Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Child Support Gone Wrong: Michigan Man Paying For Child That's Not His

Apart from extreme purist libertarians and anarchists, I think most people would concede that a certain level of government is necessary. However I also think that many people outside of devoted statists would also admit that government has become in some cases too large, too powerful and far too dismissive of individual rights. There have been some recent incidents which do remind me of the fact that a government which has too much power will inevitably seek to exercise that power in ways that harm all of us. Now we all may have our pet peeves and biases. That's part of being human. I may be more concerned about police brutality than you. You might be worried about arrogant and bullying EPA workers when they are not even on my radar screen. Someone else might have good reason to really dislike ICE workers. And so on. Government is made up of flawed men and women, like every other institution. It makes mistakes just like we do. That's ok. But what's not ok, is when government, which has the right and the power to put you in prison and take money from you, makes a mistake, admits it made a mistake but continues to treat you as if it didn't. Do you have an extra $30,000 lying around? Because if you don't you have something in common with one Mr. Carnell Alexander of Detroit, Michigan. He doesn't have that money either. But even he did he wouldn't pay it to the State of Michigan. The state claims he owes them that money for something he did not do. Read more and see the video below the fold.
DETROIT (WXYZ) - The State of Michigan is ordering a Detroit man to pay tens of thousands of dollars, or go to prison. The reason? He owes back child support for a child that everyone agrees is not his.  "I feel like I’m standing in front of a brick wall with nowhere to go," said Carnell Alexander. He says he learned about the paternity case against him during a traffic stop in Detroit in the early 90s. The officer told him he is a deadbeat dad, there was a warrant out for his arrest. 

“I knew I didn’t have a child, so I was kind of blown back,” said Alexander. The state said he fathered a child in 1987, and ignored a court order to pay up. It was the first Carnell had heard of the court order. He'd never even met the child. Eventually he, by chance, ran into someone he knew would know where the woman was, and got a DNA test. It proved what he had been saying all along: the child he had never met was not his.

The mother had realized that, and the real father was in the child's life. Alexander took this information to court. The judge was unmoved. Carnell's ex had a baby, and didn't know who the father was. She was struggling to care for the child. When she applied for state assistance, the case worker told her she had to name the father....

Now although I think that the entire alimony/palimony/child support/divorce industry needs an overhaul this really is beyond what I thought the worst could be. The man has irrefutable proof that he's not the father and the judge really doesn't give a ****. This is precisely the sort of thing that could make people explode. Yes you should take care of your kids. And if need be the state should be able to "help" you do that. The flip side of that though is if the kid in question isn't yours then the child isn't your responsibility. For the state to try to make that child your responsibility goes beyond corruption and slides into tyranny. It's exactly like being convicted and sent to prison for a crime you didn't commit because the prosecutor and judge want to send a message to other criminals about the cost of defying the law. They aren't interested in the fact that you are not a criminal. This sort of thing really bothers me. If the so-called justice system is treating the innocent and the guilty exactly the same, something that I'll be discussing more in a future post, then what incentive does anyone have to pay attention to the system or as Peter Tosh referred to it, the s***stem. Absolutely no incentive at all. A system that behaves like this loses legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens. Ultimately it relies on pure power, little different than the Mafia hoodlum shaking down construction companies for the weekly payoff. But when people start to withhold their consent and stop obeying the system, the results will be unknowable. When there are more cases like that of Mr. Alexander more people will start to do just that.  And I'm sorry but if, absent rape, a woman doesn't know who the father of her child is, she should be shamed and criticized just as much as the lazy lothario with multiple children by multiple women and no way of supporting his women or children.

What are your thoughts?

If you were this man what would your next move be?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bill Clinton tells President Obama to man up

Reality is a funny thing. It exists independently of our perceptions yet our perceptions are the only way in which we know reality. Our perceptions can color our "version" of reality. There are literally an infinite number of ways by which to generate the number 4. 2+2 = 4 is likely the first one that came to your mind. But let's say you work for a boss who who was taught to express the number 4 as the square root of 16. And let's say that is the only way which he permits anyone who works for him to express the number 4. His version of reality is accurate but it's not accurate to suggest that that is the ONLY version of reality. So just as in mathematics, in politics there are a number of competing and complementary narratives which all might describe reality yet look very different from each other. I suppose if someone had soundly beaten my wife, sister or other close female relative for something which she wanted very badly and yet asked for my help or her help shortly after doing so, my feelings for that man might best be described as complex. There is a Ben Harper song "Roses from my friends" which has the chorus "The stones from my enemies, these wounds will mend, but I cannot survive the roses from my friends". Former President Clinton may have shown how his version of reality differs from President Obama's while handing the President a thorn covered rose. Both in 2012 and in a recent interview with PBS, former President Clinton said that as far as personal attacks go, he's had it worse than President Obama even as he concedes that the partisan gridlock is worse today.
"Nobody's accused him [President Obama] of murder yet, as far as I know. I mean it was pretty rough back then. I think that most people underappreciate the level of extreme partisanship that took hold in '94."
President Obama heads into midterm elections in which he may face crushing losses. He has been spurned by his own party, whose candidates do not even want to be seen with him. The president’s supporters say the toxic atmosphere in Washington has made it impossible for Mr. Obama to succeed. Whatever Mr. Clinton’s motivations, his comments, which his former aides frequently refer to when the topic comes up, do not permit Mr. Obama to excuse his legislative setbacks by simply citing hyper-partisanship. As one former White House aide to Mr. Clinton put it: “They impeached our guy." 
Even Mr. Clinton’s old rival, Newt Gingrich, a former Republican speaker of the House, said people had a gauzy view of the Clinton years. “Everyone is doing the, ‘Gee, Newt and Bill got things done, why can’t Obama get anything done?’ routine,” Mr. Gingrich said. “Maybe it’s driving Bill nuts.” The underlying implication is that Mr. Obama does not have it so rough. Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Clinton criticize the current president for being less able or willing than his Democratic predecessor to woo congressional Republicans. 
Some of the venom directed at Mr. Obama has a racial component that Mr. Clinton, a relatable white Southerner, never had to deal with, said Douglas G. Brinkley, a presidential historian and professor at Rice University. “The Clintons created huge problems of their own making,” Mr. Brinkley added, while “Obama’s problem is that he bullheadedly pushed Obamacare, and he happens to be African-American.” “You can’t get more personal than questioning a person’s veracity for where he was born,” said Mr. Galston, the former Clinton aide, referring to the “birther” conspiracy theories about Mr. Obama’s birth certificate."
LINK (Please read this entire article as it's actually quite good)

It's true that as of this writing President Obama has not been impeached. Of course as far as I know he's not getting intern provided oral sex in the White House and lying about it under oath either. So there's that. Should that happen and President Obama not be impeached then we have a better "apples to apples" comparison. Still it can be true both that President Obama has had to deal with a level of opposition which other Presidents didn't face and that President Obama has had rose colored glasses about the fact that the opposing party doesn't like him and is not in fact, required to work with him. In my opinion he's only belatedly arriving at that realization. I disagree with former President Clinton about the nature of the attacks that President Obama has faced. Conservatives and Republicans have attacked President Obama's religion, race, citizenship, intelligence and sexuality in a way that they didn't do to President Clinton. I don't say that Clinton had it easy. Right wingers compared his daughter's looks to that of a dog, called his wife a lesbian and suggested he and she murdered people. Nevertheless they were willing to work with President Clinton in a way which they have generally refused to do with President Obama. IIRC no mainstream conservative intellectual called President Clinton's mother a fat whore with a fetish for non-white men. 

It's difficult to walk in someone else's shoes. Empathy only goes so far, especially with someone who has a completely different personality than you and who came out of nowhere to defeat your wife. Apparently that still rankles.

What do you think?

Did President Clinton have it worse than President Obama?

Is President Clinton making inaccurate and self-centered comments?

Will President Clinton's comments help his wife if she runs again for President?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Movie Reviews: Supernatural Season Seven, Dead Snow 2

Supernatural Season Seven
created by Eric Kripke
If Season Six was a bit iffy and a virtual series reboot Season Seven found the story back on more familiar ground. The Winchester Brothers are still doing what they do best, saving people, hunting things, you know, the family business. But this season there are two new extra dimensional threats, further challenges to the relationship between Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), and personal losses. While the show started with the Winchesters and their allies very firmly on the side of good, over time the series has subtly and not so subtly played with that perception. Both brothers have been to Hell and returned somewhat the worse for wear. Each of them did things or suffered things there that they don't want to talk about. Dean's arrogance can be matched by Sam's self-righteousness. Although the first reveal of angels, in the form of Castiel (Misha Collins) was awe inspiring and a reminder that pure good exists, later events showed us that although God might be omniscient, His angels certainly weren't. They were just as prone to bitterness, rivalries, jealousy and squabbling as humans were. The only difference was that angels played for higher stakes. By the end of Season Six the war between Castiel and his superior, the Archangel Raphael (played by Demore Barnes and Lynette Ware)  was concluded. Over Season Six Castiel realized that he lacked the raw power to defeat an Archangel. His army was badly losing the heavenly civil war. From desperation Castiel made a secret deal with the demon Crowley (Mark Sheppard). Souls are power. So Crowley would manipulate the Winchesters into helping him search for Purgatory (the dimension where the souls of deceased non-human monsters reside) while Castiel would keep the Winchesters misled about the fact that it was he, not Crowley who had rescued the now soulless Sam from Hell. 

Once they found Purgatory Crowley and Castiel would split its souls. With this additional power Castiel could go toe to toe with Raphael. This plan might have worked were it not for the fact that the Winchesters were too smart and too independent to be manipulated for long. They called upon Death to restore Sam's soul to him, damaged though it was. They figured out that Castiel was lying to them. Dean took this rather hard as Castiel was something akin to a big brother. Once they learned that Castiel was actually working with Crowley all bets were off. But as Castiel sadly pointed out, no matter how tough the Winchesters thought they were, they were still just human. And humans rank below angels on the power scale. Castiel removed the wall that Death had placed in Sam's mind to protect him from his memories. Sam stated to alternate between having hallucinations and being comatose. Castiel wanted the Winchesters to stop interfering in his affairs. Castiel opened Purgatory. He betrayed Crowley and took all the souls for himself. Crowley ran. Castiel then killed Raphael with a mere snap of his fingers. The Winchester Brothers and their paternal stand-in Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) tried to kill Castiel but it was too late. By taking ALL the souls for himself Castiel had transcended angelic status. He was now God. He forced the Winchesters and Bobby to kneel to him. He took a trip across the world and Heaven, righting wrongs and settling scores. His idea of righting wrongs usually involved smiting sinners, often in great numbers, but that's what God does, right? That is what Castiel thinks He does. After all Castiel was there watching when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. He's pretty sure he can do this Ruler of the Universe thing. I mean what could go wrong?

Sam, Dean and Bobby were almost out of ideas. But Dean remembered that Death (Julian Richings) once told him that some day he will even kill God. Hoping that that's true, the trio summoned and bound Death. Death was more amused than irritated by this as he liked Dean but before he left he warned Dean not to ever try this again. He also revealed that Castiel is not God but merely a low level angel struggling to control all the souls inside of him, in particular things called Leviathan. Leviathan were God's first creations, before angels and humans. Like many beta models they were scrapped. They were too dangerous. Leviathan were confined to Purgatory, that is until Castiel foolishly took them out. Feeling the effects of the Leviathan Castiel comes to Dean and Sam for help in reopening the gate to Purgatory and releasing all the souls back into that dimension. They do this but it turns out that the Leviathan are able to hold on. They "kill" Castiel and release themselves in the water supply. This allows them to take and reshape bodies on our plane of existence. And thus Season Seven sees the most dangerous yet threat to humanity. Leviathan are virtually impervious to any of the Winchester's normal weaponry, material or spiritual. Bullets don't bother them. They can reform after total body disintegration. Holy water and exorcism makes them giggle. Even decapitation just temporarily slows them down. They're very intelligent with utter contempt for all other life forms. The Leviathan are basically humanoid white sharks. And they are always hungry. The best way to deal with a Leviathan is to run. But John Winchester didn't raise his boys to run from a fight.

This season had its share of dramatic setpieces, including a point where a crippled Dean and concussed Sam are taken to a hospital infested with Leviathans. Sam continues to hallucinate that Lucifer is still with him. As always though, especially post-season five, the show's emotional center remains the fractured yet enduring relationship between the Winchester Brothers. They don't always like each other. They split up for a while due to what Sam sees as an unforgivable betrayal by Dean. They seem to have a knack for getting their friends killed and destroying each other's outside relationships, romantic or otherwise. But when the chips are down and their backs are against the wall they would each rather die than fail to help each other or anyone who they consider family. Dean, more so than Sam, has always had a very black and white approach to their job. Monsters are bad. They kill people. Hunters kill monsters to save people. It's just that simple.The end. But in an ironic echo of Castiel's mistakes, Dean will discover that sometimes things aren't so cut and dry. Some monsters are worse than others. And sometimes you may have to overlook a lesser evil in order to deal with a greater one. Season Seven introduced new allies for the Winchesters, including the goofy and entirely too touchy feely hunter Garth (DJ Qualls) and the IT expert/nerd/expert hacker/gamer Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day). It also saw the reveal of the Leviathan leader, Dick Roman (James Patrick Stuart). 

Roman has nasty plans not just for the Winchesters but for all of humanity. As he is a corporate CEO there's a slight Omen feel to some Season 7 episodes. If you will forgive a small pun Roman chews up the scenery. The Leviathan swiftly organize. They know all of the Winchesters' aliases. They use the police and FBI to go after Sam and Dean. The Winchesters try to find a way to kill the Leviathans, stay alive and do their regular job. We learn more of the cost of the hunter lifestyle, especially as it applies to Dean. You deal with threats no one believes. You can't tell anyone about it or you'll be locked in an insane asylum. You never make any money. You often run afoul of the authorities. And if you ever do manage to find a woman you love you dare not put her in danger by hanging around. You may even have a few "love children" out there. As Dean would say, awesome. The season is not without its humor, even as things look their bleakest. Those of you who avoid fast food or any processed food may find amusement at a turn of events that finds the healthy eating and organic loving Sam proven right in his choices. Dean, who religiously consumes burgers, french fries and especially pie, has reason to reconsider his diet. And Sam, being Sam, can't help but take a few opportunities to say "I told you so".

Dead Snow 2 : Red vs. Dead
directed by Tommy Wirkola
If you don't like horror movies at all then you really should skip this sequel. Although the first film (reviewed here) had a deliciously twisted sense of humor this film just increases the carnage and put its hero in more perverse positions. I didn't find this that amusing. The first film was a real horror film as the heroes and heroines were isolated, outnumbered and surrounded in the snow, cold and dark. This wasn't the case with this film. This film is more of a "monster" film. There's less horror and much more campy humor. YMMW on this. I was less than impressed. You can get this film in English or subtitled. I went with English.
The director retrofits the original's final events to create the sequel. At the end of the first film, the sole surviving member of a group of Norwegian medical students has made it to a car and is about to (absent the arm he cut off with a chainsaw to avoid zombie infection) escape some very vicious Nazi zombies, who are upset that the students have disturbed their gold.  Martin (Vegar Hoel) is about to drive off when a coin falls out of his coat pocket and he realizes he has not returned all the gold and is thus still fair game. The Nazi commander (Orjan Gamst) realizes this too and knocks politely on the car window before breaking it. Martin starts screaming and the scene fades to black. Well the sequel shows us that Martin didn't die then and there. He manages to get the car started and drives off. With one hand this is no easy task, let me tell you. However the Nazi commander doesn't let go and when Martin sideswipes a truck the Nazi commander loses his arm, which falls into Martin's car. 

Obviously Martin has an accident. I mean how many wounded zombie fighting one armed men do you know who are excellent nighttime drivers? When he wakes up in the hospital he's happy to be alive. But things go badly for him. The authorities have found all the dead bodies of his friends and classmates. He's considered to be a serial killer. No one wants to hear about how much he loved his girlfriend or that Nazi zombies were to blame. To make matters worse though, the doctors have found the Nazi commander's severed arm in Martin's car and, thinking it's Martin's , have attached it to his body. This was quite reminiscent of Evil Dead 2. The Nazi arm has a life and will of its own. Soon it's killed other people and Martin is free. However the Nazi commander has found Martin's arm and attached it. So they have a link. Completely inexplicably Martin is contacted by a so-called Zombie Squad, a group of American nerd siblings, who are convinced that zombies exist and are just delighted that Martin has proof. They promise to come help him.

In the meantime the Nazi commander is leading his troops to Martin's town. But Martin discovers that his new arm has additional powers besides just killing people. Again I think that your enjoyment of movies like this depends entirely on your expectations. I was expecting a little more so I enjoyed it less. It does have what must be film's weirdest and most ironic use of the classic Bonnie Tyler ballad Total Eclipse of the Heart. And I always liked her voice. So there's that at least. TRAILER

Michigan: Michigan State Game

Today in East Lansing my cherished alma mater, the University of Michigan, will play Michigan State University in a football game. Unfortunately this game is highly unlikely to result in a U-M victory. At the time of this writing U-M is a 17 point underdog. Since 2008, MSU is 5-1 against U-M. In their last two matchups U-M could not even score a single touchdown against MSU. In 2013, MSU dominated U-M so thoroughly that some people who saw the game left questioning the manhood of the U-M players. There was a time when U-M was the team that went around punching other teams in the mouth and daring them to do something about it. Those days are long gone. Now, sadly even a diehard Wolverine fan such as myself must admit that there is a certain softness, a certain weakness about U-M. MSU on the other hand has an attention to detail, toughness and even arrogance that used to be U-M's domain. The programs are headed in different directions. Although the Big 10 and Midwest college football in general is not competitive with the juggernaut that is the SEC, MSU has risen to prominence over the past eight years, displacing U-M as the power in the north. This has come about under the leadership of MSU's smirking head coach Mark Dantonio. Meanwhile U-M has floundered and failed, never more so than under the "leadership" of current head coach Brady Hoke, a hapless and oft incoherent man who will likely hopefully be fired at the end of the season. Still, this is a rivalry game. Both teams should be excited. MSU's defense is not quite as good as last year's. MSU's QB makes more mistakes than he should. So anything can happen. And if there is one thing that could save Hoke's job it would be going to East Lansing and laying an old school Schembechler style smackdown on the Spartans. That almost certainly won't take place but dreams and memories are increasingly all U-M fans have left. Anyway, below the jump there are two videos summarizing the two schools and the types of people who attend them. Obviously the stereotypes aren't true but as with any stereotype you can always find an example to buttress it.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It's On Us and Yes Means Yes: Bad Ideas or Overdue Requirements?

The Obama Administration recently launched a public relations campaign to combat sexual assault. The campaign was titled "It's on us". You can check out the video here. I do indeed feel a special obligation to look out for some women. This group would include all related women, particularly younger ones, some really good women friends or close co-workers, and any woman with whom there is, was, or might be an intimate connection. For those women I will risk confrontation and physical danger. I was raised to believe that it's my job to protect such women or offer advice, even if occasionally they eschew such assistance. So that is indeed on me. I wouldn't like it were I ever in a situation where I could have helped a woman and chose otherwise from fear or sloth. But strange women, women who I don't know from Eve, are not my primary concern. This is 2014. Many women proclaim that they are independent and can look after their own affairs. I don't think that they need or want a stranger monitoring their alcohol consumption and clothing choices, or deciding on his own that their planned sexual rendezvous with that dangerous looking biker is too risky and must be halted. It's one thing to see a woman being physically assaulted and callously refuse to assist her. I'm almost 100% certain that I would run to her assistance. There's no ambiguity about what's happening when someone is screaming for help or getting throttled or beaten. But the PSA is discussing preemptive bystander intervention. That's a horse of an entirely different color. That means someone would be overriding the woman's judgment with his own. That might not be such a good thing. It also means women can't be trusted to make their own decisions. I disagree with that.

Police officers make errors. They don't get it wrong all or even most of the time but they do make plenty of mistakes. They arrest people for non-existent crimes, wrongly accuse women of being prostitutes, harass people walking down the street, shoot people's dogs from pure spite, make drug raids on the wrong address, shoot people armed only with wallets, and make other errors that result in people being insulted, arrested, tased, imprisoned, beaten, shot or even killed. And these are the experts! If they make mistakes why wouldn't untrained men make even more mistakes. Police are paid to serve and protect. They often enjoy legal protection for that. But if I preemptively intervene in a couple's private affairs because I think something looks wrong, I could be making a horrible mistake for no gain. Such action contradicts my worldview that, generally speaking, grown people handle their own business. So is it really on me to watch out for people who I don't know? No it's not. Sorry. My Superman suit is at the cleaners. If you, like the woman in the debunked Hofstra "rape" case, happen to think it's a good idea to have simultaneous sex with three or four men in a bathroom , I won't stop you. You're grown. I avoid interfering with grown people's romantic and/or sexual decision making. There's a crude word for this that rhymes with dock locking. And it is an excellent way to get your lights punched out. I can't read minds. I can't distinguish between the couple fondling each other because they're drunk and will shortly have sex that one of them may later describe as rape and the couple fondling each other because they've reunited after a three month business trip and are happily anticipating numerous Kama Sutra approved activities. I don't find anything malicious about the PSA. It amuses me that it calls for patriarchal protection when "patriarchal" is considered a dirty word. I think this PSA is well meaning, if misguided in today's world.

I'm not sure I could say that the "yes means yes" law is well meaning. California recently made a change in the law by passing the so-called "yes means yes" bill. This only applies to college students who are studying at institutions that receive state funding. All non-savages want to reduce the incidence of rape but I just don't see how this law helps with that goal. All I can see coming from this law is unintentional comedy and further degradation of the innocent until proven guilty standard. The very best that could happen is that nothing changes. All we have is a reframed version of the current conundrum in such cases. There are no witnesses other than the accused and the accuser. The accuser says she was raped. The accused claims the accuser agreed to consensual sex. At trial everyone else has to weigh the evidence, such as there is, and decide if the accused was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt means that the prosecution has the larger burden of proof. In other words a woman's word alone is not enough to convict a man of rape in a criminal court of law. Nor should it be. There has to be something else. Feminists have never really liked the presumption of innocence as applied to rape accusations and have been chipping away at it for quite some time in the criminal justice system and in the court of public opinion. "Yes means yes" is a way to do that in the college justice system. The Obama Administration has already informed colleges that under Title IX legislation, colleges are to use a weaker "preponderance of evidence" standard when adjudicating rape accusations, something that received serious pushback and criticism from Harvard professors across the political spectrum.

The main problem with "yes means yes" legislation is that such legislation does not at all comport with the reality of how people really initiate or have sex. Although it might be amusing to imagine that everyone sounds like this when engaged intimately, the reality is that they don't. The "yes means yes" law virtually makes this reaction a requirement for every discrete sexual action. So if a man and woman are fooling around on their living room couch the man might ask the woman if she wants to go upstairs. Now both adults know damn well that this question is shorthand for "Would you like to get naked and combine body parts in interesting ways for the better part of two hours?". However under this law if the man did not get explicit permission for each separate action of inserting tab a into slot b, a woman disappointed with his performance, disappointed with her performance or annoyed for any number of other reasons, could come back at a later date and correctly claim that she was raped. A defender of the law might claim that well, better safe than sorry. That's always true when it comes to sex in a lot of different ways. But it's also true that the steps which a man would have to take to avoid liability under this law also happen to be steps which would destroy many women's erotic interest in that man.
More than once I saw disappointment in the eyes of women when I didn’t fulfill the leadership role they wanted me to perform in the bedroom. I realized that women don’t just desire men, they desire men’s desire―and often they don’t want to have to ask for it. I also realized that I was in many ways ashamed of my own sexual desire as a man, and that this was not healthy. 
At this point I was experiencing some cognitive dissonance with my upbringing, but in time learned to take an assertive lead unless I got a “no” or otherwise thought I was about to cross a boundary as indicated by body language.One night I ended up back in a girl’s room after a first date (those do happen in college). She had invited me in and was clearly attracted to me. We were kissing on her bed, outer layers of clothing removed, but when my hands wandered downward she said, “No, wait.” I waited. She began kissing me again, passionately, so again I moved to remove her underwear. “Stop,” she said, “this is too fast.” I stopped.“That’s fine,” I said. I kissed her again and left soon after, looking forward to seeing her again. 
But my text messages received only cold, vaguely angry replies, and then silence. I was rather confused. Only many weeks later did I find out the truth from one of her close friends: “She really wanted you, but you didn’t make it happen. She was pretty upset that you didn’t really want her.”“Why didn’t she just say so then, why did she say we were moving too fast?”“Of course she said that, you dumbass. She didn’t want you to think she was a slut.”
The man was correct to stop. The risks of not doing so were too great. No means no. But a law that presumes that men and women behave exactly the same in or out of the bedroom and that most women still don't expect men to be the ones to "make it happen" is a law that will be abused. The bedroom is not necessarily a place where there is constant talking, negotiating and begging going on. It's not always "Mother may I" unless you happen to be Norman Bates. Some people like other people to take charge. Some people like to take charge. This doesn't indicate lack of consent any more than a man taking the lead in a dance indicates lack of consent. Rape is a horrible crime. It is second only to murder in how despicable it is. Rape means lack of consent. That means someone does something to you without asking OR you are unable to consent OR you tell them no and they proceed anyway. Rape should not mean that you and someone are having sex, one of you tells the other one to move to the left and a week later one of you is in front of a college kangaroo court because after all there was no explicit permission granted for that "move to the left" order.

Now you would think that civil libertarians would be the ones leading the charge against this law. Well some are. But as I've always said we are all hypocrites in some way or the other. There are some people on the right who are big defenders of the Bill of Rights, except when it comes to black people being harassed or searched without warrant by the police. At that point they will talk about black criminals, say that there's an emergency and claim that the police are justified in unconstitutional activities against the black population. They will demagogue on the issue by claiming that if you're against stop-n-frisk you must be for "black crime".

Well not to be outdone in contempt for the underlying values of our legal system, Ezra Klein, while openly admitting that "yes means yes" is a bad law and that innocents will be harmed, still says that he supports it because the rape crisis on college campuses justifies extreme actions.
If the Yes Means Yes law is taken even remotely seriously it will settle like a cold winter on college campuses, throwing everyday sexual practice into doubt and creating a haze of fear and confusion over what counts as consent. This is the case against it, and also the case for it. Because for one in five women to report an attempted or completed sexual assault means that everyday sexual practices on college campuses need to be upended, and men need to feel a cold spike of fear when they begin a sexual encounter.
Colleges have settled into an equilibrium where too little counts as sexual assault, where the ambiguity of consent gives rapists loopholes in which to hide, and forces women to spend their lives afraid. The Yes Means Yes laws creates an equilibrium where too much counts as sexual assault. Bad as it is, that's a necessary change.
Da Kommissar! That should be the law's primary purpose. These evil men need to feel fear when they start having sex. They should know that the state is watching them. There are no innocents in Klein's world when it comes to rape. There are only guilty people who haven't been caught yet. And if well a few eggs get broken while making an omelet, well we can't build our Brave New World without a few sacrifices along the way. Anyone who disagrees is obviously pro-rape and need not be taken seriously. Klein shows shocking disregard for one of the basic foundations of the Anglo-American legal system, the Blackstone Ratio. Obviously Klein would reverse that ratio. In his ideal world it's better that ten innocents suffer than one rapist go free. And if this "yes means yes" law makes those college men live in fear, so much the better. Again, for those of us who are not in college, do not live in California or have sons going to college in California, this may not seem like too much of a big deal. But make no mistake, this law will eventually spread beyond California and beyond the college judicial system. And that would indeed be a big deal because even more men would be convicted of crimes which they did not commit. This "yes means yes" law is simply alien to our stated values of law. It's also important to point out that over the past twenty years there has been a large decrease in the numbers and rate of sexual assault against women and girls. The idea that there is some sort of epidemic of rape is just not accurate. The way to reduce rape is to harshly punish convicted rapists and teach men and women that drunkenness is not a necessary precursor for sex. You don't reduce rape by claiming that almost every man is a rapist and making men prove their innocence. 

I thought we wanted the state out of people's bedrooms? Unless you want men bringing a public notary and video camera into the bedroom or avoiding college women altogether, this "yes means yes" law may have some unpleasant unintended consequences. Everyone is against rape. But there must be a better way to combat it than this.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jayru Campbell Felony Charges Dismissed

We talked previously about former Cass Tech QB Jayru Campbell and his run-ins with the law. Now I don't know about you but if I had just gotten out of jail for assaulting someone I would make sure that at least for a while I would lay low and you know, try not to assault anyone. However Jayru Campbell apparently has a brain that doesn't work normally. Just hours after getting out of jail for body slamming a school security guard, Campbell assaulted his girlfriend, allegedly because he was concerned about text or other messages on her phone which hadn't come from him. While I can certainly understand a man or in this case a boy being deeply concerned that his girlfriend has concluded that his best just wasn't good enough, the fact remains that putting your hands on people in violence is usually a bad idea. It's a horrible idea when you were just released for doing the same thing. This shows everyone that whatever you experienced in jail, the experience apparently wasn't bad enough or long enough to make you realize that you never wanted to go back. Campbell did manage to dodge a bullet so to speak when the judge decided to dismiss the most serious felony charges that Campbell faced. It's quite possible that the prosecutors overcharged. I can't say yes or no to that. I'm no attorney. It's also possible that the judge bent over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who doesn't deserve it. It's true that there are far too many people, particularly black men and boys, who are wrongly caught up in the criminal justice system. It's also true that there are some individuals of all races and both genders who do need to spend some time away from the rest of us until they know how to act. Check out the video below and let us know what you think.

Detroit Cass Tech football star Jayru Campbell received a surprise in court today.
Campbell, who has had previous run-ins with the law, had his most serious charges dismissed for assaulting his girlfriend.
In 36th District Court Judge Ruth Carter dismissed charges of intent to do great bodily harm, unarmed robbery and fraudulent use of a computer Monday.

The 17-year-old is still facing a domestic violence charge, a 93-day misdemeanor. He remains in jail for a circuit court probation violation hearing. Some have questions wondering what kind of message today's decision in court is sending.
Beth Morrison, the head of Haven, a metro Detroit organization for victims of domestic violence was disappointed but not surprised by the dropped felony charges

Fox 2 News Headlines

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why Black Conservatives Stay Losing: The Cliven Bundy Edition

As you should know from living in 2014 and interacting with a variety of people or if nothing else, just from occasionally reading the various ramblings that show up in this space, Black Americans, and for that matter black people from across the diaspora are as politically, class, and increasingly ethnically diverse as anyone else. There are black people who are adamantly opposed to gay marriage and black people who strongly support gay marriage. There are black people who are feminists and those who are not. There are black people who support a strong aggressive military and black people who want to eliminate the military and smash the state. There are black people who are pro-union and who spend all their time organizing workers. There are black people who couldn't care less about unions and who spend all their time organizing corporate mergers. There are black people who are neutral or positive about immigration reform and black people who are vociferously against it. Blah, blah, blah. Yet despite all of this political diversity, when it comes to major elections black people generally vote Democratic by percentages that are usually over 90%. These days, a Republican or conservative candidate who receives more than 10% of the black vote is doing shockingly well. Black (and other) conservatives occasionally bitterly complain about this. But they generally have no solutions. One big reason that conservative leaning candidates do so poorly with the black electorate is that the conservative segment of the American political spectrum is filled with people of all races pledging fealty to white supremacy whether they be genial white racists like Cliven Bundy or apparently insane black conservatives like Kamau Bakari. Check out the bizarre campaign ad video below. 

Nevada's Congressional District 1 is about 10% Black, 40% Hispanic and about 9% Asian. Somehow I don't think that this ad is going to do particularly well in those communities, especially the black community there. But who knows? I could be wrong. Maybe the black community, like Kamau Bakari, is chomping at the bit to ally itself with a bigoted welfare rancher and call out Attorney General Holder. Maybe. But probably not. Black conservatives can have some good ideas sometimes. But when they run with racists and show no self-respect or self-regard they shouldn't be surprised when they get low support from the black community. Conservatives, black or otherwise, who want to appeal to the black community will have to stop making commercials like this. Of course if your primary appeal is to a different set of voters, then maybe this ad is just fine...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Music Reviews: Walter Hawkins-Love Alive

Walter Hawkins
Love Alive
If, to win a million dollars, I had to name the first three male gospel singers that came to my mind in 5 seconds, I would list James Cleveland, Edwin Hawkins and Walter Hawkins. It's almost certainly because those are the people whom I grew up hearing at home and at friends' or relatives' homes. I think of all of these people as downhome traditional gospel, especially in comparison to today's gospel music. Ironically though, at their height of popularity all these musicians, but especially the Hawkins Brothers were considered by some moldy fig gospel traditionalists to be somewhat avant-garde and too close to popular music, in particular rock-n-roll. As discussed previously, a great deal of early rock-n-roll actually came directly from gospel so no one should have been too surprised to hear gospel musicians turning it up and rocking out. People like Little Richard, Otis Redding, and James Brown borrowed heavily from the church. Musicians like Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Aretha Franklin came straight from the church. And as James Cleveland famously noticed in one of his sermons, the Lord liked music. He commanded people to make a joyful noise. And what could be more joyful than hard rocking Hawkins style gospel music. Not much that's for sure. This music brings back a lot of memories, mostly good, some bad. Some of the songs on this release are often played at funerals. But that's life yes? This is music designed to be played loudly. I don't think anything here could ever be described as background music. This is music to shake your moneymaker to or to be precise it WOULD be music to shake your moneymaker to were the lyrics not all about loving God, experiencing bliss through salvation, hollering how much you love Jesus and how after death you've been washed white as snow of your sin. 

Yeah. I suppose if superfunk, bootyshaking and Jesus don't quite go together for you, you could always do what Ray Charles and Willie Dixon did. Just change the lyrics from "can't no one do me like Jesus" to "can't no one do me like that woman" and lo and behold you have a new song which you wrote all by yourself. Repeat as necessary. If you sped it up just a taste "God is Standing By" would be more recognizable as rock-n-roll. And since on the second half of the song the singers and musicians do just that it's impossible not to see the family links between gospel, blues and rock-n-roll. There's also a few songs which Walter Hawkins wrote which I thought were almost certainly traditional. Hmm. I have to do some more research on that. Anyway this is an INCREDIBLE album, made more so by the guest appearance of Walter's wife, the equally talented Tramaine Hawkins.  What she does on "Goin' Up Yonder" and "Changed" are beyond amazing.  My favorite cut though is "I Won't Be Satisfied" where Walter's solo and his ability to sing behind the beat leave me in awe. The call and response between the choir and Walter make me want to get up and dance.

Regardless of your religious affiliations or lack of same this is all very inspiring music. This music has helped me through a few rough patches in life. It's definitely music I like to sing along with as I'm motoring along to my corporate drone peonage. I usually don't like to make comparisons with music but here it I think it's worthwhile. Walter Hawkins music here stands in stark contrast to today's overproduced, effete, synthesized gospel music. It has about as much relationship to modern gospel as a oak tree has to a dandelion. The choir sounds just like the choir I heard in my maternal grandfather's church. The choir is tight. Nobody but nobody is off or late. Everyone is together. This release was produced with just the right amount of natural reverb that immediately lets you know that this was recorded in the seventies. There is an emphasis on the downbeat that would make James Brown proud. There is never any doubt about where the ONE is. None at all. So if you're curious about gospel music but like something with a strong lively beat you could do worse than to pick this release up. Love Alive is a classic cut. It also crossed over to an extent. Likely many old school gospel fans or soul music fans above a certain age already have this CD. But if it somehow escaped your attention because either you weren't around during the seventies or just can't remember the seventies well check it out and see if it speaks to you. This is intensely communal music. This is music that lets you know no matter what you're not alone. And if you're going through bad times in life, keep going. 

Goin' Up Yonder  I Won't Be Satisfied  Changed  I'm Not The Same Follow Me God is Standing By

Monday, October 13, 2014

Upskirts, The Lincoln Memorial and Privacy

I believe in privacy. I also believe in free speech and free expression. Sometimes those values conflict. I have always believed that if an attractive lady has taken the trouble to put something on public display it would be rude not to look. And gentlemen should always strive to avoid being rude. The probability of me telling a non-related woman or a woman who I do not know from Eve that she is showing too much and should cover up is probably zero. I may have been tragically warped for life by watching too many Benny Hill skits at an impressionable age. That's my brother's hypothesis anyway. I don't say no to that. Nonetheless, if I did accidentally see something interesting, I definitely wouldn't grab a camera and start taking pictures. THAT seems a little bit, well creepy might be too strong of a word, but over the top would certainly fit. A gentleman doesn't do that. You take a quick glance, maybe offer a smile and keep moving. Discretion is important. You don't stand there drooling and staring like a fat man at a $2 all you can eat buffet. But everyone has different styles. When faced with publicly visible evidence of attractive femininity while visiting the Lincoln Monument, one Mr. Christopher Cleveland did more than take a brief look. He also chose not to approach the women to inform them in a non-threatening big brotherly manner that they might be revealing more than they intended. No. Mr. Cleveland decided that the right move was to whip it out (his camera that is) and start taking photographs. The local police noticed him. They forced him to stop taking pictures. They made him come away with them. Mr. Cleveland was charged with voyeurism. His camera's memory card had scores of revealing images of women in public places. And that's when things got interesting.

Apparently the crime of voyeurism requires that someone be trying to violate or actually violating your privacy. And when you are in public you have less of (none?) an expectation of privacy. In this particular case the judge, D.C. Superior Court Judge Juliet McKenna, found that Mr. Cleveland did not look at anything that wasn't on public display already. She even disputed the prosecutor's characterization of Mr. Cleveland's actions as "upskirting". She tossed the case against Mr. Cleveland. The judge wrote that:
'This Court finds that no individual clothed and positioned in such a manner in a public area in broad daylight in the presence of countless other individuals could have a reasonable expectation of privacy.' 'The images captured were not 'incidental glimpses' and in fact were images that were exposed to the public without requiring any extraordinary lengths whatsoever, to view. 'The photographs recovered from Mr Cleveland's camera memory card depict a variety of images ranging from long shots of the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool and groups of people sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, to close up photos of individual women seated or standing in the area.
'As Defendant's Response acknowledges some of these women are seated in such a way that their private areas, including the upper inches of their buttocks, are clearly visible.' However, all of these images were similarly available to other passersby in the area.'  The court documents added that there was no evidence Mr. Cleveland positioned his camera in any way or employed any photographic techniques , so as to capture images that were not already on public display.
So basically the judge ruled that if you are revealing something in public you can't charge people with a crime for looking at it or taking pics. If you are curious you can read the judge's decision here. When a similar case occurred in Massachusetts, legislators changed the law. In the Massachusetts case because the offender was taking steps to obtain photos that weren't readily visible to anyone I think there was a bit more expectation of privacy. I'm not certain that's the case here. There are occasions in life when we experience behavior that might be rude, tasteless or even reprehensible but isn't criminal. This might be one of those times. NYC hosts Puerto Rican Day, St. Patrick's Day and West Indian Day parades among others. Men from the entire eastern seaboard turn out in droves to watch, photograph and record women. Are those men all criminals? Some might say so but I wouldn't. Heterosexual men like looking at women. It's the nature of the beast. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. That is never ever ever going to change. If we make it a crime to photograph a woman would it also be a crime to look at a woman? If a man runs across a woman in revealing clothing should he be forced to avert his eyes on pain of prosecution? We don't have enough jails for that. If Cleveland had merely been looking instead of taking pictures would that have been okay?  I think I would feel differently if, instead of just taking pictures from afar, Cleveland had rigged cameras attached to his shoes, was dropping items in front of women, was putting cameras under skirts, or was otherwise going out of his way to violate decorum. That's criminal. Cleveland didn't do that. As the judge said, nothing he did was covert or surreptitious.

I think that you should expect privacy in your home, in your letters, when you're making whoopie, when you're in the bathroom, etc. But when you're in public, privacy isn't really a reasonable expectation. If in public, I notice a woman with a really short skirt or low cut/tight top, that's not being a voyeur. That's being human. If someone is taking pictures at a public memorial I don't want the police to be able to arrest the man, rifle through his photos until they find a woman's image and then charge the man with a sex crime. Increasingly governments and corporations are using surveillance of public streets and private areas both to maximize profit and prevent or solve crime. I find that a little creepier than an individual man looking at a woman but it could just be that I'm not a woman. I might have a different perspective if I were. But then again I might not. The judge was a woman and ruled as she did. The law must be above and beyond our personal biases.

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Movie Reviews: Neighbors

directed by Nicholas Stoller
This comedy film featured Seth Rogen in a lead role so I pretty much knew what I was going to get. Do you remember the first time that you fully understood you were an adult? For many Americans there's not really a bright line ritual that says after this you are a responsible member of our society. We have a legal drinking age of 21. Most states have legal ages of consent that are between 16 and 18. You can vote at 18. We speak of college "kids" but when a teen commits a crime for which we want to punish him beyond the strictures allowed by the juvenile system we talk of "young men." There have been, since the sixties, some social changes that can provide for an extended adolescence well past 18 or in some cases even past 21. Some entertainers whose teen years are far behind them often still seek to dress, act and talk like teens or young adults. I think that's silly and in some ways pathetic. It can be unhealthy for people and/or the larger society to demand too much responsibility and accountability from teenagers but on the other hand at some point you should be able to expect that someone past 21 be responsible and well, adult. The gray area between those two expectations are where Rogen has made a pretty good filmic comedy career.

Neighbors mines that gray area for all that it's worth. It's a funny film at times but much like We're the Millers I thought that the annoying insistence on gross humor, in this case excretory and sexual, didn't work. YMMV as this film did very well financially. I just didn't see the humor in one character angrily dismissing a frat pledge by telling him that another frat brother had had his penis in his mouth while he slept. The pledge proudly and unironically defended himself by claiming that he certainly wasn't asleep. Of course as mentioned this is a Rogen film so no one should be surprised. I liked the slapstick but could have done without all the gay jokes. Anyway.

Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) is married to Australian babe Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne). Their jobs aren't important. I don't even recall if Kelly works or not. What is important is that they have a newborn daughter who is the apple of their eye. However the reality of being parents means that their previously highly active, aerobic and adventurous sex life has taken a few hits. Mac doesn't want to have sex if the baby can see them while Kelly's nursing needs can interrupt their sessions. Additionally, being responsible parents means that they can't drop everything and go party with their dissolute divorced buddies Jimmy (Ike Farinholtz) and Paula (Carla Gallo). They don't have the energy for that any more. Having to clean up another human being's constant excretions, feed it at odd times during the night, and be aware of its needs 24-7 can drain a mother's and father's energy. So the couple is perched on a precipice, looking back at their old lifestyle, but not quite ready to see themselves as responsible, yuppiefied, boring adults. When a raucous fraternity headed by possible heterosexual buddies for life Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) moves in next door Mac and Kelly vacillate between being outraged that there will be numerous loud parties that interrupt their sleep and that of their daughter and intrigued that hey, they still might be cool enough to attend some of those parties themselves. 

But as the saying goes you can't really go home again. Eventually disputes get escalated and all out war breaks out. This movie wasn't quite as funny as I thought it could have been. If you've ever worked with tyrannical neighborhood associations or had disputes with neighbors over things like loud music or parking spots or the like then you know there's a lot of comedy material there. Neighbors skips over most of that and concentrates on the slapstick and the odd relationship between Teddy and Pete. There are some fun spots in the movie but the story is completely and thoroughly predictable. Race jokes, jokes that would be anti-semitic if not written by Jewish people, tons of gay jokes, and so on abound. There is plenty of cleavage, some nudity and a tremendous number of penis jokes.This is low humor. So if you're feeling in the mood for that have at it. Neighbors was okay to watch on-demand but I'm glad I didn't spend the money to see it in the theater.  TRAILER

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Curious Case of Civis the Creepy Clerk

I ain't fooling, you need schooling
Baby you know you need cooling
Baby way down inside, woman you need love
Muddy Waters- "You Need Love"
Perv or Philanthropist?
Some people are more touchy feely than others. They like showing affection in public, not just in private. This could arise from genetics. It could be caused by how your parents raised you. It could come from how long you were nursed or any number of other reasons, including geographic, ethnic or national cultural preferences. American, and from what I hear Northern European, cultures are each supposedly a little standoffish while Southern European, Middle Eastern and some West African cultures are more relaxed about touching. I couldn't tell you for sure. I've known effusive Germans and cold Italians. What I do know is that like anything else with humans there is a continuum of behavior among people who seemingly can't connect to others without reaching out and touching them and people who would prefer that workplace/non-sexual touching of any kind be discouraged. I tend to fall in the second category. Work is work. So please keep your hands to yourself unless we are related or we are already intimate(or planning to be). In some states there isn't always a difference between these two categories but I digress. Snicker. It is a fact though that in the workplace, especially when there is a gender and/or a sexuality difference, many people prefer minimal physical contact, and ESPECIALLY no form of physical contact that could be possibly misconstrued as flirtatious, harassing or sexual. A hand shake is okay. A hand on a woman's hip, thigh, chest or behind definitely isn't. A fist bump or hand slap for closing a deal is fine. A facial caress isn't. A brief hug or shoulder pat to a co-worker who just lost a parent, spouse or child is usually acceptable. A tight full body embrace with a peer who has returned from an overseas trip just might send out the wrong message. Just saying. And so on. 

Americans generally recognize some responses as being reasonable for someone who is providing your nookie and totally inappropriate for someone who is not handling that task. This isn't rocket science, folks. Unfortunately a grocery store clerk in West Michigan has forgotten that it is truly not his job to provide hugs and bottom pats for women who, in his opinion, look like they might need them. 
Whitehall — When is a hug more than a hug? That is, when does it stop being what a resident called a “handshake from the heart” and turn into something another termed “sort of creepy”? The question lies at the heart of a controversy roiling this small town in western Michigan. In August, supermarket clerk Fred Civis was arrested and fired from his job of 39 years after a customer he hugged reported him to the store and police. Many in town have rallied behind the popular cashier, launching a boycott that has slowed business at Plumb’s Valu-Rite Foods. The growing anger also led to death threats against a woman wrongly believed to be the complainant. A woman said the hulking clerk once wrapped both arms tightly around her, stroking her and whispering things in her ear as he nuzzled her neck. He then followed her around the store. “I know the difference between a friendly hug and a grope,” the woman wrote on a local TV news website.

The controversy began in July when Kendall Maczka was checking out at a self-service lane at Plumb’s. Civis came over and, after bagging her items, put his arm around her shoulders, brushing his hand against her backside, according to a police report. She snapped at Civis, who walked away silently. She told police Civis had been hugging her for three or four years. She said it wasn’t an issue until the latest incident. She said he embraced her only when she shopped alone. When she was with her husband, Civis ignored her.

Civis was apparently previously warned about his behavior. So right now this doesn't appear to be a case of an overreaction by someone who can't stand to be touched or a one time misreading of someone's body language. Misdemeanor assault charges seem like a bit much but I don't know if that fits what allegedly occurred. I'm no lawyer. Who knows? More information could arise. Of course if we are being completely honest some people's (and by people's here I mean women's) reactions to unsolicited hugs could vary widely on just who's doing the hugging but that's life. There is nothing unusual or unfair about the fact that women, like men, have different reactions to people depending on their perception of that person's attractiveness. Still, when you are at work, I don't think it's too much to ask that you don't go around groping or hugging other people. I mean, how difficult is that? The purpose of working is to earn money. You need to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. Perhaps you might make friends at work or even find someone who is more but that doesn't change what the primary imperative is. Nothing can be allowed to interfere with that. If I were to get fired from my job let it be for something like being a whistle blower about a bad product, standing up to a bigoted or incompetent supervisor or refusing to go along with bullying. 

I can't predict the future but I can safely say that I will NOT be fired from my job for putting my hands on women co-workers, customers or God forbid supervisors. Cause that would be kinda dumb.  I could never live that down. Can you imagine how the next job interview would go? "So, Shady is it? I understand you like to give hugs and pats on the bottom to women co-workers. Do you see any women around here that you think need physical comforting? We're just curious."