Monday, April 12, 2021

Police Continue to Attack Black Men: Antone Austin and Caron Nazario

I could change only the names and dates in the two stories in this post and the events would be identical to other incidents of police assault on Black men in America during the past four centuries. 
Police see a Black man and attack the Black man, even if the Black man was not committing any crime or civil violation. Police use or threaten deadly force when neither the use of force or the threatened escalation was legal or necessary. 
Police dismiss objections by saying the Black man deserved it for not immediately falling to his knees and begging massa not to whip him. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. 
These incidents can occur any time, any place. When police receive a call about a man violating a restraining order they should obtain information on who the man is, his name and description, his clothing and location. But apparently LAPD officers don't bother with those details. They select a Black man in the general vicinity and attack. Though the alleged violator of the restraining order was White, it was the Black man who was choked and beaten. 
Music producer Antone Austin says his life was turned upside down about two years ago when police officers arrested him and his girlfriend outside his California home in what a federal lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles claims was a case of racial profiling, excessive force and unlawful arrest.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Michigan Home Inspector Assaults Elmo

Although it's tough to beat Florida as a source for weird and wacky stories , it seems like my home state is making a pretty good case for having FAR more than its share of nutjobs.  

Although former New Yorker writer and CNN analyst Jefferey Toobin made news for getting in touch with himself during a Zoom call, at least he had the weak sauce argument that he was in his own home and supposedly thought that the call had completed and the camera/audio was off. Supposedly. But Michigan home inspector Kevin Wayne VanLuven didn't even have that fig leaf of an excuse. No, VanLuven was doing a home inspection and apparently found the prospect of a little me time with an Elmo doll to be too good to pass up. Unfortunately for this puppet molester, he didn't realize that his tickle me Elmo caper was caught on camera. 

A 59-year-old home inspector caught on camera during a home inspection allegedly pleasuring himself with an Elmo doll was charged in district court Wednesday on two misdemeanor counts. VanLuven was arrested Wednesday without incident by members of the Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Apprehension Team. His arrest stems from a March 12 incident at the home of an Oxford Township couple who were having their home inspected by VanLuven prior to its sale at the request of the prospective buyers.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Black F-22 Pilot And Racial Discrimination

I think that many Black men in America could tell some tales about discrimination that falls short of explicit racial hostility in the form of "I hate n*****s and think we should kill them all!" . That thing is not uncommon but discrimination that appears in the form of discomfort, different standards and expectations, and simple failure to connect on a human level is more frequent. This lowkey animus is dangerous to both health and career goals.
Obviously high performance is important to everyone. But your soft skills are almost as important as performance. If, because of your race, people don't like you and never really trust you, it's more difficult to rise in your chosen field. The story that Air Force Major Daniel Walker told resonated with me. I have heard the same sort of stories in different contexts for decades. 
Walker is leaving the Air Force. We each must choose our own path. I bet that Walker will find the same sorts of challenges in his next career. Being Black, your whole life is an "uphill battle against racism." There's no escaping that.
Walker, a Dallas, Texas native, comes from a legacy of stealth fighter pilots. He grew up hearing stories about his great-uncle Norman Scales, a Tuskegee airman who earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service to the country during World War II. Walker followed in his great-uncle’s footsteps, and attended the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado before continuing on with pilot training. But once in the ranks, Walker quickly learned how he was perceived by his white counterparts. “You’re big, you’re Black, with a deep voice. You’re intimidating,” he told Martin.

Dutch Street Performer

Music is life.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Movie Reviews: Decoy

Decoy
directed by Jack Bernhard
This is an older and lower budget film noir that nonetheless stands tall as one of the most unabashedly hardcore noirs, with a femme fatale who runs rings around all of the men she encounters. This lady is cold and nasty but also extremely attractive. 
Her beauty allows her to get away with things because nobody believes until it's too late that she will turn on him. You might say that this film is a homage to the power of femininity gone wrong or conversely, an examination of how stupid men can be when women are concerned. One minor character finds the word 'dichotomy' in the dictionary and is fascinated by its sound and meaning. He mispronounces it and repeats it over and over again. He's talking about Jean Gillie's character though he doesn't realize it. The audience certainly will though. There is a serious dichotomy between Gillie's character's looks and words on the one hand and her character's actions on the other. 
I've written before that people do themselves a disservice if they dismiss all older movies as having poorly written female characters. I think too often people believe that women must behave as men behave in order to be strong. That's wrong. Gillie's character won't ever be mistaken physically or otherwise for a man. She won't be cursing, punching people out, or mouthing feminist platitudes. Gillie's character gets the most screen time, is perhaps the best constructed, and is fully in charge of things, from the beginning to the end.  

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Book Reviews: The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
edited by Humphrey Carpenter with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien
When we read books we dislocate ourselves in space and also time if the book is sufficiently old. What Tolkien did with The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings was to create a world which was (he was sometimes coy about this) our own but much removed in time. This world had a backstory of untold eons, its own invented languages (Tolkien was above all a philogist, being able to speak or read at least seven different languages), and its creation stories that intertwined Christianity and the Northern European myths of which Tolkien was so fond. Tolkien was also keen to point out that although the Northern myths were his favorite because they were those of his origin he was also interested in many other cultures and tales.
Although Tolkien lived and died long before the internet was a thing he was a prodigious letter writer. This book is exactly what it claims to be. It is a collection of letters written by Tolkien to friends, relatives, business associates, employers, priests, publishers, fellow writers, fans, detractors, and finally a few to his fiancee and later wife Edith. There aren't many epistles to Edith in this collection because Carpenter and evidently the Tolkien Estate thought most of them were too personal for public release. Would you want to know all of your parents' intimate discussions? Would you want everyone else to read them? I'm betting not. 
Tolkien's letters range from October 1914 to August 1973, just a few days before Tolkien's death. There is a gap in letters from 1916 to about 1923 and another from 1925 to about 1937. Carpenter says that there (a) aren't a lot of surviving letters from that period and (b) many of those that do survive are either again too personal or have little to do with Tolkien's literary works. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Senator Schumer Shields The Rich

One of the predictable things about life is that people are hypocrites. People sanctimoniously blast others for looking after their tribe or self-interests but rush to do the exact same thing when they are in power. 
One politician who exemplifies this more than most is New York Senator Charles Schumer. 
Some people have referred to old Chucky as the Senator from Wall Street because of his previous interest in ensuring that New York based financial entities are protected from legal accountability and get their "fair share" of any "gub'mnt cheese" that is being disbursed. 
Well surprise, surprise, as it turns out Senator Schumer is also, despite former hints to the contrary just fine with public funds being given to private schools. 
Tucked into the $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue law is something of a surprise coming from a Democratic Congress and a president long seen as a champion of public education — nearly $3 billion earmarked for private schools. 
More surprising is who got it there: Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader whose loyalty to his constituents diverged from the wishes of his party, and Randi Weingarten, the leader of one of the nation’s most powerful teachers’ unions, who acknowledged that the federal government had an obligation to help all schools recover from the pandemic, even those who do not accept her group.

Brooklyn Bus Battle: You Back Up!

It's unavoidable. In life we will have arguments, debates, disagreements, contretemps, squabbles, or outright fights with other people: friends, relatives, spouses, lovers, co-workers, and strangers. It is of course always more important to insist that you are right and that the other person acknowledge that he is wrong than to find a solution to an issue that is affecting both people. Okay, obviously that statement is hyperbole but people do act like that often enough such that it's a permanent problem in human relations, both individual and societal. 
Fortunately in a recent Brooklyn confrontation, two bus drivers armed with nothing more than rising tempers clashed instead of two nations armed to the teeth that were each looking for a reason to start trouble. Bystanders intervened, lowered each antagonist's temperature, and found a solution that allowed everyone involved to maintain pride. So people solved the issue before anything other than harsh words were exchanged. And that was good. Would that more clashes turned out like this. We would all be better off for it.

Two quarreling city bus drivers locked horns and refused to move their massive rigs in a bizarre stand-off on a narrow two-way avenue in Brooklyn, a video released Friday shows. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Murder Over Stimulus Check in Indianapolis

When I read about the story below I was reminded of the Tolkien quote which headlines this post. I am not opposed to the death penalty per se.
But even in the most execution happy states of America, most first degree murderers never receive the death penalty. I'm not sure that imposing the death penalty would provide deterrence. There are some people who just don't care.
Obviously the death penalty is also just filthy with race and class bias just like the rest of the justice system. I have seen too many cases where innocent (often Black or poor) men have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to multiple decades to the hell of state or federal prisons, often by openly racist prosecutors or jurors who ignored exculpatory evidence, for me to uncritically endorse usage of the death penalty. 
Having  written that, I don't think the world needs people who murder children. I DO think such people deserve death. If we had the death penalty for all murderers and carried it out after trial and limited expedited appeals would there be a deterrence impact? Should we only use the death penalty where there is absolutely no doubt of guilt? Or is that morally wrong? I don't know. I'm certain that the perpetrator of the below crime should pay with his life for his deeds.
INDIANAPOLIS — Her family said Jeanettrius Moore worked hard at a beauty supply shop to support herself and two little girls and appreciated the most recent $1,400 stimulus check issued to help Americans recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The father of her youngest baby, Malik Halfacre, thought he should get half.

Book Reviews: Dave vs. The Monsters: Resistance

Dave vs. The Monsters: Resistance
by John Birmingham
Often second books in a trilogy are a let down. Resistance is not a bad book, but the middle of stories are rarely as exciting as introductions or as satisfying as endings. To briefly recap the first book, parts of the United States and other places have been invaded by monstrous insectoid/ogrish looking creatures who have either lived in the planet's interior or are denizens of an alternate dimension that has intruded upon our own.
 The aliens always reach our world by tunneling upwards. The aliens remember humanity as frightened scared cattle. Humans don't remember the aliens at all, although they could be the inspiration for some old legends. 
Although most of these creatures are more than a match for several full grown men, their technology is at Dark Age levels. After the hero, Dave Hooper, defeats their champion, the U.S. military massacres the alien army. The aliens have no words to express what is happening to them. 
The aliens are shocked at what they saw as treachery by Dave; the deal was that that particular alien army could return to the underworld without further bloodshed. The U.S. military was not party to the deal that Dave made and wouldn't have lived up to it if it had been. Dave was initially upset about that. Captain Heath, Dave's primary military contact, makes it clear to Dave that he doesn't follow Dave's whims or film driven fantasies about honor or showdowns. Heath has much more important issues to consider, and so do his superior officers.
In Resistance, Dave has gone Hollywood. Dave spends his free time partying with Hollywood starlets, eating, drinking, and copulating with said starlets and other female members of the jet set. Dave also has hired a lawyer to try to prevent his ex-wife from cashing in on his new found fame and hopeful fortune.