Friday, September 29, 2017

NFL Protests

Donald Trump's attack on black athletes kneeling during the national anthem is red meat to a white base who are, not to put to fine a word on it, racist.

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out, you’re fired!’ ”

The Republican voting base not only has a high level of animosity toward black people, just showing them a picture of a black man changes how they think on a variety of issues. This isn't news to anyone who bothers to read comments on stories in their local newspaper or heaven forbid, yahoo. But it's good to have data to back this up. Inevitably whenever a black athlete or other celebrity takes a political stand that questions the status quo around justice in America many non-black people question the black person's intelligence. Additionally they start to call the person "lazy", "spoiled", "ungrateful", "entitled", "pampered", "arrogant", or "overpaid" among other epithets. This language almost exactly tracks the language of white slave owners upset that their former slaves were leaving the plantation or the language of European colonialists bewildered and angered that they were being kicked out of Africa

This view of black progress, that achievement or success is only being allowed or tolerated because of white munificence, is a fundamental building block of white racism, regardless of whatever other politics the person displaying such racism might have. It's found among liberals as much as among conservatives. It's just expressed a little differently.

The Dog Was Here First: Southwest Airlines and Professor Daulatzai

We've seen people kicked off airplanes because they declined to purchase extra seats for children or because they refused to be bumped to a later flight or because they got into a dispute with the pilot or crew or because they refused to show proper id or because some bullying law enforcement or political official just wanted to flex his authority. I don't think I've ever seen someone kicked off a flight because they couldn't share the entire plane with a dog. This is not a brutal video all things considered but perhaps we have become so desensitized to anything involving police use of force that as long as there is no beating, shooting or tasing it's okay. Nobody of any gender, age or race likes having larger armed people touch their body without permission and force compliance. Is there a way to move a woman against her will without touching sensitive areas? Unlikely. I can't call it on this one. 

Fortunately I do not suffer from dog allergies. Occasionally people who do have such allergies will visit my home, which does have a dog present. Usually I will immediately put the dog in a separate area if the person has a serious problem and/or asks politely. But if the person tries to tell me what to do with my dog in my home my response might be a little different. Sometimes there is no way to square the circle and ensure that everyone has their rights respected. It's just a win-lose situation. Someone is going to lose. In the story below Maryland Institute College of Art and Harvard Professor Daulatzai lost her battle against the police and Southwest Airlines.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Book Reviews: Fortunate Son

The music business is a dirty corrupt place. Record company owners and executives, talent scouts, radio dj's, music publishers, managers, agents, promoters, lawyers, venue owners, producers, and several other business types have the means, motive and opportunity to exploit and cheat musicians. It's the rare musician who has avoided these problems over the course of his or her career. In the bad old days such exploitation was common. As frontman, lead guitarist, primary songwriter and singer for the California born Southern sounding roots-rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR), John Fogerty is famous for his songs, his style and his distinctive almost prophetic voice. He is also famous for being ripped off by his record company owner and publisher, Saul Zaentz. John Fogerty is and was not a man to suffer quietly. John Fogerty apparently can hold a grudge like nobody's business. Fortunate Son is an autobiography and hopefully an act of catharsis. I can appreciate someone who is forthright. If you step on John Fogerty's foot, he is not going to be quiet. He will tell you to get the f*** off his freaking foot!  He will continually remind everyone of the time in 2017 when this moron (you) stepped on his foot. Your mileage may vary on this. If someone cheated you out of payment for and ultimately ownership of songs that you wrote, and then later had the audacity to sue you for plagiarism for sounding like yourself(!), you also might be a bit irritable. Would you let this disrupt a sibling relationship? Well maybe, maybe not. It's hard to say until you're in that situation.

This book is divided into three sections. This setup will be instantly familiar to anyone who has watched similar stories on VH1 or BET. First, Fortunate Son gives us the happy early days. John talks about his interest in black music, or what was called "Race" music in the forties and fifties. He was a big fan of people like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles and several other early rockers, country musicians and electric bluesmen, particularly Howling Wolf, whose phrasing and cadence John adored. John and his brother Tom were musically inclined youngsters.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Mad Pooper of Pine Creek

I get upset when other people let their dogs do their business on my lawn without cleaning up after them. The dogs don't know any better. They are acting in accord with their nature. I can't get angry at the dog. But a human? I can't imagine a normal person doing this. If someone did this I think I would have to have a short and ugly "discussion" with them. But only after I put on some latex gloves.

The Colorado Springs family has spent weeks trying to get a mystery woman they've dubbed "The Mad Pooper" to stop defecating in their neighborhood, right outside their house.
Cathy Budde says her kids caught her first mid-squat, pants down and unashamed.
"They are like, 'There's a lady taking a poop!' So I come outside, and I'm like ... 'are you serious?'" Budde recalled. "'Are you really taking a poop right here in front of my kids!?' She's like, 'Yeah, sorry!'"
The family says it was just the first time it actually caught the runner doing it, but it wouldn't be the last. Budde estimates the runner leaves behind human waste at least once a week. She says "The Mad Pooper" has been at it for the last seven weeks.
She can't help but laugh at the absurdity of the whole situation.

The Root's Damon Young is Wrong: Straight Black Men are not oppressive patriarchs!

Damon Young, previously of Very Smart Brothas, now of The Root wrote a poorly argued, badly reasoned and completely fact free post which claimed, "Black straight men are the white people of the black community". By this strained metaphor, he apparently meant to say that black straight men are the evil patriarchs of the black community who are oppressing heterosexual black women and black gays of either gender. Young writes many posts like this. It is his calling card. This particular one stood out to me not just because of its usual simple mindededness and lack of empirical data but from the sheer bile towards black men shown by someone who is a black man himself. Progressive black people are often quick to see the self-hate when it is on display by someone who is on the right like Jason Riley or Sheriff Clarke. The left, particularly its feminist circles, can have just as much anti-black male animus. But assessing our privilege (or lack thereof) on these facts considers only our relationship with whiteness and with America. Intraracially, however, our relationship to and with black women is not unlike whiteness’s relationship to us. In fact, it’s eerily similar. We’re the ones for whom the first black president created an entire initiative to assist and uplift. We’re the ones whose beatings and deaths at the hands of the police galvanize the community in a way that the beatings and sexual assaults and deaths that those same police inflict upon black women do not. We’re the ones whose mistreatment inspired a boycott of the NFL despite the NFL’s long history of mishandling and outright ignoring far worse crimes against black women. 

We are the ones who get the biggest seat at the table and the biggest piece of chicken at the table despite making the smallest contribution to the meal. And nowhere is this more evident than when considering the collective danger we pose to black women and our collective lack of willingness to accept and make amends for that truth.
It gets worse after that.

Farmer Tennes, East Lansing and Gay Marriage

We previously have discussed many times that the First Amendment does not protect you from dealing with the consequences of your speech visited upon you by a private entity. If I shared derogatory, confidential, proprietary or private employer information in any of these blog posts, my company would immediately walk me out of the door. I would have no recourse. Many people have used Twitter, Facebook or other social media to share ideas or images that their employer and/or other people found hateful. Often, these people have been fired or have faced calls from the public to lose their job. For many of us I would bet it depends on just whose ox is being gored before we decide if we will join the latest digital mob howling for blood. That's just human nature. I am more sympathetic to some "victims" than I am to others. You probably are as well. There often is a First Amendment issue when the government attempts to punish you or harm your livelihood just because of your speech. That's usually not allowed. Although the Supreme Court has legalized same sex marriage throughout the land, it emphatically did not make anti-gay discrimination illegal to the same extent as racial or gender discrimination. 

The 1964 Civil Rights Act doesn't include gays. And Congress has until now resisted calls to change the law. Some states have made laws against gay discrimination; see the lawsuits over religious bakers refusing to cater gay weddings. But many others have refused to do so.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Worst Hack in History: Time to Get Rid of Equifax??

You probably heard that Equifax suffered the worst hack in its history. Hackers viewed or stole the private personally identifiable information of approximately 143 million adult Americans. I am talking about your name, your maiden name if applicable, your address, your date of birth, city and state of birth, your income, your previous addresses, and of course your social security number. Equifax not only failed to secure this critical information but also some Equifax big shots allegedly sold Equifax stock after they discovered the hack but before the news became public. And Equifax took its sweet time before informing the public. A few people have since lost their jobs but other than that Equifax or its principals haven't suffered any legal criminal or civil penalties. It's unclear as to exactly how much Equifax or its two other primary competitors, Experian and TransUnion CAN be regulated or fined. They theoretically fall under the bailiwick of the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but neither of those organizations have the power to impose harsh penalties. And the current Administration is not exactly known for its belief in keeping a short leash on corporate behavior.

In the online age some have become blase about sharing personal information but this incident could change that. Individual consumers never handed over their information to credit bureaus. It was their employers, insurance companies, banks and/or creditors who did that. This data could be a jackpot for criminals around the world. There is literally no end of mischief someone can get up to if they have all of your personal information. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Book Reviews: The Force

The Force
by Don Winslow
Winslow is a skilled writer who has done his research into the NYPD. Winslow dedicated this book to the cops killed in the line of duty. This book is not the simplistic self-righteous agitprop of the TV show Bluebloods. Winslow is too talented for that. But when Winslow says that we rely on the police to protect us or that we give the police conflicting goals that complicate their jobs I don't think that me or mine are really part of Winslow's "we". Life is indeed complex, as are Winslow's characters. Still, having read this book I wonder if I could trust Winslow to be willing to convict a cop in real life. But it's just a novel so who knows. Maybe that's part of Winslow's skill.

Winslow tries to hit the issue of race head on as best he can. People often disingenuously defend themselves from charges of bigotry by claiming that they can't possibly be racist because they have had sex with someone of a different race, have friends of different races, work with people of different races or like music by people of a different race or so on. That's all malarkey. People have different facets. We are all mixes of good and evil. It is possible to have a cordial work relationship with people of different races while telling nasty racially hostile jokes to people within your own race. You can mentor someone of a different race while simultaneously passing along Obama monkey jokes. For obvious reasons people may like the attractive opposite gender members of a race that they otherwise truly despise. You can love your mixed race nieces, nephews or grandchildren and still wish your sibling or child had married within their own race.

Racist people can love and respect and even be willing to die for a member of a race they hate because that individual has proven themselves to them in some way.  The Force's primary protagonist is a walking example of how humans contain all these contradictions.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Movie Reviews: Wind River, Jackals

Wind River
directed by Taylor Sheridan
Just like the movie Sunlight Jr., reviewed here, Wind River is a film that shows that entertainment and socially relevant education can mix well together. Films don't have to be painfully and obviously didactic to get their message across. And films can also be thrilling without being stupid. When you make a film that is often about the impact of structural racism, some people will immediately become defensive. They will point out that as far as THEY are concerned they're innocent of malicious intent or actions. Then the film never gets a chance to entertain because some audience members have already shut their minds to the director's or writer's message. On the other hand, some films about racism put all the blame on individual bigots who are walking stereotypes of racialized enmity. Although people like this do exist, they are not quite as numerous as they used to be. But their filmic depiction allows the mainstream audience to more easily disassociate and feel better about themselves, even if they engage in the same behavior. Wind River walks the line between these two poles. Its villains are deliciously bad but are still recognizably human in their evil. 

And even the good guys can still suffer from a racialized blindness. This is highlighted in a very powerful scene between a white female FBI agent and the father of a murdered Native American girl. The white woman is arrogant and naive enough to question the parents' grief. The next scene makes it clear that this was a mistake based on racial assumptions by the FBI agent, who is a good guy. Her good intentions don't prevent her from saying the wrong thing.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Disrespecting the President is Fine..if the President Is Black: Jemele Hill, Donald Trump and Barack Obama

You may have heard that ESPN personality and Detroit native Jemele Hill ran into some controversy when she recently tweeted that President Donald Trump was a white supremacist, which is a big part of why he was elected. Now if you are an employee as opposed to the owner of the means of production you always run a risk of losing your job if you say something political. Your statements could mess up your employer's revenue flow or associate your employer with beliefs that your employer does not hold. That's just the way it goes. So it was one thing when various conservatives and racists crawled out of the woodwork to attack Hill. That was to be expected. What was a little different though was that the White House, through its oleaginous spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Hill's tweets were fireable offenses. The level of hypocrisy here is just off the charts. Now there is a larger issue, which I may address a little later when I have more time, about people's social media statements, heartfelt, stupid, inappropriate or otherwise getting them in trouble with the public or their employer. There's a lot of that going around right now. It's seemingly almost every day! But like I said, I have no time to write on that at present.

But let's remember that Donald Trump was (is??) a prominent member of the birther movement. He argued that President Obama wasn't American. He also called President Obama a racist. Can you imagine the conservative response if the Obama White House had publicly called for Trump to lose business opportunities or be fired from The Apprentice because of his racist or stupid statements? Additionally the people who are currently screaming about the need to fire, censor, or censure Hill are mostly the same people who are also screaming about the need for free speech to include conservative and/or racist viewpoints. In short like a lot of people they believe in "Free Speech for me, but not for thee".

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Movie Reviews: Breakfast At Tiffany's

Breakfast At Tiffany's
directed by Blake Edwards
Based on a book by Truman Capote, this 1961 film made some big changes to the novel in order to get a heterosexual mainstream audience. It succeeded at that, becoming a very well known romantic comedy. It is probably equally as well known today for launching actress Audrey Hepburn into the stratosphere as a style icon of coolness AND for featuring noted actor Mickey Rooney in yellowface and buckteeth, playing a racist caricature of a Japanese man. Even for 1961 this sort of thing was becoming passe but it is what it is. Thankfully Rooney's role is small. But it's like eating a salad and finding a half-eaten rat turd on your fork. Completely takes you out of the enjoyment. Rooney and Edwards always said that no offense was intended and that they would have changed it if they could. Whatever. The thin leggy gamine look which defined Hepburn and her role in this film was ironically something that may have been forced upon her by her horrific experiences and near starvation in the Dutch resistance during the WW2 German occupation of the Netherlands. 

This movie is all about cool. Everyone (with the notable exception of Rooney) is cooler than the other side of the pillow. Although the movie makes its implications pretty strong it still keeps plausible deniability as to the activities of one of the main characters. I think this was because in the 1960's people didn't want to spell everything out. That was considered crass. But this movie is a forerunner to such films as Pretty Woman but also movies like Car Wash in which the impoverished man seeks the woman. And obviously this film hearkens back to stories like Cinderella.

Movie Reviews: Kick-Ass, Last Exit To Brooklyn

directed by Matthew Vaughn
A deconstruction of comic book movies that also is an ode to superhero movies
Kick-ass, a 2010 film, is a mish-mash of a movie. It is simultaneously a romantic comedy, a savage parody of superhero movies, a violent revenge movie, and an honest ode to heroism. Kick-Ass makes fun of almost all of the cliches found in comic book movies (it's based on a comic book) while later upholding them. YMMV on this. You can get whiplash from the multiple changes in theme and tone, but I liked this film a lot. The black humor will not be to everyone's taste. It came close to going over the top a few times. It definitely did with one character. The film's most defining character is not the titular hero but a young girl killer who is the spiritual sister of such anti-heroines as Arya Stark and River Tam. This girl is deadlier and a little meaner. 

The title character, a high school student named Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), is an average teen in almost every way. He has no super powers. He's not super strong or super smart. He has no special abilities with weapons, math or computers. And he would rather spend his time fantasizing about his busty English teacher or other women, attractive or not, than take the risk to try to get a real life girlfriend, like his sexy classmate Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca). No Dave is content to go to school, hang out with the other nerds, and read comic books.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Movie Reviews: IT

directed by Andy Muschietti
IT is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name.
Because they have so much internal commentary and deep characterization, many of Stephen King's novels have resisted well-done cinematic adaptations. IT, on the other hand, got most things right. This film successfully adapted the letter and spirit of King's novel while prudently dropping a few of King's written events that would not have translated to the screen or to mainstream audiences. Whereas Tolkien famously said that he disliked allegory, I do not think that King has ever made a similar statement. King crammed allegory and metaphor about the loss of childhood innocence into the novel IT. To quote a famous rock song that came out shortly before this novel we have to "Hold on to sixteen/as long as you can/Changes come around real soon/make us women and men". The director and screenwriter do an admirable job of capturing the unease and discomfort of youth sliding into adolescence with adulthood right around the corner. 

The movie gives us a supernatural trans-dimensional monster  that stalks the children of Derry, Maine. The director argues that this monster is no more dangerous to the children than such real life evils as physical abuse, incest, poverty, emotional assaults, racism, bigotry and the moral blindness, desperation and despair that too often accompany adulthood. The director does not beat you over the head with this argument. The director makes children the film's focus and shows adults from children's POV. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Fall Peak Foliage Map

Fall is almost upon us. That means among other things plenty of apple and pumpkin pies, apple cider, baked apples, various sorts of apples in apple mills and grocery stores, women in sweaters, football, and the thankful departure of heat, humidity and insects. But as wonderful as all of those things are, perhaps the most glorious indication of autumn is the changing colors of the leaves as they slowly fall from the trees. This is really fun to watch and experience. There is a lot of beauty in the world. Fall is a great time to look around and experience it. The monotony of the summer season's green disappears in an explosion of all sorts of reds, oranges, browns, and yellows. I think that Michigan provides one of the most exciting displays of this change but in truth most places in the United States offer the marking of the changing of seasons and the approach of winter. The below foliage map shows the peak color change times for the lower 48 US states. Hopefuly wherever you may be you can take some time out to enjoy the physical beauty of the world. 

Some consider it to be the most incredible time of the year. Gorgeous colors vibrantly encoring the end of summer as the trees put themselves to bed for the long sleep of winter. The Great Smoky Mountains floods with thousands upon thousands of annual visitors all hoping to achieve a breath taking view of the beautiful renaissance of nature.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Walmart Gunwomen and Crazy Bus Passengers

There's a couple of things I don't do. The first thing is shop at Walmart. I don't like their declasse marketing approach and ruthless management style. The second thing is ride the bus. There's not many mass transit options where I live and work now anyhow. The last time I rode the bus was in Detroit some decades back. A fight broke out, one in which I had no part in starting and in which I did not participate. The bus driver stopped the bus and called the police. Not wanting to be bothered to actually do their job and figure out who did what the police just forced all of the black males in a certain area off the bus and called it a day. The group kicked off the bus included yours truly. The bus driver and police drove off. As the fight restarted I walked home, now fully convinced that I needed a car of my own. There are too many strange and/or violent people who infest our mass transit options.

I was reminded of both of these self-imposed prescriptions by two recent incidents. The first took place in Washington D.C. A bus passenger, a woman who is evidently suffering from either mental illness, drug issues or intense paranoia, didn't like the way that the bus driver, also a woman, told her to have a nice day as she exited the bus. Rather than do what most people would do and keep moving, this lady, one Opal Brown, threw a cup of urine on the bus driver before running away.

Detroit Little Caesars Arena Hiring

One of the greatest challenges in a post-civil rights movement society is to translate black political power into black economic power. I think it's fair to say that given the stats around black unemployment, wealth and income that just giving black people the right to vote isn't enough. Just electing black politicians (or white politicians beholden to black interests) isn't enough. We need something stronger to change economic realities. I was recently reminded of this by some of the latest news concerning the construction of the new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. This arena will be a venue for concerts and for games by the Pistons and Red Wings. The arena will be city owned but will be managed and operated (and profited from) by Olympia Entertainment, a sub company of Ilitch Holdings. The Ilitches, a local billionaire family, own Little Caesars, The Detroit Tigers, The Red Wings, a local casino, and several other venues and properties in and around Detroit, including the famed Fox Theater. If you're working in sports or entertainment in the Detroit area, chances are excellent that you're going to rub shoulders with the Ilitches at some point. 

The Ilitch family was one of the few well known Caucasian run large private businesses to maintain a continual presence in Detroit during some very lean years in the eighties and nineties. They have given charity to many (including late civil rights legend Rosa Parks) and provided good pr for the city. They have also profited nicely from some sweetheart deals, including the financing of the new arena with taxpayer backed bonds, some of which was money supposed to go to public schools. Silly me. I thought that if you were a billionaire you could finance your own arena but maybe you don't become or stay a billionaire by needlessly risking your own money. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Reviews: Pandemic

by Scott Sigler
Pandemic is the conclusion to the sci-fi/thriller trilogy started in Infected (reviewed earlier here). This book has been out for a minute but I just recently got around to reading it. This was a shame because Pandemic is a really good story. But on the other hand I recently happened to be stuck at a few places where there was nothing else to do but read so this came in very handy. Sigler doesn't write, or rather I should say I haven't read, anything that is overtly supernatural, and Pandemic is no different. Obviously scientific reality is stretched but the dangers in Pandemic are based in plausible, although very unlikely events. The stage Sigler sets is much larger in the final series installment than in Infected and the middle book Contagious. There are some characters from prior books who return for Pandemic. I liked that previous events left marks on people. It made the depictions breathe.

All of us are literally teeming with bacteria, viruses, germs, and parasites. Many of these are essential for continued life. Others apparently have no major effect on us, for good or bad. And a small minority are dangerous to our health and life and those of other humans. Our immune system has evolved to prevent many of these organisms from killing us. But what happens if a superior alien intelligence bypasses or hijacks our immune system and rewrites our DNA in order to change humanity into something else entirely? That was the premise of the first two books. An alien Orbital encountered Earth. Relying on previously encoded instructions it seeded Earth (well mostly Michigan -the author is a Michigan native) with infections that were a combination of virus/machine/plant material. The infected humans changed. They attempted to convert other humans and build a gateway to allow the aliens to transfer themselves to Earth. These attempts failed. The US government destroyed the Orbital along with the changed humans.

However, Pandemic postulates that the artificial intelligence encoded in the Orbital was capable of learning from its mistakes. Before it was destroyed it altered the algorithm and purpose of the infectious agents it released upon humanity. It got smarter. And although it was destroyed, a small payload portion of the Orbital, no larger than a pop can, fell to Earth, in Lake Michigan to be precise.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Salt Lake Police Arrest Nurse And Drag Her From Hospital

I'm not a lawyer. And I don't keep up with all of the ways in which the Federal government and various states and municipalities, often with winks and nods from the current Supreme Court, attempt to get around the limitations placed on government actions by the Fourth Amendment. But one thing which still seems to be in force, in law if not respected on the street, is that the police cannot absent your consent, your arrest, a warrant or some sort of probable cause take samples of your blood, your flesh, your DNA. A nurse named Alex Wubbels attempted to politely explain this to a police officer named Jeff Payne. Payne wanted to draw blood from a man who had been involved in an accident. Payne admitted to another officer that he did not have probable cause but wanted the blood drawn anyway. Wubbels refused and explained that the hospital policy, based on the law was that the hospital would not assist unless certain conditions were met. Payne apparently lost his temper and since he had been given previous authorization from his supervisor, arrested the nurse. Watch video below. Arrest starts at roughly 6 minute mark.