Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Whistleblower by Kathryn Bolkovac

Title -
The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman's Fight for Justice
Author -
Kathryn Bolkovac with Cari Lynn
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (2011)

After our annual April twist, Michael and I are ready to get back to the usual. Except, when I scan the list of previous titles we've done, I see that we're not quite back to the usual: this is the first non-fiction title we've chosen. For anyone new to the series, this is where we choose a book/movie pairing and I say a few words on the book and Michael says a few words on the movie.

Click here for Michael's film review of The Whistleblower
at It Rains... You Get Wet

In 1999, Kathryn Bolkovac left her job as a police officer in Lincoln, Nebraska to work for DynCorp, a private military contractor. DynCorp had won the bid to provide the US contingent of international police monitors to the UN's International Police Task Force in Bosnia. In 2001, she was all but sneaking out of the country in fear of retaliation for blowing the whistle on DynCorp and other UN workers for their complicity in human trafficking and forced prostitution. I should probably say further (and physical) retaliation because she had already been wrongfully terminated.

side note: Bolkovac has a website with lots of additional information on this topic (and the book and the movie) and here is the link.

This is the sort of book that I can never quite figure out what to say about except you really ought to read it. It's a hard book to read because it's hard to read about people being abused but it's vital that we have this information. It's vital that we know when bad things happen so that we can fight for and demand justice. It's vital that we know what our tax dollars are supporting so that we can demand that our elected officials do better. It's absolutely vital that we not perpetrate and support systematic abuse of our fellow humans. That's what I find so stunning when I learn about something like this: how can humans do this to other humans? It's absolutely outrageous and disgusting and yet it happens. I'm so impressed with and grateful to Bolkovac for refusing to be yet another person who gave up or turned a blind eye to what was happening.

Bolkovac's persistence in the face of institutional stonewalling is much easier to appreciate in the book than in the movie (as usual I'll leave most of my movie comments for Michael's post). As a trained police officer (the first chapters give a very clear picture of Bolkovac's professional background and expertise), Bolkovac was an ideal monitor to accurately identify just what laws were being broken and to assist the local force with how to prosecute them. Sectarian and racially motivated violence was a legacy that everyone had to work hard to get past and its impact was often felt in what was or was not investigated. This could have an especially detrimental effect on female victims of domestic violence. Bolkovac worked diligently on these cases and this eventually led her to a gender affairs position with the UN. It also eventually led to her uncovering the trafficking and forced prostitution. When these cases were brought to light, with witnesses or video, they would get mysteriously side-lined or "taken care of" internally. Over and over and over again this was happening to Bolkovac (and other investigators who you learn of in the book) and the message was clear: leave this alone. And this is what I meant above about being able to really understand how far the cover-up went in the book but not as much in the movie. It was incredible to see how deep (or perhaps I should say high since we're talking about bureaucracy) the problem went.

Because Bolkovac would not stop trying to pursue investigations and prosecutions for the crimes that were being committed, DynCorp found a rather flimsy excuse for terminating her contract and then proceeded to do it against stated company procedure. The then UK-based company was subject to UK labor laws and Bolkovac sued. The later part of the book is about the case which took about two years (almost the same amount of time as her employment with DynCorp).

The very last chapter addresses the use of private military contractors to represent the US in policing situations (including other instances of extreme misuse of power and resources) but, more importantly, suggestions are made as to how to prevent such situations from occurring in the future. I am always very appreciative of authors and professionals who take the time to present clear plans of action for moving forward. You can't take away that these dispicable events took place - and, worse, that no one faced prosecution - but you can work to ensure it never happens again.

I realize it's glaringly obvious that I highly recommend this book but I'm gonna say it again. Go out and get this book! You will not regret it.

Don't forget to swing by the film review. Before you head over there, enjoy some persistence in action:

Still, I simply was not interested in settling with DynCorp. I told Karen that even if DynCorp counteroffered, to turn it down. "No matter what they offer," I emphasized, "even if they add another zero to the figure, tell them I'm not interested. And I'd like you to add a 'go to hell.'"

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Click here for an index of the joint post series

Monday, May 28, 2012


I've been busy with a demo saddle and Dr M had to leave the country (Don't worry, work related not crime related - ha!) so our Alan Rickman Reels are on hold. Also, it turns out we messed up the order and watched the wrong movie when Dr M was still in town. Now I just need to rustle up the correct movie since Netflix is not helping us out on that.

In the meantime, I found this article really interesting for its focus on the "ironic" expression of racism. This particular article addresses racism but you can see this idea of "ironic" expression of isms used quite often in popular media these days. I'm in agreement with the author and I wish this "ironic" thing wasn't being accepted as funny but seen for what it is.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Alan Rickman Reel: Quigley Down Under

My household are big fans of Alan Rickman. As such, we've decided to review his films from start to finish. 
Using IMDb, that puts us starting with Die Hard (DIE HARD!!!!) and continuing with...
All he ended up was dead.
sgwordy: So it turns out you'd never even heard of this movie. Are you now cursing the universe for keeping this Alan Rickman gem from you? (where is my sarcasm font button?)
Dr Musacha: It's true, I had never heard of this one.  My hopes were immediately raised in the opening scenes, which featured three of my favorite things in the world: Australia, Tom Selleck, and Tom Selleck's mustache.  Sadly, things went downhill from there a bit.

sgwordy: Crazy slatterns being subjected to centrifugal forces via a bad guy and a boat paddle are fun but even that couldn't rescue this... I don't even know what to call it. Tone, pacing and genre were all very mixed up.

Dr Musacha: Yeah, there was a lot to potentially like here, including great actors, a fun setting, solid cinematography, and an interesting premise.  But I noted the same problems as you.  Could you elaborate on the issues with the movie's tone, because I found this to be one of its biggest problems.

sgwordy: Sure, and with a pretty clear example. The same movie that featured above-mentioned Crazy Slattern with Boat Paddle also graphically depicted genocide. I want movies to accurately depict current and historical events but if you introduce your characters via slapstick comedy it's hard to make that extreme dramatic shift with genuine emotional investment. 
Since I still don't quite know what to make of the movie's mid-length shift, I'm going to jump back to just thinking about Alan Rickman. What did you think of his wardrobe?

Dr. Musacha: I enjoyed it.  I actually thought Rickman's character (Marston) was a fun idea: a man acting out his fantasies of living in the Old West on a remote continent.  The man looks surprisingly good in a cowboy hat!  How do you feel about his performance in general?  It's not like the movie focused on him much.

sgwordy: Fun idea? I think I would have gone more for sadistic. That dude was twisted. Agreed about the hat. I would not have pegged him for a cowboy hat kind of guy but he really is! I thought the performance was poor. The writing and characterization of Marston is really bad so that could have affected my reaction to him but I didn't feel Rickman was completely invested. I could swear a little voice was just behind all his lines saying, "I was Hans Gruber once. Now look at me."

Dr. Musacha: Agree to disagree, I thought his acting was fine.  He brought his classic "controlled menace" to the film, which was needed.  The character just wasn't as interesting as Gruber...Marston was just a garden-variety racist landowner straight out of stock Western films.

sgwordy: I thought his authority as a bad guy was undermined by being thrown out of a window in his own house and then by the classic baddie mistake of counting on his adversary to die out of his sight. (side note: do you think his ranch house had very large ducts?) I found the movie too dang long and was pretty bored by the end. This was probably not lost on you since I fell asleep for the big ending. How did it go? Did Rickman or Selleck get the better ending?

Dr. Musacha: Ha, you really were asleep if you have to ask!  Selleck got a much better ending, as it didn't involve him boots up in the dirt.  Truth be told, I felt that Marston's death was a bit unceremonious, but that might be my affinity for Rickman talking.  We know Rickman plays a great you think this will be his low point as we continue this project?

sgwordy: I fucking hope so! Marston was complete crap. I'm happy to throw a teaser out by saying, with great assurance, that the next Rickman film in our queue will be a definite improvement over this. In fact, let's throw in the towel on this one and go watch the next movie!
Rate the movie on a scale of 1 to 10:
Dr Musacha – 5
sgwordy – 3
Was Rickman the best thing about this movie?
Dr Musacha – No, not enough screen time and Tom Selleck is awesome.
sgwordy – No, remember how we described crap villains in Die Hard? Here is a great example.
In the context of his body of work, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate Rickman as Rickman?
Dr Musacha –3
sgwordy – 1
Favorite Rickman quote from this movie?
Dr Musacha: Some men are born in the wrong century. I think I was born on the wrong continent.
sgwordy: No man knocks me out of my own house! [Editor's note: He forgot to add "once."]

Monday, May 14, 2012

More Baseball Shame

Dr M is all about the gifs lately. Lucky us!

So tip o' the hat to Dr M for sending me the vid link. What's funny is that I'd already seen it. We were at Fenway over the weekend and the jumbotron was running bloopers. That one linked above was one of the bloopers. Good times!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Slow-mo Shame

Good times and giggles here.

(hat tip: Dr M)

Sunday, May 6, 2012


This documentary is long but so worth the view. If you know me, you know that advertising will often make my blood boil. This documentary is a perfect example of why.

Originally seen here.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Alan Rickman Reel: January Man

 My household are big fans of Alan Rickman. As such, we've decided to review his films from start to finish. Using IMDb, that puts us starting with Die Hard (DIE HARD!!!!) and continuing with January Man.

This is a step down from Die Hard.

Netflix doesn't carry this title so we had to improvise. So sgwordy read a plot summary of the film, while Dr Musacha opted to watch YouTube clips of only Rickman's scenes (courtesy of Rickmanlover) and try to guess what the movie was about.

Warning: Adult Content within clip. NOT SAFE FOR WORK

sgwordy: You know this movie was rated R. Any movie rated R in the 80s had tits whether it needed them or not. So, impressions?

Dr Musacha: About the tits or the first scene?

sgwordy: haha

Dr Musacha: I was excited after the first scene (no innuendo intended). My initial impression is that this is a movie about Kline pretending to be a hobo as part of a scam. And he's trying to recruit his painter friend as a partner. Sounds like an interesting concept for a movie.

sgwordy: Well, lucky for you you can still pitch that concept because he's actually trying to get him to help out on a murder investigation. Kline has just been asked back onto the NYPD (personal request of the mayor) and he thinks his painter friend will be really helpful as an assistant.

Dr Musacha: Hmm, that explains later scenes but not the way Kline is dressed.

Dr Musacha: Scene 2 left me with a lot of questions. Why are the least talented actors talking so much while Rickman is silent? Did this director ever work again? S/he's not getting much out of a talented group of actors. Also, what genre is this supposed to be? Feels like a comedy but I'm not laughing.

sgwordy: Turns out that is not the office the captain set aside for Kline but Painter Friend thought the light was better in this room. That would be important because his first task as assistant is, apparently, to paint birds on the wall.

Dr Musacha: Shockingly, this isn't even the stupidest turn of events in this movie.

Dr Musacha: Short and pointless, though this scene does introduce the first female character.

sgwordy: She's not the first female character.

Dr Musacha: Well, the first female character who talks. She's not just breasts on a couch.

Dr Musacha: At this point, I was convinced that instead of a hobo con, they had faked their way into jobs with the police (much like Blue Streak). Because they are bumbling fools they come up with a plan to use their new female friend as bait so they can catch the murderer.

sgwordy: Would you be surprised to learn that the woman is the daughter of the mayor?

Dr Musacha: Yes! Why would they risk the mayor's daughter in this scheme?

sgwordy: I think it's so she and Kline can spend time together so they can couple up by the end. Also, she's a friend to the most recent victim so obviously she's an expert on the situation. Do we even go into the Virgo thing or should we just leave that alone?

Dr Musacha: [speechless]

sgwordy: It is interesting that Kline has a background that makes the constellation Virgo (minus one star) immediately come to mind after a computer program inexplicably changes a bunch of squares into variously sized dots. (By interesting I mean stupid.)

Dr Musacha: Needless to say, I'm really disappointed in the outcome here. I was all jazzed up to watch a buddy comedy about two guys that pretend to be homeless to con suckers out of money.  Instead I get the dumbest plan in the history of police movies.  Did the summary you read explain why they needed to wait for the tenant of the apartment to show up before enacting their plan?

sgwordy: No, and that's a good question. Why did they wait? And why didn't I think of that before? Was it for her keys?

Dr Musacha: I guess that must be it but why didn't they use a police key or talk to the super. The whole plan is just really dumb!

sgwordy: I can't argue with that. I wouldn't even want to. Any final comments?

Dr Musacha:The world is still waiting for its buddy hobo comedy. You?

sgwordy: I'm sad. This movie makes me sad. Will there be any room for those enormous hot air balloon tits in your hobo bromance?

Rate the movie on a scale of 1 to 10:
Dr Musacha –1, every scene in this movie feels like a practice take.
sgwordy –2

Was Rickman the best thing about this movie?
Dr Musacha –Yes, he was the only one who ignored the director and acted.
sgwordy – There was no best in this movie. It's all worst.

In the context of his body of work, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate Rickman as Rickman?
Dr Musacha –3
sgwordy –3

Favorite Rickman quote from this movie?
Dr Musacha: It's irritating to me that I need money. I shouldn't need it.

sgwordy: Languish there, Darling.

Let's all just try to forget this ever happened.