“Seeing Allred”: Gloria Allred fights for women and then gays, and she may have someting on Trump

Seeing Allred”, directed by Roberta Grossman and Sophie Sartain, gives us a complete history, a lot it in Gloria Allred’s own words (she is now 75, two years older than me) of her activism for women and sometimes other groups.

Much of the film focuses on the litigation against Bill Cosby, where she represents many plaintiffs. Sje also helped represent the Goldman family in the O. J. Simpson case in the 1990s.

But the film also traces the culture of intimidation, where women are silenced from speaking about rape.

Allred tells the story of her own rape, before Roe v. Wade, and her illegal abortion, from which she almost died.

Gradually, the film starts taking up LGBT rights. The early 1993 battle over gays in the military is mentioned, along with the early versions of the fights over gay marriage and adoption. Gloria seems to believe that homophobia is and indirect part of the way straight men control women and assert a claim to have a right to children by them anytime they demand.

Gloria assists clients in testifying before both Nevada and California legislatures on removing statues of limitations on rape prosecutions. “The privilege of being listened to” becomes an issue in one hearing. She also demands that a college become an activist as a way of giving back.

The last part of the film traces the 2016 election, through watching Election Night returns, and then the Inauguration protests and the Women’s March the next day. At one point at the March Allred turns back a fundamentalist homophobe (with a free speech meme) who doesn’t even realize that Trump has no specific objection to gay marriage. She has pointed out, however, that Donald Trump rejected a transgender Miss Universe contestant.

The last part of the film also deals with women who accuse Donald Trump of sexual harassment. The film makes it look like these cases could blow the presidency wide open.

Women’s March 2017/1/21 scene (wiki).

Name:  “Seeing Allred”
Director, writer:  Roberta Grossman, Sophie Saltrain
Released:  2018
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed: Netflix instant, 2018/2/14
Length:  96
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Netflix
Link:  LA Times
Stars:  4-1/2 out of 5

(Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 11:30 PM EST)

“The 15:17 to Paris”: the three American heroes at the Thalys Train Attack star in their own film on their own book

Clint Eastwood’s new film, “The 15:17 to Paris”, based on the collaborative autobiographical book by Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, and Jeffrey Stein, “The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes”, adopted for screen by Blyskal, tells the story of the 2015 Thalys Train Attack from the viewpoint of the three soldiers, who act in the film.  This itself is remarkable.  All three now are recognized as film professionals in Hollywood. Wikipedia documents Skarlatos as an Army National Guard soldier and Stone as a former airman.  Stone was somewhat injured in the attack, but more seriously wounded in a civilian incident in California in 2015, but fully recovered from both.

The film starts by showing Ayoub El Khazzani (Ray Corasani) boarding the train due to leave Amsterdam station at 15:17 and preparing his weapon and soon the attack starts. The film then shifts to the backstories of the three friends who wrote the book and who played the most critical roles in stopping the attack. At first, I was not sure that this presentation style would be particularly effective, because the attack seemed to proceed so quickly. But the violent section, near the end of the film, depicts the time that it took the three young men (and a few other passengers from France and Britain, one badly wounded) to stop the attack runs about fifteen minutes, until the train reaches a station in northern France and the police arrive.

The three young men were boyhood friends in Sacramento, CA, in a Christian parochial school.  The movie has a prescient scene where a history teacher asks everyone if they would know what to do in a real emergency. The film shows the practical problems of enforcing discipline for teachers and principal (something I had issues with when I worked as a substitute teacher in a public school system from 2004-2007). The film tends to emphasize the problems of Stone the most, raised by a divorced mom and he seems to have serious hyperactivity and ADHD.  But he does a generous heart and likes to help and rescue people. The film skips ten years.  He is shown overweight (Jeffrey would have had to regain the weight to make the film) and works out to shape up. He joins the Air Force with the idea of becoming the equivalent of a green beret, but “fails” some of the vision test. He winds up in medic training, and disturbs Air Force instructors with unusual reactions when there is a false alarm at an Air Force base in Houston. But, ironically, it turns out that his emphatic instincts may have saved everyone later on the train.

Skarlatos (who “restrained” the suspect)  is shown serving in Afghanistan by Skype. He presents himself as an extremely stable person, and  with probably the most impressive physical appearance of the three.  I know a young man who looks (and behaves) a lot like him and is about 6-6 (“College Hunks” size) but who I believe is in grad school rather than playing pro sports (which is what you would expect from appearances).  In the film, Sadler, the African-American, seems to be the geekiest, going past any stereotypes.

In August 2015 the friends get together and sightsee Italy, with impressive photography of the Coliseum in Rome and then of Venice.  Then they go to Berlin and are shown the location of Hitler’s final bunker on a bicycle tour. Curiously, Berlin isn’t listed as a filming location (the indoor scenes were shot in Georgia) but some of the scenes looked like Berlin, which I visited in May 1999. They visit at least two bars.  The first seems familiar from my visit (it might be in Amsterdam), and the second is a wild disco.  In fact, in Berlin I visited two gay bars. One had a lounge where patrons were entertained by a friendly cat who would sit in their laps. The second was the Connection Disco, which had a mock concentration camp in the basement (which might seem in bad taste).  I remember meeting a graduate student there who had grown up in East Germany.

The young men apparently traveled to Amsterdam from Berlin without incident (I’ve done that flight myself – when I went in 1999 and 2001 I effectively had air passes rather than Eurailpass, which offers first class).  They then board the train in Amsterdam, and find the first class section. The film shows many shots of the Belgian or northern French countryside with windmills.  Then the event happens.

One detail is that Ayoub’s rifle jammed as Stone charged him (at least as the film shows it).  That seems incredibly lucky for Stone and all the passengers.  Apparently Ayoub claims (as a defendant waiting trial in France) that he only intended to rob passengers and was not a terrorist, but if he didn’t pay, how did he sneak onto the train and get past the conductor.?  Just hiding in the restroom?

In May, 2001, I took the Chunnel train (shown in Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible”, 1996) from Paris to London   I remember we did have to go through security to get on that train (months before 9/11). At the time, I recall that foot and mouth disease was a big controversy. When I returned back to the Continent, I took a different Chunnel train to Brussels station (shown in the film) , and I recall clowns performing in the station.  The Amsterdam station is interesting in that it is only about ten miles from the airport, and when you fly to Schiphol you take a double-decker orange and blue train to the station.

Again, it’s interesting that the three young men launched film careers after the incident. They would easily fit into casting of my screenplay “Epiphany” with material from my three DADT books, if it ever got “money” ($30 million would help – that’s what this film cost).

Amsterdam Central Station, wiki.

Name:  “The 15:17 to Paris”
Director, writer: Clint Eastwood, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler
Released:  2018/2/9
Format:  2.39:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, Fairfax Va., 2018/2/10, Sat. afternoon, fair crowd
Length:  94
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Warner Brothers, Village Roadshow
Link:  official 
Stars: 4/5  ****-     ($30 million cost)

(Posted: Saturday, February 10, 2018 at 7:30 PM EST)

“This Dangerous Book”: by the founders of the Museum of the Bible

I visited the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC near Federal Center SW on the first day of Winter, Dec. 21, and after the visit noticed the book by Steve and Jackie Green, founders of the museum, in the museum gift shop. The title, on a brown dust jacket, caught my attention. That is, “This Dangerous Book: How the BIBLE Has Shaped our World, and Why It Still Matters Today”.

My first thought was that Milo Yiannopoulos titled his book “Dangerous” and names his own publishing company that (he has published Pam Geller), and now his own main website, that.  In terms of world history, the Bible is a lot more dangerous than Milo’s work!  I really wondered if this title duplication was more than a coincidence.  As a matter of law, titles cannot be copyrighted, and normally they only become trademarked if they become a series.  (That raises a question about my own “Do Ask, Do Tell”). Business company names (like publishing companies) normally can be trademarked.  So sometimes their accompanying domain names are, too.

Steve and Jackie are part of a larger family, David’s, that founded the Hobby Lobby, which became controversial in refusing to cover the “morning-after pill” for employees claiming it was an abortifacient. So here we go, into the area of how much religious beliefs should affect your treatment of other people (like employees) on their private decisions.

The Museum is quite objective and neutral, covering both Judaism and Christianity well, but Islam much less because Islam has its own texts.

The book is partly about the history of Biblical codices and manuscripts (through the significance of the innovation of the printing press), and partly about the Green family’s own journey of faith and perspective on it.  The Green’s talk about their early life expenses of debt, and how it is hard to avoid when you have five children. (Note: single people, and in the past, many gays, tended to taken on fewer responsibilities for others that can lead to debt.  That’s changing with longer life spans, demographics, eldercare, and marriage law.)  Later they talk about prayer in whether to adopt a child from China, which turned out to be tricky legally.  The oldest natural sibling seemed to think that the parents were morally obliged to try to do so.  This is emotionally a close-knit family, in a way that I haven’t experienced.

I recall a particular moment, the first time I entered my tenth grade English classroom in September 1958, and saw a lot of classic books on a shelf, with a young adult male teacher. (Yes, he had played football but he was academically very well prepared.  This reminds me of a college athlete I met on a Metro in 2014 as he read a philosophy text.  Yup, a lot of “jocks” really are smart, too.  And that happened about the time of GWU’s annual Day of Service.  A lot flashes through the mind.)  Ever since then, I’ve wondered if some books deserve to be thought of as “good” and having more credibility to be believed by the public than others.  I can wonder that about my own “Do Ask Do Tell” series.

I can recall a 90’s book, “The Good Book” (legacy review), by African-American Harvard religion professor Peter Gomes, who also describes his coming out as gay.  I remember reading this book when I wrote my own first DADT book.

So then, I ponder, as the Green book explores, do you look at the Bible as a source of authority on moral judgements?  The Greens get into that, and try to maintain some flexibility.  The assorted literary forms in the Bible (especially New Testament letters) add to the authority.  (The remarks about John’s account of the Revelations seem particularly challenging.)  But for Christians this comes down to a personal “relationship” with and faith in “Him”.

Consider this: for most of my life, Jesus has usually been depicted visually as a slender, physically fit young adult white male.  As a gay white male myself, that image is what I would tend to want “upward affiliation” (to borrow a term from George Gilder) with. Suppose I encounter a young adult white male somewhat like an extension of the teenage Clark Kent in the WB “Smallville” series.  What if the individual shows “powers”.  Actually, I can think of two such persons now.   No, I won’t identify them (and, Milo, sorry, he’s not you). I am very careful about my connection to such a person, not wanting to blow it.  For example, nothing gets carried out on social media (so far). (As far as I’m concerned, we don’t know that “Smallville”, with the help of a nearby wormhole to deal with the speed of light, is impossible.  The legal rights of personhood for an “alien” like Clark Kent would an interesting question for the courts, and challenging to Donald Trump.  We have not treated orcas well.)  But a “Clark Kent” would never ask anyone to drop everything an “follow me”.

For someone who lived and experienced his own personhood at the time of Christ however, the miracles, including resurrection and ascension, would seem to be unchallenged and ultimate factual truths. There would be no other frame of reference for knowledge, like modern physics and cosmology. And there could be no nuclear weapons. No dependence on technology to be wiped away by an enemy with some unprecedented act.

I want to note with some interest that the authors consider the course of American history as underlined by the contents of the Bible, from the American revolution (they even make observations about the end of the French and Indian Wars) to the story of Amistad (the book and 1997 film by Steven Spielberg, legacy review), two decades before the War Between the States.

Here is my legacy review of Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life” (2002). The problem is, sometimes, it really needs to be “about me.”

Author: Steve and Jackie Green, with Bill High; Foreword by Rick Warren
Title, Subtitle: “This Dangerous Book: How the BIBLE Has Shaped our World and Why It Still Matters Today”
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-0-310-35147-4
Publication: Zonervan (Harper Collins); 5 Parts, 18 Chapters, 251 pages, hardcover (also audio and ebook); many color photos and color maps.
Link: publisher 

(Posted: Friday, January 5, 2018 at 1:34 PM EST)

“The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”: biography of a gay “real writer”

The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”, directed by Jennifer M. Kroot, aired on PBS Independent Lens New Years Day, and in parallels yesterday’s film about Joan Didion as another biography of a “real” career writer.  Why does the title remind me of Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Tanglewood Tales” (and even “Twice-Told Tales“), and American literature in 11th grade English?

Armistead grew up around Raleigh, North Carolina in the shadow of conservative senator Jesse Helms.  He first learned southern plantation values, including saying “ma’am” and “sir” (something I found degrading before my own Army days) and a certain embed of segregationism.  He then worked as a journalist in Charleston S.C.  But his life changed when he got a job with the Associated Press in San Francisco in 1971 and personally discovered Castro Street.  He was born one year later than me, and his “coming out” occurred at about the same time as mine (Chapter 3 of my 1997 “Do Ask, Do Tell” I book).

He soon got an opportunity to write a series about San Francisco, “Tales of the City”, for a Marin County paper.  Eventually the series wound up being published by the San Francisco Chronicle. The series would morph into a series of novels, with situations involving both gay and straight characters, sometimes the boundaries of the straight world being breached, perhaps by bisexuality.

Armistead would meet Rock Hudson and eventually out him, when Rock was diagnosed with AIDS in the mid 1980s (and died). Gradually, the idea that some major Hollywood staples are gay would become evident.  Armistead would become involved with the gradual inclusion of gay material in mainstream television, and even its funding by PBS, which would enrage social conservatives over “family values”.

Armistead wrote his “Tales” at work on a typewriter.  In those days, that is more how writers actually worked (as in the Didion film).

I came to writing a totally different way, as I had an income-producing career in information technology.  So I wrote from my own narrative what I thought had to be said.  I may have been ego-centric or deluded, but when I was in the Army I thought my 1960 cursive diary “The Proles” (also DADT III Chap 7) was the most important expose in the world, even if it was my own world (of “chicken man”).

Castro district in San Francisco (wiki).  My most recent visit: Not since February 2002.  Need to get there again.  I remember going to a poetry reading at the bookstore (Dog Eared Books) shown in the film.

Name:  “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”
Director, writer:  Jennifer M. Kroot
Released:  2017/3
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  PBS 2018/1/1, 10:30 PM
Length:  90
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS
Link:  PBS

(Posted: Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 11:30 AM EST)

“Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold”: biography of a “real” writer


Griffin Dunne’s biographic documentary “Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold” (2017) presents a reasonably straightforward documentary of the American writer, now 83 and living in Sacramento, CA, near where she grew up. It often presents her now speaking for herself.

The title of the film is a bit enigmatic, but her own philosophy seems to stress atomization and quantum-like unpredictability of life.

Didion’s writing philosophy is a bit like mine , with her “new journalism”, where she presents non-fiction narratives as if they were novel plots, using irony wherever if occurs. But she was able to do this with subject matter other than her own life, which I have not.  She has been an old-fashioned professional writer, hired to do pieces (on typewriters in the pre-computer days), as on her first job with Vogue, where her first assignment was about self-respect or self-concept.

The most interesting part of her output, as presented in the film, seems to be a personal account, “The Year of Magical Thinking” (2006), which she would adapt as a stage play.  I haven’t read it (yet) but is sounds a bit like the way I approached my own first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book (1997).

But she wrote a number of novels, getting very much outside of herself. The most interesting of these seems to be “Play It as It Lays” which she adapted to a screenplay. She also authored “Panic in Needle Park”.

The film shows her interest early in life in the welfare of California farm workers, including migrants. In New York, she took an interest in The Central Park Five case (which Ken Burns made into a documentary film in 2012, legacy review), and the film quotes a younger Donald Trump.

A possible fiction comparison would be provided by the Coen Brothers 1991 film “Barton Fink” (Fox), with John Turturro.

Name:  “Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold”
Director, writer:  Griffin Dunne
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix Instant Play, 2017/12/31
Length:  94
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Netflix
Link:  Ebert

(Posted: Monday, January 1, 2018, at 11 AM EST)The

“Tom of Finland”: biopic of the artist who created leather culture

Dome Karukoski’s film “Tom of Finland” is a workmanlike biography of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonone, better known as the movie title.  Touko is credited with creating the artistic basis of the gay male leather community and of cis-male “muscle culture” within the gay community.

“Tom” (played by Pekka Strang) was born in 1920 and his first major life event was his experience in the Winter War between Russia and Finland (the 1998 film “Ambush”) where he served as an artillery or anti-aircraft officer and had a male relationship or two.  This, of course, would feed into the past debate on gays in the military.

Once in civilian life he pursued his artistic career of erotic drawings, which could attract hostility. He gets arrested, supposedly for not paying a hotel bill in Germany, and later finds private parties subject to police raids.  Finland is indeed one of the world’s most progressive countries today, but it was not so in the early 1950s.  There is a scene where Tom meets his old friend from the Russo war, and the friend wants conversion therapy so that he can have children!

Toulo gradually established a business of publishing “muscle magazines” in the US through contacts in California.  Explicit gay photos could not be published until a 1962 Supreme Court ruling that they were not obscene. I definitely remember the way muscle magazines provided a covert fantasy outlet for gay men back in the 1960s.

The film has a few nice shots of the lake areas in Finland;  some of the southern California sequences seem to have been shot in Spain.

The film is in German and Finnish, and sometimes English.  Despite the mysterious Asiatic origins of the language, the people look similar to those in the rest of Scandinavia.

Here are a couple of films for comparison: “Interior, Leather Bar” (2014, directed by James Franco) (legacy review); “Age of Consent” (2015, about “The Hoist”, review), and “Kink Crusaders” (2011, review).

This may be good place to mention a mysterious assassination in the town of Imatra, Finland, near the Russian border, in 2016, with a scandal that sounds like Russia’s “Pizzagate”.  This incident could turn out to have more serious implications if Vladimir Putin has aspirations in the Baltics and later Finland in the future.

Finland map (Russo-Finnish war)

Helsinki

Finnish lakes

Name:  “Tom of Finland”
Director, writer:  Dome Karuloski, Aleksi Bardy
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Landmark West End, Washington DC, 2017/12/30
Length:  115
Rating:  R
Companies:  Kino Lorber
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2017 at 12 noon)

 

“Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin”: 2003 biographical documentary covers activist who connected many issues

A few years ago, Human Rights Campaign (HTC) gave away copies of a DVD for the 2003 PBS POV film “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin”, a biography   I overlooked it, and discovered it while packing to move from house to condo this fall in my own personal “downsizing”.

The 84 minute documentary is directed by Bennett Singer and Nancy Kates. It features a lot of black and white newsreel footage in small aspect, as well as interviews with two of Rustin’s male partners and also Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Rustin is perhaps best known for working with Dr. Martin Luther King on various events including the 1963 March on Washington, as a covert gay man.  But his life spanned many issues, moving from communism to anti-communism, working with labor unions to get them up to speed on civil rights, draft resistance, and only later in life openness about homosexuality. The film ends with some coverage of the 1987 LGB march on Washington;  the 1993 LGB march was larger and better known (I attended it) and covered heavily by writers like Andrew Sullivan.

Throughout his life, the FBI closely monitored him.  He served prison time for resisting the WWII draft, and wrote to his male partner from prison as if his partner was a woman. He had at one time joined the Young Communist League (in 1936) but after the US entered WWII the communists dropped their interest in race relations.  Ironically, later, he would push for racial integration of the military, which Truman achieved in 1948.

Later in life, he would be busted for public sex in Pasadena CA in 1953, and the history of a “morals charge” would be used in rhetoric against him, as by Senator Strom Thurmond (whom we know emphatically opposed lifting the ban on gays in the military in 1993, with his “it isn’t normal” rant in a public assembly in Norfolk right in front of Tracey Thorne.)

Later in his life, Rustin became anti-communist and supported US involvement in Vietnam but criticized many of the specific actions taken by the military. The film does cover the issue of identity politics and intersectionality as Rustin experienced it in earlier generations.  He created controversy as to whether is involvement with labor issues and later Vietnam represented the best interest of “his own people”, African-Americans.  He believed that African-Americans (called “negroes” in the 1960s when I was coming of age) needed to accept that technology would affect the labor market for everyone.  Heliked to use the phrase “angelic troublemakers”.

Name:  “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin
Director, writer:  Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer
Released:  2003
Format:  1.85:1  (often 1:37:1), often BW
When and how viewed:  DVD giveaway from HRC, 2017/12/27
Length:  84
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Question Why, PBS POV
Link:  PBS

(Posted: Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017 at

“The Man Who Invented Christmas”: Charles Dickens authors “A Christmas Carol” as he lives his own ghost story

Bharat Nalluri’s “The Man Who Invented Christmas” is a layered meta-telling of Charles Dickens’s classic novel “A Christmas Carol”, by dramatizing his writing of it. Actually, the full title of the novella (quite literary in the sense of high school English indeed) is “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas”, published December 19, 1943 and selling out copies (that is, “instances” in OOP-speak) in record numbers for the time.  The film is actually based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Les Standiford, as adapted for the screen by Susan Coyne.

The film, a well-staged period piece, presents Dan Stevens as the young author, reeling from a few commercial failures (like “American Notes for General Circulation”), as the film starts with his giving the equivalent of a Ted talk on an American stage.

Dickens approaches investors and considers “self-publishing” (he hardly needed the vanity, but he needed to get his career going) and has to borrow some money.  This was a time when books really did have to sell;  there was no capability of allowing freeloaders on the Internet.  The film gets into the relationship with his father (Jonathan Pryce) and an Irish immigrant, Tara (Anna Murphy).  There is enormous pressure to get the cursive manuscript done in six weeks, and illustrated (Simon Callow).

Along the way Dickens has his own visions of the characters, perhaps in dreams or some sort of meditation, as the ghosts return and regret the limitations of their afterlives.  Most compromised of all is Ebeneezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer, who pretty much starts out as the same character as John Paul Getty in yesterday’s film – “nothing”). Tara convinces Charles to have Scrooge change heart an save Tiny Tim and adopt or godfather him as family.

Scrooge’s motivation, as a ghost, seems to be obsessed with his own idea of righteousness, and doesn’t want to give in to making others who seem to fail “all right”.  Tiny Tim would present an existential challenge to the aims of his personality. He has to change, or be changed.

I wasn’t aware of the claim that the exaggerated winter solstice festivities of the Christmas season really started with this novel in England.

Donald Trump, as we know, has been bragging that he can bring Christmas back again (MAGA indeed).

The film now has little availability in theaters, having been released a little early for Christmas. I made a “night day trip” and saw it at Countryside Regal Cinemas in Sterling VA.  The theater was very crowded for other films, much more so than many other theaters. Despite popular beliefs, the audiences in this upscale area of northern Virginia look quite diversified.

A Christmas Carol” has been made into a feature film several times, most notably in 2009 in 3-D by Disney and Robert Zemeckis with Jim Carrey (legacy link).

Name:  “The Man Who Invented Christmas”
Director, writer:  Bharat Nalluri, Les Standiford, Susan Coyne, Charles Dickens
Released:  2017/11
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Countryside in Sterling VA, small audience night 2917/12/16 but theater facility as a whole was very crowded with other films
Length:  105
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Bleecker Street    (Canada, Ireland)
Link:  official 

(Posted: Wednesday, December 27, 2017 at 11 AM EST)

“A Good American”: The story of Bill Binney, whose metadata analysis system at the NSA should have prevented 9/11

A Good American”, directed by Friedrich Moser and based on his book, tells the story of (Bill) William Binney, a former technical director at the NSA, and of the metadata analysis tool he helped develop over several decades, which should have prevented 9/11.

The film opens with a woman calling her family from one of the hijacked planes, already knowing that other planes have been crashed. She may be on Flight 93. The film soon shows us the aftermath of the February 1993 truck bombing in the basement parking garage of the old World Trade Center, which had been intended to take out a load bearing abutment.

The film then gives us a retrospective biography of Binney, who enlisted in the Army into an intelligence program in 1965 to avoid drafting into combat.  One of my chess playing friends at GWU enlisted for Army intelligence for four years in 1967, so I remember this. Binney spent some time in Turkey spying on the Soviet Union (near a base that had been surrendered) after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Over time, Binney worked on tools that would enable the military to predict enemy events based strictly on metadata that did not require identifying people. It was possible to predict the Tet offensive in 1968, although the tool wasn’t used adequately.  It was used better in predicting the Soviet action in Czechoslovakia.

The NSA did not do a particularly good job at first in shifting from analogue to digital intelligence (Edward Snowden would not appear for some time). But other terror events, like in 1998, and then the attack on the Cole in 2000, would have made it apparent just how determined Al Qaeda was to undermine secular American life.

During this time, there was a lot of internal politicking to get funds from Congress, and a revolving door of people who retired from the NSA and became contractors at SAIC.  Financial gain compromised good judgment, as the metadata tools could have detected 9/11 if deployed properly.  Important components of the system were Trailblazer Project and Thinthread.

Binney retired on Oct. 31, 2001, after 9/11 and a horrible sequence of anthrax attacks. But in 2007, the FBI raided his home, claiming he had compromised classified information as a whistleblower after he left.

William Binney has been active recently in retirement on the post-Trump-election and Russia-gate investigations, meeting with Pompeo, NBCNews story here.  The details are likely to evolve quickly.

Name:  “A Good American”
Director, writer:  Friedrich Moser
Released:  2015
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix Instant, 2017/11/7
Length:  100
Rating:  NA (PG-13)
Companies:  Gravitas Venturas
Link:  official

(Posted: Tuesday, November 11, 2017 at 4:15 PM EST)

“LBJ”: Rob Reiner’s new film soft-pedals LBJ’s “accidental” presidency after Kennedy

I recall a drizzly late fall Election Day in 1964, after I had turned 21, when my father said, “Nobody can beat LBJ”.

And I remember the Sunday evening in Special Training Company at Fort Jackson, SC, March 31, 1968, a day I had cleaned a grease pit with a toothbrush, one of the lowest days of my life, hearing that LBJ would not accept a nomination for a second full term as “your president” in that year of “Medium Cool”.

LBJ” is a nice biopic by Rob Reiner, from Castle Rock Entertainment, with unusual distribution through Electric Entertainment.

The first half of the film walks through the day Kennedy was assassinated, with LBJ (Woody Harrelson) recalling earlier days in his career, when Kennedy needed him on the ticket in the 1960 election but then had to rein him in.   Johnson, while able to use the word “negro” with a bit of condescension, found himself moving toward Kennedy’s  (Jeffrey Donovan) thinking on civil rights, while fighting off powerful senator Richard Russell (Richard Jenkins), especially on deal to put a defense plant in Georgia and hire token blacks as engineers. Johnson also expresses his political cynicism to Robert Kennedy (Michael Stahl-David).  LBJ’s own experience with his own housekeeper helps shape his views toward progress, while Russell makes phony arguments about “freedom”.

The American public was not told of Kennedy’s death for 38 minutes, while LBJ mulled being sworn in immediately in Dallas on the plane, out of fear of a bigger conspiracy.

The film bypasses the Cuban Missile Crisis completely, and makes only brief references to Vietnam, which would heat up in 1965, after the time period covered by the film.

LBJ was capable of being quite crude in his talk, like about his clothes and tailor (“Sartor Researtus” indeed), and Ladybird (Jennifer Jason Leigh) covers for him, even in bed.

Name:  “LBJ
Director, writer:  Rob Reiner
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/11/5, afternoon, good audience
Length:  98
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Electric Releasing, Castle Rock
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 at 11:45 PM EST)