Saturday, April 14, 2018

President Trump Attacks Syria Again

In response to what he claimed were chemical weapon attacks against Syrian rebels, President Trump ordered missile attacks against targets in Syria. These bombings were done in concert with France and the UK on Friday night. The number of casualties and other damage is at this time unclear.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States, France and Britain launched military strikes in Syria to punish President Bashar Assad for an apparent chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again, President Donald Trump announced Friday. Pentagon officials said the attacks targeted the heart of Assad's programs to develop and produce chemical weapons.

Explosions lit up the skies over Damascus, the Syrian capital, as Trump spoke from the White House. Syrian television reported that Syria's air defenses, which are substantial, responded to the attack. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said there were no reports of U.S. losses in what he described as a heavy but carefully limited assault.

Trump said the U.S. is prepared to sustain economic, diplomatic and military pressure on Assad until he ends what the president called a criminal pattern of killing his own people with internationally banned chemical weapons. "The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead," Trump said. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied any use of banned weapons.

The decision to strike, after days of deliberations, marked Trump's second order to attack Syria. He authorized a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit a single Syrian airfield in April 2017 in retaliation for Assad's use of sarin gas against civilians. The strikes that hit early Saturday in Syria came hours before inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were set to arrive to inspect the site of the apparent attack. 

Movie Reviews: The Spinning Man

The Spinning Man
directed by Simon Kaijser
Temptation, frustration/so bad it makes him cry/Wet bus stop/she's waiting/his car is warm and dry
This is a competent thriller film that makes more than a few nods to Memento and Gone Girl. There was nothing that was remarkably original in this movie but it will keep you guessing which is I suppose worth something. This film might be a good example of there only being a few stories that are retold over and over again. Humans are after motivated by many of the same things no matter if we are separated by time, space, age and sex. 
The two film leads did yeoman work but I couldn't help but feel that there were a few motivations cut out of this movie that might have been better left in the finished product. The film works as an intellectual exercise in whodunnint, which is perhaps purposely ironic considering that the primary protagonist is a philosophy professor. But I didn't really have any emotional investment in whether or not this fellow was guilty of a crime.

Evan Birch (Guy Pearce) is an up and coming college philosophy professor who is trying to turn over a new leaf. To use a line from the movie Clue, you know that thing that professors aren't supposed to do with their students? Well Evan did. Having either left or been forced out of his previous position, Evan and his wife Ellen (Minnie Driver) and their young children have settled in at a university with slightly less prestige. But a job is a job. And a man is a man. Evan very soon finds himself in a flirtatious (and perhaps more?) relationship with one of his students, the almost worshipful Anna (Alexandra Shipp). Evan probably should stop making goo-goo eyes at women who are not his wife but Evan has a very flexible definition of morality and truth. And judging by his internal fantasies, Evan has a surfeit of testosterone. 

Rochester Hills White Homeowner shoots at Black Teen for asking directions

I've written previously about how racial stereotypes and assumptions can be hurtful or irritating and harmful to your career or health. However, when the people who make snap judgments are armed and fearful, such assumptions can be dangerous to your life. We see white cops do this with black people on a regular basis. But police are not separate from their community, but a part of it. The ultimate problem is not with the police but with people in all job categories who see black skin and immediately assume the worst.

Police just happen to be the most likely to get away with acting on racist assumptions. Fourteen year old Rochester Hills, Michigan high school student Brennan Walker missed the bus to school. He had to walk. He didn't know the route as well as he thought he did. So he knocked on a door in the neighborhood to ask directions. Well the woman of the house thought that he was trying to break in. She screamed. And the man of the house grabbed his shotgun and shot at young Master Walker. Rochester Hills is about 25 miles north of Detroit and like many southeastern Michigan communities is filled with the kinds of people who aren't too happy about black people breathing the same air they do. Walker is lucky to be alive. I am trying to imagine asking for help and being shot at. That will leave an emotional scar on the young man. People saw him and for no other reason than his race and gender assumed he was a deadly threat at the tender age of fourteen. How will his parents explain that to him? Being Black means you will never get the benefit of the doubt. Period.

The walk to school turned terrifying for a Rochester teen who says he was shot at after he stopped to ask for directions. Fourteen-year-old Brennan Walker missed the bus and tried to walk to school, but got lost after he couldn't remember the route.The freshman wasn't hit, as the shot missed him as he ran away.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Judge Vonda Evans And Short Workdays

I work in a professional white collar environment. Usually (90% of the time) the work is constant and frantic. People have little time to do anything but their paid work. On other occasions work slows down and you see/hear people doing things like checking Facebook, buying things on Amazon, playing Sudoku, discussing sports, gossiping, talking to loved ones on the phone, complaining about spouses, or (ahem) writing blog posts. Some of the higher-ups don't like this very much but most people are professional. Work comes first. Unless your boss really doesn't like you or you go out of your way to embarrass your boss by ostentatiously slacking off, he or she probably won't demand that you account for every last minute of your work day. Everything generally should come out even in the end. I remember that once a boss questioned a co-worker who was leaving a few hours early. Without missing a beat the co-worker asked our mutual boss if he had heard of casual overtime. The boss replied that of course he had. The co-worker responded that then the boss could consider the early departure time casual undertime. 

Every company or organization has a different culture.The trick is to know your organization's written and unwritten rules. However, wherever you work, regularly getting to work two or three hours after the normal start time and consistently leaving two or three hours before the normal leave time is going to attract negative attention from co-workers and more importantly, bosses. Doing something like that makes it very obvious that you're not doing the work that you agreed to do. Your boss can't ignore this because if she doesn't correct it other workers will start to do the same thing. Your boss might see your actions as a direct challenge to her authority. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans, a judge with a certain reputation for a short fuse and sharp tongue, has apparently decided that she will keep her own hours thank you very much. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Movie Reviews: The Snowman

The Snowman
directed by Tomas Alfredson
This is a detective crime thriller based in Norway. Unfortunately I found it way too derivative of many other films, primarily Insomnia and Seven. But if being derivative was a bad thing hardly any movies would be made or watched. Worse than being derivative I simply couldn't relate to or sympathize with any of the characters. I wonder if this movie would have been better if it was made with Norwegian actors speaking their native tongue and subtitled in English. The film definitely got across that it was set somewhere besides New York or London. But even though it was shot in Norway with beautiful sets and locations, I never believed that the primary actors were Norwegian.

And that's because by and large they weren't. Alfredson directed the hit Swedish horror thriller Let The Right One In. It felt like The Snowman was an attempt to capitalize on his previous success as well as that of other set in Scandinavia films such as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. There's something that can be spooky about settings in the far north with people who are either gloomily introverted or dangerously drunk but this movie didn't reach those heights. This was a movie that was made for background watching. And no movie should be made for just having on while you do something else.

The convoluted plot tried to say something about men, women and responsibility but it missed the mark. If the writers and actors give the strong impression of not caring about the story then why should the viewer. Don't get me wrong. A film can have an insane, contradictory and downright confusing storyline and still be a masterpiece; witness The Big Sleep. That story was so up in the air and all over the place that when the director and screenwriters sent a message to the novelist asking him if a particular character in his book had committed a crime, the novelist had to respond that he didn't know either. So complex stories can be good. 

Former Caretaker Visits Rescue Dogs

Dogs are the most wonderful pets in the world. Absent allergies or other medical issues, I don't understand how anyone can't be a dog person. But it takes all kinds I guess. The below video shows how happy dogs can be to see someone they remember who treated them kindly.

You’ve probably heard the old saying, ‘dogs have no concept of time’. Some people believe that a dog can’t discern a minute from an hour, but this just isn’t true. Dogs simply remember differently than humans. If you’ve been gone for more than a day, expect a much happier reunion, than if you’d just stepped out for a couple hours.

Dogs are gifted creatures, able to catalog a myriad of scents and recognize faces. Imagine a situation where a former employee stops over for a visit at the Dogs Deserve Better rehab center. Upon his return, his dogs greet him as though he was absent for ages. This affection is a testament to the dogs’ incredible ability to recognize their master. Thanks to these canines’ olfactory memory, they remember scents long after they have been exposed to them, so they are able to associate him with his smell.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Fort Worth Cop Assaults Black Hospital Patient

Imagine that you have just spent two days in the hospital. Maybe you had surgery. Maybe you ate crappy hospital food. Maybe you're tired of the smell of disease and Lysol. Maybe you've had tubes, needles, monitors, and drugs inserted into intimate places. But you're better now. The hospital discharged you. You're waiting in the hospital lobby for your ride home. You're looking forward to sleeping in your own bed and enjoying home cooking. A hospital security guard approaches you. He asks you what you're doing. You look at him askance. Either he is really stupid or he thinks you are. You reply that you're waiting for your ride. But the security guard won't go away. He starts asking who your ride is, if they know where the hospital is, if you're in the right hospital, and other questions that show that he is suspicious of and hostile to your presence. 

Becoming apprehensive you call your relative and tell them to hurry up. You also tell the security guard that yes you and your ride know which hospital you're in so please leave you alone. Suddenly, a large police officer confronts you. He pushes you in the chest. He tells you to shut up and get off the phone. When you express amazement at his aggression and attitude, the police officer punches you in the face and places you in a chokehold. Other security guards and/or police officers join the assault. They also punch you while they are piled on top of you. The police officer arrests you for the crimes of trespassing and resisting arrest.

You are physically hurt, frightened, and humiliated. You could have been killed. If you are a Black man in Texas named Henry Newson, you don't have to imagine this. It's reality. Newson didn't have any patriarchal privilege to protect himself.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Water's Wet, and Black Men Still Face Discrimination

Finished school / Qualified
On the job / Still denied
It's so hard to win in the skin I'm in
The Skin I'm In
Chairmen of the Board
You may recall a few months back a writer at The Root wrote a pandering fact free poorly argued and reasoned article that claimed that Black men, no excuse me, heterosexual Black men (have to hit ever last intersectionality bonus point) were "the white people of black America." By this the writer apparently meant that Black heterosexual men wielded unearned and unfair privilege over everyone black who didn't fall into those categories. According to the writer Black women did all the work for life's picnic while Black men just showed up at the last minute, took all the credit, and the biggest piece of chicken. Even for that writer, that piece stood out for its complete lack of cited empirical data to support the author's contention. I wasn't the only person who pointed out that the piece was making a conclusion that not only wasn't supported by the available data but also that was bluntly contradicted by said data. 

Well time moves on and glory be there is yet another study that confirms that Black American men (the authors didn't bother to try to qualify sexuality) are getting it in the neck. Black American men aren't the "white people" of any group. Black American men aren't wielding privilege over anyone, least of all Black women. You should read the article and the study for yourself of course. 

Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children.

Movie Reviews: Pyewacket

directed by Adam MacDonald
This well made creepy little horror movie was reminiscent of Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem insofar as it included witchcraft and books with secrets better left alone. But the main reason it reminded me of that film was that Pyewacket was original and personal. This wasn't a big budget horror movie with stereotypical characters.

This was a throwback to older horror movies of the sixties and seventies. Instead of frenetic camera work and sensory overload this film takes its time drawing in the viewer. This allows dread and suspense to build, something that too many horror directors skip for mammary glands and immediate gore. Pyewacket, the term comes from the Salem Witch Trials, is a film that doesn't appeal to the lowest common denominator, or when it does, at least does so in an intelligent and offbeat manner. 

Pyewacket makes a strong nod to H.P. Lovecraft's warning from his story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, "Do not call up that which you can't put down". People can get themselves and others in a lot of trouble when they employ tools or devices that are beyond their ability to control. 

Bat Attack In Florida Road Rage Incident

What happens when we drive that makes some of us take personal offense to every little thing? Why is that rather than continue on their daily schedule after a mistake or affront by another driver, some drivers will decide that they need to hurl insults at or engage in fisticuffs with the object of their ire? Why is it, to paraphrase Mario Puzo's Don Corleone , some (wo)men feel a need to attack and fight people whose capacities they do not know? I don't know the answer to these questions. But I do know that people who behave like that, who run around telling the world, kill me if you can, sometimes run into people who will happily take them up on their offer. Florida is a stand your ground state. If the attacked woman had pulled out her licensed weapon and defended herself I would have voted to acquit were I on the jury. In any event, this is an example of why leaving your car is never a good idea.

Mikaela Barboza was headed down 441 on her way to a meeting when she cut another driver off. That, Barboza said, is was what spurred the driver and her sister to follow the 26-year-old to a parking lot and beat her with baseball bats.The attack — caught on camera by Barboza and a bystander — left her with a broken nose, seven staples in the back of her head and seven stitches in the front.

“My nose is the worst of it,” she said Sunday, days after the Thursday afternoon beating. “I can’t even breathe out of it.” When she cut the driver off on the road, Barboza said the woman started yelling at her, along with another driver who said “you cut off my sister. That’s disrespectful.”

Worried for her safety, Barboza pulled into a nearby parking lot, but the women followed. She said they blocked her in — one car behind her and one car in front. Barboza, of Plantation, called the police, then stepped out of her car holding her cell phone to record video. “I don’t got time for this. I got a kid, bruh,” Barboza said as the camera swings up to reveal a woman in a floral dress opening her trunk.