Robert Culp, Boomer Icon, Dies At 79

 Robert Culp

                   photo: “flickr”                            

First it was Fess Parker, now Bob Culp is gone.  Robert Clup, who co-starred with Bill Cosby in the 60’s tv hit “I Spy” has died following an apparent fall at his home in the Hollywood Hills.  RIP.

“Culp fell and hit his head while taking a walk outside his Hollywood Hills home. He was found by a jogger who called 911 and was pronounced dead at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, said Lt. Bob Binder of the Los Angeles Police Department.” – LA Times

It was the first time an African-American was featured in a leading role in a dramatic series on American television.

“In a 1969 Playboy interview, Cosby said that after he and Culp first read for the series, they got together afterward and talked.

At Culp’s suggestion, he said, “we agreed to make the relationship between the white character, Kelly Robinson, and the black man, Alexander Scott, a beautiful relationship, so that people could see what it would be like if two cats like that could get along.”-LA Times

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“When executive producer Sheldon Leonard cast the lighthearted series about two spies masquerading as tennis pros, he found a capable, handsome leading man in Robert Culp. Leonard’s decision to offer the co-starring role to Bill Cosby changed the dynamics of prime time.”-KPCC

John Boehner Says Cong. Driehaus Could Be A “Dead Man”

With several different Democrats receiving threats of violence and receiving protective detail after voting for the new health insurance reform law (I haven’t yet tired of saying that), it’s worth highlighting something that Minority Leader John Boehner said last week about one of the Congressmen who has been subjected to this sort of vitriolic abuse: his neighbor from an adjacent Ohio district, Rep. Steve Driehaus.

“Take [Rep.] Steve Driehaus, for example,” he says. “He may be a dead man. He can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati.”-Daily Kos

Society Of Professional Journalists Announces Award Winners

LOS ANGELES – The Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will honor five local journalists at its 34th annual awards banquet this spring.  The Distinuished Journalist honorees are Andrew Blankstein, a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times; Denise Nix, a staff writer at the Daily Breeze; Dave Lopez, Orange County Correspondent for CBS2/KCAL9 News and Claudia Peschiutta, a reporter for KNX 1070 Newsradio. Celeste Fremon, creator and editor of WitnessLA.com, is the  recipient of the chapter’s Distinguished Work in New Media Award. -SPJ/LA

Click here for more-

Bill Bratton, Miracle Worker

 Former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton

A headline in the Times this morning made me feel like I was back in the bloody drive-by gang banger 80’s.  A time when we wouldn’t go into South Central after dark, story or no story.

“Homicide Report: 18 killings last week in Los Angeles County” it says.  18?  in one week?  That feels like a lot.  I thought things had gotten so much better under the command of former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton?

According to the paper-“There were 18 homicides in Los Angeles from March 16 to 22, bringing the monthly tally to 46 and the yearly total to 129, according to The Times’ Homicide Report database.” –LA Times

Sounds bad, doesn’t it?  But the paper says things are getting better.  The yearly total for murders up to March 22nd of last year was 169 dead.  The number for 2008 was even higher, at 216.

So we should feel good about only 129 murders in the first three months of this year?  Yes!  Only 129 people blown away in L.A. County!

I know what I’m being told, but I still can’t come around to feeling all that good about it.  At times it feels like we’re back in the 80’s, when the coroner’s wagons spent their weekends traveling to and from what we then referred to as “South Central,” but which we now call “South Los Angeles,” which is less offensive to some (mostly city leaders) and considered to be far more PC even if it is less descriptive.

But wait, on December 24th of last year, Joel Rubin and Richard Winton reported: “Crime rates plunge despite weak economy.”

“The totals are a fraction of the killings that occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the county had roughly a million fewer residents, but its urban core was in the grip of a crack cocaine epidemic and gang violence. Another prime marker of violence, the number of gunshots fired, was also down.” – LA Times 12/24/09

And look at this,  from KABC-TV in January-

‘”I’m proud to say that this year, with 69 fewer homicides, that’s 314 homicides in the city, down from 381 the year before. The homicide rate is the lowest since 1967,” said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.’ -KABC 1/06/10

I understand what the mayor is saying, but last night four people were shot in Pacoima, two critically, in what appears to have been a gang-related incident.

I bring this up, only because of a recent ongoing conversation (dispute) with my sister from the Boston area.   I was trying  to convince her that traveling to Mexico wasn’t a good idea, what with the drug war going on down there and all.  However, she countered that she and her significant other would be going to southern Mexico, which was still relatively safe and that she’d be okay, provided she stayed in the main tourist areas.  I countered that the drug war is nationwide, and you can’t tell the good guys from the bad, because there’s no way of knowing who’s been bought off by one cartel or another.  “Go to Costa Rica,” I said.

Then, with an icy accuracy that was somewhat painful (my sister is pretty smart),  she pointed out that some parts of Los Angeles aren’t all that safe, but the City she said,  is still safe to visit if you know which areas to avoid.

She went to Mexico and apparently had a great time visiting the pyramids.   After she returned 24 gang related murders were reported near Acapulco.  Some had been decapitated.  But my sister got back okay.

And here I sit in Los Angeles, where things are getting so much better that the Mayor can brag about the number of murders dropping to only 314 in one year.   I’m not knocking the Mayor or the PD, things have gotten better.  A lot better.

However, four people were shot here in the Valley last night and an old thought keeps rolling around in my head.  In terms of the number of officers on the force, Los Angeles remains one of the most under-policed major cities in the country.  Why?  Because City officials have never summoned up enough political will to beef up the PD to numbers that would put us on a par with Chicago or New York.  It’s something nobody really wants to talk about.  Especially our  local politicians.  Not in the nearly 30 years I’ve been watching the political scene here in L.A.

Here are the numbers-

The NYPD’s current authorized uniformed strength is 37,838.[5] There are also approximately 4,500 Auxiliary Police Officers, 5,000 School Safety Agents, 2,300 Traffic Enforcement Agents, and 370 Traffic Enforcement Supervisors currently employed by the department. –Wikipedia

(Chicago) ...is the largest police department in the Midwest and the second largest in the United States after the New York City Police Department with over 13,400 sworn officers. –Wikipedia

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)…With just over 10,000 officers…  –Wikipedia

Thing is you see, Chicago is smaller than Los Angeles.  Chicago’s population is around 2.8 million.   The population of Los Angeles is 3.8 million.  There is also the fact that the LAPD is policing 498 square miles while Chicago police are responsible for only 225 square miles.

Bottom line:  Chicago has 3,400 more cops policing half the area and one million fewer people.

So you do a little math, and here’s what you have-

New York-        One cop for every 219 people     (305 sq. miles)

Chicago –         One cop for every 209 people     (225 sq. miles)

Philadelphia –    One cop for every 227 people     (127 sq. miles)

Los Angeles –    One cop for every 380 people     (498 sq. miles)

Before his departure from the LAPD, I mentioned to Chief Bratton that it was possible to spend an entire afternoon driving around the San Fernando Valley, without seeing a single police officer or police car.  He acknowledged the shortage of officers and said he and his wife had gotten to the point where they had turned it into a running joke, calling it a “sighting” whenever they spotted an LAPD patrol car.

In spite of that, Bill Bratton somehow turned things around.  Obviously, he didn’t do it alone.  While I recognize that several factors are involved in determining crime rates and that some cities, like Houston, are in even worse shape than we are, I still think the man worked a miracle.   You have to wonder how long it’ll last.

Healthcare Reform Accomplished – Now Can We Do Something About TV News?

It’s the morning after one of the most important congressional votes in the nation’s history and television news is acting as though we should be consumed by the sex life of a golfer.  One can only hope the government’s next move will be a push to re-regulate commercial television.  At the very least, they could enforce existing law on serving the public’s “interest, convenience and necessity?”  At least think about it?

The availability of healthcare is critical to the nation’s well being.  So is good journalism.

Tiger Woods, blah, blah, blah….   “See your doctor if you experience an erection lasting for more than four hours.” 

Hasn’t the country been dumbed down enough?

Here then, is a bit of info on healthcare reform provided by what’s left of a once magnificent newspaper industry.  A shrinking world where a few brave individuals continue to try and fight the Wall Street driven trend of increasing profitability by pandering to society’s lowest common denominator.

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The Los Angeles Times editorializes that we are now on the path to universal health insurance-

“It may prove to be the signal accomplishment of Obama’s administration, even though the controversy surrounding it threatens to end his party’s majority in Congress. Rarely has such a good thing for Americans been perceived by so many as a threat to their livelihood and liberty.”  -LA Times

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The NY Times provides an overview of what the bill will and won’t do-

“The health care bill would require most Americans to have health insurance, would add 16 million people to the Medicaid rolls and would subsidize private coverage for low- and middle-income people, at a cost to the government of $938 billion over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office said.

The bill would require many employers to offer coverage to employees or pay a penalty. Each state would set up a marketplace, or exchange, where consumers without such coverage could shop for insurance meeting federal standards.

The budget office estimates that the bill would provide coverage to 32 million uninsured people, but still leave 23 million uninsured in 2019. One-third of those remaining uninsured would be illegal immigrants.

The new costs, according to the budget office, would be more than offset by savings in Medicare and by new taxes and fees, including a tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans and a tax on the investment income of the most affluent Americans.

Cost estimates by the budget office, showing that the bill would reduce federal budget deficits by $143 billion in the next 10 years, persuaded some fiscally conservative Democrats to vote for the bill.”  –NY Times

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Overseas,  Michael Tomasky reports in the Guardian-

“It is a monumental accomplishment. The story of that century of failure is a story of multiple plots and subplots, but at its heart the story is about the tension in American society between the individual and the community – whether we are just a loose confederation of individuals who should be left alone to pursue self interest, or something more than that, a community of citizens with mutual ties and obligations.

I know that sounds awfully highfalutin and philosophical, but it’s precisely what the healthcare debate, both the current and historic versions, has been about. Your average American thinks, I have my insurance coverage, so why should I worry about the loser who hasn’t bothered to get his? For people who work hard and aren’t exactly wallowing in spare dollars, it’s a fair question to ask. But there is an answer to it, which is that in the long run, if coverage is universal and insurance companies face stricter rules, society will benefit, and your average American will benefit too, in the form of lower costs and better care.”-The Guardian 

For Sale – One Governor’s Office

 CA Statehouse

A story just out from Reuters says we’re heading for a record amount of spending in the race for governor here in California.    It’s not all that surprising really, with former ebay CEO and billionaire, Meg Whitman,  going head to head with millionaire and state Insurance Commissioner, Steve Poizner, and that’s just in the race for the Republican nomination.

Whitman says she’s prepared to spend $150 million to get elected, which would exceed the old record of $148 million spent by Republican George Pataki, in the New York gubernatorial race eight years ago.

All that money she’s been spreading around, appears to be working, despite her reputation for avoiding the press and the hard questions she might be asked.  However, newspaper readership is down and most of the tv people are clueless when it comes to politics.  So, if you have the money, you can ignore the press and buy the election.    That’s what Witman appears to be doing.

So far, she has spent $39 million.  Steve Poizner, has shelled out $19 million.  With Whitman’s tv attack ads nearly impossible to avoid if you watch any television at all, the former CEO now has a 49-point lead over Poizner and a 3 point lead over Democrat, Jerry Brown.   Before the tv campaign, she was trailing Brown by double digits.

“Holy Goldman Sachs, Batman, you mean money makes that much difference in a campaign?  Gosh, it’s almost like you can, you know…buy a political office if you’ve got the cash!”

America, where any CEO with enough money can grow up to be the Governor.  Question is, why does she want it?

No, really kids, why does she want it?  Or why does Steve Poizner want it for that matter?  You can understand Jerry Brown wanting to go back to the Statehouse.  He’s a total political wonk from a family with a deep-seated history in California political wonkism.   Politics, are what Jerry Brown is all about.  Only thing he’s ever really been about since his Linda Ronstadt – Governor Moonbeam days.

I mean, look at this-

“Brown has had a lengthy political career spanning terms on the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees (1969–1971), as California Secretary of State (1971–1975), as Governor of California (1975–1983), as chair of the California Democratic Party (1989–1991), the Mayor of Oakland (1998–2006), and the Attorney General of California (2007–present). He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nominations for president in 1976, 1980, and 1992, and was an unsuccessful Democratic nominee for the United States Senate in 1982. Since Brown’s terms in office are not covered by the term limits that came into effect in 1990, he is not barred from running for Governor again.[1]” -Wikipedia

Jerry Brown, went away for a while, got into his mantra and sorted it all out.  As a result, he seems to know who he is, what he wants and why he wants it.  No therapy necessary.  He’s in politics, because that’s what he does.  But Meg Whitman?  Or Steve Poizner?

Poizner, might see a shot at the Governor’s Office as his only viable career move at this point?  Only Steve Poizner knows for sure.  But Meg Whitman?

Why would anyone with a reputation for being a smashing success want to take on the very likely possibility of throwing away millions of dollars along with her reputation, by assuming a massive political and personal failure as the next Governor of California?

Meg Whitman, the woman who was smart enough to build ebay, now wants to be the point person for that deadlocked mess in  Sacramento.  A situation which, any number of experts tell us, will only be fixed with a constitutional convention that will probably never happen?  At least not in this lifetime.  She actually wants that?  To go from being a big winner in business, to a big loser in politics?

Why?

The Folly Of Iraq

 

An editorial from the people at Truthout, “Vanity of Vanities: The Iraq War Seven Years Later” is well worth reading.

“Surely, the Iraq war’s only obvious “successes” – the enrichment of the military industrial complex at the expense of ordinary citizens, the implementation of an ever more pervasive and intrusive “security” regime at home and the insurance of a second Bush term – could have been achieved without dragging the long-suffering people of Iraq into it. People – it may still need to be pointed out – who had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 and harbored no weapons of mass destruction.” -Truthout

Afghan Police – A 6 Billion Dollar Joke?

 

Pro Publica and Newsweek report that that the Afghan police are corrupt, undisciplined and that they won’t be able to fill in for U.S. troops.

 “The worst of it is that the police are central to Washington’s plans for getting out of Afghanistan. The U.S.-backed government in Kabul will never have popular support if it can’t keep people safe in their own homes and streets. Yet in a United Nations poll last fall, more than half the Afghan respondents said the police are corrupt. Police commanders have been implicated in drug trafficking, and when U.S. Marines moved into the town of Aynak last summer, villagers accused the local police force of extortion, assault, and rape.” – Newsweek/Pro Publica

All this, after an investment of $6 billion by the U.S.

Egyptian Blogger Hauled Into Military Court

Good God, look at this from William Fisher in Truthout-

“Caving to pressure from the United Nations and international human rights groups, a military court released a 20-year-old civilian university student accused of blogging false information about the army and insulting officers involved in recruitment at a military academy.

The trial of Ahmed Mostafa, an engineering student, would have marked the first time a civilian blogger had been tried in a military court under Egypt’s Emergency Law.”  -Truthout

And what was Mostafa’s horrible infraction?  What terrible thing did he write, that caused him to be arrested and threatened with a military trial?  He blogged an allegation about possible nepotism at a military academy.  Imagine that!  Nepotism!  The horror….the horror….

Boomer Icon Fess Parker, Dead At 85

 Fess Parker

Not to get maudlin about it, but for my generation Fess Parker was Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone all rolled into one.    Television is what did it.  Television and Fess Parker.   When we watched Fess play Davy and  Daniel Boone, TV was a new medium, and that gave it even more power than it has today.

Consequently, I was duly impressed when I first met Mr. Parker.  I was with  KABC-TV at the time.  We were driving up to Santa Barbara to put together a story about what was then his new Red Lion Inn hotel.

It was strawberry season here in Southern California, and we had stopped at a roadside stand to pick up a flat of berries on our drive up the coast.   My colleague Heather MacKenzie  offered a couple of baskets to Fess, and he gratefully accepted.  It was the least we could do for Davy and Daniel, and all those hours of entertainment.  It didn’t feel like anyone was giving a gift to a celebrity though.  It was more like offering a small token of affection to an old and beloved uncle you hadn’t seen in a great many years.

According to Heather, Fess never forgot, and called her the “strawberry lady” every time their paths crossed in the years that followed.

In case you’re a boomer and you were wondering, he told me he still had “old betsy.”  They let him keep it when the Davy Crockett series ended he said, and it had been hanging over his fireplace ever since.

“I think I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Parker told a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1994. “I’ve lived long enough and observed enough to make myself very comfortable with the realization that the Disney films and particularly Davy Crockett gave me an image that is unbelievably durable. It’s been 40 years and people are still talking about it.

“Had I played Hamlet and starred in a number of Broadway shows or motion pictures as a very versatile actor, I wouldn’t have had the identity, recognition and, most importantly, the welcome I’ve been accorded by most of the homes of viewers. It’s like we’re old friends.”‘ -LA Times

Fess Parker was 85.  He really was as easygoing and unassuming off camera as he was while playing either of the roles that turned him into an American icon.  According to the AP he passed away on his wife’s 84th birthday at their home in the Santa Ynez Valley.

RIP Davy.  You too, Dan’l.  And thank you both for serving as role models for an entire generation of young Americans.

Life Discovered Deep Beneath The Antarctic Ice

 

NASA/JPL has found small creatures frolicking 600 feet beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet.  What’s that line from “Jurassic Park?”  “Life will find a way?”

“The complex critter was identified as a Lyssianasid amphipod, about three inches in length. It was found beneath the 180-meter (590-foot) thick Ross Ice Shelf in Windless Bight, 20 miles northeast of McMurdo Station. Bindschadler and his team drilled an eight-inch diameter hole through the ice so that Alberto Behar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., could submerge a small camera to obtain what are believed to be the first images of the underbelly of an ice shelf.” – NASA/JPL