Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"Separated Children at the Border" on PBS Frontline

Tonight PBS Frontline aired the very strong documentary “SeparatedChildren at the Border” with correspondent Martin Smith.

The film traced the history of illegal migration from Central America back to Obama’s first term.
It also shows real footage of migrants on trains in Central America, where kids have to jump on.  
Gangs even control the trains, and many kids die trying to get on.
In 2014, the increase of migration was quite marked, and the Obama administration even briefly contemplated some family separation, but rejected it. But the film explains how the Flores Settlement was interpreted to mean that many families would have to be released.  The Obama administration was well aware that Central America could become our Syria, and that the nation faced a growing moral crisis.  

I just was in south Texas myself at the end of May.  By no means were all ranchers or people in the area are hostile; many volunteer with religious charities to help. But one rancher in the documentary said flat out that the U.S. cannot take care of everyone in the world.

During the campaign, some on the right complained that Obama’s DACA policy would encourage more illegal migration.

The later part of the documentary shows the children in the detention centers (CBS video ), and documents the inability of the Trump administration to follow court orders to reunite the families.  Workers actually lost track of many babies.

The documentary contemplated the view that Trump and Sessions deliberately separated the children as political pawns to warn other migrants contemplated illegal entry that they would lose their kids to prison-like conditions if they attempted to enter illegally, under zero tolerance.
In the last scene, a family is reunited in Virginia.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

CNN 2000s: The Internet grows from Web 1.0 to 2.0

CNN continued the series “The 2000’s” Sunday night, with a short history of the Internet.

This piece on CNN, about how everything changed in 2006 as Facebook moved toward public use, with a picture of a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, who had launched it from his dorm room on Feb. 4, 2004. 

As 2000 starts, the dot-com bubble is full boil, but it will crash. I can remember working with consultants at ING-ReliaStar in Minneapolis who thought their employers were heaven.

The crash started well before 9/11, but larger companies would aggregate and dominate the Internet ten years later.

Google thrived as a search engine in the beginning because it seemed to give better results.

The documentary explores the evolution of Web 2.0, based on user-generated content rather than people speaking directly on their own sites.  It traces Friendster and Myspace as predecessors of Facebook.  Myspace became a favorite target of Dr. Phil.

Web 2.0 is coming under pressure because of erosion of Section 230, as with the recent Backpage "FOSTA" law (not covered in the documentary).

There is discussion of whether new technology (radio, television, now the Internet, smartphones and social media) harm kids.  We seem to get through the predictions.  But pediatricians insist small children should not watch screens.

The Internet also fed into the sharing economy: using your own car to work for Uber or Lyft, or to rent out to Airbnb -- because you can't make enough in wages no, unless you have connections or are very gifted. 
The film also presents Steve Jobs’s introduction of the iPhone, which would be followed by his illness (an unusual form of pancreatic cancer) escalated, leading to a liver transplant.  Still he carried on, after returning, almost until his passing in October 2011.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

"Secrets of Pleasant Grove", Utah, on Dateline: the MacNeil "big family" case

The Dateline episode on Friday, July 28, 2018, “Secrets in Pleasant Grove” certainly makes us question the old Mormon implementation of “family values”.  The basic link is here

“Pleasant Grove” refers to a town in Utah (formerly "Battle Creek"), about 30 miles south of Salt Lake;  there is a town by that name in California and a neighborhood in SE Dallas where I used to own a condo in the 1980s.

Martin MacNeil has been both a doctor and lawyer, and had fathered four children and adopted four more (apparently from overseas, including Ukraine) in his marriage to Michele.  That seems to comport with traditional LDS family values centered around procreation as activity that socializes men into responsible lives that can take care of others in a more general sense.

It seems as though MacNeil got into an affair, and then demanded that his wife, at age 50, have a facelift.  Then in a mysterious sequence she died in her bathtub. It was said to be from a heart attack, and MacNeil claimed to have done CPR – yet she vomited water when the EMT came.

The episode traces his previous fraud convictions and eventually he is convicted of murder.
Normally if you were a doctor and lawyer, you’d wonder how you could have time for eight kids.
By Don LaVange - Flickr: Looking West, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Thursday, July 26, 2018

"The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived": Ted Williams, on PBS American Masters

PBS American Masters aired a biography of Boston Red Sox star Ted Williams, “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived”, link, on July 25, 2018, narrated by Jon Hamm.

Williams batted left-handed;  Fenway Park in Boston actually favored right handed hitters. He used a slightly lighter bat than usual and emphasized bat speed.

His career was interrupted twice by war.  He bargained with the Navy and got to enlist after the 1942 season, and was kept out of combat.  But he was recalled, this time as a fighter pilot, for the Korean War and almost crashed once, taking a riskier course to avoid the type of injury that could have ended his career. He returned to hitting well immediately on each return.

His .406 batting average in 1941 was the highest ever.

On hist last at bat, on September 28, 1960, in Boston, against Baltimore, he hit a home run. 

He would develop cardiomyopathy later in life and die in Florida in 2002 after having a pacemaker in 2000.

Photo link; Wikipedia attribution to Lipofsky  under CCSA 3.0 , 2002 photo of a honor event.  I have personally visited Fenway once, in 1975 (home game with Chicago White Sox). 

Friday, July 20, 2018

CNN: "The Trump Show" isn't as original as "The Truman Show"

The Trump Show” aired tonight on CNN, sounds like a takeoff of the movie “The Truman Show”. 

But it was an examination of how Trump’s presidency has influenced television series. 
For example, Homeland, where there is a Russian plot against the White House, was compared to the Russian hack before the election.

A lot of attention was focused on the suspension of RoseannBarr, as a “business decision”, after her racist metaphorical Tweet concerning Obama. New York Times has a big article on how companies draw the line, and this is starting to affect conduct that tech companies will tolerate on their platforms.Roseann now claims she was tired because she admitted she had voted for Donald Trump. Yet originally she was "hired" because her conservative credentials would appeal to a certain blue collar base. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

CNN's "The 2000's": a hasty summary of Bush-Gore, then 9/11 and Iraq

CNN has started its series “The 2000’s” which means 2000-2009.

After the mandatory intro based on television in the era (they neglected “Smallville” and “Everwood”, two of my favorite comfort foods during much of the decade), they hastily summarized the 2000 chad election (Bush v Gore), 9/11, and the war in Iraq.  It takes a lot more than an hour to do justice to these topics in a history show.

It did do justice to "Sex in the City" and the Fox series "24" (Kiefer Sutherland) which I watched on Tuesday nights. "Lost" get mentioned. 

At the end, the show intimates that winning the peace in Iraq would be difficult.  Indeed, ISIS proved that. 

The show did not go into a supplementary CNN article explaining that Al Qaeda cancelled a cyanide subway attack in New York, which might have happened the same time the war in Iraq started (in March 2003) in order to discredit the theory that Saddam Hussein really did have WMD’s. This plot is much less known than the anthrax attacks at the end of 2001 (which ABC Nightline had warned could happen in 1999 special).  

Sunday, July 08, 2018

CNN footage of ongoing rescue in Thailand of boys trapped by water in a mountain cave

I thought I would give a CNN video link from the rescue effort of the boys’ soccer team in a cave in Thailand.
British Navy seals are accompanying Thai seals, and the Pentagon is said to be giving some technical assistance.

As of now, four of the boys have been pulled out.  It is expected that the rescue will resume as soon as oxygen tanks are refilled.

The story may provide a lesson on boys’ learning water – swimming and diving skills – and on what society expects in the way of people stepping up when children are in trouble.

A recent tweet by former Navy Seal Kristin Beck (who transitioned to female after her career) seems meaningful here.

Update: July 11

The boys and coach are all rescued now and doing well.  But the pumps failed just after the last rescue.  This was a very close call (Guardian story). 
Picture from Wikipedia near the site in northern Thailand.
By Georgina Rose - University of Cambridge Department of Engineering, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

PBS News Hour: "How a New Aristocracy's Segregation Puts Stress on Society", with Matthew Stewart

A recent PBS Newshour with Julie Woodruff (June 29) reatures an interview by Paul Solman with writer Matthew Stewart.  The segment is called “How a New Aristocracy’s Segregation Puts Stress on Society”.

The theory is that it isn’t the top 0.1% or even top 1% that matters; it’s more the top 10%, below the top 0.1 –  families and individuals with net assets of at least $1.2 million.  That probably includes assets managed in inherited trusts (which is my situation).

Such persons or families tend to live in gated communities (which are slowly becoming armed and gated) or relatively secure modern urban high-rises. They tend to be able to send their kids to better public schools, or private schools.  All of this is familiar. But what’s a little more provocative is that Stewart points out that people still tend to marry within their economic class (even if more often across racial lines). He covers how this is a carryover of the way royal families have behaved in Europe for centuries, and quotes a PBS comedy about someone not marrying within his class.  That sounds like the musical “My Fair Lady”.

Stewart notes that people in the 90-99%-ile feel they have a lot to lose because of one mistake, so they tend to become retentive and defensive, often not sharing in the risks that lower income people face -- and this sounds like Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "Skin in the Game" book. So, by behaving "responsibly" as an individual and making measured choices and "doing no wrong", you are actually contributing to the pressure of people less well off than you. 
It even affects social behavior and dating.  In gay discos today, I find myself being approached by minority women when I am “watching”.  Some people believe that “body fascism,” especially in the white male gay community and apparent on various YouTube videos, could contribute to a political climate that eventually facilitates real political fascism (Umair Haque implied that recently).
Stewart also notes that poorer education and cognitive skill development below the top 10% leads to lower literacy, and more vulnerability to fake news campaigns spawning political divisions.

Stewart’s June 1, 2018 article is “When the Poor Turn Against the Poor” and is available here

Monday, July 02, 2018

"Days of our Lives": Sonny is blackmailed into a gay marriage he doesn't want; could the soap break the ice on gay players in Major League Baseball with Paul?

Days of our Lives” now has the preposterous situation where Leo tries to blackmail Sonny into marrying him in order to make a fake “sexual harassment” lawsuit go away.  Sonny even “accepts”.
The writers have concocted a plot in the gay world where an entire company (Titan, named after Saturn’s most interesting moon) goes under in the same way that the Weinstein Company in the film world did because of a sexual harassment scandal.

Of course, Weinstein’s problems have reached multiple criminal charges.

But the idea of blackmailing someone into gay marriage does seem to make a mockery of it.  

Conservative reviewers (and maybe “The Washington Times”, which used to put the word “marriage” in quotes when referring to same-sex unions) will have fun with this one.

It’s no laughing matter now, since the Supreme Court is likely to move even more to the right.

Right now, “Days” has become the most gay-centered soap ever, outdoing the sitcom “Modern Family” even if with a grimmer plot.  And the actors Freddie Smith (Sonny) and the returned Chandler Massey (Will) have habits of suddenly molting their body hair, to later return.  (This might happen to Casey Moss, playing the reformed character JJ, who is straight).

The best plot direction for DOOL would be to have Paul (a Japanese American, played by Christopher Sean) recover from his shoulder injuries (like Stephen Strasburg right now) and return to Major League Baseball and pitch a complete game no-hitter as an openly gay pitcher.  (It can even be against the Nationals.)  Let him hit a home run in the game, too.  The film “Alone in the Game” will create more attention to gays in sports.   Right now, MLB, despite its non-discrimination policy and LGBTQ nights in every city, seems to have no openly gay players (note the video, however).  “Days” should try to change that, at least in fiction, so it happens in real life. 
I hope I've given the writers of the soap some real ideas.  No, I don't work for them. 


Leo is gone.  Looks like Sonny killed him accidentally in a fight. Now they have to dispose of the body. 

Update: Aug 6 (AM)

I have to wonder if Will is transitioning, based on appearances.  Is that going to be the next plot twist? Maybe the amnesia recovery has triggered a new identity. Is that why Chandler Massey, now 27, has rejoined the show?  He has indeed changed.