Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dateline segment "Obsession", supposedly role-model student responsible for death of fellow musician Jessie Blodgett in WI


Friday, Jan. 30, NBC Datelines presented the story of the murder of Jessie Blodgett, 19, and accomplished songwriter and musician, in her own parents’ home in Hartford WI by strangulation on July 15, 2013, in an episode titled “Obsession”, with Lester Holt and Andrea Canning. The full episode is here. She had starred in a production of "Fiddler on the Roof". 

The perpetrator would be Daniel Bartelt, a classmate and fellow musician, as with this news story about his conviction. What seems so shocking is that Daniel was a good student and seemed to be an achiever, perhaps role model.  So his sociopathy is very hard to explain and very unusual.  Police investigated his Internet searches and found them to be morbid, to say the least.   I remember many good students from working as a substitute teacher.  A story like this would be akin to learning than one of them had done something like this, very unlikely in my experience. He was sentenced to life without parole.

  
Bartelt was also accused of an unrelated attack on a female on a jogging path; the victim gave evidence that helped police find him and that provided plenty of DNA forensic evidence for his conviction.
   
Hartford is not too far from Madison, through which I have passed many times.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Medical Tourism": Inside Man (literally) Morgan Spurlock sacrifices his bod again for art


Tonight, our “Inside Man” Morgan Spurlock risked his own 43-year-old bod, again, for “Medical Tourism”.  The main link is here
  
Let’s cut to the chase.  I spent probably $65,000 of “estate money” on dental implants.  I wonder if this could have been done for a lot less than this in Thailand or Panama, even allowing air fare and hotel.  I didn’t want the disruption.  But I guess I could have taken ample laptops with me.  I could have seen the world.
  
Not only that, but Spurlock thinks that eventually private insurance companies in the US will eventually come around to encouraging it in some circumstances, as with retiree health insurance.
The episode starts as Spurlock visits his own physician to look at a rotator cuff shoulder injury.  He starts getting confusing quotes on what an MRI costs, and wonders what happens when someone doesn’t have insurance.  Soon he looks into the idea of a complete medical checkup at Bumrungrad Hospital im Bangkok, Thailand. 
  
The hospital is like a luxury hotel, and very efficient, since it depends on self-paying patients. It has a glorious beach view from some suites. Warning:  Bangkok is at low elevation and prone to floods and typhoons. 
    
In two days, Morgan gets a consultation, various heart tests, and a colonoscopy, where he swallows a camera.  He really becomes “inside man”.  Oh, sorry, just as in an earlier episode (April 22, 2014), Morgan’s chest hair is wiped back into boyhood.
  
There is one patient, whom the UK National Health system had left quadriplegic, who learns to walk again with very intensive physical therapy. 
  
The illustration is "BI-Buildings" by Teesal (talk) - self-made. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

CNN's Wolf Bitzer hosts documentary "Voices of Auschwitz"


CNN’s Wolf Blitzer hosted “Voices of Auschwitz” on CNN on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, one day after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on Saturday, January 27, 1945 at 4:30 PM.  The main link is here
    
Blitzer found out about his ancestors’ capture during WWII during a CNN ancestry project. But Wikipedia says his parents were Holocaust survivors from Poland. 
    
    
Eva Kor, one of two twin sisters at age 10, as one of the first freed.  She had survived horrific experiments conducted by Joseph Mengele. She also says she forgives her captors. 
    
Anita Laske-Walfisch actually played the cello at Auschwitz, and became part of the English Chamber Orchestra. She had been an accomplished artist before capture, but her situation at home had become desperate after Nazi invasion.  Not all prisoners were taken at once during invasions. 
   
Martin Greenfield, a tailor, survived on discarded Gestapo garments in which he kept warm.
   
Renee Firestone explained how gradually the crisis came, and shocked everyone was when the Nazis showed up and gave them one hour to pack up, before three days on the boxcar trains.  She said she had a happy childhood and had no sense of anti-Semitism as growing up until she started overhearing Hitler’s speeches on the radio. She did some design drawings and got a “job” making dresses in the camp.  After freedom, she found her brother in Budapest and started a parachute business in France. 
    
The program concludes with an appearance by Stephen Spielberg (“Schindler’s List”, 1993, which I saw at the Avalon in Washington DC). An article in the Daily Mail reports that Spielberg warns of anti-Semitism resurgence, link here.   The number of survivors is dwindling.
    
I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau for a day in May, 1999. I had arrived on the train from Berlin that morning and took a taxi for a day from Krakow, which was inexpensive.  I then took the train next day to Warsaw and was surprised to see people farming with primitive tools from the train.  So far, former East Germany and Poland are the only two former Communist countries I have visited.  
  
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of barracks ruins at Birkenau.  I think I remember seeing these,  Wiki author is “WeEzE”.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

PBS: "Edison's Miracle of Light"


Tuesday night, January 27, 2015, PBS American Experience presented “Edison’s Miracle of Light”, a 2-hour biography of inventor Thomas Edison (1847-1931), who probably has more patented inventions than any other person who has ever lived.  The link is here

Edison noticed hearing loss as a boy, which actually helped him focus on work, as he was employed in telegraph offices as a teenager.  He always wanted to “be” an inventor.

The idea of recording sounds (eventually leading to the modern vinyl phonograph record) or images (leading to photography and motion pictures), making sensory experience permanent, was one of his most important concepts. 

But of course the best known part of his biography was his introduction of electricity to lower Manhattan, although his direct current infrastructure would be replaced by alternating current as developed by Westinghouse.



Edison built homes and later factories in northern New Jersey, and married twice, having lost his first wife after childbirth.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

"The Tragedy of Broken Trust": paid program on the treatment of Oklahoma native tribes


NBC Washington aired a paid program half hour documentary Sunday January 26, “The Tragedy of Broken Trust”, link here.  
    
The documentary gave a history of relations between native American nations and the US government throughout US history as an independent nation.  The emphasis was on the Chocktaw and Chickasaw Nations.  There was particular emphasis on Oklahoma, and how it became a state.  
  
There was a lot of attention on schemes by bureaucrats to rob native American tribes of land or water or mineral resources belonging to them.
  
  
In more recent decades, casinos have become a source of income and wealth for some tribal members but everyone.


The visuals in the film focused on Oklahoma, in the Ozarks and Ouchita areas.  The areas looked quite green and even more rugged than I recall from driving through the area when I lived in Dallas (mostly the 1980s). 

Picture: Arbuckles, OK, Nov. 2011 (my trip) 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Morgan Spurlock find that robots let him talk to himself


Morgan Spurlock opened his 2015 winter season (3) of “Inside Man” with “Robots” link ) Saturday night (premiered Thursday, Jan. 22).  He started with a visit to Dennis Hong’s toy, RoMeLa., in Seattle.
  
Spurlock eventually got to play with his own robots, one of which wrote an autobiographical essay about Morgan in Morgan’s own style (starting with his rearing in West Virginia).  It said that Morgan has spent his life “playing himself”, which is true – he may have more roles as “himself” in IMDB than any other filmmaker.  He then gets to meet a very realistic female robot.  He says that talking to a robot is like talking to himself.  Later his older brother confirms that.
  
  

The show also examined the question as to whether artificial intelligence could develop free will and become our enemy, as in some science fiction movies.  I don’t think so.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

"The Unusual Suspect" on NBC Dateline: an account of the horrific Maryland crime spree by Jason Thomas Scott, and there may be more important cases


Friday, January 23, 2015, NBC Dateline aired one of its most frightening crime stories ever, called “The Unusual Suspect”, a negation of the classic suspense movie title “The Usual Suspects” (by Bryan Singer with Kevin Spacey) from the 1990s. 
  

Jason Thomas Scott and two accomplices committed a string of home invasions in Prince Georges County, MD, east of Washington DC, in 2009.  In the course of the crimes, he murdered a mother and daughter, Delores and Ebony Dewitt, for which he was tried and convicted.  According to news reports, the first (state) trial ended in a mistrial on a legal technicality (here) .  But he would eventually be sentenced to over 100 years on federal charges alone. He had already been sentenced to 100 years in federal prison on various charges. Another mother and daughter, the Lofton’s, apparently were also victims but Maryland prosecutors had a stronger case with the DeWitt's. 
 .
Scott had worked for UPS and apparently used his database and educational background to target victims.  He was well educated, and the motive for his sociopathic behavior (or psychopathic) was beyond explanation.  The pattern shares a lot in common with serial killers of women.  Some news reports claim he said he had struggled with “homosexuality”, but most of his victims (and peeping interest) appear to have been female.  On the other hand, some of his behavior suggests "radicalization".  The NBC Dateline report explained how police promised him a kind of “fake immunity” after he confessed to the home invasions.  Police could still use evidence other than his “confession” for prosecution, but the legal technicalities were tickly, as the first mistrial showed.
  
The details of the crime spree are indeed convoluted and graphic.  It’s easier to get a sense of their scope from news reports, like here on abcnews here.   Murderpedia has a particularly detailed account here. There are some accounts of his likely connection with another case in Bowie, MD in 2008 (Washington Post, here   it seems as thought the WP accidentally inverted the middle and last names).

Unlike most Dateline crime episodes, this one does not end in a summary of the courtroom trial.  It focuses just on the investigation and bizarre nature of the crimes, which were rather like domestic terrorism.  The major break came over an federal ATF bust after his "purchase" of weapons in Charles County, MD. 
NBC Dateline would be well to examine the late 2008 murders of Kanika Powell and Sean Green, both workers with sensitive classified information, both crimes also in Prince Georges County, in Laurel and Oxon Hill, respectively. There could be a connection to Scott, as shown by the Reddit posting (here on Nov. 21, 2014), leading to other links.  Apparently, this case is still cold or unsolved, or authorities are unwilling to discuss it.  NBC Dateline should consider reviewing all the facts on these cases with its own journalistic investigation to see if there is a connection to the case in this show. I suppose ABC's 20-20 unit could also take a crack at this case, as could CNN Films.  
  
These Dateline shows are stronger than a lot of investigatory documentary movies.   Maybe some of them could be packaged for arthouse theatrical release through Universal Focus or Rogue pictures. 

I have some connection to NBC.  I worked for the network as a computer programmer in New York City Rockefeller Center 1974-1977 in an earlier era of technology.  It is an experience I still remember well.  

Update: April 25, 2016

NBC aired the episode again Sunday night. I noticed that the "Spooky House" looks a lot like the country park museum across a similar field from Contee Drive in Laurel.  Despite a good eductation, Thomas showed signs of character disorder and psychopathy as a pre-teen.

A Baltimore television station has an up-to-date story here. The Inquisitr has a detailed story by Tracy Reyes April 24 here. It's not clear if NBC has updated the report. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

President breaks grounds on LGBT equality in SOTU speech; "Everybody matters"


On his State of the Union Message tonight, President Obama started out by saying “The shadow of crisis has passed”. The transcript is here

A lot of attention had been paid in advance to his plans for increase in capital gains tax rates for the wealthy.  The president told a story of a young couple in Minnesota, with kids, who had been hurt when the housing bubble burst – although that’s something anyone should have foreseen.  He then described how the family had worked its way back.
  
  
The president talked about the need for mandatory paid sick leave, including for child care, and mentioned paid maternity leave once.  He didn’t say paternity leave, but he then came out for equal pay by gender.  While European countries do reasonably well with paid family leave, those with fewer responsibilities must subsidize it.
  
The president expressed great confidence in “the rule of law” and that we could stop foreign enemies from invading the privacy, property, or security or ordinary Americans, an idea that has gotten more traction since the middle of last summer with ISIS.  He did not talk in any detail about the recent terror attacks and arrests in Europe.  But he did indicate he could ask for more authority to conduct operations against ISIS, even on the ground. 
   
But the president did mention all components of the LGBT community, maybe the first time ever in a State of the Union speech.  He said that national security actually depends on protecting every group of people that some people don’t like, which includes LGBT for some, and, ironically. Muslims on another hand.   His remark may have been motivated in some respects by a horrific specific atrocity earlier this week reported by the press in Britain and widely discussed in social media (especially among LGBT people in Europe). 
  
He also indicated that same-sex marriage (and implicitly, freedom from discrimination in other areas) was now a civil right.  70% of Americans live in states that now have to recognize same-sex marriage.
  
The warned that climate change is the greatest long term danger we face.
  
He also closed by saying that “everybody matters” (not in the original transcript), after saying “we are our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keepers” and then seemed to imply that this fact provides some deeper personal obligations on everyone, to include others.
  
The Republican Response was by Joni Ernst, senator from Iowa.  She mentioned “Red Oak”, a place in the Star Reporter board game of the 1950s.  It was pretty high level and not confrontational.  She hinted at bipartisan agreement on tax reform. Fix the Debt offers this immediate reaction, here

Monday, January 19, 2015

CNN twin special reports: "Inside the Paris Attacks" and "The War Within Islam"


Monday night, CNN aired two special half-hour reports, “Inside the Paris Attacks” and “The War Within Islam”.
  
The first of these emphasized the connections between the shootings at Charlie Hebdo’s, the two police shootings, and the attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris, and gave some background on all three dead suspects, as well as the female at large. 
  
The second half hour had Chris Cuomo hosting several panelists on the discussions of extremism within Islam.  The guests included Maajid Nawaz, Ruda Jebreal, and Ahmed Shihab-Elden. 
One important point was whether the Quaran endorses the violent “avenging” of Allah.  The answer was no, but there is one verse, in Quran 9:5, that gets taken out of context. The point about images of the prophet where said to be derivative of the Ten Commandments, in which Jehovah forbad all idol worship of any kind (as well illustrated by “The Golden Calf”)  The Quran does not specifically probit blasphemy, but some of the hadith letters do.
  
There was also discussion of the support by Saudi Arabia for terrorism. The US should use the leverage of its much lower dependence on Mid East oil than in the past even though Europe and China depend on it (although not so much – Russia is a big supplier, and being hurt the most by Saudi overproduction).
  
There was also mention that the Quran, while allowing conflict, specifically protects non-combatants and honors the general rules of war. 
CNN’s own TV schedule online is often non up to date with the specials it actually aired – a problem.  

Picture: A sunset in southern New Jersey;  the unusual high cirrus clouds make it look like a fireball.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bourdain gets cooking lessons on a farm near Lyon, France


Tonight, CNN’s “Parts Unknown” visited Lyon, France, and especially the farm, home and restaurant of Daniel Boulud, who returned to his hometown to learn to cook.  He never even saw processed foods until an adult, which gives a clue as to why the French are healthier than Americans despite rich food,
  
The dishes include almost raw fish on sauce, and particularly a smoked hare, which almost looks like a cartoon character when served.  There is also a gigantic stuffed pumpkin.  (Kindergarten: “Pumplins are orange”.  On this show, brown.)
  
  
The link for the episode is here
  
They also go on an auto tour in a tiny critoen of the Provence countryside, and the car breaks down.  
  
They also go on a hunting trip.

The broadcast is fortuitous, given the tragedy and tension France the past two weeks. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for Lyon.  Toulouse is as close as I’ve gotten (in 2001), including the space museum. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

NBC Dateline's "Deadly Betrayal" shows the dangers of raising foster children


NBC Dateline, on Friday night, in an episode called “Deadly Betrayal”, covered a bizarre case where a foster girl (Sabrina Zunich) murdered her foster mother (Lisa Knoefel) in Lake County, NE of Cleveland, Ohio, and where Sabrina, 18, maintained a romantic relationship with the husband Kevin, who would be prosecuted for arranging the murder.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer has the summary of the story here
  
The Dateline episode preview follows.
  
   

What is remarkable is that Lisa had taken in the foster child out of kindness.  Sabrina wanted to be a member of the family with the two siblings, but originally was believed to be jealous and to believe she was being forced out.  Gradually the story of the relationship with Kevin developed (it was six months before Sabrina mentioned it), and it sounds a little surprising that the jury bought it.  This makes the heterosexual world of family values sound, oh, so dangerous.   
     
 Picture: Cleveland (mine, Aug., 2012), near Euclid and Public Square  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Putin's Way" on PBS Frontline


On Jan. 13, PBS Frontline aired “Putin’s Way”, a documentary of how Vladimir Putin, a bureaucrat in St. Petersburg before the collapse of the Soviet Union, rose within Boris Yeltsin’s establishment and then rose to power himself, and is now in position to remain “president” of the Russian Federation until 2024, after briefly switching positions with another leader.  The link is here.  Much of the commentary comes from Gllian Findlay.
  
Much of the material for the documentary comes from Karen Dawisha’s book “Putin’s Kleptocracy”, a title that implies thievery and corruption.  Russia is not a failed new democracy but a successful authoritarian state. 
  
  
It’s interesting that Putin was raised as an only child, after his parents lost the first two children, and became used to “getting his own way”, as in this article
  
One of the key events in Putin’s history was the bombing of several apartment buildings around Moscow in 1999, called “Russia’s 9/11”.  But in one building, evidence was found that it may have been planted by the Russian government itself, for an excuse to attack in Chechnya. 
  
Russia appeared to have a veneer of prosperity when oil prices were high, but that has weakened.  The documentary pointed out the death or demise of some of Putin’s enemies, including Khodorkovsky (Movie reviews, Feb. 26, 2014)) and Litvinenko (“Poisoned by Polonium”, Jan. 21, 2014 on Movies blog).
  
The documentary doesn’t mention the anti-gay propaganda law passed in 2013, which seems like a convenient cover for Russia’s floundering economy.  So are Putin’s ventures in Crimea and the Ukraine, which are supposed to protect an abstract loyalty to Russian nationalism.  The median wealth for an individual Russian now is $871, less than that of India. About 100 people own 35% of Russia’s wealth. 
   

The documentary can be rented on YouTube for $1.99.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

CNN's "The O.J. Trial: Drama of the Century"


On Tuesday night, CNN aired “The O.J. Trial”, a retrospect of the trail of O.J. Simpson throughout most if the year 1995, resulting in his acquittal.  The broadcast has also been called “Drama of the Century”.
  
CNN has a very simple main page for the entire history, including transcripts, here
  
  
Much of the broadcast involved interviewing one of the jurors, who believed the defense theory that the police framed OJ.  The jury was sequestered for nine months.  If that happened to me today, that would destroy my online life.  Was the verdict really "about race", like the recent protests against police? 
    
The documentary also presented some of Kato Kaehlin’s testimony, and also interviewed him now, 20 years older, after he tried to set up a business of fashions for “slackers”. 

The Goldman family was also interviewed. 
    
I even recall radio talk show host Victoria Jones (“the British Lady”) polling people on OJ.  I had expected a conviction, as I thought of the stuff about Mark Fuhrman as sideshow.  It seemed like the physical evidence was overwhelming.

Toobin thinks that Chris Darden blew the case by asking OJ to try on the glove.  Marcia Clark (the book "Without a Doubt") also appears.

There is also the issue of Simpson's being taped at an exercise studio two weeks before and bragging about "wife beating".
   
I heard the jury verdict live on a broadcast TV at work in October 1995.
   
Note: There are notes about TLC’s “My Husband’s Not Gay” on the GLBT blog on Jan. 12;  I did not know about the broadcast in time to see it and review it myself. 


Update: January 24

CNN aired a prequel, "O.J.'s Wild Ride: 20 Years Later", covering the low-speed chase of OJ's Bronco by the LAPD.   I remember watching some of that live.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

ABC 20-20 crime story reports on a not-guilty verdict in NC, a change of pace from what Dateline usually does


ABC 20-20 on Saturday night covered the case of the murder of Lucy Johnson in Gaston County, NC. In 2008.  The episode was called “The Burning Bed”, and (in 2008) the victim was already dead when her house burned.   The link for the episode is here.  The show was originally aired in June 2014.  Johnson had worked as a nurse and was pregnant at the time.   
    
The report from the main ABC news magazine is different from most in NBC Dateline crime documentaries in that the prime suspect (a man who had been dating her and apparently whose child she had carried) would be acquitted at trial in 2011, so the case is still technically unsolved.
   
The Charlotte Observer has a report on the trial here
  
A newspaper in Gastonia describes the broadcast here. There had been conflict with a former husband over custody, visitation, and the like.
   
Most of these broadcast mysteries deal with nasty domestic situations and local business conflicts.  The “real world” for a lot of people seems to breed a lot of these kinds of jealousies   
  
Picture:  Light rail in Charlotte, 2011.  Gaston County is just west of Charlotte, maybe 20 miles away, where the mountain foothills start. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dateline: "Secrets of the Snake River" remakes Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train"


Secrets of the Snake River”, a one hour true life mystery, narrated by Dennis Murphy (who conducts most of the interviews) 'aired on NBC Dateline Friday night, with a double murder plot resembling the Hitchcock 1951 classic “Strangers on a Train” (of which a small excerpt was shown). Station KHQ has a detailed summary here
  
  
That is, each husband contracts to murder the other’s wife.      
  
It starts with the disappearance of Rachel Anderson, in Moscow, Idaho.  Eventually Charles Capone would be convicted of her murder, despite not being able to find a body (Charley Project link)   Anderson had been followed and stalked and gotten threatening disguised calls apparently from her estranged former husband, Capone.  The other partner, David Stone, would be convicted of lesser charges. It seems like a "weapons charge" is very convenient for law enforcement when they can't prove anything else.  I say on a jury convicting someone of a similar weapons charge in Dallas myself in 1982 (even in Texas!)  The "weapons charge" technique has been very useful against Charles Severance in Alexandria, VA (first, Loudoun County) -- that will get on Dateline eventually.        

Wikipedia attribution link for map showing Yellowstone “hot spots” in area over time.  I was last in the area in July 1990. 

Friday, January 09, 2015

NBC "Parenthood" approaches close, puts on troubling medical and crime situations


I haven’t followed NBC’s “Parenthood”, although the network is making a lot of the fact that this is the final season and that it’s down to the last four episodes.
  
Thursday night’s episode “How Did We Get Here?” presented a couple of personal challenges that certain demonstrate the values of the show.  Zeke Braverman (Craig T. Nelson) has another heart attack in bed, and is rushed to the hospital.  The family gathers, and is kept on edge by the ambiguity of the doctors’ answers from the emergency department.  It’s even going to take a couple hours to get a room in the ICU.  (It usually doesn’t in my experience here at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington VA with my own mother a few years back; the ICU looked like a regular private hospital room, even with TV and phone if you paid for it, but with extra monitoring).  Later, Zeke is confronted with a choice.  He can do nothing, remain an invalid needing care of others and probably only a few months to a year to live with cardiomyopathy.  Or he might try a second valve replacement operation, very risky.  (Barbara Walters had surgery like that at age 81, was out of commission for a summer, but came through just fine.) My own mother had a choice like that in 1999, electing coronary bypass surgery at age 85, at a time when it was unusual at that age.  She would live 11 more years, all but the last four quite productively.  So modern invasive surgery, even in the elderly, does work.
  
  
While the family is out, a coffee shop belonging to a couple of family members is burglarized and ransacked to shreds. The insurance company pays out enough that the owners can settle their debts, lay off the employees with a little severance, and keep a little.  It all sounds a little seedy, something insurers don’t like to see depicted.  It also shows that a single crime can bring the end of a small business, again a sobering lesson.
  

The show seems to be set in the Bay Area, around Berkeley, CA.  

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Piers Morgan appears on Meredit Vieira; talk about Cosby, Keisha, Dershowitz


Meredith Vieira today, on her own syndicated show, interviewed Piers Morgan, who is now the lead editor(or “Editor-at-Large”) of the UK Daily Mail (story).  I want to say that I’m glad to see Piers “working” again, and miss him on CNN, even though I do like the more conservative Smerconish.
  
Morgan talked about the Bill Cosby situation, with “most of the women of the world” now accusing him of abuse.  “Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t apply to big celebrity contracts.  
   
They talked about Keisha Knight Pulliam’s “firing” from Celebrity Apprentice and then her defense of Cosby.
  
  
He also supported Alan Dershowitz’s denials and counter-litigation in his being named in silly claims against Prince Andrew, which Dershowitz says are simply made up.  But this whole mess shows how much trouble even an accusation of involvement with underage people (heterosexual – most common – or homosexual) can cause.  Again, the practical perception is “guilty until proven innocent”.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

"Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA" on PBS Frontline


Tuesday night, PBD Frontline offered the one hour film “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA”, with a major link here.
  
The documentary traced the influence of the gun lobby on the 2000 general election, after Gore had talked about stricter gun registration and background checks.  George W. Bush even carried Gore’s own state of Tennessee.  Under Bush and a GOP Congress, the NRA (located on US 66 at Route 50, near Fairfax VA) was able to sunset the Clinton assault weapons ban.  The NRA hired La Pierre and others not for their knowledge of weapons but as political operatives.  The documentary covered the "gun show" loophole extensively.  
  
The documentary had opened with Columbine and then with a review of the shooting of Gabby Giffords in Arizona on Jan. 8. 2011, but focused particularly on Sandy Hook in Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012 toward the end, playing back the 911 calls from the school.


LaPierre (“the only defense to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”) declined to be interviewed for the documentary. 



Monday, January 05, 2015

"CNN Tonight": Don Lemon presents Alan Dershowitz with his vigorous denials


On “CNN Tonight”, Don Lemon interviewed Alan Dershowitz, who explained his denial of the slurs against him in legal action about Virginia Roberts (and even implicating a British prince).

The most recent CNN link where Dershowitz responds to the allegations is here.    It is important that Dershowitz is not named as a defendant but believes the legal papers are libelous and constitute “made up stories” by other lawyers.  He plans to sue the attorneys in several jurisdictions, probably London, New York State and Florida, everywhere papers were filed.  He is confident enough to force the issue even though the statue of limitations has passed and he didn’t have to do anything.

He says he has never heard of a case where lawyers involved in negotiating a previous case were turned around and accused of sexual misconduct with principals in the case just as a publicity stunt.
Gloria Allred and Mike Geragos also appeared on “CNN Tonight” to discuss Dershowitz’s response.
 
The case shows how in some cases people will make up charges of sexual relations with minors out of thin air.  In 2005, as I have noted before, I wound up stopping substitute teaching after people became aware of a fictitious screenplay that I had posted that appeared to make an elderly male sub resembling me vulnerable to approaches by precocious minors.  In retrospect, it would appear that the “fear” o the principal at the affected high school was that the posting invited the possibility of stories being made up “out of thin air” but being difficult to parry.  I was not willing to accept the “real world” of teachers in social media.  

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Shocking death of Daniel seems to predict an end for ABC's "Revenge"


So Daniel (David Bowman) is murdered on the mid-season finale of Revenge (Dec 7, re-aired tonight), after, according to critics, the character had learned to be a “responsible human being”, even if rich and a bit of a parasite. In the end, he was able to sacrifice himself to save Emily, at the end of an episode called “Atonement”. The Hollywood Life story is here
  
The death is recreated at the beginning of Jan. 4, “Epitaph”.
  
British actor Josh Bowman is said to have supported the death of his character, but will return in a couple flashbacks.  But it would seem as this overloaded plot (which was quite convincing in the first season) will come to an end. 
  
Nolan (Gabriel Mann), for all his quirkiness, seems like the most normal and only really stable character in the show – in a 21st Century world.  (Leonardo da Vinci did all right in the 15th Century, and Alan Turing simply won the war.)  Maybe that’s political correctness now.   If you’re slender, you can look twenty years younger.  

Friday, January 02, 2015

Dateline's "The Man Who Wasn't There": true life domestic crime plot follows a Coen Brothers film


On January 2, 2015, NBC Dateline aired “The Man Who Wasn’t There”, a bizarre case in southern California where a man, Magdi Girgis, 51 in 2004, would be tried and convicted for hiring hit men to come into their gated community and murder his wife Ariel, to eliminate a messy divorce.  Girgis had been a respiratory therapist and could lose his license over domestic violence convictions as well as most of his assets.  The hit men tied up the teenage son Ryan to put on a show. An Orange County Register version of the story is here
  
Undercover police helped break the case by acting as “middlemen” to collect supposed debts, and trap Girgis into giving away evidence.  The defense tried to implicate a son’s supposed drug activity. It's also interesting that initially police thought it odd that Ryan left the house and called 911 without checking on his mother first.  Is this an example of prejudicial "family values"?
 
    
   

The title of the episode is curious, as a Coen Brothers black and white film in 2001 (from Good Machine) was called that.  In that film, with Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand. In that black comedy film a barber blackmails his wife’s boss and lover to start a dry cleaning business.  It’s set in Santa Rosa, CA in 1949 and there’s a bizarre sequence with an alien UFO, and, according to imdb, leg-shaving, Tailhook style.  I do recall seeing it in Minneapolis in the Uptown Theater.  I guess the plot roughly follows this “true story” on Dateline tonight.  

The episode re-aired on April 9, 2016.  

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A cold Tournament of Roses, and an outdoor NHL game dominate New Year's Day


Network programming was dominated by two events New Year’s Day.
  
ABC and NBC both covered the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA, from 8-10 AM PST, but at least in Washington DC, ABC started on time and covered the entire event.  The temperature was in the middle 30s, and there was snow on some of the hills around LA, and the eucalyptus trees along Colorado Blvd looked withered, despite recent monsoons.   
  
Different marching bands played some classical music, including a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, and the last movement of Ippolatov-Ivanov’s “Caucasian Sketches”, a favorite of a friend of mine in high school.  It brings back memories of early 1961, when we played our records on vinyl and had to watch worn styli and heavy tracking.  (“A chipped stylus could ruin your entire collection” – I still remember that scary sentence in a High Fidelity magazine.)
  
There was a Rose Queen, who had to be female, and was actually just 17, and had been selected out of 700 girls.  It sounded like the “Miss America” pageants of the past (with Bert Parks). 
   
There was a float for the City of Hope hospital, and there was mention of a 7-month old with leukemia, who was cured by a stem-cell transplant at age 5.  St. Jude’s in Memphis comes to mind. There was also some discussion of the culture of transplantation, and openness to it is starting to become a cultural expectation.  There was also attention to the Special Olympics.
  
  
I had a friend at William and Mary (in 1961) from Pasadena, a classical musician who liked “the culture of the East”.  I went out and visited him in Pasadena over Thanksgiving break in 1967, by Trailways bus from Lawrence, Kansas, where I was then in graduate school.  I remember a reception at his parents’ home, and the mother was so impressed that I might some day try for a Ph D in math.  (I didn’t.)  I remember talking to John about the Vietnam war as he drove me through the 2nd Street Tunnel in LA, and he said, “We should be there”.  Later, in December 1969, as I was getting out of the Army, I would have a job interview with Rand in Santa Monica, and then with Blue Cross in Woodland Hills in 1978 (where I had a good friend through the organization “Understanding”).  So a few times, I’ve had scrapes with almost living there.  Don’t believe the song “It never rains in southern California”.  I still remember how the area looked in “Dragnet” and in the “I Love Lucy” shows.

The other big event New Year’s Day was the NHL hockey game in Nationals Park in Washington DC (at the other end of the US) between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals.  Washington won, 3-2, with a last second goal, which was like winning by that score in the bottom of the ninth in baseball.  It was carried on NBC.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for LA tunnel here