Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bill Cosby and the Media-Hyped Stampede

Rasty loves to watch John Stewart, Rachael Maddow, The Nightly Show, and all that crowd -- even in re-runs -- which is how I happened to watch the re-run of TNS that roasted Bill Cosby over those rape allegations.  I noticed that, after a few lines of lip-service to "innocent until proven guilty", the host and guest panel gleefully went after the usual Politically Correct topics of "nobody believes the woman" and "Cosby's nice clean media image" and so on, cheerfully assuming that Yes He Did It.  For evidence, they're quoting Cosby's refusal to say anything about the subject.  It's assumed that an innocent person would talk and talk and talk all over the media, the way Cosby's accusers did.  Uhuh.  It never seems to have occurred to all these media pundits that maybe Cosby's lawyer warned him not to say a word about the accusations, so as not to give away any of the facts he plans to use in his court case.  No, Cosby has to be guilty because he won't talk to the self-important media!  Rrrrrrright.

Just judging from the few facts we know, I don't think he did it.

For that matter, I didn't think that O.J. Simpson Did It either -- based on observable facts.  That is, I don't believe it's possible to kill one's ex-wife and her new boyfriend, clean up the evidence, run home, play a couple rounds of golf, get in a limo and be driven (at normal speed) to Los Angeles airport, check in, and get on one's plane -- all in one hour.  I have personally traveled through LAX airport, and believe me, it's impossible to get through that airport and get on your plane -- even for a red-eye flight -- in less than an hour.  The timeline just doesn't fit.  The fact that the restaurant Nicole visited that night, and which her new boyfriend worked at, was a notorious cocaine distribution center -- and that Nicole was into coke -- is beside the point.  I think O.J. was ruined -- by the media -- for nothing.  The only people who profited from the whole incident were the media and the family of Nicole's boyfriend, who -- after O.J. was cleared in criminal court -- sued him in civil court, won, and walked away with most of O.J.'s millions, leaving him ruined for life.

Now let's look at Bill Cosby.  What we do know is that this obscure woman went to the police and, especially, the media, claiming that Cosby had raped her some 30 years earlier.  She gave considerable detail: that Cosby lured her to his home with promises of making her a star, gave her a drink full of Roofies, and raped her.  She claimed he did this several times, using his "charisma" to "hypnotize" her into compliance, and this is why she didn't complain for 30 years.  Since this story broke, some 35 more obscure women have made the same claim, repeating the exact same details.  We also know that Bill Cosby was born in 1937, which makes him 77 years old now, and that (like O.J. Simpson) he made himself very rich over the years.

Now let's start drawing some connections.  At the time when Cosby was supposed to have been playing Svengali to some 35 young women, he was a) married and raising a family, b) starring in a weekly TV comedy show, c) still doing stand-up comedy at any venue that could afford him.  From my own experience in showbiz, and what little I've seen of TV production and live gigs, I have to ask: when did he get the time -- let alone the energy?  Entertainment is a very time-and-energy-consuming business.

Another question: why did all these women wait more than 30 years to complain?  Cosby obviously didn't make them stars, or their names wouldn't be so obscure.  If he used them and tossed them away, that would have ended his "hypnotic" control over them;  such stuff has to be renewed constantly to remain effective, even when done by an expert psychologist.  Without such constant reinforcement, it wears off within a year -- and one thing Cosby has never been is a hypnosis-trained expert psychologist.  The only reason I can think of for the delay is that, over this many years, the witnesses' memories of that time would have grown a bit fuzzy.  For example, I can clearly remember my move from Chicago to northern California;  I remember the incidents well, but damned if I can recall what day I arrived in Albany, or what time (other than "afternoon"), or even what month.  If asked what I observed on December 14, 1983, I couldn't begin to say.

And why do they all tell exactly the same story, with the same details that the first woman spread around the media?  Even a compulsive serial criminal never repeats his crime exactly the same way, every time, and over the years needed to seduce that many women, even a serial rapist would vary his technique somewhat.  These reports sound as if all the women were reading the same script.  Ahem.

Finally we come to the question of motive.  What do all these women have to gain by making accusations against a 77-year-old comedian with an image as a kindly family man?

Well, first, he has a lot of money -- and remember what happened to O.J. Simpson.  When, not if, Cosby is cleared of criminal charges, the inevitable media-circus will color the attitudes of the public so that it will be hard to collect a jury that's really neutral -- and the rules of evidence for a civil lawsuit are much looser than for a criminal case.  35 women could divide up Cosby's millions quite handily between them.  That's not counting the money they could get for peddling books and media appearances;  any good public relations expert could tell you how to make money on a scandal.

For another thing, this will give them the one thing which they claim Cosby promised them, but they never got -- fame.

--Leslie <;)))><   




Monday, February 2, 2015

Politics and Poking: Critics and "American Sniper"

I haven't seen "American Sniper" and I'm certainly not going to comment on a movie I haven't seen;  what I'm interested in is the official reactions to it, and the underlying politics thereof -- which can get pretty blatant.  I remember when I was in 9th grade and came across an old issue of Readers' Digest, which contained an article denouncing that "communistic" and "misrepresentative" movie "The Grapes of Wrath";  I remember laughing my @ss off at the obvious political bias of the author, so visible at that remove of history.  I'm seeing the same kind of bias in the reactions to "Sniper" today, only in a different political direction.

For starters, there's Matt Taibbi's review in Rolling Stone where he complains at great length about how the movie is too shallow and superficial, because it concentrates on the hero's experiences and "panics at the idea of embracing more than one or two ideas at one time".  He goes on at great length about how the film doesn't mention "the insane moral morass that is/was the Iraq occupation", or "the failed WMD search" or "Abu Ghraib" as if these were facts that everyone accepts.  Now in fact it's known that Hussein did have WMDs -- Sarin gas, specifically -- because he used it on the Kurds, as the witnesses attest.  It also turns out that the Abu Ghraib photos, as both the army and the Red Cross determined, were a hoax.  Both of these could be subjects for whole movies by themselves, and the morality of the war is a subject for a documentary mini-series, at least..  Just how much political back-story does Taibbi expect to cram into a single 2-hour movie?  If he wanted to see film get seriously into the moral philosophy of politics, he should have watched the Atlas Shrugged trilogy.  Ah, but those three pretty obviously have the wrong sort of moral philosophy for him!

Seth Rogen won better than 15 minutes of fame for his Tweet comparing "American Sniper" to the fictional movie about a German sniper within the movie "Inglourious Basterds".  This is interesting, because less than five minutes of that fictional film actually appear on screen, and "Inglourious Basterds" is a blatant fantasy about a World War Two that never happened.  This is a rather off-base criticism, seeing that "American Sniper" is a biographical film about a real shooter in a real war.  Rogen seems to be implying that the film is pure government pro-war propaganda, when in fact the Obama administration has been trying to disentangle itself from Iraq and the whole developing Jihadi war, and "Sniper" -- as no less than Michelle Obama noted -- is at least partly about "the stresses of balancing love of family with love of country, and the challenges of transitioning back home".

And then there's Michael Moore's now-famous Tweet: "My uncle killed by sniper in WW2.  We were taught snipers were cowards.  Will shoot u in the back.  Snipers aren't heroes. And invaders r worse."  He went on to add: "But if you're on the roof of your home defending it from invaders who've come 7K miles, u are not a sniper, u are brave, u are a neighbor."  This reveals much more about Moore than about "American Sniper".  He overlooks the fact that in World War Two the American troops were invaders, such as at D-Day, and that if you're shooting from "the roof of your home" -- or any other building -- you are a sniper.  If indeed he was "taught that snipers are cowards", this reveals something about the logical capacities of his teachers.  In modern (post 1600) warfare, 99% of all killing is done from a distance: with bullets or artillery or (in the last 100 years) bombers.  If anything, the sniper is more selective than the artilleryman, let alone the bomber.  The complaint about fighters who shoot and kill at a distance probably began with the first cave-man who was hit by a thrown rock instead of a swung club.  In fact, how "brave" or "neighborly" is the fighter who disguises him/herself as a civilian, hides among harmless civilians or uses them as human shields, and plants hidden bombs to be set off with a radio signal?  There's no logic in Moore's claims except "Americans bad, Arabs good".  This is particularly ironic when one considers that Moore has never served in any kind of real combat.

Frankly, I think these criticisms are motivated mainly by plain old jealousy.  "American Sniper" has proved hugely popular, and since its release a little over a month ago it has raked in a whopping $248 million.  None of Moore's or Rogen's movies have ever done anywhere near that good (and Taibbi's name isn't even known outside of Rolling Stone).  Rogen, who doesn't have total control over his movies, might be forgiven, but Moore -- who runs his whole show -- has no such excuse.  Moore's films have no plot, little continuity, indifferent or worse camera-work, flatly dishonest editing, and themes that are entirely preaching to the choir;  his success is due entirely to flattering the egos of those who share his political views.  Frankly, he couldn't convince anybody who knows anything real about his subjects.  As somebody who has studied and occasionally performed political propaganda, I can tell you that Micheal Moore is a lousy propagandist.

Whether or not "American Sniper" was even intended to be political propaganda, it has done a fine job of winning over far more of the audience than its critics ever have.  For that alone, it's worth seeing -- and I'll do that little thing first chance I get.  Only then will I venture to write a review about the movie itself.             

 --Leslie <;)))>< 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Watching History Repeat

To anybody who studies history, even as a hobby, it should be obvious by now that World War Three will not be fought between the US and Russia. Despite Putin's blustering -- most recently, sending his spy-ship to Havana harbor during the opening meeting between US envoys and Cuba (which earned the ship the nickname of "RS Showoffsky") -- it's clear that the glory days of the USSR are over, Russia is mired in the economic mess which the old regime brought on and can't afford anything like a major war.

No, World War Three will be fought between the Jihadis and everybody else.

Nobody else is so willing to ignore economics, politics, science, or anything else in their passionate bid to conquer the world.  Nobody else is so eager to believe their own propaganda, let alone try to sell it to the rest of the world.  Nobody else since... well, the late 1930s, which they seem determined to repeat.  For more similarities, go up on the Internet and search for Jihadist cartoons, films and TV shows which specifically attack Jews (followed by Christians, Hindus and Buddhists), not just Israel.  You'll find some incredibly offensive stuff, often copied directly from old Nazi examples.  Jihadis have been churning out this stuff since the end of WWII, and continue to, even as they howl outrage and death threats against a handful of cartoonists who pen much milder insults against Muslims, and they see no hypocrisy in it.  Besides fitting neatly any definition of fascism, the Jihadis copy faithfully the progress of the Nazis -- save only that they base their passion on religion instead of race.

Even more sobering is the Jihadis' faithful copying -- updated with modern tools -- the Nazis' strategies and tactics.  There's the infiltration of all available countries with a Third Column of immigrants/settlers who go recruiting among the natives, the artful suborning of native news media into pushing the Big Lie ("The Jews stole our land!"  "The West stole our oil!"), the preparatory -- or premature -- attacks intended to scare governments into submission, and finally the all-out takeovers of small neighboring countries. 

One can even see a parallel to the late '30s in the democratic countries' slow and unwilling awakening to their own danger.  Then, as now, the western press and politicians insisted that the "extremists" were only a small number, really not that dangerous, and everybody must be very-very careful not to insult or offend the "peaceful" majority.  Then, as now, the calculating fascists played on that tendency with claims that they'd been insulted, and the offenders must pay.

The major strategic difference between Nazis then and Jihadis now is the lack of a charismatic unifying leader.  The Jihadis have no Hitler, though plenty of ambitious sheiks and mullahs have vied for the job.  The secondary difference is that, being scattered over several countries rather than bound with nationalistic pride to any one, the Jihadis also fracture and factionalize into several sub-groups, which often compete with each other -- like Al-Qaeda competing with ISIL.  The third difference is their passionate impatience, which makes them underestimate their enemies and strike too soon.  The first attack on the World Trade Center, more than 20 years ago, was meant to economically cripple the US but can more accurately be compared to the Beer Hall Putsch.  The second, on 9/11 -- along with the other two hijackings and crashes -- was likewise meant to ruin the US's military and economy, but came off more like Pearl Harbor (except that the US did not follow through with the focus and energy our government had the first time around).  Also, the serious attacks began before the current Depression really started, and the 2008 Depression wasn't nearly as severe as the first one.  This means that, despite their intense recruiting among the poor -- particularly Black -- the Jihadis don't really have as big a Third Column as they claim or believe. (Likewise, as recent police raids around Europe have shown, thanks to modern police techniques, the various western governments do know who and where the Jihadis are.)

Despite the differences, particularly in timing, the similarities are striking.  History is indeed repeating itself, and only by understanding that can we forestall World War III -- or at least keep it from being as bad as either of the first two.

--Leslie <;)))><  



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Une Suggestion Pour le Securite de France Contre les Terroristes

Fait comme les Suisses faisant.

Arme et instructe toutes les gens.  Fait de toutes votre citoyennes un armee en reserve, observant et vigilant, prepare a agir immediatement contra un attaque terroriste.  Le danger des arretes faux est moins que le danger de la vulnerabilite a terroristes.

Nous somme toutes Charlie.  Laissez Charlie se defende.

...Et pardonne ma Francais terrible;  je ne l'ai etudie depuis 1978.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish   

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Another Antidote to the Cop Problem

I don't usually quote whole articles from other folks, but this one is painfully opportune:

"10 Rules for Dealing with Cops, By a Cop

Few people understand that your constitutional rights only apply if you understand and assert them.
As a 33-year law enforcement veteran and former training commander with the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, I know how easy it is to intimidate citizens into answering incriminating questions or letting me search through their belongings. This reality might make things easier for police looking to make an easy arrest, but it doesn't always serve the interests of justice. That's why I believe all citizens should understand how to protect their constitutional rights and make smart decisions when dealing with officers of the law.

Unfortunately, this important information has remained largely unavailable to the public, despite growing concerns about police misconduct and the excesses of the war on drugs. For this reason, I agreed to serve as a technical consultant for the important new film, '10 Rules for Dealing with Police'. The 40-minute docudrama aims to educate the public about basic legal and practical survival strategies for handling even the scariest police encounters. It was produced by the civil liberties group Flex Your Rights and is narrated by former federal judge and acclaimed Baltimore trial lawyer William "Billy" Murphy, Jr.

The opening scene portrays Darren, a young black man getting pulled over. He's driving home from college. This is the fifth time he's been pulled over in a year. Frustrated and scared, Darren immediately breaks Rule #1: Always Be Calm & Cool. Mouthing off to the officer, Darren aggressively exits the car and slams the door. The officer overreacts, dropping Darren with a taser shot to his chest.

Should the officer have tased Darren in that situation? Probably not. Would the officer likely be disciplined? No. But that's not the main point of 10 Rules. The point is that the choices you make during the course of such encounters have a massive impact on whether it ends with a simple warning, a tasing -- or worse. This is true even if you've done nothing illegal.

While being calm and cool is key to getting the best possible outcome, it's not enough to keep police from violating your constitutional rights. For example, when the officer commandingly asks Darren "You're not hiding any AK-47s in there? You don't mind if I take a look?", Darren gets tricked like most people do.

Intimidated and unaware of other options, he consents to the search. The officer carelessly dumps his bags, accidentally shattering Darren's laptop on the asphalt. In another "what if" scenario, the officer finds a small amount of marijuana hidden away. While someone else might have left it there, Darren winds up getting arrested.

What few people understand, but police know all too well, is that your constitutional rights only apply if you understand and assert them. Unless they have strong evidence (i.e. probable cause) police need your permission to search your belongings or enter your home. The instant you grant them permission to invade your privacy, many of your legal protections go out the window and you're left on the hook for anything illegal the police find, as well as any damage they cause in the process.

Of course, even if you know your basic rights, police officers are trained to shake your confidence. If you refuse a search, I might respond by threatening to call in a drug-sniffing dog and sternly reminding you that things will go much easier if you cooperate. Creating a sense of hopelessness for the suspect enables us to break down their defenses and gain compliance. In the film, we show several variations on these common threats, but the main lesson is that it doesn't matter what the officer says; you still have to remain calm and protect your rights.

In today's world of smartphone video, YouTube and Twitter, stories of police abuse travel fast, creating greater awareness of the problem of police misconduct. Unfortunately, this heightened awareness often serves to reinforce the notion that "cops can do whatever they want." It's true that much work remains to be done towards ensuring police accountability, but the very first step is to educate the public about basic constitutional rights.

Citizens who understand their rights are much less likely to experience negative outcomes, both on the street and in a court of law. Until each of us has the ability to protect our individual rights and recognize injustices against others, we're not likely to accomplish much in the realm of broader policy reform.

I hope 10 Rules for Dealing with Police will be embraced by parents, teachers, activists, and even police departments as we work towards reducing the tension that too often characterizes the relationship between cops and the communities they serve.

Here are the ten rules featured in the film:
1. Always be calm and cool: a bad attitude guarantees a bad outcome.
2. Remain silent: what you don't say can't hurt you.
3. You have the right to refuse searches: saying no to searches can't be held against you.
4. Don't get tricked: remember, police are allowed to lie to you.
5. Determine if you're free to go: police need evidence to detain you.
6. Don't expose yourself: doing dumb stuff in public makes you an easy target.
7. Don't run: they'll catch you and make you regret it.
8. Never touch a cop: aggressive actions will only earn you a more aggressive response.
9. Report misconduct: be a good witness.
10. You don't have to let them in: police need a warrant to enter your home."

The film, "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" is available right now on YouTube.  Yes, it's well worth watching.

--Leslie <;)))><  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Happy Hannukah, Jolly Solstice, Merry Christmas, Joyful Sir Isaac Newton’s Birthday, Happy Kwansaa, Jolly Eid al-Fatr, Happy Bodhi Day, Merry Boxing Day, Joyful Ganesha's Birthday, Lusty Saturnalia, Happy New Year, Jolly Hogmanay, Merry Twelfth Night – and a partridge in a pear tree!

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish   )O(

Friday, December 12, 2014

Solutions to the Cop Problem

Going into detail: yes, we have to make sure (even if it takes federal laws and funds) that every cop in the US -- federal, state, county, and municipal -- wears a bodycam when on duty.  The cameras must include good microphones and be designed so that the wearers can't turn them off or censor them.  They must have sturdy batteries that can run for 12 hours without a recharge, powerful enough to transmit constantly to local receiving stations that will store all the records on computers, regardless of structures in the way.  They must also be on a part of the uniform that's never covered up.  And yes, give the cops bullet-proof vests so they won't feel In Fear For My Life so readily. 

Second, likewise make certain that every cop in America is supplied with a taser, as well as a hand-stunner, and that the cops get extensive training in their use.  Tasers need redesigning for features like reloading quickly, longer and sharper prongs to get through layers of cloth, and multiple-shot capacity.  When stun-guns are as reliable as lethal guns, cops will be more likely to use them first.

Third, get the military, which has the records, to come take back all the tanks, rocket-launchers, armed helicopters, fighting vehicles, etc. that it handed out to various police departments, and give that hardware to the state National Guard chapters, where it belongs.  If the cops find themselves in a situation where they need military hardware, they can always summon the local National Guard -- which has specific training in the use of such.

Finally, yes, go after the cops who killed those unarmed civilians with Deprivation of Civil Rights charges, lawsuits, and anything else that will stick.  Nothing will change the thuggish attitudes of cops, but the certainty of getting legally stomped if they have too much fun at the citizens' expense will at least make them more circumspect.

To use an old phrase, cops who aren't thugs at heart will have nothing to worry about;  if they're innocent they have nothing to hide.  Right?

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(