Saturday, February 29, 2020

Book Reviews: Dark Crusade, Darkness Weaves

Dark Crusade and Darkness Weaves
by Karl Edward Wagner
The late Karl Edward Wagner was an author, editor, publisher, poet and graphic novelist who originally trained as a psychiatrist. Wagner wrote fantasy, sci-fi, and horror stories. Wagner may have been best known for his Kane stories. These tales weren't always consistent in which world they were set. Generally it's a world that's not our own but occasionally Kane is shown in modern Earth. 

Kane, the allusion to the Biblical character is deliberate, is one of the first humans to exist. Kane claims that Adam was his father and Eve was his stepmother. Kane rebelled against the insane God who created humanity. Kane murdered his brother when that brother supported the deity.

The enraged God cursed Kane to wander the world, knowing neither age nor disease, until Kane succumbs to the violence he introduced. Kane has his own marks of evil: red hair, left handedness, and most notably disturbing cold blue eyes. Kane radiates violence and insanity to anyone who meets his gaze. Kane CAN be disabled and killed but it's very hard to do as he quickly heals from all but the most damaging wounds.

Kane is NOT a good guy. Kane doesn't experience the world as other humans do. Time and morality are meaningless to Kane. Kane staves off boredom and depression by using magic, technological knowledge, or violence to achieve temporary dominance. Kane is an anti-hero, a villain protagonist. 

Wagner makes him barely sympathetic by (a) creating worse antagonists and (b) having most of Kane's obviously immoral actions take place in the past. People remember evil sorcerers or pirates named Kane when they meet him before convincing themselves that the muscular man they see couldn't possibly be the man from the legends. I was reorganizing a few things in my library and decided to reread these stories, which I must have had since eighth grade or so.

Movie Reviews: Midway (2019)

Midway
directed by Roland Emmerich
This isn't a remake of the 1976 film but a new take on the famous and iconic WW2 1942 battle between the United States and Japan. The Battle of Midway was a turning point of WW2 . 

Just six months after Pearl Harbor, the United States badly defeated Japan at the Battle of Midway, giving the Japanese such a thorough drubbing that Japan could never again take the offensive against the United States. 

The US advantage in numbers, material and innovation would turn the tide of war against the Japanese though their defeat would take another three years. In this battle the US lost about 300 men and one aircraft carrier. The Japanese lost about 3,000 men and all four carriers in their fleet. It was a curb stomping, a knockout, a mollywhopping, a whupping, a beatdown.

This movie tries to give the Japanese status as honorable enemies. This was of course how they saw themselves. The reality was different. Much like the US and European nations it attacked and temporarily displaced the Japan of the thirties and forties had a very strong streak of racism, xenophobia and national chauvinism. This was expressed against everyone who wasn't Japanese and especially anyone who surrendered. 

Oakland: Rental Criminal Background Checks Now Illegal!

It is my belief and often state or federal law that it's wrong to mistreat someone for an immutable characteristic. Refusing to hire or rent to someone because of race or religion is wrong. 

Assuming a young woman woman will become pregnant and declining to hire or promote her is wrong. And so on. 

Now unfortunately there are loopholes in and ways around all of those restrictions.  A racist can't legally place a "No N*****s!!!"  clause in her company's hiring policy but no one can force her to mentor Black employees with the same vigor that she does for others. Still, laws that prevent mistreatment for race, religion, ethnicity are good things. It's trickier when we make laws to prevent differential treatment for actual individual past wrong doing. The city of Oakland has banned most background check usage by landlords.

Oakland became the first city in California to ban criminal background checks in most housing applications for private and other rental units under a measure adopted by the City Council on Tuesday. The council unanimously passed a “fair chance housing” ordinance that bars landlords from conducting criminal background checks on prospective tenants. 

The ordinance in Oakland is the first to include rental units outside subsidized affordable and nonprofit housing. The measure, supporters say, could prevent homelessness and bring down the recidivism rate. 
“There is only one place in America that any one of us is guaranteed a roof over our heads and that is in prison,” said John Jones III, campaign director for Alameda County Fair Chance to Housing Coalition. “All of us seek to have safe shelter. That should not be a matter of privilege.”

Applicants who believe they were discriminated against due to their criminal background can file a complaint with the city or a lawsuit. The city can issue penalties of up to $1,000 per violation.
If a private action is filed, a court could award damages
LINK 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Democratic Debate: The Knives Come Out For Bernie

I didn't have the time or the energy to watch all of the televised recent South Carolina Democratic debate. My Day Job Boss has made it clear that it would be in my interest to arrive to work earlier. 

But the parts of the debate that I did see fit perfectly in line with The Janitor's prescient predictions. It was pretty eerie actually. 

As you may have heard pundits, statisticians and self-serving politicians say before, Black people are a slight majority of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina.  Black men are 20% of Democratic primary voters while Black women are 35% of Democratic primary voters.

This is thanks to mass incarceration and an almost complete abandonment of the Democrats by some Southern whites who have a rather strong dislike of any political party that includes you know who. Any politician worthy of the name knows who his or her audience is. Here is what The Janitor had to say:

Democratic debate tonight in South Carolina so get ready for 2 hours of shameless pandering like:

Warren: "You know when my brothers joined the military they made friends with a black soldier. True story."

Bernie: "I once marched (all the way in the back of the crowd) with Dr. King..."
Klobuchar: "We gave you Prince. You're welcome."
Buttigieg: 😶
Bloomberg: "So about that stop & frisk, you see what had happened was..."
Biden: "O-hibety hoo-blah-Bama..." 
Steyer: "I bought the rights to reparations, shrimp n grits, Migos, cocoa butter, Red Lobster biscuits, and Beats by Dre."

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Book Reviews: The Mafia Hitman's Daughter

The Mafia Hitman's Daughter
by Linda Scarpa with Linda Rosencrance
Greg Scarpa was also known as The Grim Reaper, which probably tells you everything you need to know about his primary skill sets and value to the Profaci (later Colombo) Crime Family of which he was a member. Scarpa boasted that he had stopped counting the number of people whom he had murdered after around fifty or so. 

Some accounts indicate that the number of murders he either committed personally (Scarpa was a hands on leader) or ordered could be somewhere between eighty and one hundred. The FBI employed Scarpa to intimidate and/or torture KKK members for information, something he boasted about to his family.

Somewhat surprisingly Scarpa had an unconventional home life. He married one woman and had four children with her. Sometime during that marriage Scarpa fell in love with another woman and had two children with her. However he didn't marry her. That woman, Linda Schiro, didn't want the stigma of having children outside of wedlock so she married (and cuckolded) another man before divorcing him to move in with Scarpa. 

Cuckoldry became something of a recurring theme as Schiro later, with Scarpa's apparent enthusiastic support, took up with a delivery boy who would later become part of Scarpa's criminal network. Another book I read that focused on this family claimed that Scarpa would occasionally interrogate the younger man to ensure that he was properly satisfying Schiro. Hmm. 

Those must have been some rather uncomfortable conversations.

I guess the Mafia was not immune to changing sexual mores. I also guess that people who wanted to keep breathing did not needle Scarpa about Schiro's behavior. You don't get a nickname like The Grim Reaper by letting people insult your common-law wife.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Warren Destroys Bloomberg At Democratic Debate

At the recent Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Senator Elizabeth Warren showed what happens when one person (that would be her) comes to the debate prepared and fiercely determined to show everyone she's still in it to win it, while another person (that would be former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg) saunters into a debate evidently not having bothered to do minimal preparation. 

Bloomberg apparently thought that his wealth and support from certain anti-Sanders media pundits meant that he was above the fray. It was seemingly inevitable that Bloomberg was going to win the Democratic nomination, despite having been a Republican just five minutes ago. In Bloomberg's mind, this debate was just a dog and pony show that for some reason he had to join. Senator Warren didn't see things that way.

Professor Warren (she was my brother's professor at Harvard) not only laid hands on the supercilious Bloomberg, she broke his jaw, kicked in his ribs, hit him upside the head with a brick, kneecapped him with an icepick, and shot him twice with a .45. And THEN she really went to work on him. Before she was finished I was expecting to get a late night call from Warren telling me to meet her at my northern Michigan property with shovels, duct tape and a tarp.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Movie Reviews: Angel Has Fallen

Angel Has Fallen
directed by Ric Roman Waugh
This is the third installment in an action adventure series that centers around men who try to kidnap or kill the President and the Secret Service agents who try to stop them. The movie is not boring. It is comfortable in the same way that wrapping yourself in a favorite old blanket is comfortable. As long as you don't care about the frayed ends, questionable spots, and rips where the stuffing is falling out, no one else will either. 

The quality of the acting and the cinematography are all what you would expect from work that involves A-list actors. The writing? Well like I said it is a comfortable sequel. The bad guys are way too obvious. People who don't even like or watch movies like this would be able to tell you who the bad guys are and what they want in the first ten minutes of the film.
That's not really a good thing.

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is a Secret Service agent who is getting up there in age. He suffers from migraines, concussions and other pains from his Secret Service work and military experiences. It's about time for Banning to move out of the direct field work and take a promotion to head of the Secret Service. It's Washington D.C.'s worst kept secret that Banning will get the spot after the current Secret Service Director David Gentry (Lance Reddick) retires. 

But Banning doesn't want to do that, because among other reasons, he still enjoys the frontline experience of being on President Trumbull's (Morgan Freeman) security detail. He doesn't want to sit behind a desk and do fake battle with corpulent staffers, Senators, and lobbyists for his budget each year.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Trump Acquitted in Senate: Now What?

WASHINGTON — After five months of hearings, investigations and revelations about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, a divided United States Senate acquitted him on Wednesday of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election, bringing an acrimonious impeachment trial to its expected end.

In a pair of votes whose outcome was never in doubt, the Senate fell well short of the two-thirds margin that would have been needed to remove the 45th president. 


The verdicts came down — after three weeks of debate — almost entirely along party lines, with every Democrat voting “guilty” on both charges and Republicans uniformly voting “not guilty” on the obstruction of Congress charge.

Only one Republican, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, broke with his party to judge Mr. Trump guilty of abuse of power. Democratic leaders immediately insisted the result was illegitimate, the product of a self-interested cover-up by Republicans, and promised to continue their investigations of Mr. Trump.


“The verdict of this kangaroo court will be meaningless,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said moments before the vote. “By refusing the facts — by refusing witnesses and documents — the Republican majority has placed a giant asterisk, the asterisk of a sham trial, next to the acquittal of President Trump, written in permanent ink.”


Saturday, February 1, 2020

Movie Reviews: Countdown

Countdown
directed by Justin Dec
This is a predictable PG-13 horror movie where attractive young people do stupid things to keep the story moving. There are jump scares every other frame. But at least the Black guy doesn't die first. So there's that. These movies all have a certain rhythm. 

Someone does something questionable, like buying an ancient lamp from an elderly Roma lady, desecrating a grave, or partying at a wicked family's deserted ancestral home. Bad things happen. Someone with more brain cells than your average door knob realizes that something isn't right. This person, usually with some skeptical friends or supportive strangers, tracks down a paranormal expert.

Sometimes the expert is an incompetent clown. Sometimes the expert has lost faith and must be cajoled back into action. Sometimes the expert is retired.Sometimes the expert is eager to assist and kick a$$ for the Lord!. Sometimes malevolent forces eliminate the expert before he can share critical knowledge. Sometimes the expert is secretly working for malevolent forces. 

The friends and/or last survivor make their final stand against the forces of evil.  Maybe there's a disbelieving cop or other authority figure who once arrested or otherwise hindered the heroes/heroines. At the end that person usually helps. He (or she) validates the group's story, gets busy with the attractive lead character, or sacrifices himself for the attractive lead character. Countdown didn't break any new ground. I thought the 90 minute run time was too long. The movie touches some interesting points about fate and predestination.