Wednesday, September 30, 2009

AC360 covers gang "snitch" problems, as well as Polanski and health insurance excessive paperwork

Anderson Cooper AC360 tonight covered two critical crime stories. One was the slaying in Chicago of a teen (Derrion Albert) for refusing to joining a gang. Anderson showed video of other kids standing and watching who have not come forward to the police for evidence. Chicago police officer Jody Weis was interviewed, and Anderson mentioned that rappers have inculcated the idea of never “snitching”, creating a mentality of protecting crime (committed by those who "watch my back") that (in Anderson’s words) cannot be tolerated. Here is an AC360 blog entry on this (link).

A Fox station (apparently in rural Pennsylvania) has a video of the incident (link URL here). Embed code is offered, but given the very unusually graphic nature of it, I did not include it here, and offering embedding doesn't seem to have a legitimate purpose given what happens here. The TV station offers the video in an attempt to get witnesses to come forward.

Chicago's crime wave continues in the face of the wonderful film "The Providence Effect" of education of inner city children.

Cooper next covered the Roman Polanski case, and interviewed Joy Behar from ABC’s The View. Behar insisted that Polanski should face the charges. AC360 mentioned the HBO documentary film “Roman Polanksi: Wanted and Desired”, directed by Marina Zenovich, which first aired in June 2009, before Polanski’s arrest. I checked Netflix and found it available, including Instant Play.

Here is a CNN video (embed here is OK) on Hollywood's reaction to the Polanski situation, linked from AC360.

Cooper also covered the way insurance companies bury patients with paperwork, delaying recognizing legitimate referrals. The show interviewed one female doctor who does not take any insurance; just “fee for service.” One insurance executive admitted that insurance companies may be cheating patients out of billions. He’s on board with Michael Moore; but companies say they have the paperwork because the laws require it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jay Leno in primetime, with his animal house

The Jay Leno show seems to have moved up into primetime, starting weeknights at 10 PM EDT, with link here.

Tuesday night Julia Louis-Dreyfus talked about her “malfunction” on the Seinfeld show that was, well, like Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction with Justin Timberlake back in the 2004 Superbowl (good enough to make AOL headlines immediately then). Then she talked about her safari on the Amazon in Brazil, with the giant tarantulas, and tonight Leno put one on her arm. A friend of mine really did go on a safari there in 2002 or so, staying in a low-key biological research station in Iquitos. I say, bring on Jack Hanna. He really likes animals.

Billy Crystal did his “10 & 10” segment.

It sounds odd to me to bring late-night comedy into primetime. In the Midwest, the show would start at 9.

Will Leno turn this into a pseudo-Seinfeld, and make it a show about nothing? At least, unlike David Letterman, he hasn't had to join the zipper club.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. picture of a tarantula.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

NatGeo covers Nazi activity in America

On September 27, National Geographic aired a disturbing one hour show “American Nazis”, link here.

One example comes from the concept of “Christian Identity” propagated by George Lincoln Rockwell in the mid 20th century in Arlington VA, while I grew up here.

Aryan Nations lost its headquarters in Hayden Lake, Idaho in 2000 after a legal case. I visited the general area in July 1990 and drove past the headquarters.

The National Socialist Movement is located in St. Paul, MN and its leaders (“Scoop”) are not allowed to come to Britain, Canada or Germany and are watched carefully in the US by the FBI. The do “book burnings” in the style of “Fahrenheit 451”. The film showed a demonstration by the group, as well as counter demonstration, in Washington DC.

The rhetoric quoted in the program was extremely violent at times, and seemed to be based strictly on racial theories. It is not really like “perfectionism”, associated with hyper-individualism, as sometimes criticized by today’s social conservatives.

Attribution link for Wikipedia picture of Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho,

Friday, September 25, 2009

ABC's "FlashForward": What if??

The new ABC series “FlashForward” certainly sets us up with a hook. It’s “Flash”, not “FastForward,” which would mean something else. The series is created by David S. Goyer and Brannon Barga. This pilot needed to be a full two hours, like a “movie” – watching this pilot was a bit like going to the movies anyway. Officially, the series is distributed by ABC Films (that is, Walt Disney Pictures) and “Five”.

The premise is intriguing enough, inasmuch as it takes the public some time to figure out what the question is. On October 29, 2009, everyone in the whole world (except for one cloaked figure in Commerica Park in Detroit – no wonder it made Sports Illustrated) blacks out and loses 137 seconds of their lives. Carnage ensues, with massive auto wrecks (on a two-way traffic bridge in LA which I do not recall ever driving over). Los Angeles is in shambles, and for a while the authorities go through the usual suspect possibilities: dirty bomb, EMP, coordinated attack. It’s a little while before people realize it happened all over the world, and then they start building “do tell” websites for people to compare the visions that they experienced, to match up exactly what will happen on April 29, 2010. (Will Tampa Bay be playing in Boston’s Fenway Park and sweep a series on the road? Only MLB knows now. It’s funny that some of the foreshadowing in this series involves baseball, so far.)

Joseph Fiennes is the strongest character as a tall, thin vigorous Charlie Banford; John Cho suspects, from the absence of vision, that he will be dead. Do can we change the future without the usual paradoxes?

With a mystery like this, one wonders how the media would cover it. AC360 would be a good start. Of course, the question is "why?" Is it an aberration in the fabric of space-time? Is it the kind of scenario that the History Channel Universe series says could destroy the planet?

My own dreams recently seem like visions, and I certainly won’t identify anyone in them (at least not within the purview of Internet search engines). But in one dream I was trying to get into a Minneapolis-style skyway that seemed to be on another planet, with the problem that the outer tunnels did not connect to the inside, that seemed to be in a parallel universe, across branes. And then I gave in and enjoyed a barbecue brisket breakfast, and read a critique of my websites, blogs and films (that according to the dream I had succeeding in making, finally). The reviewers felt like I was living in my journaling (even if English teachers encourage the activity) rather than really living, as if then the writing had no purpose, as it could not support any specific person. Everyone was left behind.

Then, the next night, a visitor comes to the house, and rear ends my car in the driveway. I am angry. I do not want to forgive him or her. I cannot do business with the person. But the anger and lack of forgiveness makes my heart race, and I wake up.

Then another vision was a bit like “Stagefright”. I’m walking on a movie set where the actors are rehearsing a street mugging, maybe even looting as after the “FlashForward” mayhem. I am captured, as if I am an actor in the skit, perhaps an audition. One of the players pierces my chest with a needle, and it goes into my heart. I realize that the robbery is “real”, not just an act, that I am to be expropriated. I wake up from rem sleep. The heart rate slows down after I walk around.

In the show, however, the people just come to, into mayhem if they were out and about, especially driving. Think about texting for 137 seconds while driving.

In my own experience, telepathy may become the next technology. I sit, eating a burger in an ESPN sports bar, before going to a Landmark Theater next door for a movie, and think of a particular person. I look up at a particular college football game on the flat plasma screen, and there he is, in the crowd.

Attribution link for Comerica Park in Detroit picture in Wikipedia (given another name in the show), Creative Commons License. (It's often mispronounced as "commercia".)  It's very much a pitcher's park, still.

The Tigers won only 43 games in 2003. Look how good they are now. There is hope for the Nationals yet!

Update: December 3

The show had just one episode after Thanksgiving, and resumes March 10, 2010.

Tonight two scientists from a plasma laboratory in Palo Alto, CA said that their experiment could have caused the blackout (no, they weren't from Facebook!) But then EMP towers in Somalia, photos taken in 1991, need to be explained as the scientists say they started their work in 1992. Were they hacked by the people in Utah and Commerica Park? Did they get their technology from aliens? Will there be a second blackout if too many people "change the future" as Joseph Fiennes's character did in Hong Kong tonight.

The premise is certainly intriguing!

Third picture: no, not an EMP tower in Somalia; a cell phone tower in DC's Shaw Neighborhood, not too far from the Town DC.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dr. Phil says "be very afraid" and check up on people online, to protect your kids

Today Dr. Phil, with show 1311, Thursday Sept. 24, 2009, dealt with the victims of Phillip Garrido (including Katie, his first victim), and then later with the family of Marcus Wesson.

But the real tone of the show was a bit strong, to say the least, almost hysterical: how to protect your family, as if there were a boogeyman living next door everywhere.

At the beginning of the show he said you should “Google your neighbors” and coworkers or something like that, fitting in to the concerns of Internet online reputation that we have covered before – except that search engines cannot reliably identify the right person always – they were not designed to be used as background investigation tools. Earlier, remember, Dr. Phil has aired shows on "Internet mistakes" and online reputation.

In the middle of the show, Dr. Phil did explain how he had taught his own kids to deal with strangers, and had done role-playing exercises at home.

Dr. Phil also demonstrated the use of a website called “Family Watchdog” (link) and keyed in the address of a producer of a show, and the red dots on the map of an area of Los Angeles showed the locations of s.o.’s, who could be clicked on. There is a problem inasmuch as non violent offenders may be mixed in on this list, and keep people and police from concentrating on those who are real dangers to the community – a point that John Stossel has made before on 20/20. The media tends to go wild on this issue. It’s a bit out of control.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Poisoned Waters" on PBS Frontline: examine the Chesapeake, Puget Sound

On Sept. 23, 2009 some PBS stations aired the two-hour Frontline film “Poisoned Waters”, directed by Rick Young, with website here.

The film focused on the deterioration of water quality in the Chesapeake Bay (largely Maryland) and Puget Sound (near Seattle, WA), and the failure of clean water policies since the passage of the Clean Water Act (link) primarily two acts passed in 1972 and 1977. President Nixon played “meta-talk” with “epa” as he called his EPA, and President Reagan would try to gut it in the anti-regulatory fever of the “morning in America” period of the 1980s.

Well, if we go “back to the Bay” ( a phrase well known to some of my Army buddies), we find dead zones, where certain algae have taken all the oxygen out of the water. The Delmarva and eastern shore (the countryside adjoining the beach resorts of Rehoboth and Ocean City) are loaded with chicken processing plants like those in the movie “Food”, whose manure and waste affect the waterways. Frank Perdue says he stakes his reputation on his chicken company, but poultry companies have been able to manipulate the lobbyists and use the law to their advantage.

Pollution has led to fish and amphibians being born with hemaphrodism; it seems very small concentrations of some chemicals distrupt sexual differentiation in animals. It's possible that this has implications for humans.

Another effect on the Bay watershed is commercial development, such as Tysons Corner, VA, the largest such development in the nation (maybe the Mall of America is second). The film covered the finance and politics of Monopoly-style land development, which involves a lot of manipulation of politicians and zoning changes (which may explain why real estate developers have been prone to abuse the legal system with SLAPP suits, as in the(Texas) Kelo case (eminent domain) reviewed early this month on my Books blog. The film also showed how Arlington VA is developing more sensibly, not taking out farm land but building high rise near Metro stops. But commercial real estate especially tends to pave over a lot of land, leading to rapid runoff.

On the West Coast, the runoff is a major reason for the problems in Puget Sound. Rural property owners, demanding property rights, resisted rules that kept lots over 5 acres and that did not let them use their property. But forest canopy helps steady the rainoff and prevent pollution.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NatGeo: "Chimps on the Edge"

On September 22, the National Geographic Channel aired a one-hour film by Peter Yost, “Chimps on the Edge” (link here). The film started by reviewing the attack on Charla Nash in Connecticut (MSNBC story).

Chimpanzees share 98% of our genes, and have the intellect and problem solving ability of a small child, and the emotions of a teenager, and are much stronger physically than humans. Male chimpanzees in the wild will operate in groups to attack members of other groups, a behavior they share only with humans (like gang behavior, or even as a kind of war). They will turn on members that are “different” as a kind of evolutionary instinct or very primitive form of group loyalty to blood. Bonobos may be different. Males of other species (like lions) may attack competitors alone but not in groups.

Chimps raised in captivity may not be able to adapt to the wild, and males tend to develop cardiomyopathy because of stress.

The film presented a married couple with chimps as their “children” and they made the comment, “this is who we raise, but they won’t be able to take care of us in old age.”

Only the United States and Gabon allow medical research on live chimpanzees. The show asked the question whether it is any less morally defendable to use severely retarded people for experiments. Spain is considering a law giving chimpanzees and other primates some basic rights. The same idea could apply to other very intelligent animals, such as dolphins and orcas, perhaps bears, perhaps large cats in the wild, as well as wolves. (Remember how the South African film "Duma" showed a cheetah growing up as a member of the family, able to learn how to use a TV remote.) The show even made a comparison of the moral debate over animal rights to the debate over race. Judeo-Christian tradition, however, supposedly gives man dominion over animals. But some animals are much more like us than we ever imagined.

An earlier PBS NOVA special had depicted chimps as having immediate problem solving skills similar to humans, but the idea of building knowledge for future generations to build on is uniquely human, perhaps genetic, but helps build human notions of morality.

Attribution link for Wikipedia Creative Commons Picture of Chimp mom and baby.

Other pictures from Washington DC zoo (2007, mine): an unknown primate, and a gorilla.

Monday, September 21, 2009

ABC Nightline reports on FBI breakup of plot, arrests in Colorado and NY

ABC Nightline tonight (Monday Sept. 21) covered the arrest of Najibullah Zazi with his father Mohammed Zazi. The link for the video and news story was not there on ABC yet but should appear early Tuesday. Martin Bashir hosted the show. An AP story by Jon Bowman appears on Fox in Denver here. Zazi and cohort may have represented the most serious threat to US homeland security since 9/11.

Zazi had been a legal resident in the US since 1999. Apparently he went to Pakistan supposedly to visit his wife, but took weapons training, near Peshawar. “Zazi” is actually the name of a Pashtun tribe (the plural of Zazai). His code word was apparently “the wedding cake is ready.”

Imaging of his hard drive from a laptop contained JPG’s of weapons making information, and maps of various places in NYC.

Every apartment in which Zazi (and anyone connected to him) had stayed in New York or in or near Denver was raided and searched.

Zazi was charged with lying to the FBI after failing to show up for a meeting. The public should follow this story closely, as details will emerge rapidly.

Nightline earlier presented a report on chimpanzee attacks on humans, to be followed up on Nationak Geographic Tuesday night.

Nightline also introduced Michael Moore’s film “Capitalism: A Love Story”, to reported Tuesday night. On Sept 22, the film was previewed, and Moore said that capitalist values are unbiblical, that we have slipped into a mode of "survival of the fittest." He considers himself more fortunate, not "better", than poor people. Michael Moore wants to make some "social rights" into "fundamental right", more or less like FDR's Four Freedoms.

Attribution link for Wikipedia/NASA aerial photo of Denver area. I last visited the area in 1994.

Update: Spet. 22

According to the media, there are heightened alerts for Transit systems. Here is WJLA (ABC affiliate, Washington DC/Arlington VA)'s video.

The story text at WJLA is here.

ABC Corporate has the following Breaking News update:

"Stadiums, Hotels Warned to Watch for Terrorists: Stadiums, hotels, mass transit urged to be on guard as terror probe suspect appears in court", by Devlin Barrett and Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press, link here.

Check the New York Times op-ed by John Farmer on the arrest Sept. 27 here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

President Obama defends his health care plan on NBC "Meet the Press"

President Obama gave a brief interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning Sept. 20, 2009.

He again defended his health care plan, soft-pedaling but encouraged the public option. He talked about mandatory individual insurance as like mandatory auto insurance, and for everyone to buy it is the “right thing to do.” He said that sometimes we have to “take care of each other” as well as take care of ourselves. He talked about the health insurance exchange and the insistence that it be “deficit neutral”, as a “core principle.” The president also mentioned "increasing population", which is curious, given another development today noted below.

He said that a slight improvement in employment is much better than continued increase in unemployment, but it will take some time before employment is healthy again.

The Transcript can be viewed here (look for "Transcript" on the video). David Gregory conducted the interview.

Republicans appeared to make their usual brief counterarguments.

Later on Sunday, Fareed Zakaria interviewed Russian "president" Dmitry Medvedev (link). Zakaria asked him if he was really Putin's boss (no, he isn't). But at the end of the show, Zakaria discussed the depopulation of Russia, whose population could fall to 115 million by 2030. That comports with the "Empty Cradle" and "demographic winter" theories of social conservatives like Phillip Longman and Allan Carlson ("The Natural Family: A Manifesto").

On Monday in a taping Obama told David Leterman, "I was actually black before the election .. that is true" and zipper-club Letterman answered "How long have you been a black man?" (Remember, how "they" hauled Letterman into involuntary and emergency coronary bypass surgery in 2000?)

Here's the White House link for the president on the Late Show.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

CNN Saturday covers a "debtor's revolt"; Economy is still "in the hospital" one year after crash of 2008

Saturday afternoon “CNN Newsroom” covers a lot of financial topics, and today, Sept. 19, Ali Velshi and company told the TV audiences that the “patient” (the US Economy and credit system) is still in the hospital but out of intensive care. It’s back on regular hospital food, no longer on a liquid diet.

But one guest spoke of the mounting deficits and foreign debt, and suggested that investors should own some gold. Another debate centered on whether people nearing retirement should stay in the stock market at all.

But the height of the hour was a clip from YouTube video, well made from a filmmaking viewpoint, of an average debtor. A young woman named “Rockerchic” made this four-minute YouTube video announcing her “Debtor’s Revolt” against Bank of America, holder of her credit card debt, for jacking up her interest rate to 30% (even in defiance of Suze Orman).

She mixes up Ken Lewis (of BofA) with Ken Lay (Enron), now deceased after conviction.

CNN’s guests were not particularly sympathetic with the debtor. After all, she bought the goods, used the services.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Primetime on child rearing by parents who were abused; Nightline on s.o.'s in southeast Asia

Chris Cuomo hosted the ABC Primetime “Outsiders” on Wednesday Sept. 16 with the report “When children of abuse become parents: Monster tantrums, misbehavior challenge parents trying to break cycle of abuse”. The news story is by Tom McCarthy and Robbie Gordon, with link here.

The show presented two single mothers and one single father, 29, struggling with household discipline of only children in homes that looked messy. But as the show progressed, experts from Yale University child development said that a system of rewards and complements is much more effective than a system of punishment, even though spanking is legal. The outside adult world tends to function on the idea of deterrent and punishment for unacceptable behavior, he said; but children cannot learn that way.

The segments did show a lot of physical attachment between parents and children, and it’s apparent that the parents grew up in a world where such attachment is expected of everyone. In the past, Dr. Phil has taken up the subject of children who are unable to bond or attach.

Dan Harris, Almin Karamhmedovic, and Aude Soichet have a story about men who go to Cambodia for minors, a very disturbing report on Nightline (to follow up on a similar series by Chris Hansen on Dateline), on ABC Nightline, link here. Thailand has long also been known to have these problems.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NBC Nightly News highlights Jimmy Carter's comments about race, attitudes, and the presidency

On Wednesday Sept. 16, NBC’s Brian Williams presented Jimmy Carter’s 54-second clip on the angry rhetoric against our president, some of it last Saturday in Washington at the Tea Party. (Let me add, I personally didn't encounter anyone grossly uncivil at the Tea Party or returning from it Saturday.) Carter’s tone was quite blunt and referred to an attitude (“an abomination” he said, held still by too many people) that holds that a black man is not qualified for certain jobs. Some of his remarks may have been inspired by the uncivil behavior by SC Rep. Joe Wilson when he discussed health care and illegal aliens.

I've heard people say, colloquially, "It took George Bush and Bill Clinton to give us our first ..." -- well, I'll remain civil.

The White House has distanced itself from Carter’s comments. Carter, now 85, recently dissociated from his Baptist church in Plains over its position on ordaining women. The tone of Carter’s remarks reminds one of his controversial 2007 book on “apartheid” in Palestine (reviewed in the books blog Dec 25 2007).

Carter taught Sunday school in the balcony of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington in the 1970s, and I attended a lesson on the “divorce chapter”. Carter has also worked a lot with Habitat for Humanity, and gave a major address on it at the Washington Cathedral in the 1990s. I did briefly visit the Carter Center in Atlanta in 1994.

Today, also, Dr. Phil conducted his program from the lawn at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, as they talked about the return of Mike Vick to pro football.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

AC360 covers medical malpractice issue

Anderson Cooper and Gary Tuckman held a ten minute discussion tonight of the medical malpractice controversy and health care costs. Two trial lawyers spoke.

The lawyers told Tuckman that malpractice caps would be unconstitutional. There should not be a separate trial system for doctors on the one hand and, say, bloggers on the other.

Tuckman asked if many cases are settled and insurance companies pay before cases go to trial or at least to a jury. The lawyers dodged the question and said that lawyers don’t get paid unless they win a settlement, so they don’t take on bad cases.

I once sat on a malpractice trial jury in Dallas in 1986. The parties settled, but I was told by the lawyers afterward that my medical knowledge of AIDS, which had been disclosed in voir dire (but overlooked during preliminary strikes), suddenly was impressed on the defense lawyer during closed doors and helped encourage a settlement.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Obama warns Wall Street on cable address from NYC

President Obama gave a brief speech ("Lessons of Lehman") at “High Noon” in New York City today to mark the country’s progress in dealing with the Financial Crisis of 2008, a meltdown that marked the closing months of the Bush presidency just as 9/11 had opened it.

The speech was carried on CNN and other cable news channels, but WJLA in Washington (ABC) aired only the beginning during its noon news half-hour.

Obama warned Wall Street that tighter regulation would come, and that the system was still too fragile, where the failure of one leveraged institution can call a pancaking of others. He used the term “system risk” a few times.

The text of the speech at Federal Hall is here.

In other TV news today, the Dr. Phil show in Washington DC moved from WRC (NBC4) to the Fox station WTTG (5), suddenly. No reason was given, but obviously Fox must have given Dr. Phil more $$$.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

CNBC commemorates the "financial 9/15"

CNBC aired the first episode of “One Year Later” tonight (Sunday) with Maria Bartiromo (site here). That episode was called “This Day: One Year Ago:”

Lawrence Fink from Blackrock gave a detailed account of what Sunday and Monday Sept 14-15 2008 were like, explaining how commercial paper collapsed and how the “reserve fund broke the buck”. Then the chairman from Barclays explained how they Barclays almost rescued Lehman Brothers.

CNBC is also presenting “A Town Hall with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner,” here
Here is the “Capitalism Redefined” video with Geithner.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Barbara Walters interviews La Toya Jackson on ABC 20/20; John Stossel to start new "libertarian" show

Barbara Walters, looking sharp herself almost at age 80, interviewed La Toya Jackson, sister of Michale Jackson, for about 40 minutes Friday Sept. 11 on the ABC 20/20 show. The story by Rob Wallace and Katie Thomson is “Exclusive: La Toya Jackson Opens Up on Family's Grief, Future: La Toya Tells Barbara Walters: Michael Laid to Rest in 'Full Makeup,' With Iconic White Glove in Casket”, link here.

La Toya talked about how she believe her brother was “murdered”, how Prince was summoned to the death bed, how Paris said farewell to her dad. She denied some of the “accusations” made about her conduct. Some discussion occurred about the parentage of Michael Jackson’s children, and of the prosecutions against him in the 1990s. The tone and language of the broadcast were quite explicit and frank.

They did discuss contingent custody plans for the kids, and an analogy was made to Brad and Angelina.

Since Jackson was recently laid to rest on live broadcast, this show may bring some closure – unless the LAPD does prosecute Jackson’s doctor(s), possibly for involuntary manslaughter. But no one can live forever taking uppers and downers all the time. I wonder if Jackson’s long time drug use would actually provide the doctor a defense.

Jackson may have been the greatest pop star ever, but there are new ways to become a pop star or break in, even with classical music.

And what did Ryan Seacrest say once, “my career is to make pop stars.”

John Stossel will be leaving ABC 20/20 to go do his own "libertarian show" on Fox.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

ABC's Brian Ross presents story of FBI operative who was taken off trial of Mohammed Atta before 9/11

ABC “World News Tonight”, on Thursday Sept. 10, posted a story about an FBI informant who was on the trail of Mohammed Atta (having infiltrated through a small mosque) in south Florida in early 2001, and then was pulled off the case and asked to bust “easier” wannabes, against which the government could get convictions. The story is by Brian Ross. Vic Walter and Megan Chuchmach, “FBI Informant Says Agents Missed Chance to Stop 9/11 Ringleader Mohammed Atta : Undercover Operative 'One Million Percent Positive' Attacks Could Have Been Prevented,” with link here. The operative was Elie Assaad, from Lebanon.

The story was also broadcast on ABC Nightline tonight, and expanded. The issue of entrapment of younger inner city recruits is raised.

The FBI refused to comment, and the story did not appear in the 9/11 Commission Report published a few years ago. Later, Nightline reported that FBI disputed some of the facts in the story.

The other big oversignts include the FBI’s failure to look at the laptop of Zacarias Moussaoui after he was arrested in Minnesota in August 2001. This and other oversights were presented in former Minneapolis agent Coleen Rowley’s famous memo in 2002.

On Sept. 11, ABC News presented this video on the NYPD's task force center in Brooklyn, link here. The task force particularly looks for radiological threats and attempts to flood subway tunnels. The task for has police officers all over the world working with the US military, and looks ar Iran and Hezbollah as well as Al Qaeda.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Obama's primetime speech on health care is reasonable

President Obama gave a long but balanced speech on health insurance reform (aka “health care”) tonight from the House of Representatives on all the major networks.

The president stressed building on the things that work, and reforming things that don’t. He noted that some conservatives and liberals both want to ditch employer health care, with single payer (liberal) and health savings accounts (conservative or libertarian).

He argued for almost universal coverage with mandatory insurance, for both larger employers and individuals. He compared mandatory insurance to that for autos (would insurance for bloggers be next?) He did promise reforms to eliminate the pre-existing conditions problem, and said that health insurance companies would go along if the rules were the same for everybody.

He dispelled some myths as “false”, but South Carolina GOP Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “you lie” from the floor when Obama said that illegal immigrants would not be covered. The Congress cheered must other points (in Britain, members of Parliament clap when they disapprove).
The CNN story on the speech is here.

Here is Wilson’s outburst from CNN.

Charles Boustany, a heart surgeon and GOP Rep. from Louisiana, provided the opposition speech. (story)

The entire event was over by about 9: EDT.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

CSPAN covers Obama's appearance (and short speech) at Wakefield High School in Arlington VA

The President’s speech at Wakefield High School in Arlington VA was best shown on CSPAN, which included an opening introduction by senior class president Tim Spicer.

The speech was brief and here is the White House’s link for the text.

Very early, the president says that everyone should know that he or she is good at something (I like it to be music); my own father used to preach that it was morally imperative to be good at many things, because you can't count on a stable world. But Obama said "nobody's born good at all things"; through hard work you get better at some or many things.

I particularly like the comment “Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class”. Later the president took the liberty to make what sounded like a comment about “gay bashing” in schools, with “Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn.” The president did mention the social precautions regarding H1N1.

A couple of passages in Chapter 1 of my own first "Do Ask Do Tell" book (Amazon) track to the president's nod for teachers' assigning term papers. I wrote "[our history teacher] made us prepare an in-class book report on John Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage[2] and graded us on how much he “learned” from our comments. In the spring he taught passionately that World War II had forced us to prove as a nation that freedom 'works.'" I also wrote about the English teacher who "demanded a second term paper for an “A-B” credit". And I wrote "in tenth-grade English, ... the teacher allowed one student to write a theme attempting to “argue” the existence of God, and then to share that with the class; we were then allowed to show where her conclusions were based on assumptions (“postulates”) she ultimately could not prove."

Obama gave English novelist J.K.Rowling (author of the Harry Potter books) as an example of a writer who kept on trying, and he mentioned her repeated rejections until her were was "published" -- although today with the Internet people can easily self-publish.

The students were allowed to take photos and videos, and afterward the president shook hands with many students up front. The students looked good on television and behaved absolutely perfectly.

CSPAN took questions from kids and teachers around the country after the speech.

I did sub at Wakefield from time to time in 2004 and 2005. The school has a high minority population (particularly Hispanic) and is the last of the three high schools in Arlington in line for major renovation or rebuilding (which has been done for Washington-Lee and somewhat for Yorktown, generally with more affluent student bodies). My experience there was rewarding, except for one bad experience in early October 2005, where discipline problems (in a science class already segregated out for slow students) contributed to my stopping subbing,

I still often think about the substituting experience. In AP, Honors, or many regular classes, the experience was like the workplace. I could sell the idea that I was a retired person from the “real world of work” and that idea (involving a certain detachment) works well in that sort of class. But in classes with students more in need, there is definitely a need for “cueing” and attachment (and male role modeling, a difficult proposition for someone with my background and disadvantaged males). This problem unfortunately contributed to the end of my substituting. It took only a tiny percentage of misbehaving students to "ruin" my substituting experience for everyone else.

At least one Wakefield AP student when I was there was an outstanding swimmer and I believe went on to pre-med in college. But I believe that he could have swimmed alongside Michael Phelps in Beijing if he had chosen to aim for that.

I guess I attended the speech "without attending" by watching it on C-SPAN. It felt like working as a sub again.

But what a way for Wakefield's "kids" to start the new school year! It must have made their whole day. Wednesday the real class work begins.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

NBC Dateline reports on debt collectors, honor in Pakistan

Tonight, Sept. 6, NBC Dateline ran a comprehensive report on debt collection, with a focus on companies that may be less rigorous in enforcing the requirements of the FDPCA, Federal Debt Collection Practices Act. The report also focused on companies that buy debt, and get full profit on whatever they can collect. Chris Hansen did one of his typical “To Catch a…” stings on a seedy “mafia-like” operation in Buffalo, NY, where some employees illegally impersonate police officers. Some employees believe that it is all right and necessary to break the law in order to make the collections.

Elizabeth Warren appears in the report, and argues for regulation of the debt collection industry, as well as much more regulation of the way banks dup ordinary customers, usually deep into family obligations with kids, so as to make profits by keeping them permanently in debt. But then what happens with bankruptcy?

The first part of the show reported on women in Pakistan fighting back and going after men who have raped them. In some parts of tribal Pakistan, with very “patriarchal” values, the women are regarded as having brought dishonor upon their families. Another woman was falsely accused by local police who then physically abused her and tried to get away with it. Women are reportedly starting to turn the tables and obtain justice. Previously, out of shame, women had killed themselves when caught in these situations.
The slide show link for this part of the show is here.

I wanted also to pass along this MSNBC clip about “growing up” in Pitcher, OK, a town tainted by lead mining. The asbestos mines in southern Quebec (which I saw in 1977) have similarly looking piles.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

CNBC: "The Oprah Effect": how to get on to Oprah (that is, how to approach Harpo producers)

On Saturday Sept 5, 2009, during Labor Day Weekend, CNBC aired a one-hour documentary “The Oprah Effect”, with basic link here, and trailer here

The show appears to be a late summer repeat.

The basic theme is that an “endorsement” (to use the word loosely) can make a small business selling certain kinds of products, especially related to beauty or for women, or “lifestyle” oriented. To some extent these kinds of businesses are similar to what might appeal to Martha Stewart Living.

One of the businesses was “We Take The Cake”, whose key lime cake really took off. Try their link for “Oprah’s Favorite Key Lime Bundt Cake”. The company has an interesting history, first opening on an obscure strip mall before it could expand.

Another company presented in the show is a Soho cosmetics company (Luxury Articles & Fragrance Company). The best link is here (Search engines show other uses of this abbreviation or wordmark.) The video link there did not work for me, but I found the same on CNBC:

The show also presented a writer who tried “Living Oprah”, very literally, with a blog and apparently a lucrative book deal. Here is here website by that name (link. “If it works, don’t knock it”, they say, although I don’t think I would try living someone else’s recipe. With a site like this, one must be careful about "right of publicity" or implying endorsements.

The show described how companies with products to promote should present themselves to Oprah’s producers (Harpo Productions, which has also made several major motion pictures and television films, usually for MGM or ABC). The CNBC show presented media consultant Susan Harrow (she charges $500 an hour), author of “How to Get Booked on Oprah, in O Magazine, and on Oprah’s Favorite Things” authored with Jordan McAuley, from Mega Niche Media (Amazon link ).

Oprah has sponsored a charity-oriented reality show called “The Big Give” and has often invited designer Nate Berkus to help with reconstruction projects in areas like New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina devastation.

Oprah invites well known entertainers (Like Justin Timberlake) and “business celebrities” like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Sometimes she has invited lesser known musical artists, and I wonder how talnted and successful young classical music artists would fare with her producers.

Oprah was an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama early in the Democratic primaries in 2008. She has always been supportive of what most people view as “progressive” political causes. I wonder if SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network), defending gay members chased under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” could get onto Oprah. If so, that would help gain political momentum to support the current bill in the House to repeal the policy.

Reprise: "Days of our Lives": Patriarch Stefano and "family values"

Friday, I was watching NBC-Corday’s “Days of our Lives” (DOOL) with someone, and toward the end of the episode, Stefano DiMera (Joseph Mascolo, b. 1935) was giving one of his usual rants about “family”, and the persona said, “I actually like Stefano. I like the way family is everything to him. I like the way he always takes car of his family.”

OK, you can’t be serious. You really admire the boss of “The Ohio Mafia” (fictitious, of course). Note that Highway 13 (that runs up through middle Ohio) gets mentioned, as well as Cleveland, Mansfield, etc. (Salem is actually a town of 12000 in the eastern part of the state, but it makes for a fictitious Great Lakes areas inland port city).

Of course, to some people, that’s what “marriage” means. As a result of taking and keeping the vow for being attentive to the same wife lifetime and to her children (who was Stefano’s wife, anyway?) you get power to demand loyalty of your entire family as long as you protect them, and things that would otherwise be wrong (even crimes) become right.

Stefano, remember, has been responsible for setting up the “alternate Salem” in the Caribbean, for bringing people back from the dead and resurrecting them there, and then for carrying out the family vendetta that somehow restored Sami (Allson Sweeney (link) ) to adulthood. His main competition is Victor (John Aniston), who almost went down to Jan Spears in a bathtub in 2004. (Remember, Marlena kept Stefano in an awake coma for a few months.) Remember Victor's DVD "Nicole's crimes" that the writers seem to have forgotten about?

DOOL is the soap where most of the villains are women. Kate (Katrina, played by Lauren Koslow, made artificially young), Nicole, Jan Spears, and now Melanie ruin every man who touches them. I’m sure that DOOL is written by women (some from Ohio, no doubt), who love to make women the villains. A lot of the men are essentially good: Shawn (no longer there), Brady, Nick (in jail because of Melanie), Max, Rafe, Bo, John, Roman, Lucas, and Will [played by precocious teen actor Dylan Patton from Texas – check imdb]. (Phillip is becoming “good”; he used to be up to no good.; EJ [British actor James Scott] is ambiguous) I can’t wait to see Kate get caught for framing Dr. Jonas (no relation to the Jonas Brothers, hopefully; played by a hirsute Shawn Christian).

It’s interesting that DOOL seems to have no gay characters. Passions (which almost did a cross with DOOL – these soaps seem interchangeable sometimes) had a lesbian, and made her almost into a “Randy Shilts” vampire for the military. I think that Nick Fallon (Blake Berris) would have made an interesting gay character (make him interested in Max), and then he wouldn’t be in jail. Instead, he fell for women well “beneath” him (Chelsea and Melanie, who destroyed him.) If Nick is going to be straight, why not date and eventually wed someone in his own intellectual world, another professor. For example, Google’s Larry Page married a Stanford biology Ph D. in “First Life” (according to Wikipedia). It would have been logical for Nick to do the same (but then there’s no story).

The stuff about Max being intellectually gifted (as a bardtender) and denied an education, and making Nick seem almost plodding in his “green project” seems interesting. Also interesting is the (Las Vegas) episode where Nick wound up with “mandatory custody” of OPC (other people’s children), something that would please Philip Longman, who preaches of “demographic winter”.

It would be nice if they could “redeem” Nick and bring him back. And what about Shawn and Belle?

As for Sami, Mrs. H says that her troubles will continue for forty more years, like in the Bible. She must wander in the wilderness.

Wikipedia PD attribtion link for Ohio welcome picture

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

PBS Wide Angle "Time for School 3"

PBS is sponsoring a series “Time for School”, about the progress of a number of kids around the world in 189 countries that had (back in 2000) supposedly promised to provide a free public education to every child by some benchmark date (I think it is 2020). The best link for the series seems to be here. The program on Sept. 2 was "Time for School 3".

In Afghanistan, teenage girls go to school at some risk of retaliation from the Taliban in some tribal villages. One girl has twelve siblings and says it is very difficult to keep up with school work and do all the domestic house work expected of girls but not done by boys. If some tribal areas, the schools themselves have to deal with threats from the Taliban or other radical Islamist groups. The same is likely to be true in many tribal areas of Pakistan.

In Brazil, kids in a shantytown near Rio de Janeiro go to a Christmas party with presents ironically provided (as well as physical protection) by a drug cartel.

In Japan, almost all kids get to high school, and a boy approaches middle school already diligent about becoming a baseball player, probably aiming at MLB in the US. His mother wonders if he understands that in many countries kids have to work to support their parents and especially younger siblings and that they cannot take education for granted. That sometimes happens in lower income or certain working class “proletariat” communities (like among coal miners) in the IS.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

ABC Primetime "Outsiders": Alaska man lives with the bears, threatened by state

ABC Primetime “Outsiders” aired a libertarian-oriented wildlife story on September 1. It was “Wild in Alaska: Charlie Vandergaw Shares Home With Grizzlies” 71-Year-Old Former Hunter Says Bears Are Habituated, but Others Claim He Is Tempting Fate”, by Kimberly Launier and Jay Schadler,” with link here, shows Charlie Vandergaw, a retired science teacher now about 70, in his environment with “human” bears-- like people.

State authorities keep closing in, and may prosecute him for feeding bears without the intention to hunt, an odd law. His last act of forced legal self defense was to build an electric fence around his own house, and put the bait (from a legal license) out a mile from his cabin where he thinks hunters won’t look.

Jay Schadler is surprised by the proximity of the bears – both black bears, and a young female grizzly bear named Cookie. (Grizzly bears raised as tame when young tend to get wilder as they mature.) A British photographer films, and his filming is used by the state in prosecution. Charlie can get between a mama black bear and her cub and get away with it, but gradually the bears start to snipe, including biting the photographer in the leg.

Would Sarah Palin have shown any libertarian streak? He has not fed any bears since the beginning of 2008.

Attribution link for Alaska Railroad picture, here.