10 December, 2016

The Digest—Saturday, 10 December, 2016

[The Digest is a collection of articles, videos, and other media I've viewed and found significant throughout the day. It is a way to divest myself from other social media that is more reliant on likes, click-bait, and peer-approval rather than quality, intelligence, and diversity of opinion, which are the qualities I find important. It is also a way to devote myself to daily contributions to this space...at least in theory.]

-=Summary: Hexmas gift from the GOP, Fentanyl execs arrested. Texas forces women to read lies about abortion, Zizek thinks we're all evil and disgusting, William Gibson on the future, Cronenberg's Shivers, Vice News Tonight, and The Good Neighbor (felony murder, privacy, behavior, context, fluffy cats)=-


Merry Christmas! Here’s a House Republican Plan to Cut Social Security.
Jim Newell from Slate

Go-go-Gadget Super Arsewipes! Surprised? Oh, it's going to get worse. 

Pharma Execs Arrested in Shockingly Organized Scheme to Overprescribe Notorious Opioid
Ben Mathis-Lilley from Slate

This is disgusting, but it's also been going on for a really long time, so it's unsurprising. 

The Craziest Lies in Texas’ Nutty Anti-Abortion Booklet
Mark Joseph Stern from Slate

So the party that denounces government intervention has laws that force citizens to read a pamphlet about abortion before they have abortion that is desperately lacking in SCIENCE and accurate medical information. Way to go, you lying hypocrites.

Slavoj Žižek: ‘We are all basically evil, egotistical, disgusting’
Katie Forster from The Guardian

Oh, Slavoj, somehow I agree with you even when I disagree with you. Would love to see you debate Trump, but he'd probably spend the entire time complaining that he can't understand you. You would most likely use too many phrases, words, and references he cannot comprehend, which would be fun, but he'd still just complain he can't understand and possibly threaten to deport you, upon which you'd inform him you're not a US citizen, and he'd say that makes it even easier. OK, that scenario has played in my head. I feel better.

The Future of Privacy
William Gibson (yes, that William Gibson) from The New York Times

I think privacy, in the future, will be a novelty. I think of the glass dwellings of Zamyatin's We and the ubiquitous cameras from The Circle by Dave Eggars. I think of Bentham/Foucault's panopticon and the oversharing of everything ever on social media and my subsequent retreat. I live one of the more private lives of today's America, and I expect that will soon become socially unacceptable. I'm kinda used to that, though. 


Shivers (1975)
via AmazonPrime

Why it wasn't titled Sex Zombies I don't understand. One of Cronenberg early films. 

Vice News Tonight, episodes 31-

More catching up to do—notes and thoughts:

Episode 31—Nov. 28

Cubans reflecting on the legacy of Fidel (universal education and healthcare, loyalty oaths, scarcity of resources, the harm of the embargo); Floridians reflecting on the death of Fidel (young vs. older generations; capitalism charging ahead, private enterprise, tourism, celebration, social media; older generations supporting Trump, don't want relations with Cuba, hate Castro).

Dylan Roof represents himself, Emanuel AME Church interviews, forgiveness or no, opening wounds, retraumatization, the death penalty, the burden of Christian forgiveness.

Recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Two different conspiracy theories--illegal voting va. electronic hacking. Jill Stein says it is a nonpartisan issue. Trump's "illegal votes" hissy fit. Paul Horner paid to spread "viral misinformation," money from ads, writes his own fake stories and hoaxes, and his targets (Trump supporters) bought into it all at the highest levels, seemingly has zero qualms about it.

Thanksgiving politics with a Latin American family. The patriarch doesn't care if he's a racist. He would have voted for him if he shot a bunch of people in the face. Pushing and shoving. The dad doesn't accept "the language" his son used...in quoting the man the father voted for. 

Episode 32—Nov. 29

Texas forces cremation or burial of aborted fetuses in an attempt to shut down abortion clinics...again. Clinics shut down by the HB-2 bill, though deemed unconstitutional by SCOTUS, haven't reopened. Women asking for home-abortion remedies. By the time it got to SCOTUS, half the clinics in Texas had already been shut down. People think you can just go to the next clinic, but without the money to travel or take time off, restrictive measures still in place force multiple appointments and effectively make abortion unavailable to many women in Texas. 

Trump's cabinet filled with elitist million- and billionaires.

Nuclear cleanup in Japan, the government wants to resettle by the Spring of next year, but many cleanup workers have become sick, gotten cancer, etc., but it is extraordinarily difficult to prove direct links between environmental factors like radiation and illness. Guesses are the government wants to prove the safety of nuclear reactors to reopen the others in the country and will push to reopen the contamination zone regardless of safety.

How race plays into social media rebuttals, more likely to change your behavior if someone "like you" asks you to do so. Lesson: "Get a white person to do it for you."

Episode 33—Nov. 30 

STEM cell therapy, a family seeking treatment for their son with CP, FDA doesn't want to approve therapies without evidence that they work, which is a good idea. Experimental therapies are often allowed as long as they don't make spurious claims and include full consent, as the therapy for the son with CP. Trump might deregulate the industry. 

Trump and his businesses. Emoluments clause of the constitution. The targets of his name on buildings. His treasury secretary wants to cut corporate tax IN HALF. History tells us that higher tax rates relate to healthier economies. But Trump never listens to pesky things like history or data or facts, so who cares, right?

SPLC reports 867 hate incidents since Trump election based on news reports and self-reporting, which means the number is likely much higher. New Orleans Police Department won't accept hate crimes reports. 67% increase in hate crimes against Muslims reported by the FBI last year, but this is likely "a tiny fraction" of actual crimes due to the bureaucracy involved in reporting a hate crime to make it to FBI stats. Underreporting by law officials affects many things, from funding of policy, nonprofits, and research, and also undermines advocacy. 

Civilian casualties in Mosul. Women and children. One tiny medical clinic to treat wounded soldiers and civilians during the fight. The closest hospital is over an hour away. Photo ops. They interview a beautiful, 9 year-old girl. Floods of wounded children. Loudspeaker prayer punctuated by gunfire. Families who can't attend funerals because of the danger. Burying the dead by hand. Mourning. 

England's 5 pound note contained animal fat, so Scotland made a vegan version. 

Political boycotts...or not. 

Episode 34—Dec. 1

Trump's Carrier deal. Stunter-in-Chief. Forced the state to give $7 million in tax incentives, paid by taxpayers, and it still sent about double the jobs as were saved off to Mexico. Other workers want their jobs saved, too. Good luck with that; he got his press and is moving on. 

Over 700 murders in Chicago so far this year. "Cyberbanging": using social media to instigate acts of real-world violence. The use of grammar, letters, emojis, and syntax toward escalating violence and communicating acts of violence. If you don't defend yourself online, you may be viewed as weak and killed offline.

Aleppo—indiscriminate air strikes against rebels. Targeted hospitals for strikes. Intentionally. Inhuman. 100,000 children in the area. A 12 year-old girl with her knee blown out of her leg. No one is helping them. 

World AIDS day. 35 million people have died. South Africa has 1/5th of the world's HIV/AIDS population. Testing a vaccine. 

Poisoned ground in Indiana. Too bad that wasn't important to Trump. How long have officials known? Double the legal limit. Lead stays in land for 500-1000 years. Flint problem can be solved in an easier manner and is smaller in scale. Residents being forced to move, and they don't know where to go. 

Gizzle, rapper who wrote for famous men, finally rapping for herself. Battled growing up in South Central. Doesn't wanna be a female rapper or a queer rapper, just a rapper. Go, girl. 

Episode 35—Dec. 2

Team Trump and "Mad Dog" thinks it's fun to shoot Taliban. His appointment is illegal unless Congress passes a new law to allow him to serve because he has not been inactive military for long enough. Which is likely. At least he's against torture?

Standing rock; government ordered an evacuation on the pretense of protestor safety. Protestors afraid of force. American vet reinforcements—good on them. Standing against the use of force against peaceful protestors for private business interests "under the color of law." 

Italy set to vote in the Italian Donald Trump. Financial meltdown, panic, etc. Wonderful.

Procession of Castro's ashes in Cuba. Do people really go out to line streets to watch a car with a box on their own?

4.6% unemployment. Longest consecutive job growth in history. But Trump still thinks that's a disaster. He says it's "fiction." That's hilarious, coming from him. 

Uber driver in San Francisco; from Stockton, commutes to the city and sleeps in her car. Hello, Bay Bridge. I've missed you. She finds the job freeing. Wait until Uber fires them all for their self-driving cars.

Hamilton Mix Tape release. I learned that someone is making Amelie, the musical.

Episode 36—Dec. 5

Standing Rock; block of permit. Vets standing with protestors, building barracks, marching, fireworks, drumming, but skepticism. The threat of Trump. The fight continues. 

"Populism." Calling the left "the establishment" needs to stop, as it is part of the myth of the right. Austria's vote; hatred of refugees. "I can't look at them." Even though the far-right lost the majority, they still won major victories. "Obviously, terrorists were among them as well," the far-right leader said of refugees. He loves Trump and his cabinet appointments. Italy voted against the referendum and and everyone is unhappy.

Trump and that Taiwan phone call. Too much money is involved to piss off China. You'd think that would be a language Trump understands.

Richard Spencer & the alt-right. Protestors against him outside. "Smelly disgusting freaks," he calls them. He says their lives are based on hate. That's hilarious. He runs the "National Policy Institute." He seems obsessed with power and cockposturing. "It started out as a joke and it became real. It's like magic." See my discussion of problematic jokes the other day. 

New book about Nabokov and his publisher. I have to read this. 

The Good Neighbor (2016)
via Netflix

Two teenage "filmmakers" decide to break into an evil old neighbor's house and set up cameras and equipment to simulate a haunting and gaslight him. Damn, that's James Caan? Interspersed with trial footage from the apparent aftermath. I think it likely does not make the movie more suspenseful. I think this movie is going in the direction that the house in which they're stating a fake haunting has an actual haunting, but that's just a guess. They make noises happen and mess with his electronics and cause doors to open and shut, but their excitement to cause these things makes them seem superfake, not supernatural. 

Films that rely on footage shot in the context of the film usually have to invent insane reasons for bringing their cameras into nonsensical situations, which this movie does, but this movie doesn't solely rely on that footage, as it uses non-contextual cameras to get other coverage. So why don't they just use those extra cameras instead of making up lame excuses? Maybe it's part of the trope for these films to make up lame excuses. Who knows. There are even flashbacks. 

There are lots of stupid things happening in this movie, like waiting for daylight to do totally illegal things, the idea that kids would pace around and brainstorm instead of using Google find out how to do something totally technical. They get the total lack of ethics and egotistical certainty of teenagers, though. And cruelty. And lack of impulse control. I'm not sure they got it on purpose, but maybe so. 

It turns out, of course (uh...spoilers, if you care, though I think watching the film knowing the end would make it more interesting), that the old man wasn't an evil bastard, just a despondent old guy who lost his wife and hated the neighborhood dogs because they pissed on her garden and kills himself when the kids do shit to remind him of his wife. They're charged with felony murder, which is often used to extreme degrees and is often unethical in itself, in my opinion, but only convicted of illegal surveillance and B&E, which is what they did. Apparently this is a travesty of justice. I don't think so. 

There are some cases when felony murder is appropriate, such as active roles that lead to someone's death. The case that comes to mind, though, is something from a couple years ago when a group of unarmed teenagers broke into an old guy's house when they thought he wasn't home, except he was, and he shot one of the intruders, and the dead kid's friends were charged with his murder because they were breaking and entering when he was killed. Also that case in Denver, I think, when the woman was trying to move her stuff out of her ex's apartment and her friend called her boyfriend to help and he brought some skinheads, and the girl ended up getting a ride from one of them and he went nuts and the cops came and she was sitting handcuffed in the back of a police car when the insane skinhead shot and murdered a cop, then killed himself. They charged and convicted her of the cop's murder, claiming she had broken into her old apartment hours earlier and it was in the commission of that crime that led to the cop's death, which is bullshit, because it was the skinhead's rampage that caused it, a man she didn't even know and had to escape from.

Point being, prosecutors often charge the most number of crimes at the worst severity they can possibly get away with instead of levying charges that are consistent with the crimes committed. They do this in part to gain leverage to force plea deals, which inhibits the freedom citizens have in access to trials (in part to save money, but a conviction is a conviction for prosecution scorecards). They also do it because bigger charges look better on their resumes when they win, and prosecutors only try what they can win. A plea is a win, too. 

So, are these fictional kids fictionally responsible for the fictive suicide of this fictitious old man? No, I don't think so. It's not illegal to be an asshole. They didn't cause the conditions that led to the man's suicidality. They likely exacerbated them by pulling pranks that (unknowing to them) reminded the guy of his wife, but I could call an unknowingly suicidal person on the phone and say just the wrong thing, too, which is definitely not illegal. I don't know if the filmmakers were trying to say that felony murder is the right charge in this case or to expose overzealous prosecutors or if they give a shit about any of that, though I would expect well-off white kids to be allowed to plead out to misdemeanors way before going to trial.

You could also consider privacy here and how lack of context brews infinite misunderstanding and assumption. They set up cameras in the guy's house to film him night and day so they can see how he reacts to their "haunts," but he never reacts how they suspect, which makes them even more suspicious. He reacts that way because he does think his wife is still *in* the house where she died, though it is never established if she is or isn't (which makes me question the hints that the house is actually haunted, if they were trying to imply that, if the ending means it wasn't, and if so, why the hell all the video equipment malfunctions, etc.). 

But you cannot know someone just by watching him or her, especially if the action is limited. Someone surveilling me (screams!) would be bored to death, though my object-projections paint a portrait. I can go days without hearing my own voice. Another clue (from the greek word meaning a ball of yarn), in my opinion, is the cat. Evil assholes don't keep big fluffy cats. 

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