Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"Dead Reckoning: War, Crime and Justice" on PBS

Tonight, PBS aired a three-hour three-part documentary “Dead Reckoning: War, Crime and Justice” focusing on war crimes from WWII through the War on Terror.  Basic link is here.

The three episodes are  “The general’s ghost, The Blind Eye. In Our Time”.

I caught the last half of it.  Episode 2 was conducting war crimes trials based on genocide against indigenous Maya in Guatemala. A man was on trial denying he ordered the murder of civilians.

The last episode dealt with mainly atrocities in Bosnia (and Yugoslavia) in 1993 and Rwanda in 1994 (as well as Congo).  In Rwanda, people turned on others who had been personal friends.  The episode ends with a conviction in a trial in the Hague.  The Bosnia portion showed forensic efforts to identify many victims who had been buried in hiding. At the end, Aleppo was shown.
The consensus was that relatively few war crimes are prosecuted to conviction.

Wikipedia attribution link for image by Hypergio for new International Criminal Court Building in the Netherlands under CCSA 4.0.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

"Chess Country" on CBS 60 Minutes, as a professor mentors grade school kids in rural Mississippi

Sunday night CBS 60 Minutes, in a segment called “Chess Country”, showed how Dr. Jeff Burlington has mentored kids in Franklin County, Mississippi, teaching the basics of chess, story link here.

The kids eventually take a bus trip to Nashville, analyzing positions on the bus, and play in a huge tournament in the Opry Center.  Although school loses 30 of 32 first round games, it places well at the end, with one kid winning a crucial game with White on an opponent’s blunder (the opponent was higher rated) after the opponent offered a draw.

The townspeople say that the mentor was glad to teach chess to “hillbillies”.  But John Grisham comes from Mississippi.  There is now a chess center in the county seat of Meadville (in SW Mississippi).
I did notice that a number of the kids looked obese.  That isn't so good.  World champion Magnus Carlsen is also a fitness buff, to all appearances/

Is this volunteer activity I should do?  I do play the game well enough to teach it to “beginners”.  My highest rating ever was about 2000.  There are programs around the country for inner city kids.  There is a group in northern Virginia that holds “chess for charity” events at a local Catholic school.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

ABC 20-20 covers case of Noura Jackson in Memphis, and circumstantial evidence convicting her of "Matricide"

ABC 20-20 last night, in “Matricide”, covered the case of Noura Jackson, who was convicted for stabbing her mother to death in their home near Memphis early on Sunday, June 5, 2005.

She would be convicted of second degree murder on what seems like overwhelming circumstantial evidence.  But no DNA evidence was found linking her to the crime. (Some legal authorities see DNA evidence as actually still circumstantial.)  Some of the circumstantial evidence was quirky, such as her wearing long sleeves in summer heat to cover up her self-treatment for injuries during the incident.  She says “I have real hairy arms” and that she often shaves her arms, like a cyclist.  In the trial, she did not testify.

But she won a new trial because the prosecuting attorney broke a rule of criminal procedure by criticizing her not testifying, which is her constitutional right according to the Fifth Amendment.

She wound up taking an Alford plea, accepting the conviction for time served and not admitting guilt, and was released, although not for over a year.  She has settled with relatives for some of her mother’s estate.

Wikipedia attribution link for Beale Street, Memphis image, by Andreas Faessler, CCSA 3.0

Friday, March 24, 2017

ABC Nightline makes marriage reflexive

ABC Nightline (late Thursday night) covered the amusing topic of marrying yourself. “These Women Had Perfect Weddings for Themselves Without a Groom

Is that the ultimate expression of self-concept, marrying yourself?  My own father used to say, “You’re married to your records”.  Maybe it’s to my blogs, like this one.

So we have gay marriage, can we have reflexive marriage?   In French, the verb is already reflexive.  You marry yourself with someone.   “Elle s’est mariee avec Bill”.  She married Bill. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Truth and Lies: The Family Manson" on ABC 20-20

ABC 20-20 aired a 2-hour documentary “Truth and Lies: The Family Manson” (link ) about the life of Charles Manson, his crimes, and his followers, pretty much a companion to “Helter Skelter”.
Manson’s early life had a lot of petty crime, but he tried to become a music celebrity.  He believed he was deceived in a contract, and resented others in Hollywood who had a good life.

The documentary gives a step by step account of the Sharon Tate murders, with the home invasion and brutality, and other coverup murders, as well as the life of his followers on the “Ranch” and their attempt to “escape” in the Mojave Desert.  Manson would be arrested on car theft charges first, as his followers tried to prepared dune buggies for the coming race war.  (The video embedded below from ABC will show only with "http" rather than "https").

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos
The last part of the film shows the trials, with his female followers shaving their heads and making spectacles outside.  Many followers went to prison for life.  Manson’s death sentence was reduced to life but the film shows the old gas chamber.  Manson would be severely burned by an inmate in 1984.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tom Price defends GOP's AHCA on CNN Town Hall

Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash hosted HHS secretary Tom Price Wednesday night in a Town Hall, best link.
The biggest part of Price’s pitch was allowing consumers to avoid paying for specific coverages that they did not need (such as pregnancy for the elderly). 

Price also explained the anti-selection problem with pre-existing conditions and tried to defend the continuous coverage idea. 
But much of Price’s discussion concerned the ramp=up of premiums this year for people buying individual insurance from exchanges under Obamacare, to pay for other people’s behaviors and pre-existing conditions. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"The Most Powerful Man in the World" (Vladimir Putin, mentor to Donald Trump; the World According to Fareed)

Wednesday night, CNN aired another one-hour documentary by Fareed Zakria about America’s enemies, “The Most Powerful Man in the World”, that is, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, best link.

The documentary is filled with invocations of the stirring Russian national anthem (in E Major) by Alexandrov  (age old wisdom of our fraternal people, popular wisdom of our forbearers, etc).   Or try this one, with the Russian Army and Putin speaking.

It starts with a 35 year old lieutenant colonel Putin holding fort in Dresden, E Germany when the Berlin Wall falls.  It then covers the corruption of the 1990s with Yeltsin at the helm, with oligarchs getting rich and ordinary people starving – so in a sense, people had been addicted to communism. Putin becomes Prime Minister and speaks in 2000.  He befriends George W Bush in 2001.  With rising oil prices, Putin pursues nationalism in a manner that predicts Trump, and life gets better for many working Russians in a statist capitalist system.  So Putin becomes popular.

Zakaria covers why Putin especially had it in for Hillary Clinton (as explained here , going back to the Arab Spring).  Hillary was seen as a “hawk” on foreign policy, in some ways more conservative than Trump (like  McCain would be, Fareed says).  He also maintains that Putin sees Trump as his own “Apprentice”.

Putin is still wildly popular in Russia, with his “Make Russia Great Again”.  Zakaria didn’t mention this, but LGBTQ  people became scapegoats in 2013, largely because :GBTQ is seen as excerabting Russia’s baby bust (when Putin says “leave the children alone”, he really means, don’t let them get the idea that  it isn’t important to have kids).

Putin is, ironically, seen as a sex symbol, even in his 60s, even given horseback pictures that betray that he has no hair on his chest.  And the teats are getting sloppy.  Milo will notice that.

Vladimir Putin appears once meeting with Al-Assad in the film “Cries from Syria” which aired on HBO right after Zakaria (Wordpress).

He didn’t cover the 2002 theater hostage crisis in Moscow.

Wikipedia attribution link for Moscow picture

This episode re-aired on July 20, 2018. Zakaria updated it with comments about the recent Helsinki summit.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Josh Garcia visits Singapore as "Little Island, Big Flavor" on his "Voyager" program for "The More You Know"

NBC’s “Voyager” travel show with Josh Garcia (as part of “The More You Know”) on Saturday mornings on March 11, on a half-hour episode called “Little Island, Big Flavor”.

Josh gets off a Carnival tour cruise (I don’t go on cruises – ships do not constitute sightseeing destinations) in Sinagpore, almost on the Equator, the cleanest big city in the world, known for its strict laws about public littering and conduct (and canings).

The link right now is here.  I do have the latest Flash so I don’t know why the video didn’t play.

Note the physical contrast between Josh and his host.  Despite the Hispanic name and Puerto Rican background, Josh (now 36) illustrates that some people from Spain had originally emigrated from northern Europe a millennium ago, to Galicia.

The episode shows the super modern buildings on the waterfront, and then Josh visits many little shops and buys shoes for his niece, calling her to get a shoe size.  He uses his selfie-stick a lot.  He also tries the food (like Anthony Bourdain would), eating whole crabs immersed in bizarre soups.

Wikipedia attribution link for dinnertime picture in Singapore by Allie Caulfield under CCSA 2.0.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

CNN: "Melania Trump: The Making of a First Lady"

On Friday, March 10, 2017, CNN aired “Melania Trump: The Making of a First Lady” with Randi Kaye.

The best CNN link seems to be here.

The most interesting portion was the coverage of the period when Donald Trump announced he would run in June 2015.

The episode covered the plagiarism scandal over her speech at the Republican National Convention.
But it also covered Donald’s courtship of her and the birth of Barron, who stood next to Donald when Donald accepted his win Election Night.  They were married in early 2005.

She did explain her legal immigration and citizenship in 2006.

She also explained her desired for activism against Internet bullying in social media.

Friday, March 10, 2017

ABC 20-20 exposes "Gay Conversion Therapy Camps" in the US deep south in year long undercover investigation

ABC 20-20 exposed the operation of “gay conversion therapy camps” in the South, especially in Alabama and Texas.  The main video link is here.

Parents in fundamentalist families pay thousands to “camps” that purport to convert their kids to potentially procreative and lineage-extending heterosexuality.

Much of the narrative focused on one kid, Lucas Greenfield, now 17, who was adopted in south Florida at 3, sent away to a camp in Alabama at 13, returned home, and then sent away again a second time, when he escaped.  He was actually rescued somehow by a stranger.

One black camp owner was convicted of child abuse and sentence to 20 years in prison with the help of Greenfield’s testimony.

The Family Research Council was interviewed, with a spokesperson rationalizing the practice and saying parents should have complete control of the medical treatment of their kids.  The idea came up at the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. Pence had proposed the idea of what amounts to conversion therapy to control AIDS back in 2000 but claims he does not support conversion therapy now.

The program repeatedly pointed out that medical authorities today insist that sexual orientation cannot be changed.

20-20 also covered the efforts of Supergirl actor Jeremy Jordan to rescue his lesbian cousin from a boarding school in Texas.  She was sent there after going to a high school prom with a girl friend. (patheos story ).

Some parents in evangelical circles see their own marital sexuality tied to control of their children 's reproductive potential and the guarantee of a lineage, as reinforced by a naïve kind of faith. It's rather like how the alpha male lion in a pride thinks.

Alabama's new Senator (Luther Strange, replacing Jeff Sessions) was diffident on his failure to prosecute vigorously when he was the state's attorney general.

Here’s a plug from Milo on conversion therapy, link.

Monday, March 06, 2017

CNN "Believer" shocks some viewers showing "cannibalism" in the caste system in India

Sunday night, CNN launched its series “Believer” with Reza Aslan, with some degree of controversy.   Here is Ben Selkow’s site for 34LukeFilms.

The first episode explored the Aghori in India.  The episode purported to explore the downside of the “believer’s” notion of karma, which rationalizes the caste system, and the shuttering away of some people as untouchables (leprosy was shown).  Hindu belief in reincarnation lies beneath this system, and this group takes that belief quite far.

Reza undergoes a potentially humiliating ritual on a beach-like river bank where all kinds of substances are smeared over main parts of his body.

Huffington Post’s contributor Vamsee Jurluri called the series “reckless, racist and dangerously anti-immigrant”.

The Washington Post headline was that the show “catches grief for showcasing religious cannibals in India”.  The Daily Mail weights in on the cannibalism practices here.

The Los Angeles Times says that the series “could use a little more enlightenment itself”.

Wikipedia attribution llink for Aghori image by Lewis2388 under CCSA 3.0.

Update: March 12

Reza (who was born in Tehran, Iran but no longer looks like it -- he also says he is a "moderate" Muslim) visits the Big Island of Hawaii (which I toured in 1980 -- and my car rental contract didn't let me drive up Mauna Loa) to a group called Cinderland or the Rainbow Village, a commune carved out of a volcanic outcrop (which has turned green) at about 8000 feet, run by a guru named Jezus.

The guru preaches that the world will end with another huge Flood or tsunami (well, the Canary Islands Cumbre-Vieja volcano could collapse and send a wave to the US East Coast).  But, unlike Jim Jones or Dave Koresh, the guru does not run a dictatorship or cache weapons.  The commune reminded me of a miniature Lama Foundation (which is north of Taos, NM, which I have visited twice, in the 1980s).  Reza interviews a number of shirtless men, mostly in their 30s and 40s or so, but surprisingly smooth.

March 19:

Reza visits Hati to explore voodoo, which became mixed with Catholicism, and which maintains that the disincarnates are very much with us.  He participates in a ritual sacrifice, and then has his body cleansed at a huge waterfall.  Haiti is the site of the only completely successful slave rebellion.

March 26

Reza examines the Church of Scientology.  He gets audited a couple times, once by an excommunicated adept who has started his own "business."  He describes the aggressiveness with which the Church enforces trademark and copyright.  He also hears believers talk about their past lives and reincarnation.

April 2

Reza explores the para-Catholic "Saint Death" cult in Mexico, as an answer to extreme police corruption and government breakdown by drug cartels, driving many of our immigration controversies in the world of Trump.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

CNN resumes "Finding Jesus" with "The Pilate Stone", analogy to Trump

Tonight CNN aired the newest episode of “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Fiction”, “The Pilate Stone” (link).

In Judea, an archeologist has found the underground ruin of where Pilate lived during the time of Christ.

The episode explains how Pilate did not find Jesus guilty of a capital offense, and he tested the Saducees by offering Barrabus, who had apparently committed one of the two offenses that could lead to crucifixion (that is, sedition-treason, or leading a slave revolt).

But the “liberal” Saducees still wanted Jesus to pay the price, for threatening religious authority.  Pilate was also angered when Jesus told him that Pilate’s authority came from God.  Pilate was loyal to the Emperor in Rome and feared “losing his job”.

The whole episode reminds one of group or mob rule, the sort of mentality that enabled Donald Trump to conduct “Lock Her Up” chants in his followers.

Wikipedia attribution link for US public domain painting by Antonio Ceseri.

March 12;

The series continued by examining the resurrection of Lazarus. (John 11:1-44).   This was a challenge to whether Jesus would use his "powers" (which would remind one of Smallville's Clark Kent -- the show was careful to say that Clark doesn't heal people).  The narrative helped convince authorities that Jesus was too dangerous to the status quo and help set up the Passion.   At one point, Jesus orders Lazarus to "come out" (no pun intended).

March 19:

The episode looked at the remains of the possible home site of Jesus in Nazareth.  The Romans would be very brutal and enslave populations to retain control.  The episode recounts how Jesus went off on his own once at age 12, but worked steadily until age 30.

March 26:

An episode describes King Herod's desire to assassinate the child Jesus and shows Herod's own mountain, covering his possible sarcophagus. The mountain looks like an example of ancient "mountaintop removal".

April 2:

The episode looks at Jesus's "best friend", Peter (like a kind of Marr Damon and Ben Affeck), and analyzes whether his remains really lie under the Vatican.  It covers his upsidedown crucifixion, and examines the idea of his possible cowardice. It also explores his differences with Paul over Judaism. 

Friday, March 03, 2017

"When We Rise: The People Behind the Story": documentary history of gay rights

When We Rise: The People Behind the Story” aired Thursday March 2, 2017 as a featurette before parts 4 and 5 of the series.

The one hour introduced the activists today, especially Cleve Jones and Ken Jones, who both survived AIDS by getting into antiretroviral drug programs in the late 80s that actually started to work.

The hour also gave a quick history of the LGBT community by decade, starting in the 60s, which ended with the Stonewall rebellion where people revolted in the streets against routine police raids of gay bars.  The early history talked of people being thrown out of their homes by religious parents, for no rational reason other than an authoritarian view of faith.  It seemed as though many fathers felt that gay sons could deny them grandchildren and a lineage to survive them, and that allowing homosexuality to be acceptable would undermine families and leave them with fewer children.

In the 1970s, gay pride marches started, leading to the first March on Washington in `1979, followed my future marches in 1993 and 2000.  The show covers the Briggs Proposition 6 in California in 1978, which would have banned gay teachers (or associating with gay causes by teachers), and the solidarity needed to defeat it (a lesson for me, perhaps), as well as Anita Bryant’s campaign in 1977.

It then goes to cover the AIDS epidemic quickly, as people went through generations of friend, and then moves into the 1990s with Bill Clinton’s don’t ask don’t tell policy for gays in the military, Obama’s repeal, and then DOMA and gay marriage, leading to the Supreme Court Obergefell decision in 2015.

Episodes 4 and 5 covered the aftermath of AIDS and moved into the 1990s, with Bill Clinton’s proposal to lift the ban, which sounded progressive at the time but led to 13000 discharges.  It also shows Cleve as a de facto foster parent, and the lesbian couple raising a daughter, who finally does well in school.  Trent Lott’s son comes out, and in one melodramatic scene, Trent threatens to shoot himself.

Friday night the last two episodes covered Proposition 8 in California and the DOMA trial before the Supreme Court.  There was a curious courtroom discussion over whether recognizing gay marriage would result in lower marriage rates among heterosexuals, because of loss of "meaning."  There was also some more coverage of the marches on Washington (Wiki).

Here's another discussion of the series.

Update: March 10, 2017

Brock Thompson asks in the Washington Blade, "Who was 'When We Rise'" for, anyway?"  Interesting way to ask this kind of question. 

Thursday, March 02, 2017

CNN holds town hall with GOP senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham; Sinclair holds roundtable on Trump's speech

Wednesday, March 1, 2017, CNN presented a Town Hall with Dana Bash moderating questions to two GOP US Senatrs, John McCain and Lindsey Graham.  The best link seems to be here.
I had to record it because I was watching “We Will Rise”.  I had some trouble – I messed up and it didn’t start until about 20 minutes in to the show.  And it cut me off just before Graham was going to answer an important question on North Korea.

McCain said that Russian intervention in US elections by hacking and fake news influence could create an existential threat to US democracy.

Graham said that he wanted Trump to succeed, but that Putin has a blind spot when it comes to Vladimir Putin, worth 40 billion dollars (about as much as Mark Zuckerbeg), but much less legitimately.

Graham said Putin was interfering with Nato and trying to promulgate neo-fascist mass movements in Europe.

One doctor from Arizona questioned the idea of cutting Medicaid as part of “reforming” Obamacare.
Also, Wednesday night, Sinclair Broadcasting and WJLA News Channel 8 did a “Your Voice Your Future” roundtable from Arlington on Trump’s speech, moderated by Scott Thuman.  The link just given names the panelists.  Moran was my representative for years in Arlington, and Republican congressman Tom Davis was my rep in the mid 1990s when I lived in an apartment in Annandale (while writing my first book).

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Trump's address to Congress, on CNN and all major networks, makes the "mainstream" more comfortable.

The television event last night was, of course, Donald Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress.  I watched it on CNN.  (Spell his name "t_Rump"). Technically this was not a "State of the Union" speech.

Trump did sound “logical” in the way he described his “America First”.  Yes, it is reckless not to enforce our laws regarding entering the country.  Yes, it is difficult for the United States to vet people from failed or hostile states.  Yes, there is no Earth flag  This not Star Wars yet.

He did cite examples of lesser known crimes committed by illegal immigrants.  He did mention “radical Islamic terrorism”, against the advice of advisers.  But the crime from “illegals”  has more to do with drug cartels than Islam.   Most of the well known Islamist terror attacks have come from people in the country legally, or second generations in families that did not assimilate well.

Overstated visas are a problem, and I was a little surprised not to hear it mentioned.

Trump, to his credit, opened by mentioning Black History Month and by condemning anti-Semetic threats recently.

Trump did not say how he would pay for all his ambitious programs, including making health insurance premiums lower for working Americans while covering pre-existing conditions (hint: public tax money).  Trump promised a “stable transition” for those in the exchanges.  He did not explain how health savings help poor people.

Here is CNN’s analysis of “6 takeaways”.  Why Trump called for “unity”, McTerran argues on CNN that his speech doesn’t negate his previous campaign of “hate”.

MSN fact-checked 13 of Trump's claims in his address.

Radley Balko's op-ed in the Washington Post is not very kind to Trump. ("A Broadside Attack on the Values of a Free Society.")  Rick Sincere of GLIL share this on his own daily paper today (March 2).

Trump wants to increase the relative proportion of legal immigrants brought in because of unusual skills.  He wants more emphasis on evidence that the immigrant can become self-supporting.  But that could support the idea of Canadian style sponsorship (or expansion of I-864 requirements).