Saturday, March 17, 2012

CNN brings out more details in Ravi webcam case; more on eldercare crisis

CNN has covered a number of controversial situations in the past 24 hours.

On Friday night, AC360 gave detailed coverage of the conviction of Dharun Ravi for invasion of privacy and the “bias and intimidation” in the Webcam broadcast of Tyler Clementi, which was followed by Clementi’s suicide.

On Saturday, Avery Friedman and Richard Herman, both defense or civil rights attorneys, commented on the case on CNN. They both felt that the New Jersey “bias and intimidation” law could be challenged on appeal, or at least its application. Had Tyler not done what he did, there would have been no prosecution. 

CNN showed a videotape of Ravi’s interview detectives, where he says he put up the webcam originally to watch his stuff in the dorm room.  He was uncomfortable with Tyler’s asking for privacy with another person and asking him to leave.  In my own experience with dorm life, back in the 60s, that wasn’t done. 

But the jury members told Anderson Cooper that Ravi invited others to watch the webcams at least twice, which they think enhances the claim of bias.  Ravi says he did not post the webcam contents on the Internet; they were never available on YouTube, for example. 

Also, one of the CNN accounts this weekend said that the university did offer Tyler a room change and that Tyler refused.  I had not heard this before. I don’t know if it’s correct.

Ravi could face a ten-year sentence and deportation.  But it sounds as though an Appeals Court may see this differently.

In my own circumstances at William and Mary in the fall of 1961, I felt that my roommate did display animus with his comments, but this was qualitatively different from mere pranks or even voyeurism.  In my own mind, I’m a little unconvinced that this incident rises to that level.  (WM ought to have offered me a room change, and I would have taken it.) For example, if anyone from the defense thought my perspective could be helpful for comparison purposes, I would provide it. (By the way, I lived in New Jersey 1970-71 and then in 1972-73.)

The New York Times has a number of detailed articles, the latest March 18 here. What are the expectations in a dorm that one student and ask the other one to leave for intimate encounters? (This would apply to heterosexuals, too).  What about the same problem in a small apartment. There are a lot of details (such as Tyler's reading Ravi's tweets) that make this a very complicated and bizarre, and yes tragic, case.  We can only speculate on what was really on Tyler's mind, and that may be even more difficult to deal with. But "homohatred" is usually more obvious than it was here.

The Tyler Clementi tragedy does deserve a detailed (90 minutes or so) treatment in documentary film, maybe on HBO or maybe in theaters. I reviewed today on my Movies Blog a film from Poland about this general issue (of humiliation by airing videos of intimate encounters).  Could this happen in a heterosexual setting, too?

Later, on Saturday, Frederica Whitfield and Karen Lee went over the problem of eldercare.  There was a story of a woman who suddenly needed 24-hour custodial care after a stroke.  Lee said bluntly that adult children need to prepare to take care of their parents, and even suggested that siblings get together and see who will play “family slave”.  Nursing home and live-in costs are rather comparable now, close to $80000 a year in most parts of the country.  The hourly rate for home-health aides is about $19, and there are serious policy questions looming in the near future over overtime for non-live-ins (and as to whether they are really “contractors”). 

Lee suggested that adult children urge their parents to buy long-term-care insurance.  "If it doesn't come from their pockets, it will come from yours." She explained the spend-down requirements for Medicaid. 

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