Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Rookie Blue": Gregory Smith (Ephram from "Everwood") as a nerdy cop

Tonight, I sampled  the Canadian police series “Rookie Blue” onABC “for the first time”, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that Gregory Smith (the piano prodigy Ephram in “Everwood”) plays the role of Dov Epstein.  He still seems nerdy (and the character has tried to make himself a Renaissance man out of a sickly childhood) but most energetic.  You expect him to walk to a piano and start playing a Chopin Ballade.
Toward the end of the Season 4 episode (“Homecoming”) tonight, he meets his girl friend in a bar, and she strips him in a stall – a scene that expands on the way “Kids in America” (2005) ends. 
The episode itself was brutal, with a point-blank shooting in a bank robbery and later targeted hostage taking with shotguns in a hospital.  This sort of extreme violence isn’t something I would expect to see in Toronto, the setting, as the city seems a lot more civilized than most places in the US, at least to me (although I was last there in 1982). 
It was interesting to note that the series in produced with the participation of IFC and E-One, companies normally associated with smaller, independent film. 
ABC has a site with all the episodes here

I met Gregory at the King of Prussia Mall, near Philadelphia, at an event for “Everwood” (with Chris Pratt, also in “The O.C.”, and “Zero Dark Thirty”), in August 2005. 

Last picture: autographed picture from Everwood signing (I was called "EFF", because I wore an Electronic Frontier Foundation black T-shirt to the event  -- we talked a little about COPA and DADT).  It does look weird placed on a model ralroad layout under development, and next to a vertical tower scroll of the "Bill of Rights".  

Wikipedia attribution link for view of Toronto from CN tower. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

ABC "Lookout" (Nightline spinoff) looks at self-help, mold abatement businesses in pilot

ABC News premiered a sting series tonight, “The Lookout”, with the slugline, “Get more out of your money”. ABC has a comprehensive link and video here

The first half of the program reported on self-help guru Kevin Trudeau.  ABC reporters caught up with him in Switzerland, while his palatial home around Chicago stayed empty as he fled FTC investigations. The report showed how he used legal straight matrimony to his advantage.
I’ve always been leery of the self-help world, but I recall a friend in Dallas who was courted with a paid private plane trip and symposium in Waco to sell motivational tapes back in the 1980s.  I’ve even gotten people calling me about my “Do Ask Do Tell” books, asking me why I don’t try to make money in the self-help business.  I can’t fix your life.  Live healthy, be productive.  Not everyone can do this.
I do remember, when vacationing in Montana in 1981 and somewhere in the plains in the middle of the state, hearing an ad on my rent car radio, about a “Feeling Good About Yourself” symposium in Helena, and rooms were still available.  I went.  Next day I stared at the open pit mine at Anaconda in a May snowstorm.
The second half of the program set up a test house (I think near Chicago) and inviting contractors to come and test for mold, to test their “honesty”.  The results were all over the map.


Above is an earlier ABC affiliate report on Trudeau.  ABC didn’t have a YouTube video on the Lookout series yet, which is supposed to belong to Nightline. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

NBC Revolution penultimate episode: Get ready to burn the planet up

I caught the last half of the penultimate NBC “Revolution” Episode this evening as I returned from an outdoors trip.
So, what?  The big Boss says they don’t dare turn the light back on because if might set the entire world on fire?  (That sounds the end of my first unpublished novel "The Proles".)  The previews for the Season Finale repeat that conservative adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”

The episode is called “Children of Men”, named after the 2006 Universal film by Alfonso Cuaron, with Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine, where all the women of the world have become infertile (except one). 

If you have no biological stake in the future, who are you to speak?  Is that the point?

The episode tonight ends with the handwritten directions for turning on the lights being turned, after Rachel, Zak, and Miles  reach “Level 12”.


Zak says, if the power comes back on, he doesn’t have to live in fear.  Or without point.    

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Netflix revives "Arrested Development": a mockumentary about "family responsibility"?

When I lived in Minneapolis, a friend who ran a coffee business on the Skyway and worked as a stand-up comic on the side, use to say to customers “Stay out of jail!  Stay out of the penetitiary.”  (That was in St. Cloud.)

The elder Burth, a southern California real estate developer, doesn’t keep himself out of jail, and his spoiled, dysfunctional family faces eventual life on the streets in the renovated “mockumentary” series “Arrested Development”, created by Mitchell Hurwitz, originally in 2003.
In 2013, Netflix is re-inventing the series, with a fourth season, sponsoring it for instant play customers only, in half hour episodes, the first of which aired today.  This is a case of “go home” instead of “go big”. 

In the Pilot, dad has refused to promote Michael Bluth (Jaseman Bateman), but then is suddenly arrested for embezzlement.  Michael gets drafted to take care of the rest of the family.  He starts by moving into the attic of a dream home with a little brother, so they can keep the rest of the house “staged” for sale.  It appears to be located near San Diego. One of the scenes appears to be shot on the boardwalk in Venice. 
There’s an opening scene where the family’s celebration party (before the arrest) is upstaged by a gay protest against the company from a nearby boat.  The company, in mock fashion, had hired “homosexuals” to put on an act as pirates.  (Is this a reverse of Cracker Barrel? Of ExxonMobil?)
There’s also a funny audition scene for one of the members.

Does this comedy work?  Not nearly as well as does “Modern Family”. 

Picture (mine): On the road along I-5, toward San Diego (May 2012). 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"One Life to Live" looks sharp, if tame, on Hulu

I tried an episode of the resurrected soap “One Life to Live”, specifically, Chapter 4  Part 2, Episode 18, since the show returned to Hulu for free viewing online (with commercials).  I watched it on a large Toshiba satellite laptop on Windows 8, and found it easy to use, easy to stop and back up in 10 second increments.

 The Hulu player is more user friendly that ABC’s or NBC’s.  I don’t have Internet TV set up on the Plasma with the wireless router;  I know that I should.   

The basic Hulu link is here.

The show is presented in half-hour (really about 24 minute) segments. I think it’s being taped about twice a week.

The trend in soap opera may be less frequent episodes and more willingness to venture into unconventional areas.
Nevertheless, this episode seemed rather sunny and tame, compared to “Days” and even compared to what I recall about “One Life” from its network days.  In the past, there have been out-of-body experiences and time travel.  There was a female author who wrote a murder mystery, and then the murders in her novel started to really happen (this was around 2005).

Right now, the controversy seems to be a local newspaper in Lianview, the Banner.  The female owner has borrowed money form an investor who wants to be much more aggressive with new technology, and the owner is concerned about preserving old fashioned journalism jobs. There is a mention of political proposals for journalist-shield laws. 
This is one of those soaps where it seems no men have chest hair in the gym, and everybody is stereotyped and buff.  There’s a girl engaged in some risky Internet chat, which looked like it was based on decade-old technology.  There’s sharp-looking teenager Jack Manning (Andrew Trischitta) who appears to resent a relationship with a stepfather. 

I don’t see any remnants of John McBain (Michael Easton) who seems to have moved to “General Hospital” and taken his storylines with him.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PBS "Constitution USA" looks at the 14th Amendment: particular attention to California Proposition 8

On May 21, Peter Sagal presented a major installment in his “Constitution USA” series: “Equality and the Fourteenth Amendment: A New Constitution”. 
Sagal starts by recalling some of the history in the Spielberg movie “Lincoln”: the political fight over passing the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery.  This follows on the Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court in 1857. 
But the freed slaves did not have any “rights” as people until the Constitution set them up.  In a sense, the Fourteenth Amendment – “the right to life, liberty and property”  being protected by due process.  In a sense, the 14h Amendment becomes part of the Bill of Rights.  It also, in many situations, led to the “incorporation doctrine” – the limitation of the police powers of the states in some areas in a manner comparable to limits on federal government power – and the exemption of fundamental individual rights from these powers.
The episode did present the Loving case in Virginia in 1967, overturning laws against miscegenation, and the Griswold case in Connecticut in 1962, where the state tried to prohibit contraception.  At first, the Supreme Court was willing to protect “fundamental rights” of intimacy within marriage.  The right to privacy and intimate consensual adult association was not at first presumed.  The Georgia sodomy law was upheld in Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, but the Texas anti-homosexual sodomy laws was overturned in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, in which case the swing votes on the Court were more willing to see adult intimacy and “the right to be left alone” as fundamental.
The episode also developed the idea of “equality”, and presented both sides of the gay marriage debate, particularly Proposition 8 in California, and presented a lesbian couple (raising children) who were plaintiffs in the case.   

The episode showed that the Supreme Court has found the "right to property" as more explicit than "privacy". It gave a case in Louisiana where a monastery fought a lawsuit from a state funeral directors association in order to protect its right to sell caskets. 

The link for the episode is here.

My 1998 booklet, “Our Fundamental Rights” enumerated a few that I made up: “Self-Ownership, Life, Freedom from Involuntary Servitude, Being Left Alone, Free Speech, Property, Faith (or its absence), Parenting and reproduction, Voting.

There is in an inherent existential conflict in that society demands that everyone learn to become a “social animal”, which provides tension against self-ownershio, personal autonomy, or individual sovereignty. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Days of our Lives" puts "courage" in a gay relationship to the test; Will Horton character appears to have been killed -- but then pulls through

Well, the writers at “Days of our Lives”  (NBC- Corday) are playing up the “gay anthropology” theme for all its worth, and ended Monday’s  show (May 20) with Will Horton (the world’s cutest man) in dire straits, hiding out of sight in a cabin from a con threatening Nickie.
The improperly released convict has kidnapped Nick and Gabi.  But he went out for a moment after tying them up.  Will and Sonny had followed them to “The Cabin in the Woods” (without the help of Lionsgate).and gotten Gabi freed.  Sonny escorted Gabi out into the woods, and at the end of the show, Gabi was about to have her baby, with Sonny about to deliver it. 
If there was ever a case for gay dads, that’s it.

The biggest danger is  that the convict maims Will today, and Sonny’s commitment to him would be tested through crime.  Sonny could wind up raising the baby. 

What a moral cyclone.

There’s a “risk” that some of the episodes this week will be pre-empted by speeches and press conferences from President Obama and from disaster coverage from the tornadoes. 

The shows can be watched online the next business day here

But I wish the major networks would run pre-empted shows on alternate cable channels.  In Washington DC, NBC4 could use its channel 208 for shows that get pre-empted and aren’t “made up”.  Why don’t the networks do a better job of getting all their episodes aired?

By the way. "Days" is all over the map.  Statesville is in North Carolina.  But many of the places mentioned in the soap in the past seem to be in Ohio, the heartland.

Update: Later Tuesday

The middle portion of the broadcast today was pre-empted EDT by an Oklahoma tornado update on all the major networks.  During that portion, apparently Will tried to coutnerattack in the shed and was shot by Jensen.  (The episode will be available tomorrow online.)  It does appear that Hope has apprended Jensen right at the end of the episode and that Nick is safe.

The spoiler available online appear to suggest that Will has been killed and is gone from the show as a character.  The spoilers are fragmentary and may not be reliable, as soaps have a way of bringing characters back to life.  But at this point, it appears that Chandler Massey's role as this appealing character may have come to a tragic end.

In the meantime, Sonny appears to have delivered Gabi's baby.

There are no victims, no heroes.  There is reality, and there is grace.

Update: Wednesday

A typical cliff-hanger, and NBC-Corday took advantage of incomplete spoilers to surprise us.  Will pulls through the emergency surgery, and in the final scene today Will and Sonny are together as Will recovers. The script mentioned the hospital visitation issue for gay couples (without marriage or specific domestic partner legislation).

Sonny has delivered Gabi's baby.

YouTube calls Will and Sonny "the happiest couple in Salem".

It sounded like some music (orchestral) from one of Verdi's operas played in the last moments today.

Update: Wednesday May 29. 2013

Nick takes the baby to Will, who wakes up with the opportunity to hold the baby with Sonny at his side..  Sonny said that, regarding childbirth, the mother does all the work.

Update: May 30

At the end of the episode, with Lucas in the room, Will fell back asleep, and the camera focused (dwadling gratuitously)  on the inactive medical monitor.  I hope isn't an ominous sign.  Medically, there is no reason why he would get into trouble now.

Blake Berris showed real acting as he demonstrates Nick's remorse in facing his wife about what happened to him in prison.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

ABC's "Motive": you know who did it, but figure out why

The new ABC series “Motive”, going head-to-head with the conclusion of NBC’s “Revolution”, plays a variation on the famous “Clue”.  The mystery is not who did it, but why.
The viewer is shown the victim and perpetrator in the opening. Two detectives, in the hour long episode, solve the crime and figure out the motive.

Detective Angie Flynn  (Kristin Lehman) and Oscar Varga (Louis Ferreira)  play the tag team, for a drama that looks like it is filmed around Portland, OR.
The pilot episode is called “Creeping Tom”, named after an attractive kid (Tyler Johnston) and his buddy (Cameron Bright) break into homes for thrills, to steal memorabilia. This is mean, because souvenirs are important to people and families and often can't be replaced even with money and insurance.  
The victim is a popular science teacher, who is found bludgeoned one morning.  An important clue is that the teacher’s dog gets along with Tom.

It may be playing spoiler to reveal the motive, but it’s important.  Part of the denouement is that Tom kept a written diary outlining his hatred and making the teacher think he was about to launch a Columbine-style attack, or even worse. 

In any slaying, it’s important to find out the motive to protect the community. That idea goes all the way back to the Alfred Hitchcock series in the 50s, where the idea of a “motiveless murder” was refuted in one episode that I recall.

ABC’s Descriptive site for the show is here.   
Perhaps the show will give investigators more “imagination” for anticipating future challenges to homeland security.   

Saturday, May 18, 2013

NBC Rock Center: 911 Phone operator in Dallas tells her side of story in Deanne Cook slaying

NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Willimas has covered some cases of domestic violence, especially in Dallas.  Friday May 18, NBC covered a case where police failed to respond quickly to an emergency in the Oak Cliff area and the 911 operator was made a scapegoat.  The operator explained that she followed instructions, coded everything according to the book, and could not hear everything given the bedlam in the surroundings.  Police took a break on the way to the house, Later the Mayor of Dallas spke about the case.
This was the Deanne Cook case.  Kate snow reports.  The operator gives her side of the story.  Could individual 911 operators be held legally liable?

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I lived in Dallas 1979-1988 and I don’t recall much attention to this problem then. 

The NBC report showed the "upsidedown" Dallas City Hall.  

By the way, Dateline’s videos have been preceded by commercials for the Windows Phone (or sometimes for Bing).  No direct criticism o f Microsoft, but an actor had to ruin his chest to make this commercial. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

NBC Dateline: Chris Hansen goes undercover again

On NBC Dateline Friday May 17, 2013, Chris Hansen returned to undercover stings (like "To Catch a Predator", a few years back)  in an episode called “Wild #Wild Web”, with all the episodes based on Craigslist.   

One of the first cases was a simple lonely hearts catfish situation, in Ft.. Worth, TX, where a woman had stolen another person’s image from FRacebook and used it as her own.  Nev Schulman could have been useful in this report.
The scariest was a “problem eliminator” in Tuscon, AZ, who met with a young female reporter at midnight in a casino to exchange information on a planted “hit”,  The man has not been seen since.
A con artist in Charleston, SC offered a baby for adoption underground, and was caught collecting security deposits for rent from poor people fraudulently.
A “house call” auto mechanic, also in Tucson (not AAA) wanted to charge hundreds for a 25-cent fuse in a fuel pump.
But one of the most telling anecdotes concerned a multi-level marketing scheme in Las Vegas for virility pills based on ads claiming that they were made from oriental herbs that did not need a prescription.  Instead, they used pharmaceuticals for which the FDA requires medical prescriptions.  The pills tended to cause nausea and side effects.  I think I’ve gotten spam for this product.

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The second hour, with Lester Holt, related to a case where a woman (Amber Hilberling) was charged with pushing her husband out a window from a Tulsa, OK highrise.  She would be convicted of 2nd Degree Murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison, story link.  The story became bizarre, as husband Josh had actually ordered court-ordered protection from his wife's violent outbursts. But there was a counterclaim of abuse and questions about the safety of the window.

I think that Chris Hansen ought to make a report on his earlier series, and trace how some of the men convicted in the Peej stings fared, particularly Rabbi Daivd Kaye.  How were they "treated" in jail?  How are they "supervised" when they get out of prison?  NBC Dateline ought to do a followup report.   

Thursday, May 16, 2013

CNN does doc on the Arias trial; but pales besides other newsy cases; Obama's DC eatery celebrates "Scandal"

Last weekend, CNN aired a few times its documentary “Murder in the First Degree: Inside the Arias Trial”, with summary link here
The documentary focused on successive changes in the story told to police by Jodi Arias after her ex-boyfriend was found brutally murdered.  At one point, she tried to claim self-defense. 
Then, after her conviction, she told reporters she would prefer the death penalty as “ultimate freedom”.   But the case sounds like a typical crime of passion, that used to be the stuff of mystery movies in the 1950s. 

The CNN report hit the Mormon or LDS angle, which was indeed ironic. 
The case somewhat reminds me of the Shepard murder near Cleveland in 1954, when I spent summers as a boy in Ohio.  

HLN has produced an analysis examining whether Jodi’s story was even possible.

She does seem like the femme fatale.  Unlike Amanda Knox, there seems to be nothing to redeem her, or even give her credibility.  Was she the ultimate “black widow” (not red widow).
I’m not a fan of ABC’s “Scandal”, but WJLA reports that there was a Scandal viewing party at Ben’s Chili Bowl (on U Street in NW Washington, a favorite of President Obama) tonight.  WJLA went behind the scenes at Ben’s on the 11 PM broadcast tonight.  Note: Ben’s is near the Lincoln Theater, and Town DC and Howard Theater are nearby.   Writing for a show like this would not be easy.  It’s other people’s plots!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

PBS: "Constitution USA with Peter Sagal" from Twin Cities PBS

PBS stations aired a special from Twin Cities Public Television. “Constitution USA” with Peter Sagal.
The one-hour documentary opened with an explanation of how the Bill of Rights came into being, around 1791.  The states were not willing to ratify a new constitution without the promise that some explicit rights would soon be enumerated.  In fact, the word “freedom” doesn’t appear in the original 4000+ word Constitution.  Fortunately, a few paths for amendment had already been provided. 
I recall, that on the cover of my original 1997 “Do Ask Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back” book, I “goofed” and gave the age of the Bill of Rights as about 160 years when It was really about 206 years at the time.  The error was caught by a reader in late 1998 and corrected for the iUniverse printing.  I was living in Minneapolis at the time, so the appearance of the film as sourced in Minnesota is interesting, even ironic.  The film also talks about “fundamental rights”, and my second booklet (at the end of 1998) was called “Our Fundamental Rights”.

Yet, the original Bill of Rights was more a matter of limiting the federal government than anything else.  (Some of it was “incorporated” to the states after the Civil War with the 14th Amendment.)  It really didn’t spell out many individual rights the way libertarians see them today.

True, the First Amendment specifically talked about religion, speech, and the press – but more in limiting what government could do.  Would the “press” include bloggers today? 

And it wasn’t until 2010 that the Supreme Court ruled on whether the right to bear arms applies to individuals – at least do defend their own homes.

The film presented a lawsuit by a Cranston, RI high school student against the posting of a school prayer. She won, and angered the townspeople.

The film also covered an 8-1 Supreme Court decision upholding the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to picket and speak at military funerals, no matter how offensive the message that God punishes the country and the military for tolerating gays.  The program covered the idea that the Supreme Court rigorously defends the right of the speaker from censorship based on content, although reasonable means can be taken to protect order at public events.

The show explains why the Supreme Court even granted corporations the right (as "artificial people") to free speech based on content.  

The link for the show is here
There were scenes at an old tavern in Philadelphia. 

"Revolution" still isn't giving up much info on what happened to the world we grew up in

I have to express some frustration with NBC’s “Revolution”.  I keep thinking there will be more details as to how the plot (the ‘Blackout”) got launched, and whether it was entirely intentional (it sounds like it), or something that got out of hand. 

It would be interesting to know more about how things unraveled in the days immediately following the Blackout (as in the novel “One Second After’).

I couldn’t care less about the tribal wars, Doomsday-prepper militia (out of McVeigh’s world),  and family breakdowns in a dystopian society that isn’t worth surviving in – unless there is some real light at the end of the “tunnel”. 
Last night’s episode “The Longest Day” did offer an interesting potential of the nano-device pendants: : instant healing.  Aaron Pittman (Zak Oarth)  manipulates what looks like an attachment to a USB drive, and places it in Rachel’s severe leg wound, when it heals itself within second.
The season finale will be broadcast June 3.  Will the lights will come back on?  If they do, would the “new” government stand?  Yes, that must be what the current wars are about.
It’s rather amazing how quickly some of these iPads and computers come back to life around the pendants after years of disuse. 
Actually, the three minutes where the lights go out are worth reviewing – with Russian subtitles.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Barbara Walters announces 2014 retirement on "The View"

Today, Monday May 13, 2013, ABC’s “The View” opened with Barbara Walters announcing her retirement at the summer of 2014.  She will remain as an Executive Producer of “The View” but will not have a regular show afterwards.

She gave a history of her career where she joined in 1961 when female reporters were called “girls”,  She wasn’t considered as “pretty” as other female reporters – that was the attitude that also prevailed for airline “stewardesses” then, and probably even office secretaries.  I remember that I started working for the National Bureau of Standards in 1963 (when it was still on Connecticut Ave in Washington), and female scientists could be very jealous of their reputations – in an era when McCarthyism was starting to soften.
Times would change quickly, with the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War and Watergate.  In 1976, Walters got a job hosting GMA for “a million dollars a year”.  I was living in Manhattan at the time in the Village, and I remember the attention she got from the press.

Walters said today she wants to go when people will ask “Why is she leaving?” rather than “Why doesn’t she leave?  She says she wants to travel abroad and be able to stay a long time in one place.  She’s been to China three times but never seen “The Forbidden City”.  Maybe she will take the train to Tibet. (I’d like to do that.)  Remember, Anderson Cooper started his career living in SE Asia where he reported on the Post Vietnam era. 

She says she is in perfect health, and has recovered completely from the open heart value surgery in 2011.  She has also said that for some people such surgery is life-saving, even if there are few symptoms, even more critical than coronary bypass surgery. She once did a special "Live to Be 150".  

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared today. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Revenge: Season 2 Finale: Plenty of conspiracy theories, and let's hope Marvel makes Nolan one of its hero characters

Wow, there was enough for a “comic book movie” in the season finale  (“Truth: Part II”) for ABC’s Revenge, which will resume in the fall. The season finale was rather like a Griffon, or maybe a Loch Ness Monster. 
If you’re on the West Coast, it may not have aired yet.  So wait a couple hours before reading  this if you want.  But the word is out on all the imdb message boards as to what happened (and imdb got very slow as the episode ended).   
It started when it appeared that Nolan could fix the power failure (end of last week’s episode). Hackers from Bahrain and Tunisia had caused it.  Noaln was turning out to be the new kind of comic book superman – a gay geek superman. Wonderful.
But then the plot twists accumulate. Grayson is running for governor and his building gets hit by a pipe bomb.  Nolan tracks down an international assassin by hacking. The assassin is arrested, but is suddenly freed and Nolan is raided (right at his own Nolocorp) and hauled off by the fibbies
Declan is injured in the bombing, and doesn’t look that bad off, but it seems like some shrapnel is lodged in his aorta.  Nolan has been genuinely  grieved (before his own arrest).
Dear old Dad is giving his victory speech.  It isn’t too hard to see how he could have engineered it all. 
The episode, indirectly, really does support 9/11 “conspiracy theories”, and shows how a lot of contractors can get rich after a major terrorist attack.  The whole conclusion of this season does seem a bit cynical.

I hope Nolan is back and out of jail in the fall – he deserves to make it in the world of Marvel.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

CNN AC360 offers panel discussion on child abductions ("Vanished"): 20-20 covers Cleveland victims

On Friday, May 10, AC360 (Anderson Cooper) aired a special edition of his show, a panel discussion about the kidnappings of children over the years, with particular emphasis on the Cleveland case with Ariel Castro, called “Vanished”, link here
There was one case of a young man who had been missing for 24 years.

John Walsh, from America’s Most Wanted, appeared and explained the psychology of how such criminals develop, with the gradual evolution of intricate strategies to carry out double lives and hide their crimes, which are often not detected until they are in their 40s or 50s.
Several mothers and panelists talked about the duty of ordinary citizens to act when they notice unusual situations in their neighborhoods.

Had I been the person hearing the screams in Cleveland, I would have of course called 911 from a cell phone and waited in a safe place for police to arrive. But I would not have entered the property myself and tried to break a door down and aid an escape physically.  I’m not prepared for combat. 
ABC News covered the return of the young women home on 20-20 Friday; story by Mark Mooney, 
Barbara Lowe, and John Haskell, link here
It’s been a gruesome three weeks of news coverage (including Jodi Arias).  Let’s hope we can get back onto a happier track soon. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"Amanda Knox: The Unanswered Questions": Chris Cuomo grills her relentlessly on CNN interview

On Tuesday, May 7, 2003, CNN aired a sensational interview of Amanda Knox by Chris Cuomo, who himself is an attorney. It was titled “Amanda Knox: the Unanswered Questions” and ran for 90 minutes, starting at 10:30 PM EDT. It had originally been scheduled for 10 PM and was pushed back for Anderson Cooper to cover the Cleveland situation (of women who had been kidnapped escaping). That means that DVR’s recording from Cable could miss part of the interview.

Fortunately, the real beginning of the interview coincided with the ending of FX’s broadcast of “Soul Surfer” (Movies, May 7).
The only video I could find on CNN now is here and it did not offer embed code.

However CNN has (up to this point) place three embeddable segments on YouTube.

Knox, recall, was convicted (along with her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito) for participating in the murder of Meredith Kercher in early November, 2007. She was apparently coerced into confession, but the only physical evidence that stood on careful scrutiny implicated only Rudy Guede.  Her conviction was overturned in 2011, but Italian courts have ordered a retrial, which she might not need to attend but could face extradition if convicted again. Italian law doesn’t recognize the same standard of double jeopardy as US law.   
Cuomo’s questioning was much more detailed hit much harder than did that of Diane Sawyer with a similar interview on ABC April 30.  Cuomo now reports for both ABC and CNN (both Disney).  It’s relevant that Cuomo is himself an attorney, and spoke of "fact patterns" in the interview. Although politically and socially liberal in his views (he comes from the New York political family, as explained on Wikipedia), he hit very hard on questions of what appear to the public to be possible flaws in Knox’s integrity.  Cuomo said “Don’t hold back, this is your chance.”
Knox’s immediate answer referred to the lack of actual physical evidence that she (and her boyfriend) had anything to do with the crime, and with unreasonable expectations of how she should behave once she even discovered suspicious circumstances, and how she should have behaved later with police. 
Cuomo challenged her, saying she seemed flat and unemotional. 
Then, Cuomo asked Knox early why she pauses so often in talking.  Amanda said that she likes to express herself in writing, and is not normally a good speaker.  She says different people process stressful facts differently and that all of this in the range of what is acceptable character and mental health. 
Cuomo grilled her on how her behavior “looked.”  (He opines, "One thing Knox is guilty of is acting in ways that people would see as strange.")  For example, she was nonchalant when she found blood in her flat that night, and later she was seen kissing her new boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.   Knox admitted she had been viewed as a “femme fatale”, but she did not grasp at first that her behavior would attract suspicion.  Cuomo did probe about into the police theory of sex games, and Knox denied them.  “I was not strapping on leather.”  Knox says that the tabloid media exploited rumors.  These stories fed political pressure on  to police, who already felt  urgent need to get a conviction. Still, why wasn’t the one conviction of Guede based on solid DNA evidence enough for the police?  Why did the police need to make an example of an American young woman who seemed privileged?   (There’s a side story about the particular “perverted” prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, not explored much here.)

Cuomo seemed to think that she really could be extradited, especially after a second conviction on re-trial, and that double jeopardy arguments might not work.  He challenged her as to whether there was any possibility that eyewitnesses could say that she was “there” after all (I’m reminded of the Coen Brothers and :The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2001)).  He also challenged her that any DNA evidence could surface and whether the Italian police could have substantive physical evidence that she doesn’t know about.  She said, flatly,”No!”
Earlier, however, Cuomo challenged her with questions like, “Why don’t you just say you didn’t do it.  Why do you say, you can’t prove it?”

Later, he asked her about why the family of Merdeith Kercher doesn't believe her, and why she doesn't respond. "You know who reaches out? Someone who has nothing to hide."
The media tends to jump on evasive answers (or lack of answers) when more direct answers are feasible (remember how Jerry Sandusky had answered interview questions, and CNN jumped all over him).

Cuomo asked her about the scrapes on her knuckles., and she said she is taking self-defense classes. 
She did describe the horrible four years in prison.  She said that when anything goes wrong, everyone gets blamed.  She said she couldn’t defend herself the way other women did.

Amanda Knox seems to process things in an intellectual way, cognitively somewhat like the way I do. She doesn’t seem as spontaneous as other people.  This doesn’t seem to be a gender thing.  It’s a basic personality trait that seems independent of everything else, even sexual orientation.   I suppose if I were heterosexual and forty years younger, I would be a good partner.  I will probably read her “Waiting to Be Heard” later.  She says she wrote her book to show what kind of person she is.  Her family made big financial and personal sacrifices for her, and the family needs the $4 million advance for the book. 
I can remember, back in 1962, a psychiatrist saying to me, after my own college expulsion, "You have little grasp of the things you say and do."  Correction: I had little appreciation for how things look to other people in their own cultural mindset, regardless of objective truth.  
We can always ask, why do bad things happen to good people?  (“Why me?”)  It’s a bit trite sometimes.  I have my own theory of karma, that if we don’t step up when we have to, we wind up sharing the payments for other people’s personal wrongdoing. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Anderson Cooper's "newsmakers" may be away from the mainstream: countering Westboro, scientology

Today, Anderson Cooper  Live (syndicated daytimes on ABC)  interviewed several people of note (the show calls them “Biggest Newsmakers”, although in most cases that sounds like a stretch), including most of all, Libby Phelps Alvarez, granddaughter of the founder of Westboro Baptist Church.
She claimed she was indoctrinated to believe that they only way to “help people” was to preach that God would condemn them for various things. 
She described a counterdemonstration at a veteran’s funeral, to keep the family from having to see the Westboro demonstrators.
Anderson said that he generally doesn’t like to cover Westboro, even negatively, because the attention from the media seems to be what they want.

Back in 2005, at least, the "church" had a banner "God hates America", and websites with very disturbing domain names.  
The link for the preview is here
Anderson also reviewed the daughter of a scientologist who had left the church.  She said that church members are prohibited from speaking to members who have left or been excommunicated. She also described the menial labor demanded of kids helping kids build church recreational facilities.  (It reminded me of a particular detail unit in Basic Training in the Army). 

Sunday, May 05, 2013

ABC 20-20 now on Saturday night, too: "Confessions" (True or not)

ABC 20-20 now has a Saturday night show, sometimes. On May 4, the show was called “Confessions” and comprised vignettes of a lot of different “professions”, some of them not legitimate.

Here’s a doctor confessing to his own participation in medical mistakes, It’s the “Dr. HODAD” problem, “hands of death and destruction”. 

One of the biggest problems in practice is doctors who don’t wash their hands. 

Also, there are no regulations keeping doctors from practicing when under the influence, as there are for airline pilots. 

The show also mentioned the show “Nurse Jackie”, about a chemically-dependent nurse. 

The segment also explained how hospitals design emergency rooms to force 6 hour waits, because emergency care is not profitable.

Doctors also have an enormous incentive to perform surgery even when it’s unnecessary.  Was David Letterman’s “emergency coronary bypass” in 2000 really necessary right then?

I say, don’t go to the doctor. You might not come home. 


20-20 also has a page “How to survive a mass shooting”. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

PBS "Secrets of the Dead": "Bugging Hitler's Soldiers"

Tonight, Maryland Public Television re-aired an interesting episode from its “Secrets of the Dead” series, “Bugging Hitler’s Soldiers”.

During WWII, the British housed some of Germany’s captured generals in a mansion, and then secretly bugged the room, recording the conversations on 78-rpm lacquer records.  For a while, Churchill didn’t know about it.
The British found out that some generals considered Hitler “not normal” and were slowly coming to realize than, once Germany lost the war, they would be tried for war crimes.  Some had not been aware of the extent of the Holocaust, or of the gratuitous attacks on civilians on the eastern front, as at the Battle of Stalingrad.  In one chilling reenacted discussion, two generals make light of the attack on Russian civilian women.
Some officers had indeed embraced Nazi ideology, which believed that the “weak” must be removed from the world to make room for a “Master Race”.  They raised their own kids believing they had done the “right things”. 

Britain also learned the frightening details of the V-2 rocket program, and enabled bombers to destroy the facilities.  
It would be interesting to reenact how ordinary Gentile Germans felt about all of this, in the late 1930s.
The link for the PBS episode is here.

It seems clear from the episode that this ideology could provide a psychological defense to some very unwelcome emotions.  

I believe this series also appears on the History Channel.