The Decline of the “Alien” Franchise

Gino (Richard Hervey) gets left behind when he stops to light a cigarette, he is also attacked.

From the synopsis of “It! The Terror From Beyond Space” at IMDB.

I would have thought smoking would have been banned in space ships by the time distant future had rolled around. But then again, there is smoking on the ship in “Aliens”. It’s the first thing John Hurt does after waking from his cryogenic sleep.

“Alien” truly is a very original, very well-made science-fiction horror film. Considering how derivative most effects-laden blockbuster Hollywood movies are nowadays– including it’s own sequel, “Aliens”– that’s an accomplishment.

But it was not conceived ex nihilo. In fact, it is quite surprising to me how much of the story is derived from earlier books and movies. This should be a lesson to aspiring writers: steal from the best. No wait– steal from the worst. They will have less money to sue you with.

First of all there is, “IT! The Terror from Beyond Space”.

First of all, what’s “beyond space”? I have no idea. But here’s the plot: a lone spaceman is the survivor of an expedition to Mars. He is rescued but where is the rest of his crew? He is suspected of killing the others but claims an alien creature is responsible. Earth does not believe him and plans to court-martial him…. until, his fellow travelers start disappearing one by one, including a gentleman stopping to light a cigarette. The creature has stowed away on the rescue ship and now stalks the rest of crew.

Whoa– the creature uses the air vents to travel through the ship! It hauls crew members into the vents, then attacks the others when they try to recover the victims.

When an autopsy is done on a deceased crew member, it is found that every ounce of moisture has been taken from the body. They try nuking the creature but that fails. Then they finally get into their space suits and vent the atmosphere from the ship causing the alien to be sucked out into outer space.

Not quite exactly like “Alien” or “Aliens” but there some striking similarities.

In “The Voyage of the Space Beagle” an insect like creature called Ixtl implants it’s eggs into living hosts. The author of the story upon which it is based sued the makers of “Alien” and received an out-of-court settlement. In other words, there enough similarities to make a court case out of it, or the studio wanted him, A. E. Van Vogt, to just go away.

Vogt’s stories revolve around a space ship staffed by a thousand castrati. I’m not making this up: that must be how he conceived peace and good order on this vessel during these grueling, extended absences. Thankfully, this particular detail was not plagiarized either by “Star Trek”, which bears more than a few similarities, or “Alien”, or it’s sequels.

The makers of “Alien” acknowledge a debt to “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Star Wars”, and “Texas Chain-saw Massacre”. Apparently, that latter film blew away Ridley Scott who suddenly realized that he could make his movie a lot bloodier and more violent without offending mainstream audiences.

However, he could not make Dallas or Lambert transgender, as originally written: decent, moral, law-abiding audiences draw the line somewhere.

But go ahead with the exploding chests.


In “Alien Resurrection”, Ripley is reconstituted from the DNA in a blood sample 200 years after the events in Alien3. They do this to retrieve the alien embryo from her body where it was implanted.

I’m confused by this: how would rebuilding her from her DNA in a blood sample also rebuild the alien embryo which couldn’t possibly have the same DNA?

“It! the Terror From Beyond Space”  Synopsis  Movie

A Woman in a car in Washington D.C.

Is it possible to take a minute and analyze carefully what just happened in Washington D. C. that has the entire Twitterverse buzzing like a chainsaw jackhammer?

First thing I saw on TV was a police officer telling us that the police performed absolutely heroically. They were courageous and smart and wonderful and they got Timmy safely out of the well. Boy, we’re GREAT. I mean it.

Shots were fired. That’s always electrifying and the first reports on CBC stated that “shots were fired”. They were– by the police.

The police sprang into action. Why? Because they saw other police chasing a car and running down the streets. They sprang into action, locked down government buildings, prevented congressmen from crossing the street, and I’m sure a couple of Secret Service agents threw themselves on top of Obama. All of this was the result of the perception that other police were running around pointing guns and chasing people off the sidewalks. Why were these other police running around and chasing people off the sidewalks? Because some police cars went by with their sirens blaring. And shots were about to be fired.

What actually happened: a woman drove her car towards the White House and appeared to try to drive through the very powerful barricades in front of the President’s home. When the police tried to stop her, she backed up, into a police car, and drove away.

Now, I’m as sentimental as the next guy and I’m sure that that woman spokesperson for the police meant well, and wanted to reassure us that there was nothing the police couldn’t do, but it appeared to me that the police at that moment needed more than anything else to immobilize that car, and this they failed to do. They actually let her reverse the car, back up and out, and drive off, resulting in a hysterical chase down Pennsylvania Avenue as she headed towards….. (very loud basso profundo now) CONGRESS. Where clearly she meant to GTA the Tea Party and get the country moving again.

She smashed into a guard hut and the police surrounded her car and shot her to death. Since they seemed clueless about how to block a car in so it couldn’t escape again, I guess they thought they had no choice.

I’m sure the NRA will assure us that cars don’t kill people: only women with babies kill people, and if only an upstanding NRA member had had his car there at that moment, all would be well.

Method Umpires

Method-actors can be very annoying, especially to the other members of a movie crew, or even the other actors. You don’t matter, Laurence Olivier. You don’t matter sound-guy. You don’t matter director. I must commune with my inner-self, draw on my child-hood memories and experiences, and connect my personal emotional life to the artistic representation of this character’s inner life. Stand back and wait. I’ll let you know when I’m ready. You philistines really have no business deciding when I need to get in front of a camera.

Angel Hernandez had the opportunity to review High Definition footage of a double off the wall Wednesday, May 8th, in a game between Oakland and Cleveland. It was quickly evident to millions of viewers that the ball was not a double: it struck a pipe railing above the yellow stripe that demarcates the field of play, therefore it was a home run. Hernandez however, for reasons that no one has been able to explain, called it a double.

Hernandez is a method umpire. After the game, he prepared for his role as defender of the ineffable perfection of umpires by drawing upon his arrogant inner ego and connecting it with his artistic representation of immutable authority: I am the umpire. I am never wrong. When the media asked him about the call, he refused to allow anyone to record his answer. Then he refused to provide an answer. He was so deep into his role, that his other personality, that of a rational human being, had been completely submerged by the time the media had tucked away their microphones.

By the Way

David Ortiz, at 37, is hitting better than last year or the year before.

Honest– it’s the winter conditioning program. Really.

Quick Easy Money

It must be an easy way for smart people to make a LOT of money.

There is a man who detects and removes bedbugs for you in New York.  He says that 80% of his customers do not have bedbugs.  He is always busy.  No matter what the economy is doing, people will call about suspected bedbugs and in most cases his job is easy: do some ritual cleansing and then announce that there are no bedbugs.   You can make a lot of money doing that.

You do have to be intelligent smart. Not smart smart, like Vint Cerf. More shrewd smart, like Bill Gates. You start a firm that specializes in “cyber-security”. Ok, you are half way there because almost nobody understands what cyber-security is or how it works. Even better– since there may not be as much of a threat out there as people generally think there is, it will be hard for anyone to prove that you aren’t successful at it.

I call it the “gravity market”. You sell people a service to keep the objects they own from floating up into outer space. You can offer lavish guarantees.

Gun Owner Liability Insurance

“You cannot insure yourself for arson.” Robert P. Harwig, President of the Insurance Information Institute, NY Times, 2013-02-21

The absurdity of the laws of gun ownership in the United States is never more clear than when you enter into a discussion of insurance policies.

Did you know that the families of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were sued for millions of dollars after the Columbine massacre? Their insurance companies paid the claims.

Wait a minute– there’s a liability there? How can that be?

If it is legal to own guns why should there be any liability when they are used as intended? If they not used “as intended”, why should the parents and the parents’ insurance company be liable but not, say, the company that sold all the weapons to Klebold and Harris?

My question is, why? Why should the insurance companies pay out? They should say, you live in a world in which easy, unimpeded access to firearms is a fundamental right. By voting for the same politicians year after year, you have affirmed your approval of this state of affairs. You accept the risk of Columbine, and there will be many more, as the price to be paid for this access to guns. Why, now, are you unhappy with the result? Why should we pay you?

All right– you object to the word “intended”? You still want to believe that the purpose of a gun is for hunting or self-defense? So the mass murderers are using the guns as “not intended”? But isn’t the insurance policy a test of exactly that idea?

And isn’t the idea that killing a room full of people with a high powered rifle is a capability and potential “not intended” by the manufacturer and seller of the gun absurd? Of course it’s intended to kill! Of course it’s designed to shatter human flesh and bone! Of course it’s intended to paralyze and disfigure! That’s the exact thing that sells guns, the fantasy of invoking it’s power in rage and delight, like in the movies, when Bruce or Clint or Arnold or Sylvester looks satisfied and says something vaguely iconic like “if you’re going to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”

Some insurance companies, apparently, will cover you for “self defense”. But such coverage, of course is unnecessary, because you will not have done anything wrong, even if the person you are defending against was merely coming up your driveway to ask you for directions.

Let’s not get confused here: I am not excusing criminal behavior. I have no reason to think that you might have reason to think I am doing that, but some gun nut out there is already muttering it under his breath. Furthermore, did anything I said sound like “let’s lock up law-abiding citizens”?

If the law is that you can’t have a gun, then so be it: you aint “law-abiding” anymore.

There is no way in the world that the U.S. would be able to keep mentally deranged people from owning a gun. Firstly, there are far, far, far more mentally deranged people out there than is commonly imagined. Secondly, the same people in favor of this idea are hysterically averse to taxes, especially the big tax hikes that will be required to even begin warehousing all the potential mass killers out there.

And the same people who believe that only law-abiding citizens will register, if registration is required, have a rather touching belief that locking people up after they commit a crime– for longer periods– will magically prevent them from having committed the crimes in the first place.

I don’t think Klebold said to Harris on the morning of April 20, 1999, “but what if we get caught?”

Harris: “We’ll be in BIG trouble, that’s for sure.”

In March, 1998, a Jefferson County detective, in response to complaints from the parents of a classmate, Brooks Brown, initiated the process of obtaining a warrant to search Eric Harris’ house. This investigator had checked out Harris’ website on which he made public threats and advocated violence and murder. He forgot to finish the task though. But after April 20, the Sherriff remembered to not tell anyone about it until 60 Minutes uncovered the fact two years later.

Christians love to cite the (apparently false) story of a girl who said she believed in God being killed by Harris or Klebold.  They call her a martyr and proof that prayer belongs in the schools.  They don’t like to tell you about Robyn Anderson, a Christian, who purchased three of the guns used for Klebold. She was never charged.  And, yes, thanks to her, many prayers were said in school.

Mark Manes, on the other hand, was sentenced to 9 years(1) for selling his Tec-9 to Klebold. Why the disparity. Did the police like Robyn? She is a cute blonde. She is a Christian. Why on earth did Manes receive 9 years– really, a rather savage sentence, considering the big fat nothing that other people with some responsibility for Columbine received…

If this investigator was liable in some way for what happened, because he was aware of the threat, but did nothing, why isn’t the gun shop merchant who sells a man hundreds or thousands of rounds? “Hunting sparrows, are we?”

The other thing made clear by Klebold and Harris, though, is that no amount of screening for mental illnesses will snag clever, composed psychopaths like Eric Harris, who was very astute at manipulating the criminal justice system (his parole officer thought he was exemplary), and would probably be even more successful at manipulating psychologists.

[Incidentally: Harris was on Fluvoxamine, an SSRI anti-depressant at the time of the shootings. I guess, in the words of General Turgidsen in “Dr. Strangelove”, it might be unfair to condemn the entire program just because of one little slip-up. But let’s get something else out there concerning “myths” of Columbine: Klebold and Harris were, in fact, bullied by other students. At one point, a group of them tossed ketchup-coated tampons at Klebold in the cafeteria, and Harris was regularly mocked for his physique. Both were ridiculed for their poor athletic skills.]

Afterthoughts

In 2005 Congress passed a law (The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act or “PLCAA”) giving immunity to gun manufacturers and sellers against any liability for how their product is used no matter how defective or just plain stupid they are. Aside from the comical name– “Protection of Lawful Commerce”, as if the law itself is not what makes it “lawful”), this is surely some cruel joke on the families of victims of gun violence.

Let’s go one better: guns are also exempt from The Consumer Product Safety Commission. Why on earth is that? Because they are so safe?

According to the article cited above, at least 250 children aged 14 and younger have been killed by “accident” a a result of a gun being left unprotected in a home or vehicle.

[I can hardly believe one of the stories: a father bought his 3-year-old boy a .22 rifle and tried to teach him how to use it “safely”. He was killed instead. The boy’s mother testified that the boy “knew better” than to do that. As a letter-writer to the Times said, why is a person required to have liability insurance on his or her car, but not on his or her firearm?]

No other industry in the entire United States has this very privileged position. It should be repealed and the legislators who voted for it should be sacked. Not only because sane people don’t want any guns around, but because the law is massively stupid. If a wild-eyed orange -haired gentleman were to enter a gun shop and ask for a semi-automatic gun and 5,000 rounds of ammunition because “somebody’s going to pay”, there should be a legal obligation on the owner of that shop to not arm this man to the teeth. Or, even more ridiculously, if a handgun blows up in someone’s face, he should damn well be able to sue the maker of that defective gun.

And, just to humour Republicans, if a registered NRA member is confronted by a gay immigrant jihadist burglar and his gun fails to go off– well, he should have recourse, don’t you think? The gun was defective. It didn’t kill someone.

 

Someone Caught up to Me.

In 2004, some families, of victims of the Beltway shootings, sued the manufacturer of the rifle used and received about $2.5 million.  That was brilliant.

Trinity Christian College – Dr. Martin Vrieze

Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, was founded in 1965 or thereabouts. It is a reformed Christian college, founded on the idea that science is not neutral, that all knowledge is influenced and shaped by a person’s worldview, and that Christians, therefore, need to study in a Christian College to reach an understanding of the world that is in harmony with their faith

You can buy it or not buy it. As a student, it was clear to me that the history and philosophy departments were trying their best to follow the program, but English classes seemed to me to be pretty well the same kind of classes you would be taking at York or the University of Toronto or the University of Western Ontario or the University of Chicago.

If you took art and needed to learn how to draw the human figure, you had to go to Saint Xavier University down the street to see a nude model because, apparently, Christians didn’t do nudes.  Well, at least not on Trinity’s campus.  I’m amazed we had a pre-med program– when did they ever get to look at a human body?

As for the business and accounting departments, they were all eager little capitalists who believed that religion was largely relevant to Sunday mornings. The philosophical perspective of my friends in these departments could be summed up thusly: “Hey, watch your language guys– there are girls around.”

Philosophy, at Trinity, was like the art: we didn’t do nudes. You had to go elsewhere to study the shapes and contours and shadows of an undraped human mind. We studied rationalism and humanism and scholasticism and Marxism and read Kant’s Transcendental Critique and always, near the end of the course, bang, biff, whap! we put them in their places.

Christian Reformed Doctrine held that all of us have a prior faith commitment which coloured all of our conclusions about science and truth. So Kant could write ten critiques if he wanted but he would be no closer to the truth because he was, at heart, a humanist. Geez, that’s a gross simplification. But it will have to do: I don’t have all day.

So, at the end of the course, our professors would expose these philosophers’ hidden biases, offer the “correct” Christian perspective, and then we would move on to the next great fraud.

Now, this Christian philosophy was not supposed to be the same as a reactionary, conservative philosophy. Heavens no! Even if, at the end of the long torturous journey through the Bible, Augustine, Aquinas, and Herman Dooyeweerd, and Abraham Kuyper, we ended up, lo and behold, agreeing with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. I didn’t get that at the time. I didn’t get it until I was at a Christian Labour Association of Canada banquet five or six years later where the guest speaker, Bernie Zylstra, attacked the media for attacking Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. I didn’t get it until I realized that a lot of these devoted “Reformed Christian” thinkers were astoundingly similar, in outlook, to neo-conservatives like Daniel Bell, Patrick Moynihan, and Irving Kristol. (Oddly, they opposed support for Solidarity in Poland at first, because they thought it was doomed to failure, and because they fervently believed that communist regimes never liberalize, while our cuddly U.S.-friendly capitalist autocratic regimes– like Pinochet in Chile, and Somoza in Nicaragua, and the Shah of Iran– do.)

Reformed Christian Philosophy…. in a word, we believed that truth was handed down from high, given to us in the Bible, but also– as per some Scholastics– through “general revelation”, evidence to be found in creation itself, and in natural law as divined through science. That explained why non-Christian scientists occasionally or often hit on a “truth” or two even while blinded by their own humanistic determinism– they were working from evidence from God’s own hands, his creation, which is an expression of divine will, and part of the way God communicates with us sinners.

I don’t mean to be too glib. Our professors, Dr. John Roose and Dr. Martin Vrieze, were respectful of their achievements, and properly awed by the depth and breadth of their insights. But we were convinced that the great reformed thinkers– Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, Bob Goudzwaard, and others could hold their own with these mighty intellects. Especially Dooyeweerd who was rumoured to be almost as smart as Kant, and maybe even smarter, if not at least equally incoherent.

And then there was Contemporary Philosophy.  (Actually, it may have been “Philosophy of History”.)

I took this course in my senior year, I think it was, with a few philosophy die-hards, with Dr. Marten Vrieze. I have no idea why I thought this but I had the idea that Dr. Vrieze was a bit pissed off at the Reformed establishment for some reason. It may have been because, unlike some of the other reformational professors like Calvin Seerveld and Robert Vandervennen, he hadn’t been asked to sign on to The Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, one of the other, bigger Reformed Christian Colleges, or the new King’s College in Edmonton. I had a feeling he was fed up with something. Whatever the reason, the course was an eye-opener and it completely altered my perception of Christian philosophy.

There was no text-book, no digest, no over-view: content was taken from philosophical journals and books by the philosophers. These philosophers were not dusted off from their positions in the pantheon of all-time BIG thinkers, buffed and admired, then discredited. These were living, breathing philosophers, mostly, who were engaged with living, breathing currents of philosophy and were way ahead of the constructs and discredited frameworks of Hume, Descartes, and Kant.

It would be impossible to do justice to their ideas here, so I’ll do an injustice instead, just so you know what I’m talking about. Ludwig Wittgenstein, a logical positivist, believed that truth was a construct of language and formal structures of thought, within which we distilled our experiences of the world into a coherent narrative. It wasn’t so much the ideas that mattered, as the way the ideas were expressed, shackled, as they were, to the expression itself.

Karl Popper believed that we formulated our perspective on the world in a sort of complex of patterns and systems of thought called paradigms. A paradigm was “true” as long as it was useful. As human knowledge would begin to exceed the framework of this paradigm, it might be overthrown, and a new paradigm would take it’s place. Again, it didn’t really matter if a paradigm was really true or not– there probably was no such thing as a “true” paradigm.

Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend developed these ideas even further, and I remember, in particular, and argument from Paul Feyerabend that demonstrated, finally, to my satisfaction, that the idea that 2 + 2 does not necessarily equal 4 is not nearly as silly as it sounds. You can’t make any person who hasn’t taken advanced philosophy believe this.

What these gentleman called into question was the idea that you could measure a worldview, such as reformed Christianity, against it’s own reference points. Reformed Christianity would argue that even without the Bible, the evidence of creation is sufficient to explain a just and loving God and a purpose to life. Popper would argue that this world view prevailed only as long as it was “useful” to humanity. With the Renaissance and the Age of Reason, this paradigm was challenged, and eventually over-thrown.

More to come…


Some neo-cons like Irving Kristol support the idea of “intelligent design”. It’s very difficult to imagine that Kristol really believes in it. Maybe he does. Or maybe it just confirms the idea that neo-cons are just a bunch of neo-prudes with reactionary instincts who really don’t care for facts and information unless they can be marshaled in support of their conservative politics.

Forrest Gump is a neo-con’s wet dream of a movie.

Acronym Syndrome

A year or so ago, Stockwell Day (a Conservative cabinet minister, in case you’ve forgotten) was defending a number of initiatives by the Harper Government to “strengthen” the criminal justice system. By “strengthen”, he meant “make people suffer more”. When a reporter asked what the reason for this was, considering that the crime rate was actually in decline, Day famously replied that “unreported crime” was on the increase.

I think Day should have set up a website first. “UnreportedCrimes.ca”. Then people could report their unreported crimes and we would have a better idea of the scale of the problem. He should have invented an acronym for it — UCD for “Unreported Crimes Disorder”. He would have sounded more authoritative if he had said, “of course, UCD is way up over last year, and URPCA is also on the increase. (Under Reported Perception of Criminal Activity). He might have added that if a citizen sees any activity take place which is not clearly a known legal activity then it should be treated as an unreported crime. And reported.

The problem is, if he had done this tens years ago, the numbers would still have declined. Because, after all, the rate of crime really is down, if you look at actual facts, so the amount of reported unreported crimes would also likely have declined. Do you see the problem?

Similarly, or not, there is a website for “The Invisible Disabilities Association of Canada”. It’s about two particular “syndromes”– I don’t know what to call it exactly– myofascial and fibromyalgia. Your first clue: myofascial is not in the dictionary. That is because it is not a real word. It is a made-up word.  That means it was just discovered– or just invented.

Now before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I believe it is quite possible that some people in this world, particularly in the affluent developed countries, really do suffer from tiredness, sore muscles, aches, and pains. In fact, it is quite possible that all of us do, to some extent. In fact, it is quite possible that life, in general, sucks. I’m not being flippant– life generally sucks. You make the best of it if you can, but it sucks.

I don’t care about that. I do care about bad science and irrationality, because those things lead to trouble.

So when this website informs me that fibromyalgia is diagnosed when “other illnesses and conditions are ruled out”, I am astounded. Let’s say you meet a person. Are you French? No. Are you British? No. Then you must be Chinese.

Fibromyalgia, we are informed, affects either the upper half of the body, or the bottom half, and can affect the right side or the left side. I am not making this up– check out the website.  [The website is out of business.]

Fibromyalgia consists of general aches and pains and tiredness. That’s good– because if it only affected specific parts of the body in a specific way, you would know when you didn’t have it.

Now, I have no idea how you would know if your aches and pains and tiredness are a syndrome or if they are just aches and pains and tiredness, or if your life sucks and you hate making the effort and you just want to veg out on the couch and you don’t have the courage to get out there and engage the world…. I don’t know. Nobody will ever know.

According to the website:

Generally people with Fibromyalgia state that they hurt all over, especially in the parts that are used the most. Stiffness, especially on waking, sleep disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (see separate sheet), irritable bladder syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, restless leg syndrome, headaches (especially migraines and tension headaches) (see separate sheet), muscle spasms, cold intolerance, TMJ, cognitive difficulties, numbness and tingling in the extremities are some of the symptoms. Other common symptoms include a decreased sense of energy, disturbances of sleep, and varying degrees of anxiety and depression related to patients’ changed physical status.

“Irritable bladder syndrome”? “Numbness and tingling”? “Cold intolerance”?.

Think about how it sounds if you say “I am cold”. Now say, “I have cold intolerance”. Different effect, isn’t it? Now try: “I have cold intolerance syndrome”. I will rush out and get you a blanket.

All of it sounds like the normal wane and flow of everyday physical life. It gets cold, it gets hot. If you move, you use energy, and if you use energy you feel tired, and if you feel tired you want to sleep, and if you feel restless, you have “restless leg syndrome”.

Why? Because a label is a label. Why did you stop going to work? Why do you sit on a couch all day watching TV and eating potato chips? Why are you fat?

If you think you have fibromyalgia, I’m not saying your symptoms are not real. I’m saying that you don’t have something that is left over if nothing else can be diagnosed. I’m saying that you have no way of knowing how tough it is supposed to be to get up in the morning or to get out of the house and engage with the world. You say, I don’t know how real your symptoms are. You don’t know how real my symptoms are. Neither of us knows where the line is between attitude and illness, but I know that any illness that can affect the upper half of the body, or the lower half of the body, or the right side, or the left side, and fails to produce any empirical manifestations, hasn’t earned the right to an acronym.

Your last refuge: you don’t know what it’s like to not want to make the effort. And I admit that we have something pure there.


Of course there is an acronym. Developing an acronym for mythical conditions is essential to selling these conditions to the public. So fibromyalgia becomes “FMS”. I think it is believed that the general public will be more easily convinced of the reality of any condition if it has an acronym, especially if it has the word “disorder” in it.

PTSD. SARS. ADHT. TMJ. MPS.

The Perfect Car

To me, you are just perfect.

My dream car. At least, when I was 14, this is the car I dreamed of. I saw a dark, maroon version of it in a movie once– I forget which one. Probably some kind of spy film. I remember that it was occupied by a very large, bald man and he was coming to kill the hero. He wasn’t the real bad guy– just a henchman. That’s the car I dreamed of owning some day.

I saw this in an ad a few years ago. I suddenly realized that, if I had really wanted to, I could have bought it right then and there. It was about $14K.

Anywhere, here, for my own personal contemplation, the actual car.  Fourteen thousand dollars.  I could have bought it, but I’m old and more sense than that.

 

The Psychopathic Justice

The New York Times Article

In his dissent in Mr. Florence’s case, Judge Louis H. Pollak, a former dean of Yale Law School, was also skeptical of the majority’s theory. “One might doubt,” he wrote, “that individuals would deliberately commit minor offenses such as civil contempt — the offense for which Florence was arrested — and then secrete contraband on their persons, all in the hope that they will, at some future moment, be arrested and taken to jail to make their illicit deliveries.”

The older I get and the more I see of cases like that of Mr. Florence the more I believe that the difference between criminality and civility in our society depends upon who was first to pull out the gun.

Mr. Florence got a ticket once. In 2003 he committed a traffic offense. He paid his fine. He obtained a letter from the court certifying that he had paid his fine– God knows why he even thought for a second he would ever need it. Just because he was black? Because he was a financial adviser to a car dealership and made a decent wage? Because he drove a BMW?  [You know, I suspect that a certain segment of the population has already sighed a little sigh of condescension: well– he’s black and driving a BMW…..]

Then, in 2005, Mr. Florence was pulled over. His wife was driving and his four-year-old son was in the back. The cop called up the record of the offense and arrested Mr. Florence on the spot. Mr. Florence showed him the document from the court showing that he had paid the fine for the offense. The cop– representing you and me and all other white taxpayers, and Clarence Thomas, one must suppose, because he sure as hell didn’t seem to represent any coloured taxpayers– arrested him anyways. He was held for eight days.

You don’t believe that? I don’t either. Here’s a direct quote from the NY Times article:

Mr. Florence was nonetheless held for eight days in two counties on a charge of civil contempt before matters were sorted out.

Say what you want about the NY Times, they almost always have the facts right, so I believe it.

But here is the issue germane now– maybe– to the Supreme Court: he was ordered to strip, bend over, and separate his cheeks while a group of manly police officers looked on.

Mr. Florence is asking the court to rule that such intrusive, humiliating actions are not justified by the law. The prosecutors argue that such procedures are justified by the enormous risk of people driving around with drugs or weapons stuffed into their anuses on the off chance that a police officer might stop them, call up a paid traffic ticket on their computers, and prove incapable of decoding the information correctly and decide this person was a threat to society and needed to be locked up in the same jail cell as a rich convict who had secretly arranged the entire thing from his prison cell and doesn’t care where the contraband has been.

The black man on the Supreme Court will relish ruling against him, but what about the seven sane members (Scalia, in my view, is nearly a psychopath) who might consider Judge Pollak’s perspective above.

What kind of person believes the police should have the right to pick up a man — seemingly at random– and strip search him and hold him for eight days… for a traffic offense (if one were to assume, crazily, for a moment, that Mr. Florence was even guilty of not paying the fine)?

Yes, the Supreme Court said, “that’s all right, that’s all right, that’s all right with me…”

[Update 2022-04-30]

And of course it was a 5-4 decision.  But don’t worry– Amy Coney Barrett has assured us that the Court is not political and of course the 5 who voted in favor of this outlandish travesty were not Republican Appointees (oh yes they were).

Excited Delirium and Other Scurrilous Syndromes of the Police State

Have you heard about the new medical condition that causes people in police custody to suddenly die? It’s called “excited delirium” and it is exacerbated by “multiple drug toxicity”. It also, don’t you know, actually gives people “super human” strength. I’ll bet you thought that only happened in comic books!

Now, if you had a number of men who were drunk or high, and loud and abrasive, or experienced a sudden influx of superhuman strength, there are many unfortunate things that could happen to them but one of the least likely– and veritably unknown before the use of the taser– is sudden death.

But if you had an equal number of men who were tasered repeatedly by the police, then thrown to the ground, hand-cuffed, and tasered again, we know you will likely have a few deaths. In those cases, we hereby declare that the deaths are caused by contagious “excited delirium” exacerbated by “multiple drug toxicity”. The superhuman strength is of no avail in these situations.

I’ll bet that right now, if you are a cop with a taser, you are making a point of memorizing the phrase: “excited delirium” and “multiple drug toxicity”.

Some day, those words might save your career.

And I’ll bet you didn’t know that “excited delirium” is not a real condition. It was invented by the taser industry to explain those inconvenient deaths of people being tasered.

*

Lest you think I am anti-cop… I’m not. I’m only against bad policing and police cover-ups.

I just saw a documentary on Frontline about a group of cops in New Orleans called to a bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina because a man was seen with a gun. Now, first of all, this IS America: what’s the problem? Oh wait– he was a black man. Okay, so the cops pull up in a rented cube van, two in the front and about eight in the back where they couldn’t see what was happening. As they are pulling up– I’m not making this up– one of the cops in the front fires a warning shot. Seriously. A warning shot. The rest of the cops in the back think there is something happening so they quickly jump out of the truck and take positions and carefully assess the situation to try to determine where the shots are coming from, how many gunman are involved, if there are any civilians in the line of fire, and how best to ensure public safety in the face of the threat.

Hoo ha! Had you! Just kidding, of course.

Actually, they jumped out of the van, guns a’blazin’, and shot wildly in all directions. Eight people were hit, two of them fatally. Fortunately, no dangerous guns were found. At least, not on the civilians.

Well. Cops are under a lot of stress, you know, what with all the bizarre super humans with excited delirium going around. My theory is that these guys on the bridge were displaying symptoms of “prescient excited delirium with multiple inactivity inversion”.

[Update: 2011-08-05. Apparently, the five officers involved have been convicted of… well, did you think they would be convicted of murder? No. They were convicted of various civil rights offenses, and covering up the shooting. They still complain bitterly that even though Ronald Madison was running away from them at the moment he was shot, he still probably would have had a gun if he could have and would have turned around fired it at police if he had been what the New Orleans police thought he was…. wait–]


Some of these links will be dead by now.  Too bad.

 

What is “excited delirium”?

I googled it.  Here’s what I found

 (in wikipedia):  Excited delirium is a condition that manifests as a combination of deliriumpsychomotor agitationanxietyhallucinations, speech disturbances, disorientation, violent and bizarre behavior, insensitivity to pain, elevated body temperature, and superhuman strength.[1][2] Excited delirium is sometimes called excited delirium syndrome if it results in sudden death (usually via cardiac or respiratory arrest), a relatively frequent outcome particularly associated with the use of physical control measures, including police restraint and tasers.[1][2]

Shockingly, African American men seem disproportionately disposed to affliction by this medical condition.

You should read that last line carefully: death is a frequent outcome   “particularly associated with the use of physical control measures…”

How wonderful to be a short-tempered cop and have a syndrome that can be applied to anyone with the indecency to die on you during a tasering.  How wonderful for a corporation to be able to invent and sell a syndrome to explain why people die when using your product.  (Yes, a victim is “using” the product manufactured by Taser International.)

And here’s the bottom line: neither the American Medical Association nor the American Psychological Association recognize “excited delirium” as a real medical or psychological condition.  The standard authority on mental illness, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) does not list it.   Let the lobbying begin…  What will it take?  A big fat donation to the right “charity”?  Future employment with lavish benefits to a current panel member?  Whatever… it’s not that hard to do.

real doctor talking about excited delirium.


If you want to believe the police on this one, that is certainly your privilege. IF you want to believe the police would not lie about the actions of the victim, or the necessity for force, or the prudent application of the taser…. I have two words for you:

Robert Dziekanski

In my humble opinion, “excited delirium” is the product of a rather distasteful collaboration between police officers and medical examiners to cover up instances of excessive force used by the police causing death.

More of Bill’s hysterical over-reactions to the use of tasers: