Wednesday, October 31, 2018

German Far Right Raises Profile

Although the United States is not officially a nation based primarily on lineage and blood and soil, Germany is. There are apparently more than a few Germans who do not like the idea of sharing their country with non-Germans one bit. At all. The relatively recent influx of mostly non-European immigrants and migrants into Europe has been the single biggest boost to right-wing, reactionary and downright fascist political parties across the continent. As the video below the fold makes clear, as dislike for immigrants becomes more acceptable to vocalize, Nazi sympathizers and actual Nazis successfully shift the Overton window far enough to the right to include some even uglier ideas. Although for obvious historical reasons Europe in general and Germany in particular get most of the media attention for this sort of stuff there are places all over the planet where people make it clear that they aren't overly fond of THOSE people. THOSE people can of course be of any race or ethnicity and could even be (to me) visually indistinguishable from the people yelling for their expulsion. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of Black South Africans chasing down and assaulting Black Nigerian or Black Zimbabwean immigrants or refugees.

It's important to keep in mind that we're not all the same, we can't all get along, and nations aren't disappearing any time soon. The noxious Steve King had it right when he said that European right-wingers and Nazi sympathizers would be Republicans if they were Americans. I think that most Germans have enough sense not to politically support would-be Nazis. That said though mass immigration from the Third World into Europe will continue to be a politically destabilizing event.

NYPD Sgt. Ann Marie Guerra Abuses Co-Workers

I wasn't shocked to read that a female police officer could allegedly be dismissive or sexually abusive to male co-workers. We should all be beyond the fantasy that women are morally superior to men. They aren't. And that's okay. No, the detail that made me raise an eyebrow about this alleged incident was the fact that the NYPD has co-ed locker rooms. That seems like a very bad idea that would almost make such incidents predictable. I don't think that men and women who are not intimate with one another ought to be dressing or undressing in front of each other.  It would seem to be a pretty simple question of appropriateness, privacy and dignity. 

Obviously most people will do their best to be professional even in such ridiculous circumstances. But there will be a few people who won't. So why make it easy for this sort of stuff to take place? I know that many of the very smart very compassionate people get very upset at any hint of difference between men and women. But we are different, no matter how much we try to pretend otherwise. Co-workers who are going to be changing clothes ought to have separate locker rooms. I think that's just common sense. Of course perhaps this female police officer would just be a nasty person whether she was changing clothes in a co-ed locker room or a women's locker room. Presumably, regardless of gender, no one wants to be walking around a place where someone is leaving their dirty drawers on the floor.

A ball-busting female boss at a Brooklyn precinct is under investigation for allegedly stuffing a pair of her panties into a male colleague’s mouth, police sources told The Post on Monday. Sgt. Ann Marie Guerra, the second-in-command at the 72nd Precinct Detectives Squad, flipped out on Detective Victor Falcon when he complained about her leaving her underwear all over the unisex locker room, sources said. “They are f–king clean!” the 38-year-old married mom of two allegedly roared Oct. 7 — as she shoved a pair of her panties into Falcon’s mouth, a source said. A complaint was filed against Guerra with the NYPD’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office three days later.

Movie Reviews: Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War
directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
I didn't see this film in the theater. I don't remember why. I do remember that after its debut two different people told me their concerns about what they considered the film's unfortunate implications. Their issues, which I will mostly avoid here, put me off from seeing the film for a while. This Marvel film is designed to appeal to the largest possible audience. This movie was the fourth highest grossing film of all time. It's entertaining and long. This movie successfully combines action, humor and some bleakness. It raises some serious questions about morality and overpopulation. Most people won't get upset when it becomes apparent that deer numbers have grown to the point where deer are harming the environment and/or other animals and must be culled. Heck, even I wouldn't mind eliminating the invasive Canadian Geese who stay in Michigan year round and make an absolute mess of the wetlands. Rational humans, even sentimental ones, can recognize when a particular species has become overly destructive. 

But humans resist recognizing this about themselves.  There are 7.6 billion people on this planet. As recently as 1974 there were only about 4 billion people. Humans have been very busy making other humans. Just over half of the world's population is Chinese, Indian, or African. As those three populations increase what will be the impact on carbon emissions, political power, food prices, climate change, wildlife, military conflict, ocean pollution, migration, etc? It may not be "good" from a First World standpoint or from the standpoint of the world in general. Some argue that free market capitalism can produce enough for everyone. Others argue that socialism is the best bet for dealing with questions of scarcity and equity.

Others don't believe there is a problem. They say that people raising alarms are mistaken or  regurgitating barely veiled racist eugenics. Some insist that it's unfair that one group of people is reproducing so fast. Obviously birth control is warranted. Some feminists point out that women in most societies rarely want to have as many children as men do so improving women's education, health, legal protection, and financial and sexual independence slows birth rates.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Cesar Sayoc, Pipe Bombs and Conservative Hate

From what we know now the primary suspect in the pipe bombing campaign against Democrats and/or liberal "enemies" of Trump is a Republican. Fortunately, he or whoever sent these bombs was inept.

AVENTURA, Fla. — Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr., a South Florida man charged in connection with a string of bombs mailed to prominent Democrats, appeared to have a lively social media presence, where he frequently posted in right-wing circles and shared conservative news stories and condemnations of liberal politicians.

Mr. Sayoc, 56, appeared to post frequently in Facebook groups like “The Trump American Party” and “Vote Trump 2020” using an account with the name “Cesar Altieri Randazzo.” The account, which was suspended on Friday after reports that Mr. Sayoc was a suspect in the bombing case, shared photos of Mr. Sayoc attending political events and working out at the gym.

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, the account shared news stories from Breitbart, video clips from Fox News, and posts from pages like “Handcuffs for Hillary.” That year, the account included numerous photos and videos of Mr. Sayoc, a registered Republican, at a Trump campaign rally, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Mr. Sayoc had been charged with five federal crimes, and faces up to 48 years in prison if convicted.

Mr. Sayoc has a lengthy criminal history in Florida dating back to 1991 that includes felony theft, drug and fraud charges, as well as being accused of threatening to use a bomb, public records show. In the bombing case, Mr. Sayoc was accused of threatening to “blow up” a Florida utility company and a customer service representative who he had called to protest a bill. The records listed Mr. Sayoc’s occupation as “manager.”

Thursday, October 25, 2018

GRRM Answers NYT Staff Questions

It would be wonderful if GRRM would finish the books. But I've made my peace with the fact that one ending of the story will be revealed sometime in 2019. And that will be that. Maybe GRRM finishes. Maybe he doesn't. Either way there are just oodles of other books to read and things to do. Anyway I thought this short little Q&A with GRRM was interesting. I also would like seeing Fevre Dream made into a movie.

Megyn Kelly Out At NBC?

If you pick up a cobra and caress it there's a good chance that you will be bitten repeatedly. You'll probably die if you can't get anti-venom quickly enough. Either way, regardless of whether you live or die, most people would tell you (or your survivors) that what you did was remarkably stupid. Cobras are venomous. They can kill. It's what they do. Megyn Kelly is a human cobra. She's a skinny venomous racist. It's who she is. It's what she does. You can't hire Megyn Kelly and expect that she's not going to say or do something racist any more than you would lie down with a cobra and expect not to get bit. Although I do not like Megyn Kelly I have to put most of the blame on this controversy on the people at NBC who hired her in the first place. I understand that they were chasing profits hoping to get some of the Trump voting viewers who had made Kelly successful at Fox. But not all money is good money.

And NBC didn't even get the ratings they were expecting to get because a toned down Kelly isn't able or willing to build or keep an audience looking for softer, less aggressive, less confrontational topics and tone. That's not her. Even a sanitized Kelly is far too abrasive for the morning NBC audience. The stench of her inauthenticity radiated for miles. The real Kelly is the woman who thinks that blackface is just fun and f*** you if you can't take a joke. She let the mask drop because she either got tired of wearing it or thought she was back on Fox. Make no mistake, if Kelly made the exact same comments at Fox she would still have a show and job. Heck she might get another pay raise. I haven't bothered to look yet but I have no doubt that even now conservatives racists are forming up like Voltron to argue that Kelly is the real victim and Black people are just too sensitive, yada, yada, yada.

Megyn Kelly Today has been canceled, according to multiple reports. The 47-year-old journalist's NBC talk show is reportedly over after she was widely criticized on Tuesday for defending using blackface in Halloween costumes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

South Africa ANC Political Murders

It is a damn shame that people who struggled against the violent apartheid regime now have no problem murdering each other for money and power. I suppose that's the way it goes sometimes. Can you imagine living in a country in which power depends not on the vote but on who has more button men? That would be a pretty crappy place to live.

One could argue that political violence in South Africa is the inevitable blowback from apartheid-that people who have grown up impoverished and hating themselves with no strong social, economic, or political systems to safely channel dissent and disagreement will find it easy to use violence against each other. Even so, political murder is not normal. It is symptomatic of a sick society. The US has tons of problems but we're not yet at the point where it's normal for political party leaders to dispatch hit squads against dissenting members. Nancy Pelosi does not, whatever you might see on Fox News, threaten to murder Representatives who don't vote for her as party leader. Mitch McConnell is not sending goon squads to visit the families of Republican senators/congressmen who didn't vote to repeal ObamaCare. And no matter how much Clinton voters despise third party voters, so far neither Gary Johnson nor Jill Stein has been found in car trunks.

UMZIMKHULU, South Africa — Their fear faded as they raced back home, the bottle of Johnnie Walker getting lighter with each turn of the road. Soon, Sindiso Magaqa was clapping and bouncing behind the wheel of his beloved V8 Mercedes-Benz, pulling into familiar territory just before dark. Minutes later, men closed in with assault rifles. Mr. Magaqa reached for the gun under his seat — too late. One of his passengers saw flashes of light, dozens of them, from the spray of bullets pockmarking the doors. The ambush was exactly what Mr. Magaqa had feared. A few months before, a friend had been killed by gunmen in his front yard. Then, as another friend tried to open his front gate at night, a hit man crept out of the dark, shooting him dead.

Next came Mr. Magaqa, 34. Struck half a dozen times, he hung on for weeks in a hospital before dying last year. All of the assassination targets had one thing in common: They were members of the African National Congress who had spoken out against corruption in the party that defined their lives.

Movie Reviews: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Mandy

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
directed by Robert Aldrich
Legendary superstar actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis famously hated each other. Some say both women made romantic moves on the same actor. I've read other claims that the infamously libertine Crawford once made a play for Davis, who declined in insulting terms. 

Other reports say that the fiercely competitive women disliked each other for the usual reasons of money, roles, and prestige. Perhaps Davis saw herself as an actress first and was put off by the more glamorous Crawford. And maybe Crawford and Davis detested one another just because they were so similar. It's not important now. 

It is interesting that in this movie Davis and Crawford found ways to feud and fight with one another, even as both women recognized that this film could be career rejuvenation for them during their struggle to remain commercially relevant in their (very) late middle age. 

Supposedly when Davis' character had to kick and stomp Crawford's character, Davis got some real licks in on her rival. Not to be outdone, when a scene called for Davis' character to lift and drag Crawford's character, Crawford put bricks and other material in her clothes to make herself as heavy as possible, knowing full well that Davis was suffering from lower back problems.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Detroit Squatters Lose A Round

Because many of my older relatives, friends, and people I know in Detroit grew up in racially defined horrible poverty and segregation with plenty of experiences with evictions and racist insults they tend to be, well shall we say, less than sympathetic to incidents where someone is ripping off a landlord. Because Detroit is relatively impoverished with spotty enforcement of criminal and civil codes around housing, health, and waste management many landlords in Detroit have indeed taken the opportunity to screw over tenants and the taxing authorities as often as they can and as hard as they can. 

If you want people to internalize such values as respect for other people's property and paying their bills on time then you need to make sure that they have an opportunity to succeed by doing things the right way. If they are shut out of all opportunity they might not have much respect for your property. It's just human nature.

The answer is not to pick one side or another and blindly cheer them on but to create and follow law that is fair both in its execution and its definition. The landlord must be forced to maintain the property and submit to routine unbiased inspections to make sure the property is up to code. The tenant must pay their rent on time and in full. The tenant must have a financial incentive not to wreck or damage the property during the rental period. Pretty simple stuff right? The tenant and landlord have entered into a contract. The state needs to enforce that contract. Both sides should give each other incentives to treat each other well. Win-win for everyone. 

Black Uber Driver Threatened at Gunpoint

As discussed ad nauseam one of the bad things about being black in a society that runs on the idea of white supremacy is that not only the police but everyday whites feel entitled to question or to reject black presence in what the white person considers to be a "white" space or at least the "wrong" space for that black person to be occupying. This can be something minor such a secretary mistaking the new black manager for custodial help, something major like a self-appointed neighborhood watchman murdering a black teen and everything in between. 

There is evidence that the resulting continual lifetime "fight or flight" response is not good for black people. This response may be implicated in everything from higher rates of hypertension to higher infant and birth mother mortality rates to higher rates of strokes and cardiac arrest. In short it's not healthy to be stressed out and under attack all the time.

There was recently another reminder of how when information is processed through a racist mindset even the most innocuous behavior becomes life threatening. This incident also displayed how some whites do not view blacks as adults worthy of the respect granted to adults.

MILWAUKEE —An Uber driver says someone pointed a gun in his face in Milwaukee on Saturday, but it wasn't a robbery. He captured the encounter on video and said it's a symptom of Wisconsin's concealed carry law. In the video, a man is seen with a large, silver gun as Uber driver Darnell Smith records the confrontation near 40th Street and Mill Road early Saturday. "Just because you have a conceal and carry license doesn't mean pull your gun out if you think something is happening," Smith said.

Republican Tax Cut Doesn't Work: Republicans Threaten Social Security

The problem with voting is that there are a lot of stupid, gullible, or downright hateful people who vote. Their vote counts just as much as yours does or mine does. To be fair they may very well think of me or you in the same terms which I just used to describe them. That's politics. That's never going to change. If we accept that every citizen has a right to vote and pursue his or her own interests as he or she defines them then we also must accept that sometimes people will make objectively sub-optimal decisions.

This brings us to the impact of the Trump tax cuts. You may recall that the majority of economists across the political spectrum predicted that the tax cuts would not create enough growth to shrink the deficit. The tax cuts would increase the deficit. And just about every economist or political theorist on what's rather broadly defined as the left, argued that that once the increased deficit became obvious Republicans would smartly pivot and without missing a beat argue that programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security had to be cut in order to bring down the deficit. 

Republicans would weep copious crocodile tears as they congratulated themselves on their willingness to cut benefits to people who weren't invited to the tax cut party in the first place. It's classic bait and switch. It's one of the oldest cons in the book. With ever increasing frustration Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has been warning about the tax-cut/deficit con and predicting the Republican response since before the tax cut became law. This isn't new. It's what Republicans do-or at least what the upper class/business class Republicans do. The middle-class/lower-class Republicans aren't necessarily supporting the party for its dedication to cutting taxes and slashing social programs (at least those used by whites) so much as they are supporting the party for racial and cultural resentments. 

Book Reviews: Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties
by Stephen King and Owen King
This is a doorstopper of a novel that is just under seven hundred pages. I'm not sure it needed to be that long. It starts quickly but sags a little in the middle. You can make up your own mind about the ending. It is of course a collaboration between Stephen King and his son Owen King. I could not tell which man wrote which part. Obviously the talent runs in the family. It's a good story. It imagines a dystopia in which half the human population goes to sleep and doesn't wake up. Like all good dystopic fiction the authors are using their fictional creation to make some points about real life current human behavior.

The book was dedicated to the memory of Sandra Bland, which in some respects shows the reader what points the authors are trying to make. I occasionally thought that some points were a little heavy handed. An older woman I know thought that both Kings missed some rather obvious points about female existence, perspective and desire because they were men. Hmm. I don't know about that. Some writers can very easily create realistic characters that differ from their own particular nationality/gender/race/sexuality/etc combination. After all some would argue, and Stephen King would definitely be among them, that such creative imagination and journeying  is the entire point of writing. No writer should limit himself or herself to barely disguised author avatars. I didn't find the female characters here, unrealistic. But I am not a woman. Women may feel differently.

There have always been strains of frustration that each gender shows with the other. Currently we're seeing some female supremacism and chauvinism leak through in the #metoo and #timesup or #futureisfemale hashtags. One could argue that this is all just a reaction to a long history of male chauvinism and supremacism that in "Western" culture goes at least as far back as the Biblical Creation story in which Adam, being queried about God about why Adam ate the forbidden fruit, turns around and tells God that it was the woman God gave him who gave him the forbidden fruit (So hey like don't blame me dude, it was all her fault). 

Woman's Emotional Support Squirrel Delays Flight

I love animals, well pets anyway. I admire some wild animals, especially wolves. I abhor hunting and/or people who kill animals for fun. I don't view animals as assets to be cancelled when they cost too much. Down south I certainly wasn't the fellow tasked with taking the old faithful dog behind the shed and dispatching it with a mercy shot. Not me. But I still maintain that there is a qualitative difference, both moral and physical, between animals and humans. Humans shouldn't be needlessly cruel towards animals. Humans should accept that animals are not human. I love my dog. But my dog is a dog. It is not a human. Not every space is appropriate for a dog. Dogs possess viruses, parasites, and bacteria that are best left to dogs, not humans. Even the best behaved dog has some pretty nasty habits by human standards. 

I am generally skeptical of people claiming that they need emotional support animals at all times. I accept there might be a few children with serious medical issues who get some advantage from constantly having their animal around them. With a few exceptions I think that most adults who claim to need an emotional support animal would do better with a kick in the butt. And I feel that way about grown people who say that their dog is an emotional support animal. When it comes to adults arguing that their squirrel (!) is an emotional support animal, I have no sympathy. I don't want to be around rodents. And a squirrel, despite its fluffy tail and good pr, is a rodent. It's a rat with a press agent. So no, don't come to my house claiming that you just can't bear to be without your pet squirrel. That's nasty. I won't let you enter. Frontier Airlines apparently feels the same way. 

The woman who was escorted off her Frontier Airlines flight Tuesday after bringing her emotional support squirrel on board is speaking out against the airline. Cindy Torok told FOX 8 News Wednesday that she called the airline ahead of time to get clearance and even made it through TSA with her 11-week-old squirrel, Daisy, before the airline forced her to leave the plane. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Should We Abolish ICE?

Even before the Trump directed zero tolerance illegal immigration policy in which every person who unlawfully entered the United States would theoretically face prosecution, some people, usually those who were sympathetic to illegal immigrants or illegal immigrants themselves were calling for the elimination of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In terms of immigration law, ICE's primary responsibility is interior enforcement. 

But with Trump's cruel misstep and resulting horrible images of desperate parents separated from their children more and more people have called for the abolition of ICE. Luminaries such as Keith Ellison, Pramila Jayapal, and Mark Pocan, presumptive US Representative to be, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kirsten Gillibrand, and NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio have all recommended eliminating ICE.  

Some politicians, intellectuals, and activists have been coy about what they see as ICE's replacement. Others are pretty straightforward that they don't want to deport anyone. Not One More Deportation is what they believe. So they don't want a replacement for ICE. Some people claim that they don't believe in borders. They argue that citizenship is an unfair caste system that should be eliminated. They say that because the United States was born in conquest and genocide, the US has no right to restrict entry for anyone. I don't believe that everyone clamoring to abolish ICE has thought everything through. Some politicians who scream the loudest about abolishing ICE don't want to actually vote to do so.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Movie Reviews: Game Night

Game Night
directed by John Daley and Jonathan Goldstein
This black comedy is in some ways an extended riff on some classic Three Stooges comedy routines (mostly lacking the slapstick) in which the protagonists are either mistaken for someone else or enter an arena or game under mistaken pretenses. The Three Stooges weren't the first or last to use this trope. They may not even have been the best to use such routines. They just happen to have been the first people I saw use the routine. So they were the first to come to mind. You may recall several other movies or books which use this theme. It's not as easy to pull off as it looks. 

For this to work over the entire running time of a feature length film, you need to believe that the protagonists aren't utter morons. That's boring. Rather the heroes and heroines are just fish out of water. Some of them will be quicker on the uptake than others of course. Much like the similar walk on the wild side comedy, The House, Game Night invites the viewer, who presumably doesn't have lots of experience with shady activities, to imagine himself or herself thrust into some dodgy situations with some had hombres. Unlike The House, Game Night was consistently funny without much grossout humor.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Stephen Colbert is a Tolkien Nerd

I don't watch a lot of television so I didn't know that Stephen Colbert was a fan of Chance the rapper, Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Good man. You really should read The Silmarillion if you have the time. There's a lot of good stories contained within, including a fictionalized reworking of how Tolkien met and fell in love with his wife.


Serena Williams and US Open

Serena Williams lost the US Open Championship Finals to Naomi Osaka. During this tennis match, Williams threw a temper tantrum and didn't reign it in until the umpire, Carlos Ramos, docked her a game. Osaka was already ahead of Williams. Osaka was probably going to win the tennis match anyway. It wasn't the first time that Osaka had beaten Williams. And it probably won't be the last. Although Williams can claim to be the best female tennis player ever, her career is winding down. Williams is in her late thirties. Osaka is about to turn twenty-one. There aren't any physically demanding sports where the older person routinely beats the younger one. It's just the way things are. Eventually the body can't do what the mind demands. In time, even the mind can lose some competitive hunger. Winter is coming for us all. Father Time is undefeated.

I don't avidly follow women's tennis but I have noticed that Williams' crackups usually occur when she is losing. Athletes such as Michael Jordan, John McEnroe, George Brett, Muhammad Ali, and other champions were often abrasive or even abusive to umpires, judges, referees, sparring partners, or teammates. There is a train of thought that says "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser." The intensity which has allowed Williams to dominate her sport for the better part of two decades is the same intensity that causes her to hurl insults at or make threats against umpires and line judges. I doubt that she can turn that off.

So I was nonplussed by Williams' tirade. The only thing which annoyed me is that rather than make the normal semi-apology "I had a bad day/I lost it/I don't want to talk about it/Just one of those things" which most athletes make once they cool down, Williams doesn't appear to think she did anything wrong. Williams made the claim that the umpire was picking on her because she was a woman. Well that's not the case. Here's what happened. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Movie Reviews: Creed

directed by Ryan Coogler
I suppose you could call this Rocky 7 or Rocky The Next Generation. It's a continuation of the Rocky story as well as a spin off of that series and beginning of a new story. I didn't see this for the longest time for whatever reason but recently decided to check out on the advice of my brother. Creed is a really good movie. Surprisingly good, actually. Before I mention anything else most of the Rocky movies were if anything incredibly unrealistic in their fight scenes.

People took WAY too many shots to the head-not just jabs either but tons of overhands and crosses. While that might have been the expectation were a trained boxer to fight someone untrained, if you've ever watched real boxing matches between equally competent people who know what they're doing, the matches usually don't look like that. Or rather they don't look like that until someone gets tired and either gets beat or starts taking too many chances. The fighters as imagined in the prior Rocky movies would have had to be superhuman to get hit in the face that many times. The results were entertaining but often cartoonish. The fight cinematography in Creed is as close to the real thing as I've ever seen in a boxing movie.

Everyone moves like real boxers, perhaps in part because many of the actors were indeed professional boxers. As a result it was easier for me to lose myself in the story.  Former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) one time Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) rival and later good friend died in the boxing ring fighting Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.