BATTLING FOR THE RIGHT TO NOT DRINK – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry has an undying devotion to some really awful old television series. Among many others, he really likes “The Untouchables.” That would be the version with Robert Stack as Elliott Ness. It’s the original, where our chief G-man and his “guys” fight (are you ready?) for The Volstead Act.

Prohibition! That’s right.

Prohibition. Booze, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Fighting for the right to have people NOT drink booze.

I’m not a boozer. I don’t drink now and never drank much, not even when I was younger. That being said, I can’t imagine going to war to make booze disappear.

War doesn’t work, not even when it’s a war against drugs or booze or your neighbor or their neighbor. War (which is not the same as protection) is an ineffective tool that does more damage than good. I grant you there have been a few exceptions, but ironically, most “good wars” were fought because of bad deals made following previous bad wars. But what do I know, right?

Back to “The Untouchables.”

What a great show. When the cops are pissed off with you, they can beat the living crap out of you. If that doesn’t get you to spill your guts, they’ll toss you off the train. A moving train. You have a problem with that?

You are disposable too.

Ready to blow it up? You betcha!

This version of the FBI is unconcerned with your rights. They don’t believe you have any rights.

First amendment? What’s that? You are dirt under their feet and they treat you accordingly as if you are dirt under their feet. This is a show that never made the slightest apology for being racist. They never pretended to be fair or worried about legalities.

They said “We are G-men. You will obey!”

Everyone did. It was the FBI at its most pure. These men (there are no women) are not just above the law. They are the law.

Early terrorist attack (1920s) – Wall Street

My favorite moment in tonight’s show was when the boys, ignoring even a nod to international law, take the FBI bus into Mexico to track down the guys who kidnapped their witness.

“The bus broke down three times and the trip took 10 hours,” said the stentorian voice of the narrator.

“So what?” I said to Garry. “That could describe my last trip to the grocery store.”

Since the FBI took over enforcing Prohibition — The Volstead Act — no one has had a drink. Not a single person. These guys were so good at battling beer and booze, the alcohol problem was permanently solved. Some might call this denial.

I call it faith. If you believe, it must be true. Who needs facts when misguided belief is more than enough?

I’m trying to get into our current national spirit.

How am I doing?

BATTLING BEER AND BOOZE

Garry has an undying devotion to some really awful old television series. Among many others, he really likes “The Untouchables.” That would be the version with Robert Stack as Elliott Ness. It’s the original, where our chief G-man and his “guys” fight (are you ready?) for The Volstead Act. Prohibition! That’s right. Prohibition. Booze, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Fighting for the right to have people NOT drink booze.

I’m not a boozer. I don’t drink now and I never drank much, not even when I was much younger, but I can’t imagine going to war to make booze disappear. War doesn’t work, not even when it’s a war against drugs or booze or your neighbor or their neighbor.  War (which is not the same as protection) is an ineffective tool that does more damage than good. I grant you there have been a few exceptions, but ironically, most “good wars” were fought because of bad deals made following previous bad wars. But what do I know, right?

Anyway, back to “The Untouchables.”

What a great show. When the cops are pissed off with you, they can beat the living crap out of you. If that doesn’t get you to spill your guts, they’ll toss you off the train. A moving train. You have a problem with that? You too are disposable.

Ready to blow it up? You betcha!

This version of the FBI is unconcerned with your rights. They don’t believe you have any rights. First amendment? What’s that? You are dirt under their feet and they treat you accordingly, as if you are dirt under their feet. This is a show that never made the slightest apology for being racist. They never pretended to be fair or worried much about legalities.

They said “We are G-men. You will obey!” And everyone did. It is the FBI at its purest. These men (there are no women other than an occasional secretary) are not merely above the law. They are the law.

Early terrorist attack (1920s) – Wall Street

My favorite moment in tonight’s show was when the boys, ignoring even a nod to international law, take the FBI bus into Mexico to track down the guys who kidnapped their witness.

“The bus broke down three times and the trip took 10 hours,” said the stentorian voice of the narrator.

“So what?” I said to Garry. “We live in the country. That could describe my last trip to the grocery store.”

Since the FBI took over enforcing Prohibition — that is, The Volstead Act — no one has had a drink. Not one person. These guys were so good at battling against beer and booze, the alcohol problem was permanently solved. Some might call this denial. I call it faith. If you believe, it must be true.

I’m trying to get into our current national spirit. How am I doing?

COMEY’S TESTIMONY – SO WHAT HAPPENED?

We watched the hearing with James Comey. There were no bombshells, except for Comey’s strong emphasis on why this investigation is important. It is not about your political party — or mine. It’s about protecting the American system of election. Because what the Russians did was intentional and came from the top. And they are going to do it again.

This was surely the most important thing anybody said and as far as we could tell — except for John McCain who was on a completely different track than the rest of the train — it seemed to have gotten through. This is important. It needs to be dealt with because if we don’t, we will never be able to trust our own elections. No bombshells, but it was clear that although there had been no investigation of Trump’s involvement earlier, there will be now. If Trump had shut up and left it alone, there would not have been an investigation into his obstruction.

Our “president” is a man who can’t let anything go. He’s got to have the last word. And that last word has to be bigger, meaner, and more explosive than anyone else’s words.

No one is going to bring Trump down. Trump will do it all by himself. He doesn’t need help from anyone.

Then, as the last act in the morning’s show, up comes John McCain whose goal is obviously to connect Hillary Clinton’s “email” misuse to the Russian investigation. These two items have never been connected, so where this was coming from, no one knows. There seemed to be considerable confusion as to what Mr. McCain was trying to say. But, it was obvious. Just clumsy, awkward, foolish questions by a man who should retire. He is past his prime and needs to go home, watch some baseball. A wise man knows when to pack it in and move on.

If Garry and I hadn’t watched the testimony ourselves, I would have been convinced that it had been a bombshell testimony. It was convincing … but bombshell? He had already published in advance a summary of his upcoming testimony. He didn’t deviate from what he said he would say.

Initially, commentators stayed the course and talked about what was actually said and by whom, but an hour later, they had drifted into hyperbole and overblown statements of apocalypse. Weird. If we hadn’t watched the meeting, I’d have thought something completely different had happened.

I understand how important ratings are to television, including the news … but really? Seriously? They were not lying, but they were also not exactly telling the truth. There comes a point when exaggeration can twist truth to the breaking point. In this case, the truth is sufficiently interesting. You don’t need to blow it up.

No matter what you read on the Internet about how this testimony is going to push Trump to impeachment? No, it won’t. He is more likely to get tired of the whole president thing and retire to Florida leaving us with Pence to fill out the term — and he is not better than Trump. Not one bit. This testimony did not move us closer to impeachment or anything like it. Testimony may help, eventually, but don’t believe the overblown rhetoric and hyperbole.

Most importantly, when elections come up — VOTE. If everyone votes, we can make this mess disappear in 2020. Otherwise, it could go on for eight years. I’m not sure I would survive it.

THE UNTOUCHABLES ARE UNMATCHABLE

Garry is devoted to old television series, amongst them “The Untouchables.” Starring Robert Stack as Elliott Ness.

Robert_Stack_Eliot_Ness_1960

Dum-de-dum-dum. The FBI enforcing … (ta-da) The Volstead Act. Prohibition!

What a great show. When the cops are annoyed with you, they beat the living crap out of you. If that doesn’t get you to spill your guts, they’ll toss you off the train. While it’s moving.

You have a problem with that? You too are disposable.

Nothing namby-pamby about these guys. They don’t even pretend you have rights. You know you are dirt under their feet. They treat you accordingly. Like dirt under their feet.

This is a show that never made the slightest apology for being racist or pretended to have any interest in fairness, truth or justice. Violent and single-minded, they pursued people who broke a stupid law: a law against selling booze.

Compassion and restraint were for sissies. Nor were these guys overly worried much about legalities. They said “We are the FBI. You will obey!”

And everyone did. This is the FBI at its purest. Not just above the law. They are the law.

Elliot Ness Real GuyMy favorite moment in tonight’s show was when the boys, ignoring even a nod to national borders, take the FBI bus into Mexico to track down the guys who kidnapped their witness. “The bus broke down three times and the trip took 10 hours,” said the stentorian voice of the narrator.

“So what?” I said to Garry. “We live in the country. That could describe my last trip to the grocery store.”

I love television. Especially 1950s crime shows.

We are the FBI. You will obey.

Publicity photo of Robert Stack as Eliot Ness ...

Garry has an undying devotion to old television series, amongst them “The Untouchables.” Robert Stack as Elliott Ness. Dum-de-dum-dum. The FBI enforcing … (ta-da) The Volstead Act. Prohibition! Holy Moly!

What a great show. When the cops are annoyed with you, they can beat the living crap out of you and if that doesn’t get you to spill your guts, they’ll toss you off the moving train. You have a problem with that? You too are disposable. They don’t pretend you have rights. You know you are dirt under their feet and they treat you accordingly. Like dirt under their feet.

This is a show that never made the slightest apology for being racist or pretended to have any interest in fairness, truth or justice. Violent and single-minded, they pursued people who broke a stupid law: a constitutional amendment to tell people they shouldn’t drink. We needed that.

Compassionate and restraint were for sissies. Nor were they overly worried much about legalities. They said “We are G-men. You will obey!” And everyone did. This is the FBI at its purest. They are not merely above the law. They are the law.

My favorite moment in tonight’s show was when the boys, ignoring even a nod to international law, take the FBI bus into Mexico to track down the guys who kidnapped their witness. “The bus broke down three times and the trip took 10 hours,” said the stentorian voice of the narrator.

“So what?” I said to Garry. “We live in the country. That could describe my last trip to the grocery store.”

Simple solutions to complicated problems. I love television. Especially 1950s television.

The FBI can’t do a simple Google search?

On Criminal Minds in the première episode for the 2012-2013 season, the “perp” sews a victims mouth shut but in his mouth leaves the message “Gazing through to the other side.” The BAU FBI team cannot find any reference to this quote. So I typed it into Google and hit Enter. Guess what?

It’s part of a song, the lyrics to which essentially are the plot of the episode in which the first four victims are women, thrown into ditches, with their mouths sewn shut.

If I can find this in one hit on Google, is the FBI less capable than I? Unable to do the most basic Google search? There isn’t anything more basic than typing in what you want to know about then hitting Enter, is there? My granddaughter could do this kind of search before she was in first grade.

If anyone thinks I believe the FBI is actually producing the show, anyone who can chew gum and walk at the same time knows this is a network television show that employs a staff of writers to write scripts supposed to make us believe these are hyper-competent profiler/agents. And they can’t run a Google search any grade school child can run. Wow! Bad writing and plagiarism? What a terrific combination for a show about the FBI!

There could be an innocent explanation, like the real authors of the material were paid, but never credited. I’d like to hear that. It could restore a bit of my rapidly diminishing faith in humankind.

Because it couldn’t be plagiarism. CBS wouldn’t allow that, right? Because networks, TV execs, writers, etc. are all so honest that such a thing could never happen. And the tooth fairy left you a buck under your pillow.

The song is by a group named Blitzen Trapper, lead singer/lyricist, Eric Earley.

“Black River Killer”

They booked me on a whim and threw me deep in jail
With no bail, sitting silent on a rusty pail
Just gazing at the marks on the opposite wall
Remembering the music of my lover’s call

So you make no mistake
I know just what it takes
To pull a man’s soul back from heaven’s gates
I’ve been wandering in the dark about as long as sin
But they say it’s never too late to start again

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?

It was dark as the grave, it was just about three
When the warden with his key came to set me free
They gave me five dollars and a secondhand suit
A pistol and a hat and a worn out flute

So I took a bus down to the Rio Grande
And I shot a man down on the edge of town
Then I stole me a horse and I rode it around
Til the sheriff pulled me in and sat me down

He said, you make no mistake
I know just what it takes
To pull a man’s soul back from heaven’s gates
I’ve been wandering in the dark about as long as sin
But they say it’s never too late to start again

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?

Well the sheriff let me go with a knife and a song
So I took the first train up to Oregon
And I killed the first man that I came upon
Because the devil works quick, you know it don’t take long

Then I went to the river ford to take a swim
You know that black river water is as black as sin
And I washed myself clean as a newborn babe
And then I picked up a rock for to sharpen my blade

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?
Oh when, oh when
Will that black river water wash me clean again
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again

It took me less than 10 seconds to find this. What’s going on guys? Television has become boringly derivative, but this is not merely derivative, it’s theft. I wouldn’t mind hearing from someone about this. I would like to hear an explanation.

NOTES:

1) According to one of the show’s producers, the show is based on the Blitzen Trapper song. The group was compensated for its use. It isn’t plagiarism, just bad writing.

2) If the writers don’t want us to assume the same rules apply in the TV show as apply in the real world, they should not pretend the show is about FBI agents who are part of the élite unit of an actual law enforcement agency. If you don’t want to play by the rules of the real world, create a fake world where you can have stuff fall up because gravity doesn’t exist. You cannot have it both ways.

3) I reopened the comments because I just reblogged it (2/4/2014). Let’s see if anyone still cares! — I closed the comments and deleted all 48 comments including mine. Some of you seem to have no sense of proportion. This is a television show, not life and death.

4) I wrote this post last September, 9 months ago. It was intended as a comment on what I thought was poor script writing and the uncredited use of someone else’s material. In the months since I wrote it, the issue of the song’s use has been clarified. I’m tired of arguing about this. Please feel free to argue amongst yourselves. Leave me out of it.

Waiting for Dystopia

I’m bemused and a bit bewildered at the furor over how the NSA is spying on American citizens. As a long-time faithful fan of NCIS, Law & Order and so many other cop shows, I’ve become familiar with how easy it is for government agents to get our phone and computer records. Our photos are easy to find on traffic cameras and security footage. It’s the meat and potatoes of television crime shows, so I can’t believe there’s anyone over the age of 5 who doesn’t know when someone is compromising evidence or has forgotten to wear his or her gloves at the crime scene.

Portrait of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. (no ...
Feared FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover – Rumor has it he wore a dress when he wasn’t accusing Americans of being Communists.

We know there are cameras trained on us everywhere we go. It’s even more intense in Great Britain and most parts of Europe, so this isn’t just an American aberration. It’s everywhere.

It must have been 20 years since we first learned about the trap door in Windows. You remember. That’s the security hole designed to let the government peek into our computers. All operating systems have holes in them. Any 14-year old hacker can find them, so surely the FBI can do almost as well. Did anyone think that the holes in our operating systems have gone away? Been patched up? Really?

Blaming one political party or the other, one president or another for extending and expanding the surveillance that’s been ongoing  for decades is pointless. It’s not going to stop no matter what they say or who is in the White House. The agencies that run the surveillance will merely improve their ability to camouflage their activities. Our governments are not going to stop monitoring our computers, telephones, bank accounts, or anything else. We can’t even stop Google and Facebook from having their way with us, so what makes you think we can stop the FBI or Scotland Yard?

It is wrong that governments spy on their citizens? Isn’t that a gross violation of our privacy? In theory I agree. They shouldn’t listen to our boring phone calls. I think it’s possible the cruelest punishment of all would be monitoring the phone calls of adolescent girls, but I digress.

My opinion is (a) it’s not up to me or you, and (b) we can’t have it both ways. We can’t demand more and better security yet expect the government to accomplish it without compromising our privacy.

So, we are faced with a theoretical (but not real) choice. Do we want security or privacy? As for the theoretical but not real aspect of the choice: it’s not up to us. In the United States, agencies of the government are in charge of national security. It’s their job. This didn’t start with Obama , Bush or even Regan. It goes back a long way, at least as far back as when J. Edgar Hoover was The Man and probably long before that too.

This is not an area on which we get to vote. It has been this way since before any of us were born and will continue to be this way after all of us are dead and gone.

Continuing to whine and bitch about it isn’t going to change anything. If you don’t want to be monitored, stop using the Internet. Give up your cell phones. Keep your money under the mattress. Live on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Grow your own food and generate your own electricity. Don’t have a mortgage. Pay all your bills in cash. Better yet, don’t have bills.

Don’t work a regular job and move frequently. Don’t collect social security, Medicare or for that matter, file an income tax return. Don’t register a car and don’t vote. Should you have kids, home school them. Even if you do all these things, if THEY want to find you, they will. Because sooner or later you have to interact with other people and people talk.

75-FireAndIcePoem

I have friends who are awaiting the end the civilization, if not the world. They are planning against the day when they will live in the Dystopia of their nightmares. They want to make sure they have enough guns.

Personally, I think lots of bottled water and canned goods would be more useful. And blankets, first aid supplies, and warm clothing. But I’m not expecting the world to end, and if it does, I figure it will just wither away. Not with a bang, nope, uh-uh. I’m leaning toward the long, tired whimper.

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