Friday, August 31, 2012

Race and Politics

I am about to touch one of those third rails that civilized people aren't supposed to discuss, and it was inspired by a story I read on an incident at the Republican National Convention.  A couple of attendees threw peanuts at a black camerawoman who works at CNN, and commented, "this is how we feed animals".  The attendees were promptly ejected, and condemnation ensued from all quarters.  As it should.  It was a terrible racial attack.  But the last paragraph of the article I read got me thinking.  According to "a recent poll", Obama has 94% support among black people, and his opponent, Mitt Romney, has 0%.  That's right, zero.  Now, I know Republicans have enjoyed scant support from the black community from as far back as I can remember, but I can't remember their support for a non-Democratic candidate being this low.

Well, other than perhaps 2008, when John McCain ran against....Barack Obama.  I'm not going to go on a goose chase Googling for 2008 poll ratings, but I'd venture to say that McCain had a similar rating amongst black people.  Mitt Romney actually spoke to the NAACP last month, and was booed numerous times.  Not very respectful, especially since it was a thoughtful gesture on his part, albeit futile.  Why is that level of meanness shown towards a presidential candidate, and it isn't regarded as racist by anybody?  Whereas, if a black person has a few peanuts tossed at them, or someone criticizes Obama in a particular way people come out of the woodwork to condemn it?  I think the unblinking support shown by the black community towards Obama, just because he is black, is the epitome of racism.

Just to give an example, one of the times that Romney was booed at his NAACP speech, was when he said that he would repeal Obamacare.  I would have wanted to ask anyone in that audience, how is Obamacare supposed to be beneficial for the black community?  Far from being universal health care, it is a giveaway to the private insurance companies.  It mandates that every American has health insurance, and for anyone who does not, they will be fined by the government.  In essence, Obamacare is a law that requires all Americans to pay "tribute" to private insurance companies.  With those facts, you'd think blacks especially would be up in arms about being forced under law to obtain private insurance.  But no, Obama's black just like them, he can do no wrong.

I am pretty much indifferent to the political process, and it is unlikely that I will vote again (outside of the library budget).  But I am hoping that Romney wins.  Say what you will about Bush II, but as long as he was in office, people were watching and paying attention.  Obama is as reactionary and corporate-friendly as they come, but because he is a black Democrat, most on the left feel that he can do no wrong.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Greeks Face Crime Wave as Their Country Goes Down the Shitter

As you should know, Greece has been in a really rough patch economically over the past few years.  There have been continuous austerity measures, which basically means cutting the shit out of all kinds of government.  This has extended to police patrols of major areas, and as you can surmise, between that and less work and money for people, crime has soared.

I think about my own country's economic prospects all the time, especially when I read stories like this one.  In the worst-case scenario, what Greece is facing might not be that bad by comparison, if some of the more dire predictions from some of our economists play out.  So, while I may not always appreciate it, we should be thankful that we have the Second Amendment.  While I still scoff at the rationale from some, that gun ownership can serve as a deterrent to a tyrannical government (which is a pipe dream, I've explained this before), it can be very beneficial for those who are facing a situation in which the police cannot help them.  Greeks are being forced to take up old hunting rifles as a means of defense, since the only gun licences in that country are handed out for sport and hunting.  Until recently, Greece had one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, so this wasn't a big deal.  But, times change.

One part of this article that made me laugh, and highlights the media's bias for unlimited immigration (which plays into the hands of corporate power, since immigration drives down wages and kills any leverage that working people have, but again, look at who owns the media) was this passage:

Official statistics show that immigrants are responsible for about half of the criminal activity in the country - but many Greeks blame foreigners for the spike in crime.

The article goes on to admit that gangs from Albania and Bulgaria are entering Greece since Greek people have emptied their bank accounts and are keeping their money at home.  But the Greek people have no reason to blame those immigrants for why crime has gone up.  The media's motives are so transparent at times that it's laughable.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


There is a new film out, but as it's an indie, it will only be playing in the cities and it'll be a few months before I'm able to catch it.  But it looks very compelling, and it's based on an incident that happened nearly ten years ago, that I'd never heard about, but it highlights one of those things about humanity that we don't want to believe it's true, and that reflects on our society now more than it has in some time.

The film is called "Compliance", and it's based on an incident that happened at a McDonald's in Kentucky back in 2004; similar hoaxes took place in the preceding years at around 70 other restaurants throughout the country.  A man called the McDonald's, and told an assistant manager that he was a police officer that was investigating a theft committed by a co-worker at the restaurant.  After some gentle prodding and bullshitting (the 'officer' was held up and could not get to the restaurant right away), the assistant manager agreed to search her employee and her belongings.  When she finds nothing, the caller becomes more demanding, and events quickly escalate and spiral out of control for everybody except the caller.

This article that was published shortly after the event happened is probably the best source for the events that happened outside of the movie itself, but I feel that it serves as an example for how easy it is to control people and make someone, even who on the surface you believe is a "good" person, do some pretty monstrous things just because they are instructed to by someone who they deem as an authority figure.  Of course, there are other examples throughout history (the "I was just following orders" defense that was popular at the judgment at Nuremberg came immediately to mind for me), but this other article that I read that references the film brings more modern examples to mind.

Take some of the things that our politicians tell us, like Bush the Second telling us "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq or that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, or that the planet isn't getting warmer, or that Obama's birth certificate was forged.  All of these statements are swallowed up, unremittingly, by countless people without any questioning or investigation.  I know that many who are familiar with this case will tell themselves that these managers who consented to the caller and conducted strip searches and acts of a sexual nature lacked common sense and will say, "what do you expect?  They managed a McDonald's or an Applebees franchise".  But when we speak of the political junkies, who accept the above examples as scripture because they come from the party they like, are they really that different?  In both cases, they are furthering someone's agenda because they are being told to, and in the process, seem to be exercising little common sense or independent thought.  Of course, please don't take what I'm saying as a statement that denying climate change because Newt Gingrich told you to, is the same as patting down and touching a girl's breasts because a guy on the phone playing cop told someone else to.

Anyway, a little food for thought.  I really want to stay and keep talking, but the gym beckons, have not gone in a week or so.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Neil Armstrong

Heard over the weekend that another great man has left us, that being Neil Armstrong.  I had the pleasure of spending the past couple of hours reading up on his life, death, as well as seeing a few video clips.  I didn't really know all that much about him prior to reading these articles, other than what most people know, but I came away with even more respect for the man.  I don't know if it was him in particular, or if it was just how people carried themselves back in that time, but I was in awe reading of how he faded back into a nearly obscure life after being the first man to be on the moon.  That is a rarity in the times that I live in.  Most people, who are able to achieve fame via means much less dignified and honorable than Mr. Armstrong did, are more than eager to pimp themselves out to any corporation willing to pay for their commercial services.  Armstrong frequently denied those opportunities (with the exception of doing several commercials for Chrysler back in the late 70's, when they were experiencing financial difficulties; Armstrong said that he did it for their contributions to aeronautics and that they were an American company, and I actually do not doubt him).

Also, being modest, quiet and hard-working was actually recognized and lauded back in those days.  In one of the articles I read, one of the reasons why Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon rather than Buzz Aldrin, is that Aldrin was known for being a blowhard and very ambitious, making it known within NASA that he should be the first man on the moon.  Meanwhile, Armstrong thought that descending and landing on the moon, not walking the moon, was the most important part of the mission.  NASA went with Armstrong.  Afterwards, as I said, Armstrong quietly retired to his farm, and a professorship at a university in Ohio.  He never quite faded into obscurity; he was on several important committees, including the one formed to investigate the Challenger disaster in 1986.  But he never seemed to profit from his exploits as a test pilot or as the first man on the moon.  I read that it was impossible to obtain his autograph, out of his fear that it would be sold for profit.  Meanwhile, I've seen Aldrin plenty of times over the years, and he has written several books, while Armstrong never wrote a memoir.

Finally, I feel that his death is tragic, in light of the gutting of NASA that has been taking place for some time. It doesn't appear likely that Americans will be walking the moon again, and many would say that walking the moon was our last great achievement.  Every generation seems to have that one defining moment, that one time in history where everyone knows where they were and what they were doing.  For that generation, it was Armstrong being the first man on the moon.  For my generation, it was 9/11.  Pretty telling of where we were as a country then and where we are now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

RIP Tony Scott

Was pretty stunned on Monday morning when I read that famed film director Tony Scott took his own life by jumping off a Los Angeles bridge.  Why he did this is unknown; there were reports that he had an inoperable, terminal illness, but this has since been debunked by his family.  As a film buff, I have seen most of his movies, and inspired by a conversation that I had with my brother about him, I will list his movies and what I thought of them.

The Hunger:  Have not seen, but had heard from some that it is one of his best.

Top Gun:  His best, for sure.  What more needs to be said?  A classic.

Beverly Hills Cop II:  Underrated movie, one of the better sequels that I'd seen.  Murphy at his peak.

Revenge:  Had not seen this in many years, remember it being pretty good.  With Kevin Costner and Madeline Stowe.  Funny, Stowe is currently on a TV show with the same title.

Days of Thunder:  A lot of people ragged on this one, but I liked it a lot.  It's referred to by some as "Top Gun with Race Cars", but that isn't a bad thing, IMO.  Read that it's one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite movies.

The Last Boy Scout:  Definitely one of his better ones.  A great action movie, with plenty of funny one-liners.  Faltered at the box office, but is well-regarded today.

True Romance:  Like Last Boy Scout, was a box office flop, but gained a large following later on.  The fact that it was written by Tarantino didn't hurt either.  A fantastic movie, with one of the best scenes ever between Hopper and Walken.

Crimson Tide:  Another great one, saw this tons of times back in the day.  Hackman and Denzel at top of their respective games.  Appreciated that it was less action-driven and glossy than most of his movies.

The Fan:  One of his lesser efforts, especially for the year that it was released (1996) since this was his peak time as a filmmaker., but I still like it a lot.  No one does a sick fuck like De Niro.

Enemy of the State:  Only saw this a couple of times, remember it being a superb action-thriller.  Foreshadowed the national security state that we live in today

Spy Game:  Actually saw this for the first time not too long ago.  Was a lot better than I'd heard it was.  A solid spy thriller.

Man on Fire:  Real kick-ass action movie, with Denzel as a total bad-ass.  I did feel that his herky-jerky MTV-style direction (which is present in most of his works) did go a little overboard in this one, though.

Domino:  Liked it, but one of his lesser efforts.  Only saw it once, but felt his direction was even worse than in Man on Fire.

Deja Vu:  This one didn't work for me.  Maybe I have to see it again, but I found myself bored.  Found it was one of those films that required a serious suspension of disbelief in order to enjoy.

The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three:  Actually forgot that he did this one.  I found it kinda crappy, especially compared to the original with Walter Matthau.  That was a good caper movie.  In this, I found the violence to be overkill, there was no humor (one of the things I liked best about the original) and Robert Shaw was a much better villian than Travolta.

Unstoppable:  Ironically, another train movie.  Better than Pelham, but nothing really great.  Enjoyable enough though, and I thought the last 20 minutes or so was particularly tense.  This is officially his last movie.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Assange or Corzine?

This is a very good, short little article that highlights where our justice system stands these days.  There are two people whose ongoing cases have been widely publicized, and in which the outcomes carry high stakes. One of them is a former politician and head of Goldman Sachs, whose brokerage firm "lost" $1 billion of its customers' money.  The other is a man who runs a website that exposes what some would say is "sensitive" information and intelligence that is held by our nation's governments, and in which others would say that this is information that we have a right to know, as taxpayers and as citizens.

In the one case, there is a diplomatic standoff, and things are escalating to the point where one country may very well invade the embassy of another sovereign state where one of these men are staying.  The other case, after nearly a year of investigation, is about to end with no criminal prosecutions expected.  Care to guess which one is which?  As I hope you guessed, the man who stole up to $200 million of his own clients' money is the one who will not be prosecuted.  He is Jon Corzine, former governor of New Jersey and former head of Goldman Sachs.  The other, of course, is Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.  He is staying at the Ecuadoran embassy in London, and Britain is threatening to raid the embassy to apprehend Assange.  He will then be extradited to Sweden, where he stands trial for a rape charge that sounds at least somewhat suspect.  He will then almost certainly be turned over to the United States, and tried (or held indefinitely without trial) on esponiage charges.

To close, I want to relay something that I remember reading in a book by Jesse Ventura, one of my heroes.  In the book, he wrote that any citizen in the United States who pays taxes should be able to ask his or her government any question, and that citizen should have a right to an answer.  Assange is the keeper of the flame for those of us who look to our respective governments and think, "how dare you tell us that we don't have the right to know this or that piece of information?"

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I read about this computer game today, and while I probably won't have time to check it out, I will certainly try to.  It is called "Dayz", and it is being called by some, the "first survival simulator".  You start out in a random place on a designed world map, with little else but "bandages", and your goal is to survive as long as possible in a post-apocalpytic world.  To do this, you must explore the world, and try to scavenge as much resources as you can.  Oh, and did I mention the zombies?

But I am less impressed with the zombies (which is becoming an overused sub-genre these days, although I've been a long-time fan) than the social aspect of the game.  In this review (and I've also read this elsewhere), the writer points out that other players tend to shoot first rather than engage with the human players.  That says a lot about our nature as humans, and what we would do if an event like this became reality.

What also made it interesting for me is that Dayz is a mod of another game, "Arma 2", which did not exactly climb up the charts initially.  But once Dayz was released, "Arma 2" took a huge leap in sales, and I read that it was the top selling game on Steam for seven weeks.  Dayz will be getting a separate release, with added features.

I am not sure if Dayz will run well on my machine, or at all.  While I do enjoy the occasional computer game, I do the bulk of my gaming on consoles these days, as well as handhelds.  It's just so simpler to game, and you always have to upgrade your PC if you want to stay ahead of the curve on games, and that can be very expensive.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cows Being Slaughtered As Result of Drought

This article consists of an interview with a farmer in Missouri, which currently has the worst farmland in the country as a result of record drought.  Dead grass means no food source for cattle, which means the farmer either has to buy hay or feed stock to keep the animals alive and well-fed, or they must be slaughtered prematurely.  It's too bad that us in the Northeast can't somehow take the persistent rain we've been getting here (raining as I speak, and quite hard too) and give it to the Midwest.

What really pissed me off after reading this was the fact that buying livestock feed for animals is so damn expensive.  Wanna know why it's so expensive?  The main ingredient in livestock feed is corn.  Since the drought, the market price of corn has gone up by 63 percent.  As more corn is used for ethanol, that means less corn being used to go into livestock feed, which means that the cattle will go hungry and be slaughtered earlier.