Saturday, October 20, 2018

Republican Tax Cut Doesn't Work: Republicans Threaten Social Security

The inescapable problem with voting is that there are a lot of stupid, gullible, or downright hateful people who vote. Their vote counts just as much as yours or mine does. To be fair they may very well think of me or you in the same terms which I just used to describe them. That's politics. That's never going to change. If we accept that every citizen has a right to vote and pursue his or her own interests as he or she defines them then we also must accept that sometimes people will make objectively sub-optimal decisions.

This brings us to the impact of the Trump tax cuts. You may recall that the majority of economists across the political spectrum predicted that the tax cuts would not create enough growth to shrink the deficit. The tax cuts would increase the deficit. And just about every economist or political theorist on what's rather broadly defined as the left, argued that that once the increased deficit became obvious Republicans would smartly pivot and without missing a beat argue that programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security had to be cut in order to bring down the deficit. 

Republicans would weep copious crocodile tears as they congratulated themselves on their willingness to cut benefits to people who weren't invited to the tax cut party in the first place. It's classic bait and switch. It's one of the oldest cons in the book. With ever increasing rage Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has been warning readers about the tax-cut/deficit con and predicting the Republican response since before the tax cut became law. This isn't new. It's what Republicans do-or at least what the upper class/business class Republicans do. The middle-class/lower-class Republicans aren't necessarily supporting the party for its dedication to cutting taxes and slashing social programs (at least those used by whites) so much as they are supporting the party for racial and cultural resentments. 


Detroit Squatters Lose A Round

Because many of my older relatives, friends, and people I know in Detroit grew up in racially defined horrible poverty and segregation with plenty of bitter experiences with evictions and racist insults they tend to be, well shall we say, less than sympathetic to incidents where someone is ripping off a landlord. Because Detroit is relatively impoverished with spotty enforcement of criminal and civil codes around housing, health, and waste management many landlords in Detroit have indeed taken the opportunity to screw over tenants and the taxing authorities as often as they can and as hard as they can. 

If you want people to internalize such values as respect for other people's property and paying their bills on time then you need to make sure that they have an opportunity to succeed by doing things the right way. If they are shut out of all opportunity they might not have much respect for your property. It's just human nature.

The answer is not to pick one side or another and blindly cheer them on but to create and follow law that is fair both in its execution and its definition. The landlord must be forced to maintain the property and submit to routine unbiased inspections to make sure the property is up to code. The tenant must pay their rent on time and in full. The tenant must have a financial incentive not to wreck or damage the property during the rental period. Pretty simple stuff right? The tenant and landlord have entered into a contract. The state needs to enforce that contract. Both sides should give each other incentives to treat each other well. Win-win for everyone. 

Book Reviews: Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties
by Stephen King and Owen King
This doorstopper is just under seven hundred pages. I'm not sure it needed to be that long. It starts quickly but sags a little in the middle. You can make up your own mind about the ending. It is a collaboration between Stephen King and his son Owen King. I could not tell which man wrote which part. Obviously the talent runs in the family. It's a good story. It imagines a dystopia in which half the human population goes to sleep and doesn't wake up. Like all good dystopic fiction the authors use their fictional creation to draw some conclusions about real life current human behavior.

The book was dedicated to the memory of Sandra Bland, which should show the reader what points the authors are trying to make. I occasionally thought that some points were a little heavy handed. An older woman I know thought that both Kings missed some rather obvious insights about female existence, perspective and desire because they were men. Hmm. I don't know about that. Some writers can very easily create realistic characters that differ from their own particular nationality/gender/race/sexuality/etc combination. After all some would argue, and Stephen King would definitely be among them, that such creative imagination and journeying is the entire point of writing. No writer should limit himself or herself to barely disguised author avatars. I didn't find the female characters here unrealistic. But I am not a woman. Women may feel differently.

Each gender has always occasionally felt frustration with the other. Currently we're seeing some female supremacism and chauvinism leak through in the #metoo and #timesup or #futureisfemale hashtags. One could argue that this is all just a reaction to a long history of male chauvinism and supremacism that in "Western" culture goes at least as far back as the Biblical Creation story in which Adam, being queried by God about why Adam ate the forbidden fruit, turns around and tells God that it was the woman God gave him who gave him the forbidden fruit (So hey like don't blame me dude, it was all her fault). 


Black Uber Driver Threatened at Gunpoint

As discussed ad nauseam one of the bad things about being black in a society that runs on the idea of white supremacy is that not only the police but everyday whites feel entitled to question or to reject black presence in what the white person considers to be a "white" space or at least the "wrong" space for that black person to be occupying. This can be something minor such a secretary mistaking the new black manager for custodial help, something major like a self-appointed neighborhood watchman murdering a black teen and everything in between. 

There is evidence that the resulting continual lifetime "fight or flight" response is not good for black people. This response may be implicated in everything from higher rates of hypertension to higher infant and birth mother mortality rates to higher rates of strokes and cardiac arrest. In short it's not healthy to be stressed out and under attack all the time. Who knew?

There was recently another reminder of how when information is processed through a racist mindset even the most innocuous behavior becomes life threatening. This incident also displayed how some whites do not view blacks as adults worthy of the respect granted to adults.

MILWAUKEE —An Uber driver says someone pointed a gun in his face in Milwaukee on Saturday, but it wasn't a robbery. He captured the encounter on video and said it's a symptom of Wisconsin's concealed carry law. In the video, a man is seen with a large, silver gun as Uber driver Darnell Smith records the confrontation near 40th Street and Mill Road early Saturday. "Just because you have a conceal and carry license doesn't mean pull your gun out if you think something is happening," Smith said.

Woman's Emotional Support Squirrel Delays Flight

I love animals, well pets anyway. I admire some wild animals, especially wolves. I abhor hunting and/or people who kill animals for fun. I don't view animals as assets to be cancelled when they cost too much. Down south I certainly wasn't the fellow tasked with taking the old faithful dog behind the shed and dispatching it with a mercy shot. Not me. But I still maintain that there is a qualitative difference, both moral and physical, between animals and humans. Humans shouldn't be needlessly cruel towards animals. Humans should accept that animals are not human. I love my dog. But my dog is a dog. It is not a human. Not every space is appropriate for a dog. Dogs possess viruses, parasites, and bacteria that are best left to dogs, not humans. Even the best behaved dog has some pretty nasty habits by human standards. 

I am generally skeptical of people claiming that they need emotional support animals at all times. I accept there might be a few children with serious medical issues who get some advantage from constantly having their animal around them. With a few exceptions I think that most adults who claim to need an emotional support animal would do better with a kick in the butt. And I feel that way about grown people who say that their dog is an emotional support animal. When it comes to adults arguing that their squirrel (!) is an emotional support animal, I have no sympathy. I don't want to be around rodents. And a squirrel, despite its fluffy tail and good pr, is a rodent. It's a rat with a press agent. So no, don't come to my house claiming that you just can't bear to be without your pet squirrel. That's nasty. I won't let you enter. Frontier Airlines apparently feels the same way. 


The woman who was escorted off her Frontier Airlines flight Tuesday after bringing her emotional support squirrel on board is speaking out against the airline. Cindy Torok told FOX 8 News Wednesday that she called the airline ahead of time to get clearance and even made it through TSA with her 11-week-old squirrel, Daisy, before the airline forced her to leave the plane. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Movie Reviews: Game Night

Game Night
directed by John Daley and Jonathan Goldstein
This black comedy is in some ways an extended riff on some classic Three Stooges comedy routines (mostly lacking the slapstick) in which the protagonists are either mistaken for someone else or enter an arena or game under mistaken pretenses. The Three Stooges weren't the first or last to use this trope. They may not even have been the best to use such routines. They just happen to have been the first people I saw use the routine. So they were the first to come to mind. You may recall several other movies or books which use this theme. It's not as easy to pull off as it looks. 

For this to work over the entire running time of a feature length film, you need to believe that the protagonists aren't utter morons. That's boring. Rather the heroes and heroines are just fish out of water. Some of them will be quicker on the uptake than others of course. Much like the similar walk on the wild side comedy, The House, Game Night invites the viewer, who presumably doesn't have lots of experience with shady activities, to imagine himself or herself thrust into some dodgy situations with some bad hombres. Unlike The House, Game Night was consistently funny without much grossout humor.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Movie Reviews: Creed

Creed
directed by Ryan Coogler
I suppose you could call this Rocky 7 or Rocky The Next Generation. It's a continuation of the Rocky story as well as a spin off of that series and beginning of a new story. I didn't see this film for the longest time for whatever reason but recently decided to check it out on the advice of my brother. Creed is a really good movie. Surprisingly good, actually. Before I mention anything else most of the Rocky movies were if anything incredibly unrealistic in their fight scenes.

People took WAY too many shots to the head-not just jabs either but tons of overhands and crosses. While that might have been the expectation were a trained boxer to fight someone untrained, if you've ever watched real boxing matches between equally competent people who know what they're doing, the matches usually don't look like that. Or rather they don't look like that until one boxer gets tired and either gets beat or starts taking too many chances. The fighters as imagined in the prior Rocky movies would have had to be superhuman to get hit in the face that many times. The results were entertaining but often cartoonish. The fight cinematography in Creed is as close to the real thing as I've ever seen in a boxing movie.

Everyone moves like real boxers, perhaps in part because many of the actors were indeed professional boxers. As a result it was easier for me to lose myself in the story.  Former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) one time Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) rival and later good friend died in the boxing ring fighting Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. 

Serena Williams and US Open

Serena Williams lost the US Open Championship Finals to Naomi Osaka. During this tennis match, Williams threw a temper tantrum and didn't reign it in until the umpire, Carlos Ramos, docked her a game. Osaka was already ahead of Williams. Osaka was probably going to win the tennis match anyway. It wasn't the first time that Osaka had beaten Williams. And it probably won't be the last. Although Williams can claim to be the best female tennis player ever, her career is winding down. Williams is in her late thirties. Osaka is about to turn twenty-one. There aren't any physically demanding sports where the older person routinely beats the younger one. It's just the way things are. Eventually the body can't do what the mind demands. In time, even the mind can lose some competitive hunger. Winter is coming for us all. Father Time is undefeated.

I don't avidly follow women's tennis but I have noticed that Williams' crackups usually occur when she is losing. Athletes such as Michael Jordan, John McEnroe, George Brett, Muhammad Ali, and other champions were often abrasive or even abusive to umpires, judges, referees, sparring partners, or teammates. There is a train of thought that says "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser." The intensity which has allowed Williams to dominate her sport for the better part of two decades is the same intensity that causes her to hurl insults at or make threats against umpires and line judges. I doubt that she can turn that off.


So I was nonplussed by Williams' tirade. The only thing which annoyed me is that rather than make the normal semi-apology "I had a bad day/I lost it/I don't want to talk about it/Just one of those things" which most athletes make once they cool down, Williams doesn't appear to think she did anything wrong. Williams made the claim that the umpire was picking on her because she was a woman. Well that's not the case. Here's what happened. 

Stephen Colbert is a Tolkien Nerd

I don't watch a lot of television so I didn't know that Stephen Colbert was a fan of Chance the rapper, Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Good man. You really should read The Silmarillion if you have the time. There's a lot of good stories contained within, including a fictionalized reworking of how Tolkien met and fell in love with his wife.