Amanda Knox (2016, Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

If you are like me, you paid little attention to all the stuff around Amanda Knox, the American 20-something who supposedly killed her roommate because of her deviant sexual interests and other odd interests and beliefs. If you’re like me, you didn’t even know what she was supposed to have done, beyond murder, because I don’t follow these kinds of stories. But, if you’re like me, you knew she was guilty, because the media told you she was guilty for years and years. And wasn’t she convicted before she returned to the US? SPOILERS to follow, if you knew as Read More

ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail (2016, Steve James)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This film is about the only bank – the only bank! – to be indicted for mortgage fraud in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. It tells the story of a bank in New York City’s Chinatown which detected loan fraud, fired the employee responsible, reported the fraud to their regulator, fired additional employees when more fraud was discovered, and then was prosecuted by the District Attorney of New York City, because some of the fraudulent loans were sold to Fannie Mae, where they made money. Read More

Detective School

Categories: 2016, Philosophy, Science, and Society.

If I have learned one thing from immersing myself in too many true crime podcasts, TV series and movies, it’s this: most detectives have never been taught to think. There seems to be an obsession with relying on instinct and (supposed) “known knowns” and nothing else; no rigorous investigation techniques, no awareness of the infamous “unknown knowns,” known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns,” no logic, no deduction, no method whatsoever. Just “I feel this way so it must be true.” And that’s a problem. That’s a problem because “instinct” isn’t really a thing. What sometimes feels to us as deliberate framing Read More

Southwest of Salem (2016, Deborah Esquenazi)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This is the story of four lesbian women who were accused of gang raping two female children and performing “Satanic” rituals as part of that rape. The only evidence of their guilt were victim statements and the testimony of a medical examiner who claimed there was evidence of abuse when there wasn’t. The women over a decade in jail because of mass hysteria about satanism and widespread homophobia and a culture of complete ignorance with regard to gays and lesbians. The movie is not really a procedural but still manages to portray the absolutely bizarre nature of the charges and Read More

Better This World (2011, Kelly Duane, Katie Galloway)

Categories: 2011, Movies, Politics, and Society.

This is an important film that is really, really worth your time. What starts off seemingly as a portrait of some well-intentioned youths that got into some bad shit (and feels, perhaps, like an apology for such behaviour) soon reveals itself to be the story of something so much worse. Though it’s weird to say this about a documentary, I’ll do it anyway. If you haven’t read the plot description or heard about this movie, SPOILER ALERT Read More

Making a Murderer (2015, Moira Demos, Laura Ricciardi)

Categories: 2015 and TV.

This is a documentary in the grand tradition of The Thin Blue Line, Paradise Lost and Brother’s Keeper, but with the time-span of something like Hoop Dreams or American Promise. And, as a 10-episode TV show, it adds nearly unprecedented depth to its subject, comparable only to a Ken Burns documentary series, or Shoah. SPOILER ALERT!!! Read More

Anita (2013, Freida Lee Mock)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

I was quite young when all this happened. All I really remember that she was “guilty.” Well, watching this film nearly 25 years later, I am full of outrage; that this happened, that the mainstream media made an impression on 10-year-old me that this woman, who was just trying to do the right thing, could be a villain, that men behaved this way and continue to behave this way (both in harassing women sexually and denying women’s claims of sexual harassment). And really, she’s a hero. Even if she lied – and, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think she Read More

My Message to Senator Yonah Martin

Categories: 2015, Politics, and Society.

Dear Ms. Martin, I would like to express my deep disappointment with you and your fellow Senators regarding Bill C-51, a bill that is unconstituional (and will be found so, I have no doubut). The idea of the Senate is that is a place to reevaluate government legislation. Ostensibly this duty should be above partisan poilitcs. Obviously, your behaviour indicates that you are not interested in evaluating the merits and demerits of what is most assuredly the worst piece of federal legislation I have seen in my lifetime. Limiting debate on this bill, even in a fairly powerless chamber, like Read More

30 for 30: Pony Excess (2010, Thaddeus D. Matula)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

It’s tough to talk about the content of a film like this without talking about the concept of “student athlete” and how the NCAA (and others) have essentially brainwashed the media and most of the United States into believing that it is immoral for “student athletes” to be compensated for the performances that drive the insane amount of money that the NCAA and these universities (many of them – most of them? – private) make. But let’s try to put that aside. Regardless of whether or not you think the NCAA is a horribly corrupt, exploitative institution, they do create Read More

30 for 30: Marion Jones: Press Pause (2010, John Singleton)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a real missed opportunity. From the opening credits, it’s clear that John Singleton is not the man to make this film. I have never been a fan (though I have never seen his magnum opus) and the opening credits, which feel like they belong to a melodrama, are the first clue that Singleton doesn’t quite now how to handle this great subject. We live in a strange world where cheating in sports is seen as worse than extorting pensioners, or other white collar crime. Marian Jones took performance enhancing drugs. To hear her tell it, she may have Read More

A short primer on Bill C-51

Categories: 2015, Politics, and Society.

Please take 13 minutes to watch this video about Bill C-51, which will drastically alter freedoms and civil liberties in Canada. [vimeo 120103590 w=500 h=281] Bill C-51 (Antiterrorism Act 2015): Short Primer on Key Aspects from Craig Forcese on Vimeo. Read More

30 for 30: No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson (2010, Steve James)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

Steve James remains one of the few filmmakers I am aware of who can involve themselves to a great extent in a documentary and yet still give that film a feeling of journalistic integrity. Since I was 11 when this happened, I was completely unaware of this. But really hard for an outsider to me to understand how people could think Iverson was absolutely, without doubt, guilty, given the evidence or lack thereof. But the film is much more interesting than just allowing me to learn about an incident in the life of a famous, trouble athlete and its legacy Read More

The belief in Justice is probably the breeding ground for injustice

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Society.

I have long identified myself as an atheist (even though I’m an agnostic) in religion, an existentialist in philosophy and “anti-apocalyptic” or “anti-ideological” person in politics (i.e. a pragmatist). I have long struggled with this last definition, not because I don’t know what I am – I know exactly what I am, politically – but rather because I have trouble encapsulating it in one word. Politically, I am a centrist or, as I used to jokingly describe myself: a libertarian social democrat with a conservative streak. But I’m not a centrist because of a lack of conviction; I cannot pick Read More

Please, everyone, just calm down

Categories: Politics and Society.

Please, everyone, let’s just calm down a little. Let’s try to have a sense of perspective. Let’s try to think about the big picture. I know that’s very difficult when someone you never met dies, but let’s try to be bigger than knee-jerk reactions this one time. Read More

Prohibition (2011, Ken Burns, Lynn Novick)

Categories: 2011 and TV.

This is the shortest Burns mini-series yet, and I am tempted to say it is the best, or at least the most consistent. It also feels the least mythological, which is refreshing coming from Burns, a man who can never avoid mythologizing or re-mythologizing his country’s history. Though I knew a fair amount about the era, it’s safe to say there is still plenty to learn about it in such an intensive treatment (6 hours or so) and, as always, Burns provides interesting personal stories and interesting insight from people who have thought about this a lot more than you Read More

Hot Coffee (2011, Susan Saladoff)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

Full disclosure: I was once a drinker of the “frivolous law suits” koolaid and, if I am not mistaken, I may have even mentioned in my first book that I thought judges should make decisions on “non economic” damages in civil suits. I haven’t thought much about this issue over the last few years, but I would say that I probably still leaned against juries awarding damages. If I was still leaning that way, or on the fence, this movie changed my mind. And that, in itself, is an accomplishment. The film isn’t so much about the iconic “McDonald’s coffee” Read More

The Poverty of Ideology

Categories: Philosophy.

This article on libertarianism says pretty much what I was trying to say in my book, only more rigorously (and with 0 sense of humour). However, I think the general point of this article – that something like libertarianism is empty theory ignorant of human behaviour and human history – is actually a point that needs to be made, repeatedly, against all ideologies. Yes, even (certain forms of) liberalism. Read More

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (2008) by Vincent Bugliosi

Categories: 2008, Books, and Non-Fiction.

I have “read” one book by Vincent Bugliosi before (I say “read” because it was an audio book) and in that book Bugliosi impressed me with his rather ruthless rigour of thought about an issue that was clouded by too many books and opinions.But this book is a pale imitation. Instead of a rigorous, thorough prosecution of Bush – and there is that in part – we get character assassination, out of control hyperbole and personal attacks against the press and the reader! It is a very angry polemic. Bugliosi spends tons of time just ripping on Bush as a Read More

19 Tough Questions for Libertarians, Part 4

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Society.

This is part four in my series on the internet meme, “Jon Stewart’s 19 Tough Questions for Libertarians.” Please see part one here, part two here, and part three here. Today we deal with questions 10-19. You give money to the IRS because you think they’re gonna hire a bunch of people, that if your house catches on fire, will come there with water. This is obviously a very simplistic description of “your tax dollars at work” but it makes the point that many of us try to make when arguing with libertarians: are you really comfortable in a world Read More

19 Tough; Questions for Libertarianism, Part 3

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, and Religion.

In this post we look at questions 4-9. For the first part see here. For the second see here.   Do we live in a society or don’t we? Are we a collective? Everybody’s success is predicated on the hard work of all of us; nobody gets there on their own. Why should it be that the people who lose are hung out to dry? For a group that doesn’t believe in evolution, it’s awfully Darwinian. Read More

19 Tough Questions for Libertarianism, part 2

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Society.

So, for part two, we deal with questions 2-3. You can see the previous post here. One of the things that enhances freedoms are roads. Infrastructure enhances freedom. A social safety net enhances freedom. So obviously this is not a question, but a statement. But it gets to an important point, depending of course on how we define freedom. Read More

19 "Tough" Questions for Libertarianism, Part 1

Categories: 2012, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Society.

About this time last year, Jon Stewart interviewed Andrew Napolitano, a prominent US “libertarian” on The Daily Show. At some point, some libertarians put Stewart’s interview questions into a meme sometimes called “Jon Stewart’s 19 tough questions for libertarians.” My understanding of this is that Napolitano did not acquit himself well enough in their eyes. This doesn’t exactly surprise me, as Stewart is fairly well prepared for people he does not see eye to eye with, and I think a lot of his interviewees – having apparently never watched The Daily Show – come somewhat unprepared for actual questions. They think Read More

The Conservative Majority: One Year Later

Categories: 2011, 2012, Economics, Politics, and Society.

CBC had a very helpful little piece about what the Conservatives have and haven’t done in their first year. Here are my thoughts: What they have done so far: “Hiring credit for small business — offering a short-term break from EI payments for those who increase payrolls.” Nothing wrong with this measure provided EI isn’t cut. “Extension for: work-sharing program (helping employers avoid layoffs by providing part-time EI benefits); the “targeted initiative for older workers” (programs to help older unemployed workers); temporary accelerated capital cost allowance rate for manufacturing equipment; mineral exploration tax credit; ecoENERGY retrofit program for homes (one more Read More

If I were dictator…

Categories: Personal, Politics, and Society.

Not only would I use national resources to make movies and music, and name the days of the week and months of the year after my family (as I have no doubt mentioned before), but I would eliminate cell phones. But my real insight, the reason for this post, comes to me from a terrible Bruce Campbell movie (and really, what insights don’t come from Bruce Campbell movies?): if I were dictator I would chop off the thumbs of all my enemies. Think about it, what can you do if you don’t have thumbs? You can’t rebel. Read More

I forgot again

Categories: 2007, Baseball, and Sports.

So I heard something, maybe from Warren, maybe from the Sun (yes, I was reading the Sun today, and yes, I know). And I promptly forgot. In not getting over it news: The O-Dawg has more RBIs than Glaus. In other news: I think courts should adopt the rules of trials that Deadwood uses: “No Nonsense” “Break for Nature” They seem fair. I wish, I wish I didn’t kill that fish, I mean, forget the very thing I was going to blog about. Dammit. Read More

It would be nice if there were a god

Categories: 2007, Baseball, and Sports.

Because at least that way Bonds would be punished. But that’s not happening. So instead, we have to sit here and think: well even if Barry has the official record (as of whenever he hits the next one), we all know that Aaron is the man, and Barry can’t ever take that away from him. We know that when Aaron did it, he was getting death threats for being black…Bonds may send death threats to his favourite media people, I don’t know. It’s too bad, but we knew it was going to happen. A-Rod’s statements after hitting number 500 may Read More