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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fixing It

If you really want to stop Israel from attacking Lebanon and a Syria-Iran sanctioned Hezbollah from lofting bombs into Israel, there is a way. However, this way will put England, France, Germany and a host of other EU and NATO nations (including Russia and the US) squarely in harm's way. This force should also include China (to be a world leader, one has to act as a world leader).

This plan would create a buffer zone inside of Lebanon stretching from the Israeli border 100 miles into Lebanon. Call it the Israeli-Lebanon DMZ.

Think back into the 1990's when the US and her allies enforced a no-fly zone in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. That was an effective program. Now think to the DMZ between North and South Korea. Although one of the world's hottest of hot spots, it has endured since the Korean War. A similar zone in between Israel and Lebanon would offer even greater security IF, and only IF, all of the nations and organizations mentioned above were willing to put their money where there mouths are.

Creating this zone as both a no-fly and buffer DMZ would prevent Hezbollah from firing their rockets into Israeli settlements and cities while, at the same time, preventing Israeli sorties into Lebanon for retaliation. There would have to be severe consequences for either side for their violations and the governments of Israel and Lebanon would bear the brunt of these consequences.

The problem is, one might note, that Lebanon has a micro-government inside of its elected Democracy. They are called Hezbollah. One of two things need to happen in order for a plan like this to work: Either Lebanon has to put a leash on the terrorist organization, Hezbollah or Hezbollah needs to be completely destroyed. Any bombs or raids across the Israeli border have to be dealt with as treasonous acts by a Lebanese president and Prime Minister who, up until now, have been unwilling or unable to do so. Make no mistake, strong leaders make strong governments. Israel has them, Lebanon does not.

-Noah Greenberg

"G"lobal "W"arming Bush from His NAACP Speech
There Truly is a First Time for Everything

BUSH: I come from a family committed to civil rights."
MADMAN: Really now. A little history, if you please. Prescott Bush, GW's grand-daddy was what amounted to a money launderer for the nazi party and Adolf Hitler before FDR froze all of their assets. His father and GW's great-grand-daddy was Samuel Prescott Bush, a war profiteer and railroad executive when the railroads and steel industries were taking advantage, and abusing the rights of immigrants as both railroad and steel workers. The Bush family has surely been involved in civil rights. They were called "Master".

BUSH: The Prime Minister (of Japan) and I went there, which is now the National Civil Rights Museum. By the way, if you haven't been there, you ought to go.
MADMAN: Is GW actually advising the newest group of African American Civil Rights leaders to go to the Civil Rights Museum? If I didn't have to write a newsletter, I'd be speechless.

BUSH: We've (GW referring to himself and Bruce Gordon, president of the NAACP) had frank discussions, starting with Katrina. We talked about the challenges facing the African American community after that storm. We talked about the response of the federal government.
MADMAN: Talk about wanting to be a fly on the wall. Just what did GW actually, say? "Whoops".

BUSH: The federal government pays over 95 percent of the cost for our nation's poorest seniors to get this new drug benefit.
MADMAN: That's what we call one of them "mis-speaks" or "mis-truths" In actuality, the Medicare Drug Benefit Program pays for 95 percent only after meeting the deductible; only after paying a monthly fee; only up until you reach $2,850 in retail drug costs, then the donut hole kicks in, and those "poor seniors" have to pay 95 percent. In truth, a typical "poor senior" who earns in excess of $12,000 a year, and uses $500 a month in life-saving prescription drugs will be responsible for almost $4,000 of the $6,000 that their drugs cost. They'd be better off if Medicare was allowed to negotiate for drug costs and they were paying for the whole thing themselves.

BUSH: ...you must understand I understand that racism still lingers in America.
MADMAN: How condescending. To think that GW has the right to point out to the NAACP that there is still racism in America. perhaps he should note that when David Duke, the former "Grand Pubah", or whatever they call him, of the Ku Klux Klan (that's KKK for you, President Bush) ran for a senate seat in Louisiana, he ran as a Republican.

BUSH: And I understand that many African Americans distrust my political party.
MADMAN: They should have said "Duh!"

BUSH: I consider it a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African American community.
MADMAN: Does anyone really think that Abraham Lincoln would be a Republican today?

BUSH: And I asked the ninth grade teacher, I said, how's it going? The man looked me in the eye and said, my students cannot read. That's wrong to hear a ninth grade teacher say, my students cannot read.
MADMAN: I don't know. What did your mother say?
MADMAN: But seriously. There is no one left that points to No Child Left Behind and says "Wow. That's really working great!" Instead we have an additional Bureaucracy which isn't properly funded. We have an education department that's more concerned with school prayer and teaching abstention than worrying if the children are going to school on an empty stomach or if they're going home to a learning environment, to do their homework, at the end of the day.
MADMAN: Take a good luck GW, is it true what your mother said when she looked at all of those poor, black children, victims of Hurricane Katrina, at the Houston Astrodome and said "This is working out very well for them."? Take a ride into South central Los Angeles, CA, or Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY, or Camden, NJ and tell me how well No Child Left Behind is working for them?

BUSH: Wealthier white families have got the capacity to defeat mediocrity by moving. That is not the case for lower-income families. And so, therefore, I strongly believe in charter schools, and public school choice. I believe in opportunity scholarships to be able to enable parents to move their child out of a school that's not teaching, for the benefit of the United States of America.
MADMAN: This is the real Bush education plan: Take out the really good, poor students and give up on the rest. To Bush, poor people are disposable.

BUSH: We're expanding money for our community college system.
MADMAN: And yet, less children qualify for this money. How do you figure that one, GW?

BUSH: We're working to expand help to have African American workers own a piece of their own retirement.
MADMAN: After all, their money is green, too.

BUSH: We want to help the addicted, we want to help the homeless, we want to help those who are trying to reenter society after having been incarcerated.
MADMAN: I wonder if GW said those same words at the Augusta National Golf Club, where they still look at Tiger Woods kinda funny-like?

BUSH: To whom much is given, much is required.
MADMAN: unless they're a member of the Bush "base" of "Haves and have-Mores".

BUSH: Each generation has a responsibility to write a new chapter in the unfinished story of freedom.
MADMAN: The title of Bush's Chapter: "Whoops!"

BUSH: I thank the members of the House of Representatives for re-authorizing the Voting Rights Act.
MADMAN: So does this mean that GW's going to stop hindering the African American Community from voting? Nah.

-Noah Greenberg

And this from Jenny Hanniver

Good for the NAACP delegates! They were beautifully unfriendly to Bush--another way of saying they were hostile to his worthless, banal speech. Julian Bond's final comment (see below) must have been dripping in sarcasm! (My son Julian is named for Julian Bond, a long-time hero--along with Emperor Julian the Apostate and St Julian the Hospitaller. We thought our son would be just fine, named for a political activist, a notorious heretic, and a saint. Later on we added Dame Juliane of Norwich, a woman mystic, to his "inspiring angels".)

The raucous response is what would happen everywhere if the Bush goon squads didn't admit ONLY carefully-screened supporters to his "rich fundamentalist whites only" speeches. The Republican motto is: "God forbid freedom of speech!" (Note the mandatory word "God".) But here Dubya couldn't get away from intelligent voters. He's probably vowing "Never again!"

BUSH: (to Julian Bond) Don't worry. I'm almost done.
BOND: I know you can handle it.

But this sums it up pretty well:
"There was an amazing gap between the aspirations of his speech and the policy behind it. It was so vague. He doesn't have enough contact with this community,"
-Barbara Arnwine of the Washington-based Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006, San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, Inc.

We hate to say we told you so, but back when May sweeps were winding down and pundits were saying that BushCo was Teflon and the Middle East was calming down, *we* told you to stay tuned–that the big reality series this summer was going to be the Bush Administration and the Middle East. We told you to watch for a mid-summer lalapalooza.

We would rather *not* have been right.

Given just how right we were, it's difficult to comment on the frivolity on the tube, no matter how enjoyable. Like Leonid, the Magnificent (the most extravagant drag queen since Liberace, direct from Siberia where it is "less open than here in USA") on *America's Got Talent* (we have never seen so many pink feathers outside a flamingo ranch). Or the superb queer storyline about familial and personal conflict over Luke (played with exceptional nuance and vulnerability by Van Hansis) coming out on *As the World Turns.* Or the gay turn *Big Love* has taken (polygamy *and* queers; look out Orrin Hatch!). Or the focus on Armistead Maupin on the prime time news shows now that the film of his novel *The Night Listener* is being released.

Frivolity thy name is Tube, but–this week the whole world is watching the Middle East come apart from a range of angles, all of them bloody.

Sometimes we have to critique the TV news and this is one of those times. Sometimes, as with the coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the coverage is so brilliant, so compelling, so heart-breaking, we wish we had Peabody and Emmy Awards to hand out ourselves.

Other times the coverage is confused, garbled, unseeing.

Alas, in the conflict/war between Israel and Hezbollah, the media simply isn't getting it. Unlike with Katrina, the reporting just hasn't gone to the heart of the pain and suffering. The presentation is a bit too much like that of "Shock and Awe" in Iraq three years ago: sounds of rockets and shots of smoke in the distance, but not nearly enough reporting from the blood running in the gutters of Beirut and Haifa.
This is a little like Bush refusing to show the coffins of soldiers killed in Iraq. If we pretend the victims aren't there, will they go away?

There's much to critique, where to begin?

Perhaps with the failure of U.S. diplomacy, which should have moved to stop the carnage before it became so entrenched. (At press time Israel had begun a ground war with Hezbollah, leading a very reluctant Lebanese government to announce that a ground war would force involvement of the Lebanese Army which for the first two weeks had stayed out of the conflict, much to the chagrin of many Lebanese being targeted by both Israeli weapons and Hezbollah.)

On July 21st, 12 days into the intensive Israeli attack on Hezbollah that had by then already decimated the infrastructure of Lebanon, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (you might remember our reportage of how she was buying hundreds of dollars of Ferragamo shoes during Katrina and went to see *Spamalot* on Broadway while New Orleans drowned) was icy-steely with reporters wondering where American diplomacy was in the conflict (MIA, obviously). In her best Cruella DeVille imitation, Rice declared that she *could* have shuttled to the Middle East earlier, but she's not sure what she would have been shuttling *for.*

Well, dear, if you don't know what and why, then you really don't deserve to be Secretary of State, now do you? Because *we* remember when your predecessor in the previous Administration, Madeliene Albright, kicked off her pumps, ran down a driveway and blocked the car of then-Palestinian President Yassar Arafat to keep him from leaving peace talks. And Albright did not spend three hours each morning on a treadmill like Miz Rice.

Meanwhile, a few days earlier, Rice's proxy husband, President Bush, had been stuffing his face in Russia (oh Babs–didn't you teach your boys *anything*?), a nation he apparently can't find on the map, and telling his poodle Tony Blair that removing the [@!$%#*] Syrians was what was needed.

The clip was played over and over and late night comedians had a field day with it, but as usual, Americans just shrugged and sighed, "That's our Prez."

(Bush was also photographed giving German Chancellor Merkel an unwanted back rub. Funny, he didn't give his poodle one.)

And well, that's it–those two comments are the sum total of American diplomacy in the bloody war between Israel and Hezbollah thus far. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuoad Siniora had requested that Bush help broker a cease-fire on July 14th. (According to MSNBC on July 19th: "Today, we sat down with Lebanon‘s prime minister. He said that in the last five days, Israel has set his country back 50 years." Look at the pictures and it's difficult to disagree.)

Did we mention that at press time there had been more than 400 people–nearly all civilians–killed and more than 2,000 wounded?

In case anyone is paying attention to the *actual bloodshed.*

Now we understand Israel is one of the *only* allies the U.S. has in the Middle East. But up until a few weeks ago, we'd never actually seen pro-Israel reporting on the network news which has been rather obviously pro-Palestinian.

So we were more than a little surprised to witness the sudden 180 on the tube from pro-Palestinian to pro-Israel, literally overnight. Uh–was there a directive from the People for the New American Century? Or is it exactly what it looks like: Israel is the opener for the new war the Bush Administration is planning with Syria and Iran? (In case you missed it, Bush has mentioned Israel perhaps twice, hasn't mentioned Lebanon at all unless we blinked and missed it, but has been sounding the drumbeat of Syria and Iran over and over.)

Do the networks know something we don't?

So, that mystifying 180 turn toward unmitigated support for Israel on the news: For the first few days all the reporting was done from Israel, none from Lebanon, which seemed to us a bit like the imbedded reporting in the early days of Iraq. If the war is happening on *that* side of the fence, what are the reporters doing on *this* side of the fence? Don't you have to actually *be* in the place to report on it?
(Hey–remember when Dan Rather reported from the jungles of Vietnam and then from the mountains of Afghanistan where he was camped out with the Mujahadeen? Now *that'*s what we think of when we think of war reporting. The other day we saw some chick on CBS who looked to be about 12 in a flak jacket. We guess it's all part of the Couricization of CBS. Good luck with that.)

Then as the killing intensified, the networks realized they just had to get out the flak jackets and cross the border. Still, the reporting has consistently begun in Israel, even though it's in Lebanon that the majority of the carnage (although by no means all) is taking place.

The bias is, well, a little obscene. On the July 21st NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, the network mistakenly went to Lebanon first. After the report from Lebanon, Williams actually *apologized* for the error and then went to the report from Martin Fletcher in Haifa.


Meanwhile, that (former) bastion of no-holds-barred reportage, *Nightline,* has careened between clips shown earlier on their evening newscast and dramatic interviews with people who actually know what they are talking about, like the retired Israeli general on the July 21st segment who basically said a ground war would be insane.

*Nightline* is supposed to push the envelope off the perimeter. On the Israel/Lebanon conflict, it hasn't.

Meanwhile, check out Arab TV and it's all blood and guts all the time. If anyone wants to know why the Muslim world hates America and Israel, this would be the reason: to them it is we who are the savage terrorists. Try to find a single person criticizing Hezbollah on the Arab News Network or Al-Jazeera, like Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have done. Try to find the news about the Hezbollah rockets that killed Arab children at play in Nazareth. Try.

Somewhere between Arab TV and American TV lies the reality of this latest war, which is unrelievedly ghastly and in which fewer than 50 soldiers *total* have been killed. All the suffering, all the dying, is being done by civilians. Go to BBC, go to al-Jazeera–see the suffering close up. Then try to watch *America's Got Talent.*

Here's what we report from what we've pieced together from myriad TV sources, American, Arab, Israeli and European (including our personal fave, the BBC plus the German and Spanish news) since the fighting began: There are currently about a half million Israelis in northern Israel spending much of their time in bomb shelters. (One network showed a wedding being held in one the other day.) In Lebanon between a half and a million people have been displaced, probably permanently, as their homes and neighborhoods have been destroyed. (In fact, on July 21st the IDF–Israeli Defense Forces–warned Lebanese within a 20 mile radius of the border to evacuate; that's about 170,000 people.) Soon there will be no food or water.

Of those killed on both sides, the primary victims have been women and children. The UN states that more than a third of the dead and injured are children.

*Nightline's* Martin Bashir did a short segment on Beirut nightlife because in the Beirut of two weeks ago, the Beirut rebuilt after the civil war, Beirut had become the Monaco of the Middle East–a hot spot for jet-setters. (Lebanon has no real industry; it relies on tourism.)*Nightline* cameras pan over gorgeous little cafes and nightclubs on a crowded but lovely Spanish-style street.

Then the cameras pan again over a dusty scene of rubble and debris. The same place, today. All of it, destroyed. Imagine the Castro or the Village today, imagine it bombed into rubble tomorrow. Your house, too.

Networks focus on a mass exodus of Americans from Beirut, some 15,000 evacuated on July 20th and 21st–a full week after the EU nations and Japan evacuated their people. (Katrina taught them *nothing.*)

Here are some scenes we witnessed in real time on the tube that we will not forget any time soon: In Haifa a rocket explodes in the street. Smoke and shrapnel everywhere (these rockets spew small metal pellets that turn the injured into dead). A woman in her fifties stands near a reporter, hysterical. She cannot find her husband. She is dialing his number on her cell phone. From a distance we hear a cell phone ring. What is there in the distance is a mass of bloody pulp and clothes on the ground.

Her husband.

In Beirut a nurse stands in the street, crying uncontrollably. She has just come outside the hospital to talk to a reporter about one of her patients, an eight year old girl. The camera pans to a body encased from head to toe in a thick swathe of white bandages, only a small sliver of bloodied face protruding from the mummified victim. The girls has been burned over her entire body and her whole family has been killed by an Israeli bomb. "We don't even know her name," sobs the nurse.

Forget the wildfires burning throughout the West and the storms crashing through the Midwest. Forget the temperatures that scream global warming across the country. Forget Bush toadying to the NAACP one day and to the Religious Right with his stem cell research veto the next. Forget Iraq and Afghanistan.

This new war will be the only news you see for some time. Let's just hope the media starts to get it right and in showing the true extent of the carnage, gets the response they got to Katrina.
Finally, the most compelling thing we noticed from all the reportage: If the newscaster doesn't announce which side of the border he or she is on, we can't be sure. Because everyone looks the same to us: terrified, shell-shocked, tear-streaked and bloodied.

That's the picture, folks, that's the war. Stay tuned.

More on Bush's Stem Cell Veto

Is protecting zygote in agar protecting human life? If you can answer yes to that question with a straight face, then the following statement applies to you:

Cervical cancer kills thousands of women in the U.S. each year. In the past year both a test for HPV and a vaccine for the disease have been made available.

But the Bush Administration doesn't want us to have them.

No more nonsense from the GOP about their concern for the sanctity of life should be tolerated.

-Robert Chapman

More of Bush's Amerika

“The federal government will pay a Texas law school $1 million to do research aimed at rolling back the amount of sensitive data available to the press and public through freedom-of-information requests.”

Just in case there was anything that wasn't covered by the wiretaps and secret spying....

-Forwarded and commented by Victoria Brownworth

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-Noah Greenberg