“Citizen Ashe”: film biography of tennis star Arthur Ashe reminds us of many old controversies that really have never gone away

Arthur Ashe, statue, Richmond VA, 2017-11

On Saturday, November 11, 2017, I drove from Falls Church, VA, where I had moved into a highrise condo a few weeks before after downsizing from an inherited house, to Richmond, on the fall’s first cold windy day, and drove down Monument Blvd and took pictures of the statues.  Already, following Charlottesville, there was talk that they would eventually come down (as started in 2020 and is now done).  But the one statue remaining is a positive one, that of black tennis star Arthur Ashe (1943-1993), born the same year I was.

I posted the pictures on a site I no longer have (then called Bill’s Media Reviews) and even then I wondered, am I going to get wrath over that?  Would some on the radical Left complain that gratuitous postings of the confederate statues by a citizen on his own website was adding to “oppression” by continuing to validate the structural racism of the past.  Critical race theory was already coming into vogue.  In a way, group activism like this could make sense for members of this class if they felt their lives were in danger from background lingering hatred  (Floyd hadn’t happened yet).  That didn’t happen, but I always thought that the last statue on the western end of the street, of Arthur Ashe, provided some salvation.  Rather than tear down existing statues, why not simply commission more of prominent African Americans and build them around Richmond and other southern cities?

Sunday night, June 26, 2022, CNN Films aired the documentary “Citizen Ashe”, directed by Rex Miller and Sam Pollard, with a story consultant T.J. Volgare (and the true story tends to have cycles of want-get-pay).  The film had a brief theatrical release from Magnolia/Magnet in the summer of 2021.

Ashe’s biography  hits on many hot button issues.  He had to deal with exclusion from many tennis courts early in his life, until the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s started making progress.  He had to deal with the Vietnam era draft (which is something today’s young male YouTube stars in the US don’t have to), so he enlisted in 1966 and appears to have gotten a direct commission (a possibility that I explored in 1968 with my MA Master’s Degree;  that didn’t happen, but one manager I worked for at NBC in the 1970s had earned one).  He would wind up stationed at West Point and creating a little controversy.

More pointed, however, was that his brother volunteered for a second year of duty in Vietnam so that he (Arthur) didn’t have to face a tour that posed extra risk of combat.  Nevertheless, he had a narrow miss on a USO visit to Vietnam.  During the Vietnam war, the Army did apply “sole surviving son” rules for families to prevent multiple male casualties as had been unavoidable in World War II (and maybe Korea?)

The other big story circle in the movie starts with Ashe’s surprising heart attack at age 36, which seemed result from a hereditary condition reportedly more common in blacks.  His doctor didn’t let him go home, and he was rushed into coronary bypass surgery in 1979 (the same thing happened in 2000 to talk show host David Letterman – don’t go to the doctor!)  The film shows him in bed with a cloth patch over the center of his chest, cracked open like a lobster.  No more an acceptable beauty model.  He would get a second surgery in 1983, and apparently receive blood tainted with HIV, which could not yet be detected in blood donations as the AIDS epidemic was exploding (the HTLV-III virus was officially discovered in the spring of 1984, and a test was available almost immediately).  He would be diagnosed with toxoplasmosis, a sign of AIDS, and then pneumocystis pneumonia, of which he would pass away in February 1993.   The blood donation issue early in the AIDS epidemic provided fodder which the right wing, especially in Texas with a failed attempt in 1983 to bolster the state’s sodomy law, could use to try to repress male homosexuality altogether.  That history from the more distant past seems a little more dangerous given what has been said about the recent SCOTUS opinion. One has to connect the dots all the time. On the other hand , only recently have gay men (otherwise HIV- ) been accepted as blood donors.

As for the heart disease, my own mother had a triple bypass in May 1999 at age 85. The doctors had wanted to do an angioplasty and stent but said her coronary arteries were too brittle.  At the time, I had not been aware that bypass surgery could be done that late in life.  She would live eleven years (the expected gain was seven years), in good quality until about 2008; she would pass away at the end of 2010 after 18 months of rather constant caregiving.  Ashe has had become active in the American Heart Association, as reported in the film.  That non-profit was among those Mother donated to, and the donations continue today (although they are not a trust beneficiary).   I get contacts (even by phone) sometimes from some non-profits asking if I will work with them more publicly, and I have not since I work online on my own.  That’s really a big deal (there is a book “The Logic of Collective Action,” by Mancur Olson, from the 60s which I should get on Kindle and take up soon)).  This film, ironically, leads me all the way to pondering my own problem with that.

(Posted: Monday, June 27, 2022 at 11:30 AM EDT by John W. Boushka)

Well-meaning reports create uncertainty about our containment of COVID with vaccines, and this reaches back to concerns about personal liberty (as, well, this weekend!)

shopping center in Herndon VA where I got the second Pfizer shot in 2021-3

Given the new attention to individual rights (privacy) in the past days with the Supreme Court situation, I wanted us to focus back on the idea that external events do have a major impact on our individual rights, particularly public health and war.  Measures to control climate change, ironically supported by enthusiastic protesters, could indeed affect individual agency in the relatively near future. 

The COVID vaccines and previous infections have, by and large, allowed most people in western countries to go back to more or less normal activities with much less disruption, although there are supply chain disruptions and inflation dues also to war in Ukraine as well as the pandemic.

New infections at the moment seem to be fairly stable, as one can see from this Google search of “coronavirus infections in New York City” (link).   This result may exclude many home positive rapid tests, however.

But there are also warnings that newer strains of Omicron (especially BA5) will explode and may be more serious clinically than earlier variants of Omicron (may have more lung tropism).  John Campbell has this video on “international B5 wave”.

Furthermore, there are articles appearing that seem to show less confidence that most members of the public can, with existing vaccines and milder breakthrough infections, keep building up resistance to the SARS_CoV2 family of coronaviruses.  The trendy concern seems to be “original antigenic sin”, as explained by Malaysian researcher Shie Jie Yong on Medium (“Evidence of Covid-related Original Antigenic Sin Has Finally Surfaced; Prior immunity — especially from natural infection — may backfire instead when it comes to Omicron.”) , June 20, 2022.

The Drbeen Medical Lectures develops the topic in the 35-minute video “Original Antigenic Sin From Previous Colds May Lead to Severe COVID”.

In the past, it has been thought that younger people were less susceptible to severe COVID because of indirect cellular immunity built up with repeated coronavirus common colds.  Maybe so, even for many adults, especially in the early days of 2020, as many adults sailed through this time with no problems. But the video shows that in some people, the non-neutralizing antibody population from previously more distantly related infections may actually cause more disease. (This is not the same as antibody dependent enhancement, ADE, as with dengue but the effect might be similar.)  The video goes on to suggest that vaccines could cause this rebound in some people unless they are modified more quickly to match the new variants (which Pfizer and Moderna are doing but the FDA has not yet moved on).  But most of us are counting on the vaccines plus “subclinical” breakthroughs with the newer variants to keep us protected.

I was wanted to share one of Bret Weinstein’s recent “Darkhorse podcast clips”, “Covid evolution and the emergence of Omicron” (there is also another one).  He interviews Robert Malone, whose reputation, according to Wikipedia, is tainted with right-wing views.  (I personally agree that Ivermectin, itself a protease inhibitor, might turn out to be an effective medication that would pass FDA muster if properly re-engineered biochemically into proper doses and run through properly designed trials.)  

Weinstein et al believe, with some convincing evidence, that the bizarre and unpredictable behavior of the SARS_CoV2 family derive from the virus instances being run through so many different animals, likely in the Wuhan Virology Lab.  This is seen as more likely than tampering directly with the spike proteins or receptor binding domains (which Chris Martenson had talked about on Peak Prosperity, especially May 4, 2020).  I know there is controversy over an original bat virus (Laos, or Majoing copper mines in SW China in 2012).   Weinstein believes that an virus that is passed among so many different mammals will learn to mutate more rapidly and unpredictably than most other even RNA viruses. I would add that the circumstantial evidence of China’s (and the CCP’s) misbehavior in 2019 and early 2020 is so overwhelming that the American people (and the peoples of the world) are presented with essentially a wartime challenge (considering the fatalities worldwide, vs. the low fatalities in China which can “conscript” and militarize its people in conducting its own zero-COVID lockdowns) and wartime sacrifices and personal losses (of individual mobility and agency) are to be expected. (Epoch Times calls the SARS_CoV2 family of viruses the “CCPvirus”.)

This is why Weinstein (and generally many “conservatives”) believe it is risky to believe we can vaccinate our way out of the personal hardships of a pandemic like this.  But so do the more obvious “liberals” such as Dr. Denise Dewald on Twitter. 

So my question, for both liberals and conservatives, is, well, duh, what do we do about this? Now?

Maybe some of the answer isn’t so bad.  Just emphasize masks more.  Make sure all Americans use N95’s or KN95’s and enforce the proper ruling everywhere in public indoors.  A more moderate solution might include much higher standards on indoor ventilation, even to be retrofitted into some apartment buildings.

At home testing could be a required norm, with mandatory smartphone transmission to health departments when necessary.  Policies would need to be developed for cancellations of trips and event attendance necessitated by sudden positive tests.

All of this, of course, is predicated on the idea that even allowing infection is dangerous, because such a substantial percentage of even “mild” infections are likely to lead to some permanent disability.

That is unusual for contagious viruses, and might well be explained, as Weinstein says, by the unusual history of the virus in passing among many animals. It also makes the quickly developed vaccines seem risky, because never before have we mass vaccinated so many people this quickly with no experience for the possible long term consequences.  For me, at 78, with no lineage and four Pfizer shots, it worked out. So I am unduly, as the Left says, unduly privileged.

Of course, there is hope that we can fine tune the mRNA vaccines (Malone questions the term) or develop nasal vaccines that might offer sterilizing immunity.

I could also mention the idea that a major resurgence of a virulent variant could lead back to lockdowns and this time the permanent destruction of many businesses (like bars and clubs).  That’s part of the “what now?” question I would ask.  Look at what happened, of course, recently in China with Zero Covid.  Do we want that?  Remember “Dictator Dan” in Melbourne, Victoria.

It could also lead, for someone like me, the risk of mandatory “podification”, loss of independence (guardianship) as a senior and forced connections with an assigned collection of people.  More about that idea in a future post.

As we refocus on our individual rights, and with the threat that SCOTUS (especially Clarence Thomas’s concurrence) may pose, it’s well to remain alert to the other lingering threats.  Ponder the past history of the military draft, and Selective Service Registration (which is not very kind to trans people, whose rules are defined by assigned sex at birth).  Look at what happened in Ukraine, where males 18-60, many with no experience with self-defense or weapons, were conscripted to stay behind when Russia started its apparently genocidal invasion. Ponder also the idea that in the US and many other western countries (but not all, like Israel, Switzerland, Finland) the lack of a current active (male) military draft has allowed some college-age and teens to flourish in spectacular ways, not just in sports but especially in social media or Internet startups. (You could say Avi Schiffmann performed “service” by developing his comprehensive COVID statistics website and then another site to place Ukrainian refugees with personal home hosts — and it is something one can do essentially alone or with few other people, unlike what we normally think of as organized “service”.)

Also consider the dilemma when the United States (as well as other EU countries) are asked to put their citizens at more personal risk (of not just nuclear but also perhaps EMP strikes) to provide more assistance to Ukraine and possibly other post-Soviet republics or even existing or prospective EU NATO states (I won’t rehearse the detail here). That certainly has an existential bearing on individual rights just as SCOTUS’s recent behavior has.

(Update): I wanted to add that the idea of a communicable “slow virus” destroying liberal civilization and comes up in horror and science fiction. My own novel manuscript “Angel’s Brother” has a subplot where a novel virus often (with some transmission modes) leads to permanent sterility in men and gradual loss of mechanical motor skills (the latter does happen with some known diseases), predicating future social upheaval. I expect to get back to the novel later this summer after my own web conversion and some more screenwriting is done. The plans for the novel have been disrupted by Covid and by the war in Ukraine (because Finland is in the plot), and in the past couple of years I learned a lot more from screenwriting class how even good novels need to give protagonist(s) more agency than I had given them. The fictitious virus (imagined maybe around 2002 or so) does resemble the new coronaviruses a lot; the spike proteins are proposed to be able to host “micro black holes” to transfer new identities to the infected. (And should we call Omicron “COVID21”?)

I like to mention movies I had reviewed before (my restructuring) when they are relevant to new blog posts. The 2006 film “Children of Men“, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, with Clive Owen and Julianne Moore, supposes that women have lost the ability to have children, until finally there is a pregnancy, with a cost.

(Posted: Sunday, June 26, 2022 at 11 AM EDT)

SCOTUS rulings on Second Amendment, and then on Roe v Wade, pose serious questions as to which personal individual rights are really “fundamental”

protesters near SCOTUS walking back to Union Station, 2022-5

Okay, when “Bill” goes away for grocery shopping, the mice play.  The news on Roe popped onto my phone this morning as I stood in line at a Harris Teeter in Arlington VA.

Let’s back up and talk about the Bruen case in New York, ruled yesterday 6-3. The official name is “NEW YORK STATE RIFLE & PISTOL ASSOCIATION, INC., ET AL. v. BRUEN, SUPERINTENDENT OF NEW “YORK STATE POLICE, ET AL”, with official opinion link here

New York state apparently is not allowed to maintain its policy as a “may issue” (vs. “shall issue”) state when citizens apply for licenses to carry various weapons.  Typically, that may mean that the applicant needs a more specific reason to need a gun than just self (or familial or property) defense, which is often the standard in Europe (like New York, densely populated).  That means the individual has more personal risk from targeted violence, for example, which affects eir personal agency.

Hoeg Law discusses the opinion in a two-hour video, along with discussing analysis offered by Vox and by Fox News.  Understand at first, in the past I’ve talked about DC v. Heller (2008) which is supposed to deal with the “militia” question.

I’ll walk back on a couple of points, which also matter to Roe (later in this post).

That is, according to the opinion, “fundamental rights” pre-exist and are not granted by government or even by the Constitution (the Bill of Rights, and certain other amendments, especially the 14th Amendment with its incorporation doctrine).

But pre-existing fundamental rights are substantiated by a reading of history, which may go back to civilization much less technology-related than ours.  It is reasonable that self-defense as a fundamental right could be seen in American history, especially with its history of settling new lands (however problematic when it comes to other issues, like indigenous peoples – or to the history of slavery). 

The opportunity for individual self-defense certainly reinforces personal, individual agency.  I can relate an anecdote. In November 2016 I had volunteered to deliver meals for Food and Friends and had done so earlier only in northern Virginia.  When I found out that this time I might have to be willing to drive in SE Washington DC’s most dangerous neighborhoods, I backed out.  Maybe personally cowardly.  But if I owned a personal weapon and had been trained to use one properly and safely, I would not have had to back out.  Frankly, I don’t see becoming a “victim” of extra-legal violence when serving others as particularly honorable, deserving a funeral procession. So I have to be very strict about the kinds of risks I will take.

My own history, with my books and blogs, has talked a lot about many fundamental rights, especially freedom of speech – which I say does not automatically guarantee what Brian Stelter calls “freedom of reach” (SCOTUS has waffled on that point, as with COPA), and the “right to privacy”, which indeed comes from substantive due process (more later in this post) which I see as an individual right (as opposed to  group-enabled rights implied by the use of protected classes).  I did not (in any of the three DADT books or in my “Our Fundamental Rights” booklet specifically talk about the Second Amendment as an individual right.  I should have, and would do so if rewriting.  I can remember a Libertarian Party of Virginia conclave in Richmond on a late spring weekend in 1995 where it was a big issue.  I should have taken it more seriously then.  But I had come at this from another direction, gays in the military, the draft, the limits of privacy – I never got around to thinking about how critical individual self-defense can be for personal agency and integrity.

Hoeg, in his video, gives some discussion to the Supreme Court’s idea of “originalism” and “textualism”.  It is turning into a distinction without a difference.

I would take the discussion about “fundamental rights’ in a new direction, and try to apply the idea of “pre-existing rights” and due-process.  The universe, after all, is very inequitable.  “You” don’t have a fundamental right to be born without disability, or to a family of means, or to be born white, or even cis-gender straight.  That’s because the laws of physics make this impossible. That’s like claiming the right to fly like (Smallville) superman (or like an intelligent crow sitting on the railing on the balcony of your high-rise condo and watching you work on your computer – I have such a “friend” now).  Once a society has “rule of law” and some attempt at democracy (the West, essentially), it then becomes reasonable to postulate that some notions like right of privacy can exist if you can presume fundamental due process (below).  Clearly, in today’s (Putin’s) Russia or North Korea or (to a somewhat lesser extent) China this notion fails.  I have some of this sketched on my old “doaskdotell” site and it will be revised soon.

What is the effect on current efforts, even the recent agreement to a compromise on gun control in Congress?  

The New York Times has a summary by various writers, apparently published about the same time as the opinion.  Essentially, the SCOTUS opinion would not seem to affect control of weapons in specific places or venues (like airplanes), or the banning of people with certain signs of mental illness (red flag laws), or the personal possession of weapons of mass destruction (answering a Tim Pool tweet, I don’t think the opinion means you can possess nukes). Legislation affecting some kinds of military weapons (AR-15’s, etc) would seem permissible.  What isn’t permissible is questioning your need for individual self-defense.  (The House just passed its gun safety law 234-193.)

 Now, that brings me to the shocker for today, the overturn of Roe v. Wade (so predicted by Jeffrey Toobin on CNN since Barrett’s appointment), “DOBBS, STATE HEALTH OFFICER OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL. v. JACKSON WOMEN’S HEALTH ORGANIZATION ET AL.” ,pdf link.  

It may be trite to say that as an elderly gay man who has never experienced coitus (or even meaningful arousal – bluntness is necessary now) with a female and never will (well, except in my “Second Epiphany” screenplay with the help of an identity-switching “crisis actor”), this opinion cannot affect me directly.  But the irony, of course, comes from the reasoning used to undermine previous rulings (specially Lawrence v Texas and Obergefell) affecting the freedom of individuals to have and benefit from intimate adult same-sex relationships that physically happen in private but which putatively do affect culture as a whole.  (It is important to recall that the AIDS epidemic raised questions about possibly unpredictable public health consequences of some gay conduct (covered previously, and in Chapter 3 of my own DADT-1 book and a public issue in Texas in 1983 with a proposed draconian state law 2138), and raised again with monkeypox (although this will spread among heterosexuals too with similar intimacies in public raves); ironically, however COVID19 seemed to hit hardest people in socially conventional large families. In general, public health, war, climate change and space weather can all pose issues that invade individual liberty in ways we haven’t seriously considered before, why we focus on ‘bathroom bills’ — may not have the luxury?)

I have to add, it is disturbing that some “Republicans” seem so  focused (and smug) on a narrow swath of the right to life concept, when there is a much bigger practical concern (the elderly, the severely disabled, and so on).  In a few states they have implemented vigilante laws, or proposed ideas like making it a crime for a state resident to contact a service online to seek assistance in another state. This could present a serious downstream liability situation for social media and even webhosts down the road (given, for example, how Section 230 plays out).

Alito has written that the effect of today’s opinion, undermining stare decisis, applies only to abortion, and has noted that no other issue has affected the right to take away the life of a human being, interpreting any entity after fertilization (maybe implantation) as a human being.  You might try to twist his reasoning around and say that some uses of guns for self-defense needlessly take away human life.  At least that is a first reaction.

But Justice Clarence Thomas wrote some comments in his concurring opinion, as explained by Adam Edelman at NBC News.  The long headline is “Thomas wants the Supreme Court to overturn landmark rulings that legalized contraception, same-sex marriage; In a concurring opinion to the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the conservative jurist called on the court to overrule a trio of watershed civil rights rulings, writing,’” We have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”   Thomas is “willing” to wait for another case, he says.  (Well, why did the Court have to overturn Roe v Wade at all;  it could have upheld Mississippi itself). This could work its way down to contraception (Griswold – 1962; and there are radicals who believe that sperm itself has humanity!)

The issue is “substantive due process”.  Thomas calls this an “oxymoron”. That doctrine has generally recognized liberty or property interests (as in the 14th Amendment) in contemporary terms.  But as we saw (ironically) with the 2nd amendment case, Thomas (and to a large extend other justices) believe this is validated only over a longer period of American history.  Same-sex relations have not been so recognized until the past few decades, partly because in the past homosexuality was seen as undermining the incentive for most normal men to marry and have and raise children (and post WWII had become fodder for McCarthyism).  That’s a pretty complicated thing to explore.  My three DADT books make a point of organizing all of this.  You could say that “substantive due process” means you can’t pass a law that intrudes into a personal space that cannot be enforced with normal procedures under the rule of law.  (Think how that applies to sodomy laws.)   Without substantive due process, rights would be delegated to groups, which critical theory embraces.  That would follow from the equal protection clause.  I am not a big fan of deriving rights through groups (implies intersectionality). I could say that an underlying theme of all my books is what individual rights you protect with substantive due process (as opposed to group equal protection and the protected marginalized minority idea) and what those who feel personally challenged should do to leverage the idea.

Tim Pool weighed in quickly today:

Also The Hill-Rising weighs in:

I’ll close this long post with trailers for two films deal with Roe.

One is “Reversing Roe” (2018), directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, from Lincoln Square Productions and Netflix.  ·

The other is “AKA Jane Roe”(2020), directed by Nick Sweeney, from FX Channel, about Norma Mc Corvey, the original plaintiff in Roe v Wade, who finally turned against her own prior activism later in life when she had cancer.

(Posted: Friday, June 24, 2022 at 4 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

Louis Rossmann on DMCA and Right to Repair; and a feline made his YouTube channel famous

Chelsea, NYC, near Rossmann’s shop, 2021-6, during gay pride weekend (a few blocks away)

Louis Rossmann, who runs a Mac repair shop in NYC (and other places – I’m not sure how his adventures in Florida, etc, have turned out) and a well known YouTube channel, interviews Nathan Proctor, from US PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) on the recent bill HR6566, the Right to Repair Act.

Right to Repair deals with Section 1201 (anti-circumvention) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, and has been controversial since the beginning, although maybe not as well known as the Safe Harbor Provision for platforms regarding takedown notices for copyright complaints (see posting June 21 on CASE).  It is, in a vernacular sense, a “Section 230 for copyright”.  

Many manufacturers places locks around some components of computer equipment, such as cooling fans.  There has been controversy of litigation over claims that hobbyists or technicians who break the locks are infringing on copyright – as the manufacturers want the revenue stream from repairs.  Imagine if your car worked like this (although many components of modern autos are impossible for ordinary family members to repair, compared to times past).   There is controversy especially over disabling antipiracy locks, although doing so itself is not piracy!

Rossmann also has a brief video recently on a new bill in Canada requiring big Tech platforms (especially Google) to show results from Canadian sources to IP locations in Canada preferably to others.  A bit of nationalism or autarky?

I’ll also show one of Louis’s videos of Mr. Clinton (now 12 years old), the charismatic feline who has made his YouTube channel take off.

How other two cats, Blackberry and Oreo (whom he took home from the street), aren’t as charismatic as Clinton, who particularly warns us about Cuomo (just before the scandal).  When I lived in my first garden apartment in Dallas (right after a move there to start 1979), I was “adopted” by a male cat, known as Timmy, who would come by every few days and knew the sound of my car as I drove up. He particularly liked cooked hamburger.  He was very talkative.  If cats have reincarnation, Mr. Clinton Is almost surely the reincarnation of Timmy, and would recognize me now if I met him in person.  The cat, as an animal, is unique in being to live in the wild, and be able to visit and bond with humans “they” (or “e”) remembers and likes.  When Louis makes a video with Clinton at his side, it’s hard to believe Clinton doesn’t know something is very wrong in the outside world. Same could be said for the two cats and dog on Bret Weinstein’s and Heather Heying’s “Dark Horse Podcast Clips” questioning the trite “conventional wisdom” of today’s Left.

In fact, there was a film about such a proposition for dogs, “A Dog’s Purpose “(Dec. 2016, also known as “A Dog’s Journey“), directed by Lasse Hallstrom, based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron, starring Dennis Quaid, Britt Robertson, and Juliet Rylance, with Josh Gad as the dog’s voice in several incarnations. The tagline is “Every dog happens for a reason”.

The ending was truly heartwarming.  As I recall, reincarnated pets can find reincarnated (or simply elderly) former owners. 

So we wind up, who is a favorite animal? The cat may have an advantage in being able to go solitary rather than belonging to a tribe, then making social connections when e wants to.

(Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2022 at 11 AM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“Who Killed Vincent Chin?”: PBS re-airs 80s documentary of an anti-Asian hate crime

Detroit, downtown, 2012-8-5

PBS POV (and Independent Lens) sometimes repeat films a couple of year old, but on Monday June 20 (the official “Juneteenth” federal holiday) it aired the 1987 Oscar nominated documentary “Who Killed Vincent Chin?”, by Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Peña.  The film had been digitally restored (it still seems to be in 4:3 aspect ratio).  The film had been produced by Detroit Public Television and the Center for Asian American Media.  Wikipedia also notes that there is a 2009 documentary about the same case (“Vincent Who?”).

original trailer

The crime at hand is the murder of Vincent Jen Chin at a McDonalds in Highland Park, MI on June 19, 1982 (he died of his injuries four days later) after his attackers followed him there after a brawl at a strip club in Highland Park where he had been having a bachelor party.

anti-Asian behavior

There would develop public outrage over the light state charges and sentences of one of the attackers (manslaughter and a $3000 fine) where the slogan was “you make the punishment fit the criminal”.  Then there would be a federal civil rights trial, with legal ping pong and a retrial, resulting finally in acquittal.  Civil suits against one of the defendants however resulted in a lifetime financial “burden”.

The killing was partially motivated by the belief on the part of the defendants that Chin was Japanese (his ancestry was Chinese), at a time with competition with Japanese auto imports was killing the domestic auto industry around Detroit. The film spends some time on the foreign auto competition issue (vs. autarky), particularly in Michigan and other upper midwest states, which would eventually feed into “Trumpism” years later.  This was early in the first Reagan administration, shortly after his firing of striking air traffic controllers, as I recall.

I can remember when I started working on my first summer jobs (for the Navy) in 1965, one employee (black female) actually described Michigan and the Detroit areas as a desirable place to live.  That’s how much times changed.

Anthony BourdaIn had made a CNN “Parts Unknown” episode about the collapse of Detroit as a city and to a lesser extend some of the surrounding suburbs.

I visited the Detroit area in 1980 and again in August 2012.

Prejudice against Asian Americans is sporadic but very troubling in some cities.  On the other hand, Asian Americans have been “accused” of outperforming others (even whites) academically and getting into top schools or top tech firms.  But the violence in the poorer rungs of society helped feed the reluctance by tech firms to allow the likelihood that the SARS coronavirus could have come from the Wuhan lab to be discussed freely on their platforms, in the early days of the pandemic.

(Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2022 at 9:30 AM EDT)

“Connor and Jayden”, cis white gay male short film (and now that seems remarkable)

West Hollywood clubs, 2012-5

Here’s a tempting short film on YouTube, “Connor & Jayden: the Story of Us”, 32 minutes, 2022, written and directed by Jerome Elston Scott, from Harbor Heights Entertainment.

Connor and Jayden

Connor Tucker (Christian Barba), a high school football star, has a broken leg, and not allowed to play for the rest of the season.  He might lose a chance for a college football scholarship for bad luck. He signs up for a cooking class and meets Jayden Sansbury (Ty Newcomb). Jayden is supposed to be the school patsy, except that he really isn’t.

They start a friendship, and then one morning Jayden helps Cannon get his car started by tinkering under the hood, his hands staying clean. The friendship grows.  Jayden challenges Connor to a movie “date” and Connor professes ignorance of movie start times, which carries on with the ticket seller Cameron (Troy Hatt – is the character inspired by “Cam”, or Cameron Kasky?) It seems like an artificial ruse, but the friendship grows intimate, though it never quite crosses the line in the film.

So it’s refreshing to see cis male gay men in a short film again, in all these days of critical gender theory. 

But the movie never quite follows the normal story circle ideas in screenwriting.  Connor has already paid his heavy price – he broke his leg.  At least he didn’t go through the horrors of Washington (now Commanders) quarterback Alex Smith who almost wound up with an amputation,  A scene in the movie’s middle shows him without a cast and hairy leg (in shorts) as if nothing had ever happened. So a few months have past and it is mild Los Angeles winter.

Beyond the LGBT subject matter here, it’s interesting to wonder something about writing movie scripts with protagonists who are generally successful teens in high school, college, or some career (like YouTubing).  When does the teen “pay a price” when he (she/e) gets what e wants.  Sometimes leaving the college experience is a price.  Sometimes leaving college sports when there will not be a career in sports is a price. Sometimes it is losing a potential love interest.  First breakups are always difficult.  Often in the past the “want” was to get into the best school.  Today’s kids want more agency sooner, and you start to see a lot of gap years (to grow YouTube channels). 

The distributor also offers cast interviews (the interviewer is black) and audition sessions for the movie on YouTube.

(Posted: Monday, June 20, 2022 at 10 PM EDT)

NYTimes video short films about January 6 (Proud Boys involvement), and Russian army in Ukraine

Trump rally Nov. 14, 2022

Late Friday evening, the New York Times tweeted a series of some of its “visual investigations”, really short films in a similar style to the op-docs.  I want to mention two of them. I can give the links, but neither is embeddable. 

The firs (also called a “story portrait”) is “How the Proud Boys Breached the Capitol on Jan. 6: Rile Up the Normies”, reported by By Natalie Reneau, Stella Cooper, Alan Feuer and Aaron Byrd (17 min.)  You can watch it at this link (may require paywall or subscription).   Well, it is on YouTube new (free, but age-restricted).

NY Times video on Proud Boys Jan 6

The film traces their movements around the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021.  They showed up looking a but ragtag and ordinary near the Monument early in the morning but had specifically recruited their troops.  They spread out to various points around the Capitol and some had the task of stirring up the other people (the “normies”) into extreme behaviors.  The hearings his past week showed how at one point they may have been within forty feet of a hidden Mike Pence, who could not afford to be seen leaving the Capitol under Secret Service Protection. Over the last several years, the Proud Boys had sometimes convinced others that they were a necessary block of destructive extremism on the Left (Antifa, as in Portland). It’s true, Left wing activism is sometimes more disruptive to ordinary citizens (like owners of small businesses) in a neighborhood (with its clenched-fist demands that ordinary people join the mass movements), whereas generally right-wing extremists may aim to stage far larger and more destructive events.

NBC reinforces this information with an excerpt from recent testimony before Congress:

NBC on Jan 6 hearings

PBS includes testimony about the Oath Keepers.

PBS on Jan 6 hearing

I attended a couple of events, a “stop the steal” gathering at the GOP HQ near the Capitol South Metro Station on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020 – for “journalistic” purposes.  I kept some distance and filmed, and then had an outdoor lunch nearby where I could watch.  Apparently I was there shortly after Ford Fischer (News2Share) had left. Then on Saturday, Nov, 14, 2020 I watched and film some more of the big pro-Trump rally near Freedom Plaza.  I rode in on the Metro, masked, but many people weren’t and were shouting. I walked around the crowd and one guy screamed into my face.  At one point, the core of the PB walked past.

Nov 14 2020 rally

I had thought of the Proud Boys as silly, with their rituals and denial of masturbation.  Some people say some of them are incels.  At one point, Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled (I think by Patreon) when a “background investigation” indicated he had once gone to a meeting of them.  At the time, I thought it was silly to cancel someone just for being in the presence of a suspect group.  I remember seeing Milo once at Harry’s Bar in the Harrington in downtown DC the weekend of July 6, 2019 (pre-pandemic) when he had actually dressed in drag to give a right-wing speech.

Another journalist friend begged me on Twitter to get tested for COVID after spending these days there.  I’ll say this.  I got my first two Pfizer shots on Feb. 27 and March 18, 2021.  After the second one, my sense of smell took off, and I could smell everything any apartment from a hallway in my building.  That’s pretty good circumstantial evidence that I had just had the infection (without other symptoms) and the vaccines shut it down (essentially turning into a monoclonal antibody treatment).  I might have been in real trouble without the shots.  I lived in a high rise the whole COVID period, in a zipcode with very high infection, but was never ill.  I think I had been building some immunity with small exposures (through the masks).

I’m not sure how the Oath Keepers fit in.

Recall, YouTube disallowed videos that mentioned “Stop the Steal” after the Dec. 8 2020 electoral college meeting, unless the video contained countervailing views within the videos, even if just spoklen by an obviously excitable protester or shown on a sign.  This gets into the philosophy of who gets to call themselves press and a journalist, which I’ll come back to later.  But in early and mid November I was intellectually willing to listen to their (Trump) claims.  They had not yet gone through the courts and wild attempts. 

On Dec. 20, someone (a Facebook “friend”, female) asked if I would help her find a place to stay. I told her, look for motels.  But the tone of the message seemed urgent, as if by even that date there was considerable intention to disrupt the Jan. 6 electoral count as if the world would come to an end for them if Biden got “power”.  It made no sense.

The other film is “Under Fire, Out of Fuel: What Intercepted Russian Radio Chatter Reveals” by Robin Stein, Christiaan Triebert, Natalie Reneau, Aleksandra Koroleva and Drew Jordan, about a Russian attack in late February on a suburb of Kyiv, link here (paywall).

There is a video.

Russian troops in Ukraine NYTImes

At one point, a Russian tank shoots at a civilian car and blows it up, killing both.

The translated Russian shows how poorly equipped is the Russian military.

Will the NYT submit these to film festivals?

(Posted: Saturday. June 18, 2022 at 4:30 PM EDT)

My Master’s Thesis was, after all, my first “published book”

Strong Hall, University of Kansas, 2006, Lawrence KS

In the course of moving most of my content to this site based on my legal name, I recently placed a PDF (photographic) of the 1968 Master’s Thesis at the University of Kansas, called “Minimax Rational Function Approximation”.  The link for the summary (ordinary html) is this, and the link for the document itself is this.

The subject matter comes from an areas of applied mathematics called “numerical analysis”.  I gave a technical talk on this thesis for at least one job interview in early 1970 when I was leaving the Army, at RCA David Sarnoff Labs in Princeton NJ, which became my first job.  I think I also gave a talk on it at Bell Labs in northern NJ on another interview.

I remember my experiences as a graduate student at KU (from Feb. 1966 to Jan. 1968) well, and they are described in detail in Chapter 2 of my first DADT book, or even more detail here.  

I also had a teaching assistantship (as explained in the book). In those days, graduate teaching assistants made up their own tests, and had some “power”, which was a sensitive issue in the days young men faced a military draft due to the Vietnam War, and could literally get a combat MOS (infantry) if drafted if they had flunked out of college (this would change in 1969).  All of this would lead to my losing the assistantship for a year (when I worked as a programmer).  The tests I gave were reasonable according to what I had been used to even in high school.  But I did say something to a department prof that I had no right to say (insubordinate) whatever my convictions.  I guess one could say I had been complicit in “oppression”.

When I was in Army Basic myself in the spring of 1968, I was called “algebra” or “professor” by the cadre, even when I was in Special Training Company because of my physical retardation (medically, dyspraxia).

After my mainframe IT career “cardiac arrest” (DADT Book 3, Chapter 4), 93 days post 9/11, I considered becoming a math teacher, in the days of Bush’s “No Child Left Behind”. 

I became a sub in the spring of 2004 and have described my experiences here.  There is a lot more nuance to convey about this experience, which I will revisit in a future post (it’s generating a screenplay). In September 2007 I did pass the ETS Mathematics teacher Praxis exam.  I felt I had recovered a lot of my knowledge at home. 

I recall the very first class I attended at KU early on a Monday afternoon like Feb. 7, 1966 was algebraic topology.  It blew me away and I changed immediately to an upper undergraduate course in mathematical analysis (and made a B –  grad school was hard at first).  Algebraic topology (extended to more dimensions) could explain a lot of physics, and maybe make space travel possible after all.

When I subbed, I sometimes had AP classes, and noticed with interest how some exams are setup. The student has to do part 1 of the exam without a graphing calculator, turn it in, and then do part 2 with the calculator, and budget eir time accordingly.

I do remember that in integral calculus, the exam problems could be “hard to motivate”.  You really had to know the substitutions (trigonometric, and hyperbolic)  You had to understand how euler’s number and natural logs work, in a special way.  I remember integration by parts, and integration by partial fractions (vaguely). 

But I wouldn’t be able to work many YouTube problems today.

I’ll share a video by Physics grad student Andrew Dotson, at New Mexico State University (meet his cat).

And here is John Fish’s “a day of calculus”  (he graduated from Harvard in computer science, especially “mind, brain, and behavior” – sounds good for a startup to me). He indeed did “kill” that freshman calculus final exam.

(Posted: Thursday, June 16, 2022 at 10 PM EDT)

“Wow! Signal”, film about a possible alien ping in 1977

Mt Vernon, Ohio 2022-4

The documentary “Wow! Signal” (2017), directed by Bob Dawson, written by Michael Shaw, from Tricoasr (88 minutes, free on YouTube) tells the mega-story of the unusual signal received by Ohio State radio astronomer Jerry Ehman at their Big Ear observatory near Columbus Ohio.

An early part of the documentary discusses the range of wavelengths in the entire electromagnetic spectrum. At issue is low-frequency (invisible) radio waves. It mentions microwave flux, and it would be a good question why that can damage electronics.

The film, however, is as much about the history of the Ohio facility, and then the Green Bank West Virginia facility that more or less took over the work, as about the signal itself.

The signal arrived on August 15, 1977 and never showed up again.  There have been theories saying it had something to do with two comets.  But it has never been fully explained, and it seems reasonable that it could have been a ping from an advanced civilization perhaps thousands of light years away but in our galaxy (likely in the outer reaches, like ours, where the space weather is more stable).

I visited the Green Bank facility (visitors center) most recently in 2013, as best I recall.  The area has no cell service facilities for some distance, and some people choose to live there because they feel harmed by the waves. 

Dolly Sods, W Va, 2013-8

The film covers the tear-down of the Big Ear and related structures for real estate development.   I have visited the Mount Vernon area, east of there, many times for extended family reasons.  In 1970, on the way to my first “assignment” as an operations research employee of RCA (my first job) at Indianapolis, I spent the night in a motel near Ohio State, in sight of the stadium. 

Today, Anton Petrov offered the video: “Did China Just Detect Signals From Alien Civilizations? Here’s What We Know…But Probably No“, video (fundraiser, check his site):

I thought I would also share “I asked AI to make a Music Video… the results are trippy”.  AI’s perception of a toyland comes across in 3D-like twisting images.

Maybe an alien civilization looks like this.

(Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2022 at 3 PM EDT)

Short film about how Australia’s total gun control (1996) works; a thriller film about a gun shop from the Twin Cities; a bio of Alex Jones

Minneapolis, 2019-9

Today, not finding much to watch on Netflix (they seem to have more series and fewer movies and keep retreading the same stuff), I stumbled across an 18-minute documentary short from Wendover Productions, “Australia Had a Mass-Shooting Problem. Here’s How it Stopped”. 

Australia’s 1996 buyback, short film

Australia, with its history and low population density (except on the coasts), certainly facilitated individualism, self-reliance, and self-defense culture.  Starting in the mid 1980s, incidents of major shootings increased, culminating in the massacre at Port Arthur, Tasmania, in April 1996. 

The end result, after some jockeying with the legal mechanics of Australia’s own federal system, was a very strict gun control law, with a mandatory buyback over one year.  Prospective consumers had to demonstrate a “need” to own any firearm at all, and self-defense didn’t count.

Arguably, that kind of logic might work if guns are scarce enough in private hands.  In the United States, it hardly sounds feasible at all because of the volume of guns already in circulation. But it is interesting to note that most other western nations have low gun ownership, except outside of the area of conscription for military service (especially Switzerland, where gun competence is a responsibility, and now Finland, which gets interesting).

Australia (along with New Zealand), we know, as an island nation that can keep people out, wasn’t afraid to clamp down on its citizens’ freedom of movement and personal agency with strict lockdowns in 2020 (not quite as bad as China’s recently) to control COVID19 and “save lives” (in the words of Victoria’s “Dictator Dan” Andrews). Remember all the Sky News Australia videos of individuals nabbed by police for minor violations of sheltering in place.

On June 20, 2016 (a week after the Orlando Pulse bar attack – which resulted from radical Islam, not from American alt-right), Jon Stokes authored a piece in the center-left online magazine Vox “Why millions of Americans — including me — own the AR-15”.  The basic reason seems to be personal expediencey, because the AR-15 is reliable and very versatile to use (and deadlier if it hits someone).  He says it is not automatic (like the M16) unless tampered with.

My father had a 22 rifle in the basement in the 1950s, and I learned to shoot it once.  When I returned to my Drogheda in 2003 it was no longer around.  In Army Basic in 1968, I trained on the M14, which I learned to take apart and clean, and it was no big deal, and made sharpshooter on record range.  I did “requalification” at Fort Eustis in March 1969 and have never fired a weapon since.  My right ear developed tinnitus from the exposure during coaching; the ear plugs were inadequate.  The M14 would be replaced by the M16 even in Basic, but it had no Drill and Ceremonies manual.  The M16 can fire rounds automatically without tampering.

I did not really connect a lot to the Second Amendment during my own style of activism regarding “don’t ask don’t tell” in the 1990s, and I rarely talked about it in my books or essays.  I can remember a Libertarian Party weekend in Richmond VA in May 1995 when I was surprised at the amount of focus on it. 

However, I understand that for many people, their right to bear arms becomes part of their own sense of identity, which tends to be anti-tribal.  I don’t feel that way about this personally, but I can see moral parallels between the Second Amendment (interpreted as an individual right since the controversial Heller case) and my own use of the First Amendment when it is interpreted as incorporating “freedom of reach” despite potential conflicts one can cause.  However, compromising the right to defend oneself, like in the case of a home invasion (with family around) or potential exposure to kidnapping (workplace, carjacking, etc) could pose existential risks to persons if there were only an incomplete effort like Australia’s.  Note that the video discusses the success of Australia’s buyback in statistical terms. 

Let’s mention a couple other films.

At an independent film festival in Minneapolis in 2001 sponsored by IFPMSP when I lived there, I saw a curious thriller: “Bill’s Gun Shop”, from Dangerous Films, directed by Dean Lincoln Hyers, produced by J. Michael Tabor, written by Rob Nilsson, starring Scott Cooper, John Ashton, Victor Rivers, Tom Bower, James Keene, Carolyn Hauck, Sage, Jacy Dummermuth.   Again. The independent, locally produced film (this was shot on location in the Twin Cities and in southern Minnesota) imparts an urgency and tension lacking in the glitz and polish from bigger operations (and, again, why does Hollywood have to cover up real companies and real locations when small filmmakers don’t?).  In fact, the film has stunning photography (seems wide screen) and a pinpoint digital sound track.  And we identify with the 23-year old Dillon McCarty (Scott Cooper), starting out his adult life with a bit of personal schism, between being a mild-mannered (almost impotent) “good guy” and wanting to emulate his movie-star police heroes and marshals.  He goes to work for a gun shop and gradually sinks into a rather scary world.  (I didn’t know that gun shop employees are expected to wear guns going to and coming from work.)  Eventually he goes on a bounty run and has to get himself out of an impossible situation, generating a lot of rooting interest from the audience.  This film played to a full house at the Heights Theater, and comes across as a level-headed treatment of guns and self-defense for mainstream Americans (the film also covers racial tensions pointedly), and not just an activity on the rightwing fringe.

Bill’s Gun Shop trailer

On Sunday, June 11, 2022 (Pride Day in many cities), CNN aired a one hour documentary report “Megaphone for Conspiracy(link), a sketch of Alex Jones, from the founding of his media business in Austin Texas a couple decades ago, to its role during the Trump years, where Jones got banned from most social media.  Tim Pool has put Jones on his IRL show and had to collar Jones when in his “Cast Castle”, after having his own fights with YouTube over even having him on.  Toward the end of Trump fiasco leading to January 6, 2021, Jones got lost deeper and deeper in his beliefs.  He does not depend on sponsors, but seems to sell nutritional supplements enough to make a living at it.  I couldn’t do that.  He has been litigated against by the Sandy Hook victims.  He tried to attack David Hogg after the Parkland shootings, and ran into a teenager who could fight back hard.  It’s one thing to be called a crisis actor, but another to be called a centuries old reptilian alien (like from the 80’s series “V”) – as if the teen had superpowers and belonged with Marvel’s “Eternals”.  It’s really rather a compliment for Hogg.  Fox News’s  Laura Ingraham ran into the same thing.

Alex Jones bio

Now, is Hogg the most likely young adult today to become president in the future (if our democracy survives Trumpism, Putinism, and Xi-ism).

Maza interviews David Hogg

(Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 6:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)