Saturday, May 20, 2017

Vezmar Date Lawsuit

Despite all of the changes that have taken place concerning the dance of life between men and women, one thing that hasn't changed is the general expectation that the man is supposed to pay for the date, at least at first. A man who doesn't do that or tries to split costs before the woman is convinced that he's even worth any of her time or money is often derided as cheap or a loser. Good, bad or indifferent that's just how things are. Even many staunch feminists suddenly become Victorian England style ladies when faced with the idea of spending their money to meet men. If the man and woman don't like each other's company or independently decide that they'd be better off elsewhere or conclude that the date was a serious waste of time, money and resources then the man just has to eat the loss of whatever money he shelled out. And though it ought to go without saying, taking someone on a date doesn't guarantee anyone anything. Not one doggone thing. There is nothing implied other than the opportunity to determine if you like someone's company or not. If you spend $17 on a date but discover that someone is not up to your standards most people (men) would count that as the cost of dating and write it off to the game.

But 37 yr old Brandon Vezmar is not most men. Brandon went out on a date with a 35 yr old lady. Things didn't go well.

June Chu and Debbie Massey: Foul Behavior or Free Speech???

Many people across the political spectrum dislike the free speech concept. They claim that some speech, which is always speech they oppose, is not so much speech as it is weaponized hate or discrimination, which is unprotected by the First Amendment. Others even drop that fig leaf and argue that "hate speech" in any form can be banned, even if it has no provable impact on anyone. Although the most vocal advocates of this approach are currently on the left, witness the brouhahas over right-wing intellectuals speaking at colleges, arguably many of the most powerful advocates of this approach are on the right. There is a right-wing movement to criminalize advocacy of BDS (Boycott/Divest/Sanction the state of Israel) in America. So it goes. Humans being human, we will always be tempted to outlaw viewpoints we don't like. 

Limits on institutional ability to criminalize, punish, prohibit or restrain speech usually are only binding on government institutions. Private institutions can set their own rules. And they often do. The government can't jail me for writing something nasty about my employer. But my private employer, upon reading my screed, might decide that it wanted to fire me. Right now. And there's not too much I could do about that. Two recent events illustrated how someone's honest opinions got them in trouble. Well it might not be their honest opinions but rather the disdain that lay beneath them.😒 Both people paid a price for their statements. I see why many either refrain from sharing thoughts online or use pseudonyms. I have relatives and friends who refuse to use social media for precisely these reasons.


Music Reviews: Smith Connection - I've Been A Winner

(I've Been A Winner, I've Been A Loser) I've Been In Love
Smith Connection
I was listening to the Invictus box set again and ran across this song which for whatever reason I hadn't paid attention to before. It's funny how that works. You can have something for years and discover new treasures. The Smith Connection was made up of a trio of brothers who hailed from St. Louis, not Detroit. But it's a good thing that they came to the attention of the Detroit based Invictus label owned by famed producers/songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland (HDH). In the early seventies H-D-H were doing their best to compete with their former employer Berry Gordy and his iconic company Motown. This song was very similar to contemporaneous work coming from Philadelphia groups like the Delfonics or Chicago groups like the Chi-lites. But the deep bass and scratch guitar mark it indelibly as a Detroit based production. I like the voices and harmony, which are very masculine albeit in the higher range. The song is not blues, but it is bluesy. There's no guitar or horn solo. All the focus is on the vocals. Michael Smith, who I believe is the lead singer here, later went on to modest acclaim as a songwriter, producer and solo artist with Motown. The plaintive lyrics express sadness, love, maturity, regret and hope all at the same time, which I think is a pretty neat trick. I also enjoy that there's a lot of space in the recording. No one instrument dominates. Nothing is too loud. There's something to be said for the old maxim of keep it simple, stupid.

Confederacy Redux

Recently, in the South people have begun removing some noted Confederate monuments from places of honor.  There are so many of these though that it would take forever to do it. Some US federal institutions are named after Confederates. It's important to remember that the Civil War was started by Southern white supremacists who feared that Northern whites were insufficiently dedicated to the twin causes of black slavery and white supremacy. So the South tried to break apart from the United States. The South started the bloodiest war ever experienced by the United States. Ironically, in their desire to defend and expand their right to own, whip, rape, exploit and murder black people, the Confederacy ineptly but fortunately brought about slavery's demise earlier than otherwise would have been the case. 

With the exception of the honest white supremacist, many present day defenders of Confederate monuments, flags and namesakes do not like to admit what it is they are actually defending. The United States is not a white man's country. Black people actually do have rights that white men and women must respect. And despite Kris Kobach's best efforts Black people get to vote. How about that? All of this was anathema to Confederates, then and now. For Confederates blacks were slaves. Period. End of story. There was a Supreme Court decision which established that blacks had no rights whites needed to respect. How much more clear does someone need to be. At its core the Civil War wasn't about tariffs or balance of powers between the Federal government and states. It was about enslavement and exclusion. This isn't a modern revisionist idea.

Blissfully unencumbered by any political niceties, after all they were about to start shooting people, Confederate politicians detailed for posterity their purpose in seceding. If we weren't living in a post-truth society this evidence would prevent particularly malevolent or obtuse people from arguing that the Civil War from the South's POV wasn't about slavery and white supremacy.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Turks Attack Washington D.C. Protesters

Generally speaking, and all the lawyers who are qualified to speak on it can chime in if they wish, if you are are an official representative of one country doing official business in another, you have diplomatic immunity. Unless your home country decides for its own reasons to waive such immunity you usually aren't subject to prosecution by your host nation. All they can do is expel you. Consider this a form of guest right, if you will. No one kills, arrests, or otherwise harms the messenger. It's bad form. It would open up your diplomats and representatives to similar treatment if you went around, justifiably or not, arresting or abusing foreign diplomats. But the deal in having diplomatic immunity is that the foreign diplomat or other representative is supposed to live by the laws of the host nation. Some diplomats or other representatives have a problem doing this. 

The latest example of this, and it's by no means limited to Turks, occurred recently in Washington D.C. where members of the Turkish President's security team and apparent Turkish embassy staff, charged through a line of D.C. police officers to kick, punch and pummel a group of mostly Armenian-American and Kurdish-American protesters. For whatever reason the D.C. police did not use deadly force. Arguably they should have done so. American citizens have been killed by police for far less. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Trumplandia

Just in case you were enjoying your life on a tropical island somewhere without a TV or internet service, let's catch you up: 
  • On March 20, 2017, FBI Director James Comey announces that the FBI is investigating the connection between the Trump Campaign and Russia. You remember James Comey don't you?  He was he guy who, days before the election, felt compelled to remind American voters that Hillary Clinton was still under investigation for email-gate (which turned out to be nothing more than Anthony Weiner up to his usual shenanigans).
  • Fast forward to last week, Director Comey requests additional funding from Congress for more prosecutors and agents to accelerate the investigation between Trump and Russia
  • On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, President Trump fires Director Comey.  Interestingly, Trump states in his letter: "While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to lead the Bureau.” We'll come back to this part later.
  • On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, Trump administration surrogates like Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway take to the cable news shows to explain why Trump fired the FBI Director.  The answer given: because Comey reminded American voters days before the election that Hillary Clinton was still under investigation for email-gate.  (wait, didn't that actually help Trump get elected?)  Another important talking point that is advanced is that Trump "had no choice" but to fire Director Comey because it was the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions who, by the way, had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation due to his own connections with Russia.  Indeed, Trump's surrogates cite to, and Kellyanne Conway on several news shows even went so far as to literally read from, the letter written by Rosenstein as evidence that the recommendation came straight from Rosenstein and that Trump was merely acting on that recommendation. Got that part? OK good because...
  • On Thursday, May 11, 2017, Donald Trump himself sits down for an interview with Lester Holt on national television and literally says "I was going to fire [Comey] regardless of recommendation. He [Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein] made a recommendation . . . But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire him."  What's more, Trump also revealed during the interview that he invited Director Comey to dinner on more than one occasion to specifically ask Comey -- who at that time was leading the FBI investigation into Trump's ties with Russia -- whether or not Trump was under investigation for his ties with Russia.  According to Comey, he refused to comment on an ongoing investigation. According to Trump, Comey told him flat out that he was not under investigation - a fact which, if true, actually amounts to Presidential interference with a federal investigation.
  • Oh and to add insult to injury, also on Wednesday, in the middle of all this Russia business, Trump actually invites Russian officials into the Oval Office for a meeting.  American press was banned from the meeting, but Russian press was allowed and, as it turns out, leaked the photos of the meeting. 
To recap, the Trump administration is under investigation by the FBI for its ties with Russia, President Trump fired the head of the FBI who was leading the investigation into himself, and then he invites the Russians to the White House for a secret photo op. 

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Trumplandia. 






Bates Motel Series Finale

What better time to discuss the Bates Motel finale than Mother's Day Weekend? Snicker. This A&E series lasted for five years. It didn't overstay its welcome. It featured very intense story lines and acting by the two leads (Farmiga, Highmore). But every recurring character in this story was well written. Even the minor characters fit well into the story. This series may have started out as a prequel to the Psycho film but the producers and writers made it clear that Bates Motel was much much ambitious than a prequel. It was something that may have been inspired by Psycho but was not tied down by that film. It was a re-interpretation and reworking of the Psycho movie. Although there was the obvious bad guy the viewers also came to understand that the man, prissy Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) was not in control of himself. He was a very disturbed individual. He was capable of great kindness upon occasion. He ran into more attractive women than you would expect a weird loner to find. But Norman was never going to enjoy happiness for long because he was frequently divorced from reality. 

At the end of Season Four a depressed and angry Norman decided to kill his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) and himself in a murder-suicide. But his mother died; Norman didn't. In a stroke of luck for Norman the authorities, with Norman's connivance, assumed that the breakup note that Norma wrote for her husband Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell ) was actually a suicide note. So everyone believes that Norma was actually the crazy one who tried to kill her son via gas poisoning. Well that is everyone except Alex. He knows how dangerous Norman is. He blames Norman for his wife's death. And he intends to do something about it. He's put people in the ground before. Unfortunately for Alex, before he could make his move, the DEA gets some evidence of his corruption. Alex is arrested and later convicted.

Democrats: What Now?

I recently read that the NY Attorney General plans to sue if House healthcare legislation becomes law. There are some things to consider about the current state of American politics. These ideas apply equally to people across the political spectrum but given the way power works it's usually the people out of power who have cause to take them to heart.

Legislatures decide policy, not constitutionality. The courts decide whether something is constitutional or not. Courts (usually) do not pick among different policy choices. Just because someone is pursuing a policy preference you truly despise doesn't automatically mean it's unconstitutional. The courts can't and shouldn't rule on the political merits of a given policy. There is a whole universe of policy initiatives that I don't like but which are not unconstitutional. Suing your way to your preferred policy outcomes won't work in most cases. In short, the courts will not save you from all of the effects of a Trump Presidency and Republican control of both chambers of Congress. Only the people can do that. Like it or not Trump won. Right now the only people who can legally remove him from office are other Republicans. That's because, drunk on moral certainty, starting around 2010 Democrats forgot how to win seats. 

On policy questions, no political party or movement can accomplish much without winning over voters. Obtaining voter support doesn't mean that you must agree with every "deplorable" voter stance. It does mean though that you must visit the voters, listen to them, be seen to work on their issues, and build both a logical and emotional argument on why you and your policy are their best options. Hectoring them and lecturing them don't work.


Book Reviews: Dracula vs. Hitler

Dracula vs. Hitler
by Patrick Sheane Duncan
As filmmakers use the found footage trope to introduce movies, authors can use the found diary or found documents trope. In real life Duncan is an HBO producer, author and director of the documentary series Medal of Honor. Duncan writes that he found these strange documents when he was researching female spies and partisans in World War Two. These documents were so strange and important that Duncan felt that they deserved to be shared. Sometimes a book's title tells you the exact story. This is one such title. Romania originally joined the German side during World War Two.

Romania only switched sides after it had become clear the Nazis were going to lose. Like F. Paul Wilson's book The Keep, Dracula vs. Hitler asks the reader to imagine what would happen if the upstart Nazis ran across an older entity that views them as trespassers.

This book starts in 1896. Professor Abraham Van Helsing, with the help of Quincy Morris and Jonathan Harker, has defeated Prince, not Count, Dracula. But Stoker's story was wrong. Dracula is only immobilized, not destroyed. Van Helsing tells himself that it's because of scientific curiosity that he decided against destroying Dracula. By 1941 Van Helsing is an old man who has settled in Romania. He has a beautiful young adult daughter Lucille or Lucy upon whom he dotes. Lucy is no shrinking violet. She's a well traveled fiery feminist insistent upon proving she's just as good if not better than a man in every endeavor. Lucy's a skilled saboteur, spy, linguist and would be artist. Lucy and her father are leading Resistance members. Initially they run circles around the incompetent German and Romanian soldiers. They make such an impression upon the British that Great Britain, desperate to put mud in the German eye, sends over British special forces agents to deliver supplies, coordinate attacks and gather intelligence. 

The British leader is the grandson of the original Harker, also named Jonathan. Jonathan volunteered for this assignment. Having been unable to learn about Dracula from his grandfather, Jonathan is eager to meet Van Helsing and get the real story.

Bear Demands Brownies

In literature the cute bears Paddington and Winnie the Pooh are always on the lookout for marmalade sandwiches and honey pots, respectively. Neither one is rude or capable of doing harm to anyone. The harshest thing that Paddington will do to you if you get on his nerves is give you a hard stare. But in real life bears are not small, cute and cuddly. They don't ask politely for what they want. And what they want apparently isn't marmalade but brownies. A woman in Connecticut was baking brownies when one of the local fauna apparently caught the scent of the chocolate goodness and decided it wanted some.  AVON, CT (WFSB) -
Avon residents called police after a bear tried to get into a home this weekend and one neighbor got the whole incident on camera. Neighbors talking to 911 dispatch stated that the bear was trying to gain access into a home on Stagecoach Road. "My neighbor across the street just came over in a panic. She's a little old lady, screaming that a bear got on the back porch and is slamming on her glass door," one call to 911 stated.

Members of Department of Energy and Environmental Protection were not called to the scene. They said a bear "spent considerable time on a deck and was reluctant to leave." This incident was especially terrifying for the female homeowner who was baking brownies as the bear pressed up against her glass door.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Elderly Woman Body Slammed At Pool Party

You must be able to get along with other people. You don't have to like them but you must live with them. Our actions continually impact other people. When you are neighbors with someone you recognize this. You and your neighbor can't solve every dispute by shouting and fisticuffs. When you are neighbors with someone there's a good chance that neither of you is going anywhere anytime soon. You and your neighbor may need each other's help someday, whether it's something as prosaic as your neighbor plowing your driveway during the Winter Deathstorm of 2017 or you being willing to let the police know the license plate of the van that was parked outside your neighbor's house while it was burglarized. 

So when your neighbor asks you to turn your music down you might be annoyed. But if you are normal you'd remember the time that your neighbor helped you to change a flat. You'd probably turn down the music. Even if you didn't know your neighbor from Adam, you might consider granting their request because, as mentioned, reciprocity often works. You and your neighbor will be in a position to help and hurt each other for a while. 

But people who aren't neighbors and who aren't normal may not recognize the benefits of relationship reciprocity, as 68 year old North Lauderdale, Florida resident Nancy James discovered when she asked a group of teens to turn down their music at a pool party. The teens, many of whom did not live in the complex, didn't appreciate her request.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

China Destroys World Fisheries

When people say globalization they usually are referring to the greater corporate economic integration between and among the so-called Third World and Europe and the US. Depending on whom you are speaking to, this can be a good or bad thing. The problem however is that different nations on the planet have different footprints in their economic impact on the planet. Numbers matter. If one or two people cut across your lawn once or twice a week it might not be worth your while to make a big stink about it and get into a nasty fight with the trespassers. I mean life is short right? Why waste your time in conflict? But if a few hundred people decide to do the same thing every day then you have to do something or soon you won't have a lawn. You will have to show a more unpleasant side of your personality. China is not the source of all evil in the world today. Not by a long shot. But China's immense population and ever growing demand for natural resources are putting tremendous stress on resources that may not be as renewable as we once thought. 

Joal, Senegal — Once upon a time, the seas teemed with mackerel, squid and sardines, and life was good. But now, on opposite sides of the globe, sun-creased fishermen lament as they reel in their nearly empty nets.“Your net would be so full of fish, you could barely heave it onto the boat,” said Mamadou So, 52, a fisherman in Senegal, gesturing to the meager assortment of tiny fish flapping in his wooden canoe. A world away in eastern China, Zhu Delong, 75, also shook his head as his net dredged up a disappointing array of pinkie-size shrimp and fledgling yellow croakers. “When I was a kid, you could cast a line out your back door and hook huge yellow croakers,” he said. “Now the sea is empty.”

Overfishing is depleting oceans across the globe, with 90 percent of the world’s fisheries fully exploited or facing collapse, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. From Russian king crab fishermen in the west Bering Sea to Mexican ships that poach red snapper off the coast of Florida, unsustainable fishing practices threaten the well-being of millions of people in the developing world who depend on the sea for income and food, experts say. But China, with its enormous population, growing wealth to buy seafood and the world’s largest fleet of deep-sea fishing vessels, is having an outsize impact on the globe’s oceans. 


Book Reviews: Carter & Lovecraft

Carter & Lovecraft
By Jonathan Howard
This story is miles apart from some of Howard's earlier work reviewed here. It doesn't have quite the same sheen of sarcastic humor laid over everything. That makes sense as the subject matter is different. This is another story in a crowded field of works inspired by the late writer H.P. Lovecraft. Although it has a few Grand Guignol scenes for the most part this story stays true to Lovecraft's trick of implying what was wrong as opposed to coming out and saying it. The mood is more important to this novel than some of the events. Of course Howard is a better writer than Lovecraft so his characters are better developed. Even though I didn't enjoy this as much as Howard's Cabal series I still thought it was worthwhile reading. The book is just over 300 pages and has more than a little in common with the film Angel Heart in some aspects.

The author H.P. Lovecraft lived at a point in time when science was rapidly advancing and overturning previously closely held myths. Einstein's theories of general and special relativity along with other later discoveries made some people think that maybe they weren't at the center of the universe after all. Worse, the idea of quantum physics made people deal with the idea that reality itself was random and unknowable and an illusion. Lovecraft didn't write down, as later speculative fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke did, the dictum that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" but it is a concept which pervades many of his stories, most famously "Dreams in the Witch House". If reality itself is only a set of probabilities and creatures or events can exist in mutually exclusive categories before we actually observe them, what would happen if someone or something was able to hack reality? What would that look like? What would happen if someone could alter reality via his understanding of advanced mathematics? These and more are the questions which are raised in this book. 



Babies Eating Lemons For First Time

This is a pretty clear example of why it's remarkable that any kids ever trust adults. People say that when life gives you lemons make lemonade. I say why would someone you trust give you a lemon to eat in the first place? That right there would ruin my faith in parents.😱 Are there any foods you won't eat under any circumstances?



Stephen King Dark Tower Trailer

Stephen King's The Dark Tower series has been made into a film which opens on August 4. The trailer looks interesting. I have not read the whole series which inspired this film. I understand that the series touches many (most?) of King's other works. I believe that King once wrote that this series contains many hidden and not so hidden sequels to some of his best loved novels. Certainly in many of his novels there are references to the Dark Tower and some of the characters within. Additionally, if I remember correctly, King also updated The Talisman and Black House to fit within the Dark Tower universe. The series touches on just about all of King's interests. It's not just horror. This movie is something that will be on my radar screen for the fall. This film will also provide an example of color reversed casting. The Gunslinger in the books is Caucasian. Idris Elba is not. Although an older white person I know tentatively expressed some concern over this I don't think that will make a tremendous difference in how most people approach the story. Either the movie will be good or not. From what I've read the film is not a straight adaptation of any of the books in The Dark Tower series but instead takes high points from the first and third books as well as mixing in stuff from the final book. 

I like that the book and movie accept that revolvers are just better. There is something particularly and peculiarly American about the longcoat clad gunslinger standing alone against onrushing evil. It's fascinating how creative types use our common myths and archetypes to spin brand new stories that yet seem so familiar.