Obamascare

This is interesting. The president of the United States gets a lot of mail. Let me rephrase that. People send a lot of letters to the president. These letters don’t actually go to the White House. They go to a government mail processing facility where they are examined before forwarding. Some of the mail sent to the president actually winds up in the White House, and the president reads some of it.

Sometimes the president responds:

Letter from President Obama to Thomas Ritter

Here’s the story:

A Texas schoolteacher who wrote a letter highly critical of President Obama’s health care law was surprised when the president himself wrote back defending his policies but admitting that health care “wasn’t the smart political thing!”

But that’s not what this blog post is all about. Here is what Thomas Ritter had to say in response to the letter he received from the president:

This bill has caused such a divisive, dirisive [sic], and toxic environment … The reality is that any citizen that disagrees with your administration is targeted and ridiculed. I hesitated to write for fear of some kind of retribution. I watched you make fun of tea baggers and your press secretary make fun of Ms. Palin which was especially beneath the dignity of the White House.

The New York Post reports that Ritter is a fifth grade school teacher, so we can hope his tasks do not involve instruction in spelling and grammar. That aside, the key point is Ritter’s reference to making fun of “tea baggers” and making fun of (former Alaska Governor) Sarah Palin (one such “tea bagger”).

And that’s it. Ritter finds it remarkable and even deplorable to make fun of “tea baggers” and even the hyperventilating Ms. Palin? Let’s be clear on one point. Even brief mention of “tea baggers” and Sarah Palin is to invite ridicule upon them. Let’s roll the Tea Party parade video:

To be fair, I need to be careful to attack the message, not the messenger. It’s possible these people have a good message they want to convey, but they are just not the most capable exponents of their cause. So let’s look at the message.

One person, face hidden by a bandanna, holds up a sign that has what appears to be some Chinese writing. Below the Chinese is a note in this person’s best of English: “You better learn to read this! Our politians represent it!”

What is this person trying to say? If he is saying our government is too cozy with the communist government of China, then from where is he getting this idea? If he is saying the government is too lenient in allowing the importation of manufactured goods from China, then he needs to look not only at our government but at the large American corporations that depend on these cheap imports in their goal to turn a profit, all the while selling cheap goods that our fellow Americans depend on for the lifestyle they currently enjoy.

There’s a sign that simply reads “1930s Gemany all over again.”

This means what? There’s a person holding the sign. Does this person know the history of Germany in the 1930s? Mass murder by the government of political opponents and others deemed a risk to Hitler’s regime. Jews disenfranchised, denied jobs, stripped of government protection when thugs destroyed their property. Look around. Do we see anything that remotely approaches 1930s Germany? Blatant disregard for facts is one thing that’s making “tea baggers” a laughing stock. No assistance from the president is required.

Another poster has trouble with the plural form of the English word “levy.” He does not want any more tax levies to support (I suppose) building and maintaining public schools. There is an annoying cadre that thinks we spend too much educating our children while at the same time exhibiting the need for better public education.

There’s a smiling couple, and the woman is holding up a sign that says “No Hussien Obama.” Forget the spelling. Does this woman actually think that the president’s middle name is what’s wrong with this country. Political conservatism should be made of sterner stuff.

Anyhow, the president doesn’t even need to put his shoes on to make fun of “tea baggers.” They are doing an excellent job on their own:

All that said, I do take issue with the president’s press secretary’s making fun of Sara Palin. He needs to stop doing that right now. That’s my job:

I have previously mentioned the devastating effect this choice had on the McCain campaign, but the movie shows a deeper view, if reviews are to be believed. But that is not what I am getting into here, so I will get some points out of the way first:

Palin was pulled from obscurity for a perceived popularity with the party’s conservative base. Palin, pumped up and clueless, was tossed into the shark pool after which party staffers begin to teach her how to swim. At that point a horrifying realization set in:

Palin has only a passing acquaintance with the truth. Todd Palin was (at least at one time) a “member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a fierce states’ rights group that wants to turn all federal lands in Alaska back to the state.” The movie shows Palin demanding when the Republican Party was going to put out a press release denying this fact.

Compared to your average college professor of political science, Palin is dumber than rocks. She is shown to be ignorant of the Federal Reserve and what it does, and she has no idea why there is now a North and a South Korea. Her knowledge about the two major world wars of the twentieth century is also vanishingly small. There is more, of course.

There is more, of course.

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Bad Joke of the Week

Everybody gets their turn on this blog. Mr. President, your time has arrived. These are courtesy of Jay Leno (or his comedy writers).

Not yet

“These White House scandals are not going away anytime soon. People in Kenya are now saying he’s 100 percent American.”

“I was going to start off tonight with an Obama joke, but I don’t want to get audited by the IRS.”

On NSA surveillance: “We wanted a president who listens to all Americans – now we have one.”

On a new IRS commissioner: “He’s called ‘acting commissioner’ because he has to act like the scandal doesn’t involve the White House.”

Concerning the Benghazi , Associated Press, and IRS scandals: “Remember in the old days when President Obama’s biggest embarrassment was Joe Biden?”

On Obama saying he didn’t know about the IRS scandal: “He was too busy not knowing anything about Benghazi to not know anything about the IRS.”

“The White House has a new slogan about Benghazi: Hope and change the subject.”

“It is not looking good for President Obama. Today his teleprompter took the fifth.”

“Fox News has changed its slogan from ‘Fair and Balanced’ to ‘See, I told you so!'”

On a Chicago man who set a record for riding a Ferris wheel: “The only other way to go around and around in a circle that many times is to read the official report on Benghazi .”

On White House claims of ignorance on the scandals: “They took ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ out of the Pentagon and moved it into the White House.”

On closing the Guantanamo prison for terrorists: “If he really wants to close it, turn it into a government-funded solar power company. The doors will be shut in a month.”

No Atheists in Foxholes

I have been prompted to write this by a number of Facebook postings I have seen in the past few months. I have not preserved any of the subject postings, but nobody will dispute that they have been composed, that they have been posted and that they receive a definite following. These postings are different cuts from the same cloth, and they have a common theme: “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

A little explanation:

A “foxhole” is an infantry combat defensive position. About 150 years ago infantry firepower began to become quite deadly, and soldiers needed some protection if they aimed to hold onto a position for any time. Fortifications, stone walls, fallen tree trunks, earth embankments, all filled the need when available. On open ground the foxhole was the only solution. A soldier dug a hole in the ground and got inside—as would a fox hiding in his den. Hence the name.

During World War I, and particularly during World War II, foxholes became almost as familiar to the civilian population as they were to the soldiers. Soldiers sought shelter and fought from foxholes.

Infantry combat is a scary operation. You shoot at the enemy, and the enemy shoots at you. The enemy also drops aerial bombs and artillery shells on your position. You need to be very brave not to flee to the rear. It is common in these situations for soldiers of religious faith to call on their belief in the supernatural to sustain them. For many it seems natural to pray for divine intervention. Make the incoming shell fall a few feet further to the right.

I am sure this is the origin of the idea that there are no atheists in foxholes. In dire circumstance such as this, nobody could survive without the comforting blanket of faith.

Navy chaplain Patrick McLaughlin has written a book.

When words mean less and less, but money talks more and more; when blasphemy is a best seller, and eternal war has replaced hopeful diplomacy; in times like these is prayer even possible? Patrick J. McLaughlin thinks so. McLaughlin is an active duty Navy Chaplain who has ministered to heads of state and to soldiers living and dying in the heat of Iraq.

No Atheists in Foxholes assembles Chaplain McLaughlin’s experiences and prayers from e-mails, private notes, and personal conversations that take us real-time into realms of duty and spirit: from the quiet darkness of his infant son’s New England bedroom on September 11, 2001, to the bomshelled medical tents and blistered Army Humvees of Anbar Province. Chaplain McLaughlin believes that prayer is not only possible, but critical. “We must all learn to pray for peace,” he says, “and then become an answer to that prayer.”

The title of the book is No Atheists in Foxholes.

Really?

Whenever I see an otherwise rational person wander off into this intellectual wilderness I recall some letters I received many years ago. Here is an excerpt from one:

26 March 1968
Camp Evans
Hue — Quang Tri
South Vietnam

Dear John:

Now that our Battalion has moved up North I have finally had the experience of being “under fire.” It is really hard to believe because nothing has happened to me yet. Night before last six persons were killed here at camp Evans by mortars. They were caught getting out of bed, putting on their boots, etc. I was doing the same thing about that time. I was just more fortunate than some, I guess. The attacks are becoming more frequent. I went to the Battalion Staff briefing tonight since the Chaplain is presently in An Khe and the report was that we are to expect frequent rocket attacks between 29 Mar and 4 Apr. The Cav learned of this from the local populace who were told by tho VC to be prepare during the above period. I hope to finish my bunker by tomorrow.

Since things are so dull here at Evans, I have decided to get my kicks in other ways. I am attempting to get on the “night hunter” team. This is a team of four volunteers who go up in helicopters at night armed with M-16s and starlight scopes. The primary purpose is to avert mortar attacks during the hour of darkness. I flew my first two missions three nights ago, and my second was nearly my last. Our pilot came within a hair of crashing. I had already prepared for the inevitable collision with the ground. I am still not sure how it happened. All I know is that I was looking out the door at the ground, as was my job, and suddenly the ground began to rise very fast. Just before it looked like we were go$ng to hit, I pulled myself back inside and braced myself in the seat. The co-pilot grabbed the stick away from the pilot and pulled it back all the way and gave it the gun. The jolt was so severe that I thought we had hit and that the ship and everybody in it bad given. up the ghost. But we stalled there for about ten seconds, rocking like a boat in high seas, and then began to move forward again. The excitement sounds like fun, but it isn’t, and the fact remains that we were all almost killed. But still I have labeled myself a fool and plan to continue. I had to admit that I was a fool to do it in the first place. I haven’t gotten to shoot anyone yet, but I’m sure my chance will come. Do you think I am wrong in killing these people? I think not. Two nights ago they tried to kill me.

It’s obvious the person writing this letter was on active duty in Vietnam at the time. In a foxhole? Not exactly. In a bunker maybe. Does it count if he were not in a foxhole but was flying around at night in a helicopter with a sniper’s rifle hunting people? I can only hope so, because he is an atheist, and he was then. He is my brother.

I’m not going to let this go without dropping a bit of salacious irony on my readers. When my brother was not looking for people to kill he worked as a chaplain’s assistant.

I have more letters from my brother. One of them tells about another time he almost died. I will post it sometime in the future. In the mean time I’m going to wait until somebody posts another silly note about there being no atheists in foxholes.

Still Crazy After All These Years

There are time when you want to say, “What are these guys still doing here. Isn’t this the 21st century.”

Deepak Chopra, from Wikipedia

What brought this up is an item in Forbes about Deepak Chopra.

Deepak Chopra Gets Upset, Tries The Harvard Gambit

Deepak Chopra is upset.

Why? Well, it all goes back to statements like this one, from Chopra himself:

“Consciousness may exist in photons, which seem to be the carrier of all information in the universe.”

Chopra is upset that evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne pointed out how absurd this statement is. More specifically, Coyne wrote that:

“[Chopra’s] lucrative brand of woo is finally exposed as a lot of scientifically-sounding psychobabble.”

Coyne was wasting his breath. Rather his ink. Rather Internet bandwidth. Psychobabble is what Deepak Chopra is all about. For example:

Deepak Chopra Claims He Caused Baja Quake by Meditating

Deepak Chopra, woo guru extraordinaire, accepted blame for the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Baja California via Twitter. Seriously.

Tweeted this twit to his 179,000 followers:

Had a powerful meditation just now – caused an earthquake in Southern California.
3:56 PM Apr 4th via TweetDeck

Was meditating on Shiva mantra & earth began to shake. Sorry about that
3:59 PM Apr 4th via TweetDeck

Om Shanti
4:11 PM Apr 4th via TweetDeck

@Whitemoon7 Wont do it again–promise
4:22 PM Apr 4th via TweetDeck in reply to Whitemoon7

Speaking of twits!

Deepak Chopra; born October 22, 1947, is an Indian-American author, physician, holistic health/New Age guru, and alternative medicine practitioner. Chopra began a mainstream medical career in hospitals and universities in the Northeastern United States, becoming Chief of Staff at the New England Memorial Hospital (NEMH). In 1985, Chopra met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who invited him to study Ayurveda. Chopra left his position at the NEMH and became the founding president of the American Association of Ayurvedic Medicine, and was later named medical director of the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center.

For the uninitiated:

Ayurveda or Ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent and a form of alternative medicine. The oldest known ayurvedic texts are the Suśrutha Saṃhitā and the Charaka Saṃhitā. These Classical Sanskrit texts are among the foundational and formally compiled works of ayurveda.

By the medieval period, ayurvedic practitioners developed a number of medicinal preparations and surgical procedures for the treatment of various ailments. Current practices derived (or reportedly derived) from ayurvedic medicine are regarded as part of complementary and alternative medicine, and, along with siddha and Traditional Chinese medicine, form the basis for systems medicine.

Safety concerns have been raised about Ayurveda; for instance, two US studies found that about 20 percent of Ayurvedic US and Indian-manufactured patent medicines sold via internet contained toxic levels of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic. Other concerns include the use of herbs containing toxic compounds and the lack of quality control in Ayurvedic facilities. Mostly Ayurvedic products are not approved by US Food and Drug Administration. There is an import alert on some Ayurvedic medicines issued by US FDA since 2007 which prevents these products entering the US.

Chopra’s credentials in modern woo are well-earned. A follow-up from Wikipedia details this:

Chopra coined the term quantum healing to invoke the idea of a process whereby a person’s health “imbalance” is corrected by quantum mechanical means. Chopra claimed that quantum phenomena are responsible for health and wellbeing. He has attempted to integrate Ayurveda, a traditional Indian system of medicine, with quantum mechanics, in order to justify his teachings. According to Robert Carroll, he “charges $25,000 per lecture performance, where he spouts a few platitudes and gives spiritual advice while warning against the ill effects of materialism.”

Chopra has equated spontaneous remission in cancer to a change in quantum state, corresponding to a jump to “a new level of consciousness that prohibits the existence of cancer”. Physics professor Robert L. Park has written that physicists “wince” at the “New Age quackery” in Chopra’s cancer theories, and characterizes them as a cruel fiction, since adopting this view in place of effective treatment risks compounding the ill-effects of the disease with guilt, and might rule out the prospect of getting a genuine cure.

Chopra’s claims of quantum healing have attracted controversy due to what has been described as a “systematic misinterpretation” of modern physics. Chopra’s connections between quantum mechanics and alternative medicine are widely regarded in the scientific community as being invalid, but nevertheless have a number of followers. The main criticism revolves around the fact that macroscopic objects are too large to exhibit inherently quantum properties like interference and wave function collapse. Most literature on quantum healing is almost entirely philosophical, omitting the rigorous mathematics that makes quantum electrodynamics possible.

Jerry Coyne’s principal remarks were about another curiosity from the world of make believe:

Pseudoscientist Rupert Sheldrake Is Not Being Persecuted, And Is Not Like Galileo

Rupert Sheldrake is a pseudoscientist who has made his name promoting various kinds of woo, including telepathy (including in dogs!), immaterial minds, and his crazy idea of “morphic resonance,” a Jung-ian theory in which all of nature participates in some giant collective memory. (He was once a real scientist, trained in biochemistry and cell biology at Cambridge, but somewhere went off the rails.)

Many of you might know of Sheldrake. He enjoys a certain popularity in the US and UK among those who think that there must be “something more out there”—with “more” meaning psychic phenomena. I don’t really understand a penchant for things that aren’t supported by evidence, but that’s probably a failure of empathy on my part—as well as a product of my scientific training to doubt. I am sure, though, that some of the same psychological tendencies that promote sympathy for woo also promote sympathy for religion.

I first touched bases with Rupert Sheldrake in 1998 after he appeared on PBS TV on a program called “A Glorious Accident.” I followed up and wrote an item for The North Texas Skeptic and eventually acquired a number of Sheldrake’s books. A remarkable idea that Sheldrake promotes is morphic resonance and morphogenetic fields. Here’s a diagram that attempts to explain how morphogenetic fields relate to biological heredity:

In the lower row the genes, in the DNA, carry the code for constructing the physical child from generation to generation. The genes pass information to the morphogenetic field (third row), but nothing passes from the morphogenetic field back to the genes. The morphogenetic field receives information from the organism (top row) and from environmental influences (second row). The morphogenetic field also passes information to the organism. Morphogenetic fields of an organism pass information from generation to generation, just as the genes do. The information passed along by the morphogenetic fields encodes the memories of the past that Sheldrake alludes to.

Coyne continues:

Sheldrake and his supporters always defend themselves as beleaguered scientists whose correct theories are unfairly attacked or neglected because they buck the current “materialistic paradigm.” That is, he thinks himself an unrecognized genius, persecuted like Galileo. The proper answer to this is given on the NeuroLogica website:

The definitive assessment of this comparison comes from the original version of the movie, “Bedazzled.” Dudley Moore’s character calls Satan a nutcase (for claiming to be Satan), and Satan replies, “They said the same of Jesus Christ, Freud and Galileo.” Moore then replies, “They said it of a lot of nutcases too.”

Some of Sheldrake’s big ideas are outlined in his book Seven Experiments That Could Change the World: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Revolutionary Science. A couple of these ideas would make for interesting tests of the paranormal. One claim is that people can tell when they are being stared at. It would be straight-forward to test this—just have somebody sit quietly in a chair and either stare at them from behind or not. If they can reliably tell when somebody is looking, then Sheldrake’s case is proved. If not, then I am sure that Sheldrake can come up with an excuse why not.

Another idea of Sheldrake’s is  that dogs can tell when their master is coming home. This doesn’t mean when their master is about to put the key in the lock, but when he’s at his desk in the office and decides it’s time to grab his jacket.

Sheldrake asserts he has reliable evidence for all of these claims,  but my own examination of his writing leads me to believe he sets a low standard for experimental proof.

Finally, I just checked, and it really is the 21st century already, and these two are still around. Remarkably, I am not saddened by this. Were it not for Chopra and Sheldrake, we would have to invent them if for no other reason than to brighten our days with their delightful antics. Too bad, though, about all the millions who hang on the pontifications of these marvelous twits. There may be no hope for them.

8mm

Long story about little.

My dad used to have this marvelous piece of firepower. It was a .22 Hornet, and it packed a real wallop. I always coveted that weapon, but quite early Dad traded it to my brother-in-law for an 8mm movie camera. Hence this story.

So, as a kid I wound up shooting a bunch of 8mm. Shortly I went to sea on an aircraft carrier, and I purchased an 8mm camera of my own and took a lot of movies aboard ship and later in civilian life at motorcycle races and other fun places.

But here’s the irony. All this time I never actually owned a movie projector. There was a family projector, but when the inheritance was distributed somebody else wound up with it. So I have all these great films I have not viewed in decades.

Along the way I also acquired a 16mm camera that used magazine load film. I was familiar with the concept, because that’s what was used in the navy for gun sight video and also to record flight operations. In the Navy there is a special rating, photographer’s mate, that does nothing but take photos and such. Aboard the aircraft carrier their job was to get up at the 07 level in the ship’s superstructure and shoot movies, takeoffs and landings. If something went wrong the Navy wanted it on film. I think I may once have seen aboard the Randolph a freezer chest packed with Kodak boxes of fresh film.

Came time to do a blog post, and I needed an old newspaper clipping. I knew right where it was. It was right here in this closet in one of these boxes. So I started pulling out boxes and searching. The result of that was I recorded to DVD and discarded a bunch of skeptical VHS tapes. In one box I came across the movie films. I decided they needed to meet the same fate as the VHS tapes.

It turns out it’s fairly easy to get the DVDs from the movies, but it’s not exactly cheap. Like $8 for a 50-foot reel of 8mm. $200 for a running hour of 16mm. For me it’s either pay and throw away the film or else throw away the film and not pay. In one case I would still have the movies, but in a more compact form.

I have sent off two reels of 8mm to a place in Longview, and this morning I drove down to the place in San Antonio and dropped off my reel of 16mm. In a few days I will begin to come into possession of DVDs containing video of a number of people, known to me, and obtained when these people were much younger than they are now and not nearly as circumspect. Here is my deal.

These people, who can be easily identified in the video, even though they are now more advanced in age, will need to pay me a certain sum, or else these videos will be posted on YouTube. You know who you are. Do I need to elaborate?

Bad Movie of the Week

People, this one is in color. I saw it first as a mere child and only caught it again this month on Turner Classic Movies (see the screen shot). It’s bad because it’s supposed to be bad. This is not so much a pirate movie as it is a spoof of pirate movies. It’s from 1952 starring Burt Lancaster as The Crimson Pirate.

Burt Lancaster and Eva Bartok enjoy victory and sexual tension high in the rigging of a mighty sailing ship.

This movie involves all kinds of wickedness, human bondage, torture and killing. All very comical.

Burt Lancaster is pirate Captain Vallo, and he heads up a scurvy and most jolly crew. His first mate is Ojo (Nick Cravat). Robert Osborne introduced the showing on TCM, and he explained this: Lancaster got his start as a circus performer, so he had an edge up going into the movies. He was very athletic with a knock ’em dead physique. This film was engineered to capitalize on his physical assets, and there are lots of scenes showing him bare-chested in tight  pants and performing trapeze stunts high among ship’s rigging and even ashore. Lancaster’s career-long partner was Cravat, who was also Lancaster’s personal trainer. The problem was that Cravat was from Brooklyn, New York, as nobody has ever been from Brooklyn before, and he could never shake his readily-identifiable accent. Dear readers, pirates do not have Brooklyn accents, so Cravat always played a mute in his films with Lancaster.

I’m not going to lay out the plot for you, because the plot is inconsequential. It’s the late 18th century in the Caribbean, and Vallo and his crew capture a royal man-of-war (that’s an 18th century gun boat). The nationalities of the parties involved are never made clear, but Vallo’s and Ojo’s names are distinctly Spanish, is the name of sweet Consuelo (Eva Bartok), Vallo’s soon to be love interest.

Consuelo’ father is el Libre, an island revolutionary, and the plot devolves into a scheme to free el Libre from prison before he can be executed. This Vallo and Ojo succeed in doing by elaborate disguise, and they also free a local scientist, Professor Elihu Prudence (James Hayter).

The net result of the scheme is that el Libre gets killed by the king’s men, and Vallo, Ojo and the professor are set adrift in the bay in a small boat, handcuffed to the boat’s gunwales. Pondering their fate (going to drift out to sea), the professor decides the only way out is to capsize the boat. I recall this as the best part of the movie. The boat settles to the bottom of the bay, with the captives underneath, breathing the air trapped in the boat. The three then walk along the bottom of the bay and up onto the beach. Science to the rescue, again!

Next comes the climatic scene as Consuelo is forced to wed the island governor, and the rebellious islanders honor the wedding party with a traditional pageant. It turns out the the traditional pageant involves Vallo, Ojo and the professor in drag disguise as island dancing girls. At a critical moment the fight starts.

The professor has pulled up the latest of 18th century (and maybe even some 19th century) technology, and the islanders have constructed crude tanks, Gatling guns, a flame thrower, nitroglycerin and a hot-air balloon. With this the islanders attack, and the evil Baron Gruda takes Consuelo for himself and escapes to his (by now recaptured) man-of-war. The pirates prevail by swimming under water 100 yards (remember, this is a comedy) and surprising the king’s soldiers by coming up on the far side of their ship.

Of course there is an epic battle (in comic style) aboard the ship, with dozens of the kings soldiers being killed and thrown overboard. Vallo defeats Baron Gruda in the ship’s high rigging, and he and Consuelo enjoy a romantic embrace perched on a yard arm. The professor arrives in his submarine, too late to be of any help in this last stage of the fight. And it was great fun, after all.

Steady State

No, this one is not about Texas. It’s some classical thermodynamics.

I’m running an experiment—making some observations. Here is what I see:

  • The outside temperature is 40F. It’s been at 40 or lower all night long.
  • The house heating system is turned off.
  • The thermometer on the wall reads 64F. It’s been at 64 all morning and into the afternoon.

Other sources of heat within the house are sufficient to maintain the temperature constant with a 24F (or more) difference between inside and outside. These sources include:

  • Two adult people (average 100 watts each). One snoozing, one writing a blog and watching TV.
  • Refrigerator cycling on and off as necessary.
  • Flat screen TV running all morning.
  • Lap top and desk top computers running.
  • Various electric lights on—mostly CFLs but one 100-watt halogen desk lamp.
  • Washed and dried a load of towels, but the dryer air is vented to the outside.
  • No significant solar heating coming through the windows. It’s cloudy today, and, besides, the blinds are drawn.
  • Hot water heater is in the garage, not in the house.
  • No fans running.

And that’s what it takes to maintain a 24F temperature difference: About 500 watts, or less. It’s basic thermodynamics. Here is the diagram from Wikipedia:

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

“Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”

“No problem, just let me in,” says the man.

“Well, I’d like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”

“Really, I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” says the senator.

“I’m sorry, but we have our rules.”

And with that, St . Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises…

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

“Now it’s time to visit heaven.”

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

“Well, then, you’ve spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.”

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: “Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.”
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he’s in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

“I don’t understand,” stammers the senator. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there’s just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?”

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, “Yesterday we were campaigning…Today you voted.”

Skeptical Videos

I have been associated with the North Texas Skeptics since about 1988. During that time a bunch of skeptical stuff has come my way, and some it represents history. This weekend I converted a number of VHS tapes to DVD.

Alien Autopsy

Here is a list of titles and topics, in no particular order:

  1. Robert Tilton: video from the Trinity Foundation
  2. Trinity Foundation on Robert Tilton and the Jews
  3. D. James Kennedy: creationism, homosexuality and more (3 disks)
  4. McCuistion on Waco
  5. CSICOP: Beyond Belief, with Steve Shaw
  6. Frontline on Waco
  7. John Thomas interview from 1990
  8. Alien Autopsy
  9. Scientific American on pseudo science, also near death
  10. Ramtha, St. Germaine, also Randi with Jose as Carlos
  11. Prime Time Live: Men of God, featuring Robert Tilton, Larry Lee and W.V. Grant
  12. Sally Jessy Raphael featuring Uri Geller and more
  13. Frontline: The Search for Satan
  14. Firing Line: featuring Forrest Mimms and Eugnie Scott
  15. BBC – Wales: In Search of the Dead
  16. BBC – Wales: In Search of the Dead – Visions and Voices
  17. Waco, the Big Lie by Linda Thompson
  18. UFOs are Real, part 1
  19. The Truth in Love featuring Thomas Warren and Dave Miller on creationism and evolution

Let me know if you are interested in any of these.

How Dare They

This is disgraceful. How dare they!

No time this morning for me to create original material, so I have fallen back on Facebook again. Apologies all around. I am so sorry. A Facebook friend posted this. It’s from a feed titled Breitbart – One Voice Silenced, Millions Awakened.

What this says is:

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PLANS TO APOLOGIZE TO AFGHANISTAN?!
2,272 AMERICAN LIVES LOST
THOUSANDS MAIMED & INJURED
$360 BILLION IN TREASURE
“How dare they!”
Karen Vaughn, Mother of SEAL Team VI Extortion 17 Aaron Vaughn, KIA 8-6-11

The Obama Administration:
SPITTING ON THE GRAVES & IN THE FACES OF MILITARY FAMILIES EVERYWHERE!

That is so obviously disgraceful. I mean, “spitting on the graves and in the faces of military families.” What a sorry episode in American government.

This being the Skeptical Analysis blog I decided to follow up, to do some skeptical analysis. I went to the original posting on Breitbart – One Voice Silenced, Millions Awakened. But first, here is some background on Andrew Breitbart:

Breitbart appeared as a commentator on Real Time with Bill Maher and Dennis Miller. In 2004 he was a guest commentator on Fox News Channel’s morning show and frequently appeared as a guest panelist on Fox News’s late night program, Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld. Breitbart also appeared as a commentator in the 2004 documentary Michael Moore Hates America.

On October 22, 2009, Breitbart appeared on the C-SPAN program Washington Journal. He gave his opinions on the mainstream media, Hollywood, the Obama Administration and his personal political views, having heated debates with several callers.

In the hours immediately following Senator Ted Kennedy’s death, Breitbart called Kennedy a “villain”, a “duplicitous bastard”, a “prick” and “a special pile of human excrement”.

In February 2010 Breitbart received the Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media Award during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. During his acceptance speech, he responded directly to accusations by New York Times reporter Kate Zernike that Jason Mattera, a young conservative activist, had been using “racial tones” in his allusions to President Barack Obama, and had spoken in a “Chris Rock voice”. From the podium, Breitbart called Zernike “a despicable human being” for having made such allegations about Mattera’s New York accent. At the same conference, Breitbart was also filmed saying to journalist Max Blumenthal that he found him to be “a jerk”, and “a despicable human being” due to a blog entry posted by Blumenthal.

I post this particular excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for Breitbart, because the Breitbart feed on Facebook appears intended to further the discussion in a like manner following Breitbart’s untimely death from a heart attack last year. In response to the disgraceful meme posted above, the Breitbart feed had a number of comments along the same lines. Warning: some of these comments make sense, and some are even true. I’m not going to offset the text I copied from Facebook. The copied text can be easily distinguished by the formatting and the context:

AMERICA IS APOLOGIZING TO AFGHANISTAN!

I (Karen Vaughn, mother of fallen Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn) am BEGGING you to share this utterly disgraceful move by our “leadership.” HOW DARE THEY????????????

Watch: American Betrayal by Obama Administration: SEAL Team VI Ramp Ceremony:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjYBr1zNFWE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nByJ5WscRy4

From Extortion 17 – Demand A Congressional Hearing: Yesterday evening, reports appeared in both the New York Times and Khaama Press in Afghanistan that the final hurdle for the Bilateral Security Agreement had been cleared and that US President Barack Obama would sign a letter to be read at the loya jirga. The letter would note that the US has made mistakes in its war efforts in Afghanistan. Further, the letter would convey an apology along with a pledge to avoid repeating the mistakes in which innocent Afghan citizens suffered.

“The assurances will include a pledge that U.S. troops will enter Afghan homes only in exceptional circumstances to save lives, as well as what has become a standard U.S. expression of regret for Afghan suffering and the loss of innocent lives in the 12-year-old war.”

Our troops are restrained by Obama’s rules of engagement as it is. Time to bring them all home. All.

Christine Chiomento My son was one who lost his life fighting int hat country–I just have no words to describe how angry these people in our gov’t make me these days.

Michael Morarie Sorriest (p)resident ever…in every way!
Like · Reply · 52 · November 20 at 4:34pm

Scott Porter He shld b hung
Like · Reply · 25 · November 20 at 4:35pm via mobile
2 Replies

Toni Trueblood WHERE’S THE MILITARY? Remove him!
Like · Reply · 10 · November 20 at 7:19pm via mobile
1 Reply

John J. Carone He should be apologizing to the Americans who fought and died for an ungrateful nation.
Like · Reply · 9 · November 20 at 4:45pm
4 Replies

Chuck Fowler Pull all our troops out next year. Upon leaving, remind the Afghanis that we have tactical nukes and if we have to come back, it will be those that we will use to reduce their rubble of a country into even finer freaking rubble and send the Taliban from the 12th century back into the 7th century.
Like · Reply · 7 · November 20 at 4:39pm via mobile

Betty Price He apologized for Americans the first term!
Now he is apologizing for our military to Afghanistan?
If this is true, he needs to be removed from office!
Like · Reply · 6 · November 20 at 10:36pm via mobile

Kimberly Elliott IMPEACH!!!
Like · Reply · 4 · 19 hours ago

Rosanne Haslem I hope there are a lot of legal people getting ready for the arrest of a “Traitor”!!! Americans, we need our Country Back!!
Like · Reply · 4 · 20 hours ago via mobile

Denise Peragine Ugh! My heart goes out to all military families. This president is an epic disgrace.
Like · Reply · 5 · November 20 at 6:59pm

Noreen Hudgins DON’T SURPRIZE ME NONE AT ALL!!!!!HE HAS TO PLEASE HIS muslim BROTHERS!!!!!
Like · Reply · 3 · November 20 at 7:07pm

Roy Lovell .. I TRULY HATE THIS PRESIDENT !~!!!
Like · Reply · 3 · November 20 at 4:31pm

Deborah Dreher meggaaaaaaaaaa ditto………………………………………………..
Like · 3 · November 20 at 5:27pm

LadyWolf Aguilar IslamaBama is an Anti-American Treasonous Traitor-In-Chief Narcissist Arrogant Egotistical Phony Pompous Evil Delusional Moron Two-Faced Forked-Tongue Pathological Liar Vicious Disgraceful Sleazy Slimy Dirtbag Conniving Thieving Corrupt Disgusting Radical Racist Bigot Petulant Maggot Low-Life Selfish Scumbag Vile Contemptible Deceiving Hypocrite Incompetent Coward Despicable Disgraceful Purple-Lipped Marxist Manipulative Tyrannical Psychopath Deviate Megalomaniac Inept Subversive Destructive POS/SOB, Most Non-Transparent, Ruthless Moooooslime Bastard!!!!!
Like · Reply · 3 · November 20 at 4:45pm

Amy Rouleau Thank you – you summed him up quite adequately. What irritates me the most is how he fooled so many people – and thankfully I did NOT vote for him.
Like · 2 · November 20 at 10:06pm

Mike Ramsey LadyWolf-you forgot derelict idiot!!!
Like · November 20 at 10:54pm

Sue Pierce-Creeger He is the rottenest scum to ever trespass in our country! He’s worse than sewage scum!
Like · Reply · 3 · November 20 at 9:59pm via mobile

Astrid O’Loughlin He’s too proud to resign. How about impeachment as a traitor.
Like · Reply · 4 · November 20 at 7:36pm via mobile

Pam Holt Obama has always and continues to Betray our country at every turn! The list of Impeachable offenses is unsurmountable! So why is this TRAITOR still in office?
Like · Reply · 4 · November 20 at 5:00pm via mobile

Edward Mike Conners If this is true, it is time to get the hell out. These rules of engagement will just get more of us killed, PERIOD.
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 5:05pm via mobile

DeWayne Dace Hmmm, Kerry denies such but I don’t believe a word he spews either…
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 5:40pm

Carla Buyes He is the one who put us in Afghanistan, and my son was killed there on November 26,2011… He needs to apologize to US,NOT THEM!!!!
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 11:07pm via mobile

Julie Rysdam Carla… I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. There are not enough words to thank you for your sons life. I hope you remember that there are those of us who will NEVER forget what they did for us.
My son is deployed right now… May God be with him because I know the President isn’t.
Like · 2 · 12 hours ago

Lin Kellum If he isn’t going to let them do what needs to be done, then get them out of there.
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 4:46pm

Steve Wightman APOLOGY: I’m sorry we tried to keep you safe. You’re welcome.
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 4:35pm via mobile

Jennifer Ward It’s all right folks- he doesn’t mean anything he says anyway.
Like · Reply · 2 · Yesterday at 4:23am

Dee Lewis We at no longer at war with them, we need to bring our troops home! Though I have always supported our troops and they protect our freedoms, this is being slowly taken away from them. No need to sign up anymore, this is pathetic, SOMEONE, please get this this person out of the white house!
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 6:53pm via mobile

Donna Cook Urban How dare OBLAMER! He’s such an IDIOT (insert scream here)!
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 4:46pm via mobile

Judy Kaiser We have a president that has no shame!!
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 4:35pm via mobile

Shawn Cassel All these top military officials being relieved of duty interesting sweepings there I’ll be given litness tests to see if they will fire on US civilians in civil upheaval if you answer wrong witches no I will not you are relieved of duty things to make you go humm
Like · Reply · 2 · 20 hours ago via mobile

Shawn Cassel Can we just get this traitor out of the White House
Like · Reply · 2 · 20 hours ago via mobile

Tanya Evans Collier Just one more example of this administration’s lack of understanding of and compassion for Americans! I am angry yet again for the disregard of our Servicemen and their families who have given so much!
Like · Reply · 3 · 20 hours ago via mobile

Debra Irizarri Mathis Our troops need to pack up and be home for Christmas and let Osama Obama try and stop them. They can all camp out on the White House lawn and he needs to apologize to all of them!
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 10:36pm via mobile

Austin Hunter Does not surprise me, Oboma administration has no goal but to embarrass the american people.
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 7:54pm

Lynn Brown I am so sorry for his betrayal and lack of caring for Americans.
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 7:19pm via mobile

Marty Gomez Which the GOP has plenty of. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=677317652290103…

Michele Reyes Gowing He is such a moron! You can’t make nice with Afghanistan. They hate us and always will. Honestly, can we move to impeach this idiot?
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 7:00pm

Rosie Leach I can’t imagine the PAIN of a parents heart, when their loved one sacrificed life, and futures for America, only to watch the Socialist Evil destroy America. He is not one of us. He is not American. It’s sad to endure America’s pain, but in the end God will prevail. Hold on to our faith in God.
Like · Reply · 3 · November 20 at 5:46pm

Penni Price-Lindsey Apologizing for what??!! He should be apologizing to those parents!!!
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 10:11pm

Pat Dempsey Burkholder A turncoat cowardly TRAITOR deliberately bringing dishonor to America.
Like · Reply · 5 · November 20 at 4:33pm via mobile

Barbara Vogelman The ONLY apology those PAB, POS deserve is a nuclear bomb, 100’s of them dropped on their sorry ASSES!! They and that allah scumbag piece of shit they worship can ALL go straight to hell!! That includes the piece of SHIT living in our White House!!
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 5:14pm

Peter Budd It’s time to bring all our troops and everything they haven’t paid for home. It’s also past time to do something rude about Obama……
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 4:51pm

Nan Ellis I am surprised that Barry doesn’t have John Kerry go over and kiss Karzai’s Sunni butt.. Kerry could surely do this.
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 4:36pm via mobile

Steve Kronberg I say we appologize as soon as the Taliban appologizes.
Like · Reply · 1 · 21 hours ago via mobile

Judy Kaiser I felt a swell of pride that our nation showered on the only true and living God for the lives of these fallen soldiers. No matter what the Muslims said they have an unknown God. Just listen to the awesome voices of our God loving soldiers . No doubt about who the true God is !
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 4:55pm via mobile

Andy Tomes Obama is a idiot that has done nothing but lift the title of worst President from Jimmy Carter and ruined our relations with other countries along with our own
Like · Reply · 1 · 20 hours ago via mobile

Coleen Lombardi This administration does not represent me or what we stand for. We will not tire in our pursuit of truth and prosecution. God Bless America.
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 10:21pm

John Foster He always apologizes to the muslims.
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 8:37pm

Christiane Feier no words for these people in the WH….may be They should personally go to Kabul, sent the troops home and start an apology tour without bodyguards
Like · Reply · 2 · 14 hours ago

Blake Steel Don’t get me wrong I’m sorry for the troops who have died and the families who have lost people I just don’t support what it was for
Like · Reply · 2 · 20 hours ago via mobile

Blake Steel To the people saying Obama sent there troops to Afghanistan I thought Bush did that and the people of America did that because they believed at the time terrorist destroyed the twin towers but with further evidence seemed to be a inside job to steal innocent people’s oil
Like · Reply · 2 · 20 hours ago via mobile

Clell Eskew God bless and keep each who have suffered losses, injuries and mental traumas for having dared to try to bring something good to people who do not understand good.
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 11:00pm

Clell Eskew The only apology required is that which should come from the idiot masses who re elected him.
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 10:59pm

Jim Phillips This is so wrong in so many ways ! Tell the president to pack his Bags and hit the Road ! That country needs to Thanks us and especially our Soldiers for helping them ! They also need to apologize to us for the soldiers we Train , and then turn around and shoot the Guys that are training them ! Ungrateful stinking Rag Heads !!!
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 10:13pm

James Guy If this is true, the combined military branches should pack up and head home, without Obama’s permission and then camp out in front of the White House. My family has fought in almost every war since the Revolutionary War thru Vietnam. My sons served in peace time. In good conscience, I will not encourage my grandchildren to join the military, thanks to Obama and his underlings.
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 10:01pm

Ann Ferguson Fruits we need to pull our troops out of Afghanistan and bring them home! They do NOT appreciate one thing we have done…and we don’t need to lose another American boy or man in that country!
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 8:28pm

Amy Rouleau They’ve never wanted us there so his ‘extension’ makes no sense….
Like · 1 · November 20 at 10:08pm

Ginger Rebert No, don’t hang him…make him serve out his sentence in hard labor…and take Michelle with him!!!!
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 5:23pm

Ginger Rebert This man needs to be put under the jail house…He is crazy!!!
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 5:22pm

Kelly Reddell BRING OUR TROOPS H-O-M-E!! This is BS!!!
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 5:06pm

RicknRita Hust Castro Shared! Poorest excuse of a human there ever was this POTUS
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 4:51pm via mobile · Edited

Maryann Worley SLAP in the FACE NOT only to OUR MILITARY and THOSE THAT LOST THEIR LIVES THERE AND TO THEIR FAMILIES but to ALL AMERICANS THAT LUV THIS COUNTRY !!!!
Like · Reply · Yesterday at 12:49am

Brenda Arnett Darbyshire Gotta keep that poppy trade alive!
Like · Reply · Yesterday at 4:49am

Georganne Baker Beyond MADDENING !!!!! Shouldn’t happen !!!!!!
Like · Reply · November 20 at 10:47pm via mobile

Harry Carter HE HAS TO GO, FOLKS. THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO IT !!!
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:14pm

Dixie Westphal Kurtz Bring them home now!
Like · Reply · November 20 at 10:03pm via mobile

Cheryll Koho Treason
Like · Reply · November 20 at 6:31pm via mobile

Scot Tomich Not true, a rumor that was started in Karzai’s office but John (Learch) Kerry said it is Not gonna happen, period….
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:39pm

Shelia Edmonds Wagner WHY???
Like · Reply · Yesterday at 12:41am

Dan Hill I can’t say one way or the other. The man is still my boss.
But just how many of you have been to Afghanistan?
Like · Reply · November 20 at 10:55pm via mobile

Robert Kornegay Another low for this president.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 8:20pm

Denise Morgan AuBuchon Carla, I’m so sorry for the loss of your son. I am so sick to my stomach that he would apologize. I think you need to wear the boots before you can command our troops.
Like · Reply · 6 hours ago via mobile

Jerry Alexander It is becoming more obvious every day,and the recruiters still meet their quotas every month.The war is with the usurper in the White House,in America
Like · Reply · Yesterday at 12:10am · Edited

Jeannie Riker Thank you for not letting this go under the rug. Please keep up the work!!
Like · Reply · November 20 at 9:09pm via mobile

Doris McClellan Of course. It’s what he does. He feels invincible.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 4:45pm

Zach Feinn This literally made me sick to my stomach reading this. How dare he, how. dare. he!
Like · Reply · 8 hours ago

Dallas Jarrell Why be angry obviously obama is trying to make a peace in a foreign land. I would rather have an apology maybe speed up the troops coming home then them being longer
Like · Reply · 1 · 12 hours ago via mobile

Jim Felton The U.S. military does the best it can to prevent civilian deaths in every war, but it IS war and civilian deaths happen. We don’t need to apologize for them! — Besides we go to other countries because someone in their country is starting a war.
Like · Reply · 1 · 13 hours ago

Ron Murphy II I don’t think so the pres has apologized enough
Like · Reply · 1 · 14 hours ago via mobile

Charles Sharp Did you expect anything less from him? How much lower can he go?
Like · Reply · 17 hours ago

John W. Anderson see what happens when you let a monkey run the country.
Like · Reply · 1 · 19 hours ago

Adrianna M Rose http://www.cnn.com/…/19/world/asia/us-afghanistan-talks/

Rice: Reports of a U.S. apology to Afghanistan are false http://www.cnn.com
Reports the U.S. is on the verge of a security agreement with Afghanistan that i…See More
Like · Reply · 1 · 20 hours ago

Blake Steel So does that mean America is done stealing there resources and is sorry for killing innocent women and children
Like · Reply · 1 · 20 hours ago via mobile

Christy Santiago He is nothing more than a traitor!
Like · Reply · 21 hours ago

Christi Taylor Graves May God allow you to get the answers you seek and Peace you deserve ! Losing a Son is heartbreaking ! Unfortunately I know . America has got to stand up so we can fix this mess we are in ! And I pray that we stay close to our Father God so this never happens again ! God Bless ! Obama is not speaking for the majority of America when he apologises ..they attacked us ! Why would we apologise?
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 10:13pm

Vi Hernandez Say it isn’t so!!!!
Like · Reply · November 20 at 9:55pm

Linda Sabousky Is this really true ???? OMG
Like · Reply · November 20 at 8:27pm

Megan Berrigan Higginbotham I hope the troops can feel the citizens love and prayers
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 8:23pm

David Speck Infowars.com
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 7:30pm via mobile

Walter Stimler F*** a bunch of ragheads.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 6:53pm

Diana Mentzer OH NO, we owe Afghanistan NOTHING, they owe US>
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 6:42pm

Steve Degenhardt Why has our lameo congress not got the b…. To impeach this bum? He does NOT speak for the American people!
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 6:30pm via mobile

Linda Woodcock Attach him to one of the bombs and ship him over to them!!!
Like · Reply · November 20 at 6:19pm

Dwaine Taylor He’s muslim. Do you really expect patriotism from a muslim? I agree it’s outrageous. I’m sorry for your loss.
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 6:17pm

Nancy Woolfenden Sweeten omg
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:31pm

Ted Foster No surprise here.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:30pm

Craig Hagedorn I’d like a huge thank you from their camel-ass.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:15pm via mobile

Jimmy E. Stewart Screw this Piece of Shit POTUS and his administration.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:09pm

Michael Thomas We have a spineless wimp at the White House.
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 4:56pm

Michael Stokes This Islamic pres is a true disc race and a true hitler and is a real reason why American voters need to be informed the truth
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 4:41pm via mobile

Ruth Ellen Wood I personally am proud of our country for their part in stopping the atrocities that took place during ww11
Like · Reply · November 20 at 4:35pm

Ruth Ellen Wood same thing he did in europe..
Like · Reply · November 20 at 4:34pm

John Fiero And he’s the “Commander and Chief” as he loves to say. The leader of the previously free world and he plans to apologize to Afghanistan???? Are you kidding??? He is the antithesis of a leader!!! Plain and simple, he is an unprepared amateur.
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 7:38pm via mobile

Deb Maddalena Yeah. One more rediculous apology. What does it mean anyway? We are trying to help them and we are apologizing for it?? What, am I missing something? Bring our men and women home. Let them kill one another off. They are not worth the lives of our best and bravest.
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 4:51pm

Jeffrey Johnson Please resign now…. You are the Commander in Chief and you are bowing for mistakes as though that will make a difference. We die for their freedom and protection and you apologize?
Like · Reply · 3 · November 20 at 6:46pm via mobile

Bill ONeill I know it is not the Christian thing but I hate this criminal for what he is doing to my country.
Like · Reply · 2 · November 20 at 7:59pm

Bradley Broemmer Well said Rise Up America.
Like · Reply · 1 · 13 hours ago · Edited

Scott Manke Well then, let’s leave rather than stay there until 2024 like the O man and company want. Let them hire private security for their poppy fields.
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 6:17pm

Dawn Cox America isn’t apologizing, it’s our Anti-American prez and his muppets feeling this unfounded need to do so.
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 5:00pm

Eileen Dillman Muslim apology
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 4:33pm via mobile

Shaynette Benghazi Baxter John Kerry claims that it’s not true that Oblahblah is going to apologize, which means he IS going to apologize.
Like · Reply · 1 · November 20 at 4:57pm

Christy KiKi Pearce Exactly! Opposite of what they tell us.
Like · 1 · November 20 at 5:04pm

Lori Lafountain I only liked that is being asked to share, oboma administration sucks
Like · Reply · 24 minutes ago

Timothy Reavis I agree bring them All Home enough already!!!!!
Like · Reply · 5 hours ago via mobile

Dallas Jarrell And I get it our troops were killed but that’s what they and I have signed up for those family s won’t let obama even faze Any type of opinion they have on their soldier
Like · Reply · 12 hours ago via mobile

Joseph Miller Blake Steel, exactly whose oil was stolen? Whose resources? An inside job? Don’t tell me you’re one of those keeping the stupid story alive that the towers were brought down by a demolition crew? Any idea how many TONS of explosives and how many miles of detonation cord would have to have been run, in secret, to accomplish that?
Like · Reply · 16 hours ago via mobile

Marian Holder The man is sick!!
Like · Reply · 21 hours ago

Gary Dover he is apologizing to Iran too??? Bows to kings, Be a Man! Be a Leader!!!
Like · Reply · November 20 at 10:42pm

Russell Hurst of course hes going to do we expect anything different from O B L A M A
Like · Reply · November 20 at 8:28pm via mobile

Dianne Maslowski Enger Why is the hell would the USA apologize to Afghanistan???? Let’s just get the hell out of there and let them fend for themselves! After all we’ve done to save them, this is what they ask for????BS!!!! no way!!
Like · Reply · November 20 at 6:43pm

Gwen Back This administration is a disgrace to all of the fallen soldiers both past and present. I pray for them daily. I appreciate every sacrifice they have made for the people of this nation. Truly sorry from the bottom of my heart for your loss.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 6:26pm via mobile

Kathy Cagle Barber Christine Chiomento…I am so sorry to hear about your son, one our truest hero’s. I don’t know his name, but I thank him from the bottom of my heart for his service and sacrifice for all Americans. God bless!
Like · Reply · November 20 at 6:11pm via mobile

Candy Jenkins Hammond and now there’s rumor that this administration may extend troops presence in Afghanistan until 2024. Hmmm where are all those people who forgot about 911 and continue to blame Bush for a war that was “all about the oil”.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 6:00pm

Jack Harrison Shame On You !!
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:58pm via mobile

Joe Matheny What do expect from a Commie, Muslim…………
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:41pm

Tamara Withers socialist king obaammaa j kerry socialist…………
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:27pm

Ines Porter AMERICA isn’t apologizing !! I wish that dumba** would stop speaking for ALL Americans !!! He’s just making us sick to our stomachs
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:24pm

Janice Tuzcan I heard Susan rice say this wasn’t true .. Do u believe this “it was a video” liar ??
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:22pm via mobile

Linda Jacobs This is Treason in my book.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:19pm

Ernie Humphries That sorry sandbox was not worth one life. Bring our troops home .They have fought among themselves for thousands of years and will continue to do so until God ends it all.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:17pm

Kyle Culley I heard a letter was being drafted but the President had indicated that he had no intention of signing any such letter. (This info was on 3 cable news networks today.)
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:12pm

Barbara L Boyle agree! Bring them all home!
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:07pm

Jack Vertrees Sorry for what?
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:00pm via mobile

Barry Brecheisen And on every tax paying American Patriot
Like · Reply · November 20 at 4:54pm

Corinne Burton ugh
Like · Reply · November 20 at 4:36pm

Jennifer Seigla My heart is broken & continues to break for everyone hurt by these monsters running the circus:-(
Like · Reply · 17 hours ago via mobile

Judith Miller bring our troops home we can’t win under this President. Bring them home.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:34pm

Roxanne Allard If he has any brains at all…….he willnot do this…….
Like · Reply · November 20 at 4:48pm

Fred Hoagland The U.S.A. needs to apologize to the American People for still having anything to do with boots on the ground in AFGHANISTAN, then the last soldier out, well… can turn out their lights.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 5:19pm

James Crews God, it feels good when I wake up in he morning and Andrew Breitbart is dead
Like · Reply · Yesterday at 7:40am via mobile

Judy MacAlpine What a load of crap! It’s a wonder Obama hasn’t been shot , apologize after all the men that the Afghanis have killed , they have died fore nothing .
Like · Reply · Yesterday at 4:32am via mobile

Bill ONeill You bet he is.
Like · Reply · November 20 at 7:58pm

Jim Ivy As Clint said “Obama is the Biggest Fraud ever Perpetrated on America”

Again I apologize if some of the foregoing seems to make sense. For others, explanation may be in order.

The word “Muslim” occurs seven times in that spelling, usually not capitalized, and almost always in reference to the president of the United States. In at least one other instance the term “rag head” is used, and in another case “Moooooslime.”

Many instances call for the president’s impeachment, always without any reference to a legal basis for impeachment.

In many instances the president’s name is deliberately misspelled. Variations include “IslamaBama,” “Osama Obama,” “obaammaa,” “O B L A M A.”

There are numerous references to the president’s death, typically by violent means, and always in wishful terms.

Let’s examine some individual entries. Once again I apologize for not being able to address all the fine and interesting points made by those posting to this feed:

Scott Porter He shld b hung

Scott could use a spell checker. Nice try, though.

Toni Trueblood WHERE’S THE MILITARY? Remove him!

Note to Toni Trueblood: Barack Obama is commander in chief of the military. The 82nd Airborne works for him.

Rosanne Haslem I hope there are a lot of legal people getting ready for the arrest of a “Traitor”!!! Americans, we need our Country Back!!

Note to Rosanne: Get a dictionary and look up the definition of the words traitor and treason. By the way, I have your country. If you want it back come see me.

LadyWolf Aguilar IslamaBama is an Anti-American Treasonous Traitor-In-Chief Narcissist Arrogant Egotistical Phony Pompous Evil Delusional Moron Two-Faced Forked-Tongue Pathological Liar Vicious Disgraceful Sleazy Slimy Dirtbag Conniving Thieving Corrupt Disgusting Radical Racist Bigot Petulant Maggot Low-Life Selfish Scumbag Vile Contemptible Deceiving Hypocrite Incompetent Coward Despicable Disgraceful Purple-Lipped Marxist Manipulative Tyrannical Psychopath Deviate Megalomaniac Inept Subversive Destructive POS/SOB, Most Non-Transparent, Ruthless Moooooslime Bastard!!!!!

Aguilar appears to be a walking thesaurus. Congratulations, LadyWolf,  on your splendid accomplishment.

Mike Ramsey LadyWolf-you forgot derelict idiot!!!

Note to LadyWolf Aguilar: You need to check with Mike Ramsey. He has another term for your thesaurus.

Sue Pierce-Creeger He is the rottenest scum to ever trespass in our country! He’s worse than sewage scum!

I take it that Sue Pierce-Creeger did not vote for the president. Of course I am only guessing.

Carla Buyes He is the one who put us in Afghanistan, and my son was killed there on November 26,2011… He needs to apologize to US,NOT THEM!!!!

Carla, you need to check with Blake Steel:

Blake Steel To the people saying Obama sent there troops to Afghanistan I thought Bush did that and the people of America did that because they believed at the time terrorist destroyed the twin towers but with further evidence seemed to be a inside job to steal innocent people’s oil

To Blake Steel: One out of two is not bad. However, check a geography book. Afghanistan does not have any oil.

Pam Holt Obama has always and continues to Betray our country at every turn! The list of Impeachable offenses is unsurmountable! So why is this TRAITOR still in office?

Pam, get with Rosanne Haslem. You two can share a dictionary.

Shawn Cassel All these top military officials being relieved of duty interesting sweepings there I’ll be given litness tests to see if they will fire on US civilians in civil upheaval if you answer wrong witches no I will not you are relieved of duty things to make you go humm

Shawn: Welcome to the United States. I’m glad you’re making an attempt to learn English.

Jim Felton The U.S. military does the best it can to prevent civilian deaths in every war, but it IS war and civilian deaths happen. We don’t need to apologize for them! — Besides we go to other countries because someone in their country is starting a war.

Jim, what are you doing here? Cool it. You’re starting to make sense.

Anyhow, it would appear that many of the above are sorry they voted for the president in the previous two elections and would not vote for him a third time, even if he could legally run.

All of this disagreement stems from the plan to offer an apology of some sort to Afghanistan. What a disgrace! And what a waste of Internet bandwidth. What a waste because…

Because there never was any plan to offer an apology. Even Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai has not asked for an apology.

White House will not publicly apologise for Afghan war mistakes
But separate communique to bilateral security agreement may contain ‘reassurance’ that US troops mistakenly killed Afghan civilians

As it nears an accord that will keep a residual US troop force in Afghanistan for years to come, the Obama administration is publicly adamant that it will not apologize to Afghans for mistakes it has made in its longest war.

But it is possible that a communique separate from the text of the so-called bilateral security agreement may contain a “reassurance” that US troops have mistakenly killed Afghan civilians during a war that just entered its 13th year.

From Fox News:

Kerry: Agreement reached on US-Afghan security pact, no ‘apology’

Secretary of State John Kerry announced Wednesday that he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have reached an agreement on a critical security pact governing the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

The document will be presented to a meeting of tribal elders for their approval on Thursday.

“I’m pleased to say that in a series of conversations with President Karzai over the course of this morning … that we reached an agreement as to the final language of the bilateral security agreement,” Kerry announced.

The leaders are still looking for the endorsement of tribal elders for the document, which is not yet signed.

Kerry, though, denied that there was any sort of “apology” in the works, following reports on Tuesday that as part of the deal, President Obama would send a letter to the Afghan people acknowledging “mistakes.”

Readers will note that it’s Secretary of State John Kerry working this security arrangement with the Afghanistan government. That’s John Kerry, formerly an officer in the United States Navy, an officer who saw combat in Vietnam, an officer who traded gunfire with enemy combatants and earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Heart citations for wounds he received from enemy action.

So, what was all the “apology” fuss about? Where did the notion come from that the Obama administration was planning to offer an apology or, worse yet, spit on the graves of dead soldiers? Apparently it came from that famous place, from that place where the sun does not shine. Somebody pulled it out of their ass.

So, what’s wrong with that? That’s where a lot of political rhetoric comes from. You need something colorful and agitating to get people riled up, so you just sit down at a keyboard, and you make it up. You let you fingers do your thinking. Or your gonads. That’s the way politics works. Remember, it’s not how you play the game but whether you win or lose. So, what’s the problem?

The problem is not with the person who made this up. It’s with the people who swallowed it and shared it and vented their darkest selves on a public forum. It’s people feeling so strongly on a matter (their candidate lost the election) they need to externalize their intellectual backsides. Facts do not matter. Facts are often what we want them to be, and we hear what we want to hear.

Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

And we disregard the rest.

One Autumn Day

It was an interesting year in my life. Already I had set in motion a chain of events that would radically alter my course. It so happened at this time I was on active duty in the Navy Reserve, living on campus at the University of Texas at Austin, drawing full pay plus a living allowance and wearing my uniform. I was supposed to be recruiting candidates from my school mates for the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate program. Things were getting sticky in the Far East, and the Navy saw the need for pilots to man the new F-4 Phantom jets.

Morning was fluid mechanics class. I do not recall what was covered that day, but I do recall I was on my way to making a C in fluid mechanics. I really need to go back and plumb the depths of Navier Stokes. Class let out, it was a short hike back to the Campus Guild for lunch.

It was autumn, it was crisp and with a thin layer of cirrus high overhead. It was Friday. Tomorrow I had scheduled a meeting with the Navy lieutenant commander who was coming to campus to set up a recruiting session that weekend. And the boss was coming to town later that day. He was the President of the United States, and I wondered if I should take time off from afternoon classes to catch a glimpse.

I never made it. Cutting across a parking lot north of 24th street I passed two slackers exchanging chatter. “Did you hear Kennedy was shot.” I waited for the punch line. It never came.

John Kennedy was an enormously popular president, in both senses. He had a great base of fans, and he had an enormous crowd of bitter enemies. But he was high profile.

Comedians Vaughn Meader and Naomi Brossart were making a good living spoofing The First Family. The Boston accents, the power of the great office, and the touch of American royalty, all were mined for a wealth of chuckles.

From Wikipedia

But this last line did not get a response. I was stunned and puzzled. I continued the remaining eight blocks to the Campus Guild without speaking to anybody. Only my thoughts kept me company. I arrived. The other Guilders were there, gathering for lunch. It was all true.

Lunch was an afterthought. I do not recall whether I ate. Shortly came the voice of Walter Cronkite. President Kennedy was dead. It was 22 November 1963.

1964 was going to be an election year. Speculation had been heavy over the new president’s re-election potential. His few months in office had so far been mixed. First there had been the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Kennedy had inherited the plan from the previous administration and had followed through with it after just a few week in office. It had been a screw-up from the get-go. That was 1961.

The following year there had been the triumph of backing the Soviets down over their missiles in Cuba. His stock was up. The civil rights legislation, including voting rights and prohibition of discrimination in public accommodation, were in the works. The Peace Corps was already off to a good start, and we were in a race to the moon against the Soviets.

My idiotic remark to those assembled for lunch was, “This will completely change the election.” Somebody more appropriately corrected me, “This will completely change the country.” It was so true.

I met with the Navy lieutenant commander. We did not set up the recruiting booth. He packed up the displays and prepared to return to Naval Air Station Dallas. Saturday was a washout. Nobody was doing anything but watching the news.

Sunday morning I slept late. When I wandered into the Campus Guild dining area the first person I met was Henry Chang. “Oswald has been shot.” Henry was a foreign student, and American politics were becoming frightening to him. His look of shock and dismay lingers in my memory to this day.

Voodoo Government

This is a matter that comes up on a regular basis. First a little history.

As originally drafted and approved, the Constitution of the United States established the
three branches of the government and laid out the powers of each. James Madison, among
others,  saw a major problem. There were no provisions to protect the rights of citizens
from the government. The result was an initial set of ten amendments to the Constitution,
now called the Bill of Rights. The first amendment provided some basic and essential
protections
:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the
freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people
peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a
redress of grievances.

This provision came out of our experience with England, from whom most of the country’s
founder immigrated and to which law the colonies had been subject prior to the Revolution.
Recall, if you will, the time of English King Henry VIII. At the time the country was
Catholic. The reformation movement stirred up on the European Continent by Martin
Luther
had not reached the British Isles. In England there was the Catholic Church and no
other. Until Henry needed a quick divorce. He ultimately resolved his marital problems by
at times executing recalcitrant wives but ultimately by shucking off the Catholic Church
and creating the Church of England, under whose rules he could obtain a divorce.

Then in England there was the Church of England, but the reform movement was invading
the island nation, and competing churches sprang up. The British government was ruthless
in putting down these upstart religious observances, causing many religious protesters to
ship over to North America, where they could operate with fewer government restrictions.
Freedom of religion was a popular concept by the time the new nation set up shop. The
first two clauses of the First Amendment sprang out of this concept.

Very critically, the United States Government would not set up a national church. The
government would not dictate whether people prayed on one knee or on two. The
government would not dictate three drops or two of holy water to baptize. More broadly
interpreted, religious belief would not be mandated, and the government would stay out of
the religion business.

Earlier I posted about a free DVD I had obtained (only $4.95).

Puritans meet God in Nottinghamshire

This video is promoted by Mike Huckabee, and it carries the strong message that religion
was very important to this country’s founders—many immigrants had come here originally
for religious reasons. Huckabee would argue that the First Amendment only requires that
no specific Christian denomination receive favorable treatment. Not quite. Huckabee would
argue that no specific religion based on the God of Abraham receive favorable treatment.
Let me try again. Huckabee would argue that no recognized religious faith receive
favorable treatment. One last time—Huckabee would argue that no organized an also
popular religious faith receive favorable treatment. There. That just about does it.
Everybody else cans just go suck an egg.

Let’s see how this is playing out in real life.

Specifically, in a case currently before the United States Supreme Court is Town of Greece
v. Galloway
, and it involves the first two clauses of the amendment.

In 1999, the Town of Greece, New York (“the Town”), began
starting its Town Board meetings with a moment of prayer. The
Town developed an informal practice of inviting clergy to give
the opening prayer, and those clergy who accepted were given
the “Chaplain of the Month” award. In 2008, Susan Galloway
and Linda Stephens started complaining about the practice
because they felt it aligned the town with Christianity. Over the
next year, the Town invited four non-Christian prayer-givers,
but in January 2009, all prayer-givers were again Christian.
Galloway and Stephens sued in the Western District of New
York, claiming that the practice violated the Establishment
Clause of the First Amendment. The district court granted
summary judgment in favor of the Town. On appeal, the Second
Circuit reversed, concluding that a reasonable person could
believe that the practice affiliated the Town with Christianity.
The Town petitioned for a writ of certiorari, which the Supreme
Court granted to determine the constitutionality of legislative
prayer practices. This case will address the boundaries of the
freedom of religion and the meaning of the Establishment Clause
of the First Amendment. The Court’s decision could effectively
end long-standing governmental practices that contain religious
connotations.

Hemant Mehta has posted oral arguments from the Court session on 6 November on-line:

Justice Kagan: [Deputy Solicitor General Ian H.] Gershengorn,
could you respond to this? Here’s what our — our country
promises, our Constitution promises. It’s that, however we
worship, we’re all equal and full citizens. And I think we can all
agree on that.

And that means that when we approach the government, when
we petition the government, we do so not as a Christian, not as
a Jew, not as a Muslim, not as a nonbeliever, only as an
American. And what troubles me about this case is that here a
citizen is going to a local community board, supposed to be the
closest, the most responsive institution of government that
exists, and is immediately being asked, being forced to identify
whether she believes in the things that most of the people in the
room believe in, whether she belongs to the same religious idiom
as most of the people in the room do. And it strikes me that that
might be inconsistent with this understanding that when we
relate to our government, we all do so as Americans, and not as
Jews and not as Christians and not as nonbelievers.

Justice Kagan is a recent Obama appointee.

Scalia: Mr. Hungar, what — what is the equivalent of prayer for
somebody who is not religious?

Hungar: I would –

Scalia What would somebody who is not religious –

Hungar: In the Rubin –

Scalia: — what is the equivalent of prayer?

Hungar: It would be some invocation of guidance and wisdom
from —

Scalia: From what?

Hungar: I don’t know. In — in the Rubin case —

(Laughter.)

Hungar: In the Rubin case, a nonreligious person delivered
invocations on multiple occasions.

Scalia: I suppose a moment –

Breyer: Perhaps he’s asking me that question and I can answer
it later.

(Laughter.)

Mehta wonders whether Justice Breyer has just outed himself as an atheist. Justice Scalia
is an appointee of President Ronald Reagan. Thomas Hungar is a lawyer for the Town of
Greece.

Justice Alito: All right. Give me an example. Give me an example
of a prayer that would be acceptable to Christians, Jews,
Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus. Give me an example of a prayer.
Wiccans, Baha’i.

Chief Justice Roberts: And atheists.

Justice Scalia: And atheists. Throw in atheists, too.

(Laughter.)

Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts were appointed by President George W. Bush.

Apparently the justices are giving the issue a solid hearing. Beyond the purely legal
dimension of this case, there’s something deeper.

It’s time for me to weigh in. Here’s what public prayer looks like to an outsider—to
somebody not already initiated into the cult. The proceeding comes off as really weird.
Conducting any kind of prayer at a government function is scary. You think not? Take a
closer look. A public official or somebody designated, at a function where public business is
conducted, is talking to a dead person. Let that sink in.

Here, people, people in charge of spending public funds, people whose votes and actions
affect our lives and those of future generations, are conducting public business in the midst
of a séance.

How bad does it have to get before we put a stop to this nonsense? Do we wait until
somebody sticks pins in a Voodoo doll? Do we wait until somebody starts poking through
chicken entrails? Do we wait for a Raëlian transmission of the cellular plan? We need to
quit while we are still ahead.

Never mind. There is a plan of least resistance, and that is to go along with what Mike
Huckabee would really like in the darkest place of his heart. Public meetings should start
with Christian prayer only, and anybody who doesn’t like it can go suck an egg.

essential protections

Sylvia Browne

A couple of years back Sylvia Browne brought her carnival to Dallas. The North Texas Skeptics reacted by protesting the absurdity. They could have waited a few months and saved themselves the effort.

Sylvia Brown three years ago (from CNN)

Today we note the passing of phony psychic Sylvia Browne:

Renowned psychic, bestselling author Sylvia Browne dies at 77

(CNN) — Renowned psychic Sylvia Browne — a leader in the paranormal world who appeared regularly on television and radio and also wrote dozens of top-selling books — died Wednesday in a northern California hospital, according to her website.

She was 77.

A believer in reincarnation as well as God, Browne conducted thousands of hypnotic regressions and hundreds of trance sessions to help people around the world, according to her official biography. She explained on CNN’s Larry King Live that she both communicated with the dead and looked into the future.

“I don’t know how I do it,” Browne once explained on King’s show. “I’ve done it all my life.”

She did it all her life? Really? The way she did it was by opening her mouth and keeping out of the way while the words tumbled out.  As far as anybody can tell, she never communicated with the dead, and she never looked into the future with any effect better than the average meteorologist. If any person can personify the word fake, she was it.

Scientific skeptic James Randi, a retired stage magician turned investigator of paranormal claims, has been a vocal critic of Browne, and has claimed her accuracy rate has been no better than educated guessing. On September 3, 2001, Browne stated on Larry King Live that she would prove her legitimacy by accepting the James Randi Educational Foundation’s $1,000,000 challenge to demonstrate supernatural abilities in a controlled scientific test. However, by April 2003, Browne had not contacted Randi to make testing arrangements.

On May 16, 2003, in another appearance on King’s show, Browne said that she had not taken the test because Randi refused to place the prize money in escrow. Randi responded by mailing a notarized copy of the prize account status showing a balance in excess of one million dollars; Browne refused acceptance of Randi’s letter. In late 2003, despite challenge rules that stated the money would not be placed in escrow, Randi announced that he was willing to do so for Browne; Browne did not accept or acknowledge this offer. In 2005, Browne posted a message online that she had never received confirmation of the prize money’s existence, despite Randi’s claim that he had a certified mail receipt showing Browne’s refusal of the package.

In 2007, on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°, Browne’s business manager Linda Rossi said that Browne would not be taking Randi’s challenge “because she has nothing to prove to James Randi.”

Her ability to not predict the future was notorious. Also notorious was her blatant disregard for the facts when explaining away her false predictions.

On January 3, 2006, Browne was a guest on the US radio program Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. At the start of the broadcast, it was believed that 12 of 13 miners trapped by the Sago Mine disaster had been found alive. When Noory asked Browne if the reported lack of noise from inside the mine might have led her to think the men had died, she replied, “No; I knew they were going to be found.” Later in the program, it was discovered that the earlier news reports had been in error and only one miner was believed to be alive. At this point, Browne said, “I don’t think there’s anybody alive, maybe one. How crazy for them to report that they were alive when they weren’t!…I just don’t think they are alive.” Later in the show, she said, “I didn’t believe that they were alive…I did believe that they were gone.” Browne later said that her initial statement that “they were going to be found” had been referring to the bodies of the deceased miners. In the October 3, 2007 episode of Coast to Coast AM, Noory identified this incident as the reason he has not invited Browne back to the show.

Apparently you have to be really bad to get dis-invited from that show. I did a phone interview for Coast to Coast a few years back concerning some skeptical issue. I was not invited back. The Atlantic had this to say.

Noory can be an uneven broadcaster. Sometimes he seems to not pay full attention to his guests, offers strangely obvious commentary, or—and this has alienated some fans—lets clearly delusional or pseudoscientific assertions slide by without challenge. …

Browne will be sorely missed by the hobbyist skeptics, such as myself. During her time there was great sport provided in cruelly matching up her predictions with reality. Skeptical Inquirer drew up a short list:

  1. Erica Baker. November 19, 2003, on Montel. Browne told Erica’s mother “she’s not dead” but in Michigan. Furthermore, Browne claimed someone “sold her for drugs,” and “there was a black woman” who helped “throw” her in an “old truck.” In 2005, Christian John Gabriel was convicted of moving and concealing Erica’s body in Kettering, Ohio. Her body was not found, but Gabriel claimed to have buried it after hitting her with his “van.”
  2. Jamie Barker. In February 2001 on Montel. Two months after Barker fell from a bridge while working, Browne told his widow he died “quick” and his body is “on the site, there’s no doubt about it,” but they won’t find it “unless they dig and I don’t think they will.” Two months later Barker’s body was discovered downstream in LaSalle. An autopsy discovered he “suffered no broken bones or head injuries in the 15-storey fall,” but instead drowned.
  3. Eve Brown. September 30, 1999, on Montel. Browne told the family “that Eve Brown is well and living in Florida.” This was not true, as Eve’s body was found a year later at a Brooklyn, New York, construction site thirteen miles from where she was last seen. The murder remains unsolved.
  4. Terrence Farrell. Browne told a woman that Farrell, a firefighter involved in 9/11, was alive. She was wrong. His body was found in the rubble one month later.
  5. Erica Fraysure. September 24, 1998, on Montel. Erica went missing in 1997. Browne did a reading for her mother, saying she was in water and someone named “Chris” killed her. The following day, Erica’s ex-boyfriend, Chris Mineer, killed himself. Police said Chris’s alibi checked out, and he was not a suspect. Chris’s mother sued Montel Williams, his producers, Paramount Pictures, and Viacom Inc., but the case was eventually dismissed. After the broadcast, the police searched the nearby lakes and found nothing. Police say Erica is still a “missing person” and continue to investigate.
  6. Robert Hayes. April 26, 2006, on Montel. (See description in this article.)
  7. Shawn Hornbeck. February 26, 2003, on Montel. Browne told Shawn’s parents he was dead, but he was found alive in 2007.
  8. Sharon James’s son. Discussed January 19, 2007, on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. Browne claimed she located James’s son, but James was not so positive and would not have used Browne’s service in hindsight.
  9. Opal Jo Jennings. April 29, 1999, on Montel. (See description in this article.)
  10. Ryan Katcher. February 11, 2004, on Montel. Katcher went missing and Browne told his mother “two boys got terribly frightened” then “dropped him” in “a metal shaft of some kind.” Browne further said he is “still in the shaft” “close to twenty-five, twenty-six, maybe twenty-seven miles from where you would be.” On July 25, 2006, police found Ryan in his truck under water in a pond, and an autopsy showed he was under the influence. According to a discussion with Ryan’s mother on StopSylvia.com, Browne got more details wrong, but those parts were edited before the broadcast.
  11. Richard Kneebone. According to Teresa Kneebone, Browne “said she feels he’s not dead and that he could be traveling in Canada . . . and have partial amnesia.” His “badly decomposed body” was found July 7 a “few blocks” from the tavern where he was last seen in San Jose, California.
  12. Holly Krewson. November 27, 2002, on Montel. (See description in this article.)
  13. Angie Lee. March 28, 2007, on Montel. Browne told Angie’s mother, “It’s a serial killer” who killed a college girl that was responsible for Angie’s stabbing death and “there’s a knife somewhere in that immediate location that may have DNA, may have some sort of evidence on it.” In 2008, Anthony Ashby pleaded guilty to her murder, and the motive for the crime was “home invasion and residential burglary.” Furthermore, a knife was not part of the evidence. DNA evidence from Ashby’s gun and witnesses caused him to plead guilty. The law enforcement involved remarked, “The psychics did not provide any substantive leads.”
  14. Chandra Levy. July 17, 2001, on Fox News. Browne said Levy’s body was in “some trees down in a marshy area.” She made this prediction when it was public knowledge that police were searching Rock Creek Park since someone used Chandra Levy’s computer to find directions to that park. Benjamin Radford noted, “The remains were found across a steep incline in a heavily wooded area—perhaps near some trees but clearly not ‘in a marshy area,’ since a marsh located on an incline is geographically impossible.”
  15. Lynda McClelland. March 13, 2002, on Montel. Browne said McClelland “is not dead” but in Orlando, Florida, taken by a man with the initials “MJ,” and her family would find her soon. One year later, in March 2003, McClelland’s body was discovered near her home in Pennsylvania. David Repasky was convicted of the murder after witnesses testified Repasky strangled her.
  16. Ashley Ouellette. In February 2000 on Montel. According to the Associated Press, “Browne said Ouellette’s killing will be solved within a year and two months.” According to the Scarborough Police Department, the crime is still unsolved.
  17. Lori Pleasants. September 10, 2003, on Montel. Browne said Pleasants was “killed by a stalker” who got “kicks out of that,” but there was “not necessarily DNA” at the scene and “he was wearing gloves.” In 2006, William Gutersloh, Pleasants’s friend, admitted to killing Pleasants after the police found DNA that linked to him. While on the stand, he told jurors he wiped the knife clean to avoid leaving fingerprints.
  18. Scott Renquin, Dan Nelson, and Roger DesVergnes. March 1999 on Montel. According to the Associated Press, Browne “told the families their loved ones had died in a boating accident near the Everglades in a hovercraft. She gave them the name of a man who allegedly owned the boat.” Police followed Browne’s leads and found nothing. Later, their bodies were discovered in their SUV in a drainage retention pond. Authorities believe they missed a sharp turn at the unlighted corner and their car flipped into the water.
  19. Weyman Robbins. May 7, 2003, on Montel. On Robbins’s murder Browne said, “This was other kids. They were playing this stupid game.” She further claimed, “There were two or three other kids that did it,” but “I don’t think the kids meant to” and “one of the—the kids is named Danny.” Weyman’s uncle strangled him in front of his sisters and was convicted of murder.
  20. Sago Mining Disaster. Browne first said she knew the miners would be found alive. During the live radio broadcast she appeared on it was announced all except one were dead. After the announcement, she later said, “I don’t think there’s anybody alive, maybe one.”
  21. Dana Satterfield. February 1997 on Montel. Browne said the murderer was an out-of-state construction worker that “has no connection to Satterfield, choosing her on a whim.” Nine years later, Jonothan Vick was convicted of the murder following witness and DNA evidence. Vick was a local high school student who attempted to go on dates with Satterfield, but she rejected his advances.
  22. Shannon Sherrill. November 19, 2003, on Montel. Browne claims Sherrill, who went missing in 1986, was “brainwashed and raised in a different family” but “is alive,” and the case will “break open” soon. As of 2009, Sherrill’s whereabouts are unknown and the case is unsolved.
  23. John Slayton. May 14, 2003, on Montel. Browne said “indigents” killed Slayton, and his body was disposed in water and would not be found. In June 2003, Slayton’s body was found in shallow grave. In 2006, his killers, a pawnbroker and his son, were found guilty of the murder.
  24. Richard Torres. October 20, 2004, on Montel. Browne told Torres’s widow that she would have a healthy baby boy. The June 28, 2005, update on Montel reported the baby was a girl and died five months premature. However, the segment omitted Browne making any prediction about the pregnancy.
  25. Terry Webb. October 20, 1997, on Montel. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “His daughters said Browne told them she believes he was killed six months after he disappeared and that his body is buried somewhere at Fort Bragg.” At the time of the reading, Webb had been listed as AWOL and was missing since 1991. In 2004, his body was eventually found buried “under a shed in Fayetteville.” In 2006, the suspect pled guilty, saying “he shot Webb in self-defense when he sexually assaulted him” and was given three years in prison.30 After the arrest, Montel did a follow-up on September 15, 2004, but the segment omitted Browne giving any specifics, including the location of Webb’s body.

If there is a list of Browne’s successes, it has to be a vanishingly short list.

A recurring theme in the foregoing is the Montel Williams Show. By a very long stretch Sylvia Browne could possibly be accused of only being daffy. Williams and or his producers can be accused only of being corrupt for the deliberate deception and abuse of their audience.

Not Far From The Tree

Disclaimer: Rafael Cruz is not a public official. He does not hold elected office. He is not running for public office. I am assuming he is not an official spokesman for his son, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

That said, he continues to make news. The Energizer Bunny needs to take lessons.

Ted Cruz’s Father: Black People ‘Uninformed’ And ‘Deceived’

Evangelical pastor Rafael Cruz, father of tea party star Sen.
Ted
Cruz (R-Texas), called black and Hispanic voters
“uninformed” and “deceived” during a speech to conservative
activists in February.

After attending a panel on minority outreach at the
FreedomWorks grassroots summit, Cruz, a Cuban-American,
born-again Christian, spoke at the conference. He noted that a
previous speaker “mentioned something about Hispanics being
uninformed or deceived.”

“Well, the same thing is true of the black population,” Cruz said.

Cruz also suggested how blacks and Hispanics should vote. “As a
matter of fact, if we could communicate the truth, not only to
the Hispanics but to the black population, all blacks should be
Republican,” he said.

I would seem that the Reverend Cruz has the agenda laid out for all people of color and all
Hispanics. That leaves old white guys like me to fend for themselves. Women, too, I guess.

The elder Cruz makes the historical mistake I keep getting from a lot of Tea Party fans:

The 74-year-old tea party icon also attributed “all the civil
rights” that African-Americans have achieved to Republicans.

“Let’s talk about the black population. All the civil rights that the
African Americans have obtained have come from Republicans,”
Cruz said. “But you know what, Democrats took the credit.”

Ignore for a moment that the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution, which
abolished slavery, granted citizenship to ex-slaves and voting rights to all men (took
another amendment for women), were pushed through by the liberal politicians of their
day. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were pushed through
by Democrats, which party was by then the liberal party. This action caused hordes of
conservatives, including the likes of Mr. Cruz, to quickly desert the Democratic Party and
switch to the Republican Party.

Liberals can only hope that Mr. Cruz senior continues to enjoy a long and healthy life and
that he continues to vent forth the rhetoric so representative of his Tea Party friends.

Bad Movie of the Week

I was just a teenager when this one came out, and I never got a chance to see it. Some of the other guys were talking about it, but nobody ever delved into the storyline. There were some comments about the title, and I got the idea there was supposed to be some second meaning. For over 50 years I puzzled about it, maybe thinking about it every ten years. This month it came on Turner Classic Movies, and I recorded it. It’s Bad Day at Black Rock from 1955, and it’s bad.

From IMDB.com

This movie has star power. It has Spencer Tracy. It has Robert Ryan. It has Ernest Borgnine. It has Walter Brennan. It has Lee Marvin in his villainous best. It even has Ann Francis and Dean Jagger. Music is by André Previn. So what’s wrong with this movie? It’s the damn writing again. This may have been during the time a lot of top script writers were on the HUAC’s blacklist, because none of them showed up to turn out a plot that makes sense.

Here’s the story. It’s about December 1945, just weeks after World War II fighting has stopped. Tracy is Major John J. Macreedy, in civilian clothing and with only one usable arm. It was next to impossible in those days for a makeup artist to fake a missing arm, so they had Tracy keep his left hand in his pocket for the duration of the film.

Anyhow, Macreedy is on a mission, and he comes to Black Rock, which is somewhere in the Arizona desert. Macreedy has come to deliver a medal for heroism in combat. The recipient was Joe Kumoko, who was killed in battle. Macreedy needs to deliver the medal to Joe’s father, who lives in Adobe Flat.

While Black rock comprises barely 20 structures beside the railroad tracks, Adobe Flat is not even on the map. It’s just the name of a place out in the desert, and that’s where the elder Kumoko lives. Things start to go really badly for Major Macreedy when he mentions Kumoko’s name, because it turns out that people from Black Rock murdered Kumoko right after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, and they have been keeping it a secret all these four years.

Here’s where the plot gets screwy. Joe Kumoko’s father was killed about the time hostilities broke out. Kumoko served in the Army during the war and was eventually killed in combat in Italy, which combat did not commence until about two years after America entered the war. How come Joe Kumoko did not know his father was dead, and how come he did not tell the Army, and how come Macreedy has come all the way out to Black Rock to deliver a medal to a person presumed deceased for four years? You might think Joe Kumoko would have taken note that his father stopped corresponding with him in December 1941.

Anyhow, the murder happened, and Macreedy’s snooping around is going to open up a bad can of worms. The principals involved have the rest of the town cowed, and they make plans to eliminate Macreedy before he can get back on the train the following day. Hence the title, Bad Day at Black Rock.

Here’s what else is wrong with this plot. Did I mention the town is barely 20 structures out in the wilderness? That’s all the director shows fit to let the audience see. Saves having to construct an elaborate set for such a slim plot. Also, in all the movie, when you can see practically the entire town in one shot, you never see more than the main characters. There are no “atmosphere people”—towns people walking around, shopping, going about their daily lives. This town does not even have enough population to occupy the buildings shown in the movie.

And Black Rock has a hotel with a number of rooms. And it has a fully-equipped jail. And a sheriff. What’s the jail for? Was it built in for when Wily Coyote finally catches the roadrunner and has to be locked up? People, only county seat’s have sheriffs. A county seat, even in Arizona, has more than ten people. This plot does not make sense.

Robert Ryan is Reno Smith, who did the actual killing for years ago, and he runs the town through his commanding presence and intimidation of others not persuaded by his commanding presence. Early on it becomes clear there is a plot to kill Macreedy and bury him out in the desert before he can get on the train the next day. However, the plotters need to wait until night. The reason for that never becomes clear.

There is some action. Here’s the setup. Macreedy is not a young man. Tracy would have been about 55 when the movie was made. Here he is, pitted against several younger tough guys who try to bully him. One of those is Coley Trimble (Borgnine). You can see it coming. Here is a tough old army major, fresh from action in the Italian campaign. Here are some town toughs who sat out the war. You suspect the army veteran is going to teach the punks some respect. When Trimble gets physical with Macreedy in the hotel lobby, Macreedy judo-chops him a few times and tosses him for a hard landing on the floor. All with one good arm. OK, then.

Anyhow, the tough guys need to wait for dark before making their move, and Macreedy gets a break when sweet Liz Wirth offers to drive him to safety in her jeep. But it’s a setup, and sweet Liz stops the jeep out in the desert so Reno can ambush Macreedy with a rifle.

This is crazy, again. Reno hides back in some rocks for the ambush. Liz and Reno have Macreedy alone out in the desert. Why is Reno going for the long shot? Why doesn’t he just walk up to Macreedy and blow him away? Why does he miss? When Macreedy is taking cover behind the jeep, why does Reno keep peppering away, and missing, with the rifle? This is the dumbest part of the plot.

Justice prevails. Liz is the first to get shot. Reno shoots her when she comes to join her partner in crime in the rocks. Reno doesn’t want any witnesses. As though there are not enough back in the town already.

Macreedy gets the jump on Reno and hits him with a Molotov cocktail he has contrived from gasoline in the jeep, and he brings the scorched killer, still alive, back to town to face justice. Miraculously, with the defeat of Reno the conspiracy collapses, and the remaining toughs turn meek as sheep.

Macreedy catches the train out of Black Rock the following day. The end.

Bad Day at Black Rock was shot in Eastman Color for MGM.

Three writers are responsible for this monstrosity:

Millard Kaufman … (screen play)
Don McGuire … (adaptation)
Howard Breslin (story)

Quick History Lesson

Facebook again. Somebody posted this on their Facebook feed. It’s supposed to be a history lesson. In fact, it’s title is “Quick History Lesson.” It is quick. Here’s what it says:

13 th Amendment: Abolished Slavery
100% Republican Support
23% Democrat Support
14th Amendment:
Gave Citizenship to Freed Slaves
94% Republican Support
0% Democrat Support
15th Amendment: Right to Vote for All
100% Republican Support
0% Democrat Support
OBAMACARE:
0% Republican Support
86% Democrat Support

The name of this blog is Skeptical Analysis, so let’s do some analysis.

1. The statements regarding the 13th Amendment are correct.

On January 31, 1865, the House called another vote on the amendment, with neither side being certain of the outcome. Every Republican supported the measure, as well as 16 Democrats, almost all of them lame ducks. The amendment finally passed by a vote of 119 to 56, narrowly reaching the required two-thirds majority.

2. The statements regarding the 14th Amendment are essentially correct.

Over 70 proposals for an amendment were drafted. In late 1865, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction proposed an amendment stating that any citizens barred from voting on the basis of race by a state would not be counted for purposes of representation of that state. This amendment passed the House, but was blocked in the Senate by a coalition of Radical Republicans led by Charles Sumner, who believed the proposal a “compromise with wrong”, and Democrats opposed to black rights. Consideration then turned to a proposed amendment by Representative John A. Bingham of Ohio, which would enable Congress to safeguard “equal protection of life, liberty, and property” of all citizens; this proposal failed to pass the House. In April 1866, the Joint Committee forwarded a third proposal to Congress, a carefully negotiated compromise that combined elements of the first and second proposals as well as addressing the issues of Confederate debt and voting by ex-Confederates. The wording was further modified by several close votes in the House and Senate. This compromise version passed both houses in a largely party-line vote, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposed.

3. The statements regarding the 15th Amendment are essentially correct.

The vote in the House was 144 to 44, with 35 not voting. The House vote was almost entirely along party lines, with no Democrats supporting the bill and only 3 Republicans voting against it. The final vote in the Senate was 39 to 13, with 14 not voting. Some Radicals, such as Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, abstained from voting because the amendment did not prohibit literacy tests and poll taxes.

4. The statements regarding Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) are essentially correct. No references will be cited.

What the posted meme wants to say is that in the cases of the three constitutional amendments granting freedom to slaves plus other protections for civil liberties, the Republican Party supported these laudable measures and the Democratic Party opposed them. In the case of the ACC, a law enacted to assure affordable health insurance to all legal residents of the United States, the Republican Party unanimously opposed the measure, while the Democratic Party largely supported it. That’s what it says.

There’s something else said here that was supposed to remain hidden. A bit of analysis reveals the trick is in the language. In the instance of the three constitutional amendments, the language uses party names, but does not identify the people involved. I will make a slight change in language without changing any of the facts:

  1. Liberals supported abolition of slavery. Conservatives opposed abolition of slavery.
  2. Liberals supported giving citizenship to freed slaves. Conservatives opposed giving citizenship to freed slaves.
  3. Liberals supported the right to vote for all. Conservatives opposed the right to vote for all.
  4. Liberals supported making affordable health insurance available to all. Conservatives opposed making affordable health insurance available to all.

What has largely changed since the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution is the character of the political parties. When those amendments were passed the Republican Party, whose first president was Abraham Lincoln, was a progressive movement, while the Democratic party represented the entrenched, conservative, element of our society. Since the time of President Franklin D. Roosevelt the Democratic Party has come to represent the progressive and liberal segment, and conservatives, many of them former members of the Democratic Party, have fled to the Republican Party. The roles in the past 150 years have reversed.

As mentioned, I obtained the “Quick History Lesson” meme from a Facebook posting. What makes this all so ironic is that it was posted by a person espousing conservative (Republican) ideals. I have no idea what thinking went into the Facebook posting. Was the poster not fully aware of the actual history and its implications? Did the person deliberately set out to deceive? What audience would gladly accept the message that was supposed to be conveyed and not appreciate the underlying facts? We may never know.

A few days back I posted on another meme with a similar thought.

This was originally posted by the same person who posted the first one, and my response was much the same:

The story line is accurate as far as it goes. Historically in the 1850s the major political party in the United States was the Democratic Party, founded just a few years previous by Andrew Jackson, no friend of racial equality, but he got his picture on the $20 bill. The Republican Party was founded in 1854 by people seeking to abolish slavery. The Democratic Party at the time and for the next 100 years opposed the abolition of slavery in the beginning and equal rights for former slaves and descendants of slaves following that. The Democratic Party’s base during the first half of the 20th century was the American Deep South—the region of the former Confederacy.

That was a “Short History Lesson.” Here is a not-so-short history lesson:

The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. It would appear this measure had considerable liberal support and not much in the way of conservative support:

The Nineteenth Amendment’s text was drafted by Susan B. Anthony with the assistance of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The proposed amendment was first introduced in the Senate, colloquially as the “Anthony Amendment”, by Republican Senator Aaron A. Sargent of California. Sargent, who had met and befriended Anthony on a train ride in 1872, was a dedicated women’s suffrage advocate. He had frequently attempted to insert women’s suffrage provisions into unrelated bills, but did not formally introduce a constitutional amendment until January 1878. Stanton and other women testified before the Senate in support of the amendment. The proposal sat in a committee until it was considered by the full Senate and rejected in a 16 to 34 vote in 1887.

A three-decade period known as “the doldrums” followed, during which the amendment was not considered by Congress and the women’s suffrage movement achieved few victories. During this period, the suffragists pressed for the right to vote in the laws of individual states and territories while retaining the goal of federal recognition. A flurry of activity began in 1910 and 1911 with surprise successes in Washington and California. Over the next few years, most western states passed legislation or voter referenda enacting full or partial suffrage for women. These successes were linked to the 1912 election, which saw the rise of the Progressive and Socialist parties, as well as the election of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. Not until 1914 was the constitutional amendment again considered by the Senate, where it was again rejected.

On January 12, 1915, a proposal to amend the Constitution to provide for women’s suffrage was brought before the House of Representatives, but was defeated by a vote of 204 to 174. Another proposal was brought before the House on January 10, 1918. During the previous evening, President Wilson made a strong and widely published appeal to the House to pass the amendment. It was passed by the required two-thirds of the House, with only one vote to spare. The vote was then carried into the Senate. Wilson again made an appeal, but on September 30, 1918, the proposal fell two votes short of passage. On February 10, 1919, it was again voted upon and failed by only one vote.

Not mentioned in the foregoing is the support for women’s suffrage by William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic Party candidate for president. Wilson and Bryan were noted “progressives,” and their support for liberal causes represented a break from the traditional conservative Democratic Party base at the time.

Also, it would appear the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had considerable liberal support and not much conservative support.

On April 22, the full Senate started debating the bill. [Senator Everett] Dirksen [of Illinois] spoke first on behalf of the bill, concluding by saying that “legislation is needed if the unequivocal mandate of the 15th Amendment … is to be enforced and made effective, and if the Declaration of Independence is to be made truly meaningful.” Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) retorted that the bill would lead to “tyranny and despotism”, while Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC) argued that the bill was unconstitutional because it deprived states of their right under Article 1, Section III of the Constitution to establish voting qualifications, and because the bill targeted only jurisdictions that used literacy tests. On May 6, Ervin offered an amendment to abolish the coverage formula’s automatic trigger and instead allow federal judges to appoint examiners. This amendment overwhelmingly failed, with 45 Democrats and 22 Republicans voting against it. After lengthy debate, Ted Kennedy’s amendment to prohibit poll taxes also failed 49-45. However, Dirksen and Mansfield agreed to include a provision authorizing the Attorney General to bring lawsuits against any jurisdiction, covered or non-covered, to enjoin the enforcement of poll taxes that imposed “unreasonable financial hardship” or had “the purpose or effect of denying the right to vote on account of race or color.” and a separate provision declaring that the poll taxes was being used in some jurisdictions to unconstitutionally discriminate. An amendment offered by Senator Robert Kennedy (D-NY) to grant the right to vote illiterate citizens who had achieved at least an 8th grade education in a non-English-speaking school also passed by 48-19. Southern legislators then offered a series of amendments to weaken the bill, all of which failed.

Some elaboration will be helpful:

Strom Thurmond is one of those Democrats who deserted the Party when it started becoming too liberal in 1964.

James Strom Thurmond (December 5, 1902 – June 26, 2003) was an American politician who served for 48 years as a United States Senator. He ran for president in 1948 as the States Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrat) candidate, receiving 2.4% of the popular vote and 39 electoral votes. Thurmond represented South Carolina in the United States Senate from 1954 until 2003, at first as a Democrat and, after 1964, as a Republican. He switched because of his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, disaffection with the liberalism of the national party, and his support for the conservatism and opposition to the Civil Rights bill of the Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater. He left office as the only senator to reach the age of 100 while still in office and as the oldest-serving and longest-serving senator in U.S. history (although he was later surpassed in length of service by Robert Byrd and Daniel Inouye). Thurmond holds the record at 14 years as the longest-serving Dean of the United States Senate in U.S. history.

A Democratic (not all that liberal) president ended racial discrimination in the United States Military services. More recently, liberals, principally of the Democratic Party, have championed laws forbidding hiring discrimination against homosexuals. A liberal Democratic president has ordered a halt to anti-homosexual bias in the military services. These have been liberal initiatives with little or no support from the conservative faction.

I state without further elaboration that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and similar civil rights legislation would not exist today if the conservatives presently representing the Tea Party coalition had their way.

Please view again the “Charlie Brown” cartoon posted above. Before being posted by my conservative Facebook friend it appeared on the Comical Conservative Facebook Facebook feed. My Facebook friend merely copied the cartoon from there and re-posted it on Facebook. It’s supposed to show that the Republican Party is being unfairly called racist by one of the cartoon characters. The other, the Charlie Brown character, refutes this by citing the Republican Party’s past support for civil rights and the Democratic Party’s support for Jim Crow laws and the KKK and its opposition to civil rights. Aside from the lack of relevance (which I have addressed), there is something else notable:

It is not a white kid standing there calling the Republican Party racist. It’s a black kid. Why did the cartoonist see fit to draw a black kid calling the Republican’s racist? The choice was not an accident. It represents a lingering mindset of America’s conservative cellar.

Kevin Trudeau and “Them”

You really have to see this guy to believe. If you have not already, then you may have missed your chance.

From VisibleFriends.net

From VisibleFriends.net

If you don’t already know Kevin Trudeau, here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

After being incarcerated for fraud in the early 1990s, Trudeau joined a multi-level marketing firm, Nutrition for Life. The firm was successful until the Attorney General of Illinois charged that it was running a pyramid scheme. Trudeau and Nutrition for Life settled cases brought by the state of Illinois, and seven other U.S. states, for US$185,000.

Next, Trudeau produced and appeared in a series of late-night television infomercial broadcasts throughout North America. They promoted a range of products, including health aids, dietary supplements (such as coral calcium), baldnessremedies, addiction treatments, memory-improvement courses, reading-improvement programs and real estate investment strategies. The FTC took regulatory action against Trudeau, alleging that his broadcasts contained unsubstantiated claims and misrepresentations. In 1998, he was fined. In 2004, he settled a contempt-of-court action arising out of the same cases by agreeing to a settlement that included both payment of a $2 million fine and a ban on further use of infomercials to promote any product other than publications protected by the First Amendment.

In 2004, Trudeau began writing books and promoting them with infomercials on U.S. television. The first book he published was a medical guide titled Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About, which was published in 2005. The book was criticized for containing no natural cures. Trudeau said he was not able to include them because of threats by the FTC. The book became a bestseller selling 5 million copies.

Two years later, Trudeau published a second medical book titled More Natural Cures Revealed: Previously Censored Brand Name Products That Cure Disease (ISBN 0-9755995-4-2). According to Trudeau, the book identifies brand name products that will cure myriad illnesses. Trudeau’s books claim that animals in the wild rarely develop degenerative conditions like cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, and that many diseases are caused not by viruses or bacteria, but rather by an imbalance in vital energy. Science writer Christopher Wanjek critiqued and rejected many of these claims in his July 25, 2006 LiveScience.com health column. While some experts criticized the book, it received average reviews on a number of online book stores and review sites.

Trudeau went on to publish The Weight-Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About and Debt Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About. His writing has been commercially successful. In September 2005, Natural Cures was listed in the New York Times as the number-one-selling nonfiction book in the United States for 25 weeks. It has sold more than five million copies.

[Extraneous links removed]

Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About is typical of Kevin Trudeau’s product. Prospective buyers just can’t get around the part that says “They Don’t Want You to Know About.” It’s so intriguing. Who are the “they?” And why don’t “they” want you to know about it? There’s a conspiracy. “They” have the answers, and “they” are keeping the truth from you. “They” are ganging up on you. Your troubles are due to what “they” are doing. You can take action. You can do something. You are empowered. You buy the book.

Trudeau makes a plausible case. “They” really don’t want you to know. To keep you from knowing, “they”shut him up, “they” haul him into court. And “they” do more:

U.S. TV pitchman Trudeau found guilty of criminal contempt

CHICAGO Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:35am IST

Nov 12 (Reuters) – A federal jury found pitchman Kevin Trudeau guilty of criminal contempt on Tuesday for exaggerating the contents of his weight-loss book in infomercials, and he was taken into custody, prosecutors said.

Jurors took less than an hour to find Trudeau, 50, guilty of violating a 2004 federal court settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that barred him from misrepresenting the contents of his books in advertisements, said Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago.

Trudeau, who was jailed twice in recent months for civil contempt by a different federal judge in Chicago, faces potential prison time for the criminal contempt conviction in the trial before U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman.

Prosecutors had argued Trudeau knowingly violated the 2004 agreement while marketing his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You To Know About,” in infomercials made in 2006 and 2007 that aired about 32,000 times.

That story was the inspiration for Wally Colgan’s post on Visible Friends Network last November:

The Prison Escape Plan ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About

Schadenfreude may not be classy or dignified, but sometimes it just feels good to get down and muck about in the dirt. If ever there was a time to point, laugh, and revel in someone’s misery, this is it.

One of the infomercial world’s most notorious peddlers of scams and snake oil, Kevin Trudeau, is finally behind bars. After almost 25 years of law suits, fines, injunctions by both the SEC and FTC, with fines totaling more than $37 million, Trudeau is off the air.

To many this will seem to confirm that oppression awaits those who dare to speak the forbidden truth. It’s the persecution syndrome. Our ideas don’t work out. It’s not our fault. “They” are pulling strings behind the curtain. “They” are manipulating the stock market, oil prices, the weather, and worse:

The chemtrail conspiracy theory posits that some trails left by aircraft are chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed in the sky for purposes undisclosed to the general public and directed by various government officials.[1] This theory has been refuted by the scientific community: such trails are simply normal contrails (condensation trails).

Because of the popularity of the conspiracy theory, official agencies have received many inquiries from people demanding an explanation. Scientists and government officials around the world have repeatedly needed to respond, repeating that supposed chemtrails are in fact nothing but normal contrails.

The persecution syndrome is the basis of commercial pitches too numerous to track. One such is Natural News:

NaturalNews (formerly Newstarget) is a website operated by Mike Adams. It is dedicated to alternative medicine and various conspiracy theories, such as “chemtrails“, the alleged dangers of fluoride in drinking water, (as well as those of monosodium glutamate and aspartame) and alleged health problems caused by “toxic” ingredients in vaccines,including the now-discredited link to autism.

It features guest authors such as anti-vaccinationist Joseph Mercola, and anti-vaccinationist and conspiracy theorist Jon Rappoport, and has featured interviews with Russell BlaylockSandor Katz, and others. It defends Andrew Wakefield‘s fraudulent 1998 study linking autism to vaccinations, is outspoken against gun controlTransportation Security Administration screening procedures, and genetically modified organisms, and claims that CT scans and mammograms cause cancer. It claims that amalgam fillings are dangerous and need to be removed and defends Scientology.

[Edited]

I subscribe to Mike Adams’ newsletter, but I quickly grew tired of tracking down all his wild assertions. Here’s the edition I received yesterday. It reads, in part:

How cell towers are frying your brain and causing mass confusion

NaturalNews Insider Alert ( www.NaturalNews.com ) email newsletter

The Health Ranger Dear NaturalNews readers,

The brains of everyone living within range of cell towers are being damaged by electropollution.

A hard-hitting new scientific study published in the British Medical Journal reveals how cell towers cause mental confusion, irritability and loss of sleep, among other brain-altering side effects:
http://www.naturalnews.com/044464_cell_towers_EMF_pollution_mental_confusion.html

If you follow that link it takes you to:

Americans’ brains being fried by cell towers: New scientific evidence reveals shocking extent of electropollution damage

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com

(NaturalNews) Exposure to cell phone towers alters brain function in alarming ways, causing a lack of concentration, irritability, difficulty sleeping and lack of appetite. That’s the conclusion of a new study just published by the British Medical Journal.(1)

The study, authored by Professor Enrique A Navarro, concluded that the severity of such symptoms directly correlated to cell tower exposure levels. In other words, the closer a person lives to a cell tower, the greater the severity of their symptoms. This was true regardless of race, income level and other demographics.

Cell towers, of course, broadcast and receive electromagnetic switching signals. Human biology — and the brain in particular — relies on electro-biochemical pathways for healthy function. Many scientists have long suspected that chronic exposure to low levels of EMF pollution (electropollution) may interfere with healthy functioning of the brain and body. This latest research adds yet more support to that alarming idea.

It’s not your imagination: Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is real

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity has long been dismissed as non-existent by some doctors and industry-funded scientists. After all, if EMF pollution from cell towers really does harm public health, then the implications are truly massive, both economically and in terms of human suffering.

I had a lot of fun with stuff like this back in 1995, and I wrote it up for The North Texas Skeptics. Here’s an excerpt from the repost:

Paul Brodeur has been a writer for The New Yorker for 35 years, and has published several books on issues of environmental hazards, including Currents of Death, The Zapping of America, and Asbestos and Enzymes. His book The Great Power-Line Cover-up (Little, Brown and Company, paperback, 351 pages, $12.95) was published in 1993, and an updated edition was released earlier this year.

The story according to Brodeur begins with “The Calamity on Meadow Street.” Two hundred and fifty yards long with only nine houses, Meadow Street in Guilford, CT, has had more than its share of cancer cases since the 1970s. It didn’t take the residents long to spot the culprit, a prominent electric substation on the street. After explaining the travails of the Meadow Street residents, the author spends the remainder of the book detailing his evidence that man-made electromagnetic fields in general and power lines specifically are a cause of cancer in humans.

The unfortunate inhabitants of Meadow Street are not the only victims. Brodeur describes endangered sites as diverse as Slater Elementary School in Fresno, California, and Essex County Vocational Technical High School in West Caldwell, New Jersey, both of which are located adjacent to high voltage transmission lines. Throughout the book he seeks to show the magnitude of the risk. Using his relentless, well-crafted journalistic style, the author builds a powerful argument for the hazards of electromagnetic fields and for the cover-up he says is concealing the truth from the public. The book includes numerous interviews with residents, who recount their efforts to obtain redress from bureaucrats and elected officials. There are also quotes and interviews with scientists, who all this time have been having trouble finding a link between electromagnetic fields and human health problems.

I am not going to wish for every Kevin Trudeau, Mike Adams, Paul Brodeur to vanish immediately from the face of the Earth. For one, what would I do on a rainy afternoon were it not for the likes. I look to a fun-filled future poking into the witless outpourings of these honorable witnesses. And those who follow them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obamascare

When I go looking for an issue to post on this blog, about nine times out of ten I go to my Facebook feed first. I have a small number of “friends,” less than 100, but these contributors include a cross-section of positions on most matters.

On the matter of Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, there have been strong expressions from both sides. I generally ignore contributions from the “liberal left.” These people may have their hearts in the right place, but often they don’t make a lot of sense. Neither does the other side, but their comments are more interesting. It was from a conservative contributor I got the inspiration for this post. Here is a Facebook post from somebody vehemently opposed to the sitting president and especially to Obamacare:

Obamacare has sunk to a new low. Advertising campaigns designed to appeal to young adults that portray them as stupid, slutty, drunks who are willing to pay big bucks for overpriced insurance in order to get birth control so they can have sex with strangers. Aside from the fact that birth control is cheaper than than the insurance, on behalf of every young adult I know I am offended at the way our current president apparently perceives them. I know a lot of young adults and every one of them has too much class and intelligence to find this anything but disgusting.

My Facebook friend also posted a headline, including a link:

Politics: Obamacare girl not a US citizen, hasn’t signed up, never got paid for her photo

Obviously that’s just disgusting. I mean, the woman whose likeness is being used to promote a government health insurance system is not even a citizen of this country? She’s a foreigner? Besides that, she posed for the photo and then got stiffed on her modeling fee?

That’s just disgusting.

Unless, of course anybody is interested in getting the facts. This appears to be another case of somebody failing to read to the end of the page. I like it when this happens. In fact, I have an example I love to cite.

Some years back, 1999 as a mater of fact. I worked for a company, and the new year, 2000, was approaching, and some mid-level manager saw fit to remind us that 2000, since the number ended in “00,” would not be a leap year, so we had better not count on an extra day in February 2000.

The problem was this manager was one of those people who don’t read to the end of the page. If she had read the complete instruction booklet on leap years she would have come across the wording, “Years divisible by 400 are leap years.” 2000 was, in fact, a leap year.

What I think is happening is that a lot of people fail to read to the end of the page because that is too inconvenient. Often the truth lies at the end of the page, and the truth is too inconvenient. It’s hard to make political hay when doing so becomes too inconvenient.

And that’s what happened in the case of the “Obamacare girl.” Here readers, is the rest of the story:

The saga of the photo started innocuously enough. Adriana responded to an email from someone at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency responsible for the Affordable Care Act’s rollout, about having photos of her and her family taken for free in exchange for allowing the photos to be used to market the new health care law. She was never paid.

She learned over the summer that her photo would be on healthcare.gov’s main page, but she didn’t realize it would become so closely associated with the problems of the glitchy website.

“I mean, I don’t know why people should hate me because it’s just a photo. I didn’t design the website. I didn’t make it fail, so I don’t think they should have any reasons to hate me,” Adriana told ABC News.

Speculation swirled that Adriana might not be a legal resident of the United States, and therefore not even eligible for the health care exchanges. Adriana said she is a wife and mother who lives in Maryland with her 21-month-old son and husband of six and a half years. Her husband is a U.S. citizen, as is his [sic] her son. Adriana, who is Colombian, said she has lived legally in the U.S. for more than six years, is currently a permanent resident and is applying for citizenship.

Though she is eligible for healthcare through the ACA, Adriana says she hasn’t signed up for it, and is neither in favor nor against it.

The complete story, then, is not that interesting, that is from the viewpoint of a Facebook friend wanting to make a political statement. The woman is in the country legally, married to an American citizen, eligible for insurance under the new law.

But she didn’t get paid.

Really?

Take a look at this photo:

Now that’s one good-looking woman. I took this photo in my living room studio in Dallas a few years back. I have sold multiple copies of this image through various agencies. And I never paid this woman a dime.

My deal was similar to the one made to Adriana on the healthcare.gov site. She posed for the photos, and I gave her copies and also permission to use them in exchange for a model release. The model release stipulated that I could use her photo for commercial and other purposes, within limits. Let me know whenever this becomes “disgusting.”

Nearly 40 years ago there was a crime committed in Berkley, California, involving a famous person. There was a big brouhaha in the news and a lot of comment, and somebody summed it up with, “Rhetoric is cheap.”

And it is. Facts cost a little more, but facts are often not as interesting.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Frank always looked on the bright side. He would constantly irritate his friends with his eternal optimism. No matter how horrible the circumstance, he would always reply, “It could have been worse.”

To cure him of his annoying habit, his friends decided to invent a situation so completely bad, so terrible, that even Frank could find no hope in it.

On the golf course one day, one of them said, “Frank, did you hear about Tom? He came home last night, found his wife in bed with another man, shot them both and then turned the gun on himself!”

“That`s awful,” said Frank, “But it could have been worse.”
“How in the hell,” asked his bewildered friend, “Could it have been worse?”
“Well,” replied Frank, “If it happened the night before, I`d be dead now!”