Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dr. Phil covers the responsibilities of "voluntary" motherhood; what about the other direction?

The New Years Eve Dr. Phil show (number 1313) presented the view of motherhood as absolute personal choice and absolute personal responsibility.

The show started with reports of two people arrested for spanking other people’s kids in public, but moved quickly to the subject of motherhood as a choice that brings responsibilities.

One mother, Maria, decided to give custody of her children to their father so she could pursue her lifetime dream of travel and writing a book. Dr. Phil presented the view of having a baby as a contract, because the baby is brought into the world “involuntarily” so the parent agrees to be completely responsible for the baby.

Then the show presented a fifteen year old girl who says she wants to have ten children. Her parents won’t let her date until age 16. Dr. Phil did the math, which says that raising ten kids would cost $1.4 million. The girl also wants to go to drama school. Dr. Phil pointed out that in New York actors starting out scrap for jobs and may make less than $25000 a year. I wonder what soap opera actors make; soap opera is grueling work; I know that from having worked on a set in the 1970s.

Dr. Phil had the girl spend a day with a family with four children, playing “The Baby Borrowers”.

Of course, there is a crowd that preaches about “demographic winter” and says that people are economically disincentivized to have children or particularly large families. There is also a question of filial responsibility, especially relevant for the childless and for smaller families. Do adult children have an ethical and legal obligation to support their parents – not a choice? In 28 states the law says that they do. Dr. Phil has never covered that topic as far as I know.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

PBS WETA: Washington in the 60s

On Dec. 30, 2009 PBS WETA aired the one hour documentary “Washington in the 60s”, tracing the changes in Washington DC during the 1960s, starting with the Kennedy presidency (inaugurated right after blizzard that I remember) which made much less change to segregation than would be expected.

The link is here. There is a link to the preview video (no embed code) in the middle of the page.

The film spends some space on the building of RFK stadium, opening in 1962, and the departure of the “old” Washington Senators in 1960 and the expansion team that followed that was even more incompetently managed. (The old Senators were starting to get better and became the Minnesota Twins.) The film covers the Kennedy assassination briefly, followed by the arrival of the Beatles in a February 1964 snowstorm.

In 1964 DC residents got to vote for president for the first time. People had all kinds of ways to rationalize the lack of home rule and representation, largely rooted in race and segregation. Maury Povich and Rev. Walter Fountroy often appear in the film.

The film covers the 1963 March on Washington (the new Senators would drop a lopsided doubleheader to the Twins the day after the March, 14-2 and 10-1). At the time I had started my first job, in the rheology laboratories at the National Bureau of Standards on the old Federal City College campus at Van Ness St. and Connecticut.

The film moves to covering the destructive 1968 riots, after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, while I was in Army Basic Training (I remember the “red alert”). It also covers the anti Vietnam war and anti-draft protests.

Monday, December 28, 2009

PBS: Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind 'Little Women' on American Masters

On Monday Dec. 28 PBS aired an American Masters episode, “Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women”. The PBS link for the show seems to be in an informal blog, here. There is also an American Master’s link here.

She wrote children’s books “to pay the bills”, and wrote “pulp fiction” with violence under a pen name. She lived part of her life in a commune and was very dedicated to family, raising her sister’s child after that child’s death, and taking care of her father. She also worked as a seamstress, governess, and teacher. (Compare her to the heroine of “Cold Mountain”, she could “darn”.)

She apparently developed systemic lupus erythematosus, and then would eventually die of a stroke, not knowing that her father had passed away.

Her famous “Little Women” was somewhat autobiographical, and seemed to sum up writing career than had been shaped by the practical needs of the market as well as her own interests and passions. She followed the dictum “write what other people want!”

Sunday, December 27, 2009

60 Minutes: CIA: Existential fight is in Pakistan, not Afghanistan or Iraq

On CBS 60 Minutes Sunday night, Lara Logan reported (in a segment called "Out of the Shadows") on ex-CIA operative Henry Crumpton, who has some advice for Obama administration policy advisers. The Taliban and Al Qaeda (while distinct) are exchanging “genes” in Pakistan right now, he says; they’re leaving the less valued components to be mopped up by US and British forces in Afghanistan. And he says that this is an existential battle: Al Qaeda fully intends a future attack on homeland USA that outdoes 9/11 (the 2009 Christmas Day Incident in Detroit doesn’t count). These are the “forces of darkness” just as in the movies. They will not leave us alone.

Crumpton showed the vantage point from which the CIA watched the Taliban in 2001, in which the US drove out the Taliban in eight weeks. What was interesting was that “civilian” CIA employees (presumably not under the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy) were as instrumental as was military intelligence and function in a military-like manner.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Saturday, December 26, 2009

CNN covers Detroit Incident all day; passenger becomes a media Hero

Today CNN spent all day covering the Incident in Detroit, with one of the most remarkable moments being an interview by Frederica Whitfield with passenger Jasper Schuringa, who helped subdue Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the Delta airbus shortly after noon Christmas Day.

The Huffington Post reports that Schuringa (a Dutch tourist with perfect English with little accent) “tackled” the suspect, link here. Schuringa seems to have become an instant media star, with the bandages. Huffington Post showed his Facebook image, link here.

CNN aired a special report at 8 PM, and then continued the subject on Larry King Live. Lawyer Richard Herman suggested that the suspect would certainly be convicted and spend the rest of his life in prison in supermax in Colorado. The suspect, not intending to survive, is left to live out his years with humiliating injuries on top of everything.

But one of the most important points was that passengers of El Al (Israel’s airline) are considered deputized members of the military and are responsible for subduing passengers. But on Flight 253, as well as United 93 in 2001, passengers have risen to the occasion.

The latest CNN Justice story on the suspect is here. As with the 9/11 perpetrators, the "privileged background" of the suspect is striking, and generates anger. Perhaps his "karma" would have been satisfied by being born into a poor family in his country, orphaned, and forced to raise siblings in poverty. There's no reason why that can't happen to any particular "soul."

Passengers are affected by the sudden increase in TSA screening and conduct rules in flight (no movement or use of carryon during the last 60 minutes of flight). It's unclear if the suspect "acted alone." The CNN coverage makes it sound as if this incident were planned and it sounds like the kind of plotting that used to happen in Alfred Hitchcock's international spy movies (like "Notorious"). Here is TSA's statement.

Wikipedia attribution link for Detroit skyline. I last visited in Sept. 1984.

Friday, December 25, 2009

PBS: "Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037; Independent Lens: Between the Folds: origami

On Christmas Night, PBS WETA in Washington rebroadcast the one hour documentary “Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037,” directed by Ben Pines, link here. The film can be viewed in segments on YouTube here.

Steinway & Sons is probably the most revered piano manufacturer in the world. It has manufacturing plants in Queens, NY (there is a street named after the company), and Hamburg Germany. The film showed the process of manufacturing a piano, which takes about an elapsed year, in Astoria, Queens. Many workers were shown. The company does much more by hand than any other piano manufacturer. There are many highly skilled craft jobs with specialized tools, including “tone regulator.”

Several pianists appear, and these include Helene Grimaud, Harry Connick Jr., Hank Jones, and Marcus Roberts. Music by Mozart, Beethoven (Sonata 4), Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Scarlatti, Liszt, and Debussy was excerpted.
Wikipedia attribution link for Steinway Piano number 500000, link here.

Christmas night WETA also showed an Independent Lens documentary by Vanessa Gould, “Between the Folds”, link here. The 50 minute documentary presents the art of origami, the making of art objects merely by folding paper. A mathematics teacher shows how a sequence of square folds leads to a three dimensional object that in space looks like a hyperbolic curve. Various branches of mathematics link together with this topic. So the old kid-stuff of making paper airplanes (or footballs for lunchtime games) has become a real art form. Origama has real applications in biology, as in understand how DNA works, or in tracing certain brain diseases (like kuru) that result from folding of certain cells, and in designing pharmaceuticals.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dr. Phil explores disclosures of "bisexuality "

Today, Dec. 24, Dr. Phil presented a program on “surprises in relationships”. He first replayed the “scandal” involving Senator John Edwards, who first denied an affair and then admitted it.

But then he went into several cases of women telling lovers or family members that they are lesbian or bisexual. In one case, a woman got over an alcohol problem and came to terms with her sexuality, and told her boyfriend. In another case, a woman had a baby by in vitro and then began to experience feelings for men. An expert (recommended by GLAD) discussed the apparent incidence of bisexuality in women, which may be more a matter of terminology.

Dr. Phil then presented a mother who was disturbed and shocked by her teen daughter’s declaration of bisexuality. The mother had kicked the daughter out of the house. Dr. Phil did say that 16 was too young to experiment sexually in any manner. But Dr. Phil also talked about the problem of suicide among gay teens (as in the Lifetime movie, “Prayers for Bobbie”, discussed on the movie blog Jan. 24, 2009) .

He talked about the book “I Want: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life”, from HCI, by news anchor Jane Velez-Mitchell. Dr. Phil asked if that would affect her elevision Nielsen ratings, and it did not. "You wouldn't worry about what people thought of you if you knew how seldom they did."

Dr. Phil discounted all the Freudian myths about the “cause” of homosexuality, despite having had anti-gay “expert” Joseph Nicolosi on his program last year (books blog Jan 21, 2009).

The show number for the transcript on the Dr. Phil site is 1319.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CNN LKL explores life after death, reincarnation

On Tuesday Dec. 22, Jeff Probst hosted a discussion of “life after death” and “near death experiences” on CNN’s Larry King Live. The transcript is here.

The panel included Sanjay Gupta, and Deepak Chopra, author of “Life After Death”, as well as Denish D’Souza, author of “Life After Death: The Evidence” (Regnery, reviewed here on the books blog Nov. 9, 2009).

There was a general impression that the soul exists outside of space-time (perhaps in other unseen dimensions), and is not “inside the body” any more than an image of someone on television means that the person is “inside” the television. The body is a way for the soul to have experience, but it will have continuity before and after death, which are opposing, balancing processes. The soul cannot be destroyed.

Then the question of reincarnation appears. About 100 billion people have ever lived, far too many to be accounted for by the people alive today. Perhaps souls could undergo “contraction” or “compaction” or “mergers.” Perhaps that number 144000 in Revelations really means something.

The program presented an eleven year old boy who claims to have memories of the life of a fighter pilot. Sometimes people are born with birth marks that match the wounds of previous incarnations.

When I was in the dorm at the University of Kansas in the mid 1960s, some students believed in reincarnation. We even tried hypnosis, and a roommate claimed to have lived on a ranch in Missouri in the 19th Century. During hypnosis, I found that my arm would elevate at the command of the hypnotist.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Discovery Channel runs "Who Was Jesus?" with political allegories

The Discovery Channel has been running a series “Who Was Jesus?” (Monday Dec. 21) and the episode about Jesus’s boyhood was particularly interesting politically.

Scientists in Scotland reconstructed what the face of the boy would have looked like. The program maintains that Jesus had several siblings, was not the oldest, and that Joseph was probably a mason rather than a carpenter, and that Jesus was probably born in a cave or basement of a building, not a manger of a stable.

The Romans had rebuilt the nearby cities to their taste, with divisions between the rich and poor. Jesus and his family would walk to the cities to sell goods, and Jesus would learn that the divisions between rich and poor were more a matter of birth circumstance than justice.

It was dangerous to travel far because people who had dropped out of the system sometimes became bandits, so families traveled in groups. In Jerusalem, Jesus saw how the rabbis who consorted with the Romans were rich and lived well.

Many of the parables would be based on these boyhood experiences.

Here is a Discovery link.

Monday, December 21, 2009

CBS "The Doctors" covers H1N1

Today, Monday Dec. 21, the CBS daytime series “The Doctors” aired “The Flu Show: Everything You Need to Know About the Flu”.

The virus tends to burrow more into the lungs and GI track more than seasonal flu, so some people will get untreatable pneumonias. Pregnant women (about 1% of the population and 6% of the H1N1 deaths) have reduced immunity in order to avoid rejecting the unborn, but the baby does get the benefit of placental antibodies.

The handsome younger doctor appears to be Travis Stork (an ironic name). The show ended with his health tips, which included avoided refined sugar, which he says reduces immune function, and alcohol.

Older people seem to have residual antibodies to H1N1 from decades ago.

The vaccine was said to be very safe, with the nasal vaccine recommended only up to age 49.

The show began with a visit to the inside of CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fareed Zakaria GPS introduces Nathan Myhrvold and his plan to counteract global warming with an artificial volcano

Today, Sunday December 20, Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square on CNN introduced Nathan Myhrvold, founder of “Intellectual Ventures” which purports to offer capital to inventors. His basic link is here.

Myhrvold has an interesting proposal regarding global warming: geoengineering. He proposes, at extreme latitudes, to pump some sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere with gigantic garden hoses to produce a “volcano” effect, slightly reflecting the sun’s rays in order to counteract the effect of carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmostphere. Here’s a Business and Media Institute article on the idea (link) by Carolyn Plocher and Matt Philbin.

Myhrvold points out that even if the we stopped pumping carbon into the atmosphere today, the carbon that is there would remain a long time. Lowering carbon emissions alone may be inadequate to prevent a runaway catastrophe. There are many possible tipping points, including the melting of ice caps, the flooding out of the Gulf Stream from melted glaciers, or the release of methane from hydrates. Politically, it’s difficult to expect developing countries with a lower standard of living than the West to make the sacrifices when the West polluted the world first. Myhrgold, with some introspective distance, did address the “Calvinistic” view that individuals should change their values and lifestyles in order to consume much less – maybe live like the Amish.

Zakaria also interviewed Vali Nasr, who argues that economic improvement and modernism will make Islam more temperate even if it remains an emphasis on piety. Nasr’s latest book is Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and W hat It Will Mean for Our

Zakaria’s Briefing Book for today is this.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

CNN: "Faith & Money: In God We Trust"

On Saturday December 19 CNN’s Campbell Brown hosted a one-hour news show “Faith & Money in America: In God We Trust”.

Brown showed three religious families: an evangelical Christian family with three kids, an orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, and a young Muslim woman. All three families were very devoted to tithing or giving the appropriate amount and saw themselves as members of a fellowship as much as individuals. Most believed in staying away from credit cards or overconsuming media items. The Jewish family paid more to be within walking distanceof synagogue and pay much more for food than others in order to conform to religious rules.

Brown interviewed Houston mega-church pastor Joel Osteen, who does not consider money itself to be the root of evil, but rather the “love of money”. Brown had quizzed him about Christ and passing a camel through the eye of a needle (as being easier than a rich or “self-sufficient” man from reaching the Kingdom of God).

Brown interviewed Mitch Albom, author of “Have a Little Faith” about how donations repaired a church in Detroit.

She interviewed a social critic who says we need to learn to think "we" rather than "me", like the early Christians, who practiced communal socialism.

The program covered lobbying and religion, and presented a nun who works as a lobbyist for religious advocacy of social justice.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bill Moyers covers bank attitudes on helping homeowners

Bill Moyers Journal on PBS tonight (Dec. 18) presented “community organizer” Steven Meachem of “City Life/Vita Urbana” (link), who helps organize or motivate foreclosure eviction blockades.

Meachem maintains that banks are refusing to negotiate with homeowners who could pay what a fair mortgage on what the home is really worth and what a bank could get for it, because the banks are addicted to a notion called “moral hazard.” He says that dealing with homeowners is really in their own best interest. He has helped organize demonstrations with police tapes reading “white collar crime scene”.

The link is here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"The Rapture" episode of "Nostradamus Effect" on History Channel

On Wednesday, Dec. 16, The History Channel aired a particularly interesting episode of “The Nostradamus Effect”, namely “The Rapture”. Here is a typical descriptive link. It says "The History Channel missed the point!"

The “Nostradamus Effect” refers to the confluence of an ancient prophecy paralleled in modern events. There is a tendency that when people believe something will happen, they behave as if to make it happen.

The show starts out with dramatization of the Rapture, with people simply vaporizing into thin air. Soon there is a theological discussion of “pre-tribulationism”, popular now, with “post-tribulationism”, often preached in the South in the 1980s.

The show also examined the effect on those who remain after a Rapture. The government could conceivably blame terrorists, and imagine some bizarre technology involving strangelets. There would be unbelievable carnage on highways and in various systems. Fires would break out and no one could put them out. Martial law would be declared. Freedom as we know it for those left behind would come to an end.

There is something about a focus on the Rapture, saying that “God” will separate the good people from the bad people and cast the unbelievers aside. The concept appeals to those who want to divide people and find a reason for a winnowing process, based on some immutable code of morality.

The show then goes into discussions of the Anti-Christ, who the show says may not even know he is the Anti-Christ.

The show mentions the idea that a huge San Andreas earthquake could trigger the Mono Lake supervolcano and cause a global tribulation.

Here's a typical YouTube "warning" video.

The film compares the Second Coming with Noah’s Great Flood (as in the movie 2012).

The show provides a reason to revisit the 1991 film form Fine Line by Michael Tolkin, “The Rapture.”

Imagine a movie called "The Rapture of the Believers".

The final speculation was a global earthquake that levels every mountain and brings us all down to sea level to be flooded out by global warming. As Al Gore says, nature does not do bailouts.

Believers are supposed to get a seal that protects them. The number 144,000 who are protected (mentioned in a few places) is mentioned (typical link).

So, if some day you hear on the news (like CNN) that billions of people have vanished, watch out. You know you didn't get taken. And CNN, MSNBC, etc won't stay online long if that really happens!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dr. Phil and "Anti-social networking": getting off tech addiction

Dr. Phil’s show title today Wednesday December 16, 2009 sounds like an oxymoron: “Anti-social networking”. It’s one of those cute shows for ordinary daytime audiences like “Internet mistakes” a couple years ago. Here’s the link. There is a transcript and non-embeddable video to watch there.

The show covered the online reputation issues (with employers) as on previous shows (that is, in a digital world privacy is gone and images and messages last forever), but this time the emphasis was on divorce lawyers, as on a recent ABC Good Morning America segment. Innocuous postings on Facebook or Blogger lead to loss of alimony or loss of custody in these cases. Don’t post pictures of your vacation in Barbados or of your recent Porsche purchase (divorce lawyers call this “getting tagged”). And don’t “talk smack” (badly about the judges or courts hearing your case) online.

The rest of the show covered addiction to cell phone use. Particularly galling is the danger of texting while driving, as with a case of a teenager who struck and killed an elderly man while driving while texting. But more to the point of the show was the way digital communications have taken over the lives of some families.

An appealing teenager agreed to be without his cell phone for 24 hours, during which he got 73 messages while playing outside in the California sun. The teen said that teenager break up dating relationships with text messages because that way they don’t have to face a response for the “rejection”.

Experts warned that parents need to watch not only their kids' computers (put in a public place) and cell phones, but also games, which themselves can go on the Internet.

Dr. Phil said that someone had set up a phony Twitter account in his name, and several thousand people who think they are following him really aren't.

Remember, South Korea actually has clinics for "Internet addcition."

Monday, December 14, 2009

"The Power of the Poor" on PBS examines the transformation of the "extra-legal" economy in Peru

On Monday Dec. 14, PBS Weta aired “The Power of the Poor” (web URL link here) The main website for the documentary is here.

Tonight, the show examined the “extra-legal” economy in Peru, which has developed as people migrate from subsistence farming and move to towns and cities. An extra-legal culture has popular support (like the Boston Tea Party) but lives outside the law. People work farms and small businesses without formal title to land or other property.

In Peru, a Maoist group called the Shining Path tried to bring about the Communist version of “equality”, but the end result is that ordinary people cannot own private property legally, only in common, in a manner determined by bureaucrats. So poor people suffer from circularity; since they never had title to land, they cannot get title.

A reformer named Fernando De Soto and his group the ILD took on the Shining Path in the early 1990s, and Maoists took on activities that resemble urban terrorism today. DeSoto had borrowed ideas from Swiss theorist Eugen Huber. DeSoto started working on a way to give the poor property titles, which of course took on the Shining Path, which wanted a “revolution” rather than real grass roots business opportunities and home ownership for the poor

Gradually, reforms took hold in Peru and have entitled over half of all Peruvians to own their own land.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"The People Speak" (History Channel)

The People Speak” is a two-hour documentary on the History Channel that aired Dec. 13, link here.

The documentary starts in Boston with Howard Zinn speaking. (site) Zinn is the author of “A People’s History of the United States.” Various other speakers lead lines written by founding fathers, as if to paraphrase them, in Colonial Williamsburg’s “Revolutionary City” style. The presentation is punctuated with musical and jazz performances.

Zinn points out that the original Declaration of Independence talks about the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and that in the Constitution it got changed to “life, liberty and property.” He also comments on the controversy over needing a Bill of Rights (1791), and that freedom of speech as we know it today was not an original constitutional concept.

Later the dialogue covers the ironic inequities in conscription, ranging from the Civil War draft riots in New York to the objection to service in the Vietnam war.

The need for collective action and organizing to address the huge “inheritied” disparities between rich and poor, is hit hard. The dialogue covers “waiting for Roosevelt.”

Many other celebrities, such as Morgan Freeman, Ralph Nader, David Straithain, and Matt Damon (from "Grapes of Wrath"), read.

Mart Twain (Samuel Clemens) is said to have been against American expansion overseas.

The song “Ohio” in response to the Kent State shooting in 1970 is performed.

"Great moments in history are made by those who would speak up even when it was unpopular".

Wikipedia attribution link for map of Kent State

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Taylor Lautner, 17, may be SNL's youngest host ever

Michigan born Taylor Lautner (“Twilight: New Moon”) hosted Saturday Night Live on Dec. 12. Still 17, he may be the youngest host ever. (They can’t serve any booze at SNL tonight, or do other grown-up things.) He says that he was “-18” as a baby in Heaven when SNL started.

He didn’t plan to be a comedian, he says; no, a werewolf. That’s odd, given how smooth – well, remember the two characters in John Landis’s “An American Werewolf in London” (1982) with all the decapitations at the end.

Taylor (who says he is best friends with Taylor Swift) started out with a lot of tumbling, following the example a few weeks ago of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I don’t think Robert Pattinson could jump the same hoops (he looked too pale in the movie).

Jon Bon Jovi (recently featured in the Bravo Actor’s Studio) provided music.

There was plenty of fun poked at Tiger Woods. The media (and PGA Tour) just focuses too much on him.

Seth Meyers, on the Weekend Update, used an interesting pun regarding the attendees at Copenhagen. And he imparted to Bruce Springsteen the power to end the war in Afghanistan, because he is married. I guess Meyers reads George Gilder. Marriage is difficult. There were some jokes about texting while walking kids to school, and about diabetes – all irreverent.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Smallville echos major sci-fi concepts: will our brains become twitter machines?

Friday Dec. 11, two reruns of Season 9 Smallville episodes certainly presented interesting concepts. In “Rabid”, a virus causes people to become mad (the program notes says zombies), pretty much a replay of “Resident Evil”, “28 Days Later” and “Quarantine”. The virus incubates while people sleep, reminding me of a boyhood fear of getting sick in the night. I suppose this episode could fit on my “disaster movies blog.”

But in “Echo”, Clark, as the benevolent extraterrestrial aka human, gets the temporary ability to read people’s minds. It’s like texting and tweets carried one more level -- a concept that we could really face some day. Nothing is private anymore. And Oliver Queen is not comfortable reading teleprompters.

CWTV requires you to download an updated video player to watch its episodes. The other stations don't do that. Why?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Mercy": another interesting medical series

Mercy”, on NBC, created by Liz Heldens, seems to provide some moral medical dilemmas that are more pointed that those in most series. The show focuses around three nurses at Mercy Hospital.

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, the episode was “Some of Us Have Been to the Desert”. A young musician (Ward Horton) faces a double lung transplant, but refuses to go through with the enormous preparations and simply wants to live the rest of his life and enjoy it. It starts with the breathing exercises (familiar to me when I was in bed with an acetabular fracture in 1998), then to being on a waiting list, and then to prospects to total body irradiation to prepare him to accept a transplant. A doctor, after signing a death certificate, deliberately falls and claims he is paralyzed, and seems to be malingering. But this is a known psychiatric disorder.

A mother plans to give up her baby for adoption, but has second thoughs when going through the demanding physical experience of actual childbirth.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

All Gore on CNN "American Morning": global warming is real, and it is manmade; look at the glaciers

Al Gore spoke to CNN “American Morning” on Wednesday December 9. That the climate is changing at an accelerating rate (using acceleration and derivative as a calculus concept) in inconvertible, given that the North Polar Ice Cap has suddenly lost 40% of its mass and that high mountain glaciers as in Peru and Africa (over 18000 feet) are disappearing. “Republican” detractors from the global warming debate simply are pulling “observations” out of context.

Gore is mixed on nuclear power, saying that the cost has brought it to a standstill in the US, but it is effective overseas (look at France), even though it makes nuclear materials potentially availbale to the wrong hands.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

ABC "Clean Skies" covers upcoming Copenhagen Climate Talks, Marcellus Shale

Tyler Suiters hosted Clean Skies Sunday on ABC and discussed the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Talks Dec. 7-18, on climate change.

Andrew Light, Center for American Progress spoke about how Congress would follow up on the conference. The president will not attend until toward the end.

A major portion of the half-hour program concerned developing natural gas shale, which would fit in to the Pickens Plan to increase natural gas production (and use) and reduce oil consumption. There was discussion of the Marcellus Shale formation, which roughly follows the Appalachians, although not always in the same areas as coal (some of it is farther East). Here is a link. Natural gas shale can be drilled thousands of feet underground with “horizontal drilling”. Apparently it does not involve strip mining or mountaintop removal. The program did show one unusual surface outcropping of shale. However oil shale mining in Colorado in the early 1980s was messy. Tar sands mining in northern Alberta is also controversial.

See also June 28, 2009 on this blog.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

NBC Dateline: "The Trial of Amanda Knox"

On Friday December 4, 2009 NBC Dateline presented the one hour “The Trial of Amanda Knox” report, tracing the history of the case back to All Saints Day in 2007. The link is here.

The most interesting part of the history of the case seems to be the supposed disagreement between Amanda and her roommate (the victim) over the roommate’s taking a bar job from her and for the roommate’s resenting her values and lifestyle (a familiar problem).

The documentary recounts her evening out on Nov. 1, at the movies and partying, and the slow realization that something was wrong when she came home to the rented cottage in Perugia.

However, as the report develops, it becomes apparent that there was no real forensic evidence tying Amanda to the crime, for which another man (Rudy Guede) had already been convicted. Handsome boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was also convicted. There was also a defamation trial brought by bar owner Patrick Lumumba, an odd concept.

Legal experts say that the fact that Amanda and Raffaele got less than the maximum sentences leaves wiggle room for appeal in the Italian system. See my International issues blog.

The MSNBC report has an interview with Newsweek reporter Barbie Nadeau.

NBC Dateline is big on criminal investigation stories, and the show about the "Bird Rock Bandits" in San Diego earlier this year was particularly popular.

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA photo of Italy Attribution link for an wind turbine image from Italy.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ellen DeGeneres is in her "Twelve Days of Giveaways"; She puts her star reporter Andy Zenor through "Tribunals"; Toby Maguire is not Peter Parker

Ellen DeGeneres is in her Twelve days of Giveaways (not Oprah’s “Big Give” although I think Ellen could invite Nate Berkus some time) on her daytime show, where today she featured actor Tobey Maguire, known not just as Spiderman’s Peter Parker (“with great powers come great responsibility”) but as a gentler young man in movies like Pleasantville and “The Cider House Rules.” She featured a clip from Lionsgate’s “Brothers” where Maguire plays a disturbed young soldier returned from Afghanistan. Maguire talked about being a new father. Here's the direct link to her preview video today.

Minnie Driver also appeared.

But the funniest segment was the bookending appearance of her own handsome blond celebrity reporter, Andy Zenor. Remember the handwritten sign in the time-moves-backward movie “Memento” (Christopher Nolan) “shave thigh”. Well, Ellen did it to Andy today. Then later she went for “just” his new beard. But Andy, just as he did at the Emmy’s in September at the hands of Steve Moyer, went through Tribunals. He’s married, so he’s not perfect; there is a bit of a widow’s peak already. But Ellen won't care.

If you go to my “drama” and music blog, you’ll see some more implicit suggestions for guests on Ellen.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

ABC's "Private Practice": a sequence of situations and issues

ABC presented a two-hour (two episode) “Private Practice” tonight, Thursday, December 3, 2009. The series, created by Shonda Rhimes and others, is said to be a spin-off of “Grey’s Anatomy”.

The show, like most medical drama (this one is supposed to have a touch of comedy), seems like a series of medical and personal situations. One of the most challenging was brain surgery on the unborn child, where the older mother was carrying an implanted egg fertilized by her husband.

Later there is a discussion on the position of Judaism and contraception, and to what extent the Biblical command “be fruitful and multiply” has any real application in modern moral debate.

A mother (Heather) talks about her decision and marry and become a stay-at-home mom instead of have a “career”. “I wasn’t in love with my husband, but I loved him.” Then she lectures her daughter on the sacrifices a mother makes when she has children (even if she really loves women). (There is a similar “tirade” at motherly sacrifice in the film “Precious”.) It's as if mothers should not be "judged" by the "earnings test" of a competitive, individualistic society. An explosion results in Heather’s being burned, with some gruesome medical details as to her gradual and unavoidable death even as she sometimes tries to rally.

Remember the world of Ben Casey?

There will be a Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice "crossover" on Jan. 14, 2010. Crossovers sometimes happen in soap operas (whole characters get exported).

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Obama speech hits hard on deterioration in Afghanistan, and on existential threat to US

President Obama, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, delivered a major address this evening on his plans for Afghanistan, at the United States Military Academy, Eisenhower Hall, at West Point, NY. It was carried on all major networks. I watched it on NBC.

The sight of a few thousand cadets in gray uniforms was impressive. I noticed one cadet falling asleep! Too many exams? All should graduate with commissions as 2nd Lieutenants, platoon leaders.

The president minced no words, about the danger that radical Islam represents if it is able to regroup in Afghanistan, including the likelihood of further major attacks within the United States. He mentioned the cache of small nuclear weapons in Pakistan. He summarized 9/11 and mentioned other attacks overseas since then, including Bali, Spain and London.

He presented George W. Bush’s War in Iraq as a bit of a diversion, that has allowed the situation in Afghanistan to slowly degrade, as if by half-lives.

He promised a commitment of 30000 more troops in early 2010, but promised a withdrawal in 2011, which could be criticized as allowing the Taliban to wait the deployment out, a point made by John McCain.

In some sense, that reminds one of William C. Westmoreland’s call for more troops for Vietnam repeatedly in the 1960s, when there was a draft. But the president pointed out that there are many differences between Vietnam and the conflict in Afghanistan.

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I visited the grounds of West Point in September 1994, some time after the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy had been implemented during the Clinton administration. I saw a display of sample barracks, with the emphasis on room and uniform inspections as one way to gain unit cohesion.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. Army photo of the USMA at West Point.