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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Wednesday, September 7, 2005
Rest Well, Little Buddy
Bob Denver passed away this week at the age of 70. He had been in poor health for awhile. He underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery earlier this year, and finally succumbed to cancer near his West Virginia home with his wife and children by his side.

Denver was, as we know, the star of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, and was likely the first celebrity that I was a fan of. When I was a little kid growing up in the 1970's, I was a huge fan of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. In fact, it was my favorite TV series. This is when I was between, say, five and nine years old. I used to watch the reruns every afternoon on WICD Channel 15 after school. They rotated somewhat, but usually in there someplace were GILLIGAN, THE BRADY BUNCH and THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY. I remember others in there too--I LOVE LUCY, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, BEWITCHED, THE ODD COUPLE, I DREAM OF JEANNIE--and later MCHALE'S NAVY, THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN and BATMAN were added to the lineup, but GILLIGAN was almost always on. It rarely was unavailable to after-school TV watchers during the 1970's, which were the days before tabloid talk shows and infomercials took over the airwaves. I sometimes watched THE EARLY SHOW over on WCIA Channel 3, which had a massive library of movies. In fact, THE EARLY SHOW and the weekend LATE SHOW were as much an influence on my current love of film than anything else.

On a tangent here: I also was a big fan of GENTLE BEN, which ran every morning before school, I think on Channel 3. I remember seeing GENTLE BEN, the Abbott and Costello cartoon, TENNESSEE TUXEDO, UNDERDOG, BULLWINKLE, stuff like that. On the days when Bob Denver wasn't my favorite actor, Dennis Weaver was. Weaver was a forest ranger on GENTLE BEN who had a wife (Beth Brickell), a son (Clint Howard) and a pet bear named Ben. The Animal Planet actually remade GENTLE BEN recently with Dean Cain in the Weaver role. I really liked the show when I was a kid, and liked Weaver also because he was starring in new episodes of MCCLOUD on Sunday nights.

But back to GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. I was such a fan that I remember "writing" a play version of the series and putting it on in the playground during recess. I also remember the series actually holding me in suspense--would today be the day that the castaways finally get off the island? I actually believed that, eventually, Gilligan would not fuck up, and everyone would be rescued. They did get off the island once, but only to another island where a mad scientist switched everybody's brains around. Don't you miss plots like that in sitcoms? Now everyone sits around the living room and complains that they can't get laid. Wouldn't you love to just once see Ray Romano deal with a jungle boy or witness Kevin James fighting a giant spider or find out how Charlie Sheen deals with being captured by a Japanese soldier who thinks World War II is still going on?

I also remember taping episodes on my cassette recorder and listening to them over and over again. The shows were just as funny, but more importantly, I think I learned a lot about comedy and TV production by listening to them. I certainly became very familiar with the mid-'60s laugh track and started recognizing it in other shows like I DREAM OF JEANNIE.

Denver starred in another series I watched as a kid: a Saturday-morning live-action show called FAR OUT SPACE NUTS. It was basically GILLIGAN'S ISLAND IN SPACE with Denver playing another lovable klutz and Chuck McCann doing the slow-burning Skipper part. Since Alan Hale, Jr. basically played the Skipper as Oliver Hardy, and McCann had done a famous Hardy impression in commercials, FAR OUT SPACE NUTS was a perfect vehicle for the kind of comedy that Denver and Hale did on GILLIGAN. I think it ran for only a season, but was pretty fun to this kid's eyes.

FAR OUT SPACE NUTS wasn't Denver's only turn on Saturday mornings. There was also an animated GILLIGAN spinoff called THE NEW ADVENTURES OF GILLIGAN (my brother and I played the board game) and a later SF spinoff called GILLIGAN'S PLANET. You can guess what the premise was.

Denver's other famous TV role was one I didn't see until I was in college. That was Maynard G. Krebs, the ahead-of-his-time beatnik best friend of Dwayne Hickman's title character on THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS. DOBIE was a Nick at Nite standby for a long time, and I wish it was still airing instead of same-ol'-same-ol' stuff like FAMILY TIES and THE COSBY SHOW. DOBIE had really good writing, a funny cast and was about as close to real teenagers as TV sitcoms got during the Eisenhower/Kennedy years. It wasn't until THE MONKEES that we really got "real" teenagers, but DOBIE was pretty close.

This has nothing to do with TV, but I went to the post office today after work to pick up a package that was waiting for me. I parked in the small lot on the south side of the Neil Street facility; there's only room for six or seven cars there. As I was walking around the edge of the building, I looked down, and there was a shot glass setting on the curb. It was empty and looked clean. I have no idea how it got there, but it sure looked odd there.

Posted by Marty at 10:26 PM CDT
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Tuesday, September 6, 2005
Bush Says He'll Find Out What Went Wrong
Talk about a conflict of interest:

Buffeted by criticism over the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush said Tuesday he will oversee an investigation into what went wrong and why _ in part to be sure the country could withstand more storms or attack.

Isn't that like asking Charles Manson to investigate the Tate-LaBianca murders? "Well, I spent eight months looking into this terrible event, and I have decided that I didn't do it." Even Ken Starr could lead a more competent investigation than Bush. And he's the guy who spent $50 million to ascertain that Bill Clinton had sex. I could have found that out with $500.

Posted by Marty at 1:50 PM CDT
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Monday, September 5, 2005
Bush Ignores His Own Plan
The Bush administration has spent much of today blaming Louisiana and New Orleans officials for its slow response in managing the aftermath of Katrina. One of the White House's claims is that the federal government is legally unable to respond until requested to do so by local authorities. This is, in fact, bullshit, thanks to the 2004 National Response Plan, which was implemented by the Bush administration last year. It says, in part, that the federal government can preempt the authority of state and local government in the case of:

any natural or manmade incident, including terrorism, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the population, infrastructure, environment, economy, national morale, and/or government functions

I'd say Katrina applies, wouldn't you? You can read it for yourself here.

Meanwhile, the President's mother, Barbara Bush (the former First Lady), demonstrates as much sensitivity as her son, who lamented last week that Trent Lott's house had been destroyed (yeah, boo hoo, I'm sure all the survivors trapped in the Superdome were real sympathetic), when she says these poor people are better off now anyway.

And for some great television, here's a bitter commentary by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

And where the hell is Dick Cheney anyway? We know Condoleeza Rice is busy seeing Broadway shows, but has anyone seen Dick lately?

Posted by Marty at 8:40 PM CDT
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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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