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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Monday, September 5, 2005
Blanco Is Being Sheehanized
Looks like the Bush administration has started doing what it always does when it screws up: blaming and slandering others. A "senior Bush official" tells the Washington Post that Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco has still not declared a state of emergency. This is, in fact, a big lie; Blanco declared a state of emergency on August 26. But the White House was counting on, as has been their successful strategy in the past, the mass media not bothering to fact-check its fallacies. It worked again here, although I understand the Post has since printed a correction. Probably on page F-8.

Posted by Marty at 3:24 PM CDT
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Enough Blame To Go Around
It should be noted that it isn't just the inept and crooked Bush administration that should take the blame for the New Orleans fiasco. Some Democrats need to step up and accept some responsibility, including the Democratic mayor of New Orleans.

Even Bill Clinton is full of shit, based on this CNN interview in which he and President Bush's father, the former President, concoct some ridiculous spin:

G.H.W. BUSH: Let me -- I just to want finish. I believe the administration is doing the right thing, and I believe they have acted in a timely fashion.

And I understand people being critical. That happens all the time. And I understand some people wanted to make, you know, a little difficulty by criticizing the president and the team. But I don't want to sit here and not defend the administration which, in my view, has taken all the right steps. And they're facing problems that nobody could foresee -- breaking of the levees and the whole dome thing over in New Orleans coming apart. People couldn't foresee that.

CLINTON: Yes. I think that's important to point out. Because when you say that they should have done this, that or the other thing first, you can look at that problem in isolation, and you can say that.

But look at all the other things they had to deal with. I'm telling you, nobody thought this was going to happen like this.

As we all know, there are many people who did indeed know it could "happen like this". You can forgive George Herbert Walker Bush for lying his ass off for his son, but Clinton? Clinton is not naive--he knows there were fuck-ups. So why is he defending them?

Posted by Marty at 2:08 PM CDT
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Brown & Chertoff: Still Not Fired
It has long been evident that the only people to get fired from the Bush administration are those who disagree with the President, even if they're right (Richard Clarke being just one of them). Even so, it seems amazing to me that Secretary of Homeland Defense Michael Chertoff and FEMA head Michael Brown still have jobs today. In fact, it seems almost criminally negligent to have these men continue to fuck up and destroy human lives.

Even the conservative Michelle Malkin, who doesn't know what she's talking about most of the time, is calling for Brown's head. And this CNN article may be the most damning evidence yet of Chertoff's ignorance. I realize there is no situation so dire that the Bush administration won't lie about it, but Chertoff's lie that nobody could have ever predicted the seriousness of Katrina is so bald-faced that I would prefer to think that he is stupid and incompetent rather than that big of a liar.

The New York Times and other sources have been linking to Brendan Loy's blog, and if you go back a week or so and read forward, it's amazing. Loy is a 23-year-old college student with an amateur interest in meteorology who was still several steps ahead of local, state and federal authorities in predicting the intensity of the disaster that struck New Orleans. He pleaded with mayor Ray Nagin to evacuate the city at least a day before Nagin did. The manner in which he predicted in advance what would happen to New Orleans is astonishing. If some college kid in Indiana knew what was happening, why didn't Brown and Chertoff?

Posted by Marty at 11:20 AM CDT
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Sunday, September 4, 2005
The lies and stupidity continue in Washington. Tim Russert, ordinarily a Bush apologist, ripped Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff a new one this morning. Once again, he whose only job is to protect the taxpayers of the United States of American claimed that Katrina's aftermath took him by "surprise", which is either a lie or a measure of his incompetence. He also indicated that he receives all of his information about what's going on in New Orleans from newspapers. You'd think the Secretary of Homeland Security would have more immediate sources of information, wouldn't you?

Even Newt Gingrich is pissed off.

I've been following Crooks and Liars, which offers links to various interviews and transcripts with government officials, as well as and Interdictor's Live Journal. Crooks and Liars has some amazing footage of government officials spinning and lying their asses off, and surprisingly being challenged by a news media that has been giving the Bush administration a free pass for four years now. Interdictor is a computer expert who has been barricaded in a New Orleans office building during the entire crisis and has provided eyewitness accounts of the harrowing events, as well as accounts of other people who have been out in the trenches.

Posted by Marty at 8:13 PM CDT
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Picture, 1000 Words & All That
Here's what New Orleans looked like on Tuesday:

Here's what President George W. Bush was doing on Tuesday:

That's right, he was 1500 miles away in San Diego. Looks like he's having a pretty fucking good time, doesn't he? I bet he's having more fun than this guy is.

If you're wondering exactly what Bush-buddy Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, did right before he was appointed to his current post, he was getting fired from his last job--running horse shows. That's right--he was too much of a fuck-up to organize horse shows, but perfect material to organize rescue operations.

Another great indication of how badly the Bush administration has bungled this is that even his toadies in the mass media are--slowly--starting to turn on him. Even Bill O'Reilly and Rupert Murdoch's New York Post have offered half-hearted criticisms. You can read a few of them here (this one includes a rip by the very Bush-friendly Washington Times and here, where we find out just how clueless the politicians in charge actually are.

To be fair, Bush isn't the only fuck-up here. Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco was too slow to order the National Guard in to help keep the peace, and then ordered police officers to “shoot and kill” anyone they saw looting. New Orleans Ray Nagin’s evacuation procedures were pitiful. And the rest of the state government had no trouble organizing a special election to pass an amendment banning gay marriage--surely a much less important issue than strengthening the levees. The current levees were built to withstand a Category 3 storm, but not a Category 4, which is how Katrina was classified. And when Bush says, as I quoted in a previous post, that nobody could have predicted that the levees would collapse, when in fact it has been well-documented that they would collapse under Katrina-like conditions, that is cluelessness of the highest order, even by his standards.

Posted by Marty at 11:16 AM CDT
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Saturday, September 3, 2005
Same Old Lies, Same Old Incompetence
I've been spending way too much time following the various news stories about Katrina and its aftermath. What shocks me more than anything is the Bush administration's callous disregard for human life and its inept handling of the entire situation. If I performed my job as poorly as Bush and his cronies have this week, I wouldn't expect to be allowed to return on Tuesday morning. But when you listen to these people talk and the insensitivity that comes out of their mouths...

First Lady Laura Bush says, when asked about the large majority of poor and black people left behind in New Orleans, ""This is what happens when there's a natural disaster of this scope. The poorer people are usually in the neighborhoods that are the lowest or the most exposed or the most vulnerable. Their housing is the most vulnerable to natural disaster. And that is just always what happens."

Hey, fuck 'em, right, Laura? Stuff happens. That's what Donald Rumsfeld's response was to criticisms that he failed to provide U.S. soldiers in Iraq with adequate equipment and armor. Yeah, right, stuff happens.

President Bush says, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job. The FEMA Director is working 24 -- they're working 24 hours a day."

Fuck you, George. "Brownie" is in fact doing a shitty job. Anyone who thinks that "Brownie", aka Michael Brown, the Bush-appointed head of FEMA, is doing a good job this week is lying his ass off or is a goddamn idiot. When Bill Clinton was in the White House, FEMA was considered to be something of an important organization, as it should be, and its head, James Witt, was a member of his Cabinet. When Bush stole the election from Al Gore in 2000, he downgraded FEMA, folding it into the Department of Homeland Security, and gave Witt's job to Joe Allbaugh, Bush's former Chief of Staff and campaign manager and a man with zero experience in handling major disasters. Allbaugh is also the guy who helped Bush get his Texas National Guard records erased, so he's clearly someone Bush owes big time. Allbaugh resigned amid scandal, and Bush replaced him with Brown, a lawyer and another personal friend of the President's with zero experience in doing what FEMA was created for. Bush clearly used the FEMA position as an opportunity to extend favors to his drinking buddies. He certainly didn't take it seriously, as his many budget cuts will attest.

Bush says, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." This is a gigantic lie. According to this Reuters story, "Virtually everything that has happened in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck was predicted by experts and in computer models, so emergency management specialists wonder why authorities were so unprepared."

Bush, who believes that scientific facts like global warming and evolution are merely rumors, continues to prove how out-of-touch he is by saying, "There ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this." This is, of course, idiotic. Many of those people were, in fact, stealing food, water and medicine, and the reason they were is because Bush wasn't giving it to them. Zero tolerance is just another phrase for "zero thinking". Zero tolerance is always an idiotic way to do anything. There are many different kinds of looters. Some are families besieged by hunger and dehydration and are looting to survive. What are they supposed to do? Stand in front of a rack of Little Debbie snack cakes and not eat them? Many of the looters are, indeed, bad guys. They're robbing other refugees of their clothing and shoes. They're committing violence against their fellow victims. They're raping and beating and killing. Setting aside the likelihood that looting would not have occurred at this level if Bush had been doing his job to begin with, lumping all looters together into one bundle is stupid and dangerous. There are Bad Looters and Not-So-Bad Looters (these are the dumbasses stealing TV sets, I don't why) and Looters Who Are Just Trying Not To Die.

And then you read this transcript of Michael Brown's press conference where he claims that security in New Orleans is "pretty darn good", that he knows nothing about any corpses lying in the street, that if there were bodies lying in the street, they would "not necessarily" cause disease (these must be very clean cadavers), that he has heard "no reports of unrest". What the hell has this guy been doing? All he has to do is turn on a TV set to see shitty security, rotting corpses, and a hell of a lot of social unrest. Unbelievable.

So much could have been prevented. Those of us who voted for Al Gore in 2000 and for John Kerry in 2004 knew this could happen. We knew that Bush was incompetent. We knew about his disregard for the lives of Americans. We knew that he was stupid and greedy and foolish. Yet so many chose not to listen. Even after he squandered the largest U.S. surplus in history. Even after he lied his ass off and sent nearly 2000 Americans (and counting) to fight an unnecessary war in Iraq, a war against an admittedly brutal dictator who posed no threat to American soil. Even after he schemed to prevent less expensive medicines from being available to poor Americans desperately in need of adequate health care. Even after he sided with credit card companies to screw more money out of the citizens he took an oath to protect. People still voted for him. They said, "He's the best man for the job. He will keep me safe."

Look around the ruins of New Orleans. Ask yourself, "Did George Bush do everything he possibly could to keep those people safe?"

Posted by Marty at 6:06 PM CDT
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Are You Enraged?
I went out with some co-workers last night, and even though I managed to eke out something resembling a good time, I was distracted the entire time. Same with work yesterday. I didn't get anything done. All I could do was surf various news Web sites, reading about what's happening in New Orleans. And then I would have to stop for awhile, because I would become too angry. It made me physically ill to read about the thousands of people who are either wandering around in confusion or trapped inside "safe havens" like the Superdome. Today I read about the children who were raped and murdered this week right under the noses of thousands of refugees in the Superdome. How they still, six days later, have no food and no water. How the U.S. government is keeping them trapped inside, refusing to allow anyone to leave. Anyone who wants to escape the rape and the killing and the abuse and the indignity and health hazard of lying in their own excrement is unable to. They're forced to remain at gunpoint.

You want to know how bad it is down there? So bad that even Fox News appears to be covering the events in a fair and balanced manner for once. Crooks and Liars has this amazing footage of Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera trying to break through Sean Hannity's thick head and explain to him the gross situation in New Orleans. Hannity, who looks as though he could care less, keeps trying to move the conversation back to GOP talking points, but, to their credit, Smith and Rivera refuse to budge. Television journalism has never been worse than it is right now, but seeing Smith and Rivera stand up and tell it like it really is, not how Fox News wants it to be, makes me believe that perhaps the news business can be saved. I don't doubt that both correspondents will have some nasty memos waiting for them when this crisis is over--nobody criticizes the Bush administration, directly or indirectly, on Fox News and walks away unscathed (after another Fox News pundit criticized Bush's reluctance to cut short his vacation, GOP toadie Brit Hume changed the subject)--but these guys have earned my respect today. Heck, I'm still trying to figure out how these guys and their satellite trucks were able to get through to the "frontlines", while government rescue units have not.

If there's any silver lining in all this, it is that it should sound the death knell for the Republicans' dominance of Washington politics. For too long, the Republican-dominated Congress and the Bush White House have fucked over innocent, decent Americans who just want to live their private lives knowing that, if something of a catastrophic nature occurs, the federal government--whose only job is to protect its citizenry--has their backs. George Bush does not have anyone's back but his own and those of his cronies. If there's anybody who can list three things that Bush has done during his presidency to improve the quality of life for lower- and middle-class Americans, I'd like to hear them. He certainly has done a lot to worsen life--siding with credit card companies and made it more difficult for people to declare bankruptcy, refuse to better the health care system, plunge the national deficit to a new low, not to mention sending billions of dollars and thousands of Americans overseas to fight a war that was unnecessary and unwanted.

Believe this--much of the death and destruction we have seen in New Orleans could have been avoided if the Bush administration and his cronies had not spent the last five years with their heads up their asses. For one thing, the head of FEMA, under Clinton, was a Cabinet-level position. When Bush took office, he removed that position from his Cabinet. In fact, he removed several well-qualified high-level FEMA employees and replaced them with buddies of his who were not qualified. Then, when he established the Department of Homeland Security (yeah, New Orleans was real secure), he foolishly folded FEMA into it while cutting FEMA's budget drastically.

Something else you should know--we knew this would happen. Everything that has occured as a result of Katrina was known in advance by scientists who ran practice drills and full-scale simulations and laid out very specific measures that needed to be taken in case a storm hit New Orleans. They predicted exactly would happen in the case of a disaster like Katrina. But what did our government do to prepare? Nothing. Both FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers were stricken with massive budget cuts that left them without the ability to do their jobs. And now thousands in Louisiana are paying the price.

This is a disaster that we knew what was coming. Ask yourself what would have happened if a terrorist attack like 9/11 had occurred in New Orleans? Things down there would be a LOT worse than they are. Do you feel safer now than you did before 9/11/01? Bullshit, I sure don't. Do you believe that the terrorists overseas are too afraid of George Bush to launch another 9/11 attack? Those fuckers can get CNN. They are watching and taking careful study of how incompetently the U.S. government is handling the New Orleans situation. They know that Bush and his cronies of old, angry, white men in Washington were and are ill-prepared to handle a national emergency of this magnitude. Four years after a similar catastrophe struck New York City, and emergency procedures have not improved. Indeed, they appear to be worse. And it won't be lost on our dark-skinned enemies in the Middle East that a great majority of those who are suffering are dark-skinned themselves.

Posted by Marty at 10:49 AM CDT
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Tuesday, August 30, 2005
I'm Not Gonna Box You. I'm Gonna Whup You.
Now Playing: SAW
Here's another reason why comics today suck. No company today would even attempt to publish a 72-page tabloid-sized comic with cardboard covers that pitted the Man of Steel against the most popular and most powerful fighter in the world.

SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI (technically ALL-NEW COLLECTORS' EDITION #C-56) is one of my favorite comics. It was written and drawn by Neal Adams, one of the industry's leaders and an artist whose impact on comics cannot be overestimated. From the time he began working on DC Comics covers in the mid-1960's, establishing an exciting new trend in "realism", comics were never the same. The work he did with writer Denny O'Neil on DC's GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW title, which brought relevance and a new level of maturity to a medium best known as kids stuff, remains some of the most important comics ever created.

By the late 1970's, Adams was no longer regularly employed by DC or Marvel, having started his own stable of artists and branched off into other media, such as film posters and stage productions. He began as an advertising artist and moved into comic strips like BEN CASEY before his comic-book career, so comic books were not the be-all and end-all for Adams.

Pitting Superman and Ali against each other sounds like a no-brainer, but it took Adams, O'Neil (who began writing the project, but dropped out partway through) and editor Julius Schwartz to make it happen. The premise is terrific: a group of aliens invade Earth and demand that our greatest fighting champion take on theirs with the planet's future as the prize. Neither Superman nor Muhammad Ali can decide which of them is the world's biggest champion, so the aliens beam them both to a planet that revolves around a red sun (which saps Superman's powers) to duke it out for the Earth title. Ali ends up kicking Supes' ass, but the Man of Steel gets his powers back and opens a couple of cans of whupass on the invading aliens.

Adams told COMIC BOOK ARTIST that SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI is the best story he ever did. It's certainly one of his most fun, taking two of our greatest heroes and teaming them up on an extraterrestrial adventure with no less than the entire Planet Earth as the stakes. The comic is also notable for its wraparound cover, which includes hundreds of familiar and not-so-familiar faces in the crowd watching the fight. Everyone from fellow DC staff to big names like John Wayne and Johnny Carson are on the cover. One problem that arose is that Adams drew the cover without clearing the rights to use the likenesses. It was a chore for DC's legal department to track down and receive permission from all those celebrities. Most of them were cool, but you'll notice a guy with a mustache sitting next to Ron Howard. That was originally Henry Winkler, but the Fonz refused to give permission, and the likeness was altered.

Posted by Marty at 10:32 PM CDT
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Monday, August 29, 2005
The Big Bust-Out
I don't know why it took the networks almost five years to rip off 24, but Fox finally did it with the new series PRISON BREAK, which debuted tonight with back-to-back episodes. I think the network might have another winner on its hands.

Like 24, PRISON BREAK is a serialized action series that derives its suspense from a ticking clock. Lincoln Burrows (JOHN DOE's Dominic Purcell) was accused, arrested and found guilty of shooting the brother of the Vice-President of the United States. He currently resides in a maximum-security federal penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois, where he's scheduled to be executed in 30 days. His brother Michael (Wentworth Miller) believes Lincoln to be innocent, and concocts an elaborate plan to rescue him. He sticks up a bank and ensures he'll be sent to the same Joliet facility. It turns out that Michael, a structural engineer, has had the prison's blueprints, along with several other cheats and hints, hidden inside an intricate tattoo that stretches all over his arms and torso.

Creator and writer Paul Scheuring (A MAN APART) opens up a number of subplots that may ensure the series as the season's most dense. A warden (Stacy Keach) who's building a wooden replica of the Taj Mahal as a 40th anniversary present for his wife, a mobster (Peter Stormare from FARGO) with connections, a rapist named T-Bag (Robert Knepper), an old con who may or may not be D.B. Cooper (Muse Watson) and a pissed off guard (Wade Williams) are already making trouble for Michael inside the prison. Outside, his attorney (Robin Tunney) is beginning to believe that Lincoln's incarceration may be the result of a government conspiracy spearheaded by a Secret Service agent (Paul Adelstein) and a mysterious woman in Montana.

Whew. That's a lot of characters and a lot of tantalizing plot threads dangling. If Scheuring and his writing staff can keep all their plates on the end of their sticks, it'll be a miracle, but what I've seen so far is enough to lure me back next week. Film director Brett Ratner (RUSH HOUR), also an executive producer, and Michael Watkins directed the first two episodes, and the battery of credited producers have credits on shows like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, THE GUARDIAN and NYPD BLUE.

But it's the cast that makes this series so far. I believe that at least 75% of any successful TV series is casting, and Fox got it right with this talented bunch, led by Miller (UNDERWORLD), who I've never seen before, but is on a starmaking path as the determined, tough and wry guy on a mission. I thought Purcell was a solid lead on JOHN DOE, and Keach, Stormare, Adelstein and Tunney all have solid credentials. The show's premise is, of course, incredible, but if these actors can make the implausible seem plausible, that might be all the show needs to make it a winner.

Posted by Marty at 10:12 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 28, 2005
The Student Body Always Scores
Ended up spending yesterday with a friend who came to town to visit his dad in the hospital. He crashed at my place, so we stayed up late watching four (!) deliciously crappy movies. One of them was 1974's SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS, a New World release executive-produced by Roger Corman and produced by his wife Julie. The writer and director was Barbara Peeters. It was even more rare then than it is today to find woman directors in Hollywood, and virtually none of them were making exploitation films. Peeters and Stephanie Rothman, who briefly co-owned her own independent studio, Dimension Pictures, were about the only ones.

Following in the footsteps of New World hits like THE STUDENT TEACHERS and CANDY STRIPE NURSES came this interesting feminist tract disguised as a T&A film. Three Midwestern farmgirls move to Los Angeles to teach high school and maybe find love in the process. Blond Conklin T. (the wonderful Candice Rialson) teaches girls' P.E. and tries to organize an all-female football team, much to the consternation of male chauvinist athletic director Sam (badass Dick Miller, who later appeared with Rialson in HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD). Science teacher Denise (cute Rhonda Leigh Hopkins) falls for a teenage hood who gets kidnapped by a car theft gang, while Sally (Pat Anderson) teaches photography and poses for some sexy shots of her own.

Typically for these New World formula films, SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS fulfills the requirements of an exploitation movie with copious nudity and slapstick humor, but also contains serious subtext. SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS is deep down a feminist treatise on women's liberation and empowerment in which, yep, the girls get naked, but only on their own terms for their own pleasure. Conklin and Company are the smartest characters in the movie, and use both their brains and bodies to break down "the Man's" rule.

I'm not advocating SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS as any kind of classic, but it's much more ambitious than those who turn down their noses at drive-in flicks would be willing to admit.

Peeters' last film for Corman was 1980's HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, which was apparently quite a personal setback for her. The story is that Corman hired a second director to go back and film gore and nude scenes against Peeters' wishes and inserted them into the film. It's actually a good movie, a throwback to '50s sci-fi, as Doug McClure, Ann Turkel and Vic Morrow battle an army of slimy amphibians that invade a small town and rape their women. The sleazier material, like one monster ripping apart a tent and having its way with a buxom nude girl, was never filmed by Peeters, but Corman felt it was necessary for audiences anticipating that type of film from New World. And he was probably right.

Posted by Marty at 10:35 AM CDT
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