Friday, March 29, 2019

The Mueller Report: Now What?

For almost the entire past two years most of the media and many elected Democrats were on the verge of orgasm about the imminent release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, telling anyone who would listen or watch that this report would prove that President Trump and/or his campaign colluded with Russian individuals in and out of government in order to defeat Hillary Clinton and steal the 2016 election. 

MSNBC led the charge, with virtually all of its analysis or news programs being devoted to breathlessly listing everything they thought Mueller must have been doing. "Sources say this" or "Reports claim that" were the most common phrases heard on these programs as DC insiders and parasites competed to show us how much they were in the know. The media told us that Mueller was beyond reproach. His conclusions must be trusted, the media told us. The media invited a number of former intelligence industry personnel, people known to be well, liars, to tell us what they thought Mueller was going to find.To a man or woman, they were all certain that Mueller was going to finally get the goods on the treasonous Trump. 

Dissidents from this narrative were not welcomed in the media, particularly not on MSNBC.  In fact anyone who had questions was dismissed as a Russian useful idiot, a bot, or worse a Russian sympathizer. Well as it turns out Mueller released his report, though it has not yet been made public. But we do know that Mueller isn't going to be seeking any more indictments, most especially not any indictments against President Trump and his family. According to Attorney General Barr:

Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated” with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 elections, according to Attorney General William Barr’s summary to Congress delivered Sunday.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Book Reviews: Man Eater

Man Eater
by Gar Anthony Haywood
This book is seemingly written deliberately to be very similar to Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard, screwcap films by Preston Sturges, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and perhaps most of all to Everybody Smokes in Hell by John Ridley. As many of the #metoo, Sony hack and related allegations and revelations have shown Hollywood can be an amoral, even immoral cutthroat environment where everyone is out to get over on everybody else and maybe get laid in the process. 

Like the stories referenced, Man Eater posits that the streets and their twisted tenets of respect, honor and vengeance really aren't all that different from Hollywood. The stakes are higher in the streets perhaps but it's really the same game.

Ronnie Deal is a mid level project executive for a Hollywood studio. She has a secret past which she doesn't share with anyone, least of all her insincere female boss and a male peer who's trying to prevent Ronnie from moving up the ladder by any means necessary. Ronnie is also stunningly attractive, something which she cynically uses when she thinks it's necessary.

Having been temporarily embarrassed and outmaneuvered by her aforementioned male rival, causing her to lose a movie deal, Ronnie travels to a bar after work to stew over the insults and general sexism of the world. She's in no mood then, to watch quietly as a intimidating muscular man named Neon Polk starts to harass and assault a tiny woman named Antsy Carruth. Surprising herself with her aggression and fearlessness, Ronnie decides to strike one for the sisterhood by sucker punching Neon upside the head with a beer bottle and doing a Texas two step on his face. Both women flee.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Democrats, Heartland Cities, and Monopoly Capitalism

The 2016 Presidential election still vexes Democrats. Few pundits thought that Trump could win. Most experts argued that not only would the electoral "blue wall" of upper Midwest states prevent a Trump victory but also buoyed by demographic change as well as gender solidarity, Clinton would win in states that had long been Republican leaning-i.e. Georgia, Texas, Arizona and North Carolina.

We know what happened. Clinton won the popular vote but lost the election. Trump became President. Some Democrats still blame Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders. Others blame Russians. And so on. Democrats blame a number of people or events besides Clinton for Trump's victory. But lately more people want to blame the country's political institutions and rules: the Senate, the Electoral college, the voting age, separate state elections, etc. As discussed before some people are furious that Wyoming and California have the same number of Senators. They're irked that running up the popular vote count in one state (as Clinton did in California and New York) is not helpful to winning the Presidential election. Some Democrats want to make the Senate representation proportional by population (if not jettison it entirely), and eliminate the Electoral College. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

More Flat Earth Dummies

It remains a source of amazement and amusement to me that some people still believe that the earth is flat. From what I can tell this is only a very small minority of folks. Some of them are obvious trolls. Others believe everything is a conspiracy. Still others are just low IQ people with an extremely limited grasp of science and logic. Some think that being contrary by definition means being smart. 

Others flatter themselves that they're just smarter than everyone else. And some are people who reject all science, logic and math as Eurocentric and thus by definition untrue and racist. So it goes. But it's funny to me that when the evidence conclusively disproves the flat earth theory, flat earth adherents drop the evidence and not the theory. 

In what may be one of the most satisfying TV moments we can recall, a group of conspiracy theorists have accidentally spent thousands of dollars to prove that yes, actually, the Earth is round.
The scene in a new Netflix documentary called Behind the Curve, which follows a group of Flat Earthers, a "small but growing contingent of people who firmly believe in a conspiracy to suppress the truth that the Earth is flat".

One of those Flat Earthers is Bob Knodel, who hosts a YouTube channel entirely dedicated to the theory and who is one of the team relying on a $20,000 laser gyroscope to prove the Earth doesn't actually rotate. Except... It does. 

Andre Williams Passes Away

I wrote before about Andre Williams here. He was one of the last of the old time rock-n-rollers/R&B giants. He just passed away at 82. If you happen to like old school R&B/jump blues/rock-n-roll and don't mind an occasional little lyrical smuttiness/nastiness in music then you might want to give his music a listen. 

As people have pointed out the Good Lord wouldn't have given you a tail feather in the first place if He didn't want you to shake it from time to time. RIP to a Detroit musical giant and one of the dirtiest old men who ever walked the planet. Andre Williams, who carved out a place in the 1950s rhythm-and-blues scene with earthy songs distinctively delivered, then fell on hard times as a result of addiction before enjoying a late-career resurgence, died on Sunday in Chicago. He was 82.

His son Derrick Williams said the cause was cancer.
In a decade when mainstream white audiences were watching “Father Knows Best” on television, Mr. Williams was recording provocative songs like “Jail Bait” (1957), a sly warning to men inclined to date teenage girls. It ends with a narrator pleading with a judge for leniency and promising to abandon his lecherous ways:
I ain’t gonna bother none 15,
I ain’t gonna bother none 16,
I ain’t gonna bother none 17,
I ain’t gonna mess with none 18,
I’m gonna leave them 20-year-old ones alone too,
Gonna get me a girl about 42.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Movie Reviews: Never Grow Old

Never Grow Old
directed by Ivan Kavanaugh
This was a chilling Western with both classic and revisionist themes.

It is sobering to grow older and see actors of your generation who once played sarcastic teens move to playing alienated young men then change to playing pudgy middle aged dads. In another ten years or so they'll be playing grandfathers. So it goes. Time waits for no one.

There are some cultures that and some people who consider a stranger mentioning a man's wife to be a faux pas at best and an intolerable insult or threat at worst. Although we now tend to view such interactions thru feminist eyes and claim that such negative responses are bad because they imply that the wife is her husband's property, the point remains that in certain charged circumstances or situations asking "innocently" after the well being or presence of a man's wife or other female relative is indeed meant and understood as a serious insult or deadly threat.

It's no different from the classic mob hoodlum telling the bar owner that he has a beautiful establishment and that it would be a shame if something happened to it. In this movie, a dark-both visually and morally- Western that attempts some modern revisionist surgery on classic Western themes while also upholding them, the bad guy Dutch Albert (John Cusack) is introduced in a late night encounter at the protagonist's home. 

Grand Rapids Police and Teens

I've written about how I am not overly fond of police. In my experience and those of many people I know, police tend to be overly aggressive with black people, particularly with black males of any age. Police actions cause fear, contempt, and hatred.

I think that police too often reflexively choose the harshest penalties when interacting with black people: racial insults, unnecessary searches, use of force, citations and tickets when a similarly situated white person gets assistance or maybe a warning, etc. All that said I've also written about how irritating I find it to have people (usually teens) walking in the middle of the street. The sidewalk is for walking. The street is for driving. I don't drive on the sidewalk and have the audacity to get upset when someone says that the action is wrong.

So before watching this video I was all set to blast the cops but afterwards I don't see what the police did wrong. The police officer could have stayed in his car and drove on, but that's similar to saying the police don't need to pull over a highway speeder who has slowed down. Most of the times they don't. But every so often they do. In and of itself that is not a crime. Unless you are ready to hold court in the street and kill or die, you won't win confrontations with police. If the police order is legal, most people will end up complying with it, willingly or not. If the police are committing a crime, then I do believe that we have the right to refuse the illegal order and defend ourselves. But that's not what the below video shows. The orders were legal. Few cops will let a citizen ignore them and walk away from a legal detention. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

President Trump and The Pimp

In all likelihood, President Trump's immigrant grandfather Frederick Trump, was among other things a brothel owner or to put it less delicately a pimp.

In 1891, Trump moved to Seattle, in the newly admitted U.S. state of Washington. With his life savings of several hundred dollars, he bought the Poodle Dog, which he renamed the Dairy Restaurant, and supplied it with new tables, chairs, and a range.[2] Located at 208 Washington Street, the Dairy Restaurant was in the middle of Seattle's Red Light District; Washington Street was nicknamed "the Line" and included an assortment of saloons, casinos, and brothels. Biographer Gwenda Blair called it "a hotbed of sex, booze, and money, [it] was the indisputable center of the action in Seattle."[3]:41 The restaurant served food and liquor and was advertised to include "Rooms for Ladies", a common euphemism for prostitution.[3]:50
So with that background perhaps it is not too surprising that the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, had a Super Bowl party where he posed with one Li "Cindy" Yang, an enterprising "businesswoman" who among other things owns massage parlors and previously owned the day spa where Trump buddy, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly paid women for a "happy ending".

Movie Reviews: Unfriended 2: Dark Web

Unfriended 2: Dark Web
directed by Stephen Susco
This movie is a stand alone sequel that was both intelligent and plausible in how the story is first drawn out and a little dumb in how the character's reactions to danger. The film uses current paranoia over privacy and dangerous sectors of the Internet to create a scary story. 
The vast majority if not all of the film shots are captured through computer or phone screens. With the advent of widespread Internet usage we all have a significant portion of human knowledge, history and experience at our fingertips from the comfort of our home 24-7. The flip side of this is of course that your information and identity can be shared with some amoral or completely immoral actors, corporate or otherwise. Perhaps it's Facebook suggesting that you become friends with people in your company though you have zero desire to have personal relationships with work associates. 

Perhaps you shopped on Amazon and now all the online ads you see are related to that item. Maybe you did your taxes online and your tax preparer or Internet service provider didn't mention a data breach. Five years later you learn that someone has used your SSN to file for unemployment insurance in three different states. You might allow your pre-teen child to use the net completely unsupervised. You later find anonymous inappropriate messages in your child's inbox. There's no end to the possibilities for good or evil posed by the Internet.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Movie Reviews: King of Thieves

King of Thieves
directed by James Marsh
This film was based on a real life heist that I hadn't heard of before. It is a British film that makes absolutely no concessions to American audiences for the differences in accents, cadence, and slang. So the dialogue was occasionally difficult for me to follow. Most of the characters as well as the actors playing them are well into their seventies or eighties. One of the younger men in the group is said to have just turned sixty. These men have all the normal benefits of age- grandchildren and solicitous children or in-laws. 

However they also have all of the normal costs as well. Sex is not really a motivating factor for most of the men any longer. Some of them have permanently lost the interest or ability. Some have diabetes or hearing problems or prostate problems or incontinence issues. Some are widowers. They fall asleep at inopportune times. None of them have the energy or drive that they used to have. 

Although the movie sometimes makes jokes at the mens' expense-one hapless fellow needs to relieve himself so badly that he uses the sink instead of the toilet-much to his friend's disgust- the film doesn't stay on this path. As becomes clear both by exposition as well as the actions of the thieves, these are hard men who've done some hard things in their lives. Some are killers. Some have killed cops. None of them are particularly trustworthy, grandfatherly appearing though they may be. Some are just mean. As their leader reminds them they should have too much pride to ever beg for mercy from the state.

Because the film decided to stick pretty closely to the broad outline of real life events there was not quite the level of violence which I had expected. There are some threats. It might have been a more exciting film had it decided to venture a little more into fiction and add some things to the storyline.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Selfmade Kash Performs Self Own

You know, if you're going to be a criminal it's probably not the smartest thing to do to let everyone know that you're a criminal, brag about your criminal success, offer to teach others how to become successful criminals, and generally do everything just short of leaving a notarized confession of your crimes at the local police station to make sure the police and prosecutors know exactly who, what, when, where and why you've been doing. This kind of extravagant law breaking and taunting tends to annoy and embarrass the local police and prosecutors (especially if you didn't make sure they got their cut); they will go the extra mile to make certain that you are arrested, jailed, prosecuted and convicted. 

The most powerful and successful gangsters are usually the ones you either never heard of or who have everyone scared to say their name. The criminals who last aren't the ones on youtube or Instagram boasting about what they do. It is amazing to me that some people have such massive egos that they would rather let the entire world know of their alleged actions, even if that means they're going to be doing their thing in jail or prison. To this day no one knows who committed the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, who murdered Jimmy Hoffa, or who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp. The people who did those things were smart enough to keep their f****g mouths shut. It remains an open question as to whether rap music causes low IQ or if people with low IQ cause rap music.

Detroit — Federal prosecutors threw shade at a Detroit rapper and self-professed god of credit card fraud Thursday by indicting the man, who fancied jewel-encrusted necklaces made out of credit cards and bragged about his alleged crimes on Instagram. Jonathan Woods, 25, who raps under the nickname “Selfmade Kash,” was charged with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and possession of unauthorized access devices. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Boulder Police Officers Hold Black Man at Gunpoint For Cleaning His Own Property

Police detained a black Colorado man who was picking up trash outside his own home. A Boulder police officer questioned the man after spotting him Friday morning picking up trash with a clamper in a partially enclosed patio behind a “private property” sign, and he asked whether the man was authorized to be there, reported The Daily Camera.

The man, whose identity has not been released, told the officer he lived and worked in the building, and presented his school identification card, but the officer detained him for further investigation and called for additional assistance, saying the man was uncooperative. A roommate began recording the encounter, and video posted online shows the man trying to explain that he lives in the building and did not have a weapon.

“You’re on my property with a gun in your hand, threatening to shoot me, because I’m picking up trash,” the man says. “I don’t have a weapon! This is a bucket, this is a clamp.”
“I’m not sitting down and you can’t make me,” the man says as additional officers arrive. “This is my property, this is my house — I live here.”

These incidents are exactly the sort of thing that made the Black Panthers form in the first place. They are excellent example of how racism works. A  racist white person sees a black person and immediately assumes that the black person is up to no good. The white person then initiates force against the black person while also assuming that the black person is dangerous and has a weapon. Racism warps the mind so badly that items like cell phones, wallets, keys, skittle bags, or garbage-pickers are transmogrified into guns. And what happens when racist whites see a black man with a gun? Well, often this sort of incident ends with the black person being beaten or shot. Perhaps the only thing that prevented that in this case was the cops' knowledge that another white person was filming them.

Movie Reviews: The Glass Wall

The Glass Wall
directed by Maxwell Shane
This is a 1953 black-and-white drama that might be considered a film noir in some circles. I didn't see that though. It has the look of many noir films but I'm not sure the story quite meets that criteria. It is far more of a very important message film than a noir, not that those two categories are mutually exclusive. It is something that would with some appropriate nationality changes to characters and an even more in your face approach likely resonate well with about half of American viewers were the film remade today. 

Although the message is not always subtle because the director beats the viewer over the head with it near the film's end, the film still has enough drama and excitement to pull the viewer in no matter his views on nationalization, immigration and following the letter of the law. There is always a tension between doing the right thing and doing the legal thing. And survival can make people not care about doing what's right. And the question of who gets to be an American is as important today as it was in 1953. 

The film's cinematography showing New York City at night is intoxicating. It reminded me of why NYC might be a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. NYC has so many people that if it were a state of its own it would be the 12th most populated state. I couldn't tolerate being around that many people day in and day out. Shane uses the constant throng of people to show how even among millions we can be set apart and made to feel alone. As with many films of this time it is sobering to look back and see how skinny Americans used to be. The people considered "fat" in this movie would be considered average today. As a nation we really need to drop some pounds.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Movie Reviews: The Hole in the Ground

The Hole in the Ground
directed by Lee Cronin
This is an intelligent Irish horror movie. Well maybe it's not as smart as it thinks it is, but it does manage to convey thrills, chills and excitement without gratuitous bloodshed or bared mammary glands which are normally de rigueur for these types of films. It doesn't reach the heights of Hereditary, perhaps because the story has been told so very many times before. And the ending is well, somewhat cliche ridden. But nevertheless I always appreciate films that can tell a story without automatically sinking to the lowest common denominator. 

I suppose you might make an argument that the film , although it has obvious connections to movies such as The Omen, The ShiningRosemary's Baby, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is also a metaphor for domestic violence. We are at our most vulnerable behind closed doors with those whom we love and think that we know. But what if you discover that your loved one is not the person you thought they were. That can be a very scary thing, no? Sometimes people find that out too late.  

Some people cross a previously unknown line and trigger a harsh unpleasant response from their spouse. Or you might realize that your spouse or significant other has an entirely different world view, one which is utterly inimical to yours. Your spouse might have been just faking to get something from you. But their true beliefs or behavior patterns frighten you. If you tell other people that your special rider has some issues no one believes you because with everyone else that person is polite, helpful and well behaved. In fact, anticipating just such a response from you, an abuser could have told and convinced all of your friends and family that it's you who have the problem, not him or her.

An abusive spouse can be practiced in making the target of his or her hatred not believe what they are seeing. And when the mask drops, the person who is being abused may be so frightened that they will do whatever they are told to do, just to get a semblance of normalcy again.  Food for thought I guess. 

HBO Game of Thrones Final Season: Lannisters, Greyjoys, and Tyrells

Damn It Feels Good to Be a Lannister
HBO's Game of Thrones series, adapted from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire starts its final season on April 14th. The initial antagonist family pitted against the proud but sternly moralistic Starks was the sybaritic and equally proud but more numerous and far more vindictive Lannisters. Rich as a Lannister, A Lannister always pays his debts, and Hear Me Roar were just a few of the sayings associated with the Lannisters, who maintained firm control over the Westerlands and successfully made a power move on the Iron Throne, cuckolding the Baratheon King and arranging his death. 

The noble but hapless Ned Stark failed to prevent this. After all of the wars, murders, attempted murders, backstabbing, taboo breaking betrayals, intra-family squabbling and patricide, a Lannister still sits on the Iron Throne.  Utterly pragmatic Lannisters will use any tool to win-force, lies, money, treachery. Just win.

As it turns out the Iron Throne may not be worth anything because Winter Is Coming And This Time We Really Mean It but Cersei Lannister has never been known for her ability to let go of old resentments. Nursing resentments is after all a Lannister family trait.  Cersei may be a mean drunk, not as intelligent as she thinks, and a nasty brother-f****r but she does seem to have learned something from having been previously outsmarted by the High Sparrow and her little brother Tyrion. In the last season it was Cersei who outplayed Tyrion, despite having a objectively weaker position during Daenerys' return.

House Lannister is hanging onto power by a thread but as Cersei Lannister patiently explained to both Ned Stark and Littlefinger, maintaining power is the entire point of her existence. Either you have it or you don't. So where does House Lannister stand as the end game begins?

HBO Game of Thrones Final Season Trailer #1

April 14th. Be there or be square dudes and dudettes!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Women File Class Action Lawsuit Against Yale and Fraternities

I think that many reactionary rants against today's litigious society are often veiled attempts to defend someone doing wrong. If a corporation is price gouging for insulin or deliberately selling bad meat to an unsuspecting public then the courts and lawyers absolutely have a role to play. 

But there are some complaints and conflicts where I believe that the courts and lawyers and state should stay out. If a man attends a "gentlemen's club" of his own free will it is ridiculous for the man to turn around and sue the club for sexual harassment because young women lacking clothes displayed themselves to him. That's the point of such clubs. It would also be a reach for the man to sue the city where the club was located for allowing this supposed sexual harassment. And it would seem unbelievable for the man to claim that the club was the only social venue in town and thus he had no choice but to go to the club.

And yet something very similar is happening at Yale.

Three Yale students who claim they were groped at fraternity parties have filed a class-action lawsuit against the university, arguing the school has fostered an environment where alcohol-fueled gatherings at off-campus fraternity houses dictate the undergraduate social scene.

While the New Haven, Conn., university presents itself as a campus where fraternities are not a major presence, the lawsuit states that few options besides fraternity parties exist for women who want to socialize and meet other students. Joan Gilbride, a lawyer for the fraternities named in the lawsuit, said the accusations are “baseless and unfounded,” and that the fraternities and their national organizations would vigorously defend themselves against the claims.