“The Witness”: a Vietnam war amputee examines the NYC murder of his sister in 1964, and the supposed public apathy of witnesses


Name: The Witness
Director, writer:  James D. Solomon
Released:  2015
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant
Length 88
Rating NA
Companies: Film Rise
Link: url

I remember the newspaper coverage of the murder of Kitty Genovese outside her Queens apartment building at night on March 13, 1964.  I was working at the National Bureau of Standards at the time, on my first job, in what was a somewhat depressing period of my own coming of age. But I would later go to the New York World’s Fair in August, 1964 on the train and meet college friends in the city there.  It was an adventure then, in those pre-Vietmam war LBJ days (about the time of Tonkin).

The film “The Witness” (2015, directed by James D. Solomon) starts out with barebones coverage with black and white stills of the murder, before the narrator, her brother William, gets into his quest to get behind the New York Times account  of the supposed apathy of other apartment residents who heard the screams and witnessed the murder but didn’t even call police.  Bill Clinton would later say that shows we are too much “alone.”

Actually, her attacker returned and attacked her a second time, which is what led to her final death. But William’s gumshoeing reveals complications that question whether the New York Times presentation of personal apathy was itself a fabrication.

But the investigation leads to other leads.  He gradually discovers that Kitty bad been both charismatic in her own social circles, and a lesbian, with a girl friend.

In time, the documentary shifts to the narrative of the killer, Winston Moseley, serving life in prison.  He had been sentenced to death, but the capital punishment was overturned. He seems to have been a gifted man intellectually with a crazy streak, to go psychopathic.  There was the idea of racial anger, but his other murder victim had been black.  And he would be apprehended after an alert neighbor did notice a burglary.  He would escape from prison in Buffalo and start a brief reign of terror.  But in prison he would “reform” and try to claim he was going to be good by 1977, earning a degree.

William tries to contact Moseley for an interview, but through Moseley’s son (who does talk to him) he learns of the declination.  The son expresses the bizarre rumor that there is a connection to the Genovese crime family.

Throughout the film, we see William Genovese as a double amputee, without prosthesis, in a wheel chair.  In a flashback near the end, Genovese shows a black-and-white reenactment of the Marine battle in the Mekong Delta where he lost both legs in a blast in 1967.  His buddies came to his rescue, but observers left his sister alone. Nevertheless, he would marry and have children.

The profile of the killer reminds me of the psychology of convicted Maryland killer Jason Thomas Scott  whom I believe could have a connection to the Kanika Powell case in Laurel MD, and possibly Sean Green later in 2008 (story) .    These cases, while still unsolved, deserve full re-investigation, and maybe a documentary filmmaker could help (or maybe NBC Dateline or ABC 20-20).   There’s a Crime Watch Daily short film of the case here. The NBC Dateline show on Scott was called “The Unusual Suspect” (see index).  The obvious concern about “smart” psychopaths, especially “intermittent” in their crime, is that they could be recruited by foreign terrorists.

(Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 at 10:45 PM EDT)

“Thank You for Playing”: a dad honors his son’s cancer fight with a video game


Name: Thank You for Playing
Director, writer:  David Osit, Malika Zouhali-Worrall
Released:  2015
Format:  HD
When and how viewed:  PBS POV 2016/10/24
Length 80
Rating (PG?)
Companies: PBS POV
Link: PBS

Thank You for Playing” (and not just spectating – my addition to the title) is an engrossing film about the world of video gaming – as engineered by a gentle an husband and father (Ryan Green) whose youngest son has a terminal brain terminal.  The game is called “The Dragon, Cancer”.

Close to half of the 80 minute film presents an alternative universe of animation, for his little boy to live in.

Ryan and his family live in Colorado, and the real world surroundings are beautiful enough. They travel to Seattle to a gamer’s conference, and then to San Francisco for one last attempt at radical radiation therapy to save the boy, who passes away at three but has outlived his original prognosis by over a year.

Green has other young programmers helping him build the game, and there are plenty of screenshots of java code.

The film shows the intimacy of the family, which seems to embrace the family bed, way beyond what I would be capable of.

Along these lines are studies which show that testosterone levels of men drop off after they become fathers in marriages and care for their children; Pam Belluck wrote in 2011 for the NYTimes that this is not news fathers want to hear.   How does the body know that the partner has had a child?  Telepathy? Pheromones?  Science Magazine reports  that the drop in male hormones is the lowest in men who spend time caring for their children.  (I can remember an office joke back in 1971 or so from a finicky heterosexual coworker who thought “male sex hormones in the bloodstream” are a bad thing.)  Fatherhood sometimes changes men radically, from the viewpoint of the outside world. But not always.

School’s Out from Julie Zammarchi on Vimeo.

PBS POV followed this feature (Monday, Oct. 24, 2016) with the short film “Schools’ Out” by Julie Zammarchi, about the legacy of segregated schools.  A possible comparison would be “Boyds Negro School” (index).

Wikipedia attribution link for Independence Pass picture , by Nan Palermo, CCSA 2.0.    I drove it in 1984.

(Posted: Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 at 1 PM EDT)

Jonathan Last’s “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting”: demographic winter (or maybe just the “wrong” babies)


Author: Jonathan Last
Title, Subtitle: What to Expect When No One’s Expecting
publication date 2013 (new preface in 2014)
ISBN 978-1-59403-641-5
Publication: 2013
Link: link

In late 2006, I saw, on a very big screen, Alfonso Curaon’s dour epic for Universal, “Children of Men”, with Clive Owen and Michael Caine, where the world has only one pregnant woman (Claire Hope-Ashotey) who has surfaced in a hidden location on the English coast after years of anti-immigrant dystopia.  In fact, I’ve wondered if some bizarre retrovirus could evolve somewhere whose only ill effect is sterility – and it spreads surreptitiously until it is too late.  How about that for a sci-fi scenario about “state interest”?

The 2013 book by Jonathan V. Last (an ironic name), “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster” does replay the right-wing demographic winter argument, and the author, while admitting his own social conservatism (and guilt feelings about his luxury lifestyle with his wife in Old Town Alexandria, VA) insists he has no intention on turning back the clock on all the various liberations of self-actualizations in the past decades.  The book seems to invoke much of the same arguments made by Phillip Longman in his 2004 book “The Empty Cradle”.

And there have been plenty of criticisms that claim this “old argument” is really about having “the right babies” or “more white babies.”  Last defuses that idea quickly, noting that immigrant populations, when moving into wealthier countries, gradually reduce their own fertility.

First, is there a world population problem, as we thought in the 60s? Look at Wikipedia’s article,  which shows that World population is increasing.  But wealthier populations in western countries are experiencing much lower fertility than in the past and are not replacing their own populations.  In the United States, immigration (mostly Latino) has kept population increasing and total fertility close to replacement, but in time even Latino immigrant fertility will drop. In Europe, original populations may not sustain themselves against immigrant, often Muslim populations(as in Bruce Bawer’s “While Europe Slept”).

So the problems could involve security (as in Europe) or, more likely, the economic effects of an aging population.  There are fewer workers to support more retirees, who live longer.

Before returning to this, let’s put the whole “world” into perspective.  In Camelot, or the best of all possible outcomes, western technology makes the developing world peaceful, stable, and prosperous, with a climate-change-friendly infrastructure and raising living standards for all the world’s poor.  Young adults today admirably often want to go overseas and help developing nations with health care, clean water, and other infrastructure.   The end result would be a lower fertility rate in today’s developing countries.  So world population would stabilize, and that could be a good thing.  There’s probably a maximum population the planet can support, and that goes down with life expectancy.  It might be like 9 billion or so.  Someday, our future descendants have to learn to move to other worlds and live there.  Imagine the social issues that will come up (as science fiction writers selling self-published novels on Amazon do all the time).

But for the next few decades or so, at least, declining fertility is a rea problem for relatively “richer” populations.   Look at this chart on Wikipedia and it’s apparent that the “poor” countries have much higher fertility rates.

Let’s talk about Social Security and Medicare specifically. In my case, my own benefit (which I took at 62 for life-narrative reasons) is approximately right actuarially for what I (and my employers) paid into the system with FICA taxes, so I don’t feel I have a karma problem.  (I add, that as a childless person who inherited a house with land, I don’t object “morally” to paying high school taxes because I am paying back for my own free public school education, and I did inherit something I didn’t completely earn.)

But Last points out, my benefits are really paid for by today’s workers, of whom there are fewer, so they pay proportionally more to support me than I did to support my elders when I was “working.”  He calls that a Ponzi scheme (aka Bernie Madoff) because at some point the chain breaks (which is why chain letters are illegal – I got one with in 1964 and actually received two quarters). So you can ask, well, what if we gradually privatize Social Security, which is what George W. Bush wanted to do (and what Cato wants to do). In theory, you could replace Social Security with savings vehicles set up as annuities managed by life insurance companies (and create some more mainframe computer programming jobs at companies like Voya and Prudential, or, of course, Vantage, which rules the world).  But could a private system eventually break, too, like a private Madoff-scheme?

Last seems to think that the idea of letting the government provide old-age security (I even remember an “old age” meal tax in Massachusetts from 1972 on a weekend trip) was the kickoff to decline in fertility (and in the psychological importance of family) – people no longer needed to count on their kids to support them,  But his argument becomes a mirage.  States do have filial responsibility laws today, although (outside of one case in Pennsylvania in 2012) they rarely enforce them – to cover custodial care (as in nursing homes), which Medicare does not cover.  I was caught on the eldercare magnet, although we had the money to pay for everything in my mother’s estate (her last year of care in 2010 cost about $80,000).  (There’s also the Medicaid look-back rule mess.)

Last does “blame” the social changes that came with modern life: women in the workplace, sex as no longer “belonging” to marriage and procreation  (controllable by “the pill”) – as contributing to an economy where people can no longer, out of self-interest, afford to bear and raise children, something that worked to the advantage of people like me, who could lowball co-workers with families.   Yet, he makes no pretense that he can reverse the sexual revolution.  He makes a good point in that modernity provides the individual the idea of “self-actualization” (out of Maslow) makes having children seem less important as a personal priority to many people (almost like a private afterthought, trailing more obvious success through published accomplishments).

He does discuss what works (against America’s de facto “one child policy” following China’s which was real), and what doesn’t.  Generous benefits and paid family leave and various child allowances haven’t worked that well generally, partly because of the knee-jerk way things were done (especially in Japan and Singapore).

Last thinks that education needs to be streamlined and more job-oriented, so people can start working earlier and afford kids sooner.  He also supports telecommuting, and supports the idea of highways over public transit to allow people to live in smaller towns and work well (does he support the electric car, and the infrastructure to support it?)  He mentions Longman’s idea of allowing people with more kids to have more votes.

Early on, he mentions Eleanor Burkett’s 2000 book “The Baby Boon” and considers her reporting of complaints from the “childless” as “strident”.   Put bluntly, as a childless person, I can be compelled for someone else’s “moral hazard” created by their sexual intercourse (although as a gay man, I can see how this argument could have been turned around in the 1980s with respect to HIV).  Burkett even admits at one point that this may be more about “living in a community” than about “justice”, and the self-actualizing childless “accomplished” adults are “cheating the system” (subjunctive mood).  It’s possible to imagine the economy indeed as punitive to those who don’t participate in family formation and raising.  Last mentions gay rights once, and it’s apparent that anti-gay attitudes in Russia, particularly, are related to its own demographic Siberian winter.   It’s then fair to ask, whether caring for the elderly (which can be practically legally required) or adopting children should be rewarded the same way that actually having children would be.  People who have less biological passion facilitating procreation are likely to wind up paying for OPC (“other people’s children”) unless there is clear social support for alternatives.

It’s also reasonable to ask if societies can handle aging populations if their economies can keep them employed longer (and not needing benefits).  It’s the idea that someone can live much longer than before with profound disability (like Alzheimer’s disease) that greatly exacerbates the problem of supporting retirees in a lower birth rate world. It’s also true, though, that older people tend to be more “risk averse” and the lack of younger workers could stifle innovation.  But the greatest inventions seem to be thought up by relatively few, the most gifted, anyway, a some of the most talented don’t always seem to be “reproductively inclined”.

This is a good place to mention the book “The Natural Family” (see Index for my review) by Carlson and Mero; here’s a 2009 essay by Derek Brownl on their theories, similar to Last’s, however faith-based. Note the comment on “burdens” vs. “blessings.”

(Posted: Monday, Oct. 24, 2016 at 4 PM EDT)

“American Pastoral”: Philip Roth novel adaptation provides a look at radical left-wing radicalism in the Vietnam era


Name: “American Pastoral”
Director, writer:  Ewan McGregor, John Romano, Philip Roth
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  2016/10/22  Angelika Mosaic, late, small audience
Length 126
Rating R
Companies: Lionsgate, Lakeshore
Link: official 

American Pastoral”, directed by Ewan McGregor (who plays Seymour “Svede” Levov), based on Philip Roth’s 1997 novel, adapted to screen by John Romano

Seymour has taken over the family glove factory in Newark, NJ in the early 1950s and gotten past the family patriarch in marrying a Catholic woman Dawn (Jennifer Connely), and build an estate and farm away from the City in exurban New Jersey. The daughter Merry grows up with a stutter and hypersenstivie personality.


During the escalation of the Vietnam war, played out on television with LBJ, Merry (Dakota Fanning) becomes unhinged and gradually becomes radicalized to the far Left.  At the same time, the 1967 Newark riots happen around the factory.

Soon, a rural post office is bombed, a man is killed, and police suspect Merry.  She flees to New York, and in coming years is suspected of more bombings (as with the Weathermen).  Seymour goes though contortions (dealing with another radical young woman who taunts his masculinity) to find her, where she is homeless and living in the streets to do her penance, but has lost her stutter as long as she wears a mask.

One could say she has become a terrorist, and the film, for me at least, could be compared with “Marathon” a few days ago.

I remember spying on a meeting of the People’s Party of New Jersey on a cold Saturday night in Newark in December 1972.  The platform committee was very radical, especially the women, who resented being called “girls”.  Part of the plaform was to eliminate capitalism and inherited wealth. Everyone was supposed to be in the same boat.

Yet, I don’t see that the movie explains what drove the girl to radlcalism.

The movie narrative is told through a college reunion with a character Nathan (David Strathairn).

(Posted: Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 at 8:45 PM EDT)


“Aquarius”: a woman in Brazil holds of greedy real estate developers, while her recovery from breast cancer provides another metaphor


Name: Aquarius
Director, writer:  Kleber Mendonca Filho
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1 (Cinemascope)
When and how viewed:  2016/10/21 Angelika Mosaic, QA, festival, nearly sold out, large auditorium
Length 142
Rating Not available (would be NC-17, necessarily [because of cancer issues] very explicit in some scenes; this film provides a good argument for why NC-17 should be regarded as legitimate for some content intended for “grown ups”, as did the film yesterday)
Companies: Vitagraph
Link: official

Angelika theaters provided QA with actress Sonia Braga before or after shows of “Aquarius”, by Kleber Mendonca Filho, the new Brazilian drama about an elderly widow fighting off real estate developers who want her to sell her unit in a condo.  She is the last holdout.


The film is largely “interior” (remarkable when it seems to be shot in true “Cinemascope”) and it’s not clear from the exteriors (in Recife), which building t is – although the script says that it is the two-story building “Aquarius” built in the 1940s as an old-fashioned family resort..  The developer apparently wants to raze the building and replace it with a 60-story luxury high-rise (resembling Miami Beach), an event that would exacerbate the issue of affordable housing in the city.  The film occasionally opens up, to show the coastal city with the divisions of rich and poor, and opens with some black and white historical stills.

But it is metaphor behind the story of the widow Clara (Sonia) that sets up the tricky ending – which may send any homeowner to look at his pest control situation. The film (142 minutes) comprises three parts. “Clara’s Hair”, “Clara’s Love”, and “Clara’s Cancer”, the last of which transfers as a metaphor.

The first part takes place in 1980, at a party, when Clara is a young woman who has undergone one breast removal and chemotherapy for cancer occurring unusually young.  At the time, the use of combination chemotherapy was still relatively new and grueling.  The film, while in still in part one, jumps forward three decades to show Clara fully recovered, able to unwind her hair.


The middle section sets up some intimate situations, at least two where men come on to Clara and have to deal with discovering one breast gone.  The film obviously makes a statement about sexual attractiveness (of women) after cancer, or after any personal catastrophe (like in the film “Marathon” Oct. 18).  In the meantime, the pressure on her to move increases as the developers encourage loud parties and sex orgies in the unit above.  The film moves into NC-17 territory here. The film also brings in other families, especially several younger men, as well as a character, Diego (Humberto Currao) who has learned how to sell ruthlessness (Donald Trump style) in business school.  (Is this about Making Brazil Great?)

The third part sets up the nauseating (for the developers) conclusion, with the help of Cleide (Calra Ribas).

QA Clips:





Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2016 at 11:30 AM EDT

“King Cobra”: James Franco acts creepy in a gay murder mystery involving a porn business dispute


Name: King Cobra
Director, writer:  Justin Kelly, book by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway; James Franco produced
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon Prime instant video ($6.99 HD rent) was at Reel Affirmations closing night in DC; may have limited theatrical release
Length 92
Rating Not given, but would probably be NC-17; a legitimate art film and dramatic issue-oriented narrative for grown ups.
Companies: IFC
Link: official site

King Cobra”, directed and written by Justin Kelly, is a true story based on the book “Cobra Killer: Gay Porn Murder and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice” by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway.

The true story is controversial because it eventually provides a biography of actor Sean Paul Lockhart, who played the rule “Chris” in “Judas Kiss” (2011), and Sean’s tangential or accidental involvement in a bizarre murder over a rivalry in the gay porn business.

Partly because I am probably just two degrees of separation from the actor personally, I have to stick to facts, which are well summarized on imdb here.   Harlow (played by Keegan Allen) and Joe (played by James Franco, in probably his creepiest role ever) are serving life terms in Pennsylvania for the murder of rival producer Stephen (Christian Slater), which the film shows near the end, as happening when Harlow visits Stephen and feints seducing Stephen.  That’s the way to die, when your last memory is erotic.  The murder scene actually seems a little bit motivated by Hitchcock, especially “Psycho”.  Lockhart, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, had no prior knowledge of the murder plot and, although held by police briefly, was never charged and helped convict the other two men (as in imdb story).  The movie ends happily for Sean as his adult film career resumes.

The story involves a couple of interesting legal points.  When Stephen grooms Sean into the porn industry, he gives Sean the stage name of Brent Corrigan, and then trademarks the name. When Sean wants to go out and work on his own, Stephen litigates for trademark infringement.  Yes, in some industries “stage name” of a performer is very important for the business model to work, and performers and artists need to know this.  Sean, however, threatens to tell everyone that Stephen had filmed him slightly before Seann turned 18.  In addition, there’s already a nosey neighbor suspicious of the speculative possibility of child pornography next door.

Sean and Stephen seem about to reconcile, when two other producers (whose story is shown in parallel in the early part of the movie), Joe and Harlow, want to hire Sean as “Brent Corrigan”, setting up the rivalry that provides a motive for murder.

The film is now available on Amazon Instant video.  I missed it at the Reel Affirmations film festival last weekend because of a schedule conflict with a piano concert.

Sean does not play himself; rather Garrett Clayton takes the lead rule with a lot of charisma (but he is just too smooth, even his legs, in the opening scene, hinting at one of the plot twists).

The film should not be confused with a 1999 horror film of the same name about a real snake from Lionsgate/Trademark (which I saw in Minnesota).

“The Accountant” : This autistic figurehead for the mob has amazing charisma and personal integrity


Name: The Accountant
Director, writer:  Gavin O’Connor
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common, 2016/10/20, evening, good crowd
Length 128
Rating PG-13
Companies: Warner Brothers
Link: official 


The Accountant” (2016), by Gavin O’Connor and written by Bill Dubuque, makes its central character, a 40-year-old man who outgrew his autism with the help of a very determined military father, into a rather charismatic figure.

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) seems to have a lot of integrity, and loyalty to people he loves.  He speaks directly and simply.  He has this narrow focus on what he does.  So he is a genius at doing math in his head (a savant) and a dangerous sharpshooter (“I shoot”).  He lives simply in a house in suburban Chicago and eats according to rituals.  He does a bizarre fitness routine involving rolling a dough bar on his now nearly hairless legs.

The only trouble is how he has made his living: as an accountant for the mob.  Only someone like Christian can grasp the bizarre mechanics of offshore accounts and money laundering. Oh, he got caught once and managed to build friendships in Leavenworth, and then escape, and then set up his own shell companies.

He remains the good guy, protecting his mob-connected younger brother, and building a cautious relationship with a fellow aspie, Dana (Anna Kendrick) whom he meets at a supposedly legitimate robotics company whose books he has been hired to uncook.

Add to the books the childless, single robotics CEO Lamar Black (John Lithgow), and the Treasury agent, resurrected from retirement, to find him (JK Simmons) and his protégé (Cynthia Addai-Robinson).

I don’t think the film really does that much for people with autism, though. It’s popcorn stuff.

(Posted: Friday, Oct. 21, 2016 at 10:15 AM EDT)

“Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy”: MSNBC host defuses the libertarian right’s moral paradigm


Author: Christopher Hayes
Title, Subtitle: Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
publication date 2012
ISBN 978-0-307-72046-7
Publication: Broadway, 292 pages, 7 chapters, indexed
Link: Atlantic, Slate

Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy” (2012), by MSNBC host and “Nation” editor Christopher Hayes,  purports to take on inequality not so much by appealing to usual arguments about race and class and social stratification (books by Putnam and Murray already considered) but by what the libertarian right takes to be the moral justification for whatever inequality we have to live with: meritocracy. (Yup, there is a bit of Wagner’s Ring cycle in the title.)

I’ve followed this track in my own writing: You need ego, and reward for work to spur innovation.  But you have then to deal with the inequality that follows or else you eventually get more instability (as is the argument of my DADT III book). In fact, I have plenty of legacy (2004) links on it:  Here is the oldest sidebar, and here is a mathematical argument.

From my perspective, the basic flaw in over-dependence on meritocracy is the idea that every “successful” person has benefited from the sacrifices of others, that he or she probably is at best minimally aware of.   The end result is corruption, of what Hayes calls the “Iron Law of Meritocracy” which inevitably causes it to self-destruct.  When I was in the Army (1969), the way one buddy put this was “The Ocelot has clay feet”.

Hayes analyzes many historical examples of where merit let us down.  The most chilling was the progressive coverup by the Catholic Church of sexually abusive of supposedly celibate (and abstinent) priests, “passing the trash”.  The same thing used to go on with bad teachers in public school systems  Another interesting example is the PED steroid scandal in Major League Baseball, especially in the 1990s, compounded by the embarrassing strike in August 1994. (Washington didn’t have a team then.)


Then he gets into “process pieces” with even more widespread consequences.  One of these is how the nation was goaded by supposed “experts” into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and started the war in Iraq in 2003, leaving the mess that opened the door for ISIS today (after his book was published).  Hayes twice mentions the now repealed “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military, once in conjunction with ROTC and with the separation of the sacrifices of the military from the lives of ordinary Americans in a post-conscription world, which makes going to war easier for some politicians. Another big “process” was the way the subprime mortgage and over-securitization scandal on Wall Street developed, leading to the collapse of 2008, followed by the Bush-Obama bailouts of the banks.   The mortgage mess is, I think, a great example of “The Cheating Culture”, born of extreme capitalism, as explained prospectively (or predicted) in David Callahan’s 2004 book.

The rule of “experts” seems to work reasonably well in some areas – medicine, space science, astrophysics.  But not in policy.  I think one reason is that the areas where “merit” has failed have a lot to do with action and getting results through others, where in the sciences (and in coding) individual brilliance and determination have a lot more effect.  Why was Alan Turning so successful?  True, he had unusual integrity, but he could be unusually focused on solving a specific problem he had taken on.  That holds for people like Jack Andraka, Taylor Wilson.  Sometimes it holds in the arts.  But not in the world where so much hucksterism is necessary to make a living.

Indeed, Hayes acknowledges the importance of democratized, “amateur” speech, most visible in modern social media, as playing an important check on the established press and on those with built-in political agendas, often partisan.

Values based on meritocracy connect to upward affiliation (especially among gay males), the idea that you inherit something by being connected to “better” people.  But then comes the philosophical conundrum: what’s the use of recognition and accomplishment if you don’t “care” about the people who use what you produced?

Indeed, when Hayes talks about the “Cult of Smartness” as failing the public, he seems to be taking moral aim at the idea of hiding behind the idea of being “better than other people” as a reason for smugness and social insularity.  (But it’s easier to really innovate if you work alone and are really smart enough — and have the integrity.)  But it’s interesting that his Chapter 3 is titled “Moral Hazards” – created by other people.


Hayes talks about social distance (more than just propinquity) as one reason policy “experts” don’t help the disadvantaged.  He gives striking examples – the biggest being the huge death toll of those left behind in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (leading to the Superdome fiasco in which Oprah Winfrey said she almost vomited).  But that’s something that has to get personal (“Mission in Belize” material) to be meaningful.   Indeed, Hayes notes that lower income people typically have more personal empathy and capability for mutual “back watching” than those with more to lose.  That brings to mind Putnam’s call for more mentoring.

In the last chapter Hayes’s policy proposals get rather general, concerning raising tax rates on the rich, to be more like they were in the post War years.  Hayes presents an interesting paradox: the “Great Compression” after WWII led to a relatively prosperous middle class – but unfortunately it excluded many whom we see as suspect classes – most of all concerning race, and then gender issues.  Civil rights and then the “sexual revolution” and modern ideas about equality have indeed comported with meritocracy (so we can have an African American and now probably a female president), but have been accompanied by greater class divisions and with fewer people controlling more wealth – as well as a failure of the “ruling elite” to make its expertise transparent.  He also talks about the overly generous inheritance tax rules – but (as the Left preaches), when money is inherited, it isn’t “earned”.  Remember how one of the Apprentice contestant “hires” (Bill Rancic)  one time talked about “generational wealth” after Trump’s show?

(Posted: Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at 5:30 PM EDT)

“Do Not Resist”: the militarization of civilian police


Name: Do Not Resist
Director, writer:  Craig Atkinson
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  AFI Silver, 2016/10/19
Length 72
Rating NA
Companies: Vanish, PBS-POV
Link: official

Do Not Resist”  (2016, by Craig Atkinson, “Detropia”) starts with the protests in Ferguson, MO as thunderstorm clouds gather in August 2014.

The film, however, does not stay on “Black Lives Matter”, as it moves quickly to explore the militarization of police, and particularly the way the US military sells its used vehicles and weapons to police departments.   A police department for a town in Wisconsin explains its interest.

The film shows military training of a sheriff’s department in South Carolina, and then a rural drug raid.

But then the film returns to Ferguson, to show the riots after the failure to indict the policeman who shot Michael Brown, and then provides a little coverage of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, before finally interviewing a Penn professor on using predictive profiling of people, which could extend to unborn children, based on mathematical algorithms.  Race could be a factor.  There is a flavor of “Minority Report” and pre-crime in the professor’s discussion. I thought there might be some coverage of the stop-and-frisk and “broken windows” police policy with Rudy Giuliani says were so effective in cleaning up crime in New York City in the 1990s before 9/11.


I think there is a need for a major documentary on the real facts behind Darren Wilson  and Michael Brown in Ferguson. I could imagine this director, or maybe Andrew Jenks, making that film. And maybe a sequel on Freddie Gray. The Truth matters.  The Darrien Hunt case in Utah could be interesting.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Ferguson Protest by LoavesofBread under CCSA 4.0

(Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)

“Marathon: The Patriot’s Day Bombing” from HBO does a sneak preview tonight in DC


Name: Marathon: The Patriot’s Day Bombing
Director, writer:  Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Sneak, AFI-Docs, free, Landmarl E St. 2016/10/18
Length :About 100
Rating PG-13?
Companies: HBO
Link: TBD

Tonight, AFI Docs held a special free sneak preview of the HBO documentary “Marathon: The Patriot’s Day Bombing”, directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg.  It will air on HBO in mid November and show in New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

The documentary recreates most of the events of that week in April 2013 as they happened, with high quality video.  This includes the two bombings twelve seconds apart, with explicit scenes of the carnage;  then video of the shooting at MIT Thursday night, of the call from a convenience store after the carjacking, the shootout in Watertown, and the capture of Jahar.  Video shows the Tsarnaev brothers just before the bombing. Jahar is shown in his jail cell later.


But, unlike “The Thread” (see Index), which focuses on how technology helped find the bombers, this film focuses on the hundreds injured, and the seventeen who lost limbs.


Several of these men and women were in the audience, with prosthetic limbs,two with service dogs, one of which sat very near me.

There is a scene where the police ask a novice cameraperson to respect the victims and not photograph them on the street.


The film focuses on the care these civilians get at Walter Reed (formerly Bethesda Naval Medical Center, across Wisconsin Ave. from NIH), from military surgeons.  It is normally very difficult for civilians injured by war-like injuries in terror attacks to get military care.  This observation would apply to the Pulse attacks.  The civilian patients bond with the military casualties, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have multiple amputations and incredible disfigurement.


The love story of one couple, both who lost limbs, was difficult to watch.  I don’t like to use the word “victims” when others influenced by foreign ideology go to war with us as if we were personal enemies.  I personally process this as “casualty”, but I did go through the Vietnam era draft, although I didn’t go into combat.    But the willingness of people to form and keep intimate and marital relationships when challenged by unforeseeable adversities is important to resilience against potential enemies.  This is a personal issue for me, but I’ll take that up soon elsewhere.

At the end, the film covers the death penalty deliberations and sentence handed to Dzhokkar Tsarnaev under federal law (in a state that does not have the death penalty).

The QA was followed by a 7-minute short film “Wicked Strong: A Walter Reed Story

QA 1:

QA 2: In response to my question about availability of military medicine to civilians after terror attack (I also mentioned Pulse); and on the importance that healthy young adults have health insurance because it can happen to anyone (the young man in Central Park July 3). Health insurance often covers basic prosthetics but not specialized limbs for running or water use (as in a scene in Florida).  Prosthetics last about eight years before needing replacement.

Wikipedia attribution link;  by Anna frodesiak CCSA 2.0

Wikipedia attribution link second map  CCSA 3.0?

(Posted: Tuesday: October 18, 2016 at   11:45 PM EDT)