Saturday, September 10, 2005

Television: What I Watch

Admitting that in my description of this blog, I leave some wiggle room regarding what I write about, I still haven't written about popular culture lately.  The other day, the Fishmonger asked for guidance regarding the new television season, so I'm going to use that as my excuse to get back to the things I want to write about and, right now, need to write about (mainly to avoid doing things that would help my professional life get out of its stagnant condition).  

Returning to the Monger's request, I will admit to having some talent in predicting what my wife will like, even if she is hesitant to listen to my suggestions.  Last season, my suggestions to her were Desperate Housewives and Lost and she liked them a lot, though I think she enjoys Lost more.  What was different compared to other years is that in the past the shows I suggest don’t last past the first year.  That those two became the hits of last season was as much as surprise to me as it was to ABC.  (With Housewives, for instance, the initial order was only for thirteen episodes.  Apparently, ABC intended to return Alias to its Sunday night timeslot in January, assuming that Housewives would have sunk by its final episode.  However, it exploded in its slot and by October, ABC was putting in an order for the full season.)

Here's how I want to work this.  To get a better understanding of my tastes, I'm going to list the television shows that I make a special effort to watch.  Along the way, I’ll also have some comments about each.  After seeing what I enjoy is on common ground with the programs you like, then proceed to the next post where I'll be talking about the new television season and the shows I’m willing to take a chance on.

G4 ProgrammingEntourage
24The American Experience
Gilmore GirlsLost
Veronica MarsMaverick
Celebrity PokerFirefly
Stargate SG-1Battlestar Galactica
Justice Leage UnlimitedThe Simpsons
Family GuyAmerican Dad
South ParkRobot Chicken

I.     Daily Programs.

Where I live it is possible to watch reruns of The Simpsons seven days a week.  And I do.  I don’t watch them slavishly; considering I don’t go to work, I miss them more times than not; but if the show and I are in the same place at the same time, I’ll watch it.

If I just want “background television,” that is, something that I find generally non-offensive that I don’t need to give my full attention to or that won’t be forced to have change the channel in a few minutes, by default choice is G4.  I know that I am out of its key demographic, which I gather to be males between the ages of 12 and 25, but I find the video-game related shows like X-Play, Filter, and Electric Playground to be the video equivalent of comfort food.  The channel that is G4 grew from a merger between it and what used to be TechTV which focused on computers and technology in general.  Within a year, almost all the TechTV shows were cancelled or transformed, except for X-Play.  Within the last few weeks, however, one of the TechTV shows has returned, albeit via Canada, Call for Help.  The purpose of the show is to help people with computer problems, provide quick lessons on topics from creating web pages or choosing a HDTV, and to present the semi-latest cutting edge technology news or innovation.  G4 even has a show that presents the history or biography of certain video games, game developers, game consoles, etc. titled Icons.

We recently took the plunge and got the premium package for our cable; through some magic that only cable providers can work, our cable bill decreased by over thirty dollars (as part of a limited time promotion) while we gained forty-four channels (none of them IFC).  Since then, I’ve tried to catch up on two HBO series that have been praised since they went on the air, Entourage and Deadwood.  Entourage has been called a male Sex and the City, which isn’t a bad description, though where New York was the fifth member of Sex’s clique, Hollywood and its unique lifestyle is the fifth member here.  One of the four is in his first major motion and he has brought his two closest friends and his brother with him from the east coast, creating the title grouping.

Deadwood is not the kind of Western I would choose to watch just because it is a Western.  I don’t want realism in my Westerns, I want Maverick, The Wild, Wild West (the good television version), or The Magnificent Seven.  Watching the dead be fed to the hogs; looking and listening to a Calamity Jane who the inverse of Doris Day’s interpretation of the character; seeing mud so thick that it covers the tops of boots are not what I want.  Despite all that and more (the language of the show is probably as coarse as any in The Aristocrats), I like this show.  It is neither overbearing in its attempt toward realism nor overbearing depressing about the situations the characters find themselves in.  Credit goes to the creator, David Milch, who learned his craft with shows like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue; even though he now a venue to pushes the boundaries, he never forgets he is producing television.  Deadwood is always accessible.

II.     Monday.

I’ll admit that I enjoy 24.  If you pay too much attention to it, 24 can break down logically, but as a contained unit, most any individual episode presents some of the tensest television I’ve ever seen.  You just never know what the hell Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is going to do in service of his country.  Off the top of my head, he has decapitated a captive enemy agent, broken into the Chinese embassy to kidnap a Chinese national who had given U.S. secrets to terrorists, and chopped off the hand of his partner to save the man’s life.  In the real world, there are things Bauer has done that are over the edge and deserving of punishment, but in the context of the show and its universe, I’ll give him pass, if only because he is being cosmically punished; I don’t think he’ll ever know real happiness.  Still, a damn fine popcorn show.

One of my favorite shows is The American Experience.  It is a rare episode that I won’t watch and even if I choose not to watch one when it is first run, I’ll eventually give in and watch it when it is re-run.  A series of documentaries, the range of topics covered has been incredible.  Sample topics include the Trial of the Scotsboro Boys; a seven-part, fourteen-hour history of New York City; the birth, life, and decline of Coney Island; the carving of the Mt. Rushmore Memorial; the building of the Golden Gate Bridge; the Scopes monkey trial; and an examination of game show scandal of the 1950s.  The biographies the show has presented include Houdini, John Nash, Seabiscuit, Hawaii’s last queen, Duke Ellington, Malcolm X, and every president from F.D.R. to Reagan.  PBS will also present documentaries under “The American Experience” umbrella that were created independently like the works of Ken Burns.

The American Experience returns this week with a special Wednesday episode, “Fatal Flood.”  At first thought, it would appear that it episode deals with the events of Katrina, however, it will tell the story of an earlier flood yet still speaks to issues we are now confronting today.  As described: <blockquote> In the spring of 1927, after weeks of incessant rains, the Mississippi River went on a rampage from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans, inundating hundreds of towns, killing as many as a thousand people and leaving a million homeless.  In Greenville, Mississippi, efforts to contain the river pitted the majority black population against an aristocratic plantation family, the Percys—and the Percys against themselves.  A dramatic story of greed, power and race during one of America's greatest natural disasters.</blockquote>  And it is for exactly that reason that I love history in general and the stories that The American Experience tells in general.

III.     Tuesday.

Gilmore Girls.  Do I have to say more?

III.     Wednesday.

I didn’t know what to expect when I watched Lost for the first time and after we saw that one guy get sucked into the still spinning turbine, I didn’t myself have any.  To be honest, I’m not too hooked into the individual characters as individuals, I’m not necessarily championing for the death of any.  My hook into the show has been the mystery of the island.  However, I have enjoyed the flashback sequences wherein the back stories of the primary characters are fleshed out.  The flashbacks were a smart move on J.J. Abrams part because it allows the audience a break from the exteriors of the island, it slowly adds subtext to the actions and motivations of the characters, and, maybe most importantly, throws off the audience’s time sense.  Each episode takes place in one day, so we’ve only seen twenty-four days in their lives since the crash, so things like Hurley not appearing to lose weight aren’t that big a deal yet.

I watched most of the episodes of Veronica Mars last year.  I liked it, but I didn’t like it as if it were the resurrected Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, which is how UPN wanted me to like it.  Despite the horrible things Buffy has to go through as the Slayer, she still found time to experience high school and I could sympathize with what she and the Scoobies were going through.  To me, Veronica always came off less a teen-age girl and more of an adult.  The season-long mystery was relatively tight and the episodes dealing primarily with it were the more enjoyable ones for me.  Maybe this year either Veronica will occasionally act like a teenager or the show will have magically jumped three years so that the character will be at the right level of maturity for her actions.

IV.     Thursday.

Maverick was one of those legendary shows that I never thought I’d see.  It was on a local channel in Milwaukee in the early 1980s, but between work and school I never had a chance to watch it.  In the move that lost me access to the Independent Film Channel, our cable company gave us Goodlife TV, which soon transformed itself into American Life Television.  The channel is really like Nick at Nite for senior citizens as its evening schedule is stocked completely with once popular television shows from the Time Warner library that I don’t think have been in broad syndication for maybe fifteen years.  Among Girl from U.N.C.L.E, F Troop, Surfside Six, and My Favorite Martian reruns, every Thursday, Maverick is rerun.  I have to admit that the show deserves all the praise that has been heaped upon over the years and well deserved to win the only Emmy Award presented in the category of "Best Western",

Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown.  I don’t like to gamble, I am not to keen on playing cards, occasionally a celebrity is too needy for attention for my taste, yet, I like this show.  Go figure.

V.     Friday.

Basically, a full genre night with SciFi Channel.  In preparation for Serenity, I start the night off by watching Firefly, the show I still wish Enterprise had been.  Next, Stargate SG-1, a show I passed by when it was in syndication, but last year I started watching and wished I’d started years ago.  Finally, Battlestar Galactica, which, damn it, is really, really good.  The first episode of the first full season just won a Hugo Award; did anyone ever think the sentence “Battlestar Galactica was nominated for and won a Hugo Award” would be a honest statement?  In fact, I think it may have done itself a disservice by using the “Battlestar” name; while the basic premise of the series is the same as the original 1978-79 series, in execution the show is so different from the original, that I didn’t watch the mini-series when it aired.  However, the buzz was so positive for the mini that when the show went to full series, I started watching.

It took a little bit of work to get into the universe the producers had created, as it was much deeper than the one of the original.  For instance, the humans are polytheistic, while the Cylons are monotheistic.  Ron Moore, the producer behind the series, has equated the his Galactica to the film, Das Boot and it has the same claustrophobic intensity.  Unlike the original, where you knew the humans were going to survive, the feeling I have is that their complete extermination is a foregone conclusion and that the survivors are going through the motions of trying survive even as death approaches because that is what humans do.  In that respect, the series reminds me of Nevil Shute’s excellent novel, On the Beach, in which the last surviving humans in Australia live out their days as normally as possible even as the radioactive fallout from a decimated atomic war in the northern hemisphere slowly moves into the southern where it will kill them.  

If you are considering getting into the show, don’t worry about joining late.  If you feel a need to catch up before you join in watching, SciFi has very complete synopses for aired episodes on its Website and makes episodes available for streaming.  There are also podcasts for each episode recorded by Ron Moore available that are DVD commentary tracks without the DVD or studio production.  However, a recent episode, “Final Cut,” might be an easier way to go.  In the episode, a reporter is given unlimited access to the Galactica’s crew for a story on what is going on in the wake of the fleet’s problems.  As we follow the reporter filming the story, we are re/introduced the Galactica’s crew and their dynamics.  However, best of all, when the final product is shown, the freaking incredible theme from the original series plays in the background.  Choked me up.

VI.     Saturday.

Justice League Unlimited (Cartoon Network).  For my money, possibly the single-best translation of a comic book property to another medium that doesn’t feature Tobey Maguire.  The show is probably the last one we’ll see that connects to the DC animated universe begun in 1992 with Batman:  The Animated Series.  In fact, in the final episode of season recently concluded this past spring, the producers thought it was the end and created a Batman-centric episode that tied up lose ends from JLU, Batman, and the Batman spin-off, Batman Beyond.  To complete truly the circle, the final shot showed the protagonist flying off duplicated the first shot of Batman.  But I digress.

Apart from the generally excellent writing and character design, the latter based on Bruce Timm’s work (an example of the style art these shows can be seen in the picture of the JL), the key element that makes JLU great is that it can, and often has, use every available super-hero character in the DC Universe.  Oh, and the heroes are actually heroic, a rare occurrence in many of DC’s super-hero comic books.  Oh, and this season, which starts on September 17, three words describe the Big Bad:  “Legion.”  “Of.”  “Doom.”

VI.     Sunday.

Simple enough night:  The Simpsons, Family Guy, and American Dad.  The first is still among the funniest shows around and I’ll never understand the hatred and disdain people have for the second.  I can’t think of any funnier sentence I heard all summer than, “And now we play the waiting game.”  I can explain if asked, but if might lose something in context.  The episode, “A Fish Out of Water,” will be rerun soon enough either on FOX or Cartoon Network.  When it does, watch it, and see if you don’t agree.  As for American Dad, it is improving, but I think that no matter how good it may become, it will never be given its proper credit, as it will always be perceived as nothing more than a reworking of Family Guy.

Rome airs on HBO  I like it, but I am not wild about it and that is more my fault than the show’s.  Since the early nineties, I’ve been a fan author Lindsay Davis’s creation, “finder” Marcus Didio Falco, who has appeared in a number of mystery novels set in Rome during the first century A.D.  Because Davis has done her research so well, the life of the common Roman is less of an eye-opener to me.  Still, I always enjoy the melodrama of politicians scheming for power (too Lucas just never understood that, but I digress) and even though you know the eventual fate of Julius Caesar, Pompey, Mark Antony, Cato, et al., going along for this ride is less strenuous than reading Suetonius.  Rome has already been renewed for a second season and I’ll be back for it.

After all these years, South Park, too, is still funny and still doing well.  Trey Parker and Matt Stone just signed a contract to produce shows through 2008.  South Park is was another show that I avoided at first, but I started watching it after South Park:  Bigger, Longer & Uncut was released.  I think it was the simple message, “What Would Brian Boitano Do?”, that made me reconsider my opinion of the television show.

A show that I think has snuck past the radar of the general public is Robot Chicken on Cartoon Network’s [adult swim] Sunday block.  Created by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, the fifteen-minute show is nothing more than two or three satirical skits interspersed with black-out gags.  What separates this show from others is that it uses stop-motion animated action figures as actors, so there are many riffs on popular culture and its icons.  For instance, “Two Kirks, a Khan, and a Pizza Place”; Optimus Prime develops prostate cancer; “Behind the Music:  Electric Mayhem”; In “You Got Robo-Served,” Voltron finds himself having to save his cred in an old-school dance off; and the gang from Scooby-Doo stops at a “haunted camp” and meets Don Knotts, and find the “ghost” to really be one Jason Voorhies.

Also, as Seth Green is the new Kevin Bacon, each episode has voice work done by his friends, famous and semi-famous.  In the Scooby-Doo parody, for instance, the cast of the live action movies did the voices for the gang; Sarah Michelle Gellar has done the show five times, once reprising her role of Buffy.  Others who have provided voices include Phyllis Diller, Mark Hamill (once as Luke Skywalker), Burt Reynolds, and Scarlett Johansson.  If you aren’t in the age demographic of 12-24 to whom this show appeals, you are missing out a real buried treasure and should give it a chance.

Next up, the new season.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Little Levity, As Such

On the Al Franken Show blog, the "Finding or Looting" game was posted by Eric Hananoki. The questions are based on photos posted on Wikipedia, so if you need help answering, click on this link. If you take the
quiz, the answers may be found here.

1. When Oprah Winfrey ____ a dollar lying on the street, she gave it to a homeless man.

2. Of the 10,000 people arrested in conjunction with the 1992 Los Angeles riots, about 44% were Hispanic. 42% were African-American ____-ers, while 9% were white ____-ers.

3. Following the death of Emperor Valentinian III in 455, the Vandals invaded and extensively ____ the city of Rome.

4. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, chair of the Appropriations Committee, ____ $230 million in taxpayer money to pay for a bridge to an essentially uninhabited island in Alaska.

5. Tiger Woods ____ four golf balls from the rough at St. Andrews.

6. In his novel The Human Stain, Phillip Roth writes about a classics professor who passes as a white man but turns out to be black. Some have said Roth ____ the novel on the real-life story of New York Times book critic Anatole Broyard.

7. On its way into Baghdad in the spring of 2003, Achmed Chalabi’s militia indulged in some ____-ing.

8. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell through a brick through the window of a Circuit City and ____ a sixty-inch plasma TV.

As Long as I'm Still Talking about Katrina

(1) The Daily Show came back swinging from vacation on September 6. Click here to watch Jon Stewart's opinions on the Katrina response and here to watch "Beleaguered Bush," as TDS correspondent Ed Helms provides a report on how the Bush Administration swung into action to save the most important think of all, their reputation. (Thanks to Mark Evanier and his consistently excellent site, News from Me, for TDS links.)

(2) One of the things Jon Stewart mentions is something that I think we've all been seeing this last week: Reporters have found a use for their backbones again. When reporters on the scene on FOX News are shouting down O'Reilly and Hannity, preventing them from spinning the situation into a less-than-complete representation, you have to believe that the truth can't be hidden as easily as it was with regard to weapons of mass destruction, Iraq, and Osama Ben Laden. There's no chance to "guide" public opinion by putting out messages of fear, wrapping the U.S. flag around themselves while holding crosses, isn't going to placate any but the simple, the core of Bush followers who see the world in black and white. There is no enemy, real or imagined, that can be used to create divisions within the populace thereby distracting us from the real problems created by the Administration. Well, technically, that pesky old Mother Nature is the enemy, but apart from relaxing and/or not renewing EPA regulations, the Administration can't do much more to beat her down than they are.

However, you have to give Bush credit, because he's trying his best to use the ritual that served him well in 2001 and declaring a national day of prayer and rememberance on September 16. In this story, you'll read that Dick Cheney was released from his hermetically sealed chamber and went to visit the region (not New Orleans itself, because a person with a heart condition has to avoid infection); God bless him, he stayed on message and promised that taxes wouldn't be raised. Makes sense, considering this is the only time in all of history that taxes have ever been cut when a nation is at war.

(3) Of all the reporters and commentators finding it within themselves to present the story that is happening as opposed to the story the government wants to be presented, the comments of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann have been found to be the most pointed. He is sarcastic and angry and makes no pretense of hiding his emotions with regard to the loss of life. Here's commentary Olbermann made on September 5 after Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security referred to the "city of Louisiana." Where others would use such a mistake as fodder for mockery, Olbermann uses it as a starting point for exposing the attitude of the Administration. If you don't want to watch the video, a transcript can be here found at Olbermann's "Bloggermann" blog. You may have to scroll down to the September 5 entry, but read the September 8 entry before you do as Olbermann presents further examples of fracturing within the party line over the response from Washington.

(4) Continuing with Olbermann for a little more, Boing Boing, of which my friend, the Fishmonger recently said, "More and more, all good things, if not from [G]oogle, are from boingboing," offered this comment from Olbermann:
[M]ost chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection — or at least amelioration — against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological. It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.
All that was just to lead in to this piece from September 1 edition of The Washington Post, "Extraordinary Problems, Difficult Solutions." Congress authorized 51.8 billion dollars (at this point, it would have killed them just round it to fifty-nine billion), but keep in mind this statement, buried five paragraphs into the article, from a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency:
"There is not enough money in the gross national product of the United States to dispose of the amount of hazardous material in the area."
This article, from the British newspaper, The Independent describes the kind of hazards the standing water is going to create. Keep all of that in mind when you hear statements about rapid rebuilding of New Orleans.

(5) Something that isn't being discussed yet, is the long-term affect Katrina will have on the national economy. Forget about the increase in gas prices, the people displaced by the storm will have to work eventually. I've heard rumbles, but nothing from someone in government, of the federal government funding a modern version of the Works Progress Administration that would allow the people displaced to help rebuild the destroyed areas themselves; think of Katrina as an inverse of the dust bowl during the Depression. Roosevelt helped people regain their self-worth by creating jobs through the WPA were none existed; there is an obvious need for a workforce to eventually rebuild the area, so why not recruit from within so to speak? It worked before, so why not again. As long as Haliburton isn't involved; they've already have the contract to repair military bases hit by the storm, so they have their share. Let the people have some, too.

(6) And these people will need as much help as possible. As this story explains, the new bankruptcy laws that will take effect under Bush will not allow them to declare bankruptcy as easily, something hurricane victims almost always need to do if they are going to reclaim their lives. There is some hope for these people, though. In the House of Representatives, John Conyers (D-WI) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY) are introducing a bill to exempt the people affected by Katrina from the new law. If you believe that these people need some kind of a break, call your Congressperson at 1-800-959-2780 and him/her that you support the Conyers-Nadler bill.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Response to a Response

Anonymous posted in reponse to my earlier post on the lack of response by the federal government in wake of Katrina:

Remenber the great words of Kanye West Greg, "George Bush doesn't like black people." Is he on to something, perhaps he is, or perhaps Bush just likes white people with money more then poor black people. After all he is the first president to never go to a NAACP convention.

Of course, Bush didn't go to the NAACP convention, because Karl Rove couldn't control the message. He couldn't fill the hall with just Bush supporters nor prevent the drowning out of his candidate's speech by catcalls and boos. It is safer to trot out Black faces to the podium at the Republican Convention, which also allows for a connection to be made to the kind of person the people running the Republician party want to associate with: People with money and education no matter the color of their skin. If the neocons (I don't want to use "Republican" because not all Republicans believe the extreme Christian agenda being put forth by the people running the party and especially don't think the government's place is pushing such an agenda forward) win some of the Black vote because there are some Blacks who believe the religous, patriotic, moralistic fast talk the neocons use to win the vote of the White hillbilly (either in Appalachia or a working-class suburb), they won't be denied (except maybe in Ohio) because everh vote counts, but push comes to shove, neither White hillbilly nor poor innercity Black is someone these people really want to associate with.

In honesty, I think that saying "George W. Bush doesn't like Black people" makes the situation too simple. Using my mutant ability to take over the thoughts of others, from just his view, I believe that the only people that matter are those that have been saved and in that case, the color of their skin doesn't matter. Besides, I'm sure that the Archangel Michael or St. Peter or whichever angel is assigned the task will make sure people who have nothing in common won't have to rub elbows. Bush doesn't dislike black people as much he is incapable of empathsizing with people who don't travel in his circles or come from the world he does. As Bill Maher said, and I am paraphrasing, "This Administration just couldn't understand why the people stranded in New Orleans just didn't load up their Explorers and drive to their winter homes."

(Maybe if Bush did get an occasional blowjob under his desk, he'd be more willing to look past his provincial world and be less willing to anticipating Judgment Day, but I digress.)

However, that doesn't excuse the people who do the actual work from not leaping to help. Despite the message the Administration is trying to put out, Louisiana's governor did declare a state of emergency on August 26. On the 27th, the governor requested the president to declare a federal state of emergency, he he did that same day. (For a timeline of events, go here.) There are also two elephants in the room that people aren't discussing: (1) The National Security Agency held FEMA back from responding based on "national security fears"; and (2) Because of the war in Iraq, National Guard forces nationwide did not have the material or troops to respond adequately.

Bush has said he will head the investigation into the lack of response; right now, we should all be rattling the cages of our senators and people in the House decrying this and force it to be an independent investigation. Even if there is a report before the 2006 elections, will these issues even be addressed if Bush leads the investigation? How could anyone even think they would be addressed? Would we, even his supporters, allowed Bill Clinton to head an investigation into Whitewater? Of course not, even though the facts of Whitewater occurred before Clinton became president and, save for Vince Foster, no one related to it died. Bush doesn't deserve a pass for an investigation into an event that did occur while he was president and did kill people.

Now, I wouldn't disagree if you wanted to say, "the people in power don't like Black people" because I think that there are people in top positions in the Administration who have used Bush's lack of empathy or lack of concern with day-to-day procedure, to push forward thier own agendas be they racist, religous, or wallet-based. I also wouldn't disagree if you wanted to say "that the people in power see no profit to be made by actively trying to win Black support," especially as the Hispanic population in the United States, which historically votes Conservative, is projected to surpass the Black population by 2010. The last election, if nothing else, with the U.S. map a sea of red, gives them confidence now that they have found the message that will appeal to their constituency forever. But, hopefullty, their arrogance will be their downfall.

I offer this: There will be an election in three years; this coming January the politicking will begin. Screw Bush (and you can insert your own dirty joke here) and what he thinks regarding the Apocalypse, if the neocons actually had a grasp of the fragility of their status, they would have sent barges loaded with food and water on the Tuesday after the Hurricane and add it delivered by prominant Republicans. That could have easily won them Black votes come the mid-term elections and in 2008, it could have caused a huge swell of Black voters consistently voting Republican because the image of poor Black people being helped would have spoken to generations of Black voters who see the Republican Party as nothing more than an institution of repression. Also, though the faces predominantly seen are Black ones, let us not forget that there were White people there, too, and their description of the situation to other White people in the days to come won't necessarily assure the neocons their full support come election time.

In the end, I wish that this whole ugly affair could be blamed on George Bush hating Black people; that can be easily explained. However, as I've tried to explain, the reasons, as I see them, are more complicated and representative of this neocon administration's devaluing of all people not within their narrow world view of importance.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hurricane Relief Donations

One last quick post. These three charities are giving 100 percent of all targeted donations to hurricane Katrina victims:

America's Second Harvest

Salvation Army

Christian Relief Fund

Make sure to check off or click on the Katrina-specific donations boxes and links.

Katrina, G.W., and the Jesus Factor

One of the disappointments in my life has been how much Wisconsin changed in the fourteen years I was gone. Wisconsin was a notoriously progressive state, the home of Fighting Bob LoFollette for God's sake, where helping others was never that much of an issue. It was only in 1960 when Milwaukee's last Socialist mayor, Frank Ziedler, left office (and Henry Maier, the next mayor, wasn't that far removed from Ziedler's ideology). When I returned, Wisconsin was a different place, changes caused by changes in the economy. As factories closed and jobs became scarce, people in Wisconsin became less willing to put others before their own pocketbook. Most disheartening of all is that the state becomes closer every four years to becoming a "traditional" red state; if that happens, despite my great desire otherwise, I think we would have to move.

However, ironically, because of Katrina, the clouds may be breaking over Wisconsin and its conservative shift. Non-scientific, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has a poll on its Internet site asking "How well do you think the government has responded to Hurricane Katrina?" As of this posting, 70.7% responding believe the response has been "not well." God willing, this is going to be the crack that starts the removal of the hard-right conservatives from power.

The anger I'm seeing on television is palatable. Though I have memories of seeing Vietnam footage on television news, I don't remember the turning point, the point when Walter Cronkite ended his newscast saying that Vietnam was a war we could not win, I'm seeing that kind of response among the non-Fox News correspondants. Disbelief and anger at the lack of response during this crisis. Mark Evanier posts one such commentary from Anderson Cooper, under the title "Friday Morning."

The mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, is a black man and a Republican, and it is pretty obvious that he is done toeing the company line regarding the federal response. He called radio station WLW and gave his side of the supposed "wonderful response." Listen to it here and try not to get angry.

So, why has the response been so lax? On one hand, you would think that a city built below sea level would have had a plan in place in case of something like Katrina; on the other hand, weren't FEMA and Homeland Security in place for events like Katrina and wouldn't they have some kind of plans? Those, however, are issues to be examined in the years to come, when emotions are cooler.

So, why has the response been so lax? My wife, a black woman, echoes the sentiments of others, that if the faces on camera were white, the response would have been faster. I think that the statement could be made broader, if the faces were wealthier, the response would have been faster. Indeed, as I've thought about it, as a purely political move, I would think that the current administration would have moved in rapidly because it is black faces on television and the Republicans are actively courting that vote away from the Democrats.

So, why has the response been so lax? I wrote about it previously: "The Jesus Factor." George W. Bush is a born again, evangelical Christian. He believes that Judgment Day is nigh and, as a saved Christian, has an obligation to leave the Earth in a state of ruin for the Anti-Christ and those left behind. Apart from Las Vegas, is there a city in the United States closer to Sodom & Gomorrah, in the view of an evangelical, that would deserve destruction of Biblical proportion than New Orleans? It scares me to write it, but I don't think so. I think given his druthers, Bush would not allow any aid go to New Orleans; even now he is touring Biloxi, Mississippi, which, by comparison, is like touring Milwaukee with three feet of snow though fifteen has fallen in Green Bay.

Finally, just to kick the man a little more, I do remember Presidents Ford and Carter requesting people conserve gasoline during the years of the Energy Crisis. I've been waiting for Bush to make a similar statement, to suggest carpooling, to work from home whenever possible. Like potable water to New Orleans, such a statement hasn't been delivered by the federal government. I wouldn't want to suggest that Bush is making sure his friends and family in the oil business aren't hurt in their bank accounts; I'm just making a comment.

More on Intelligent Design

Here, I posted one of the first mentions that Bush wants to have an alternate to Darwinian evolution, intelligent design, taught in public schools. I am one of those people that think if you have an honest faith in your religion, nothing can shake it, nay, you would want something like evolution taught because if it is wrong, it would bolster your views and the reasons for such, before your children.

However, faith among evangelicals, it seems, is not that strong, so they battle to have evolution removed as a viable explanantion for the creation of life. Boing Boing, countering an offer made by a supporter of Intelligent Design who will pay $250,000 to anyone who has empirical evidence supporting evolution, has collected one million dollars to anyone who can prove that Jesus is not the son of the spaghetti monster.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Long Time, No Blog

To the legions (if "legions" is defined as "four or five") who read this blog, I apologize for not posting for the last few weeks. I've thought about posting, and have been bookmoarking things of interest, but my heart just hasn't been in it.

I really can't pinpoint what happened to my enthusiasm (not that I am the most ethusiastic person around in the first place). I think there are multiple causes, none really germane yet probably all helped to make me not have the excitement about posting like I had. Most of those problems are still around, but it is time to move past them and make attempts to post more regularly, out of principle if nothing else.