Gaming The System

I haven’t written on the subject of shootings (justified or otherwise) in quite some time.  Well, that’s not quite true. I’ve written plenty on the subject in other places over the last few years, a smidgen of which is reproduced here.  But I haven’t posted much of what I’ve written on the subject on this blog since I last wrote about the Joe Horn case in Houston several years back.

While the Zimmerman case was being argued in the court of public opinion and later in actual court (to little effect) I wrote extensively on Dan Carlin’s bulletin board system about the problems with Stalking and Shooting (one of the less clusterfucky of the threads on the DCBBS) the categorical description of the behavior that Zimmerman engaged in.

Zimmerman made a affirmative SYG case, so SYG has everything to do with it. The problem with Trayvon Martin, the problem with Marissa Alexander, is that both of them have black skin. Consequently they are looked down on, even by people who have the same color skin. This fact is borne out by statistics. So Trayvon is threatening simply because of the color of his skin; it certainly wasn’t the presence of a sidewalk, 20 feet from where he was fatally shot. Marissa was assigned a duty to retreat because she had the double curse of being female and being black. Women are routinely jailed for daring to defend themselves.

The problem with SYG is specifically this; we SHOULD have the duty to retreat in public places. Zimmerman had no business profiling and stalking that teenager. No one should expect to get a “get out of jail free” card simply because they claim self-defense. EVERYONE (including cops) should be subject to trial when someone dies at their hands. Had Zimmerman not been emboldened by what they lyingly said he was unfamiliar with, he would have stayed in his car, and Trayvon would have been alive today.

How we get to the point where we legally ‘have to’ allow women to defend themselves, is a separate discussion. Clearly special laws are required, since general laws yield outcomes like Marissa’s. Special laws giving women permission to shoot abusive men. Yeah, that’ll happen.

Dan Carlin’s BBS (archive.org)

Being the briefest of brief rehashes of content posted to a 42 page thread, and that typed up and added as a comment to an article on Reason Magazine’s site concerning the attacks on Stand Your Ground Laws that occurred after those laws were so horribly and hypocritically applied in Florida and elsewhere.

But this latest slew of problems isn’t about SYG as a perversion of an offensive action into a defensive one.  It isn’t even necessarily about guns, since one of the deaths in question involved a choke hold, not gunfire. It is about police using their unique relationship with their local prosecutor’s office to make unjustified homicides look like justified ones, allowing the offending police officers to claim vindication in the courts, when no court trials have occurred.

This was all brought back to mind when I wrote and posted yesterday’s entry on calling torture torture and not some other nicer sounding phrase. I wrote the line Police officers are filmed strangling and shooting unarmed men, and remain unprosecuted and wondered if I’d ever get around to writing that piece.  This is that piece.

Much like the torture post, this post remained unwritten because the solution to me was so obvious, and has even been related by talking heads on various news outlets.  The prosecutor’s office in nearly every county and city in the US works closely with the police, or as Jon Stewart observed at about 8:29 in this nine minute clip;

THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART WE CAN’T BREATHE – 12/4/2014
I don’t want to talk about how much searching I had to do to find this clip (editor)

Yes, it’s Law & Order, and a serious (but humorous) oversimplification, but still it has to be observed that police departments have internal investigations departments (and all of them should have) there really need to be special prosecutors appointed specifically to prosecute cases against police officers. There should be citizen oversight everywhere there is a significant police department, too.

Prosecutors work too closely with the police to be able to effectively prosecute cases against them, all of their protestations to the contrary. It is a breach of trust to even allow them to bring cases against police that they work with.  The real surprise to me is that it has taken this long for this conflict of interest to be brought to the public’s attention.

This has been true for awhile now, as many people more versed in the subject than I am have pointed out, over and over again. I’ll just point to Radley Balko as one shining example.  Time and again he has documented how police excesses go unchecked, and how most people turn a blind eye to the real costs, because it is too painful to witness.

Well, if torture hadn’t come along to interrupt the outrage, we’d still be talking about this mess.  We will probably be talking about it again after the New Year’s passes, because it isn’t going away anytime soon unless we do something to fix this broken system of ours.

You might well say, what do these police cases have to do with Joe Horn, or Zimmerman or that other case?  If you really have to ask that question, the answer of skin color probably isn’t going to sit well with you. But it is true all the same. In all these cases, the public dialog has gone out of it’s way to give latitude to the aggressor.  The dialog in Joe Horn’s case was largely supportive of his actions; and I still think he was legally justified to take the actions he took, even if I would have listened to the operator’s advice myself and let the cops handle it (because they were there and witnessed the shooting) still, his victims were black, making them easy targets to dismiss.

It’s not the race of the shooter that is in question, because the statistics show even black cops distrust black faces. It is the race (skin color) of the victim that allows their deaths to be easily dismissed.

Outside of the black communities who are protesting and outraged over the dismissal of charges against the police, the attitude still remains largely dismissive of the victims rights, of the needs of survivors and family members to see justice done, to have their day in court.  FOX (as Jon Stewart and others point out) seems willing to lead this parade of monkeys consistently seeing no evil, hearing no evil, but managing to sound pretty evil all the same.

The Roaming Gnome

Amelie (2002)

…and now I know where Travelocity got the idea from.

alodia84Amelie – gnome (인형) cut – Feb 7, 2010

Facebook

I really loved this weird little film. It was only available with subtitles when I caught it on Netflix. If reading your movies is something you don’t mind doing, give this one a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Erasing History

“You can wipe out a generation of people, you can burn their homes to the ground, and somehow they’ll still come back. But if you destroy their achievements, their history, then it’s like they never existed. Just ash floating. That’s what Hitler wants, and it’s something we simply can’t allow.”

The Monuments Men (2014)

TVTag/Facebook

The Matrix Trilogy

The Matrix (1999)

Rewatching this with my son. Such a great intense psychological mind trip. I first saw this with friends from Graeber, Simmons & Cowan, the architecture firm where I worked back when the movie premiered. The same crew that insisted I had to watch Fight Club before I panned it.

They were right about Fight Club and they were right to insist we see this film together as a team. The movie blew my mind. So many tropes were introduced in the movie that have been overused since that time; but when bullet time was first rolled out in this movie, it was something that had never been seen before. So too with other filming techniques that the brothers Wachowski invented while making this movie.

I was most reminded of James Cameron’s ability to recreate the art of filmmaking every time he rolls out a new film while watching the Matrix for the first time. I walked out of that theater a different person than when I went in, something that is only true of the best (or worst) films made. Your run of the mill three star film will not make you look at your batteries in a different light.

TVTAG/Facebook

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

I loved the architects speech, towards the end of the film. How he mechanically runs through the predictions of what Neo’s next word, next move will be. His willingness to break the mold and do something different than has been done previously before. Like most middle films, I can’t remember much about this movie aside from that one part that sticks out, and I’m afraid of reminiscing about the other little things that I remember for fear that I am misremembering which movie the scene in question happened in. I liked this movie, but I didn’t like it as much as the average viewer did, given it’s comparative rating on the various websites that rate movies. I also didn’t hate it the third movie as much as the average viewer did.

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

I was psyched to see this, the last installment of the Matrix Trilogy, and I was not disappointed. I’m sure there will be many who will feel it is fashionable to pan this film with ever more clever zingers, but I am more than happy to accept this film for what it is. The concluding episode in a series of action flicks that happen to contain a message as well.

Revolution, as the word is used in the title of the film, was first used as a defense against charges of insurrection during the war for American independence. We were engaged in a turning or tuning of the rules between those who govern and the governed. A throwing off of an unwanted outside control in favor of self determination, not a simple rebellion. So too do these movies explore (albeit lightly) the nature of control, the meaning of reality, and the purpose of existence, within an action setting. They are not just action movies, mayhem for its own sake.

As action movies with a message, they fulfill their purpose wonderfully.

IMdb

The Inventor of Keys?

Cosmos (1980)

Every house with a key rack has a unknown shrine to Theodorus of Samos.

…a 6th-century BC ancient Greek sculptor and architect from the Greek island of Samos. Along with Rhoecus, he was often credited with the invention of ore smelting and, according to Pausanias, the craft of casting. He is also credited with inventing a water level, a carpenter’s square, and, according to Pliny, a lock and key and the turning lathe. According to Vitruvius (vii, introduction), Theodorus is the architect of the Doric Order temple Heraion of Samos temple. In some texts he is described, above all, as a great artist and in some statues he is depicted as a great inventor.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The things you learn when you watch the real Cosmos instead of the fake Cosmos that Christianists want to sell you.

TVTAG/Facebook

How To Fix US Politics

First thing I see on Facebook this morning (still chewing my toothbrush)

The final tabulation of the percent of eligible voters who cast their ballots in the midterm elections is 36.3 percent. That’s the lowest turnout since 1942 (when the U.S. was in the middle of World War II and many couldn’t get to the polls).

To what do you attribute the record-low turnout? (a) Most Americans are so turned off by the negativism and mean-spiritedness of politics that we don’t want to participate. (b) We don’t think our vote makes any difference because big money has taken over. (c) We like the direction the country is moving in and therefore feel no reason to vote. (d) We’re working so hard these days that we just couldn’t take the time. (e) Other? (I’ll give you my assessment tomorrow.)

Robert Reich

The number one reason that I’ve heard cited for not going to the polls during my time canvassing over the years has been that the person did not think that their vote mattered. With Citizens United and other outcomes to point to, those people who didn’t believe they should be voting now have something concrete to point at and say “see, my vote doesn’t count”.

It is true that voting is not enough participation to see that your views are expressed by your representatives; but then voting is just the last event in a long chain of actions that a responsible citizen should be taking in order to make sure our representative government works.

You cannot (like so many libertarian/anarchists/voluntaryists on the internet) simply say “I’m not part of this system, it is imposed on me” and thereby withhold your permission for government to operate at all, simply because you don’t agree with what it’s doing. The systems do not require your permission to continue operating.

In fact, the new leaders in our government prefer that you don’t participate and simply accept their plans for you. They’ve got a pretty good money making scheme going here (have had it going for awhile now, since Eisenhower’s time) and all this noise about participation sounds like interference.

We owe it to ourselves and our children not just to vote, but to take back our government from the corporations currently profiting from it, and eliminate those corporations from the process entirely because they are not only not people, but their participation allows certain moneyed people more access and influence than whole classes of real suffering people who actually do the work in this country.

So the short answer is (b) in my experience, but the solution is not just to vote, but to invade the Democratic and Republican Parties with our selves and our views and turn this country around. Prove that American’s still have a will of their own.


Further, the following groups were specifically formed to eliminate the effects of Citizens United, to get money out of politics and hand the government back to the people, where the power belongs.

Wolf PAC‘s petition reads I support a Constitutional amendment saying that corporations are not people and they do not have the right to spend money to buy our politicians. Can’t get more straightforward than that.  They have had some success getting states to back this.  Check their website for the latest info.

Rootstrikers is the group associated with Lawrence Lessig. His book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It is free online now. The group is more generally aimed at ending the corruption, of which Citizens United is just a part, not just amending the Constitution.

Move to Amend is another petition group, this one without a specific petition it is promoting. It’s list of goals currently reads as follows,

  • Accountability and responsibility, both personally and organizationally
  • Transparency
  • Community
  • Movement building
  • Dedication to Move to Amend mission, goals and tactics
  • Commitment to anti-oppression within ourselves, communities, work places, policies, and representation

Click the link and read up on the group if you want to know more.

Writers That Can't Sell Their Work

Adult World (2013)

If you were curious about this film, but were worried about the label of comedy on it, you were correct. On the other hand, if you are a John Cusack fan and are prepared for some very dry humor, this film is for you.

Adult World Official Trailer #1 (2013) – Emma Roberts, John Cusack 

TVTAG/Facebook

Doing Something the Same Way, Still Unhappy With the Results

This screenshot was shared specifically to point out the fact that if we return a majority of Republicans to the House and hand the Senate to Republicans in these midterm elections, we are rewarding the people that made the current health crisis possible; rewarding the people that want the US to be less prepared than we are, even now. I say they want the US to be less prepared, because they want to cut services even more than they already have been cut.

Vote Democratic. It’s the only sensible answer.

Facebook status backdated to the blog. As it turns out, Professor Reich was correct in being concerned about the lack of understanding as to who was to blame for the US’s healthcare predicament. It seems we only know how to blame a president for the failures of government, because we keep returning the people who have screwed the system up so badly to the offices that they’ve already shown they can’t execute properly. 

Be Skeptical of the Skeptoid, Even

This bears mentioning, only because not mentioning it will leave me open to criticism.  I have (and will continue to) rely on Skeptoid.com for quick refutations of common folklore and mis-directed mass hysteria. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the site too often on this blog, but I know my Facebook page and G+ are littered with references to the podcast.

I do that because Skeptoid is short; generally just over 10 minutes, or a few easy pages of reading. The site also includes references for those interested in diligence (more than I can say for most sites on the internet today) and the podcast features a regular corrections episode where the narrator eats crow in public (and I wish more podcasters were willing to do the same) which is good for the soul and keeps the podcaster honest with his listeners.

However, the narrator and de facto owner of Skeptoid Brian Dunning, has been convicted of wire fraud, and will be spending several months in prison and a few years on probation after that. As someone who has been fascinated with computers for as long as I have (My uncle made the first portable computer I ever heard of.  It was built into a Suburban and was so large you had to sit outside the vehicle and access it through the side doors)  the intrigues engaged in by hackers no longer surprise me.

[A]ccording to the superseding information, the wire fraud involved causing cookies to be installed on internet users’ computers without their knowledge. If, by chance, those users later visited eBay and bought something, then an entity owned by Brian (at least in part) would be treated by eBay as if the entity’s website had driven the customer to eBay by means of a direct referral. The entity owned (at least in part) by Brian would then get a commission from eBay, as if the entity’s website had actually been responsible for driving the user to eBay. In reality, the entity’s website would not have driven the customer to eBay, and thus eBay was defrauded. Thus, wire fraud.

The superseding information charged Brian with wire fraud, occurring between May 2006 and June 2007, and on April 15, 2013, Brian pled guilty to that charge. 

from THE SKEPTICAL ABYSS: A SKEPTICAL TRAGEDY h/t to Doubtful News

 It was a clever hack job, reading through it; and it netted him a rather large sum of money.  However, contrary to the assertions of another skeptic (who’s opinion I generally respect and agree with) Brian did not defraud visitors to his websites, although his use of their computers to defraud eBay ranks right up there on my outrage meter with DDOS attacks and malware masquerading as legitimate software.

Brian stole from eBay, not his website visitors.  It would be a cold day in hell before I would trust software offered by him (or his affiliates) because of this, but the vitriol seems a little excessive;

Again, just to be clear: Dunning is a rich, convicted fraud who may soon be facing up to 20 years in prison (though more likely much less for a first offense). The very same skeptics who happily point out to Mormons that they idolize a fraud in Joseph Smith, and who tell believers of Sylvia Browne that she was convicted of fraud, are giving their money to a convicted fraud who actually used them in his criminal acts 

from skepchick.org

I get it, he defrauded eBay and now he’s going to jail.  Ever heard of phone phreaks or any of the other long traditions of thumbing your nose at the man? eBay is just another cog in the machine from that perspective; a target to be milked if you can figure out how to trick them into giving you cash.  It is not, repeat not, stealing from poor shills who are desperate for any answers (even fake ones) to the problems they are faced with.

Not that I want to soft pedal what Brian Dunning has done.  I don’t, and I don’t expect anyone who engages in illegal activity for whatever reason to be treated any differently than any other lawbreaker. That doesn’t change the veracity of the work contained in Skeptoid, which represents the effort of hundreds of people now, and the contributions of thousands.

Credit where credit is due, as well as blame.  Skeptoid represents Brian Dunning’s best work, just as the conviction for wire fraud (hopefully) represents his worst.  It will be interesting to see what he has to say for himself after the dust settles and he can speak freely on the subject.

The Duellists

The Duellists (1978)

I just finished watching the Duellists for the second time, this time with secondary audio track playing. When I like a film, I frequently check to see if there is a secondary audio track, and if there is I generally queue the film back up and listen to the audio play over the film that I just watched. I just want to get an impression of what the director or actors or writers have to say about their experiences in making the film.

The comment that caught my ear for this film was from the director. He said that it had never made it’s money back. That is a shame and a terrible fate for such an impressive work as the Duellists is. The beauty of the cinematography alone should have netted this film recognition, if not box office success. I’m beginning to think I watch movies for different reasons than other people do.

TVTAG/Facebook