

George W. Bush and his legal advisers believe they can keep anyone they want in custody, for any amount of time, and for any reason they see fit by claiming that his "executive powers" gives him the "Right" to do so. (Another poor use of the word "Right")

I recognize the necessity of detaining captured "suspects" for questioning, but I have a couple of, shall we say, "reservations".

First, I want to know the constitutional justification that allows President Bush the "Right" to put American citizens in prison without due process? Whereas I am no fan of Jose Padilla, who has been incarcerated for three-and-a-half years now, the question remains who else, and for what other reasons would GW put American citizens in jail?

Next, I'm going to compare the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, who was captured and questioned as an armed enemy combatant fighting against the US in Afghanistan. Lindh received a stiff 20 year prison term for his crime. We know this for a fact: Lindh raised arms against his own country and fellow citizens. He deserved more than the 20 years he received. We also know that his US interrogator, CIA agent Mike Spann, was killed not long after his questioning of Lindh during a prisoner uprising.

Whenever we saw pictures of Lindh , we also saw his parents pleading for his life and a light sentences. We saw all of the pictures of an all-American childhood. Sometimes there was a basketball court in the background and sometimes there was a picture of of him in his Prom suit. We saw the child Lindh and the teenage Lindh . He got away easy with 20 years.

What you can say is that, at the very least, John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban was given his due process and knew his fate in a timely fashion. In my estimation, he deserved the ultimate penalty. If ever there was a case for someone to be given the death penalty, it was his case, whether he was a "confused kid" or not.

On the other hand, we have Jose Padilla. Every picture we see of him is that mug-shot of a scowled face in an orange prison jump-suit. In the end, Mr. Padilla might also deserve the death penalty, but he also deserves due process of the law.

There is a difference in the way that John Walker Lindh was treated and the way Jose Padilla is being treated. Both are American citizens. One is white while the other is Hispanic. The question you have to ask yourself is this: Is race the determining factor in the treatments of similar enemy combatants who, similarly are also American citizens? Is it race that decides their ultimate fate?

What is going to happen when there is a president who doesn't like me? Will I be thrown into a prison for things reasons undetermined? Will you? I don't want to be the guy who is accused of being too easy on criminals or too soft on terrorism, so I am going to take President Bush's word for it and assume that Padilla had something to do with the 9/11 hijacking and terrorism here in the US. But he is an American citizen. Try him... convict him... throw him into jail or give him the death penalty... use his knowledge to capture other terrorists. Do something. It makes me feel uneasy to know that any one citizen's rights are taken away because the president says it's "okay" and within his "power" to do so.

I don't want anyone taking away my rights. Period. And if they do, I want to be able to defend myself.

-Noah Greenberg



I have brought up the death penalty in the above editorial. As I have said before, I am for the death penalty WHEN, and ONLY WHEN I can be assured that it will be applied fairly to the deserving convicted felon of special circumstances. But that is just not the case.

Similarly to how the death penalty is applied, we can look at how FEMA and President Bush responded to Hurricane Katrina. It is more than obvious that race plays a part in decisions made by this administration. Just look at the response of the very same people after the hurricanes of 2004 hit Florida and a more affluent citizenry.

Coincidences do happen, but after awhile, they cease becoming "coincidences". -NG


Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI)

Robert Kennedy, Jr. has spoken frequently about replacing GDP with a new measurement of success called the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). The authors of GPI - Clifford Cobb, Ted Halstead, Jonathan Rowe - have defined it as follows:

"The GPI takes into account more than twenty aspects of our economic lives that the GDP ignores. It includes estimates of the economic contribution of numerous social and environmental factors which the GDP dismisses with an implicit and arbitrary value of zero. It also differentiates between economic transactions that add to well-being and those which diminish it.

The GPI then integrates these factors into a composite measure so that the benefits of economic activity can be weighed against the costs."

"The GPI is intended to provide citizens and policy-makers with a more accurate barometer of the overall health of the economy, and of how our national condition is changing over time."

"While per capita GDP has more than doubled from 1950 to present, the GPI shows a very different picture. It increased during the 1950s and 1960s, but has declined by roughly 45% since 1970. Further, the rate of decline in per capita GPI has increased from an average of 1% in the 1970s to 2% in the 1980s to 6% so far in the 1990s. This wide and growing divergence between the GDP and GPI is a warning that the economy is stuck on a path that imposes large -- and as yet unreckoned -- costs onto the present and the future."

"Specifically, the GPI reveals that much of what economists now consider economic growth, as measured by GDP, is really one of three things: 1) fixing blunders and social decay from the past; 2) borrowing resources from the future; or 3) shifting functions from the community and household realm to that of the monetized economy. The GPI strongly suggests that the costs of the nation's current economic trajectory have begun to outweigh the benefits, leading to growth that is actually uneconomic."

"If the mood of the public is any barometer at all, then it would seem that the GPI comes much closer than the GDP to the economy that Americans actually experience in their daily lives. It begins to explain why people feel increasingly gloomy despite official claims of economic progress and growth."

"The GPI starts with the same personal consumption data the GDP is based on, but then makes some crucial distinctions. It adjusts for certain factors (such as income distribution), adds certain others (such as the value of household work and volunteer work), and subtracts yet others (such as the costs of crime and pollution). Because the GDP and the GPI are both measured in monetary terms, they can be compared on the same scale."


-Robert Scardapane



What's Wrong With The Economy?

The fine folks at the Economic Policy Institute, www.epi.org, outlined the failures of the Bush economy:

1. Profits are up, but the wages and the incomes of average Americans are down.
2. More and more people are deeper and deeper in debt.
3. Job creation has not kept up with population growth, and the employment rate has fallen sharply.
4. Poverty is on the rise.
5. Rising health care costs are eroding families' already declining income.

Is The Economy Slowing?

On December 27, the Treasury market closed as follows:

2 year Treasury bond yield - 4.34%
10 year Treasury bond yield - 4.34%
30 year Treasury bond yield - 4.50%

2 year Treasury notes actually yield more than 5 year treasury notes. The 2 year note briefly yielded more than the 10 yield note but closed equal. This condition is commonly known as an inversion of the yield curve.

Some think this is the result of excess liquidity that props up longer-term Treasury prices. Others think this is a sign of an economic slowdown. In general, all recessions are accompanied by an inverted yield curve. However, the yield curve has sometimes inverted without a recession.

There is reason to be concerned as other indicators are slowing. Across the nation housing prices have fallen and inventory is increasing. There was a recessionary reading by the Richmond Federal Reserve index, manufacturing activity, for the last month but it's not a trend (yet that is).

-Robert Scardapane

On that same note, today I saw a report that showed the Las Vegas are housing market rose 11 percent this past year. In 2004, it rose 54 percent. For those of you who don't know, Las Vegas was, and is the single hottest housing market in the nation.

S-s-s-s-s-s. The sound of air escaping from a balloon. -NG



More on the Fading Economy

The treasury yield curve is currently as flat as a pancake. In general, treasury yields should be significantly higher for longer term notes. But, the difference between the 2 year and the 10 year treasury note is very small - a couple of basis points (one basis point = 1/100 of a percent). In some locations along the yield curve, it is now inverted. Namely, the 2 year treasury notes yields more than a 5 year note.

You might be saying - hey Bob, that's interesting but how does it impact me? A classic indicator of a recession is an inverted yield curve. Thus far, the Federal Reserve denies that a significant slow down is in the cards. They attribute the flat yield curve to cash flow between nations and excess liquidity around the world. Yet, just today the Richmond Fed index fell from 9 in November to -2 in December missing a forecast of a rise to 10. Any level below 0 indicates a contraction.

So, we shall see what we shall see. Look out for Republicans screaming for even more tax cuts. As insane as that sounds, Republicans will make the argument that more tax cuts are needed to avoid a recession. Of course, they fail to say that for most Americans the economy has been in recession throughout the Bush regime. Oh yeah, look for them to blame Bill Clinton somehow, someway.

-Robert Scardapane



THE LAVENDER TUBE: THE YEAR IN REVIEW
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2005 San Francisco Bay Area Reporter


Dickens had it right: 2005 was definitely the best *and* worst of times on the tube, and the top TV event of the year, still playing out after four months, proves it.

*Katrina*

Not since 9/11 has there been such a catastrophe in America and not since 9/11 have the TV networks from the big three to Univision been able to marshal their forces and produce such stirring, gripping and unbelievable stories and images to move a nation–if not a government.

When one looks at the current unraveling of the Bush Administration, it is the televised images of sheer horror and devastation from Katrina–and the Bush Administration's failures to alleviate the suffering of thousands of *Americans*or even seem to care–that began that unraveling.

ABC's anchor, Peter Jennings, died of lung cancer in 2005. We remember writing about 9/11 and how Jennings presented some of the best round-the-clock reporting of that terrible event of anyone on TV. So it was with Katrina: Jennings' legacy was carried forward with the incredible efforts of the ABC news team. It was *Nightline's*Ted Koppel who single-handedly brought down execrable FEMA director Michael Brown with the damning statement: "Man, don't you people watch television?!"

It was John Donvan and Chris Bury, veteran *Nightline* reporters who, their pale, red-headed visages sunburned to blistering, gave the truest picture of the unfolding horror. It was Bury who "found" the Convention Center with its staggering thousands who had gone without water or food (and of course, sanitation) for more than three days. Bury took his cameraman through–a man who wept at seeing a dead infant on the tour–and said quite simply, "If this isn't hell, I don't know what is."

And it was Koppel who raised this response from Brown about the CC: "No one told them to go there."

Except *they*–the suffering poor of New Orleans, had indeed been told to go there, by the Mayor, the Governor and others.

ABC's Bob Woodruff, made co-anchor with Elizabeth Vargas, just weeks ago, owes that position in no small way to his reportage during Katrina. Woodruff has always been a reporter on the front lines: We've watched him report from various war zones over the years and he was ABC's first man-on-the-ground after the December 26th tsunami in the Indonesian Basin, which certainly prepared him for what he found on the Gulf Coast. And he was definitely up to the job.

ABC gets a second *best* for their gal Oprah, who led her own team of celebrities with cash to salvage lives. Oprah grew up in rural Mississippi and visited her hometown devastated by Katrina. She enlisted sacks full of celebrity cash and did what FEMA and the Bush team seemed incapable of: helped people on the ground. Her friend, actor Matthew McConnaghy single-handedly airlifted a bunch of doctors and some 30-odd dogs out of harm's way.

As is so often the case, Oprah with her celebrity power was able to do more than those in *real* power. Maybe that because she just *wants* to help? Oprah also donated $10 million of her own money to the victims whom she later went to visit in shelters. She shot several shows from the Astrodome.

If ABC (with an honorable mention to NBC and the team led by anchor Brian Williams whose outrage matched Koppel's) got best TV news reporting of 2005, it should be no surprise that FOX got worst.

Set aside their second *worst* of the year, the ridiculous *war on Christmas* news-story-that-wasn't that their star "fair-and-balanced" go-to-guy Bill O'Reilly has been flogging in recent weeks. Their reportage of Katrina was fraught with an undercurrent of classism and racism that was unmistakable–you could *smell* it through the small screen. They just don't *like* poor people. Especially if they aren't white.

They get our *worst* rating–for so many reasons.

NBC gets our *best* for ongoing coverage of Katrina. Williams has gone back repeatedly, including just last week, to report on what has (little) and what has not (lots) been done to put the Gulf Coast back together.

But the single *worst* TV moment in the Katrina tragedy was George Bush's creepy live report from in front of St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square in the French Quarter.
Commandeering all the electricity in the blacked-out city, the President, with rolled-up sleeves, gave a speech of unparalleled bizarreness about how New Orleans would be rebuilt, blah, blah, blah. As Williams later noted on his blog, the flood of lights went out after Bush left and the city returned to darkness. A metaphor if ever there was one.

ABC also gets our *best* for Terry Moran's unparalleled grilling of the Bush team on the issue of torture. Just last week Moran, one of the three reporters to take over for Koppel at *Nightline,* nearly caused the heartless Dick Cheney to have another attack as he queried him. Moran, longtime senior White House correspondent for ABC, was on assignment with Cheney during the VP's surprise trip to Iraq. Moran put the case for torture in terms every American could understand: "Mr. Vice President, you have daughters, I have daughters–is this the world we want for our kids, where the Vice President of the United States can't say torture is wrong?"

Moran gets our best of the year for real reporting of political events. He give us hope that reporters *can* remember that their job isn't to take what this or any Administration says at face value (Judith Miller, are you listening? FOX, are you listening), but to ask questions–hard questions–like when Koppel grilled Brown.

We'd also like to land a second echelon best on CNN's Anderson Cooper (whom, we might add, started out on ABC's *World News Now,* which is where we first fell in love with him) for his expert reporting during Katrina and of Iraq.

Speaking of Iraq, which so few do, that gets our *worst* of the year award. How the slaughter of 2,200 American soldiers and–according to the President two weeks ago in Philadelphia–30,000 Iraqis could be the non-news story of the year escapes us, but it was. We're all for democracy and purple fingers, but the voting wasn't the story. The dying and mutilating was. Perhaps in 2006, with elections in the wings, these stellar news teams can get back to that story in-depth. After all, it *is* a war.

Of course TV is only part news–the rest is (supposed to be) entertainment. We have a lot of bests this year in that category.

Our favorite, must-see show on TV: Craig Ferguson's *Late Late Show* following Letterman on CBS. Ferguson is smart, edgy, cute as hell, has the great Scottish accent and is a one-man show. His opening monologues have made him a cult favorite among smart, left-leaning insomniacs. His little Pythonesque skits are hilarious and his guest round up is superb: celebrities and writers, the best comedians we've ever seen and edgy new music as well as big names we know. If you can't stay up that late, tape him. We guarantee instant addiction. He's like Bill Maher without the cynicism. (You can also catch him next week hosting the *People's Choice Awards* on CBS.)

Our favorite new bit of Ferguson's is "Is the President drinking again?" For several weeks now, Ferguson has been taking clips of Bush's news conferences and slowing the speed infinitesimally. Bush sounds like a drunk boy at the frat house trying to impress a girl with his knowledge of politics–and failing miserably. These spots are hilarious–oh, except he really *is* President.

Other late-night bests include *Jimmy Kimmel's* monologues, his Friday-night skewering of the FCC and his wonderful excising of clips from televangelist TV which never fail to stun.
In the comedy line-up, we also give a best to Tina Fey for a much-improved *Saturday Night Live* and to her and Amy Poehler for their fantastic version of *SNL's* news update.
You don't have to stay up late to catch the best new drama series on TV, however. ABC's *Invasion* might have had a bad-timing entrance, given its oddly prescient storyline of a devastating hurricane and the aftermath in which government abandons the needy and there is no water or electricity for months. But the show is wonderfully cast, superbly written and acted, has all the government-conspiracy angles down pat and is incredibly entertaining with its *X-Files-ish* story. It follows last season's best, *Lost,* still a super show, on Wednesdays on ABC. Don't miss it.

Our best couple of the year should have been Bianca and Lena on ABC's *All My Children, * but both left the show. Bianca has recently returned, sans girlfriend, but with baby in tow. It remains to be seen what will happen with her–she's currently one of those solo lesbians that we have seen all-too-often on the tube.

Since the Bianca and Lena coupling didn't pan out, we've had to look elsewhere for a *best* and there's no question: Best couple, James Spader and William Shatner on ABC's *Boston Legal* as Alan Shore and Denny Crane. (ABC also gets our vote for most improved network–we remember when the only good show they had was *NYPD Blue.*)

Spader and Shatner play acerbic lawyers and are mesmerizingly good in their roles as two friends with infinite problems relating to others. The past few weeks they have been sleeping together in an innuendo-filled story line that has more to do with Shore's night terrors than anything gay, but it has given David Kelley, the show's creator, ample room to address gay issues. Nicely done. If you haven't caught the show or the fabulous coupling of Spader and Shatner, do so. Totally apart from the excellent political subtext of the show, these two are the best actors on prime time.
Of course there were many worsts, as there always are on TV, among them ABC's *Commander in Chief, *a terrible, terrible program setting the stage to keep a woman from becoming President in the U.S. by showing just how silly girls in power can be. The episode of *ER* shown on World AIDS Day in which a Mother with AIDS refused to have her HIV+ child treated because AIDS, she said, is just a government conspiracy. Her Deusenberg theories on AIDS were *so* unworthy of a show consistently dedicated over the past decade to AIDS awareness and edgy presentation of the disease. Everything on FOX news. Everything on televangelist TV (although it's worth watching occasionally to see what they think of us).

TV in 2005 was best exemplified by Peter Jennings and Ted Koppel. Jennings died in August and Koppel retired in November, but both brought a standard to TV that it rarely achieves. On their own they made 2005 a best in reporting. And their legacy–training reporters like Terry Moran in their scrupulous image–bodes well for the future of TV news.

It was a hellish year, but TV brought it to us in living color so we couldn't look away. For that alone, TV once again gets our best of the year award. Stay tuned.



Iraqis Should Vote On Withdrawal

Irony defined. On the same day the United States House of Representatives debates a bill to have the House of Representatives decided the length of the US occupation of Iraq, Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) and Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced bipartisan legislation calling on the United States to support a vote in the Iraqi Parliament on the future of the US occupation of the country.

Kucinich issued the following statement today on his legislation:

"The new permanent elected body in Iraq, not the US House of Representatives, should vote on the length of the US occupation. It is their country. What Iraq needs and what Iraq wants in terms of continued US military occupation should be determined by the Iraqis, not the US occupying force or politicians in Washington.

"Over and over this Administration has compared Iraq's progress towards democracy with our nation's struggle over 200 years ago. Using the Administration's own analogy, it is time to allow Iraq the chance to write its own Declaration of Independence.

"Iraq has passed a Constitution, and has held elections to have a permanent elected body. Iraq, by all measurable means, is a sovereign nation. As such, it should be able to debate and vote on the most important issue facing their nation-the US occupation. The Administration has repeatedly stated that if the Iraqis ask us to leave, we will leave. Poll after poll in Iraq indicate that the Iraqi people overwhelming oppose the US occupation.

"It is now time for this Administration to live up to its word, and allow Iraqis to make the most important and basic decision about the future of their country. The Iraqi people cannot fully be free until decisions about their future are made in Baghdad and not Washington."

The Kucinich/Paul resolution will make it the sense of Congress, "that the new permanent Council of Representatives should debate and vote on whether or not a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq is desired by the government of Iraq; and that such a debate and vote should be conducted in an open and transparent manner, and occur as soon as practicable."

-Forwarded by Robert Scardapane



In response to "Maybe if enough of us got together, we can have the parties changed from the inside. Go to your congressional and senatorial debates. Question the candidates about their stand on campaign finance reform. Ask them if elected, will they work to eliminate lobbyists, " David W. writes:

Is the press getting "it?" Suddenly, the whore press sounds like bartcop.com

Excerpt:
Austin American Statesman:
Americans can't settle for Bush's "Trust me" defense of spy program

The Asheville Citizen-Times (North Carolina):
Bush's domestic spying a flagrant abuse of power.

The Arizona Republic:
Warrantless eavesdropping a chilling specter


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-Noah Greenberg