Showing posts with label Shady_Grady. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shady_Grady. Show all posts

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book Reviews: Agincourt

by Bernard Cornwall
Which one of you SOB's is ready to do some man's work today? Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!
In 1066 when William of Normandy invaded England, defeated its Saxon king and took the English crown, subduing the Britons and Anglo-Saxons, he did not give up his lands in France, or more precisely Normandy. His descendants were just as aggressive, at one point ruling just over half of what is today modern day France, though technically they were still considered vassals of the French King. This Norman-English presence grated on continental French sensibilities and noble interests. The French began a long campaign to reduce English suzerainty in France, peacefully if possible, violently if not. 

In the 14th century a particularly complex chain of events left the English King with arguably the best claim to the French throne. As a result, long simmering national and dynastic tensions boiled over into the war we know as the Hundred Years War.

Although ultimately the French would triumph, ending English claims to French lands or thrones, the English won many of the war's best known battles. Perhaps it's because the English were more adept propagandists (The Battle of Agincourt was memorialized by Shakespeare in "Henry V") and because we speak English that we know more of the English victories and not their final defeat. Overall the Hundred Years War helped to speed the transition of England and France from feudal territories into nation states. It was also a precursor to the English War of Roses but that's another post.

The Battle of Agincourt was an English high point. An English army of  about 6000 sick and half starving men soundly thrashed a French army at least three times its size. Some people claimed the English were outnumbered by as many as five or six to one. Whatever the numbers were, contemporary chroniclers were shocked by the English victory. In this older book Bernard Cornwell takes the reader on an exciting and apparently realistic excursion into 15th century morals, ethics, hygiene, and warfare.

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.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Illegal Immigration and Discrimination Against Black Americans

With Donald Trump's election there has been a sharp shift in interior and border enforcement against unlawfully resident foreign nationals (illegal immigrants). Per Trump's directives, most of the people detained so far by ICE have been people with felony records and/or previously existing orders of removal. Many people, American or not, fiercely oppose the new Administration's policy changes. Some folks demand that there be not a single more deportation. Others have dropped their pretenses and now insist that the US have open borders. Scarcely a day goes by without one of the major newspapers of record (New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, etc) featuring a story, editorial or column decrying the possible removal of illegal immigrants. Some people have drawn analogies between deportations and the US enslavement of Africans or the Holocaust. There have been multiple demonstrations and even a few disturbances here or there. But many people have overlooked the impact that illegal immigration can have on American citizens. This is a story from December of 2016 but it's still quite timely in my view. 

A group of African-American men filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Chicago federal court alleging systematic discrimination by a temporary staffing agency and several of its clients they say passed over black applicants in favor of Hispanic workers. The alleged discrimination took place at MVP Staffing's Cicero branch office, which the lawsuit claims was directed by clients not to send African-American workers to their companies for assignments.
Those wishes allegedly were communicated using code words, according to testimony from former dispatchers and on-site representatives given in prior cases and attached to the filing as evidence. For example, according to the lawsuit, "guapos," which translates to pretty boys, would be used to refer to African-Americans to suggest they don't want to do dirty work. The terms "feos" (translated to mean "dirty ones")," "bilingues" (bilinguals) and "los que escuchan La Ley" (referring to people who listen to Spanish-language radio station La Ley) were used to refer to Hispanic laborers, the lawsuit alleges.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Gigi Datome Has Dunk Blocked By The Backboard

Professional basketball player Luigi "Gigi" Datome is an Italian player who had a brief stint in the NBA playing for the Detroit Pistons and later the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately for Gigi it soon became apparent to the decision makers in the NBA that Gigi, smooth as he might have looked in the European leagues, was truly not ready to compete with the men of the NBA. He lacked the speed and strength to keep up defensively. Unforgivably, against tougher competition with the pressure on, Gigi turned out not to be the deadly three point shooter which he had been marketed as being. Like many players stuck on the far end of the bench Gigi became something of a crowd favorite during his short time in the NBA. I still like to think that he could, in the right situation, offer something to a few teams. But that's neither here nor there. Gigi returned, not so triumphantly I suppose, to European basketball where he resumed being a key member of championship caliber teams. Recently however Gigi showed why as far as the NBA was concerned his presence wasn't missed. Gigi took off for a baseline dunk ala Wilkens/Jordan/Dr. J but somehow managed to have his shot blocked by the backboard. One minute you're in the NBA. The next minute you're the poster child for "Don't try this at home kids" public service announcements. So it goes.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Black Woman in Texas Brutalized By Police

I don't really know what to say about this story which recently took place in Forth Worth Texas. A white police officer insulted and arrested a black mother who was trying to make a complaint that a white man had assaulted her seven year old child. This story is a poignant example of white supremacy. This is really no different than what would have taken place in 1925. The only difference is that in 1925 no black person in Texas would have been under the slightest illusion that the police were obligated to respond to their calls for assistance and/or possibly arrest a white assailant. We've talked incessantly about retraining police or protesting or making police live in the areas they serve or hiring more black police or demilitarizing the police or having civilian review boards or so forth and so on. Those are all good ideas as far as they go but as we saw with the Michael Slager mistrial in South Carolina none of things mean a goddamn thing if the jury pool refuses to convict. And while convicting a truly guilty cop for abusing or killing a citizen is of course a good thing, it's infinitely better for the citizen not to be abused or killed by cops in the first place. As cops justifiably have no fear of sanctions for bad behavior from the justice system or their departments or their unions the only thing that will give bad police pause from committing wrongs upon citizens is if citizens start shooting them in the head. It is not normal for anyone to expect that American citizens should tolerate this sort of thing.This country was born in violent revolution from outrage over much lighter offenses.Other revolutions have started from anger over police brutality. The system has failed. 

Movie Reviews: Suicide Squad, Train to Busan

Suicide Squad
directed by David Ayer
I had heard wildly different things about this film, which is based on a DC comic book team of antiheroes. Some people claimed that it was overwrought, poorly written and incoherent. Other people claimed it was pretty good. Still others stated that it was sexist, racist, and any other "ist". After watching it I can safely say yes to all of those claims. It wasn't anywhere near as bad as some people said it was. On the other hand it isn't the "serious" work that The Dark Knight was. I was never a huge DC comics fan so I didn't go into this movie with any familiarity with the characters. If you were a DC fanboy sitting down to critique this film I can certainly understand how you might have looked askance at the page to screen translations. As I wasn't a DC fanboy all of that baggage went right over my head. I didn't have the massive expectations I would have had if I were a fan of the comic book.  I'll have to check with my brother, who has an encyclopedic knowledge all all things comic related, to see what he thought of the adaptations. I was also interested in watching the movie because it was done by the same director who helmed End of Watch, Sabotage and Fury. The film reunited Will Smith and Margot Robbie who had pretty good chemistry in Focus. And it featured a bravura performance by Jared Leto which seems to have been severely and choppily edited. For what it's worth I liked this movie a little better than the last Captain America movie. That may not be saying all that much but Suicide Squad is fun to watch, regardless of some of the logical and moral inconsistencies.

Rudyard Kipling: The Stranger

The British intellectual and Nobel Prize in Literature winner Rudyard Kipling for most of his life was an unabashed pro-imperialist and pro-colonialist who apparently never really gave serious thought to the idea that people, especially non-white people, shouldn't be ruled by their betters, by which he usually meant English whites or at least whites of Anglo-Saxon stock. Kipling had little confidence in the abilities of people outside of that group to rule themselves. He extended this skepticism to the Irish, being an ardent foe of Irish home rule. Kipling justified British rule over the Irish by using the same tropes and dodges that Europeans used to justify their rule over Asians and Africans. It was only later in life after his son was killed in WWI that Kipling may have begun to rethink some of his more jingoistic views.Even though Kipling was criticized in his time and ours for some of his more reactionary ideas, few people ever questioned his literary talent or his devotion to his country. The recent terrorist incidents in Germany, France, Belgium, the UK and elsewhere in Europe which were primarily committed by recently arrived non-Europeans reminded me of Kipling's poem "The Stranger". It's Kipling at his most nationalistic. I'm not a huge fan of this poem. It has a smug tone. All the same regardless of whether you think this piece is a stirring paean to nationalism or an ugly screed to race hatred I think it's important to realize that nationalism and its uglier cousins of xenophobia and racism aren't going away anytime soon. "The Stranger" touches something real in this world. Nationalism isn't automatically an evil thing. There are limits to how many immigrants any country can accept, particularly if the cultures of the immigrant and his destination country are very different. This is especially the case in Europe, where most of the countries have been ethnic homelands of one kind or another instead of open source states like the USA. Theoretically anyone on the planet can become an American. That has never been the case with most other countries. To be a German or an Ethiopian is a statement of bloodlines and ethnicity just as much as it is a statement of geographic origin. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

TSA Body Searches Angela Rye

People say that President-Elect Donald Trump will usher in a new era of fascism and lack of respect for rights. And perhaps he will. A man who has said that he will order torture of terrorism suspects, asks why we can't kill the family of terrorism suspects, refuses to admit that the Central Park Five were innocent and speaks approvingly of national stop-n-frisk, no doubt limited to majority Black areas, is not a man who has any great love for individual rights. I don't dispute that. My only issue with those who are suddenly discovering a fervent post-November 8th love for civil liberties is that right now, today, we are living in a country where there is less and less institutional and popular respect for or understanding of civil liberties. And this is happening under a Democratic Presidential administration headed by a former constitutional law professor. People worry about "normalizing" Trump. We have already normalized prison procedures for the entire dammed population that intends to travel by airplane. Like everyone else I have loved ones who I hope live to be as old as Methuselah. I don't want them harmed or killed by some religious nut who thinks God told him to blow up an airplane. But I also don't want them cavity searched by some bully with a badge who literally gets off on humiliating and searching people. I don't want people with "incorrect" political views harassed under color of law. As I wrote about a similar incident around airplane safety I definitely want some level of confidence that the people sitting next to me or mine on a plane have gone through the same boarding procedure as everyone else. But I would question if that procedure needs to include the touching of anyone's reproductive/excretory organs. There has to be a better way of doing this. But if I have to choose between liberty and safety I'm going to choose liberty. 

Godfather Two: Who Opened The Drapes?

In the movie Godfather 2 after a long day of business Michael Corleone finally returns home to his wife and children. Michael's wife Kay has already gone to bed but was either not completely asleep yet or had awoken upon Michael's return. The lamp by the bed was still on. As Michael looks at a picture that his son drew for him his wife Kay looks at him with love but then curiously asks why are the drapes in the bedroom window open. Michael looks at his wife and then looks at the drapes. And he apparently sees the assassins just before they start shooting. He hits the floor and crawls over to throw himself on top of Kay until the shooting stops. Now the reason the drapes were open was to give the would be assassins a better shot at Michael. That's pretty obvious.What's not so obvious is who opened the drapes. Kay asks Michael why were the drapes open. This makes sense because, like most women, fictional or real, then and now, Kay was not an exhibitionist. She would undress in front of her husband but not in front of an open window. There's no chance that Kay would have undressed/changed clothes for bed unless she closed the drapes prior to doing so. So that means that when Kay went to bed the drapes were closed. Someone entered Michael's bedroom and opened the drapes.Who did this?

Music Reviews: When The Levee Breaks

Memphis Minnie (1897-1973) and her husband Kansas Joe were the original writers and performers of "When The Levee Breaks". As you might imagine it was about hard times after a flood that occurred near Greenville, Mississippi. Then as now, most of the people who lived closest to the flood plain were poor people. The song lyrics talk about what happens when the titular event occurs and how people have to find work and lodgings elsewhere. Musically it's a surprisingly upbeat song, considering the subject matter. Memphis Minnie was one of the better known pre-WW2 blues guitarists. She was a huge influence, albeit often unacknowledged, on guitarists who came afterwards. Unfortunately by the time that rock-n-roll begin to take off her particular style of blues was considered decidedly old-fashioned. Also her age and health were starting to work against her by the 1950s. So it goes. Even so her biggest hit, the risque "Me and My Chauffeur Blues" was reworked by Chuck Berry into the raunchy rock-n-roll song "I Want To Be Your Driver". It amuses me how both versions of that song allude pretty directly to subject matter that any adult is familiar with while nonetheless avoiding dirty words. Some songwriters today might want to take a note or two. The titular song of this post was later covered by the British rock group Led Zeppelin. I'm not sure if the group originally gave Memphis Minnie credit but certainly modern releases have her name listed as a co-writer. Most people born after 1950 are certainly familiar with the Zeppelin version, as much for John Bonham's brutal bass drum attack if nothing else. That drum sound would later be sampled by Ice-T for his horror rap track "Midnight". It probably shows up in a few other rap songs as well. 

Andre Johnson Gives Back To The Community

We hear a lot about former or current athletes who have lost all their money, abused their wives or girlfriends or otherwise behaved poorly in some way. It's important to remember that just as with any other job, the jerks, dummies and slobs are most likely a minority of the people that you'll meet. One person who is going above and beyond to help people in life is former Houston Texan wide receiver Andre Johnson. It is important to reach out and help those less fortunate than ourselves, especially if they're children. Children don't own responsibility for their situation. You may not have $20,000 to give away but I am sure there are other ways you can give of your time and resources to those who need and appreciate the help. Retired NFL star Andre Johnson holds nearly every Houston Texans receiving record - but for the past nine years, Johnson has fulfilled a very different kind of streak. Come the holiday season, Johnson brings several children from struggling families into a Toys R Us - and tells them to pick out whatever they'd like.

You'd think there would be a spending cap or limited amount of toys the children can take home, but Johnson has only one rule. Kids, ages 5-16, have to fill their shopping carts in 80 seconds (80 was Johnson's jersey number). Not hard to do when you're, you know, a kid in a toy store.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Clinton's Michigan Mistakes

Rubio was a clown. He never could have outfought Hillary. But what I didn't know until this day was that it was Trump all along.
According to one model of human emotional process, there are five stages of grief which we pass through when a great loss occurs. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the more intense Democratic partisans seem to be currently stuck in one of the first two stages. And they don't seem to want to leave those stages any time soon thank you very much. Some Democrats have progressed to the third stage. A tiny number of people are in the fourth stage. But virtually no one has reached the fifth. So it goes. Everyone who voted for Clinton or hoped that she would win will need to deal with Clinton's loss in their own way. In a country where a significant proportion of the conservative voting population dealt with the eight year reality of a black President by insisting contrary to all evidence that (a) he wasn't a citizen (b) wasn't black (c) wasn't Christian (d) was Muslim or (e) all of the above I'm not going to throw stones at anyone who needs more time to process the fact that Donald Trump indeed beat Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States. Those people should take all the time that they need to take. But for the people who are ready to deal with reality however unpleasant it might be, this examination of how Clinton lost Michigan will be useful, perhaps even required reading. Clinton suffered a close loss in Michigan. You could blame the Clinton loss on third party voters or Russian hacking or any number of other things. But ultimately the buck has to stop with the candidate. 

Woman Dragged Off Plane at Metro Detroit Airport

I don't think that this would qualify as police brutality. If the publicly available information is correct then the correct steps were taken. Of course just based on previous incidents where certain people have gotten out of pocket and have not had force used against them you always have to look at things like this with a very skeptical eye.

Delta Flight 2083 was preparing to depart from Detroit to San Diego early Monday morning when the unidentified woman allegedly displayed aggressive behavior towards the attendants, according to NBC News. Passengers aboard the plane alleged that the woman walked past the gate agents in the terminal without showing a ticket or proper ID to board the plane, which initially prompted Delta personnel to approach her, officials confirm.

Air officials were soon alerted to the incident. After the woman repeatedly ignored the officer's requests to leave the aircraft, security was reportedly forced to remove her themselves. In video taken on a cell phone on the plane, two officers are seen attempting to pick up the woman, who was lying still in the middle of the aisle. It's unclear why the woman was on the floor to begin with, but voices heard on camera suggest she may have been tasered. After a couple of seconds of adjusting, they begin to move her down the aisle and off the aircraft before stopping midway. One officer then proceeded to drag the woman, whose eyes appear to be rolled back, the rest of the way.

Given the post 9-11 extreme caution about who is allowed on planes and under what conditions, I am surprised that someone would think that he or she would be able to get on an airplane without going thru the same procedures as anyone else. I wonder if there is more to this story. But for now it looks as if the still unidentified woman was in the wrong.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Movie Reviews: Don't Breathe, Captain America: Civil War

Don't Breathe
directed by Fede Alvarez
Just because he's blind don't mean he's a saint.
This thriller movie is in many ways an updated version of the 1991 movie The People Under The Stairs. It veers from that movie's message of rebirth by playing with the audience's expectation of who to root for and who the bad guy may be. I couldn't tell you the whys and wherefores of every state or municipal law concerning use of deadly force by the homeowner during a home invasion or break in. I do know though that more states and municipalities have passed laws that give more latitude to homeowners to use deadly force against intruders without fear of criminal or civil liability-if the intruder was actually in the home. If someone breaks into your house why should you wait around to see what their intentions are? "Never mind the dog, beware the owner" is a sentiment shared by many homeowners, particularly those who live in high crime areas. And the city of Detroit is one of the nation's higher crime areas which is likely why this movie is set therein. This film only has four main characters, three of whom we first meet doing what they do best, breaking into homes and stealing goods.  

The crew leader is the blustering Money (Daniel Zovatto) a man who has obviously been listening to Eminem and Vanilla Ice too much. Money's girlfriend Rocky (Jane Levy) has a poor home life. Rocky's abusive mother is lazy. Rocky wants to take her little sister and split for California with Money. Alex (Dylan Minnette) is the brains of the trio. Alex's father works at a home security firm. So Alex has access to keys, electronic overrides and jamming systems, as well as intelligence about a home's contents. Alex has a healthy fear for the law. Alex attempts to minimize the team's chances of getting caught by only robbing empty homes. He knows exactly which crime is a misdemeanor or felony. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Trevor Noah and Tomi Lahren

You may have heard about this recent interview/discussion/confrontation between conservative media personality Tomi Lahren and Daily Show host Trevor Noah. Using both logic and gentle ridicule where appropriate Noah shot down most of Lahren's talking points. Although I think it's unlikely that Tomi Lahren will change her mind on anything anytime soon I think it's also important to engage and confront people who make bad arguments. One of the things which the right has done much more successfully than the left is to use telegenic seemingly friendly media spokeswomen and spokesmen to sell repulsive ideas. It's true that some of these people are indeed beyond redemption or aren't worth engaging because all they want to do is insult people. Debating your own humanity is a sucker's game. But sometimes people can be too quick to scream in outrage and cease debate when faced with ideas that challenge their mindset. This can be tempting; it's sometimes morally justified. There is no such thing as reasoned debate with a dedicated Nazi or someone who thinks slavery was a positive good. That person has made his decision. But to the extent that plenty of people on the right don't fall into those categories but still ascribe to "deplorable" ideas, as Hillary Clinton might put it, it is important for people on the other end of the political spectrum to engage in spirited debate and show people how and where they are wrong. Lies that go unchallenged can spread more quickly than one might think.

Book Reviews: Monster

by A. Lee Martinez
This is a light hearted book about love, magic, and the possible end of existence as we know it. In this book magic is real, although most people don't realize it. There are three types of humans. The first group is the largest. These people don't believe in magic, don't understand it and if forced to deal with it will create for themselves a reality where magic doesn't exist. For these folks there is always a rational explanation for an odd event. If something magical happens in front of them their brain will create an alternate reason before wiping the event from their memory. The second group of people are slightly more magic-sensitive. They can believe in magic and under certain special circumstances can even use magic themselves. But like the first group they will generally forget supernatural events that occurred, though it might take a little longer for this to happen. They may go insane trying to remember magic. Some of these people spend their whole lives trying to grasp something they saw from the corner of their eye. But they never can quite see it. This is not a matter of hard work or training. It's something you either have or you don't. To paraphrase a snide book character, "You can't teach a monkey to drive a stick shift can you?" It's just genetics. The smallest group of humanity, and this group is indeed rare, is made up of those people who are not only aware of magic but are able to use it and interface with it without going insane or forgetting things that happened in order to save their own sanity. These people really do know what goes bump in the night and who the Boogeyman is. This group of people, despite their genetic ability to recognize or use magic, is otherwise like any other group of humans. They vary widely in their abilities, morals, motivation and intelligence. Monster is a man who falls into the third group. He runs his own pest control agency. This is a crypto-biological removal agency. Monster captures and removes such "mythical" beasts as griffins, centaurs, kraken, ogres, trolls, wendigo etc. Monster has a college degree in this field. However business is not great because of competition, intrusive licensing and regulation, and arduous post-grad training. And getting bit or stung by magical creatures can have unpleasant side effects.

What is Obama's Legacy?

In ancient or medieval times (as well as in the 20th century) when a new king or queen took control, the previous ruler's closest relatives, friends, business associates or lovers would often make themselves scarce or even leave the country or kingdom. It could be hazardous to one's health to have a valid competing claim to the throne or to be seen as too friendly to the previous leader. If the new ruler was a paranoid, vindictive, vengeful sort who enjoyed nothing more than bullying people or eliminating perceived threats, he or she might kick off a set of purges. Sometimes the new ruler hated the old ruler so much he or she would forbid the populace from speaking the old ruler's name. If the new ruler was particularly egocentric, fame hungry and thorough he or she might order the elimination of the previous ruler's public works and the striking of the previous ruler's name and accomplishments from history books. Well we don't live in a society where the new President can go quite as far as the kings, queens, pharaohs and emperors of old. Barack Obama's name will live on despite the fact that he will turn over the Presidency to a man with whom he appears to share nothing but mutual disgust. But his accomplishments? That could be a different story. After Trump's inauguration the Republicans can kill ObamaCare, as they have threatened to do many times. President's Obama's executive actions or agency decisions on climate change, immigration and wage policy will all be under the gun. The Iran nuclear deal may be tossed or greatly modified. What is done with a pen and a phone may often be undone with a pen and a phone. Much of President's Obama's legislative or executive achievement could wind up like that puppy dropped off at a shelter by a bored callous family. There's a new sheriff in town, one with rather different priorities. But all may not be lost. A President Trump may well value policy continuity more than we realize. Some Obama initiatives are popular with anti-Obama voters as long as they don't know Obama was behind them. 

Family Abandons Dog For Dumb Reason

Depending on what sort of dog you purchase or adopt you are looking at taking care of another living being for anywhere from six to sixteen years, give or take. The dog didn't make the decision to come live with you. You did. So why in the world would you break a commitment to an animal that if it's known for anything at all is known for its unbreakable loyalty? That stinks. But the world is full of callous people who can't be bothered to do proper research on what sort of pet they want or even if they are pet people in the first place. Fortunately in this instance it appears that the dog in this story wound up better off. Certainly that is no thanks to its previous family.  People should think things through more carefully before they decide to have a pet live with them. Pets aren't toys to be casually discarded when you lose interest. On Monday, Desi Lara, a shelter volunteer at the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control Downey, posted a video that will absolutely destroy you. It shows a 2-year-old German Shepherd named Zuzu, who was picked up by Animal Control after getting loose and hopping the fence into her neighbor's yard. When her family arrived at the shelter shortly after, Zuzu got super excited, thinking they had come to take her home. "With her fast wagging tail seeing her owners Zuzu lit up like a Christmas Tree," Lara wrote in the caption. "She looked like the happiest dog."
But her happiness was short-lived, when she realized that they weren't there for her. They were there to get another dog. Apparently, Zuzu had become too much of a downer since her father passed away. "Their reason was because she was crying and sad since her father passed away. She wasn't a happy dog anymore," Lara wrote. "Their solutions for her unhappiness was just leaving her here! And go get another dog."

On Tuesday night, the Downey Animal Care Center announced that Zuzu had been taken in by a rescue organization, and will be leaving Downey on Friday, which is the first day that she is legally allowed to be adopted

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Electoral College Fallout

In the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election there has been a lot of noise coming from both traditional and social media about the fact that Clinton won the popular vote. When I first considered writing this post Clinton's popular vote margin lead was somewhere between 1 and 2 million votes. Now her popular vote victory margin is above 2 million votes. There are a lot of stories, gifs and memes being passed around about this news. I think about half the people on my Facebook feed have posted something about this information. I guess they wanted to make sure that I knew about it. The obvious implications are (1) that Clinton really won the election (2) that the Electoral College is unfair (3) Trump will be illegitimate as President. Some people are calling for the electors to change their votes because they see Donald Trump as uniquely dangerous and unqualified. Other people are threatening some electors with violence if the electors don't do the right thing and vote Clinton. I've been clear that I don't like Trump. But the implication that Trump is illegitimate because he lost the popular vote is not correct. In 1992 Bill Clinton was elected with only 43% of the popular vote, not a majority. Bill Clinton had more support than each of the other candidates but it's also true that most voters chose someone else. But that's irrelevant. Hillary Clinton and her supporters knew the rules of the contest before November 8th. We have 51 separate popular vote elections which then determine electors. It's not as if we were going to use the national popular vote to decide but Trump changed the rules at the last minute. Ironically before the election it was Trump who was petulantly making noises about the election being rigged and Clinton bannermen who were responding with scorn. We talked about the "faithless elector" issue here.

We don't choose the President by the national popular vote. We choose the President by who receives the most electoral votes. The popular vote and electoral vote normally line up together (just like points scored and total yards in a football game) but when they don't it's the electoral vote which is key.

Now there are ways short of changing the constitution by which we could ensure that the popular vote and electoral vote agree but these changes would require every state and both major political parties to agree. That is unlikely. States could agree to allocate electoral votes proportionally instead of winner take all. So if that were the case in states where Clinton won by huge margins, like California or New York her share of electoral votes wouldn't lessen drastically but in states like Michigan or Wisconsin where she barely lost, her share of electoral votes could have gone up just enough to help her win the election. The problem is that California Democrats, knowing they probably have that state in the win column for the foreseeable future might oppose a plan which would give their candidate fewer electoral votes. And the same calculation would be true for Republicans in say Alabama. And who's to say that a political party wouldn't agitate for proportional electoral allocation in states they are likely to lose but attempt to keep winner take all electoral allocation in states they are likely to win?

We could scrap the Electoral College completely and choose solely by national popular vote but that is definitely not what the Founders have in mind. Of course just because the Founders didn't like that idea doesn't mean very much. They were odious in many ways. But choosing the President by national popular vote would mean that California, New York, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio would decide national elections for everyone. For ever. No thanks. And the Electoral College is part of our system's fabric. If you get rid of it then there's no real reason to have states. And if there are no states then why have a Senate? Why have governors? It's a slightly different discussion but we do have a federalist system. Some people don't like that states like Wyoming or South Dakota get the same Senate representation as California or New York but that is how our system is set up. There has to be a balance between majority rule and mob rule. We live in a republic not a democracy. None of the more sparsely populated states would have any incentive to change the system to allow Presidential elections by popular vote. And there is no way to make them do so. A certain level of states rights is baked into the system. Like it or not the Electoral College is here to stay. If we start pulling too hard on that string then the whole fabric unravels. 

Maybe we should blow everything up but Democrats didn't say much about dropping the Electoral College before they lost the election. The Democrats must appeal to more people across the US-not just in the Northeast and urbanized areas. Or perhaps some brave pioneer Democrats need to move to some "red" states with smaller populations and change those state's voting patterns. Democrats are really really good at snark and outrage. But continuing to obsess over the popular vote when Democrats control exactly nothing in the Federal government and very little among the states is not a productive exercise. It isn't going to help Democrats focus their attention on winning the future.

It's ironic that the key tool by which Democrats can short-circuit the Republican legislative agenda, the Senate filibuster, is one which some Democrats were only too eager to eliminate a few weeks ago when they thought that Clinton would win and Democrats would retake the Senate. What a difference a day makes. Democrats need to find a way to take their case to the American people for 2018. This will require less lecturing or preaching and more listening. I have no doubt that Democrats will win again, perhaps more quickly than they think. That's just the way our political system is set up. Republicans will overreach and upset some people. But the sooner the Democrats stop focusing on how popular they were in California and start asking why that popularity didn't translate into enough votes in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania the better off they will be.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Movie Reviews: The Take, Law Abiding Citizen

The Take (aka Bastille Day)
directed by James Watkins
Stringer Bell and Robb Stark team up only to discover that they're probably better off apart.
This is another action film that continues the practice of using British actors in American roles. Some people (Idris Elba) can pull this off pretty seamlessly; others really ought to stop. There's not in my opinion, in most European based stories a compelling reason why a protagonist needs to be American. Done properly Americans will line up eagerly for films or series with European national protagonists (James Bond, Downton Abbey or Harry Potter anyone) -especially British ones. So why continue this practice of forcing British actors to try to take on American accents. Some of them just can't or even when they can are already so thoroughly identified with roles reflecting their own nationality that seeing them trying to pretend to be American immediately takes me out of the fictional story. Well whatever. You may feel differently of course. Acting is about new challenges and pretending to be someone else after all. The Take is a solidly made but altogether generic action movie that never quite lives up to the hype generated by the two male lead actors. It also suffers from not having a strong female lead. I don't mean strong as in physically or verbally combative. I mean that the lead women characters don't really have a lot of motivation on their own or for that matter have much meaning to the lead male characters. They could have been played by anyone. They didn't have a lot to do. There is a a small but noticeable lack of chemistry between the men and women. I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot was left on the cutting floor with at least one of the women characters. When the women are in danger I didn't feel anything other than "ho-hum". This is probably not a good thing. And for goodness sakes, when someone casually tells you "Thank you for bringing this to my attention. By the way did you tell anyone else about this?", the correct answer is always "Why yes. Yes I did. I told everyone and shared my itinerary with them as well!"