Monday, May 17, 2021

Some Indians Try Cow Dung for Covid Cure

Every single group of people has some belief systems that are not only not backed up by testable hypotheses and science but also are often flatly contradicted by those processes. It is what it is. 
This is apparently just part of human nature. It doesn't matter whether we're discussing Flat-earthers, white evangelicals who claim that Covid-19 is no worse than the flu, Black people who argue that the vaccines developed to protect against Covid-19 are actually part of a racist population control plan, East Africans who think that albino body parts bring good luck, East Asians who swear that rhino horn cures fevers and impotence, or for that matter Republicans who are convinced that Trump won the 2020 election.
Everyone can believe ridiculous things, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc.
Sometimes a sufficient number of people who accept untrue facts can have a serious deleterious impact on everyone else. As the aphorism attributed to comedian George Carlin goes, "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups!
The problem with Covid-19 is that everyone's safety can be endangered by large numbers of people who refuse to or are unable to engage in best practices.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Mother Defends Children Against Racist Home Invasion

I do not think that every single person should own a firearm. And I know some people who own guns who in my opinion probably shouldn't. But I have never understood those who claim that only police or the military should own guns. 
I have zero respect for that position, not only because there are plenty examples of government officials harming unarmed people, but also because there are even more instances of criminals seeking to harm unarmed people and/or those whom they perceive as weaker than themselves. 
Whether we like it or not, the world is full of human predators. Although most of us will likely never encounter such folks there's absolutely nothing wrong with being prepared if we do.
Three white people allegedly threatened to kill a black family — including two children — during a violent home invasion in Michigan, prosecutors said. 
The suspects — identified as Branden Odegaard, Michael Graves and Maci Pietryga – were arrested after cops responded to a 911 call on April 26 in Walled Lake, where witnesses said the trio “threatened to kill the occupants” and used a racial slur, the Detroit News reported.

If Dog Breeds Were People

A friend shared this on Facebook. I thought it was sufficiently amusing to pass along. I have had some of the dogs portrayed in this skit. The skit was accurate as far as I could see. 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

SALT Deduction Cap Fight

I play chess. I hate when my opponent manipulates me into a situation with no good choices. I don't think that former President Trump and his merry band of sycophants are good chess players but they did box in the Democrats on an issue that divides people along class and regional lines. 
I am referring to the 2017 tax law which capped the individual federal tax deduction for state and local income and property taxes or SALT at $10,000. This deduction was previously unlimited
So before 2017 someone who owned a mansion or other expensive property as their primary residence could deduct the entire state or local property tax or income tax owed from his or her federal income tax liability. But they can't do that today. 
Some people who pay high local income and property taxes don't like the new law. Not one bit. Many of the people most impacted are well off or wealthy Democrats in politically Democratic or "blue states".  
It's ironic because much of the Democratic messaging is that the well off should pay their fair share, which is in part what the SALT $10,000 deduction cap does, even though that's NOT why Trump and Republicans put it into place. I think the issue is probably the perceived unfairness that someone with a million dollar home in say Texas or Alabama is, all else equal, paying less in overall taxes than someone with the same priced home in California or New York. 

Movie Reviews: Night Vision

Night Vision
directed by Gil Bettman
The older movie Night Vision starred former NFL player and blaxploitation leading man Fred Williamson and noted martial arts performer Cynthia Rothrock. The idea wasn't that bad, if completely unoriginal. A burned out older cop with personal issues who is about to be fired is paired up with a younger female cop with a patchy history. 
Together the unlikely duo must confront an insane evil mastermind who has a personal grudge against the older cop. Eventually the two cops find that despite their differences they might actually (ahem) "like" each other. 
So we've seen this story before. Unfortunately Night Vision was poorly acted, poorly shot, had bad music, bad writing, bad lighting, and most unforgivably, bad action sequences. This is a bad movie. Horrible. Pointless. 
Although Night Vision was released in 1998 the soundtrack is an inept knockoff/parody of the 1980s Jan Hammer/Tangerine Dream style of synth pop used in the TV series Miami Vice
Dakota Smith (Williamson) is a divorced former detective who has been demoted to motorcycle patrol in part because he's an alcoholic but also because (1) he tends to shoot first and ask questions later and (2) doesn't mind telling his bosses to go f*** themselves. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Ma'khia Bryant Shooting

I rarely have nice things to say about the police. I think police are a necessary evil. Often conservatives and racists (which is almost redundant phrasing these days) defend obvious police brutality and misconduct against Black Americans by piously bleating that police save lives, make split second decisions, and are legally authorized or occasionally obligated to use force, even deadly force.
This is true, but irrelevant in the cases conservatives champion, which often involve police officers using force when it's not required simply because they feel like it, don't like Black people and/or want to make the point that Blacks have no rights police need to respect.  
Conservatives who champion this gratuitous anti-Black violence are often the same people who claim that they will shoot any police officer who attempts to take their guns or enter their home without a warrant. It is what it is. But even a broken clock is right twice a day. 
When I first heard about the Ma'khia Bryant case I assumed it was another case of a white cop reacting to a non-existent threat, flexing on unarmed Black people to feed a racist fragile ego, or shooting someone by mistake. But it wasn't any of those things. Ma'Khia Bryant was trying to stab another Black woman when Columbus Police Officer Nicholas Reardon shot her four times and ended her life.
Let's repeat that. Bryant was trying to stab someone. You can't handwave that away.

Movie Reviews: Jakob's Wife

Jakob's Wife
directed by Travis Stevens
Barbara Crampton is horror/B-movie royalty and has been since her work in Re-Animator as well as her more recent turn in the inventive You're Next. I liked Crampton's acting, but I didn't care for this movie as much as I thought I would. 
There are many reasons for that but I think the most relevant one is that Jakob's Wife is not as much a horror or thriller movie as it is a pandering would be feminist treatise about the evils of marriage for women. A second reason is that even if I freely grant that horror movies can, have been, and even should be used as social critiques and political consciousness-raising tracts, I though this film didn't deliver a good mix between entertainment and commentary.
The filmmaker must make the antagonist worse than a morally dubious protagonist to win viewer sympathy. The Godfather did this well. Though Coppola depicts only criminals, he deftly shows us events through the Corleone eyes. Coppola details antagonist sins but not the Corleone crimes. The viewer identifies with the "good" Mafia Family. Coppola was reportedly concerned by how thoroughly he accomplished this; he therefore went out of his way in the sequel to emphasize that the Corleones were the bad guys. 
Rob Zombie pulled off  a similar trick in The Devil's Rejects. His protagonist family is evil but the members love and sacrifice for each other. The final reason I wasn't that impressed with Jakob's Wife was that once again the Black person (in this case a Black woman) died first.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Big Heat

The Big Heat (1953)
directed by Fritz Lang
This earlier film starred film noir standouts Gloria Grahame and Glenn Ford, who were later seen together in Human Desire, also directed by Fritz Lang. 
It is one of the better noir films narratively and visually. 
Although the film is set during a time in what later generations view as either a wonderful highpoint or ugly nadir of male supremacy where women stayed in the kitchen and men made all the decisions, The Big Heat's male hero compliantly washes dishes, does other household chores, and apologizes to his wife when he gives offense. 
The man may be bringing home the money but if he rules the roost, it's only because that's how his wife wants it. It's pretty clear who makes most of the final decisions at home and it's not the man. The hero views his role as provider and protector, not necessarily as boss. 
Although the hero talks tough and upsets the applecart because he's set on justifiable revenge, it's the women whose actions drive the story and make things happen. It's also, for good or bad, the women who often pay the price. This last is so pronounced that one could make an argument that the hero is something of an unwitting "femme fatale" ( homme fatale?) himself. 
Many people are worse off for knowing him. The hero tries to do the right thing, even when he's on his roaring rampage of revenge, but he often inadvertently makes things worse for other people, especially women

Tax Preparer Pulls Gun On Customer

You know, for most people who aren't millionaires, independently wealthy, earn a living from profits, rents, and interest instead of salary, or have business interests, income, and property in multiple states and nations, I have never thought that it made much difference whether they did their tax returns themselves or paid for professional tax prep.

Everyone wants to minimize their taxes owed, whether they are barely surviving or have so much wealth that they forget how many cars or homes that they own. 
But when you're a salaried schlub, the government usually already knows to the penny how much income you earned last year. In that case, I don't see much value in paying anyone significant amounts of money to prepare your taxes. Still, many people do.
However, if I were to hire someone to prepare my tax return, giving them my social security number and other privileged information, I'd want to ensure that this person was trustworthy. I wouldn't hire someone who had recently been in prison for robbery. But we all have different risk preferences I guess.

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.