When to know to stop arguing

As the host of this blog, I am also the de facto moderator. I try to do so with an extremely light touch but there are occasions when I feel tempted to step in and lay down the law by banning people or shutting down comments. I have done so very rarely. One such situation is when a thread continues for much longer than I feel is necessary. As is almost always the case in the online world, all useful information and arguments have been presented within the first few exchanges. It should be obvious to everyone at that point that there are only two possibilities: either you are are terrible at making a persuasive argument and have to come back and try making the same point over and over again in different ways or, as is much more likely, the other person is determined not to have their mind changed and is simply deflecting your argument. Once that point is reached, we enter salami-slicing territory in which finer and finer distinctions are made which serve no purpose except that some people feel that they must have the last word or they have lost the argument, which is a fallacy but one that they cling to.
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I am tired of posting these but feel I must

Once again we have a case of police using unnecessary force on a driver of color. He is now suing the police department.

Army Lt. Caron Nazario filed suit against police officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker last month, and video from the officers’ body cameras and Nazario’s cellphone has gone viral in recent days.

Nazario seeks $1 million plus punitive damages from the officers, saying they violated his constitutional rights.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, said the videos raise the question of whether the officers overreacted and used more force than necessary.

The videos “make it seem that Lt. Nazario has a persuasive case,” Tobias told USA TODAY.

The officers said in the police report that they stopped Nazario’s Chevrolet Tahoe because it didn’t have a rear license plate, although the report acknowledges the officers later noticed a temporary plate displayed in the back window.

The fact the Nazario was released at the scene and not charged and that the two police officers “threatened to destroy the lieutenant’s military career with “baseless” criminal charges if he reported them for misconduct” show that the police realized that they had gone too far.

You can see for yourself.

I am amazed the Nazario was able to speak so calmly while being threatened and humiliated by people pointing guns at his face.

I keep posting these because I feel that these cases must be widely publicized to build the case that the police in the US need serious reform and curtailment of their powers. We simply should not let these things pass and become seen as normal.

Don’t deliberately cough on people for any reason

Debra Jo Hunter, a woman in Florida (of course) who deliberately went up to someone and coughed in her face during the early days of the pandemic, was sentenced last week to 29 days in jail. The woman she coughed on had recently had brain tumor surgery.

Duval County Court Judge James Ruth first heard testimony from Hunter’s husband, friends and family who said she has a “really huge heart” and is “broken-hearted” over how she coughed on cancer patient Heather Sprague. But after they spoke on behalf of Hunter, Sprague told the judge about the confrontation that happened only months after she underwent brain tumor surgery. 

Sprague said she watched Hunter, 53, give at least 15 minutes of what she called “escalating bullying,” swearing and threats to Pier 1 staff about a broken item with Sprague’s children nearby. It was only when Sprague said she started shooting video in the final minute of the tirade that she was yelled at, then coughed on.

Here’s video of the incident.

I really doubt her family’s claim that she has a “really huge heart”. People like that do not berate shop assistants, give the double finger to strangers, and call them names. Also, deliberately coughing on someone is something that everyone would agree on is disgusting, similar to spitting on them.

There is something about the pandemic that has unhinged some people to the extent that they react so angrily. Hunter was with her two children. Doesn’t she care what kind of role model she is for them?

The story behind Midnight Cowboy

This 1969 film tells the tale of the unlikely friendship that arose between a fresh-faced country boy (Jon Voight) who comes to New York City with the hope of making money as a cowboy gigolo and a lowlife street-wise hustler (Dustin Hoffman) who knows (or acts like he knows) all the angles. I remember most vividly the bleak scenes of the two trying to survive the brutal cold of winter in a decrepit, grimy apartment in a city that looked gritty, dirty, decaying, and crime ridden, the wonderful theme song Everybody’s Talkin’ by Harry Nilsson, and the haunting background harmonica music played by the great ‘Toots’ Thielemans (who incidentally also played the Sesame Street theme during the end credits of that show.)
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British TV criticized for blanket coverage of Prince Philip’s death

It appears that British TV, especially the BBC, decided to go to wall-to-wall coverage of Prince Philip’s death and viewers were not pleased, flooding them with complaints about it all being a bit much.

Viewers switched off their TVs in droves after broadcasters aired blanket coverage of Prince Philip’s death, audience figures revealed on Saturday, and the BBC received so many complaints it opened a dedicated complaints form on its website.

BBC One and BBC Two cleared their schedules of Friday night staples including EastEnders, Gardeners’ World and the final of MasterChef to simulcast pre-recorded tributes from the Duke of Edinburgh’s children.

TV viewers were not pleased. BBC One, which is traditionally the channel that Britons turn on at moments of national significance, was down 6% on the previous week, according to analysis of viewing figures by Deadline. For BBC Two the decision was disastrous – it lost two-thirds of its audience, with only an average of 340,000 people tuning in at any time between 7pm to 11pm. ITV suffered a similar drop after it ditched its Friday night schedule to broadcast tributes to the duke.

The death of a 99-year old man is hardly shocking news. This whole business of ‘official mourning’, where the media pretends that the entire nation is highly upset over the death of someone and is collectively mourning has always been a fiction, to be used as cudgel to beat one’s political opponents with. In reality, apart from close members of the dead person’s family, most people may feel some momentary pangs of sadness but then go on with their lives. They dislike being pressured to be feel something they do not feel.

Too many flashbacks? Trying too hard for surprise endings?

I recently watched two TV series that used the flashback technique extensively in their narrative structure. The use of flashbacks in telling a story goes back a long way in the written form and there are good reasons for its use.

The flashback technique is as old as Western literature. In the Odyssey, most of the adventures that befell Odysseus on his journey home from Troy are told in flashback by Odysseus when he is at the court of the Phaeacians.

The use of flashback enables the author to start the story from a point of high interest and to avoid the monotony of chronological exposition. It also keeps the story in the objective, dramatic present.

Its use in films is necessarily more recent, as this Wikipedia article describes.
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Amazon unionization effort falls short

Workers at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama have voted against creating a union by a wide margin.

Workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, plant have voted 1,798 to 738 to reject the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Counting concluded on Friday morning, and attention will now focus on some 505 challenged ballots , but the margin of victory was too greatto change the outcome.

The fight to form a union in the warehouse in Bessemer, a suburb north of Birmingham, we eagerly watched by America’s labor movement as one of its most important battles in recent history. Some 5,800 workers were eligible to vote on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) as the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the US.

In a statement, the RWDSU president, Stuart Appelbaum, said: “We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote.

Amazon strongly and publicly opposed the union, from seeking to delay the election, pushing for in-person voting, hiring expensive union avoidance consultants, forcing workers to participate in captive audience meetings, flooding workers with anti-union messaging and encouraging them to vote against it, sponsoring local media content, and waging PR fights against critics.

Amazon had pulled out all the stops to prevent the union from winning. This result will, unfortunately, enable one of the most predatory companies to continue its behavior.

Don’t buy Boehner’s apologia

David Corn recounts John Boehner’s history in light of the latter’s recent efforts in a book excerpt to decry the Republican party’s descent into lunacy while acting like he bears little responsibility for the party going bonkers. It is the old, old political story of party leaders encouraging extremists to gain greater power and thinking that they could control those elements only to find that when they try to regain control, those extremist elements turn on them.
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