Friday, January 23, 2004

Remembering Captain Kangaroo

In honor of Bob Keeshan, aka. Captain Kangaroo, who passed away today I am reprinting below a column that I wrote nearly 10 years ago for the Kerrville Daily Times.

A wake for Capt. Kangaroo
By Mike W. Thomas

Kerrville Daily Times, Sept. 7, 1995

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the “Captain Kangaroo Show” which used to air weekday mornings on CBS from 1955 through 1984. Captain Kangaroo was right up there in importance with Sesame Street and Mister Roger’s Neighborhood of the television programs that I grew up watching.
Oddly enough, CBS is making no plans to mark the occasion with any type of 40th anniversary special. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the circumstances behind the Captain’s departure from network television 11 years ago. Bob Keeshan, who delighted generations of children for 29 years as Captain Kangaroo, did not choose to retire in 1984; he was unceremoniously given the boot and his show was canceled by unsrcupulous and greedy network executives at CBS. It seems that the market for Mr. Green Jeans action figures did not appear to be very lucrative.
So why did the CBS executives suddenly turn greedy in 1984 after tolerating Keeshan’s program for so long? It wasn’t the television industry that changed then, it was the government. Up until 1982, the Federal Communications Commission required the three major networks to set aside so many hours a week for quality children’s programming. It did not matter if a gossipy morning chat show or a sleazy tabloid program might pull in more advertizing revenues - the FCC set down the rules and that was it.
But in 1981, President Ronald Reagan entered the picture with his misguided philosophy that all regulation of business is bad regardless of its intent or purpose. By 1982, he had managed to appoint a majority of his ideological cohorts to the FCC and they began changing the rules including the ones setting aside blocks of time for children’s programming. Mark Fowler, Reagan’s appointee to head the FCC, said television should be treated like any other business and not like a public resource. “Television is just another appliance,” he said. “It’s a toaster with pictures.”
Soon thereafter, the networks began unloading their educational children’s programming as fast as they could dump it. As related in Tom Engelhardt’s essay “The Shortcake Strategy,” the networks wasted no time in taking advantage of the new direction offered by Reagan’s FCC.
“In 1982, CBS fired 20 people doing alternative programming for children, dropped the children’s news show ‘30 Minutes,’ and began phasing out the low-rated ‘Captain Kangaroo.’ ABC cut ‘Animals, Animals, Animals’ and ‘Kids Are People Too,’ its low-rated Emmy-award-winning weekend shows, while NBC pulled the plug on ‘Project Peacock,’ its prime time children’s specials.”
Reagan’s FCC also did away with the rule limiting the number of minutes of commercial advertising the networks could air during children’s programs. This effectively opened the way for the 30-minute animated cartoon toy commercials that the networks have passed off as children’s television ever since - Smurfs, Care Bears, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, ad nauseum.
If you check the weekday morning time slots today where “Captain Kangaroo” once aired, you will now find such quality programming as Geraldo Rivera, Montel Williams and Jerry Springer. It’s ironic indeed that the deterioration of television programming to the trash we have today can be traced back to the policies set forth by the so-called “family values” conservatives of the 1980s.
Since then the prospects for quality children’s programming have continued to decline. The current batch of yahoos now running the U.S. Congress have set their sights on eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which has become one of the last refuges for good programming in the vast wasteland of our public airwaves. You can be assured that without PBS, Mister Rogers and Sesame Street would have shared the same fate as Captain Kangaroo long ago.
Our public airwaves are a national resource that should have a modicum amount of regulation to insure some benefit to society as a whole; something more than just a means for media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner to make millions in profits. Instead, we are about to deregulate the industry even further.
An anniversary special for Captain Kangaroo? Don’t kid yourself. These days a wake would be more appropriate.

Needless to say, things have not changed much since I wrote this.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Borrow and spend

Bush Budget Pledge Falls Flat

That's the headline on Page A4 in the Wall Street Journal today (Jan. 22). The article talks about Bush's State of the Union pledge to hold spending increases to less than 4 percent next year. First it notes that Bush made essentially the same plege the year before and failed to live up to it. In fact, the 2003 budget increased by a whopping 15 percent making it the largest single year increase in more than three decades.

"During Mr. Bush's first three years in office, annual appropriations will have grown about 32 percent, to about $874 billion from about $664 billion..."

Back when Reagan was cutting taxes and spending money like a drunken sailor they tried to blame the exploding deficits on the Democratic-controlled House. They can't do that today, of course, since the Republicans have been in charge now for nearly 10 years.

The truth is that Republicans don't really care about the deficit. They load up spending bills with even more pork than the Democrats used to with the difference that they accompany it with big tax cuts. The Democrats used the tax and spend formula to promote their programs while Republicans prefer to borrow and spend. Republicans are anti-government as a rule so now that they are in charge they are trying to milk it for all it is worth while running it into the ground. And once the free ride is over they will just wash their hands of it and walk away. They got theirs and everyone else will just be out of luck.
I don't believe the crockodile tears being shed by some conservatives over the budget problems. If they are so concerned about it why aren't they running somebody against Bush who can balance the budget?
And grow the economy? Someone like Bill Clinton....

Howard Dean: Decoy candidate

The truth about the Democratic presidential race can now be revealed. Howard Dean was a decoy from the start meant to distract Republican opposition researchers from spending their time attacking the real nominee - Sen. John Kerry.
BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! The plan worked brilliantly!

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

What did Bush pick? The Dixie Chicks?

I’m definitely closer to John Kerry and John Edwards when it comes to music.

“An Associated Press canvass of the candidates on what album they'd most like to pop into their CD players turns up gospel, opera, hip-hop, country and rock.
The rock fans are Wesley Clark, who likes Journey's "Greatest Hits"; Sen. John Edwards, "The Essential Bruce Springsteen"; and Sen. John Kerry, the Beatles' "Abbey Road."
Howard Dean singled out the music of Grammy-winning hip-hop singer Wyclef Jean. Rep. Dennis Kucinich chose country's Willie Nelson (who has endorsed him), and Al Sharpton favored gospel's Yolanda Adams. Sen. Joe Lieberman's favorite album is "Sueno," by classical Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.”

Link via Atrios

State of the Union

As best as I could make out there were two key messages in Bush’s State of the Union Address last night:
1. The world is a better place because we captured Saddam Hussein.
(Never mind that Hussein was just a regional thug with no WMDs and no connection to 9-11)
2. The economy is improved because we cut taxes.
(Never mind the budget busting deficits that are now threatening to drag down the world economy, not just the U.S. And never mind that the so-called recovery has failed to produce enough jobs to keep up with normal growth, much less replace the millions of jobs that have been lost.)

Beyond that it was a rather bland and listless speech. Oh, there were a few other things he threw out like protecting the “sanctity of marriage” by making sure that gays and lesbians are shut out, and denouncing the use of steroids by professional athletes. But most everything else was pretty much unmemorable. He didn’t even bother to talk about his plan to send a manned mission to Mars while cutting NASA’s budget at the same time.

Maybe what Bush needed was a little more passion. He probably could have used some of that "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!" left over from Howard Dean’s Iowa concession speech.


Someone put together a song using Howard Dean’s Iowa speech.

Link via Atrios

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Guess I'm an expert

Picture of the One Ring
WOW!! Good job! You know as much about Middle Earth
as I do!! Finally, someone who knows Middle
Earth! Most people think they know everything
there is to know about Middle earth just by
watching the movies! HAH!! well keep up the
good work! ( I wouldn't be surprised if you are
learning elvish!! ) RATE MY QUIZ!!

*~* The TOUGHEST Lord Of The Rings Quiz *~* [with pictures!]
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Monday, January 19, 2004

Well that was a surprise finish

The Democratic race is suddenly interesting again.
When it was just starting out I figured I would be a John Kerry supporter. He seemed like the best candidate with Al Gore out of the running and he has a strong military background to counter Bush on foreign policy and national security.
But as recently as last week I still believed that Kerry's campaign was over and had all but conceded the race to Howard Dean (with an outside hope that Wesley Clark might come on strong in the stretch.)
Now things are entirely different with Kerry bouncing back from a near-death experience to take the lead and John Edwards earning a second look at Dean's expense. I'm still mad at Edwards for giving up his senate seat for what will almost certainly be a Republican pickup, but if he actually wins the race then more power to him.
It's too bad that Gephardt fell so far short of expectations. I wish he would have stayed in the House and continued to fight for a Democratic majority. I think he did the most honorable thing by withdrawing so quickly when things did not go as planned. Now I will be curious to see who he will endorse, if anyone.
I predict the next candidate to drop out will be Joe Lieberman. For what it's worth.