Saturday, March 17, 2018

CIA, Torture, Trump, Obama and Hypocrisy: Gina Haspel

Jeb Bush called Donald Trump a chaos candidate. Trump has been a chaos President with his public attacks on his hires and resulting constant personnel turnover. People like Trump thrive within organizational disorder.

Trump's recent firing of Secretary of Stae Rex Tillerson (did Tillerson think he'd get away with calling his boss a f***** moron) and possible reassignment of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to Secretary of State made some people point out Trump's crappy managerial style. Trump may nominate CIA deputy director Gina Haspel to replace Pompeo as CIA head. Haspel evidently oversaw and directed some torture. She destroyed the records of torture at CIA "black sites" during the George W. Bush administration. 

Gina Haspel is set to become the first female director in the 70-year history of the CIA. But smashing that glass ceiling will depend on offering the US Senate a convincing explanation about her dark past. More than a decade ago Haspel reportedly oversaw an infamous secret CIA prison in Thailand where a terrorism suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was waterboarded, a process that simulates drowning. She is also said to have drafted orders to destroy video evidence of such torture, which prompted a lengthy justice department investigation that ended without charges

Some Trump opponents believe that Trump's endorsement of Haspel is horrible, wicked, evil and very bad. They claim that Trump's selection means that America now endorses torture. Bad Trump. There's at least one problem with this argument. When President Obama took office he could have turned Federal government machinery against the torturers. That move would have been moral if politically and perhaps even personally dangerous. President Obama and Attorney General Holder decided against that. As Adam Serwer points out:

Barney Helps Women Get Their Groove Back

Remember Barney, the beatific purple dinosaur from the PBS kids show? Well for a little piece of change he'll do something strange with you, if you happen to be a woman that is. Barney does have standards you know. Like Marvin Gaye, Barney is providing some sexual healing to women in need, but for a fee.

The actor who starred as the cuddly T-Rex host of Nineties children's TV show Barney and Friends is now working as a Los Angeles tantric therapist, it has been revealed. American actor David Joyner, 52, told Vice that his decade-long stint playing a dancing purple dinosaur was helpful for his current career.

“The energy I brought up [while] in the costume is based on the foundation of tantra, which is love,” Joyner said. “Everything stems, grows, and evolves from love." Joyner only accepts female clients for his services, and charges $350 for a four-hour session. On his website, Joyner, a former software analyst offers clients the chance to reach "a higher and more blissful state of awareness [of their] sexuality."

According to Vice, Joyner believes this "blissful state" is best achieved through unprotected penetrative sex, and claims that condoms "block the energy". Still, the power dynamic at play here between practitioner and client, healer and student, is hard to square for some. 

Movie Reviews: Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
directed by Kenneth Branagh
This is another interpretation of the mystery novel of the same name by author Agatha Christie. I don't think I ever finished reading the book but I think I remember seeing the 1974 movie version on the local ABC 4:30 movie show sometime during the seventies. Or maybe it was on a Sunday night. It was a long time ago. In any event the 1974 movie featured a number of movie stars including but not limited to Lauren Bacall, John Gielgud, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney and Anthony Perkins. Because movie stars weren't as over exposed in the media then as they are today I seem to remember being a little more able to disappear into the 1974 film, to go back in time to a day when travel by train could be a serious luxury. The 2017 film can also be considered to have an all star cast but for me it wasn't quite the same. Of course that just may be silly nostalgia on my part. I can barely remember most of the the 1974 film. I certainly didn't recall any important plot points or spoilers which is why I was interested in seeing the 2017 version. 

After watching it I felt even more nostalgic for the 1974 version. The new version was good. It was crisp. I enjoyed the sets, the cinematography, the lighting and occasionally the accents. But I wasn't obsessed in finding out who committed the titular crime or why they had done it. I thought that Branagh, who plays the obsessive compulsive world's greatest detective Hercule Poirot, put too much emphasis on Poirot. It would have helped the storyline and paranoia if we saw things from other passengers' point of view. 

Amy Wax and Black Inferiority

It is darkly ironic that University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax, whose heritage is such that were she unfortunate enough to have been in Eastern Europe during WW2, would have found herself deemed as Untermensch, or subhuman, and thus promptly slotted for efficient extermination, has spent a great deal of her professional life arguing that Black and Brown people (though most of her disdain seems reserved for Blacks) are inferior to whites mentally, culturally, and morally. I don't expect that slavery or racial extermination will be on the American agenda anytime soon but if those things did make their return and you happen to be Black or Brown, don't try to hide at Professor Wax's house. Because she would certainly turn you in. We do have free speech in this country. You can be as racist and as hateful as you want to be. And Wax has been. The limit apparently is when you step beyond your opinions and make a statement of fact that isn't true. Wax may have done that with her latest comments, which is what allowed her employer to rein her in a bit. 

University of Pennsylvania professor has been stripped of all of the first year law classes she has been teaching after it was revealed that she feels black students are inferior to other students, the HuffPost is reporting. According to the report, professor Amy Wax, who teaches at the prestigious university, was engaging in an interview with Brown University professor Glenn Loury, when she made her controversial comments.

Veterinarian Sign

I guess this local vet's sign is equally good advice for over excited puppies or older men suffering from prostate issues. In either event, though, I don't want to be the one tasked with clean up.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Movie Reviews: Death Wish (2018), Midnighters

Death Wish
directed by Eli Roth
This is a remake of the iconic 1974 Charles Bronson movie. Some people who share some of my political affinities often sneer at vigilante films, thinking them by definition fascist, racist, authoritarian, gun-crazed, misogynist, sexist, and any sort of other "bad thought" insult they can hurl. I don't see things that way. I think that everyone has the natural right to defend themselves by any means necessary. The attack on Rosa Parks showed us there are people out there who will hurt anyone. I think that we all must build a world in which fewer people think that crime pays. I also know that we only have one life. We don't owe anyone that life. We need not apologize in defending ourselves from criminals no matter their race, ethnicity or nationality. 

So I have no particular brief against vigilante films. I think that most people can differentiate between entertainment and reality. Unfortunately, this film didn't touch the same nerve endings the original movie did. Crime in 2018 is not as high as it was in 1974. The original film was more explicit depicting the horrors visited upon the Kersey women. That's, perhaps thankfully, missing here. So there's not really the same visceral fist pumping reaction when the Kersey patriarch starts shooting down bad guys.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Racist Fireman Attacks Black Child

Racism is a moral sickness. But I feel no pity for those who suffer from it. They are too busy trying to make my life and the lives of those who look like me, hell. I believe that you have the right to think or believe whatever you want. But when those thoughts or beliefs become insults or physical assaults then I also believe that it's incumbent on everyone else to teach you or as some would say "learn you" a sharp lesson of the type Tywin Lannister might impart.

A White firefighter from Kansas recently decided that it was the correct thing to do to shout racial slurs at a lost Black toddler and spit at him.
I think actions like this show that racism isn't going away with the younger generation. It's not based on "economic anxiety". It's based on pure hatred. 

Police say a racial slur was hurled at a child at a Hooters off Metcalf Avenue.
KCTV5 News spoke to a witness who was at the restaurant and he said he was dumbfounded by a statement the firefighter made to police. “He basically said get that little ‘blank’ up off the floor,” the witness recounted. “The n-word started to get thrown around.”

The comment left the witness speechless. He said he was about 5 feet away from the altercation inside Hooters on Monday around 8:15 p.m. He said he saw a child wander away from his family and, when the family member came to retrieve the preschool-aged kid, is when another customer used a racial slur and spat at the child. He thought a physical altercation would follow, but instead police were called to the restaurant.

Book Reviews: 11/22/63

by Stephen King
This 2011 novel by Stephen King is a very long book. 11/22/63 is just short of 1100 pages. The novel wasn't exactly a chore to read, King is simply too good of a writer for that, but it was a serious investment of time. 11/22/63 isn't a horror novel; it's not full of creepy crawlies or things that go bump in the night. It is speculative fiction. King, as he is prone to do, leaves all sorts of Easter egg hints to his other works throughout 11/22/63. The referenced King novels which were obvious to me were Christine, The Dead Zone, Insomnia, and IT though I'm sure I missed others.  

John Fogerty wrote the lyrics in his song Proud Mary "And I never lost one minute of sleeping/Worrying about the way things might have been".  In Candide, Voltaire created a pompous philosopher Pangloss who dismissed complaints by saying "This is the best of all possible worlds". In The Silmarillion J.R.R. Tolkien's God stand-in tells the Satan analogue that there is nothing that Satan can ever do that God hasn't already anticipated and will use to bring some greater good which Satan never could have conceived of bringing about. Omar Khayam wrote that "The moving finger writes and having writ moves on. Nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy years wash out a word of it." 

Many self-help gurus and life coaches urge us to look forward, not backwards. How many people enjoy spending time, romantic or otherwise, with someone who's always complaining about the people who did him/her wrong back in sixth grade or how they didn't get this job 15 years ago and thus all the bad fortune they've had since is not their fault. It's annoying, no? Despite what some physics may prove and some religions may claim, humans only experience time in one direction. We can't stop it. We can't rewind it.  We can't transmit information back in time to ourselves. And we can't even be certain events in our life impacted us the way that we think they did. So we have no choice but to look forward.