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tv   KQED Newsroom  PBS  December 2, 2017 1:00am-1:31am PST

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♪ hello and welcome to "kqed newsroom." i'm thuy vu. coming up on our program, we'll talk with author and scholar rez zais lawn before the intersection between religion and politics from president trump's tweets to the travel ban. and a look at the verdict in the cath lynn steinle murder trial that's drawn criticism. plus a comedian takes aim at racial stereotypes starting with the popular series, the simpsons. but first to the state capitol. >> reporter: lawmakers this week held a hearing in sacramento on how sexual harassment allegations are handled and investigates. the hearing came amid new revelations about nbc anchor matt lauer and garrison keilar who were both fired. former national security adviser mike flynn pleaded guilty to
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lying to the fbi. he is now cooperating with robert mueller's investigation into russian meddling in the 2016 election. and gop senators remain focused on tax reform. joining me now to discuss this week's top political stories are hoover institution fellow lon chen and kqed katie orr. welcome to you both. katie, let's begin with you. you attended this week's hearing in sacramento on sexual harassment within the state capitol. currently what are some of the biggest issues about sexual harassment complaints and investigations are handled. >> well, i think one of the biggest things people have to deal with is we don't really know how they're handled. especially this hearing specifically dealt with the assembly, and it was very unclear what happens when someone comes in and makes a complaint, if that complaint is tracked, who decides which complaints get moved up to a
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level of investigation. also what happens to people when they're investigated. oftentimes the rules committee is deciding the punishment, which some people say is unfair because they might be against members who are friends with people on the rules committee. so there was a lot of uncertainty about how the process worked. and just in general, a lot of women saying they're worried about coming forward because they're worried about retaliation. they wish they could do this anonymously and going forward that might be something that we see change. >> and so what are some of the changes being proposed? >> well, the women who started the conversation here in sacramento with the "we said enough" campaign really do want to see an anonymous hotline come forward so women can call and report their concerns. they would also like to see counselors become available to victims immediately. they would like to see some whistle-blower legislation passed. that's been in the capitol several times but hasn't made it
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out of the senate so far. those are just some of the things they would like to see happen. and, again, this is what we have been seeing on the assembly side. the senate side has been playing it much closer to the vest. they haven't had any open hearings about their procedures as of yet. >> lon, i want to bring you in at this point because we've seen this across the national landscape as well. we've seen prominent media figures like matt lauer, charlie rose, garrison keilar fired quickly after accusations surfaced. yet in politics, we have congressman john conyers. he's in still in office despite calls for him to resign. why is it that things seem to move so much more slowly in the political world? >> i think part of it is there is a culture in politics that has tolerated this for far too long. i think that's something that has to change. this is not a partisan issue. that's the funny thing. this is not a democratic issue. it's not a republican issue. this is a bipartisan problem that we're facing. the thing that bothers me a
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little bit is we start then to parse between different accusations. was it worse what john conyers did or what al franken did? everything that's been accused is reprehensible, and i think we get into some real difficulty when we start to try and debate who was worse. i think all these men need to step aside. i think it's time for that and i hope they do so quickly. >> do you think it's also because they're in a position where the voters elected them? it's not like there's a boss over them who can go to them and say, you're fired. >> i think that's part of it. but then it speaks to what's going on in these guys' heads. these people need to know what they did is wrong. they've have breached the voters' trust. when you've dup that, it's time to step aside. i don't care whether you've laundered money or engage the in sexual harassment. the crime needs to be recognized by the individual. >> katie, do you think this will be a watershed moment, all these allegations coming forth and more ask more seem to keep surfacing every week. will it lead to significant,
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long-lasting changes in the way women are viewed and treated in the workplace? >> well, we would certainly like to hope so. there's a lot of talk up here in sacramento about changing the culture of the capitol, respecting women more. but i think what you need is more women in positions of power. you need more women in top staff positions. you need more women elected to office. those are changes that are going to take some time. >> all right. let's turn to michael flynn pleading guilty today to lying to the fbi. his plea agreement requires that he cooperate fully with the mueller investigation on election meddling. how significant is this latest development? >> i think it's significant for a couple of reasons. first of all you have someone who was in the trump inner circle, somebody who had access to the president when he was then candidate trump and then during the transition. someone who had access to many top-level people in the administration. so the mere fact that he now is cooperating with the fbi leads to the next question, which is who is next? who might potentially be next? and the significant thing is
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we're starting to hear names like jared kushner, don trump jr. these are people that are now even closer to the president, and then the question will be how does the president respond when he perceives that people in his own family are now part of the investigation? he's already been very hostile toward robert mueller. how much more and how much farther does that go? i think those are all open questions. remember, these investigations tend to start from smaller figures and then move up. the fact that they've gotten to flynn already suggests that this investigation is moving very quickly. >> and, katie, there in the capitol, i'm sure this is having reverberations as well among state lawmakers. what was the conversation you heard today in hallways? >> well, i heard certainly from senator dianne feinstein, who was saying that this has taken on a whole new level. we heard that the president himself has canceled meetings with the media he was supposed to have a photo spray today and he canceled that. i think he only ducked into a media christmas party and ducked
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out. senior staff members didn't stick around. so they are trying to limit the exposure that he has to the media right now because i think this is such a volatile time right now. >> and the other big story dominating headlines this week, tax reform. as of this moment, the vote hasn't yet begun, but it is expected to pass. what are we likely to see in the final package? >> i think the question is going to be -- the senate version of the tax reform bill is different from the house version. for example, you know, for californians, there's less relief on the state and local tax deduction issue. on the house side at least there's some provision for deduction of property taxes. in the senate version, there is not. the big question is going to be senate passes their version. the house passed a separate version. they're going to go to a conference committee, or will they? will the house simply say we're going to take the senate version with a few minor changes and move on. the reality is there's a couple of things they're working against here. the first is they need to be able to have a package they can
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pass ideally before the end of the year because once this rolls into 2018, we get into a very crowded legislative calendar. the other issue is we're running up against a government shutdown. on december 8th, the government will technically shut down unless there is an agreement on spending. they've got a lot of different moving parts here, which suggest they want to move the tax package as quickly as possible. the challenge now, though, is figuring how they reconcile those differences between the senate and house versions of the bill. >> and, katie, this tax reform package will have a big implication for california. who would be among the biggest winners and biggest losers in the state? >> well, as it appears now, people with high-value homes would be among the losers because they're going to limit the mortgage interest deduction or at least that is in the plan. another interesting loser, if you will, might be republican congress members from california, especially those in vulnerable districts, say darrell issa. he had come out and said he was opposed to at least an initial
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version of the house plan, and others had said they need to see what the final bill looks like because they are in vulnerable positions, and people in california might not be too happy with losing some valuable deductions that really helped them out come tax time. >> all right. we will leave it there. katie with kqed and lon with the hoov institution, thank you, both. >> thank you. >> you're welcome. now for a look at religion and politics. this week president trump re-tweeted three inflammatory anti-muslim videos posted by a far-right british group. the incident has sparked an international backlash. our next guest has been looking how religion and politics are mixing in these current times. he's a professor of creative writing at uc riverside. his latest book explores the evolution of the concepts of god. joining me now is reza. so nice to have you here. >> so nice to be here. >> we'll get to your book in a moment. first i wanted to ask you about those anti-muslim videos that
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president trump re-tweeted. you were born in iran. you're a muslim. what's your reaction to that? >> i wasn't surprised by it. this is a president who has made anti-muslim sentiment the core foundation not just of his candidacy but of his presidency. he has brought the worst elements of the islamaphobia industry in the united states, including members of actually southern poverty law center designated hate groups into the white house itself. this is who he is. and i think we should stop pretending otherwise for a moment here. and i understand the confusion that often arises within the media when confronted with these seemingly racist acts and rhetoric that the president routinely involves himself with. and we try to figure out why. why would he do and say these kinds of things? and maybe it's just because i think the simp left answer is
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the right answer or maybe i've just been watching this too much, but the reason he does things that seem to support racism and white nationalism is because he has proven himself to be a racist and a white nationalist. >> you've also written about his supporters in an op-ed in the l.a. times. you likened trump's supporters to cult members. can you explain that? >> that's right. i've spent a lot of time around cult members. i've lived with cult members. i've studies cults for most of my life. i can say with a fair measure of confidence that the kind of rhetoric that i hear from trump's inner core supporters sounds very much like the kind of rhetoric that i hear from cult members. after all, president trump himself made this very clear when he said that he could shoot somebody on fifth avenue and not lose these voters. that's precisely what we are seeing now. now, this is particularly -- exists in a core element of his followers among the white evangelical base, which still supports him pretty extraordinarily. but you have someone like franken media, one of his
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evangelical advisers saying donald trump is receiving downloads from god. you have people like franklin graham, perhaps his greatest evangelical supporter comparing him positively to prophets like abraham and moses. you ha this is not normal political rhetoric. >> where is this intersection of religion and politics heading, then? because if you look at the 2016 election, there was a cnn poll, and that poll found that 61% of white catholics voted for president trump. it was even higher among white evangelicals. >> 81%. >> 81%, right. so how does that role of religion changed in politics over the years? >> let's be clear. 81% of white evangelicals voted for donald trump. 67% of evangelicals of color voted for hillary clinton. these are people who believe the same thing, who have the same theology, but who have a
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different skin tone. so, again, we can't keep pretending that race isn't the primary factor in so many of these discussions that we are having here. this is an issue among white evangelicals, and i would say that that's a good thing because what we are seeing now is enormous amount of backlash from white evangelicals themselves. many white evangelical leaders who feel as though this is a day of reckoning, that for many, many years, evangelicalism in the republican party has been married as a single force, and this in many ways is the sort of culmination of that marriage and perhaps it's time for a divorce. >> you have spoken out against the travel ban as well, the one that applies to eight countries including iran, where you're from. but what would you say to those who feel, as president trump does, that this is the right thing to do, to put some travel restrictions in place? >> these aren't some travel restrictions. they're blanket travel restrictions.
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in the entire history of the united states, not a single american has ever been killed on u.s. soil by any foreign national from any one of the countries that have been banned on trump's travel list. the u.s. military thinks it's a terrible idea. the intelligence community thinks it's a terrible idea. it's a joke to say that this is about preventing terrorism. this is, again, another example of what has become a demonstrable routine of racist actions by this white house. >> all right. now to your book, god, a human history. it's more a study of how god is conceptualized rather than a history of god. you say most of us try to humanize god. what do you mean by that? >> it's this sort of natural impulse that we have, that we project upon god our own emotions, our own personalities, our own characteristics, even our motivations, even our own bodies. we create a god that basically looks and acts, feels and thinks
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like we do. that's precisely why we have so many great religious conflicts around the world because really what we are doing is implanting in our sense of the divine everything that's good and bad about us. so what i'm advocating for is to reverse that process, to dehumanize god and try to think of god less as a divine personality, and more as an underlying reality, as the sort of spiritual force of the universe. i think it would create a more deeper, more meaningful spirituality, but i also think that it could lead to greater relations and less conflict between religions. >> and definitely much more about that in your book. so if you're interested, definitely pick up a copy of "god, a human history." reza, thank you so much for being here. >> my pleasure. on thursday in san francisco, a jury delivered its verdict in a trial that sparked a national debate over immigration and so-called sanctuary cities. jurors found jose ines garcia
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zarate, an undocumented mexican immigrant, not guilty of murder and manslaughter charges in the fatal shooting of kathryn steinle. they convicted him of a single count, being a felon in possession of a firearm. president trump sounded off on the verdict, calling it, quote, disgraceful. joining me now is kqed criminal justice reporter alex emslie, who has been covering this trial since the beginning. thanks for being here. the jury took six days to reach its verdict. what was the strongest argument by the defense that convinced them to acquit him of manslaughter and murder charges? >> it falls into this realm of reasonable doubt. i think the strongest piece of physical evidence that goes into that bucket is the fact that this was a ricochet shot. the defense said multiple times that there had been -- there's never been a ricochet shot charged as a murder in san francisco. the reason being that it's very hard to prove that somebody intentionally fired a shot but meant to bounce it in between. this gunshot bounced off the pavement about 12 feet from
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garcia zarate and traveled 78 feet to hit kathryn steinle. the defense's expert says that's an impossible shot to do if you mean to do it. >> what has been the reaction to the verdicts from the steinle family? >> well, the steinles speak to the san francisco chronicle. kathryn steinle's brother, brad, said that he was very surprised that they couldn't at least get a conviction for him using the gun, which i think is a reference to a charge of assault with a semiautomatic weapon that zarate was also acquitted on. james steinle, her father, who was there when she died, says he feels like justice was rendered, the process, but it was not served. >> there are those in the community who feel the way the steinles do, that even though there was a ricochet, the gun still went off. so how was it that garcia zarate was acquitted on all charges having to do with manslaughter,
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even involuntary manslaughter? >> well, they all require some level -- the murder-type charges, first-degree murder, second-degree murder, which were o options for the jury, all require some level of intent. and the prosecution has to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt for the jury. involuntary manslaughter requires the prosecution to prove that there was an element of criminal negligence, that a reasonable person would not have acted this way in this situation, and it would be foreseeable that someone could be greatly injured or killed. it appears to me that the jury believed the defense argument that this was largely accidental, that garcia zarate found an object. he didn't know it was a gun until around the time it went off. >> this case has been very political from the very beginning it. president trump cited it in making a case for building a wall, for punishing cities with sanctuary walls. how are opponents of sanctuary cities responding to the verdict? >> well, you've seen president trump's tweets on this, and he's
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got several out now, you know, disparaging this verdict. u.s. attorney general jeff sessions also put out a statement, you know, really criticizing the existence of sanctuary cities, cities that choose not to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement and hold defenses longer than they necessarily would so that they can be picked up for deportation. >> in fact, in his statement, he said this puts the public safety at risk, sanctuary cities that is. what's the potential sentence that garcia zarate is now facing for the single charge that he was convicted of, being a felon in possession of a gun? >> so it's a range. he could get a mitigated sentence of 16 months up to an aggravated sentence of three years. and then there could be additional aggravating circumstances to that. but you've got to keep in mind that he's already spent well over two years in jail, and that will be credit for time served. >> then will he be released in san francisco? >> unlikely, i think.
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the information that we have now is that there is a warrant for his custody from the federal government. so in all likelihood, he'll be turned over for deportation proceedings. >> all right. alex emslie, kqed criminal justice reporter, thank you so much. >> thank you. moving now from religion to race. comedian no straunger to tackling tough topics like race and ethnicity. his new documentary takes on the simpsons. it explores how an indian convenience store owner in the animated series relies on stereotypes to generate laughs. he talked with fellow actors about the depiction of their culture onscreen and beyond. >> the problem is we didn't have any other representation in this country. there was no aziz, no mindy, no cal, no that dude who was on
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"lost" and that other dude from "heroes" and that dude that's in the apu documentary. no politicians, no reporters, and no whatever deepak chopra is. this is all we had. apu reflected how america viewed us, servile, devious, goofy. >> and joining me now. it's so nice to have you here. the simpsons was one of your favorite tv shows as a kid, and yet you were so frustrated with the character apu, why? >> very one dimensional, stereo typical. at that time, that's the only depiction south asian-americans had. we didn't have anything else. initially we were -- i think i was excited because we had something. when you have nothing, you're excited about anything. but as i got older, i realized, oh, this is all we have. and this is how my parents are depicted, and this is -- it's such a narrow way to be seen. >> was it the accents because a
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white actor, hank azaria, did the accent? >> the accent is definitely a part of it. it's an accent meant to elicit laughter. it's not that realistic. the fact everything he did always was connected to his indianness or what the white writers thought indianness was. i mean it was everything. and a lot of it also was just the fact there was nothing to contrast it with. we didn't have another character. we didn't have someone else to be like, oh, that's another way that they can be -- they can exist in the world. >> you were taking on -- you are taking on a well loved tv show and taking on the question of apu in relation to identity politics. so what was your process in deciding how to present this issue in a way that would make sense and matter to a broad audience? >> sure. i mean i think the simpsons is a great place to start because it's the simpsons. it's a global show. so many of us grew up on it. the simpsons at its peak influenced so much of the conversation of the country.
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i mean it was a very important show. so that already gave me a place, an institution to start from. and apu is definitely a very well known character because it was the only south asian character and because the show is still on today, we can break it down and analyze it just the way, you know -- in a way that allows us to what representation at large. this is how this character was created. this is why it was created. this is the impact of it. i think it was a smaller -- it was a microcosm of the larger issue. >> what was the impact, do you think? >> i think for a lot of young south asian-americans, it shaped our identity. there was a certain embarrassment sometimes about being who we were. there was an embarrassment of our parents. there was shame. there was a sense of this is we are not american. we are less american. we don't fit. we have to fight against this constantly. i mean i think those early childhood experiences always shape you, and that was -- i think that shaped a lot of us. >> yet there's a moment in your film where you interview your
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parents, and they're both indian immigrants and they say they weren't offended by apu. they weren't bothered that the voice was done by a white actor. >> right. i mean i think my mom said that it's not that she wasn't offended. it was that, like, it wasn't something she really worried about. when you're coming to this country and the stakes are so high, you're not really worried about things like how am i being seen. like you're worried about your bills. but i think as somebody who was born in this country, grew up in this country, there's a certain entitlement that i think i rightfully have to expect the same as everyone else. my parents have now lived in america longer than they've lived in india. this is home. i think they have that entitlement more now than they did before. they didn't even know if they were going to stay for the long term. so i mean i feel like that's a big difference. i expect to be treated the way everyone else is treated. >> and you don't do accents in your comedy anymore. is that part of the thinking? >> i mean i think for me, i did accents when i was 17, 18, 19,
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because i knew it would work. i knew that accent would work because of the simpsons. as a young immediate, i wanted to make sure there wasn't silence. but as i got older and particularly after 9/11, i realized the impact representation had, the impact of images, especially when south asians were being beaten up around the country. i knew us speaking out and us being public and showing a broad range of identities would shape that public image. and i knew county do those voices anymore. it was so minimizing. >> as an entertainer, what are your thoughts about the current national reckoning over sexual harassment allegations that are now rocking the media and entertainment industries? >> it's definitely a sea change, and it's necessary. this stuff isn't new. it's just that people finally have the ability to say something and for people to listen. i mean i guess it connects back to the documentary. this stuff isn't new. this is an old topic for me that i'm covering in this documentary, right? it's stuff that i think a lot of
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people in our community already knew, but nobody was listening to us before. now they're listening. i think the same is true with women finally speaking out. it's not like they didn't speak up before. there was ways they were restricted from speaking up, but the ones who spoke up, nobody wanted to hear them. now people are hearing them. i think that's important. that's crucial. >> your film, the problem with apu, grew out of a bit you did a few years ago. a lot of your comedy deals with race and ethnicity. do you view your comedy as a form of activism? >> no. i mean this film i think is a little different because it's an in depth look at a particular topic. but my stand-up, at the end of the day it has to make people laugh. i'm not going to say something that is -- even if it's thoughtful that doesn't make people laugh because why would people listen to me? i mean stand-up's strength is people listen because there's the promise of laughter. so i mean an activist's goal is to push an issue and to get it as far as they can and to try to
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make progress, whether it's legislatively or socially. that's not my goal withstandup. my goal withstandup is toent train people. >> did you very much. he will be entertaining tonight at the bay area. his documentary, the problem with apu is currently streaming on tru tv. that does it for us. for more of our coverage, go to kqed.com slash newsroom. i'm thuy vu. thank you for joining us. ♪
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roburt robert: president trump's former national security advise ore pleads guilty to lying to the f.b.i. and the republicans move closer to overhaul the tax code. i'm robert costa. a legal storm and the politics of taxing, tonight on "washington week." michael flinl becomes the first trump administration official to plead guilty to lying to the fick. the retired army general, who also worked on the trump campaign -- >> the next president of the united states -- robert: has promptsed his full cooperation with the fuller investigation. plus -- >> what's in it is tax relief. robert: senate republicans

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