Thursday, February 28, 2019

Like It Or Not - House Oversight Committee Hearing Shows Michael Cohen Was The One With Moral Standing - Not Repukes

Michael Cohen headshot.jpg

"Cohen’s testimony put the committee’s Republicans in an unusual position: After two years of defending or ignoring Trump’s lies, they professed newfound fondness for truth." - Dana Milbank, The Washington Post

"Americans will see Wednesday just why President Trump and his cronies freaked out when the FBI raided his ex-attorney and fixer Michael Cohen’s office and home. In testimony to the House Oversight Committee, Cohen is spilling the proverbial beans and in the process burying his former boss. Cohen’s written statement set the stage. He described Trump in unsparing terms: “He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat. He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.”-  Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, Wednesday, 'Michael Cohen To Congress, Yes, Trump Is A Crook'.

"Their (GOP) attack on Michael Cohen is that he's a liar, never being able to reconcile that the reason he was lying was to cover up for Donald Trump.  One of the most interesting interlude is when he addressed the Republicans and said they were continuing to cover up for Donald Trump.

There's an odd dynamic to this hearing that Michael Cohen, who admitted  performing poorly during the campaign is
now the person speaking from a position of moral authority, not the Republicans. So he should ask himself how it is he's coming off worse in these exchanges."  - Matt Miller, former DOJ Spokesperson

Let's be frank: for any American who's followed the unfolding saga of Trump, the Trump Tower Russia betrayal meeting, the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels etc. following the thread of yesterday's hearing was no biggie.  This may not apply to those who haven't read enough of the backstory or were distracted by the incessant efforts of the Reeptard members of the House Committee at diversion and distraction. They preferred to go after Michael Cohen's character rather than the facts (or documents) he presented.  As Joe Scarborough put it this morning on 'Morning Joe', in respect of how the gaggle of Reep loudmouths made no effort to discredit the facts put forward, only slur Cohen's character::

"You had the Republican party completely disinterested in digging for truth. It was just a cover up operation. ...They attacked Cohen, attacked his credibility but they could not defend Donald Trump against those charges because they know Donald Trump by now. There was no coordination from the Republican side, it was a terrible hearing from the gang that couldn't shoot straight. 

These are the people that brought  you the Benghazi hearings year after year after year. And I've never seen a hearing in which people repeated themselves so much, asked the same questions of Michael Cohen, thinking it was a gotcha moment, like Do you want a book deal? Have you got a book deal? Aha!'  Oh and, 'Why's your lawyer not being paid?"

Good points and more on the Reepos' sound and fury distractions in a bit, but we now know from yesterday's House Oversight Committee Hearing, that the following crimes were committed by Donald J. Trump based on evidence presented  - this  according to former prosecutor Jeremy Bash on MSNBC yesterday morning:

1) Bank fraud: documents prepared by the Trump organization to help Deutsche Bank buy the Buffalo Bills, which contained fraudulent, false information.

2) Campaign finance violations: the checks to Michael Cohen to pay back the hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. (Cohen produced a signed check from Trump, one of the installment payments)

3) False ethics pledges and false ethics filings.

4)Fraudulent activities related to the Trump charities.

5) Two things related to Russia:  i) Roger Stone had called Trump concerning the Wikileaks hack, so Trump knew in advance about  the emails being dumped on Hillary Clinton, and ii) Trump  knew about the Trump Tower meeting in 2016, and he would not have allowed Don Jr. to do anything without Trump Sr's permission.

 Nick Confessore noted on Katy Tur's show (during a break to vote on a gun bill) the Republicans were relatively successful in their disruption tactics, i.e. always impugning Cohen's motives and presence after each House Dem member exposed an aspect of Trump's perfidy. Some examples to illustrate:

Rep Carol Miller, R, was "very disappointed"  about Cohen being invited as a witness. Tapping the utmost in self-righteous voice she bellowed:
I am appalled. We could be focused on actual issues that are facing America. Cohen is a convicted felon. We can’t believe anything he says."
She went on to declare::

“One of the most appalling facts about this hearing is that Cohen has used his experiences with Trump for his own greed and profit”.
Saying not one solitary word or syllable how Trump has amassed over 9,000 lies thus far and contemptuously used his office to amass greed and profit that dwarfs anything Cohen has done, including brazenly violating the Emoluments clause of the Constitution,

But hey, hypocrisy has reached the gold standard with Repukes, who, if all the same accusations had been made against a President Hillary Clinton,  would have had her impeached by now.   Little Holman Jenkins Jr. in his latest WSJ diatribe yesterday (p. A15) insisted "it takes no heroism to oppose Trump".  Really? Then why didn't more Repubs go on record and do it?  Why did they all act like bootlicking lapdogs by protecting him?  As former Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman observed ('All In' last night):

"What is the test of a witness's credibility? It's cross examination. What did the Republicans do? They didn't ask him about the incidents involving Donald Trump.  They asked him, 'Who paid for your lawyer?'  I mean they never even touched one of the items he brought up. What they did is call him a friend of the Democrats on the committee. He wasn't testifying because he was a friend of the Democrats. He was testifying because he'd been a friend and confidante of Donald Trump for over ten years."

Ackerman is spot on correct, and it obviously took way more heroism for these Reep imps and  degenerates than any actually had.  Hence it fell to Trump's former fixer  Cohen to do it - this despite threats to his family from the likes of gangster Trump and his lap dogs like Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL),   trying a day late to apologize for his despicable tweet threatening to expose Cohen's "girlfriends" to his wife and family.  This walking turd deserves getting the book thrown at him for witness tampering and threats. He ought to chill out in the can - well, at least a year anyway.

All the while the Reeps got their panties in a perpetual twist over such a "liar" and "convicted felon" as Michael Cohen giving testimony in the House Hearings, and insinuating it was a "media circus". Oh and "destroyed the chamber's credibility". But they needed to be reminded of legal history. Namely, the Valachi hearings (Google!) and how that original "rat" (Joe Valachi) from the Cosa Nostra was instrumental in helping to bring down the organization. The Repukes - so enmeshed in their high dudgeon side show- kept insisting because the guy committed crimes he shouldn't be believed. But even Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman pointed out last night on Chris Hayes' All In how "this happens all the time". Noting: "When I was a prosecutor I had a guy who spent his whole life stealing and scheming and committed nine murders, and I had a lot of people convicted on his testimony."
In other words, it was a standard (and legal) template to use a lower rat to catch bigger rats. But since the 'pukes clearly loved the bigger rat (Trump) they were too blinded to see they'd actually surrendered the moral high ground to Cohen, who no longer had any incentive to lie, period. (His prison sentence was already fixed, there was nada he could do or say to alter it.)
Then we had former lawman Rep. Clay Higgins (La) , also drawling in his Southern accent, asking about where Cohen got his documents, i.e. "Where is this treasure of evidence?" And : if they were in "boxes", shouldn't that be in the Special Counsel's possession? Never mind Cohen attempted numerous times to inform the nitwit that these had been originally seized in an FBI raid last year then returned to him. We also beheld Mr. 'Cornpone' blabbing: "I’ve arrested several thousand men and you remind me of many of them.” Oh really? And NONE of those arrested reminds you of the slimy con man,  grifter, traitor and  crime boss occupying the White House? Then you were either useless as the law, or blind.
One of the most cringe-inducing and awkward interludes by far occurred when Rep. Mark Meadows - a Tea Bagger from NC,  used an African-American woman  (Lynne Patton) as a prop to try to declare Trump wasn't a racist.  He had her stand awkwardly behind him looking on, like a slave on the auction block. Dem House member Rashida Tlaib pointed out the ignominy:

"Just to make a note, Mr. Chairman, just because a person has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they are  not racist. And it is insensitive that someone would use a prop - a black woman - in this chamber, in this committee. Someone could say that is racist in itself."

As one MSNBC commentator  (Danielle Moodie-Mills) put it, after Meadows sputtered a hollow defense ("Ah also have colored  nieces and nephews, and few know that!!):

"On an auction block, and 'look at my black friend'?  Look at her, that means the president isn't a racist? That is the epitome of racism! Are you serious? Is she the black ambassador for the entire race? Because one person out his entire staff is black, that this is who you bring up?  The fact he thought this was going to be like a gotcha moment was incredible."

After all, he had put one African-American on his staff. The spectacle so aroused MSNBC commentator Maya Wiley  - when the clip was shown on Katy Tur's show- that she nearly flipped out and called it an outrage. When Tur asked  "Is that all?"  Prof. Wiley replied, "Well, this is a public television program and I can't curse."

Former GOP strategist Rick Wilson put Meadows' stunt  in more nuanced perspective ('All In') averring: "That was for his FOX-Breitbart audience, the 'black friend'  theory. It was awful and you just thought 'get off that train', that's not a great place for you to be."  Well, that's about as good a take as any.

For sheer irrational belching of BS no one took the prize like top Trump ass kisser, Jim Jordan.   It was also hilarious seeing how often the other Reep committee members ceded their time to Jordan hoping he'd land a punch.  But all he landed were light flicks that Cohen easily brushed aside. One of the hottest segments transpired when Cohen went head to head with Jordan, after one barrage misrepresenting  Cohen's words. Cohen fired back:

"Shame on you, Mr. Jordan. That is not what I said. I said I took full responsibility for my actions...!"

At another juncture Jordan tried to invoke the "patsy" strawman like some of his Reeptardo colleagues:

"The Democrats just want to use you, Mr. Cohen. You're their patsy today. They just gotta find somebody, somewhere to say something so they can try to remove the president from office."

Unable to take this crock much longer Yvette Nicole Brown, grew so manifestly irritated at Jordan's antics  she let loose a tweet  that encapsulated what was on all our minds:

"What does Trump have on Rep #JimJordan? Look up Trump Lackey in the dictionary and it’s that fool.  Sheesh Further, he’s SO upset about lies and crimes yet supports Tang?! How does THAT work?"
Another commenter Josh Gad  tweeted:  

 "How hard do you think it must be to keep a straight face while saying that Michael Cohen is a liar while defending Donald Trump who literally cannot breathe without lying?

 The claim of Repukes like Jordan that  "no one should believe a confessed liar and convicted felon"  is, of course,  utter balderdash - as I earlier noted citing the Valachi case and Nick Ackerman's own experience.  And as Cohen told the Committee, he didn't expect to just have his word taken at face value, but wanted members to examine the documents he brought - including a signed check for $35,000 with Trump's signature. This was to pay Cohen back for using his own $130,000 from a home equity line of credit. (Cohen explained the reimbursement had to be paid back in increments and include the NY state tax hit of 50 %, i.e. so making up $260,000 in total.)

 There was also a constellation of  additional positive evidence supporting Cohen's claims, including:  namely thousands of records obtained from Cohen's residence in the April 9, 2018 warrant search conducted by the FBI, e.g.  hard copy financial, legal documents, seized electronic devices, audio recordings made by Cohen, emails,  text messages sent over encrypted applications, records retrieved from the corporation referenced in the charging documents as "Corporation One" and records from the media company also therein referenced.  Last but not least, there is the documented testimony of witnesses involved in the transactions for illegal payoffs, like Trump accountant Allen Weisselberg,  e.g.
Image result for alan weiselberg

As Tim O'Brien ('TrumpNation' author) made clear on 'Last Word', it is Weisselberg who knows "where all the bodies are buried" - at least in finance, money laundering terms. Hence, after Cohen he is the next logical choice to be called to the Hill.

Way back in August, Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, asked in a tweet: “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?"   Indeed.  And I am certain Weisselberg will have he answers - many of them  - and ought to be called before House committee hearings soon.
In an appearance on CBS Early Show the morning of Aug. 22, 2018,  Mr. Davis had to repeat his explanation three times to the bonehead morning anchors:  Nora O'Donnell and John Dickerson. Neither seemed to grasp the concept of "dispositive evidence".  When each CBS knucklehead continued to ask "Where's the evidence?" for the "explosive" claim that Trump directed Cohen to make these payments- Davis repeatedly referred to Trump's lawyers who  themselves made that statement as sworn testimony before Mueller. Hence, their recorded statements qualified as "dispositive evidence" . But the dynamic duo of CBS Early Show never did process it.  All of that early drama last year set the stage for yesterday.

Make no mistake,despite the Reep Rats efforts at obstruction and disruption,  Cohen’s testimony marked a rare opportunity for millions of Americans to bear witness to the account of a central player in multiple investigations ensnaring Drumpf and his associates. Cohen acted for more than a decade as Trump's fixer – a role in which he became intimately familiar with both Trump’s personal and professional affairs. 

In many ways, his testimony reminded me of former Nixon Lawyer John Dean's  back in 1973- which helped bring down the original presidential crook.  A huge difference is that Dean worked in the White House, Cohen didn't But what Cohen lacked in placement he more than made up for in time, 10 years as Trump's de facto consigliere.    In addition, Cohen yesterday produced actual documents to support his case, while Dean had none at the time of his Senate hearings. (The tapes would only emerge later).
Perhaps the most extraordinary moment came in Cohen's and emotional closing statement, in which he spoke directly to his former boss, admonishing Trump for a litany of sins ranging from his attacks against the media to his policy of separating immigrant families and his failure to “take responsibility for your own dirty deeds”. He exhorted those who still support the president, as he once did, not to make “the same mistakes I have made or pay the heavy price that my family and I are paying”.
In his most lurid warning, Cohen suggested that America could be facing existential peril as a constitutional democracy. “Given my experience working for Mr Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Well, in that case we will have to see that the criminal traitor is dragged out  by the scruff of his orange neck if need be. And maybe tarred and feathered before being hung, drawn and quartered as a public spectacle.  But there's no way in hell the miscreant can be allowed to thumb his nose at the country, the Constitution and the laws.
See also:

by Marjorie Cohn | March 1, 2019 - 8:41am | permalink



"Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in their frantic effort to discredit Mr. Cohen, went after him while steadfastly ignoring the actual evidence he produced. They tried to impugn his character, but were unable to impugn the documents he provided. Nor did a single Republican offer a character defense of Mr. Trump. It turns out that was too much, even for them."

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

"Green Book" Won Best Picture - Now The Whiners, Woke-ites & Wannabes Need To Get A Life

Green Book (2018 poster).png

In the wake of the 'Best Picture' win by Green Book,  which film we'd seen several months ago, we celebrated heartily Sunday night.  However, we could scarcely believe all the snark, moaning and whining by the losers (and a bevy of critics, and would be critics) in the aftermath.  It almost seemed like every loser or  misfit with a grudge had crawled out of the woodwork to direct twitter fire or mount attack articles at the award.  Even Spike Lee who'd already received his first Oscar (for best adapted screenplay) "lost it" and compared the award to an NBA ref making a "bad call."  Whereupon Janice wondered what he'd been inhaling with that little vaping pipe at the Oscars.

In particular, it seems to be the film's racial tropes "have been around too long", and were more apropos to a period 50-60 years ago in the Jim Crow era? WTF!?  Hello! That is when the events on which the film is based took place! DOH!  So no, it doesn't need to be "woke" to that degree in today's hip parlance.  But still, wifey and I could not believe all the caterwauling that emerged after the big win, as if every little dingbat who believed he or she had skin in the Oscar's game had to toss in their two cents.  That included overpaid, art-obsessed critics like the LA Times'  Justin Chang who wrote the movie was an "insult to viewers' intelligence".

Janice could only shake her head in dismay and say: "Well, maybe to his rarefied intellect which resides somewhere between cloud nine and the elevated heights of art film genre!"  In other words, films that virtually no real, red-blooded human actually goes to see - say like the black and white silent flick, 'The Artist' - when the Academy really screwed the pooch on the Best Picture.

But 'Green Book'? No way! Delightfully entertaining and engrossing all the way, never mind it's a "buddy movie" and "road trip film" rolled into one. It is the dynamic that plays out between the two lead characters  (Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley) and which we see transforms each one during their tour of the Deep South, when blacks had to go by the "Green Book" to determine where they could lay their heads at night, if traveling.

Some complainers, like the Shirley family  (Don's nephew Edwin Shirley III and brother Maurice)  insisted the film was "a symphony of lies"  because Don Shirley didn't actually go to musical venues to perform as the film portrays. So what? Ever heard of artistic license?  And while we're at it,  Spike Lee needs to take a chill pill after pitching a hissy fit (waving his arms in anger and trying to leave the Dolby theater)  when the last award was announced. Don't look now,  but Spike took his own liberties with the book 'BlacKkKlansman' by inserting a Jew (Adam Driver's character) into the script when no actual Jewish person was ever involved in the book's account.

As for the curmudgeon critics and other whiners and detractors  now hurling rotten tomatoes in the aftermath of the win, they need to get a grip, climb down from their sour grapes roosts,  rarefied arts perches and pay attention.  As Variety noted:

"WhenGreen Bookpremiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, the response to it was ecstatic. Audiences gave it rapturous ovations and voted it their favorite movie of the festival, and critics swooned. Many of us felt thatGreen Book,” directed with grace and crack timing by Peter Farrelly (from a script he co-wrote with Nick Vallelonga and Brian Hayes Currie), was a crowd-pleaser in the best way — a feel-good movie, yes, but one built around a series of honest observations about what it showed you. The dialogue went ping without calling attention to itself (William Goldman, I think, would have approved), and you could use the movie in a master class for acting."

(Highlighted section from yours truly.)

Variety did go on to give some agreement with critics' top pet peeves in terms of the specific telling, i.e"

"That said, there’s no denying that the tropes that thread through “Green Book” have been around a long time. It’s a buddy movie. And a road movie. And a Hollywood liberal message movie, set in the days of Civil Rights and Jim Crow, in which a white guy and a black guy start off by taking the stuffing out of each other until they gradually get to be friends. “Green Book” has been compared to “Driving Miss Daisy” due to its racial theme (and hired-driver plot), but when I first saw it the movie it reminded me of, in a funny way, was “Rain Man,” another on-the-road two-hander that elevated formula to artistry."

To which I say, 'So what?'  Those of us who went to see it did so as ordinary, (hoi polloi) theater goers not artistes, or grads of Julliard  or Yale Drama School.   We weren't sitting  there with note pads in hands,   ticking off every imagined minor plot transgression or whether it fit our expectations of what a best picture caliber film ought to be - say like the farrago of pretentious rubbish from that  twerp Justin Chang, e.g.

So why the bitch fest now?  The same Variety piece offers, I think, one of the best insights, apart from all the side show hullaballoo that erupted which reminds me of the ancillary noise that accompanied Ron Howard's film 'A Beautiful Mind'.  (Trying to attack mathematician John Nash for not being "woke" enough. )  As if every little jealous meat head  who believes he has skin in the game - is compelled to comment or critique.  My biggest beef is with the imposition of so-called "wokeness" on a film portraying an era in which "woke" meant one had just awakened as his alarm went off. It had nada to do with some higher level of consciousness, or transcendent moral sensibility.

Variety again:

"Those who are woke claim, through their very wokeness, to have allegiance to one thing: the transcendent morality of their cause. "

Let's pause right there to call 'bullshit!'  In fact, there is no "transcendent" morality in any cause, or any code, including that of the RC Church.  Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts perhaps provided some of the best insights when in his book, 'The Wisdom Of Insecurity' - he quoted (p. 111) Emerson: "Your goodness must have an edge to it,  else there is none." 

In other words, there is never perfect, seamless or absolute goodness. Goodness has bounds and limits on account of humans' possessing a defective brain, which retains more ancient regions that compromise reflective thought. This means the person who strives to be absolutely good  or moral will be exposed sooner or later as a pretender and plaster saint, with feet of clay.   Anyone recall the holy roller televangelist, Jimmy Swaggart? 

Watts goes further than merely accepting the edge of goodness by noting (ibid.):

"For all the qualities which we admire or loathe in the world around us are reflections from within... "

In essence, we are beings already enfolded in a biological and neurological matrix replete with its own negative moral potentials. It is as impossible to escape from these limiting potentials as to escape one's own shadow. Hence, "goodness" exists not as some separate pinnacle or absolute standard of decency and moral perfection but a relative aspiration which we can only seek within the limits of our own understanding and conscience. 

 The achievable morality then - which is attainable within this limiting matrix -  can never be "transcendent" because no one can escape the material matrix. But given we are grounded in an imperfect world and universe this is as good as it gets, no pun intended. What was it philospher N. M. Wildiers wrote?  "An evolving world and a perfect world are two mutually exclusive propositions."

To which he might have added the corollary: "In an evolving world all aspirations to perfect or transcendent moral behavior are futile."

Thus, we can seek a functional moral individualism, imbued with relativism and provisionalism.  This moral individualism entails each person acting according to the dictates of his or her conscience - while grasping that conscience itself  may not be perfect- in terms of moral sensibility or moral knowledge.

Overlaid on this, however, we can invoke or appeal to provisional ethics such as described by Michael Shermer in his book, 'The Science of Good and Evil. Thus:

In provisional ethics moral choices correspond to scientific facts in being provisionally right or wrong, where moral or immoral means confirmed to an extent that it would be reasonable to offer provisional assent. It remains provisional because, as in science, the evidence might change. “   

This is crucial to note, because once ethics -morality is tied to science, say evolutionary ethics, then the aspiration to moral absolutism (and transcendence) becomes redundant. So those who tie "wokeness" to the latter are operating on a false premise as well as wasting their time and energy.  

Let's go on to further insights on cultural wokeness in the context of the movie, Green Book:

"Yet woke culture, as practiced in America in 2018, also carries an undercurrent of competition. As in: How woke are you? Not as woke as me! I’ll see you one courageous, self-lacerating woke insight and raise you two! In this atmosphere of a never-ending contest of righteous one-upmanship fought out on Twitter, the middlebrow Hollywood liberal attitudes on display in “Green Book” can look like something from a vanished world of movies that pretend to liberate but really just pander. “Green Book” has been condemned, in certain circles, as if it were a racially stodgy and unenlightened embarrassment — the “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” of 2018 awards ."

This is absolutely true when one reads some of the vacuous, even ridiculous complaints and tweets based on this "wokeness" meme.  In effect, the Woke-ites have lost their marbles and are judging a film retelling 1950s-60s events with 1950s-60s characters using subjective current standards that are as irrelevant as they are unreal.  (Again, refer above to why moral transcendence is impossible and indeed, incoherent, because it implies humans can become literal angels).  In this nonsensical context , of course "woke" competition is possible given it embraces the delusions Alan Watts excoriates in another monograph, Does It Matter? Know what?  Both Janice and I revel in the "unenlightened embarrassment"  of  older flicks like 'Guess Who's Coming To Dinner', as well as 'Heat of the Night' and yes, 'Green Book'.  And if that means we grovel in "middlebrow Hollywood liberal attitude" so be it. At least we aren't duped into the delusionary twaddle  of moral "transcendence" or trying to be more "woke" than others!

Most spot on - and here's a redress for those snippy critics like Justin Chang:

"But really, what is the movie’s crime? It’s based on a true story, which it tells with considerable depth. It’s not trying to make a grand statement about race except for the idea that white people and black people, to the extent that their backgrounds and experiences separate them, should try to understand each other better. Sorry, but I must have missed the place where that became a reactionary message."

Again, in the mythological land of the latter day Woke-ites, this perception  of the reactionary message is totally possible. To the Woke-ites and their illusory standards it is natural to make the perfect the enemy of the good, or almost good. Never mind the latter more conforms to the Emerson ideal of goodness having an edge, the Woke-ites want no part of it. Oh no. Their goodness is transcendent and has no "edge". Hence, by extension, any characters in a movie about race relations (or the actors) must have no edge.  How dare that Viggo Mortensen utter the N-word in an impromptu interview despite having no malicious intent. He transgressed the Wokies'  first commandment! Thou shalt not ever, ever display human foibles....faux pas... or general fallibility!

How dare the producers, writers have this prejudiced white guy "saving" the black gay musician! Of course this is tommyrot and reveals how clueless these critics are. There is no "white savior" theme or message. Even the most rudimentary,  non-Mensan intellect ought to easily grasp (once aroused from the wokiness dopiness) that the  personal dynamic evident in their shared experiences is mutually transformative.  Both Don Shirley and  his white driver, Nick Vallelonga  are in the end changed - for the better- by virtue of their going through the Jim Crow south. Many critics who cried the loudest appeared to forget the scenes where Shirley is patiently teaching Nick how to write a proper love letter to his wife while on their road trip.  Or maybe they chose to ignore that because it didn't fit their prejudgment of the film. Who knows?

When all is said and done, and leaving out all the irrelevant controversies and side kerfuffles, Green Book is a great film - even if so many dunderheads don't appreciate it or like it. Possibly because they lost big in Vegas,  making reckless Oscar bets on Roma or Bohemian Rhapsody.  Well, cry me a river, do.  But now it's time to put on your big boy pants, suck it up and grow up already!

Look, if a Civil Rights icon like Rep. John Lewis - one of the Best Picture presenters - could advocate for 'Green Book' as he did, then it's past time for the whiners and Wokies to get a life and move on.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Analytic Geometry Revisited (2)


From parabolic telescope mirrors to receivers, the parabola plays a major role, and so it is useful to study the properties of this particular figure. Probably the classic parabola of form:

y  =   x2   

is a good place to start. A graph of this equation is shown below:

No photo description available.
Note the vertex is on the origin or (0,0), but as with the circle and ellipse this need not be so, and one can encounter parabolas that are displaced, e.g. away from the x-axis, as well as oriented in a different way. For example, consider:  x2     = -  y  or    y  =  -   x2    

No photo description available.

One can also obtain parabolas with vertices oriented to the left or right of the y-axis. It is left to readers to try to find equations that yield these.

The general form of the parabola is often given as:   

       x2  =  -  4py 

Provided the parabola opens downward as shown above. If the reverse is true it is given as: x2  =  4py  . In each case, the focus of the parabola is on the axis of symmetry (e.g. follow the y-axis through the vertex downwards - or upwards in the earlier case) and p units from the vertex.)

Let's consider the parabola shown above  for   x2  =  -  y    then:

- 4p =   1  and p = - 1/4

That is, -  1/4 unit from the vertex to get to the focus F. What would we have for the previous parabola? Well, you should be able to work out: p = 1/4

Now, the directrix of the parabola will be the line y = p or  y =  -1/4 for the downward oriented parabola. It is a line parallel to the x-axis and by that amount of displacement.  It should therefore be no surprise that the tangent to a parabola at its vertex is parallel to the directrix.  Consider a parabola of form:

x2  =   4py 

then the slope of the tangent at any point is dy/dx = x/ 2p. which is 0 at the origin.  But the second derivative:  d2 y /  dx2   = 1/2p which is positive.(So the curve is concave upward).

Of course, not all forms for the parabola are as straightforward as shown. Consider the equation:

2 x2  +   5y   - 3x + 4 = 0

We want to try to get this into the more general form for the parabola:

(x -   h) 2  =   - 4p (y -  k)

We begin by dividing both sides of the first equation by 2:

 x2  +   5y /2   - 3x/2  + 2   = 0

Which can be written as:

x2     - 3x/2  =    - 5y /2   -  2

We can then complete the square, i.e. adding (- 3/4)2   to both sides:

x2     - 3x/2   + 9/16  =    - 5y /2   -  2   + 9/16

Or, write as:

(x  - 3/4)2     =   -5y/ 2  - 23/16

We can factor out 5/2 from the right hand side, i.e.:

(x  - 3/4)2     =   -5/ 2  (y   + 23/ 40) 

Now, compare this to the general form:

(x -   h) 2  =  - 4p (y -  k)

From this we see that:  h = 3/4,  k =  -23/40  and 4p = 5/2  so: p =  (4)/ (5/2)  =  5/8

Therefore, the following hold true and can be confirmed by sketching the graph. :

a) The vertex is situated at V(3/4, - 23/40)

b) The axis of symmetry as always is x = h or x = 3/4 in this case.

c) The focus is p units below the vertex at F(3/4, - 6/5)


In the 2016 film 'Hidden Figures'  the most prolific human computer (Katherine Johnson) often had to compute when an elliptical orbit  became hyperbolic. In the case of the ellipse we saw that the equation for this curve in Cartesian coordinates was:

x 2  / a  +    y 2  / b 2 = 1

Note: In working these problems it also helps to realize that the ellipse can't have an e -value greater than 1 (which would make it a hyberbola) and one also can't  have imaginary values for the radical defining c.

Recall the equation relating semi-major (a) and semi-minor (b) axis to identify location of the foci was:

c   =    (a 2  -   b 2)

But in the case of the hyperbola this will become"

b  =   Ö (c 2  -   a 2)

Given now c is greater than a.

The equation for the hyperbola in Cartesian coordinates is:

 / a   -    y 2   / b  = 1

A sketch of a representative hyperbola:

(x  /   -    y 2   / 4 2  = 1)

Is given below:

No photo description available.

As seen here the hyperbola, like the ellipse, is symmetric with respect to both axes and the origin but it has no real y-intercepts. In fact, no portion of the curve lies between the lines x = a and x = -a, or in this case x = 3, and x = -3.  The equation of the asymptotes is also easily obtained, i.e. y = -bx/ a and y = bx/a, or y = -2x/ 3 and y = 2x/ 3.

As we see from this example, the two foci (F1 and F2) lie on the x-axis. Obtaining the coordinates of the foci is straightforward and is just:  F2 (+c, 0) and F1(-c, 0) where:

c =  Ö (a 2  +    b 2). In this case, c =   Ö (9  +    4).  

=    Ö 13.    F1 is then at (+ Ö 13, 0) and F2 is at

(- Ö 13 ,  0)  where Ö 13  =  3.6. 

We can also interchange x and y in the basic hyperbola equation, changing it to a hyperbola with its foci on the y-axis instead of the x -axis. In other words, we now write:

 /   -    x  / 4  = 1

The graph for this hyperbola is shown below, with the equations identified for the straight (asymptote) lines:

No photo description available.

Note the center of a hyperbola is the point of intersection of its axes of symmetry. For greater generality, if the center is at (h, k) we can also introduce a translation to new coordinates such that:

x' = x - h and y' = y - k

with origin O' at the center. Then in terms of the new (translated) coordinates, the equation for the hyperbola will be one of the following:

1) x'  / a   -    y'  / b  = 1

2)  y'  / a   -    x' 2   / b   = 1


Use the translation of axes technique to analyze the equation:

x 2  -   4  y  2   + 2 x   +  8 y -   7 = 0

And thence find the equation for a hyperbola with center at x' = 0, y' = 0 and also identify the values of (x, y). Obtain the coordinates of the foci F1 and F2 and sketch the curve, label the foci and show the asymptotes.


As we did before (ellipse, parabola) complete the squares in the x, y terms separately and reduce to standard form, so:

(x  +   2 x)  +  4 (y2    - 2 y)  =  7

(x  +   2 x  +  1)  +  4 (y2    - 2 y   + 1)  =  7 + 1  - 4  


(x + 2)  / 4 +    (y - 1 ) 2      = 1

Applying translation of axes:

x' = x + 1, and y' = y  - 1

Thus reducing the equation to:

x'  / 4  -    y' 2   / 1  = 1

Which represents a hyperbola with center at x' = 0 and y' = 0, or x = -1 and y = 1.

Then:   c =  Ö  (a 2  +    b 2).      =   Ö 5

The sketch of the hyperbola is shown below with foci and asymptotes identified:
No photo description available.

It can easily be verified that the straight lines (asymptotes) have equations: y = x/ 2 and y = -x/2

Problems for the Math Maven:

1)Given  V(-3, 1) and F (0, 1) find the equation of the associated parabola and also for its directrix. Sketch the graph showing the focus, vertex and directrix. 

2)  Find the tangent to the parabola y  =   x2     using the fact that the equation of the line tangent to a curve y = f(x) is given by:

y - y1 = f'(x1) (x - x1)

where (x1, y1) = P1 is the point of the curve for which the tangent is constructed and y1  =   (x1)2     .  Show the graph of the given parabola and the tangent line with the point P1 (x1, y1) identified.

3)Analyze the equation below using the translation of axes approach and graph the resulting curve:

x 2   -   4  y 2    -  2 x   + 8 y -  2 = 0 

Monday, February 25, 2019

What - If Anything - Will Come Of The RC Sex Abuse Conference In Rome? Not Much

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Pope Francis makes his appearance Friday at the Vatican conference on Church sex abuse.

The conference on Church sex abuse opened four days ago at the Vatican with great fanfare.  The first two days focused on the responsibility of church leaders in tending to their flocks and how the padres, bishops must be held accountable if they fail to properly protect young people from predators. Saturday, meanwhile, was dedicated to issues of transparency and "breaking the code of silence" that enables so many padre predators to escape punishment or any accountability.

On the final day (yesterday), it appeared the convened prelates had finally gotten serious with the pederast filth running amuck, at least from the rhetoric. The Pope, for example, called the guilty priests "tools of Satan" and the sex abuse itself  "an abominable crime that must be erased from the face of the Earth."  Even a single case was referred to as "an atrocity".  Stirring words and sentiments but does he (or the Curia) really mean it?  

Not according to a former nun (Mary Dispensa) from Seattle who was raped by a padre at age seven. Asked last night (on the ABC News) what was missing from the Pope's speech,  she told ABC reporter, Ann Thompson, :

"Action. Quick, swift action!"


"Not one more child is safer after four days, because talking doesn't do it."   

That seemed to be the consensus view of many victims, interviewed in the wake of the confab, either on assorted news shows or in the print media (like the WSJ, Financial Times). Indeed, quoted in today's WSJ ('Pope's Abuse Stance Disappoints Some', p. A6) we behold this reaction from Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, an organization that advises Bishops on child protection:

"I didn't see any concrete actions in the text. It's a lot of words that have been spoken over and over again."

Indeed, and  Francis didn't help his case by trotting out the usual tropes to attempt to make the issue more diffuse instead of centered on the Church, i.e. "the abuse is a problem in the wider society beyond the Church"  and  "we must not be provoked into overreaction by guilt for past errors or the media".


Many victims - among at least 19,000 recorded and reported (there could be ten times more)-   even held out hopes they'd be invited to address the convened Church dignitaries (mainly cardinals, archbishops) personally, but it was not to be. Only one actual victim was permitted into the conference to address the prelates and he was then quickly given a violin to play.  The others had to be content with pre-edited video appearances, not much more.

Take from that what you will, the Vatican's "sex abuse summit" has generally been interpreted in the media as the pope's most high profile initiative ever to address the Catholic Church's long running sexual abuse crisis.  Also, the announcement of the summit back in September followed a strong of major scandals in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Australia. So basically neither the pope or the cardinals cold ignore it much longer.

But that doesn't mean there is any consensus on how to deal with the thousands of pedophile priests that committed these vile crimes on the young innocent. Indeed, we've since learned the perfidy extends beyond the padres to sexual predator nuns as well.  See e.g.

 Look, sensible, intelligent people have been told over and over again by the Church's prelates and popes (and nuns)  that they had the moral answers and authority to all and sundry manner of moral turpitude as "mortal sins".   But in the next breath these arbiters of morality were busy either raping children, abusing them or hiding the rapists and serial abusers. So how can one claim any moral authority from this?   

What really unnerves is how the Church conveniently adopts legalistic tropes and norms when it's expeditious to do so to avoid the hard work.  For example, Francis emphasizing the "traditional principle of proportionality of punishment in penalizing abusers"  (WSJ, 'Pope Decries Sexual Abuse in the Church', Feb. 22, p. A6)  and connecting this to the "presumption of innocence" - A U.S. legal concept.   (I.e. "presumed innocent until proven guilty").  

The problem is that the accounts of survivors are mostly anecdotal and most will never be proven in courts of law. Hence, the perps - the predator padres- will always be presumed innocent.  The Pope confirmed this take when declaring (ibid.) this fabulist "principle" he invokes means there must be prohibition of any publication of the offenders' names unless there is "definitive conviction" - which is nonsense. There will almost never be such conviction because: a) the statute of limitations has allowed most of the perps to escape, and b) most claims will lack first hand evidence (other than the victims' accounts) to make a legal trial compelling.

All of this malarkey aroused the ire of Anne Barrett Doyle of, a group that tracks clerical abuse around the world.  According to her (ibid.):

"I think they've set the bar so low that I think they want us to be pleasantly surprised."

However,  most victims' have been rudely disappointed by the sham show going on at the Vatican, hardly "pleasantly surprised".  One of those outraged by the Vatican's PR dog and pony show was Sister Veronica Openibo.  She was among the few women invited to the conference and used her time at the podium to shame the church leadership for their silence in the face of odious, indeed horrendous, sexual crimes.  She said (cf. Sunday Denver Post, Feb. 24,  p. 2A) :

"How could the clerical church have kept silent, covering up these atrocities? We must acknowledge that our mediocrity, hypocrisy and complacency have brought us to this disgraceful and scandalous place we find ourselves as a church."

Sister Openibo has good reason for her outrage and the victims have even more in the face of  more excuses, rationalizations and stone walling. And right at the top of the tactics is victim blaming, such as used by one Polish predator (WSJ, Feb. 23-24, p. A9) who laid the blame on "fifteen year old girls who dress like women".  Seriously?

But the truth and accumulated facts belie this glib distraction M.O. Let's recall here that back in August, when a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a sweeping report that the church had covered up the abuse of more than 1,000 minors by some 300 priests over 70 years. At the time, as many other reports surfaced, Francis acknowledged the global scale of the problem when he issued a rare letter to Catholics worldwide condemning such “atrocities.”

But the pope offered no specific remedies, though he professed that all lay members ought to partake in efforts at change. What change? He didn't indicate but many outraged laity are now considering the draconian solution of withholding any and all money contributions, e.g. collected at Masses. As one put it: "We don't even know where this money goes?"  Analogous empty bollocks recently appeared in a WSJ piece ('Everyday Catholics Can Fight Sex Abuse', Feb. 22, p. A15), wherein author Tim Busch offers nothing but the same old platitudes and worn out "remedies" i.e.

"The laity could work within the Church to promote accountability, repentance, and holiness at every level of the priesthood."

But this implies the priesthood has a core of "holiness" and is not merely the last redoubt and refuge  for child sex predators, i.e. to find victims.

Ironically also, back in August Francis laid much of the blame for the sex abuse crisis on "excessive deference to the church' hierarchy."   In other words, laying the blame on the "faithful" (laity)  for being too respectful and gullible of padres' (and bishops')  moral authority. .But I've always made clear - especially since the sex abuse crisis first erupted- that this moral authority has always been tentative and dependent - never absolute.  In fact, we now know papal "infallibility" is itself a myth, a fable - passed on to the gullible to confer some special moral order on the papacy which it doesn't merit.  To fix ideas we can turn to Hans Kung who writes on p. 143 of his book Infallible?

"No one, neither Vatican 1 or Vatican II, nor the textbook theologians, has shown that the Church - its leadership or its theology - is able to put forward propositions which inherently cannot be erroneous."

In other words, NO pope can make error- free pronouncements.   What this means is that if  RC followers take Kung's words to heart - and they should-   then the Vatican has forfeited any moral credibility. More importantly,  to the vast constellation of outside observers-   such forfeiture applies  especially to its catalog of "sexual transgressions", e.g. artificial birth control,  masturbation, etc. In other words, the "pelvic crimes"-   in the words of one priest Ethics professor I knew at Loyola.

Without that moral credibility - and authority -  i.e.  to pass judgments on moral issues ranging from artificial contraception, to abortion, to masturbation, to homosexuality - the Catholic church emerges as an anachronism out of touch and out of its moral depth.  This is the new moral perspective which needs to be endorsed by Catholics themselves, as opposed to showing "deference" to its moral pronouncements.  

But there is only one logical way this retrenchment of deference can occur:  That is, to finally acknowledge the doctrine of papal infallibility is a myth, or at least an anachronism that no longer serves the Church's modern mission or helps sustain any moral credibility.

Further, if the abusive priests are really "tools of Satan" what does this say about the Church's sacraments overall?  If they were or are tools of Satan how did that happen given they had to have received Holy Orders? Did Holy Orders not work? Did Satan "hide himself" while the sacrament was bestowed?  These are questions the Church needs to ask and answer before if talks about distributing new manuals and instructions to Bishops to halt the abuse.

Oh, and that also implies no longer blaming the victims and also posting the names of the priestly perpetrators on every Church door and in every bulletin.  In the meantime, "zero tolerance", including permanently removing all clerical abusers from ministry, appears to have gone by the backboards in place of twaddle and vacuous bromides.

In  the words of Peter Saunders, an abuse victim who resigned from the Pope's child protection commission in 2017:

"He's the supreme head of the Church, he has the power to do that (enact zero tolerance).  If he doesn't do that then we're all wasting our time."

I fear that is exactly what the Pope and Vatican want to do, waste time by churning out excuses, bromides and bollocks.  But the inescapable, logical fact remains that if the abusive clergy are indeed "tools of Satan" and have received Holy Orders, we must question the entire RC Church claim to holiness and moral superiority.  Especially if "Satan" may be concealed within the Church's institutions and claimed moral fabric.

See also: