The Government You Paid For

A continuation

Greg Gianforte, newly-elected Montana representative in Congress, seems to have a lot going for him:

Gianforte co-founded Brightwork Development Inc., a software company, in 1986; he and his partners sold the company to McAfee Associates for $10 million in 1994. He then moved to Bozeman, Montana.

Gianforte founded RightNow Technologies in 1997. The company went public in 2004 and was sold to Oracle Corporation for $1.5 billion in 2011. Before the sale, RightNow Technologies employed about 500 people at its headquarters in Bozeman, Montana, and over 1000 people in total.

Gianforte is a board member of FICO and chair of the board at Petra Academy, a Bozeman, Montana, Christian school.

Just about everybody recognizes this as the road to success. Gianforte seems to have everything going for him. How, then, to account for this:

(CNN) — Greg Gianforte, less than 24 hours removed from being charged with assault for “body-slamming” a reporter, won the Montana special election on Tuesday night.

So, now what?
We know two things for sure.
1. Gianforte will appear in court sometime between now and June 7 to find out whether he will be convicted on a misdemeanor assault charge.
2. Republicans, even if they wanted to, couldn’t refuse to seat him. This was litigated in the late 1960s in a case involving Rep. Adam Clayton Powell.

For those not old enough to remember, Adam Clayton Powell was a Democratic congressman who  represented the borough of Harlem in New York City. Here was another who had everything going for him. Harlem was, and may still be, the center of NYC’s black population, and Powell was the first black man elected from the state of New York to Congress. It seemed like a job for life. Unfortunately he wanted more. From Wikipedia:

By the mid-1960s, Powell was increasingly being criticized for mismanaging his committee’s budget, taking trips abroad at public expense, and missing meetings of his committee. When under scrutiny by the press and other members of Congress for personal conduct—he had taken two young women at government expense with him on overseas travel—he responded:

I wish to state very emphatically… that I will always do just what every other Congressman and committee chairman has done and is doing and will do.”

Opponents led criticism in his District, where his refusal to pay a 1963 slander judgment made him subject to arrest; he also spent increasing amounts of time in Florida.

In January 1967, the House Democratic Caucus stripped Powell of his committee chairmanship. The full House refused to seat him until completion of an investigation by the Judiciary Committee. Powell urged his supporters to “keep the faith, baby,” while the investigation was under way. On March 1, the House voted 307 to 116 to exclude him. Powell said, “On this day, the day of March in my opinion, is the end of the United States of America as the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Powell won the Special Election to fill the vacancy caused by his exclusion, but he did not take his seat, as he was filing a separate suit. He sued in Powell v. McCormack to retain his seat. In November 1968, Powell was re-elected. On January 3, 1969, he was seated as a member of the 91st Congress, but he was fined $25,000 and denied seniority. In June 1969, in Powell v. McCormack, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the House had acted unconstitutionally when it excluded Powell, as he had been duly elected by his constituents.

What the Court ruled was that the people in his district held sway over any power vested in members of Congress. They could not refuse to seat a properly-elected member. That was of no avail to Powell, as his constituents responded in their own  voice and cast him aside in the next election.

And that’s that concerning miscreant congressmen, and I am not even bringing up the matter of Wilbur Mills and the Argentine stripper in the Tidal Basin Pool.

So, what is the duty of the United States Congress with respect to members who embarrass themselves and the Congress? I’m guessing it depends on what a member does. And what exactly did now Congressman Gianforte do? Details are available. No video exists of the encounter between Gianforte and the reporter, but YouTube has an audio, and The Atlantic has a transcript from that recording:

Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian: …the CBO score. Because, you know, you were waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill and it just came out…

Greg Gianforte, the congressional candidate: Yeah, we’ll talk to you about that later.

Jacobs: Yeah, but there’s not going to be time. I’m just curious—

Gianforte: Okay, speak with Shane, please.

[loud scuffling noises, an even louder crash, repeated thumping]

Gianforte: [shouting] I’m sick and tired of you guys!

Jacobs: Jesus chri—!

Gianforte: The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing! Get the hell out of here!

Jacobs: Jesus!

Gianforte: Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing! You with The Guardian?

Jacobs: Yes! And you just broke my glasses.

Gianforte: The last guy did the same damn thing.

Jacobs: You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.

Gianforte: Get the hell out of here.

Jacobs: You’d like me to get the hell out of here, I’d also like to call the police. Can I get you guys’ names?

Unidentified third man: Hey, you gotta leave.

Jacobs: He just body-slammed me.

Unidentified third man: You gotta leave.

Make what you want of this, but this gives the impression of a politician so sure of his election that he believes nothing he does will derail it. He comes close to being correct on that point.

The take out from the exchange is that reporter Jacobs wanted to question Gianforte about his take on  the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) evaluation of the health care bill just passed by the House of Representatives. By all accounts the CBO results reveal the House failed miserably at their goal of providing an adequate replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed by the Obama administration.

My impression is that Gianforte, no friend of the previous President and his ACA, felt the reporter was aiming to embarrass him by forcing him to defend this unpopular piece of legislation. Besides, Gianforte was in the process of setting up for another interview, and he felt Jacobs was intruding. By any measure, Gianforte’s response was over the top in the best meaning of the term. He puts Jacobs off with, “Okay, speak with Shane, please.” Then, for reasons not yet explained, he does more. The audio records no other exchange of words before there is the sound of Jacobs being thrown to the floor by Gianforte. That rapid thumping mentioned in the transcript is apparently Gianforte landing blows on Jacobs. WTF?

The Congressman’s initial response to accusations that he assaulted a reporter was less than candid:

Gianforte’s campaign has challenged the claim, alleging that the reporter grabbed Gianforte’s wrist and was overly aggressive after asking the question.

That turkey did not fly. Others dispute his disclaimer. Continuing from the foregoing:

However, a Fox News reporter who witnessed the incident has written that Gianforte “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.” She also noted, “To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.”

If this is any indication, the United States is returning to its rough and tumble days of two centuries ago:

Preston Smith Brooks (August 5, 1819 – January 27, 1857) was an American politician and Member of the US House of Representative from South Carolina, serving from 1853 until his resignation in July 1856 and again from August 1856 until his death.

Brooks, a Democrat, was a fervent advocate of slavery and states’ rights. He is primarily remembered for his May 22, 1856 assault upon abolitionist and Republican Senator Charles Sumner; Brooks beat Sumner with a cane on the floor of the United States Senate in retaliation for an anti-slavery speech in which Sumner verbally attacked Brooks’ second cousin, Senator Andrew Butler. Brooks’ action was applauded by many Southerners and abhorred in the North. An attempt to oust him from the House of Representatives failed, and he received only token punishment in his criminal trial. He resigned his seat in July 1856 to give his constituents the opportunity to ratify his conduct in a special election, which they did by electing him in August to fill the vacancy created by his resignation. He was reelected to a full term in November 1856 but died five weeks before the term began in March 1857.

There is a reason they don’t allow guns in the Capitol Building.

But we don’t have to  go that far. Here’s something from a few years back:

United States congressional representatives are elected by people in their districts, and they meet in Washington, D.C. to make laws. That much I think I have figured out. What the representatives do is news, stuff of interest. News reporters tell us all this stuff. That’s one way we get the news. But stories about reporters interviewing congressional representatives are not news. Usually. Here’s how I first learned of the story:

On January 28, 2014, NY1-TV political reporter Michael Scotto was interviewing Grimm in a balcony-hallway of the U.S. Capitol building, asking him about his thoughts on the just-ended 2014 State of the Union Address. He then tried to question Grimm about his campaign finance controversies. Grimm stated that he would only discuss the State of the Union speech, and not the investigation; as Scotto started to mention the investigation again, Grimm walked off. Scotto then turned to the camera and implied that Grimm didn’t want to face the issue on-camera. Grimm then appeared to intimidate Scotto, saying that he would “break (Scotto) in half”, as well as threatening to throw Scotto over the balcony.

Grimm issued a statement defending his behavior, saying that he was annoyed by what he called a “disrespectful cheap shot” from Scotto. The next day, Grimm contacted Scotto to offer an apology for his behavior, which Scotto deemed to be sincere. He also issued a written statement apologizing for his behavior, saying, “I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions to get the better of me and lose my cool.”

That was Congressman Michael Grimm, who at one time represented Staten Island and a section of Brooklyn. Congressman Grimm’s trouble stemmed not from  his encounter with a reporter but with his shady business dealings, for which he did time.

I feel I am not the only one to sense a rising  pugilistic response to pesky reporters. With the marked political polarization that accompanied the election of a liberal black man to the highest office, conservative voters are leaning more and more toward candidates who favor action over words, and stronger words whenever possible. “I’m sick and tired of you guys!” and “The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing! Get the hell out of here.” and Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing! You with The Guardian?”

“You with The Guardian?” It’s starting to matter which news outlet you work for how you get treated, or mistreated. But the image headlining this post proclaims, “Body slam every journalist.” That was later removed by the East Tarrant County Tea Party. Apparently no news really is good news.

What we are left with is a contingent of the United States government fiercely at odds with mainstream media, which is to say at odds with people and organizations that bring in the real, often bad, news. The current President calls it fake news and also calls mainstream media an enemy of the people. He is also the president who previously claimed he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue (in New York) and not lose any supporters. It would appear we are starting to get the government we paid for.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Friday Funny

One of a series

Hey! Friday again. What’s funny this week? Shouldn’t be hard to find something.

Found it:

Florida man shows church his genitals, says ‘Lord told me to do it’

Perhaps the good Lord advised him to sing, and he misunderstood. Wouldn’t have been as funny.

Fundamental Apocalypse

The word in the title, “apocalypse,” has slipped its original meaning. It has come to  mean “dire circumstances.” And that’s what this movie is all about.

Hulu has produced a TV series based on Margaret Atwood’s book, The Handmaid’s Tale, from 31 years ago, and it’s right up there with any zombie apocalypse flick you care to see, made more treacherous by skillful understatement. It’s a tale of modern society gone horribly wrong. It’s about the people living through the fundamental apocalypse. Where have we seen this before?

What has happened is the Unite States government has been overthrown in a well-crafted coup d’état, carried out by a fundamentalist Christian movement. The coup is swift and decisive. The national government is decapitated in a single strike, eliminating all leaders of the national government, all leaders, that is, except perhaps some of the movement already in power. The coup is blamed on external forces, a monstrous false flag operation, necessitating the suspension of all civil rights. This is followed, of course, by the instigation of an authoritative and self-perpetuating rule and a state named Gilead. American law and American  society will now be based on biblical literalism. Almost to the letter.

Opening scenes show a family, husband, wife, daughter, from Boston, attempting to escape north across the Canadian border. They don’t make it. The husband stays by their stalled car while the wife and child dash through the woods toward the border, two miles away. Guardians, heavily-armed religious police, overtake the mother and daughter and carry the child away. Gunfire in the distance indicates the husband has been killed. The fate of the mother is worse.

The title derives from Genesis 16:

16 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.

And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.

And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.

And that is about the sum total of the handmaid’s tale. Catalyst to the coup were multiple failures of modern society, one of which was a precipitous decline in human fertility. Genesis 16 was to counter this calamity. Fertile women were to be pressed into breading service, in almost exact accordance with the biblical passage. The wife, now given the name Offred (from Of Fred), undergoes a brutal program of indoctrination that renders her totally submissive and in perpetual dread of unpleasant death, at least superficially. She is placed in the home of a high level Commander, her only tasks consisting of daily grocery shopping and, once each month, spreading her legs so the Commander can penetrate and impregnate her. It is not a private affair. The Commander’s wife sits behind Offred and restrains her hands. Other members of the household observe. There is not a lot of love lost.

The first crack of the plot brings to mind Robert Heinlein’s Revolt in 2100, previously reviewed. Recall from that tale (“If This Goes On”), the country has devolved into a repressive theocracy, and desirable young women are pressed into service as concubines for the priests. Other similarities exist. Heinlein’s story incorporates secret police keeping watch on everybody, and also an underground movement to oppose and overturn the theocracy. There are also shades of 1984, with eavesdropping cameras all about and sudden disappearances of those only suspected of apostasy. A black van may come to a stop next to the curb on a busy street and a pedestrian scooped inside, never to be seen again.

Another scene recalls The Stepford Wives. The handmaids shop in pairs, each keeping an eye on the other. They move among the supermarket aisles like grown up dolls on trolley wheels, the hems of their frocks almost brushing the floor. Faces devoid of expression.

As Offred and her shopping partner Ofglen (Of Glen) return to their respective prison houses, they often pass alongside the river, where authorities have on display the latest reminders of what resistance brings. Homosexuals and Catholic priests are equally served.

The book is presented as a narrative, recorded by a woman giving only her handmaid’s name, Offred, in what may have been a safe house along the escape route to Canada. An epilogue is presented as a symposium on the history of the Gileadean.

Being a partial transcript of the proceedings of the Twelfth Symposium on Gileadean Studies, held as part of the International Historical Association Convention, held at the University of Denay, Nunavit, on June 25, 2195.

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 299). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

The presenter describes the finding of a collection of audio cassettes, inside a container in a house, in no particular order. The book has apparently been constructed by compiling and assembling transcripts of the tapes. Atwood’s book is meant to recreate the haphazard nature of the narrative, moving, jumping forward and backward in time, as the woman calls to mind her experiences in Gilead and her life before.

In the book, her narrative ends precipitously. There is a ceremony featuring the execution by hanging of three people, followed by the unmasking of revolutionary elements within the ranks of the handmaids. The wife of Offred’s Commander reveals her knowledge of Offred’s perfidy, a sexual fling with the Commander, and Offred is sent to her room to await her fate. When the black van arrives to  take her away the Guardians inside are revealed to be rescuers with the rebellion, come to help Offred escape. Offred’s narrative ends at that point.

There is ample in  the book to make a reader’s blood run cold, but Hulu has added more. I am up to episode 6 in the TV series, and the creators have already introduced disturbing sub-plots. One episode features a visit by a trade delegation from Mexico. The trade ambassador is a woman, a complete repudiation of Gileadean culture. On arriving she quizzes Offred about her situation, in the presence of the Commander and his household. Offred is meek to the core, telling the ambassador the is satisfied. At a later, private, meeting Offred is candid. She is a prisoner, raped monthly in a vain effort to produce a child, doomed to death at the end of her tenure. The Mexican ambassador says she cannot help Offred. Mexico has the same fertility crisis, and the Mexicans are prepared to trade chocolate for some of Gilead’s handmaids.

Contrary to the book, Hulu shows Offred’s husband, Luke, having escaped to Canada and receiving a note from Offred, smuggled to him by the Mexican delegation. It is unknown to me how much further along this tangent Hulu will carry the story. Is there going to be a counter revolution? Will Offred (revealed by Hulu as June) ever see her daughter alive again? Or Luke?

Some Skeptical Analysis is in order. Here are a few points of note:

The inception of Gilead by means of a surgical coup d’état is uncharacteristic. The creation of a totalitarian theocracy out of the United States is too quick and too precise. Historical precedent is contrary. The Soviet Union developed with breath-taking speed from the Russian Empire, but there was merely one framework of suppression and brutality exchanged for another. Additionally, Russia’s abject military failures were a necessary caustic agent. Nazi Germany grew remorselessly out of a German monarchy that suffered humiliating losses in a war of its own making. And it was not overnight. Chinese communism and the current state of Cuba are additional examples. Look to Venezuela to see a modern state collapsing into oligarchy. Neither the book nor the movie display such a run-up to dystopia.

Gilead’s economy is failing, and it is not difficult to see why. With one half of the work force standing as armed guard over the other half, who is doing productive work? The book does tell of Colonies, where slave labor is producing food and maybe other products of the economy, but shortages are rife in both renditions of the story.

A core theme is modern society’s plummeting birth rate. Gilead attempts to remedy this through the handmaids, and readers (viewers, as well) recognize this as a reliance on scripture to solve a real world problem and also a mechanism that only contributes to it. It is obvious to the the casual observer that Gilead, perhaps the remainder of human society, is doomed to extinction from aging within two or three generations. Only the religious fanatics can fail to recognize this.

Yes, I can see a society that rides theocracy into its grave. We have only to look at:

  • North Korea—yes it is a theocracy.
  • The Taliban

These societies, and others so organized, cannot exist in a modern world without an infusion from the world they detest.

Watching, also reading, one wonders whether this is the vision we could expect under today’s theocratic politicians. How much power would it be required for them to have to bend modern society along these lines? We may be experiencing a small taste. Is the experiment already underway?

The Government You Paid For

A continuation

Governor Perry protects our borders when the 82nd Airborne refuses to do so

I suddenly realized that I needed to post more of these. Well, not so suddenly. I’ve been having the feeling for a few months. I’m posting this one in particular because up until seven years ago I paid taxes in that district and voted for that office. Here’s the pertinent news item:

A sheriff in Texas has come under fire after he linked the bombing of a concert in Manchester, England to the country’s tough gun laws.

Following the Monday night attack that killed 22 people, Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree lashed out in a Facebook post.

Here is the Facebook post in its entirety:

Pay attention to what you see in Manchester England tonight. Pay attention to what is happening in Europe. This is what happens when you disarm your citizens. When you open your borders without the proper vetting. When you allow political correctness to dictate how you respond to an enemy that wants to kill you. When you allow these radicals to travel to Afghanistan and Iran and simply let them back in. When you give up your city’s and your neighborhoods to a religious ideology that says you must convert or die. A ideology that treats women as property, kills gays and women and christians with complete impunity. The left tells us we must submit and accept these radical beliefs and bend over backwards to make sure we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings. The left wants to cater to the very group that would kill every group they claim to support. Folks this is an enemy hell bent on killing you. Committed to forcing you to convert or die. This enemy will strap bombs to their own body and blow themselves up killing children. I’m sick of it. You better wake up America. While you are distracted by the media and the crying of the left, Islamic Jihadist are among us and want to kill you. What will it take? This happening at a concert in Dallas or a school in Denton County? If we don’t do something quick this country will die of political correctness and the fear that someone’s feelings may be hurt. It may very well be to late for Europe.

I’m glad Sheriff Murphree finally got that out in the open. Before I go on with this, readers may be due for some historical context. The office of sheriff is a standard fixture in American states. Every county, parish, province has one. We got them from England. The Sheriff of Nottingham was not a fictional character. My understanding is the word traces back to ancient Egypt.

And what is most interesting is the concept of an officer of the law who is elected. Sheriff Murphree, the Republican Party candidate, scored an overwhelming victory over his rival Libertarian Party candidate last year. I could find nothing about a Democratic Party opponent. One news item reports that Denton County went solid red in the November election. It would appear, at least in Denton County, we are getting the government we paid for.

So what of Sheriff Murphree’s venting of spleen? It’s worth dissecting. Here’s the first part:

Pay attention to what you see in Manchester England tonight. Pay attention to what is happening in Europe. This is what happens when you disarm your citizens.

This was, of course, set off by the terrorist attack on a music concert in  England this week. This is what happens when you disarm your citizens. I saw that on the news. Those adults and young children were unable to defend themselves because the British government denied them the right to carry guns. I mean, if one of those kids, now dead, had been carrying his handy Glock semi-automatic pistol, he could have blazed away the moment he (or she) saw the killer about to press the switch and set off the bomb. How can anybody be so blind to not see the obvious?

But wait. Wait! I am dead sure Sheriff Murphree has in mind the Second Amendment to our Constitution. It contains wording to the effect:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

When I talk to people who say they support the Second Amendment and insist it is an absolute guarantee of the right of all (but a few) to keep and bear arms, they often  tell me this is necessary to protect us from the government. If there is ever a need for citizens to rise up against the government, they need to have the weapons to do so. They need guns.

And this is what is curious. The Second Amendment does not mention guns. It says “arms.” It means weapons of war. Not hunting rifles, shotguns, Saturday night specials. Citizens need real killing power. Such as fragmentation bombs. And that is exactly what Salman Abedi had and what would be legal if proponents of a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment mean what they say.

Well, no. Fragmentation  bombs should not be legal for citizens to possess, and possession of guns should be under reasonable restraint in order tamp down this country’s alarming misuse of firearms. I suspect Sheriff Murphree demurs. He has more to  say:

When you open your borders without the proper vetting.

Yes, those foreigners from Muslim countries. Salman Abedi was born in England, in Manchester. Does proper vetting begin at the birth canal?

When you allow political correctness to dictate how you respond to an enemy that wants to kill you.

The sheriff does not elaborate on what he means by “political correctness,” so we are left to surmise. I can  only hope he does not mean there should be one set of rules for some people and another set for others. Perhaps Sheriff Murphree believes he will be among those making the rules. Obviously we have no need to be polite to somebody who wants to kill us. But we need to know in advance whether and who wants to kill us. How can we tell in advance? Before he (or she) presses the switch? We could check skin color. Or religious affiliation. Sheriff Murphree may be onto something.

When you allow these radicals to travel to Afghanistan and Iran and simply let them back in.

Of course Salman Abedi was not from Afghanistan or Iran. He was from England. He did go to Libya, where his parents are from.  And he did come back, committing his act of murder just five days after returning. And he was being watched by British authorities as a possible terrorist. Fault the Brits for dropping the ball on this one. That said, we can be sure Sheriff Murphree has in mind a procedure for handling these cases—where a citizen goes to a foreign country of interest and then returns. He does not elaborate. We wait.

When you give up your city’s and your neighborhoods to a religious ideology that says you must convert or die. A ideology that treats women as property, kills gays and women and christians with complete impunity.

Sheriff Murphree fails to mention these people also kill Muslims with complete impunity, but that is a terrible ideology, and I did not realize until he brought up just how close we are to falling over the precipice. Thanks, Sheriff.

The left tells us we must submit and accept these radical beliefs and bend over backwards to make sure we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings. The left wants to cater to the very group that would kill every group they claim to support.

The left. That means us. We must submit to and accept these radical beliefs. We should? We do? That will be news to those on the so-called left. The left, liberals, are intensely opposed to these philosophies, which we see as another manifestation of religious fundamentalism. Atheists comprise a considerable segment of liberal America, and atheists strongly oppose any imposition of a rule of law dictated by myth and superstition. Atheists, and not all liberals, fault Islam on the same terms they fault Christianity and Judaism. These derive their basis from ancient texts that espouse subjugation and cruelty. And I, for one, do not bend over backwards, whatever that means, for anybody or anything. And I am not reluctant to hurt anybody’s feelings. I count each day’s success by how many people I have pissed off. Starting, I would hope, with Sheriff Murphree.

And finally:

You better wake up America. While you are distracted by the media and the crying of the left, Islamic Jihadist are among us and want to kill you. What will it take? This happening at a concert in Dallas or a school in Denton County? If we don’t do something quick this country will die of political correctness and the fear that someone’s feelings may be hurt. It may very well be to late for Europe.

Of course I was surprise to learn I have been distracted by the media, since it was through an outlet of the media that I obtained Sheriff Murphree’s message of warning. Regarding crying of the left, I look around me, and I see little crying. I see considerable outrage at the direction the current administration is taking the country, and some fretting. I also see an amount of glee at a segment of society that has obtained what was so long wished for.

The sheriff advises that if we don’t do something quick[ly] we are doomed. Again he does not elaborate. Perhaps he dares not to. He talks about Islamic Jihadists being among us, but he does not identify them by name. What is he prepared to do? When does he roll out the paddy wagons and start scooping citizens off the street. Too early for that? When it comes, can we count on the Second Amendment to protect us?

Too late for Europe? Yes. Too late for America. Timothy McVeigh was radicalized by alt right nationalist groups such as The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA), “dedicated to Christian Identity and survivalism.” A few years ago I ran into this guy named Kerry Noble. He had a book. It’s title is Tabernacle of Hate, and I asked him if it was his book. He said he wrote it. He was prominent in the CSA, and later he told us about the time he took a bomb into a Missouri church that was friendly to homosexuals. He told of sitting for a time in that church before making a final decision and leaving with the bomb.

Too late for England. Too late for Manchester:

The 1996 Manchester bombing was an attack carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on Saturday 15 June 1996. The IRA detonated a 1,500-kilogram (3,300 lb) truck bomb on Corporation Street in the centre of Manchester, England. The biggest bomb detonated in Great Britain since World War II, it targeted the city’s infrastructure and economy and caused devastating damage, estimated by insurers at £700 million (£1.2 billion as of 2017) – only surpassed by the 2001 September 11 Attacks and 1993 Bishopsgate bombing in terms of financial cost.

Too late for Manchester:

The 1992 Manchester bombing was an attack by the Provisional IRA in December 1992. Two bombs exploded, wounding 65 people and damaging many buildings in the city of Manchester.

Too late for London:

The Bishopsgate bombing occurred on Saturday 24 April 1993, when the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a powerful truck bomb on Bishopsgate, a major thoroughfare in London’s financial district, the City of London. Telephoned warnings were sent about an hour beforehand, but a news photographer was killed in the blast and 44 people were injured. The damage cost £350 million to repair. As a result of the bombing, which happened just over a year after the bombing of the nearby Baltic Exchange, a “ring of steel” was implemented to protect the City, and many firms introduced disaster recovery plans in case of further attacks or similar disasters.

Too late for Brighton:

The Brighton hotel bombing was a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) assassination attempt against the top tier of the British government in 1984. It missed its main targets but killed five others. It occurred on 12 October 1984 at the Grand Brighton Hotel in Brighton, England. A long-delay time bomb was planted in the hotel by IRA member Patrick Magee, with the purpose of killing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, who were staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party conference. Although Thatcher narrowly escaped injury, five people were killed including a sitting Conservative MP, and 31 were injured.

Too late for Warrington:

The Warrington bombings were two separate bomb attacks that took place during early 1993 in Warrington, England. The first attack happened on 26 February, when a bomb exploded at a gas storage facility. It caused extensive damage but no injuries. While fleeing the scene, the bombers shot and injured a police officer and two of them were then caught after a high-speed car chase. The second attack happened on 20 March, when two small bombs exploded in litter bins outside shops and businesses on Bridge Street. Two children were killed and dozens of people were injured.

Too late for London:

The London Docklands bombing (also known as the Canary Wharf bombing or South Quay bombing) occurred on 9 February 1996, when the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a powerful truck bomb in Canary Wharf, one of the two financial districts of London. The blast devastated a wide area and caused an estimated £150 million worth of damage. Although the IRA had sent warnings 90 minutes beforehand, the area was not fully evacuated. Two people were killed and more than 100 were injured, some permanently.

Too late for London:

The Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings occurred on 20 July 1982 in London. Members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated two bombs during British military ceremonies in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, both in central London.

Too late for Birmingham:

The Birmingham pub bombings (also known as the Birmingham bombings)[1] occurred on 21 November 1974, when bombs exploded in two public houses in central Birmingham, England. The explosions killed 21 people and injured 182 others.

The Provisional Irish Republican Army have never officially admitted responsibility for the Birmingham pub bombings, but a former senior officer of the organisation confessed to their involvement in 2014,[4] with an admission the Birmingham pub bombings “went against everything we [the Provisional Irish Republican Army] claimed to stand for”.

Very too late.

I am inclined to ask Sheriff Murphree, when do you plan to send out the paddy wagons for the Catholics? When and how do you plan on cracking down on the Irish in America? By the way, your name, Murphree. That sounds Irish to me.

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks.

From Joe For America

A (former) Facebook friend once posted an item comparing homicides in two places such as Chicago and Houston, and I asked what could account for the difference. She responded that our more accommodating gun laws (in Texas) account for Texas being a safer place. She has since unfriended me after I posted some stuff unflattering to the Trumps, which has sort of been the way of all but a couple of Facebook friends who classify themselves as politically conservative.

So, I am led to believe that allowing all manner of people to own handguns and to carry them just about anywhere, anytime is what’s making us safer. I decided to do some checking and see how that’s working out:

Suspect shot at man, but hit, killed girlfriend at Dallas bar

A 19-year-old man opened fire at another man during a fight at a Dallas bar early Sunday, but the round struck and killed his girlfriend, police said.

Another woman also was wounded, but her injury was not life-threatening.

Police identified the victim as Natalie Tavares, 18, who died at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas shortly after being shot.

At the scene, officers arrested her boyfriend, Aldo Saucedo, 19, who faces charges of murder and aggravated assault, police said.

Thanks. I’m feeling safer already.

The Golden Shower

Something interesting—this is number 20.

I never thought it would happen to me. Trump overload, that is. When Donald Trump was elected President last November I thanked God, singing, “It’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever done for me.” What I had in mind was four years of joy, four years of sitting back and poking fun at conservatives who voted for a clown and were now having to endure the circus. I planned on quiet afternoons searching out and highlighting the most recent and the most humorous of exploits of our Snowflake-in-Chief. Little did I realized at the time that searching was one thing I would not  have  to do. In my naiveté I failed to recognize that the flood gates were about to open, and I was (we all were) soon to be awash in scandal that never ends. Oh, the curse of wishes fulfilled.

Especially, the gift of the Golden  Shower continues to reward. From The New York Times:

Ex-C.I.A. Chief Reveals Mounting Concern Over Trump Campaign and Russia

WASHINGTON — John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, described on Tuesday a nerve-fraying few months last year as American authorities realized that the presidential election was under attack and feared that Donald J. Trump’s campaign might be aiding that fight.

Mr. Brennan, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned by a series of suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and Mr. Trump’s associates. The C.I.A. learned about those meetings just as it was beginning to grapple with Russian hackers and propagandists trying to manipulate the presidential race.

Completely out of the loop, I can only speculate. I imagine different scenarios. Somebody who knows somebody else who works for the Russian government runs into an old pal. The old pal happens to be working for the campaign to elect Donald Trump last year. The conversation goes like this:

“So, what have you been up to?”

“Didn’t you know? I’m working for the Trump campaign.”

“Oh, really.” He already knew. “Say, I bet you could use some dirt on Hillary about now.”

“You better believe it.”

“Maybe I can help.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“So, what you got?”

“What have you got to give?”

“Like what?”

“How about you scratch my back and I scratch yours?”

“Where’s your itch?”

“I have some friends.”

“What kind of friends?”

“Some foreign friends.”

“Trump can help you. But only if he gets elected.”

“Can’t guarantee that. But we can help out. Shift the balance a bit.”

“We could use that about now.”

“But you’ve got to tell your guy to quit making it so hard for us.”

“Us?”

“People like us. People trying to help him. You need to tell him to quit grabbing women’s pussies.”

“That’ll be the day.”

“That day will be January 20, my friend.”

Actually, January 20 rolled by, and, if anything, President Trump continued to lurch forward, giving me and  mine more juice than we can drink. And the Golden Shower is only one sliver of the pie. It is possible the President’s prior appointment in a Moscow hotel has shriveled to a footnote in the drama now playing out. It may no longer be important whether the infamous Pee Pee Tape exist, much less whether Donald Trump really did order up prostitutes to piss on a bed. So far, all we have is an unofficial dossier prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele. Critical parts of the dossier rely on second-hand sources, sources that have not been verified. It’s up to those who read Steele’s report to decide on its merits. A copy is posted on-line, including the pertinent paragraph labeled 2:

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit TRUMP’s person  obsessions and sexual perversion in order to  obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’s perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew president and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on  one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. the hotel was known to be under FSB control  with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

In the meantime the saga related to the Golden Shower continues to play out, a new gift package arriving at my in-box nearly every day. It’s the nicest thing that anybody has ever done for me.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Saw it before. Must have had the VHS at one time. Catching it now on Amazon Prime Video. It’s Sliver, staring that very hot (then) Sharon Stone. This came out in 1993, about the time Stone was still sizzling from Basic Instinct, to be reviewed later. It’s from Paramount Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s based on the book of the same name by Ira Levin, and I’m guessing the title comes from the apartment building that’s central to the plot. It’s a sliver of concrete, steel, and glass that shoots up in a tony neighborhood in Manhattan. It’s a thriller, with emphasis on eroticism and suspense. Lots of people die.

Opening scenes show a striking blond woman, Naomi Singer played by Allison Mackie, entering the building and taking the elevator to her apartment on the 20th floor. Closed circuit television (CCTV) follows her every move. She goes immediately to her balcony, overlooking the city, and takes in the view. Another person, not identified, enters her apartment using a key. He comes up behind her and caresses her. She responds at first. Then she is suddenly and violently thrown over the railing to her death. Thus begins the drama.

The next tenant of number 20B is Carly Norris (Stone), book editor for a New York publisher. She bears a resemblance to the late Ms. Singer.

Carly is newly divorced, having shucked off a seven-year, miserable marriage. She soon meets a number of other residents of the building, some of whom are about to die. One is Gus Hale (Keene Curtis), who first notices Carly’s strong resemblance to the former tenant. He aims to tell her some things he knows before he goes off to Japan for an extended stay. Later we observe his body in the shower, as seen on CCTV. Coverage throughout the building seems to be unlimited.

Unlimited includes Carly’s bathroom. Somebody watches her bathe erotically.

Nothing and nobody are missed. CCTV seems to cover every inch of the sliver building.

One of the downsides of Carly’s promising career is a morass of pressure exerted on her by people in power. She advertises herself as fiercely independent, a person who likes to be in control. Her boss, Alex Parsons (Martin Landau) wants her to review a book by Jack Landsford (Tom Berenger). She does not like Jack’s books, and she does not want to review his book. Alex wants Carly to work with Jack. Jack lives in the sliver building. He has already noticed Carly moving into the building. He is brash and pushy, just the kind of person Carly does not like.

Carly throws a party, and Jack crashes the party, uninvited. Another tenant is Zeke Hawkins (William Baldwin), who also attends. Somebody has gifted Carly with a telescope, already set up on the balcony. Party goers take turns exercising some erotic voyeurism through the telescope. It remains a mystery how the telescope got delivered and installed.

It turns out Zeke was the donor. It also turns out he owns the building. Both Jack and Zeke put the move on Carly, but Zeke has more oil (as in oily), and his rude sexual overtures are successful. There is much steamy sex, as much as can be allowed without garnering an R (X?) rating. Here Zeke has left Carly the gift of sexy bra and panties. At dinner in a swanky restaurant he demands she demonstrate she is wearing them. That she does, to the alarm of an elderly couple sitting nearby. She has to demonstrate the panties by removing them and passing them over to Zeke.

But Zeke has wired his entire building so he can spy on everybody and everything. He invites Carly to participate. She is spellbound and cannot look away. Tragedy and depravity are played out in front of them. Zeke, from time to time, interferes with these dramas, in one case levying an anonymous threat against a child molester, forcing the creep to mend his ways. But there is no doubt who is creepier.

Carly’s friend Vida Warren (Polly Walker) has something to tell Carly about the late Naomi, but she doesn’t. She is shortly murdered in the stairwell, and Carly hears the commotion and spots Jack standing over the body. Jack is arrested, but released on bond. There is a confrontation. Jack has a gun. Jack accuses Zeke of setting him up to take the fall for Vida’s murder and wants Zeke to confess. Carly and Jack wrestle for the gun, and Jack is killed. Police stop looking for the root of the sliver building murders.

But Carly’s suspicions grow. She sends Zeke out on an errand and uses the interval to search for video tapes. She finds the one showing Naomi’s murder, a tape Zeke said did not exist. She also finds Zeke’s gun, and when Zeke returns early and sees she has the tape, Carly holds him off with the gun, from time to time shooting out one of the myriad TV screens. In a glimpse she catches the identity of Naomi’s murderer. It is not Zeke. He empties the pistol into various TV screens and leaves.

And that’s the end of the movie.

My first impression was that for a woman as Carly purports herself to be, having the need to be in charge, she allows Zeke to run all over her. I would consider Zeke’s sexual approach to be crude and doomed to failure had I not witnessed the same method work (not for me) on a number of occasions.

People, a hidden TV camera in every bathroom? Is there any reason the tenants have not already sued Zeke’s socks off and taken possession of the building for themselves? There is ample evidence that unauthorized entrance is being made to Carly’s and other apartments, and nobody calls the police to investigate, much less a lawyer.

Reality is not what this movie is about. Watch it for yourself, but beware your glasses are going to steam up.

Media Research Center

Time for a new series

Months ago I signed up for this newsletter from a conservative propaganda mill calling itself Media Research Center (MRC). The upshot is that I receive an almost daily message in my in-box. Here is how they bill themselves, from their most recent transmittal:

I wish you could walk the halls of the MRC right now and see our team in action… they are literally working around the clock and can barely keep up with the incredible level of media bias… but we are fighting on.

We won’t stop documenting, exposing, or battling to neutralize the outrageous bias of the leftist media. THIS IS EXACTLY why we exist! But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU to join us now!

This latest piece contains a link to a page soliciting funding from me, funding I am not considering. That linked page contains the following of interest:

The Liberal Media Are Out of Control!

We are working around the clock to expose and neutralize their bias!

[That’s the headline. Following is some more.]

The liberal media and their Leftist agenda are out to destroy the administration and the conservative values that every patriot holds true.

Support the Media Research Center with a gift today to assist in our battle against the liberal media agenda!

Without denying the existence somewhere of “liberal media,” my observation is that the MRC casts a very wide net, a net that snares any news organization that does not slant far the right. Particularly, their net drags at a host of news outlets exposing the failures and misdeeds of the current administration. The Wikipedia entry for the MRC summarizes (see the link above) condenses to this:

The Media Research Center (MRC) is a politically conservative content analysis organization based in Reston, Virginia, founded in 1987 by activist L. Brent Bozell III. Its stated mission is to “prove—through sound scientific research—that liberal bias in the media does exist and undermines traditional American values.”

That last part, “undermines traditional American values,” is interesting and worthy of some Skeptical Analysis. But first it’s worth reviewing additional content from this mail. You will notice they address me by my first name. I always give out my real name and other requested information when I sign onto  something:

Hello John,

This is UNPRECEDENTED!
The left-wing media are TOTALLY unhinged!

I know, like me, you have been watching the nonstop, one-sided bias that has been on display over the last few days. In 30-years of tracking the media, we have not seen this much unabashed bias from so many news sources, in a nearly around-the-clock onslaught, than what we are witnessing right now!

It is so incredibly bad that MRC’s CNSNews.com division documented a May 19th 2017 Harvard University study, of all places… depicting that coverage of President Trump during his first 100 days had, “set a new standard for negativity.” Every media outlet that was studied provided MORE negative than positive of the current president, with CNN and NBC leading the charge with 93% negative coverage! For a comparative reference — Obama’s coverage was 59% positive.
And to be very clear… this fight isn’t really about President Trump. Last year, Americans rejected the failed policies of the left in spite of the liberal media agenda to manipulate the election cycle for a Hillary win. In backlash, the liberal media and their leftist cronies are out to destroy a conservative Presidency — at any cost, using any biased tactic — in order to stop ANYchance of conservative reform.
Folks, they are on a “scorched earth” mission to save their liberal goals.

I wish you could walk the halls of the MRC right now and see our team in action… they are literally working around the clock and can barely keep up with the incredible level of media bias… but we are fighting on.

Right away you will notice something characteristic of propaganda. “This is UNPRECEDENTED!” and “The left-wing media are TOTALLY unhinged!” illustrate the institutional appeal to emotion. Also appreciate the use of all caps. Full disclaimer: liberal propaganda mills employ identical devices.

Additional full disclosure: I also subscribe to a newsletter sent from the above mentioned CNS. More on that in a future post.

Continuing, the MRC wants me to know of a survey finding that, “coverage of President Trump during his first 100 days had, ‘set a new standard for negativity.’ Every media outlet that was studied provided MORE negative than positive of the current president, with CNN and NBC leading the charge with 93% negative coverage!”

Yeah, how about that? Let’s take a look at some of that negative coverage:

Of course there is more, and there must be a way to put a positive spin on all it, and I am sure the MRC would be warm of heart if other news outlets would get in line with Fox, Breitbart, and a number of others I could name. Yes, that’s not going to  happen.

Examine yet another outtake from the MRC newsletter:

And to be very clear… this fight isn’t really about President Trump. Last year, Americans rejected the failed policies of the left in spite of the liberal media agenda to manipulate the election cycle for a Hillary win. In backlash, the liberal media and their leftist cronies are out to destroy a conservative Presidency — at any cost, using any biased tactic — in order to stop ANY chance of conservative reform.

Acknowledging it is true that “Last year, Americans rejected the failed policies of the left” to the tune of 65,844,969 to 62,979,984, I can only hope that at least once in my life I get so thoroughly rejected. Regarding whether the liberal media are out to destroy President Trump “at any cost,” it is worth noting that Mr. Trump’s injuries seem to be entirely self-inflicted. Apparently the liberal media need a lot of help. Scorching the earth requires both sides working together.

Lest readers get the idea I’m flogging the MRC without conscience, please be dismayed that I find some parts positive. For example this is one of the few outlets I have found to employ the word “media” as a plural noun. Small things get appreciated.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Modern science brings us knowledge that can save lives, but stupidity remains a prime killer. Little Lukas S. is the most recent to grace this column:

A seven-month-old baby died weighing just 9lbs after his parents fed him an alternative gluten-free, lactose-free diet, a court has heard.

The mother and father, who ran a natural food store in the town of Beveren in Belgium, insisted on putting their son Lucas on an alternative diet that included quinoa milk, according to local media. Doctors warn that such a diet is generally unsuitable for such young children.

His diet led to him being less than half the expected weight for a boy his age, weighing 9.47lbs — just over the average weight for a newborn baby — before he died on 6 June 2014.

This news item from The Independent also reports Lucas’ parents drove him across his home country of Belgium to  a homeopathic doctor rather than seek reliable medical treatment.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

Something for computer geeks this week. Here’s how you separate the computer savvy from the AOLers. Ask them what EBCDIC stands for. Also, what is it?

Post your answer in the comments section.

Update and answer

Yes, Mike and Mike have a clue what it means. EBCDIC stands for Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code, and it’s the data representation form used in IBM mainframes (System 360, System 370). Here’s what’s quirky about EBCDIC: arithmetic operations are not performed in binary. Numbers are represented as EBCDIC strings, and operations are executed in decimal on these strings of characters. It has the advantage of exactly duplicating the results you would get if you worked out an accounting tabulation with pen and ink in a ledger book, which operation the IBM systems were intended to duplicate, exactly.