Category Archives: Video

And now for something completely different. . .


Love a good conversation? You know, one in which two people approach each other with respect and talk about the things that give meaning to their lives?

If so, then you’ll enjoy this meeting of two minds, one a highly respected essayist and novelist, the other a classically trained musician.

There’s a natural affinity between musicians and writers, or at least that’s been the case in our own experience. Both mine the world for experience, then interpret what they discover through their own inner creativity, working with the tools of the respective callings.

In this video from University of California Television, the conversation is between Steven Schick, Distinguished Professor of Music and holder of the Reed Family Presidential Chair at the University of California, San Diego, and essayist, author, and short-story writer Barry Lopez, who has held teaching appointments at several leading universities:

Music and Nature: Barry Lopez and Steve Schick — Helen Edison Lecture Series

Program notes:

National Book Award-Winning author and environmentalist Barry Lopez joins UC San Diego’s Steve Schick, a world-renowned percussionist, to explore the intersection of music, words and the natural world.

Lopez’s description of the writing process, from the initial process of selection and immersion in the subject of the world to the act of setting the words down on paper [a process greatly enhanced by music], brought repeated smiles of our lips.

Sit back, pour a nice glass of red, and enjoy. . .

Zika update: Findings, continued spread, music


We begin with a moderated caution, via Reuters:

WHO urges precautions in Zika areas but reassures most births normal

  • U.N. health agency issues recommendations for women
  • Most women in Zika areas “will give birth to normal infants”
  • WHO urges safe sex through use of condoms
  • Women should consult doctor if travelling to infected zone
  • Whether and when to become pregnant is “personal decision”

From teleSUR, confirmation:

Experts Confirm Zika Virus Linked to Baby Defects in Brazil

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed this Wednesday afternoon that the Zika virus is linked to defects in thousands of newborn babies in Brazil, the CDC Director Tom Frieden told members of House of Representatives in Washington.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Zika virus found in fetal brain

The Zika virus, thought to be responsible for a surge in birth defects in Brazil, has been found inside the abnormally small brain of an aborted fetus at roughly 29 weeks of gestation, a team of researchers reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

From the Associated Press, a video report:

CDC: Expect ‘Significant Number’ of Zika Cases

Program notes:

CDC Director Thomas Frieden told a congressional committee Wednesday that the U.S. should expect to see “significant numbers” of infections of the Zika virus in territories including Puerto Rico.

On to Dixie with the Birmingham News:

First Alabama resident confirmed with Zika virus

The state Department of Public Health confirms one Morgan County resident has the first travel-related case of the Zika virus in Alabama.

And then to Portland, with the Oregonian:

Oregon has first travel-related Zika case of 2016

The Oregon Public Health Division said the adult woman had visited “an affected country” and has recovered. This is the first such case this year. Three other people in Oregon also been infected, one in 2014 and two in 2015. Those three people had traveled to Polynesia.

Next to Pennsylvania with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Two women in Pa. recovering from Zika

Health Dept.: They pose no health threat

On to the First State with the News Journal in Wilmington:

Delaware woman tests positive for Zika virus

State officials announced late Tuesday that a Delaware woman has tested positive for the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Venezuelan anxiety from the Guardian:

‘Everyone is catching it’: Venezuelans fear the worst as Zika infections rise

The numbers infected with the Zika virus could be as high as 400,000 say experts, and medicine is in short supply as the country’s recession takes a toll

Next, China, via Xinhua:

China detects 1st imported case of Zika virus

The patient, a 34-year-old male from Ganxian county of Jiangxi province, is now recovering with normal body temperature and fading rash. He had traveled to Venezuela and showed symptoms of fever, headache and dizziness on Jan. 28, before returning to his hometown on Feb. 5 via Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

And then to Finland with Yle yhtiönä:

2nd case of Zika virus diagnosed in Finland

The first Zika case was detected last summer in a man who had visited the Maldives

And back to the Golden State with troubling news about a critter called Aedes aegypti from KBAK in Bakersfield:

Mosquito that transmits Zika virus found in Arvin

“We’re finding it in very small numbers in the city of Arvin,” said Gene Abbott, superintendent with Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District.

And to close, a little bit of music from the hot zone via AJ+:

Anti-Zika Anthem For Brazil’s Carnival

Program notes:

As the mosquito-borne Zika epidemic rocks Brazil, marching band Os Nazarentos is rocking Carnival with their anti-mosquito anthem “Shoo Mosquitão.”

Hillary Clinton, the bu$ine$$-as-u$ual candidate


As Counsel to the President and a White House adviser on domestic policy during the Clinton Administration, William E. Curry got to know both members of Washington’s most famous power couple.

And what he saw has him firmly in the ranks of Bernie Sanders supporters.

He explains why in this RT America interview:

Hillary is ‘too close to Wall Street, a part of ‘soft-corruption’” – fmr advisor to Bill Clinton

Program notes:

While the residents of New Hampshire head to the Primary polls on Tuesday, the gap between the Democratic campaigns of underdog Bernie Sanders and presumed-annointee Hillary Clinton have been tightening, as was demonstrated in Iowa’s Caucus earlier in the month. A number of major roadblocks related to Clinton’s connections with the “political establishment” could be driving this. Former White House advisor to Bill Clinton, Bill Curry, joins RT to dissect what could hold back Hillary and propel Bernie in the Granite State.

Lee Judge, editorial cartoonist of the Kansas City Star, may have been channeling Curry when he created his latest offering:

BLOG Hillary

Finally, a headline from the London Daily Mail:

EXCLUSIVE: How the Clintons embraced Wall Street and made $76,000 a DAY by cashing in with speech after speech – but now Hillary wants to fight to ‘rein in’ the money men

  • Hillary and Bill Clinton have taken in a total of $150 MILLION since 2001, when he left office
  • In 2015, at the height of their earning power,  she and Bill made $27,946,490 in total – $76,565.72 every day
  • They made speech after speech to Wall Street big names with 39 appearances for banks and other financial and legal institutions
  • She refuses to release transcripts which she ordered to be made of the speeches unless every candidate does the same for all private sector talks 
  • Hillary spoke to series of other bodies, never for less than six figures, and even got $100,000 for a satellite appearance
  • Now she says she wants to ‘rein in Wall Street’ and get ‘secret unaccountable money out of politics’

UPDATE: Another headline, this one from The Intercept:

Lobbyists, Consultants Fret Over Bernie Sanders Victory

Bernie Sanders won an overwhelming victory in the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, capturing nearly every demographic group and 60 percent of the vote. The insurgent democratic socialist from Vermont, however, was not celebrated in some quarters of Washington, D.C., as a number of lobbyists and business political consultants took to Twitter to complain.

Lethal private prisons for male border-crossers


They’re a legacy of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and the corporations running them were major campaign contribution bundlers for Hillary Clinton until their role was exposed by The Intercept in July.

Why Hillary? It’s not just out of loyalty to her spouse. Bernie Sanders, her rival for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, is an outspoken advocate for ending the nation’s mass incarceration program and has sponsored legislation to end corporate prisons in the federal justice system.

Clinton only formally backed off from the private prison lobby in October, when she tweeted “Protecting public safety. . .should never be outsourced or left to unaccountable corporations.”

But notice the weasel word unaccountable in her declaration, potentially leaving the door open for “accountable” corporations, whatever those might be.

Now, why that adjective “lethal” in the headline?

Because the subjective of this two-part interview for Democracy Now!, Seth Freed Wessler, is the author of “This Man Will Almost Certainly Die,” a major investigative report for the Nation on deaths in the corporate prisons used to house men whose only offense has been to cross the U.S. border without permission.

And where are these prisons? From the Nation, a map lays it out:

BLOG Prisons 2

And now for the interviews.

From Democracy Now!:

“This Man Will Almost Certainly Die”: The Secret Deaths of Dozens at Privatized Immigrant-Only Jails

From the transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Seth, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain the title, “This Man Will Almost Certainly Die.”

SETH FREED WESSLER: That title comes from a quote that was left in one of the medical files I obtained through an open records request. I obtained 9,000 pages of documents. And in those documents, from one of these prisons, there was a medical doctor who left his normal medical notes, but he also left a series of notes railing against the system that he had—he worked in, inside of one of these private federal prisons, private federal prisons used only to hold noncitizens convicted of federal crime—a sort of segregated system of prisons. In these files, he left a series of notes where he was railing against this prison system, basically saying that it wasn’t providing prisoners, or wasn’t allowing him to provide prisoners, the kind of care that as a medical doctor he believed he should be able to provide. These records tell the stories of 103 men who died inside this federal subsystem of prisons.

If you’re convicted of a crime in the United States, a federal crime, and you’re a noncitizen considered a low-security prisoner, you’re likely to be sent to a different prison from all of the rest of—from citizens. And those prisons are nearly the only prisons that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has privatized, has contracted out to private companies—GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation.

And what I found is that the federal government is applying a different and less stringent set of rules to these prisons. And that, in the context of medical care, is leading to stripped-down kinds of medical clinics with lower-trained, lesser-paid, less expensive workers. And in dozens of cases, prisoners held inside are facing medical neglect. In 25 cases I looked at, doctors who reviewed the files said these prisoners likely would have lived had they received adequate medical care.

And the second part:

Seth Freed Wessler on Uncovering the Deaths of Dozens at Privatized Immigrant-Only Jails

From the transcript:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the epic battle you had to get these records. How—what kind of resistance did you come up across? And when you say 103 deaths, what period of time are we talking about here?

SETH FREED WESSLER: So, I had filed an open records request, a Freedom of Information Act request, several years ago. And I thought that I was going to get documents from that request. I talked to people in the BOP’s FOIA office, and it seemed that it was moving. But a year passed and then two, and I realized that I wasn’t going to get any of these documents. I had asked for the medical records of people who had died. It took filing a lawsuit in federal court to compel the federal government to compel the Bureau of Prisons to move. And last year, I started to receive these files—which were later unredacted, in significant part—that told the stories of men who had died. The files also included the internal investigations and death reports for each of these men who died. And in many cases, the prisons themselves, the private contractors themselves, acknowledged in these reports that there had been failings.

In one case, the prison company, Management and Training Corporation, contracted to have a after-action report conducted, in anticipation of litigation. That litigation never happened. In fact, this family didn’t know that their—the mother, who’s in Mexico, didn’t know that her son had died for nearly a year. And when I called her, when I found her and I talked to her, she still didn’t know that her son had been locked up for illegal re-entry. That is, she said to me, “I thought he had done something terrible to land in a federal prison in the United States.” But, in fact, I told her why he was locked up.

This is a man who arrived at the prison very rapidly. It was very clear that he was entering into a state of real distress, hallucinating. He said that voices—he was hearing voices that told him to break a window. And he received no substantive mental healthcare, and then he killed himself in this prison, even after he wrote on an intake form that he had been taking drugs for mental illness, that he had committed—attempted suicide in the past, and a medical—a low-level provider saw that he had tried to cut himself previously.

Days of Revolt: Trouble in Steinbeck’s country


Monterey County, California, is one of the world’s richest agricultural producers, as the county Farm Bureau notes:

[C]rops grown in Monterey County supply large percentages of total national pounds produced each year:  61% of leaf lettuce, 57% of celery, 56% of head lettuce, 48% of brocolli, 38% of spinach, 30% of cauliflower, 28% of strawberries, and 3.6% of wine grapes.

In other words, if it’s green and on your dinner table, there’s a good chance it came from Monterey County.

And just how much do all those agricultural commodities bring in? Consider this graphic from the latest annual report [PDF] from the Farm Bureau:

BLOG MontereyAccording to the latest [2012] U.S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture [PDF], all those riches are produced on 1,179 farms with an average size of 1,076 acres, and each selling crops worth $2,527,341.

That’s a lot of wealth.

But Monterey County is also the home a tremendous income inequality, with some of California’s richest living it Carmel and Monterey, as well as in lavish homes along some of the state’s most spectacular coastline.

Head inland to Salinas — where many of the farm laborers live who produce all that wealth — and things are different, giving rise to high levels of poverty, as evident in these two charts from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:

Estimated Percent of People of All Ages In Poverty for Monterey County, CA — 17 percent

Estimated Percent of People of All Ages In Poverty for Monterey County, CA — 17 percent

Estimated Percent of People Age 0-17 In Poverty for Monterey County, CA — 25.2 percent

Estimated Percent of People Age 0-17 In Poverty for Monterey County, CA — 25.2 percent

When there is great disparity of wealth, political tensions are inevitable.

And that brings us to the latest edition of Days of Revolt, the weekly series for teleSUR English by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, focusuing on the political struggle in Salinas:

Days of Revolt: Company Town

From the transcript:

CHRIS HEDGES: Joining me in the studio is Jose Castaneda. He is an independent radical city councilperson who big business has made war against. And Anthony Prince, an attorney who has been working with groups in Salinas to fight back against the power of big business, and all the ways that they are distorting life within the city, including of course going after what has become a large homeless population. Thank you, Jose, and thank you, Anthony.

>snip<

HEDGES: What do they produce, primarily?

CASTANEDA: This is lettuce, iceberg lettuce. We have strawberries, as well.

HEDGES: Driscoll is there, right, which is huge.

CASTANEDA: Driscoll’s one of the major ag-business as well, Taylor Farms, Tanimura and Antle. There’s a long list of these agriculture–what I call agriculture empire within the county. And it’s an international market, now.

HEDGES: Whole parts of your city have, in essence, been destroyed by these corporations. Perhaps you can give us a picture of what’s happened and what it looks like.

CASTANEDA: I can tell you, the $8 billion industry has controlled, directly and indirectly, the politics. We can go into history. For example, John Steinbeck’s writings of In Dubious Battle, The Grapes of Wrath, Mice and Men, Tortilla Flats, just pick any novel and you’ll see how the, the Depression, as well as oppression in regards to the worker–.

HEDGES: We should be clear that Steinbeck was based in Salinas, right?

CASTANEDA: That is absolutely right. Until Steinbeck was banned, and his books were burned and he had to come to New York, as well, and finish a lot of his work there. That same lineage has continued to control the, the governance system as well, as a state. And it continues to be the case in 2015. I have experienced that myself, even running as an independent.

HEDGES: We should be clear, when you were elected, it used to be under the old rules that any city council member could bring an issue to be discussed at the council. And because they knew that you would be bringing issues that they did not want discussed they just rechanged–changed the rules. Perhaps you can explain what happened.

CASTANEDA: Sure. You’re absolutely correct. And the last time there was any type of rule change it was 1994. Once I defeated two candidates that were part of the status quo horses in this race, we had a 30-day waiting period, which was a certification of election results.

So one week before I took the oath of office at the city council, those rules were already being changed, with the action of the old council. And that’s implemented as rules of the quorum. It was a buddy–so-called buddy system, where you needed at least two council members at a minimum to agree to put any item on the agenda. Of course, what has affected, historically, my district area, which is considered the East Salinas, or the Alisal, as drawn and depicted in John Steinbeck’s books, where you have more–half of the major–half of the population in a concentrated five-mile radius. And that’s where you have the housing issues, water issues, crime.

The very, very creepy Ted Cruz’s weekend adventure


The weekend in question was 6-7 November, and the occasion was a hatefest called the National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines.

BLOG Theocons

But the liberties in question at the conference included the liberty to conduct a gay holocaust.

From Katherine Stewart, writing in the 16 November edition of the  New York Times [emphasis added]:

Earlier this month, in Des Moines, the prominent home-schooling advocate and pastor Kevin Swanson again called for the punishment of homosexuality by death. To be clear, he added that the time for eliminating America’s gay population was “not yet” at hand. We must wait for the nation to embrace the one true religion, he suggested, and gay people must be allowed to repent and convert.

Mr. Swanson proposed this at the National Religious Liberties Conference, an event he organized. Featured speakers included three Republican contenders for the presidency: the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Mr. Huckabee later pleaded ignorance. Yet a quick web search will turn up Mr. Swanson’s references to the demonic power of “the homosexual Borg,” the unmitigated evil of Harry Potter and the Disney character Princess Elsa’s lesbian agenda.

Mr. Cruz apparently felt little need to make excuses. He was accompanying another of the featured speakers at the conference: his father, Rafael Cruz — a politically connected pastor who told a 2013 Family Leadership Summit that same-sex marriage was a government plot to destroy the family.

Yep, Ted’s pappy was right there, spouting his own brand of venomous bile, the kind that was meat and potatoes to his young son as he grew up.

Rachel Maddow brought the conclave to a broader audience in a trualy remarkable video from RightWingWatch.org. From MSNBC:

GOP Hopefuls Speak At Anti-Gay Conference

Program notes:

Rachel Maddow shows that while Democrats were participating in a candidates forum, Republicans Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz were guests at “religious freedom” event led by a pastor who preaches that homosexuality should be punished with death.

For more on the extreme beliefs of conference organizer Kevin Swanson, see this catalog of horrors from Right Wing Watch.

And from the New York Daily News, here’s one example:

“America, repent of your rebellion against God!” he yelled in his hysterical speech.

“America, repent of stumbling the little ones! America, repent of ‘Harry Potter’! America, repent of ‘How to Train Your Dragon!’

“America, repent that Dumbledore emerged as a homosexual mentor for Harry Potter, that Hiccup’s mentor in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ emerged as a homosexual himself in order that history might repeat itself one more time.”

And what if your kid turns out to be gay [or is seduced by Satan into turning gay, which the good reverend seems to think is how it’s done]?

The good pastor has a suggestion:

“There are families, we’re talking Christian families, pastors’ families, elders’ families from good, godly churches whose sons are rebelling, hanging out with homosexuals and getting married and the parents are invited. What would you do if that was the case? Here is what I would do: sackcloth and ashes at the entrance to the church and I’d sit in cow manure and I’d spread it all over my body. That is what I would do and I’m not kidding, I’m not laughing.”

And from Jeff Rouner of the Houston Press comes this observation:

I was watching The Rachel Maddow Show the other day. . .when I heard a sentence that cannot possible have ever been uttered by human lips before in history: “Don’t you dare carve happy faces on open, pussy sores.”

So how did the candidates respond? Here’s the headline from a piece on the rant from the Des Moines Register:

Candidates won’t call out host citing death for gays

Of course they won’t. Cruz and Jindal are no doubt in agreement with the pastor’s pronouncements, though we’re not so sure about the Huck-ster.

Now consider this: Just substitute Jew for gay, and nothing the preacher says wouldn’t have fit right in the speeches of a certain Munich beer hall orator back in the 1920s.

And he has the imprimatur of a possible nominee for President of the United States.

A legal Icarus lashes out a a corrupt justice system


In Greek mythology, Icarus was the son of Daedalus, the architect of the labyrinth to which Minos, king of Crete, consigned the monstrous Minotaur to devour his enemies. Daedalus and Icarus were forced to flee after Daedalus plotted with Ariadne to help Theseus escape the monster.

Daedalus devised wings made of feathers mounted in wax, so he and his son could fly from the island, telling his son he must fly neither to low, lest the sea’s moisture render the wings useless, nor too high, lest the sun’s heat melt the wax.

Icarus, needless to say, flew tie, dying in a plunge into the sea after the wax had melted.

William S. Lerach was a legal Icarus, a San Diego class action attorney raised in an impoverished household in Pittsburgh, he specialized in shareholder litigation, recovering billions for investors in Enron, and served as a passionate advocate for his profession and for the public interest.

When Congress moved to radically restrict his profession, Lerach was outspoken, as Wikipedia notes:

While testifying in Congress in 1995 against the passage of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America) which Congress passed by over-riding the veto of President Clinton, Lerach warned at the hearing: “In 10 or 15 years you will be holding another hearing about a debacle in the securities market that will make you remember the S&L mess with fondness.”

But Lerach may have flown to close to the sun when he took on Vice President Dick Cheney for his actions at Halliburton, and in 2007 he was arrested by the Bush administration’s Justice Department and plead guilty to a single felony charge of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and making false declarations under oath related to his involvement in a kickback scheme, a scheme which to esnl‘s own knowledge was commonly practice by class action lawyers.

He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

Lerach suspects his prosecution was political, given that the Bush administration almost never demanded criminal convictions of crooked banksters and corporate executives, the usual targets of Lerach’s lawsuits.

Disbarred after completely his prison term, Lerach lives in La Jolla, and according to one account, is worth nearly a billion dollars.

While he no longer practices law, he remains a passionate advocate, decrying changes in the criminal justice system and law enforcement that fall most heavily on people of color. And much more.

He has a lot to say in this address given to an audience at the University of California at San Diego, and there’s nothing he says we don’t agree with.

From University of California Television:

American Law: Instrument of Progress or Weapon of Oppression? William Lerach — A Life In The Law

Program notes:

Former litigator William S. Lerach explores the chasm between the ideals and the reality of the American legal system, one that promises equal access and accountability but often shields the financial elite from civil liability and criminal prosecution. Drawing on his extensive experience with class action lawsuits, Lerach shows how major court decisions have skewed toward defendants over time, even when evidence confirmed their participation in illegal activity. Lerach also condemns recent judicial decisions that have spared police officers from punishment for incidents that have led to the deaths of unarmed African-Americans. This is the first in a new series from UC San Diego — “A Life in the Law: Practitioners Reflecting on Law and the Legal Process on American Life.”