The Worm Returns

Here we go again:

Dennis, let’s talk some more …
By Chris Cuomo, CNN
updated 7:27 AM EST, Fri January 31, 2014

(CNN) — It may be more important to tell you what is not motivating my trip to see Dennis Rodman.

I am not looking to spar about his “friend,” the much-maligned ruler of North Korea, or to debate the merits of basketball diplomacy in that country when I sit down to talk with him live Friday morning.

Dennis can speak to an issue that is a bigger threat to our country than Kim Jong Un: addiction.

Rodman may be in the fight of and for his life, and it is a battle all too familiar these days.

I want to talk to him about that, his recent bottom, what has kept him from sobriety. And hopefully he is willing to talk about the challenges and the benefits of rehab, as readily as he discusses the virtues of his despot “friend.”

I covered this a few weeks ago:

Rodman has now returned, for which some are not grateful. He has somewhat gathered his wits, and he has apologized for his bizarre interview with Cuomo. He has explained that he was drunk at the time.

Really? I couldn’t tell.

Kissing Kim's ass (photo from Wikipedia)

Rodman says he was drunk at the time. At the time he was kissing Kim Jong-un’s ass. If that’s the case, then we have to ask: What’s the excuse now. Today you say you’re sober. Is that your lipstick we see on Kim’s ass? Dennis, say it ain’t so.

Kissing Hank’s Ass

I am told… OK, I heard it once, that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. I sure hope that is true, because that’s what I am about to do. I didn’t contribute anything to this. This is entirely somebody else’s work. I am reposting here in it’s entirety. Please enjoy.

This morning there was a knock at my door. When I answered the door I found a well groomed, nicely dressed couple. The man spoke first:

John: “Hi! I’m John, and this is Mary.”

Mary: “Hi! We’re here to invite you to come kiss Hank’s ass with us.”

Me: “Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who’s Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?”

John: “If you kiss Hank’s ass, He’ll give you a million dollars; and if you don’t, He’ll kick the shit out of you.”

Me: “What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?”

John: “Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can’t until you kiss His ass.”

Me: “That doesn’t make any sense. Why…”

Mary: “Who are you to question Hank’s gift? Don’t you want a million dollars? Isn’t it worth a little kiss on the ass?”

Me: “Well maybe, if it’s legit, but…”

John: “Then come kiss Hank’s ass with us.”

Me: “Do you kiss Hank’s ass often?”

Mary: “Oh yes, all the time…”

Me: “And has He given you a million dollars?”

John: “Well no. You don’t actually get the money until you leave town.”

Me: “So why don’t you just leave town now?”

Mary: “You can’t leave until Hank tells you to, or you don’t get the money, and He kicks the shit out of you.”

Me: “Do you know anyone who kissed Hank’s ass, left town, and got the million dollars?”

John: “My mother kissed Hank’s ass for years. She left town last year, and I’m sure she got the money.”

Me: “Haven’t you talked to her since then?”

John: “Of course not, Hank doesn’t allow it.”

Me: “So what makes you think He’ll actually give you the money if you’ve never talked to anyone who got the money?”

Mary: “Well, He gives you a little bit before you leave. Maybe you’ll get a raise, maybe you’ll win a small lotto, maybe you’ll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street.”

Me: “What’s that got to do with Hank?”

John: “Hank has certain ‘connections.'”

Me: “I’m sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game.”

John: “But it’s a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don’t kiss Hank’s ass He’ll kick the shit out of you.”

Me: “Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from Him…”

Mary: “No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank.”

Me: “Then how do you kiss His ass?”

John: “Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Karl’s ass, and he passes it on.”

Me: “Who’s Karl?”

Mary: “A friend of ours. He’s the one who taught us all about kissing Hank’s ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times.”

Me: “And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?”

John: “Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here’s a copy; see for yourself.”

From the Desk of Karl
Kiss Hank’s ass and He’ll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
Use alcohol in moderation.
Kick the shit out of people who aren’t like you.
Eat right.
Hank dictated this list Himself.
The moon is made of green cheese.
Everything Hank says is right.
Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
Don’t use alcohol.
Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
Kiss Hank’s ass or He’ll kick the shit out of you.

Me: “This appears to be written on Karl’s letterhead.”

Mary: “Hank didn’t have any paper.”

Me: “I have a hunch that if we checked we’d find this is Karl’s handwriting.”

John: “Of course, Hank dictated it.”

Me: “I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?”

Mary: “Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people.”

Me: “I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the shit out of people just because they’re different?”

Mary: “It’s what Hank wants, and Hank’s always right.”

Me: “How do you figure that?”

Mary: “Item 7 says ‘Everything Hank says is right.’ That’s good enough for me!”

Me: “Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up.”

John: “No way! Item 5 says ‘Hank dictated this list himself.’ Besides, item 2 says ‘Use alcohol in moderation,’ Item 4 says ‘Eat right,’ and item 8 says ‘Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.’ Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too.”

Me: “But 9 says ‘Don’t use alcohol.’ which doesn’t quite go with item 2, and 6 says ‘The moon is made of green cheese,’ which is just plain wrong.”

John: “There’s no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you’ve never been to the moon, so you can’t say for sure.”

Me: “Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock…”

Mary: “But they don’t know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese.”

Me: “I’m not really an expert, but I think the theory that the Moon was somehow ‘captured’ by the Earth has been discounted*. Besides, not knowing where the rock came from doesn’t make it cheese.”

John: “Ha! You just admitted that scientists make mistakes, but we know Hank is always right!”

Me: “We do?”

Mary: “Of course we do, Item 7 says so.”

Me: “You’re saying Hank’s always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That’s circular logic, no different than saying ‘Hank’s right because He says He’s right.'”

John: “Now you’re getting it! It’s so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank’s way of thinking.”

Me: “But…oh, never mind. What’s the deal with wieners?”

Mary: She blushes.

John: “Wieners, in buns, no condiments. It’s Hank’s way. Anything else is wrong.”

Me: “What if I don’t have a bun?”

John: “No bun, no wiener. A wiener without a bun is wrong.”

Me: “No relish? No Mustard?”

Mary: She looks positively stricken.

John: He’s shouting. “There’s no need for such language! Condiments of any kind are wrong!”

Me: “So a big pile of sauerkraut with some wieners chopped up in it would be out of the question?”

Mary: Sticks her fingers in her ears.”I am not listening to this. La la la, la la, la la la.”

John: “That’s disgusting. Only some sort of evil deviant would eat that…”

Me: “It’s good! I eat it all the time.”

Mary: She faints.

John: He catches Mary. “Well, if I’d known you were one of those I wouldn’t have wasted my time. When Hank kicks the shit out of you I’ll be there, counting my money and laughing. I’ll kiss Hank’s ass for you, you bunless cut-wienered kraut-eater.”

With this, John dragged Mary to their waiting car, and sped off.

Tough Love

Not a typical school lunch, but that's all I had on file.

Here’s an interesting story. But first:

I lived in Salt Lake City for the better part of one year, and in this time I never met anybody but nice, friendly people. This incident is definitely not indicative of the city’s culture:

At Utah school, there really was no such thing as a free lunch
By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 9:47 AM EST, Fri January 31, 2014

(CNN) — Dozens of children at a Utah elementary school had their lunch trays snatched away from them before they could take a bite this week.

Salt Lake City School District officials say the trays were taken away at Uintah Elementary School Tuesday because some students had negative balances in the accounts used to pay for lunches. But they admit the situation should have been handled differently.

Instead of regular lunches, the students were given fruit and milk.

“We don’t ever let kids go without any food entirely,” Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen told CNN affiliate KSL.

Let me see if I’m getting this picture straight. School lunches are supposed to be paid forward. Parents put money in an account, and the account is drawn whenever a student gets a lunch at the cafeteria. Some person, who was feeling very much in charge, decided that some students were getting a free lunch because their accounts were overdrawn. This person decided to introduce students to the real world. No tickee-no washee. Even in the 21st century nobody rides for free.

So this in-charge person sent a message to the parents, through their children: “You are a deadbeat, and your spawn is a sponge. And now everybody knows, including all the other kids whose parents are not deadbeats.”

OK, that is tough love.

Moment of truth: Some students do get a free lunch. This country is supposedly set up so that when your parents are down and out, flat broke, you still get to go to school, and you still get a lunch. Some people may call me a left-wing liberal, but I think it’s a good investment in tomorrow to make sure everybody goes to school, and every school child gets lunch. Note, in this instance we are talking about 5th graders, not teenagers, who might be expected to know more about real-world economics.

I’m not sure just who reads these posts, but for any ultra-conservatives listening in, listen up. If you have heartburn with somebody else’s kid (not yours) getting a free lunch, you need to have a talk with that imaginary person in the sky that you bang me with daily on your Facebook posts.

The Genius of Syracuse

This was way back in my college days. I was an engineering student, and I knew I needed to be taking some more courses, so I looked through the catalog and found one that seemed interesting. Vector and tensor analysis. That was it. I would take vector and tensor analysis.

The teacher (I took two courses) was Homer V. Craig. He wrote the book. But he was a deadly dull instructor. I dozed through most of his lectures. My grades indicate this. However one day he was showing something. This is what it was:

Gauss’s Theorem (Divergence Theorem):
Let D be a bounded solid region in R3 whose boundary δD consists of  finitely many piecewise smooth, closed orientable surfaces, each of which is oriented by the unit outward
normal. If F is a C1 vector field whose domain contains S, then

For the first few seconds I didn’t realize what I was looking at. Then it hit me. “Holy shit! He just proved Archimedes’ Principle.”

Archimedes’ principle indicates that the upward buoyant force that is exerted on a body immersed in a fluid, whether fully or partially submerged, is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces. Archimedes’ principle is a law of physics fundamental to fluid mechanics. Archimedes of Syracuse[1] formulated this principle, which bears his name.

I had learned Archimedes’ Principle in high school, and it always seemed to me to be one of those “It should be obvious to any fool” things, and it was just true from basic physical principles. Here was a mathematical justification for Archimedes’ Principle.

Once I attempted to explain this to some people while sitting around over lunch, and the exercise was an total failure. I needed additional time to work up an explanation. I have more time these days, and here is the explanation.

See the image below. I have taken a general object, in this case a rock from Google images. The rock is supposedly submersed in a body of fluid. The arrow points to a volume cut out of the rock. On the right is the section removed from the rock:

Now look at the next image:

This is an analysis of the section removed from the rock. On the left is a side view of the section. The upper and lower surfaces are arbitrary, and I have drawn them as planes that approximate the surfaces at the top and bottom of the section. On the right is an equivalent prism. The prism has the same volume as the section removed from the rock, and it has the same forces acting on it.

p1 is the pressure of the fluid at the bottom of the section,, and p2 is the pressure of the fluid at the top. h is the vertical length of the section.

f1 is the force on the bottom of the section, and f2 is the force on the top of the section. It should not be difficult to see that f1 = p1 x a, where a is the cross-sectional area of the section. Likewise for f2.

Also it should be obvious that f1 – f2 is simply the weight of the fluid that would fit within the section. The weight is (p1 – p2) x h x a x ρ, where ρ is the density of the fluid.

But the rock is just the summation of all such sections, and the net force acting on the rock is just the volume of the rock times the density of the fluid. No matter what the shape of the rock.

Obviously this simplification works only for fluids of constant density. Gases do not have constant density. For example, the density of the atmosphere at 18,000 feet above sea level is 1/2 the density at sea level. However, for objects the size of a blimp or smaller, the calculation gives usable results. Gauss’s divergence theorem works for all cases.

It’s interesting to take limiting cases. Consider first a flat sheet of aluminum foil horizontal in the water. The foil is buoyed up by the water exactly as its surface area multiplied the the difference in water pressure on the bottom surface and the top surface. Place the foil vertically, and the result is the same. Crumple it up, and it doesn’t make any difference. The buoyancy is still the same.

Back when I was in the Navy another sailor and I got to talking about the carrier Lexington (CV-2). It had been abandoned after receiving fatal damage in battle and was sunk by American torpedoes. It sank slowly, and ever since sailors conjectured that maybe it sank until it reached an equilibrium point and then sank no further. I assure my buddy that, Archimedes’ Principle aside, when a ship sinks the air inside the compartments compresses and occupies a smaller volume. That volume is filled with more dense water, and the ship becomes less buoyant the deeper it goes. It’s positive feedback. The deeper it goes, the faster it sinks. It soon hits the bottom.

And Archimedes figured this out 2200 years ago. A Roman soldier killed Archimedes during the siege of Syracuse, illustrating one of the many benefits we derive from armed conflict.

Ace

I’m big on anniversaries, and this is another 70th. I should have posted this earlier in the month, but other things came up.

Greg Boyington was born in Idaho, and attended the University of Washington. Prior to World War 2 he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and became a fighter pilot. His reckless ways destroyed his marriage and gained him a burden of gambling debt.

He resigned from the Marines before the United States entered the war and flew with the Flying Tigers, an organization of mercenaries headed by Claire Lee Chennault. Their job was to oppose the Japanese air forces in western China. There, Boyington honed his skills as an air ace, being credited with more than four enemy aircraft destroyed, but his reputation as a trouble maker also grew. He was often in conflict with his boss, Chennault.

Boyington left the Flying Tigers, and in September 1942 rejoined the Marine Corps as a major. The following year, in air operations around the Solomon Islands, he headed Marine fighter squadron VMF-214, famous as “The Black Sheep Squadron.” It was here he earned the title of fighter ace.

Flying F4U Corsairs, Boyington brought his record of victories to 26, including 14 in a 32-day period. His last victory was over Rabaul on 3 January 1944, just 70 years ago. Ever aggressive, he attacked a group of Japanese fighters later in the action, and he was shot down over the water. His wingman, Captain George Ashmun, was killed. A Japanese submarine picked up Boyington before American rescue forces could reach the site, and Boyington remained a prisoner of war until August 1945.

A book, that I no longer have, tells more about his captivity. Aboard a Japanese ship as a prisoner, he had a conversation with one of the officers. The Japanese officer attempted to justify Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. He cited the cruelty (my phrase) of America’s embargo of strategic materials that Japan needed to pursue it’s aggression against China. Historians agree that the American embargo was a critical factor in Japan’s decision to go to war with the Allied forces (United States, the British Empire and the Netherlands). It also exposes the emptiness of their thinking. We were wrong to oppose their killing of Chinese civilians.

As a prisoner on the Japanese mainland, Boyington worked at hard labor on a ration of 900 calories a day. A nutritionist will tell you this is a starvation diet. A grown person can subsist on such a diet by avoiding physical activity. At hard labor the body will eventually succumb. To stay alive Boyington once stole some bread, an act that would have earned him a death sentence if he had been caught.

In August 1945 two American bombers dropped atomic bombs on Japanese cities, and the Japanese Empire capitulated. American aircraft roamed freely over Japanese territory, and prisoners at his camp put a big sign on the roof of one of the buildings: “BOYINGTON HERE.” It was the first indication in 20 months that Boyington was alive.

Back in the United States, President Truman awarded Boyington the Medal of Honor. He also received the Navy Cross. His book Baa Baa Black Sheep, was the inspiration for a TV series of the same name. Boyington died at the age of 75 from cancer.

Another fighter ace in the Solomon Islands campaign was Army Major Richard Bong, who went home as America’s highest scoring ace, with 40 victories. Unlike Boyington, Bong did not survive the war. He was testing a Lockheed P-80 when the plane lost power and crashed in North Hollywood, California, after taking off at what is now Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. The day was 6 August, 1945, the day a B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan in the action that would set Boyington free.

Bye bye, Bachmann

It’s the nightmare of all editorial cartoonists.

Readers, I wish I could report that this is just a bad joke. In truth, it is not. Michele Bachmann will not run for re-election this year. The world weeps.

But wait. There’s still joy in Mudville. And there’s still Wolfe Blitzer. On Monday I had the joy of watching Blitzer interview Bachmann and Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders (I-VT). I could just reprint the transcript, but you can read that for yourself. Here’s the link.

Call me a left-wing radical liberal if you want, but I am the first to declare that during the interview Congresswoman Bachmann did make a number of statements reflecting a modicum of sanity. The fun is in the remainder. Here are some of the choice quotes that gave me such pleasure:

Well, we need to grow the middle class and what the middle class needs are jobs. That’s really the problem that the president has to explain. It’s tough to blame President Bush for the current economic woes. We have five years of Obama policies and what do we have? We have people who are really suffering because people made more money. If you look at the median income level, people actually made more money seven years ago than they’re making now.

I’m going to blow right past the part about “We have people who are really suffering because people made more money.” If any of my readers can make sense of that, will they please let me know.

Here’s the interesting part:  “If you look at the median income level, people actually made more money seven years ago than they’re making now.” Without running the numbers I’m going to spot Bachmann this one. Assume it’s true. Seven years ago was before the fall of the economy that started during the previous administration. The fall continued into President Obama’s administration, but has since been recovering. Median income is likely not up to what it was seven years ago, but Bachmann gives no inkling as to how this links to “Obama policies.” If Bachmann wanted to make sense she would note that the median income of this country’s automobile workers is much better than it would otherwise be because the current administration continued the government bailouts started during the Bush administration. But, if Bachmann made sense all the time there would be no fun watching her.

Well, let’s talk a little bit about tax rates. I’m a former federal litigation tax attorney. If there’s anything that’s been proven over time, Wolf, it’s this. When you lower the tax burden, that’s a cost of doing business, you create more jobs. That’s exactly what the piece that preceded our segment said. This woman, Ann, wants a job. And so, we have people all across United States who have an ability to start companies.

Again, Bachman makes an bald statement, like many she has made before, with no substantiation. Please allow me to quote myself:

Michele Bachmann spiked on the national scene back in 2010. On 3 November she told CNN anchor Anderson Cooper:

“The president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day,” Bachmann said. “He’s taking 2,000 people with him.

He will be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending. It’s a very small example, Anderson.

“And I think this is an example of the massive overspending that we have seen, not only just in the last two years, really in the last four. That’s what we saw at the ballot box last evening.”

As I noted then, these “facts,” pulled apparently from thin air, are typical Bachmann.

This was obviously an outlandish assertion, and it was outrageously false. It was not an original thought by Bachmann, but she picked it up, and in true presidential form she threw it out for public consumption without first verifying its reliability. This incident set the pattern for Bachman as she drifted toward and into a presidential candidacy last year.

The interview continued:

BACHMANN: No. Let me say something. It’s not only that. It’s also the fact that government is spending too much. The share that government has been spending — the question is, will people like Ann have money in her pocket to spend or will it be government’s big pocket that will be gulping our money? That’s a big problem.

SANDERS: The fact of the matter is that those countries around the world, which have virtually eliminated childhood poverty are those countries that have invested heavily in education.

BACHMANN: Now, where is that?

SANDERS: Excuse me.

BACHMANN: Which country has eliminated childhood poverty?

SANDERS: — Denmark virtually eliminated. We are at 22 percent. They are less than five percent. Those countries guarantee health care to all people as a right — and you know what, let me finish, please. And you know what, they spend about 50 percent per capita on health care than what we do. So, those countries that have strong — that’s not socialism.

(CROSSTALK)

BACHMANN: — like Norway, let me add. The reason why Norway has so much wealth is because they tap into the natural resource called energy. We could be energy independent in this country. Create millions of high-paying jobs if we only open up and legalize American energy production.

(CROSSTALK) BACHMANN: It totally matters. We’ve got huge natural resources. In fact, we’re the number one country in the world in energy resources and we say no to it.

SANDERS: Yes. But the fact of the matter is —

(CROSSTALK)

BACHMANN: People like Ann could have good, high paying jobs.

This is what I cherish about Bachmann. She has this uncanny ability to set her mouth in motion without engaging her brain. Note this:

Bachmann says we have poverty because the government is “gulping our money.” Sanders cites a counter example—Denmark, with five percent poverty while the U.S. is at 22 percent. The Denmark government spends 50 percent more to ensure health care than the United States does. Rather than address whether Sanders’ statement is factual, Bachmann switches the topic to Norway. Norway may or may not have a lower poverty rate, and it may or may not spend more on government funded health care, but Norway has oil. Suddenly the talk is not about poverty, it’s about exploiting America’s oil resources.

Viewers will also note Bachmann’s insatiable love for her own voice, as she continually interrupts Senator Sanders. I have pasted on a portion of the interview. You are invited to watch the video, which is here. If this ever disappears from the Internet, then you can get it from me. I made a disk.

As you can see, the world will be a dimmer and more silent place after Bachmann leaves office in about a year. We have to look forward to eleven more months of merriment, and then the light will go out forever. Could somebody, would something possibly persuade Bachmann to relent and run for office again this year? If not, then there is scant hope. Except that she might consider signing on as a commentator on CNN. Or even Fox News.

There still is a small problem with the continuing congressional investigation into Bachmann’s use of her campaign funds from the 2012 election.

In the complaint, Waldron alleges that the Bachmann campaign funneled money to C&M Strategies, a firm owned by Bachmann’s longtime direct-mail consultant, Guy Short, to pay Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson an illicit six-figure salary. According to the complaint, “The apparent reasons for the sleight of hand payments were possibly to avoid a violation of IA Senate Rule 6 that prohibits State Senators from working for Presidential Campaigns in Iowa and/or to avoid creditors, [including] the IRS, owed money by Senator Sorenson.” Waldron also accuses Short, who held the title of national political director in the Bachmann campaign, of violating Federal Election Commission rules by receiving money from the Minnesota congresswoman’s political action committee while serving as full-time staff on her campaign.

These are obviously outrageous and unfounded charges cooked up by left-leaning bureaucrats, and it is my fondest hope that Congresswoman Bachmann will be spared from the slammer and will continue to regale us with her imaginary facts and delightful fairy tales for years to come.

Fail Safe

It was twenty years ago today!

No, that’s not the right song. It’s going to be a bit hard for me to get this post on track. Here’s for starters:

Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.

C’est moi. Never on the first ride of the roller coaster. Always a bit late to pick up the hottest trend. That’s the way it was with this story.

I was living at the Campus Guild in Austin and sometimes studying at the University of Texas. I saw the story serialized in The Saturday Evening Post, but I could never get into it, and I let it slide. Then the book came out, and they were going to make a movie, and the chatter picked up. So I bought the book and read it through in lieu of doing any classwork. It was Fail-Safe.

But Hollywood, always quick on its feet, saw another story. Almost a parody on Fail-Safe. It was Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. And it was fifty years ago today.

This is from Wikipedia:

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, more commonly known simply as Dr. Strangelove, is a 1964 British-American black comedy film which satirizes the nuclear scare. It was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, stars Peter Sellers and George C. Scott, and features Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, and Slim Pickens. The film is loosely based on Peter George’s Cold War thriller novel Red Alert (also known as Two Hours to Doom).

At the time the tension between Fale-Safe and Dr. Strangelove was in the news:

`Fail-safe’ Vs. `Dr. Strangelove’
Similarities In The Two Stories Brought A Showdown Between Stanley Kubrick And The Makers Of Fail-safe.
April 9, 2000|By Crosby Day of The Sentinel Staff

Sidney Lumet’s nightmarish 1964 film Fail-Safe was the straight-faced flip side to Stanley Kubrick’s irreverent black comedy Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Although Fail-Safe was a melodrama, to many it was similar to Dr. Strangelove in premise, conflict and resolution – the ultimate theme of both being a nuclear holocaust

And it was these similarities that forced a showdown between Kubrick and Fail-Safe’s filmmakers.

Dr. Strangelove was in the works in early 1963, when Kubrick learned that the new film company Entertainment Corporation of America had purchased the screen rights to Fail-Safe and planned to get the film to theaters before Dr. Strangelove. Kubrick was furious and threatened the company with a plagiarism lawsuit.

The film is notable for the triple roles played by comic actor Peter Sellers. He is first off Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, the guileless British liaison officer who initially discovers the hoax behind the pending nuclear war. Then he is President Merkin Muffley, the self-righteous president who mistakenly thinks he is in charge of his armed forces. Finally, in the closing scenes, he is the eponymous Dr. Strangelove, the “reformed” Nazi scientist, one of those scooped up at the end of World War 2 in Operation Paperclip to aid in combating the communist menace.

I’m not going to detail the plot. See the movie. And bathe in Sterling Hayden’s portrayal of the archetypical Bircher. Fluoridation is a communist conspiracy. His failing sexual prowess has induced him into a program to protect his purity of essence. Purity Of Essence turns out to be the code phrase discovered too late to avert the war.

Slim Pickens is the cowboy turned B-52 pilot who goes into war perusing the Playboy centerfold and ultimately wearing a western hat. He has some great lines:

Survival kit contents check. In them you’ll find: one forty-five caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days’ concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings. Shoot, a fella’ could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.

It was originally “weekend in Dallas,” but after the president was murdered in Dallas the voiced was dubbed to say “Vegas.”

My favorite line and one that I go back to (often) when I come across some outlandish story is this:

Well, I’ve been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones.

The classic scene is Pickens riding the hydrogen bomb to destruction, waving his cowboy hat in the air and whooping like a bull rider.

A lot has happened in fifty years. The Soviet Union is no more, but we have since suffered more damage from enemy agents armed only with box cutters.

Can you “see” me now?

Here is an item from the North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge. It first appeared in the March 2008 issue of The North Texas Skeptic:

by Prasad Golla
The story of how we kept our money

Let me say this upfront. For a person who claims to be brain damaged, Shirley is very articulate. Her piercing blue eyes give indication of an intelligent person. A little bit of conversing with her paint a picture of a woman proud of herself, her family, and her life. There is nothing amiss about her. She seems smarter than an otherwise “normal” person.

That is, until we hear her claims. Maybe her claims set her apart. Remember thus far, she hasn’t done all that good for herself; her claim to be brain damaged doesn’t seem to hold water. (She mentioned that she has had MRIs taken in VA hospitals but they couldn’t locate anything abnormal.) As with her other “mundane” claims, such as her exposure to nuclear waste in Hawaii while on US Military duty as a journalist – which are somewhat of relevance to skeptics – her paranormal ones are likely to do more than raise eyebrows.

Prasad and Shirley Potter discussing the effects
of caffeine on human brains in a local coffee shop
(Greg Aicklen, another underwriter of the challenge, is
behind the camera.)

John Blanton noted previously in his article, Challenge Activity,1 the spate of paranormal challenges we have been receiving recently. In that article he mentioned Shirley Potter from Nachadoges, Texas. Shirley claims she has the ability to see “energies” around people and that she can tell their past (as opposed to their future) accurately.

Shirley Potter next to the kitchen door which has the
spots marked, A, B, C, and D on both sides.

Since then I’ve mentioned to Shirley that her claim that she sees auras or energies is a much better paranormal proposition than merely reading people’s past. (Our own past experience as paranormal challengers has revealed to us the quagmire we can drag ourselves into when we base our selves on opinions rather than hard facts. ‘Readings’ are baseless. )

Shirley was enthusiastic to give us a demonstration of her ability to see energies around people from day one. After weeks and months of discussion on-line which centered on the Sun’s coronas and thickness of barriers, Shirley finally came to Dallas on January 27th to talk to us face to face and demonstrate her abilities. Our meeting would have been sooner had it not been for those “wrenches,” such as her claim that she can see energies around both animate and inanimate objects. Aren’t the “energy signatures” different between living beings and non-living things? That made us doubt that she has some physiological problems with her eyes.

Prior to coming over, Shirley tested herself to see if she could tell where another person’s hand is positioned when placed behind a barrier (such as a door), when she can’t actually see any part of the person. (According to Shirley, the person cannot be behind the door – only the hand – or the energies overlap. She says this ensures that the person’s energy doesn’t mesh with the hand’s energy.) To make it a probability game, I told her to designate only a few spots the subject can place her/his hand on. Shirley message came back with an affirmative that she indeed can.

The trials

So this is what we did. We designated 4 spots on the door on either side: A, B, C, and D (see photo). We did 2 sets of tests, with 5 trials each. Here are the results:

Set 1

Trial Actual Shirley’s Observation
1 B C
2 C A
3 D D
4 A A
5 A B

Set 2

Trial Actual Shirley’s Observation
1 C B
2 B A
3 D D
4 A B
5 C C

As you can see, Shirley got only 2 out of 5 correct both times. One would expect a 100% success rate, given that she had already assured us that she could see the “energy of the hand” through the barrier just before we began the trials.

Greg Aicklen, one of the other underwriters, joined us. Together over some coffee and drinks, we took Shirley on a journey down our memory lane. We described how some of our past paranormal claimants came, and went home empty handed. It was a bit awkward for us to explain it to her. But despite that, we managed to keep the conversation pleasant enough, mainly because Shirley was such a good sport.. (And then, however, Shirley mentioned a spate of her other claims, such as her ability to “see” malign organs and how she can cure them by touching the diseased energies.)

Let me bid you farewell with this – Shirley showed her Military training when she arrived early before the appointed time for the tests. I was only 10 minutes early. She was playing Sudoku on her PDA when I arrived. I bet you wouldn’t suspect many “brain damaged” people playing Sudoku, would you?

Prasad Golla is a member of the North Texas Skeptics Board of Directors.
References

1 http://ntskeptics.org/2007/2007december/december2007.htm#challenge

Asset Depletion

I’m going to post this now, because I have another post that will need to link back to it several times. This is a bit of economics, a subject I have never studied, but when did that ever stop me from writing about something?

Industrial site on the outskirst of Salt Lake City

Students probably get this stuff the first year studying economics, but the subject is not taught so much in the public school system, and some of the concepts are hazy to most of us. This is apparent from conversations I have observed and also from many postings on Facebook and elsewhere. Here it is:

In the United States, suppose you are a wage earner, and let’s say you make $100,000 a year. Good for you. You have to pay the federal government taxes on all of that on a percentage basis. Not quite. They government will allow you to whack off a piece of that before you apply the percentage factor. How much you get to whack off depends. Depends on whether you have dependents. And medical expenses. And non-refunded employee expenses. Then you apply the percentage, and pay that amount.

Now suppose you are not a human being, but you are instead a company doing business. You, the company, take in $500,000 in a year. You do not have to apply the percentage to the full amount. You only apply the percentage to the business profit. How do you compute business profit? Glad you asked:

  • $500,000 gross revenues
  • – salaries and other employee expenses
  • – the electric bill for the entire year
  • –  cost of goods used in the business
  • – all other costs of doing business

If all the minuses are equal to the gross revenues, you pay nothing. If you were a human being your breakdown would be something like this:

  • $100,000 gross income
  • – food
  • – clothing
  • – rent
  • – cash dropped at the strip club

If your minuses equal your gross income (less the allowed deductions) you still owe the government money. There’s a benefit in operating like a business. In its wisdom the government does allow individuals to operate as businesses.

In its magnificent spirit of fairness, the government gives companies some slack. Some years their balance sheet will show red. They get to apply business losses in bad years against profits in other years.

So, you want to go into business. You need a store. You build a store. It costs money. You tell the government you didn’t make a profit, because you spent all your revenues building the store.

The government responds with a nice letter reminding you that you spent all that money (a minus) to build a store, but you now have the store (a plus) that offsets your minus for building it. You cannot deduct the cost of the building in the first year of business.

What the government will do is allow you to amortize the cost of the store over a period of years. You know about this if you are a home owner who has a house to rent out. You can amortize the cost of the house over 30 years and deduct 1/30 the cost of the house each year you have it rented. There’s more to this story, but this is all that’s important.

Let’s take the curious case of the depletion allowance used by oil companies:

Percentage depletion To figure percentage depletion, you multiply a certain percentage, specified for each mineral, by your gross income from the property during the tax year. The rates to be used and other conditions and qualifications for oil and gas wells are discussed later under Independent Producers and Royalty Owners and under Natural Gas Wells. Rates and other rules for percentage depletion of other specific minerals are found later in Mines and Geothermal Deposits.

Cost depletion Cost depletion is an accounting method by which costs of natural resources are allocated to depletion over the period that make up the life of the asset. Cost depletion is computed by (1) estimating the total quantity of mineral or other resources acquired and (2) assigning a proportionate amount of the total resource cost to the quantity extracted in the period. For example, Big Texas Oil, Co. discovers a large reserve of oil. The company has estimated the oil well will produce 200,000 barrels of oil. The company invests $100,000 to extract the oil, and they extract 10,000 barrels the first year. Therefore, the depletion deduction is $5,000 ($100,000 X 10,000/200,000).

Cost depletions sounds reasonable enough. A company invests $100,000 to set up a business (oil extraction from a field). It gets to amortize the costs over several years, as it recoups the cost by extracting and selling oil. Of course, the company also gets to deduct all other costs, such as operation of the wells, royalties paid to owners of the mineral rights, local taxes paid and also the cost of exploring barren fields, which have ended up producing no oil.

Pumping oil along side Interstate 20 in West Texas

Percentage depletion is another matter. Here is additional clarification:

The percentage, or statutory, method does not employ recovery of cost in the computation of the deduction. A percentage of annual income, rather than cost, is deductible each year, even if the owner has recovered all cost or discovery value of the depletable asset. The federal tax laws vary from year to year in regard to the percentage depletion allowable for oil and some other deposits, and the categories of producers entitled to such allowances.
[emphasis added]

This is the curious part. Even after an oil company has recouped all it’s development cost, it can continue to take a tax deduction for every barrel of oil it extracts. That is so neat. How wonderful it would be if I had cancer, and I had to pay $100,000 out of pocket expenses for the cure, and I got to deduct all the $100,000 from my earnings when filing my income tax return. Then if I were still not feeling so good, I would be able to deduct money year after year, because the cure was not complete. That does not make much sense, and neither does the oil depletion deduction described above.

This is from a story a few years back on CNN:

The percentage depletion allowance: This lets oil companies deduct about 15% of the money generated from a well from its taxes. Eliminating it would save about $1 billion a year.

The deduction essentially lets oil companies treat oil in the ground as capital equipment. For any industry, the value of that equipment can be written down each year.

But critics say oil in the ground is not capital equipment, but a national resource that the oil companies are simply using for their own profit.

The foreign tax credit: This provision gives companies a credit for any taxes they pay to other countries. Altering this tax credit would save about $850 million a year.

Foreign governments can collect money from oil companies through royalties — fees for depleting their national resources — and income taxes.

A royalty would be deducted as a cost of doing business, and would likely shave about 30% off a company’s tax bill. Categorized as income tax, it is 100% deductible.

Foreign governments long ago grew wise to the U.S. tax code. To reduce costs for everyone involved and attract business, they agreed to call some royalties income taxes, allowing oil companies to take the 100% deduction on a bigger slice of their bill.

Intangible drilling costs: This lets the industry write off about $780 million a year for things like wages, fuel, repairs and hauling costs.

All industries get to write off the costs of doing business, but they must take it over the life of an investment. The oil industry gets to take the drilling credit in the first year.

And that’s the story. Make sure you understand all of this, because I’m going to link back to it when I post a recent interview with my favorite congresswoman, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Making Everybody Unhappy

This is the fourth of a continuing series. I previously set out (was not difficult) to piss off the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians. Hindus, you’re up next. Enjoy.

Since I know nothing about Hinduism, I asked somebody raised in a Hindu family to write this for me. Prasad Golla is originally from India, but he came to Texas about 20 years ago and wound up getting a Ph.D. in computer engineering, at a Christian college. Here’s his take on Hinduism:

Religious nonsense stems out of ignorance and superstition. The claims made are fantastic, which are by their nature, against nature. Although it may be difficult, and at times impossible, to put down each and every claim we rely on science to provide us some of the answers. Even as we do that we should not forget that the proof of the validity of a claim lies with the claimant and that we cannot prove a negative. A lot of believers assume the validity of a claim without any critical evaluation.

Let me explain here a couple of claims from one of the major religions today, Hinduism. I was born into a Hindu family so what I say has added relevance to me.

I grew up in this region which is semi-arid. All over the place you could see these huge granite boulders and rocks strewn haphazardly. Some of those boulders stood the size of a five story building. One solid piece, like giant behemoths. Some of those would be sitting precariously on a mound of solid granite or on another boulder which sat on other boulders below. I used to imagine them moved there by legendary gods as I was told. But I was also concerned with the small stones which used to stick out of the solid earth and, well, stick through the sandals on my feet. Nature didn’t seem planned.

No one told me these rocks, stones and soil were millions of years old that formed naturally from slow geological processes. But I had an inkling.

The gods were remote. As remote as they can possible be in India. They sat on tops of the highest mountains in the world, the Himalayas. Figuratively, Himalayas form the crown of India. Because of the elevation they are cold and inaccessible. Most of the peaks in the Himalayas cannot be climbed without the aid of supplemental oxygen. So, for eternity we couldn’t meet our gods readily.

For example, Shiva resides on mount Kailash (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Kailash), one of the tallest peaks in the world, in eternal meditation.

Eternal is a long time indeed. It means ‘forever.’ Over the last couple of centuries we learned a lot about earth’s geology. Especially, in the last half century. For example, we learned about the tectonic plates. “The land under us moveth.” The Indian plate which is like a thin crust pizza, half the thickness of the typical tectonic plate, floated about in what we currently call the Indian ocean for about 100 million years, slowly moving north east.

Just about 10 million years ago the Indian plate made landfall with the Eurasian plate, and continues to push at it even today. The 2004 tsunami in south east Asia and earthquakes that kill thousands of people every few years in the foothills of the Himalayas are evidence of this ongoing collision.

10 million years seems like a large number but not when we consider that the earth is about 4,700 millions years old and the universe 14,000 million years old. That’s why tops of the tallest peaks of the world are limestone crusted and have sea shells on their surface. It’s because they were under the sea just 10 million years ago. The collision produced the mountain ranges we call the Himalayas.

Dinosaurs roamed the earth until 64 million years ago. There is something wrong when the gods have ‘always’ lived on the Himalayas when they are less than 10 million years old.

Of course, humans are less than 10 million years old. In fact, those we would recognize as someone living down the street are less than a million years old. The Indian subcontinent has been occupied by these new, intelligent animals less than 70,000 years. These animals weren’t native as the Indian creation legends proclaim but migrated into it originating from Africa. There is evidence that between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago some of these animals migrated though India probably on ice bridges to Australia and are called the aborigines today.

So, any religion that talks about eternal existence or native origin is outright wrong. And talking of religion, the major religion of India, Hinduism, isn’t even a religion. That might come as a surprise to some. When someone talks of a religion, they mean a book, a prophet and a dogma. In addition, a strict start date; a year or a century in which the religion was formed.

Hinduism has none of those. As prophets, gurus and reformers came and went, what they started as sects or schools were assimilated back into the overarching culture. No particular book or a belief or a faith in a deity or a religious teacher (prophet) has ever been a commonality for all Hindus. That’s because it is not a single religion. It’s what the Westerners called the thousands and millions of philosophies, sects and beliefs; combining them into one convenient name that they can wrap their heads around. Where it is difficult to define and characterize, it is difficult to deconstruct.

So, even atheism – the belief that there aren’t any deities –, which was a huge movement since the 6th century B.C. in India, is also part of Hinduism. That movement has heavily influenced Buddhism and Jainism, among others. For 70,000 years the denizens evolved culture and beliefs which influenced others in the known world. Over the last few millennia there has been a steady exchange of these ideas – some that were likely exported are the acceptance of women into the sects in the form of nuns, non-violence as a way of life, the transmigration of the soul (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmigration_of_the_soul), sin & karma, and the development of a proto-monotheistic belief.

However, the commonality that I’ve noticed has to do with a bunch of superstitions, the beliefs in which are overwhelmingly defined as the religion itself. For example, belief in supernatural entities that have direct influence on humans (like ghosts, gods and spirits), astrology, numerology, feng shui (vaastu), local Voodoo. As of this writing, there isn’t any scientific evidence for all these. In fact, lot of what we know discounts beliefs of this nature.

From Google images

In the context of these beliefs, I am reminded of this popular verse from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

asatoma sat gamaya
tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
mrityoma amritam gamaya

This is the translation:

[O’ Lord!]
Lead us from the unreal to the real.
Lead us from the darkness to the light.
Lead us from death to immortality.

Well, said. Do we still need this prayer if it is real?

Hindu mythology, which has quite a few parallels with the Greek one, since they most likely influenced each other at some level, also elicits a huge following to this day. The supernatural and superhuman nature of these tales is beyond the realm of normal, ordinary experience of us mere mortals and falls squarely in the lap of belief.

Vedic from Google images

As once a small subculture of Vedic Hinduism, at least 3 millennia old, has taken over and assimilated the other subcultures in India it managed to become the de facto face of Hinduism itself. Village deities were supplanted, redefined and, quite literally, re-casted in the likeness of the Vedic gods. The social structure that attached itself to the Vedic Hinduism sect at a much later stage (2 millennia ago) formed the basis for the rest of the society. This culminated in the tragic consequence of leaving the vast majority marginalized in their own land. The harsh characterization and class segmentation of people according to their birth is probably one of the most systematic, dehumanizing oppression in human history that continues to this day.

However, the silver line isn’t difficult to find. A population which has that long of continual existence in relative abundance would have likely left a sustaining mark on the rest of the human civilizations. And it had. The contributions to astronomy, mathematics, science and arts have had tremendous benefits for all of us. So significant has been the influence that we assume they are always been ours, whoever you are. The next time you use the decimal numerals, for example, you know who you should thank.

Creationism Map

Here’s an interesting map I found on the Internet:

This is a map of schools in the United States teaching creationism and also receiving public funding:

Map: Publicly Funded Schools That Teach Creationism
Thousands of schools in states across the country take taxpayer money to cast doubt on basic science.
By Chris Kirk

A large, publicly funded charter school system in Texas is teaching creationism to its students, Zack Kopplin recently reported in Slate. Creationist teachers don’t even need to be sneaky about it—the Texas state science education standards, as well as recent laws in Louisiana and Tennessee, permit public school teachers to teach “alternatives” to evolution. Meanwhile, in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Arizona, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, taxpayer money is funding creationist private schools through state tuition voucher or scholarship programs. As the map below illustrates, creationism in schools isn’t restricted to schoolhouses in remote villages where the separation of church and state is considered less sacred. If you live in any of these states, there’s a good chance your tax money is helping to convince some hapless students that evolution (the basis of all modern biological science, supported by everything we know about geology, genetics, paleontology, and other fields) is some sort of highly contested scientific hypothesis as credible as “God did it.”

Zack Kopplin is an education activist recently relocated from Louisiana to Texas.

Kopplin has campaigned to keep creationism out of public school science classrooms and been involved with other separation of church and state causes. He has opposed school vouchers because they provide public money to schools which may teach creationism. As a high school student, he organized seventy-eight Nobel laureate scientists in a campaign against the Louisiana Science Education Act, a creationism law. He is also involved with science funding policy and curriculum and textbook policy. His new campaign calls for a launching Second Giant Leap for Humankind, through a reinvestment in science and through ensuring students learn science.

Zack Kopplin speaks at the rally outside the William B. Travis Building prior to the Texas SBOE text book hearings on 17 September 2013

Readers will recall Zack from his presentation at the text book hearings last September.

Later, speaking before the Board, Zack disclosed the startling news that major scientific societies, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, supports the theory of evolution, proclaiming that evolution is the underlying theory of the biological science. Don’t you just hate it when some smart guy comes all the way from Louisiana to Texas just to tell you something you already know? That’s Zack Kopplin for you. A video clip of Zack’s talk is available on YouTube.

He also explained, patiently I am sure, that requiring the teaching of “strengths and weaknesses” is superfluous law. Science does that already. That’s the way science works. The only reason, according to Zack, some Board members want language like that in the science standards is to provide a hint that something might be wrong with the theory of evolution. See what I mean? There he goes again. Zack came all the way from Louisiana to tell the SBOE what they already knew—that some members were proposing such language just to put a special twist on the requirements in order to cast doubt on the purely natural explanations of science.

Anyhow, now that Zack Kopplin is here, here’s hoping he plans to stay a while.

What the map shows is a heavy bias aligned with state boundaries. Green dots indicate schools where public law allows teaching creationism. Orange dots indicate private schools teaching creationism and also benefiting from tax-funded vouchers and scholarships. Red dots are Responsive Ed charter schools using creationist curricula.

Something obvious is that having a law that invites creationist teachers to bring private concepts about science into the classroom will result in teaching creationism on a large scale. Offering public funds to private schools without restrictions on religious indoctrination is also an invitation to teaching creationism. Lax control of charter schools in Texas has resulted in teaching creationism in a number of those schools.

Two things:

  • Inviting the teaching of personal preferences will result in the teaching of creationism.
  • Lax oversight of private schools receiving public funding will result in tax-funded religious proselytizing.

Politicians who push through these laws perpetually give assurance that tax-funded proselytizing is not the goal. If it is not the goal, then we should wonder why religious voters give these measures such strong support. Religious proselytizing may not be the sole aim, but it is way ahead of whatever is in second place.

Collegiate Athletics

I’ve always considered this to be an oxymoron. You go to school to improve your mind. Go to tennis camp if you want to improve your prowess on the court. I tell this story about a cousin of mine. I will tell it again:

I was once very young, even before first grade. And I had this cousin my age, and he was a really tough kid. Husky is as husky does. Anyhow we had a disagreement on the dusty street in a Texas town, and I took him down. No more trouble after that.

Anyhow, we both grew up, miraculously. I felt the need for a job in the military, and my father drove me over to the naval air station in a far off town to apply. I had to take a written exam (multiple choice), and there were 85 questions. I missed two, but they still let me in.

My cousin had the same yearnings, and the Marine Corps appealed to him. They had the same exam, and the requirements were somewhat lower than for the Navy. He didn’t get in. So he enrolled in Texas A&M University and got a degree in physical education.

This story also goes along with a Bad Joke of the Week:

There was this player on a college football team, and he had to be making progress in his school work to stay on the squad. The grade reports came out, and the coach came around to see him and to check on his grades. It was not good. The player had four Fs and a D. The coach saw immediately what the problem was. He told the player, “Look, you have to quit putting all your effort into just one course.”

Full disclosure: I had not then and still do not have any athletic ability. There were classmates in my small Texas school who were absolute football stars, but it was not for me. So my view of collegiate athletics is only from afar. But I have retained this impression: Super sports franchises are not the proper enterprise for a school of higher learning.

More recently others are coming on board to the reality. Here’s what student athletes get:

  • Scholarships good for tuition. Sometimes also good for books, room and board.
  • Sometimes soft class loads.
  • Sometimes a few extras. Cars, other gifts. Women. But that’s all under the table and highly disallowed.

Then there’s a movie about the school athlete business. It’s One on One. High school star Henry Steele (Robby Benson) is courted by the big college teams and accepts an outstanding offer. He drives to his new college in his new car.

From Wikipedia

He receives enormous perks at the college, including a paid job watering the athletic fields (the sprinkler system is automatic) and a sexy tutor to help him with his studies. Later, when his game falters, he is cut from the team. Not exactly. He still has his scholarship. But only if he can keep his grades up. His cushy job is yanked, as well as his sexy tutor.

Anyhow, he prevails, makes his grades, comes back to the team, proves to be an outstanding player and tells his pushy coach “Up yours with a red hot poker.”

Anyhow, that’s a fable. Right? Maybe not.

University of North Carolina Apologizes for Fake Classes, Promises Real Change

James Dean, the executive vice chancellor and provost of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, flew to New York, arriving at Bloomberg headquarters on Saturday to deliver a heartening message. He wanted to do it in person. “We made mistakes. Horrible things happened that I’m ashamed of,” he said over coffee in our newsroom, sparsely populated on a weekend. “Student-athletes and other students, too, were hurt” as a result of hundreds of phony classes offered beginning sometime in the 1990s. “The integrity of our university was badly damaged.”

Chapel Hill’s top executive for academics, its No. 2 official overall, came to New York to underscore that his fine university—a pillar of public education and a force in Division 1 sports—”hasn’t been clear enough about what went wrong.” He said he and his boss, Chancellor Carol Folt, are determined to change direction. “To fix things, we have to understand what actually happened in the past,” Dean added. He came to us because Bloomberg Businessweek has been examining the corruption of academics at Chapel Hill—although such problems are not unique to the school—as an illustration of how the drive to win lucrative college basketball and football championships undermines the education of undergraduates.

NCAA Inc. is a multibillion-dollar industry with tens of millions of avid customers—college sports fans. Holding UNC and the rest of the National Collegiate Athletic Association accountable, therefore, seems appropriate.

The story broke earlier this month. This is how it first came out:

North Carolina is disputing research by a reading specialist it employs that says 10 percent of UNC football or basketball players read and write below a third-grade level.

In a CNN story this week, Mary Willingham said her research of 183 football or basketball players at UNC from 2004 to ’12 found 60 percent reading at fourth- to eighth-grade levels and roughly 10 percent below a third-grade level. She said she worked with one men’s basketball player early in her 10-year tenure who couldn’t read or write.

After the report, North Carolina issued a statement saying the university did not believe Willingham’s statements.

“We do not believe that claim and find it patently unfair to the many student-athletes who have worked hard in the classroom and on the court and represented our University with distinction,” the statement said. “Our students have earned their place at Carolina and we respect what they bring to the University both academically and athletically.”

Lissa Lamkin Broome, a banking law professor and UNC’s faculty athletic representative, said Willingham had shared her findings previously but hasn’t provided data that led to her conclusions.

“If Mary’s data uncovers issues that would be helpful to us in our admissions process or in our academic support process, then I want to know about those so we can benefit from whatever work she has done … in moving forward and doing things better,” Broome said.

Broome is a longtime faculty member and part of an internal group reviewing how to improve athlete support efforts, from admissions to how the school provides help once they’re here. That group, led by provost James W. Dean Jr. and athletic director Bubba Cunningham, formed in August for a review lasting through the academic year.

UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams said after Wednesday’s loss to Miami that he also felt the report was untrue.

Of course it is not universally true that all college athletes are college in name only. Some star athletes have also been real scholars.

The issue of college athletes has also taken another turn:

Let’s Start Paying College Athletes
By JOE NOCERA
Published: December 30, 2011

Mark Emmert, the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the almighty overseer of American college sports, likes to think of himself as a reformer. A few months ago, after he’d been on the job for a little more than a year, he pushed through a series of improvements, including slightly higher academic standards for college athletes, a full-scale review of the N.C.A.A.’s fat rule book and a new provision giving universities the option of offering four-year scholarships. The current one-year deals are, believe it or not, renewable at the discretion of coaches, who can effectively cut injured or underperforming “student athletes,” as the N.C.A.A. likes to call them.

And one other thing: With Emmert’s backing, the N.C.A.A.’s board of directors, composed of college and university presidents (Emmert himself is a former president of the University of Washington), agreed to make it permissible for Division I schools to pay their athletes a $2,000 stipend. When I saw Emmert in November, shortly after the new rule went into effect, I told him that the stipend struck me as a form of payment to the players. He visibly stiffened. “If we move toward a pay-for-play model — if we were to convert our student athletes to employees of the university — that would be the death of college athletics,” Emmert retorted. “Then they are subcontractors. Why would you even want them to be students? Why would you care about their graduation rates? Why would you care about their behavior?” No, he insisted, the extra $2,000 was an effort to increase the value of the scholarships, which some studies estimate falls on average about $3,500 short of the full cost of attending college annually.

Could it be time to quit this charade of the scholar athlete, and just pay kids to play sports for colleges? Everybody should be satisfied. Alumni could still attend the games and cheer for their team. The colleges would still get the money from their athletic franchise. High school graduates could still develop their talents and show them off for the scouts. And we can dispense with the phony college courses for people who never had any intention of graduating.

Constitutional Crisis

A few days back a conservative friend posted this on Facebook.

I had fun with this at the time, because:

  • The quote is a fake. Benjamin Franklin never said this.
  • Of course the Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness. In fact, the Constitution does not even mention the pursuit of happiness. Whoever wrote this has the Constitution confused with the Declaration of Independence.

My guess is from the tag at the bottom of the graphic is that this was created and posted on Facebook by Freedomworks.org, and whoever created it has not bothered to read the Constitution. Freedom Works does have a blog, and what I gather by reading a bit it’s one of those hyper conservative outlets. Of course they’re against most if not all of President Obama’s programs, particularly the Affordable Care Act. Here’s a typical post:

By Amelia Hamilton on January 16, 2014
I Don’t Have Kids, But I’m Forced To Buy Pediatric Dental Insurance

Good news, readers. I now have pediatric dental insurance. I don’t have kids, I have a dog. I’m not responsible for the teeth of any children at all, but I’ve got the insurance now just in case. I don’t need pediatric dental insurance, I didn’t know I wanted pediatric dental insurance, but Obama thinks I do, so I must now buy it.

Of course that’s news to me. From her photograph Amelia Hamilton doesn’t appear to be old enough to be on Medicare, which actually is government insurance. I’m on Medicare, and dental insurance is not even offered, much less mandated. I’m wondering whether Amelia is not making parts of this up, much in the fashion of the preceding graphic.

Anyhow, my post is about the Constitution, so I searched around for some more conservative postings about the Constitution, and I present herewith a few:

This one shows President Obama, along with the Constitution on fire.

This one indicates the president wants to rewrite the Constitution.

This one shows the president marking up the Constitution (the Bill of Rights), taking out the parts he doesn’t like.

This one shows the president actually tearing up the Constitution.

This one shows that the president doesn’t want to destroy the Constitution, only use it for toilet paper.

It’s apparently from the Catholic Cartoon Blog. Go there. There’s lots more fun reading. It’s going to be a topic for a future post on this blog.

And here is a picture of the actual presidential Constitution toilet paper. It is cute, I swear to God.

Here we get around to what the Constitution is really all about. It’s for people of the correct religious persuasion. And no others.

Even the ACLU gets into this game. The ACLU is sure the Constitution does not apply in border regions, because people going into and out of (mostly out of) these regions need to show their papers. Actually, I’ve been through these regions many times, and I have never had to show my papers. The man, in uniform and carrying a weapon, just asked Barbara Jean and me, “Are you American citizens?” I would always let Barbara Jean answer for both of us, because nobody who has never lived there can possible fake that Arkansas accent.

The problem, as this next graphic explains, is that the Constitution is just too long and difficult to read all the way through. That’s why so many people are so ignorant about the Constitution.

And that’s what this post is all about. Presenting here for your reading pleasure, the Constitution of the United States. To break up the tedium as you plow through this lengthy work of literature (Harry Potter is much longer), I have added some comments from time to time:

The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription

Note: The following text is a transcription of the Constitution in its original form.
Items that are hyperlinked have since been amended or superseded
.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


Article. I.

Section. 1.

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section. 2.

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Notice right up front some freedoms are being restricted. You have to be a certain age to hold office. And there are residency requirements.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section. 3.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Right off the bat, the people are not allowed to vote for senators. They are to be appointed by people already in power.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

Note “chuse.” Back then even men of learning had problems with spelling.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Tea Party babblers, please take note of what constitutes an impeachable offense. The president does not get impeached just for doing something you do not like.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

You have to remove the president from office before you can prosecute him for a crime.

Section. 4.

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

The Constitution is a living document. Congress now meets starting in January.

Section. 5.

Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

The Constitution allows the House, and especially the Senate, to set it’s own rules. The two thirds vote required to cut off speech can be eliminated at the whim of the Senators.

Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Section. 6.

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Section. 7.

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

The president can veto any law enacted by Congress, but the Congress can override the president’s veto by a two thirds vote.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Section. 8.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

The Constitution gives the government the right to levy taxes. The Articles of Confederacy, which preceded it, did not.

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

The government really is allowed to live beyond its means.

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

The Unites States government can regulate interstate commerce.

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

The government is allowed to print money.

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

The Post Office, which many conservatives would like to abolish, is coded into the Constitution.

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

The government grants money for scientific research under this provision.

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

The Constitution does not say anything about the Air Force, but we have an Air Force. The Constitution is a malleable, living document.

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;–And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Section. 9.

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another; nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Section. 10.

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.


Article. II.

Section. 1.

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.

The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Foreigners cannot be president. You have to be a citizen at birth to aspire to the presidency, Senator Cruz.

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:–“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Section. 2.

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

The 82nd Airborne works for the president.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

The much controversial recess appointments are allowed here.

Section. 3.

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

See the highlighted text. That’s tomorrow tonight, fellow Americans.

Section. 4.

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.


Article III.

Section. 1.

The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Section. 2.

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;–to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;–to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;–to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;–to Controversies between two or more States;– between a State and Citizens of another State,–between Citizens of different States,–between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

Section. 3.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Treason is defined here. Please read this part, Congresswoman Bachmann.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.


Article. IV.

Section. 1.

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Section. 2.

The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

If two men are married to each other in one state, they are married in all other states.

A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

The United States Constitution, as originally written, recognized and accommodated slavery.

Section. 3.

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

Section. 4.

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.


Article. V.

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.


Article. VI.

All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.


Article. VII.

The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

The Word, “the,” being interlined between the seventh and eighth Lines of the first Page, the Word “Thirty” being partly written on an Erazure in the fifteenth Line of the first Page, The Words “is tried” being interlined between the thirty second and thirty third Lines of the first Page and the Word “the” being interlined between the forty third and forty fourth Lines of the second Page.

Attest William Jackson Secretary

done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independance of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,

G°. Washington
Presidt and deputy from Virginia

Delaware
Geo: Read
Gunning Bedford jun
John Dickinson
Richard Bassett
Jaco: Broom

Maryland
James McHenry
Dan of St Thos. Jenifer
Danl. Carroll

Virginia
John Blair
James Madison Jr.

North Carolina
Wm. Blount
Richd. Dobbs Spaight
Hu Williamson

South Carolina
J. Rutledge
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Charles Pinckney
Pierce Butler

Georgia
William Few
Abr Baldwin

New Hampshire
John Langdon
Nicholas Gilman

Massachusetts
Nathaniel Gorham
Rufus King

Connecticut
Wm. Saml. Johnson
Roger Sherman

New York
Alexander Hamilton

New Jersey
Wil: Livingston
David Brearley
Wm. Paterson
Jona: Dayton

Pennsylvania
B Franklin
Thomas Mifflin
Robt. Morris
Geo. Clymer
Thos. FitzSimons
Jared Ingersoll
James Wilson
Gouv Morris

And that’s the Constitution as originally adopted on 4 March 1787. This constitution provided almost no protection to citizens. The much heralded Founding Fathers are not the source of our individual liberties. The Bill of Rights corrected many of these deficiencies when the amendments were adopted on 15 December 1791. Slavery was not abolished until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified 6 December 1865. Women did not get the right to vote in federal elections until the passage of the 19th Amendment on 18 August 1920.

Our Founding Fathers were wise, and their efforts went far toward building a great nation. But it is a foolish mistake for ultra conservatives to lay our personal freedoms at their feet. These were men, not gods. We the living are the makers of our own destiny.

/a

Down the Rabbit Hole

This is amazing news. Should I even say fantastic? Here’s the story from Fox News:

Ancient tablet reveals new details about Noah’s Ark prototype
Published January 24, 2014 / Associated Press

It was a vast boat that saved two of each animal and a handful of humans from a catastrophic flood.

But forget all those images of a long vessel with a pointy bow — the original Noah’s Ark, new research suggests, was round.

From the Associated Press

See, it’s what I’ve always said. Fox News is your go-to place for credible reporting of incredible stories. Where else will you get, with a straight face, the presentation of myth as fact. This even after I have previously exposed the fraud behind the flood story:

What a fantastic tale. Can you imagine all of this happening? Of course it’s just another of those ancient myths. No. It’s not. It really happened. Who says? No less than Robert Ballard, the archaeologist and explorer who discovered the wreck of the Titanic. And he has evidence to prove it.

What further proof do I need of reality’s lost touch at Fox News? The reality is that Noah was a mythical character. On top of that, the story of Noah and the ark and the world-wide flood that killed everybody (except Noah’s family) is a complete fabrication—a comic book story. Bugs Bunny has more factual basis than Noah and his ark. Rather than search for Noah’s Ark, a reporter’s time would be better spent searching for Bugs Bunny’s rabbit hole.

But wait! Fox News is not the source of this story. Fox News was just passing it along. The story came first from the Associated Press. Besides, the AP did put the story into perspective:

A recently deciphered 4,000-year-old clay tablet from ancient Mesopotamia — modern-day Iraq — reveals striking new details about the roots of the Old Testament tale of Noah. It tells a similar story, complete with detailed instructions for building a giant round vessel known as a coracle — as well as the key instruction that animals should enter “two by two.”

The tablet went on display at the British Museum on Friday, and soon engineers will follow the ancient instructions to see whether the vessel could actually have sailed.

It’s also the subject of a new book, “The Ark Before Noah,” by Irving Finkel, the museum’s assistant keeper of the Middle East and the man who translated the tablet.

Obviously that explains a lot. This is not the story of Noah’s Ark from the Bible, an obvious fairy tale. At the most it’s being touted as the basis for the Noah’s Ark myth. That, readers, is so very much better.

I still have the satisfaction of knowing that a liberal-leaning and reliable source of news such as CNN would never play up to the Christian fundamentalists with this story.

Oh, Jesus Christ, no!

I was settling in this morning on my couch with my hot chocolate and my warm comforter, watching my favorite news program New Day with Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan, and there was reporter Michaela Pereira gushing about the discovery of the plan for the real Noah’s Ark. Never a hint at the mythical basis of the story came out of her mouth. Talk about epic disillusionment! I may never vote for Barack Obama again.

And that’s all, folks.

Wild Ride

I was likely doing something else when this came by the first time in 1977. Anyhow, Turner Classic Movies on cable TV saved the day. TCM premiered the movie last night, and I stayed up to record it so that you, dear readers, could enjoy my interpretation. It’s Rollercoaster from Universal Pictures.

From the movie

There’s a young man on a pier by the beach, and he’s observing a roller coaster ride at a nearby amusement park. He is observing the roller coaster through binoculars. The young man is played in the movie by Timothy Bottoms. We never learn the young man’s name. Throughout the film he never reveals his identity, and in the credits he is listed as Young Man.

The young man is an extortionist, and his means is terror. We next see the young man disguised as a worker inspecting the roller coaster track. Only, the track has already been inspected earlier in the morning, and the young man is there just to plant a bomb under one of the rails. That evening, when the park is crowded, and the music is playing, and the belly dancer is dancing, and every car in the ride is full, the young man sets off his bomb by radio remote, causing cars to derail and plunge into the crowd below, smashing into booths and other rides. The belly dancer’s performance is interrupted.

George Segal is Harry Calder, the agency engineer who inspected the ride just two months before, and he gets the call. As Calder gets more involved he comes to realize that multiple owners of amusement parks are gathering suddenly in a Chicago hotel. Something is up, and Harry goes to Chicago to crash the meeting of owners. But the young man crashes the meeting first. Disguised as a hotel employee, he delivers a cart of food to the meeting and also an electronic listening device.

What the owners disclose is they have received an extortion note demanding $1 million, or there will be more to come. There has already been an attack at another park.

The story unrolls, and it’s a classic terror thriller as Harry and the police match wits with the terrorist. The young man turns out to be more than their equal, always one step ahead.

At the next stage the plot involves the execution of an elaborate plot, carried out successfully, for the terrorist to obtain the case full of money without being snared by the police. But he’s been double crossed. The police have dusted all the bills, which were supposed to have been unmarked. The game is over. The terrorist no longer wants money. He wants retribution.

Harry figures correctly the target will be Magic Mountain, newly north of Los Angeles, and the police converge there. Without spoiling the plot, Harry identifies the terrorist in the crowd, and there is a tense confrontation. The terrorist dies in spectacular fashion.

This is a good story. Tension and interest are well-built. The plot twists are imaginative and believable, to a point. There are some problems. Direction is unrealistic. What were these people thinking:

  • A bomb is discovered on a roller coaster track, and the entire park is not evacuated?
  • There is a stand-off with the terrorist, one having control of the explosives and the others holding loaded weapons, and the crowd stands around idly watching?
  • Harry’s teenage daughter and his new wife are at the the park, planning to ride the roller coaster. Harry advises them to go home, and they do. Somebody missed a great opportunity for added tension and suspense.
  • This could have been a very gritty film. It should have been given to Sam Peckinpah, or at least Alfred Hitchcock.

There are gut-wrenching action scenes involving some wild roller coaster rides. They are almost tame by today’s standards.

There was a period in our nation when we were absolutely style dead, and that was the 1970s. This movie is well-marked. Long hair and mustaches on men. Absolutely dreadful suits on men. For centuries to come archaeologists are going to be able to spot at a glance the fossils of a 1970s film. This exercise is going to be on the first year mid-term exam.

Helen Hunt is Harry’s teenage daughter, in her first screen role. Richard Widmark is the police detective in charge. Henry Fonda is Harry Calder’s boss.

Bad Joke of the Week

An older gentleman was on the operating table awaiting surgery and he insisted that his son, a renowned surgeon, perform the operation. As he was about to get the anesthesia, he asked to speak to his son.

“Yes, Dad, what is it?”

“Don’t be nervous, son; do your best, and just remember, if it doesn’t go well, if something happens to me, your mother is going to come and live with you and your wife.”

Friends of Mary Jane

Who would believe it. First the president comes out saying marijuana is not as dangerous as alcohol (the truth) and that criminal penalties are way out of line. What a left-leaning liberal soft on crime excuse for a president he is.

From Google images

Next up: Governor Rick Perry. I’ve heard of him.

Texas Gov. Perry shocks some with comments on marijuana
Rick Jervis, USA TODAY
12:12 a.m. EST January 24, 2014
Says that states should be able to set own policies on abortion, gay marriage and marijuana legalization.

AUSTIN — The Republican governor of Texas supporting less jail time for pot users?

Gov. Rick Perry, a staunch conservative, riled the Lone Star state Thursday when he told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he supports the decriminalization — though not the legalization — of marijuana use.

“As the governor of the second-largest state in the country, what I can do is start us on policies that can start us on the road towards decriminalization” by introducing alternative “drug courts” that offer treatment and softer penalties for minor offenses, Perry said during an international panel on drug legalization at the summit.

I thought I would be an old man before I ever found those two in bed together. The aftershocks still rumble:

Texas, Louisiana Governors Say They’re Open To Marijuana Reform
By Nicole Flatow on January 23, 2014 at 5:10 pm

On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) declared “we will end the failed drug war.” On Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said he would be open to legalizing medical marijuana if it were tightly controlled. And on Thursday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) hinted at support for decriminalizing marijuana in Texas.

WTF! Is the whole country going to pot?

Maybe not. Rick Perry has been governor for 13 years, and in that time I’ve noticed two sensible things come out of his mouth. First he pushed for mandating the HPV vaccine for public school girls, something that threatened to save the lives of several hundred Texas women each year. Later he admitted that move was a mistake. Now he has acknowledged that criminal penalties for marijuana are counter productive.

Without doing my usual skeptical analysis, I am taking the word of various commentators I have seen on the news recently. We presently have locked up about 900,000 people in this country on drug charges, many of them for use. Not for producing, transporting and selling, but for use. Just as an exercise, multiply 900,000 by $60,000. That’s the upper limit on the cost of incarcerating these people each year.

There has got to be a better use for my tax dollars.

Since I have grown wise with my years, I will offer my solution:

Get busted for possession of marijuana (not two tons of it), pay a fine and walk. Can’t pay the fine? We’ll take the car, and you can walk. Can’t pay now? Pay on installments. But pay.

Except in Colorado and Washington. Then you just walk. If you can. But don’t drive. Then you go to jail.

Banana, Banana bo Bonana Bonana fanna fo Fonana

Kirk Cameron from patheos.com

To people, like me, who have to live in the real world, people like Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron are an interesting spectacle:

Evangelist goes (even more) Bananas

A few years ago, evangelist (and former child star) Kirk Cameron released a video attempting to prove that God exists and created the world just for us humans by pointing out that the common banana fits perfectly into the human hand. Watch it — it is short and (unintentionally) hilarious:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z-OLG0KyR4

That was over four years ago, but this show continues its run:

Theologian actor Kirk Cameron had some lovely parenting advice posted for us on his blog yesterday. In a post he promoted by Jay Younts at Shepherd Press, he encourages parents to stop giving explanations to kids, and instead teach them to blindly obey. The piece says, in part:

“God has not called parents to explain but to train. Explanations often lead to frustration and anger for both parents and children. Children are not in need of lengthy, compelling explanations. What they are in need of is the understanding that God must be obeyed.”

The post goes on to warn parents who help their kids understand the why behind making good choices:

“Explanations tend to focus on getting someone to agree with you. The logic for explanations runs something like this: If I can just get my children to understand the reason for my direction, then they will be more likely to follow my instruction. While this may sound like solid reasoning, it is not. Explanations are more consistent with gaining approval and winning arguments. Neither of these are appropriate goals for biblical parenting and can lead to anger in your children as Ephesians warns against.”

That’s what I like about God. No explanation is needed. Of course it can also be said that no explanation will do, because the concept of God defies all logic.

I especially appreciate the part “Explanations are more consistent with gaining approval and winning arguments. Neither of these are appropriate goals for biblical parenting and can lead to anger in your children as Ephesians warns against.” I am going to attempt to interpret that quote:

You should not attempt to explain (God). That’s not necessary. Attempting to explain God implies there are counter arguments to God. I long ago learned a name for this type of leadership. It’s called “leadership from behind.” You do not set examples. You get behind and push. If the person being “led” in this manner is not so inclined, then so much for the worse for the person being led (pushed).

I will agree this is a good approach when the goal is a false objective. Often that’s the only way to “lead” a sensible person toward a false objective.

I was looking for a graphic to go with this, and I came across this. It is apparently not a contrived art work but rather a photograph from a real church somewhere in this country. My Google search didn’t turn up a church with that exact name, but I did find this.

This seems to me Cameron’s theme written in plain terms.

People like Cameron and Comfort tend to align themselves with the conservative element of society. And that’s unfortunate for American conservatism.

I also find this situation so ironic in my own experience. Once in a discussion with a conservative friend I noted that the American voters did not find much favor with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The response I received was that the voters were sheep. And that’s worth examining.

There are two popular ways to get sheep to go where you want them. One is Kirk Cameron’s way, with a sheep dog behind them. The other is with a trained sheep that the others blindly follow. Both cases do not involve initiative and understanding on the part of the sheep.

I posted this previously. It was originally put up by a conservative friend. As I pointed out then it says, “AND THEN WE HAVE THIS” and shows icons of the major news outlets, except Fox News. The implication is that Fox News is the only trusted source. Other sources like NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, The New York Times, PBS, NPR and USA Today are not to be trusted. This is my vision of sheep being led.

Huckabee Speaks

And I just love it when he does.

Huckabee said Democrats rely on women believing they are weaker than men and in need of government handouts, including the contraception mandate in Obamacare.

“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it,” Huckabee said. “Let’s take that discussion all across America.”

Obviously, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee had more to say. He is a prospective candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, and he spoke today at the Republican National Committee meeting. His remarks relating to women’s reproductive issues were in addition to other policy statements.

From the Washington Post

The way Huckabee’s statement was framed gives the distinct impression he has lost sight of reality. Here is what Huckabee seems to be saying:

“Democrats insult women by assuming they can’t control their sex drive, and they need a government handout to keep from getting pregnant.”

Something has gotten lost here. What Governor Huckabee is talking about is the mandate in the Affordable Care Act that women’s contraceptives be included in the prescription medicines covered by insurance policies. Here are the points:

  • First, there is no blanket government handout. Prescription costs are paid for, not by the government, but by the insurance companies.
  • Women having the insurance policies pay their own premiums.
  • Women with insufficient means to pay their premiums will receive government subsidies to help pay their premiums, sometimes at the rate of 100% coverage.
  • The insurance coverage is for all approved medication, including immunizations, medications to combat bone lose (osteoporosis), statins (to lower cholesterol) and more.

Governor Huckabee may be the one insulting women by couching the use of contraception in the form of a Get Out Of Jail Free card for women who want to enjoy sex without the risk of pregnancy. The govern has been married for 37 years, according to Wikipedia, so I am guessing he has not discussed a few things with his wife or with other women. If he had, he would be aware of certain facts about the therapeutic benefits of certain kinds of birth control pills:

The hormones in “the Pill” have also been used to treat other medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, amenorrhea, menstrual cramps, adenomyosis, menorrhagia (excessive menstral bleeding), menstruation-related anemia and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Though extensively used for these conditions, no oral contraceptives have been approved by the U.S. FDA for those uses because of lack of convincing scientific evidence that the benefits outweigh the risks. In addition, oral contraceptives are sometimes prescribed as medication for mild or moderate acne, although none are approved by the U.S. FDA for that sole purpose. Three different oral contraceptives have been FDA approved to treat moderate acne if the patient is at least 14 or 15 years old, have already begun menstruating, and need contraception. They include Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, and YAZ. Although the pill is sometimes prescribed to induce menstruation on a regular schedule for women bothered by irregular menstrual cycles, it actually suppresses the normal menstrual cycle and then mimics a regular 28-day monthly cycle, as noted earlier in this article.

Huckabee wants to portray Democrats as demeaning women, but he needs to look at his own party as other view it. The Republican Party has chosen a particular aspect of modern medicine and wants to deny it to women, at least as far as the government is concerned. When Democrats speak of a war on women, what they are really trying to do is to roll up a complex issue into a single sound bite. I am not a big fan of sound bites, but this one comes closer to a statement of the facts than most others I have seen.

And may Jesus have mercy on your souls.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Russian

This is for those of you who’ve been waiting a couple of years for me to post this. You can quit waiting. Here’s the story first.

When I was a mere child compared to how old I am now I went to college to study engineering. After a couple of years I got around to reading the graduation guidelines and realized I needed a technical elective outside my main course of study. Outside of engineering, that is. Math didn’t count, because I had to take a lot of math, anyhow. There were some choices.

I could study biology or geology. No way. Biology, to me, is too icky and squishy. There’s nothing there you can really nail down with a few equations. Geology scared the shit out of me. I was dead sure I would never be able to learn to recognize all those rocks and minerals by sight. I needed something else.

Foreign language was an option. It couldn’t be English, because I was already supposed to be fluent in English, even though I grew up in Texas. French? Again too squishy. Spanish? Too close to home. German is old hat. It had to be something exotic, yet manageable.

Russian was it. I would learn Russian. I needed a three-hour course. I needed the Russian literature course. But I had to take the two Russian grammar courses before I took the literature course. That was two semesters of Russian that were essentially just throw-away hours. I signed up, and here’s what I learned. I will pass it on to you. Everything you need to know.

The first thing you need to learn is the alphabet. You may have noticed that Russians don’t use the Roman alphabet. Russian was taught in the Germanic Language Department. English is also considered a Germanic language, as well. However the Russians long ago adopted a different alphabet. It’s the Cyrillic Alphabet:

The Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabets, are the oldest known Slavic alphabets and were created by the two brothers and their students, in order to translate the Bible and other texts into the Slavic languages. The early Glagolitic alphabet was then used in Great Moravia between 863 (with the arrival of Cyril and Methodius) and 885 (with the expulsion of their students) for government and religious documents and books, and at the Great Moravian Academy (Veľkomoravské učilište) founded by Cyril, where followers of Cyril and Methodius were educated, by Methodius himself among others. The alphabet has been traditionally attributed to Cyril. That fact has been confirmed explicitly by the papal letter Industriae tuae (880) approving the use of Old Church Slavonic, which says that the alphabet was “invented by Constantine the Philosopher”. The term invention need not exclude the possibility of the brothers having made use of earlier letters, but implies only that before that time the Slavic languages had no distinct script of their own.

The early Cyrillic alphabet was developed in the First Bulgarian Empire as a simplification of the Glagolitic alphabet which more closely resembled the Greek alphabet. It has been developed by the disciples of Saints Cyril and Methodius at the Preslav Literary School at the end of the 9th century.

I’m only going to deal with the Russian alphabet, which was derived from the original Cyrillic. Here are the capital letters:

From Google

The first thing you’re going to notice about the Cyrillic alphabet is it has a lot of your familiar Roman alphabet letters and also some strange ones. There are also some that will surprise you.

Cyrillic A = Roman A.

So far so good.

K = K
M = M
O = O
T = T

And that’s about it. None of the other Russian letters correspond exactly with their Roman lookalikes.

Take the Russian E, for example. It’s not like the English E. It’s really YE, the (soft) E sound preceded by a Y consonant. So you can spell the English YET as ET in Russian. The Y is already there. If you want the English E you have to write Э.

Moving right along, there are other mental switches you need to make:

B = V
H = N
П = P
P = R
C = S
Y = U

The Russian alphabet borrowed from the Greek, giving the following:

Г = G
Ф = F
д = D
Л = L

Vowels are interesting, also. For every straight form there is a corresponding inflected form that incorporates the Y consonant in front. For example:

Ë is the sound YO
Я = YA

In English A is uppercase, and a is lowercase. In Russian they sometimes don’t make the distinction:

M and м
K and к

Enough of the alphabet. You can learn that on your own, because you’re are essentially finished. You just need to learn the grammar, and that’s straightforward. Here’s all there is to it:

Verb conjugation is just like in English. You have first person singular, second person singular, etc. To illustrate, here is the conjugation of a simple Russian verb, видеть, to see.

1 singular: я вижу
2 singular: ты видишь
3 singular: он видит
1 plural: мы видим
2 plural: вы видите
3 plural: они видят

Back when I was taking Russian in college there was a dorm mate from west Texas who spoke Russian. He learned it at home, out near Odessa. He gave me a word to conjugate, a word he learned out on the farm, but Google won’t translate that word for me, so I have used another, less common, word.

Conjugation of past tense is much easier. Just add, in this case, el if the subject is masculine, ela if feminine, elo if neuter and eli if plural:

Видел
Видела
Видело
Видели

And thats about all there is to verb conjugation. You take the root, and append a different ending depending on the conjugation. Note that the root, вид or ви, is vid or vi, much like the root of the English words video and vision.

You’ll like Russian. It’s a lot like English. Unlike all those other foreign languages, the Russians put the adjective in front of the noun or pronoun. Only, as with the Romance languages, the form of the adjective needs to correspond with the gender of the noun or pronoun. So we have:

Masculine: красный пол
Feminine: красная площадь
Neuter: красное море

Red floor, red square, red sea. The adjective is красный, red.

OK, there is another wrinkle. The adjective has to agree with the case of the noun or pronoun. English has nominative and objective cases, principally, and Russian has only a few more, giving:

Nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental and prepositional, so you should have no trouble with adjectives. Just make sure you append the correct suffix to match the case and also the gender of the noun or pronoun. You will get the hang of it in no time.

Actually, all of this can be quite efficient. Just specifying the correct form of the adjective allows Russians to drop some redundant language from their writing and conversation. Take this for example:

“Give me the gun, fat face.” Дай мне пистолет, жирное лицо.

See, use of the dative case of the pronoun I (мне) implies “to me” without the extra word, to. Of course, English speakers dropped the “to” from this construction long ago, but that’s another matter. For some reason, Google has translated gun as pistol.

Here’s a famous Russian term: Союз Советских Социалистических Республик, Union of Soviet, Socialistic Republics. USSR or CCCP.

The first word is Союз (Union), and it’s nominative case, and the root word is used. The second word is Советских (of Soviet), and it’s genitive plural, because the ultimate target is the last word is Republics, and it’s going to be “of republics.” So they took the root adjective советский (sovietsky) and added the proper suffix. English speakers typically misinterpret the third  word, Социалистических. It’s not Socialist, but Socialistic. A minor point. The root is социалистический, but the target will be genitive plural again. The last word is the object of all this, Республик. It’s republics, plural, but the root noun is республика. It’s feminine, but the use is genitive plural, so they just drop the a at the end.

And there you have it. Isn’t Russian easy?

There is just a little more you might need to know. Sometimes pronunciation is not what you would expect. Take the word for friend: друг, drug, pronounced droog. The plural is друзья, pronounced droozya. You’ve seen this before.

Actress Natalie Wood was from a Russian family, and she spoke Russian. This came in handy when she starred in the movie, The Great Race, with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. In the film the three find themselves stranded in a Siberian town, surrounded by suspicious Russians. Natalie resolves the situation by standing up in the car and shouting “Как поживаете, друзья!” Roughly, “How are you getting along, friends.” It’s a common greeting to say Как поживаете when you meet somebody you know.

There are some other pitfalls, as well. Take the word god, which traditionally was not capitalized in the old Soviet Union. It’s spelled бог, bog. But when you say an expression like “my god!” you say боже мой (boszha moy), god of mine. Who would figure?

And that’s about it, except. Except there are a few curiosities remaining.

Russian doesn’t have the usual indefinite articles, and the “to be” verb is virtually nonexistent. So in Russian you do not say, “the ball is red.” You just say “ball red” (мяч красный). That’s why when a Russian attempts to speak English he comes off like a Hollywood movie caveman speaking pidgin English.

That’s all I’m going to say about Russian today. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.