Why US-North Korea talks collapsed

You may recall that the summit meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un held with much fanfare in Vietnam at the end of February ended abruptly, with a scheduled luncheon of the two leaders canceled and both parties leaving Vietnam immediately after with no joint communiqué. This was a sign that things ended badly but there was no explanation for what happened.

We now have some insight. Reuters says that it has seen a document that Trump gave Kim on that final morning that contained demands that had long been rejected by North Korea and they decided that the US was not serious and that it was not worth talking anymore.
[Read more…]

The Saudi spying operation in the US exposed

Remember the story of photographs of Jeff Bezos that the National Enquirer and its parent organization AMI was trying to use to blackmail Amazon and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos to stop his investigation into how they got the photos and issue a statement saying that he absolved them of all wrongdoing? Instead Bezos went public and gave his investigator Gavin De Becker all the resources he needed to continue his investigation.

Now De Becker says that he has completed his investigation and issued a statement that is quite extraordinary.
[Read more…]

Behind the scenes of Blackadder

I am always intrigued by the creative process and so am a sucker for documentaries along the lines of “The Making Of …”. Some of you may be familiar with the British TV comedy series Blackadder. I came across this program that goes behind the scenes of this show and talks to the writers and actors about how they conceived the show and their experience in being part of it.

A case study of radicalization

Trevor Aaronson has a fascinating case study that looks closely at the life of Michael Hari, part of a trio that bombed a mosque in Minnesota, to show how some white Christian men have become radicalized in Trump’s America. He says that what Trump has done is ‘flip the switch’ in the minds of these men, turning them from simply feeling disgruntled at their failures in life to seeing themselves as a victimized group that has a mission to save the country from domination by women, minorities, and non-Christians. It gives their lives meaning.
[Read more…]

In praise of limited runs

There are periodic protests by fans of some TV shows when they are canceled. The latest is about Netflix canceling the series One Day At A Time after three seasons because it said it attracted an insufficient audience. I had not heard about this show until the cancellation protest and people wrote in support of the show saying that it was well-written and funny. It is a reboot of a show of the same name that I watched when I was in graduate school and had the same general outlines of a single mother raising two children, and it even had the same theme song and the same name for the building supervisor. Part of the reason for the protest is that the reboot was one of the rare shows that featured a Hispanic cast, in this case a family of Cuban origin. An added bonus was Rita Moreno as the grandmother.
[Read more…]

When we need to “put a handle on it”

The phrase refers to putting a prefix such as Mr., Ms., Dr., professor, or whatever in front of one’s name. There was an interesting debate occasioned by an old clip of author Maya Angelou upbraiding a young person who called her just ‘Maya’.

“I’m not ‘Maya.’ I’m 62 years old. I have lived so long and tried so hard that a young woman like you, or any other, you have no license to come up to me and call me by my first name. That’s first,” she said to claps from the audience. “Also, because at the same time, I am your mother, I am your auntie, I’m your teacher, I’m your professor. You see?”

Angelou, who was black, apologized later in the show to her questioner, also black.

[Read more…]

Lot’s wife found?

One of the strangest stories in the Bible, and there are so many truly strange ones in that book, is that of Lot. It is mostly a sordid tale of attempted rape and incest and of a father willing to hand over his daughters to a mob but one of the weirdest elements is of Lot’s wife being punished by being turned turned into a pillar of salt for what seems like an absolutely trivial offense, looking back when they were fleeing from a mob when they had been told not to by god’s angels. It is a decidedly odd punishment for any god to choose to inflict.
[Read more…]

May goes down for the third time

[UPDATE: The EU has issued what seems like a pretty hardline statement in response to the vote, saying that the ball is entirely in the UK’s hands now to come up with something definite by the April 12 deadline but that a no-deal outcome seems most likely. The statement says that they are prepared for a no-deal exit and will not accept any half-baked proposals. They have scheduled a meeting of EU leaders on April 10 to evaluate whatever May comes up with, though given how things are going, parliament may still be voting up until the 12th.]

The British parliament voted just now to defeat Theresa May’s stripped down Brexit plan by a margin of 344 to 286, a smaller margin than the previous two votes but still a significant defeat. The deadline now shifts to April 12 by which time parliament will have to give the EU a definite plan that can consists of: revoking Article 50; requesting a very long delay of the order of years; or leaving with no deal. The first two options would involve the UK taking part in the EU elections later this year, something that the Brexiteers strenuously oppose.
[Read more…]