Saturday, February 16, 2019

Movie Reviews: The Heartbreak Kid

The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly
This was a remake of an early seventies film. It's a dark romantic comedy. The film has some low rent humor, typical for the Farrelly Brothers. 

Unlike most genre films this movie didn't shy away from making at least two of the people in the love triangle somewhat unlikable. YMMV on this but it's essential to the story. This movie reverses the usual "..and then they lived happily ever after" motif  to investigate what happens after two people meet and fall in love. It's a different challenge/question. 


It's easy to fall in love with someone when they are clean, sharp dressed, and shaking their tail feathers. It's more difficult to stay in love and accept someone else's occasional bad moods, unpleasant biological functions and chronic irritating habits that could drive even the most patient spouse into sputtering incoherent rage. The first is infatuation. It may not last that long. The second is real love, but usually takes more time to develop.


Eddie (Ben Stiller) is a San Francisco sports shop owner. Eddie is lonely but afraid of settling down and getting married. His married friends treat Eddie with pity and contempt. Eddie's widower father Doc (Jerry Stiller-Ben Stiller's father) is a playboy. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Glendale Police Tase Man 11 Times Just For Fun

Although the most charged scenarios of police brutality which get the most community attention often involve white cops and black citizens there is a deeper problem with police across the United States that sees far too many of them ready, willing, and eager to harass, bully, brutalize, sexually assault, humiliate, and even kill anyone who is not a police officer, race not withstanding. This recent example of white-on-white police violence in Glendale came to light. The disturbing things are 
  1. How the police are wrong on the law and attempt to breeze past that by resorting to the "Because I said so! " response (passengers in traffic stops are not required to give id)
  2. How quickly the police move from semi-aggressive language to ultra-violence. For too many police any response that doesn't start and end with "Yassuh boss" is reason for beating, tasing and/or arrest. 
  3. How sexually sadistic the police are in this incident-pulling down the man's pants and underwear to apply the taser to his behind and genitals. Think about it. A police officer who is sworn to uphold the law decided that it would be a good idea to tase someone's genitals.
This was rough to watch and even more frightening to experience I am sure. It is critically important that Americans stop hero worshipping the police. Some police are just thugs with badges. We must demilitarize the police. We must train police better on knowing the law and following the law. And we must harshly punish police when they break the law. Perhaps the fact that in this case the victim was Caucasian will convince some people to get their head out of their fundament as far police violence goes. The victim is not an angel. But he did not deserve what happened to him. Of course if Wheatcroft had been Black the police would probably have just shot him thirty times and called it a day. So there's that I guess. State sponsored brutality that is encouraged and tolerated against Black people often ends up being employed against white people.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Movie Reviews: Wetlands

Wetlands
directed by Emanuele Della Valle
Adebisi and Rollergirl come together to make a middling modern noir.
How many movies feature an oncoming storm as metaphor and warning for the changes that are about to impact the characters and alter their life forever. More than I can remember right this instant. It's a pretty common plot device. 

This film uses that device. It is reminiscent of the pseudo noir Key Largo, recently reviewed here. In Key Largo, a gangster trying to recover past glories holds the guests of a hotel hostage while a powerful hurricane threatens to make landfall. In Wetlands, a troubled cop is held hostage by his past failings and must try to move beyond them--while a powerful hurricane threatens to make landfall.

I thought the movie might have gone a little too far in making the protagonist so morally dark. A lot of the dialogue was meh. There is violence but it's not shown as anything other than something which is horrible. It leaves marks on people-both the people who suffer it and those who commit it. 

Unfortunately the director and cinematographer made a very visually dark movie. It can be difficult to see what's going on in many scenes. Obviously they likely did this on purpose to impress upon the moral murkiness of the goings on in the story. I just thought they overdid it.

Movie Reviews: Mr. Brooks

Mr. Brooks
directed by Bruce Evans
Sometimes actors can get bored doing the same type of roles. This 2007 movie was a definite step away from the serenely moral aw shucks folksy patriarchs that make up a lot of Kevin Costner's filmography. 

However, this film still lets Costner play a protective decent family man, although a very twisted one.  

It was a fine piece of acting and perhaps something you should watch if you've never seen Costner portray wicked characters. This wasn't really a hit IIRC. Some would argue that's because Costner isn't a very compelling actor. I would disagree with that. It is true that this film wasn't what most people wanted to see from Costner. But Costner's alleged lack of range works for this role as his character is very tightly wrapped indeed.

Earl Brooks (Costner) is the middle aged CEO of a packaging/boxing company. Earl is a good man, or so it seems. Earl is a philanthropist. He's solicitous of his workforce; Earl has so far resisted selling out to East Asians or outsourcing work overseas. Although Earl is a multimillionaire he's still married to Emma (Marg Helgenberger), a woman in his own age range, instead of a much younger lady. Earl is faithful to Emma. 

Florida Woman Harasses Men

Often when there are news stories about a (usually attractive) female teacher or corporate exec harassing, seducing, or propositioning the teen boys or men that she instructs or supervises, we'll see a sizable proportion of comments apparently from men wondering where the hell these teachers were when the men were young or suggesting that if their female boss or supervisor looked that good she could harass them to her heart's content and then some. I don't think this particular incident will bring out too many comments of that type.

MADEIRA BEACH — In a move that echoes national #metoo headlines, former City Commissioner Nancy Oakley was strongly censured and reprimanded by her former colleagues for violating state ethics rules by groping and licking the face of a former city manager. In issuing the reprimand, the City Commission Wednesday night also accepted Oakley’s resignation submitted to the city the previous day.The incident that led to Oakley’s resignation occurred more than five years ago during a prior term in office. Oakley apparently objected to a growing relationship between Crawford and his assistant, Cheryl McGrady, who are now married.

Oakley, who has admitted she had been drinking, demanded at one point that McGrady leave a public event. Later, Oakley took a swing at McGrady, who had complained that she was sexually harassing Crawford, including licking his face starting at the base of his neck. Crawford did not file a formal complaint until much later, when Oakley ran for office again.


Trump Tax Hike on Middle Class

Some Trump voters are shocked and upset that the Trump Tax Cut is hurting them.

It’s February which means it’s officially everyone’s favorite time of year: tax season! And while most of us will be putting off tracking down our W-2’s until early April, some people have already managed to file their taxes. And among those early birds, many in the middle class have been shocked to find that instead of the nice little chunk of change they were expecting with their return, they actually owe money to Uncle Sam. What’s the reason for this financial switcheroo? 

It stems from President Trump’s tax reform, which was passed in 2017 and was touted by Trump and the GOP as a win for the middle class. However, with the new tax system now in place, Americans are discovering that most of the tax relief from the bill is actually being experienced by corporations. 

Meanwhile, many people are seeing an increase in taxes due to the bill eliminating many of the deductions that were used by middle-class families in order to lower the amount of taxes they were required to pay. Most notably, the tax reform placed a cap on deductions for taxes on both state and local levels.


Michigan Fan Keeps It Real

It's very important that from an early age a person learns how to stand up for his beliefs, no matter how many people say that he's wrong. After all as the possibly apocryphal saying goes, one man with courage is a majority.


ANN ARBOR, MI – It’s an unspoken rule that wearing maize and blue is a no-no in the heart of Buckeye country. That didn’t stop second-grader Jackson Winters from fearlessly dressing head to toe in support of his favorite team, the Michigan Wolverines, during a recent “dress in your favorite team colors” day at Tree of Life Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio.
Seeing him rocking a fleece Michigan blanket as a cape to show his powerful love for the Wolverines amid a sea of scarlet and gray, made Jackson’s father, Kyle, beam with pride.
“It’s a total battle of nature vs. nurture,” Kyle Winters said. “We are trying to train him in the way we believe he should be brought up - as a Wolverine - but obviously living in a town that is saturated with Buckeyes.” Jackson’s courageous maize and blue ensemble was rewarded with a first-place prize during the recent spirit day. “They were pretty nice about it, but they gave me a hard time,” Jackson said. LINK
Good for Jackson for having the courage to be himself and good for the other children who are secure enough not to try to bully everyone into thinking and behaving as they do. Likely some people on twitter could learn a thing or two from these kids.

Homelessness, Poverty and Groundcover

How are we going to solve the problem of poverty. Is it just a question of bad individual choices? For some people, it certainly is. For others it's not. An overemphasis on individual decisions can lead people to miss the big picture. 

MLK wrote that "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." Doing the work of "restructuring" is very dangerous and very tiring. Sometimes it is easier to concentrate on the small changes that you can make. And there's nothing wrong with that I think.  Although it is good that this non-profit organization is taking individual steps to assist people I still think that the entire society must make institutional changes so that people who have reached advanced age or who have fallen on hard times have a more robust safety net.  

I'm not sure that selling papers in freezing weather is all that different from panhandling. But if this project has helped some people transition into business owners or higher paid employees I can't say anything negative about it. We all just need to do more, that's all.


Monday, February 4, 2019

Bud Light Super Bowl Commercial/NFL 100 Commercial

Super Bowl 53 wasn't that exciting unless you are into defensive struggles. Most viewers probably aren't. And it was questionable as to whether the defenses were that good or the offenses were that bad. The New England Patriots won 13-3 over the Los Angeles Rams, giving Patriots QB and University of Michigan alum Tom Brady his 6th championship ring, possibly cementing a claim to be the best QB of all time. 

I thought most of the Super Bowl commercials were blah and boring, just like large portions of the game. There were two commercials which I thought were amusing. Both of them required that the viewer was familiar with famous events/people from NFL history or iconic dramatic moments from HBO's current signature series. I liked that. At least in that way neither commercial insulted the viewer's intelligence.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

IRS Scammer Prank Call

For at least a decade and a half if not longer there has been an apparently lucrative scam business originating primarily from various locations in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) in which telemarketers call American citizens and pretend to be the IRS or Social Security Agency or some other federal agent. The script is unvarying. 

The fake agent claims that the citizen hasn't paid his taxes or that his SS# has been used in a fraud and cancelled. The fake agent may not even have the citizen's real SS# which is why they are usually quite eager to get it from the citizen. The scammer threatens the citizen with immediate arrest. Of course the scammer can fix this problem if the citizen will transfer some money into an account, give the scammer access to his or her bank account, or best of all transfer money onto gift cards. But the citizen had better do this quick because the police are on their way right now. 

This is of course all bs. But evidently enough people still fall for it for people to keep on doing it. The obvious foreign accents, horrible pronunciation, and utter unfamiliarity with the basic facts of American life and culture should be enough to clue anyone in on the fact that this is a scam, let along the fact that the FBI, IRS or SS Administration do not call people and shake them down for gift cards. But every year, particularly at tax time, people get these calls.

(WXYZ) — Authorities in Novi and Northville are warning residents of an ongoing phone scam circulating in the area. Police say an individual claiming to be an IRS representative demands that you transfer money in the form of gift cards to avoid being arrested. The scammers are able to generate phone numbers with local area codes, increasing your likelihood of answering.

Police departments will not call residents to discuss tax issues. Also, the IRS will never demand immediate payment or threaten to arrest you. Do not give out your personal information, police say.

Book Reviews: November Road

November Road
by Lou Berney
You may or may not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who murdered John F. Kennedy and Officer Tippit before being murdered in turn by Jack Ruby. It is a fact that powerful mob bosses Carlos Marcello of New Orleans and Santo Trafficante Jr. of Tampa both despised JFK and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy. In 1962 and 1963 each boss made impassioned predictions (really threats) to their associates that JFK was going to be murdered soon and implied that they and/or their friends would have something to do with it.

Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby had tenuous connections to both southern mob bosses. Ruby was also a low level flunky to the Chicago Outfit fronted by noted psychopath and JFK hater Sam Giancana. All three Mafia leaders were involved with the anti-Castro Cuban exile movement and CIA sponsored abortive attempts to murder Castro and invade Cuba. So there's a lot of smoke there. November Road asks the reader to imagine that there's not only smoke but also fire.

Frank Guidry is a loyal (well loyal to money and himself) lieutenant of New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello. Frank doesn't handle murder or any heavy work. Frank is a fixer and arranger. He greases the corruption wheels to get things done across Carlos' domains. Frank and Carlos go back. But Frank's first loyalty is to Frank. When an old friend suddenly pops up begging for Frank to hide him from Carlos' executioners, Frank offers help but promptly divulges his friend's location to his bosses. People might have seen them together; Frank doesn't want any misunderstandings with the notoriously exacting, brutal, and unforgiving Carlos. Frank wants to live, dammit! He may only have a life of empty hedonism but Frank believes that's better than the alternative.

But when another New Orleans mob associate catches a sudden case of death, Frank is worried enough to look for some similarities. The common thread is Dallas. Each man had performed some task in Dallas that, however minor, could be linked to the JFK assassination. Frank dropped off a car in Dallas. Frank didn't think anything of it at the time. He wore gloves while driving the car, but there are people who might remember him. Frank is smart enough to guess who later used this car.

Fraud Fakes Fall and Faces Felony

You have to wonder about people who spend so much of their time, energy and resources trying to rip off other people. It seems that it would just be easier to make your money legally like most other people. But some folks think that they are smarter than everyone else and don't need to be restricted by the same rules. 

Occasionally those people get away with it. Some even get elected President. Other times though they just make a fool out of themselves and wind up explaining their story to the judge. One Mr. Alexander Goldinsky forgot that you don't see everybody who sees you.


Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A New Jersey man is facing charges after he was caught on camera throwing ice on the ground and faking a slip and fall in an alleged fraud scheme. The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said Alexander Goldinsky, 57, was working as an independent contractor at a business in Woodbridge when a security camera recorded the incident. The footage shows Goldinsky throw ice on the ground, carefully arrange himself on the floor and then wait to be discovered. 

Racist Detroit White Cop Humiliates Black Woman

Racism isn't just about committing genocide or hurling racial slurs in a never ending Tourette's spasm. It's also about refusing to extend the same courtesy to someone else that you would extend to a member of your own or more preferred group. It's about enforcing the law to the full extent without exceptions when it comes to THEM but being reasonable when it comes to US. Although Michigan is a great state it is also in many ways the Mississippi of the Midwest when it comes to race, though Indiana and Ohio are always in the running. One thing which my parents and other older people always stressed to me was to follow rules as best I could because usually many of the people enforcing the rules would have no mercy on me for even a minor violation. They wouldn't give me the benefit of the doubt. I learned that to be true. 

What strikes me about this story is not the fact that the officer made a legitimate traffic stop. It's that the white officer took pleasure in humiliating and insulting a black woman. Yes, regardless of race, everyone should always keep their driver's license, vehicle registration and insurance paperwork up to date and paid in full. I certainly do. But I think that in this case the officer would have found something else with which to harass the young woman. He could have let her go with a warning. He could have written a citation and kept it moving. He chose the most serious penalty (impounding) and also chose to insult the woman.

Detroit — A Detroit police officer has been reassigned while the department investigates racially-charged comments made during a traffic stop and posted to the officer's social media this week. The alleged incident happened during a traffic stop near Joy Road and Stout Street on the city's west side Tuesday night, police said. Officer Gary Steele pulled over Ariel Moore, 23, for an expired registration on her license plate and seized her vehicle. He told Moore to exit the vehicle and that it would be towed. Moore walked about a block to her home in below freezing weather.

University of Michigan Professor Accused of Rape

It is important to remember that no matter what we might hear from the more hysterical types in this #metoo era that immoral and criminal behavior can occur among both genders and in any sexuality.

Predation is not by any means something that only heterosexual males do to women. This latest story made me wonder if the University of Michigan might not have some explaining to do and/or even a little housecleaning. As always we should always grant every accused, male or female, gay or straight, the presumption of innocence. This particular alleged incident goes against the preferred media narrative. I have no idea if the powers that be at the University of Michigan knew of the rape allegation or all of the other sexual harassment allegations detailed in the story below. 

I would hate to think that people turned a blind eye to certain facts because they were eager to score a skilled performer or because they didn't want to be the ones to sound the alarm on a couple who were the poster boys for the country's acceptance of gay marriage. One minute you're on top of the world. The next minute, you're being extradited to Texas, which is not a phrase most people ever want to hear.

A jailed University of Michigan professor and his husband, accused of drugging and raping a man in 2010, won’t fight extradition on charges they face in Texas. David Daniels, a 52-year-old opera singer, and William Scott Walters, a 36-year-old conductor and singer, both of Ann Arbor, waived their right to extradition hearings during brief appearances in Washtenaw County Trial Judge Carol Kuhnke’s courtroom Friday, Feb. 1.

Crackdown on Birth Tourism

The United States is one of the few nations in the Western developed world to still offer birthright citizenship in which anyone who is born here is a citizen regardless of their parents' status. Most other nations, both in the "West" and beyond it, don't do that. Although the original intent of birthright citizenship was rooted in the immediate post-Civil War attempts to grant African-Americans full and unqualified citizenship in the United States, this legal tradition proved quite attractive to the people arriving in the post-Civil War waves of immigration to the United States, first from Europe and then later from Asia, Africa, Latin America and other places. In most nations, particularly in Europe, the "nation state" is synonymous with control and demographic dominance by one or at most a few ethnic/racial groups. The United States may have started with the same intent but because of slavery and the presence of the Indigenous people, the United States was never going to be a nation of one race or failing that even of one ethnic group. 

I have my doubts about the current wisdom of birthright citizenship during a time of mass immigration from the Third World but that's a different post. Today's problem is that some people are gaming the system to get the benefits of American citizenship for their progeny and later themselves without making the slightest contribution to the American political or economic framework. If someone is born here but spent all of their formative years as a citizen of China or Russia, are they really an American? There are a lot of different foreign nationals getting involved but for years Chinese and Russians have been the biggest practitioners of birth tourism. 

Three people who operated multimillion-dollar birth-tourism businesses in Southern California were arrested Thursday in the biggest federal criminal probe ever to target the thriving industry, in which pregnant women come to the United States to give birth so their children will become American citizens.

The businesses coached their clients to deceive United States immigration officials and pay indigent rates at hospitals to deliver their babies, even though many of the clients were wealthy, investigators said. Some Chinese couples were charged as much as $100,000 for a birth-tourism package that included housing, nannies and shopping excursions to Gucci.