Sunday, April 24, 2016


The Misallocation of Outrage

Several British and American movies in the past half decade have been good but are tainted by the under-odor of politically correct outrage, that is, outrage over things not at all outrageous. What follows are a few examples.

Now there are plenty of terrible movies that suffer from the same faux moral preening but I don't care about them, nor should you. Also I have to confess a bias for some actors and actresses that makes me call the movies they are in good. Let's start with the oldest.

I really like Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz so I was glad to watch Page 8 recently for free on Amazon Prime. It's a Brit made-for-TV movie about the spy service there. I hate to point this out (because you'll never be able not to see it again) but Nighy suffers a pretty severe form of Dupuytren's Contracture. On both hands his little and ring finger are pressed down on the palm of his hands and are pretty useless. But back to the movie. It's eminently watchable, even compelling at times, and it is a very smart and tight script, but the center of the movie is supposed to be extreme outrage over the waterboarding our spy service did to three Islamic Terrorist. I can't get there. I'm not even a little bit outraged. Let's do some history.

Spies and saboteurs, and anyone else waging war not in uniform, are not protected by any international law and can be summarily executed upon capture. Perhaps there ought to be a military tribunal but if caught on the battlefield, that's not even necessary. Germany during WWII put some saboteurs into America by submarine and we captured them within days of entry and executed most of them within weeks of capture and the Supreme Court OKed it in a published decision, all in about four months. Ah, do I long for the good old days when our Government was competent and efficient and we won the war we were fighting. Oh, and one of the Nazis executed was an American citizen. Also, because of a quirk in our reflex system whereby you can simulate drowning, with absolutely no danger of drowning and any harm to the "victim," and with just a little water on a cloth over the face, the waterboarded have a severe natural reaction which can be useful to breaking down their resistance to telling their captors the truth. (If you waterboard for, let's say, a half hour at a time, that's torture; but discrete 30 seconds of a wet handkerchief on the face is not torture unless you demean torture to include this nothingburger in its definition-- I mean, what's next? We can't even use harsh language?).

So, the whole plot of Page 8 was trying to leak a report that British spies were involved in some meaningless way with American waterboarding. I feel a yawn coming on.

And there were two sequels to Page 8, Turks & Caicos and Salting the Battlefield. In the first, Weisz is replaced by the fallen actress Wynona Rider (who is looking very good) and there is the full quirky from Christopher Walken (who is not looking very good). So what evil is at the center of this spy plot? It seems that a group of men has overcharged the American Government for constructing the prisons for the illegal combatants (Islamic Terrorists) who are waging a declared war against us. Oh, the horrors. Overcharged our Government! (There is the side plot that loathsome members the group were allowed by her father to have sex with Wynona at a very young age, for which I can readily feel outrage and hatred). But we're supposed to feel outrage over corporate overcharging for prison construction? I'm in full yawn. And this same overcharging brings down the prime minister (Ralph Fiennes) in the second sequel, because after he leaves office, he plans to work with a corporation which includes the group that overcharged. Oh, the horror of working for a company tangentially connected with over-chargers! Here the female interest is Helena Bonham Carter (who is looking good). It is good to see some actresses from my youth still appearing in films playing smart, competent women in power, like Marthe Keller and Judy Davis (both of whom are sadly not looking so good).

But speaking of actresses from my youth, the still playing in theaters Eye in the Sky, features Helen Mirren of whom I am a big fan. She has had a very long career from when I first saw her in the excellent A Midsummer Night's Dream, when she was 22. It helped that in a lot of her movies after that, she walked around completely naked*, but I thought her most interesting work was the Prime Suspect series. Here she is much more like Jane Tennison in that series as she plays a Brit military intelligence officer seeking to capture Islamic Terrorists (particularly British subjects who have converted to that role). The terrorists avoid capture and are in a place where they cannot reasonably be captured so the bulk of the movie is Mirren trying to bring a drone delivered Hellfire missile down on their heads. But wait, extremely pantywaisted nancy boys (and an outraged witch) up the chain of command are willing to do nothing to harm the terrorists (in the act of loading up suicide bomb vests on two young Muslims to blow up presumably in a market or shopping mall in Nairobe) because there is a little girl selling bread in the probable blast area of the missile.

To the movie's credit, many of the Muslims are unabashedly evil assholes, and all the Americans involved up the chain of command are certain the Hellfire is the right thing to do; it's only the squishy Brits (other than Mirren) who are loath to pull the trigger (actually have the Americans pull the trigger). We used to bomb our enemies' homelands (during WWII -- a war we won) with the certitude that there would be thousands and thousands of innocent civilians killed; now we cry and have fits over a single one. That does not bode well for the outcome of the war being waged against us. War completely sucks, which is why we try so hard to avoid it. But if the illegal, wholly evil combatants in that war, illegally hide among civilians, then the resulting civilian deaths during combat are on them, not us. If you see this movie and feel we should have let the terrorists go rather than risk the collateral death of the cute little girl, please don't ever tell me you did. I will never see you as a serious person again.

* Incomplete list of movies where you can see all or a lot of Helen Mirren: Age of Consent, Savage Messiah, O Lucky Man!, Hussy, Caligula, Excaliber, Cause celebre, Pascali's Island, BBC2 Playhouse (Mrs. Reinhardt), Cal, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Prince of Jutland, The Passion of Ayn Rand, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Calendar Girls (out-takes), and Love Ranch. Of these, perhaps O Lucky Man! is your best bet for overall quality of the film.


Saturday, April 16, 2016


Reporter Knowledge Deficit

The news accounts were fairly ecstatic. The Sandy Hook parents were seeking to nullify a law that specifically provides to gun sellers and makers what all manufacturers enjoy, namely, immunity from suits for illegal use of a legal product. And, mirable dictu, the poor grieving parents won the day and were proceeding on to victory over the nasty gun makers.

I wanted to read the opinion of the Connecticut judge who issued the denial of the gun provider defendants' motion to dismiss.

Now I have.

It is not the victory the reporters are reporting. It is a boring procedural matter order only. The court kept jurisdiction. That's it. There was no ruling that the complaint stated a claim on which relief could be granted (the dreaded Rule 12(b)(6) test for dismissing a complaint and awarding attorney fees to the complained against).

There still is not the slightest chance in heck that the grieving but litigious parents (who already split up the $1.5 million estate of the mother murdered by her son before he started shooting children) will win this thing. The law protecting the gun suppliers is too clear for even the most biased of liberal judges to be able to thwart.

Or so I think.


Monday, April 04, 2016


Shot Rings Out in the Memphis Sky

I am fervently anti-conspiracy theory on all assassinations and terrorist attacks on the US in the last 75 years with one exception: Martin Luther King's assassination by James Earl Ray. And even there I've moved from belief to skepticism and back to belief. I admit the supporting evidence is a little thin.

I started out wondering how a prison escapee could fund his travels eventually to Memphis and after the shooting to Canada and then to Europe. How did he even get a passport, I asked myself? He had to have help, he had to have people paying him money to do what he did. But then I read a book and it turns out that Ray was the cheapest of the cheap. He could stretch out his dollars from odd jobs and small robberies amazingly. Also, what reason did I have to believe that it was harder to get a false passport in the past?

But there were things in the book that bothered me greatly. One is the witness testimony that during his moving in on Dr. King he would from time to time stop at phone booths and take a lot of change with him to make a call or two. What's that about? But this is the kicker: just prior to the shooting, Ray bought a Remington Gamemaster 760 pump rifle in .270 from a sports store and then returned it the next day for the same rifle in .30-06. Now I'm sure there could be a logical, non-conspiracy explanation for that, but I'm having trouble coming up with it. Us gun nuts know that the deer round .270 is not the man-killer the .30-06 is*. Ray had been in the Army and had used 30-06 in the M1 Garands he had fired. He had to have known it was the right round for killing another person. So why the waffling?

I think his "handler" -- the guy he was calling -- either told him to get the .270 and Ray up-gunned the round because of his experience or it was the other way around, he decided on .270 and the co-conspirator overrode that decision and sent him back to the store. It's a tiny peg on which to hang a conspiracy theory but I can't shake its implications and what it causes me to believe.

So, think about the amount of book paper wasted on frivolous and fatuous conspiracy theories about JFK because the left's refused to accept that a Commie offed the King of Camelot. Democrats have searched, unsuccessfully, for a way to blame it on anyone else for decades. Compare that immense library to the amount of book paper talking about a conspiracy to kill Dr. King, both for and against a conspiracy. It's about a hundred thousand to one, but there really is evidence of a conspiracy for Dr. King's murder.

* The difference between the same weight bullet is minimal for .270 and .30-06, although the .30-06 has greater energy. Generally, however, .270 only comes with 130 and 150 grain bullets. You can get much heavier bullets for the 30-06 and added bullet weight slows down the bullet but it hits with substantially more foot pounds of energy. Apparently, a 168 grain, .30-06 hollow point, boat tail bullet is the perfect one for killing another human, or so I'm told.


Friday, April 01, 2016


40th Reunion

We held this last Thursday in Denver, Colorado our 40th reunion for the Spring Semester of the Goethe Institute Sprachschule in the town of Schwäbisch Hall, Baden-Württemberg, Germany (it was West Germany at the time we attended). The reunion was very small, just me and Nick Keller, from Seattle. He brought his eldest daughter who was stunningly beautiful and so self-assured it was scary.
Here [not yet] is a photo of the all World (except Algeria) soccer team we fielded in 1976. Nick is a lapsed lawyer who has a growing wholesale plumbing supply business (with additional fields of endeavor included). Nick, like me, was Pac 8, although he stayed in Seattle while I traveled 3,000 miles west to Palo Alto.

The real reason Nick came to Denver was to see his third show of the current Springsteen tour (bit of a fanatic, I think). It was great of him to make an effort to get together in LoDo before the concert. We traveled together for about a month after graduating, with just enough knowledge and use of German to get laid, mainly to Berlin, which had the Wall at the time, but was still pretty cool. After Berlin, I went back to see Patty Painful in Paris (another form of Heaven) and he went on traveling until he had to go to Law School (where he knew my friend Mike Mensik--small World).

We both have three children--girl, boy, girl. Both like Springsteen a lot, although I liked his early pre-E Street Band period (1968 to 1974) much better than anything since. We're both much more conservative than we were in 1976, when he voted for Carter and I for Ford. That's the normal political drift of smart people who keep an open mind, I think.

We didn't say it then but to all our absent fellow studenten: Rotkäppchen, the beautiful far right Swede (aufgestanden), the blond, blue eyed Turk, the beautiful dark eyed Turk and her English fiancé; one of the first males to attend Vassar (where the ratio of men to women, he said, was heaven); the multi-ethnic guys from Singapore, whose English with each other was impenetrable; the former Olympic decathlon Turk; the American Hans; the French speaking Swiss; the Saudi Minister of Energy (other than oil); the Venezuelans, one dark, one Nazi colored; lapsed lawyer Saito, the exquisite Doi, the wild Brazilian women; the super polyglot Italian Anna; and all the rest: Prosit!

It was great to see him. Great to have such a flood of vivid but brief memories. Sed fugit interea, fugit irreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore


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