Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ABC Primetime shows Texas family dealing with Alzheimer's; Nightline shows shocking Alzheimer's experiment with ordinary people


ABC Primetime (“Family Secrets”), on Tuesday June 30, aired a particularly painful segment about a middle aged couple in west Texas, recently remarried into second marriages, nearly driven to divorce by the husband’s mother with Alzheimer’s disease, whom she starts caring for five weeks after the marriage. The couple tries several arrangements, including building a separate small apartment house for the mother, but her need for attention causes resentment on the wife. She smokes, raising fire risks (as well as questions of causation). Eventually the husband is not able to care for her as much. Sometimes she is left alone, and sometimes her sister (herself recovering from breast cancer) cares for her. She wanders and drives when she is not allowed to. Adult protective services visits at least once. ABC filmed for over four years.

The story, by Cynthia McFadden, Robbie Gordon and Rashida Johnson is “Ultimate Love Triangle: Mother-in-Law's Alzheimer's Disease Strains Marriage: Stress of Caring for Aging Relative Pits Husband Against Wife, Sending Family Into Turmoil”, link here.

The ABC webpage has several supplements, including “The voices of Alzheimer’s caregivers”, “Puzzling out 10 Alzheimer’s myths” and “Send in your questions”.

Dr. Peter Whitehouse, at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, regards Alzheimer’s as a natural course of aging rather than a specific disease, but there is overwhelming information about plaques and vascular changes in the brain in many other media sources. The myths include the idea that the disease occurs only with age, or must accompany age. Alzheimer’s is almost certainly not caused by aluminum, vaccinations, or artificial sweeteners.

On ABC Nightline, Cynthia McFadden and the husband (“Blaine”) try an experiment simulating Alzheimer’s. The don dark glasses simulating cataracts and macular degeneration, hand numbing gloves, uncomfortable footware, and most of all “Bluetooth” earphones with schizophrenia-like noises. Neither subject can complete the tasks assigned in twelve minutes. The distraction and sensory distraction causes quick memory loss. This was a shocking experiment.

History Channel: "Secrets of the Founding Fathers" and the Freemasons


On Monday June 29, the History Channel aired “Secrets of the Founding Fathers,” a two hour film, with link here.

The premise of the film is that many of the founding fathers, including some “anti-founders” like Benedict Arnold (or John Hancock, “the first terrorist”), were Freemasons.

An early episode in the film simulates George Washington going to an initiation ritual, and being placed in a state between dress and undress, before taking the rites. (Imagination can rule here.) There is discussion of the “square and compass” figure and the metaphor of “God and geometry.” (God cannot overturn the rules of mathematics, but he can determine the geometry of space-time.) Later the film covers much of the history of Benjamin Franklin, and how his activities and beliefs helped support the American Revolution and probably the French Revolution.

The Freemason movement, according to the film, grew out of the trade unions and guilds, and sifted religious belief down to some fundamentals in such a way as to make separation of church and state a desirable political goal.

The film also traced possible connections of the Freemasons and even the Founding Fathers back to the Knights Templar or their families.

The film connects the layout of Washington DC and many of the buildings to the Freemasons. There is discussion of the pyramid, and the “seeing eye” on it; once one is a Freemason, one is a member for life.

There is a blog “Freemasons for Dummies” by Christopher Hodapp, link here that gives a perspective.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

CBS 60 Minutes: Mind reading, telepathy, and Internet gambling hacks


Tonight, June 28, Lesley Stahl reported on “mind reading” on CBS 60 Minutes.


Watch CBS Videos Online

The report presented experiments that mapped every concept (like “hammer” “house”) with a point-set with in the brain, so reliably among subjects that a computer could deduce from an MRI which objects a subject had seen.

Whereas the Internet has obviously provided challenges to privacy unimagined twenty years ago, mind reading could take this to a new level. New lie detector tests (“No Lie MRI”) could come on line, but various invisible scanning tools (such as laser scans of people’s brains at airport security) could come into use.

There will certainly occur constitutional issues as to whether “mind reading” technology breaches 5th Amendment protections against self-incrimination. We already know that DNA samples do not.

I have a science fiction script where people use telepathy, stimulated by certain bodily rituals, as instant communication instead of email, on another planet. Also, the telepathy, since it is “information”, is allowed to violate the speed of light law.

It might be possible for people to control the actions of a computer with thought, but this would be a most dangerous opportunity. Imagine if a programmer could update production files with telepathy and get around security access.

Ideas about telepathy comport with “New Age” (“witchcraft”) ideas that people create realities for themselves with their thoughts.

60 Minutes tonight also carried a big story about creating at Internet poker. Since this is largely illegal in the US by federal law (see Wall Street Journal story by Corey Boles and Jeff Bater, Nov. 13, 2008, here), most online betting is run by offshore servers, especially on one particular Indian reservation in Quebec. The story traced how an “employee” hacked into the server so that he could see the poker hands.

I used to have a site called “hppub.com” (for “High Productivity Publishing”). I gave up that name in 2005 when I folded it into doaskdotell.com, but then hppub.com got picked up by an offshore gaming site. Then that folded and now it is a Danish site about Internet speech and culture with ideas similar to what I had on my hppub.com site. Very interesting, at least for me.

"Clean Skies" televises mountaintop removal (strip mine) hearings


The half-hour program “Clean Skies”, on Sunday June 28, on ABC affiliates (WJLA in Washington DC) aired a 15 minute report on mountaintop removal strip mining, mainly in southern West Virginia.

There is a six-minute video of the Senate hearing on mountaintop removal at the Clean Skies site here. Senator Ben Carlin said that the technique is unnecessary.



The report showed the underground coal mine exhibit in Beckley, W Va (which I visited in May 1991). It also covered the problem if coal dust accumulation in many communities.

An activist in Raleigh County W Va wants to place windmills on top of West Virginia ridges rather than tearing them down and making much of West Virginia an extension of the American Midwest.

Open pit mining for other minerals can remove even more overburden than for coal. I visited the Anaconda Copper mine in Montana in May 1981 (in snow); I’ve seen an asbestos mine in southern Quebec.

Picture: Reclaimed strip mine between Mt. Storm and Davis, W Va, along highway 93, taken by me Aug. 31, 2004. I was almost arrested for trespassing here when taking pictures when active mining went on, July 31, 1971.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

NBC Today: Michael Jackson had done "We Are the World" in 1985; a personal memory from Big D


The NBC Today show coverage of Michael Jackson this morning mentioned a number of his its, most notably “We Are the World” from 1985, cowritten by Lionel Richie, with USA for Africa.

I was living in Dallas then and remember a downtown celebration that year, with a boyfriend who would later succumb to AIDS after what, by the standards of the time, seemed like a heroic recovery or almost a resurrection. Another song of that era was “Beat It”.

The MSNBC story by Marc Hirsch is here.

Lester Holt on NBC reviews Jackson’s music here:



Attribution link for Wikimedia Commons picture of Dallas from Trinity River; note terms of license here,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Obama discusses public health care option on Nightline; Lewin appears with analysis of public option


Charles Gibson continued the Primetime interview with President Obama Wednesday night (June 23) on ABC Nightline and went into the controversial question of the publicly owned plan as a competitive option.

As to naysayers, the president said bluntly, “They’re wrong.” I was told not to say things like that as a boy. “We want to set up a health care exchange. … One option should be a public option … that would provide competition for the private insurers.” Obama went on to explain that the government would have unfair advantage over private insurers if it could just print money, but it will not have such because it will have to make up the costs in other areas. (Do we believe that will really happen?)

The head of the Lewin Group, John Sheils, appeared and suggested that, according to Lewin, about 70% of Americans would benefit from the public plan. I worked for Lewin myself as a computer programmer in 1988-1989 in the area of Medicare operating margins. Mr. Sheils has a position paper from June 12 “The Costs and Coverage Impacts of a Public Plan” here from a Health Law Conference. Lewin, part of the time under Quorum, has done very well indeed since I left in early 1990.

All television networks were diverted from the health care debate Thursday evening by the deaths of Michael Jackson (cardiac arrest) and Farah Fawcett. I recall that Michael Jackson performed at the half time show in the 1993 Super Bowl, after President Clinton took office, and put on a choreographed act that seemed to make fun of the ban against gays from the military (with a Marine Corps parody).

Picture: where I worked at CCG, which would become part of Lewin, back in 1988 (Washington DC).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ABC Primetime "Family Secrets" reports on teen pregnancy


Last night, Tuesday, June 23, 2009, ABC Primetime instantiated its new series “Family Secrets” with an episode about teenage pregnancy. The associated news story is “nside the Lives of Children Having Children: 'Primetime' Explores Realities of Teen Pregnancy Through Day-to-Day Lives of Four Families”. The host is Jay Schadler, and the main news story is here.

The show focused on the ocean New England town of Gloucester, MA, normally thought of as the belonging to the heart of the liberal northeast (a home of famed journalist Sebastian Junger), not a place we would associate with a “scandal” involving teen pregnancy. Yet, last year, there were sensational news reports of “pacts” among kids to have children.

The program focused on a few families, with emphasis on the effect on teen fathers as well as mothers. One boy watches his girl friend graduate from high school while a mother while his is on hold to support another human being. The program compared sex education in Massachusetts, with graphical instruction on condoms, to Texas, with emphasis on abstinence. The program also showed the one abortion clinic in Kentucky, with teenage girls running a gauntlet to visit the place in Louisville. There as also a program for teen mothers called a “twelve step program.”

When I substitute taught, school systems usually put teen mothers into alternative high schools, and expectant mothers or new mothers had even other special facilities (“Family”) where they could lactate at school and were taught a curriculum in a sometimes less formal setting.

It’s important to remember that in some families teens have responsibilities that they did not create. Sometimes they have dropped out of school or gone to work when parents have been laid off or become unable to work, as in the film “October Sky.” Eldercare can cause burdens that were not created by “choices.” This needs to be kept in perspective.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Washington DC TV stations glued to tragic Metro collision today on Red Line


All Washington DC television stations are covering a horrific Metro accident this evening on the Red Line between Fort Totten and Takoma stations, within the District of Columbia. The train that jackknifed was an inbound train, heading in the direction of Union Station from Silver Spring.

A typical report is on MSNBC here.



There appears to have been a real end collision. More details will continue to be available from media outlets. At the present time, it appears to be the result of “human error,” but the FBI is on the scene, according to video reports.

There had been a horrific commuter rail crash in California last year because operators were using cell phones at the time.

Station WJLA preempted the ABC World News Tonight with local reporting by WJLA. The station reports that the Brunswick commuter line, which runs parallel in the area but that is serviced by diesel locomotives, has suspended service.

I used this line just last week about this time of day to attend AFI Silverdocs in Silver Spring, MD.

I lived in New York City 1974-1978 and do not recall an accident of this magnitude on the subway when I was there.

Update: July 24

WMATA, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, offers the following YouTube video explaining how the automatic train control system works now.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SNL airs the Jonas Brothers


SNL last night, on a rerun, was hosted by a heavy and tired-looking Alec Baldwin (he used to be real hairy) and featured its fountain of youth, the Jonas Brothers. Baldwin is only 51, but his brother Stephen looks much younger at 42.



The show had the usual skits, including a Cougar Den, followed by a skit where Andy Samberg, with his usual professional glitz, tries to put a VHS (not a Beta HiFi, please – so 80s) into a CD player, and seven hours later shows a previous incarnation of the Jonas Brothers from the 70s. Yes, they did get into the business about the purity rings. Can the Jonas Brothers “act”? Remember, Michael Phelps couldn’t. You can’t just put anyone on SNL in a skit. (For some non show-biz celebrities, going on TV is traumatic; remember how reserved Mark Zuckerberg looked going onto Oprah.) The Brothers pulled of a Disney film about them (starting at 4:30 AM in a hotel) and they seemed to be OK here.

The brothers performed some of their usual numbers, and Nick did the percussion. "You know it's bad when your mama doesn't like it..."

Seth Meyers did his usual, with a bit about Ohio (site of “Days of our Lives”, especially Highway 13) and kids going to jail for ordering candy from school. Maybe Allison Sweeney (Sami) will host SNL some night.

Toward the end, the tiring Alec Baldwin introduced the concept of "First Cough" -- how to play a dying character and give a hint that his demise is near. Pretty unbelievable, even for SNL.

I can think of some other stars who owe SNL a stint. How about Tom Welling? How about Jared Padalecki? How about Gregory Smith? And, of course, Anderson Cooper.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

ABC 20-20 "The New Normal"


ABC 20/20 last night aired a one hour program on “The New Normal” of altered or possibly lowered expectations after the financial crisis. Elizabeth Vargas reported.

With Wall Street shedding people, it no longer draws the “brightest.” Maybe that’s a good thing, where we need innovations like an energy Internet rather than more financial products. The show present 28 year old Timothy Sykes, who made enormous profits on his boyhood money in college, started on Wall Street, only to lose out on the crash. Now he is a financial writer and blogger, with a typical post describing his appearance here.

The show described a “typical” family that had given up most luxuries, including cable, and now says it is closer with the simpler life. Of course, such a story assumes one has married and had children to start with – not everyone has. But kids often are healthier with a simpler life with more time outdoors and more emphasis on social connections.

The show also presented another family that admits it was reckless with the mortgage it took out and with its use of credit cards. But does blame do any good?

The show also presented a spot on the financial crisis in Iceland. The news story is “How Iceland's Financial Vikings Ran Aground, For Briefly Booming Island Nation, 'New Normal' Means Return to Fishing Boats”, by Andrew Morse, Bill Weir, and Dan Przygoda, link here. A similar fate happened to the town of Narvik, Norway, which had invested too heavily in the US Mortgage market.

ABC 20/20 offers separate videos for each short report last night at its site.

Friday, June 19, 2009

For Father's Day, Oprah presents single and gay couple dads


Today, Friday June 19, 2009, Oprah Winfrey had a Father’s Day segment called “unforgettable, unconventional dads,” link here. Oprah presented two widower fathers who had lost wives early, and one slender man around 50, an attorney, had adopted nine children from overseas. The program showed what life was like in his household as a single dad, his day starting at 3 AM (like Army Basic KP).

But the heart of the show was a gay couple of two men in Massachusetts (legally married) who had adopted three children. One of the men was Gregory Maquire, author, of “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” (link), adopted into a musical, and it is a perturbation on the story of the Wizard of Oz. He says that the work was inspired by a painting of his lover, Andy Newman, which he says taught him the value of compassion. The Oprah site has a video of her interview in their home (not embeddable, otherwise I would copy it; it’s important.)

Oprah loves to present family shows, but some people wonder how much of this "hands on" experience she has herself.

The president today said that you become a father by really raising a child. Calvin Woodward has an AP story "Obama tells men what kind of dads they should be" link here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

LKL interviews Jonas Brothers


Tonight, Thursday June 18, Larry King Live interviewed the Jonas Brothers.

Some interesting points: Nick says he was home-schooled and graduated from high school this year at 16. A fan actually has a Jonas Brothers tattoo. The brothers discussed their upbringing at home and their values.

The interview was conducted at (Dallas Cowboys Stadium) where the Brothers appear June 20. The stadium still appears to be under construction. The recently performed at the new Yankee Stadium.



The CNN link for the Jonas Brothers’ tour is this.

One female caller asked for one fact that “we don’t know about you.” Joe told about a boyhood crush. The brothers did discuss dating earlier in the show.

There is a fourth brother who is 8 and who may join later.

Picture: Dallas Cotton Bowl, on Wikipedia, Creative Commons License, attribution link here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

AC360 shows bootlegged video from Iran; then interviews "Milk" screenwriter on Obama's record on gay rights


Today June 17 Anderson Cooper 360 covered the protests in Iran, especially a 19-second video of a “silent” protest. I found a related protest on YouTube



The show explained the complicated politics around the Supreme Leader
Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The show moved on to gay rights, interviewing attorney Richard Socarides and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”), about Obama’s punting on his order today giving gay domestic partners of federal employees limited benefits. Obama mentioned the need to overturn DOMA, and proposed a Domestic Partners Rights and Responsibilities Act (patterned after such a bill in New Mexico). Dustin Lance Black (who looks about 20 on television) said that there is never a convenient time to grant all peoples equal rights, and Clinton, with all his good intentions, gave us “don’t ask don’t tell” and DOMA. There is also a problem with lifting the HIV travel ban as well as lethargy in lifting “don’t ask don’t tell.” Black discussed the reasons that gay teens feel like second class citizens and have increased suicide rates. The official CNN story from Suzanne Malveaux is here. Apparently straight cohabiting couples are left out.

Then the show interviewed Paul Stanford in Oregon, who fights for a business to offer legal medical marijuana. The show presented a cost-benefit analysis of legalizing and then taxing and regulating marijuana. Dr. Sanjay Gupta then discussed medical marijuana. Tomorrow Cooper will present a report on how the collapse of the housing market in Florida and California has encouraged illegal marijuana business (much as was the case in ranching states when farm prices fell in the 1980s).

AC360 usually repeats its hour at 11 PM immediately after the first hour and offer sophisticated live blogs with continuous comments.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

PBS Frontline: "Breaking the Bank": about TARP and the nationalization of banks after the 2008 collapse


Tonight, PBS Frontline World presented the one hour documentary “Breaking the Bank”, which started out (like “Inside the Meltdown”) with the emergency meetings at the New York Fed on Sept 12 2008, attempting to keep Lehman Brothers from failing. But we know what happened, and by Sept. 18 the Treasury was pushing Congress into a TARP bailout, lest we have no economy at all.

The film goes on to talk a lot about the merger between Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, with the clash of cultures, with Merrill employees making three times as much on average as the associates at the more “conservative” BofA. The film traces the history of the Bank of America through NationsBank in Charlotte.

The main link is here.

The film also discusses the Monday afternoon meeting at Treasury where nine bank CEO’s were told that their companies would be partially nationalized.

The film puts the heat on Bank of America’s Ken Lewis (who thought he was “patriotic”) and Merrill’s John Thain, who is compared to Clark Kent on red kryptonite!

PBS allows embedding of the entire one hour video, here.

Suze Orman sets up pink lemonade stand with free financial advice in NYC (ABC Nightline)


On Monday June 15 (that always sounded like final exam day when I was in high school) Suze Orman did another of her public smackdowns, setting herself up as “The Money Lady in Bryant Park” in Manhattan, with her “interviews” (or shall we say “final exams”) of people’s finances shown on ABC Nightline. She served pink lemonade, and it didn’t cost $6 a cup like it usually does at gay pride.

The most important point this time is that money in a tax-deferred IRA is protected from creditors in a bankruptcy. The end result is that, no, “girlfriend”, you should never take money out of IRA’s to buy a home, even with the $8000 tax credit for some people in certain income ranges (generally limited to $75000 to $90000 for singles, about double for couples).

Suze says, “you hope for the best but don’t plan for it.”

The ABC News story (by Vicki Mabrey and Ted Gerstein) is “Suze Orman Sets Up Free Advice Stand: The 'Money Lady' Hits the Park to Give Tips on Home Buying, College, Credit Cards and More”, link here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

ABC "The View" makes goofy metaphors about Chastity Bono and gender change


Well, that female gabfest “The View” on ABC this morning had a really good time by talking about Chastity Bono’s announced gender change from female to male. One of the gals said that “going from woman to man” is an “addition.” The audience gasped and laughed. How sexist, one says. Going from male to female was apparently a “subtraction,” or “take away” like in grade school arithmetic.

Ms. Behar took a real hard line on David Letterman’s comments that drew the ire of Sarah Palin. She said, a mother will do anything to defend her child – just like a mother black bear that I encountered on the Applachian Trail in Virginia one time – she was with her cub, but nothing happened. I just didn’t get between them and they passed peacefully. But Letterman (a member of the zipper club, according to an Esquire illustration) doesn’t get that. Letterman, remember, provides an object lesson. Never go to the doctor. You might find yourself wheeled into emergency coronary bypass surgery that afternoon.

The link for ABC's "free episode player" is here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

CBS "60 Minutes": Alice's Restaurant: should everybody learn to cook organic?


Tonight, on CBS 60 Minutes, Leslie Stahl presented Alice Waters and her passionate promotion of organic, locally grown food – along with the idea that every person should learn to garden and cook – an idea she promotes in some San Francisco Bay Area middle schools. The broadcast sounded like something from Oprah. The organic sunny-side-up egg looked yummy. Stahl said that this was the best breakfast in her whole life.

The story had originally aired March 15 and was updated around June 10. The main CBS link is this.


Watch CBS Videos Online

The broadcast showed an organic garden on the grounds of San Francisco City Hall.

I recall a restaurant in Waxahachie Texas that attracted a lot of attention in the 1990s, "The Dove's Nest."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bill Moyers reviews life, work of Thomas Paine


Bill Moyers, on Friday June 12, presented an appreciation of Thomas Paine, who may have been America’s greatest and first journalist. Paine wrote “The Rights of Man”, “The Age of Reason” and “Common Sense” (which advocated independence).

Moyers interviewed Harvey J. Kaye (“Thomas Paine and the Promise of America”) and National Review senior Richard Brookhiser, author of “What Would the Fathers Do?

The link is here.

Paine’s journalism would become infused with his own philosophy and ideas and take on a little bit of a gonzo quality. In his day, his style of publishing (with pamphleteering) was revolutionary, in a manner parallel to the Internet today.

Paine drew attention to himself abroad, and eventually was arrested and imprisoned in France in 1793, as detailed in Wikipedia.

Moyers also spoke to former Clinton secretary of Labor Robert Reich, about why the rich get richer (like Trump), and how to control health care costs.

Friday, June 12, 2009

ABC 20-20: Adam Lambert's interview


Tonight (Friday June 12) ABC 20/20 presented a report on American Idol runnerup Adam Lambert, “We asked, He Told.”

“Adam, are you gay?” “Yes, I am”. “Not everybody is as comfortable with it as I am”. He says he has lived this way in LA for eight years. He grew up in San Diego.

Then “I get to be a rock star. It’s fun.” And he talks about “playing dressup.” And he talks about “an odd fascination with glitter.”

He went on to talk about how he came out to his parents.

There was a little bit of his soaring singing, with a bit of a high pitched voice.

And he said that he is “bi-curious”. That was his “surprise.”

The 20/20 website has three videos on Lambert, including one interview with his brother Neil.

The news story is by Chris Connelley, Harry Phillips and Lauren Sher, link here.

Visitors will enjoy Rolling Stone issue 1081, “The Liberation of Adam Lambert”, link here. There is a video on the making of the cover shot, which, when looked at closely, offers surprises. There is also a video of an interview with Justin Long; the videos let you skip the preliminaries.

John Stossel interviewed “Mormon” and “Republican lap dog” Glen Beck.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

AC360 on phony "veterans", and on Museum attack today


Tonight (Wednesday June 10) Anderson Cooper, on his AC360 program, interviewed veteran imposter Rick Strandlof and asked Strandlof at one point “are you a pathological liar?” Doug Sterner, who operates “Home of Heroes” (link) (with a “the” you get parked domains) said that veteran imposters damage the credibility of real veterans who have earned their publicity and “privilege of being listened to” by paying their dues in combat deployments.

Cooper has a blog entry “Many faces of ‘fake vet’ Rick Strandlof exposed” here.

Cooper also covered the (James Von Brunn) shooting at the Holocaust Museum today (which I discussed with respect to free speech issues on my main blog). The program went into his conspiracy theory about the Federal Reserve, where he was arrested in 1981 for an attack then (six years in prison). The Southern Poverty Law Center (Mark Potok) did discuss his “propaganda.” Investigator David Gletty was also interviewed and he discussed the "lone wolf" problem, and talked about going to parties undercover to infiltrate them.

AC360 showed a geographical map of hate groups in the United States, and they tend to be concentrated in the southeast.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

PBS: Truman (2 part documentary in American Experience series)


PBS offers a four-hour film in the “American Experience” series about The Presidents, “Truman,” produced by David Grubin in 1997, narrated by Jason Robards. The link is here.

Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, was born in Missouri in 1884, and was somewhat of a “Mama’s boy” who took piano and might have had a career as a concert pianist (like Condoleezza Rice). The movie plays Mozart’s 15th Sonata (C Major, the famous “little Sonata”) as if to suggest he learned it. His father’s reckless business dealings cost him a chance to go to college, and he went to Kansas City to work and help support the family, and then he came back and worked on his father’s farm. He courted a young upper class woman, Bess, with all the courtship expected of young men of his generation. From such a modest beginning, he would go on to become the most powerful man in the world after World War II. He would become a haberdasher, and then began a political career as part of the machine by mobster Tom Pendergast. Eventually he became Senator and became a convenient nominee for Vice President in 1944.

The film actually opens with trains, mostly with steam engines, running around the country, and a story of Truman waking up in a Pullman car realizing that FDR would not live long and that he would become president. The movie documents his suddenly being informed about the atomic bomb, and his decision to use it in August 1946, just after his brinkmanship with Stalin at Potsdam. Truman had come to learn that some apparent allies could indeed be as evil as your obvious enemies.

The second half shows Truman as a peacetime president, having first to deal with labor and strikes, threatening to conscript union rail workers. But soon Truman turned his attention to the Red threat in Greece and Turkey (ultimately to affect the Cuban Missile Crisis later), and even instituted loyalty investigations into the political beliefs of federal employees, leading to purges (especially of homosexuals). But Truman would start to make progressive moves on African American civil rights, desegregating the Armed Forces in 1948, a move that would be mentioned again after 1993 in arguments to overcome the military gay ban. Truman would launch the Marhsall Plan to help save Western Europe from Communists.

The movie then covers the 1948 election, with Tom Dewey’s “fake victory,” which foreshadows the 2000 Bush-Gore debacle in Florida.

Truman would try to supplement the New Deal with a “Fair Deal” which Congress refused.

The would confront the Soviet Union with the Berlin Airlift.

The last major episode in the film is the Korean War, where the decision to commit troops was agonizing and where the South was almost pushed off the map; the landing at Inchon was a real gamble. But then the Red Chinese came in, and Truman had to deny military calls to use nuclear weapons. The film traces Truman's struggle with MacArthur and the back-and-forth battles that led to truce at the 38th Parallel.

Truman’s only child, Margaret, became a vocalist, and gave a concert, but lacked technique. Paul Hume wrote a devastating review, and Truman wrote back an angry letter. The President was said to lack self-control.

Truman's favorite saying was "The buck stops here." Or maybe "the buck stops with me."

The piano theme by Michael Bacon is quite haunting.

HBO made a docudrama “Truman”, directed by Frank Pierson, book by David McCullough with Gary Sinise as Harry.

Monday, June 08, 2009

LKL covers reality TV (twice)


Tonight “The View’s” Joy Behar, sitting in for Larry King (on CNN's LKL), interviewed Joan Rivers and others about reality TV. One of the most important points its that networks find it so much “cheaper” than scripted television (and I notice that FinalDraft has different formats for television than for film). They discussed the childish behavior of some of the contestants on Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.” Yes, a number of celebrities are prima donnas and don’t like teamwork that much. (Troy McClain, remember, in Season 1 of the regular Apprentice, took humiliation for his team.)

But another program last week with Larry King had discussed the aftermath of reality television, including over twenty suicides of people who had been on reality TV. Producers don’t screen applicants for underlying psychological disorders that could cause them to snap later; they just concern themselves with behavior on the set. The commentators mentioned that the Internet has made it harder: a lot of people don’t realize what it will be like to live in the limelight, perhaps drag other family members in, and deal with the constant flaming on the Internet.

I’ve been “flamed” a few times, most notably in 2000 when someone took offense to my review of the Sebastian Junger’s “Perfect Storm” and didn’t like the comments I made about the crew’s having to deliver the goods or not get paid – as if I were the cause of it. People do misinterpret what others say and the intentions of others on the Web all the time. John Stossel got hammered for his “You Can’t Talk About That” on 20/20 (some of the comments on ABC’s boards were very nasty) – but he is a real celebrity. Imagine how an “amateur” feels when encountering the same thing.

Also, Dan Rather discussed the situation with the two female journalists sentenced in North Korea.

The show also showed a piece of Newt Gingrich's speech (regarding Sarah Palin) where he said "I am not a citizen of the world. I think that the concept is intellectually weak and dangerous."

Sunday, June 07, 2009

CBS "60 Minutes": When FDIC walks in the door on Friday afternoon


Scott Pelley of CBS 60 Minutes took us inside the seizure of a bank by the FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Heritage Bank near Chicago, in the May 31, 2009 broadcast. FDIC officials and employees check into a nearby hotel under false names, and walk in the door a 6 PM on Friday Feb. 27 and tell the employees that as of 6:01 PM they are FDIC employees, but that their benefits and vacation remain intact. The broadcast shows a private Internet auction in Dallas a few days before where a company named MBFinancial agrees to buy the bank.


Watch CBS Videos Online

Pelley interviews FDIC chairwoman Sheila Bair, who says that no one has lost a penny of FDIC insured money, which is now at set limit of $250000. In this case, since the Heritage Bank was bought, all the deposits were preserved.

The text story is “Your Bank Has Failed: What Happens Next?: 60 Minutes Gets A Rare Look At How The FDIC Takes Over Banks And Reassures Depositors”, link here.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

ABC 20/20 presents tragedies associated with teen drinking; horrible car crash in FL; a teen's jail time and apology


ABC 20/20, on Friday June 5, presented a couple of stories about high school and college sports teams, in baseball and soccer, that recalled perhaps the North Carolina Lacrosse case, where lacrosse players were cleared and an overzealous prosecutor disbarred. Nevertheless, the reports about a baseball and then soccer team presented a biased picture, suggesting that athletes feel free to invite young women to drink and then abuse them. There was a similar episode like that with a character named “Ford” on “Days of our Lives” about two years ago. Still, I think that this sort of behavior is atypical of what happens on or near most campuses. The 20/20 broadcast seemed a bit cynical.

But the most important part of the broadcast dealt with a teen drunken driving case. The story on ABC by Alan Goldberg is titled “Drunken Driving Crash Shattered Teen's Life: Victim's Parents Accuse Jessica Rasdall of Ulterior Motives in Public Awareness Campaign”, link here.

Elizabeth Vargas reported the story of Jessica Rasdall, who killed her best friend, Laura Gorman, in a crash along I-275 near St. Petersburg, FL. They had been to a bar where women could enter at age 18 and men had to be 21.

(I’ve never personally known of a disco to do this; in all gay establishments like what I visit, the age is always 18 on special nights, or the usual 21; and on special nights you have to get a wristband proving age 21 to drink alcohol; fake ID’s are a big problem, however. On two occasions, I spotted people whom I knew were under age 21 in bars because they had been in classes where I substitute taught.).

The broadcast (“The Secret Life of Teens”) showed her in prison in Florida and drafting a public apology, which the victim’s parents found hollow. The ABC story offers several supplementary videos that can be shared.

No wonder social networking site videos of underage drinking create so much offense for prospective employers.

Picture: Near Clearwater, FL, my own visit in Nov. 2004.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Moyers presents "private wars", and the abuse of the media


Tonight (June 5) Bill Moyers interviewed young journalist Jeremy Scahill (he is author of "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army", Nation Books) discussing the “privatization” of American wars, which has continued, especially in Afghanistan, under president Obama. The link for the interview (“Desanitizing Modern Warfre”) is here. Scahill discusses the role of private contractors carrying weapons, as mercenaries; but he also talks about robots and drones, which turn war into a computer game played half a world away by corporations, threatening the nation state system.

The Moyers talked to Jay Rosen and Brooke Gladstone about the way the established media covers the news and tries to cover up liberal bias (although not so on the conservative side). They represent a group called “Press Think” (link) (“Ghost Democracy in the Media Machine”). Both were optimistic about the “democratization of debate” (and seem unaware of the “implicit content” problem that I’ve covered on other blogs). Moyers showed a tweet sent by Newt Gingrich that seemed to make Sonia look like a “racist” appointee. They also discussed Rush Limbaugh’s frequent flip-flops.

I recall a “trick” back in New York in 1976 whose whole tome for the whole evening was “the abuse of the media”, and he said that he taught “the history of consciousness”. Funny what sticks to the wallpaper of your mind.

They also discussed the ScotusBlog, the “Supreme Court of the United States” blog.

Brooke said that the Washington “punditocracy” and the Republican Party are marginalizing themselves. She said that the pundits create a “false balance in the news” and “marginalize themselves” to attract attention. Well, a lot of us do that.

Brooke also said that Obama keeps us from seeing “the people to the Left of him” in the major media, although we do see them on the Web (look at Alternet).

Moyers noted that the major media seems to have taken single payer health insurance off the table, even though many mainstream Americans seem to want to see it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Logo's "Coming Out Stories" (Karen Goodman)


Netflix (and Red Envelope Entertainment) have packaged eight of the the Logo Network’s reality-documentary “Coming Out Stories” from 2006 onto a three-hour DVD. The “film” is directed by Karen Goodman.

The first story involves a young woman telling her dying mother, but rehearsing with her sister first.

The second story shows the mayor of West Sacramento, CA telling at a “state of the City” speech, so that he can live a normal life. He actually calls the mayor of Providence, RI. He says writing a speech is like writing a book report, and that mayors don’t have staff writing their speeches for them.

The third story concerns an African American young man in New York who helps homeless gay youth expelled by their parents. He goes back to his home Jamaica, where he had seen a gay man stoned to death in a vitriolic anti-gay culture.

The fourth story concerns a community college teacher in Kansas coming out to an ill sister.

The fifth story involves a divorced man who tells his ex-wife while doing visitation with his three kids. When he has them, he lives like a dad; when he doesn’t, he lives like a gay man.

The sixth involves a young Korean-American woman telling her mother, and having babies isn’t for her.

The seventh story involves two identical twins, one a lesbian and liberal and the other straight and conservative.

The eighth story concerns a female recording artist who has outed herself on the radio but whose family doesn’t listen to her station. She says that hip-hop is generally a macho culture. When she tells her brother, he says, “Your life doesn’t just consist of yourself.”

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

NBC: Inside the Obama White House, with Brian Williams


Tonight, Tuesday June 2, Brian Williams of NBC presented the first of two one-hour reports “Inside the Obama White House”



The Obama White House is filled with young adults in power suits, and the atmosphere is quietly festive. There are apples everywhere for healthful snacks, but there also candies. (There is no rollerball.)

Most of the footage takes place in “The West Wing”, site of the famous television series.

The program pays some heed to the Cybersecurity announcement and moves on to the controversy over the new Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomaya.

Then they show what happens when the president wants an ordinary hamburger. Brian Williams rides in the back seat of the black limousine with the president and continues the interview. Obama continues to speak in a somewhat intellectual, slightly pedantic way with a bit of detachment, in compound sentences with lots of clauses. The go to Five Guys (they’ve also gone to Ben’s Chili Parlor, next to the Lincoln Theater where Reel Affirmations is held).

The hour ends with a meeting inside the Blue Room, to talk about life inside the White House, including watching SNL and installing a basketball court, and even parent-teacher conferences for his two daughters.

Jimmy Kimmel commented on the program (about the crib sheets), and also about the dog (no cat).

Wednesday, June 3:

Brian Williams mentions that the former Vice President has said that Americans are less safe with the new administration, and that on television the new president should show a "more serious demeanor" in the White House. Obama says that his staff is serious and professional.

Obama said that "gays and lesbians have a friend in the White House", and that he supports all possible civil rights and protections, but he said that the federal government should not be in the business of defining marriage -- although it seems like a contradiction because the IRS, social security and other agencies have to recognize the marriages as defined by the states, and DOMA would prevent federal benefits to same-sex couples. He did not mention proposals to repeal the military "don't ask don't tell" policy.

Obama also said that controlling health care costs (and entitlement costs) was the highest of all priorities, and hinted that this could require some sacrifice.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Dr. Phil on texting while driving; Oprah offers Randy Cohen, NY Times ethics columnist


Today (Monday, June 1, 2009) Dr. Phil aired “killer texting”, which I believe was a repeat from last fall, show 1152, at this link.

A lot of the show presented a young woman from Dallas who admitted to constantly and compulsively texting on her cell phone while driving, using her thighs to manipulate the steering wheel. “I’m good at multi-tasking” she said, and that was her only rationalization. She thought that laws against cell phone use and texting while driving should apply only to those who aren’t good at it. She was an adult, not a teen. She was shown merging onto I-635, the LBJ Freeway, which runs through “Far North Dallas”.

The program went on to discuss distracted driving laws and cell phone and texting laws. Some speakers took the position that it is very difficult for police to tell when drivers are violating the laws. The District of Columbia has a law against cell phone use while driving without a headset.

Oprah today had a program “How to handle life’s stickiest situations” (link). Oprah offered Randy Cohen, who writes a column on ethics for The New York Times Magazine. Cohen’s positions tend to follow a libertarian kind of individualism (rather like John Stossel) with a strong emphasis on personal responsibility. He has written that employers and schools should use great caution in checking on applicants’ web profiles, and inform applicants of what they are doing (I agree). Today, Oprah presented a situation where a mother wondered how she should react when she found that her middle school son had gotten an inappropriate cell phone text from a girl (the more common situation is the other way around).

Picture: Dallas from White Rock Lake (just S of Northwest Highway). I lived in Dallas, 1979-1988. Attribution link to Creative Commons license is here. The only natural lake in Texas is Caddo Lake, on the Louisiana border.